Virtual Worlds introduction presentation

When talking about Virtual Worlds with customers and other IBMers, I often start with some examples of the state of the art in Second Life. They give a flavour of why integration between the metaverse and real life is both possible and important, and why people are paying attention. I usually find it helpful to put Second Life in the context of Web 2.0; pointing out that it’s really all about two concepts that have already been changing the shape of the web: user generated content and social networking.

I reasoned that I could save everyone some time by putting the highlights of my introductory presentation up here. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of projects, rather a taste of what has caught my attention (and that of the media) in the last few months.


Depending on the audience, I will usually start by visiting the Second Life website to show the interactive map, all the time reeling off some interesting stats – largely gleened from Google TechTalk video – to help
people realise this is not just a game:

  • A glance at shows us the number of residents, how many residents have logged on recently, and how many US$ changed hands between players in the last 24 hours.
  • Yes, people make and sell things for money. 25% of users are currently sellers, 75% are primarily consumers.
  • Easy to build and script (using Linden Scripting Language but moving to support Mono).
  • Rich scripting API includes support for email, XML-RPC, HTTP Request, …
  • Video and audio streaming are easy. Mozilla’s Gekko core (Firefox’s rendering engine) is eventually being integrated, so any surface will be able to be a web page.
  • It’s growing fast. According to Linden Labs, the rate at which new land is added exceeds how fast you could explore it.

BBC One Big Weekend event

  • The BBC, who are frequently early adopters, announced an event in Second Life in May 2006. The streaming video from the One Big Weekend event (being held in Dundee) was shown in-world to provide people with another means of following the action.

  • The key thing here is the party happening in the foreground. People are dancing, showing off and chatting.

  • More: Read about BBC Radio 1 ‘One Big Weekend’ island on BBC Online, and the announcement.
    Eggy Lippmann collaborated with Rivers Run Red on this one.
  • The BBC also did a Second Life session for Newsnight around January 2006.

American Apparel

Warner Brothers

  • Warner Bros, who promote Regina Spektor, are marketing her latest album within Second Life.

  • The New York loft apartment (also built by Aimee Weber) houses a tape recorder playing clips of Regina Spektor’s music, with the mood of the room changing with the music.

  • More: read the press release and creator’s blog.


  • Major League Baseball ( paid the Electric Sheep Company for a virtual baseball stadium to host the Home Run Derby event.

  • I’m not a baseball fan, but even I was hooked enough by the lively atmosphere that staying up until 2am UK time was well worth it.

  • More: Eric Rice has a great summary and Ian wrote up the event on Eightbar too.

Forbidden City



  • Eightbar readers can’t have missed the fact that Ian Hughes worked on a prototype build for the Wimbledon tennis championships.

  • It involved displaying the path of the ball (thanks to the ‘Hawkeye’ data captured on-court) as well as clothing and even flying towels.

  • Read the original Eightbar post on Wimbledon demo for more.

So there you go. Naturally, this list will be out of date almost instantly, as more things are happening all the time. Let me know if I’ve missed something important though.

Collaboration with a bang

Idz Ni of eightbar pinged me to say he had found something interesting and amusing in Second Life today. So I popped over to have a look for 5 minutes.
He had found a cannon, with cannon balls that lets you climb in and be shot out of the cannon, and you go further if you are carrying a heavy cannon ball! This cannon is by Abramelin Wolfe
No this may seem frivolous, and in a way it is. However Idz and I then collaborated in order to get a good picture of the device in operation. It is very difficult to take the picture as you are being fired out yourself so it was a two avatar job.
It involved timing, and patience but it acted as both a demonstration of collaboration and is a great energizer to any brainstorm session.

Making meetings more human?

