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.
Note that test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are not recorded in these summaries.
Official LL Viewers
Current Release version 18.104.22.1683644, dated March 27th, promoted April 13th – formerly the Media Update RC.
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, April 30th 19:00: The Crucible of Time
Gyro Muggins reads the fix-up by John Brunner. First published as two-part story which appeared in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, it’s an ambitious tale of alien intelligence which grew to a series of six linked tales pushed as a single novel in 1983.
Far off in space is an alien race which is so much like us, yet so un-alike. From the birth of their earliest civilisation through to their attainment of star flight as their star system passes through the galaxy, we follow their development through the ages.
Aquatic by nature, this race presents some significant challenges well outside the realms of anything encountered by humanity. But they are also driven by all too familiar hopes, fears, desires, needs, wants, prejudices, impact of religious ideologies, and the quest for knowledge we have experienced in the growth of our own civilisation.
Charting six periods of time, each a thousand years after the previous, the six stories focus on the efforts of a group of individuals in each era as they face one or more challenges, their success in overcoming these challenges inevitably leading them towards a greater understanding of their planet’s plight, and ultimately, the ability to deal with that plight and the survival of their civilisation.
Tuesday, May 1st 19:00: National Lampoon’s Doon
In a distant galaxy, far, far away, a plot is brewing as vast and elaborate as the Empire itself…
Evil powers plot to harvest the wild pools of beer that grow only on the savage, sugar-swept world of Doon, take control of the native pretzel population, and turn the plucky little orb into the lounge-planet of the universe!
And only one man, Pall Agamemnides, heir to a dukedom can stop the galaxy-wide web of conspiracy and intrigue that is being fomented, and bring an end to the threat facing Soon.
Although reliant on a knowledge of both Frank Herbert’s sprawling story of Dune and Herbert’s often heady and flowery prose, Ellis Weiner’s tongue-in-cheek Doon is a masterpiece, offering a perfect parody of Herbert’s novel and brilliantly and accurately mimicking his prose.
Wednesday, May 2nd 19:00: What Is This Crap
More 100 word delights from R. Crap Mariner.
Thursday, May 3rd 19:00
19:00: Monsters and Myths: Fafnir
Fafnir lives with his family in a fortress-like house deep in the forest. His father, descended from an archdemon, shares the secrets of the dark arts with Fafnir and his two brothers.
Regnir, the eldest, is a deformed dwarf who lusts after gold and relies on his cunning to get it. Hungering only for food, Oter, the middle brother, can transform himself into a bird of prey. The shape-shifting Fafnir desires to be feared, and when Odin, king of the gods, sets a trap with a treasure that tempts every giant, ogre, and dwarf in his domain, Fafnir becomes a dragon. However, he is about to confront an even fiercer rival: a mortal named Siegfried.
This adventure-filled Norse myth is a powerful story of magic, curses, doom, and destruction featuring an unlikely hero whose perils are only just beginning.
Also presented in Kitely (hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/144/129/29).
Spaceplanes – vehicles capable of operating like an aircraft with in the Earth’s atmosphere, and as a space vehicle either in orbit or while above altitudes of around 80-90 kilometres – are still relatively rare beasts, despite once being seen as the future of low-cost access to space. There have only really been a handful put to what might be called “operational” use. Most notably these include the space shuttle – more formally called the Space Transportation System, and the secretive X-37B “mini shuttle” operated by Boeing and the US Air Force.
Things will be changing in the future, most notably when the sub-orbital SpacePlaneTwo vehicle(s) operated by Virgin Galactic start “tourist” flights to the edge of space, and when the DreamChaser Cargo vehicle starts flying cargo payloads to the International Space Station in the 2020 – of which more below. A further vehicle set to enter operations in 2020/21 is the Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1), which is quite a fascinating concept I’ve briefly covered in these pages.
A joint venture between the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Boeing, the latter having been awarded the phase 2 development contract by DARPA in late 2017, the uncrewed vehicle sit between the comparatively small X-37B and a space shuttle orbiter in size, being roughly comparable with and executive business jet. Dubbed the “Phantom Express” by Boeing, its primary goal is to offer a rapid launch and turn-around capability in deploying replacement, or urgently required, payloads to orbit. So rapid, in fact that as part of its test launch programme, a single XS-1 demonstrator must complete 10 launches in 10 days. In addition, the vehicle must be capable of hypersonic flight to around Mach 10 (12,250 km/h), and operate with a launch cost of around US $5 million per flight.
