Using multiple Second Life viewers simultaneously – part 1

Five Second Life avatars logged onto a single computer

It’s common for Second Life members to have multiple avatars, but many don’t know that they can easily have several of their avatars logged on simultaneously. When you try to log on with a second avatar, you get an error message that Second Life is already running.

Nonetheless, it is possible. There are at least four ways for you to log on more than one avatar simultaneously. The picture is proof. These are five avatars logged on simulaneously on a single computer.  The Second Life version of Mexico’s Chichen Itza pyramid is behind them.

The following applies to Windows PCs. I haven’t tested any of this on Linux or Mac systems. If you’re a Mac user, read Part 2 of this series; it contains a video showing how to do it on a Mac. The four ways on a PC to log on multiple avatars are:

Multiple Computers: The obvious way is to use multiple computers. If you have a laptop and a desktop computer, you can have two avatars logged on simultaneously, one on the desktop and one on the laptop.  The big advantage to this method is performance.  Running several avatars on a single computer will impact its performance a lot more than running each avatar on a separate computer.

USB external hard drive: A less obvious way is to start a separate instance of Windows as a subprocess. You can do this using an external USB drive with Mojopac installed. It’s not an ideal solution because of the performance penalty of using USB, but it works. You can have Second Life installed on both the computer and on the Mojopac hard drive and log on two avatars simultaneously. I’ve done it and it works. There may be others ways to do it other than with MojoPac; MojoPac is the one I’ve used.

Multiple Viewers: Use multiple Second Life viewers. For example, in addition to the standard Second Life viewer, I have the Greenlife Emerald, Imprudence, Meerkat, RealXtend, and Snowglobe viewers installed on my computer. I can run all of them simultaneously, each with a different avatar log on (although I can’t run the Second Life and Snowglobe viewers simultaneously without taking the step mentioned in the next paragraph).

Multiple Instances of One Viewer: The multiple viewers method works but is not officially supported by Second Life. The officially approved – and the easiest – way is to add "-multiple" to the target line in the shortcut. It works with the standard Second Life viewer and with the Greenlife Emerald, Imprudence, Meerkat, RealXtend, and Snowglobe viewers (I haven’t yet tested it with other viewers).   You’ll learn how to do it in Part 2 of this series, where you’ll also be able to watch a video showing how.

This is the first of a  four part series; the other parts are:

This is the first of a  four part series; the other parts are:
Part 2: Videos and more details about running multiple viewers and avatars on a single computer
Part 3: Running multiple viewers and avatars on multiple computers with a KVM switch.
Part 4: Why on earth (ok, virtual Earth!) would someone want to run multiple viewers and avatars simultaneously?

Debugging Second Life performance problems

Your avatar tries to walk, but goes nowhere, then after finally making some progress suddenly gets whipped backward. If it continues happening, what should you do?

Problems like this are examples of lag, and can be caused by either the Second Life server, your network connection, your computer, or your Second Life Preference settings. This article will survey some basics of what you need to know to diagnose the problem, and will provide links to sources of more complete information.

Before getting into diagnosis tools and procedures, there are some basic questions to ask:

– Do you have a dial-up or satellite internet connection? If so, there may be little you can do to get satisfactory performance. Second Life requires a minimum of a dsl or cable internet connection.
– Does your computer meet minimum requirements to run Second Life? These vary depending on your hardware and operating system; you can look up minimum requirements for your system on the system requirements page. Bear in mind that you’ll require more than minimum requirements for a rich Second Life experience.
– Are you using a wired or wireless internet connection? Second Life allows but does not support wireless. In many or most cases a wireless connection may work satisfactorily, but if you’re having problems, first try connecting your computer to the internet with a wired connection before doing further diagnosis.

After you’ve eliminated those possible causes of your performance problems, you can move on to other possible causes. One key piece of information you’ll need is where you’re experiencing the problem and whether others are also experiencing it. Try teleporting to several unrelated sims. If you have the same problem in all sims, you can probably eliminate the server as a source of the problem. If no one else is experiencing the problem and you experience it in several different sims, then the problem is probably in your computer or your internet connection.

