Voile: sheer delight in Second Life

Voile; Inara Pey, November 2015, on Flickr Voile (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Voile is a relatively new residential region to Second Life, and a place I was recently invited to explore by Maddie (MadisonRaelynn), who is both a resident there and a reader of this blog. I’m glad I took her up on her offer – although she has my apologies for taking a while to actually get a post properly written-up.

Designed by Heloise (Heloise Evanier), Voile presents an exquisite landscape focused on a central craggy plateau of mixed elevations, with low-lying coastal areas below, not quite encircling it. Houses are scattered across both the plateau and the low-lying areas, seemingly at random; however, each has been placed with a careful eye to ensure it enjoys a comfortable degree of privacy from neighbours and a view out over the sea. All of the houses are beautifully blended with public areas awaiting exploration by visitors and open to the enjoyment of residents. As the welcoming notes in About Land state, everyone is invited to spend time in Voile – just so long as the privacy of residents here is respected.

Voile; Inara Pey, November 2015, on Flickr Voile (Flickr) – click any image for full size

The houses on the region are an eclectic mix, ranging from rustic cottages through farmhouse and Tuscan villa to large manor style homes, with a converted church and even a tree house mixed in for good measure. Yet all work together to offer a seamless whole to the region.

The properties on the high central plateau are arranged around a central orangery / pavilion. Paths of old stone paving meander through tall grass to link each residence with its neighbours and also offering paths to the ramps and cuttings which lead to the low parts of the plateau or down to the areas just above sea level.

Voile; Inara Pey, November 2015, on Flickr Voile (Flickr) – click any image for full size

The public areas within the region are as diverse as the houses; on the main plateau one can find places to sit and paths leading down into sheltered coves,  while wooden board walks run around the feet of the high cliffs to more places to sit. A single knuckle of rock stands aside from the main plateau, the ruins of a castle perched atop, reached by a single bridge. This, and it’s ruined twin, stand sentinel over the grassy lands below, a switch back path etched into the side of the plateau offering a way down to it.

Voile is genuinely a place of beauty, somewhere to be called home by those who reside there, and explored at gentle leisure by those who visit; a place not to be missed. My thanks again to Maddie for dropping me the invitation.

Voile; Inara Pey, November 2015, on Flickr Voile (Flickr) – click any image for full size

SLurl Details

  • Voile (Rated: Moderate)

2015 viewer release summaries: week 47

Updates for the week ending Sunday, November 22nd

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version:, October 26 – no change download page, release notes
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Maintenance RC viewer updated to version on November 20 – core updates: some 38 fixes and improvements, including updates for some regressions introduced into the viewer with the current release viewer (download and release notes)
    • Project Valhalla (CEF media update) RC viewer version released on November 18 – replaces the LLQTWebKit system used in the Web media plugin with one based on the Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF)  (download and release notes)
    • Vivox RC viewer version, released on November 17 – corrects a number of Voice quality and connection issues on both Windows and the Mac (download and release notes)
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers


  • Firestorm updated to version on November 17th – core updates: parity with LL 3.8.6 code (notifications viewer), wide range of additional features, fixes and improvements (release notes)
  • Kokua updated to version on November 17th – core updates: parity with LL 3.8.6 code (notifications viewer) and RLV (release notes)


  • Cool VL Viewer Stable version updated to (Windows and (Linux)) on November 21(/22) – core updates: experimental CEF plugin (QTWebkit default media service) + fixes and improvements  (release notes).

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Tarot scenes and unfolding stories in Second Life

Escenas or Scenes

Escenas / Scenes: Decisiones / Decisions

Currently on display at MetaLES through until the 28th of November, is the second part of a four-part series by Ux Hax and Romy Nayar entitled Escenas / Scenes. Each of the four installations offers a specific scene, potentially all from the same story, but not necessarily presented in chronological order.

I confess to having missed the first scene – entitled EL Tiempo / The Time, which ran from November 1st through 14th, although Ziki’s Questi’s coverage was enough to pique my curiosity. Subtitled  I do not look, do not find you, that we would have mattered while ago…, the piece was at once suggestive of a story in and of itself, albeit on a gigantic scale, possibly influenced by  the classic Major Arcana of the occult Tarot in the form of The Hermit, who appeared within the tableau, together with a clock which appeared to be representing death and standing as a backdrop for the struggles of an old woman who seemed to be losing her fight to escape a sandy mire.

Escenas or Scenes

Escenas / Scenes: Decisiones / Decisions

Now, the second scene, Decisiones / Decisions, brings the tarot and occult influences more to the fore. Subtitled The crow pointed  the way, but the fortune get me away, the installation is once again on a gigantic scale, and features within it several more of the Major Arcana: Justice, The Chariot, The Hanged Man and The Devil.

Together these form what seems to be the outline of a narrative as Justice, her scales sitting on the Chariot, attempts to reach The Hanged Man, surrounded by clock faces bearing what seem to be occult symbols. Nearby, The Devil rises from the depths, a hand outstretched, possibly intent on stopping her.

