Having a “well, duh!” moment with a Linden Houseboat

More changes for the Windlass version of my Linden Homes houseboat

As regulars here know, I’ve been playing around with the various versions of the Linden Homes houseboat designs on-and-off, creating and saving various interior layouts utilising rezzing systems, some of which I’ve bored people with in these pages – see: Saving your Bellisseria house designs for re-use with a rezzing system, More houseboat decorating in Second Life, and Still messing about in (house)boats in Second Life.

In particular with the last article, I wrote about converting the raised section of the Windlass design in a bedroom. This involved putting in a false floor and an additional stairway. While it worked to a point, having two staircases inside the houseboat was a bit weird, and while other things took me away from the houseboat (truth be told I barely set foot in it between that June 2019 article and the end of October), the issue nagged at me.

The problem, in short, was the “hard” stair railing that blocked any access to an upper floor put into the Windlass from the existing stairway – the stairs being intended purely to access the houseboat’s upper deck. However, in hopping back recently and swapping from my use of the Barnacle houseboat to the Windlass, I had one of those embarrassing “well, duh!” moments: Why even keep the existing stairway leading up to the upper deck?

Top: the June 2019 build, showing the added spiral stairs while the “fix” stairs remain usable behind the kitchen walls. Bottom: as revised – just the one spiral staircase, the “fixed” stairs now boxed in to created a “bathroom”, while the cubbyhole under the stairs has been opened to create space for a galley-style kitchen

In the June design, I had already partially walled-in the fixed stairway, boxing-in the cubbyhole under the stairs in the process, to provide a “back wall” for a kitchen area and a false space to suggest a bathroom. By opening this out again, but keeping the stairway hidden behind a curved “ceiling”, and then completely blocking out the bottom end of the stairs allowed me to:

  • Hide the existing stairway and create the impression of a bathroom tucked into a corner of the houseboat.
  • Extend the “bedroom” space the full width of the upper section of the houseboat, while keeping the stairway door as a mean to access the upper deck.
  • Relocate the spiral stairs serving the bedroom so they don’t dominate the floor space of the houseboat so much.
  • Use the re-exposed cubby hole under the “fixed” stairway as the home for a galley kitchen.
  • Open out the rest of the available space for a roomier dining space (so much pace, I’ve yet to work out what I want to do with bits of it!
Extending the new bedroom floor both provides more space while allowing the upper part of the “fix” stairway to serve as an access way to the roof deck k(seen on the left)

The exterior view of the houseboat, vis window placement, doesn’t quite align with the interior layout (the stairway is marked by two large windows) – but dropping the blinds on these tends to help hide this, although I did toy with blocking the windows out complete. On the flip side, general access to the upper deck isn’t lost this way – it’s still possible to reach it via the simple expedient of an external stairway, as seen in the top photo, one easily accessed from the lower floor of the houseboat and the docks I dropped in for mooring my boats.

All of this isn’t a genius move; doubtless others arrived at the same solution well ahead of me – hence referring to it as a “well, duh!” moment. But it at least makes me happier 🙂 .


Remembering Darrius Gothly

Darrius Gothly

I received word from Torric Rodas today of the sad news of the passing of long-term Second Life resident and creator, Darrius Gothly.

Founder of the DG4SL range of products, Darrius had a wide range of interests in Second Life, and always sought to improve people’s SL experience through many of his products, whilst also being a very vocal member of the platform’s merchant community, offering both positive critiques of the Lab’s approach to its Marketplace environment and suggestions for improving it.

I did not know Darrius well, but I believe we became long distance friends outside of Second Life for long enough for me to appreciate him for his insight and integrity.

We first really got to know one another when he stepped in to try to address an age-old problem in Second Life: what happens when you pass out a load a landmarks for your store, club, region, etc., – and then are forced by circumstance / opportunity / whatever to relocate, other than to start revising all your LMs, push new ones out to visitors / customers / friends, try to get the word out through forums etc.

