“Business? Mankind was my business!”

That’s a lit’rary allusion; ol’ Marley (the ghost of ol’ Marley) says that to ol’ Scrooge, after Marley’s said how he wears the chains he forged in life, an’ Scrooge says “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob….”.

Marley goes on to say that “The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

In his My First Two Months at Linden Lab posting on the official Second Life weblog, Marley, I mean M, Linden talks about how wunnerful SL is an’ all, and I respond in the comments:

Very nice to see this level of communication with us residents! My main reservation about the post concerns how utterly business-oriented it is; I mean, sure, SL has lots of possible business uses that are really killer, but I’d like to see the CEO also appreciating and acknowledging the potential for creativity, for individual transformation, for silliness and FUN.

“2. The diversity of use cases in Second Life is mind-boggling. If you were able to read every story around the world about Second Life, you’d see a tremendous variety of use cases presented – e.g., medical research and treatment, education, marketing, customer support…and the list goes on.”

It would be good if a list like this also mentioned music, art, dance, social interactions, international friendships, discussions of important world issues between people who would never otherwise have met, creativity, imagination, and so on. To my mind that’s really where the transformative power of SL lies.

Oh and… no one should ever say “and the list goes on”. No one. Ever. Just sayin’… :)

Which is to say, the “use case” stuff that M talks about is, in my incredibly humble opinion, but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of the cool stuff that people do in SL, and that they are going to do.

I have no doubt that there will be amazing killer business uses of SL, that will save people lots of money and make people lots of money, and change the way that we do business, and that will be fun and good and all.

But beyond that I think that SL has the potential to change the way we live. And that’s vastly more interesting and important, and I hope M realizes it…

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Lags, Freezes, and RenderGeom

So for a long time I was having occasional whole-machine crashes in Second Life, where I’d get a Blue Screen of Death from Windows, blaming the video drivers for something, or the screen would go black and the machine unresponsive, or the machine would stop responding with the screen just frozen on whatever I was last seeing, or the machine would power down entirely.

Camming around too fast or too far from my AV seemed to increase the crashing, so I slowly got trained not to do that (although ordinarily camming all over the heck is one of my chief occupations).

There were a few days when the entire machine would lock up about half the time that I tried to start up the SL viewer, and the other half the time it would usually lock up or crash within an hour or so. That was horrible, and I was afraid I’d just have to give up SL entirely. Then it stopped doing that for no apparent reason, and as of 1.19 I’ve pretty much stopped having SL-related machine crashes entirely. The viewer itself crashes once in awhile, but not often, and it’s pretty quick to start up again.

Now I’m running 1.20, the former RC now actually Released, and things seem even better. FSP seems higher, and camming and zooming and so forth seem smoother. I’m back to camming all over the place, and I haven’t had any crashes at all yet on 1.20 (knock wood), although I expect that I will eventually. And I like some of the new 1.20 features (stretching images in the image previewer, clicking on names in chat and IM to bring up profiles, being able to be smug about how low my Avatar Rendering Cost is, etc, etc), and I haven’t found anything I really dislike. Yay!

There’s still one very annoying viewer behavior left, though. Sometimes at random (and I think more often when there are alot of AVs around, but I could be wrong about that) my fps (frames per second, the framerate) will drop from some normalish value to significantly less than one; that is, my view of SL will get updated less often than once per second! And it’s not only the view; because of the way the SL viewer is written, it means that it also won’t notice my keystrokes or mouse actions except every second or two (or three or…). Which makes it pretty much impossible to do anything, even chat!

If I turn off prim rendering (control shift alt 9, natch), things get fast again. On the other hand everyone is bald and all buildings and objects vanish. :) So I can chat again and stuff, but I can’t sit on things, and I tend to walk into walls.

