Virtual World viewers: Basic Information

As explained in Virtual World viewers: Part 1 I’m going be testing different viewers for basic, Mac-friendly, useability in Second Life.

Before starting the reviews it might be helpful to new users to explain some of the differences between viewer use.

For Second Life users: there is only one official viewer series – Linden Lab’s own. Every other viewer available has been developed outside of Linden Lab, which is why they are called Third-Party Viewers (often shortened to “TPVs”). For further reading this wiki page explains more: Second Life Downloads

Two key things to mention: if you do regularly switch between the official Linden Lab viewer and TPVs, or use a third-party viewer all the time, it is useful to know that Linden Lab accepts no responsibility for problems arising from installing anything but their own official viewer. If you have concerns about security or privacy issues the most usual advice is to not download and install a viewer on your computer.

There are no longer any official Viewer 1 releases available from Linden Lab. Support for Viewer 1 in Second Life will be withdrawn at some point, although a definite date for this has not been clearly stated (to my knowledge at the time of writing).

For OpenSim users: there is no single, official viewer. This is left entirely to the choice of the individual and what works best for them. In the case of larger grids they may suggest, when signing up, which viewer suits their particular environment.

TPVs, like many other subjects in virtual worlds, can cause heated debate and disagreement. I don’t intend to raise those arguments. I don’t generally find it helpful and these reviews are not in-depth enough to cover every possible discussion.

The review series starts off with Imprudence 1.3.2. This is based on a version of Viewer 1 code. The user interface is distinctly different to Viewer 2 and 3 and will be most familiar to people who started out in SL or OpenSim pre-2010. Viewer 1 remains popular with those who prefer the design and functions or are unable to run more recent viewers.

So, let’s take a closer look with Virtual World viewers: Part 2!

Advertisements

Virtual World viewers: Part 1 – Which one to use?

In browsing Second Life blogs the other day; I came across a reader poll about what viewer people use for Second Life. (You can find it at HarlowHeslop “Which viewer do you use?”)

Thanks to Harlow’s poll and readers’ comments – it got me thinking of how difficult it is to know, as a Mac user, whether a viewer suits my system or not. As a Second Life and OpenSim resident; I’ve changed my viewer of choice several times for different reasons, whether that was an unstable viewer or just to improve the experience.

Although documentation is usually offered in some form; researching the general user experience usually means looking for information scattered across various developer sites, forums and personal blogs. Or simply downloading it and hoping it works.

Before drama ensues; I’m not seeking to single out developers and testers for focusing on their particular platform of choice. That is understandable and reasonable.

To help with sharing information: I intend to review the current main viewers, and a few others, based on their Mac-friendliness for basic tasks.

This is not full bench testing. I’m not an alpha (or beta) tester or a programmer and I don’t have any ties to a particular viewer or development team. Which viewer to use is dependent on what you want to do in your virtual environment, which virtual world it is used for, what machine you are on and other personal preferences.

The reviews are intended to give an overview of what is available. What I will be looking for is how well Mac viewers work without extensive changes to settings and what works on the operating system and hardware I have. For the purposes of these tests they will be taking place in Second Life. Where possible, I will be using the latest stable release and not any experimental or beta viewers.

It would be great to offer a full review of all capabilities, but, that requires more time and knowledge than I can give. For those who are looking for specific advice on streaming media, building, advanced photography, scripting or other abilities I apologise in advance at not being able to include all details.

Completed Reviews

Viewer 1 series

Imprudence 1.3.2

Phoenix 1.6.0.1600

Viewer 3 series

Exodus 12.01.03.01

Firestorm 3.2.2.24336

Linden Lab 3.2.8.248931

Review criteria

Download and installation (including what documentation is available)

Navigation (user interface and avatar movement controls)

Graphics

Avatar Appearance editing

Transactions

Friends, chat, groups and maps

Snapshots

Testing set-up

2007 iMac with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB SDRAM Memory

ATI Radeon HD2600 Pro graphics card. Operating system is OS X 10.6.8. Online connection is wireless broadband.

N.B I recognise that the iMac being used is not a recent model. As it is only just four years old; I don’t consider this to be outrageously antique and it is my sole computer for recreational use.

In Part 2 I will be looking at two Viewer 1 versions; the still popular Phoenix viewer and the 2011 stable release of the Imprudence viewer.

Hello from Enlades

Time flies! It has been nine months since any new posts on Enlades, but, myself and Thom Lunasea do keep an eye on the blog. We’ve been very glad to see that people are still visiting (now over 10,000 views!). We hope that our articles and links have helped people in learning to make their own, virtual world, creations.

