The supernatural, the future, ecology and a phantom

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, January 8th 19:00: The Wolfen

Whitley Strieber is perhaps best known for his book for Communion, a non-fiction account of his alleged experiences with non-human entities. However, his is also a writer of horror fiction, with The Wolfen being his first published novel (1978).

When two New York Police Department uniformed officer are violently killed, detectives Becky Neff and George Wilson are tasked with investigating the incident and bringing the perpetrator/s to justice. The evidence reveals the two uniformed officers were quickly and brutally attacked by some kind of animal – so rapidly, in fact, neither were able to fire their service handguns – one even had his hand and gun ripped from his arm before having time to open fire on his attacker. Worse, both men were disembowelled, their organs devoured.

Gathering the evidence from the crime scene, Neff and Wilson start their investigation by trying to understand what kind of animal might have left the bloody paw prints around the bodies. This leads them down a path that touches on the issue of police corruption which involves Neff’s policeman husband is taking money from certain groups. As more bodies are discovered, Neff and Wilson are drawn into a world where the natural meets the supernatural: the forgotten parts of New York where the abandoned of the city live – and are preyed upon by the Wolfen.

Join Gyro Muggins as he takes us inside Neff and Wilson’s investigations.

Tuesday, January 9th 19:00: Fractured Symmetry

In the future and 1,000 light years from Earth, a woman of action works for a reclusive, enigmatic genius…

Blair MacAlister is an expert at Judo, a credible AI hacker, and a certified pilot of craft atmospheric and interstellar. Her favourite weapon is sarcasm, or failing that, her ever-present blaster. Her boss is Terendurr the Black Stone: technical wizard, expert in the ethnography of myriad races, fancier of rare foods and wines, and even rarer fractalites. An Entharion Quadromorph, exiled from his homeworld and under constant threat of assassination, he is also somewhat irritable.

Together they investigate mysteries based on science, in a setting that brings them into contact with all the main races of Civspace: The mysterious Junn, the affable but biologically intense Raylics, the chaotic and powerful Oro-Ka, the commercial minded Keret, and the cynical Phair.

At the centre of their cases are transformative genetic therapies, unlikely fossils, the linked neurology of symbiotes, and more. Terendurr is over 300 years old and has seen and endured the worst and strangest the galaxy has to offer. Will Blair prove as durable as her boss?

Join Corwyn Allen as he reads selections from Fernando Salazar’s 2017 novel.

Wednesday, January 10th, 19:00: Old Mother West Wind

It’s been over a century since readers first ventured into the Green Forest to encounter Reddy Fox, Grandfather Frog, Jimmy Skunk, and other winsome characters. American author Thornton W. Burgess’s first published work, Old Mother West Wind, and its 1911 follow-up, Mother West Wind’s Children have been delighting readers for 107 years. These gentle stories offer children, and adults a like, enduring lessons about ecology and respect for wildlife.

Join Faerie Maven-Pralou as she continues reading this timeless piece.

Thursday, January 11th

19:00: The Phantom of the Opera Part 2

Shandon Loring continues reading Gaston Leroux’s 1909 / 1910 story The Phantom of the Opera, which would be immortalised on stage and screen.

In 1890s Paris, the Palais Garnier is believed to be haunted by an entity known as the Phantom or the Opera Ghost. One day, the stage hand, Joseph Bouquet, is found hanged, presumably by the Phantom, after boasting about him to the corps de ballet.

At the same time, Christine Daaé, a young Swedish soprano, has been tutored by what she believes to be the Angel of Music, sent by her deceased father. On the night of the gala performance for the old manager’s retirement, Christine is called upon to sing in the place of the Opera’s leading soprano, Carlotta, who is ill, and her performance is an astonishing success.

The Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, who was present at the performance, recognises her as his childhood playmate, and recalls his love for her. He attempts to visit her backstage, where he hears a man speaking to her from inside her dressing room. He investigates the room once Christine leaves, only to find that there’s no one else in the room … could he have heard the Phantom speaking with her?

