The Secret to Shadows?

Shadows
Image Source: http://www.onebillionrising.org

Ok, people – somebody knows, and I’m not giving up til I find the answer.

*crosses arms and glares*

What is up with my shadows in SL?

Since a few recent upgrades to my computer, I’ve been running at Ultra with all the fancy shadows and lighting on and loving it.

It’s part of the reason I started taking photos in SL – because they no longer looked like the pixellated junk I’d been taking before.

However, I’ve noticed an issue, and I can’t seem to find an answer to the problem anywhere.

I’ve found a few places that mention the same issue I’m having, but I can’t seem to find where a solution is mentioned.

Up til now, I’ve just dealt with the problem by fixing it in Photoshop.

But I’m left with the feeling that there must be an answer *somewhere*.

Here’s the issue:

When I take photos, I generally wear my mesh body.

If I don’t wear my mesh body, I generally at least wear my mesh hands and feet.

Avatar feet are hideous, and although I resisted mesh hands initially, after wearing them for so long, I can’t stand the avatar hands anymore either.

I’ve had the issue in a few photos, but as I said, I just cleaned up the photo in Photoshop, or the photo was taken at an angle where the issue wasn’t really noticeable.

The other day I started to play around with using a projector to take some photos, trying to achieve some really dramatic lighting effects.

Here’s one of the shots I ended up not using:

ShadowIssues1I was really happy with the dramatic lighting and shadows I got using the projector.

Sometimes, however, I don’t notice problems.

Like the hand shadow.

Again, I usually end up either cropping out the problem area or fixing it in Photoshop.

Fixing it in Photoshop can be very time-consuming, so I’ve been trying to find a way to fix the issue when I take the photo.

Here’s a close-up of the problem area:

ShadowIssues2It may be a bit hard to see, because the photo is dark.

If you look closely, you can see the shadows of two hands – my mesh hand AND my avatar hand.

Now, I was initially confused by this, as my avatar hand is alpha’ed out, so it’s not visible.

Then I realized that the alpha just makes it invisible to me, not to the computer.

So it sort of makes sense that the computer renders both shadows.

The question is – how do I make it so it doesn’t?

Is that even possible?

I know I have seen photos by other people where the shadow in the pic doesn’t have this issue.

They could have just fixed in Photoshop (or some other photo-editor), but did they?

Is there some setting I can tweak that will save me having to do that post-processing?

In my research, I did come across an article by Honour McMillan about having issues with mesh rendering correctly.

In it, she mentions that sometimes she will derender avatars in order to get the shot she wants.

However, doing so may have unintended consequences.

The system sometimes considers mesh objects as avatars.

I’m sure someone out there with more technical knowledge than me understands why.

It does at least explain, when I go to crowded events and derender all the avatars, why other things can also disappear (like certain gacha machines at the Arcade, for example).

But back to my problem.

ShadowIssues3As you can see in this photo, there are clearly two foot shadows.

One from my mesh foot, and one from my avatar foot.

Soooo frustrating!!!

Someone please help me!!!

Any and all feedback welcome. 😀

I Think I Sprained My Brain . . .

brain_sprain
Image Source: injury.research.chop.edu

The last few days have been kind of a blur.

I spent most of the last three days taking a Photoshop class, and I learned enough to make my head spin.

I took a ton of notes and saved a bunch of examples of techniques that I hope to incorporate into my Photoshop repertoire.

But WOW was it a lot of information!

I’ve been experimenting with masks and filters on my own; however, the class gave me much better (and faster) tools for working in Photoshop.

I can’t wait to try out some of the cool things I learned.

Shifting Focus

I’ve been spending more and more time with photography and learning everything I can.

I started out with the LOTD posts for fun (and to clean up my crazy inventory!), but it’s become something I really love doing.

I get stuck sometimes, though, because there is a fine line between showing an outfit to you ‘as is’ so you know what it looks like, versus some of the heavy ‘post-processing’ I want to do on some of the photos.

