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When you take a look at the recent development of Second Life, then there are some things different compared to earlier developments:

  • There are still no key metrics available for August 2007. Those tend to get published later and later over the months.
  • The exchange of Linden dollars has reached a peak in the 1st quarter of 2007; since then it has been slowly decreasing, so Q1 is its peak (take a look at the last graph here).
  • Premium residents have reached their peak in June, there have already been less again in July.
  • The number of new residents entering the game has slowed down.
  • Business people are complaining in world about a lack of sales, meaning those are going down at the moment. There is for example being rumored that 70% of the Plush sims are unused right now.
  • Many Europeans are pissed off that they now have to pay VAT in most cases. This is not LL's fault at all, but could lead to more in world payments again and/or higher prices on their products.
  • Many markets tend to be sated after a while, so it goes with many in world markets when the rush of newbies tends to be over.

So what does that mean? Well, for now the hype is over in most countries. If Second Life should prove its worth as a tool, it now needs to improve to appeal more for business usage and to be more stable to sustain the established in world economy and returning residents.

Premium residents are not enough in numbers to sustain SL at all, so most of the money Lindenlab makes has its origin in land sales and main land tier fees. The borders of growth have been reached for now, as it seems, so now it's time for a consolidation of Second Life at all.

Since all are dependent on Lindenlab, this means of course more stable sims and clients, which is on the way according to them, a better scalable grid, too, better customer service - face it, most think it's as bad as it can be and slow, slow, slow - and getting more in touch again with the community.

For many residents the relationship with Lindenlab is kind of love/hate. Love, that they made Second Life possible and hate, because of the high land prices, not stabilizing the client/server enough, being dependent on Lindenlab, slow customer service and many more of such things. Oh, and since you can't see the Lindens in world often anymore, they became something like the spooky people running all of the stuff in the background.

Also the main focus of Lindenlab shifted from promoting Second Life to promoting the technic behind it, the grid. This is perhaps a good move for them, but of course also means that they're now focusing more on the technic behind it than on the well established community in Second Life.

The official Second Life blog has today an entry about so called megaprims (greater than 10m at one side at least). Megaprims where never intended to be, but they happened some while ago and they are in use in different buildings, you can either get them just so or buy them at stores.

They are rumored to have a negative impact on the physics engine and to cause lags and such, but none the less many builders have adopted them very fast and used them in their buildings.

So there's a discussion about it they should stay or not; at the moment they are only tolerated by Lindenlab, but they don't really like them.

So what's the sensible approach? Are they needed or not? I guess they are needed, because they fit into a gap. I mean, why would you use for example 9 prims (10x10m) to make a floor that's 30x30m wide when you just can use one prim? Because they are needed, they've been used and there's a market around it.

But of course too big megaprims are not right, so they should not be bigger than a whole sim, meaning 256x256x256m. In those parameters they could really enrich the building experience.

The statistical mark of 10 million residents in Second Life has been reached today. No big fanfare nor press message at all, this shows the shift from promoting Second Life to promoting the grid. Heck, the number of residents isn't even been shown on the first page of the website anymore for quite some weeks.

All the big databases of Second Life are using MySQL. Lindenlab runs them on the premise: databases are ordinary, better run 50 of them than just to have a big one. Choosing and running a database engine is one thing, the other how you install it.

A big matter of choice and on the impact on the whole data system is of course the operating system - Lindenlab runs Linux - and of the underlying file system. According to the SL history wiki all the database servers of Lindenlabs use ext3 as default filesystem, after they uses ReiserFS 3 for a while and evaluated XFS. Ext3 is really a bad choice if you need the best performance your hardware can give.

Well, why that? There are some reasons. There's this interesting IRC log of MySQL employee Kristian Köhntopp. Köhntopp is quite well known for his articles about computer topics and such. This IRC log is about which file system you should choose for a database server in general, but you can take his views of course too on the databases empowering Second Life.

Well, so what's wrong with ext3 as filesystem for a database server according to Mr. Köhntopp and what's ok about it? Several things:

  • the amount of files in a directory doesn't really matter anymore with ext3 compared to filesystems like XFS when you've created the ext3-filesystem with the option dir_index.
  • A big disadvantage is that ext3 is flushing its log quite irregularly. Meaning: the execution times of certain queries in MySQL can differ quite a lot.
  • Another disadvantage is that ext3 does not perform very well if many concurrent clients are connecting read/write, in numbers from 10-50. If only running a single thread, ext3 is mostly expected to be faster than XFS. But when running with many concurrent clients - and that's what we got sure in Second Life - XFS beats ext3 hands down.
  • XFS has in contrast to ext3 way much better flush times, they are more regular, and it's much better at preventing the fragmentation of files.
  • Ext3 is making "block marmelade", meaning inter chained files, if some files in the same directory are growing at the same time; XFS is good at preventing such a thing.

