A HUD to lock a HUD

I've long been a fan of the RealRestraint Elegance Cuffs. They look great and, sized up for a male shape, they look pretty serious too. They were always Miss Vila's favourite.

Back when I last used to wear them 24/7 I never made use of the outfit manager of my viewer of choice. Back when I first started wearing them all the time (and had them locked on) there wasn't even an outfit manager. After they were last unlocked I started experimenting with the outfit manager and have got very used to using it. Recently, of course, I've started having items locked on me with RLV again and I've found, to my delight, that this actually does mix well with outfit management.

With one small wrinkle though...

The HUD that the RR cuffs rezzes and attaches doesn't seem to lock itself on with RLV. This means that any outfit that doesn't contain a link to the HUD (which is all of them) will throw the HUD off. And, of course, the HUD doesn't like this. It moans and blabs and says I'm doing bad things. Which is a little annoying because I'm not.

I did a little bit of searching through the docs and couldn't find an obvious solution (if I have missed one, please do say so) so I fixed it the one way I know how: with scripting. I wrote a little script that I've dropped into a prim that I've attached as a HUD (in my case a 0.02x0.02x0.02 sphere). Touch toggles it on and off. When toggled on it locks itself and the attachment point that's used by the RR HUD. Because of this outfit changes now happen without knocking the RR HUD off.

On the off chance that it's useful to anyone else... here it is:


Shakespeare Insult

Earlier today I happened upon this page, which is related to this page. Well, that just had to be turned into a bit of LSL, didn't it? Grab it and drop it into a prim and then touch it to get an insult. For bonus points attach the prim as a HUD to insult people around you.


Math Error

Anyone who's been in the Z&A main store over the last year or two will have met Zanda at some point. He's our shop bot (or, more correctly, an avatar run by some software and with scripted agent status registered with Linden Lab). Chat near him shows up in his console and this includes object chatter and, of course, chatter on the debug channel. I'll often see errors thrown by people's attachments, the most common being AOs complaining about missing animations, the very common "stack-heap collision" and, on occasion, "too many listens".

And, now and again, there'll be a "Math Error". None have been quite as amusing as this one I just saw:

BOOBS FOR HUD: [script:mm_resize] Script run-time error

I'm afraid to ask...


Isolation, Raven Park style

One of my earliest introductions to heavy use of RLV came in late December 2009 when I first discovered the POD Prison at Stonehaven. I won't go into lots of details about how it works here, but simply put it's a RLV-based prison system that involves very heavy isolation for a fairly short period of time (at least to begin with -- long-term use can end up with very long sentences, if you wish it).

So when we were working on the new Mansion for Raven Park it was decided that one of the new rooms would be a perfect location for a POD Prison. Today I gave it a quick test with a one-hour sentence:

It worked well and brought back a lot of fond memories of my early days of experiencing RLV (a time before I started dabbling with the API myself).

Normally POD Prisons tend to have a very futuristic sci-fi/space feel to them (it is designed to be a space station prison after all) but we've had a go at making it feel a little more Raven Park. The design is aiming for a Victorian mad scientist sort of feel. Think Tesla gone mad with a vague Steampunk feel. Perhaps with a nod to something HG Wells might have written about. I think we might have pulled it off.


Slow login, sort of

For a long time now I've generally been used to logging into SL in a morning and going about my business. Normally this involves a quick fly around the region to check that everything's okay, along with object list checks on the plots I own to be sure that nobody's lost anything and it needs returning. I'll then do a flying tour of most of the public toys and play spaces and tidy up anything that needs tidying (people seem to hate putting pose balls away).

This, of course, has got a little more tricky recently, what with the time in the bane suit and now the time (still ongoing) in the leather hood and catsuit.

Now it's got even more tricky. Miss Vila decided, the other day, that she was going to reinstall the cell that she used to call (and now still calls) my cell. So, there it is, in the living room, waiting for me. She also ordered me to add an arrest plugin to my RR cuffs and she's now set a curfew time for me. There are now times, that relate to my RL hours, where I have to be close to this cell or I get force teleported into it. This means I have to be logged out at a sensible hour or I'll be stuck for some time the following morning.


...as happened last night, she can decide to order me inside it before I log off. This means not only am I slowed down when I log in thanks to the restrictions of the cuffs and hood (especially the slow walking and the no-fly), I'm also locked in the cell for an hour before I'm allowed to even go anywhere.

Still, it gives me more time to contemplate the fact that Miss Vila is back.


A tale of two clocks (AKA Mesh Studio is neat)

Very early on this year I had a very quick dabble with mesh. Nothing serious. In fact both dabbles were complete rubbish; just ways to get to know the upload process. A little later on in the year I had another go (using Hexagon) and that didn't go too well. While I managed to make what I wanted to make I found the whole process rather painful and there were still lots of issues with the end result.

One of the big frustrations for me was getting to grips with the way things are built in other tools. I'm so used to the build process in Second Life itself that I really wished there was something that was exactly like SL, in building terms, but produced mesh as the end result.

Fast forward to the time in the run up to The Femdom Hunt III, while I was working hard on the new range of Z&A vehicles, and I discovered Mesh Studio. This was exactly what I needed, exactly what I was looking for. I used it to great effect when making some of the vehicles and it continues to be useful for all sorts of building projects.

I think a recent one I did is a nice illustration of how handy it can be with old builds.

Regular readers will recall that, earlier this year, I built a clock for the Raven Park Mansion. The finished product is 7 prims (and, as it stood at the time, had a land impact of 7). Three hands, the central hub, the face, the glass and the surround. I was (and still am) really pleased with it.

Last week I decided to see what'd happen if I turned it into mesh using Mesh Studio. The result was spot on. You can't tell the difference:

On the right is the original prim version with a land impact of 7. On the left is the meshed version. This is four prims (the main body of the clock -- now a single mesh object -- and the three hands) with a land impact of just 2. The land impact of the mesh version was 4 to start with (three hands and the body) but setting the physics shape of the whole thing to convex hull brought it down to just 2.

This means that I can have four copies of the clock out for the cost of just one extra prim over a single copy of the original prim build (in case you're curious: setting the original prim version to convex hull brings it down from 7 to 4). That's neat.

While I'm finding that Mesh Studio is a great tool for complex original builds it's also turning out to be very handy for revamping older builds too.

