Pages

Friday, May 4, 2018

Coincidence?

Yesterday, I wrote a post titled "Bank Statements."

Today, my blog stats show four times more page views than the average, mostly from Russia.

Kinda makes me want to go change all my passwords.

(My post wasn't really about bank statements, comrades.  And it contained no personal information.  Sorry.)

(Мой пост был не совсем о банковских заявлениях, товарищи. И он не содержал личной информации. Извините.)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Bank Statements

Well, not exactly, but sorta.

Every so often, we need to check on some transaction, though.  Maybe you bought something in a store in Second Life, and the product wasn't delivered.  Or you bought something on the SL Marketplace, and need to contact the seller about something.  Or your credit card got charged by Linden Lab, and you don't understand why.

This is where it helps to have some sort of record of the transaction.  In Second Life, such records are found in three places.

The record I use most often is my "$L Transaction History."  You can find this on your Second Life Dashboard page.  Click the Account link in the upper left, and then "$L Transaction History."  There are some controls here that will help you find the transaction you are looking for:
  • The "Show $L0 Transactions" box.  This is checked by default.  If checked, it will show every time you were sent a landmark or a picture by someone, or gave someone something.
  • The Date Range boxes.  You can set these to cover a range of dates, if you aren't sure exactly when a transaction happened.
  • Filters.  You can add filter terms to, for example, show only transactions with a specific resident.
$L Transaction History

Note that this history only goes back 32 days (90 days for Premium members.)  If you need to find transactions older than that, you're out of luck.

However, you can download and save this data as a CSV (comma separated values) file.  This can be put into an Excel spreadsheet.  If you are a merchant, or even if you just want to have records that go farther back than a month, you may want to make a habit of doing this on a regular basis.

There's one drawback to this history file.  If you bought something on the Second Life Marketplace, it shows the person you paid as "Commerce Linden".  If you want to contact the seller of the product, this is not too helpful!

So, we turn to the next transaction history tool.  You can go to the Marketplace page, then click My Marketplace/Account/Order History.  This will open up a list of all your Marketplace purchases.  Unlike the main $L Transaction History, this list goes all the way back to the first thing you ever bought on the Marketplace.  Sadly, there is no way to sort or filter this list, so you may have to do a LOT of scrolling if the item you want was purchased a long time ago.

Marketplace Transactions


Sometimes, the transaction is one we made directly with Linden Lab:  a payment for land tier fees, or a Premium membership renewal.  You can find a history of these transactions on your Dashboard page, under Account.  Click Account, then "Account History/Statements".  You can select any month to view.  The statement will cover not only Premium dues and land fees, but purchases and sales of $L.
Monthly Account Statement
You can download and save these statements as either CSV or PDF files, but I don't see much of a need to do that.  Statements remain available all the way back to when you signed up for SL.

I hope your Second Life is carefree and happy.  But now, if you ever run into a money question, you know where to look!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

FLASH! Preparations for Second Life's 15th Birthday are Underway!

SL15B's website is live and applications for performers, exhibitors, helpers and bloggers are now being taken.  Be a part of this annual week-long, grid-wide event!

Ha.  Calling it an "event" is like calling the extinction of the dinosaurs a "minor change in climate".  This is the Big One, a whole week of events!  Plus eight or nine regions jammed full of exhibits showcasing the talents and creativity of Second Life's residents!  It's  the World Fair of virtual worlds.

Fifteen years is a Crystal Anniversary, and so that's this year's theme, "Crystal".

Check it out here: http://www.slcommunitycelebration.info/

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Replacements and Alternatives to Second Life

Second Life is the oldest, biggest, most diverse and most successful virtual world in existence.  But ever since about Day Two of Second Life, people have been predicting The End Of SL.  Despite the Rants of Doom, though, SL continues to soldier on; aging, a bit clunky, and increasingly a collection of old and newer technologies kludged together.  Today, we'll take a brief look at some other virtual worlds that (some people) claim will replace SL.

