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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Speaking In Tongues

Second Life has residents from all over the world. It won’t be long before you hear, or see in text, someone speaking in another language. Don’t let that stop you from talking to them! SL is a great place to acquire at least a smattering of some languages besides your own, and making the effort to communicate across a language barrier can be very rewarding, as well as fun.

There are two tools that can help you cross that language barrier. The first is an implementation of Google Translate built right into local chat. You can turn this on with a Chat preferences setting.
When this is enabled, things that people say to you (in local text chat) are translated by the chat window. The English translation (or whatever language you’ve selected) follows their text entry.

This is great, but it doesn’t solve two problems: it does not work in IM, and it’s only one way. Unless the other person also has translation enabled, they are not going to understand what you say to them. The second problem can be overcome by wearing a translator HUD. By far the best one that I’ve found is Ferd’s Free Google Translator. You can get one at Caledon Oxbridge University or at White Tiger Help Island, among other places.

Ferd’s translator produces a translation in all the languages used by the avatars within its range. In crowded multilingual areas like infohubs and help areas, this can create quite a confusing result in local chat, as it spouts three or four versions of what you just said.

There’s not much you can do about IMs except cut-and-paste translations. You can do this with Ferd’s translator (by “muttering” to yourself on a private chat channel, then cutting and pasting the translated text to IM), or you can use an external browser window to access Google Translate directly and cut and paste from there.

There are two other problems with any machine translation. First, it’s not always accurate, especially for idioms or internet-style abbreviations. Speak as simply as possible and spell out all your words. Be prepared to say it again, in a different way, if the translator mangles your idea badly.

Second, all of these rely on the incredibly popular Google Translate API. Google has announced that they are discontinuing this API sometime around December of this year. This will likely impact SL’s ability to translate for residents.

That worries me a lot. One of my best SL friends has very modest English, and we limp along in French, with a great deal of help from our translators. I’m not sure how well we’ll be able to communicate next year. If you’re in a similar situation, now is the time to start seriously learning a second language. There are actually some language learning classes conducted in SL…worth looking into.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Content Theft

In the ordinary way of things, theft is unknown in Second Life. Unless you have given me permission (via a Friends List option) to edit your objects, I can’t take your stuff, or even move it. Creators can set the “permissions” on items they make so that new owners can copy them for their own use, but not transfer the copies to others (copy/no transfer) or so that there is only one copy…and if you give it away or lose it, it’s gone (no copy/transfer).

But everything in SL is just…computer data. Pixels on a screen. Pixels on YOUR screen, being processed by your computer’s graphics card. Is there some way that you could tap into that data in your graphics card and somehow copy it to your personal machine in a usable fashion? The answer is yes. Several tools are available that let you copy Second Life objects. The amount of expertise required depends on the particular tool.

There are legitimate uses for such tools. For example, you could create backup copies of all your own creations, so that they are safe from any disaster that might strike the Linden Lab inventory servers. However, these tools are also used to steal Second Life content.

We are in an age of instant access to perfect digital copies of just about any sort of media. Today’s kids have grown up sharing copies of music, videos, games, and computer applications. A great many people believe that they have an inherent right to anything digital. I’ve heard it said that “if you publish it on the Web, it’s public domain”.

I’m sorry, but it’s not. Just because you CAN copy something does not give you the right to do so. A creator expends talent and time to create something, and they have a right to decide who is allowed to benefit from their work.

In my opinion, one of the reasons that Linden Lab closed down Teen Second Life was the widespread distribution of copied items, many of them items that had been stolen from the main Second Life grid. This seriously disrupted TSL’s internal economy as well as harming main grid creators. SL’s micro-economy depends on creators being able to profit from their work. If creators cannot make a profit, stores will close, land will go vacant, private islands will disappear, and Second Life will shrink. If desirable new content isn’t available, people will become bored with SL and leave. More land will go vacant, more islands will disappear. Eventually, there aren’t enough landowners willing to pay tier to keep the grid running, and SL becomes a bit of internet history instead of a living world.

The individual may excuse herself. “Oh, it’s only one copy. The creator will never miss my $L200.” “It’s the professional copybotters that are the problem, I just changed the permissions on this one thing and gave one copy to my best friend.” “Somebody gave this to me, I didn’t steal it.” But imagine those rationalizations multiplied by a thousand, or ten thousand. Each theft adds to all the others. What is an acceptable loss now can grow over time until it destroys a multi-million dollar virtual economy.

There is no technological way to absolutely defend against illegal copying. The fact that the data must go to your graphics card to let you see SL at all will always give clever thieves a weak point to pry at.

If there is no technological solution, there is a social one. Each of us must be on guard against illegal copying. Don’t accept stolen items. If you see something you suspect is stolen, notify the creator. Creators should pursue content thieves by any legal means, especially the Digital Millenium Copyright Act Takedown Notice process. Most of all, we need to call a spade a spade. Content thieves are not cool dudes. They’re criminals, and their exploits harm not only the creators they steal from, but the entire virtual society. If we all insist on getting something for nothing, we will end up with nothing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The SL Website, and Others

You know, a lot of people only experience Second Life by logging in and exploring the virtual world. It’s not interactive, and it’s not immersive and 3D, but the SLwebsite should be on every Resident’s list of frequently viewed web pages. The website contains just TONS of information and resources, not to mention news, updates, and active communities of residents. Here are just a few of the things you can find there:
  • Your account details. Your $L and $USD balances, your transaction history, your land ownership and billing information.
  • Quickly see if your friends are on line.
  • A listing of upcoming Events (you can post events of your own, too).
  • The Marketplace. A huge on line catalog of virtual goods. It’s often easier to shop here than searching for things in world. You can sell your own products here too. Having a store in world is good, but when you only have a few things for sale, you can do it cheaply in the Marketplace.
  • Classified ads for land rentals and sales, as well as other services.
  • Land auctions. Linden Lab sells off Mainland parcels through auctions similar to eBay. Most land is purchased directly from another Resident, but this is an often overlooked alternative.
  • Blogs, including official announcements and news from LL, and the resident-to-resident help blog, “Second Life Answers”. The Grid Status blog is very useful…it can give you a “heads up” about ongoing or upcoming issues like server upgrades and maintenance.
  • Community Forums on a number of SL topics. “Regulars”, people who post in a particular forum often, can develop a sense of shared purpose and community.
  • The Lindex. Click “Manage $L” in the left hand column to go to this part of the site to buy or sell $L or see market data.
  • The SL Knowledgebase and Wiki.
  • The JIRA bug-reporting system.
  • Copies of the Terms of Service, Community Standards, and other LL policies.
  • File a support ticket or contact Billing with an account issue.
  • Downloads. Download the official viewer. Often you can download and try experimental versions as well.
If being in world and browsing around the huge official website doesn’t give you enough Second Life, there’s more out there! There are several third party websites devoted to the Second Life community (not to mention tons of personal blogs like this one). Two very popular sites are SL Universe and Second Citizen Mk II. Steampunk fans, bookmark the Steamlander web page.

