March 26, 2014

Elfin-chic leather dress from Inga Wind

Another cute outfit from Inga Wind. Here she makes a mesh dress really look like suede leather with very realistic lacing and contrasting panels. It looks like you could wear it romping through some forest or to a casual cocktail party. Complete outfit as shown including very nice Roman sandals.

I'm not sure of the price since I seem to have misplaced the notecard on this one. Anyway, SLURL as follows:
Inga Wind Clothing

March 25, 2014

Facebook buys Oculus VR for $2 billion

They cannot be serious! Call me crazy but I don't think Oculus is worth $2 billion. There are too many barriers to wide adoption with this stuff and lots of other players in the same space. I guess the developers can retire rich now while Facebook share owners may start thinking where is the value.

What next? Facebook buying Second Life for $4 billion? Meh.

News article here:

Official blog post here from Oculus:

March 21, 2014

I reorganized my blog

I got to noticing that my post tagging (aka Labels in Blogger) had gotten undisciplined and out of control. Many tags made sense only to me or people who really know Second Life or virtual worlds. So I just went through an exhausting (mentally) process of re-labeling every one of my posts. Some 40+ tags were cut down to less than 20.

Now, my question is, does this help anyone reading this silly page? If you have any suggestions as to how I might label my articles, I'm open to them.

While most of what I write about is related to Second Life, there's a fair amount that's not.

My new label logic is as follows:

Arts & Culture - More about society, art, culture, politics
Bugs - Specific problems with SL
Fashion - Mostly SL fashion but occasionally RL
Free - Free stuff
Fun - Silly things
Legal - Copyrights, Terms of Service, etc.
Linden Lab - Anything the Lab does as policy or business
Privacy & Security - Griefing, spying, privacy, hacking
Second Life - Global SL issues or info
Sex - Mandatory label for one article (so far)
Tiny Empires - My favorite game in SL
Tutorials - How To's, explanations, etc.
Viewers - SL and other grid viewers
Virtual Commerce - SL Marketplace, inworld commerce, etc.
Virtual Worlds - Other worlds
Other - Stuff that doesn't fit above

Naturally, some articles have multiple tags but I've tried not to be too redundant. For example, articles tagged as Fashion will almost never have the Second Life tag too as that would make the SL tag useless.

I'd appreciate your thoughts and ideas on this. My brain is worn out from it.

March 20, 2014

Fixing Second Life won't save Linden Lab

Yoz Grahame aka Yoz Linden
Another interesting post on New World Notes (James Wagner Au's blog) -- this time featuring observations from ex-Linden Lab developer, Yoz Grahame.

To simplify, Yoz basically says that no amount of fixing of Second Life will get Linden Lab to the next level or reverse it's decline.

The article has already generated a load of comments ranging from "Yoz is full of it" to total agreement. Personally, I think Yoz has some good points but misses the big picture which really is all about Linden Lab's customers.

One problem, which he rightfully points out, is that various other projects (like Versu, dio, and others) have been ill-defined from market and product perspectives. But then in the same turn, he argues that they have to be done because Second Life itself isn't enough. Well yeah but that's the cart before the horse.

My thought runs more to what are Linden Lab's core competencies? Clearly they haven't been launching new platforms or initiatives. Certainly not consumer marketing. And certainly not buying companies and making them successful. In fact, except for Second Life, Linden Lab hasn't done a lot of things right.

What it does have is a very loyal but frustrated user base that gets ever more frustrated by all the non-sequiturs the Lab engages in. And it has a very unique product in Second Life. I keep thinking what if the resources that were put into some obviously silly ideas had actually been put towards making Second Life run smoothly, be easier to use, have a better newbie experience, etc.

Restaurant analogy 101

I look at it this way. Suppose you run a restaurant. The word starts getting out that your food doesn't taste as good as it used to, your wait staff is surly and your prices are too high for the market. So you get Chef Gordon Ramsay (Kitchen Nightmares) to come in and fix things. (I love this show.) Does ANYONE think he's going to start by ADDING more items to the menu? Or EXPANDING an already messed up restaurant? Or how about moving into a frozen food line?

NOOOOOOOOO!!! He's going to rightfully focus on fixing the food, the wait staff and prices. In short, he has to get the restaurant back to the basics of offering what customers want and are willing to pay for! I think Second Life and Linden Lab are in the exact same position. The brand and platform need fixing from a customer perspective. Now I'm mostly just a public relations grrl in RL but I've been around enough companies that utterly fail when they go after "teh shinies". Once the fixing is largely done, then and only then should the business start going after other opportunities. I mean seriously, even just some simple tinkering with tier & sim pricing would probably have done more to help customer retention than heading off into uncharted development waters.