Second Life now has a handy tool for helping to isolate the cause of your problem. It’s the Lag Meter. You can open in by clicking the Help menu and selecting "Lag Meter". It’s shown in the picture above. All three buttons should be green. If any are orange or red, then there’s a problem, with red problems being the more serious.

Client button: "Client" refers to the Second Life software (the Second Life viewer) running on your computer. If the Client button is orange or red, it indicates a problem with your client, probably in your Second Life Preferences settings. Some settings to look at are your Graphics draw distance, putting a check mark next to "Avatar Imposters", turning off particles, and setting the Avatar Mesh slider to a lower setting. You can get more options in the links provided at the end of this article.

Network Button: This indicates a problem with your internet connection. Possible causes include your router, your ISP, your antivirus and firewall software, and other programs running while you’re in Second Life. If you’re having network problems, then clearing your Second Life cache may help. You can clear your cache by clicking Edit/Preferences/Network and then clicking the Clear Cache button.

Server Button: This indicates the problem may be on the Second Life server running the sim that you’re in. The problem is not necessarily the server itself. There may be too many scripts running, or too many avatars in or looking into the sim.

Here are some links for getting more information and for reporting problems:

Information about using the Lag Meter

If you’re technically minded, the Statistics Bar (you can select it from the View menu) can be very useful. Read about it here.

If you read these links and explore the Knowledge Base but can’t find an answer, you can get information about filing a trouble ticket or chatting with support. Note that only Premium and Concierge Second Life members can file trouble tickets. Basic members can learn what support services they qualify for here.

The following video will give you information about using the Lag Meter.

Now you can follow Apollo on Facebook!

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.

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.

Second Life 101: gateway communities – Holland, Avatar Island, Benelux, and China

Virtual Holland

This is the first in a series of articles about Second Life gateway communities, which were discussed in the last Second Life 101 article, Renting and Gateway Communities. Today we’ll examine four gateway communities: Virtual Holland, BeNeLux Community Gateway, 3Immersions, and Avatar Island University. One is English language, one is Chinese, one is Dutch, and one is multi-lingual.

When you land in the Virtual Holland Future Nederlandse Gateway, you are on a tiny island, surrounded by instructional signs in Dutch to help new Second Life members. Although there is nothing here for non-English speakers, it is part of a cluster of scenic Netherlands regions with names like Virtual Holland Village Noordzee and Nederland. Even though you may not understand the language, you may enjoy visiting this mini-Netherlands in Second Life.

The teleport link for new members is Flying is not allowed on the island, but you can walk underwater to the adjacent islands, where flying is allowed. The picture on the right is from one of the Virtual Holland islands.

Avatar Island University

Avatar Island University is for new members only. If you’re already a Second Life member, you’ll be ejected if you try to enter. The description they give of it is:

"Make Avatar Island your first stop in Second Life. On Avatar Island you’ll find all you need to create and accessorize your avatar before heading out into SL. You can even use a photo of yourself (or anyone else!) to make a truly unique avatar!"

The setting is beautful, a collection of structures on an open sea, which you can see in this picture. I wasn’t able to enter it, however, so I can give no further personal observations.

Selecting an avatar name
Choose a different first name

The Benelux Community Gateway offers a comprehensive series of tutorials for new members in three languages, English, French, and Dutch. It’s open to existing Second Life members as well as new members. When you land there, you follow a series of arrows on the ground to a series of areas ringed by tutorial signs int three languages. When you get to the end of the tutorials, there is a large shopping area.

You can learn more by joining the Second Life group Benelux Community Gateway, and you can teleport there at This picture shows some of the tutorial signs, and boxes of freebies.


Chinese Learning School in Lenovos

My first visit to the 3Immersions, on the Chinese island Lenovo, conjured up unpleasant police state images when an avatar dressed in a police uniform and with "Police" in his group title ran up to me and demanded that I wait. "What kind of place is this?" I wondered, but it turned out that he had no connection with Lenovo, and just wanted to know where he could buy a gun!

