"Resis gonna rez"

Venue for Chestnut Rau’s 4th Rezday: built by Zha Ewry

Sunday morning: second mug of coffee at hand, SomaFM’s Drone Zone streaming in Winamp, thunder in the distance… time for the weekly blog.

A couple of days ago, I added the second Linden* to the list of people I follow on Twitter: “A small yoz-type object,” as his profile says. The decision resulted from someone else I follow retweeting this:

Haters gonna hate. Players gonna play. Resis gonna rez.

Damn straight.

That’s what we do. And we keep on doing it, regardless of how any of us might feel from one minute to the next about the conditions in Second Life, or the way a particular aspect of it is being handled, or which viewer we choose, or who’s pissed off at whom for whatever reason… Or even — to get all meta/Transworld/Avatarian about it — which world we’re rezzing into. The point is (paraphrasing my friend Ahuva): There’s a certain type of person who gets Virtuality, and cannot resist its call. Resis gonna rez.

While we’re on the topic of “Resi”, a.k.a. “Resident”: I’ve never objected, semantically or otherwise, to that term. From my inner POV, I reside as much in Second Life and InWorldz as I do in the immediate suburbs of Indianapolis. OK, sure — many of us are also paying customers, and it sometimes can be a damn shame that some parts of The Lab need to be reminded of that… but (again, from my own viewpoint) I’m not a customer of Linden Lab in the same sort of way I’m a customer of, say, the local grocery. In the latter case: I go there, get what I want, pay for it, and leave; I don’t keep a personalized space in the store to hang out in when I’m not actively buying.

On the other hand, I’m a resident of my apartment complex, and the town it’s in. I pay rent and taxes in exchange for the privilege, and for services provided — which also makes me a “customer”, if you insist — but framing my psychological relationship with the place I live by using a word that only describes the monetary transaction rather misses the point.

Nevertheless…

I’ve finally succumbed to the use of Display Names in SL, because the constant repetition of “Resident” as a name was setting my teeth on edge. Say what you will about the 1.x naming method… we who came into SL under that protocol are now quietly lamenting its demise. Some of us even pay enough attention to recognize the relative age of an avatar by their last name, and when it was available [Example – I saw an Ingersoll the other day, first one I’d seen besides Ingrid, and sure enough, she’d joined in early 2004].

But, in the same way that we older Resis have literally “made a name for ourselves”, it’s only fair to allow the newer Residents the courtesy of seeing their tags they way they’ve chosen to display them. So I’m doing that.

Speaking of succumbing… count me also among the hundreds (thousands?) who are trying out the early TPV2s — specifically, Firestorm Beta, because Kokua hasn’t released anything beyond their rudimentary first iteration yet. The simple fact is: no matter how many of us drag our heels, 1.x viewers will eventually no longer function properly, if at all, and it’s time to quit resisting and evolve — that is, evolve within the constraints of the environment which, as with other organisms, are beyond our ability to control.

Inara Pey (recently become one of my favorite bloggers, for the even-handedness of her approach to issues) blogged yesterday on what would be her “Ideal Viewer”. I agree, right across the board (or, the screen). The one aspect she didn’t cover, surprisingly, was building… and I am pleased to report that both Kokua Preview and Firestorm 2.5.whatever include one of my favorite “extra” build tools: Align. It’s the builders’ dream answer to the problem of texture flicker due to overlapping prims. Kokua also brings (from Imprudence, natch) the feature with which one can copy/paste coordinates from one prim to another, but I suspect Firestorm will include that eventually (wasn’t it originally an Emerald thing?).

I have two frustrations about Firestorm, for now:

[1] Teleports are surprisingly unstable. More often than not, it freezes while the new region loads, and the screen goes black momentarily at least once, but usually twice, until I can resume activity. Occasionally, the region hand-off doesn’t complete, and I still get the parcel name and stream from where I just was… as if SL can’t quite figure out where I am and is trying to satisfy both system calls at once.

[2] I can’t go to InWorldz with Firestorm yet. My Ideal Viewer will be the only one I use, no matter where, rather than having to switch from one UI to another (not to omit having to switch between V1 and V2 capabilities). I don’t know whether it’s because Firestorm doesn’t have permission to work in InWorldz, or they just haven’t gotten around to arranging for it. They need to.

And Kokua needs to quickly catch up to the level of Firestorm’s beta (but I think they know that).


