Support RFL of SL and see yourself on the cover of BOSL magazine!

The 2014 SL Christmas Expo & Winter Breedables Fair is now under way, and runs through until Monday, December 15th, 2014. As usual, this annual event offers something for everyone, including the opportunity to help raise funds for Relay For Life of Second Life, an official charity of the American Cancer Society.

On Saturday, December 6th, as a part of the event, there will be a very special auction, with 100% of proceeds going directly to RFL of SL.

Starting at 13:00 SLT, and with Neckcadaver Resident as the auctioneer, Second Life residents have the opportunity to bid to have themselves (or their business or brand or organisation or logo…) featured on the cover of the March 2015 Best of SL Magazine.

To take part in this very special event, all you have to do is attend the BOSL Magazine Cover Live Auction, which will run for approximately one hour, and place your bid – and be prepared to bid against others!

About BOSL

Click to see the October 2014 issue of BOSL Magazine
Click to see the October 2014 issue of BOSL Magazine

The Best of Second Life Magazine started in 2008 and is focused on presenting the “Best Of” all that SL has to offer and sharing it with readers. Bringing readers a vast array of information and topics each month the magazine covers events, arts, activities, fashion, people, styles, products, sims, movements, and creativity. This in world and on the web publication is the longest running magazine in SL and reaches an extensive SL audience through its large group and subscriber list as well as outside of SL through the website.

The Best of SL Magazine is part of BOSL & Co, which comprises the following companies:   Best Of SL Magazine; Miss and Mister Virtual World Pageants; Miss Virtual World Modelling  Academy; BLVD Fashion House; Fashion Feed; SL Associated Press and Best of SL Couture Boulevard & Renaissance Galleria Malls. Each company is focused on bring the “Best Of” in its own category and work to collaborate together, building one another’s strengths, to promote the creativity of those who are behind the creative and amazing aspects of SL.

About Relay For Life of Second Life

Relay For Life of Second Life is an annual activity that takes place in Second Life in July each year. Volunteers form or join teams to have fun while fundraising and raising awareness from mid-March through mid-July. In July teams build campsites and walk a track, just like a Real World Relay. Since 2005, Relay For Life of Second Life has raised over $2.25 million USD for the American Cancer Society. In 2013, Relay For Life of Second Life has raised over $390,000 for the American Cancer Society. Relay For Life has become an international movement in RL and SL. In 2011 participants from over 80 countries took part in Relay For Life of Second Life.

About the American Cancer Society

For more than 100 years, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has worked relentlessly to save lives and create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Together with millions of our supporters worldwide, we help people stay well, help people get well, find cures, and fight back against cancer.

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The human adventure is just beginning

Orion EFT-1 lifts-off exactly on time, 12:05 UTC, on Friday, December 5th, 2014
Orion EFT-1 (Exploration Flight Test 1) lifts-off exactly on time, 12:05 UT, on Friday, December 5th, 2014

Friday, December 5th marked what will hopefully be the first genuine step humans take in exploring the high frontier of space without total reliance upon robot vehicles. It came in the form of the launch, at 12:05 UT, of the first space vehicle in over forty years to be specifically designed to carry a crew beyond the limits of low Earth orbit and out into the depths of the solar system: the Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle.

Originally, the lift-off had been planned for Thursday, December 4th. However, a series of incidents involving a small boat compromising the range safety exclusion zone, difficult winds over the launch pad, and then technical issues with two fuel valve systems aboard the Delta IV Heavy rocket, prompted the delay of the mission by 24 hours. But when the mission did get under way, it did so flawlessly, and continued in that manner right through until splashdown 4.5 hours later.

