2016 SL project updates 33 (2): server, viewer, Bento update 23

West of the Rain; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr West Of The Rainblog post

My apologies for the latest of this update. Working on my recent Sansar Summary pushed this update completely out of my mind!

Server Deployments – Recap

There were no deployments to the Main (SLS) channel or the RC channels this week. It is currently “doubtful” there will be an RC deployment next week – although this may change. A contributing reason for the slowdown is that the Lab is currently focused on server-side operating system upgrades.

SL Viewer

The Visual Outfits Browser RC viewer updated on August 17th. Version sees the viewer merged to the current release viewer code, and the following additional updates:

  • A fix for Outfit Gallery failing to use local files Select Photo Picker
  • A fix for Snapshot preview being corrupted
  • A fix for a crash in the viewer when using the snapshot preview.

All other official viewers remain as per my Current Viewer Release List.

Project Bento

The following notes were taken from the weekly Bento User Group meeting, held on Thursday, August 18th 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. No audio is supplied, as the meeting was fairly short and sharp, without a major amount of discussion.

SLM Files

SLM files are produced alongside of the Mesh .DAE files. They can be a problem as by default, the official viewer is set to check for any existing SLM file when uploading a mesh model, and this can lead to confusion when trying to fix issues by overwriting the original .DAE, only to have the viewer reference the existing SLM file, either causing problems on upload or giving the impression the issues in the model haven’t actually been fixed.

Firestorm has always avoided this by having the debug setting MeshImportUseSLM set to FALSE by default, and the suggestion going forward is for the official viewer to do them same.

Mesh Distortions with Altitude

The issue of facial distortions with altitude when software skinning is used continues to prove difficult to resolve. The general recommendation is to use hardware skinning (my Bento Update #19). The root cause of the problem appears to be a floating point error which can affect any mesh. The Lab is still looking at it, but given there is a workaround by using hardware skinning, the problem is not seen as a major blocker.

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)

Proposals for NOT Having Mesh Influenced by Sliders

There have been requests to not have the avatar bones influenced by the shape sliders (i.e. by a creator optionally locking both the scale and position of a joint). The Lab is looking at this, but if any work is done, it will not be prior to the Bento viewer reaching release candidate status. Whether anything may be done was the RC version of the viewer progresses towards release (the work is not seen as a huge amount of effort), or whether it is a piece of “post-Bento” work is still to be decided.

Avatar Test Files

Cathy foil has now updated the Maya male and female avatar models on the Bento Test wiki page so they match the latest Bento skeleton updates (as of August 17th, 2016). Then both utilise the same (female) skeleton, the male version have a male mesh / morphs applied. Cathy has used the Avatar Bento angel weights and apply them to the models, so the faces and fingers are all fully rigged, although both are sans wings and tails.

Cathy will be making a set of .FBX files of the models, which will also be placed on the Bento Test page when available, for those who are not using tools such as 3D Studio Max for their work.

Elizabeth Jarvinen (polysail) is also working on a tool for 3D Studio. Max which is intended to provide a second means of producing animations / meshes etc that isn’t reliant upon Blender / Avastar. However, this requires a considerable amount of work, not least in providing slider support, and Elizabeth has received offers of assistance from Vir and Cathy, who will also see about having the AvaStar team lend assistance.

Rigs Modifying Collision Volumes

As noted in my Bento update #22, recent reports of people encountering problems with Bento rigs which modify collision volumes (see here for details). As noted in that  update, this was not something that the Lab planned on supporting, particularly as it did not come up during the initial Bento development meetings with creators.

However, and as further indicated in my update #22 (with thanks to Whirly Fizzle), an update will be included in the next project viewer release for Bento which should hopefully fix the issues being encountered.

Release Progress

There has been a lot of questioning over the Bento release time frames recently, both within the Bento user group meetings and elsewhere (e.g. at TPVD meetings). Currently the plan is to get a further project viewer released in the near-term (possibly before the end of August), and then progress to release candidate status from there.

However, time frames beyond that become nebulous, because the Bento viewer, as a release candidate, will be vying for release alongside other RC viewers, some of which may have a higher priority, some of which may need to be issued in sequence, or have other pressures, and so predicting a date when Bento will be the de facto release viewer is difficult to predict.

This is further exacerbated by the fact the recent changes and requirements have required extensive updates to  AvaStar, much of which is still work-in-progress (see my Bento updates #22 and #21 for more). Once completed, this work will require further testing in order to confirm any problems within AvaStar are resolved, and any remaining issues (if uncovered) are viewer related, rather than external tools related. Then over and above this, there is the list of existing Bento issues which needs to be worked through, depending on the severity of the problems reported.

That said, it would appear the overall hope is to get Bento formally released before the end of 2016.

Sleuths, Tudors, Norwegian-Americans and Jedis

It’s time to kick-off a week of story-telling in voice, brought to our virtual lives by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, August 21st, 13:30: Tea Time at Baker Street

Tea-time at Baker Street returns for the summer, featuring a new location – 221B Baker Street at the University of Washington iSchool in Second Life, and a return to His Last Bow.

A 1917 anthology of previously published Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the volume originally comprised seven stories published by The Strand Magazine between 1908 and 1917. However, later editions of the book saw an eighth story included, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, originally published in 1892.

But this week, we come to Holmes’ final adventure before retirement proper and bee keeping beckon, in the titular story of this volume of Doyle’s works.

