Ciaran Laval

Aug 232014

The summer season of The Drax Files Radio Hour has had a few repeats and this week is no exception, it’s a repeat of the excellent interview with Tony Parisi.  This is well worth a listen because Tony talks of the challenges of client downloads and how they turn people off as well as lots more excellent commentary from a person who has experience in virtual worlds and beyond. Tony also thinks the 3D internet is right around the corner, but confesses he’s been saying that for many years.

However this interview becomes even more relevant with the news that Tony Parisi has joined High Fidelity as an advisor. If you don’t know who Tony Parisi is then I suggest you read his bio. He was also involved with the virtual world Vivaty, but you can hear about that in The Drax Files Radio Hour. However a snippet from his bio :

Tony is the co-creator of the VRML and X3D ISO standards for networked 3D graphics, and continues to innovate in 3D technology. Tony is the co-chair of the San Francisco WebGL Meetup (, a founder of the Rest3D working group ( and a member of the Khronos COLLADA working group creating glTF, the new file format standard for 3D web and mobile applications.

High Fidelity are assembling an impressive looking team, it’s a shame Jeska left, but hopefully that was the right move for Jeska. As for Tony, not only is he an advisor for High Fidelity, he’s also involved in some top secret stuff!

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Aug 222014

It started innocently enough, Janine Hawkins (AKA Iris Ophelia) penned a piece for Paste Magazine : 10 Best MMOs. At number six in the list sits Second Life. However this wasn’t the villain of the piece in this article.

No the villain of the piece was the initial image the editors of Paste Magazine used to represent Second Life. This was not Iris’ call, so don’t hound Iris about this. However this also raised a wider issue, one of whether Linden Lab provide news outlets with decent pictures in the first place.

This is a very good question, and one that to be fair to Linden Lab, they did address. This also raised the issue of using Flickr to use images and when images are or aren’t fair game for usage. As you can see, this is far more complicated than it should be.

Draxtor Despres pointed to the Second Life Flickr pool as a repository for images the press could use. However this is the unofficial pool and those images have different rights. Draxtor realised this and then pointed people to the excellent SL Is Looking Good Flickr Pool. However that has the same issue with regards to rights. This is why Linden Lab decided to setup their own Flickr pool. This pool has a terms of service that spell out that LL can use these images for marketing :

As a participant of the Program, you hereby grant to the Company a perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable, and cost-free right and license to use, distribute, or sublicense (through multiple levels), and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your Submissions, for the purposes of marketing, promotion, and/or outreach for and about the Second Life virtual world.

That was an issue of some controversy when the group was created by the way. When you think about it, it’s strange that Linden Lab later went on to make their own terms of service for Second Life even more controversial because they had feedback on those terms that people weren’t happy, but that’s an aside.

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Aug 222014

On August 13th I blogged about the problems both Linden Lab and Skill Gaming applicants had experienced with the application process : Skill Gaming Applications Appear To Be A Skill Game In Their Own Right. In that post I highlighted the moving goalposts of the application process and how they were proving challenging to applicants.

Linden Lab had initially set a deadline of August 1st for this policy, that was later pushed back to September 1st. In my post I felt that September 1st was looking a little problematic, indeed I said :

I’m firmly in the camp that believes that this deadline will need to be pushed back again, but that in itself is no bad thing because we can see that this is a learning curve for Linden Lab and applicants. The important thing to do is to get this right.

Days passed and my opinion did not change, there were no signs on the public wiki of any approved games or operators. However it seems that I was wrong, something I’m not afraid to admit, because approved operators, regions and games have started to rear their heads, as we can see if we look at the public wiki page : Linden Lab Official:Second Life Skill Gaming Approved Participants.

