Wednesday, March 31, 2010

18 of 52 - Building in ReactionGrid

Sunset in my offshore sim Vaiya. Stars and Stripes raised to greet an unexpected visitor.

This is not a "Linden Lab sucks and I'm leaving Second Life" kind of post. Not at all. Not that I don't see why lots of people, not least estate owners, have reasons to feel less than well treated as large customers of the lab. But as it is today, Second Life is 100 times bigger in area and population that any other comparable grid. It does have features no other grid have. And I've got friends there (including my lost friend who is finally back!).

But the thing I really miss in SL is the opportunity to have a sim of my own, for a price that is sensible for my usage. (Hey, US 1000 to get it, and US 300/month? Sorry, forget it.)

Check out my cool red sneakers (yes, I seem to twist my legs all the time)

I have tried various grids based upon OpenSimulator several times. But it just have been too many bugs, to unstable. Until now, it seems. Tempted by the successful builds by Ener in Enclave Harbour, I decided to give ReactionGrid a go. The team not only set up the sim in a couple of hours, it also worked flawlessly from the first login. Now I've got what would compare to an SL OpenSpace SIM, just double the prims (8000, all mine!) for a price I can afford, even as an amateur builder with ambition of becoming pro.

And they do know how to treat a customer right! The first evening Felix Techie came to visit, wondering if everything was OK. And later on, I've got an eMail from the CEO, wanting to hear my ideas for my sim. He came over yesterday, we had a nice talk, and he offered me various assistant. (I pay LL double what I pay him, but they won't even answer my support tickets... sigh. I guess they're too busy making pencils for M...)..

Got my flags and my Domino rezzer

After a week, whats the good, the bad and the ugly with Reaction Grid?

- Faster than SL when building
- Logins seems as stable as SL
- Sensible technical architecture means stability and low cost
- Scalable megaprims (no, not megaprims, ANY prim can be scaled to 256 meter!)
- You can fly as high as you want
- They actually got customer support!
- Professional and knowledgeable people come here
- Second Inventory transfer my objects fast and easily

- Landscaping is laggy in OpenSimulator (not specific to ReactionGrid).
- 590 unique logins last month

- Physics sucks. Watching my dominos falling is like watching grass growing. Ah well, cant have everything I guess:-)

I have not done much more than making an offshore team for my sim, and just started on a project 1000 meters above ground. I do look forward to do more though!

Happy easter, everyone!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

17 of 52 - Exploring ReactionGrid

You have to be a virtual world enthusiast to hang a building on a chain like that:-)

A while ago I stubled over the ILiveISL blog written by Ener Hax. I liked it so well that I had to take a look at her estate, Enerville, and liked that so much too, I actually considered moving there. Then the very next day, Ener announced the closedown of her estate.

Just sad.

But then she started to write a lot about the OpenSim based ReactionGrid. Pictures on her blog suggested interesting things. So, when she announced the opening of Enclave Harbour I took the first interstellar taxi to to register myselves there. Registration certainly was easier than LL's, and for sheer luck the Rainbow viewer that I mostly run had an entry for ReactionGrid, so before you know it I landed on a welcome plaza, like a handsome noob again:-)

One of the core administrators sat napping in his chair... hmm wonder how this grid runs when they sleep at work?

Yes, this seems to be the entire grid!

A short Map TP later (it's REALLY NOT a big world you know) landed me on a beach full of junk. Hmm.. and I thought Ener was so environmentally aware, running her estate on solar power...

I stumbled around a bit, found a road, and then the first signs of a civilization.

Admiring the view at the top of the lighthouse

I did a bit more exploration of the 16-sim estate.

What will be in here, I wonder?

Where are the martians that landed here?

They are not warming themselves by the fire...

Some rough scripting still; steering this boat seems a bit different when lying with my head beneath the seat LOL

Ener has done some great builds, like this sun-deck-on-a-gigantic-flower thing:

And the start of a commercial center:

Still a rather empty world, 590 unique logins last month; seems too much to hope for a waiter to bring my icecream

The entire estate has 1 - one - shop, but it's a nice one:-)

No wondering where you are!

