Monday, June 25, 2007

Fun fun fun!

In between business trips and sickness, I've had precious little SL time lately. And what time I've had has been spent on Rockcliffe University.

First, I've been developing and teaching classes in scripting (three have been completed, and I'm nearly done with the fourth). It's shocking how much time it takes to come up with one class; even though I've already got the first twelve classes outlined, there's lecture text to write (and proofread, and verify to make sure every sentence is accurate), examples to script and test, "Powerpoint" slides to create. And then go through the lecture a couple of times and try to anticipate students' questions, then rework the text to preemptively answer them...

But since I can't really play in Second Life while I'm on a trip (I tried once, and my laptop overheated and killed the master boot record of the hard drive, so I won't be doing that again!), I've been working on the class scheduling application, which has been a lot of fun to do.

We're getting a dedicated server set up, which will run a whole bunch of off-the-shelf software (Moodle, forums, etc.), but I developed a customized scheduling database in MySQL, with a PHP frontend. This will display the upcoming schedule in several formats (the simple list as shown here, a calendar view, an RSS feed, etc.), and permits the teachers to post and modify their own classes. But where it really shines is in its communication with Second Life.

First, it automatically updates an in-world schedule board. Classes will disappear from the board fifteen minutes after they've started, and as new classes are added to the database, they appear on the schedule board. Unless explicitly overridden, each class displays in an alternating color to make it easier to read the board. After a week or so of testing, I'll be able to replace the current version in the reception area with the new auto-update board. Another improvement is in primmage: the new board has 33% more characters (80x24, as opposed to 72x20), while still reducing the number of prims by about 20%.

Another component which I'm working on now is a smaller board which displays the names of the classes currently in progress, with a "Teleport!" button to take a student directly to the classroom. Other components will include classroom detectors which send the list of students to the database, to keep track of attendance; and tip jars which record the amounts given during a specific class (for sharing the tips between the university and the individual teachers).

All this is accomplished with the HTTP and XML-RPC functions of the Linden Scripting Language (which will be the subject of one of the classes in my scripting course).

Maybe one of these days, I'll have enough free time to actually build a house on the land I'm renting!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hate Voice?

Switch to Linux!

Not only is there no Linux voice-enabled client, but the Lindens steadfastly ignore anyone who comments on the official blog to ask about when we'll get one.