Firestorm video tutorials

firestorm-logoAhead of the upcoming Firestorm release – which will be available Real SoonTM, (sorry, I can’t say when as Jessica would douse me in catnip and set the moggies on me 🙂 ), Jessica has been busy on a new set of video tutorials for users.

Some of the videos are specific to the upcoming release, and one is for those still using Phoenix and who wish to make the switch to Firestorm. This is something which has been covered before in Firestorm tutorials (and something I’ve attempted to cover myself in the past), but as things have moved on somewhat since those days, the new video has been produced.

The Firestorm 4.4.0 video cover features which are both new to the upcoming release, and which are updated in the upcoming release in comparison with earlier releases of the viewer – such as with object de-rendering, as per the video  below.

The current list of updated videos comprises:

All of these are available on the Phoenix Firestorm You Tube channel, and Jessica informs me that more will be added as and when time permits.

A new TuTORial from Torley Linden!

So, I log on to my You Tube account, take a look at my subscriptions, and what do I find?

A video from Torley!

I don’t seem to have the old SL video links box appearing on my SL account dashboard, so no idea if that has gone or the page simply isn’t loading correctly & whether the video is listed there.

But a video TuTORial from Torley! Yay!

Is this a resumption of Torley’s excellent work? And if so, and assuming the lack of video lists on my Dashboard isn’t a glitch – can was have them back on the Dashboard page as well as on the YouTube channel, please, LL?

Mirror, mirror…

Update: I’ve add a link to Zonja’s excellent instructions to the my Tutorials Index Page. 

Last night, Chestnut Rau led me, by way of Whiskey Monday to a three-year-old post from Zonja Capalini on using Linden Water as a mirror. As old as the post may be, it has considerable relevance given how LL and TPVs are striving to improve the graphics capabilities of the Viewer – and it goes to show how easy it is to miss a highly informative blog post! My thanks to Chestnut and Whiskey for pointing me in the right direction, and to Zonja for documenting the process.

The technique isn’t new, per se, as a number of people have been using the idea for a while and produced some very clever effects, but Zonja’s instructions make it so easy to implement, they are a joy to follow and make trying things out for oneself as easy as 1-2-3.  And I mean easy – if I can get things sorted, then anyone can.

As well as clever visual effects, the technique can be used to produce some interesting shots as one travels SL – or even of one’s own home region.

Using the mirror water effect to capture one of the houses on my land (click to enlarge)
Black Spot, one of my favourite places in SL, gets the mirror water treatment (click to enlarge)

Of course, it is rare for real water to be so glassy-smooth, but the results are worth ignoring that fact. The effect can obviously be combined with other graphics effects – Windlight sky settings, lighting and shadows, etc., – although you can find your system getting pushed hard. Lighting and shadows in particular left me with very grainy pixelation on images…

The same shot, but with lighting and shadows active  – on my system, this does degrade the image quality somewhat

There is a slight difference between Zonja’s instructions and achieving the same result in V3-based Viewers, inasmuch as everything can be achieved from the one dialogue box when setting-up the water Windlight requirements. Just go to WORLD->ENVIRONMENT EDITOR->WATER PRESETS->NEW PRESET… Not exactly rocket science to find, but worth mentioning. Once there, set all options and sliders as Zonja defines in her article.

The most interesting use for the technique is that of self-portrait style pictures, where some fun can be had. Zonja and Whiskey has some stunning examples of these. I was a little reluctant to include any of myself, given my current fetish look – but “in for a penny”, as they say.

Reflections

Lighting projectors: adding depth to SL

Updated to reflect the arrival of ALM.

Projectors are a neat way to add lighting effects, reflections, etc., to your Second Life environment. Originally, the relied somewhat on shadow rendering, but then changes made to the rendering system made them easier to use – no active shadows required. With the advent of the Advanced Lighting Model over the more involved deferred rendering options, they became even more straightforward to use.

However, rather than burble on about things, here’s an image of a simple projector in action at my house:

“That’s me in the corner / That’s me in the spotlight…”

So, how is this done? Pretty simply, actually.

 

First: Enable Advanced Lighting Model

You need to make sure Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) is enabled on your Viewer before actually setting-up your projector. If you don’t, you won’t see anything (nor will anyone viewing your scene – they’ll need ALM enabled).

