Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Cushy Stock- brilliant software!

February 8, 2010

Hi Folks –

So, i’ve been getting into shooting stock photography lately, as well as doing 3d modelling stuff and creating things in/for virtual worlds. I’ve had to refine my style a bit, but i’m starting to get results, and its looking like it could be quite a fun little hobby that results in a bit of occasional money for my efforts – brilliant! And who knows, I might end up seeing my work somewhere exciting one day, here’s hoping, anyway..

So, one of the biggest problems / annoyances with stock photography is in ‘keywording’ (tagging) all your images so that people using the stock agencies to buy images can find them, and also uploading your images to the various agencies. It can take ages, I mean AGES, to do this, and as soon as I started getting into the stock thing, I started wondering, isn’t there a better way?

Well, it turns out there IS, and its called “Cushy Stock”. Odd name, brilliant product. Basically, it does a whole rake of things, it keeps track of what images have sold, and at which agencies, it lets you preview your raw files, there’s a really long list of things it does, but here’s the big part (for me) – its a one stop shop for keywording and uploading all your images to all the agencies you’re signed up with.

This is BRILLIANT – instead of having to run FTP multiple times on the same folder, or worse, use some java based app or http upload that rinses your browser and renders your PC inoperable for the time its uploading, you can use cushy stock to keyword your images, and then FTP them to multiple agencies in one lovely automated step.

The URL is http://www.cushystock.com – I really can’t reccomend it enough, cushy stock lite is freeware so what are you waiting for! Head on over and pick up a trial, and leave me a comment if you think its as brilliant as I do!

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Coming Soon!

September 23, 2008

Generally I’m not a fan of coming soon posts, but what the heck – I’m too excited to keep this under wraps.

Its been a long time coming, but i’ve finally got my own sim! Absolute Bliss Prefabs (AbPrefabs on the map, if you want to search) will be launching soon offering a range of the finest Secondlife homes anywhere on the grid. I’ve been working hard to develop the sim, and the prefabs, and I’m looking forward to offically launching the sim in the next few days!

Strictly speaking its still a work in progress, but if anyone wants to zip on by for a sneak peek, you can jump on over by clicking here

If you’re interested in staying up to date, or if you’ve bought a prefab already and are looking for support, please search for and join the group, “Absolute Bliss Prefabs”

Thats all folks! See you in SL!

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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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Animoto Wow-ness!

May 17, 2008

Ok I know i’m on a bit of a posting frenzy here but bear with me, because this really is cool.

Animoto is a cool little website where you can upload images, and a soundtrack (or choose one of theirs) and it’ll create a badass little motion graphics piece for you!

It totally rocks, and its really really easy to use. Creating a 30 second clip is free (what I did because I’m too poor to afford to sign up) but you can also pay a very nominal $3 per full length film/movie. (or go for the mumbo package and pay $35 a year for unlimited full length ones.)

So basically, you too can now create really cool machinima to show off your builds and favourite places, with your favourite tunes for $3 a hit, in less than 10 minutes!

Interested? Click here.. and enter this code for $5 off a full membership.. byzlwvki

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Visit Mexico launches into Campeche

May 17, 2008

Visit Mexico is now up and running in Secondlife! 3 sims of lovely mexico-ness for you to enjoy.

There’s lots to see, hear and do. Explore the ruins of Ruta Maya and Palenque, take a trip through the lush rainforests of Mexico or explore the township of campeche for some good old mexican flavoured shopping treats!

I was responsible for building the Campeche part of the project, and all its textures, so if you want to drop me a line in-world I’d love to know what you all think!

Here’s a few pictas to whet your appeitite, or if you want to jump straight in here’s an SLurl you can click to dive in to SL’s hottest new immersive space..

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