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.

It's
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.

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.

We all are members of more or less big groups, some are really spammy in the time being. I'd like to be able to mute all or certain groups e.g. during a meeting, so that I am not disturbed by them at all. When the meeting is over, I want to be able to unmute them, so that I can hear again, what's happening on it and attend them, too. So, deal? 

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.

About one week ago there has been a report that aired on German television about the depiction of child pornography in Second Life. It sent out massive waves through the whole community, the Lindens even wrote an article about the whole case on their own blog.

The whole case broke down into this parts:

  1. the depiction of child pornography in Second Life, meaning: an avatar in child form having sex in world with an adult avatar and
  2. the exchange of real life pictures of teens and preteens in questionable poses (nude and more heavy stuff, it seems) as textures in world between some avatars.

The first case is not illegal in all countries; for example in the USA some could just say "heck, those are virtual things and just adults playing behind the whole scene, no real child has been harmed at all while doing this, and it is not illegal, either, so what's the ruckus?" The final decision on it has to be made by a judge.

But Second Life has people coming from all over the world, and in many countries the depiction of such acts - virtual childs or not - at all is already against the law, so already the first case is against German law. But of course this doesn't mean this act has been conducted by Germans, that's something for the Lindens to find out.

Even more serious is the second part - the real life pictures. Law is here more or less the same in all developed countries, posession of such things is against the law and therefore a case for the prosecutor.

The names of the avatars were shown in the report, by the way. If they haven't been banned already, they would be so dead by now, since million of people watched it and the word spread out, you cannot have an idea about that!

Anyway, the investigations have been showed to Robin Linden and she looked really shocked in the report. Ok, she looked not too good at all in the interview, but we all know who medias can make you look bad if they just want you to, by using the wrong light etc.

At last the Lindens have reacted at lightning speed to this issue. Why? Because this is a real, real big threat to their business. At the moment many companies are rushing into the still hip Second Life. If Lindenlabs would have not reacted at all, it would have a big image problem by now, not only being considered as "virtual sex world", but as "home of virtual pedophiles" or something like that.

And it is hard to convince your CEO to invest into such a thing, this would drive many potential customers away, so they had to react and with force, being open about it and telling all and that's exactly what they did.

Even if some consider the first part just "role play", I personally find that kind of "role play" disgusting, but like always, it is not going away, it is now moving more in the underground since the first case of such a thing has been made public to a big audience.

Ok, here are now two useful tips to use the client a little bit better:

  • Tired of sorting out your inventory? Wish, there would be more windows open than only one at the same time? This is possible, but well hidden in the client. Just open the first Inventory window, go in the File menu there and select "New Window". That's it. You can have as many windows open as you like.
  • Offering teleports is broken again, you cannot give it to friends (yes, still happens sometimes to me)? Just press Ctrl+Alt+V, then you can offer it to anybody, don't worry about the other options, they are not going to work at all.

The Second Life Herald has a very interesting, but also opiniated, piece about the last town hall meetingearlier this week with Cory Linden. To put it simple: the writer was not impressed at all and thinks that the Lindens are working on the wrong priorities right now.

One thing I agree is, that we still need to see how this often referred next generation architecture is going to work. One of the main problems of SL is load, big, heavy user load. This is something you cannot get on the beta grid, where perhaps maximum 100 avatars are online at the same time. This is something you get either with automated test clients - lots of them on the beta grid, or on the main grid. Since automated test clients don't behave like humas do, the real beta grid is the main grid. The beta grid is just there to iron out the real big problems you can already see there, but the rest is only going to be visible on the main grid under heavy user load. It's that simple.

Back in the good old days of the home computers we had a term covering such software: banana software. This term was used for still green software, that came green to the customers and matured there. SL is a unique approach and therefore some things are just like that, when a new version comes out, the real test is the usage of the client on the main grid. You've got to live with it or leave it. Your choice.

According to the Lindens there is coming an age verification to us in about one week. If I read the FAQ correct, it is done by a third party company and you've got to provide them some info, e.g. social security number, drivers license number, passport number, to verify that you are over 18 years old. If you provide the info successfully, then you've got the "age verified" flag and are allowed to enter parcels with "adult content" flag. If you don't have an age verification, you still can play in Second Life, but don't enter such regions anymore.

The question I asked myself can be split up in two parts: how is this going to influence the game and is this verification process going to be really secure?

Well, the first part is: I expect, who until now enjoyed adult content, are going to leave the game, since they are not willingly going to provide the necessary infos. I can understand them. If you take a closer look at the search and don't check "mature content" in it and search for some things, like escort, you're still going to find such content. Now the Lindens want that the people rate themself or they are going to take measures against them. If you take the big size of SL into account, it is not hard to predict that many people are not going to rate themself properly and that, if any, actions are going to be taken against them, this would take quite some time and they would still try after that, again.

Second: is the process going to be really secure, meaning, can I be really sure that the avatar if flagged "age verified" is played by an adult? After reading the FAQ: plain and simple no! It is no problem at all for most teenagers to lookup such infos, like a social security number, in the documents of their parents and pretending to be their father or mother. To be really sure that you are who you pretend to be you need a personal review of a trusted 3rd party in real life.

And even, if you would be checked up that way, there would be no security in it, since the son of the father just could have looked up his password with e.g. a keylogger.

So in short: while the idea of it seems nice, you are not going to have real security at all with such a kind of a system. In reality it is not going to be introduced to make SL a safer place for all, but to protect Lindenlabs better against possible lawsuits, which in result still benefits the community, though, since all of SL well being depends on LL. Period.

...at Monday this week I'd like to see regional datacenters, like in Europe or Asia, today is technical town hall and what can I hear there?

[12:50] Cay Trudeau: Do you think arranging physichal server on other continents, like Europe for instance, would ease up on the server load, ease the connections and allow better performance for European residents? Would that also lift the load from sending texture data across the wire?
[12:40] Cory Linden shouts: We absolutely want to deploy servers overseas. We have an architectural quirk in how we talk to the dbs -- a layer of single threaded dataservers --

Neat! And, another quote, by the way:

[12:44] Cory Linden shouts: As I previously mentioned -- and was in the blog post -- 69% of development is currently on bugs and scaling. That number will increase this month as we continue to hire.

Main priorities are now scaling and bugfixing. Hopefully. By the way, the group message system was broken so much again, it was not funny. And the Lindens held the town hall at Pooley Stage, all regions full already hours before the Town Hall. Perhaps it's next time better when they're going to hold it on four class 5 sims.