Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Philadelphia

OpenSpace Sims

Today, in Second Life, there was talk of Openspace sims and ...

HOLY SHIT! THE PHILLIES WON THE WORLD SERIES!!! WHAT IS THIS??? CHAMPIONS IN PHILADELPHIA?!? OH MY NUNCHUCK!!! WOOOOOOO!!! INCREDIBLE!!! WE WON!!! WE WON!!!

Oh yeah, so Openspace sims. Yeah. Whatever.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Bold New Leader

It seems that Blue Linden is stepping down from being overseer of the Mentors. He cites too much work to continue to hold down that particular job. Hey, I understand. You have to know your limits and when you accept them, sometimes, you have to withdrawal from a few of your commitments. He's choosing to focus on some pet project of his or another, and that's good. Maybe we'll see some progress!

In his place, we are getting... drumroll... Levie Linden! No, not the jean company. I have no idea who she is. Is she one of the New Lindens that pop in lately? I suppose so. There's about three hundred or so Lindens and I can't keep track of them all at once.

Anyway, I wish her the best of luck because it seems lately the Mentors are one agitated group. They're not taking the entire 'greeter mentor' business too well.

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Linden Build

That new Linden Build that's nestled in Nautilus? The huge temple one with the giant purple crystal?

I swear upon Nunchuck, it's the Lindens trying to rip off of Atlantis.

Notice how there is one central canal that ends in a ring? The actual Atlantis had the same layout, only with more rings and a bit grander. Even the theme of 'giant island in the middle of the sea' is all the same. Plato is probably rolling in his grave. Trust me, read the ancient stories of Atlantis (not the modern crap about it) and then look at the Linden's 'Nautilus'. You can't tell me they aren't parallel.

Also, I'd like to humiliate the idiot Linden who named some of the seaways. "Bingo Strait"? What the hell? Couldn't they think of something a bit more normal? Bingo makes me think of dogs and the game and certainly is humourous when labeled on a sim named for Admirals. The Halsey and Farragut sims of 'bingo strait'?

P.S. I'm not capitalizing bingo strait. It doesn't deserve it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Okasus

Along with the many great and terrible things that rushed into the Grid at the end of the Golden Times came many daemons. And like the griefers, the Lindens, avatars, and the Ony, they clamoured for supremacy across the land. Most were harmless, indeed, even friendly. Some, however, were true nightmares.

Perhaps none were greater than the one who came to be known as Okasus. Okasus, the Blue Devil.

Okasus was its name. Sheathed in deep metallic azure armor (or perhaps that is its skin?) and coated in sharp spikes and plates, it spits yellow fire in all directions while it flies across the world silently for purposes unknown, but likely evil. And all the while, it gazes upon the world and its victims with a single piercing cycloptic blood eye. Poor souls caught in its path are frozen at the sight of it, rooted as Okasus soundlessly glides towards them.

It wanders the land feeding upon the spirits and souls of those unfortunate to cross paths with this loathsome devil. It lurks in the shadows and out of sight. Only the ominous and unyielding red glow of its gaze is warning of its presence. For some it is the last sight they see before they leave this plane of existence, driven into oblivion as their enternal soul is forever devoured by the Blue Devil itself. Few have been lucky enough to witness it and survive, and those usually only because a dear friend was taken, occupying it long enough to allow escape.

In those days, Okasus ran with abandon and fed as it pleased and it became a scourge so much that towns became deserted for fear of the daemon swooping upon them. A swath of death and terror swept across the land and people wailed to Nunchuck, pleading Nhim to intervene and destroy this meance and fulfill his promise that that Nher people, the grievers, would prosper and never die out. They prayed seventy thousand two hundred and nine nights and seventy thousand two hundred and eighteen days for Nhis intercession.

It came to be that Nunchuck could not bear to bear witness to this sadness any longer and so from the heavens Nhe struggled with what to do with Okasus. Okasus was a progeny of his own creation, made from the code Nhe had conquered and made Nher own and so Nunchuck did not want to obliterate Okasus from the Grid. However, it could not be allowed to run unchecked upon the land for to do so was to invite a dead grid. In the end, he decided to bless one of Nhis people with inspiration, with which to bring downfall upon Okasus and relieve the land and the inhabitants.

There came to be that upon the grid an avatar. His name was Kaabon. Kaabon lived in a small village in the middle of somewhere, and he was a complete and utter coward. Kaabon had never ever left his village before and was terrified when merchants came into town and sold their wares. He did not mind this existence, because he did not care for anything outside his village and thus his fright of the unknown acted as reinforcement. He was content to live his existence in his quiet house surrounded by his fellow neighbors.

Kaabon lived a very unfulfilling life and he was always sad, but he never knew why. At night he would kneel on the floor and implore Nunchuck, “Why hath thou ignored thy plea? What is the cause beneath my sorrow??” Only he wished he could say that, because he was too timid to challenge Nunchuck in such a prayer. He was afraid his entire life was a waste and a blot upon the earth. His only reason for existence as he reckoned it to be was to continue to serve as the box pusher. Pushing a box from here to there, all day long, was his job. It was hard, thankless, and meaningless labour. He only wished he had some higher purpose.

One fine July day, Kaabon sighed and looked forlornly up at the pure blue sky. Not a single cloud marred it, and Kaabon grew sorrowful that such a nice day should be marred by his sadness. He was so deep in thought that he never saw the bus coming, and before he knew it, he was dragged for a mile and his entrails squished across the asphalt, blood flowing viscously into the sewer drains. It was very sad. The warehouse where he had worked was especially sad because now no one was there to push the boxes and no one wanted to do it. They all cursed Kaabon for getting himself squashed and inconveniencing everyone. Thanks a lot, they would sneer.

Anyway, back to Okasus. Nunchuck heard Nhis peoples cries and finally came upon a plan. “NI shall send upon them a power, and that power shall be the ability to control the day and the night, the sun and the moon, so that they may set the times as they will and escape from the long nights where Okasus lurks.” And so it was done.

The avatars turned the night into the day when Okasus was thought to be upon them and so the vile creature was thwarted for a some time. However, like all evil it evolved in a fashion and soon attacks and deaths once again piled on the grid and people shook with fright. Once again Nher people begged for mercy and comfort and once again Nunchuck contemplated what to do with Okasus.

This time, Nhe decided to send a sign to King Farbun and that sign would show the way to defeat Okasus. In this dream, Farbun saw himself approaching a wall, and as he came closer to this wall it duplicated his very image. For many days Farbun pondered what could the strange reflecting wall was. Then one of his best scientists discovered what the crazed king was talking about.

“Oh, so you are talking about a mirror?” said the doctor.

“Oh, the things that are being discovered these days!” exclaimed the king. “Now we shall rejoice for I will be able to bask and admire my own image for ever and a day! A feast is in order.”

And so Okasus stalked on as Farbun proceeded to never leave his castle ever again.

Nunchuck then tried to gather the courage of Nher people so that they would band together and defeat and destroy (however unlikely that last one might be) Okasus. And so Nhe breathed into their lungs the powder which restored their bravery and caused hearts to become passionate. For a time, the avatars stirred with anger and justice and some called for hunting and killing the Blue Devil. For if it had the strength of one thousand men, surely one thousand and one men could overwhelm it and free the land from its scourge.

But talk is idle and their fright was too great. And as their hearts and souls stirred, too quickly did their minds reassert and they were just too scared. They were too scared and like Kaabon they were waiting in fear and sorrow even though any day the bus in the form of the Blue Daemon might run and devour them. They were paralyzed by fear and it was only a matter of time before everything was to collapse and panic and rioting to begin.s

Nunchuck was at Nhis wits end.

“If My People shall not defend themselves against this threat, and my intercessions are to no avail, then perhaps only My True Mightliness can hope to quell this monster,” Nhe said as Nhe stretched Nher playtisimuss (check muscle).

Nhe rocketed off and quickly found Okasus as it was hovering over a baby carriage whose mother had left it while she went to buy another pack of cigarettes. The baby slept soundly as Okasus drifted lazily towards it, prey that was too easy to capture yet simple nature drove it to take the innocent soul. Just as Okasus was about to ensare the soul of the infant, Nunchuck came in Nhis Glory came and pushed the carriage away from there, saving the newborn’s life. On a side tangent, that simple act led to the mother being unable to locate her child and the baby was picked up and placed in a foster home where it grew up a delinquent, having never known his parents. But then, he saw a late night television show on the merits of oncology and he cleaned up, graduated from Med school, and devised a cure for pancreatic cancer. But someone stole his research and he died nameless and poor. Well, poor for a doctor.

