Posts Tagged ‘English’

“Haute Couture”, virtual tailoring with Blender, state of the Art, April 2013

There are many websites teaching you how to rig with blender. This is one of them:

Recently during my Blender classes, some gifted students asked me to explain again rigging techniques for SecondLife. I already have spoken about this in some other posts (in Italian) on this magazine. I made available some Youtube playlists on this topic:

What is interesting is that rigging techniques are constantly changing among various versions of Blender and the SL viewers, this is why they must be refreshed every 2-3 months.

In my first rigging class in September 2011, I listed as essential steps to be able to rig the following:

  1. Get Blender  2.59 2.66a
  2. Get Avatar Workbench from machinimatrix website (download proper version 2.65)
  3. Get script to copy weights
  4. Get script to properly export to Collada format (this version was corrected by Gaia for versions 2.60 and up)

Typical workflow consists(consisted) in following phases:

  • Build the piece of cloth around the upper/lower body mesh, using the shrink wrap modifier
  • Parent the cloth to the armature with automatic weights or empty weights.
  • Copy weigths with the new tool in Blender 2.66a Copy weights from base avatar using slow python script provided by Gaia, operation that could take more than 10 minutes to accomplish, or use the extra plugin Mesh Transfer.
  • Adapht weights with armature posing and using  WeightPainting
  • Export the cloth to SL via collad (with proper plugin)

As you can notice, the essential workflow is basically unchanged, but single operations have been greatly simplified: it is not more needed to go shopping external scripts. Now basic functions are integrated in Blender off the shelf.

For instance, Weight Copying can be obtained simply selecting source weighted avatar and then shift-selecting your clothe. Now you can see Weight Paint option on the proper tool shelf on the right. (I thank who made me discover this hidden jewel in Blender 2.66 user interface !)

New weight transfer option in Blender 2.66

Following video (with English subtitles) shows these news in a usable understandable way for dummies. The only thing you need is  Avatar Workbench you can download from here:

If you need to download your own body mesh from SecondLife or OpenSim the simplest way is to use Phoenix 1185 as shown in this short video

Hoping this can help somebody out there.


Virtual Anthropology and Prometheus Myth: where is the connection?

27 ottobre 2012 2 commenti

Amateurs and Craftsmen in Virtual Worlds

I admit my ignorance. The only thing I really know is that I know nothing, as a famous phylosopher said many centuries ago. Like many in SecondLife I improvised in many jobs I don’t do in real life and I can be easily listed as “amateur” by expert people (educators, historians, journalists, lawyers, economists, etc).

The only thing I really know is that I know Nothing… (Socrates)

In Virtual Worlds this is a well known and typical attitude. It is true that there are experts in SL which are conveying their expertize, but I saw a moltitude of people, communities, ideologies and projects which are creating good quality installations, buildings, sims or happenings without the need of using sophisticated tools but just using the enthusiasm and the devotion we acknowledge to the real artists burnt by creativity fever, sleepless geniuses dreaming their projects in every moment of their day. Some of them are shooting machinimas, others are creating terrific mesh statues, others are re-creating with high fidelity environments and roleplaying worlds reproducing fantastic worlds or historical periods. We have crowds of builders, fashion makers, forging make up, clothes and shapes. Self learned scripters and artists who produce installations rich with unthinkable effects (even if only to play soccer or to light a disco, it doesn’t matter). What is needed is just to express your own creativity. In fact the official SecondLife advertise from the first page sounds this way: “Your world, your imagination”.

Now, this particular attitude to “build”, model and forge resources — possibly in an environment where relative shortage of resources is involved, like to cope with constraints like prims or square meters — and build from scratch new resources, either “real” (object building, palaces, landscapes or continent terraforming), or “conceptual” (scripting, art, music) or community building (nights, disco, roleplaying, etc), interpersonal relationships (wedding, virtual sex, affects, friendship, drama), and even when doing illegal and malevolent activities (griefing, stealing, copybotting), describe as many are using virtual worlds to improve something we can name “craft” i.e. the knowledge of the craftsman but also the science of the expert who succeed in model the world, other people or tools to build and take to life projects.

