Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Relaxing in an artful flowerbed

Stretching out my tired writing arms

Yesterday I was walking the stylish floors of the Palais Orleans, and just as I was about to leave I got an IM from anibrm.jung, the owner of Art By Nature! (SLurl).  I had visited the place before, and now she had a couple of new photos.

I TP'ed over, and got a nice chat with her.  

ANI is doing RL nature photographs, and as you can see she has created an SL gallery that confirms with the theme:-)  You are literally walking on green pastures while admiring the beautiful shots.  She has a nice video on Youtube presenting her art too (Video).

What I like a lot is her attention to details in the scene; like in one shot the focus is on a nail in a fence, while the horses on the field behind is blurred.  It so reminds me of one of my favorite movies: American Beauty.  If anyone of you have seen it, you will remember one of the main characters walking around, videotaping odd stuff like an old bag of plastic dancing in the wind, just because he found it so beautiful:

  "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, 
I feel like I can't take it, 
and my heart is just going to cave in."

ANI gives me the same feeling with her best shots.  Eveyone (including me, lol) can make a nice sunset picture, but it takes more of an artist to show us the hidden treasures in the nature surrounding us.

I have given some thoughts about the difference between a gallery mimicing RL (like the Palais Orleans) and more NPIRL-like places like Art by Nature!   Being quite a NPIRL fan I must confess to generally liking those places best.  Even so, when art itselves is clearly SL bound, it creates a nice contrast do display it in surroundings our brain holds for real.

But when it comes to displaying RL photographs, NPIRL is definitely the way to go.  So pictures set up outside in the rain, and grass growing throutgh the floors of the few buildings works so well.  Art by Nature! is definitely worth visiting, and if you bring someone special, you can relax together on a coach by the fire, sharing the beauty around you and in your selves.

Fleet Week video

The Third Annual Fleet Week in Winterfell is just over, and the place now looks sadly empty without all the magnificent vessels.  Loki Eliot has made this nice movie and placed it here:


One fun thing (for me that is LOL) is that my humble castle is clearly visible in the background!  Seems I need to turn down the lights a little bit...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dark Night Of the Soul Indeed

I love sitting while I write...

Morgana Nagorski has an exhibit at the Palais Orleans (SLurl) you don't want to miss.

If you don't know Palais Orleans, it's a classy and classic contemporary art gallery, often housing high-quality exhibitions.  And this one is one of the better I have seen here.

I have real problem summing up these pictures.  As I walk around, I find myselves touched by each work, as if they spoke to me.  When I look at "Battered and Exhausted" I really recognize not only a battered avatar, but an exhausted human.  And combined with a wonderful lightening effect this is a true piece of art.

And then there is the screaming face of a woman clearly being abused by another avatar, titled "Don't Hurt Me" - it's just too strong for words really.

Walking further down, I find "Let's Go Get 'Em", a curious piece with a beautiful girl standing between torsos on sticks...  And futher down is "Empty", depicting an empty railway station.... I think you get the impression: This is an exhibit with lots of very different pieces that has one thing in common: A lot of work and care has been put into them, and they deserve to be studied as the great art they are.

It seems like every time I tire of the lag and the crashes and conflicts with RL and funny and useless new viewers from the Lab, I stumble upon something like this: An exhibit that showes the real power of virtual worlds: Great art that just would not be possible without virtual worlds.

Thanks Morgana, for giving us your art and talent.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Moving from ReactionGrid

ReactionGrid has been my "home" in OpenSim for two years now. During that time, I have really not done much building, but it have felt good to have a foothold outside of the somewhat varying strategies from Battery Street.

OpenSimulator today is a much more stable product than it was 2 years ago. So stable, in fact, that an installation on my basement "server" really fulfulls my needs.

In addition, HyperGrid has become useful too! Today I managed to jump out of my own grid for the first time . and I could even fetch some freebees from another grid. Awsome!

It does not really feel good leaving ReactionGrid. The people running it is just plain fantastic. Even though I messed up my credit card on Paypal and got my region closed, they restored it from backup to send me an OAR. The reason I move is just that I so love having full control from the server up; it makes the grid experience more fun for a geek like me:-) But I will probably miss that someone else is keeping my region up....

