Wednesday, September 30, 2009

City simulations

Looking for something completely different (bio-processors) I found an article in New Scientist about city simulations from photographs posted by the public on Flickr. The simulations have a watercolour impressionist feel about them.

The simulations were constructed using photographs posted by people of landmarks, and took hours rather than the weeks or month that one would expect for people to find, organise and position hundreds of pictures. The future possibilities as the software evolves, are mindblowing. Maybe one day it will be possible to explore the world virtually without leaving your armchair... set training operations in real landscapes... the potential uses for this are quite amazing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Come as You Are Party at Tiny Tin

I've been up to my eyes in work and so haven't found much time to blog recently. I decided to take the evening off yesterday when I received a "come as you are" party invitation from Elfod Nemeth and Canolli Capalini yesterday. Actually I was pretty pleased with how I was... in SL. In real life I was in my casual sweats and looking like an inmate of a home for the socially challenged, but fortunately they haven't linked up my computer webcam to SL yet, so nobody knew that. I'd been making poses again, and was casually dressed and looking pretty good, I thought. So I went along to Tiny Tin in the Vernian Sea... to the mushroom brewery.

There were quite a few people there. The hosts, Elf and Olli....

Hyasynth Tiramisu, the designer behind silentsparrow, which is a fantastic gothy victorian clothing shop for men and women, with gorgeously textured clothing. I love the fact that she makes things which are versatile: they can be used for RP Victorian Steampunk, or by choosing which elements you wear, can be made to look contemporary.

And a variety of good looking adults and a smattering of children....

They were all so frightfully photogenic that I spent my time taking pictures, instead of the inventory sorting I usually do when I go to parties on my own.

I shouldn't forget to mention DJ Dregg Gothly, who chose some great music to go with the party - music I only ever hear in SL.

It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't been to an SL party what fun they can be. The experience of being in the same place, listening to the same music, doing the same thing can be very immersive - yet would look very boring if you were watching another person at the screen doing that. It's something which is very hard to convey, it needs to be experienced. It was way past my bedtime when Val Trafalgar won the best dressed in...whatever contest, and I stumbled off to bed.

There's loads to do and see at Tiny Tin, even when there isn't a party, and I encourage you to go see it!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Any Pose

Some weeks ago I bought the gadget "AnyPose". So many weeks ago that when I rezzed it, the automated updater dropped a new one on me!

I'm making stuff for JeansForGenes at the moment, and one of the things I am making is a tote bag, for which I needed a certain arm position. I searched briefly for a full-perms version and then suddenly thought of the gadget I'd bought.

The manual does not make life easy - in fact I am considering writing my own, simpler version of this manual. It's a such a great, easy-to-use product, it's a shame that reading the manual makes one want to run and hide in a cupboard.

Most non-techie people faced with a gardget like this want to be taken step-by-step through the process. I found it quite hard to work out what to do, even once I had worked out how the things worked. How do you save a bvh file, again?

The product consists of a stand and a HUD. You wear the HUD, rezz the pose stand and stand on it. The HUD shows the avatar joints, and all you have to do is to click on the joint you want to move, and then on the arrow keys to move that joint. For making simple sits, stands or bag-holding poses it is simplicity itself. You can see what your action is doing to the avatar, and alter the pose until you are happy with it. I pulled a chair onto the pose stand, to make my sit, as seen in the photograph.

The problem for me came when I tried to work out how to save the pose so that it could be uploaded to SL and used in objects. I read and re-read the instructions but they didn't seem to help much. They gave me several ways to capture the text which included the instructions for the pose, but no way of knowing how to save it as a bvh file. There was some stuff about saving it as an all files file in notepad....

It's SO simple. You either click the button so that the gadget emails the information, or you click the button so that it opens in a web window in world. Copy and paste the text as indicated into a notepad text document, but when you save it, name the document anymypose.bvh, and select "all Files" instead of text document as the file type. It will then upload to SL with no problems. (The procedure is just like uploading a photo or sound.)

You have some decisions to make on uploading, about the priority given for the animation and the whether to loop it or not. I have *so* many things I would like to do, I don't know where to start....

To celebrate my first pose in SL, I am giving a chair containing it away free from my store on Nemesis.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Biting the hand...

Oclee tells me that Stroker Serpentine and Munchflower Zaius are suing Linden Lab for allowing IP theft, in effect. I found the story here and here and here and here. Ungrateful GITS. It will be particularly ironic if the thing that damages their businesses in SL is not the IP theft, but the fact that residents boycott their work in SL because they are in danger of killing the world as we know it for all of us.

