Updates for the week ending Sunday, September 24th
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 22.214.171.1248060, dated August 9th, promoted August 23rd – No change
Wolfpack RC viewer updated to version 126.96.36.1999128, on September 22nd – this viewer is functionally identical to the release viewer, but including additional back-end logging “to help catch some squirrelly issues.”1
Maintenance RC viewer updated to version 188.8.131.529115, on September 22nd.1
These two viewers were updated on September 22nd and withdrawn shortly thereafter pending action from Microsoft re a Windows SmatScreen issue affecting the most recent viewer updates (see here and here for more). This issue has now been resolved and the two RCs are once again available.
It’s time to kick-off another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.
Monday, September 25th 19:00: A Wizard of Earthsea
Gyro Muggins reads Ursula K. Le Guin’s first Earthsea Cycle.
The boy is born on the island of Gont in the archipelago of Earthsea. This is a world infused with magic. Not everyone can control this magic, but those who know the right words and have a wizard soul can learn to utilize the power of the Earth to manipulate objects and events. The boy’s name is Duny; I can tell you that name because the name has no power over him. His true name is something he can only reveal to those he trusts absolutely beyond question.
I know his true name, but fair reader, I’m not sure yet that I can share it with you.
His aunt knows a few things, a handful of words, that can be used to bind things or call animals to her. Duny is particularly adept at calling falcons and other birds of prey. His agile mind soon surpasses what his aunt can teach him. He burns to know more. He is assigned to a mage, Ogion, who tries to teach him about the balance of magic with the Earth. There is always a cost for using magic. Understanding the levy for sorcery is the difference between being just impulsively talented and being wise about what you know.
(Commentary by Jeffrey Keeten.)
Tuesday, September 26th 19:00: Monsters of the Midwest
Join Kayden Oconnell for true tales of bigfoot, werewolves and other legendary creatures!
Wednesday, September 27th, 19:00 Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon
Corwyn Allen reads Spider Robinson’s 1999 anthology.
The titular saloon is a haven for lost souls; a place where the patrons come for one drink and a chance for a second – but only if they offer an unburdening toast at the fireplace. Mike Callahan, the owner, never judges but sometimes advises in as few words as possible.
The stories in the volume are:
“The Guy with the Eyes”
“The Centipede’s Dilemma”
“Two Heads Are Better Than One”
“The Law of Conservation of Pain”
“A Voice is Heard in Ramah…”
“The Wonderful Conspiracy”
Also presented in Kitely (hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/108/609/1528).
Thursday, September 28th 19:00 Kiss Me Again, Stranger
Daphne du Maurier is perhaps best known for her period novel Jamaica Inn and her romance / thrillers My Cousin Rachel and Rebecca (the latter also being infamous for the claims of plagiarism made against – and not the only story by Du Maurier to face such claims). However, see also turned her hand to writing short stories in the horror genre as well, of which The Birds – immortalised by Hitchcock and also accompanied by claims of plagiarism is the most well-known.
With Kiss Me Again, Stranger, du Maurier sets out a tale of revenge framed by loneliness in what is a classic tale of a femme fatale, and which has itself enjoyed numerous short film and television adaptations.
London, England, not long after the end of the Second World War. A lonely car mechanic goes to see a film. At the theatre, he encounters an attractive usherette – and is immediately smitten; so much so that after the film has ended, he waits around outside the cinema for her to finish work, then follows onto the late-night bus, which they share with a man in a RAF uniform.
Paying a fare to the end of the bus route for both of them – he has no idea where she might get off – the young man sits beside her, secretly thrilled that she doesn’t seem surprised, nor does she reject his company. He even ventures to put an arm around her, which she appears to accept, telling him it’s not every day she gets a free ride – or free pillow, as she rests her head on his shoulder with the instructions that he’s to wake her “at the bottom of the hill, before we get to the cemetery.” He doesn’t, content to bask in her company, and they miss the cemetery. But she doesn’t mind, “Oh, there’ll be others,” she says. “I’m not particular.”