So, I’ve decided to kind of shift some of my focus to photography.

I want to spend some more time taking ‘travel’ photos in SL.

I spend way too much time alone on my platform – it’ll be good for me to get out and about and explore and work on my photography skills at the same time. 😀

I will still be doing the LOTD posts – I do enjoy them, and I’m getting a kick out of coming up with little stories to tell with them.

Always Learning

As I said before, I am always learning.

Yesterday Becky published a post on SEO and blogging.

I’ve used both WordPress.org and WordPress.com, and I’m familiar with many of the concepts she mentions.

However, I have been kind of lax about paying attention to that sort of thing with my blog, so it was a good reminder.

I knew I could change the slugs on my posts, but I wasn’t really paying much attention to them before.

I will be making some small changes here and there to see if I can increase my traffic.

(I don’t want to say what changes I’ll be making, since I read an article the other day that said if you share your goals/intentions with others, you’re less likely to accomplish them.)

It’s another area where there is a lot of information to digest, so I’ll be referring back to the article, I’m sure.

Social Media

Along with the changes here on the blog, I am trying to educate myself further about social media.

I often am reluctant to share what little I know (mostly because I assume everyone knows it), but after doing some research, many of my questions have yet to yield any easy answers.

When using social media, I am usually left with the feeling that I don’t know enough about the platform to make good use of it.

I decided to do some research on the various platforms I use to see what I could learn.

I started with Twitter, since that seemed like the simplest platform.

As I learn and I discover, I hope to share with you any helpful tips and tricks I come across.

If you have any, feel free to send them my way! 😛

I think ‘networking’ is one of those topics that everyone would like to know more about.

Finding Inspiration

Over the last month or so, I was debating whether I wanted (or needed) to take a hiatus from SL and blogging to recharge my batteries.

I found myself struggling with writer’s block and despairing over finding my ‘muse’ again.

And then – serendipity. 🙂

Ailsa announced her weekly ‘theme’ exhibitions, I took a few classes, read a few blog posts, and now I am feeling energized and inspired.

It could also just be that school is out next week and my children’s joy is infectious. 😛

Either way, I’m looking forward to learning and creating.

“Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Ghandi

Perpetual Learner

Perpetual Student
Image Source: ellehull.co.uk

If I was independently wealthy, I’d be a perpetual student.

I’m curious about so many things, and there’s only so many hours in the day. 😀

Recently, my friend Nai told me about Creative Live.

I did some research and liked what I saw.

You can buy downloads of content on various subjects – business, crafting, photography, writing, you name it.

Or you can watch some of the classes for free when they are held live.

The downside of live classes is that they tend to be long – like all day.

I’m not wealthy, but I am lucky enough to be a SAHM.

So I can carve out time for the free classes.

It’s free and I learn stuff.

Win-win!!

The last few days I have been taking a Photoshop class.

It can get tedious (3 days of all day Photoshop?), but I am learning a lot.

The first day was spent on ‘key concepts’; many of those included things like using keyboard shortcuts.

I don’t generally use these, but since I started doing it, I know I’ve gotten faster at processing photos.

Such a timesaver!

I’ve also learned more about tools like the layer mask, clipping mask, and smart objects.

After the first day, I felt like my head would explode.

As I’ve begun taking photos in-world and posting to Flickr, I’ve wanted to do some cool effects, but I couldn’t figure out how to do what I wanted.

Thanks to the class, I now know how to approach what I want to do, and how not to ‘paint myself into a corner’ when it comes to using Photoshop.

Yesterday we learned about type tools, making reusable effects, and actions.

Today we will be learning about color techniques, layouts, and templates.

I’ve been taking notes, but I’m sure I’ll forget some things.

However, I’m looking forward to taking photos and experimenting with them using some of the techniques and tips I’ve learned.

It’s also actually made me excited to go out and try my hand at some photography in RL, so yay!

