Taking wing

After my recent outings by boat to the Blake Sea and further afield to Second Norway, I became intrigued by the idea of aviation in SL.

Now, truth be told, I have owned an SL helicopter (rarely used) and I did recently pick up the wonderful Lepidoptera (which I still think is pretty amazing), and I love to occasionally zap around on my little Neuspa. However, I’ve never really tried my hand at piloting an aeroplane in SL (much to my shame, given my father actually does fly RL, and has had me at the controls of his ‘plane).

So, spurred on by the number of aircraft flying around Blake Sea, I decided to give things a go. Again, I’ll be honest here. I wasn’t sure how I’d take to things, so I too a cautious approach, and perused the SL Marketplace, visited a few in-world stores and saw what was available. I didn’t want anything “high performance”; I just wanted something to enjoy, and perhaps share with a friend or two. While I did find a couple of attractive light aircraft, I decided that, initially, I’d wet my feet (so to speak) with a couple of freebie offerings, and then if I liked things, would up the stakes from there.

I ended up getting two aircraft: a Terra Stingray and the Pitts S2C – and the proved to be very, very different in handling!

The Stingray is from Steve “Cubey” Cavers of Abbot’s Aerodrome fame. He’s actually single-handedly responsible for getting me into SL skydiving waaay back in 2007, and which I still enjoy today; Ziki Questi and I were going to try to do a “Felix” and make an almighty freefall jump in SL… but I digress.

The Terra Stingray

The Stingray is a jet aircraft with land and sea capabilities. It comes packed with features, including colour and decal changing, a flight HUD, menu system, and – in typical SL fashion – also coverts itself into a speedboat or submarine!

I started my flight in the Stingray from Ey Ren’s awesome new airport at Second Norway. This in itself is a magnificent build making prime use of the available space (departure area, complete with signage, check-in desks, security, etc., all neatly tucked under the runways, taxiways and airport apron).

Dawn take-off: awaiting ATC clearance to turn out onto runway 09L, Second Norway airport

Flying the Stingray is a pleasure. Simply attach the HUD, rez the plane (it’ll sense whether it is on land or water and either deploy the landing gear or not) and climb in. The throttle is controlled via PAGE UP / PAGE DOWN, and the HUD provides your fuel and throttle settings, among other necessary data. Pitch and turn are controlled via the arrow keys.

Ready to roll: opening the throttles

The Stingray is beautifully responsive, and I really enjoyed flying it. Once airborne I could raise the gear and just enjoy myself. Water landings were a simple affair: come down to around 20m, retarding your throttles back to about 40% along the way, then ease back gently, hold the nose steady and gently pitch the nose up before touching the water. Once your speed is down low enough (10%-ish), retract the wings and cruise boat-like to the pier / ramp.

Landing on a runway was equally easy, and helped with the visual references from the VASI lights.

The Pitts S2C is by Michie Yoksuka is an altogether different plane. It comes in three variants: the Mk1 (which is a tad blocky) and the updated Mark 2 with either wheels or floats. There’s no HUD and climbing into the Pitts starts the engine, otherwise controls are pretty much as for the Stingray. As I was flying over Blake Sea, I opted for the seaplane version and started my journey from Half Hitch. The build is a little blockier than the Stingray, but it does capture the essence of the Pitts very nicely.

Me and my Pitts S2B

Like its namesake, the Pitts S2C is fast and very friskly. The RL Pitts is designed for aerobatics, and in no time at all, I was barrel-rolling with wing tips just clearing the waves, and pulling impressive climbs which should have resulted in some pretty hard stall turns….

I wasn’t actually intending to do either, but as I said, the Pitts 2B is very frisky!

I opted to fly the Pitts from Half Hitch, out in the middle of Blake Sea. I’m glad I did as I encountered an unexpected visitor sailing through….

Yikes! Who put that there?! It can’t possibly be….
…it is!

One thing with flying a plane which did take some getting used to was the speed – particularly in the Pitts, where I was zipping through regions at a stunning rate at times. The Stingray was slightly more sedate, especially when eased back on the throttle, and as a result tended to handle region crossings with more panache – several times in the Pitts I ended up being booted to 0,0,0, and sometimes I could TP home, other times I simply crashed. That said, there were a couple of times in the Stingray when a region crossing left my camera wedged in the engine air intake behind the cockpit…

Flying high: the Pitts S2B is a frisky little plane

Of the two aircraft I used, I have to say the Stingray perhaps offered the better experience for me as novice. The controls felt smoother and left me feeling more in control. The Pitts tended to respond to everything so fast, I was wibbling about all over the sky (and probably scaring the pants of those sailing by below me at times). But again, that’s perhaps how it should be: learning to fly in a racy plane like the Pitts isn’t perhaps the brightest way to go about things… I also have to confess I like the fact that the Stingray can also turn itself into a natty speedboat.

