Happy Birthday eightbar

It is amazing but “raising the eightbar” is 1 year old today. Its doesn’t seem five minutes since we were sitting around saying lets try a combined blog from Hursley. We discussed what we might write about, what content we could fall back on, what style, how we were going to stick to corporate guidlines.
A lot has happened in the past year, most notable has been the transition into having an awful lot of Second Life and virtual worlds content. Whilst it may seem a solely second life blog there are a lot of other things going on.
Either way I think we are all really happy that we appear to be providing interesting content for people, making great friends and business contacts, and remaining suitably professional with a hint of unconvential thinking.
The Raising the eightbar tag line has gradually slipped to just eightbar. We are Eightbar in Second Life, and whilst we are not trying to form a brand as such, we have some brand values and pride in what Eightbar has become, yet we are still very much IBMers doing things who happen to be from Hursley.
Who knows what the next year will bring, but this one has been a blast.

Touring the Metaverse

Last week, one of our colleagues sent me a Sametime asking if I would have time to help him get the hang of Second Life, since I’d been foolish enough to blog about the topic. We set up a slot yesterday to meet online and talk through how it all works.

We started off on Hursley Island and I got him kitted out with some funky clothing. That actually turned out to be a helpful experience, as it taught him how to move around, pan/zoom (hold down Alt, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about), open boxes, play with the inventory, etc..

We also had a quick look at some of the technology demos lying around on Hursley, before heading off to virtual Dublin. Whilst exploring Trinity College [slurl] we were approached by the “mayor” i.e. creator of the sim, who explained that he was about to do some radio interviews in RL Dublin – evidently, there’s a lot of publicity over there at the moment.

In the evening, I camped at the Pooley sim to sit in on the Town Hall meeting with Philip Linden, since I wanted to hear what he had to say about the recent security issue and lack of stability in the past fortnight. The man himself arrived… but just as he started to speak, my client crashed and I wasn’t able to get back on the sim –  bah! I’ll have to listen to the podcast instead.



Analyst Briefing

Having just got back from New York I came in to Hursley this morning wondering why everyone was looking a little smarter than usual. It turned out we were meant to wear “business casual” (whatever that may be) for an analyst briefing. Analyst briefing? Hmmm, that rings a bell…

Rod Smith did the keynote and then we were in groups of four to talk about customer projects. All of us in my group (Dave B, Graham B, Rob and myself) were suffering a little from jetlag so I hope we made sense. Still, it was good to see James there (I’m pretty sure visitors can get a guest ID for wireless in the house, so not sure why they didn’t sort one of those out for you, some live blogging would have been cool).

Sometimes with these things, I think it’d just be easier to talk about stuff we’re thinking about, rather than having a day long structure, but then maybe it’d be complete chaos. It’s also a shame Ian and Roo weren’t about to show some of the cool Second Life stuff they’ve done. Anyways, I think it was pretty useful for us to get some different perspectives on some of the projects we’re working on and hopefully the analysts got something out of it too.

An amazing show, the Alliance Navy and an IBM 3D Jam

I have been away on Holiday the past week. Deep in West Wales, with no grid to speak of. So I missed the 12th September IBM Virtual Community Kick Off and 3D Jam.
This event has been in the works for some time. It is combined with the more official IBM innovation Jam where we gather with lots of people around the company and outside to discuss new ideas and directions.
Due to an increasing number of us in the eightbar group in Second Life, and the growing number of IBMer related islands we diced to have a big kick off and see how we could run an event to get lots more people into the metaverse.
One of the great things about SL is that some really interesting communities form. One of these communities, that I came to know about through Timeless Prototype, is the Alliance Navy.
This group has formed themselves to be an anti-griefing group. i.e. they are white hats. even more i.e. they are people who try to stop others from messing up our worlds and events.
Judge Hocho from eightbar is also a member of the AN. When we were planning this big Virtual Universe Community kickoff he came up with the great idea to invite the AN to come and help.
The AN put in a great deal of time and effort to produce a show of force on the currently mostly empty IQ island next door to Hursley.
The presence of AN, there as both a show of skill and knowledge of how to use SL and an anti griefing service really made a huge impact to lots of my collegues.
It makes a great difference to be able to see people protecting your property. Normally hacking of any sort if under the covers, as is anti-hacking.
The Alliance Navy have a large number of ships and vehicles, and a military style approach. They tend to police some of the sandbox areas, where people go to experiment. Its another style of mentoring to persuade those people who would rather take the grid down, to not behave in that way.
I have not asked too many questions of Judge or Timeless about the AN. I prefer to just know that they know all about it. Some of the power is the mystique after all.
Anyway we owe a great big thankyou to the AN members who both put time in helping us and who directed their efforts to our 3d Jam rather than policing their normal routes.
Also a big thankyou to all my fellow eightbar members who ran a great event. I think it safe to say we have arrived.
Judge took some cool snaps on snapzilla.

