Awesome!!  I won the appeal my with Google regarding my TOYSOLDIER THOR name not being a violation of their Google+ Account Name policy.

My Toysoldier Thor gmail account has been active for over 2 years now but because of all the frustration that my fellow SecondLife™ residents encountered with having their Avatar resident names being rejected by Google's PLUS name policy, I decided to not register Toysoldier Thor as a Google+ account. 

That was until last week when I posted a comment to another person's blog, it asked me to validate and I used "Validate with Google+" which ended up initiating my Google+ for Toy.  At the very end of the Google+ validation, their Account Name policy rejected Toysoldier Thor as a valid name (as was the experience of so many others).  The rejection and service block message from Google provided me my options.  One of them was to APPEAL their decision.

So, I appealed that decision and provided them five of my other sites where the account on the site was under the persona of TOYSOLDIER THOR.  My facebook™, my twitter, my deviantart.com, my secondlife.com, my own toytalks.weebly.com website.  I submitted my appeal and wait for their decision.

After 3 days I received the following response from Google....

Hello,

Thanks for sending us your appeal. You're right: your name does comply with the Google+ Names Policy. Your name has been updated on your Google+ profile. If you submitted the appeal during sign up, your profile has now been restored. Log in to Google+.

Sorry for the inconvenience,

The Google+ team.

I am very happy that the Google Team was logical and pragmatic and understood that in this era of the Internet, that a real life person could legitimately carry on a unique independent identity from their own real life that is part of a community completely independent from the community of the real life person.

Thumbs Up to Google !
 

Introduction

This blog posting is to capture and report some testing I have been doing regarding texture painting 3D mesh models destined for importing into SecondLife as an inworld "MESH" using my main 3D modelling tool - ZBRUSH (4R5).

Warning:  If you are a follower of my blog postings and you know nor care NOTHING about creating 3D models for SL then I would strongly suggest you stop reading this blog posting right now.  :)

For those are still interested in reading, this blog will focus on my findings of several texture resolution tests I performed today in order to determine what is the minimum settings I should be using when painting textures on mesh models that I create in ZBrush.  Performing these tests is not simple since there are several factors that can impact the texture's ultimate effective resolution on the SL mesh model that is rezzed inworld by a customer.  As such, I wanted to perform comparison tests for some of the critical factors.

For those that are not familiar to ZBrush  some of these tests might not make sense because of the way ZBrush creates textures for ultimate export as a standard UV-Mapped texture.  But you might find some of this interesting even if you are not a ZBrush user.  Some of the other tests you will find interesting as its common among all of us texture creators.

ZBrush's Method of Texturing a Model

I don't want to get into too much detail about this, but in order to avoid possible "SHOCK" but non ZBrush'ers about the sheer size of polygon counts on internal models, I will provide a brief explanation.

One of ZBrush's powerful features is how its textures / colors the surface of a created 3D model.  The concept is amazingly simple.  ZBrush uses a feature called POLYPAINTING which is a set of tools that allows the user to actually free-hand paint or even texture apply colour information directly onto each of the polygons of the model.  Colouring the model can happen any time prior to the model being mapped to a UV-structured model (which is when the paint information is also converted to a UV-Mapped texture).

Similar to other 3D model software, ZBrush creates many Levels of Details (LOD) from the most basic low poly-count model to LODs with millions of polygons.  LODs are important aspects of a 3D model for all modelling software but its critically important for ZBrush because of its POLYPAINT method of texturing.  Since ZBrush create model textures by painting colour information on each polygon, its a natural to understand that the more polygons in the model - the higher the resolution of the texture will be.  Consider the polygon density of the model to be equal to the DPI resolution of the texture.  What ever is painted at the higher LOD is conveyed to the lower LODs but with only a fraction of the remaining polygons (it looks like a blurry mess).

As such, POLYPAINT can paint on any LOD of the model, but common-sense is that the user polypaints on the highest LOD needed to attain the resolution needed for the ultimate output texture.  Painting on LOD1 where there is only 500-5000 polygons of resolution for the entire model would be like a fine art oil painter painting on canvas with a 4" house painting brush.

So then, for a ZBrush model creator that is texture a model destined for SecondLife models, the question is:

 "What should the the minimum polygon count be for the highest LOD of a single texture model?"

Luckily, logic suggests and experts have already mentioned that since SL's maximum texture / image size that can be imported is 1024x1024, then creating a model LOD with an even distribution of just over 1,000,000 polygons would ensure that no degrade of a texture polypainted onto a model would occur when converted to a 1024x1024 UV-Mapped texture for export to SL.

The ZBrush / Mesh Texture Resolution Tests

So if I already have been told by the SL / Zbrush model experts on the minimum resolutions needed, why do the tests?  Well because I stubborn and I wanted to see for myself actual evidence what the SL textured models would look like at resolutions both below and above this standard.

To perform these tests, I created a very simple model shape - a long CUBE for all the tests.  I created a long cube so that I could divide the cube into a low, medium, and high polygon density (about 6%, 23% and 71% of the total poly count for each cube in the test).  By creating a cube with 3 polygon densities, one can see the difference on the exact same cube and also see the effects of dramatic changes of polygon layouts if not evenly distributed.

I also created tests that showed the difference - if any - on using UV-textures generated at much higher resolutions (i.e. 2048x2048).  To see if there would be any improvement to the quality during the SL import of the texture.

The images you see in the tests are SL rezzed cubes about 1 x 1 x 3.1 meters - native rez size.  In all tests, the Mesh detailed information was identical at the following information:  LI=3, Download=3.2, Physics=0.2, Server=0.5, Display=777.

So..... on to the results and finding....

The Results

So the first image you see to the right is a photo taken of two SL MESH objects (one placed on top of the other for each comparison of resolution) whereby the top LOD in ZBrush was 3.8 million polygons for polypainting.  This meant that the Low, Medium, High polygon density was 200K, 900K, and 2.7M respectively.