  • Go to PREFERENCES->GRAPHICS
  • Find the Advanced Lighting Model option and check it, if it isn’t already checked.
  • You may also want to tweak your HARDWARE options – these may not be vital steps, but they may just boost your computer’s performance a little:
    • Turn off ANISTROPIC FILTERING
    • Turn down / turn off ANTIALIASING
  • Some systems may prefer it if you disable AVATAR IMPOSTERS and AVATAR CLOTH; I found that on older V3-base viewers, I actually get a slightly higher fps with AVATAR CLOTH off when shadows are enabled (around 5 fps), but notice no real change with AVATAR IMPOSTERS disabled than with them on.

Second: Create a Projector

I emphasise here that I’m only talking you through a very simple projector. How far you go with things is up to you.

  • Create a prim. Any prim will do – shape isn’t overly important.
  • Click on the FEATURES tab in the Build menu
    • You may have to click on MORE / v (at the bottom of the EDIT menu) to see the tabs
  • In the Features tab, there is an option called LIGHT (see below, left)
    • Note that this will only be displayed with all the options shown if you have ALM properly enabled.
  • Check the LIGHT option. You should immediately see the area around the prim passively illuminated (below, right). Nothing special here, this is normal behaviour.
So? It’s an illuminated prim…
  • Raise the prim off the ground and the spot effect will be apparent under the Z axis on he prim – projectors only work in one direction.
  • Rotate and position the prim for your desired effect and then make the whole thing transparent (and phantom, if it is at a height / location where it it liable to be walked into).
  • Done!

Projecting Textures

The projector option also allows you to project textures onto surfaces – this offers a range of opportunities, although a little thought on how you might use them needs to be consider.

To do this, select your projector prim and:

  • Click on the second box next to the LIGHT option and click on it to open your texture picker.
  • Navigate to the texture you wish to use and click OK to select it.
…It projects!
  • The texture will be projected by the prim.

All that remains now is to rotate and position the prim. Here’s my finished example, rotated and projected against a temporary screen.

I cast a long shadow…even over Mars! 🙂

Additional notes:

  • You can change the colour tone for a projected texture by clicking the box closest to LIGHT to open your colour picker.
  • You can also modify the look of the projected image using:
    • Intensity: overall intensity of texture – range 0 to 1.
    • Falloff: relative brightness – range 0 (brightest) to 2.
    • FOV: size of the projected image – range 0 to 3 (largest projection) – also influenced by the projector prim’s distance from the surface(s) on which the image is being projected.
    • Focus: focus of the image (hardness / softness) – range -20 to +20.
    • Ambience: contrast of the image – range 0 to 1.

 

Summing-up

How you use projectors is down to your imagination: using rotation scripts, you can generate “spinning” lights and other effects suitable for discos and so on; you can make the prim transparent, you can reduce it in size, you can incorporate it into other items – the list is endless.

For my part, I combined a projector with a “lamp shade” prim and a little bit of scripting so that the table lamp that forms a part of my 1-prim PrimPossible lounge suite will not only turn itself on at dusk and remain on through the “night”, it’ll also cast a pool of comforting light:

Realistic table lamp

Again, remember this is a Viewer effect – so only those who have shadows enabled on their own system will actually see the results of your labours.

Happy playing!

Addendum: in this article I have shadows enabled (my usual mode of running SL. As Ayamo Nozaki note in the comments – remembering this piece was originally written at a time when activating some of the more advanced graphics options was a little more convoluted – shadows *do not* have to be enabled for effects like this.   

“Backing-up” and applying your Viewer Preferences across multiple computers

Note: Firestorm has a built-in option to back-up your settings to a local drive and restore them.

I was recently asked if there is any way to quickly and easily copy your Viewer Preferences between computers if you use more than one machine to access Second Life.

As someone who uses both a reasonably powerful PC and a modest (but still SL-capable!) notebook, this is something that is of interest to me, because frankly, I get fed-up of resetting everything after each and every clean install – which, given the number of Viewers I flick between (currently  – wait for it – 18 for SL, not including Text clients!), can get a little tedious.

Preferences – setting once is OK…twice a drag…

And the short answer is – yes you can; what’s more, you can (in most cases) do it on a per Viewer basis.

There are two file locations used to store preferences and settings:

  • The user_settings folder, which contains all preference settings common to the Viewer
    • Note this may contain a sub-folder if you use Viewer-side Windlight presets
    • Copying this folder will also copy any camera presets you can created using the debug settings
  • The avatar setting folder (which has your avatar’s name in the format first_last), which contains information specific to your avatar

Generally speaking, the only folder you need to folder is user_settings. However, it is possible your Viewer may use some per account settings (such as Firestorm allowing tag colours to be set per account) – so you may need to move the avatar settings folder as well.