OpenSim.
OpenSim is an open source alternative to Second Life.  You can download the OpenSim software and run it on your local computer, creating a region, or even several regions, that you can access with a number of Second Life viewers.  You can even give other people the address of your little virtual world and they can visit it.
http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Main_Page

OSGrid.
OSGrid is one implementation of OpenSim.  If you set up an account there, you can use OpenSim to create region(s) on your computer, and link them to OSGrid so that they show up on its world Map.  For better performance or reliability, you can rent server space and host your regions on a commercial server.
https://www.osgrid.org/

There are any number of other virtual worlds like OSGrid, based on OpenSim.  You can use an analog of SL's teleportation to travel from one to the other.  Collectively, they're known as the "Hypergrid." Members of the Hypergrid are known as "open worlds"; you can exchange content from one to another of them.  In contrast, SL is a "closed world".  You cannot teleport to it from another Hypergrid location.

There are a few problems however.  For one thing, the software they're based on, OpenSim, is basically a reverse-engineered Second Life.  It contains all of SL's problems, plus a few of its own.  Being open source, it's not updated as often or as comprehensively as SL, and the updates often introduce bugs of their own.  But the biggest problem is the economy.  There is nothing like the Linden Dollar, although some of the grids have their own currencies.  As a result, almost no one is creating content for these virtual worlds.  And so, almost nobody goes there.  I just now looked at the grid stats for OSGrid.  There are a total of 5,980 regions, and a total of 77 people on line.

IMVU.
This virtual world is nearly as big and diverse as SL.  It has its own currency, and you can create and sell content.  Avatars can look as realistic as in SL.  However, it has a number of significant differences, and I see them as deficiencies.  You can't walk or fly in IMVU...you use local teleporting to hop from one pose spot to another.  There is no actual "land"...there are only "rooms".  While a "room" may be set up to resemble an outdoor space, it's not connected to any other space or room in a physical sense.  You go from one room to another by teleporting only.  IMVU doesn't have the age limitations of SL, so there are a lot of kids, pre-teens, and teenagers there.  It's largely advertising-supported, so if you create an account, expect to receive a ton of email ads.
https://secure.imvu.com/welcome/ftux/

Red Light Center.
This world is very similar to SL, but is even more focused on Adult content.  In fact, one might say that it's All About the Pronz.  Red Light Center has a virtual currency, and a creator community.  It has also adopted VR technology, unlike SL.  I've met people who owned and operated clubs there.  If your focus is on virtual sex, this may be the world for you, but a constant diet of porn quickly becomes old, at least for me.
https://www.redlightcenter.com/vr/  (CAUTION:  Link is NSFW.)

Blue Mars.
This was widely touted as the "next Second Life."  But it never really got off the ground, and has been dead and gone for years.

High Fidelity.
This replacement virtual world was created by Philip Rosedale, the inventor of Second Life.  The idea was to make a virtual reality that was much more "real" than SL, and to make your avatar within it much more like the "real you."  While I have seen videos of people using VR equipment like Oculus Rift headsets and hand controllers, and watched their on-screen avatars moving in response to their Real World motions, I think the avatars themselves, and the world around them, are anything BUT "high fidelity."  The world and the people in it look closer to Minecraft than to reality.  It's currently in beta, and you can try it out.
https://highfidelity.com/started

Sansar.
This is a new virtual world, or more precisely, a network of virtual worlds, created by Linden Lab itself.  Like High Fidelity, it's designed from the outset to make use of VR technology.  The content is all Mesh...none of those clunky Second Life prims.  While some of the environments created by users are fascinating and highly detailed, Sansar is still very buggy and has a LONG way to go before it contains even a fraction of the content and variety of Second Life.  In addition, Sansar is not really aimed at the SL community of users.  It's more for people who want to build a VR environment as a part of, or a supplement to, a web site.  It's unclear, still, how its business model and internal economy will ultimately work.  It will probably never have the huge community of anonymous users that SL enjoys.  You can explore Sansar here:
https://www.sansar.com/

Once the kinks in VR get worked out, and we figure out how to use it to interact with our online simulations in a really effective way, something like High Fidelity or Sansar may replace Second Life.  But I think we still have a LONG way to go before we really get there.  In the meantime, enjoy your Second Life!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Look Ahead, from Linden Lab

Recently, I've been talking about the many improvements Linden Lab has been making to Second Life.  Things have gotten cheaper, faster, and prettier.

Today, LL set out their plans for this year, which marks the 15th year of Second Life.  Some of the improvements, like the decreased tier cost of Mainland and the increase in the tier-free mainland allotment for Premium members, are already here.  Others we'll see in the months ahead.

One of the announcements that I am MOST excited about is that we will be able to wear clothing layers...the old style baked on avatar skins, tattoos, and clothing...on mesh avatars!  I am SO glad I didn't purge all my old clothes from my inventory.

