Celebrating the Moon Festival in Second Life

Moon Festival 2016
Moon Festival 2016

Fellow blogger and Second Life traveller Annie Brightstar directed my attention, through Twitter, to Moon Festival 2016 in Second Life. A region by Heike Kitsuyagi (Kathrine Hoxley), it offers a glimpse into the Mid-Autumn Festival, also referred to as the Moon Festival, celebrated in many parts of the far east.  Given my love of all things oriental, I decided to hop over and take a look.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. For 2016, this put it at September 15th, while for 2017 it will fall on October 4th. Simply put, it one of the most important dates in the lunar calendar, and is celebrated by Chinese people the world over. It’s a time when families get together to make offerings of wine flavoured with osmanthus, pears, grapes, pomegranates and mooncakes to the heavens, to express gratitude for a bumper harvest as well as enjoy a reunion with relatives who live far away.

Moon Festival 2016
Moon Festival 2016

Moon Festival 2016, which opened on October 1st, both celebrates the festival and offers a shopping event to visitors. The rural-style traditional Chinese and Japanese buildings contain little stores, with more open-air market style stalls offering goods, games and refreshments. As the Moon Festival is celebrated so widely (China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam in particular, with Japan and Korea having similar harvest celebrations of their own), this blending Chinese and Japanese styles in the buildings is not the least bit jarring; rather the reverse: it feels appropriate.

It’s a place where wooden buildings sit on the banks of a river, with dirt tracks for streets running under strings of lanterns, golden-brown leaves falling from the boughs trees. The entire setting, bringing together traditionally style building with modern lighting, gacha machines and vendors, helps to give a sense of the long history of the festival.

Moon Festival 2016
Moon Festival 2016

Within a small garden in the town sits a dragon, reflecting one of the popular elements of the festival, the Fire Dragon Dance, a tradition dating back to the  19th century, when the people of Tai Hang village were said to have miraculously stopped a plague with just such a dance. Games are a popular part of the Moon Festival – I can still remember playing the “King Toad” game with other kids in our quarters in Hong Kong (which was really an excuse for us to play with water and get soaked!) – and games are to be found within the region as well.

Beyond the town, the track rises up a sudden slope to a small temple where thanks can be offered, while between the trees little houses sit in quiet solitude. Wander down to the river and you’ll see lanterns floating on the water and surrounding little sampans as a harvest moon slowly rises from behind tall peaks, brightly reflecting the light of a setting sun.

Moon Festival 2016
Moon Festival 2016

There’s an ancient Chinese song-poem, the Shuidiao Getou, the final stanza of which can often be quoted in full or in part during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Given my visit to Moon Festival 2016, it seems appropriate to close this piece by quoting that final stanza in full.

People experience sorrow, joy, separation and reunion,
The moon may be dim or bright, round or crescent-shaped,
This imperfection has been going on since the beginning of time.
May we all be blessed with longevity,
Though thousands of miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.

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Kokua forks Second Life and OpenSim support

kokua-logoKokua, the viewer 4-style Second Life and OpenSim viewer has forked development between the two platforms.

The announcement came on Monday, September 26th, with lead developer Nicky Perian announcing the initial release of KokuaOS-4.1.0.38653 in a blog post thus:

Gavin Hird (macOS) is the lead developer for KokuaOS. This viewer is for OpenSim grids and is branched off at Kokua version 4.0.2. The default grid is set to 3rd Rock Grid as their support for Kokua and Imprudence extends back a number of years with the Hoagie sim contribution.

The reason for the split appears to be the increasing complexities in having a unified viewer code set supporting both OpenSim and Second Life, with Nicky noting:

While the ability to log on to Second Life is present, Jelly Doll support is not, and we expect more wandering away from Second Life as new features such as Bento Joints, and server infrastructure removal take place.

However, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that the OpenSim viewer will not be implementing changes made to the SL viewer; simply that only those changes which make sense to adopt will be carried forward into the OpenSim variant.

So, for example, KokuaOS-4.1.0.38653 includes the code from the Lab’s recently released Visual Outfits Browser, allowing OpenSim users to browse through their outfits using the thumbnail image feature, and the Windows version also includes the switch to using a media plug-in based on LibVLC to replace QuickTime.

