December 29, 2012

Corinne - winter wonderfulness from Inga Wind

 My fave Second Life clothing designer, Inga Wind, has done it again with a new totally cozy, cute mesh outfit she calls Corinne. I know. All those outfit person names. How does she keep them all straight? It would drive me crazy. (TIP: The first thing I do with most outfits is RENAME outfit folders to something meaningful like "*IW* Corinne in Blue MESH - Jeans, boots, crocheted butterfly shawl top". Often I'll tag them with an opinion like CUTE, SEXY, SEE-THRU, etc. Then I put them into a subfolder such as Casual Outfits under my Clothing folder.)

The textures are very realistic as are the shadows and wrinkles. This is just the sort of outfit one might wear for apr├Ęs snowsports or just hanging out in the lodge while you avoid the bears outside. :)

Shown are three of the colorways for Corinne (large is just Corinne, next are Corinne in Blue and Sand. Also available is red (not shown).

Corinne is $400L regularly and $200L for members of Inga's group.  For what you get (everything shown), Corinne is a real bargain at $200L so be sure to join her group.

SLURL to Wind: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Pitreavie/180/230/344

December 24, 2012

Lalo Telling - Gone From Real Life

December 5, 2007 – December 14, 2012

Today, on Christmas Eve of all days, I happened to take a few minutes away from family hubbub to read a few neglected RSS feeds when I stumbled across Daniel Voyager's blog post about Lalo Telling's passing in real life.

http://danielvoyager.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/lalo-telling-has-passed-away-in-real-life/

Snick & Lalo at SL Bloggers party
I am stunned and deeply saddened. Lalo was a very close friend of mine in Second Life, on Twitter and via his blog. He was one of the most interesting, deep and thoughtful persons about life and virtual worlds. While we often had differing political views, we always had fun whenever we were together in SL.

He introduced me to Soror Nishi's fantastic plant sculptures, the Second Life Bloggers group and a number of other things in SL that changed how I looked at our (often) silly virtual universe. He talked me into getting on InWorldz. We stayed up until 3:00 AM several times chatting. Prince Lalo Telling was also one of my direct subjects in the Second Life Tiny Empires game. I even started calling him "Professor" since he was so damned smart plus after he changed his avatar from a sort of neko hybrid (see photo) to a more human, mensch-like presence.

I honestly had no idea he was even ill. He never mentioned it to me or even hinted at it. He was one of those rare SL folks who, whenever I saw them pop-up online, I would always make a point of saying hi.

Sigh. Namaste and aloha Lalo Telling. You are missed.

December 20, 2012

Second Life bug reporting - major fail

I posted the following in the Second Life forums (see Group Notice failures). We'll see how long it takes before a moderator removes it to maintain the illusion of a love fest between residents and Lindens.

I really don't know how to deal with this any more. Group notices (especially with attachments) are starting to fail at an alarming rate. I simply don't receive them. In checking the JIRA for the issue (JIRA SVC-1507), I see 409 votes for it with 300+ watching. Yet, Linden Lab has put the issue on "inactive" status which means that no more comments can be added and the issue cannot be edited. Instead, Maestro Linden demands "reproduceble steps" via opening a new issue. WTH?

I'm sorry Lindens but bugs are often a combination of things. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be trying to fix them or take additional info on them. Like maybe it only happens on certain sims? Or maybe it's just from certain groups that contain the letters "W" and "H". Who the heck knows? Or maybe it's just the time of day or general lag??

Closing off comments really shows me how little you value your own bug reporting process -- or us the customers.

What you really need is a "Here's what happened when the bug occured" type of reporting. For example, I was using XYZ viewer, time was 1:03PM SLT, at location ABC, Group Notice was supposed to come from DEF group sent by Avater Y. Then YOU guys can keep track of the commonalities rather than pushing "reproduceable steps" back on your customers. Which is just flat out a cop-out!
While my complaint was specific to receiving Group Notices (I often don't get them), it just seemed the whole JIRA process is now completely broken with comments being frozen, action items moving to inactive, demands for "reproducible" steps and no "easy" method for reporting a bug as noted in my last paragraph above. It's sad really. But alas, I think this is the New World Order as perceived by Maestro Linden.

Death of v1.x viewers in Second Life

SL has been rife with rumors lately about upcoming changes to Second Life grid that will effectively deal v1.x viewers a death blow. Since I wondered how it would affect my personal favorite viewer, Cool VL Viewer, I asked it's developer, Henri Beauchamp about the status. Here's his reply from the CV Forums.
Old viewers (LL's v1.23.5 and older, Snowglobe v1 but also v2, old v2/3 viewers and actually, all current v3 viewers) will cease functioning properly (they will be unable to "bake" avatar textures and avatars will stay grey) after LL will turn off the legacy baking service on their grid, sometime next year. While the new baking service is anticipated to come into production sometime in February (if all its bugs have been fixed by this time), the old baking service will coexist with it for some time (probably at least a couple of months, perhaps more), meaning even old viewers will keep working for a little while.

Ultimately, however, all maintained viewers will migrate to the new baking system, and the Cool VL Viewer will be part of them. No worry.
So the sky doesn't exactly fall in January as some of the notes being passed around would have you believe. Yay! But it does get a little darker because a lot of people are going to be left behind on their favorite viewers that aren't being actively developed any more.

BTW, I would like to thank Henri for all his hard work on the Cool VL Viewer. It's so much faster than Phoenix or Firestorm for me it's not even close. Henri also seems to know more about what Linden Lab is doing than Linden Lab. :P

The question for a lot of people is what this means for viewers that support other grids like OpenSim? As far as Henri is concerned, he plans to maintain both baking methods in Cool VL Viewer to support other grids. Who knows what other devs will do?

December 16, 2012

The Hype Cycle / Hype Chart

Thanks to Darien Caldwell in the Second Life Commerce group for alerting me to this. I thought it was interesting in light of my own negativity about where Second Life is headed. She nailed it. Virtual Worlds are in the Trough of Disillusionment. The chart comes from Gartner Group's annual analysis on where technology products are in their lifecycles.

Copyright Gartner Group 2012
See the full article here that triggered the discussion: http://educationstormfront.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/gartners-2012-technology-hype-cycle/

Now I wonder where social media fits into the curve. Twitter, Facebook, etc.

FREE*STYLE groups closing in Second Life.

Two groups I joined in my first year in Second Life were the Free*Style announcement group and its sister chat group. Who doesn't like freebies? And that's what Free*Style was all about -- merchants letting Second Life residents know about their latest free offerings. I remember my best friend and I always rushing to grab the latest ones as they came in. Some were awful but many were very good and as a poor avatar, Free*Style, Yadni, Sarah Nerd, Free Dove and others helped fill my inventory with things other than bad system dresses and those ubiquitous "Flexified" Barbie-style outfits.

