Daily Archives: July 16, 2016

Creative Inhalations in Second Life

Open through until the end of August at the Paris Metro Art Gallery is Creative Inhalation: Breaking Bad in Frenzyville, featuring the wonderful, whimsical and intriguing art of Molly Bloom.

Noted for her ability to play with our perception of depth by having elements of her images reaching beyond the confines of their picture frame, even to the point of using props completely outside of the picture, Molly’s art is instantly recognisable when encountered in Second Life – and it is always a delight to visit exhibitions of her more recent work, as is the case here.

On display are 22 pictures (23 if you count the superb self-portrait on the upper floor, which makes clever use of one of the gallery’s arched windows), which are split between the two floors of the gallery. Collectively, the exhibition is presented in memory of Molly’s late father, who passed away in May 2016 at the age of 95, with four of the images in particular being dedicated to him.

Not that this is in any way a downbeat exhibition; quite the reverse. As Molly notes, she inherited her sense of humour from her father, and it is much in evidence in many of the pieces displayed here and in a variety of ways, from the subtle, smile-inducing, through to the right-in-you-face-laugh-out-loud. Between these extremes sit the whimsical, the thought-provoking   and – of course – the dedications.

As I noted at the top of this piece, it is always a delight to see Molly’s art in Second Life, and Creative Inhalations: Breaking Bad in Frenzyville is no exception. Do be sure to drop in before the end of August, especially if you’ve not encountered her work before.

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Project Bento User Group update 19 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, July 14th at 13:00 SLT at the the Hippotropolis Campfire Circle . For details on the meeting agenda, 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, grouped together by subject matter were relevant / possible, whilst maintaining the overall context of the meeting.

Viewer Update

The Bento project viewer updated shortly ahead of the meeting to version 5.0.0.317597. This is intended to be the final round of skeleton and slider changes, and as such includes the modifications to the head bones that were previously offered through the experimental viewer, which can be summarised as:

  • A new bone, mFaceJawShaper, intended to resolve issues around the jaw angle (see my Bento update #17 for background)
  • Additional tweaks to existing facial bones
  • Some slider changes.

In addition, the viewer includes the avatar height update referred to in my Bento update #18, although this has been causing some issues, and some quasi-scaling for wings and tails with avatar height.

These latest updates may mean that content built using earlier versions of the skeleton may no longer display correctly in the updated viewer.

With this release, the Lab is not intended to make any further significant changes to the skeleton or sliders, but focus solely on bug fixes and moving the viewer to Release Candidate status. The only exceptions will be if major regressions are found which affect pre-Bento content, or major issues of a similar nature. If such issues are found with the project viewer, the request is to let the Lab know via bug report and forum thread feedback.

There are also updated avatar test models to go with the updated viewer, which can be found on the SL wiki Bento testing page. These also include mesh eyes now that scaling has been added to the eyes.

The hope is that allowing for vacations and there being no significant issues found within the July 14th project viewer, it will move to RC status in August. This may also be dependent on whether or not the Lab an resolve the issue of facial distortions occurring at altitude when software skinning is used, which is still being examined.

The issue of facial distortions at altitude when using software skinning in Bento has yet to be fully resolved (images courtesy of Cathy Foil)

The issue of facial distortions at altitude when using software skinning in Bento has yet to be fully resolved (images courtesy of Cathy Foil)

Should finding a resolution to this issue continue to prove problematic, and providing the issue does not cause performance issues, the Lab might leave it unresolved with the recommendation that creators use hardware skinning, so that the viewer can be promoted to RC status with this flagged as a known issue.

Any progress from RC to release status for the viewer will depend on whether further bugs or issues are found within the Bento viewer, what other RC viewers are in the release channel, what the relative priorities are for the viewers in the release channel in terms of promotion to release status, etc.

Questions were raised in the meeting about making use of the body fat slider with Bento to make for easier weighting of body weights with mesh heads. However, the body fat slider works entirely on morphs, so to be effective with Bento, it would require the addition of additional body joints, which is not on the cards at this point in Bento.

Alt_Eyes

Following the discussion about the Alt_Eye bones, some modifications have been made. In particular, they are now parented to the face root bone, rather than having the same parenting as the original eyes, although they still respond to the same sliders. The viewer has also been updated so that it will animate both sets of eyes consistently (e.g. looking at speakers or other visual targets).

The re-parenting of the alt_eyes is intended to make things eyes for people wishing to use them on non-human avatars. This isn’t as general-purpose as had been hoped (see my update #18), but there were constraints on how the original eyes could be handled for non-human avatars without risk of breaking pre-Bento content, so this route was seen as the best means of presenting people with alternative eye sets, rather than completely re-purposing the alt-eyes.

Rigging to Attachment Points

During the development of Bento, the Lab were introducing validation checks on the simulator side to improve reliability in SL (e.g. checks to ensure animations are what they say they are, further checking of mesh uploads to ensure they can be rendered correctly, etc.). A side effect of these updates would have been that it would no longer be possible to upload mesh items rigged to attach points.