We have a lot of meetings. It’s what companies do. They are required and there are always ways to make them more productive. However I noticed something in a Second Life meeting a few days ago that really made for an engaging reason to use avatars and presence in a multi user environment as part of a meeting.
How many conference calls, phone, video, chat varieties have you had the meeting, the call ends, then directly on to the next one. Sometimes someone running a call may ask someone else to hang on to chat about another topic. If you are not that person it feels rude to hang around, and equally you may feel excluded. In real life you tend to have to leave the meeting room with people, even if you are going to a new meeting. During those last few minutes human bonding interactions happen. People take off their meeting face and tend to be themselves, even if only their work persona. Idle chit chat, or off topic conversations spring up.
Hanging up a phone does not let you experience this bonding. So it could be we are losing something productive and effective when it comes to organizations and people?
In a recent eightbar and ‘friends of eightbar’ meeting in Second Life you can clearly see from the positions of everyone in the pictures below who is presenting and who is listening. We did this as both a telephone and Second Life chat meeting to mix things up a little.

When the meeting finsihed we quite naturally stood up and assembled into familar groups to chat. Not to waste time, but to exchange hello’s with people we knew, or wanted to know. Those few moments talking, openly in a room but ‘near’ our friends avatars meant the meeting completed properly. I could see the social groups around me, old collegues meeting again, people from Wimbledon past and present etc. There was a little buzz of chat and then we all went our seperate ways.

This seems an obvious thing? However like all good obvious things its not until its staring you in the face that you really know its right.

So many people at that meeting have commented on how it ‘felt’ better. That must make it more effective?

Ricetta: Media PC alla Linux

Apologies for resorting to a pseudo-Italian title …my way of making this slightly interesting! So, here’s how the IBM Thinkpad Linux Media PC is coming along so far, and if you have any ideas feel free to comment as I’d love to see what other useful stuff I can do too.

1 Thinkpad T23
1 cheap homebrew Serial IR Receiver
1 URF (thats right, radio) keyboard
1 remote control
1 television
1 Amplifier with Speakers
Spaghetti/Seasoning to taste (Cables, s-video, audio, etc)

If you follow what I’ve done so far, you start by thinking “Ooh, Ubuntu is all trendy right now, lets have a play”. After a day or so you chicken out and run back to what you know with your tail between your legs and install Fedora. Sadly, Ubuntu didn’t live up to its tag line, “it just works”, for my T23 as I couldn’t get a few things going, namely suspend to RAM and given I know Fedora/Redhat a lot better I reverted. Fedora Core 5 is now installed and up-to-date so who needs apt-get anyway?

I updated the bios and controller microcode on the T23 to the latest level before starting as a wise precaution having been bitten by these sorts of issues in the past. All went well. Fedora install went well. Next I checked the Fedora extras repository had been added to the software update configuration and added another repository where I could download all the codecs and media packages that don’t get supplied by Redhat (for legal reasons they say). So now, I have a fully updated T23 running the latest Fedora code and installed with all the browsers and media programs I think I’m going to need.

Next on the menu is how to turn the thing on without waiting for an entire laptop and OS to boot? Suspend to RAM as mentioned earlier. All the ACPI code gets installed by default with Fedora so it’s just a case of understanding how it fits together and writing yourself a script to do the suspend. A few experiments with suspending to RAM lead me to get a corrupted display on resume, but a bit more fiddling and I got there eventually. So now I have a Linux box that will start up and shut down in just a few seconds.

I thought autologin would be useful too. This will help with (see my previous post) wife acceptance factor number 2 – it has to be easy to use. The less confusing and time taken to boot into the GUI the better. So, I do what everybody would do, and completely forget Redhat screw around with the KDE display manager and use the KDE control center to set autologin – of course, it doesn’t work! Some head scrating out of the way and I remember I’m actually using GDM so fire up gdmsetup and configure up the autologin easily for my mediapc user.

In order to speed up Amarok for a large collection of media, it has been attached to a MySQL backend. It uses SQLite by default which would be a lot slower in comparison. There are probably going to be a thousand-and-one other little tweeks to make as I continue, even simple things you get used to on a PC you use regularly such as having your browser preferences set as you like, and downloading various firefox extensions, desktop setup, etc.

