Apr 112014
 

The heartbleed bug has been causing mayhem this week, many a headache has been felt in IT departments the world over. Second Life users were obviously concerned about this and Linden Lab have produced a blog post relevant to Second Life : Account Safety and the Heartbleed OpenSSL Bug.

There’s some really good news from the lab about this:

You do not need to take extra action to secure your Second Life password if you have not used the same password on other websites. Your Second Life password was not visible via Heartbleed server memory exposure. No secondlife.com site that accepts passwords had the vulnerable SSL heartbeat feature enabled.

However it should be noted that Second Life properties were not immune to this issue, as the blog post explains :

Supporting sites such as Second Life profiles are hosted on cloud hosting services. Some of these sites were previously vulnerable to Heartbleed, which may have exposed one of these servers’ certificates. As an extra precaution, we are in the process of replacing our SSL certificates across the board. This change will be fully automatic in standard web browsers.

Initially this may seem confusing, but login to Second Life profiles is done via the main website login, rather than a login directly on those servers, so the initial advice that there’s no need to take extra action stands.

However there are circumstances whereby you may want to change your Second Life password and that is if you use that very same password on a site that may have had login information exposed.

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Apr 102014
 

CommerceTeam Linden has posted an interesting blog : Help Customers Buy Clothing that Fits their Avatars. The idea is for merchants to help customers to find the right clothing for their avatar by using standards when it comes to labels and descriptions for Second Life clothing and avatars.

This is a noble aim because the rise of Mesh clothing has left many a consumer confused as to whether an item will work with their avatar. Merchants are encouraged to use both icons and text to aid consumers. The blog post advises merchants to use the following terms for the appropriate item :

  • Classic avatar: original default (non-mesh) Second Life avatars.
  • Standard mesh avatar: a classic avatar wearing a rigged mesh attachment, created using the standard fitted mesh model.
  • Custom/branded avatar: an avatar of either type (i.e. that does or does not use mesh) that is a custom size or shape, requiring custom-made clothing to fit it. A brand name for the shape will help users easily identify which clothing fits which custom avatar.

Initially many edge cases will be raised where items don’t seem to fit a single category, which may lead to some confusion but the categories appear to work from where I’m sitting. Over at SLUniverse some points have been raised in a thread there. Tamarsk raises a point regarding the initial confusion :

So, say I have a fitted mesh jacket – is that classic or standard or both? It seems that the market space for the two last categories is very small. Aren’t 95% of the items out there just classic? Somehow I don’t think this solves much of a problem but again, I am confused.

I would say that was Standard mesh avatar myself, as long as it has been designed using the standard fitted mesh model, but I could be wrong. I’m not quite sure where  mesh clothing made prior to the introduction of fitted mesh goes though, it is custom made so probably in the custom/branded category.

However Linden Lab do provide more information in a knowledgebase article, although I feel Linden Lab have missed a trick here in terms of promoting these concepts after reading that knowledgebase article, but I’ll come to that later.

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Apr 092014
 

The next episode of BBC Radio 4′s Digital Human sees presenter Aleks Krotoski takes a look  a voice, or rather the lack of voice in online communications :

In this weeks Digital Human Aleks Krotoski asks if the Digital world is robbing us of our voice. When we’d rather text or message than speak to someone are we still listening?

While radio may well be thriving look at just about every other digital device and its pictures , video and text communication that dominates. So what is the future for the voice?

This has potential to be interesting, although this show runs for less than half an hour so they may not be able to squeeze enough in but voice is an issue that has been raised in many a virtual world and has been a bone of contention in Second Life since it was introduced.

So why is voice a second class means of communication online? I haven’t done any research into this but I would hazard a guess that some of the reasons are to do with identity, some of the reasons are to do with language barriers and some of the reasons are to do with the online experience being so visually rich, text simply has more mileage in the tank. However as virtual worlds become more immersive, this may change.

