Dec 7, 2007

Congratulations VR5 Team!

We would like to extend our congratulations to our own William Burns (Darian Knight) for bringing home the greatest award in Active Worlds Universe - the Cy Award, for his recreation of a BP Gas Station.

The Cy Award is the equivalent of receiving an Oscar in Virtual Reality and is the highest honor you can achieve. Once again, congratulations! The award was a dual award with Sabrina who also lent her helping hand in it's construction, which adds two Cy Awards to the total amount of awards in VR5 World.

Also Will and Wes recently won Best Build for AW Expo 2007, with their design and effects for their expo booth this year, making it two years in a row that they have won this award.

Here's looking to what surprises are in store for 2008. In the mean time, Happy Holidays from VR5 Online!

Nov 3, 2007

2007 AWExpo

The VR5 Online Expo booth is once again making a grand appearance at the annual AWExpo in the Active Worlds Universe. Complete with our working Hoverboards, Arcade Machines, Streaming Trance Music and Trippy Particle Effects. Below I've posted some screenshots of our virtual Expo Booth as seen in AWExpo World. The Expo will be running from November 2nd to November 4th, so drop into the AW Universe (download the Metaverse EX browser from our site) and teleport to the world AWExpo to hang out with the crew of VR5 Online.

We look forward to meeting you there!

William Burns (aka: Darian Knight)

Oct 3, 2007

Tyson Foods, Inc Demo Booth

Something we were working on with Digitell Inc this evening for a demo in the morning. It's a Tyson Foods, Inc Demo Booth for a digital expo. I think it came out very nice with the lighting and various final touches.

If you are interested in having your
company represented for educational, training or expo purposes in a virtual environment, stop by Digitell Inc for more information and a tour -

We're just hoping they are happy with the results of this demo we put together with Digitell Inc.

Oct 2, 2007

All is quite on the western front...

With the VR5 World research project finished, things have gotten very quiet in the public space concerning our company.

We've been working on a new Galaxy system with Digitell Inc in Jamestown, NY - dubbed Virtual U. It's a galaxy class AW virtual system designed for business, conferences and seminars. This has more or less been taking most of our time and I apologize for the latency in keeping everyone up to date.

In other news, the Cy Awards are coming up this November - one of the only awards I really wanted to win but never did. I've donated a few things for the awards ceremony world (some custom particle creations) and I'll see about actually attending this year (as I usually have whenever the Cy Awards have been going on).

As for project Prometheus, it's moving forward after a boat load of logistics and some original issues with the networking and infrastructure. Now that those things seem to be taken care of, it'll be moving forward. We're hoping to have a demo of this within 3 - 6 months as time permits.

What exactly is Prometheus? I guess I could let some of the news out. Point blank it's yet another research project but with a twist. We're trying to once and for all create a virtual worlds browser system that is easy to use, but also makes use of a number of techniques that no other company has used before.

Things like a custom P2P hybrid transfer system to eliminate bottlenecks and server dependency. Procedural routines to allow the users to create high resolution textures that will intelligently scale in quality with the hardware viewing it. Procedurally generated content such as trees and multi-layered atmosphere with full clouds generation system, and more.

We set the bar really high with this one, but we really think it's possible to accomplish if we just put our minds to it. Octree and Portal Culling for blazing fast framerates, allowing higher definition content without the FPS hits you normally see in a virtual world. Lot's of ideas are on the table with this project, mostly stemming from our time creating content in the Active Worlds universe for research in the City of Nidus.

As usual, we're not sure how effective our efforts will be, but at least we can say we're giving it a go...

In other mildly related news - the phone lines for the company have been purposely taken down during this time and will remain this way indefinitely. We are spending a majority of our time between Digitell Inc and also developing Prometheus, and really will not be accepting any other contracts for awhile.

I know this is very unorthodox, but seeing as the phone line was routed to our cellphones for immediate responses, we decided to remove the number and service indefinite while we work on these things without interruptions.

We appreciate your business, as usual, but for the time being we will only be responding to our emails. If you are a company looking to contract us for consulting or work, please use our contacts page and email to get ahold of the appropriate person, or if you need an immediate response you can email me personally - DarianKnight AT

I thank you for your understanding ahead of time concerning these matters, but our research for the time being is more important and we would rather not overload our company with contracts and split out time from the high end projects we are working on.

