Changing your snapshot file name

Knowing how to change the name of your Second Life snapshot files is vital to Second Life photography. When you’ve been taking snapshots of Egyptian pyramids in Second Life, for example, but then go to a club and take snapshots of dancers, it’s best to change the name of your snapshot files to relect the change in subject, but many people don’t take advantage of this powerful feature. Today you’ll learn how.

In previous articles about Second Life snapshops, we’ve discussed improving your Second Life Snapshots, using the Environment Editor to improve you snapshots (part 1, part 2, and part 3), and advanced snapshot settings. Today we’ll discuss naming the file that’s created when you select "Save to your hard drive".

If you’ve ever used the "Save to your hard drive" option when making a Second Life snapshot, you’ve used the Save option and know how it works. When you take your first picture and click "Save", a window opens in which you can specify the name of the file and the folder where it’s going to be stored. If you are taking pictures of Egyptian pyramids, you might name the file "Egypt". The computer will add onto that name the sequential number of the picture, creating a file name of "Egypt_001" for picture. Starting with the second picture you take, you won’t be prompted for the name of the file when you click "Save". The file will just be created automatically. All that will chance will be the number at the end of the file name: the second picture will be in a file named "Egypt_002", the third picture will be "Egypt_003", and so on up to your 999th picture.

But what happens if you take a dozen pictures of pyramids, you go to a club and take pictures of dancing. Unless the nightclub happens to be in Egypt, you don’t want your dancing pictures to be named "Egypt_013", "Egypt_014", and so on, but they will be unless you explicitly change the name. But how do you do that?

You could log out of Second Life and then immediately log back in. This will work – the first time you take a snapshot, you’ll be prompted to enter a new file name – but it’s unnecessary. You can accomplish the same thing very easily by using the "Save As" option. Don’t feel badly if you haven’t thought to use it. In the college and adult education computer classes that I’ve taught, I’ve found "Save As" to be one of the least appreciated features, not just of Second Life, but of computers in general.

Instead of logging out when you leave ready to leave Egypt for a club, just go to the club and start taking pictures! When you take the first picture and you’re prompted to save the file, don’t click "Save" Instead, click the little triangle that’s to the right of Save. When you click it, a drop down menu appears with two choices: "Save" and "Save As". It’s shown in the picture above. When you click "Save As", you ‘ll be prompted for a new file name. Now you can enter a name likc "Dancing". You already have a dozen pictures of pyramids, named "Egypt_001" to "Eqypt_012". If you simply clicked "Save" in the club, then your first dancing picture would be named "Egypt_013", but if you click "Save As" and type in "Dancing" as your file name, then your thirteenth picture (the first dancing picture) would be named "Dancing_001". Your next dancing picture will be "Dancing_002", and so on.

This is an extremely powerful feature. If you take a lot of snapshots, you’ll appreciate the difference it makes in being able to sort and identify your photos later.


Going to college in Second Life

"I was only browsing colleges, nothing serious, when I found out you could take the classes in Second Life… . It was going to enable me to go to class with professors in Texas while I stayed in Montana! It was going to give me the real time interaction with a real professor without having to go out of the home. I was sold!" Indasky Boa – her Second Life avatar name – was describing how she reacted when she first learned about Texas State Technical College‘s virtual education vTSTC program in Second Life. The program offers certificate and AAS degrees in Digital Media and Digital Signage.

Last week, on August 21, 2009, Indasky graduated from the vTSTC certificate program. An indifferent student in her previous educational experiences, her vTSTC experience gave her an enthusiasm about education that she had never known before, and she now plans to continue studying for her degree.

Indasky Boa graduating from vTSTC
Indasky Boa’s graduation address

The program is still new; Indasky is only the second person to get a certificate. Chris Gibson, Associate VP of Educational Technology at the college, said that the program, in which students take all degree and certificate courses entirely in Second Life, is stressing creating a quality program over initially enrolling large number of students.

The projects in pictures shown in this article were all created by four students working together: IndaSky Boa, who lives in Montana and was self-taught in computers but felt a need for classroom instruction to learn design; Hector Ohmai, a resident of Mexico who is also a student at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; Teiko Moxi, a stay-at-home mom in San Antonio Texas; and Ushao Murakami, who dropped out of college ten years ago and who has lived with Teiko for nine years after meeting online.  (These are the students’ avatar names).

A common experience that all four students have experienced is that other people think it’s an easy program because their classes are conducted entirely in Second Life, but the students said it really is just the opposite. They are working much harder than they would in a traditional face-to-face class. Indasky said, "It’s cool, but it’s a lot of work!"

