Saturday, August 25, 2007

Enjoying Music on your Land in Second Life

I feel that I am making a fool of myself even by attempting to create a Guide to Second Life, as I could make no claim to the title of 'Expert' in SL. Nonetheless, I hope to be able to share some useful information to other 'players' from time to time.

I had intended to create an organised little 'Guide' on this site, but I have changed my mind. I simply am going to write about random topics as they arise in my own SL experiences. I always can organise a proper Guide later...

When exploring Second Life, one will encounter music. There are live concerts, of course, but often music is 'tied to the land'. Moving from one parcel to another, the music may change radically. It is the owner of the land usually who sets the music.

I was a little unhappy to discover that music usually is 'streaming media' from a radio station, complete with the awful advertisements and announcements that emanate from these stations. What interested me, however, was the potential to choose radio stations from any part of the globe.

I dislike radio intensely, mainly because I would rather choose my own musical selections than have another person do it for me. Whether it is classical instrumental, opera, punk, heavy metal, French pop, Arab classical or Arab pop music, I far rather would listen to my own selections. Finding a radio station that happens to be playing a song or opera that I truly love personally is rather like finding a diamond in a rubbish bin. That having been said, some are better than others.

Paul Ge, an artist who makes musical instruments in SL, was the individual who gave me instructions on how to bring music to my own land. There may be other stations that provide URLs that can be used in SL, but there is one that actually is totally compatible with Second Life. That station is:


This site contains links to thousands of international internet radio stations. If you wish to find a particular genre of music, perform a search on the site and all stations that air that type of music should be listed.

When you have found a station that appeals to you, double-click on the 'Tune In!' button. It will open a download. Choose the 'Save' option and a file containing the URL of the station will be downloaded to your computer.

This is only the first step, however. You now need to perform a little trick that will allow you to see the URL and use it in SL.

First find the file. It will be in a .pls format. Do not open it. Instead, rename it by changing the .pls to .txt. You will see a prompt warning you that the file may become unplayable if you rename it. Disregard that, as you actually will not need to play the file, but simply wish to read it! When the file has been converted to a text file, open it and find the URL.

It may be obvious to many but not to every one that the URL will consist of everything from the http:// beginning to the last number before TITLE. Highlight and copy that URL, then go to your land in Second Life.

Right-click on your land to access the 'About Land' option and choose that. Now choose the 'Media' tab. In the Media window, you will find a box for the URL of any internet radio station that plays MP3 files. Paste the URL of the station you have chosen into that box. (You need to use the pull-down Edit menu found on the top of your SL screen in order to use a 'paste' option. If you right-click on the URL box, you will not be given any options to 'paste' or to do anything else for that matter.)

When you close the 'About Land' menu, you should hear the music from the radio station you have chosen. To change the station, simply perform the same steps again. Once you have downloaded the URLs of stations that you like, you simply can create a little file for yourself that contains the URLs of a number of internet stations that you like.

The description of a station sometimes can be a little misleading, however. I found a number of French pop stations but most of them alternated French music with American or British songs. The two Arab stations I found were far better in that respect.

Last night, however, having discovered nothing of interest on any popular music station, I changed my URL to classical opera. Much to my delight, the station played a couple of arias I actually liked.

I sat on the loveseat in the little alcove in my own castle with a cheerful blaze in the marble fireplace and listened to opera as the sun set outside my window. It was an interesting experience. I actually felt as though I were at home, relaxing at the end of a long, difficult day. (Well, I was at home in RL, attempting to relax at the end of a long, difficult day, but my real surroundings were not quite as conducive to the creation of a sublime state of mind in many respects. I definitely do not have a lady's bower in a beautiful little castle and the only window in my little room is obscured by a rather vital but ancient and unwieldy air conditioner. In any case, the only view I would have from here would be the back of a fence...)

On my land in Second Life, I can change not only the radio station but my surroundings. I could return the castle itself to my pocket (or inventory) and replace it with a magnificent pool or hot tub. The worst problem in Second Life is 'prim' limitations. Each parcel of land is allotted a specific number of objects or 'prims'. A small parcel of land usually is allocated 117 prims. The smallest castle takes about half of that. One or two pieces of furniture, depending on the way in which they were made, can take as many prims as the house itself. On 512 land, I either can have my loveseat and a fireplace or a bed in the bedroom upstairs.

I could not decorate both floors of the castle properly with the furniture I own on a 512 lot. Unfortunately, the furniture I have is very prim-extravagant. There are entire sets of furniture that would not consume as much of a 'prim allotment' as the loveseat I chose for myself. Before one ever owns any land, one wonders why ordinary people with little ambition where real estate is concerned ever would need more than a small lot. The answer is simple: prim limits.