My investigations so far reveal that pretty much invariably what’s happening is that the “RenderGeom” part of the viewer has gone insane, and started to eat up huge amounts of time. The figure there shows the timing graphs (control shift 2) during one of these “freezelag” times, both with and without prim rendering on. The top part of the graph is with prim rendering on and a horribly low FPS rate; note that almost the entirety of each horizontal bar is the grey color of RenderGeom. The bottom half is with prim rendering off and a high FPS; RenderGeom is still significant, but not like 95% of rendering time. The bottom part is also what the bars look like, roughly, when I have prim rendering on but I’m not freezelagging. (Note that the chart is in normalized mode, so each bar is the same size, even though the absolute scene rendering time is much much much higher in the top ones.)

Has anyone else experienced similar stuff? Have any clever suggestions? There’s a JIRA on the problem, and it has an internal Linden issue number, but it doesn’t seem to be getting alot of visible attention or work. If anyone has seen any other related JIRA (I did search for “RenderGeom”), a pointer to that would also be greatly appreciated.

Isn’t that all fascinating? :) In other news, I’ve been flying around and exploring and dancing and talking to people and writing scripts and stuff!

La plus ca change

So Botgirl Questi has posted an extremely cool (if slightly disturbing) morph that she made between Boy Dale and Girl Dale (and back and forth). Here’s a nice androgynous midway frame:

(I was going to embed the movie here rather than just having a linked still, but it turns out that wordpress doesn’t allow embedding those big scary advanced “Flash movie” things, phht. This reminds me of the advantages of good old hand-written and FTP-uploaded HTML.)

I keep meaning to write down all the slider numbers for my most common shapes, for the purposes of recreating myself in OpenSim grids an’ all (but there are so many sliders!). I’ll be curious to see how similar Boy Dale’s numbers and Girl Dale’s numbers are; I frankly can’t remember how much shape and face tweaking I’ve done over the months. From the morph, I’d say there’s a strong family resemblance at the very least… :)

Still not a party at Indolence

I still haven’t had a party at Indolence, but on Thursday night there was sort of an alpha-test. I was sitting around at Botgirl‘s place in Extropia, talking to bg and Vidal and Peer Infinity (who was in pink-bunnygirl form). When the conversation turned to strip-clubs (as it usually seems to in SL hahaha) I mentioned Indolence, and it was suggested that we go and take a look at it.

After we arrived and were playing around and bouncing off the walls and so on, I invited Michele over, and Peer invited a fellow bunnygirl, and Vidal invited Kanomi™, and someone who has yet to admit it :) invited a guy named Alonzo something in a newbie AV, who seemed to be trying to be unfriendly or something but left pretty quicky. Botgirl also brought in her ‘bot Majik, who danced naked on the sexy-dancing chair and kicked off a discussion of shyness, intimacy, and the significance of who or what is “behind” an AV.

A grand time was had by all.

Not Party Guests

That’s me an’ Michele doing the tango, Kanomi dancing with Peer (or possibly the other bunnygirl; in keeping with the stripclub theme they both removed much of their pretty fur, revealing pretty human skin underneath), and Botgirl (in wings and startlingly brand-nonconformant red hair) dancing with Vidal (in futuristic-fae form).

I think this was more people than have ever been in Indolence at one time before! We still haven’t played Word Frog, or raided the ‘fridge much, or drank the drinks. But we did play on the furniture some!

Mistress Vidal

That’s me and a scantily-clad Botgirl, submitting ourselves socially to Playboy Bunny Vidal as she looks out over the festivities from the throne on the dias in the corner.

Really must have an actual party sometime….

Owning stuff: WoW, SL, owners and holders

So this is going to be just a little rambling on the subject of how virtual worlds keep track of who can do what to what objects, who owns things, and so on. I’m thinking about these things for a paper that Zha and I are (slowly) writing, and I’m posting about it here because, hey, this is a weblog, and you’re supposed to write down every single tiny thought that you have (aren’t you?). There probably won’t even be a picture.

