Month: September 2007

Bleak House under construction

Many of you have heard that Second Life is going to figure into our common book project at PSTCC this year. I noticed right after the close of the SLPSTCC Balloon Festival that amazing builder Infiniti Mirihi had started on creating the reproduction in SL of Bleak House, also known as Confederate Memorial Hall.

For folks who don’t know about any of this, our college has begun choosing a common book to use as the basis for a number of academic activities across disciplines in order to provide an intellectual “hanger” for students to tie disparate courses together. This year, we are using David Madden’s Sharpshooter: A Novel of the Civil War.

The action takes place in various places around the nation as it existed during the Civil War, but a lot of it centers around Knoxville, specifically the Battle of Fort Sanders. Though it is a novel, it is based in history. It is a fact that Union General William P. Sanders was a notable casualty of this battle, felled by a sharpshooter’s round at a distance of several hundred yards. According to the Bleak House Web page, “The Confederate sharpshooters were using British Whitworth rifles that cost 12 – 15 hundred dollars each at the time. The rifles were known to be used with telescopic sights; and, with their hexagonal bores, were accurate at over 1,000 yards.”

Reportedly the house has seen extensive renovations and additions over the years since the Civil War. Infiniti’s work in Second Life is based on blueprints of the original 15-room mansion and photographs taken during the Civil War period, with the intention of providing a view of the house that has not been seen in real life for over 100 years.

You can see the progress on the build by checking in from time to time at the PSTCC Sandbox, where the work goes on. Come to WindingRiver Campus 1 (116, 81, 27) or following this SLURL:

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SL Balloon Festival a big success!

The first SLPSTCC Balloon Festival was held last Saturday, and I believe it was a great success. We had 21 unique visitors, including a mix of balloonists, students, faculty, and faculty from other colleges.

Frequently, we had four or five balloons in the air at the same time, giving visitors rides around our two Islands. A number of helpful people made this possible, but in particular Jasper Dogpatch, president of the SL Balloon Club, rallied his own members and provided encouragement and support to attendees who decided to try piloting a balloon themselves.

I also was reminded what a small world we really live in. Balloon club member Zek Eros attended the event because it was an event supported by the club. Only after he arrived on our Island did he recognize the logo and realize it was for his alma mater! Zek obtained a degree from PSTCC and now works just up the road.

At the end of the event, we had the anticipated “balloon parade” around the two Islands, but it wound up with a different-than-anticipated flavor, including a couple of regular balloons along with a flying couch (piloted by Variessa Kenzo) and a magic carpet (piloted by Jasper Dogpatch). Finally, after festivities officially ended, Zek Eros gave remaining visitors a ride on his dirigible, which appeared huge to us, but was, he assured us, his “smaller one.”

The only downside was that we had enough avatars and balloons together at the same time to occasionally lead to some lag. Without scripts, a typical sim can support around 40 avatars, but the balloons themselves are fairly script-heavy and take more resources because of the use of physics, so, in effect, we were at capacity.

Cliché it might be, but it seems appropriate: a good time was had by all.

Our real life balloon festival comes up in less than a week, and our SL event led at least three people to say they intend to attend. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Note: I will post some photos here as soon as I work with them a little.

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Another reason not to save your password

People who go through my real life training sessions often hear me warn as a “default behavior” to uncheck the “Save Password” box on the Second Life login screen. This is especially important in the open labs, and it is a bug, not a feature as far as I’m concerned, that the actual default is to have it checked.

Here’s yet another reason not to save it, even on your own computer: GNUCitizen points out a very easy way that a knowledgeable person could get your Second Life credentials. I’m handy with computers, but not a true geek. I will admit that I don’t understand how to do this, but I know enough to realize that with a little backgrounding even I could figure out how to apply this. I suspect it is a no-brainer to a real geek, and that would be about the only protection other than refraining from leaving your password stored in the SL client–you have to depend on real hackers to find such an approach too boring and unchallenging.

You don’t have to understand it to get the point: your stored password isn’t safe.

It’s much safer to just not save the password in the first place.

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SL in Doonesbury

This is how you know something has started to become mainstream while still being on the leading edge: Second Life got a mention today in the Doonesbury comic strip.

Doonesbury has a longer life than most online comic strips–Trudeau keeps them up for a year, whereas most leave comics available online for a month or less. Still, if you want to see it, you’d best go look soon.

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