Friday, December 19, 2008

A Walk in the Garden

Of course I have a Second Life garden just as I have a first life garden. Most of the plants were bought in Second the very back is a wall textured with a cool little Ficus-at least I think that is what it is- taken from a photo I shot in Florida over break. And my goal for the garden is to make it completely interactive as an introduction to plants.

Visit my SL garden at:

You can also visit my First Life garden via this Flickr stream set.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Simone's Simple Scripts #2 Image maps in SL?

One neat feature of the web is the ability to create image maps. We take for granted that you can often interact with images and get different responses depending on where you click. But until very recently this has not been possible in Second Life.

However now it is, thanks to a new function called llDetectedTouchST. This function allows you to return coordinates you have touched on the face of a prim. If you have a rectangular face the upper left corner is 0,0 and the lower right corner is 1,1.

I have found that with successive calls to this function, you can design rectangular hot spots for a texture. The texture can be anything from an image of a leaf, to menu items or a city map that you want a visitor to interact with. For learning purposes, I decided to set up an interactive leaf using this function. The object tells the visitor what the part is and displays a short text explanation as a texture of an object rezzed when the visitor touches on the appropriate spot on the leaf. I thought about displaying the textures as particles but decided that rezzing objects would give me greater flexibility.

I built in an interesting feature and this came about because I haven't quite mastered how SL handles coordinates. When I rotated the leaf prim, the objects with the explanations often ended up behind or on the wrong side of the leaf. Rather than mess with figuring out the right set of coordinate functions. I decided on a different strategy. I made an invisible prim called "positioner" linked to the leaf object and let it determine where the explanations are rezzed.

This is cool because it allows me to customize where the explanations rezz without with any sort of code. I just move the positioner prim to the right position. To make this little feature I linked the leaf prim to the positioner prim and then used the following set of statements in the Leaf's code to rezz the objects:

puthere = llGetObjectDetails(llGetLinkKey(2),[OBJECT_POS]);
llRezObject(part_name, llList2Vector(puthere,0), <0,0,0>, llGetRot(), 0);

The variable "puthere" is a list and the position of puthere has to be extracted from the list by llList2Vector.

The image shows the invisible prim highlighted (translucent red cube) in the middle of the object for Phloem.

Right now the hot spots and object names for rezzing are written into the code, but it should be easy to have all this be somewhat more automated were I to make this tool generally available. Unfortunately you need to find the prim coordinates for the hot spots by hand via repeated calls to llDetectedTouchST.

If you want to play with the leaf, and assuming SL is installed on your machine, just teleport to my home in Carmine at:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Simone's Simple Scripts #1

One of my pre-sabbatical tasks is to learn the scripting lanquage. So I am starting a new occasional feature Simone's Simple Scripts to share some scripts and amuse more advanced scripters with my fumbling around.

A useful tool in Second Life is a viewer that visitors to flip through textures or text-the holy grail of course is true web on a prim where users could essentially use a prim as a web browser, thus bringing the web into Second Life. Failing that, a standard thing to do is display information as textures and flip through that and there are of course lots of such viewers out there.

Prowling around the SL scripting portal I found a really cool and new function, llDetectedTouchFace(i). This function detects what face of a prim you are touching. Now this has possibilities. So I decided to make a simple viewer that uses only one prim and real simple controls. I like simple.

So I tool a box prim, flattened it out so that the central face is a display and the left and right faces are for flipping through images-which could be text captured as a texture of course.

The accompanying picture shows the result:

The script is pretty simple.

Unfortunately Blogger seems to mangle SL script.
So if you want a copy of my one prim viewer that you can copy and modify contact me in world (Simone Gateaux) or e-mail me. sgateaux at gmail dot com and I will send you the script or if you want, in world give you a copy of the one prim viewer.

Of course feedback and suggestions are always welcome.

P.S. If any one has an idea how to stop Blogger from mangling SL code...let me know.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


One of the perils of Second Life is getting griefed which can take a number of forms. Last weekend I went hiking in the Ozarks-lots of pictures but no Second Life. When I returned to SL, I had a message from the owner of the sim adjacent to mine that someone had griefed my land and would I please change my options so strangers can't build on my land.

I am usually really careful about building permissions but had just bought two 512m squared parcels to add to my public land holding and had forgotten to set the land permissions. So my poor neighbors were confronted with this wonderful mess.

I guess griefers attract each other and apparently things were actually much worse and a bit explicit. Fortunately my neighbor was able to file an abuse report with Linden Lab against the griefers, and apparently the griefers were immediately banned. I get the impression that use of their particular ISP address was also banned. Not too serious a hassle for them but maybe enough so that they will think a bit before griefing.

All I had to do then is set my access permissions, which I immediately did. Just in case someone hasn't done this here is what to do. Click on your land to access the about land dialogue. Open the options page and unclick the anyone can build option-unless of course you are running a sand box or like to be griefed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A visit to Dinosaur Park

What makes Second Life so neat is that you can really play and immerse yourself in a world if only to explore. So yesterday I took a trip, actually several trips to Dinosaur Park (, This a real ambitious sim owned by a group called the Dinosaur's council, started by Nargus Asturias (Nargus Lab website). Nargus runs Nargus Lab whose motto is "The Past is Our Future. The web site has photos and a little history of the park.

