Monday, October 29, 2012

RL Bite: Hurricane Sandy

Outside our living room window. Wind gusts up to about 60 m.p.h. at almost 3:00 p.m. today. Otherwise, it seems like a fairly quite day with overcast skies and intermittent sprinkles here in southern Maine.

This is a mild gust outside my bedroom window. A bit of a power flicker, but nothing serious here. Should start to ease up in a couple hours and then just be rainy. Local power company has reported upwards of 1,700 addresses in my (fairly big) county without power. Most we've had in my town is about 30 last I saw. Numbers go up and down. Thank goodness it's not Winter with snow and freezing temperatures. Plenty of food and water if power goes out. Emergency hand-cranked radio is broken. Ordered a new one Saturday. Should be here after the storm passes on Wednesday.

Following Sandy at Google Crisis is interesting. All our iDevices are charged up and browser tabs I have open on any of them or the desktop can be viewed on any device. But I know if I log into Second Life we'll probably lose power. That's the way luck works. But I am watching the My Second Life feeds.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spooky Spots

The other day the LDPW Moles began making the streets of Bay City and other Linden-owned spots all spooky with ghosts, pumpkins that wander about, fresh graves, and more. Here's a sampling of what you can find:

The Bay City Fairground has a Hay Maze (SLurl) constructed by Marianne McCann and the Moles (I got to help a bit). If you survive your trip to the center, click the coffin there for a gift. Click again for a second, possibly different gift. A third click ... you get the idea.

The Channel Island Asylum (SLurl) is creepy year 'round but it takes on extra "atmosphere" at this time of year. Watch out for the nurses, the doctors, and the ... oh, I shouldn't spoil it all for you. Like all Linden-owned parcels, be sure to use the World > Sun > Use Region Settings menu option for the spookiest atmosphere!

Another year 'round spooky spot is the Falmouth Hotel (SLurl), but during this season the creepies really set in as people creep around in costume. Don't let the driveway fountain that sometimes runs red with blood deter you. Step on in. The residents sometimes give gifts. And like the Hotel California celebrated in song and legend, you can check in but ...

Lots of Bay City residents have decorated for the holiday but the Manard House (SLurl) simply manifests. You won't see it at other times of the year, just Halloween. Sometimes the owners aren't home and sometimes they are ... right behind you. Look for the gift as you explore the rooms and the convenient near by door to escape through.

A couple blocks away is the resident-owned The R Pub (SLurl), a friendly neighborhood bar that has been spooktacularly decorated for the holiday. Drop in any time for a drink, a dance, and a demonically good time. You'll often find people there later in the night drinking spirits and talking to them, too.

Hairy Hippo Funland (SLurl) was probably the first place to be hit by the Moles in the Halloween decorating spree. Either that or the hippos have spontaneously grown pumpkin bodies. Enjoy the rides, try the games, and take up the food challenge (yes, you'll need a toilet in Second Life for that one). Just watch out for the ghosts.

The Moles have decorated several of the Bay City streets, but they've also run amuck outside the city limits. Check out the Georgean Test Track (SLurl). Rez your own car, bike, skateboard, or whatever and drive like a manic. Just be careful you don't earn your own grave there. If you look about you'll find there is a great off-road leg of the track that is really awesome for hover boards (normally there is a free hover board giver there, but I think the ghosts ate it).

Of course, it's all fun until you lose a an eye or something. My poor brother (CC Poultry) was in the Manard House when this happened ...

Poor guy, but at least it was a cat, albeit a mutant one, to burst through his belly. It could have been worse. It could have been ... well, that really was pretty bad.

If you have a Halloween site you'd like to publicize, post an SLurl and a description in the comments here. Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why People Don't Use MySL

In a post on his My Second Life (MySL) microblog feed today, Loki Eliot opined that "one of the main reasons not many use SLfeed is because they don't come across many instances that lead to it." I agree to a point. Mostly folks don't know about the service despite it being tightly integrated into our in-world profiles and easily accessible on the Web. Instead, I contend that not many folks use MySL is that it is a faulty, poorly formed service. Don't get me wrong here. Readers of this blog know that I use MySL on a daily basis and often extoll its virtues, but take a look at the post that I just mentioned to see just two of the issues that impact usability:

With a Snapshot, text is appended after the creator's name stating that s/he is sharing a snapshot. You can then click an embedded hyperlink to expand that post to see the image in larger form (you can also just click the image to embiggen it) and to see all the comments in a new window/tab. Notice the yellow arrow above? No such feature is available for text-only posts. Opening one in a separate window for citation purposes or to simply let it stand alone is problematic at best. That's where the pink arrow comes in. It is pointing to a hyperlink opens the post in the same window/tab so that no other posts are visible rather than simply showing all the comments (because that would be far too useful thus does not qualify as a feature). The upshot here is that message handling is mismanaged. Look at Twitter for an example of how this could work:

I think it looks better on the iPad but it's my brother's account (I don't Tweet) so he provided the screen shot.
Very functional, but then again the fine folks at Twitter have been evolving the design for their millions of users. The Lab has stopped support for MySL for its tens-of-thousands of users so it works pretty much the same way it did when it was introduced.