Also presented in Kitely (hop://

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Contemporary science fiction with Finn Zeddmore.

And to mark Phantom of the Opera (and because, well, Antonio Banderas…)


Please check with the Seanchai Library’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The featured charity for January / February 2018 is Reach Out and Read,  giving young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into paediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.


2018 viewer release summaries: week #1

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates for the week ending Sunday, January 7th

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, dated November 17, promoted November 29th – formerly the “Martini” Maintenance RC – No Change.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Nalewka Maintenance viewer updated to version on January 4th, 2018.
    • Wolfpack RC viewer updated version on January 3rd, 2018.
  • Project viewers:
    • Project Render Viewer updated to version on January 3rd, 2018.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers


  • Black Dragon updated to version 2.9.7 on January 5th, 2018 and then 2.9.8 on January 7th, 2018  (change log).


  • No updates.

Mobile / Other Clients

  • MetaChat updated to version 1.2.1 on January 6th 2018 (release notes).

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: in memory of John Young

John Young: Gemini (l), Apollo, shuttle and in 2002, two years prior to his retirement from NASA after 42 years with the agency (r). Credit: NASA / Getty Images

On Saturday, January 6th, 2018, NASA announced the passing of astronaut John Watts Young. The US space agency’s longest-serving astronaut during his career, Young passed away on January 5th at the age of 87. He flew in space six times across three different space programmes: Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle.

Young was born in San Francisco, California, on September 24th, 1930, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree with highest honours in Aeronautical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952. He served in the US Navy from 1952 through 1962, serving as a seaborne officer prior to entering flight training , qualifying as a jet fighter pilot in 1953. After flying front-line fighters for 5 years, he joined the US Navy Air Test Centre in 1959, evaluating fighter aircraft and weapons systems.

In 1962, Young joined NASA and was part of Astronaut Group 2 alongside Neil Armstrong first man on the Moon, Charles “Pete” Conrad, commander of the first crewed Skylab mission,  Frank Borman, commander of the first Apollo flight to the Moon (Apollo 8), James “Jim” Lovell, commander of Apollo 13, Thomas Stafford, commander of the US part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission, and Edward “Ed” White, who was to be killed in the Apollo 1 pad fire. He was the first of that group to fly in space as a part of the Gemini programme, the second of America’s manned spaceflight programmes, and the precursor to Apollo and the lunar effort.

John Young (r) with Gemini 3 commander Virgil “Gus” Grissom, standing in front of the Gemini simulator. Credit: NASA

He first flight into space was aboard Gemini 3 on March 23rd, 1965, sitting alongside Virgil “Gus” Grissom, the mission commander. The primary goal of the mission was to put the Gemini capsule through its paces during a 3-orbit flight – America’s seventh crewed spaceflight (or ninth, if you count two X-15 flights). It was also the final mission  controlled from Cape Kennedy Air Force Station in Florida (Cape Canaveral Air Force Station today), before mission control functions were shifted to the newly opened Manned Spacecraft Centre, known today as the Johnson Space Centre.

The mission was noted for the “contraband” corned beef sandwich Young smuggled onto the flight in his spacesuit. Grissom knew nothing of the sandwich until Young produced it, and both men took a couple of bites each before Young stowed it again to avoid crumbs getting into the capsule’s electronics. Post-mission, Grissom commented, “After the flight our superiors at NASA let us know in no uncertain terms that non-man-rated corned beef sandwiches were out for future space missions. But John’s deadpan offer of this strictly non-regulation goodie remains one of the highlights of our flight for me.”

The sandwich incident seemed to leave Young sidelined; rather than being pencilled for a command slot, he was relegated to the role of back-up. However, with the Apollo programme starting to ramp-up, Ed White was rotated over to the Apollo 1 crew, and this opened a slot in the Gemini programme for Young to take the command of Gemini 10 in 1966. The 8th manned Gemini flight and with Michael Collins flying alongside Young, Gemini 10 was the first to perform a rendezvous with two Agena target vehicles.

