Calas Galadhon re-opens

Calas Galadhon
Calas Galadhon

Calas Galadhon has re-opened.

That’s the good news.

The really terrific news is that Ty and Truck have managed to re-organise things so that only two regions – Bay of Belfalas and Sea of Nurnen – have gone. While both will be missed, particularly the latter with its underwater “garden” with sea turtles and mer-friendly dance area, it means that the rest of the park remains intact and ready for a new season.

Ty and Truck: keeping their vision alive
Ty and Truck: keeping their vision alive

During the month-long closure, Ty and Truck have been busy right across the parklands, which are displaying signs that autumn is upon us, and we’re entering the shadow months of the year. Dimrill Dale and the Grey Havens have seen the most extensive changes, although there are touches and changes right across the entire estate.

“We added more romantic areas and new dances in the intans, too,” Truck informed me, when I dropped in on him and Ty shortly before they opened the gates once more. “We have three new gallery shows on main street,” he continued. “I’ve discovered Hamish Blakely, a RL artists we love… and of the period. And we have new rideable whales and dolphins.”

Dimrill Dale
Dimrill Dale

When looking at the issue of continuing to finance such a large public environment such as Calas Galadhon, Ty and Truck had considered allowing a small number of rental properties into the estate to help offset the costs of running so large an estate. Another idea they were toying with would be to limit park access. However, after giving both options cosiderable thought, they’ve decided to reject both, and continue to run the park as a place open to all.

“Considering our original vision of ‘Calas’ as an unique Estate destination (and haven) in Second Life, both in its size and natural beauty … we felt we’d be cutting off opportunities for those good folk who have not yet found us,” Ty comments in the blog post announcing the re-opening.

So when visiting, please do remember the donation points scattered throughout the regions and pass on a few Lindens so that many more can continue to enjoy the estate.

Live music will also continue to feature at Calas as well, with a new programme of events kicking-off in September at both the Dolphin Cafe and OZ Nightclub.  Details of events and performers can be found at the information hubs across the park.

Glanduin
Glanduin

Sadly, my semi-preview visit was cut short by the needs of real life. However, I managed to see a good deal of the park and can say that while two regions have gone, what remains is even more stunning than ever. The Calas Galadhon parklands aren’t simply to be explored and enjoyed, they are to be savoured, each of them a feast for the eyes. If you’ve never visited before, I really do implore you to do so; there is so much to see and to do, whether you opt to hike the tracks and trails, take to a horse, pilot a boat or ride the winds in a balloon. And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled above and below ground (and ready to peek under water as well!), or you still might miss something!

Calas Galadhon
Calas Galadhon

With sincere thanks to Ty and Truck for continuing to make this all possible, and congratulations on the re-opening!

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Musiclandia: in relation to music

Musiclandia, a full sim art piece by Livio Oak Korobase, opened on LEA-11 on Wednesday August 28th as a part of the 5th round of the Artist-in-Residence (AIR) programme. The piece is billed as an exploration of music as an art form, and offers-up the following teaser:

What is the definition of music? What is the relationship between music and mind? What is the connection between music and emotions? Search for your answer in Musiclandia.

Musiclandia
Musiclandia

It’s a fascinating piece, offering a watery landscape in which musical instruments form a series of set pieces inviting exploration. This is an interactive piece, requiring a reasonable amount of time in order to discover all of its secrets, so it’s worth taking your time to look around each of the pieces and discovering what there is to see and learn – note cards are offered at various points around the installation, providing further information and food for thought.

The arrival point provides some basic instructions – you’ll need sounds active to enjoy the exhibit (although not necessarily media streaming enabled) and you should drop draw distance to 128 or so metres to stop most distractions from the neighbouring regions creeping into your view. There’s no set order to exploring things, just go where your eyes take you, out from the little village square under the massive brick piano and across the water.

Musiclandia
Musiclandia

Some of the many roles music plays in our lives are explored here; how it can channel a freedom of personal expression, how it can play an emotional, spiritual or therapeutic role. In these explorations, issues of identity and self are also touched upon. Symbolism is also strong here; some of it obvious, some of it less so; when it comes to matters of self, a towering stag, harp held within its antlers, reminds us umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – “you are who you are because of how you relate to others around you”.