And last names are returning!  I don't know how LL plans to implement this.  I do hope it's not as clumsy as the Display Name system, though.

One that scares me a little is that Experiences will be made active grid-wide.  That is, if someone creates an Experience (maybe some form of role play scenario, or a hunt game), it can be active everywhere, not just on one land parcel or region.  Depending on the Experience, this could be a problem for a lot of landowners...but LL says that individual land owners can disable such things on their own land, so perhaps it'll be OK.

There's lots of other stuff.  I'm not going to list them all here.  Go read Ebbe Linden's official blog post for yourself!

https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/entry/2328-happy-15th-birthday-second-life-fifteen-reasons-to-celebrate/

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Virtual Land Just Got Cheaper

Hello, gentle readers!

A few posts back, I mentioned that Linden Lab has been gradually increasing the attractiveness of a Premium membership by adding more benefits.

This week, they went farther.  For all the time I've been in Second Life, the price of Mainland has not changed, and people have always complained about how it's too expensive.  LL has finally responded, in two important ways.

First, they've dropped the monthly tier fees by about 10%.  Here's the new table:


So now, Mainland is less expensive.  When you combine that with the increased ability of land to support objects, it's now a LOT more affordable to have nice things in SL.  This should make creators, and those who just like to have a nice place to live in Second Life, very happy!

But that's not all.  LL also increased the amount of Mainland that you can own BEFORE you have to pay any tier.  Up until now, you could own 512 square meters, and not pay any monthly fee for it (aside from Premium dues, of course).  That figure has now doubled; you can own up to 1,024 square meters, tier-free!  That will give you a prim limit of 350.

The size of the parcels that the free Linden Homes are on appears to be unchanged.  At least for now, those homes will still be on 512 sq. m. parcels, with a prim limit of 175.

The new limits also mean that if you want a Horizons Home, you won't have to pay tier on it.

The only downside to this that I can see is for us landlords.  While we will pay about 10% less for our land (yay!) we will also be faced with an increased number of residents who are happy with a 1024 sq. m. parcel and 350 prims.  This may lead to a decrease in demand for rental property.

See the official announcement here: https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/entry/2318-more-land-for-less-money-yes-please-lower-prices-and-double-tier-allotment-on-mainland/


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Those Ultrawide Monitors

You might have seen ads or reviews for them...ultrawide monitors with an aspect ratio of 21:9.  These are touted as being superior in some ways to a multi-monitor setup.  For one thing, there are no monitor bezels breaking up the scene.  And some of them are curved, to produce a more "immersive" experience.

Dual Monitor Set-up
Ultrawide Curved Monitor
I recently got one of these puppies...a Dell 38" Ultrasharp monitor.  It's big, and it's lovely.  It has about 3/4 of the actual screen real estate of my previous 27" dual monitor set-up, and it's the same screen height and pixel size as the 27" monitors.  I don't miss the small piece of real estate that I gave up, because it was outside my peripheral vision anyway, whereas I can see ALL of the 38" monitor.  The curved screen does not appear to introduce any distortion, and it does make for a bit more of an immersive effect.  Not only that, but I get a lot more effective screen real estate in SL, because I always kept SL on my primary monitor only...both because of the bezels, and because SL can produce some strange glitches when you try to extend it onto a second monitor.

But, I have to tell you, gentle readers, that there is one big gotcha that none of the reviewers seem to mention.  A lot of games, including Second Life, have a built-in edge distortion.  That is, things at the edges of your screen are stretched horizontally, at any aspect ratio other than 1:1, a square image.  You can actually see this on your regular old 16:9 monitor, although I had never been bothered by it before.

But on the ultrawide monitor, it's much more apparent.  Circles become definite ovals if they're off to either side of the screen. as shown by the screenshot below.  All of those prims are identical spheres!
Distortion!
I tried looking at SL using different resolutions and aspect ratios.  While a less-wide image shows less edge distortion, it is still present...and it's present, also, on "regular" monitors.  UI windows and buttons,menu bars and HUD controls on the screen are not affected.  It's only the view of the Second Life world itself that's distorted.  It's not the ultrawide monitor that is to blame, it's the design of the SL viewer itself...and other similar games that exhibit the same distortion.

It's time to write to your viewer developers and tell them it's time they took a...wider view.