* The first was BK Linden… who, I guess, is too busy counting beans to Tweet much, though in his favor I must say that he filled in admirably during the time SL was without a functioning CEO. I’ve tried a few times to follow Rodvik, but the request doesn’t complete — I don’t want to conclude that I’ve been blocked, because I haven’t said anything to deserve it. But, as I’ve said before, I’d rather he read this blog, anyway, especially the SLHistory entries.

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Viewer two point "ohhhh, shit!"

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Should I bother with adding my opinion about Linden Lab’s beta Viewer 2.0 to the hundreds already posted? Oh, what the hell… why not? Nobody at the Lab is going to read it, and if they did it wouldn’t matter. The course is set, the 12-sided die is cast, and eventually even the 3rd-party adaptations of the code will march to the same drummer, even if in a different battalion. So pardon me while I blow off some steam.

I downloaded it the day of its release, viewed Torley’s tutorials, and “used” it for approximately 8 hours. “Used” is in quotes for a few reasons, which I’ll try to make clear… but I’m going to have to do that with words only. No illustrative screenshots for this post, I’m afraid; I refuse to start 2.0 beta up again. If you’ve tried it, you’ll know what I’m describing. If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t. Wait until you have no choice but to use the post-beta “final” release.

Let’s hit the good stuff first. There are two — count ’em, two — changes in the new viewer design which I judge to actually be improvements. The first is the re-organization of the top menu bar, especially the division of the catch-all “Advanced” menu into two, which can be individually displayed or hidden at the user’s discretion. Mind you, there are things still in the Advanced menu which n00bs (who are the target demographic) ought to know about, be able to find, and enable or disable — “quiet snapshots”, “multiple threads”, and turning off “show Away when idle”, for instance — without needing to see the rest. Overall, the menu designers did a good job.

The second genuine improvement can be called “The Death of the Blue Boxes”. Those annoying drop-downs in the upper right corner (group notices, teleport offers, inventory offers, payment confirmations), as well as requests for IM, have been replaced with a series of notification “chiclets” at the bottom right of the screen — exactly the sort of thing I’m looking at right now in the status bar of Firefox, with its notification plug-ins for Gmail, Yahoo mail, and Twitter. With those, I can choose whether to react to them right away, or later, or not at all. That kind of discretion is now granted by the new viewer, whereas before, you pretty much had to deal with them, just to get them off your screen.

Maybe you’d think, with that evidence, that “screen real estate” would be a guiding principle of the design… wouldn’t you? It wasn’t, and it won’t be. Every other major change — and a few of the minor ones — has the effect of eating screen in great big bites. Most prominent and therefore worst offender: the sidebar.

The Sidebar Must Die!

It won’t, of course. It’s the most-touted new feature, the one thing the Lab thinks makes this viewer new and exciting. We’re stuck with it. We’ll be stuck with it in the open-source adaptations, too — unless someone has the skill and the gumption to make it optional. Are you listening, Emerald?

When I tested the damned thing, I didn’t do any “power user” stuff like build or edit; I went out to a couple of my favorite clubs. There are three things I do constantly and habitually when socializing: talk to people in Chat and IM; take snapshots; read profiles of people new to me. In Viewer 2, which got rid of the pie menus, there’s a new “info” button that appears when you hover your pointer over another avatar. OK so far… so, click it, get the context menu, choose Profile… BAM! 20% of your screen is replaced by the sidebar! And it doesn’t just slide over the top, it pushes your worldview to the left by its width. To do what? To display a combination of what was (and still is, in the 1.x viewers) your main and “1st life” profile pages — but a truncated combination, cutting off the text in each with a “more” selection, while displaying both photos. The result takes up about 1/4 of the available “column inches” in the sidebar; the rest is just dead black space. Why???

Next up: Chat and IM. I mentioned before about the chiclets in the bottom right corner; for IMs, they’re tiny (as in, barely recognizable) reproductions of the main profile photo of whichever avatar you have ‘on the line’. Click on them, and a IM history window pops up. First problem: the default setting for the viewer is a separate IM window for each conversation. Lucky for me, I was forewarned about that in one of Torley’s tutorials, so I changed to its other option, a single window with tabs for each IM (which requires a restart, naturally — can’t switch ‘on the fly’, that would be too easy).

However — Local Chat (which they’ve renamed “Nearby” for unfathomable reasons) is forced to remain in a window of its own. If you’re like me, and find it easier to follow Local with the history window than with the slow fade in the lower left corner, and have an IM or two (or five) going on, you’ve got two to park somewhere on the 80% of your screen that won’t be usurped by the sidebar when you do something that invokes it… like, look at the profile of the stranger who just IM’d, to decide if you want to answer or ignore. In short, one Communication window has become two. I found this “feature” in the Hippo viewer, too, which I use in OSGrid — but Hippo allows you the option of returning to the “old” way. Viewer 2.0 doesn’t. Why???

