That is, a bunch of random recent pictures.

Wandering about near my place in Vallone, in wild and wooly Zindra, it turns out that the Liqueur Club, which vanished awhile back, has returned with a new name and motif, but I think the same owner:

After Glow

Hope they prosper!

The plot between my place and the road was originally a pawnshop, then a strip club (that never actually opened, as far as I know), then a Naughty Hospital (woot!), and now is again for sale:

Vallone For Sale

Come by and take a look!

(That is of course my platform in the background; and I don’t know why that species of Linden tree wasn’t rezzing just then. But the cherries are pretty!)

On the other side, further down the road, a neighbor has an art gallery featuring very attractive nude photographs (mostly of herself, I believe).

SLEA (Second Life Erotic Art)

I do love Zindra. :)

Back home on the subadult mainland, there’s still considerable land for sale in the Rise. There was a big mafia mansion between the Park and the Narrow Gallery for a bit (complete with limos, pool, and machine-gun nests), now replaced by a big vampire-mafia castle (stone, coffins, helipad). Just up the road from the Park Welcome annex, someone was putting up a nice little house, and I said Hi and we chatted a little.

And then aways further along the road, there’s Azadi Donuts:

Azadi Donuts

which is, and contains, various references to Iranian political movements, that I don’t know enough about to know whether it’s pro or con, straight-up or satire, or why there are all those vehicles like suspended in midair.

Speaking of not knowing things:

Cleanup Time!

Look, d00d, I leave my land open and my furniture unlocked because I am a Nice Person, but please try to clean up after yourself!

What were you doing that resulted in having eight invisible male bits scattered around the Dreamliner, anyway?

On second thought, I don’t think I want to know…


And finally, our burning question of the day: is the grid read for such beauty?

Is the world ready for such beauty?

Just askin’… :)

(This skin, which is so amazing I’m sort of afraid to wear it, is from ROCKBERRY; I think it’s a Kalista. The gorgeous armband and hair jewels are from Nizam (they were gifts, thank you thank you!), and the bracelets from Dark Eden. The clothing is random mix an’ match; I think that’s a “Simone!” top.)

Adric Antfarm

We note with deep regret the passing of a good friend.

Adric was a complicated person, a funny person, a person who often wore a clownish or grumpy or vulgar mask; but under the masks and the grumbling was someone good-hearted, warm, and I think more sensitive and caring than he could always bring himself to admit.

His weblog is a testament to humor and complexity and grumpiness, a wild place of talking cats and armed insurrection and sardonic humor. When he left us, he was working with Amalia on a Burning Life build that had a bouncy-castle, crayons, and a hopscotch court. Which I’m sure he would have taunted himself about extensively in the weblog.

Adric could always make me smile. I will miss him.

Quite many more Burn2 pictures!

I have been having a great time working on my Burn2 build, pedaling around the playa looking at other peoples’s ones, and like that. Also taking pictures!

Here I am on my bike, returning from a notional quick trip back to civilization for more chocolate and apparently stuffed animals:

Back from a quick supply run

Entering along the road from the notional last outpost of civilization, there’s some nice monumental stuff as one comes onto the Playa, including the DMV.

Onto the playa


The DMV folks seem to be working on some cool vehicles; but I like my classic Arcadia Asylum Hobo bicycle.

The Rangers are the best dug-in people on the playa so far; they got here first, after all.

Their dome is quite a landmark. And they have bunches of buildings!

Passing the Ranger Dome

I just hope us builders are rambunctious enough to give them something to do. :)

Finally there’s my box in the middle distance!

Almost there

It’s a longish pedal. (I wonder if that is another ranger dome on the horizon there.)

Home at last:

Camp Sweet Camp

That day I hung some cloth from the wooden awning there to keep the sun off, and made flags of my own with the Burn2 logo (and mine are Free To Copy, unlike Some People’s!), and met one of my next-camp neighbors.

Also sometime recently, an adorable little stoat or vole or sloth or something waddled through curiously:

Adorable visitor at Burn2 camp

and I’ve now pretty much finished off the place! The first draft, anyway. :) And I thought of a name.

So here is Ten Thousand Things Camp:

Ten Thousand Things Camp

The Blue truck and Red building in the background are not mine (although the shadow cast on the ground by the red building is, heehee). Nor is the wooden platform and stuff across the road.

Nor is the streetsign, that’s infrastructure. Apparently I am at the corner of Seoul and 6:00. Okay!

The Big Box and the Round Striped Tent-thing and the Awning and Old Car and Comfy Seats and Infoboxes and Fire Swirls and Random Junk are all mine, though. :) Many will be Free To Copy when the place opens and you come by!