Eventually, when I started making and selling things, I used Free*Style to announce freebies too. So it was with a touch of sadness that I saw this notecard attached to a recent announcement:
This is Creamy, founder of Free*Style group.
I've decided, with a heavy heart, that it's time to close the original Free*Style group.  I rarely play SL now, and can no longer monitor the group.
It's not the end of Free*Style though, it will live on with my friends who will start a new fresh group and store,  They have kept the blog alive too, for which I'm so grateful.

So to keep up with the Free*Style news, check the blog
slfreestyle.blogspot.com

Much love to you all
and I hope you have happy holidays
Creamy x
Creamy is, of course, Creamy Cooljoke aka Creamzilla. I'm not sure why she didn't just turn over her 2800+ member group to a new owner. I've sent her an IM asking about it. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I sigh and see yet another sign of the continued shrinking of Second Life.

December 12, 2012

Snickers Second Life in-world store closed

All good things come to an end I suppose and having a Second Life in-world presence is one of them. For over 4 years I've always had a place where people could see and buy my goodies (clothes, evil talkers and silly things). But sadly, no longer. With 98% of my sales coming from the Second Life Marketplace, in-world sales no longer even cover the rent on my 130 prim shop. Even when losing a little bit of money, it was OK because people at least had a chance to get the "feel" for my work all at once. Plus there were always things in the store that for one reason or another, I didn't want on SLM.

But paying out way more than you're bringing in is st00pid. Three months of negative $L were enough for me. The two-edged sword of web-based shopping loses tier for my landlord, Linden Lab and if things continue like this, likely for a whole lot of others.

So the store is now closed. Oh well.

See me on the Second Life Marketplace at:

https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/17804

November 27, 2012

The newbie experience in Second Life sucks!

I haven't made a new avatar in like forever but my recent post about retention and tier sparked a few comments that made me want to test the "new user" experience. Honestly Linden Lab, it's horrible. It's big time awful. As in really bad. Sucky.

You start by picking an avatar. I chose one that looked sort of like a biker chick. Then you download and install the viewer. That didn't go too well. First try gave me a download error. Had to retry 2x to get the damn thing to finally install. (Yes I had cleaned off remnants of previous SL viewers including doing a registry purge.)

OK finally a successful install. First thing that happens? I can't log in. It didn't accept my password (very carefully typed) or user name or something. Tried again. No luck. Waited a few minutes, tried again and success!! I guess the login to the world wasn't exactly synced to the website account creation.

Now what? I get dumped into the middle of a big circle with glowing things all around me (Destination Island 8 to be specific). Huh? No explanation as to what to do next. No tutorial. No nothing. I remember the old login where you had to accomplish a few simple things like find a sword, attach it, walk here, fly there, interact with x and y and z. There's absolutely NONE of that!

Oh and did I mention? I showed up as Girl Next Door, not biker chick. Not good.

How to


So what do I see after looking carefully at my viewer window? A little button called "How To". Ohhhhhkkkkayyyyy. I'll try that. The walk explanation is fine. Chat I think I can get that.  Private chat (IM) slightly murky but still ok. Change your Profile? WTF? Doesn't even tell you what a profile is! Change your view. Click and drag on the world? Huh? "For more control, click on the View button at the bottom of the screen." WHUT? There is NO "View" button at the bottom of the screen. There's a Camera Controls and a Walk/run/fly but there's no "View" button. Oy.

Next up is "Find places to go". This is all before I even know why I would want to go anywhere. And STILL nothing to tell me what those swirly gateway looking things are that surround my little circular Romanesque Stonehenge starting point.

I won't go through all the rest of the silly tips they give you under How to other than to say they are woefully inadequate and afterthoughts rather than actual things that might help you figure out what you can do in Second Life.

Where to go

Another case of WTF. Again, what do those portals do? (Yes, they take you places even more obtuse and totally incomprehensible for a newbie.)  And clicking Destinations brings up a whole bunch of random stuff that typical newbies would have no idea about what they can or can't do for you. Let's see, "Newcomer Friendly". What does that mean about the rest of SL? Anyway clicking it leads to some really bad, generic descriptions about this or that destination being a fun (safe) place to learn and hangout.

With all this nonsense, it's a wonder anyone stays past their first 30 minutes. Oh and even though there were about 5 others standing around, no one tried to start a chat with me and no one responded to me trying to start a chat with them (public). IM was no better.

For giggles, I decided to click on the "Art" portal looking thing. Woosh. Now I'm in a big huge dome with LEA on the floor, a few signs around the glass dome and absolutely NO clue what to do and no clue how to get back where I was.

So let's see maybe I can try Teleporting Home. Wouldn't that take me back to where I started? Nuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu! Now I'm at Pooley Stage. For grins, I thought I'd ask in chat how to get back to where I started. No answer from any of the 5 avatars standing around Pooley Stage. (And yes, I know you can click the back button next to the browser address type window but how many newbies will realize that?)

Epic failure

I really feel sorry for anyone involved in the new user experience. I feel totally sorry for the newbie who will be clueless about what to do, how to do it or where to go. I feel sorry for the support groups like NCI, Caledon Oxbridge, White Tiger, The Shelter, etc. who will only be getting people because they happened to randomly click on a destination (not by design or intent). And most of all, I feel sorry for the rest of us in Second Life who understand that without more support for first time users, our world will continue on it's slow death spiral. (By the way, those links are all SLURLs that will take you to each of their main locations in Second Life.)

All this experience did was make me sad.

UPDATE - WELCOME ISLAND TUTORIAL FOUND

Well I don't know why SL decided to dump my newly made avatar into Destination Island but I finally found the Welcome Island Tutorial by trying to get back to Destination Island via the Back button. I got the cryptic message "To repeat the tutorial, go to Welcome Island Public". Now that's useful. Not.  But being an experienced SL'er, I did find it via search (even though there are lots of them.)

And arrrrgggggghhhh! The tutorial is not even a tutorial. It's like walk, sit, fly, chat, now where do you want to go? Nothing about attachments. Changing looks. Driving a vehicle. Wearing a different top. Searching. It's so utterly lame compared to the old find the sword tutorial as to be insulting.

November 25, 2012

Ideas for improving Second Life land sales and retention

A 4-month old article on Tateru Nino's blog about land pricing and tier got me to thinking. If you read her commentary, she concludes that changing tier prices (ie. lowering them) would have little or no effect on the Second Life economy and in fact would likely result in significant reductions in revenue for Linden Lab. While I agree in principle with her conclusions based on the rather simple premise, I think there are some things that could be done -- call it tinkering in the margins -- that might have a very positive effect.

