Thursday, 31 May 2007

French IT Recruitment - Theme of the Day

Having only just written about the meme thing that is the German urban colonisation of Second Life, I have just become aware of another...

June looks set to be French IT Recruitment month in Second Life. For those who know me, French IT is something close to my heart - or at least, my wallet. So having had a tip-off that there was a new meme/theme about, I got down to a bit of serious Googling and quickly turned up some interesting factoids. OK... interesting to me, at any rate.

First up, we have the French recruitment company TMPNEO. I don't know if they're related to the TMP who have been in Second Life for a while now, but I do know they are pushing a recruitment fair in SL running from 19th to 21st of June, at their island - unsurprisingly named TMPNEO (or at least, that is the implication). The fair, rather clunkily named Neo Job-Meeting, is recruiting for the French IT firms:

and also non-IT firms:
  • Alstom a power and transport company,
  • Areva, an engineering(?) company,
  • L'Oreal - because I'm worth it.
You need to register by 11th June to get an invitation.

Almost at same time as this event, Accenture, the global IT and management consultancy, will be hosting their own recruitment drive aimed at the Francophones of Second Life. On the 18th June they will host Accenture Speed Recruiting, but since this is by invitation only, again you need to get that application in. (Or maybe you need to get your application in by that date - my French is appalling). Catch the vid on their website - it's quite impressive.

Anyhoo - if you are fluent in French, an SAP or SOA architect and fancy big money in return for being worked into the ground, then this could be your golden opportunity.

PS: I work for one of these... Can you guess which one?

PPS: BBC2's "The Money Programme" is being broadcast live in SL on Friday, 1st June from Avalon island - at 19:00, 20:00 and 21:00 (UK time).

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

FirstLook Viewer with Windlight

Linden Lab have just released an updated version of the Second Life so-called "Firstlook" viewer. This is, in effect, a beta test client running on the main grid - and normally runs a few weeks ahead of its release as the official client for Second Life.

The new feature today is the addition of Windlight environmental effects, which bring realistic - some might say "hyper-realistic" - skies and attendant ambient life to Second Life. Here are some examples, experimenting with the rich array of configuration options available:

This follows Linden's acquisition, a little over a week ago, of Windward Mark, the developers of the Windlight software. Now that's what I call a quick turnaround!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Ludwigsburg Looking to SL

It's funny how memes and themes sweep across SL. Hot theme of the moment is the "Euro-urbanisation" of SL - with the councils of a number of European cities deciding to stump up cash for some virtual real estate. A few months ago, it was the Dutch leading the way, but latterly it has been German towns and cities who have latched on. Recently I posted about Augsburg, but cities across Germany are rushing in to Second Like.

Another one to add to this list is Ludwigsburg. What's that? Never heard of it? Neither had I until I stumbled upon the island - which is currently in a very early stage of development, as you can see:

In RL Ludwigsburg has been settled since pre-Roman times, but the current city only came into being in the early 18th.C, when a large castle was constructed there by Eberhard Ludwig, Duke of Wurttemberg. Originally intended as a pleasure-palace, the Duke - picking up on a hot theme of his time - decided to build a city as well. In the years that have elapsed since then it has grown to a population of around 87,000. And shortly it may add a few dozen more as it sets up in Second Life. The intention, from the little information available, is to provide shops and other features, under the general banner/brand of Ludwigsburg - an approach not dissimilar to Augsburg. I guess only time will tell...

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Augmenting Augsburg

Augsburg, a substantial city in Bavaria and capital of Swabia, has been on one map or another since 15BC. But so far it has been missing from the Second Life map. This oversight has now been addressed, with Augsburg augmenting its real world existence with a new 2-sim presence in Second Life.

The site opens formally in a couple of days, but is already allowing in ramblers, wanderers and nosy neighbours to wander its streets and check out its shops. Although 2 linked sims, there seems to be a clear distinction between them - and in truth, neither bear much resemblance to the city that gave them their name. The more Southerly sim contains the typically Bavarian architecture (to the point of stereotypical tweeness) along with some distinctive city buildings, like the Rathaus which, as the name does not suggest, is the Town Hall.

The site looks like it has only a passing connection with Augsburg itself, as most of it is taken up with shopping malls, dance halls and what appears to be private residences, often constructed in styles that bear little resemblance to any architecture to be found in Southern Germany. That said, it has a lot happening - with many links to websites, a lot of interactivity and I suspect, with the clubs and dance halls, should prove popular with the burgeoning German Second Life population.

