Monthly Archives: July 2007

Managing Money

Stacks of LindensAs a club owner, I run through a lot of Linden Dollars. There’s payroll for our employees to be met every night, as well as the prize for the contest board(s) and money to dump into the sploders, to keep the customers interested and sticking around. In addition, I pay nearly L$3500 in tier every week to maintain the Evans Family Compound property, and I have other incidentals that require L$ expenditure, too. So, I do quite a bit of buying via LindeX…and, in the process, I’ve learned a bit about how to most effectively use it. New Residents who want to augment their balances will probably benefit from this post.

First tip: Don’t buy straight through the viewer, and always use Limit Buy. The in-viewer L$ purchase system does a Market Buy, which is not the best way to get the most L$ for your dollar. By default, you can’t do Limit Buys through the Web site either, unless you change your default LindeX view. To do this, visit the “My Account” page on secondlife.com, click on the “Linden Dollar Exchange Settings” link in the right-hand column, select the “Advanced” radio button under “Interface Mode,” and press “Submit.”

Now, unlike Market Buy, Limit Buy does not automagically pull money from your credit card or PayPal account when you buy currency; you have to add credit to your SL account first. This is done from the “My Account” page, by clicking the “Increase Your Credit” link in the right-hand column. Just click the link, key in the amount of money you want to add in the “Money To Add” field, push “Next,” and confirm the transaction on the next screen. You do have to add a minimum of US$25, but this credit that you add can also be used to pay for your monthly premium fees and mainland tier, if applicable. If you’re smart about it, for instance, you can add US$25 to your account just before your premium fees come due, buy US$15 worth of Lindens, and let the account fee for that month absorb the remaining US$10 in credit, eliminating a billing step.

Now, when you click the “Buy L$” link in the left-hand column, the page here may look more confusing than you’re used to. You’re going to concentrate, though, on the following elements:

  • The two “Buy at a Specific Rate” entry fields, “Quantity of L$” and “Exchange Rate.”
  • Your current L$ and US$ balances, over on the top right.
  • The numbers at the very top of the listings of “Open Buy Orders At The Best 20 Rates” and “Open Sell Orders At The Best 20 Rates.”

So, how do you fill in those two fields? In general, I fill in the “Exchange Rate” field first, then the “Quantity of L$” field. This may seem counterintuitive, but it will help you get the most amount of L$ for your money.

First off: How do you select an exchange rate? To a certain extent, it depends how quickly you need the Lindens in your account. If you bid the rate of the top “Open Sell” order (or less), for instance, you’ll get the L$ almost as quickly as if you did a Market Buy. If, on the other hand, you bid the rate of the top “Open Buy” order (or more), your transaction may wait around for a long time before it’s filled. Effective use of this requires some advance planning; as an example, if I’m in-world in another window, I will bid closer to the “Open Buy” price, because I’ll need the money pretty soon, I’m guessing; if, on the other hand, I’m executing the transaction from work, when I know I won’t even be in-world for the next few hours, I can bid higher.

Then, after you’ve selected a rate, fill in the “Quantity” field. As you do, the “Approximate Cost” will display as a text line between the two fields and the “Offer to Buy” button. (This cost includes a US$0.30 fee LL tacks on to all LindeX “buy” transactions.) Compare this number with your current US$ balance and adjust it as needed. I like to adjust it to come a few cents under my US$ balance, because sometimes the actual amount you get charged will differ by a penny or two, and that could cause your transaction to fail or you to wind up with a negative US$ balance. Keep adjusting the quantity until you’ve come to the right amount.

Ready? Press the “Offer to Buy” button, re-submit your log-in information, and then confirm the transaction. Then just wait. The “Transaction History” link in the left column will show you the status of your “open” order; if need be, you can cancel an order before it’s completely filled. Eventually, assuming you get all the L$ you asked for, the transaction will be closed out and moved to the “Closed Orders” section of the page. (In the case of my most recent order, which was bid at L$270 when the top “Open Sell” price was L$267, my order was filled and closed within 2 minutes. That tells me I could probably have bid a little higher, closer to the top “Open Sell” rate of L$276, without too much trouble.)

For day-to-day cashflow management, I use Ginko Bank to store excess L$. I try to start off an evening with between L$3,000 and L$4,000 in my “wallet”; if I have less, I withdraw a thousand or two, and if I have more (as I would if I recently made a buy on LindeX), I deposit the excess. They do pay interest, but I’m not concerned about that most of the time; I’m just looking for a good place to store reserves I don’t immediately need. Other in-world financial services companes, such as Apez, would also work here.

