Black Dragon and UKanDo: final updates for 2013

As a part of the holiday period, and as mentioned in various SL projects reports of min over the last few weeks, Linden Lab operate a code freeze / no change window in which no major updates to either the viewer or the simulator code are made, other than those required to fix significant issues impacting Second Life. This code freeze, which this year comes into effect on Monday December 16th and extends through until the start of 2014, encompasses all thing server, and the SL viewer release channel (the release viewers and RCs). The aim is to give LL’s support personnel and contractors a chance to enjoy the holiday period as well.

However, as well as encompassing the server and LL’s viewer, the Lab also request that TPVs refrain from making major releases during the same period, again to help lessen the load on LL’s viewer support team, who take a lot of TPV-related calls when users encounter problems.

This means that the window for TPVs to get significant updates out is closing fast, and both Black Dragon and UKanDo have both had what is likely to be their last updates this side of the new year (although in Black Dragon’s case, it appears the reason is because Niran is having fun relaxing with a new computer game!).  Both updates are small, tidy packages, and as such, both are overviewed here.

Black Dragon 2.3.9.2

Released on Wednesday, December 4th, hard on the heels of version 2.3.9 and 2.3.9.1, both of which appeared on December 3rd, Black Dragon 2.3.9.2 is described as “Maintenance #4”, and is the latest in a line of maintenance releases of the viewer which build on existing functionality and UI changes, rather than adding anything significantly new to the viewer.

That said, version 2.3.9.2 does offer what is something of a new feature: “realistic Mouselook”. Traditionally, when in Mouselook, the camera is positioned / locked towards the centre of the avatar frame (around chest level). With this release, Niran has moved the camera position so it is effectively in the avatar’s head.

This may sound a trivial, but it does make something of a difference when operating in Mouselook, as movement in Mosuelook as a lot more responsive to avatar animations. While it is somewhat dependent upon the animations you are using, it can mean, for example, that when running, your mouselook view with “bounce” in time with your avatar’s running strides.

To help demonstrate the difference, Niran has produced a video showing what happens when in Mouselook with Black Dragon 2.3.9.2; you might want to compare it to your own experience using Mouselook in a viewer without the updates.

The option can be toggled off / on via Preferences > Camera > Mouselook Options. Additionally, Niran recommends that when using it, Mouselook Smoothing (same section of Preferences) is enabled.

A further Mouselook fix with Black Dragon 2.3.9.2 comes by way of Adeon Writer, which corrects the issue of hand attachments (weapons, etc., behaving oddly and appearing to move away from the avatar when entering Mouselook or when crouching in Mouselook.

The remaining updates for the release as recorded in the release notes comprise:

  • Addition of all windlight presets found in other versions of Niran’s viewer (other than his own “realistic” settings)
  • Updates to a number of floaters, include People, which has been a little reduced in size and the addition of the Send button to the Notices floater
  • Updates to the loading screens and a fix to the version history link on the log-in screen.

UKanDo 3.6.11

UKanDo 3.6.11.27919, released on Sunday, December 8th, is officially noted on the UKanDo website as the last release for 2013.

Total number of users in a group displayed for those groups you have joined
Total number of users in a group displayed for those groups you have joined (see below left)

This release offers another small package of tidy changes, several again gathered from other TPV offerings, and it’s good to see that credits for imported features are starting to appear in the release notes as well.  The latter list the updates within the release as comprising:

Merged:

  • Updates from RLV

Tweaks:

  • Addition of Penny Patton’s windlight settings
  • Re-write/clean-up of the Status Bar code
  • Possible speed improvements
  • UKD_Logo icon updates.

Fixes:

  • Black background in the address bar combo list’s scroll bar fixed
  • An old bad merge for the avatar context menu in chat which didn’t show at the time
  • Net Stats graph now shows correct Kb and wdiget now clickable

Features Added:

  • Show the total member count on the Group panel’s General tab if you’re a member of that group
  • Edit option added to the Area Search floater’s context menu
  • Username login drop-down combo box for multiple accounts
  • Frames-Per-Second displayed on StatusBar (from NiranV Dean). Modified and clickable (Hidden by default)
  • Additional Status Bar show / hide options for  FPS, Net Stats, Avatar Offset Slider and Draw Distance Slider.
status bar options
Additional show / hide options for elements in the status bar (sliders, buttons, info displays)

Feedback

Both of these releases offer neat packages of updates to their respective viewers, both of which continue to be developed and enhanced in small, relevant steps and which also keep track with most of the recent code base updates from Linden Lab.

Performance-wise, both viewer showed more-or-less consistent performance levels on my primary PC as shown with earlier releases, and I had no difficulty in running both viewers with the major graphics bells and whistles enabled (ALM on, Ambient Occlusion Enabled, shadows set to Sun/Moon + Projectors, etc.), at home and in wandering.

