The light fantastic?

Any photographer will tell you that what fundamentally defines an image is light, they will wax lyrical about the quality of the light when it ticks all the boxes, and they will rant until the cows come home about the harsness of the midday sun and artificial illumination – and they are, of course, correct.

The same is true of SL: Whilst we may be under the illusion that the quality of a build, the cleverness of unique design and the colours of a versatile palette are what makes a fabulous inworld location, or the perfect screenshot, it reality it is almost always how the creator, or equally as often for the purposes of SL, the beholder, manages to employ the simulation of lighting that really makes the difference between a mediocre setting or a mindblowing image. We’re fortunate too, that we have so many variations to play with: We can adjust the time of day, play around with hundreds of Windlight settings and, adjust shadows, reflections and – coming soon – God rays, and even with some viewers, add artistic photographic effects and alter field of view and focus.

I’ve always felt that there’s an art to making good screen captures from SL – we are, after all, grabbing what is essentially a two-dimensional flat image, to which we usually wish to give the illusion of three-dimensionality, and the most effective way to do that is to employ lighting to good effect. We’ve all seen rubbish SL screen captures; washed out, bland and flat, taken in the full glare of simulated midday sun, and conversely, we’ve all seen photo-realistic and dreamlike images that you’d swear were real, even if some of them have received more than a modicum of post-processing, (but that’s no different to almost every photo you see in RL too).

Light, used well, is wonderful. A carefully moodlit inworld setting that the creator has spent hours lighting and preparing with Windlight, projectors, masks and ambient light can be awesome.

And then we destroy it all with facelights.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a facelight nazi – they have their place and, used judiciously and sensibly, they’re fine. I have several of my own, my favourite being my Avid Light and Breath HUD, which gives me a range of subtle, minimalistic colours that enhance the good bits, and hide the blemishes. I’ve also been known to set up my own handmade ones – usually tightly-controlled projectors – for specific purposes, but you’ll never find me wearing one of those damned 20 billion candle-power arclights that so many people seem to adore.

Picture the scene – you’re admiring an artistically-lit and carefully designed location, when suddenly your pixel retinas are burned out by the arrival of a full beam halogen facelight. Which face is it supposed to be lighting? The whole face of the earth, apparently! As your graphics card screams for mercy, and the image burns out your monitor, the scene around you is bleached into submission – ruined completely.

Then there’s the alternative situation: Everything seems to you to be absolutely fine, if a little washed out, then suddenly you’re plunged into inpetetrable inky darkness, causing you to think that your screen backlight has suddenly and catastrophically retired. Nope, someone with an atomic-powered facelight has just left the room.

For the average joe, it’s  pain in the back passage; for the perfectionist builder or landscaper, it’s soul-destroying, and – for everybody – it’s a completely pointless and unnecessary extravagance – something you’d expect a noob from 2009 to be wearing, along with sparkly bling, spray on underwear and a single prim shoe. As far as I’m concerned, any facelight that can put an average lighthouse to shame should be classed as an offensive weapon… It’s certainly offensive to me!

Yes, I know there’s a viewer setting where you can turn off everyone’s facelights, if you wish, but it’s indiscriminate and spoils the party for those who do have consideration for others, and why should I be put to the inconvenience of changing my carefully composed graphics settings, just to compensate for somebody else’s selfishness?

It certainly doesn’t light up my life!

s. x

Well she was
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce
Another runner in the night
Bruce Springsteen – Blinded By The Light

 

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Window shopping

There are some things I see in the real world that confuse me every bit as much as some of the more unusual things I come across in SL. Maybe RL isn’t quite as way out and bizarre as the virtual world, but there are still a wealth of weird things going on which I find hard to understand. I’m often bewhildered, for example, by shop windows without views.

I probably need to explain that… There’s a common practice adopted shops and stores that I see everywhere – everything from the local convenience store and newsagent, right up to the big brand supermarkers – whereby a large expanse of the visible frontage is glass, but rather than being employed for its obvious use – as a window – it is instead completely obscured by a full size printed hoarding. In the case of local stores, it’s likely to be advertising cheap international phone cards or money transfers; for the larger establishments, it could be just a logo or even a plain, blank design. All of which, for me, begs the question, why bother with a window there in the first place?