From plane to boat: Stingray shows its versatility

As to flying in SL, I have mixed feelings. It’s a great way to get to see more of the major areas of Second Life – particularly if you can up your draw distance a little to see beyond the next region as you fly. Landing a plane in SL isn’t always easy – it’s hard to make a good approach without making at least one region crossing, and this did throw me the first few times.

Region crossings are, inevitably problematic, and I did find myself getting frustrated when I wound-up at 0,0,0 on a number of occasions, as mentioned. Certainly, the problem hasn’t put me off flying in SL, so I’ll doubtless be back for more – and I still have my eye on one light aircraft on sale both on the Marketplace and in-world in particular.

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Burn2 extended by a week

The organisers of BURN2 have announced the event is to be extended a further week. The PR notice announcing this reads:

BURN2 2012 Extended For More Fun!
Virtual festival extended by one week

In an unprecedented move, BURN2 — the only regional Burning Man festival held within a virtual world — has been extended by an additional week! This will allow even more people to visit the event, enjoy the art and have fun on the virtual playa.

While the second week will not have the extensive organized performance schedules of the first, all camps are welcome to host their own events, and are welcome to remain open and active through the 4th of November. Center camp and Osiris stages will be open for performers on a first-come, first-serve basis.

There may be additional, Hallowe’en themed events at BURN2 on the 31st of October.

Thank you all again for making this the most fun, most memorable BURN  ever!

Burn Schedule Revised

As a result of this, the burning of the Man and the Temple have been pushed back a week and will now take place as follows:

  • Burning the Man: Saturday, November 3rd at 04:00, 12:00 noon and 20:00 SLT
  • Burning the Temple: Sunday, November 4th at: 04:00, 12:00 noon and 20:00 SLT

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SL project news: week 43/4: server updates

Week 43 Deployments

Main Channel

Tuesday October 23rd saw an update to the main channel which should have minimal impact on things, the changes having previously been on the Magnum RC channel. LL have been monitoring the deployment and have seen no adverse impacts.

BlueSteel RC

The BlueSteel RC channel received a further update to the current server maintenance project aimed at general stability improvement.

LeTigre

LeTigre is currently the focus of the server modernisation project, and as such received further updates to the deployment of Havok 2012.1. This means that mesh vehicles will continue to be unable to cross from LeTigre into regions running on other server channels for the time being.

As previously reported in part one of this week’s project news, LeTigre contains an updated cURL library which may cause problems for services using an external website for frequent data updates. The issue affects llHTTPRequest.

Essentially, the problem is that until now, the cURL library used by LL uses an explicit call to ensure data being returned from an external web service (such as information relating to the health status of breedable animals) is “fresh” data, rather than anything which may have been cached along the way. As such, specific functionality hasn’t previously been required within LSL to ensure this is the case.

However, The new cURL library deployed to LeTigre no longer attached the explicit call (technically a Pragma: no-cache header) to outgoing requests. This means that information being returned as a result of a call to an external service may in fact come from data cached along the way (such as from an intermediary server). Obviously, receiving “old” data would not be good for things like breedables, which could end up dying.

To overcome this, LL have added a new flag to the llHTTPRequest function to achieve the same result as used to be achieved via the old cURL library attaching the Pragma no cache “request”. In the meantime, anyone with breedables or other services which rely upon frequently updated data from an external web service have been advised to test their products on LeTigre.

Magnum RC

The Magnum RC channel was to have received a series of bug fixes, together with Baker Linden’s code for large Group Services. However, a showstopper issue was discovered with llSensor(). As a result, the release was rolled back and replaced with the BlueSteel deployment.

Also to have been included with this release is a new capability allowing the simulator to report information about script permissions granted to objects within a region. This capability requires an update to the viewer in order to be used (the code for which is currently held-up due to the beta viewer issues). Once the viewer code has been released, the new capability will allow users to list all items in a region to which they’ve granted permissions (such as items which have been granted animate permissions) and, if required, revoke them.

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