Lab announces 2021 Seasonal events

Winter Wonderland

On Friday, December 3rd, Linden Lab announced the core Lab-supported / provided winter / Christmas seasonal events for 2021 in Second Life.

Winter Wonderland and Annual Snowball Fight

As usual, headlining the season is the re-opening of the Winter Wonderland regions. These bring with them the familiar Village of Lights, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice-skating, snowy walks and more. Plus, as always the snowball fight arena, open for casual and group games – and, of course, the annual Lindens (and Moles vs. residents snowball fights.

The latter will take place over two sessions on Friday, December 17th, the first at 10:00-11:00 SLT and 14:00-15:00 SLT.

To participate in snowball fights, be sure to read and accept the experience.

Seasonal Gifts

This year, gifts are available through two options:

  • The Winter Swaginator Hunt: running through until the end of December 2021, the Swagniator Hunt is offering four limited edition Linden Bears. Open to everyone, but grab the HUD and follow the clues in local chat.
  • The 2021 Winter Premium gift: available via the Premium Gift kiosks, Premium members can obtain a bicycle gift that could well come in handy for exploring summer venues in 2022 and beyond.

11th Annual SL Christmas Expo in Support of the American Cancer Society

I’ll have more on this is an upcoming post, so to quote from the official blog post, this year’s event includes::

  • Vote (by donation to a special ACS Christmas Expo Kiosk) for your favourite decorated Linden Home at the annual Lights of Hope Home Decorating Contest.
  • Pose with Santa Patch and his elves! A very special opportunity to pose for a picture with our VP of Product Operations, Patch Linden, and his team of Molelves – on Friday, December 10th from 12: noon to 15:00 SLT, in the main SL Christmas Expo region!
  • >New theme of Linden Homes will be revealed on Monday, December 6th! Watch this space – to be published on Monday!
  • A new Limited Edition Christmas Item -> Patch on a shelf, available here.

Shop and Hop

The familiar Shop and Hop event will be opening on Wednesday, December 8th, 2021 – watch the official blog for further details.


2021 CCUG meeting week #48 summary: Graphics work

Nelipot, September 2021 – blog post

The following notes were taken from my audio recording and chat log of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, December 2nd 2021 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, meeting SLurl, etc, are are available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

Unfortunately, my audio recording turned into so much noise around half-way through the meeting, so what follows is a truncated set of notes based purely on text.

Available Viewers

This list reflects those viewers available via Linden Lab.

  • Release viewer: version version, formerly the Maintenance RC and dated November 10, promoted November 15 – this viewer now contains a fix for the media issues caused by the Apple Notarisation viewer.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • The Tracy Integration RC viewer version (dated Friday, November 5) issued Tuesday, November 9.
    • 360 Snapshot RC viewer, version, issued October 21.
    • Simplified Cache RC viewer, version, dated September 17, issued September 20.
  • Project viewers:
    • Performance Improvements project viewer updated to version (dated November 17) November 22.
    • Performance Floater project viewer, version, issued September 2.
    • Mesh Optimizer project viewer, version, issued September 1.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version, dated October 26, 2020.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version, dated December 9, 2019.

General Viewer Notes

  • The aim is still to combine the 360 Snapshot RC viewer and the Simplified Cache RC viewers into a single RC in preparation for promotion.

Graphics Work

  • This work has comprised a number of elements, both in moving processes that should logically have their own threads, and in moving processing that can cause the main thread to stall while it is handling them (e.g. processes that talk to the graphics API, the texture upload to OpenGL, etc.) to other background threads, together with overhaul avatar rendering.
  • The main focus of work is now bug fixing, with the hope to get an RC viewer out before the holiday period.

Blend Shapes

Over time, LL has received multiple requests for blend shape / morph target / shape key support to be added to the avatar system  (see BUG-22993 as an example). Were such a capability be added, it will require a new asset type associated with the avatar or a part of the original mesh definition.

