A Tudor love story in Second Life

Now open at LEA 8 is Tahiti Rae’s Love, Henry. Created with the assistance of Sonic Costello, Augurer Resident, Caryl Meredith, Annu Pap, Mitsuko Kytori, Abel Dreamscape, this is an interactive examination of the relationship between King Henry VIII of England and Anne Boleyn, from their courtship to her becoming his wife and Queen Consort, through to events immediately prior to her death just 1,000 days later.

An outline sketch of events would be to say that Henry was bound in childless wedlock to Catherine of Aragon when Anne caught his eye (having in earlier years taken Anne’s older sister, Mary, as one of his mistresses), causing him to desire her to the point of having his marriage annulled so that he might wed her. Thereafter, and unable to provide him with a son and heir, she also suffered a fall from grace, largely engineered, to suffer execution in the Tower of London.

Obviously, the full story is far more complex, involving as it does several figures key to England’s unfolding political and religious landscape, including Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell and  Thomas Cranmer, and the upheavals of the English Reformation; however, part of the intent of Love, Henry is to encourage people to explore Tudor history for themselves, so I’ll leave it at that.

As a love story, Love, Henry focuses on two things: a letter said to have been written or dictated by Anne Boleyn following her incarceration in the Tower of London, and a “new discovery” author Sandra Vasoli claims to have made. The provenance of the letter has been hotly debated over the years, and is believed to have never come before the eyes of the King, having been withheld and hidden by Cromwell. However, Vasoli claims to have found evidence that on his deathbed, Henry expressed remorse for his actions towards Anne. Thus Tahiti poses her question to visitors and invites their thoughts and feedback: did Henry come to regret his decision to have Anne executed?

The installation itself is split into three parts, which visitors are guided through in turn, from the welcome area, which offers information necessary to fully enjoy the experience together period costumes which can be optionally worn during the rest of the visit; through the Tudor Library, which forms the main interactive element of the installation, and is built around Anne’s letter from the Tower, together with notes on Sandra Vasoli’s “new discovery”; to a  ground level build focused on a grand Norman-style cathedral set within a beautiful garden space, in which there are secrets to be uncovered.

Love, Henry, deserves to be explored carefully. Not only because of the wealth of information it contains and opportunities to provide input and feedback of your own (which aren’t restricted just to the Library, which really does offer a lot), but because it is beautifully put together. For example, the garden contains a loggia which appears to have been inspired by the one at Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s home. Further, the cathedral the garden surround may be an imposing centrepiece, but it is also very symbolic, representing marriage and death, both of which have obvious significance where Henry and Anne are concerned, while simultaneously also reminding us of the religious strife their relationship caused. Nor are these the only touches to be found as one explores; hints of Anne’s fate might be seen, together with reminders of the brutality of the age.

The slant to the installation might be a little romanticised – the relationship between Henry and Anne was born as much out of ambition on both sides as out of love; but that doesn’t matter. This is supposed to be a romantic “what if”, one which encourages the visitor to explore one of England’s important periods of history, both through the information presented here and for themselves.

As mentioned above, do keep in mind when exploring that there are secrets to be found – including the gateway to the “final chapter” of Henry and Anne’s story. However, as bloggers have been asked not to reveal too much about these,  I’ll say no more here. Also, do make sure you have the audio stream enabled with exploring. Excellent and considered use is made of music by Canadian composer Trevor Morris, which adds further depth to Love, Henry.

Tahiti says that contributions from those willing to provide their thoughts and feedback will be incorporated into the installation, and she welcomes requests to bring in student or group tours to visit Love Henry.

Very definitely recommended.

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Second Life project updates 31/1: server, VMM, group issues, Windows 10 issues

Baby's Ear; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrBaby’s Ear, July 2015 (Flickr) – blog post

Server Deployments Week #31

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest updates / news.

  • Tuesday, July 28th, saw the Main (SLS) channel receive the server maintenance package previously deployed to the three RC channels, comprising internal server fixes related to Experience Keys, comprising null pointer checkers and a configuration option for the number of Experiences a Premium member can have.
  • On Wednesday, July 29th, the three RC channels will be updated with a new server maintenance package aimed at fixing recent group-related issues (see below for more details).

