The 2018 Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference will be taking place between Thursday, March 15th and Saturday March 17th, 2018 inclusive. A grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments, VWBPE attracts 2200-3500 educational professionals from around the world each year.
The theme for the 2018 conference is VRevolutions, with the organisers noting:
VWBPE is an ecosystem of digital spaces. While the conference is hosted in Second Life, our conference features a variety of virtual and digital spaces. To present at VRevolutions, think outside the virtual space and consider how multiple available technologies and devices redefine what it means to work, create, and learn “virtually”. The VRevolution is about doing what scares you, what excites you, breaking and creating new paradigms.
At VRevolutions, VWBPE welcomes the multifaceted communities that contribute to and expand best practices in digital and virtual spaces to support practice, creation, and learning. Regardless of the community you represent, your proposal should consider how it contributes and expands the knowledge base for innovative and revolutionary change through the increasingly complex landscape of digital technology.
The 2018 event calendar has now been published, outlining the full range of events, both at the conference itself and in the days leading up to it / following it. Displayed in posterboard format by default (shown below), the calendar view can be switched easily to agenda, month or stream via drop-down selection Individual events can also easily be added to a number of personal calendars – Google, Outlook, Apple, depending on personal preference – making it even easier for attendees to track the events and activities they particularly want to attend at this year’s conference.
As with recent years, the conference will be primarily focus on the 8 core VWBPE regions in Second Life, although a number of related social events will also be taking place elsewhere – sett the VWBPE calendar for the specifics on individual event locations / URLs.
The Keynote speakers for VWBPE 2018 are:
Dr. Mark Childs, TEL Designer, Open University, UK: his PhD was awarded in 2010 for his thesis Learners’ Experience of Presence in Virtual Worlds. Mark was the manager of the Theatron3 project from 2007 to 2009 which developed 20 ancient theatres in Second Life for performance and learning and has co-written and co-edited four books on learning in virtual worlds. He will be presenting Identity, literacy, immersion and presence; joining together the building blocks of virtual world learning on the morning of Thursday, March 15th, 2018.
Bryan Alexander, Education Futurist: a prolific speaker and consultant, Bryan publishes books, chapters, and articles. He created the Future of Education Observatory, including the monthly FTTE trends analysis, an on-line book club, and a weekly video-conference discussion. He has been teaching and exploring virtual worlds since the early 1990s. He will be presenting The VRevolution calls for a new digital literacy on the morning of Friday, March 16th, 2018.
Above The Book
VWBPE 2018 will again feature a special Above The Book event. Introduced in 2017, this is an invitation-only event limited to around 30 attendees who will have the opportunity to have their questions put directly to a special guest who “has been noteworthy and have, in one way or another, helped build a legacy in virtual environments: for educators, researchers, advocacy groups, communities of practice, content creators.“
The Above the Book guest for 2018 will be Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg.
Those wishing to attend the event must complete and submit the Above the Bookapplication form, no later than Sunday, March 4th, 2018.
Volunteers Still Sought
There are still some volunteer slots left. If you would life to help run this year’s VWBPE, please consider hopping over to the volunteer sign-up page and completing the form there.
VWBPE is a global grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments which attracts over 2,000 educational professionals from around the world each year, who participate in 150-200 on-line presentations including theoretical research, application of best practices, virtual world tours, hands-on workshops, discussion panels, machinima presentations, and poster exhibits.
In the context of the conference, a “virtual world” is an on-line community through which users can interact with one another and use and create ideas irrespective of time and space. As such, typical examples include Second Life, OpenSimulator, Unity, World of Warcraft, Eve Online, and so on, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or any virtual environments characterised by an open social presence and in which the direction of the platform’s evolution is manifest in the community.
On Tuesday, February 27th, the Main (SLS) channel was updated with server maintenance package 18#18.02.12.512536, previously deployed to the three RC channels. This update was to directly address an odd viewer crash situation some users have experienced. Speaking at the week #8 Simulator User Group meeting, and reproduced here for completeness, Simon Linden said of the issue:
The server is doing some better checking on update data it sends to the viewer. We saw a very odd situation a week or two ago where the region was sending odd data and viewers would crash immediately. It went away after we restarted the region, and we think it was some memory corruption … FWIW, the server was sending a value of zero for a prim-code … which is totally invalid … There were also some other invalid data (like a zero’ed UUID) so my theory was memory corruption.
