The Drax Files Radio Hour 18: more from Santa Cruz and a CEO’s son

radio-hourEpisode 18 of The Drax Files Radio Hour features the third part of Draxtor’s chats with Linden staffers. Alongside of this is an interview with one with Aleks Altberg (son of LL CEO Ebbe) and another with Karl Krantz, organiser of the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference taking place on May 19th-20th.

As well as being available on the show’s website and on Stitcher, the show is also on YouTube, and it is to that recording (embedded at the end of this article) any timestamps given in the text refer.

Brendan Iribe’s “fireside chat” with TechCrunch co-editor Matthew Panzarino at the recent TechCrunch Disrupt New York event (May 5th-7th), pops-up in the early part of the show. During the chat (which I muse upon here), Iribe outlines a potential future for VR is a (very loosely defined, in terms of purpose and use) MMO / metaverse of virtual environments. This is not a vision that he sees coming about in the next year or two – Iribe couches his frame of reference around a decade hence, at a time when he sees VR / VWs having wider acceptance and the technology itself has had time to further mature (particularly some of the associated hardware) and become more broadly accepted in daily life.

Brendan Iribe, Oculus VR CEO, talks to Matthew Panzarino at Techcrunch Disrupt NY (image via Techcrunch)
Brendan Iribe, Oculus VR CEO, talks to Matthew Panzarino at Techcrunch Disrupt NY (image via Techcrunch)

Surprise is expressed in the show that SL seems to be “unknown” or “ignored” by Iribe and others. I don’t think this is a valid assumption. Cory Ondrejka not only works at Facebook, but he was involved in the Oculus VR acquisition and he’s hardly blind to Second Life, having co-founded it.

Rather I’d suggest the reason SL isn’t mentioned comes down to something that appears to be missed in the discussion: the fact that Iribe is talking in terms of something a decade hence, and possibly something likely not built entirely by any single organisation, although FB is obviously well-placed to help build things. Perhaps more to the point, FB could position itself to provide core elements of the backbone – such as transaction services, identity services, and so on, thus becoming a gatekeeper to this new environment, much as Philip Rosedale wants to position High Fidelity in his vision of things.

As such, by the time the brave new digital world painted in Iribe’s broad brushstrokes actually arrives, it will likely be something that is so beyond comparison with SL that the latter is not seen as having relevance in discussions. In this, it’s not so much down to Iribe and others to point to SL and say, “look, this is the idea!” It is for SL to find wider relevance in the scheme of things.

The interview with Aleks Altberg commences at 16:18 into the show. A lot has been documented by Ebbe himself about Alek’s involvement in SL (perhaps first in this very blog in a comment he left just after starting at LL, then later during his VWBPE address), so it’s good to hear from him first-hand about his experiences with the platform and his thoughts about it.

Aleks Altberg, courtsey of 425 motorsport
Aleks Altberg, courtesy of 425 motorsport

Aleks reveals it was his father who indirectly go him interested in SL after he found his Dad using it. From here, his tale is probably familiar to many SL users – passing the time flying around, exploring, meeting people and only gradually unlocking the deeper secrets of SL – object creation, building, and so on, over time, which in turn led him into scripting and thus into SL commerce.

In discussing getting more people engaged in SL, Aleks offers-up an interesting “five-step” plan, which includes basic control orientation and some initial content building. It’s not a bad approach – but in some respects, it has been tried, albeit it not in quite the way he suggests, and hasn’t always worked.

He’s also less-than-convinced that trying to help people connect to things in SL which (might) interest them will work. He actually has a point – not everyone who comes to SL really knows what they’re looking for. Equally, there is no guarantee that anything which may have enticed someone into SL becomes the reason for them to remain engaged in SL.

However, I’d still suggest that many who come to SL do so because they have heard of something or seen something which has piqued their interest, and so attempting to find the means to connect them to that interest / point of curiosity (and others similarly engaged), then letting them discover everything else over time, is potentially more beneficial than appearing to say, “here’s all that SL can do – now go forth and do it!”, and shouldn’t be completely dismissed.