I shan't be buying anything they make, until they desist. I encourage you to do the same.

Don't get me wrong... I don't like the scammers who steal people's work at all - have pursued a fair few myself. But the idea that it is all about money - that they would threaten the company that runs the world they rely on in order to obtain money. I think that's just stupid. To damage Linden lab is to kill the Golden Goose which has allowed Stroker to make money out of virtual sex goods, and Munchflower out of Gothy clothing.

It seems that the obsession he has had with IP infringement has finally taken over. They can defend it as wanting to change the rules etc... but I think it's still a gitty thing to do. I hope everyone avoids their products until they desist.

New free texture site

Stumbled over a new texture site this morning which looks like the beginning of something great. Texture Lovers is a site for creative commons, commercial or non-commercial, non-attribution licensed textures.

There aren't many textures on there at the moment, but those that are there look to be good quality. Some of the websites which offer free textures impose limits, or restrictions on the use of the textures, but this one doesn't.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Free Michael Jackson tribute dance

I woke to find an offline IM in my email inbox from Easy Babcock. As a tribute to Michael Jackson, Sine Wave has produced a four-minute-long, two-person dance called Liquid Felon. I rushed along to Sine Wave, found a willing partner in Shiyojin Kaligawa and tried it out.

Sometimes I have found Sine Wave dances a bit fast for SL, but this one is pretty well crafted, and seems to go on forever. It's definitely one worth having.

It was SO long it was hard to see when it restarted, but a couple asked us to let them have a go and so we ceded the platform to Katrin Daffyd and Philly Tigerpaw, seen above dancing the Liquid Felon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Being online

This week is a time for reviewing the year and wondering what I've done with it. I am finding that time is speeding up in the way that everyone says it does. Christmas and birthdays seem to be getting closer together with every passing year.

I'm beginning to feel that I am separated from my contemporaries by my immersion in online activities. Working as a writer, knowledge-base writer and Second Life builder, I spend quite a bit of time online, but it's much, MUCH more than that. Many of the online forums and websites have their own language, not quite a jargon, more a series of running jokes. The "unicorn chaser" of BoingBoing, the "who'll bring pie?" of the SL forums, the Trout Recreant rating system from SL Universe, and knowing what being Ruth'd is, or what a Box-on-head moment is in Second Life. Understanding lol or ROFL or AFAIK or IMNSHO.

The people I resonate with in the virtual world and online are passionate, honest, in favour of civil liberties and against restrictions that make no sense (like the current ones on photography in public places) and they care about them, protest against things, work towards making things better. They are familiar with and aware about issues of IP ownership and personal freedom, scathing of people who are inauthentic. It's a state of mind and intelligence which is hard to pin down but absolutely recognisable to those who know what it is.

They are connected to the issues of the day and to each other, and they recognise each other too. It's a whole new world which I feel is passing other people by, either because they aren't online or don't want to be.

My real-life friends are fantastic people, also passionate about a wide variety of things, interested in lots of things, intelligent and interesting... but many of them have hardly anything to do with life online and nothing at all with virtual worlds. Many of them seem asleep to the dangers of identity cards, the threat to civil liberties and the reason why such things are important. It is odd trying to match up the people I resonate with in virtual spaces and those I am friends with in the real world, especially when the latter have so little interest in or time for the former. It means that I do have two separate lives, which are almost impossible to reconcile. I still find myself passionately advocating for virtual worlds when challenged - "why would you pretend to be something you aren't?" or "why don't you switch off the computer and do something in the real world?" - although I have given up on trying to persuade family and friends that the virtual world might have something to offer them. It's one of those things you have to learn by experience.

I'm assuming that if we don't manage to kill ourselves and the planet in short order, the cohesion of the virtual world and the real world will get easier. My sons and daughter use a variety of ways to keep in touch with their friends, including online messaging, texting, email, facebook, webcams and skype. I've noticed that even the boys are used to juggling several activities at once, and they rarely simply watch television, finding that too little to keep them interested. Often they are playing a game, talking to friends and watching television all at the same time.

There will always be people who decline to use computers and online methods of communications, but I guess that will be an increasingly small number of people as time goes by. I've had some of the funniest moments, some of the most romantic, and some of the most moving in an online or virtual setting. I can see enormous potential in virtual world for education and communication. I just hope that, one day, some of my real life friends will discover it too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Steampunk hunting

I went to see Elfod's new shop in Vernian Sea... many apologies to the people who followed my now-out-of-date link and found themselves drowning in the aforesaid Vernian Sea. Elfod has made a great barge, and has lined up three outside Tiny Tim... one to stand on, one for the shop and one for backdrop.