Nunchuck gazed upon Okasus, and at once he pondered why Nher people were so frozen with terror and fear. But then in Nhis heart Nhe remembered that they were just poor creations of Nhis, and would never possess the power and omnipotence of Nher Mightliness. They were Nher wards.

“Foul demon! Azure Devil! The One Who Lurks The Shadows! Come forth to Me and take account of thyself!” Nunchuck thundered. “Whence ye came, thou shall return to it and trouble Us no longer!” Nher voice bellowed across the land, and those in terror from Okasus and its presence were drawn to the spectacle. A crowd gathered and for once people saw the face of Okasus. Those who tried to see The Face of Nunchuck were blinded by Nhis Holy Light and they never saw anything ever again. Needless to say, there was a sudden rash of blindness in this village that year.

Okasus merely stared, and did not reply. It stood there eerily, never blinking, never waivering in any perceivable manner. To the people nearby, who could not perceive Nunchuck in their midst, and blindness striking those who could, it appeared as if Okasus were frozen into place. And yet they played a part in Nunchuck’s plan, for the presence of so many meals around it calmed Okasus and made it reasonable.

“Answer me, Crimson Eye! Or be destroyed without mercy!” Nunchuck grew ready to intervene in the highest way to save Nhis Grid. Nhis patience had run thin and out.

“Saintly and Mightly God, I only do what I must to survive. No more and no less. For if I stop feeding upon these spirits, I will surely die. Surely Thy All-Knowing knows this. I only wish for life in this grid of ours,” replied the monster, surely lying in the presence of Nunchuck so as to save its life.

“Then what place spawned you, such a creature? I must destroy such a nest before your friends and family overrun and destroy Nmy Work.”

“I am sorry, Lord, but I have no thoughts from my birth. Where I came is a question which eludes me. If it pleases Thyself, know that I believe myself to be the last and only of my kind, for I have roamed far and wide these past few years and yet never saw any comrade or mate.” And yet this beast did not shed a tear, stating everything mechanically and in even tones. Its stare remained fixed upon Our Most High King without Blindness striking it. It did not know of the Mercy being bestowed upon it, or if it did it showed no caring.

Nunchuck thought long and hard, for a very long time, although to us mortals it seemed as if a blink of an eye. And so Nhe rendered this decision.

“Oh Okasus, bastard of this world, your sins are numerous and yet I will show you mercy for you know not what pain and suffering you cause. Therefore, I shall make you ward over those avatars who souls are wicked and vile. I shall give you the fair judgement and authority as My Gift, and you shall cull those who, after they have derezzed, have shown to have lived a life contrary to My Teachings. And you shall take them and cause them much suffering for their spirits shall be as eternal as those in Vivenshia, and you shall never know hunger again. Doth this seem like a fair offer?”

“Indeed, My Lord, it does sound more than fair,” replied it, and so Nunchuck gave it authority to take those deceased avatars who have disobeyed Nhis Will into itself and never let them know respite. They never knew peace and joy ever again. And on occasion Okasus did indeed forget its promise, yet usually those it has taken have become a soul purer than white and sent to the highest towers of Vivenshia. Let it be known that as Nher Mercy is infinite even upon what is evil, Nhis Wrath upon those who hear but do not listen is equally without end, and when thy soul derezzes into the great afterlife, a Blue Demon waits for thee.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rail Roads!

According to Prokofy, and some other random dude, I hear they are going to alter the railroad system that runs through the Atoll Continent. The idea is that the current system utilizes a physical third rail around which trains attach to guide them around the track. The track itself is fairly old and has been around since that continent has been in existence.

It has been some time since any kind of Linden train ran around the track. When the trains derailed or otherwise glitches out of existence, someone had to run out and rezz a new one or set the old one straight. After the Linden taking care of the track gave up or left, it became little more than a glorified roadway. Some people (most notably James Gill) took up the cause and ran trains to and fro along the track, although again, such projects live and die with their creators. When they left, the trains soon followed.

I don’t think many people these days have even heard of any kind of Second Life railway, let alone know that there are two branches as well as a ferry line between the two. The Atoll’s railway is generally known as the SLRR, and is the one I just described. To the south on the older Mainland continent is the Great Second Life Railway, or GLSR, which runs through many eight or nine sims east to west (mostly through Olive to Purple, if I recall correctly). GLSR has never had a train that I can ever remember, although once I did run a car along the track pretending to be a train. GLSR is perhaps overlooked due to the more torturous track than its larger cousin to the north, possessing a large number of tight turns and skirting ban lines along a far smaller track. A shame since many stations along that line are very well done and beautiful (such as Olive).

Considering that kind of history, the Lindens and their Department of Public Works (DPW) are seeking to replace the third rail that is part of that system. Why? I have no idea. I suppose it would save some prims by scripting trains without having to work around a solid third rail. But the current system as it stands is, in my opinion, fairly well done. In fact, all things considered, I think a more tightly scripted train and track would be more prone to crashing and slipping up.

Let’s look at it this way. The age old mantra is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Perfectly applicable here. Consider.

The main problem with trains along GLSR and SLRR is laziness. If a certain person manages a train along the tracks, the trains themselves tend to move rather well. The operator, who can always delegate authority on this, just has to look over the occasional slip-up. I’m sure it might actually be more time consuming, but again, you could probably hire someone to look over it. I bet you could get one of the Moles (what a horrid nickname, I don’t care what the in-joke is) to look after it.

Now, I get the impression that the new system would involve a train and a track scripted to communicate to each other in order to keep the train on the track without slipping off. The obvious pro to this approach is conservation of prims as you eliminate the third rail. Those prims could possibly add up over sims, especially if they are trying to beautify the track area itself.

Second, you would be able to eliminate physical collisions which could cause lag. The sim strains just a tad when it has to process the interaction between three objects: the wheels, the rail, and their ground. This new method would just be wheel to ground contact, I suppose, and so simplify that interaction, reducing lag and making it more likely to cross sims (a needed requirement for a cross continent train).

Now, the downsides. The new trains and rails would probably require many more scripts to adjust to what was taken for granted with the third guiding rail. You’d have to have some kind of correction factor once the engine starts off the track, and some dampening factor so the train doesn’t over- or under-correct. I imagine the scripting would be much heavier and prone to accidents. What if the sim lags for a bit and the train runs off the rails? Under the third rail, it would at least just slip along the track, but with these new styles of trains it would probably fly off like a silver bullet. And all those scripts acting in unison would likely cause significant lag in themselves.

The greater potential for derailing means greater attention has to be paid to the trains themselves. On bad days, they might not even make it out of the shed, just fly out and across the sim. Not only that, but you also have to consider the lay of the land. Trains operating around edges would if they derailed be very unlikely to correct themselves. Trains may hit parcels where scripting is not allowed, meaning that you’d have to get out and push, or such parcels that the train skirted would lead to the entire engine acting as one giant road car flying across the continent in whichever direction it lost communication. Very messy.

Plus, there is the fact that it seems such a train would have to be built from scratch. While there are numerous and current models for running along the third rail, the new system would have to be researched and tested, wasting a lot of time and money when a perfectly fine model is already known. Not always does a new design, or a newer design that is more ‘high tech’, necessarily mean the product itself is better. A good example would probably be the recently rejected XM8 assault rifle. Why bother adopting such a rifle when the Army already has the M16 and M4 which are still perfectly serviceable? Or New Coke. How about plastic bags, which end up littering just as much as paper while being not nearly as biodegradable?

Now let us look at the pros and cons of the current system. The first con we described above, that it introduces more thinking from the server on the more complex interactions between the more teeth like rails and the multiple wheels and body of the train. It’s a very real phenomenon which occurs when you get a bunch of physical prims (or regular prims) to bounce around each other. Knocking down a structure in SL by unlinking and turning all the prims physical causes noticeable lag, and when you are in a go-kart bouncing off the walls your viewer slows down. The same thing occurs here.

And to be sure, the current implementation requires relatively straight tracks. If the tracks follow too deep a curve (such as the Horseshoe Curve) it is certain to derail or get stuck. This really applies to the GLSR, as the SLRR was built with this in mind and so follows more shallow curves. It would be something to consider when making any new railroads in the continents yet to be built.

