SL project updates week 9/2: TPV meeting, SL roadmap notes

Less Than Three, Special One; Inara Pey, February 2015, on Flickr Less Than Three, Special One (Flickr) – blog post

The following notes are primarily taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, February 27th,  a video of which is included at the end of the article (my thanks as always to North for recording it and providing it for embedding), and any time stamps contained within the following text refer to it.

Server Deployments Week 9 Re-cap

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest news and updates.

  • There was no deployment to the Main (SLS) channel on Tuesday, February 24th
  • On Wednesday, February 25th, all three RC channels received the same server maintenance package, which comprises:
    • A server-side fix for BUG-8297, “Unable to teleport anywhere using SLGO”
    • Improvement to server logging.

SL Viewer

Viewer-Managed Marketplace Project Viewer

[0:35] As noted at the last TPV Developer meeting, the VMM functionality still has some issues that are being worked on. some of these appear to be on the back-end of things, rather than within the viewer itself. As such, it is unlikely that there will be further updates to the viewer in the near future while these are being addressed.

Experience Tools Viewer

[0:50] The Lab is also continuing to work on the back-end of things for Experience Tools / Keys. This work is apparently focused on overall robustness of the service prior to fully deploying it to the grid. As no viewer-side changes are anticipated as a result of this work, the viewer itself should be ready for promotion to the de facto release viewer once the Lab is ready to go with things.

Avatar Hover Height Project Viewer

[4:21]  Vir Linden is continuing to work on a couple of the bugs uncovered during testing. One of these is related to leg position issues, which can see an avatar’s leg “buckle” if the position is adjusted downwards such that the feet sink into the ground, becoming more and more pronounced the lower the avatar is set. Currently, there is no ETA on providing a fix for this.

Mesh Importer Viewer

[5:47 – via chat]  It is anticipated that the Mesh Importer project viewer (currently version ) will receive an update in week #10.

Tools Update Viewer

[6:56] A line has been drawn under the current set of changes to the viewer-side build tools, so the aim is now to get the viewer in the release channel.

However, there are further changes already being queued behind the current set of updates, many of them contributed by open-source developers, which the Lab believe will further improve the viewer build process. As such, it is likely that there will be further updates to the viewer in relation to the build tools, most likely in the form of a “build clean-up” viewer, which will likely include all of the agreed updates which didn’t make it into the current version of the build tools viewer code.

The hope is that, moving forward, all viewers – LL’s own and TPVs  – can, as far as possible, be built using the same tool set the only difference being whether or not a TPV sets a build switch to use proprietary libraries (e.g. Havok) or not.

Group Chat

[2:10] The Lab continues to roll-out updates as a result of this work, and updates focused on the issue of group chat servers themselves stalling, and they are confident that progress is being made. This is supported by anecdotal evidence from moderators of large groups with active chat, who are indicating the instances of visible server slow-down / stalling have been decreasing over the past week or so. Commenting on this during the TPVD meeting, Oz Linden said, “we haven’t declared victory in this yet, but it’s looking a lot more stable.”

In the meantime, some groups are reporting performance issues whereby for short periods – measured in terms of 2-3 minutes, where group chat messages won’t go through at all, and no time-out message is being displayed by the viewer, while other messages are being delayed, but then getting through, but without the massive roll of delayed messages. These may be related to previous changes made to improve the overall performance of group chat, and news of the problems is being taken back to the Lab for investigation.

Attachment Reliability

[4:39] As I most recently reported in week 8, there are on-going issues related to attachments. Vir Linden has also been investigating these, and there is a project viewer in development which includes fixes for those issues the Lab has been able to consistently reproduce. Unfortunately, the infamous BUG-6925 is not among these, but Vir hopes that the updates he’s been making will address it to some degree.

There is currently no ETA for the project viewer, but the Lab hopes that when it does appear, they’ll get some clear and constructive feedback on what it does and does not seem to address.

Continue reading “SL project updates week 9/2: TPV meeting, SL roadmap notes”

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Singularity provides update to address AMD Catalyst driver issues

singularityUpdate, March 21st: AMD have release a new set of Catalyst™ drivers, version 15.3 beta, which include a potential fix for the rigged mesh issues – see my notes here.

As I’ve previously reported in this blog, recent AMD Catalyst™ driver updates have resulted in numerous issues for SL users running AMD graphics cards and attempting to use the latest driver updates. These started with the 14.9.1 drivers, but which became particularly pronounced with the  14.9.2 drivers failing to render rigged mesh unless hardware skinning is disabled (see: BUG-7653), problems which increased with AMD switched yo automatic updates with the release of their 14.12 drivers.