The formal launch is on May, 29th at 16:00 (CET? SLT? It doesn't say! D'OH!!**), with live music and no doubt other events to tickle your jaded palates.

** I am assuming CET, since 16:00 SLT would be 1:00AM CET.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Italian Variations

A couple of quickies for this post:

First off, it looks like virtual Venice has opened officially in SL. When I snapped the following pictures I noticed a large crowd of people, some tables bedecked with virtual victuals and lots of formal seating. Being in no way fluent in Italian I thought it best to remain aloof from proceedings. The sim I found slightly disappointing, perhaps because it is so ambitious. The builders have used photo textures to replicate many of the city's famous buildings - and I'm not sure they work terribly well. One or two would be fine, but there are just too many in my view. Also - and this would be difficult - one doesn't get the feeling of the city from the sim. I say "difficult" because I find Venice very intimate and close, bordering on the claustrophobic - but this sense seems to be missing in the wide, sunny paths and piazzas of this sim.

Next door is the sim for the Veneto region, in which Venice is situated. This is still under development, but it appears to be aimed at promoting key aspects of the region, inclduing tourism and agriculture. It also provides a handy teleport into virtual St Mark's Square.

The last Italian site I wanted to mention is IW Bank, an online bank that targets cool, trendy tech-savvy Italian 20-somethings (apparently). Their sim is not open to the public yet - but when I saw the Satellite Map, I was amused by its use of branding in the construction:

Thursday, 24 May 2007

virtual Manchester goes for Big Chips

Tonight the UK's Second City (unless you are from Birmingham) - Manchester - opened its 4-sim presence in Second Life. Despite some trumpeting in the Press and the web, this is apparently NOT the official opening, but rather a soft launch to trial it. This being the case, why in God's name, use the occasion to host a RL-SL simulcast of the Big Chip 2007 Awards? An event whose website unabashedly states: "This is almost certainly the first time an awards ceremony has been shown live in Second Life. The virtual ceremony will be the launch party for a new area in Second Life – Manchester UK." I'm not sure that the first assertion is true, while the second does rather suggest that the island is officially launched - unless the Mayor is going to come and cut a virtual ribbon next week, which is by no means impossible.

I won't go further into the background of the sims - since it is in this post from January.

The Big Chip Awards are described as the top awards for ICT and "New Media" outside London. I attended the Second Life event, which at least saved me the 75 quid I would have had to find to stand a chance of attending the RL event. But before talking about the build, let's take a look at my snapz:

The place has a distinctly unfinished look to it, and I think the build team will be hard pushed to complete it by next week. I am not privy to the inside story on this and can only go from my observations - having tried to access the sim on many occasions. After its initial acquisition it seemed to show no progress of note for months. It is only in the last 4 to 6 weeks that I have spotted a sudden surge in build effort (using the Satellite Map as a rather poor measure). It feels like a deadline had been set - this award ceremony - but the construction did not start at a time that would allow a successful build.

As a result the site feels half-empty and disjointed, with the shells of a number of Manchester's iconic buildings dotted around the landscape. Few, if any, have anything inside. The build quality is hard to assess right now, accepting the soft launch argument, but if pushed I would say... umm... "rushed."

There were problems with the streaming too... both audio and video suffered huge delays, rendering the award show both unwatchable and unlistenable to. A shame, since presumably a significant effort was put into this. It was not due to sim overload, as there were perhaps 15 people present at the time.

I'm sorry to be so critical of the build. I know and love the city of Manchester (though not their football teams), and perhaps for this reason I feel even more disappointed than I might otherwise.

As for the longer term usage of the SIMs - I think I will wait until it is "officially launched" before popping back to investigate further.

Oh... and I finally met Nic from the excellent Kzero blog:

Hi Nic!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Texas State Technical College West Texas

Enough of such tomfoolery. I've been trying (off and on) for some time to get in to the 3-sim island of Texas State Technical College (TSTC). If you take a look at it on a map, perhaps you'll understand why. One of the sims has been modelled to resemble the college logo, while another looks to be remarkably detailed and complete. Yet on previous attempts I have not been able to get in. Today, while at something of a loose end, I gave it another go - and lo & behold, I got in.

I was immediately presented with a notecard explaining that the site is still under development, but despite this management of expections I was heartily impressed with the quality - and quantity - of the build to date. The build team comprises members of the college Digital Imaging and Design department, I suspect augmented by some experienced SL builders. For example, in addition to the staples of sim design, like a dancefloor, the site includes a games area and a photo studio. The textures are well-worked and lifelike (even if they don't come out that way in the pictures below). I've also included a picture of the TP map, to give you an idea of the layout and facilities.

