Aug 012014
 
An Image Should Be Here

Update tax Information

Back in November 2013 I blogged that Linden Lab should be asking new Marketplace merchants to fill in a W8-BEN or W9 form as part of the registration process. At that time Linden Lab had announced that new marketplace merchants would require a status of payment info on file.

My thinking behind this was based on the fact that this was a requirement to sell on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Therefore Linden Lab would be killing two birds with one stone, they would be gathering required information that may later be required for tax and account purposes and asking for information to try and discourage people from selling dodgy content on the marketplace.

I have been reminded of these issues this evening because security orb creator Psyke Phaeton has announced : HSOrb now Open Source. Psyke Phaeton acct terminated Aug 28th by LL. Psyke is not American and does not want to fill in the required documentation. The orb will now be open sourced and released with a Creative Commons 4.0 licence. The Orb is available now on the SL Marketplace.

Now of course, were new marketplace merchants required to fill in a W8-BEN, that would make no difference to Psyke’s position. However it may well have meant more people were familiar with the processes and more people were in a position to offer advice and assistance to those who are receiving these requests.

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Jul 312014
 

The Weimar Reupblic may well be a place people would like to immerse themselves in virtual reality, but it’s not really the sort of place you’d expect to see new fangled gadgets such as the Oculus Rift being demonstrated. However that’s exactly what’s happening in a small corner of Jo Yardley’s 1920′s Berlin sim.

1920's Berlin Oculus Rift Corner

I stumbled across this and many other destinations because I was taking a look at the Exceptional with Oculus Rift section of The Second Life Destination Guide. However my exploration was somewhat nerfed due to the fact that I don’t own an Oculus Rift. However don’t let that put you off, it’s still interesting to explore these locations.

However the important aspect of visiting 1920′s Berlin is that it raises the scale issue, this is undoubtedly an issue for Oculus Rift usage and a handy notecard in the area makes this point :

Welcome to the Oculus Rift and Real Scale Test area.

In this little corner of Second Life you can explore a street, a bar and a house that have all been build to a real world scale. A lot of places in Second Life have been build to different ideas of scale, often just guesses or estimations based on how large some of the avatars are. By using a realistic scale, things feel more natural. We use the scale of the “prim”, the building blocks of Second Life, translating real world scale straight into Second Life Centimeters.

When using the Oculus Rift, realism and realistic scale becomes very important. You will be seeing Second Life trough the eyes of your avatar, while normally you would see the virtual world trough a camera view high above the head of your avatar. This makes visiting a lot of places in SL a strange experience as doors and ceilings appear to be made for giants.

This Test area allows you to see what the use of realistic scale looks and feels like without having to change your avatar or your avatar’s clothes so you can visit the actual 1920s Berlin sim. If you would like to visit an entire city build to this scale and with immersion as one of its main goals, please change into some of the (free) 1920s clothes and get on the train behind the little station.

The scale issue is something I’ve seen raised plenty of times and is one of the main reasons that people feel that worlds and games should be built from the ground up with Oculus Rift usage in mind, rather than trying to retro fit Oculus Rift usage. However the dynamic nature of Second Life does allow people to build with Oculus Rift in mind, but it will also mean many parts of Second Life not being optimised, which may make for a frustrating experience.


Oculus Rift and Real Scale Test Area

Want to test out the Oculus Rift? Come try out this corner of 1920′s Berlin specially built to show real scale immersion. There’s even freebies and realistic-proportioned avatars!

Visit in Second Life

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Jul 302014
 

Staff and students have both left glowing testimonials regarding the University Of The West Of England’s MA Education in Virtual Worlds postgraduate course, which is taught entirely within Second Life. The course is produced via the Education Innovation Centre.

Liz Falconer, Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning at the UWE gave a little bit more background information regarding the University, explaining that the University has had its own charter since 1992 and covers a wide range of subjects. The University is also home to the world renowned Bristol Robotics Lab. The professor also elaborated a little more about the University’s use of virtual worlds, stating :

We use virtual environments to ready our students for practice in the real world, from law to forensics.