The food for thought comes in a number of forms; the Musiclandia Beach, for example delves into the role of music and sound in creation myths, including the origin of that simple Biblical phrase “In the beginning was the word”. Elsewhere, the Lab and Jam area examines the role of music in therapy, while Feathers and Kites probes matters of self and identity.

Musiclandia
Musiclandia

In these explorations, Livio draws on the writings of a number of people; some may be recognisable – even notorious / controversial – to visitors, others perhaps not so; but the selected passages do invite further explorations; if you find this is the case, the sources are cited, and the Interwebz are your friend.

Which is not to say that it’s all a dry, intellectual piece; there are plenty of opportunities to find your own self-expression through music, be it via dance, interacting with objects or enjoying the sensation of simply playing an instrument.

Musiclandia
Musiclandia

The piece isn’t limited to the ground, either, there are a couple of sections up in the sky; Moby and Paradiso. The latter looks like it is intended to be used as live music / entertainment venue, although this is by no means clear (at least, I didn’t get a note card explaining its purpose on my arrival).

Getting around the exhibit can be done on foot, via the teleport map in the village square, or for those who are feeling serene, via a number of Harleywan Haggwood’s flyable kites. As mentioned above, this is a piece that requires a little time – and an open mid – to explore, and the kites are actually a fun way of getting around and letting thoughts and reactions to the piece flow freely.

Musiclandia
Musiclandia

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Kitely opens their marketplace for business

Kitely-logoIlan Tochner, CEO of Kitely, dropped me an e-mail on Friday August 30th to let me know the Kitely Marketplace is now open for business.  There’s also an official announcement from the Kitely team on their blog as well, which is recommended reading for those interested in the Marketplace.

First announced at the start of the year, the Kitely Marketplace has taken eight months to reach the point of launch – and with good reason. The Kitely team have been working to develop an online experience which is initially available within Kitely, but which can be expanded in time to support other OpenSim grids.

The new Marketplace can be accessed directly from the toolbar displayed on the Kitely website
The new Marketplace can be accessed directly from the toolbar displayed on the Kitely website

The Market combines features familiar to those used to using the SL Marketplace or markets such as the (now defunct) Apez and Metaverse Exchange: items can be browsed on-line, then purchased (using Kitely Credits (KCs) or US dollars), prior to being delivered directly to the purchaser’s in-world inventory in a similar manner to SL’s Direct Delivery mechanism. Additionally, the Market functions more like e-commerce sites such as Amazon, where items can be searched for using attributes as well as a category hierarchy, making the search process and drill-down easier and more flexible for both merchants and consumers.

The Marketplace allows for flexible serach using a combination of category, attribute and filter-based searches
The Marketplace allows for flexible search using a combination of category, attribute and filter-based searches

In addition, the Kitely  Marketplace allows for multiple versions of a product to be listed as a single item, thus simplifying the listing, viewing and reviewing of products. So rather than having five individual listings for an outfit which is available in five different colours, a merchant can create a single listing for the outfit, which includes the 5 different colours, allowing consumers to buy any of the five from the one product listing.

Products can include multiple variations in a single listing - in this case five versions of the same mesh dress
Products can include multiple variations in a single listing – in this case five versions of the same mesh dress

A further aspect of the Marketplace is that demo items can be “built-in” in the main product listing, eliminating the need for additional, separate listings to deal with product demos.  Where a merchant offers a demo (indicated in the product listing), the potential buyers can try it by adding the item to their Shopping Cart, where they’ll  get a link called “Try demo”. When they click this link, the demo version is immediately added to their inventory.

There are other subtle touches as well, some of which may be familiar to users of virtual world marketplaces  – such as the ability to click on a store name either in a list of multiple products or within an individual product listing, in order to display and browse the contents of that store. Other touches aren’t so obvious, but are nevertheless pleasing to find – such as rolling the mouse cursor over the thumbnails of any variations of an item to see each of their full-sized images displayed in the product listing.

In developing the Marketplace, Kitely have focused not only on the usability / functionality aspects of the system, but also on optimising the servers and putting in place strong automated capabilities and additional safeguards.

Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner (via Google+)
Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner (via Google+)

“We spent a lot of time optimizing the backend so it will be able to provide a snappy user experience even thou each page returns multiple dynamic counters (the number of results given the existing filters in each category and attribute that contains relevant search results),” Ilan informed me in announcing the launch. “Kitely Market remained fast even when we tested it on databases of more than 1 million different products and many concurrent bots (and this is without starting to scale up the hardware we use for the marketplace or distributing it to multiple servers).”

