Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Visit To Social Island

Last time, I talked about some basics of Appearance editing that new residents might want to know.  Today, let's switch around and talk about something that new residents are probably quite familiar with, but that older Second Life residents have probably not experienced:  Linden Lab's newest "First Hour Experience" for new Second Life users.  It's called "Social Island".

Now, I have often disparaged Linden Lab's attempts to introduce people to the wonders of Second Life.  In particular, I am a huge proponent of providing live helpers on the spot, to help new users and answer their questions.  In my opinion signs and tutorials, and even helpful videos are only useful to some people.  Others learn best by one on one interaction with a mentor, teacher, or helper.   But live helpers are either expensive (LL employees) or unruly (volunteer Residents, like the old Mentor program.)  LL has, understandably from their point of view, tried ways of introducing people to SL that don't involve live human beings.  Up until now, those ways (Orientation Island, Help Island, Welcome Island, Destination Island) have all been less than successful, at least in this writer's view.

Enter the new "Social Island".  It is not all that different conceptually from the old Help Island, but the quality of the build is much better, and visually more intriguing.  You can't see all of the region from any given location, since mountainous rock formations block your view.  But bridges and pathways lead off in various directions, and tantalizing hints of what lies around the next corner invite you to explore.

There are several disparate areas on Social Island.  A beach house with a pleasant indoor pool; a lighthouse on a hilltop; an amphitheatre (with teleport doors leading off to other Destinations -- it's modeled after the larger one on the earlier Destination Island).  There's an oriental temple where you can go sit to get out of a local rainstorm that is one of the best "cheats" at making rain and shelter from it seem realistic that I have come across.  There's a flashing, blinging rock club with one of the most eye-searing dance floors I've ever seen.  (My biggest complaint about Social Island -- the rock club has no music stream, and only offers the dopy "free" dance animations.)  There is a futuristic build of a multi-level bar, and a tiny pocket valley with a pleasant campfire to sit by.

And there is a "game" one can play.  It's not advertised, there are no signs anywhere.  But there are hidden places to be found on Social Island.  I doubt that many newbies will actually find them, but that is really OK.  There is a library area in a huge underground cavern, and from there, if you are curious and persistent enough, you can find the entrance to a hidden treasure cave, where you can get a golden crown from a treasure chest.  There is a second entrance to the treasure cave, hidden from outsiders...a "one way" rock texture.

For those who manage to get themselves stuck on the seabed under the island, there are numerous handy teleport pads to get you back up to the surface.

The new Social Island does not use signs or tutorials, but it does use psychology and the pervasive internet meme of games, quests, and prizes to encourage new people to nose around and explore.  Yes, I was asked, "What's the point of this game" by a newbie.  I told him, "find the Crown!" and explained the task.  He went off much happier than if I had insisted, "Second Life is not a "game"!  There are plenty of things to click, and sit on, and look at.  In the simple act of walking around and doing these everyday things, new people are going to get a "feel" for Second Life.  And when they are ready, that amphitheatre with its many exits to the main grid is ready to funnel them into Second Life proper.

Kudos to Linden Lab for this one, especially the hard-working Moles.

Here are some pictures of my visit!

View from the Lighthouse
See How One Thing Leads to Another?  Lighthouse over the hill

A Pleasant Beach House

Nice Club, if it had music!

Dancing at Club SL

Thunderstorm at the Temple
The Library of the Cave Club (hard to find!)

The Departure Area...All Aboard for the Main Grid!
Click Here if you Get Stuck!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

One for the VERY New Avatar!

(Note to readers:  This entry has been updated as of June 2014 to account for the new Fitted Mesh starter avatars!)

If you have been in Second Life a while, or if you're a regular reader here, you can skip this one!  This is a VERY short, basic tutorial on How to Change Your Appearance, for those who are new and confused about all those menu buttons and things.

You have a lot of "starter avatars" in your inventory.  You can find them by clicking the inventory button (with a symbol like a suitcase) and opening the folder Library/Clothing/Initial Outfits.

