Author Archives: Inara Pey

About Inara Pey

Eclectic virtual world blogger with a focus on Second Life. My blog can be found below and I'm semi-active on Twitter and Plurk.

SL projects update 30/2: server, viewer, group chat

The Bayou, April 2014; Inara Pey, May 2014, on FlickrThe Bayou, April 2014 (Flickr)

Server Deployments – Week 30 Recap

  • On Tuesday July 22nd, the Main channel was updated with the infrastructure project deployed to the Magnum RC in week 29, and which adds support for the upcoming changes to the Skill Gaming policy, and includes the updates previously on LeTigre and BlueSteel- release notes
  • On Thursday July 24th, all three RC  channel were updated with the infrastructure support for the upcoming changes to the Skill Gaming policy, and the updates previously deployed to LeTigre and BlueSteel – release notes.

SL Viewer

The Library Refresh viewer was updated to release candidate status with the release of version 3.7.13.292194 on July 23rd. This viewer contains an update to a large set of the libraries used by the viewer to provide security, stability and consistency improvements to this and future viewers.

Group Chat

Simon Linden: continuing to work on group chat issues

Simon Linden: continuing to work on group chat issues

The anticipated group chat test didn’t materialise at the Server Beta meeting on Thursday July 24th as a result of Simon Linden coming across a last-minute issue which needed to be resolved ahead of further tests. He and Oz did, however, explain some recent discoveries within the chat system.

“While the earlier update to group chat didn’t give us any significant performance boost, we got a lot more information out of the servers,” Simon said. “And what we found was a big part of the group chat system load is not the chat messages you care about, but the updates to who is in the session or not.”

Oz added, “Those updates happen whether or not you’re displaying who’s in the session, in every group you’re in.”

Simon continued, “You can actually see this in the viewer if you add a line of code to log something whenever an update comes in to tell you who’s in the group chat … you’ll be surprised how many you get. The load goes up as the group size goes up … with a larger group, people are joining and leaving more often, and there are more people to update.”

People joining / leaving a session are recorded by the chat server. “It has a list of who’s online and in the group chat at that moment,” Simon explained, “it’s adding and removing from that list, and [generating] the resulting updates, that are the problem, [causing them] to be sent to everyone else still active in the group as they do so.”

The growth curve of these updates is described as exponential, and there is a knock-on effect with them as well; as group chat sessions share server resources, it is possible that a large group chat session, with multiple users joining  / leaving it and thus causing it to generate lots of updates can affect other group chat sessions hosted on the same group chat server, slowing them down as well.

While the chat servers are due for a hardware change, which is hoped will improve performance to a degree, simply adding more hardware to the chat service back-end isn’t seen as a solution, as it’s the exponential manner in which the updates grow which needs to be reduced and controlled. The testing Simon had hoped to run during the Server Beta meeting was to test some improvements he had been making to the queuing of the updates and in combining messages to hopefully reduced the load. However, in running over the code, he encountered a glitch that he needs to resolve before the testing can proceed.

Another issue with the group chat system is that when users log-in to a Second Life session, they automatically join all 42 of their groups, sending a “I’m here!” message to all 42 groups so that they can start receiving messages from active groups. This has obviously been exacerbated each time the limit on how many groups a person can join has been raised, so as Oz pointed-out during the meeting, “upping it again would make it even worse, so until this is dealt with, don’t even ask… :-) .”

HTTP Updates

As indicated by Monty Linden at the last TPV meeting, there are further server-side updates which should further assist with improvements to texture and mesh asset downloads. These are now nearing the point where they are likely to be surfacing (although quite when isn’t clear), prompting Oz to comment, “We’re setting up some experiments with server side changes that will complement the pipeline viewer, but are not strictly speaking dependent on it. When we’re confident that our test setup is ready, including how to measure the results, we’ll invite you folks to help us test.”

 

In-world legal presentation on the recent updates to the Lab’s Terms of Service

I’ve received a press release from the SL Bar Association SLBA) announcing that Agenda Faromet, who in the physical world is an attorney specialising in privacy and internet law operating out of San Francisco, will be discussing the July 16th, 2014, changes to Section 2.3 of Linden Lab’s Terms of Service and also the recent changes to the Lab’s Skill Gaming policy.

Agenda Faromet (via profile)

Agenda Faromet (via profile)

The press release reads in part:

Linden Lab has recently announced changes to the Terms of Service associated with Second Life.  This change comes almost a year after the major controversy that erupted last year over a substantial change in section 2.3 of the agreement with users of Second Life, related to the license claimed by Linden Lab in works created by creators in-world.  Please join us for a lively discussion of the actual language changes from the prior terms of service.  Agenda will also discuss other changes implemented by Linden Lab, including the gaming policy.

