SL project updates 7/3: TPVD meeting

Hobbiton, Dragon Island; Inara Pey, February 2017, on FlickrHobbitonblog post

The notes in this update are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, February 17th, 2017. The video of that meeting is embedded at the end of this update. My thanks as always to North for recording and providing it.

SL Viewer

[00:28] The current official viewer pipelines are as follows:

  • Current Release version:, dated January 25, promoted February 3 – formerly the Maintenance RC viewer.
  • RC viewers:
    • Maintenance RC viewer version dated February 14th – a range of improvements and features
    • Love Me Render RC viewer version Version, dated February 9th – rendering pipeline fixes and improvements
  • Project viewers:
    • Project Alex Ivy (LXIV), 64-bit project viewer version for Windows and Mac, dated January 10th
    • 360-degree snapshot viewer, version, dated November 23, 2016 – ability to take 360-degree panoramic images – hands-on review.
  • Obsolete platform viewer version dated May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

[00:38] The 64-bit viewer work is proceeding on three fronts:

  • A major update to process management and how viewer updates to users are handled (which includes the update mechanism recognising which version – 32-bit or 64-bit – should actually be installed on a PC for Windows)
  • Adding 64-bit Havok support for the Mac OS X build, and building the OS X build using Xcode 8
  • A new structure for handling Chrome Embedded Framework (CEF) and VLC for media support. This will bring all platform versions of the viewer up to the same VLC version and remove QuickTime support from the OS X build (although some QuickTime media may still play, depending on how VLC picks them up, but the Lab is not explicitly supporting QuickTime).

The next update to the Alex Ivy project viewer will depend on which of these update paths clears QA first, and whether any jointly clear QA close enough to be merged into a single update.

[02:29] Updates to the 360-snapshot viewer remain on hold pending the completion of the 64-bit viewer CEF work.

HTTP Asset Fetching

[03:09] As noted in my Content Creation User Group update, the Lab is commencing work in moving more assets for delivery via HTTP / the Content Delivery Network(s) or CDNs.

This work builds on the undertaken in 2013/14 to move avatar appearance information and texture and mesh assets delivery away from UDP and through the simulator, to faster, more reliable delivery via HTTP / CDNs, and will encompass the following assets: landmarks, gestures, animations, sounds and wearables (system layer clothing).

Vir Linden is leading the work, which should hopefully eventually remove more of the “non-simulation” message handling for assets away from the simulators to more reliable and faster HTTP delivery. This in turn should result in something of a performance boost in simulator performance, particularly for busy regions. Once the work has been completed, it will mean that the UDP message support for these types of asset transfers will be removed from both the simulator and the viewer code.

Voice Updates

[11:55] The next batch of Voice updates is being tested, and there is a problem with position updates not working correctly so that unless you are facing east, voices do not seem to come from the correct direction. Once this particular issue has been fixed, it is anticipated the updates will appear in at least a project viewer, although this may still be a while.

Music Streaming Default Volume

[13:15] The first TPVD meeting for 2017 included a discussion on audio streaming autoplay found in the official viewer, and the problems this can cause new users. As a result of that discussion, the Lab agreed to revisit the default media volume setting in the viewer, but a change has yet to be made.

Region / Estate Ban List

The Estate / region ban list (highlighted)
The Estate / region ban list (highlighted)

[15:38 – 19:42] Currently, the region / estate ban list is confined to a small area within a tab on the estate tools, sharing the space with 3 other lists. It is also non searchable, and when a region – for whatever reason – has a very long ban list, trying to clear the list down based on names / offensives can prove difficult due to the amount of scrolling required to locate, highlight and remove names deemed to no longer be a problem.

The Lab is sympathetic to the issue, and has suggested that rather and a JIRA being filed requesting changes to the current ban list display, a broader discussion is opened between the Lab and TPVs on how best to present the region / estate ban list, etc (e.g. whether they should have their own floater panel / tab within the viewer, with search capabilities, etc). The likely forum for this will be Oz Linden’s Open Source meeting, which takes place on Wednesdays, 07:00 SLT.

E-mail Verification

[23:45] On January 28th, I blogged about verifying e-mail addresses associated with Second Life. The Lab is now working on a number of projects which will require users to have verified e-mail addresses in order to receive information.

Remember: just because you are currently receiving e-mails from Linden Lab does not necessarily mean your e-mail account is verified. You must go through the verification process via your dashboard. Failure to verify your e-mail could eventually result in things like off-line IMs to e-mail failing, merchant notifications failing, etc., and the Lab switches services over to only sending to verified addresses. You many not even be able to request an account password reset if your e-mail address is not verified.

Therefore, if you haven’t already done so, please refer to the blog post linked above, and verify the e-mail address you use with Second Life.

