2020 Content Creation User Group week #38 summary

Glitch Social, July 2020 – 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, September 17th 2020 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.

EEP Fixes

There is now only one major EEP issue out of the current batch that has been undergoing work that remains unresolved, and it is being worked on. This means the current Love Me Render (LMR) RC viewer (version 6.4.8.547427 at the time of writing) is close to being ready for update and promotion – although it is likely the current Bormotukha Maintenance RC viewer (version 6.4.8.548394) will be the next viewer to be promoted to de facto release status.

Project Jelly  – Jelly Dolls Improvements

  • Vir’s work in updating Jelly Dolls is now available in the Project Jelly viewer, version 6.4.8.547487 at the time of writing).
  • A number of bug reports have been filed on this, and fixes are currently with QA, so the hope is the project viewer will be updated “fairly soon”.

Mesh Uploader

  • It is likely the Mesh Uploader RC, version 6.4.8.548061 at the time of writing) will move towards release more-or-less as it is now, rather than being held over for significant updates.
  • There have been concerns over the design of the new tabs within the updated uploader and how discoverable some of the added controls really are.  However, the consensus opinion at the lab is to leave things as is, and if there prove to be significant UI issues with the updated uploader, to deal with them in a future update.
  • Things like the ability to specify pivot points within a mesh (e.g. for hinging doors, etc., rather than having the pivot point aligned through the centre of the object), requires simulator-side support, and so this won’t be dealt with until after the cloud uplift work has been completed.
  • So, as it stands, it is felt the Mesh Uploader RC is also in line for possible promotion alongside the Maintenance RC.

Bakes On Mesh

While Bakes of Mesh has seen the introduction of BoM clothing to a degree, the take-up has perhaps not been as widespread as might be the case, with some body / head makers yet to fully embrace it.  Two of the most commonly-cited reasons for this are:

  • Lack of full specular / normal map support (something that would require a further large-scale overhaul of the avatar Bake Service, so not easy to implement at this point in time).
  • The problem of established user behaviour and an unwillingness to change from that behaviour, It is claimed that people have become used to mesh bodies having multiple alpha cuts (which add to their complexity) and being able to “hide” specific parts of the body at will via a HUD-based, scripted system, and are unwilling to switch to the direct use of alphas, which need to be located and applied manually.
    • Some mesh clothing designers do actually provide a means to “auto hide” parts of a mesh body when their clothing is worn, but they appear to be in a minority of mesh clothing makers.

Cathy foil has been brainstorming how both of these issues might be resolved without the need to necessarily dramatically overhaul the Bake Service in the case of specular and normal maps, and so as to allow the easier application of alpha textures to mesh bodies that would enable more fluid “hiding” of body parts when wearing mesh items or BOM layers. Her solution is to both increase the number of alpha channels available for use with mesh bodies (which would not impact the Bake Service) and Linden Lab “borrowing” from RLV / RLVa to allow a HUD to be used to  apply clothing / alphas to a body directly from inventory, as she explains in the video below.

The alpha solution offered is perhaps not entirely ideal (what about alpha conflicts when mixing / matching clothing from different makers?), and it might be argued that – insofar as the use of the Outfits folder + the WEAR + ADD options for general folder use, that the wearing / applying alphas may not be as significant an issue as might seem to be the case – but again, this can depend on the user behaviour / the clothing itself and how it is worn.  Any “official” adopt of RLV capabilities, even if restricted to just your own avatar, would also seem to be questionable in terms of adoption by LL (if nothing else, the code would need to be contributed).

However, as there was little time at the meeting to go through the video thoroughly, this is a subject that is liable to be further discussed at future meetings – although for any work to proceed from it (or in relation to BOM in general), a feature request Jira will be required.

In Brief

  • There was an extensive (and theoretical, at this point), discussion on mesh bounding boxes (e.g. allowing different sized bounding boxes – with certain constraints – per LOD). However, I’ll save further reporting on this until there is a feature request Jira to which I can refer readers (hopefully by the next CCUG).
  • Vir asked a general question on whether people would like to seen the animation uploader receive and update pass, and if so, what they would specifically like to see.
    • Suggestions included:
      • Improvements to the preview panel for better tracking of offsets.
      • Running .ANIM files through the uploader (as long as this is not made compulsory, as some animators prefer not to use the uploader).
      • Suggestions focused more on being able to either edit uploaded animations or to use the uploader as a means of exporting your own animations to make change.
    • The conversation also encompassed animation priorities, and the ability to either change them or constrain them better. As priorities can be baked into a mesh, Vir suggested rather than a greater ability to edit and change priorities might be to have them set at runtime, rather than being an object attribute.
    • General feedback on animation improvements included the ability to made adjustments to animation speed on the fly, better pre-loading of animations in a sequence, etc.
    • Jiras on specific features / improvements have been requested to help determine what might need to be done, what the scope of work might be, etc., to help determine feasibility.
  • Date of next meeting: Thursday, October 1st, unless otherwise indicated on the CCUG wiki page.