There are wind power...

...and solar power plants

But somehow, the place is not as peaceful as I imagined. Seems the estate is under siege, could it perhaps be some L***** **b agents flying around in that UFO, eagerly awaiting for a moment to crash the party? Anyway, the gun is constantly following it, so I guess they are serious with security around here:-)
Solar-driven gun? What happened to "make SLove, not waReaction"?

Finally I ran into Ener. Not just a great builder, she was also a most welcoming and nice person.

A really cool avatar lady!

She TP-ed us over to where Nickola was building a learning path. We ended up talking and having fun (well, the two ladies was the most fun I have to admit, making fun of my counties fjords and some very unhealthy canadian food I promply forgot the name of LOL), but it was a great time!

One noob and two pioneer gridnauts

Nickola had made a nice ride, which I had to admit already had tested.

I am glad the default avatar had such strong arms:-)

It was a great evening even if there hangs a shadow above me: my best friend in SL has suddenly vanished from the grid. I so hope she is fine. Please come back.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

16 of 52 - How to become wise

An old eastern proverb says that there are two ways to get wise: Either you travel around the world, studying it and getting to know the people you meet, or you sit still and watch the world flow past you.

After spending a week in London IRL, I yet again find that while I feel kind of wiser travelling the world, I also long for the quiet place at home where I can just watch the world doing it's crazy deeds.

SL has made me know the world in a different way. In my best moments of being Cris, I feel I am a bit wiser for the experience. But while I chat and blog english all my second life long, IRL I feel like a noob, stuttering and barely able to formulate questions in the class I am attending.

So I wonder: What kind of wisdom does SL bring: The one you get while exploring the world, or the one you get by letting the world fly past you?

In my best moments of being Cris, I would insist of the former. But when I meet the REAL world, it teaches me differently. Yes, of course there are experiences in SL that makes some RL tasks simpler (the way I seem to THINK in english for instance, is a habit found during long chats inworld). But in no way can SL (or any other virtual world) replace the experience you can get elsewhere.

(And I'm sorry there is no picture in this post; I tried to sit down in a budhist temple but ended up 20 meter below the ground with my legs in a less-than-comfy meditation position behind my neck, and whatever I tried to do the 140 percent package loss in this city defied all rescue actions. Better luck next week:-) )

Monday, March 15, 2010

Loosing packages

When travelling, one allways wonders if the suitcase really went on the same plane. If the airliner manages to loose my bag, I'd say that they had a baggage loss of 100%. If I had two trunks and they lost one of them, the loss would be 50%. But it could never be more than 100%, could it? How could they loose more than they had? (OK, if it was a bank I guess it could be possible; for them it seems posible not only to loose ones savings, but a lot more:-) ).

Whenever you connect to a server on the internet, all communications between your PC and the server is gathered in "packets" of data that is transmitted together on the net. Each package may be routed on different paths, and the basic transport of the Internet does not guarantee that a package will ever reach its destination. Or if it does, the order of the packets received may be different than the order in which they are sent. (The internet does have protocols that can take care of both of these issues, but SL does not use them. That's why you sometimes see chat lines coming in the wrong order when you type.)

But SL does notice when it looses packages, and just like any airliner it faithfully reports this fact. If you ever get a high number of package loss in the statistics bar, you know you've got trouble:-) But I have never before seen SL reporting MORE packages than it was expecting. I guess that's what a package loss of 144.4% means.

Must be the London fog:-)

Friday, March 12, 2010

15 of 52 - At the dragons nest

Few get to witness the birth of a dragon. Ninka called me over to look at the one she has started to make. Gorgeous textures; really feel lifelike hoovering above me:-) Will be awesome when she is done, I have no doubt!

RL work is still taking its tolls, and I seem to spend more time blogging about SL that actually living an SL. Sigh; it's kind of easier having a blog editor open while working. SL takes too much attention. Buts it's a frustrating SLife atm. And I miss a lot of my friends.

Take care, all of you:-)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Server 1.38 - bigger than viewer 2.0?

