Monday Dec 29, 2008

More VNC Lite

I showed you VNC lite accessing Neverwinter Nights the other day. I finally got project wonderland working on one of my PCs, so here's a picture of VNC Lite accessing my project wonderland instance

project wonderland via vnc lite

and here's one of me accessing Second Life

secondlife via vnc lite

I should point out that MochaSoft, VNC Lite's authors don't recommend these use cases. :)

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Wednesday Dec 17, 2008

How nomadic can one get? VNC for all.

I have just been playing with Mocha VNC Lite for the ipodtouch. Its dead easy to get it to work. I downloaded Real VNC Free Edition and started the server on one of my PC's. The VNC Client connects straight away. Unfortunately the Lite version doesn't have mouse, function key, return or arrow keys, these are reserved for the "pay for" version, I hope they have arrow key support since I tried to use it to run Second Life and Neverwinter Nights. Both of these need the arrow keys. I took a picture of the Neverwinter Nights screen on the ipod, [here's how] but you'll have to take my word for it since it could be any old screen shot, the 'touch doesn't record a camera type for flickr.

Neverwinter Forest

I have done all this behind my firewall. I'll be experimenting with doing this over the internet some time. You might like to check the following links; Mocha VNC's FAQ and User Guide.

I also found that the logical size of the PC screen was too large for the VNC client and I got a 'window' on the screen. I wonder if this can be fixed.

This is the picture as taken on the ipodtouch, which renders larger than the 'touch's screen as an image and hence also in the the HTML view. I have left the picture as sized here, but other images in this blog I have re-sized to be closer to the real screen size.

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Monday Oct 06, 2008

Beyond con-calls

I have been looking at ways of making virtual meetings easier, more effective and fun. As part of that I have looked again at secondlife, and one of my new correspondents pointed me at "The future is virtually here". This, despite being published last August, and while containing two fun stories about EVE Online, tries too hard in my mind to use language which proves the author's Yoof credentials. Also quoting IBM and World of Warcraft as the exemplar's of using virtual worlds is to my mind lazy. Many companies use secondlife as a virtual store front, although I admit that IBM's virtual data centre, (see also my blog report on the IBM virtual data center) is a quite a cute toy, but a number of people are on the trail of WoW, and its monthly subscription is high for school students.

The killer app. for virtual worlds seems to be training. Sun has just launched its "Solaris Campus" on secondlife, but its the truly compelling case for virtual training is where the where real life exercises are either very expensive or very dangerous, such as the US Marines' use of Doom, and its growing use in urban disaster relief planning. Its certainly dangerous training soldiers realistically. I have argued before that game fan forums helped develop remote collaboration techniques and the games world is now offering a lot to the infrastructure providers. Besides Sun 's very own Project Wonderland, it would be worth checking up on Torque, a science toolkit, & maybe Gaia Online, one of the virtual worlds. (Now in my del.icio.us feed, tagged virtualworlds). Another interesting arrival is Runescape, a british FRPG written in Java, with a free to play subscription option. The science engines are important as they potentially enable the extension of virtual worlds beyond social collaboration into prototyping problems for real world designers.

One interesting aspect about the juvenilsation of games is that actually it also seems to be true the 16-20's aren't there; they're busy 'Getting a First Life', however it could be an indicator that Dave's theory of Youthful Conservativism is true. Today's 16-20 year olds adopted their technologies before the virtual worlds came out, and they see no reason to use the virtual worlds because its too new, and offers them little beyond messaging. Another inhibitor for this age group is that these worlds don't have phone hosted clients yet. (Although iphone has a secondlife client.)

I know there is a lot of knocking copy about Second Life in particular, but con-calls often don't work any more, and training is a different application to e-commerce. Perhaps its only the virtual shopkeepers who are unhappy.

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Tuesday Dec 11, 2007

And in Italy?

Mr Paolo Donzelli, of the Italian Department for Technical Innovation, presented on the italian government's policies in sustaining and nurturing innovation, and IT innovation in particular. (The slides for this and all other presentations I'm commenting on should be available on the NESSI web site). A fascinating study, which explained their strategy and the analysis that led to it, making a distinction between digital enablement, encouraging usability and adoption, reducing the digital divide and straight forward training.

They have and are looked very hard at healthcare systems and incubated a web or distributed computing approach as opposed to a messaging solution. Possibly more red shift than blue shift.

