Unhinged: Eku comes home

poster-001Unhinged, subtitled A Festival for Eku’s Head a special, month-long series of events aimed at raising money to assist SL resident Eku Zhong, draws to a close today.

Over the last several years, Eku has suffered with MS and then thyroid cancer prior to being stricken with bone cancer. Throughout this she has undergone extensive treatment from radiation therapy through to both bone marrow transplants and bone replacements, all of which have taken their toll, and left Eku with a fragile skull. The area where her zygotic arch meets the temporal bone is severely compromised, leaving her with a risk that her zygotic arch could lift off the temporal arch and push the temporal bone into her brain. Actions as simple as chewing hard food or yawning the wrong way could cause this.

To prevent this, Eku needed to have a further surgery to fit her with a prosthesis to replace the damaged bone. Unhinged was put together by Eku’s friends, lead by Nephilaine Protagonist, in order to help her meet the cost of the surgery and the prosthesis.

Over the course of the last month, Unhinged has been taking place on two regions, with a large, open-area vendor area on Port Seraphine, with content creators who are supporting the event displaying their wares – some of which have been exclusively for Unhinged. The vendor area is simple, low-lag and highly effective for an event of this sort. It leads up to the party / stage area, which is just “over the border” in the region of WaterWorks and is very much in keeping with the overall theme for the event, as it features a large skull in which DJs are artists perform.

During the course of the month, which has seen donations both in-world and via an Indiegogo fundraiser page, enough had been raised which could be added to the money Eku herself has put together for her to undergo the surgery. As a result, Eku is once more at home, recovering. She is also hoping to attend the remaining Unhinged events through the day as and when she can.

As a result, a series of special events are being put together – and while the schedule is somewhat fluid, everyone is invited to join in and welcome Eku home.

The events, as currently scheduled are:

  • 12:00 noon – 14:00 SLT: Tracer Graves
  • 14:00 – 16:00 SLT:  Mabb Dilweg
  • 16:00 – 18:00 SLT: Shane

All events at the stage area.

With thanks to Ciaran Laval

Avatar Baking: “and the clock has started!”

Update, April 6th, 2013: Please also see my updated status report.

The new avatar baking project took a step closer on December 14th, as LL started to release more in the way of technical details on the project and launched a project viewer.

Avatar bake fail
Avatar bake fail

Code-named Project Sunshine, and a part of the Shining Project, this work is aimed at improving avatar baking and at eliminate bake fail issues.

The project represents a sizeable change in how Second Life works, and as such will take time to fully implement, requiring extensive changes to the viewer itself – something which Nyx Linden has previously referred to as, “Some pretty scary viewer re-architecting”, as well as a good part of the back-end services – hence why it has taken so long for the project to mature. Because of the degree of changes taking place, Linden Lab have consistently promised, via Oz Linden, that TPV developers would some eight weeks notice prior to any initial deployment of the new service in order for them to ensure they can integrate the required viewer-side code changes, test them, and ensure they can support the new service.

Speaking at the TPV Developer meeting on Friday 14th December, Oz reiterated the 8-week lead time before adding, “Today begins the clock! … You get at least two months from now before we begin rolling server-side baking out to the main grid, at least beyond a test region or two.” So while the precise timescale as to when the new baking service will start to appear on the main (Agni) grid remains open, TPVs can now start to engage in the project, a step which itself brings it one step closer to reaching the grid.

A Quick Recap: How It Is and How It Will Be

Currently, avatar baking is essentially driven from the viewer. In summary (and without drilling too much into detail), this means that when a system layer outfit or item of clothing is changed (including alpha layers), the updates are applied locally in the user’s viewer. They are then uploaded to the server the user is connected to, which then passes the updates out to the other viewers connected to it, so that other users get to see the change as well. This process has several points of potential failure: communications between the viewer and the server may be interrupted, for example, with the result that the server doesn’t receive all the information pertaining to an outfit change, with the result that  – again as just one example – the user sees their avatar perfectly fine, but others see the avatar as blurred / grey. In some instances, the process can fail such that while the user sees their avatar wearing the desired outfit, other see the same avatar still wearing the “old” outfit.

The new service will hopefully eliminate these issues by moving much of the emphasis for the baking process from the viewer to a new “Texture Compositing Service”. The viewer will retain some elements involved in avatar baking – the actual baking of the avatar shape (i.e. shape values and IDs) will still take place on the viewer side, for example. However, the new compositing service will take over most the donkey-work and handle the majority of avatar baking data and communications (excluding prim-based attachments).

As with many of the new services being introduced into Second Life by LL, the new baking service will be HTTP driven (the current system is UDP protocol based) which should have an additional benefit of speeding up the entire avatar load process when logging-in to SL and in fetching textures.

How the entire process should work can be summarised as follows:

  • The new service will use the Current Outfit folder as its viewer-side driver. This means that in order to use the service a viewer must have the Current Outfit folder properly implemented
  • When a rebake request is due (e.g. after a user has finished editing their appearance) the viewer sends a message to the baking service essentially asking it to look at the contents of the viewer’s Current Outfit folder and then return an updated appearance based on the contents of that folder
  • At the same time as the data is returned to the user’s viewer, it is also sent to the simulator to which the user’s viewer is connected, so that the simulator can send the appearance information to all other viewers connected to it.

To further TPV developers understand the new system and answer their questions,  Nyx Linden dropped by the TPV developer meeting on Friday 14th December. Note that what follows is an overview of Nyx’s discussion from the point-of-view of providing digestible information on the new service for “general” users, rather than a in-depth review of the full technicalities of the system and Q&A session.

Nyx linden discusses server-side baking at the TPV Developer meeting, Friday 14th December
Nyx linden discusses server-side baking at the TPV Developer meeting, Friday 14th December

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