Daily Archives: March 14, 2015

SL projects update week 11/2: TPV Developer meeting + misc news

Armenelos, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr The Shire (Flickr) – blog post

The following notes are primarily taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, March 13th,  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 11 – Recap

As always, please refer to the sever deployment thread for the latest updates and information.

  • There was no Main (SLS) channel deployment on Tuesday, March 10th
  • On Wednesday, March 11th, all three RC channels received the same new server maintenance package comprising “internal improvements for premium users”.

SL Viewer

The Avatar Hover Height viewer reached the release channel on March 10th, with the release of an RC version (3.7.26.299635). Avatar Hover Height allows you to adjust the vertical position of your avatar within some preset limits. See the wiki page and my overview.

This brings the total number of RC viewers in the viewer release channel to four, however:

  • [0:41] It is unlikely the Maintenance RC viewer (currently version 3.7.26.299610, released on March 6th) will be promoted without further update, as it has been found to contain a significant number of additional bugs which require fixing
  • [0:51] As the Avatar Hover Height RC viewer has only just been released, it is unlikely that the Lab will have enough stats on it to judge whether or not it can be promoted to the de facto release viewer in the immediate future; it is therefore likely to remain at RC status for at least another week, although initial reports suggest it is stable and doesn’t hide any unpleasantness
  • [01:07] The back-end support for Experience Keys / Tools still isn’t ready for the service to go live, although the Lab is making further progress with whatever needed to be done; it is therefore remains unlikely the that Experience Keys viewer (currently version 3.8.0.299338, released on March 9th) will be promoted to the de facto release viewer until such time as the remaining back-end work has been completed.

Tools Update Viewer and XP Users

[01:20] This potentially means that the Tools Update RC viewer (currently version 3.7.26.299443, released on March 4th) may be promoted to the de facto release viewer in week #12.

When this happens, it will obviously mean that all future builds of the official viewer will be made using the new tool chain and autobuild process. This in turn means that any Windows version of the viewer built using the new tools set (which includes MS visual Studio 2013)  will not run on any version (32-, or 64-bit) version of Windows XP. To this end, the installer is being set so that it requires a minimum of Windows Vista with Service Pack 2 installed, in order for it to successfully install the viewer.

Note that this is not a deliberate attempt to block XP users from Second Life; it is purely the result of the Lab moving towards the use of up-to-date tools for building the viewer (and which will yield positive benefits elsewhere, such as with greater tool commonality between the Lab and TPVs), and some of these tools do not support windows XP due to its age and it no longer being actively supported by Microsoft.

[16:54] Some TPVs may investigate / opt to build the viewer somewhat manually using the new tool chain in such a way that it can be used on XP, but this is reportedly requires a “very large amount of work” to achieve, requires a lot of command line input, an avoidance of VS 2013, and is “really hacky”.

Project Viewers

  • [03:28] The Viewer-Managed Marketplace project viewer (currently version 3.7.25.298865, released on February 13th) is liable to be updated in week #12 as a result of further fixes and updates that came out of the last round of testing
  • [04:20] The Mesh Importer project viewer (currently version 3.7.25.298441, released on February 3rd), is currently undergoing further update with new fixes and will be updated as a project viewer in the near future.

Avatar Layers Global Limit

Vir Linden - working on the new wearable layers code

Vir Linden – working on the new wearable layers code

[04:41] In response to  BUG-6258, “Popularity of Mesh Attachments Facilitates Need For More Alpha Layers”,  the Lab is working to implement a new “global” limit to the number of system clothing layers an avatar can wear.

Under the current system, there are 12 types of clothing layers or wearables (alpha, tattoo, undershirt, shirt, jacket, underpants, pants, gloves, socks,  skirts, shoes, and physics), with (generally) up to 5 of each type of wearable able to be worn at the same time, giving a maximum of 60 wearables that can worn simultaneously.

Under the new code being developed by Vir Linden, a new “global” limit of 60 wearable layers is being set per avatar, and users will be able to wear any number / combination of layers up to that limit (so you could opt to wear 60 jacket layers if you wanted, or 10 each of alpha, shirt, pants, gloves, jacket and socks, for example).

This update requires changes to both the viewer and to the server-side Appearance (SSA) service. The viewer-side changes are updates to the viewer’s logic, so it is purely checking the number of worn layers against the global limit of 60, rather than limits set for individual layers. The SSA changes will similarly support the new “global” use of clothing layers, but will also continue to support the 5-per-layer limit for viewers that do not adopt the newer code, or require a longer lead time in order to adopt the new viewer code, once it is available, thus providing a measure of “back compatibility”. The viewer code is expected to appear in a project viewer once it, and the back-end changes have cleared the Lab’s QA team.

Group Chat

[09:29]  As noted in my recent updates, changes made to the group change service in the last two weeks unexpectedly resulted in up to 20% of messages failing to be delivered correctly. Simon Linden spent a fair amount of time during week #10 stabilising things and delivering further updates to try to correct the problem. As a result, in what has been called an “educational” two weeks for the Lab, the situation has been largely reversed, although some problems still remain.

The Server Beta User Group meeting on Thursday, March 12th, saw a further set of updates from Simon undergo testing on the Beta grid, and during the TPV Developer meeting on Friday, March 13th, Oz indicated that the Lab will probably undertake a further round of “serious” upgrading of all the technology associated with group chat before they declare the project in any way “finished”. This will likely involve putting the back-end service support group chat on more up-to-date hardware and OS environments.