And thus is the young man drawn into her dark world…
With Shandon Loring (also presented in Kitely hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/108/609/1528).
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity has begun the steep ascent of an iron-oxide-bearing ridge that’s grabbed scientists’ attention since before the mission arrived on Mars in 2012.
“Vera Rubin Ridge”, previously referred to as “Hematite Ridge”, stands prominently on the north-western flank of Mount Sharp, resisting erosion better than the less-steep portions of the mountain below and above it.
“We’re on the climb now, driving up a route where we can access the layers we’ve studied from below,” said Abigail Fraeman, a Curiosity science-team member. As we skirted around the base of the ridge this summer, we had the opportunity to observe the large vertical exposure of rock layers that make up the bottom part of the ridge. But even though steep cliffs are great for exposing the stratifications, they’re not so good for driving up.”
The ascent to the top of the ridge will take the rover through a 65 metre (213 ft) change in elevation, which is being achieved through a series of drives which started in early September 2017, and which will cover a distance of around 470 metres (1542 ft).
The ridge is of particular interest to scientists not only for its erosion resistant composition, but also because the rock of the ridge exhibits fine layering, with extensive bright veins of varying widths cutting through the layers. Orbital spectrometer observations have revealed the iron-oxide mineral hematite shows up more strongly at the ridge top than elsewhere on lower “Mount Sharp”, including locations where Curiosity has already found the mineral. It is hoped that a detailed study of the ridge will reveal why it has been so resistant to erosion and whether this is related to the high concentrations of hematite in the rock. Answering these questions could further reveal information on past environmental conditions within Gale Crater.
“The team is excited to be exploring Vera Rubin Ridge, as this hematite ridge has been a go-to target for Curiosity ever since Gale Crater was selected as the landing site,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist of NASA’s Mars Exploration Programme at the agency’s Washington headquarters.
Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of JPL added, “Using data from orbiters and our own approach imaging, the team has chosen places to pause for more extensive studies on the way up, such as where the rock layers show changes in appearance or composition. But the campaign plan will evolve as we examine the rocks in detail. As always, it’s a mix of planning and discovery.”
In the meantime, and in the saw-sawing of evidence concerning the past habitability of Mars, a team from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has discovered evidence of boron on Mars, adding weight to the pro-life side of the argument.
A key building block of modern life is ribonucleic acid (RNA), which requires the sugar ribose. Like all sugars, ribose is unstable and quickly dissolves in presence of liquid, particularly water. However, when boron is dissolved in water it becomes borate, which acts as would act as a stabilising agent of ribose, keeping the sugar together long enough so that RNA can form.
“Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA,” Patrick Gasda, the lead author of the LANL paper outlining the discovery. “Without RNA, you have no life. We detected borates in a crater on Mars that’s 3.8 billion years old, younger than the likely formation of life on Earth.”
The mineral was detected by Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument, a joint development by LANL the French space agency, the National Center of Space Studies (CNES). It was found in veins of calcium sulphate minerals located in the Gale Crater, indicating it was present in Mars’ groundwater and was preserved with other minerals when the water dissolved, leaving behind rich mineral veins.
Curiosity has already confirmed that Gale Crater was home to a series of lakes, and the LANL findings add weight to the potential these lakes could have had life in them at a time when it would have experienced temperatures ranging from 0 to 60 ° C (32 to 140 °F) and had a pH level that would have been neutral-to-alkaline.
OSIRIS-REx Swings by Earth
Just over a year ago, on September 8th, 2016, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) lifted-off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, at the start of a journey which will carry it a total of 7.2 billion kilometres (4.5 billion miles) to gather samples from the surface of an asteroid and return them to Earth for study (see my previous reports here and here).