Commenting on the Experience changes in the Main channel release a the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, July 28th, Simon Linden said:

That’s just under the hood, the one-per-account is not changing. Simon Linden: with configurations like that, we have a layered approach … there’s a set of defaults that is fixed with each server release. We also have a way to over-ride it grid wide … which is how we can turn on and off some things grid-wide, without a server update; that’s how we turned on the experience tools when we released it. Now that it’s released, we move it into the default settings and eventually out of the over-ride.

Group Issues

In my last update, I reported that people had started experiencing group-related issues, following the Main channel deployment in week #30. In particular:

  • BUG-9725 – Activating a group fails on first selection on Second Life Server 15.07.09.303393 & RC
  • BUG-9735 – Unable to Edit Group Parameters after being made OWNER of newly created group
  • BUG-9695 – [Project Notice] First attempt at joining a group fails (also happens with current release viewer)

Of these, BUG-9735 has been causing the most upset, as it affects anyone who has their role changed. While their role title will update, they will not gain the powers associated with the role, even after the requiredrelog. Commenting on the issues,Simon explained:

It’s due to some database race conditions that show up in the production servers. I was a bit over-aggressive about moving some queries from the master Db to the slave databases…. Normally our main and slave databases are pretty well in sync … with very tiny delay between them; but if you read from the slave database and do something back into the main one, there can be a window when the data isn’t right.

The curious aspect with BUG-9735 is that a relog is normally required for a person to get the updated abilities associated with a role change; so it is unclear why things are going wrong, as Simon went on to say:

I’m not exactly sure how 9735 would happen … I can imagine failures, but relogs should fix that. A bunch of your group info is fetched when you log in, [so] I’m not sure why that couldn’t be updated correctly.

As noted above, fixes for these issues are due to be deployed to the RC channels on Wednesday, July 29th. Once deployed, it would seem likely that anyone being promoted to a new role will have to be on a release candidate channel region when being promoted & relogging, in order for their group abilities to correctly update. However, it’s not clear if the individual promoting someone to a new role will also need to be on a release candidate channel region as well, so some experimentation might be required.

VMM Update

VMM auto-migration of Marketplace Direct Delivery items commenced on Thursday, July 23rd and is proceeding on weekdays between 21:00 SLT in the evening and 09:00 SLT the following morning. However, it is unlikely the VMM viewer will be promoted to the de facto release viewer in the short-term. The reason for this is that the current RC has an elevated crash rate. As a result, there will be a further update to the release candidate, which is due to appear in the next day or so and which will include a number of fixes to try to reduce the crash rate, including one for BUG-9748.

Windows 10 Issues

There have been some recent SL-related issues been noted against recent builds of Windows 10 which are worth reporting, although their potential for any impact may vary.

Font Detection

In the first, BUG-9759, Kyle Linden reports that CJK fonts (those containing a large range of Chinese/Japanese/Korean characters) are not visible in the viewer. This appears to be due to  moving the default location of the font store for Windows 10. As a result, the viewer requires an update so it can look at the revised location.

Windows 10 / AMD Graphics Driver Issue

The second issue appears to be the return of a problem specific to Windows 10 and AMD graphics drivers first reported in March 2015.  This causes the graphics card name to be saved as garbled text into the Windows registry, with the result that any program explicitly requiring the name of the graphics card in order to run correctly can encounter problems (although those which don’t will continue to run OK). As v3-style viewers are designed to explicitly save the GPU name at log-out (it is stored in the settings.xml file), those using Windows 10 / AMD systems may be affected. This is because the garbled card name gets written to the settings.xml file, along with other global settings applied to the viewer by the user, when logging out. This makes settings.xml unreadable by the viewer at the next log-in, so the viewer fails to obtain information, and so reverts all global settings (including graphics) to their defaults. The issue was first reported in April 2015 (see BUG-9054), but seemed to be resolved with later Windows 10 builds. However, it now appears to have regressed with Windows 10 Build 10240 and  the AMD 15.7 driver (see BUG-9740 and particularly FIRE-16528).

