Monday, November 24, 2014

Radegast Text-Based Viewer Opens SL to a New Community

From Mermaid Celene Highwater

 Do you still remember the day you joined Second Life? Do you remember how difficult it was to learn to dress your avatar and navigate? Or how about those wardrobe malfunctions? You know, the ones that left you stark naked in the middle of the dance floor with a big box in your hand? For sighted users, SL is a challenge to master and an ongoing learning experience. But what if you were a new user with disabilities using a screen-reader and a text-based viewer to navigate the world instead of your eyes?

Meet a new and growing community of blind and visually impaired SL users who, for the first time in history, have access to the world of virtual reality. For these users, playing games that were not totally text-based was an inconceivable prospect just a few short years ago. But now, thanks to a new text-based viewer called Radegast, they are blazing the trail for the blind community at large as they discover the wonders of virtual life.

During a recent interview, I asked Latif Khalifa, the creator of Radegast, what inspired him to create the program. “I was interested in understanding the network communications between Second Life client and server,” he explained. “So in 2006, a group of developers reverse engineered the SL protocol and a library was created that allowed 3rd party software to connect to SL for the first time. Prior to this, only the official Second Life client could be used for logging in. But this was just a software library, not something that a normal person could use,” he continues. “I was looking around to see if there was someone who had already used the library to create a user-friendly client. I found one called SLeek, but it was pretty buggy and limited. So I decided to rewrite it, add functionality, make it more user friendly. And that's how Radegast was born. This was in 2009.”

Since then, Radegast has undergone numerous updates and now has a user base of 20,000 users. And thanks to its simplistic interface-with text-based menus, inventory management, and a window that displays objects in atext-only list, that user base is increasingly including blind and visually impaired people interested in trying out Second Life.

“My intention with Radegast was to allow people to instant message with their SL friends when they could not use the full graphical viewer. For instance from work, or from computers that were not fast enough to run the full viewer,” Latif explained. “Later Mojito Sorbet who was in contact with some people at Virtual Ability alerted me of the fact that Radegast was screenreader friendly and that it is being used by the blind to login and enjoy Second Life.

To be honest, I did not think of this when originally starting Radegast, but I was delighted to hear that the project had this nice side effect. Mojito had the idea to make the speech plugin, and even though she never used the programming language Radegast was written in, she managed to write it. She also wrote the interface for SL Voice and contributed greatly to improving the usability of Radegast for the blind.”

The first confirmed blind user of this new program was me. I had tried to join SL several years before via an experimental website called Text-SL. By the time I found it it was no longer functional and I gave up in despair. I quickly realized that the world of virtual reality, like all the other interactive games online that I wanted to participate in, was inaccessible to me because there was no text to accompany the graphical interfaces. So I went back to text-based online games and kept on dreaming of the day when technology would progress enough to allow me access.

Two years later I was sitting at my computer feeling sorry for myself and wishing with all my heart that Second Life was accessible when a family member decided to take matters into his own hands. He logged into Second Life. After asking around inworld, he found his way to Virtual Ability Sanctuary. And as the old saying goes: the rest is history.

 I downloaded a copy of Radegast and started learning how to use it with no clue how accessible it was and with no instruction manual to guide me. What I did have was a supportive community of SL users who were determined to help me try. One of these users was Roxie Marten, who became my mentor and learned Radegast right alongside me. “Honestly when I trained you I was flying by the seat of my pants. I had used Radegast to run a bot to tend bar for me,” she said during an interview. The bot she is referring to goes by the name of Tik Tok. Using two computer monitors, one displaying Radegast and the other Firestorm, Roxie simulated actions using Tik Tok and then relayed how she performed those actions to me. I was then able to replicate what she’d done using Radegast and thus the learning via trial and error began. If what we did sounds complicated, that’s because it was. When Roxie wasn’t working with me,

I spent hours using trial and error to learn to navigate Second Life and interact with people and objects. My motivation to keep going was seeing all that SL had to offer, and the new window of opportunity that would open up when I would discover something new. I found the virtual world an inspiring place where a destination was just a teleport away and friends were easy to find thanks to Virtual Ability.

Roxie said it well in her interview: “We help each other; that is the spirit of Virtual Ability. We are a collection of disabilities: blind, deaf, paraplegics,quadriplegics, amputees, wounded warriors. We all come together to help each other. We are a community of disabled people who work for each other.”