Jul 26, 2007

WebRage Returns

Like a zombie in a bad B-Rated movie, Web Rage made it's triumphant return today from beyond the grave.

What is this Web Rage, you ask?

WebRage is a small program I made in 2003 that essentially takes a snapshot of the screen
and then allows you to mercilessly shoot and claw at it with the left and right mouse buttons.

Thats it. Made for Windows only, it wasn't a perfect program, but it worked just fine for what I was attempting to accomplish: stress relief when something crashed or just didn't want to work right. Also good for websites that just tick you off to no end.

I've fixed the old install version so it now works (old one had a bad header), and this one should work fine now. You can download it here if you would like a blast from my past :) if this version doesn't work for you, drop me an email at and I'll make a Zip version for you.

[ Download WebRage]

Jul 25, 2007

Space Station Bingo :)

Well, today the world AWBingo3 opened it's doors (?) to the public for consumption. AWBingo3 is known as Space Station Bingo, and I had a hand in it's creation. The effects on the bingo cards (the neon lights and the rockets), as well as a few minor other touches at the ground zero.

What was a side track for me a few months ago is now to be a part of AW history, and daily gaming in the Active Worlds Universe.

The rest of the place was made by Keith Thomas (Planet Radio VR), King Tex (Ground Texture) and a few others for models.

So what exactly did I contribute to Space Station Bingo (AWBingo3)?

Neon Lighting on the Cards
Rocket Jet Effects under each card
The Traffic in the sky (Space Highway)

There was something else too but I can't remember off hand. In any event, after all of the hard work by many people (not just me), the place looks great. I hope it becomes a long term center of Bingo gaming in the AW Universe for years to come.

In Other News

Made a new Caustics Particle Effect by making a custom 32 frame animation as a WMV file at 126k in size and using it as an asset in a particle. What does this mean? It means that while AW as a technology doesn't use Shaders or HDR Lighting (but I can wish, right?) a semi-realistic caustics lighting animation can be used for underwater and placed over textured ground.

Looks ten times better than the old school JPG animation for water, plus as a Particle it can be resized at will, as well as colorized and variable opacity for effect. Darian FTW!

Also donated it to AWFX world for download and use freely. Talked with Tunablues and Dreamer2 who will prolly be using some of my effects for the new Cy Awards this year - Particle Lighting and Caustics for Water. I look forward to seeing that in action :)

So look for some new additions to the AW community coming soon at a popular world near you.

Also - I take no personal responsibility for what the VR5 World has become. I know there are a number of people who have been telling me how it was better before, and all I have to say is thus:

The world is no longer under VR5 ownership or control. If you would like the place to look better, then by all means tell Neocube and maybe it will encourage him to strive for better. Thanks :)

I Has A Flavor - William Burns

Jul 24, 2007

Something I've been working on :)

Hey, just another day here at VR5 Online... drink so
me Coca Cola, watch some TV, play some video games, and make some custom photo realistic heads for use in the AW browser.

Oh wait.. that last one isn't so normal. Well, anyway - that is something that has been occupying my time along with the Prometheus project. I was set out on the task of figuring out how to make realistic avatar heads. So my inspiration to start were the heads used in Active Worlds and Second Life shown below (respectively).

The first is obviously the best example of a Second Life avatar face I could find off hand (though there are undoubtedly others). The next in line is the latest incarnation of avatar style from Active Worlds Inc (though there are working on avs that at least look as good as Second Life). And last but not least is my entry into this forum of 3D Modeling, as taken from the Active Worlds environment (all snapshots of my head are taken live from the AW environment).

Here are a few more pictures at different angles so you can get a better look, click each for the full size image:

The head itself is using a 512x512 texture map custom made by me, and the actual 3D model of the head is also custom made using specialized software which I will leave unnamed for the time being. The total number of polygons for the head itself is about 3,000 - although I am sure it could be optimized a bit more if needed.

The obvious lack of hair on the head (other than the texture map) is due to a lack of a separate layer added over top the head for hair to blend into the underlying texture map on the skull. Remember, this is a base head and not the finished deal.

Ambient is set to 0.5 on the head in order to give it a nice self shadowing effect in the light. Also, turned the culling on in the model itself so the inside would not display (which prolly ups the frame rate a bit in light of the 3,000 polygons). All in all, I believe that the face of an avatar is what people are paying attention to most of the time, so why not focus most of the detail there and skimp on the rest of the body if you need to?

