Happy New Year 2019

 

Wishing you all the best for 2019 in whatever you do, and once again, thank you for all your support and encouragement through 2018.

Bay City 2018 New Year prim drop in Second Life

Bay City Prim Drop 2018

Monday, December 31st 2018 will once again see Bay City celebrate the turning of the year with their annual Prim Drop festivities.

The event will open at 23:30 SLT at the Bay City Fairgrounds in North Channel. The theme for the event is a wintertime soirée; black tie attire is recommended, and all SL residents are invited to attend. Marianne McCann will be providing the music and fireworks, and food and drink will be provided.

This will also be the final opportunity in 2019 to donate to Child’s Play Charity,  a US 501c3 non-profit organisation which helps seriously ill children around the globe during their hospital stays with the purchase of games and gaming equipment. So even if you can’t make it to the event itself, do please consider taking a couple of minutes out of your SL day and stopping by the Bay City Fairgrounds and making a donation via one of the collection bins there.

Bay City: Prim Drop 2018

About Bay City and the Bay City Alliance

Bay City is a mainland community, developed by Linden Lab® and home to the Bay City Alliance. The Bay City Alliance was founded in 2008 to promote the Bay City regions of Second Life and provide a venue for Bay City Residents and other interested parties to socialize and network. It is now the largest group for Residents of Bay City.

SLurl Details

2018 in review – part 2: July to December

2018 in review

The end of another year is approaching, bringing with it a time of reflection as we look back over the old before pausing to await the arrival of the new. It’s become something of a tradition in these pages for me to offer a summary of the year as recorded in these pages, and offer a chance to revisit the ups and downs and the good and the bad the last twelve months have brought us. And so it is for 2018, starting with January through June.

January to June is available here.

Note that this summary isn’t supposed to document everything that happened through the year, but is intended to be a highlight some of the more notable events reported on through these pages. In addition, and for a more detailed look at the various technical and Lab-driven updates to Second Life, please refer to A look at Second Life updates in 2018.

July

Second Life

With the changes to private region fees – and the inevitable backlash from some over grandfathered regions being excluded, I offered an alternative perspective. Whatever estate holders thoughts might have been, two weeks after the private region price restructuring grid growth was slow – but positive. The Lab launched the revamped mainland auction system, initially for Lab held land only.

My Second Life

I repurposed a rezzing system to use as a personal rezzer for vehicle, and got to take the Airfish GEV by Ape Piaggio for a test run – expect it on the marketplace soon! The Get The Freight Out! system came in for examination.

Travel and Arts
July Travels July Art Reviews
Abandale (closed) Cica Ghost: Another Planet
In the Wild (closed) Terrygold: A Rusted Farm
Strawberry Lake (closed) Astral Dreams Project
Smash Starz Art Corner
Ravenwold (closed) DiXmiX: Bicycles
Cloudbreak (closed) Lin C Art Gallery
Erebos Harbor (closed to public access) Diomita Plaza Gallery: LuAnne Anatine
Ponto Cabana Kayly Iali
Pandora Box farewell

Sansar

The July Sansar release saw the introduction of custom avatars with UI and scripting updates. Linden Lab made a surprise announcement that the number of experiences granted to users was dramatically increased.

The Secret Of Mount Shasta; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrThe Secret Of Mount Shasta – click any image for full size

Sansar Travel

My visits for the month encompassed The Secret of Mount Shasta, Horizon Maze and Ebucezam, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Linden Lab

The Second Life 15th anniversary celebrations included another series of Meet the Lindens talks featuring Keira and Patch, Grumpity and Oz, Xiola and Brett and Ebbe Altberg, all of which I attempted to summarise (with audio extracts) under a general heading.

Space and Astronomy

At the start of July, the Martian dust storm reached global proportions, and I looked at asteroids and attempts to study them. The Parker solar probe was readied for launch and I revisited the Chinese space programme. Rockets and a temperate exoplanet also occupied my writings, the UK announced its first spaceport location, while evidence of a subsurface lake on Mars grabbed the headlines. NASA got ready to turn 60, and many were treated to the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century.

August

Second Life

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer announced their 2018 season, while the American Cancer Society announced announced a major overhaul of how it will go about fund-raising from 2019 onwards and sought ideas from supporters. I got to tour some of the new Themed Learning Islands designed to help bring new users with specific interests into Second Life. Firestorm launched a fund-raiser of their own to help cover technical and licensing costs.

