Monday, June 30, 2014

Years ago I placed a Devotion poseball at the landing point for Whimsy. It's fairly popular; in fact, some couples never get past the enttrance!

The other day Sweetie and I were laughing about a couple that had been on Devotion for hours. "They're missing our lovely sim!" I said, "although they do pick up free hard hats." Sweetie told me I should install a Devotion Poseball Monitoring System.

And so I wrote a script that will say in chat, after they have been on Devotion for six minutes, "Just to let you know, we're timing you guys on this poseball! Going for a record, are we?: After that, they get a random message once every four minutes. "Jeez, guys, get a room, why don't you?" or You guys are AFK, right?"

Of course we don't care how long someone stays on our poseballs. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Materials World

For the past several days, Sweetie has been experimenting with materials. She has been taking unremarkable areas on Whimsy and making them gorgeous. She started with three big planters up at our captured asteroid at 4000 meters. It's my first experience with materials, and she is making my jaw drop!
Click the photos to enlarge them.

Above, reflections from the sun and the moon and lanterns she has strategically placed play over pools of water with great effect.

In the photo above you can see twin strips of light caused by candles she has placed on a rock.

Here the moon and light from a burning tiki torch create beautiful reflections.

My desktop is quite powerful, but my video card can't quite handle Advanced Lighting. It works well enough, however, for taking photos.

Click Read More for photos of sunrises and sunsets. They're beautiful, for the water catches the sun.

Sitting on the Sungate (Sweetie's Photos)

It was ridiculously easy to create these sits for the Whimsy Sungate.

I rezzed two prims, turned them into spheres, reduced their size to 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 meters, set the texture to blank, made one blue (for men) and one red (for women), and added some shine.

I then dropped a simple sit script in the prim and added a sit sound the script called for. I had to tweak the scripts a bit (for one thing the script didn't turn the balls alpha when avatars sat) , but the most difficult part was finding appropriate poses.

I settled on a female pose that gently lowers the avatar to her knees, and an insouciant male pose in which three of the avatar's limbs hang into space. And I was done.

I'm going to build a script dispensing device at our Suborbital Asteroid Retreat up at 4000 meters, but I'm going to rework the script so it automatically calls a pose placed in the ball so no scripting will need to be done (other than resetting the scrip; some to think of it, I'll have the script reset itself whenever the prim's contents are changed. If you would like a pose-ready ball, send me a notecard or an IM and I'll be happy to send you one. Just remember it might be a day or two before I can whip the script into shape. When you get your full-perm copy, just drop an animation into it and hope for the best.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fun on Xubi's Rez Day

Sweetie's rez day party has come and gone. We had a great time with friends and acquaintances, dancing and conversing high in the skies above Whimsy while fireworks and he Aurora Borealis fought it out for visual supremacy.

Our DJ was the lovely and talented Sparrow Letov, who plays music which, surprisingly, both Sweetie and I like. She's the only DJ ever to have achieved that!

I love this photo of her. My rule when taking snapshots of dancing avatars is to snap away. If you're lucky, you will eventually get a keeper!

We had a great time talking about the olden days of Second Life and pulling examples of blingy, badly-constructed shoes from our inventories. Sweetie took the day with this mismatched pair of footwear.

Darlingmonster Ember wore the. best. tail. ever.

Fnordian Link came, but got away before I could get a photo of him.

After things wound down I swept up the confetti and Sweetie and I dropped to the mainland and enjoyed posts I installed on her sungate just this morning.

All in all, it was a great rez day for Sweetie.

Friday, June 27, 2014

You are Cordially Invited, Saturday, 28 June, 1:00 - 2:30 LST, Whimsy

Reading this? How about making an appearance!

Come celebrate the 8th rez day of the wonderful Sweetie and dance to the great music of DJ Sparrow Letov. Enjoy good company and good conversation. Afterward, explore one of the best sims in Second Life! Saturday, 28 June, 1:00 2:30 LST

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Freeing up the Prims

Unless you've been hiding under a rock (which I pretty much have been), you know the Lindens no longer calculate a region's capacity for objects based upon the number of prims. Instead, they use something called land impact.

