Six years … and counting

Is it really a year since I last wrote about logging-in to Second Life for the first time as Inara Pey? Wow. Back then I covered the arrival of my fifth rezday with something of a retrospective on SL itself. The times certainly have been interesting.

I’m not about to delve into another retrospective as with last year – you can follow the link above or wait for my Review of the Year. What I will say that this year, while it has been very uppy-downy for me at times (don’t worry, I’m not going to delve into that either! Suffice it to say there are a couple of people out there – and they known who they are – to whom I’ll always be indebted for their time and shoulders), has also been something of a renewal of SL discovery for me.

Maleo Isle

Given all the doom and gloom which swirl around SL, one can never underestimate the value of getting out and about and simply exploring. While there may well be clouds gathering on the horizon, it is still not too late for the storm to be averted – and in the meantime, there is still so very much to see and enjoy – as I hope my “Destination” articles in this blog have shown over the course of the last couple of years.

This year has also seen me start into a couple of new pastimes in Second Life – flying and sailing. I get an enormous pleasure out of the two, for very different reasons. Flying, at least in the right aeroplane, can be an enormous amount of fun. I’m totally in love with my Terra Stingray (which also doubles at times as a very good boat), and more recently my Warbug  has brought an entirely new meaning to the word “fun”.

Warbug Patrol: keeping the skies over Linden homes free from...errr....
Warbug Patrol: keeping the skies over Linden Homes free from…errr….

Sailing is an altogether different pleasure; one more easily shared with friends in easy conversation, broad sails overhead a fresh winds from behind under warm skies. Whether I’m out in the middle of Blake Sea or hugging the coastline around one of the continents or navigating my way to a destination like Second Norway, just being out on the water – like its real-life equivalent – is strangely liberating. I don’t care if I don’t have the biggest, fastest, best-looking or easily operated boat in the world, I’m having enormous fun out on the open seas…

Soon we were out on the open waters of the sea, and I gave the orders to raise the sails, cutting the engine as I did so. for a moment or two, the Exotix coasted forward, the windlasses rattling as we wound them, the sails rising limpy up the tall mast. Then with a canvas-like snap, they caught the wind and Exotix heeled to starboard, racing forward as the sails filled, and I felt the wheel kick with joy in my hands...
Sailing: an SL pastime I’ve really come to enjoy…

All-in-all it’s been a great SL year for me; one capped-off by having friends old and new with whom I can share it, both in-world and through these pages. And while I don’t want to particularly seem to be plugging it, the fact that so many people appear to enjoy reading this blog (wrats, um w-a-r-t-s and all :)) does genuinely touch me.

I’ve no idea what the next twelve months will bring; Second Life is officially ten years old in 2013, so I can’t help but feel whatever it is won’t be a closing of the doors, and I still feel that while they may not be working on anything big and sexy, LL are still plugging away, somewhat hamfistedly at times it’s true, trying to improve SL on a technical level, improve our in-world lives and give us more toys to play with.

All things considered, it’s been a great year; perhaps my only disappointment is that Linden Lab don’t seem to be in the mood to celebrate with me. While others get their rezdays marked with a Linden Cake, I see nary a crumb :(. Ah well. Maybe next year. To the rest of you out there, however, whether near or far, thank you for your friendship, your support and your encouragement.

It really is appreciated.


Lumiya 2.3.3: bringing texture to your world

lumiya-logoDecember 5th sees a further update to Lumiya, with the release of version 2.3.3.

Over the course of the last year Lumiya has developed from a basic text client into a app which rivals the viewer in terms of its capabilities – 3D rendering, avatar rendering, inventory access and management, outfits, touch, pay, OpenSim support. What’s more, all this has been ahieved in less than a year; it’s an incredible testament to Alina Lyvette’s abilities and determination to develop a functional, credible mobile client for virtual worlds like Second Life.

With version 2.3.3, Alina again raises the bar with a host of new features, as well a a number of fixes and updates:

  • Texture updates, including textured terrain in 3D view and option high-quality textures
  • Flying controls in 3D view
  • HUD support
  • “Clear cache” option in settings
  • Chat messages and user keys can be copied to clipboard
  • Option to restart sim for land owners
  • Configurable LED blinking for notifications
  • NEON-optimized code for texture decompression


The first big update with Lumiya 2.3.3 is textures and texture handling. First and foremost, Lumiya will now render ground textures in the 3D view, something which immediately increases the attractiveness of outdoor scenes when rendered.

