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Friday, September 30, 2011

Disappearing Dollars

Every now and then, someone asks the question "Why are $L being taken from my account?"  or "Why does my account have a negative $L balance?"

There are four possible reasons, and I'll tell you about them in a moment.  First though, I want you to log into the Second Life website with your avatar name and password.  On your Dashboard page, look over at the left sidebar, Account.  Find the link to Transaction History and open it.  Set the transaction period to be for 30 days.

Voila!  Now you can see every in world or Marketplace transaction for the last month.  If you have ANY thought you might need to see further back than that, make it a point to visit this page at least once a month and download the history to a spreadsheet.  Linden Lab does not keep more than 30 days of this data for you.  Your Transaction History is the first place you should go if you have any question about your $L, or about an item you paid for but didn't receive.

Now...about those vanishing $L.

1.  Group Liability payment.  Groups often pay a small fee to have their club or store show in Search, or take out a Classified ad.  These expenses are billed to the group by Linden Lab.  Depending on how the group owner has set up the roles and responsibilities within the group, this cost is frequently spread over all the group members.  If you don't like the way your group handles this, leave the group or take it up with the group owner.  Many people don't even realize that this is how their group is set up to pay its liabilities

2.  Erroneous transaction.  This is very rare, but sometimes the payment system makes a mistake.  If you think this has happened, file a support ticket with Linden Lab.

3.  Malicious Account Debiting Object.  Sometimes an object has a legitimate need to have access to your account.  For example, if you set out a rental box or a vendor for your business, it will need access in order to issue refunds to customers.  However, some thieves take advantage of this function.  You rez an object, it asks for permission to take money from your account, and you (because you speed read info boxes all the time and don't really think about what you are doing) click "Grant".  The object then proceeds to drain all the money out of your account and send it to the thief.  If this happens to you, do the following:
A Rental Box Asking to Access my Account

  • Take the object back into your inventory (you could also just delete it, but it may be useful as evidence)
  • File an Abuse Report on the object and the person you got it from.
  • Submit a support ticket to Linden Lab to try to recover the money.
4.  Your account has been compromised.  Phishing scams have been on the rise in Second Life lately, and you may have given your account name and password to a link that someone gave you that looked like an SL website log in page, but was not.  Or you left "Remember my Password" checked on your login screen, and someone else who has access to your computer logged in and took your money.  There are other possibilities, but these are the most common.  If you think your account has been hacked, file a support ticket AT ONCE, or call one of the 24/7 Billing Support numbers.
Your Transaction Log and your $L balance are your friends!  If there is anything in SL that "keeps score", it's how much money you make and spend...another way in which SL is like Real Life!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"How Do I Play This Game?"

A great many newcomers ask me this question, or sometimes, “What’s the point of this?”  The question is a natural one, I suppose.  At first glance, Second Life does appear similar to an on line computer game…except not as graphically lush and probably with a lot more lag.

But aside from the fact that both Second Life and on line games present the user with a “player character” and a world to move that character around in, they are very different, both technically and philosophically.  You need to lose the “gamer mindset” to enjoy, or even understand, Second Life.

First a few words about the technology.  Most of what you see in an on line game was created by the game designers.  They have complete control over the textures used to provide surfaces for objects, and the shape and detail of the objects themselves.  Also, a great deal of the world you see around you is downloaded to your computer in advance, so the scene can be very quickly rendered by your graphics card.  This means that games enjoy rich graphics, professionally done, and you can obtain very high frame rates and smooth movement.  In intervals between play, the game may present you with a pre-made video that (for example) introduces the next chapter or level.  This may be of even higher quality than the game itself, which adds to the overall perceived visual quality of the experience.

Second Life, on the other hand, is mostly user-created.  Except for the avatar mesh itself, and the bare land, sky, and water, everything you see is created by residents just like you.  This allows for a great deal more user participation and input into the whole perceived reality of the virtual world.  On the other hand, it also means that all the objects and textures have to be downloaded to your computer “on the fly”.  On one day, you visit a region that has a city in it.  The next day, the owner decides to tear down the city and build a park.  If the region’s content were downloaded to your hard drive, that sort of flexibility would not be possible.  Because so much of SL has to be sent to your computer over the internet, things are slower to rez (come into focus) than people used to on line games expect.  Frame rates are lower, even with a powerful graphics card.  Also, unlike professional game designers, not all SL creators are adept at choosing textures that are optimized for speed.  The end result is that Second Life “feels” a lot clunkier and more simplistic than many on line games.

While giving its residents so much input into the creation of their shared reality forces these performance limitations on SL, it also is a very unique and profound departure from “games” in a philosophical sense.

Second Life has no “goal”.  You can’t “win” SL.  There are no levels.  There are no quests.  Your avatar does not follow a predetermined path from one adventure to the next.  Games, no matter how many branches and options they have, offer only a limited set of options to the player.  Second Life, however, offers nearly unlimited options.  People, it’s not like a game at all.  There is no structure, no storyline.  Like the objects in the world, your Second Life experience is up to you to create.  It’s like life! (what an amazing concept, huh?)  You decide what your goals are, and then you figure out how to accomplish them with the tools available.

This is the Great Departure that makes SL unique, the brilliant Idea conceived by Philip Rosedale:  Make an empty world, give people the tools to finish creating it, and then step back and let them do as they wish.  While one might liken an ordinary game to a maze, with walls that the players must remain between, SL is like a wide open field – you can go wherever you choose.

A lot of people don’t understand that, and are confused, adrift, and profoundly uncomfortable.  They want and need structure and direction.  For them, there are two options.  They can leave SL and go play an on line game.  Or, they can find a game or a roleplaying group within Second Life to provide them with that comforting social structure and system of rules.

But if there are no goals imposed by the creators of SL, it’s perfectly possible and even desirable to set your own goals.  You might decide to become an explorer, visiting a new region every day.  That should keep you busy for a long time; there are over 30,000 of them.  You might decide to learn how to create hair, or clothes, and become good enough at it that you can sell your creations to others.  You might decide to buy land, and build a beautiful home.  Maybe you’ll get excited by yacht racing, and join one of the sailing clubs.  Perhaps you have a dream of a fantasy world of your own creation, and in building it will attract others to live there and share in your dream.

Most of us have dreams and ambitions that we’ll never have a chance to fulfill in Real Life.  This isn’t a game…it’s your second chance, your Second Life.  Don’t worry about levels and quests…go make your dream come true.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Button Pushers

While we are on the subject of cyber-sex, let's talk a little bit about chatty genital add-ons.  There are some very popular devices...systems of devices, really...made by folks like Xcite and Sensations.  These systems can take inputs from you, via an on screen HUD, or from your partner, when they click on your sensitive spots.  The genitals or other body parts respond to these inputs.