One more about Chat before we move on: Even in the separated Nearby history window, there’s no field in which to enter text. The only place to do that is in the bar at the lower left corner. Think about that for a moment… You’ve already had to decide where to put the Chat history, and now you have to take your attention away from it in order to participate in the conversation! Has no one born after 1980 heard the word ergonomics???

Activity #3: Snapshots, which means camera controls. Two-plus years of working with the old HUD system for moving the camera around has made it almost instinctive — on the order of “body memory”, like the old saw about riding a bicycle. Everything needed was there, too: “orbit” and tilt on one circle, pan and elevate on the other, and zoom in the middle… and it was small and semi-transparent, occluding but not obscuring. Not in 2.0! It’s 3 times bigger and completely opaque; worse than that, it’s tabbed, so that there’s an extra mouseclick to switch between circular and straight movement. Zoom is there, but it’s so damn sensitive that the slightest movement of the slidebar sends the camera way past where you intended. Using the scroll wheel on your mouse is a lot easier, if you have one. (Do Macs still have the single-button hockey-puck mouse?)

The forums, and lots of other blogs, are chock-full of comments about the new viewer, so I won’t belabor the topic… except to comment on the one new feature everyone is raving about: “Shared MediaTM“, a.k.a. “HTML on a prim”. My comment: I don’t give a rodent’s rear end. Yeah, yeah, I can see genuine advantages in some limited applications — none of which have to do with my day-to-day Second Life. I can also see possible avenues for data-mining and malware exploits. Here’s the deal: I already leave streaming media disabled; I’ll be damned if I turn it on under the nouveau régime.

I don’t come to SL to do things I can do in my Web browser — that’s what I have a browser for, open and running on my second monitor. I come to SL to do things that only can be done there: meeting people from all over the planet; talking to them; recording them, and the often amazing surroundings, with screenshots I’m vain enough to consider photography. Viewer 2.0 makes my Second Life more difficult, not easier.

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Edited March 3 to add:

Miss Emily Orr’s blog post: “so why do I keep coming back?”, in which she repeats the same complaints as I have, and then some. All valid.

Meanwhile — I haven’t merely stopped trying it, swearing never to touch it again. I uninstalled it. Lucky me, I had been forewarned by others’ comments. No idea how it works in Mac or Linux, but in Windows, the metadata created by your use of the client (settings, logs, whathaveyou) goes in a different place than the actual viewer software. In Win7 (and, I suspect, Vista), the metadata’s destination is C:\Users\[your username]\App Data\Roaming\SecondLife, even though the program itself goes into C:\Program Files(x86)\…

The important thing to remember is: All Second Life viewers (for example, Emerald) write that stuff to the same set of files. Running the Uninstall routine for any one of your viewers will empty those logs and settings. So… If you are driven, like I was, to uninstall 2.0, but you want to maintain continuity, you must first copy all of those folders to another place on your computer. Then, after the uninstall is done, copy them back into their original location before starting up your remaining viewer(s) of choice.

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We are the Goon Squad…

…and we’re coming to town
beep beep*

In the last few weeks, certain channels of comment about Second Life (and, one infers, channels within SL) have been flooded by the issue of content theftThis thread at SLUniverse, where I first ran across the topic, has grown to at least 47 pages in two weeks!  (I’ll get back to that in a minute…)  Meanwhile, anyone who pays attention has at least heard of the suit against Linden Labs filed by Nomine and Eros LLC (a.k.a. Munchflower Zaius and Stroker Serpentine).  The latest piece of news, only two days old as I write this, is the Lab’s clever exploit to identify and bust (i.e., permaban) 50 people using something called “NeilLife”, a poorly-hacked copy of someone else’s 3rd-party viewer, to illegally copy content.

As I combed through that 47-page thread at SLU, I found two things of particular importance.  One of them was the alleged source of the third-party viewer that was the cause for alarm which began that thread.  As the discussion developed, a lot of attention was paid to a griefer group that calls themselves “Patriotic Nigras” (PN).  We furries are very familiar with that particular bunch — they’ve got a real hate on for us, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, but if you’ve ever wondered why “Yiff in Hell, furfags!” shows up so often from those particle-spewing replicator cubes, they’re to blame (or maybe their copycat wannabes).

In the aftermath of that bust, and lining up my sources for this blog, I re-read Post #3 in that thread (also by the original poster, Jesse Barnett) which says:

This isn’t ThugLyfe as that is in closed beta. This was built by someone who had been accessing the ThugLyfe subversion and using bits of code.