  • However, for the meeting, Vir asked creators to assume the option to be available and asked for thoughts on how they would be used, e.g:
    • Should that have name-based parameters with LSL support for accessing them?
    • How else might they be controlled if they did not correspond to existing sliders?
  • The Lab’s thinking is that there are two categories of blend shapes to be considered:
    • Blend shapes that are intended to implement functionality that is equivalent to the built-in slider blends of the system avatar (and so can be integrated into the existing slider number system).
    • Blend Shapes that are intended to be independent of the existing slider system.
  • It was noted that any slider-based system for blend shapes could be limited, as it won’t necessarily work with clothing without an overhaul of the avatar rigging system, as clothing has no inherent understanding of the base body form.
    • While there are potential work-arounds to the above point, they would require adding further levels of technical complexity to SL, which perhaps isn’t the best way to go – and would be a much large project to implement.
  • The assumption is also that blend shapes would have a fixed 0.0 – 1.0 input range, which raised the question of how would it be triggered?
    • Via editing?
    • Using LSL?
    • Referenced in an animation (to allow more dynamic use – such as facial emoting)?
  • (As it was at this point audio went sideways, I believe the general feeling was the all three options for triggering; but without audio to confirm Vir’s feedback, I’m unsure).

In Brief

  • Andrew (Mojo Linden) Kertesz, the Lab’s new Vice President of Engineering, dropped into the meeting, having already become a semi-regular attendee at the Simulator User Group and the TPV Developer meetings.
    • He noted he is hoping to drop in to further meetings, possibly on a monthly basis, and build up a picture as to the hopes / wants / needs of content creators and gather information that can perhaps be folded back into the Lab’s own plans.
    • He also indicated that thoughts at the Lab are now turning towards features, capabilities and experiences and a road map of ideas is being developed; but nothing currently ready for any form of disclosure.
  • In asking those present for feedback on what content creators might like to see, the answers supplied included:
    • An improved / off-the-shelf scripting system.
    • The ability to build UI-based HUDs. This has been a common request, and potential use-case explains were requested during the meeting, to help LL better understand how / where they might be used (e.g. “this is how this HUD + LLSL is being done today – how could/should it be done with language X + widgets”).
  • Requests were again made for LL to devote time to updating documentation, particularly those elements of the wiki that are being kept active  – such as the pages referencing content creation. These are wildly out-of-date / misleading, and frustration was voiced over the fact that Beq Janus of the Firestorm team spent a considerable amount of time annotating issues and providing LL with a list of updates to all content creation documentation, none of which has been actioned.
  • The subject of mesh LODs (and / or lack thereof) and the potential for auto LOD generation (and what to do with existing content where the LODs have been wither played down or are non-existent).
    • While there are possible ways to allow for auto LODding existing content, they may require opting-in by content creators (and some may not be able to do so anyway), or may not not always work; others would require some kind of updating of the back-end mesh asset ID – something that is not current possible.
  • On the positive, the Lab seem open to accepting well-defined / written proposals for potential improvements that can both simplify and / or provide performance improvements with both in-world content and avatars.

Note: there will be one more CCUG meeting for 2021 – Thursday, December 17th.

Kraven Klees: a digital master In Second Life

Janus Gallery III: Kraven Klees

Towards the start of the year I wrote about the simply brilliant art of Kraven Klees, at the time being exhibited at Chuck Clip’s Janus Gallery I, Sinful Retreat (see: The digital mastery of Kraven Klees in Second Life). It therefore seems only right that as the year draws to a close, I return to Sinful Retreat and the Janus Gallery III, where Kraven is again the guest artist – and once again, presents a simply magnificent select of his work.

While it is a term more usually applied to the world of film and the idea of cinematic collaboration, it’s hard to look at Kraven’s digital art and not see him as a auteur. By taking photographs and combining them with both fractal generating software and assorted art genres – impressionism, abstractionism, surrealism, Kraven works subjectively to bring together multiple ideas and techniques to create pieces that are stunningly layered and narratively rich.

Janus Gallery III: Kraven Klees

Within Twisted Imagery, we are treated to all of this and more. Whether a piece utilises an iconic image as its basis – such as with Shhh, featuring Pete Humphreys’ finger-on-lips David Bowie – or offers a landscape that offers us a glimpse of autumnal warmth not only through the use of colour, but also through the manner in which the use of fractals creates a sense of flow within its lines (Autumn Road), all of the the pieces on display are an utter delight to behold. Wrapped within all them is not only a use of fractal generation, but also touches of abstraction, impressionism, realism and surrealism.