These folders are generally stored in the following locations:

  • Windows 7 / Vista: C:\users\\AppData\
  • Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settingxs\\Application Data\
  • Mac OS: ~/Library/Application Support/
  • Linux: ~/. (hidden folder, so you’ll need to enable “Show Hidden Files and Directories”)

Where: “” is the Windows account under which the Viewer was installed, and “” is the name of the Viewer (e.g. Firestorm, Exodus, etc.).

  • If you cannot find a folder in these directories named after your Viewer, the chances are the Viewer is using the default “secondlife” folder (so in Windows 7, for example, the location would be: C:\users\\AppData\secondlife)
  • If you have multiple Viewers using the same location (e.g. Viewer 3.x, Viewer 3.x Development and Viewer 3.x Beta), then the one set of files in user_settings will apply to all three Viewer versions.

Simply set your preferences on one computer, then:

  • To back them up, copy the folder(s) to another location / drive on your computer (remember to overwrite the copy with a fresh version each time you update your Preferences!)
  • To use them on another computer, copy the folder(s) to the required destinations on the other computer via your network / a removable drive.

And that’s it! Simples!

See also: user settings in the SL wiki.

What to do if you get banned

Over the last two and a bit months, I’ve been asked on no less than three occasions to assist people who have been banned from Second Life. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been asked – touch wood I’ve never faced banning myself – and have at best only heard third-hand of people’s experiences when banned; but I’ll take the fact that I have been asked as a) a form of compliment, and b) a learning situation – because the only way I’ve been able to provide any kind of help is to read the rules myself.

Linden Lab themselves provide a set of guidelines on the subject, but that said, and for what it is worth, here’s a quick guide – not a foolproof guide, mark, and one that doesn’t carry any guarantee – of things to do should you get banned. Following the notes below may not get you unbanned, but they may help the situation.

Try to avoid getting banned in the first place

Well, “duh!” I hear you say – but the fact of the matter is there are rules surrounding the use of Second Life, and whether we agree with them or not, the best way to avoid getting a ban in the first place is to avoid any infringement of said rules.

Now, granted, the Terms of Service aren’t a great help here. The statement Linden Lab has the right at any time for any reason or no reason to suspend or terminate your Account… is, not to put too fine a point on it, both bland and yet all-encompassing: it opens all of us to the risk of banning or suspension. However, there are some specifics that can be used to help avoid a ban (or a suspension):

  • Be careful with your choice of avatar name. Names which are misleading, offensive or infringing can be subject to banning, even if they survive the hurdle of registration. Names selected, or which appear (note the key word here) to be have been selected to causing deception or confusion may well be subject to a ban; similarly, names which infringe upon, or give the appearance of infringing upon, a copyright or trademark may also be subject to a ban. Likewise any name Linden Lab deems to be offensive or vulgar will be banned. So while you may well be creating that alt account in a fit of pique, just take care over the name! And remember that while it may seem a fun idea to give your avatar a sex-oriented or suggestive name (“GagMeTight Oh”, “SexyTwat Twitter”, or the like), and indeed a harmless prank, there is no guarantee that others will view your choice in the same harmless manner…
  • If you are engaged on SL commerce, be aware of Linden Lab’s rules on money transfers and financial transactions, and particularly the in-world caps on avatar-avatar transfers. While these then to invoke a suspension during a period of investigation rather than an outright ban, bans can occur if the rules are repeatedly ignored.
  • Don’t get abusive or rude in the forums or SL-related activities. Again, a ban in one can lead to a suspension / outright ban elsewhere.
  • Don’t engage in activities such as griefing – or even responding to griefing. Just because Joe Schmoe is bombarding your sim with self-replicating prims doesn’t give you the right to go after him come hell or high water, orbit him, attack him, hit his own land / sim in retaliation or anything else. All it may well do is place you on the wrong end of an AR.
  • Don’t put yourself in situations where your avatar or actions could be misinterpreted – such as wandering around a sexplay sim looking like an adolescent and engaging in sexual banter with others (again, note the emphasis and remember that LL have themselves made this one a particular minefield by stating on the one hand that it is “OK” for child-like avatars to roam “Adult” sims (Blondin Linden) but on the other hand, it is a violation for such avatars to engage in “sexual activities”).

Don’t panic!

Banning does not equate to account deletion. You inventory will be held for a couple of months following the ban, so you have time enough to launch an appeal and hopefully get the situation remedied.