Seek and Ye Shall Find…Maybe

The Search function in Second Life has always come in for its share of gripes. In the old days, one’s ranking in Search was determined at least partly by your Traffic score, a figure obtained from how many people visited your land and how long they stayed there. When maturity ratings were added, there were plenty of cries about how Search handled (or did not handle) Adult content. One’s Search results could differ markedly depending on whether you searched in a specific tab, or in the All tab, and spelling and punctuation had to be precise.

I never had too many problems with Search, though, until the latest and greatest Web-based Search function found in Viewer 2.6 and later.

Some of my gripes are minor – it takes more mouse clicks and opens more intermediate windows to get to where you want to go, and it’s slower than the old Search. But I have one really major problem with it: I can’t find newbies.

It’s important to be able to find people in SL. For example, I had a new resident rent an apartment from me yesterday. I got the notice from the rental box when she paid it, and a little while later I went to Search for her name so I could send her a welcome IM and an invitation to our tenants’ group. But, surprise! Search returned no result. I finally had to log out and log back in with Phoenix. In that viewer, Search found her instantly.

Hmph! It’s all well and good to add spiffy new features to our virtual world, Linden Lab. Is it too much to ask that while you’re doing so, you don’t break the stuff that’s already working?

UPDATE:  We're finding out a little more about this problem.  It's beginning to look as if Search eventually finds newbies, but very, very slowly.  And in the meantime, it gives you that misleading "no results found" message.  Bleah.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Layers and Layers of Layers

In the Old Days (about six months ago), you had fairly limited choices in clothing, and often had to pick and choose what to wear. If you wanted to wear a tattoo, you might have to go bra-less. Or a jacket layer might be used as the upper part of a pair of high waisted slacks, keeping you from wearing an actual jacket. This is still the case with a lot of V1.23-based viewers.

But Viewer 2 and other viewers based on it offer a lot more flexibility. Here’s a brief summary of the changes.

Tattoo Layer. A new clothing layer allows you to add tattoos without sacrificing another clothing layer. Not only that, but a “tattoo” doesn’t have to be something only a biker or a rock star or goth girl wears…many creators are now using the tattoo layer to create makeup…either eyes, lips, or a combination. This gives you a LOT more choice. If your favorite skin doesn’t have just the makeup you want, now you can add it!

I’ve also seen tattoos for pubic hair, and for a “parted lips” look to the mouth, showing a little of your teeth.

Multiple Clothing Layers. Now, if two items you want to wear are designed for the jacket clothing layer (or any other layer), you can wear them both! Just select “Add to Current Outfit” to add another item to a currently-occupied clothing layer. This does mean that you’ll need to pay closer attention to what you’re wearing when it comes time to take things off, but it’s a minor thing compared to the additional choices it gives you.  [EDIT:  Be aware that only people using Viewer 2-style viewers will SEE the additional clothing layers.  People using 1.23-based viewers will only see the first item you place in any clothing layer.]

Physics Layer. The Emerald viewer was the first to introduce avatar physics, more often referred to as “bouncy boobs”. In the latest Viewer 2, they’ve taken it to the next level; there is yet another clothing layer called “Physics”. Editing this layer in Edit My Outfit brings up a new set of sliders that controls how much your breasts, tummy, and butt jiggle when you move. These sliders are very sensitive. A little bit goes a long way, and it’s very easy to make your avatar jiggle in a very comical and unrealistic fashion. I recommend trying some of the free pre-made Physics settings to start with.  An explanation of what the various sliders do can be found here:  http://wiki.phoenixviewer.com/doku.php?id=phoenix_avatar_physics

NOTE: Probably at least partly due to these changes, it’s more common than ever for you to appear one way to yourself, and another way to other people. The most common problem is that you look fully rezzed on one screen (either your own or your friend’s) while appearing as a cloud on the other. Sometimes the problem is more embarrassing…you appear clothed on your own monitor, but someone else will see you as being naked, except perhaps for your prim attachments. If this happens to you, first try to “rebake” your textures, with CTRL+ALT+R. If this does not help, put on a different outfit. You can also try clearing your cache and re-logging. If nothing else helps, put on a default newbie avatar appearance. One way to do this is to use a forced character test.

Phoenix and Viewer 1.23 style:
  • Enable the Advanced menu with CTRL+ALT+D
  • Select Advanced/Character/Character Tests/Test Female (or Test Male)
Viewer 2:
  • Enable Advanced with CTRL+ALT+D
  • Enable Develop with Advanced/Show Develop, or CTRL+ALT+Q
  • Select Develop/Character/Character Tests/Test Female (or Test Male)
Or, you can select a newbie avatar outfit from Inventory/Library/Clothing/Initial Outfits.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Subcultures in Second Life

I’ve said before that in SL, you can be whatever or whoever you’d like to be, and that you can find just about anything you can imagine…or that anyone has imagined. Today I’d like to mention some of the subcultures you can find in SL. These were not invented in SL, but were brought here by people who already knew of them or participated in them elsewhere. What I’ve tried to include here is not simply different kinds of avatars, or different activities, but things that tend to absorb nearly all the time and attention of their participants, at least the most devoted ones.

Children. You can find little kids here in SL…or at least, avatars who look and act like little kids. This is, as I’ve said (Adults and Kids in Second Life), harmless roleplay, as long as the child avatar doesn’t participate in sexual activities. If you want to explore your inner child, one of my favorite places is Livingtree: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Livingtree/192/140/24

Nekos. The typical Neko is a girl, often goth-girl, with cat ears and tail, although you’ll sometimes see male Nekos as well. Nekos originated with Japanese anime. Nekos partake of both human and feline characteristics and behaviors. Some Nekos are shape-changers, having a fully human form, a half cat/half human form, and possibly a full feline form. People with Neko parts may be very much into the Neko scene and character, or may just be wearing the ears and tail as a cute fashion statement.  Try: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Mirinae/195/32/39

Furries. A typical Furry avatar looks like a Neko who’s taken things a step further. They generally have an animal head, paws, and a furry body, although their shape is humanoid. However, Furries may also be shape-changers and have a fully-animal form. Furries, like Nekos, are an import from Real Life. People into the furry phenomenon go to real life conventions called “furmeets” and wear furry costumes. There is a presumption on the part of many people that male furries are gay in Real Life. Not being a Furry, or involved in that subculture, I can’t comment on the truth or falsity of that presumption. All I know is that most of the furries I’ve met have been very nice people.  Try: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Yarmouth/195/173/29

Tinies. Think of a teddy bear, or other cute and cuddly stuffed animal. Tinies are about the only subculture I can think of that doesn’t have a clear antecedent in Real Life. (See "Badgers?  We Don' Need No Steenking Badgers") Visit Raglan Shire to meet (or be!) a Tiny.  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Raglan%20Shire/150/177/23

Mers. Some people like to be mermaids or mer-men, and there are whole sims devoted to mer roleplay. I have a couple of mermaid outfits and a nice mermaid AO. It’s fun to wear a tail and dance in three dimensions under the sea.  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Neverdie/34/18/3

Dragons. There are many sorts of animal avatars, and several have their own communities…but dragons are perhaps the most impressive. Those who like to be dragons have a couple of roleplay areas. Check out: Grendel's Children or Seawolf Dragons for avatars.  For roleplay, try Isle of Wyrms.