Who knows where this will lead?

To another class, probably.  😛

Overwhelmed by Choices

Overwhelmed by Choices
Image Source: http://www.success.com

This is a problem that seems rampant everywhere.

I’ve long thought that in today’s digital world, people are on permanent overload.

We have gone from cell phones and game boys to tablets, smart phones, e-readers, and laptops.

We are ‘connected’ almost 24/7.

Yesterday I came across a video about how we can better manage this overload.

For years, people have been told to learn to multi-task, that this ability would make you more productive and (hopefully) happier.

Turns out that’s not true.

Our brains aren’t really capable of ‘multi-tasking.’

We just shift our attention rapidly from one thing to the next, which means we never really focus on anything.

Everyone wants everything NOW, and no one wants to wait for it.

In this culture of ‘instant gratification’ and seemingly endless choices, how do you decide on anything?

Setting Limits

You have to set limits.

Pick one task and tackle it.

Ignore everything else (barring fires or medical emergencies) until you’re done or stuck.

Then move on.

I tend to be easily distracted, so I have gotten in the habit of setting a timer.

Having a time limit helps me focus.

When my kids were little, getting my youngest dressed in the morning before school was a constant struggle.

There were too many choices.

Which shirt of the 10?

Which shorts of the 8?

I came across an article about limiting choices and decided to try it.

The next morning, instead of the whole closet of clothes, I picked out two shirts and two pairs of shorts.

“Which one?” I asked.

2 minutes later, we were done – fully dressed and time to eat breakfast before we left!

From then on, that’s what I did.

Picking out clothes never took more than a couple of minutes.

This is a simplification, of course, but you see my point.

Social Media Overload

Another area of overload, beyond emails and work, is social media.

It’s no longer enough to have an email account.

You need to be on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Flickr, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, and on and on.

And if you are in SL, you may have additional social media accounts like ASN, Google, Avatarbook.

Perhaps you have accounts under your RL name AND your SL avatar name.

It’s enough to drive you batty some days.

I have accounts as Kat, as my RL self, and I am probably going to need more as I venture into self-publishing.

Some days, it’s hard to keep everything straight.

The number of passwords alone is frightening!

Is It Cultural?

I’ve often wondered if this feeling of overload is cultural.

The picture above is what I see when I go grocery shopping.

Are that many choices really necessary?

Do I need to have 16 different choices for peanut butter?

40+ choices for types of breakfast cereal?

Is this how it is in grocery stores for other people?

Would I have this many choices in a store in England? Australia? Germany? France?

I was reminded of all this yet again last night.

My husband and I switched phones.

So we each spent several hours updating everything, installing our favorite apps, setting ringtones, etc.

Remember when all a phone did was make phone calls?

How Do You SL?

Image Source:  modemworld.wordpress.com
Image Source: modemworld.wordpress.com

The demise of SL Go has caused quite a stir among users.

After listening to this week’s Drax Files Radio Hour (which featured Dennis Harper of OnLive), I started to wonder.

SL Go allowed users to experience SL in all its graphical glory.

Have an old system that can’t handle Advanced Lighting Mode?

A graphics card that chokes when you turn on shadows?

No access to a PC, but have a tablet?

For those people, SL Go was the answer.

Not everyone can afford a computer that has all the bells and whistles necessary to experience everything SL has to offer.

Not everyone has access to high-speed internet connections.

Everyone (of course) wants to have the ‘full’ experience when using SL.

How can you do that if you’re surrounded by grey boxes, grey avatars, and can’t even move because of the lag?

I, with many others, hope that someone sees what a difference SL Go made, and has the vision to see what a service like it could mean, not only to SL users, but other ‘games’ as well.

Then I started to wonder – how do you SL?

I am lucky enough to have access to high-speed internet and I have a decent computer set up.

My thoughtful husband keeps things updated and upgraded for me.

