Over the Rainbow

Rainbow Viewer

One of my first experiences with V1 TPVs was via the Windows Cool Viewer compiled by Boy Lane, and which became the Rainbow Viewer. For a long time, this was simply my Viewer of choice. I was therefore intrigued to see that after over a year, Rainbow has been overhauled and made available once again.

Based on the 1.22 release of Viewer 1, Rainbow has a core of die-hard fans, and the new release does much to bring it up to par with the likes of Phoenix and Imprudence 1.3/1.4, given it now includes:

  • Client-side AO
  • Media filtering
  • TP history
  • Display Names
  • Multiple attachments (but like other V1 TPVs, no multiple wear for the same layer of clothing)
  • Tattoo and Alpha layers
  • Outfits creation
  • Prim alignment tool
  • Multiple grid support

Using Rainbow is like a blast from the past. At installation, you’re informed that you need to obtain several files from either the “official” Viewer 1 or from Snowglobe. This is something I haven’t had to do in ages, and while I can understand why Boy has gone this route (better performance where the Kakadu system is concerned), I nevertheless wonder as to how vulnerable this leaves Rainbow: Viewer 1 is no longer available and there is no guarantee LL might not at some point simply remove snowglobe access, given it is now a dead project.

Once in the Viewer – and my use of Firestorm of late notwithstanding – there was something nostalgic in using Rainbow; the interface, the Preferences options – all hark back to the “good old days” in many respects when things were indeed, “fast, fun and easy”. However, the nostalgia is actually very short-lived. There is much that Rainbow lacks that I find hard to do without: there is no vertical tabbing for IM windows, for example, and no Quick Preferences option (although granted, both may come). Even the inclusion of avatar physics is – to be honest – now dated. The Viewer 2 system (already adopted by Firestorm) is far superior for those willing to give it a go.

Where Rainbow is likely to score is in being aimed at other OS Grids. I tested it with InWorldz and Avination, both with few issues other than getting the “you have been logged out” message, complete with options to review chat / IMs each time I logged out of InWorldz, rather than getting s “clean” exit. Other than that, performance was easily as smooth at Imprudence 1.3, and a lot better than the likes of Phoenix. As such, it is a welcome addition to the list of Viewers that can access other grids.

In terms of SL, however, I do wonder about the Viewer’s longevity. As I’ve already commented, the reality is that V1-based TPVs for Second Life are likely coming to their End of Days, what with the Search issues, mesh, and so on.

One of the problems facing Rainbow: Mesh as seen in the V2 Mesh Viewer (left) and in Viewer 1 (right) – with thanks to Linden Lab

To be fair to Boy Lane, the Viewer has been released with a clear statement of intent:

“Rainbow does not intend to be a competitor of viewer 2 or any other of the 3rd party viewers around. All of them are based on either V2 or Snowglobe code. Rainbow is based on 1.22, and playing in a league of it’s own. To support legacy hardware, and to support all my friends in Opensims.”

The last part of this statement is a worthy goal in itself – and again, full kudos to Boy for providing OS grid users with a greater choice. However, where Second Life is concerned, and even with a loyal following, given all that is coming down the road in the next few weeks and months, it’s hard to see this latest Rainbow release as having a decent shelf life.

Parcel privacy

Standing outside the “Hidden Avatars Enabled” parcel

Privacy in SL is a nebulous thing.

We can employ banlines, security orbs and other systems; we can restrict parcel access to those without our own Group, or by access list; we can even resort to ban lists and systems that support them.

Whatever option we take, the fact remains that, unless we have our own private sim (Homestead or full), our privacy lasts only so long as someone who is so minded opts to step up their draw distance and use their camera to zoom-in and watch us.

The view from outside the “Hidden Avatars” parcel when someone is occupying it

The ability to “camera-perve” has long been an issue in SL. Indeed, it was one of the worries people had when the grid merger took place: while those under 18 may well be restricted to G sims, if they are on mainland, there is nothing to stop them from camming out of a G sim and into a neighbouring M sim and seeing something they shouldn’t.

Now even that might be about to change in the near future.

