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Well, it's the mid of May, and if I remember the old posts correctly, M Linden should have started to work now. I wonder how he is going to shape Linden Lab in the future and which kind of impulses he is going to bring to the platform. We should wish him all best, of course...

The only things I've seen so far in the last weeks before him are some redesigns of the homepage, the grid status blog moved to another dedicated URL without any comments at all and the web site backend got translated into some more languages. Not bad, but also not really breathtaking either.

Seems the next thing in the pipeline, of course, it going to be the release of the 1.20-line of the viewer and after that the rolling out of Mono and Havok 4 on the grid.

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Gentle reader,

today I want to talk a little about the realXtend project which came upon my radar recently and impressed me great lengths. Their goal is, put in simple terms, to develop the InterGrid about which Gwyneth Llewellyn spoke recently in one of her own blog posts. Well, she even mentions the project in her post.

The InterGrid, put in simple terms again, is the ability to make your own region/regions/grid and take your avatar on grid A, B or C and also take the inventory of it with you. This means your avatar becomes quite more flexible, it can travel around the different grids if done correctly, but also there's quite much work to do until that goal is going to be achieved. This project is using OpenSim as their platform for serving regions, they've already enhanced it with quite much advanced and sophisticated features and also forked the Second Life viewer into an own thing, although this can still connect to the Second Life grid in a compatibility mode.

The realXtend project is backed up by two Finnish companies and around 20 people working on it, programmers, content creators and graphic designers, so a good size but still small compared to the staff of Linden Lab.

Contrary to the culture of Linden Lab, though, they've got a roadmap, and since they're contributing to OpenSim, parts of it overlap with the roadmap of that project, too. Having a roadmap never hurts, on the contrary, it is always nice to have and a good thing for all participating people.

In a recent interview one of the driving forces behind realXtend, the CEO of one of the companies backing it up named Tony Manninen, gave us a very interesting peace of his mind and his over all vision for the project:

Me: And how will the work you have done on the avatar server alleviate this problem unless SL, WoW and other cooperate on interoperability?

Tony: Think of it more like the 3d web. realXtend/OpenSim is like the Apache of virtual worlds, rexViewer is the Mozilla or Firefox of whatever. When "surfing" the web, you are not constantly required to prove and change your identity when loading different pages.

And this line is quite interesting for all of us. Apache is today the work horse of most web servers on the planet, its market share is around 51% in April 2008. But what many people don't know is how Apache started and how it became the king of the hill. In former times, when Apache was non existant, there's been another 800 pound gorilla of webserving software called NCSA httpd. This was back then the leading webserver under an opensource license. Apache just started as a patchset (Apache was just the nickname for "a patch" first only or more precise "a patchy server") way back then for NCSA httpd, adding features many people wanted but the maintainers of NCSA httpd were unable or unwilling to include. So over the time the patch set became more and more important, popular and turned into an own piece of software, winning big grounds against its father until NCSA httpd became obsolete and went into insignificance.

So, what does that mean when talking about Second Life? Simply: realXtend could be the nail into the coffin of Second Life.

So, what's in realXtend viewer and OpenSim already, that would be nice to have in Second Life, but isn't there (yet)? Among already implemented features those biggies:

  • the ability to host your own region somewhere on a server of your choice and to connect it to the grid (many would like that since the tiers you've got to pay for Linden Lab are quite expensive),
  • the use of a more advanced opensource renderer named OGRE, which also is going to support DirectX rendering on Windows platforms,
  • coming with this renderer real time lights and shadows of objects,
  • web on a prim,
  • builtin VNC viewer for desktop sharing,
  • VOIP client and 3d audio rendernig,
  • meshes instead of prims - this means you can build far more advanced structures, also build stuff in normal programs instead of the client and import them, which adds to a good graphics experience quite much, but also means a slightly longer loading time perhaps, but still many would applaud them in SL and with right,
  • quite more sophisticated avatar meshes, everything can be an avatar, e.g. also mushrooms (this example is included) or a bad snowman,
  • Python scripting,
  • teleports between realXtend and Secondlife,
  • script controlled teleports,
  • centralised avatar storage to move the avatar between different grids,
  • multiple streaming URLs per parcel,
  • and others,

but those are the real biggies. If you also take into account that it just took realXtend to implement those features around four (!) months of time you'll really have to wonder why Linden Lab hasn't done that themselfes already!

