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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Everything Old is New Again

A little while back, I noticed that my Logitech wireless keyboard had begun to need recharging more and more often.  Also, it had somehow developed a hole in the spacebar key.  I have NO idea how that happened...my nails are not that long and sharp and I don't THINK I type anywhere near hard enough to cause punctures.  My mouse had started becoming unreliable too...it was misinterpreting single clicks or a click and drag as double clicks.

So it was time for new peripherals!

I'd always wanted a mechanical keyboard (I learned to type on an IBM Selectric), but the high prices and the many, many different choices had kept me from actually getting one.  I mean, there are like seven or eight different kinds of key switches out there.  Should I get Cherry MX Blue, or Red, or Brown?  Speed Switches?  Opto-electronic?

After a lot of research, I finally crossed my fingers and ordered a Corsair K95 RGB Platinum keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches.

So now I have a keyboard that is, in some respects, WAY retro.  It has that old, great feeling of mechanical keys.  It's so very different from the membrane keyboards I've been using for decades now that it's taking me a while to get used to it, but so far I am liking it more and more each time I have to type something...like this blog post!  It also has a big, fat wire going across my desk, under my monitor, and taking up TWO USB ports in my computer.  (One of them is for a USB passthrough in the back of the keyboard.)  It's heavy, too.  It has a gravitas that my old Logitech board lacked, even though the old board was physically larger.

The wire connection and the mechanical keys and the weight are the old-style parts.  What's new is the RGB lighting.  Of course, nowadays we must RGB all the things.  I think I read somewhere that the more RGB lighting your computer system has, the better it performs.  Or maybe it was the component manufacturers that read that.  Anyway, my new keyboard has lots of pretty colored backlighting, and even a fairly complex software application to control it (Corsair's iCue).  Yay!  Now I can spend hours configuring the lights of my computer instead of actually doing work on it!  As a professional procrastinator, I love this.

Another nice feature of the board is the volume control.  Yes, I know...most keyboards these days have some media control buttons on them.  But until the Corsair, I had never used any of them.  The K95 has a nice tactile roller to control volume, and it works.  It works for everything!  I had been controlling volume in about six or eight different places, using the mouse to change playback volume in each individual player window on Facebook or YouTube or whatever.  Now, I just roll up or down with my index finger and don't have to hunt for where the on-screen volume slider is.

There is, though, one thing about the new board that's really bugging me.  All the key caps that have symbols for things you SHIFT to get to have the symbols reversed.  On every keyboard I've ever used, the symbol for the SHIFTed character is on top, and the symbol for the regular character is on the bottom.  So, for example, the period key has a > symbol over the period, the 1 key has an exclamation point over the numeral.  But on THIS board, the 1 is on top, and there's a little ! under it.  The > symbol is underneath the period.  The / is over the ?  I did a little research on keycaps, and I found that, apparently, nobody makes them the way I'm used to any more.  Either they are reversed, like my new Corsair board, or they are side by side on the keycaps.  Whatever gave people THIS great idea?  Is this another side effect of having everything in the world made in China?

I say "another" side effect because I also just got a new inkjet printer, a Canon Pixma TS8320.  It makes absolutely lovely photographic prints, and it looks so streamlined.  When it's closed up, it's just a medium sized, shiny black rectangular box.  But when you go to use it, it displays its Chinese heritage.  For one thing, the manuals, both the meager printed material and the more extensive web-based literature, have what I would call a "Chinese accent".  There are things about the word and the grammar choices that just don't sound right to a Western ear.  This carries over to the actual control panel of the printer.  You control it using a small touch screen.  Whenever I touch this screen to give it a command, it tells me to "please wait momentarily".  I can just hear a singsong Chinese accent in this misuse of the word "momentarily".  The correct English would be "please wait" or "please wait a moment" or "one moment, please".

The new mouse arrives today.  Wish me luck.

Friday, December 20, 2019

A Perfect Virtual Christmas

Hello, everyone!

This'll be a very short post, as things are very busy around here in Real Life during the holidays!

I just wanted to suggest that, if your Real Life isn't giving you the picture postcard winter holiday season you dream of, give Second Life a try!

The SL Destinations Guide has eight pages (!) of sparkly, snowy winter destinations...everything from a snow-dusted Austrian forest to New York City.  Here's the link to the Destinations pages: https://secondlife.com/destinations/winter

I can personally recommend the Chamonix regions (the very last entry in the Destinations list).  The winter sports there are wonderful fun, especially the ski jump...and you don't even have to risk frostbite!  The Madpea destinations are always a trip and a half, too.

