Walking by Moonlight in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Moonlight
Cica Ghost: Moonlight

And if you’re ever feeling lonely just look at the moon,
Someone, somewhere is looking right at it too.

So goes the little verse which has found its way into all corners of the Internet over the last few years, and now frames Cica Ghost’s latest full region installation, Moonlight, which opened on Thursday, April 14th, replacing Strawberryland (which you can read about here).

This is another wonderfully evocative piece guaranteed to delight the eye and tickle the imagination. Sandwiched between teal sea and sky upon a rocky island thatched with tall stalks of wind-blown grass, sits a quintet of Cica’s quirky narrow houses. Immediately recognisable, they give an instant feeling of familiarity to admirers of Cica’s work, together with a suggestion of continuity with some of her earlier pieces.

Cica Ghost: Moonlight
Cica Ghost: Moonlight

This is a place wrapped in magic: a crescent Moon reclines overhead, eyes closed as if asleep, kept company by a little gathering of pulsating stars which add their light to the landscape below.

Nor is the Moon the only one caught in slumber: across the rooftops of the houses stand night-gowned figures, eyes closed, their presence apparently the result of sleepwalking. Below them, stardust drifts over the surrounding grass and between the houses, perhaps the cause of all this slumber.

Cica Ghost: Moonlight
Cica Ghost: Moonlight

While the little verse tells us that when lonely, we need only look at the Moon and know we’re sharing the view with another, somewhere, one little girl has taken things a step further. She has managed to cross the gap between her rooftop and the Moon, and now sits upon his chin as he sleeps, her head bowed even as her faithful cat attempts to gain her attention.

The cat appears to be one of only two inhabitants of the island to be awake; the other being a gangly giraffe ambling incongruously allow the shoreline, somnambulant residents oblivious to its presence.

Cica Ghost: Moonlight
Cica Ghost: Moonlight

Should you find the stardust drifting through the region causes a little drowsiness, or if exploring the hamlet and the surrounding landscape leaves you a little tired, you can always hop onto one of the beds which drift through the air, some perhaps escaped from the houses after their erstwhile occupants found their way to the rooftops. With both sitting and reclined poses, the beds offer a relaxing way to drift across the landscape and enjoy all it has to offer.

I’ve always enjoyed filming Cica’s work, and while time doesn’t always permit me the luxury of doing so, Moonlight brought to mind the lyrics of Rogers and Hart’s 1934 song Blue Moon, together with Cybill Shepherd’s rendition of the song from 1985. So once that was in my head, I had to put a little film together. I hope you enjoy it :).

SLurl Details

Advertisements

QuickTime for Windows: “uninstall today”

Apple has deprecated QuickTime for Windows, but critical vulnerabilities remain unpatched
Apple has deprecated QuickTime for Windows, but critical vulnerabilities remain unpatched

On April 14th news broke via Trend Micro security that Apple is deprecating support for QuickTime for Windows, despite the fact there are two critical vulnerabilities affecting the package, both of which were identified by Trend Micro under their Zero Day Initiative (ZDI), which will not be patched by Apple despite the fact information on both vulnerabilities, as specified in Trend Micro advisories ZDI-16-241 and  ZDI-16-242 being passed to Apple in November 2015.

As a result of these vulnerabilities, which could leave Windows systems vulnerable to hijacking – although Trend Micro stress that there is no evidence so far of either being actively exploited – is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows (QuickTime for OSX is not affected).

The advice on uninstalling has most notably come from Trend Mirco, with the call being repeated across other on-line tech media, such as eWeek and The Register.  Apple apparently opted to take the route of deprecating in March 2016 – but hasn’t really gone out of its way to really tell QuickTime for Windows users it is doing so, as ExtremeTech points out: the QuickTime for Windows landing page doesn’t reflect the status of the software, but simply references the “more secure” January update, while the Apple software update tool still pushed QuickTime at Windows users.

QuickTimeis still widely used in Second Life for the shared viewing of streamed media, notably in cinemas across the grid
QuickTime is still widely used in Second Life for the shared viewing of streamed media, notably in cinemas across the grid (credit: Crap Mariner)

Obviously, the advisory is something all Windows users should heed. With or without the current ZDI vulnerabilities, the application has reached the end of its supported life. However, as Crap Mariner has been pointing out, there are still media systems which utilise QuickTime for streaming into Second Life, many within public cinemas across the grid. While it might be argued has to how widely such facilities are used, the Trend Micro advisory does heighten the need for in-world systems reliant on QuickTime to be updated  / replaced.

Project Bento User Group update 11 with audio

Project Bento – extending the SL avatar skeleton
Project Bento – extending the SL avatar skeleton

The following notes and audio were taken from the weekly Bento User Group meeting, held on Thursday, April 14th at 13:00 SLT on Aditi. For details on each meeting and the location, please refer to the Bento User Group wiki page.

