Ebbe drops by …

surprise visitor

On February 6th, I published a short(ish) profile on Linden Lab’s new CEO, Ebbe Altberg. I’m the first to admit there were a few holes in it, as I was reliant totally on published sources.

However, on Friday February 14th, Mr. Altberg himself paid me a nice Valentines Day surprise by stopping by and filling-in the blanks.

Here’s what he had to say:

Hi! This is Ebbe…a few clarifications ;)

The high school in Sweden was a ski academy and I was a ski racer.

At Middlebury I got a degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Computer Applications…hopped between art studios and coding in the computer lab…left brain right brain…

Ingenio created marketplaces for people to buy and sell information over the phone. We enabled a lot of people to sell what they know and make money doing it. Take a call, provide a service, three days later we would direct deposit your earnings. We also invented Pay per Call (which is part of the reason why at&t interactive bought the company). I racked up quite a few patents there, but I don’t really mention that anywhere as I’m not a huge fan of the patent system. Also, after my interim ceo stint there I was the Chief Product Officer.

I left Yahoo! because I did not believe in the CEO they had at that time. But I’m very proud of what was achieved while I was there (a lot of fixing org and technical plumbing).

After Yahoo! I spent six months hanging out with my family and played a lot of golf with my younger son and watched a lot of Aleks’ car races. Aleks was very engaged in SL many years ago.

I really enjoyed my time at BranchOut and we made some big changes and made some really good progress. Talk.co is a cool messaging and group chat product. And they are working on something else as well that will be quite interesting. Great team. I did not leave for any other reason than not being able to say no to this incredible opportunity.

Finally, I’m a big sports fan…motor sports, soccer (Arsenal!), golf, martial arts…

There you go!

APRMotorsport’s VW GTI 171, driven by Aleks Altberg in his first Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge win in 2012. Mr. Altberg also reveals that Aleks was once very engaged in SL … (image courtesy of RS Worx)

The reply did catch me by surprise (and I’ll also admit I checked the IP address from whence it originated, just in case someone was engaging in a little leg-pulling), but it sparked a little exchange on the subject of Formula 1 (an interest he and I both share) which was (temporarily?) halted by the arrival of the weekend. I hope we get some opportunities for a resumption, as I’m dying to know if he is, as I suspect (that’s spelt h-o-p-e), interested in space exploration (and astronomy?) …

Anyway, Thank you, Ebbe, for dropping by. I hope it’s not the last time 🙂 .

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Of monsters and B-movies

Creature from the Black Lagoon
Creature from the Black Lagoon

While poking at Flickr, I was caught by an image posted by Livio Korobase. An Artist In Residence for the 5th round of that programme, Livio really caught my eye with his Musiclandia installation, so knowing he’d received a region from the LEA as a part of AIR round 6, I was intrigued to find out more, particularly as the image included a SLurl.

Creature from the Black Lagoon is very different from his earlier work, and yet at the same time somewhat similar in that there is strong subtext here, if one is willing (or familiar enough) with the imagery to see it.

Creature from the Black Lagoon
Creature from the Black Lagoon

This is gorgeous homage to the B-movies of old, focused primarily on the 1954 Bill Arnold monster movie from which the piece takes its name.  The choice of the film is actually clever on a number of levels – including the fact it was originally a 3D production using polarised light projection (so that audiences used glasses similar to those us use in cinemas today rather than those of the anaglyph 3D type), so seeing the creature rendered in 3D in-world fits very much with the original format of the film.

It’s also a somewhat whimsical piece as well. In the midst of giant monsters from the deep, cards commemorating some of the great (and not so great!) B-movies of old and oversized animals, floor polishers motor themselves industriously back and forth across the beautiful, reflective floor of the piece. The whimsy in their presence is not only that they are there, but in that you can ride them … However, they also have a place in the larger scheme of things; how often have we watched a film in which, late at night, the hero (or more usually the heroine) passes a lone worker busily polishing a floor, only for the machine to suddenly stop and / or the worker to vanish from behind them? It’s a signature scene telling audiences to get ready to jump as Something Is About To Happen.

Creature from the Black Lagoon
Creature from the Black Lagoon

Similarly, the installation includes the familiar – dare I say clichéd – indicators beloved of B-movie directors to identify the scientific mind in their story: the horn-rimmed glasses and briar pipe. There is something of a romance here as well; although it’s not necessarily centred on any hero and his heroine; rather it seems as though our creature may have romantic inclinations towards his leading lady …

For those wishing to immerse themselves in the genre, there’s a movie theatre where you can climb the ladder and watch scenes from the movie; you can grab a packet of popcorn from the vendor amidst the cards. However, I feel I must advise those of a particularly nervous disposition that unfortunately there is no sofa to hide behind during the scarier moments … 😉

Creature from the Black Lagoon
Creature from the Black Lagoon

The installation is still something of a work-in-progress, although Livio is happy to receive visitors there. When you do  visit, please use the region windlights; they are quite striking and provide wonderful additional texture to the piece.