Customer retention & new players

I'm no expert on this but I can tell you that for most people, the new user experience sucks. The official SL viewer is bloated and over-weight. New users get no help on arrival save some guided quest type stuff. And suggestions on what you should actually do in SL are pretty thin at best. So here are some ideas:
  • Release two viewers. One a grandly simplified, lightweight, FAST practice viewer. No inventory, no building, no anything except picking an avatar and moving and interacting. Concentrate on making SL as fast as possible. This viewer would expire after 14 days by which time, you'd have to move to anything BUT the practice one.
  • NCI does about the best job of encouraging new users as anyone. I'd forge a stronger with them for new users.
  • Want more premium accounts Linden Lab? Increase the free tier allowance to 1024. I'll bet you'd have a lot of alts suddenly become premium in addition to reducing the frustration that comes from only having 117 prims available in a 512.

A moh bettah tier

While Tateru argues that simply lowering tier won't increase land usage, one of the biggest complaints I hear about (myself included as a complainer) is that any small land purchase that kicks you into the next tier level forces you to pay the entire amount for that level.

For example, if I hold 4096 sq-m of land and want to buy another 512, it will cost me an extra $15/mo since the tier for up to 4096 is $25/mo while the tier for 4097 – 8192m is $40/mo. I think Linden Lab AND its customers might be better served charging $25/mo for the 4096 plus a percentage of that level for anything over. For example, buying another 512 sq-m would only cost an extra $2/mo (about 1/8 the price of the current tier) and not $15/mo. A good example of this is a small 300 sq-m parcel next door to me. I'd probably buy it today except it would kick me into the next tier level since I'm right at 1024.

In fact, I had to carve up my original land purchase to get myself DOWN to 1024 by selling a microparcel on the backside of mine to a land baron. I know a number of people who have simply carved off micro-parcels and abandoned them (hoping of course that no one puts anything silly on them). If one could hold land that was in-between the tier breaks without getting charged the full amount, I'd imagine less land breakups and more contiguous parcels across most of mainland.

Anyway, those a few of my random thoughts. Any others? I know, I know. Second Life may be a lost cause but I keep hoping it isn't. :P

November 16, 2012

Total cuteness from Inga Wind

Mable in Sand
This is a new mesh release from Inga Wind called "Mabel in Sand" and honestly, I can't say enough about it. The details and shading are incredible to the point that, if it wasn't on an avatar, you'd swear it was a photo of real life outfit. I especially love the hanging string ties and the really deep pleats in the skirt and top.

The only thing I'd argue about is the color description. "Sand" it is not. More like dark pewter or titanium gray. But, who cares. It simply looks wonderful in-world.

Price is $400L but members of Inga's group can snag it for $200L. Includes everything shown -- boots, stockings, skirt, top and camisole.

October 11, 2012

Three new, totally cute mesh outfits

My friend Inga Wind has been busy again! She's just released three new mesh outfits including one that has become my new favorite sloppy casual. I'm just going to post Inga's own package photos of the outfits since they're as close to what you'll actually get as the real thing.
The top two outfits, Lia and Nia, are basically different texturings of the same design. Both include top, jeans and ballet flats in a full range of sizes to cover most avatar shapes. You may have to mod your avatar a little to keep the top under control but most tweaks will be minor. Lia and Nia sell for $350L retail while group members get them for $175L. (If you haven't joined Inga's group, you should. The discounts for members are huge! Just search for "Wind" or visit her store and let the inviter do the rest.)


Next up (and my new fave) is Siri. Soooo cute! Pretty much what I might wear in real life.  The details in the hoodie sweater are amazing. Everything is included as shown including the awesomesauce kicks. 5 sizes are included along with alphas to cover any combination of this outfit that you'd wear including as separates. Siri is a little more pricey at $400L ($200L for group members) but she could become your all-around casual "go to" outfit for every day in Second Life.


Here's an SLURL to Inga Wind Clothing: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Pitreavie/195/247/375

September 30, 2012

Mesh clothing and avatars in Second Life

I've been wearing and trying out a LOT of mesh outfits and avatars lately and thought I'd share a few of my experiences, tips and observations.

1. What is mesh?

From the Second Life Wiki: "Mesh is the capability to bring 3D models, known as meshes, created in third-party tools into Second Life."
These mesh models can be applied to prims and form the basis for highly detailed and complex objects such as vehicles, plants, terrain features, etc. They can also be applied to the avatar as clothing or body parts ("rigged mesh"). When rigged mesh is used as body parts, you can create micro avatars (fairies for example) or almost anything conceivable that can move with the "skeleton" of your avatar. Rigged mesh changes your avatar shape (length of "bones") to conform to the mesh sizes rather than letting the Second Life sliders control it. So let's look at a few examples:
Click to enlarge

Complete "petite" mesh avatar

On the right is a Micro Pixie avatar from (11)Design.  You can see she's fully detailed yet measures only slightly more than 2' tall (.65m). She's anatomically correct and moves just like a normal avatar even being able to use regular dance animations. The pose you see in the photo works as-is.

You should note that there are many creators of petite avatars and that clothing designed to fit one style will probably not fit others unless they conform to the same shape specifications. More on this below!

Click to enlarge
Petite avatars are NOT the same as most "tiny" avatars. Tinies are generally made using prims and folding the avatar up into strange contortions. They require special animations for movement such as dancing and sometimes, even walking.

Mesh outfit on full size avatar

To the left we have a mesh outfit from my fave designer, Inga Wind. The outfit, "Nellie", is entirely mesh except for the belt.

If you enlarge the photo you can see that all the folds, creases, hems and cuffs are 3-dimensional and much more realistic than Second Life system clothes or system clothes with prim attachments.

Mesh object

Mesh penguin near petite fairy
And finally, we get to the last form of mesh (well there may be others but for all practical purposes), a rezzed object. This adorkable little guy (not so little compared to my petite fairy) is a scripted penguin that flaps his wings and hops around. Very cute. And the neat thing is that his (or her? How do you tell?) body is seamless. No separate prims needed for the arms or feet.

OK so now you see the examples, it's on to the real reasons I'm writing this article.

2. Mesh only works with mesh-enabled viewers

Phoenix 1.52 pre-mesh viewer
This may seem obvious to experienced SL users but surprisingly, a lot of people don't realize that to a large portion of the Second Life community still run older viewers. That mesh outfit that looks totally cute to you can make you appear naked wearing only a few blobs or blocks to those on non-mesh-enabled viewers. Here are two examples using the same Inga Wind outfit from above:

Pre-alpha viewer
As you can see, Snickers looks like she's wearing some large, tasty donuts with blocks on her feet. Again, unless the VIEWER can render 3D Mesh, this is what the person running that viewer will see. To make matters worse, if it's an even older viewer that doesn't support alpha clothing layers (more on this), you may look completely nakey. So here's a tip. Wear undies if at all possible with your mesh outfit. Sometimes however, the alpha mask will clash with what you wear so this may not be possible. You have been warned (black box applied so as to not frighten small children and tinies).