AN in IQ

AN snaps in IQ


We also have a logo, the Virtual Universe Community is wider than eightbar and wider than just the metaverse. So look out for this in the future. A nice design by Tood Keen.

VUC logo

Amazon’s Jeff Barr comes to Hursley

Jeff Barr is Amazon’s Web Services Evangelist, and all round good guy. Just last week, Ian wrote about a presentation Jeff recently gave in Second Life. We were lucky enough to secure some time in Hursley with the man himself this week, where Andy and I were delighted to be able to get to know him a little better. It sounds like Jeff has been enjoying a very busy few weeks, so it was great that he could spare an hour to meet up in Hursley for a chat.

We talked about his recent presentation, the Fabjectory (which is very cool. Ian, who has been hugely excited about 3D printing for a long time, is going to go nuts over it.) We also talked about putting arbirary text on a surface in Second Life using an image created by a server-side script. We’d both been independently having the same idea, and Jeff was first to implement and blog it. 🙂

We even found time to go to Hursley’s near-legendary pub, the Dolphin, for an early lunch. We ordered (and received!) cheese and ham baguettes before they were even open for food. Now that is what I call influence.

Eightbar On Top Of The Rock

Some of us from Hursley are in New York at the moment for an ITA workshop. It’s a chance to catch up with the work thats going on in other projects and the research that the rest of the teams are carrying out. Tha main areas that us Emerging Tech people are involved with are social networks, planning, collaboration and sensor networks.

NYC Rockerfeller

More wheels within wheels

Over at out to pasture Giff from the Electric sheep has written about the Text 100 Second Life island. Text 100 are a very large PR firm. This is a case of wheels within wheels as the article is about a piece of machinima that Text100 have done to show businesses the value of Second Life. Ironically the eightbar team are busy creating our version of one of those.
Also I was contacted a few weeks ago, by a representative of Text 100 as IBM is one of their clients. You may see the IBM logo on their Second Life build in various places in ads and films.
They were asking me what the point of Second Life was, and to be able to give them why I and more recently ‘we’ were interested and active in Virtual Worlds, so that we could do a press interview. It is good to see these sorts of firms representing themselves in this space too.
Once again the direction and trend mirrors that of the original web, though moves much quicker, as certain sectors discover what they can do in Second Life.
The build, which has a very ESC distinctive feel is unusual in that it is floating islands and strange angles. So it does break the mould a little.
text100 in SL


I am not sure why all our favourites are on the wall, but no eightbar. Oh well never mind.


views of text100

Linux Media Centre heads home

So far I’ve written about the first couple of stages of my proof of concept idea about setting up a media PC under Linux on a thinkpad. First, there was using my own laptop to check some functionality out such as using an infra-red remote control. Then, I moved on to setting up another laptop with a fresh Linux installation with the prime purpose of being a media centre. This has now got to such a stage, and good enough, that I now have the laptop at home; but there are more things to think about in this media PC lark, especially under Linux, thank you may think at first…..

A nice perk about working at IBM is that we can buy old, unused, thinkpads from the company. These are, of course, second hand and considered too old for good reuse with an employee. Before anybody asks, no they’re not super cheap, and no I can’t get you one! So, the T23 I have been using so far, has now arrived home as my own property having purchased it from IBM – hence the choice for using an older machine if you wondered in an earlier post.