Other Items

Script State Breakage in No-Mod Items

[08:49] A rare, but potentially nasty bug has surface which can result in permanently breakage of scripts in No Mod (/No Copy) objects – see BUG-41379.

Essentially, if an avatar is force teleported home (e.g. as a result of encountering an in-world security system), and their home location is unavailable that the time of their teleport (e.g. it is being restarted or off-line), they will be logged out. On re-logging, scripts in attachments are no longer functional, as they’ve been set to not running.

If the attachments have modify permissions, the scripts can be reset / set back to running. However, with No Mod items, the scripts are permanently broken. Providing the item is Copy, and the original is still in inventory, then it should be possible to “fix” the problem by using a new copy of the item. However, if the item in No Copy as well as No Mod, then it is effectively broken.

The Lab has accepted the bug and will be investigating.

Lab Holiday

[14:46] Note that Monday, February 20th is a holiday at Linden Lab (Presidents Day in the USA). Operations and support will be running as usual.

Lab: new Community Platform coming for Second Life

secondlifeUpdate, March 6th:  Data is still being ported to the new platform and the launch remains delayed, with no further ETA.

Update February 24th:  The new community platform is now expected to launch on Tuesday, February 28th., 2017.

On February 17th, Linden Lab announced the Second Life Community Platform will be undergoing update to a “fresh look and feel”, with the new layout scheduled to open its doors on Monday, February 27th, 2017.

However, ahead of the launch, there will be some important points to note. All of the data held within the existing platform – blog posts, images, forum posts, and so on must be migrated across to the new platform in order to ensure continuity.

This means that from Tuesday, February 21st, all of the existing forums will be switched to READ ONLY. During this period, the forums will be open to browsing / reading, but it will not be possible to create new threads, reply to posts, etc.

Providing all goes according to plan, the new-look community pages will launch on Monday, February 27th, and full forum posting capabilities will be restored.

The Lab will provide updates on the migration / launch of the community pages through the blogs during the transitional period.

The change marks the first major overhaul to the Community Platform since 2011, when the current Lithium-powered platform was launched. An example of the new look for the platform is included in the blog post to give an idea of the layout (the actual content is entirely mocked-up and not related to any real information), and I’ve reproduced it below.

New Second Life Community page layout - note the images and text content are placeholders. Click for full size
New Second Life Community page layout – note the images and text content are placeholders. Click for full size

In overall look, the new layout broadly follows that seen with the Community Landing pages, the website log-in page, etc., offering a consistent look-and-feel when compared to many of the Lab’s other Second Life web properties. Usability can obviously only be judged once the new set-up is live, of course, and I’ll have an update once the new service is live.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the official blogs for updates on overall progress with the migration.

Sera’s Lost World in Second Life

The Lost World - Oyster Bay
The Lost World – Oyster Bay

Sera Bellic has re-opened her Oyster Bay region with another new look for visitors to enjoy. Sera uses the region to help promote her business of region design, and as such periodically changes its look to offer people a new glimpse of her skills and ideas. For this design, she offers visitors the opportunity to go all Cousteau and take a dive – literally – into The Lost World; so swimsuits are advised!

Visitors arrive to find the majority of the island has been flooded; a single sandbar, richly shaded by palm trees lies to the north-west side of the region, while a small volcanic island smoulders in the diagonally opposite corner. Other than a couple of rock formations peeping above the water, these comprise the entire landmass. There is, however, a glass walkway leading out over the waves brushing against the sand, leading the way to a modern, white cylindrical building sitting on a circular platform. It bears the legend The Poseidon Complex  – but the strap line suggests this might be more than the name of a project ;-).

The Lost World - Oyster Bay
The Lost World – Oyster Bay

Drop through the diving hole within the cylinder (touch the door if it isn’t already open), and you’ll enter an undersea world of ancient ruins, schools of fish, roaming sharks and undulating stingrays. Across the sandy sea bed stand numerous ruins and statues, with coral beds and the wreckage of ancient chariots scattered between.

Could this be a part of the fabled Atlantis? Possibly. The statues and some of the buildings seem appropriate for the legend; but travel to the great rotunda and pass inside, and the paintings inset into the upper walls of its great circular chamber appear to be from a far later period than history normally ascribes to Atlantis. Thus, a little riddle exists within the ruins.

The Lost World - Oyster Bay
The Lost World – Oyster Bay

But it is outside, beneath the waves, which perhaps holds the attention the most. Fish flicker and gleam in the rays of the sun as they break through the sea above, casting rays of light down towards the sandy floor. The majestic rays swim singly or in pairs, “wings” rising and falling almost hypnotically, while sharks also patrol, also individually or in pairs.  Between they is plenty of room to swim or walk. For those who prefer, there is a mini-sub rezzer (be aware that the sub will appear and then move overhead, so you may have to cam up to find it), which adds a little additional fun to visits.