I don’t actually have the serial IR dongle yet. However, it should work in exactly the same way from a software perspective as the IRDA port I’ve got working on my T41p but give a longer range for remote control reception. However, the keyboard I do have. It’s a wireless keyboard but it uses radio so is actually relatively long distance for a wireless keyboard, and has the added bonus of a built-in mouse and small size. It’s perfect for home media PC use for simple browsing on your TV. I got the recommendation for it from a guy here at Hursley so thanks to him for that! I don’t want to go advertising any specific places but I’ll just say if you find it on-line you might want to check eBay buy-it-now items too as I got it for about a third of the price!

Hopefully, a few cables and some spaghetti later it will all connect up nicely to a good amplifier and screen and all will be wonderful, having achieved all the aims I set out for in my previous post. Wireless or wired integration to the home network should be trivial, along with all the rest of the configuration. Now I’m wondering if there’s anything I’ve missed?

Its odd how things start to get linked with Second Life

It never ceases to amaze the whirls and loops that things like Second Life seem to do around me and the rest of Eightbar. I was only today talking to someone from text 100 as PR agency who are lining up some interviews about Second Life and what we have been up to as IBMers when I come across this on the as usual, and very prompt
Text 100, rated 9 in the top 50 PR firms has opened a presence, or an office in Second Life. I look forward to my next call as, as well as evangelizing, I can point them to their own island.
Yes I do have PR representation, albeit not my own personal one (yet).


Roughly translated… IBM Thinkpad Linux Media Centre – while not a product IBM ships (or is likely to ship), is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and just started toying with recently. I have an old Aiwa stereo at home that keeps asking me for retirement so this idea has been seeded by my need for something a little better. As the other eightbar bloggers know, I’m completely in love with Linux and the media player I use, in spite of much teasing about its capability and a longstanding comparison with iTunes.

Proof of concept time then… before shelling out a whole lotta wonga on HTPC cases, wireless keyboards, IR receivers, new speakers and all that other good stuff, I thought I would try hacking around with what I have. So far this consists of an IBM Thinkpad T41p and my current stereo remote control using the IRDA port of the laptop. To illustrate the point of how old the stereo is, take a look at the remote I’ve hooked up to the laptop: Old Aiwa Remote Control

Unlike many home-brew media projects, I’m not bothered about PVR as I have a commercial one of these I’m already happy with so I just want something I can hook up to the TV to play music and do some simple web browsing, e-mail and maybe a few office type applications. Thinkpads seem to fit the bill perfectly, especially for a proof of concept. There are, of course, a few other factors involved in the design of this idea, needless to say it has to have quite a good wife acceptance factor so must be good on the budget front and easy to use, has to have a remote control, must be connected to the internet, and of course it absolutely has to run Linux otherwise the world might implode.

Stage 1 seems to be complete now. Conveniently enough, I just happen to have a laptop running Linux already and pretty much configured the way I want. Add to this a bit of fiddling around to get the IRDA port working as an IR receiver for remote controls and a few simple config files and I have a daemon that is listening for IR signals from the port. After that, it was a fairly simple job to hook up a client to execute commands on my system when a button is pressed on the remote, and once I was that far I was laughing all the way to hooking it up to my media player.

Her name is Rio and she dances on the virtual sand

Duran Duran are hitting Second Life!
Given the age profile, many of us are going to have fond memories of Duran Duran from our school days. Well they have bought an island and are coming to join us all in Second Life. Wild Boys….. I can see a windmill and a Le bon dunking 🙂

This follows closely on the news of channel 4 entering as mainstream media

Channel4 does Second Life

The massive increase in mainstream media paying attention to Second Life continued today with Second Lives
Whilst there is a microsite on the tradtional web, the launch event was help in Second Life. I could not be there for various reasons, but Hammy Takakura from eightbar, and later yossarian seattle attended. It was hammy’s first event as he has been busy building.
Hammy said the event was well attended as Channel 4 and Rivers Run Red showed the opening films, also lots of Lindens where in attendance.

Pictures by Hammy Takakura of eightbar