An issue with at least one recent build of Windows 10 is that the name of any AMD graphics cards is being incorrectly saved at garbled text in the Windows registry (shown on the left, using the DxDiag tool). As V3 viewers expressly try to save the graphics card name between log-in sessions, this garbled text gets saved instead, with the result that the viewer's graphics are reset to default settings at the next log-in

Left: and AMD graphics driver recorded as garbled text in the Windows 10 registry, and (right) an AMD card name similarly garbled in the viewer’s settings.xml file as a result. The latter prevents settings.xml, which contains all global settings applied to the viewer by the user, from being read by the viewer when next launched, with the result that it reverts to default settings

Quite how widespread this problem might be as Windows 10 starts shipping is unclear, so the above should be read as an advisory of possible issues. However, if it does prove to be widespread, note that a fix will be required from Microsoft / AMD; this is not something the Lab and affected TPVs can address. In an effort to pre-emptively avoid at least some of the possible headaches the issue might pose for their users, the Firestorm team have developed a workaround, which is to be included in the upcoming 4.7.2 release. This workaround allows the viewer to load the settings.xml file so a user won’t lose all their global settings. But because the graphics card name remains garbled within the Windows registry (from which it is read by the viewer), it will still be saved as garbled text in settings.xml, and the viewer will continue reset all graphics options to their defaults when next launched until such time as a fix is forthcoming from Microsoft / AMD to correct the registry issue.

 Version Number

A third, and in terms of functionality, trivial issue is that Windows 10 will show as Windows 8 running in compatibility mode in the viewer’s system info. This won’t impact the viewer’s performance, and a fix from the Firestorm team has been contributed to the Lab (STORM-2105), and should be appearing in due course.

Jeremy Bailenson talks potential and pitfalls in VR

A Tweet by Loki Eliot drew my attention to a Q&A article in the San Jose Mercury News with Professor Jeremy Bailenson, in which he discusses Virtual Reality and raises some interesting points to consider on the future of the technology as a mass-market product.

Professor Bailenson is well qualified to comment on VR. He’s the founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and his main area of interest is the phenomenon of digital human representation, especially in the context of immersive virtual reality. His work has been consistently funded by the National Science Foundation for fifteen years, and his findings have been published in over 100 academic papers in the fields of communication, computer science, education, environmental science, law, medicine, political science, and psychology.

Professor Jeremy Bailenson (image: Stanford University)

Professor Jeremy Bailenson (image: Stanford University)

While he is immersed (no pun intended) in the technology and believes in its potential, as he tells Mercury News reporter Troy Wolverton, he is no VR evangelist. In fact he harbours mixed views about some of the uses being touted for VR in the future, and is convinced the current emphasis on VR within the gaming environment isn’t the best use for the technology.

“When Commissioner Adam Silver of the NBA came to my lab, he thought that I was going to try to convince him that one should watch an NBA game from VR. And I can’t imagine what would be worse than that,” he tells Wolverton early in the interview.

He continues, “I’ve never worn an HMD (head-mounted device) for more than a half an hour in my life, and nowadays, I rarely wear one for more than five or 10 minutes. And a two-hour NBA game would be pretty brutal on the perceptual system. I believe VR’s really good for these very intense experiences, but it’s not a 12-hour-day thing.

In terms of VR and games, he says, “I don’t believe that video games are an appropriate market for this. Especially when you get into the highly violent games — do you really want to feel that blood splatter on you? I don’t think it’s the right use case.”

His belief is that VR is best suited to specific uses, rather than a catch-all new wonder technology. But even then, he sees limits on how much VR will be used. Not because of any technological limitations, but simply because of the physical impact they have on our vision, and what flows out from that.

“Think about how much time you spend on your device a day. It’s more than six to eight hours, and that’s a long time to be wearing a pair of goggles,” he says. “But even if that wasn’t the case, the real problem is that the visual experience with an HMD necessarily produces some eye strain, and that gets fatiguing over time.”

