Using Virtual Worlds
Retrospect 2019 Tags: retrospect



I started virtual worlds in 2000 with, a modem-based,  under-powered, yet fun platform where very few people built and most people met just to explore and socialize.  I moved to Second Life in 2004 after reading an ad on Google.

Somewhere in there Wayfinder founded a small group called Elf Clan, which for odd reasons grew to be the largest themed group on Second Life for several years.  Go figure.  Our touring lands exist to this day. 

Due to host company problems and extremly high costs on Second Life, Elf Clan moved to Inworldz in 2010 and shut down our SL holdings in 2011.  When Inwordz died we set three continents OSgrid in 2018.  Elf Clan affiliate lands now number over 160 regions... the largest land holdings in the history of the group.

Elf Clan Central on OSgrid now consists of four continents, consisting of 100 regions, running on three self-hosted servers literally spread across the Earth.  Elf Clan members have moved to grids throughout the Hypergrid.  We have changed in form from being a social, heavy-event-oriented group with very high monthly costs, to lands that run on the cost of electricity and that are scripted and fully-automated to host tours for both our Fantasy and Science Fiction worlds.  We have official member lands on OSgrid, Kitely and DigiWorldz, and the residents there are quite happy.

The great thing about owning our own servers is that we can now enjoy our virtual worlds without consideration for finances or "will things be there tomorrow?".  We are able to back up everything, including land, inventory and assets.  100% control  and ownership over our own creations is a wonderful thing.

The Eldar have complete control over our land backup, inventory backup and server operation parameters.  We no longer have corporate whims controlling how our group functions.  We need no longer worry about meeting monthly tier, or a company going back on their word and destroying valuable group lands.   The sense of peace and removal of stress on the Eldar and land holders is palpable, and appreciated.  In short, our virtual life has never been more peaceful, stress-free, and low-cost.

As a result, both group leaders and members feel a sense of freedom that we could not experience before.

THE ORBIT EFFECT-- controlling your own virtual experience
One thing I have noticed over the years in virtual society as well as real life:  people tend to gravitate toward and orbit around prominent / charismatic figures.  I noticed this with both Wayfinder and Snoots.  When they were very active in Elf Clan, the group was lively and active.  When they "retired", the group became far less active.
This is somewhat a shame, as it is still possible to host events, to have drum parties, celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, etc.  It's just that no one does so any more. 
I've never considered myself "charismatic", but the "orbit" effect was undeniable. However, a friend actually had to point this out to me before I noticed it.  We see this around popular figures in all walks of life and in many groups on virtual worlds.  I remember in the old days we had a "rule of thumb" in Elf Clan:   Bored?  Stand in the sandbox for 15 minutes and soon you will have a party.  People gravitate toward one another, and orbit around the active, outgoing avatars. 
Just an observation:  if you want an active group, be available and active yourself.  Become the charismatic "orbit figure".  In our case  no one else was willing to step up to the plate and take over the  job of events-- which told us that our group members were quite satisfied with a more relaxed atmosphere.  So today Elf Clan consists of highy-engaging automated tours that can help visitors enjoy our lands and history.
Our dispersal throughout Hypegrid has largely eliminated such venues and replaced them with automated adventures.  I admit missing the Drum Circle or the company of like-minded souls around a camp fire... but do enjoy the fascinating experiences to be found on our OSgrid worlds of ElvenSong, Replicant City and Frankenstein.  The historic build of ElvenGlen (the very first privately-owned non-business region on Second Life) gives people a glimpse into the past history of both our group and virtual worlds.
Virtual worlds can be used for many good things.  They can be a social center for the disabled.  (Moderately disabled ones might make effort to get out and make friends in the real world, because virtual worlds are no substitute for real life.)   Virtual worlds can make a decent hobby, as entertainment, and as a creative platform-- if that use is kept to moderate levels.  When one allows that recreation to become a primary focus of life and their "second life" becomes their first life-- that's when personal value and true accomplishment suffers. 
I discovered that truth when I "took a vacation" from virtual worlds for about 4 years or so.  I had already built and accomplished what I wanted to in virtual life and realized it had become unfulfilling.  Linden Lab had managed to destroy all of our efforts on Second Life.  We had accomplished everything we set out to accoplish on Inworldz (and quite a bit more)... but it proved an empty achievement when the grid died.  Everything was virtual and as Inworldz absolutely proved, could vanish in a moment.   
That's the reality of anything really, but when a virtual grid dies an entire "planet" collapses-- something seldom seen in real life.
When I took that four-year vacation (with virtual life taking almost zero time) I learned a brand new skill:  designing and building music instruments... which I was surprised to learn I had a hitherto-unknown talent for.  I then opened a RL online music business.  During that period I designed three totally new types of music instruments that sold rather well (and earned far more money than I ever earned from virtual sales).  Had I not taken that vacation from virtual life, I'd have never accomplished those things in real life. That was a very sobering thought.  It caused me to wonder what I had missed during the years I'd spent so heavily involved in virtual worlds.
The reality there is that there are options to virtual life.  "Virtual worlds have virtual success."  After two major "disasters", many in our group have found this to be quite true.
None of this is meant to condemn virtual worlds.  Wonderful things are accomplished on virtual worlds every day.  Charities benefit from virtual events. People learn from virtual worlds.  
All of this just means we do well to maintain a balanced view of it all, realizing there are alternatives to virtual life-- namely real life.  I've learned to break the habit of hitting the Viewer button every time I'm bored and instead search for other things to occupy my time.    There is so much else out there, so many people that need our help and attention... and so many lonely people who could simply use a face-to-face friend. Virtual World Addiction is like any other addiction; sometimes we have to work hard to break away and seek  more valid lifestyle.
There is much to be said for sipping a cuppa and simply chatting for a while with someone who is alone and lonely.  An older friend, a shut-in, someone who is disabled and can't get around by themselves.  It requires effort beyond typing on a keyboard.  It is more personal than triggering a dance animation at a virtual party, more fulfilling than sitting staring at a screen for two hours.   As enjoyable as virtual friendship scan be, real life friendships have proved more lasting and rewarding.
In the end game, virtual reality is virtual.  It may touch lives in personal ways, but like anything can be abused and become unbalanced, taking over our lives.  In retrospect I realize that to exist for 18 years in virtual worlds, I had to give up a great deal in the real world.  
Consider (and there is no brag here, just fact):  On SL I founded the first Poetry Guild.  Elf Clan proved to be a marvel.  We purchased the first privately-owned themed island, were the first non-business group to reach 500 members, then 1,000, then 2,000.   We created a business model that influenced all of Second Life.   As a prominent SL newsletter stated, Elf Clan set more paths and more people followed those paths than any other group to date.  I admit much of this was unintentional; I was just doing what we felt was necessary for the group.  But in doing so we blazed some trails. 
When we moved to Inworldz, the entire grid consisted of 14 regions, 13 of those company-sponsored (only one belonged to an individual).   People followed Elf Clan... and thirty days later Inworldz had 200 regions.  Within sixty days it hit 500 regions and by the end of the year-- 8 months later, was the first non-SL commercial grid to top 1,000 regions.   During my time on SL and Inworldz I started two virtual businesses, becoming an established builder, scripter, instructor and live music performer.    I spent an average of 6 to 12 hours a day in virtual worlds, 7 days a week.
To accomplish such things and then have them fail due to problems with the host companies (in both cases-- Linden Lab and Inworldz), defines the very essense of "virtual".  As a group we saw 14 years of effort and over $200,000 U.S. in land fees go down the drain.  If this happened to Elf Clan... as large and successful as we were... what can others expect? 
It's not that similar things don't happen in real life.  They do. Large businesses fail due to no fault of their own.  People lose real lives due to disease, age, or accidents.   Families are torn apart due to drama.  People lose jobs.  If anything, virtual worlds reflect all too realistically the real world.
The point of all this is simple:  as an individual I was privileged to accomplish more than most people ever get to experience in virtual worlds.  Only large group owners, land barons and successful merchants would understand the effort that goes into doing so.  It would be difficult for a person to accomplish more than we accomplished with Elf Clan. (Raglan Shire is still at it after all these years.  They understand.) 

