Oct 31, 2010

Overcast Atmosphere for #SecondLife

Looking for an overcast and spooky feeling atmosphere for the sims you visit tonight while trick or treating? Try this haunted preset:

Go to the following menu at the top:
World -> Sun -> Environment Editor

Click "Advanced Sky"

Under Atmosphere

Blue Horizon
  • R=0.1
  • G=0.1
  • B=0.22
  • I=0.22

Haze Horizon = 0.16

Blue Density

  • R=0.08
  • G=0.08
  • B=0.24
  • I=0.24
  • Haze Density = 3.78
  • Density Multiplier = 0.19
  • Distance Multiplier = 24.3
  • Max Altitude = 376


Under Lighting Tab

Lighting Sun/Moon Color

  • R=0.25
  • G=0.24
  • B=0.26
  • I=0.26

  • R=0.11
  • G=0.08
  • B=0.01
  • I=0.11

Sun Glow
  • Focus = 0
  • Size = 1.0
  • Scene Gamma 0.95
  • Star Brightness = 0
  • Sun/Moon position = 0.441
  • East angle = 71

Under Clouds Tab


Cloud Color
  • R=0.49
  • G=0.51
  • B=0.65
  • I=0.65

Cloud density
  • X=0.49
  • Y=0.51
  • D=0.22
Cloud coverage = 0.71
Cloud scale = 0.12

Cloud detail
  • X=0.50
  • Y= 0.50
  • D= 0.04

Cloud scroll x = 0.66
Cloud scroll y = is locked

Click "New" to name this new preset
Suggested Name "Overcast Atmosphere"

Oct 12, 2010

What’s in a Name?

With all of the discussion concerning the efforts of Linden Lab to work on and implement the new Display Names feature in SecondLife, one can only wonder what they would be so hell-bent on pushing this feature through. Surely, you would think that they would be listening to the outcry of the citizens of the virtual world when we collectively express our disdain for this feature?


In a way, they are listening, but like a child knocking over boxes in the candy aisle we tend to forget that we aren’t the center of the virtual universe.

Display names are being implemented to appeal to a wider audience of concerns, namely being the sorts of concerns and public perception that real world companies have when they see names like SlutMasterBob Jenkins.

If Second Life is ever to be accepted on a business front, then the option to use a display name that is not a nonsensical name is a matter of necessity. Corporate Executives make the decision as to whether or not their presence in the virtual world will happen, and their biggest concern all along is the lack of ability in being able to natively display your real name in the virtual world.

I’ll be the first to admit that I happen to like Aeonix Aeon as a name, and while it serves a purpose, there are times when being able to display my real name instead would lend more credibility to my professional involvement and to ease the tension between myself and said corporate entities who aren’t too certain what to make of the “fake” names in a virtual world.

That being said, it is a matter of social nuance that names like Aeonix Aeon in the virtual world automatically trigger a sort of prejudice and lowering of credibility when in use, and we won’t even get into SlutMasterBob Jenkins because that’s the sort of name that screams “Never take me serious”.

There is also the concern with various TOS in the social media world whereby you cannot use an alias but instead are required to use your real name. While that rule goes out the window most of the time, when it comes to companies integrating into social media we can see yet another reason why Linden Lab would want to implement Display Names, regardless of how much you and I may voice our concerns for the opposite.

I won’t go into too much detail about the social media aspects of this display name integration, because I believe Avril Korman (@damnedgoodesign) will be further expounding on those details in her continuation of the following article on [http://searchenginewatch.com/3641432] “Losing the Plot in Second Life?”

I’d rather not step on toes or steal her thunder, but she does (and publically will be) making very interesting points concerning the social media integration of Second Life. Whether or not I’ll actually buy into it is a whole other issue.

It’s not that I don’t believe Linden Lab is making a push to integrate for social media (maybe an app on Facebook or something) but my concern is that such integration would invariably cheapen the entire SecondLife experience on the whole, bringing it down to the level of Farmville.

This disturbs me to no end, mainly because I am aware of a talk by Jesse Schell entitled Visions of the Gamepocalypse [Fora.tv] where this sort of mentality is going to make pretty much everything into a “Fast, Easy and Fun” environment. Of course, to wit, Zynga has made numerous deals in that area as an indication that this is where it’s going; Such as where if you buy a Big Gulp or Slurpee at 7-11 you can redeem a code on the cup for Farmville Cash.