The top mesh used an 2048x2048 input texture.  The bottom mesh used an SL standard 1024x1024 input texture.

Observations:
FIRST,   you can see that there was almost no difference in quality to the eye between the larger texture map to the normal one.  
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CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT !!
In fact, upon real close inspection, I would say the 1024 texture was subtly better than the reduced 2048 texture.  This could make sense as SL's reduction process could add possible distortion to the image when reduced - BUT its subtle.

SECOND,  although you can see a subtle improvement between Medium and High resolutions, it appears to be very minor.  This as a point of reference, the 900K polygon count in the medium zone would extrapolate to a resolution that would be over the magic 1 million polygon LOD suggested.  At 2.7 million polygons, the polypaint information is far higher than the minimum suggested 1 million needed for a good 1024x1024 model.

THIRD,  notice that the Low zone of 200K polygon count has a clearly visible degrade of image quality compared to medium and high.  Its about 1/2 the polypaint information needed to created a non-degraded 1024x1024 texture.

FOURTH,   Notice the significant distortion of the image as it transitions across the zones.  This is clear evidence of what happens if you create a poly mesh in ZBrush where the polygons are not evenly distributed.  Since the paint information is on the actual polygons, aggressive shifts of polygon density or stretching will impact it.  Its more pronounced between low and medium since the poly count is far less - but both transition zones are unacceptable. 

The mage you see to the right is a another photo taken in SL of two SL MESH objects (like the 1st image) but whereby the top LOD in ZBrush was only 960,000 polygons for polypainting.  This meant that the Low, Medium, High polygon density was only 48K, 220K, and 960K respectively.

Similar to the first test, The top mesh used a 2048x2048 input texture and the bottom mesh used a 1024x1024 input texture.

Observations:
FIRST,   You can clearly see the medium resolution zone is showing clear signs of blurriness.  High is still acceptable.
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CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT !!
SECOND,   The low resolution zone has degraded to a very poor image quality.  At 48K polygon count, it is roughly painting at a resolution of 15% of the required resolution to generate a non-degraded 1024x1024 texture (about only 150,000 polygons).

THIRD,   The transition zone between low and medium has obviously become even worse because of the lower density of polygons that have been shifted.


The third test to the right (click to enlarge) took the 1K textured mesh model from both the 3.8M and 960K polygon LOD models and compared them head to head.  The 3.8M mesh is on top.

This test also shows what the images look like from the worst 48K polycount to the the best 2.7M polycount zone.

The main observation is that at the 680K level, the difference in resolution / clarity of the image with higher resolutions becomes very minor if not even distiguishable.  This means that a 1.5 million polygon LOD would be a safe minimum for SL.
Picture
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT !!


As a final test, I wanted to see with high magnification if there was any noticeable difference (degrade) between an SL texture that was imported from a 2048x2048 texture vs a 1024x1024 texture.  As such, I exported both types of textures from the same SL model and clipped a small swatch from the high, medium, low zones of each.  What you see in the test images below (click to enlarge) is generally the same areas of each image - native scaled and enlarge about 5 times their original clipped size.
Picture
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT !!
OBSERVATIONS:

The general observation from this test is that there is almost no difference is the images after SL imports and reduces the 2048x2048 image to its maximum 1024x1024.

The only thing I could very subtly notice is that the converted image seems to be slightly darker and had has darker shadows then the native non-converted image.  Look at the high resolution zone images to the left... the bottom image tends to be a bit brighter.

CONCLUSIONS FROM THE TESTS

As already mentioned above, there are a few conclusions for me personally from performing these tests.  They are:

  1. When ZBrush PolyPainting for an SL destined mesh model, try to make the top LOD where polypainting will be applied to about 1.5 million polygons - just be safe.
  2. Make sure when building the model's structure not to have sharp / dramatic changes of the polycounts unless its in an areas that the texture cannot see the resulting distortions.  The densities do not have to be evenly distributed (although preferred) but if the densities change, it should be done gradually.
  3. Its proven again that there is no value creating a UV Texture map greater than 1024x1024 for SL destined models.  In fact, I even tried increasing the native DPI from 75 to 300 and it also had no noticed differences.


ZBrush - especially the latest versions - is an amazing tool if you have no plans for creating SL rigged models.  With its DynaMesh (what they learned and integrated from the powerful and free Sculptris) and PolyPainting, and ZSpheres, its Decimation & UV Creation tools, and other powerful features, ZBrush is a fun 3D modelling tool to work with.

I hope some of you found this ZBrush Texture Resolution Test blog posting helpful.  If you have any thoughts about this blog - leave a comment.

Cheers!

Toysoldier Thor
 
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Wednesday Jan 23rd is Toy's 5th Rez Day !!

To celebrate Toy's aging Avatar, he is hosting a party AND he will be doing a 1 hour (maybe more) karaoke singing gig at the patio on top of his Art Gallery.

YOU ARE ALL INVITED!!

DETAILS:
PLACE:  
Toy's Art Gallery - Top Floor Patio
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Lafew/229/215/117

Date & Time:  
Wednesday Jan 23  @ 9pm SLT

Warning:
Toy ain't some amazing SL live singer like you all spend your tips on at other SL event.   But Toy will share his long time love of SL Karaoke with all his friends.  Toy has been doing Karaoke since summer of 2008 and loves growling out the rock tunes with his friends he sings with at Olounge and other open mic gigs.  Toy loves to Rock with the Radio (just like you all do in your cars).  It will be a fun time & he will pass the mic on to anyone else in the audience when he's done buring out your ears!

So, if you got nothing to do on Wednesday night at aroung 9pm SLT, get your ass over to Toy's Art Gallery and lets all have a fun time to celebrate this old Toy turning 5 years old!


 
Today at 10am SLT I have been invited by the Paris Metro Art Gallery to do an ART TALK about "Toy the Artist" and my artworks on display at the Paris Metros Gallery since October.

