Opensim Practical Project 2013 – Screenshots

Another year of OpenSim projects is upon us! Students are increasingly using third-party tools to create models in their projects. I heard mention of SketchUp, Blender and 3D Studio Max once again.

1. The Kingdom of Lancre, by isabelvanrooyen

I created Lancre, a fictional kingdom situated on the Disc World, created by sir Terry Pratchett. Lancre is a small kingdom, population 500, with the current king being the former jester. It is also famous for witches, especially since a certain witch published an erotic cookbook “The Joye of Snackes”. Lancre has a currency (the Lancre penny) but it is never used, since it is too heavy (weighing an ounce each) and everybody can pretty much remember who owes who what. The world includes interactions like riding a broom and casting a spell. Granny Weatherwax is my favorite character, so her house received the most attention.

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2. Welcome to Beaver Creek!, by 8morne

Beaver Creek is a Tropical Island inhabited by miners and their wives. Gold was discovered here by explorers a few years back and since then many prospectors have come here to stake their claim. Made up of Americans mostly, a sort of cowboy culture have emerged. A saloon, hotel and bank was built a few months ago to cater for the growing number of residents.  Butch Cassidy is the Island Villian. He and his gang lives in tents in one of the surrounding Islands. They raid the town frequently but recently we have built cannons and alarm bells to try and keep them out. On one of the other Islands live Old John. He is the island’s main lumberjack. His son lives just behind the houses and has the same profession. The three sisters run most of the services on the island. If you need anything just speak to one of us!

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3. Zoraï habitation, by cybercon

My sim was inspired by the tall, blue, theocratic, leaf-haired race called the Zoraï from Ryzom (a MMORPG), so the overarching architectural theme is one of geometry meets amber meets magnetism, e.g. floating roofs with amber inlays and glowing pillars of amber. Zoraï are quite the mystical race and live in the jungles of the Witherings, which I tried to adequately bring forward through the use of greenery and ambient sound. The sim is more exploration based and you can learn more about the Zoraï and their ways at various points. All my models (except trees) were created for the sim, with large buildings created in Blender and smaller objects in OpenSim itself, almost all textures and media are from Ryzom’s open source repository.

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4. Human Sanctuary 1731, by MumbaN

The virtual environment is a depiction of a fictional post-apocalyptic human settlement called Human Sanctuary 1731 (HS1731). It is a  post-apocalyptic biome which human beings created to survive after Earth became uninhabitable. The structure floats above the surface  The settlement has four sections: Nature Block, Habitation Control, Living and Annex. There are some  attempt at preserving the natural environment of earth which can be seen in  the natural forest section of the HS1731. We find the settlement in crisis as it appears to be last settlement and its resources are getting depleted and tenants are slowly getting ill.

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5. Kanto, by Jerretta

Kanto is the world explored by players of the original Pokemon games, Red and Blue. This environment seeks to recreate four key areas of Kanto from the Pokemon games, brought “up-to-date” by making them 3D. These locations are Pallet Town, Cinnabar Island, Celadon City and the Indigo Plateau. The world’s purpose was largely to inspire nostalgia for players of the early game, and as a proof-of-concept to see how the world would feel fully rendered in 3D, as the region of Kalos is done in the series’ latest entries, Pokemon X and Pokemon Y. This world is old-meets-new, but some things never change, like starter Pokemon, Snorlaxes, trees that need cutting and, of course, the desire to catch ’em all.
Plateau Overview 1

6. Flipside, by E1EY

An upside down world based around the concepts of symmetry and exploration. This world has four different regions with four different themes and feels. Each world has a quest, in which the user can find hidden secrets to unlock the trapped treasures. SpinnerZ is based around a carnival theme and the concept of circles, while SkyzUp is based around a beach type theme where the sky is water. GravitE has got more of a medieval theme, which involves an upside down castle. And the last region Fall Line plays on symmetry and mirrors, where they world is reflected in the sky on the ground.

