Remembering Dirk Talamasca – a Designing Worlds special recording

DirkAs all who knew him are aware, long-time Second life resident, mentor, land-owner, patron of the virtual arts, raconteur, friend to many, and more besides, Dirk Talamasca passed away on March 30th, 2014.

Tributes to Dirk have been paid through Google+ and  a special in-world memorial service was held on Saturday April 5th, which was attended by so many, the region experienced issues and things had to be moved to the corner of four adjoining regions so that people could attend without risk of crashing.

I managed to pop along as well to say a small good-bye. I confess, I didn’t know Dirk as well as or as closely as many did, but we did exchange banter and flirts via IMs over the years, and there is a Dirk-shaped hole in my friends list.

That I didn’t know him as well as many has stopped me blogging about his passing as doing so felt somewhat presumptuous on my part. However, given the impact he had on so many lives in SL and in so many ways, Saffia and Elrik are recording a Designing Worlds special to also remember Dirk, and this will take place on Thursday April 10th, to be shown on Monday April 21st, 2014. In preparation for the show, Saffia has asked me to help spread the word / remind all those wishing to participate in it that there will be a special planning meeting at 14:00 SLT on Tuesday, April 8th in the Designing Worlds studio on Garden Of Dreams. Also, if you have any photos of Dirk you’d be willing to share for the show, Saffia has asked that you please send them to Saffia either in-world or by email.

VWBPE 2014: it’s time to make connections

2014 banner

Wednesday April 9th, 2014 marks the start of the 7th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference, which will be taking place in both Second Life and OS Grid.

The theme for this year’s event is Connections, and as I’ve previously covered, it will include a series of keynote speakers and a series of panel discussions across the four days of the conference, and more besides.

To help spread the word / remind people of the event, Mal Burns has published a promotional video on You Tube.

Full details on conference events can be found on the VWBPE conference calendar. However, for ease-of-reference, here’s a quick rundown of the keynote speakers and the discussion panels:

Wednesday April 9th

Thursday April 10th

The VWBPE Central Auditorium, Second Life
The VWBPE Central Auditorium, Second Life, April 2014

Friday April 11th

Saturday April 12th

Notes on Attending

The VWBPE conference is free to attend, and those wishing to do so in-world should register via the conference registration page on Eventbrite. Attendees will also need accounts for both Second Life and OSgrid in order to attend all events on both grids.

Useful Links


Viewer release summaries 2014: week 14

Updates for the week ending: April 6th, 2014

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 Current Viewer Releases 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
  • 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.

Official LL Viewers

  • Release viewer: should be updated in week 15
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Sunshine / AIS v3 RC updated to version on April 2nd – Stability and performance improvements for SSA; Stability and performance improvements for SSA (download and release notes)
    • Voice viewer RC version updated on March 31st  – Vivox 4.6.x libraries instead of 4.5 for improved stability and to address Mavericks issues (download and release notes)
  • Project viewers:
    • SL Share 2 project viewer version released on April 1st – abilities to upload Tweets and snapshots to Twitter and / or snapshots to Flickr (download and release notes)

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers


  • No changes from week 13.


  • Cool Viewer updated on April 5th to the following versions: Stable:; Experimental:; Legacy: – core updates: backport of LL fix for BUG-5537; backport of Singularity fix to a rounding error in animation timing interpolation; implementation of per-grid object caching to avoid region cache collisions; bug & crash fixes; code-clean-ups (release notes)

Mobile / Other Clients

  • Group Tools updated to version on April 5th – core updates: unknown; no release notes
  • Pocket Metaverse updated to version 1.9.0 on March 31st – core updates: parity with iOS 7; bug fix to address Second Life sign-in problems (release notes)

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Of oppositions and blood moons

Mars at opposition: The bright disc towards the centre of this image, just above the horizon is Mars, as captured by photographer Jimmy Westlake
Mars at opposition: The bright orange disk towards the centre of this image, just above the horizon is Mars, as captured by photographer Jimmy Westlake (click for full size)

Regular readers of this blog know I have something of a passing interest in space exploration and astronomy. I’ve been covering the Mars Science Laboratory mission since its arrival on Mars, and have also covered other space / astronomy related events and occurrences.

In keeping with this, I thought I’d mention two astronomical events of some interest which occur over the next two weeks. Neither of them is exactly rare, but if you’re lucky enough to be in the Americas, you’ll get to enjoy both at the same time – and a little bit more.

The first of these is the upcoming opposition with Mars, the time at which the Red Planet is at its closest to Earth. Oppositions happen around once every 26 months, and are so-called because they mark the time when the Sun and Mars are on opposite sides of the Earth to one another. During periods of opposition, Mars can appear as one of the brightest objects in the night sky and can come within 100 million kilometres of Earth.

Mars on the 15th April at approx 02:00 BST / 03:00 CET (21:00 EDT of the 14th April), and making its closest approach to Earth in six and a half years, will be clearly visible in the constellation of Virgo, along with the Moon and Spica (image: ESA) – click for full size

This year, Mars will reach opposition with the Earth on Tuesday April 8th, when it, the Earth and the Sun will be aligned in an almost straight line. However, because of the nature of the orbits of the two planets, they will not reach their point of closest approach to one another until the night of Monday April 14th / Tuesday 15th, 2014. At that time, they’ll be just 92 million kilometres (57.5 million miles) apart – the closest their respective orbits have brought them to one another at opposition for six and a half years.

During April, Mars appears as a bright red “star” in the constellation of Virgo. At the period of opposition, it will be just above and to the right of the Moon, with Spica, the brightest start in Virgo, to the lower left of the Moon.