We didn’t have any other smoking guns. That region was fine after restarting, or when we tried our own copy. It was one of those mystery bugs, which we sometimes get since SL is so big and complex. We don’t know why it got that way, or how to make it happen again. we ended up making both the region and the viewer more robust. The underlying problem is still there and, assuming it happens again, will still cause problems.
On Wednesday, February 28th, 2018 the three main RC channels should be updated as follows:
LeTigre and Magnum; no deployment, no restart, leaving them on server maintenance package 18#18.02.12.512536.
BlueSteel should received a new server maintenance package, 18#18.02.23.512831, containing further simulator logging improvements and internal fixes. This is dependent upon what happens with the ongoing global DDoS attack over the course of the next 12-18 hours.
There have been no official viewer updates at the start of the week, leaving the various pipelines as per the end of week #8:
Current Release version 184.108.40.2062121, dated January 26, promoted February 7 – formerly the Voice Maintenance RC.
Release channel cohorts:
Nalewka Maintenance viewer, version 220.127.116.112803, February 23.
Love Me Render RC viewer, version 18.104.22.1682751, February 21.
Linux Spur viewer, version 22.214.171.1249906, dated November 17, 2017 and promoted to release status 29 November – offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
Obsolete platform viewer, version 126.96.36.1990847, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.
On Monday, February 26th and continuing through Tuesday, February 27th, large numbers of SL users experienced significant issues in trying to log-in as a result of a widespread UDP-based Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on the Internet as a whole (rather than specific to SL).
On Tuesday, February 27th, whilst still dealing with the situation, April Linden at the SL Ops team took time out to post on the situation in the official blog:
As I’m sure most of y’all have noticed, Second Life has had a rough 24 hours. We’re experiencing outages unlike any in recent history, and I wanted to take a moment and explain what’s going on.
The grid is currently undergoing a large DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. Second Life being hit with a DDoS attack is pretty routine. It happens quite a bit, and we’re good at handling it without a large number of Residents noticing. However, the current DDoS attacks are at a level that we rarely see, and are impacting the entire grid at once.
My team (the Second Life Operations Team) is working as hard as we can to mitigate these attacks. We’ve had people working round-the-clock since they started, and will continue to do so until they settle down. (I had a very late night, myself!)
Second Life is not the only Internet service that’s been targeted today. My sister and brother opsen at other companies across the country are fighting the same battle we are. It’s been a rough few days on much of the Internet.
We’re really sorry that access to Second Life has been so sporadic over the last day. Trying to combat these attacks has the full attention of my team, and we’re working as hard as we can on it. We’ll keep posting on the Second Life Status Blog as we have new updates.
See you inworld! April Linden Second Life Operations Team Lead
The attack led to a wide number of issues for SL users, from an inability to log-in to SL, through to disconnects or other problems. As Simon Linden explained in the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, February 27th:
It’s not just logins … and often there is cascading problems. If one system gets attacked, it might actually be functioning fine but if the rack or network switch it’s on is overloaded, anything else connected there also has problems.
As it stands, the worst of the attacks appear to be over, at least where SL is concerned, but users should keep an eye on the official blogs for further updates, as well as grid status updates.
Bay of Dreams is the Full region home of Valor Poses Mainstore and Photo Sim, operated by Keegan Kavenagh (AlexCassidy1), and designed on his behalf by inertia (Caridee Sparta) of Neverfar fame. This latter point alone should have anyone seasoned SL travellers adding Bay of Dreams to their list of places to visit, whether or not they are on the look-out for poses; as with Neverfar (about which you can read more here), the region is an eye-catching and involved design.
No landing point is set within the region, but a good place to start explorations is in the courtyard before the main store, tucked into the south-east corner. A large church style gate stands guard over the store area, separating it from the rest of the region, large gates ready to be opened or closed as required. A teleport board sits just beyond this, offering a choice of 10 destinations for those keen to start seeing the sights. These destinations include both the ground-level store and its skyborne Adult annex – a minor niggle here being there wasn’t (at the time of our visit at least) a TP point to easily get back to ground level from the latter. Also, as the board only delivers you to a location, we’d suggest it is actully better just to use shanks’ pony from the get-go, and explore on foot.
Veer left from the teleport board, and the route takes you through the ruins of a stone-built structure shouldered on either side by blocks of unhewn rock. Two arches stand at the end of the ruins, one offering a path down to a beach watched over by great trees with trunks bent with age to where a board walk cross shallow water to a smaller island. The other arch offers a path to where two old houses stand above the beach, each reached by its own steps cut into the living rock. Both appear abandoned, and a rough, grassy path arcs between them, passing round a little copse of trees standing between them.