The park is a lot like Jurassic Park right down to the labs and electric fences but it is not a slavish imitation of Jurassic park. Here's a view just outside one of the building entrances. This gives a pretty good feel for the build present in the sim:


Right now there are not too many dinosaurs wandering around but the shops and laboratory facilities are fun to visit. You might even find several Park employees hanging around such as these two dinos:


One nice feature in the visitors center is an information Kiosk that gives information on different dinosaurs and rezzes a dinosaur that you can walk around and view from different angles. This is really slick!

Here's a little raptor rezzed with this system. Unfortunately the textures were not quite fully loaded when I snapped this shot:


Another shot of a park Employee talking with me.


Well lest you get jealous as I was of the cool dino AV, never fear you can buy dino AV's at the park. Normally I try to maintain a consistent appearance as Simone but decided to have some fun and buy an avatar, an official Nargus Lab raptor. The are a bit pricey, the one I settled on was around 1500$L, but I am a big believer in supporting good Second Life designers. Besides you get what's you pay for.

So here I am, Simone as velociraptor:


As you can see, the AV is feathered very nicely reflecting current thinking about how dinosaurs. This AV comes with a HUD (Heads up display) that you can use to modify the texture, and coloring of your AV. I did not get the full mod version since I am not really experienced with modifying AV parts.

The next shot shows me wandering around the park's lab and restaurant with another visitor. Here AV is from another designer and is not nearly was well articulated as my Nargus AV.


You buy scripts and other add ons for your AV, and what I really like is you get a little card that you can take to an upgrade station to get the latest version of the AV if one is available which there was for mine. Very painless and free.

Well back at my lab:


You can see the HUD in the left hand corner of the image.

I was getting hungry so decided to go to Torley Lindon's sim Here which had these adorable bunnies and I thought it might be fun to get a shot with the bunnies before I ate them:

An Easter Scene

Unfortunately the bunnies were either hiding or gone so here I am looking very forlorn going "where the bunnies I'm hungry!"

Where's the food?

Warning! If you gt one of these AV's, make sure you properly save your current AV. When I switched back to my usual appearance, I had a little bit of trouble putting myself back together again. For instance the AV's script gives me a male shape-really ugly and so I had to find my female shape again. But the whole experience was lots of fun and my difficulty was probably more related to my lack of experience in radical AV transformations than to the dinosaur AV.

Dinosaur park is really engaging, the scripts operate very smoothly and the AV's are lots of fun and well thought out. There need to be more dinosaurs, yummy dino food in the restaurant and right now the labs are pretty empty. Looks like that will change. I know I will keep going back and even if you are not a dinosaur person, there are lots of neat little ideas that could be incorporated into educational builds.

Friday, August 22, 2008

More about this Blog.

As noted in the header, this blog is narrowly focused on using Second Life to teach biology. So I probably ought to explain my thinking. One of the problems in teaching biology is getting the students to under stand how the big processes in biology work, such as cellular respiration, photosynthesis, protein synthesis and for that matter evolution.

What attracted me to Second Life was not only the ability to build and texture objects and place them in an immersive environment but also the ability to link objects together and script them and so was born my sabbatical project to develop some simulations tools in Second Life that students could then experiment with.

For example in photosynthesis how about if students could uncover the relationship between light absorption and oxygen production for themselves, much like they would do in a laboratory setting. Or how about if they use working mock ups of lab equipment before doing the real thing.

There are other biology places in Second Life, for instance Max Chatnoir's Genome Island ( Max has done some really nice genetics work in Second Life and I have even taken my students there and Max has graciously served as our host. See the post about this on my general blog, The Force That Through.

As an aside, you will notice that some links are slurls, literally second life urls. These will take you to the Second Life map and if Second Life is installed on your computer you can teleport you avatar to the place in Second Life I am discussion. I will always show the whole slurl so you don't get surprised by one if you don't have Second Life installed.

So what sorts of things will I cover here? Obviously other biology sites and efforts similar to mine. Also as I fumble through scripting and try to build cool things and explore various aspects of SL's scripting language. So this is my place to get geeky. I am a photographer-OK I take lots of pictures-in real life and really love that I can use these as the basis for realistic textures so you will some of my texturing efforts.

I will cover Second Life Science events and hopefully throw in some interviews with more seasoned users of Second Life for education, of and maybe students(now there is a thought, ya think?). I will continue to blog about SL on my general blog, The force that through and on occasion on my Science Blog, Dangerous Ideas...but geek attack moments and scripting stumblings (all to common!) will be here now.

As absorbing as Second Life is to me and as much as I think it is a useful tool, it does have limitations. These become quite clear to anyone who has tried to visit a large online event in Second Life. I am really interested in what makes a good Second Life experience for Students and how do we figure this out?

Sometimes I wonder if Second Life is still waiting for a "killer app" or some technological breakthrough that will really get people excited. I get excited by the creative possibilities in design and scripting, but students want something that they can use quickly, they want structure and something where they can learn without lots of technical issues getting in the way. I think these needs can be met in Second Life but it is going to take really careful design borrowing from game design. It's a bit like the early days of the web when we didn't know a whole lot about web page design and now we are trying to work in three dimensions? Gaack!

By the way you can always look for me and visit my office in Second Life. The SLurl is