Is WindLight Frustrating Some Second Life Educators? (Updated)
Pretty sunset, pained students? Preparing for Stanford's Metaverse U lectures
Apparently so, judging a recent post on PacRimX, the blog of two high school teachers who use Second Life for distance learning between California and Japan, to award-winning effect. In recent months, the introduction of the WindLight atmospheric rendering system has transformed the look of the metaverse, making the world several times more vivid, and gorgeous. It also makes far more demands on system resources, and older computers are bound to suffer. (My laptop is scarce 12 months old, tricked out with a high end NVidia graphics card, but when the details are turned up full, WindLight causes the display to sputter.) This is especially troubling for educators with limited resources:
Now everyone is forced [see update below-WJA] to have pretty atmospheric effects in their SL client. It cannot be disabled [see update below-WJA], only tuned down with a single performance slider (gone are all the settings of the old graphics tab). This is causing huge problems, especially for educators who don’t always have the latest and greatest computers in their labs.
Frustrated with the results, the Pacificrimx team considers using the Nicholaz Beresford's version of Second Life's open source viewer, renowned for its stability. Only to discover that Beresford, feeling that the Lindens are not sufficiently supporting the open source community, has quit supporting his client.
Now Stan Trevena of Pacificrimx is frantically trying to upgrade his Modesto high school's computers in preparation for a visit from their Kyoto counterparts. In a later update he writes:
I know that I am not alone in wrestling with older machines in the labs and classrooms in K12. There has been little money over the past five years for replacing computers, many of which were purchased back in the digital high school days (now approaching ten years old!) While I strongly support the increased fidelity of the new client with respect to atmospheric effects, I strongly denounce the abandoning of lower end computers that are all too common on our high school campuses.
Of all Second Life's real world applications, education has been the field that seems to be returning the most substantial early results. But failing a cash influx, it's quite possible that many teachers will be left behind. Then again, perhaps this is a minority view mainly relevant at the high school level; college kids tend to have their own computers, after all, and newer models.
If you're an SL-based educator, what's your experience been?
Hat tip: Roland LeGrand of Mixedrealities.com.
Update, 11:20am: In Comments, several readers (including Pastrami Linden, the company's development project manager) point out that WindLight features can be turned down and disabled through various customization steps. Some educators describe their mixed experiences with the latest version.
Update 2, 4/14: Considering the discussion in Comments, changed "Hurting" in title to "Frustrating" and added the "Some" qualifier.