Thursday, September 23, 2010

43 of 52 - Living IRL in San Fransisco

Live music in RL too!  Sound level unreachable in SL at home, a fact my neighbors probably appreciates...

This week has actually been very busy blogwise, even if none of you my ignored faithful readers here would have noticed.  Attending the Oracle OpenWorld conference in SF, I have made 20 RL blog posts in 4 days, actually right now I'm starting the 21th...  Ok, it's mostly technical, but there are exception, like the event yesterday at Treasure Island, where the Black Eyed Peas set the night on fire:-)   Hmm, Cristopher would have liked to be there too!

Now, are there any relevance between this conference and virtual worlds?  Actually, there are several!

Regarding content, it seemed to me that the musicians and dancers in the Black Eyed Peas had costumes one normally only see in virtual worlds:-)

Cloud Computing is a major theme this year, and any OpenSimulator based world with intention of growing towards the size of SL will need this kind of technology to be able to scale.

The third facet is that Oracle, afterbuying Sun this year, also owns the MySQL database engine.  And MySQL is actually used by both Second Life and OpenSimulator-based grids to keep track of all the items in world and in our ever-growing inventories.  So it's good to be ensured of the continued support and development of this product.

The last point is that Linden Lab's HQ is actually just down the street from the hotel, but more of that in another post, when I get home and get the Jet-lag out of the body:-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

42 of 52 - What's the carbon footprint of an avatar?

Sitting on the bus the other day, feeling very environmentally friendly (/me not flying around like in RG), I started to wonder about the impart virtual worlds and avatar has on the world.

To find out if avatars have a carbon footprint at all, we need to look at servers. Boring square boxes with expensive components that runs our world. If you don't love the look of a data-center in the dark, feel free to jump to the conclusion at the bottom:-)

The main component in a server is the CPU/Processor. It's the closest thing to a brain that a computer has. Back in the dark ages of the beginning of the PC era, a CPU was only capable of thinking of one task at a time (some say that's typically male:-) ). Todays processors have several "cores", that is, they are capable of running several tasks at the same time, thus somehow acting like several processors on one chip (not unlike some woman I know....).

The Second Life server software runs one full region per dedicated CPU core, while 3 homesteads or 4 openspaces shares a core. Doing some simple math, we find that the grid as of today demands 24.500 CPU cores. In addition, there are database clusters, inventory servers, login servers, web servers, development servers, the aditi test grid, and so forth. To keep it simple, we estimate 5.500 cores for these, giving us a need of 30.000 CPU cores.

A modern server deploys 2 6-core CPUs in a 1U rack mounting for a total of 12 cores per server. This gives us a need for 2.500 servers. To be able to visualize the volume of servers: 2500 servers needs 55 full-height racks, or a row of lockers around 30 meter long.

A typical "pizza-box" server - the hei1ght is commonly measured in U - this is a 1U server holding 12 full sims!

Our hero system admin has servers stacked closely in racks.

Alternatively, 2500 servers is about the equivalent of a so-called "cloud container" - a kind of superserver installed in a housing the size of a 40 foot container, designed for huge datacenter usage. One interesting aspect of these containers is that they are designed for out-door operations, to get the benefit of free cooling. So, next time you encounter a 40 feet container (the long ones), you can think that as of today, this is the smallest box our world can fit into.

Unfortunately, most of Second Life probably runs on older servers, perhaps with just dual core CPUs, making it a potential total of 7.500 servers or 170 racks in an 85 meter row..

Is this how Second Life looks like?

7.500 servers each taking 200 watt power and 200 watt cooling consumes 3 million watt, or 26 million kWh per year. Thats a lot of power, but it's actually a lot less that the viewers! If we assume a mean login concurrency of 60.000, each running on a PC consuming on average of 150 watt, we must add a whopping 79 million kWh per year for a total of 105 million kwh per year.

That's the equivalent of 5200 average Norwegian households, or a bit less than 20.000 people. Considering that second life is the home of more than 500.000 avatars logging in at least once every week, this means that an avatar consumes just 4 percent as much power as a human being, or about 210 kWh/year. Add to this the fact that an avatar seldom drives a car, and when they do it's always a zero-emission vehicle, so maybe it's not too bad:-)

According to this report, the mean carbon footprint per kWh in the US was 1.4 pounds in 1999. Converting to metric, it gives each avatar an average carbon footprint of 133kg/year, or 0.15 metric tons. To visualize that, my medium-sized car, running 20.000 km/year, has a carbon footprint of 4.55 metric tons.

An avatar has a carbon footprint of 0.15 metric tons a year!