Some things for certain:  I know that Elf Clan helped change the lives of at least a couple of people, giving them a solid foundation around which they formed their real life ethics and goals.  (The Elf Clan Charter is in its most basic terms, simply a guide for life, be it virtual or real.)  But if there's something I learned about virtual worlds:  they are as temporary as yesterday's newspaper.

So the question of what I will do for the next 18 years comes to mind.   Whatever I choose, I hope it will be with increased wisdom, insight, accomplishment and benefit. Some of that will have been learned from activities on virtual worlds, interacting with the people there and learning skills that applied to real life.  For that I am grateful.  But one always wonders about the path not taken.
Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors-- and wise choices in how we use our limited days on this planet.

--Wayfinder Wishbringer / Snoots Dwagon

The Myth of Avatar Complexity Tags: myth avatar complexity



It started on Second Life years ago as a virtual witch hunt that pointed the blame for "lag" at users rather than at poor world foundation software and servers.  It wasn't long before the debunking started and that attempt pretty much died.


Realizing that attempt failed, it wasn't long before they came up with a new, better, modified AVATAR COMPLEXITY figure, which is of course touted as being more accurate, useful, and definitely not a witch hunt looking to mis-place blame for system-created lag. 

But is there any validity and truth behind avatar complexity figures?   The answer is both yes and no.  The first thing we should notice is those complexity figures are excessively high. They are (supposedly) based on accurate rendering figures... but savvy users are aware that rendering figures do not equate to lag.   For those unaware of this principle, let's consider a basic example.

Create a simple box prim.  Wear it.   Your AC will jump a surprising 405 points... for a simple, non-functional cube!

Now, go to the Features tab of that cube and turn it FLEXIBLE and re-wear it.  Your AC will now jump to 409... just 4 points over a basic cube.

So what does this mean in actual daily use?  We established very long ago that simple prim count does not "lag", whether that prim is stable on a sim or worn on an avatar.   It did at one time, but that was code-fixed years ago.   The reality is that simple prims don't lag, at all.   An oft-quoted experiment was when 140,000 prims were rezzed on an empty Open Sim region and the testers observed zero "lag" of any sort.  

Elf Clan ran its own tests on a brand new, empty SL region on which we rezzed 12,000 prims, then put sit scripts in 5,000 of them.  Neither situation presented any discernible, measurable "lag" whatsoever.  So the prim-lag myth was busted, totally, by two separate documented tests.


As stated above, the Flexi shows a mere 4 points above a non-flexi prim.  Hardly worth noting.   However it has been long-established that flexible prims are one of the most lag-inducing items on virtual worlds.  How lag-inducing are they?  On a sim where they conducted flexi tests, they set out 12 "blankets" hanging from a clothes line.   At a touch the blankets could be turned rigid, or flexi and blowing in the wind.   The result:  When all 12 blankets were turned to flexi the sim lagged almost to a standstill. 

Now admittedly Flexi handling has improved somewhat... but it is still one of the most lag-causing things on VR.   The point is that the Avatar Complexity figure does not reflect this factor in its ratings.  It counts the flexi factor a mere 5 points out of 409... almost identical to a non-flexi cube.   According to "Avatar Complexity", they are both pretty much the same when it comes to avatars causing "lag" on a region.  However we know for a fact that the inclusion of flexis on an avatar are heavily lag inducing.   Obviously Avatar Complexity comes several cards short when it comes to actually measuring lag-causing factors.


We were curious, so we took some ratings on three different avatars, on two different grids:

1)  The basic Dwagon created by Snoots Dwagon, a completely primmed avatar head to toe.  This avatar consists of a total of 427 tortured prims. 

2)  A fully-armored warrior, the biggest of the baddest.  Wearing highly-detailed armor head to toe, this avatar comes in at over 1,700 prims.

3) A standard female avatar with flexi hair, skirt and reasonable jewelry.   Nothing special... just the kind you'd find at most clubs (in fact, clubs were where we took multiple ratings).


The following were single avatar tests. In cases of numerous avatars, lag will usually be very discernible.  Simple truth:  avatar presence lags, regardless of what they're wearing.

