Archive for the ‘thoughts and musings’ Category

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Interesting Person: Photographe Benoir

May 31, 2008

So, I decided to explore the new(ish) bay city sims again yesterday, and while waiting for a tram, away in the distance, I saw a vehicle round the corner floating on what seemed a cushion of air. As it drew nearer, I could see the words ‘Taxi’ and ‘for hire’ on it. Looking up at the overcast rainclouds windlight was rendering across my screen, I decided that I’d treat myself to a little luxury and stuck out my thumb as the taxi drew up to the kerb.

Photographe Benoir has been driving cabs in SL for about a month now. She charges L$2 a minute -significantly more than she could make working in a club, or sitting in the camping spots – but still low enough to be affordable to the average run of the mill Secondlife resident.

That said – times are hard, what with the world economy the way it is.. When I ask if being a taxi driver is a good income, my quiet driver replies simply “No.” People are cutting back on the little things these days it seems I mention, and she nods in agreement, “often its difficult to find a passenger”.

But its not all doom and gloom – Photographie goes on to tell me about a new resident who hadn’t seen much of SL before and hired a taxi to go on a tour to see some of the sights and sounds. Aparantly, it was money well spent – “She was amazed!” Photo explains. “she said ‘wow, its amazing!'”. Money well spent then, it seems. Its an easy career to get into – “Just buy a taxi” Photo tells me. As we bump across a sim border, I fasten my seatbelt.

But photo isnt happy to just be a simple driver, she has dreams, big dreams, of controlling a fleet of taxis, and she’s looking for drivers. “If you want to buy a taxi, please visit my shop – you can find a LM in my picks – a cab like this made by Cubey Terra only costs L$400”. I nod – I’m more of a builder than a taxi driver, but for new residents looking to meet people, see the sights and sounds and earn a few L$ while they’re at it, its an appealing option. And luckily, there are no maintanance costs or running fees, which can be handy as Photo explains – “I got into an accident with trolley – I had been driving too fast” (I note gladly that her driving today seems excellent, very smooth and precise) “and then, Something brown appeared – I said “ahh, what is that?” – then I crashed. And I was blown away. But the trolley was still on the rail lol” Typical trolleys, I mention “They think they own the road”.

For the L$10 that my journey cost, I arrive on time and refreshed at my destination after an interesting drive and chat. Photographie is more than happy to point out various landmarks along the way, and I happily pay her my fee and add her to my friends list. With teleports failing the way they sometimes do, I figure you never know when you might need a taxi.

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Copy theft in SL – a (partial) solution at last?

May 29, 2008

Okso..

There’s been a lot of talk lately in SL and the blogs about copy theft. Its becoming a real issue, as peoples work on skins, textures, scripts and even entire builds are being ripped off, stolen, and resold at lower rates, or worse given out full mods. I think most of us would agree this is a bad thing. I know some of you think everything should be free, some are big fans of the opensource movement, but this isnt a post about that. I wont go into the semantics of it, but as someone who builds a lot in SL, and is friends with a lot of people who make their RL living from selling goods in-world, suffice to say I think copy theft is a bad thing! I think opensource is cool too, but I think it should be a choice the creator makes as to whether their creation should be free to all – or not.

So, why isnt it being stopped? How are they getting away with it? One point of view, is that it’s impossible to stop people stealing textures/models/skins. I’m not gonna go into details (please dont ask me – refusal often offends) , but yeah.. it is actually pretty easy to rip anything you want out of SL, because of the way the client downloads everything anyway. The thieves (damn you, thieves! – shakes fist) exploit this, and then reupload things, and reoffer them for sale. They usually get shut down pretty fast, but they pocket a fistfull of cash on their anonymous account, transferring it out as it comes in, then when the account gets banned for repeated theft AR’s they just rinse and repeat with a new anon-o-tar. How can we stop that? Its anonymous, right? Meanwhile, someone somewhere is having their RL income destroyed. The beautiful builds and skins and textures of SL dont make themselves! Someone works lonnggg and hard to make all the lovely places we’re so enamoured of. The situation is terribly unfair.

