Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reader Submitted: If Shakespeare Did Second Life

All the grid’s a stage,
And all the avatars merely players:
They have they logins and their crashes;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the island,
Begging for help all creatures around
And then the very first teleport, with Linden skin
And plasteline hair, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to camp, and then the lover,
Dancing like Astaire, with a freebe plant
Worn to his mistress’ glory. Then a trader
Full of strange oaths and all dressed in gold,
Jealous in profit, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the empty mall. And then the shop owner.
In a high prim suit with custom-made skin,
With eyes severe and shape of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the low prim avatar, like noob
With no overrider and no group tag on side
His youthfull HUD, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shape, and his big manly voice
Turning again towards newbe simple chat
And mistakes in his type. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second ALT and mere oblivion
Sans land, sans friends, sans groups, sans everything

Jacek Shuftan

Sunday, October 10, 2010

SL Poetry - Life Cycle

the old tall oak
stands firm in its roots
it has stood there for many years
wind blows, rustling its leaves

still green leaves
splashed against
a perfect cerulean sky
on an october afternoon
an idyllic scene

it welcomes the birds that come
and perch on its branches
each day

the birds convene
they chatter back and forth
the tree smiles
it loves them like children

and the birds have had their meeting
they fly of in a gathered flock
as though children of the wind

And the tree smiles once again
and bids them farewell ...for today

They will be back tomorrow
and the cycle will repeat

Shellie Sands

Saturday, October 9, 2010

SL Viewers: What's the Deal, What do I Use, and Why

I was recently asked which Second Life viewers am I using. I decided to answer that in a note since it's sorta a long answer and it turned into an article.

I use two different computers when on Secondlife or other 3d platforms like ReactionGrid. They are both Windows based systems. One is a desktop HP with an AMD processor that was bought in 2006 but has upgraded hardware and many software tweaks to personalize and speed up processing. It has an NVidia graphics (9600) card and a Soundblaster Live sound card as well as 4 gigs of memory. My laptop is a Toshiba Satellite that I hook up to 32" monitor. The processor is about a year old and it has no extras but 2 gigs of memory. The laptop is what I use most for 3d platforms due to the processor being newer, which cuts down on lag

Everyone has their priorities when seeking a viewer. Gamers look for fast rezzing and stability as well as those little extra features that tickle their fancy. Builders and designers look for features beyond the norm but my main focus when reviewing is what the average user is looking for and that's fast rezzing and stability (crashes). Many do not realize that a computer's processor is what matters in order to have the best online experience with any 3d platform, not a video card (unless you're a gamer) but the processor. The more updated it is, the better your experience because you won't lag, you can take advantage of many viewer features and your graphics will leave you in awe.

I will not substitute stability and fast rezzing for anything else. If a viewer does not offer a step up process for rezzing, I know to lower, then gradually increase my distance for faster rezzing. I'm typically on high or ultra viewing but also lower it for rezzing when first entering a sim.

I use Snowglobe for shopping, riding my chopper and sometimes exploring because it's the fastest rezzing & most stable viewer. I use my Mystitools radar when viewer does not offer one like Snowglobe but a few sims disable or make radar scanning sleep due to lag contribution, which is a minor deficit with Snowglobe.

Snowglobe viewer

Ascent is one of my favorite viewers for clubbing because it has built in radar and the combined features of many viewers, yet is not as fast in rezzing as Snowglobe, if it was I'd stick with Ascent as my favorite viewer because it has all the features I want and more. Ascent Viewer

Imprudence and Phoenix, I use just to keep updated on their development and sometimes for building/teraforming, depending on my needs at the time. I do notice that both are slow at rezzing more than Snowglobe, especially with other avatars. I have to speed up avatar rezzing by switching my groups tag (this really works) but it still takes longer with Imprudence. I do notice that Phoenix is a little better than Imprudence with rezzing. A few of these new viewers share the previous Emerald viewer code but with small code changes like GUI.