The college has provided a website dedicated to its "vCampus". As they explain it: "One of the main draws for educators in using Second Life is for the improvement of interaction and expression among learners. This 'three-dimensional', virtual reality experience is a great advantage over the traditional online learning systems that education currently embraces. Faculty and staff have worked diligently together to allow TSTC West Texas to debut our first course offerings in Second Life during the summer 2007 semester."

One nagging question in my mind is: Who is this aimed at?
The sim makes for an impressive campus, but there is limited meeting space (so far) and little indication of how it could be used for education. Rather, it looks more like a showcase - a demonstration of what can be achieved. As usual, if you know better, then please post a comment, as I would like to know what objective(s) the sim is designed to meet.

UPDATE: See the comments for a response on the questions posed above. Thanks Nicka.

Download Dog

While I found the Microsoft island egg hunt too time-consuming, I cannot say the same for the hunt for Download Dog. This wild-eyed mutt has visited a number of locations - well, 3 actually - in Second Life, and left a clue at each one. Once you've found them then you can find your way to said hound and enter yourself in the Download Festival SL competition, to win an Epiphone Les Paul signed by various of the bands appearing at this year's festival.

I've touched on all this before, so that was just a preamble to the piccy of the dog:

Cute huh?

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Sony Ericsson

I've been waiting for the Sony Ericsson island to open in Second Life for quite a long time, and yet - as so often happens - once it did open, I missed it entirely. Seemingly, it opened in March, fully 2 months ago (surely not? I'm sure I've tried since then?), to tie in with CEBIT'07.

The company used Second Life to launch its phones at a kind of virtual CEBIT stand - and produced this fetching video to go with it. The bearded bald bloke in the video is NOT me, by the way. The virtual stand included a competition to win some fancypants phone - but I have to confess that I hate phones at the best of times, and ones with 1,001 additional features leave me cold. I'd rather have several machines that did their jobs well, than one machine that did several jobs with mediocrity.

There's lots to pick up here, if you want freebies. Many of these fancy phones are being given away free - in SL only. But be aware that they don't actually do anything - so you are, in effect, picking up a (coolly detailed) advert to stuff in your inventory. The T-shirts were decidedly mediocre too - so I didn't bother. Besides. I like my Japanese T-shirt!

As for the stand - well, it is what it is. It looks fine, if a bit uninspiring now. It may have served its purpose - though this could be arguable. I understand that the site was not heavily visited (too say the least) during CEBIT, which begs a question around return on investment (ROI). I doubt that the island has come remotely close to paying for itself yet.

Anyway, if you didn't watch the video, here's a few piccies for you:


As a Second Lifer who is also addicted to twitter ("I am Al Kronos, and I am a twitterholic") I find that I am in good company. Twitter seems very popular with SLers, for reasons I cannot fully fathom, though my theory is: it is not a microblog (as often portrayed) but rather a group of Special Interest Groups. Thanks to twitter (and more latterly Jaiku) I have met a number of people with SL interests, and this has translated into SL itself, where these same folk are now my friends in the virtual 3D world.

One such person is TerryAnn Antonelli. She has been posting "tweets" about the build work she and her partner, Deeeep Witte, having been doing at their home island: Icarus. I have read these with growing interest, since it seems they're doing some cool stuff - and I finally got around to paying a visit today.

There is a lot here for the visitor to take in, but you can ease yourself into Icarus by taking the guided tour aboard a metallic dragonfly (room for 2 apparently). This will take you on a leisurely tour of the main points of interest - but you might need to rummage on your own to get down into Hades, or indeed locate Heaven... (just like in RL, some might say)

This is a fascinating place - with so much happening in it. Yet it is a private build, part-funded by renting. The vast majority of the island is open to ramblers and rummagers, and handsomely repays the time you put in. Thanks to TerryAnn and Deeeep for their patience in answering my meandering questions - sorry I have not got round to mentioning: the Tree; the Holodeck; the VR room; the 3 suns; the main island itself. (But now I have... so that's OK) There's loads more I've missed - but then I don't intend to visit just the once - unlike certain commercial builds I could mention! So those things I have missed I will track down on future visits.

Anyway - enough rambling - here's the pictures:

Your hosts, one of the floating platforms, and a looming angel thingy:

In Heaven...

