In sight at Insight

Insight Forest is a region that’s bound to attract me – it is largely water, and I love paddling around in water, as many of the destinations featured in the blog demonstrate. It is also the home to a beautiful exhibition featuring works by some of SL’s top photographers, including Whiskey Monday  – whose work i the reason I paid a visit over the weekend.

The other artists featured in the exhibition are Annushi, Sare Ethaniel, Jordan Giant, Kean Kelly, Amelie Knelstorm, Rodriguez Munro and Citta Wiskee, together with the exhibit’s curators, Maclane Mills and Kamelia Snowfield.

Insight Forest
Insight Forest

The exhibition space is beautiful in its simplicity: a grove of bare trees in ankle-deep water with the artists’ work framed and hanging from branches. A sign at the entrance to the exhibit offers an introduction to the works and artists, then it is down to you to walk down the short avenue of trees and then follow the directions to take a clockwise tour. Each artist is announced by a frame bearing their name, and touching the pictures reveals the name of each piece.

Insight Forest
Insight Forest

At the centre of the exhibit is a piece by Maclane Mills, which combines a moving image with sculpture to present a bird rising up from its nest to fly around a tree.

If I have any niggles at all with the exhibit, it is that the pictures themselves are a tad on the small side to be fully appreciated, and zooming in on them in-world doesn’t entirely do them justice. Also, the bounding boxes on the trees can be a tad close together such that you can find yourself bouncing off of them at times. But I stress: these are very minor niggles.

Insight Forest
Insight Forest

For those so-minded, there is a visitor’s book following close to the entrance / exit of the exhibition space, and comments are encouraged.

A short distance from the copse of trees is a little island, offering a quiet haven within a quiet haven and which is itself a work of art, featuring an LP player, a chair, some books and a short ladder.

Insight Forest
Insight Forest

All-in-all, this is a simple, uncluttered and graceful exhibition of art which is well-worth going and seeing. Yes, the pictures could potentially be larger in order to be fully appreciated, as I’ve mentioned – but on the other hand, they are of a scale that matches most avatars, and can thus give a feeling of really being within a unique, open-air gallery.

But rather than take my word for it, why don’t you go see for yourself?

Related Links

Insight Forest
Insight Forest

SL project updates week 11 (1): server deployments, viewer, and interest list updates

Server Deployments

Second Life Server (Main channel)

On Tuesday March 12th, the Main channel received Baker Linden’s large object rezzing project which had been deployed to BlueSteel and LeTigre in week 10. This project is designed to improve simulator handling of “large” (as a file size / complexity, rather than physical object size) so that the simulator does not stall / choke when handling one or more such objects. makes sim performance smoother while objects are being rezzed. Further details on the project are in my week 10 update, and the server release notes are available in the SL wiki.

Release Candidate Channels

On Wednesday March 13th, the Release Candidate channels should be updated as follows:

  • BlueSteel and LeTigre: both of these channels should be receiving the same server maintenance package, intended to fix a common crash mode – release notes
  • Magnum should receive an update to the server maintenance package it received in week 10, with further improvements / fixes. These include the removal of the fix for VWR-786, which rather than correctly fixing the known issue (IMs to friends do not respect their privacy settings) resulted in all IMs to non friends returning the “User is not online” message, regardless as to whether the recipient was online or not. Release notes for the package are on the SL wiki

SL Viewer

There has been no major viewer movement since the last update in week 10.

CHUI, the Communication Hub User Interface

CHUI looks set to be merged-in to the Snowglobe code, with Oz Linden stating he was hoping to start on this on Monday 11th March. There are concerns as to how LL’s ongoing work with the viewer might impact TPVs going forward. As it is, CHUI is liable to remain in the SL beta viewer for a while (and there is expected to be one more CHUI release into beta, as perviously noted).

Materials Project

Work is continuing on clearing the current issues within the viewer code, with a further push of the non-public viewer expected this week, which may resolve some of the problems.

The Potential LL Roadmap for Viewer Releases

While things are always in a state of flux, the potential order of viewer releases from LL’s perspective is currently veering towards:

  • Materials is now unlikely to “be seen” until after the code has merged with the CHUI code  – this follow-on from the SSB code currently undergoing a merge with CHUI and the move to merge CHUI with the Snowglobe code mentioned above
  • This does not mean that a materials project viewer will not appear prior to CHUI reaching the SL release viewer; rather it means that when a materials project viewer appears, it is likely to have CHUI incorporated into it
  • That said, materials will likely only arrive in the release version of the SL viewer after CHUI has been formally released and (most likely) SSB has been deployed
  • Other updates – FMODex is currently awaiting CHUI as well, but has no clear release date; the same is true of the Mac Cocoa project. Currently, it appears as if these are unlikely to reach mainstream release until after CHUI has been formally released.