Karl Krantz, founder of the SVVR Meet-up (image courtesy of Road to VR)

Karl Krantz is interviewed at 26:12, where he discusses the SVVR conference and expo, which he admits to being an attempt to get the more affordable aspects of VR “away” from the gaming environment and open them out to more widespread interest / opportunities. The conference will take place at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California on May 19th / 20th.

Those in a position to attend can get $100 off the price of admission (reducing it to as little as $250) by using the code “drax2014″ (or indeed, “nwn2014″ if you are an NWN reader) when registering. They can then get to hear the likes of Palmer Luckey (Oculus VR), Philip Rosedale, Ebbe Altberg, David Holtz (Leap Motion), Ben Lang (Road to VR) and others.

Krantz is also no stranger to SL, and offers some interesting commentary on the platform – including the need for the Terms of Service to be redressed (which is being worked upon internally by the Lab). He’s also very positive towards LL being able to position themselves to capitalise on any VR wave which may emerge, although his comments on the ToS and on issues of performance caveat this particular view somewhat.

More particularly, he suggests Linden Lab might be better served in moving away from being solely a platform provider and focusing on providing the core services – the transaction system and Linden Dollars, the identity management service, the marketplace, etc. and then opening the rest of the platform out for development and operation by others and folding-in OpenSim. Again, this is pretty similar to the High Fidelity approach, and it could have some merit to it; the problem being how the Lab pivots away from its current operating / revenue model to this kind of approach without actually hurting itself financially in the process or causing mass disruption to SL as it is operated today.

Enkidu Linden is an Engineer Manager for Platforms at the Lab, and Drax had the opportunity of interviewing him during the Santa Cruz meet-up, as we hear starting at the 34:38 mark. Aside from his work with the transactional elements of the platform, Enkidu reveals an interesting approach to how we relate to our avatars and express ourselves through our avatars.

Where many of us seek to build our avatar as  – for want of a better term – a singular focal point of our identity in terms of looks, appearance, etc., and through while we can express ourselves, Enkidu comes from the opposite end of the spectrum, using many different avatar forms to express facets of his personality and interests. He’s certainly not alone in doing this; I have a couple of friends who routinely shift their avatar form as a means of self-expression. Even so, it’s and interesting reflection of the diverse ways in which we can define a means of identity and connection with others.

In terms of Lindens and their time in-world, Enkidu points-out that staff at the Lab, being geographically diverse in their locations (east and west coast, north and south), do spend time in-world attending various meetings in non-public regions and also spend time elsewhere (presumably using their Alts prior to Ebbe lifting the ban on staff using their “official” accounts for in-world roaming). In this, he notes, “Our job is to make sure the people in Second Life can have the experiences they want to have. If we never have those experiences ourselves, how can we understand what they are?”

This is a wide-ranging discussion which tackles, or at least touches upon, a fair few areas. Those who have ever wanted to understand more about Linden Dollar transactions, the LindeX and exchange rates (and how the latter in particular keep the SL economy stable) would do well to listen to Enkidu’s description – in totally none-technical terms – of how things flow together and the wheels turn.

As a former government employee, Enkidu offers some observations on our relationship with government and our relationship with the Lab, some of which indirectly echoed Ebbe’s own Forum-made observation of the Dunning-Kruger effect which can shape some reactions to the Lab’s stewardship of SL. it’s an observations which is, at least sometimes and in certain ways, hard to dispute.

All told, another fascinating discussion with a Lab staffer, albeit one somewhat different to those in the last two shows.

Not much to say in summary this time around, other than the interviews are once again excellent.

Catznip R9: the cat gets the cream

catznip logoCatznip released version R9 of their popular v3 viewer on Friday May 9th, and marks their biggest single update so far. As the team move towards a shorter, faster release cycle, it is likely to be the last of the really big updates we see coming out of the door from the team. In the future, things are liable to appear in smaller and more focused releases.

The complete list of changes can be found in the release notes, and I refer readers to that document for a full list of updates and changes, and any necessary specifics on code contributed to the viewer (if applicable).

The following is intended as an overview of some of what I feel are the more major / interesting / visible changes to be found in the release.

Chat  and CHUI

R9 sees Catznip get the best of CHUI and extras from the Catznip team that should help to present users with a chat  / IM conversations.