Imprudence Viewer

Phoenix Viewer

As for other viewers, I used them for review/article purposes only and they have not impressed me. There is a new viewer out called The Dolphin Viewer, which is based on Snowglobe 1.5 source. It contains many fixes and enhancements for explorers they claim but I have yet to review this one but will soon. Dolphin Viewer info here

I'll restate that I do not trust any developer ever associated with the recently ceased Emerald project because I know their history and I'm not referring to the recent Emerald Gate but things before that, except for LordGregGreg Back. He had started his own project with the Emergence Viewer and I'm not sure what's up with that project but it seems kinda dead. I do suggest not using a viewer that isn't updated periodically. Greg has recently teamed up (again) with previous Emerald developers after having left them in the past due to creative differences, legalities and abuse (he stood up for himself and users, then resigned). I do wonder about the current Phoenix team (ex emerald + new developers) because their credibility is shot to say the least. If you want to risk your computer and your privacy then use Phoenix. The risk is much less now that the development team "should" be working with full disclosure (transparency). Linden Labs waited too long and gave them too much opportunity before they disqualified Emerald and the team, so I really don't trust Linden Labs in regards to monitoring 3rd party viewers. Linden Labs is accountable by US law to keep it's users safe from privacy invasion and infiltration but they've proven they take that too lightly in the past. Emergence Viewer

There is a viewer that is impresive and that's Kirstens, which is a high end viewer meant to be used for in dept photography and Machinima. It requires more computer resources than any other viewer and a technical savy user. If you can handle this viewer, I suggest you go for it but keep in mind, if you are not the above average user, stay away from it but it's well worth it if you can. The graphics alone will blow you away. Kirstens Viewer

I wish all the viewers had integrated multi media like LL viewer 2.0 for many reasons, that offer numerous benefits for advertising, education and avatar appearance. I am looking forward to the release of Snowstorm, which is a open source project with LL. It's sort of an upgrade of Snowglobe, which was the first open source project between LL and open source developers but with a GUI we are used to. Snowstorm will have features integrated from other favorite viewers as well as new additions and hopefully multi-media. Snowstorm viewer Wiki page

(important) I just manually updated my viewers. Keep in mind that most don't have automatic updates and with all the new viewers out and LL constant updates, I suggest checking for viewer updates at least twice monthly. Check your viewer's version and the web sites current downloadable version.

My favorites are in this order:

1. Snowglobe

2. Ascent

3. Phoenix

3. Kirstens

4. Imprudence

5. LL Viewer2.0

SammanthaS Nightfire

Friday, October 8, 2010

Amaretto Horses

I was out looking for a park the other day when I found myself in the middle of a herd of horses. They were near the path leading to Artis Natur, located at Reveleations (121/156/29). I must have arrived at dinner time because the horses were all whinnying and restless. When I spotted their owner, Freyja Nemeth, I decided to postpone my hike in order to talk to her.

Freyja Nemeth and her partner, Ran Garrigus, have been raising Amaretto horses for about 3 weeks. The Amaretto horses have only been available for about a month, so Nemeth and Garrigus have gotten in on the ground floor of this newest addition to breedable SL animals. Between them they own about 22 horses.

Prior to raising horses, Nemeth raised Ozimal bunnies. The horses, she explained, are more complex, and serious breeders keep track of bloodlines and traits in order to try to breed more exotic horses. “Each horse has two genes for each trait,” she said, “so once you start breeding them, that's when you can get out rare coats that sell for lots of money. For example, a starter horse might be a golden Palomino. Some hidden traits are coats like Red Arabians or Silver/Black Mustangs. And they can also get special eyes like Diamond or Opal or upright or long manes instead of normal manes.”

The Amaretto horses vary widely in price. If purchased as a pack of 1 male and 3 females, the cost is about $3000L. At the auction houses or from private sellers, the cost can range from as low as $200L to as high $80,000L. Rare stallions have been known to cause bidding wars at the auctions, she said.

Her dapple grey, “Prosperina”, was a special limited edition horse and very pretty. Nemeth also has a foal who was born with aquamarine eyes, another special trait. The foal was just hours old when I saw her, but she’ll be mature in 7 days and be able to breed in about 4 months.

The horses can also be ridden, and Nemeth assured me they were gentle. She hopped up on “Branwen” to show me how the horses move. Because they are worn, they can be ridden in any location, which is a plus. Like RL horses, however, these SL horses must be fed and cared for on a regular basis. If they aren’t cared for and fed, they can get sick, which means vet bills, medicine, etc. Horse food costs about $200L/month. Saddles, bridles, and other accessories are also available.

The horses were fascinating, so I decided to visit a couple of auction houses. The first, Herdy's Auction Barn, located at Nantes (56, 117, 23), was packed with residents and horses. I just missed the live auction, but there were silent auctions going on continually. Owners place their horses in the stalls that line the barn, set a minimum bid, and wait for auction fever to hit. "Beck", a silver Arabian female had almost 3 hours remaining on her auction. A resident named A. Lupindo (a distant cousin maybe?) had bid $10,000L, but he or she had been outbid. When I left, the high bid was $12,500L.