Tech and Viewers

Linden Lab issued the Estate Access Management viewer to enhance the estate access management tools available to region holders and their estate managers within the viewer. A new version of the Second Life bug tracker (Jira) was launched.

The Estate Access Management viewer offers greater access control to regions for estate managers
My Second Life

After several weeks of work, the re-vamped Holly Kai Park, featuring a brand-new gallery space, neared completion.

Travel and Art
August Travels August Art Reviews
Black Kite G.B.T.H. – Mistero Hifeng
Chakryn Forest Club LA and Gallery: Carolyn Phoenix
Summer Wind InterstallART: Simply Spiritual
Kekeland – Bardeco La Maison d’Aneli: Barbara Borromeo and Cherry Manga
Bellefleurs and the House Sakura Paula Cloudpainter
Athenaeum Cica Ghost: Daydream
Missing Melody Nitroglobus: Hypnopomia
Peace of Mind LEA: Ethereal Shapes
DiXmiX: Retrospective
Lin C Art Gallery: Sisi Biedermann
La Maison d’Aneli: Cullum Writer, Aneli Abeyanti and Megan Prumier
The Rose Gallery
DaphneArts: Confinement

Sansar

With the first anniversary of the Public Creator Beta reached on July 31st, I offered some personal thoughts on Sansar. The Lab gave some indication of plans for the platform’s Edit Mode and the planned permissions system. The end of August brought the monthly update, known only by its release number, but which included a lot of information.

Sansar Travel

I visited the Roddenberry Nexus for some Star Trek and Wurfi’s Little Gallery.

Linden Lab

The Lab announced a further Town Hall with Ebbe Linden, to take place in September.

Other Virtual Worlds

High Fidelity announced the ability for users to earn and exchange HFC for USD

Space and Astronomy

The “Commercial Nine” – the first astronauts to fly aboard the US commercial vehicles designed to carry crews to / from the International Space station were announced, although there were concerns about the launch schedule The Parker Solar Probe launched. A study was published on the availability of water on the Moon.

An artist’s impression of the Parker Solar Probe swinging around the Sun at a distance of 6.2 million km (3.85 million mi) . Credit: NASA

September

Second Life

RFL of SL announced an expanded Making Strides Against Breast Cancer season. I provided a summary with audio of the 2nd Town Hall with Ebbe Altberg, and also dropped in on Les Fest 2018, A Spoonful of Sugar 2018, Rock Your Rack and the 2018 Hair Fair.

Linden Lab released the new sign-up process and new user experience for Second Life. The Governance User Group resumed in-world meetings, and Dog Food Days were launched for members of the SL teams. Team Diabetes of Second Life announced their 2018 season.

My Second Life

I got to try the Culprit Sonata Bento piano.

Travel and Art
September Travels September Art Reviews
Eclectica: A New Dawn (closed) Gates of Oria
Destiny Gardens (closed) National Museum of Caledon: Phrynne
The Cat Museum Silas Merlin – Carnival of the Arts
Sea Monsters (closed) LEA: Astral Dreams Project
Lost Unicorn Club LA and Gallery: Lyra Romanas and Io Bechir
Storybook Forest Cica Ghost: The Girl Who Cried Wolf
Savor Serenity Solo Arte
Ashemi Reprise Holly Kai Gallery: LuAnne Anatine
Tagus Enchanted Forest ArtCare Gallery
Little Havana and Voodoo In My Blood Rainbow Painters
Zone One DiXmiX: Maloe Vansant, Isa Messioptra and Harbor Galaxy
Florence Bay The Galleries Museum
Frog Hollow LEA: DC Spensley Retrospective
Deadpool Reborn

Sansar

The R25 release came out, bringing with it the in-client store, shopping cart for the web store, avatar and Look Book updates and the ability to gift Sansar dollars. I re-visited the Smithsonian American Arts Museum to see the upper floor expansion.

Linden Lab

Linden Lab switched to using Stellar Connect to provide Second Life first-line support.

Other Virtual Worlds

High Fidelity announced their second load test on the road to One Billion in VR, and set a new concurrency record for the platform. The event proved so popular, High Fidelity then put out a call for paid help with future load tests.