One response is visual.  An Xcite penis will get more and more erect as it is touched repeatedly.  A vagina will become more open.  The other response is in local chat...your naughty bits might say something like "Lindal moans with desire and squirms".  Systems that use an on-screen HUD might also display a bar graph, showing your state of arousal, and your partner's (if they are wearing a similar system).

Now, all this is well and good.  But some people think that gadgets like these are a crutch.  They will tell you that the only REAL way to cyber is to do your own chat emoting.  They call people who use talky gadgets "button pushers" or "clickers".
Xcite HUD Controls...So Many Buttons!

In part, I agree with them.  Chat emoting is an art, and those who are good at it are (for my taste) better and more exciting cyber-lovers.  The way two people can collaborate on the fly in writing a steamy, erotic, and arousing love scene is very stimulating.  You resonate with your partner, each of you arousing the other.  Not to mention the fact that you can save a lot of money by not buying a scripted system (plus, usually, a number of accessories and add-ons).

On the other hand, those scripted systems can be a great additional tool for cyber love play.  You can use that on-screen display of your arousal level as an additional, nonverbal tool to communicate your feelings to your partner, and to gauge theirs.  Plus, you can customize the stock chat responses to reflect your own choice of words, or even turn off the chat entirely and do all your emoting manually.

If you do decide to buy one of these systems, I'd recommend waiting until you are in a serious relationship with someone.  They work best if both participants have the same gear...so wait until you have someone special in your SLife, then go shopping together.

There are other forms of roleplay in which people take sides on this issue of "button pushing".  The "true" vampires look down their noses at the "button pushers" who use the Bloodlines or Hunger gaming systems.  The "real" dominants and submissives pooh-pooh the "button pushers" who use the Restrained Love Viewer (RLV) scripted restraint system.

In all these cases, though, what it really comes down to is personal preference.  If you and your partner find that a scripted system adds to your enjoyment, then you should use it without apology to anyone.  If you prefer to "do it yourself" and get more enjoyment that way, then save your money and type away to your heart's content!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Awfulizing

I waste a great deal of time and emotional energy in awfulizing.  Do you do this too?  Something happens…it may be significant, or it may be completely trivial.  But then I start thinking about the worst thing that can happen as a result.  That horrid scenario becomes more and more real in my mind, and I play it through again and again…if this horrible thing happens, here’s what I will say, here’s what I will do, here is how I will feel.

It happened twice in just the last day or so.

In the first instance, I had an argument in IMs with one of the managers of the New Resident Services group.  She also happens to be the owner of one of the help islands where I do a lot of greeter and mentoring work.  The cause of the argument was my fault…I made an announcement in the group chat for my Introduction to Cybering class.  She took exception to that, because she felt that the subject material was not suitable for a PG group.  I disagree – the class meets Linden Lab’s requirements for a PG activity.  There is no nudity, no strong language, no explicit sexual animations.  The raciest activity is chat emoting while on a pair of kiss poseballs.  However, she certainly has a right to her opinion, and the class does talk about adult topics, in the same frank way that a middle school sex education class would. 

It’s not a class that is intended for teens – in fact, I explicitly advise underage residents not to lie about their age to get into Moderate and Adult areas.  However, if some kids did show up, I don’t feel that anything in the class would traumatize or corrupt them.  It’s not like 16 year olds don’t know about this stuff.

In any case, it’s her group, and she has a perfect right to ask me not to do that again.

But I started, in my head, to jump ahead of the actual argument.  I imagined her kicking me out of her mentor group, and banning me from her island.  I was angry, frustrated, and indignant.  Some or all of that may happen…but my point here is that it has not happened yet, and may not happen at all.  So why does my stupid mind keep dwelling on it?

And it happened again, just before I sat down to write this entry.  The Resident Geek is off visiting his mother, and is returning today.  It’s a long drive, about 13 hours or so.  I called his cell phone, just to check on his progress and chat for a minute…and he did not pick up.  I knew about where he had to be, and it was not time for him to stop for gas or a break.  He should have picked up the phone.  I started to imagine reasons why he hadn’t…an accident!  He might be hurt!  He might be dead!!  The whole scenario started to play in my head…getting the call from The Authorities.  Calling my mother in law.  The funeral.  Dealing with our investments, our creditors, the projects we have in work.
Thank goodness, he called a few minutes later – it was just some phone glitch and his calls were all going straight to voice mail.

I blame the whole thing on my mother.  She was the world’s worst awfulizer.  No matter what someone did, especially me, according to her it was always sure to be headed straight for disaster.  I’m pretty sure I inherited at least some of her awfulizer genes.

Thanks a lot, Mom. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Something Fishy

I have these tropical fish swimming around in several places at Masocado. They’re made by a very clever resident, Supa Shang. The fish are “temp rez”. You put out a little cube object that contains examples of the fish, and every few seconds, a new one is created and it swims away, cruising at random within an area you designate. After a minute, the fish disappears, but that’s not a problem, because others have taken its place.

At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. But a couple of days ago, Linden Lab updated the server software (Le Tigre channel) that runs the Masocado region. Suddenly, my fish no longer swim about. They rez normally, but they are stuck in their original position. As fish stack up atop each other, they (well, the server, actually) send me error messages.

I was able to verify the problem was the server software by taking the fish to another region and trying them there. They worked fine.

So…I submitted a bug report to the Second Life JIRA bug reporting and tracking system. Today I got an email from the system. Maestro Linden had closed my report, saying that it duplicated another one. Now, I would not have minded this so much, except for the attitude Linden Lab displays here…it’s so typical of them. I know Maestro is a pretty good person, and works hard to manage the JIRA…so this is not exactly a criticism of him personally. But here is what I, as a customer, felt as a result of this experience.
  • LL is telling me I’m at fault for submitting a problem report that’s already been submitted. “Stupid woman, if you had looked more thoroughly you’d have seen we already knew about this.”
  • There was no link to the duplicate issue. If I want to see what, if anything, is being done about it, I’ll have to go look it up myself.
  • There is no hint of when a fix will be made, or if one ever will be made.
  • There is no hint of any apology. “We’re sorry we broke your content.”
There’s also the matter that the bug affects not only fish, but ANY moving physical object. Weapons won’t work in my region, coconuts won’t fall from the palm trees.

