Sunday, October 29, 2017

Almost free stuff for Halloween: Vespertine and Apple Fall/G

Although Vespertine asks for L$100 for joining, it could be the best money you've spent in SL.  Currently the main store is closed, but the temporary store on the Pea sim, contains all the group gifts.  Everything you can see in the picture below - and more - is included.  Pumpkins, cemetery gates and little pumpkin lights for Halloween, and lots of window lights, hanging lights and wreaths of lights for Christmas.

Pumpkins, lanterns, lights and window lights




Again, I haven't found the group to be intrusive or busy.  The gifts are amazing, and I particularly like the wreaths and window lights.

Apple Fall has announced an autumn/fall gift, in the shape of a pumpkin wreath for your door, in collaboration with Gallant Magazine.  To collect the wreath you have to go to the Gallant sim, join their group (which costs L$99) and click on the box.  So it is free, sort of.

Gallant magazine with Apple Fall pumpkin wreath gift for group members

Free Stuff for Halloween in Second Life 2: attachments and clothing from COCO

COCO is one of my favourite designers in Second Life.  The SLURL for Coco designs is here.  They also have some of the best freebies in Second Life too!  You need to join their group in order to get them, but the group is one of the good ones which doesn't spam you all the time, and relies on you to check the sim from time to time for anything new.

At the SLURL, go into the second doorway from the right (ie not the discount area door) and the wall of freebies is right in front of you.

They have some very good freebies for Halloween, as can be seen from this picture of group gifts.  There is also the awesome pair of ThighHighBoots in vampish red.

Witchy shoes, Wednesday costume, Pumpkin staff and Witch hat from COCO designs.


Free stuff for Halloween in Second Life 1: Pumpkins at Happy Mood

Pumpkins in Happy Mood sim in Second Life

 One of my very favourite shops and sims in Second Life, Happy Mood, currently has a pumpkin treasure hunt across the sim. Beautiful pumpkin lanterns are scattered around - 25 of them - and you only have to find them and claim them.  They are copyable and modable, but not transferable.

Free scarecrow for group members only

There's a gift for group members too, a pair of very lovely scarecrows.  I adore HPMD trees, vines and grasses.  Unlike a lot of the creators making things in SL, these things are not made with photo-real textures, but with a slightly impressionistic feel which looks exactly right in Second Life.  Photo realistic textures can tend to fight very badly with the other things around them.  HPMD trees and foliage blends right in, and thereby looks more realistic in the virtual world.

If you haven't visited the sim and explored, this pumpkin hunt is a very good opportunity! To see more of their beautiful products, there is also a Flickr group to join.

Beautiful trees and grass in Happy Mood sim

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pixabay and Paint

I've not been here for a while, but I have a new computer and a new passion for things virtual, and so here I am.  Pixabay is a free image website which offers a good search facility to find pictures for blogs, Second Life textures or anything you please.  The pictures are available in different sizes and I enjoy playing about with them in Paint.net, layering them, using elements from one picture and adding to another.  Both Pixabay and Paint.net are free, but they both ask for donations if you find the material useful.

There are lots of additional plugins for Paint.net, including a lot of the effects which you find in photoshop and other expensive programs.  I really love it.  Here's what I made yesterday using a combination of Pixabay photographs and Paint.net.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Opensource avatars: Make Human

I've heard people talking about Make Human, and their opensource avatar-making tool, but I haven't had time to explore it for myself.  It was mentioned on SL Universe (SLU) today, with a link to the site, and so I thought I would share it here in advance of pootling with it myself, in case it comes in handy.  It reminds me that I have been meaning to do another round up of the free tools for all aspects of Second Life, as there are some more 3D modelling and animation tools available.

I expect there will be a lot of reviews over the next few weeks, and people will come back with the pros and cons for use specifically in Second Life.  The thread on SLU is probably one to watch. I must admit that I am quite fond of my avatar in SL and would find it hard to trade her in for a new one, however good.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Star Trek and the rights and wrongs of intellectual property in Second Life

Before I start this blog I should state that I am not a lawyer, I do not have any expertise in law and this blog is merely my opinion and not advice.

Fan builds - probably acceptable?