A sub-orbital vehicle, the XS-1 will not have an internal cargo bay; instead, the payload(s) will be mounted on one or two expendable boosters carried on its back, forming the system’s upper stage. This design allows the XS-1 to be a completely self-contained launcher: there is no booster system to help it into the skies, and no external tank for fuel.
To complete the XS-1, Boeing has partnered with Aerojet Rocketdyne, who will provide the vehicle’s primary motor – the AR-22. This is effectively an updated variant of the RS-25 Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), and has been selected because of the AR-25’s track record of space shuttle flights.
The XS-1 will fly out of Kennedy Space Centre, where Boeing already operate the X-37B and have vehicle processing facilities. It will launch vertically from a dedicated mobile launch platform, rather than a fixed pad. After climbing to altitude and clearing the denser part of the atmosphere, the spaceplane will release the payload booster, which delivers the payload to orbit, while the spaceplane makes an automated return to Florida, and make a landing either at the former space shuttle runway at Kennedy Space Centre or the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Phase 2 of the programme runs through until the end of 2019, and encompasses the design, construction and testing of a technology demonstration vehicle and the construction of the first AR-22 motors. One of these will be test-fired on the ground 10 times in 10 days to verify it is ready for flight tests. It comes at a cost of US $146 million to DARPA, with Boeing covering the remaining costs. The follow-on third phase of the project is due to commence in late 2019, and will include both 12 to 15 flight tests intended to confirm the atmospheric handling of the XS-1 spaceplane, and the 10 test launches in a 10-day time frame.
While developed as a DARPA programme, the XS-1 is not seen as being purely for government launches. Following the flight tests, DARPA and Boeing plan to release “selected data” from the test programme to commercial enterprises interested in leveraging the system’s low-cost, rapid launch capabilities.
Dream Chaser Cargo: SNC Weigh Launcher Options
Another spaceplane I’ve referenced in these updates is Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC’s) Dream Chaser Cargo. Developed from an earlier variant of the vehicle SNC hoped would be used to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS), Dream Chaser Cargo is due to start delivering supplies to the ISS in 2020, alongside the current flights by the SpaceX Dragon and Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicles. During the 34th Space Symposium held in April 2018, SNC provided an update on their plans for Dream Chaser in general.
The vehicle has now entered its critical design review (CDR) with NASA, which is due to conclude in July 2018. This will clear the way for the construction of the first flight-ready version of Dream Chaser Cargo, which is due to fly in late 2020.
In addition the company announced the flight test article, originally built for the crewed version of the Dream Chaser, is being retired and mothballed until such time as SNC is ready to resume it explorations in developing a crewed version of the vehicle, something which may be contingent on commercial interest and partners.
The majority of these notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, April 27th 2018. A video of the meeting is embedded below, my thanks as always to North for recording and providing it. Time stamps in the text below will open the video in a new tab at the relevant point of discussion.
Once again, this was a short meeting, but one with extended periods of silence; hence some of the gaps in the time stamps below. There’s also a conversation on the forthcoming Bid A Linden Bald event, as part of the Relay Rockers annual
[0:07-0:36] The Love Me Render RC viewer updated to version 22.214.171.1244788 on Wednesday, April 25th, 2018, and the Ouzo Maintenance RC updated to version 126.96.36.1994802 on Friday, April 27th. Both of these RC viewers have had “significantly higher” crash rates than the default viewer, so the Lab will be watching to see what happens with the two updates, and with the crash rate for either is reduced as a result of their release.
Otherwise the viewer pipelines remain as:
Current Release version 188.8.131.523644, dated March 27, promoted April 13 – formerly the media update RC.
Linux Spur viewer, version 184.108.40.2069906, 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 220.127.116.110847, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7. This viewer will remain available for as long as reasonable, but will not be updated with new features or bug fixes.