Note that this update is not intended to offer a full transcript of the meeting, nor does it present the discussion points in chronological order. Rather, it represents the core points of discussion to Project Bento, grouped together by subject matter were relevant / possible.

Viewer Status

A new version of the project viewer arrived on Thursday, April 14th. Version 5.0.0.313876 brings with it:

  • Addition of a mFaceChin bone to the face to support the use of appearance sliders
  • Addition of “Left Hind Foot” and “Right Hind Foot” attachment points
  • Added or improved support for a large number of sliders,  notably those for the avatar shape.

As previously noted, the slider support means that many of the Edit Appearance sliders will work with both the original avatar form (using morphs) and with mesh avatars utilising the Bento skeleton. This means that height can be adjusted via the sliders, the face can be adjusted (eye or mouth position, nose and chin shape, etc.). However, musculature changes are not supported as there are insufficient bones available to properly support this.  The update also includes a number of bug fixes, including one for some graphics glitches in the mesh upload preview.

Unless serious problems are encountered when using this version of the viewer, there are no plans to make further changes to either the skeleton or the sliders going forward, and the emphasis on viewer work will primarily be on bug fixing.

The humanoid avatar models on the Bento testing wiki page should also be updated to reflect these changes, and Avatar should have an update to match the skeleton shortly (if not already available).

Sliders and Animations

A point of note with linking the appearance sliders to the Bento bones is that they can change both the position and the scale of the linked bones. Any changes made using them may therefore clash with animations used within the avatar to also reposition the same bones, or may have an impact as a result of the scaling being changed via slider adjustments (Second Life currently doesn’t support the ability for animators to control bone scaling themselves). How to limit the impact of this when users are changing their avatar shapes may be an issue, although initial testing suggests that using bone rotations on those bones which are linked to the shape sliders can reduce the impact of conflicts.

The lack of bone scaling within the SL animation system is recognised by the Lab as a limitation, but is seen as being a separate project, were it to be addressed in the future, rather than something directly encompassed by Bento, due to the amount of work involved in defining the necessary tracks to manage scaling and extending the format for how scaling data is stored and represented.

Moving to Agni

The Lab is still looking to move Bento to the main grid (Agni) during the second quarter of 2016. The final time frame hasn’t been determined, but there may be more on this at the next meeting, however it is likely to be sooner rather than later. This means that the Lab will be focused on resolving the more major / obvious bugs people are currently experiencing and will be looking for feedback on experiences with the latest version of the project viewer ASAP.

Arrival on Agni won’t signify the end of the project, but it will mean that creators will be able to upload and test content on the main grid, and more users will obviously be able to see Bento content. The project will likely be promoted by the Lab through blog posts and videos, and they will be inviting people to submit their own Bento videos and content.  Details on how to get involved in this will likely be discussed at the next Bento project meeting.

It has been suggested that once Bento has been moved to Agni, the Mesh Dev in-world group becomes the medium for handling Bento related general discussions and information exchange for content creators, rather than establishing a dedicated in-world group.

Other Items

Partial Joint Offsets / Overrides

There has been some discussion on the forums concerning partial overrides and best practices with regards to the Bento skeleton, and Vir has offered some thoughts on the matter. Some problems have been encountered in using some of the bones within “worn” pets, with offsets with these bones appearing to affect others in the skeleton. However, further investigation is required to determine whether this is a potential issue, or possibly a problem within the models being used.

Issues

  • Odd deformations seen in the Bento viewer: Medhue's fly should be standing on all six legs, not standing upright
    Odd deformations seen in the Bento viewer: Medhue’s fly should be standing on all six legs, not standing upright

    Deformations: avatars are sometimes still being seen as deformed by some using the Bento viewer (prior to the latest release). The issue is still being looked into by the Lab as to potential cause or causes

  • Spine Joints: the added spine joints are proving difficult to use in some cases – snakes and similar are proving difficult to animate
  • “idle” animation state: when transitioning between animations, or when ending an animation, the default animation system uses an “idle” animation (e.g. if an animation generates a look of surprise on an avatar’s face, the “idle” animation will return the expression back to a neutral look when the animation stops running). However, because the default system is unaware of the Bento bones, then these “idle” animations get ignored (so that the avatar’s face remains stuck with the surprised look, for example, or a transition between animation states fails to ease-in / ease-out correctly). To avoid this, one suggestion has been to encourage animators to explicit set their own “idle” animation.

While not directly related to Bento, a long-standing issue was raised at the meeting: that of the default walk failing to play under a variety of circumstances (running an animation unrelated to walking / crossing from one region to another / wearing something / etc), with the result that the avatar appears to “slide” over the ground. While long-standing, it appears a JIRA has never been raised against it, so a request has been made for one to be raised so that the Lab can dig into things outside of Bento.