The Lost World is not an extensive build – which is actually what makes it  pleasant, easy visit. There are places to sit down and rest, both on the sand bar and under the waves, so if you feel like spending time there, it needn’t all be swimming, walking or sub driving.

The Lost World - Oyster Bay
The Lost World – Oyster Bay

SLurl Details

SL project updates 2017-7/2: Content Creation User Group w/audio + HTTP assets

The Content Creation User Group has re-formed out of the Bento User Group, and is held at the Hippotropolis Camp Fire Circle. Imp costumes entirely optional :D .
The Content Creation User Group has re-formed out of the Bento User Group, and is held at the Hippotropolis Camp Fire Circle. Imp costumes entirely optional 😀 .

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group meeting, held on  Thursday February 16th, 2017 at 1:00pm SLT at the the Hippotropolis Campfire Circle. The meeting is chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, etc, are available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

Core Topics

  • HTTP asset fetching
  • Potential project: animated objects

HTTP Asset Fetching

In 2013 / 2014, the Lab made a huge change to how avatar appearance information and texture and mesh assets are delivered to users, shifting them away from UDP (User Datagram Protocol) delivery through the simulators, to HTTP via Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) – see my past reports on the HTTP updates. and CDN work.

As was indicated at several TPV Developer meetings recently (see here for an example), the Lab has been looking to move more asset types for delivery over the CDN, and this work has now started, with a focus on animations and sounds. This should see improvements in both the speed and reliability of assets, which should be particularly beneficial to animations.

The work is in the early stages, and progress will be tracked through my SL project updates.

Potential Project: Animated Objects

A topic of common conversation at various user group meetings is that of animated objects – e.g. objects which can be animated but which are not necessarily part of the base avatar mesh, and / or things like non-player characters (NPCs).

Decent NPC a possible future project? Lab wants feedback on use-cases for animation objects
Decent NPC a possible future project? Lab wants feedback on use-cases for animation objects

While it is still very speculative, the Lab is considering how this might be done and what sort of applications people would use such a capability for. One idea has already been extensively documented – “created agents”, which are avatars which do not necessarily have a connection to a viewer in order to operate – see feature request BUG-11368.

The main aim would be to use the same base avatar skeleton for this work, as well as it being compatible with existing rigged objects, rather than introducing something like custom skeletons (seen as a much bigger project). A lot would also depend up things like performance impact (if the simulator is operating a certain volume of NPCs or ridable objects, for example, then these could impact on resources which might otherwise be used by avatars, etc).

One potential way of achieving desired results would be to animate rigged meshes using the avatar skeleton, but without necessarily having the actual avatar base mesh underpinning it. For example, when we use a mesh body for our avatars, we use the base avatar, but hide it with an alpha mask, with the avatar skeleton animating the worn mesh. With an animated object utilising the skeleton, there is no real need to have the underpinning base avatar, as it would in theory never be seen.

One issue is that many mesh models are multiple parts, therefore some means would be required to control them, and this could be lost without the base avatar, together with the ability to attach static objects to something like an NPC. Hence the idea put forward in BUG-11368; the “created agent” would effectively be a special object class, providing the means for multiple animated meshes to operate in concert.

It is unlikely that the bone limit for a given object would be raised to accommodate animated objects, as this is pretty much a limit imposed by people’s graphics cards. During testing, the Lab found that if too many joints are defined for a single object, some graphics cards are unable to render the object correctly. This impact has actually already been seen with some Bento content (FIRE-20763).

Other aspects which would have to be considered are things like Land Impact. Avatars don’t have a land impact, but that may have to change in the case of animated, avatar-like objects – again, seen the performance concerns above. There are also some concerns over possible griefing vectors.

Performance-wise a potential benefit would be animated objects would not require alpha swapping, which requires a fairly hefty performance hit – but this could be countered to a degree (and depending on where you are and how animated objects are used) but the volume of animated objects around you.

Right now the idea is still being discussed internally at the Lab – there is no defined project. However, if you have views on things, attending the Content Creation meetings would be a good place to get them heard.

Other Items

Applying Baked Textures to Mesh Avatars

Still under consideration is a project to allow baked textures to be applied directly to mesh avatars (see here for more). This is still under consideration, but has yet to be formally adopted by the Lab as a project.

Modelling for Efficient Rendering

The subject of efficiency and LODs was the focus of an extended conversation. As I reported in my last Content Creation UG meeting report, Medhue Simoni has been producing a series on the use of Level of Detail (LOD) to help with generating rendering efficient models in Second Life. All three parts of the series are now available on his YouTube channel, and he and I will be discussing them in this blog in the very near future.