Best L$5,000 I've spent in a while. No question.

It's how you word it...

So, yesterday evening, I spent some time with Miss Vila and, in doing so, asked her if she'd be willing to let me out of the straps and helmet she's had me locked in since last Friday. There's some work I need to do over the next few days that'd be made almost impossible by the restrictions that that set of restraints put in place and, on top of that, well... let's just say that the lesson was learnt (yes, that outfit was locked on for a very specific set of reasons).

She agreed to remove the straps, suit and helmet!

Of course, this being Miss Vila, she stuck to the letter of my request rather than the spirit. So, as of now, this is me:

I'm back in my normal cuffs, which are locked with my hands cuffed behind my back and my legs tightly cuffed together. The leg cuffing means that I can only shuffle around (and sittp is denied again so I can only TP to landmarks I have or I have to shuffle there). On top of that I'm locked in the Z&A Leather Hood and Catsuit. The hood's set on a fairly loose gag, but still enough to garble public chat.

Oh, and she's made a small change to the settings in my Sub-Focus. From now on all outgoing IMs are denied when she's in range. It's not that I'll never be permitted to send IMs when she's near, it's just that I must now ask permission first.

Next time I'll have to be a little more careful how I word my request.

Still, at least I have fartouch back. This means I can actually edit and build again.


The power of RLV

For at least a year now I've been meaning to write an article about the power of RLV. Quite often, especially in Femdom circles, I'll see people pour scorn on the use of RLV. They'll talk like it's a waste of time, like it's all just "button pushing", that it's about your avatar being treated "like a puppet", that it isn't "real submission", or any number of other silly and easily-refuted vacuous nonsense. And every time I see this I get this urge to write an article in defence of, and in praise of, RLV.

This isn't that article.

However, that said, I did want to write something about the power of RLV and how it's not about RLV itself but about the interplay between two (or more) people.

As I wrote the other day, for the first time in a long time I find myself pretty heavily restricted by RLV. Now, sure, by some people's standards my restrictions aren't as heavy as they could be. There's so many more restrictions Miss Vila could have applied (and she's made it very clear that she'd wished she could) but a balance has to be found between that desire and the need to get on with my work for Z&A and to also be available to help our customers or the residents of Raven Park.

But I'm finding that the restrictions I do have applied have had a pretty profound effect. I'm locked in arm straps and leg straps. While the arm straps don't directly apply any obvious restrictions they work well as a visual component to the fact that I've had "fartouch" removed (in other words I can only touch, and edit, objects very close to me). The leg straps heavily restrict my movement. All I can do is slowly bounce along. Also, they're coded to get slower and slower the more I hold the arrow key so I have to stop for a moment and then go again. To go along with the straps I'm also denied "sittp" (I can't sit on anything that isn't right next to me) and I'm denied the ability to fly.

The upshot of all of this is that I have to get very close to anything I want to interact with and I can't just TP around the region (I can TP to landmarks, I just can't do things like sit on objects far away or do the old double-tap-TP thing in Firestorm).

On top of that the helmet I'm locked in imposes a windlight setting that's gloomy and set at the same time of day all the time. Because of this I've got very little awareness of the day/night cycle in-world (the lamps in the region that are coded to turn on at sunset being my only clue).

All of this has the effect of slowing me down, making me think carefully about what I want to do, where I want to do it and why I want to do it. It also makes me realise just how reliant, right now, I am on Miss Vila. It's a very strange mixture of frustrating and calming.

It's also helped me focus. The past few days I've spent a lot of my time very close to a box:

In this box is a growing body of code that, all being well, will turn into new Z&A products -- possibly some time early next year. Because of the way I'm restricted, because there's not a lot else I can be getting up to right now, because building on any reasonable scale is almost impossible at the moment (see the "fartouch" thing above), this box, and the code inside, has been a large part of my world. Without the distraction of complete freedom I've being enjoying concentrating on this code and this code alone.

And this, for me, in part, is the power of RLV. It's not the scripts in the items I'm wearing. It's not directly the restrictions those scripts have imposed. It's the feeling of being under someone's control and the feeling of being in bondage that I derive from those things. It's the drive to make the most of what abilities I do have in-world right now. It's the connection I have with Miss Vila when she's not around.

It's about people.

And it's powerful stuff.


It's been a while...

It's been a while since I was last properly locked up with RLV. Not locked in a cell or something, just locked up in things that made life hard, but not impossible, for a busy builder. It's well over a year since that last happened. And, in fact, aside from a bit of testing, my restriction list has been free of long-term items since January this year.

And then this happened yesterday:

I say "yesterday"... I'm still like that right now. The restriction list is enough to make life very tricky (you try building with fartouch disabled):

And, right now, I have no idea when I'll be out of this again.

Can you tell Miss Vila is back on sim?


I lost some weight...

So, how cool is this rigged mesh avatar from Plausible Body?

Yes, that's really me. Full body alpha and an actual rigged mesh skeleton. The really cool thing about it is that it's mod and copy so you can tint your own copies. For example, how's about a more traditional skeleton?

See the Plausible Body blog for more details.


The Lab stole my garden!

Okay, I'm not alone in this, and it was a hell of a shock when it happened, but the Lab stole my garden, amongst other things!

You'll also notice that Z's house is missing most of.... well, her house. What you can't see is that much of the inside of the Raven Park Mansion is also missing.

It's looking a bit sad right now. :(


A tale of three reviews

I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I tend to be pretty bad at keeping up with reviews on products I have for sale on the marketplace. Partly this is because Z&A products don't get too many reviews. I imagine, to a large degree, this is down to the nature of the products we sell. Given that all reviews left have the avatar's name associated with them I guess most people won't want to advertise that they buy BDSM equipment. The other reason why I tend to be bad at knowing they've been left, which follows from this, is the fact that the marketplace has no way of alerting you to reviews or review comments (how handy would that be?!).

But recently I seem to have had a couple of very negative reviews on my personal store (the store that has some Z&A products on it, but which isn't the main marketplace store). Now, negative reviews I can handle. If I had let someone down, if I'd failed to deliver on a promise, if the product didn't work as advertised, then a negative review seems fair enough.

But I do wish people would give creators a fair chance to fix an issue first.

