Re-visiting Elvenshire in Second Life

(Fae Forest), Elvenshire; Inara Pey, April 2019, on Flickr(Fae Forest), Elvenshire – click any image for full size

It’s been two years since our last visit to Elvenshire, the Homestead region designed by Zuma Fae Dust (Zuma Jupiter); a fact I was recently reminded of by Shawn Shakespeare, who actually originally pointed the region out to us back in March 2017. So this being the case, we girded our lions for teleporting, and hopped over to renew our acquaintance with the region.

Back in 2017, the region was set as a place rife with magic and not a little romance, rich in little vignettes and suggestions of an elven (or at least fae) presence. A lot has changed since then; now simply called (Fae Forest) the region still encompasses a forested feel – but this time it is a rain forest, suggestive of somewhere in the sub-tropics, backed against at high arc of mountain-like terrain, the rest of the setting smothered by a heavy blanket of foliage hiding it from prying eyes overhead.

(Fae Forest), Elvenshire; Inara Pey, April 2019, on Flickr(Fae Forest), Elvenshire

Much of the land around the feet of the trees is flooded, with water tumbling from the inaccessible uplands (while a path does offer a way up the steep hills, it only goes so far – to a plateau where a Koi house sits alongside the tumbling waters of falls). This is one of several places available for visitors to find when exploring the region.

Several of these maintain the mystical feel present within the region at our last visit. There’s an ancient, broken rotunda, for example. Slowly being overtaken by forest growth, it marks the way to an ancient garden area that in turn leads to an aged bath house rich in décor, brought together in an eclectic mix that completely satisfies the eye. A door to one side of this structure offers a way back to the landing point – but taking it might risk missing other attractions.

(Fae Forest), Elvenshire; Inara Pey, April 2019, on Flickr(Fae Forest), Elvenshire

Elsewhere sit hints of fantasy and the fantastical: a great blue whale, swimming without moving on the water rather than below it, a garden on its back, the bulk of spaceship like submarine close by. Then there are the little vignettes still waiting to be found: the old round stone turret when rusting canon and makeshift sofa, the gamer’s hideaway, all sitting between and under the trees.

And then there is the landing point itself, a hall close to the edge of the region. It has a wonderfully homely feel to it setting that immediately puts one at ease, yet holds an exotic look offering the promise of discovery within the region beyond.

(Fae Forest), Elvenshire; Inara Pey, April 2019, on Flickr(Fae Forest), Elvenshire

Should the forest prove too oppressive, gated steps run down from the landing point to a short tongue of land that licks the edge of a little grassy island crowned by a single tree (although two more lie to one side) and a sunken ring of standing stones. Here the rain falls lightly, and may well ease the more enclosed, oppressed air some might feel under the heavy foliage of the rain forest.

For those who fancy more of a challenge, the route to the path up the hills mentioned above can take some finding, but it also does reveal another little cuddle spot for romantics. Also, take care when crossing the bridges that form part of the route to the hillside path; we both fell through parts of the bridges to take a further dip in the waters below.

(Fae Forest), Elvenshire; Inara Pey, April 2019, on Flickr(Fae Forest), Elvenshire

This is a very different setting from the one we witnessed two years ago – hardly surprising since it is two years since our last visit; but it is one that remains photogenic, and visitors are invited to share their images via the region Flickr group.

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2019 viewer release summaries week #16

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates for the week ending Sunday, April 21st

This summary is generally 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.
  • Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version 6.2.0.526190, formerly the Estate Access Management RC viewer, dated April 12, promoted April 17 NEW. – see my EAM overview for more information
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Teranino Maintenance RC viewer version 6.2.1.526357, April 18.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V5/V6-style

  • No updates.

V1-style

  • No updates.

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Sansar Product Meetings week #16: Lindens and events

Skye Naturae Virtualis

The majority of the following notes were taken from my recording of the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, April 18th, which served to introduce members of the Sansar team, discuss changes to featured experiences, and raised the possible instigation of a possible Office Hours with the product team. The meeting was followed on April 19th by an announcement concerning the use of PayPal as a supported payment service provider, which is noted at the end of this report.

Lindens

The meeting took the opportunity to introduce:

  • Kelly Linden: Kelly is worked at the Lab for 15 years, obviously primarily with Second Life, where he headed the scripting team; he now leads the scripting development team for Sansar.
  • Skylar Linden: Skylar heads the Sansar Live Events team, and is leading the work on the work with events and the Atlas that is currently in progress.
  • Signal Linden: has been part of the Sansar team for three years, working in a number of areas, including the web API, and is currently focused on some transform tool changes in the Edit mode, and which see the addition of some hot keys to allow toggling between things like move and rotate, etc.
  • Lankston Linden: a data analyst  for Sansar, focusing on typical activities within Sansar – how many people are doing X at a given time, etc., how many are using Y, helping to determine trends within the platform, etc.
    • The analytics Lankston is helping develop are intended for use by the Lab, but Landon Linden indicated that developing analytics for use by Sansar creators. This should hopefully start to happen towards the end of the second half of 2019.
  • Harley Linden, who head the Sansar support team.

