Friday, November 28, 2008

Only two to go

Things are improving on the real estate front, at least as far as my rentals are concerned:

This means I am currently at 85% occupancy, which is quite high! Perhaps we'll grow to even higher levels, with the weekend about to start. But, I'm not sure what impact the Thanksgiving holiday has on the US market. Are people spending more or less time in world during holiday weekends like these? I don't know, but perhaps the weekend will bring the last two tenants!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eve Online - Salvaging an income

I'm using the tractorbeam to pull wreckage of a defeated enemy to my ship, in order to take loot from it and salvage useful parts. Most of it gets sold; salvaging can bring in quite an income.

Speaking of income, the people running most of the day to day business of my Second Life rentals made some adjustments to their advertising and a couple of other things. The results are positive, as occupancy is way up. And so my Linden dollar balance..

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eve Online - Shuttle and station

Today was a difficult day in Eve Online.. at least for me an some other members of my corporation. In Eve, you learn, complete skill trainings and gain standings, and over time you grow to new mission levels. The problem is: these are really harder than those you got used to! I lost two ships in battle today, as did one of our corp members. The value of the ships she lost was way higher than mine; I lost for about 10 million ISK, she lost over 200.. ouch!

But still, EVE Online is a special environment. I just can't get enough of the environment - the graphics are so appealing to me. For a small sampling, check out the other snapshots at my Flickr page.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A few thoughts on the Google Lively demise

When Google Lively launched earlier this year, I soon found out it wasn't really appealing or interesting to me. Lively is an enhanced 3D chatbox, but not a virtual world; I didn't pay much attention anymore after the launch. Obviously that goes for lots of others, too, as Lively is about to be shut down by Google. What this all means for virtual worlds and 3D environments remains to be seen.

One of the drawbacks, at launch, was the closed nature of Lively. As said in this interview:

"As far as 3D user-created content and textures, it’s by invite only. You send a request and we approve the request as a developer and you sign a developer TOS. We’re going to be very aggressive about that, much more so than others"

At the time, I thought that was a bit foolish. Lively could have been a nice addition to many a corporate website, if properly branded. But by creating barriers in content creation process, Google effectively blocked the creative minds, the hobbyist pioneers, the pathfinders from toying around with certain important features of the Lively environment. I didn't think that was a smart move, but we'll never know if things could have been different if Google hadn't implemented this policy.

Another contestant in pretty much the same space as Lively, is Just Leap In. It's also a room based 3D environment, but less cartoonish than Google Lively. To me, it just looks a whole lot better, really, while having many of Lively's features. It's going to be interesting to see whether JLI can pull off where Google decided to call it quits.

MIA: the bad guys

Yesterday I had a weird mission in Eve Online. For those of you who are not familiar with Eve: every player can request a mission from an agent, who's a non player character (NPC). One gets missions according to your levels and standings and there are lots of different missions and types. Missions bring in money and improve your standings, which in turn brings in better missions, more money etcetera.

Yesterday I had one called "Lost Records". I had to retrieve some court documents, lost when the courier ship got blown up. The documents can be found in a container that floats around in deadspace, which are areas of space where mission fights usually take place. First you warp to the first deadspace room; there's a warp gate there that brings you to the second room where the cargo is. Both the warp gate and the cargo container are protected: when you get close enough, NPC enemies suddenly appear. At that point, you either grab the goods and run, or you stand and fight in which case you earn extra money and loot.. if you survive, of course.

But yesterday, nothing happened. I warped to the first deadspace room, approached the warp gate.. nothing. No enemy fighters protected the gate. A bit suprised, I activated the gate which transported me to the second deadspace room. Cautiously I flew to the cargo container, took the lost records on board.. nothing. Not an enemy in sight. They were supposed to appear when I got close enough to the cargo container, but zip, zilch! I hung around for a while, guns locked and loaded, waiting for a brawl which never came. I checked the mission status, which indicated the mission objective had been achieved. I was done, without having to fire one single shot!

I asked around with several corp members, but no one recognized it. Must have been some sort of bug..

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eve Online - Smugglers' gate

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eve Online: activating the gate

It's time to head out back into deep space once again. I still have 30 days of Eve game time left, time to use it! Here I am activating the jump gate to a deadspace region, where a gang of Angel Cartel thugs is waiting for me. Battle!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rock intros: what's your favorite?