Anyway, Yoz is obviously a very talented developer but I think his experience at Linden Lab may have resulted in slightly blurry view of things. Plus, almost all the engineers I know HATE fixing things. They love to work on the new stuff. Uggh. Fix what pays the bills first, expand later.

March 18, 2014

Utherverse: online porn starts taking itself seriously

There seems to be a bit of self-promotion and I'm very suspicious of the numbers offered up. Still, it's an interesting read.

Sort of shows what Linden Lab might have done if they hadn't messed up the Adult re-rollout with the whole Zindra fiasco.

March 17, 2014

Study to test 'chocolate' pills

Now here's a story I can relate to (being made of chocolate myself). :-)

Study to test 'chocolate' pills for heart health

Of course, I'd rather go hardcore and just hit the truffles directly.

March 12, 2014

GUIDE: Getting Small - Petite & Micro Avatars

Cupcake outfit by ValaDation
I saw this group notice for what looked like a totally cute outfit called Cupcake from ValaDation designed for Petite and Micro avatars. My first reaction -- ME WANT! And I want it now!! LOL. Being a fashionista and a part-time designer means I can be fairly critical about outfits and clothing in Second Life. But Cupcake just begged to be bought! How adorkable is this?

BUT, that meant I had to put on my micro avatar which I haven't done for awhile. Which then led to this blog article since I thought, hmmmmm, there's probably a few people who don't know about this stuff. So I figgered, why not do a mini-tutorial on this stuff?

Disclaimer first!! I am not a technology expert. So my explanations may fall short for some who think in terms of bits, bytes and 3D planar surfaces (whatever that means). This is also by no means a COMPLETE article on all things petite and micro. There are a LOT of ins and outs to being being teeny.

It's all about "rigged" mesh

By now most of you who venture into Second Life are familiar with mesh clothing, objects and body parts like hair. In it's simplest terms, mesh works kinda like sculpted prims. The difference is mesh can be more detailed for the same number of "triangles" or vertices. Don't ask me how. It's all geek to me. I just think of mesh as having vastly more detail than prims or sculpties.

The next step is "rigged" mesh. This means that the mesh can be worn and it will follow the movements of your avatars "skeleton." Your base avatar in Second Life has always been a rigged mesh object but what Linden Lab did was give you the ability to wear completely new meshes that aren't stuck in the standard male and female forms.

To do this generally requires a few common steps. Those familiar with wearing mesh clothing know that you often have to "tweak" your body shape to fit the mesh. Generally though, going petite or micro starts by hiding the entire body (via wearable alpha masks) to make it completely transparent. The next step is to wear an underlying body shape mesh. This can either be a fully textured "skin" of a particular look and shape OR it can be a blank canvas shape onto which other textures are drawn. More on this later.
The next step is wearing any mesh clothing, accessories and other attachments that will complete the look. We're not going to go into all the variations of mesh avatars. The rest of this article will be about "Petites" and "Micros".

Mesh avatars are not necessarily tinies

Quick clarification. Mesh avatars are not the same as prim-based tinies which use avatar deformers (animations), prim attachments, invisi-prims and other tricks to make the avatar small. While you can have tiny mesh avatars, most people think of tinies as small animals, dragons, robots, cartoon characters, etc. We are talking about specific types of humanoid micro mesh avatars here.
Snickers next to 1/2 meter standard cube

Size: Mesh mini people

So first thing. My avatar in the photo is only about .5 meters tall in Second Life. That's really small. To give you an idea, here's a photo of me next to a standard rezzed plywood box.

So what did I do to get this small and cute? In my case, I put on a complete "Magic Mesh Pixie" avatar from Eleven (11) Design.