To explain: back in 2012, artist and creator Toysoldier Thor put forward an idea and feature request for “virtual landmarks” to present a means by which LMs need never go “stale” (see also: Virtual Landmarks: solving an age-old problem?).  As per Toy’s comments in a forum thread on the idea, for a time it looked like LL might be interested in implementing something along the lines of his suggestion (subject to other commitments / priorities). Sadly, nothing ever really came of this (nor of subsequent suggestions along similar lines). So, Enter Darrius.

I first got to know Darrius as he developed his Virtual Landmarks products

Taking a dive into things, he formulated a means by which Toy’s idea could be realised via an external service. In typical Darrius style, he also added elements such as web support (“VMurl”), stats reporting and support for “favourite places” to provide a comprehensive product. He dropped me a line about the product in December 2012, which resulted in my articleVirtual Landmarks: offering a solution to the age-old problem, and in my playing a very small role in testing the system.

As a result of that initial contact, Darrius and I became what might best be referred to as “pen friends” over the next few years, exchanging ideas and comments and holding forth with each other on a wide range of subjects, from “technical” chats about SL through to more esoteric matters – identity, anonymity and personal expression in VWs, the new user experience, perceptions about SL in other platforms / the worlds at large, etc. -, through to chatting about physical world home and family, health, and our mutual enjoyment of assorted film franchises, and even touching on politics on occasion.

Sadly, our conversations waned to the point of becoming non-existent for the last couple of years. At the time this happened, I was aware that Darrius was dealing with illness and couldn’t always get in-world / on-line perhaps as often as he would have liked, and I feel a certain amount of regret that I didn’t do more to keep our exchanges going. He didn’t believe in putting up walls between his SL persona and himself; whom you encountered through his avatar was very much Darrius himself: honest, up-front, friendly, caring, supportive and with a wonderful – and at times quite wicked (in a good way!) – sense of humour. He is someone who will be missed.

My sincere condolences to his family and to his close friends on their loss.


I understand from Torric and the London City website that the DG4SL team are attempting to ensure the popular Rental Beam service add-on for CasperLet is transitioned to new management so that it can continue to run as customers expect. Anyone with enquires about that service are asked to contact Mysti Nowles directly, rather than raising a support ticket. At this point, I do not have information on what will happen to other DG4SL products utilising back-end services (such as the VLM product) or who to contact about them. Should I come into such information, I will give an update here.

The Bloggies 2019: a thank you

This year marked (I believe) the 3rd annual Bloggies Awards, the presentations of which took place on Saturday, October 26th.

For those not in the know, the Bloggies are awards organised by the Blogger and Vlogger Network (BVN), a group and website built specifically for networking and education purposes. BVN strives to provide bloggers and vloggers (video bloggers) with the most pertinent, up-to-date, and interactive information available, and hosts live discussion panels, interactive forums and tutorials on a wide range of blogging and vlogging subjects.

The Bloggies are intended to recognise those producing written and video blogs on Second Life across a range of categories, the majority of which are decided via a public / popular voting system. Each year the organisers present special awards: the Founders Award and the BVN Member of the Year Award.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to commitments in the physical world, so I was surprised and delighted to learn today that I had been awarded the Bloggies Founders Award for 2019. This is given to (and I quote):

The founders award can be any blogger or vlogger in SL and we look for those that have made a huge contribution to the SL community through Blogging or Vlogging.

Needless to say, I’m both genuinely honoured and thrilled to receive the award and the recognition of my peers in blogging Second Life, and for the glowing terms used to describe this blog at the ceremony, which I’m also going to reproduce here:

This year’s recipient has been on the grid since 2006 and began blogging in 2007. Her blog covers a range of topics from news, reviews, commentary, exploration and opinion, and her dedication to chronicling the social, cultural and technical aspects of Second Life is unsurpassed. She is the premier source for all Second Life information, a major proponent of the arts and one of the grid’s most prolific bloggers.

I include this word in a small part because I do feel a degree of pride in reading them (I’d be lying if I said otherwise) – but primarily because I don’t try to seek out recognition in any significant way outside of the occasional interview; I simply try to write about what I appreciate, enjoy and find fascinating in Second Life in the hope others find it enjoyable / of interest  / useful, and whilst trying to maintain an element of objectivity in my factual reporting. So having this blog recognised in public in terms like those above genuinely encourages me to keep writing and to also do better in the topics I strive to cover.