There are two ways I'm thinking I could go for the hair, but I believe I will be testing out the usage of Shader 2.0 effects for dynamic and flowing hair on these heads (yes I made more than one, I'm just showing you this one) and yes I am really enjoying these HDR Lighting and Shaders lately... too bad neither AW nor Second Life have HDRI or Shaders... oh well.

Well, thats about it for now -

In Other News

Will be starting a project with Digitell Incorporated in New York State in the next few weeks. Working on a new Galaxy server with them for Expos and Conferences. I think I am the BASF guy involved (meaning I don't make a lot of the things you use, I make them better). Or in other words, I'm technical consultant, designer and all around creative solutions guy.

Hence the Photo heads, by the way. Clients of Digitell Inc will more than likely want the ability to have their avatars look exactly like them in real life - so I figured I would start with a test using my own face. The head was made using 2 photos and roughly 3 hours of modeling (which is why it's not *exactly* right).

Anyway, aside from Prometheus (which is coming along nice, by the way), this is what will be occupying most of my time here at VR5 Online. So busy, busy, busy....

Well, back to work :)

Looking for LOLCats - William Burns

Jul 13, 2007

Sneak Peak

Quick demo reel I put together to show off the various effects of Shader 2.0 and High Dynamic Range Lighting. Shader 2.0 support is native to Prometheus so these types of effects are easily implemented and put to use with little to no hassle.

Jul 4, 2007

VR5 Gets a Mention on Indy Gamer :)

Recently, Jamie Sanders of vNES fame was asked to write a short history of Virtual NES for a small gaming blog called Indy Gamer. It pines through the original creation as well as some of the more memorable moments in the history of his now world famous Virtual NES emulator. In it, there is a blurb about how Dreamhost went on a Digital Millenium Copyright Act rampage against him and shut the servers down (although he was getting over 1 million hits a day), and how VR5 was one of the entities that gladly came to his defense (quite successfully).

If you do not already know, Jamie is the genius who graciously paired up with us here in VR5 world to create a version of his emulator that would work within the confines of the Active Worlds universe, and is the backbone of our Nidus Arcade (across from the ground zero). Currently undergoing upgrades to both the server and the code, the Nidus Arcade is currently non-functioning until some server bugs are worked out, though he hopes to get the glitches taken care of in the near future.

If you have a chance, by all means take a minute or two and read the full article here.

In Other News

If you haven't already heard the news, the VR5 World is now under new management (the 3D world, not the company). The new world owner Neocube (Paul Sybrandy) has graciously renewed the world in order to preserve it's historical value as well as remain open to the public as both a home to those who have dug their roots and also for builder inspiration.

As generally noted, the VR5 world was a research project by VR5 Online for the past two years, of which it has won a couple of awards and has been nominated numerous times. It raises the benchmark in many areas for builders new and old to aspire to. As of June 24th the research part of our project has come to an end and we have moved on to the secondary phase which does not include the use of Active Worlds technology.

Paul Sybrandy (Neocube) has stated that he intended to renew the world with the goal of keeping it as a historical landmark and inspiration to other builders in the community, but that being said, does not exclude that the world be some day wiped clean and used for other purposes. The world is no longer in the hands of it's parent company VR5 Online, and as such our involvement will diminish over time.

We would like to thank everyone who has been involved with the VR5 research project over the past two years, and here's to whatever the future holds under the new world owner.

Working on something nifty - Darian Knight (William Burns: CTO VR5 Online)

Jun 29, 2007

Party of the Year - Hands Down

Courtesy of AWNews

Written by Jaguar Hahn

VR5—Usually weekends are great times for parties, right? Right. [Saturday night] I decided to roll into a rather interesting party. No, this wasn't a normal party, this was a party in VR5 world, which was about to close its doors for good after tonight. The owners of the world were celebrating many years of the great VR5 world serving the AW community. They thought it would seem fit to go out with "not a bang, not a party, but a BASH!"

If you have never been to VR5, they have been home to many things in our universe. The first band to play in the Active Worlds Universe, Aztech Rising, held a concert in VR5 a while back at the Nidus Arena. GSK held his virtual isolation here. They have created and launched many successful web sites since their creation and have also designed 3D versions of McDonalds, Starbucks , Best Buy, Target and Alienware. And they have even created their own "Metaverse" browser, which streamlines the Active Worlds experience and enhances it for users.

