Monthly Archives: March 2017

Second Life asset fetching: HTTP, CDN and project viewer

Update, April 1st: Vir Linden’s comments on this viewer, offered at the Content Creation User Group meeting, are appended to the end of this article in an audio file.

Some of my recent SL project updates have mentioned that the Lab is working to remove the remaining task of asset fetching away from UDP running through the simulator and to HTTP (avatar baking information, mesh and texture data have been delivered to users via HTTP for the last several years).

This work involves changes to both the simulator and the viewer, both of which have been subject to testing in Aditi, the beta grid for the last few weeks.

However, on  Thursday, March 30th, the Lab effectively marked the start of testing on Agni, the main grid, with the release of the AssetHttp project viewer, version 5.0.4.324828.

This viewer enables the remaining asset classes used in Second Life – landmarks, wearables (system layer clothing and body parts), sounds and animations – will now be delivered to users the same way as textures, mesh and avatar baking information: via HTTP over a Content Delivery Network (CDN) rather than through the simulator. This should generally make loading of such content both faster and more reliable.

Hang On! What’s this CDN Thing?

If you’ve followed the HTTP / CDN project, you can skip this part 🙂 .

To keep things extremely brief and simple: a Content Delivery Network is a globally distributed network of servers which can be used to store SL asset information. This means that when you need an asset – say a sound or animation – rather than having to go via UDP to the simulator, then to LL’s asset service, back to the simulator and finally back to you (again via UDP), the asset is fetched over HTTP from whichever CDN node which is closest to you. This should make things faster and smoother, particularly if you are a non-US based user.

A generic CDN diagram: instead of the users in India, Spain, Peru and on the US West coast having to fetch data from a central server (marked in red) they can obtain the data more quickly and reliably from local caches of the data, held by CDN nodes located much closer to them.

There are some caveats around this – one being, for example, if you’re calling for asset information not stored on the local CDN node, then it still has to be fetched from the Lab’s services for delivery to you, where it can be cached by your viewer.

As noted above, the Lab started using CDN providers when they introduced the avatar baking service (called server-side baking) in 2013, and extended the use to the delivery of mesh and texture assets as part of a massive overhaul of Second Life’s communications and asset handling protocols spearheaded by Monty Linden (see my HTTP updates). Moving the remaining asset types to HTTP / CDN delivery effectively completes that work.

OK, So, What’s Next?

Right now, this is only a project viewer, and the Lab are looking to have people try it out and test fetching and loading of landmarks, wearables (system layer clothing and body parts), sounds and animations, so they can examine performance, locate potential issues etc.

However, the code will be progressing through project status to release candidate and ultimately to release status over the next few weeks / months (depending on whether any significant issues show up). Once this happens, TPVs will be given a period of time to integrate the code as a well, after which, all support for UDP asset fetching will be removed from both the viewer code, and from the simulators.

A rough time frame for this latter work is around late summer 2017. When it happens, it will mean that anyone using a viewer that does not have the updated HTTP code for asset handling isn’t going to be able to obtain any new or updated asset data from the Second Life service.

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Are you ready to help fill the cauldron in Second Life?

Filling the Cauldron: the Garden Design platform

It’s hard not to miss the fact that I’ve not been blogging as frequently as is usually the case for me over the last couple of weeks. That’s because I’ve been buried in preparations for Filling the Cauldron, a fund-raising event to help Elicio Ember and his family.

As anyone who attends the annual Fantasy Faire event in Second Life, Elicio is frequently one of the world builders for that event. He’s also a fabulous creator, owning Cerridwen’s Cauldron, which is itself a fabulous region build and an iconic store design. He’s also an artist in real life and has built art installation in Second Life as well.

Most importantly of all, however, is Elicio has one of the biggest hearts in Second Life. He is wonderfully supportive of those around him, generous, charitable and kind. So when he does – and with a huge amount of reluctance and personal embarrassment – put out a call for help, you can be sure it is genuine.

Earlier this year, Elicio’s father suffered a serious stroke. Despite being a government employee, Elicio and his family were shocked for find their father was without medical cover, leaving the family with extensive bills to cover. You can read more, in Elicio’s own words in this letter from Elicio.

Filling the Cauldron: Cerridwen’s Corner

While he was never asking for anything more than for people to buy his Second Life creations, those of us who know Elicio were determined to do more – and so Filling the Cauldron was born. Given the urgency of the situation and the mounting bills, we knew we had to move fast – and so this entire event has been put together in just three weeks. Even now, we’re working frantically to get everything in place in time to open the doors on Saturday, April 1st.

We may still have a few rough edges to smooth off when we do – but I hope that they won’t stop you from coming by and spending time with us, and supporting Elicio and his sisters but donating to the cause. We’ve got a lot going on, all things considered:

  • DJs, live performers and dance troupes
  • Two fabulous auctions – a silent auction and a live auction with some amazing items to claim, including original pieces of Elicio’s art
  • A display of photography celebrating Elicio’s creativity in Second Life
  • A photo contest with some great prizes – which you can still enter
  • A garden design contest featuring the talents of nine extraordinary builders in Second Life – and from which we’d like YOU to help select the best build
  • A great market filled with stalls from 20 Second Life creators, all of whom are donating at least one item to be sold with 100% of proceeds going to the fund-raising
  • Cerridwen’s Corner – a miniature version of Elicio’s store where you can buy many of his plants and designs – so if you’d rather give directly to Elicio himself, you can do so through Filling the Cauldron and still enjoy the rest of the event.