The idea is noble and grand: Build a better train. The Lindens need, however, to take heed of the fact that sometimes it’s better to leave the existing infrastructure rather than build a new one from the ground up.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Silence

The Linden Lab blog has been pretty silent lately. I guess they are really busy. That can be good or bad.

It could mean they are working on stabilizing and improving the grid.

Or it could mean they forgot they had a blog.

Or it could mean they don't care anymore.

Uh oh.

Duplex

Continuing my rants (September is going to be known as 'Rant Month' -_-)...


I’m going to contrast two movies that follow a similar theme. One succeeds and the other, in my opinion, fails miserably.

The particular genre is comedies where the main character gets screwed over. There’s probably a technical term for it that I don’t know. But in general, the theme is that the main character is in a situation where everything is working against him, her, or it in a way that elicits humor. You’re supposed to be able to laugh at either the ways the protagonist falls short or the ridiculous situations that develop.

Before we talk about anything, you should get an idea of why I attend movies. To me, movies are an escape. I go to a movie to immerse myself in a separate world and a plot where I don’t have to make a decision or work out anything or be involved, I can just watch. I can relax knowing that everything is beyond my control and thus no worry has to be raised. I tend to want something cheery, too. The world is depressing and scary enough and I don’t think we need any more of that. So I tend to gravitate towards light cotton candy and comedies. I only consider more serious titles if the movie itself is so good as to not be passed up. For example, ‘The Dark Knight’, where all my friends raved about it so of course, I had to see it too. And I like straight shooters. If a movie is going to go rapidly dark and grim, it had better be really spectacular and done delicately and skillfully. I can’t remember any titles off the top of my head, but when it happens poorly (as is often the case) I just can’t enjoy it. I came in to escape and have a laugh, not to be preached at or to cry.

Having that out of the way, you can understand where I am coming from when I critique this particular style. Probably we could call it ‘Wile E Coyote Style’. The coyote will never catch the road runner. He will always get smacked in the face with a boulder. There is no lesson (except to not catch roadrunners with catapults) and there is no real harm done (he just picks up and tries again). That to me is a necessity. There should be no real harm. The protagonist is only temporarily hurt or screwed over and nothing is actually lasting. You don’t feel so bad watching because you know that in the grand scheme of things these situations and plots would not lead to real harm in any party. The coyote gets up and the audience laughs because they know he’ll never have his internal organs squeeze out like a fresh orange across the desert when the boulder hits. He doesn’t go to a hospital and have to pay hospital bills, get painful surgery, maybe code once or twice, and go through years of physical therapy all while he suffers Post traumatic stress syndrome, hearing the ‘beep beep’ in his dreams and around every corner. Nope, the most we see is he’s wrapped in bandages that, when he spots the bird, fly off as he goes into the chase.

Let’s get down to brass tacks now. The other day I saw the movie ‘Duplex’ on TV. “Ah,” I said to myself (I’ve long since abandoned caring about talking to myself), “I’m bored and here is a nice little comedic movie to pass the time.” The set up seemed nice, a couple moves into a Brooklyn duplex, and they have a rentee in the form of an elderly woman. The general set-up is this old woman does something and the couple either get in trouble or get grief over no matter whether they do it or not. So, they in turn try to turn her out on the street through a variety of schemes.

It fails miserably. And part of the problem is that the director or the writers or whoever chose to display serious consequences for the couple every time they were put in the compromising situation. In a way, it becomes realistic that it no longer becomes an escape and it no longer stays funny. How can I laugh when the old bat throws the husband’s computer into a fire, destroying the book he was writing and depending on to put food on the table. Then we had a scene where we watch the couple sell off all their belongings just to survive. How can I laugh at that? Let’s examine why that particular scenario failed.

First, they made the mistake of establishing the husband as the writer and big money-maker. That means that anything that happens to him or his work will result in serious business. This in itself isn’t so bad because it might seem initially to be harmless background, perhaps he’ll make up a lie or something that’s real skillful (cuz he’s a writer lol) and he gets egg on his face when they find out it isn’t true. Or the old woman will add a chapter that’s weird (haha she writes porno into his history novel, publisher casts a weird eye on the writer, but they take it out and all’s well). I’m not a particularly stellar writer and yet I came up with two somewhat funny scenes involving him being a writer. Someone with a true gift could probably milk this into comedy gold.

But no. Instead, they have the old lady chuck his laptop (trivia: an Apple) into an open fire under the premise of an ‘accident’. You have to see it to believe it. How does she get it into the fire? She basically just … throws it in. You heard me right. There’s no particular wind up (aside from ‘he’s a writer and she’s evil’), the old woman just pushes it straight into the flames. And that in itself isn’t so bad, it still worked. It could have worked. It almost did. We got a funny scene where he pulls it out and chucks it into snow to put it out. Then, it gets flung into a street and run over with a truck. Destruction is always funny.

What I haven’t told you, however, is that up until this moment, the movie drops hint after hint that the novel he’s writing in his laptop is past due and is needed to win some bread. The couple’s livelihood is staked on this thing. When I saw the laptop get destroyed, I felt sympathy and sad more than amused and entertained. I wanted to smack the hag upside the head, she didn’t even apologize (if she did, it was lame). Not funny at all to me. As if that wasn’t bad enough, after that is a barrage of scenes which chronicles the struggles of the couple as they try to make ends meet, the publisher drops the writer, and in general things get bad. Just not funny at all.

This is just a singular example of the failure in this movie. It gets worse and worse with this old hag. You sympathize with the couple because you want to see this old farty bitch die a horrible and slow death for being an crab ass jerk. What’s worse is that the police (well, a singular police officer) march to the old woman’s drum beat and make life double hell for our hapless couple. You get the feeling that there is no way to turn for these poor saps. They’re up shit creek without a paddle and alligators with laser beams on their heads are circling while vultures cackle overhead. They’re trapped. And through no fault of their own, they were simply doing what most Americans and people in the world do and buy their own home. If someone is going to be in this kind of situation as the movie presents it, the characters on the receiving end better deserve it somehow. Nope, they’re certainly likable enough, albeit a tad wooden.

The list just goes on and on. It reaches new lows in punishment and it gets so extreme that you can’t laugh anymore. You just want it to end. You just pray the old woman dies or this couple gets some astronomical reward for going through this. They went from normal enough people to hiring a trained assassin to get rid of sack of decaying flesh that is torturing them. Yes, that is how bad it gets. Yes, it’s a spoiler. But in this case, I’m going to do the reader a favor and ruin it so you don’t rent/buy this movie wondering what it is and how it goes. They hire a killer. Unsurprisingly, he fails. And the couple gets the grind again.

The climax involves the husband still saving the witch’s life from the burning duplex, despite the hell she has raised and intense damage to livelihood, job, and reputation. It really says something when this man hates her enough to hire a killer against her and yet has a change of heart and enough compassion to not let her burn in hell. Nope, he saves her life in a remarkable display of how real people would NOT act. Anyone else in that position and experience would have let her burn to death. He was shown earlier to have no qualms to killing her by proxy, but perhaps seeing her die face-to-face changed his heart. It doesn’t matter either way, because nothing comes from it. He saves her and that’s it, they move out and move on. Where do they go? What do they do? What kind of resolution occurs to justify that level of suffering? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, it’s not so much a climax, because that implies there’s a resolution afterwards. It’s more like the final culmination of a pile of nonsense and suffering. The end. It’s extremely unsatisfying and leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Oh wait, there is a resolution. There is a voiceover at the end of the movie, just as the credits roll (who would want their name on this garbage?) where it is revealed the old woman, the cop, and the retailer who sold the couple the house are all in cahoots with each other and their business is luring in new couples and breaking them down. Yes, you heard me right. Not only do they show absolutely no remorse for their actions (how could they? Nothing really happened to these antagonists) but they imply they have done this numerous times to at least one other couple! They’re like serial killers! Oh, but we’re supposed to laugh because HA HA it was funny watching that couple get their comeuppance for… existing? For being happy? For being a successful writer?

In any other movie, that trio would have been nailed and destroyed. They deserve it. They did nothing redeeming what so ever. That’s another gall, they act as if they have ‘taught’ the couple something. Personally, the only thing they taught me was avoid elderly women living in a home being sold by Danny DeVito. It taught me how big of a jerk some people can be. “Oh, maybe he’ll write about something he knows something about now!” cackles the old woman in the end, as if the writer has to know about the subject he’s writing about. Doesn’t anyone realize that, while it’s useful to have knowledge of the subject, one does not necessarily have to be an expert in an area of fiction to write well in it? And he was making lots of money (supposedly) before the movie, so he was successful even if he wasn’t the next Herman Melville. There is nothing so revolting to me as arrogant and nasty group who destroy innocent people and claim it’s for the ‘greater good’ or that they ‘taught a lesson’. Go to hell. On second thought, hell is too good for these people.