In terms of narrative, these are pieces are as equally as engaging. In some, the narrative is as layered as the piece; in others it forms a symbiosis with the art. Take Welcome My Son on the upper level of the gallery, for example, together with Peyote alongside of it. In the first, we have a richly layered narrative: there’s the natural protectiveness and comfort in the way the father is holding his baby son, the suggestion that the babe is either new or recently born; there’s then the sense of wonder and confusion in the baby’s eyes while his overall expression of calm suggests he is being comforted by that parental warmth, and finally the colours and swirls give the depth of emotion and feeling – pride from the father, and trust and peace from the child.

Janus Gallery III: Kraven Klees

Beside it, Peyote sits as a piece and title that both inform one another, working in a symbiosis that carries us into the world of native American Indians. Both evoke the manner in which the spineless cactus, rich in psychoactive alkaloids, has played a central medicinal roles in American Indian culture, and also its use without non-medicinal “vision quests”. Meanwhile, those seeking a rich presentation of surrealism need look no further than the exotic Clockhead, whilst on the lower level, 101st Airborne presents a richly evocative piece that draws on paintings that commemorate the US military, thus taking us in yet another direction.

All of the above really just scratches the surface of Kraven’s art, both as a whole and within Twisted Imagery as an exhibition of selected pieces. I say this because all of his work has a depth – in content, colour, narrative, and style – that is genuinely unique. As such, this is (again) an exhibition that should not be missed by anyone with a passion or interest in art.

Janus Gallery III: Kraven Klees

SLurl Details

A Calas Christmas Wish for 2021 in Second Life

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish – click any image for full size

December 2021 has arrived, and with it comes the public opening of the Calas Galadhon winter / Christmas regions, put together by Tymus Tenk and Truck Meredith, ably assisted by the Calas team.

There are many things that make the end of the year special: the holidays, celebrations, snow and more – all of which are to be found in Second Life. However, what is unique to SL, and looked forward to every year, are the Calas Christmas regions. A highlight of the season every year, for 2021, the Calas Christmas setting once again returns to a 2-region layout, and as always both are beautifully decorated for  visitors, with lots to see and do, be it wandering, riding, skating, cuddling, photography, or just getting into the end-of-year spirit.

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

The theme for this year is A Christmas Wish, and after the last couple of years in the physical world, we’re probably all already wishing for a brighter and more open 2022. In this, the Calas regions get us off to a good start; from the landing point, it’s a short walk to the Arctic Express – a familiar motif for the regions over the years – and thence along the train tracks to where a white stag stands waiting in the train tunnel. However, before anyone can reach the stag, they are teleported to the regions proper.

From here, signposts point the way to the main pavilion, the path itself fairly direct as it winds through snow-laden trees and around the edge of the frozen lake. But while it may be direct, it is not the only route to locations awaiting discovery with in regions, so wandering and exploring is strongly recommended.

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

The Pavilion overlooks the traditional skating lake, and provides within it opportunities for dancing and getting into the Christmas spirit by a roaring fire. Close by is the balloon tour gazebo, whilst a little further away is a pavilion set out for fine dining. Meanwhile, across the ice, a smaller pavilion awaits dancers who would like a smaller, more intimate dance area.

The balloon ride offer a skyborne tour of the regions, and it is joined at the ground level by the traditional sleigh rides through the region – these can be found close to the arrival point at the start of the pavilion trail. Also awaiting discovery within the region are a number of romantic spots, indoors and out, such as the cabins among the trees. These can be found via exploration or by grabbing a note card from the giver just inside the entrance to the main pavilion and which contains local LMs.

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

Prior to the public opening, Ty confessed to me he tends to drive himself to have the Calas team “outdo” the previous year’s build, which is getting harder and harder to achieve. My response to this is that, really, I don’t think it is necessary; all of the Calas Christmas designs have been richly engaging down the years, and sometimes a sense of less is more is better than trying to pile things on.