Launched in 2007 by Second Life resident Gentle Heron, Virtual Ability is a virtual community of support for those with physical, mental and emotional disabilities and their family/caregivers. The mission of VAI as it is called in Second Life, is to enable those with disabilities to thrive and interact within a virtual world.

 “I came into SL with some friends who were looking, as I was, for a way to still socialize and be active, despite our level of disability. As we became more disabled, we were less and less able to get out of our homes and do the things we used to enjoy doing. I looked in SL for a cross-disability peer support group, and did not find one. From there, Virtual Ability just grew.”

The community, which now has nearly one thousand members in Second Life alone, is a thriving hub of activity with weekly events, classes and support groups. The members who make up the community each have their own unique stories, and thanks to Virtual Ability’s commitment to helping them, they are able to do things they couldn’t imagine doing in real life. For example, someone with developmental disabilities who can’t function easily or safely in the greater SL world can function in Virtual Ability. They can have a home of their own and even drive a car.

This had a profound impact on me when I started thinking about Second Life as a whole and the benefits it could have on those with not only mental limitations or paralysis, but those with visual disabilities. So I committed to learning everything I could about Radegast with the hope of launching a program for those screen-reader users.

In May of 2013, we launched an ambitious project to create the first user guide for the viewer, compiling all we had learned and sharpening new skills along the way. After seven months this guide was completed and has now been incorporated into the viewer as the official help guide.

Unfortunately, just before the completion of this article, I received word that due to illness, LatifKhalifa will no longer be able to continue his work on the project. And since Radegast requires updating and improvement to keep up with the changes made to Second Life, we are not sure where the viewer will go from here. Our hope is that as a community of twenty thousand users, we can find coders and people that are passionate about Radegast enough to dedicate some time to keeping this project alive.

To learn more about Virtual Ability go to their official website: .

To check out and obtain a copy of Radegast visit:

Mermaid Celene

Friday, November 21, 2014

"The Chaos" at LEA21

 Giovanna Cerise has an exquisite installation in LEA19. I was able to attend the opening Thursday after a wait because the region was full! A collection of artists and friends came to see the creation. Of the work Giovanna says, “The Chaos, in the primitive sense of the Greek term, is the immensity not measurable and unlimited of the primitive space (and so the blend and the disorder and the fortuity) in which the Kosmos originates, that is the beautiful, good and rational order of the world, which always comes from a messy background. The Chaos is not definitely passed by the construction of an intelligible world and of the shapes, but it still continues to be as the foundation on which also the Kosmos stand.” 

In order to see all the aspects one touches the compass and you will be teleported to various vantage points. The installation is large in concept as well as execution and lovely to view. It is recommended to set your windlight to midnight, or sunset. Try both for the variation. I watched the fleeing men and wondered why. Was the shattering orb the sun? Still pondering over the pieces.

Gemma Cleanslate

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pocket Metaverse

By Wesley Regenbogen

Communicating with your Second Life friends inworld is easy enough when you are at your computer or laptop. But what about when you're not logged in Second Life and not at your computer/laptop, and you want to send an IM to a friend who is in-world?
Don’t worry, there is an iPhone app for that.
Pocket Metaverse is a cool app that lets you login into your Second Life account. The free version's features are limited, but you're able to use it to get in touch with your friends. You can see who’s online and send IMs to them. There is even a minimap to see where you are in Second Life. You can also view Second Life residents' profiles.
The Pro version of the app gives more options such as allowing you to open notecards and access groups and stuff.

Although you can receive and see pictures and send snapshots you've taken earlier, you can't directly see what's around your avatar, there is no 3D world view on this app. For that, you'd have to get SL GO, but that needs at least a tablet, and costs a monthly fee. Pocket Metaverse has no monthly fee.

I have yet to try out the Pro version of Pocket Metaverse, but I probably will after using the Free one for a while.
So, if you are looking for an app to get you connected with your Second Life friends on your iPhone and iPad, Pocket Metaverse might be the app you are looking for. I suggest everyone with an iPhone or IPad  check it out. Enjoy the app and chat with your Second Life friends.
More information about this app can be found at :
Wesley Regenbogen

Monday, November 17, 2014

Club Bed

By Wesley Regenbogen

Club Bed calls itself a “Dutch Hangout” and the club is placed on what looks like a large bed. That explains the unusual name of this club.
The club was created in September 2014 by Deborah8 Cortes and Magdalena1 Kira. Magdalena also has the job of decorating the club, doing a very nice job of it. The setting of actually a large bed, is quite unusual, but that makes it different from other clubs I have wrote about in the past..
The club warmly welcomes anyone that enters. They have a friendly staff and is a great “Dutch Hangout.” And they have great DJs that play in their club seven days a week. They also have a romantic garden and a wedding place too. Avatars can give their rezzday party and other events for free.
The club has theme evenings sometimes as well. I was there at one of those theme evenings, the subject was “Indian evening.” There were a lot of avatars, ( 10 or 11) at the evening and they had good fun at this event.
Future themes include: movie, adventure, pirate, Indian, Halloween, Christmas, Eastern, summer, winter, all Dutch themes, and more. Too many to list here, in fact.