LL has just announced the beta of Server version 1.38, scheduled for roll-out in April. Now, why is this great news?

One of the new features of server 1.38 is llSetLinkPrimitiveParamsFast(). It will allow a script in a root prim to control other prims in the link set, without a 0.2 second sleep as the previously available llSetLinkPrimitiveParams imposed.

The great upside of this is that for objects with moving parts (for instance, the Drama Dolls), it will reduce the need for having a script in each prim to do animations. As you can see on the illustration above, its quite a few scripts:-) /me hurts in the head just remembering all that coding.... Fewer scripts means less memory usage, and less memory usage means less load on the server, leading to less lag:-)

In the Drama Queen set, there are 25 scripts that could probably have been replaced with code in the root prim script using this function. That's 1.6 Mb of memory at rez time - not to mention all the work on creating and maintaining all those really small bits of code and the interface between them.

There are a few other nifty bug fixes too, although not revolutionary. What I really like about the 1.38 announcement is the attitude it shows: LL seems determined to fix server side stuff and script functionality to make SL work smoother. So it's not all bells and whistles and big spaceships GUI's, but grinding nuts and bolts too.

And while viewer 2.0 is highly controversial, I have yet to see big protests against the 1.38 features.

We are heading for a more flexible script environment where there will be limitations on script resources on a per parcel / per avatar basis, but where one will also have better control on these resources. It will also be possible to allocate far more resources to some scripts, which may be real helpful.

So, while Server 2.0 is still a long way into the future, its nice to get at least some attention on the server side problems too.

Monday, March 8, 2010

International Womans Day

Today is the International Womans Day, a day celebrated (at least here in Norway, where socialism is not considered a foul word LOL) by those wanting to oppose the long-time oppression of half of the worlds population.

From putting baby girls into the woods, through child porn and prostitution, rape and murder, woman are treated badly around the globe, so one can't deny the need for a day to fight womans rights. Sure, those of us living in the western hemisphere have less problems in this respect (even stock concervative US of A almost got a female president at the latest crossroad LOL), but it's still a problem. And it's a problem for us males as well, because when you oppress people to secure your own position, you will miss a lot of the things the oppressed people could have contributed to society.

An interesting news story about equal opportunities from my country: Ski-jumping is a classic sport, and until recently it was an all-male gig, but female jumpers have developed lately. However, there have been a lot of resistance among the "old-school boys" regarding this. As recent as 2004, the leading female ski-jumper, Anette Sagen, was denied jumping in our largest sky jump hill merely because the chairman felt it was inappropriate for woman.

Outside of the closed circles of the old men governing the sport this was met with amused anger. So when the newly renovated Holmenkollen ski jump in Oslo was opened a week ago, the city council (who paid for the fun, and really, if you spend USD200 million on something you really deserve a say or two) decided that Anette Sagen should be given the honour of the first jump.

But typically enough: The night before the official opening, all the major male ski jumpers was gathered to "test" the hill before the official opening, and it was actually our most successful male jumper that made the first jump. If this was merely an increadible short-sighted decision or the last attempt by the old school to take a revenge is hard to say. But it's been the main news story here in Norway for a week, culiminating in the exclusion of said jumper from the next two large jump events.

So there you go. One might say we make drama out of really nothing. We don't need the womans day anymore. Others will say that we will need the day forever, to make sure the world don't start running in reverse.

But anyhow: This post was meant to be a positive one, and a big "thank you" to all the great and talented woman in Second Life I have either met, or just admired the wonderful creations of.

Happy womans day, weather you feel a need to celebrate it or not!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

14 of 52 - Why Second Life eventually will fail...

... (and why OpenSim won't make it either).

However much I love Second Life as a resident, with its unique possibilities of developing ones creativity and meeting people from all over the world: As an IT professional, this world makes me want to cry.

The symptoms of the basic architectural problems are eminent everywhere: Lag, inventory breakdowns, sim crossing disasters and object delivery failures. But some of these are just that: Symptoms. The real problem is how Second Life is founded: SIM centric.