For 2021, A Christmas Wish offers an also perfect balance between offering a richness of Christmas cheer and a relaxed openness of winter settings and walks – some with touches of Ty’s and Truck’s usual humour. There are also numerous poses awaiting discovery that further enhance the opportunities for photography that also make it well worth while taking a wander, rather than just heading for the pavilion and the skating. Finally, there is a also a nice use of off-region elements to the setting that allow for a dense of depth without throwing up huge amounts of off-region landscape to distract the eyes.

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

Entertainment will, as always, be presented at the Pavilion, with additional entertainment also available via the main Calas regions; for dates and times, refer to the Calas Galadhon blog in the coming days.

The Calas Christmas regions are always a popular destination, and avatars can place the heaviest load on the viewer, consider keeping your avatar dressed accordingly, use Bakes on Mesh, and avoid outfits that utilise multiple high-res unique textures. Also, to assist the simulators, do lighten your script load..

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

Also, keep in mind that because the regions are popular, you may want to make adjustment to your viewer to help with processing: reduce the maximum number of fully-rendered avatars, perhaps turn off shadow rendering, if used (other than for photography), drop your draw distance, etc.

But above all, enjoy your visit!

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

SLurl Details

Note that Sincere Estates is rated Moderate.

2021 SUG meeting week #48 summary

The Rock, September 2021 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Tuesday, November 30th, 2021 Simulator User Group (SUG) meeting. The meeting was recorded by Pantera Północy, and the video is embedded at the end of this summary. Note this summary focuses on the key points of the meeting, where there is something to report; the video video should be referred to should full details of the meeting wish to be reviewed.

Server Deployments

See the server deployment thread for further updates.

  • On Monday, November 29th / Tuesday, November 30th, all simulators on the SLS Main channel were restarted to allow for a hardware upgrade.
  • On Wednesday, December 1st:
    • The Le Tigre RC channel will be updated to the simulator version using the new toolset.
    • Pending a final QA decision, the remain RC channels may also receive a new simulator version.

Simhost Configuration

While the Lab is not prepared – yet – to discuss the simulator host configuration changes that are being made, we have been promised a blog post on the subject in the near future. However, in commenting on the work, Rider Linden stated:

Amazon offers a variety of hardware configurations. We’ve been switching from one that closely mirrored what we had in the colo[cation facilities, the Lab’s former dedicated server facilities] to a new one that fits our usage pattern better.

End-of-Year Deployments

  • There are potentially two more simulator deployment periods left for the year: December 7th / 8th, and potentially the 14th/15th, if anything has to be pushed back – although LL would prefer not to have that happen.
  • There should be restarts on the 21st / 22nd December for the holiday period, but no deployments.
  • The next scheduled restart / deployment period will then come on January 4th / 5th 2021.

Available Viewers

This list reflects those viewers available via Linden Lab.

  • Release viewer: version version, formerly the Maintenance RC and dated November 10, promoted November 15 – this viewer now contains a fix for the media issues caused by the Apple Notarisation viewer.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • The Tracy Integration RC viewer version (dated Friday, November 5) issued Tuesday, November 9.
    • 360 Snapshot RC viewer, version, issued October 21.
    • Simplified Cache RC viewer, version, dated September 17, issued September 20.
  • Project viewers:
    • Performance Improvements project viewer updated to version (dated November 17) November 22.
    • Performance Floater project viewer, version, issued September 2.
    • Mesh Optimizer project viewer, version, issued September 1.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version, dated October 26, 2020.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version, dated December 9, 2019.

In Brief

  • As many have noticed, avatar bakes have been taking noticeably longer when logging-in, with some also reporting changes of outfit. This looks to be a systemic issue.
  • Some have been reporting a log-in issue that manifests as a warning that the computer running the viewer may have an incorrectly set clock, exacerbated by the fact the suggested resolutions to the issue do not appear to correct it. However, LL believe the underpinning cause has been identified, and a fix should be deployed “soon”.

Art and Virtual Identity in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Margherita Hax, Virtual Identity

To round out what has been another year of totally flawless exhibitions at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, Dido Haas has invited Margherita Hax to present the first ever gallery exhibition of her SL photography, which will be up through the month of December.