“ThugLyfe”, by the way, is a viewer that the PN has been working on — I guess to invent features to make it easier for them to cause trouble.  And it turns out that NeilLife is a copied and poorly-hacked version of the ThugLyfe beta.  QED, as far as I’m concerned… and we’re left with 47 pages of “OMG!” over — what?

Good question.

The second important aspect I noticed about the tsuris over content theft is: Who’s making the most noise?  I didn’t count instances, mind you… but it sure looked to me like the people doing the most panicking are all SL fashion designers… more significantly, fashion sellers.  In their “worst of all possible world” scenarios, the NeilLife/ThugLyfe viewer will be come widespread, people will be copying their creations left and right and wearing them, selling — or *gasp* giving them away! — and pull the prim rug out from under their market.  Many of them claim to make a significant chunk of RL income from cashing out Linden dollars, converting them to real-world currency, and they see any challenge to the status quo as threatening their individual livelihoods.  Many of those, at least in the early pages of that thread, played the “drama quit threat” card.

Oy, weh ist mir! Whatever would we, the common folk of SL — human, furry, or otherwise — do if the high-end, high-priced purveyors of clothing and accessories had to abandon the grid because their profit margins (after paying tier or rent) shrank back to the level of providing them with a little in-world cash for tipping DJs in the clubs they go to to show off their must-have creations?

[OK — obviously, I’m a guy.  One hairstyle and a handful of jeans and shirts is all I need to look how I want to.  And I’m a furry, which for me means I don’t wear shoes.  So I’m not into the fashion scene anyway.  Granted, a furry avatar itself is an “outfit” consisting of a skin and prim attachments worn over a human shape, and there are plenty of furs (mostly female, big surprise) who collect avatars the way their human counterparts collect skin, hair and shoes.  But we’re a minority and a niche market… and I was one of only two furs who posted on the never-ending thread in SLU, the other being Argent Stonecutter.]

Synchronicity time:  While all the ohmygodding is being raised about protecting intellectual property,  Pixels and Policy is asking “Is Virtual Consumerism Built on Social Pressure?, and Mahala Roviana is answering the question in her blog Second Slice with a resounding “Well, duh…”, and Santino Pintens started up a Virtual Consumer’s Union, which has some other people (see the comments to that post) saying “Huh?”

I’m saying “Huh?” too.  But I’m saying it for a different reason.

Santino Pintens uses shoes that cost L$1000 as an example.  Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?  You can get a full furry avatar for less than that!  To someone who engages with Second Life on the “no payment plan”, it looks positively prohibitive.  But let’s put it in what I believe is the proper perspective: not Linden Lab’s version of “Monopoly money”, but real-world currency.  I generally use a conversion ratio of L$250 = $1 (USD) — yes, I know it fluctuates, and it’s slightly better than that, but it makes the math convenient.  This means that those “expensive” shoes cost a whopping $4.  As Ari Blackthorn seems fond of saying:

Wow.

Just, wow.

Unless SL borks your inventory, you have those shoes forever; they don’t wear out on virtual dance floors.  Not bad for 4 bucks, eh? So, here’s some friendly advice: You want the look? Bite the bullet, cough up the cash, buy the monopoly money. Pay to play.

It’s true: stuff does go “out of fashion”  Why?  The important reason is: technical improvements in how things can be constructed.  For example, there are a lot of furry avatars that just plain look “old tech,” because they are… which is why Luskwood Creatures, for one, is systematically going through their entire avatar line and redesigning each to the latest state of the art.  The same thing applies to clothing.  The introduction of sculpties has vastly improved the realistic look of pants, sweaters, hoodies, you-name-it.  In footwear, the latest innovation I’ve seen is open-toed shoes and sandals with sculpted toes built in, so now your feet can look like real feet, instead of whatever that is at the end of a avatar’s leg.

The unimportant reason things go out of fashion is: Somebody said so.  Which brings me back to Mahala’s Second Slice post (link above), and the reason I’ve re-written this TLDR post three times while blundering through the maze of issues relating to virtual content.

In our quest to create things more realistic, we’ve stumbled and instead made them more like reality. I thought that’s what we were trying to escape.

Right on!  And with all of that, we brought the goon squads: vandals trying to disrupt it “for the lulz”, shoplifters trying to steal it, shop owners screaming for the cops and/or threatening to sue when the cops don’t come, whiners demanding clearance sales… and, gods help us, the self-appointed Fashion Police.

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* “Fashion”, David Bowie (1980)