Friday, February 20, 2015

Stressed? Take A Break!

It's awfully easy to get totally wrapped up in Second Life.  For example, I manage my rentals at Masocado, teach classes at Caledon Oxbridge University, and have to make sure the Oxbridge tutorials and handouts are correct and up to date.  And that's before even thinking about shopping, visiting my friends, and spending time with my partner.  Not to mention inventory sorting and a number of partly-completed building projects.

Lots of residents are even busier than I am.  They may manage tens or even hundreds of rental regions, run a club, fulfill DJ gigs, plan weddings, or try to come up with the latest SL fashion trend.  Merchants in particular can get stressed, especially if their brand is in demand.  The customers always want something new, and they want it NOW.

And then there is emotional stress and upheaval.  Perhaps we have a new love interest...or maybe we've just broken up with the old one.  Perhaps your content has been copybotted, or you fell for a phishing scam and your account is in jeopardy.  Maybe you have a stalker or a griefer problem.

Second Life is supposed to be a break from the stresses of Real Life.  How did we let it become yet another source of stress?  Just human nature, I guess.  We get involved in the things we love!

But unlike Real Life, where the only exit is a one-way door, you CAN step away from Second Life for a while, when the stress gets to be too much.  In fact, I recommend it!  At least once a year, log out and DON'T LOG IN again for at least two weeks.  Take some time to do more RL things, reconnect with your family and friends.  Go dig in the garden, read books, try a new recipe, go for long walks.

Lots of people do it wrong.  They get fed up and tell everyone they're "leaving SL for good!"  They may even cancel their account.  Then, a few days or weeks or months later, the pull of the virtual world becomes too much to resist and we see them back again.  Those who deleted their accounts are in sad case...they have to pay a $9.95 fee to get the old account reinstated, and they might not get all their old inventory or $L balance back.  But all of these returnees feel a sense of failure and a blow to their self-image, because they didn't do what they said they were going to do.

Don't fall into that trap.  Second Life is like the Hotel California -- "you can check out, but you can never leave."  Don't delete your account in a moment of stress or anger.  Just log off...and take a break for a few days, or a few weeks.  Your account and your friends will still be waiting for you when you get back.

If you are a Premium member and are contemplating a long break, I recommend selling your land and downgrading to Basic.  If your payment method fails for any reason, Linden Lab may delete your account.  But a free Basic account will never be deleted. 

Leading two lives can double your stress and ruin your sleep.  When you need it, take a break!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Take the Test - How Into SL Are You?

Followers of Second Life blogs may have run across Strawberry Singh's "meme" posts before.  She posts a list of questions and asks people to answer them.  Here's her latest set, and my answers.  You may get a giggle out of taking her little test yourself!  Here's the link: Have You Ever SecondLifed

  1. Have you ever owned a sim in Second Life? – Most of one, yeah.  It's in Masocado, baby!
  2. Have you ever created content in Second Life? – Yes, homes and buildings mostly.
  3. Have you ever driven a vehicle in Second Life? – Yes, lots of times.  See some of my earlier posts for examples.  My latest favorite is a PBY Catalina amphibian!
  4. Have you ever gone sky diving in Second Life? – Yes! In fact I have a launcher in my home sim.  Visit there, or try Booville Skydiving.  Plus, get inexpensive gear at Abbott's Aerodrome.
  5. Have you ever played a sport in Second Life? – Yes, but I lose a lot.
  6. Have you ever gone clubbing in Second Life? – Yeah, a lot.
  7. Have you ever fangirled/fanboyed someone in Second Life? – I'm not sure how you do this to someone, but I am a big fan of certain people in SL.
  8. Have you ever taken a picture of your avatar in water in Second Life? – I don't think so, but my partner has taken many pictures of me in the water.  Oh wait!  I have some pictures I took of us scuba diving!
  9. Have you ever taken a picture of a sunset in Second Life? – All the time!  It's the most beautiful time of day.
  10. Have you ever taken a nude picture of your avatar in Second Life? – Yes, but my favorites are ones with clothes on.
  11. Have you ever dated in Second Life? – Yes.
  12. Have you ever had or attended a wedding in Second Life? – I've attended several.  See my post, "I Always Cry at Weddings."  I've never had a formal wedding myself.
  13. Have you ever drank, smoked or taken drugs in Second Life? – Yes, yes and yes.  Although the drugs was just once or twice and I didn't inhale.
  14. Have you ever engaged in sexual activity in Second Life? – Um.  Yes?
  15. Have you ever been to Bukkake Bliss in Second Life? – Yes, but only to pick up the landmark for a sex education class I was teaching at the time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me! New Computer Build

My Resident Geek gave me an early birthday present this year...a brand new computer, and it's crazy big and crazy fast.  I'm mainly writing this just to make all of you envious and jealous of course, but in case you are contemplating building a new system, here is a list of components proven to work well together, and work VERY well for Second Life.

