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 for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.
Official LL Viewers
Current Release version 184.108.40.2067758, formerly the Rainbow RC viewer dated June 5, promoted June 18 – NEW.
It was back to Kultivate’s in-world base of operations for me once more at the start of July 2019, following the opening of the newly-named Kultivate AIR Gallery (formerly part of the Windlight Gallery).
Standing for Artist In Residence, the gallery brings together Angyel Resident, Anouk Lefavre, CalystiaMoonshadow, DreamMakerXDreamBreaker Resident, GlitterPrincess Destiny, Jamee Sandalwood, JolieElle Parfort, Kody Meyers, Maaddi Benazzi, Marcel Mosswood, Myra Wildmist, Pam Astonia, Sevant Anatra and Wintergeist in a broad-ranging art display occupying one wing of the galley’s lower floor.
Mixing Second Life landscapes with physical world art, monochrome with colour, paintings with drawings, abstracted pieces with experimentalist – and with just a hint of avatar-focused studies in the form of Pam Astonia’s eye-catching Profile portraits, this is a richly engaging exhibition that demonstrates the full roundness of Second Life as a medium for displaying art.
As is always the case with ensemble exhibitions, limiting comments to just some of the artists can seem a little unfair; such is the depth and quality of art on show here, this is perhaps doubly so. However, I must admit that I did find myself particularly drawn to certain pieces.
The five photographs of SL landscapes by Anouk Lefavre, for example, framing marvellous horizon images with an opulent use of light and shadow contrasts or natural blending of haze to produce vistas that pull at the motions. Then there is Venice – Italy and England – Time of Henri VIII and Anne Boleyn (seen in the banner image for this article) by Angyel Resident. The latter of these, I believe, captures part of Tahiti Rae’s 2015 LEA installation, Love, Henry (read here for more), but both offer such a marvellous contrast of style and colour, they cannot fail to draw the eye and mind into them.
Myra Wildmist, meanwhile offers an experimental piece entitled Material Girl. You’ll need to have your viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled via Preferences > Graphics to see this piece correctly, as the nine tiles use various normal (bump) and specular (shine) maps to produce different finishes to the piece.
As a part-time builder / kitbasher, I’ve long enjoyed using materials in various builds, and normal maps in particular – if used correctly – can add depth to SL photos where post-processing has been used to make it appear as if they have been painted, sometime which is demonstrated (if on a slightly exaggerated scale, given it is designed to bring the materials to the fore) within Myra’s piece.
Then there are Sevant Anatra’s paintings of Native Americans. From portraits to capturing a part of the Anishinaabe creation story, these are marvellous, evocative studies with (again) a sense of depth and life that holds one’s attention and allows the imagination to unfold stories.
And that’s just my pick of four artists from what is a superb selection of art, so do take the time to hop over to the Kultivate AIR Gallery and take a look for yourselves.
A stunning timelapse view from the beaches of Florida as the Falcon Heavy STP-2 rocket arcs across the sky. Credit: Alex Brock
On Tuesday, June 25th, SpaceX launched their third Falcon Heavy Booster. Called STP-2, the primary aim of the mission was to help qualify the Falcon Heavy for US Department of Defence launches – but that didn’t stop it being the most ambitious mission for any SpaceX launch vehicle to date.
Carrying a total of 24 separate satellites into orbit, the vehicle had to deliver its payload to three distinct orbits around Earth, which in turn required the core stage of the rocket to fly fast enough to make its planned recovery at sea potentially problematic, while the upper stage had to make four individual engine burns – the most ever by a SpaceX launch vehicle.
Lift-off came at 02:30 ET, the rocket powering away from Kennedy Space Centre’s Pad 39-A. As a night-time launch, the flight provided a stunning view of what is called the “Falcon nebula”. This where, after the two Falcon 9 booster stages have separated from the core of the rocket, they flip themselves over while still increasing their altitude, and re-fire their engines to slow their forward momentum in order to start their descent back for a landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Together with the core booster’s motors still operating at full thrust, their exhausts can create a majestic pattern in the sky. In this case, given all of the three Falcon 9 boosters had been pushed to the limit, the vehicle was much higher in Earth’s rarefied atmosphere and this resulted in the boosters creating a remarkable pattern of colours against the night sky.
The “Falcon nebula”: the colourful plumes from the two Falcon 9 booster stages as they fire their motors in a “burn back” manoeuvre, with the core stage going at full throttle towards the bottom right. Credit: Alex Brock
Both of the Falcon 9 booster stages successfully completed their burn-back manoeuvres and made perfect landings at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just south of NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre. It had been hoped that the core stage would make it three-for-three by landing on one of the company’s two Autonomous Drone Landing Ships, parked some 1,200 km off the Florida coast. Unfortunately, such was the speed of the stage, it overshot the landing ship and crashed into the sea, smashing itself to pieces.