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Coming back to SL’s Omega Point

Omega Point, Nippon Koku; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr Omega Point (Flickr)

Two of the most fascinating sci-fi  / fantasy builds in Second life for several years were those of Alpha Point and Omega Point, two adjoining regions created and looked after by Masoon Ringo and Sweetlemon Jewell. They were incredible builds, occupying the entire ground level areas of both regions, with multiple additional elements up in the sky.

Such was the beauty of the builds, I wrote about them in 2011 and again 2012, although I don’t feel my images ever really caught their true magnificence, and was disappointed to discover in 2013 that both had gone from SL. I also wasn’t alone in being enthralled with them – Honour McMillan always had been as well. So when she blogged that Sweetlemon was once again building in SL, Maya and I were immediately off to investigate.

Omega Point, Nippon Koku; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr Omega Point (Flickr)

The new Omega Point is smaller than the original, covering a little over 11,500 sq metres of the region of Nippon Koku – but that doesn’t mean it’s any the less fascinating or engaging as the original; quite the reverse. Not only does the new build carry strong echoes of the original whilst also remaining entirely unique to itself, it also appears to offer the outline of a narrative.

Sweetlemon apparently describes the build as a dark fantasy model; Honour refers to it as sci-fi meets medieval. Both are accurate descriptions, but there’s also more here as well; giving it a kind of sci-fi meets middle Earth with a sprinkling of medieval and ancient Egyptian influences (the latter two may not be directly obviously without some exploration.

A work in progress at the time of writing, the build offers cathedral-like structures, both hewn from the living rock. The larger and most obvious of the two (you’ll have to search for the other 🙂 ), offers high, vaulted ceiling supported by great pillars carved with hieroglyphs. Stone fire bowls vie with electric blue lighting throughout this great chamber, where stone stairs climb slowly towards a statue of a warrior maiden. This route to her feet, though straightforward,  is nevertheless fraught with danger, as great lighting bolts periodically arc down from above, scorch marks and burnt remains testament to the unfortunate souls caught unaware by these powerful bursts of energy.

Omega Point, Nippon Koku; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr Omega Point (Flickr)

Outside of this great structure lies more to see, centred on the entwined forms of an elven-like couple, carved in stone, but seemingly set within a stasis field. The plaza around this has been the scene of a bloody fight – possibly with the two horned beasts standing and snorting to one side, while overhead three  strange craft float.

Quite what this all means is up the the visitor to decide – but the narrative is there, ready to be woven into a story of your choice, and more is being added – at least for the present. A great row of towers guarding a walkway sprang up between my first and second visits.

 

Omega Point, Nippon Koku; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr Omega Point (Flickr)

There are many elements in the build which resonate with the original Alpha and Omega Points, including several secrets within the build waiting to be found; one of which in particular will lead to more interesting discoveries, such as the second of the cathedral-like structures, this one with more of a medieval feel. As Honour mentions in her article, look for the stairs to find it.

If you are one of the many of us who were constantly fascinated by, and drawn to, the original Alpha Point and Omega Point, this is a build you’re likely want to visit. And if you’re someone who never had such an opportunity to see the original, here is a chance for you to delve into the imagination of Sweetlemon Jewell.

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Lab calls a halt to the direct exchange of Linden Dollars to other virtual currencies

On Friday, March 13th, Hypergrid Business relayed news that Linden Lab has called a halt to the use of Linden Dollars outside of their own platforms.  The news itself came from the OpenSim based Avination, which has for several years provided the means to exchange Linden Dollars to their own currency (C$) via the use of an in-world ATM mechanism.

In an announcement, which has also been distributed to their users via e-mail, Avination state:  “Due to recent interaction with Linden Labs, we regret having to inform you that the transfer of Linden Dollars to Avination is no longer available, including the payment of your Avination sims via the Avination ATMs.”

The announcement goes on to further read in part:

Following discussions with Linden Labs they have advised that any use of Linden Dollars in payment for currency of ANY other virtual world, or for external services which are not used in SecondLife [sic] is in violation of the TOS …

According to Linden Labs [sic], users of SecondLife [sic] must cash out through LindeX before using real currency to pay for services not rendered within SL.

This move is being linked to matters of potential liability for the Lab. In 2013, the company moved to put greater controls on the re-sale of Linden Dollars through third-party exchanges. At the time, there was a lot of speculation (including my own) as to whether this was in response to FinCEN recommendations or as a more general means of dealing with issues of fraud, etc.

In 2013 the Lab moved to provide greater control over the re-sale of Linden Dollars, including prohibiting third-party exchanges from either buying back L$ amounts from users or providing them with the means to cash-out L$

While the Lab did subsequently allow third-party operations to continue to sell Linden Dollars to users (said L$ having been purchased from the Lab), a prohibition was placed on such operations to either buy L$ amounts from users or cash them out of the platform; a move which allowed the Lab to demonstrate it can effectively monitor and control the outward flow of money from Second Life.

However, it might be said the the use of in-world scripted devices such as “ATMs”, which enable the direct conversion of Linden Dollar values to other virtual currencies which can then be cashed out, potentially gives rise to liability exposure for the Lab, should it be shown that such mechanisms might be used for illegal purposes. Thus, the Lab has made this move to distance itself from such a risk.

In their announcement, Avination also suggest that this move may affect how Second Life users can pay for external services such as audio stream rentals in the future. Whether this is the case or not remains to be seen. Most of these services provide such a payment mechanism through a registered Second Life account, without any supplemental transfer of the value of the payment outside of the platform (the funds can effectively only be cashed-out via the Lab’s LindeX). Thus, there wouldn’t appear to be any issues with services working in this way to continue to do so. However, this is purely speculation on my part, and we’ll have to await official word from the Lab.

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