The spacecraft launched on July 18th, 1966, 100 minutes after its dedicated Agena target vehicle. After a successful rendezous and docking, they re-ignited the Agena’s motor, the first time this had been done, and used it to raise their orbit from an average altitude of 265 km (145 nautical mile) to a 294 by 763 km (159-by-412-nautical-mile) orbit, ready for a rendezvous with the Agena target vehicle intended to be used by Gemini 8, which was unable to complete its mission. Collins then completed the first of two EVAs after the crew had rested, and then Gemini 10 detached from its own Agena to make a successful docking with the passive Gemini 8 target vehicle – the first such docking without any assistance in handling the target vehicle from Earth. After a further rest period, Collins performed a second spacewalk. With a double doubling, two EVAs and 10 science experiments, Gemini 10 was one of the most comprehensive space missions completed up to that time, with the capsule splashing down on July 21st, 1966.

John Young and Michael Collins, the crew of Gemini 10, 1966. Credit: NASA

For the Apollo programme, Young was initially assigned to back-up crews. However, following the Apollo 1 fire which killed Grissom, White and Roger Chaffee, the flight roster was reshuffled, and Young was placed on the Apollo 10 crew as Command Module Pilot. This mission, which also included Thomas Stafford and Commander and Eugene Cernan as the Lunar Module Pilot, was the final Apollo mission prior to the missions to the surface of the Moon, and was the second – after Apollo 8 –  to actually fly to the Moon.

Launched on May 18th, 1969, the only Apollo Saturn V mission to lift-off from Launch Complex 39B, and only one of two Apollo missions to feature crews who had all previously flown in space (the other being Apollo 11). Reaching the Moon on May 21st, 2969, the Apollo 10 crew became – and remain – the humans  who have travelled the farthest from their homes. This is because the Moon is in an elliptical orbit around the Earth, which varies by some 43,000 km (23,000 nmi) between perigree (the point closest to the Earth) and apogee (the point farthest from the Earth), and Apollo 10 was the only Apollo mission to take place as the Moon was approaching apogee, meaning the crew were some 408,950 km (220,820 nmi) from their homes and families in Houston.

On reaching the Moon, Young was left aboard the Command and Service Module (CSM), code-named Charlie Brown, while Stafford  and Cernan took the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) Snoopy to some 14.4 km (8 nmi) of the lunar surface, allowing them to overfly and survey the Apollo 11 landing area in the Sea of Tranquillity. To avoid the risk of Stafford and Cernan actually landing on the Moon, the LEM had been short-fuelled, forcing them to fire the descent unit motor to start an ascent back up to orbit. However, this initially did not go smoothly.

Due to a small series of input errors by Stafford and Cernan, Snoopy’s guidance system had the craft pointing in the wrong direction, and on engine firing, the LEM went into a violent spin. It took both men several seconds to recover control – time enough for the LEM to crash on the Moon. In the event, control was regain, the decent unit was jettisoned as its feul was expended, and the ascent stage motor carried Cernan and Stafford safely to a rendezvous with the CSM. Following the excitement of the initial ascent, Stafford reported the successful rendezvous and docking by radioing Earth with the message, “Snoopy and Charlie Brown are hugging each other.”

After Apollo 10’s return to Earth on May 26th, 1969, Young started training as back-up commander for Apollo 13. When disaster stuck that mission he played a central role in the team that developed procedures to stretch the Lunar Module consumables and reactivate the Command Module systems prior to re-entry, saving the Apollo 13 crew. Young then rotated into the Command slot for Apollo 16, with LEM Pilot Charles Duke and CSM Pilot Ken Mattingly.