Informational vTSTC kiosk that students created
Kiosk created by vTSTC students

The projects they’ve been working on are new ways to promote vTSTC, and include:

  • An informational kiosk, shown on the left;
  • Redesigning the vTSTC website;
  • A wearable virtual student desk, complete with a laptop computer that gives information about the college;
  • A virtual billboard
  • A story board that tells about vTSTC from a student perspective.

For more information about Texas State Technical College’s program in Second Life, visit the vTSTC website, v.tstc.edu.


Benefit Virtual Art Auction

Feather Boa's "Broken Angel"

Across the room you see two classic columns, and an angel flying carefree among the clouds between them. You walk closer. Without warning the columns shatter into fragments onto the ground around you. You look up. The angel is now on her knees, weeping, the sky behind her a conflagration. It is Feather Boa’s "Broken Angel", one of the art works you can bid on in the silent benefit auction "Artists Caring for Artists that begins today and runs for two weeks, until September 4, 2009.

The auction has been organized in Second Life by the Caerleon Art Collective, a group of world famous virtual artists who utilize ‘Second Life’ to produce immersive artworks, Artificial Life forms, and digitized representations of RL art pieces. All monies raised from the two week auction will be used to allow established artists to continue their work despite the recent withdrawal of major RL funding.

Sowa Mai's "Hands"
Sowa Mai’s "Hands"

These pictures don’t do the art justice. Many are dynamic, some changing shape as you approach them and changing back as you walk away, others are in constant motion, such as Sowa Mai’s "Hands". The still picture shown here shows images very much like Second Life’s hand logo, but when you see it in Second Life, it’s a spinning, constantly changing image.

The auction is an opportunity for you to acquire virtual world art by established artists and to at the same time help them to continue their work. Bidding will last for two weeks, beginning August 22, 2009. To place a bid, you click on the sign next to the art you want to buy, and then you make a bid by clicking "Pay" and paying the amount of your bid. If your bid is highest when the auction ends, you get that piece of art. One thing that may be confusing: all bidding is in multiples of L$200 (200 Lindens): L$200, L$400, L$600, etc. Bids that aren’t multiples of L$200 will be rejected. You can see the current highest bid in floating text over the sign.

Some of the virtual art being auctioned
Some of the art you can bid on

You can read more about the Caerleon Art Collective and its Virtual Art Initiative at its website, and Second Life members can teleport to the blind auction by clicking slurl.com/secondlife/Esterhal/197/222/23.


Second Life Advanced Snapshot Settings

Second Life‘s Snapshot feature in its default mode is like a point-and-shoot camera. You aim it and it does the rest, providing you with just three options: to send the snapshot as an email, to save it in your inventory as a texture, or to save it on your hard drive as an image. However, for those needing more options, there are more advanced settings that may serve you better than the default settings. To see them, click "More >>" at the bottom of the default snapshot window.

 
Second Life send to email popup
Snapshot to email settings

Now we see additonal snapshot options, but what do they mean?

The two most useful options are to set the snapshot size and image quality. When you’re sending a picture by email, you should always be aware of the size of the image file you are sending. If your recipient has a dial-up internet connection or limited disk space on their computer, sending too large a file could tie up their internet connection for a long period or be impossible to save. That’s where these two snapshot settings can be useful.

You can send your picture as the same size as your current Second Life window, or as 640×480, 800×600,
or 1024×768, or you can specify your own custom size. If you’re running Second Life in a small window, then you might want to send a larger picture; conversely if you’re running Second Life full screen and don’t want to email a large file, then you should select a smaller size.

The Image Quality slider allows you to specify the quality of the image, and thereby the size of the file. The default setting is 75. Be careful about setting this higher – it can result in a dramatically larger email. For example, in my test, a size of 800×600 at the default Image Quality of 75 generated an 81KB file, but a setting of 100 generated a file almost five times larger, 391KB. Reducing the Image Quality from 75 to 50 resulted in a 30% smaller file, 57KB.

The other options will be discussed later, under "Save to your hard drive."

 
Second Life save to inventoryl popup
Snapshot to inventory settings

Selecting "Save to your inventory (L$10)" gives us a slightly different set of options, starting with the fact that it will cost you ten Lindens (3.4 US cents at today’s exchange rate) for every snapshot saved.

There are three preset Sizes: Small (128×128), Medium (256×256), and Large (512×512). These are the sizes you are most likely to need for applying Second Life textures. There are also options for using the current window size and your own custom size.