At my day job, they're organizing a concert for charity, and I am playing in one of the participating bands. Some seven or eight bands will perform, and it's going to be a mixed bag with all sorts of music. I've never done this before, so I'm a bit anxious, but I think we'll have a lot of fun.

While preparing for the show, I had to listen to a lot of rock songs I usually don't listen to, and I noticed again how important the intro is. Often the intro will literally set the tone for the rest of the song; many songs are best known for or defined by their intro.

A good example is ACDC's Thunderstruck. Or, from another era, The Who's Pinball Wizard; a great intro by Pete Townshend. Similarly, the intro for Dire Straits' Money for Nothing builds up to a climax. Other intros however prefer to bring a mood instead of pure adrenaline, like GnR's November Rain or U2's With or Without you.

The examples are plenty..So what is your favorite rock song intro?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The nature of the open grid

Yesterday, an interesting discussion evolved on the OpenGrid mailing list. Participant Thomas Grimshaw brought up the subject of cross grid currency exchanges and trust between grids; how are we going to do that?

Intranet or Internet
From the discussion that followed I gather that several OpenGrid beta participants think individual grids will establish their own economies, and currencies which should perhaps be exchanged in some sort of way. It seems they expect grids to be very independent from one another; connected perhaps, but essentially standalone at the core. Connected intranets, so to speak.

Personally, I had a much more interconnected grid in mind. One grid, consisting of individual sims or gridlets (a sim hosting one or a few regions) operated by many different parties, but with a lot of shared properties like a currency. Very similar to the internet, which consists of countless web servers hosted and operated by perhaps millions of entities.

Currently, many people experimenting with OpenSim are geeks, hobbyists who run one or a few simulators, hosting a handful of regions. Gridlets, so to speak. On that scale, it does not make sense to invent your own currency. You can't normally get a meaningful economy going there. For those people, having one single currency and micropayment system to plugin to, makes much more sense.

How many currencies?
From and enduser perspective, it doesn't seem very userfriendly to create a multitude of (probably low trust) currencies either. They'd have to track ever changing exchange rates, and perhaps buy currency on each grid they want to buy stuff on. That's hardly a scalable solution, which also requires a lot of technical and procedural attention with regards to setting exchange rates and facilitating cross grid exchanges. And if you bought SeredBucks on my grid and I decide to pull the plug, where's your money then? I'd rather have an account with one reliable authority, which doesn't depend on one grid operator. Adam Frisby suggested as much when he mentioned Amazon's micropayment system in this discussion.

Whatever the grid will end up to be, it will probably be a little of both. We've got interesting times ahead of us!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

OpenSim: still under development, remember

As Linden Labs struggled with a virtual revolt after their OpenSpace announcements, some of Second Life's residents decided to check out the alternatives, most notably the OpenSim based OpenLife Grid. As reported by Hamlet, their experiences weren't all that good.

As I mentioned on Hamlet's blog: it's worth remembering that OpenSim is still very young. Officially, it's in Alpha stage. "Alpha" is is software development speak for "it's a partial, incomplete build, unpolished and probably unstable, but may incidentally work." A quote from the OpenSim site:

"Please note: As OpenSim is still at an alpha code maturity stage, there is absolutely no guarantee that functionality works or is stable, even in the numbered releases. Certain features may not work either because the code is in rapid evolution, or because functionality expected by the Linden Labs Second Life viewer has simply not been implemented yet. However, constructive feedback is still welcomed."

When dealing with customers, expectation management is an important thing, which should be handled correctly. OpenSim users should not expect to find a copy of Second Life when entering OpenSim based grids, simply because the base product isn't finished yet! OpenSim will evolve, and the OpenSim based grids will too. But it will take time, patience and lots of effort from people who code OpenSim in their spare time.

I love toying around with my OpenSim simulators, building stuff with the kids, the fun of creating your own sim, to be your own Linden! But I know and accept it's still under development, and so should other users.