It’s always struck me as a bit odd that someone should install a transparent plate glass window, and then fail to use it for it’s fundamental function. There are, of course, reasonable arguments for it: I suppose, installing advertisements indoors through a transparent surface, makes for easier maintenance and cleaning, but it’s always seemed such a shame to me not to use a window as a window! Maybe it’s a sign of our changing shopping habits? Back in the days of the bustling High Street, competition between shops was stiff and window displays were the key sales tool, displaying the best of the store’s wares, artfully arranged to tempt shoppers away from the competitors. Today, that’s all changed: The small independent shops have been mainly driven out of business by the bigger concerns who don’t need to tempt shoppers by creative window displays; you can’t find a window big enough, to start with!

So now we have faceless, bland shop fronts, and the only way of knowing what’s inside is to walk through the door.

It struck me that there’s something of a parallel in SL – we’ve all come across, and moaned about, those faceless profiles consisting of little more than a rez date, a few groups, and all but the most basic of introductory information. There’s no picture, virtual or real, no picks and practically nothing for us to go on in terms of understanding the avatar to which the profile belongs. If you’re a profile perv, like me, there are few things more annoying. It’s the shop window without a view, that tells us practically nothing about what’s inside and does little to answer our questions or give us any insight into the owner.

Such a profile leads me to making what could well be the wrong assumptions about the owner. I’m immediately drawn to wondering what they have to hide, especially if the profile is more than a few weeks old. Are there nefarious reasons behind them purposely hiding their identity? Is this the sort of person I should tread carefully around, in fear of upsetting unknown sensibilitiess? Are they purposely being obstructive and awkward, and want to avoid attention and interaction?

Perhaps I need to reassess my own response to such a lack of information? Should I instead consider this an invitation to seek out those missing details, to make contact and get to know the person through interaction, rather than interpreting what has been put into a – possibly out of date – profile? The virtual equivalent of walking through the shop doorway and seeing what lies inside. That probably makes a whole lot more sense than trying to second-guess somebody’s personality based on my own assumptions and little more. It isn’t, however, my style: I really don’t like to go into any personal interaction cold – if I turn up at an unfamiliar venue, it will always take me some time to suss out the people around me and the atmosphere before I’ll become anything like my usual talkative self, and when strangers turn up, I always like to find some common ground so that I can strike up a conversation, rather than simply take a shot in the dark.

If nothing else, if you’re going to have a blank profile – at the very least, put something in it to give me a clue… ‘Say hello!’, or ‘Bugger off!’ will more than suffice, and will let me know exactly where I stand.

Perhaps the Lab should give us the option to turn off profiles completely, rather than wander around SL with an empty one – otherwise, it’s a bit like those big plate glass windows whose only function is not to be a window!

s. x

And so I wake in the morning
And I step outside
And I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs,
“What’s going on?!”
4 Non Blondes – What’s Up

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Farcebook

Privacy and data protection are the in-thing right now, especially over this side of the pond. Here in the Amalgamated Federation of the EU and Brexitopia  the implementation of the GDPR means that our letterboxes, emails and websites are being flooded with letters, explanatory notices, and endless opt-in/opt-out options everywhere we go. In some ways it’s getting a bit ridiculous… I can imagine that in the future, Starbucks will have to gain your explicit consent to bellow out your misheard, misspelt and mispronounced name when your double espresso is ready; and in the absence of such consent, will have to anonymously courier your drink, by ninja, in a plain cardboard box, at the dead of night, to your seat!

Whilst the present slew of hype feels a bit like overkill, it’s also a bit of an eye-opener: I’ve received mailings from a number of companies whose possession and use of my personal data came as something of a surprise, as did the fact that I’d ever have any dealings with them in the first place.

It seems that the oft-quoted advice that if you want your data to remain anonymous, you should never access the internet doesn’t go far enough… Maybe instead, we should be saying ‘Lock yourself in a windowless room and have no  contact with anyone, or anything at all’.

The simple fact is, that even most careful of us are failing dismally when it comes to remaining anonymous and not disclosing the most intimate details of our everyday lives, personalities and activities from the very people whose hands we don’t want them falling into. Let’s take, as an example, a company that’s been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons: Facebook. It’s an operation that I loathe with a passion, and I place it and Zuckerberg on a level playing field with Atilla the Hun and Machiavelli, and if you think that’s a little harsh, then I’d urge you to think again..

Let’s imagine that, like me, you don’t have a Facebook account. Zuckerberg’s got nothing on you, right?

Nope. Because you have friends. And those friends have your details stored in their phone, and if just one of those friends has linked their phone to FB, then I’m afraid that whether you like it or not, you already have an invisible ‘shadow account’ lurking in the vaults of FB that’s been steadily collecting data on you without your knowledge and without your agreement. Did you consent to that? Nope. Will FB ever ask for your consent? Nope. Can you opt out? Nope. Will GDPR, or any other law protect your rights and interests? Nope. Is there anything you can do about it? Nope. Is it a totally underhand and sh!tty thing for FB to do? Yep. If I was to create a FB account tomorrow, it would magically suggest with remarkable accuracy a bunch of people to befriend and a whole load of stuff I might be interested in… Because it already knows a shedload about me, even though I’ve never knowingly disclosed it.

