Firestorm pathfinding, Flickr and more

Monday 27th saw Firestorm released. Unfortunately, this included a visual bug being inadvertently introduced into the release which made moving items such as doors and wheels appear to be “broken”. While this was only a visual impact rather than a code breakage, the decision was taken to withdraw 4.2.1 and replace it with 4.2.2 once the problem had been fixed.

As a result, and in case the release of version 4.2.2 included additional updates necessary as a result of fixing the issue, I opted to hold-off on my review of 4.2.1, and wait until I’d been able to look at 4.2.2 before Pressing a review.

So here it is, a look at Firestorm 4.2.2, featuring some of the key changes and updates which include an initial implementation of pathfinding. Alongside this, the release sees includes Katharine Berry’s snapshots-to-Flickr option, temporary uploads from the snapshot floater, new toolbar buttons and more.

A Note on OpenSim

This release does not include any fork between Second Life and OpenSim. That will be coming in a future release, which, as Jessica reports in her blog post on this release, might be a while in coming as the team have a lot of work on their collective plate.


The windows installer is some 33.7Mb in size – so par for the course with Firestorm. If you’ve previously installed version then a clean install is not required. However, if you’re upgrading from or earlier, a clean install is required / recommended.

Pathfinding Tools

As mentioned above, and with the exception of navmesh visualisation, all the main pathfinding tools are present in this release, complete with the expected Firestorm finesse when it comes to Rebake Region.

The Linksets and Characters floaters can be accessed using both the context and the pie menu when right-clicking on an object or character. The Build and Object Profile panels also have their pathfinding information panels added.

The Firestorm team have implemented the Rebake Region functionality somewhat differently to Linden Lab. Rather than incorporating a button displayed at the bottom of the viewer window when a rebake is required, the team have combined the rebake function with the pathfinding icon displayed in the Menu Bar / Navigation Bar (if displayed). Thus, when the icon is displayed (either with or without the initial warning pop-up, as shown in the image below), clicking on the icon will display a dialogue allowing a rebake to be initiated.

Region rebaking in Firestorm: The Menu Bar icon is used to trigger a rebake, rather than a button displayed within the viewer window. The default warning of the need for a rebake (top) may also be displayed, depending upon whether you have left the option enabled or not after its first appearance.

Combined with disabling the initial pop-up (by checking Do not show this again),  this option makes the need for rebakes less intrusive when using Firestorm.

New Buttons

There are three new toolbar buttons in the 4.2.0 release: Asset Blacklist and Sound Explorer, both of which toggle open / close the Asset Blacklist floater or the Sound Explorer floater respectively (each otherwise accessible via the World menu), and Ground Sit – which is pretty self-explanatory.

Snapshots: Flickr, Temp Upload and More

Flickr option on Snapshots floater

Flickr is a popular medium for SL photographers, so having an option to save pictures directly to it is likely to be a benefit to many. With this release, Firestorm obtains Katharine Berry’s code to enable snapshots to be uploaded directly from the viewer to a Flickr account.

In order to work, this functionality requires Firestorm is authorised to access a Flickr account. Therefore, the first time the Flickr tab on the snapshot floater is clicked, a pop-up is displayed, both explaining the need for authentication and what will happen. Clicking on NO on the pop-up will stop the process, and you can use another option on your snapshot floater for saving the image.

Clicking on YES will take you to the Flickr authorisation page, which will outline the possible risks of connecting Firestorm to Flickr (a standard alert page, common when using inter-application authorisation). Read the warning carefully, and if happy, confirm you wish to proceed (refusing cancels the link and denies Firestorm the ability to upload to Flickr).

Confirming that you’re happy to proceed will display a code number on the Flickr web-page. Type this into the authorisation pop-up displayed in Firestorm to complete the authorisation process. Once done, you’ll be able to upload pictures to your Flickr account without further hindrance.