Land Impact is calculated by use of an algorithm, which is a Greek word meaning the Lindens have made up a new scheme for land use out of whole cloth.

Prims, whether regular or sculpted, still count for one, if the Physics Shape Type (you'll find it in the Features tab of the Edit menu) is set to Prim. Mesh, however, affects the land based upon the already mentioned algorithm. Thus, one mesh object may and usually will consume more than one unit of land impact. How many depends upon number of vertices, size, physics shape, and level of detail. To see those numbers when editing an object, click More Info just below the Land Impact number.

Here's a page about calculating land impact, and here's a longer explanation.

Because of the large amount of prim-based content, the Lindens have retained simple prim count-- one prim counts as one prim-- in addition to a parallel way of counting for mesh. Linksets can be switched from one to another Physics Shape Type in the Features tab of Edit. There are three choices: Prim, Convex Hull, and None. I'm not sure about the last; whenever I select it it tells me the root prim can't be set to none,

The happy thing I learned from reading about land impact is it's possible to reduce land impact for some prim linksets by changing the Physics shape from Prim to Convex Hull. There are some caveats, the primary one being mesh and sculpts can't be part of the linkset. Prims with high render cost-- torii, for example, can count for more than one when set to Convex Hull-- but simple prims like cubes, when linked, can count for less than one land impact unit per prim. In fact, they can ring in at only 50%. That means a linked set of 100 cubes will count only 50 for land impact!

Rounding is always up, which means a three-prim Lilith Heart plant will count as two in land impact when set to Convex Hull-- but two linked three-prim Lilith Heart plants will reduce to just four prims. A 30-prim house might ring in at 17; the amount of reduction depends upon the complexity of the shape. In some cases there might not be a reduction, and in some cases, the land impact might be greater.

Hollowed prims act as if they were solid when they're set to Convex Hull. That means you can't pass into a house if the doorway is a hollowed prim. However, if offending prims are removed from the linkset and set to Prim physics shape, the remainder of the linkset can be set to Convex Hull, leading to a reduction in land impact.

This was big news to me and great for Whimsy. I spent a couple of days changing the physics shape of linksets from Prim to Convex Hull. In some cases I found myself unable to pass through space which I had always been able to walk through because I hadn't noticed a hollow prim. When that happened I just changed the linkset back to the Prim shape; in a few cases, I made a separate linkset from the hollow prims and set the remainder of the linkset to Convex Hull.

When I was finished I had free up more than 700 prims on our homestead Whimsy Kaboom, and more than 2000 on Whimsy!

Bam! My torii gate went from 20 LI to 10! Bob the giant drinking bird went to only 16. The little tiki house Melissa Yeuxdoux lives in went from 43 to 22!

When the issue of the out of control PG Den of Iniquity is settled, we will have more than 4000 prims free on Whimsy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Case of the Multiplying Prims

Today I bring you a tale of rogue objects, Linden mismanagement of Land Impact calculation, self-multiplying prim linksets, and a promise to soon tell you of a scheme to save a prim here and a prim there that eventually amounts to hundreds or even thousands of free prims.

So, it all began a week or so ago on our Homestead sim Whmsy Kaboom. I was playing with my Descender, removing prims in preparation for repurposing it as a tour vehicle.

We usually keep about 200 of Kaboom's 3750 prim allotment free; this for accommodating vehicles crossing from our other sims and a couple of temp-on-rez robots up at the ever-full-to-capacity Robot Sanatorium.

I had whittled the Descender down from its original 96 to about 40 prims when I got a message saying it had been returned because the parcel was full.

I checked to see if anyone was in the region. No, I was alone. Then I clicked About Land and selected the Objects tab so I could see the prim count-- 198 prims available. So that was good-- but why, then, had the Descender disappeared?

What was to happen would have been a lot easier to figure out if I hadn't been immediately confronted with a new problem. When I tried to rez the Descender on Whimsy, I got a parcel full message. What?

We keep a couple of thousand prims free on Whimsy, and by my estimation I had just freed up 500 or so by replacing high-prim antitque birds and fish with better-looking newer models. My guess was we had 2500 prims to play with-- but About Land told me only 442 prims were available.

Okay, now, this was weird.

