viernes, 27 de marzo de 2009

Green Segunda vida

Green Segunda vida

My last blog post about second life, was taken quite good by many users, so I decided to place more things that have been on my mind or that I use on second life to make that life a bit easier, and maybe share it with the community to also make things easier for them

Anyhow a few weeks ago or so someone did a post about a green trend on SL scripting, however I think that the idea was novel, but there are many other things that can make SL greener for everyone.

Graphics… do you really need them ?

This will be somewhat controversial, but most of this article is based on this, I am maybe trying to raise a new awareness about how to use the graphics on SL.

First of all many, many people using SL has very “powerful” high end graphics cards ( by today standards ) , but, how much do you really need to see?

If you can set your graphics card to max, and have everything on ultra, and well the bells and whistles, you have to know that to get all this information is divided on 2 parts:

-Server side
-Client side

Server Side.

Ok, to explain this a bit more, let’s talk about each part, and how SL actually makes you “see” things. LL™ had a great idea on how to make a virtual world that is not stored over several gigabytes on your PC, they accomplished this by sending small chunks of “raw” data, basically it sends “parameters” to your PC, so it knows that a cube exists and it has a shape, and a position, so on your PC the viewer grabs that information and makes the cube.

So instead of sending tons of data with a few simple lines it can tell you where the object is how it’s is shape etc.

After that LL sends the textures, and what texture goes where, and voila, you have your world made.

Of course when something moves like vehicle, it sends the data again, but not the full data, just the new positions, or when you move a cube etc.

To send this data uses your bandwidth as well as LL servers bandwidth, keep that in mind. (bandwidth is your internet connection)

I know I talked somewhat of the PC side or client side here also but basically the concept of sending small chunks of data from one side to the other is what the server does.

Client side

Ok the client side as mentioned before, grabs all that information and builds the “world” that you will see, this part is where your video card and your CPU take over, the faster your video card and CPU the faster the world will show, and move. ( of course your bandwidth )


Ok now I can go and explain some of the “green” part of working with this, when you go to your Graphic preferences, you will see that SL selected the “best” settings for you, but you can tweak this, based on what you really need.

For instance, if you set your draw distance to 512 meters, or even more on the advance settings on the debug part, think about this, every object, avatar, texture that is around you at 512 meters, will be sent to your PC, with textures and well EVERYTHING, if they move that gets updated etc.

Now I have to ask, if you go to a club, or if you are working on a project or something do you REALLY need to see everything around 512meters from you?

Unless you are making a movie or taking pictures or spying on the sim next door, you will not need to have this at such high settings.

Just make a little test, set your draw distance at 64 meters, then sit down somewhere and wait, then press control-shift-1 ( to get the statistics panel ) and look at your bandwidth, it will not be much, unless you just arrived to that place but if it goes up, it will not stay up for long.

Then set your draw distance to 512meters, and see how your bandwidth behaves, it will go up and up, and stay there for quite sometime, just think about this if you are on the middle of Sims, using each the 15.000 objects that they are allowed to use, before that bandwidth goes down you will have to download information for 30.000 objects, textures for those 30.000 objects, and if objects are moving then you also will have to update those objects.

Now, just think how much energy your internet modem will consume getting all that information, also a lot of that information will be either stored on your hard drive or ram, using more energy, then your CPU has to process that, and at the end, your graphics card will have to deal with the textures and what not, all of that uses a lot of energy ( just put your hand on your PC to see how hot it is, or if you can touch the heat sink for your graphics card, or your CPU, they will be hot, that heath, is just wasted energy, that you will have to end up paying.

And not only that if you are on a limited internet connection, you will reach your limit VERY fast, just by doing teleports to other places, not to mention the amount of energy the routers, modems, and PC’s that deliver that data to your PC will use, I mean, is it really necessary to go around having 512 or more meters, ALL the time. I have to say, no, not really.

Your pc has a power source, it can state 400,500 watts, but that’s the maximum power it can give, when you overload a program like second life, your PC will draw more and more and more power, and over time, this will add to some money, as well as some more burning of fossil fuels, etc, so basically you can help the world and save money just by using what you just really need.

Greener !

As I said before the GPU ( Graphics processing unit or video card ) performs a lot of operations on SL, but you can control those options as well, once again on the graphics tab, you can see several options (when you click on custom ) you’ll see “Shaders” most of the options there put strain on the GPU, as I said before you don’t really need all that for good SL experience, basically with basic shaders, and atmospheric shaders you will have a good SL experience ( because it will render glow) and bump map and shiny, but you can turn those off, but notice that if you build something when you texture specially if you want to add glow, it’s important to have them on, or you will make things so “Glowy” that people will just see everything as if they just arrived to heaven, so it’s good to keep this off, unless you are building, well texturing.

Water reflections, once again good for pictures, useless for a day to day SL experience, then we move to particles, it’s not a real good idea to turn them completely off because you’ll loose some of the SL experience, but a good practice is to keep them on low, that way you don’t put as much strain on your video card but you’ll also be able to see things that require particles.

There are other options there, most can be lowered for a day to day use, the only one that will act to help you is avatar impostors, since it will not render full avatars unless needed.