Upon entering the world, I discovered a basic layout of a stage, some seats and a hotel. I thought to myself, 'wow, this will probably be an ok event.' Boy was I wrong. Right as 7:10pm VRT rolled around, the first event began: a light show that everyone was looking forward to. We were treated to a FABULOUS light show, with everything from snowy white particles to different colored spotlights and spiraling rainbows. Lights came from the tower, they came from the stage, they came from the sky, they came from everywhere. I have never seen so many different effects in my life. It was the best light show I've ever seen. GSK revealed to me that the entire thing was custom. The music was grand, but the particles and lights clearly stunned everyone. By the time it was over, the entire crowd was shouting for an encore. It was that good.

Click For Full Story

Jun 23, 2007

Victory From The Jaws of Defeat...

I'm just as surprised as you are about this turn of events.

Neocube graciously offered to renew the world and also went through a lot of convincing to get me to agree to it. If nobody yet knows, I have been assigned to another project outside of Active Worlds so I will be fairly scarce. Neocube is the new world owner, and has placed me as second in charge and Brina as Head of Security.

Other than that, nothing to really report, other than Windows Vista is pretty good so far (but still annoying) and Active Worlds seems to run like crap on it. This coming from a guy with a brand new laptop and a Gigabyte of RAM with a new Graphics Card and all the updates.

Hope AWI works out the quirks...

I heard the Cy Awards are gonna happen this year as well, maybe in October. At the moment, it seems like a cool idea, but honestly I'm personally done shooting for a Cy Award.

Neocube and I had a nice long talk about what we would like to do with the VR5 World for the next year and the jury is out at the moment. So I guess we all take a vacation and do this day to day.

I'll post some things in here as I get the time, but for now, let's take some time and reflect :)

Enjoying Summer Vacation - Darian Knight

Apr 29, 2007

2007 Best Use of Innovative Technology!

VR5 Online - Winner of a 2007 Support AW Award

Category: Best Use of Innovative Technology

I would first like to personally thank the panel of judges who voted for us this year. Secondly, I would like to officially thank everyone who has been involved with the VR5 world over the past few years - the entire team has done an amazing job!

If it wasn't already known, VR5 as a world is a research project funded by the company VR5 Online of Lafayette, New Jersey. It was never intended to be a commercial project (though some things we have made have been sold). Instead our focus these past few years has been to push the Active Worlds technology to it's limits.

This is also a double edged sword as well. We are fully grateful for the award and what it means, but as a result, the project leader and CEO of the company, Brad Clark has made the decision not to renew this project for another year. The VR5 research project has attained all of it's objectives as set forth in 2005, with the final being public recognition for works attained. I would like to take a moment and list some of the project milestones:

  1. Integration of a P2P system for management of bandwidth on an Object Path.
  2. Use of photo realistic quality models, including human character (Adam Phase 2).
  3. Integration of Live Television to create a virtual cable channel
  4. Modification of the browser to allow for features currently not included (Metaverse EX)
  5. Dynamic Marketing tests for feasibility and user interaction
  6. Photo textures used for every day objects (the roads in VR5)
  7. Integration of the Virtual NES system with Jamie Sanders
  8. Live Music Concert with online shop, real food, and fireworks|light show
  9. Replication of a real life structure in VR - Papa Johns, Starbucks, BP Fuel, AW Expo Booth
  10. Web 2.0 Integration
  11. Web Desktop Integration
  12. Active Desktop Integration of the Browser
  13. Exploration of ambient sound for environment use
  14. Various Functionality In World
  15. Snow and Rain using the Particle Booster Technique (1 particle per 20x20)
  16. Particle Lighting Techniques
  17. Access local computer via VR
  18. Use of Avatars as Movers (Ghosting) to allow Tourists an Avatar Preview
  19. Integration of Multi-player Online boardgames (Monopoly, Sorry, Scrabble, Battleship)
  20. Use of Natural Text To Speech for Voice Cues

These are just a few things we've accomplished from this project since 2005. The current date for the end of this project is June 24th, 2007 - and as such I have been told that the company will allow it to expire.

Again, this isn't an entirely bad thing, as we are working on other projects as a result of the findings from this one. Some persons in Active Worlds will be overjoyed at our leaving, while many will be sad -

For those who are overjoyed at our decision to leave - keep in mind we are doing so to apply what we've learned in Active Worlds towards other projects we are working on. This isn't a recent decision by any means, and has been a pending decision since last year (you are welcome to check the past news entries at:

We will still specialize in Active Worlds technology at VR5 Online, but our focus will be on our latest project - Prometheus.

Again, thanks are in order to all of the people throughout AW over the years who have taught us never to accept less than the best.

I would also like to personally thank Daphne, rest in peace. She was my first personal inspiration for pushing the limits with this technology. She used to tell me that impossible isn't an answer, but a dream that should be pursued. And all of these years, I kept that in mind. Today, at least for me, I have upheld at least one promise.

Thank you Daphne for always being there and inspiring me to do better - you will never be forgotten. And I believe if she was still around today, she would be proud...

Both Happy and Sad - William Burns [CTO VR5 Online]

Feb 27, 2007

Dcentralized Content Distribution Network

What would happen if a single web server were suddenly inundated with an abnormally high amount of bandwidth, such that the cost of serving the content far outweighed the acceptable cost per user ratio intended by the publisher? This is known as the "slashdot" effect and can be applied to a number of scenarios across the digital publishing realm.

What inevitably happens is that, a small publisher of content creates a particular amount of media (be it an article, graphic, executable application, etc) that somehow finds massive appeal and favor among millions of people around the world. This in turn opens a virtual floodgate of people trying to access the content online, and thus the servers (of which the publisher is more than likely leasing) are collectively bombarded with content requests.

For a fortified server, such is usually not a problem as bandwidth is appropriated accordingly. But for low bandwidth servers (or say, publishers who cannot afford large bandwidth) we see either that the website in question is obliterated under the weight of the traffic, or that the host charges massive overages to the publisher - of which the publisher many times cannot afford.

Decentralized Content Distribution in this scenario can easily alleviate the major cause of this, while using very little of the network resources individually, but overall serving the content as though it were from a high speed server. Undeniably, 10k/sec from a large amount of servers adds up in the end just as pennies can add up in the large scale of things.

So say your server was being requested of 10k/sec. On your access per month, this amounts to very little and is inconsequential. But now multiply that by 200 servers, and you see that the content can be served at around 2000k/sec or higher (depending on the actual Kb/sec each server is appropriating). So, like a vest of Kevlar, when the bullet (the millions of requests) hit the main server, the Decentralized Network intercepts the bullet and spreads the traffic across a large area in small doses.

For websites, this seems to work amazingly well and, in fact, some websites currently handle their traffic this way (with 25 million users even though the main server remains low on bandwidth usage). The idea here is that I got to thinking about how this could be used in order to solve an age old problem concerning online Virtual Reality.

In one of the earliest written synopsis for an online virtual community (Habitat) Morningstar and Farmer pointed out that in order for a wide scale virtual environment to continually grow the servers of the content could not be centralized. Decentralization was key to the continued advancement and growth of virtual environments. I would like to believe also that this pertains to the "environment server" as well as the content server (many times these two are seperate), though I am currently focusing on a solution for the content end (with the environment server being a consideration well into the future).

When I muse of this, what I am thinking is that while current systems can easily handle tens of thousands of simultaneous users, the price per user begins to see an exponential increase in cost proportional to the amount of users. In essence, we see an exponential increase when the system is centralized.

Taking this into account, even the best planned and programmed system will begin to see an ultimate limit as to how many users can co-exist per centralized server before the costs of that system become prohibitive to it's expansion. And herein lies the point of Decentralized Content Distribution Networks.

While I am unfamiliar with the detailed mechanics of systems such as Second Life or There, I do understand that they take a fundamentally similar approach to the content that is served in their virtual environments. While Second Life effectively "streams" content using a derivative of the RealMedia system (as Phillip Rosedale was one of the creators of the format) I am want to believe that the content still comes from a centralized system of servers. In this much I am certain, though it is quite possible that the Second Life system also groups persons by node in order to offload the distribution of the content. I could be very wrong in the last aspect, but the behavior of the system seems to warrant such node grouping.

In recent months, I have read such articles wherein a self replicating object in the Second Life environment has managed to disable their servers, so in light of this new information I am now leaning toward the idea that they are attempting to run the Second Life environment on a centralized system.

This in itself is fine if a company in this field wishes to establish a user base of no larger than 100,000, but around such time, the cost per user will begin to skyrocket out of control as the numbers increase past this threshold.

