SL projects update week 18 (1): viewer, SSB/A and materials

Server-side Baking / Appearance

The viewer-side SSB/A code continued in the SL beta viewer with a release on April 24th (3.5.1.274588). However, the crash rates from that version were sufficiently low for the go-ahead to be given for the deployment of the SL viewer with the SSB/A code incorporated, which reached public release on April 30th (3.5.1.274821).

SSB/A in the SL release viewer: I'm running the SSB/A-enabled SL release viewer and can see both myself and my alt (running SSB/A-enabled Firestorm) rendered correctly, and she can see fully rendered.
SSB/A in the SL release viewer: I’m running the SSB/A-enabled SL release viewer and can see both myself and my alt (running SSB/A-enabled Firestorm) rendered correctly, and she can see fully rendered.

This now means that the following viewers and clients are, at the time of writing, now SSB/A capable:

  • SL viewer 3.5.1.274821 (release)
  • Firestorm 4.4.0.33270 (release)
  • Kokua 3.5.2.27969 (development)
  • Nirans 2.2.0.2692 (alpha test)
  • Cool VL 1.26.8.2 (stable release)
  • Kirstens S19.1.19.4 (unsupported)
  • Singularity 1.8.0.4114 (release)
  • Lumiya 2.4.4 (release)
  • Metabolt version 0.9.66.0 (Beta)
  • Radegast 2.12 (release)

The remaining major players for Second Life – Catznip, Dolphin and Exodus will doubtless have SSB/A versions out in the very near future.

Z-offset

Cinder Roxley is working on an alternate approach to the issue of the z-offset and is meeting with some success. However, there is still a problem with the distance offset being inconsistently reported between the user’s viewer and by other viewers (so the avatar may appear at a different height above ground / an object when seen by others in comparison to how they see their own height. Cinder is continuing to work on the problem. If she is successful, the code will doubtless be made available to all TPVs should they wish to adopt it.

Current Outfit Folder Corruption

I reported on this issue in week 17, wherein a Current Outfit Folder (COF) corruption can leave a user unable to log-in to SL and – unless they have a Premium account – beyond official help. This has been something of a longstanding issue, as per JIRA SVC-7653, and has an associated work-around. The concern here is that the workaround will no longer work once SSB/A is enabled server-side.

Commenting on the situation, Nyx Linden said, “we’re looking into a number of fixes around COF for followup releases,” before going on, “Yep, we have people looking at this. Please do continue to let us know as you see cases come up. I’ll sync up with our engineers looking at this and make sure that we have these cases covered.”

SUN-69

Whirly Fizzle recently reported an issue arising from the recent SSB/A code – removing any worn item from avatar results in all temp attachments being taken off (see JIRA SUN-69). This problem occurs whether or not an avatar is on SSB/A regions. It was first noted in the SL development and beta viewers, but appears common to all viewers with the SSB/A code, including the new release version of the viewer referred to above (3.5.1.274821).

Server-side Deployment

With the arrival of the viewer SSB/A code into the SL release viewer, deployment of the server-side code is liable to commence on the main grid. As previously noted in these updates, the plan is for a “constrained” number of regions on Agni to be SSB/A-enabled in order to load test the system. It appears likely that these regions will not be a part of the normal Release Candidate channels (although this is not absolutely clear).

The purpose of this action will be to further stress / load test the new server-side baking service and (hopefully) ensure there is sufficient hardware deployed to support the capability and that there are no unexpected issues arising from large numbers of people starting to the use the system.

Continue reading “SL projects update week 18 (1): viewer, SSB/A and materials”

Fantasy Faire: before they depart into the West …

Tuesday 30th April marks the last public day for Fantasy Faire 2013. If you have not already visited the Faire regions, or if lag was your personal Dark Lord who forced you to turn away when making a visit earlier in the week, I urge you to take time and pay the Faire a visit before the builds vanish altogether, as they are more than worth the visit.