VR and AR

Facebook announced the Oculus Quest.

Space and Astronomy

Following the dust storm on Mars, NASA launched an attempt to re-connect with the rover Opportunity and a Soyuz space vehicle suffered at the ISS. I focused on the potential of the space elevator while NASA launched a mission to observe Earth’s changing ice patterns. SpaceX announced a new private mission around the Moon and Spock’s “homeworld” was discovered.

October

Second Life

EEP, the Environmental Enhancement Project reached a test release status on Aditi, the Beta Grid. Linden Lab blocked an Android client (IM To Secondlife) due to “serious TPV policy violations”. Linden Realms was re-launched following a total makeover. Wish Lists and Favourites arrived on the SL Marketplace.

Tech and Viewers

Second Life suffered another large-scale DDoS attack.

Shug Maitland kept an eye on the ups and downs of log-ins during the DDOS attack via https://etitsup.com/slstats/ through Sunday, October 28th, 2018 and into the early hours of Monday, October 29th, sending me this above capture
My Second Life
Travel and Art
October Travels October Art Reviews
SilentRane (closed) Barry Richez
Calas Galadhon’s MAZE (Halloween only) Rofina Bronet
Malaika Park Nitroglobus: Monique Beebe
Pendle Hill The G.T.B.H. Project: Artefatos
Nowhere Else DiXmiX Gallery: Aloisio Congrejo
Black Bayou Lake (closed) Club LA and Gallery: oYo
Tokyo Street Subway Entrance Anibrm Jung
On The Other Side Lin C Art Gallery: Janine Portal
World of Soap DiXmiX Gallery: CapCat Ragu and Meiló
Winter Moon Artful Expressions: GiulianaNicol
The Peak Black Label Gallery: Blip Mumfuzz
Cold Ash Nitroglobus Roof Gallery AretevanCyrene
La Frontera DiXmiX: Nel4481
{Glenrosa} (closed) Holly Kai Park: Milly Sharple
Meadow Rose JadeYu Fhang

Sansar

October saw Release 26 (R26), also called the Thumbs Up release, which included the first release of Sansar’s long-awaited permissions system. Following initial feedback, this saw some revisions. The Lab announced Sansar would be expanding to Steam before the end of the year.

Linden Lab

Jason Ghoulston, Product Manager for Sansar and responsible for the formation of the Lab’s Sansar Studios, departed the company,

Other Virtual Worlds

High Fidelity announced their first VR festival, to be held in November.

Space and Astronomy

NASA published its latest roadmap for returning to the Moon and China’s space programme got another examination. Astronomers discovered the first exomoon. A Crewed Soyuz booster suffered a mid-flight abort. Bepi-Columbo lifted-off on a mission to Mercury. I offered a quick round-up on news from Mars.

November

Second Life

Animesh as officially released, grid-wide. The November town hall meeting featured Oz, Grumpity and Patch Linden taking questions, and I produced a summary with audio.

Tech and Viewers

November saw further updates to the Marketplace, including new categories, with one for Animesh / animated objects. It was also confirmed that January 2019 will see the final deprecation and removal of all UDP asset fetching messaging from the viewer. In short: if you’re using a viewer that doesn’t use HTTP for asset fetching, you’ll not see avatars correctly.

Firestorm put out a call for volunteers, and was a victim of a fake account attempt to obtain user details. Kokua caught up with the official viewer Animesh release.

VWBPE announced a call for paper for the 2019 conference and news came that a Second Life machinima had probably achieved a world first.

A restructuring of the Linden Endowment for the Arts, set to start in 2019, was announced.

My Second Life

Ape allowed me to try out her Roadrunner electric scooter – and I find it’s a lot of fun. I also wrote about kitbashing in Second Life.