Senior Lecturer in Virtual Worlds, Dr Mari Carmen Gil Ortega said :

The quality of the students in the MA Education in Virtual Worlds, run by the University of the West of England, is unquestionable. I am impressed by the creativity of their work, their analytical skills and their insight and intuition. This shows in their work and assessments results which are outstanding. They also form a real community of practice and have lots of amazing skills to share with the real and the virtual world population. I consider myself privileged and fortunate to work with these talented people and observe their progress as they move through the programme.

I’ll have more from Dr Mari Carmen Gil Ortega later in this post, including a YouTube interview she recently gave. However the positive feedback came not just from staff members, students also joined in :

I am a PhD student having just completed 4 modules in this MA Programme as part of my degree requirements. My research is based on using the virtual world to enhance the learning of Computer Science at the HE level…….

I was privileged to have the opportunity to benefit from the wide range of skills, support and dedication of the academic staff on this programme, who built and advanced my expertise in employing this emerging technology in Higher Education, and well-prepared me to successfully achieve my PhD. – Beslam

Another student on the course to leave positive feedback was Aaron Griffiths. Aaron is Lecturer: Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology – Multiuser Virtual Environments and is also Director of the very interesting F/Xual Education Services. Aaron said of the course  :

Its relevancy for educational practice goes far beyond virtual environments but obviously, given its focus, it does apply much of its theoretical knowledge towards the development of best practice in virtual worlds.

Aaron also explained that he has first hand knowledge of the course, having already completed the eight compulsory modules he is now into the final extended project.

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Jul 292014
 

In better late than never news, Linden Lab have announced that the new skill gaming policy will not now go into effect until September 1st. Linden Lab had originally announced on the 9th July that the policy would come into effect on August 1st, which didn’t give sim owners a lot of wiggle room on a monthly billing cycle.

The new blog post states :

Since our original announcement, we’ve received many applications from Second Life users who want to become approved skill game creators and operators. By moving the date back, we’ll be able to process a larger number of applications and also offer creators more time to make necessary changes to their games.

However at this point, just a few days away from the original August 1st deadline, there are no approved operators or games on the public wiki. This deadline provides all parties, operators, game makers and Linden Lab, some breathing space to ensure the skill gaming policy is smoothly launched.

The policy itself aims to bring some responsibility and legislation to skill gaming in Second Life, with the following broad aims :

  • Skill games that offer Linden Dollar payouts will be allowed in Skill Gaming Regions only.
  • Only operators approved by Linden Lab will be allowed to run skill games that offer Linden Dollar payouts on Skill Gaming Regions.
  • Creators of skill games that wish to make them available in Second Life may do so only through Skill Gaming Regions and only after the games have been approved by Linden Lab.
  • Access to Skill Gaming Regions will be restricted to Second Life users who are of sufficient age and are located in a jurisdiction that Linden Lab permits for this kind of online gaming activity.
  • In summary, skill games that offer Linden Dollar payouts will be allowed in Second Life, but each game, its creator, its operator, and the region on which it is operated must be approved by Linden Lab.

Skill gaming regions are more expensive to run than regular regions, with a monthly tier bill before VAT or any other applicable taxes of US$345.00 a month as well as a US$100.00 conversion fee. I must admit I did not notice the conversion fee cost before and I don’t quite understand why that is required as there’s already a fee for applying for this as well as a license fee so this conversion fee seems to be a tad over the top.

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Jul 292014
 

SLBA In Second Life

Inara Pey reported last week that there would be an In-world legal presentation on the recent updates to the Lab’s Terms of Service. I’m not breaking any new ground here, this post is about exactly the same thing.

The extremely contentious and ultimately for many of us, disappointing, changes to section 2.3 of the terms of service will be discussed as well as the new skill gaming policy. However as the deadline for that has been put back to September 1st it may not be such a hot topic. Alternatively putting the deadline back to September 1st may make for a healthier and less frenzied discussion.

The SLBA discussion is scheduled for 10:am SLT on August 2nd and will be hosted by Agenda Faromet.