Continue reading “Kitely opens their marketplace for business”

The Drax Files 10: The magic of Second Life

[With] every single thing that has ever happened in Second Life people have yelled, “It’s the end of Second Life as we know it!” And in fact it is – because it keeps getting better.

So states Robin Sojourner. And if anyone is in a position to make that point, it is Robin. She has been involved in Second Life for just shy of ten years (her anniversary falls on September 16th). This being the case, and given this is SL’s tenth anniversary, it is perhaps fitting that she be a subject for an episode of The Drax Files.

I’m going to take a little time out here and confess that when Drax confirmed to me that Robin was to be appearing in the series, I was overjoyed. I’ve long been an admirer of her work both inside and outside of Second Life, and it was one of her products which formed my first “really useful” purchase in SL way back in time – and which I still use today. So I make no apologies for dwelling as much on her work outside of SL as in; Robin is someone very much worthwhile getting to know – even if I do only know her distantly – and she and her work very much deserve discussion.

Robin-3

As well has bringing the perspective of being involved in SL almost since the beginning, Robin also brings another unique perspective to the table when discussing Second Life. She is a member of what the UK media refer to as “the silver surfer generation” that is, a member of an older demographic of computer users. I say “unique” not in respect of her seniority per se, but rather because that on the one hand, she represents the very broad appeal Second Life can have with people, while on the other, she represents a demographic that – perhaps – the Lab is gradually shying away from in its push to build an audience among younger generations.

Robin came to Second Life as a result of suffering from Fibromyalgia, which impacted heavily on her ability to create and draw and, being a creative person, she sought alternative avenues by which she could continue to create, and SL offered her one of the most comfortable mediums.

Robinton, Masterharper of Pern
Robinton, Masterharper of Pern

As I mentioned above, I’ve long been an admirer of Robin’s artwork ever since I discovered it back in 2007, which I admit is rather late-on in the day.

If you’ve never visited her website, I cannot recommend it highly enough as a place to visit; it is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave. Within it you’ll find samples of Robin’s art, such as her magnificent Robinton, Masterharper of Pern, a piece which has gained worldwide recognition for its depiction of one of Anne McCaffrey’s most-loved characters from her Dragonriders series.

The image is stunning in its detail, and very evocative, perfectly capturing its subject in his later years, his glass of Benden wine raised in salute, his quizzical smile and eyes hinting at the depth and breadth of his intellect and his wry humour. Little wonder Anne McCaffrey bought the original!

Within the website you’ll also find information on Robin’s books which include a must-read for all cat lovers and owners, The Theory of Cat Gravity, as well as her titles on Tarot and Wicca. Robin’s essays are also to be found here as well, and they make thought-provoking reading for anyone prepared to approach them with an open mind, and reveal much of Robin’s heart, intellect and the warmth of her humanity.

As a content creator within SL, Robin started with the very humble  prim – basic shapes, no flexies, no sculpties. Since then she’s been able to observe each and every change wrought in SeCond Life in terms of tools and capabilities for content creation, and to do so objectively enough to be able to recognise their benefits without all of the ballyhoo which all too often marks change within the platform.  Instead, she’s simply accepted them, learned about them and been at the forefront of putting them to good use – as the shots of her use of materials in the video demonstrate.

Tehn an now: Robin's original 1-prim chair and her recent mesh "1-prim" creation: a stool draped with a quilt
Then and now: Robin’s original 1-prim chair and her recent mesh “1-prim” (1 LI) creation: a stool draped with a quilt

She’s also very aware of the empowerment latent within the platform for people to reach beyond themselves through it  – if they are prepared to make the effort. As she says of her own observations of the platform, and her real life experiences as a teacher, Second life offers people who have no idea that they are creative or who have convinced themselves, due to the pressure of society or through some inner self-editing process that they are not the “creative type”, discover that actually, they are.

In this, it makes no difference if people make the discovery using prims and then move on to other tools outside of Second Life. As she says later on in the programme, when talking about the so-called “Second Life / real life divide”, there is no dichotomy in starting out with in-world creation, then moving on to tools outside of SL. It is simply people learning skills, developing techniques and using tools, all of which combine to enhance their creativity, increase their pleasure and self-expression and  – ultimately – help to continue to make Second Life better.