Travel and Art
November Travels November Art Reviews
Ocho Tango Men in Focus Gallery
Broken Dreams Project La Maison d’Aneli: Cybele Moon, Anadonne, Barret Darkfold, Nevereux, Rikku Yalin
Soul2Soul Highlands Vintage Art
Masters Amusement Park Cica Ghost: Rust
Somewhere in Time Paola Mills: Behind the Avatar
Magritte Blue Orange Gallery
Dagger Bay Sisi Biedermann
Snow Falls The Vordun Gallery
Lutz City Monroe Snook
Let It Snow! 2Lei: No Violence
Cherished DiXmiX Gallery: Kimeu Korg
Pfaffenthal 1867 Rainbow Painter’s Gallery
Winter’s Hollow
Isle of May
Tranquil Bear Winter Resort
R.A.H.M.E.N.L.O.S
Calas Midnight Clear

Sansar

More feedback is given on the expansion to Steam. The Look at Me release arrives, with a new client UI, new VR capabilities and new options in general. Linden Lab also announces a new event / series involving well-known comedians coming to VR. And with Pfeffenthal closing in Second Life, I look at their new project in Sansar.

Linden Lab

With controversy surrounding recent DMCA actions and speculation around about them LL issued a statement on creator rights and IP protection.

Other Virtual Worlds

While not exactly a virtual world, Flickr is popular with Second Life users, and news of changes caused some upset. I also offered my own thoughts on things, while Flickr issued a clarification on free accounts with images uploaded under a Creative Commons license.

Space and Astronomy

November was the month to say goodbye to the Kepler Observatory. ‘Oumuamua gets the first of two mentions in November Space Sunday articles, and SpaceX announce BFS testing plans.  ‘Oumuamua gets its second mention for the month, alongside more on exoplanets. NASA’s insight mission arrives on Mars.

December

Second Life

Linden Lab offered their own look at the last 12 months for Second Life. I offered my own look at the key SL updates through the year.

Team Diabetes of Second Life ran their Winter Showcase and RFL of SL their Christmas Expo. Firestorm launched a Pets for New Residents drive. There was some apparently sad news concerning ACS and RFL of SL, which quickly got turned around, together with additional good news. Survivors of Suicide also had a winter market. Harambee Charity Market returned to raise more funds for the IKSDP schools project.

Tech and Viewers

Firestorm 6.0.1 was released as an “early access” update, and Kokua updated.

My Second Life

I celebrated 12 years in Second Life and made some small end-of-year changes to Isla Pey, and to this blog. I also picked up two ‘planes during the month: the CLSA Stampe SV.4 for L$10 (now L$15), and the TBM Kronos V6. I also caught up one vehicle product review, looking at the aR Wild Goose and Piaggio Tracky.

The CLSA Stampe SV.4, one of two ‘planes I found hard to resist
Travel and Art
December Travels December Art Reviews
The Forest – Winter Wonderland Club LA and Gallery: La Robbiani and Wintergeist
Mesmeric Cove DiXmiX Gallery: Megan Prumier
Hollyee and Winter Dream Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise
Bay of Dreams Cica Ghost: Lullaby
Junbug (Monet’s Garden) Ribong Gallery
Wild Edge La Maison d’Aneli Gallery
Nevgilde Paris Metro Art Gallery: Cybele Moon
Zimminyville MC Grafite
[Valium] Nitroglobus Roof Gallery
:nostos:deer: Diotima Art Gallery
Ponto Cabana DiXmiX Gallery: Neveraux

Sansar

Sansar launched on Steam, and was followed with the final release for 2018. I offered some thoughts on Sansar at the year’s end.

Sansar on Steam. Courtesy of Linden Lab

AR and VR

I opened the first part of a series offering a personal look at AR and VR.

Space and Astronomy

NASA’s Mars InSight mission took up a lot of my month, with a look at the lander’s arrival, the opportunity to hear the sound of the Martian wind, and the start of initial operations – a piece which also looked at the latest success for Virgin Galactic. When 2019 being the 50 anniversary of Apollo 11, I recalled the momentous Apollo 8 mission, then looked ahead to New Horizon’s encounter with Ultima Thule.

Sansar at the end of 2018 – a personal perspective

Sitting and thinking in my Sansar Home Space

The end of December 2018 brings with it the end of the first full year of public accessibility to Sansar, Linden Lab’s “social VR” platform. It’s been a huge year, with monthly releases that have significantly added to the platform’s capabilities, together with a range of initiative to engage with audiences, improve the new user process flow, and raise the visibility of the platform. The article looks back at some of the Sansar-related events and activities over the past twelve months, and offers a few personal thoughts based on the year’s developments. In a future piece, I plan to look more broadly at Sansar in terms of audiences and potential.