Whereas there are a number of listed Skill Gaming Operators, I’m not sure they are all different people, here’s a current list :

  • MooTownGames SLSGO
  • SushantDiesel SLSGO
  • SushantYing SLSGO
  • SushantLecker SLSGO
  • EchoBlaylock SLSGO
  • PokaMachines SLSGO
  • PIGamesResident SLSGO

At this stage I’m not sure if all Skill Gaming operators will have SLSGO after their name or whether this is indicative of this only really being one applicant. The same applicant certainly appears to have more than one operator licence because the contact email addresses are the same in some cases, or extremely similar in others.

There are a number of listed regions associated with each operator, but again we see some regions listed next to more than one operator.

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Aug 212014

The High Fidelity website is currently a strange beast. The site looks visually more appealing on my Mac using Safari than it does on my PC using Chrome. The whole layout is different, I’m not sure whether this is a caching issue or not. However I’m generally more of a content over pretty type of guy, with some exceptions, Microsoft Office 2013 being a glaring exception to that rule but I’ll move swiftly on from that. Another issue is that the top two links to the blog posts don’t work on Safari, the two links below do. However I don’t have that issue on Chrome because the layout looks different on Chrome.

However I’m not here to talk about website layouts, I’m going to talk about Paloma Palmer. Who is Paloma Palmer I hear some of you ask … someone? Surely? Anyway, Paloma Palmer has spent the summer as an intern at High Fidelity and whereas Paloma is far too young to be a cider drinker, she is certainly not too young to be involved in Javascript projects, as exemplified by the blog post : Paloma’s Javascript Project.

Palom has been coding for three years after taking classes in BASIC language and Java. This started in her Freshman year, I have absolutely no idea what a Freshman year is. I’m also surprised BASIC is still being taught, is this the same BASIC I’m thinking of?

10. CLS

20. Print “Ciaran Was Here”

30. Goto 20

That BASIC? That brings back memories! Anyway, Paloma explains why she finds coding interesting, it’s literally learning a new language and Paloma compares this to learning French. This is a point oft missed by people who are adept at spoken languages such as French but think code is scary. There are some major differences with application but some of the principles are very similar. The same goes for coders who shy away from learning foreign languages. Paloma also explains that coding is good for solving puzzles and applying maths to a situation.

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Aug 202014

An odd article has appeared in The Economic Times Of India : A Tumkur start-up VentureNext earns Rs 10 lakh a month by creating virtual creatures. The article is odd because it starts with a headline about how a startup has been selling virtual creatures in Second Life and making a living at it, diverts in the middle to a discussion about online gaming and ends by suggesting that Second Life is dwindling and that business people are turning to new ventures, such as Bitcoin.

The virtual creatures in question are Fennux, which are a breedable creature within Second Life. I’m not sure how popular these have been but they have been around for quite some time. Indeed I can recall that back in 2013 their adverts managed to find their way to the Second Life forum :

An image should be here

Fennux Advert

However Sathvik Vishwanath. the name behind Fennux is taking his company in a new direction , they are moving into bitcoin territory :

“I’m not able to constantly develop new things for Fennux because of my new startup. I’ll keep it running though, When one door shuts, others open, That’s just how the Internet is.”

According to the article, his new startup UnoCoin, raised $250,000 (Rs 1.5 crore) from Barry Silbert’s Bitcoin Opportunity Corp. That’s an interesting change of direction.

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Aug 182014

The High Fidelity team seem to be having such a good time, having a ball and whereas they may not be quite travelling at the speed of light, the team are working at reducing the curse of latency, as they explain in their blog post : Measuring The Speed Of Sound.

We are obsessed with reducing latency, because we have observed aspects of 1:1 interaction which are broken by too much latency.

The issue that seems to be causing most concern is that of audio, rather than video. I’d really like to know what the mobile phone has ever done to Philip Rosedale. Did he have a hot tip on the horses that he received too late to place a bet on because of latency? There’s more to this than meets the eye, or in this case, ear.