(11) Design aka Devious Noyes is the developer and producer of a particular line of avatars people generally referred to as "Micros". (I'll talk about "Petites" below.) This particular girly consists of:
  • Invisible Avatar alpha* - (11) Design
  • Micro mesh body shape* - (11) Design
  • Magic Mesh pixie body for skin layer* - (11) Design
  • Skin Tan Frex - (11) Design
  • Magic Mesh pixie clothing layer* - (11) Design
  • Prim eyeballs - (11) Design
  • Clothing "painted" on mesh clothing layer - ValaDation
  • Prim or sculpted shoes - ValaDation
  • Prim hair - Truth
So let's break it down. The alpha makes your whole body invisible. The shape is simply to make the mesh conform in general to the rigging of the body mesh. IT DOES NOT SHRINK THE AVATAR. In fact if you look at the settings for the shape, the height is set to 50. The most important part though is the Magic Mesh pixie body. This rigged mesh IS pixie sized. Since the alpha hides your normal avatar, all you see is the pixie body. The skin is then "painted" onto the pixie body (more on this below).

Next is the clothing mesh layer which simply lays on top of the body mesh. Then the outfit is painted onto it. The prim eyeballs are needed because your normal eyes can't be moved or shrunk to pixie size. So separate eyes are added. And finally you have the accessories including hair, shoes or whatever else your mini-person might need.

Except for the mesh stuff, all of these items attach to your avatar just as you'd wear an outfit. However there are a few twists and turns as you can tell by my reference to "painting" outfits. :)

Magic Mesh Micro / Pixie

All (11) Design's pixies are supplied in two forms. One uses fixed skin/body and clothing layers (referred to as "non-Magic Mesh"). This is similar in concept to regular skins and mesh clothing only the body shape and skin are combined and you cannot change them other than swapping it out for a different skin/body layer.

(11) Design also provides a Magic Mesh body/skin layer and a Magic Mesh clothing layer. These are scripted meshes worn the same way as the fixed layers with a huge difference. They contain no textures for skin or clothing. Instead, the skin or clothing are "painted" on the mesh using a "Magic Ring" system.

While it sounds complicated (and frankly it is), there are major benefits. Designers only need to supply their skins and clothing textures in a special package that is "read" by the Magic Ring system and applied to the appropriate mesh! They don't have to actually texture the skin/body or clothing mesh itself. Once you learn and get used to the system, it makes a lot of sense. Additionally, it cuts down on the work that designers have to do AND it also means that outfits a designer may create for a different avatar system (like Petites) can simply be tweaked a bit and they'll work on Micros.

Yabusaka Petite

The other and more popular system (mostly because it was introduced first), is Yabasuka Loon's "Petite". While the scale is the same height as Devious Noyes' Micro/Pixie, the body shapes are different. The Yabusaka petite system works just like 11 Design's non-Magic Mesh. You wear the appropriate layers of mesh as needed to make the complete avatar.

Petite vs. Micro / Pixie

Because all petite and micro / pixie clothing is rigged mesh and must fit the underlying EXACTLY, the shape you get is what you are stuck with. No tweaking sliders, making your boobs, hips or pecs bigger. And, while some accessories and vehicles and things will work with both systems, clothing and skins for Petites can only be used on Petites. Likewise for Micro / Pixie.

So why did I focus above on 11 Design's system? First, it's what I own. All I have is a Petite demo which is no good for showing you how things really look. Second, after looking at the body shapes up close on some friends, I found the Yabusaka Petite shapes, both male and female, to be too "waif-like". The females shapes are very straight through the hips and "pouty" while the male shapes just look a bit skinny to me. Both systems have their detractors and proponents. To each his own.
Fallen Gods example of Yabasuka style Petite avatars
Another reason I went with the Micro / Pixie system was price! For $750L you can get a complete starter avatar pack with 4 skins, 7 hair colors, 5 eye colors and 6 complete outfits including 2 fairies and a lingerie set. Most of the Petite avatars I've seen are about $1900L for something that really only has one variation and generally no clothing included.

I can't speak to the male versions of either Petite or Micro / Pixie but both female types are "anatomically correct". :)

How it all comes together

Since the Magic Ring system is so unique, I'm going to show you step-by-step photo sequence of how it comes together to make a mini-me!

Basic Snickers
Start with your regular avatar. You need to remove ALL attachments and clothing FIRST. I should have taken off my hair but I look scary without it.
Micro / pixie shape applied
Next we apply the default micro / pixie shape. You'll notice there isn't a huge amount of difference. That's because the micro shape is basically an average avatar with sliders pretty much set to 50 across the board.
Mesh worn
Now the fun begins. Normally you'd wear the alpha first to hide your body but I chose to wear the basic micro mesh first to show what happens. Everything gets scrunched into what will eventually be a teeny person. Note that my boobs are now in my face lol.
Alpha worn, skin applied
Next up, wearing the alpha and applying the skin to the base mesh. Oopsie, my full-sized Damselfly hair is still there. This photo shows you the relative size of the final avatar using the same camera distance.