The dwagon consisting of 427 almot constantly-moving prims, displayed an AC of 70,155.  That's our base-line figure. The avatar produced zero discernible lag.

The warrior consisting of over 1,700 prims displayed an AC of 203,919... roughly 2.9 times higher AC than a dwagon.  This would be expected; the warrior contained more than 3 times the prims.  Almost a direct correlation.  This avatar produced zero discernible lag.

Standard female avatars dressed in regular clothing with flexi hair and dresses almost across the board hit "Jelly Doll" stage... which means their AC count was so high their avatars became shaped mono-color blobs to onlookers.  When the Jelly Doll function was turned off and AC checked it was discovered these avatars commonly exceeded an AC rating of 300,000 and more.  As there were multiple such avatars on the region, lag was definitely discernible.  But was this because of AC ratings... or simply because of region servers inefficiently handling avatar presence?



We created an "insane" avatar by building a 1000-prim linked object, duplicating it and attaching it to head, arms, chest and legs, with the result of an avatar wearing thousands of cubed prims.  The result?  Zero discernible lag.



(First, let me encourage readers to check out the comments section following for a realistic viewpoint of using avatars in certain situations.  Quite valid.)

The Avatar Complexity system is as bogus a witch hunt as it's always been.   It does not determine the actual affect an avatar has on sim server performance, and does not take into account standard, everyday, common usage of virtual world systems. 

Do avatars "lag" virtual worlds?  It is safe to state that avatars are the most lag-inducing item on VR (besides server issues).  There is no doubt of that.  But it's not because of avatar complexity; it's because the way in which Second Life style virtual reality coding handles avatar rendering.  The primary source of lag is inefficient server and viewer code, not the avatar you choose to wear.  However, the avatar we choose to wear can affect that poor server and viewer code.  It's a Catch-22.

Now yes, if we all took off our hair and clothing and walked around naked, the servers wouldn't lag as badly.  But they'd still lag.  Every time someone teleports in or out, every time the wind blows a flexi-based tree, every time the system glitches for no discernible reason, there would still be lag.  

But the reality is virtual worlds revolve around avatars.   To try and limit those avatars by using an inaccurate rating system is goofy.  Basically, it is perfectly okay to totally ignore the Avatar Complexity readings.  They have very little to do with the reality of lag on virtual worlds. 

The reality is this:  avatars with far lower AC ratings can "lag" far worse than avatars with high AC rating.   That fact alone invalidates the AC system as a useful tool.



Many, many years ago, AO devices lagged.  Since then the server software has been updated and the AO devices have been improved.  Tests have been run, extensively.   So we can stop that witch hunt as well.  Tinies require AOs to function.  So do many other avatars.  The best thing to do to prevent an event from lagging:   reset the region prior to the event, and make sure region scripts are low-lag designed.  Use textures efficiently. In the case of an event that is expected to have a large audience... if possible put the performance group on an adjoining region.



Ignore Avatar Complexity. Ignore AOs. Just enjoy yourself in your activities.  Avatar Complexity was started by Linden Lab and foisted off on other virtual worlds.  It is a bogus "tool" that does not correlate to region lag issues.

Sim content and avatars are the life of virtual worlds.  "An empty sim is a fast sim" may be true... but the people on that lifeless sim won't be having much fun.  Avatars will dress according to their preferences. (See addendum below in comments.)  This is not to say event hosts can't request avatar simplification for the good of the event;  I just recommend not using the questionable and irrelevant readings of "Avatar Complexity" as a reason. 

-- Wayfinder



Second Life Monopoly Game Tags: second life monopoly game


Recently Tateru posted a blog presenting Second Life as if it were a Monopoly game.  The blog includes a pretty nifty game board.  You can view it here:



    So I started thinking on it and well, it's a viable concept.  Here are just a few of the "Linden Lab Policy" cards I came up with:

Linden Lab increases tier fees with no grandfathering.  Shut down 20% of your land holdings.*

You discover severe server-side texture issues.  Lose 2 turns while textures reload.

SL Market delivers wrong item.  Put back vehicle asset and take random clothing card instead.

Asset server changes all objects to full perm.  Lose all merchant-related assets and move them to the Freebie card pile.

Linden Lab ignores several JIRA postings.  Close your eyes and place playing piece on a random square.

Linden Lab stacks your server... again.   Lose 1 turn every other turn until the end of the game (if all players have suffered this, everyone takes it for granted and the game resumes as normal).

Customer support finally gets back to you after several months.  Lose 12 turns.

Linden Lab releases a new Viewer.  Lose 5 turns while trying to figure out new game rules. 

You are forced to provide a detailed, tech-level JIRA to the company in order to get a basic function to work.  Move only 1/2 the spaces you roll for the rest of the game.

Those are just a few to get started.  Maybe you can add some of your own.


P.S.  If this SL Monopoly game doesn't sound like a lot of fun... be assured-- it isn't.  And playing the game is very expensive.  : (


* 20% is the actual percentage of total regions that angrily shut down when Linden Lab "bait and switch" price-hiked Homestead regions.  They tried to milk the cash-cow and instead killed the golden goose.


Cautionary Article -- Historical note from Second Life Tags: cautionary second life

The following article was initially published Sept 8, 2013 and is re-published here as an important reference pertaining to another article.


A change to Second Life TOS has been published without notice to users.  We were made aware of this by a third-party source, it has been verified, and are thus notifying our members:


2.3 You grant Linden Lab certain licenses to your User Content.

[..]you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service.[..]


In other words, if you use or create something on Second Life, you grant full and irrevocable rights to do with it whatever they want, including "re-sell" the item.


This potentially-exploitative stipulation does not exist on most other grids.


To be totally fair, an Elf Clan member points out:

"That "standard issue" clause is basically legalese for "we cannot be sued for anything that happens or is done with your content.  It's a paranoid term created by lawyers who try to create terms broad enough that a user looking to rip off the company through frivolous litigation will not be able to do so, no matter what hare-brained legal theory they try. It was sparked by lawsuits such as a user uploading a photo to a website in a fashion where it would be publically visible, and then suing the website for copyright infringement because they "copied" the photo in the process of making it publicly visible." 