On that note; for 2012 we have talked about making a concerted effort to add new material to Enlades – as well as give it a theme refresh. Whilst our activities in Second Life and OpenSim have been much less (due to other commitments); there are still areas of content creation and virtual world experiences that we would like to write about.

Two ideas we’re currently planning are:

A look at virtual world viewers, with a particular overview of what is available for Mac users. With many new viewers coming to prominence, and others retiring, it is a difficult area to look into as no “one size fits all” solution is available. I’ll be looking at Linden Labs’ official viewer as well as ones some of the main (or up and coming) Third Party Viewers.

A long overdue topic is an introduction to using the free avatar skin templates made by Eloh Eliot. I’d intended to cover this two years ago but, unfortunately, it dropped off the schedule. Before that gets underway; I think that it’s necessary to state that the tutorials will be for beginners who want to learn the basics, rather than a set of instructions on how to become a commercial skin designer, and will be focusing on simple customisation.

So, we’ll be back again and we hope that all our readers have had a good start to 2012!

See you next time.

Moving back – An update

Hello! It’s been quite some time since the last update; things have been busy and, unfortunately, a lot of plans that we both had for more content posts have fallen by the wayside.

Also added to that, in the last couple of weeks, Thom and I have made a return to Second Life. This was a surprise decision. Although I continued to visit at odd times over the last seven months – it was mostly to check up on resources that had been developed by Second Life residents. I rarely remained logged-in for long and was happy to log-out when a task was completed.

So why the return and what does it mean for the Enlades blog?

To tackle the first part of that; I missed the company of some friends and some of the resources that Second Life has and OpenSim doesn’t. This is not meant as a criticism of OpenSim, more that I see the virtual environments differently depending on what my view of work and fun is at any given time. SL still has elements I enjoy and it felt great to be back there, chatting with people I had not seen in a long time and rummaging through an inventory which held delights to rediscover. (Anyone who views my Flickr page knows this includes making comics with a giant character called Gmok the Wise, made by Albert Beerbaum of Herbalys)

The Enlades that Thom and I have worked in, and on, remains in place. We intend to keep it and develop it further. Perhaps in time a balance will become apparent between the two.

For the blog? Well, at the moment it is hard to be certain whether more content posts will be forthcoming in the near future. Writing for the blog is something that we enjoy doing, learning and sharing that knowledge, but it is also an activity that requires commitment in time and effort to do properly.

For now, we both intend to come back at some point. We hope that what is already here will prove useful to anyone searching for these subjects, for whatever virtual world that you are resident in.

Thanks for reading.

Making Avatar Clothing – Part 2

Following on from Part 1; this post shares some guides on making avatar clothing and tattoos. Tattoos are more of a skin-related subject but I’ve fitted it in here because they use alpha channels.

Clothing and Tattoos with alphas

There are many applications for transparency information in virtual worlds. This isn’t an in-depth look at all possible uses but I’ve included the terms that are generally used.

The alphas

Alpha channel(s) – An alpha channel is used in Photoshop and Gimp when you want to use levels of transparency in your file. For clothes; this can be used to make a semi-transparent shirt or to select a specific area, e.g. to create a lace effect as part of a design. To read more on how they work you can visit this SL knowledge base page: Alpha channels and transparency. A video tutorial on how to create alpha channels is at Robin Wood’s site: Easy Alphas.

Alpha masking – This is one of the features that launched in Linden Labs’ Viewer 2.0 in 2010. Alpha masking means that it is possible for an avatar to wear a transparent texture.

A good example of this would be shoes. Prior to alpha masking many styles of sculpted prim, high-heeled shoes and boots needed what is called an invisiprim – a regular or sculpted prim that has had a transparent texture applied to it. When worn as an attachment this blanks out the foot or leg area that could show through the shoe prims and spoil the effect.

The invisiprim method is no longer necessary if a transparency texture is worn by an avatar. Another SL knowledge base page explains here: Alpha masking.

The layers

Tattoos – The original method for wearing body decoration and tattoos means creating your design, uploading it and then making it into system clothing layers. This has a drawback if you are wearing other clothing on the same layer as the one that the tattoo is worn on. It isn’t possible to wear both at the same time. In SL many designers provide their tattoos on every clothing layer possible to avoid these layer conflicts.