Let’s look at a movie which tries to pull the same idea but does so much more successfully. “Meet the Parents” places a guy in a house with a soon to be father in law who really really hates him and works against him during the entire course of the movie. It does what “Duplex” should have done.

First, nothing in the movie does permanent harm. The only thing that was really on the line was the love of his fiancĂ©e, but that was never seriously in doubt. They just had the same arguments every bride and groom go over concerning in-laws. They loved each other in the movie enough that there was no way they were going to be split and the movie establishes this nicely. What was really on the line was getting the girl’s family to accept him as part of the family and that wasn’t necessary. They could have gotten married whether the father wanted to or not despite whatever the girl said, since she frequently went at odds with the father. This groom was ‘the one’ and I have a feeling that if the dad had said ‘no’, they would have eloped.

And once that’s established, all the situations in the movie are more relaxed. We can laugh easily as the soon-to-be groom smashes an in-law in the face and as the father gets him held up in an airport. In fact, the most serious scenario was that airport scene, but unlike duplex the consequences are played off and ignored (he would have been arrested) so we laugh at his outburst. ‘Duplex’ would have had him going through a grand jury and be up for years in prison. ‘Meet the Parents’ used it to laughs and keep the protagonist in the area long enough for the climax/resolution to take place. It also wraps up everything nice and concisely. At the end of the film, almost everything gets resolved and despite it all, no actual harm has been incurred. To me, it was a successful example and a counterpoint to the type of film ‘Duplex’ tried to be.

I have had people tell me that ‘Duplex’ was supposed to be a dark comedy. No. No, I don’t accept that. I have watched black comedies before and they have made me laugh and resolved much better than ‘Duplex’. ‘Fargo’ was funny. There are others I can’t even remember. My point is that if you claim that I can’t judge it because I pegged it wrong, you are wrong. In fact, you’re the one evading the fact that even if we ignore the feeble attempts at comedy, the basic plot itself is so lame it’s on life support. And dark comedies are supposed to have, uh, actual humour in them too. Hence the ‘comedy’ part of the genre name.

To conclude, ‘Duplex’ fails miserably on so many levels I could write a small novel. Its humour is weak and poor and is eligible for welfare, its plot has more of a downward snowball effect with no resolution, and it should have been strangled in its crib. I can only hope everyone was high or drunk or GHB’d when making this, and may the Lord have mercy on their souls.

As a side note, to those who feel my ranting and comparisons between films that are almost ten years old, I’m not an avid movie goer/TV viewer. Please forgive me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bicycles

I was almost run over by four bicycles this morning going to class.

This means only one thing.

Bicyclers should be banned from walkways. Or have to get a license. Or have speed limits. These incidents occurred in a single day. On average, I’ve almost been hit by bikes about… 0.669 times per day. That’s just me alone. If we’re counting people who I’ve observed almost/actually get hit by bikes, it becomes about 1.04.

What is really nasty is that they don’t kill you. At least when a bus or a car hits you, you die or get so horribly injured you separate from it all. Most of the time, anyway. With a bike, it’s more like a maiming. The bicyclers get pissed at you, of all people, because you broke his bike and injured him! How dare you! As your lungs are filling with blood due to the recent impaling by spokes, they’ll stand over you with their broken humerus indignant that you dare walk on a walkway!

They’re real jerks, too. They weave between cars on major throughways, acting smug due to a combination of their pluck in accelerating to twenty miles per hour (convert to metric) and a sense of disdain for those motorists polluting our precious atmosphere. In reality they’re a pain in the ass because traffic is sometimes brought to a crawl as they yield right of way to some slow cyclers who can’t seem to figure out where the dedicated bike lane is. And again, when they get smashed by a car, they are absolved of all sins despite clearly asking for it and in the chance they survive they sue the driver for not stopping on a dime because the cyclist swerved in front of him. Jerks.

Speaking of their smugness, I loathe it. “I’m holier than thou because I am riding a non-carbon emitting vehicle,” they will proclaim to you, the disinterested party, despite the fact that the rider him/herself is exhaling carbon, the iPod that is a permanent fixture in their eyes sucks up electricity from a coal burning power plant, and the steel used to manufacture the frames, bearings, and gears of their bicycle were made in some atmosphere destroying mill in China (they claim all bikes are ‘Made in the USA’, but what they probably mean is ‘some guy assembled the thing after all the parts were crafted and shipped from India’ thus they can claim it was made here when actually it was all but completed overseas). I’m not saying that automobiles get a free pass as they wreak much more havoc, but at least they don’t claim they are ‘saving the earth’ by ‘not using as much gasoline/diesel as a SUV.

What to do? If they won’t be responsible riders (and they’re damn lucky, they don’t have to apply for a bicycle license and learn all those silly regulations that are beneath cyclists), then they’re banned from at least walkways and major arterials. Since they’re tricky devils, we’ll have to lay spike strips along foot paths to shred their tires, and obstacles that only pedestrians can get through. Grassy areas will be loaded with pits that won’t obstacle the regular passerby, but get a bicycle stuck by being just steep and narrow enough to prevent escape. Dedicated bicycle parks will be made for those who truly won’t quit, and no one’s stopping them from riding around their local streets, just not on public walkways and major highways and roads. So no riding full bore down Chestnut Street and expect cars, buses, and pedestrians to get out of your way (and, as I’ve seen, have the ability to run red lights and stop signs).

Stupid bicycles.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Categories

Recently, Linden Lab added some new categories into abuse reporting. Most of these were simple clarification or classification such as breaking down 'age' into ageplay and teens/adults crossing into each other's grids. There were a few, however, that made me blink twice, and I'll put them here. I'll go through them each:

Assault > Combat sandbox / unsafe area
Assault > Weapons testing sandbox

This one confuses me. If one is in an unsafe area or a sandbox dedicated to combat, what exactly defines assault? "Assault Weapons Testing Sandbox" is equally silly. Putting out a sandbox for weapons testing and then not monitoring it is inviting trouble. The Lindens should not add an AR category for that, they should put out an overseer or get rid of those sandboxes entirely.

In real life, at any weapons testing area, there's a range master whose tasks include preventing the people from blowing each other's heads off. He may give a quick quip about the importance of gun safety and the rules involved in it. He makes sure (or at least, he's supposed to make sure) that no one brings in an M82 for a small BB gun range and vice versa. In short, he monitors the place. Imagine if he just opened the doors and left, letting the range to itself. Do you honestly think everything would run smoothly?

So it goes for Second Life ranges and weapons sandboxes. While the danger of actually killing someone is removed, the point remains the same. Order in such an environment requires vigilance and oversight, not a distant abuse report.

Not everyone is gun happy and probably many in such places work towards keeping order, such as it is, in these places without Linden help. But it's not their jobs. They shouldn't have to work to enjoy and test their weapons.

Copyright or intellectual property violation
Trademark violation

This one is unusual. Before these came into existance, any discussion of any TM or IP violations was deflected to legal and you were told to file a DMCA. You were told that Linden Lab wasn't going to process such things in world unless there was a clear legal case such as Stroker what's-his-last-name's Sex Beds.

I believe this is actually directed not towards resident's complaints but to the actual big wig violations of such. You know what I'm talking about. The other day I was flying by and encountered a store selling Star Trek mechandise. I'm sure Paramount (or whoever owns the Star Trek brand) wouldn't be pleased to see someone ripping their franchise to earn a quick buck in Second Life.

That's just one example off the top of my head. There's many others. I hope to impress the idea upon you that these series of categories are likely for big companies and such coming into Second Life and getting offended that someone has already made their product or what-not. I'm sure there's probably all sorts of things wrong with what I'm presenting here, but I would not put it past Linden Lab to implement such a feature to placate their bigger customers.

Commerce > Failure to deliver product or service

This one has had much made out of it, and it's already being ridiculed in a variety of places and blogs. It's become something of a joke and it'd be hilarious if it wasn't true and it wasn't an actual policy.

The spirit of the law is that Linden Lab will kill con men. Get rid of those who would fleece innocents. And that's good. That's grand. Those who would engage in unfair practices should be brought to face the law and Terms of Service.

