SL Sci-Fi Expo 2018

SL Sci-Fi Expo 2018

The 2018 Second Life Sci-Fi Expo touched-down safely on the main grid on Saturday May 12th, 2018 ready to embark Second Life residents on flights of intergalactic adventure and fancy which will continue through until Sunday, May 20th, 2018.

Active across four regions this year, the convention once again presents a broad range of science-fiction related role-play and content, all bound together in the aim of raising funds for Relay for Life of Second Life and the American Cancer Society.

In addition, the event features a range of entertainment and presentations. So much is going on through the week in fact, that the best way of staying up-to-date on things is to check the convention’s event calendar (don’t be confused by it being referred to as the 2017 calendar). This can also be found at strategic points scattered throughout the convention’s regions on browsable display boards, so keeping up-to-speed on where to go and what to see is pretty easy.

SL Sci-Fi Expo 2018

If I’m totally honest, the convention seemed – on visiting and in viewing the website – a lot more subdued this year than in previous years. I’m not aware of any significant themes to the regions, outside of Land of the Giants for the central (“hub”?) region; there doesn’t appear to be a list of exhibitors this year, and the website itself – at the time of writing does not appear to have been updated since May 5th, 2018.

Within the regions themselves, traffic was high during my two visits, while Star Trek appears to have the largest presence in terms of the number of booths etc – which is not to say the event is in any way exclusive to Trek; there are a fair few TARDIS telephone boxes scattered around and the odd Viper and Cylon Raider can be seen, as well as a Marvel Comics hero or two. Do be aware, when visiting, that several of the exhibition booths have teleporters leading elsewhere – so if some see a little devoid of information, this could be the reason why.

So, as I’m prone to say when previewing this event: whatever your interest in science fiction, be sure to set your phaser on fun and head back to the future with a visit to the SL Sci-Fi convention.

SLurl Details

A Little Bit of Soul in Second Life

A Little Bit of Soul; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrA Little Bit of Soul – click any image for full size

Update: A Little Bit of Soul is now closed, and SLurl links have been removed from this article.

Occupying one half of a Full region, A Little Bit of Soul is group design offering a huge amount to see and explore.  Running from west to east across the region, it presents what might be seen as a build in three parts, all of which flow together to offer a unifies setting.

At the western end is a built-up area which encloses the landing point. Split into two parts, it encloses the landing point within a plaza-like square surrounded by boutique-style businesses, some of which have town style houses built above them. Footpaths run around the shops on two sides, one of which forms a small road lined with more shop fronts with living spaces over them, while the other offers a way to a waterfront area.

A Little Bit of Soul; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrA Little Bit of Soul

This small precinct offers a pristine setting: shop fronts are freshly painted, balconies are lined with potted plants, and trees and hedges are neatly trimmed. A small metal gazebo sits towards the middle of the square, a harpsichord, guitar and drum set forming a curious setting for a trio of musicians. All-in-all, there is a strong European cosmopolitan air within this part of the parcel.

Walk westward across the plaza from the landing point, and you’ll find a narrow set of steps lead up to the second half of this built-up area. This is altogether more run-down in tone – and becomes progressively more so as you explore. It is reached via two pairs of doors at the top of the steps leading up from plaza, which open onto another square surrounded on three sides by what might at first glance appear to be small apartments or perhaps hotel rooms, windows lit. With its hanging ivy, open verandahs in cast iron, and open courtyard, this area has something of an old New Orleans feel to it.

A Little Bit of Soul; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrA Little Bit of Soul

With the exception of a first floor room sitting over an arched entrance leading out of the square, the “rooms” of this hotel / apartment setting are actually false, and demonstrate a clever use of space on the part of the designer here, Megan Prumier. Pass through the archway and take the ramp or steps on its other side, and you’ll find the “rooms” of the hotel / apartment house have become the frontage for run-down stores facing out onto little streets.

This raised area offers a collection of footpaths and open spaces set with tables and chairs, market stalls and other bric-a-brac and general detritus, all set amidst the shells of ruined buildings. The entire area exuding an aged feel, with more shells of ruined buildings sitting off-shore, rising above tall walls to give the parcel an added sense of depth.

A Little Bit of Soul; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrA Little Bit of Soul

Travel east from the landing point, under an archway between two stores, and you’ll come to the second element in the parcel’s design. The first part of this area is a small chapel and churchyard, again put together by Megan, caught under a steady downfall of rain. Beyond this, under a further archway, sits a much smaller group of shops, bordered on both sides by woodlands, the southern of which has paths and trails running through it, as well as places to sit – or bathe.

