Doing a Wilbur at Orville (it’s premium gift time again)

Ah well. Looks like I was wrong. Shucks!

LL have just launched their latest Premium gift today, Thursday 14th November. That something was due today wasn’t a surprise, as they’d slipped out advanced word last month by accident. However, at the time, I thought it might be something else other than the next Premium gift.

Turns out – it is, so ho-hum on my part.

I will say, with hand-on-heart, however, that I’m not actually surprised by the nature of the gift – a biplane. I say not surprised, as the prediction curve was pretty clear over the last three gifts: boat, railcar, car (dune buggy)  – so an aeroplane rounds-out the set. So what is the latest like?

Well, it looks like something out of the great days of barnstorming in the 1920s, when surplus WWI aircraft received a second lease of life. In fact, from what cursory research I did via the web, it looks like a cross between a Spad (beloved of American pilots) and the British SE5. Sort-of. Well, to me, at least.

Me and my latest premium gift

As with all premium gift vehicles, this one follows the usual standard – get in and use it, with touching it bringing up a menu to adjust things like the colour scheme, the flight sensitivity, the controls, etc. When you up in, instructions are displayed in chat, and follow the normal layout – PAGE UP/ DOWN for throttle increase / decrease, arrow keys for nose up / down, left / right (or you can use WASD and E & C for the throttle).

Seat-of-you-pants-flying

Handling-wise, and to be brutally honest, I have to admit that I found the plane something of a mess. As there is no HUD, decreasing or increasing the throttle produces a spew of channel spam in the viewer’s chat console, which is both annoying and distracting. Further, and while this may be down to the fact I use my own camera defaults (although I don’t know why if so, as I use the same defaults to fly my other aircraft), I found it impossible to achieve stable, level flight in this plane even with the throttle reasonably set: I was either constantly climbing or descending (generally the latter – it’s as if the plane is terribly nose-heavy). Obviously, some adjustment to trim is going to be required in an old kite, but this actually grated on me in both basic and advanced sensitivity settings.

“Contact!”

The plane is a single-seater, but that doesn’t prevent friends coming along for the ride – providing they are willing to hang on. Aerobatically, the plane is OK – I threw a couple of loops and rolled it a few times, although the aforementioned habit of it constantly wanting to get back on the ground meant that it was easy to over-compensate.

“If you iz flyin liek this then yu iz doin it rong”

As with the dune buggy offering, the plane “includes” the use of a premium-only airstrip at Orville. This has been stuck on the south side of the premium sandbox group  which includes Formonsa, Amoena, and others, and which appear to have gained two additional region splitting them: Limia and Arowana. As such, there should be a lot of flying space here – but for the fact that the runway is west- east facing, with no regions either to the left or right, which makes taking off and landing something of a pain, as there is no real opportunity for a lined-up descent on the latter or decent climb-out in the former. This was reflected in the fact that on my visit, there were a number of biplanes bouncing along the region edge…

Orville: “Mind the boundary”

The lack of flying space to the east and west may also reflect the fact that there were a fair few at the strip who were not flying their new LL gift plane, but were enjoying themselves dogfighting in Warbugs (one of which I just have to get – talk about cute!). These tiny little planes had no issue with the confined space.

Warbugs at Orville!

While at Orville, I confess I took time out not to fly the new plane, but to take the Stingray out on the water once more – I tell you, I’m hooked on this vehicle!

Overall, the latest premium gift is pretty predictable; transportation appears to have been the theme for 2012’s gifts as mentioned above. It’ll be somewhat interesting to see what the theme will be for 2013. As to the biplane itself – well, like the buggy before it, it’s OK, but hardly on a par with offerings which can be had for free on the Marketplace; however, if it serves to get people who have no previously tried flying to give it a go, then it can be said to have served a decent purpose.

For my part, however, I’ll stick with my Stingray. And go get me a little Warbug. Those things look FUN!

Leaving Orville by water – taking out the Stingray. Again.

Oh, and of course, this gift comes complete with the usual “50% (on your first quarter’s payment) discount” offer. For those who are curious as to general thoughts on premium, please feel free to check out my thoughts on the matter for those considering an upgrade.

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Picasso in 3D – Guernica at LEA

On Tuesday 13th November, Lizzie Gudkov and London Junkers unveiled their submission for the LEA’s Full sim Art Series.

Guernica is a vivid reproduction of Picasso’s famous work, which has been beautifully reproduced in 3D within second Life in a manner which allows one to appreciate both as it was originally painted, or physically immerse oneself in the piece.