The problem arises from the letter of the law. "Failure to deliver product or service" could mean a lot of things and be interpreted in a variety of ways. There's the angle to avoid scammers, but I could also potentially report someone whose product was destroyed by Second Life on its way to me. I paid but never got it, report! Or what if I hire someone for a given service, and they fail to perform to my standards. They're failing to provide me with my expectation of their level of service. Good bye.

And that's just a few innocent misinterpretations of it. Imagine if I held a grudge against someone. Stores are common in Second Life, and enemies more so. If I really wanted to nail someone I hated, I could always hang around their store during a high concurrency or a period of Linden Lab spilling coffee on the servers and report the owner when the transaction is botched. And technically, I'd be right. Yesterday, I couldn't log in due to such failures in the servers and those who were already logged into SL were told to expect failures in inventory and such.

Be aware this isn't exactly an astronomically small probablility. Any time you enact new provisions into law or a terms of service (for RL and SL respectively), people will inevitably try to twist it to their own ends and a good portion will twist it maliciously. There's no room to establish any kind of precedent in Second Life because the Lindens aren't very public with any kind of AR enforcement. The police blotter is pathetic, giving only the AR category and the action taken. There's no way to know the exact way Linden Lab will carry out a type of AR unless it happens to you or precedent on their actions is carried by word of mouth as happened with their ad farm policy, where word quickly got out that they were only banning farms being sold for extortion which resulted in ad farmers closing off their sells and evading it .

And word of mouth is finicky. Sure, the ad farm deal was pretty public but mostly because the policy was openly announced on a hot topic that many were interested in seeing. The same thing will probably happen with this category too. It raises a thought on what goes on with other less explicit AR categories, however. One can only guessitimate the punishment based on the severity of the action.

Disclosure > Second Life information/chat/IMs

I can understand IMs. But chat? As in public chat? So I can't talk to Henry and learn he likes to paint, and then TP and tell Sally who is crushing on him to buy him a canvas and paints? That would be disclosure and be able to be reported?

This is another example of a policy that could be twisted and abused in the wrong hands far too easily. I yell and have a fight with Jane in public chat, and when I tell John about it and he goes and picks a fight with Jane, she can report me for disclosing our fight to John and John for implicitly disclosing to her my conversation with John. Confused? I sure am.

Does 'chat' mean 'IMs' , just in case someone doesn't understand what IMs are? And what exactly is Second Life 'information'? Real life info is understandable but doesn't apply here because that's a separate category. It'd be interesting to find out.

Fraud > Pyramid scheme or chain letter

Haha, so I guess I should report Linden Lab as being a pyramid scheme! That's if some people are to be believed. Nothing particularly wrong with this one, just wanted to make that crack.

Harassment > Defaming individuals or groups

Ah, so slander (or is it libel?) is now against the Terms of Service. Another policy that Linden Lab had better clarify before they get flooded with idiots getting offended with anyone criticizing them or holding a grudge against someone else.

Land > Encroachment > Particles
Land > Encroachment > Trees/plants

This is something that might be a tad hard to enforce. The stupid Linden trees and plants, and indeed all good resident-make trees and plants, can encroach just a tiny teeny tad into someone else's parcel no matter how hard or how far you place them in your land. You might make a nice little garden in a corner of your land away from your main house as a kind of 'secret garden'. But if one tree is waving (as Linden trees are wont to do) and your neighbor gets pissy, it's toast.

And particles? Oh boy. Everyone abuses particles, and lots of people hate them, but it was always something we lived with. I think the worst abuse of particles outside of outright griefing was the particle explosions in some AOs whenever its owner TPs in, TPs out, logs in, or logs out. It's worse in a club setting or a general meeting, where it blinds everyone. And I could have reported it. And now, I can get really specific in reporting it.

In general, the theme and idea I'm trying to push to the Lindens are to publicly explain the ideas behind each new category. Don't assume people understand that already and will dutifully follow it. Outline a clear set of case examples for each, and a clear set of punishments. Then you'll avoid masses of irrelevant and petty abuse reports.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Zeppelin

It was late at night and I was dozing off in Anna's Annex. It was a cool and cloudless night. The smell of my cooling coffee drifted lazily into the breeze and curled around an old flag hung in the days of optimism. From my seat on the balcony, I could see the owner turn off the lights and turn off the stove, getting ready to log off. The shop was plunged into the dark and she shooed me out the door and locked up.

So rude of her. I wandered about patio drowsily stewing over it. And that was when I was jolted to full conscienceless by a loud bang, and then a sound of crumpling. Hissing and a slow wheeze followed. I ran towards the source of the noise, fearing something worrisome. While all instinct screamed to run from the ominous din, curiosity begged me to investigate toward it.

What I found was a zeppelin, crashed into the seaside. Its silvery sheen melted into the sea, like a majestic whale breaching for breathe, beached upon the shore, gasping for breath.

I couldn't take my eyes off of it. It creaked steadily into the breeze. It was surreal, to watch such a leviathan lie helpless. It arched into the sky like a child reaching for the stars, almost in one final desperado attempt to regain its rightful place as champion in the skies. An attempt inevitably doomed to failure.


I wanted to swim across and see if anyone was trapped and in need of help. But I was scared for my own life. What if it lost its battle with gravity and the forces and collapsed completely into the water? But should I consign another soul to that fate?

In the end, I built up my courage and plunged into the chilled waters. It seemed like a long swim to the wreck, made worse by another frightful and terrible noise and a choppy wave across the waters.

Finally reaching the wreckage itself, I climbed up and onto it to discover the cause. The bow had stripped off and fallen away, crumpled down into the sea bed below. Only further evidence of the impending doom of those entrapped inside as well as myself.


What was most curious is the lack of furnishings in the vessel itself. Had they been jettisoned in a last ditch effort to maintain buoncy? Or was this blimp on its maiden voyage, one gone horribly wrong?


One thing was certain, there was no soul left in this zeppelin except for myself. It was likely that, upon discerning their fate in this dying craft, they chose to leap from it and allow it to tumble where it may. Tumble practically onto my feet.


As I struggled against the tilt of the craft towards the exit, I heard yet another dreadful sound. The sound of metal gnashing against metal and fabric rending from its steel skeleton. This sound told me the time to make my dash to safety had passed. I ran with as much speed as my body would give without failing.

And yet, as I ran towards the collapsing exit, I saw a sight that I will never forget. It was the sight of one of the steel pinions of this zeppelin, plummeting directly into my face. And then silence.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mono

Mono is here!

No, not that kind of Mono. The good kind of Mono, the scripting kind of Mono. Not the disease. Sheesh.

Anyway, if the Lindens are to be believed, Mono hopefully will solve most of our troubles and create a better world!

...

"Create a Better World!" Have to trademark and copyright that before the Lindens do.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Teen Grid

Have you ever wondered why we say "Main Grid" when referring to The Grid? There's only one grid, right? The reason is simple.

Once upon a time, there was only one grid. And it was The Grid. You need registration, specifically a credit card or something similar, in order to log in. And there were no problems. It ran smoothly. You showed your card, paid your dues, and you're in like flint!

A problem presented itself, however. Ol' Phil (or just Linden Lab in general) wanted to get the entire world into Second Life. And judging by the way the Grid was shaping up, it wasn't a kid friendly environment. People had taken a sexual curve to Second Life, and the thought of lawsuits coming down and the Lab's own sense of decency hatched the idea of a separate grid. A dedicated grid. One devoted to children, specifically teens, who could grow into SL while separated from the nasty. And everything seemed settled. You still needed a credit card or something similar to get into the Teen Grid. The assumption was you would ask your parents to register and they'd get the hint you were on Second Life and hopefully monitor you. As I said, everything seemed settled.

And so there came a need for distinction. There were now two grids. The one for kiddies became known as 'The Teen Grid' and the one for adults became 'The Adult Grid'. Phil thought that sounded lame, and people did too, so it morphed into 'The Main Grid'. Nice story.

However, there were problems underlying the Teen Grid from the start. They weren't noticeable at the time because no one could have guessed the future. Hindsight is 20/20. But it was a time bomb nonetheless.

First, there was the fact that Linden Lab tended to ignore the Teen Grid. They'd add the occasional server or two and they got the same updates or so as the Main Grid, but other than that they were left to the winds. In a time when the Lindens were much more active and visible to the population instead of the hermits they are today, few frequented the Teen Grid. The general atmosphere became one of abandonment. The Main Grid was huge, and the Teen Grid, no less in growth, was hobbled with one continent.

