Reflections on The Looking Glass

The Looking Glass is the joint creation of Marcus Inkpen and partner Sharni Azalee, and is located on their sim of Horizon Dream. It’s a fascinating mix of elements brought together in an inspirational and highly photogenic feast for the eyes.

The Looking Glass

The arrival point sits on a small quay in one corner of the sim. From here you are free to wander and explore the region – or if you wish you can click on the Mystery Gift box and receive a clue designed to help you on your way to fining the gift itself. The clue is given as a verse from a poem:

The fields are all dried up, the corn’s all gone dead,
So he pulled up his post and to the shore he did head.
There are no crows there now, to bug him all day,
So he tries his best to scare the seagulls away.
An old crumbling tower lends his new home some shade,
And a little bird sings to him until the daylight does fade.

A sign swings from a post beside a rickety set of wooden steps leading up from the quay to a small town of indeterminate age. Here are discrete stores where you can purchase various creations by both Sharni and Marcus – some of which are in evidence around the sim itself. Careful where you walk however, as an exposed manhole cover hints there may be things going on below ground as well as above.

Wander through town and you’ll eventually come to the Looking Glass Amphitheatre, an open field where stands an ornate glass stage and a grand piano – a place for dances and other events. From here you can return to the town and climb the stairs to the huge Clock Tower that dominates the hill behind the town – or you can take a more direct route up the rocky side of the hill to reach it.

The Clock Tower and hall

The Tower’s hall is a gallery used to display work by other SL artists. During my most recent visit it featured a display by Skusting Dagger.

Several options for exploration offer themselves to you from the Tower, which you take is up to you. For my part, I walked out along the “bridge to nowhere”, as I call it, to appreciate Marcus’ imaginative sculpture La Mer. On my return, I headed up to the Temple Ruins – a place better reached by teleport, or by flying, admittedly.

La Mer by Marcus Inkpen

The Temple ruins is referred to as a particle stage, and is used to hosts various events on the sim; the most recent being by InterfaceD Dreamscape who presented a particle show, with music by Novulino.

One of the delights of The Looking Glass is the juxtaposition of themes and ideas: the town area seems to be old, but has hints of it having somewhat modern setting: the pool table in the bar, the television aerials poking up from chimney and rooftops, the no parking signs, and so on. As one walks through it, one cannot help but feel that while it may once have known better days, it is now running to seediness and no-one really cares about it any more.

That no-one cares is evidenced by the Forrest theatre, which appears to be still in use, despite having threadbare carpets, smashed glass in the front doors and the domed windows above, while the stage itself is exposed to the sky thanks to a partially collapsed roof, while the walls at the back of the building are broken and ruined. Whether the damage is the result of age and disrepair, or the result of a possible fire, is yours to decide..

Elsewhere, the buildings suggest something more medieval in tone, or at least leaning towards fantasy – something that is heightened by the wonderful Floating Islands that form a peaceful retreat within a peaceful sim. There’s even a touch of The Waltons, with a small farm-style layout from The Looking Glass Victorian Cottage range.

Wizard’s Retreat with Sky Gardens beyond

The mix means that The Looking Glass is very photogenic and makes an excellent subject for machinima; in fact it has already been the backdrop for a film by the ever-talented rockerfaerie on YouTube (aka ColeMarie Soleil in SL). If you are going to be taking photos of the sim, I’d recommend that you set the Sun to sunrise to generate the most dramatic results. At least it worked for me, I think – although I’m admittedly far from an expert in such maaters, and useless with Photoshop when it comes to post-processing.

The Sky Gardens

The sim may not be as complex as somewhere like Alpha and Omega Points, and when not hosting a live event, may appear somewhat quiescent – but to me, both of these facts actually enhance its appeal.

But this doesn’t mean there is not to discover. Even when you’ve finished above ground and taken a trip up to the Floating Islands or the Floating Victorian house, there is more to seek out – if you can find it. Just what is the history of the hidden throne room? And romantics won’t want to miss the crystal garden. I would offer a word of warning, tho, should you find your way underground; the teleport at the town’s manhole can be a little brusque in helping you back to the surface!