Because of that, I can run SL on Ultra graphics settings and have all the pretty lights and shadows.

Once I experienced SL on Ultra, I became interested in photography.

I can run on Ultra, set a pretty high resolution, put my anti-aliasing to 16x, and take some pretty decent shots.

I would never be able to do that on a basic machine.

I could run SL, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

I’ve had to bump my settings down a few times at shows in order to try and combat lag, and I hated it.

Once you go Ultra, it’s hard to go back. 😦

What kind of machine do you use for SL?

Is it sufficient for your needs?

Do you wish you could afford to upgrade – pieces or parts or a brand new machine?

Did you use SL Go?

Would you use another service like it if it significantly improved your SL experience?

Would you use SL on a tablet or another mobile device?

Mesh Questions

QuestionMarksMy favorite part of writing is the feedback I get from people.

So I love it when I find a topic that generates a lot of comments. 😀

I’ve been working a lot with mesh clothing lately, and my post about whether it is good for dancing showed that it’s a very divisive issue.

Some people love it, some people hate it.

I can see both sides.

But I have so many questions about mesh.

Questions like:

  • Why doesn’t it appear until it’s fully rezzed?
  • Why doesn’t it appear if you click on it (like prims do)?
  • Why does zooming your camera waaaayy out and then back in make things appear (only sometimes)?
  • Do the specular/normal maps cause extra loading time (because it’s now loading 3 textures instead of 1)?
  • What is http texture loading and does it make things faster?
  • Why do some mesh heads rez as ginormous at first?
  • Why do mesh attachments (clothing or whatever) first rez as ‘floating’ near their avatar?
  • How do you make an applier (be it for clothing, fingernails, etc.)?
  • What effect do the number of vertices/polygons have on how fast something mesh loads?
  • Is there a difference between mesh props/decor and clothing that cause one to load faster than another?
  • Mesh supposedly improves the LI of items, so how come mesh can be worse in some instances than prims/sculpties?
  • What exactly is LOD and why do you have to set it higher in order to see certain items better/clearly?
  • Do mesh eyes have as many problems as other mesh (have you ever seen avi’s without eyes)?
  • Other than (supposedly) improving LI, what other advantages does mesh offer that you can’t get with prims/sculpties?

If you know the answer to any of these, please feel free to leave explanations/comments!

I will be investigating some of these on my own, of course, but all knowledge is appreciated. 🙂

Do you have problems/questions about mesh I haven’t mentioned/listed here?

What are they?

Resistance Is Futile

RIF
Image Source: quickmeme.com

I am one of the poor souls who absolutely cannot abide Daylight Saving Time.

I’ve hated it ever since I was old enough to understand it.

Perhaps at one time it was useful.

The original intent of it was to save energy.

When it was standardized in the US in 1966, DST began on the last Sunday in April and ended on the last Sunday in October – 6 months total.

States are not required to observe DST.

Indeed, Hawaii and parts of Arizona do not, nor do Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, or Guam.

The theory behind DST is that less energy will be used in the evening, because people will be outside.

However, by the time you factor in such things as changing climate patterns and more household appliances, it really saves nothing.

What DST actually does is make certain retailers more money.

Lobbyists have worked long and hard to extend DST, thus making their industries more lucrative.

The federal DST law was amended in 1986, adding a full month to DST.

It would now begin on the first Sunday in April rather than the last.

According to Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, “This change was spurred by a large number of lobbies: golf and golf equipment, home improvement, the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association and the gas and fuel industries, which saw a potential boon to their sales.”

Then in 2005, along with a host of other issues, the Energy Policy Act changed DST yet again.

Clocks were set ahead one hour on the second Sunday of March instead of on the first Sunday of April.

Clocks were set back one hour on the first Sunday in November, rather than on the last Sunday of October.

Downing says that “the change from the end of October to early November was not driven by energy savings, but by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), who wanted Halloween to occur during DST. It gave the children more time to trick or treat and eat more candy.”

