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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Aug 132014

The Skill Gaming applications for Second Life seem to be involved in some sort of skill game of themselves as operators try and seek approval for their game. At this stage I wouldn’t be surprised if the deadline is pushed back again because this is turning into a challenging experience for applicants and Linden Lab.

Let’s just rewind a little, Inara Pey recently covered the Second Life Bar Association discussion on the new TOS and the skill gaming policy. I’ve looked at the TOS discussion but not the skill gaming discussion, so let’s take a look at the skill gaming discussion.

The presentation was headed once again byAgenda Faromet. The discussion is a little bit muddied at times due to the fact that gaming and gambling seem to intermingle, but they do get to the differences about gaming and gambling early on :

  • Gambling - betting, wagering something of value, money, on a contest, sporting event, game of chance.
  • Gaming - playing skilled games that require skill or a player’s control of the game.

There are some areas of the discussion that border on being a little bit wrong, for example :

So gachas, breakables, stuff like that? They’re not gambling. I’ve answered so many questions about that. Not affected by the policy because they don’t have a pay-out in Linden dollars. If it doesn’t have a pay-out in Linden dollars, not gambling.

It doesn’t matter what the rick versus reward is, it doesn’t matter that you can sell your rare breakables for a gazillion dollars; they’re not [gambling].

Stock exchange: not gambling. Contest boards … depends on how they’re set-up, but if it costs Linden dollars to play, and it has a pay-out in Linden dollars, it’s gambling. If it doesn’t, not gambling.

The part about not having a pay-out in Linden Dollars meaning it’s not gambling isn’t actually 100% correct. The wagering policy actually states that the pay-out can’t be Linden Dollars or any real world currency or thing of value. The thing of value issue is where people ponder whether certain activities fall foul of the wagering policy, it’s a vague statement. However I suspect it applies to real world things of value, rather than inworld things of value, but I wouldn’t bet on that!

Then there’s a discussion on where attorneys are required to be licensed to practice law :

Comment – If you are from Europe It is rather difficult to hire an attorney who is licensed both in your country and the USA.

Reply – You don’t need an attorney that is licensed in the USA. You need an attorney who can write a letter that says what you are doing is permitted in your country.

However the FAQ does indeed state that the reasoned legal opinion should be provided by an attorney licensed to practice law in the United States. Initially that wasn’t mentioned as a requirement, the goalposts have been moving on these applications.

However it’s interesting that the presentation viewed stock exchanges as not gambling because SL Capex, who bill themselves as the number one stock market simulation in Second Life, are currently in the middle of a skill gaming application and they seem to be having a few difficulties in completing the process.

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Aug 112014

Kagami Entrance

Kagami advertises itself as a Japanese horror event in Second Life and I have to say it’s pretty bloody funky, but it’s only here for the month of August. Wait, what is Kagami?

“Hey, you know what? At midnight, put two mirrors facing each other. Then you can see your future spouse in the mirror! “

Everything started from these words from my friend.

Of course I didn’t buy that story, but I thought of giving it a try anyway. I’d waited till midnight…. and well, nothing had happened as I expected.

No special reflection on the mirror.

“It’s silly. I should’ve known that from the beginning… better go to bed now.”

A 15-year-old girl shouldn’t have believed it.

But―, I couldn’t have imagined, what was happening to my old friend Kasumi then.

Ok yes yes yes you do indeed play the role of a 15 year old Japanese schoolgirl but you should be big enough to look beyond that, it’s not as if you actually wear such an avatar …. well I didn’t anyway. One of the first things you’ll notice with Kagami is the impressive use of cut scenes that automatically appear on your screen when you wear the HUD.

This is a point and click adventure in many ways, which is something a platform such as Second Life can very much pull off. Initially you’re going in search of your friend Kasumi, who has disappeared, did she try the two mirror trick?

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Aug 082014

NecronomVi Landing Point

Over at SLUniverse Wildefire Walcott brings us the sad news that the space station Necronom VI is in grave danger and will need to close its doors.

NecronomVi Reactor

There is confusion as to exactly when the engines will cease working, initial reports suggested it may be this weekend but later reports suggest that an engineer, who is obviously not called Scotty, as that would infringe way too much IP, may have managed to get an extra week out of the space station.

NecronomVi Danger

Necronom VI is a rare beast, it’s a science fiction roleplay sim. I’m surprised there aren’t more science fiction ventures in Second Life but now we’re likely to be minus one. So, you may be asking, what exactly is Necronom VI? Well the sim does come with a bit of history, but first let’s talk about space colonisation :

–Project Necronom – Space Colonization–

It is an ancient human dream to colonize vast space itself.

Humanity has expended over the galaxy for centuries, terraforming planets and creating equals to its former home. In order to reach the next step of existence however, the final move into space itself needs to be achieved.

It is estimated that over a mere timeframe of five genrations, humanity can reach the next step of evolution.

In an effort to bring forth this crucial development, the Necronom project has been initiated by a combined effort of the whole human race, even beyond the reaches of the UCE (United Colonies of Earth).

Twelve space colonies, spread throughout the galaxy, were constructed to house humanities biggest hope.

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