Gor. There are several Gorean regions, where aficionados re-create their versions of the male-dominated society described in the popular fantasy series by John Norman. Not my cup o’tea, but if you want to try a society where the, um, traditional male and female roles are carried to their extremes, you might give it a look.

Dominance and Submission, BDSM. D/s takes many forms and variations, from the mild to the stomach-turning extreme, and from the strictly mental to the physical. Fortunately for the extremists, in SL you can’t actually be physically harmed. SL is a relatively safe place to experiment with these “alternative lifestyle choices”. Nevertheless, do exercise caution. Some players in these realms are extremely subtle and accomplished mental and emotional manipulators.  There are so many places you can find this, I haven't included any landmarks.

Steampunk. This is a new genre in science fiction. The basic idea is a culture set back in time over 100 years. The technology is that described by, say, Jules Verne…based on steam power and clockwork (and maybe a bit of Mary Shelly’s biological reanimations), Mad Science co-exists with cultured gentlemen and ladies in Victorian garb. Caledon and its allied regions (collectively known as the Steamlands) are wonderful and whimsical places. In addition to Second Life steampunk locations, check out this wonderful webcomic: http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php

Vampires. And Lycans (shapeshifters) too. Many who participate in this subculture also play the game “Bloodlines” or similar systems to “keep score”. If you get an unsolicited bite request from a Bloodlines player, decline it (unless, of course, you WANT to be bitten). If you don’t want to be bothered by vampires, get a free Garlic Necklace from theMarketplace to immunize yourself.  If you DO favor Bloodlines and vampires, check out http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Liquid%20Designs/122/126/239

Samurai. If you like Japanese-style sword combat, there are weapons and a combat system specifically designed for it. If you’re really into it, there is a website you can join to see how you rank against others: http://www.combatsi.com/e107/news.php

Medieval. These folks have a different combat system, and fight with Western style weapons. There are also many beautiful outfits, and places to show them off.  The Avilion sims are a good example.

Science Fiction. There are roleplay areas based on several popular science fiction “universes”, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, and Avatar.

There are others, too…If you are a member of, say, a Fae community or a hobbit village or some other group I’ve left out, my apologies, and please feel free to leave a comment here!

Friday, June 24, 2011

ivory tower

Owning a good sized chunk of land is a real convenience…it means I always have a place to build in relative peace and quiet, and have plenty of spare prims to build with. Not everyone is so fortunate – but even if you don’t own any land at all, you can still build things in Second Life!

There are numerous public and private “sandboxes” scattered about the grid. A sandbox is a generic term for any place that’s been set aside for building purposes. Sandboxes nearly always have autoreturn enabled, with a delay of anywhere from one to three hours. If you leave your things laying about too long, they will be sent back to your Lost and Found folder. Having to put things away every time you have to leave for a while is an annoyance, but it’s a fairly small price to pay for the ability to create things for free.

A bigger annoyance is griefers. People who get a kick out of annoying others tend to hang out in sandboxes, because they can rez their annoying toys, like particle poofers, replicating objects, vehicles and weapons. To avoid them as much as possible, rez a work platform first, and loft it high up into the air. (Just sit on it, then open the edit window and change the Z position of the platform to, say, 2500. Presto! You’re sitting at 2500m.

If you are troubled by griefers, please don’t retaliate. Many griefers want you to attack them, to give them an excuse to Abuse Report you. Stay calm, and respond to their prodding as little as possible. If necessary, teleport away and work somewhere else.

Don’t be an annoyance yourself – read and follow the rules posted by the sandbox owners.

Another great resource for creators is the Beta Grid. Instead of logging into the main grid, you can log into this “test grid”. Here you can upload textures and other items for free (it costs $L10 per upload on the main grid). You have a hypothetical $L balance here…transactions, however are not “real” and don’t cost you anything.  To log in to this grid in Viewer 2, first go to Me/Preferences/Advanced and check "Show Grid Selection at login", then select Aditi as your grid.  (Agni is the name of the main Second Life grid).

Here are a few sandbox locations. Happy building! (If you're not a builder, save these anyway...sandboxes are handy places to open up boxed items.)

Caledon Oxbridge University Sandbox (must join Caledon Oxbridge University Group to use) http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Caledon%20Oxbridge/255/6/1501 

Help People Institute sandbox:

Hobo Sandbox

Freebie Folly

Whitmyre Island Sandbox

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Privacy

Last time we talked about snooping in people’s homes. Today, I want to talk about the other side of that coin…how can you insure your privacy in Second Life?

The short answer is, “you can’t”. SL is designed for community and communication, not for privacy. If you really want to be alone in a virtual world, download and install Open Sim software on your own computer and enjoy an isolated Second-Life type world all your very own.

On Line Visibility. Even though you can select an option for “only my friends can see my on line status”, and even though you can un-check the on-line visibility status for individual friends, there are always ways for people to find out if you are on line. For example, I can look you up in Search and send you an IM. If I don’t immediately get back the standard “BobsYourUncle Resident is off line. Your message will be stored and delivered later” message, I know that you are on line. Or, some viewers place a little statement in the profile, “Current status: ONLINE”. Or, I could look at one of your groups. The Member box of the group includes information about which group members are on line.

The only way to hide your on line status is to come on line as somebody else…in other words, to log on as an alt.

Preventing Intrusion. You can keep others out of land you own with banlines. Setting up banlines around your property prevents entry by everyone except named residents. However, they only extend up to 50 meters, so they aren’t much use if you live in a skybox. Also, many estates prohibit their use to enable free movement of other estate residents. You can put out a security orb to protect your property or a portion of it, like the inside of your home. These can be a pain sometimes…you invite a friend over, and ten seconds later she’s thrown off the property because you forgot to add her to the allowed list. There are also tools that let an intruder nullify the ejection function of the security orb.

In any case, while banlines and security systems prevent physical intrusion, they can’t keep someone from sitting outside your land and zooming their camera inside your house to watch you. Remember that local text chat has a range of 20 meters; if any avatar is closer to you than that, use IM to keep your conversation private. If you are using voice, a listener can move their camera close to you and hear you as if they were standing right there…so IM or a private voice call may be indicated here too.

Radars, such as those included in several third party viewers or in add-on gadgets like the MystiTool, are good for increasing your awareness of who is in the immediate area.

Skyboxes, located high up, are often a preferred style of residence. They’re a little harder to find, and usually experience less lag than ground level locations. If you enclose it in two counter-rotating hollow spheres, it gets a bit harder to move a spying camera inside. But the only way to really be private is to buy your own full private estate region, located at least one sim away from any other region, and set entry permissions for only yourself and your trusted friends. That’s expensive…an estate region will cost you $1,000 USD to buy, and $295 USD per month in tier.

The bottom line: if privacy is a serious concern…do it outside of SL.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Housebreaking

Well, well!  While perusing my previous posts today, I found that this one...originally scheduled for publication way back in June 2011...existed only in draft form.  Apparently even though it had been previously published, either I or Google managed to take it off the blog.  So, here it is, back again in case you missed it.

You can find all sorts of things in Second Life. One of the things you will run across a lot is…homes. I don’t say “houses” because not everyone’s Second Life dwelling looks like a conventional house. Many do, of course – but there are also castles, caves, tree houses, platforms in the sky, huge airships or spacecraft, luxury yachts, or simply a lovely garden.