Among the roadmapped features you'll find those things:

  • Direct3D rendering on windows platforms,
  • support for OGG Vorbis,
  • support for video codecs beside Quicktime,
  • Weather support,
  • inverse kinematics,
  • avatar face/head animation based on live video camera data,
  • lip sync for VOIP,
  • cloth physics,
  • vehicle support,
  • the ability to hold more than 100 avatars at the same time in one region by splitting up the region on several hosts and letting them do their work,
  • and others.

So what we'll have here is a real ambitious project to build the InterGrid with nice goals, but they're not only having a roadmap, seems they've already been able so far to deliver their planned features and are going to be in the future, too, in many parts they're already ahead of Second Life quite much.

To put it short: what we've got here is a major competitor emerging for Second Life and even more so on a very rapid speed! Linden Lab is still ahead of its competition somewhat, but realXtend is gaining ground and its gaining it quickly so that Linden Lab should really be make up its mind now what they're planning with the platform in the future, otherwise it is quite possible that they are going to face the same fate as NCSA httpd or Netscape: the technic will remain, but innovations are coming from other sources and the people behind the initial project are loosing the grip on it.

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Since the opensourcing of the client side of Second Life there have been some more or less interesting projects going on in forking the browser or developing it into something better/more.

Some projects especially are worth mentioning there:

  • ShoopedLife. This is basically a viewer that people use who are concerned about their anonimity (haha!). Well, the original client sends some kind of information about your hardware (seems to be the MAC-address of your network interface and the primary partition ID of your first hard disk drive) to the LL server to identify your computer regardless of your login, so that they can permban you if necessary. ShoopedLife circumvents this by sending just some random address instead, so that you can still login even if banned. Griefers love this client very much because it allows them to still login in such a case. Of course, you cannot login with the old account but are then able to make just a new account with trash mail address since Linden Lab will be unable to identify your computer.
  • realXtend viewer. The target audience of this project is much broader than ShoopedLife. realXtend is a fork of Second Life, so to speak, it has a Second Life compatibility mode builtin but also can connect to much more in graphic terms advanced OpenSim-grids, which is it real use for now. At the moment it's only available under Windows, Linux and Macintosh are going to follow later. Although still in the beginning, this project already shows much promise and is for sure going to be a real competitor for Second Life.
  • RestrainedLife viewer. That's for the BDSM-lovers under the players. It let's the master control certain aspects of the subs viewer, e.g. attachments cannot be taken off anymore, communication can be blocked of the subs and other aspects can be controlled by the master, too. So - not everybody's kind of viewer, but for sure subs are going to love it to be in control of their master, if they bought the right in world tools for it, that is. This viewer is for sure not for the normal audience of Second Life.

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Today has been a rough day for Dreamland. Four long running Dreamland Angels have announced on the group "Dreamland citizens" that they are going to quite their jobs soon.

Sahirah Hauptmann wrote:

Dear Dreamland Citizens,

It has been my pleasure working for you the past 2 years helping you all to the best of my abilities, but I'm sad to say that will no longer be the case. I've chosen to tender my resgination I'll be leaving the company on April 30th.

I wish you all the best.


Sahirah Hauptmann

Former Dreamland Angel

MadMarkus Miles wrote:

following a few of my colleagues I herewith need to inform you, that today has been my last day as Dreamland Angel.

PLease enjoy your second life and many many thanks for your patience, your kindness and your love, given to me.

Best regards,

MadMarkus Miles

Sal Salubrius wrote:

I have only been here a short time I know, but I have grown to love you all. There are irreconcilable differences between me and the management and I feel that I need to move on. I am still available to tie up any loose ends for you all in any way I can untill the end of the month.

Regards, Sal Salubrius

At least one another popular angel, Master Quatro, has been rumored to leaving, too. So at least three angels told that they left or are going to leave on one day. This leaves us to the question: what's in the bush?

Seems they are going to charge their customers in the future money for things that are right now still available for free, like restarting a sim, according to MadMarkus Miles. Also planned is that you get a tier rebate after a buy first in the next month, not in the actual month and for sure there are more things in the pipeline.

What does that mean? Since you cannot make a living on selling land alone anymore big landowners are now going to install other schemes of making money in world, that's it and it seems not all angels agreed on this plan of action and this is why they left. Quite simple actually.

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Founder Philip Rosedale has announced today that after about one month the search for a new CEO is over - it is going to be Mark Kingdon, in world name M Linden.

He's going to start May 15th, has a background in arts, business and economics and has been working at bigger companies. His main focus? Better in world stability, user experience and reliability. He's also got quite much experience in international companies, which might help Lindenlab too, since they have an international audience.