I can understand the concept, but surely there are wiser and less potentially-explosive ways to word their TOS and still protect the company. 


In response to this policy, a website that provides textures free of charge and which has been used extensively by VR creators, has recently announced that their textures may no longer be used on Second Life specifically (according to their FAQ and licensing, this does not apply to Inworldz).  That license decision was prompted directly by the LL TOS change:


"On the 15th of August 2013, Linden Lab changed their Terms of Use without any announcement or warning... As you can see from the highlighted portions, as soon as you upload any content to Second Life you give Linden Lab unlimited and irrevocable rights to do whatever they want with your work."   Reference here.


If anyone is a creator on SL-- just thought you should be aware of this policy change.  It took place August 15, 2013, in case you missed the Linden Lab non-announcement.

How to Back Up Your Textures on Your Hard Drive Tags: back up textures hard drive


(Quickly meaning about 300-500 per hour... not really all that quick, but...)

How do you back up textures so that you have an emergency copy? Here is the fastest and cheapest way I have found. It's labor-intensive, but the semi-automated process makes it much faster and easier.

First set up your avatar in a place to do this quickly and easily.
1. Find a fast sim, with good performance
2. Set your Draw Distance to as low as possible (Edit / Preferences / Graphics / Custom / Draw Distance)

Prepare your computer:
1. Create a folder on your hard drive to identify the texture content (Textures-Wood... Textures-Glass... etc).
2. Open the desired texture folder in inventory.
3. Double click the first texture
4. FILE / SAVE TEXTURE AS (find the folder location on your hard drive)
5. Click SAVE

Now here da semi-automated part. You've located the folder. It's smooth sailing here on out.

1. Double click the next texture
2. FILE / SAVE TEXTURE AS / SAVE (name is automatically saved)
3. Repeat these three steps over and over until finished with that folder.

When done, press SHIFT-W to close all the texture windows at once.

That's all there is to it! Using this method, once you get on a roll where this becomes automatic, you should be able to back up your textures on an average of 3 to 5 seconds each. On a fast sim you should be able to burn right through texture saving. Even at 5 seconds each, you can save 12 textures per minute, 500 or more per hour. : )



Ramping Up Your Computer Performance Tags: ramping computer performance

A good graphics card might be considered the most important aspect of VR performance... more important than your computer itself.


Graphics cards regularly increase dramatically in performance.  When I first wrote this article a "good" card was the Nvidia GeForce 250 and 450.   Now the 10xx cards are out (I own a 1050) and the difference in performance is incredible.  Even more incredible is the fact that a new 1050x card is less expensive than the 250s and 450s were in their day.

You can greatly improve your virtual experience by adding a good graphics card.  Such doesn't have to be expensive. 

For your computer, a minimum dual-core is recommended.  Windows 10 requires 8 gigs of RAM to operate well (4 gigs will suffice but performance will suffer). 

IDEAL SYSTEM (minimum configuration, at this time, considering overall performance and cost):

Fast duo or quad core PC, 8 gigs RAM, Nvidia GeForce 1050 2-gig graphics card or better.  Lesser graphics cards will work, but not as well.

The graphics card is more important than the CPU. Don't skimp on graphics.  Graphics cards make a major difference on VR worlds. 


In recent times lag has been significantly reduced.  However just so it's said: nothing is going to stop lag entirely. Eventually, you are going to experience lag somewhere, sometime.  No amount of computer is going to change that.  So there's no need to buy a high-level gamer computer to use a virtual world.  A decent basic-level computer with a good graphics card will work wonders.



Higher-level graphics cards often require higher-level power supplies.   Usually 500 watts is a minimum.   Get a quality power supply; cheap power supplies can harm your computer.  However the GeForce 1050 cards are designed to require half the power of prior cards.  That is good news for existing computer owners.


Nvidia GeForce vs ATI Radeon

Radeon cards are okay but do not seem to operate as smoothly as GeForce cards. But if you can find a good deal on an ATI Radeon card you can save some $$$.  Avoid the 5770; it is known to have glitches. 

Nvidia and ATI have always been neck-in-neck in the video card race. In general, Nvidia seems to work better on virtual worlds than ATI, but these days even Windows Tablets seem to work acceptably.  My personal recommendation is Nvidia 1050 or better unless your pocketbook requires ATI.  Check the Internet and compare specs between cards.



When you install your new card, be sure you first UNINSTALL your old graphics card drivers and software. Then go to the official website for that card and download the latest drivers supporting your specific operating system. There are different drivers for different Windows versions, Mac and Linux. Be sure you download and install the correct drivers for your OS and your video card. Usually the installation disc in the box will not be up to date. Ignore it, and download the latest releases.



Following are several benchmark readings as well as ongoing information, some of which has been consolidated into this blog. Take the time to read through all the comments as well. Look at the charts. Remember that raw speed is not the essential ingredient, but the faster your card, usually the better the performance. Balance your finances with what's out there and remember: a few extra dollars spent now will be soon forgotten-- but the quality of your video card will reward you every single day. Buy the best you can afford and if you have to spend an extra $30 or $40 to get a better card,  you'll later likely be glad you spent the extra bucks. Check specs on Nvidia's own website:



When you install a higher level graphics card, you are likely to get into power and cooling issues.  (This does not apply to the Nvidia GTX 1050, which uses half the power of normal cards.)

Larger power supplies and heavier graphics cards mean the computer will run hotter-- which is not good. Top-vented cases work well (holes in the top with a fan blowing out... hot air rises). Equally beneficial is opening up the side of your computer entirely and blowing a small desk fan right into the side. That airflow trick solves just about all heating problems and is a lot cheaper than other solutions. 


Virtual worlds are resource hogs.  But the same applies to Windows and Apple operating systems.  When upgrading your graphics, take it for granted you are going to spend from $75 to $200 on the graphics card.  If you get a full-size Nvidia card you may require a new power supply.    The performance is worth it.  As of March 2018 the Nvidia 1050 is considered one of the best graphic card purchases on the market.