Take off original hair and add basic micro hair.
So here I'm wearing the basic hair that comes with the avatar along with the eyeballs. Both are simply attachments.
Magic Ring used to change outfits and skins
This shows what the Magic Ring looks like when it's changing outfits or skins. It appears briefly and a few seconds later, you have a new outfit or a new skin. In the above picture, I've put on the "light" colored skin quickly just by adding the Magic Mesh version. No waiting to rez, no taking it off then putting it back on.
Cupcake by ValaDation from front.
And next we "Add" the Magic Ring version of Cupcake to our micro pixie. You'll note that I'm wearing mesh tennis shoes too. Those aren't added to the outfit via Magic Ring. They are attached in the usual way (Worn). In this case, I had to use a Mesh Micro body without feet in order to allow for the kicks to display correctly.
Cupcake from back
Finished avatar looks good all the way around!

Even more variations

The one area in which the Yabasuka system shines is options. If you really want to trick out your Petite avatar, you can with everything from scripted hands (that grip) and heads (for moving mouths and blinking eyes) to a wide range of accessories tailored just for Petites. While the Micro / Pixie system will support these things, I just haven't seen any implementations out there. So yes, my micro face is stuck in a sort of neutral expression. Not a smile but not a frown.

It ain't easy being small

My world in mouselook

Size creates unique problems mostly with your camera controls. While mouselook produces the expected view of the world (see left photo), for some reason, the regular view is still elevated at just above eye level for a normal sized person. It makes zooming in and out on yourself for photos challenging. Most of the time I end up targeting my feet.

If you decide you want to stay more or less permanently as a micro person, you should probably edit your camera offsets in the Advanced / Debug Settings menu.

I've done this even for my normal sized avatar just to give me a better perspective on build sizes. Things will look a lot more impressive if you take the time to adjust your camera. Here's an article on how to do it.

What about AOs and poses and stuffs?

AOs, or Animation Overrides, will mostly work fine with micro mesh avatars. Unlike tinies that use deformers to move arms and legs out of the way, the movement you get with a mesh avatar is pretty much the same as you get with a full-sized one. The big difference will be seen with walking and running since you cover the same ground you would as a full-size avatar when, technically, you should be taking micro steps. But singles dances, pose, stands, etc. should work fine. You can see my model pose in the photos. Same positioning as a full-sized avatar.

Couples animations will not work right because of the avatar offsets involved. You might be able to adjust those assuming your pose set or AO allows you to but it may not be worth it unless you plan to stay permanently as a micro.

Links & resources

Anyway, I hope this all helps with your quest to be small! As usual, corrections, comments and questions are welcome.

SLURL to Eleven (11) Design for Micro / Pixie goodies

SLURL to Fallen Gods for Yabusaka Petites

SLURL to Petites Kingdom

Rosedale & Altberg to keynote conference

The organization, Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education, has announced the speaker and event schedule for its upcoming 4-day VWBPE conference. Being held April 4-12 across two grids (Second Life and OS Grid), the conference offers inworld seminars, demonstrations, keynote speeches, presentations, social activities and other events focused on education, virtual reality, smart games, arts and science, and the future of technology.

The two biggest names on the speaker list are Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life and now CEO of new venture "High Fidelity", and Ebbe Altberg, the new CEO of Linden Lab.

For more information on the conference, visit:
Conference overview here:
Note: Their website is very slow. Give it time to load.

March 9, 2014

NEW: Radegast v2.16 released

For those that don't know, Radegast is a lightweight client for Second Life. While it doesn't have the full capabilities of the full viewer (or 3rd party viewers like Firestorm or Singularity), it also doesn't tax your system like those others. You can do IMs, group chat, teleporting, moving, give/accept inventory, search, area search, voice, text-to-speech (for accessibility) and there's a very simple 3D viewer. You can also view HUDs and interact with them.

I use Radegast on my baby laptop (which has very limited graphics capability) and whenever I need the resources on my desktop such as running Photoshop.

Radegast is also popular among people who play Tiny Empires in Second Life since it allows you to have many "alts" logged in at one time - again without slogging your system.

Anyway, it's been a long spell between updates on Radegast but Latif Khalifa, the developer, came out with an one last week. While it had some nifty new features in it, there were a few significant bugs that got unearthed as it went into wider use. Today, Latif came out with v2.16 and so far it seems solid.