In December 2014, Yoho Waco offered a workaround for the problems affecting more recent drivers (e.g. 14.12) using the 14.9 DLL files to overcome some of the issues presented by those drivers, and which should work for most viewers. With Yoho permission, I offered his workaround as an article in its own right, and DMC Jurassic reported the same approach could be used with 1.4.4 driver DLL files to resolve issues caused by both the more recent driver updates and those cause by the 14.9.2 driver update.

Recent AMD Catalyst™ drivers (1.4.9.2 onwards) have been problematic for Sl users, presenting a series of mesh rendering problems as a result of changing openGL support within the drivers (image courtesy of Maestro Linden, click for full-size)
Recent AMD Catalyst™ drivers (1.4.9.2 onwards) have been problematic for Sl users, presenting a series of mesh rendering problems as a result of changing openGL support within the drivers (image courtesy of Maestro Linden, click for full-size)

Now the Singularity team have stepped up, offering their users who use AMD graphics cards and who have particularly been affected by the rigged mesh issues found when using the more recent Catalyst™ drivers.

Version 1.8.6.6157 of the viewer, released on February 27th, 2015, is labelled as a “supplemental” update to the viewer because, as the release notes state, it only provides a fix for this particular set of problems, and offers no additional updates to the viewer as a whole.

Therefore, if you are not affected by the Catalyst™ driver problems, there is no need for you to update. However, if you have been affected by the problems, then this update could well be for you.

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With thanks to Maya Rosenstar for the pointer.

The Drax Files 27: the magic of Nylon in Second Life

Nylon Pinkney is the embodiment of creativity and freedom of expression that Second Life offers to all of us who come into its digital domain with an open mind and an imagination willing to take flight.

A resident of Second Life for more than ten years, Nylon is a veritable tour de force of creativity, be it through avatar creation, art, photography, content creation, region design, or her support of the creativity of other Second Life users. Not only does her home region, Tableau, offer an in-world presence for her own brands – which include Nylon Outfitters, Oh Lala!, Paper Couture,  and the Wigglesworth Residence – it also offers a place where other content creators can host their stores, and provides a live music venue.

Nylon Outfitters, one of Nylon's store on her home region of Tableau
Nylon Outfitters, one of Nylon’s store on her home region of Tableau

And it doesn’t end there: the entire region is itself a unique work of art, drawing together content from around the grid and combining it with Nylon’s own eye for design and layout and her natural talent as an artist to present a whimsical, photogenic and delightfully artful environment, which she refers to as her take, as a woman from New Jersey, on a “bombed-out” town in the south-west USA.

Given her talents – which even extend to having supplied Linden Lab with some of their “classic” starter avatars and the fact her creativity has oft been subject to the attention of US comedian Drew Carey (who admits to still hopping into Second Life as and when he can) – little wonder that episode #27 of The Drax Files: World Makers settles down to profile her.

Nylon in Tableau (image courtesy of Draxtor Despres)
Nylon in Tableau (image courtesy of Draxtor Despres)

In a world which naturally lends itself to the fullest range of digital manipulation and photo-realism, Nylon’s work is a fusion of digital tools and freehand artistry. “Instead of taking a photo and trying to make it squash onto the avatar base,” she says in describing her work, “I actually hand-draw all of my textures. It’s not perfect, but I don’t have any interest in perfect.”

Perfect it may not be, but it is authentic; and it is the authenticity and fun evident in her work that has made Nylon’s designs so popular among SL residents. In a world where perhaps a little too much emphasis can be placed on digital perfection, she offers a pleasantly natural look and fell to her garments and designs. This is further reflected in her Wigglesworth Residence range of older avatars, which breaks the mould of SL’s eternally youthful population in a light-hearted way.

In the physical world, Nylon notes that she’s been very much a part of the family business, with Second Life providing the kind of creative freedom she was seeking; but as is so often the way, the physical world and the virtual have combined somewhat to make her Second Life businesses something of a family affair, with Nylon’s sister, Polyester Partridge, producing all of the accessories for their various brands.

Nylon (r) works in-world with her sister, Polyester (l) on a range of brands and items which have proven very popular among SL users
Nylon (r) works in-world with her sister, Polyester (l) on a range of brands and items which have proven very popular among SL users

Nylon is keenly aware of the platform’s potential to encourage learning and growth – something Strawberry Singh incidentally touched upon in one of her recent Monday Memes – noting how it has encouraged her, through her businesses, to develop her skills and art. This also again reflects a theme very much evident through the World Makers series, with many of those participating in the show pointing in some measure to the platform’s innate ability to encourage people to learn new skills and discover new abilities within themselves.