So yes, an avatar actually have a measurable carbon footprint, but fortunately it's a lot less than us human. For me, using the my bike just 2 km/day instead of the car would offset my avatars carbon footprint (not to mention giving me a body he would envy me lol). Anyone up for that challenge?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

41 of 52 - The Traveller

Hermes Kondor is an artist I discovered a long time ago. He describes himselves as
"Spiritual healer
Student of Spirituality
Digital artist
Professional Photographer, in RL and SL"

I am impressed with his used of colors; vivid and strong, yet not over the edge. The motives are often a bit mysterious; focusing on spirituality and (as I feel it) space. His new exhibit, The Traveller, is really a must-see. Grab the taxi and discover your own spirituality.

I'm off for some live music; Max is in town:-)

Friday, September 3, 2010

40 of 52 - And what about Open car rental?

It's certainly big, but where is the engine?

Imagine a world where the sole inventor of cars are the only one producing them, and they are making them for rent only. Part II (Part I here).

A few years ago, Linden Cars decided to publish the blueprints for the dashboards in their cars. At the time, they felt that innovation was needed because frankly, even if their cars was OK, the dashboard was dull blue with some rather old-fashioned rounded buttons. True enough, before long, several people was making their own dashboards and contributing improvements to the official one.

Although mostly beneficial, it's a bit risky retrofitting your car with a new dashboard. Not long ago, the makers of a very clever green-colored dashboard decided to have some fun. They incorporated an auto pilot that started the car while the person renting it was sleeping, running it over to a rival car designers house to let i stand in the courtyard, flashing the lights and honking the horn. At times, the poor guy could not get out of his own house because of all the cars flooding it. As a result, Linden Cars have discourage users from using that particular dashboard.

While allowing people to use third-party dashboards, the car maker has also tried to make a new dashboard by themselves. Hiring a bicycle designer called "Strange Spaceship", they made Dashboard 2.0 with a non-transparent head-up display that hides the complexity of the roads from the driver, giving her instead lots of tabs with illogical symbol that lists her phone directory and the content of the trunk. Needless to say, the controversial design has lead to a number of accidents, and most new renters of linden cars now retrofit their vehicles with an independent dashboard.

But back to the cars. Some clever people also noted that when they had the blueprint for the dashboard, they could use that information to figure out how the rest of the car was working. Being a bit tone-deaf they choose a manufacturing method called C#, set up a project and a few years later the alpha version of the blueprints was ready. OpenCar was born.

You too can put together an OpenCar in the basement, but it's really hard to keep it running. So most people choose to rent one. Several independent but small outlets have blossomed, promising big car experiences for small money.

Most OpenCars sports an enormous trunk of 4500 liters, and you can have them for as little as US$10 a month. On the other hand, they don't come with an engine. Being quite a modern concept, they draw their power from a shared engine in the sky. Trouble is, if you pack your car with 4 cubic metres of family luggage, and fills it up with kids and a husband, you might not get enough power to make the car move at all. This has led to people renting up to 16 cars at once to ensure they have the sole use of one cloud engine.

Another challenge with renting an OpenCar is that the blueprints are not finished yet. This means that you might start your car in the morning, discovering that the pedals have been replaced by a flight stick overnight, or that the trunk is suddenly in the front of the car in stead of the back, but a lot of people find this just fun.

No-one knows when the OpenCar concept will be more stable, or how long Linden Cars can keep ahead of development. Also, some people are thinking of abandoning cars, finding them rather old-fashioned. An upstart maker of flying saucers have been given lot of attention lately, together with a company that wants us to sail instead of drive. Needless to say, life on the move has never been more fun!

Sometimes turning around is wise

Apple has released a new version of iPod Shuffle. The previous one (on the right) was even smaller and had no control buttons, somehow culminating the trend towards minimalism that this product has developed through.

So, it seems that the lead innovator in GUI design has discovered that it has somehow made a bad design decision with this product. The interface was perhaps too simple for a good first-hour experience?

As Gizmodo said it: "If you need something like this for exercise, or if you just hate the fact that there are no buttons on this one, buy the last-gen shuffle before they're all gone, or wait till next year when Apple changes its mind. To tell the truth, this new shuffle is just okay. We don't know what kind of a statement they were trying to make with it, but suffice it to say, the message wasn't received."

Now, this kind of feedback reminds me of how Viewer 2.0 was received. Add to this the fact that 2.0 is used by less than 20% of the labs customers, and that it has not increased the user retention rate notably, it makes me wonder: When will the Lab do as Apple has just done: Realize it's threading the wrong path, and turn around? And when it does, will they be able to make an innovate back turn?

/me can hardly wait :-)

Because what we really want is this: Not just a U-turn back to the 1.23 GUI, but something with the "I just want this" feeling. Like Apple just did when combining the "new" retro-shuffle design with the iPod Nano screen. That's sexy! Just like we want Second Life to be!