On September 22nd, 2017, the spacecraft returned to the vicinity of Earth – albeit it briefly – to gain the gravity assisted speed boost it needs in order to complete its journey to the carbon rich asteroid Bennu, from which it will gather samples.
In making the flyby, the spacecraft came to within 17,000 km (11,000 mi) of Earth, approaching at a speed of around 30,400 km/h (19,000 mph) and passing over Australia and Antarctica, gaining a velocity boost of around 13,400 km/h (8,400 mph) as it accelerated back out into the solar system. The fly-by also curved the probe’s course onto an intercept trajectory with Bennu, which it will reach in October 2018. During the operation, OSIRIS-REx performed a science campaign, collecting images and data from Earth and the Moon, which also allowed the science team to check and calibrate the probe’s suite of science instruments.
Bennu is roughly 450 metres (1,614-ft) in diameter, and its solar orbit carries it across that of the Earth every six years. It is carbon rich, which is of significant interest to scientists because carbonaceous material is a key element in organic molecules necessary for life, as well as being representative of matter from before the formation of Earth. Organic molecules, such as amino acids, have previously been found in meteorite and comet samples, indicating that some ingredients necessary for life can be naturally synthesised in outer space.
On reaching Bennu, OSIRIS REx will “fly” alongside the asteroid for some 12 months, surveying and studying it and imaging points of interest as possible candidates for a daring “touch and go” sample gathering mission, when it will collect between 60 and 2000 grams (2–70 ounces) of material. If all goes well, the probe will depart Bennu in March 2021, arriving back at Earth in September 2023, when the sample will be parachuted down for scientists to study.
A secondary reason for visiting Bennu is that, like many Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) there is a slim chance it might strike our planet towards the end of the 22nd Century. An analysis of the thermal absorption and emissions of the asteroid will allow scientists to better predict its future orbits and the real potential for such a collision, and could help determine the actual risk of other NEAs striking Earth.
The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, September 22nd. These meetings are held every Friday at 09:30 PTD and 16:00 PTD, and are open to all. There is no set agenda (currently), and the meetings are a mix of voice and text, and the official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings. Venues change on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements. The September 22nd meeting took place at the Zen Garden by Sansar Studios.
Bjørn Laurin attended both meetings to talk about the upcoming September / October release, and the next couple of releases beyond that. As such, the discussions were lengthy, so I’ve attempted to bullet-point key aspects of the major topics below, and have included a number of audio extracts of Bjørn’s comments.
Again, for ease of reference, some of the audio extracts comprise comments made at different points in the conversations, which I’ve attempted to bring together to offer a cohesive flow of information. There is ambient background noise in the audio, as there is currently no way of disabling this in the Sansar client. Similarly, any sounds of background typing is due to others in the meeting leaving their microphone open while not speaking.
The official Sansar Discord channel launched on Thursday, September 21st. 2017. The channel is designed to act as an extension to the Sansar user community, allowing them chat with one another, make friends, plan meet-ups in real-time, exchange ideas, etc. Discord works on the web, a desktop app, and a mobile app, allowing users to stay connected wherever they are.
The Sansar Discord FAQ provides full details on the channel. Joining is a case of following this link and the instructions provided. Those who do not already have a Discord account will have to create one as a part of the process.
Sansar Store Focus Group Meetings
There will be two sessions focusing on discussions and feedback on the Sansar Store in week #39. Guidelines on intent and scope of the meetings and their location(s), will be published on the Sansar blog ahead of the first meeting. However, the dates / times are:
Monday, September 25th, 15:00-16:00 PDT.
Wednesday, September 27th, 14:00-15:00 PDT.
Upcoming Releases Overview
The Lab is referring to the next release as the “Discovery release”, of which highlights include:
Easier discovery of experiences in the Atlas
Branded stores on the Sansar Store
The ability for users in Desktop mode to be able to interact with objects in an experience (picking things, up, throwing them, etc.).