I wondered if perhaps there were four or five Descenders somewhere on the land because of my failed attempts to rez it, but I was unable to find them. I even flew to the 0,0,0 sim corner and looked below the mesh of the land. No Descender.

I went to Leaf Shermer's sim Whimcentricity and rezzed the very Descender that had been returned to Lost and Found. To my astonishment, it showed a Land Impact of 688!

I made certain the Physics Shape was set to Prim and not Convex Hull-- it was-- but still it was showing 688 prims.

No wonder it had been returned from Whimsy Kaboom! It had certainly filled the parcel! But why? It had only about 40 prims and Physics Shape Type had been set to Prim when it suddenly disappeared. What was going on?

I called the concierge line and had a productive conversation about land impact. The helpful Linden with whom I spoke suggested I delete the offending Descender and pull out another-- which I did. Afterward I researched land impact and learned something interesting and fortunate, which I'll talk about in the next post.

I was still unable to determine what object or objects might be taking up 2000 prim space / land impact; the handy Advanced Object Scanner search HUD I bought long ago at Conover's gadget wasn't helping. At Sweetie's suggestion I tried Firestorm's Area Search, sorted by Land Impact, and there it was-- our PG Den of Iniquity!

The PGD of I is a modified and slightly stretched airship called the Gilded Gobbler. For several years now it has been functioning as the home for our many Second Life Games.

At 190 prims, it's a fairly land impact-intensive build, but well worth it. But guess what! It was clocking in at 2146 prims! Here's a screen shot showing the Edit window, Note the prim shape is set to Prim, meaning it should have been consuming no more than 200 land impact units instead of the 2146 that is registering.

Here's a screenshot showing the same results in area search.

Here's a screen shot showing 1914 prims free (up from 442 because I had just FREED UP 2000 PRIME WHILE MAINTAINING THE SAME CONTENT, which I'm dying to tell you about!).

Now here's the same window showing 3861 prims free.

What's the difference? The prim count dropped dramatically because I set the Physics Shape Type of the PGD of I to Convex Hull instead of Prim.

The problem is the Physics Shape Type must be set to Prim for the PGD of I to function properly.

Okay-- so now I knew why Whimsy's 2500 or so free prims had suddenly become 442. I felt I was on the brink of discovering what was going on.

After some thinking I realized I had temporarily switched both the Descender and the PGD of I linksets from Prim to Convex Hull. Somehow that had screwed the pooch; when I set them back to Prim the server software became confused and grossly exaggerated their land impact.

This is a dangerous bug, and one Linden Lab must fix immediately. I have submitted a ticket which will hopefully help to make them aware of the problem.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Some Problems with Mesh

I've resisted mesh clothing for a long time, but it's become so common it's difficult to find outfits made with prims and sculpts. Mesh has become ubiquitous.

Firestorm rezzes mesh just fine, thankfully. The problems I have with mesh aren't because it doesn't look right. No, the problems are more subtle. Here are a couple.

I had barely put on my first-ever mesh frock when I realized I could peek through the neck or armholes and see-- nothing. Alpha masks usually don't quite match up with the borders of garments, and this is the result.

This is a problem with practically every mesh garment I own.

I know I can alter my shape to minimize the effect, but it's MY shape, dammit, and while I'm willing to crank down my boob size a bit or reduce my musculature, I'm not interested in wearing someone else's shape just so I can be seen in a $395L outfit. Besides, who has the time?

Rigged mesh clothing (rigged mesh is the kind you can't move or resize because it's based on your avatar's bones) supposedly allows a better fit, but no, not really.

Designers offer a half-dozen or so sizes for their mesh wares, but most are sized for absurdly small body measurements. Finding the correct size is a tradeoff; on the one hand you want to minimize gaps like the above-- and on the other hand, you don't want the mesh cutting into your avatar like so:

That would be straightforward if our avatars stayed in one position, but they move about. The dress above fits horridly in a couple of my AO poses...

... and just fine in others:

I chose this dress (no, I'm not going to tell you who made it because this is not, repeat NOT a fashion blog) because it had a common and old-fashioned problem-- it came set to attach to my right hand. That meant that every time I pulled out my trusty watermelon gun or accidentally dragged a prim from inventory onto my avatar the dress was knocked off and I was left with an invisible torso.