Lumenaria: Fantasy Faire 2013
Lumenaria: Fantasy Faire 2013

All eight of the themed regions will remain open untill 11:59 SLT on Tuesday April 30th. Because of the requirements of the Key of Hope hunt, the Valley of Ish’Nar has already closed to public access. After midnight on the 30th, the regions will close to public access, although they will remain until some time on Friday May 3rd, and store owners are asked to keep their stores up for as long as they like between now and Friday to allow all the volunteers and helpers from the backstage team to enjoy them.

At the time of writing, some L$8,538,035 (approx. $34,152) has been raised for RFL during the Faire – an incredible amount by anyone’s standards, which once again demonstrates the generosity of Second Life users and which also takes the five-year total of funds raised in the fight against cancer by Fantasy Faire to over $100,000.

Valley of Ish'Nar: Fantasy Faire 2013
Valley of Ish’Nar: Fantasy Faire 2013

The Key of Hope hunt will enter its Final Chapter starting on May 1st, and will run through until the 19th May, so all those who have been busy working through the prologue won’t have long to wait before resuming their quest.

For me,what has again struck me as I’ve visited the regions and stores and blogged about them, is the way everyone who has been involved in the Faire in whatever capacity – organiser, backstage helper, store owner, or visitor – have all joined in the spirit of things, being not only been generous of pocket but also generous of deed and word from one to another. The Fantasy Faire public and Backstage groups have been filled with humour and good cheer, the regions themselves have been filled with people having fun, taking time to chat with one another, pursue clues to hunts, slip L$ into donation booths, seek out their favourite wares, tell their friends and blog, blog, blog.

Such is the overwhelming good spirit which pervades the event, it is a shame that it has to pass, but all good things must eventually come to an end. In some ways, even the closing of the Faire reminds me of the underlying purpose of the event; letting go is never easy, so those of us who have lost family and loved ones to cancer know well. But as with the previous Faires, we also know that there is another year to come, and with it, the Faireland gods and spirits willing, another Faire.

For my part, I’d like to pass on my thanks to Zander, Elizabeth, the core team behind Fantasy Faire, the backstage helpers, the volunteers, the region designers and builders and everyone else who took time and effort to make this event happen.

Fantasy Faire Fiction Competition

When I started exploring the Fantasy Faire regions, they struck me as so evocative that there were tales to be told about them – and this thought shaped my writing on the event, causing me to blog a series of vignettes of a traveller’s journey through the regions towards a final goal, rather than produce more review-type articles.

I wasn’t alone in feeling that there are tales to be told, for the organisers of Fantasy Faire have joined forces with Prim Perfect to present one last challenge for all those who wish to hold on to the magic just a little longer: to write a short story about the Fairelands of between one and three thousands words.

Once the stores are packed away and the crowds have departed … what beings take possession of the glass lantern city high in the mountains that shines in Titan’s Hollow? What languid aristocrats return to their faded palaces along the canal of Magnificat to watch the little boats sail out eternally toward the sunset? What troglodytes or dwarves emerge, grumbling, from the lower depths of Dragonspire to reclaim their caves? What heroes push their way through the blood-red roses of Crimson Fields, their eyes fixed on the looming Dark Tower ahead? And so for all the regions, each with their special tales to tell.

So reads the introduction to the challenge, which goes on to set-out the guidelines for the competition.

The closing date for submissions is Friday May 31st. A panel of judges will read the stories, and the results and winning entries will appear in the August issue of the Prim Perfect magazine. For full details and requirements, please read the Fantasy Blog post on the challenge linked to above – and good luck with your writing!

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A trek through the Taiga

When I first hopped over to Taiga after coming across it in the Destination Guide, I think the region may still have been under development, as there was a small lake in the middle surrounded by trees – and not a lot else.

It’s changed rather a lot in the couple of months or so since. The coniferous forest, common to the region’s real world namesake is still there, but the land has been a little more terraformed, and the lake now has a couple of buildings on the shore, an arrival point has been added and there are various other points of interest to explore.