The two fairings which protect the Service Module as it sets between the Orion capsule and the upper stage of its launch booster (and which also take a fair amount of the dynamic pressures the vehicle experiences during launch) are jettisoned
The two fairings which protect the Service Module as it sets between the Orion capsule and the upper stage of its launch booster (and which also take a fair amount of the dynamic pressures the vehicle experiences during launch) are jettisoned

Orion launched precisely on time, lifting-off in the post-dawn light of Florida’s Space Coast, and rising smoothly from Launch Complex 37 at Canaveral Air Station. The textbook launch was followed by a mission that followed the flight plan with amazing accuracy to the point where the craft, after a journey that carried it further than any vehicle intended to carry humans has flown in 42 years, and  which saw it punch its way back through the Earth’s atmosphere at 32,000 kph, splashed down just three kilometres or so from its planned target point.

The mission, called Exploration Flight Test 1, was uncrewed, and intended to test all of the critical systems for the vehicle with the exception of the Service Module, which won’t fly until the next Orion mission in 2017. Through the flight all of the system vital to the safety of a crew were put through their paces: the Launch Abort System, radiation protection, heat shield, and multiple parachute systems and the floatation system, together with all the vehicle’s complex flight avionics and software.

The limb of the Earth as Orion reaches some 4,000 km from its home, on its way to over 5,800 km, before making its return
The limb of the Earth as Orion reaches some 4,000 km from its home, on its way to over 5,800 km, before making its return

So well did the vehicle perform through the flight that it was, in some ways, mundane; milestones came and went without a hitch, with only the launch and re-entry / splashdown forming points of drama / excitement. But really, that’s the whole point; problems aren’t what you need on a space mission. Let Hollywood play with them, but leave them out of the real thing.

Following launch, the vehicle rapidly climbed to orbit, the Delta launch vehicle’s two side boosters dropping away after the first few minutes of the flight to leave the core booster to get the vehicle to its initial height. Separation of the upper stage, complete with the “dummy” Service Module and Orion capsule then occurred, follow by the jettisoning of the fairings covering what would normally be the Service Module, and the ejection of the Launch Abort System (which, in a real mission, would automatically pull the capsule, which it enshrouds during launch, away from the main rocket the millisecond a serious anomaly in the rocket’s flight status is detected).

Re-entry: a camera aboard Orion captures the limb of the Earth, with the flames of super-heated plasma just visible as the bow-shock wave of the craft's entry into the atmosphere generate temperatures of 2,200C (twice that of molten lava) directly in front of the capsule, and around 1,800C around it, all of which is prevented from burning-up the vehicle by the presence of the heat shield 2under" the capsule and the shuttle-like thermal tiles covering its conical sides
Re-entry: a camera aboard Orion captures the limb of the Earth, with the flames of super-heated plasma just visible at the top, as the bow shock compression of air in front of the craft generates enormous friction with the air around it. Temperatures within the plasma reach 2,200C (twice that of molten lava) directly in front of the capsule, and about 1,800C around it, all of which is prevented from burning-up the vehicle by the presence of the heat shield “under” the capsule and the shuttle-like thermal tiles covering its conical sides

Passing through the Van Allen radiation belts – a critical test for the vehicle’s radiation protection and its electronics – Orion rose to a height of over 5,800 km above the Earth prior to separating from the Delta upper stage and “dummy” Service Module to start its return to Earth under its own power. This allowed mission planners to test the vehicle’s propulsion systems, which also functioned perfectly and with a greater degree of accuracy than had been expected.

Indeed, the only “failures” encountered with the flight, were the loss of the parachute bay cover – a section of the spacecraft which protects Orion’s parachute systems, and which is jettisoned for later recovery following re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere – and the first set of drogue ‘chutes deployed. Following splash down, it was discovered that one of the 35-6 metre diameter main parachutes had sunk before it could be recovered, and one of the five floatation devices used to right the craft should it land inverted in the water (it didn’t), had failed to inflate.  All of these are really minimal loses when compared to the overall success of the flight.