Releases and Updates

Sansar updates and releases progressed at the rate of one a month throughout the year, offering some significant updates and improvements to the platform. Key among these have been:

  • Social improvements: the ability to find other people within Sansar, such as through the Atlas, and the ability to create and view profiles. Experience creators were could start promoting events held within their experiences through the Sansar Events pages, and to help them manage said events and keep undesirables at bay, experience owners were also given access / ban controls. Direct messaging between friends was improved, while the ability to teleport to them within a public experience was added; friending others was improved and the People App finally arrived in VR. Also added during the year was the ability to see and type text chat in VR, while overhead typing and speaking indicators were introduced to make it easier to identify who in a group was doing what.
  • Avatar: general improvements included emotes (gestures in SL parlance) being extend to desktop mode,  with more being added throughout the year. New system avatars were added, together with the ability for creators to upload custom (but non-customisable – unfortunately, the ability to better customise avatars (sliders) didn’t reach release in 2018) avatars, and improvements continued to be made to the avatar IK system. A basic sit capability was added through gestures, which also allowed users to “cheat” and sit on chairs and other objects. The ability for avatar to “grab” objects in their hands (Desktop and VR) and to sit on objects came later in the year. The Look Book was revamped and support for adjusting Marvelous Designer clothing in VR added.
  • Performance: a major effort was put into improving Sansar performance throughout the year. This included significant changes such as the removal of custom terrains (due to their negative impact), moving scene editing from the client to a server environment (which will also hopefully allow for collaborative editing of scenes in the future). Texture streaming was added to help with scene loading, and efforts were put into improving the overall load times for the majority of experiences, while the ability to cancel an experience from loading if it was taking too long was finally introduced.
  • Edit Mode: as noted above, editing scenes moved from the client to a server environment, work was put into helping creator organise inventory, and a range of diagnostic options added. General object editing was improved with a series of incremental updates.
  • Client: the client saw a broad range of improvements, from integration of events (mentioned above), through to full integration of the Sansar Store. To help with the new user experience, the entire client UI was overhauled at the end of the year, with new buttons and tool tips together with a small client tutorial.

The client UI was overhauled with new buttons and menus (l) better presentation of UI elements in VR mode (c) and the addition of tutorial elements for new users (r). Click on any image to view slide show

  • Scripting: multiple improvements were made to scripting, including Simple Scripts, designed to allow people unfamiliar with C# to add functionality (turn lights on / off, open / close doors, etc.), to their scenes, and scripters given the ability to update their scripts on the Sansar Store.
  • Sansar Store: categories were added to improve finding items of interest, as noted above, the Store was integrated into the client over a couple of releases.
  • Permissions System: the permissions system was deployed, allowing creators to set permissions against their products when selling them, opening the door to the supply chain economy desired for Sansar (although there is more work to be done to allow multiple objects to be linked together and resold as a whole).
The permissions system, allowing was deployed in October 2018. Credit: Linden Lab

The above isn’t a full list, but it gives an idea of the progress made with Sansar during the year that has helped move the platform forward.

New User Experience

2018 saw work completed designed to improve the new user experience. A key part of this was the new client UI and tutorial mentioned above, and examined in my overviews of the November and December 2018 releases. This work also included a new Home Space “mini experience”. Introduced in December, this Home Space also forms the initial starting point for users on logging-in to Sansar, rather than them simply facing the Atlas.

This Home Space helps orient new users by providing them with the means to complete the first parts of the user tutorial in private, learn to change their avatar look, and will – in time – be connected to a new “Social Hub” where they can potentially connect with other users.

Images of the new Home Space taken in Sansar’s new “mouse look” view, showing the various areas. Click on any image to view slide show

Continue reading “Sansar at the end of 2018 – a personal perspective”

Space Sunday: Ultima Thule, Dream Chaser and capsule leaks

An artist’s impression of New Horizons passing Ultima Thule on January 1st, 2019. Credit: Adrian Mann/All About Space

On July 14th, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons vehicle, the front-end of the mission of the same name, made its closest flyby of Pluto and Charon (see Perfectly Pluto for more). Before, during and after the point of closest approach, the vehicle gathered huge amounts of data about Pluto, Charon and their attendant moonlets. Much of the data is still being studied, but in the years since the encounter, New Horizons has revolutionised our thinking about dwarf planets.