In the end, seeing as I am interested in the theoretical applications of virtual environments and it's advancement, I have found that the Active Worlds environment seems to be the most receptive to this line of testing, and have continued toward attempting to find solutions to problems outlined in the synopsis "Lessons Learned From Lucasfilm's Habitat" Morningstar & Farmer, of which happens to be attempting to address the centralization problem.

Over the past few months I have indeed found a very plausible candidate for solving this Decentralization aspect within the Active Worlds environment by routing the Object Path through a server-side P2P network which self replicates and organizes the information from a main server across 260 high bandwidth servers around the world as a specific type of hash file. The more bandwidth that the Object Path requires, the more efficient the CDN will become, even though in beginning to use it I have noticed variable speeds (but not enough testing or time has been given to this in order to gauge it's overall ability).

One thing that I have immediately noticed is that it actually works in the Active Worlds environment, though entering the specific address to begin with in the World Properties Dialog and hitting apply will crash your browser, after you restart the browser you immediately realize that while it crashed your browser the change in address did take effect and the Object Path is being redirected through the CDN, thus beginning the hash replication and self organization across the whole network (server side and not user side).

After some various testing in the virtual world, I have noticed that it has a 99% accuracy when downloading the various files from the distributed network (99% as in that maybe 5 or 6 files will randomly time out while trying to be located and thus not properly loading, though simply exiting and re-entering the world seems to automatically correct this problem).

While I will not disclose exactly how this method is accomplished, I will say that for the most part it works just fine. I would imagine that it would perform much better under much higher stress than a few users entering at random, so this method would be best used for virtual environments where you are expecting a much higher stress on the Object Path (hundreds, thousands or more users). In theory, it would be possible to minimize the overall bandwidth consumption of an entire universe server's set of Object Paths even if it were to be filled to the brink with users (possibly serve every Object Path in a universe from a single cable modem and a home computer with low latency).

So from the theoretical application to the proof of concept, at least the serving of the content part can be decentralized as suggested by Morningstar and Farmer.

Feb 26, 2007

Update of Doom

So among the things I was up to today, updating the website was one of them. I had previously thrown in a ton of AJAX and javascript for the site but never actually put them to use, instead simply laying the foundations for a later date. While I am not completely finished with this AJAX thing, I did manage to accomplish quite a bit for this round. And then something entirely odd happened...

Firefox decided it no longer wished to display PNG files. Actually, I should rephrase that - Firefox refused to display one particular PNG file I was trying to use for the new design. The image in question happened to be the new header image with the AW Gate, of which I originally saved as banner1.png on the server. No big deal, I figured, since I had already used PNG format for most of the site.

So I go to load it up in Firefox to check what it looks like and it simply doesn't show up.

Weird... so I crack open Internet Explorer 7 and it shows up fine. Stranger still. Then I ask a friend to check out the page using Opera (you know, the code nazi) and it shows up in Opera. Now I'm totally baffled...

Once again I open Firefox and still it doesn't show up. At this point I start tearing apart the HTML by hand to see if there is a missing div tag or something that IE7 would overlook... no dice. For all intents and purposes, the code was fine and it should have worked.

So after about an hour of tearing out my hair and using words reserved for less of a family occasion, I finally just open Photoshop thinking "This is a stupid reason for Firefox not to see this... it can't possibly be the reason..."

So I open the graphic and simply rename it. Uploaded it to the server and bingo... it worked in firefox.

What the heck just happened here? The world may never know... in any event, along with using the reflect tag for some images on the site (I had previously set the framework up for this but never used it) I also redid the Updates section to match the theme of the website. Again, I used a framework I had set up but previously didn't use (being the AJAX RSS feeder) to pull the RSS for this section you are reading into the custom layout for the website.

While I was at it, I decided to make a few more graphics for the website (logo for the Metaverse EX listing on the products page, and also the AW2EX) and throw the reflect on them. So all in all, things look good. There are still some things I need to work out for later (like the header for the templates section) and I am thinking about changing the Updates link to read News instead - apparently this may be confusing for some readers.

I also decided (out of shear boredom) to place a Digg link on the first page as a private joke to try and get a story about VR5 Online buried. Seriously, I wanted people to bury the story just out of boredom... lol. Either way I didn't care, but just wanted to see what would happen.

Also changed was the wording for the About Us section to reflect our laid back attitude (or more importantly, mine) and also to announce that VR5 Online apparently qualifies as a Web 3.0 company. Seriously I have no idea what that means, I was trying to validate some AJAX on the site to make sure it registered and the site that did the validation said we do not qualify as a Web 2.0 company, to which I raised an eyebrow.