So put on your parka, your ear muffs and mittens, and get out there in the pretend cold...and have yourself an honest to goodness fun holiday!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Last Names...Again, at Long Last

As Professor Farnsworth says, "Good news, everyone!"  For well over a year now, Linden Lab has promised us a return to Last Names, and now it appears that it's really about to come true!

But, perhaps a bit of a history lesson is in order.

Once Upon a Time, when you signed up for a Second Life account, you were presented with a list of possible last names.  You picked one, and then you were allowed to create your own first name.  If the combination of the two wasn't already in use, that became your Second Life user name.  That's how I became "Lindal Kidd".  I picked Kidd, and then started trying to come up with a first name that a) was not taken, and b) sounded OK to me when paired with Kidd.  After a lot of failures, I hit with "Lindal".

Now, Second Life residents have always complained about LL's naming system, and this was true even back at the beginning under this two-part system.  There were complaints that not all sign-up portals for SL offered the same set of last names.  There were complaints that a particular last name had fallen off the "available" list.  There were, most of all, complaints that once a user name was chosen, there was then no way to change it.  A lot of people made that complaint, they wanted to be able to take the last name of their SL partner, or change their name for other reasons.

LL listened to the complaints.  For once, they acted on them.  Unfortunately, the solution they came up with caused at least as many, if not more, complaints!  What they did was to change the user name system to eliminate last names entirely.  All the new user had to do was to come up with a one-word user name.  To protect a lot of things that relied on the old two-name system from breaking, everyone also got a last name, and it was the same last name for everyone:  Resident.

This created what appeared to many to be a dual-class system.  Older residents had two names, while newer residents were all Something Resident.

As time passed, even though it was still technically there, viewers and objects that used names did not explicitly display the "Resident" portion of user names.  This helped a bit, but there were still the oldsters with their two names, and the increasing numbers of single name residents.

At the same time as all this took place, LL added "Display Names".  This was a second, alternative name that people could add to their identity.  It didn't replace the user name, it was just added.  Display Names could be more than one name, since spaces were allowed.  Special font characters were allowed, although they had a tendency to break things like logins.  People could set preferences in their viewers to see only Display Names, only user names, or both.  Display Names could be changed as often as once a week.

This was a bit of a help for people who needed a different name for roleplaying, or wanted to change their name to reflect a partnership.  But on the whole it merely added to the confusion.

Of course, people complained about it!  After several years of collective moaning, LL finally said, "OK, fine.  We'll find some way to bring back last names, and we'll find some way to let people change them.  It'll cost you, though."

Now, in the latest post on LL's official blog, they've said that last names will be returning early next year (2020).  The system will be pretty much a reversion to the old style: Pick from among a list of last names, and come up with a first name to go with it.  Read the announcement here: https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/entry/3110-name-changes-contest-is-upon-us/

Note that the announcement doesn't say anything about being able to change your name again, once you have made this one-time change.  It appears that changing your name will require a Premium membership, plus a $39.99 fee.

To add to the fun, they're letting the residents propose last names for the official list!  The top five names will get a free upgrade to their new suggested name...so if you enter the contest, be sure to only propose names you'd want for yourself!

Also, the new last names cannot duplicate any of the old last names.  LL gives a link to a Wiki page that lists all of those...and I was astounded when I took a look.  I had no idea how many last names had been used by the old system!  The Wiki page does not have any sort of readability to it, it's a HUGE Wall O' Text.  At least they are in alphabetical order.

Part of the Wall of Last Names

If I were a clever programmer, I'd come up with a little gadget that'd automatically check any last name ideas you had against this list, and sell it on the Marketplace!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sharing your Second Life Just Got Harder

In the Second Life forums, Prokofy Neva began this thread today:  https://community.secondlife.com/forums/topic/446822-share-is-taken-out-of-the-viewer-completely/

For quite a while now, the ability to take pictures in SL and share them directly on social media (Flickr, Facebook, etc.) has been broken.  Linden Lab said that the problem lay with the social media, and changes in their linking policies, but that they were working on it.

It now appears that any such efforts were not successful.  LL removed the controls in the viewer's snapshot window that allowed you to share content with social media.

This is annoying, but while it's no longer convenient to share your pictures on other platforms, it's certainly not impossible.  Just save your pictures to your hard drive, then upload them to your social media account from there.

And if you just want to share with the SL community, there are some long-running Forum threads where you can post your pictures, notably https://community.secondlife.com/forums/topic/405992-how-does-your-avatar-look-today/  and  https://community.secondlife.com/forums/topic/32549-the-vanity-thread/ .  There is also Linden Lab's own "Pic of the Day" where you can enter your photos to be featured on the SL official blog: https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/blog/5-inworld/

Or, of course...start your own Second Life blog and post your images there! You can make videos in world too, and post them to your YouTube channel.  See my post: https://acrossthegridwithlindal.blogspot.com/2011/12/machinima-second-life-videos.html

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Copyright Infringement in Second Life

Hello, gentle readers!  It's been a while.  I hope all of you are enjoying this holiday season!