The penguins of Boulder, in Second Life

Boulder, September 2020 – click any image for full size

Note: membership of the [valium] group is required to access this region – see below for why.

We first visited Boulder, the latest region to be opened by Vally Lavender (Valium Lavender) back at the time of its opening at the end of July  2020.  At the time, I admit I held off on writing about it, as both Caitlyn and I found the region somewhat heavy-going – which can often be the case with terry Fotherington’s regions designs (as Boulder is) when heavily populated by avatars. As such, I had intended to drop back in August, once the initial rush of a new region opening had passed and Boulder would be quieter. But things bring what they have been, I’ve only just managed to make good on that plan, so my apologies to Vally for only now getting around to re-visiting and writing about Boulder.

Boulder, September 2020

Since that first visit, summer has come to the region – which might seem odd to those of us in northern latitudes, where we’re now entering the autumn period. However, Boulder is inspired by Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town, South Africa, sitting in the southern hemisphere, and which is enjoying its spring season; so presenting the region in a summer setting makes perfect sense.

Boulders Beach is most famous for being the location of a penguin colony, the land-based and endangered species Spheniscus demersus, the African Penguin (also called the Cape Penguin or South African Penguin). A part of the Table Mountain National Park, the Boulders Beach is also a focal point of operations for  SANCCOB, Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. It is in support of SANCCOB’s work that Vally established Boulder: the money raised through people joining the [valium] group go directly towards adopting penguins in SANCCOB’s care, helping to provide the money needed for their welfare.

The two penguins from SABCCOB so far adopted with the assistance of donations at Boulder

The Penguin colony is a relatively “recent” addition to the Western Cape of South Africa: there is no record of any penguin colony in the region prior to 1983.  A series of sandy inlets sheltered by granite boulders from which it takes its name, the beach provides a perfectly sheltered environment for the penguin colony, which is also under the protection of the Cape Nature Conservation programme, due to their extremely endangered status.

Hunted on both land and sea by natural predators, it is thought that the Boulders Beach colony was made possible by the reduction in land-based predator threats thanks to the local human presence at Simon’s Town. In these respect, the arrival of colony has been mutually beneficial for both the penguins and townsfolk: the humans have kept land-based predators at bay, whilst the penguins have allowed the town to enjoy controlled interest as a tourist destination; and during the SARS-CoV-2 lockdown, the penguins even took to providing “street patrols” as shown in the SACCOB tweet, below!

Within Boulder, Second Life, both the beach and its penguins and a portion of Simon’s Town are nicely represented adjacent to one another. The landing point offers a map of the region, together with copies of the Certificates of Adoption for Molly and Dandy, the two South African Penguins thus far (at the time of writing) that have been adopted.

The beach offers open aspects looking north and west, the land to the south of it rising steeply in a series of rocky, palm-crowned cliffs and plateaus within which are nestled additional attractions – a shanty-style event space reached via stone steps that climb the cliffs, and beyond it a secluded plateau of trees and waterfalls. For the daring, there are places to quite literally hang out waiting to be found, both in terms of swing seats in the trees and a zip line; however, do be aware that the house on the highest plateau is a private residence. A high, tunnel-like arch of rock bores through these uplands to reach the south side of the region, and a ribbon of beach backed by sheer cliffs that runs westwards to join the main beach as it curls around what might be regarded as a low-lying headland.

Boulder, September 2020

The latter is home to the Boulder Art Gallery which, at the time of both of my visits, was featuring the art of two more renowned region designers: Fred Hamilton (frecoi) and Lotus Mastroianni.  The gallery is watched over by a penguin carved from stone, and overlooks a further stretch of sand occupied by penguins.