The way that can be trodden is not the eternal way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the Ten Thousand Things.

And now there’s less than a month left until Opening Day.

Time Until Event

Plenty of time to fiddle with the build and peddle around nosing into other people’s. :)

Searching for the Guru of Blue Mars

I read somewhere that there’s this Buddhist Jnana Bodhi (one knowledgeable in asking?) who stands on the rock outcrop in the Blue Mars Welcome Area, being all wise an’ stuff.

So of course I had to drop by!

My lesson from the universe on this occasion was somewhat different from the one that caught my attention, being a woman in a Grid Rock City hat with “Bitchy” floating over her head, staring silently (and eerily) into the camera, an’ ignoring me.

But y’know what they say! Perfect time, perfect place; perfect teacher, perfect student…

(More on that other rock-stander can be found here and also here, at least until AR’s lawyers notice.)

Rise for Sale

I waited impatiently for land in Hughes Rise to go on sale for just days and days, and opened a ticket about getting the abandoned land freed up, and then finally and simultaneously found a nice piece of cheap land to complete my tier and also had an actual Linden come by and put the abandoned land up for auction.

So now I am finally all tiered up in the Rise, with lots of lovely available prims, and don’t have to constantly watch for for-sale land anymore.

And, of course, there is now tons of it. :)

Rise For Sale

(Green is mine, orange is for sale, red is Other.)

Cheap, too: some of it is under 2L per square meter, some of it is slightly over 4. Come and get it!

My Burn2 camp exists!

Just a quick picture for possible interest-whetting. :) The playa is open only to builders at the moment; public opening is mid-October.

BURN2 plot -- sneak preview

I’m happy to see from the Burn2 site that Inner Child Camp and the Stilt Bitches are among the returning theme camps. And also happy to see Nish Mip (whose weblog I adore), and some names I don’t know who I expect will surprise and delight.

(Whispers: there are still some plots available, too; do you have one yet? It’s gonna be a fun time. :) )

Joyous St. Torley’s Day! Yayzerama!

I wasn’t planning another weblog posting so soon after the last one (like I ever plan anything), but then I was reminded what day it is, and I ran inworld for the services and afterparty.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone about the service itself; we’re all familiar with the St. Torley litany from services in our childhoods. Pastor Samantha did the usual heartwarming slideshow, updated to the present day, to the traditional accompaniment of Torley’s own music, in the First Church of Rosedale in the Promised Land of Zindra.

(I must say I am somewhat alarmed by the increasingly secular character of the Resident population these days; concurrency at the time of the service was over 50,000, and I would say we had less than half that many at the Church!)

But in any case, I got some pictures from the service itself:

St. Torley's Day Service at the Church of Rosedale, 1

St. Torley's Day Service at the Church of Rosedale, 2

St. Torley's Day Service at the Church of Rosedale, 3

St. Torley's Day Service at the Church of Rosedale, 4

(If you’re in one of these, feel free to click through to flickr and add yourself to the “people appearing in” thing! If you can figure out how!)

The afterparty, at Four Kittens of the Apocalypse, was a Good Time, with live SL-related (and some zombie-related) music from Kaklick Martin. I started out only slightly appropriately dressed (with the pink fluffy mohawk):

St. Torley's Day Party, 1

but (after cursing a bit at Edit Appearance) ended up much more properly attired:

St. Torley's Day Party, 4

(The green top is a texture from Sabrinaa Nightfire; the pink pants are one from Torley himself.)

Here’s Mr. Martin, whose performance was highly entertaining (although some of us thought that the lyrics to “Imagine there’s no Lindens” were a bit heterodox):

St. Torley's Day Party, 3

A good time was had by all.

St. Torley's Day Party, 2

And I made up a special wearable particle-fountain for the occasion.

St. Torley's Day Party, 5

Hope to see even more of you at Services next year. Yayzerama!

InWorldz again

I read someone mention InWorldz again somewhere (I forget who and where exactly) and I logged in and looked at my land and started bopping around.

I ended up building a house and going to my first Live Music event in that world, friending a few people I know from Second Life, spending my first I’z (that’s the quaint name of the local currency, assuming I spelled it right), and furnishing the place with stuff I got at the freebie shops, and stuff I made, and the stuff I bought.

