The newest eye candy: Windlight

Today I got my hands on the latest and greatest addition of Second
Life, Windlight. Lindenlabs bought the company behind it – good to see
that LL has some money – and there’s already a Firstlook viewer
available to get the first impressions of how it might look like.

available for all platforms unlike voice and you can play around with
it. Of course you need a somewhat decent graphics card to see the
effects in action, seems it is programmed with vertex shaders, which
means that most of the stuff actually runs on the hardware of the
graphics card itself.

So, if you’ve got decent enough hardware and you play around with it, you might make pictures in game like this:

This shows a typical, default sunset at the sea. Note that this is no mockup picture, but taken in world, click on it for the larger version. Well, and here is another picture.

This is the default setting "midday". Looks also interesting, the clouds are rendered in real time and you can see them wandering around. Last picture for the moment is this:

Never looked a night more darker in Second Life than on this picture. Well, it still needs polishing, of course, the animation goes way too fast – it’s more actually screaming "Hey, I am here!" at the moment to all of us, but when it is finished, this is for sure going to be a very good addition to the whole gameplay, even if the guys at the Second Life Herald disagree with me.

What I hate: howling in clubs

It happens at some places more or less, depending where you go to dance: howling of the guests. Some consider it fun. Well, it is – the first time. The second time you can live with it, but the more and more often you hear it, the more annoying it gets over the time. Why? Because it’s ruining the atmosphere, it is rude behaviour and most people over the grid just use the same two or three sound clips that are around to do it. 

Oh, and many don’t only howl, no, when many howl the macro also makes big ASCII art of wolves and or other things in open chat, too, while howling. So that when you’ve disabled noise you still know that they’re howling. Arg!

One of the best kept secrets: Philip Linden’s office hours

While most of the Lindens have office hours on a regular base and you can look them up on the web, it is of course some kind of different matter, when you want to meet the CEO of Lindenlabs, Philip Rosedale better known as Philip Linden in world.

Yes, he’s got office hours, too, but normally on short notice. You won’t find them on the schedule, you’ve got to lookup his profile and take a closer look at the tab "1st life" – that’s the place to look for this information. Today there were indeed scheduled office hours at 9 AM SLT at his office in Waterhead.

So, since I still remembered the masses of avatars attending the technical town hall meeting, I was one hour before there. Well, nothing happened at all, I just sat there and talked with my friend via messages. I wondered if he really is going to show up or not, but around perhaps 9:03 AM SLT he showed up and sat down, rezzed some chairs for other guests to sit down, if they come by, and was ready to talk.

I talked a little bit with him for over 5 minutes, no other guest showed up at all, so he put his office hours in the motto of the day of the Second Life login and other avatars began to show up, too. Well, the office hour lastet about one hour, it was nice to chat with him and in the end there were perhaps 10 avatars at all. You should expect really more when the CEO of Lindenlabs moves in world and is at his office, but what the heck, it was far nicer that way.

So here’s a little picture from the first minutes of the office hours, when I was still alone with him (just click on the thumbnail):

The talk was nice, he wanted to know different things, for example where Lindenlabs does right, where it does wrong, which features we’d like to see in upcoming versions and so on, but the whole bunch of us talked not only about Second Life.

Some points being discussed and insights were:

  • Philip Linden likes putting his office hours in that kind of manner like described to get a random set of people,
  • he tries to become an in world art collector,
  • he’s been happy so far from the technology perspective with what they’ve been able to achieve, though he did not really knew when exactly this would all take off and he’s happy that at least now people get why the virtual world is so important,
  • when comparing his company with a baby, he considers himself a very proud father,
  • another attendee raised the point that when accounts are cancelled or deactivated that the group membership of the avatar should cease, too, he considered that a good point,
  • he asked how our Second Life experience was this weekend in terms of lag and other potential problems,
  • he thinks that Lindenlabs needs a better survey tool to know when lag and stuff is getting better or worse,
  • he’s unable to reverse gravity in a sim,
  • I asked him if he feels that there’s now a shift toward more companies entering Second Life, he answered that he doesn’t know, he thinks the majority of signups by a long shot are normal people, but there are a lot of new biz apps in SL and they don’t really know since they don’t have any sort of relationship with companies in SL,
  • he thinks it’s great to have creative energy, people trying to find new stuff and that in any case marketing and advertising in SL will be more interesting than in RL,
  • he stated that it is hard to find the right balance between fixing and developing – true,
  • I mentioned to him as a possible new feature the group IM muting, he said he is going to consider that

and much more things. It was really interesting to get in touch with him and discuss Second Life with the founder of the whole show, and it seems he really wants to know the unfiltered opinion of the community and what is going well and what they should make better. That’s a good policy to run a company in my opinion.

Howto find out object creators without the owner noticing it

Well, have you ever wondered from where your friend has this nifty new hair, shoes, skirt, whatever (s)he’s wearing, but (s)he’s not telling you from where this stuff comes? There’s a simple, builtin mechanism into the client to find it out without the owner noticing it at all.

First, let’s take a look at an typical, advanced Second Life avatar – me. Here is a recent picture of myself:

Ok, what are you seeing on this picture? I am wearing some kind of hair, that’s made out of prims and attached to my head. My shoes are in reality attachments made out of prims, too. This technic I am describing only works with attached objects to the avatar, be it hair, necklaces, rings, shoes, flexi skirts, weapons and other stuff, even when the attachments are phantom. So it is not going to work just on clothes and other stuff without attached prims to the avatar.

First, let’s take a look at our example picture:

In this tutorial we want to locate the creator of the shoe being displayed at this picture. It would also work with the flexi part surrounding the leg, by the way.