I spend lots of time in Second Life (SL), and also in World of Warcraft (WoW). In both of these (as in most ALGOL-60, I mean ADVENT, derived games), one has an “inventory”, where you have lots of Things.

In SL, each of these things has some data associated with it saying, roughly, what you can do with it. There’s a copy bit that says whether or not you can make copies of it (by copy-and-paste within inventory, or various other ways), a modify bit that says whether you can modify it via the Edit dialogs, and a transfer bit that says whether you can give it to someone else.

There are lots of subtlties (things can be set to, or shared with, or deeded to, a group rather than a person, things can’t be directly set to  no-copy, no-modify and no-transfer (i.e. all three bits set off), although there are simple tricks that let you get the same effect, the effective permissions of an object depend both on its own bits and the bits of any further things that are inside the object, and so on), but this basic “c/m/t” model captures most of what SL lets you do with your stuff.

In WoW, every thing that you have in inventory is of a certain type, and every thing that’s of that type is identical to every other (except for enchantment, which we’ll mention in a second). Every Essence of Fire is the same as every other Essense of Fire, every Blue Lake Cloak is the same as every other Blue Lake Cloak. SL doesn’t have any corresponding notion of type that I can think of.

You can never make a copy of a WoW thing (so in SL terms everything has the copy bit off, and is no-copy). You can’t really modify things either, except to the extent of, say, enchanting armor. Whether or not you can enchant a particular piece of armor isn’t a setting on that particular piece of armor, but on every piece of armor of that same type; so if this particular Bracers of Yogurt Strength can be enchanted, then so can every other Bracers of Yogurt Strength.

In WoW you can give most things to someone else via the Trade window, except for some things, which are “soulbound”. Soulbound is pretty much the WoW equivalent of no-transfer.

WoW objects can also have a “unique” attribute. If an object is “unique”, then you can have only one thing of that type. This also extends to numbers greater than one; if something is “unique 100”, then you can have none of them, or one, or two, or fifty, or 100, but not 101. SL has no corresponding concept.

In both SL and WoW, you own the things in your inventory. If you give something to someone else, they become the owner. There are exceptions to this in both worlds: in SL it may be possible to have a group-owned thing in your inventory without becoming the owner (I actually don’t know if that’s true), and in WoW you can sort of hold something out to someone else for lockpicking or curse-removing or whatever by putting it into the “will not be traded” slot in the Trade window: they can act on it as long as it’s in that slot, but they don’t come to own it. (And that’s not really an exception, because it doesn’t get into their inventory.)

Isn’t that all fascinating? :) I’d like to do a similar analysis of some other virtual worlds. Maybe I’ll go dig up an Entropia or Eve Online player or something. Or try out Twinity or vSide or There.com again.

Oh, and: it occurs to me that the second feature, that you generally own all the stuff in your inventory, smooshes together what are two different concepts in RL: owner and possessor. In RL, I can lend you something and I still own it, even though it’s you who has it right now. Would there be anything useful about having this concept in virtual worlds? What if I could lend something to you to use, but retain ownership, and with ownership certain powers over it? And what powers should those be? Should I be able to see what things I’ve lent out and where they are right now? Should I be able to reclaim them with a click, and have them return to my inventory from the lendee’s inventory, or wherever they were rezzed?

No idea if this would actually be useful for anything, but it bubbled up in my mind, and I thought I’d toss it out there…

Meaties

When the negotiations were over for the day, Vystar and his team spread their wings and spiraled down out of the tree, landing on the enormous lily pad at the base as protocol demanded. With nods and whispers to each other, they each blinked out to their separate evenings. Vystar went a few thousand meters up and several regions west, floating in an undulating purple mist as he changed from avian form to something more relaxed, a curvy young woman with feathers for hair and long purple fingernails, dressed in cotton lounging pajamas.