As I’ve said before, almost everything in SL is created by its residents. Many places are open to the public…stores, clubs, schools, parks, marinas…but other places are residents’ personal spaces, and it’s not always easy to tell which is which. The parcel description (found in the land information window) will often give you a clue.

Some homes are available to rent. For example, I rent apartments on my land at Masocado. You can generally tell if a place is for rent because there will be a sign or a rental box somewhere nearby advertising the fact.

What you will never find is a “free home” that you can just move into and claim as your own. I’ve logged in on several occasions to find strangers in my house. Often they are nice people, just curious and exploring, and once we get the confusion straightened out, we have a pleasant talk. Sometimes though, I’ve been told, “What are you doing here? This is MY house, I was here first!” This sort of response generally results in an instant ejection and ban.

Here are the realities: Many things in SL are free, but land is not one of them. Land is valuable because when you have some, you can put objects there, like a house and plants and furniture. The more land you have, the more things you can put there. You can get land (a free Linden Home) with a paid Premium membership, or you can buy or rent land from another resident. Rent is usually paid weekly, in $L. If you own mainland, you will pay a monthly charge to LL known as “tier”. Note that with land, there may or may not be a “purchase” price, but there will always be a weekly or monthly fee as well…because you don’t really “own” the land, you’re renting server space from Linden Lab.

How much it will cost depends on where the land is, and the business plan of the landowner. In very general terms, expect to pay around $L5 to $10 per prim per month. So, if you owned or rented a 1024 square meter parcel that allows you to have 234 prims on it, you would pay about $L1170 to $L2340 per month, or $4.68 to $9.36 USD.

But let’s go back to the issue of housebreaking. There’s no consensus on whether it’s right or wrong to go into someone’s SL home when they’re not around. Some homeowners don’t care if you come in and look around, and bounce on the beds to try out the mattresses. After all, most of us are only in world a few hours a day, and our homes stand empty the rest of the time. In addition, you can’t steal anything or break anything. So some people just shrug and say, “what’s the harm?”

Other people take the stance that they paid for the land and its upkeep. If others want the same advantages, let them buy their own land and their own mattresses! They may put up ban lines or security orbs to keep intruders out.

What almost everyone agrees on is that if the homeowner comes home and catches you, he’s perfectly justified in ejecting and banning you – especially if you are engaged in intimate activities with a friend, and most especially if you are snotty about it.

What should you do if you find yourself facing an irate homeowner? BE POLITE. You are the intruder, and you are in the wrong. I don’t recommend simply running away. If you do, the owner is likely to ban you in absentia and you’ll find yourself unable to visit that spot again. Say something nice to the owner, like “I saw your beautiful home and couldn’t resist coming in to look around. Please excuse me for intruding, I’ll be on my way.”

If you do go snooping in people’s homes, please leave things the way you found them. Put away the poseballs. If you have rezzed any objects, take them with you.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Viewers

Your “viewer” or “client” is the software you install on your computer that lets you log into Second Life. Most people start off using the “official” Second Life viewer that they are instructed to download during the signup process. That viewer is commonly called “Viewer 2” or just V2 for short.

As we've discussed previously, V2 has two “modes”...When you first start it, it's in “Basic” mode, which lets you log in, look around, go to Destination Guide locations and change from one avatar into another. But that's about all you can do in Basic Mode. To really get a feeling for what you can do in Second Life, you need to use the Advanced mode. You can enable this at the login screen, with a selection box down at the bottom near where you enter your password.

Viewer 2 has gotten a lot better than when it was first released about a year ago. Even so, its user interface is so different from the previous viewers that a lot of residents are not happy using it – including yours truly. The last “old style” viewer issued by Linden Lab was Viewer 1.23.

The good folks at the Lab have told us that over the coming months, more and more V1.23 features will stop working, as they gradually change the server code to make things work faster and better with V2 and its descendants. But that does not mean that you are forced to use V2! When it comes to viewers, you have a lot of choices. Third party developers have taken the open source viewer code and made some great alternatives. That's good, because the more comfortable you are with your viewer, the more you'll enjoy Second Life. In addition, because everyone's computer is set up a little differently, sometimes one viewer will work very well with your computer while another one will be very unstable. If you're having persistent crash problems and can't seem to find the problem, changing to another viewer may be helpful.

One extremely popular choice is Phoenix. This is a 1.23-style user interface with a lot of useful add-ons. Phoenix has a built in radar, a built in AO, and IM encryption (you can encrypt your messages so that LL can't read them). It has a number of commands you can use from the chat line, such as “teleport to a specified altitude”. You can see who is looking at you, and you can make yourself phantom (so you can't be pushed) or invisible. It has a Restrained Love Viewer (RLV) function (popular with people who enjoy BDSM roleplay). Phoenix has an active in-world support group and even runs classes on how to use the viewer.

Because the V1.23 code base will soon be obsolete, the Phoenix group has been working on a new viewer based on V2 code, called Firestorm. This viewer is now in public beta. Just as Phoenix is familiar to V1.23 users, Firestorm will appear familiar to V2 users...but it also has a lot of features that let you set it up to work in the ways you're used to if you are coming from a 1.23 style interface.

Two other viewers that are very popular are Kirsten's viewer  and Imprudence.  Kirsten's viewer has a V2-style interface (but easier to use than the official V2, in my opinion); its emphasis is on great graphics, and it's popular with SL photographers and machinima (movie) makers. Imprudence has a V1.23-style feel. Like Phoenix, it has many additional features like radar and a built in AO. Imprudence also works (as do some of the other third party viewers) with Open Sim virtual worlds.

There are other third party viewers out there. Linden Lab has a list of “approved” third party viewers. “Approved” does not mean that they have been vetted by LL or are supported by them. It merely means that the developers have agreed to follow LL's Third Party Viewer policy. The list includes a number of text-only viewers that can be used to access SL from your Android mobile device or your iPhone. http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Third_Party_Viewer_Directory

There are also NON-approved viewers. Some of these are actually banned from SL, and you can get banned yourself for being caught using them. These viewers generally contain code that allows the user to violate the Terms of Service by griefing, hiding their identity from LL, or illegally copying others people's creations. Some of these hacker-created viewers can be harmful to your own health...they contain code that allows the creators of the viewer to gain access to your computer and files.

How do you know if a viewer is safe to use? Well, you don't. I would once have said, “if thousands of people are using it, it's probably safe”, but even that isn't necessarily true. The viewer that preceded Phoenix was called Emerald, and it was tremendously popular – but it turned out that a small number of key developers were doing questionable things, like collecting names and ISP data from users. In some cases, they were even able to match up avatar names with RL names. Eventually, Emerald was removed from the approved viewer list and its use was banned. As far as I know, nobody was actually harmed by the exploits, but it still caused a lot of consternation.

If a viewer is on LL's approved TPV list, it's probably safe to use – but there are no guarantees.

What viewer do I use? I'm a very happy Phoenix user, and I'm working on migrating to Firestorm.