Featured Experiences

Featured (Recommended in the web version of the Atlas) have not been updated in a while. The web version comprises a 3×3 grid, and in the future:

  • Three of these featured experiences will probably be reserved for the Lab’s content partners.
  • Three will feature experiences that align with other internal goals the Lab has which “may or may not be obvious”. These might, for example, focus on live music concerts.
  • The remaining three will be open to Sansar creators, and will be changed on a weekly basis.

The criteria on how the last three are selected still have to be determined, however:

  • It is likely that a creator featured one week will not be eligible to be featured the following week, even with a different experience.
  • There is likely to be some form of public “voting / nomination” for potential experiences through the Sansar Discord channel.
  • It might be that the three slots will be determined by an over-arching theme (e.g. holiday themes during notable holiday weeks, or themes like clubs, games, etc.

Discord

  • Sansar’s Discord channels have been opened to the public.
    • A new public channel (or channels) is available for those who might hear about Sansar and who want to check the community, etc., before opting to install the client and sign-up.
    • This means the content of the existing channels will be available for anyone on the public Sansar Discord channel to read, but only registered Sansar users will be able to post to them.
  • The Lab is additionally look to reach out to other communities on Discord and generate interest in Sansar (e.g. the live music community).

In Brief from the Meeting

  • Linden Lab is looking to expand the number of avatars a single instance of an experience can handle. The limit has been 35, but 50 is being looked at with tests of up to 65.
  • There is a known issue with voice that can see it suddenly drop / fail within an experience where multiple people are chatting.
  • With the next release (as previously reported) events and the Atlas should be fully re-integrated. However, it is still TBD on whether the event will feature the primary instance of the supporting experience, or will be tied to a dedicated instance of the experience.
  • Product Office Hours: the idea here is for sessions (possibly on Twitch) in which specific topics could be addressed (e.g. “how to rig an avatar”). Feedback on this idea has been asked for via Discord.

PayPal Support

On Friday, April 19th, Linden Lab announced – via Steam – that with immediate effect, they would supporting PayPal as a payment service provider, allowing users to purchase Sansar Dollars, store items, and tickets to events using PayPal.This is something users have been requested since at least the time of the public beta.

Full details on adding PayPal to your Sansar account can be found in Adding a payment method to your account, which also includes:

Fantasy Faire 2019: Seanchai’s Tales

Fantasy Faire 2019: Trollhaugen

This week, Seanchai Library joins with Fantasy Faire to present stories of fantasy and science fiction throughout the week and the Fantasy Faire LitFest. Join them at the LitFest region of Trollhaugen.

Monday 22nd 19:00: Selections from the Works of Ursula Le Guin

Gyro Muggins presents selected excerpts from two different works by the late author Ursula Le Guin: Left Hand of Darkness and The Lathe of Heaven.

Published in 1969 as a part of the Hainish Cycle, Left Hand of Darkness established Le Guin’s status as a major author of science fiction. The novel follows the story of Genly Ai, a native of Earth and the envoy of the Ekumen, a confederation of planets that includes Earth. He is sent to the planet Gethen (also know as Winter), to persuade the nation states of that world to join the Ekumen, but he is stymied by his lack of understanding of Gethenian culture: the people there are ambisexual, with no fixed sex, something that plays a powerful role in the culture of Gethen, which Ai finds hard to understand. And then there is the intrigue he finds…

Originally published in serial form by Amazing Stories in 1971, The Lathe of Heaven is set in Portland, Oregon in the year 2002. Now a city of three million inhabitants and continuous rain, in a United States now an impoverished nation, as is much of the world, thanks to the impact of global warming. For Portland, this means the poorer inhabitants to have kwashiorkor, or protein deprivation. Within this environment, a battle of wits ensues between a psychiatrist and a patient with psychic dream powers.

Tuesday, April 22nd 19:00: Nothing But Trolls!

From Neil Gaiman to J.K. Rowling, as well as more traditional adventures, Caledonia Skytower presents a troll’s eye perspective

Wednesday, April 23rd 19:00: Celebrating Ursula K Le Guin

Seanchai Library joins Litfest’s celebration of the life and works of Ursula K. Le Guin.