Further down the list it was overjoyed to inform me that we were a Web 3.0 company instead. Now I'm just outright confused, but my train of thought says that 3.0 is better than 2.0 any day. So if Web 2.0 is the next big thing, then Web 3.0 must be like a religious experience to geeks or something...

Anyway, that's my news for today... other than that, I'm still messing around with the AJAX stuff. Oh wait.. one more thing...

I noticed recently that there seems to be two prominent frameworks for AJAX being used. In one corner you have Prototype and in another JQuery. Now, I know people from either camp could go on for years about the benefits of either, but here's the deal - I use JQuery simply because it more or less makes my life that much easier to code. I haven't had a chance to mess with Prototype in detail yet, but it seems a hell of a lot harder to work with than JQuery.

So what is the concern? Well the Web 2.0 validator looks specifically for Prototype when checking for Web 2.0 and not JQuery (or both). So many of the things that would normally qualify as Web 2.0 and AJAX simply are a no show to this validator because there is no instance of Prototype being used.

Just something that came to mind on the spur of the moment. Why is it that Web 2.0 has to be ridiculously hard to deal with in order to garner any credit? I mean, if somebody creates an easy to use framework, then why try to discredit it?

I don't think I'll even understand how this works... and trust me, I have over ten years in sociology, so you would think I would be able to have a bit of insight. After all of these years, the only thing I know for sure is that people in general are lunatics.

And I mean that in the nicest possible manner, of course...

Heavily Medicated and Enjoying the Padded Room - Darian Knight

Feb 14, 2007

Random Insanity... and AJAX

Ok, so I am currently working on a new site - HaruOMFG ( which is now a web comic. The idea here was to make a website that was simple, artistic and above all else easy to update for the client.

In comes AJAX to save the day. Now don't get me wrong, I still hate AJAX with a passion, but in this case it made life somewhat easier. Instead of a ton of pages to manually write, I simply made one page and did a double asynchronous feed from two outside sources - namely her blog RSS and another blog made just for her comic.

And so I went to work adding the RSS feeder PHP and Java files to the server (rewriting a large chunk of both to suit this jury rigged approach to publishing) and viola! Now all the client needs to do is simply write in her blog (which she does frequently anyway) and post her full page comics to the other blog and the content will synchronize on her website automatically.


So, while I hate AJAX with a passion, in this case I found it incredibly useful. It also helped that the client is an artist, so I wasn't forced to make graphics for her site elements like I normally do. Instead I asked her to hand draw the parts I needed (giving her the sizes for each) and then scan them in to send over to me. I of course would clean up the scans and so forth before using them.

Total time for completion? About 6 hours start to finish. Go ahead and tell me that isn't fast...

I know of clients who are paying other companies to do a website for them, and they are paying nearly $9,000 for the project, and they still are waiting an entire week to see results (and the technology used to create the websites are pathetic - BackOffice and HomeSite). So yeah, 6 hours start to finish is a record for me, personally.

God bless Dreamweaver. And not even the newest one either... I am actually happy to use Dreamweaver MX 2004 and Paintshop Pro 7. I have Photoshop and the latest Flash 8 (or whatever) but I still find after all of these years that much of this stuff can still be done just as well with old school approaches.

So HaruOMFG is considered 99% finished. It's online, the whole thing works, and now the rest is simply semantics. Which is cool because the actual deadline for this was March 2nd, 2007. As you can tell, I am way ahead of schedule with this one... lol.

In other News

Joe Longcor, our newest addition to VR5, has been working on the revamped Edge Radio website using Flash and a handful of other nifty techniques. He's been messing around with Flash for some time, but this would be his first full website design from scratch.

So far, so good :) Much better than the rival company had to offer. While I give Onalaska Web an A for effort, their designs aren't really up to par in today's world, nor are the prices they expect to earn for their designs.

More News Still...

I would like to apologize to the visitors in our world for the apparent neglect over the past few months. For the time being, VR5 Online has halted design in world while we attend to more important, high profile projects. I wish I could talk more about it, but I think the NDA disqualifies me from doing so... I can say though that what we are working on is awesome :)

Ok.. enough for today.. time to get back to work again.