I would love for all my friends that might be interested to attend.  Following are the details to the event to be held shortly....

▒▒ PARIS METRO ART GALLERY EVENT ▒▒
...
  ╔★ Art Talk withToysoldier Thor
  ╫✰ "An Artist's Harvest" Show
  ╫✰ Currated by: Reezy Frequency
  ╫✰ SUNDAY~JAN 20th @ 10 AM SLT
  ╫✰ Guest Gift: ★ Nara Red CIty

★  SLURL: 
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Paris%20Couture/128/30/22

  ╚★══════•★Tu es Magnifique™★•══════•★
 
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OK all my SecondLife friends and followers of ToyTalks blog site.  I know you are all asking, WTF is Toy blogging about a food recipe?  What does this recipe have ANYTHING to do about SecondLife, or my art, or my sculpty / mesh creations, or my thoughts on how Linden Lab's latest bonehead moves to screw up SecondLife ???

The answer:  NOTHING !   :)

But since this is my blog site where I can share anything I want with my followers, and, since it is the Christmas holiday season whereby this recipe is a big part of my family's seasonal tradition, I thought I would share my most beloved and delicious meal with you all in hope you will try it.

So here we go....
Background:
My Mother’s personalized version of Beef Rouladen (or “Beef Rollups” in English) has been a mouth-watering highlight at almost every special family event and holiday.  For those of you whom have never experienced the German delicacy, it is something you must experience at least once.  My Mother's version is not only a treat to the taste-buds but the aroma that wafts throughout the house as the meal cooks is something that I wished could be bottled into a perfume.    My Brother and I could never get enough of these meals as kids and it has continued to be part of our family tradition.

Unfortunately, for anyone who knows about traditional Beef Rouladen, the creation of this meat entrée treat is very labour-intensive and discourages it from being made more frequently.  For anyone that wants to know the actual steps to create the traditional Rouladen entrée (not my Mom's version) I have attached a link to a site where they explain the meal and how to make it.  I also used the photo from this link in this blog to show what a traditional Rouladen looks like when it is served:

Bavarian Kitchen's - German Rouladen / Beef Roll-Ups Recipe

Being the innovative and LAZY selves that my Brother and I are, we decided to modify our Mother’s recipe to simplify and speed up the preparation of our loving entrée.  We gave up the pretty plate presentation without giving up the flavour and smell.  The result – Fabulous Lazy Rouladen Stew!

You must trust me and just try this once!  Your tongue & nose will thank you – Your heart & arteries won’t.  But its worth it !!


The Recipe:
I only know how to make this recipe in large batches.  This will provide you with days of culinary heaven as you can freeze the leftovers to be pulled out at a later date.  As such, this recipe serves about 12 to 16 servings.

Ingredients:
  • 3 pounds of diced round steak or diced stewing beef
  • 1 pound bacon slices (diced the slices into 1” - 2” pieces)
  • 2 medium onions – very coarsely chopped
  • 2 green peppers – slivered or very coarsely chopped
  • 6 large dill pickles – quartered and diced to ¼” lengths
  • ½ cup of the dill pickle juice
  • 4 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tbsp. pepper
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. margarine
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch


Instructions:
  • At medium-high heat, place margarine and diced beef in a large stewing pot and brown the beef surfaces in the pot.
    or
    If you want to use a slow cooker for the rest of the steps, you could brown the beef in a pan first.
  • Reduce to medium heat and place all the remaining ingredients into the pot.  Stir ingredients thoroughly then cover.
  • Bring the entire mix to a gentle boil for approximately 15 minutes – be sure to stir thoroughly and frequently to avoid burning the ingredients at the bottom of the pot.
  • Reduce heat to low and remain covered.  Let cook for about 3 hours or until the diced beef has broken apart within the stew.  Be sure to stir occasional during this entire period.
  • In the last few minutes – sprinkle and stir in the cornstarch to thicken the juices into a stew.

THATS IT !!  
The Rouladen stew can be served many ways including straight-up as a bowl of stew & bun or over steamed rice or cooked noodles.  If you really want to stick to a true traditional German meal with the Rouladen stew, you might serve it on a plate with Spaetzle and Rotkohl (Sweet Red Cabbage).  MMMmmmmmmm - I AM HUNGRY !

How to make Spaetzle:
http://www.bavariankitchen.com/sides/spaetzle.aspx

How to make Rotkohl:
http://www.bavariankitchen.com/vegetables/rotkohl.aspx


 
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click to enlarge image
Grand Opening - EVENT SUMMARY:
Place:     PARIS METRO COUTURE ART GALLERY
            SLURL:  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Paris%20Couture/129/23/22
Gallery Opening:   Sunday October 28th @ 12 noon SLT
Exhibit Dates:            October 18 to November 15, 2012
Featuring Artists:      JudiLynn India  &  Toysoldier Thor

EXHIBIT  DETAILS:
I am very excited and honoured to have been invited to be exhibiting my artworks with my fellow amazing Artist JudiLynn India at the prestigious Paris Metro Art Gallery.
The exhibit doors opened October 18th and run until mid November.  

I will be showing both my 2D art as well as some of my latest secondlife 3D art sculptures.  So be sure to come to the art gallery with your mesh enabled viewers.

The very popular Grand Opening event will be Sunday October 28th at 12 noon SLT.   And if any of you have not been to a Grand Opening of at Paris Metro, then you are in for a treat as special gifts are made whereby the Fashion Designer uses a selected artwork from each exhibiting Artist and creates an amazing gown from it.

Thanks to the amazing skill and commitment from curator Reezy Frequency, the gallery layout is simply stunning.  We all hope you will take time to attend the grand opening or even any time in the next 4 weeks.
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Princess and the Goblin

HERE IS THE FORMAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM PARIS METRO...