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Artemis Gallerie: of WAR and violence

Friday, December 6th, 2013 saw the opening of Nino Vichon’s latest work in SL, WAR: We Annihilate Remotely, which opened at Galerie Artemis on Friday December 6th.

Nino’s work is both creative and visually stunning, and he is an artist unafraid of tackling political and social issues, presenting clear-cut messages within evocative pieces that challenge one to think. At the same time, his immersive work can be simply amazing and enjoyed in its own right – as with When the Mind’s I Listens, a brilliant use of space and particle generation which was displayed at LEA6 earlier in 2013.

Nino Vichon's WAR: We Annihilate Remotely
Nino Vichon’s WAR: We Annihilate Remotely

On the surface, WAR: We Annihilate Remotely appears to focus on what is a provocative and contentious issue:  the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to undertake acts of aggression half a world away.

This is a topic worthy of debate and discussion; one which has many sides to it. Those who favour the use of UAVs and other unmanned weapons systems will point to both the fact that as they are operated remotely, they present zero risk to those operating them, and that they are so technologically advanced they can be used against a target aggressor with “minimal” risk to a wider (and potentially innocent) civilian population.

Nino Vichon's WAR: We Annihilate Remotely
Nino Vichon’s WAR: We Annihilate Remotely

The flip side to this is of course, is the very fact that the use of such weapons platforms are so “risk free” and “surgically precise” perhaps encourages their proactive use. Something which is enhanced be the perception that they can be used to “manage” the loss of innocent lives down to “acceptable levels”. Even the fact that innocent lives can still be lost has itself been sanitised in the public consciousness  – they are no longer victims, they are “collateral damage”. In short, the very act of using such weapons becomes so clinical, so “clean”, that they risk becoming the preferred method of response to any situation, whether warranted or not.

There are wider aspects of the debate as well. Does the use of such systems enhance the security of those “back home” in the nation deploying them, or does it put them at greater risk of becoming retaliatory targets through acts of terror? As the use of use systems becomes more ingrained in the public consciousness, how long before the deployment of similar systems to deal with matters of domestic unrest or civil disobedience is seen as acceptable? There’s even the potential for cross-over discussion with virtual environments, where many excuse their own acts of aggression against others on the grounds that it is “only digital”, and “no real harm” is done.

Nino Vichon's WAR: We Annihilate Remotely
Nino Vichon’s WAR: We Annihilate Remotely

Sadly, WAR: We Annihilate Remotely fails to address either its intended target or any potential wider issues. Indeed, I have to say that from my perspective, it fails to deliver much of anything at all. Even the note card on the subject matter of the installation may not be an obvious find for some visiting the piece (click on the image of Nino to receive it).

Yes, there are some impressive models on display, and there is a minimalistic approach to the use of colour (everything is predominantly red, white or black), coupled with a clever use of binary and circuitry as imagery. But at the same time I couldn’t help but feel the piece lacks any real statement, and is perhaps superficial in its presentation. And that’s a shame, because there really is much to explore, real and digital, in the intended subject matter.

Also at Galerie Artemis, and running through until mid-December, is a collaborative exhibition forming a part of the 2013 2Lei project, entitled Regaining Freedom.

Kicca Igaly: Free...Free at Last! a part of Regaining Freedom
Kicca Igaly: Free…Free at Last! a part of Regaining Freedom

Now in its fourth year, 2Lei began as a project involving artists, gallery owners, musicians, etc., with the aim of raise awareness and disseminate events related to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25th.

In Regaining Freedom, which opened on November 19th and runs through until Sunday December 15th, presents eight pieces of machinima created by SL artists as commentary on the many and varied forms of violence against women, all of which surround a centrepiece sculpture  created by Kicca Igaly entitled Free…Free at last!

As this is a presentation of videos, you’ll need to have media streaming enabled; just click on any of the media-on-a-prim (MoaP) whiteboards to watch a film. Images of the participating artists are located alongside each whiteboard, all of which include a YouTube link to the video in question, allowing you to watch them via a web browser if you’d prefer.

Not all of the pieces are original; some were originally created for other purposes, although their message remains clear. Some many not actually play in your country – I found Gregory Kappler’s Out of Paris blocked as a result of Warner / Chappell music’s PEDL. Some are highly charged and all are visually impressive.

The participating artists are: Kicca Igaly, Noke Yuzita, LeMelonRouge Onyett, Mary Wickentower, Natascha Randt and Karima Hoisan, Yesikita Coppola, Mauro Enyo, Gregory Kappler, Elros Tuominen and Holala Alter.

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