Awesome - Taiga
Awesome – Taiga

Walk outwards from the arrival point and follow the banks of the lake to where a small river leads into it, and you’ll find a bridge upstream and a track you can walk along and into the forest. Or you can walk around the lake to the buildings on the far side and then on to a campsite with sleeping bags ready, tents pitched and a pot of coffee simmering over the flames, all ready for a night under the stars. And keep an eye out for the local wildlife!

Object rezzing is open here, so those who wish to add their own items to a scene – props for a photo session, say – are free to do so. The return time is set to 300 minutes, so make sure anything you do put out is taken back before you leave. It may eventually come back to your inventory anyway, but my explorations were a little spoiled as I walked under the trees and tripped over three abandoned clothing and shoes packs someone had left behind after unpacking.

Awesome - Taiga
Awesome – Taiga

The Russian / Siberian feel to the place isn’t limited just to the landscaping either; the primary language used in the introductory notecard is written in cyrillic script, as was much of the text in open chat. I’ve no idea if the region is the hub for a Russian / Balkan / Northern Eurasian community – but seeing it did add to the ambience of the place as I wandered around.

There are some rules within the note card which should be read – the region is General rated, so the owners request no nudity or adult activities (which include portrayals of drug use, violence, etc.), or the use of adult poseballs  / gestures. All quite reasonable enough and a mirror of the ToS for General-rated areas.

Awesome - Taiga
Awesome – Taiga

I’m not sure how frequently items and objects might be put out by the group operating the region, but at the time of writing a steampunk flying boat was hovering over the lake, offering some interesting photo opportunities for those so inclined, and the sim surround gave a real feeling of flying over a wild and largely untamed land when standing on the deck.

For those of a photographic inclination, this is the kind of region where playing with Vincent Nacon’s natural cloud maps (either self-installed or by using Firestorm) can be an interesting experiment. I flicked between the various options and settled on Altocumulus for a number of shots.

Those looking for a natural, open region will probably enjoy Taiga. Things can occasionally get a little busy around the arrival point, but there are plenty of places to wander and simply enjoy. For my part, I finished my trip with a quick “flight” on the flying boat.

Awesome - Taiga
Awesome – Taiga

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(view slideshow full-screen)

Viewer release summary 2013: week 17

This summary is published every Monday and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Viewer Round-up Page, a list of  all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware) and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy
  • By its nature, this summary will always be in arrears
  • The Viewer Round-up Page is updated as soon as I’m aware of any releases / changes to viewers & clients, and should be referred to for more up-to-date information as the week progresses
  • The Viewer Round-up Page also includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.  

Updates for the week ending: April 28th, 2013

Discontinued Viewers

  • Phoenix – Development and support officially ended December 31st, 2012
  • Zen – Development and support officially ended January 27th, 2013.

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Firestorm clouds

One thing I neglected to mention in my recent review of Firestorm 4.4.0 is the inclusion – by Cinder Roxley – of Vincent Nacon’s alternative cloud maps, which can be used to change / enhance the rendering windlight clouds.

The default cloud layer seen over Extropia, using the
The default cloud layer seen over Extropia, using the AnaLutetia-outdoor windlight setting and the sun adjust to around 10:00.

I’ve no excuse for this, given Cinder actually nudged me on the matter prior to the release; just blame it on me having a blonde moment…

So, what is it all about? Quite simply, Firestorm now includes additional cloud maps made by Vincent Nacon, and which Cinder has added to the Preferences > Firestorm > Windlight tab for easy selection.

The Windlight cloud options
The Windlight cloud options

This presents you with four basic cloud types – the default map, Altocumulus (a middle altitude cloud, usually characterised by globular masses or rolls in layers or patches), Cumulonimbus (the familiar towering cloud formations associated with thunderstorms) and a “Layered” map. Do note that selecting any option other than the one already in use appears to require a viewer re-start in order to take effect.

