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 126.96.36.1990636, dated October 18th, promoted November 14th. Formerly the Animesh RC viewer – No Change.
The annual RFL Christmas Expo opened its gates on November 30th, 2018, and will run through until December 9th. Located on six regions adjoining the American Cancer Society’s in-world headquarters, this year’s expo offers a wide range of shopping opportunities, entertainments and a raffle with a L$76,000 first prize.
Over 120 merchants from all fields are participating in this year’s event, and you can find direct teleports to all of their stores within the regions in the Expo shopping guide.
Now in its ninth year, the theme for the Gala Ball is Sounds Of The Season. Sponsored by T1 Radio, the gala will take place in a stunning Christmas music box complete with a dancing ballerina, created by Melodie Jigsaw. Featured performers will be Satin & Erin, Madelyn Majestic and Trader Whiplash. Admittance is free, and participants will be able to purchase Holiday Gift Basket Raffle tickets with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. The ball will take place from 13:00 through 18:00 SLT on Sunday, December 9th, 2018, and holiday formal attire is requested.
Special Events and Activities
This year’s Expo includes a number of special events and activities, including:
The Holiday Shopping Spree Raffle: several Expo merchants graciously donated to the Holiday Shopping Spree Raffle. One lucky winner will walk away with over L$76,000 in gift certificates and prizes! Tickets are L$250 each and the draw will be held on Sunday, December 9th, 2018 at 19:00 SLT at the Holly Jolly Cafe.
Lights of Hope: this year, a number of Second Life’s home builders have decorated the outside of one of their houses in holiday style and brought it to the Expo. Stroll the Holiday Road neighbourhood at the Expo and vote for your favourites by donation to the Relay For Life kiosk in front of each home! 100% of all “votes” goes directly to the American Cancer Society. In addition, some of the builders have offered their homes for sale in a Relay For Life Christmas Expo vendor at the Expo’s Real Estate Office in the neighbourhood.
Gift of Hope Hunt: this is an interactive hunt that can be taken multiple times (each attempt requires a new hunt HUD at L$25), with some L$12,000 available in gift certificates. I
The Forest – Winter Wonderland is a seasonal location sitting high in the sky over a full region. Designed by Alexis Rose Wilson-Versailles (LexxiHudson) and Mark Wilson-Versailles (exde) under their brand Delicate Designs, it presents a charming Alpine-like setting that offers plenty to see and enjoy.
Surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks, it’s a place rich in detail, offering a predominantly low-lying, valley-like location that rises to meeting the mountains to the south, the land climbing in rocky steps, although a slope to the east offers the opportunity for sledging.
From the landing point – which includes a handy map of the setting (one of several to be found at the stations along the tram route) – visitors can with explore on foot, or away the arrival of the local tram and take a ride. This clatters its way along tracks built and sedately circling the landscape, passing under trees and climbing board walk slopes up to the higher locations before swooping down into the “valley” once more. Along the way, it passes all the points of interest, allowing passengers to hop on and off as they wish.
For those who prefer exercising their pedal extremities, paths through the woodlands are marked either by wooden or wrought iron fences, leading visitors to the various locations they might appreciate. These include a coffee-house, ice skating, a little Christmas village (although the shops are mostly for show), a Christmas tree farm, Santa’s farm (share your soup with Donner or Blitzen or Comet or Cupid or Dancer… I’m actually not quite sure which one it is 🙂 ), and a wintry carousel.
Travel far enough to the north-east and you’ll find the cable car ride that runs up to the southern highlands, passing over the tram tracks in the process, while for those feeling the need for further exercise, stone steps set into the snowy slope offer a the opportunity for a brisk climb.
These uplands are crowned by the North Pole Toy Co. (which seems to have relocated, given the southern setting!), wherein warmth can once again be found. This appears to have perhaps once been the main landing point for the setting – inside a sign board offers information on the setting, including how to rent the cabins that are available, as well as presenting visitors with seasonal gifts (a similar board is also to be found near the current landing point).
The rental cabins referred to in the information note cards are scattered over the southern highlands, so do be aware that they may be occupied when exploring and resist the temptation to step into any of them, particularly as the tram ride will take you past them. Those wishing to rent a cabin can do so for (at the time of writing) L$1200 per week, which also awards them 400 LI to play with. See the note cards for more on this.
The slope over which the cable cars climb is also where sledging can be enjoyed – there’s a sign close to the North Pole Toy Co that will rez sledges for you. Rezzers are also available from sign boards at the ice skating pond – although visitors can use their own skates if they prefer.
Wandering on foot will also reveal all the little touches that have been added to the setting, from the little critter’s village through to the Eskimo igloos with their huskies, to the chance to photograph yourself on a husky sled or snuggle on a horse-drawn sleigh. Those taking photos are invited to submit them to the region’s Flickr group if they so wish.