Sounds like very good news to me, seems it's easier for Lindenlab to find a new CEO than a new CTO, though, but perhaps since this one is settled a new CTO will follow shortly...

A more in depth portrait of Mark Kingdon can be found here.

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In business, like almost everywhere else, it's either riding the wave or getting lost when it waves above you. Making a revolution or suffering a revolution.

Lindenlab for long has been riding the wave. Now, that the hype has somewhat gone, it needs to establish Second Life as a more stable platform than it is today, because the competition like OpenSim is catching up and up more and getting stronger. It still has its advantages above other platforms, but needs to communicate those more.

In her latest long essay long running citizen Gwyneth Llewelyn asks about if bad communication practice is the root of all evil, let's just say for short, she's got some valid points. Communication has flown to other kind of meanings, it's still there, but needs to be polished up.

Another main problem she's raising is Lindenlab's missing to produce a roadmap and their inability to work out and work on timelines. That's quite serious stuff.

One of the main problems with SL today is that it doesn't really scale very well. This problem has already been known about the last two years and shows up everyday more and more when a certain avatar threshold of concurrent logins has been met.

The technic behind Second Life has some bottlenecks and shortcomings. Think about it as an analogy like a Ferrari powered by a lawn mower engine. Looks good and all shiny, but cannot deliver the promised power. Yuck.

What Lindenlab has got to do is to build a new engine, that's hard enough, but also to put it in the car while it's running, and that's quite a hard feature to achieve. We'll see if it ever happens or not.

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Some days ago there's been the news that IBM is going to build their own server farm with the Second Life server side on it.

Well, frankly said, I can understand them. That convoluted mess that Second Life today is is all but a worthwile investment if you're a company. If you want to have a good experience with it, better stay away from the main grid and build your own farm, your own island.

If you're thinking about investing in SL, better do it when the grid has more stabilized. At the moment this would just be a great waste of money in my opinion given the bad performance all inhabitants of Second Life have been experiencing since months now.

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Nichlaz Beresford, a resident well known for his own sat of patches for the official browser, quitted some days ago very frustrated providing them.

Many residents mourn about the loss of this talented programmer and his browser, because for many people his browser gave far more better gaming experience, meaning mostly stability and speed, to Second Life than the official does for them. His work has been well appreciated in the community which used his browsers.

The reasons listed by him for quitting making a better browser are mainly:

  • he wanted to create his own vision of browser, but has been unable to do so since he was mainly busy ironing out bug after bug after bug,
  • the Lindens don't really care for bug fixes coming from third parties any more, most times they just plainly ignore them and
  • considering the bad state the browser and platform is in now he would have start all over again.

So, the community loses a quite talented programmer who probably would have been a very good bug hunter and much, much more. That's sad.

By the way, there's still no new CTO at Lindenlab, so it seems. Wonder how they manage to run so long without someone leading the techies.

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Since my last post Second Life hasn't been really much better. Lindenlab is still good at producing what's their own speciality - lags over lags over lags and ah bad gaming experience.

Well, to top it even, all logins to Second Life are disabled because the ISP of Lindenlab is having problems with their infrastructure and handling all the traffic, so they tell. Well... might be even right, who knows, stuff like that happens, but good hosting providers have got backup lines just in case for that, redundant connections, they are running if big enough a system called BGP with an autonomous system which even adds more to the reliability of a system.

Well, because Lindenlab quite well knows what they got on their blog when an issue like that opens up again - thousands of angry comments - it became lately their policy to just disable comments for such postings.

On the last case, though, one comment from Second Aimee made it through, before they closed it. She encouraged the people to comment on her blog instead, which the people are now gladly doing.

So this is quite a good chance again to get an unfiltered picture about what are people thinking about Second Life, opinions, which aren't really showing up on the corporate blog anymore.

One asks for example:

Why is SL always screwed up on Weekends Grrrr

Simple - because weekends mean usage peeks and the most stress for the system, which it is unable to handle.

Another one just finds interesting prim objects in real life:


But most are just plainly annoyed right now and venting off some steam, like:

yeah UP YOURS Linden Labs!!! I have over 200,000 dollars(Lindens)
invested in my freakin inventory alone,and that isnt including what I
spent on my Avi, like are u freaking kiddin me? All I get back is a
bald head, a freakin boot up my ass that wont even come out even if i
click detach and now I cant log in to pull the boot out of my ass and
find my hair??? WHAT did I do to you besides spend real cash for this
crap?? Thanks!!

So... the typical collection of comments on such a matter. New CTO, anyone? /me sighs.