Lab announces new SL Marketplace search now live

secondlifeUpdate: August 16th: Merchants have been reporting a number of reported issues with the new search tool. The Lab has set-up a forum thread for general discussions on issues and problems. If you are experiencing issues with the new MP search, please join the discussion on the forum thread.

If you are noting specific issues which appear to be bugs, the Lab requests you add details to  BUG-37670.When doing so, please provide the following: Affected Field:  (Demo linking, Related Items, Quick Fill, etc.);  Name of Product you are editing:  (What is the name of, or link to, the item listing that you are trying to add a demo or related item); Search Term:  (What is the exact search term you have entered to try to locate the Demo, Related, or Quick Fill Template);  and if possible, provide a screenshot showing the empty search return showing the search text and the lack of results. The exception to this is “Adult rated items that contain profanity”.

On Monday, August 15th, Linden Lab announced the “new” SL Marketplace search is now live.

First issued as a beta test in November 2015, the updated search has been undergoing refinement and improvement (and bug fixing!) since then, hence why it has taken some time to reach a release status.

The new search mechanism is designed to address some of the shortfalls inherent in searching for listings and products on the Marketplace, which can often by a frustrating and time-consuming, as anyone who has used it will be able to attest.

To achieve this, it is said to be a complete step away from the older infrastructure supporting Marketplace search, with the new system hopefully being faster and more robust. In particular, the Lab point to it having a learning algorithm intended to improve search results over time – essentially, the more search is used, the better it performs. The new search also supports the use of boolean operators – AND, OR, NOT – so users can hopefully set-up more focused search criteria.

During testing, the Lab took feedback from merchants and users into account, using it to further refine and improve the new system. This obviously doesn’t mean it is flawless, but the hope is the overall experience will be improved, and will continue to improve over time. Should anyone encounter significant bugs or issues, they are asked to file a bug report. There is also a pinned Commerce Forum thread where general discussions might be continued.

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2016 viewer release summaries: week 32

Updates for the week ending Sunday, August 14th

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version: 4.0.7.318301 (dated dated August 8), promoted August 11 – formerly the Maintenance RC viewer download page, release notes
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • No updates.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V4-style

V1-style

  • Cool VL viewer Stable branch updated to version 1.26.18.19 and the Experimental branch updated to version 1.26.19.21, both on August 13th (release notes)

Mobile / Other Clients

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Quill and Pen: Second Life authors and poets now in ebooks

Click image to open Quill and Pen volume 1
Click image to open Quill and Pen volume 1

In June, Kultivate Magazine published the first volume of Quill and Pen, a new twice-yearly publication focusing on the work of writers and poets from across Second Life.

Quill and Pen features short stories (including flash stories), non-fiction and poetry, and is published each June and December.

The journal was initially made available through the Kultivate Magazine website in Issuu format, and via Smashwords in epub, PDF and Mobi / Kindle formats. However, as of August 15th, 2016, it is also available in  Kobo, Scribd and Nook formats.

The in augural volume features contributions by R. Crap Mariner, Eleseren Brianna, Glitterprincess Destiny, Kamille Kamala, Dawnbeam Dreamscape, Sabreman Carter, BayJoy, Judith Cullen aka Caledonia Skytower, Huckleberry Hax, Hobby Writer, Journey McLaglen aka Cindy Landers, Bryn Oh, Inara Pey, Ahn Avion, Pieni Resident, and John Herring aka Johannes1977 Resident.

I’m especially please and privileged to be a part of this newest publication in the Kultivate  portfolio, and doubly delighted to have witnessed the strong show of support for the first volume from the writing community in Second Life.

Where to Get It

If you’ve not already done so, you can read Quill and Pen, for free by either clicking on the cover image above right to open the Issuu version in your web browser, or by following one of the links below, according to your preference:

Submissions to Quill and Pen

The Quill and Pen is published twice yearly, in June and December. If you would like to see your work published, free of charge, submission in the following categories are accepted:

  • Poems: one poem per page, single spaced and left justified, maximum of six pages
  • Non-fiction: one essay up to 1500 words, double spaced, no extra space between paragraphs, white space for section breaks only
  • Flash stories: up to 500 words, double spaced, no extra space between paragraphs. White space for section breaks only
  • Fiction: one story up to 1500 words, double spaced, no extra space between paragraphs. White space for section breaks only.

Submissions must be made via the Kultivate Quill and Pen submissions form, which will be opened for a period of time prior to each publication. So, keep an eye on Kultivate Magazine (and this blog!) for announcements, and in the meantime start thinking about what you’d like to write, or dig out those stories or poems and get them ready to submit for publication!

Space Sunday: exoplanets, greenhouses and meteors

Sunset on an alien world: an artist's impression of sunset on an Earth-like planet orbits our nearest stellar neighbour, Proxima Centauri (seen closest, left), with Alpha Centauri A and B shining in the distance - story below
Suns over an alien world: an artist’s impression of the view from an “Earth-like” planet orbits our nearest stellar neighbour, Proxima Centauri (seen closest, left), with Alpha Centauri A and B shining in the distance – story below. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Last week I reported on the latest issue to strike NASA’s Kepler mission to survey other stars for signs of planets orbiting them. On July 28th, during routine communications with the observatory – which is following the Earth around the Sun roughly 121 million kilometres (75 million miles) “behind” the planet – it was discovered the photometer, the camera-like tool used to detect alien planets, had been turned off.