In my personal this is one of the best clubs I've encountered so far. The fact that the club is set on a large bed, makes it an amazing gem that I found in Second Life. I haven’t found anything like it elsewhere.

Readers can find more information about this club in Second Life Search, and in the club itself. They communicate their events and other information through their Facebook page ( ) , their group ( and group chat ) and SL Nederland. On their Facebook page,  you can find videos taken from within the Second Life environment.

The team of Club Bed consists of following members :
Owners : Deborah8 Cortes and Magdalena1 Kira
Builder : Bjoet Wonder
Managers : Rosita Balan  and Scilla Capra

Dutch DJ’s that play in the club: DJ Brenda Bates, DJ Black, DJ Silver, DJ Han Fallen, DJ Diablo, and DJ Threes.

CLUB BED can be found at Olympus Island.

*Addition* The Newser was later informed one party had a total of 32 avatars present. Plus of the staff, Bjoet Wonder does the bed decoration "and cleans the bed too." 

*Addition* the location of the club has changed, now at Stormy End (75/119/1001 )

Wesley Regenbogen  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Commentary: Silver Fire - My Virtual Horse in Second Life

By Wesley Regenbogen

A short time ago, I wrote about Hope Driftwood’s Ranch and Dreamscape Ranch, where they raise virtual horses. I mentioned they offered me one of their pets, but I hadn't made up my mind whether to raise it or not. So for a time, it remained not yet born, stored in the bundle of hay that appears when breedable pet horses in Second Life reproduce.
I’m glad to report that I made up my mind and let the colt be born. I have a virtual horse now. He is a male gender Amaretto virtual horse, who’s name is “Silver Fire.” Hope Driftwood helped me setting it up and I now rent a box to put the horse as well.
These are the stats of Silver Fire at the moment of writing this article ( it might have changed after the article has been published ) :
Silver Fire
Version 5.0
Age 2
Gender male
Nourishment 0%
Energy 84%
Happiness 87%
Fervor 0%
Coat: Silver Mecklenburger
Eye: Fire Element
Mane: Long
Tail: Long
Coat Gleam High
Hair Gleam High
Coat Luster Low
Coat Gloom
Hair Gloom
Coat Opal
Hair Opal
Hoof Kiwi
Ear Style Half Droop Left
Wing: Wild Turkey
It’s getting used to having a virtual horse,  but it’s cool. I can recommend that everyone in Second Life get one! In my personal opinion, this is the coolest thing around here.
As I’m now settled, I got a virtual home, I have a career here that I like -  being a virtual journalist for the SL Newser, and I got myself a virtual horse. I think this is the best thing that ever happened to me in Second Life. I just now need to see to it that I can pay all of those things, of course. So please suggest to me new places, people, and events to write about.
Nevertheless, it’s a awesome thing to have once you get the hang of it. It’s nice to have a virtual horse. Everyone can do it, so if you want one, talk to Hope Driftwood or Chris Dreamscape and buy one. For information about how to set it up, you can talk to them as well, they will help you getting it set up and will support you when you are unsure about things.
Happy virtual horsing.

Wesley Regenbogen 

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Taxy! to the Zircus"

By Fritter Enzyme and Gemma Cleanslate

Take a Taxy ride into the land of the surreal at Taxy to the Zercus.  An art sim that taunts you with its interactive pieces making you part of the art.  Surreal with a scoop of Dadaism.  Start with your camera in tight.  You will begin inside a small build, touch the running faucet to get wings, of a sort. Wear them.   You will spin when you fly, or run, arms extended when walking.

You are there to be part of the show.  Shape shifting cubes are your teleporters to the areas of the work.  A game board with activities to partake in.  A cannon, with which you can try to shoot yourself through a cow.  Hat and Taxy, a tricky tea pot that can bring you to the Taxy, returning you to the start, or dropping you to different fun fanciful areas.  Sit fast, were you better find something to sit on, fast or fall.