The year is 1914, and Britain stands on the brink of war. In England, Von Bork, a German agent, has been gathering a vast amount of military intelligence over a period of four years. With his family already safely returned to Germany, he is now awaiting the arrival of his star agent with one more piece of information prior to making his own return home where he is assured he will be greeted as a hero.

His informant, an Irish-American by the name of Altamont who has been working for Von Bork for two years, duly arrives at his home that night, bearing the precious information. With their agreed exchange made, Von Bork takes the package Altamont present to him, the final piece of military intelligence Von Bork desires: the Admiralty’s latest signal codes. Could it be that all of Britain’s military secrets are about to be laid bare to a country that will likely be her greatest enemy come the outbreak of war in Europe?

Monday August 22nd:  The Lost Tudor Princess

Caledonia Skytower reads selections from Alison Weir ‘s biography of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, favourite niece of Henry VIII of England, and the daughter of Margaret Tudor, Dowager Queen of Scotland through her second marriage to the 6th Earl of Angus.

Lost PrincessBorn in October 1515, Margaret grew up in exceptional circumstances to become an exceptional woman. She joined the household of her Godfather, Cardinal Wolsey, grew up with Mary Tudor (who became Mary 1st of England after Henry’s death), joined Anne Boleyn’s court as a lady-in-waiting. At one point, she was next in line of succession to the throne upon Henry’s death, the king having declared both his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, as bastards.

Margaret herself was often at the centre of intrigue and plotting – her skill for politics doubtless inherited from her mother, who was well-versed in the art of intrigue. Like her mother, Margaret was also subject to the demands of her heart, and this, together with her head for intrigue, landed her in the Tower of London no fewer than three times.

The first of these occurred under Henry VIII’s rule of England, and resulted from Margaret following her heart and seeking betrothal without royal permission. Her second and third visits to the Tower came under Elizabeth I’s reign, when Margaret’s intrigues, each involving her sons, Henry, Lord Darnley Stuart, and Charles, 1st Earl of Lennox, would be seen as a threat to the English throne. Nevertheless she survived all three incarcerations, and  her diplomatic abilities did much to pave the way for her grandson, James VI of Scotland, to ascend to the English throne as James I, twenty-five years after her death.

Want to know more? Then join Caledonia for a dip into Margaret’s world! Note that there will also be a discussion on this book at the Community Virtual Library on Wednesday, August 24th at 17:30 SLT. You do not have to have read the entire book to attend and participate.

Tuesday August 23rd, 19:00: Blueberry Summers: Growing Up at the Lake

Kayden Oconnell reads from Curtiss Anderson’s classic coming of age memoirs.

BlueberryBorn in 1928 in Minneapolis, Curtiss Anderson grew up in an extended family of Norwegian-Americans, among whom the highlight of the year was time spent among the lakes of northern Minnesota.

For young Curtiss, growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, these were especially idyllic years. Time spent in the farmhouse among this extended family presented an opportunity for him to escape the strained and troubled relationship he had with his parents and enjoy the company of others, aunts and uncles, the loving care offered by family friends Leigh and Clara, the companionship of the family dogs – and the chances to experience young love of his own.

Through the tales he relates of these summers, so Anderson also explores the notes and letters he wrote as a boy, carefully produced on a hand-me-down typewriter. Missives and notes which, although he never realised it at the time, were in fact his first forays into what would blossom in his adult life into a distinguished career as a writer, editor and publisher.

Wednesday August 24th: A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell #2)

MonstrousReturn to 221B Baker Street at the University of Washington’s iSchool, Second Life, for the latter-day adventures of Mr. Sherlock Holmes (retired) and his young orphaned protégé, Mary Russell, originally from the United States, as written by Laurie R. King.

Taking a trip to London, Mary encounters Veronica Beaconsfield, a friend from Oxford, who in turn introduces her to the charismatic and enigmatic Margery Childe, leader of something called “The New Temple of God.” Sect-like, and seemingly involved with the suffrage movement, the New Temple and its leader offer both curiosity and intrigue for Mary, who is not convinced either are entirely aboard board.

Her suspicions appear to be correct when several of the Temple’s wealthy young female volunteers and financial contributors are murdered. With Holmes keeping a watchful eye in the background, Mary turns her curiosity into an investigation; in doing so, she faces her greatest danger yet.

Thursday, August 25th

19:00:  Rey’s Story from Star Wars the Force Awakens

With Shandon Loring (In Second Life and Kitely. Check Kitely event announcements for specific grid location).

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

With Finn Zeddmore.

Saturday, August 27th

11:00:  Seanchai Kitely – Welcome to Gatsby

Seanchai Library is pleased to contribute to Kitely History Month with readings from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  Join Caledonia and Shandon on the drive of Gatsby’s mansion in Seanchai’s EXPLORE region, as they whisk you back to 1922.


Jay Gatsby's estate as produced for Seanchai Library's Explore the Great Gatsby season in 2015
Jay Gatsby’s mansion as produced for Seanchai Library’s Explore the Great Gatsby season in 2015

15:00 Second Life: Lost in Austen

Jane Austen’s English Countryside on LEA 8 invites all Austen Lovers at the Riverside Reading Stage as Seanchai Library’s Caledonia Skytower presents selections from Miss Austen’s Mansfield Park.

Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The featured charity for July-August is WildAid: seeking to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes by reducing demand through public awareness campaigns and providing comprehensive marine protection.

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