The first necessary step is to right click the object of desire, here the white shoe. Your screen should now look something like this:

The selected object is being displayed highlighted and a pie menu is showing up. Select "More >" on the pie menu and left click it. Now you should have something like that:

A second pie menu with just four options; select "Inspect" this time and left click on it. When you’ve done it right, there‘ going to be a new window named "Inspect Objects" on your screen which looks something like this:

This window is the object inspection window, showing you the owner of the object being inspected (which is here grayed out on purpose) and the creator of the object. The name of the object is being displayed in the first line of the inspection window, here something like "SILVER/WHT Legacy". This is important to remember if you want to get a copy on your own of this object, later. Left click on the button "See Creator Profile…", then you should see the profile of the object’s creator coming up, in this case this profile here:

Voila, we are finished and we’ve successfully investigated the creator of this object. Normally the store of the object should be available under the Classifieds or Picks of the creator. Go to the store, look for object whose name you’ve inspected earlier and you’re done without the other avatar knowing at all that you’ve investigated the object’s name and creator on him.

Blame Europe?

The Second Life Herald is running an article named "Blame Europe" about the "virtual child pornography" by Carl Metropolitan (who dislikes it clearly) reported by German reporters.

The main thesis is this:

Sexual "ageplay" in Second Life–as repulsive as it is–would almost
certainly be legal under current US law. In the United States, only
virtual child pornography that is "indistinguishable from" real child
pornography is illegal. [1] However, many European jurisdictions are
far more restrictive. In Germany–source of the recent ARD "Report
Mainz" news reports–laws against "virtual child pornography" are even
stricter, [2] making little distinction between real and virtual child


The First Amendment has led to United States having some of the least
restrictive laws on freedom of speech in the world. But as Second
Life’s real life users become less and less American, and its servers
cease to be wholly US-based, Linden Lab will inevitably be forced into
more limits on what it can and cannot allow its users to do.

No, I disagree. This is not about enforcing laws here in the first line, or the constitution of whatever country at all. The main reason why Lindenlabs reacted promptly is: this could hurt their image great lengths and decrease their income great lenghts.

Face it, corporate plays a more and more important role in Second Life, it is making big bucks with Lindenlabs and is a thriving force and income for profit. But when Second Life’s image becomes equal in the public as some kind of wonderland, where child pornography is being tolerated by the company running it, then the first part to leave SL quickly is going to be the companies, because this broken image could hurt themself, too. Later also many residents would leave Second Life, too.

So it is either satisfying the needs of Lindenlabs to grow more or tolerating this behaviour of a small part of the community, which is illegal in many countries of the world and for sure would hurt the business great lengths, but not where the HQ of LL is situated.

Either way there would be complaints, but since a company wants and needs to make profit and tolerating this behaviour would hurt profit great lengths, the solution of it is without no doubt: making Second Life cleaner for all (age verficiation) and making it very clear, that they don’t tolerate such behaviour at all, even if it complies with the US law.

And while some are now complaining (what for?), I welcome this necessary step towards a cleaner Second Life and since it enables Lindenlabs the opportunity to stay much longer in business.

About virtual rape asks: "Virtual Rape is traumatic, but is it a a crime?" Well, it is written behind the background of such a thing happening in Second Life and the Belgian police investigating it right now. The author of the article disagress that it is a crime, to quote her:

Rape is the ultimate perversion of sexual intimacy. Like sex, rape has
mental and emotional elements that go beyond the body and the damage to
the mind and spirit generally takes much longer to heal than the body.

But that doesn’t make the psychological upheaval of virtual
rape anywhere near the trauma of real rape. And I can’t see us making
virtual rape a matter for the real-life police.

It’s a shitty thing to do to someone. But it’s not a crime.

What myself always strikes is, of course: why the heck don’t the people just logout or turn their computer off? But ok, just a thought, either way, it’s not happening in real, it is still affecting the psyche of the raped person strongly.

Well, the first documented virtual rape ever happened back then in 1993 in a MUD (multi user dungeon), a text based form of online games, very popular back then and still available today. They were considered hightech back then and hip, today they are lowtech but still have their fanbase.

Here is a paper from about the implications of such things by Richard MacKinnon.

Things to come

A few things to come in the future in my opinion, sooner or later:

  • income tax paid to your national government on virtual earned revenues,
  • more CAD tools like now this exporter named Henshin (AutoCAD to SL),
  • strict enforcing of this adult flag,
  • a 3rd party API to extend the client with plugins like importers, adding client side scripts etc.,
  • saving contents with LSL to notecards,
  • some sort of external backup,
  • regulation of the Linden Dollars, perhaps by the Fed, if it becomes popular enough,
  • some kind of interests on credits, defined by whomever,
  • more law rushing into SL (it has never been out of SL),
  • some kind of external grid/corporate grid, well new grids anyway,
  • the sale or IPO of Lindenlabs,
  • some bridge to existing instant messaging networks like ICQ, MSN or Jabber.

Growth has slowed down

When you take a closer look at the key metrics of April or make diagrams out of them like here by Tateru Nine, who has been interviewed here about the growth, you can only come to one conclusion: growth is still there, but it has stalled. 

What are the reasons? There could be many. Perhaps the bad performance – but that’s something you experience after you’ve created an avatar, so perhaps not really. I personally think that the times of the big hype as Second Life as Web 3.0 are gone now – the time for bashing Second Life starts now, meaning usage and new account creations are going down and after that somewhat up again.

The question is: is this a good thing for a while? Yes. It gives Lindenlabs more time to work on their next generation architecture and some air to solve out some big issues. It is bad still in business terms since land sales should go down a little now, so I wonder how this affects the income of LL at all.