However back to the technology. The High Fidelity team conducted a test, as they explain in their blog post :

We connect two high quality microphones directly to the two input channels of a digital oscilloscope, and we then use either a metronome or simply snapping our fingers or clapping to create a sharp audio signal that can be detected by both microphones. By positioning one microphone at the input of an audio system and the other at the output, we can then easily and reliably use the scope to capture the delay over multiple samples down to millisecond resolution.

The results of the test were interesting, Skype winning the day over mobile phones. However with regards to mobile phones themselves, it seems Verizon are quite a bit more efficient than AT&T or T-Mobile if you’re making your call in the San Francisco area. Verizon’s measured 280msecs for 1-way latency, compared to 400-450msecs for AT&T and T-Mobile.

Skype blew them all away however, in terms of end to end latency, as the blog post explains :

Skype, by comparison, generally outperforms the cell phones in terms of end-to-end latency:  we measured audio delays of from 100-200msecs for various combinations of audio and video calls, where the two endpoints were on the same WiFi network. So this means that with a packet delay of about 40 msecs (which is what we typically see when pinging Boston from San Francisco), a cross-country audio or even video call on Skype is going to come in with about 250msecs of delay and be a bit better than using a cell phone.

Pretty impressive results, but far from good enough for the ambitions of the High Fidelity team.

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Aug 172014

Facebook has never been a good fit for Second Life users, whereas other social networks such as Twitter and now Google + have no objection to people having accounts with their Second Life names, Facebook has stuck rigidly to it’s real name policy. Obviously this policy is somewhat flawed in as much as there’s no real authentication of those real names, but it remains a poor fit.

Yes there are plenty of people who are happy to use their real name Facebook accounts and link them to their Second Life accounts, but it remains a Second Life unfriendly domain. Now comes news that Facebook have donated $10,000 to a politician who is fighting gay marriage.

Facebook made the donation in May to Utah attorney general Sean Reyes and have defended their decision, in a statement to the Huffington Post they said :

Facebook has a strong record on LGBT issues and that will not change, but we make decisions about which candidates to support based on the entire portfolio of issues important to our business, not just one. A contribution to a candidate does not mean that we agree with every policy or position that candidate takes. We made this donation for the same reason we’ve donated to Attorneys General on the opposite side of this issue — because they are committed to fostering innovation and an open Internet.

There is some merit in that statement, many of us will vote for political parties with whom we disagree with on certain issues. However gay marriage is quite a big ticket item to be overlooking in favour of a so called open internet. Facebook’s defence of their support is extremely mealy mouthed and does them very little credit.

However the wider point is that Linden Lab should be promoting Second Life on networks that are more Second Life friendly than Facebook. Indeed Linden Lab have their own outlets such as the blog and Second Life profiles in which they should be communicating with Second Life users.

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Aug 172014

The High Fidelity team have ramped up their blog discussion during August and there’s a lot of interesting and fun stuff to look at. There’s a post about the importance of the speed of sound, there’s a post about Javascript from Paloma .. Paloma being a 17 year old intern and not a place and then there’s a post about frogs who aren’t frogs sitting on lilypads and singing.

Now as this is Sunday and I need to shave and hit the pub to watch a bit of footie, I’ll focus on the frogs who aren’t frogs sitting on lilypads and singing. We’re promised a follow up post from executive producer Ryan Karpf to explain the concepts behind this post at a later date. However for now we’re left to see some members of the High Fidelity team at play.

Ryan, Chris Collins, Emily Donald and Ozan Serim all feature in this video as well as a guy with very large shoulders whom looks uncannily like the avatar form of former Linden Lab employee Andrew Meadows (AKA Employee Number 2 when he worked at The Lab). However as this avatar isn’t introduced I’m not 100% sure who it is.

The post introduces a name for the High Fidelity band, they are known as AKA, they are also known as AKA too.

The video in the post exemplifies High Fidelity in action as well as Chris Collins reminding me of a character from Monkey Island for some reason. However what we see here is facial expressions and once again the mouth movements are pretty damn impressive.