Bonjour!
 
You are invited to a great event in Paris….

▒▒▒ PARIS METRO ART GALLERY NEW EVENT ▒▒▒
 
╔★ PARIS METRO ART GALLERY OPENING
 ╫✰ SUN. Oct. 28 @12 PM SLT
 ╫✰ "An Artist's Harvest": JudiLynn India & Toysoldier Thor
 ╫✰ LIVE MUSIC: Lisa Brune
         LOCATION:  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Paris%20Couture/129/23/22
 ╫✰ New Gowns Made in Honor of the Artist Work*
 ╚★══════•★Tu es Magnifique™★•══════•★
 ★·.··°·.··°·.··°·.··★·.··°·.··°·.··°·.··★
 The gifts made in honor of the artist...
 
"An Artist's Harvest: Varied Works by JudiLynn India and Toysoldier Thor"
 ~An amazing display of altered acrylic paintings, digital collage, and mesh sculptures.
 
MAIN FLOOR :  Toysoldier Thor

TOP FLOOR :   JudiLynn India
 
Music Talent on Stage:  Lisa Brune
 

SecondLife SLURL to the Event:  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Paris%20Couture/129/23/22
 
Facebook for Paris Metro Art Gallery:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paris-Metro-Art-Gallery/237030183053649
 
*Special gifts are being made in honour of the artist. Visit Paris Metro Couture in Paris France, top floor to view and support our previous visiting artist gowns known as the "Artist Series". Every gown or design embodies some of the exhibiting artists work with 50% of all sales sent directly to the Artist at the time of your purchase. These gowns enable Paris Metro Art Gallery to maintain and continue to bring great talent and events to Second Life.***
 
▒▒▒▒▒▒▒ PARIS METRO ART GALLERY GROUP ▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒
 
If you would like to be on our message and events list please copy paste the line below into your Local Chat and Click the hyper link... it will take you to our join up page. Merci xox
 
Link to this page: http://world.secondlife.com/group/14303edf-262d-a717-f3aa-93990a6e67c0

 Or search under "Groups" : Paris Metro Art Gallery
 
▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒ PARIS METRO COUTURE: Connects ▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒ 

Paris Metro Couture Facebook Link:  www.facebook.com/parismetrocouture
 
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Well fellow SecondLife residents, I wanted to give you all an update about my idea of introducing Virtual Landmarks in SL.  Since my first introductory blog posting on July 24th 2012 explaining what VLMs are and why I felt so passionately that SecondLife badly needed this solution, a lot has happened.

I also have very exciting news to share about the progress of VLMs to becoming a reality in SL, but let me first catch you up.  Good news at the very end :)


FIRST - Introduce to the SL Forum Community for feedback:
After I posted my blog, I also introduced the VLM solution in both the SL Merchant & Server forums to solicit feedback from the extremely knowledgeable and skills talents that participate in these forums.  This would be the first critical hurdle for the VLM idea to jump if there was ever any hope that VLMs would see the light of day as a solution on the SL grid.  If these wise SL residents gave VLMs a negative or even mixed feelings then VLMs would be dead right out of the gate.  There is little chance for LL to listen to most SL resident ideas at the best of times but there would be ZERO chance if the community was not 100% strongly liking the need for the idea.

I presented the idea i both Server and Merchant forums because each forum has a different population of experienced SL residents. I needed to get a big thumbs up from both.  The great news was that the overwhelming response about VLMs was "THIS IS AN AWESOME BADLY NEEDED IDEA AND ITS EXTREMELY WORKABLE AS A SOLUTION AND FLEXIBLE TO BE EXPANDED FOR OTHER PURPOSES".  

The only negative that came from these forum communities was the idea of LL charging a possible use fee to create VLMs.  That was only a side option to the technical solution so that was easy to address since it was not mandatory.

Another major purpose for posting a thread in these two forums was that they could help fine-tune and point out possible improvements or corrections to the overall VLM solution I initially posted.  This proved valuable as a few things were improved and corrected.  Most notable was the description and term of the central service.  I initially characterized this service very similar to a DNS in that the focus was providing "unique LM names" but that was not actually the case.  The visible name of the LMs in the service were irrelevant to the solution.  It was actually a VLM "MAPPING SERVICE".  So the revised design shows the solution having a VLM-MS.


SECOND - Develop formal SL JIRA to introduce it as a NEW FEATURE to LL:
Now that I had a solution that a critical "bell weather" sampling of the SL resident community both liked and helped me revise and perfect, it was time for me to formally introduce the concept and design of the VLM solution to LL.  Until this week, introducing a new proposed feature to LL was accomplished through SL's JIRA system.  That is what I did.  


Sadly this week Rodvik (LL's beloved CEO) decided to shut down the SL Resident's JIRA so as of this blog I cannot provide you the link to this JIRA that was submitted - that is another blog topic I posted yesterday.

Regardless, I formally laid out the technical aspects of the VLM solution for LL and the rest of the SL Resident community to understand, VOTE, and comment on.  The formal JIRA also included architecture diagrams of how the solution works now and how it would work with the VLM-MS in place.  You can see the two diagrams below - side-by-side.

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The current LM solution - without VLMs (click to enlarge)
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How LMs would work with VLMs in place (click to enlarge)
It included all the details of the revised design of using a VLM-MS (Mapping Service) and also provided a list of the several potential benefits to the solution.


THIRD - Socialize VLM Solution to SL Community / Seek Strong Support:
The next step was the most difficult and is where 99.9% of any good idea falls dead never to be heard from again - especially when the idea needs to be adopted by LL.  The primary objective in this phase was to "GET LL TO SEE THE IDEA AND TAKE THE TIME TO REALLY UNDERSTAND IT".  To do this, it was critical to first socialize it openly into the greater SL resident community.  I did this by promoting my initial blog and more importantly the new VLM JIRA in all the social media tools I currently had established.  I need to get the community to go read the JIRA and vote for the JIRA and even post positive and technical inputs / opinions to the idea.  I posted on Twitter, Facebook, SLUniversity, the SL forums, and reached out to all SL connections who also have community reach in hopes to make the idea become viral.
It was also critical to generate a BUZZ WORD that the community could attach to when talking about and spreading the word about the idea.  "VLMs" was it.  Basically it is like creating a BRANDNAME.  Without it, the message would be hard to migrate to viral status if everyone called it their version of "that idea from Toy".