On the positive side: I now have 4 regions and as many prims I care to load my server with; lots of space to expand!

My grid is accessible from the outside - but I want a period of testing and some building before I publish the URL. After that it would be great to have some hypergrid visitors!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Disbelief and mourning

Friday afternoon we believed that Oslo was being attacked by an international terrorist organization. A car bomb was set up, blowing up a central part of the city. Then there where reports about gunshots being fired on the site of a traditional youth summer camp. And we wondered: What next?

Saturday morning I woke up and was given the answer to the question "what could possible be worse than a car bomb making my beloved city look like a war zone?". The brutal truth of more than 80 young people being cold-bloded murdered by a right-wing lunatic have made me cry all weekend, even though I knew none of them personally.

"If one person can hate this much, just imagine how much more the rest of us can love", one of the survivors said to cnn. I got an Im from an old friend in SL I have not met in a long time, asking if I was hurt. I have spoken to other friends as well. SL
Virtual worlds can really be an outlet for love as well.

In a somewhat crazy RL, that's a comforting thought.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Amilia at the Auggers - Artful and moving debut

Amilia Fixed has a debut exhibit at the Auggers photo gallery.  There are two series exhibited at ground level: Book of Anatomy and PostCards from My Dark.  On second floor (TP to Gallery 2) is the faun series and the reflections series.

The B&W anatomy shots are very real looking, but Amilia assures me it is her own avatar ("i preffer to use myself because i don't bitch about long hours").  She also tells me there is a lot of work involved, and that I don't find hard to believe.

There are more than technical value here though; the pics communicate emotions, and that is rare for these kind of shots.

The emotions comes throught even stronger in the My Dark series - they are dark indeed.  It may be that my background makes me understand them and really feel the pain, but I am also sure that the true understanding of the artist is very contributing to these qualities.

The Faun series almost made me cry - but then I guess I might be just too emotional for my own good?  A story of love - and loss.  

Even so, do yourselves a favour and check out Amilias exhibit - it's a truly artful public debut.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tender and alive

Cat Boccaccio har a new exhibit at Galerie 17.  It is called "tender", and consists of several works showing love in female - female relationships.

I find these images hard to describe, or at least describe why they leave the impression they do.  The thought that yet again is foremost in my mind is "how does Cat manages to convey true emotions from avatars?"

These images are strong and touching. They tell a story that is both human but also deeply connected to the social structure of Second Life.  Also, the quality of the images are superb.

Do take a look at these pics.

And yes, I am still alive.  Actually, my RL is more alive than for a long time; perhaps that's why my SL suffers gravely, as this blog is a silent vitness of.  But I have not let go, and I probably never will:-)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kindle, Light My Words With Fire

I have just got a new toy: An Amazon Kindle. Its a really nice device, even though the GUI is rather old-fashioned compared to modern pads. No touch-screen.  No colours.  But the features that are there are well thought out and works flawlessly.

I like it so much I thought my avatar would want one too.  So I quickly buildt one. Now he can sit and read The Times like an old-school british gent, even if its a modern variety:

I have previously blogged about the PC version and the Kindle Store so I won't repeat that; it's enough to say that my Kindle has 3G access to more books than I could ever read almost whereever I am.

And even if I am out in the sun, its a joy to read because of it's electronic inc screen.  It really looks like paper, and there is no glare or reflection.  One cool feature of e-ink screens is that they only uses power when changing content.  Amazon has made use of this and made a feature that displays an image on the screen whenever you turn if off.  The image is choosen randomly from a set, and it just stays there. 

Interestingly enough, I think I like the thing precisely because it is rather limited.  When reading a book one does not get tempted to surf facebook and read email at the same time, because that's just not possible (or at least too cumbersome, LOL).  Instead, I fall into this state of natural relaxation that I get when reading an old-fashioned book printed on paper. 

And if I do sit down with the thing just to play, I end up reading much more text than I would normally do when just spending some free time on the web. 