The discussion will take place in the SLBA court room, SLURL  : http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Justitia/88/125/951

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Jul 292014
 

In a fashionable couple of days for extending deadlines, the RezMela contest, being held on the Kitely grid, has been extended until August 31st. I previosuly blogged about this contest here.

For those wondering, the blurb about RezMela includes :

RezMela™ allows subject matter experts create, tailor and manage avatar based interactive 3D virtual training environments in minutes without any programming or 3D modelling skills. Our approach enables intuitive and deep control of virtual content components from our growing library. These functionalities help blur the boundaries between virtual scenario creation and manipulation. RezMela™ thus provides trainers with the much needed ability to calibrate in real time the flow and complexity of their custom virtual exercises. The need to match rapidly and precisely unanticipated changes in learning requirements is well established by virtual exercise designers and facilitators. RezMela™ is designed from ground up to address this outstanding need.

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Jul 282014
 

Tyche Shepherd reported yesterday that private regions have dropped below the 19,000 mark for the first time since June 15th 2008. There are currently 18,988 private regions on the grid. However it should be pointed out that the rate of loss has slowed down and that is particularly apparent for this year, although the last couple of weeks have accelerated the fall to below the 19,000 mark.

This comes around 53 weeks after private regions dropped below the 20,000 mark. Then the private region count stood at 19,997. However by the end of 2013 there had been a further net loss of 724 private regions, leaving the score on the door of 19,273. At that point a fall below 19,000 looked likely to come in the first couple of months of 2014, but private regions have fought a brave fight against that until the last fortnight. Two weeks ago there were net losses of 39 private regions and this week a net loss of 26 private regions. That means that 65 of this year’s net loss of 285 regions have came in the last fortnight, or to put it another way, 22.8% of this year’s losses have came in the last fortnight.

There’s no rational explanation as to why private region net losses have risen like this, at around this time last year, give or take a week because Tyche went on holiday, there was a net loss of 29 private regions during a fortnightly period. Back in 2012 at around this time of the year there was a fortnightly net loss of 154 private regions. Actually, a fun with numbers quirk from that fortnightly net loss shows that in the first week private regions dropped by 59 and a week later those numbers flipped around with a weekly loss of 95 regions ….. ok it’s just me who finds that interesting isn’t it?

If we go back to the heady days of 15th June 2008, Tyche reported things a little differently, so I don’t know what the net change was but 593 regions were added to the grid that week. Yes that’s right, 593 new regions came online. This was also at a time when Linden Lab could auction new mainland regions and in another, fun facts incident Tyche reported :

Only one new mainland sim was added this week , or more to the point a mainland region has returned to the Grid “The Corn Field” is back since last Monday.

Play spooky music now!

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Jul 262014
 

Outside Daden Campus

I found myself at The Daden Virtual Campus in Unity Web Player thanks to a mail to a mailing list asking whether virtual reality is too real. This was my first visit to a virtual world in Unity, more on that later. However the reason I was there in the first place was due to the Daden July 2014 newsletter (PDF link), which talks about virtual reality. The news letter talks about the Daden Virtual Reality campus at the top but at the bottom moves on to virtual reality.

Virtual reality seems to be back in vogue, to some of us, it never really went away whereas to others, they are still waiting for the great leap forward when it arrives. However the Oculus Rift development, largely led by Facebook’s purchase of Oculus has made virtual reality a topic of discussion again. Whereas I still have very grave misgivings about Facebook’s purchase of Oculus, you can’t help but admire the way that Facebook’s name has helped to make virtual reality a newsworthy item once again.

So back to the mailing list, Dr Michael Vallance ponders :

One of the frustrations I constantly come up against at university conferences is the use of the term “virtual”. I have been involved developing and researching virtual worlds for the past 6 years so to me “virtual worlds” seem the most appropriate “meme”. It seems that the term virtual “reality” has baggage from previous attempts of similar technology. The older academics associate “Virtual” with “virtual reality” and consequently they deem that anything ‘virtual’ is an attempt to replicate “reality” complete with real-world physics such as gravity and form. To some computer science academics, if a development of a virtual space does not have real world replication then it is not virtual. They call it “artificial” which, to me, is incorrect. I argue that a virtual world can be a simulation and it can also be fantasy. It is not necessarily virtual “reality”.

