Toys for Tots 2014

Follow the Lego Brick road ... the the Toys 4 Tots Expo
Follow the Lego Brick road … the Toys 4 Tots Breedables Expo

Saturday November 1st marked the start of the sixth annual SL Toys for Tots season in support of the United States Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots programme which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them Christmas gifts.

Activities this year will once again focus on sales of the special Toys 4 Tots holiday season CD featuring the talents of performers across the grid and the SL Toys 4 Tots Breedables Expo, which will take place between Saturday November 15th and Sunday November 23rd inclusive.

Throughout the nine days of the Breedable Expo, which will be held on two regions donated by Amaretto Breedables and KittyCats Breedables, there will be live entertainments and many opportunities to help raise money for Toys 4 Tots through donations, auctions, and via many special items offered for purchase by participating creators.

Alongside of KittyCats and Amaretto, sponsors for the event include: Whispering Hills, a LiTTLe BiT of EVERYTHING, Diva’s Divine Darlings, Turquoise Ranch Auction house, EVO Breeding Co., Christmas Lane, Rose Breedable, Weeping Willow, Mythical Utopia, Papillon, Dixieland Downs, Awesome Breed Creations, Acceleration Exotics, Amaretto Market Owners Coalition, Aroonshire Fortress, Yumi Bands of Cypher, Breeders Choice, Dwarfins, E&S Breedables, Fantasia, Fish Hunt, Pet Peddlers, Shadow Wynde, SOS-Streams.net, Trinity Breedable, TW Saddles & Reins, Whispering Hills, Aero Pines Park, Wild Kajaera, Wicked Tattoos, Gempandas, Meeroos, FluiD, House of Huntress, Huntress Inc, J&T Stables & Auction House, Stone pony Ranch, Treasures Elite WK Breedable, Madness Auctions, Mossms, The Nest Egg, CasperTech, Secret Meadows, The Aquarium, Ludus Agora, Madonna Ranch.

A trip to the North Pole and Santa's workshop lets you join in with the Toys 4 Tots Breedable Expo
A trip to the North Pole and Santa’s workshop lets you join in with the Toys 4 Tots Breedable Expo

Perofrmers appearing through the nine days of the event include: Todd Rumsford, Hazie Moonwall, Shaye Dezno-Jonstone, Lisa Petrolhead, Tobykip Lionheart, Lisa Nichols(Brune), SINGERGIRL, Taunter Goodnight, Southcity Genesis, Chip Takacs, Maximillion Kleene, Brixton Canning, Susie Darling, Samm Qendra, Zerbie Magic, Jacqueline Luik, Miha Shamen, Potlatch Foggarty, Redhawk, ELiz Watanabe, ProfessorShowbiz, Deelah Halostar-Freund, Josie Anderton, Freddy Mergatroid, Premium Composer, Satin & Erin, Mavenn Resident, Hogan Baily, Wayne Davis Rocks.

This year, the special holiday season CD will be available in return for donations through any SL Toys 4 Tots donations kiosk, and includes 33 tracks for your listening pleasure:

01 T4T 2014 Entire CD – Misc Artists
02 All I Want for Christmas is You – Travis Overland
03 Angels We Have Heard On High – Ganjo Mokeev
04 Away in a Manger – Premium Composer
05 Baby It’s Cold Outside – Ke Aloha & Parker Static
06 Believe – Ke Aloha
07 Blue Christmas – Liam Defoe
08 Breath Of Heaven – Parker Static
09 Carol of the Bells – Keeba Tammas & The Tiny Maniacs
10 Christmas in Dixie – TobyKip Lionheart
11 Christmas song – Singergirl Mode
12 Dominick the Donkey – Suzetta Moonites
13 Little Drummer Boy – Donny Collazo
14 Grown up Christmas List – Phil Setner
15 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Josie Anderton
16 Home for Christmas – Wayne Davis
17 I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause-Libertybelle Lyric
18 I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas – April McCoy
19 Just Don’t Feel Like Christmas Without You – Subtlety Dalglish
20 It’s Christmas – Todd Rumsford
21 Meet Me Under The Mistletoe – Freddy Mergatroid
22 Mr Grinch – iCandy_Overland
23 Rockin Around The Christmas Tree – Scorpianrose
24 Rudolph – Seth Mankind Tracer
25 Santa Baby – Eliz Watanabe
26 Santa Claus is a Stalker – Dilah Halostar
27 Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Potlatch Foggarty
28 Toothless Grin – Galvana Gustafson
29 Twas The Night Before Christmas – Brandy Maltas aka Kalli Birman
30 Where are you Christmas – Ichie Kamachi
31 Where’s the Line – Bobby Roxley
32 Winter Wonderland – Gold Talon
33 You Raise Me Up – Khiron Ametza
Get your copy of the Toys $ Tots 2014 seasonal CD from any of the official donation kiosks
Get your copy of the Toys $ Tots 2014 seasonal CD from any of the official donation kiosks

The 2013 Toys 4 tots Expo raised over L$1,600,000 for the programme, and the organisers are hoping this year marks an even greater success. During the six years it has been running, SL Toys 4 Tots has raised US$60,000 for the Toys for Toys programme.

About Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots began as a Los Angeles charitable effort in 1947. William Hendricks was inspired by his wife Diane when she tried to donate a homemade Raggedy Ann doll to a needy child but could find no organization to do so. At her suggestion he gathered a group of local Marine reservists who coordinated and collected some 5,000 toys for local children that year from collection bins placed outside of Warner Bros. movie theatres. Their efforts were so successful that, in 1948, Toys for Tots was launched as a national campaign in the United States, with a mission to “collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.”

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To touch the origins of the solar system

Brave new world: the surface of comet 67P/C-G, upon which the European space Agency successfully landed a the robot vehicle Philae on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 as a part of the Rosetta mission
Brave new world: the surface of comet 67P/C-G, upon which the European space Agency successfully landed a the robot vehicle Philae on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 as a part of the Rosetta mission

“The biggest problem with success is that it looks easy, especially for those of us who have nothing to do.” Thus spoke Jean-Jacques Dordain on Wednesday, November 12th, just moments after it had been confirmed that a tiny robot vehicle called Philae had safely landed on the surface of a comet half a billion kilometres away from Earth.

That simple statement offers a subtle message on the huge achievement this landing represents. The Rosetta / Philae mission is the story of a 6 billion kilometre journey across space which has taken a decade to achieve, and which has involved some 20 countries. Yet the adventure is in many ways only now starting.

The Rosetta mission actually started 21 years ago, in 1993 when it was approved as the European Space Agency’s first long-term science programme. The aim of the mission being to reach back in time to the very foundations of the solar system by rendezvousing with, and landing on, a comet as it travel through the solar system.

An artist’s impression of Rosetta in space. It has already achieved a remarkable set of “firsts”, including the first solar-powered space probe to operate beyond the orbit of Mars. Philae, the lander, is the purple house shape on the front of the vehicle

Comets hold enormous scientific interest because they are, as far as can be determined, the oldest, most primitive bodies in the Solar System, preserving the earliest record of material from the nebula out of which our Sun and planets were formed. While the planets have gone through chemical and (in the cases of places like Earth), environmental and geological change, comets have remained almost unchanged through the millennia. What’s more, they likely played an important role in the evolution of at least some of the planets. There is already substantial evidence that comets probably brought much of the water in today’s oceans – and they may even have provided the complex organic molecules that may have played a crucial role in the evolution of life here.

The target for ESA’s attention is comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (aka 67P/C-G), an odd-shaped body comprising two “lobes” joined together one  in what some in the media have at times referred to as the “rubber duck”. The larger of the two lobes measures some 4.1×3.2×1.3 kilometres in size (2.55×1.99×0.8 miles) and the smaller some 2.5×2.5×2 kilometres (1.6×1.6×1.2 miles). It is a “short period” comet, orbiting the Sun once every 6.4 years and most likely originating in the Kuiper belt, a disk of material from the early history of the solar system, orbiting the Sun at a distance of around 30-50 AU

The primary spacecraft in the mission, Rosetta, arrived in the vicinity of 67P/C-G on August 6th, 2014 becoming the first vehicle in history to successfully enter orbit around a comet. The major reason the mission took so long to reach the comet, having been launched in 2004, is that despite having a relatively short orbital period, 67P/C-G is travelling very fast and accelerating as is falls deeper into the Sun’s gravity well heading for perihelion (it is currently travelling at 18 kilometres (11.25 miles) a second and can reach velocities of 34 kilometres a second as it swings around the Sun). As it is impossible to launch a space vehicle is these velocities, Rosetta was launched on a trajectory which allowed it to fly by Earth twice (2005 and the end of 2007) and Mars once (early 2007), using the gravity of both planets to accelerate it and (in the case of the 2nd Earth fly by), swinging it onto an orbit where it would “chase” and eventually catch the comet.

It’s a long way from here to there: Rosetta’s flight from Earth to 67P/C-G (image via extremetech.com) – click for full size

Following its safe arrival, Rosetta settled into an orbit of some 30 kilometres around the comet in September, and began looking for a suitable place where Philae might land – because until the craft actually arrived in orbit around 67P/C-G, no-one had any idea of what it’s surface might look like. On 15 September 2014, ESA announced a region on the “head” of the “duck” had been selected for the landing, christening it Agilkia in keeping with a contest to name the landing site.

Further observations of the comet were carried out throughout September and October as an overall part of Rosetta’s mission and to gain as much information on the landing site itself. At the same time the spacecraft started manoeuvring itself in closer to the comet, dropping its orbit to just 10 km, ready for Philae’s delivery.

This image, captured by Rosetta on Wednesday, November 12th, shows the Philae lander as it starts its descent towards the comet
This image, captured by Rosetta on Wednesday, November 12th, shows the Philae lander as it starts its descent towards the comet

The landing operations commenced around 09:05 UT on Wednesday, November 12th, when Philae detached from Rosetta and started on its long gentle descent. Immediately following the separation, and due to Rosetta’s orbit around the comet, contact was almost immediately lost with the lander, leading to a tense 2 hour wait before communications could be re-established. This happened on cue, with the lander reporting all was OK.

