Friday, February 1, 2008

Improve Your Auditory Experience: Put Sounds On Your Land (And Bonus Rant)

Pele Gardens

Written 30 January, 2008

Improve Your Auditory Experience: Put Sounds on Your Land (And Bonus Rant)

I don’t usually (I make exceptions for Sweetie and for Dakota, my alt) turn this column over to others; it’s too much like a loaded gun. But I have a friend who waxed so poetic about the Information Technology department at his workplace that I decided to give him space.

I’m not angry with the IT guys where I work, although they DO make me sad with their locking down the computers to the point that they are useless for anything except e-mail and being utterly unable to do anything about the flood of spam from eddresses with names that end with .ru , .uz and the like. Because I’m not allowed to run programs other than the few already installed, and because I’m away from my office for 98% of my work day, I never even turn my work computer on. I check my e-mail at home on my desktop and at internet cafes during lunch on my laptop.

While I understand the need to lock things down so employees aren’t playing online Donkey Kong, day trading, and IMing their friends all day long, I can quite understand my colleague’s frustration at being locked out of the software with which he is familiar and tools he could use to increase his productivity. Since I to some extent share his frustrations (although I don’t blame, as he does, blame IT), and because I figured out a way to tie it in to a planned post about SL sound, here’s his rant. I've edited it to make it R rated.


The IT guys where I work are fascists.

They have power and they like to use it.

I can’t even log onto the computer in my office. They upgraded it, and now it won’t let me on with my old password.

I could call IT and get a new one, but I don’t bother.

Why? Because I might as well have a concrete block on my desk.

They have that PC so locked down I can’t even open Time and Date Properties to see what day it is.

I can’t go on the Web because of disintegrating passwords. I can’t install or run programs, and the programs they expect me to use suck.

And if I did go on the Web and opened a web page with a video stream or opened a radio stream so I could listen to music while I work, I would be subject to being fired.

Back in the days before Flash drives, in those Win 95 days of yore, they even made me stop using my external hard drive (I used it anyway, just unplugged it and put it in a drawer at the end of a day in case of a raid by the Gestapo).

Did I just say Gestapo? I meant IT. An IT raid. The big difference being IT guys don’t have guns.


Now, I will be clear for the record that I would NEVER log onto Second Life from a computer at work. Why, that would be unfair to my megacorporation employer, who is paying me handsomely for my time, and it would waste valuable electrons and contribute to global warming and hasten the heat death of the universe.

But if I DID, it wouldn’t be much fun—to some extent because the P4 on-board graphics would suck.

And because those numb nuts at IT have disabled the audio on every computer at the agency.

So if in a theoretical possible universe I was able to log onto SL from a corporate computer, there would be no sound.

Not that I could do that. Downloading and installing programs is IT-disallowed.

Although I have had no problem running programs from my flash drive.

OMG! Did I say that? I mean to say, by gosh, I’ll bet if one was unscrupulous enough to and disrespectful enough of the IT gods to do so, it would be possible to run programs from a CD or flash drive.

This is, I repeat, a theoretical discussion. I have never, of course, since being scolded for my use of that external drive back in the 90s, run any of my programs on an agency computer.

But if I did, it wouldn’t be very much fun because there would be no audio.

Thank you, Chey, for giving me space on your blog.

Do I pay you the $3000L now?


Pele is a rich auditory environment. In addition to the ordinary Linden sounds of wind and footsteps and thunks from collisions with objects, there are the background sounds of water splashing and dripping, rivers burbling, waves crashing, frogs croaking and crickets chirping and monkeys chattering, humpback song and breathing sounds, insects buzzing, wind chimes, lava bubbling and volcano rumbling, and more than a dozen species of bird calls, including owl, loon, peacock, gull, cardinal, flicker, and oriole. Most recently, a pair of kookaburras moved in. And did I mention the snake pit? Lots of hisses.

And then there are sounds that are triggered by specific actions, such as opening or closing a door or touching a prayer wheel or sitting at a musical instrument or driving the avatar mobilization unit (the little train).

Some of Pele’s many sounds loop, and others play on variable schedules, making a rich, semi-random auditory tapestry, a (apologies to that fucking woman-abusing murderer Phil Specter) wall of sound that enriches my experience and makes Pele seem more real to me.

When I don’t hear that sound, something vital is missing from my Second Life experience. I am not nearly so immersed.

I understand that for reasons of privacy or a need for domestic silence, many people can’t play Second Life sounds, but I’m convinced most people just don’t appreciate them.

That’s because the sound in most locations simply sucks. Many parcels, even entire sims, seem to have no sound at all. And so avs, especially new ones, just don’t experience how rich an environment Second Life (even with its sucky, laggy sound) can be.

Some locations, though, have wonderful symphonies of sound. Most likely your experience there was a good one, even though you might not have consciously noted them.

I invite you, dear reader, to turn on your sound. Choose a time when you can have ten uninterrupted minutes. Then come to the Pele Gardens at a time when the sim is experiencing daylight (night sounds are different, you might try then, too) and close your eyes and just listen. Then stroll down the walkway and past the river bridge to East Beach to hear a different set of sounds.

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