There has been no definitive study done on whether or not DST actually saves energy since the 1970’s.

However, there is no doubt that DST makes certain retailers money.

As it stands currently, DST lasts for 8 months of the year – from March to November.

So if there are only 4 months of non-DST time, is that really ‘standard time’?

It’s questionable (and rather unlikely) that DST actually saves energy.

And in this day and age of global connectivity, it makes even less sense.

In the EU, DST or ‘Summer Time,’ begins on the last Sunday of March and ends on the last Sunday in October.

While the US (and thus, SL) changed clocks last night, it will be another 3 weeks before the EU does so.

Australia and NZ are opposite (as are their seasons).

DST will end on April 5, 2015, and they will set their clocks back one hour (and thus then be two hours off of SL time?).

DST will begin again for them on October 4, 2015, when they will ‘spring forward’ one hour.

It’s all so very confusing.

Who has to be where when?

Although perhaps there was a point to DST in the beginning, I think it is an idea which has outgrown its use.

The only people seeing benefits from it appear to be businesses.

There are some who might argue DST has it positives, but for me, they are sorely outweighed by the negatives (sorry, Nai).

Yes, I enjoy an hour more of daylight in the evenings.

However, I now have to get up in pitch dark, and end up using more energy in the mornings just to see where I am going.

My children head to school in the dark (a teenager behind the wheel in broad daylight is scary enough, much less pitch black).

Let me reiterate –

I hate, I absolutely loathe, DST.

Will it change?

Probably not, because I’m not a lobbyist with millions of dollars from major industries in my pocket.

Resistance is futile.

Is Anyone Listening?

Black HoleIn previous posts, I’ve asked for information about feeds and readers.

I’ve talked about stats before and how I try not to look at them too often.

However, after reading a post by Nalates Urriah today, I’m wondering how much longer I will be able to view my stats.

Everyone knows that stats are important when it comes to the internet.

As a blogger, you have stats that tell you many things – the number of followers, how many times a post was viewed, how many times someone visited your site, the country of origin for your readers, etc.

If people find your blog via a search engine, there is a place for you to see what search terms brought them to your blog.

Lately, when I look at that stat for my blog, it says ‘unknown search terms.’

WordPress tells you ‘some search engines don’t reveal search terms for privacy reasons.  That’s why we don’t always know which search terms were used by visitors who arrived at your site from a search engine.  When we don’t know the search terms, we show them as “Unknown search terms”.’

Since Google is now encrypting more and more searches, it’s that much harder for WP to tell me how people are finding my blog.

According to Nalates’ post, there is a possibility of finding out more information using Google’s Webmaster tools.

However, using these tools is confusing (at least to me), if you are not a techy person (which I am not).

So I rely on WP to provide my stats (because they employ very techy people).

I also came across another issue that concerns bloggers when it comes to feeds/readers.

I set up a Feedly account so that I could keep up with all the blogs I follow.

In doing research on different readers, I saw a question about views.

It seems that if you view a blog post in a reader, it does not count as a view for that blog – unless you actually click through to that website (to ‘like’ or perhaps post a comment).

That’s frustrating, since views and followers are essential for successful blogging.

Often blogging can feel like you are screaming into a giant black hole.

You wonder if anyone is listening.

Disappointing Apps

DisappointmentI decided yesterday that I needed to add some apps to my iPad so that I could spend more time on my desktop working.

Then when I am out and about, I can still keep up with everything – Twitter, Flickr, Feedly, etc.

I’ve had Twitter on the iPad for a while now, and it works well.

I put Flickr and Feedly on the iPad and was hugely disappointed.

I wanted Flickr on it so that I could scroll through the pictures of the people I follow on a decent-sized screen, rather than on my tiny phone screen.

(I have a love/hate relationship with my smartphone – most days I think I’d be happy to have my old Blackberry or flip-phone back. -.-)

Imagine my surprise to find out that I can’t look at the photos of people I follow, unless I search each one of them by name.