At Z&A we don't get many support requests, and the handful we do get are almost always down to user error or a problem with the grid itself. These things happen. And when people get in contact with us we try and respond as quickly as possible -- it's very rare that someone has to wait more than 24 hours for a reply. In every single case that this has happened we've done everything we can to help and, so far, in every single case we've managed to help.

So I do wonder what causes someone to leave a review like this one on my RLV relay scanner. It seems odd to call something "fake" because it apparently didn't work, especially when you paid a grand total of L$0 for it. As a customer I've had things turn up before that had the wrong perms, or threw errors, it just plain didn't work for some reason. And as a fellow content-creator, every time, I've dropped the vendor a line to let them know and to seek a little help. Accidents happen and mistakes can be made (wrong perms, bug in scripts, etc...) and I think everyone should be given a fair chance to investigate the issue and correct it.

Far from being "fake", the relay scanner is a real body of code that really works. Here's a quick test I've just done. I dropped into a region where I was sure someone would likely have a relay that would respond and, sure enough:

That's it working. That's it not being "fake" (moreover, if I wanted it to be a fake product, wouldn't I just have it lie about finding relays so as to appear like it's working, wouldn't that be properly fake?).

As for why it might not work for the customer in question, it could be any of the following:

  • Nobody around them had RLV enabled.
  • Nobody around them was wearing a relay.
  • Nobody around them had their relay turned on.
  • Nobody was in range.
  • Scripts were slow to run due to lag.
  • Scripts were disabled on the plot they were stood on.
  • Anyone with a relay had the HUD-user muted.
  • The user of the HUD was expecting it to "just work" whereas the idea is you initiate a scan by touching it.
Or any number of other possible reasons. I'd actually be very interested to find out what those reasons are, if there are reasons. I wish they'd dropped me a line so we could look into it. Even though it's a free product, I'm still always happy to provide support.

I've dropped them a line to see if I can help.

Here's another example of a bad review that could easily be solved (and was) with a quick IM:

This time this was for a product with an actual price. I contacted the person who left the review to confirm things and it turns out that, yes, as the subject above says, the product disappeared when it was rezzed. Anyone who has been in SL for any length of time will know that all sorts of issues can happen with the asset servers. It's not unusual or unknown for items to not rez yet disappear from your inventory. It's not common, but it's not unusual either. Even more so if you do this while there are known asset server issues, or maintenance is happening.

Again, the obvious thing to do would have been to drop me a line. While I'd generally point out that problems with the grid are the Lab's fault, not mine, I can be persuaded to be helpful if the problem seems genuine and the hassle of them dealing with the Lab is greater than the "cost" to me (within reason, of course).

I got this customer sorted out and, they assured me, they'd fix the review.

Of course, not all reviews are all bad. Sometimes they can contain a great suggestion. Take this review of my Avatar Radar for example. That person's kind words about the build are helpful and encouraging, of course, but what really interests and impresses me is their suggestion for an improvement that'd make it work better for them. It's a great idea and I'll be releasing a new version in the next couple of days that gives them what they'll need, as a option that can be turned on.

So, please, if you have a problem with a purchase you've made on the marketplace, please, please, drop the vendor a line first. It's possible it's your error, the Lab's error or simply a honest mistake by the builder. Then, if you don't get a reply, or you don't get a helpful reply, leave honest feedback.

Never assume...

So, as you'll know, I've been rather slow when it comes to writing anything for this blog lately due to lots of work on a new product range and also setting up The Femdom Hunt III. Last night I was getting the latest update packs for the hunt ready and ran into a fascinating problem that reminded me that you should never assume that something that worked before works now.

Anyone who does hunts will know that one common way of letting people pick up the gifts is to have the object they're looking for set to sell content for L$0 (or L$1 for some hunts, even as much as L$10 in some cases). On top of this, anyone who's organised a hunt will know that, sometimes, you need to create and send out these objects no-transfer. This is normally done if the object is made with some third-party sculpt map and you want to follow their licence terms (most sculpt makers insist that the objects made with the maps are either no-copy or no-transfer -- a fair request for obvious reasons).

The object we've always used for The Femdom Hunt is made with a third-party sculpt map. So, for the first two hunts, we've always made the objects up, set them to sell content for L$0, set the next-owner perms to no-transfer and it's all been good. I pass the shoes to the vendors and Femdom sim owners and they put them out and it all works.

So, last night, I'm making up all the shoes for the hunt. I followed the process I've followed before. And then, for some strange reason, I decided to pass the shoe to a test account and test it. I knew it would be fine. I knew it would work. I knew it was a "pointless" test but what the hell, I had a moment of doubt so decided to test it anyway. It's always a good idea to test the "obvious", just in case. And I'm glad I did. After passing the object to the test account it lost its for-sale setting! And, being no-transfer, the test account couldn't set it for sale again (while no-transfer objects could be set to sell content, you can't sell copies or the original of a no-transfer object so, of course, by that point the ability to set for sale is disabled).

Something that always worked, that I knew would work again, suddenly didn't.

I went back and pulled out the shoes from TFH1 and TFH2, which had worked back then, and they displayed the exact same problem. I even pulled out an object from a hunt we took part in in August, that was set up the same, and it displayed the same problem too (whereas it had worked just fine in August).

Right now I've no idea if this is a bug with Second Life or if it's an intentional change with an unintended consequence. What is important here though is the fact that I didn't just assume that what had worked twice before still worked and, thankfully, didn't send out 60+ objects that would be no use to anyone and would likely confuse some.

As for the solution? In future we'll likely have to make a point of using an object we can send out full-perm and ask vendors to set it to sale for L$0 for themselves (yes, the for-sale state is lost no matter the perms). This, of course, is likely to result in more problems when the hunt starts as people either forget to set the object for sale, or set it to sell a copy, or the original, rather than content, or they do it right but forget to change the price to L$0 (leaving it at the default L$10). But there's no time for that right now so, this time around, we'll probably have to go with a content-giving script instead.

I assume that'll work.


All kinds of busy

Any regular reader may have noticed that I've not posted much since June. There's a few reasons for this, all good. One reason is that I'm busy, on and off, putting things in place for The Femdom Hunt III. Another is that I'm also very busy working on a new product range which, like last year, we're aiming to release in time for The Femdom Hunt III.