Thursday, April 24th: 19:00: Halloween in April – X-Files: The House On Hickory Hill

With Shandon Loring and Calaedonia Skytower. (Also in Kitely grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI).

Space Sunday: exoplanets and Mars missions

An artist’s impression of Proxima-b with Proxima Centauri low on the horizon. The double star above and to the right of it is Alpha Centauri A and B. Credit: ESO

In 2016, astronomers reported their discovery of a planet orbiting our nearest stellar neighbour, Proxima Centauri (see: Space Sunday: exoplanets, dark matter, rovers and recoveries). Since then, the debate has swung back and forth on the potential of it being suitable for life.

While the planet – called Proxima-b – lies within it’s parent star’s habitable zone, there are, as I’ve previously reported, some significant barriers to it being a potential cradle for life. In particular, red dwarf stars are volatile little beasts (Proxima Centauri is just 1.5 times bigger than Jupiter), with their internal activity convective in nature. This tends to give rise to massive stellar flares that can bathe planets orbiting them in high levels of biologically harmful radiation. In addition, many planets discovered orbiting red dwarfs are so close to their parent as to be tidally locked – always keeping the same face towards their sun. This means they are liable to extremely hostile conditions: high temperatures on one side, freezing cold on the other, with the region around the terminator liable to violent weather – assuming they have an atmosphere; over longer periods of time, the onslaught of X-ray radiation and charged particle fluxes from their parent star can literally strip away any atmosphere, unless a planet can replenish it fast enough.

This latter point is the conclusion reached by a team of scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland in reference to Proxima Centauri b in 2017 (see: Space Sunday: Curiosity’s 5th, Proxima b and WASP-121b), although they were working largely from computer modelling.

The Earth-sized Proxima-B and its parent star

However, all that said, if Proxima-b does still have an atmosphere, then a new study conducted by researchers from the Carl Sagan Institute (CSI) suggests life might have got started on Proxima-b, and might even still exist there.

In essence, the team from CSI examined the levels of surface UV flux that planets orbiting M-type (red dwarf) stars like Proxima-b would experience and compared that to conditions on primordial Earth. At that time, some 4 billion years ago, Earth’s surface was hostile to life as we know it today, thanks to a volcanically toxic atmosphere and the levels of UV radiation reaching the surface from the Sun; however it is believed the it was the period when life first arose on Earth.

In particular, the team modelled a range of possible surface UV environments and atmospheric compositions of four nearby “potentially habitable” exoplanets: Proxima-b, TRAPPIST-1e, Ross-128b and LHS-1140b. These models showed that as atmospheres become thinner and ozone levels decrease, more high-energy UV radiation is able to reach the ground – which was to be expected. But when they compared the models to those developed for Earth as it was 4 billion years ago, things got interesting: the exoplanet models suggest that the UV levels they experience are all lower than the Earth experienced in its youth, when the first (pre-oxygen) life is believed to have existed – suggesting that despite their harsh conditions, life might have gained a toehold on them.

With Proxima-b this is particularly interesting, as it is liable to be somewhat older than the Earth, possibly by as much as 200 million years. This means there is a possibility that if simple life arose there early enough after the planet’s formation, it might well have had enough time to adapt to the development environment as atmospheric conditions changed, and thus survived through to current times.

The news from Proxima Centauri doesn’t end there. A team of researchers from the University of Crete and the Observatory of Turin has found possible evidence of a second planet orbiting the star.

Proxima Centauri b was identified using two instruments operated by the European Southern Observatory in Chile, which recorded “wobbles” in Proxima Centauri’s spin as a result of planetary gravitational influences. One of those instruments, called HARPS, has been the focal point for the team claiming there’s evidence for a second planet orbiting the star. By studying data gathered over the last 17 years, they believe they have found sufficient evidence to suggest a second planet could be affecting the star’s spin.

The team estimate that this second planet could have a mass approximately six times that of Earth, putting it in the category of a super-Earth / mini Neptune class of planet in terms of potential size, and that it likely orbits its parent at a distance of approximately 1.5 AU (1.5 times the average distance between the Earth and the Sun) once every 5 terrestrial years. . At such a distance, it’s likely that the surface temperatures of the planet is likely to be around -230oC.

Confirmation that the new planet does actually exists is now required – hence the research time offering their report for further peer review.

Curiosity Samples Clay on Mars

Curiosity has been on the road for nearly seven years. Finally drilling at the clay-bearing unit is a major milestone in our journey up Mount Sharp.

– Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson

With these words, issued in a press release on April 11th, the Mars Science Laboratory team announced a major goal for Curiosity rover had been achieved.