This release of the snapshot floater also includes an option to temporarily upload a snapshot to your inventory. Temporary snapshots are saved to your Photo Album, where they will be available for personal use (e.g. non-transferrable, etc) until your next re-log. Finally for the snapshot floater, all settings changes are saved between sessions.

Use the page numbers below left to continue reading

Curiosity: speaking from Mars

Monday August 27th saw NASA host another news briefing on Curiosity’s progress, which included some amazing new images and well as updates on SAM and recent manoeuvrings with the rover.

The briefing started with a message “from Mars”, in the form of a recording of a greeting by NASA Administrator and former astronaut, Charles Bowden. Carried by Curiosity to Mars and then transmitted back to Earth, the message, lasting just over a minute, represents the first broadcast of a human voice from another planet. While primarily of PR value, the broadcast demonstrated the capabilities available with the rover working with (in particular) the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) when transferring large amounts of data to Earth; the speech represented some 4 megabits of voice data, which was transmitted alongside other information. As it is, in just three weeks, Curiosity has returned more data to Earth than the entire Pathfinder and MER rover missions combined.

SAM takes a Sniff

SAM, the Sample Analysis at Mars, is a suite of instruments designed to analyse organics and gases from both atmospheric and solid samples. On Saturday August 25th SAM was allowed to take its first sample of the Martian air, albeit as an engineering calibration exercise rather than a science experiment. After a slight “blip” in the proceedings when traces of calibration gas which should have been evacuated from the system beforehand were measured rather than Martian air, the tests successfully confirmed SAM’s atmospheric sampling capabilities are ready for action. In the future SAM will not only be able to sniff the air (and “taste” samples of Martian rock and soil delivered to it by the robot arm), it should even be able to tell us what Mars smells like (which, given it is thought Gale Crater has levels of sulphur dioxide present, is liable to be, “Ewww! Rotten eggs!”).

Mastcam Demonstrates its Power

The two Mastcam cameras (M100 (telephoto) and M34 (wide-angle)) have almost completed their characterisation check-outs and the Malin Space Science Systems team is getting ready to turn them over to the MSL science team for the start of science operations. Key to this work has been ensuring the cameras are properly focused, a process that has required using the both camera lenses to take high-resolution images across a range of distances. This has resulted in some amazing mosaics of Gale Crater being produced.

In the above image, Mastcam reveals Gale Crater: the grit-like surface on which the rover sits extends outwards to the South-west for about 125m (406ft), and is followed by a slight dip in the land that extends a further 105m (341ft) from the rover to the lip of a small crater about 20m (65ft) across. Beyond the rim of the crater can be seen what is described as a low-lying “moat” surrounding the flanks of “Mount Sharp”, the middle of which is about 3.7km (2.3 miles) from the rover. Beyond this is a field of sand dunes some 5.5km (3.4 miles) distant, with the base slopes of the mound just beyond them. The regions the science team are particularly interested in extend from about 6.6km (4 miles) from the rover out to about 10.7km (6.7 miles).

The image above shows a zoomed-in view of the region of interest, with the dune field in the immediate foreground. The inset image is of a rock roughly the size of Curiosity (the black dot in the inset image), pictured to hep give a sense of scale to the mesas, and show what the rover might look like if it could be pictured from Bradbury Landing once it starts exploring “Mount Sharp”.

While the area of interest is only 10km (6 miles) from Bradbury Landing, it would take Curiosity 100 days to reach it, were it to drive at full speed – which is obviously not what is going to happen, as there is much to study along the way.

On August 27th, NASA released a panoramic movie of Gale Crater and “Mount Sharp” put together using images from the Mastcam captured on the 8th and 18th August (prior to the focus calibrations being completed). The images have been white-balanced to match sunlight levels on earth, with 640×360 and 1280×720 Quick Time version of the movie available on the JPL website (note the 1280 movie is over 242Mb in size and may take time to download and stream).

Continue reading “Curiosity: speaking from Mars”