Hints, Tricks and Newbie Tips Tags: hints tricks newbie tips

Over the past several months we've sent out "Elf Clan Tricks and Tips"... things that can assist in daily enjoyment of Second Life. We're listing the "best of" here. Members can add additional tips in comments.

* TURN ON THE ADVANCED MENU.  Ctrl-Alt-D brings up an essential extra menu in most viewers.

* ZOOM IN ON SIGNS: Every had trouble reading signs? Here is how you zoom in on them:
Windows systems: Cursor on the target, ALT - LEFT CLICK - mousemove. This is often called "alt look". Be sure to hold down both the Alt and leftclick.
Apple systems: On Macs, Option = Alt)

* HOVER TIPS: There is basic information available on all objects. For some reason this is turned off by default. To turn it on, choose VIEW / HOVERTIPS and set tips ON and "Show tips on all objects" to ON.

* MAKING SCULPTIES APPEAR BETTER: Ever noticed sculpties seem to glitch and de-form at a distance? Advanced / Debug Settings / RenderVolumeLODFactor. Set to 4 to stop that problem.

* STOP "FOGGY" AVATARS: Linden Lab created foggy avatars to prevent avatars from being visible before fully rezzed. The problem is that textures load so extremely slowly and even not at all, that avatars remain fog banks indefinitely. ADVANCED / Debug Settings / RenderUnloadedAvatar = TRUE.


* FIXES FOR INVISIBLE MESH & other items in FIRESTORM: These functions may help your viewer experience.   If they don't, change them back:

ADVANCED / DEBUG SETTINGS / FSEnforceStrictObjectCheck  check to FALSE



* LAND INFORMATION: Click the land name at the top center of your screen.

* MAKE TEXTURES APPEAR FASTER: Advanced menu / Debug / type in: 

ImagepipelineUseHTTP and set to TRUE

* DAYLIGHT-BRIGHT PHOTOS: Ever wanted to take a picture but it was dark outside?

Press ctrl-shift-Y for daylight.

* TAKE BETTER PHOTOS:  Store them to your hard drive instead of in-world. It's a checkbox option on the Photo save box. Also, in the ADVANCE menu, set the SAVE HIGH RESOLUTION SNAPSHOTS option.

* TELEPORTING: Ever had someone try to teleport you, but your teleport button was grayed out? EDIT / PREFERENCES / COMMUNICATION / uncheck "Only my friends and Groups can see when I'm online."

* EXPANDING YOUR VIEW: There are several ways to empower your camera and expand your view...

* EDIT / PREFERENCES / GRAPHICS / (click custom) / DRAW DISTANCE. The higher this is set, the further you can see. 256m is the recommended maximum for most systems. If you have a lower-level graphics card, you may need to set it to 128m or even 64m.

* ADVANCED / LIMIT SELECT DISTANCE. Uncheck this.  This may be in a different area on some viewrs.  This was added to the system to prevent you from accidentally selecting things beyond 64m.  But as a downside... it prevents expert builders from selecting things beyond 64m.

* ADVANCED / DISABLE CAMERA CONSTRAINTS. Check this. Why would someone want their camera constrained? 

* SETTING MUSIC ON A PIECE OF LAND: Only a land owner can set the music stream. If you are not the land owner, you will need a "radio" that will allow you to set streams. Note that not all land owners allow tenants to set their own music streams (especially in themed sims).  If you have a radio, you will need to deed it to group.  If your group doesn't allow member deeding, the land owner will have to provide a radio.

That's it for now!



THE MYTH OF PRIM LAG Tags: prim prims lag

    One of claims I hear from time to time... both from users and server companies... is that prims cause "lag".   The more prims you have, the more lag they create.  There is also the concept of prims taking more server memory.

    While prims do take up a bit of RAM*, the claim that prim count causes lag is a myth.    We know this because we tested this claim years ago, on Second Life and put an end to that myth forever-- or so we had hoped.  Some monsters just won't die, even when you cut off their heads.



    Now to be fair, there is a correlation between prim count and lag.   It would appear that sims with low prim count have little lag, whereas sims with high prim count have a lot of lag. 

    But as statisticians and math majors know, correlation does not equal causation.   Quite often correlation is just a symptom, whereas the disease is something else entirely.  This is the case with prim count.



    About a decade ago when the "Lag Monster" hit SL seemingly out of nowhere, we techs started running lag tests.  What was the source of the lag?   Was it "user content" as Linden Lab claimed?  Was it "too many prims"?   Was it "too many textures"?  Too many scripts?  If it was any of those things, then why had sims with identical setup worked just fine a week before and now they weren't?     Users wanted answers.  (The answer was that LL had made some major server changes without informing their customers... but that's another story entirely.)

    A friend had just bought a new region and before building anything on it, invited me to spend a day running whatever lag tests I wanted to run.   I accepted his invitation.

    The tests were simple:  we would rez prims in various quantities and configurations and run metered "lag tests" checked both by scripts and avatar experience (mainly, turning in place, walking around and flying and seeing if we noticed any difference at all).   We had half a dozen people present serving as observers to verify experience.  

    First we walked and flew around an empty region.   We checked the sim stats, recorded sim stats, got a baseline to check against.

    Second, we rezzed 1,000 cubes and placed them all around us.   Ran the same tests.   No change in baselines.

    So we duplicated that 1,000 cubes until they numbered 5,000.   Ran the tests again.   No change in baselines.

    Linden Lab allows 15k prims on a sim so we couldn't go past that.  To be totally fair and not push the server to max, we rezzed 12,000 cubes and spread them around.   Ran the tests again.   All observers reported the same thing:   Absolutely no change in baseline stats or avatar experience. 

    Twelve thousand prims-- zero server or client impact.

    Okay, there was the "prims cause lag" myth blown out the window.

    But to be fair, let's start from scratch and do it differently.   So we rezzed cubes, spheres, cones and cylinders to see if prim shape made any difference.   Ran the tests.   No change in baselines.

    Several years later an Opensim team decided to test prim lag on their system.  This was a good test to run since they were trying to stabilize their platform by eliminating as many causes of server lag as possible.   They rezzed 140,000 prims at ground level.   Result:   Zero discernible lag.   This validated all the tests we'd run years earlier, but on a factor almost 12x greater than what we'd run.