To further strengthen the marketing of the idea, I needed a marketing poster/logo to promote the VLM brand.  I used my artistic talents to create a VLM Logo as you can see to the right.  I posted the VLM logo everywhere and I created a VLM Poster inworld with info inside and offered it to the Merchant community to get a copy and have them post it in their stores, malls, art galleries, clubs.

The results were great as I got a lot of positive buzz from all the community.  And although you can no longer see the JIRA (thanks to Rodvik's dumb JIRA GAGGING this week) the JIRA reached 96 votes & positive input in 2-3 weeks !  
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Sadly the JIRA is no longer visible to SL Residents
FOURTH -  Personally Present VLM JIRA to LL Developers -  Aug 3rd 2012:
So with all my "ducks in a row", the next critical step was to get LL Developers to take notice of the VLM JIRA.  As we all know so many JIRAs are never looked at by LL staff.  I had to get it in their face where they could not hide and pretend they didn't hear it.  I was told to present the idea at an up-coming SecondLife User Group meeting.  These obscure weekly meeting are hosted by LL developers / tech staff and ideas / problems are openly talked about.  After some talks with fellow residents, the decision was made to introduce it to the Server User Group meeting on Friday August 3rd at 4pm SLT.

To add strength to the VLM JIRA presentation, I could not go there alone to present the idea.  Firstly because I don't think many LL staff really like me as I am often critical of many of their decisions;  Secondly, because I needed champion voices at the meeting to both endorse the VLM idea and add their logic opinions on how important the idea is to the merchants / club / art gallery community.  Sadly, LL staff run SL but don't know how their customers actually use SL and the pains they must suffer with within SL.   As such, I mentioned to the merchant community of my plan to present the idea to LL at the meeting and asked anyone interested to come provide your presence and support at the meeting.  Several Merchants attended with me.

At the UG meeting I formally introduced the VLM JIRA to the group including Andrew, Simon, Cheesey, & Baker Linden.  The presentation went very well.  I was also extremely impressed at how much healthy discussion was had for over 20 minutes about the VLM idea.  The Lindens quickly grasped the design behind it and saw a lot of potential in the design - not only for its immediate benefits but how the service could be expanded to provide other similar functions from a central position.  You can see the entire discussion yourself as these UG meeting transcripts are posted:

http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Simulator_User_Group/Transcripts/2012.08.03

An extremely value side-benefit of the meeting was that one of the SL Resident attendees - Nalates Urriah - is a very popular and well followed blogger of all these technical LL UG meetings.  After the meeting she dramatically helped expand the socialization of the VLM solution to a far greater SL community when she created an excellent objective blog posting on VLMs.  I have provided a link to her blog posting of VLMs as it was very well written.

http://blog.nalates.net/2012/08/04/virtual-landmarks/

Since then, there have been other excellent blogger postings of it.


FIFTH - Keep LL's Feet To The Fire on VLMs & Don't Let VLMs Become Forgotten:
As is the case with most good ideas, the excitement of the idea starts to fade and becomes forgotten.  If it gets forgotten by the community then its easy for LL to sweep it away as a "good idea but no time".  I couldn't control the excitement fading, but what I could do is attend every subsequent SL Server UG Friday meeting and ask the Lindens for a status update.

I went every week and generally got the message from them that "LL is reviewing the VLM idea for its viability and design implementation risks and we will keep you posted".  I expected this kind of answer or the "nothing has changed" answer each week as I attended, but I felt it was important to keep showing them that I wasn't going to let VLM's become forgotten.


FINALLY - THE GOOD NEWS!!  PROGRESS !!
So this is what you all have been waiting for  (unless you cheated and just scrolled down to there right away ).

At the Friday September 7th, 2012 UG meeting that I attended, I asked the same question that I asked in all the other past meetings.  BUT - this time I got a different answer from Cheesey and Andrew that is very exciting for VLMs.  First let me paraphrase and then show you the actual transcripts messages:

Basically, LL has completed their feasibility review of the VLM JIRA and deemed it a viable solution -  one that warrants them proceeding to the phase of setting it within their development priorities!

Here is the link to the actual transcript and my clipped out portion of the topic:

http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Simulator_User_Group/Transcripts/2012.09.07

[16:19] Toysoldier Thor: and Cheesey - and progress on assessment on the VLM jira?
[16:19] Cheesey Linden: Toy it's been vetted and is not (meant to say "now") in products hands to prioritze
[16:20] Toysoldier Thor: is that good news Cheesey?
[16:20] Cheesey Linden: yes.
[16:20] Cheesey Linden: that is progress
[16:21] Andrew Linden: I think he meant to say: "... it is *now* in product's hands..." where "product" is our word for an internal team
[16:21] Cheesey Linden: woops yes i meant now
[16:21] Toysoldier Thor: yup i picked that up - thanks Andrew

After the meeting I talked to another Linden and asked his/her's honest opinion if VLMs really have a shot of becoming a developed "priority" or if I was just wasting my time promoting.  I am summarizing and paraphrasing our chat but basically "good news" feedback came back.

The Linden said that internally, the VLM idea got far more traction than he/she expected it would (with so many other priorities on the LL books) so there is hope for it.  He/she said that "the product guys got it right away"  and there were other voices internally that were saying how the VLM solution would help other areas for LL as well.