Occasionally, I’ve conducted private transactions for L$ as well. An example of this was when a friend of mine needed US$100 in RL, and happened to have around L$27,000 available. I agreed to the deal, as it would get me L$ I would have had to buy anyway, at a decent rate, and without incurring the LindeX fees for either of us. I initiated the PayPal transaction to send her the US$100, following which she paid me the L$27,000. (If she had tried to cheat me, that way, I could have canceled the PayPal transaction before it completed. Not that she would have, but this is why we performed the operations in the order we did.) If you do this, be careful, and make sure you know who you’re dealing with. In my case, I’d known this person for months, and even conversed with her on Skype, so I knew she was on the level, and (just as importantly) she knew I was on the level.

Hopefully this has helped improve your knowledge of currency trading in SL, and you can use this to help enhance your Second Life. Happy spending!

“Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today” – Pink Floyd, “Money” (album: Dark Side of the Moon)

(Thanks to Tateru for suggesting the topic of this post.)

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Filed under Business, Tips and Tricks

The Technological Development of the Summer

And no, I’m not talking about sculpties, voice, WindLight, or any of the stuff that’s been coming out of Linden Lab. I’m talking about a Second Life client…that runs in a Web browser.

If you just heard something go “klunk!”, that was your jaw hitting the floor. Pick it up. 🙂

AjaxLife ScreenshotThe client is called AjaxLife, and was written by Teen Grid Resident (!) Katharine Berry. Making use of, as you might expect, Ajax techniques, it runs in the Firefox and Safari browsers right now, with limited support for Internet Asploder and Opera. On the back end, it uses libsecondlife to interface to the Grid. She designed it to connect to the Teen Grid, but it will actually plug into the Main Grid as well. (Unsurprising; according to reports, the TG is actually a small, walled-off portion of the Agni grid a long “distance” away from the MG environs in Grid-space.) It’s limited in scope; you can chat, IM, use the map, teleport, and check your Friends List and L$ balance, but that’s pretty much it for now. Still, it’s something…and for some applications, it may be just enough.

Ms. Berry designed the application to “scratch an itch,” much as many open-source developers do: she claims “boredom, wanting to talk to people in SL” as her inspiration. She also says, “If there’s enough interest I’ll make a version that you can run on your own machine to connect to, once it’s further developed.” I think we can answer that question for her right now…and I would encourage her to release the source under an open-source license, to allow others to build on her work and perhaps get it farther, faster, than she could on her own.

I know I’ve had my misgivings about the libsecondlife project in the past, seeing as how its most-publicized uses up till now have been for various “bots” constructed for perhaps-shady purposes (CopyBot, CampBot, LandBot, D35V-bot, etc.). This is the sort of project that can really justify the effort put into libsecondlife, and I would encourage the developers of that project to extend any assistance to Ms. Berry that she might want.

As for Ms. Berry herself…I believe that, if she doesn’t get hired by LL–and she probably should!–she has a bright future ahead of her in the open-source-SL-code world.

(Incidentally, Ms. Berry, I notice that the tagline of your blog is, “Probably the world’s most useless and redundant blog.” You’ve just proven that false in about the most spectacular way I can imagine. 🙂 )

UPDATE: Hamlet Au gets the inside scoop from Ms. Berry here.

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Filed under Current Events, Technical

The Eve of a Bold Move

Danielle on a tableOur week-long job fair has nearly come to an end at the Gin Rummy…and after that, nothing will be the same again. After that, when we reopen, Danielle will implement her most radical change yet to the Gin Rummy: We’re going ladies-only.

Believe it or not, there is a method to our madness. Danielle actually tried out a “Ladies’ Night” at the Gin Rummy a little over a week ago, with male pole-dancers that actually went “The Full Monty”…and she made a bundle. Ladies-only clubs aren’t that common in SL, and, for some reason, the ladies seem more willing to drop Lindens by the bucketful into the dancers’ tip jars. Of course, this means some of our male customers won’t be able to come around anymore…but the soft rustle is too tempting to ignore. (Of money, you pervs. 🙂 )

I’ll still DJ at the club, but I’ll stay over in the booth while doing so, as will all our male DJs…to keep the dance floor free for the ladies to enjoy themselves. Other nights, I’ll work Security, which will still employ male avatars, but I’ll be on the fringe of the crowd. (Among my duties then will be to turn back male avatars that try to enter.) The rest of the time…well, I guess I’ll get some time off.

Hopefully this will lead to more profitability for the club…which will lead to Danielle getting her own sim eventually.

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Blogroll Time Again

Another couple of new entries have made it onto the Elite Evans Avenue Exit Blogroll that you should know about.