NOTE -- One common thing I've heard is that "mesh" causes computers to run slowly so people are reluctant to upgrade to a newer viewer that supports mesh. Well, I have news for you. Most of the newer viewers aren't running slowly because they support mesh. It's for a whole slew of reasons like fancy interfaces, multiple attachment points, avatar physics, skinning, etc., etc. Mesh is just one piece of the lag puzzle and, as I point out below, shouldn't be that big a piece. If you want a viewer that supports mesh AND gives great frame rates, I suggest Henri Beuchamp's Cool VL Viewer available here. It's my viewer of choice because I routinely get frame rates of 40 fps vs. Firestorm's 12 - 15. I know it's not approved by Linden Lab but it is TPV-compliant. No guarantees but I think Henri has proven himself fairly trustworthy as a developer.

3. Mesh is NOT flexible

While mesh can conform to and move with your body, it is not independently flexible like a flexi prim. A mesh skirt for example will stretch and move with your legs however it will not flutter, float or respond to wind like a flexi prim.

4. Alpha masks usually required

Alpha mask for Second Life
avatar arms
You can clearly see the alpha mask for the shorts in the Phoenix 1.52 picture above. Alpha masks, as used in Second Life, are special images (or a special layer embedded in an image) that hide what you don't want to see by making that area transparent. (Some may quibble with my definition but let's keep it simple. Mkay?) Think of them as cutting a hole out of whatever they lie on top of. In the above example, the hole is the shorts. Or as in the example to the left, the arms.

The reason for alpha masks is to hide areas of your body that might poke through the fixed shape of the mesh. Shoes are a great example. With an alpha mask, you can hide the entire foot and recreate it (including cute little toes on peekaboo styles) so it looks much better than a system foot. Or you can simply use the mask to hide selected areas of the body that might conflict with the mesh.

Most outfits are supplied with several alphas -- generally one for the top, one for the bottom and one for both together. That allows you to wear a short set as separates.

5. Picking the right size

Seems like there's always a price to pay for new features. Whether it's slower rendering or increased server load, nothing in Second Life is free. This is true for mesh. One major price you pay is that your avatar now has to conform to the SHAPE of the 3D mesh instead of the other way around. Think of mesh working like a suit of armor. Everything is fixed in size. Your body just sort of rattles around inside of it.

Most mesh outfits come with anywhere from 3 to 6 or 7 sizes. Sometimes they're simply XS, S, M, L, XL while some go further and have multiple sizes along with different body types. First step is to pick the size closest to your avatar's current shape.

6. Adjusting your shape

To really make a mesh outfit work, you must accept what the designer thinks is a good shape which often means tinkering with your own shape to get the best results. If you're wearing a no-mod shape, well, too bad. You may have to switch to one that can be modified.
Mesh + system top = problem

Here's an example of an outfit that, out of the box, probably won't fit a lot of female avatars in SL. As you can see, the system top is sticking out OVER the mesh shorts. Not good. It took me awhile to figure out what was going on here and I tracked it down to the tummy slider. Mine is set on 12 (average is probably higher for many). However, this particular outfit was designed with the tummy set to 0. Setting my shape to 0 tummy size cured the overhang.

Boobs are harder to deal with. Again, since the mesh top is like armor, whatever shape the mesh designer thinks is right is what you'll get. Those sporting balloons (like what, K cups??) and those (like me) with small ones (maybe B) are going to have problems. Most of the time, the alpha will hide things. BUT, when you combine a system top with the mesh top (as above), the system top will override the alpha and your true shape will poke through. As you can see to the left, this top in Medium size is too small in the waist, a bit too big for the boobies and too long for my torso (the straps float above my shoulders). Something's gotta give and it won't be the mesh top!

Again, this means tweaking it to fit. I have taken to saving a copy of my adjusted shape with the outfit now just to make it easier to wear. A top is to rename your shape to something like "My Shape - MOD for Jackie" or whatever the outfit name is.

As a side note, wouldn't it be nice if Linden Lab would make a slider that would reduce breast "area" to go along with size so smaller breasts wouldn't look big pancakes?

7. The secret behind mesh clothing

OK I hope I don't upset any designers here but let's be honest. MESH clothing is really hard to make!!! I've made several tries at trying to learn Blender and I have to admit defeat. It's just too darn complex. Plus, ideally you want to "bake textures" into the mesh so it looks all nice and shadowed and stuff. UGGGGH!! So what's a fashion designer to do if they aren't 3D inclined? Templates!

YES, most designers work from full perms templates including my aweseomsauce designer friend, Inga Wind. They take the basic mesh shape and apply their own unique texturing to them. Even so, it's still a crazy amount of work. Instead of just making a top on 2 layers, a bottom on 2 layers and spinning a prim skirt, you have to texture up 6 sizes of tops, 6 sizes of bottoms, plus the usual system tops or other items that you throw in to make a complete outfit. You'll find that most mesh outfits are mashups of original system work by the designer plus the template stuff.

So don't hate on the designer the next time you see her or his work show up with the name of the original template maker. Leave the 3D work to the masters of shaping stuff and let the designers do their thing with the textures. What can blow your brain out is figuring LOD factors, optimizing vertices, fitting the mesh properly, etc., etc. Really, it's OK. Templates are not evil.

Now if you're a designer making your own 3D meshes from scratch, my big floppy sunhat goes off to you.

8. The limitations of mesh avatars

While mesh avas are very cool (and I wuvs my pixies), they also have their limitations in Second life. Here are a few gotchas:
  • No expressions or emotions. Mesh avatars have a fixed, often blank look. Mouths don't move, eyebrows don't arch, nuffin'. Some makers offer a HUD that changes out the head mesh for a limited set of expressions, usually no smile, smile and laugh. But it's still static.
  • Prim eyeballs required. Yes, it's a bit creepy but they are needed since the alpha hides the system ones.
  • Special clothing. You can't wear system clothing at all. You have to wear clothing that is SPECIFICALLY designed to fit the exact shape of the avatar mesh. 
  • Fixed shapes. You can't adjust them like you can a system shape. In the case of Petites, there are 2 or 3 main competing shapes. Yabusaka / Fallen Gods is by far the most popular. The basic shape is thin and very waif-like. Appropriate for fairies and such but not everyone's cup of tea. Yabusaka released full perms clothing templates that made it much easier for people to make their own clothes for this style.

    I think the next most popular is the (11)Design pixie shape (the one shown at the top of the article). This shape is much more curvy and really looks like a normal avatar shrunk to 2 feet. Unfortunately, there hasn't been as much 3rd party clothing design for the pixies although (11)Design has released tools to help. I think the fact that you have to pay for them has made adoption slower. I've seen one other style in-world but I honestly don't know who makes it.