Power was restored to the unit on August 1st, but engineers were still mystified as to why it had turned off in the first place. Communications with the observatory on Thursday, August 11th, confirmed the photometer was still active and Kepler was gathering data, allowing the engineering team to focus on a possible cause for the unit powering off.

The Photometer includes a curved focal plane of 42 charge-coupled devices (CCDs) arranged within 25 individual modules. One of these modules – Module #7 – suffered a power overload in January 2014, disabling it. Most crucially, the failure prompted the photometer unit to power itself off – just as appeared to have happened shortly before July 28th, 2016, suggesting the most recent issue could also be related to the focal plane.

Kepler's focal plane, showing its array of 25 modules, being assembled at Ball Labs prior to Kepler's launch in 2009
Kepler’s focal plane, showing its array of 25 modules, being assembled at Ball Labs prior to Kepler’s launch in 2009

Analysis of the data received following the restoration of power to the photometer reveals that another module, Module #4,  had failed to warm up to the required operating temperature, strongly suggesting it has also failed, and thus triggered the power-down.

As a result, the science and engineering team responsible for the mission have determined that the targets that were assigned to Module #4 will yield no further science results, but this should not impact Kepler’s overall science campaign, which is expected to continue through until 2019, by which time all no-board fuel reserves will have been depleted, and much of Kepler’s work will have been taken over by the James Webb Space Telescope and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), examined in my previous Space Sunday column.

An “Earth-Type” World Just 4.2 Light Years Away?

Kepler has detected over 4,000 exoplanet candidates, of which around 216 have been shown to be both roughly terrestrial in size and form, and located within the “Goldilocks Zone” (or more formally the circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ) or habitable zone) around their parent star – the region at which planetary conditions could be “just right” for life to arise. Unfortunately, most of these planets are a very long way away. Kepler 425b, for example, regarded as Earth’s (slightly bigger) “cousin”, and the first exoplanet to be confirmed to be orbiting in its star’s habitable zone, is some 1,400 light years away.

However, Kepler is not alone in the hunt for extra-solar planets. Observatories here on Earth are also engaged in the work, both in support of Kepler by undertaking detailed follow-up examinations of candidate stars, and also as part of their own programmes. A recent article in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine now claims that one of these, the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO)  La Silla faclity, has found an “Earth-like” planet very much closer to home.

Quoting an alleged member of the ESO team, Der Spiegel states the new planet is orbiting Proxima Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbour, a mere 4.25 light years away, and which can be seen in the southern hemisphere night skies. A red dwarf low-mass star roughly one-seventh the diameter of our Sun, or just 1.5 times bigger than Jupiter, it is thought to be gravitationally bound to the Alpha Centauri binary system of stars, frequently the subject of science-fiction stories down through the decades.

The Alpha Centauri system seen through a modest telescope. At the top, slightly left of centre is the Sun-like Alpha Centauri A, to the upper right is the K1 V Alpha Centauri B. The red circle denotes tiny Proxima Centauri
The Alpha Centauri system seen through a modest telescope. At the top, slightly left of centre is the Sun-like Alpha Centauri A, to the upper right is the K1 V Alpha Centauri B. The red circle denotes tiny Proxima Centauri

Given the two primary stars in the Alpha Centauri system are broadly similar to our own Sun  – Alpha Centauri A particularly so – and both are slightly older (around 4.85 billion years), the system has been a frequent subject for study, with the potential for either star to have planetary bodies orbiting it, or given the two stars orbit one another every 79.91 terrestrial years at a distance roughly equivalent to that between the Sun and Uranus, quite possibly around both of them. In fact, two recent papers have suggested two planets orbiting Alpha Centauri B. The first, from 2012, was subsequently dismissed as a spurious data artefact. The  second, from 2015, has yet to be confirmed.

So far, ESO representatives have refused to confirm or deny the Der Spiegel article, or whether an announcement on the matter will be made at the end of August as the magazine claims.  This has been taken by some as tacit confirmation of the discovery, and others that the data – if true – is still being verified. If the latter is the case, some caution at ESO is understandable: the La Silla Observatory was responsible for announcing the 2012 discovery of “Alpha Centauri Bb”, which as noted above, turned out to be a data anomaly.

Some are outright sceptical of the article, pointing out that Proxima Centauri has long been the subject of exoplanet searches by both observatories on Earth and the Hubble Space Telescope, and nary a hint of another other body, large or small, orbiting it has been found.

As a dwarf star – one of the smallest known – Proxima Centauri is also somewhat volatile, with about 88% of the surface active (far more than the Sun’s), and is completely convective, giving rise to massive stellar flares. While this doesn’t out the potential for planets to be orbiting it, the fact that the star’s habitable zone is between 3.5 and 8 million kilometres from its surface, any planet within that zone would be tidally locked to Proxima Centauri, leaving one side in perpetual daylight and the other in perpetual night, with the risk that any atmosphere would be stripped away over the aeons by the stellar flares. So even if the Der Spiegel article is confirmed, it would seem the planet might still be a pretty inhospitable place, even if it is within the Goldilocks zone.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: exoplanets, greenhouses and meteors”