So what options are there? Make everyone provide RL details, to be able to log in? “No bank account, no entry!!”? It might work, but thats using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut. SL is a place where you are free to create, free to be what you want. We’re free of borders here, and to a large extent, the conflicts that can often arise over race and gender, too. We’re beginning to collectivley define a third place, where we can meet other people like us, in a way we never could in ‘Real Life’. If we crack down on the thieves by making everybody link their account to their RL identity, we risk some of that. So, for me, I dont feel that we can go down the ‘RL verification for everyone route’

Others have suggested that only verified accounts should be allowed to build/create/upload. I’m against that too, for a couple of reasons. One of the things that makes secondlife great is the freedom to create people have. People who have never thought of themselves as creative have discovered a whole new side to themselves, some have even totally re-invented their real lives around their newfound creativity and talent. How many media items have there been along the lines of “my job was crap, I used to put the plastic bits on the end of shoelaces 12 hours a day, now I sell virtual hair from my cabin in the mountain” I love the fact that SL has liberated so many people from doing things they didnt enjoy, and empowered them to lead self fulfilling, creative lives. I’m happy for the people that have ‘made it’ and want to support the ones that are still trying. Stopping them from creating things in-world not only prevents them from accessing their creativity, it stops us from enjoying it too. These people don’t come in-world with the intention of becoming a creator, they come in because they’re curious, or someone told them it was fun, and they find a new depth to themselves, an ability they often never imagined they could have. If we restrict people from building, we’re depriving them of that chance, and to be fair, I think its a chance that they’re entitled to.

But all of that is negative – everything above is basically things we can’t do. What about finding something we *can* do, to protect the rights of people that have worked long and hard to create something, without infringing the rights of the people who are innocent of any wrongdoing?

One system that I’ve come up with, (and this is the point of this post, to get this idea out there, and see what you all think) is this – to have a system wherby as an unverified user, you can create, and sell your objects, but cruicially, the money you make from selling items is held in a seperate ‘pot’ from your other L$ balance. It works like this. Lets say I’m a brand new avie, inworld for the first time. I make something, lets say.. a house – and its really good. People tell me they want to buy it, so I set up a small shop and start selling. Pretty soon I’ve racked up about $100 USD worth of sales, and I want to get that money. At this point, I have to verify, and when I do, the two pots merge, and the money made from sales combines with my other ‘regular’ L$ balance, and I can do what I want with it – Spend it in-world, or cash it our for RL funds. Until I do, it just sits there as a second balance at the top of my screen. I cant spend it, transfer it, do anything with it other than watch it sit and accrue. I can, however, continue to build things, to generate business, to prototype and improve my products, and improve my skills by learning, practising and refining what I’ve already learned at many of the excellent classes or online tutorials.

Here’s what that second account balance might look like:

In the meantime, before I verify my details, I’m also free to camp to make money, or DJ or work in a bar, or any of the other many SL occupations – effectivley nothing else changes, but to get access to the money I’ve made selling things, I have to verifiy my account. My ability to create in and enjoy secondlife is unchanged. I wouldnt be able to bypass the Linden currency exchange either, by selling my L’s on paypal, or through another bank, because until I verify, I cant transfer it, spend it, exchange it for RL funds, nothing. Just sell, and watch the money accrue.

How would this help? In several ways, I think. Firstly, if I did copy someones house and sell it, I’d have to verify at some point to get the money – leaving me open to reprisal for my illegal action. Thieves are greedy, and often stupid – the main, if not only, reason they rip off peoples work is because they want to make the money – if we take away the mechanism that allows them to do that safely, with no fear of reprisal or consequence, how many of them will really be motivated to continue? Even if I copied something, and gave it to someone else to sell, in order to get any money out of it, the seller would have to be verified. It doesnt matter what you do, how many alts you pass the copied things through the hands of, somewhere along the line if the money is to come out of SL, its going to have to be paid out to a verified RL person.

Could this work? How would LL tell what money was from camping, and what money was from sales? Well, if you look at your transaction history on the secondlife.com website, you can see that LL already has a way to determine what money is from sales, and what money is from say camping. All they’d need to do is apply that filtering to the grid, and presto – we have a way to see who is actually taking the money out. If they’re thieves, we can start a RL action to pursue them. As well as being stupid and greedy, most thieves are also pretty cowardly. It’d only take one or two big high profile cases of people getting into major trouble for copyright theft for them to realise, “hey, you know, maybe its not worth going to court for the sake of making $100 bucks or so”. And copyright theft would, with a bit of luck, come right down.