    Okay so if it's not prims, what would cause lag?  Scripts, right?  Linden Lab told us:   the more scripts, the greater the lag.   That made sense.   But there are two kinds of scripts:  active and inactive.   Active scripts are constantly changing things, doing something.   Inactive scripts just sit, waiting to do something (sit / touch scripts) or have already done something (texture animation scripts).   Some inactive scripts can be run once and then removed-- with their effect still on the prim.   For example, you can animate a texture and then remove the script.  The texture will continue to animate.  A non-animated sit-scripted prim, once the script is run and removed, will still continue to seat avatars properly.

    But Linden Lab claimed that all scripts cause lag, because the sim server had to check every script every cycle to see what was going on.   Okay, let's test that out.   We removed 5,000 of the prims and created a prim that contained a touch-based sit script (inactive).   Then we replicated that prim to a count of 5,000.    Now we had 5,000 prims with trigger-happy touch-scripts in them, just waiting for someone to click them... an amount the company claimed was "far too many scripts on a sim".

    You have probably already guessed the outcome:   zero change in sim baselines.  The entire region still ran as if it were totally empty.   How about that.  Inactive scripts have zero perceptible server or viewer impact.  No lag.



    If prim count, prim type and simple script count wasn't causing lag, what was?    It turned out the primary lag issue was due to internal SL server issues-- which we discovered by a very extensive Elf Clan experiment that revealed LL was stacking full regions on single cores "by accident".    We asked a dozen people to check all 800 regions on SL (the sim count at the time) and found out that "accident" happened a LOT... and was the primary source of region lag at the time.  It has been so ever since.

    However in case of modern day lag issues, with companies that do not pull such shenanigans (at least, not without properly informing the customer, such as with Inworldz legit 2x2 regions)... lag is caused by several identifiable issues, depending on the grid involved.

    Active scripts can indeed cause lag to an extreme amount.  In fact on SL it was possible for one badly-designed script to completely crash a sim.   Inworldz took care of this by allowing scripts only so much "server room".  While script response might lag if the scripts are poorly written-- they would be unlikely to  impact the region server itself.  That was a smart move for Inworldz.

    On all grids a major problem is texture handling.   The more textures there are, the more textures the client has to load when entering a region.   Add to that poor texture processing where many grids load the same textures over and over again.   This is the result of a badly-designed cache system (the software that stores textures on your hard drive and in RAM for instant access) and buggy loaded-texture tracking.   That is a major issue, because this is in part server but mostly viewer based-- and grids tend to use the same viewers.  (I am not sure at this time how the official Inworldz viewer handles textures; I haven't tested it.  I have tested Firestorm and the problem is still present in that viewer.)

    Avatars cause incredible lag.  Take every factor in the book (textures, prims, active scripts in AO devices) and put them all on a moving, multi-jointed avatar, and you are going to have server and client impact.   The more avatars there are, the more lag.  Pretty much everyone is aware of this. No huge surprise there.

    Arguably (depending on the surroundings), Avatars are the single most laggy factor on any grid.  You can take a nice, peaceful, content-rich, fast-performing region and drag it down significantly by adding 20 avatars.  Add 50 to 60 avatars and the region can go to borderline crash-status.  Yup, avatars lag.  We all know this.

    Server issues.    From time to time there are server-related issues that cause lag; the best thing to do about that is to reset your region daily, or at least once a week.  Server software can get confused, start dragging its heels and needs refreshed from time to time.   This is simply nature of the beast.

    But some server issues could be fixed-- teleporting for example.   On OpenSim grids, an avatar teleporting into a region can bring the entire region to a standstill until the avatar has finished porting.  You can imagine the impact this has on a busy nexus.

    Flexys cause considerable lag.   A classic test was when we examined three types of avatars:

    1. A huge armored avatar consisting of a solid 1,500 prims.

    2. A standard female avatar with flexi hair and dress.

    3. A dwagon, 401 prims.

    Checks were done to see the impact each of these avatars had on a standard sim.  Surprisingly the dwagon caused least impact, with an avatar "lag factor" of 1.0 (by our scale, starting on a scale of 0, a plain avatar with no attachments).   Second place was the armored avatar, which caused a lag factor of 2.5.   (No surprise there... direct prims-on-a-moving-avatar correlation).    But the big surprise was the standard human avatar with flexi hair and dress.  Nothing special, just standard attire.   A whopping lag factor of 6.5.  That one avatar took double the system resources of the two other avatars combined. 

    Try telling a paying customer they can't have flexi hair or clothing and see how far you get.   ; )

    In another test we went to a region that had several "content tests" already set up (very interesting region, that).   One of the most interesting tests was their "flexi ring".   They had twelve flexi "blankets" all hung out in a ring.  When any blanket was clicked they all either turned not-flexi (standard prims) or flexi (standard prims with flex), blowing in the wind.  The result was astounding.  When the flexi on those twelve items was turned off, the region ran fine.  When the flexi was turned on the region lagged significantly.  Walking became difficult.  Turning in spot became more difficult.  Turn off the flexi blankets, stability restored, no lag.

    So if you have a region that seems to lag and there are lots of flexi tree branches and flora and flags and other items... turn off the flexis.  They are seldom worth the incredible impact they have on a region.



    If you ever set up an Opensim server you will discover something interesting:   in the instructions they recommend setting maximum prim count to 200,000 per region.  What?  Are they insane?  

    Well no.  As we've seen simple prim count has little if any impact on the server or client.   You can set up 45,000 prims on a region (as on Inworldz) and still have plenty of server RAM left for sim performance.  You can set the prim count to 200,000 and so long as you keep scripting and textures to a minimum, no problem.

    Bottom line:  the number of prims allowed on a server is pretty much irrelevant.  What is relevant is what you do with them.

    The reason smart grids like Inworldz limit prim count is because they know there is a correlation between prim count and server performance.   Why?  Because the more prims people use, the more active scripts they use, they more textures they use, the more flexis they use.   So limiting prim count is a sensible way to keep things within server stress limits.   45K seems a "happy medium"... allowing far more prims than the sim owner is likely to need while at the same time keeping away from the edge of the cliff.