The larger of these two houses sits with its back to a deep gorge cutting south-to-north through the land, a sandbar at its southern extreme preventing the sea from completely splitting the region. A wreck of an old plane lies on the sandbar, and a path from the smaller of the two abandoned houses offers a route over the rocks above the edge of the gorge to where a set of steps drop down to the beach and ‘plane wreck. Alternatively, a wooden bridge spans the gorge from behind the larger of the two houses, linking it with the broad, stepped plateau on the far side. Here, past the windmill and tree house, up the wooden steps and with a little scrambling over rocks, you might find yourself at the front door of the largest house on the island, looking imperiously down at the rest of the scene.
A second bridge, wide and gated two-thirds of the way along its length, spans another watery charm splitting the land. It offers the way to a grassy shoulder of rock where visitors can either opt to go by way of log bridges down to a secluded beach and beach house, or use a switch back path cut into the rock to descend to where the wrecked aeroplane awaits.
The smaller island to the north-west and mentioned earlier, appears to have once been a centre of commerce. A lighthouse and a huge warehouse rise from the rocky base of the island, vying with one another to be the tallest. Old wharves extend out into the waters from their feet, and two old trawlers are moored in the shallows. But whatever went on here has long since ceased: the buildings are decaying slowly, the wharves falling apart, the waters beneath them fast becoming choked and overgrown with grass and weeds, while falling trunks of great fir trees now pin the old boats under their weight.
Whether the trees fell due to age, or were cut down might be a matter for debate. However, there is plenty of evidence for them having been brought low by storm and wind to be found elsewhere, while the heavily bent trunks of other trees suggests this is a place subject to extremes in wind, further suggesting it is the elements which are responsible for the damage.
With its rugged outlook, scattering of houses, store and old fishing centre, Bay of Dreams is a visual treat. For those who would like to tarry a while, there are numerous places to sit – indoors and out – to be found, and for photographers, rezzing rights can be enjoyed on joining the local group, although you might want to twiddle with Windlights. Our thanks to Shakespeare and Max for pointing it out to us!
This summary is generally published on 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 188.8.131.522121, dated January 26th, promoted February 7th formerly the Voice Maintenance RC – No Change.
NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget has had its first public airing, and while not anywhere near finalised, it does first set-out the agency’s table under the Trump administration, and further cement some of the foundations on which that table will be built.
The top line is that for FY 2019 (starting October 2018), NASA should be allocated US $19.9 billion; roughly $370 million above the Obama 2017 budget (which is actually still being used under emergency measures, the FY 2018 budget still yet to be approved), and could be as high as $800 million more than the allocated FY 2018 budget. Some have taken this as a sign that the Trump Administration intends to back-up its noise making around US space activities with some hard spending. However, it’s important to note the FY 2019 request is seen as being the last real-term increase in NASA budget until at least 2024; from 2020 through 2023, it is expected that the agency’s budget will be locked at US $19.6 billion per year.
Bullet-points from the budget include:
Low-Earth Orbit and ISS: confirmation that the Administration wants to phase-out the International Space Station by 2025, in favour of developing a sustained commercial presence in low-Earth orbit. NASA is expected to provide some $900 million through to 2023 to help companies develop their own orbital facilities – or possibly transition the ISS to commercial use (how this would be done, given the international nature of a number of the ISS modules, is unclear).
Lunar Aspirations: confirmation of the re-direct for NASA to aim for a return to the Moon and drop human Mars missions from its plans, with a specific emphasis on the agency establishing the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (as the Deep Space Gateway is now being called). Although a NASA project, this is now likely to be driven forward on something of a public / private partnership basis.
Earth Sciences: a renewed attempt to end the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) mission, the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO), the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite. All four were cut from NASA’s 2018 budget by the Trump Administration, but currently continue to receive funding as a result of the failure thus far to get that budget approved.
Planetary Sciences: this gets a boost of some US $400 million over 2017, but its unclear where the money is to be allocated; little mention is made of new missions, and the budget language suggests most of the additional $400 million will be allocated to lunar precursor missions, and thus limited in effective scope.
Mars science is effectively frozen at the current level of missions, up to and including the InSight Lander due for launch in May, and the Mars 2020 rover. Only the potential sample return mission to follow Mars 2020 gets seed money.
Missions like Europa Clipper gain a lot of words, but no clearer idea on how they are to be achieved.