We haz teh grass! Lumiya now displays terrain textures
We haz teh grass! Lumiya now displays terrain textures

Lumiya also includes a number of configurable texture options available through the 3D View section of Settings (tap the menu button on your device, then tap Settings). These are:

  • High Quality Textures: toggles the high quality option on and off – this can put a device’s GPU under considerable stress and lead to extended rezzing times
  • Texture Memory Limit: set the maximum limit your device can use for textures from a set of four defaults: 32MB, 64MB, 128MB and 256MB. Note that Android can limit GPU memory use to 128MB, so using the 256MB may cause problems on some devices, including locked the application completely
  • Concurrent Texture Downloads: set how many textures can be downloaded concurrently (2, 4, 8, or 16)
  • Terrain textures: toggle the terrain texture rendering on / off.

Flying Controls

Lumiya 2.3.3 sees three new buttons appear on the 3D world view, two of which (in the top right corner of the screen) allow you to fly, as with a full viewer. Tap the UP arrow key to start flying / fly up, and the DOWN arrow to descent / land. Fly forwards / backwards using the movement keys in the lower right corner of the screen.

The new Fly buttons (top right) and HUD access button
The new Fly buttons (top right) and HUD access button

When you start flying, a STOP FLYING button is displayed. One being tapped, it does precisely what it says: stops you flying – complete with the traditional falling animation as well!

Continue reading “Lumiya 2.3.3: bringing texture to your world”

The end of speculation, the beginning of something new

CuriosityOn Monday 3rd December, NASA provided an update on the Mars Science Laboratory’s (MSL) most recent findings in analysing soil samples gathered from the “Rocknest” region of Gale Crater on Mars.

As reported last time, the findings had been the subject of intense media speculation for almost two weeks after radio reporter Joe Palca over-egged relatively innocent comments made by MSL’s Principal Investigator John Grotzinger concerning the initial soil analysis results received from the SAm Analysis at Mars suite of instruments while the reporter was setting-up and testing his recording equipment for an interview on November 20th. In his subsequent broadcast, Palca was unable to resist couching Grotzinger’s comments in terms of something “earth-shaking” having been found.

Had Curiosity found evidence of organics in just its first soil sample? Had Curiosity found evidence of past life on Mars? Had Curiosity found life on Mars? The questions and speculation seemed to grow with each passing day. Not even a firm, but low-key statement put out by NASA on the 26th November stopped the speculation growing, forcing them to issue a very strongly worded press release on the matter on November 29th and use Curiosity’s “Twitter personality” team to underline the fact that no organics had been found in a series of tweets the same day.

MSL Principal Investigator John Grotzinger
MSL Principal Investigator John Grotzinger

The rumour-mill had been fuelled in part by the fact that NASA planned to give an update on the first four months of the MSL mission at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), with some believing the space agency would only do so if they had something “major” to announce about the mission. The fact that NASA has regularly attended AGU meetings in the past to provide updates on missions  – including Curiosity’s predecessors, the Mars Exploration Rovers, seemed to escape people’s notice…

And the Findings Are….

An update was given at the AGU on Monday December 3rd, with NASA summarising them in a press briefing for those unable to attend the live meeting. While the results are not “earth-shaking”, they are nevertheless interesting.

A Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image of the third (left) and fourth (right) trenches made by Curiosity’s 4 cm-wide scoop. Acquired on Sol 84 (Oct. 31, 2012) the image shows details of the properties of the “Rocknest” sand dune. The upper surface is covered by crust of coarse sand grains approx. 0.5 to 1.5 mm, mantled with fine dust, giving it a light brown/red colour. The crust is about 0.5 cm thick and beneath it is finer, darker sand. The left end of each trough wall shows alternating light and dark bands, indicating that the sand inside the drift is not completely uniform. This might be due to different amounts of infiltrated dust, chemical alteration or deposition of sands of slightly different colour.

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