2017 Viewer release summaries week 8

Updates for the week ending Sunday, February 26th

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: 5.0.1.323027, dated January 25, promoted February 3 – formerly a Maintenance RC viewer download page, release notes – no change.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • No updates.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V5-style

V1-style

  • Cool VL viewer Stable branch updated to version 1.26.20.10 on February 26th (release notes) – version 1.26.10.9 pulled due to UI rendering bugs.

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

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The Architect’s Playground in Second Life

The Architect’s Playground is a full region installation by Methias Kira under the brand name of Abstract Soul. If you love colour, scripted effects and particles, it is liable to be an installation you’ll want to see.

Against the backdrop of a setting sun, visitors arrive on a platform 260 metres in the air. A golden figure pirouettes slowly. Everywhere are intricate traces of light brightening, fading, pulsing, from single strands to fields of spheres to delicate towers alive with a steady flow of light upwards, and great tubes which similarly ebb and flow with colour.

Within this kaleidoscope world, a paths of ever forming and fading golden ribbons beckons visitors outward from the  landing point to offer than a choice or routes upwards or downwards, their paths marked by clouds of colours spheres floating and pulsing serenely.

Whichever route you take will lead you past particles displays to platforms with more swirls and lines gently changing light. Some of these platforms feature more of the golden (and silver) figures (by Gwen Ferox and Nacht Fox) in various poses; others simply offer scintillating, almost hypnotic patterns.

Travel down low enough, and you may come to a platform where a white star pattern forms and fades, forms and fades; step into the centre and you’ll drop even lower, to islands of light formed from concentric circles sitting just above the water.  And even these are not the end of things: dive under water, and there is more to be found.

The Architect’s Playground, can be a little hard on the GPU the longer you spend within it (I’d recommend disabling shadows if you run with them on, to ease some of the load), but it is nevertheless an engaging visit, the intricate design having both an abstract and an organic feel to it. The installation will remain open until the end of June.

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Space Sunday: TRAPPIST-1, planet 9 and Europa

An artist's impression of the seven TRAPPIST planets, with -1b lower left and -1h lower right. The three planets in the star's habitable zone, -!e, -1f and -1g are the right-hand three in the top row. Credit: NASA

An artist’s impression of the seven TRAPPIST planets, with -1b lower left and -1h lower right. The three planets in the star’s habitable zone, -!e, -1f and -1g are the right-hand three in the top row. Credit: NASA

I recently wrote a space update special on the TRAPPIST-1 star system with its seven roughly Earth-sized planets. Since then, there has been speculation about whether any of them might support life, and what conditions for life might be like.

Whether life may have arisen on any of the worlds is tough question to answer. Three of the seven lie within the “habitable zone” where liquid water might exist (TRAPPIST-1e, -1f and -1g) – which is a positive for life as we know it. But for that liquid water to remain liquid, the planets must have an atmosphere. Currently, only TRAPPIST-1b and -1c have, through spectral analysis, been shown to harbour atmospheres, but these seem to be limited in scope, and could range from a water vapour rich atmosphere through to an environment similar to that of Venus.

On the negative side of the equation, the nature of their parent star, a super cool red dwarf with all internal action entirely convective in nature, means that all seven planets are likely subject to sufficient irradiation in the X-ray and extreme ultraviolet wavelengths to significantly alter their atmospheres, potentially rendering them unsuitable for life. Further, all seven are tidally locked, meaning they always keep the same face towards their parent star. This will inevitably give rise to extreme conditions, with one side of each world bathed in perpetual daylight and the other in perpetual, freezing darkness, resulting in extreme atmospheric movements and likely harsh weather.

Comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system with the solar system. Credit: European Southern Observatory / O. Furtak

Comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system with the solar system. Credit: European Southern Observatory / O. Furtak

Daylight on the planets would also be very different. Although one side of these worlds be forever in daytime, and despite the relative proximity with which they orbit their parent star, days on their surfaces would never be much brighter than sunset here on Earth, both in terms of colour and light intensity. This is because most of the light emitted by TRAPPIST-1 is radiated in the infra-red wavelengths, rather than visible wavelengths.

One the more positive side of the equation, despite the low levels of visible light, TRAPPIST-1 could still be able to sufficiently warm an atmospheres the planets might have, and the weather conditions might actually dissipate this warmth evenly over the planet’s surface, perhaps making it more hospitable to life.

It’s also likely the planets experience a lot of tidal flexing as they come under the influence of one another as well as their parent star. This flexing might give rise to hydrothermal and volcanic vents, which in turn could provide the necessary heat (energy), minerals and chemicals necessary to kick-start basic life.