Astrophysics: contains the biggest shock item – cancellation of WFIRST, the Wide Field Infra-Red Survey Telescope (which I previewed here). This has already caused consternation in the science community, is liable to be one of the more strongly fought against recommendations. The White House rationale for the cancellation is that WFIRST “overlaps” the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and that “good” science can be conducted with “cheaper” missions. This latter point is particularly ironic given WFIRST, despite a small increase in projected cost, is still one of the most cost-effective NASA deep space missions thanks to its use of available elements.
Education: the axing of NASA’s Office of Education, again a repeat of a cut from the FY2018 budget – and one rejected by Congress. OOE accounts for less than 0.5% of NASA’s budget, but plays a significant role in generating interest among US school and college students in pursuing careers in science, technology and engineering.
Initial response to the budget has been mixed. Many are applauding the idea of shifting human activities in low-Earth orbit to a commercial footing – something the Trump administration would like to accelerated through a “streamlining” of policy and regulatory requirements. Advocates of the ISS are less pleased however.
While not approved, it had been expected that ISS operations would be extended through to 2028; a new Russian-built power module, NEM-1, due for launch in 2019/2020 would certainly help with this – and a unilateral decision by the United Station on the ISS might cause some international upset, as well as the domestic kick-back already being heard. Even before the ISS cut was confirmed, Republican law makers were lining up in support of the station. They’ve been joined by Democrats as well.
“The proposal would end support for the International Space Station in 2025 and make deep cuts to popular education and science programmes,” U.S. Senator. Bill Nelson (D-Fla) said. “Turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space at a time when we’re pushing the frontiers of exploration makes no sense.”
With opinions sharply split of the matter of the future of the ISS, LOP-G offering potentially limited benefit in terms of human operations on the Moon, upset over NASA’s science efforts having to effectively foot the bill for LOP-G, NASA’s FY 2019 budget could be in for as bumpy a ride through Congress as the FY 2018 budget…
SpaceX +1 For Certification; almost +1 for Recovery Attempt
The NASA budget proposal published on February 14th also revealed that the current variant of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has gained “Category 2” launch certification from NASA, clearing the way for the vehicle to start launching science missions on behalf of the agency. The first of these is scheduled to be the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), currently slated for launch in April 2018.
On February 22nd, the latest Falcon 9 mission lifted-off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 14:17 UT, carrying the Spanish Earth-observing Paz satellite and two prototype SpaceX microsats, referred to as Tintin A and Tintin B. Paz will observe Earth in radar wavelengths from a 514 km (319 mi) perch in quasi-polar orbit, gathering data for the Spanish government and other customers over the course of a 5.5 year mission. It will be able to generate images with up to 25 cm (10 in) resolution, day and night and regardless of the meteorological conditions.
The two SpaceX satellite-internet prototypes, originally dubbed Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, are meant to gather data in advance of deploying and operating a satellite constellation designed to provide a global, low-cost internet service. Called Starlink, the system was first announced by SpaceX chief Elon Musk in 2015, and will eventually comprise thousands of the little satellites when it opens for business in 2020.
The first stage of the launch vehicle had first flown in August 2017, when it helped deliver Taiwan’s Formosat-5 satellite to low-Earth orbit. However, no attempt was made to recover the stage this time around – the ninth such stage to make a second journey into space. Instead, SpaceX’s efforts were focused on trying to recover one of the vehicle’s two payload fairings.
As I’ve previously noted, the payload fairings enclose the rocket’s cargo during its ascent through the atmosphere. Normally, they are simply jettisoned on reaching low-Earth orbit, and allowed to burn-up in the upper atmosphere. However, they are actually extremely expensive and complex vehicle elements. The SpaceX units, used by both the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, measure 13.1 m in length and 5.2 m in diameter (43 ft by 17ft), weigh just under a tonne each, and are made of carbon composite material at a cost of US $3 million each – so that’s effectively $6 million per launch being thrown away. If they could be recovered and refurbished, it could allow SpaceX to knock an estimated $5 million off the cost of a launch.
After separating from the Falcon’s upper stage, one of the two payload fairings – which had been equipped with small gas thrusters – re-oriented itself for a slow re-entry into the upper atmosphere, which also gradually slowed it to around eight times the speed of sound (roughly 10,000 km/h). At this point, a parafoil was deployed, effectively turning the fairing into a monster hang glider and further slowing its descent over the Pacific Ocean.