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7. Origami Nation, by Hvdmerwe

Origami Nation is a world made out of a single pack of coloured paper. There are seven different colours of these and most creations travel in sets of at least one of each colour.  Other objects are textures with a repeating triangle pattern containing those same colours. All objects are comprised of repeating angular shapes, each being folded from a single sheet of paper. It is thus a world of repeating patters that create a type of fractal, psychedelic order and symmetry. My creations include planes, boats, houses, furniture, a sports arena, several plans and animals, as well as a large temple.

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8. The Lorax, by Minkinke

The world of the Lorax: Explore Thneedville, discover the exit to the world outside, experience the dead forest, visit the Once-ler’s home, meet the Lorax and plant a tree to let the forest grow.

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9. The Wood Isle Golf Resort, by Gburger

The Wood Isle Golf Resort is the perfect family vacation destination. Let us welcome you to our beautiful clubhouse, complete with two working clocks and a view of our own lighthouse. Come practice your golf swing on our state of the art driving range, or if you prefer a more peaceful vacation, enjoy the stunning view of the ocean from our wooden deck. Just stay away from the forgotten forest…

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10. Tropical Lair for Sale, by Sinkwa

You can’t be a respectable super villain in today’s day and age without a tropical island hideaway and a stockpile of missiles. If you are an aspiring megalomaniac, this piece of real estate is perfect for you! A measly 50 million USD gets you an observatory, launchpad, biological agent storage facility, lighthouse, helipad and a command centre with wall-to-wall heads up display.  Conveniently situated off the coast of a major super power, this fixer-upper could be the perfect base of operations for your next devious scheme. The previous owner’s estate is looking for purchasers who possess an evil maniacal cackle. Only serious offers will be considered. Payment to be made via Swiss bank account.

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11. Triple Town, by belbell

A recreation of part of the Triple Town game. From the game creator’s site: Triple Town is an original puzzle game in which you try to grow a great city! The larger the city you build, the more points you score. You build your city by matching three or more game-pieces: combine three grasses to make a bush, three bushes to make a tree… until you’ve filled the board with houses, cathedrals and castles. Along the way, you’ll have to outwit giant bears who will try to block your progress.

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Have a look at 2011’s group and at 2012’s group, too. If you’re interested in contacting any of these students, let me know.


Wikipedia Improvement Initiative 2013


As part of their subject in hypermedia and markup languages, students chose a Wikipedia article as a pet project. The overall idea was to improve Wikipedia (for instance, expanding on stubs) or to create an article from scratch. As editors, they were responsible for improving the quality (reliability/readability/usability) of their chosen article.

Since their project pages will likely change over time, I won’t link to the actual articles (though they should be easy to find). Instead, here are some quotes from their reflections on being a Wikipedian and on Wikipedia as a system (emphasis mine).

1. On becoming Wikipedia editors

I learned that as an editor you must be careful not to infringe copyright. It is important for an editor to keep by the rules of Wikipedia in order to maintain the integrity of Wikipedia. One of the first things I learned (the hard way) about creating pages is that Wikipedia is NOT the place to write about commercial topics (i.e. advertisements). I also learned that other Wikipedians will criticize, change and possibly delete your work if it does not conform to Wikipedia standards.

Being a Wikipedia editor is hard. As strange and broad a statement that is to make, it’s the truth. Around the end of April, when The Pop Underground was being released, I remember rushing to source all the things I needed to add to my article just to make sure I was the first editor to put up the new information. There is also always a balance between giving all the information possible on a topic and making it condense and concise.

Sad to say however I learned that it is not easy to expand “stubs”, as sometimes there is just not enough information about the subject available, or information about a topic is not easy to find, or worse yet that there is so much disambiguation, that you end up finding a lot of information about things that are not relevant to your article topic.

A feature that I enjoyed as an editor was how easy it is to use templates. One on the templates I used was the feedback template ([[Category:Article Feedback 5 Additional Articles]]) that allows users to give feedback to Wikipedia articles. It is very easy to add references since Wikipedia has built in tools that allows you to fill in a form with the relevant information necessary to create a citation automatically.

I was lucky enough in my article to not experience any editing wars. I think this is something that should be avoided but it is not always possible. If two authors reason differently about the same set of facts, there is no proven way to determine who is right.