The deep satisfaction when a craftsman is creating something from the shapeless matter

It’s not a chance that many virtual worlds have often the suffix -craft like Minecraft, or  World Of Warcraft, and others. Craftsman creativity can be also implemented in a more subtle creation like the “modding” task, which is the art of modify a standard object to make it personalized by own taste and needs, with variations, tricks, cheats. Some of the moddings are just esthetic, but they are improving the world to make it richer, personal and at last hugely rewarding.  There is something divine, like pretending to be Gods building the world from scratch, as we will see in a moment.

Coming of Age in SecondLife; the book

Recently I wrote a lot about “virtual culture”, starting from the SL history, its geography, railroads, highways, sea routes and many other built in SL or in OpenSim (or other virtual worlds).

Somebody hearing what I was doing and my researches (Virtual Christine author of the interesting blog while interviewing me for a post related to Craft, asked me “but you surely know about Tom Boelstorff books“? If you don’t know them you should read because he really has deep insights in this. Now I admit that sometimes I’m a bit touchy: when somebody says “you must read X or Y” I feel a bit stung in my amateur touchiness. But this time the aim was good: she didn’t want to find my holes, but to offer me new bigger horizons (thing I really appreciate). I got curious and I read in English  (19 € for electronic version) the book “Coming of Age in SecondLife”, published in 2007, and I’m going to get the new one  “Ethnography and Virtual Worlds“, you see when I really like something and it is worth I’m willing to spend money.

The cover of the Tom Boelstorff’s book

I also did get in touch with Tom, by email and even in SecondLife (you can find him as Tom Bukowsky), he really welcomed me and answered very quickly really interested by the fact that his books were interesting for somebody outside  the standard scholar world. He is an anthropologist at California University in Irvine, expert in anthropology of sexuality, globality and virtual worlds

This English book had been a real discovery and it is so huge I can’t summarize in this short post. But some chapters are so beautiful and express in a clear, simple and effective concepts that are new and original (at least to me). For instance when he was describing Prometheus myth and why it is so connected with virtual worlds and the very concept of “humanity” in its deepest and anthropological meaning. This is what I’m trying to spread. Prometheus tale is also fascinating and interesting and is a “fairy tale” that almost anybody know in short (from  vague school memories), but nobody knows the real meaning. It’s not Tom alone, but many scholars (philosophers and anthropologists) who give the meaning of fire = technè .

Prometheus stealing fire from the Gods

Now to tell it short (you can find the long version here this myth is telling the history of two Titan brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus (these names can be translated to “The man who thinks before” and “The man who thinks after”) in the era before the existence of men and animals. Zeus decided to prize them for having being allied with the gods in the war against the other  Titans. So they got the privilege to forge the humans (Prometheus’ task) and the animals (Epimetheus task) which were created by the gods, having being provided with a set of “gifts” they should distribute among their entrusted species.

Epimetheus forgets to wait for the brother – he thinks after acting – and exhausts all the “qualities”, leaving Prometheus wih no qualities to give to humans which then remain without qualities. Having nothing, Prometheus decides to steal the “fire” from the gods and give it to the humans.

As often happens fire is a metaphore to mean the creation gift, or the technè or as we were speaking before the famous craft  which you now understand is the real essence of the humans.

Empirical Technè Vs Static Science Knowledge

It’s very worthy to note how Tom Boelstorff is comparing  Technè – meant as the ability to create and so as an incomplete and imperfect art which then leads to evolution and progress, with the Knowledge (epistheme) meant as a static science. Craftsman possesses the gift of “crafting” which is the innate ability to create, but his ability is the fruit of an incompleteness and at least at beginning is ignorance. Thus the craftsman is not already “learnt” but builds his crafting knowledge through his own creations, a step after the other with a trial and error methodology. And this is the primordial cause pushing him not to remain brute and thus discriminating from the animals (in a not yet religious point of view).

You can observe in this a real similitude with the crowds of “new craftsmen”, self-learnt amateur people who thrive outside institutional channels in virtual worlds and because of this scorned by official experts, who are professionals in standard life.

Man, the Virtual Being

Designing project and creating artifacts is the same to be truly and really humans

Prometheus myth shows clearly what was in the opinion of the ancients the main human quality: to be able to forge the Nature building from available shapeless resources more and more articulated and complex artifacts, ranging from houses to jewels, to social constructions (religion, politics, etc). Modern anthropolists apparently are sharing this definition of the Man.