If you already use Radegast, this is a recommended update. If you have never tried it, you should.


Latif also works on Singularity too.

Large uh...well see for yourself.

I have been seeing more of this sort of particular slider extreme in Second Life lately. I don't get it. Could someone explain this to me? I ass-ume (sorry, couldn't resist) this look is targeted at guys.

Linden Lab shutters dio, Versu & Creatorverse

Not sure how I missed this but it looks like Ebbe Altberg is moving quickly....
After careful consideration, Linden Lab has decided to cease development and support for dio, Versu, and Creatorverse. We’re grateful for those who took the time to experiment with these products in their early days, but ultimately we have determined that due to a number of factors, we and our customers will be best served by focusing our efforts on continuing to provide exceptional service and compelling new experiences for the users of our other products.

Of these, only Versu had any sort of following. Enough so that the original developer, Emily Short, tried to get the source and IP rights back. See: She was not successful.

March 6, 2014

The 'Double Life' of Peter Ludlow

I don't often say that things are a "must read" when it comes to Second Life but - this - is - a - must - read.

Peter Ludlow (left) as Urizenus Sklar (right)
For those that don't know, Peter Ludlow, aka Urizenus Sklar in SL, is the founder of the Alphaville Herald -- a blog on steroids mostly focused on the seamier and stranger sides of Second Life. Ludlow, a professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, was known at NU for showing scenes of SL avatars having sex in his classroom and blurring the line between RL & SL in-class and outside of it. 

Now, Ludlow is being accused of sexual harassment by an underage student of his (full article). Oh wow. Irony is a harsh mistress or dominatrix or something. The Herald would know.

The Alphaville Herald itself has been no stranger to controversy with one of its regular features being to get female avatars to pose nude for open critiques by anyone reading and interviews that feature answers to questions from both a RL perspective and as an SL avatar. Famously, Ludlow also did an interview with an under-aged SL "madame" who was making insane amounts of $L (back in the old days).

While I personally often enjoyed the Herald getting scooping something interesting in SL or at Linden Lab, many of the articles went a bit too far for me and seemed more about pure prurient interest than any real journalistic effort. More recently, there's been a huge drop-off in the number of articles posted -- perhaps due to Ludlow's personal problems.

Anyway, to me this story shows the dangers involved when you start believing you really are a 20-something stud or big-boobed grrl toy. I'm sure there are other lessons here too.

I have no idea how to tag this story so I'm filing it under "sex" and "culture".

NWN: Hands on with SL Go

Here's another reporter's (Iris Ophelia) take on SL Go posting from New World News.

One thing I noticed is she made no mention of using SL Go for some more basic functions like IMs and Group Chat (texting). That's one of the more problematic issues with tablets & Second Life. Moving around and exploring is not such a big deal to me. It's more about interacting with who and what you see.

Botgirl Questi's take on SL Go.

I don't know much about technology deployment but this sounds pretty reasonable to me. My solution? Use Lumiya if you're on Android.

March 5, 2014

Possible Bitcoin suicide has Second Life link

Just ran across an article in Slate discussing the possible suicide of a Bitcoin pioneer. Turns out she's also responsible for creating the first virtual credit card in Second Life (First Meta).

Anyway, it's a good read:

Bitcoin CEO Suicide? Not so fast!

SL Go from Onlive - New mobile viewer for Second Life

SL Go Signup Page
Linden Labs just announced a new mobile, Android-based Second Life viewer initiative called SL Go in collaboration with gaming company Onlive. The (currently beta) viewer connects to Onlive's servers which in turn connect to the Second Life grid. They are claiming very high framerates. But I'm curious if things like HUDs, AOs and other things that are often viewer-based will work or not. The project is intended for Android tablets -- not phones -- although phablets may work ok.

At $2.50/hour of connect time (a rate "as low as"), I don't see this being a serious alternative to a regular viewer. I for sure won't be paying that kind of money just to use SL on my tablet. Plus, I wonder if Linden Lab even knows or cares about Lumiya -- an Android-based viewer that connects directly with the SL grid that works pretty well even if frame rates are low. It's only $2.99 for a one-time download. For tablet / phone access, it's what I use.

Important linkies:

Announcement from Linden Lab: Introducing SL Go from Onlive

Sign-up page for SL Go:

Info about the
Lumiya Viewer: