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Friday, November 24, 2017

We Love Your Comments!

I love getting comments on my posts, I really do.  It assures me that somebody out there is actually listening.  Unfortunately, when I made the blog open for comments from everyone, I got a LOT of spam comments.  For that reason, I have limited comments to people who actually Follow this blog. 

That doesn't mean I don't want to hear from you!  Please Follow me, and feel free to leave me a comment.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Another long-standing problem fixed

For many years now, people have complained about the Transaction History feature of Second Life.  The complaint usually takes the form of, "I bought something a couple of months ago and I need to provide proof of purchase to the creator.  But my Transaction History only goes back 30 days...help!"

But there is no help in this situation.  Your Marketplace History goes back all the way to your very first Marketplace purchase...but unless you are in the habit of saving your Transaction History as a spreadsheet every month, there was no way to get information on your transactions in world further back than a month.

Until now, that is.  Linden Lab has recently increased the amount of data stored in your Transaction History to THREE months.  Now you can review up to 90 days' worth of data!

If you run a Second Life business, or are just the anal retentive type, you will still want to download and save your transaction data...but at least now you only have to do it once a quarter!

Kudos to the good folks at Linden Lab for this small but useful improvement.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

$L Transaction Fees Go Up...Again.

It seems like only a few months ago, LL raised the fees for buying $L, and for transferring cash out of Second Life to your PayPal account.  But last week, they went up again.

Now it will cost you $0.99 every time you purchase $L.  And the fee for a process credit transaction is no longer capped at $25, but is  2.5% regardless of the size of the transfer.

Linden Lab claims that they are doing this to offset increased expenses related to combating fraud, and I believe them.  The number of people losing control of their accounts due to phishing attacks is rising...due both to the sheer number of attacks, and their increasing sophistication.

It's one more example of how the actions of an unprincipled few hurt all the rest of us.

Here's the link to the official Linden Lab announcement: https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/entry/2265-exciting-improvements-to-sl-fee-updates-to-enable-even-more/

It's not all bad news, though.  LL points out that Second Life is continuing to gain new features and new functions.  One is a grid-wide hunt-type game, "Tyrah and the Curse of the Magical Glytches."  And another is the coming advent of "animesh," a new capability that will allow the animation of non-avatar mesh objects.  You can play the Glytches game right now, and I expect animesh to be at least as big a change as Bento. 

There's still a lot of life in Second Life!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The WayBack Machine

Today's post is about a couple of pieces of Second Life history!

The first is what is reputed to be the Oldest Object in Second Life.  "The Man" is a statue constructed of basic prims.  It was created during the initial alpha testing of Second Life (then known as "Linden World") in 2002 by oldjohn Linden.  It survived the destruction of the build that surrounded it, an experimental prototype of a city.

Although it has moved from place to place, it's always been located in the Natoma region, itself one of the oldest Mainland areas of SL.  It currently stands on a grassy hill overlooking the rest of the sim, Philip's Hill.  The name of the hill, of course, refers to SL's creator, Philip Rosedale (Philip Linden in SL.)

The second item for today is also in Natoma, and can be seen from Philip's Hill.  The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives is perhaps the oldest educational/tutorial venue in SL.  Originally created by Lumiere Noir in 2004, the Ivory Tower reminds one of one of those interactive science museums.  As you wander its halls, you encounter a series of self-paced tutorials that teach you all about Second Life's built-in object creation features. 

In 2014, the original build was replaced by a very lovely round tower with oval or arched glass windows and a unique glass dome roof, designed and executed by Avi Arrow.  In keeping with its purpose and history, the new Ivory Tower is constructed entirely of prims...no mesh.

The Natoma region contains several other early Second Life builds.  Go there on pilgrimage, young avatar, and marvel at how far we have come!

"The Man" Statue

The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trade $L Like a Pro

Today's post is a tutorial about a subject that confuses a lot of people...even me!  That subject is currency trading; specifically, how to buy and sell Linden Dollars ($L) to your best advantage.

The $L is the currency of Second Life, and it is bought and sold on the Linden Dollar Exchange, or LindeX.  Like any stock market or currency exchange, the LindeX is a system that brings buyers and sellers together.  You're not buying $L from Linden Lab, you are buying them from some anonymous resident who's offered to sell.  The price of the $L varies up and down, following the laws of supply and demand.

That means that the price for buying $L right this moment is probably NOT going to be the price a few hours from now, or a week from Wednesday.  But we can breathe a sigh of relief, because Linden Lab regulates the market to prevent really huge price swings by trading with their own account, "Currency Linden".  So the $L generally trades in a range from about $L248 = $US1 to $L256 = $US1.  For rough conversion purposes, we can say that you get about $L250 for a buck.

That's good enough for most folks.  If you click the "Buy $L" button in your Second Life viewer, you'll be buying at the current market rate.  Simple and easy.


If you click the Buy $L link on your Dashboard page on the Second Life website, though, you are presented with two choices.

The "Instant Buy" is the same as clicking the Buy $L button in your viewer.  You're buying at the current market price.  Note a couple of details here...you are specifying exactly how many $L you want to buy (2500 in this example).  You are given an "estimated cost" of $9.66.  After adding the fixed transaction fee of $0.40, your total estimate cost is $10.66.  (Note:  This is an old screen grab.  The current transaction fee is $0.60) The cost is estimated, because the market goes up and down.  The price might be slightly different by the time you click the Place Order button.

But it's the other choice, "Best Rate Buy" that we're going to talk about.  It's also the one that gets a lot of people in trouble, because they choose it without knowing what they are doing.  After all, who doesn't want to get the best rate?  For a best rate buy, or Limit buy, you specify the exchange rate you're willing to buy at...in this example, $L269 per dollar.  You also specify the quantity of $L you want, 2500.  After adding in the transaction fee, the total cost is going to be $9.70.  In this case, it's not an estimated cost, because we know the exact exchange rate and amount.

But what we DON'T know is time.  Depending on how much the exchange rate fluctuates, and how many orders have been placed at this rate, it could take hours, or days, or weeks...or even never...for your order to be filled.  LL provides an estimate of how long they think it'll take, but this estimate can be wildly incorrect.

It's pretty clear that we need to know more in order to select the best exchange rate.  We'd like to get a better deal than simply paying the market price, but we don't want to wait until hell freezes over to get it.

Right next to the Buy $L button on your Dashboard is another one, "Manage".  When you click that, you'll get a bunch of further choices.  Click "Market Data".

...and you'll see a page with all sorts of confusing stuff on it!


Let's take a closer look.  The graph at the top left shows a history of the daily exchange rates.  The red bars show the spread between the high and the low for the day, and the blue dots are the average rate for the day.  You can see that in this example, the $L has been trading in a range from 246 - 256 per dollar, with the average price just under 250.  The Volume graph below shows how many $L were bought and sold each day.  The table below shows the same information as the graphs, but in tabular form.

At the top right, you can see more numbers.  I pretty much ignore the "Best Buying Rate" and "Best Selling Rate".  They are the same as the high and low numbers, and while choosing this rate may get you the best deal, as we said before, there's no knowing how long you'd have to wait for it.   But the numbers for "Today's Open" and "Today's Close" can give you an idea of the range you have to work with.

Next, go back to your Dashboard and either click "Buy $L" or click "Manage" again and select Buy.  But when you see those two choices, scroll down the page...and you'll see another table:
You can use this table and compare the volume of open orders at a particular exchange rate with the daily volume figures from the market data.  You can see there are about $L46 million in outstanding Buy orders at $L256 per dollar.  At a daily volume of around $L75 million (at ALL exchange rates) it's going to take a while.  There are fewer orders at higher rates, 257 and up...but these are long shot bets, because the daily fluctuations in price don't encompass those rates.

Now we know a bit about what the market is doing, and what sort of options we have.  Let's do a little experimenting to see what kind of deals we could get.

In the "Instant Buy" window, enter the amount of $L you'd like to buy.  In this example, I'm going to use $L25,000 as our target figure, or about $US100.00.  I recommend you buy as large a quantity as you can afford, because that way the transaction fee becomes a smaller cut of the pie.
I will ALSO choose an exchange rate over in the Best Rate Buy window.  In this case, I picked 255 per dollar.  

Now we can compare our options.  If I do this limit buy, I will wait an estimated time of 10 minutes (I'd give it a few hours, myself), but I'd save $102.23 - $98.64 = $3.59.  If I select higher exchange rates, I'll save more, but I'll wait longer.

Selling $L works exactly the same way, although the windows you see are a bit different:

Enter trial amounts in both the Market Sell and in the Limit Sell windows and compare the results.

Now let's say you made your Limit Buy offer.  Linden Lab will immediately bill your payment method for it, so when they don't immediately get their $L, a lot of people get concerned!  But what happens is that LL places that money in an "escrow" account until either the order is filled or canceled.

If you get tired of waiting for your order to be filled, you can cancel it.  Go to your Dashboard, and click Manage/LindeX Order History, and look in Open Orders.  When you cancel an open order, the money is immediately transferred to your $USD Balance.  You can then use it to place another order at a different exchange rate, or a market buy.

The narrow range in which the $L trades, plus transaction fees from Linden Lab, make currency trading impractical for most people, unless you are trading really huge amounts and are willing to make many tiny profits in hopes they'll add up.  But knowing how to make Limit buys and sells can definitely save you a few bucks!

Two Charitable Causes in Second Life

A very quick post!

Many people in Second Life raise money for worthy causes.  For example, there's the annual grid-wide Relay for Life campaign.  But just recently two events came to my attention that I thought I'd pass on for your consideration.

The first is a shopping fair set up by Second Life creators and the group Models Giving Back, called "Hope After Harvey."  Money raised from sales will be sent to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.  There are some rather nice outfits here, too!  If you don't see anything you like, there are handy donation boxes in several places.  Here's the SLURL: Hope After Harvey

The second is actually a series of events.  Spoonful of Sugar is holding their third Fall Festival to support Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders.  The event takes up five sims, with the theme "Fall in New England." There are over 150 SL designers participating, and you'll find fashion, home and garden, and breedables.  Not to mention lots of DJs and performers.  The festival runs from September 16 to October 1.  Get more information and check out the calendar of events here: http://www.thesosfestival.com.  Or just teleport to the Festival with this link: The Spoonful of Sugar Fall Festival.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Make a Postcard in Second Life

Hello, readers!  Today's post is a How To.

Let's say you've just visited an astoundingly beautiful place in Second Life, and you want to tell your friends about it.  You could, of course, just send them an IM.  Open your Map, click "Copy SLURL to Clipboard" and then hit CTRL+V to paste the location in your IM window.

But you have more class than that, right?  Let's send them a postcard instead!

First, you'll need to take a picture for your postcard.  Here I am at the Iron Cloud sky platform in Caledon:

I saved this picture to my hard drive (one of the options in the Snapshot window).  Then in Photoshop, I added some text.

While I was at the Iron Cloud, I also used World/Create Landmark Here to make a landmark.  Then I right clicked the landmark and selected "Copy SLURL" to put the location information on my clipboard.  I pasted that into my Photoshop image as text.  But later, when we get our postcard back into SL, we can do better than that...I'll show you how to make your postcard offer the recipient the landmark.

Anyway, here's our postcard image:
Before we upload it to Second Life, we need to re-size it.  SL prefers images that have pixel dimensions that are a power of 2...for example, 512 x 512.  Also, you can't upload textures that are larger than 1024 x 1024 pixels.  So we'll re-size this image to 512 x 512.  It will make it look squished horizontally, but that's OK.  We'll fix it later.

Here's what we'll upload:

Next, we rez a prim, and change its dimensions so that it resembles a 4x3 postcard...but we'll make it a bit bigger, 0.02m x 2m x 1.5m.  Then we'll change the texture to Blank, for a white postcard, and also set the texture to Full Bright.
Then we apply the texture we uploaded to one face of the prim.  It will be stretched back to its original 4x3 aspect ratio, if we set the texture repeats in both dimensions to 1.0.
In the General tab of the Edit window, let's rename it.  I called mine IronCloudPostcard.

Now let's add some things.  Drag the landmark for Iron Cloud and drop it into the Content tab of the Edit window.  Then let's write a notecard describing the wonders we saw on our visit.  Right click in your Inventory window, select New Note.  Give it a unique name, so you don't have a few hundred "New Notes" floating around in your inventory.  Type your text, save the note, and drag and drop it into the Content tab along with the landmark we put there previously.
Finally, we need a script that will give the card's contents to its owner.  The script below is one such, and will give the contents of the prim to the owner when the prim is clicked.

// This script will automatically give the contents of the box (except this script)
// to the owner of the box when the box is touched.  The contents will be given in a
// folder with the same name as the box. The box can be set to prompt the owner to delete
// the box.
//
// WARNING: ALL CONTENTS OF THE BOX MUST HAVE COPY PERMS OR IT WILL NOT WORK
//
// Created by Digi Vox for OnRez, 2007, donated to public domain

list get_items() {
    string      this_script = llGetScriptName();
    string      name;
    integer     max = llGetInventoryNumber(INVENTORY_ALL);
    integer     i;
    list items = [];
    for (i = 0; i < max; ++i) {
        name = llGetInventoryName(INVENTORY_ALL, i);
        if(llGetInventoryPermMask(name, MASK_NEXT) & PERM_COPY && name != this_script) {
            items += [name];
        }
    }
    return items;
}

default {
   
    on_rez(integer n) {
        llResetScript();
    }
   
    state_entry() {
        llSetText("Touch me for more information", <1.0, 1.0, 1.0>, 1.0);
    }
   
    touch_start(integer n) {
        if (llDetectedKey(0) != llGetOwner()) return;
       
        llGiveInventoryList(llGetOwner(), llGetObjectName(), get_items());
        //llSetText("This box has been unpacked.\nYou can delete it now.\n(Right-click->Delete)", <1.0, 1.0, 1.0>, 1.0);
    }
}

Copy the above text, right click in your inventory and choose New Script.  Paste the text into the script window and save it.  Then drag the script into the content tab of the postcard.
We're done!  Right click the postcard and Take it into your inventory.  Now just open a friend's Profile and drag and drop the postcard onto their profile picture to send it.

That's a lot of work just for a postcard!  Most people in SL limit projects like this to special occasions, like wedding announcements or Christmas cards.  But these steps are also what you'd do to create a box for a product and load the box with the contents...so these techniques are quite useful, even if you don't use them for postcards!