It was lots of fun! I’m especially fond of the house, as it’s the first house I’ve built that I’ve actually bothered to furnish with some intention of “living in”; in Second Life I’ve never done the whole “live inside a thing with walls and a roof” thing. It’s not necessary in SL or IW of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. :)

Here’s an exterior shot of the house, which sits on the parcel that I own or am renting or something, right next to my dock:

My InWorldz house, exterior

This is a pretty lousy shot, actually, because of the other houses in the background. None of the sticking-up rooves are mine, my place has a flat roof. So far, anyway. :)

Note the nice seaside location, the dock and boats, the openness and at the same time coziness of the house. I built it myself! (I say modestly.) It’s a bit primmy, but I seem to have lots of prims available. (Unless I’m going over my limit without knowing it.) The doors slide open (on touch) and closed (five seconds later). And it’s free to copy, if you want a house!

Here’s me, inside in the reading chair:

My InWorldz house, interior

I made some of the rugs and tables and small things, and uploaded the Renoir and Heade and Mucha and "September Morn" and Magritte.

The sofa and reading chair and flowers and other rugs and the books against the far wall were all either freebies, or (the chair and sofa) actually bought.

I found my first Inworldz Live Music event while looking for a furniture store with a sofa I liked (Victoriana has some really nice stores, which at least last night had stoves, beds, dining room sets, but no sofas). I saw a bunch of green dots on the minimap while standing in the center of a mall, and headed over. (On the way over, I in fact passed over the store that I bought that sofa and reading-chair in.)

It turned out to be a bunch of people in a big open shack in a marsh, with a guy singing and playing guitar on the music stream, and people dancing on a genuine Abramations (I think it was) danceball, and talking and laughing and exchanging stuff. It was great. :) When I got home I tested my non-physical boat, and it’s still a disaster. But one copes…

Speaking of Abramations-I-think-it-was, one thing that struck me while I was searching around for a sofa, is how many high-quality vendors there are in InWorldz now. Some (many, most, essentially all?) of them started out in Second Life (and are probably still there), and have expanded now into InWorldz.

And that’s pretty cool! It also means that, for all the obvious parallels, InWorldz isn’t all that much like the first days of Second Life; not only does it already have flexies and scuplties and Windlight, it also has some very high-quality content, and people who are both able to produce it, and who are used to seeing it. So, unlike maybe the SL of 2005, if you put together your own living-room set out of a few simple untextured prims with no sitposes, you’re not going to look leading-edge…

As is probably obvious from the title of this post :) it occurs to me to compare this rather positive thing about InWorldz with the rather negative thing about Blue Mars that I posted the other day.

I think a big part of it is that I haven’t seen people talking up InWorldz as The Next Big Thing, or as having “the best strategy for growing the next generation of 3D virtual worlds”, or as being technologically better than Second Life, or any of the other (frankly) bullshit that people are for some reason always writing about Blue Mars. InWorldz is just what it presents itself as: a small but growing OpenSim world with both quirks and fun.

Both of them have bugs; InWorldz has things like the non-physical-boat sim-crossing thing I linked above, and (one thing I didn’t mention the other day) Blue Mars has the problem that the two user-created boats I’ve tried were so awkward to use they might as well have not worked at all (I gather the platform doesn’t really have vehicle support at the moment) and that the bowling (one of the few actual things to do in Blue Mars) is apparently often broken. The big difference from the user’s point of view is that in InWorldz the developers are right there in the bug-report forum, talking about where the bugs might be coming from and when they might get fixed. In Blue Mars, on the other hand, the forums have only the two or three user-support people, and the main thing they say is “I’m pushing for that to be fixed”, which suggests that the invisible developers need pushing to do anything.

InWorldz is of course more what I’m used to. I can walk right in, touch a sign about a lot for sale and rent it, or go to a sandbox, and click around and build stuff. (My house, for instance; isn’t that a nice house? I like my house.) In Blue Mars I know that anyone can theoretically join the developer’s program and install the “local sandbox” part of the client and use an external program to develop some 3D models and install them into the local sandbox and play with them until I like them and then find a store owner or block owner or apartment complex in some city who is willing to give me a place to upload them to and then —

Ehem. Yeah, I might get around to that someday. :) Meanwhile I think I may go into InWorldz and tweak the texture on my ceilings…

Blue Mars again

So seeing Hamlet Au’s announcement that he’s joining the Blue Mars team (a few comments on that posting later on in this one), I thought I’d go over and try Blue Mars again. It was by no means a thorough exploration, so this will be more a set of point-observations than any kind of comprehensive update.

The Blue Mars client itself is still a hundreds of MBs download, followed by more hundreds of MBs if you want to go to a place that’s been updated significantly since you were last there.

The good news is that there is now some dynamic content, that gets downloaded only as needed, and presumably doesn’t require a download of the entire “city” whenever it changes. The bad news about the dynamic content is that, even with BM’s current tiny user population, it takes a Long Time to download. The picture above shows me standing in a store (buyable goods were the one kind of dynamic content I encountered), and even though I’ve been there long enough to have the Santa Suit download and try it on, some of the other things in the store (and there were less than a dozen) are still downloading.