The waterfront town at Boulder is a take on the historic centre of the town – Simon’s Town ((Afrikaans: Simonstad) has been in existence for over 200 years, being located in a large bay of strategic importance (the South African Navy still has a major facility there). The historical centre offers a range of colonial-style buildings that could look as at home in Australia or America as they do in South Africa. Within Boulder, this colonial style of building is retained, if presented in a more colourful manner than might be the case with the actual Simon’s Town – not that this detracts from the region’s design.

Boulder, September 2020

I’m not sure if the waterfront itself is taken from a part of the actual Simon’s Town, which appears in photos to have a lot more of a modern look, with a large yacht marina and the aforementioned naval base. However, if it is more a flight f fancy than pulled from Simon’s Town, that doesn’t change the fact that it works perfectly within the region, ideally rounding it out.

During our first visit, I noted the region had at least two Firestorm parcel-level Windlight settings in place (day and night) which I found jarring when moving between them simply by stepping on / off the beach. I’ve no idea if this is still the case, as I’ve transitioned entire to EEP-based viewers. However, the performance hit is still there, and can make itself apparent for those on mid-range systems who like to go around SL with things like shadows enabled; so if you do, you might like to consider turning them off when exploring the region. But that said, neither the potential impact on viewer performance nor any Windlight changes that may occur should deter anyone from visiting. And if you haven’ already visited, I do recommend you consider joining the [valium] group to help support the work of SANCCOB and pay a visit.

SLurl and Links

The art of Hermes Kondor in Second Life

Hermes Kondor: Reflections

In July I wrote about an exhibition of physical world photographs by Hermes Kondor, available at his own Kondor Photo Gallery (see: The beauty of steam machines in Second Life). However, that gallery is only a part of a complex that Hermes has put together, so I decided to hop back for a further look. The complex comprises several individual areas linked by a teleport disc system. These facilities comprise: a boulevard of rental studios for artists, an attractively Deco night club, and three galleries – including the photo gallery noted above – and a studio/gallery used to display Hermes’ SL avatar studies.

Hermes’ primary gallery is the Kondor Art Centre, which at the time of my visit was home to an exhibition entitled Reflections.

I invite you to join on a journey deep inside a magical lake, where we will find strange and beautiful creatures, lightbeings and gates to an alternative reality, deep inside a garden of fantasy and wonder.

– Hermes Kondor, describing his exhibit Reflections

Hermes Kondor: Reflections

This is a collection of 24 digital images that are truly remarkable in their content and depth. At their heart, each image features a mix of light, water (that of the magical lake) and and the reflections of the exhibit’s title. The majority of the pictures feature macro views of plant elements presented in such a way as to suggest they indeed from some alien – as in unknown – environment; alien, and yet somehow familiar.

Beautifully composited and and framed, these are images that are entirely captivating in their use of colour and light to create a rich sensation of living creatures of the imagination.

Hermes Kondor: Flowers

Plants and macro photography are also the subject of the images displayed within the Kondor Art Garden. Here, sixteen close-up images of garden flowers, each again perfectly framed through the aforementioned macro lens, again offering a considered balance of light and depth of field that makes for another quite entrancing collection of photographs, each one deeply attractive.

For those who enjoy images produced in Second Life can visit the Kondor Photo Studio. This is both a gallery and a studio, presenting a series of avatar studio by Hermes. Those interested in engaging him for a photo session should contact Hermes directly.

Hermes Kondor: Flowers

As noted above, I first came across Hermes work in his exhibition of photographs taken at the Electricity Museum, Lisbon, Portugal. I was immediately taken by those images, which can still be enjoyed at the Kondor Photo Gallery,  and admit to be utterly taken by her work in touring the rest of the gallery facilities he operates.

Full SLurls List

Waka is rated Moderate

2020 Simulator User Group week #38 summary

Mount Campion, July 2020 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the September 15th Simulator User Group meeting.

Simulator Deployments

Please refer to the server deployment thread for news and updates.

  • There was no deployment to the grid’s main SLS channel on Tuesday, September 15th, 2020, leaving the simulators running on release 547626.
  • On Wednesday, September 16th some – or all – of the simulator on the RCs channel should be updated to simulator maintenance release 548903, containing updates related to the cloud uplift work which contain no user-visible updates.