Read the e-mail notifying you of your ban / suspension

Contrary to common myth, Linden Lab do send out a notification as to why an account is banned / suspended. If you’ve not received one, it’s probably more to do with the spam filtering on your e-mail system than it is with Linden Lab failing to notify you. So…if you find your account blocked, take the time to go investigate. Check your recent e-mails, look at your incoming junk, etc., (providing such is not automatically deleted) – you will find something from LL on the matter.

Gather some basic information

It seems ironic, but before you can move towards getting your account unblocked, you first need to prove who you are. As a start you’ll need to have the basic information on the account itself: the avatar first name and last name, the e-mail address connected to the account, the answer to your secret question (set when you created the account, and the biggest downfall for all of us, as we so easily forget), any payment information registered against the account, etc. You may even be required to provide other information as well – details of Friends on your list, your home sim, etc.

If you cannot provide basic criteria proving the account is yours – then, sadly, you’re sunk.

Contact Linden Lab

You have three options for this: raise a support ticket, fax them or write to them (see the Kb link above). Raising a support ticket requires you have an Alt account or can log-in as guest. I actually have little faith in the support ticket system when using it as a guest – all too often the response comes back that you’ve made a request that isn’t “appropriate” to the (pre-defined) subject heading, and has therefore been closed by the system – therefore, I’d personally opt for faxing / writing. Neither have the immediacy of a ticket, true, but both are harder to ignore.

If you opt for a support ticket anyway, and are logged as Guest (i.e. non-premium account), then:

  • Ticket type = “Special Question – basic account or Guest Login” -> “Account Issues” -> “Basic Account Issue” and select “The system says my account is Disabled or Suspended”
  • In the Disabled Issues field enter the highlights of the ban / suspension e-mail you received from LL. If you DON’T have the e-mail to hand, select I do not know why my account has been disabled or suspended

If you fax / write, make sure the fax / letter kick-off with the subject matter (“Appeal against account banning”) and give the basic information on the account in question as defined in (3.) and any information relating to the ban contained in any e-mail from LL.

Give your side of the story

Whether ticketing, faxing or writing set out clearly, concisely and politely the reasons why you thing the ban should be reversed.

  • If you think it may be a case of mistaken identity – say so; but try to provide evidence as to how it might have been
  • Don’t try to argue Linden Lab on the interpretation of the ToS – it is their ToS and they can interpret it as they please. You won’t get anywhere in polemic argument and you certainly won’t get unbanned. similarly don’t produce a diatribe on the “stupidity” of Linden Lab in all matters SL related, it’ll fall on deaf ears, and possibly rightly so
  • Don’t fudge the issue – if you can see the ban has arisen due to a genuine incident, own up. You may not have been in full possession of the ToS, you may been subjected to other pressures and acted out of character . Ignorance is never a good defence BUT – if LL detect that you are genuinely repentant on the matter, they may well be more willing to reconsider the ban
  • Don’t enter into long justifications for a wrongful action you know you committed (“well of course I orbited him and then littered his land with a gazilllion self-replicating prims that brought down the entire sim. But if you really knew him you know what a lowbrow, dirty stinking rotten son-of-a XXXX he is and how this has been coming for a long time and the little so-and-so has deserved it for so long now, in fact YYYY said the other day that if someone didn’t do something….”) – again, it won’t wash
  • Don’t try badgering LL for names and addresses of your accusers – they (rightly) won’t be forthcoming
  • Do be polite, get to the heart of the matter, put forward any evidence you have on the matter clearly and concisely and without resorting to threats, name-calling or intemperance

Remember: appeals are heard only once. If you blow it there is no supreme court or law lords you can further appeal to. Make what you have to say count, and be professional.

Give Linden Lab a fair chance to evaluate and respond to your appeal

Appeals do take time to be evaluated. Just because you’ve heard nothing back after 24, 48 or 72 hours doesn’t mean your situation isn’t being seen to, considered, or simply in the queue.

Don’t start e-mailing all and sundry in LL about your situation – it’ll be regarded as spamming the company and could extend a suspension (or even elevate it to a ban) or weigh against your appeal when it is reviewed.

If, on the other hand, you’ve not heard anything back from Linden Lab after two weeks or so, then you might want to contact them again, preferably via ticket, again including as much information as possible on the ban / suspension and the salient details of your appeal (when the ticket was raise / fax or letter sent, any reference numbers / ticket numbers, etc.).

And if they don’t unban you?

All you can do in this situation is evaluate for yourself what you want to do. You may want to start over, you may not want to; there may be other opportunities for you elsewhere. No-one else can really advise you or understand your circumstances better than you. That may sound hard, but it’s the truth.