Phoenix (and Firestorm)    http://www.phoenixviewer.com/ 
Kirsten's Viewer                http://www.kirstensviewer.com/ 
Imprudence                        http://wiki.kokuaviewer.org/wiki/Downloads
Open Sim                           http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Main_Page 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thanks for Asking, But...

Hello, avatar!

If you get this note, it's because you're new to Second Life, and you asked me for sex.

First of all, I'm not offended. It's always nice to be asked. But it's much nicer to be asked in the right way. “Hi. UR prity. Wanna fuk?” just does not cut it. Would you act that way with a girl in Real Life? I hope not.

Second, before you try sex in Second Life, you really need to learn the basics first. Learn how to move, fly, and teleport. Learn how to use poseballs and animated furniture. Learn how to take off and put on your clothes. If your partner has to stop and explain how to do everything, it really spoils the mood.

Third, learn how to emote using text. Only part of the sexual stimulation in SL comes from the animations of your avatar. Much more comes from the details provided by your partner via chat or IM. If you type “/me” before your text, the chat can be used to describe an action or a feeling. For example, if I type “/me runs her slim fingers lightly over your ribs”, the chat says, “Lindal Kidd runs her slim fingers lightly over your ribs”.

Fourth, your newbie avatar is missing something important. Before you try sex in SL, get yourself a penis, and learn how to use it. There are freebie cocks available in various places. I recommend the “Real Penis” from Dark Delights. There is a free version and one that costs money, but has more features. You will also need another skin. The skin provided with your newbie avatar has the underwear painted on, and it can't be removed.

Finally, sex in General areas is not allowed, nor is nudity or strong language. Sex in Moderate areas is allowed, but on a non-commercial basis and conducted in private residences. If you want to find escorts, sex clubs, and kink, you must go to an Adult rated area. You can't go to either Moderate or Adult areas unless you are 1) over 18, and 2) Account Verified.

To verify yourself as an adult go to http://www.secondlife.com and log in with your user name and password. On the Dashboard page, click My Account in the left column. Now, select the Age Verification link. Follow the easy steps. Once you have verified your account, log in to SL, [EDIT:  The Age Verification step is no longer required.  The date of birth you entered when you registered your account is your age verification.]  Open your Preferences, and in the General tab check the box “I want to access General, Moderate, and Adult content”. You will also have to check these boxes in Search to find Adult items and clubs.

I hope this information helps you in your quest to find sexual release in Second Life. It may not be as simple as you thought at first, but it IS lots of fun, especially with the right partner!

Warm wishes,
Lindal Kidd

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Where Is Everybody?

A lot of newcomers who have done a little exploring of SL express surprise and dismay that SL “seems so empty”. Indeed, most regions are empty, or contain only one or two avatars, much of the time.

The reason is simple mathematics. Second Life consists of more than 30,000 regions, or sims (the squares you see on the Map). At any given time, there are maybe 60,000 people in world. That works out to an average of about two avatars per region. But of course, people aren't distributed entirely at random. Groups tend to collect in certain places...sales, events, popular spots. And the end result is that SL has a lot of empty places.

This is not entirely a bad thing. Anyone who's been in a region with 20 or more avatars has seen how a crowd can slow things down. In fact, normal regions have a maximum of 100 avatars (though for practical purposes, about 40 is the limit). If you try to enter a region that already is at its maximum, you'll get a “Region is full, try again later” error message.

But lots of people want to go where there are other people to meet and talk to. How do you find a crowd of people in SL?
  • Use the Map. If you don't know what you want to do, but just want to do it with a lot of other people, this is one way to find crowds. Green dots on the Map represent avatars. Look for clusters of green dots, then teleport to them to see what the excitement's all about. This can result in surprises, both good and bad. Be sure to keep your wits and your manners about you when teleporting blindly into a strange place.
  • Use Search. The Search function can help you find places and events and products that interest you. You can even search for Groups that share your interests.
  • Join Groups. When you find a Group that looks interesting, join it! Groups send out notices or group chat to their members, notifying them of events and happenings. There are Groups for just about everything imaginable in Second Life...private groups, tenant groups, store customer groups, club patron groups, and thousands of special interest groups for everything from accounting to zoology. Many groups are free to join and have “open enrollment”...you can just click the Join button in the group's profile to become a member. In some groups, you must request an invitation. For these, send an IM to the group owner or other person indicated in the group's information. A small number of groups cost money to join. This will be noted in the group's information. You may belong to up to 42 Groups at any one time.
  • Look at Events. You can find ongoing or upcoming Events of all kinds. Events are listed on the SL website, and in the Events tab of Search. In addition, Events are shown on the map by a star symbol.
  • Use the Destination Guide. This is a subset of SL locations chosen by Linden Lab to provide a sort of “cross section” of Second Life. There are categories for shopping, entertainment, help, and others. Since Destination Guide locations are quick and easy to access, they tend to attract larger numbers of visitors.
  • Ask a Friend. Calling up someone on your Friends List can lead to a good time. Perhaps they are doing something fun and you can join them. Or maybe the two of you can come up with an idea of some places to check out.
  • Follow SL blogs. Lots of residents have Second Life related blogs, and many of them are a LOT older and bigger than this one! Tap into the knowledge of these people and find out about great places to see, great fashions, freebies, and much more.
There is always something going on somewhere in SL! All it takes is a little effort to find it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Alt Abuse

One of the greatest things about Second Life is the chance it gives you to be somebody else. What would your life be like if you were more outgoing? Would it really be fun to be a giggling airhead? Could you be a successful business person?

The ease with which we can become a different person carries some social and moral risks, though. How often have you committed some awful blunder in life, and wished fervently that you could undo it, take it all back and start over? In SL, you can do just that, and a great many people do.

Tired of your SL partner? Are you out of favor with your favorite club or group? Met someone new and want to ditch your old friends and spend time with them instead? No problem...just make an alt.

An “alt” is an alternate Second Life account. It's easy to make one, just go to the SL website and sign up the way you did when you created your first account. You can even give them the same RL information; you may have up to five SL accounts, by Linden Lab's policy.

There are many legitimate uses for alts. I use one as the group accountant for my land rental group. She serves as the “bank account” to hold rent received from my tenants (so I don't forget and spend it all on shoes). Other people use alts as a storage place for excess inventory, or as a refuge to insure privacy when they want to be alone to build or create. Alts can serve as models for clothing, and as a test bed for checking that item permissions have been correctly set.

Alts are often used by roleplayers, especially for formal roleplay scenarios. One might be a military officer, another a spy, and a third a starship engineering tech. Yet another might be in an entire different roleplay “universe” as an elf, or a powerful wizard.

Sometimes, people are forced to create an alt. Someone is persistently stalking and harassing them, and they feel they have no choice but to vanish – and yet they want to stay in SL, so they create an alt to escape their persecutor.

That last one is beginning to edge toward a line I'm going to draw. On one side of the line are the legitimate uses of an alt, and on the other lies...alt abuse. It's not an absolute line...you may draw it in a different place than I do, and every situation is different.

Using an alt to escape a stalker is understandable. But think: you have to give up all the nontransferable things in your inventory, you have to give up all the friends and relationships you've made with your main account. It's hard and painful to start again from scratch. And if you do, your stalker has in some sense won. He or she has destroyed you. Might it not be better to stand and fight, instead of running away? That can be hard too...but I think that, in most cases, the end result will be better. You will be a stronger, wiser, better person for the experience.