Then there’s the FB pixel – a sneaky dot that lurks unseen on countless web pages, quietly collecting stats to feed back to the mothership, and dropping cookies onto your system like they were going out of fashion. So, you don’t need to tell Zuckerberg what you’ve been up to, where you’ve been or what tickles your fancy – chances are, he already knows. He’ll even get us to do his dirty work for him under the pretext of socialising with our friends – you surely didn’t think that the FB ‘like’ button, ubiquitous all over the Web, but conspicuous by its absence on this blog is only there to show support for cool stuff and sharing it with your buddies, did you? If course its not – it’s an analytical mapping tool that traces your steps around the internet with the express intent to build a profile of your online and offline, lifestyle. Trust me, if the cops had a profiling tool as effective as FB, most criminals would be apprehended way before they even broke the law!

There’s plenty more, but I can feel my blood pressure mounting!

I know I’ve picked on Facebook – which I reckon is fair game, since it’s happy to steal my information without permission – but I could equally well have chosen Google or any one of the other internet behemoths… They all do it, and that’s the really scary thing: These vast, faceless organisations know more about us, and are sharing and seeking more information about us than we can possibly imagine, and how many of us, knowing the true scale of that would ever be happy giving our permission?

So much for our real lives, but what about our Second lives? Do we trust Linden Lab as custodians of our personal data? And does it really matter anyway? Surely there’s only a small risk and limited useful information that could possibly be gleaned from our virtual lives, after all?

You reckon? Perhaps we should be thinking a bit more carefully about what our inworld activities say about us as people in the real world, and how competent complex analytical algorhythms are today at using that raw data to recognise patterns and generate information from them. The Lab does indeed possess a range of sensitive personal data about us, that when linked to our avatar activity could easily provide rich pickings for the data mining experts that we know are out there.

The Lindens know our real names, emails, IP addresses, age demographic, location and – for many of us – credit card and banking details. Analysis of our transaction history can provide insight into our spending habits and financial status, and whilst logged in our viewer is capable of being interrogated to provide comprehensive information about our operating system, graphics card and peripheral devices – all juicy, and valuable assets, that could potentially be made available to third parties who might have an interest. All of this is linked to our accounts, and who knows what level of logging is being stored on the Lab’s servers? They know when we log in, and where from, how long we spend inworld and what we do when we’re there; they know with whom we associate, the groups we belong to, where we choose to shop and how much we spend there… The Lindens could easily build a fairly accurate picture of the person behind the avatar, our habits and our lifestyle, simply by analysing and combining the data that’s freely available to them.

Now, you may still think that’s not a big deal – perhaps we trust the Lindens or simply feel that the information they hold is of little real use. Even so, it could still impact upon us. What if the Lab are not as scrupulous as we’d hope, and would happily sell off our spending habits and IP addresses to the highest bidder? What if they were ever bought out by someone who had no concerns about making a profit from our data? What if the SL servers were hacked and all that lovely information linking our real and virtual lives finds its way onto the dark Web? What if an inworld photo, shared from the viewer on Facebook, by virtue of its ‘likes’ and the connections to real people that FB is so good at unearthing should result in a secret virtual identity being linked to our real selves? All this could happen!

Maybe I’m just paranoid, but as the maxim goes… It’s not paranoia if they’re really after you!

Frightening, huh?

s. x

People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time
All day long I think of things but nothing seems to satisfy
Think I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find something to pacify
Black Sabbath – Paranoid

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Inspire the next

We have new trains around these parts. These are, apparently, an improvement by virtue of being less comfortable, noisier, and less able to fit the station platforms than the trains they are replacing.

These new trains are made by Hitachi… Who wouldn’t want a train made by engineers able to turn their hand to almost anything you could possibly require? Food mixers, hard disk drives, midi systems and, erm… ‘personal massagers’? Although I’m not sure just how comfortable I’d be on a train equipped with all those travel essentials on an everyday basis.