    Even though the shapes are fixed, there is still a lot of variation possible with skins, ears, noses, hands, hair, etc. Designers are pretty much free to do what they like as long as they aren't doing something to affect the basic underlying body parts.
  • Recovery required. Often, after you wear a mesh avatar, if it has severely deformed you from the normal range of slider available shapes, you can end up looking like this when you try to go back to your normal shape and clothing. Ugggh! Poor Snickers has her feet coming out of her knees and looks all squashed up. :(
    Trying to return to normal

9. Recovering from a mesh avatar

No I don't mean getting over a breakup with an elfin lover. It means what to do if you end up like this horrible messe to the right!
Bent knee syndrome
  1. Most mesh avatar makers provide an animation that is sort of an undeformer. Most of the time it works. A lot of the time it doesn't. When it doesn't, your knees or arms are often permanently bent. I haven't found anything to cure bent knees except a relog.
  2. Next up is the "vacant stare". For some reason, wearing the full mesh and the prim eyeballs can leave holes in your head when you go back to your normal skin and shape. Here you can see the hair in the eye socket. Ewwwies! Rebaking, changing eyes, switching sims, etc. -- nothing works to get them back except a relog.
  3. The Vacant Stare
  4. Are you sensing a pattern? When some portion of your body doesn't look right after all that mesh goodness, time to relog.

10. Miscellaneous techie things about mesh

Mesh, as you can see, is hella more complicated than primmy or system stuff. In fact, Linden Lab treats mesh uploads differently from normal textures or scuplties as it takes into account "Land Impact" -- which is how much the mesh will affect server performance. Upload charges are variable based on how much Land Impact the mesh item will have.

So while, for legacy purposes, prims (sculpted or not) have a land impact of "one" per prim, meshes are calculated on the basis of download weight (triangles), physics weight and server weight. Basically, if you rez a mesh something or other on your land, you'll get a sort of conversion from mesh to prims as the value that item has for the purposes of figuring out how many prims you have available. And as Linden Lab continues to say, prim count is really not an accurate indicator of Land Impact anyway.

For the most part, meshies are less intensive both server-side and client-side than their primmy counterparts if optimized and done correctly. This is simply because a mesh object generally requires fewer vertices than its prim or sculpted counterpart to look good. NOTE - Sculpted prims are really 1024-vertex meshes (32x32) made from special image files and, by comparison, a regular old torus-shaped prim is 1000 vertices. Mesh objects are not really restricted in the number of vertices so a single mesh object can offer as much or even more detail as a whole bunch of linked prims that have a much higher Land Impact and take longer to render. For a good article about how mesh compares to sculpties see https://sites.google.com/site/tradewindsyc/boat-building/mesh-vs-sculpties.

11. The "mesh deformer" project

The holy grail for mesh (as far as avatar clothing is concerned) is to be able to have it conform to your existing shape versus the suit of armor situation we have now.

A third-party crowd-sourced project has developed an alpha-version of a mesh deformer that can be built into the viewer. However, as many have pointed out, even if successful, it may not be allowable under Linden Lab's TOS. Being a viewer-side alteration, the deformed mesh would only look good to the person using the deformer capable viewer. To anyone else, it would look just as it looked out of the box. If you deformed a mesh shirt to fit your smaller body, those without the deformer might see your boobies poking through the mesh and other oddness that would interfere with the "shared user experience".

The real answer would be to incorporate mesh deformer capabilities into the server-side stuff. While Linden Lab has expressed interest in this, as far as I know, there has been no formal adoption of the open-source code. (Most of this info on mesh deforming was gleaned from Nalate's excellent blog.)

12. "Standard Sizing" for avatars (ADDED)

Thanks to Gwyneth's comment below. Here's a live link to another project to deal with the drawbacks on mesh.


http://darisl.wordpress.com/help/standard-sizing-information/

Basically, it's a set of 5 avatar shapes in so called "Standard-Sizes" that gives mesh designers fixed targets. I'm not sure how well it will work since, looking at the size specs, the "love handle" and "saddle bag" settings seem a bit too large for what I generally see in Second Life. OTOH, a designer who includes those settings in her/his mesh will certainly see them fit avatars with lower numbers. It's just that the the mesh item may end up looking too billowy or fat. Who knows???

Anyways, hope this all helps. If anyone has any more suggestions or corrections, feel free to let me know and I'll continue to update this screed.

August 17, 2012

*Snickers* store has moved!

It had to happen eventually since Second Life is, if nothing else, constantly changing. Due to real life issues, my friend, Honeybear Lilliehook, sold her SIM where I had my inworld store. I wish her all the best -- she was the best landlord one could ever hope for.

So my shop has relocated to a skybox in the Silver Serpent sim:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Silver%20Serpent/29/64/502

There are two lucky letter boards now where you can snag some items for free.

It's not quite the same as being in a shopping SIM but since 95% of my sales now come from the SL Marketplace, I really only use the store as a place to send people when they ask.

And here's the link to *Snickers* on SLM: https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/17804

Stop by and say hi. There's a board inside that let's you know if I'm online.

A flurry of new mesh releases from Inga Wind

Anika in Purple - $300L ($150L group)
I think the woman has lost her mind! :) I can't keep up with all the new outfits Inga Wind keeps releasing! Since I'm pretty busy in real life right now (OMG), I'll just post her own pics of them. Trust me -- they look pretty much the same in the photos as they do when worn. Inga's stylings are very upscale European chic so you'll see skirts over capris, asymetrical off-the-shoulder looks and REAL dresses. What you won't find is grunge or slut wear. ;)

Since they're all mesh-based, you may have to tweak your shape to fit. For example, Traci needs a totally flat tummy with no "love handles."

All outfits come complete as shown with shoes, multiple mesh sizes (usually XS, S, M, L, XL) and alphas (generally top, top & bottom, bottom, shoes). Click on the photos to see them full size.
Sue in Olive - $200L ($100L group)

Gwyneth in Red - $250L ($125L group) - Also available in
khaki and blue.

Robin in Yellow - $250L ($125L group)

Traci in Blue - $250L ($125L group)
And here's the SLURL to Inga's store: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Pitreavie/192/223/375

Remember to join her group and wear the tag when buying her outfits since most of them are 1/2 off that way on introduction!

August 16, 2012

Second Life Password Reset Epic Fail

As you may have noticed, I've been tilting at the "Bring back last names" issue in Second Life for awhile now. Here's the JIRA feature request in case you feel like perusing the some 200+ comments....

https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/SVC-7125

So anyway, recently, someone forgot their password. Well guess what? You need to know the FIRST names of 3 friends AND you have to answer them in order! But what if those friends are all named "Resident"?? Well this is what you get...
  1. Can't remember password
  2. Go To SL website to request
  3. Confirmation of hint:  Check
  4. Next question: "Three last names of your friends are listed below, what first names belong to them?"
        Answer A: ___________ Resident
        Answer B: ___________ Resident
        Answer C: ___________ Resident 
I mean seriously, this is just laughable but totally unfunny at the same time. I guess the rule is, guard that password with your First life. You may not get a Second bite at the apple. I mean seriously Linden Lab. WTF?