However, the loss of the core stage wasn’t the end of the good news for SpaceX. The upper stage continued on into orbit, successfully deploying its entire payload safely. And while it is said that re-naming a vessel can bring bad luck, that didn’t prove the case here, as the company’s high-speed chase vessel Go Ms Tree, which had previously been called Mr. Steven, finally and successfully caught one of the flight’s two payload fairings as they made a return to Earth.
These where the two large “clamshells” that encase the payload during the flight through the denser part of Earth’s atmosphere. When the rocket’s upper stage is high enough, these are jettisoned and – in traditional flights – allowed to burn-up in the Earth’s atmosphere. However, at US $6 million a throw (a cost that has to be passed on to customers), SpaceX prefers to try to recover their payload fairings when they can. This means the fairing use their shape to ease their way into the denser atmosphere before deploying parachutes, to land – and float – on the sea, but the company would prefer to keep them away from the corrosive influence of salt water.
Enter Go Ms Tree. Equipped with a large net over its stern deck, the ship is designed to move at speed under the flight path of returning fairings and snag them in the net. Six prior attempts to achieve this either failed or were abandoned, but on June 25th, the ship did successfully capture one of the returning fairings, although the second still had to make a splash down.
A Dragonfly for Titan
In December 2017, I wrote about a proposal to fly a nuclear-powered dual-quadcopter drone on Saturn’s moon, Titan. One June 27th, 2019, NASA confirmed the mission – called Dragonfly – has now been officially selected for flight in what will be a tremendously ambitious long-duration mission, due to commence in 2026.
Titan is the only celestial body besides our planet known to have liquid rivers, lakes and seas on its surface, although they contain hydrocarbons like methane and ethane, not water. Nevertheless, they sit beneath a dense atmosphere which has commonalities with primordial atmosphere of Earth and which is rich in complex organic chemicals there such as tholins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, so these lakes and rivers could contain all the building blocks of life.
Measuring 3 metres (10 ft) in length, Dragonfly is not s small vehicle. Designed by Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), it is intended to be a be a highly capable vehicle capable of carrying a full suite of science experiments while completing multiple flights on Titan. While the focus of the mission will be to try to determine how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed there, the vehicle will carry a range of instruments as well, some of which will include:
DraMS (Dragonfly Mass Spectrometer), to identify chemical components, especially those relevant to biological processes.
DraGNS (Dragonfly Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer), to identify the composition of surface and air samples.
DraGMet (Dragonfly Geophysics and Meteorology Package), suite of meteorological sensors and a seismometer.
DragonCam (Dragonfly Camera Suite), a set of microscopic and panoramic cameras to image Titan’s terrain and landing sites that are scientifically interesting.
While the mission will launch in 2026, it will take almost eight years to get to Titan, arriving in 2034, when it will become the second vehicle to visit the moon’s surface after Europe’s Huygens lander, which travelled to Saturn and Titan as a part of the Cassini mission.
Recently, during a Meet the Lindens session held at SL16B and at a Third Party Viewer Developer meeting, Oz Linden, the Senior Director, Second Life Engineering, provided further information on the status of the app, and what the initial release of the application will include.
While there is a degree of overlaps between what was said at the two events, there were also some differences in the information provided, with the TPV Developer meeting in particular being used to give further information on the app.
This being the case, I thought I’d offer a mini-update on the status of the app’s development, combining the comments made from both meetings into a single bullet-point list, with the relevant audio extracts from both meetings also provided for reference.
Note that throughout, Oz is only talking about the initial releases of the app, and so these notes and the audio comments should not be taken to mean the app will be “feature complete” when it appears, but that it will be enhanced over time, hopefully developing features that will make it more client-like (e.g. Radegast, MetaChat, lumiya, etc.) in general capabilities.
Summary of the comments made:
The app should initially be regarded as more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client:
It will provide a log-in option, and chat options (IM, group chat). Local chat will not initially be supported.
It will not present you with an in-world location, nor will your avatar rez in-world.
Seen as being useful for merchants / business owners to maintain contact with customers when away from their viewer.
Over time it will be enhanced – but additional capabilities are still TBD.
In theory, the app should work with both iPhones and iPads, although there may be some configuration differences.
The Lab have started the work of getting the initial test versions through Apple’s acceptance process.
It is not clear how long this will take, as it is the first time the Lab have followed this route themselves. However, it is hoped the first test version should be available in the “not too terribly distant” future.
When the app does appear, those wishing to test it will need to have TestFlight installed on their iPhone (or iPad), as the app will be made available though Apple’s beta testing environment for apps.
The major reason for selecting iOS for building an app of this kind is that at the time the decision was made, Android was well represented by Lumiya.
Some of the back-end infrastructure the Lab is building is support of the app might be applicable for use with a web application at some point. However, doing so is not in the current plans.