I'm at that nervous and excited point again. The bulk of the work on the new product range is done. Now it's testing and tinkering time. This is the bit that I always find really hard. It's not that testing is hard (then again it's not easy if you're doing it right), it's that I'm always second guessing myself, doubting that I've tried and caught everything, concerned that I've made the code as good as possible so that people can enjoy it without any problems.

So often my early experiences of a product I purchase are ones that are about dealing with script errors (often fixed by a reset that was needed because the owner of the object has changed but the script hasn't dealt with that), or finding that the product doesn't work as you'd expect or quite as advertised and wondering what to do about it (possibly the worst example of that was an RLV restraint I purchased once for a long-term RP, only to find it didn't reapply the restrictions after relogging). Those first impressions count and they make up a good bulk of the testing I'm doing.

And then there's the really tricky test: long-term use. Does the product behave after a lot of use? Is it sensible with resources, that sort of thing (it's surprising how many well-known products show debug errors on the shop bot's console as people come through the Z&A main store, normally "stack/heap collisions" or "too many listens").

Yeah, like almost a year ago, I'm waffling again. Back to testing....


It's the little things...

While I'm sure there'll be some other fallout from yesterday's work on the Second Life marketplace (I've not gone looking yet and haven't checked my usual sources for such news), I think I've found one little but annoying difference that has been introduced:

Suddenly, in the MP emails, any & in the object name is being "escaped" as an HTML entity. *facepalms*

Time to look at the forums and search for a JIRA to see if anyone's already spotted it...


Fallout from direct delivery

At Z&A we finished moving all of our products on the marketplace over to direct delivery about a month ago. While the deadline had been extended, we decided to meet the old one anyway so that we were all done (personally, some niggles aside, I rather like direct delivery).

There was, however, an interesting bit of fallout from doing this.

I've been a premium account for quite a long time now and, obviously, because of this, I've always had my 512 tier allowance to do something with. For as long as Z&A has existed we've always made a point of duplicating the magic boxes (first when it was XStreetSL and then when it became the marketplace) so that if one region was down, or was having problems, another one should be able to step in. To do this we've generally had one box out at the main store and one out at the "head office" (also known as "a crappy skybox rezzed over a 512 plot that Antony grabbed cheap somewhere").

Originally this was some scrap of land on Zindra. However, some club or something turned up in the region we were on and often lagged the place badly, or filled the region so we couldn't actually TP in. After that we moved it off Zindra and onto a quiet region on the mainland.

But, now, because there's no magic boxes any more, we don't need a "head office" any more.

The "head office" tended to serve another purpose too. It was somewhere to run to and wait out a rolling restart (waiting for the region restart notifier to do its thing).

So, for no good reason other than the "head office" had no use for hosting magic boxes any more (and so didn't have a use for the skybox any more), I decided it was time to find a nice plot and make an attractive rolling restart retreat.

This is it:

It's high up on the side of a mountain range (apparently the highest point anywhere on mainland isn't too far away) with most of the clutter out of draw distance so the view is mostly empty land and then sea. Which is nice.

So, in future, when Z and I just want to go sit and have a quiet chat, away from the workshop, or we need to wait out a restart, we can go laze by the fire.

The really fun part was building to the prim allowance of a 512 plot. It's easy to forget how fun the challenge is when you've got a whole region to play with elsewhere.


We have normality. I repeat, we have normality.

After today's rolling restart (which took an awful long time -- the region went down at 19:08 local and didn't come back until around 20:26) the great leap backward has taken place:

Now to see what has been borked in its place...

Raven Park Henge

A little earlier I was trawling around on the marketplace for cheap/free mesh items, just to see what was kicking about, and I stumbled on this rather nifty mesh Stonehenge:

Given what time of year it is at the moment I've decided to leave it out for the next 24 hours or so. If anyone fancies a quiet place to contemplate the workings of our solar system, their place in the universe, or simply enjoy whatever it is they associate with a henge, please feel free to come over to Raven Park and do so. The henge is rezzed on plot #2 of Raven Park.

Note that it could get taken in early if someone happens to rent the plot. ;-)

PS: Exact alignment for sunrise is left as role play for the reader.

(In case you want one for yourself, you'll find the henge here)

Waiting for the great leap backward

It's rolling restart day today for RC regions and, I imagine, the Lab will be fixing the recent LeTigre timezone SNAFU. Given that this caused me to mess about with some clock-driving code the other day, I thought I'd build a nice big obvious test for this on a build platform:

The clock to the left is working off llGetGMTclock(). The one on the right is using llGetWallclock(). As you know, they should show a time difference but, as reported in SVC-8000, right now they report the same.

All being well, post-restart, they'll show the correct difference again.


I made a clock

The problems with time on LeTigre sims hasn't been all bad, from my point of view. For no obvious reason it got me to write a bit of code to work a clock (yes, I know, hardly a new thing in Second Life, but I've never had a go myself before) and, this evening, I used it to build a clock for the Raven Park Mansion.

I'm rather pleased with it:

Currently, of course, it's showing UTC rather than (what most people still call) SLT. I'm actually tempted to change it so that it'll always display UTC. Although I guess it makes more sense to show Second Life time rather than a RL universal time.


LeTigre time travel

It doesn't seem to have been a good week for updates to LeTigre sims. The rolling restart came to our sim (which is currently LeTigre) on Wednesday and took the sim out for a touch over an hour. When it came back nothing had changed. The host machine was the same (not unusual) and the server version was also the same (unusual).

And then, yesterday, it was announced that LeTigre was getting another round of restarts (apparently there'd been an issue the day before). So, the restart came and went (although it seemed to take a long time to get round to us), the server software changed, and all appeared good.

Until I woke up this morning.

We have a couple of traffic monitoring systems on sim. One counts traffic in the Z&A shop, the other the traffic at Raven Park. They both report the counts and reset for the next day at midnight SL time. That means, for me, I generally get the emails at 8am local time (daylight saving switching periods aside). This morning I woke up to find that they'd done this at 1am local -- seven hours too early.

When I finally get in-world I see that there does seem to be a problem with time on the sim. Even the clock in my office was wrong:

That was taken at around 01:45 SL time. To further test things I quickly knocked up this script:

and, sure enough, the UTC and "wallclock" times were both the same on my sim but had a 7 hour difference on non-LeTigre sims.

It seems I'm not the only one to notice this, there's now a JIRA for the problem.

