Friday, 22 August 2008


Last week I took the opportunity to pop into Dubailand, not really knowing what to expect. Well that is not entirely true. I was expecting to find recreations of the Burj Al Arab, that huge hotel that looks like a sail, and the Palm Island, the artifical island shaped (as one would expect from the name) like a palm tree - and I did. In fact, there's not much more to it than that.

I'm not clear who this is aimed at. It has the feel of a privately-owned, non-professional sim.

Here's a few snaps:

I know it's a cursory post - but there didn't seem to be much to say about the sim.


In my last post I mentioned the disappearance of the Logica island from the oceans of Second Life. A few days ago I was chatting with a colleague and suggested to her that she might want to check out the virtual offices of our parent company. These had been hosted on an island belonging to French digital media marketing company, The Blast Machine. However, when I came to search the map, I found that this island, too, has disappeared - taking with it the aforementioned offices. So is this just part of the normal wear and tear of Second Life? Or is it the case that increasing numbers of companies are choosing to abandon this first foray into virtual worlds? I'm frankly intrigued...

Monday, 18 August 2008

Whither Logica?

You may have noted that my rate of posting has dropped somewhat in recent times. Now while I admit that I am spending less time in Second Life, and when I do I am often engaged in building and scripting stuff - I think there is something else going on here. I do still spend way too much time looking for new (or at least, new to me) non-residential islands. However, the chances are few of stumbling upon something new and of sufficient interest as to justify the hassle of putting a post together. Oddly, there's actually a clutch of places I really like, but have not written about (yet). However, I sort of 'missed the moment', failed to write about them and now don't feel fired to do so.

But I digress... I think the main reason why I am finding it a struggle to locate new corporate sims, is that the flood has slowed to a trickle. Sure, I am probably missing many thrilling new sims - but I don't get the impression there is that much happening out there. In fact, it looks like the tide may really be receding - for now at least. I recently noted that BWM had left Second Life. Today, while doing a routine search I noticed that the sim belonging to Logica CMG no longer appeared on the Second Life map either.

I have not seen any announcement about this, and perhaps there is another explanation, but for all the World it looks like they've not renewed their maintenance and the island has been reclaimed. A shame, given the effort that had gone into building it in the first place.

If you know of new corporate sites - or indeed anything non-residential and worth the trip - then do let me know. Alternatively, if you know what's happened to the Logica CMG sim, then I'd love to hear.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

VS2008/.NET 3.5 SP1

Don't run away... I know the title of the post looks a bit... well... tekkie. But hopefully, with luck, we can steer a safe course through to the end of this without any palpitations, hot sweats or brains turning to mush. So what's this all about? Why the weird sim name: VS2008/.NET 3.5 SP1? It seems this code is Microsoft's way of communicating with microsofties and microserfs around the globe, who will immediately recognise this as meaning: Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1. If you are non-the-wiser (and why should you be?), suffice it to say that this is all about developing solutions for Microsoft platforms. And that's pretty much as far as I go with the technobabble, I hope.

This sim is far from complete, but already there is one corner where people who actually understand anything about the above can go and start picking up information. There's a video by Scott Guthrie, author of the blog linked above, giving an introduction to the use of dynamic data in ASP.NET, and a number of presentations (see pictures below) on other such gubbins - with a bunch of links to pertinent pages, such as the thrilling ADO.NET Entity Framework Overview. (hehe... more technobabble... sorry!)

You will also find a link to Project Manhattan. No... not that one... this one. This is "a community based effort to explore the OpenSim virtual world software. OpenSim is free software that can be downloaded and used by anyone to create their own simulators and grids. This effort is supported by Microsoft... " News of the project is distributed via Twitter. If you hanker for more on the whole OpenSim thang then you should take a deep breath and dive into Tish Shute's Ugotrade blog.

Anyway - this island will presumably grow and develop. But for now, here's some snaps to look at:

Now it's getting technical...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Braving The Arctic in Inouk

Another sim that's been open a few months, but I've only just stumbled upon is: Inouk. The word has a distinctly Arctic ring to it, and the sim itself is indeed decked out in sub-zero fashion, with igloos, ice floes, snowballs and all the trimmings. The mystery of the sim's name is soon resolved - if I told you it belonged to a well-known tour company, would you be any the wiser? Howzabout if I suggested you reverse the name?

Kuoni has been providing holidays to the discerning for over 100 years now. Although headquartered in the UK, the founder of the company, Alfred Kuoni, was actually Swiss - which is suitably apt, since this sim is, in fact, owned by Kuoni Switzerland. Kuoni's first package trips, in May 1906, were journeys by mountain railway up the Uetliberg on Zurich's western side and the Dolder on itd eastern side. A year later he was offering package tours of Egypt! Since then the company he created has gone on to offer high-end holidays around the globe.

The sim itself is quite good fun, and not overly pushy about Kuoni holiday offerings. You can pick up a "Travel Book" - a heads up display that will compare and contrast RL and SL locations, offering you brochure page links for the former and teleports for the latter - and there are other freebies, like an animal rug (choose the fur you want). The most complex element of the build is the Ice Labyrinth. Enter and find the six keys (while in theory absorbing messages about holiday locations), locate the treasure and win some money! I got 20L$ - which is more than I had when I went in. You are also invited to complete a questionnaire and get another 40L$. For those wanting free money, it beats camping.

