Inside Firestorm at Virtual Ability Inc

Virtual AbilityOn Thursday March 28th, Virtual Ability Inc will be hosting a presentation by Ed Merryman and Lette Ponnier about the Firestorm viewer and project.

Entitled Overview of the Firestorm Viewer and Project, the presentation will take place in both voice and text, and will commence at 11:00 SLT at the Blue Orchid Cabana, Virtual Ability Island.

The promotional material for the presentation reads:

Learn about what makes the Firestorm Viewer and the project on the whole unique. We’ll discuss some of its most popular features and customizability options and cover how to find help and more information from our large and active support team and its resources.

The Presenters

Ed Merryman – Voice

Ed Merryman joined SL in September 2007. He is the Firestorm Support Team manager, and has led the team since the Firestorm Project was established in September 2010.  

Ed Merryman and Lette Ponnier - talking about Firestorm at Virtual Ability Island on Thursday March 28th, commencing at 11:00 SLT
Ed Merryman and Lette Ponnier – talking about Firestorm at Virtual Ability Island on Thursday March 28th, commencing at 11:00 SLT

Lette Ponnier – Text

Lette Ponnier has been involved in Second Life since early 2008. A keen member of SL’s small, but thriving, open chat trivia community, Lette has been an integral part of the Firestorm team since February 2011 where she head-up the English Language Support team. She also specialises in providing help to Firestorm Mac users.

As well as providing support to Firestorm users, both Lette and Ed are active teachers for the team, and present weekly classes about the viewer which are open to anyone to attend, no matter what level of experience they have with the Firestorm viewer.

So, if you’re curious as to why Firestorm is so popular among Second Life’s users, and / or about trying the viewer out for yourself, why not make a note to drop into Virtual Ability Island on Thursday March 28th?

Related Links

With thanks to Virtual Ability Inc.

Getting back to work and an Opportunity for comparisons

CuriosityThe Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity resumed full science operations on March 23rd, with the delivery of a second portion of cuttings to the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments inside the rover. Earlier, on March 21st, Curiosity resumed continuous environmental monitoring of the “Yellowknife Bay” area of Gale Crater.

Full-scale operations with the rover had been halted following the discovery of a computer glitch in the primary computer system the so-called “A-side” computer, which prompted mission controllers to order the rover to switch to the redundant “B-side” computer.

Since then, engineers and scientists on Earth have been working to both recover the “A-side” computer while simultaneously working to transfer all relevant data and command sets to the “B-side” computer and run Curiosity through a series of tests in order to ensure the “B-side” computer can increasingly take over day-to-day operations on the rover.

The “A-side” problem was traced to the unit’s memory module which acts as the “table of contents” for accessing the computer’s memory, preventing data and instructions from being accessed and causing the computer to enter into an “endless loop”. The computer has now been fully recovered and is available as a back-up once more, should it be required.

Recovery to the “B-side” computer was drawn-out due to the need for the computer to “understand” various aspects of the rover’s condition, including the placement of the robot arm, so that it could correctly take-on command and control. This involved a series of tests carried out early in March. More recently, engineers had to confirm the “engineering camera” sets, were functioning correctly.

In all, Curiosity uses some seventeen camera systems. Of these, 12 are paired sets of “engineering cameras” comprising the black-and-white Navigation Cameras (Navcams) mounted on the rover’s mast, the black-and-white front Hazard Avoidance Cameras (Hazcams) mounted at the front of the rover’s body, and the rear black-and-white Hazcams. Of these cameras, three pairs (of Navcams and front/rear Hazcams) are hard-wired to the “A-side” computer, and three pairs are hard-wired to the “B-side” computer.

The last time the “B-side” engineering cameras had been used was in April 2012, when the Mars Science Laboratory was still en route to Mars (the “B-side” computer was used to “look after” the rover and its ancilliary systems during the long flight from Earth to Mars). As the rover was switched-over to the “A-side” computer shortly after arrival on the surface of Mars, the “B-side” cameras had never been actively used on the planet, and thus needed to be run through a similar set of commissioning tests and check-outs which marked Curiosity’s initial activities back in August 2012.

Looking at Curiosity’s left-front and left-centre wheels and tread marks, using the left Navcam on the rover’s mast, which is hard-wired directly to the “B-side” computer. Captured on March 22nd, 2013, or Sol 223 of the mission, this image marks the first time the “B-side” engineering cameras have been used in more than six months – and the first time they have been used by the rover on the surface of Mars. For reference, the wheels are 50 cm (20 in) in diameter.

Bringing the “B-side” computer up to a point where it could take over all on-board operations  was further delayed when it also suffered a glitch on March 16th which, although relatively minor in scope, caused engineers on Earth to order Curiosity back into a “safe mode” of operations while the glitch was investigated, diagnosed and corrected.

Continue reading “Getting back to work and an Opportunity for comparisons”