Artist's impression of the three planets in TRAPPIST-1's habitable zone and to scale relative to one another. -1e (l) is the most likely to have extensive liquid water. It is 92% as big as Earth, with a mass of 62% that of Earth. It orbits its parent star about 10.8 times the distance from Earth to the Moon. -1f (c) is 1.04 times the size of Earth, but with only 62% of its mass. It is potentially water rich, and gets as much light from its star as Mars does from the Sun. -1g (r) is the outermost of the three "Goldilocks zone" worlds. It is 1.13 times Earth's size with 1.34 times its mass. It is far enough away from its parent star that the surface is likely to be entirely frozen, but the gravitational influence of the other planets could give rise to a liquid water ocean under the ice. Credit: NASA

Artist’s impression of the three planets in TRAPPIST-1’s habitable zone and to scale relative to one another. -1e (l) is the most likely to have extensive liquid water. It is 92% as big as Earth, with a mass of 62% that of Earth. It orbits its parent star about 10.8 times the distance from Earth to the Moon. -1f (c) is 1.04 times the size of Earth, but also with  62% of its mass. It is potentially water rich, and gets as much light from its star as Mars does from the Sun. -1g (r) is the outermost of the three. It is 1.13 times Earth’s size with 1.34 times its mass. It is far enough away from its parent star that the surface is likely to be entirely frozen, but the gravitational influence of the other planets could give rise to a liquid water ocean under the ice. Credit: NASA

Studies of the TRAPPIST system will continue using the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes and via ground-based observatories. However, as mentioned in my special report, it is likely to be the James Webb Space Telescope which will hopefully reveal many of the secrets of the TRAPPIST-1 system.

That said, and for those still wondering about intelligent life arising on any of these worlds, SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence has been “listening in” on the star for indications of radio traffic for some time (pre-dating the discovery of the first two planets in the system in 2016). Those surveys haven’t revealed any kind of radio emissions from the system that might be of artificial origin, but now we know there are seven planets, SETI has marked TRAPPIST-1 for further investigations with their Allen Telescope Array (ATA).

A Further Clue in the Hunt for Planet 9

Last year, Caltech astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin found indirect evidence for the existence of a large planet in the outer reaches of our Solar System well beyond Pluto; since then, the search has been on. I first covered the hunt in January 2016, and followed it with updates in February 2016 and October 2016, and it now seems a new clue to the planet’s existence may have been revealed.

Planet X, if it exists,could equal Neptune in size, and orbits the Sun 200 times further away than Earth. Credit: Caltech / R. Hurt

Planet X, if it exists,could equal Neptune in size, and orbits the Sun 200 times further away than Earth. Credit: Caltech / R. Hurt

Astronomers using the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) in the Canary Islands looked at two distant asteroids, called Extreme Trans Neptunian Objects (ETNOs). Spectroscopic observations 2004 VN112 and 2013 RF98 suggest that the two were once a binary asteroid pairing that were pulled apart as a result of the influence of a mass massive body between 10 and 20 Earth masses in size and about 300 to 600 AU from the Sun. As a result of this, the two bodies drew further and further apart over, time they became more and more separated to become how we see them today.

“The similar spectral gradients observed for the pair 2004 VN112 – 2013 RF98 suggests a common physical origin,” said Julia de León, an astrophysicist at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). “We are proposing the possibility that they were previously a binary asteroid which became unbound during an encounter with a more massive object.”

de León and his team carried out thousands of computer-based simulations to see how this might have happened, and found the most consistent result suggested the bodies were separated as a result of a close passage by a massive planetary object around 5-10 million years ago.

As it might be: estimates concerning Planet Nine's possible size, mass, etc., should it exist. Credit: Space.com / Karl Tate

As it might be: estimates concerning Planet Nine’s possible size, mass, etc., should it exist. Credit: Space.com / Karl Tate

What is particularly interesting here is that the location of the two asteroids, coupled with the suggested mass of the body which pulled them apart and the distance it is believed to have been from the Sun, also fit the broader parameters for where the orbit of Planet 9 might reside, and the estimated mass of the planet. Thus, when combined with the eccentric orbits of several Kuiper Belt Objects believed to have been perturbed in their orbits around the Sun by planet 9, it gives further credence to the idea it really is out there, somewhere.

When – and if – it might eventually be found is open to question. However, it is hoped that a  recently started “citizen scientist project will encourage amateur astronomers around the world to join in the hunt for Planet 9.