And it got me wondering: Second Life is a highly graphical environment.  State-of-the-art 3D moving graphics and animations.  But would that be enough to make me stay and spend as much time and money inworld as I do?  Actually, the answer is simply no.  If I could not spend lots of my SL time "talking" to people, that is, creating written words and stories, I would not have found the motivation to stay. 

So, words are important, and words with people even more so.  In a world where pad-and-phone makers are duelling for the nicest icons and the most vivid pictures, it's good that someone still focuses on the words.  They make my day and my life, and I so look forward to both read and write a lot more.

Monday, March 21, 2011

At Nordan Art

I got a group message about an exhibition at a place called Nordan Art the other day, and figured I should take the taxi and check it out.  Om the outside it looks rather classic; a great build though with lots of details.  Notice the gorgeous glass windows in the back.

If you have the courage to face the unknown (litterally) and walk right through it, it's like you take the blue pill and walk straight into wonderland.  Luckily, I ran into Bella on the first floor, and when she made it safely through I dared follow.

"Standing, she lit her cigarette, took a puff, took a leap of faith and walked on fire for the first time. It was incredible!!."  -- from Bellas profile

After climbing several stairs we got to the top, facing the most gorgeous crystal art.  Rebeca Bashly is the artist, and here she has done some amazingly detailed work.  This is a must-see.

Bella wore the most fabulous detailed costume I have yet seen in SL.  Made by a Japanese designer that must really have worked his mouse arm to exhaution.  It led us to talk about avatar apperance as art, and further on to discuss what kind of people where staying in SL. 

We landed pretty much on the idea that SL is populated with people that has imagination and creativity above average.  At least those that stay and that you like to meet.

Also, that art in SL takes many forms, and that SL in itselves makes us all content creators, just to different degrees.  How amazing it would have been if everyone was in SL - a true global village!

But today the bombs are falling on Libya, my country are sending 6 jet fighters to that desert land so far away, and our PM is desperately trying to convince everyone that Norway is not at war with Libya.

And even though one can argue it's for the greater good of the people living there if we do get rid of their mad dictator, we all know that our government-owned oil company has been doing business with Muammar "al"-Gaddafi for a long time, enabling him to strenghten his position and continue his life in luxery. 

So now we have to bomb them.

It's a hard word.  I hope there will still be beauty and happiness around for people in Libya when this is over.  Like there is in SL between our RL battles.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to protect yourselves against RedZone and other IP tracing technologies

RedZone was a tool for banning potential content thiefs and griefers, including known alts of known perpetrators.  It could also warn you if someone in the vincinity was a know alt.

The question is: How did RedZone know about your alt accounts?  The answer is that the RedZone servers used a loophole in SL to track the IP adress of the users computer, and when it discovered multiple accounts using the same PC it was fair to suspect they where alt accounts.

As you may know, your IP adress is also quite useful for tracking down your RL location and identity, so the privacy issues here goes far beyond alt tracking.

RedZone is now banned from SL, but the basic technology loophole that can be used to track down your IP adresses is still available.  In other words, nothing can stop other people from doing the same thing.

The problem is the handling of media and HTML in the SL client.  Whenever the viewer plays media or shows a web site, it will contact the media or web server directly.  So if you walk into a store with a music URL, media URL or HTML on a prim, your viewer will get the URL from Linden Labs servers, but will proceed to call that URL directly.

Now, whenever you contact a server, that server will know your IP adress.  So the following sequence may happen:
  1. You walk onto someones land
  2. The parcel have a music URL pointing to the land owners home server
  3. Your PC will call that server and dutifully tell it your IP adress
  4. The land owner have a visitor scanner that will know your Second Life name
  5. The visitor scanner will send your second life name to the same server that serves the Music URL
  6. That server will log that your SL avatar walked onto the parcel at the same time as your PC requested the music URL.  
It's a no-brainer to deduce that the two are connected, and your IP is busted.

How can you protect your IP adress?  The simple answer is: Don't play media or music unless you trust the owner of the thing.

The following setting should do:

That is, remove the check from "Allow Media to auto-play" and "Play media attached to other avatars".