Core updates with the OS-4.1.0.38653 release comprise:

  • Kukua OS-4.1.0.38653 includes the Visual Outfits Browsers from Second Life, but not Avatar Complexity
    Kukua OS-4.1.0.38653 includes the Visual Outfits Browsers from Second Life, but not Avatar Complexity

    There is no auto update capability. New updates must be manually installed and downloaded

  • Recent SL updates included comprise:
  • Excluded SL updates comprise:
    • Avatar Complexity (aka Jelly Dolls) and Graphics Presets
  • Media content on Linux uses Gstreamer, but can be switched to VLC by editing skins/mime_types_linux.xml- You can upload and play back sounds of up to 60 seconds
  • The Mac OSX version now use a gamma of 2.2 which improves tonal range of the scene.
  • Microphone and volume can be tested without an active session
  • Additional functionality in support of the OpenSim Export function
  • Almost complete localisation of the viewer to German.

Full details of all changes and known issues can be found in the OS-4.1.0.38653 release notes, and the download is available via the Kokua downloads wiki.

Following this, on October 1st, Nicky announced the release of the Second Life version of Kokua, version 4.1.1.39717. This update see the removal of all code which facilitated the switch between logging-in to Second Life or to OpenSim grids, and brings this viewer to parity with the Second Life 4.1.1 code base and with RLV-2.9.20.1.

Core updates in this release comprise:

  • Most menu items with OpenSim specific functionality has been deactivated.
  • Support for:
Kokua version 4.1.1.39717 for Second Life does include Avatar Complexity and Graphics Presets
Kokua version 4.1.1.39717 for Second Life does include Avatar Complexity and Graphics Presets
  • Mac OSX Updates:
    • Use of a gamma of 2.2 which improves tonal range of the scene. System gamma of 1.8 has not been used by Apple since Mac OSX 10.6
    • Support for OSX 10.12, with a minimum requirement of OSX 10.9
    • OSX send and receive buffer size has been increased for better network performance
  • Advanced and Develop menus updated with new functionality and more relevant HUDs
  • Improvements to:
    • Voice floaters and functionality
    • Media playback functionality, including in the chat / IM floater
    • Mesh uploads
    • The world map and mini map
  • The built-in AO now shows which animation is playing
  • Own voice dot and speaker indicator no longer shown over avatar’s head (via  Firestorm)
  • Almost complete localisation of the viewer to German.

Again, please read the release notes for all changes, updates and known issues with this release. The download is available via the Kokua downloads wiki.

The two versions can be run side-by-side, providing different installation locations are used (offered by default by the Windows installer) and chat logs.

Links

2016 viewer release summaries: week 39

Updates for the week ending Sunday, October 2nd

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

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V4-style

  • Black Dragon updated to version 2.5 “Ending Dragon” on September 30th, said to be the final update (release notes)
  • Kokua forked development paths between Second Life and OpenSim with the following releases:
    • Version 4.1.1.39717 for SECOND LIFE, released on Saturday, October 1st (release notes)
    • Version OS-4.1.0.38653 for OPENSIM, released on September 26th (release notes)

V1-style

  • Cool VL viewer Stable branch updated to version 1.26.18.26 and the Experimental branch updated to version 1.26.19.28, both on October 1st (release notes)

Mobile / Other Clients

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: water on Europa, Rosetta on a comet and Musk on Mars

Euorpa's icy, mineral-stained surface as imaged by NASA's Galileo mission - see bwlow (credit: NASA / JPL)
Euorpa’s icy, mineral-stained surface as imaged by NASA’s Galileo mission – see below (credit: NASA / JPL)

On Monday, September 26th, after some teasing beforehand, NASA provided an update on the venting of water by Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa.

As I noted in my last Space Sunday report, Europa is covered by shell of water ice, much of it discoloured by mineral deposits and by deep cracks, beneath which it is believed to have a liquid water ocean about 100 km (62.5 miles) deep. The ocean is believed to be made possible by tidal flexing enacted by the massive gravity of Jupiter as well as from the other large Galilean moons. This generates heat within Europa, and this heat stops the water from freezing solid.

In 2012, The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) captured what appeared to be a huge plume of water erupting some 200 kilometres (125 mi) above the surface of Europa, using its Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) instrument. The update offered on September 26th provided information on further plumes, strengthening the case of water existing under the ice crust of Europa in the process – a crust which may be far thinner than thought.