Tom in his book say that is really from this feature of “incompleteness” that the Man is brought to exercise the “technè” which brings actual (directly observable) what is only potential in Nature. This separation from available resources (in nuce) and what they can become when forged and modelled by the man is the same definition we find in the adjectives “virtual” and “actual“. Virtual is in English an adjective showing something that is still not, looks like an idea but must be modeled to become “actual” thanks to the active action of the humans. A piece of marble IS a virtual statue. Just a few sculpture geniuses succeeded in exercise their art (craft) modeling the marble in such a way to reveal perfect and marvelous statues.

Summarising the same concept of “virtual” is intrinsic in our mind and is an innate faculty for the human being to set the boundaries netween virtual and actual. Virtual is not the same as unreal and neither we can define different degrees of reality. Vir-tual comes from latin word vir we know being associated with the inner essence of the man (like virtus, viril etc).

Other meanings for “virtuality” are associated to something looking like that their are representing. An intercontinental phone call is perfectly virtual: the voice we are hearing is NOT clearly emitted by the person to whom we are talking to, but is being artificially generated by a loudspeaker which is clearly different from the speaking person. Nobody in these days can confuse the mouth of beloved with the phone while having a love conversation, and yet nowadays the degree of “reality” of a phone call is well understood. It is interesting to note that the boundary between reality and artificial (or depending from the point of views, technological) is constantly moving. We are considering non-technologic and “natural” what was existing when we were in our childhood, technological and artificial what had been developed after. This is why different generations have communication problems. For a contemporary  elder a telephone is perfectly “natural”, but if we were in late 1800 telephone was a strange “monster”.

The need for Virtuality

One of the most interesting thesis of this approach is that human beings need virtuality, they are designed this way and all turning on imagination allows them to trigger their creativity in manipulating objects and creating complex structures to lure them perhaps in a state of addiction, but this is because that is the true essence of the humanity.

It’s not unthinkable that many are “addicted” of virtual worlds because they feel fulfilled in these places finding exactly that happiness and the true possess of their own lives often negated in real life.

This doesn’t mean that virtual worlds are just gym exrecises  or games being an end unto themselves. like telephone or email are currently an integral part of our world, even for who decided to isolate in the middle of a forest, in the future it is likely that the 3D aspect typical of these world will become an integral and essential part of everyday life.

Talking about Virtual Cultures in SL or OpenSim

To talk on and about the ways virtuality can be useful to us, or some meetings on History, Geograpy and shared sessions for  virtual trips are in my intentions something we can try to organize in SL or in OpenSim in next months. If anybody is interested, please email me using

11:07AM: I start downloading opensim, 11:45AM: I have a working Multiuser Educational Virtual Space

26 febbraio 2011 3 commenti

Stellar Date  86415.25, “30 Minutes Virtual EDUKIT” 😉

Installing opensim must not be a complex thing such as sending a rocket to the Moon or driving a SpaceShip

Today I tried to delve into an issue I really wanted to share after having published around 1 month ago how to install Opensim in 2 minutes []. The goal is to show that a simple person, even missing particular computer knowledge and without designing a Moon rocket, she can make up a Multiuser Cooperative Virtual Environment (or whatever you want to call it) using less time than she can ask information to official companies (like Linden Lab, IBM or others) and spending much less, i.e. ZERO $!!!!

When you are finished with these instructions you will find yourselves in a sim just ready to allow people in your school, classroom or office to register an avatar and to enter in a world where it is possible to organize virtual events. Due to the simplicity of this cheat-sheet there are some usage limitation it is worth to stress:

  • The environment doesn’t allow for a huge concurrent logged in avatars, so you should think to use it with 10 and probably up to 20 users. It depends much on the actual memory available to your server, CPU speed and network performance. A similar experiment made two years ago in an Italian school with obsolete hardware couldn’t let in more than 3-4 users.
  • Avatar appearance is that of female Ruth so people will need to work a bit to better their look (creating their shape, skin etc).
  • Advanced functionalities such as Group Handling or Offline IM are not available. For those you must wait next post.
  • Voice is not working (but yet the chat usage is much notable)
  • It is still an “alpha” OpenSim, so please don’t expect it to be exactly the same as SL, be prepared to relaunch it from now and then 🙂
  • It is not a full grid so don’t expect to build on it 40 connected sims. For that you need a real effective grid (see my further posts)
  • Even if this installation is designed to connect with other grids and to use Hypergrid teleports, the related knowhow is not covered by this post and will need some further learning.
  • What you are currently installing is a “standalone” sim not to be confused with other types of installations which are to be covered in future posts that can be connected to bigger grids like OsGrid or Craft.