Standing inside the parcel, looking out – I’ve vanished as well!

A new parcel-level permissioning flag is currently being tested on the beta Grid, and could soon be rolled out to the main grid with a number of other new parcel capabilities. This is the Hidden Avatars flag, and when set against a parcel, it will have the following impact:

  • All avatars inside the parcel will not be rendered in the Viewers of those outside the parcel, however avatars inside the parcel will be able to see one another
  • Avatars outside the parcel will not be rendered in the Viewers of those inside the parcel
  • In either case, avatars will still show up on the map and mini-map as dots/icons as usual.

This isn’t an ideal solution to all matters of privacy; objects within the parcel will be visible and touchable by those outside the parcel, for example, and it may even lead to confusion for some (open chat conversations apparently popping out of thin air – the SL equivalent of hearing voices). However, this is a step in the right direction when it comes to increasing people’s personal privacy when combined with other privacy features such as the aforementioned security options.

It’s not clear when (or indeed if) this new option will appear on the main Grid; not everything tested by the Lab in the beta Grid winds up as being rolled out to the main Grid, but looking at it now, and limitations notwithstanding, there doesn’t appear to be any major reason why it shouldn’t find its way onto the main Grid in the near future. Indeed, one has to wonder why LL have been resistant to implementing it in the past, given it has oft-been requested by users over the years.

If you want to test Hidden Avatars for yourself, you’ll need to log-in to the beta Grid using the SL Viewer 2 (I found things didn’t actually work that well when I was running Firestorm, which is based on the 2.4 or 2.5 Viewer 2 code). Instructions for doing this can be found in the SL wiki.

Rodvik makes The Mark; I get philosophical about virtual identity

LL CEO Rod Humble

Rod Humble once again demonstrates an adept hand and tongue when dealing with the media – this time the e-zine The Mark. It’s a fascinating piece that further demonstrates Rodvik not only grasps Second Life as a platform, he understands the importance of virtual identity. Take this extract:

The Mark: Do you think people existing in virtual worlds get closer to, or further away from, their true selves?

Rod Humble: I don’t have a clear answer on that, but I do have an opinion. There have been a series of high-profile people, from the head of Facebook to the Pope, talking about how social media should be about centering the individual – that it is all about your real life and ensuring that you don’t become a fractured person. I respectfully disagree with that.

I think that one of the healthiest things that technology can do is actually help us develop the different dimensions of ourselves that we portray in different situations. For example, the “me” at church is very different from the “me” who plays an online shooter game. The “me” talking to you now is very different from the one who will be at my parent-teacher-association meeting later tonight. We’ve always had that. I actually like the idea of enabling people to say, “In this community, I’m a completely different person, and I can hold views that aren’t going to seep into this other part of my life.” It’s a slightly heretical position, but that’s the one I take.

It may be a heretical position among his peers, but Rodvik hits the nail squarely on the head. No one in the world is ever “one” individual per se. Yes we may constantly present the same physical face to the world (although for those that wish to make use of cosmetic surgery, even that isn’t a given) – but the individual we present to different social aspects of our lives vary enormously. I am simply not the same person when among my family as I am when in the office environment of a major publishing house.

Of course, the “identity purists” will argue that this is not a matter of identity but rather of behaviour and personality; that while I may behave differently according to circumstances, my identity remains constant, as demonstrated by my having the same name on my office ID (when I have one!) as I do on my driving license. And in terms of ID cards and driving licenses they’d be right.

But they’d also be missing the point entirely. Identity is not distinct from either behaviour or personality. Rather it is intimately bound up with both, and that who were are and how we present ourselves to the world goes far beyond the a photo on a piece of paper or laminated card.

Facebook and, it now seems, Google Plus, would rather narrow the definition of identity to the two-dimensional aspects of name and photo, coupled with a verifiable address, as that better suits their marketing engines and their ability to generate revenues. I say “it seems” where Google Plus is concerned, because that situation is an unholy mess right now as regards “identity”, and it’s unclear how Google’s own tools may or may not be hooked-into Plus to reap data for their own use.