Of course, its only a partial solution. There’d be a lot of wrangling to prove who made what first, and then tracking people down with overseas law suits that’d probbably involve a few subpoenas. But at least, we’d then have the tools to hold people to account for their actions, and to stop them getting away with it, scott free. There would also be a lot of people trying to circumvent the ‘filtering’ system – and it’d probbably have to be refined a few times to get it working just right. But thats ok – nothing is perfect to start with, and even if it only cuts down on 75% of copy theft, thats a fantastic start and lets us clear our heads and go after the remainder of the thefts.

Some of you will hate this idea. Thats ok. Some of you will think its fantastic, thats ok too –

I’ve written this beause its just an idea I had. I’m not saying ‘This is it, this is our salvation!!’ but its a starting point – its where we begin dialog and a process to refine the original idea. I saw a problem, and this is my attempt at devising a fix. I want to put it out there, to you, the community, to see what you think, what your feeling toward this might be. Please do make a comment – but keep it on topic – I manually approve/reject my comments and any ‘smash the FIC’ or ‘they shouldnt be selling anything, it should all be free’ – thats not what this post is about – its about the system described above, and any flaws you can see in its mechanism. I’m not going to get into arguing the rights and wrongs of copy theft – as far as i’m concerned it is wrong, and it is theft, there’s no point discussing that, here.

Thanks for reading, post a comment and let me know what you think. Lets have a well informed, non-emotional discussion and maybe when we have consensus, a developed idea/system that we all agree wouldnt be unfair to the innocent, but wouldnt protect the guilty, we can go forward again to lindenlabs as a group and with one voice say, “we dont like copyright theft, we want you to stop it, and here’s how we think you can.”

Thanks for reading this post and my blog,

All the best,

Neil.

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Are you with OrangeBroadband? “NoSLForYou!” Nationwide service outage prevents thousands from accessing the virtual world

May 19, 2008

Arghh.

Ok this is a bit of a long one. Last night I discovered I couldnt access Secondlife.com – I was getting DNS error on login, and also I couldnt access the Secondlife.com website, nor the jira, nor lindenlab.com, or basically anything the big green hand of linden-ness had ever touched. Initially I thought it was a problem with my router, or my connection, or something, but this morning a friend of mine who is also on Orange Broadband, (my isp) contacted me telling me they had the same problems.

So, I did a bit of digging, and found out that while I cant connect directly to any of these services, I can connect indirectly, by using a web proxy server to access the websites, or using ajaxlife to connect to the grid.

Also, strangely, I can’t download the flickr uploader, and imdb.com doesnt work.

So I thought, hey, this sucks. Then I thought, I wonder who else has this problem. So I contacted friends and family in Manchester, Tunbridge wells, Kent, St Albans and a few other places in London, and whadya know, NOBODY on orange broadband can connect to secondlife, or the websites, or any of the other sites/services I can’t access.

I’m not particularly technically minded, but I had a chat with someone who is and we spent a bit of time pinging this, nslookup-ing that, and generally dissecting the problem with all manner of geeky tools that I don’t understand. The upshot of all this is that basically yes, Orange, either deliberately or not, is blocking access somewhere along the way to those websites and services.

Further digging revealed this post wherein I learned that a similar problem has arisen before, and if anyone is geeky / techie enough to look at that, and possibly extrapolate some kind of solution, then kudos and go for it, but I’m not/cant 😦

I spoke to the people at Orange, and after speaking to several different people in an indian call centre (the future’s bright, the future’s….hindu?) and being told to factory reset my livebox several times (like thats going to fix a nationwide service outage..) I eventually managed to get hold of the telephone number to their escalations department. I think I finally got it through to someone that this was an undiagnosed issue affecting their entire customer base.

So a few phone calls later, but no help. I couldn get through to their senior uk based technical support team, which meant a very difficult phone between me and someone else, neither of us being technical enough to sort the problem out or diagnose it in its proper technical terminology – but at least I finally got the info to someone in the UK with a line to the head office.

If you’re having the same problems as us, and you’re on Orange Broadband, then a) may the lord have mercy on your soul, and b) please, please send an email to this address Broadband.response@uk.orange.com (or click here for a direct link) – one of the things that came up is that they need to see more response from people saying its a nationwide problem before they’re likely to look into it. The only reason I got through to anyone even in the same country as me is because I managed to get the non-public escalations team number out of one of their reps in india – a number they’re not supposed to give out. (I definetley wont be posting it here, dont ask. If I do they’ll just change it and that doesnt help anyone, anyway)

So there you have it. NoSoupForYou. Unless they get a flood of emails to the above address, they wont be fixing it, and everybody in the UK on Orange Broadband now cannot access secondlife. Which seems a bit silly, considering they’ve just launched 4 sims in Secondlife this year to promote their brand..