The sim is mainly aimed at "doing stuff" - like the Labyrinth - or the Snowball Battlefield: pick up a pile of snowballs, and over the course of a week, see how many people you can hit - within the designated battle zone. A rather elegant and sinuous bridge leads you across the freezing inlet that nearly splits the sim in two. On the far side is a large globe, with map pins suggesting the location of Kuoni holidays; a bar and ice piano (nice touch, that); a dance floor; a video area and an explanation of the Travel Book.

In construction and ambience, it reminded me of a refrigerated version of the TUI tour company site in Second Life - you can read my post about that here. I didn't see much sign of events - which is regrettable. However, if you wanted, you could perhaps fix that since you can rent one of the large igloos for your own shop. I don't know if the Planning Regs allow events and parties - but it would be one way of livening up the place.

And here's what it looks like:

Monday, 4 August 2008

Late News From The Newseum

While I occasionally manage to time my site visits just right - or even, just a little 'ahead of right' - one of the recurring motifs of my virtual travels is the frequency with which I make a spectacularly late arrival. Tonight's sim fall isn't this category: Newseum. I reckon I'm about 4 months late for this one... And it's not like I didn't know of its existence. In fact, I've seen it many times on the Second Life map over the last God-knows-how-long, but whenever I tried to teleport it was always shut. So often had this been the case that I gave up trying maybe 6 months ago (maybe longer than that) and it was only on a whim that I tried it this evening, while I was visiting a neighbouring sim. I have to confess, I was rather surprised to find myself teleported in. But enough of this tedious tale... what am I actually waffling on about?

To save you wading through my prose, I can point you to this post, which gives you all the news that's fit to print about Newseum and the Newseum sim. But if you want to persist with my prose, here goes:

It seems that the Newseum opened its prestigous new building on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC in April this year - with its Second Life equivalent opening at pretty much the same time. The version in the atomic world describes itself as "the World's most interactive museum" - a claim I have no means of (or for that matter, any interest in) verifying. And this spirit of interactivity is carried across into the Second Life build - where you will find a lot to see and do.

The build consists principally of the museum itself - the surrounding landscape being a little perfunctory, in my view. There is a rather sketchy Washington Monument, but the main effort has been poured into the museum. And unlike the surroundings, the museum is a great success. It is a copy/homage/interpretation of the atomic world building - and to my untrained eye it seems to carry it off very well.

The textures and shading are well executed, conveying a strong 3D feel, and this is heightened by the thoughtful detailing in the furniture and other fixtures and fittings. The virtual museum also houses a lot of stuff - including a number of intriguing integrations with the outside world. For example, in the atrium there is a running tickertape-style headline display that seems to be current, while in another part of the museum you can read today's front pages from a number of US newspapers.

The Pullitzer Prize room is thought-provoking, providing background on some of the most iconic photos of the last half century or more. In another room, you can listen to brief histories of some the many journalists killed in the line of duty. Continuing the sombre theme, there is the 9/11 Gallery, which is also to be found in the atomic world museum, comprising cover stories about that fateful day from papers across the USA, and indeed much further afield.

Or if that is too gloomy for you, perhaps you'd like a run-through of the top Stories of the Century - or take part in a news quiz. For the more cost-conscious museum-goer there are free T-shirts to be had in the Gift Shop. And to round things off, there's also an auditorium, a studio and a couple of staged scenes (I assume so you can get a photo of yourself or your companion as 'intrepid reporter').

The build has been done by Bethany Heart and Echo Seigo, who together make up EB Creations. While they may be relatively new to this scale of building, I think they've done a fine job, and look forward to seeing what they do next. One note of concern, though - despite the interactive nature of the build, there isn't much sign of a continuing engagement with visitors, for example, I didn't see any indication of a schedule of events. With the avowed aim of the Newseum to provide a forum where the media and the public can gain a better understanding of each other", I would expect more in the way of discussions, debates and other activities.

Anyway - here's my piccies of the build:

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Scoping Out Princeton East

I have written several times about Princeton's sites in Second Life as it continues to expand its presence and, more interestingly, continues to commission work from some of the most thoughtful builders and artists in the virtual world. Last night, I popped along (again) to the Princeton cluster of sims after noticing an unusual-looking construction on Princeton East on the Second Life map. From the aerial view it seems to resemble a rocket in flight, or perhaps a ship travelling at speed, and leaving a wake behind it:

The sim turns out to be another fascinating build from Scope Cleaver, though as you will see from my photos, it is not quite complete. The only mention I've found on the web so far about this construction was on, which commented almost a year ago: "Princeton East, a void sim is currently open space, but a folly/ tower/ observation point designed by Scope Cleaver is planned for future development." Now, nearly 12 months later, this folly / tower / observation point/ whatever-the-heck-it-is is approaching completion. Indeed, Persis Trilling, the custodian and curator of the Princeton sims, has indicated that it will open officially in just a couple of weeks - and reading between the lines, I understand we can expect a few surprises when it does open.

Until then, I will leave you with this taster. In most of these piccies I opted for a moody, mysterious "foggy" setting: