Second Life: my ten (and counting!)

Pey time: over the years from then (top left) to now (main)
Pey time: over the years from then (top left) to now (main image) – first published in 2013

Ten years.120 months. 521 weeks. 3,653 days. It all adds up to a long time. For me, on this day – December 5th, 2016 – it means I’m marking my 10th anniversary since re-entering Second Life (I’ve previously dabbed with it, but had wandered away).

Every year on this date for the past three or four, I’ve look back over my time in SL. Each year that gets harder to do because really, there’s only 12 months of “new” stuff to go over each year – the rest is a re-tread of things already said. But still, ten years is ten years, so pardon me if I ramble for a bit.

Perhaps the most surprising is that I’m actually writing about the fact that it is now ten years since Inara Pey burst forth onto the digital scene as I decided to give “that Second Life thing” another go. Little did I realise just how much a part of me would enter her – and  indeed, how much she would become a part of me. Back then, I re-entered SL With A Purpose, and determined not to be a wanderer looking for a role-play home. That purpose may now be a part of my virtual past, but it was enough to encourage me to stick with SL, meet like minds, make friends, explore and, eventually, to start writing about Second Life. And so the snowball started rolling.

Holly Kai Park: continues to occupy a portion of my time as is still proving to be fun
Holly Kai Park: continues to occupy a portion of my time and is still proving to be fun

Of course, there have been many ups-and-downs through the last decade, both in terms of SL and personally. With the latter, there have been a fair few times when I’ve felt I really should just quietly put everything back into inventory and silently slip away. With the former – well, I’m not going to rehash the good or the bad; we all have our opinions on that! Suffice it to say, Second Life continues to roll (and sometimes creak) forward despite all the proclamations that The Sky Is Falling along the way. My one passing regret is that I couldn’t earn L$250 for every doom-laden prediction which has appeared in comments on these pages over the years 😀 .

But all that aside, I continue to do what I’ve always enjoyed doing: logging-in, meeting friends, exploring, taking pictures, writing, and trying to understand more about what lies behind the curtain of this incredible world in which we invest so much of our time and energy.

Yup, I'm still flying!
Yup, I’m still flying (and boating)!

I’ve no idea what lies ahead for 2017. Again, being honest, there was a time when I’d targeted my tenth anniversary as the point at which Inara would quietly bow out of Second Life; but plans have a habit of changing as time moves forward, so I don’t see that happening any time soon (touches wood!). Frankly, it’s hard to think of a day where I’ll get up without a thought about Second Life, the friends I have here and what the day might bring when I log-in.

Anyway, I’m not going to ramble on. Instead, I’ll finish with a few words of thanks. These go to everyone who has passed on rezday congratulations via blog comments, Twitter and IM, and to all of you who give you time to read and comment on this blog: you are genuinely the one reason I keep writing. Thank you, especially, to Caitlyn, for making the last 15 months so much fun throughout all our adventures and expeditions; and thank you, Linden Lab, for providing us all with this digital playground to share with one another. Long may it continue!

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Project Bento live in Second Life

Bento: extending the avatar skeleton - now officially live on the grid!
Bento: extending the avatar skeleton – now officially live on the grid!

On Monday, December 5th, Linden Lab announced that Project Bento is now “live” on the main grid following the promotion of the Bento Release Candidate viewer to de facto release status.

Project Bento is – as I’m sure everyone is only too aware – the project to enhance the avatar skeleton for use in mesh models, human and non-human (please note the new bones cannot be used with the system avatar).

It’s a project I’ve covered extensively in this blog, having been a part of both the closed and open beta phases of the work. However, just in case you have missed it. Bento adds a range of new bones the Second Life avatar skeleton, all of which can be rigged and weighted in mesh avatar models, and many can be used for a wide variety of purposes: limbs, wings, ears, tails and more. In particular, Bento adds over 30 bones to the avatar’s hands and avatar’s face, allowing mesh creators to design hands with movable fingers and faces which can be far more expressive. The Lab’s promotional video released as Bento entered a main grid beta phase is embedded below.

As many of the bones are tied to the Second Life appearance sliders, it also means that – subject to caveats from individual creators – avatar meshes can be customised easier by users. So, for example, avatar heads can be tweaked to give a more personal look when compared to the “off-the-shelf” version of the same head.

For non-human avatars, Bento brings a host of new possibilities and easier ways of doing things. Animal and humanoid avatars can be made which are more life-like, make better use of resources and offer fascinating new opportunities for wearable avatars, pets and more.

A GIF of Medhue Simoni's elephant avatar enjoying a little bit of the Bee Gees. Medue is one of the creators / animators who has been at the forefront of Bento development - check his video for more on the elephant and his You Tube channel for Bento information in general
A GIF of Medhue Simoni’s elephant avatar enjoying a little bit of the Bee Gees via Staying’ Alive. Medue is one of the creators / animators who has been at the forefront of Bento development – check his video for more on the elephant and his You Tube channel for Bento information in general. Credit: Medhue Simoni, via Linden Lab.

To aid in Bento content creation, the project has heavily engaged the talents of Cathy Foil and the Machninimatix team to ensure that MayaStar, Cathy’s SL plug-in for Maya, and Avastar, the Blender add-on from Gaia and Matrice are fully Bento compliant – and all three have been instrumental in moving Bento forward.