This caused a degree of consternation among content creators (see my SL project update for 2015 week #44), and the decision has now been made not to disable the upload to content weighted to attachment points so as to prevent breakage with existing content (e.g. when issues updates). However, the Lab will not be encouraging people to rig to attachment points.

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SL project updates 16 28/2: TPVD meeting

The majority of the notes in this update are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, July 15th. The video of that meeting is embedded at the end of this update, and references to it are indicated through the use of time stamps in the paragraphs below (note that there were some extended pauses in the meeting where there was no discussion, hence some of the time gaps evident between time stamps, where given). My thanks as always to North for recording and providing it.

Server Deployment – Recap

There was no deployment to the Main (SLS) channel on Tuesday, July 12th.

Wednesday July 13th saw a new server maintenance package deployed to all three RC channels comprising “minor internal changes”. One of these sees worn scripts capped at a count of 2500. Attempts to add attachments which take an avatar over this limit should result in the attachments failing to wear.

There is unlikely to be an RC deployment in week 29 (week commencing Monday, July 18th), although the current RC update should be deployed to the Main (SLS) channel.

SL Viewer

[01:04] The Bento project viewer updated to version 5.0.0.317597 on Thursday, July 14th. This viewer incorporates the changes to the head bones and sliders from the test viewer, and also includes an update for some inconsistencies in avatar height as viewed by self versus others. This is most likely the last iteration of this viewer, prior to it moving to release candidate status.

[00:34] The VLC Media Plugin viewer, version 4.0.6.316258 at the time of writing, should be promoted to release candidate status  “shortly”, pending the fix of a rendering bug.  This viewer had also had fixes for some of the media sound issues which were being experienced.

[02:03] The Visual Outfits Browser viewer, version 4.0.6.316422 dated July 1st at the time of writing, is also awaiting a final bug fix prior to being promoted to RC status.

64-bit Viewers

[02:44 and 18:33] A project version for the 64-bit versions of the official viewer should be appearing “pretty soon”. When these do arrive, the Lab plan to offer Windows in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavours going forward, and Mac as 64-bit only, pretty much as TPVs support 64-bit already do. IF there is a Linux build, then this will also be 64-bit only. The 64-bit versions will also include 64-bit updates to the Havoc sub-libraries as well.

Linux Support

[10:15] As a part of the discussion on SL Voice (see below), Oz re-interated that the Lab will not be directly supporting Linux, but remains willing to accept contributions from TPVs which do support that platform in order to keep the official Linux viewer up-to-date. This is essentially because the effort involved in maintaining a Linux flavour of the viewer when compared to the very small number of Linux users who actually make use of the Lab’s own viewer (overall, Linux users are thought to account for around 1% of the total active user base, many of whom use TPVs).

SL Voice

Voice on Linux

[03:50] Vivox has, for some time, focused updates for the SL Voice package on Windows and Mac, and have ignored Linux. Unfortunately, a recent update from Vivox changed how random handle values in the protocol between the SL Voice package and the viewer are generated, a change which effectively stopped Voice working on Linux (see BUG-20174).

Unfortunately, Vivox have no plans to update their support for Linux, so this is unlikely to be fixed. Some TPVs have therefore been reverting the SL Voice package for their Linux offerings to an early version. Commenting on this, Oz requested that they do not do this for other flavours of their viewers, and noted that even with Linux is not ideal, as the fix actually helps prevent “people subverting the security of your system in really unpleasant ways.” Rather, the suggested approach is for users to run the Windows viewer or the Windows SL Voice package on Linux using Wine.

Voice Support Updates

[07:12 and 13:05] The Lab is engaged in a programme with Vivox to update much of the Voice support. This will involve a new version of SL Voice “pretty soon”. This initial update should be backward compatible on Mac and Windows, allowing TPVs to adopt it, and will include a new codec which should improve the quality of voice for those using the update.

However, further down the road, this programme will include further improvements to Voice security and prevent it being abused, fixing a number of long-standing vulnerabilities. This programme will involve changes to SL Voice package, the viewer, the simulator and the Vivox servers, and due to their nature, they will not be backwards compatible, and viewers not incorporating them – including Linux flavours – will not be able to use Voice(again, running the Windows viewer / Windows SL Voice package under Wine is the suggested route forward for Linux users).

Because of this, the changes will be phased in over a period of time, starting with the viewer changes, and the announcement at the TPV meeting is essentially to put TPVs on notice of what will be happening over the next couple of quarters. Once the viewer  / SL Voice package updates have been adopted by TPVs, the necessary changes to the simulator software and to Vivox’s own servers will be introduced.

Voice Connection Issues

[23:19] BUG-20075 notes an uptick in voice connection failures. These have been noted by the Lab as well, and they are thought to be in part the result of a number of attacks directed at Vivox, which the company has been responding to. The hope is that new monitoring tools within the latest version of SL Voice may help identity further problem areas.