Saturday, February 18, 2012

Keep your hat on

John 'Pathfinder' Lester (nĂ© Linden) is much too famous to require introduction here: that hat, 'taken from a pirate' (draw your own conclusions, people) is the trademark of a VW guru whose resume includes Harvard, SL, and Reaction Grid, with Jibe Worlds thrown in - for a more complete story, listen to the recent Metareality podcast where Gianna Borgnine interviewed him (brace yourself  for *sewper excited* voice).
He gets no puppy-dog adulation at the Hypergrid Adventurers' Club, which is the best club in the Metaverse. Here we are, outside the loos in osgrid (hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go) which are part of the Virtual Harlem/Africa build by SL legend and osgrid goddess Arcadia Asylum.
What 'is' the HGAC? It's a gentle forum for finding out what's going on in different parts of OpenSim. Meet and greet combined with outward bound. Path researches a destination, and then organizes a field trip to places like the Butterfly Grid, the World's Fair on Reaction Grid, or Aime Socrate's fabulous builds on NWG. Trops are generally either Tuesday or Thursday, check the Google calendar to be sure. He tells us a little bit about the place, and if, possible, arranges a visit when the grid owner's about so they can tell us something themselves.

The HGAC meets on Jokaydia grid so if you're new to all this, the easiest thing is to create an avie there, ahead of our field trips. Last year, the club met once or twice a week, on a dedicated sim, Pathlandia.
 After about 30 minutes of networking and the sharing of news and smart remarks, we traveled to our destination via 'blamgate'
...or even by Taxi, once or twice.
More recently, the club has gone minimalist, still meeting on Jokaydia Grid, but in the plaza at Scooter, the grid's welcome area..
With a background in teaching med students, Path is used to herding kittens, and hands out super-organized notecards so even if you're new at hypergridding, you won't feel too lost. The club meets at least a couple of times a month, and notices about upcoming meetings appear as emails through the Google group and via #HGAC on Twitter. This weekend, Birdie Notion,  Zotarah Shepherd, Delenn Daines, Anastasios Aurotharius and Ivy Innes  were of the party. The destination?
Pathfinder.Lester You'll see we're making just a single hop today to the region Andelain,  part of the New Zealand Virtual World Grid. Andelain is a Science Fictional Sanctuary jam-packed place full of references to different science fiction stories.
I forgot to mention, when you travel via hypergrid, as Path had done, from his own snappily named "dlinkddus" minigrid, your name acquires an extra bit, showing where you came from. Also I should say sometimes you have to jump twice, because places are too far away to make a single leap. A bit like long haul air travel.
As it happened, the Andelain sim was offline.Quick as a flash, Path came up with an alternative destination.

These are the underground tunnels, on Arcadia Asylum's Harlem/Africa build on osgrid, where you can gets killed, take the train, or I guess panhandle, as if there hasn't been enough of that in the SL art community this month.
Pathfinder.Lester notice that damage is ENABLED here, and Arcadia built a whole bunch of underground tunnels here. I've spent hours exploring this region. it's really amazing. takes a while for everything to load, but worth it. Takes a while to load all the textures here, just have to sit tight and hope something doesn't bite you and kill you while waiting. 
Thirza.Ember you're tryin to scare me and it's working
Pathfinder.Lester lots of the pieces of the tunnels are copyable, so you can take them and make your own.
  Delenn.Daines yup. looks like NY
Pathfinder.Lester shouts: I died! lol I impaled myself on something, and got kicked off the region BE CAREFUL MY FRIENDS!
 Zotarah.Shepherd Oh my!
 Arcadia is famous in SL from time immemorial for making high quality textures and builds, and giving it all away. Her motto 'Keep It Simple' is one that we can all learn from.
You have to come here. Down in the subway, take time to  read the hilarious posters, or, on the surface, tackle an armed gang - very exciting!
All this and King Kong. It's a place to come back to again and again, a treasure of the metaverse... and much better than shopping, an issue exercising many hypergrid devs and thinkers. 
The heart and soul of the Club are the love of the unknown, the opportunity to see much more than those places pushed in the Destination Guide, in good company. It's a wonderful way to meet interesting new people, and to get out there. In his interview on Metareality, Path says there should be - will be, in time - a system by which you can use one avatar to go everywhere in Open Sim, and have one inventory, so you can acquire things on different grids. Although, perhaps in the post-Amazon era, the idea of going to places to buy stuff is passed? 
So far, a lot of the freebies seem to be astonished hamsters and red phone boxes, but this is all changing too. Certainly, it would be nice to have all your wardrobe alternatives all in one place, even though hgridding has a tendency to make you lose attachments, especially shoes and headgear, and occasionally prim skirts, so don't go commando, ladies. That's where you know that Path is a cut above the rest of us mere mortals.  
By some magic, despite the hype, Path keeps it simple. Like Indy, however amazing the adventure, he always keeps his hat on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In and out of the box