The trains themselves are serviced in big grey sheds, emblazoned with what appears to be Hitachi’s inspirational business philosophy – only, I’m afraid it’s a bit rubbish really:

“Inspire the next”

Proudly proclaimed in huge red letters; which may sound rather grand, but in its flagrant disregard for grammatical correctness and sentence construction, it manages to completely fail to have any meaning whatsoever. Every time I see it, I can’t help thinking that either Google Translate has made a very poor job of Japanese to English, or Hitachi didn’t pay the last invoice to ‘Inspiring Business Quotes Consultancy Inc.’ and therefore ended up with only half a job.

The more likely scenario is that Hitachi have fallen into the trap of post-post modern trendiness affectation syndrome. You won’t have heard of it before, because I’ve only just coined the phrase, but believe me it’s real. I’d describe it as the affliction of believing that representing something by giving it a made-up nonsense name, title or strapline is somehow hip and trendy, which results in some truly awful abominations making their way into everyday life.

Meaningless phrases, like ‘I’m lovin’ it’; ‘Please drink responsibly’; ‘Viewer discretion is advised’; and, ‘Contains mild peril’ are rife, but far worse are the freakish names that have started appearing on consumer items. Take cars, for example: Back in the day, you could cruise the streets in a Metro, a Scimitar, a Scirocco or a Diablo- all real words that meant something and could evoke a sense for what the manufacturer wanted to communicate about their product. If they couldn’t come up with something evocative, or were just plain unimaginative, then plain old alphanumeric designations worked just as well – RO80; 520i; E-type. Somewhere between the two  you could have the best of both worlds – say anything in Italian, and it just works – Cinquecento, for example… Even ‘4 doors’ sounds romantic, given the hybrid treatment – for who can resist the considerable allure of ‘Quattroporte’?

And what do we get today? A mishmash of vulgar and meaningless letters, strung together to form unwords spewed by advertising consultants, smirking smugly at their own creative incompetence. Why bother with perfectly serviceable  and descriptive language that has served us well since language was first conceived, when we can have meaningless nonsense instead? Ka; C’eed; Juke; up!; Twingo; and the utterly perverse, Mazda Bongo Friendee.

Why, oh why, oh why?

Frankly, I could probably mash my keyboard for a couple of minutes and come up with a few equally idiotic names… Let’s give it a go!

Ladies, gentlemen, furries and others, I bring you the next generation of motor cars! We have, in no particular order: ‘iolgjal’; ‘Dewk’; ‘Aelro’ and, the utterly desirable, ‘Slannad Pop’ – I await the call from Nissan in due course. You’re welcome 🙂

When I ponder these things, it reminds me how fortunate we are that the developers and designers at Linden Lab are a pretty unimaginative bunch. Take a look at the slew of viewers and projects under development, and you’ll see a far more prosaic take on naming conventions. The selection of clients offered, for example, is pretty much a case of ‘does what it says on the tin’ – for example, we have the Second Life Obsolete Platforms Viewer, the Project Animesh Viewer, and the Project 360 Snapshot Viewer. You know exactly what you’re getting with these, no messing about, and no fancy-pants frivolity with the names, although very occasionally a little levity can slip through the net, ahem… the Second Life Love Me Render Viewer – boring they may be, but SL devs are romantics at heart.

In terms of what goes on behind the scenes, the techies become a little less restrained and a little more inventive, for example Project Bento and Project Shiny, but thank goodness the Lab has never gone down the nonsense route that so many companies think add some sort of wow factor for their consumers. What we get with SL is tried and trusted formulae, occasionally quirky, but otherwise solid, dependable and reliable, no-nonsense stuff – that tells us a lot about the product, and far more about the company behind it.

Give me ‘Your world, your imagination’ over ‘Inspire the next’ any day!

s. x

Staring with affection at their own reflection
They smile
Alice Donut – The Puny And Revolting Men Of Advertising Smile

 

Posted in Linden Love, Rants, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Octomore (more than I can afford, that is)

The establishment at which I’m staying at present has a rather fantastic bar. Not only do they stock a wide variety of locally produced and specialist ales, ciders and beers – which I could definitely be persuaded to give a try, but they also do a fine line in gin varieties, (not really my thing, but if that’s your poison, who am I to question?)

Where they really excel however, is with their whisky collection – the list runs to 25 pages and 164 varieties, ranging from traditional Scottish, Irish and bourbons to Welsh, Japanese, Indian and even Swedish distillations. Amongst them are featured some of my own favourites, although I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no expert in the matter, and neither do I walk the hallowed paths of the rarest and most cherished blends and single malts, although, there are those moments when I simply can’t help wondering…

Behind the bar sits a distinctive bottle, the pale turquoise of a February morning sky in the Scottish Isles: a Bruichladdich Classic Laddie Scottish Barley… £355 a bottle; but even that pales into insignificance next to its slim, dark, slightly oddly shaped stablemate… The 2003, 5 year old First Edition Octomore – a snip at £950 a bottle!