To mark this year’s opposition, NASA has produced a nice little video explaining matters some more.

As mentioned towards the top of this article, this year’s opposition is only half the story. This is because the night of closest approach is also the night of a total lunar eclipse which should be visible from almost all of North America and significant parts of South America, with the majority of USA in particular getting a front-row seat.

Things will get underway at around 23:00 PST (02:00 EDT) on the night of the  Monday 14th / Tuesday 15th April, when the Moon enters partial eclipse. Totality will be reached just after midnight PST (03:00 EDT). At this point those under the path of the eclipse should witness a “blood moon” in all its glory, flanked on either side by Spica and Mars.

A lunar eclipse "blood moon" seen Idaho, December 2011 (image: Matt Mills / Reuters)
A lunar eclipse “blood moon” seen Idaho, December 2011 (image: Matt Mills / Reuters) – click for full size

“Blood moon” is the term sometimes applied to a total eclipse as a result of the Moon appearing to turn orange-red in colour, the hue slowly intensifying as the eclipse progresses until it reaches a bloody colour during the period of totality (about an hour and a half), before fading once more. This change in colour is the result of the Sun’s light passing through the Earth’s atmosphere as our planet moves between the Sun and the Moon, and then shining on the face of the Moon. A paler colouration of this kind can also be seen across at least a part of the Moon’s face during a partial lunar eclipse.

A total lunar eclipse and the gradual change in the Moon’s colour as seen from Earth which sees total lunar eclipses sometimes referred to as “blood moons” – the result of sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere and striking the Moon’s surface (animation: Wikipedia)

The eclipse is certainly something that should generate opportunities for some stunning photographs, particularly given the positions of Mars and Spica (itself the 15th brightest star  in the night sky, and a close binary star).

And that’s not all; April 15th actually marks the first of a total of four consecutive total lunar eclipses – referred to as a tetrad,  all of which can be observed from North America, and which occur at roughly 6 month intervals to one another, the rest being October 8th, 2014, April 4th, 2015 and the last on September 28th, 2015.

NASA has also produced a video on the upcoming eclipse and the phenomena known as tetrads.

Some have pointed to this tetrad as marking the start of the end times, because the phenomena are supposedly “rare”, and this particular one commences on Passover.

However, while there can be long periods of time between occurrences of tetrads, they can also pop-up relatively frequently. For example, this century will see a total of nine tetrads occur, the first having taken place in 2003/4. Nor is the fact that the upcoming tetrad occurs on Passover particularly unusual; there have been eight tetrads so far coinciding with Passover since the first century AD.

So, if you’re in a position to be able to do so on the night of the 14th / 15th April, ignore the doom merchants and go outside and enjoy the night sky view!


Starlight in Aspen Fell

Aspen Fell, April 2014Aspen Fell, April 2014

I happened across Aspen Fell by chance when poking my nose in the Destination Guide. A Homestead region open to the public, the region is described as:

…A great place to relax and get away from it all. This artfully darkened location is open to the public for all to enjoy, so set to estate/region settings and make sure you have your music turned on. Come get lost in perfection.

Aspen Fell, April 2014Aspen Fell, April 2014

The landing point is beneath a tall tower which appears to owe something of its design to the work of Monsieur Gustave Eiffel, and which is located in the south-east corner of the region. From here one can wander along a promenade bordering the sea or head on inland.

As the description from the Destination Guide indicates, the default lighting for the region is on the dark side, suggestive of a time somewhat after the last glow of sunlight has faded from the sky but when a light mist prevents darkness falling completely. Free-standing lamps and lights wrapped around trees mark routes and footpaths, and the warm glow of braziers shines from up in the hills and on the beach, while overhead a rich aurora dances around the sky.

Keeping to the default windlight means that exploring the region is a walk of discovery; the lamps along the paths and beside gateways and bridges help to mark your route, while the misty darkness keeps you guessing as to what may be lying around the next corner or at the top of the next winding hill path. The mist isn’t the only element of the weather to make its presence felt, sheet lighting periodically flashes near the tower, while up on the hills inland, snow falls steadily.

Aspen Fell, April 2014Aspen Fell, April 2014

For those who prefer a little more light by which to explore, the region works will with a number of windlight options, although I’d suggest those which offer a feeling of dusk or evening, or which carry with them a hint of mist, perhaps work the best.

Where you wander is entirely up to you. Take the steps down to the promenade, and you can make your way to a set of gates leading to a small intimate space for dancing, complete with a grand piano and places to sit. Beyond this, a wooded path will take you past a stone pavilion and wooden deck, over a bridge and eventually to the beach, watched over by the slender finger of a lighthouse.


Aspen Fell, April 2014Aspen Fell, April 2014

Follow the other path from the landing point as it leads you up into the hills, and it will take you up twisting trails, across bridges spanning deep gorges and over the snow-capped highlands before eventually coming down on the far side of the region close to the lighthouse. Here sits a broad lake, overlooked by a house up on a promontory, with a meadow and barn below bordering the far side of the lake and reached via bridges from the beach and lighthouse.

Whether you’re look for a romantic evening stroll or dance with a companion, wish to take a late evening wander and enjoy the aurora, or simply find a spot to sit and think, Aspen Fell could be what you’re looking for. Opportunities for the photographer are myriad, and it is worth juggling around with windlights while exploring, as mentioned, even if the default does add a special atmosphere to the region.

Aspen Fell, April 2014Aspen Fell, April 2014

Related Links