My biggest concern, is that there will be an entire influx of Second Life “users” who very well may never have actually logged into Second Life and therefore haven’t the slightest clue what the community or environment itself are about. When you dumb down Second Life to the point where the average person associates it with some game on Facebook, or by and large, token purchases for some stripped down version of the environment, I feel we’re at a point where we’ve lost the plot (as Avril’s article is titled).

I still remain with the opinion that the x-factor and “gold mine” of Second Life resides in getting real brands into the virtual environment in a manner that appeals to the existing marketplace. For my complete take on this, you should take a minute and read The Second Life X-Factor here on this blog.

As for whether or not I’m for or against social media integration of Second Life, I’m on the fence about it. While I know it is probably inevitable at some point, that doesn’t mean I have to actually like it. In the meantime, rest assured that at the very least the decision to incorporate Display Names isn’t as bad as we may believe, and will (in the long run) be beneficial to all of us.

Please keep in mind that actually using Display Names will be optional. It’s not like you’ll be suddenly forced into showing who you really are in-world. For good or for bad, we should take a deep breath and admit that soon the virtual world will be getting a dose of reality.

Oct 9, 2010

Beyond the Glass Ceiling

When running a virtual environment system, one must always take into account the cost per user when scaling the architecture. In the beginning, the costs may seem negligible, but due to accelerating returns we will quickly find that there will come a time when the cost per user will begin to skyrocket.

Often times, companies will not think that far ahead when the initial planning is being hashed out, and as we have with Second Life today, (and most other systems in existence) the cost per user eventually reaches that turning point and the bandwidth and server expenses needed to scale to a higher number of co-current users becomes prohibitive.

There is, and always has been, a solution for this problem.

On a conference call Friday, I had the pleasure of listening to what the United States Army had to say about their military simulation project, and the constraints they seem to be running into. It is true that they are proud to be able to have found a way to handle 250 co-current participants in the simulation, which is orders of magnitude higher than what Second Life can reliably deliver, but they want a system that can handle upwards of thousands of co-current users in the same area reliably.

Therein is the problem.

It’s not a software limitation, by any means. Rather, it is a problem of architecture and creative solutions. Sure we can host four regions on a quad-core processor and each will have a reliability of about 50 co-current users before we really see the system degrade horribly. It is true that you could even devote an entire server to a single region and possibly see a boost of maybe 200-300 co-currency in the region. But we’re missing the bigger picture here, as we often do.

What we need is to step back and look at the whole if we want to truly go beyond this glass ceiling of co-currency.

Something we rarely think about is all of the latent processing power in the datacenters running the many simulators in the grid. How many areas have we gone to where there is nobody in the area, yet we can then go to a region that is jam packed with users and slower than molasses?

This is where big picture thinking comes in handy. If we take into account all of the regions that have little to no consistent traffic, we are left with the collective processing power of a super computer going to waste. But what if those regions were smart enough to know that their unused processing power can and should be diverted to the heavy use regions when they are not in use themselves?

At this point, we are no longer thinking in terms of brute-force processing on a single server, but thinking in terms of a decentralized processing fabric. Where the resources are applied from the entirety of the datacenter exactly where it is needed.

Think about this for a moment. Imagine the countless processors in the Linden Lab datacenter laying idle. Now imagine what happens when they all come together to handle heavy use regions. Instead of four regions per server, we’re throwing the collective processing muscle of the entire grid itself into the regions, split evenly where it is needed, without wasted CPU or GPU cycles.

You would think that such server architecture would be prohibitively expensive, and until recently it actually was. This sort of decentralized fabric processing has been something on my mind for many years, and only recently has it materialized as an actual server. Maybe I’m ahead of my time, and doomed to forever wait for the rest of the world to catch up?

Enter the SeaMicro.com SM10000 High Density, Low Power Server.

The SM10000 is the first server purpose built for scale-out workloads. Designed to replace 40 1 RU dual socket quad core servers, the SM10000 integrates 512 Intel Atom low power processors, top of rack Ethernet switching, server management, and application load balancing in a single 10 RU "plug and play" standards-based server. The SM10000 uses 1/4 the power and takes 1/4 the space of today's best in class volume servers without requiring any modifications to existing software.