Catznip R9 chat takes the best of CHUI and adds Catznip's own tweaks, and the return of popular elements
Catznip R9 chat takes the best of CHUI and adds Catznip’s own tweaks, and the return of popular elements

One of the more noticeable elements is the ability to range tabs either vertically or horizontally. Given that many people do appreciate chiclets, considerable effort has been put into restoring the chiclets following the inclusion of the CHUI code.

Given the extent of the updates resulting from the CHUI merge and the team’s efforts to present a flexible, friend chat UI, Preferences > Chat has been extensively updated.

Preferences > Chat has been revised with expanded options for managing all aspects of chat and IMs
Preferences > Chat has been revised with expanded options for managing all aspects of chat and IMs

These changes are apparent from the moment Preferences > Chat is opened, with six new sub-tabs appearing in the panel. Three of these – Translation, Auto-Replace and Spell Checking – replace the button which access these options in earlier releases. The remaining three tabs – Chat, IM & Groups and Logging – are entirely new to this release, and all include options for configuring chat and IM notifications, behaviour, appearance, and more (some of which have been inherited from the old Preferences > Catznip > Chat sub-tab, which has been removed from R9, being surplus to requirements).

The IM & Groups sub-tab helps with configuring chat / IM behaviour, appearance, etc.
The IM & Groups sub-tab helps with configuring chat / IM behaviour, appearance, etc.

Additionally, the spelling checker has been updated to support German, French, Italian and Polish.

Building Updates

Perhaps the most obvious change to Catznip R9 is the arrival of Materials Processing. However, there are other updates as well, including:

  • Windows only:
    • Drag-and-drop textures directly onto a prim face using local textures as the backing store
    • Drag-and-drop uploading of textures
  • Added a “Selection Options” pop-out to thebuildfloater,  grouping all selection related viewer options and including:
    • Select Only Copyable Objects (also added to Build menu > Options)
    • Option to prevent turning towards a newly selected object
  • Option to prevent the avatar’s arm from pointing at a newly selected object
  • Added copy/paste of the different types of texture parameters with three possible scenarios (always on a single object):
    1. Copy all texture faces (which may or may not be identical) => pastes the texture data on matching selected faces
    2. Copy one texture face => pastes the texture data on all selected faces
    3. Copy several texture faces => pastes the texture data on matching selected faces
  • Added pipette for the different types of texture parameters.
  • The Build floater with Selections Options pop-out (l) and Materials (r)
    The Build floater with Selections Options pop-out (l) and Materials (r)

    Camera and Movement Floaters

    The updated Camera and Movement floaters
    The updated Camera and Movement floaters

    Both the Camera and Movement floaters have been refined so they are transparent, rather than opaque, and are more compact. The Camera floater also has a revised layout.

    A slider in Preferences > Colors allows you to adjust the level of transparency / opacity of both floaters.

    Inventory Updates

    This release sees a number of inventory related updates and changes, including:

    • A significant speed improvements when filtering inventory
    • Open in Inventory check box added to the Buy Contents floater + UI layout cleanup
    • Texture tooltip added for inventory items
    • Copy Outfit List to Clipboard is now available when right-clicking any outfit folders in your inventory
    • Option to clear the current inventory filter rather than create a new inventory floater when the shown item is currently filtered
    • Inventory will always show the “Received Items” folder if the inventory’s panel contents are filtered (with a non-default filter)
    • Empty system folders no longer hidden by default (Advanced > Debug setting DebugHideEmptySystemFolders set to FALSE)
    • New option to control how offered inventory is handled while marked as Do not Disturb
      • Pop up a chiclet as normal (default)
      • Auto-accept the offer
      • Auto-decline the offer.

    Notecards / Scripts / Text editors

    These see the following features added to the R9 release:

    • Recovery support for unsaved notecards (embedded items are not preserved)
    • Texture tool tips for embedded notecard items
    • Use the current selection (text, etc.) as the default search string
    • Highlighting of occurrences in the target editor when using the Search/Replace floater
    • New keyboard shortcuts to the script editor menu
      • F1 opens the LSL reference
      • Shift+F1 opens keyboard help
      • Ctrl+G opens the “Go to line” floater.

    In addition, the following behaviours have been revised:

    • When you Go To a line in a script editor, at least three lines above/below the target line will now be visible
    • Case-insensitive search is now enabled by default for notecards, scripts and text editors.