Content-wise, then, BM seems to be combining the worst aspects of static and dynamic content: a big upfront download to get the static stuff, followed by long waits for the dynamic stuff.

As the Santa Suit suggests, there are now things to buy in Blue Mars! And it has a feature that Second Life would strongly benefit from (and Philip Linden hinted SL might sometime be getting): the ability to try clothes on before buying.

I have no “BLU”, so I couldn’t buy the Santa Suit, but when I clicked on it I got both “Buy” and “Try On” buttons. “Try On” let me put the suit on, but in a way that as soon as I left the store, it vanished. Clearly a boon to shoppers! I think it will be a challenge to fit this into the very user-programmable model of SL (rather than just bunging some special-purpose code in), but it should add some very interesting functions and potential capabilities once someone figures out how to do it cleanly.

So after the N-minute download of both the new client and Cloud City, I found myself able to wander about in a not all that interesting environment, where there was very little to do but buy Santa Suits and a few other goods. Might have been impressive in like 2004, but eh.

Figuring that virtual worlds are really all about the people, I went to the Welcome Area (which comes down with the client, so didn’t require another download), figuring there would be people there. And there were! About five people (including me, and the “Event Manager” bot).

I don’t know if this is new or not, but apparently Blue Mars has Ruths! :)

When I first arrived in the Welcome Area I didn’t see anyone, then I saw some floating names, then I saw some generic bald people with solid black clothing, and then eventually hair and customizations appeared (one person was even an anthropomorphic dragon!). That made me smile…

When I said “Hi!” I discovered that my name was being displayed as “ceoln”, which is my account name rather than my AV name. I asked how to get it to say “Dale Innis” instead, and fortunately one of the three other actual people there was Glenn the Blue Mars guy, and he told me the Web page to go to in order to tell it to use my actual name. I did that, restarted the client as required, and lo I was “Dale Innis (ceoln)”.

(Notice the similarity to the controversial display names that are coming to Second Life.)

I was practicing walking around using the rather awful default “point and click and aim the camera manually” method, and Glenn suggested that I try the “Absolute Direction” and “Camera Follow” options. With those on, I was able to walk around using the arrow keys in a much more familiar sort of way, without having to constantly readjust the camera to look in the obvious direction. It was great!

Well, it was great in comparison to the default.

Actually it was still awful. For one thing (and this seems to be true in all modes, not just camera-follow) the screen would go all blurry whenever the camera was moving too fast (or whenever it had something new to render, or something). It seems like they’re doing this on purpose, maybe to look cool, but it made me a bit seasick, and I didn’t notice an option to turn it off (there aren’t many options in the viewer). And second, using the arrow keys while standing still and in camera-follow mode turned my avatar much too far. It seemed to be a variable amount, but something like ninety degrees for a single tap on the key, which means I would always overshoot the direction I actually wanted to face, resulting in frustration and cursing. Using the left and right arrow keys while holding down the up arrow to move forward seemed to result in more gradual turning.

And the existing behavior that the avatar stops walking if the tiniest thing gets in the way (generally with this annoying “oh, well, whatever” gesture) continues, making navigating through, say, some tables sitting next to a potted plant an exercise in maze-solving.

Really, AR; it’s not like smoothly managing avatar and camera motion in response to user input is a Difficult Unsolved Problem! How long has it been a major pain in this “beta”, now?

(Oops, my frustration is showing, isn’t it? I was going to title this posting “Blue Mars Blues”, but I thought that would be too negative an opening. Seems I am sort of annoyed and disappointed, though, doesn’t it?)

Another random feature of note: if you go into the Options dialogs, when you come out again your Local Chat control is missing. There is apparently no way to make it come back, apart from either relogging, changing worlds, or waiting for someone else to talk. Glenn says that he’s pushing for them to fix that bug. I hope that doesn’t take much pushing! It does make one wonder how much unit-testing new BM client versions get…

Somewhere around there, as I was attempting to overcome the daunting obstacle of a couple of chairs placed a bit too close together, the client crashed. It was a very SL sort of crash, in that the world was still there, I could still run local animations and move the camera about, but I couldn’t actually move. Also, the other avatars in the area suddenly vanished. The statistics that I had displaying on the screen showed “LUA memory” increasing rapidly. The viewer refused to log me out or exit, and eventually I had to kill it forcibly from the Windows Task Manager.

So, yeah, I’m afraid I didn’t come away with alot of positive new impressions of Blue Mars. It still feels sort of late-alpha to me, with little reason to go back anytime soon.