And yes, the problem with this has been made into a JIRA too.

https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/WEB-4884

August 2, 2012

Grendel's Children griefing update

UPDATE - Grendel's Children got there sim rollbacked! \o/ Also, news is a number of others got hit too.

NOTE - Some comments over at the SLU forums have variously speculated that this is something being triggered by rezzing an object that overflows the SIM owners own objects causing them to be returned.

That should not happen since OWNER objects are the last to be returned. ANYONE objects should be returned first, then GROUP then OWNER.

Others have speculated that this is being caused by someone rezzing an object outside on a next door sim then pushing it onto the sim being griefed. Since my friend's sim who got griefed is not mainlaind, is set to "no build" and there is no next door sim, this should not be possible either.

I think Desmond Chang (as he posted in SLU) is right. This is far more serious.

Grendel's Children hit by auto-return exploit!

In case anyone wondered if the auto-return exploit was just an isolated incident, Toady Nakamura just sent me an IM that Grendel's Children had been hit by the same thing I reported here. They are trying to get the SIM restored via concierge support.

We'll keep you posted. This is getting very serious folks.

July 30, 2012

Bring back last names in Second Life!

It's been a long time since I've seen an issue in Second Life inspire this much "resident" outcry but https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/SVC-7125 takes the virtual cake. With 2750+ votes in favor and almost 800 watchers, SL folks clearly think Linden Lab's policy of ditching last names is a bad idea.

For those who've been in a cave or have never known anything else, Second Life used to offer new account signups their choice of predefined "last names" which were combined with "just about anything you like" first names. The predefined last names ranged from the whimsical (like Stargazer, Wrigglesworth, Bubble, Steamweaver, Poutine & Voyager) to the more mundane (such as Snook, Kline, Jefferson and Berry). "Real names" as they've become known, were locked-in as your ID and there was no getting away from them.

Then, in late 2010, for part of its effort to make Second Life "more accessible" (hah), Linden Lab introduced "Display Names" which meant that instead of being known as "Snickers Snook", you could change how your name appeared to others (assuming they had a Display Name supporting viewer). So instead of me being seen as "Snickers Snook", I could change my "Display Name" to just "Snickers" or "Samantha Jones" or whatever.

THEN, in order to "simplify the login process" (and most likely to avoid the extra work of coming up with new last names), Linden Lab did away with its predefined universe of last names altogether and put all the load on the First Name field.

The birth of "Resident"

As usually happens with Linden Lab projects, it was kludged by giving all new accounts the arbitrary Last Name of "Resident" just to be backward compatible with old viewers and scripted objects that depend on knowing the both the first and last name. (Inartfully trying to hide it behind a single login field.)

This quickly lead to AOL-style account login names of Jimmyl33t84 or Amy1234Cleveland (since "cool" single field name space ran out pretty quickly) which of course people immediately changed to things like RotoRooter69 and Amy Likes Girls (lord I hope those aren't actual display names). The problem, of course, was that everyone immediately found out that Display Names weren't their names!

"Resident" was still their last name and AOL-style login names were their real "first names" -- at least as far as most of the tools, viewers and things were concerned. And searching on a display name? Well good luck with that. It generally doesn't work or often returns wayyy too many results to be useful.

Have you ever played Tiny Empires? Then you know it only displays "real names" such as Amy1234Cleveland Resident. (As a side note, I had to update my Evil Tummy Talker and Evil Male Talker so they pick up Display Name (if used) or "real name" if Display Name is not set.)

A license to impersonate people

EDIT (ADDED): As someone just pointed out in the JIRA, Display Names are also being used to impersonate other accounts (people, Residents, whatevah). I verified this myself by doing the suggested search on "Truth Hawks" who is the well-known designer of "Truth" hair (which I LOVE btw). Sure enough, doing a search in the Linden Lab SL Viewer brings up three "Truth Hawks" with the "real" Truth Hawks listed #3. #1 is really "truthhanwk Resident" and #2 is "Lucifer Czarny". #2 actually has "TRUTH HAIR Send notecard or IM for contact me" so he obviously knows he is deliberately impersonating the real owner/designer of Truth Hair. This is because the stupid "People" search in the official viewer defaults to searching Display Names AND Real Names. I wonder how much business Truth Hawks has lost to Mr. Czarny? And clearly Linden Lab does not have the mechanisms in place to prevent this type of spoofing and I'm not sure they really care. FWIW, viewers with old-style "reliable" search ONLY search on actual resident names -- not Display Names. Searching "Truth Hawks" in Cool VL Viewer only returns "the" Truth Hawks.

The social side of Real Names and Display Names

So we have two classes of residents. Those with original "real last names" (like me) and those without. Which is annoying to both. It's inorganic and the complete antithesis of  Philip Rosedale's (Linden) original vision for Second Life.

It's a depersonalized, arbitrary and clumsy subdivision of Second Life participants (God I hate that term "Resident" - it sounds so temporary and fleeting). And the clamor for a return to offering meaningful last names has only increased over the last few months.

Will anything happen? Probably not. When it comes to things that affect SL'ers on an emotional level, Linden Lab has been increasinly detached, ignorant and uninvolved. (Has anyone SEEN a Linden in-world lately?? I sure haven't.) While their programmers and program managers actively get wrapped into things like graphics, databases, servers, etc., etc., they are utterly clueless as to what goes into creating a sense of community. (Except Torley who seems to be relegated to the wayyy back burners these days.)

Trust me, it's not the next level of mesh deformation that's going to get more new accounts to sign-up. It's whether or not people feel like they belong to a community once they join and if they are willing to talk their friends into following them.

Second Life and Linden Lab have been missing their social targets by a mile. Last names are just one piece in evidence of this. There are so many other examples (no need to rehash history). So feel free to vote on the JIRA (although "watching" generates more Linden Lab attention so do both) but don't hold your breath.

Comments? Thoughts?

July 23, 2012

Major new griefing / security exploit in Second Life?

As mentioned in a previous post (click here), a friend's SIM got trashed by griefers two nights ago. What happened would seem to be impossible unless there's a major security hole in Second Life. All of the SIM objects started getting returned after two avatars managed to rez something.

Apparently, this has been happening to a number of live and DJ music venues recently and two people have mentioned this happening in the Second Life Forums.

http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Abuse-and-Griefing/someone-returned-my-stuff-to-me-from-my-own-land-withouy-any/qaq-p/1561733/comment-id/4159

http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Abuse-and-Griefing/An-avatar-has-done-the-supposed-impossible-returned-my-objects/qaq-p/1583517/comment-id/4267

I have been told the name of the inworld group that may have been responsible but since I have no proof, I won't be mentioning them. Regardless, I sure hope Linden Lab has put a high priority on closing this one. Since it's a Security issue, you can't see from the JIRA if anything's being done (issue viewing is restricted to LL and the reporter).