Their approach in the education sector is less advanced; they have a cost problem on the desk top. I should find someone to give them a call.

I found it interesting that their showcase industry approach is textiles which they see as very important to the italian economy. It reminds me however about the case study based on a Spain to New York fashion house that has a design to ERP solution and can offer haute couture for several days at a time, with both industry leading time to market (days) when they're innovating their market, and best of class rapid response when they've been out flanked. It seems that high fashion is a true time to market industry and thus IT can obviously help.

Paolo made some comments about the suitability of 3D computing and hence virtual worlds as design aids in the textile industry scenario. As you can see from my previous blog articles, "Driving Change on the Internet" (see below) and "How real is Virtuality?", I am very cautious about the utility of virtual worlds and particularly second life, but placing the problem domain in a world of 3 dimensions, such as fashion, or even engineering design may give it a relevance I haven't recognised. It doesn't solve the problem examined on this blog in the latter article, that to program in a virtual world, you need to understand the virtual world's physics. The bulk of programming theory since Djikstra has involved understanding the real world problem and modeling it, or creating languages in which the real world can be described, this approach can't be taken in second life. Building a wind tunnel in Second Life would be very difficult and almost certainly more costly than simulating it using other tools. (No doubt, someone has done it and will prove me wrong.) Whether this is a fundamental feature of virtual worlds, I don't know.

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Wednesday Oct 10, 2007

How real is Virtuality?

We travelled north up the strip, and had dinner at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. It was a bit of a european thing with a bunch of brits, french and germans. This cafe has an excellent if more limited wine list and we were fortunate to have the advice of Eric Bezille and Dave Tong. Our waiter was excellent, knew what he was selling and very patient. It must be hard selling to a bunch of opinionated engineers.

We talked about a number of things, of which one was second life. If you've been following the suncec2007 technorati feed, you may know that we broadcast the general sessions into various rooms of second life and some of us have been preparing for the conference by signing up and preparing our accounts. Sun also haven experimental virtual world, about which you can find out more at Horst Thieme's blog. I don't think I spent as much time there as some of my colleagues, but the second life team had built a Vegas virtual world representing the two hotels we actually used. Now since one of these was the Paris, or is that Paris, we have a software implementation, of an imitation of a real place. Very eXtisenz! In fact, the first time it went onto the screen, Dan Berg on the stage in an imitation of Paris, met Dan Berg in Second Life, in a virtual imitation of Paris. This is odd, nearly as odd as Las Vegas. I didn't think highly of the video quality and wonder if it was due to the number of people in the 'island'.

My feeling is that the virtual worlds will take off as we develop new metaphors for problem solving. I wonder if one modelled a data centre, for instance, if you could enhance the systems management console, by for instance illustrating where jobs were using colour coded object overlays and illustrate the system utilisation. Visualising the temperature of the air and the systems would also be possible. This is a fairly poor example of what I mean in that new problem visualisation techniques are required that rely on having three dimensions (or more) and the 3D value becomes compelling. (I am not sure the above example is.) I have not yet tried to have a virtual meeting in Second Life, so I can't comment as to how effective it is in replacing the conference call, but there now a number of desktop tools that enhance the conference call, and second life conferences can't be joined if participants only have a phone, although the voice quality might be mightily enhanced by the necessity to use a laptop, connect to the internet and use voice over ip.

Mike Ramchand & Olaf Schnapauff also explored the theory that the Linden Lab scripting language didn't enable any insight into the problems being represented. One manipulates second life, and doesn't model reality, or even the virtual reality of the problem.

I am not sure I get it as a game, but if Second Life remains merely a virtual reality implementation of the real world, while it may not fail, it will not become the next big thing.

If you havn't already, see also "GetaFirstLife".

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Thursday Oct 26, 2006

The shady border between the virtual and the real

Chris Melissinos takes issue with Ashlee Vance of the Register about the utility of Second Life, on his blog last week (I can be a bit slow). He quotes a number of organisations using the virtual world of "Second Life" to offer virtual services, including Universities and it seems Reuters. I expect the financial services companies will be in on it soon. To me its a shame; West Nottingham College implemented courseware in the Neverwinter Nights game engine, which may have been more fun; it probably depends upon what your studying. WNC believes its an excellent learning/teaching vehicle, so perhaps this'll take off.

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