You can change into any of these avatars by right clicking the folder for that avatar and choosing Replace Outfit.  Or drag the folder onto your avatar.

You can open an avatar's folder and wear individual pieces of that outfit.  Right click a piece and choose Wear, or drag it onto your avatar.

You detach clothing in one of two ways.  If it is a clothing layer (symbol of pants, or shirt, or jacket etc. in your inventory), right click your avatar and choose Take Off/Clothing/<clothing type>.  If it is an attachment (symbol of a cube in your inventory), right click the item and choose Detach.

If you Wear an item of clothing that's the same type as what you have on, it will replace the current worn item.  Things that attach to the same point will replace an attached item on that point.  You can override these behaviors by using the function Add instead of Wear.

You can also search for "WORN" items in your inventory.  They will appear in boldface, and have the word WORN in their description.  You can take off or detach them from there, too.

You can alter your shape, if it is modifiable.  Right click your avatar, choose Appearance/Edit My Shape, and play with the many sliders.  Don't mess with the hair sliders, leave them at zero.  Be sure to save your changes with a new name.  If you are not good at creating an attractive shape, there are many freebie shapes, and ones for sale, out there.

There are four "essential" pieces that everyone MUST wear at all times, to define their avatar.  You can't take these off, only replace them by wearing a different item of the same type.  These are shape, skin, eyes, and system hair.

Most of your starter avatar skins have the underwear permanently painted directly on the skin.  You can't take it off, but you CAN find a freebie nude skin and use that instead, or buy a skin.

You can fine tune the position of an attachment that does not fit quite right.  It helps to stand on a posing stand, so you don't move while doing this.  Right click the attachment, select Edit.  Use the colored positioning arrows to drag the attachment and change its position.  Hold CTRL+SHIFT to change the arrows to a bounding box.  Drag one of the corners of the box to change the object's size.  USE SMALL MOVEMENTS!  It's a good idea to make a safety copy of the object, in case you mess up.  Use your camera controls, or hold the ALT key and the left mouse button to swing your camera around and check the fit from all sides.

Recently, Linden Lab added 24 new "starter avatars" to the Library, and they are also prominently featured as choices during the signup process.  These new avatars are "Fitted Mesh."  The ENTIRE AVATAR is a replacement for the "standard" avatar that you can adjust and dress as I've described above.  This has both advantages and disadvantages.  On the plus side, these avatars look more "photorealistic" than the standard ones.  On the minus side, while the Appearance sliders can modify their look somewhat, they don't have nearly the flexibility of the standard avatars, especially when it comes to fine details like facial features.  Also, normal clothing items will not work with these avatars, nor will facial expressions that are a part of some gestures and animations.

You can tell if you are wearing one of these Fitted Mesh avatars by looking in your inventory, under Library\Clothing\Initial Outfits.  All the mesh avatars have "(Mesh)" in the name of their folder.

My advice is, switch to one of the older, non-mesh avatars at least until you are familiar with how clothing layers and attachments work in Second Life.  You will be much less confused and frustrated!

Monday, August 12, 2013


I know I have mentioned muting (also called Blocking, in many viewers) here several times in passing.  But let's talk about that more specifically today.

There is no true privacy in Second Life, unless you are rich and buy your own isolated region.  That means we have to deal with other people all the time...and some of those people are, to put it mildly, jerks.  What can you do about a rude and annoying person, especially one who seems to be stalking you and showing up everywhere you do?  What about that idiot in your favorite club who's always throwing huge chat spam gestures out, or yelling HOOOOO?

Block them, that's what.  Right click their avatar and choose Block (or Mute) from the context menu.  Suddenly they become invisible, except for their nametag.  Or, depending on your viewer and how you have set your Preferences, they might be a green cloud, or a gray silhouette.

People on your Block list can't be heard in local chat, voice, or IM.  Anything they send you will be automatically refused.  They have become, as far as you are concerned, a non-person.