So… with our doors opening this weekend, please take time to visit the Filling the Cauldron website – and from Saturday onwards, so please, please come along and join us in celebrating Elicio’s work, raising money for his family and having fun! All of the relevant SLurl will be appearing in these pages as we open the doors, and they’ll all be available on the event’s web pages. You can also catch Filling The Cauldron in the Destination Guide!

Filling the Cauldron: part of the marketplace

Calling All Bloggers!

Yes, we know it is short notice, but we’re looking for bloggers to help spread the word about Filling the Cauldron! We’ve been running around trying to get things in place, this nearly slipped through the cracks BUT!  If you’d like to blog about Filling the Cauldron, we’d like you to! SO… we’re holding two guided tours of the event region to help you get familiar with everything that is going on – hop on over the FTC Blogger Applications page to find out more!

2017 Fantasy Faire: blogger applications open

Fantasy Faire, the largest fantasy-related event to take place in Second Life, opens its portals on Thursday, April 20th and runs through until Sunday April 30th, 2017 inclusive. It will bring together everyone with a love of fantasy  – enthusiasts, creators, performers and designers  – for eleven days of commerce, special events, live music concerts and more, all to help raise funds for Relay for Life of Second Life.

On March 23rd, 2017, applications to be a 2017 Fantasy Faire blogger officially opened, with the announcement reading in part:

Do you want to shape your visit, your experiences in the Fairelands into pictures and words to be shared with the rest of the world? Do you want to forward and spread the call, alert people of how fleeting the eleven days of magic are, tell them how much there is to see, feel, live?

If you do, then make sure you complete the blogger application form BUT! – don’t hurry there right away. As with past Faires, there are a few little extras to consider!

Fantays Faire 2013: Titan’s Hollow

As with recent years, bloggers are additionally invited to participate in one or more challenges. These are not obligatory, and anyone  – official blogger or otherwise – is free to participate in them. They are: Faire Folk (create a Fairelands character),  My New Shiny (merchant-focused blogging from a personal perspective), Why I Relay (sharing a personal reason why you Relay), and I Remember (tell about your favourite Fairelands of the past).

Those applying to be an official blogger at this year’s faire can also apply to write for the official Fantasy Faire website. This has no influence on the actual blogger application and should be filled only if you are truly interested. There’s very limited spots for this.

So, if you are interested, make sure you check-out all the information for bloggers and that you complete the application form.

Fantasy Faire 2012: Siren’s Secret

Additional Links

Linden Lab announces Second Life Places available

Second Life Places

On Thursday, March 29th, Linden Lab announced the official launch of Second Life Places, making the programme available to land holders in-world.

First announced in a beta programme in January 2017 (see here for more), Places  essentially allows region and parcel owners to create a web browsable page (hosted by the Lab) for their location(s) in-world. These pages can then be shared through blogs, websites, etc.

Included with each page are buttons to allow visitors to the page to launch their viewer and teleport directly to the location (assuming they are Second Life users – if not, they’ll have to sign-up  via the provided link to the main sign-up process).

In order for you to be able to use the Places pages to promote your in-world locations, certain criteria must be met:

  • You must own the parcel / region in question OR you must be assigned a the group ability to Toggle ‘Show Place in Search’ And Set Category within the group owning the land
  • About Land > Show Place in Search must be checked (recurring fee of L$30 a week).

Essential links for finding more information on Places pages are:

Note you may have to log-in to Places when you open the page.

Options on the page are controlled via a menu towards the top right corner, which can be seen when you are logged-in ( highlighted in red, below) – providing you have land which meets the requirements to have one or more Places pages.

The menu options – available to those who have locations in-world which meet the criteria for setting-up Associated Places

The options are pretty self-explanatory:

  • My Places – will take you to a list of locations (regions and parcel in-world) for which you can set-up Places pages.  Clicking it will take you to a listing of the pages, and those you can edit will have the Edit option enabled
  • Upload Spherical – allows you to upload the ZIP file from a 360-degree snapshot you have taken of the location with the Lab’s 360-degree snapshot viewer – of which more below
  • Logout – logs you out of Places.

A Places listing with the Edit option highlighted

I’ve not had a chance to drive things in detail, but one minor issue I noted was that this listing  appears to list Holly Kai Park as Adult, when it is in fact Moderate – which is correctly reporting in the actual page for the region.

The Edit option opens a basic page layout for a Place to which you can add details – text, images, video, etc. Again, see the Knowledge Base article for more details.

As noted above, the Upload Spherical option allows you to upload a 360-degree snapshot of a location captured using the 360-snapshot viewer. However, with this, and at this point in time, it is important to note that:

  • The 360-snapshot viewer is currently only a project viewer, and is awaiting significant update. You can find it on the Second Life Alternate Viewers listing page.
  • I have an overview of the 360-degree snapshot viewer available, but please note that it refers to the initial release (the release prior to the one available at the time of writing this article), and functionality in the viewer may have changed. I’ve also not had an opportunity to test the Upload Spherical capability with the current 360-snapshot project viewer, and so offer no guarantee the capability works.

I’ll have a more in-depth look at Places and setting them up in due course, hopefully including the updated 360-snapshot viewer, once it is available.