But that's not the half of it. The system is also buggy and hard to use.

The pink arrow here shows the Notifications counter. Mine often has a negative count or a flashing zero count. I think that this is because I keep a clean Notifications tab, deleting items I don't need, but the system often repeats notices or delays them up to 12 hours so the counter is naturally confused. This is only exacerbated by a design that makes the user work for the content. Clicking Inbox takes you to a Messages tab that is seldom used. If someone "DMs" you via your profile or via MySL, those messages show up here. Working with them is a whole 'nother issue that I won't get into here.

Look at the orange arrow instead. Four of the five messages concern the exact same Snapshot post, but the only way to learn that is to open each and every one of them. If you click on the Snapshot hyperlink it opens the whole post but doesn't change the focus to the point on which the notice is about. Instead, it simply closes your Inbox and displays the post from the beginning. MySL Workflow, thy name is Lucifer. This is but one of the tasks that is torturous when it comes to using MySL to its fullest.

Yah, yah. Such a First World problem and if wishes were horses we'd all be eating steak (Thanks, Jayne!). But putting the user aside for a moment, think what a power social media tool this could become for The Lab. There is a reason that Residents flocked to Plurk and Twitter. There's a reason Residents used Avatars United (and The Lab bought it*). Me thinks, however, that The Lab has forgotten this reason.

# # #

* see Avatars United article at Massively here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Poultry '12 - Choice

Recently I've been spending quite a bit more time as a Furry Maine Coon Cat, an adorable avatar that really suits who I am. But I'm also very much myself when I'm in my human form. That's why with this election season upon us I'm going to give YOU, Dear Reader, the choice. Vote in Comments for Uccello the Furry (the candidate on the left) or Uccello the Human (the candidate on the right). The winner will reign for as my primary avatar for the next four years or until whenever something comes up. (Chicago residents may vote only once each, even the dead ones. All taxes, gratuities, liabilities, and subsequent fees are probably bogus. The management of this establishment is not responsible. Quando omni flunkus, moritati.)

Furry Uccello promises to "... bring Kyoot to life ebery day! Ebery day will be like Caturday!! Two noms in every pot and belly rubz for eberyone!" While she acknowledges that the Furry community is often discriminated against, she promises that there is no place for enmity in her furrin' relations policy. "We're all people under the mesh," she says. "My wife is a human, you know, though sometimes she's a wolfer and every now and then a ferret. But I love her in any form and I respect whatever form you choose, too."

Human Uccello is also no stranger to changing forms. You'll often see her as a sea dragon in the Blake Sea or soaring over forests as a bird, but basically she's modeled her avatar to look like her Real Life self. "In the end," she says, "we are who we are. I may often wear animal ears and tails like Halloween is every day, but I'm still a simple Irish girl ... pale, freckled, and very ginger." As for what she would like to accomplish during her administration, Uccello the Human had little comment. "I've been pushed by my advisors to 'put the sex back in sexy' but rubbing pixels isn't everything. Basically, I want to build things and participate in the Bay City community as well as the Second Life community as a whole."

There's the basics so the campaign has begun. This blog is negotiating with both camps to set up a debate, arrange appearances, and canvas The Grid. But you can vote now, if you want. Just go to Comments below and choose a candidate. Too soon for you? Leave questions for the candidates to answer. Preferably questions they can answer. Nothing like "What's the covalence of the fermium isotope?" because its clear from just that sentence that they have no clue about chemist trees. So hit up the Comments and let's get this campaign underway.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A MySL Sampler

Recently, digital artist and genius kid Loki Eliot wrote on his blog about the My Second Life micro-blog feeds, particularly how he uses it for his business as well as general posts and how he thinks the idea is missing its potential. I whole heartedly agree that MySL could be more, but as I pointed out in a comment on his post, The Lab doesn't really support the feature any more. But we can still use it and fairly well despite inherent limitations. Lately I've had to spend more time in Real Life so I use MySL rather heavily to maximize my time in-world and minimize my writing time for this blog. If you haven't been following me on MySL, here is a sampling of what you've missed recently:

This pic was from a series I shot at the Pouloco gas station in Bay City - Dennis (SLurl) and was sort of an in-FAUX-mercial for the business. It was cute. Well, it still is. Check it out on MySL feed with the other pix.

It seems that lately quite a few folks have discovered or rediscovered the hidden keyboard shortcuts you can use to adjust the view angle of your camera rather than leap into Move & View preferences for the same and they've been posting pix on their MySL feeds to play with the effect. Simply press Ctrl-8 for a wide angle lens effect or Ctrl-0 for a telephoto effect. Ctrl-9 resets the "lens" to the standard view. As you can see above, the telephoto effect foreshortens the camera's perspective. Check out this Web site for more information on lens focal lengths.

Like many, I often use MySL for photo essays. This pic was part of my trip to the Bay City Aquarium in Oak Bay (SLurl) a couple days ago. I survived, you can guess, but it was a harrowing experience for a kitty. I may never eat calimari again.