SL Viewer

There have been no viewer updates to mark the start of week #38. This leaves the current pipelines as follows:

  • Current release viewer version 6.4.7.546539, dated August 11, promoted August 17, formerly the Arrack Maintenance RC viewer – No Change.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Bormotukha Maintenance RC viewer, version 6.4.8.548394, issued September 8.
    • Mesh uploader RC viewer, version 6.4.8.548061, September 8.
    • Love Me Render RC viewer, version 6.4.8.547427,August 21.
  • Project viewers:
    • Project Jelly project viewer (Jellydoll updates), version 6.4.8.547487, issued August 26.
    • Custom Key Mappings project viewer, version 6.4.5.544079, June 30.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, December 9, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 6.4.0.532999, November 22, 2019.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.3.2.530836, September 17, 2019. Covers the re-integration of Viewer Profiles.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, July 16, 2019.

Cloud Uplift

Region Testing

As the Lab has announced, and I’ve reported – see Play Linden Realms in the cloud and help the Lab, the Linden Realms have been cloned to Aditi and are running on AWS  servers. Interested users are asked to help in testing the regions by logging-in to Aditi and spending time playing the game. Follow the links above to find out more.

LSL HTTP Changes

As a part of the move to AWS services, there will be changes to the use of HTTP once cloud-hosted simulator come into use. It is Linden Lab’s hope that these changes will not cause significant issues, however, in order to provide scripters with as much information as possible, Oz Linden posted a forum update providing an outline of the areas of impact: llHTTPRequest – Outbound HTTP and lRequestURL or llRequestSecureURL.

A number of regions on Aditi have been set-up to allow for testing, comprising:

  • Morris
  • Cloud Sandbox 1
  • Cloud Sandbox 2
  • Cloud Sandbox 3
  • Cloud Sandbox 4

Further information and the continuing discussion can be found within the forum thread.

Changes are coming to LSL HTTP calls – for details please refer to LSL HTTP Changes Coming

Group Chat

People continue to experience issues with group chat disconnecting / failing following a transition to a different region via vehicle or teleport (see BUG-229219). As per last week’s update, there is a potential fix for this issue in the works, but whether or not it solves all of the issues currently being experienced or not is an unknown until it is actually deployed.

Bungenäs at Binemust in Second Life

Bungenäs, Binemust, September 2020

For her latest region design at Binemust, Biné Rodenberger offers visitors a most unusual taste of Sweden’s Gotland.

The largest of Sweden’s islands, and also a province, county, and municipality in its own right, Gotland is a fascination place, rich in culture and opportunities for exploration and discovery, offering many unique experiences (ever had a fish cooked using molten glass? If not, Gotland’s Restaurant Rot is the place to go).

Bungenäs, the inspiration for Biné’s design, lies at the opposite end of Gotland to Restaurant Rot, and is perhaps one of the island’s most unusual attractions. During the 20th century, the peninsula was home to a limestone quarry marked by a pair of unique kilns, and a large Swedish Army training zone, complete with bunkers, barracks, and open and wooded training areas. The quarry enjoyed a 50-year run from 1910 to 1960, while the rest of the 160-hectare site was used by the army through until 1963, when it was also abandoned.

The Bungenäs peninsula showing the former army training grounds in the foreground and and the limestone quarry, centre left. Credit: Gunnar Britse

For the 40 years that followed, the peninsula was closed to the public, until moves were made to re-open it as a park / tourist destination in the early 2000s. However, entrepreneur Joachim Kuylenstierna – whose father had served in the army and trained at Bungenäs – was concerned about  such a move would do to the unique aspects of the location: the ageing bunkers, the run-down buildings and deserted quarry facilities, and so on, if the peninsula was turned into some sort of tourist resort with all the modern trappings – an up-to-date hotel, a golf course and so on.

To ensure this did not happen, Kuylenstierna purchased the land himself and turned it into a most unusual development: a new community location without roads or houses. Instead much of the existing infrastructure of bunkers and buildings would be be converted into unique homes, with the bicycle the primary mode of transport. He employed a specialist architecture firm to convert the bunkers and other buildings into homes and community facilities, and to zone the remaining landscape into plots and parcels that clients could purchase and have homes built to their  own specification and fully in keeping with the existing structures and integrated into the natural environments found across the peninsula, and also carefully redeveloped by the architects in keeping with Kuylenstierna’s broad vision.