First up is Super Calamari, better known as Cala, who is a transgendered person in both RL and SL.  As she’ll tell you, SL is a big outlet for a lot of people in RL who are “closeted” TG individuals, as they can use the virtual world to see themselves as their “true” gender, rather than the one they were born with.  I first encountered her words when she rightly took me to task (in this post) for a rather flippant comment I made about voice in SL in this post, which then inspired this post.  Since then, I’ve encountered at least one other TG person in SL (in fact, she worked for us for awhile), leading me to believe that it may be a more common thing than people think.  (And of course, some of the “girls” in SL are just guys presenting themselves that way on a lark; hence the title of Frogg Marlowe‘s album, Ain’t No Women.  Then there’s the phenomenon of avatars that start out as one gender in SL but switch to another…but I’m getting away from myself, here.)  Cala and I encountered each other at one of Tateru’s office-hour sessions at Mars Japanese Gardens, thus fulfilling that admittedly-eccentric requirement for a blogroll entry; she has thus been duly added, with the tagline, “One Good Woman.”  Because, well, she is.

The second addition is someone I’ve known for awhile…in fact, she’s been a Gin Rummy employee for months.  She’s been a dancer for us for all that time; however, since the club is now going ladies-only (and hence only employing male dancers), we’ll be retraining her as a host.  She’s one of our most loyal and most personable employees, and she’s a great asset to the organization.  So, when I found out she has a blog…well, fast-track that addition! 🙂 Welcome, Bells Semyorka, to the ranks of the Extremely Elite Evans Avenue Exit Blogroll.  Her tagline describes her perfectly: “Hot, Sexy, and Loyal.”

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Filed under Fellow Travelers

Tateru at the Halfway Mark

Tateru recently asked, “how’m I doing?” on her predictions for 2007. Since I gave my answers to her predictions at that time (see comments), perhaps I should help her out and take a look as to how well these predictions have come true.

1. “The Second Life client will be open-sourced…”

Erbo then: “…would be nice, but I don’t expect it in 2007.”

Well, as everyone knows, I got my face rubbed in the dirt on that one, and faster than pretty much everyone thought. And, as Tateru predicted, the build for the client is tricky (or so I’m told; I haven’t attempted it yet). But it doesn’t seem to be missing any assets, and the license is the GPL version 2. (Will LL move to GPLv3, now that it’s out? I wonder…)

2. “Linden Lab will break even. Initial profits will be small, but they’ll actually be in the black.”

Erbo then: “LL may raise mainland tier to correspond with the new island tier figures…and that may be what gets them over the top, or close to it.”

I understand LL is actually in the black now, and, as far as I can tell, they didn’t have to raise mainland tier to do it. They did, however, eliminate First Land, ostensibly because it was open to abuse, but that probably increased their land sales revenue somewhat. In fact, they’re adding mainland land at a breakneck clip.

3. “Open-sourcing the client will lead to a surge of work, leading to the first rudimentary resident-created offline building tool within 2 months that is capable of creating and importing real prims.”

Erbo then: “is dependent to a certain extent on #1, but somebody in the libsecondlife project may come up with it first. We shall see.”

We’re probably damned close to having something like this, if we don’t already. And I do seem to recall hearing about an offline tool that spit out building instructions as a text file, which could then be inserted onto a notecard and read by a scripted tool in SL that did automated assembly. (Sadly, the more-publicised uses of libsecondlife seem to be the various “bots,” like CopyBot, CampBot, and so forth.)

4. “Linden Lab will drop Havok physics entirely, and replace it with an alternative, either an open-source physics engine, or an end-of-lifed/discontinued physics engine released to the public domain.”

Erbo then: “They may be more likely to convince Havok to open up their old physics engine code. That would be the angle I’d pursue…”

Not a lot of progress on that front, although there is at least one open-source physics engine (ODE) that people are using in conjunction with SL-type code…but more on that anon.

5. “By the end of 2007, spurred by the open-source client, the first rudimentary simulator simulators will appear, based on top of flat datafiles, or mysql. They will accept a connection from a local client, operating initially as a simple single-avatar grid.”

Erbo then: “…dependent, again, on #1, to some extent, but who knows? Some enterprising libsecondlifer may beat everyone to the punch…”

Hello, OpenMetaverse project! 🙂 Their “OpenSim” does indeed let you create single-sim, single-avatar test grids…and they’re also building a way to connect up a Grid of one’s own. And yes, it is based on flat files and/or MySQL. This project is interesting enough that I’ve considered trying it out on one of our test clusters at the office…

6. “We’ll get new avatar meshes, and probably new default walk animations as well. The new meshes will probably not be 100% compatible with existing clothing and attachments.”

Erbo then: “…would certainly NOT happen soon if I had anything to say about it.”