Going to another grid is hard work. No wonder people stay put! It's all sitting in front of the screen, but man, this is exhausting, I'm getting square eyes!  Reaction Grid Thirza  came into existence  in '10, back when Caerleon had some art here. She's languished somewhat since then. It's Jokaydia Thirza who goes Hypergridding, occasionally passing through RG on the way to more exciting places. Seems unfair - maybe there are exciting places in RG, right? 
Erm... RG Thirza had a default noob skin best described as 'Woman vs. Eyeshadow' and the usual Walmart combo of jeans and tee favoured by the makers of basic outfits, and some random black hair. For sanity's sake, basics are a must. Only as I brought them into RG did it occur to me how much work all this is! But the alternative is trawling through endless boxes of drek from the Freebie shop, which is an unsatisfying and long job. The following are essentials:
Shape. Got a shop-bought shape in SL? you're going to want to get a piece of paper and note down all the names and numbers on all the sliders. Then, in your inventory, go to 'Create' and make a new shape, painstakingly copying the numbers. It's a lot of work, but then the shape belongs to you and you can export it onto your computer and import it to any grid you want.  OK I've lost some of you already...
Skin and eyes. Eyes are not too hard, either draw or paint; otherwise, google 'eye iris' and see if you can find something you like, to put on a white background. For personal use only, obviously. Another source (and not just of eyes) is Opensim Creations. For the skin, that's a little harder - but much less than it was a year ago. Several people have made their skins available to download, share, and modify for free. Eloh Eliot's skins from 2007 are still the best place to start, even if you're not a photoshop wizard, but simply want to play about with lip color. Ina Centaur's skins are detail rich, but have two disadvantages, they're saved in a weird type of file (not simple non-paranoiac psd or png), and the women are all homely. Some manly men there, though, so give it a glance, if that's how you roll.
Hair. Thirza's took 15 versions and about 3 months of on-again off-again frustration. Simple sculpty shoes plus foot alphas are also frustrating - but nobody in opensim seems to mind seeing bare feet. Clothes are way easier, but still time-consuming. Craft Grid's elegant shop is full of Josina Burgess and Nicola Reinerman creations, while osgrid has the Fabulous Ada Wong. Most grids are pretty dire, though. Come prepared. Linda Kellie's enormous collection of free and modifiable clothes will give you a jump start at making your own fashion, with wrinkle layers, cuffs, lacy bits and clothing textures. It's impossible to overstate what a star Linda is, in making all her clothing available and modifiable this way. Use Robin Wood or Chip Midnight's clothing templates in Photoshop or Gimp and get creative! It's way more relaxing than trying to follow the plot of NCIS.
Frillies A loop rezzer lets you build prim skirts. To export them from the grid where you make them, you'll need to be the creator of all the prims.  Imprudence Viewer has Export in the pie menu: rezz your object, then click through till you see it. 
If Export isn't lit up, it means you don't own all the prims. Importing is done via File at the top of your screen-  if you created all the textures that were on the original object, they too will be saved with the prims in your computer. 
Here's me importing a skirt into Reaction Grid, together with hair and texture. Of course, all uploads are FREEE !!!
Whoa that feels better ! it's time to take a turn about Reaction Grid!  It's still home to the excellent World's Fair, featured in an earlier post. What elseis here?
Some great RL paintings in the gallery on sim Arte, the Catholic University of Peru stronghold. 
 The Grid HQ is a fancy piece of modern architecture, too, and there's this Drive In, high in the sky.
It's early morning in the US, so it's no surprise that there are few people around. OK - make that nobody. For anyone used to SL on a weekly basis, all of opensim has that make-do-and-mend feel, but ReactionGrid feels more than most like a backwater where the shark has most definitely jumped. A cardboard world. These posters aren't helping...

At last I found some life. Six avatars hard at work on the Bedfordia sim. What I took to be a noob was getting to grips with a door script, hiding behind a hill. 