To rub salt in the wound, other regions are working fine…this affects only MY land, and others that use the Le Tigre software version. Why can’t LL just toss this buggy crap and run my server on one of the software versions that’s working correctly? Isn’t that why they have multiple versions, so if one release is bad, the others can be used until the problem’s fixed?

Well, so what? you snort. That’s the way LL always is. Yes, I know…but…

The Phoenix/Firestorm viewer developer team has a JIRA too. The SAME bug tracking software. It’s nearly as hard to navigate as LL’s JIRA (not quite, because its data base is not as large). But I like the Phoenix JIRA. When I submit a bug report there, I get a response. The response is timely and friendly. They don’t make me feel like an idiot, even if the “problem” I reported was actually a Really Dumb User Error. If the problem turns out to be a real bug, they tell me how soon they think it will be fixed (“scheduled for version 3, Release 26.2”). If they need more information, they say so (“I couldn’t duplicate the problem. Could you please try X, Y, and Z and get back to me?”). There is a sense that everyone…the developers and the users together…are working as a team to make the viewer better.

Two groups of people, using the same problem reporting software. And yet, what a world of difference between the end results.

[September 29 Udate:  Last night's server software rollout cured my paralyzed fish.  Thank you, LL, at least that did not take too long!}

Friday, September 23, 2011

Digging in the Digital Dirt

Congratulations! You’ve bought a parcel of land. Now you are standing there, looking around and wondering what to do with it. In all likelihood, the contours of the land aren’t exactly what you’d like…maybe it’s a pancake-flat square of sand on a private island, or maybe there is a steep hill right where you’d like to put a house.

Don’t worry! You have the power to make your land look pretty much the way you want it to…through the power of terraforming.

“Terraforming” means, literally, “earth shaping”. It’s a term invented by science fiction writers to describe the process of making an inhospitable planet more earthlike…but in Second Life, it refers to the Land Tools that give you the ability to reshape the land. If you live on the Mainland, this ability is generally limited…you can raise or lower the land by 4 meters, starting from the reference design created by Linden Lab when they first made the region. Private estates can be terraformed over a much wider range, +/- 100m, but the estate owner may have restricted your ability as a tenant to some smaller value, or even zero. Even if you aren’t permitted to terraform your estate parcel yourself, many estate owners are willing to terraform it for you, within reason.

Your land’s texture depends on its elevation. Land is assigned four textures by Linden Lab or the estate owner. Unless you own your own private island, you can’t change these…but you can ask your estate owner to do so. A typical texture progression might be:
  • Below sea level to 2m above sea level – sand
  • 2m to 20m – grass
  • 20m to 40m – rock
  • 40m and up – snow and ice
The texture does not change abruptly at the boundary. There is a random variation built in, to produce a more realistic looking terrain. This is why, if you have a very mild slope, the sand-to-grass boundary may appear to change a little between your visits to your land. This can result in problems with making your lawn borders look neat, which some people overcome by using “landscaping prims”…large flat prims with a grass texture to create a lawn with definite boundaries.

I love water features on my land, and it’s fun to create a creek or a pond. Here’s how:
  1. Right click the ground. Select Edit Terrain. You’ll see the land tools window appear.
  2. You can set the size of your “digging tool” and the strength of the terraforming effect with the "bulldozer" sliders. In some cases, you want the effect applied uniformly to a large area. In that case, check the “selection” check box, then select the area to be affected.  Then select your tool and hit Apply.
  3. You can choose from several effects. To dig our hole, we’ll use Lower.
  4. Move your cursor to where you want to start digging and press the left mouse button. For a stream bed, move your cursor along the path you want your creek to follow.
  5. You will probably need to make several passes to deepen the cut.
  6. You can flatten out irregularities with the Flatten and Smooth tools. Play with them to see how they differ.
The results are not “precise”. You can’t make, for example, a hole with vertical sides or sharp corners. You can almost always get approximately the result you want, with a little careful tweaking around the edges, but you may need to use prims here and there to create sharper divisions or to hide an unwanted bump or depression.

If you are close to sea level, you might be able to dig down far enough to “hit water” and let the natural Linden water fill your stream or pond. Otherwise, you’ll have to use “prim water”, which is just one or more prims with a water texture applied to them. The water can be made to ripple or flow by dropping a texture movement script into the prim. A nice touch is to add a water sound clip and another little script to play the sound in a continuous loop.

Next, decorate the banks of your water feature with some prim rocks, driftwood, and/or tall waving grasses. Don’t forget to add a bench or two where people can sit and admire your landscaping!

Creating a mountain is very similar, except we use Raise to lift the land up. You can add features to your mountain like boulders or waterfalls. If you can’t get as rugged a look as you want with the terraforming tools, think about getting some of the giant megaprim boulders and pre-made crags available at landscaping stores or the Marketplace.

Caves present a special problem. The problem is that Second Life land is one-sided. You can raise or lower the surface, but you can’t get “underneath” it. The only way to make a cave is to build it at least partially out of prims…either a “hollow mountain”, or a hole in the ground (like your pond), roofed over with a disguising prim. I once visited a very well-hidden home dug into the ocean floor and roofed over in this manner. If it hasn’t been moved, there is a large hidden cavern in the Chakryn Forest region…go traipsing about the tops of the mountains until you find the soft spot and fall through.

Go ahead, try out the Terraforming tools. I’ll bet you’ll agree that it’s the most fun you’ve had digging in the dirt since you were a little kid with a sandbox!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Farewell to Sims

They say that “change is the only constant”, and that’s even more true in Second Life than it is in the Real World. Every few months, I open up a part of my Landmarks folder and go teleporting around from place to place. Inevitably, a lot of the places turn out to no longer exist, or the store or club that used to be there has moved to a new location.

Most of SL is user-created and the very existence of most places is dependent on continued user support…either out of the pocket of the creator, or through purchases of products, payment of rent, or simply donations by other residents. A great many wonderful places have been unable to afford their own upkeep and have vanished from the grid.

That’s brought home to us most strongly when we hear about one of our favorite spots, one we’ve known and loved ever since coming to Second Life, is gone, or is going soon. A couple of years ago, there was great consternation when the then-owners of the spectacular SS Galaxy announced they were closing. The Galaxy is SL’s biggest cruise ship, stretching the length of three sims. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to do so! Fortunately, you still can – the Galaxy was bought by new owners and did NOT close after all.