Although 3Immersions is a gateway community for Chinese speakers, the primary purpose seems to be to teach the Chinese language (Mandarin) and culture to non-native speakers. I found it fascinating, and if I had the time to study Chinese, I’d sign up for classes.

You can teleport to 3Immersions at

Second Life 101: gateway communities and renting

There are two more important things for prospective and new Second Life members to consider: gateway communities and renting land.


Like our physical world, Second Life is a vast place, with much variety, and a wide variety of languages (Second Life members hail from over a hundred countries!). It can be very bewildering to a new member who doesn’t know people already here who can guide them around. Second Life’s Gateway Communities offer new members an opportunity to have their initial Second Life experience among people with common interests and a common language. When you first sign up and you’re choosing your avatar appearance and name, you can check a box that will give you a choice of communities to land in when you first log on. This doesn’t commit you to joining any groups; it’s just an opportunity to hopefully be with people who share some of your interests and speak your language. As of today, communities are available in thirteen different languages! You can find out more about these communities before signing up for SL by going to Second Life’s Community Gateway page Some of the Gateway communities you can choose from are Dublin (Ireland), Australia, London, the Fashion Research Institute’s gateway for training & development entry for apparel industry personnel, steampunk, a faery world of dark forests, and a support community for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses.

Renting Land

It’s not necessary to have a premium account to have your own house or land in Second Life. If you want to buy land, then you’ll need a premium account, but you can save the expense of a premium account by renting a house, apartment, or land. A basic account also allows you to buy a house and place it on land that you rent. If you want to learn more about renting, a good place to start is Second Life’s “Land renting advice for new Residents” page, This page gives some reasons you might want to rent rather than own, even if you have a premium account:

  • You might want to open a business in a popular area where buying the land is either too expensive or simply not possible
  • You want to live in a zoned community, that is a community with a defined set of rules
  • You need or prefer to pay in Lindens (the Second Life currency) rather than dollars
  • You want the flexibility of being able to move whenever you want without having to find a buyer for your land first.

Event though I’ve had a premium account since my second month of Second Life membership in 2004, I have sometimes rented land in addition to the land I owned. The reason was that I needed the land for building. Everything you build in Second Life consists of "prims" (primitive building blocks), and the number of prims you are allowed to put on your land is directly related to how large your land parcel is (there are some other details about how your prim allotment is calculated, but let’s ignore those for now!). The larger your parcel is, the more prims you are allotted. On several occasions I temporarily needed a lot more prims than I had available on my land, so I rented additional land for my building projects.

When renting, you need to be aware of whether the land is on the Second Life mainland or on a privately owned island. If it’s on the mainland, some considerations are:

  • Is the land zoned PG, Mature, or Adult? These determine the kinds of activities you and your neighbors can and cannot engage in.
  • How many prims will you need? Your house, your furniture, even trees and flowers on the property will eat up your prim allowance. Generally a 512 square meter plot is the smallest size people build on, and on the mainland gets you 117 prims (which isn’t as much as it might seem).
  • Are there clubs, racetracks, or similiar activities in the area, it could enduce "lag", a situation in which response times can become very slow or erratic. They can also attract more visitors, which you may not want.

If you’re looking at rented land on a private island, the above considerations still apply, except that in some cases, you may get more prims than you would for the same size parcel on the mainland. An additional thing to be aware of on private islands is the covenant, which can restrict your activities. To learn whether there is a covenant for land you’re considering renting, and what the covenant contains, right click on the land and when the pie chart pops up, click "About Land" and then click the "Covenant" tab.

There are three ways to find land for rent:

  1. Ask friends. The best way to find a good place to rent is to ask your friends if they know of any good places to rent. Most of the time they won’t know of any good places, but occasionally they will. It’s worth asking.
  2. Use Second Life Search. The picture at the top of this column shows the result of a search for land rentals. Click "Search" at the bottom of the Second Life window, then click either the "All", "Classifieds", or "Group" tab, and then enter what you’re looking for in the box after "Find:". Depending on what you’re looking for, somethings you might enter are "land rental", "house rental", "apartment rental", or "shop rental". Then click "Search". A list of rentals like the one in the picture above should come up. Note: the search window in Second Life is by default smaller than in the picture above. You can enlarge it by left-clicking on a corner of the window and dragging it out.
  3. On the internet, use Google or another search provider. Enter a search term such as "second life rentals".