In February 2007 Joe Linden blogged : Bringing Voice to Second Life and over 500 comments appeared below the post, many of them disagreeing with the addition of voice. Some of the comments on that blog post explain why voice isn’t as widely accepted as text :

“The voice ‘improvement’ avoids one obvious issue… In what human language are all the voices to use? English? Chinese? Spanish? Portuguese? It’s bad enough bridging the language barriers when we are IMing (where one has time to think, compose, and apply rules of grammar and remember foreign words over a span of time)… But speaking demands faster recall and faster integration of language elements in real time… tough in one’s own language… sometimes almost impossible in another language… Good luck, but I have my doubts….”

“I suppose this was inevitable, but it will further divide those for whom Second Life is a truly second life, very possibly a fantasy life, from those for whom SL is an extension of their first life. I wonder if there will end up having to be a grid (from LL or someone else) where those who don’t just want another first life will be able to go.”

“Anoynimty has always been one of the main points of SL. Until it can be perserved then their should be no voice like Philip Linden originaly said.”

“But you have to understand the emotions and fear of the other people playing here that don’t want to use voice, either if they can’t speak well or don’t want to show their identity. SL is in my opinion a place used for leisure, fun, relaxation and even psychotherapy.

If you introduce this babylonian tower this will be the first step of isolation by nations. While chatting you still can look up the dictionary or take your time to answer. This is not possible while having a live talk. And don’t forget the dialects. not everybody speaks a clear tongue understandable even for foreigners.”

There are other objections there, people in homes with families where they don’t want to engage in voice chat because others are in the home. Females in particular have complained of being harassed about not using voice and then been accused of not really being females.

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Apr 082014
 

Iris Ophelia over at New World Notes feels that The Elder Scrolls Online is a good MMO, but not a good Elder Scrolls game. Iris didn’t enjoy the beta but since the game went live, she has very much enjoyed it, explaining that something changed :

The very first thing that I will tell you about my time with The Elder Scrolls Online is how much I absolutely hated it during the beta. Playing it was like a chore — gaming housework I had to do — and I just wasn’t having fun, full stop. The second thing I will tell you is that at some point, that changed. Since Head-Start access opened last week, I’ve spent every day eagerly anticipating the moment when my work is done and I’m free to play more. It’s hard to pin down exactly why I’ve done a complete 180, but I think it has something to do with adjusting my expectations.

Over at SLUniverse, Cristiano Midnight agrees with Iris regarding the beta to live game change over, saying : “After playing it for the past week, I have to admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much I enjoy it, as I hated the beta.

However, not everyone is having fun and feeling the love. One of the controversial aspects of The Elder Scrolls Online has been the subscription model, this is why it’s also known as The Elder Subscription Online, as a subscription only model is definitely not the way MMO’s are heading these days. However there’s another issue with the subscription, one that has players who have paid for the game and want to subscribe up in arms, as reported by Kotaku : Players Upset Over The Elder Scrolls Online’s Subscription System. This is different to people being upset about the existence of a subscription model, this is a tale of woe about how players who tried to subscribe after they had bought the game and found their pre-authorisation for a subscription payment method failed.

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Apr 052014
 

This week’s Drax Files Radio hour covers a variety of topics, Oculus Rift, SL Go and the Linden Lab terms of service being the big ticket items.

There’s an interview with Dennis Harper of OnLive about the SL Go pricing changes. Dennis explains the reason for the changes, feedback from surveys, blogs and comments suggested that people love the idea, love the concept and are impressed with the technology, but the only really big problem people really had was with the pricing model.

However OnLive went further than people expected with their pricing changes, in the interview Dennis Harper says that the price they’ve announced is around half of what people said they would pay to use SL Go for a month.This suggests that plenty of people said that they would pay around 20 bucks a month for SL Go, rather that the just under 10 bucks a month that has been announced. Dennis also comments on Second Life being free to play and therefore some resistance around paying for Second Life usage does exist, but it doesn’t exist to the extent that some may think. Discretionary spending in Second Life is the big money maker and SL Go fits firmly into that category.

Jo Yardley talks of her personal experience of using the Oculus Rift in Second Life. Jo is impressed by it, although she points out that if using dev kit 1 the resolution is bad, but the experience is still wonderfully immersive.