Second life really is a one-sim game. Its quite evident that when Linden Lab first tried out their idea, they made a server capable of running one sim, and one sim only. When they had done that, they started adding cludges of code to handle adjacent sims.

There are code to handle situations when an avatar looks into another sim. There are more code to handle avatar crossings. And code to handle vehicle and object crossings. All of that code is based upon the need for several servers to transfer work from one to another, and your viewer to connect to several servers. When you cross a sim border, your viewer actually changes its main connection to a different server. If that new server is a bit busy just then, it may delay answering your call for several seconds. The result is that your avatar is drifting, something we have all experienced. If the delay is large, the viewer will loose its sync with the servers, and you will end up drifting into the ground and finally crash.

Just imagine how fast this reconnection must happen if you are driving a boat or an airplane at high speed! The strange thing is not the catastrophes that happens to you, but the fact that it works at all:-)

So, Sim crossings is one major problem with this architecture. The second problem is that of scaling.

Second life needs one CPU core for each full SIM. This one core is dedicated to running a sim, even when there is no-one there to run it for. So, the architecture scales with land, making land tier expensive (because it has to pay for idle servers) and wasting processor power that could be used elsewhere in busy places.

A much more scalable setup would be to have avatar and scripted objects servers. One such server would handle a set of avatars and their objects, so you could scale with concurrent logins instead of land. A SIM would only be a set of information, accessed by any process needing it.

There are of course complications in such a scheme. I admit to not know enough to really criticize the Lab for choosing and upholding the architecture they have.

My proposed setup could have a huge impact on the economy of the world. Basically, tier could scale according to the use of your objects (traffic, running scripts) instead of the prims and land themselves. So a full sim for your home, used for an hour or 2 a day, would not be more expensive than an 2K parcel with a busy shop.

LL talks about "viewer 2.0" as the next main thing (LOL this was obviously written a few weeks age:-) ). Instead of doing "server 2.0", that should be a complete rewrite of the architecture. But that is obviously never going to happen, simply because it's way too late. The coding cost would be very large, and the transfer project enormous, because the world has grown to the size it has.

So, driven by the unstoppable momentous of its own weight, this single world may head to its grinding halt, where it has used every resource available to it and just can't scale no more. (A somehow interesting analogy to how our real world is doing; the momentous of its growth makes it seemingly impossible to change what we know must be changed to avoid an environmental disaster.)

Btw, OpenSim is unfortunately just a copy of the same flawed setup. Any OS based grid growing will face the same challenges the Lab has had to resolve in the past few years.

Somewhat pessimistic, I know. But heck, it should be spring, but there are 15 cm of fresh snow in my yard (sigh).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Snaily day and a new peacock

PC and internet trouble forced me on to the mini PC with a cellular modem... the statistics shot above was actually nice, when I started I got a sim ping time of more than 8 seconds....

For those of you not knowing the details in this tool: FPS shows how many pictures are rendered every seconds. As you know, a movie runs at 24 FPS, if you get less than that then movements begin to look jerky. So 1.7... I will say no more:-)

Bandwith says something about the capacity for download, particularily for textures. The less this value, the longer SL takes to download all the textures in the scene. 599 is actually not bad.

Ping sim on the other hand says how long it takes the client to get a response on a sent signal. If that value is high, you are in trouble. 8 seconds means that if you press the up arrow to start moving forward, other persons will see you start moving in the sim 4 seconds later. You, however, will not see yourselves move until 8 seconds after you pressed the key. And if the server finds out you are bouncing into a wall, and sends the client a message saying "stop", it will take several seconds until it gets that message, and in between you may drift uncontrolled into space. Sometimes the message never gets through, and you crash:-( So, sim ping time is a nice thing to look up for.

Now I'm off home to debug my connection. Ninka sent me her new peacock, but I just kept crashing trying to unpack it.... Looking forward to see it for real!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ninka's new shop

My friend Ninka is doing wery well selling animated peacocks. She just moved her shop to a sim of her own (/me trying not to look too envious), and it's a really nice place.

Her animated birds are really well made - do TP over to Sheherazade if you have not seen them.