Apollo 16 lifted-off on April 16th, 1972, and Young and Duke arrived in the Descartes Highlands on April 21st, 1972, at the start of the second-longest lunar surface mission (Apollo 17 being the longest). In 71 hours on the Moon, conducting three extra-vehicular activities or moonwalks, totalling 20 hours and 14 minutes, driving Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) 26.7 km (16.6 mi) and collecting 95.8 kilograms (211 lb) of lunar samples for return to Earth. Young was the ninth man to walk on the surface of the Moon, and in typical style, was exuberant throughout: jumping clear of the surface while saluting the US flag, and setting a speed record driving the LRV.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: in memory of John Young”

2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #1 with audio

People gather around the camp fire for the first Sansar public Product Meeting of 2018

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on the afternoon of Friday, January 5th, 2018 (I was unable to attend the morning meeting). These Product meetings are usually held every Friday at 9:30am PST and 4:00pm PST, and are open to all. There is currently no set agenda, and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements. and the Sansar Atlas events section.

The January 5th afternoon meeting was attended by Ebbe Altberg, plus Carolyn from he Product Team and David and Sean from the Sansar character team. David has been working on the Marvelous Designer (MD) integration, and he and Sean were able to address questions around fashion, etc. Audio extracts feature Ebbe, David and Sean.

Avatar Notes

  • Custom skins: textures are seen as an important aspect of the avatar, allowing age, muscle definition, etc., to be applied. As such, it is something the Lab wants to expand upon. However, the focus at the moment remains on the fashion work, rather than on custom texture uploads and application, and it is down to the product team as to where the latter sits on the roadmap.

  • Texture resolutions: It has been noted that the avatar is a 60K polygon body apparently using 512×512 textures. Sean explained that the textures placed on the website aren’t actually the textures used on-line. Rather, an upload limit was hit within the ZenDesk software, forcing the use of lower resolution textures.
  • Avatar shapes / customisation: greater avatar customisation (changing height, shape, etc.), is “on the roadmap”. Currently, the focus is on increasing the amount of customisation available with the avatar face, with further bone morphs, work that is seen as “foundational” to adding the ability to customise the rest of the avatar shape.
    • How the facial work will be implemented is an open discussion. Sliders have thus far been used (as with SL), but this can be limiting when other forms of deformation are also applied. Recent games have tended to use a form of pick map for customising facial features – the user clicks on a point of the face (e.g. the cheek), and all the bones affecting that area respond to adjustments with the mouse, rather than having to adjust individual bones with individual sliders – and is mirrored where appropriate (e.g. cheeks, ears, etc.). This result in more natural looks, and is something that is being considered as a way of managing customisation in Sansar.

Fashion / Marvelous Designer

Cloth Physics and Layering

The integration of MD has allowed cloth physics to be used in Sansar – although currently these can only be seen / set within the Avatar App Lookbook (formerly My Looks) when editing an avatar. Cloth physics are actually “built-in” to the patterns exported from MD, with the cloth simulation code from MD being used within the client. This means it is unlikely that designers will be able to use other tools  – such as Blender – with the cloth physics capabilities without using MD as well.

The reason for restricting cloth physics to LookBook for the time being is that simulating cloth movement, etc., in Sansar’s Runtime Mode can generate a considerable performance hit; the Lab therefore want to focus on making  various performance improvements and further Runtime optimisations before they start looking at introducing cloth physics into the Runtime environment.

Currently, garments that are layered in MD (e.g a jacket over a shirt)and are exported to Sansar as a single item have their layering respected within Sansar (so the jacket renders over the shirt. However, individual items using the same layer will not be simulated correctly, and the Lab is working to rectify this. In the future, clothing should be layered relative to the order in which it is added to the avatar. So, for example, if you have a “layer 2” shirt and “layer 2” jeans, wearing the shirt first, then the jeans will result in the shirt appearing to be “tucked in” to the jeans, whereas wearing the jeans first, then the shirt, will result in the shirt appearing to be untucked.

In Brief

  • Roughness maps, handled directly by MD are coming into Sansar “too shiny”, requiring creators tweak them manually. This is to be referred back to MD.
  • It is currently anticipated that there will be no changes to the weighting / the way the IK rig is painted, etc.