Exactly what effect these different maps will have on your in-world view is a matter of experimenting with the various available windlight settings within Firestorm (a task made easier thanks to William Weaver’s Phototools). However, they can be used to produce some stunning effects – the images here are simply to provide some form of comparison.

Extropia
Extropia seen under the same windlight setting as the first image in this article, but using the Layered cloud map.

What’s more, as Cinder indicated in her little nudge to me, you can create (or obtain) cloud maps of your own and add them to Firestorm to create your own unique cloud looks. “Drop any 8-bit grayscale tga with a power of 2 size you make or find under app_settings/windlight/clouds,” she comments, “And they’ll be automatically added to the list.”

For those wishing to try the cloud maps on other viewers, Vincent provides forum thread in which his discusses the maps and provides guidelines and caveats on their usage in viewers. Links to download the maps are also provided.

The Cumulunimbus map applied to the sky, using the same windlight setting and time of day - note the "stacking" effect visible in the formations on the right of the image
The Cumulonimbus map applied to the sky, using the same windlight setting and time of day – note the “stacking” effect visible in the formations on the right of the image, given the impression of some additional vertical height

The maps appear to be particularly well-suited to sunrise / sunset images, where the combination of sun and clouds can be particularly dramatic and result in some incredible images.

Why not have a play yourself?

With thanks to Cinder Roxley.

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Fantasy Faire: to dream in the Lotus Valley

It was by boat – a junk in fact – that I came at last to my destination: the fabled Lotus Valley Dream; a magnificent palace high on a rock face, overlooking a sheltered bay. Here my long journey at last came to an end, and as the junk steered a course between sea-worn rocks and into the bay, I knew I could rest for a time before starting my homeward trek.

Lotus Valley Dream
Lotus Valley Dream

Leaving the wooden junk at the quayside, I wandered among the wood-built houses and shops built on the green shores of the bay, the wind carrying the heady aroma summer pines through the air, mixing it with sweet fragrances from stores and homes and the scent of fish being simmered and cooked. Finding a place to stay, I set down my pack and changed clothes; a temple visit was not for the rugged travelling garments I’d been wearing. When satisfied with my appearance, I set out once more.

The temple lay beside a small stream which bubbled the last short distance to the waters of the bay over moss-covered rocks. A delicate bridge arched over the stream and I paused there a moment before removing my shoes and entering the shine, josticks in hand.

Afterwards, I wandered through the streets some more, admiring the wares on display in the many shops, pausing here and there to buy this or that. Those who have visited Lotus Valley Dream will know how strangely time passes there; while the rest of the world seems to hurry onwards, life there is altogether calmer and more gentle. So it was that while an age may well have passed in the wider world, a languid afternoon brought me at last to the stone steps climbing up to the great palace.

Lotus Valley Dream
Lotus Valley Dream

Here, longer still seemed to pass as I walked through the great halls and along the paved street, the sun slow dipping towards the horizon in a graceful bow. There was simply no need to hurry now; my heart was at peace matched only by those around me, with whom I shared smiles and quiet, gentle words as we passed one another; linked by the same magical spirit which made Lotus Valley Dream both mystical and mysterious.

As I arrived at length at my lodgings, I knew that the time would come when I must make my return home; but for now, I was content to stay yet a while. Perhaps I might even retrace my steps; for these lands, from Lumenaria to Lotus Valley Dream were all wonderful to behold and explore, and it might a long while before I might see their like again once I leave.   

Region design by: Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee

Sponsored by: The Looking Glass; featuring: Hoof It!; ezura Xue; Quest for the Golden Prim; FALCONROSE; Raven’s Heart; Demons & Angels; and with themed stores: SAKIDE; Pin Me Down; Caverna Obscura; Kouse’s Sanctum; Affinity Boutique; Ari’s Neko Retreat; NAMINOKE; 2Xtreme; Star Journey; Flecha Creations; TRU Textures.

Total raised to date: L$6,840,284 (approx: $27,361 USD)

Note: The Fantasy Faire regions will apparently remain open an extra day: Monday April 29th (with thanks to Ziki Questi for the info).

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