Many and sincere thanks to Kess and Dethly and BVN for this award – and congratulations to all of the winners and those who received special mention in this year’s awards.

Previewing a little wave hopping in Second Life

Ape Piaggio’s WaveHopper

As I’ve noted several times in these pages, I’m a little partial to Ape Piaggio’s vehicle designs, and often get to help out with her designs in a small way. These treats occasionally lead me to offer a “sneak peek” at an upcoming design, although occasionally it can take longer than anticipated for the final product to appear – as has happened with the Airfish that I previewed over a year ago, and which subsequently hit a couple of hurdles that stalled final development.

The last 24 hours have given me the opportunity to try out and give feedback on Ape’s latest in-development craft: the WaveHopper. This is a craft that should, all things being equal, be commercially available in the next few weeks, but with Ape’s permission, I thought I’d whet a few appetites for it here.

Ape Piaggio’s WaveHopper

Looking like a dolphin, the WaveHopper is a two-person craft that sits as a cross between a jet-ski (it is powered by a impeller mechanism in a similar manner to a jet-ski), a mini sub (it can operate submerged for up to a minute at a time), and an acrobatic craft. Its porpoise (see what I did there?) is to simply get out on the water and have fun – as I hope the accompanying photos demonstrate.

Once underway, the WaveHopper can travel on the surface of the water at a fair rate of knots (although handling at the upper end of the throttle can get some getting used to).  Aircraft-like in its controls, tip the nose down and you’ll dive – but the idea is not to stay under water. Instead, pull back up on the controls, and the WaveHopper will accelerate upwards and breach the surface like a dolphin making a jump. What’s more, with a little practice, you can pull stunts with it, rolling as you jump or leaving the water inverted or even pulling a loop, part in / part out of the water can be managed.

Ape Piaggio’s WaveHopper

It’s really designed for fun in a single region rather than long travels across multiple regions. It has a rocking motion when moving on the surface, and the finished version will have more buoyancy, and there will be a timer to turn off the engine to prevent overheating if submerged too long.

– Ape Piaggio describing the WaveHopper

And just in case you think the idea is a bit kooky – WaveHopper is actually based on a real vehicle (which has also been reproduced by a couple of other creators, although Ape’s design was my first exposure to it).  You can catch a video of the “real thing” below and get a feel for it.

Pricing for the WaveHopper has yet to be finalised, but I can say it’ll be packed with additional features, including working cockpit nav system for first-person operation, media system, boarding animations and a range of poses. Ape also noted she might offer some little extras to go with it so that owners can have even more fun. As such, I’ll be giving the WaveHopper a full review once it is available.

Ape Piaggio’s WaveHopper

And the Airfish? That’s apparently next on the list for completion!

A little more Isla Pey: chapel ruins and old pianos

The Chapel Ruins by Marcus Inkpen of The Looking Glass, seated within our “southern island”

It’s been ten months since I bored you with writing about Isla Pey, and at that time I said there probably wouldn’t be any more major changes – and that’s largely been the case. However, over the last couple of months we’ve been re-adding one or two elements of old ruins to the place (a familiar theme with me) – although outside of a couple of walls slipped into the gardens behind the house, nothing really seemed to fit, despite the “south island” screaming to have something placed in it. The towers and walls of previous layouts just didn’t work.

However, a design I’ve admired since it was first released, and which has increasingly been finding its way as a “regular” prop for region designs, is The Looking Glass Chapel Ruins by Marcus Inkpen. Available through The Looking Glass in-world store, this is a truly magnificent piece – and thanks to a combination of size, depth of foundations and luck, it happened to be the *perfect* fit for the land with very little need for anything to be moved or altered – all that was really required was establishing a path to it and around one side of it.

An overhead view of the chapel, with some of my modifications, and a sculpture from Mistero Hifeng

At 66 LI by default, the Chapel Ruins are finely detailed, offering the floor, and broken walls of a single room chapel with the broken square of a tower rising to one side of it, the walls and stairway of which abruptly end just above head height. The windows are without glass, the doors have long gone, and ivy is laying claims to the walls, with fallen stones scattered inside and out. It is, in a word, utterly eye-catching and a worthy centrepiece to any region requiring quality ruins.