Yes, you’ve just read that correctly. A server that is designed to take 1/4 of the space, 1/4 of the power, and replace 40 1 RU dual socket quad core servers. 512 CPUs per rack mount.

The SM10000 uses the idea of virtualization to create a processing fabric scenario where all of the CPUs are capable of doing any of the workload, and instantly switching to the task at hand.

One full rack (4 Seamicro servers) would be 2,048 CPUs working in tandem. Network them together across the entire Second Life Grid and you may as well have just upgraded every region to it’s own personal supercomputer, at a quarter of the space, power, and TCO.

The big picture here is Long-Tail thinking.

If we look at these systems not in their infancy, where they would look very underpowered individually, but taken as a collective whole as more servers are migrated to them in tandem, we begin to understand that the real genius of this long-tail approach is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Of course, there is still an issue of bandwidth but this is a different problem to address. The first steps to breaking the glass ceiling of co-currency is to address the underlying hardware architecture which is the foundation. As the old saying goes, “You shouldn’t build a house on sand, but instead build it upon the rock.”

If the Second Life grid had been running on this type of server architecture, we wouldn’t today see the scalability issues and hasty decisions of revoking the Educational and Non-Profit discounts in a mad rush to cut costs.

Instead of worrying about whether a new region server would cause more load and stress on the entire grid, Linden Lab would be overjoyed with each new region; They would welcome each with open arms because they would know that each new region would not weaken the entire grid capacity but drastically strengthen the whole.

Breaking Bandwidth Limitations

There comes a time when we also must look at the bandwidth constraints inherent with massive multiuser virtual environments, and this scenario is no different. While a collective computing fabric would make the co-currency rate easier to manage in higher numbers, it doesn’t essentially solve the second bottleneck.

In Lessons Learned From Lucasfilm’s Habitat written by Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer for the First Annual International Conference on Cyberspace in 1990, there is a blatant solution given to today’s continuing co-currency limits and scalability.

The first area to investigate involves the elimination of the centralized backend. The backend is a communications and processing bottleneck that will not withstand growth above too large a size. While we can support tens of thousands of users with this model, it is not really feasible to support millions. Making the system fully distributed, however, requires solving a number of difficult problems. The most significant of these is the prevention of cheating. Obviously, the owner of the network node that implements some part of the world has an incentive to tilt things in his favor there. We think that this problem can be addressed by secure operating system technologies based on public-key cryptographic techniques.

Twenty years later, and one of the most important pieces of advice concerning virtual worlds technology seems not only forgotten, but blatantly ignored. In 1990, there wasn’t the invention of Peer2Peer networking or Bittorrent technologies. The idea of a BrightNet system wasn’t even a figment of people’s imagination back then either. Yet here we are in the year 2010 reading words from 1990 and wondering how they knew this was coming.

Not only did they see this coming, they spelled out (to the best of their knowledge) how to potentially solve it.

I will be the first to admit that the “Breaking Bandwidth Limitations” section is not a full solution spelled out for Linden Lab, but instead only a hint. While this article has given a 75% solution to those in need at Linden Research, I consciously choose to withhold the remaining 25% that would tie it all together properly.

The last piece of this puzzle does not reside in the What (Decentralization) but the How (Protocols) and Where (Where do we apply it in the system?)

It’s a very tricky solution, and just like the proverbial Light Saber construction, if you screw up even a tiny bit, the whole thing will explode.

I think for that extra 25%, I’d trade for the name Aeonix Linden.

Oct 6, 2010

Oct 7th 2010 Metanomics Community Forum

MCF: Future of Virtual Worlds in E-Commerce | Will Burns

Every Thursday at 12 p.m. SLT
At The Metanomics Studio in Second Life

Metanomics Studio_001

From Jennette Forager in Second Life:

Aeonix Aeon popped up on my friends list recently and I discovered that his recent absence from Second Life was due the pressures of authorship.

Join us to chat with Virtual Worlds Expert, Technology Trend Forecaster and Founder of Andromeda Media Group, Aeonix Aeon [Will Burns,] a really interesting person to talk to about virtual worlds and how they are/will affect our lives.