On the other side of the hills, the other five avatars beavered away at what seemed to be a Science Fair, but since none of them would give me the time of day, I can't be sure. No amount of standing around provoked them into comment.  
Torley's textures were all over the place like a rash. The workers walked, rather than working from cam, from one boxy build to the next. Be fair, it's a work in progress, but this is a long way from Second Life. Iron sharpens iron, and while it's true many parts of SL are prosaic and even badly built, the good bits, the innovative exuberance, the preconcept-defying adventurous bits, inspire creative flight. Which you need, if you're going to do science right, don't you agree?
The Bedfordia is a brave attempt at building by newcomers. But I hope these Bedfordians also take time to go and see what's out there. If they like straight lines and, lord know, i'm a fan, then they could start with Oberon Onmura's new build at the LEA where 15,000 pointy prims are set on a month-long collision course.
He's definitely outside the box.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Push to go

Garry Beaumont has 'no imagination' - or so he says. But pay no attention to that, because this army type who 'likes to press all the buttons' has got some serious curiosity going on, not to mention an eye for detail and the patience to make some fantastic vehicles and gadgets.  In his testosterone-packed store in Wright Plaza, the much labelled motorcycle maniac explained his presence on osgrid.

Garry Beaumont:  I like osgrid, because you have to work at it if you are not techno, and I love the fact that it's all free. The only thing that's frustrating is the viewer; I liked hippo, but now am back using Imprudence - but osgrid will get that sorted soon, it's always changing and improving!  I dont think I've made anything to be proud of yet, I'm not that good! the submarine was the first thing i made on here, but when I look at it now, it looks poor.
Looks pretty good to me...

Garry Beaumont:  If I had to choose the piece I'm most fond of, it would probably be the tank I made with only one finger on my right hand. That is all i could move when I came here, so it was hard to do!  I type with one finger, like most people, but try building with only one! CTRL ALT DEL is a pain! I hit a truck on a motorcycle head on. I should not be here at all, really. I was sat for a long time looking at the computer, then I thought of the days when I was in SL, and started to look at what was out there. In Google, I read about this new grid that was doing things differently, and decided to try it.

Garry left SL, tired of the drama. Then, he had a big accident - truck vs motorcycle, head on. As a result, he could only move one finger. Interestingly, many of the good friends he had left behind in SL were wounded soldiers, whose courage in the face of terrible injuries and long, difficult recoveries gave him the strength to face his own journey back to mobility with a good attitude, and a sense of humour. Garry couldn't get over osgrid Thirza's sexeh a/o which had decided to keep me alternately  trotting on the spot, or gliding like a mummy. 
Garry Beaumont: I like your walk, it makes me laugh. Never seen a walk like it  you should box it up and sell it.
Maybe I should, it would be a good counterbalance to Garry's boy's toys. Is that a tank, or...?

During his years in SL, Garry never made anything - he remembers once putting together a simple Tp device, that's all. It's amusing to look back and think of the little noob house he had, just the right size to fit on a 512 region. Now he spreads himself out over one of Nebadon Izumi's megaregions, and wonders how he ever consented to be so cramped. His interest in art is always understated, always referential, often flavoured with a late-night effect, never more so than in this osgrid version of Hopper's Nighthawks, with good friends Avia Bonne and Richardus Raymaker.

Considering his interest in vehicles,  does opensim's notorious lack of physics, and scripting issues, hold him back?

Garry Beaumont: Not really, because I make my bikes and so on wearable.  Personally, I do not like to script, it is too much like work for me, and it makes my head hurt! But when I need it, there's plenty of help available. 

He produced a fine cine camera.
Garry Beaumont: This is available in my store on Wright. I set the buttons to run 4 films. Inworld video went a bit awry with Youtube a while back, so Neb made a new script that links to archives. I got that from him. Nebadon Izumi is everyone's friend on here, from the noob to the old timer and the dim, like me! I try not to bug him if I get stuck I ask the helpers on the IRC chat channel.
We went inside the submarine and I listened for pings on the sonar. Next project for Garry will be making a new version of a friend's build, called Gone City. How does he see the future of the grid in general?

Garry Beaumont: Osgrid is getting better all the time, but you can never tell in this life where you will be tomorrow. It would be good to see more people - the the right people, yes. And when it comes to technology, give me it now, give me more! I press all the buttons!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Mist Land