We don’t design and build buildings – we work with the landscape and the existing constructions to create structures that are formed after their surroundings. We’re not the least interested in creating “boxes” on the ground. Each plot of land is specifically laid-out and, in turn, has its very own zoning plan. The peninsula was also divided into different regions with their own defined type of nature, which required different types of structures.

– Lisa Ekström, Skälsö Arkitekter, developers of the Bungenäs site

Bungenäs, Binemust, September 2020

Within Binemust, Biné offers her own take on this unique setting, centred on the the old limestone quarry, its kilns and outbuildings. These sit within a low-lying part of the region, the quarry itself flooded, the kilns and outbuildings rising above its rocky ring. Cold sands border the east and south sides of these lowlands, merging with grasslands cut by a fast flowing stream. As the sands curve around to the south, so the land rises to form a bluff between sea and inland quarry, a number of aged bunker-like shells among the sand a grass, hinting at the old military preserve that once existed at Bungenäs.

To the west, a ribbon of sand continues along the coast, marked on one side by old piers that may have once served the lime factory, and a line of old beds that offer a most unusual sun loungers, Biné suggesting they might have been pulled from the old barracks, as is the case at the physical Bungenäs in Gotland.

Bungenäs, Binemust, September 2020

The north side of the region is marked by a highland plateau, rich in fir trees and crossed by tracks and paths, representing the more natural aspects of the Bungenäs peninsula and, perhaps, the 3 km tour trail that winds through the region – as noted, road vehicles are generally banned from the region to help preserve its natural state. These highlands are also split by the stream, which drops by way of a single waterfall to continue its way the the sea across the lowlands.

There are differences between Biné’s vision of Bungenäs as the real thing: houses at Binemust are represented more by modern structures than converted bunkers; there is a camp site at Binemust, although as Bine notes, there doesn’t appear to be anything like it within Bungenäs. She’s also added horses to roam alongside the sheep (which are a feature of Bungenäs).

Bungenäs, Binemust, September 2020

However, she’s also replicated some of the original’s cosier features: the mess hall at Bungenäs, for example has been converted into a café with a small suite of hotel rooms above it that visitors can book for short stays.  Bine offers the same through a small bed-and-breakfast house tucked away in the region. She also includes bicycles, which for the common mode of transport within the community. Finally, and in a touch of her own, she’s included a small selection from her personal art collection from SL, located in the limestone warehouse, which doubles as the region’s café.

All of which makes for an engaging and educational visit – be sure to look up Bungenäs on the interwebz for yourself when visiting.

Bungenäs, Binemust, September 2020

SLurl Details

Play Linden Realms in the cloud and help the Lab

Linden Realms is now running in the cloud – on the beta grid. Image courtesy of Linden Lab

Linden Realms was the first Linden Lab developed game using experience tools. First introduced in 2011 (see: The Linden Realms game: Rock on!), the game has been updated numerous times over the years, the last time in 2018 (see: The further revamp of Linden Realms in Second Life).

It is now the next major element of Second Life (after the core Blake Sea regions) to be cloned to Aditi, the beta grid, and uploaded to the cloud – and Linden Lab are asking users to give it a go, so they can further test region  / simulator operations under load when running on AWS services.

The request for assistance came via a blog post on Monday, September 15th, which reads in full:

As you may know, we are in the process of moving Second Life to the cloud! Our first ever cloud simulators, on the beta grid, have been uplifted, and we can use your assistance. Here’s your opportunity to be among the first Residents to test the performance of uplift.
Log in to the beta grid (click here for instructions) and start at the Aditi Portal Park to try out Linden Realms in the cloud. Bring your friends and spend some time engaging in the virtual experience produced and provided by Linden Lab. You may even run into the often unseen technical Lindens working away. Don’t forget to ask them for their Linden bear, and beware of the rock monster!
If you find any issues with Linden Realms on the beta grid, please file a BUG jira at https://jira.secondlife.com, and make sure to include the time, date, region you were in when you found the issue, and a description of what happened, as well as what you would expect to happen in a similar situation on the Main Grid today.

We Need Your Help Testing Performance on Uplifted Simulator – Linden Lab, September 15th, 2020

Linden Realms. Image courtesy of Linden Lab

So, if you want to help speed the cloud uplift process, why not follow the instructions contained in the links in the Lab’s blog post, log-in to Aditi and hop over to the beta grid and spending a little time playing Linden Realms – even if you don’t find anything to report, issue-wise, your time playing the game is still helping the Lab gather data on region and simulator performance.