You can join us in Second life for this event or watch it on our web site: www.Metanomics.net where it will be streamed live from the Studio.

SecondLife Icon PNG SLURL: http://bit.ly/MCForum

The Metanomics Community Forum takes place every Thursday at 12pm SLT/ PST in Second Life at the Metanomics Studio.

Oct 1, 2010

Virtual Worlds and E-commerce: Technologies and Applications for Building Customer Relationships

Just released by IGI Global is the culmination of extraordinary efforts from a collaboration of some of the brightest minds in the industry. Virtual Worlds and E-commerce: Technologies and Applications for Building Customer Relationships. Author/Editor Dr. Barbara Ciaramitaro (Walsh College, USA), gathered an amazing group of industry experts to author this groundbreaking and insightful book, bringing it to the public.

The book presents various ideas on how the use of digitally created worlds is changing the face of e-commerce and extending the use of internet technologies to create a more immersive experience for customers. Containing current research on various aspects of the use of virtual worlds, this book includes a discussion of the elements of virtual worlds; the evolution of e-commerce to virtual commerce (v-commerce); the convergence of online games and virtual worlds; current examples of virtual worlds in us
e by various businesses, the military, and educational institutions; the economics of virtual worlds: discussions on legal, security and technological issues facing virtual worlds; a review of some human factor issues in virtual worlds; and the future of virtual worlds and e-commerce.

Virtuals Worlds Expert, Technology Trend Forecaster and Founder of Andromeda Media Group, William Burns, contributed his insights by authoring Chapter 17 of this academic book, The Future of Virtual Worlds in E-Commerce.

Below you will find the abstract for William’s Chapter:

The future of the evolving, collaborative communications structure will be impacted to an enormous and ever increasing degree by the merging of e-commerce and virtual worlds. Such media outlets will bring new and innovative methods by which to interact with clients and customers, as well as business to business. As these technologies continue to evolve, bringing higher definition, realism, and the power to manipulate potential customer experiences, increasing numbers of people will come to the realization that virtual worlds and similar environments are an essential part of an online communications experience. Evidence of this paradigm shift can be noted in the multitudes of brand names which also inhabit these virtual environments through countless offerings and marketing campaigns.

To order a full copy, visit IGI Global

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-808-7.ch017 ISBN13: 9781616928087
ISBN10: 1616928085
13: 9781616928100

40 Days and 40 Nights

Written By: Will Burns | Andromeda Media Group
SecondLife: Aeonix Aeon | Pixel Labs
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/darianknight

What starts as a trickle at the dam, soon widens into a stream of clarity.

Philip Rosedale Philip Rosedale | Interim CEO of Linden Lab

I was greeted recently by a friend in Second Life asking me what my thoughts are on the recent rumors surrounding a possible bid by Microsoft to acquire Linden Lab and all of its holdings. When I replied that I had heard no such rumors, she stood in shock that I, a person usually keen on these inner workings, had not been keeping up with the latest information and rumors.

To be fair, when I see these sorts of rumors floating around, I usually sit tight and see how it weighs out over a period of time before I make any definitive comments in either direction. In this case, I chose the 40 Days and 40 Nights timeframe as the title of this article as an indication of how long it would take to know for certain what was going on. Aside from that, such an acquisition would prove to be of Biblical proportions if Microsoft were involved.

Like all good rumors, there is some manner of truth at the core to suggest that such a thing could be possible, and with this latest rumor there is no doubt that the scenario in question is very plausible. I had made the prediction concerning a possible buyout or IPO on behalf of Linden Lab around April of 2010, when Mark Kingdon was still at the helm based on the telltale signs one would expect from a company in the position that Linden Lab was in.

For a company such as Linden Research, or Linden Lab as we know them, we have a company who is reaching the end of an investor lifecycle. If we look back around 2002 to 2005, the current lifecycle of investments are reaching (or have reached) their course and one would expect that the board of directors would be impatiently reminding Mr. Kingdon and now Mr. Rosedale that the devil is about to come for their souls.

