Tag Archives: Second Life

Lab ends VAT charges on Premium subscriptions

secondlifeIn a further more to sweeten Premium memberships, Linden Lab has announced that with immediate effect, those Premium members who have traditionally have had to pay VAT on their membership subscriptions will no longer have to do so.

The announcement is coupled with a reduction in the Monthly billing plan for Premium from US $9.95 a month to US $9.50, and reads in full:

Being Premium comes with many perks, including a weekly L$ stipend, more privacy with a Linden Home, exclusive gifts and experiences, and now, live chat with the Concierge Support team at Linden Lab.

If you missed your chance to take advantage of our recent 50% off monthly Premium Membership offer – there’s no reason to worry! Now, we’re reducing the standard cost of a monthly Premium subscription to just $9.50 a month. Enjoy all the benefits of Premium Membership for less!

We will also no longer charge VAT for Premium subscriptions. If you live in a region where VAT applies, this means an effective savings in some countries of more than 20% below what you would have previously paid!

VAT payment were introduced by the Lab in 2007. At the time, there was a widespread  – and mistaken – belief that the Lab were having to pay VAT as a result of holding offices and European (notably Brighton, UK). Further misconceptions were voiced (and sometimes still are) about the Lab charging VAT “unnecessarily” on the grounds that they no longer have offices within Europe.

However, as Forbes noted in 2014 when changes were being made to the basic requirements, the EU has, since 2003, always levied VAT against the delivery of electronic services (which Second Life is) from non-EU countries, including the USA. The difference was that prior to 2007, the Lab opted to absorb the VAT charges rather than passing them on to their European customers – at last until things reached a point where it was no longer economically viable for them to do so.

With immediate effect, those Premium members previously liable for VAT on their subscriptions will not longer have the charge passed on to them by the Lab. In addition, the monthly billing plan for Premium is reduced to US $9.50 a month

With immediate effect, those Premium members previously liable for VAT on their subscriptions will not longer have the charge passed on to them by the Lab. In addition, the monthly billing plan for Premium is reduced to US $9.50 a month

With the announcement, it would appear that  – in part – the Lab is once again willing to absorb VAT charges, and in doing so, offer a very credible benefit for EU members who may have been put off upgrading to Premium as a result of the VAT surcharge.

Speaking as an EU resident, I’m more than happy to see my annual subscription reduced from US $84.00 to the standard US $72.00. Together with the perks and bonuses recently introduced – such as the move of Premium live chat support to the Concierge team, this is precisely the kind of creative thinking by the Lab which could go some way to making Premium membership more popular among some sections of the existing user base.

Help MadPea and LLK build a school in Kenya

madpea-logoKess Crystal recently dropped me a line about MadPea’s 2015 Celebrity auction – with the news also now appearing on the MadPea blog; my apologies to Kess for my tardiness in getting this article out.

On September 27th 2015, the MadPea team will be running an auction in support of Feed A Smile / Live and Learn in Kenya – and right now they’re asking for support from folk across SL to make it happen, buy donating their time, interest and talents.

The focus of the auction comes by way of Feed A Smile. You may recognise the name from things like The Drax Files World Makers episode #16. At its heart, Feed A Smile, organised and run by Brique Topaz (Brique Zeiner in the physical world) provides nutritious warm lunches for over 400 children every day, paid for entirely from donations to the project. Over a third of the money directed at the programme comes from donations received within Second Life.

Help build a school in Kenya "Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world" - Nelson Mandela

Help build a school in Kenya “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

Feed A Smile is a part of a larger organisation run by Brique, Live and Learn Kenya (LLK). Right now, LLK is engaged in an ambitious project, and that’s where MadPea – and all who are willing to help – come in, as Kess explains via the note and the blog post:

They are currently in the process of building a school in Nakuru. The first classroom and staff office were opened in January but there is a long way to go with each classroom costing around 19,000 USD to complete. More information about the programme and the credentials can be round on the Live and Learn in Kenya Website.

Maybe you’re a photographer that could offer a portrait or a one-to-one tutorial of your work? A prolific blogger who could share your knowledge with another resident? A store owner or creator willing to give a demonstration or create a unique product. Maybe you’re a DJ or Live musician willing to give an hour show to a winning bidder. The options are endless and you get to choose what you give.

