SL project updates 45/2: TPV Developer meeting

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint Michel

The following notes are primarily taken from the TPV Developer (TPVD) meeting held on Friday, November 6th 2015. A video of the meeting is included at the end of this report, and time stamps to it are provided. My thanks as always to North for the video recording and providing it for embedding.

Server Deployments Week 45 – Recap

  • On Tuesday, November 3rd, the Main (SLS) channel received the server maintenance package previously deployed to BlueSteel and LeTigre, comprising a simulator crash fix
  • On Wednesday, November 4th, all three RC channel received a new server maintenance package comprising a fix for group invite throttle notifications, and an internal server code clean-up.

Following the main channel deployment, issues were variously reported with llHTTPRequest returning NULL_KEY even when it should not be throttled (see BUG-10627). The issue was initially noted with skill gaming mechanisms, but has also been encountered by those using Sculpt Studio, and reportedly with breedable systems.

SL Viewer Updates

[0:20] A further Maintenance RC viewer due to be released in week #46, which includes a range of fixes, including some for the regressions present within the current de facto release viewer (version 3.8.6.305981).

It currently appears that the next viewer promotion to release status will either be this maintenance viewer or the HTTP viewer – however the promotion is unlikely to occur in week #46, due to the Maintenance RC only just having been released and because the HTTP viewer his a number of issues to be resolved – see below.

Quick Graphics RC Viewer

[0:35] There are still issues with this viewer which although described as “nothing terrible” in the Lab’s view, are sufficient to prevent its promotion in the immediate future.

HTTP (Project Azumarill) RC Viewer

[1:04] There are a number of issues which have been identified by both the Lab and reported by users which are sufficient to block the promotion of this viewer to release status. One of these is an increased number of viewer disconnects on teleporting. The causing of this is proving elusive as it seem to only occur for some people with others never encountering issues. Other significant reported issues include:

  • BUG-10230 – Voice often fails to connect on the Azumarill viewer
  • BUG-10391 – Avatar often bakes fails on Azumarill.

CEF (Project Valhalla) Project Viewer

[1:19] The Chromium Embedded Framework viewer is performing well on Windows in the Lab’s estimation, and is getting “really close” on the Mac. The hope is that this viewer will progress from project status to a release candidate “pretty soon”.

[16:40] There have been some reports of issues with this viewer, including BUG-10598, logged out when tping from one LM to another, which is likely related to the disconnect issues being experienced with the HTTP viewer (both the HTTP viewer and the CEF viewer are closely related).

[17:25] There has been a report of “major” HTML video performance issues (see BUG-10558). However, running 30+ YouTube videos via HTML 5 in a single location is viewed by the Lab as possibly excessive and, as noted on the JIRA, the problem hasn’t been easy to reproduce and the video footage supplied might suggest a problem other than simply with running multiple HTML 5 videos.

Vivox Project Viewer

[1:44] A new project viewer, version 3.8.7.307189, was released on Friday, November 6th. The Vivox project viewer should correct a number of Voice quality and connection issues on both Windows and the Mac.

The Lab requests that anyone who has experience Voice issues to try this viewer, and if it does not resolve their issues to raise a JIRA, being sure to cite this viewer’s version number in the report. Those failing to indicate they have tried the project viewer are liable to be asked to do so, simply because Vivox has asked the Lab not to forward bug reports to them unless they have been tested against the Vivox package included in this viewer. For a list of fixes, please refer to the release notes in the above link.

Simulator Behaviour Changes

Attachment Point Validation

[30:15] As noted in the last TPVD meeting in October, the Lab are shifting a number of validation checks from the viewer to the simulator. One of these is attachment point validation checks, which will mean that attachments attempting to fix itself to an invalid attachment point ID will be attached to the chest by the simulator.

Mesh Upload Validation Checks

[31:15] A further simulator-side check the Lab has been considering would prevent the upload of animations and meshes weighted to valid attachment points. The Lab have been discussing this given the feedback given in October (see also FIRE-17144 and BUG-10543 for feedback as well), and have decided to investigate options further rather than implementing any immediate changes. However, they do note that there is no guarantee the ability to upload meshes weighted in this way will continue in the future.

[32:05] The Lab has made it clear what will be implemented in the near future is a simulator validation check to prevent the upload of animation or mesh items weighted to use joints  /attachment points which are not a part of the recognised set of avatar joints.

Other Items

Gateway API

[22:20] An issue has emerged around the upcoming gateway trial programme which is loosely connected to the avatar updates mentioned above. The new avatars (mesh and “Classic”) are only available via the Lab’s “new” registration API. Currently, the API presented to gateways is the older version, which relies on the default Character Test avatar.

As noted at the TPVD meeting, this could be immediately off-putting to new users entering Second Life through the new trial gateways. However, the Lab appears to be “pretty close” to being able to switch the gateway SPI to using the newer set-up – and this may be one of the reasons the trail gateway programme hasn’t as yet been officially announced.

Firestorm Release

Not directly related to news from the Lab, but the next release of the Firestorm viewer should be around Monday, November 16th or Tuesday, November 17th. However there are still dependencies on this, and it is not a hard set of dates.