How much would I love to give them a try?… But, since the prices per measure are conspicuous by their absence on the aforementioned list – even though a full, and otherwise complete, loving description of every other aspect of each is given, I’d feel both a little bit afraid, and a whole load of stupid, about asking the cost of a dram or two, knowing it’s likely to be well above what I’d be prepared, or able to pay; so I can but look longingly at those bottles, gently mocking me from their spot behind the bar.

One day, maybe.

I guess until that day comes – if ever it does – I should resign myself to being happy with my lot, something that I’ve grown accustomed to in relation to SL.

You see, if I could, I’d be super sizing my inworld activities and living my SLife to the absolute max. Right now, I’m probably at my limit – I’m custodian of a pretty decently sized plot, big enough to give me plenty of room to breathe, space for my Gallery, nightclub, living space, a couple of railway stations and my own miniature narrow gauge railway, happily steaming away. All that, and I still have room for a build space and a fair bit of expansion.

You’d think that would be more than enough, and to be honest, it really should… But, deep down inside, what I really want is a whole region to myself: Somewhere I can build mountain ranges, sprawling cities, great expanses of parkland, and – of course – a fully functioning railway network, unconstrained by parcel boundaries, neighbours or the need to conserve prim counts. Absolute bliss!

Unfortunately, such space and freedom comes at a cost – maybe not quite the same degree of extravagance as a bottle of Bruichladdich, but certainly beyond my means at the present time, and like the whisky, even if I could afford it, I really don’t think I could justify the expense. You see, at heart, I’m really not a high flyer at all and when it comes to splashing the cash I’m not tight-fisted, but I’m also not going to be flashy just for the sake of it. So even if I could, I probably wouldn’t.

That’s not to say that I won’t continue to imagine what it might be like to have all that space to play with,but sometimes the dream can be better than the reality,and I can’t help but wonder if I’d even be satisfied with that – would I always be wanting just that little bit more space? A smidgen more land? A tiny bit more room to expand into? The truth is that I don’t really know, but I probably would and that is probably the best reason of all not to aspire to greatness… Maybe I should just be happy with what I’ve got and enjoy what I have, because – in reality – it’s unlikely that will change, so why not make the most of what is, rather than being unhappy with what it isn’t?

And whisky doesn’t have to break the bank to be good!

s. x

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da
Whack for my daddy, oh
Whack for my daddy, oh
There’s whiskey in the jar, oh
Thin Lizzy – Whisky In The Jar

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Powerless

It was one of those ‘Oh crap!’ moments… Having spent the best part of the day on the train, with little else to do than write up a couple of blog posts, surf the .net and play a few games. Both my phone and tablet took quite a hammering over the course of the journey Then half an hour on the bus, with more time to kill online and, when I finally arrived at work, there were calls to make, maps, timetables and bookings to check.

So, high on the list of priorities once I finally hit my hotel room, some twelve hours after leaving home, was to dig out the charger and rejuvenate all those flagging batteries.

You can imagine my dismay when I realised my charger was currently (pun absolutely intended!) still sitting on my desk at home… Not exactly where I needed it! I did have a power bank with me, but it was never going to be up to the job of charging my phone, tablet and headphones, and once discharged, I was stuffed for the the rest of the week, and this was only Monday.

Thank goodness for Amazon! Thankfully, a new charger would be winging its way overnight for me to collect from the local post office – genius!

Trust me, it won’t be artificial intelligence, crazy presidents and dictators playing with their nuclear buttons, or killer asteroids that finishes humankind, it’ll be somebody flicking the power switch to ‘off’ and just waiting until we all grind to a sedate and inevitable halt. We’ve become so completely dependant on a reliable supply of electricity that without it, we don’t have a hope. That’s something that’s only going to get worse in time as we develope electric vehicles, smart everything, and become ever more reliant on power hungry devices. That’s not to say that we’re incapable of adapting – my experiences spending time in the bush in Kenya, with an electrical supply rationed to just a few hours a day, required careful planning and a lot of restraint, but it was indeed possible to keep camera batteries charged, although occasionally a bit touch and go! However, had there been no power at all, it would have been a matter of resorting to good, old-fashioned manual film.

Today’s experience brought to mind a recent inworld conversation. I forget the context, but the suggestion was made that it might be cool if SL had been around a hundred years ago – it was interesting to wonder how we might have approached such technology at a time when electricity itself was still something of a mystery.

