Daily Archives: March 21, 2007

Voice coming to Second Life

(reposted from eightbar, since Roo wrote a more comprehensive entry on the subject)

It’s a love-it-or-hate-it feature, but voice chatting is coming to Second Life.

Alerted by some twitterings, I downloaded the beta voice client. Algernon Spackler and I met up on the Beta Grid to give the voice support a try. I found a small group gathered at Space Port Alpha. Initially I couldn’t hear anything… but having disabled and reenabled the new voice chat preferences, it all sprang into life.

Users who are speaking have a little coloured voice print above their heads. The sound system is spatially-aware, so if you move out of an area people sound further away (the same applies if you zoom out with your camera, incidentally), and people with surround-sound capability in their headsets should get an idea of where other avatars are standing in relation to them.

It all seemed remarkably smooth, although people seemed quite quiet, shy and less ready to talk all at once, which is what tends to happen with text chat. The group I was in was only around 10 people – I think that more were present at the NMC sim and I’m not sure how smoothly the system went over there.

We did have a conversation about how many people would react strongly against this… one member of the group suggested that a large number of people on the main grid will prefer the anonymity of text chat. I guess over time it may become less easy for people to say “no, I don’t want to voice chat, I don’t have a headset”, and perhaps people will become more cautious about interacting with other avatars.

There’s an option to only have your microphone enabled when a certain key is pressed, so that you don’t have to worry that any little noise will be transmitted to the grid… as a Mac user, I found this a bit awkward – the available keys to toggle this were all very Windows-centric, but perhaps that will change before this goes live.

Interesting times ahead!

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Plazes: ecto Applescript, Dashboard widget

Regular readers will already know that I’m a big fan of Plazes. It is a service which, I think, deserves to have taken off more quickly.

The default Plazer application already integrates nicely with iChat, and will set my status to my current location. You can also get Applescripts that will enable other applications to do the same, for example Adium.

Last night, in a fit of interest, I hacked together my first ever Applescript. I recently read an article that described Applescript as “a hidden jewel in Apple’s crown”, and I have to say I was impressed. The blogging client I’m using, ecto, is scriptable – although I didn’t have anything to work from until I realised that the disk image had come with a bunch of example scripts, which I hastily installed for reference.

Making an XML-RPC call in Applescript is remarkably easy, and it was really simple to get hold of my current location – I used the Adium/Plazes script as an example, but the overall simplicity of the call really impressed me. After that, it was a straightforward matter of using an existing script that added text to the current draft to drop the location details into the post, and voila. The end of this post should demonstrate the capability.

I’ve uploaded the Applescript here.

  1. Open the script in a text editor.
  2. You will need to edit the script to put your Plazes username and password at the top. It will not work if you don’t do this.
  3. If you wish to change the text that the script adds to a post, alter the contents of the _text variable about three quarters of the way down (be careful though).
  4. Once you’ve made the changes, paste the script into the Script Editor and save it as Plazes.scpt, with a file format of script. The Script Editor should syntax highlight it all once it has been successfully saved as a script. Quit the Script Editor afterwards.
  5. Move the script to ~/Library/Application Support/ecto/Scripts.
  6. In ecto, choose Scripts->Plazes from the menu, and your location should appear in your current draft.

There’s one slightly frustrating feature of ecto – it apparently refuses to recognise the font-size style on the <p> tag and replaces it with lots of <span>s, and also replaces 10px with 10pt – not quite sure why that is yet.

Moving on from ecto, another interesting Plazes tool I’ve found is a Dashboard widget that displays a Google Map of your current location, and lets you find your contacts online. It is a bit rough around the edges, but I’ve been playing around with Apple’s new Dashcode tool and have tried making tweaks… I’ve dropped the author a line and hopefully he’ll want to resurrect it.

Posted whilst at White Leaf House [ plazes.com ]

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