Using this method also lacks the facility to apply a design to the avatar head area. It is possible to tint tattoos through the Appearance window, if they have a modify permission, so it allows changing the colour to suit yourself.

Wearable tattoos – Another feature introduced with the launch of Viewer 2.0. This gives the use of a texture layer over the avatar skin. The process of creating and uploading files is the same as the original method. Making the tattoo wearable in the Appearance window is closer to making a skin. Tattoos or other body art designs, such as make-ups and eyelashes, can be worn on the avatar head.

It also means you can wear body art designs without taking up another system clothing layer (like shirt or pants). When Viewer 2.0 was launched I understand that it wasn’t possible to use colour tinting on this layer in-world. I’ve read that this is now a feature in the latest versions. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to check that myself.

There are some disadvantages to wearable tattoos and alpha masks which has to do with viewers.

It is possible to use alpha masking and wearable tattoos in OpenSim with a viewer that has these features included. I use Imprudence 1.3.0. and have created tattoos on the wearable tattoo layer (the ability to tint tattoos is not included in that version). However for people on Linden Labs’ viewer release 1.23.5, or a third-party viewer that haven’t been updated, you won’t be able to see alpha masks or wearable tattoos.

There are some bugs and problems that can occur when using them. I won’t try to document them here but suggest searching the jira pages for Second Life, Mantis for OpenSim or the relevant viewer developers’ website if you encounter any problems.

So far I haven’t seen any tutorials/guides that deal specifically with making wearable tattoos. I intend to make my own resource on this subject in the future.

Clothing and tattoo tutorials

Natalia Zelmanov’s post on Semi-transparent clothing is a good place to start and is suitable for Photoshop and Gimp users.

Nicola Escher has written Creating a tattoo which uses Photoshop. This post is for making tattoos as system clothing layers. It covers some of the same information as Robin Wood’s Easy Alphas but is a step-by-step tutorial for a simple tattoo.

You may be wondering why there are not more links to other video tutorials. This is down to my preference for written tutorials. Generally speaking, I find it easier to follow a tutorial if I am reading rather than watching it, pausing and switching windows. There are many Second Life user videos posted on YouTube that deal with clothing, tattoos and other content creation. As I haven’t watched all of the available videos I’m unable to give any particular recommendations.

I’ll be writing more about clothing in future posts but I hope that you’ll find the information useful for your own creations.

Making Avatar Clothing – Part 1

In this first post in a two-part series I’ll be covering some information resources and tutorials for making avatar clothing.

There are a lot of online tutorials and guides about making a basic t-shirt (t-shirt tutorials are by far the easiest to find in a web search) and it would be difficult to list them all here. If you have a particular favourite or one that you think would be helpful to beginners, that I have not mentioned, please leave a comment and link on this post.

Getting started

You will need to download the avatar mesh templates made by Chip Midnight and Robin Wood, if you don’t already have them. There are good reasons to have the two templates as there are some distinct differences between them. Tutorials do make use of both and, sometimes, combine the two together. If you are interested in how the two templates are combined, using Photoshop, you can read how at Combining SL Clothing Templates.

This information is often contained in the other tutorial links recommended below, so my apologies to readers if you end up reading the same information several times.

You can find links to the template downloads at this Second Life Clothing Tutorials wiki page. This page is an excellent resource for guides and websites, including some I’ve mentioned before (such as Natalia Zelmanov, Seshat Czerat, Nicola Escher, etc.)

Once you have both templates: I suggest starting off with reading Seshat Czeret’s ‘Theory of Second Life skin and clothing’ and then ‘How to make SL clothes in Gimp’ guides.These are still helpful if you are using Photoshop, although some of the control and layout details will differ between the two programs. If you don’t find these helpful then a visit back to the Second Life Clothing Tutorials page does offer alternatives, e.g Natalia Zelmanov’s clothing tutorials.

Notes on the above guides

Please remember that these posts and others were written in 2008, or earlier, and for Second Life users.This might make some information out of date.

A few of the links included in the guides are now inactive, have been registered to a different person/company or go to pages, such as Olila Oh’s, that seems to be an advert search site and not the information quoted in the guide.

The ‘Theory of Second Life clothing and skin’ refers to the system clothing layers being used for ink/body tattoos, which they still are, but the ability to use avatar alpha layers has now been developed. I’ll cover resources on alpha layers at a later point.

In ‘How to make SL clothes in Gimp’, it refers to using a 3D preview program and going to a beta test grid. Personally, I’ve never used either. I upload directly to OpenSim to test how clothing looks on my, specific, avatar shapes than using the standard SL avatar model. If you intend to make clothing that you want to give away, or to sell, then it would be useful to try the method described or similar for testing.