Motherboard:           ASRock X99 Extreme 4
CPU:                        Intel Core i7 5930K
CPU Cooling:          Noctua NH D14 (what a monster!)
Case:                        Silverstone Fortress FT02
Memory:                  G.Skill 32GB DDR4 2400GSKILL 32 GB (8GB x4)
Powered by:             EVGA NEX750G
SSD:                         Samsung EVO 850 Pro 540 GB
Hard Drives:            Western Digital Caviar Black 3TB  (4 drives in RAID 0)
More Hard Drives:   Seagate Barracuda 3TB (2 drives for backup, caching, and archiving)
Optical Drives:         LG 14X and 16X Blu-Ray burners
Graphics:                  EVGA Nvidia GTX980, 4GB
Monitors:                  2 Dell U2711 27" connected with DisplayPort cables
OS:                           Windows 8.1 64 bit

Overclocking:    The Geek just used the one-button auto-overclock feature provided in the ASRock "A-Tuning" applet, and the machine ramped up to 4.3 GHz without muss or fuss.  The huge Noctua cooler and the unique positive pressure, bottom to top airflow of the Fortress case keep the temperatures crazy low.

I'm crazy about my new computer and about my not-so-new but still wonderful Resident Geek!

Note:  You don't need all this power just for Second Life!   A much less expensive system will do just fine as long as you have a good graphics card.  I use this machine for video editing, Photoshop, and 3D modeling and animation as well as SL, so I wanted top-tier performance.

Are there any downsides?  Not really, but there are a few things you should be aware of.
  • Older optical drives may not fit.  We had to take out an older LG Blu-Ray burner because the back of it collided with the motherboard.  The newer and shorter ones will do fine.
  • The Fortress case is a unique design.  Three huge, slow, quiet fans draw in air at the bottom and one fan exhausts air out the top.  To work with this airflow, your CPU cooler should be oriented to blow in the same direction, and your graphics card should be a model that exhausts out the rear of the card.  
  • A radiator may be fitted at the bottom if you water cool.  
  • The motherboard is rotated 90 degrees, so all the connectors are up at the top too, covered by a snap-on grille.  This presents a clean and neat appearance, but cables may need to be a bit longer, or re-routed to reach.
  • Although it has a very clean and neat appearance, if you shove the thing under the desk accessing the cables and components and opening up the case may cause your Geek to swear a lot.  Consider getting a stout wheeled platform and leave enough slack in your cables to let him roll the beast out to work on it.
  • The case is physically huge, but it is a mid-tower case in terms of space inside.
  • The motherboard doesn't have legacy connectors like IDE, a rear serial port, or Firewire.  (There is an on-board serial connector, but you'll need to hook that to an add-in port in one of the rear card slots.)
  • The power supply is fully modular and very versatile, but you may still need extension cables if you have a lot of drives to hook up.
  • When switching to Windows 8, you may want a third party app to add the familiar Start menu back.  I'm using a free one called Classic Start Menu by Ivosoft.
One last tip for novice computer builders:  The website PC Part Picker is a great resource.  You can assemble a component list, and the site will check to make sure they will all work together, and find you the source offering the best price on each item.  You can even set it to alert you when a price drops to a set level.  We've bought from NewEgg and Amazon for years, but thanks to PC Part Picker we've recently added Outlet PC and NCIX US to our list of favorite PC component vendors.

FLASH! Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference

Professionals in any field love to get together and share information and experiences, and educators are no exception.  The Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) is holding their annual conference next month (March 18-21).  It's free to attend and (of course!) it's being held in Second Life.  It can also be accessed from the OpenSim hypergrid.

Caledon Oxbridge University will have a presence at the conference, too.  As one of the premiere organizations using virtual worlds to teach about virtual worlds, COU brings a lot of practical experience to the table.

If you're a teacher, either on line or in Real Life, you should mark your calendar and plan to attend! 

Find out more here:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Giving it Away

Here's a short tutorial for the newcomer!

I'm often asked how to transfer something to someone else.  It's fact, there are so MANY ways to do this that have been added from time to time over the years.

But first, a few provisos:  You can't sell or give away items that are No Transfer, and if you give away something that is No Copy, you will no longer have it.  No Copy items behave like a Real Life item, they can only be in one place, or in one person's possession, at a time.