There are a couple of additional options which are included in the viewer called Reset Skeleton and Reset Skeleton And Animations, and can be found on the right-click avatar context menu. They have been included because sometimes, when changing between one mesh avatar and another, the basic SL avatar can become deformed, resulting in it looking squished, stretched, caught between two looks, or something else.

The problem is generally the result of race conditions when the avatar’s appearance is being updated, and both of these buttons are intended to correct the problem  – the option to reset animations as well is intended to fix deformations which may be due to animations also kicking-in incorrectly / at the wrong time.

The reset skeleton options (right-click context menu in the official viewer) should "fix other avatars which appear distorted in your view after changing their form (left menu) or your own avatar if the same happens to you (right menu) - note both options only affect your view of the avatar in question
The reset skeleton options (right-click context menu in the official viewer) should “fix other avatars which appear distorted in your view after changing their form (left menu) or your own avatar if the same happens to you (right menu) – note both options only affect your view of the avatar in question. Obviously, the location of these options may vary as TPV release Bento ready viewers

An important thing to not with both these option is they only fix the avatar in question (your own or someone else in your view. They do not affect how other people are seeing the same avatar.

As stated above, content creators have been engaged in the project, and so some Bento content is already available in-world and via the SL Marketplace – and doubtless more will be appearing in time. However, you do need a Bento capable viewer to render Bento content correctly. Hopefully, it will not be long before TPVs also release Bento capable updates as well (some already have Bento updates available as experimental versions, or undergoing closed user group testing).

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a list of additional Bento and related resources and information.

Additional Bento Links

Winter’s wonder at Luane’s worlds in Second Life

lw-10b_001
Luane’s World, Slice of Heaven – click any image for full size

I first visited Luane’s World in April 2016 thanks to Owl Dragonash. A beautiful, mystical realm, home to Luane Meo’s store, it offered a serene and romantic setting for visitors.

A lot has changed since then. Winter now grips the region (although summer retains a hold over the store), and the landscape has changed with the arrival of snow – but none of the romance, beauty or mystery of the region has been lost. Rather the opposite, in fact: it has grown, spreading itself across the adjoining region of Luane’s Magical World, presenting visitors with a genuine winter wonderland to explore.

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Luane’s Magical World, Morning Glow

This is a landscape that is so expansive, it’s hard to know where to begin. The two regions are both linked physically and by winter’s touch (with a little exception in the case of each one: Luane’s store, and a sandy, cliff-hugging beach), but each is entirely unique, representing shared work by Luane and Kaelyn McMahon (Kaelyn Alecto). As such, they genuinely need to be experienced rather than written about.

Just across the covered bridge from the store landing point, Luane’s World offers a setting that is largely rural: a cottage overlooks a frozen pond and fenced grazing for horses, a windmill turning slowly in the breeze, a small cabin close by sitting amidst frosted beech and oak trees. Stone slabs lift their white-dusted, flat heads above the deeper snow covering the ground, inviting visitors to wander further into the region.

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Luane’s Magical World, Morning Glow

Those who do will find there is much to see and do, be it wandering the Gothic ruins, climbing the hill to Santa’s playground, skating on a second, larger pond or watching the world go by from the railings of the bridges that cross frozen streams. Indoors, the cottages and cabin offer warmth and respite from the cold for those who need it.

Across a shallow channel of water spanned by more of the  stone slabs, and around a curve of beach, sits Luane’s Magical World. This is a more mysterious realm, where a ruined castle sits top the beach cliffs and glittering, frozen water separates the land into islands and flooded scenes. Frost clings to trees, and light flickers and twists between branches and trunks. The Polar Express sits at the water’s edge, perhaps waiting to whisk passengers off on an adventure to the North Pole, while out on the ice, unicorns frolic and now-white deer leap.

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Luane’s World, Slice of Heaven

Climb up to the castle ruins and you’ll find one gate guarded by a portal and the other by a dragon. Travel far enough along the stone footpaths below the hill and you’ll either find your way back to Luane’s store or perhaps you’ll find a hidden cavern. One thing is sure: whichever route you take through Luane’s Magical World, you will find yourself enchanted by all that you find. You’ll also find plenty of places for sitting and cuddling while Romany caravans offer shelter from the cold.

This time of year always bring forth may winter-themed places to visit in Second Life, and all of them have a certain attraction. However, Luane’s worlds offer something very special with their joint seasonal setting. Be sure to add them to your list of places to see this Christmas!

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Luane’s Magical World, Morning Glow

SLurl Details

2016 viewer release summaries: week 48

Updates for the week ending Sunday, December 3rd

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: 4.1.2.321518, dated November 10, promoted November 15 – formerly the Maintenance RC viewer download page, release notes.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Project Bento  RC (avatar skeleton extensions), updated to version 5.0.0.321958 on December 1 – primarily as a further fix for a rendering bug related to bad skin weights in some mesh avatars. (download and release notes)
    • Maintenance RC viewer, version 4.1.3.321792 released on November 30– some 42 fixes and improvements (download and release notes)
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V4-style

V1-style

  • Cool VL viewer Stable branch updated to version 1.26.18.35 and the Experimental branch updated to version 1.26.19.37, both on December 3rd (release notes).

Mobile / Other Clients

  • Radegast updated to version 2.20 on November 30th –  featuring a new voice installer linking to most recent SL Voice repository. Note that as there is currently no access to the Radegast website, this update is not listed there (blog post, download link, source code link).

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links