Two of my favorite stores, Style Starts Here and Simone, did not fare so well. They closed unexpectedly a few months ago. Early in my SL existence, another hugely popular store, Last Call, did the same. One of my favorite skin makers, Celestial Studios, vanished without a ripple. My favorite romantic spot, Secret Reflections, is gone too, as well as its sister region, Midnight Reflections. The whimsical Greenies sim, with its dissipated little green aliens and its giant-sized furniture, is gone. So is the stunningly conceived and executed space sim, PrivateerSpace.

I’ve just heard that the wonderful Help People Island, where so many mentors introduced so many people to Second Life, has lost its corporate sponsor and will be closing. That one hits close to home, because HPI was my first “official” mentoring organization.

The latest casualty of Second Life’s relentless economic Darwinism is another old favorite – Abbott’s Aerodrome. This sim, designed by Cubey Terra, introduced me to the joys of Second Life aerial vehicles. I have a lot of Cubey’s skydiving equipment, one of his hot air balloons, a delightful little two-seat helicopter, and any number of airplanes. I’ve introduced several people to the thrill of SL skydiving from Abbott’s skydive launch platform. It appears it's being replaced by "Abbott's Spaceport", owned by Novatech, but somehow I don't think it will be the same.

Although it’s sad to see old friends and the things they’ve created leave Second Life, it can’t be helped. Money gets tight, time gets tight, and Stuff Happens. Loss and change are an inevitable fact of life, and virtual reality hasn’t changed that. There are only a couple of things we can do. First: find, frequent, and give our support to fun, unique, and noteworthy Second Life creations and their creators. And second, when they do leave, keep their memory alive by telling new residents about The Old Days. If we’re lucky, our stories will inspire them (and maybe even ourselves) to create new and even more stunning places!

Flash! Good News for Newcomers

Ever since the Basic Mode of the Second Life viewer was introduced, we mentors have had to wage a fight against it.  One of the first things we're asked, over and over again, is "how do I change my appearance?"  We've had to tell people, "Well, first you have to quit Second Life, and switch your viewer from Basic to Advanced mode..."  Telling someone to leave the virtual world almost before they've begun is not really the way to enhance their "first hour" experience!

Linden Lab seems to have finally gotten that message.  The latest viewer, 3.0.3, now has a Basic/Advanced switch in the upper right corner, near the clock and $L balance buttons.  I'd say "kudos!" except that it should never have been needed in the first place.  Still, it's a step forward.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Matrix: Coming to a Reality Near You?

I do love my virtual world, and I am always looking for ways to make the experience better, the interaction more seamless.

Today I saw a product announcement I’d been looking forward to for some time…the Vuzix 1200VR video goggles.  These are different from most “personal video” eyewear, because they incorporate a motion sensor that can track your head movement.  Look to the left, and your Second Life camera pans left.  At least, that is the promise.  If this product works with SL, it could finally make Mouselook a popular option.

I was (and am) pretty excited about that, even given the steep $600 price tag.  But then I got a mental picture of myself, sitting in a chair, hooked up to my computer at the eyes, and the fingers, and ears…and extended that to include some other peripherals…and before you know it I was imagining myself in a life support cocoon, tied into a highly detailed simulation of reality, along with millions of other people.  In my mind, I’d jumped into the world of the Matrix, sans inimical alien invaders.

While The Matrix is the latest and most visually impressive depiction of this species of dystopia, it’s far from the first.  Way back in 1935, Stanley G. Weinbaum wrote “Pygmalion’s Spectacles”, and virtual reality has been a staple of science fiction since the 1950’s.  Examples include Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt”, and works by Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and many others.  The Star Trek universe includes VR entertainment with the “holodeck”.  (Too bad this was used mainly as a plot device; given faster than light communications and VR, I think you wind up with a universe that links people much closer together, without the need for all those starships rushing about.  It would have been an interesting show…but of course, it wouldn’t have been Star Trek.)

Anyway, a great many of these virtual reality stories are cautionary tales.  Are we headed toward the world of The Matrix?  Is video game addiction only the tip of the iceberg?  Will we stumble into a future in which everyone’s goal is to retire, plug themselves in, and live a perfect life of their choice?

I know, that’s a lot to extrapolate out of a simple set of TV glasses!  But I know how compelling a virtual on line world can be, even in the current state of development.  I think it’s a good bet that as the technology improves, more and more people are going to be spending more and more time in places like Second Life.  That could actually be a Good Thing, in the sense that it lets you broaden your horizons, your circle of friends, and your experiences in many ways.  It could also be a Bad Thing, if we let the world go to hell while we all play in our make-believe digital ones.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

You Say PoTAYto, I Say PoTAHto

All right, Linden Lab!  All right, third party viewer makers.  Can we PLEASE have a single version of reality here?

Last night, a friend and I had (approximately) this conversation:

Susie Avatar:  I have a new title.
Me (looking at her group tag, for Frank's Place):  Cool.  Did you just visit, or did you get a hostess job there?
Susie Avatar:  Huh?  What are you talking about?
Me:  Your group tag for Frank's Place.  You mentioned a new title, and I was wondering if you just went dancing there or if you got a job.
Susie Avatar:  LOL, I have no idea what you mean.
Me:  Your GROUP TAG!  For FRANK'S PLACE!  Geeze, Susie, YOU brought it up!
Susie Avatar:  No I didn't.
Me (exasperated):  You did so!  You said "look at my new title"!
Susie Avatar:  It says "Mentor's Delight" now, instead of "Mentor's Despair."  I don't see anything else.
Me (peering closer):  Oh!  You mean your TITLER!  I see it now.  Not bad.
Susie Avatar:  What's this group tag thing you were talking about?

Then followed a lengthy discussion of the avatar nametag, and the options for it that you can set in your viewer.  You can choose to not see nametags at all, or only for a little while.  You can choose to see the user name, the Display name, and the Group tag.  Some viewers will also show you what viewer a person is using.  (Set these options in Me/Preferences/General).

So, one avatar might look over my head and see: 
Lindal Kidd.

Another might look and see: 
Oxbridge Professor
Lindal Kidd (Firestorm)
lindal.kidd

This isn't the only place in which one person's Second Life "reality" can be different from another person standing right next to them.  In fact, it's not even the most potentially confusing -- not even close.  I'm sorry...I know you developers meant well, and wanted to give us choices and flexibility, but it's taking more and more time just to straighten out what we're seeing and talking about to each other.  Could we PLEASE go back to a single ground truth?  Thanks.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Flash! Cybering class is offered again

Some of you may remember that I used to offer a class covering the basics of cyber-sex...emoting, poseball animations, and scripted genitals, and how to put them all together to create an immersive erotic experience.  I haven't taught that class in over a year...but that's changing in just a couple of days.