Virtual Asia SIM gets major facelift

Last January, I featured a SIM called Virtual Asia in a blog post (http://snickitty.blogspot.com/2012/01/taste-of-asia-in-second-life.html) describing it as a gritty, run-down Tokyo build. While small, the execution, look and feel were first rate and well worth a visit.

Recently, Manaaf, the owner/builder, IM'd me to say he's been hard at work updating and redesigning Virtual Asia. I have to say, the results are spectacular. There are still some obvious works-in-progress in spots but overall the new Virtual Asia really captures the feel of a major urban center like Tokyo or Singapore. The build is larger, slighty more trendy in spots and every bit as gaudy and full of neon as one might expect.

A few shots:
Main Street & Landing Point

Me in one of my sexier Bare@Rose outfits (Black Petal).

Grundgy, dodgy neighborhood.
Beware. I'm packing pepper spray.

View back towards downtown.

Here's the SLURL to Virtual Asia: http://slurl.com/secondlife/MaxStudio/202/161/4000
The build is on a sky platform at 4000 meters so hopefully that SLURL will work.

Dance club SIM griefed & trashed in Second Life

Some friends of mine had their Second Life SIM (DanSyn's) griefed and trashed the other night. The destruction was apparently fairly extensive -- shutting them down temporarily and forcing a rebuild. It also interfered with a long-scheduled SL wedding. While the wedding gamely went on, the venue wasn't what the happy couple would have expected.

I guess I'll never understand what drives people to do this -- especially since DanSyn's is a fairly low profile venue that is really more like a close-knit community than a huge, impersonal, high-profile operation like Big Daddy's or Frank's.

DanSyn's is rebuilding and will be re-opening tonight with dancing on their beach location. If you're so inclined, drop by any time after 7:00pm SLT to show your support.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Enchanted%20Euphoria/194/184/299

July 6, 2012

Inga Wind goes crazy for mesh!!

I don't think I've ever seen a designer produce such a flurry of new outfits as Inga Wind has in the last month. OMG. The woman must get no sleep! Anyway, her hard work is your gain.

Out of the 20 plus releases I've seen, I'm picking three to show what she's been up to.

First off is Dalila. This unusual draped bubble dress comes in 7 color ways including black, gold, silver, purple, red, cyan, peach and olive. The peach version is shown on the right. Very striking! The folds, creases and shadows are perfect and the way it holds up when you move is very good for a mesh outfit. $400L including shoes. As usual, Inga's "Wind" group members can buy it for 1/2 price ($200L).

Next up is Lana in Red. The underlying mesh template is used in a few other Wind outfits but I particularly like the binary color treatment on this version. Sort of reminds me of some of the 70's era James Bond girl styles! :) Shaken and not stirred please!

Lana is $300L ($150L group) including flats as shown.


Last but not least we have Manon. Now I'm not sure what sort of name Manon is but the textures and patterns are amazing!

I remember trying to do a dress with a similar vertical pattern a long time ago and it was a nightmare trying to make it look square with the avatar mesh making it go all curvy and icky. Thankfully, mesh outfits control the shapes so everything will line up even if your normal avatar shape would prevent it.

Manon is perfect for a day of Second Life shopping or just hanging out with your friends. Like most of Inga's more casual outfits, it has an elegant, upscale feel without being overly designed or pretentious. Manon is a bargain at $200L ($100L group).


As with any mesh outfit, not all viewers will display them correctly AND until mesh deforming makes its way into the main viewers, you may have to adjust your shape to fit them. With Inga's outfits, I've found that setting your tummy to 0 will prevent most meshie faux-pas.

Here's the SLURL to her store but note that it can be slow to rez. She has a LOT of items out so you may want to set your draw distance and graphics quality lower to make things go faster!

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Pitreavie/195/246/375

June 9, 2012

Oceans have gone dry around my Second Life house.

Wow talk about a major graphics failure. Not sure what's causing this but the water has appeared to disappear around my home in Second Life.

May 21, 2012

DV8 closes in Second Life

I don't know if it's the generally slow Second Life economy or if the owner/creator is just giving up. Whatever the reason, DV8, a mainstay for alternative, punk, goth, sci/fi and grunge fashion is apparently closing it's doors forever. No word from the owners on the DV8 website as to why. In fact no real notice at all.

Anyway, everything in the store is $50L or less (except fatpacks).

Sadly, I'm stocking up on a few things. :(

May 13, 2012

Summer Hunt at Inga Wind Clothing

You are searching for this cute little mesh outfit called "Sally in Yellow". Find all 11 parts in the bees located throughout the store.
        1  *IW* Sally Alpha for SHOES
        2  *IW* Sally Alpha for TOP
        3  *IW* Sally Alpha for TOP & SHOES
        4  *IW* Sally in Yellow Blouse L
        5  *IW* Sally in Yellow Blouse M
        6  *IW* Sally in Yellow Blouse S
        7  *IW* Sally in Yellow Blouse XS
        8  *IW* Sally in Yellow Blouse XXS
        9  *IW* Sally in Yellow SHOE L
      10  *IW* Sally in Yellow SHOE R
      11  *IW* Sally in Yellow Shorts
    
Not all bees have clothing parts in them so you'll have to click them to see which do! Hmmm that could keep you busy -- as a -- bee.

SLURL to Inga Wind Clothing

May 5, 2012

Second Life Marketplace Direct Delivery fails

I continue to hear nothing but problems with the Second Life Marketplace since Linden Lab officially launched "Direct Delivery". In case you don't know, this change eliminates in-world "Magic Boxes" and replaces them with direct uploads from the seller to the Marketplace.

While seemingly a good idea on the surface, so far it's been a disaster.
  • Items have been mismatched
  • Images of items from one seller show up on another seller's products
  • Items can no longer be edited -- they are stuck.
  • Some items are stuck in permanent upgraded listing mode meaning the merchant can't "unlist" it from being featured. Yet, the merchant's account continues to be dunned for the upgrade amounts.
  • Some items never make it into the marketplace.
  • People have LOST their items including all the great reviews that went with them.
  • Editing and updating items has become tedious.
  • Support tickets are not being acted on. Customer Support blames the software and says they can't do anything. The Commerce Team tells people to file support tickets. WTH?
  • By my count, at least 100 JIRA items (bug reports) have been filed relating to Marketplace issues since Direct Delivery was formally implemented.
On top of this, it has slowed down the Marketplace a LOT. Searches are taking longer, the Marketplace itself often takes 20 - 30 seconds to simply show up, and browsing for an item can be pure torture.

While Magic Box deliveries can be a little flakey at times (mostly because of offline regions), they worked about 99% of the time. I think in my 4 years of using various Magic Boxes, I might have had a total of 4 completely failed deliveries.

Under Direct Delivery, I am hearing about failed or borked deliveries from my fellow merchants ALL the time. It's a deluge.