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Aug 162014

Inara Pey brings news of some improvements to the SL Go Viewer from OnLive. The improvements include SL share for Flickr and Twitter now working as well as a fix that means fitted mesh now works properly via the SL Go viewer. SL Share for Facebook should also work but Inara doesn’t have a Facebook account to test that with.

SL Go offers the potential for people using mobile devices to use Second Life as well as offering the opportunity for people running older hardware to get a better experience. This is because you run the Second Life viewer via Onlive’s hardware and therefore you can have higher graphics settings without bringing your machine or mobile device to its knees and feel like you’re walking through treacle. This of course comes at a cost, which is currently comes with the following options :

  • $9.95 (£6.95) per month for unlimited access. Starts with a 7 Day Free Trial.
  • Pay as you go for only $1.00 (£0.70) per hour.

I’m not associated with SL Go in any shape or form, nor am I on their list of bloggers, but I will say that this is not a bad deal at all for those who want to explore Second Life. The system does have some drawbacks, one of which Inara explains in her post :

There is still no capability to save snapshots locally. This isn’t surprising, given SL Go is a streamed service, rather than something running locally with access to the local hard / flash drive, and so is likely going to take a lot more banging on things before it works – if it can be made to work.

As I said earlier, you use SL Go via their hardware and therefore the local disk drive is going to be their hardware. This should not be insurmountable. There are security issues with allowing people access to the SL Go local hard drives, but with some care this could be worked around. Another option would be for a SL Go viewer only email texture option, although this would be rather clunky for end users, it would work.

Inara also posted an very interesting blog about the fitted mesh improvements as well as information regarding paid contract work for viewer developers : SL Go: viewer update fixes fitted mesh issue.

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Aug 142014

Earlier this year Mitch Wagner had an article published in Information Week about High Fidelity : Second Life Founder Pursues Second Chance. The article talked of how Second Life had not reached mainstream appeal and pondered whether High Fidelity can. Mitch wasn’t convinced because of the time investment, but he did acknowledge that Second Life got a lot right. However for the real reason Second Life hasn’t reached mass appeal we need to go to the comments on the article and consider the issue of Orcs :

Second Life would have fared better if it had appealed to MMORPG fans, the primary proven market for such activities. Philip Rosedale, you need orcs.

This comment misses the point of Second Life somewhat and yet in doing so, highlights one of the issues for Second Life and any other virtual world. People see Second Life as a singular place, it’s not, but the architecture of the platform can make it appear so, which brings us to another comment on Orcs :

I think the Orcs comment is spot on. It’s one thing to fix the technological elements, but Second Life never appealed to me because it was so open and amorphous. Part of the fun of an immersive experience is having an objective and a set of limitations to work within (or against). An open world where you can do anything sounds great, but then you run up against the limits of your own imagination.

This comment hits the nail firmly on the head. Second Life needs to deliver experiences as well as offering open creativity, people want something to do. This also goes back to the points Mitch made about time investment, people want to pop into a virtual world, experience something and logout. They don’t want to build, they want to be guided. The problem here isn’t Second Life itself, it’s the way people view Second Life as .. well, Second Life. I’ve said something along these lines before, but for Second Life to reach mainstream appeal it requires people to stop talking about Second Life. This may sound somewhat odd but my point is that Second Life should be viewed as the technology. The experiences the places people visit, the places people learn at, the places people role-play, they should be at the forefront of the major discussion, Second Life should be consigned to the geeky conversation about technology.

Now of course virtual worlds offer a sandbox experience and the concept is absolutely brilliant. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, Kitely, Inworldz, OpenSim etc. offer authors, creators, designers the opportunity to build their very own stage and bring their own visions to life. This really is a fantastic opportunity for people who want to get creative, to do so. However there are many many people who want to be guided through an experience, they want to teleport right in to the end product. Virtual worlds do indeed offer great potential but to some, a blank canvas is very difficult to grapple with.

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