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SL project updates 7/3: viewer updates, AIS and misc items

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting of Friday February 14th, a video of which is included below. My thanks, as ever, to North for the latter. Timestamps relative to the recording are given in braces both at the start of each section and within the text where appropriate.

SL Viewer

Release Viewer Update

[01:20] The Facebook Hotfix RC (version 3.7.1.286557) released on February 12th was promoted to the de facto release viewer on Friday February 14th. Based on the Fitted Mesh viewer code, this viewer has a single fix for a  problem in the in-viewer web browser that made it impossible to login correctly into Facebook. The rapid promotion was made because the issue was seen as obnoxious by those people who have connected their SL and Facebook accounts, and it was felt those who do may want to post Valentines-related messages and images to their Facebook accounts.

HTTP RC

Robbie Monty Linden sports new look
Robbie Monty Linden sports new look

[02:32 and 36:56] As noted in part 2 of this report, the HTTP viewer has been rebuilt using the Facebook Hotfix / Fitted Mesh viewer code to version  3.7.1.286567.

However, it has suffered from the number of RCs currently in the queue, or as poor Monty put it, getting “stuck behind everyone”.  This  viewer has one of the lowest crash rates on record as an RC, and given this, the expectation is that it will be promoted to release status “pretty soon”.

One of the major issues Monty faced with the viewer-side updates was directly related to mesh, and thread race conditions, and he admits that not all of these have been resolved. This is partially due to some of them being  infrastructure-related Heisenbugs, which are time and labour-intensive to resolve. However, they shouldn’t impact the stability of the updates made to date.

Remaining RC viewers

[03:54] The three remaining RC viewers  – the Maintenance RC (3.6.14.285499), Interest List RC (3.6.14.285213) and Google Breakpad RC (3.6.14.285686) are in the process of being rebuilt to the 3.7.1 release code, so updated versions should be appearing in the release channel in the next week (ish).

Project Viewers

[04:23]

  • It is unclear whether the Merchant Outbox project viewer (3.6.13.284731) will move forward or pulled back to have some more work done on it, and it is unlikely to move towards viewer release “any time soon”
  • The Sunshine / AIS v3 project viewer was rebuilt to the 3.7.1 code (Fitted Mesh and the Facebook Hotfix), with a new version (3.7.1.286565) appearing on February 14th. It is anticipated that this viewer will move forward to a release candidate status fairly quickly now that the Facebook Hotfix has been promoted, reducing the number of viewer RC cohorts currently in the release channel.

AIS v3

[05:16 and 14:50] A surprising piece of news passed-on in the meeting was that the AIS v3 server-side code has been deployed across all channels on the Main grid. This initially caused some confusion during the meeting , as there has been no mention of this in any server-side release notes. Nyx Linden queried the situation with the ops tem and received a confirmation that the new AIS capabilities had been deployed to Agni [21:40, via text], but are currently disabled [22:29 via text]. It would seem likely that the capabilities will be enabled once the Sunshine / AIS v3 project viewer moves to release candidate status.

Voice

vivox[07:35] There have been a number of issues with regards to voice in SL, particularly of late. As noted in my week 6 report, there was some recent back-end work carried out which should improve things for those using viewers running with the most recent versions of the voice SDK (SLvoice.exe).

Discussing the matter at the TPV Developer meeting, Oz Linden revealed that Vivox had reached out to the Lab to assist with issues being experienced, and as a result of this underlined the issues with viewers using older versions of the SDK (and which will not see any real improvements to their voice performance as a result). Vivox have requested that TPVs provide details on any older versions of the SDK they are running, and details of specific issues they are encountering, as well as offering encouragement to update.

As a new version of the SDK is due to be released in the near future (hopefully within a couple of weeks), it may prove to be an opportunity for TPVs to update, given it has a number of audio quality fixes and Vivox have offered to assist in dealing with issues being experienced with voice in SL.

In addition to this, Oz is looking to work with Vivox to try to get any new versions of the SDK used by the viewer made available to TPVs at the same time it is made available to the Lab, thus eliminating the need for TPVs having to wait for LL to QA and integrate the package into the LL code prior to being able to merge it into their own code, allowing them to test new SDK releases in parallel with the Lab. These will hopefully include 64-bit binaries of the SDK as well a 32-bit versions.

Group Ban Lists

[48:23] It had been hoped that Baker Linden might be providing an update on the overall status of his group ban list work. However, this was unfortunately not the case, although Oz provided a small update on things, stating that he has been able to sit down with Baker to review the updated viewer code, which is now with QA. Hopefully this means it will be appearing in at least a project viewer in the near future.