The class will be offered at GQ Start, starting this Sunday, September 18 at 0800 SL time.  If you're new to Second Life and want to find out what all this talk of cyber-sex is about, I hope you'll join me.  The class is PG rated...there will be no nudity and no explicit animations.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ARC, Script Counters, and Bar Fights

Have you gone to a club, or a crowded event, and had someone rudely tell you that the lovely look you spent so much time and effort and money putting together is lagging the sim? In some places, the Management will even kick you out if you don’t immediately put on something that uses fewer server resources.

The problem with this is that the Lag Police are usually going by one or two indicators, neither of which is really a good measure of the actual lag caused by an avatar.

The first one is Avatar Rendering Cost, or ARC. Linden Lab started including this tool in the viewer a couple of years ago. If you enable it (Advanced/Performance Tools/Show Avatar Rendering Cost), a number appears above your head, and the heads of other nearby avatars. The number is also color coded…Green for lower values, yellow for intermediate, and red for high ARCs. The idea is that the ARC number represents a measure of how hard your avatar is for other viewers to render. The higher the ARC, the more resources everyone’s computer needs in order to “draw” you on their screen.

Not a bad concept…but depending on the sort of textures one actually has on, ARC may or may not be a useful measurement. One avatar with a low ARC may actually be harder to render than another with a very high ARC, because of the algorithm used to determine ARC.

ARC is a useful tool for you to see whether you’re likely to be a lag queen or not, and change your outfit before going to a crowded place. When used by others as a means of policing a venue, it only causes arguments, anger, and resentment.

Script counters are the same sort of thing, but what they count is the number of scripts, and the amount of script memory being used. Too many scripts on too many avatars can indeed affect region performance. But once again, what the script counters do not do is measure the actual efficiency of the scripts in any way. Furthermore, the dividing lines between the “green”, “yellow”, and “red” zones are more or less arbitrary…and yet those who use these tools to confront others treat them as Revealed Truth. “My script counter has you way in the red. Take off some scripted items or leave!”

We should all try to use no more than our share of our virtual world’s computing resources, by checking our own ARC and script use. Those who delight in bossing others around and telling them what they must wear or do can have a closer look at the end of my lovely, primmy, heavily scripted, .45 auto.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bad Hair Days

Maybe I am just too picky…but sometimes I wonder why it’s so hard to find really good hair in Second Life. Oh, I have lots of places I like to shop for hair – but there are very few creators who get absolutely everything “just right” for my taste. I always seem to have to accept some compromise. I’ll give you a few examples and name names…but please understand, these are hair makers whose hair I actually like, own, and wear…so take any negative comments with a grain of salt. They obviously can’t be completely horrid, if I keep buying their stuff!

Analog Dog. The Dog’s hair (hair of the Dog?) has absolutely the most realistic movement of any flexi hair in SL. They are especially good at simulating the movement of a long, straight, silky fall of hair. They also have a huge range of color adjustments if you use their color HUDs. Drawbacks: Despite the color range, the Dog’s styles work better with non-realistic colors. They have a hard time looking like “real” shades. Many styles are two pieces (hair plus bangs). If you want to only take up one attachment point, you have a tedious editing job ahead of you.

Damselfly. Love the styles, love the colors. A lot of the styles can work as sets…buy several styles in one color, and it can look like you are just wearing your hair differently. Drawbacks: Those damn re-sizer scripts! Also, some styles have non-flexible locks in some odd places.

Fri.Day. Love the styles, and they do an especially good job with realistic “wisps” of hair around an updo. Drawbacks: A limited range of styles, and it can be hard to find a shade that’s exactly what I want…lots of “almost, but not quite” choices.

ETD (Now Elikatira). Once one of the leading salons in SL, with a huge selection, ETD recently re-opened as Elikatira. The selection (so far) is much less extensive, and I was disappointed…too many of the styles looked “old school SL”, with fat locks of non-flexible hair created from tortured toruses.

Sirena. I absolutely love the “up/down” animated hairstyles here. I am less than thrilled with the built in facelights, and the somewhat unrealistic color and texture choices.

Zero Style. Great if you want Asian or anime hairstyles. I love their short style “Mike”, but not many of the others compliment my face or provide a look that’s right for me.

Cake. Another store that produced only one style, Rumor, that’s “just right” for me. Also, they are very expensive!

Calico Creations. A huge choice of styles, well organized. Extensive color selection too. Good movement in the flexi styles. I think the only real drawback is that for me, their hair does not wear well, long term…it looks great for a little while, then it goes back in the inventory and I don’t tend to wear it again and again.

Truth. Another huge store. I haven’t been able to find many styles that suit me, but the ones that do are just about perfect. Get the demos, and be choosy.

Amacci. These guys have cornered the market in “severely pulled back” styles, by creating head tattoos in all their hair shades. Wear the tattoo and a bun, and look like an Italian supermodel! Absolutely enormous range of colors, reasonable prices. My only complaint is that too few of the styles match my personal taste. The ones that do, I wear often.

Are there products you use, and like, but wish “if only they would just…”? Write me!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Makeup – Skins vs. Tattoos

Since the introduction of the Tattoo layer, putting your perfect look together has become more complicated…or at least, it CAN be, if you think about all your additional choices. And in the latest viewers, you can wear multiple tattoo layers, compounding the problem.

In the beginning was the skin. The system skin. This rather unappealing integument has one advantage that all the later innovations lack: The makeup can be adjusted with the Appearance sliders. There is only one little problem…it all looks pretty hideous. These days, nobody bothers with system skin, with one very minor and rare exception: A few skins are made with semi-transparent areas so that you can adjust the skin or lip tone with the Appearance sliders.

The more usual case is that the skin(s) you buy are non-modifiable textures. Skins are generally purchased in packs, so that you can either have several skin tones in one makeup, or (the way I usually buy skins) several makeup “looks” in one skin tone. The better skins are quite expensive, because they represent many, many hours of skilled work in Photoshop to create a realistic look. This is the situation we had until recently, with “famous name” skin creators like Belleza, Curio, LaQ, and Redgrave selling us our skins. We might have six to ten makeups in a pack, giving us enough range for a daytime and an evening look, and a color range that let us coordinate with our clothing or our mood.

So…along came Tattoos. Tattoos let you paint any part of your body…and it didn’t take long for clever creators to realize this meant eyes, lips, and cheeks as well as body tattoos. In short, makeup had just been separated from skin…or at least, one could overlay a tattoo of a preferred lip color over the lips of a skin.