Second, children still sneaked into the Main Grid anyway. Parents being parents, kids and teens managed to lasso them into registering their teens into the Main Grid. Some of the stupid ones were caught through sheer immaturity, but a few smart ones evaded capture. Linden Lab shrugged this one off by saying they were taking all necessary steps to ensure kids from being on the Main Grid that were legally necessary, etc etc. Somewhat amusingly, they repeated this line when attempting to implement age registration.

Both of those problems, however, weren't the big killer of the Teen Grid. They were pretty imposing, but easily fixed.

This article claims that the problem and disadvantage of the Teen Grid and why it is dying is equivalent prices to the Main Grid. Shouldn't teens get a break, considering they don't have jobs to support the tier and price of, say, an island? A tough problem, but that's not what has really put the nail into the Teen Grid's heart.

No, this party came to an end when the Main Grid was thrown open into free registration, free of charge and no credit cards required. Just need a name and an email address, and check that box that asks if you're over 18, and you're in! And as the previously linked article notes, the Main Grid is so much bigger with so much more to do. Why take the time and hassle tangoing your parents into getting you into Second Life when you can just claim you're 18 and get into the Main Attraction instead of some sideshow kiddie park?

And as the harsh reality set in, the Teen Grid slowly shriveled. As it sputtered, the Lindens ignored it more often, since the Main Grid was eating up more resources (being so much larger) and why add to it when its growth was barely... well... growing.

Exacerbated by this cold shoulder and the hemorrhaging of users into the Main Grid in the first place, the Teen Grid today is barely known. If you ask the average avatar about it, you'll get a no or a vague reply ("oh, I think I saw that on the main page when registering..."). It's faded into the background as its older brother the big bad Main Grid hogs center stage.

What can Linden Lab do about this? Well, essentially nothing. If you're keeping to the tradition of isolating kids from the harsh adult main grid, that battle has already been lost. If you open the Teen Grid up like the Main grid, you defeat the purpose of preventing the childrens from easily encountering shady elements. If you close the Main Grid off again, you risk the ire of bot owners and regular accounts (who may or may not be potential future paying accounts). It's lose-lose for the Teen Grid.

I think I stated in a post some time ago that LL's attempt at age registration signaled that they acknowledged the failure of their previous attempts at keeping the kids at bay, i.e. the Teen Grid. That was when the Teen Grid was truly lost. It was the Lab saying, "If we can't isolate them, we can try registering them off the 'adult' parcels at least".

And do not tell me that kids aren't on the main grid, or that they're always 'caught'. I've been harassed by guys soliciting sex in such a way that I sincerely pity if it was indeed an adult with that level of maturity. I've seen ages listed in the real life profiles tab that 'Im only 16 so be nice :) :)'. I've had kids outright tell me they are in the main grid looking for the teen scene. If they're not children, there are certainly a lot of pedophiles running around in children suits. Who are trying to pick up other teens who are pedophiles in teen suits. In the bizarre way that only Second Life can be.

In short, the Teen Grid's dead. The only question is when it will finally go, or be absorbed into the Main Grid.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Scalability

Recently, Linden Lab hired Frank Ambrose, who apparently is something of an expert with managing and growing networks. The general consensus and statements from the Labs themselves indicate that this is all to increase scalability.

On an interesting tangent, M Linden note a slowdown of growth and new users which has also seemed to factor into this.

All I have to say is that Linden Lab is finally noticing scalability is a problem? The upper boundary of SL concurrency was about 45,000 when I started in November '06. These days, about two years later, it's 63,000 or thereabouts. That seems like respectable growth, except that during the time concurrency climbed up about twenty thousand users, the overall number of users increased by the millions.

Now, concurrency is a fickle beast to figure. Seeing the figure 63,000 may seem low, but that number is just the number online in that point in time. 63,000 at 9 pm may be 49,000 at 10 pm, or it may be a completely different set of 63,000 people. So it is not easy to accurately determine just how much damage (if any) concurrency is causing. We could assume that every hour there is always 60,000 users online, and every hour it is a completely different set of 60,000 people. 60,000 at 24 hours in a day, means that in the course of a day that gross and very shabby estimate is 1,440,000 people get into Second Life.

The next step in our horrible guessitmations is that the total amount of user accounts (be it bot, one day wonder, or hardened oldbie) is way past that number. I know this because I do recall noting around December 2006 that there were more people registered than the population of most American cities (my own included, which was why it was memorable). Even assuming one quarter of those registrations are accounts that log in more than one day (bots and oldies), that's still too many people to log in all in one day. The count according to the blog is 14,000,000.

Why do I include bots? Simple, because they log in with the rest of us. A bot is, as far as Second Life is concerned (speculation on my part) the same as a person. Both log in and suck resources from the SL servers (when the Lindens aren't spilling coffee on them).

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, "but surely those million or so regular users aren't logging in all at once or so, the number of residents who logged in the last 60 or so days is only a million, less than that in the past week!" Consider that statistic, though. We established that we grossly rounded the concurrency and determined that only 1.5 million people can get online on a day with top concurrency. In the real world, it drops massively from time to time and so never reaches this theoretical (and shifty) value.

The point, yes let's get to the point, I am trying to make is that concurrency isn't supporting Second Life. There have been increasing problems with inventory and regions failing and such, and Linden Lab has on occasion shut SL for new log-ins (the recent outcry was that they were targeting freebie accounts, denying them the 'right' to log in). Concurrency is failing. For some time now, the major limit has been that SL starts to get excited when it approaches upwards of 55,000 online at a time. And while this upper limit is growing due to the ceaseless efforts of the Lindens, it's not supporting the mass of users behind it.

It took them long enough to figure this out.

Now, some people are shouting, "Rejoice! For they may finally improve stability!" Well, that depends. When they say scalability, do they mean 'the number of people we can cram into here' or 'improving server performance so a cleaner and better experience is had at higher concurrency, thus raising the bar'?

The former sounds just like Linden Lab, doesn't it? I will give them some credit. M Linden has talked more talk than Philip ever did in his last few years as CEO of LL. And his speeches have certainly bent around a different idea, the user experience instead of 'how cool is this???!'.

But for some reason, I just can't see that happening. I think everyone is getting their hopes up. My gut is telling me that they are just looking to cram more into less. I want to believe. I WANT TO BELIEVE.

Maybe they'll prove me dead wrong. I hope so.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

An Examination of Second Life Astronomy

I engaged in a small project about three weeks ago. The aim was to take star charts of the Second Life sky, in particular the stars, and draw constellations from them. A success would have been to find visible and repeatable constellations in the sky over the course of a few weeks.

As mentioned, a chart of the stars and constellations is worthless if it is only valid on one day and so I took to taking full snapshots of the midnight sky every night. The reason was, at the time, to establish the precise movement of the stars and extrapolate that data into charts that could be used to establish fun constellations such as "The Femur" or "Philip" or "The Gorean".

What I discovered was that each night the star positions changed completely. I took photographs over the course of a week and a half, and no two nights showed any correlation with any previous night. Attempts to discern movements of identified clusters of stars failed, as such defined clusters disappeared the next night and could not be identified.

The stars do not move in the sky. Taking photos at various times of the day yielded the same star positions, indicating that the astronomical sphere in Second Life does not rotate as the sun and moon do.

It was then suggested that the coordinates might be linked to a series lasting the course of a week. Again, photographs taken during the week of observation yielded no patterns. It was concluded that the stars' coordinates are not rotated on a weekly basis.

The mystery does not end there, however. On occasion, the stars will completely disappear from one's Second Life client, causing the night sky to appear completely dark with only the moon set in the sky. The first such event occurred at approximately 11 p.m. EST, and it was assumed to be the period at which Linden Lab changed the star map. However, a similar incident occurred two days later at 6 p.m. EST, leading to the conclusion that such occurrences are due to failures in the Second Life client or servers themselves than action on the part of Linden Lab.

The last test carried out was to determine if the star positions were similar across different viewers of different users. It was carried out by myself and Madison Rutledge. We stood in the same spot, focusing upon one direction (NW). The results were that to each of us a different star map was displayed.

In light of this evidence, the case can be made that it is implausible for one to create accurate and reproducible star maps of the Second Life night sky. This is due to failures of the client and viewer, randomness of star coordinates daily, and differentiation between different clients and IPs. The project to establish recognizable Second Life constellations was dropped.