Continue reading “SL project updates 7/3: viewer updates, AIS and misc items”

The Drax Files Radio Hour: the reality of virtuality

radio-hourThe sixth episode of The Drax Files Radio Hour  is intriguingly entitled the “reality of the virtuality”. This is presumably a reference to the core of the show, in which the inter-relationship between our real and virtual activities are examined, firstly through a look at One Billion Rising, which features an interview with Saffia Widdershins, followed by a discussion with Peter Ludlow (Urizenus Sklar in SL), looking at issues of trolling, griefing, governance and human nature within virtual environments.

Note that timestamps are given in braces within the text, and refer to the recording available here.

The show opens with a look back to the (in?)famous IBM / Linden Lab experiment in teleporting between Second Life and OpenSim. The video and discussion which follows is more a of preview of the show’s planned expansion into more coverage of OpenSim in future broadcasts rather than a detailed discussion of the attempt itself, although one of the “gridnauts” from that experiment will be featured in an upcoming interview.

Fitted Mesh is covered, unsuprisingly, given the announcement that the code and updated avatar skeleton are now a part of the official SL release viewer. Opinions are gathered from designers Eboni Khan [6:56] and Shai Delacroix [10:38], both of whom make some valid points, although I think Shai is perhaps a little too critical of the Lab when she refers back to the initial blog post on Fitted Mesh made in 2013 as if it were a part of the announcement made this week.

Getting new users into SL is touched upon [14:33], with reference to the Lab’s new CEO Tweeting (prior to joining the company) that he’d signed-up, gone through the initial experience and had not enjoyed it.

The new user experience is something we all have opinions on, and while it is likely to be a controversial statement to make, I’m actually not entirely convinced that established users in SL have any better idea as to what is required than does the Lab, in that the knowledge we’ve acquired over time perhaps unduly filters our perceptions as to what is actually needed. While this may sound counter-intuitive, it is something I’ll eventually get around to explaining in a blog post which is (again) waiting in the wings.

Overhead view of a new Learning Island, July 2013
Overhead view of a new Learning Island, July 2013

But that said, I do agree something needs to be done in order to ensure more people can enter SL, get a hold of the essentials (especially finding things that interest them and connecting with people), because it is retained, engaged users who will give rise to growth in Second life, not more (or even necessarily cheaper) land.

Turning to VR, mention is made [17:00] of the Sixsense MakeVR / Stem systems to manipulate prims using hand-held controllers (which can also be combined with headsets like Oculus Rift).

The Fin, a wearable ring for gesture-based control of smart devices using bluetooth connectivity, is also touched upon [19:37]. A video is available on the radio hour’s blog page.

Saffia Widdershins is interviewed [21:49] about One Billion Rising, a world-wide event to raise awareness of the extent of violence inflicted upon women, and which is supported from within Second Life. The interview is far-ranging while also clearly focused, with Saffia once again demonstrating why she is the ideal spokesperson on this topic.

Peter ludlow, courtesy of Wikipedia / wikimedia commons

Similarly, the interview with Peter Ludlow [31:36] makes interesting listening. Founder of the Alphaville Herald (originally for the Alphaville city in the Sims Online, hence the name, prior to a migration to second Life), Ludlow is a journalist and philosopher in real life and provides some insights into griefing and trolling.

In particular, he offers-up an opinion on the likes of Esteban and those of his ilk which is sure to find favour among many (myself included) in reference to their attempts to justify their actions in terms of “I’m just showing what’s already there” – which runs in something of a parallel to the “other” mentality to which Saffia refers in her discussion with Drax, while being far more passive / aggressive in approach.

There is much food for thought in the chat with Mr. Ludlow on the topics of griefing and governance (and self-governance), and he makes some very valid points, underlining the inherent issues common to virtual communities – including that of vigilantism. The historical context he gives to the issues make fascinating listening, particularly with reference to how different organisations have approached and dealt with matters.

Equally, his comments on freedom of expression (and the illusion thereof) within the Internet and the web make interesting listening, albeit perhaps uncomfortable to some on several levels, particularly when coupled to his earlier comments on people’s need for tools to resolve issues.

Feedback

Another interesting show in which the main interviews again shine and provide much for contemplation and reflection, as indicated above. Both deserve to be listened-to carefully. The opening touches nicely on the plans to expand the show into looking at the broader “metaverse”, presenting a suitable teaser / reflection.

When “tuning-in”, do make sure you catch the opening announcements, rather than jumping to any of the time-stamps. There’s a giveaway this week, with the opportunity to claim a couples dance system from Humanoid animations valued at L$3,200. All you have to do is answer the question asked in the opening segment of the show and e-mail your answer to the show before Friday 21st February.