While it may seem are to believe, despite seven years on the surface of Mars, and with multiple drilling samples obtained, gaining a direct sample of clay rock has proven elusive. While the rover has previously sampled clay deposits and the minerals they contain, these have been contained in samples of mudstone the rover has sampled, rather than from an actual layer of clay.

“Aberlady” and the sample drill hole, April 6th, 2019. Credit: NASA/Caltech/MSSS

The primary goal for the mission is to determine whether Mars ever have the right conditions for microbes to live. It’s a question that can be answered by sampling the planet’s soil, air, and rock and carefully analysing it. This goal was actually met in the first several months of the rover’s time on Mars while it was still exploring the crater floor, but the more evidence Curiosity can gather, the clearer our understanding of past conditions in Gale Crater and on Mars become.

In this, clays play an important role. They form in water, a key requirement for life, and can act as repositories for chemical and minerals that might be indicative of conditions suitable for past life. This particular sample of clay came from a rock formation on the side of “Mount Sharp” dubbed Aberlady, which Curiosity drilled on April 6th, 2019.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: exoplanets and Mars missions”

Taking a birds-eye look at Bellisseria

Plane sailing: over the Capitol Springs bridge and a boat passes under it

I decided to take a little time off on Easter Sunday and go for a flight around part of Bellisseria, the new Linden Homes continent, and have another look at it. However, rather than taking a ‘plane or helicopter, I decided to see things in a more leisurely manner, flying my Ask 13 sailplane.

Regular readers will know I picked up one of these sailplanes, made by Rene Underby and based on the Schleicher ASK 13, just over a year ago (see Plane sailing in Second Life: the ReneMarine Ask 13). Since then, I’ve been aloft in it on numerous occasions, both on my own and with Caitlyn. It’s a great way to fly in SL, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has a love of flying in Second Life.

The Winchester: one of the two 2-storey home designs n the Traditional type of Linden Home

However, getting off the ground in the new continent isn’t that easy. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there are no airstrips, and sailplanes are not intended to get airborne off of water 🙂 . Fortunately, the Ask 13 comes with its own aerotow, so with a little cheating (rezzing the saiplane on the roof of my houseboat and then calling up the tow plane) I managed to get airborne. Not ideal, but it worked and got me up to an altitude where I could release the tow.

To be honest, I really wasn’t sure how far I’d get; as we all know, region crossings – physical or TP – have been something of a roll of the dice of late, and on a boat trip on Saturday I ended up losing my boat every few region crossings, so that  after the fourth time I ended up dumped and having to re-log, I gave up. However, Sunday’s trip was nothing short of superb.

Over the north-east coastal regions

As my houseboat is down in the south-west of the new continent, I headed east and north, tracking the local thermals and taking time out here and there to grab a snap.

One of the critiques levelled at the land houses in Bellisseria is that they are “cookie cutter”; I’m not sure this is an entirely fair assessment. Sure the select of houses is, at present, limited to four styles in a single theme, and the parcels are all fairly regularly set, but coupled with the general road infrastructure, trees, etc., to me give a feeling of suburbia. And while it may not always be obvious from ground level, the blending of the suburban housing with the coastal areas and the houseboats is actually nicely handled; there’s a good sense of the grasslands giving way to more sandy ground that gently merges into beaches and water.

The Adams, one of the single-storey homes in the Traditional range

I’m not going to cover the houses in great detail here, because Ricco Sanez has written an excellent piece on them, looking at all four styles. What was interesting in passing overhead was being able to see what use people were making of the garden / yard space, including some imaginative use of off-parcel placement of items along some of the waterways. These left me a little curious as to the view the Lab might have of them; from my perspective I felt they added to, rather than detracted from, the general environment.

Airborne also gives you a sense of how much space remains within the continent – and equally – how crowded it might come to feel, depending on the way in which future developments are handled.

Circling a thermal to gain altitude

Overall, my trip by air was fun – very much helped by the fact I managed my tour without getting thrown by a bad region crossing – actually, the second flight I’ve made over the continent since it opened; my first being a powered flight around the coastline and was actually equally successful – up until I hit the dreaded banlines whilst trying to make a water landing.

And landing this time around? Well, that was easy. After running the thermals along the western mountains before turning inland between them, and setting down in one of the undeveloped SSPE regions. Nevertheless (and to repeat my old chestnut) it would be nice to have an inland airstrip or two. These, with the odd park and hiking  / riding trail (if not already a part of the planning) could, as I’ve previously mentioned, add further attractiveness to the inland districts.

Is it a bird…? Is it a …? passing over Belliseria in my Ask 13