VWBPE 2016: Call for Proposals and Thinkerer Award Nominations

via vwbpe.org

The 9th annual  Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference was recently announced, together with a call for proposals.

Scheduled to take place between Wednesday, March 9th, 2016 and Saturday, March 12th, 2016 inclusive, VWBPE is a global grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments which attracts 2200-3500 educational professionals from around the world each year.

In the context of the conference, a “virtual world” is an on-line community through which users can interact with one another and use and create ideas irrespective of time and space. As such, typical examples include Second Life, OpenSimulator, Unity, World of Warcraft, Eve Online, and so on, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or any virtual environments characterised by an open social presence and in which the direction of the platform’s evolution is manifest in the community.

via vwbpe.org
via vwbpe.org

The call for proposals invites educators and those involved in the education sector or offering support to that sector are asked to reflect on work and their accomplishments within the context of the conference, and consider submitting a proposal and sharing their work with the wider education community:

Educators and communities of practice who use virtual worlds are trend setters–pioneers in a virtual landscape of possibilities. To you, the next horizon is the next opportunity for change, for innovation, and for exploration. It is the next opportunity to offer a paradigm shift, and to chart unexplored lands for the newcomers, the intrepid following in your footsteps, and the curious seeking to find new opportunities and new ways of thinking.

This year there will only be one call, and only one call, for proposals, so get them in by no later than January 17, 2016. This is a hard, no-extensions, deadline. Don’t get left out! 

The full Call for Proposals guidelines can be found  on the VWBPE website, and as noted above, the deadline for submissions is Sunday, January 17th, 2016.

Thinkerer Award Nominations

Thinkerer-1
via VWBPE.org

In addition, on Saturday, November 7th the VWBPE organisers announced the opening of nominations for the 2016 Thinkerer Award.

The award is for lifetime achievement rather than for a single contribution, and is presented to an individual whose deeds and actions have shown consistent selfless service towards the promotion of learning, community, and educational practices, and who exemplifies the spirit of cooperative development within immersive environments.

Those wishing to nominate someone they believe deserves to be recognised for their contribution to the field of education and immersive environments should review and complete the  nomination criteria and submission form.

All nominations should be received by Sunday, February 7th, 2016. The final selection of the award recipient will be conducted by the VWBPE Organizational Committee by Sunday February 21st, 2016 and will be announced publicly during the conference closing ceremonies on Saturday, March 12th, 2016.

Related Links

A look at the new “Classic” avatars for Second Life

secondlifeReader Besedka gave me a poke about the Lab releasing a new set of Classic avatars for Second Life on Friday, November 6th.

The release, which came with a blog post from the Lab, see the avatars which use the default avatar mesh and system layer clothing completely overhauled and replaced with a new set of very modern looking avatars (in terms of their dress and style).

In all there are 16 revamped avatars, which sees the set make use of fitted mesh items and presents them with looks many might find not only an improvement on the older “Classic” avatar looks, but also on the mesh versions launched in May 2014. That said, having tried several, I do feel some are perhaps oddly proportioned; “Shawna” in particular came over as a tad elongated when I tried her.

The new
The new “Classic” avatars, featuring mesh attachments, are available to new users signing-up for Second Life …

The avatars are available to those signing-up to Second Life on the avatar picker when setting-up their accounts, and from the Choose and Avatar option of the Me / Avatar menu option in v3 viewers. Once you’ve obtained one of them, it will appear in your Inventory under the Clothing folder and identified by the name assigned to the look.

Avatar Complexity reveals the avatars to be reasonably lightweight
Avatar Complexity reveals the avatars to be reasonably lightweight

A further update with these avatars is they dispense with the infamous duck walk, replacing it with something that works reasonably well, together with a series of male or female AO poses which appear to be “built-in rather than reliant upon a HUD. They work reasonably well, although I found the female one a little jerky in the transitions between some poses.  They also avoid the hiccup made when launching the fully mesh avatars: these new avatars are properly modifiable.

The Lab’s blog post refers to these avatars are being “more performant”. Checking some of them out against the Quick Graphics RC viewer’s Avatar Complexity capability revealed that have reasonably low ratings, so they shouldn’t offer any major hindrance to those viewing them on lower specification systems.

The demographic represented by the new set remains fairly typical – they all appear to be relatively youthful, perhaps no older than their mid-30s. However, given the general age range of new users signing-up to Second Life, which the Lab has in the past stated has moved more towards the 20-somethings in recent years, this isn’t that surprising. And while it may sound ageist, It also means the avatars have a level of attractiveness around them which is perhaps more enticing to people signing-up to SL that offering a much broader range of ages.

My “Crash Test Alt” finally gets a fresh look (left) – the “Shawna” avatar, with my skin and shape. Now actually looks more like my twin 🙂

All told, it’s good to see the “Classic” range of avatars updated in this way. The looks are fresh and clean, and – dare I say it – streets ahead of the mesh avatars in overall appearance, none of which I found particularly appealing in either looks or apparel.

These new avatars however, look pretty sharp (speaking as someone yet to swap to mesh bodies, etc). So much so, they they’ve finally encouraged me to give my Crash Test Alt a change of clothing after seven years! She’s now using the “Shawna” outfit and hair (but with her own shape and skin), and looks pretty good.