The first phase of the school opened in January, and LLK were there to celebrate with the first young students

The first element of the school opened in January, and LLK were there to celebrate with the first young students

The first elements of the school opened in January 2015, and work is continuing  – and there is a lot still to do. The aim of the auction is to raise L$1.2 million (approx. US $4800 / £3057 / 4229) to help further the project.

The auction will actually be preceded over Friday 25th and Saturday 26th September 2015 with a live music and entertainment event being scheduled to run through to the start of the auction on Sunday, September 27th, and which will take place at a specially built area at !Exodus! Rock Club.

I’ll have more news on the actual event schedule and venue nearer the dates. In the meantime,  if you would like to help with this auction by donating your time and abilities so people can bid for them, head on over to the LLK website and read more about the project, and then complete MadPea’s auction joining form over on Google Docs.

The plans for the completed LLK Nakuru school (click for full size)

The plans for the completed LLK Nakuru school (click for full size)

This is an opportunity to make a real difference in the real world, as Kess and MadPea note:

We’ve seen recently with The Lexi Project just how phenomenal the generosity of SL’rs can be and how we can make RL changes to people’s lives when we work together. Please nudge your favourite SL Residents to join us by asking them to complete the joining form!

If you are a musician  / DJ and are interested in helping support the live entertainments associated with the event, please Kess directly at kess-at-madpeagames.com to register your interest.

Photographs and site plans courtesy of Live and Learn Kenya

A Bright Canopy set to open over Second Life and OpenSim

BC logoBright Canopy, the new streaming service, which allows users on low-end computers to access both Second Life and OpenSim has announced it will officially launch on Saturday, August 29th at a single monthly subscription price, which for the first 90 days (at least) will be $17.00 a month.

The service, which was established by SL users Bill Glover and his wife, Jeri (known in-world as Chaos Priestman and Beth Robbani respectively in-world),  arose directly as a result of the May 2015 closure of the SL Go streaming service provided by former on-line streaming games supplier, OnLive. What’s more, and on a personal note, I’m pleased to be able to say that this blog had a hand in bringing things about – although my involvement as a beta user hasn’t been as extensive as I’d hoped.

As a result of the cessation of SL Go as a result of OnLive’s decision to sell, I ruminated on the potential of the Lab running a streamed SL service through Amazon AppSstream. This caught Bill’s eye and imagination, prompting him to comment:

Let’s just do it ourselves! You really got me thinking. I’d can launch a service right now if I get enough folks for Beta.

Bill and Jeri Glover: heading the Bright Canopy team, and long-term Second Life users

Bill and Jeri Glover: heading the Bright Canopy team, and long-term Second Life users

Things further progressed when I wrote about Nebadon Izumi’s work in getting the viewer and OpenSim delivered over AppStream.  My article prompted Nikola Bozinovic, founder and CEO of Frame, a cloud-based service focused on delivering Windows applications to users,  to suggest his service could be used to deliver Second Life through the cloud.

Bill and Nikola quickly got their heads together, and within 24 hours, they had their own proof-of-concept running, delivering the official SL viewer over Frame via Amazon.

Bright Canopy streams SL and OpenSim directly to your web browser, offering those on low-specification computers to enjoy the full graphic richness of both platforms with (allowing for network vagaries) low latency

Bright Canopy streams SL and OpenSim directly to your web browser, offering those on low-specification computers to enjoy the full graphic richness of both platforms with (allowing for network vagaries) low latency – note the data, bottom left (via Bright Canopy)

Not long after that, and with the support of SL and OpenSim users, a small alpha test commenced, which expanded to an invite-only pre-launch beta, which again in turn gradually opened its doors wider and wider as time as progressed and issues dealt with.

Nikola Bozinovic, founder of Frame, who extended an invitation to try the service as a possible means of accessing Second Life (and other grids) from the cloud

Nikola Bozinovic, founder of Frame, who extended an invitation to try his service as a means of accessing Second Life (and other grids) from the cloud – and thus paved the way for Bright Canopy to deliver

While operating as independent companies, the synergy between Frame and Bright Canopy has been impressive, with the former working hard to ensure the latter can provide a scalable, robust service, as Bill has worked to ensure the viewer behaves itself when streamed and can support the services users expect – notably voice.