Currently, this release is scheduled for deployment on Thursday, September 28th, 2017, depending on final bug fixes / QA.
Bjørn also indicated that fashion and avatar customisation has risen closer to the top of the pile of upcoming features following the Discovery release. He specifically notes work on hair together with skin shaders for the hair and avatar skin; the upcoming fashion / clothing support releases, and coming options for experience owners to be able to monetise their experiences (e.g. ticketed access, etc.).
Desktop Mode Object Interaction
In the Discovery release.
Will allow those running Sansar on the desktop to have a similar level of interaction with in-world objects as those using VR. Desktop user will be able to pick up objects, “hold” them, throw them, drop them.
Objects around an avatar with interaction will highlight on a mouse-click, allowing the user to select which one they want to pick up.
Initially will not include animations: clicking on an object will cause it to float over the avatar’s hand. However, future releases will support for “picking up” the selected object (see more on animations below).
There is some debate within the Sansar team in giving creators an explicit means of differentiating between users in VR mode and users in Desktop mode, or in allowing the platform to handle it internally.
Games designers see the ability to differentiate as “critical” to allow better design of control options, and which can be used by players in either mode, and Bjørn leans more towards this approach.
The Discovery release includes a search option in the client version of the Atlas and a new Featured tab for featured experiences.
Future improvements for the Atlas will include a Favourites / Bookmarks tab, an Events tab and the ability to sort listed experiences.
Will be part of the Discovery release.
Comprises the ability to add a masthead logo to creator’s items. Details of masthead sizes available on the Discord channel.
Beyond The Discovery Release
Avatar Identification in Desktop Mode
Possibly appearing in the October / November release.
This will most likely offer the same capabilities as VR mode currently has: click on an avatar and see their name, offer friendship, mute them.
Fashion and Clothing
For the most part, fashion and clothing will be handled as a single release rather than a series of iterative releases over time adding essential capabilities.
The exception to this will be handling clothing layers which will be handled in two parts: separation of the current clothing bakes from the avatar and then the rest of the capabilities.
The separation of the bakes will see clothing initially defined as either a single, complete layer (e.g. socks, underwear, pants / skirt, blouse / shirt, jacket all-in-one), or possibly as a “top” layer (e.g. undershirt, shirt, jacket) and a “bottom” layer (e.e.g pants, underwear, socks, skirt).
Further division of individual clothing layers will come in the future, but is seen as a more complicated task.
Clothing will naturally fold, flow and fall like real clothing and cloth from the initial release.
The Sansar Store will also be updated with the “main” fashion update is released to more fully support clothing.
Bjørn’s hope for the “main” fashion release is December 2017.
Due to what is involved with support for fashion / clothing, there may be a requirement for creators to sign NDAs – Jenn will be reaching out to creators about this in due course.
Clothing physics will be part of the initial release.
It’s currently not clear whether cloth physics will have to be assigned prior to upload, or if it is something done from within Sansar (such as by right-clicking on an item in Edit mode and selecting a “make cloth” option).
Bjørn indicated that the process will not be complex but there will be two specific routes to achieve different sets of results for clothing.
There is vagueness around how things will work due to contractual obligations, but some may be familiar with the tools the Lab are using to making clothing in Sansar work.
The back-end avatar rigging will be changing over the next “one or two months”.
These changes will not be visible to the casual user, but the changes will facilitate clothing design and will allow designers to create their own clothing.
One consequence of this is that all current outfits will break – however Bjørn indicated that all broken outfits will be replaced.
Future avatar updates will include the ability to change the avatar shape – more body fat, less body fat, etc. However, these will not be in the Discovery release.
As part of the work on hair (noted towards the top of this article), it will be possible to blend hair styles with the face, and things like masks or facial tattoos with hair and facial features, so they all work naturally together, and masks / tattoos respond to facial movements.
Aside I: the individual working on the avatar design spent ten years on developing the characters in the Halo game series.