There is no setting for Image Quality; this applies only when jpeg files are created, which is only available with the "Send via email" and "Save to your hard drive" options.

Notice that unlike "Send to email" and "Save to your hard drive", when you save to inventory using the standard sizes, the texture you create will be square, not rectangular, and the areas from the rectangular screen image that will be discarded are shown in grey in the preview image.

 
Second Life save to hard drive popup
Snapshot to hard drive settings

Understanding the "Save to your hard drive" settings is essential for anyone creating images on your hard drive that you plan to print, display on the web, or otherwise process.

As with the first two options, you can select a size when saving to your hard drive, but you have a greater choice of sizes: 320×240, 640×480, 800×600, 1024×768, 1280×1024, and 1600×1200 in addition to the current window size and your own custom size. The size you select of course depends on what you plan to do with the image.

You also have the choice of three file formats: bmp, jpeg, and png. Jpeg is the most common for displaying and emailing images, and it generally creates a much smaller file than bmp and png, but it’s not always the best choice for saving files. This is because each time you save a jpeg file, you have some loss of quality. If you have enough hard drive space, it’s better to save as either bmp or png, and make a jpeg copy when you need to email it or post it on the Web.

Bmp and png files don’t suffer this generational loss of quality. I generally save my files as png because these files are substantially smaller than bmp files. For example, in my testing, an 800×600 snapshot saved as a png file resulted in a 802KB file, but the same snapshot saved as a bmp resulted in a file that’s 75% larger, 1,407KB!

When you save as jpeg, the Image Quality slider appears, again with the default value of 75. When saved as a jpeg with an Image Quality of 75, the same 800×600 image that created a 802KB png file and a 1,407 bmp file generated an 81KB file. When Image Quality was increased to 100, it generated a file almost five times larger, 391KB. Reducing the Image Quality from 75 to 50 resulted in a 30% smaller file, 57KB.

If you choose a custom size, make certain that there is a checkmark in "Constrain Proportions". If you do, you can change either number and the other number will change to keep the same image proportions. Otherwise, your picture could end up looking stretched vertically or horizontally!

There are additional settings, but you generally won’t need to change them. "Capture" should always be set to "Colors" unless you are looking for special effects. If you want to show the Second Life user interface (menu bars, chat, etc) in your picture, then put a check at "Show Interface in Snapshot. If you want a HUD to appear, then check "Show HUD in snapshot".

If you’re doing a series of shots of the same scene, then it can be useful to check "Keep open after saving." This keeps the snapshot window open until you uncheck this setting.


Obama in Ghana – Second Life interviews

President Obama seen from Second Life

"I believe that a village in Africa with a couple of computers powerful enough to connect to a virtual world could be the shared resources that people could use to communicate, work, learn." That’s the vision of Linden Lab‘s founder and former CEO Philip Rosedale as expressed in an interview with Draxtor Despres on the machinima Obama in Ghana…and the Metaverse was watching!.

Rikomatic‘s machinima of the event discussed here yesterday and Draxtor Despres’ machinima show two very different but equally valid approaches to covering President Obama’s speech in Ghana. Rikomatic choose to use the format to convey the speech itself, while Draxtor Despres chose to use the speech as a context in which to interview five people: U.S. State Department Director of Innovative Engagement William Mays, Ghanian-born Julius Sowu, Linden Lab’s Philip Rosedale, Internews‘ Vice-President for Africa, Health, and Humanitarian Media Mark Frohardt, and former ambassador to Qatar Kenton Keith.

Julius Sowu in Second Life
Julius in Second Life

Julius Sowu, who emigrated to the U.K from Ghana in 1981, spoke of how social media are making it harder for politicians to spin events like this, and said "The shining outcome will come when more of us can sit down at the same table, virtual and real, and truth comes through. Virtual worlds are here to stay." Counter viewpoints were expressed by Mark Frohardt and Kenton Keith. Frohardt felt that the low penetration of broadband and computers in Africa combined with the explosive growth of cell phones made the latter a more effect means of communication there. Keith was concerned about the"miniscule amount of Americans who work or study abroad" and feared that "Americans will use [virtual worlds] instead of the other kinds of exchanges that are absolutely essential."

Second Life avatars watching President Obama
Second Life avatars watching President Obama

Draxtor Despres ended the machinima by saying, "I trust that young people know how to utilize virtual worlds to get acquainted with other cultures which they can then explore in the physical world."