The discussion is set to take place in the SLBA courtroom, starting at 10:00 SLT on August 2nd.

I hope to be able to attend the meeting and provide a transcript through this blog.

About the SL Bar Association

The SL Bar Association (SLBA) is a group for legal professionals and others interested in legal issues in Second Life. It is registered as a 501(c)(6) organisation in the United States, and operates in Second Life from the Justitia Virtual Legal Resource Village, which serves as a resource for both attorneys and the general public, and has law offices available to rent on the square, along with general legal information on a variety of topics.  Rental units are also available at sea level.

Details of SLBA talks and presentations can be found on the SLBA website, together with further information on the association and its members.

RezMela: a training and simulation environment offering $500 in prizes

RezMela offers an interactive training and simulation environment in Kitely. Here I'm dealing with an air crash situation involving a power plant

RezMela is an interactive training and simulation environment in Kitely. Here I’m dealing with an air crash situation involving a power plant

Update, July 28th: As per the comment following this artilce, the competition deadline has been extended through until August 31st, 2014.

I recently received an e-mail concerning RezMela, a scenario-building tool intended for training and simulation hosted on Kitely, and which is currently running a competition with prizes totalling $500 USD up for grabs.

RezMela, currently in an alpha / beta mode, essentially allows subject matter experts to create and deliver interactive training within a virtual environment. It comprises a classroom-style theory space, where students can learn about and watch presentations on the subject being taught, and a practice space which is dedicated to learning-by-doing, through the use of immersive simulations.

The RezMela theory area, with the Command and Control board

The RezMela theory space, with the Creation and Control board

Simulations – referred to as scenarios in the RezMela documentation – can be rapidly developed and deployed using the Creation and Control (C&C) board. The C&C board provides the subject matter expert with access to a wide range of simulation “primitives” (not to be confused with the basic building blocks of OpenSim and Second Life). These RezMela “primitives” are trees and plants, buildings and structures, vehicles, terrains and so on, and a selection of different types of non-player characters (NPCs), which can be combined to create a required training scenario.

The C&C board presents simple 2D map on which icons representing the various “primitives” can be positioned, rotated, etc. As this happens, the actual simulation objects are placed out in the practice area of the RezMela environment, thus allowing a simulation to be quickly put together. Once the scenario has been built, additional elements such a weather, fires, smoke, dust, etc., can be added, and the time of day for the scenario set. When everything is ready, the scenario can be saved to the RezMela system, allowing it to be instantly recalled and created within the practice space at the click of a button.

The RezMela practice space. ther rock formation in the background houses the theory space classroom

The RezMela practice space. the rock formation in the background houses the theory space classroom

NPCs and Objects within a scenario are not necessarily static or empty shells. Building and structures can have interiors, lending themselves to many different uses, and student can interact with various objects and vehicles, while NPCs will respond to stimuli around them. As well as enabling easy creation of scenarios, the C&C board can also be used to deliver classroom videos and presentations on the subject matter.

Combining the theory and practice spaces allows subject matter experts to provide information and guidance on a specific learning / training environment within the theory space via the C&C board, and then monitor students’ performance in real-time as they tackle the challenges presented in the scenario in the practice area.

A prepared scenario being rezzed by the Creation & Control board. The pointing hand indicates the currently-selected object

A prepared scenario being rezzed by the Creation & Control board. The pointing hand indicates the currently selected object

Scenarios can be entirely created from scratch to suit a specific training / teaching requirement, or can be based on physical world situations, such as emergency or disaster management situations which have occurred, allowing students gain additional insight into such situations and events. The system can also be used for educational purposes as well, such as for teaching health and welfare or in teaching environmental matters and so on.

To help explain how the system works, DeepSemphore LLC, the company behind RezMela, have provided a range of videos and a slideshow introducing the basics of the beta system. There is also an in-world campus and workshop regions available to RezMela users where further information can be obtained.

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The Drax Files Radio Hour: lunch and Second Life

radio-hourEpisode #28 of  The Drax Files Radio Hour was posted on Friday July 18th. After a measure of disappointment on my part that the promised interview with Jacquelyn Ford Morie didn’t appear – for fully understandable reasons – this segment makes up for it with a chat with long-term Second Life business man Lislo Mensing, or as he’s known in the physical world, Stefan Weiss.

Stefan is the driving force behind a recreation of the heart of Munich in Second Life. He’s also the owner of Teledollar, a Linden Dollar Authorised Reseller, and he has some interesting first-hand experiences of trying to marry-up the virtual and physical worlds.

