Barney Boomslang

Living a Second Life. In a Treehouse.

Archive for November 2006

What to do on a sunday with horrible lag?

Well, what we allways do on every sunday at 2 PM Gametime in Yongnam: running the Yongnam Show and Tell event! I am constantly amazed how smooth it works, how people show up, sit through the lag, show their creations and how many fun we get out of this little event. Nothing special – just showing things, talking about building, having a little competition on building (with a few prizes – based on attendents donations!).

From Second Life S…

The event is friendly and interesting to both newbies and oldbies – just come over and have a look at it, or bring your own things and show them. Up to 9 contestants can show. And yes, we try to get it going even if the sims crash around us, the packet loss lags us down and whatever problems the grid throws at us. The only time we couldn’t run it was when LL once closed logins over all of early sunday evening.

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Written by barney

November 27, 2006 at 18:16

Posted in Pictures, Second Life

Software Theater – or just arrogant pricks?

In Software Theater one of the electric sheeps (does it strike you as rather silly that someone out to help companies into SL calls themselves sheep? One of the dumbest animals around? Yes, I know about the link to literature – but if there was a famous book with “stupid, arrogant prick” in the title, would you take that as your name?) lashes out at the Herald – a publication that positions itself as “allways fairly unbalanced”, which is a quite honest positioning 🙂

So – the Herald ran a piece of speculation on ESC and it looks like they hit right home – you know the saying that denial is a politicians way of admitting. Even if it was not correct what the Herald reported, it seems to have found a vulnerable spot at least with that sheep. But that’s not what struck me most. What did really make me crack up is the adorment this sheep gives to Edelman. You remember Edelman? Those PR guys who where repeatedly found to bluntly deceive the public, to blatantly lie to the public via PR blogs around the Walmart thing? It’s not as if that would be hard to find out, it was all over the blogs, even made it in the old-time media.

Sorry, folks, you might call yourself after a dumb animal, but be assured, even a stupid sheep would first check what to associate with. You know, if the sheep go in bed with the wolf, the result is seldom positive …

Written by barney

November 23, 2006 at 10:23

Posted in Second Life

Avatar Chess – the First Game

Yesternight the first game of Avatar Chess happened in Kula 4. After a bit of problems at the start – the teams had to fill in their ranks, the Sim had to be upped on the avatar limit (it started out with 40, which we filled quite fast) and the lag and chatter making it a bit chaotic, at roughly 4:30 PM the game started. And it was a great fun – and worked astonishingly good! White won due to red running out of time (the game was played with 30 minutes each team, no time extension), but both teams delivered quite an impressive game. Thanks to all participants!

Here are a few pictures of the event:

Avatar Chess

Written by barney

November 17, 2006 at 08:45

Copyrights and Content Creation in Second Life

A recent statement on copyrights and content creation in Second Life – and the risks of it due to copying tools – takes quite some flak from residents. The call for action from LL is heard all over the comments. But this call is futile. Why?

Well, a principal problem with systems like these is this: the content must be transferred to the client to be displayed. So you can’t prevent copying of content, as the content is copied allready by the machinery that makes it run. It’s essential – you wouldn’t be able to see no-copy objects if they weren’t tranferred to your client. The client does all the rendering, everything else just can’t work.

So is all lost? Well, no. It’s not much unlike the real world – you have a lot of copying going on there, too. What you can do, though, is give “postive acknowledgement” for original work, and give “obstacles” for copying things. Lets look at the obstacles first:

Currently all textures of your avatar are transferred together with the baked texture. This allows ripping textures from the protocol, even though they aren’t necessary for the display. One thing to prevent texture theft (or make it harder) is allready suggested in the posting by LL: only transfer the baked texture. This would be a simple measure to at least make it a bit harder to rip off textures (you still have ways around it, but it includes at least a minimum of photoshopping from the copier). And it wouldn’t impact normal functionality.

Textures could be watermarked – that way you can see wether a texture is a ripoff of some other texture, especially if textures are indexed by their signature and watermarks – that would at least prevent blatant texture theft. And it wouldn’t impact normal functionality (but might add a tad bit of server load).