Citation is very important, and understandably so, I struggled sometimes to keep myself from making unsupported statements. It is important to carefully consider your changes, someone else worked hard on the article that you’re editing, and approaching it with this understanding makes you more likely to make more helpful changes, and act with sensitivity when writing update summaries, and deleting paragraphs. This sensitivity is essential in my opinion for the community to stay collaborative, if people keep treating each other with respect, the community as a whole will benefit.

During my discourse with the school I learned that they believe that the creator of an article is the owner of that article and is responsible for the maintenance of the article. I had to explain to them that it is an open platform for anyone to create and alter pages and that there is no one owner. As a Wikipedia editor, I think it is important to educate the general public where we can about the nature and goals of Wikipedia. I learned that the Wikipedia community is very helpful and passionate about the quality of articles. Community members made multiple small edits to improve the quality of the article.

I learned that being a Wikipedia editor, a great sense of responsibility and purpose is placed upon the editor. Being a completely open platform, driven only by users, a contributor always has some sense of attachment to work done. It may be emotional, educational, expressive or even just the sense of purpose to contribute knowledge. The attachment to a certain object or subject drives the community to aim to contribute meaningful information. This has lead to most editors using personal time to contribute to something they regards as important or valuable to a greater community, and causing others then to contribute in the same manner. This to me is a wonderful phenomenon, resulting in more than just an encyclopedia , but a community within the system, being users themselves, and the work they contribute.
At first I was a little intimidated by the idea of creating a wiki article, but once I got started I realized that it doesn’t have to feel intimidating at all. I learned that as a Wikipedia editor there was a lot of help and support to help a new editor to do their thing. I did, however, also learn that it is important to write about subjects you are familiar with, especially if you are starting out. But with enough research I could even write an article about “Native American Weaponry”. I also learned that I still have a lot to learn.
I found it very easy to learn how to use the Wikipedia editor and especially to create inter-wiki links. Templates impressed me as I was never aware of them as a Wikipedia user. I was also very impressed with how many resources there are on Wikipedia to help you get started, learn the policies and help you become a successful Wikipedia editor. I was not aware of the Wikipedia Commons where all the media objects are stored and found it very accessible to add existing images into your article with automated “add this image” buttons.
Being a Wikipedia editor is more than just knowing what you are talking about. You need to make sure that you do not make any mistakes when altering someone else’s work. Some editors are vastly competitive, and seem to take ownership of an article very seriously.

I edited an article about gardens in Nepal where I tried to add more links and changed some text; there was also more work that needed to be done with the article like adding citations. The article was originally written appallingly with a lot of ambiguity and bias. My edit attempted to eliminate the bias and I believe I successfully eliminated ambiguity. However, the edit was not accepted. The lesson learned here was that the editor is not always right and in my case almost never.

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Opensim Practical Project 2012 – Screenshots

For a module in virtual environments, my students build their own virtual worlds with a theme and purpose of their own choosing. The idea was to combine various kinds of media (audio/video, scripts, links) into a coherent whole using OpenSim as a development environment. This is also their practical examination.

This year, I saw a lot of impressive models developed using third-party tools such as Blender, 3D Studio Max and Google SketchUp. I encouraged them to use in-world tools initially – to become familiar with using Second Life.  Next year, though, I will definitely include a third-party tool section.

Worlds, by (avatar names):

  1. Sonic the Hedgehog Simulation, by Sean Brand
  2. Athletics World, by Antz81
  3. Anchorhead Tatooine, by Bestnickname
  4. Naruto World, by Darnitalian
  5. League of Legends Simulation, by Darntwaiwanese
  6. Warhammer 40k Compound, by Gdswardt
  7. Island Paradise, by Henk
  8. Theme Park, by Sltw02011
  9. NASA base and Moon Simulation, by StaticBlur
  10. Angry Birds Simulation, by Zziworld
  11. Sports World, by Alwyns
  12. Futuristic NASA Colony, by Brometheu5
  13. The Wandering Isle (inspired by Mists of Pandaria), by Celynthria
  14. U2 Concert, by Go0Sie
  15. Paintball Arena, by JJBotha [pending]

Have a look at 2011’s group too. If you’re interested in contacting any of these students, let me know.