[0:39-1:24] The 360 snapshot viewer remains “on hold”, receiving updates to maintain parity with release viewer, but otherwise not receiving any significant work on its key features at this point in time. Work will resume in the future as the specialist resources become available. Both the Animesh and Bakes on Mesh viewers are referred to in the meeting as being “close to coming over to Agni”, although this only hold true for the Animesh project viewer, as the Bakes On Mesh viewer should work on the Main grid already (albeit with the Bake Service’s current 512×512 texture support, as the support for 1024×1024 textures has yet to be deployed).
Viewer Texture Cache Work
[1:46-2:14] The Lab continues to work on the viewer texture cache, and it is hoped that the latest attempt will lead to a “big improvement” in how textures are handled. Currently this code is not available for public consumption, but the hope is that there will be a project viewer with the code available “pretty soon”.
Updated Estate Management Tools
[19:30-20:10] Work is again progressing on enhancing the Estate Management tools in the viewer (e.g. refining ban list management capabilities, etc.). It is hoped that a project viewer will be emerging in the next few weeks. The viewer updates themselves are largely done, and things are awaiting server-side support.
The ability to define the environment (sky, sun, moon, clouds, water settings) at the parcel level.
New environment asset types (Sky, Water, Days – the latter comprising multiple Sky and Water) that can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others.
Scripted, experience-based environment functions, an extended day cycle and extended environmental parameters. This work involves both a viewer updates (with a project viewer coming soon) and server-side updates.
[11:39-12:38] Rider Linden has been engaged in some other work for most of the past month, but is now largely back working on the project. It is now a focus for the Lab going forward, with the hope that Rider will not be diverted into other work at EEP’s expense. Some test regions for EEP are also being prepared on Aditi.
Testing Viewer Options and the Shared Experience
[5:00-5:45] TPVs sometimes introduce features and options which might be considered as breaking the “shared experience”. The question was therefore asked if allowing people to test / play with new rendering options – as developed by a TPV rather than Linden Lab – might be considered as breaking the shared experience. Oz Linden offered a response which provided some guidance on similar kinds of updates:
I think the best I can give you in terms of a general answer is if it’s the sort of thing that’s going to cause a merchant to include a note card with a product that says, “to see this product correctly, you have to run this viewer with that option turned on”, that’s a sign you’re breaking the shared experience … On the other hand, if you want to experiment with something that you’re then going to contribute upstream [i.e. to the Lab for inclusion in the base viewer code (which is used by all TPVs)] that’s a different problem altogether.
Catznip Displacement Maps Experiements
The question itself was prompted by Kitty Barnett of Catznip, who is working on using displacement maps in the viewer, as well as some other normal mapping tweaks.
It would seem that if successful, this work will be contributed to Linden Lab for evaluation and consideration. It’s important to note that Catznip’s work is in the early stages, more work is required on level of detail impact / modelling / potential Land Impact costs, etc., for which Catznip may look to the Lab for assistance.
[6:26-6:46] In the meantime, Oz Linden reiterated that, quite aside of the Environmental Enhancement Project (EPP – see above), the Lab is working on a number of other environmental (render-side) improvements. Previous discussions on rendering improvements have indicated that Graham Linden is already working on a series of environment updates alongside the EEP work being carried out by Rider Linden, which appears to include support for Godrays, potential pre-baking of some environment effects, etc. It’s not clear from Oz’s comments whether he is referring to this work, or something further downstream.
Natty Linden’s Marketplace Job Ad
[16:37-17:00] Natty Linden posted a Marketplace listing for a job at Linden Lab. While offering a little fun, the listing has a serious edge: there is an open Marketplace web developer post at present. As such, Natty’s listing is a further way of reaching those already engaged in Second Life who may have the requisite skills sets, who live in the right location and who may be interested in joining the Lab (which frequently does employ Second Life users – as seen with the likes of Patch Linden, Xiola Linden, and Rider Linden, to name but three of the more well-known resident hires made by the Lab over the years, and who work in different areas within the SL team).
Rock Your Rack, the annual fund-raiser organised by Models Giving Back (MGB) in aid of the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), will again take place in 2018. The dates for the event are Saturday, September 29th through Saturday, October 13th, 2018.