So, if you're wandering around SL and your watch is showing wrong, or if your clock at home is wrong, or (I'm guessing) midnight mania type systems are kicking in at odd times -- this'll likely be the reason.

I'm just glad I don't have anything vital that works off the wall time.


One year on

A year ago today, for reasons I'm unclear about now, I decided to start this blog. Initially I thought it wouldn't go very far. I didn't think I'd write much. I didn't think I'd still be writing it now. Sure, it's not the most busy blog -- I generally don't say anything unless I have something to say. Neither is it one of those Second Life blogs that reviews anything and everything, or repeats every bit of news about SL no matter how big or small (that's not to say that's a bad thing, I'm an avid subscriber of r/secondlife for a reason).

It is, if anything, an evolution of the plurk account I used to have but no longer bother with. It's a place to post a fun picture, ramble on about a fun thing, or have a little rant now and again. Sometimes it's just to write about a bit of personal news, even if it is rather sad.

It's also become a place where I post small scripts that I find handy and I hope others might also.

I don't know how many people read it, if any at all do (of course the stats say it gets views, but views don't mean there's actual readers) -- it isn't about numbers. But, if you do read this blog on a regular basis, thank you. Thanks for being there. :)

On communication

Any time I deal with customers I do my best to communicate with them as much as possible. Especially given the nature of the way we communicate in Second Life (as much as we dress it up, it is still generally a text chat system with fancy graphics) I think it's vital that, at every turn, you let someone you're dealing with know what's happening and why it's happening.

Just the other day I had a customer send me a notecard while I was offline. Of course, I didn't know what the content of the notecard was, but I had a vague idea what it might be about given the name of it. I immediately replied to them (an email reply to the email notification, which is normally turned back into an in-world IM) to let them know I was aware that they'd sent me the card and that I should be able to log in within the next couple of hours to look at it and deal with the issue.

Sure enough I was in-world a couple of hours later. I accepted the notecard, had a quick read of it, and then sent them an IM to say hello and let them know I was available. Long story short, I popped over to their home, where they had my product installed, checked the problem, realised what they were missing (in this case they didn't know about the need for a relay for non-attached RLV items to work) and got them all sorted out.

They were very appreciative of the help (sadly, they seemed surprised that they'd get this level of help and attention -- it seems that too many people are too used to store owners being hands-off and unavailable) and I left them as a very happy customer.

For me, the important part was that I let them know what I was doing, and why I was doing it, at every turn of the conversation. From my initial reply, right up to explaining that there'd be a pause in our conversation because I needed to check something for them, I made sure they never felt left in the dark.

I do wish everyone operated this way.

In the past couple of weeks I've had a sim owner make changes to my presence in their mall with no word of explanation whatsoever. In both cases an action was taken that, without explanation, looks very negative and very targeted -- even more so given that the mall in question has a mall manager who, it seems, also wasn't informed of these actions. In the first case, once I'd taken the trouble to go and ask what was happening, I received an explanation that was reasonable enough, but what a shame that the explanation didn't come first. A "Hi, Antony, sorry about this but I'm about to do this thing and I'm about to do it for this reason..." would have had the whole thing make sense and appear reasonable. Without warning or explanation it gives a very different initial impression.

Again, today, the sim owner made a change to my presence in their mall with no warning and no subsequent explanation (and, I imagine, no knowledge on the part of the mall manager). In this case it was the return of an object to my lost and found folder; an object that the mall manager had invited me to place there for everyone's benefit a few months ago. I logged in a few moments later to ask if it was a deliberate return (accidents do happen after all), only to find they'd logged off.

The impression I'm left with is anything but positive. While I firmly believe that a sim owner's wishes are paramount, it never hurts to properly communicate those wishes. Not doing so can give entirely the wrong impression and damage trust.


1,000 days

Today is my 1,000th day in Second Life:

I started as an "alt" to explore the BDSM side of Second Life, pretty much a throwaway account. It didn't quite turn out that way... ;-)


Region Restart Notifier (again)

Last year I posted a script that I use to let me know when our region has restarted. It's always proven to be handy, letting me know as soon as possible when it's safe to TP home again. Recently I thought it'd be handy if I had it keep track of a couple of key details and let me know if they've changed in any way. This was prompted by the fact that, one day, our home sim stopped being main channel and became an RC channel (I'm not overly bothered by that, but it seemed like it would be handy to know that such a change has taken place).

So, with that in mind, here's a newer version of that script:

It's also worth noting that I've extended it so that it'll send an email instead of an IM. This has actually turned out to be handy because, if I've run to another region while I wait for a restart, I can miss the IM. On the other hand an email causes an alert on my desktop and on my phone.


Mad sub in a blue box

It started a couple of weeks ago. Miss Eve mentioned that a mid-week dance over at The Velvet Thorn was going to be science fiction themed. Normally I don't do the whole party/dance thing in Second Life. It's not that I don't think they're worth doing, or worth attending -- I see that plenty of people get lots of enjoyment from them and I used to attend them fairly often with Miss Vila -- it's just that I generally struggle with busy locations and generally being sociable in large groups. I think it's entirely fair to put me under the "introvert" heading.

But... science fiction. How could I not? That's enough to drag me out of the workshop for a couple of hours and enjoy some costumed showing off.

A handful of possible outfits came to mind right away, with some Firefly goodness going right to the top of the list, but things took a twist while talking to Miss Eve and Squishy (her sub). Being kind of shy about large public groups (see above) I joked that, perhaps, I should come as the TARDIS. The reply of "you should!" came so quick that I'm sure it was typed before I'd even hit send.

And, so, what was a joking remark turned into this:

The main prim work is, of course, the Z&A Police Box Cell, stripped of all the cell code and with different code added. I coded it so that it would slowly spin when walking, hovering, flying and falling and so that it spins faster if running.

I also coded it up so that, when I teleport anywhere, the whole thing becomes invisible (I'm wearing an all-over alpha so only the box is visible anyway) and it then fades in while playing the famous TARDIS arrival noise:

Although no part of it is designed to be a restraint in any way, I did employ a little bit of RLV too. Just for extra fun I used RLV to redirect all my public chat via some code that would randomly set my "name" and then say what I was saying. The name is picked from a list of nicknames for The Doctor and other Who-related things.