She whispered to Patrice and Gentle Logan, to AnyFred and WhaTilde, and eventually was summoned to the latest version of the Sound Crystal Amphitheatre, suspended above an orange desert, where five or ten of her friends sat or sprawled on cushions in the crowd listening to a young dragon playing a citern and singing imaginary folk songs. Patrice had a new collection of semi-autonomous follower objects swarming around her head, and Vystar amused herself sending them little rushes of force and meaningless commands, just to see what they would do. Patrice stuck out her tongue, but was too absorbed in the music and some quasi-sexual exchange with a winged warrior to do anything about it.

The dragon finished his set to general applause and the launching of numerous color-rockets, Vystar fended off a pair of whispers from annoyingly persistent ex-lovers, and people had just begun discussing where to go next when she frowned and lay back in her ornate golden seat.

“Excuse me a moment, folks. Something happening Outside.”

Patrice crinkled her face at her, and Gentle Logan said, “Be careful”; Vystar’s eyes glazed over and her body relaxed.

He put down the controller and stood up from his lounge, blinking as he pulled his gaze away from the screen that covered half the wall. He flexed his arms and shoulders, opened and closed his hands, out of the healthy habit that everyone tried to cultivate when going Outside. The noise that had disturbed him continued, and he crossed the room to the window, a slightly pudgy pale man in undyed cotton pants and a thin shirt.

The room was small and spare, clean, subtly lit by indirect lighting. It contained only the lounge, the screen, the terahertz box, a selection of controllers and goggles, a small refrigerator in one corner, a door leading to the shared bathroom in the other. Vystar stepped to the single window, and looked down.

Down below, the usually empty street was half filled by a mongrel band of ordinary Outside humans, who walked or slowly drove battered-looking autos between the plain faces of the apartment blocks on each side, blowing the horns and whistles that had disturbed him, and waving signs.

“Come out and play!”, the signs said, “The Real World Needs You!”, and “Remember What Matters”. One of the leaders of the ragged march was a tall unnaturally fit-looking man that Vystar remembered vaguely having seen on an Outside feature on some news program; the former owner of a defunct automobile company, or newspaper, or something.

Slow and noisy as it was, the disturbance moved out of sound and sight soon enough, into what looked like an Outside evening. Vystar shook his head and went back to the lounge, rejoining the world to find that most of his friends were still there in the Amphitheatre, looking at the night’s list of public performances, debating the merits of the artists, remembering old adventures, making ridiculous hats.

“Back,” she said, stretching her legs and putting on a tall conical headpiece with a slowly-turning propeller.

“What was it?” Patrice asked, from under what appeared to be a squid.

“Bunch of noisy Meaties out in the Outside street. Having a protest or something.”

This was met with much laughter and rude noises.

“Walking right down the street?” asked Scarflame, a friend or associate or alt or something of Patrice’s.

“Walking, and even driving. Old automobiles! Can you imagine the carbon footprint?”

More rude noises.

“Meaties,” said Gentle Logan, the swirls around his horns expressing exasperation.

“Yeah,” said Vystar, shrugging her shoulders, “what can you do?”

Thanks to someone, maybe Ahuva, for pointing me at an article that I can’t find right now that suggested that, far short of brain-uploading, people might simply start leading sparse and spartan RL lives, because their virtual lives would be so much more interesting and rich. So here we are. This story is not intended to express any particular opinion, positive or negative, of the possibility…

Lively Dale!

Time for another shallow and unfair review of a non-SL world thing: Google’s new Lively is great!

Lively Dale!  Woot!

Here I am being an adorable pig in a hat, sitting on a chair in an oval room I made (well, chose), with some other chairs and lava lamps, saying “Woot!”.

Click through to flickr for more of my exciting adventures in Lively!

‘course now I’m done with it and back in SL, but it was a fun fifteen minutes! Woot! :)

(Main problem with Lively: when you’re a tiny pig, the floating box with your name covers up you feet (and sometimes pretty much your entire body except for your enormous and cute head). )