But an odd thing happened. The people making tattoo layer makeup were (mostly) a different crowd from the ones making entire skins. I’m all for creativity, enterprise, and entrepreneurs finding new market niches…but from my point of view, this development has some downsides.
  • The tattoo makeup creators tend to be slightly less skilled Photoshop artists. As a result, the makeups are (usually) less subtle. That’s OK if you want the Painted Slut look, but not so great if you want something less dramatic.
  • I have to go to more places to assemble my arsenal of looks. I would much rather put together a package of items designed by a single creator to work in harmony with each other.
  • The tattoos can (like wearing a different maker’s skin) change the shape of my facial features.
The other thing about tattoo layer makeup is that in most cases you buy eye makeup, or lips, or cheeks – each is a separate tattoo. If you want to wear more than one, you can (if you have one of the latest viewers). I’ve found at least one store, CCD, that sells a “full face” makeup tattoo, which is convenient if nothing else.

So, Second Life skin artists – why aren’t YOU jumping on the tattoo bandwagon? I’d like to be able to come into my favorite skin store, pick out a skin with the tone, lip shape, eye shape and curve and muscle contouring I like, then stroll over to the makeup counter and pick out makeup looks of my choice that are designed to work with my choice of skin. The only maker I’m aware of that works this way is Second Skin Labs…and they were doing it with an “orderable options” system, long before tattoo layers made it easy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Minus, and a Plus

I was at Caledon Oxbridge last night, and another mentor was demonstrating some of her Mesh avatars.  I was impressed by the smoothness of the mesh structure, especially around areas like the corners of the nose and the elbows, where the traditional avatar mesh is "skimpy" and produces distortions.  But there was one big problem: no facial movement.

None.  The eyes don't blink, the mouth doesn't move.  There are no provisions (yet, anyway) in the avatar "bones", the skeleton that distorts the mesh and lets us move, for facial movements.  This makes the avatar look rather depressingly like a doll or a statue, instead of a person.  We've grown accustomed to even the quite limited facial animation of our avatars, and I don't think many of us are going to be willing to give them up.

At the same time, however, I was gleefully playing with creating and editing big prims.  It is SO nice to finally be able to actually build with prims larger than 10 meters, without all the compromises involved in using the limited sizes of pre-made megaprims.  This will be a tremendous aid to people like me who build large structures.  Thanks, LL!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Teething Pains for Mesh

Linden Lab has released a new viewer (V3) that is capable of handling the new Mesh objects, as well as having other new features (like increasing the maximum size of rezzed prims from 10 meters to 64 meters.  Editable megaprims, yay!)  But, like most new features LL releases, the new viewer isn't working all that great for everyone.

A number of problems have been reported and verified in the JIRA bug tracking system.  Both LL and the third party viewer developers are working hard to squash the bugs, but if you are experiencing them now, that isn't much consolation.

I have two suggestions.  First, when you install the new viewer, don't just Run the file from the download site.  Use Save As instead, then install the downloaded file to a different directory than your current SL viewer.  Make sure that you have a desktop shortcut to both the old and the new viewer.

Second, if your frame rate has fallen off a cliff with the new viewer, go to Me/Preferences (CTRL+P).  Click the Graphics tab, click Advanced (if the window isn't fully expanded already), click Hardware, and set the Anti-Aliasing to a lower value than the default value of 8.  None, 2, or 4 should work fine.  (In older viewers, AA defaulted to None, if that gives you an idea of what to expect).

For users of Phoenix/Firestorm, a new mesh-enabled beta version of Firestorm is available.  The developers admit it's buggier than they would like, due to a fair number of problems "inherited" from the LL Viewer 3 code.  However, it's working pretty well for me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Groups

What are Second Life groups, why should I join them, and how do they work? I’m glad you asked!

A group in SL can be as few as two people. In actual fact, it can be only ONE real person…with the group “members” being the person’s primary account, and at least one alt. Some groups really ARE that small…people just make them to be placeholders for clever group tags, or to take advantage of the 10% tier bonus that groups receive. Other groups have hundreds of members.

Groups serve many purposes.
  • Clubs and stores have groups that you can join. These are used primarily for advertising. Group members receive notices of club events, new products, and sales. To compensate you for putting up with the advertising, some store groups offer discounts, gifts, and specials for group members.
  • Roleplay areas have groups, to notify the participants of special events, rule changes, and so on. Also, there can be many sub-groups, such as vampire “clans”.
  • There are many special interest groups, for everything from knitting to scripting to philosophy and political debate.
  • Real Life entities such as universities and corporations that have a Second Life presence have groups for their students and employees. 
  • Landlords have groups for their tenants, to let the tenants have land privileges like rezzing objects or changing audio streams.
You can belong to up to 42 groups. After that, you must leave a group (“free up a group slot”) in order to join a new group.

To join a group, first find it…with Search, or by clicking on a group joiner in a club or store and then clicking the link it provides you in Chat. In the Group Info window, you can read about the group’s purpose. You may be able to see some or all of its members, or they may be hidden from non-members. In the main group info window, there is a JOIN button. If it’s active, the group is “open enrollment” and anyone can join. Note that some groups (not many) charge a fee for joining, and that will be noted here.

If the JOIN button is not active, the group is not open enrollment. It may still be possible to join! Note the group owner, and send them and IM or a notecard requesting an invitation.

Some group joiner gadgets make this process simpler…they send you a message that says “You have been invited to join the Kiddees group. Accept/Decline?” If you click Accept, you join the group and it is immediately activated. You’ll see a new group tag appear above your head in your nametag floater.

“It says ‘Apprentice Slut’ over my head! How do I get rid of that?” That’s a “group tag”. Every group has designated “group roles”, and each role can have its own tag. When that group is active, the tag for your role in that group is displayed over your head. You can get rid of the tag by:
  • Leaving the group (kinda drastic, unless you joined by mistake). Open your Contacts window, and look at the Groups tab, or right click your avatar and select Groups. Highlight the offending group and click the LEAVE button.
  • Activate another group. In your Groups window, highlight another group, or “None” and click ACTIVATE.
  • If you have more than one allowed role in the group, you can switch roles (and tags). You’ll see a box for this in the main information window of your group.
  • Ask the group owner to provide you with a different tag.


You must have your group tag active in order to do some things. Group-owned objects may require it before they will let you use them. If you are on group-owned land, you will probably need to wear your group tag in order to rez objects. You’ll need to wear your tag to take advantage of group gifts and specials in stores.