And then reality hit home: We might well have had electrical power back in the day, but with no internet, no computers and – even if we had computers – you can bet that we wouldn’t have a suitable plug to fit whatever sockets might have been around at the time. A bit of a lost cause, really.

It just goes to demonstrate that an incredibly complex web of inter-dependencies and allied technology has to be in place, come together, and work seamlessly with each other in order to permit the very things we take for granted every day, just for them to work at all. All of this incredible tech and science collaborating; and for what? To allow people like you and me to enjoy spending our time essentially playing a glorified game.

You have to wonder if we did have the benefits of all this technology a hundred years ago, in those more serious and strait laced times, would SL have even existed? Would we instead be far more interested in how to unlock the secrets of universe, explore the planet and take a more philanthropic approach to what could be achieved by the .net in the service of people around the globe?

And, if that had been the case, where on earth would we be now?

That’s a question I can’t even countenance considering – I simply have no idea how the world might be different in consequence.

There is one thing about which I am certain, however… We’d be just as stuffed, if not more so than now, if the damn batteries ran out!

s. x

She’s electric
She’s in a family full of eccentrics
She’s done things I never expected
And I need more time
Oasis – She’s Electric

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

A different view

When it comes to the technicalities of SL, I’m no expert, but I do like to keep abreast of developments and try to stay informed and up to date with what’s going on behind the scenes. I sometimes forget that most people have little interest in such things and have virtually no concept of the processes and work involved in creating, improving and maintaining an application, especially one as complex as SL.

Most of the time, it’s not that much of an issue for me – if anything, it can be a positive advantage to be ahead of the game… I know what improvements are in the pipeline, when to expect a new viewer and what changes it will bring, the relative merits of one viewer over another, and – perhaps most useful of all – some of the technical challenges that running a platform like SL can bring. This last point might not ease the frustration that even I can sometimes feel about the virtual world, but it does at least enable me to be philosophical about such things.

Knowledge, in this sense, is very much power, and it’s also a resource that can come to the aid of those in need, although I have to say that the days when I’d happily take the role of technical guru and hand out help and assistance whenever asked are becoming less common. This is intentional – I find that these days, whenever someone asks for help, they are instantly the recipients of a barrage of what one would hope is well-intentioned advice, but is essentially a load of nonsense. It can be incredibly frustrating trying to assist someone when you know exactly what needs to be done to fix their problem, whilst trying to make oneself heard amongst a plethora of useless noise. There have been occasions, for example, when I could quite happily scream upon hearing the thoroughly ill-advised, but oft-quoted, ‘clear your cache – that’ll fix it’.

Never do I find myself struggling to bite my tongue and resisting the urge to punch somebody as frequently as during the period following the launch of a new viewer. For somebody who keeps themselves informed and up to speed about such things, it can be difficult to maintain a balanced and neutral disposition when surrounded by the wealth of misinformation, aggro and sheer ignorance that surrounds these events. Often I fail.

So, in the same way that I’ve elected to avoid giving advice and technical support inworld to those in need, I prefer these days to let them either work it out for themselves, or continue to take bad advice from those who – if you were to ask them from where they distilled their peerless knowledge – would be unable to provide its provenance. I have similarly come to the decision that I’m just going to keep my head down and my mouth firmly closed whenever the subject of viewers crops up.

So, for one final time, using the pages of this blog, where I don’t have to compete against false assertions, personal gripes and conspiracy theories, I’ll deal with the most common fallacies regarding viewers that I find myself getting wound up about inworld. And then, I’ll shut up!

1. Fredbonkers Resident: “The official viewer is rubbish – you should use Firestorm because it’s the best by miles”

Rubbish! And I say this as a die hard Firestorm user, who’s loyally stuck with it in all its forms since well before the Emerald Viewer debacle. In terms of being up to date, cutting-edge development, and stability, the official viewer is streets ahead. It may not have all the functionality that FS and some other viewers possess, but it will always have more recent code, the newest features and be optimised for the SL experience ahead of any other viewer, purely because of the way that it, and all those third party viewers that are based upon the Linden code, are developed. Let’s not forget also that a great many of the FS devs also contribute their own code and innovations to help The Lab build the official viewer.

In practical terms, the best viewer for you is the one that works best for you – some swear by Imprudence for graphics, others love Catznip for its RLV support, maybe Black Dragon for it’s edgy features; still others like Dolphin or Android-centric Lumiya, or Kokua for Debian – there’s not really a best viewer, merely a best viewer for you.