He/she said the only aspect that seemed to concern the internal teams (called it a technical problem to solve) was the VLM-MS service's ability to handle the VLM request loads.  I told him/her that this is by far not a problem and one of the easiest things to address.  

The queries to the VLM-MS are extremely simple and static requests to these servers.  I mentioned how DNS servers easily handle several times more query loads than this.  And that even an Active Directory Domain controller likely would get hit many more times for AD and LDAP calls than this service would.  I also said that because of the structure of the VLM-MS, these servers could esily be placed behind a load balancer and/or a proxy cache could be placed in front, and/or deployment of caches could be thought of (although I do not think that would be needed).  He/she agreed.


CONCLUSION - GREAT PRGRESS - MORE TO GO !
So that is where we stand now and that is great news - even though VLMs still have a long way to go before we all will be handing out VLMs to each other.  

Keep promoting the idea of VLMs..... Keep mentioning their value to any Linden you meet on the street.
 
For those of you reading this blog and whom are SecondLife residents and not aware of Rodvik's latest and most significant bone-head decision to change the LL Community accessible SL JIRA system to block the SL community's ability to openly view and participate in this JIRA, you better become aware very quick! 

I know that a large portion of the SL community does not know or is only vaguely aware of what the JIRA is.  But the activities that are constantly happening in the Resident-accessible SL JIRA throughout the history of SL has been a fundamental & critical support mechanism for LL extremely limited LL staff.  Although many of you that play on the SL grid experience a lot of the problems that LL creates on the grid, viewer, Marketplace, etc. over the years, what you may not realize is that without the SL Resident JIRA system over the past years, the SL virtual world would have been infinitely worse - to the point of intolerable!

Without this Resident JIRA system, LL's staff would never have solved most of the complicated technical problems as quickly as they do now.  LL would not even have been able to correlate that several problems popping up are related to a common cause.  And LL staff would not have a common place to communicate with the SL resident community that has the amazing skills and talents and WILLINGNESS to volunteer to help LL solve their problems.

But this week's change made by Rod, clearly shows he is not the right CEO to stop LL from becoming a historical case study of "how a start-up with an amazing successful service could not evolve to survive".  Lets look at this a bit further....


Over the past year since Rod's influence started to become visible in the company's plans, decisions, and operations, anyone that loves to watch the evolution (or in the case of LL - the devolution) of a company's life-cycle has been realizing that "The Emperor has no clothes". 

When Rod appeared on the scene, there was an overwhelming consensus that since Rod was this TOP DOG from EA, what better selection could LL have made for a CEO to save LL from its years of lost wondering in the woods to corporate maturity than to pick renowned expert in one of the industry's top gaming companies.  I will admit that even I was actually excited that maybe ROD WILL UNDERSTAND AND RIGHT-SIZE WHAT SL IS ALL ABOUT.  Although his roots is "gaming", he would have intelligence to quickly realize the technology / market space that LL's SecondLife exists.  That its not another player in the crowded "gaming" market. And that with some infusion of mature Sr. Management guidance, LL's could finally find its way out of the woods, stop the heavy bleeding of SecondLife and re-establish it as "THE" 3D virtual world community to participate in.


But again, Rod's questionable decisions at LL over the past year and his inability to resolve the biggest on-going issues with the grid (lag and stability and a collapsing economy and horrendous customer support etc) are showing that...

ROD DON'T GET IT

Its clear now that Rod's plans from Day 1 has always been to turn SecondLife into another GAMING PLATFORM with maybe a few unique aspects to the platform which SL offers and no other Gaming world has.  Even though his first 100 days he put up a great show to the community that he wanted to learn what LL was all about and grasp the unique aspects of what makes SecondLife so addictive to the members of the community and use his talents to improve the platform that this community thrives on,  IT WAS JUST A PR SHOW. 


Rod clearly doesn't understand the SL community.  He is clearly not a business savvy person that grasps the idea to improve the satisfaction of service for your loyal customers before you seek out and look for more.  He doesn't grasp that the SL Community has always been and more so not continues to be LL's largest crutch is provide the actual support of the platform that LL's developers constantly destabilize with their constant desire to add new shiny features.


In that light, ROD doesn't understand that the JIRA process as it has been set up is one of the most power support arms that LL's limited resources have to solving problems.


He only see the community based JIRA process as a huge exposure to his bid to turn SL into a competing GAMING PLATFORM.  I am sure in his mind, Rod looked that the JIRA and said:

"OMG - how will we be taken serious by the STEAM / GAMING community if they see in the JIRA system how bug-ridden out platform is - how many unresolved technical problems SL has???  THIS HAS TO BE HIDDEN!! "


So despite what I am sure to predict was a lot of "OMG ROD YOU CANT DO THIS - OUR RESIDENTS FIND MOST OF OUR PROBLEMS AND DIAGNOSE MOST OF OUR PROBLEMS VIA JIRA" from the LL tech staff, Rod has other plans and has a single-minded mission to turn SL into the next gaming platform and to be accepted by the leaders in the gaming industry.


All Logistics aside, in Rod's mind, "We must hide the fact that SL is riddled with countless unsolved bugs and more new ones as Rod infuses all these great new technologies like Mesh, PathFinder, Material Systems, etc..


Sadly, this move will pretty much overwhelm LL's tech team as they will no longer have the continual flow of unimaginable I.T. technology and Business and Community skills and talents that they were able to tap into by letting the SL community openly participate in the Resident JIRA.  LL's staff can no long even reference JIRA's when talking to their most talented tech residents that freely and willingly participate in LL's user groups and beta's and forums to resolve show stopping grid-impacting problems that LL creates.


As such, I would have to agree with many in the SL community that this has to be the single most prominent bone-head move made by Rod.  The buck stops at Rod so its very safe to say that a decision of this magnitude has to have been at minimum blessed by Rod but I am pretty sure it was MADE by Rod.