Landing on a comet is no easy task. The gravity is almost non-existent, and there was a very real risk that Philae could, if it struck the surface of 67P/C-G too fast, simply bounce off. Hence the lander’s long, slow drop from the Rosetta spacecraft which the ESA mission scientists dubbed “the seven hours of terror” in recognition of the famous “seven minutes of terror” which marked the arrival of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity on Mars.

Continue reading “To touch the origins of the solar system”

SL project updates 46/1: server, viewer + issues, misc items

Small Town Green; Inara Pey, February 2014, on FlickrrSmall Town Green, February 2014 (Flickr) – blog post

Server Deployments Week 46

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread in the forums for the latest information and updates.

  • There was no deployment to the Main (SLS) channel on Tuesday, November 11th.
  • On Wednesday, November 12th, all three RC channels should receive the same server maintenance package, which comprises “minor improvements” to help configure the texture and mesh CDN

We’re currently approaching the run-up to holidays, which means things are liable to be a little quiet on the server release front. There is usually a code freeze in effect during the US Thanksgiving week, and again over the Christmas / New Year period (which also affects viewer releases). With this in mind, and commenting on the next couple of weeks, Simon Linden commented that there is some hardware maintenance scheduled between now and Thanksgiving, and not a lot else.

SL Viewer

Release Viewer and Start-up Issues

On Monday, November 10th, the Lab promoted the Benchmark viewer, version 3.7.20.296094, to the de facto release viewer. This viewer removes reliance on the GPU table for determining the viewer’s initial graphics settings, and can be obtained from tha main viewer download page.

Some people have been reporting problems trying to run this viewer, specifically that it fails on reaching VFS initialisation. I encountered this problem myself in allowing the viewer to update from the HTTP pipelining release (3.7.19.295700) to the current release, and found that deleting my SL viewer cache ( C:\Users\[user name]AppData\Local\SecondLife) – a trick I’ve used with similar problems following a “dirty” install with Firestorm – cleared the issue for me; on restarting the viewer, it loaded OK and I was able to log-in.

However, for those who find this doesn’t work, or who have found a completely clean install (removing the viewer, the cache and local settings found in C:\Users\[user name]AppData\Roaming\SecondLife) hasn’t worked, a JIRA is open – see BUG-7776 – and specific problems should be reported there.

Group Chat

The recent round of changes to group chat, related to how the system looks-up avatars engaged in a group chat session as they move around the grid – see here – are expected to start rolling-out this week on the back-end. However, they are not expected to yield dramatically visible improvements in group chat.

Experience Keys / Tools

There’s not a lot to report On the Experience Keys project (see my overview and update), other than the Lab is “trying hard to wrap up the last few issues with Experiences so that we can make them generally available,” as Oz Linden said during the Simulator User Group meeting. As well as having the capability of allowing users to build more immersive experiences for people to enjoy, a particular interest in the Experience Tools is the key/value store, which is being seen as a potentially powerful additional capability to help with saving and retrieving data.

Other Items

Saving Graphics Profiles (/Preferences)

A suggestion was recently put forward during a Simulator User Group meeting for the Lab to allow the saving of graphics profiles (see my week 44/1 report under “Graphics Profile in the Viewer”. This would mean, for example that you could have a graphics profile where various options – the quality slider, shadows, occlusion, draw distance, etc., could be pushed towards their upper limits; and another where the setting are more conservative and less taxing on your GPU / system.

A feature request was subsequently submitted, after Oz suggested this might be a good open-source contribution, and Jonathan Yap is now working on the feature (STORM-2082), although it may be a “somewhat altered version” of the original suggestion. Currently, the work is focused on  Quick Preferences style of panel (as found in a number of TPVs),  as shown in the image below, accessed via the Setup tab in Preferences.

Jonathan Yap is working on a new "Quick Preferences" floater for the SL viewer
Jonathan Yap is working on a new “Quick Preferences” floater for the SL viewer (seen on the left in this image), access from the Setup tab in Preferences – this Quick Preferences tab will likely have options to save graphics settings once set through the sliders

Keep in mind this is very preliminary work, and things are liable to change as the work progresses.

Prim Selection Problems due to Interest Changes

An annoying issue which has been introduced with the interest list changes is the ability for them to interfere with object selection. Essentially, if an object or group of objects is selected, and camming then moves them off-screen, they are deselected, as updates from them to the viewer are culled – see BUG-7115. A fix for this should be available in the next round fo general bug fixes for the viewer released by the Lab.

It has been thought the interest list code had been altered since that there was a minimum distance before culling would be applied (e.g. so that there would be no culling on objects within, say, 30 metres of your camera position, regardless as to whether their were in your field of view or not). Simon Linden is going to take a further look at the code to see if this is in fact the case.

Script Sizes

The Simulator User Group meeting saw further discussion on script sizes (still 16Kb for LSL and 64Kb for Mono) and the viability of increasing them. Commenting on the discussion, Oz Linden observed, “Increasing script size is one of those things that must be considered very, very carefully. It would affect many, many things.” As such, it’s unlikely that any changes will be on the horizon.