Most TPVs are currently focusing on the Server-side Baking (SSB) integration, as this has a significantly greater impact on viewers in terms of the impact on  users than CHUI (although the latter is by far the most complex update as it involves a lot of code refactoring as well as CHUI updates). As such, it is likely to be a while before CHUI starts appearing in the majority of third-party viewers (although Kokua has already merged with it, and now has the CHUI code in the beta branch of its code).

Merchant Outbox Project Viewer

As reported over the weekend, Linden Lab has re-issued the Merchant Outbox project viewer, updated to the 3.4.4 viewer code, but which does not incorporate CHUI. This release is purely to assist merchants who are encountering issues in migrating to Direct Delivery now that the initial retirement of Magic Boxes has been announced.

Those who have / are encountering problems in migrating to Direct Delivery can obtain the viewer from the Alternate Viewers wiki page.

This project viewer will be withdrawn at some point in the future, and will not impact other viewer releases.

Server-side Baking

A further reminder that there will be a further SSB pile-on / load test on Thursday March 14th, following-on, as with the last test, from the Server Beta meeting on Aditi. For wishing to participate:

  • The test is liable to be in much the same format as the first test
  • Those participating should be running the latest version of the official SSB project viewer (
  • Participants should have a number of outfits of system clothing, preferably with multiple layers, which they can swap between during the course of the test. Library outfits are acceptable, but LL are keen for people to use their own outfits to add greater weight to the tests
  • Clearing the viewer cache prior to the test is suggested, but not an absolute requirement.
The first SSB pile-on / load test (image courtesy of Latif Khalifa
The first SSB pile-on / load test (image courtesy of Latif Khalifa

The project also seems to be going through a further informal name change: originally referred to as “Server-side Baked Texture Generation & Storage”, the project has generally been shortened to “Server-side Baking”, but is now tending to be referred to as “Server-side Appearance project”. I’ll be continuing to refer to it as “Server-side Baking” or “SSB” for ease of reference.

Continue reading “SL project updates week 11 (1): server deployments, viewer, and interest list updates”

Water good enough to drink

CuriosityAfter just six months on Mars, Curiosity looks to have taken a significant step towards fulfilling its primary science mission: to determine whether conditions on the planet once provided a suitable environment in which life might have arisen.

Despite recently suffering a serious computer glitch – of which more later – Curiosity’s initial analysis of cuttings gathered from inside bedrock dubbed “John Klein”, so named in honour of the late John W. Klein, MSL’s former Deputy Project Manager, and which is located in the “Yellowknife Bay” region of  Gale Crater, reveals very strong evidence that ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.

Commenting on the findings, Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Programme, said, “A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment. From what we know now, the answer is yes.”

The initial findings came via the rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments, which each received a portion of the rock cuttings gathered from within “John Klein” on Sol 182 (February 8th / 9th). The deliveries of the samples took place on Sols 195 (February 22nd) and 196 (February 23rd) respectively, the delay between sample gathering and delivery being down to a combination of the need to “clean” the sample holding and transfer elements of dill bit and concerns over the long-term status of a filter in part of the turret-mounted sample handling mechanism (see Getting the scoop on drilling).

The area of “Yellowknife Bay” sits at the end of what mission scientists believe to be an ancient river system, and which may have been a part of a larger lake bed in planet’s ancient past. During the drive from Bradbury Landing, where it arrived on Mars in August 2012, Curiosity has come across strong evidence for liquid having once flowed freely through the region. Rock formations commonly associated with stream and river beds have been found and imaged, and the “Yellowknife Bay” area itself bears all the hallmarks of having been formed as a result of material being carried in free-flowing liquid – most likely water. These findings have supported evidence from orbit, where images taken by various spacecraft have long pointed to large parts – if not all – of Gale Crater having been subjected to aqueous activity in the distant past. This evidence includes a broad alluvial fan of water-deposited materials located close to the landing area planned for the rover, and regarded as a valuable back-up science target should post-landing issues with the rover prevent it from undertaking the long trek up onto “Mount Sharp”.

A false colour image of the MSL landing area, showing the position of the alluvial fan of water-laden material seen from orbit and which hinted that the region had a strong aqueous past. The slopes of “Mount Sharp” can be seen in the lower right-hand corner of the image,coloured light grey (click to enlarge)

The “John Klein” bedrock itself shows strong evidence on its surface for  having been formed by aqueous activity spanning numerous wet periods in the planet’s history. However, this is not what has excited scientists – evidence for water having flowed freely on Mars has been found right across the planet, both from orbit and on the ground. During their explorations of Mars, for example, both of the Mars Exploration Rovers – Spirit (before its demise) and Opportunity – came across rock formations which had most likely been formed in the presence of liquid water.

What makes the findings returned from “Yellowknife Bay” exciting for scientists is that previously, those areas of rock thought to have been formed as a result aqueous activity also showed strong signs that the water was likely to have been highly acidic and had what is referred to as a “low energy gradient”, both of which would have made the chances of life arising within it exceptionally challenging.

Continue reading “Water good enough to drink”