This represents to me the finishing touch to a big dream I had some years ago: to provide a “(Knowledge) Kit” to teachers or anybody willing to build in their school, office, association, a 3D cooperative environment,  without being dependent on an external service provider or “Computer Experts”. Another big advantage of such solution is that being built to work in a Local Network it is separated from internet and so usable in those contexts such as Educational K12 where minors are involved and where teachers have a specific juridical responsibilities. Keep in mind that these instructions work on a small LAN with Windows computers  (XP SP3, Vista or Windows 7). You can do the same with Linux or Mac but you need to change something.

I’m calling this system Virtual “Edukit”: you just need to download TWO files from Internet (simOnAStick package and VCE oar) and with just a minimal simple manual modifications of a couple of files, you will be able to take off your SpaceShip !!!!!

Here is the log of my experience:

  1. 11:07AM I start downloading famous simonastick (135M)

    You can download it from here: (It’s also possible to download the 4-sim version),
  2. 11:10AM Unzip the file in a known folder  mysim
  3. 11:13AM I test it. Firstly launch  mysim\mowes.exe,
  4. Then from the subfolder mysim\diva-r13981\bin launch OpenSim.exe or OpenSim.32BitLaunch.exe (windows 7 or 64 bit)
  5. At last launch from the subfolder  mysim\Imprudence connecting to  loginuri with user usb me and password 123 (These operations have been already described in my first article). Now, I go to the console (that black one from the 2nd command)  and write  shutdown to close up the virtual world.
  6. 11:20AM To enable access from another machine I must modify following two files mysim\diva-r13981\bin\Regions\RegionConfig.ini

    and mysim\diva-r13981\bin\config-include\MyWorld.ini
  7. In both cases I need to find out using an editor the string and replace it with the known IP of the machine where I’m installing  (do not touch any other character!). To get the machine  IP the simplest way is to use a DOS window and to write in it the  ipconfig command. For instance in my local network in VMWARE the correct IP address would be
  8. 11:27AM. Relaunch OpenSim.exe. Now the sim should be accessible from the LAN where your PC is connected. (Note: it is possible that you need to configure firewall to let pass through packets on the port 9000 or alternatively switch off your firewall).
  9. 11:28AM. Now I go to another machine in the local network where a SecondlIfe client is installed (or you can use the same USB stick described before with the Imprudence folder) and can try to connect using the user  usb me pwd 123 to the  loginuri of original  IP, i.e. If everything goes well you should succeed 🙂 Otherwise you either have firewall problems, or the IP is wrong, or the configuration files had been wrongly edited in previous steps.
  10. 11:30AM. If now I launched the account manager on a browser I can configure additional accounts like “foo bar” (it should be quite intuitive) and can try to connect from a third machine.
  11. 11:36AM. Since this world is a bit boring I’m trying to liven it downloading a premade “oar” built for meetings and educators. I chose to download this freely available sim:
    I got this from a catalog of prebuilt sims you might find useful: just put the file in the initial server machine under the folder mysim/diva-r13981\bin and type from the console following command: load oar opensim-openvce.oar
  12. Now you should have the full sim ready!!!!!!
  13. Other places where you can find prebuilt oars:


It can be possible that even following this guide you will not succeed in setting up a working  OpenSim in a lan in exactly half an hour, maybe it can take you various hours, or some problems connected with your computer, graphic card, firewall might make it useless on your in your environment. Before committing yourself and promising success to others, it is advisable to scout the environment and to verify it can work  (you just need a limited time insite). However to be optimistic, if you have modern computers, up-to-date graphic cards everything should work smoothly. Remember that even very “powerful” laptop are not really powerful when it comes to “server” tasks like OpenSim needs.

