2014: A look back – part 3: September – December

Pinoy Hideout, Lions Hill; Inara Pey, May 2014, on FlickrPinoy Hideout, Lions Hill (Flickr) – blog post

It’s once again that annual time of reflection. The winter is with us, the old year is slowing dying, the new year awaits, and it is time to look back across the highs and lows of the virtual year as seen through the pages of this blog.

This year has been even busier for me than previous years, so I hope you’ll forgive that as I look back over the year as I’ve managed to report it through this blog, I’ve broken it down into three parts, this being the second, and you can catch-up with part one or part two if you so wish. Not everything that happened through the year may be here; there are some aspects of  SL in which I’m not active, and so may have missed some headlines. Nevertheless, I hope this review sparks a few memories and provides some interesting holiday reading. As with the first part, rather than just offer a month-by month account, I’ve tried to group things together by topic to hopefully give more of a narrative flow.

The Lab

The Lab is relatively quiet in September. The Skill Gaming Policy takes effect from September 1st without too much fanfare, and at the end of the month the Lab issue a statement that it will be enforced as from November 1st, 2014. When that date is reached, CapEx is forced to suspend operations, due to their Skill Gaming application not having been approved by the Lab, a situation still unresolved at the end of the year.

Joe Miller
Joe Miller (image: Sportvision.com)

September does bring with it the very sad news of Joe Miller’s passing; while I wasn’t acquainted with him, having known him only by reputation, I offer a short piece on Mr. Miller and his contributions to the platform.

Towards the end of September, I finally notice that the Lab’s corporate leadership page has been updated, while in October, In October, Ebbe Altberg joins Saffia and Rik for a Designing Worlds special show to talk LL, SL and the “next generation” platform. For those who prefer to read I offer a transcript.

In the interview, Ebbe drops a hint that the product review which saw Creatorverse, dio and Versu vanish from the Lab’s portfolio in February hadn’t entirely finished. At the time I suspected that Desura might be parting company with the Lab, but as it turned out, it was Patterns, the Lab’s sandbox game, that took the bullet, with the Lab willing to hear from parties interested in carrying it forward. However, November does see the Lab shed itself of Desura as well.

November also sees Ebbe in New York, where he appears as a panellist in a discussion on the future of VR beyond gaming, held at the Engadget Expand NY 2014 event. He’s also interviewed by  Dean Takahashi from Games Beat, and talk about SL and the future.

December brings musings on Lab Merchandise, courtesy of a Drax Files Radio Hour special on the Lab.

Second Life

The Lab’s updated viewer splash / log-in screen reaches RC status. Landon Linden returns to the official SL blog to provide a fascinating insight into how Lab’s Ops team responds to issues within their services, the communications tools they use – and why the tools are so effective. As I comment at the time, it’s a remarkable piece, well worth reading.

Also in September, the Lab provides a small piece of news on the CDN project, alongside the launch of the new Benchmark viewer and the viewer log-in screen updates. The CDN deployment to the main grid commences in October, initially using the special purpose Snack channel. which is drawn from regions usually on the Main (SLS) channel. The CDN provider is Highwinds.

By October 29th, CDN support is grid wide, and the HTTP pipelining viewer is formally released. As a result of both of these projects, the majority of people are seeing benefits in terms of texture and mesh fetching and (in the case of the pipeline viewer, inventory fetching. However, some across the grid continue to report issues arising from the updates which require further investigation, prompting to the Lab to seek direct feedback. At the start of November, the Lab publish data showing how the CDN has been good for them as well. Later in the month they report on progress being made to deal with the issues affected users are experiencing.

The CDN deployment dramatically decreases the load places on the Lab's simulator host servers (image: Linden Lab)
The CDN deployment dramatically decreases the load places on the Lab’s simulator host servers (image: Linden Lab)

Monty Linden provides a further update on his HTTP work, which also touches on the CDN while focusing on his pipelining work, and the improvements that has allowed him to make to inventory fetching as well. In November he is interviewed on the Drax Files Radio Hour, and offers further insight into the work.

October brings word that new viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM) functionality is coming to the viewer. Due to be deployed in 2015, the VMM is aimed towards finally eliminating the need for Magic Boxes and to replace the Merchant Outbox , while providing a means for merchants to sell their goods direct from their inventory (no Marketplace uploads) and to carry out some aspects of Marketplace listing management from within the viewer. In November, I provide an overview of beta testing and the project viewer. Keeping on the Marketplace theme, DX Exchange open their Marketplace to users in November, and I have a bit of a play.

After finally receiving their Oculus DK2 headsets, the Lab is able to release an updated version of their Oculus Rift project viewer. A notice about the POODLE vulnerability is also forthcoming, with an updated viewer coming hard on its heels.

Given October marks Halloween, the Lab launches a further demonstration of the upcoming Experience Keys / Tools in the middle of the month, featuring a haunted house. October also sees the dreaded required tax information issue rear its head again.

In November, users get the chance to meet Lab staff in-world at the Mole’s new home region, while nigh-on a week of daily restarts prompts a blog post on what the problem was. The new benchmark viewer reaches release status on November 10th, but results in some users no longer being about to log-in to SL using the official viewer. A fix appears at the start of December, and quick roles to the de facto release status.

Coming in 2012: a new means to control how the viewer renders other avatars which place a high rendering load on your computer
Coming in 2012: a new means to control how the viewer renders other avatars which place a high rendering load on your computer

Work also starts on a new means by which users can control the degree of rendering impact other avatars can have on their viewer’s performance.