Europa transit illustration. Europa orbits Jupiter every 3 and a half days, and on every orbit it passes in front of Jupiter, raising the possibility of plumes being seen as silhouettes absorbing the background light of Jupiter. Credit: A. Field (Space Telescope Science Institute)
Europa transit illustration. Europa orbits Jupiter every 3 and a half days, and on every orbit it passes in front of Jupiter, raising the possibility of plumes being seen as silhouettes absorbing the background light of Jupiter. Credit: A. Field (Space Telescope Science Institute)

Over a 15-month period, astronomers used Hubble’s STIS to observe Jupiter and Europa in the ultra-violet spectrum. During that time, Europa occulted (passed in front) of Jupiter on 10 separate occasions. The observations were an attempt to examine a possible extended atmosphere around the moon, which is slightly smaller than our own. However, on three of the passes, astronomers witnessed what appeared to be plumes of water erupting from the surface – and in pretty much the same location as seen in 2012. Analysis of the plumes revealed they were made up of hydrogen and oxygen consistent with water vapour being broken apart by Jupiter’s radiation in a process known as radiolysis.

The plumes are not constant, but rather flare up intermittently, possibly as a result of the surface ice on Europa flexing in response to the same gravitational influences that are keeping the ocean beneath the ice from freezing out. This suggests that the icy crust is, at least around the region where the plumes are occurring, thinner than had been thought. This is important, because it could mean that any automated mission sent to Europa could have a fair chance of cutting its way through the ice to deploy a submersible vehicle which could then search for any evidence of life in Europa’s salty ocean – which contains between two and three times as much water as all of Earth’s oceans combined.

The Gentle Crunch: Rosetta Mission Ends

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft said farewell on Friday, September 30th, bringing the 12-year mission that bears its name to a close.

Launched in 2004, Rosetta was a daring attempt to rendezvous with a short-period comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, then orbit it and study it as it swept through the inner solar system and around the sun on its (roughly) 6-year obit. The aim was to give us unique insight into cometary behaviour and – more directly – to study one of these tiny lumps of mineral and chemical rich rock “left over” from the solar system’s formation, and thus gain greater understanding as to how things came to be, and perhaps how life itself might have begun.

Rosetta, Europe's mission to unlock the secrets of the early solar system through the study of comet 67p-C/G, and the Philae comet lander (image: European Space Agency)
Rosetta, Europe’s mission to unlock the secrets of the early solar system through the study of comet 67P-C/G, and the Philae comet lander (image: European Space Agency)

Rosetta travelled almost 8 billion km (5 billion miles), including three flybys of Earth and one of Mars, and two asteroid encounters, before finally arriving at 67P/C-G in August 2014. In November of that year, The Philae lander was deployed in the hope of studying the comet from the surface and gathering samples of its material for analysis. Unfortunately, Philae’s anchoring mechanism failed, sending the little lander bouncing across the comet, until it came to rest in a location where it was receiving insufficient sunlight to recharge its batteries. Nevertheless, in the time it did have before its batteries were almost depleted, the washing machine sized lander some 80%+ of its science goals.

Meanwhile, Rosetta studied the comet in the long fall towards the Sun, and carried out an extensive mission of study, analysis and image capture, much of which has completely altered thinking around comets like 67P/C-G. For example, the mission discovered that water within the comet has a different ‘flavour’ to that of Earth’s oceans, suggesting that the impact of such comets with primordial Earth played far less of a role in helping start Earth’s oceans than had been thought.

The final descent: Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera captured this image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from an altitude of about 16 km above the surface during the spacecraft’s final descent on September 30, 2016. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.
The final descent: Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera captured this image of Comet 67P/C-G from an altitude of about 16 km above the surface, as the spacecraft commenced its final descent on September 29th, 2016. Craggy hills about 614 metres wide rise from a surface smothered in dust redeposited on the comet’s surface after being outgassed during its active phase. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

As the comet became more active during its approach to the Sun, Rosetta found complex organic molecules – amino acid glycine, which is commonly found in proteins, and phosphorus, a key component of DNA and cell membranes – were present in the dust vented by 67P/C-G, reinforcing the idea that the basic building blocks for life may have been delivered to Earth from an early bombardment of such rocks. The mission also confirmed that the comet’s odd shape – two potato-like lobes of different sizes joined at a narrow waist – was the result of a very slow-speed collision very early in the comet’s 4.5 billion-year age.

In all the spacecraft  operated in the harsh environment of the comet for 786 days, made a number of dramatic flybys close to its surface, survived several unexpected outgassings, and made two full recoveries for potentially serious “safe mode” situations. However, all things must inevitably come to an end, and with its manoeuvring propellants almost exhausted, on September 29th, Rosetta set course for a gentle crash landing on 67P/C-G.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: water on Europa, Rosetta on a comet and Musk on Mars”