To know more you can contact me using the email salahzar [at] gmail [dot] com, or contact International opensim community like which should be very keen on helping educators and noprofit communities willing to use these tools.

Salahzar Stenvaag

Il risveglio della Second Life italiana


Mai come in questo settembre 2010 il rientro dalle ferie estive ha mostrato una ripresa di attività ed iniziative in tutti i settori della SL italiana. Dall’iniziativa del gruppo Second Physics, con un collegamento in SL dall’evento Intellibook tenutosi a Fosdinovo, alle mostre di Solkide Auer e di Noke Yuitza, organizzata quest’ultima da Arte Libera, all’inaugurazione della nuova land di Città Ideale e ad un’affollatissima sfilata di moda a Mantova SL, con una collezione di Lady Thera, per finire alle serate di poesia organizzate da Lukia Halderman presso la sua land dei “Matti di Napoli”.

Insomma, una vera e propria ripresa in grande stile della stagione, come una voglia di fare e di produrre iniziative, compressa dalle vacanze estive e finalmente esplosa con il rientro dei residenti in SL. Tutto questo, in barba ai facili profeti di fallimento dei Mondi Virtuali, e nonostante la crisi di assestamento che travaglia la Linden Lab, che gestisce il più famoso dei Mondi Virtuali.

A proposito di quest’ultima vicenda, determinante per prevedere le possibili evoluzioni tecnologiche ed organizzative di questo mondo virtuale, in cui tanti spendono il loro tempo libero con idee, proposte e iniziative, ancora non riusciamo a cogliere, dopo le parole spese al suo rientro dal fondatore Philip Linden, i segnali concreti di un coerente programma di riposizionamento e di sviluppo. Speriamo tutti che l’assestamento organizzativo, e una visione più concreta e orientata agli utenti, degli obiettivi di SL, porti ad una stabilizzazione dell’azienda e ad una successiva ripresa delle sue proposte.

Nonostante l’ambiente tecnologico non propriamente facile in termini di usabilità, e le speranze del suo futuro sviluppo affidato in gran parte alla Linden Lab, (che non lascia intravedere, al momento,  concrete proposte innovative) la popolazione di Second Life continua la sua crescita. Lo sviluppo delle sue attività, con nuove iniziative e progetti, ha ormai acquisito una dimensione concreta nello sfruttare, in modo stabile, questo  mondo virtuale.

Alcune esempi di impiego del mondo virtuale sono ormai ampiamente consolidate. La dimensione artistica e quella formativa si sono ormai imposte all’attenzione di quanti intendono utilizzare la rete per questo tipo di applicazioni. La possibilità di sperimentazione artistica in SL consente, a quanti hanno idee e capacità artistiche,  di produrre esempi di manufatti ad alto impatto visivo. Molti artisti hanno avuto modo di  mostrare a tutti le proprie capacità, condividendo esperienze ed emozioni, e molte sono le iniziative che vanno sviluppandosi con nuovi protagonisti, spesso ad alto contenuto professionale.

D’altra parte, le mille forme in cui si organizzano le attività di Virtual – Learning, dimostrano in maniera incontrovertibile l’efficacia dell’ambiente immersivo nell’insegnamento (chiedete ulteriori lumi al mio amico Imparafacile Runo, e leggete i suoi articoli su questo Magazine) e nella diffusione della cultura.


Una delle iniziative più riuscite, che usano SL per un vero e proprio programma per l’apprendimento della lingua inglese, è il gruppo “English as a Second Language – Second Life” ( Questa vera e propria scuola di lingue, gestita da Giovanni Tweak (avi) con un gruppo numeroso di bravi insegnanti, organizza lezioni quasi quotidiane, affrontando tutti i temi relativi al corretto insegnamento della lingua inglese: lettura, pronuncia, grammatica, esercizi di comprensione e dialoghi. Il livello dei partecipanti è medio-basso, accogliendo quindi facilmente anche principianti alle prime nozioni di Inglese. La scuola è quindi aperta veramente a tutti. Ognuno, a seconda proprio livello di comprensione, troverà più interessanti certe parti piuttosto che altre, ma, indubbiamente, il vero valore aggiunto di questa scuola è l’internazionalismo dei partecipanti. In una delle sessioni, a cui ho partecipato volentieri, mi sono trovato in classe con cinesi, arabi e brasiliani. Devo dire, dopo diversi anni di studio della lingua, che ho trovato interessante il modo in cui vengono condotte le lezioni, esercitandomi nell’esercizio nella conversazione e abituandomi a sentir pronunciare l’Inglese nelle cadenze più diverse (particolarmente simpatico era l’intercalare del mio collega di corso cinese).  Non ho trovato Italiani, salvo una eccezione.