Mesh detail, again good for pictures, but not for a day to day thing.


Ok as you know on SL you can see media , and audio, and it’s good to have them enabled, but try not to keep on the audio and video tab, the automatically play media on, because for instance if you teleport to a place where a video is playing even if you are not even close to the TV it will start to play, so once again more bandwidth and costs, so keep it on, but play it on demand it only takes for you to click on the play button, or a script to start your play but when you want it !

Your Fried PC.

Now this is all good, and will make your “consumption” of resources from RL and SL less, but that’s not the only benefit you will get out of this, as I said before using everything on ULTRA, will cause heat, a lot of heat, and you maybe know this, but heat is the natural enemy of PCs , if your computer runs very hot during hour’s days or months, IT WILL FAIL, when you see your motherboard it has small tracks ( the things that resemble roads on the green plaque ), and it also has small components that where soldered there, with heat, but a PC that stands heat and heat and more heat, over time some of the tracks and the soldering will become loose, and something “strange” will happen, your pc will start to fail, it will fail randomly, maybe a frozen program, a reboot, a Blue Screen etc, and this is a thing that personally I have seen happen a LOT of times, random failing PCs because the components got overheated and failed.

Also if you have several hard drives, lets say you have one to save your pictures, or music, and you will not use it while on Second Life, make it go to sleep, ( you can google and check how to make your hard drives sleep ), it will basically make your unused hard drives go to and idle state where they use a lot less energy, and will generate less heat, and at the end it will prolong their life.

Also, you can make other parts of your pc ( or all your PC ) go to sleep, instead of using a screen saver, make the monitor turn off, once again google up how to make your PC and it’s parts enter sleep mode.

So by keeping usage low, you will save money, energy, resources, and make your PC live longer and work better, great deal if you ask me.

The BUZZZZZZZZ sound….

Maybe your PC from time to time buzzes, or sounds like an airplane, maybe it happens when you open SL or a program that uses a lot of resources, this basically has 2 causes, one, is that your components notice that they are getting hot, so they tell the PC: “hey I need to cool down, please make the fans spin faster so they can take more heat out!” , so when that happens you’ll start listening to the annoying buzz sound.

But that’s not the only cause of the buzz sound, or “airplane pc”, a big problem that people are not aware is that dust gets collected on your PC, that dust ends up on the heatsinks and then they can’t work properly, even with the fan going at a full speed, the air will not flow as intended, and will cause the airflow to get resistance, so, the GPU, CPU, motherboard will get hotter, and well once again the problem, more electricity, less PC life.

However there are things you can do to solve this, if you can get a can of compressed air you can blow it on your heatsink, and remove the dust, I warrantee you that the sound will either go away or become very very faint.

Personally from time to time I go to the gas station at the corner where I live, and I ask them if I can use the compressed air they have there, and I blow all the PC, when it comes back I get 0 sound, more stable temperature, and the good feeling of knowing my PC is working better !

Oh my Laggness !

As you might have assumed by now, all that I’ve written here can also affect you, generating lag, once again by pressing control-shift-1, you can get the status window there you can see a parameter ( FPS , Frames per second ) as I said at the beginning SL is server and client side, but sometimes you get lag and a lot of it by having your graphics settings to the max.

Basically you’ll use a lot of ram, a lot of GPU, a lot of everything, so your PC will not be able to process everything the way it’s supposed to do it, and that will show on your FPS ( of course if the sim is laggy it will also affect you ) but anyhow, if you are getting very low FPS ( 3-8 ) making the changes stated above most likely will allow you to get more FPS, and end up making your SL experience smoother, so you might also consider that sometimes lag is not only the sim fault but maybe all the resources you are using, will generate more lag.

Thinking about the Future !

Maybe you have seen or have bought those new energy saving light bulbs, they are amazing! ( however they have been with us for so long Tesla invented them on the late 1800’s or early 1900’s ) anyhow those are made to save you money on electricity.

Well based on that concept now you will see flat screen monitors, ( LCD ones ), and well the “old” tube monitors, the ( CRT ones ), maybe you still use a CRT, anyhow where I am going with this is that if you have an old monitor or an old PC and you change it most likely you’ll end up saving a lot of money, and for instance if you right now have a CRT monitor, a LCD one will pay for itself, just by the insane difference on power consumption that one has compared to the other, the LCD one uses fractions of the energy that the CRT one uses.

Now when you decide to change the PC, or if you want to change the motherboard and processor, try to get a 45nm processor, ( 45 nanometers , that’s how they build them ) anyhow, a 45 nm processor will use A LOT LESS POWER than a 65 nm processor, so really on the long run you’ll have a better, greener PC, that is energy aware, and that will have a long life.

I really hope this makes your Second Life easier, better, and more aware of the environment, I know some people will say that all of this is not worth it, but let’s just talk about the money, if by making this changes you end up saving 0.5$ per hour that you use Second life, and you use it 4 hours a day, every day, for 1 year, it could save you 730$ a year ! ( 0.5x4x365 = 730 ) , and just imagine the amount of energy saved !

Thank you for reading.


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