Designed by Xange Madrigal, this area flows seamlessly into the surrounding woodlands and the surrounding rugged countryside. A small body of water can be found here, together with a raised terrace with seating while more paths lead the way to hidden gems of areas, simple wooden bridges crossing the water where necessary to encourage explorers onwards.

A Little Bit of Soul; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrA Little Bit of Soul

And still there is more: the eastern end of the region offers more woodland, copses, trails, an outdoor space for weddings or other celebrations, a waterfront  a sauna deck and gazebo looking out over offshore islands which again add further depth to the parcel, and a cabin-style home. These have all been brought together by several more contributors to the region – although I’m not entirely sure if the cabin is intended to be open to the public at large, so please keep this in mind when visiting.

Throughout my visits, A Little Bit of Soul was caught under a twilight sky, and while this works, I would suggest it limits the appreciation of the beauty of the parcel, which far more comes to life under a daylight setting. However, I strongly recommend seeing the setting under both its intended windlight (Bryn Oh’s Mayfly) and a good daylight setting: A Little Bit of Soul is a marvellous setting, well deserving of a visit.

A Little Bit of Soul; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrA Little Bit of Soul

With thanks toy Shakespeare (SkinnyNilla).

2018 viewer release summaries, week #19

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

Updates for the week ending Sunday, May 13th

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, dated March 27th, promoted April 13th – formerly the Media Update RC.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • No updates.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers



Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: Flying on Mars, working on the Moon and visiting Europa

The Mars helicopter demonstrator: set to fly with the Mars 2020 rover mission. Credit: NASA

In November 2015 I wrote about an idea to fly a robotic drone helicopter on Mars as a part of the next rover mission, currently referred to as the Mars 2020 mission. On May 11th, 2018, NASA confirmed that Mars 2020 will now include the drone, to be carried by the rover as a technology demonstrator.

The unit, under development since 2013, is quite small; the body is the size of a box of tissues, and the contra-rotating rotor blades have a diameter of a metre (39 inches). Weighing some 1.8 kg (4.4 lbs), the drone will be battery-powered, using solar cells to recharge the batteries, which will also power a dedicated heating source to help it survive the cold Martian nights.

The drone will be carried underneath the rover, which will used the same “skycrane” landing mechanism as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity. Once a suitable location for its deployment is found, the rover will lower it to the ground and move away to let the drone commence its first flight.

An artist’s impression of the key elements in the Mars Helicopter. Credit: NASA

Up to five flights are planned over a 30-day test campaign. The first will be very short-duration, enough to allow the helicopter to ascend to around 3 metres (9 feet) and hover for 30 seconds while the flight systems are checked out. Later flights will last up to 90 seconds and travel as far as a few hundred metres before landing to allow the solar panels to recharge the battery system.

Flying any sort of aircraft on Mars is a significant challenge. For example, the atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, or the equivalent of being 30 km (100,000 feet) above the surface of the Earth – more the double the altitude any helicopter has been able to fly. This means the drone has to be both very lightweight and extremely powerful for its size if it is to get airborne on Mars.

To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be.

– Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager

To achieve lift, The helicopter’s blades will rotate at up to 3,000 revolutions per minute, 10 times the rate of a terrestrial helicopter. The vehicle is also entirely autonomous – the time delay in Earth-Mars-Earth communications means that conventional drone flight under human control is impossible.

Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager. Credit: NASA

Instead, flight parameters will be uploaded to the Mars 2020 rover for relay to the helicopter, which will also be able to receive and act on additional instructions sent by the rover so that it doesn’t have to carry the entire flight plan within its own computer.

NASA sees Mars Helicopter as demonstrating how aerial vehicles might serve as scouts for future missions to Mars. This idea is explored in the most recent video promoting the mission, with a helicopter scanning and image the terrain around a rover.

The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers. With the added dimension of a bird’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we can only imagine what future missions will achieve.

– Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science

As a technology demonstrator,the Mars Helicopter is seen as a high-rick project, although NASA has been keen to stress that if the helicopter fails for any reason, it will not impact the overall Mars 2020 mission. Nevertheless, the news the project will be carried on the rover mission hasn’t been positively received in all quarters – including within the Mars 2020 mission itself.

I am not an advocate for the helicopter, and I don’t believe the Mars 2020 project has been an advocate for the helicopter.

– Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020

The concern among the rover science team is that the helicopter’s planned 90-day test campaign will prove to be a disruption in the rover’s overall science mission. However, Farley also indicated that the rover team are working to integrate the helicopter into the rover’s mission and accommodate its requirements.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: Flying on Mars, working on the Moon and visiting Europa”