Also, transferring items is called "sharing" in many places in the viewer.  This can be confusing, because you can't "share" a No Copy thing!

You can transfer anything...notecards, animations, clothing layers, body parts, landmarks, scripts, sounds, textures, and objects.  Everything except Links, which are just shortcuts to things.

Now, how to do it!
  • Drag the item from your inventory and drop it onto the recipient's avatar
  • You can drop it onto the name tag over their head, too
  • If there's a big crowd or your recipient is a moving target, or they are not there with you, you can drop it onto their Profile picture
  • Or you can open an IM window with them, and drop the item into the IM window
  • You can right click the item in your inventory and select Share from the context menu
  • Many viewers also have a Share button at the bottom of the inventory window
If you want to get complicated, you can rez the item in world, set it for sale (for $L0 or for an actual price) and then set it so that the original item is the thing sold, or have it provide a copy of itself to the person who buys it.  Then tell your friend or customer to right click and Buy the item to get it.

Back to transfers from inventory, can transfer up to, I think, 40 items at once by putting them into a folder and transferring the whole folder.  If you have more items than will transfer in a folder, you can put them into a "box"...a containing prim...take the prim into your inventory, and transfer that.

There's only one thing I don't understand...with so many ways to give things away, why does my inventory total keep going up?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Be A Land Baron(ess)

I rent out land to residents in Second Life.  Technically, that makes me a "land baron" although we usually reserve this term for those Private Estate owners who own and manage large numbers of regions.  My own enterprise is much smaller...less than one region, on the Mainland.  Still, I've been doing this for about five years now, and since my little business is FINALLY showing a (small) profit, I feel qualified to write about How To Do It.

First of all, it's not all that easy, at least not at first.  Those of you who think that Land Barony is a quick road to riches, please go back and re-read the first paragraph.  Note the "five years" and "small profit" parts!  But if you are still serious about trying this, read on.

First Steps.  Well, you need some land, obviously!  If you have never owned land in Second Life, I STRONGLY urge you to start slow.  Be a land OWNER first, with just a parcel for yourself, before leaping into renting land to other residents.  There are three ways to get land.
  1. Buy Mainland directly.  You'll need to be a Premium member to do this.   You can start with a free Linden Home, or buy a small 512 square meter parcel from another resident.  You don't have to pay a monthly land fee until you own more than 512 m2.
  2. Buy Mainland through an auction.  The majority of Mainland parcels are sold resident-to-resident, but some are offered through an auction process.  You can find the land auctions here:  These auctions work like the auctions on eBay, with an automatic bidding process.
  3. "Buy" a parcel on a Private Estate.  You don't have to be a Premium member to do this.  "Owning" a Private Estate parcel is a little like Mainland ownership and a little like renting.  You will probably have full control over parcel access privileges, and may have some terraforming privileges...but you will pay your monthly fee to the Estate Owner, not Linden Lab, and you may not be able to deed the land to a land group.  You are also subject to the rules, not to mention the whims, of the Estate Owner.  A good Estate Owner can make your Second Life more pleasant and preserve the quality of the neighborhood.  A bad owner, on the other hand, can make your life miserable.
While I do enjoy living on a well-run estate, I don't recommend buying just part of a Private Estate region if you intend to rent some or all of it to other residents.  The Estate Owner might not allow sub-leasing, and even if they do, you're competing directly with the Estate Owner for tenants -- and by the nature of things, she can charge less than you can.

Learn how land works!
  • how to rez things
  • how to limit the ability to rez things to only those people you want to have that ability
  • how to find lost things
  • how to return unwanted things
  • how to use Autoreturn
  • how to terraform the ground
  • how to build things.  You may use a lot of pre-fab objects like trees and houses, but you should at least be able to build and edit simple things like walkways!  The more things you can create yourself, the more you will save on pre-made things, and the more unique your land will be.
  • how to put up a skybox without violating parcel boundaries
  • how to share or deed land to a group  (and how to create and manage a group, if you haven't ever done that before!)
  • how to get a radio or a TV working on group-owned land
  • how to fight lag
  • how to deal with trespassers or stalkers
  • how to get LL support when needed
  • how to set up and use a rental box
  • how to set up and use a security system, and how (and when) to use banlines
I have not described how to do all this in detail.  For one thing, it would turn this blog post into a book.  For another, I'm leaving them as Exercises for the Student.  You'll learn them better by DOING them.  When you feel comfortable with these things, then you are ready to take the big leap and become a landlord.