The first thing I thought of when I read this was Gene Roddenberry Jr’s visit to Second Life back in the summer of 2009. Good grief was it really that long ago? As well as describing Second Life as a “cool cool area” and being impressed that there were furries present, he was also impressed by the physics defying fact that he could fly in Second Life. This is something I’ve seen mentioned before regarding virtual worlds, that the laws of physics do not apply, that they are indeed, very different from reality and how cool that is.

However here I realised that all of my thoughts are indeed about virtual worlds, the discussion is rarely about virtual reality, so I think Dr Vallance is onto something when he says that virtual worlds seems the more appropriate choice of words. This may seem a little pedantic but I definitely do think of these spaces as virtual worlds rather than virtual reality.

In many ways it’s a waste of opportunity to stick to the laws of real life physics in any virtual space, be it virtual worlds or virtual reality. This is part of the beauty of going virtual.

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Jul 252014
 

The first rule of SysAdmin club is that nobody talks about SysAdmin club. The second rule of SysAdmin club is “How can I perform this boring bulk task with a script?” Today, the last Friday in July is the fourteenth Systems Administrator Appreciation Day. Generally people outside of SysAdmin groups aren’t aware this day exists, indeed plenty of people inside SysAdmin groups aren’t aware this day exists.

xkcd have a comic explaining the devotion to duty that goes into being a SysAdmin :

A comic should be here

Devotion To Duty

 

SysAdmins are the people who make it possible to login to your systems, be it at work, Second Life, Kitely, Inworldz, OpenSim, World Of Warcraft yadda yadda yadda. They help you recover that data you didn’t backup, they help you connect to the wireless network despite the instructions on how to do so being on the wall above their head.

They ask you “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” and really mean it as a helpful suggestion and have scorn poured upon them for doing so. No really, it’s a good tip, trust me I’m a Sys…  umm blogger.

Plenty of SysAdmins you don’t see very often, they are mysterious, they may well spend most of their time in what is known as “The Server Room“, a place that is air conditioned to an absurd level to stop the servers from overheating, it’s cold in there and often dark, but these are the sort of conditions in which a SysAdmin can thrive. When you see them at an office function you ask someone else who they are, and the other person reveals their name, a name you’ve heard of, a name you’ve cursed, the name of the person who put a limit on your mailbox and refused to even consider raising said limit until you’d deleted those funny cat videos.

SysAdmins can in many cases be easy to spot, they are usually the people with their heads in their hands after yet another wonderful idea from senior management undid all the good work they carried out after the last wonderful idea from senior management.

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Jul 242014
 

UWE Education In Virtual Worlds MA

The Education Innovation Centre at The University Of The West Of England are teaching a MA Education in Virtual Worlds with the course taking place in Second Life. Learners will have the opportunity to :

  • Explore the application of teaching, learning and research theories in a virtual environment,
  • Develop potential learning activities of their own and test them out
  • Explore the use of non-player characters and bots powered by forms of “artificial intelligence”
  • Design and develop curricula specifically for delivery in virtual worlds
  • Research education in virtual worlds

…and more

The MAEVW is a flexible programme of study, which is taught entirely in the virtual world Second Life. It is supported by online technologies that include virtual learning environments, collaborative tools and video conferencing. This flexibility enables the course to be studied anywhere in the world (with some requirements regarding time zones).

The whole course is a two year programme, although you can choose to take the modules individually if you want. The full programme structure can be read here. There are a number of modules, some are compulsory and some are optional. The compulsory modules are :

  • Orientation in Virtual Worlds
  • Designing Curricula in Virtual Worlds
  • Simulations and Role Play
  • Scripting and Building Learning Environments
  • Research Methods in Virtual Worlds
  • Sociology of the Metaverse
  • Artificial Intelligence, Bots and Non-Player Characters
  • The Philosophy of Education in Virtual Worlds

The programme structure page goes into a lot more detail about the course and all the details.

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