Officially endorsed by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the event is a combined fashion and entertainment event, offering the best in both to visitors, with designer booths, fashions shows, live performances and DJ sessions. In addition, there will be a range of supporting activities, including:
A silent auction featuring one-of-a-kind items from Rock Your Rack designers who will give 100% of the sales to the cause
A Rock Your Rack Hunt featuring collectables offered by participating designers at L$10 each – with all proceeds going directly into the fund-raising.
An Art show and auction organised by Kultivate Magazine on behalf of Models Giving Back.
The theme for this year’s event is Music for the Decades with the organisers noting, “We envision areas of the build that fit different decades of music and that our DJ’s, live artists and other entertainers will work this theme into their sets for the event.”
At the start of April the event opened applications from designers wishing to participate in Rock Your Rack, and is open to any content designers and SL established businesses. Those interested in participating are asked to meet the following high-level requirements:
Provide an Exclusive item not for sale anywhere else during the time of the event and has never been previously sold or given away (designer keeps 100% of sales from this item).
Provide a Limited Edition item which can be a new design or a remake of an old favourite. 100% of proceeds from this item must go to Rock Your Rack for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and the item must be marked as such and retired from sales after the event.
Offer either the Exclusive item or the Limited Edition in keeping with the event’s theme Music for the Decades.
Provide one item of the designer’s choice for the event’s L$10 Hunt, which gives 100% of funds raised to the NBCF.
Sales of all other items can be offered at 100% of proceeds going to the designer, or can be set to give a percentage donation to Rock Your Rack, entirely at the designer’s discretion.
For a full run-down of the designer participant guidelines and rules can be found on the designer’s information page at Rock Your Rack, which also includes a link to the application form.
Pricing for participating in the event as a design starts at L$2,000. This provides a Regular booth with a 50 LI allowance which can be used for vendors and decoration; the designer’s logo displayed on the booth and on the Rock Your Rack website, and a SLurl listing to the designer’s in-world store; event advertising on social media and with in-world groups alongside the Rock Your Rack website; and paid advertising through Seraphim and other outlets if approved by those outlets.
There are then a series of options available at additional pricing which designers can opt to take advantage of in order to maximise their exposure in this event. Again, please refer to the information page for full pricing details.
If you are DJ or Live performer wishing to donate your time to the event, registrations will be open in the summer – so keep an eye on the Rock Your Rack website. However, a number of special invited entertainment guests have been announced by the organisers:
The Hiess Project and Johnathan Hiess will be staging at least three tribute concerts.
The Dazzlers dance troupe will be performing a very special dance event.
The Fantasy Angels will be making their first appearance at Rock Your Rack, including a meet and greet session.
The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on Thursday, April 26th, 2018 at 13:00 SLT. The meeting is chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, etc, are usually available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.
The goal of this project is to provide a means of animating rigged mesh objects using the avatar skeleton, in whole or in part, to provide things like independently moveable pets / creatures, and animated scenery features via scripted animation. It involves both viewer and server-side changes.
Vir believes the Lab is pretty close to a final set of Animesh updates for the server side of things. These include support for the Animesh updated limits and cost formulas, and it is expected that QA will be starting soon on the code in readiness for clearing it for deployment to the Main grid, Agni.
Joint Offset Constraints
One of the reasons the Lab is discussing constraining joint offset is an Animesh bear developed for testing purposes (and which can be found on the Aditi Animesh test regions) which sits some 75 metres off the ground, that’s due to a bad offset being set within the mesh and used with the mPelvis bone, which comes into play when the mesh isn’t being animated.
The bear itself was created as the SL10B wearable avatar, and so demonstrates what can happen with existing wearable content with such errors (which would not become apparent while the mesh is become worn, as the avatar tends to always be in a state of animation) is converted for use as Animesh.
Constraining the distance joints can be offset (say to 5 metres) offers one means of preventing this kind of problem; however, it is recognised that doing so could break existing content – such as the very tall avatar models that are available. Therefore the Lab is considering this an other, more complex options – such as doing something with the bounding box.
Animation Playback Issues
Some are still having Animation playback issues with Animesh objects, notably on initial rezzing or following a region crossing. The advice is it increase the number of animation updates being sent out.
There is some potential confusion with the land impact reports on the mesh uploader and when calculated for an Animesh object when in-world. The uploader calculates the LI for a mesh based on it being a static object. It is only when the object is toggled to Animesh in-world that the revised formulas for LI and complexity are used. This has in turn lead to issues for creators trying to determine what the likely weightings are going to be for their models prior to update.