Commenting on the installation, London says:

In 1937 Spanish painter Pablo Picasso created one of the most important icons of the 20th century when he made the Guernica.

Painted in black and white, depicting the horrors of war, it is today as solid and modern as it was when it was first shown in the 1937 International Fair in Paris. T

The intention of re-creating this masterpiece in Second Life comes from the love for the original mural itself and what it represents. After a lot of thought and experimenting with external 3D software,a decision was made, this installation would be built primarily in prims, as an exercise of the possibilities that LEA has given us. With this piece, we would like to pay homage to Picasso and let visitors learn more from it.

The original was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain by German and Italian aircraft on 26 April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace. On completion Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed.

The installation can be seen at LEA 6 in-world, where it is displayed full in keeping with the original. On arrival, you’ll be requested to accept the local windlight settings, which allow the mural to be presented as with the original – in black and white.

Guernica

The arrival point allows you to view the piece pretty much as Picasso originally painted it: in two dimensions. However, step down from the viewing gallery and you can become fully immersed in the image, seeing it – and the horrific outcome of the event it portrays – in a very personal way.

Guernica

It can be said that Guernica saw the final end of any romanticism of war. While much of this had already been washed away in the terrors of The Great War of 1914-1918, war before Guernica was often removed and isolated from the lives of “ordinary” people. After Guernica, this would never again be the case – as the unfolding tragedy of the Second World War would illustrate just two years later.

Guernica

The artists of this recreation recommend visitors view it via Mouselook – and I do recommend the same; while moving and flying around it might be a little harder using Mouselook, the added depth of perspective obtained more than compensates.

For those not familiar with the work or its historical context and impact, I would also recommend a little background reading as well.

Guernica will remain open at LEA6 throughout the remainder of November 2012.

World map: vanishing region tiles

There have been ongoing issues with regions not rendering within the World map.  The precise reasons why this is the case is currently unclear; Andrew Linden has been trying to look into the matter since it was reported at the last of the Friday Simulator User Group meetings on the 9th November, but work on Interest Lists has kept him busy.

The problems appear to be twofold: tiles for some regions either entirely fail to generate in the World map, or their appearance is linked to the level of zoom being used.

The first issue is demonstrated with the region Sunny Point, which simply does not appear on the World map at all.

Sunny Point – failing to appear on the World map

With the second issue, Qie Niangao reports that strips of regions on the World map can effectively vanish at certain zoom levels (see JIRA SVC-8115), with some regions of the Zindra adult content apparently never having been drawn at some zoom levels of the Map.

Regions located close to Harshap demonstrate a part of the problem, in that they will appear in the map when zoomed fully in, but step out once on the zoom, and a strip of regions will vanish.

Regions near Harshap: visible when zoomed in…

While the issue has only recently come up for discussion at the Simulator UG meeting, the problem appears to have been persistent for a good while, and some have reported the map is missing strips of region tiles from as many as eight different locations.

Harshap: step out a level with zoom, and a strip of regions vanish, and are not re-rendered.

The World map is generated via a process which images regions from an altitude of around 350m (hence why builds above this altitude do not appear on the map). The information is then scaled for rendering at a number of levels to represent the different zoom levels within the World map floater. Currently, it appears is if the problem lies with the generation of these different zoom levels, at least as far as the “missing strips” issues is concerned. The data from the process is also used for generating map images at maps.secondlife.com, with the result that issues can also occur when viewing map segments there.

As it stands, the possible causes for the problem are still under investigation by LL personnel. However, anyone encountering problems with their region(s) failing to render properly on the World map should consider raising a bug report and /or attending the Tuesday Simulator UG meeting (the Friday meeting is now discontinued).

Regions absent from the World map, as imaged by MartinRJ Fayray for the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday 13th November

SL projects week 46/1: server, projects and general news

Server Deployments – Week 46

Deployments for the week are progressing as planned.

Main Channel

The main channel received the code which had been running on the Magnum RC channel as well as some updates.

This now means that the server-side Group Services code to improve the loading and editing of very large groups (10K+ members) is active right across the main grid – see the section on Group Services below for further information.

This roll-out restored functionality within the Estate Tools which allows region physics to be put in a condition of limited functionality, which is sometimes useful in dealing with issues and problems within a region. The capability was disabled around the time of the mesh roll-out, and has now been restored with this release. This caused some minor inconvenience on some regions (at least one), where the option has been enabled at some point, with the result that following their restart, objects within the region(s) were not functioning correctly. However, this was corrected without major incident.