Incidentally, that is where an artist like Wolves Bain is to be admired for his concern for the small landowner. His castles are brilliant because he always uses the fewest number of prims in creating them. They therefore are both beautiful and extremely practical. (His castles include doors that can be locked as well.)

Even if one cannot use all one's furniture at once, one can store it in one's inventory indefinitely. Inventory is unrestricted. I could own a thousand castles with lavish furnishings for all of them, even if I did not own even the smallest parcel of land in Second Life. The difficulty there is in FINDING any of them in my inventory... Where free items are available everywhere, inventory soon can become quite unmanageable.

This problem does have a solution: an inventory manager. Perhaps I will explore this topic another day...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Introducing yourself to Second Life

Once you have installed the Second Life programme, you will have an icon resembling a green hand on your desktop. Click on it to open the Second Life programme. You will see a screen with boxes at the bottom of it. Type your first and last name into the box, type your password and click on 'Connect'.

The first time you use Second Life, you will be taken to a place called 'Orientation Island'. Here you will be conducted through a series of simple tutorials that teach you how to move, how to communicate with others, how to interact with objects and finally, how to alter your appearance.

'Editing Appearance' can be one of the more time-consuming and vital tasks for an avatar or it can be ignored almost completely if you do not care what you look like in your Second Life. Apart from choosing whether to be male or female, you can choose to become a winged being, a 'furry' or any other creature the imagination could create.

If you spend a great deal of time altering your original appearance, you may be rather disgusted to discover that the general population of Second Life simply will disregard any of your painstaking efforts in favour of classifying you immediately as a 'newbie', with 'newbie skin', 'newbie hair' and 'newbie clothes'. Yes, racism and bigotry are alive and well in Second Life...

Fortunately, there are many helpful and compassionate residents who will be more than happy to give you free clothes, landmarks to malls that offer free skins, clothes and items, and who will provide tips as well.

Second Life has its own economical and social structure, and advertising and marketing are as important for merchants there as in any other world. As the world of Second Life is absolutely enormous and new islands and continents spring up on a regular basis, a merchant or artist has to find ways to bring himself/herself to the attention of residents. One of the most effective means of advertising is through the offer of 'free' items.

There are malls like the 'Free Dove' that are dedicated to 'free' items. At these malls or shopping precincts, you will find long tables filled with 'boxes' or billboards that contain free items as well as landmarks to the actual 'shop' or gallery of the merchant. Some of the items may be fairly worthless but others can be truly valuable. One can acquire a decent skin, a respectable wig, an enormous free wardrobe of clothing of every description as well as free shoes, accessories and jewelry without every paying a single Linden dollar for any of it.

Appearance can be important to men and women alike. In many cases, individuals who go to Second Life would like to be the most beautiful or handsome examples of their species. Other individuals would like to become creatures known in this world only from myths. The fact of the matter is that every one in Second Life possesses some mythical powers. Flying is an ordinary means of transport, with or without wings, and teleports are the most common method of travel from one point to another.

One need never interact with the economy of SL in any significant manner. An avatar can spend all of his/her time shopping for free items, visiting museums and other public exhibition areas, attending shows, concerts and lectures, frequenting clubs in order to dance or otherwise interact with other residents without ever spending any Lindens at all.

There is real money to be made in Second Life, however, and even if one only dreams of having a home there, one must invest a little in the economy. In order to own land, one must pay for Premium Membership in SL. The cost of this is about $10. per month if paid monthly but becomes less if one is willing to pay quarterly or annually. The smallest piece of land is 512 m. and the price will vary between about $L 5500 and $L 7000, depending on its location. Once the purchase price is paid, one need not commit oneself to any further expenditure, apart from renewing membership in order to retain the property.

If one wishes to own a larger plot of land, one will be charged a monthly fee for any land in excess of 512 m. 512 m. is large enough even for a small castle, but problems arise usually because of the prim limits on any parcel of land. 'Prims' are 'primitive objects' and each plot of land is allocated a specific number of prims. If one tries to exceed that number, objects will not 'rez'. 'Rez' is short for 'resolution'. Everything that you see in Second Life is based on resolution. Whenever you teleport to a new location, it takes time for the objects surrounding you to 'rez'. Until they do, you will see nothing more than geometric forms.

'Rezzing' objects is an act of magic. Objects will appear in your inventory as small golden cubes. You basically need to drag a cube from your inventory to throw it to the ground in order to 'rez' it on the ground. A golden cube can contain anything from a bracelet to an entire castle or spa.

One of the first lessons an individual learns is how to deal with 'boxed objects'. Very often, any item that is acquired or purchased is contained in a box. In order to access the item, you must throw the box to the ground, then 'Open' it. When you choose the option to open the box, the contents will spill out into a window, to be displayed there. You either can choose simply to copy them to your inventory or choose to 'copy and wear'.