Another photo essay was of a visit to Pyri Funfair (SLurl), a great place to take a date to for Halloween. Make sure you have plenty of time, though, because once you start the Tunnel of Love ride, you could be a while. MySL is a great way to learn about places like Pyri. Think of it as a travel guide.

Second Life is a huge place and using MySL to explore it can help lead you to things you've never seen, experiences you've never had, and people you might otherwise have never met. Like here I am in a Linden office, stealin' some comfies from a comfy chair while I enjoy a sunrise on a land that few see (SLurl).
My last picture is from what I was doing while writing this blog post, sitting in a beautiful space and sharing it via MySL with everyone who wants to take a peek. Are you using MySL? Leave a comment with the URL or at least your name as I'd love to take a look into your world.

Forest Floor (SLurl) is one of the most beautiful landscapes in all Second Life. A good place to sit and write.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Go Purple for #spiritday!

As much as I don't usually like the color purple, I'm proud to re-color my blog to celebrate "Go Purple" day along with the whole lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Read more about that on the GLAAD Website here and think about recoloring your social media tools. Go Purple!! It's a way to have fun with a serious message, bullying of LGBT youth. You can't convince me that bullying for any reason is anything more than a form of cowardice. You don't like an idea? Beat it out of your opponent. No, that doesn't work. What are the bullies afraid of ... becoming GAY? Like that's gonna happen.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Manard's House

Year 'round you can pass old Manard's House in Bay City - Dennis (SLurl) and see just a run-down old farm house. Sure, it looks a little spooky, but it is really harmless. But when you see pumpkins in the yard, run! That's a sign that some special guests take up residence through Halloween, making strange noises and causing strange things to happen. If you sneak in at the right time, however, you can grab a gift and get out quick!

/me giggles

Well, that's the back story. Readers of this blog know that every year I'd build something special for the holiday at the Isle of Lesbos. Of course, this year there is no Lesbos sim so I moped about with an inventory full of stuff that I had been gathering for this year's build. Then I ran across a sweet rental near my home and I had to go for it. Its not big and its not super elaborate, but there's a lot of heart in it. So come on down and have some fun. Just don't sit on the pumpkin trees – they'll eat you up! Come November, the house is gone and I'll sit around figuring what I can do for next year.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Coastal Waterway

Getting ready for an afternoon nap in Lucca. Check out MySL photo feed (Web) for more pix.
Even before I got my most recent boat (Web), I've traveled The Coastal Waterway in Second Life. It's a fabulous set of sims with many islands to explore, seascapes for divers, and plenty of water for sailors. Some are even great for Role Play – pirates, Arabian princes, mermaids, and more. I especially appreciate all the effort that the Linden Department of Public Works (Web) put into each and every build. For example, many spots have games and freebies! Checkout this list of places to visit along the Waterway and rez your own boat.

Friday, October 5, 2012

MySL Feeds

From Kingpost (SLurl), on the Coastal Waterway, as seen on MySL snapshot feed (Web).

If you need a reason to check out the My Second Life feeds from your friends or others, please consider: Many of us Residents put in a fair bit of time telling stories, snapping nice pictures, and sharing our in-world lives via this microblog service. This is just one picture from my day of exploring. What did you do today?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stillman Sim is GONE

Screen Cap with notation of the Stillman region as seen from the current map rendering.
Renowned Second Life explorer Kennylex Luckless reported about an hour ago as I write this that the historic Stillman region has been wiped (Web). It is simply called Land now, is owned by Governor Linden as of today at 2:37AM, and there have been 14 visitors in about 8-9 hours since then. Could this be a mistake due to the current rolling restarts (Web)? I can confirm reports that items are being returned after sims have restarted as I had my house and some other objects returned from Bay City - Dennis – or so the message indicated. No new items are in my Lost and Found folder.

Update: Marianne McCann reports that Stillman was restored as of about 6:45PM SLT (Web).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Just What I Needed

Just what I needed, another avatar. But after not being too happy with Luskwood's July update to their domestic kitty avatar (Web), I figured I should go shopping. But I waited. And waited. And spent money on a gosh-awful-but-worth-it boat (Web). But after watching the video that I featured on this blog late last month (Web), I decided to find the furry striped cat avatar in the video. So here she is ...

My friends at the Lucky Kitty Crew (Web) helped me track it down. Apparently, what you see is really a chinchilla by Uchi Desmoulins of Curious Avatars (SLurl). Yep. Not a cat. Until you apply the mod kit created by Puppy Resident (mod kit & original avatar available at SLurl). I just had to apply some textures, swap out some bits, find some hair and clothes, then tah-daaaahhh! I'm a Maine Coon Cat!!

Which is pretty good as I live in Maine and I like cats (two sleep with me every night). I set the eye color to match those of my RL cats (Web) plus the coloring I picked has shades of what my RL cats have, too. But in this pic I'm not wearing the glasses I adapted so you can be sure to see the beautiful eyes. Pretty good chance that if my wife is not in-world, I'll be wearing this avatar. *thrusts her paws in the air and shouts "I'm adorable!!"*