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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Second Life in the Fast Lane

Today's post is about speeding up the performance of Second Life!

Lots of people who are familiar with computer games get frustrated by SL, because its performance is typically a lot worse than the games they're used to.  The main reason for this is that SL needs to download content almost continuously...while most games download a whole level's worth of content to your hard drive, where it can be accessed quickly.

You do have a cache for SL though.  Three of them, in fact, for your inventory, for textures that make up the world around you, and for audio.  If you have enough hard drive space, you can increase the size available for the textures cache to almost 10 GB.  Unless you go to new places constantly, this will help your performance.

If you are a builder, or even just decorate your own spaces, you can improve performance by limiting the number of high resolution textures (1024 x 1024 pixels) you use.  It doesn't take very many of these before your graphics card starts to complain.  I try to keep the textures I use to 512 x 512 or less, especially when I'm texturing very small objects.  Many tiny things can do just fine with 64 x 64 textures.

You can limit your draw distance, and turn off or turn down other options in your viewer's Graphics preferences tab.  If you can't afford to upgrade your computer or your internet connection, this may be your only option.  If you have to, don't be afraid to trade off pretty graphics for the ability to walk and communicate!

You can pay more for a higher bandwidth Internet connection.  Lots of ISPs are offering 100 Mb/sec, or even 1 Gb/second connections.  If you have gigabit internet, don't throttle it when it gets to your house...use a Gigabit router, and Cat 6 cables.  Even if you don't have that much bandwidth, don't use WiFi...connect your computer to your local network with an ethernet cable.

You can get a better graphics card.  There are three major graphics solutions:  Nvidia, ATI/AMD Radeon, and Intel.  Intel's solutions are not stand-alone graphics cards, they are "integrated graphics" that are designed into the main processing chip of your computer.  Nvidia and Radeon have chip-based solutions too, but they also make stand-alone graphics cards.  Any of these three major systems are capable of running, SL, but (arguably) the best solution is a stand-alone Nvidia GEforce graphics card.  Look for a GTX 970 or better.  As of this writing, cryptocurrency miners have driven up the prices of top-of-the-line graphics cards, but weakening cryptocurrency prices may turn that around soon (I hope!)

If you are still using a spinning hard disk drive in your computer, get a solid state drive (SSD)!  You can keep the old drive for storing images, old documents, music and videos...but put your operating system, your software programs, and your SL cache files on the SSD.  If your motherboard supports it with an M.2 slot, the new NVME type of SSDs are even faster than the kind that hook up with a SATA cable.  An SSD will make your computer feel like a brand new machine.

The price of RAM (the main memory in your computer) is also high these days, but adding more RAM to your machine can improve its performance, especially if you set aside some of it for a RAM drive.  A RAM drive is just a small piece of software that makes a part of your RAM act like a very, very fast hard drive.  I tried this with a freeware program called Soft Perfect RAM Disk, and put my Firestorm viewer and its cache on a RAM drive.  The performance boost was amazing!  I more than doubled my frames-per-second at ground level in most locations.  I have 32 GB of RAM, and allocated about 6 GB to the RAM drive.  You can download this software from Major Geeks.

Don't put anything you can't afford to lose on a RAM disk, though.  Even if you set it up to "image"...that is, download itself to your hard drive before your computer shuts down, and reload itself from that image when you start up...it's still less reliable than an actual disk drive.

I hope some of these tips will give you a better Second Life!




Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Free Games!

As most of you know by now, I rent out condos and homes in Second Life.  My philosophy is, I provide the home and prim allowance, and the tenant provides the furnishings and makes his or her or their own fun.

My friend and neighbor, Geetaraa, takes a different approach.  She's always re-doing her build, and always with a view toward giving visitors to her land a fun time.  I've written about her before in this blog, when I told you about her amusement park

That's now been replaced.  Gee has a sky platform with over twenty games...board games, arcade games, games of skill, games of chance.  She's got pool, and bowling, and dozens of other amusements.  All of them are free to play!

It's people like Gee who make SL what it is...people who want to share the wonder
and the sheer fun of our virtual world with others, with no thought of "what's in it for me?"

So grab a couple of friends and go for an evening of games!

Gee's Free Games

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Second Life Private Regions Price Cut!

Linden Lab continues their policy of reducing the cost of virtual land in Second Life, a move that residents have been requesting for years.  Last Wednesday, they announced new, lower costs for private regions, both the initial setup fee and the ongoing monthly land fee.

When I joined SL in 2007, it cost $1,000 USD to purchase a new private region from Linden Lab, and a fee of $295 per month to maintain the region thereafter.  Some time back, LL reduced that setup fee to $600, but private regions still remained out of reach for many people.

The new setup fees are $349 USD for a full region, $149 for a Homestead region.  Openspace regions will no longer be available.  (Homesteads and Openspaces are regions with reduced prim allowances and reduced maximum avatar capacities.)

Monthly land fees drop from $295 to $249 for full regions, and from $125 to $109 per month for Homesteads.  Existing Openspace regions drop from $75 to $60 per month.

The bad news:  LL has to do something to offset the loss in revenue.  Some, it's hoped, will be made up by increased interest in private region ownership.  But LL is also increasing the transaction fee for buying $L from the current $0.99 to $1.49.  All this takes effect July 2, so if you are putting off buying $L, now is a good time to stock up.  If you were thinking of adding Openspace water regions to your private estate, you have a narrow window for that, too!

Read the official announcement from LL here: https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/entry/2375-another-15-for-15-lower-land-prices-and-reduced-set-up-fees/

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Phone Support for Second Life

Well, I have a bit of bad news for Second Life users outside the USA.

Recently, my friend LittleMe Jewell noticed that the list of Billing Support phone numbers for SL had been changed.  Instead of the old list...

US/Canada: 800-294-1067
France: 0805-101-490
Germany: 0800-664-5510
Japan: 0066-33-132-830
Portugal: 800-814-450
Spain: 800-300-560
UK: 0800-086-9081
Brazil: 0800-762-1132

Long distance ( not free, but you can use Skype to save some cost ) : 703-286-6277
**Note: Support is offered only in English

...the website now lists only the number for the US.

Toll-Free (US/Canada): 800.294.1067
Long-Distance: 703.286.6277
    
Our Billing team is available from 9am to 6pm EST(6am to 3pm PST), Monday through Friday.

 
I called Billing to ask them about this.  I was told that yes, LL had recently changed their support system.  All support is now US-based.

As before, only billing related questions are handled over the phone.  For technical issues, either use Live Chat (if you're a Premium member) or submit a Support Case.

There is one other phone number, though.  If your account is compromised...if, for example, you've fallen for a phishing scam and someone's changed your password...or if you fell for some other scam and all your $L have vanished...you can call the Fraud Hotline at 800-860-6990.

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/