Boxes come in many different forms. Some artists actually create elaborate gift boxes, complete with bows. Designer shoes often are contained in tasteful shoeboxes. Gift bags or tote bags are other forms in which designer clothes and accessories are sold. Other artists and merchants present their boxes in the form of small billboards that display a photograph of the items inside the box. In many cases, however, a box is nothing more than a simple cube with pictures on it. When the contents of any box are copied to your inventory, they usually will be found in a folder afterwards.

Newcomers almost invariably fail to comprehend the 'box' aspect when they first acquire items. When a golden cube is labelled as a 'Black formal gown', they naturally choose the 'Wear' option in order to try it on. What occurs then is rather embarrassing. The avatar suddenly will find himself/herself wearing a box or billboard. One then must detach the box and throw it to the ground from the inventory in order to 'Open' it.

Where clothing is concerned, there usually is a 'default' position in which the clothing will be worn if you simply choose the 'Wear' option. As you acquire more possessions, however, you may discover that two different items are vying for the same position on your avatar's body. You then must find a new position for one of them.

This is where the 'Edit' option becomes very useful. For example, if you wish to wear a cloak and a pair of wings but both ordinarily attach to your 'spine', you can choose a new position for one and attach it instead to your 'right shoulder'. Having attached it to the right shoulder, however, it no longer will be centred properly. Choose the 'Edit' option to move it to the correct position. It still will be attached to the 'right shoulder' technically, but will look as though it is attached to the spine.

More about this later. There is one final point that needs to be made where boxes are concerned. Never leave a box on the ground! Many owners allow all residents to 'create objects' on their land, allowing you to open boxes there, but it is extremely rude then to leave an empty box on some one else's property. I have seen countless empty boxes strewn up and down glorious beaches or in secluded magical glades... Unless the owner of the land sets the land to 'autoreturn' all objects that do not belong to him/her, those empty boxes will continue to clutter the landscape indefinitely.

Monday, August 6, 2007

An Introduction to Second Life

'Second Life' is a PC game that really is not like any other game. For a start, it really is a second world in which an individual can create an open-ended, ongoing second life. That second life can be as mundane as the first life, if one simply wishes to create an avatar whose existence mirrors the existence of his/her creator. One could lead a sort of 'shadow life' as it were, using an avatar with the same appearance, lifestyle and goals as yourself. Most players, however, are drawn to Second Life because of the infinite variety of experiences one can have there.

On the mundane level, one can buy and sell real estate or any other commodity in Second Life. One can pursue an ordinary domestic existence, 'awakening' from bed to watch a sunrise, take a bath or shower, eat breakfast, then face whatever the day may bring... Some people go to Second Life for the shopping. It really gives new meaning to the expression: 'shop until you drop'. One could spend a hundred lifetimes in the shopping malls if one wishes.

Other individuals are 'party animals' and spend most of their time attending parties and functions. Every sort of event exists in Second Life, from formal affairs to disco parties and sexual orgies.

There are people who go to Second Life for romance or sex, and those who go for exploration. There are individuals who never learn how to build anything and others who acquire a passion for building, actually creating a second career and real livelihood for themselves in the Second Life universe.

For those who love history, fantasy or science fiction, Second Life offers rare opportunities actually to live in another period or setting as any creature or magical being one could imagine. There are islands and communities dedicated to specific fantasies, time periods and 'themes'.

Whether a person is interested in science or the arts, in joining groups with specific interests and purposes or in 'hanging out', Second Life offers infinite opportunities.

That having been said, the first step towards the portal that leads to Second Life is downloading the programme. The programme is free, as is registration. You can create an avatar and explore Second Life without ever spending any money at all.

To do this, simply go to:

Register, then download the programme.

You can choose any name you like for your first name. Your 'last name' or surname must be chosen from a list. Although you do need to give your real name and a valid email address, you do not have to share any other personal details with Linden Labs unless you wish to become a Premium Member, a paying member with the right to own land and/or conduct a business in Second Life.

You can be male or female, old or young, human or non-human. If you wish, you can create more than one avatar. There is no cost for this in monetary terms. The cost is in terms of time and energy alone.

If you wish to 'upgrade' immediately to a Premium Account in order to be able to buy land and have fewer restrictions on the amount of money you can spend (in either world), YOU CANNOT DO SO AT THIS POINT. You must wait until you receive an email from Second Life activating your account. You then must open the Second Life programme on your computer and log into Second Life using your Avatar and password.
It is only after you have agreed to the stipulations of the pop-up documents that will appear that you can return to the site to upgrade your Account status. Until you have logged into Second Life at least once, you are not 'recognised' by Linden Labs as a member.