Concerning the prior, the change over from Mark Kingdon back to Philip Rosedale, it makes perfect sense in the scope of the situation. Which is to say that being on the board of directors in an advisory fashion during that time, Mr. Rosedale understood that the investment cycle was nearing an end and that the exit strategy of any technology company often times is either to push for an IPO filing or to court a complete acquisition (buy out). It also makes a lot of sense that Philip Rosedale would make the assertion that he is the “Interim CEO” and not just the CEO of Linden Lab, because this is an indication that he (and the board of directors) see this phase as a very temporary one, which will be remedied through a buyout or IPO.

When Mr Kingdon was unable to sustain or grow the company during his time, one would expect that the board of directors grew anxious with how the company was being run and where Mark was taking it (pushing for social media and web), which is in stark contrast to what a system like Second Life is about. This, of course, raised a lot of concern not just with the board of directors but also the community as a whole which led to widespread backlash over the actions of Mark Kingdon and a growing disdain for Second Life and its direction.

While it was said many times by Mr Kingdon that Second Life was indeed profitable, I saw a little deeper into those statements than the average person would and took some time to email Mr Kingdon my reply:

It is not what you are saying publically that concerns me. It is what you are deliberately not saying publically which is of interest. I have no doubt that Second Life is not in the red, but I suspect there will be widespread cuts and drastic changes coming in order that this situation remain truthful.

As of that time, the missing link in my mind was that the actions of the company and employees were speaking volumes of truth versus the public statements being made and in light of those actions, I could only interpret it as a chain of events that I am very familiar with in the technology industry.

Essentially, Linden Lab is at the end of that lifecycle of investment and for those of us who are knowledgeable on this, we also know what sorts of things to expect in the actions of a company in this position.

Years ago, I’ve been in the same sort of position. A group of investors are more than eager to put money into a company or startup but usually want a very high return at the end of a lifecycle, which is usually set between 3 to 5 years. What that means, is that the moment you take the investment, the clock starts ticking against you. Sure you’ll be partying and celebrating the day the first investment check clears, but trust me when I say that by year 4 you’ll begin to worry and by year 5 you’ll be panicking.

Back to Linden Lab, however, and we see the same sorts of behavioral patterns of a company reaching the end of that lifecycle. The odds are high that the investors of that company are now tapping their feet and asking when they’ll be getting their ROI (return on investment), and to that note it can be said that often times the ROI for a technology startup can be quite steep to say the least.

For a company such as Linden Lab, one can expect that at the end of the lifecycle they would begin acting in (what would be seen by an outsider) very nonsensical manners, with massive layoffs, external office closings, and liquidation of assets in an attempt to bring the company into a leaner and more profitable state. This behavior is also a telltale sign that reorganization in the company is to position that company for the exit strategy of IPO or Buyout from a bigger corporation.

During this time we would also expect such a company to rebrand as well as redesign its product drastically in an effort to garner a wider appeal outside of its niche’ audience. Not to mention a sudden interest in rapid development in their product, (Agile Development, anyone?)

When we look back at Linden Lab, we see that indeed all of this is happening. Liquidation of assets such as the closing of the Teen Grid, 30% reduction in staff, massive rebranding and redesign of their viewer in an attempt to appeal to a market outside of its niche’, the acquisition and closing down of AvatarsUnited, and of course the hiring of a high profile Marketing VP from Activision/Blizzard entertainment to add to their roster and bolster their appeal for a buyout.

The closing of the UK office (and probably others) is also a strong indication that this is exactly the position that Linden Lab is in today.

A number of months ago, I was asked whether I was glad to see Philip Rosedale back at the helm, and for awhile I remained quiet. I’ll tell you here, that the conversation frightened the other person, first in my silence (because I am only ever quiet with such answers when I know something very deep is happening and I am trying to figure out how best to word it as not to create panic), and secondly at the answer I did eventually give her.

The answer I eventually did give was that Philip Rosedale was not the perceived “savior” of Second Life this time around. While everyone rejoiced at his return, I instead began to worry. It isn’t that I do not believe Philip Rosedale is not attempting to do what is best for the community he started, but instead I worry because he may be in a position where he will have to make a very hard decision in order to keep this alive.

“Finally!” people would say, “With Phil back in charge, Second Life will get back on track and return to its glory days!”

Little did people know, that this time around Philip is not the savior but the wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s not back to cater to the whims of the community and return to the way things were in the early days. He’s back to execute the task that Mr Kingdon could not.