For those who have never been in a position to infringe someone's copyright, the law about intellectual property is something vague which mainly relates to pirated music and video, and if you don't use illegal downloads, it probably doesn't take much - or any - of your attention.  In the virtual world, where creation and uploading textures and images is so easy, it may suddenly become very relevant to your world in Second Life or OpenSim or any of the other SL-like virtual worlds which allow you to make and create things.  For many people (including me) it takes a while to sink in that if you upload a picture which you didn't take and don't own to Second Life and put it in a frame, you may be infringing someone's copyright.
Museums - probably like fan sites on the web

Eleven years ago, I didn't understand this automatically, I had to be taught.  It's become even more difficult to understand the written and unwritten rules of intellectual property as time has gone on.  Some companies have had a presence in Second Life and have left behind artefacts and objects which they produced.  Some things are not copyrightable in the real world - clothes, for example - and yet people get very hot under the collar if one SL creator makes something that looks like something another creator has made.  Sometimes it turns out that both have independently copied a real design in the real world.  As clothing is not able to be copyrighted in the real world, it would be very strange if the virtual version of it were subjected to more legal protections.

People use trademarked and copyrighted material all the time in Second Life, and so it becomes accepted that there may be people selling products that resemble real-world stars, real-world tv characters and their props and costumes.  Some people say that this encourages people to be interested in the real-world shows and may be helpful marketing; others say that any use of images and designs is an infringement of intellectual property and should be resisted.
Selling Star Trek stuff
My own opinion, and it is only an opinion, is that that there is no question that the intellectual property behind the designs of - for example - Star Trek in its various guises belongs to CBS Entertainment.  Taking their images and designs without permission or a licence and using them is wrong.  But the unwritten side of the rules is that CBS Entertainment tolerates and even promotes real world fan sites on their own website, possibly because they know that people who are really committed to the Star Terk franchise will buy a lot of their products and promoting a supportive community is a really good way of marketing those products too.  I don't know - it's the gap between the explicit letter of the law (all Star Trek stuff belong to us) and the unwritten laxity of fandom (but you can make yourself a Star Trek uniform and carry a papier mache tricorder and we won't prosecute you).

I don't know what CBS entertainment thinks of the huge number of fan builds and museums and replicas and role playing groups in Second Life.  Some people see them as infringing the copyright, plain and simple. However,  I see the fan builds and fan-made uniforms as the virtual extensions of the fan cosplay in real life.  As long as people have made their own star ship enterprise, or klingon head attachment or tricorder, I am not sure that it doesn't count as an artwork in its own right.

However, for those who are ripping commercial games and sites for meshes of Star Trek stuff, or selling uniforms and attachments without permission... that's a different thing.  It's the difference between making yourself a cosplay Captain Picard outfit and selling Captain Picard outfits on Ebay.

The law about intellectual property in the virtual world is new and relatively untested because no one thus far has made enough money to want to go into battle in court over whether IP rights for real life items like cars and motorrcycles extend into the virtual world automatically, or need claiming separately from real-world copyright design.  There is no question that using someone else's trademarked name for a design is wrong and protected by law in the real world and the virtual.  What is less certain is whether designs for cars and real world objects extend into the virtual world naturally or have to be asserted separately - whether they are the same thing if they look the same, or different because they are ultimately made of pixels, not metal, plastic and rubber.

There is no question that ripping the meshes or textures or animations from a game or an object in Second Life or a website is wrong whatever you do with it.  But I am not sure that making your own tricorder out of prims for your own use is so wrong.  The difficulty comes when you want to find other people in the fan community who share your obsession for Star Trek, because the only way to make contact with them, or attract them to your build, is to use the trademarked name for the show, which infringes the trademark.
Fan build or IP infringement?  Not sure

My own opinion is that probably it suits everyone to have the tolerance of fan creations unwritten and unstated, because anything else would be too complicated legally to administer, and thus very expensive. 

Unfortunately, people coming into SL see people using commercial and copyrighted material all over the world, and assume that it is acceptable to do this.  My feeling is that making your own uniform to enable you to role play in a Star Trek build is fine... selling it is not.  The test of whether you are infringing someone's copyright is certainly not whether you are making money at it, as giving away someone else's IP is just as much an infringement as selling it would be.  But the difference is really like the real-world one, where making your own version of a uniform is acceptable, and selling them off a market stall is not.