Main channel release notes.

Release Candidates

Wednesday 13th November will see all three Release Candidate channel receive the same update package, including the BUG-166 update, which means that linksets with bounding boxes larger than 64m (in any dimension) are prevented from being rezzed if doing so will cause the object to collide with an avatar excluding the object owner.

Release notes:  Magnum, BlueSteel, LeTirgre.

Week 47 Deployments and Christmas Run-up

There will be no server roll-outs in week 47 (week commencing Monday 19th November) due to the forthcoming Thanksgiving weekend in the United States. There will be deployments between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it currently looks as if these may be limited to a couple of weeks during that period according to Simon Linden (details on the likely number pending), and there will as usual be no releases over the Christmas / New Year period.

Interest List and Object Caching

Andrew Linden reports that the first phase of this work is drawing to a conclusion, and he is planning on having a possible demonstration of the capability on the beta (Aditi) grid on Thursday 15th November, most likely during the Bet Server User Group meeting.

The focus of this project is to optimise the data being sent to the viewer, information already cached on the viewer and the manner in which that data is used in order to ensure it is used more efficiently so that things rez both faster and in a more orderly manner than is currently the case.

Interest lists and object rezzing: initial srver code updates almost ready

Andrew reports that general performance on object rezzing should be improved, although the overall sorting element of the code (ensuring objects closer to an avatar’s camera position rez sooner than those further away) isn’t currently as rigorous as it could be. However, the server and viewer do now interact better, so less information is sent to the viewer relating to in-world items which are not visible within the current camera view for the viewer.

Commenting on demonstrating the capability when speaking at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday 13th November, Andrew acknowledged that it may be difficult to achieve on Aditi, which is a relatively static environment (improvements will hopefully be more noticeable on regions where there is a lot of movement and activity); however, anyone interested in this work may want to try attending the Beta Server Group meeting on the 15th November, in case a demo is provided.

Currently, this represents the fist pass in Interest list improvements, and one which is liable to be heading to an RC channel in the near future – it does not require any specific viewer updates to work -, and Andrew expects to be building on this work in the future.

Group Services

As mentioned above, Baker Linden’s Group Services HTTP code is now available across the main grid. As there was some confusion evidenced on Plurk yesterday, here’s a quick re-cap on what this means:

  • The new code allows for improved loading of membership lists of very large groups, together with improved reliability in editing such groups (i.e. assigning roles, removing people, etc.), by the group moderators
  • The code requires a viewer update. At the time of writing, this is available with the official Second Life beta viewer (3.4.2.266708+), and the code will be filtering into the majority of popular TPVs as they update (and currently appears to be available in Zen (3.4.2.2+) and Niran’s Viewer (2.0.3.2262+) and Cool VL (1.26.4.38), all of which successfully loaded large group lists for me)
  • Until such time as the viewer-side code has been incorporated into TPVs, the “old” method of loading group lists into the viewer will still be available. However, viewers using the “old” method (a protocol referred to as UDP) will have group loading capped at 10K members. This means:
    • That for groups with 10K or fewer members, there will be no change regardless as to whether the viewer is using HTTP or UDP
    • But for groups large than 10K, viewers running the UDP code will be unable to load the group until such time as they have been updated to the new code
  • The code will not lead to any improvements in group chat reliability, and is not aimed at improving group chat.

Materials Processing and Avatar Baking

No news on either of these, beyond what has been previously reported in these pages. Materials processing has a test region on Aditi, but there is no timeline on when a project viewer is to be made available. For an overview of the initial capabilities for material processing, please see my project update here, and remember that the capabilities will be applicable to prims and mesh, but not directly to avatars or system layer clothing.

Avatar Baking is progressing, but without any significant update at this time, please refer to my last detailed update on this project for information.

Mesh Importer Fix

JIRA SH-3055 records a  problem with the official viewer’s mesh uploader which has been affecting people over the course of the year. The fix for this, released as a project viewer (3.4.2.266471, available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS) on November 5th, is still available for those experiencing uploader issues, although it is in the pipeline to be merged with the beta viewer now that crash issues seem to have been resolved. Bear in mind that – as Runitai states in his JIRA comment, the viewer is a pre-beat project version, and may include other bugs and problems. While reports on the JIRA seem to point to it being relatively stable, caution should still be taken if attempting to use it as a primary viewer.

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