Obviously this is something well known to all of us involved with Second Life; it’s often the reason many of us actually become increasingly engaged in the platform, whether or not we have any form of in-world business; Second Life helps fulfil those inner desires for creative expression and freedom that might otherwise remain hidden or stifled. As such, it is an important point to consider when looking at the platform in terms of its potential for teaching and learning, quite aside from the more recognisable or considered uses for the platform as a more structured educational medium.

Continue reading “The Drax Files 27: the magic of Nylon in Second Life”

When Less Than Three gives more than enough

Less Than Three, Special One; Inara Pey, February 2015, on Flickr Less Than Three, Special One (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Less than Three ♥ is the homestead region held by Kess and Bjorn Folkesson, which is now featured in the Photogenic Spots section of the Destination Guide. Kess, who might be better known to some as Kess Crystal, MadPea’s PR and marketing magician, appears to be largely responsible for the look and feel to the region, which has been both dedicated to nature and offers visitors a lot of see and enjoy.

With the exception of the private residence belonging to Bjorn and Kess, which sits on its own island in the south-east corner, Less Than Three ♥ is entirely open to the public, and the couple encourage visitors and photographers to come and enjoy themselves while exploring the remaining three large islands of the region.

Less Than Three, Special One; Inara Pey, February 2015, on Flickr Less Than Three, Special One (Flickr)

Between them, these offer a varied landscape ranging from low-lying grasslands, through rich woodlands to a high rocky island, topped with a single tree,and all with their own distinct attractions. For example, on the grassy island, which is also home to the main landing point, you can find and enjoy the vineyard and winery, while just over a stone bridge sits a watermill restaurant offering both indoor and outdoor seating.

Cross another bridge to the wooded isle, and paths will lead you through an open-air ballroom and to ancient ruins, waterfalls and a little “drive-in” theatre. Reached by another bridge. the rough rocky flanks and rolling slopes of the highest island in the group offers attractions of its own, both above and below ground.

Less Than Three, Special One; Inara Pey, February 2015, on Flickr Less Than Three, Special One (Flickr)

There are a couple of smaller islands among the group as well. On one of these sits an old wooden lighthouse and on the other, an equally old oak tree with a swing suspended from one of its boughs. Both can be reached via the rowing boats offered at the wooden jetty near the region’s main landing point, which also allow those so inclined to explore the waters separating the islands and perhaps enjoy a cuddle as the water gently laps against the boat’s hull.

With the sound of chimes floating in the breeze and birds singing among the trees, together with the slanting of sunbeams through high branches and the sight of deer through the trees, Less Than Three ♥ has more than enough to entice the SL traveller into visiting – and into staying for a while.

Less Than Three, Special One; Inara Pey, February 2015, on Flickr Less Than Three, Special One (Flickr)

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Microsoft co-founder backs High Fidelity with US $11 million

HF-logoIn what is its largest round of funding to date, High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale’s virtual work start-up, received an additional US $11 million in a round lead by Vulcan Capital, the investment company founded and run by Ex-Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

This marks at least the second time Vulcan Capital has made an investment in VR technology recently. In October 2014, they were a part of a US $542 million round of investment in Magic Leap, the company developing a new augmented reality system, with an eye potentially on VR applications and virtual worlds as well.

The news of the funding was broken by TechCrunch on Wednesday, February 25th, after papers confirming the funding round were filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Philip Rosedale later confirmed the news to Techcrunch, after the technology journal had placed an enquiry with High Fidelity on the matter.

Rosedale then went on to make a more public announcement on the High Fidelity blog, which included a fun and informative video on matters featuring himself, HiFi co-founder Ryan Karpf and the ever-popular Emily Donald. As this is unlisted on YouTube, I’m respecting High Fidelity’s wishes and linking to it, rather than sharing it via embedding, although I am sneaking in a still from it.

The US $11 million funding confirmation from High Fidelity includes a short video from Ryan, Emily and Philip outlining the investment news, what it means for the company and mentioning job opportunities at HiFi (image source: High Fidelity)
The US $11 million funding confirmation from High Fidelity includes a short video from Ryan Kampf, Emily Donald and Philip Rosedale, outlining the investment news, what it means for the company and mentioning job opportunities at HiFi (image source: High Fidelity)

The blog post leads with the statement:

We are happy to announce today that we have raised an additional $11M in funding, in a new round led by Vulcan Capital and with participation from other new and existing investors.  This is certainly great news for us, but also great news for the overall VR ecosystem as we continue to see more and more validation from the investing community that VR presents enormous opportunities.  With this investment, we will be able to substantially grow our team as we continue to develop and release our open source shared virtual reality software.