Robin's Watcher in the Snow
Robin’s Watcher in the Snow

In terms of the idea that those engaged in Second Life somehow need to go out and get a life, Robin has a very simple response, one which also offers up a huge an essential fact about the so-called “SL / RL divide” – it doesn’t have to exist.

“I can go out and smell the flowers,” she says of the idea that people need to go “get a life”, “But if I spend all day outside smelling the flowers, I’m going to get a horrible sunburn. ”

She goes on to point out that life is about balance in things, and Second Life very much plays a part in achieving that balance. In her case, it allows her to create a quilt pattern through one programme, import it into Second Life and create a finished quilt there and use the pattern in the real world to create a quilt of her own. Thus, Second Life is a natural part of a blending of the creative process which mixes the real world and the digital world bringing a completeness to both. But as Robin points out, the ability for the platform to bring together the real and the digital goes further than that.

“I don’t think that there is as much difference between virtual stuff and real stuff as people seem to think that there is,” Robin continues. “Emotionally, there is not any difference between doing stuff in real life and doing stuff in Second Life. It hits you emotionally in exactly the same place.”

Which is why there is no need for those engaged in SL to consider going out and getting a life. The vast majority do have a life, and see Second Life as it is meant to be, as another vehicle by which they can express and enjoy themselves. In this, it is actually no different to the freedom and enjoyment some find in painting their faces and going to a large stadium with several thousand others to watch two teams kick  / carry a ball around a large rectangle of grass.

Providing one is prepared to approach it openly and honestly, Second Life can provide positive emotional fulfilment; that it can is no reason to shun it or depict the fact that it does as a weakness in those who use it.

Rather the reverse. It’s another aspect of the magic of Second Life.

A Conversation with Drax

Sadly, real life at the moment, coupled with extremely poor planning on my part meant that I didn’t have the time over the last couple of weeks to clear my schedule, sort out thoughts and questions as this episode of The Drax Files was coming together, and get to sit down with Drax and Robin as I’d hoped. So unfortunately, no conversational piece this time around :(. All things being equal, we’ll be back next time around.

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Print images © Robin Wood Ent, used with permission.

SL project updates week 35 (2): parcel access controls & particle system

Server Deployments Week 35

As always, please refer to the week’s forum deployment thread for news, updates and feedback.

  • On Tuesday August 27th, the Main channel received the update package which includes the “grey box” attachment fix (issue details here), together with an update to for “llListen in linked objects is listening at root instead of linked object local position”; the new code to stop avatars entering a region / objects being rezzed in a region during the last 60 seconds before a restart, and additional fixes for simulator crash modes  (release notes)
  • On Wednesday August 28th, all three RCs received the same update package, which has a fix for a simulator crash mode, a fix for a physics-related griefing mode, and which has a new capability so that region restarts initiated by region owners occur as soon as the last avatar has left the region. This package also includes server-side support for new parcel access controls (see below) – release notes: Magnum, LeTigre, BlueSteel.

Region Shutdown / Restart

In reference to the new capability rolled to the RC channels whereby region restarts initiated by a region owner occur as soon as the last avatar leaves the region (rather than waiting for the time delay to expire), Maestro Linden indicated that the capability will eventually be extended to automated rolling restarts as well.

New Parcel Access Controls

Maestro Linden likes to work-out during meetings
Maestro Linden likes to work-out during meetings

The original post for the RC server package made reference to “estate and parcel access controls”. However, this was an error on Maestro’s part, and he sought to clarify things in a couple of follow-up posts, in which he first made it clear the new controls only apply to parcels, not regions (hence the emphasis above), and then went on to say:

The new feature is to allow a parcel to be configured to allow users to enter a parcel if they are members of the parcel’s group *or* have payment info on file.  This is meant to be a big help toward keeping griefers out, as they often will not add Payment information to their account and group limitations are often managed by the land manager.

This access configuration, which is already available at the estate level, involves enabling 3 options in ‘About Land’->’Access’:

  • Allow public access
  • Allow access only to Residents who: Have payment information on file
  • Allow Group Access: <group>

With the current release viewer (3.6.4 (280048)), this combination of settings is not possible to set in ‘About Land’; enabling ‘Allow public access’ causes ‘Allow group access’ to become disabled.  The upcoming viewer change will make these two settings independent in the UI.