Of course, the stalker who makes alts is much further over that line. Using an alt to spy, to try to tempt one's partner into infidelity, or to harass is flat wrong.  But some people do it, and you need to be prepared for the possibility.  You don't know for sure who is behind that avatar.

(I absolutely despise head games played with alts, by the way.  Any stranger who comes up to me and says, "Hi, Lindal...bet you can't guess who *I* am" is liable to get themselves muted at once.)

Running away from stalkers is one thing. But it's so easy, so tempting to make an alt to avoid the consequences of our own mistakes. We can slip into another user name, another avatar, and be free of guilt, emotional anguish, recriminations from others. People in SL do this every day. There's only one problem with it: like the old saying goes, “no matter where you go...there you are.” You can change your appearance in SL, you can change your Display Name, and you can even make an alt and change your user name. But you take your self with you no matter where you go or what user name you bear. You always have your own character, with its strengths and weaknesses.

Since you can't run away from yourself...why try? Why not stay and work through whatever painful situation is making you think about starting over? Yes, it's hard. It's hard in Real Life too. This is how we grow, in spirit and in wisdom.

What about the person who has one account for their “everyday” Second Life, and another that they use to explore dark fantasies and sexual kink? You'll find folks on both sides of this argument. My own position is, if it's so bad that you can't even do it with a user name that already makes you anonymous, you shouldn't be doing it at all. I have kinks and fantasies and fetishes, like most people...but I've made a conscious decision to live my Second Life as Lindal Kidd, and not try to divide my person up any further than that RL/SL split. I don't even hide any of my groups in my Profile. I am not being holier than thou...I have some pretty racy groups, and some of my friends are very unusual indeed. I make no excuses for them, or for myself. I think the result is that I have a stronger sense of self, of who I am, than if I had six or ten alternate accounts to juggle.

Second Life is a virtual world, but it's full of real people. Our interpersonal relations are just the same here as in RL. No difference. No difference. In this respect SL is not a game, it's another part of life, and we can use it to become better people, or worse.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pandora's Box

OK, here is a very quick tutorial for the Very New Person. (Helper people, feel free to bookmark this and hand 'em the URL).

You've just switched from Basic viewer mode to Advanced, and you found some free things and managed to buy them. But, when you went to wear your new dress, this ugly box appeared on your hand! What gives here? Have you been cheated? Where's the dress you thought you bought? Calm down, dear avatar...what you have encountered is a “boxed item”.
Oops, I'm Wearing a Box!
 In Second Life, one of the neat things about objects is that they can contain other objects. Creators use this to organize and package their goods, putting them into a “box”. Your mission is to...Get The Stuff Out of the Box!
  • Right click the box on your hand and select Detach.
  • Go to a place where you can rez objects, like a public sandbox. You can tell when you are in such a place when there is no yellow cube with a “NO” slash on it displayed in your top menu bar. Newcomer help areas like Caledon Oxbridge University and White Tiger Help Island have areas where you can rez things.
  • Find the box in your inventory (it's probably in the My Inventory/Objects folder).
  • Drag it from your inventory onto the ground.
  • Right click the box and select Open. A window with a list of the box's content appears.
  • Either click the “Copy to Inventory” button in this window, OR
  • Highlight the contents manually (select multiple items just like you do in your operating system, with SHIFT+click or CTRL+click)
  • Drag the highlighted contents into your inventory. I like this second method because it lets me create a new folder for the stuff and drag the items into it; I don't have to hunt around later for all the pieces.
If any of the items are No Copy, you will get a warning message asking if you really want to move the item. Tell it yes. The transfer will stop at that item, so you may have to go back and re-select the remaining items to complete transferring them all.

Once you are sure you have everything unpacked, right click the box again. You can either select Take (putting it away in your inventory) or Delete. You should do one or the other...no one likes litter left lying about. Which one you select is partly a matter of what permissions the box has, and partly a matter of choice.

If the box is copyable, a copy remained in your inventory when you rezzed it on the ground. Taking the one on the ground back into your inventory will give you two boxes. No need to keep both!

If the box contained No Copy items, it's empty now, so you may as well delete it.

If the box itself was No Copy, but the items were copyable, it can serve as a backup should you misplace any of the items. Take it back into inventory and store it away safe...or, you can trust that you won't lose the unpacked items and delete it. I usually do, and I've only wished that I hadn't once or twice.

A few boxes are equipped with an “unpacker” script. Just left click the box once you have rezzed it and it creates a folder in your inventory with the box's content in it. These “auto boxes” can be unpacked manually as well, so you don't have to worry much whether your box has this feature or not.

Now that you've unpacked your new stuff and cleaned up the wrappings, you can wear the items! (Whew, it's worse than those darn Real Life plastic bubble packages you need a meat cleaver to open!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Virtual Self, Part I

For several days now, I’ve been concentrating on practical tutorials. Those are fun, and necessary, but this time I want to discuss something a lot harder to grasp: how Second Life feels, and how different people react to the virtual world.

It’s been said that there are three basic approaches to Second Life (and similar shared virtual environments): Immersion, Augmentation, and Roleplaying.

The Immersionist. The Immersionist feels that their avatar and their mind are, while they are in SL at least, truly “them”, in the same sense that their physical body and their mind are “them” when they are in the physical world. They feel that things that their avatar experiences are, in some sense, “real” experiences, dealing with real people and situations. Their imaginations and their emotions are fully engaged. They are aware that they and the others they meet have an existence outside of SL, but that’s less important to them than the immediate experience within the virtual world. Most often, Immersionists refer to their avatar as “I”.

The Augmentationist. Also called “Facebookers”, the Augmentationists treat their avatars and those of others as mere placeholders. To them, the “real people” are the bodies back behind the monitors in real life. These are the people whose first questions are “Where are you from? How old are you?” Augmentationists look at SL as a way to meet people, but the world and the avatars are simply a sort of 3D communications medium. These folks often refer to their avatar as “my guy”, or “my toon”.

The Roleplayer. Roleplayers partake somewhat of both the other approaches. They see their avatar as a character separate from themselves, like an actor on a stage. Roleplayers may invent elaborate back-stories for their characters, and may have many different accounts and characters. They may express strong emotions at times, but it’s not “them” speaking, but their character. It can be very hard to determine what a Roleplayer is “really” thinking or feeling. These people may refer to their avatar in the third person. “I logged into SL and had Lindal go to a vampire club.”

All three viewpoints have validity. All three types of personalities can enjoy Second Life. However, because of these fundamentally different views of SL and our relationship to it, friction and conflict often arise between people in the different groups. How many times have you heard things like:

“It’s only a game, get over it!”
“I gave you my phone number, why won’t you give me yours?”
“I won’t date you, my partner would object. But I will IM you with my alt.”

Immersionists wind up believing that a Roleplayer really cares for them…and the Roleplayer is surprised when what she thought was fun playacting on both sides gets taken far too seriously by her friend. Augmentationists ask questions they consider basic, and Immersionists snarl back, “Back off! I don’t discuss RL in SL.” In turn, the Augmentationist tends to be suspicious of the Immersionist. “Why won’t she voice with me? Is she hiding something?”