What To Offer?   You can offer your tenants bare, unimproved land...just parcels for them to put their own house on.  Or, you can create homes, or buy prefab homes from other creators, and put them on your land, ready to move in to.  You can even buy fully-furnished and scripted homes and rent turn-key residences.  Each of these approaches appeals to a different market segment.  You may want to create a complete environment for your tenants...a city, a science fiction setting, a fantasy forest, or an underwater realm for mer-folk.  This approach may appeal to the roleplaying crowd.  Remember that the more prims you use in creating a desirable environment, the less prims you can allow your tenants.  You must work to achieve a balance.

What to Buy?  You can buy Mainland, or you can buy an entire Private Estate region.  A new region, bought directly from LL, costs an initial fee of $1,000 USD, but you can often buy a region for much less by taking it over from an existing owner.  There's a forum where you can find such regions on offer:
There is also a specific procedure for this type of transaction.  DO NOT pay the owner anything directly!  Instead, follow the directions here:

Your Private Estate region will cost you $295 USD per month.  Be prepared for at least several months of negative cash flow while you get your land set up and get the word out to prospective tenants.  Tier is less on the Mainland ($195 per month for a full region) but the initial purchase price may be higher, depending on the land's location.

Private Estate regions offer you more control.  You can see more information about what scripts are running there (and causing lag.)  You can write your own Covenant and have it show in the land window.  You can terraform more (+/- 100 meters, vs. +/- 4m on the Mainland.)  You can re-start the region yourself, and you can assign the terrain textures.  On the other hand, the Mainland is very large and if your land is well located offers your tenants (and you!) the opportunity to explore widely on foot or by vehicle.

Location is very important, especially with Mainland.  Land around the Blake Sea sailing regions is especially desirable (and will be priced accordingly!)  But if you want to offer skybox rentals, any old bombed-out hunk of Mainland will do, since your residents will be far above and never see it.  Be sure to check the Maturity Rating.  This is set by LL and cannot be changed, so be sure it supports what you want to do with the land, and what your prospective tenants will want.

Once you own at least one full Private Estate region, you can purchase Homestead regions as well.  These cost less to buy and maintain, but support fewer avatars and prims than a full region.  They are, however, the same physical size as a full region, so they are popular with tenants who want a large piece of land for a comparatively low price.  (You could buy OpenSpace regions too, but these are really intended as untenanted ocean or empty land.  They aren't suitable to rent out.)

Landlord On A Budget.  Maybe you can't afford to buy a whole region, either on the Mainland or as a Private Estate.  I think the practical minimum for a rental operation is a half region ($125/mo).  You can probably get as many as eight to twelve nice rentals on a parcel of this size.  However, you may be able to go with even less...just buy some small 1024 m2 parcels and rent them out.  They don't have to be connected, or even in the same region.  This approach is like the Real Life investor who buys up houses here and there all over town, and rents them out.

Commercial Property.  Some landlords build shopping malls, and then rent out store space.  This is a VERY hands on business, because you must work to attract traffic to your location.  If you don't, your store owners will quickly depart for greener pastures.  Merchants WILL pay attention to your traffic statistics.  Hold events, advertise, help your tenants advertise.  Organize sales with your merchants.  Talk to some of the more successful SL business or club owners and see if you can attract one or more of them to be "anchor" stores for your mall.  You are competing with the SL Marketplace, so you must provide a place that both merchants and customers can easily find, and visit.  Malls that have both a ballroom and stores that sell formal wear may do hand washes the other, as it were.

How to Get Tenants.  This is the hardest part.
First, you must make your land a desirable place to live.  A great location is a huge plus!  Nice terraforming and landscaping is the next step, and finally, either sites with pleasant views, or well-made and textured living spaces.  Having amenities helps, too.  For example, we have a singles and couples dance system that works anywhere in the sim, with plenty of remote access points and a good assortment of dances.

Next, you have to get the word out.  You should list your land in Search ($L30 per week per parcel) and you should take out a Classified ad.  Places get a higher ranking in the Classifieds by paying more for their ad, but don't try to compete with places spending thousands of $L per month.  Just get yourself listed.  You can purchase space on ad boards in many places in SL, but I have not found these to be very productive.  You can hold Events on your land...parties, games, scavenger hunts...and list them on the SL Events page.

There are Land forums on the Second Life web site where you can advertise your rentals and sales.  There is also a Real Estate section of the Marketplace where you can offer a notecard with information about your properties.

I also have my land rentals prominently featured in my Profile.  There's a link in my Forum signature too, and I make it a point to be an active participant in the SL Forums.  This blog is another, very low key, method of advertising (RENT AT MASOCADO, Y'ALL!)

