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. 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!