    If you visit ElvenSong region on Inworldz, you will find a prim-rich environment.   You will also notice (once the sim loads), there is very little "lag".   This is especially the case if you go into high sky and visit Replicant City.   This prim-heavy, script-heavy, texture-heavy area manifests hardly any  lag at all, if any (once you give it time to load).  Why is this?   How is it such a creation can have almost no lag?

    1.  Smart scripting.   The scripts are written to be inactive where possible.   The fewer active scripts you have, the lower the sim impact.   Replicant City is highly interactive and almost everything is scripted, but the majority of scripts have to be triggered either by touch or contact.   Sensor scripts are very limited.   Active scripts are very limited.  There are no scripted bots.  (Scripted bots can be a major source of lag if not used sensibly.)

    2. Smart texturing.   There are thousands of textures at Replicant City... but they're all hidden from simultaneous view.   They're down corridors and around corners and inside closed buildings.  To "see" them you have to enter the area where the textures are.   So for the most part you're never loading or seeing more than about 200 textures at any one time.   This greatly limits texture impact on visitor experience.

    3. Almost no flexis.  Flexis were limited to an absolute minimum.  Almost no flexis = almost no flexi lag.  Simple fix.


    That's the skinny on lag and prim count.   Prim count does not cause region lag.  Zero prims or 140,000 prims...  they're not a source of "lag".

     Watch your scripting (use active scripts as little as possible-- especially scripted bots), how you display textures, and above all watch how many flexis you use.   Keep these down and you'll significantly reduce or even eliminate lag on your region.




* SERVER RAM.  While prim count does require server memory, most server systems are set up so that they have more than enough RAM to run a server, regardless of prim count.   A 2-gig server (standard size) can handle an entire region full of prims and still have lots of room left over.   In fact it can handle multiple regions-- to greater or less effect depending on the number of regions.    So a costly grid like Second Life claiming that they can only offer 15-20k prims because of server limitations-- is (arguably) lying to their customers.  We've run the tests.  The data doesn't lie.





What Computer Do I Need? Tags: computer vr inworldz


Note:  It has been announced that Windows 10 is not compatible with the Intel HD 3000 graphics chip.

Over the years virtual worlds Have grown, development work has been done, things have improved.  We now have  better performance, faster performance, and wider computer compatibility. 

So recently I was surprised to discover that computers which I would never have used for VR before... now work just fine on Inworldz.  I procured a 10.5" netbook (tablet with a keyboard) .  It's super lightweight, has a touch-screen, and cost $299 +tax.  It uses an Intel Tablet processor.  It's not a "killer" computer by any means, nor does it have advanced graphics.

What I was surprised and pleased to find was that this little, low-power tablet computer works just fine with virtual worlds.  Of course it's not as spritely as my quad-core i5 GeForce 1050 screamer desktop... but it works.  I'm able to walk around without significant lag, I can create and build, textures rez.   Before now we couldn't recommend lightweight computers.  But the industry has improved.



Bottom line it means that instead of buying a $1000 laptop just so you can do VR... you can spend $400-$600 and have a totally suitable system.  Rather than needing Nvidia and ATI graphics systems you can get by with standard 3D Intel graphics systems (with some exceptions as noted above).  Of course, faster "gamer graphics" systems will perform far better.



These days there are so many different processors all sporting different claims-- it's difficult to tell which is the best.  In general, Intel i5 and above or AMD Ryzen 5, 7 or above is recommended as good CPU systems.

The tablet I'm using as I write this article is a 1.4 ghz processor... and while it's not near the speed of my 3.6ghz i5 quad processor in my desktop, it does well enought for an ultra-portable touchscreen netbook.   But lag is to be expected in such a low-power computer.

You may want to shy away from unknowns such as A-class or E-class processors.  Celeron and Sempron are very slow; I strongly recommend avoiding such.



There are so many different kinds of cards out there, and the numbering systems have become confusing.   The three primary cards are Nividia, ATI, and Intel HD.  Intel HD is not a "gaming" card, but it can do a reasonable job on virtual worlds.   But by all means, if you can get a quality Nvidia or ATI card, do so.  Some computers (laptops especially) have the graphics built in and cannot be upgraded.   So...

Be sure to do your research.  Visit the card manufacturing sites and compare card performance.   At this time I strongly recommend the Nvidia 1050 or above, or the ATI Radeon 10 or above. The specific card you want will depend on your needs and pocketbook.  Do your online research before buying and realize that the same model card can vary widely in price.  Don't get suckered in by graphics card shysters.  Read the customer reviews. 

Covid-19 note:  Due to severe damage by Covid-19, many Chinese chip manufacturers have shut down operations.   This has created a severe shortage in the graphics card industry-- and a resultant incredible increase in card prices... if cards are even available.  Hopefully this will change over time and graphics cards will once again become widely available at reasonable prices.



There are two kinds of graphics memory:   1)  Dedicated on-card  and 2) Shared.

Graphics cards use either or both.  Be aware when purchasing your system of how much graphics memory is available... and what kind it is.   Here are some guidelines:

* It is good to have 8 gigs system RAM available with Windows 10 or above.   If you get a 4 gig machine and your graphics card shares part of that RAM... you're not going to have much to use for virtual worlds.

* Dedicated graphics RAM is best in ideal situations, but avoid machines with less than 1 gig total graphics RAM (dedicated or shared).   Some machines only have 128 megs of dedicated RAM and can't share system memory; they will not have enough graphics memory to handle virtual reality.

* Shared RAM isn't as fast as dedicated RAM, but quite often such machines will allow you to share 1 gig or more of system RAM.  These days at least 1 gig of video RAM (preferrably 2 to 4 gigs) is good for memory cards.

The main point is that it's now possible to buy a relatively low-cost netbook, laptop or desktop computer, one using Intel graphics, and have a decent computer for Inworldz.  Even Windows Tablets will work if they have at least 4 gigs of RAM.  This is of course very good news for our members with limited budgets. 