Jo also points out that use of the keyboard whilst trying to use the Oculus Rift is pretty much impossible for her, which is something that will eventually need to be addressed. However on a positive note, Jo didn’t experience any nausea. Hower Jo makes the extremely important point that people really need to use The Rift before forming an opinion and that’s really the crux of the issue at this stage. Jo’s feedback and the feedback of those who use the device will be crucial to its development, although as in most technological cases, there will not be a solution that pleases everyone.

However the really big interview this week comes with Richard A Goldberg who has done work for Madpea Games in Second Life. The interview is about and Richard’s views on the Second Life terms of service change from last August.

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Apr 052014
 

When someone makes a post on April 1st, you get suspicious. When someone makes a post on April 1st that talks of haiku, poetry and the Linden Scripting Language, you get even more suspicious, even if the person is  Strife Onizuka, long time resident, one time moderator, long time scripting person. However it seems it’s actually a real project! Here are Strife’s words:

Hello. I’m Strife Onizuka, LSL Portal editor and scriptor. This being the start of the second quarter I come to you today to announce a new project I am spearheading, it’s goal is to make the documentation more accessible to a larger portion of the SL community.

Long have we struggled with how to make the documentation more accessible. One of the most common complaints is that is simply too technical and we are hearing this more often than you would believe from one of SL’s more traditional content creators: descriptive writers. So I am proud to announce that after many sleepless nights we have come up with a way to address this. As the core problem is that the documentation relies upon very specific, technical language we have come up with a way to bring more mundane verbiage into the documentation.

To achieve this end we are announcing the LSL Portal Poetry Project! The goal of the the LPPP (or LP³ as I like to think of it), is to provide poetry for every LSL Event, Function and Constant. More specifically, the form of poetry we have chosen is Haiku. Screen realistate being at a premium haiku requires the minimum amount of space while packing the greatest metaphorical punch.

To illustrate, here is the haiku for llParticleSystem:

Cherry blossom sprites
alight upon fickle breezes
to fall through the ground.

For myself I had to had to have this haiku explained to me. It’s writer explained that the literary expert will be able to extract with great ease the following incites:

  1. Particles in SecondLife are traditional 2D sprites often seen in may games.
  2. That SecondLife not only has wind, which is a bit capricious, it has a full blown weather simulator.
  3. That the particle system has no notion of clipping; particles will go through solid objects, including the ground.
  4. The writer has a tabby that likes to sleep on the keyboard.

As always the LSL Portal needs volunteers. To give you an idea of what we need, some articles already have poems. You can find a list of them here: Articles with haiku

If you would like to help with this project, here are a list of LSL articles in need of haiku: Articles in need of haiku

If writing haiku isn’t where your strength lies (it sure isn’t mine) maybe consider writing examples or just generally expanding on what has already been written: LSL articles in need of an example

For those interested, the runner up to Haiku was Limerick but we had trouble rhyming anything with llSetLinkPrimitiveParamsFast.

As I said earlier, I thought this was an April fool, but it’s not.

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Apr 042014
 

Oculus VR like Valve employees so much that they are getting into the habit of making them ex Valve employees. They’ve recently added Aaron Nicholls to the team, who will apparently be working out of Bellevue R&D with Atman Binstock, who used to work for Valve and became Oculus VR chief architecht in March. A year earlier and Tom Forsyth had started the trend of being ex Valve, now Oculus.

Then of course there is Michael Abrash, who is the new Oculus VR chief scientist and used to work for Valve. In the blog post welcoming Michael Abrash to Oculus VR Michael gets more than a little excited about the possibilities of the future of virtual reality. A little too excited to be honest, but you’ve got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you going to have a dream come true. The problem of course about dreams about virtual reality is that in traditional fiction and film, they are more like nightmares than dreams.

In the blog post Michael says :

Sometime in 1993 or 1994, I read Snow Crash, and for the first time thought something like the Metaverse might be possible in my lifetime.

The good thing about the blog post is that it attempts to move the discussion away from the murky acquisition and back to the concept of virtual reality. This is a noble and important move because the technology trumps the controversy. Michael says:

You get the idea. We’re on the cusp of what I think is not The Next Big Platform, but rather simply The Final Platform – the platform to end all platforms – and the path here has been so improbable that I can only shake my head.