“Frame is excited to provide infrastructure support to make projects like Bright Canopy scale globally,” Nikola stated during the official launch announcement. “Bill has captured the imagination and the energy of the Second Life community. We’ve been impressed by the cooperative and open approach of the Bright Canopy team.”

One of the core benefits of running with Frame, is the company has an established track record in delivering Windows applications over cloud services (indeed, in June 2015, Frame closed a further US $10 million round of funding, such is the scope of interest in their approach). This means they have the technical expertise to be able to help Bright Canopy scale over time, and to offer the kind of delivery speeds users expect (local network vagaries allowing). The company already has a global presence itself, notably utilising Amazon’s backbone, with points of presence across the United States, Europe, Asia and South America.

Initially, Bright Canopy ran using only Frame’s presence in California. Even so, and for many in the USA and Europe, results were impressive. Later, Dublin was added to the mix, offering greatly reduced latency to beta users in Europe.  With the launch on August 29th, Bright Canopy will additionally leverage Frame’s presence on the US East Coast to again enhance the service.

One of the key aspects of Bright Canopy being partnered with Frame is that the latter already has multiple points-of-presence with Amazon around the world - so Bright Canopy can leverage these as global demands requires. At launch, Bright Canopy runs out of California, serving the USA, and Dublin, serving Europe

One of the key aspects of Bright Canopy being partnered with Frame is that the latter already has multiple points-of-presence with Amazon around the world – so Bright Canopy can leverage these as global demands requires. At launch, Bright Canopy runs out of California, serving the USA, and Dublin, serving Europe

The new monthly pricing plan, which will completely replace the hourly plan used during the beta period, has initially been set at US $17.00 a month for the first 90 days. However, Bright Canopy warn that this may be subject to increase – although they hope very much to avoid this.

The problem here is that Bright Canopy is currently being provisioned via Amazon’s Spot Instances. Normally, these are the most cost-effective way to deliver a service, but they have lately been subject to an insane bidding war, resulting in massive price spikes.

Spot Instance pricing with Amazon is making it difficult for Bright Canopy to firmly pin-down their monthly subscription price – click for full size

This means that Bright Canopy need to watch the situation very carefully, as Bill explained in the launch announcement:

Our early bird price is going to be an experiment for 90 days. If you’ve been following the blog, you know we’ve seen price fluctuations on the back-end, and we still need to watch actual usage of the service. $17 is a sustainable price if the instance costs return to their typical, historical values. It is not a sustainable price with the current spike in instance price. We may need to get creative with how we split instances, or we may need to raise prices. We intend to remain transparent as always and will keep you posted. Our goal is to continue to maintain a sustainable, affordable service.

If a price increase is required, it will be announced when Bright Canopy have had an opportunity to assess the best way forward, and with sufficient time for users to determine how they’d like to proceed.

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Come gather, remember and celebrate the life of Lumiere Noir

lumiereFurther to the sad news of the passing of the Ivory tower of Primitives founder,  Lumiere Noir, Avi Arrow has announced there will be a special Remembrance and Celebration at the Tower in his memory, commencing at 13:00 SLT on Sunday, August 16th.

Ave’s notice reads in full:

A *Remembrance & Celebration* gathering for Lumiere Noir will be held at 1:00pm (13:00) SLT on Sunday 16th of August at the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Natoma/210/164/28 (G-rated) . Bring fondest of memories and dancing shoes.

Lumiere’s passing has been felt right across the grid, such has been his influence on so many over the years, and tributes continue to be paid via his Second Life web profile, and remembrances passed to Avi for display at the Tower itself.  Xiola Linden  posted a brief message on behalf of Linden Lab on Friday, August 14th, in which he was again noted as a friend. colleague and mentor to so many.

Image: Lumiere Noir attending the awards ceremony for  the Imagine Challenge, part of the UWA’s 2010 3D Art & Design Challenge, and at which he addressed the audience and the winners as the ceremony’s Special Guest, having also served on the judging panel. Read more here – including the text of his speech which, in typical Lumiere fashion, was insightful and ahead of the curve. His words  resonate as strongly today on the subjects of virtual art and virtual spaces as ever they did in 2010, such was his vision. (with thanks to the UWA and Jayjay Zifanwee).

Lumiere Noir: Remembrance and Celebration – The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives, 13:00 SLT, Sunday, August 16th, 2015.