The third obstacle I could think of would be to have a redesign in the architecture to prevent prim stealing by having the tools work on prims, but transfer back polygons and “preprocessed” stuff to the client – so to have different models of data for the stored objets and the rendered objects. That way you can still steal content – but it will be in a form you can’t easily reupload. This would be a major undertaking and I guess would introduce more bugs and problems than anybody would like to care for.

But all these obstacles have one problem: they don’t solve the underlying problem at all! They are just a form of “security by obscurity”, which gives no real security at all. Because still stuff has to be transferred to the client, because still stuff can be ripped.

So on to the “positive acknowledgements” – what do I mean by that? Well, it’s talked about in the post by LL, too: first use acknowledgement in combination with popups that talk about it. Think of it as a “seal of originality” – you can let your client show the seals on stuff you see, and that would show the original creator of it. See this as a solution by peer-pressure: “what, you are running around in something that looks like Way Cools stuff, but it’s not created by her? Youre a loser!”. This works astonishingly good in RL, it works as good in SL, I am sure. So instead of trying to prevent copying (which is impossible) or to make copies obvious (which is the same problem restated), do it the other way around: make originals obvious.

Yes, you still will be able to copy stuff. Yes, people still will be able to sell those copies. But well, for one – the “first use” points to the original creator/uploader and can’t be easily hidden, so you have someone to make liable for the theft. And you get something else – a seal on your stuff you built, with definition that it’s original work by you.

Of course LL needs to fix some things for that, too – for example the currently non-existing checks on permissions in the low-level protocol in some parts, that allow you to take over ownership on things (which is just plain a bug in my book and should be fixed asap). And the “first use” must be recorded by the server software, tied to the connection and logged in user, so it’s not fakeable through client hacks. But this way is much more realistic than any trying to prevent the copying.

Leverage social pressure and take a more realistic approach to the results of copying. Yes, there are people who won’t care about wearing a copy – but well, they wouldn’t have been necessarily a customer of you anyway. Not every copy out there is a lost sell – that’s the silly position the music industry takes, it’s proven wrong multiple times allready. So make it known that stuff is original, make it obvious and checkable, and stay true to your name and your brand. That way the community gets a chance to react to copies and will help you keeping your sales working. Because in the end, the number of honest residents will allways outweight the number of dishonest ones.

Click the link for some quite reasonable comment on copyright with regard to second life. And Moriash Moreau notices the bad effects the current panic reactions have on the mainland. And Tao Takashi puts in a calm and reasonable opinion, too.

Oh, and no, I don’t approve of the usage of CopyBot for copying stuff you don’t own. And actually think some of the people in the libsecondlife group are just plain unfriendly, egoistic and stupid bastards (luckily the libsecondlife reacted swiftly). This doesn’t change a single thing about the facts of our second life and the security or insecurity of content, though.

Written by barney

November 14, 2006 at 12:10

Posted in Second Life

Cutting instructor payments

Cutting instructor payments is another way how LL reduces the existing support structures. They think it’s bad that instructors get money from them, instead of residents. But the wealth of participants in classes are noobs – and many of them don’t have payment info on file (Phillip himself said so, indirectly, by pointing out that more than half the new residents are from areas where they didn’t reach when having registration). They can’t pay for classes, before they get some job. But jobs will be even scarcer – island prices are to go up, mainland price changes are discussed, residents will think twice before giving some noob money for simple jobs they could do themselves (and to be honest, there aren’t that many things noobs can do for you anyway, even cybersex requires a minimum knowledge to be sellable).

So again LL kills off culture and reduces it’s own involvement. For what reason? To make free money? That’s silly, there aren’t that many instructors inworld, the lindens for them won’t kill anything. To reduce work load? Sorry, but the lindens weren’t involved with that part of SL for quite some time, so nothing will be freed up. Out of principle? How stupid must one be to kill off a part of a culture (and Phillip can’t stop seeing SL as some form of culture – a “better” world, where instructors aren’t payed and 50% price hikes are seen normal, yay!) out of principle?

Written by barney

November 10, 2006 at 08:52

Posted in Second Life

Market Prices?

From the Townhall Transcript:

Philip Linden: Regarding the issue of whether, overall, we are charging too much. I think a reasonable comparison to make is what it costs to pay for servers that are similar to ours, if purchased from a hosting company – like rackspace, etc. The present rates we are charging for simulators are less that the rates you would pay if you just got a blank machine from a hosting company. So you could argue that SL is pretty cheap in that sense.