A great shot from the recovery ship USS Anchorage, sent via the NASA Google Hangout covering the mission, showing Orion EFT-1 descending under 3 fully deployed main parachutes
A great shot from the recovery ship USS Anchorage, sent via the NASA Google Hangout covering the mission, showing Orion EFT-1 descending under 3 fully deployed main parachutes

There will now be a three-year pause in Orion flights. This will allow the first Service Module to be built and delivered to NASA by the European Space Agency and, more particularly, allow NASA to complete the construction of the first in its new generation of launch vehicles, a rocket simply referred to as the Space Launch System.

Even so, and as I recently blogged, Orion EFT-1 marks the first step in what will hopefully, political will allowing, be a new era in the exploration of our solar system. As such, and despite more than fifty years having passed since the first man orbited the Earth, it is fair to say that where space flight is concerned, the human adventure is just beginning.

 

Eight years on

Still enjoying SL: my island home with my toys: Catalina, MD-900, E-Tech cruiser and Loonetta-31
Still enjoying SL: my island home with my toys: Catalina, MD-900, E-Tech cruiser and Loonetta-31

December 5th. Another day in SL. My 2,922nd being a small part of Second Life; eight years. Blimey.

It’s been an interesting year – one I’ll doubtless delve into in some detail my end-of-year review;  but in that time we’ve been through some interesting times. We’ve seen a change of hands at the the top of Linden Lab, the promise of a new, cutting edge virtual world platform in the near(ish) future. There’s been a huge amount of work improving, through things like the completion of Project Shining, the arrival of the CDN, HTTP pipelining, and a lot of viewer updates and added functionality such as the new photographic capabilities, group bans, better group chat, improvements to region crossings, and so on, all of which have largely helped improve things for most of us, even with the odd hiccup for so here and there.

Yes, there have been some disappointments. The ToS situation wasn’t sorted out in the way many of us were hoping to see; words were played with, but frankly, what we’ve been left with is still ambiguous in its interpretation. Then the changes to the Gaming Policy, although not something the Lab could have avoided, haven’t perhaps been as handled as clearly as might have been the case, lacking information on fees, etc. But, on the whole, it’s been a pretty positive year.

Inara Pey: then and now
Inara Pey: then and now

On a personal level, the last year has been fun. There’s been more than enough to keep me busy on the blogging front, I’ve been able to visit and write about some stunning regions, art installations, galleries and performances, as well as trying to keep astride of all the news. All of this has meant that this blog has grown by nigh-on another 1,000 posts over the course of twelve months, and hit the 1,000,000 page views mark. Admittedly, some of the articles have been on topics away from SL and virtual worlds; my love of astronomy and space exploration has played a part in pushing up the number of posts, and of course, there’s been VR and AR to watch as well.

I’m still enjoying flying and sailing in SL; if anything, I’m doing somewhat more of both – my Loonetta 31, Exotix 2 sees a fair amount of use and has carried me far and wide across Blake Sea and beyond. Equally, G-NARA, my PBY-6A Catalina has seen a lot of use, and has also drawn a lot of compliments thanks to its distinctive colour scheme courtesy of the marvellous Josh Noonan.

The Catalina was actually responsible for my biggest personal change for the year: moving back on to a private island of my own, just so I could have a place to leave it sitting out in the sunshine, as seen on the right in the picture at the top of this piece. Truth be told, I’m pretty comfortable in the house, and continue to tweak the island here and there.

I am perhaps a little disappointed that it’s another year and no cake from the Lab. But still, can’t have everything – even if NASA did delay the Orion launch by 24 hours so it would launch on my rezday! 😀 .

Orion EFT-1 lifts-off exactly on time, 12:05 UTC, on Friday, December 5th, 2014. A nice rezday treat for me! :)
Orion EFT-1 lifts-off exactly on time, 12:05 UTC, on Friday, December 5th, 2014. A nice rezday treat for me! 🙂

As to the future – there is the new VW platform from LL, there’s also High Fidelity, and we’ll doubtless hear of others. Oculus Rift will eventually appear in a consumer version, and it’ll be sitting there with the likes of Magic Leap and castAR, and probably other systems and clones as well, which will allow us to enjoy environments – and maybe express ourselves – in ways we’re not even aware of. All of these things do inevitably mean challenges for Second Life; but the Lab remains committed to the platform, supporting it, improving it, and providing tools and capabilities to those of us who enjoy it.