Advanced techniques

There are tutorials which show more advanced techniques for making clothing. These examples use Photoshop and require that you be comfortable and knowledgeable in using the tools and layers. I’d say these would be best suited for those who gone beyond the basics to an intermediate level.

Two written tutorials available are The making of Noell top texture and How to fit textures with ornaments for upper and lower body by LeeZu Baxter, a long-term SL resident and designer. These are both helpful guides that make use of LeeZu’s own creations and design techniques (which is why you will find that the images do display very clear name marking).

The other example is at Robin (Sojourner) Wood’s own website. Robin has covered a lot of subjects, mostly in videos, which are informative and worth browsing for a more experienced Photoshop user. A particular series of four, video, tutorials covers how to import the SL 3D avatar model into Photoshop and use the model for clothing creation. One very important point – this will only work if you have Photoshop CS4 Extended or later. Earlier Photoshop versions do not have the necessary 3D tools to follow these guides.

Resources

Below is a list of free resources that can be used for making your own clothing or developing your own textures. Although these are free resources; I’ve indicated where you might need to check what the designer has specified as the user agreement. If someone has offered a texture, brush, etc., for personal projects but not commercial, and you intend to sell your work, then please get in touch with the designer before you use it. It’s common courtesy to do so and not all designers will say no to a request, if asked politely.

Also, if you come from a commercially developed grid, do take into consideration that a great many people use the same resources. Unfortunately, this can cause all kinds of problems. Always check first, if possible, and try not to make assumptions if you see the same textures being used by different designers.

Webtreats ETC – A huge choice of textures are available at Webtreats, which are great for all kinds of creating.

Photoshop Brushes – A wide range of brushes, textures, patterns, gradients, etc., that are available for Photoshop users. *Note* Each designer sets a different agreement, please be sure to read which creative license they specify.

deviantART – Probably one of the best known of art sites, many members offer free licensed or Creative Commons work. *Note* Designers set different license agreements and you will need to check carefully, or ask directly if you are unsure, before using it in your own work.

Other places worth looking at for free resources are Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.

In the Part 2 post I will be writing about other advanced techniques as well as the use of alpha layers for clothing and avatars.

Making Prim hair – Part 2

A quick revisit to the subject of making prim hair, as I had a very helpful comment left on the blog.

I’m glad to point out a newly written guide by Vanish of tgib. The post features handy advice on working with textures and prims for your hairstyle creation and has a male hairstyle to give you some ideas: Making hair – a starters guide.

V’s blog is well worth a good, in-depth, look around as he gives lots of useful advice on building and making in OpenSim along with more technical information on setting up your virtual world. Also, he generously offers a range of files that are free to download and use.

Thanks again V for all your time in providing these resources and guides for beginners!

Where we experience some technical problems…

And we’re back! Thanks to all the people who have been visiting Enlades while we were on a break.

For this post I’d hoped to be doing an update on some of the things we’ve been working on in our regions. However, we’ve experienced a couple of problems recently. I thought it would be useful to share them to give a perspective on some of the issues you can encounter when running your own virtual environment.

In my previous post on Prim hair I showed that I was following Natalia Zelmanov’s tutorials. Whilst I was working on my hair prims I encountered a bug that has been documented in Mantis previously. (Mantis is the OpenSim reporting system).

Thom managed to replicate the behaviour a couple of times before he found the Mantis reports. Apparently this particular issue had been fixed in a previous OpenSim release but we are experiencing the same behaviour. As of this time there hasn’t been an official confirmation but there is a helpful reply in the comments on a workaround to use. I include the link to Thom’s report here for information. Editing linked objects…

The next problem that came along was a bit more complicated and took a morning of research. If you’ve been, or are, a Second Life resident you might recall owning or seeing televisions for streaming media, in particular YouTube videos. For those that haven’t; I include a link to a product currently being sold on SL’s Marketplace: Flat screen SL t.v

I have to admit that it was with complete ignorance that I decided I wanted to make a media prim that played a favourite YouTube video. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that there had been a serious issue in 2010 when YouTube changed from Flash to mp4. This had caused a large problem for streaming in virtual worlds.

My error was that I made an assumption that cutting and pasting the URL and using that with the Freeview script, available on OpenSimulator’s website, was sufficient [insert laughter here]. It quickly became apparent that wasn’t going to work. After looking around for information I found out how you can stream media, and the issues last year with YouTube, via the SL wiki pages and forums.