2 – Twitmunchkin Pirate: “I’m not going to update yet, I’m going to wait until it’s stable”

You do realise that each release is as stable as it’s going to get? (Clearly not!) Waiting a couple of months isn’t going to make any difference at all, other than annoy you because you no longer have the same functionality and stability that those around you, who did update, are enjoying. Let me give you an illustrative example from the past… When I started wearing fitted mesh – before most people had even heard of it – I was constantly being asked to rebake, relog and sort out my ‘broken’ avatar by numpties who were steadfastly refusing to update their viewer until, in their mind, it had magically become stable. Consequently, their viewers were incapable of properly rendering fitmesh, but somehow that was my fault! That was extremely annoying both to me and to everyone else concerned.

Do people really think that developers will happily stake their reputation on releasing code that they know is unstable? Perhaps that is indeed what some people might believe, but I wouldn’t mind betting these are the same sort of people who use hammers as screwdrivers and tape over the oil warning light in the car because it keeps flashing on and distracting them. They wouldn’t know stability if it fell on them.

3 – Numpty Oh: “Every time they do an update it breaks something. Why can’t they just release patches, or make it work properly in the first place?”

This is also a statement made by the hammer a screw into the wall and hope the shelves stay up brigade, because – let’s face it – anyone can code. And, I’m sure, if we had the time or the inclination, most of us could come up with a viewer far better than anything else currently on offer. </sarcasm>

There’s a simple response to that: ‘Go for it! Let’s see you do better’

If you think it’s that simple, go and ask Henri Beauchamp how he does it, or suggest a couple of your home-made and awesome patches to Whirly Fizzle? Hell, why not go along to one of the inworld dev meetings and tell the Lindens how much better you can do it?

Before you do, you might also just want to check that whatever ‘they just broke’ isn’t something to do with the fact you haven’t updated your graphics drivers for three years, or that little optimisation trick you invented using that second hand memory card and duct tape isn’t actually wrecking your PC.

Personally, I think you should stop complaining and leave it to the experts.


I was going to say a lot more, but I’m starting to annoy myself now, so the time has come to draw a veil over this particular rant.

However there is one piece of technical advice I will willingly give to anyone who even thinks about moaning the next time an update to their favourite viewer they love to slag off comes out. It’s a really simple fix. Why not give it a go, rather than moan…

[CTRL] +[Q]

s. x

When the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Young At Heart – Fix You

Posted in Rants, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment

Spaced out

There are some ways in which my real world preferences are not mirrored in SL – one such anomaly is the way in which I perceive space. In the real world, I appreciate wide open spaces, uncluttered with the detritus of human occupation; a natural vista of endless plains, without any visible signs of habitation, interference or unnatural presence is something that will always appeal to me.

There are few things that irritate me more than seeing a pristine, natural, open space, completely ruined by the presence of an industrial estate dumped in the middle of it, a string of pylons running across the horizon, or a pile of rubbish left, without thought for environment or aesthetics. To me, a crisp packet in a flower meadow is a crime scene, as is a radio mast planted in an otherwise empty wilderness. It makes me wish I could photoshop such offending objects from the face of the earth, or better still, go into edit mode and permanently delete the damn things.

However, I feel differently about virtual space. Maybe it’s because I know it’s not real or natural, or perhaps it’s that ever-present awareness that wasted inworld space is wasted money; then again, it could simply be that I tend to get bored easily when no effort has been made to engage my attention whilst inworld; but the bottom line is that if I should happen to come across a wide open space in SL, it’s difficult to avoid every part of me feeling the need to see it stuffed to brimming with interesting bits and pieces. Inworld, the crime is not utilising every square inch and filling it.

That can cause the occasional personal dilemma.

I have a sizeable parcel of land which tends to lay fallow most of the time. Its primary purpose in SLife is to boost my available land allowance, permitting me to indulge my building whims, without having to dismantle any of the more permanent structures that occupy the rest of my land. It bugs me, because it’s an undeveloped, empty, blot on the landscape – a space, that if it belonged to anyone else, would drive me to distraction by its mere vacant aspect. Every time I look at it, every fibre of my virtual being cries out for me to do a spot of landscaping, building or anything at all to make it appear less of an eyesore, but that would defeat the whole object of having the land in the first place – the more I use my LI to fill the space, the less I have to play with elsewhere. Even if I was to go down the route of temporary structures, I’d still have the hassle of setting them up and pulling them back down again every time I wanted to build something.

Actually, that’s something I’d be happy to do, except for a couple of burning issues that would more than likely trip me up. Firstly, there’s my past performance in such things… The last temporary structure I built became so intrinsic to the form and function of the rest of my parcel, that it’s become a permanent feature, tying up the plot it sits on completely and thereby becoming the very reason I had to secure another plot, that is the subject of today’s post!