If they aren't physically present, you can Block someone with a button in their Profile, if you use Firestorm or another viewer that has that feature.  The official LL viewer does not, but you can click on a person's name in an IM history window and Block them from there.  (This is a very annoying omission on LL's part.  You can Block someone in your Friends list, but unless they are right there with you, you have to jump through hoops to block a stranger.  I hope bringing the Block button back to the profile is on LL's To Do List.)

There IS one way in which a blocked avatar can still interact with you:  they can hit you with physical objects.  So you may need to be a little fast on your feet if the blocked jerk jumps in his car and tries to run you down, or starts hosing you with an AK-47.

If you send someone an IM, pay them money, or send them an item, they will be automatically unblocked.  Unless of course, they have blocked you, too!  But there is also a Block list in the People window, and you can unblock someone from there.

You can Block objects too.  Things that send out annoying sounds or repeated group invitations are  good candidates for this.  Muting an object will also mute its owner, though.

Sometimes you will get a Block option through a menu.  For example, many popular dance machines in clubs will have a little Block button as a menu choice.  Be careful you don't hit this by mistake!  If you do, you will wonder why the dance machine isn't working any more, until you figure it out and unblock it from your list.  if you want to close the offered menu, use the Ignore button instead.

Blocking someone is truly a way to get the last word.  Just say to them, "You're muted, jerk," and hit the Block button.  You can then grin evilly to yourself as you watch their silent presence and think about how frustrated they must be that they can't annoy you any more.

See the official word on Blocking here:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Shadows, Invisiprims, Alpha Masks, and Your Shoes

Way back in the Dark Ages, I wrote a piece all about Second Life shoes.  Due to recent changes in the way Second Life works, I need to add a small addendum to that.

Invisiprims are a special sort of prim.  They use a script to make the avatar mesh inside of, or behind them, invisible.  Invisiprims used to be the standard way that shoe makers would hide the unsightly part of your foot that would otherwise be visible below the sole of a pretty high heeled shoe.

The trouble is, invisiprims were always a bit of a hack, making use of a flaw in the Second Life code.  When Linden Lab enabled the viewer to see Mesh objects, they also fixed this loophole.  The result is that anyone using a current mesh-capable viewer (and that is just about everyone, nowadays), who is ALSO using the Advanced Lighting Model and Shadows in their graphics preferences, will not see your invisiprims.  On their monitors, your feet will look like ugly clubs.

There are a lot of shoes out there, especially freebies, that still use invisiprims.  Be sure that your shoes come with an alpha mask your inventory, it will have the symbol of a shirt with a grid texture on it.  Wear this alpha mask item with your shoes.  If you are wearing any other alpha masks, such as for a Mesh dress, use the Add command, not Wear, to add the shoe alpha mask to your ensemble.

Some shoes, like boots, can be fixed.  Even if you can't remove the invisiprims (most shoes are No Modify), you can add your own alpha texture to hide your foot.  This will not work with shoes that show part of the avatar foot, like pumps or sandals.  You can find collections of foot alpha masks on the Marketplace, see the links below.

Friday, August 9, 2013


Our Second Life is always changing, and it usually does so much faster than Real Life.  Stores and clubs come and go, whole regions are there one day and vanished the next.  Our viewers and the server software that runs SL is constantly being updated with bug fixes and new features. 

As the virtual world changes, our lives within it change too.  People who were friends vanish away, or drift away to new pursuits and new friends.  We may quarrel, and then make up...or sometimes not.  It's been said that any Second Life partnership that lasts six months is equivalent to ten years of a Real Life marriage.

My partnership is an unusual one, even for SL.  For over four years, I've been one third of a three-way lesbian marriage, and I could not have asked for better friends, lovers, and partners than Cindi and Eveline.

But change comes to even the best relationships.  Eveline has chosen to depart from us, and from Second Life.  This makes me very sad, but at the same time, I am grateful for all the evenings we spent together, laughing, crying, and loving.  Bless you, Eveline, and may you find happiness in everything you do!

And no, this does not mean that I'm single again, "on the market", or looking.  Cindi and I are continuing as partners.  Bless you, too, Cin, for always being there when you are needed, and for your wisdom, understanding, and acceptance.

I love you both.