Of course, me being who I am, I couldn’t leave it entirely untouched, so a couple of the walls saw some minor alterations (well, one fairly major in that an entire wall section was swapped for another). I also took the opportunity to install some decidedly non-period lighting, together with some additional foliage (pushing the LI to 70) – and then hit a problem.

A view from off-shore

What to do with interior space? Having the ruins really – if I say so myself – set the southern island perfectly; but the rectangle of empty stone floor did look odd – and for over a week nothing came to mind, other than dropping an old piano into it. Which, to be honest, I wanted to shy away from, given such items have also seemed to become de rigueur in a lot of region designs (and I should know- they’ve tended to be de rigueur in my region snapshots of late!).

Fortunately, the answer came in another visit to The Looking Glass. Across the store hall from the vendor for the Chapel Ruins sits a collection called the Our Place To Dream collection, and elements of this collection – notably the wall and the blanket – looked like they might fit with the chapel. And they did.

The “finished” space in the Chapel, with the Our Place to Dream Ruined Wall and Blanket (L) and the Nutmeg Distressed Grand Piano.

With a little modification, the wall offered a fitting suggesting of stonework from the broken wall of the chapel gathered together to form a cosy little space for the blanket, particularly when a DIGS cheeseboard together  with some candles and wines glasses and bottle from various sources were added to make things even cosier. Which just left the rest of the floor space to deal with. A couple of statues by Mistero Hifeng and Silas Merlin helped; but in the end – well I had to give in to instinct and pick up the Nutmeg Distressed Grand Piano.

So, we now have our own ruined chapel, together with a little cosy spot for dancing, sitting and – with the aid of a picnic set, an outdoor corner to share with friends.

The chapel and the house in the background

The last couple of months have also seen some changes to the house itself – not too much, just some trimming and realignment here and there to give it more of its own look whilst also retaining most of the classic Fallingwater lines. Most of all, it’s given us space for a proper dining area – something I’ve never really seen the point of in SL until I moved into my Linden houseboat 🙂 .

I’m not going to wibble on about the house – but I will say that if you’re looking for a nice-looking, functional (as in animated) kitchen with plenty of options, you might want to take a look at the Olivia Kitchen by: Czikitka.

A little rock climbing in Second Life

Rock climbing / free climbing in Second Life

A while back Yasmin (YouAintSeenMe) mentioned to me that she was considering a rock climbing system for Second Life. Being one who doesn’t particularly handle looking over the edge of extreme tall / high things in the physical world, it struck me that a) rock climbing would not be my first recreational pursuit, and b) but why not have a go in Second Life where bones don’t get broken?

So, armed with a follow-up note card from Yasmin on the subject, I toddled off to try out a climb she’s set-up on the west face of Nitida Ridge, Heterocera.

Nitida Ridge – 100m of cliffs to climb!

Here, at the foot of the ridge, sits a little base camp established by Yasmin, with tents, food and a warm fire. Close by is a sign that both introduces the climb(s) up the rock face and provides visitors with the necessary kit when touched. The latter is free, and comprises:

  • An abseil harness (worn invisibly, just ADD to attach to the stomach attach point); information on the climbing HUD, a note card on the routes up the cliffs – direct or extended; and an image of the cliffs overlaid with the routes up (green) and abseil descents (red).
  • The climbing HUD – clicking the sign will cause a pop-up asking for this to be attached so your avatar can be animated during a climb.
Starting my climb

The HUD attaches towards the lower right of your screen by default – although obviously can be repositioned.  It is colour-coded as follows: Blue (generally the default) = ready; Green  = active climb located / engaged; red = disabled. In addition, touch the HUD brings up a dialogue box. There are a handful of points to be remembered when climbing, and with the HUD in particular:

  • It is still an in-development system, so not all features may be present and the occasional bug might try to put you off your climb.
  • Not all the options on the dialogue box may be fully functional at present.
  • The ones you are most likely to want to use are the climbing speeds (Faster / Slower) and the avatar position options (In  / Out) – the latter to move your avatar either further away from the rock face (so you’re not up to your elbows inside the rock, for example, or climbing air).
Taking a breather and a look around at 170 metres above sea level and …. Eeep! It’s a long way down!

