This summary is generally 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.
Note that test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are not recorded in these summaries.
Official LL Viewers
Current Release version 184.108.40.2060636, dated October 18th, promoted November 14th. Formerly the Animesh RC viewer – NEW.
It is with a good deal of delight that I received an invite from Milly Sharple to visit her winter themed Let It Snow!, which has once again returned to Second Life for the holiday season.
With the exception of 2017, Let It Snow! has been something of a winter tradition in Second Life for the last few years, so I’d been looking forward to visiting the latest iteration ever since Milly hinted she might try for it this year. So as soon as the invite came in, Caitlyn and I donned our winter woolies and set out to explore.
What I’ve always loved about Milly’s wintertime designs is both the natural simplicity with which they are designed, blending little scenes with open spaces and trails to explore, and the way she create little vignettes across her regions. When coupled with the opportunities for people to simply enjoy one another’s company, Let It Snow! has always offered something for everyone – and 2018 is no exception.
Another aspect of her winter regions I love is the use of certain elements that act as motifs linking each new design with its progenitors, helping to give a feeling of continuity down the years between designs. And so is the case with this iteration, be it with the great crystal greenhouse that harks directly back to 2016, or the cottages and Harleywan Haggwood’s charming snow kids that encompass 2015 and 2016.
Which is not to say Let It Snow! 2018 is in any way a re-run of previous builds; far from it. It is unique in is design in and of itself, from the Elven house that forms the landing point and which gives the region a little slant towards fantasy. At the end of a rutted, snow-filled track lies a little village square, home to Santa’s cottage. Close by, DJ Cat is waiting to entertain those wishing to dance (he’ll also accept tips towards the region’s upkeep!), while the snow kids can be found at play.
Dancing is very much part of the theme here, with heart-shaped dance machines scattered throughout the region (you may have to cam in close to some due to the snow), including inside the crystal greenhouse, which also offers the opportunity of romantic dining.
Elsewhere across the region lie various places to sit and enjoy close companionship, be it a gazebo out among the trees, a bench suspended from the bough of a tree at the side of a path, a horse-drawn sleigh or an underground grotto (you’ll have to find that for yourself!).
As the region is caught under a steady snowfall that can at times obscure the star field of the surrounding skydome, it’s worth taking the time to experiment with environment settings when photographing Let It Snow! – as I’ve done with a couple of the images here, opting to use one of Stevie Davros’ sky settings (you can read about those here).
Another of our Sun’s closest neighbours has been found to be home to a “super-Earth” scale planet.
Barnard’s Star, named after American astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard, is a low-mass M-class red dwarf star. As I’ve noted in previous discussions of exoplanets, red dwarf stars are the most common type of star in our galaxy, believed to account for around 70% of all stars. They can be quite volatile in nature and prone stellar flares, meaning any planets in close proximity to them are unlikely to be very habitable.
But Barnard’s Star is somewhat unusual; while it is estimated to be between two and three times older than the Sun, it has a relatively low level of activity. It also has the fastest radial (side-to-side) motion of any visible star in the night sky – something that might indicate the presence of a large planet orbiting it, causing it to wobble in its spin.
Over the years, astronomer have attempted to use the star’s radial motion to try to establish if it is the result of a planet, and in 2015, instruments used by the European Southern Observatory and the Keck Observatory suggested there could be a very large planet with an orbital period of about 230 days.
More recently, the Red Dots and CARMENES campaigns, which were responsible for the discovery of a planet orbiting our nearest stellar neighbour, Proxima B (see here for more), reviewed the data gathered from multiple sources that have studied Barnard’s Star in an attempt to ascertain whether there is one or more planets orbiting Barnard’s Star.
For the analysis we used observations from seven different instruments, spanning 20 years, making this one of the largest and most extensive datasets ever used for precise radial velocity studies. The combination of all data led to a total of 771 measurements.
The results of this work appear to confirm that there is a planet – referred to as Barnard’s Star b – is orbiting the star roughly one every 233 terrestrial days. It has a mass of at least 3.2 times that of Earth, putting it if the category of either a “super-Earth” or a “mini-Neptune”. It is some 0.4 AU (0.4 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun) from its parent.
Because of Barnard’s Star low mass and brightness, the planet only receives about 2% of the energy that the Earth receives from the Sun. This puts it at, or beyond the star’s frost line, where volatile compounds like water, carbon dioxide, ammonia and methane condense into solid ice. As a result, the planet likely has a surface temperature in the region of -170oC, making it inhospitable to life as we know it – although if the planet has an atmosphere, its surface temperature could be higher.
This is the first time an exoplanet has been discovered using the radial velocity method. The most common method of detection is the transit method, monitoring the period dimming of a star’s brightness as seen from Earth to determine whether a planet might be orbiting it, but such is Barnard’s Star’s dimness, this has never really been and option.