And apparently it hasn’t. 🙂

7. “Voice integration makes it into the client by the fourth anniversary celebration. This causes a slew of primarily social issues (although also a bunch of technical ones) which are — by and large — not solved by the end of Decmber.”

Erbo then: “…again, why the creeping featurism? Voice is not as necessary as, for example, permanent fixes to the asset server, to keep so much stuff from randomly breaking.”

Well, if you count the First Look viewer, voice did make it to the Main Grid about the time of the fourth anniversary celebration. The rest of this prediction is still up in the air…though the open-sourcing went ahead without worrying about voice. (But is the actual voice First Look viewer source available? I don’t think so…)

8. “At least two fan-foci (major authors and their publishers, television series and their studios, or sports stars or somesuch) will make an effort to reach and energize their fan-bases through Second Life — and do so successfully.”

Erbo then: “…insufficient data to say one way or the other.”

Well, Tateru’s been gathering some of this data, in her Mixed Reality Headcounts. I would say that IBM has been pretty successful, but you could hardly call it a “fan focus.” Maybe Playboy is one example of this, though the jury’s still out on their relative success level, I think.

9. “At least one fully-branded client will appear, bearing few if any Second Life or Linden Lab names and marks, designed to operate on a set of sims segregated from the rest of the grid.”

Erbo then: “…if it happens, will probably contribute heavily to [LL turning a profit].”

I haven’t heard of this happening…though some companies are contracting with other developers (not LL) to build their own metaverse-like environments.

10. “Linden Lab will no longer permanently ban accounts, and only issue bans longer than 14 days in the most extreme cases.”

Erbo then: “…the WRONG way to go. There needs to be MORE permanent banning of accounts, and machines/IP addresses, to get a handle on the griefer problems.”

Well, LL can ban accounts permanently, but new accounts are too easy to create to keep people out for long. Case in point: the idiots that dropped the spinning screaming cubes on Fantasyland last week…they were banned permanently, and another, similar attack happened again just a couple nights ago. Probably the same people, with new accounts. So, indirectly and effectively, Tateru may be right here.

11. “Herr Doktor Amy Weebler will be mysteriously revealed to be some well-known Second Life personality in a sinister disguise.”

Erbo then: “…well, *you* tell *me.* :-)”

No comment. 🙂

12. “Tateru will be shown to get at least three of these predictions so embarrassingly wrong that she will say ‘Oh, bugger.'”

Erbo then: “…at least simple pragmatics would seem to indicate that *this* one, at least, will prove true.”

Actually, not so much. I count only one, and maybe two, of the above predictions that could wind up being that gratuitously wrong. The others are either pretty right on the money, or, while wrong, are close enough to correct that they don’t deserve an “Oh, bugger” reaction. You still don’t get a 100% score, Tateru, but your predictions are far more accurate than those of, say, Jeane Dixon. 🙂

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Filed under Current Events, Philosophy, Technical

SLElections Postmortem

Well, now that that’s all over with, I thought I’d share a few little “behind the scenes” tidbits with you fine folks out there in Blog-land. Consider this kind of the “insider’s tell-all book” of the Evans for Governor campaign. Read on for more…

Continue reading

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Filed under Gubernatorial Campaign, Meta

Reaction from the Evans Camp

The following is taken from a media statement made by Erbo Evans, Candidate for SL Governor, to Grid News Network (GNN) and other major media outlets, on this date:

Screen Cap from GNN (Grid News Network)

My fellow Residents, it appears that this election process is not all that it was cracked up to be. However, let it not be said that we of the SLGOP are sore losers; we accept the verdict rendered by the citizenry, no matter our own personal feelings about it.  We congratulate Philip Linden on his re-election as SL Governor, and pledge our assistance to him in any way necessary to help preserve, protect, and defend Second Life.

It’s been a long, hard campaign, and all those of you listening know how much I have appreciated your support.  My thanks go out especially to Campaign Manager Danielle Ferguson, Party Spokeswoman Fiona Torricelli, and the tireless precinct workers of the Second Life Grand Old Party.  I send commendations to my opponents in the race; you are all truly an elite group, and it’s been my pleasure and privilege to work both with you and against you in this race.

Friends, the campaign ends, but the fight must continue.  The enemies of Second Life are still waiting in the wings, ready to swoop down on us and stifle the freedom of expression we hold so dear.  We must maintain constant vigilance against these dark forces, in order that our new world will survive and carry us forward into the future.  If Providence does not forbid, I shall not hold myself aloof from this struggle.  I trust you will all carry on the fight, each in your own fashion.

Thank you, good night, God bless you, and God bless Second Life!

Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, it’s all satire, still.  And now’s the end of it…but I’ll likely make one more post where I “break the fourth wall” and let you in on how this all came together.

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Filed under Gubernatorial Campaign