Climbing is a matter of finding the first pitch along the foot of the ridge. To do this, it is suggested that you examine the image of the ridge and then zoom out with your camera and align things visually. This can be a little difficult (but then, it’s not like people hang signs on rock faces that say, “Start Your Climb Here!” – you pick your start point by eyeballing the best spot to make an ascent), so for those who may get frustrated in trying to work out where to start, there is a direct SLurl link.

When you’ve found the correct point, the HUD will try green to indicate you can start to climb. Use the Up arrow key to climb – turning off any AO system can be an advantage here to prevent conflicts. When pressed, your avatar will start what is effectively a solo free climb. Releasing the key will pause you, but shouldn’t cause any backsliding.

Taking a rest in a bivvy and inset, where it sits on the climb….

The nature of SL may mean at times you might get stuck. Should this happen, release the Up key and they resume. Similarly, you may “slip” and assume your default falling pose – again, releasing the Up key should revert your avatar to the “rest” pose. Also, sometimes using the Left / Right arrow keys can help a little – but take care. Left / Right can help you crab diagonally sideways in the climb, but use one of them too much and you’ll leave the “climbing path” – your HUD will turn blue and you’ll take a fall!

After the first 15 metre climb to a very broad ledge, you’ll have a choice: the direct route, or along the “bivvy” (bivouac) route. The latter is the more challenging, and requires you channel your inner Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible 2) for some diagonal climbing across the rock face to reach various ledges – including one with the tent, allowing you a little respite from the exertions of climbing – and additional vertical ascents.

Abseiling down the Nitida Ridge (note ropes added in post-processing so I don’t look like I’m simply sitting in mid-air!

The direct route is just that – straight up the cliff, using a natural fold in the rock, just as a real climber would. I admit to having a little trouble at the top of this – the climb animation refused to release, so I’d reach the top, fall back a couple of metres and resume climbing, reach the top, fall back… A double-click TP resolved this.

For those prone to a little daring-do, the Nitida Ridge climbs also include a couple of high lines (shown in blue on the climb image), where a little tightrope walking can be, um, enjoyed, using Yasmin’s tightrope kit.

Of course, getting up a climb is half the story – there is also getting back down. For this, Yasmin has included abseil options. Just find the anchor points located at various places on the cliff face (again, use the supplied image to help in locating them). Each is a square metal plate fixed to the rock with a carabiner hanging from it. Touch the carabiner and you’ll abseil neatly down the rock face.

Ropes for abseiling are invisible (a particle system would likely complicate matters), but the animations are fun to watch, and in keeping with climbing (I assume at least, not being an expert in any way whatsoever!) the shorter descents are more hand-over-hand.

This system is  – as noted – still somewhat in development, but it is simple and clean – and works. Obviously, you can add to the feel of climbing by dressing appropriately if you wish – I was tempted to add either a rucksack as a climbing backpack, or at least a bum bag to double as a chalk bag, but in the end just opted to get on with it.

Yasmin offers a number of alternate possible climbs within the HUD instructions note card, but as the HUD appears to be temp attach, you’ll need to keep it in place in order to try them, or return to Nitida Ridge to affix a new one before visiting an alternate climb. Overall, however, the Nitida Ridge climb is the most well-rounded in terms of climbs and features.

High lines offer the opportunity for some tightrope walking …

You still wouldn’t get me hanging off the side of a cliff at the end of a length of rope in the physical world, but within Second Life, free climbing / rock climbing like this is fun, and Yasmin has put together an excellent package that can be enjoyed individually or with friends. The kit isn’t (yet?) commercially available as it is in development (a further reason to try it at Nitida Ridge!), but I would suggest that if / when it is made commercially available, anyone with reasonable cliffs and highlands (say 15m or greater), it could be an attractive addition as an activity.

SLurl Details