This was helpful for background knowledge, but, it didn’t actually provide a workable solution I could use. Obviously there is a way, or more than one, to do this. An example I did find was what looks a complex method of playing around with something called ‘token authentication’. I have absolutely no idea what that is and felt unconfident at trying to use it. It is also possible to rip a video, save to your hard drive and then stream it yourself. I have some problems with doing that and would prefer to have an alternative.

For people in Second Life, (and other places where it is enabled) on Viewer 2.0 there is another option of using shared media. This facility was mentioned as coming to OpenSim in an interview with Justin Clark-Casey on the Hypergrid Business website back in July 2010; following on from that though I have been unable to find any further information on developments.

Whilst these things are, for the most part, minor problems when taken on an individual basis, one of the biggest challenges is in finding the right information. I think that highlighting these instances is useful to give an accurate picture of (virtual) life using OpenSim. And with fingers crossed on integrated solutions coming along in the near future.

Blog hiatus

Hi all!

From today there will be a short break from new posts. Both myself and Thom find writing fun and rewarding, but, it can also be quite time-intensive.

We’re taking a bit of time off for our OpenSim regions. We’ll be doing some building and learning, also tracking down a strange bug/behaviour that may or may not be linked to a script. If we find out what it is we’ll be blogging about that!

We’ll still be keeping an eye on things here at Enlades, so if you have any questions or comments, please, feel free to leave them on the relevant post. We’ll be back with new guides, tips and experiences in a week or so.

Thanks for reading, be back soon.

Belochka and Thom

Different kinds of triangle shapes

Recently I was looking for the best way to create a regular prim in the shape of an equilateral triangle (i.e. a triangle in which all three sides are equal). I specifically needed this kind of triangle to make a floor panel for a six-sided structure, which can be made out of six identical triangles (see image 1). Let’s look at a couple of ways to create a triangle.

hexagon with six triangles

Image 1. Putting the last floor segment in

Using the Prism building block type

This is the method I ended up using for my floor panel. It just involves two quick steps:

  1. Create a simple box.
  2. When the box rezzes, and with the box still selected, click on the Object tab in the build tool. Locate the “Building block type” selection list, and change its value to Prism. (image 2)

    Image 2. Selecting the Prism building block type gives you a triangle-shaped prism.

I used this method, because it instantly gives you an equilateral triangle. It will stay equilateral as long as you keep the shape’s X and Y sizes equal, and it will rotate neatly around the triangle’s center (also called centroid or center of gravity). This is an important difference with other ways to make a triangle, as we will see below.

Using the Prism default shape

An obvious way to make a triangle is to take the second shape in the list of available base shapes. Confusingly, this shape is called Prism too. Please note the difference between the Prism building block type (which we used in the previous paragraph), and the Prism shape, which actually uses a Box as its building block type (image 3).

Image 3. The Prism shape creates a different kind of triangle

The box you get has been sheared and tapered to create the triangular shape. This is okay for triangle shapes that need a 90-degree angle. However, an equilateral triangle has three 60-degree angles, and the 90-degree angle in this shape will not change when you resize the prim. (see image 4)

Image 4. Sizing the prim does not change the 90-degree angle

Calculating the right triangle size

The 90-degree angle is caused by the Top shear value. When you change the top shear X and Y values back to zero, the triangle starts to look better. It’s too tall though: to change it into a perfect equilateral triangle, you need to calculate the height of the prim. If you want to try this, do the following (see image 5).

  1. Create a default box (sized 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5).
  2. Make sure the Top shear values are zero.
  3. Set the Taper X value to 1.00.
  4. Change the Z size value (the triangle’s height) to 0.433.

Image 5. For a box-based triangle, check Taper, Top Shear and Height

The height calculation is not difficult, but it takes some extra work, compared to the first method. Besides this, there is another drawback of this approach. This becomes apparent when you need to rotate some triangles in order to create a pattern. If you use this type of triangle, it won’t stay aligned with adjacent triangles, because it has an awkward center of rotation. Since the shape is still based on a box, it will rotate around the center of the box (image 6), rather than the center of the triangle, which you get with the prism building block (image 7).

Image 6. A box-based triangle doesn't rotate neatly around the center

Image 7. A prism-based triangle rotates around the triangle centroid

Conclusion

For equilateral triangles, start with the Prism building block type. For triangles with a right angle, use the Prism default shape.

Happy building with triangles!