Super Secret Secret Squirrel - Darian Knight

Feb 7, 2007

The Tin Age of Gaming

Last month, Jamie identified 5 Reasons Why PC Gaming Is Broken. Jamie's article caught the eye of William Burns from who responds with his survey of and concerns about the entire video game industry, from past to present.

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Jan 20, 2007

The Death of Active Desktop

Active Desktop is one of those highly underutilized features in Windows that allows you, the user, to have web based content on your desktop. Starting around Win95 or 98, Microsoft put this feature into the operating system, but never fully made use of it.

This is some pretty powerful stuff we're talking about here... While in 1997, the Internet was just a minor thing and exploding onto the scene - it was nothing compared to the Internet of today. What we see today are Web 2.0 applications pouring out all over the net. Browser based services and applications, like who have created a web based Word Processor, Database, Powerpoint (I think) and a few others... then there is one of my absolute favorites:

When I first stumbled on this website my first thought was immediately - "This would be an awesome Active Desktop!".

More or less it's a ton of Ajax and Flash put together to create a load of web based widgets on a flash desktop. It's tabbed and fully customizable, what more could you ask for?

Today I set out to make this site - my active desktop and you know what? It's friggin beautiful. Some things on it do not seem to work properly (the mini browser) but I would say that about 90% of the functionality is easily there still. It's still more than worth it.

So, I'm hearing you say "Hey Darian, how do I use this active desktop stuff?"

Well, it's pretty simple actually... first go to this website:

Not that they were making it really easy to figure out or anything, but this will outline how to set a website as your active desktop. Following that page, I would experiment with it, but I am so far very pleased with having as my active desktop.

A lot of times once you set the web content, you will see it load in in the top right corner of the desktop as a small box. Don't panic! You can resize that little box to effectively cover your entire desktop by positioning the mouse cursor at the "edge" of the box and click-dragging it. At the "top" of the box if you position your mouse there, you will see the title bar show up and the "expand window" button in the top right.

The reason I thought I would write about this today is because apparently in the upcoming release for Windows Vista, Active Desktop has been discontinued. Leave it to Microsoft to kill something just when it starts to become useful. Active Desktop was created during a time when the Web itself wasn't very mature, and so a great concept went to waste while the Internet itself needed time to catch up.

Now that we are seeing Web 2.0 and all sorts of AJAX applications on the web, it would only figure that Microsoft would kill Active Desktop - and thus the ability to embed these wonderful things onto your desktop, (though I hear Active Desktop may in fact be called Motion Desktop in Vista, but that has yet to be seen).

Friggin morons... I swear...

Anyways, seeing as many people are still using Windows XP, you should have Active Desktop until you decide to upgrade (if ever) to Windows Vista. So why not make use of this awesome feature? Maybe make a visualization in Flash and set it as an Active Desktop? The ideas here are endless... though I believe setting as an active desktop absolutely takes the cake.

In Other News

I'm lazy, so sue me :P

Ok, I have been totally side tracked lately with other things (namely AWRPG). I did manage to get Cartoon Network to stream on my television in VR5 world, so .. w00t!

More or less, we're all on extended break for VR5 world. I mean, I believe we have probably done everything we can short of building the place up. Either that or we're all out of ideas... We have a working arcade (courtesy of vNES and Jamie Sanders) which are all Classic Nintendo Games, there is a Post Office, Skate Park (with hoverboards), Radio Station, Starbucks, Papa Johns, Some Houses (me, justin eyre, Brina, etc), ASCII Memorial Park, The Adam Model (which after reading the BS you have to go through to jury rig it for skeletal animation, we aren't exactly sure it's worth it)... and recently MPL Raven and I have built a cabin near the Arena...

Heck, there is even a Lensman Teleport Station in VR5 (near the Papa Johns)... so quite honestly I am out of ideas... GSK built the Tower of Terror ride, and continues to improve it... *shrugs*

We were thinking of another concert in world, but we no longer see the point...

What I am thinking of doing... is opening to building, but invitation only basis. There is well more than enough in VR5 world to teach people how to make a good build, so I believe we've done our job while exploring nearly every facet of AW technology and squeezing out all it has to offer.

So at this moment in time, I am seriously considering not renewing the world in June/July. Some will be deeply saddened by this, while others will break out the balloons and confetti ;) Either way, we'll have to wait and see... but as of right now, I have yet to justify paying for another year on this world and having nothing in return.

Maybe it's the winter blahs getting to me - who knows? Only time will tell...

Easily distracted by shiny things - Darian Knight