As well as exploring, this is a place one can come to when one simply wants to be in-world, but without the pressure of needing to “do” something; the sim invites you to wander, to sit and simply enjoy. It’s a place I come to when feeling reflective. It’s also an attractive visit because it is not only a work that expresses the talents of two well-known SL artists, it is a work that actively promotes the work of other artists as well.

Floating Victorian House

I have to admit I very much like the way in which products from The Looking Glass are presented as a part of the overall build – it is subtle but highy effective and demonstrates very clearly both the build quality involved and how the products can be used. It’s also a clever strategy in that it doesn’t leave items like vendor boards sticking out like sore thumbs. If you do see anything you particularly like, be it a house, a bridge, a street lamp or item of interior decor, it can be found in one of The Looking Glass stores in town. I have to admit, I’ve been sorely tempted by the Floating Island range, given the latest iteration of my own home is built into a floating rock. Truth be told, the waterfall from the Floating Island range still does call to me whenever I visit!

Lighthouse with the landing point to the right, and the Floating House beyond, left

Whether you are looking for a place to visit, somewhere to film or an inspirational location for your photography, The Looking Glass is a fabulous place to visit. Exploration here is easy, with an edge of mystery, and there is much to see and enjoy without it impinging on all your time.

Definitely worth a visit or three!

MOSES in major upgrade

Last week saw the US Army’s MOSES virtual environment, operated by the Simulation & Training Technology Center (STTC), out of Florida, undergo a major upgrade.

During Wednesday and Thursday the 26th & 27th October, the MOSES system was offline to enable the environment to be migrated to a new server platform and network with the capability to support thousands of regions.

Prior to the upgrade, participants in MOSES were advised to create full OAR backups of their estates as an additional safeguard against mishaps in the migration process. Users were also informed that post-migration, all of their landmarks would need to be deleted and replaced, as the MOSES world centre had been relocated to allow for future hypergridding activities.

The migration also gave the STTC the opportunity to re-arrange MOSES into a series of sub-continents focused on the larger projects hosted on the system, with individual regions within the sub-continents renamed by either estate or project name. The sub-continents themselves remained connected to one another by means of water sims and open spaces, in order to continue to present MOSES as a single continuous mass of land and water.

In the lead-up to the migration, the STTC monitored two regions on the MOSES grid in an attempt to broadly determine resource use in an attempt to help determine baseline requirements within the new hardware set-up. Commenting on this monitoring, Douglas Maxwell, Science and Technology Manager for Virtual World Strategic Applications at the STTC commented:

“We have been observing 2 sims that have roughly the same amount of prims (10,000).  Testing has revealed these heavier sims requires at least 50% of a processor and 1Gb of ram to support a meeting of 20 people.

“The current processors are 4-5 years old, so we will need to conduct virtual machine testing on the new cluster to determine how to allocate CPU resources.  However, the memory needs should be consistent.  We will be allocating a minimum of 8Gb to each virtual machine giving us a theoretical prim allocation of 40,000 prims to each sim.  These calculations are very rough as they don’t take into account texture sizes and script activity.”

The older hardware appears to have been dual-core HP servers supporting approximately 120 regions running on 60 CPU cores.These older servers are still used within the new set-up, but are now restricted to providing open water and spaces connecting sub-continents. The new servers average 8-core servers with 64Gb of memory and 80 GB hard drives.

While MOSES was back online on Friday 28th October, the migration work was continuing, with the expectation it would take a few days to complete. However, as of Friday 28th, users were being invited to log back into the system to attend the weekly MOSES Office Hours and try-out the new sims as they became available.

MOSES is still accepting new accounts from suitable parties. These are obtained via the MOSES website, and are vetted by Douglas Maxwell for suitability. While priority is obviously given to military projects, proposals don’t have to be within the military arena in order to gain access to the system.

There are a number of points to consider when applying to use the environment:

  • MOSES is a professional environment, and everyone is expected to maintain decorum. There are no casual users
  • MOSES is a research and development environment, not an operations environment, and as such, subject to software and hardware upgrades that may disrupt use
  • Full region backups from MOSES to local hard drives is fully supported. As Douglas Maxwell puts it, “What you put on MOSES, you own free and clear.”

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