All are additionally watched over by a crow, itself a symbol of witchcraft, mysticism and the occult, being variously seen as harbingers and communicators, and various associated with death, mystery, and magic (and The Magician is another of the Major Arcana), as well as being regarded as embodiment of The Trickster. Which capacity this crow fulfils is impossible to tell. Perhaps, as the subtitle suggests, it is telling / pointing the way. Or perhaps it is The Trickster, warning us that all is not quite as it seems.

Escenas or Scenes

Escenas / Scenes: Decisiones / Decisions

I offer absolutely no attempt at interpretation of the scene – I leave that to you when you visit, or for the remaining scenes to unfold and bring their own narratives. What I will say, however, is that when I refer to these installations being on gigantic scale, I mean just that. The figures within them are huge, as the image of me standing alongside the chariot / cart bearing the scales of justice (above) will hopefully show.

SLurl Details

Space Sunday: the sand dunes of Mars and flying to the ISS

CuriosityThe Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, continues to climb the flank of “Mount Sharp” (formal name: Aeolis Mons), the giant mount of deposited material occupying the central region of Gale Crater around the original impact peak. For the last three weeks it has been making its way slowly towards the next point of scientific interest and a new challenge – a major field of sand dunes.

Dubbed the “Bagnold Dunes”, the field occupies a region on the north-west flank of “Mount Sharp”, and are referred to as an “active” field as they moving (“migrating” as the scientists prefer to call it) down the slops of the mound at a rate of about one metre per year as a result of both wind action and the fact they are on a slope.

Curiosity has covered about half the distance between its last area of major study and sample gathering and the first of the sand dunes, simply dubbed “Dune 1”. During the drive, the rover has been analysing the samples of rock obtained from its last two drilling excursions  and returning the data to Earth, as well as undertaking studies of the dune field itself in preparation for the upcoming excursion onto the sand-like surface.

While both Curiosity and, before it, the MER rovers Opportunity and Spirit have travelled over very small sand fields and sand ripples on Mars, those excursions have been nothing like the one on which Curiosity  is about to embark; the dunes in this field are huge. “Dune 1”, for example, roughly covers the area of an American football field and is equal in height to a 2-storey building.

"dune 1" in the "Bagnold Dunes", imaged here by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is roughly 300 metres across and as tall as a 2-storey building. The image is in false color, combining information recorded by HiRISE in red, blue-green and infrared frequencies of light.

“dune 1” in the “Bagnold Dunes”, imaged here by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is roughly 300 metres across and as tall as a 2-storey building. The image is in false colour, combining information recorded by HiRISE in red, blue-green and infra-red frequencies of light.

While the rover will not actually be climbing up the dune, it will be traversing the sand-like material from which it is formed and gathering samples using the robot arm scoop. This is liable to be a cautious operation, at least until the mission team are confident about traversing parts of the dune field – when Curiosity has encountered Martian sand in the past, it has not always found favour; wheel slippage and soft surfaces have forced a retreat from some sandy areas the rover has tried to cross.

Study of the dunes will help the science team better interpret the composition of sandstone layers made from dunes that turned into rock long ago, and also understand how wind action my be influencing mineral deposits and accumulation across Mars.

On Earth, the study of sand dune formation and motion, a field pioneered by British military engineer Ralph Bagnold – for whom the Martian dune field is named – did much to further the understanding of mineral movements and transport by wind action.  Understanding how this might occur on Mars is important in identifying how big a role the Marian wind played in depositing concentrations of minerals often associated with water across the planet, as opposed to those minerals accumulating in those areas as a direct consequence of water once having been present.

A mosaic of images taken on September 25th, 2015 (Sol 1,115) captures by the right lens of the rover's Mastcam system. .The view is toward south-south-west and reveals the "Bagnold Dunes" as a dark band across the middle of the image, blending with mesas beyond them

A mosaic of images taken on September 25th, 2015 (Sol 1,115) captures by the right lens of the rover’s Mastcam system. .The view is toward south-south-west and reveals the “Bagnold Dunes” as a dark band across the middle of the image, blending with mesas beyond them

Next NASA Rover to Have its Own Drone?

In January I wrote about ongoing work to develop a helicopter “drone” which could operate in concert with future robot missions to Mars. Now the outgoing director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has indicated the centre would like to see such a vehicle officially included as a part of the Mars 2020 rover package.

Weighing just one kilogramme (2.22 pounds) and with a rotor blade diameter of just over a metre (3.6 feet), the drone would be able to carry a small instrument payload roughly the size of a box of tissues, which would notably include an imaging system. Designed to operate as an advanced “scout”, the drone would make short daily “hops” ahead of, and around the “parent” rover to help identify safe routes through difficult terrain and gather data on possible points of scientific interest which might otherwise be missed and so on.

Since January, JPL has been continuing to refine and improve the concept, and retiring JPL Director Charles Elachi has confirmed that by March 2016, they will have a proof-of-concept design ready to undergo extensive testing in a Mars simulation chamber designed to reproduce the broad atmospheric environment in which such a craft will have to fly. The centre hopes that the trials will help convince NASA management – and Congress – that such a drone would be of significant benefit to the Mars 2020 mission, and pave the way for developing drones which might be used in support of future human missions on the surface of Mars.

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