If you’re a geek/techie/someone who knows more about DNS and IP ranges and routers than me, then for the love of god get in touch, lol – I’d really like to help diagnose this problem a bit more, and be able to give orange more info, as its likely to get the problem fixed quicker. Leave a comment with your email or MSN or whatever and I’ll get in touch. Let me know if you want me to make the comment public or not, I know some wont want their details shared.

Thats all folks and I’ll see you.. who knows when.. ?

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Roundhouse

January 28, 2008

So, this is the first thing I’ve built for a while that wasn’t a commercial development for another company. I did this originally as a club for a friend, but then realised that if I retextured it, it could make a pretty nice space for general living, conferencing, or just hanging out. Fast forward a few hours and presto – The Roundhouse, for your perusal.

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So there you have it.. I’m planning to sell this via my new OnRez store, priced at L$3500.. it has a full auto-rezzer system so its super easy to put out on your land – just rez the box, click, choose rez and then move the box and the build will auto-reposition..

I tried to go for a mashup of two styles I’m really into at the moment – I’ve fallen in love recently with some of the bali/tiki/tropical style residential places I’ve seen some designers doing at the moment, so I guess it has a bit of that in there, but I didn’t want it to just be another ‘me too’ type creation, so I injected a bit of oriental simplicity with the textures and layout – for me it kinda has that zen like tranquility to it inside.

I think it’ll be good for anyone that wants something a little bit special as their ‘virtual home’ – the open plan layout creates a light, airy atmosphere, with plenty of space above (so no nasty camera problems), as well as making it ideal as a club, conference/meetup space, or just a cool skybox to have fun in. That central grass/water combo is just waiting for your favourite tree to create a fantastic indoor arboritum feel, or pave over it to give yourself access to the centre and chair your meetings in style!

Oh, one other thing, I don’t actually have any ‘virtual land’ to display this one on, so if anyone wants a free copy, give me a ding in-world (Neil Robinson) and I’ll hook you up with one, if you let me sell it from there too.

See you on the metaphysical side…

NPR.

nb – the cool polaroid effects are courtesy of Nylon Pinkney and available from her store on the island of Tableau..

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Grid down again : Might as well blog..

January 24, 2008

Well, the title says it all.

Hmm what to write, what to write..

Ok, here’s one. Some time ago, about the middle of last year, I noticed a blog post Cory Edo had written about her Logitech MX1000 laser mouse, and how all the buttons could be set up to work with SL to speed up building by putting a lot of the shortcuts under your fingertips. I was working at RiversRunRed at the time, and we all had MX1000’s there, so I installed the software and had a bit of a play about. I guess the grid must have been down that day too. The first thing I found, is that she was right. You can really increase connection with the virtual world by configuring the hardware of your interface, it makes sense when you think about it. Anyway what I’m getting to, is that I found that for me, a different setup to the setup she had posted for each button worked better. I’m not saying it IS better, I’m just saying I liked it more, having played about a bit and refined, so if you’re using an MX1000, maybe it’ll work well for you too.

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The added bonus here is that pushing the alt button (scroll wheel toward the left) and one of the other buttons gives you the same as pressing ctrl shift on the keyboard, and the same with the control shift + alt combo.. basically giving you full camera control from the mouse. Pretty handy!!

At first it may seem that these shortcuts dont actually add much to your experience, but as you grow used to them, the novelty wears off and it becomes the interface you expect to have and use, going back to a regular 2 button mouse feels like putting down your precise graphics pencil in favour of a childs chewed up crayon..

Enjoy and good luck!

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Hobbits!

January 23, 2008

One of my Super Favourite Designers Cory Edo has just released this lovely little hobbit cottage thingymabob. Its everything I love about Corys work, well detailed, really inventive and new, and her texture work has an element of simple purity to it that i’ve always really been a fan of and tried to get into my own work.

You have to see this thing really, to fully get how nicely put together it is. Which is why later on I’ll post a direct teleport link (forgot to get one first time around!)

Until then, you’ll have to make do with these pics 🙂

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