Since that time, the space vehicle has been travelling on out into the solar system at a speed of around 49,600 km/h (31,000 mph), and almost as soon as the Pluto flyby had been completed, with New Horizons still having plenty of power thanks to its nuclear batteries, astronomers started looking along its route for a possible follow-up target for examination.

After due consideration of options, a suitable target was selected. officially designated (486958) 2014 MU69, the object is a trans-Neptunian body located in the Kuiper belt. Of an elongated, shape, it is estimated to be around 30 km (18.75 mi), and might be a binary system of objects orbiting one another, although this is currently in doubt.

Discovered by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope in June 2014, just over a year before New Horizons reached Pluto, the object was unofficially dubbed “Ultima Thule” (Thule, in Greek and Roman literature, being the farthest north you could go, and “Ultima” being used to indicate “beyond”).  It was selected because of its relative proximity to the probe’s projected course out through the Kuiper belt, allowing it to be reached with minimal course corrections using the probe’s orientation thrusters.

The New Horizons journey. Credit: JHU/APL

The Kuiper belt is a massive ring of stellar objects surrounding the solar system between 30 and 55 AU distance (1 AU – astronomical unit –  being the average distance between the Sun and Earth). It is often regarded as the “outer edge” of our solar system, but the truth is, the solar system extends much, much further. Pluto and Charon are themselves Trans-Neptunian objects within the Kuiper belt.

The region – which might be described more as a doughnut than a belt – contains tens of thousands of objects (with more being discovered on almost a weekly basis). However, such is the volume of space they occupy, most are separated from one another by at least the distance separating Earth from the Sun. They are of great interest to astronomers, as they represent pristine material dating back to the very birth of the solar system, so studying them could tell us a lot more about the place in which we live.

The [Kuiper] belt is analogous to the solar system’s attic. It’s an ancient region, very far from the sun, which has been preserved in a deep freeze. It’s the equivalent of an archaeological dig into the history and formation of the planets. So, scientifically it’s a gold mine, and by going there with a spacecraft and observing KBOs up close, like we’ll be doing with Ultima, we hope to learn a lot about how the early formation stages of the planets took place.

– Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator

However, New Horizons won’t have long to study Ultima Thule in detail. If all goes well, the vehicle will blaze past the object on New Year’s Day 2019, at 05:33 GMT), travelling far too fast to slow down. At its closest approach, the probe will be some 3,540 km (2,200 mi) from Ultima Thule, which will appear about as large to it as the full Moon does to observers on Earth. As currently takes 6 hours and 8 minutes for a signal to reach Earth from New Horizons, it means that – as with its Pluto encounter – the probe will be working on an automated basis and pre-programmed commands throughout the encounter.

Simulation of anticipated images the LORRI camera aboard New Horizons vehicle will capture during the close approach to Ultima Thule

Even so, astronomers around the world are eagerly awaiting the encounter, as very little in known about Ultima Thule, and what New Horizions has apparently discovered as it approaches this tiny rock – it is too small to even classify as a dwarf planet – has already piqued interest.

What we know of the trans-Neptunian region is that it’s the leftover remnants of the objects that didn’t make it into being planets. These little rocky and icy worlds were formed in the initial disc of material around the sun, the ones that never grew up into being planets in their own right. Since then, they’ve been sculpted by changes in the orbital positions of the giant planets, particularly Neptune. What we see there today are materials from that initial disc. Some of them are familiar, like water ice and rock, but some of them are unfamiliar, like kitchen cleaning chemicals you have under your sink, in solid form

– Michele Bannister, Outer Solar System Origins Survey, Queen’s University, Belfast

As noted earlier, it had been believed, from data gathered by Hubble, that Ultima Thule was an elongated, possibly binary, object. However, on December 20th, 2018, the New Horizons team reported that the light measured from 2014 MU69 is constant, as would be expected from a spherical body. This disparity between Hubble’s finding and those of New Horizons have yet to be explained.