    Preferences

    As well as the updates to the Chat tab, this release sees a number of other updates in Catznip’s Preferences which form a part of ongoing work to overhaul Preferences.

    The Sound and Media tab has been completely overhauled, with new sub-tabs for volume controls and streaming, Sound Alerts, and Voice Chat.

    The Sound Alerts sub-tab panel on the revised Sound and Media tab in Preferences
    The Sound Alerts sub-tab panel on the revised Sound and Media tab in Preferences

    Continue reading “Catznip R9: the cat gets the cream”

    Murders, storytellers, and the loyalty of a hell hound

    It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in Voice, brought to Second Life and Kitely by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library.

    As always, all times SLT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island.

    Sunday May 11th

    10:00 PDT: Lighthouse Horrors at Kitely

    “Storm-swept, remote light stations—and the isolated souls who man the beacons—are the perfect inspirations for tales of suspense and horror. Throughout the years, lighthouses have served as backdrops for dark, gothic tales of solitary, sea-based horror. If you like a good chilling tale and you like lighthouses and the sea, this story session is just for you.”

    With Shandon Loring at Lighthouse Point in the Seanchai region on Kitely.

    13:30: Tea-time at Baker Street: The Sign of Four

    Sign-of-fourTea-time at Baker Street sees Caledonia Skytower, Corwyn Allen and Kayden Oconnell open the pages of the second full-length novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, which was originally published under the title The Sign of the Four.

    In 1888, Mary Morston come to Sherlock Holmes seeking his assistance in two matters. The first is with regards to her father. Having returned safely from India in 1878, Captain Arthur Morston had arranged to meet his daughter at the Langham Hotel, London – but he had vanished from the hotel prior to ber arrival, and no trace of his whereabouts has ever been discovered. The second relates to a series of pearls he has received, at the rate of one a year, every year, from 1882 onwards. The pearls started arriving after she had responded to a strange newspaper query inquiring for her, and the last one had come with a letter, indicating she had somehow been wronged, and asking to meet with her.

    Holmes discovers that the pearls started arriving shortly after the death of Major Sholto, a colleague of Arthur Morston’s from the army in India, and he is certain there is a connection between the two – a connection which appears to involve an Indian fortress and the names of three Sikhs and a man by the name of Jonathan Small. Then the subject of a treasure and links between it and Arthur Morston, Major Sholto and Sholto’s sons are all revealed …

    Find out more by joining Cale, Kayden and Corwyn.

    Monday May 12th, 19:00: The Chromium Helmet

    Gyro Muggins reads Theodore Sturgeon’s 1946 classic short story.

    Tuesday May 13th, 19:00: The Raven and the Storyteller

    Aoife Niphrendil concludes her reading of A. Gouedard’s novel, an enchanting tale of the travels of a Raven called Wilf and Moon the Storyteller, both of whom are immortal, and of the people and events they meet on their journey. The stories told are set within the book as their journey unfolds, and in the tradition of fables and stories within a story.

    Wednesday May 14th, 19:00: Flora and Ulysses

    Kate DiCamillo’s second novel to win a prestigious Newbery Award (the first being The Tales of Despereaux in 2004), is at its heart, a comic superhero tale.

    The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him.

    “What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry—and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.”

    Join Caladonia as she continues to chart this lighthearted tale of eccentric, endearing characters, engaging illustrated by K. G Campbell.

    Thursday May 15th

    16:00: TBA

    Please check the Seanchai Library SL blog.

    19:00: Cerebus Part 2

    “Cerberus is a three-headed dog born to monstrous parents, who experiences many adventures, culminating in a tragic journey into the Underworld. It is here that Hades, ruler of that kingdom, determines to keep Cerberus as his sentinel at the Gates of Hell. The three-headed dog ventures into this perilous trap in his quest for the little girl he loves, who has been ruthlessly stolen from him by death. It is in Tartarus that Cerberus finally finds her and where he meets his greatest challenge. “Here is the stirring tale of friendship, cunning, and treachery within the turbulent world of myth occupied by heroes, gods, and monsters.”

    With Shandon Loring.

    —–

    Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for May-June is Habitat for Humanity: envisioning a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

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