I knew I could fix the problem by setting the dress to another attachment point, but I was afraid it would rez out of its proper orientation. Thankfully, that didn't happen. It works just fine on my hip and no longer gets knocked off.

Don't Mess With My Head!

So, a week or so ago, along our route at the recent Fashion Fair for Life we came across this female mannekin with a light bulb for a head.

It was a bit creepy, but we figured, what the hey!

They Sweetie tried on a demo for a mesh dress in the store, and this is what happened:

Yep, that's right! The demo wiped out her head.

I'm certain it never crossed the creator's mind, but hiding or defacing a woman's visage is misogynistic in the extreme. What happens when women in some Middle Eastern countries don't wear burkas? They get acid thrown in their faces. Where do male spousal abusers make sure to hit women? The face.

It was max creepy. Neither of us made a purchase.

Now wouldn't you know it, just down the path there was another store that wanted to sell us mesh heads.

Sweetie wasn't about to buy a mesh head, but wanted to check out the demo. Here's the result:

Eek! Avatar hair! And I had NO IDEA I our eyeballs were half-spheres!

Then Sweetie actually got the head on, and things settled down.

"You know, don't you," I said, "it's difficult to think of you as glamorous when I know how your eyeballs really look."

That earned me this look:

Yes, yes, Sweetie had found the HUD and was trying out the facial expressions.

"You know," I told her, "the smile is fetching."

"Look!" she said. I "have a uvula!"

I'm not going to touch that one.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cheyenne at a Distance (Photos by Sweetie)

The human-- well, avatar-- figure can give a sense of immensity to a landscape.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Accident-Free Since 2014!

Whimsy's little steam train is popular; visitors sometimes ride it four or five times around its circuitous route.

In the interest of safety, the left side of the engine's cab bears a notice one usually sees in the workplace-- Accident-Free Since ___. It's at the bottom, below the instructions no one ever reads.

Every year, as December draws to a close, I update the sign for the upcoming year. Thus, the train proclaims it has been accident-free since... whatever year it happens to be.

This year has been the exception. Last fall I updated my desktop from Windows XP to Windows 7 and my ancient version of Quark Xpress stopped working (although it would run on the XP emulator were I to get around to configuring it). And so the engine has until now read Accident-Free Since 2013. That was technically true, since the the train is extremely reliable-- although perhaps that is debatable, since every train trip ends with a pre-planned train wreck. I leave it to you, gentle reader, to decide for yourself whether a deliberate crash is an accident. I would say no, but go with your conscience.

So anyway, today, at the end of the route the carriages, instead of jumping home, flew to a nearby piece of scripted track which was nearby on the land as decoration. Why they malfunctioned today after having performed faultlessly since 2008, I can't say.

The carriages wouldn't obey by command to jump home, and neither would the engine, which was smart enough to stay around and attempt to recover the carriages. I deleted the track-as-decor prim and moved the carriages back into an approximately correct position. I sat in the engine and started it and the train promptly began to function perfectly-- that it, it crashed just as it was supposed to.

Why the carriages got confused after so many years remains one of those mysteries of Second Life.

Considering what had just happened, I felt compelled to update the sign on the engine. I could have recreated it with the free graphics program GIMP, or I could have configured the XP emulator built into Windows 7 Professional, but I decided a patch was good enough.

So now the train accurately lists its last accident-free year: 2014, and I no longer feel guilty.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Aurora Borealis at the Sub-Orbital Asteroid Retreat

Sweetie just created an outstanding aurora display 4000 meters above Whimsy at our sub-orbital asteroid retreat. Check out the photo above.

I had an aurora once, back in late 2006 or 2007. I may even have documented it in this blog!

Let me see if I can dig up a photo...

Yup, here's one!

I thought they were gorgeous-- Sweetie, not so much.

So I have been borealisless is Second Life for some seven years now.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Way Too Cool Retro Cars at FFL!

1961 Corvette C1 and 1957 Chevrolet Nomad Truck Conversion

Sweetie and I walked for miles last weekend at Fashion Fair for Life-- an event in which a percentage of all sales is donated to the nonprofit cancer-fighting Relay for Life.

