Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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2/9/2007
06:47 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Second Life Crashes My Mac

There are few things more frustrating than getting a new computer and finding out that it might need to go back to the shop right away. My six-day-old Mac runs flawlessly except for one thing: After I've been running Second Life a while, the Mac crashes hard, locks up, and throws up an error message that says it needs to be re-started.

There are few things more frustrating than getting a new computer and finding out that it might need to go back to the shop right away. My six-day-old Mac runs flawlessly except for one thing: After I've been running Second Life a while, the Mac crashes hard, locks up, and throws up an error message that says it needs to be re-started.

I've Googled exhaustively for help. Somewhere along the way, I learned about a Mac users' group in Second Life. So, I sent an IM to the entire group, describing my problem, and asking for help.

I should have taken into account the fact that there's 2,000-plus members of that group. I got a continuous stream of instant messages in response for the next 15 minutes. The information overload caused my brain to crash hard, lock up, and throw up an error message that said it needed to be re-started.

Second Life offers several means of communication, all text-based currently, although Linden Lab, which runs the platform, plans to add voice chat within a few months.

Text chat is the main interface, but you also can pass text files back and forth in the form of notecards. My Second Life friend who goes by the handle Tateru Nino sent me one that provided some basics on running SL through the Mac. I IMed the author, whose in-world name is Ali Maltz, who sent some advice as well.

The consensus of the Mac users: I have some bad RAM, which is only causing problems with Second Life because Second Life is demanding of all system resources. You can use SL with just about any off-the-shelf computer purchased in the last 14 months or so, but SL will absorb any resources your computer has.

Ali suggested I give the First Look client a try; it's a test version of a new Second Life client with a faster rendering engine. I downloaded, installed it, and ran it for about two minutes; the user interface so far looks identical to the original SL interface, although of course there may be differences deep down that aren't apparent in two minutes of evaluation. Seems to me that First Look is faster than the standard client, although that might just be my imagination.

The First Look client did not crash my Mac, but that proves nothing. It generally takes 30-60 minutes of SLing before it crashes, and it's more likely to crash if I'm putting a big demand on the system, moving quickly and making lots of abrupt turns in a detailed environment.

If the First Look browser doesn't solve the problem, I'm going to have to stuff the iMac back in its box and take it back to CompUSA, where I bought it. I'm not looking forward to that; buying this machine was an unpleasant experience that dragged on for hours.

Tateru Nino offered suggestions on the etiquette of getting tech support online, although she couldn't provide any actual technical assistance. She pointed out that my experience illustrated something about the Internet, and Second Life, that we all occasionally forget. You're likely to run into total strangers who go out of their way to help you out.

It's enlightened self-interest, a deeply ingrained culture of paying it forward. If a random stranger needs your help, you give it to them, and one reason you do is because you were the random stranger in need of help yesterday and you will be tomorrow.

Sure, there's an overwhelming number of hostile idiots and crooks online, and they seem to dominate our attention much of the time. But there's also great numbers of good people who are happy to help a neighbor in trouble.

Second Life's pay-it-forward culture took a mildly humorous turn a few days ago when I encountered an avatar in SL who had the appearance of an angel. The angel noticed I was having some problems, assumed correctly that I was a newbie, and offered to help. The angel asked me how long I'd been on SL. I said three weeks. The angel said he or she had been on for only six days. I offered to help the angel instead, but the angel didn't seem to be having any problems.

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