There is no doubt that SL's business model has been slide to demise over the past 2ish years (1800 sims abandoned last year and recent report that 800 sims abandoned in the last 2 months is a clear sign).  This decision by Rod just through a gallon of bacon fat on the slide.

This move by Rod could go in the history books as one of the biggest bone-head moves executed by any CEO of the colorful history of CEO's with some pretty big bone-head decisions.

My advice for any SL Resident with any significant investment in SL - start seriously looking at how to liquidate your investment in SL and protect yourself.  Be prepared to the fact that the end of SL is closer that many of us predicted.  Look at other grid options if you really liked the Virtual World Community.  Because this move by Rod is a dangerous one.
 
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BIG BIG NEWS regarding both my inworld LANDSCAPE STORE & ART GALLERY!  If you are a past customer or visitor - please read on.

EFFECTIVE   AUGUST 1st, 2012
Toy's Landscapes Store  and Art Gallery
MOVED & MERGED ONTO A NEW BIGGER LAND !

NEW LANDMARK IS :  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Lafew/219/178/80

THE DETAILS OF THE MOVE...
Just to give you some background and details.  In early July, my landlord of the land & mall where my Landscapes store has been for about three years (and more recently where I build my art gallery about 1000 meters above (not to mention my home) made a very tough decision to shut down her parcel of land and consolidate all her land holdings onto the new entire sim that she owned.

Although  she fully knew how painful it was for both her and I to move all we had both established on this parcel of land, it was the right decision for her and even me.  By moving to a complete sim, my landlord has much more control of lag and also she can get her sim reset if she wants.  

With the much larger space, my landlord has also offered me a much larger parcel of land to rebuild my store and gallery on.  This is very big news as the area of the parcel is large enough that I was able to merge my landscapes store & art gallery together and accessible from one new landmark.

I was also able to redesign my new art gallery to be much larger per floor with a nice new entrance.  This gives me more room for my new 3D Mesh art statues / sculptures to be display.  My Landscapes Store also has much more room to demo my sculpty landscape designs.  Potential customers can walk through the demo area and see how some of my sculpty terrains look LIVE !

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Sky view of Toy's new Landscape Store & Art Gallery @Lafew sim

Why was it painful?  Well if you are a merchant or art gallery owner in SL then you would know.  If not let me tell you, when you move to a new land, not only is there the major hassle of rebuilding your existing store / gallery on a know parcel of land, but more painful is the 1000's of Landmarks you have given out to all your visitors and customers and potential customers over the years are immediately DEAD & INVALID !!  Also, I have to open every one of my artowrks, sculpty packs, vendors that have the old LMs and replace them with the new LM.  This also means replacing packs that are in my Marketplace and changing links in my website.  ITS A MAJOR PAIN.

It has been so painful that I was inspired to develop a new SL Grid Wide solution to solve it - called VIRTUAL LANDMARKS.  My previous blog posting tells it all.  I have made it my mission to fix this massive weakness in SL regarding hard coded LMs.

Anyway, I really do hope you come visit my new digs.  Its all different now!  If you have visited my Landscapes store - its new and bigger.  If you recently visited my Art Gallery - its new bigger and has a lot of new art including 3D mesh.

Hope to see you soon! 
 
They always say that “Necessity is the mother of innovation & ingenuity”.  Well with regard to the idea I am proposing to the powers that be at Linden Lab in this blog posting, the inspiration for this idea truly came from this week’s out-of-the-blue situation upon my in-world operations / life in SecondLife.

A GRAND EXAMPLE OF THE PROBLEM !!
On July 22, 2012 my landowner whom I have rented a parcel of land from for 3 years to host my Sculpty Landscape Terrains store and my Art Gallery and even my home decided that she needed to consolidate her land holdings.  As such, she had to make the painful but understood decision to move her shopping mall and my parcel of land onto her newly acquired sim.  She knew it was a painful decision for both her and me moreso because of one main issue....

After all these years of running our mall and stores and galleries, we both have handed out 1000’s of LM’s to our mall, store, gallery, etc.  For me, my LMs are also in all my artworks that I sell or have sold.  My LMs are in all my sculpty terrain packs that I sell in-world and on MarketPlace.  My LM coordinates are on my blogsite and profile and email signatures, forum postings, etc. etc. etc.

I think you all already know the problem but let me spell it out anyway.  By being forced to move my store and gallery and home to my landowner’s new sim, all those LMs handed out to all my customers and documented in all those places and placed in all my art and selling packs have instantly become 100% DEAD AND USELESS!

Moving my store and rebuilding my art gallery to the new location is absolutely nothing.  If that was my only issue about moving to a new sim then I would have been jumping for joy as she is offering my twice the size in land.  But the biggest problem by far is that all my LMs will now be rendered useless!

So as I was punching the wall and gritting my teeth at all the work ahead of me on fixing my LMs all over, my innovative mind said … WHY IS LINDEN LAB USING PHYSICAL LANDMARKS ANYWAY!!  Why can’t LMs be virtually referenced like a DNS host references an IP address?

And BING!!  An Idea was born !

SUMMARY OF IDEA
A development and deployment / integration of VIRTUAL LANDMARKS or “VLM” for the entire SecondLife metaverse (in-world as well as any supporting services and technologies).

A VLM is basically a virtual common language pointer name to an underlying physically exact SecondLife geographic location coordinate - commonly referred to as a LANDMARK or “LM”.

The concept of a VLM would be identical to the critically important Internet service of DNS (Domain Name Services) in that Internet users can create and use easy to understand HOST NAMES to access all Internet services where the HOST NAME actually masks the underlying required IP Address that is needed to actually route and connect their computer to that respective host.

Well the same would hold true with VLMs.  A VLM would be the equivalent to a DNS HOST NAME and the LM that is configured to be associated to this VLM would be equivalent to an IP ADDRESS.

This idea proposes that users of SecondLife could use common friendly labeled VLMs in the same way that users currently use LMs every day.