The amount raised is more than that had been achieved during both the first and second funding rounds for the company. These occurred in April 2013 (US $2.4 million) and March 2014 (US $2.5 million), and were largely lead by True Ventures and Google Ventures. In the video, Ryan Kampf gives some idea of what this latest round immediately means for High Fidelity:

The next step for us is going to be moving to a more open alpha stage to let you guys come in and create a lot of cool content that you see around you. We’ve had a lot of fun making it, and we look forward to seeing what you guys can create as well.

The video also covers the fact that High Fidelity is still hiring, with Emily Donald pointing people to the company’s job page, and her e-mail address.

Definitely worth smiling about: Philip Rosedale's High Fidelity gains a further US $11 million in funding
Definitely worth smiling about: Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity gains a further US $11 million in funding

Following the March 2014 US $2.5 million round of funding, which came on the heels of Facebook acquiring Oculus VR, I idly speculated whether or not it might have put High Fidelity – until then point regarded as being something of a “stealth start-up” in the eyes of the technology media – more firmly on people’s radar. If it wasn’t the case then, a further US $11 million now should certainly do so. And that’s not just good for High Fidelity.

As Rosedale notes in the quote given earlier in this article, this latest investment in High Fidelity does much to further validate the VR / VW ecosystem as a whole as an investment opportunity. That’s got to be good news for any company working on a new VW platform / environment, and which may want to explore wider options and opportunities for possible funding in the future, even if it’s not necessarily a start-up like High Fidelity.

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Art and artistry: Toysoldier Thor

Toysoldier Thor
Toysoldier Thor

Blogger, activist, supporter of live entertainment, raconteur, content creator – there are many ways in which Toysoldier Thor can be defined. However, the one by which he is perhaps best known is that of artist – and deservedly so.

A resident of Second Life since 2008, Toy works in both 2D and 3D mediums, many of which bridge the physical and virtual “divide” in the most interesting of ways. While his art has been widely exhibited across the grid – and even interpreted through dance – perhaps the best way to become acquainted with his work is by visiting his in-world gallery.

Toysoldier Thor
Toysoldier Thor

It would be easy to attempt witticism by referring to the gallery as his “toybox”,  but it would also be unfair; what is on offer across five floors of viewing rooms is a veritable treasure trove of unique art. All of the pieces on display are available for purchase (and any aficionado of art is going to be hard-pressed not to walk away with one or two purchases); but more to the point, each comes with its one descriptive note card, obtained by touching the work in question.

These cards are well worth reading. Far from being a purely descriptive piece on the art itself, they delve into the history of the work  – the inspiration behind it, the techniques used to produce it, the sources from which Toy drew in developing it, and so on. In this way, the cards not only reveal more about the piece, they allow us to share in the entire creative process, and provide links to influences and so on, thus providing a unique insight into not only Toy’s craft, but also to Toy himself.

Toysoldier Thor
Toysoldier Thor

The uppermost floor of the gallery includes a number of Toy’s mesh sculptures, including the remarkable Shattered. A remarkable and emotive piece Toy has produced as both 2D art in the physical world and a 3D mesh model in Second Life, Shattered and the artist have been engaged on a remarkable journey, further narrowing the perceived divide between the virtual and the physical; the piece first becoming a 3D printed model, and which now looks set to become cast in bronze in the physical world as well (and which you can still pre-order).

It’s actually this element of physical / virtual cross-over that I find really compelling in Toy’s art. By this, I don’t mean how he might use Photoshop or other digital wizardry in order to edit and enhance photos originating from in-world, but how he actually combines virtual and physical world images to create some quite spectacular works of art. As examples of this, I would point visitors to both Assassin’s Prayer and to Death Seer (seen in the above picture, on the right), which are, in a gallery of quite extraordinary art, utterly stunning.

Toysoldier Thor
Toysoldier Thor

Those familiar with toy’s work will need no prompting when it comes to a visit to his gallery. If, however, you’ve not taken the time to pay a visit, then it is well worth adding to your itinerary. Anyone who enjoys and appreciates art in either the virtual or the physical world is unlikely to be disappointed; quite the reverse, in fact.

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