Entitled Virtual Identity, this is a fascinating series of black-and-white avatar studies that are in and of themselves, a demonstration of the art of photography in its truest. From framing through the use of focus, depth of field, filters, cropping, to post-processing, these are images that are visually engaging. Within them, can be found both single-frame narratives and threads of broader stories and themes.

While the title of this exhibition suggests a focus purely on a matter of the “real” and “virtual” identity dichotomy, it does so from a broader perspective than we might normally view it:  purely from how an individual presents themselves through their avatar, actions and words to create a character. While this is part of Virtual Identity, so to is the other – oft overlooked  – aspect of identity: how we overlay what we see through projection, being overly focused on our own emotions and even idolatry. In doing so, it also touches on subjects such as honesty and filtering.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Margherita Hax, Virtual Identity

Within Second Life, much has been made about the freedom of expression we have: one to another, the majority of us are very much anonymous, with complete agency over how we choose to present ourselves via our avatar’s appearance and – more intrinsically –  what we chose to reveal of our actual natures and selves. Many commentators have seen this as something that leans very much towards the beneficial, with a  quote by Oscar Wilde often being used to underline this point:

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

– Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist (1891)

However, as a truism, this quote is actually a double-edged sword; whilst broadly taken as a being a “good” thing for our freedom of expression in Second Life; Wilde’s words also underline the fact that that very anonymity can be used to detriment; not only in the more obvious ways we all think of, but also in one-to-one interactions and relationships, in that the likes of avatar appearance and the use of text make it both next to impossible to judge intent. Thus, within it lies a paradox, as Margherita notes:

I have always felt the fascination of this paradoxical combination of emotions which, although limited and contained by an important filter in one sense, flow even stronger into the other. Thus, suspended from judging what is true or fake, in my photos, through portraits, gazes, stories and attitudes, I try to show and narrate emotions, lifestyle, relationships and (why not) love in 3D.

Through a central story – told down one arm of the gallery, and more individual pieces down the other, Margherita tells both the story of a Second Life relationship from beginning to end, whilst also opening up questions of what level of reality that can be found purely through a screen / text relationship. Both are somewhat linked through the use of mythological figures: Narcissus, Eros and Athena.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Margherita Hax, Virtual Identity

In particular, the former is used in an emphasis of what the artist calls “fake love”. It actually sits well with Projections, the two underlining how projecting our own needs / wants / desires into a relationship as a result of what we see is something that can result in heartache and hurt, regardless of any intent on the part of the other within the relationship. Eros, meanwhile, is used as a symbol of true love, and in the process perhaps offers a pairing with Athena and PinkPower in expressing the natural outflow of emotion and contentment that can be brought to the fore when our real personalities and heartfelt feelings are brought to the fore, and honesty forms the basis of our interactions with one another.

By using different avatars throughout, Margherita offers a reminder of how the two sides of identity and its role in a relationship and who we are. That something as simple as a change in appearance  – from skin tone through to gender – can completely alter perceptions, responses and personal outlook. This further underlines her central tenet of Margherita’s description of the exhibition: that when we are reliant purely on a single filter, emotions and projection also become singular; something that can be, depending on the intent of both parties, potentially harmful  – or actually unifying.

Remarkable in its power, this is an exhibition that offers multiple opportunities for discussion, there is simply so much wrapped within the images and the themes. As individual pieces, the images at Nitroglobus are all inspiring in their presentation and depth; by using the west-east arm of the gallery to focus on a core story of love (and regret), and the north-south arm for more “individual” pieces that can also help to underline the motifs and emotions of the other arm, Margherita offers an exhibition of two intertwined halves that might be said to present a metaphor that again underlines her idea of paradox.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Margherita Hax, Virtual Identity

As this is the end of the year, and  – as I’ve noted – another superb series of exhibitions at Nitroglobus, I’d like to close with a personal note with regards to Dido herself. Her approach to the exhibitions she hosts – invitation, collaboration, encouragement, the use of additional 3D to offer contrast or emphasis, her sheer enthusiasm for art, makes any visit to Nitroglobus a consistent delight and an absolute pleasure to write about in these pages.