Crashing Much? Tags: crashing inworldz vr


Virtual Worlds are more stable than they used to be, but they still have some major issues.   So here are hints and tips for how to avoid such problems.  Mind you, nothing totally prevents lag and crashing.  But these hints should help reduce crashing significantly. 


CCLEANER.  (yes, that's 2 "C's").  If you use Windows, this is one of the best "cleaner" systems I've seen and has done more to help me maintain a stable computer system than anything else.  It's free.  Download and install the program.  Sometimes that's all that's required to get your system to run smoothly.  Do not use the Registry cleaner; that's a sure step to disaster.


ADJUST CACHE.  Set your viewer cache according to your system abilities.  Originally this was set low, but with today's gigs of RAM and high-level hard drives, you can often increase cache considerably.  However, cache being set too high can cause system confusion.  Adjust this to the point that it seems to work well, according to the following setting...


CLEARING CACHE.  Edit/Preferences/Network. If after time you find yourself crashing regularly or lagging extensively, simply Clearing Cache under the Avatar/Preferences/Networks setting might fix that problem.  Note that right after you do that things will run slowly for a bit as textures have to totally reload.


VIRTUAL MEMORY.  This is one few people know about, but is very important.  In Windows, Virtual Memory is your computer using hard disc drives to store constantly used information-- kind of an artificial RAM (I don't know how it works on Mac.  You'll need to research).  Chances are your VM isn't set nearly high enough.  Low Virtual Memory is one of the major causes of crashing.

   When I checked my system, my VM was 2 gigs.  I increased it to 9 gigs by using two hard drive partitions.  Any setting of 4gigs or more is probably sufficient.  There is a limit as to how much VM any hard drive is allowed, so if you have more than one hard drive you can set additional VM... although this may slow down things a bit as your system pulls info from additional drives.

Look up how to set Virtual Memory on the Internet.  Doing so will depend on your computer and operating system.

It's fairly safe to set  most hard drives to at least 4096megs (4 gigs).  Save these settings, exit and reset your computer.  When you come back in, go back to that area and double-check the new settings have been established.  Once you increase your VM, time between crashes should increase significantly. 


ADJUST BANDWIDTH.  Check your Viewer bandwidth setting.  Different systems will require different bandwidth.  After experimenting I settled on 1500 kbps for mine.  Your internet may require less.   The best way to test this is to look at the bandwidth indicator bar in the upper right corner of your screen, and see which setting keeps that bar on green the most.  If you're constantly going into the red, your bandwidth needs adjusting.  Experimentation will determine which is the best setting for your system.


ADJUST GRAPHICS.  Edit/Preferences/Graphics.  Graphics are even more important than your computer when it comes to VR performance. 

   Graphics cards.   A good graphics card is more important than a killer computer system and will have more to do with your overall performance.

   Low-Medium-High-Ultra.  These settings in your Preferences / Graphics area will directly determine how much stress Inworldz places on your graphics system.  If you have a low-power computer you may wish to use the blocky-but-adequate LOW setting.   Medium gives a bit better graphics while requiring relatively low system resources.  High will require a faster computer and good graphics card, and Ultra will require a "gamer" level system.  

   Graphics Settings. The graphics settings on your computer will greatly affect your performance.  Very few people can use the Ultra setting to advantage.  Most people find that High is best under modern home computers (2020).  For low-graphic laptops (or Intel-based graphics), lower settings may be needed.

   Draw Distance.  Withmost systems today, draw distance of 256 is a good setting. Some high-level graphicis cards can handle 512 or more.  In some situations (such as inside a store), setting graphics to 64m or 96m can cause textures to rez more quickly.

   Avatar Impostors.  Avatar Impostors imitates avatars at a distance, but it also destroys those avatar details.  Unless your system is low-performance, you're probably okay to click this off.  However if you have it off and find yourself crashing regularly, try turning it on and see if it helps.

   Detail Sliders. On the right of your graphics window are detail sliders.  If you're having crashing problems or serious lag, it is amazing how reducing those sliders to Med or Low will increase performance.  Unfortunately it will also reduce the detail of your graphics (on Low settings, cylinders turn into hexagons)... but your performance will improve significantly.

  Shadows and Advanced Shaders.  Shadows are pretty.  Shadows are graphics hogs.  Unless you have a powerful graphics card, leave shadows and Advanced Shaders off.

   Emergency only:  Basic Shaders.  Some users report serious problems using any shaders at all.  If nothing else you've tried seems to be working, turn off Basic Shaders.  This will majorly affect the quality of presentation, but if you're on an old, slow computer with minimal graphics, it may make the difference between being able to use the system consistently or not. 


CLOUDS.  Most folks aren't aware of it, but the routines that created animated clouds in the sky take more graphics resources than one would expect.   If you're having regular trouble with lag or crashing, try turning off clouds.   You'll wind up with just a clear blue sky... but it may make the difference you need.  You will find this in the ADVANCED / RENDERING menu.


AUDIO AND VIDEO.  If you're standing in one spot (like a a dance, regardless of animations), audio will likely not cause problems.  With very low performance systems, audio can increase lag.  But most people don't care at a dance; they're not physically moving much anyway.

   Video.  My recommendation:  don't use video in-world.  If you want to view a video, ask the land owner for the direct-access link (if possible). 

   Video loading can create stop-dead lag, serious performance issues, and even crash your viewer.   You can run a direct-to-computer video (such as YouTube) and your Viewer at the same time with far less drag on your system resources.

    In most cases, turn off "auto loading" of both video and music.  Switch them to manual so they're not being triggered every time you cross a parcel line.


ADDITIONAL TWEAKS.   The following changes may assist greatly in handling texture tracking and other lag issues:

Preferences->Graphics->Hardware Settings
Turn off the option Enable Streamed VBOs

Advanced / Debug Settings / XferThrottle


Advanced / Debug Settings  

Under older 32 bit computer systems these had to be regulated.  Under modern 64 bit systems these can be left untouched.

    Don't be afraid to tweak graphics settings.  You can always reset them to default if necessary.   But if you are crashing regularly, the system being stable or unstable may depend on one setting you haven't yet tried adjusting.  So take the plunge.  If it helps, it helps.  Don't be afraid to try something you haven't tried yet.  It may be just the trick.




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