He further explained:

The change is to allow group-based white listing which can parcel restriction based on payment info.  Here’s how the logic plays out:

  1. “Allow public access” means that avatars/groups do not need to be explicitly white listed to visit your parcel.
  2. The “Allow access only to Residents who: Have payment info on file” option is only available when (1) is set (this is also the classic behaviour). 
  3. The “Allow group access: <group name>” setting additionally allows group members to access your parcel, except for those on the ban list.

With only (1) and (2) set, only those with payment info on file can visit your parcel; there is no way to allow your friend/alt who doesn’t have payment info on file to access the parcel.

With (1), (2), and (3) set, you allow two sets of people in:

  • ‘trusted’ accounts, who belong to the parcel’s group
  • any account with ‘payment info on file’ (these users probably aren’t zero-day griefer accounts)

The viewer-side updates required to use these options are currently a work-in-progress. There is an internal viewer available within the Lab which is being used for testing purposes, and it is hoped that the necessary updates will be appearing in a beta or release candidate viewer in the near future.

Continue reading “SL project updates week 35 (2): parcel access controls & particle system”

Second Life viewer arrives on Desura

Update: Linden Lab sold Desura to Bad Juju Games on November 5th, 2014.

Alongside other quiet moves on the Lab’s part, such as Patterns appearing on Desura, then Versu getting some new titles, it seems Second Life has now also appeared on the Lab’s recently acquired digital distribution service.

Given the move to add Patterns to Desura, the arrival of Second Life isn’t that surprising. It’s more than likely been anticipated by most SL users since Desura was acquired in July.

Second Life on Desura
Second Life on Desura

The SL Desura page features the last promo video to have been produced / commissioned by the Lab (September 2012), which focuses strongly on the gameplay elements within the platform while touching on other aspects such as socialising and building. It’s not the strongest way to promote SL in some respects, given some of the images tend to play into stereotypes (the long zooms into bustlines, for example, suggestive of teenage oogling), but hey, SL is supposed to have seen a shift in demographics…

What is interesting about SL’s arrival on Desura is that it appears to have caused more people who use the service to wake up to the fact that it has been acquired by the Lab (announcements of the acquisition were somewhat muted elsewhere on the website at the time). Reactions to both the arrival of Second Life and the acquisition, visible in the comments on the SL page, have been mixed but swaying towards the negative.

Out of interest, I tried the download / install process using the Desura desktop service. It was fast, using a “local” mirrored site in the Netherlands, and handled both the download and initial installation of the viewer in a single pass.

SL-desura
Installing the SL viewer via Desura

The release version of the viewer is called Second Life Release Desura, and installs into a folder (under Windows at least) by that name. Interestingly, the viewer is built of a 3.6.5 code base, not the current 3.6.4. Once installed, the viewer fired-up – and had an oopsie with the media webkit failing.

webkitGiven SL has only recently arrived on Desura, I was a little surprised when clearing the error message left the screen displaying a mandatory update warning; perhaps this was to fix the webkit issue. I let the update complete, and the viewer restart … and was again confronted with the webkit failure message. As this doesn’t occur with any version of the viewer obtained directly from LL, I can only assume it is a problem within the Desura offering. Closing-down the viewer and restarting clears the message but even so, assuming others get the same warning, I can’t help but think it’s not the most confidence-building thing to see after a first-time install. Similarly, it’s a shame that the link on the update pop-up which supposedly offers more information (i.e. release notes) goes to a blank wiki page.

Once I had shut down and restarted, the viewer ran through the usual CREATE ACCOUNT / CONTINUE options. Out of curiosity, I created a throwaway account and logged-in to the new “Social Island” arrival points which are being tested, and landed on a stack of people’s heads – so it would appear a fair few are trying SL out (although not necessarily via Desura, admittedly). I didn’t go further than this, as I intend to take another look at the “new” new user islands in the future and perhaps update on my original report.

All-in-all, not a surprising move, although equally, one not without some rough edges which might cause irritation if seen by many. Whether this move is the final nail in the coffin of the Steam link-up (prematurely) announced almost a year ago remains to be seen.

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