In the course of writing this post, I searched for Star Trek and was astonished by the number of tribute builds and RP communities there are in Second Life associated with the franchise.  There is everything from the starship enterprise to isolated communities of Vulcans and colonies of Klingons.  If you have any interest in Star Trek, it is possible to inhabit something like that world, virtually.  And long may it support the communities of fans which are obviously cherished by the programme makers and keep the franchise alive.

Usually I would credit the makers and creators of material and link to their sims.  I'm not doing that in this case because I don't want to single them out particularly, it was just an example to use with a strong fan base in real life and the virtual world.  They know who they are!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

SL Beginners: objects in Second Life

Prims twisted, hollowed and plain (top to bottom)
Over the course of four years as a mentor in Second Life, the same questions were asked by people new to Second Life, and so I thought I would blog a few of those for people unfamiliar with the virtual world.  Jargon is rife in Second Life, and it isn't always easy to find a simple explanation for the things that you hear.

Prims, or primitive objects, are the basic building blocks which every avatar in Second Life can create.  A basic prim comes in a number of shapes from cubes, cylinders and spheres to more complex rings, and toruses.  Using the build menu, basic shapes can be cut, hollowed, twisted and dimpled to make other shapes.  When I first entered Second Life, everything in world was made of prims.

Flexible prim
Renting or buying land allows you to keep a certain number of prims in world at that location.  There are public sandboxes where you can build or rez items from your inventory, but on most land you will need permission from the landowner or to be a member of a group, in order to be able to build or create objects.   Prims are textured with a default balsa wood texture when they are created, but can be retexured with anything you prefer.  They can be linked together in any combination required.

The physics shape of the object, that is the notional "solid" shape that the physics engine uses if your avatar walks over or sits on an object you have made with prims, is the same as the visual shape of the object.

Flexi prims are certain shapes of prim which can be set to have a flexible nature.  This can be useful for moving flags, flowing fabric and hair. 


Sculpties were the second type of object introduced to Second Life.  They need to be made outside Second Life, although there are a couple of gadgets which can do this in world and export the resulting texture.  Sculpties use a special texture to make the shape - the colour in the texture dictates the shape of the object.  Sculpties are one prim each unless you link them to other prims.  They can take some time to rez compared with prims and mesh, and few people create new objects as sculpties nowadays - most of those who used to create in sculpties now produce mesh instead.  If you want to see if an object is a sculpty you need to edit it by right clicking, choosing edit, and then looking at the object page of the edit window.  The cost of uploading a sculptie is L$10, like any other texture.  They are textured with a specially mapped texture to fit with the shape of the object (which will also cost L$10 to upload).

The physics shape of a sculptie is not the same as the visual shape, it's a flattened torus with the hole filled in. 

Mesh plant under edit
Mesh is the newest form of object, and it can be as detailed as necessary, incorporating complicated shapes.  These can be made within Second Life using a commercial tool to convert linked prims into a mesh object, but it must then be exported, and will need to be reimported to become a mesh into Second Life.  That isn't a very clean way of making meshes, which can be much better designed and controlled in an external program.  It is possible to convert a prim shape into a basic mesh using the in-world commercial tool and then to clean it up in blender or another program before uploading to SL. The cost of uploading a mesh model varies with size and complexity and is calculated on upload.

You can set the physics shape of the object as you upload it, from a detailed physics shape which reflects the visual shape of the object to a much simplified cube or similar and everything in between.  How detailed you need the physics shape to be depends upon what it is going to be used for.

Mesh being edited to highlight the mesh

There are a lot of commercial and free and open source programs available to make meshes.  The shape of the object can be a lot more detailed, and can be textured in detail too, by "unwrapping" the  object.  It can be hard to tell whether an object you want to buy is mesh, sculpty or prim.  One the whole, very detailed objects which are also low prim count will be mesh or sculpty.  It is hard to tell with a complex linked object, which can contain both mesh prims and ordinary prims, for example.  On the whole, it is fairly easy to see mesh if you use your camera to "see" into the object, which looks like a lot of little triangles, as can be seen in the picture above.