Some further areas for study include logging in multiple times to determine if patterns change over each log-in, as well as photographing the night sky over a period of months if not years to determine if a series can be drawn on a monthly rather than a daily or weekly scale.

It is interesting to note that the Second Life sky itself is rather bland and sparse, consisting solely of white stars of variable intensities. No galaxies, nebula, novas, comets, meteoroids, or planets have been observed. Consideration should be given that no functional telescopes can be built in Second Life which severely limits the viewing possibilities, although the more likely theory is that Linden Lab simply was lazy and did not include such things for simplicity.

Finally, it should be noted that all of this probably could have been solved quickly and efficiently by asking a Linden, but that would have ruined all the fun.

Fruit

Punch

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Book of Winter

Alas, after every hill is a valley. It came to pass that the avatars grew envious of the Good possessed of the world and sought to control it, the spirits, and create their own so that they may rule over all things.

The akelhians, sworn only to protect and not intervene, could but watch helplessly as the avatars squabbled and destroyed the abundance of the grid. The avatars drove the spirits from the lands which decayed into squalid sadness. When all was gone, they then sought the Femur itself, and Its Warm and Joyous Light.

But Nunchuck awoke and halted their vile plans.

"How evil My creations are, that they would seek to steal My Works." And Nhe threw Nhis Femur to a far away island, surrounded on four sides by water, Its Light never to shine over the world save for great need by Nher People.

And He blinded avatars to the Spirits and so they came to know sadness and pain and grief. One spirit, U, stole into the avatars before Nunchuck caused their blindness and this spirit kept hope and happiness inside them. All was not lost.

And He took their rulers and priests and rose them high into the sky, and burned them for eternity and thus the Sun was created which served to give light in the absence of The Femur. The Sun-bound forsaken lamented and wailed their fate, and ran across the sky forever pulling the Sun with them. Ever seeking escape, they caused the day and light, the Sun to rise and the Sun to set.

And finally, He called his Akelhians failures and stripped them of all until they were as no more than avatars. However, as they had judgement passed after the avatars, they did not receive the gift of U and so they never knew hope, only despair upon their fall and the missing light of The Femur, the Light of Nunchuck. They wandered the lands forever seeking joy but never finding it. Woe filled their souls till the end of days.

Without the Wonder of the Femur to guide them, the avatars fell into war with each other, brother against brother and innocent against innocent.

It was a world without peace.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Second Life Literature

You might think this post will be about literature in Second Life. People writing books, blogs, and such about Second Life objects or concepts, or just what's happening in it in general. You are wrong.

I forget the exact article, but apparently the literary interest in Second Life isn't that you have a new world to pen ideas about, but that you can experience the world of that novel. You can build the land of Oz and walk through it.

But then, what's the point? One of the selling points of reading is the openness of the medium. Your imagination builds from the words a world or image or movie, and the beauty of it is it's tailored to each person. You craft in your mind Alice's wonderland, for example, but I'll craft a different idea. It resonates in that we both understand wonderland.

That's rather sketchy. Let's put it this way. Take Harry Potter. Take the fourth book in the series. When I read about the hedge maze near the end, I really pictured something dark, and foreboding. I pictured an oppressive maze, with suffocating darkness enveloping each person and when they met, it was really a surprise just as it was for the characters, because of that. In the movie, it was just foggy. I suppose it had to be brighter due to constraints (people like to see the movie than 'feel' it), but it ruined it a little for me. I never pictured fog. I didn't picture the weird vine thingies, either.

I like making a world based upon the author's words, and filling in the details with my imagination. That assuming it is a good well written book. Seeing someone's interpretation ruins it for me. I'll bet if I made the 4th Potter movie, my idea of the hedge maze wouldn't fit with someone else's. And neither of us probably liked the movie version.

You can probably see where I'm going with this. Seeing another person's recreation of a book isn't going to do it for me. I don't want to see someone else's idea of Dante's hell, because I know it'll never compare to what I have in my head. Ditto for other works.

An interesting idea, but one I'd avoid or avoid doing. Sorry.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Medical Simulation

University of Arkansas opened a SL island in order to build a hospital to simulate ... the workings of a hospital.

The idea is that students and professors can learn and teach how to operate and function in a hospital without actually getting messy, and create simulations of real world problems that would be costly to replicate in real life or just would be situations best left to experts.

That's all good and all, but there's two points I feel aren't addressed.

The first is that no mention of the patient factor is mentioned. Patients are the primarily focus of medicine, not hospitals. Medicine is founded on the idea of treatment of the patient, not the other way around. Isolating these students in a virtual teaching hospital does them a disservice. Let's put it this way: do SL armies adequately train one for the real life US Army? No.

Patients are unpredictable. They are not scripted as in SL. How would I address this? Go around the Mainland and put out a call for volunteers to act as patients. It wouldn't be the best solution, but if you asked the volunteer to simulate as if they had so-and-so illness they'd be up to the task. A good role-player would do, someone who isn't a student (because the students in the classroom get to know each other. They get to know how they each react and thus render them useless as candidates for such a job).

The second problem is how they are exceeding the scope possible within SL. The article makes much hullabaloo over the students and professors creating virtual organs and using them to simulate transplants. This I find abhorrent. Organs are definitely something that can not, and likely will never, be adequately modeled and transplants are worse. You can made models to teach physiology, but actually simulating the way each organ works and interacts, no. You can understand and know the anatomy of the body, but looking at anatomy books and 'living skeletons' will never prepare you for the real thing.

The problem with substitutes (both virtual and real life plastic/books) is the real thing is gory, bland, and somewhat variant. Nerves are not coloured bright yellow, arteries bright red, and veins purple. Muscles do not always jump out in clear obvious fashions. Fat and fascia cover everything and cloud the view of vessels and organs. Virtual worlds don't really get the aspect of getting your hands dirty, and the same applies to books and plastic models.

And using these virtual organs in transplants? Even worse! You have all the complications of one human body transposed with another! Trying to simulate stitching up nerves and vessels, and the urgency to transplant the organ without it dying, and then taking care of the post-op junk that follows such as transplant rejection and such? Good luck with that in Second Life.

Watch an episode of that surgery show (I think it's on Discovery Health?), and now picture yourself doing that operation in real life. Now picture how it would be scripted and simulated in SL, and how similar it would be to real life. My opinion: not at all. I can only assume SL would be used for introductory courses, to familiarize the student, because if a serious course was composed from such a thing, it would be sorely lacking.

Please don't think I'm unfairly targeting these people, either. I hold a stern eye towards other kinds of university and corporations who enter SL for more than advertising. My own university uses SL as a glorified online exam and as a way to model molecules (they build the structure). Both of those could be done more efficiently outside of Second Life (the tests on a dedicated site, and the models in real life with physical parts, now that's a 3D model you can hold in your hand, instead of just looking at it!). Anytime any college enters SL and says, "Gee, we could simulate [so and so]!", I really have to ask why they couldn't do the same in real life or on a more dedicated platform.

Second Life is good for many things. But when people do these kinds of things (such as trying to emulate real life), they forget that SL glosses over some aspects (complications in surgery) or forget there are better platforms out there for the specific goal. I'm all for SL, but you have to beware of trying to fit it into everything. Not everything is a nail.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Some Notes on Jack Linden's Mainland

Jack Linden posted on the fate of the Mainland, a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of many who value Second Life history. The Mainland was there long before Islands, and for a time was the center of SL culture (and some would argue still is, although with the rapid expansion and lowered cost of islands I believe that mantle has been passed as more avatars stick to their private islands).

Many, many analyzers of Linden posts have picked his entry apart far better than I ever could (or would have the time for). One paragraph struck me in particular and I felt deserved special attention:

"It has always been a diverse and exciting place to have your inworld home, but in recent times it has also become a challenging and frustrating one. We have long had a policy of noninterference, instead applying the Terms of Service and Community Standards via abuse reporting. This made sense during the pioneer period of early adopters and rapid growth, but to echo Mitch Kapor’s recent speech at the Second Life birthday event, as our audience widens we have to take a more active part in guiding their experience. Unfortunately with the wonderful freedoms and creativity the Mainland offers have also come substantial problems that are unique to this area of the grid and so the time for change is now."

Let's pick that one apart a little.

"It has always been a diverse and exciting place to have your inworld home, but in recent times it has also become a challenging and frustrating one."