This is perhaps the most informal interview Drax has conducted to date in the radio show, taking place as it does over lunch in the physical Munich, where he met Stefan while enjoying his summer vacation in Germany. As such, this is both the first in a trio of such informal “lunch with a lifer” interviews and is also something of an introduction to Bavarian cuisine!

Virtual Munich, which dates from 2007, is a recreation of the centre of Munich. It features many of the landmarks from its physical namesake, including several of the city’s churches and the old city gates. All of these, while prim builds, have been constructed using around 6,000 photos taken of the actual city of Munich, allowing as much as possible of the original’s essence to be recaptured within the virtual constraints of two regions in SL. Streets and plazas are faithfully recreated, and even a portion of the underground (subway) transit system has been reproduced (tickets L$69), which connects the heart of the city to the surrounding rural regions.

In developing the build, Stefan saw the potential for a symbiotic way of promoting the virtual in the physical and vice-versa. Approaching the Munich civic authorities, he put forward the idea that virtual Munich could be used as a means of promoting the physical Munich, offering people who might be considering a visit to the city the means to immersively learn about it and explore it prior to actually visiting. There was initially a positive response to the idea, and even talk of including the virtual version of Munich in documentation about the city’s 850th anniversary.

Unfortunately, all this came to nought when, in late 2007, German media outlets (and others around the world) followed the UK’s Sky News in running exposés on sexual ageplay rings within Second Life. Understandably, support for the project from both Munich’s civic authorities and from businesses rapidly declined in the wake of the reports; so much so that Stefan was refused permission to take photos of the non-public areas of some of the historic buildings which he had hoped to be able to share with people by recreating them in-world.

A view across the munich skyline in Second Life

A view across the Munich skyline in Second Life

While there has always been much speculation as to the impact these and other such exposés had on the wider view the public and businesses had on Second Life, Stefan’s frank description of the situation he personally faced really adds perspective to one of the factors that undoubtedly led to SL fall from grace in the media’s eyes, and which may have had a far greater impact on the media’s perception of the platform than its inability to live up to the hype created around it.

Stefan Weiss as caught at a Munich SL user’s meet-u (image by Xphile Boucher, via The Drax Files Radio Hour website)

Beyond this, the conversation touches on the relevance of virtual worlds, with Stefan pointing out that really, not much has changed over the years where the broader attitude towards VWs is concerned. This, he points out, is largely due to what I’m going to henceforth call the Pamela Effect henceforth (particularly after the re-run of Drax’s interview with her in segment #27 of the Drax Files Radio Hour): most of those in the “mainstream” market simply don’t see VWs as being in any way relevant to their physical and digital lives and activities, and so don’t see why they should bother giving VWs a go.

Not only is this attitude perhaps common among the vast majority of Internet users, but it obviously also encompasses businesses as well,  who have far more accessible means at their disposal for marketing the products and services and of reaching an audience. It is relevance – far more than issues of getting the keyboard and mouse “out of the way” – which is likely going to be the major issue for anyone trying to drive a virtual world even further into the mainstream consciousness – at least for a the foreseeable future.

I’ve mentioned three reasons why I think this is the case in a previous article (although these are the only reasons for my feeling this way).  Stefan points to a couple more; things which are regularly discussed, at least among those of us already engaged in VWs: scalability (in terms of having an environment which can actually support compelling, mass audience / mass participation activities), and accessibility. In this latter respect, Tony Parisi is more than likely correct in his view that unless a virtual world embraces the ease of access presented by the web, it’s going to have trouble making its presence felt.

Relevance is also something that came to mind when the Oculus Rift received its obligatory mention in the interview. While much has been made of the potential of VR bringing about a renaissance in interest in virtual worlds, very little has really been said about the potential for VR to do exactly the reverse, and leave virtual worlds still locked into a narrow niche within the mainstream market.

Simply put, if VR brings about the kind of situation which is discussed in the show, allowing hundreds and thousands of people world-wide to sit down and witness a World Cup final as if they were there, or a Wimbledon championship or take a ride into space or stand on the surface of Mars or explore the wreck of the Titanic or do a hundred other things that might not be otherwise possible for them, and share the experience with others –  then why should they even bother with farting around with a virtual world?

Towards the end of the piece, things get a little confusing as other virtual environments, such as Twinity and Google Lively are touched upon amidst some lunchtime chuckles. There’s also a brief overview of the Teledollar operation before times catches up with Stefan and Drax, and things are cut short by the needs of the physical world and work.

This is very much a curate’s egg of a conversation; there is a lot discussed and mentioned which offers food for thought. The over-the-lunch-table nature of the conversation lends a curious tilt to things, helping to add flavour to the proceedings, and giving it an oddly intimate feel for the listener, as if we’re sitting on a table close by and overhearing their discussion as they eat; and what interesting listening it makes!