Going to CondensationLand is like visiting Tibet, like in Lost Horizons, maybe, but without the plane crash. Or wait, no, there is quite a bit of crashing; and a fair old bit of what feels like walking into the wind, in terms of lag. 
Condensation Land is a small grid consisting of just eleven islands, occasionally reachable from Osgrid, sometimes accessible directly via the grid manager, once you get permission to create an account from Zonya Capalini  who, along with Ludmilla Writer and Favio Piek, founded the Land long before the dawn of mesh. The weight of prims often prompts OutOfMemory errors, making the grid crash, and RL interests have drawn Zonya away from the project. But should you get a chance to sneak in here, you'll find it's like entering a secret garden, a special place of strange imagination and exuberant prims.
It is a girl's first job in any world to import hair, skin, shape, and at least one dress, and that takes about an hour when you're new at it, between the crashing and the importing objects. It feels good to do so, it feels like an investment in the place. OK no shoes. I can live without them. This is a place for flying and staring out over the battlements of improbable castles, or becoming one with the land's very own Klein Bottle.
The bottle turned out to be empty; in this antique world that came as no surprise. There is a strangely airlocked feel to Condensation Land. Knowing you are utterly alone on a grid is not a new experience to me.  In both Craft and my own minigrid, many's the evening I've spent without a soul around. But Condensation Land is like a Lost World, a place of silent awe, of certainty that any speck of pixeldust I might stir with my bare toes will stay moved for the longest time.
It is the evidence of activity, frenzied, purposeful, flamboyant building, that makes the sensation of stillness so poignant. Omurtag Milev's three sims Temple, Conceptior, and Angelico Miguelis burst with energy. Zonja's videos bring it to life.
  Walking quietly in this strange land, it rains down on the visitor just what it means to attempt escape velocity from the orbit of  Second Life. This place is a condensation of all the existential questions, a meditation on the missed opportunities, and the grasped possibilities, the virtues and the drawbacks that come with not being in the 'first world' of VR which we all either love or hate, or both.

Quiet loveliness is here. Like a mystical mosaic hidden in a misty mountaintop monastery, the art in Condensation Land has a special value, one that no Linden Endowment can touch... the effort required to see it. I wonder how many pushing, ambitious artists know what value that would add to their work - a little subtlety, a little more reserve.

To visit glorious, mysterious Condensation Land for yourself, contact Zonja Capalini via email for more information.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rhomb here to Eternity

The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of a probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance
Wizard Gynoid is all about the Golden Rhombus these days, and it's led to an exciting new discovery about complex geometric shapes, which she describes on her blog. We have the opportunity to experience the quiet mystery of it, in InWorldz at Wizard/120/140/23 (when is IWz going to get functioning WZURLs? I ask nobody in particular.) Her creation looks a bit like a piece of brain, as it turns, orbiting rather than rotating, it calls to mind something Escher would make; the rhombuses or rhombi are all the same shape, size and colour, but don't seem so.
Wizard Gynoid: I like it 'cause it is deceptive. It looks like it's made of squares and cubes and boxes, but it's not. It's made from the Golden Rhombus.
We were quiet for a bit, just watching the oddity. The Golden Rhombus, I thought, would make a good name for a restaurant.
Wizard Gynoid: Or a liquor drink.
Thirza Ember: 'Ambassador, with this delicious Golden Rhombus, you're spoiling us.' or no - 'Hey, it's after 6, I'll have a Golden Rhombus on the rocks'.
Wizard Gynoid: 'I'll take a Golden Rhombus right between the eyes, thank you.'
One thing has led to another, with this rhombus story. She was inspired to build a crystal flower from the same root matter; it too is a zonohedra, and is squeezed in among the other Sacred Toys in the Temple.
Wizard Gynoid: The crystal flower is made of five petals, growing out from a center point, and has  icosahedral  symmetry. I'm into crystals at the moment, and over here are some real crystal structures I made for the Elf Clan Fantasy Art Festival, which is on right now. Soror Nishi, Ub Yifu, Scarp Godenot and a bunch of other peeps were involved also. As you probably know, the Elves recently escaped SL, and came to Inworldz. This thing glitters like it is crystalline; it's significant because this is the real atomic crystal structure that the world is based on, which is why I suggest it with the orbiting electrons.
Wizard Gynoid: InWorldz is great because it lets me make stuff big. and link them together. This object is almost a thousand prims. not possible in SL.
You need to tp to sim Wizard in InWorldz to truly get the effect. Don't forget to friend us when you get there.
Thirza Ember: It's always fascinating to me how, no matter what, we come back to nature. Inside our computers, it's a virtual world far from rain or mud or snow; it might be as alien to Earth as the Moon, or space itself - far from the natural substances of the world. But no. Whether it's traditional plants or the more surreal kind, like the ones soror makes, or this kind of meditation on form - it's still all nature.
Wizard Gynoid: I think duplicating nature in here is ok, but there is so much more potential to do things. To explore the inside of your mind. Which is nature, I guess, too...
Thirza Ember: I guess that's our axis, we can only spin on it.
Wizard Gynoid: The crystals of gold and silver and lead and copper look like this which is very alchemical -they are the classic metals. I found afterwards that they matched, so that was sorta synchronous.
Huh - so maybe she'll figure out finally how to make gold from baser metals?
Wizard Gynoid: I'm not out to make a fortune. I'm not materialistic. I just want to make beauty and help others to see it.