In recent times it's become challenging and frustrating? Let's try since February 2007, when ad farms began to attract public notice. If you consider that date, it's been a year and a half of frustration, out of SL's five years of existence (5 years and two months). 28.8% of SL's existence, life on the mainland has been a pain in the posterior. It would be as if Arizona lamented when it had joined the United States, or England the Magna Carta.

Taking into account the massive perceived time dilation in SL, it's been a long time. Where is this 'recent' coming from? Take note, also, that my example applies only to the earliest event I can recall. Ad farms probably began long before 2007, and there were probably even more challenges present before then.

In summary, claiming Mainland woes are 'recent' (whatever that means, Jack does not specify) is at best ignorance of history and at worst a poor attempt at whitewashing the past. While any company does not want their worst foot forward, I can't imagine that any company would attempt to spread such propaganda in the face of common sense. It would ruin public perception ('hey, they think we're idiots'). It might sway some into believing it, but on the whole I like to believe people are intelligent enough to cut through the crap.

"We have long had a policy of noninterference, instead applying the Terms of Service and Community Standards via abuse reporting."

This sentence caught my eye. What does this sentence mean? That from 2003 to 2008, the Terms of Service didn't apply to the Mainland? That I could have harassed and orbited fellow avatars with impunity? That abuse reporting is essentially worthless?

Upon first read it shouts to me that for a long time Linden Lab didn't give two shits about Mainland, and is now calling that dark history of neglect "noninterference". On the second inspection, one can see the subtle bullshit being served to you, that Linden Lab did not 'interfere' with the Mainland or SL and did not police the world even when receiving abuse reports.

If he had merely said they had a policy of noninterference, I would have agreed since they did not usually interfere UNLESS there was an abuse report and even then it had to be a Terms of Service violation (arguments between residents were usually ignored). But to claim that they have not applied the Terms of Service, let alone the Community Standards, is absurd. What was the police blotter? What were all those crimes being reported, made up figures created by Torley in a sour mood?

If he had merely said they had an inconsistent policy of interference, I would have agreed. But he does not state that. He directly states they had (and enforced, he says in subtle undertones) a policy to not interfere, and that they did not apply the Terms of Service to the Mainland. That is a load of bull that no one should believe in. Griefers can attest that the ToS was indeed applied on multiple occasions, and that known griefer alts are banned under 'harassment' among other infractions.

Finally, his wording is strange, too. "...instead applying the Terms of Service and Community Standards via abuse reporting."? Does that mean that a Linden had to file an abuse report in order for it to be noticed, and that they never exercised this power, and that the abuse report option for residents was similar to the blinking lights they show lab animals who think they're achieving something when in reality not doing anything at all? I am sure he meant abuse reports filed by residents, but his wording is poor. The devil is into details and you can't state something, because you know residents will take your words later as straight policy or history.

I think what he really wanted to say, and this is speculation on my part, that residents were left to settle their disputes between themselves by themselves, and the direction the residents took in forming the atmosphere of the sims was left alone. Why couldn't he just say that? It makes more sense and is much less of a gaffe than his original statement. I guess common sense still isn't enforced.

"This made sense during the pioneer period of early adopters and rapid growth, but to echo Mitch Kapor’s recent speech at the Second Life birthday event, as our audience widens we have to take a more active part in guiding their experience."

You would think that rapid expansion would lead to less active interference. With rapid expansion, the grid should reach some kind of critical point where the residents diversify enough to create and maintain their own experiences.

I read into this a faint paranoia that the grid isn't proceeding according to their own sensibilities. His reference to Mitch Kapor's speech lends some validity to this. To summarize, Ol' Mitch gave the older SL residents the back-handed slap, at once calling them outcasts and saying they should be, more or less, abandoned in favor of attracting a new audience. Jack agrees. Linden Lab wants to make Second Life what they think it should be, essentially destroying in the process their creed "Your World, Your Imagination". "Our World, and You'll Take It and Like It".

This is good policy if they are tackling such banes of society such as griefers or ad farms, or fixing some of those infohubs and orientation islands. Considering their tone, though, it seems as if they have their sights on those who focus on base attitudes such as sex, sex, and sex. No surprise there, it's made then a laughing stock in the general media (The Daily Show being the most memorable, go Youtube it).

If that is their aim, then give up now. No amount of pressure is going to remove cybering from SL. Google's Lively has sex rooms and cybering despite Google's active enforcement of banning such actions. The Second Life Herald found it and reported it, and probably just Googling "Lively Sex Rooms" will bring up bunches.

Or they could be referring to zoning sims, which is all the rage these days. I have no idea why, because I doubt it would help much, and enforcing it would be a pain. Picture LL's enforcement of PG/M/Adult ratings on sims now, and now expand it to include a multitude of ratings. Will it work? My guts tell me no. In all likelihood, loopholes will be found and exploited. Until LL shows it can follow an actual policy (such as actually enforcing their ad farm ban, and plug some of the holes in that piece of work), lay off of zoning. Otherwise, we'll get a half baked concept worse than what we have now.

"Unfortunately with the wonderful freedoms and creativity the Mainland offers have also come substantial problems that are unique to this area of the grid and so the time for change is now."

Golly gee whiz, haven't we heard this tune for the past three years now? The time for change was years ago, not now. I applaud them for trying to change, but if their track record has proven anything, it's that the change will be misdirected (ad farms), slow in coming (banks), or forgotten (age playing ban, casinos).

Words are cheap.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Unity

I never quite understood exactly why there were so many denominations of Christianity. Hey, we all worship the same guy, right?

It shouldn't matter how you worship Christ, only the core beliefs should be the deciding factor. That one believes Christ is the son of God, that he has granted and holds salvation for humanity (provided one has faith, of course), and that to those ends we should hold faith in his grace and we should do good works in his name. I think that just about covers it.

I feel like all the different sects are really antsy over the little details that don't make much difference one way or the other. Divorce was a hot button issue, which created the Church of England. Martin Luther had a bone to pick with the Vatican over the selling of 'indulgences' to raise money for the Church's coffers. Still others rejected the Pope as the Vicar of Christ, translated the bible to their own ends, and created their own Churches.

Those are all in the past, however. Let's look at the present. As I said, we all acknowledge Jesus and all that comes with him. If I went to any church of any denomination of Christianity, I couldn't disagree with the core beliefs. It's not like Roman Catholics believe in Saint Peter and Baptists don't. It's not like Anglicans believe in the Holy Spirit and Calvinists don't.

Shouldn't we all band together and admit that at our fundamental basics, we all believe in the same thing. There's differences, to be sure, but that should be at a personal level, between you and God, and shouldn't be interfered with above that level. The community, parish, whatever, that should be the sole reserve of indoctrinating the people with their faith and gathering the community together to worship god. The Church should be uniting, but not overbearing. It is at the personal level where there should be differences for each to reconcile themselves with whatever. If you want to get divorced, whatever, don't expect the church in general to condone it but again, that's you and your spouse's business with God. And so on.

Second Life is something of the same way. The other day, reading through the Official Second Life blog, I read a post on LL discontinuing support for Apple's Panther Operating System. That's no big deal, in my opinion. According to them, only 0.25% of all users ran the OS. Assuming peak concurrency of 60,000, that means only about 150 people are running SL on Panther. It's regrettable that some people will be left behind, but them's the brakes. When I got my new computer with Vista, SL didn't like it. I had to wait a while before LL got around to making it compatible. Oh well.

But what appalled me was the fighting that broke out over it. It started with the Panther people complaining. Fair enough. But then we had a giant debate over whether Mac or Windows (XP and Vista) were better.

I just don't understand what the point is. Shouldn't we all be working towards making SL a more enjoyable experience for everyone? Does it matter what machine is running SL as long as we're all logging into the grid?

The Windows people got nasty enough, suggesting that LL didn't bother with Macs because no one uses them, which just ain't true. Mac does have a sizable market share, not as great as XP perhaps, but great enough that it's not right to ignore them. I don't agree with not bothering to update their version of the viewer, either. I run Windows and am content with it, but I find it terrible that LL (according to the Mac Heads I've talked to) does not bother to work upon their viewer as often. And Linux...

The point is, that we shouldn't be eating each other over who runs what and why. It's silly. We're all running Second Life. We all should be working towards improving each other's SL experience. It does us no good to throw mud over Windoze or whatever witty insult there is for Macintosh. Rotten Apples? Anyway, we should be concentrating on what we share and not what we're running. Anything else is a distraction and detrimental to Second Life.