When you are a group member, you can (usually)
  • Receive group notices
  • Participate in group chat (which should really be called “Group IM”, because you don’t have to be physically near the other group members. It’s like a party line.)
…and you might have other powers, such as the ability to eject people from group land. You can see the abilities assigned to each group role in the “roles and abilities” tab.

Some group notices contain attachments. This can be simply a notecard or a landmark, or it might be an actual object. To receive it, click the attachment before you close the group notice by clicking OK.

By default, your groups appear in your Profile.  You can hide some or all of them (for example, you might not want everyone to see your Naughty Groups).  

You might also notice that you are occasionally billed a small amount by Linden Lab, like $L3. This is because groups that maintain a land listing in Search or a Classified ad have to pay for it. If the group owner has made all members responsible for “group liabilities” (the default setting), then everyone in the group contributes to pay these ongoing bills. If you believe the rank and file shouldn’t be paying this, take it up with the group owner. Politely, please…it’s often an oversight on their part.

“Can I make my own group?” You bet! In your Contacts window, click the Groups tab, then click CREATE. You’ll see a new window. Give your new group a name, pay the required $L100 fee, and your group is created. Be sure that at least one other person joins the group within 48 hours (you can use your own alt). Otherwise, the group will be automatically dissolved…and you can’t re-use the name.

Once you have created a group, give some thought to roles and abilities. A group Owner has ALL abilities…except the authority to remove other Owners from the Owner role and from the group. So be very careful about allowing co-owners. You may only want certain people to have some abilities, such as the ability to sell group land, subdivide land, or have eject and ban privileges.

If you decide to dissolve your group, don’t just leave it. An ownerless group has no way to change. Tell all the other members to leave the group, or remove them yourself. Sell all group land. Return all group owned or deeded objects. When you are the last one left, the group will be automatically dissolved after two days.




Here are some groups that a newcomer might find useful!
Caledon Oxbridge University Group - receive notices of upcoming classes on Second Life topics
New Resident Help Network - holler for help with Second Life questions
Fabulously Free in SL - get the word on the latest freebies 
Midnight Mania - find out where the boards are to sign up for Midnight Mania freebies
The Forum Cartel - a chatty gang of helpful people
Phoenix/Firestorm viewer support - live help with these popular third party viewers



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

About Those Talking Body Parts...

A few days ago, I discussed chat emotes, and their role in roleplaying. Today, I’d like to tell you about some…well, “toys”…that can be used for two very prevalent types of roleplay: cyber-sex and BDSM.

Some people may jump up and down and scream that those activities aren’t roleplay, they are REAL! Well, so they are; I won’t disagree with you. Most people find their feelings deeply engaged when they participate in them. But, regardless of how you feel, your avatar in Second Life can be thought of as a stand-in or a go-between. And in that sense, cybering and BDSM can be thought of as very intense, very absorbing, and ultimately very satisfying sorts of roleplay.

Many people are “purists”. They take the position that chat emotes are free, infinitely flexible, and are the best way to express your feelings. In most cases, I tend to agree with this position myself. But…the toys can be fun too, and used properly, can add an additional dimension.

What are these toys? In the case of cyber-sex, the most commonly used toys are scripted genitals. Yes, I’m talking about talking pee-pees and garrulous pussies. Not to mention nipples, buttocks, and feet. There are several brands on the market, but the two most popular are Xcite and Sensations. Each consists of a package of objects. For example, my Xcite equipment includes wearable objects for nipples, ass, and vagina. There is also an on-screen control panel.

You interact with these parts either by clicking them on your partner’s avatar, or your own, or by using the control panel (very handy when the part in question is hidden by the position of the various bodies). When you call up a body part, you are given a menu of things you can do to it…rub, lick, pinch, and so on. When you select an action, the body part responds in local chat, saying something like “Lindal Kidd pinches your nipples”. The more the body parts are touched, the more “aroused” the system says you are. The Xcite system even has an arousal “meter” for both you and your partner.

This would all be very mechanical and meaningless, except for one thing: you can override the system. This lets you tell it that you are, say, 20% aroused rather than letting it simply guess. By doing this, the system becomes yet another way of communicating with your partner.

Most of the body part attachments are simply invisible spheres that provide a place for your partner to click on. The exception is the male member, which has many appearance options. Also, as you become more aroused, the penis reacts visibly, becoming more erect.

The Xcite system lets you go one step further, if you want to spend the money. You can buy interface software, and a…well, an I/O peripheral…from a third party vendor. When set up, this allows your partner to, say, rub your Xcite pussy and cause a vibrator at the end of a USB cable to buzz. For more information on this high-tech cybersex stuff, Google “teledildonics”.  Or check out a specific manufacturer here: http://sinulate.com/

What should you buy? Xcite, Sensations, or some other brand? They all work in much the same way, but they don’t work with each other. So I would hold off on buying a system until you have a serious relationship. Then you and your partner can go shopping together.

As for BDSM, there are just scads of toys in the form of cuffs, blindfolds, restraints, and specialized furniture. All of these, however, have one major drawback from the point of view of BDSM participants: The submissive has to sit on them herself, and then accept the object’s animation offer. This rather detracts from the desired feel of the dominant being in control. (Yes, I know, “the sub is in control”. But still.)

There is one toy that tries to correct that: The Restrained Love Viewer, or RLV. RLV used to be a separate third party Second Life Viewer (and it still is, you can find it here). But the RLV functions have also been incorporated into other, more up to date SL viewers such as Phoenix and Firestorm.

One can think of RLV as a sort of “meta-toy”. A lot of cuffs, collars, restraints, and other bondage devices are “RLV compatible”. When they are used with the RLV function of your viewer enabled, the dominant has a lot more control over what they do to you, without asking your permission first.

When you use RLV, you can give your dominant a great deal of control over your Second Life, with or without wearing a collar or cuffs. They can:
  • Dress or undress you
  • Prevent you from detaching your collar or other attachments
  • Restrict your login location
  • Restrict your ability to teleport
  • Restrict your ability to see around you
  • Confine you to a cage, or lock you into a pose
  • Turn off your chat or IMs
  • Listen to your local chat, even when they are not nearby
  • And many other things.
Remember, you still do have ultimate control…you can always turn off the RLV functions, log out and restart your viewer. But this process of giving your dominant permission to control you in advance, and then having them able to do so, provides an experience that feels a bit more like a Real Life D/s interaction to many people.

Links:
XCite web page
XCite in-world store
Sensations in-world store

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The How and Why of Emotes


/me gasps in horror! I just realized…I’ve spoken here several times about the importance of emoting, but we’ve never really talked about what emoting is, or how to do it. So let’s talk about emotes.