In Hell:

The route to Heaven or Hell can involve a resting place a bit like this - though hopefully not quite so Gothic in my case:

Friday, 18 May 2007

Up the Amazon - Part II

I've been meaning to return to the Amazon Developer Islands for a while, having said there were a number of things I'd missed out on my first posting. However, having been back I think I actually managed to capture the key features first time round. That said, it is a site that repays repeat visits - so here is a brief outline of some of the stuff I missed or forgot first time around.

One feature that many people will not have spotted is the bridge that crosses over to the hovering meeting areas. Why won't they have spotted it? Well... because it isn't there. Or rather, it isn't there until you start walking across the river. Then, as if by magic (or, more likely, cunning scripting) the bridge creates itself as you walk across. I'm not sure how long it stays around once you've crossed, but it's a neat trick. Choose the right place though, otherwise you will end up with wet feet.

Elsewhere, you can pull a lever to raise a set of stepping stones (the script problems have now been resolved!) to cross the narrower river stretches.

I didn't mention it first time around, but there are a number of meeting and presentation areas on the island, sized to suit your requirements. There is also a private zone which (I believe) is underwater, though through clever use of light and texturing it looks like you are in a bone-dry viewing chamber.

There is also what looks like a large sandbox, set in an old Aztec/Mayan/Incan/dunnowhat fortress. At least, that's my best guess given (a) I can't access it and (b) it's full of non-Amazonian crud.

No pictures this time around - sorry.

Synaxon On SL

Adjacent to VMOA, posted earlier, is the sim for Synaxon AG.

Formerly known as PC-SPEZIALIST Franchise AG (a bit of a mouthful, that one), SYNAXON AG "offers franchise opportunities for entrepreneurs in the field of personal computer (PC) hardware and computer services retail. The Company's key segment is the Franchise segment, which deals with the sale of licenses to information technology (IT) stores, allowing them to trade under the PC-SPEZIALIST name. As of December 31, 2005 (Google had nothing more recent to add), the Company had more than 2,500 franchise partners within the German, Austrian and Luxembourg markets, with expansion planned into further European markets. SYNAXON also operates through the Cooperation segment, which focuses on purchasing advantages and the provision of central services. It is comprised of the specialist retail cooperations MICROTREND and AKCENT, and the systems vendor association iTeam. SYNAXON AG is headquartered in Bielefeld, Germany."

Given some of the slightly odd phrasing, I am guessing this text is a translation from German - but at least it is a lot better than a Babelfish attempt.

The sim itself is OK - some nice office buildings and a pleasant beachside area - though nothing to get too enthused about. I am not sure what SYNAXON hope to get from Second Life. I notice there seems to be a great deal of unused office space here - but I could find no real information to hint at its possible use. Its proximity to VMOA - the sims share a border - means that it will be difficult to secure the border if they plan to host private meetings for franchise-holders. Anyway, while you mull that over, here's a piccy of the beach area:

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Virtual Museum of Art

A couple of months ago, in the days when there was only about 4million Second Life accounts, I made brief mention of an island called VMOA. Information was somewhat thin on the ground, and the mighty Google proved to be all-but-useless. The best it managed on that occasion was "Very Mixed-up Orangutans in Antarctica" - a site it now steadfastly refuses to find. However, I can now reliably inform you that this is the Virtual Museum of Art, dedicated to the work of Austrian-born artist, Gottfried Helnwein.

Those of you into certain forms of metal music may already be familiar with his unsettling images, as his output includes covers and artwork for both Rammstein and Marilyn Manson. He now has an island on which to showcase his work in Second Life.

The Museum dominates the island on which it stands, rising to 3 storeys, and stretching across the full width of the sim. Inside it is dark and cool, and the display is large and well constructed. There are several galleries, featuring different phases of Helwein's work. I have taken a large number of pictures, which should give you a good idea of the content.

Many of the pictures may give you a sense of unease and discomfort; they are not "easy viewing." I asked a few friends to take a look, and in their responses, they were even more uncomfortable than me. The unease could perhaps be dispelled if there was information available, explaining the context and purpose of the images. Otherwise one is left to draw one's own conclusions.

The most disturbing images relate to children. Some bring to mind wartime photos of dead children: dusty faced; eyes closed; a deathly pallor. In others a girl with a bandaged head is shown - a vulnerable innocent - in a number of threatening situations. With the recent focus on child pornography and Second Life, these images are given an extra dimension of discomfort. I will state that there is nothing pornographic here - but the symbolism apparent in the images makes for challenging viewing.

I found the exhibition both interesting and thought-provoking, and many of the images are quite stunning. Here is a sample so you can judge for yourself:

I have chosen not to include the more troubling images.