The second issue I’m continually faced with is that I rarely have any idea of what to settle on as a temporary space filler anyway. It can’t be anything I’ll fall in love with, or becomes an essential part of of the existing parcel, or I’ll be back where I started; I don’t want anything overly complex, expensive or time-consuming, but I also don’t want anything so generic and pointless that it detracts from the overall feel of the place.

The simple fact of the matter is that, most of the time, I really have no idea what I can do do with the space, and whilst I prevaricate and agonise, it’s simply going to remain an empty space.

And, I’m stuck with it!

s. x

What shall we use
To fill the empty spaces
Where we used to talk?
How shall I fill
The final places?
Pink Floyd – Empty Spaces

Posted in Builder's bum, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Interesting times

‘May you live in interesting times’: The old Chinese curse is a phrase that occasionally finds resonance in my life. I’m not in the habit of insulting Chinese people, as a rule, so I’m not altogether sure why I should be cursed in such a fashion, but I guess that we all have our interesting times, now and again.

Today’s interestingness began early, although it really should have been a whole lot earlier, thanks to not one of the three alarms I’d set to wake me could be bothered to go off at all. So, I’m lying all cosy in my bed, enjoying the fact that the Springtime mornings are finally getting a little brighter, when the thought began to percolate through to my sleep sozzled brain that it was rather lighter than it really should be. That’s how, at ten past seven this morning, with a train to catch at 7.35 and a 20 minute walk to the station in between, I realised things were not going well.

Foregoing my usual final check of the suitcase, morning coffee and leisurely perusal of the news and weather, necessity demanded calling for a taxi… But, of course, none were available. Nothing for it, but to grab the car keys, tear off down the road, abandon the car somewhere where I hope it will still be at the end of the week, and miraculously, still manage to catch my train. To build on the morning’s interest, three hours later my train ground to a halt and everybody was offloaded onto a new one. It was only after leaving the second train at my destination, I realised that my phone – aka, life support system – was no longer on my person, and was presumably now heading off on one or other of my two trains, now each destined for opposite ends of the country! The taxi I’d booked to meet me at the station was – of course – late. Interesting times!

Such things are sent to try us, and I will admit to being just a little bit miffed at what was turning out to be something of a disappointing day, but I’m really not the sort to get wound up about such things – stress is not really a word that features in my vocabulary and I tend to breeze through life, even when everything seems to be against me, in much the same way that most other people don’t. I’d probably make a good UN peacekeeper, lion tamer, or hostage negotiator – y’know, the sort of jobs where a cool, calm disposition should come in handy.

Hardly surprising then that I can struggle at times to understand how people can allow themselves to become super stressed over some of the quirky irritations of SL, far beyond what they really deserve. I’ve seen any number of ragequits when the music stream drops; tantrums over broken scripts; and stress levels going through the virtual roof over things as simple as clothing failing to rez, or textures not loading. Somehow, the petty failings and inconsequential dramas that are part and parcel of everyday virtual life can have a far greater effect on people’s wellbeing than you would ever credit. Interesting.

Why do people allow themselves to become so riled over something so unworthy of their emotional pain? I’ve known people to disappear for monhs, even years, as the result of a simple falling out, a technical breakdown or a just one bad occurrence inworld. It all seems a bit crazy to me, when it would be be a simple matter just to grin and bear it, put up with the inconvenience or simply ignore the nonsense.

What I find even more bizarre is that so many of the silly little annoyances SL specialises in are quite frequently the very things that make the virtual world, for me, such fun. Yes, it can be irritating when something goes wrong, but cracking on with the business of virtual living or finding a workaround or alternative solution can often be a whole lot more fun than whatever was planned in the first place.

And that, is what I call interesting times!

s. x

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you’re acting like you’re somebody else gets me frustrated
Life’s like this you
And you fall, and you crawl, and you break
Avril Lavigne – Complicated

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Blogging Bytes: 12th April 2018

Roll up! Roll up!

And be disappointed, dismayed and discontented.

All the gloss and the glamour that was promised isn’t quite what we expected, and we’re left out of pocket, out of luck and out of time.

But, hey that’s life!

Alt. life: Welcome to the Circus!

s. x

It’s the cheapest show you’ve ever seen
With drop-outs, drug addicts, old queens
It’s garish, gaudy, cheap and obscene
The Tiger Lillies – Cheapest Show

Posted in Alt. life:, Philosophicalisticality, Poetricity, Rants, RL | Leave a comment