Just as they were generating problems at the start of the year, AMD driver issues continue to cause woes at the end of the year, although Yoho Waco offers assistance to affected users. An oopsie with inventory leave some people upset in December, and the Lab offers a partial explanation, and a December 29th GSP update to the effect they believed matters to be fully resolved. On a brighter not, the Experience Keys / Tools viewer reaches RC status.

OnLive and Firestorm announce the availability of Firestorm on the SL Go client for PC and Mac, and hold a special Q&A on the release.

December sees a disturbing twist in misuse of the DMCA process, as Belleza are hit by a take-down notice which later turns out to be not only entirely false, but apparently completely fraudulent in origin. Drax investigates the DMCA process, and I ponder the DMCA issue in general.

As Christmas arrives, the Lab looks ahead to 2015 with a special competition, while a couple of promotional videos (which are rather good) appear on You Tube, one on content creation and the other on getting started with SL. I’m a tiny bit critical of the latter, but actually may have jumped the gun – I’m informed by Xiola Linden that the videos are intended as a part of an e-mail campaign, which will offer the context for the Welcome video I felt was missing.

Art and Events

September kicks-off with the remarkable Stand Up 2 Cancer in-world music event, co-ordinated by Still Braveheart, featuring 23 music venues and 150 performers. It going on to raise a staggering L$1.5 million in just four days. The same weekend sees Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 2014 opens, building towards the MSABC walk in October. Later in the month, the Michael J Fox Foundation has two special events hosted in SL by Team Fox SL and Creations for Parkinsons.

October sees Virtual Ability host their annual IDRAC conference, with a well-rounded list of speakers. Later in the month, BURN2 2014 opens its gates. While in December, I sneak a peek at the Xmas Expo and Breedables Fair.

In the art world, the UWA announces a beautiful printed book about The Freedom Project is now available, and as I have a copy myself, I can say it is simply beautiful. 2014’s Project Sci-Fi also launches. In October, JayJay Zifanwee (Jay Jay Jegathesan), one of the driving forces behind the UWA’s work in SL, participates in the university’s 3-Minute Thesis competition, providing a moving insight into the power of virtual worlds.

Transcending Borders draws to a close in December, with the announces of the 3D Art and Machinima winners, including Tutsy Navrathna’s brilliant first place machinima winner, Metahpore, and Sharni Azalee’s Never Say Never – Love Transcends Borders,

Paradise Lost, the production which has truly pushed the boundaries of performing arts in SL, approaches the end of its season of performances. The LEA plays host to a superb retrospective on Bryn Oh’s art, which starts in September. Put together by the artist herself, it provides a deeper insight into her work and thought processes, which I find intriguing.

Never Say Never - Love Trasncends Borders, by Sharni Azalee, the Transcending Borders 3D Art Challenge Grand Prize winner
Never Say Never – Love Trasncends Borders, by Sharni Azalee, the Transcending Borders 3D Art Challenge Grand Prize winner

And, of course, December brings us the ever wonderful Calas Galadhon Christmas region, one of many winter and Christmas themed regions for residents to enjoy over the festive season.

Other Worlds

In September, Registrations open for the OpenSimulator Community Conference, which takes place in November. High Fidelity offer people a peek into their Alpha testing, and looking at the work of AI Austin, CrtlAltDavid and others. In November they also bring news on their new documentation resource. Speaking at Gigaom the same month, Philip Rosedale voices the view that we still don’t get virtual worlds. Back at the office, it seems that a virtual game of rock, paper, scissors is all the rage. In December, a short series of introductory videos is released.

Stonehenge in Blue Mars during the 2014 summer solstice. One of a number of simulations still available on the platform
Stonehenge in Blue Mars during the 2014 summer solstice. One of a number of simulations still available on the platform

November sees me jump back into Blue Mars (yes, it’s still there!) to see what has been going on since its passing to Ball State University.

VR and AR

October sees Magic Leap apparently burst onto the scene, with the announcement that Google and several other big names have poured $542 million into the company, and this on top of around $50 million of investment earlier in the year. No-one is quite sure what the company is up to, and whether it is purely AR or perhaps a mix of AR and VR, but the promo videos are impressive.

In November, it is announced that the Magic Leap technology will be at the heart of a new immersive film bring written by Professor Brian Cox, and which will premiere in the UK in 2015. Then in December, Neal Stephenson reveals he has joined Magic Leap.

Also in October, and having been relatively quiet for a while, the other AR system that had been making news, and which offers a VR capability as a well, castAR, moves to Silicon Valley from Seattle, as their initial developer kits start shipping.

November sees Brendan Iribe again repeat that the consumer version of Oculus Rift is still “many months” away from launch. During the interview, held at the Web Summit event in Dublin, Ireland, Iribe drops hints that Oculus may be looking at a more packaged VR solution, referencing as he does gesture devices, camera systems and haptic devices. Then December brings word that Oculus is buying Nimble Sense.

However, while Oculus may be still sitting over the horizon in terms of a consumer model, VR enthusiast with an up-to-date version of the Galaxy Note 4 had an early Christmas offer, with the opportunity to order the Gear VR.

Related Links

I’ll have a more personal look back over the year to see out 2014.

3 thoughts on “2014: A look back – part 3: September – December

  1. These are a fantastic series of posts Inara, that demonstrate how you are chronicling our “history” in such a way that no one else does. Thank you for all of your efforts in 2014, and for all the efforts over the years you’ve been blogging. Your blog is a wonderful resource to anyone with an interest in virtual world (and specifically Second Life) history, and may it live long and prosper! All the best for 2015!

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