The lovely ‘people’ tab, which is available on my desktop Flickr, is nowhere to be found.

So, into the app bin went Flickr.

Then I decided to load Feedly onto the iPad.

I use the WP reader, but honestly, I find it frustrating.

Unless the blog is another WP blog, I rarely get the updates, even though I’ve added the blog to my reader feed.

WordPress blogs that are self-hosted fare no better (which is why I rarely get Strawberry Singh’s Monday Meme on Monday).

I did a bit a research about other readers, and thought I would give Feedly a try.

On the desktop, I like it.

I have almost 200 blogs organized into categories and I can quickly scan through most of the articles.

A ton of them are, of course, fashion blogs, and many (if not most) of them have photos.

Imagine my disappointment to discover that 99% of the photos from the blogs don’t load when I use the iPad app.

Now, for quick scrolling of blogs with actual articles, no picture is not a huge deal.

However, that’s probably 10 blogs out of the 200.

The rest (like me) try to include some sort of visual alongside the writing (because a great pic makes you more likely to stop and read).

So, into the app bin went Feedly.

If anyone out there is techy and I’m doing something wrong, or there’s some weird setting I could change to get pictures, please let me know.

If there are better apps out there, I’m listening. 😀

Syndication and Feeds

Image Source:  www.globesign.com
This diagram makes my head hurt. 😦 Image Source: http://www.globesign.com

As I work to increase the reach of my blog, I’ve found myself wondering how other bloggers do things.

One of the recommended ways to increase blog traffic is to be syndicated.

The definition of syndication, according to Dictionary.com, is “to publish simultaneously, or supply for simultaneous publication, in a number of newspapers or other periodicals in different places.”

As I have become more active in the blogging world, I’ve noticed that most vendors who are looking for bloggers want to know what ‘feeds’ your blog is on in the application.

Now, as I’m sure you’re aware, there are MILLION blogs about SL.

Probably 95% of them are fashion blogs.

My blog is not a fashion blog, although I do LOTD posts.

Following links on other blogs, I’ve found a couple of blogs that are ‘feeds.’

However, the process for getting a blog on a feed is a mystery to me.

I am clueless as to how you locate a ‘feed’ (especially if you are not a fashion blogger) and what the requirements are for getting on a feed.

I would love to get my blog on a ‘feed/s’ and be able to claim syndication, but alas, I am a (mostly) dance blog lost in a sea of clothing. 😦

In addition to syndication/feeds, I wonder how other bloggers manage to stay up to date with the overwhelming amount of info that is published each day on the interwebs.

I use the WordPress reader to follow blogs, but if the blog I want to follow is not also a WordPress blog (if, for example, it’s a Blogger blog or even a self-hosted blog), the updates on the Reader feed are hit and miss.

I might get the latest post from Tales of the Blue Moon, or I might not.

I never know.

I don’t want to have to visit every website to check for updates (that’s the whole point of a feed reader, right?), so I’ve been very frustrated.

I’ve tried to see if there is something I need to change in the settings for my WP Reader, but haven’t had any luck locating any information.

I will continue to use WP for my blog, because I love it, but I’m considering buying a domain and going self-hosted.

I’m also wondering if I should use a different feed reader (like Feedly) instead of relying on the built-in WP reader.

Are there options out there that would also help with cross-posting in the various social media platforms?

Trying to keep up every day with blogs, Twitter, Google+, emails, Flickr, and other social media is taking way more time than I’d like it to.

I don’t have a Google Page (is that worth doing?), I’m on Ello (does anyone use Ello?), and I’m wondering if I’m already on too many platforms, or if I’m not on enough.

So, fellow bloggers/readers/social media experts – help a girl out here!

What do you do or recommend in regards to feeds/readers/syndication/social media?

Any and all information is appreciated.

Happy Friday, everyone!