So it's a good thing I haven't switched to DD yet. But come June 1, unless Linden Lab relents, I'll have to. That's doomsday for Second Life Merchants aka the day when Magic Boxes are supposed to stop working. Uggh. LL, are you TRYING to kill commerce in Second Life? Seriously folks, why did you do this?

May 4, 2012

Alpha-sorting (masking) in Second Life revisited

Recent comments in an open Second Life JIRA that I've been fairly involved with have caused me to take another look at how Second Life treats alpha (transparent) textures. Now this semi-geeky stuff gets pretty anal but it can make a huge difference in how things are rendered in SL. In my case, since I make clothing, I get annoyed that prim skirts with transparencies always fight each other where they overlap.

I wrote an article to explain the issue way back when: Alpha sorting and masking in Second Life.

So this time around, I thought I'd go into a viewer setting called "Automatic alpha masks" which is accessible off your Advanced menu (CTRL-ALT-D / Rendering). There are two choices, Automatic alpha masks (deferred) and Automatic alpha masks (non-deferred).

Basically, what these two do is tell the viewer to treat any alpha as either all 1-bit (deferred) or as a blend (non-deferred). The exact algorithm for detecting the alpha and the cut-offs are not published but you can kind of see the results in the photo above (this comes from SL Universe in a post by Inhandra)

While on the one hand, hair looks better with non-deferred and horrible with deferred, other prims show texture fighting against semi-transparent backgrounds.

BTW, these settings used to be called Fast Alphas but the nomenclature was changed to make the intent more obvious.

So the point of the JIRA mentioned above is that the alphas need to be controlled by the creator, not by an arbitrary setting that may or may not apply to the original creator's intent.

Just to get even more anal about this, I did some photos of my own to show the edging effects of various textures and settings (just thought I'd use a basic Torley Linden color scheme here). These should display as crossed circles just like my old article. I tried 3 different types of textures -- TGA with alpha, PNG with transparency and PNG-8 with 1-bit transparency. To see the effects up close, click the photo to view at full size. I tried this with 256x256 pixel textures and with 1024x1024.
Default viewer settings - 256x256 TGA, PNG and PNG-8 crossed circles.
Automatic alpha mask - Deferred.
Default viewer - PNG
Automatic alpha deferred - PNG
Default viewer - PNG 1024x1024

Automatic alpha deferred - PNG 1024x1024

Obviously the worst of the bunch was the PNG-8 with 1-bit alpha (transparency) which ends up with a white edge when rendered with Automatic alphas on (picture #2). And, to be fair, these hard geometric shapes render the best under automatic alphas. Regardless, there is a fair amount of down-sampling going on in all (thus the jaggies). The down-sampling was why the setting used to be called Fast Alpha -- the smaller images rendered faster. Not so much a factor with today's much better graphics cards.

More subtle images, such as deliberate drop shadows render very poorly with auto-masking. Here's a screen shot from JIRA MAINT-651 showing this effect:

Left - pre-upload, Center - no auto alpha, Right - deferred.
To throw yet ANOTHER monkey wrench into the mix (and exactly what is a monkey wrench??), Lighting and Shadows can break alphas even further depending on what form of masking is in use -- resulting in whole black areas.

So the real solution, which has so far been avoided by Linden Lab, is to allow the creator to upload textures as they choose and designate the alpha type on a per-face basis. Given that fixing the z-buffer sorting issues are probably not going to happen, this really is the second best approach. IMHO.

(Good lord I've become geeky in my 5 years on SL. Eeek!)

As always, corrections and comments are welcome.

UPDATE:

Because of the apparent confusion over the PNG-8 format, I'm adding a few piccies to show what's up with it. :)

First I made a pink circle using a shape with pink fill in Photoshop. Next I SAVED it for Web & Devices using PNG-8, No Dither, Transparency, No Transparency Dither, Matte: None, Colors 256. This brought the output file down to just two colors. Pink (well fuschia really) and transparent. Size of final file was 256x256 pixels.

PNG-8 Source Image (see text above)
PNG-8 texture placed on prim and viewed against black background. Viewer set to normal.

PNG-8 texture placed on prim and viewed against black background. Viewer set to auto alpha mask (non-deferred)

I'm not sure what to make of this except that the auto-masking setting seems to make the image slightly more artifacty. Regardless, nothing changes here. With the auto-mask on, the alphas don't fight each other. Turned off, they do. Which just shows that SL converts the uploaded image with true 1-bit transparency into it's usual messed up format that has to be interpolated to stop the alpha fighting.

BTW, if you're going to use PNG with transparency for clothes or whatever, matte your output into whatever the main color of item is. If it's red, use red as a matte. Blue use blue. Etc. Or use black. This will at least avoid some of the white halo effect. But it won't work quite as well as TGA with alpha blended using something like Solidify in Photoshop.

April 26, 2012

Free backup for premium Second Life accounts?

So I'm chatting in the Second Life Bloggers group and out pops a GREAT idea courtesy of Caitlin Poultry-Seale [aka Uccello Poultry]. Premium accounts should include inventory backups and roll-backs! What a concept!

Linden Lab, do you hear this? Sell more preemies by offering to back up inventory!

Second Life totally farkled!

In my 5 years on Second Life, I have NEVER seen it as totally screwed up as it is right now. I have no idea what's going on but for almost the whole day, people have been plagued by logins not working, teleports causing viewer crashes (wtf???), transactions failing, Marketplace deliveries not happening, objects rezzed disappearing and on and on and on. The grid warnings have turned from benign to ominous!

[Updated 3:23pm PDT 26 April 2012] Services are still undergoing maintenance - logins, billing, and other issues may occur. Some regions may be down intermittently. Please continue to refrain from rezzing no-copy objects, or transacting L$ or land. At this time, we do not have an estimated time of repair. Please continue to monitor this blog for updates.
[Updated 1:20pm PDT 26 April 2012] As maintenance continues please refrain from rezzing no copy objects, in-world transactions or land purchases etc.
[Updated 11:30am PDT 26 April 2012] Due to the ongoing maintenance, Marketplace orders may also be delayed. We are continuing to work on resolving this issue, please keep an eye on the blog for further updates.

Seriously Linden Lab, what the HELL did you do to SL today?

April 22, 2012

New Mesh Fashion Releases from Inga Wind

Usually I take photos of myself wearing the outfits that I feature here. This time, I'm just going to repost Inga Wind's own package photos. Her models and poses are totally cute and well-suited to the perky fun style of her latest offerings. Yes, I've tried them all on and they look as good if not better than the package shots.

Inga readily admits that the underlying meshes are templates so you may see the basic structure of the tops, skirts or whatevers show up elsewhere. It's what she does with her own textures that make these outfits sparkle. My two faves in this are Ashi and Katya. All are available in various color ways. Prices range from $300 - $400L but you can usually get them for 1/2 price if you belong to Inga's group "Wind". Click on the photo to see full-size.

SLURL to Inga Wind Clothing