One issue with the flyby has been the partial US Government shut-down that started on December 22nd, 2018, and which has impacted some of NASA’s public outreach feeds. To compensate, the Applied Physics Laboratory, responsible for designing and building New Horizons, and part of John Hopkins University, has taken over mission briefings and will provide live updates via the JHUAPL YouTube page for flyby events on Monday, December 31st 2018, and Tuesday January 1st, 2019. You can see a full schedule here.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: Ultima Thule, Dream Chaser and capsule leaks”

Flying the TBM Kronos in Second Life

Flying the TBM Kronos over Isla Pey

Every time I promise myself, “no more planes!”, something happens to change my mind. Most recently, I’ve been throwing the CLSA Stampe SV.4 around the sky a lot of late (you can read a review of this ‘plane – now costing L$15 – here). This, plus a couple of suggestions led me to try – and buy – the TBM  Kronos V6.

Resembling the Pitt Special S1 / S2, the Kronos is a partial mesh build weighing-in at a default 51 LI, with a display cost of just under 42K and a quite enviable physics cost of 1.5. All of which makes for a very nibble aeroplane with some of the best close-to-real handling I’ve experienced in Second Life – not that I’m necessarily an expert in such things.

The Kronos variants: the full-size version (centre rear); version for smaller avatars (l); version for Tinies (right) and the Petite version (centre front)

A single-seater the Kronos eschews any menu system, and instead offers all commands and options directly through chat or a simple HUD. By default the latter attaches to the top right of the screen, and is nicely shaped to fit the corner without taking up too much space. The controls provided comprise an airspeed indicator, compass, altimeter, and four pre-set camera options.

This is a plane that packs in a lot in many respects. Delivered in a neat suitcase, which opens to reveal a (non-functioning) radio controlled model, together with control handset and a little fuel supply, the ‘plane unpacks to revels not one, but five models. These are: the Default sized ‘plane (51 LI), a slightly smaller version for smaller avatars (43 LI, together with a 0.9 physics cost), a version for Tinies (35 LI), a really dinky version for Petites (32 LI). Also supplied is a non-flying static model. Also supplied is an engine test stand and engine, documentation (basic but sufficient) and a poster.

Inverted climb over Blake Sea

The plane itself is a good-looking little machine, by default presented in an eye-catching and logo-emblazoned finish suitable for the aerobatics / airshow circuit, although perhaps a little too loud for my taste with all the flame motifs.  The engine hood is presented semi-transparent, and the design of the ‘plane can make getting to it a little difficult if you’d prefer it to be opaque, as I did.

Flight controls are the usual for an aircraft: WASD / arrow keys for elevators / rudder and ailerons; E and C / PAGE keys for throttle. For those not used to such a responsive aircraft, remember use of the SHIFT key with the LEFT / RIGHT keys will allow rudder-only turns (unless in Mouselook). Lights are absent the ‘plane, but as it is intended for aerobatics, white smoke can be toggled by typing “i” once the engine is started.   Throttle-wise, 5%-10% provides suitable ground movement speed, and when steering, the plane is both responsive and positive – one of the best ground-handlers I’ve been in.

A low pass over Isla Pey

As a STOL plane, the Kronos will lift-off at anything over 35% of throttle once the airspeed is high enough, and it’ll place itself in “landing mode” with a fairly fast rate of descent at 25% throttle. 30-40% throttle is ideal for cruising, and anything above 45% suitable for aerobatics.

In terms of the latter, the Kronos is a delight, although those used to flying more sedentary ‘planes many find it an initial handful. Light and responsive, it will loop and roll t a touch, and with a little practice it is possible to throw this ‘plane around quite and lot and keep it inside the boundaries of a single region.

The plane is nippy enough in “standard” mode. However, it has two further modes: H for “hardcore” and HH for “hyper hardcore.” I confess, I didn’t feel a lot of difference between H and HH, but the Kronos did respond faster in “hardcore” mode.

The smoke system in action – be sure to have your viewer’s particle system turned up

A template is provided for painting, and there are also some commercial kits available. Custom work can be a little bit of a pain when applying manually: there are a number of transparent elements overlaying some of the ‘plane’s surfaces (notably the engine cover and the wing surfaces), so a little care and patience is required, but nothing that is particularly taxing. For my part, I opted to use the supplied paint scheme as a base – largely due to the presence of the tigers on the tailplane 🙂 .

Good-looking, manoeuvrable, fun-to-fly, the Kronos is a great little single-seater by Rafaell Sorbet and Tania Bouvier, with a nice little HUD by Bunnys Fride. At L$ 1,799, it’s a recommended buy – but if you’re new to flying in SL, try the demo at TBM’s in-world airfield first.

Links