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Teeing off in Second Life

There are many, many activities you can try in Second Life which you may not by able to participate in or enjoy in the physical world. For me this has meant – among other things – playing the odd round of golf (a game I am not overly fond of outside of SL!).

I first tried my hand at a full 18-hole golf course in 2014, when I visited the AERO Golf Club (you can read about that visit here). As I hadn’t been golfing for a while, I suggested to Caitlyn we give it a try together. Given the last time I visited AERO was in mid-2015, it seemed natural for us to head there.

I have no idea how many golf systems are available in Second Life, but the one employed by AERO is very easy to get to grips with and enjoy.  The course itself – the work of Kaja Ashland and Marcus Bremser – is very well laid-out, and was last redesigned in (I think) 2015. Visitors arrive on the east side of the region, on the front terrace of the clubhouse. A quick walk through to the back terrace will take you past the pool and to the golf shack tucked into a corner where you can pick-up your clubs, HUD and scorecard.

There are no fees for playing at AERO, but you will need to join the in-world group. When you have done so, touch the golf bag in the hut to receive your club (actually three in one), HUD and scorecard. Wear / add all three, and you are set to go! The first tee is just a short walk from the hut; a par 4, it takes you down the length of the canal which almost cuts the course in two.

AERO Golf Club: Caitlyn tees off!

AERO Golf Club: Caitlyn tees off!

Game play is a case of selecting your teeing spot between the two markers, selecting your club type from the HUD (driver, obviously when teeing-off), and then taking note of the wind speed and direction (indicated by a particle cloud which appears next to you when you select your club). The LEFT and RIGHT arrow keys can then be used to adjust the angle at which you will strike the ball (indicated by a pointer on the ground) to compensate for the wind and get your ball down towards the green. Then it is a case of making sure the cursor is over the ground and then clicking and holding the left mouse button to both commence your swing and select the force with which you hit the ball (indicated by a power bar). Releasing the mouse button completes your swing.

AERO Golf club: about to chip the ball onto the green. Note the wind speed cloud and direction pointer

AERO Golf Club: about to chip the ball onto the green. Note the wind speed cloud and direction pointer

The flight of a ball is indicated by a line. By default, this is white, but you can use the Settings option on the HUD to select a preferred colour – handy when playing in a group. Additional strokes are played the same way, with the option of using a wedge for chipping up onto a green or getting out of a bunker, and a putter when on the green. Throughout it all your scorecard will track your shots and keep score.

The holes themselves vary in difficulty – and shorter par holes are not necessarily easier than those with a dog leg or other obstacle: the shorter par needs a steady finger on the strength of your swing or you can end up well into the rough on the far side of the hole!

The eleventh hole has a wicked shot across a bay which cuts into the course, requiring you select your teeing-off spot with care. Should your ball fall into the water at any time, the easiest thing is to remain where you are and try again.

One might argue that it would be nice to have a wider selection of clubs – particularly if you are a golfer – than just the driver, wedge and putter. But the truth is, these are more than adequate and mean that a round of golf is enjoyable without becoming taxing or complicated for the occasional / novice player.

I do have a couple of very small tips: if you use an over-the-shoulder camera view by default, you might want to centre your camera up when playing to get an more accurate view of the ground pointer. Also, if you have double-click to teleport enabled, you might want to turn it off; I carelessly mis-clicked on a putt and ended up attempting to teleport on the spot and lost a stroke.

AERO golf club: Caitlyn makes the putt!

AERO Golf Club: Caitlyn makes the putt!

As well as the 18 holes, AERO offers a poolside terrace and an indoor bar for socialising after a game. The cliff-sided bay I mentioned above has a small beach offering deck chairs and loungers, and there are several points around the course where you can take a break from play and enjoy a chat. You  can also break-off from a round if  the physical world or other requirements intrude; your card will retain your score and progress. However, the clubs are time-limited; should you return and find they have expired, simply obtain a new HUD, club and scorecard from the golf shack, and use the clubs / HUD with your “old” scorecard, and you’ll be able to finish your round.

Should you enjoy your time at AERO, do consider making a donation towards the upkeep of the course, and if you end up playing regularly there, you might want to purchase the pro scorecard – again, the fee goes towards the course.

AERO Golf Club is one of several scattered across Second Life and offers a fun way to enjoy golf in Second Life amidst gorgeous surroundings. Other clubs can be found in the Sports & Hobbies section of the Destination Guide (and doubtless elsewhere in the DG as well!).

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