As I said, there is a lot to think about in the configuration and what you want out of a media PC. Fedora Linux doesn’t make it especially easy since a lot of the multi-media capabilities are removed for legal reasons such as MP3 support and encoded DVD reading. All these have to be added in as extras after the initial install which means you have to work out where to get them from and add any sources into your add/remove application programs. For those in the know, I mean sorting out all the yum repositories. This can get quite tricky, especially given the digging around required to find local mirrors to speed things up a bit. I think I’ve got there now though with a combination of the Fedora and extra repositories as well as a couple of the community based ones which are essential to easy Linux usage these days – what would we do without all those people putting stuff together for us? On a completely different note: don’t forget to give something back to the community!

Having arrived home with the laptop. The first thing to do is to get it connected to the Internet. I tried without success for an entire evening to set up the wireless adapter to connect to the access point, no joy. At this point, I’m thinking it’s a good thing I know a trick or two with Linux. I noticed that Fedora seem to ship an updated kernel that includes a wireless driver which has been compiled with different wireless extensions than the tool used to configure the driver – a problem I think! Once I made this small, but signifiant (and difficult to notice) discovery, setting up wireless was a breeze as usual. The solution, downgrade your kernel to the standard Fedora version so you go back to the old wireless driver version and things start to work again. This is most definitely a bug in the way Fedora are handling their code updates right now. Of course, I’ll be feeding this back – a small way of contributing back into the community!

I’m using KDE, which for those not familiar with Linux is a fairly MS Windows-like graphical interface onto a Linux desktop. It comes with a whole bunch of handy utilities that I’ve never really bothered using before in all my years with Linux. Things such as GUI screen resizing applets, and applets for switching between TV and laptop screens will be invaluable to one of the primary aims for this project – the wife acceptance factor! This stuff really has to be easy to use otherwise I stand not a chance of any longevity with this being in my living room.

I still have a few things left to work out with this idea yet, I have not tested the S-Video link to the TV, and I need to start indexing music collections over the network into Amarok probably via Samba. Neither of these should present a problem, however, if I fail it’s pretty much game over. In good hackety-hack style I’ve not written a single thing down about what/how I’ve done all this (except this blog), my hope is when all is installed and running well I will write a page about what to do and how to do it. I may even try reproducing the whole thing on another laptop!

Austin Games Conference Write Up

Over at 3dpoint there is a very good article (as per usual) on the Virtual Worlds session at Austin. These examinations of where we currently are, what the key players in the new industry are thinking and saying are important words at a pivotal time. Also they gel with my thinking on the subject. I first put up MMORPG on a post-it note brain storm session back 2000. I had no idea we would be where we are today on 2006! I certainly was not expecting that my job title would have become “metaverse evangelist” and that I would be working in this medium full time.
As a company we have a number of key things going on both internally an externally. I wont let the virtual cat out of the virtual bag just yet though as I am just about to go on holiday for a week, and shock, horror, I am likely to be totally off the grid. So far in the past 6 months it seems something new, interesting and pivotal has happened almost every day. I hope, as the article says, I can keep up with the rapid changes.

Jeff Barr Amazon Web Evangelist does his thing in Second Life

Jeff Barr has had a nice blog report written up over at the click heard around the world
He also mentions that he drove the event at the NMC campus, in his virtual Toyota Scion as created by millions of us
I have to admit, being in the UK I have no idea what a Scion is.
It is of interest though as I cut my web teeth back in 1997-2000 on the Vauxhall website, where we did lots of interesting firsts as IBM, including trying to do what Second Life is doing with a small start up from iceland called Smartvr. Just a few years too early. I also remember at Hursley a Ford Galaxy demo with an old style VR helmet.
Aagin this goes to show that the ideas have been around but now the technology is maturing to teh point that Jeff can drive an accurate model of his car to an event and also pitch his companies web services to an audience he can see.