Sorry, what? You pay 199 US$ for the quarter of a hosted machine in the US? I don’t think so. I am quite sure you can get better deals, and if not, host your damn machines outside the US. I can get a high-end server (not shared with anybody!) with unlimited transfer, fully managed, for 150 EUR per month in Europe without problems, and we usually aren’t the people with the cheap prices …

And setup fees for those machines are more along the lines of one monthly payment, not along the lines of 6 (again, a non-shared machine – multiply the LL prices by 4 to get what they really want to see for their market-priced dedicated server!). Oh, there might be some providers who require you to sign up for a longer base time – like half a year or a full year. That would be something that’s ok for LL, too – I would prefer shorter minimum rental times, but well, I could live with that. But selling me a 50% price hike as needed, because you are too cheap in comparison with others, when the explicit sample you give (dedicated hosting) is way cheaper, that’s silly.

I’m not the only one who is a bit stumped by this weird argumentation.

Written by barney

November 10, 2006 at 08:16

Posted in Second Life

Freebies, Reselling, Second Hand and Licenses

A problem that crops up every now and then – is it ok to resell freebies? Is Second Hand selling ok? Is there a way to enforce licenses? Several people in discussions reduce it to the three little checkboxes we have in the SL edit tools: copy/mod/trans. Check off the trans, they say. But what if your idea of licensing doesn’t map directly to the checkboxes? Some people seem to think that freebie builders inflict their crap on the market – a funny thought to an old GNU like me. So this is my personal view on all this – and of course it’s completely subjective from someone who is in the free software area for quite a lot of years now (and there is a reason why I say “free software” and not “open source”).

So what is it – are we limited to anything we can express in the little three checkboxes? Which would essentially mean we are limited to the equivalent of the BSD license – all open. Or to proprietary freebies – where you take away rights from the users in sharing modifications (by switching off trans or switching off copy).

My own freebies – for now the giant snake avatar and the two variants on the airship – are put out under a Creative Commons License. I use the Attribution-Share-Alike variant. So yes, it’s absolutely ok to mod my stuff, build your own on it, even to resell it. But what is not ok would be to say you built it (and so not attributing me for my work) – this is usually taken care of by the creator field in an object (except when you provide the root prim, in which case it would be appropriate to write something into your documentation). And it would not be ok to limit the rights of your users on stuff that you built based on my stuff – derivative work.

There is absolutely no way to enforce this second restriction – I can’t allow unrestricted modification and transfer, but on the same account restrict closing down rights for the next user. There is no “rights of next owner excludes the right to change the rights for the over-next user”. So should I stick to it and forget about the idea of share-alike? It would be what those tech-heads think …

Well, as the original author I allways have actions on my own I can do. For example someone sells stuff done by me, with reduced rights? Well, tell his customers what he does – it will spread, it won’t be good for him. Someone built derivative work and closes it down? Make it public, write about it. Make the modification yourself and put out your own thing as a freebie again, essentially killing his business. And if it is a rather bad case, a DMCA notice will do it’s job, too – just because there is no matching checkbox doesn’t say you don’t have the rights to put your own restricitons and rules in. Freebies aren’t law-free area (it’s much like with digital products in RL – you can’t just take a photograph made by someone else and resell copies of it without risking a DMCA notice, even though technically it is impossible to prevent this reselling, it’s still against law).

But allways keep one thing in mind, if you make freebies under open licenses: the guy ripping off people isn’t ripping off you – he is ripping off his customers. So tell them – they are the ones to be pissed, they are the ones to call for consequences. Not you – if you let out your freebie, it is there to stay and take on a life of it’s own. There will allways be the smartass some day who thinks to make the quick buck (or linden) on your freebie. If you are scared by that, better don’t go into the freebie-zone. Every thing you do has risks – and it’s the risk of freebies, that someone tries to make the quick linden on them. That doesn’t make this actions against your license any more legal – but it’s something you should keep in mind, should be prepared for.

Keep in mind why you do freebies: not to prevent others to do something, but to enable others to do something. Enabling others to learn from what you give out or to start their own stuff based on your work is more worth than preventing someone to ride your train without a chip – at least it should be, because if not, what are you doing in the freebie-zone?

Written by barney

November 9, 2006 at 14:09

Posted in Second Life