I have to say he sounds a little too excited there, the platform will evolve and so will the technology, the holodeck is not just around the corner and there are going to be many swings and roundabouts before people are able to truly immerse themselves in virtual worlds. However, the excitement in Michael’s post is most definitely to be welcomed, this is after all a technology people have been hoping and waiting for.

There are problems ahead, Hamlet Au over at New World Notes recently highlighted a potential problem : Does Virtual Reality Literally Make Most Women Sick? That post links to a post from Danah Boyd : Is the Oculus Rift sexist? The issue is nausea and this isn’t an off the cuff post from Danah Boyd, there’s real research there. Danah concludes that more research is needed, which is hopefully where funds for VR projects will come into play.

However with Oculus VR, there’s the Facebook angle. In most VR type stories and films, Facebook would be “The Corporation”. They wouldn’t be the good guys, they’d be the guys with power, the ones who know everyone’s secrets and use them for power and influence, so when Michael Abrash says :

That’s why I’ve written before that VR wouldn’t become truly great until some company stepped up and invested the considerable capital to build the right hardware – and that it wouldn’t be clear that it made sense to spend that capital until VR was truly great. I was afraid that that Catch-22 would cause VR to fail to achieve liftoff.

That worry is now gone. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory. The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR – and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can.

This is where the alarm bells start ringing.

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Apr 032014
 

Linden Lab have blogged news of what may well be a very interesting move by Onlive in terms of their SL Go product aimed at mobile devices. The pricing changes include a reduced per hour pricing but more importantly, there’s a monthly subscription plan.

The update prices are :

  • Monthly unlimited usage subscription plan for $9.95US/£6.95UK. No commitment – cancel anytime
  • Reduced hourly rates – only $1US/£0.70UK per hour (the free 20-minute trial remains in effect)

However there’s more, when SL Go was initially launched it was only available to people living in Canada, United Kingdom or United States but now the product is available in 36 countries, including The Vatican City, I wonder if his holiness is popping in now and then. The full list of 36 countries :

Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City.

These are really positive and brave moves from OnLive, when the product was first launched there was a lot of debate about hourly fees and what many perceived as a 1990′s pricing model. However Dennis Harper of Onlive did say to Draxtor Despres : “We need to study usage pattern and we may be able to in short order offer a subscription package! “

Well it seems they have indeed studied those usage patterns and decided that a subscription package can be offered.

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Apr 022014
 

Episode 18 of The Drax Files: World Makers is out and has thrown a bit of a curve ball by coming out on a Wednesday instead of Friday! Then another curve ball is tossed in by having two people whom live in London speaking with North American accents! I’ll post the video at the end, which is my traditional style with these videos.

This week’s episode features Canary Beck and Harvey Crabsticks who are engaging in immersive theatre within Second Life. The video follows Drax’s tried and tested formula of mixing inworld footage and real life footage, with a youthful looking Canary and Harvey walking the streets of London. Canary Beck is seen wearing a striped dress, which she manages to just about pull off …. wait wait wait, come back, I don’t mean she pulls her dress off! I mean stripes on film isn’t always a good mix.

The video features a behind the scenes look at their forthcoming inworld production of Paradise Lost, in which we do see Canary with her dress off, but tactfully done. The production features 43 roles, played by 8 avatar actors.

Harvey talks of how the actors in the production are real people, something sometimes missed when it comes to virtual world productions, he also mentions that the audience are real people too, again something oft forgotten.

However this episode also shows the advantages of virtual world productions, whereby they can quickly pull 12 sets together and also encourage the audience to view the show via certain camera settings, giving the production team more opportunity to have the show viewed in the settings they feel best befit the production.

However that isn’t to say an inworld production is easy, there are rehearsals and a few hundred hours worth of script development in their production of Paradise Lost. However one of the beauties of virtual world collaboration is again highlighted when it comes to working together, they don’t need to be in the same building to work together and although they are both in the same city, they find it easier at times to meet up inworld to avoid the trials and tribulations of travelling across London to meet.

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