It's the first time I've ever built an avatar, so to speak (ignoring the fact that I made my usual shape and, of course, selected my hair, skin, eyes, etc, over various shopping trips), and it was quite a lot of fun.

On top of all of this, Z&A ended up "sponsoring" the dance by way of creating a custom build for it and giving it as a gift to anyone who attended. This in turn inspired me to create a small new range of builds for Z&A. These should hit the main store and the marketplace in the next couple of weeks.

I love it when one simple remark can result in all sorts of outcomes...


llGetAgentList has arrived on sim

We've just had a rolling restart here at Raven Park and it seems one change is that our server software now supports llGetAgentList(). So I just gave it a quick test:

Works a treat too, so far. Now to have a think of some uses for this -- other than the obvious ones, of course. ;-)


Today I tackled WEB-4587

I've been following WEB-4587 for a while now, but hadn't noticed anything wrong with any of the Z&A listings. Admittedly, we've been rather busy with other things so neither Zardia nor myself had looked at every single one of our MP pages.

We're now slowly migrating from our magic boxes to direct delivery and, as we migrate items, we tweak the listings a little. While doing such a set of tweaks today I noticed that we had acquired some broken listings. At this point I went through and checked every single one. Turns out we had five broken ones. Five of them had the wrong image. Five of them had lost their item associations. One of them had a different category assigned and one of them had become unlisted.

Thankfully we have a copy of every single product vendor image so fixing the images was easy enough (assuming the fix "sticks" -- I'll be keeping a close eye on things). While doing the fix I noticed that, as per some of the comments on WEB-4587, all of the products that had a problem were in the 14xxxxx range of product IDs. However, not every product we had in the 14xxxxx had the problem. Which seemed odd.

But there was something about this collection of products that felt familiar.

Thankfully Z&A has had a blog for quite a while now and we always write about new releases on there. Generally we release products in batches so a group of new products, released on the same day, will get blogged on the same day. I went back to the start of the blog and, just a few entries in, I found this entry. Sure enough, that's the five products that ended up with broken listings. The previous product release looks fine, as does the subsequent set of product release.

So it looks like the problem, for us at least, stems from that day, or a period of time that takes in that day. Remind me again when the XSteetSL to Marketplace migration period was...

It'll be interesting to see if this has fixed it. I'll be keeping an eye on those listings now.


New phishing scam doing the rounds?

Twice this week I've had a message sent to me from an object, while I'm offline. The message looks like this:

The object 'Object' has sent you a message from Second Life:
Hi Everyone! Receive 2000L just for signing up here --> http://bit.ly/[URL REMOVED]

 = Object is owned by [NAME REMOVED] Resident
 = http://slurl.com/secondlife/[REGION REMOVED]/45/119/3000

In both cases the object has been up at 3000m above a Linden Home that has public build turned on. Both times, when I've gone over there, there's been a day-old avi at the location, along with a prim or two (curiously devoid of any scripts -- which would suggest that whatever script was used to send out the message has been removed again).

I've not followed the URL but I'm guessing this is a variation on the phishing scams that seem pretty rife in Second Life at the moment.

Anyone else seeing this? While I've seen in-group phishing attempts plenty of times of late this is a new one on me. It's also a great illustration as to why you should never have public build turn on on your plots (unless you're a sandbox, or have a good auto-return, etc...).


Simple security system

I've had this one in my inventory for a while, and it's one I do use to help shepherd nosy people out of the Z&A workshop. I'm not sure why I've not posted it here yet.

As with many of the scripts I've posted on my blog, this was done as an experiment, just to get to know how these things work. There are, of course, some very sophisticated security systems out there; I imagine there's even some really nice free ones too. But I wanted to have a go at writing a simple one myself and what you see below is the result.

To use it, all you need to do is create a prim and drop the script inside. Create a notecard called "Security" and also drop that in the prim. The notecard is what configures the security script. There are two types of setting for the notecard: "Owner=" and "Access=". The owner setting (one per line) lets you set up the list of people who can turn the security system on and off (by touching the prim). The access setting lets you set up the list of people who simply have have access. People who aren't on the owner or access list will be sent home when they come in range of the prim.

You can also set the rage (in meters) with "range=" and the frequency of the scans (in seconds) with "frequency=". Note that only avatars over land you own will be ejected -- this means it's safe to have a range that might extend out of parts of the plot being covered.

Also note that if the land is owned by a group, the object that contains the script will also have to be deeded to the group to work.

Here's an example notecard:

Owner = Antony Fairport
Owner = Zardia Avindar
Access = Zanda Slacker

And here's the script itself:

Play sounds when walking (updated)

I've just uploaded an update to the simple script I wrote that plays a sound when you walk. This change takes running to be the same as walking. So, no matter if you're running or walking, and no matter how often you transition between the two states, the sound keeps on playing. Only when you're neither running nor walking does the sound stop.

Of course, as before, it's not a very sophisticated approach -- doubtless most people would have a need for different sounds for different movement speeds -- but it works for me as I don't have a visible run. I've got my AO configured so I'm either walking or walking a bit faster.

Here's the updated code:


Season Lag

A little earlier I was attempting to get over to The Velvet Thorn for a live performance. SL seemed to have other ideas, which was a bit annoying. Generally I'm kind of reclusive, enjoying tinkering with stuff in the Z&A workshop, but after having worked a good few hours today on something I decided I should make the effort to stop being so damn anti-social and actually go do a thing.

Live music sounded like just the thing.

But, like I said, SL seemed to have other plans for me. The first three attempts to get to the venue resulted in either rezzing problems or just a general failure to properly connect to the sim (or something like that -- you know the sort of thing, money turns to ??? in the viewer, parcel details show the last location, profiles don't load, etc...). Finally, with the help of Miss Eve to guide me in (no, really, things were so slow for me she sort of helped talk me to a spot I could safely sit on), I got there. And a bloody good performance it was too.

Miss Eve did comment that it was probably the infamous SL Sunday lag, possibly made worse by more people being online because, in many parts of the world, it's a holiday weekend. That seemed like a reasonable explanation.

Only after the gig, when I got home, did I realise just how bad an impact this Sunday was having on SL. Stood outside my shop was the Easter Bunny, apparently lagging back to Christmas with their costume. ;-)

In case you're wondering, yes, that is one of our bunny hoods. Not sure about the glow though. We don't make them glow.

Scripting away...