While most of us fall primarily into one of the three categories, we also tend to slide about a good deal. An Immersionist (like myself, for instance) may exchange a lot of very detailed information about her Real Life with people she trusts. An Augmentationist may get into the spirit of some formal roleplay scenario, either with their primary avatar or with an alt created for the purpose.

I think that these different views of SL are at the heart of the seeming inability of Linden Lab to respond to their customers. The fact is, LL doesn’t know who their customers are! Or, more accurately, they know who they are, but want to attract a greater number.

Facebookers are the most numerous group. Just look at the number of people using FaceBook and the number using Second Life! Only one problem…Most augmentatonists won’t put up with all the extraneous BS of a 3D virtual world. It just gets in the way of talking to the “real people”. A lot of dyed-in-the-wool Augmentationists would prefer it if we all used our real names in SL, and had avatars that looked just like our RL selves.

Attempts to simplify the interface and make SL easier to use for these huge numbers of potential users wind up alienating the Immersionists and Roleplayers who like to become someone else when they enter virtual reality. “This is Second Life,” they say. “I can live my First Life without even having to log in. Give me fantasy, and the more absorbing and realistic the better.”

Monday, June 13, 2011

Facelights: Arrgh or Ahhh?

Every photographer knows that the right lighting is important to making people look their best. It’s not so very different in the virtual world…but here we can carry our lighting around with us so we can always say, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup”!

But it’s not quite as simple as buying the most expensive, full-featured facelight and wearing it. There are both technological and social aspects to the question of personal avatar lights.

Local lights in Second Life use the OpenGL graphics of your video card. The OpenGL specification allows for up to six local lights. If there are more lights than that in a scene, only the closest six will be rendered.

Avatars with facelights aren’t the only users of local lights. Very often, a builder will have lights as part of her creation. Street lamps, spotlights, accent lighting for buildings, mood lighting for interiors, candles, chandeliers… There is a lot of competition for those six OpenGL lights. As a result, you can often see lights going out as a facelight-wearing avatar approaches. Builders hate that, because it ruins the look they’ve worked so hard to create for people using their build.

Sometimes a single avatar can turn out the lights all by herself. Let’s say I’m wearing a facelight with three light emitters. I also put on a pretty hairstyle from Sirena. Sirena’s hair has its own built in lighting, and can include up to four light emitters. Wow! I glow in the dark like a nuclear explosion…and neither I nor anyone standing near me can see any other local lights.

A lot of facelights have multiple emitters. The classic portrait lighting setup for photography is known as “three point lighting”, and it includes a key light illuminating the subject from one side, a less-intense fill light softening the shadows cast by the key, and a back light or “hair light” creating a slight halo effect to pop the subject out from the background. Second Life facelights mimic this setup.

There’s only one catch: The rendering engine for SL does not simulate lighting with enough fidelity to the real world to make good use of three point lighting. You can get results that are nearly as good by using only a single light.
No Light


Single Light

Two Point Light
Three Point Light

Another thing to think about: Your audience may not be seeing the same thing that you are seeing on your monitor. In an earlier post, I discussed the ability to set the lighting of the environment. In addition, there are viewer options to disable local lights entirely, or to disable lights worn by other avatars (I can turn off YOUR facelight, at least on my own screen). Finally, other people may be using a monitor that is set differently than yours. What looks good to you may appear eye-searingly bright to them.

A lot of people think that Windlight has made facelights obsolete – indeed, with the proper settings, avatars look better under Windlight skies than they did in the old days. And the Windlight shaders make local lights look more intense than they used to, so a lot of old-style facelights have become really blinding. But I’m of the opinion that there is still a case to be made for a subtle facelight.

Here’s some practical lighting advice, and instructions on how to make your very own facelight, for free!

What facelight should I use? Use one that has only one or two emitters. Set the intensity low. If the radius (the distance the light travels from the emitter) is adustable, set it fairly short, just a meter or two at most. If you can postion the emitter, keep it fairly close to your face. Otherwise, if someone is standing near you, the emitter may be closer to them that it is to you, lighting them up brilliantly!

The MystiTool multipurpose gadget sold by Mystical Cookie comes with an accessory (the MystiTool Implant) that is a flight assist and a facelight. I use this, with the following settings: intensity 0.5, radius 1.0, falloff 0.5. This provides a very subtle light, invisible in the daytime and not glaringly obvious even at night.

For items like Sirena's hair that come with lights as a bonus, I not only disable the lights, I unlink the emitter prims and delete them. It saves on prims and on scripts that I don't need or use.

Tip: If you don't see your facelight's effect, or any local lights, go to Me/Preferences/Graphics/Custom and enable Local Lights.

Making Your Own Facelight.

  • Rez a sphere.
  • In the Object tab of the edit window, shrink it down to .03, .03, .03 in size. How much light a prim emits is unaffected by size, so we may as well make it inconspicuous.
  • Also check the Phantom box, so it doesn't bump into anyone.



  • Open the Features tab of the edit window. Check the “Light” box.
  • Use the following settings:
    • Intensity 0.5
    • Radius 1.0
    • Falloff 0.75
    • Color 249, 214, 209
(These color settings provide a warmer, more flattering glow than pure white)

  • Go to the Texture tab, and set Transparency to 100. The sphere turns invisible, but you can see it is still emitting light.

  • In the General tab, change the name of your sphere from Object to “MyFaceLight”.
  • Right click the sphere and Take it into your inventory.
  • Set your time of day to midnight
  • Stand on a pose stand
  • Right click your light object and select Attach To Mouth (you can attach it elsewhere if you like...the nose or shoulder attach points also work well).
  • Enable View Transparent Textures with CTRL+ALT+T, so you can see your object.
  • Edit it into position at about your eye level, and about a half meter from your face. Adjust this positioning to get the lighting effect you want.
  • Detach the light, then Wear it again. It should return to the position you set.
The Final Result


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meh-Cessories

Last time, we discussed hats. There are other accessories in Second Life that seem to me to be more trouble than they are worth…but my list of “meh-cessories” is probably different from yours.

Handbags and purses. The better ones come with special “handbag” animations, but these may not work correctly with your AO, depending on the “priority” of the animations in it. Higher priority animations override lower ones. Besides, all a bag does is take up an attachment point – you can’t actually carry anything in them. If you really are fond of bags, though, you can get special animations for them and incorporate them into your AO as a unique pose set.

Prim Eyelashes. I have a ton of these! They look OK with some skins, but the skins I’m wearing these days have very nice lashes painted on, and don’t really need the prim ones. Prim lashes can be difficult to edit into perfect alignment with your eyelids…and they don’t blink when your avatar’s eyes do. The alpha textures used for most prim lashes can look funny against certain backgrounds. (One designer sells lashes that use no alpha textures. Each individual lash is a tiny prim! These look stunning close up, but lose some of their charm when viewed from farther away.)

Prim Fingernails. I have a bunch of these too, and I do wear them sometimes. They look so much better than the painted-on-the-avatar-mesh “glove nails”. Until they pop off, that is. Any animation that makes your hand clench will generally cause this. Some makers’ nails stay on better than others. I’ve had reasonably good results with the ones from CCD.