Given all that is going on in the region, those who normally have shadows enabled might find things a little heavy going and might want to disable them, other than when taking pictures. However, the default eventide windlight actually helps with this, as it can mean not too much is lost visually want exploring with shadows turned off.
With its festive setting and with the surrounding off-sim mountains nicely integrated into the scene, The Forest – Winter Wonderland makes for a delight and photogenic visit, one that definitely invites playing with your local windlight settings when taking photos (as can be seen in this article, I opted to run with a more daytime setting, simply because I love the look of a snowy scene when viewed in sunlight). Should you enjoy your visit, please consider showing your appreciation via the available tip jars.
On Monday, November 26th, 2018, the latest in a series of NASA missions, the InSight lander – built with international cooperation -, arrived on the surface of Mars.
As noted in my previous Space Sunday report, confirmation that InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) had safely arrived could only be received by mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) after the team there had endured the “seven minutes of terror”, more officially known as the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) phase of its journey, the time when the vehicle would enter Mars’ atmosphere and hopefully make a reasonably soft-landing on the planet’s surface.
While undeniably tense, when it came to it – and watched live via social media, and assorted web broadcast channels put out by NASA – EDL was completed flawlessly. After separating from is cruise element around 7 minutes prior to EDL, InSight, protected by its heat shield and aeroshell, entered the upper reaches of the Martian atmosphere almost precisely on schedule, where over a 4-minute period, the frictional heat created by is passage helped decelerate it from an initial entry velocity of 19,800 km/h (12,300 mph) to 1,400 km/h (860 mph). At this point, telemetry once again being relayed, the supersonic braking parachute was been deployed.
After this things moved quickly: the heat shield was jettisoned from under the lander, which itself dropped free of the parachute and conical aeroshell, using its 16 rocket motors to achieve a “soft” landing on the surface of Mars – travelling at just 8 km/h (5 mph). A video compressing the seven minutes into just over a minute and a half captures the landing – and the joy at mission control (not the celebratory handshake at 1:19!).
It had been anticipated that the first “official” confirmation that InSight had arrived safely would be a “beep” sent directly to Earth from the lander’s X-band radio – and this might be followed a few minutes later by a photograph taken by the lander. As it turned out, and thanks to two tiny CubeSats – of which more in a moment – it was the photo that arrived first. Grainy and indistinct due to it being taken by a camera still with its protected lens cap in place (itself splattered with dust), it shows a rocky surface and a tightly curved horizon – caused by the camera still being in its stowed configuration.
Initially after landing, InSight was operating on battery power whilst awaiting the dust to settle out of the atmosphere so the two circular solar panels could be deployed. This occurred some 30 minutes after touchdown, with the panels proving so efficient that . So efficient are these panels that during their Martian Sol of operation, they set a new record for power generation: 4,588 watt-hours – well over the 2,806 watt-hours generated in a single Sol by the “nuclear powered” Curiosity.
The efficiency of InSight’s solar arrays will deteriorate over time – the result of general wear-and-tear and the influence of dust that will inevitably accumulate on them – but the power levels have been more than enough for the lander to start flexing its muscles – including testing its robot arm, which is essential to it being able to place key experiments on the surface on Mars.
It is going to be early spring 2019 before InSight is fully involved in its science mission. There are a lot of equipment check-outs and calibration test to be undertaken, as well as the surface deployment of key instruments. However, there have been some external concerns raised over how well InSight will fulfil its science objectives. As data started coming back from the lander, it was noted that it had touched down in a shallow impact crater, almost completely filled by sand and dust (such craters being known as “hollows” on Mars), which has given InSight a 4-degree tilt.
Overall, the lander can in theory operate with up to a 15-dgree cant (the result of one of this three landing legs coming down on a boulder, for example), but here is a worry about how the tilt may impact placing the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and HP3, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, on the surface of Mars, and how the material filling the hollow might affect the operation of HP3’s “mole”, which is designed to burrow into subsurface rock and measure the heat flow from the centre of the planet.
Nevertheless the mission team remain in a positive mood and are delighted with both the landing and the first few days of operations.
We couldn’t be happier. There are no landing pads or runways on Mars, so coming down in an area that is basically a large sandbox without any large rocks should make instrument deployment easier and provide a great place for our mole to start burrowing.
– InSight project manager Tom Hoffman
Further examination of the lander’s surroundings will be made once the dust covers have been ejected from the on-board cameras, something that should happen in the next few days. This work will include a careful study of the ground to determine the best placement for SEIS and HP3, as well as a general surveying of the location, which in the initial images, appears a lot less rock-strewn than other locations visited by landers and rovers.
We are looking forward to higher-definition pictures to confirm this preliminary assessment. If these few images—with resolution-reducing dust covers on—are accurate, it bodes well for both instrument deployment.
– Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator
I’ll have more on InSight as the mission develops.