Waiting for it on that Ocean was Mr. Steven, a “high-speed passenger boat” launched in 2015, and capable of a sustained top speed of 32 knots (37 mph / 59 km/h). The theory is that at this speed, the vessel should be able to sprint along beneath the fairing’s descent trajectory, matching its course and velocity during the final part of the decent, and then “catch” it is a huge net strung between four ungainly arms added to the vessel’s large, flat stern deck.
As it turned out, things didn’t quite come together as hoped. Mr. Steven was unable to maintain position relative to the returning fairing, which actually splashed down in the ocean a couple of hundred metres from the ship. However, it did so so gently, it exhibited little initial visual signs of damage, and Mr. Steven was able to come alongside and recover it.
“Missed by a few hundred meters, but fairing landed intact in water. Should be able catch it with slightly bigger chutes to slow down descent,” Musk tweeted shortly afterwards.
The next attempt at a fairing recovery could come at the end of March, 2018, with the launch of the next batch of 10 Iridium communications satellites from Vandenberg.
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.
Sunday, February 25th
13:30: Tea-Time Mysteries: Nero Wolfe
Rex Stout’s corpulent, fastidious, eccentric, prescriptivist, sedentary – yet gifted with a razor-sharp mind – armchair detective, Nero Wolfe, is the focus of a new Tea-Time series for Sundays.
The subject of 33 novels and 39 novellas and short stories written by Stout between 1934 and 1975, Wolfe is for many, as familiar a character as Sherlock Holmes, not just because of Stout’s original writings, but because of the numerous film, TV and radio spin-offs they encouraged, together with the lesser writings of others focusing on Wolfe and his confidante / leg-man / secretary / chauffeur Archie Goodwin.
This week, Seanchai present In Bad Taste.
18:00: The Not-Just-Anybody Family
When Junior Blossom wakes up in the hospital, his last memory is of crouching on the barn roof with cloth wings tied to his arms, and of Maggie and Vern in the yard below, urging him to fly. That had been just before Junior spotted a police car approaching the farm in a cloud of dust.
Meanwhile Pap, the children’s grandfather, sits in disgrace in the city jail. He was arrested for disturbing the peace after his pick-up truck accidentally dumped 2,147 beer and soda cans on Spring Street.
With their mother away on the rodeo circuit, it’s up to Maggie and Vern to find a way to rescue Pap and Junior. How will they solve their family problems?
Join Caledonia Skytower at the Golden Horsehoe for this Magicland Storytime reading of this Betsy Byars classic.
Monday, February 26th 19:00: Sentenced to Prism
Prism is a planet with a uniquely crystalline environment and which supports both silicon and carbon-based life forms. It is a planet where even the tiniest creatures are living jewels.
For some time, the Company has been illegally exploiting Prism, but now all contact has been lost with the research team there, leaving the Company with a problem. Any attempt to launch a rescue mission will draw unwanted attention both to Prism and to the Company’s activities. Something else must done; so they call on the talents of Evan Orgell.
A smart, self-confident and successful problem-solver, Orgell has access to the best equipment available within the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, and as Orgell discovers, Prism is a harsh and hard place – a lot harder than his state-of-the-art environment suit. When that succumbs to the local flora/fauna, Orgell finds himself exposed to the hostile environment and fighting for his survival without any protection, dependent upon little more than his wits.
Then help arrives from an unexpected quarter: a sentient life-form native to Prism calling itself A Surface of Fine Azure-Tinted Reflection With Pyroxin Dendritic Inclusions – which Orgell decides to call “Azure”.
Join Gyro Muggins as he reads a standalone story from Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth series.
Tuesday, February 27th 19:00: Merlin’s Dragon
Long ago, at the dawn of Merlin’s world, a strange little creature named Basil appeared. Part lizard, part bat, his eyes glow with a mysterious light.
When Basil discovers a threat to his world and to Merlin, he begins an epic journey that takes him from the Great Tree of Avalon to the outermost edges of the spirit realm. But his boldest journey will be to face his own deepest fears. And only if he survives can he save Merlin – and find his future.
So reads the cover description for The Dragon of Avalon, part of T.A. Barron’s Merlin Saga series, a trilogy of stories within the series charting Basil’s rise from humble beginnings to the greatest dragon of all time, loyal to Merlin and protector of Avalon.
Join Faerie Maven-Pralou as she delves in Barron’s magical realm.
Wednesday, February 28th 19:00: Poetry This Year
Caledonia Skytower, shares the poems students have chosen for recitation in the programme she coordinates in real life.
Thursday, March 1st, 19:00: Monsters and Myths: Sirens
With Shandon Loring. Also presented in Kitely (hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/144/129/29).
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.