Sunday, 28 January 2007

My neighbourhood

The area around ArtsPlace SL is beginning to get built up, with land that has been sitting around for sale for quite a while being bought and used. My near neighbours now include a number of Spanish people (there seems to be a growing Spanish community on Pak), a swimming pool (pictured) and a bondage gear stall! Nice.

Coincidentally, I've tentatively been offered space to move ArtsPLace SL onto the new ALA Arts Infoisland, though the area isn't currently open for access, which if it happens will be a much more appropriate location for me.

More LoopRez building

Here's a second attempt at using LoopRez to build... I'm not sure I like this one as much as the first, but I wanted something smaller and which could be chained together easily (as shown here).

I note that a Deluxe version of LoopRez looks to be available (or nearly available?). Interesting. Definitely looks worth having... see the tutorial for details.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Interface design

I'm now so used to using Alt and left mouse button to zoom in on things and change my view that I want the same action to work in my Web browser and other applications... I find my self trying to do this when I want to take a closer look at pictures in Web pages for example :-(

SL, Blender and SketchUp

I overheard a chat conversation between two people at the Berkman Sandbox the other day while playing some more with LoopRez. The conversation was in German so I couldn't understand it. But I followed up a couple of the URLs they were talking about (just being nosy I guess!), here, here and here.

These pages talk about using Blender, Google SketchUp and even MS Powerpoint as tools for building SL objects. Very interesting... not that I've tried any of this yet. But it seems to me to be indicative, in a very positive way, of the powerful ways in which SL can be interfaced to other software and systems.

Coincidentally, I was interviewed by someone from the museum community the other night (for me) in SL - part of some background research for a paper for the Museums and the Web conference. The interview was primarily about my experiences of developing ArtsPlace SL. In passing I was asked if I'd tried other 3-D virtual worlds. I responded that I'd tried briefly, but didn't like it - largely because the camera handling disagrees with me slightly. But it's also interesting to note that the growth of the porn and gambling industry in SL which, while somewhat unsavory in some respects, can be viewed in quite a positive light from a purely technical view. As with the early days of the Web, the porn industry in particular is very quick and innovative in the way it adopts new technologies and generally leads the way where others follow (at least in technical terms).

Sunday, 21 January 2007

LoopRez and buildings

I've been messing around a little with LoopRez over the weekend, seeing what it can do with buildings.

LoopRez is a neat little SL script which takes an object (any object) and repeats it in a circular or elliptical pattern. It's very easy to use, though tweaking the parameters to get the right results can take some time.

Here's what I came up with by repeating the object above ten times in a circle...

Note that by removing the roof prims from the resulting building, it is easy to build up multiple-floors...

By the way, this is the kind of thing that happens when you get the LoopRez parameters wrong! :-)

As an aside, I did nearly all the building for this in the Berkman Sandbox. I, and a few others round me, suffered a brief interlude of griefing (pushing and barging with sparks!) which was quite entertaining, at least at first. :-)

MeetingPod on SchomeBase

The folks at Schome have kindly agreed to let me set up a version fo the MeetingPod on SchomeBase, their SL island.

I've done this, using a different design to the MeetingPod on Cybrary City, as you can see in these pictures. It was great to be able to build next to water.

US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory

The NOAA/ESRL Virtual Island is well worth a look.

Jeff Barr's blog entry gives a pretty good summary of what is available. As he says, it's
a good demonstration of what can be done with Second Life to create interactive learning and teaching tools.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

ArtsPlace SL in the AvaStar

The WPA Poster Collection at ArtsPlace SL has got a mention in the current issue of The AvaStar (Issue 4, Jan 12th 2007, page 27 [PDF]) under 'Art and Design'.
An impressive and varied display from the American Library of Congress.
How cool is that!?

Friday, 12 January 2007

Donation boxes

I have a few donation boxes at ArtsPlace SL, which may lead people to think that I'm trying to make money out of my exhibitions. Ha! Chance would be a fine thing...

Well, that isn't the case, but donations do help towards covering my costs, which come out of my own pocket.

The costs are minimal, but real non-the-less. For the amount of land on which ArtsPlace is built I have to pay the equivalent of about L$2000 ground rent per month. Add to this the need to upload quite a large number of images to build new exhibitions and I reckon I spend something like L$3000 per exhibition.