If asked ‘Kou?’ when you click on items, chose it, you will dance with the objects and merge with the art.  And TV.  There you lock your camera on a television with a white pail of paint and a brush in it while boxes bounce around in a circle of windows surrounding you.  The music is interesting so have on.

"Taxy! to the Zircus"  by Eupalinos Ugajin is fun to return to and find all the things to do.  Look for the things to click on, or sit on.  When you fall to the reflective bottom, a very special area, there are two things down there.  One brings you back up.  Look for the other and sit on it.  It will link you to many other cool sites.

My avatar did get deformed on my first visit to the sit fast location.  It did not after that.  I could not find what did that to me, but if you have that problem, in Firestorm go to avatar health and click undeform my avatar.

Fritter Enzyme

*  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *  

Eupalinos Ugajin is at it again! Those who are familiar with his art will understand. He is known for creating fun interactive art using his own pieces as well as other artists . In Taxy all the piece are his. The whole installations are usually large in scope and invite the visitors to touch everything and become part of his art. His new installation titled “Taxy! to the Zircus” in MetaLES does just that . 

When you arrive at the entrance you are invited to pick up a  pair of “wings” to move about the space. Fly off and hover in the air and tickle the moving pieces to find those that will make you a part of them and enjoy the ride,  sometimes upside down or in other precarious positions. There are several platforms where you will find TPs to other platforms if you like. 
Watch the cannon! It will shoot you out into the air but you can get back in easily . Eupalinos told me one can control the angle and aim for the empty part of the cow in the air but I did not do well at that.  If you fall into the water as I did after that venture, several times,  there is a shield to prevent you from sinking and it is easy to just fly up back into the installation. 
It is loads of fun and the area is filled with interesting pieces of art to appreciate , some old favorites and some new . I loved the steampunk style bicycle that is part of a pinwheel! Have fun!
Gemma Cleanslate

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Performances at Club Image

 By Grey Lupindo

Last week my neighbor Celtic Infinity invited me to attend a dance performance at Club Image, located at Club IMAGE, Laem Singh (198, 29, 2021).    The Sunday morning performances, which are held every week, are suitable for all residents.   The dancers and audience are predominately Japanese, but there were other nationalities represented, too.  Performances start at 7am SLT.

        On the Sunday that I attended, Daylight Savings time had just gone into effect within most of the U.S., but not in Japan.   The time change caught a few people off guard.   In addition to the time issue, SL was having a few technical issues.   But even with these difficulties, the performance was amazing.

       As curtain time drew nearer, Misse Tigerpaw (misse.tigerpaw) greeted everyone and explained about the time issue.   She has been a resident since December, 2007.  Misse is one of the Image dancers and was to be the featured performer in the second act that morning.   She reminded everyone to have a seat and make sure their music was turned on.
         The show began with two dancers, a particle light show, and a lively mix of music.   The first song was “Call Me".  The performance was great, with a snappy beat, high energy dancing, and lots of particles.  The songs that followed were varied and well known. 
        The transition to the second act began with a storyboard of “Little Red Riding Hood” that included pictures of Misse Tigerpaw in costume.   The background music included Sarah Vaughan’s “A Lover's Concerto”, Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E”, and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.    Then the London Philharmonic Orchestra began playing “Enchanted Forest” as Misse Tigerpaw began her performance.   She performed a stunning and beautiful ballet as Little Red Riding Hood.   There was fire and ice, a blood moon rising, and even some wolves.    
           After her performance, due to technical difficulties, the order and scheduling of the Image Dancers was changed.  Diawa Bellic was the next dancer.  She has been a resident since 2008. Her talent and professionalism was awesome and overcame the minor technical difficulties SL threw at her. 
      The final act was a group performance of six Image Dancers, including Terri Wardell, Misse Tigerpaw, and Diawa Bellic.  Unfortunately I was unable to confirm the names of the other three dancers.   Their performance, set on a busy urban street, was fun and energetic.     
      Nearly 40 residents watched and cheered the performance.   At the end the performers exited the stage and received more congratulations as those who attended left the theatre.  
       The Image Dancers put on a great show that I heartily recommend.  If you go, plan to arrive early so you can get a good seat.   There is no change for the performance.  However, pictures of the dancers are on the wall and serve as a tip jar for anyone who wishes to donate.    Don’t worry if you don’t know Japanese or have a translator.  Celtic gave me a translator so I could understand the chat better, but I didn’t need it for the show.   Music and dancing are universal.  

Grey Lupindo