At Red Barn Horses, located at Lighthouse Oasis (196, 121, 301), horses filled a couple of barns and row and after row of outside corrals. Auctions are held every morning there. Signs were posted to explain the rules and how the auctions work, which was helpful.

For more information about Amaretto horses, check out But if horses and bunnies aren’t your thing, just wait. The rumor around SL is that kittens are one the way.

Grey Lupindo

Sunday, October 3, 2010

SL Fiction: Walk Into the Water

He walked toward their beach house, the one he and Deborah had worked so hard to get. It was still hard to believe, after all the years of work, of saving and planning that they had finally made their dream a reality. The house on the beach, the 42 foot schooner moored to the dock, everything was perfect. Deborah, his true love and wife of 19 years, by his side, fulfilling everything he could have ever desired in a partner. He had never before been this content with his life. “Surfing,” he though to himself, “I think I’ll go surfing today.”

The sounds of the waves licking at the pier were in perfect sync with the gulls singing overhead. The breeze, out of the west, was soft and gentle on his face. He loved the smell of the salty air, it reminded him of family vacations at the coast when he was a child. But the coast where he and his parents would trek to during the hot Texas summers was nothing like this. Here, the sand wasn’t gray, but white, and delicate and pristine; the water not the sea green of the gulf, but a beautiful azure blue ocean, clear and crystalline.

He scooped his feet through the soft clean sand as he walked, relishing the sensations. He wanted the passing of time to freeze at this very moment, to seal and preserve forever this feeling, this moment, this wonderful sense of contentment. He would be happy to live in this moment and in this place for the rest of his life. “Heaven…this must be what Heaven is like,” he mused.

“Dad?” it was his daughter.

“Good Morning, Princess!”

Heather was almost 15 now, and had been begging to start driving lessons this summer, but the thought of her behind the wheel terrified him. In fact, the thought of driving period – had become unnerving to him. Maybe it was old age creeping in, or the increasingly dimming memory of hectic city driving, exchanged now for their life here on the island, where walking, biking and sailing were the only needed modes of transportation. The thought of Heather going away to college, and having to drive the treacherous highways, cars and trucks recklessly flying by and at her at breakneck speeds…he shivered.

“Princess, I’ve been thinking…about the driving lessons. I think, maybe, we should wait a little bit…maybe another year before…”

“Mom!” she shouted. “Why do we always have to remind him? Every time! It’s getting old.”

“Dad, walk into the water with me.” She waded out into the ocean defiantly, and then suddenly dropped under the surface.

“Heather!” He ran in, small explosions of foamy water flying out from under his feet, until she popped back up.

“Heather, that’s not funny! You scared the heck out of me.” They walked slowly back to shore, his arm wrapped around her shoulder.

“Dad, look.” she spoke softly now.

“What?” a smile returning to his face.

“Your pants, your shoes, your socks…see? See them? Geez.”

“Hey, I like these pants! And these are the shoes that…” he stopped.

“Dry? I’m…dry. But…”

Deborah’s voice broke into the growing awkward silence, “It’s the software glitch, Honey, we should have it fixed soon, I told you that already. You need to be patient, and stop shutting down at night like I told you. Now go get ready for school and let me talk with you dad.”

Deborah was now beside him, looking amazing. She always looked amazing. She was wearing a yellow sundress and sandals, and like the sun itself, radiated warmth and beauty from her hair, her eyes, her fingers. She was gorgeous, her long auburn hair waving gently with the ocean breeze. She rarely wore makeup or jewelry; she didn’t need it, and he loved that about her.

Still, after 19 years, there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t remind himself how lucky he was to have won her heart. He could have easily become one of those sad middle-aged men he used to see on business trips; unhappy with their spouse, pitifully and always unsuccessfully seeking illicit happiness with a waitress or a stranger in hotel lounges. They reminded him of desperate salmon, fighting the ruthless currents of time and reality, looking for a one night spawn.

“Software glitch…Deb, What are you talking about?” he chuckled, waiting for the joke.

“John, the upgrades should be available within a month or two, until then I’ll keep trying to make sure Heather doesn’t shut down at night unless…oh, wow, this is…” there was a disquieting despair creeping into her words. “I hate to keep having to tell you.”