Further observations are required to completely confirm the planet’s presence, but those involved in the study – including ESO – have a high degree of confidence it will be confirmed, and observations by a number of observatories around the globe are already underway.
After a very careful analysis, we are over 99 per cent confident that the planet is there, since this is the model that best fits our observations. However, we must remain cautious and collect more data to nail the case in the future … we’ll continue to observe this fast-moving star to exclude possible, but improbable, natural variations of the stellar brightness which could masquerade as a planet.
– Ignasi Ribas
Such is the proximity of Barnard’s Star to Earth, the new planet is potentially an excellent candidate for direct imaging using the next-generation instruments both on the ground and in space – such as with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled for launch in 2021) or Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which if not threatened with further cancellation, should be launched in the mid-2020s, and the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission.
In my previous Space Sunday article, I wrote about our interstellar visitor, ‘Oumuamua (officially 1I/2017 U1), which was observed passing around the Sun a year ago, and the (unlikely) potential it is some form of extra-terrestrial probe.
On November 14th, 2018, NASA issued an update on the most recent findings from data obtained on the cigar-shaped object by the Spitzer infra-red telescope.
The new report, released via NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, indicates ‘Oumuamua is off-gassing volatiles, something those proposing the alien probe idea thought to be unlikely. This off-gassing likely imparted the odd tumbling motion exhibited by ‘Oumuamua . Spitzer’s observations also confirmed that the object is highly reflective – around 10 times more reflective than the comets that reside in our solar system—a surprising result, according to the paper’s authors.
Comets orbiting the Sun spend a good deal of their time gathering dust suspended in the interplanetary medium, covering them in a layer of “dirt”. As they approach the Sun, they undergo heating, causing volatiles – often frozen water – to start venting, “cleaning” parts of the comet’s surface and raising its reflectivity. As ‘Oumuamua, has been in the depths of interstellar space for millennia and far from any star system that could contain enough dust and material to refresh its surface, it is possible that the off-gassing confirmed by Spitzer exposed far more of its underlying ice. This, coupled with some of the icy volatiles it vented falling back onto its surface (again as can happen with solar system comets) may have resulted in the object’s higher than expected albedo.
Taken with other observations of ‘Oumuamua, the Spitzer data tends to further discount the idea that it is of artificial origin.
On Sunday, November 18th, 2018, Kokua issued version 6.0.0, which includes full Animesh support. As always with Kokua, the viewer is offered in two options:
With RLV support: 220.127.116.11120.
Without RLV support: 18.104.22.168121.
Both of these options are, again as always, available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.
As well as Animesh support, the update includes a series of third-party updates and additional bug fixes.
As per my release overview, Animesh has been in development for about a year, and like Bento, has been a collaborative effort between Linden Lab and Second Life content creators. Essentially, it allows the avatar skeleton to be applied to any suitable rigged mesh object, and then used to animate the object, much as we see today with mesh avatars. This opens up a whole range of opportunities for content creators and animators to provide things like independently moveable pets / creatures, and animated scenery features.
To help people get started with Animesh, there is already a range of available resources, including:
In particular, the user guide and test content offer the best way of getting started with Animesh for those who haven’t tried it thus far.
And, Animesh isn’t just for content creators: it has been designed such that just about any rigged mesh can be converted to Animesh directly from the Build / Edit floater. Do be aware, however that simply converting an object will not cause it to start animating – you’ll obviously need suitable animations and a script to run them.
Like any other object utilising animation, this is done by adding the animations and scripts via the Edit > Contents tab for your converted object. If you’re not a scripter / animator, you can still use the Animesh test content and have a play around with things.
The 6.0.0 release of Kokua re-introduces the NACL viewer sound explorer (found under World > Sound Explorer). In addition, a number of options have been ported from Firestorm:
The animation explorer (under World > Animation Explorer).
The Money Tracker/Tip Tracker (View > Money Tracker).
Phoenix-style extended hovertips (View > Highlighting & Visibility > Hover Tips > Show More Information).
Avatar Complexity score in name tags (Edit > Preferences > General) along with the Only If Too Complex and Show Own Complexity options.
Other updates comprise:
A bug fix so that Turning on Full Res Textures works.
If RLV is active, the Message Of The Day will appear in chat at login as a substitute to it being suppressed on the login progress screen.
Further ports of:
Reporting the latest grid status bulletin in chat at login (Edit > Preferences > Notifications).
The ‘do not hide worldmap after teleport’ option ( Edit > Preferences > Kokua > General).
I’ve not had time to take the viewer for a thorough test of the viewer, and the Kokua team note they’ve not had the opportunity to test Animesh. Therefore, If you see any strange behaviour please check it against the LL viewer and then either raise a Jira ticket on the LL viewer or against Kokua at: https://sourceforge.net/p/team-purple/kokua/tickets/.