Refreshing news! E-ink is improving.

E-ink is the display technology that drives ereaders such as the Kindle Keyboard or Kobo Touch. As with display technologies before it, e-ink‘s full potential has yet to be realised. Nate Hoffelder reports on a hack of Barnes and Noble’s Nook Touch ereader that dramatically increases its refresh rate .

Interaction with information that doesn’t happen in real-time is a terrible jolt to the user experience. We experience this frustration when web pages load slowly, video stutters, Google Earth view lags…

Even for non internet-based products, such as head-mounted displays for virtual reality or a PC application that’s just taking an age to respond, this delayed response thoroughly confounds us.

If you’re familiar with e-ink displays, you’ll know their limitations are related to their refresh rate. The video you see demonstrates a step closer to real-time interaction with e-ink displays. Since colour e-ink displays are being produced, this leads to the possibility of low-power, durable and sun-friendly displays that have the capabilities we expect from media tablets: touch interaction, responsive applications and video.

Maybe I’m making too much of a deal of a hack. Yet, I’m excited about low-power technology (anyone living in South Africa during Eskom’s “load shedding” debacle can attest to this!).


Opensim Practical Project 2011 – Screenshots

My students don’t only hold tours in Second Life, I also have them build their own virtual world using OpenSim, an open-source version of SL. This is also their practical examination.

The worlds are standalone at the moment, but in future I’m going to try maintaining one sim for the whole class.

Great job, guys!

Worlds, by (avatar names)

* William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, by Glain
* The Enchanted Fairy World, by Merida
* The Beach, by Frankie
* Not a Generic Western Town, by Brabman
* Not a Skyrim Clone – Nordic Landscape, by Mlouw
* The Seasons, by Thatmax
* Bikini Bottom, by Malman (or Spongebob Squarepants in this case!)
* The Mayans, by Sarthira –
* Western Inspired by Red Dead Redemption, by Henkasaur
* The Land of Robotorinia, by Wulphy (or Kerebos Prime in this case!)
* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Findulas (or Willy Wonka in this case!)
* Medieval Port Village, by Wester

Second Life tours and virtual worlds – screenshots

In one of the modules I coordinate, students learn about all kinds of virtual worlds. We have meetings in Second Life, where one group acts as tour guides for that evening. I also have them build their own virtual world using OpenSim, an open-source version of SL.

This post showcases the tours. In the next post, I’ll showcase the group’s own virtual worlds.

1. Virtual tours

I had to choose two screenshots per tour out of dozens. Each one-hour session was a lot of fun – despite intermittent frustrations with South African internet access. 

1. Wulphy and Findulas
Highlights of this tour include an underwater fantasy world with ridable sea creatures and a Halloween-inspired sim where we flew on enchanted brooms.   

2. Glain and Merida
A Thai-themed tour which included a walk of the lotus gardens and dancing in the ballroom of a golden palace.

3. Brab and Mlouw
A Viking-inspired sim where we went on boar hunts, toured Fjords and lounged in a lavish Nordic homestead. The frozen forests and Aurora Borealis were sights to behold.

4. Thatmax and Sh1fty
Highlights of this tour include a drumming circle inside a (what seemed to me!) Gothic mausoleum as well as the first in-world books I’ve seen. Most information in SL is presented by text-only notes or images placed on walls.

5. Henkasaur, 4saken, Sarthira
In this murder mystery tour, entitled “Springtime Slaughter”, we explored all kinds of things, among which were a Cluedo game, a Whodunnit? detective game inside a house and  a massive stone palace. We also discovered dragons and practised fencing.

6. Malman, Frankieflower
To end off our virtual tours, we were taken to a theme park where we enjoyed some crazy rides, pigged out on carnival food and retired to a games room where we relived teen memories of playing the spin-the-bottle.

I’ll add SLURLS to the locations in time.