Of course that didn't stop me trying to explore the shopping barge! While I was stumbling around (and fell in the sea myself) I noticed a poster, which announced a grid-wide hunt in September for all Steampunks, alongside a box of freebies. If you go to Elfod's shopping barges, you will be able to click on the poster, and receive the first landmark for the hunt.

There were quite a few people in the first couple of locations with a group tag for the hunt on, so I presume this is a successful way to bring prospective customers into stores, by ensuring that the treasure hunt attracts the right sort of customer in the first place. Seems to me it is the sort of event that calls for a group of like-minded people and a concerted effort. It looks like fun...and lots of freebies too!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Authentic German soundscapes

I've always been a huge fan of Acoustic Alchemy, Hastur Pieterson's shop of sounds. I sent him my compliments after a first visit to his shop, many moons ago, because it was so well laid out and organised with the customer in mind.

I think sound is one of the things which often gets overlooked in SL. Too many builds around the grid are smothered in those freebie sounds and therefore sound the same... it's the equivalent aurally of covering somewhere in Linden trees: they do the job but are a bit samey, there's no variety or texture to them.

Hastur has worked hard to provide variety and to provide them in a form which is usable for even the most novice of builders. Now he's releasing a whole collection of sounds which he has garnered from a trip to Germany. The press release tells me: "Hastur Pierterson and Velma Aldwych recently traveled to Germany to attend the Facets of Virtual Environments conference in Berlin. During the twelve day stay, Hastur took the opportunity to record as much audio as possible in Berlin and the surrounding areas. The resulting ninety-five Atmosphere Orbs are an amazing mix of both urban and natural backgrounds.

“This was a great opportunity to bring more sound recordings into virtual environments from real world locations. Soundscapes are a very critical and often overlooked element when developing a unique and memorable venue in Second Life.”, said Hastur Pierterson. “In the last year we have made over one hundred recordings up and down the California coast, Nevada, and Arizona. Germany is a perfect destination for our latest expansion of field recordings.

“We coordinated with Jan Northoff (aka January Lightfoot in SL) and Tobias Neisecke, the founders of and creators of the famous BERLINin3D sims, to identify specific locations around Berlin that were mirrored in the virtual world and then bring those soundscapes into Second Life.

“It did not matter which direction we walked or which building we entered. Every place we went had a wonderfully unique audible background. Train stations, subways, museums, markets, cathedrals, restaurants, city parks, and busy street corners. I had to empty the digital recorders every evening to keep enough free space available for the next day.”

You can see a list of the sounds available here. If you've never thought about the sounds in your builds, why not check out Acoustic Alchemy? They have sea sounds, distant church bell sounds, natural forest sounds... you may be surprised at what a well-chosen sound can add to your building.

Don't forget that in addition to Hastur's wonderful sounds, I told you about Elfod Nemeth's great footsteps gadget, which allows you to add realistic footstep sounds on appropriate materials for your builds - I've now edited this to fix the shop location. Check that out at his shop on the Vernian Sea.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Amazing quality freebies - get them while you can!

Quite often I pick up a box of freebies and find that the quality of the items leaves a lot to be desired. Actually, I think that if I examine my own freebies from four or five years ago, I'd probably think that too.

However, from time to time someone offers something exceptional and I think this is one of those occasions. Miabella Foxley is offering a "box of everything" free until September 9th. You can't go and buy the items from a shop or on Xstreet: you have to join her group and then download the only notice in the group to get the box.

Here are the full instructions. Log into your SL account, click search at the bottom of the screen, then click the people tab in the search window. Type in Miabella Foxley and search for her profile. On the first page of her profile, you will see a list of her groups, which includes M.Fox Boxed. Double click on that group and the window for the group opens up. Join the group, go to the group notices page, click to download the only notice, and you will have a box in your inventory.

Go somewhere that you can build, drag the box out of your inventory and right click it, choose open, and then click the button at the bottom of the screen once it has loaded, to save the items to your inventory.

Everything you see in the photograph and a lot more is included in the box. It is a great shame that so much of it is no mod, and a large amount of it is no transfer, but the items are of very good quality, and many would be useful to dress a build - stacks of books, books with papers, an electric fan to name but three.

I'm not sure whether this is a question of being unable to pay rent on a store, a publicity stunt, a cry for help or a symptom of frustration, but I think it will certainly draw attention to Ms Foxley's work.