Update: I guess you should also remove the check from Streaming music: Enabled" (forgot that one).

The drawback is that you have to press Play in the viewer whenever you really want to listen to the music or watch the HTML-On-A-Prim thing, but that may be a small price to pay to keep your RL identity safe.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I just have to love Bryn Oh

You  find yourself outside a pretty normal looking door. But when you get inside, it's like there never was any house there at all :-)

Bryn Oh, world renowned for her spectacular and detailed sculptures and builds, are exhibiting sketches from the build process of some of her work.  They are interesting in themselves, but what's really got to me was camming a bit outside:

Seems this was not a normal house after all:-)   Or was it just hit by a hurricane?

SL!  You just got to love it!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love my Ubuntu Netbook

Amazon has made a kind of a silent success with the Kindle reading tablet.  Apple has got a lot of publicity for its music distribution system, but the Kindle is a bit more anonymous.  

What I did not know until a coworker told me the other day was that Amazon also distribute the Kindle reader as an application for iPod/Pad, Mac, Android and Windows.  In effect, what Apple did for music distribution, Amazon has done for books.

The service is really fascinating.  Amazon.com has, at the time of writing, 580,208 titles in the Kindle eBooks store.  There are 6,091 titles published the last 30 days alone, of all kinds: "How to write a sentence: And how to read one", "The Day After the Dollar Crashes: A survival guide for the New World Order" and "Two to love [nights in bliss]" all listed in sequence if you wish.  It's like a kind of treasure hunt in an old book store, the only difference being these are new titles!

When you find a book that seems interesting, you can download a sample (the first few chapters) and read a bit, just like in a real bookstore.  The only difference is that you can be anywhere; on the train, bus, airport or the beach.  Never again a day with no book to read!

Sadly, both Apple and Amazon have chosen to ignore users of Linux.  But there is a difference:  Using Wine it is possible to run a lot of windows applications on Linux, and while iTunes runs badly in Wine (if at all), the Kindle reader flows like a breeze on even a slow netbook.  And when we talk about books, a netbook is really the second best thing after a real kindle tablet....

After getting a preview or buying a book, it is synchronized to your home folder in the Kindle reader.  

Lyra, my MSI Wind Notebook, is running Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Edition.  It's a tiny 10" 1 kg thing, not very fast, but each time I try to put it away on the shelf to use a more powerful computer I find myself returning to it in within a week.  Its just so functional when it comes to surf, email and write on that I can't seem to live without it.  And I am sure that Kindle will make it even more indispensable.

Amazon has made a very functional GUI.  When you are reading, you can put the book up on full screen, so that nothing else disturbs the mind.  Instead of scrolling you turn the pages one after another, and that really makes for easy reading.

There is one major difference between iTunes and the Kindle book store:  While Apple has abandoned their copy-protection scheme, Kindle books are only usable on readers connected to your Amazon account.  There seems to be ways to break this scheme, but I guess it's not really worth it.  With books selling for less than US10, it's less than half the price of buying the same soft-cover book in Norway.

I am now starting on chapter 5 of "Eat, Pray, Love", the first eBook I have purchased on Amazon.  (Btw, the literal Norwegian translation of the title is "Eat, Love, Live"; I suppose Pray is not really as catchy here in Europe as it is in the US.)  Anyway, Lyra and me will hit the sack really soon now; I think I want at least one chapter before I close my eyes:-)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Art Maze - simply amazing

Fuschia Nightfire,my first artist friend in SL, recently participated in an exhibition called the Art Maze.  Migina Miklos, RAG Randt and Neeks Moonshadow was the other participants that I noticed, but there may have been more.  Unfortunately, this wonderful build was dismantled before I managed to publish this post, but I am so happy to have kept several photos of it that I like to share.

From the starting point, a pink tunnel leads down into the underworld

Fuschias sculptures really shows their true beauty in this environemt

What a way to display a really huge lady!

Behind a dark wall I discovered this cave

Bricks floating in the air - this is just so wonderful NPIRL

A dark and scary tunnel leads to....

... an amazing underworld sea!