There have also been some reports that on conversion, models not obeying the new LOD requirements defined as part of the within the new formula suffer heavy penalties when converted to Animesh.
Rigged Mesh Level of Detail / Bounding Box Issues
Beq Janus has reported on issues with rigged mesh LOD issues related to the avatar bounding box (see BUG-214736). Essentially, attachments on avatars swap their LOD models as if they were scaled to the overall avatar bounding box. For example, if an avatar bounding box is forced to 15 metres on a side, any rigged object worn by that avatar will swap LODs as if it were 15 metres in size, no matter how small, forcing viewers around it to use its highest LOD model unnecessarily.
Graham Linden has been investigating this issue, and now has some updates for the viewer (yet to be integrated with the Animesh project viewer) which should help with this issue and encourage those creator who have, deliberately or accidentally, gaining an advantage from the issue to offers balanced LOD models for their content.
Bakes On Mesh
Extending the current avatar baking service to allow wearable textures (skins, tattoos, clothing) to be applied directly to mesh bodies as well as system avatars. This involves server-side changes, including updating the baking service to support 1024×1024 textures, and may in time lead to a reduction in the complexity of mesh avatar bodies and heads.
This work does not include normal or specular map support, as these are not part of the existing baking service.
Completing the work to implement three more tattoo slots of the Bake Service: skirt tattoo, hair tattoo and eyes tattoo. These are designed to extend the tattoo to the same set of slots as for the underwear and clothing layers, and hopefully make the available slots far more flexible in potential use when applying baked textures to worn mesh.
Continuing to work on the skirt layer stacking issue.
The basic functionality of taking system wearable layers and applying them to mesh faces is viewed as working. However, as per my previous Content Creation meeting notes, there is still a lot to be decided on how to progress Bakes on Mesh, particularly in reference to Bakes on Mesh and the applier market, and the overall convenience of Bakes on Mesh for applying textures to worn mesh faces, compared to “ease” of using applier systems for consumers.
Internal discussions about some of the ideas raised around this – such as being able to inject textures into the Bake Service via script – are still be discussed within the Lab as a result of the concerns raised at the previous CCUG.
Bakes and UV Maps / Spaces
Bakes on Mesh has generated a lot of discussion on the effectiveness of custom UV maps and the Baking Service – UV maps being the thing that take was are essentially 2D textures and “wrap” them around a mesh object. In brief:
The system avatar has a set of pre-defined UV spaces associated with it. These are used by many of the mesh body makers, and so using system clothing layers via the Bake Service should work on these. Mesh heads tend to be different, and so issues can occur trying to apply skins, etc., to them.
The Lab’s view is that there’s no reason in principle why the baked textures must use the system UV space. So, for example, and providing none of the system avatar layers (such as the skin) are to be visible, it should be possible to use a set of tattoo layers defined in a specific mesh body’s UV space which can then be passed through the Bake Service and applied to a set of mesh faces regardless of the system UV space.
An issue here is that only tattoo layers can be used with custom UVs, as all other layers have “holes” in them designed to reveal the system avatar skin, allow for eyelashes, etc. Therefore, it is not currently possible to re-purpose a shirt layer, for example. Cathy Foil expanded on this, and on the use of system UV space with mesh bodies.
Vir expanded a little on the idea that some of the clothing layers that have more “intelligence” built-in (e.g. alpha masking support), hence why they would not work with custom UVs and it would be necessary to use tattoo layers for the textures and re-name them.
Within the meeting, this led to an extended discussion on UV options – such as the advantage of updating the avatar .LAD file and the viewer appearance editor to allow the use of custom UVs or the system UV space (via an appearance editor check box) over re-purposing tattoo layers.
It’s like that initially, the Lab will lean towards re-purposing tattoo layers, rather than re-working the avatar .LAD and appearance editor, leaving it to body / head creators to offer updated UV maps for those cases where they don’t precisely follow the space UVs.
There is no CCUG on Thursday, May 3rd due to a conflict with the Lab’s monthly internal meeting. The next CCUG will therefore take place on Thursday, May 1oth, location TBA.