In taking this approach, the likes of Facebook are trying to enforce a form of conformity on their terms while remaining blind to the potential offered by virtual identities simply because the virtual does fit with the corporate modus operandi or world-view.

The fact is, “Inara Pey” is as much me as the person I present to business or to family and friends. In some ways she’s more “me” than the “real me” I am myself. Through her, I can integrate and publicly express facets of my personality that “real world” society would still deeply frown upon. I can, for example, mix my interests with fetish, D/s, etc., with my interests in business, psychology, politics, history, sport, etc., without (for the most part) being judged solely on the one aspect (fetish / D/s) some have determined to be “objectionable”.

She’s also a part of my psyche in other ways: she is an outlet for my writing on a variety of subjects; she represents me through Twitter and the like. In fact, I find it impossible – even discomfiting – to enter other virtual worlds without her, and so she existed in Blue Mars (as was) and exists in InWorldz, OSGrid, New World Grid, and Avination.

She only really differs in looks (although I’ve tried to mod her shape to be reasonably reflective of the “meat me”): I’m Caucasian in real life, whereas she is dark-skinnned. But even this is perhaps a subconscious reflection of elements of my “real” personality.

I say this because one side of my family’s history goes back to New Zealand, which has generated a deep interest in all things Maori in my in adult life. At the same time, I’ve been fortunate to spend a fair amount of time as an adult in Sri Lanka, and have developed a deep love for that country and its people. The fascination with both New Zealand’s Maori and the Sri Lanka people (Sinhalese and Tamil) seems to have influenced how Inara herself looks.

This genuinely wasn’t a conscious act on my part when I decided to give her a virtual make-over last year. However, the look evolved somewhat subconsciously over a period of several months, and has left me feeling that her appearance is a result of these various inner voices and aspects of who I am coming together to give her form. so to me, physical and virtual self, are deeply intertwined emotionally and psychologically; and I doubt I’m alone in feeling this.

And while she may not have a credit card or a driver’s license or a passport, it’s about time that big business caught on to the fact that she can still be a consumer (and again, that’s really what a lot of the kerfuffle about “real identities” is about: the ability to connect producer with consumer). This is because advertising, promotions, and the like that are directed at her still reach me. Certainly, they do screw with FB’s (and the likes) abilities to carry out wider data-gathering and limit their ability to gain “real” influence (in their eyes) over people – but the fact is, *if* I end up purchasing something, getting involved in something (either directly, or through my digital persona, and accept the receipt of on-going communications, etc., from a service, company or group – does it really matter if it came about through contact with my digital self rather than the “real” (in their eyes) me?

Blimey, and I haven’t even started on privacy concerns and handing over my “real” identity over to the suits and shirts of FB et al is akin to handing them power over me…

But to return to the interview with Rodvik: as well as identity, he dives into the many creative facets of Second Life and the myriad ways in which it brings people together and how they interact once brought together. As such, it not only shows (again) that he gets the value of Second Life on just about all levels, it provides interesting thought for consideration, both by those of us involved in this frontier – and, dare I say, by those who would seek to limit our ability to explore it by forcing us to restrict ourselves to their interpretation of what can be classified as a “real identity”. Not that I can see it causing them to re-think their position, sadly.

If I were to take issue with Rodvik, it would in his answer to a question concerning the future of virtual worlds and how people come together, when he replies:

“Good question. I think that something big is going to happen when it comes to online associations, which are going to run headlong into conflict – probably with some totalitarian country somewhere. It’s a broader thing than just Second Life.”

My take on this – while it is slightly out-of-context to the question asked, which set commercial aspects of virtual interaction to one side – is on the one hand he is more than likely right right in his assessment vis “totalitarian countries”. However, on the other, for those of us already living on the edge of the “new digital divide”, the conflict is clearly already here, with the totalitarian drive is coming out of “big business”. How that is resolved may actually render anything else moot for us.

I would, however, end this piece on a lighter note, and wag a teasing finger. My 40th birthday is rushing towards me fast enough as it is, Rodvik, so did you really have to go and push me into my “mid-40s” in the interview?! That’s two dances you owe me! 😉