We bought a bunch of outfits, but whe we reached the FFL Amble sim I paid more attention to the cars that were placed for decoration than to the vestments.

Most and maybe all of the cars were made by Surplus Motors or Jupiter Motors. Some were factory standard, some were slightly modified, and others were radically modified.

1935 Ratrod Bobber

Train Riders

We've been getting huge numbers of visitors on Whimsy lately. The other day Sweetie, in dragon form, and I enjoyed watching the riders of our little steam train have a good time.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sayonara, Delilah

Meet Delilah.

Delilah is a 13-prim fish I picked up for free at New Citizens, Inc. in early 2007.

Created by Forseti Svarog, Delilah swims in slow circles about one meter in diameter.

Whimsy's undersea areas are lushly decorated, and on our three sims I must have had 30 Delilahs circling.

Delilah is modifiable, so for variety I created albino, pink, silver, verdigris, and zebra-sriped versions. Here are a couple of the variants:

New Gulls

Last weekend Sweetie dragged me away from Whimsy to a place called ebrink Designs to look at seagulls.

We both liked them, and she bought them. I bought them, too and began to replace my Garth Fairchang gulls.

Garth's gulls are stationary on rez, and don't start until you give them a command in chat. ebrink Fugue's gulls begin flying as soon as they are rezzed and are devilishly difficult to catch. I quickly learned to have the edit window open and an already existing object selected when I rezzed them; that way I didn't have to chase them down.

ebrink's gulls weigh in at four prims and fly marvelously and make appropriate gull sounds. They use little script time, so what's not to like?

And so, I saved eight prims per bird on a dozen or so birds. Eighty prims is no laughing matter.

I still miss the way Garth's gulls flew, though.

Garth Fairchang's Seagull in Flight
No One Else Makes Birds that Wheel and Dart like Garth Did

Retiring the Fairchang Parrots

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Garth Fairchang was one of the earliest residents of Second Life; he first came in world in 2003. With Pituca Fairchang, his wife in real life and Second Life, he owned and operated Fairchang Estates. Alas, Garth died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer.

It must have been around 2007 when I learned Garth was giving away his creations. I took myself to Fairchang and picked up one of everything from birds to automobiles to yachts.

The best of the lot were Garth's parrots and gulls. They were brilliantly scripted and lovely when in flight, but when viewed up close, they were just butt-ugly.

I placed both parrots and gulls in considerable numbers on Whimsy-- gulls mostly on the beach, of course, and parrots around the caldera of the volcano Pele, where they put on a great show, darting and wheeling in a realistic fashion. They were beautiful in the air-- and consider-- this was in a day when most birds flew only in circles.

The gull weighed in at eleven prims and the parrot at twelve-- not bad for the time, but when there were perhaps 25 birds on Whimsy, they required a lot of prims. Garth's birds were the best available, and the price-- free-- was not to be argued with.

All was fine for a couple of years, and then Second Life's Havoc physics engine was updated. The gulls were unaffected, but the parrots suddenly began to fly backwards (Sweetie suggested we leave them that way). Garth didn't respond to my IMs and notecard-- I had no idea he was dying and unavailable to fix them-- so I did surgery, creating a gull-parrot hybrid I called a paragull by modifying Garth's prims and scripts. Like Garth's originals, the paragulls were hideous.

Still, they served admirably for a half dozen years, tirelessly filling the air above Pele's caldera.

Today's animals tend to be a lot smarter than those of old, and far better looking, and they use only a fraction of the prims. Since I had just replaced the many ancient Delilah fish that had been circling on Whimsy and Whimsy Kaboom and Whimcentricity, I thought it was time for a parrot upgrade-- especially since Sweetie had discovered flying seagulls to replace the Fairchang gulls.

I bought a couple of inexpensive parrots on Second Life Marketplace, but was unimpressed. Then I found I already had the ideal parrot-- a lovely blue and red flying bird made by Jahna Bing that weighs in at six prims and flies beautifully.

Today there are a dozen or more new parrots on Whimsy, and four or five on Whimsy Kaboom-- and I have about 75 freed-up prims to use for other purposes.