“Tell me what? Deb, what is it?” his brow furrowed by his sincere confusion.

“John, once the upgrades come, you’ll be able to remember everything from the previous sessions. It’s just that, for now I have to tell you every…”

“Sessions? Deb, what’s going on? Where did Heather go? Tell me what?!” His frustration always seemed to reach a new high each time she went through this. It concerned her that it was beginning to turn to anger. She didn’t want Heather to see him like this, to spoil her memories of him.

“Heather had to sign out, she’ll be late for school again. She’ll be back online later.” she sighed.

“Deb…I don’t understand…”

“John…Baby, try to remember…the accident.”

“Accident?” his voice trembled.

“Yes, Baby. Six months ago. Try to remember, John. I hate this. They said that the AI interface-software-patch-thingy would fix this. What a waste of money. I should have just waited for the upgrade, but they said the patch would allow you uninterrupted access to the MARM data, without rebooting, but…

“Wait! MARM? The ‘MARM’ data? That was the mind and memory mapping program we did together in June. I…I remember. Memory, augmented…reality…module. MARM, that’s right isn’t it?”

“Good, baby. Yes, that’s right. That’s good. We did the baseline mind mapping together, the whole family. John…do you remember…the accident?” she waited.

“Rain,” he felt the blood drain from his face. “It was raining and I was late. The meeting in Portland,” his mind raced backwards. “I…I wanted to drive instead of flying. But…oh…” he felt sick. “God…please help me.”

“It’s OK, John. It’s over now.”

“No! I remember now, spinning out of control and…the truck, the semi…it was just there, in front of me, barreling at…me. Then…” he stopped as his mind replayed the sound of metal twisting, steel scraping against steel, glass shattering. He heard himself screaming, and then, the sickening smell of gasoline, of smoke, of intolerable heat, singeing his nostrils. He started to weep.

“I know baby. I know it’s hard, John, but it’s over now.”

“But,” he looked over his body; his perfect body, without scar, without blemish. He was lean and muscular and…perfect. “But, I…”

“John, your mind mapping data…your thoughts, your memories, your emotions…the essence of who you were…you’re still here. We created this sim, Heather and I, from the data you uploaded, so we could be together, and…”

“Were? I…I’m…” he stopped himself from saying the inevitable. Then silence. She knew it usually took him about 30 seconds from this point. She waited.

“I died? I’m dead? God, please help me…I died. This isn’t real? This isn’t real.”

“Baby, it is real. It is you. Don’t lose control, don’t let go of that thought, stay with me. John, everything that made you a person, everything that made you who you were is still here. You’re here. We can still be together.” she tried to reassure him, but she didn’t know what “being together” meant anymore.

“But, Deb, it’s not real, this isn’t real - none of it. The beach, our home…it’s…what is it…a simulation? This is all virtual…I’m not real…I’m…a program? I’m a damn software program?!”

“No. John it’s more than that, a lot more.”

“Dear God…help me.” his plea was desperate and sincere. Then, as if in answer, there was a sound, a cry…a baby.

“John, I’m so sorry, but I have to run. I have to get the baby ready, and my small group meeting at church is in 20 minutes, then I’m supposed to run over to see your mom, and..”

“Baby…our baby?”

“John, I can’t do this again now. We’ll talk later, ok? I’ll be home about three-thirty. We’ll do something fun. Hang gliding or dancing at that weird Jazz club you like.”

“But…we had our baby? I don’t…”

“John, I have to shut down the computer again. I’m so sorry, but the cleaning people will be here today, and I don’t want the computer on when they’re around. So, I need to shut down, ok?”

“Wait. Shut down? What happens when you shut down?” he felt all of his breath being sucked out of him, gasping for air, for clarity, for…hope. He was terrified.

“Nothing happens, Baby. Just sleep. Go to sleep, and we’ll be together before you know it.”

“Deborah…I love you.” he heard his voice crack under the strain.

“I love you too, John. I miss you so much.”

“But, I’m right here…right?”

“Sleep, Baby,” she whispered.

The tears started to flow down her face now, the salty pools already blurring her vision of him. She forced herself to reach for the mouse. She’d already learned to do it quickly. Not to listen at this point, to go into autopilot. She clicked START, SHUT DOWN. Open programs began to close, the sequence would only take 30 seconds.

“God, please help me,” he whispered. He closed his eyes and began to pray.

By FoxM Ember

Originaly printed in Second Life Newspaper