It’s hard to argue with him on this; computer vision syndrome is a recognised condition affecting around 90% of those who use a computer for more than 3 hours a day. The effects are temporary, but can include headaches, blurred or double vision, neck pain, dry or irritated eyes, dizziness and polyopia. With HMDs placing screens mere centimetres from the eyes to the exclusion of all else, there is a risk the symptoms could be more particularly felt, thus limiting the degree to which we remain physically and mentally comfortable when using them.

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) already affects around 90% of people who use a computer screen for more than 3 hours a day. The affects are temporary, and more irritating than harmful - but could they nevertheless impact the degree with which we use VR HMDs?

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) already affects around 90% of people who use a computer screen for more than 3 hours a day. The symptoms are temporary, and more irritating than harmful – but could they nevertheless impact the degree with which we use VR HMDs?

So where does he see VR having particular application?

Part of his work involves him in building VR systems which allow physically remote people to meet and interact. He uses these to study how such systems change the nature of verbal and non-verbal interaction (hence why High Fidelity ask him to become an advisor), as well as exploring how VR might change the way we think about education, environmental behaviour, empathy, and health. It’s perhaps not surprising that he sees these as the primary uses for VR.

“VR experience changes the way you think of yourself and others and changes your behaviour,” he notes. “And when VR’s done well, it’s a proxy for a natural experience, and we know experiences physically change us.”

Even so, he does remain concerned of the potential negative influence of VR on people.

“Am I terrified of the world where anyone can create really horrible experiences?” He asks rhetorically. “Yes, it does worry me. I worry what happens when a violent video game feels like murder. And when pornography feels like sex. How does that change the way humans interact, function as a society?

“The technology is powerful. It’s like uranium. It can heat homes and destroy nations.”

All told, the interview is an interesting read which serves to get the grey matter boggling a little more on the subject of VR, how it might be used and the impacts it might have.

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It’s Up to U in Second Life

Up to U; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrUp to U, July 2015 (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Ricco Saenz recently posted that while Roche as we know it may be gone, the region remains, but under new ownership. Ricco’s post offers considerable food for thought on aspects of the region’s new look, which prompted me to go take a look for myself.

Roche is now held by ๑๑Ŧﻨσ๑๑ (Fio Bravin), who has given it the name Up To U. The make-over appears to be a shared activity between Fio and ありえす (ArieS Magic), and it sees the region split into two islands connected by a lone wooden bridge, while further out on the water sit a couple smaller islands, one of which has a lighthouse located on it.

Up to U; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrUp to U, July 2015 (Flickr)

The larger of the two islands is awash with sunflowers neatly planted as if being cultivated. A dirt track curves across part of the island, passing a working barn and between the neat rows of sunflowers to arrive at a small summer-house still under construction, itself surround by a ring of the tall, yellow flowers. The entire scene is suggestive of country living, but there’s more.

Alongside the track sits a small area set-up for a barbecue, offering plenty to refresh the weary traveller. Nearby is a vegetable patch in the process of becoming a playground for rabbits and foxes. Further afield, things become a little more whimsical: alongside the barn float a trio ethereal blue leaves, inviting visitors to repose upon them and forget the world. Not too much further away, and in part hidden by the long grass and a fallen log, sits one of the little scenes which had Ricco turning his thoughts very eloquently to the subject of  anthropomorphism.

Up to U; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrUp to U, July 2015 (Flickr)

Across the water and the wooden bridge, the smaller of the two islands is the setting for a whitewashed house surrounded by white flowers and long grass. I’ve no idea if it is open to the public or a pied-a-terre for Fio and ArieS when visiting the region, so I didn’t intrude inside; although a quick peep through the windows suggested it is a place where cats rule!

Taking over a region which has been so well-known and so well-loved for so long is no easy task. No matter how things are made over, there is always a risk that those who visit and who remember the “old” look are going to be haunted by ghosts of the past.

Up to U; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrUp to U, July 2015 (Flickr)

Perhaps Up to U, as a name, reflects this, and is intended to offer the visitor with a simple choice when exploring the region: to see it with new eyes or with old. If so, I’ll opt for the former; Up to U brings a fresh and very different look to Roche, one that has its own charm and attractiveness, offering plenty of opportunities of those who want to take photos or want to sit and ponder or chat – and even those who fancy a little whimsy to stir their thinking!

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