As I say, not a massive amount in real money, but it's gratifying to get a little of this back thru the donations box if I can.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Privacy issues with llSensor

I currently use llSensor in the Eduserv office in the Talis tower block on Cybrary City, the Eduserv MeetingPod and ArtsPlace SL to monitor how many avatars are visiting. I have done this up until now without giving visitors any indication that they are being logged in this way.

It struck me recently that this may not be acceptable from a privacy point of view (even though I suspect that this kind of tracking is commonplace throughout SL). Yes, I'm only tracking avatar names, but many people choose to make public the association between their avatar name and their real-life name, so in many cases I am effectively monitoring usage by identified individuals.

Obviously, I treat any information gathered in this way as being private. It is not disclosed anywhere. I do it primarily to monitor usage, but it is sometimes also useful to be able to follow up with people who have visited when I wasn't there.

Given my concerns, I could either:
  • stop doing it! :-)
  • add a CCTV (or similar) sign to the area in which I'm tracking usage
  • switch to using some anonymised form of identifier (rather than name), e.g. an MD5 hash of the avatar name
  • switch to an explicit tracking method (e.g. a visitor book of some kind)
I raised this issue on the AllianceSecondLife Google group and as a result of the responses have decided to experiment with a small 3-D padlock icon containing a notecard with a short privacy statement. This is what the result looks like.

This makes it reasonably clear to visitors what I'm doing and allows them either to complain or not return (or both!) if they so choose.


Hmmm... OK, so the lighting still isn't working properly in ArtsPlace SL. It works fine on my work laptop, but not on my desktop machine at home. I assume it has something to do with how well spec'ed the video card is??

Anyway... I need to investigate further. For the time being, if you turn up at ArtsPlace after dark and you can't see well enough force the sun to 'noon' in your client.

Addendum: Thanks to advice received from the AllianceSecondLife Group I now realise that I needed to enable 'local lighting' in my SL client preferences. Doh!

Sunday, 7 January 2007

New ArtsPlace SL building

One of the things I had to do over the Christmas break was to redesign ArtsPlace SL from the ground up. My previous design was very inefficient in its use of prims, which meant that there were very few left over for actually building the exhibitions.

In the new design I was much more careful about slotting prims together carefully, in order to minimise the number used. Basically, I've come up with a modular design, three same shape building blocks fitting together to create the new overall shape - two downstairs, one up.

Before building I also re-landscaped the ground, giving a nicer sloping area, meaning that the new building is at ground level on one side, but raised up on the other.

I also had an issue with lighting in the old building. I tried (and failed) to use lots of small light blocks, each one over one of the exhibits. In the new ArtsPlace SL, I've simply resorted to making the whole of the upstairs ceiling into a light source. This gives ample light on both floors after dark.

Friday, 5 January 2007

WPA Poster Exhibition

The WPA poster collection exhibition went live on target (Jan 4th), although I confess that I've added a set of four display boards about the WPA since then.

I think the exhibition works quite well, though I would have liked to make it more interactive. I anyone reading this has any ideas for how the exhibition could be improved I'd be interested to hear about them. For example, if I had more skills in the animation creation business, I'd consider adding some kind of animated exhibit about how the silk screen printing process works.

The exhibition consists of 51 posters, arranged on 8 display boards inside and outside on the upper floor of ArtsPlace SL. Each poster can be clicked on to retrieve a notecard containing a cut-down version of the Library of Congress catalogue entry for that poster.

There is also a general introduction to the collection as a whole.

Over the weekend I've also added four display boards that provide an introduction to the WPA. This is particularly useful for non-US residents, like myself, who may well have never heard of the WPA. The text is taken more or less directly from the Wikipedia page about the WPA - therefore, I take no responsibility for its correctness. Though, to be honest, I don't have any significant concerns in that direction - I have a lot of faith in the collective knowledge that builds Wikipedia.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Radio silence

Apologies for my lack of postings over the Christmas period, caused mainly by me forgetting my Blogger username and password in the transition from the old beta Blogger service to the new one :-(

Anyway, just to note that the WPA poster collection exhibition is still scheduled to be opened upstairs at ArtsPlace SL tomorrow (Thursday). I'm working on it right now...