User Engagement and Retention

2018 will see some attention switch away from developing technical capabilities towards broader issues of user engagement and retention.

  • Locating people: An upcoming change to the Atlas will allow experiences to be sorted in terms of current usage: those experiences with people currently using them will be listed with the most popular at the top, and then descending to those which are not currently being used.
    • This may be accompanied by a generic indicator that people are using an experience. This will not initially be a physical count of avatars, as there are issues around instancing (e.g. there may be 100+ in an experience, but spread across two or three instances, each with a different number of actual avatars in it – so while the count is 100+, you might be directed to an instance with only 15 other avatars in it).
    • An actual numerical indicator of the number of avatars in an experience might follow in the future.

  • Ebbe’s latest Sansar look

    Sansar forums blogs, etc: it has finally been recognised that the current tool used for these – ZenDesk – is not well suited to the task (YAY!), although fixing this is not a high priority. There have been internal discussions at the Lab about using the platform and tools employed in creating the Second Life forums, blogs, etc., to build something for Sansar – potentially more as a cost saving opportunity then for the sake of functionality. Frankly, I’m still stunned that this wasn’t the route taken from the start given the Lab have the tools and the experience to use them, which could have been easily leveraged, rather than going for a tool entirely unsuited to the task and which presents information in a very unfriendly – and dare I say amateur – manner.

  • Better in-world tools: emphasis will likely be given to providing “in-world” tools for better social interactions among users (e.g. things like group chat / group messaging, etc.).
  • Avatar Animations and Interactivity: giving people things to do in Sansar would also help with user retention. This could be as simple as offering basic animations to allow avatar to sit, dance, Animations such as sitting are seen as more complex, for reasons previously noted, unless objects are specifically scripted for handling this;  however, it might be possible for the Lab to implement a simple ground sit.
  • Improving the on-boarding process: the sign-up and getting started process is already seen (by the Lab) as a little complicated, so work may be put in on making this more straightforward.

One thing Ebbe indicated would be useful is collective agreements from creators / users on what they feel is needed to help with user retention. That is, not a myriad of individual ideas / suggestions, but a collection of ideas creator have agreed among themselves as perhaps being the most pertinent. While this should initially be geared towards the Lab’s focus of user engagement and retention, it might also include idea that help improve the creation and turn-around of scenes / experiences.

Feedback, Discussion, Engaging with the Lab and Future Meetings

In terms of engaging with the Lab, offering / receiving feedback (including discussing platform limitations / shortfalls)  can also be carried out through Discord, which can also draw other creators into discussions.  At some point in the future, the current meetings within Sansar may be expanded into a similar kind of structure as the SL User Group meetings: product, scripting, characters, engineering, etc.

Inventory – Scene and Avatar

Scene Inventory

The current inventory system in the Edit Mode doesn’t have any real inventory management tools. The have been discussions at the Lab on how to improve inventory & the inventory tools / options (e.g. use of nested folders, etc.). No single approach has been decided upon, but it is still being looked into – however, due to the emphasis on user engagement, it may slip down the priorities list.

Avatar Inventory

Unlike Second Life, Sansar avatars currently do not have a notion of inventory per se when in an experience; attachments and clothing can only be added / removed via the Avatar App – LookBook. This means that at present, an avatar cannot  simply change outfit or wear a gun or other accessory from within an experience – the use must go to LookBook, change the outfit  / add the attachment, then come back – and land at the experience’s spawn point.

From the point of view of games, this is hardly ideal. Options such as an avatar having a “backpack” (whether this would be physical or virtual is unclear) into which items can be placed and used, are being looked at. However, this kind of a solution also has questions around it: should such a backpack be persistent across experiences, so avatars can cross from one to another and retain items in it? Should it only apply to items collected in the current experience? Also, currently, only items from LookBook can only be associated with an avatar if worn / attached – so any notion of being able to “take” items from LookBook and drop them into a “backpack” to carry around experiences would require a considerable about of work – if possible.

Continue reading “2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #1 with audio”