La scuola nasce nel novembre 2006, in maniera sperimentale, nella prima land italiana in SL: Parioli, utilizzando come spazio per le lezioni, un negozio. In quel periodo il fondatore della scuola collaborava già con Bruno Cerboni, l’owner della land e personaggio carismatico della SL italiana, in varie iniziative legate alla comunicazione.

Nel maggio 2007 la scuola si organizza con un regolare calendario di lezioni.

L’inizio delle attività ha visto l’utilizzo di insegnanti RL di professione, scontando una fatica immane, da parte di Giovanni Tweak per addestrarli all’uso del viewer. A quel tempo non c’era ancora il voice e le lezioni si svolgevano senza esercitare la pronuncia, usando unicamente lo spelling. Molti degli insegnanti iniziali, di RL venivano reclutati da Giovanni tra gli insegnanti feelance di Toronto (a quel tempo viveva in Canada).

In maggio 2007 è arrivata la più preziosa collaboratrice di Giovanni, Inge Qunhua, una insegnante professionista, presente in SL per sperimentarne le potenzialità per conto del suo Istituto.  Venendo in contatto con la scuola, ed essendo nuova in SL, si unisce con entusiasmo all’iniziativa. Ancora oggi le lezioni di Inge sono tra le più seguite, fermo restando la bravura degli altri docenti. Successivamente sono arrivati anche gli altri attuali collaboratori. Attualmente ci sono circa una decina di insegnanti, alcuni dei quali di madre lingua Inglese.

Evidentemente il salto di qualità avvenne con l’introduzione della voce. Tuttavia, a ricordare l’efficacia del metodo, ancora oggi, il martedì, si tiene una lezione denominata “Dive Through” utilizzando solo il testo. Attualmente le lezioni si tengono nella sim di Matamata ( Matamata/142/50/727).

Le lezioni sono a pagamento (la prima è gratuita, per dare modo al discente di verificare il metodo), e costano 1500 L$ ciascuna per le lezioni in voice (750 L$ per quelle in text). E’possibile abbonarsi ad un gruppo di 10 lezioni al costo di 10.000 L$. Questo dà l’idea della serietà dell’iniziativa e del lavoro e dello sforzo organizzativo che c’è dietro la scuola. Esiste anche un’Help Team formato da collaboratori-alunni che si guadagnano le lezioni aiutando la scuola nell’organizzazione. La scuola è molto efficiente nel seguire gli studenti, mandando avvisi, aggiornando il data base, aiutando i neofiti nell’uso di SL, ecc.

Attualmente ci sono circa 300 presenze mensili, molti sono niubbi che entrano in SL per l’inglese e che scoprono la scuola iscrivendosi. Non tutti sono ovviamente assidui, ma il bello della scuola è proprio questo, la libertà di frequenza e l’assoluta elasticità organizzativa.

La scuola non è pubblicizzata all’esterno di SL, il fondatore crede molto nel passa parola, e nell’efficacia della pubblicità fatta dagli studenti. E’ sua intenzione portare avanti questa esperienza per sviluppare ancora di più i metodi didattici messi a disposizione dal mondo virtuale, convinto, come siamo anche noi, che l’efficacia della forma educativa che sfrutti lo strumento immersivo, raggiunga una tipologia di studenti motivata e entusiasta.

E’ questo in fondo che differenzia le forme tradizionali di formazione da queste nuove classi virtuali, ed è questa interazione diretta che rende così stimolante, e densa di prospettive, la virtual education. Il futuro ci riserverà molto probabilmente ulteriori sorprese in questo settore.