You have several ways to express yourself in Second Life. There are animations…which might be ones in a pose ball, or a piece of menu-driven furniture, or even just something you drag out of your inventory and play. And there are the animations in your Animation Overrider (AO). The problem with animations is that there may not be one handy to express exactly what you want to convey.

But of course, there are the built-in facial animations, too. You can activate these manually with various “emoting” gadgets, or even trigger them based on your text chat with a gadget like Auto Emote. However, these are limited too, and because of the way SL works, the person you’re talking to might not be looking at your face anyway.

There are Gestures. Once again, though, the gesture to convey exactly the meaning or emotion you want may not be available, and the time it takes to scroll through a long list of gestures and pick one may be too long. Besides, most of the Gestures I’ve seen are good for jokes or for annoying people in a crowded club, but not for expressing one’s feelings.

If animations, facial expressions, and Gestures are not enough to express yourself, what can a poor avatar do? Ta-da! Chat emotes to the rescue!

Chat emotes are used many places on the internet, and began back when all internet communication was ONLY in text. There are several categories of them in fairly general use. People may tell you “THE” way to emote…but really, any style that gets your meaning across will be fine.

Emoticons. Almost everyone knows about emoticons. They are the combinations of punctuation marks that can “stand in” for the facial expressions that text can’t convey. Like :) (smile) :)) (bigger smile) :D (big grin or laughter). Or :/ (wry grimace) :((frown) and many others. Typists in the USA tend to use “sideways” emoticons, while Japanese typists use a more horizontal style of expression, like <O.o> or simply O.o (a surprised or skeptically raised eyebrow) or ^oo^ (cat staring at you attentively). Here’s a link to a list of many more emoticons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emoticons

Abbreviations. Acronyms like LOL (Laughing Out Loud) or OMG! (Oh my god!) are ways to insert an indication of the way one intends one’s text to be taken. They’re fine, but don’t overuse them please. I have met many people who use lol as a sort of verbal pause in text…every sentence begins or ends with a lol.  Here's a list of common chat acronyms:  http://www.sharpened.net/acronyms/

Asterisked Emotes. You can separate short emotes from the “spoken” part of your text with asterisks. As in, “*gasp!* Linden Lab just announced new benefits for Premium members!

/me Emotes. Normally, your chat appears like this…Lindal Kidd: Let’s go out for ice cream. Your name, a colon, and what it is that you said. But, if you type “/me” before your text, the colon does not appear, and you can make the text line describe an action or an emotion instead of speech. If I type “/me thinks about a double hot fudge sundae and grins”, the chat window will look like this…Lindal Kidd thinks about a double hot fudge sundae and grins Some viewers will even show an emote in italics to distinguish it further from spoken chat.

Most viewers now offer a shortcut that you can use in place of “/me”. If you set it up in your Preferences, you can type a colon instead. : thinks about a double hot fudge sundae and grins. Make sure there is no space between the colon and the next character you type. You can even use the possessive case…:’s head lifts and she inhales the rich scent of hot fudge becomes Lindal Kidd’s head lifts and she inhales the rich scent of hot fudge.

You should mix spoken chat and emotes. Here’s an example…

Lindal Kidd: Let’s go sailing. I have a new boat!
Cindi Wyler: Cool! How does it handle sim crossings?
Lindal Kidd shrugs
Lindal Kidd: I don’t know, I haven’t tried it out yet
Cindi Wyler laughs!
Cindi Wyler: Well, rez it and we’ll find out.
Lindal Kidd nods.

You can combine an emote with spoken text, either by separating the emote with asterisks, as I noted earlier, or by putting the spoken text in quotes, like this…

Lindal Kidd looks about in puzzlement. “Now where is the boat rezzing area in this marina?”

The emote triggers, /me or :, work in local chat, and in IMs too.

Practice your emoting! Skillfully done, emoting can convey an enormous amount of meaning that simple typed “spoken text” cannot. Emoting is used in everyday interaction in Second Life, but it’s even more important in many sorts of formal roleplaying. After all, roleplaying is a sort of collective storytelling – so it’s more fun for everyone if everybody is a good “story writer”. Depending on your roleplay group, you may run into additional rules or conventions, such as the use of local chat for “in character” communication and IM for “out of character” remarks. Or they may use the convention of putting ((out of character remarks in double parentheses)).
And of course, chat emotes are used in the much more intimate, one-on-one of on line romance and cyber-sex. Are you aroused by a well-written love scene in a book? Well, that’s exactly what you are setting out to do with your cyber-sex partner…and he is trying to do the same for you.

Some people just don’t communicate easily or well with the written word. For them, we have Voice. That’s fine, if that is the way you communicate best.
/me grins, waves, and saunters off. “See you all next time!”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rez Cooties

I don’t know what LL did this time, but a new intermittent bug seems to be going around a lot the last two or three days.  People are having problems with getting their avatars to load completely.  Appearance is variable…you might see yourself just fine, while other people see you nude, or wearing the last outfit you had on.  Or you might be partially Ruthed -- wearing a cap of brown system hair, or a female shape (particularly disconcerting if you are male).  Some of your textures may not load…your skin might be gray or flesh colored, but like a plastic doll, with no detail.

The problem seems to be avatar-specific, not related to a particular viewer or a given user’s computer.  One of your avatars may have this problem, while your alts do just fine.

Clearing cache does not seem to help, and you may find that it’s impossible to change your shape, skin, system hair or eyes, because the viewer will tell you that you are still loading.

I wish I had a sure-fire fix to offer.  The run-ins I’ve had with this have differed a bit from one person to another.  Try the usual stuff…clear cache, relog, put on another outfit (if you can), restart your computer and internet connection.  Eventually, the problem can be resolved…or maybe it just goes away on its own.  My partner put on a formal gown last night and the clothing layer parts took a good fifteen or twenty minutes to rez…but eventually, they did.

But at least now you’ll know what’s going on when you stroll into a General area and someone says, “Nudity isn’t allowed here…please leave or put on some clothes”.  By the way, when you and someone else are arguing about the nature of reality…that is, you see one thing on your screen and they claim to see something different…there is a way to resolve the issue without resorting to pistols at ten paces.  Each of you take a snapshot, and exchange them.  Make sure your snapshot shows both you and the other avatar, so everyone knows that it’s a picture of THIS time and place.  There’s a $10L upload fee involved, but it’s a small price to pay to avoid a dispute.

Hey…maybe that’s it!  LL did this figuring that they’re going to make a ton of money on picture fees!