Which may well mean that in another 12 months, I’ll be writing about nine years of involvement in SL!

SL project updates: week 49/2: viewer, group chat

Let it snow! Isles of Lyonesse; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrLet it Snow! Isles of Lyonesse (Flickr)blog post

Note: most of the following notes are taken from the Server Beta User Group meeting held on Thursday, December 4th, 2014.

Server Deploys for Week 49 – Recap

  • There was no deployment to the Main channel, following-on from the lack of any deployments to the RCs in week #48.
  • On Wednesday, December 3rd, all three RC channels received the same server maintenance package, comprising the following updates:
    • A fix for BUG-7515 “Restarting region turns off ‘block parcel fly over’”
    • A fix for BUG-4949 (non-public) “Cannot manage block list with certain object names”
    • A fix for BUG-7850 “Experience tools: ‘Script trying to teleport other avatars!’ script error” appears incorrectly
    • A fix for BUG-6789 “Spelling mistake in llGodLikeRezObject”
    • Minor server change to help configure the texture and mesh CDN.

SL Viewer

On Tuesday, December 2nd, the Lab released a new Benchmark release candidate viewer, version 3.7.22.297128, which should address the VFS crash-on-start-up issue some users were experiencing following the promotion of the original Benchmark viewer as the de facto release viewer on November 10th (see BUG-7776, BUG-7783). If you are still experiencing issues with the SL viewer on start-up, please give this RC viewer a try, and report your experiences via BUG-7783.

The Maintenance RC viewer was updated on Wednesday, December 3rd to version 3.7.22.297131. This viewer includes a range of updates and fixes for voice, privacy, rendering, texture animation, avatar distortion, inventory management, sounds, mouselook in Mac, multiple UI fixes in script editor, pay flow, chat, stats floater, edit menu, etc.

The attachment fix RC viewer (version 3.7.21.296904) has been withdrawn from the release channel, possibly pending further fixes to be incorporated into it.

Group Chat

Simon Linden has carried out further work on group chat, so that if a server ever gets to the point where there is a bad message backup, instead of sending potentially “sale” messages, the server will drop those messages that are 5 minutes or more old which are sitting in the queue.

The focus on this change is to eliminate issues where – as recently has been the case – back-end issues (rather than simply the weight of messages being handled by the chat servers), mean that messages stop getting sent out and start building up in a held queue; then when the back-end issue is fixed, users suddenly receive a flood of old and outdated messages that they likely have no interest in, due to the length of time that has passed while the chant server is “down”.

Simon has also been working on the logic the chat server use to send messages to people, which should mean that as long as the chat service knows where you are, messages should now reach you somewhat faster.

However, the logic behind what happens should you move between regions while engaged in a group chat still means that the group chat server to which you are connected will send message to the last region it knew you to be on; if you’ve moved on, then the simulator will inform the chat server of this, and the chat server will then perform a look-up to find out where you are. Even so, and while it may have been placebo, during a test at the end of the Server Meeting, it did seem there was less delay in receiving messages when moving between multiple regions & closing and re-opening group chat windows.

Experience Keys / Tools

Server-side updates are anticipated as being in the RC channel deployment for week 50 (week commencing Monday, December 8th). As noted in part 1 of this week’s report, there is a hope the the project may be released by the end of the year – although the project viewer is still awaiting update to RC status (and parity with more recent viewer updates), and there apparently is further QA work to be completed. Speaking about the project during the Server Beta meeting, simon again re-stated the overall intent with the initial release, when it does occur:

We know this first release isn’t perfect and doesn’t have the full feature set we’d love to build, but it’s a start.  Hopefully we’ll see some usages and those will show it’s promising for more attention and features.