Linden Lab just made a blog post on the official Second Life blog about copyright infringement, and how to report it.  (See: https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/entry/3086-digital-millennium-copyright-act-%E2%80%9Cdmca%E2%80%9D-refresh/).

In this post, LL didn't really state anything new, they just referred us to their Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) infringement reporting procedure...so you can, if you like, skip the blog post and go right to that:  https://www.lindenlab.com/legal/intellectual-property-infringement-notification-policy

There are a couple of things LL doesn't make completely clear, so my purpose today is to point those out to you.

First of all, the Copyright Office now REQUIRES that you actually register your copyright in order to bring an action against an alleged infringer.  There's a fine legal distinction here.  Under US copyright law, the creator of an original work automatically holds copyright in it, whether or not it is officially registered with the Copyright Office.  However, having a registration gives you a clear proof that you can point to in court and say, "This is mine.  I created it on such-and-such a date, and here is the registration to prove it."  Proving that you are the originator of the work in any other way has always been hard, and in this digital age it has become even harder.  Therefore, the Copyright Office's position is that you need to be able to show an official registration.

Registration is not difficult, nor is it terribly expensive.  Here's where to go: https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-register.html#fee

While not expensive in Real Life terms, registering a copyright, even though you can register some things in bunches, may not be cost-effective for Second Life content.  Think it over, and if you feel that the sales of your content will more than pay for the fees, then register.  If you decide not to register, be aware that your risk of losing any DMCA battle with an infringer is increased.  You'll have to decide if that increased risk is worth the money you save by not registering.

The second thing is something that LL touches on in the last paragraph of their DMCA policy, but it's easy to miss if you're just skimming the material.  That is, that when you make a DMCA claim, you have to put your Real Life identity on the form.  The alleged infringer may (and probably will) be able to get that information from LL, if they decide to contest your claim.  Before submitting a DMCA claim, be sure that you are OK with your opponent finding out who you really are.  It is a sad but true fact that protecting your intellectual property in SL means putting your Second Life anonymity at risk.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Halloween in Second Life

Halloween is one of the biggest holidays in the virtual world.  Everyone obsesses over what costume they're going to wear.  Land owners create spooky builds, graveyards, haunted mansions.

Why is this?  I have no idea, even though I get caught up in the madness every year myself.  Here in SL, EVERY day is costume day!  After all, our avatars can be anything we choose.  What's so special about Halloween?

It doesn't matter.  It's fun!  And that's what SL is all about.  So get that special avatar.  Dress up as a wicked witch, a mermaid, a ghost, a zombie.  And check out some of the many Halloween-themed events!

Linden Lab's official blog has kindly put together a sampling: https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/entry/2651-a-month-of-haunted-surprises-for-everyone/

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Experiments in the New User Experience

This might be of interest!

When you first sign up for SL and log in, your avatar appears on "Learning Island".  After you explore there, you come to a portal that teleports you to "Social Island" where there are more "getting started" tutorials.

There are actually about a dozen identical copies of Learning Island and Social Island, and when one starts to get crowded, new arrivals get sent to one of the less crowded ones.

Only actual newcomers can get to Learning Island.  Once you leave, you are an "experienced resident" and cannot return. 

Up until recently, everyone could visit any of the Social Islands.  Like the older Help Island and Infohubs, this resulted in these areas attracting griefers, scammers, and troublemakers who like to shock or take advantage of new, inexperienced residents.

That is still true, mostly.  But LL is experimenting, trying to improve the new user experience (and thereby improve retention).  On one Social Island, only newcomers can visit, just like Learning Island.  They have to find out stuff for themselves, but they won't be bothered by the riff-raff.  On another Social Island, members of a trained mentoring group may visit, and offer assistance to the new residents.  This is similar to the old LL Mentors program, but the mentors are a resident-run group.

In another experiment, there are two or three different versions of Learning Island/Social Island.  There's a Romantic one, and a Science Fiction one, and I think another one, but I don't recall its theme.  Anyone can visit these regions.  I haven't seen any newcomers there, so I don't think the automated intake system is using them, people have to find them on their own.

You can find the Social Islands on your world Map.  Just type "Social Island" in the search box.  You'll have to zoom out to see them all, but their shape is distinctive.  The themed versions are nearby.

Kudos to LL for these experiments, and I hope the data gives useful results that lead to improvements!