You can watch the interviews on YouTube here:


Obama in Ghana streamed to Second Life

A virtual world and United States presidential first took place last month when a speech by President Obama was streamed live into two virtual worlds, Second Life and Metaplace, from the African nation of Ghana. Even for a president as media-savvy as Obama, this was his most tweeted, Facebooked, and SMS‘d event to date. After the speech, a mixed reality question-and-answer session allowed folks in Second Life and Metaverse to ask questions of three African experts.

Although this event did not receive much publicity, it was important both for technical and the political challenges it presented, and particularly because it brings virtual worlds closer to the mainstream of American life.

You can watch an excerpt from President Obama’s speech as seen in Second Life on rikomatic‘s YouTube video of the event here (warning: the audio portion is not great)::


SLCC Day Four

Linden Lab's Tom Hale at Day 4 of SLCC 2009
 

Day four of the Second Life Community Convention began with.Linden Lab‘s Tom Hale (pictured on the right) unveiling new features that are coming soon, and sneak peaks at wish list items we could see over the coming year. These include features such as searchable maps, pre-developed land for sale, a new registration form for new members (thank you, Linden Lab … I’ve had to guide several noobs through the confusing current registration procedure!), a new social website-like dashboard that integrates the various aspects of a resident’s Second Life existence, and a redesigned secondlife.com website. There were also mentions of plans to allow use of allowing the use of mesh for 3D modeling, allowing multiple media textures including Flash, interactive web textures that allow clicking on links, and collaborative text editing.

 
Scene from the machinima Orientation, made by Chantal Harvey
 

In the afternoon, machinimas from the 2009 MaMachinima Festival were shown. The next two pictures are from two of the machinimas shown. The first is from the machinima Orientation, which was made in Second Life at Virtual Holland by Chantal Harvey, with performance by Arthole (Arahan Claveau and Nebulosus Severine). The next one is from Erlk├Ânig, based on the story by 18th century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and made in Second Life by Cisco Vandeverre.

According to the Mamachinama website, these machinimas can all be viewed from within Second Life, but when I tried it, the SLURL was for an invalid location. DVDs were handed out to people at SLCC, which is where these images came from.

 
Scene from the machinima Erlkonig, made by Cisco Vandeverr
 

One of the most amazing workshops to me was the one in which Max the Virtual Guide Dog was demonstrated. Most people don’t know that there are blind people in Second Life, who join for essentially the same reasons that sighted people do – to have fun and to meet people. Max allows the visually-impaired to navigate through Second Life and be aware of where they are, where they are headed, and what objects and avatars are around them. You can learn more at the Virtual Guide Dog Project.

This was the fourth and final day of SLCC 2009. You can read about the preceding days of the convention in Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.


SLCC 2009 Day Three

Day 3 of SLCC 2009
 

"When you are in Second Life, do you pretend to be someone you are not?" This is a question that a college teacher who holds classes in Second Life asks his students. This brings up a hugely important question in virtual worlds and depending on how he meant it, could indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of how virtual worlds work.

When a person adopts an avatar of a different race or gender, or a different persona than how he or she is known in the real world, is it pretending to be someone else, is it exploring different sides of ones’ self, or is it simply being whothe person feels most comfortable being? The question implies that it’s simply pretending to be someone else, but can be far more to it than that. In virtual worlds, it’s common for people to adopt avatars who are very different from their real life identities. It doesn’t have to be pretending to be what they are not.

.This was only one of a long list of issues raised on day three of the Second Life Community Convention.

 
Capn Kurka at Day 3 of SLCC 2009
 

One fascinating workshop was "Plastic Reality", in which a panel consisting of Kolar Fell, Capn Kurka, Filthy Fluno, Tuna Oddfellow, and Manx Wharton discussed virtual worlds, art, and mixed reality, and showed a video, Synthetic Masquerade, of a mixed reality art exhibit at San Francisco’s Somarts. The video can be seen on YouTube.

One point made by the panel was, "Saying that virtual life isn’t real life is like saying that a phone conversation isn’t a real conversation." The issue of how people outside virtual worlds perceive virtual worlds and their fear and/or misunderstandings were raised in several workshops.

 
Day 3 of SLCC 2009
 

Several workshops discussed ways that Second Life is being used for dealing with social issues; one panelist mentioned it being used for treating substance abuse, and two others discussed their work to create tools that will allow the homeless to gain skills using Second Life, and to provide a a place to call home for a person who doesn’t have one.