But now what about this Hamlet post? I’d like to pontificate briefly on his five reasons for thinking that Blue Mars “have the best strategy for growing the next generation of 3D virtual worlds”.

“Cloud Bound: Blue Mars Deploying a Cloud-Based Version Soon”: On this one, I’d first like to complain about this tendency to use “cloud” when what one really means is “server-side rendering”. “Cloud” is a different, and a much broader, term; for instance you can currently run OpenSim instances very nicely on the Amazon Compute Cloud, but that has nothing to do with server-side rendering, which is what Hamlet’s talking about here.

But anyway, server-side rendering. This is the great Holy Grail of virtual worlds, because if the servers can do all the hard 3D rendering stuff and just ship the result down to the client, as though it were basically an interactive streaming movie, then (the thinking goes) not only will much lighter-weight clients be enabled (because they don’t need to do 3D rendering, just play movies), but also content will be protected (because only fully-rendered versions, from which it’s much harder to steal the underlying assets, will go to the untrusted clients).

These would definitely be advantages of server-side rendering, once a few details were worked out, if only server-side rendering were actually practical. But at the moment it is pure vapor-ware, carefully restricted to a few carefully-controlled one-player demo videos, and despite constant promises that it’ll be out Real Soon Now (for instance Hamlet’s own “perhaps as early as this quarter” back in, ehem, April) I don’t see any reason to think it will be hitting actual users of actual consumer 3D worlds anytime soon; the math just doesn’t work out.

Consider the resources that would be needed to do a server-rendered version of Second Life. First, you’d need all of the resources that SL currently has, to keep track of the sims and the avatars and the assets, do group IM and chat and voice and everything else; server rendering doesn’t save you anything significant at the server side. Then, you’d need enough extra horsepower to render every frame of every user’s interaction with the world; every calculation done by every video chip in every client in the current model has to instead be done by some computer in the Second Life server farm. That’s a noticeable amount of new hardware!

And then, you need the bandwidth to stream the rendered images out to all the clients. Although it’s possible to construct counterexamples, it seems unavoidable to me that the required bandwidth there is significantly greater in the typical case than the bandwidth required to stream out the object and AV and camera updates that client-side rendering needs to render the scene.

So server-side rendering is significantly more expensive for the provider (i.e. BM or SL) than client-side rendering. It also scales badly: maybe Avatar Reality can afford to do the rendering for the five people sitting around in the Welcome Area, but what about a concert with 100 people in the audience? The obvious solution there is to force everyone onto the same camera and do the rendering only once; but then you don’t have an immersive virtual world anymore, you just have streaming video from a virtual concert. And that’s nothing very new or exciting…

I’m definitely a skeptic about server-side rendering. I do think it will eventually be possible; I don’t know whether it will ever be the actual best solution. I’m pretty sure that it’s not going to be in routine use in any consumer 3D world this year. On the other hand I’d love to be wrong, too. :)

“Content Creator Friendly: Blue Mars Has a Well-Planned Content Protection System”: That’s good! “Well-planned” is a necessary condition for “secure”. Unfortunately it’s not a sufficient condition. We won’t know whether or not BM actually has effective content protection until there’s significant motivation to break it. Security is Hard.

“Fun Advantage: The Blue Mars Team Has a Deep Background in Game Design”: As far as I can tell, Blue Mars is currently not particularly fun. I’m not sure what the team has been doing with their deep background in game design all this time; if they haven’t made it fun yet, when are they planning to start?

In fact this is true of most of my concerns about Blue Mars: any of the negative things would be perfectly understandable in a brand new company, but Blue Mars has been open for a Long Time now, and improvements have been minimal. I would really like BM to be a viable competitor to SL; but, y’know, if not now, when?

“Mac Compatible: Yes, Blue Mars Can Run on Macs”: Well, sort of. Hamlet, imho pretty unforgivably, says “Blue Mars can run on a Mac, with a few tweaks”. But in fact the client doesn’t run natively on a Mac at all, and while some customers have reported being able to run it in a Windows boot or emulator like Boot Camp, Wine, or Parallels (which is a heck of alot more than “a few tweaks”), that use is not supported, and I find it annoying that BM wants to benefit from being able to say “we run on Macs!”, without investing any resources into actually making it do that, or supporting people who believe them when they say it.

(The Blue Mars FAQ about Macs hints that they’re hoping to avoid the whole Mac (and presumably Linux) issue via server-side rendering. See above. :) )

Wow, so that turned into a bit of a rant, didn’t it? Executive summary: Blue Mars still unimpressive, server-side rendering still vaporware.