Sitting on a leaf in a cave, pondering the wonderful world of virtuality, was a real treat.

Not to mention sailing on one in the swift stream :-)

And finally floating in the space above I was free to marvel of the artists involved
One thing that really amazed me was the clever use of space; being able to accommodate such a large set of displays on a rather small parcel was surprising.  Apart from that, the texturing was superb, and all the caves really felt like caves; not a square prim in sight:-)  And while the build did contain pieces of art, like sculptures and paintings, this is more of a case where the build itself becomes art.  Simply amazing.

If you ever get a chance to see any exhibition by these talented builders and artist, don't miss the opportunity.  Fuschia currently has an exhibit called 'Virtual Unreality' at the Fruit Islands Art. This exhibits closes at the end of the month, so make sure to pay it a visit before then!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Second Life on a stick

Ener Hax has written several great blog posts about running your own OpenSim server on a memory stick. In this post, the focus is not OpenSim, but Second Life.

Obviously, Second Life's sims and servers resides at some computer center operated by Linden Lab, and can't be put on a stick (at least not by us).  But the second life CLIENT, along with a suitable operating system, like Ubuntu Linux, CAN be installed on a stick.

Why would I want to do that?  Well, my rather security-concious employer has issued me with a laptop that is completely locked down when it comes to installing and running unauthorized applications. And Second Life, being officially categorized as a game by our firewall vendor, is definitely a no-go.  So to avoid having to lug around with two computers when I get to spend a night at a hotell and want to go inworld, I need a free OS on my laptop.

The trick that worked for me was to actually remove the hard drive from the laptop and boot the laptop with an Ubuntu install CD.  Then I inserted a 16GB memory stick, and started the Install.

This procedure also works for an external USB hard drive, btw, and since a HD is generally faster than a flash disk memory stick, you get a better result.  

When the install is done, I just put the hard drive back in place again.  So now, whenever I want a free computer, i just hook up the usb disk and hit escape when starting the PC.  This gives me a choice to boot from the USB stick, and it boots Ubuntu Linux with Second Life installed.

There are a few tuning tasks that must be completed for this setup to work well.

First, you need to define a RAM disk to use for caching and temporary file storage.  USB memory is not very fast, and if you let SL store it's cache on the stick there will be a rather annoying pause every few seconds. Codfather has a nice blog post about how to do this, including how to set up Firefox to use the RAM disk.  In the Second Life client, you choose preferences, Setup, and set Cache Location to /var/ramdisk. 

Then, you need to disable some services normally running in the background, all of them creating disk wait situations.  Go to System->Settings->Startup programs and disable things like disk warnings, external desktop, Evolutin warnings, update warnings, print services, check for new devices and Ubuntu One. 

Apart from the fact that this is a typical business PC, not very suitable for running 3D graphics stuff like SL, this setup works unbelievable smoothly.  Running on low graphics, tuned a bit up with 184 meter draw distance, I get an average framerate of 11, which is quite useable. 

I had a wonderful morning in SL today using this setup, and I hope it won't be the last!

Friday, January 21, 2011

New SL Hardware

One of the things that has made me so tired of SL lately is a steadily decline in performance from the laptop I use most often for SL. The way my friends list is just full of "loading".  The way it slows down to a crawl.

So this week I rezzed a new graphics card for my desktop computer, and now I am testing out different OS-es and viewers.  Fun really!  I hope that I soon will be ready to really explore SL again!

I started out with Ubuntu 32 bits, but as I had some crashes when flying over sim crossings in my beloved but oh so demanding estate of Winterfell (well, not really mine, I just live there...), I switched to Windows 7.  Same shit.  So now, the 64 bit version of Ubuntu is wading into the hard drive, and I am kind of excited about how that will work!

When testing, I was kind of impressed by Kirstens latest viewer.  It's got the viewer2 GUI with some twists, so it works a lot better.  The dreaded sidebar and all the GUI windows are transparent, for instance.  And I love the slider at the top of the window that controls your draw distance without the need to open the Settings dialog.

Anyway, the card gives some awesome pictures of the world on the 24" screen, so it's a lot of fun!  Stay tuned!