Brooches. No matter what attachment point I put these on, they move as I change my pose. I’ve pretty much given up on wearing pins and brooches.

Nipples. These move relative to your body too, especially if you have Avatar Physics enabled. And they stick through clothing layers and have to be re-colored.

Prim Breasts. A step up from nipples. At the larger sizes, the avatar mesh breasts begin to look blocky, so some people wear attachable breasts instead. They are really the only way to go if you want a really spectacular set. Being prims, they do poke through clothing layers, so your sartorial choices are limited. But girls who wear tits this big generally want to show them off anyway, so this may not concern you.

Prim pussies. I haven’t found any that look really pretty, although some come closer than others. Like the boys’ genitals, these will show through clothing layers. One should remove one’s genital attachments in public…simply making them invisible with the “hide” menu command isn’t sufficient. People can see that you’re wearing them by enabling “view transparent textures” (CTRL+ALT+T).

Kitchens. OK, this isn’t an avatar accessory. But who cooks in SL? I have a bathroom in my house, true – but then, there are, um, social activities that you can do in a bathroom. Unless your kitchen counter is scripted to allow such things, I don’t see much use for kitchens or their appliances.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hats Off!

In Real Life, hats are cool. Hats are stylish and fashionable, fun and flirty. Plus they can ward off the sun on those hot summer days. In Second Life, hats are a huge pain. Either they are so big that they look silly, or your hair sticks through them…which looks just as silly.

Some hairstyles come with a hat attached. These look really nice! But what if the hat you love is not matched to the hair you love? You can edit your hair and hat to work together. It’s not easy, but most people who see you will know that…and know that you’ve put extra work into your appearance.
  1. Stand on a pose stand.
  2. Make a copy of your hair. Give it a new name, like “hatHair”.
  3. Wear the original copy of your hair, not the one you just made.
  4. Wear the original copy of the hat, too.
  5. Use the resizing and position tools to fit the hat where you want it. Don’t worry about hair sticking through.
    Hat, with Hair Sticking Through - Uncool!

  6. Detach the hat, and make a copy of it. Call the copy “Hat4Hair”.
  7. Rez your HatHair copy of your hair next to you.
  8. Right click it and select Edit. Using the positioning and rotation tools, move the HatHair until it is in the same location as the hair you are wearing on your head. In other words, you are using the hair you’re wearing as a guide to position the hair you’re NOT wearing to be in exactly the position it will be in when you DO attach it.
    Editing a Copy of the Hair into position

  9. Detach the worn copy of your hair.
  10. Wear the original hat
  11. Rez your Hat4Hair copy next to you.
  12. Position it right over the hat you’re wearing, just as you did with your hair earlier.
  13. Detach the hat you are wearing.
  14. At this point, you should be standing on a pose stand, looking as if you are wearing hair and a hat…but they are not attached to you, only positioned in world to look as if they were.
    I Got Off the Pose Stand...Hat and Hair in Position

  15. Using Edit Linked Parts, select any hair prims that are sticking through the hat. Move, re-size, or delete them as needed. (Before deleting any prims, be sure to Un-Link them from the hair first!)
  16. As a final step, select the hat, and then the hair, in that order. Use Tools/Link or CTRL+L to join them into a single linked object. Rename it “HairWithHat”.
  17. Right click it and select Take
  18. In your Inventory, find it again, right click it and Wear. Tweak it with the Edit tools if it needs any final adjustments.
    No More Hair Showing Through!  Very cool!

You can use this process to join other objects, so that they use only a single attachment point. Some hair comes with two parts…the hair, and an optional bang. Or you can add a ring to a set of prim fingernails.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How to Comb Your Hair

Well, not exactly. But in Second Life, editing your hair to fit right might be considered the equivalent.

Not everyone in Second Life is interested in building. I don’t understand why not, I think it’s fun and fascinating. But that’s OK, we don’t all have to like the same things. Still, everyone should understand the Build/Edit tools well enough to adjust their prim attachments.

Let’s say you buy some hair, and it’s too big…and you find that it doesn’t have any re-size menus. Here’s how to adjust it:
  1. Stand on a pose stand. Pose stands lock you into a neutral position. Not moving about while editing your parts is a Very Good Idea, until you become very skilled. You can get pose stands free in any number of places. Some merchants even include one with your purchase. If you don’t have one, most stores (especially hair stores) have some that you can use.
  2. Turn off your AO.
  3. Make a copy of your hair, and paste the copy in a safe place in your inventory (like a folder called Backup Hair, or something)
  4. Right click your hair and select Edit. The Edit menu window appears, and you will see three intersecting arrows colored red (X axis), green (Y axis) and blue (Z axis).
  5. You can put your mouse cursor on the head or tail of any of these arrows and drag, to move the position of the hair. MAKE SMALL ADJUSTMENTS! It’s easy to slip and scoot your hair a couple of meters off to the side. If that happens, STOP! Hit CTRL+Z to undo your mistake. If that doesn’t work, it may be easier to just take that hair off, delete it, make another copy from your backup, and wear that.  You may find it easier to grab the arrow you want if you move your camera position around a little first to get a clearer view of it.
    You can't see it, but I'm on a pose stand, not in Appearance

  6. If you hold CTRL, the position arrows change to intersecting colored circles. You can grab these with your mouse to rotate the hair about any axis.
  7. If you hold CTRL+SHIFT, the circles change to a bounding box with a little white cube at each corner. These cubes are re-sizing handles. Dragging them in or out will scale your hair larger or smaller. BEFORE YOU DO: Look in the upper right part of the Object tab in the Edit window for a check box that says “Stretch both sides”. Make sure it’s checked. This will insure that your hair stays centered on your head while you stretch it.
  8. When you think you have it about right, move your camera all around your avatar and check yourself from different angles. Zoom out and look at yourself from a distance…sometimes this will produce bald patches, if you’ve fit your hair too closely to your head.
A little re-sizing is usually all the editing you will need to do. But sometimes, more is called for. Let’s say that there is one lock of hair whose end pokes into your cheek, and you want to adjust just that bit.
  1. Right click the hair, select Edit.
  2. In the Object tab of the Edit window, check “Edit Linked”, and then right click the prim you wish to edit. If you did it right, only that prim should be highlighted.
  3. Use the editing tools as discussed above to move, rotate, or re-size the prim to look the way you want. You might even want to delete it completely. If you do, then…
    1. Make sure it’s the only highlighted prim.
    2. Go to Build/Unlink in the top menu bar (not the Edit window), or hit CTRL+SHIFT+L
    3. Again make sure it’s the only selected prim. Re-select it if necessary.
    4. Hit the Delete key on your keyboard.
The above can be used to edit any attachments, not just hair. Adjust your skirts, belts, and jewelry for a perfect fit. Oh…and, surprise! You have just learned some of the fundamentals of editing ANYTHING. Not just attachments, but parts of your house, your furniture, or any of your objects.

See? You just might become a Second Life builder after all!

Learn more about building and editing objects in Second Life by visiting The Ivory Tower Libraryof Primitives and going through their exhibits (which are really self-paced building tutorials!)