SL on Ubuntu 8.10 no improvement

I have used quite a few Second Life viewers, both release candidates and normal viewers, on Ubuntu 8.04 - and with success. I had to disable visual effects for the desktop to get it running, but it worked smoothly. Yet, after installing Ubuntu 8.10, it doesn't work that good anymore. Performance is bad, screen redraws are slow, simulator crossings become obstacles on which the client will occassionally crash, especially when flying an airplane. I know 8.10 has new versions of Gnome and Compiz on board, perhaps something changed there. Any other experiences?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No pay per prim, but close

Today, M Linden posted an announcement regarding the Openspace controversy: A Letter to Second Life Residents. In this item, he announces a new pricing strategy: openspace sims and homestead sims. It's not my pay per prim proposal, but close enough. At least there's going to be a relation between usage and pricing, which seems reasonable enough to me. But, the exact prim and load limitations to be put on 'pure' openspace sims is going to be the defining factor for this new proposals' succes, and I haven't seen those yet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cross and lose

Last night I upgraded to Ubuntu 8.10. I must say it was a smooth upgrade, with all my own programs, like Second Life and Lotus Notes 8.5 beta 2,and my ATI card (!) still working perfectly after the process finished.

The current Second Life client however didn't perform well tonight. Earlier versions on 8.04 often made for a more smooth experience than Windows, but such that wasn't the case here. I don't know whether that had anything to do with Ubuntu, the SL client or Second Life itself however; I will reserve judgment on that until I have logged more user hours with it.

But, as I said, tonight it wasn't what it should be. Twice I lost an airplane while crossing a sim boundary, and I found myself alone in the dark skies, without a plane to pilot!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The neverending Linux Lib chase - part two

Yesterday I blogged about my problems with getting Mono and Nant going on a CentOS 5.2 64-bits Linux server. I need those to compile and run OpenSim, and I get stuck at the compiling part - the Nant task dies with an error.

Today I received notice from my old hosting provider, that my account cancellation was processed and will be effective - in april 2009! Apparently there's a six month period for cancelling. So I took the opportunity to use my old server there, a brand new CentOS 5.2 32 bits install, for another go at Mono/Nant/Opensim. And it worked, very easy even! Got Mono and Nant installed with Yum using the trick described in yesterdays' post, downloaded OpenSim, compile - it all just worked, at the first go.

Apparently the problem is with the 64 bits distro. There's no official Mono for RHEL 5 64-bits, so neither is there for Centos. The most recent available official Mono, is for RHEL 4 32 bits! I need to figure out what I have installed on the CentOS 64 bits server, and see if I can fix it to run reliably.

I don't pretend to understand why RHEL and CentOS are left out at Mono, but maybe the fact that much of the Mono downloads reside on Novell owned servers is a clue. Novell is RedHat's competitor in the Linux field, now that they own Suse, and they are sponsoring the Mono project. Perhaps that's why only recent Suse/OpenSuse distros are officially supported; all other Linux distros including RHEL, CentOS, Debian and Ubuntu, are not. Well, hhat'll help if you want to turn Mono into an industry standard, right?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The neverending Linux Lib chase

I am getting *so* tired of Linux, every now and then! I had some issues with my previous hosting party, so I switched to a new one, and I am currently renting a CentOs 5.2 64-bits server there. I got my IBM Lotus Domino server installed just fine, but the fun started when I tried to build an OpenSim install. I know I need Mono and Nant for that, so I installed those with a couple of yum commands, after adding the necessary repositories (see here). Getting OpenSim is easy, running prebuild too, but the fun starts with Nant. Nant actually builds the necessary executables, and this process fails with this error:

[csc] /opt/opensim/OpenSim/Region/ScriptEngine/Shared/CodeTools/Compiler.cs(34,17): error CS0234: The type or namespace name `JScript' does not exist in the namespace `Microsoft'. Are you missing an assembly reference?
[csc] Compilation failed: 1 error(s), 0 warnings
BUILD FAILED - 0 non-fatal error(s), 1 warning(s)

External Program Failed: /usr/lib/mono/2.0/gmcs.exe (return code was 1)
Total time: 0.9 seconds.

After this, it's been nothing but trying to install and reinstall mono, nant and other stuff, different versions and components, only to run into missing dependencies time and time again. Missing, missing, missing - it goes on and on, two evenings in a row.

The worst are people who suggest that you should install a certain library to fix this. How am I supposed to know what package to install to get that library?? Half of the time is lost with googling names just to find out what the heck it is I need to install. And of course, when I fin$d the right package for that library, it will fail because of a missing dependency..