Two recurring themes of the workshops were of Second Life’s enormous power as a collaborative tool, bringing together people around the world who otherwise could not work together, or even meet, and as an educational tool. Dr Yesha Sivan showed a particularly amazing machinima for introducing students to Second Life that simultaneously shows what can be done in a virtual world and how virtual world concepts might (some would say "will") emigrate to real life in the not too distant future.

The keynote speakers were current and past Linden Lab CEO’s Mark Kingdon and Philip Rosedale, who discussed plans for coming changes in Second Life.


SLCC 2009 Day two

Ray Kurzweil at SLCC
 

Day two of the Second Life Community Conference went smoothly. Attendees arrived, were issued their badges and SLCC teeshirts, and proceeded to Grand Ballroom for the morning’s keynote speaker, the legendary technology visionary Ray Kurzweil.

However, Kurzweil wasn’t there. At least not in person. He was in Second Life, and delivering his talk via streaming media to the audience assembled in the St. Francis Hotel, who watched his avatar speaking on two large projections screens. He spoke of the exponential growth of technology leading to changes in society that are much faster than the linear growth frequently forecast by economic modelers and spoke about the six paradigms of the grown of technology The First Paradigm began with the 1890 census, the first to be conducted with the then startling new tecnology of punch cards. Kurzweil projects that the current Fifth Paradigm, based on Moore’s Law projecting the growth in power of computers, will end around 2020 and will be supplanted by the Sixth Paradigm, molecular computing.

Kurzweil addressed far more than can be covered here. For more information, go to his website www.KurzWeilaAI.net.
 

 
Beyers Sellers at SLCC
 

One recurring theme in several workshops I attended was privacy and whether or not people’s Second Life avatar names and real life identities should be freely linked both in Second Life and on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Most people at the workshops appeared to be in favor of this, but some people try to keep them separate, for example entrepreneurs trying to maintain a distance between their business and personal identities. There were serious concerns about the privacy we are giving up in so many aspects of our lives, and that there has not been sufficient serious public discussion about how much is appropriate and acceptable.

Another theme was the use of Second Life in education, such as teaching the Native American Comanche language. Another fascinating application was Texas State Technical College, which has AA degree programs in which all coursework can be taken in Second Life. The college also has a YouTube channel.

 
Jeff Barr at SLCC
 

Jeff Barr of Amazon Web Services gave a fascinating talk – ok, fascinating to technical people – about using the Linden scripting language LSL together with PHP to collect data about objects in Second Life.

Wagner James Au, author of the authoritative Second Life blog New World Notes was at SLCC with his new book, The Making of Second Life. I haven’t read it yet but it looks interesting. His long involvement in Second Life gives him a historical perspective that few others possess.

The biggest problem at SLCC on day two was that there were so many interesting workshops, more than than any one person could attend. There are two more days of events – SLCC 2009 continues through Sunday August 16, 2009.


SLCC 2009 Day One

The Leviathan of Parsonstown in Second Life
 

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The first day of the Second Life Community Convention was a day of controlled chaos and the halls of the ornate Westin-St. Francis hhandwritten being adorned with signs made from from pages torn notebooks. The chaos was so bad that members weren’t given name badges and weren’t even registered. Anyone could have walked in for free. The picture to the right, of the registration desk, tells is best.

There was only one printed schedule, which a Linden Lab employee was keeping a careful eye on, but at one point a Second Life member, furious at the chaos, took it from her, saying "I paid two hundred dollars and I deserve at least this!"

The two workshops I attended, "Building Community" and "Mixed Reality Presentations",
went well.

 
Space art celebrating the International Year of Astronomy
 

The "Building Community" workshop presented the experiences in creating communities in Second Life from four perspectives: people with disabilities, a corporate region (Nokia), and two social regions, Dublin (famous for its Blarney Stone pub), and Orange Island. The presenters were Gentle Heron, Han Rambler, Hydra Shaftoo, and Fabian Alexander. Kathleen Linden moderated the workshop.

Gentle Heron pointed out that although Second Life is often referred to as a "level playing field" for people with special challenges, it really is not so much level as more level than real life.

In general, the panel discussed issues involved in creating a successful community, such as having a clearly understood goal and rules, getting people around you whose judgment you trust and to delegate authority to them, and to be prepared for the unexpected.

 
Free space-themed textures
 

In Kenzo and Rhiannon Chatnoir led the "Mixed Reality Presentations" workshop, assisted by a team in making the workshop itseld a mixed reality presentation. People in Second Life were taking part in the workshop via streaming media and could see us while we saw them on a large projection screen.

SLCC 2009 continues through Sunday August 16, 2009/