Word of mouth is your best form of advertising.  Mention your land rental business to everyone you talk to!  Mention it in group chats (but for heaven's sake, don't spam groups, that will get you banned from them!)  Ask your friends to tell THEIR friends.  Most of all, Keep Your Tenants Happy.  If you do, even if they leave they may come back, or tell their friends what a nice place you run.

What to Charge.  This is very tricky.  Some landlords who can offer a very desirable location can charge more for it.  Others whose offerings don't stand out from the crowd must offer lower prices.  I charge by the prim, at a rate of roughly $L7.5 per prim per calendar month...but I also have land with direct access to vast areas of Linden Ocean.  You should at least calculate your monthly expenses, and set your prices so that your income meets or exceeds those expenses.  Be sure to figure in a vacancy will probably almost always have some un-rented parcels.

Minimize Your Tier per Square Meter. On the Mainland, the tier system is set up so that the more land you own (up to one full region,) the less tier you pay per square meter.  You can see this by studying the tier table here:  So buy the most land you can afford.  If you find that you are "in between" tier levels, either buy more land right up to your tier level maximum, or rent out your spare tier to another person who needs it.  (See my earlier post on this, "Wheelers and Dealers.")  You'll probably be making a land rental group for your tenants, so consider deeding your land to the group.  Groups can own 10% more land than an individual for the same tier payment.

How to Charge.  Most Mainland rentals charge by the week.  I have found it much more convenient for both me and my tenants to charge by the calendar month.  They are hassled less often with reminders to pay their rent, and I have many fewer reminders to send out!  Most land owners use some sort of rental box system to collect payments.  I use HippoTech, and I like that it allows me to manage all my rental boxes from a single web page.  Some landlords set up a central payment location with a kiosk or ATM type system.  Some landlords allow payments in $USD, direct to a PayPal account.  You could even, if you just have one or two rentals, just use an informal agreement with your tenants..."Pay me $L3500 directly, on the 15th of every month."

How about promotional offers?  There are several possibilities.  You can offer a "referral bonus" to tenants who bring in another tenant.  You can offer a month's free rent...but don't make it the FIRST month, everyone will come and stay for that month, then leave!  Give 'em a free third or fourth month!

Be Friendly!  Greet all visitors to your land politely.  Respond as quickly as possible to tenant problems and requests.  Be on the alert for a new tenant paying a rental box on a vacancy, and get back to them quickly with a group invitation and a friendly welcome.  If you're holding an event, be sure to get out some group notices about it.  Do your best to be fair if there is a dispute to settle, either between tenants or between a tenant and yourself.

Land management is a hands-on business.  Don't expect to just buy some land, divide it into parcels, plop down some rental boxes and sit back while the money rolls in.  It doesn't work that way.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Oh, My Aching Back

I've continued to follow my Real Life self-improvement plan of the Atkins low-carbohydrate diet, and exercise.  (See my post, "Losing It.")  It's continuing to work, too!  In spite of various holiday indulgences, I've lost about 14 pounds from when I started back before Thanksgiving!

But today's post isn't to brag on myself.  Really.  It's about my (and, probably, your) unhealthy sedentary lifestyle.  We spend too much of our time sitting in front of computer monitors!  And that can lead to problems.  I've even heard it said that "sitting is the new smoking."  Get up out of that ergonomic seat every half hour or so and walk around for a few minutes.  If you're even more motivated, get yourself a computer workstation with adjustable height, and spend more time standing up while working at your monitor.  One example is shown in the picture below.

If you, like me, are subject to occasional backaches, here are some simple exercises you can do that will both provide some immediate relief and give your lower back muscles a gentle workout.

  • Lie flat on the floor, with your knees slightly elevated and the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Rotate your pelvis, pushing the small of your back flat against the floor.  Hold for a slow count of 5.  Release.  Do 10 repetitions.
  • Bend your right leg, lifting your knee to your chest.  Grasp your leg with both hands and pull it up and against your tummy as far as you can.  Hold for a slow count of 5.  Release and extend your leg out straight, parallel to the floor.  Repeat with the left leg.  Do 10 repetitions. 
  • Bring your right knee up and to the left, rotating your pelvis to the left, while keeping your shoulders flat against the floor.  Hold for a slow count of 5.  Return your leg to the floor and repeat with the left leg, rotating your pelvis to the right.  Do 10 repetitions.
  • Repeat the above sequence three times.
If you simply can't bear to leave Second Life long enough to do your Real Life exercises, find a gym and park your avatar on an exercise poseball while you take your RL health break!

(For those wanting to add a little spice of danger to your exercises:  Try washing your cat.  Let me know how that works out for you.  By mail, not in person.)