Which is to say, that Philip Rosedale is charged with the execution of bringing Second Life and Linden Lab (Linden Research) to its exit strategy by making the company lucrative for a buyout or IPO in order that the investors (and himself) can cash out and receive the massive ROI in the process.

Does this scare you?

I’d say with confidence that Second Life is not in a position to reach an IPO status, but the actions of the company dictate that they are preparing for their exit strategy. This leaves the only option on the table, acquisition.

It’s either an acquisition or the very likelihood that Second Life will cease to exist in the future. This is the sort of hard decision that Philip is trying to balance right now, and in the process he is making provisions that the community will not lose out in the transition. There will be a transitory period, no doubt… which is why he has spoken of a new time in the history of Second


If you’ve been paying attention, he’s been telling you all along.

In so much as the rumor that Microsoft has made a quiet bid for complete acquisition, this would not surprise me. From what I know, Microsoft has had quite a lot of involvement in the ReactionGrid and (I’m a bit fuzzy on this) to the point of direct involvement with coding. It would not surprise me if in the course of opening up bids for acquisition of Linden Lab that Microsoft may have sent a preliminary bid. This does not, however, indicate that Microsoft will actually purchase Linden Lab.

Major corporations are known for investigating possible technology acquisitions on a regular basis, and as such a corporation such as Microsoft would of course put in a preliminary bid on the technology holdings of Linden Lab as a matter of putting out “feelers”. Whether or not this develops into something bigger is another issue altogether, and I cannot really say one way or the other what will happen.

So, of course, rumors do have a way of being based in concrete reality. Whether the rumor of Microsoft placing a bid on the complete acquisition of Linden Lab is truthful or not isn’t the issue at hand, but whether Linden Lab is actively in a position to be seeking that exit strategy to begin with. In this case, we can say that yes, indeed, Linden Lab is in a situation where they are pursuing an acquisition exit strategy (as opposed to an IPO), and in light of this information I’m sure there have been other bids crossing the desk of Philip Rosedale from other Fortune 500 companies.

If Microsoft had not made that bid for complete acquisition, Linden Lab would have officially denied it publically as would Microsoft. We shouldn’t rule that out at this point because such an official statement is just as likely in the next 40 days, but if we see an outright denial after this initial ambiguity and silence, it is likely to mean that yes Microsoft did make a bid but it did not pan out.

Why would companies take this stance?

If Microsoft makes a bid on Linden Lab but the details never materialized, it’s in the best interest of both companies to save face and deny they ever were in talks to begin with. It is also in the best interest of both companies involved to deny there are talks to begin with even if they are in talks and negotiations, mainly because should that information be officially let out to the public, Microsoft would see a surge in stock prices for the time being, and the valuation of Second Life would also temporarily soar.

But if those negotiations faltered publically, Microsoft would not lose anything from it while Linden Lab would plummet in valuation as a result, making it that much harder to court potential acquisition.

So you see, it is in the best interest of both companies to remain silent on this subject until such time as negotiations are actually finalized. You and I wouldn’t know that Linden Research is a subsidiary of Microsoft until the day it actually is finalized. At least, not officially.

But what about this rumor?

As I’ve said on my twitter, it’s just a rumor and everyone should dig a little deeper if we are to really know what it going on. I would not say it is implausible, because I understand the situation at Linden Lab a bit better than I let on. By trade I am a technology forecaster and virtual environment expert, which is really just a fancy way of saying I have been around many years in this industry; enough to be able to spot when trends are surfacing and likely to resurface.

In the case of Linden Lab and Microsoft, I wouldn’t put it past them to have put an offer of acquisition on the table, and it is very likely they have done so since Linden Lab is pursuing the acquisition exit strategy. So in light of this rumor, I’d say there is about an 75% probability this is true.

Regardless, I believe that we’ll know more about the situation over the next 40 days and whether we’ll be able to say with 100% accuracy that this is either true of false concerning Microsoft.

Until then, keep in mind that regardless of the outcome of this rumor, Linden Lab knows that it’s time to pay the devil its due. Whether or not we find that the devil we thought was behind it is truly the devil or just a lower demon compared to the bigger devil of Microsoft, has yet to be confirmed.

Let us hope that they aren’t looking to sell all of our souls in the process.