In the workshop, working away on a brand new bunch of scripts. This might or might not end up being a Z&A product, it depends how happy I am with how it turns out and if I think it'll make sense.

You can ignore the prim itself -- that's no clue at all. It's just a little more interesting to look at than a wooden cube (not that a screen full of script windows gives much of a view of the world around me).


Not a new shop...

...but, instead, playing with a set design for a shoot to show off the build for a hunt that's starting this weekend.


Random Search

Second Life search is fun. By "fun" I mean interesting values of "fun", of course.

Earlier this morning I needed to search for Whiz Wonder (the CEO of The Whizical Hunts) because I had a couple of questions about The Naughty Bunny Hunt (I was doing the final work on being ready for it starting). Problem was, she wasn't showing in search. That seemed odd given the position and purpose of that avatar. So I find them by other means and point this out.

Quickly we realise that quite a few avatars, and locations, that should be in search aren't. I quickly noticed I wasn't!

That's annoying. I'm very open about being in search. I make and sell things so I need people to be able to find me. One thing I pride myself on is being available for questions and help and not being listed in search sort of messes that up.

Fast forward an hour or so and...

Okay.... Oh well, I guess this random nature is all part of the new search system's charm, right?

PS: I'm going to have to check out Twink's Art Gallery (look at the classifieds in the above images). No idea who they are but if they show up for a search for me I'm sure that's an omen. ;-)


Aim to Misbehave

I've been meaning to put something like this together for ages. I finally caved in this evening and did a little bit of shopping.

It's a combination of this and this and, I think, they work pretty well together. The coat obviously has a bit of shading that suits a female avatar but, I think, it looks as much like a crease as anything on me.

Now, has anyone seen Inara around these parts?


Firestorm 4.0.1

Well, I've done it. Having just got really used to using Firestorm 3 I've wiped it from my system and gone with 4.0.1. The main motivation for making the jump was the impending need to access the merchant outbox (doubtless to be a facility that'll feature in future blog posts; hopefully in a good way, although much of what I'm reading so far isn't good news) and this overrode my reluctance to jump to something still marked "Beta" when I'd got used to 3.x.

So far, I'm impressed. I've made a point of not using the recreation of the Phoenix interface (having seen a video of it I was surprised to find that I found it looked a bit ugly now -- I think I've got very used to the default Firestorm look) and, in going with the flow, I've managed to get a very workable and very uncluttered view of Second Life:

I've not done any scripting or building in it yet so I don't know that it's as good as Firestorm 3, although I imagine it won't have changed for the worse in that regard. If it's generally stable (I've had one crash so far, while trying to unbork the bridge) I think I'm going to be very comfortable with this.


Play sounds when walking

I know this has been done before and done so many times before -- goodness knows Miss Vila owned enough pairs of shoes and boots that made footstep noises, and I might have at least one pair of pony boots in my inventory that do the same. ;)

But, anyway, after having been asked a scripting question this last weekend and not knowing the answer right off, I couldn't resist having a think and a read. I found the answer and, in doing so, realised that it was easy to write a script that plays a sound when an avatar is walking. Which means I could finally make myself a subtle barefoot walking sound thing.

Which I did this morning.

This script is the result of my experimenting and I offer it here in case it's useful to anyone else. Just create a prim and drop this script in, along with the sound you want to play. Attach the prim to yourself (either as a HUD, or to some part of your body -- I've got it attached to my right foot, and made invisible) and you should be good to go.

This probably isn't the most elegant way of doing this. It probably isn't the most efficient either. But it was a fun experiment and it seems to work just fine.



You can read the full announcement for this over on the Z&A blog.

Well that's been a fun week. I'd planned on having a fairly quiet week, making final tweaks to builds for two hunts we're taking part in next week, and perhaps pushing a couple of new products out (oh, yeah, and having a proper look at this direct delivery lark). But it didn't quite turn out that way.

I found out that our neighbour, who had the other half of the sim we live on, was moving on. So, there we were, faced with the other 1/2 of our sim coming up for rent again. Zardia and I had a good long chat about he pros and cons and what we'd do or not do and, long story short, we cracked and grabbed it.

So, what looked like this just the other day:

now looks like this:

And, as you can see over on the Z&A blog, we're renting plots out on the other half.

It's been quite the adventure, putting it all together the last three or so days. While I have taken charge of letting plots on the sim before, I was essentially doing it on behalf of someone else. This time it's all our doing, all our design. That feels very different.

Hopefully we'll have a great little community grow here over time. We're off to a great start given that Evelock has opened a studio here.

It's a curious evolution for us, and another in a long line of things we've not aimed to do but have simply grown in to.


Scripts in the side bar

Regular readers will know that, any time I knock up a handy general-use script, I try and throw it up on gist and post a link here in case it's useful to someone else. Of course, the problem with doing that via a blog (especially given I've not bothered created a label for posted scripts -- perhaps I should) is that the scripts fall off in the post stream over time.

So I've decided to add a link box in the side bar:

That'll make them easier to find.

Om nom nom!

Last night I wrote my first "add on" script for our cell code. Worked well. Anyone who cares to know what it does will find out next month. ;-)


Z's laptop

I've written before about the laptop on my desk in my house, and what's on the screen. Obviously, on the screen on my laptop, is some code:

Z's got the same laptop now, out at her house. She, of course, needed something on the screen of hers. Given she's not a scripter using the texture I used made no sense. This is what she came up with:


On the map

A couple of days ago Zardia and I decided to have a go at this "slap a logo in the sky so it appears on a map" thing:

It turned out better than I expected:

It could be bigger, of course, but that's not really us. It's big enough to read and, I think, subtle enough to not turn the map into one huge advert (maps should still be useful, I think). Having seen what's possible I might try and tweak Z's Z so it's more like the Z in the Z&A logo but, on the whole, I think it's a reasonable match given that it's done in just a few prims.


A change to RLV needed?

Looking over the recently announced TPV policy changes I just got to wondering: will this have a (minor) impact on RLV/RLVa? The one that I have in mind is this:

2.j : You must not include any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of the user in any messages sent to other viewers, except when explicitly elected by the user of your viewer.

Consider version checking in the RLV API, both via the @version IM call and via the @version= request. In both cases, not only is the version of the RLV API returned, generally information about which viewer, and which version of that viewer, is being used, is returned.

