Don’t forget – if you needed any reminding – that the Lab’s Jolly Holiday Crawl (Monday December 19th) will be finishing at Winter Wonderland at 12:00 noon SLT, ready for the traditional snowball fight – the Snowball Showdown – with residents, which will continue through to about 14:00 SLT.
To get to the Snowball Arena in the 5-region Winter Wonderland (which I again previewed this year) can be reached either through the new portal parks (again, reviewed here), or via direct teleport to the landing point. Just walk through the village on arrival and follow the path up over the hills. Kiosks at the entrance to the arena are available for obtaining your weapons.
Those who are Premium members can also pick-up the latest Premium gift via the Premium Kiosks, which once again includes a wearable token which allows you to upgrade your snowball weapons. I have no idea if the tokens given out in previous years also work as … I deleted mine!
Fellow Second life traveller and blogger Wurfi drew me, by way of a Tweet, to a new exhibition of images by Vallys Baxter, which opened on Sunday, December 18th.
Taking place at the Club LA and Gallery, curated by Fuyuko ‘冬子’ Amano (Wintergeist), Body Talk offers a collection of 16 pieces offered in a large format. Presented as a series of monochrome images, they form an evocative study of the human form and moods – not all of them necessarily suitable for viewing at work – with equally evocative titles: Desire, Cocoon, Jeux de Mains (“Hand Games”), No Regrets, and more.
As one might expect from the title, each piece focuses on the avatar body – or a part thereof. So within the exhibition are studies of the face and head, the torso, the body as a whole, legs, arms – all of which are intended to convey a specific sentiment, mood or emotion. There is a sensuality about many of the pieces which may be obvious in some, and more subtle in others, and it appears the artist has positioned these so that their differing approaches to presenting their sensuality is carefully juxtaposed.
Take Codex and the image immediately to its left (both seen on the left side of the banner image for this review), apparently called Step by Step. In Codex, the sensuality of the piece is clear through the use of nudity the symbols on the torso and the posing of hands. In the piece to its left we are offered an image of a face partially hidden by the hood of a cloak; but what is visible – line of neck, sweep of cheek and hint of smile about the lips – offers a soft, subtle sensuality easily matching that of Codex.
The pairing of images seems to be apparent through the use of emotions – such as with No Regrets and Avec le Temps (“With Time”), or through the repeated use the a title, as with the two pieces entitled Barricade (seen directly above).
No Regrets and Avec le Temps are extraordinarily emotive, while the Barricade pair still have a sensual feel to them, but it is one perhaps mixed with other responses. The raised leg in one of them literally stands as just that, and thus is edged with a sense of confrontation. In this, it might also be paired with another piece called Step by Step, which presents a pair of booted feet, one apparently stomping downwards in a forceful stride.
Taken together, this set is an intriguing, enigmatic series, worth taking the time to visit.
Kokua and Restrained Life have become the latest viewers to update to v5.x status, with release of versions support the Project Bento code.
Kokua 5.0.0..40327 for Second Life (release notes) appeared on Saturday, December 17th, bringing with it Bento rendering support, plus additional fixes and improvements:
FMOD Ex audio streaming libraries updated to version 4.44.64.
Avatar texture display now works.
Pie menu updates.
Pie menu “Sit here” response no longer ignores llSetSitText(string), and should now display the defined scripted target prompt (e.g. “Ride” or “Fly”, etc., rather than “Sit Here”).
Just in case there is anyone who missed it, Project Bento adds numerous new bones to the avatar skeleton to improve and enhance support mesh avatars (Bento does not work with the Second Life system avatar). This makes it easier to create and animate things like additional wings and limbs, and offers the opportunity for greater facial animations with mesh heads and faces, and even finger manipulation on mesh hands.
As with all Bento viewers, the visible viewer update is to the avatar menus (both right-click context and pie menu in the case of Kokua), where the Reset Skeleton and Reset Skeleton with animation options can be found.
These options have been added 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. This 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 being intended to fix deformations which may be due to animations also kicking-in incorrectly / at the wrong time as well, which may cause an avatar to deform.
Restrained Love Viewer
Restrained Love Viewer 2.9.21 (release notes), released on Friday December 16th, brings Bento support to that viewer as well. As with Kokua and other Bento capable viewers, this also sees the Reset Skeleton and Reset Skeleton with Animations options added to the right-click avatar context menus as the most visible sign of Bento support (outside of Bento meshes rendering correctly!).
In addition the update includes a minor change to RLV, with the “?” symbol no longer being used to identify a cheat inside emotes, as some emotes may end with genuine questions.
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: 184.108.40.2061958, dated December 1, promoted December 5 (no change) – formerly the Project Bento RC viewer download page, release notes.
For more than a year now, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, has been slowly climbing the lower slopes of “Mount Sharp” – more formally called Aeolis Mons, the 5 kilometre (3 mi) high layered deposit extending off of the central peak of Gale Crater. Whilst still on the lower slopes of the mound, the rover has already found minerals absent from lower levels within the crater, and these, together with the ample evidence for water once having existed in the crater, further point to Mars perhaps having once been habitable.
Details of the latest findings from Curiosity were presented at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), which commenced on Monday, December 12th, in San Francisco. Making the presentation were members of the current MSL science team and its former principal investigator, John Grotzinger, – the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology at Caltech.
Mineral veins are an important way to study the movements of water within a location, as they are result of cracks in layered rock being filled with chemicals that are dissolved in water. This alters the chemistry and composition of rock formations, providing vital clues on the prevailing conditions around the time they were deposited.
In the case of the slopes most recently examined by Curiosity, the science team have found that hematite, clay minerals and boron are more abundant than has been found in the lower, older layers. These point to a complex environment where groundwater interactions led to clay-bearing sediments and diverse minerals being deposited over time, effectively creating a “chemical reactor” which, although no actual evidence for Martian microbes having existed within the minerals has been found, still creates an environment which may have been beneficial life.
“There is so much variability in the composition at different elevations, we’ve hit a jackpot,” Grotzinger said during the presentation. “A sedimentary basin such as this is a chemical reactor. Elements get rearranged. New minerals form and old ones dissolve. Electrons get redistributed. On Earth, these reactions support life.”
The increasing presence of hematite found by the rover as it continues up “Mount Sharp” suggests both warmer conditions and more interaction with the atmosphere at higher levels. In addition, the increasing concentrations of hematite, relative to magnetite at lower levels further suggests that iron oxidisation increased over time, creating the “chemical reactor” Grotzinger referenced: the loss of electrons through the oxidisation process can provide the energy necessary for life to sustain itself.
Another ingredient increasing in recent measurements by Curiosity is the element boron, which the rover’s laser-shooting Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument has been detecting within calcium sulphate mineral veins. Boron is famously associated with arid sites where much water has evaporated away. However, the amounts found so far are so minor, they make it much harder to determine the environmental implications of their presence.
Currently the team is considering at least two possibilities. In the first, the evaporation of the lake thought to have once existed within Gale Crater formed a boron-containing deposit in an overlying layer, not yet reached by Curiosity, then water later re-dissolved the boron and carried it down through a fracture network into the layers the rover is currently investigating, where it accumulated along with fracture-filling vein minerals. In the second, changes in the chemistry of clay-bearing deposits, such as evidenced by the increased hematite, affected how groundwater picked up and dropped off boron within the local sediments.