In conclusion Köhntopp states that ext2 (which is the base of ext3) is depending on the state of art around 1984. XFS on the contrary has been build on papers around 1994, meaning it's younger and having a bigger code base. This means, that XFS might have more errors still than ext3 but on features that ext3 doesn't have.

Oh, and by the way, according to this blog entry from 2005 about the switch back to ext3 from Mark Linden he hasn't really understand what a journaling file system is for. If you take a look at the 2nd mail on this link, you see what Theodore T'so means. But keeping the data intact is not for what the journaling file system has been made. It has been made to keep the filesystem itself intact.

If you want to have an intact database after a crash, use an ACID-compliant one, like the InnoDB-Engine of MySQL.

So what's to say in conclusion? If Lindenlab is still using only ext3 as filesystem for all of their database servers and those servers normally have many concurrent read/write clients around 10-50 or more, they're denying themself from the speed a decent filesystem could give them and really, really should consider moving to another filesystem like XFS. This would be also one good explanation why e.g. the asset server is so damn slow - always, because the filesystem is slow.

  • There is now a blog from Charity Colville in which she tells her side of the story about "The rise and fall of Phat Cat's". The events around Phat Cat's have been going on for quite some time now, I still wonder that they haven't come to an end, yet. In the end it's a story you cannot find out on your own, if it's right or wrong, so it's about whom you believe more.
  • Metaversed has been running an article about a LL-function that has been disabled by the Lindens without notice and has broken many seats and other sitting furnitures. Ouch. It has been undocumented, but widely used all the time, the Lindens considered it a hack instead. And, oh well, one of the residents even got wind before it happened weeks ago and told them that it's a bad idea at all. No reaction. Bummer.
  • Want to ger rid of the "missing from database" error? Vote for the according error over at JIRA!

You can read this on the blog of Second Life now:

Linden Research, Inc., Philip Rosedale, and Marc Bragg have agreed to settle the “Bragg v. Linden and Rosedale” lawsuit currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The parties agree that there were unfortunate disagreements and miscommunications regarding the conduct and behavior by both sides and are pleased to report that Mr. Bragg’s “Marc Woebegone” account, privileges and responsibilities to the Second Life community have been restored. For the benefit of the Second Life community, the Parties have mutually agreed that the terms of their resolution shall remain confidential. The Parties ask that this confidentiality be respected.

So this is lawyer speak. What does that mean in real speak? Something like this from Lindenlabs point of view: we would have lost the case! So better agree to restore Braggs' account and properties in world and see if this is enough for him to drop the case before our roof really starts to burn and we're losing big money!

It's that easy.

Just something that happened on a public group channel in Second Life today:

[2007/10/04 14:07] Dreamland ACS: there have been serious problems with last upgrade .. already done 2 rolling restarts of all sims
[2007/10/04 14:07] Dreamland ACS: the entire grid has more lag and slow rezzing
[2007/10/04 14:07] Stevie Superior: Welcome to the Land of Lindens!
[2007/10/04 14:09] Dreamland ACS: it never fails .. new upgrade .. more problems .. lower performance
[2007/10/04 14:09] Keila Forager: yeah, but I haven't upgraded yet...LOL

Nifty, right?

Microsoft has reacted to the demand on the market and now has created two new options for purchasing XP:

  1. It allows big manufacturer now to offer their customers of computers with Windows Vista a free downgrade to Windows XP. Consider this - buying a new computer with Vista and you got the option to downgrade to it's predecessor! This has as far as I know never been around before.
  2. They extended the availabilty of XP OEM versions from 31. January 2008 to 30. June 2008 to "give the people more flexibility."

So the market has spoken and the market doesn't want Vista. It's really easy. Is there a greater way to admit that your software is bad and that you're not content with its sales pitch?

The rollling restart today has been very unusual and a royal pain in the ass. Sims have been offline longer than usual, asset server is working slowly or not at all and teleport hiccups have been there, too.

All in all something we all don't really need, I am glad when it's finally over.

[Update]: There's now a new blog entry by Neuro Linden (yes, a new one) about what happened and went wrong with the last update. Basically two things, first some errors in the way they made the new "aggressive" update (and Thursday is going to be another rolling update, but using the old system) and second an error with two VPN servers. So we are going to see what the next rolling update is going to bring us. Yeah!

Hamlet Linden once goaded me and goaded me to try to ask me if I had any regrets. Did I wish I hadn't been so critical? So radical? So like "Noam Chomsky"? But that's all fake. I'm a normal, common sense person speaking normally about something that isn't normal lol. THAT's the problem. I am completely puzzled as I have no regrets.

Prokofy Neva on himself