For example, an IM sent to me, that is nothing more than "@version", will return (at this moment, while I'm in on Firestorm):

RestrainedLove viewer v2.7.0 (Firestorm - RLVa 1.4.3)

Likewise, if a request is made via my relay (as is done with my relay scanner and relay checker), you get the same reply:

RestrainedLove viewer v2.7.0 (Firestorm - RLVa 1.4.3)

In both cases this reveals not only the viewer being used, but also the version of the viewer being used. This would seem to fall foul of the policy that says that a TPV "must not include any information regarding ... software ... in any messages sent to other viewers".

Of course, it could be argued that turning on the RLV API is the exception that means the user has "explicitly elected" to allow this information to be transmitted, but I'm not sure it's a terribly compelling argument.

Edit to add: According to this post by Tonya Souther Linden Lab have said that the act of turning on RLV is seen as the user having "explicitly elected" to allow the information to be transmitted. This actually bothers me a bit in that no user, turning on RLV, will know that that information will be transmitted (it's been my experience that a large number of people who turn on RLV don't have a clue about most of what it does). There's no doubt that RLV stays within the spirit of the policy, but I don't think it's within the letter of it. This is concerning because it shows how badly-worded these new policy changes are. I think this alone highlights how, be it an intended consequence or not, there's enough wiggle-room here for the Lab to turn around and tell you you've read it wrong.

(For now I'm not even going to begin to consider the idea that RLV in general could possibly fall foul 2.k -- it seems unlikely and would seem to need a paranoid reading of that section but... it's not an impossible interpretation. Edit to add: in the Tonya Souther post it's also stated that RLV wouldn't be banned under this policy so it seems there's no need for a very paranoid reading of this change -- that's a bit of a relief)

Ban for group membership?

Before I go any further with this post I just want to make something clear: I absolutely agree with the idea that the owner of a private estate, or even a plot anywhere, has the first and last say on who gains entry. I own a business in SL, I own land in SL, I fully expect to be able to say who can and can't have access and I fully support anyone else's right to do so -- even if I think their decisions are totally wrong.

Earlier today I saw something that worries me a little, it's something I'd never seen before in SL. That's not to say that it doesn't happen -- I have little doubt it does -- but it's the first time I've seen it displayed in a location I go to.

I was at a sim that has a sign up displaying disapproval of a BDSM-related practice and saying that it's unwelcome on the sim. Now, of course, that's fine. Here at Raven Park we've got a few rules too; it's rare to have a hangout or playground that doesn't have some rules. Moreover, personally, the practice in question isn't one I have much like for either and I have some sympathy with disallowing it on a sim (I won't go into details but it's worth pointing out that it's nothing terrible, it's just a style of domination).

What it is doesn't matter too much. What bothered and concerned me is that the sign said that people would be banned even if they were a member of a group, or had a profile pick, that related to the practice. I'm not quite sure what to make of that. Personally, for me, that oversteps a mark that shouldn't be overstepped. It's one thing to say "please don't do X on this sim", that makes sense, it's another to say "if we even think you might have an interest in X, we'll ban you". It might be that it's more by accident than design but... it comes over more than a little Orwellian.

I suppose this does, in some way, raise a number of questions about how we see ourselves in Second Life and how we portray ourselves. Few would have a problem with a "no nudity" rule, or a "no childlike avatars" rule, etc... Those things are easy to police and, even if you disagree with the rule itself, you can generally appreciate that the sim owner doesn't want these things on their sim. The same goes with how you conduct yourself generally (how you conduct yourself in public chat, or how you IM people while there, etc...). But it's hard not to think of a profile as something else, something different. A profile is something others have to go out of their way to read, something others have to decide to read. I'm more than happy to change my clothing to conform with a sim's rules. I'm not sure I like the idea that I should hide groups and profile picks for the same reason.

Potentially banning someone because you've read of an association of theirs, in their profile... I'm struggling with that idea. I'm struggling with it a lot.

Impressive radar (or not)

As some of you might know, this weekend is the second birthday of Z&A Productions and, to celebrate, we're holding a mini-hunt around the sim all weekend.

So, there I am, sat in the workshop, minding my own business, and I happened to have a copy of all the hunt objects rezzed out on the floor in front of me. Keep in mind that the workshop is a couple of thousand or so meters up in the air -- nowhere near ground level.

And, out of the blue, an avatar (who was already on the sim, down at ground level) rezzes in front of me, right on top of the collection of hunt objects. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that they were using a radar of some description (either built into the viewer, or something scripted, I guess) and had happened to find the objects in front of me.

Of course, they didn't stay long -- the workshop has a security system that TPs unauthorised avatars back to their home location -- but what a way to get found out "cheating" (not that I'm totally opposed to the use of radars on hunts, just as long as they're used as a last resort). And how impressive (or unimpressive, depending on how you look at it) is that radar that it found the objects a couple of kilometres away but didn't find the ones down on the ground?


A change of skin

Following on from yesterday's post about my current experiences with Firestorm 3.3.0, this evening I switched skins to check if the problems I was having that I took to be skin-related were down to the skin choice.

Using the "Firestorm/Grey" skin (instead of vintage, which is what I was using) does seem to remove the problem with the overlapping controls in the object content permissions dialog:

At least, sort of. As you can see above, there is still a bit of an overlap and, looking at the version of this dialog from the vintage skin:

you can see that the text that tells you how the permission change went seems to overlap about as much as the text area in the vintage skin. So it might be that the problem is in the design of the dialog and it's just more obvious in the vintage skin.

One thing I have noticed with Firestorm and this dialog, that I don't like, is that it doesn't give you any sort of progress when the permissions are being bulk changed. Whereas in Phoenix you get a list telling you which items have been processed, in Firestorm it seems it just puts the output in a single line, each progress overwriting the last. That's not terribly helpful.

Perhaps it's supposed to and what we're seeing here is a problem with the control that should contain that output? I'll test this a little more and consider doing a JIRA for this.

The other problem that I tested was the script window seasickness problem. With the "Firestorm/Grey" skin I'm seeing no evidence of that at all. It seems that it really is down to the vintage skin.

So, right now, if I'm going to be using Firestorm most of the time (and, the way it's going right now, I think I will be), it looks like the "Firestorm/Grey" skin is probably the best choice for me. At least for now.