BACKGROUND OF AN “LM” or “SLURL”

Before I begin explaining why VLMs would be such a critical new service / feature for SecondLife, let me provide a brief background of the current situation.

In SecondLife, LMs are a fundamental and basic operating component to how SecondLife works.  Without the function of LMs the ability to Teleport is dead.  SecondLife would cease to exist as a viable virtual world without LMs.  All users in SecondLife quickly and intimately knows what an LM is, why they have countless LMs as assets in their inventory, and how to read it and use it.

A “SLURL” is simply an LM that is expressed in a URL format so that browsers could read it and take actions on this LM.

An LM is an exact in-world coordinate of a location somewhere within the entire virtual world of SecondLife - right down to the SIM name, and the exact X, Y, and Z meter location on that named sim.  

Example is an bogus LM of  /TOYWORLD/23/55/200 or
a SLURL of http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/TOYWORLD/23/55/200

This LM places you exactly to a sim called TOYWORLD and at the location 22 meters out from the “X” axis, 55 meters out from the “Y” axis and 200 meters out from the “Z” axis.

Anyone that has this LM as an asset in their inventory or clicks on this SLURL would be be taken to this exact spot if the sim allowed it.  If you are the one that gave out this LM and you wanted to have everyone land at a different place now, your only option would be to make a NEW LM and give it out to everyone and tell them to throw away the old one.

PROBLEMS WITH LMs
I am sure you all know the problems with LMs if you are a long time user of SecondLife.  But you really really understand the pain and and frustrations around LMs if you have or are operating a business or highly public service in SecondLife where you want people to attend.

Problems:

  1. LMs are exact fixed location coordinates that stand independent and cannot be retroactively changed.  So if you decide to move your store, mall, club, sim to a new location, all past LMs you have handed out are now invalid and you cannot change the old ones that all your guests or customers have in their inventory.
  2. You would also have to locate everyplace that you have documented / promoted / advertised this invalid LM and update it with the new location.
  3. This problem is so significant for shop/gallery/club owners that even when overhauling or redesigning a store or sim, often the new design is built around the exact original location of the current LM so that the LM does not become invalid.  I completely overhauled my Art Gallery after 6 months and I made sure that the LM location had a bright prim on it so that my new art gallery will have everyone land properly into my new gallery.

I can safely say that because there is no concept of a Virtual LM in SecondLife, the huge functional limitations of LM’s has been the source of countless person years of wasted time for users of SecondLife whenever they need to be adjusted.

PROPOSED SOLUTION DETAILS - VIRTUAL LMs
Here are my suggestions for Linden Lab to consider as an invaluable augmentation to the feature/service of LMs and SLURLS

(In all honesty I am not sure why the founders of the basic concepts of SecondLife did not think of the development of Virtual LMs right in the beginning since VLMs and LMs are identical in concept to DNS hosts and IPs.)

  1. Develop a VLM Naming Service (VLM-NS) within SecondLife.  This would be very similar in design to a DNS on the Internet.  It would allow the creation of Virtual LM entries with direct mappings to an actual LM coordinate.
  2. The VLM-NS entry could also potentially future support the concept of LM round-robining or backup LM locations (i.e. recording multiple locations for a virtual LM so guest receive location alternatives to a concert and not land on each other at 1 location... or send VLM users to a backup LM if the primary LM failed to TP the user).
  3. With the concept of VLMs defined on this centralized VLM-NS, LL would code into new viewer code as well as any other client application or SecondLife service the acceptance and interpretation of VLMs to its corresponding LM from the VLM-NS.  (i.e. if a user in-world clicked on a VLM asset, the viewer would know to request the LM from the VLM-NS and use the provided LM.)
  4. LMs would still be completely functional in-world or outside of SecondLife in the same way that an Internet user could use a DNS Name or an IP address to go to a host on the Internet.

So here are the additional recommendations that would hopefully give Linden Lab some major incentive to consider developing and deploying such a major complex deployment of this VLM solution:

  1. VLMs would be able to be created by ANY SecondLife User.  An SL User would be able to create a limited number of VLMs via an interface on their logged in www.secondlife.com website.
  2. Arbitrary Suggestion on service:  If a user is a PREMIUM User then they are entitled to create up to 5 free VLMs - i.e. no monthly fee on these 5 VLMs as long as they are a premium member in good standing.
  3. Arbitrary Suggestion on service: All non-premium members can create up to a max of 2 VLMs and are charged a $100L charge for each creation as well as a $15L monthly fee for maintaining the VLM.  Fees are automatically charged and if the account cannot pay the fee then the VLM becomes disabled.
  4. Arbitrary Suggestion on service:  Premium members can can add up to 10 additional VLMs but are charged the standard monthly fees (although their setup charge is waived).
  5. SecondLife users can make any updates / changes to their VLMs at any time (i.e. if their store is moving and they need to re-map the VLM to a new LM) free of charge.  Only Premium members would be entitled to advanced VLM-NS services like round-robining or VLM failover LMs.

CONCLUSION
I know there are a lot of very smart SecondLife residents that will read this blog posting and be able to come up with a lot of additional ideas as well as come up with some potential problems to this proposed idea.  BUT I will tell you that if this service existed in SecondLife I would surely have been using this service even as a Guest account and paying the monthly fee for my Store and my Art Gallery.  With VLMs for my store and art gallery, this move I now need to do would have been as simple as rebuilding my new location out and remapping my VLM to my new landing spot on my new store.

If I were a club owner I would be able to host a major event with a new stage layout and have my guests land at a completely new location... EVEN AT ANOTHER SIM !!  Imagine having a major event that you are co-hosting with another venue and you want all your regular members to attend.  Simply remap your VLM to the new sim and location for the event then re-point it back to your sim when the event is over.

Anyway... I hope Linden Lab decision makers read this proposed idea.  What are the thoughts of my fellow SecondLife residents?