Be sure to read the Second Life land renting wiki that I mentioned earlier for information I didn’t have room to include here. For many or most new Second Life memebrs, renting land is the best option for getting started, and even for old timers, it often makes sense.

Second Life 101: getting started

Today’s column is for the newest of the new, people who have been hearing about Second Life and want to try it themselves.

The good news is that you can join Second Life for free. You can download the software, install it on your computer, and become active in Second Life without spending a penny. The real obstacle for many people people will be Second Life’s two fundamental technical requirements:

  • At least a DSL or cable internet connection. Dial-up is too slow.
  • An approved 3D video card. Generally this means minimally NVIDIA GeForce 6600, ATI Radeon 8500, or Intel 945 chipset. A good card doesn’t have to be expensive. The card I primarily use, the EVGA NVIDIA 9500 GT, can be bought online for $70 or less and produces outstanding graphics.

You also need at least 512mb of RAM, a 800mhz CPU, and Windows XP or Vista (Windows 7 also works). Second Life can also be used with a Mac or Linux. For detailed requirements, go to

The next step is to create your account, which you do at You will be given a choice of signing up for two plans: Basic and Premium. Basic is free and Premium costs $9.95/mo. If you’re not certain about your interest in Second Life, choose the Basic plan. You’ll have all the privileges of Premium plan members with one exception: Basic plan members can’t purchase land in Second Life. You can always switch to the Premium plan later if you want to buy land.

Choosing an avatar
Selecting your avatar name

After choosing your plan, the next step is to choose your avatar. Your avatar is your appearance in Second Life. It’s how others will see you. Currently, new members can choose between six female and six male avatar bodies, shown here on the right. Don’t fret over this too much. You can change any aspect of your avatar appearance later. You can even change to a non-human avatar, such as a machine, an animal, or a plant. When choosing an avatar, there’s no need for you and your avatar to have the same gender. Many people openly choose an avatar with a different gender than their own. There is no stigma attached to it. This picture shows the current choice of avatars

The next step is to choose your avatar name, which will also be your account name. This is often the hardest and potentially most confusing part of the process. Give it some thought. This will be how people know you in Second Life. Choose a name that suits you and that you want to be known by. Your name can’t be changed after you set up your account, so choose it carefully.


Selecting an avatar name
Choose a different first name

You have to select a last name from a list, but you can use any first name you want as long as no one else is using that first name last name combination.

The first step is to enter the first name you want. After you do that, click "Get Available Last Names" and "choose" will appear after a list of last names that are available for your selected first name will appear. If no list appears, then your first name has already been taken. For example, as of this morning, neither "John" nor "Johnny" as a first name will generate any last names – the message "Sorry, all the last names are taken. Please try a different first name" appears in red. This message often confuses people. It doesn’t mean literally that all last names are taken, only that the first name you’ve selected has already been used for all last names.


Selecting an avatar first name
"Click the triangle to see the list of last names

In this picture, we’ve clicked "Change First Name" and then entered "Barack" as our first name. "- Choose -" then appears after "Select Last Name" and when we click the triangle, a list of last names appears that are available with Barack.

The rest of the signup process is fairly straightforward. When you log on, you’ll be in Second Life.

Over coming weeks I’ll write several more columns for those of you who are new to Second Life, telling you how you can change your avatar’s appearance, buy or rent land, and do basic building. Until then, you can get some basic but excellent graphic instructions on the first things you’ll need to know by logging into Second Life and then clicking Help/Tutorial. You can get much more detailed help by clicking the F1 key.

You can also get help and information about your account on the Web. Log into your account by going to and clicking "Login" in the upper right corner.