Lab Gab episode 1 – a summary

Strawberry and Xiola Linden with “Gabby”the cat (name TBC) on the Lab Gab set

The first episode of Lab Gab streamed on Wednesday, August 28th, hosted by Xiola and Strawberry Linden, and drew a comfortable audience. I intentionally stayed out of the chat but saw a few familiar names there.

Running to 35 minutes, the programme was not deeply revelatory with regards to Second Life news – that will likely be for future segments of the show. However, it did offer a comfortable, if slightly frustrating start – I say frustrating because the broadcast gremlins raised their little heads to try to keep Strawberry from being heard over the stream.

The first few minutes  – up to around the 9 minute mark – of the show covered Xiola and Berry’s roles at the Lab, and folded in notes on the Lab’s various social media presences and also the Destination Guide for finding places to visit.

Bakes on Mesh (BoM) then got a plug, being the latest update from Linden Lab. Berry attempted to clear-up confusion as to what it is (simply put: a means to apply system avatar wearables to suitably prepared mesh bodies and heads in a manner somewhat akin to how they used to be used with the system avatar, albeit with the option of supporting high resolution textures than available for the system avatar).

The official blog post on the release is available here, and I attempted to cobble together a basic primer on the subject (although I suspect that in part might also veer a little too close to the technical).

In talking Bakes on Mesh, Berry underlined at that BoM will require mesh body and head creators to provide updates to their offerings that are correctly flagged to use Bakes on Mesh natively. She also noted to the experimental Omega Bakes on Mesh applier system that I also referenced in my primer article. This is available from the Omega in-world store. However, I was interested to note that it did not work for Berry  – and I actually found it less than satisfactory when testing. Overall, the results seem variable, with some having absolutely no issues with it, and others (like Berry and I) encountering problems – hence, again, why it is called “experimental”. For those who wish to try it out, step-by-step instructions, courtesy of Theresa Tennyson (who is not associated with Omega, so please don’t crowd her with questions if you do have issues!) are available here.

Additionally, Berry pointed to an alternative HUD (L$125) which apparently works just fine, although I’ve yet to try it myself.

One of the key points with Bakes on Mesh is that it should enable body / head creators to make their products less complex, simply because they do not need to include so many onion skin layers, hence why the release advantage with BoM really lies in updates to existing bodies and heads, as the various creators will hopefully make available in the coming weeks (Slink has already updated). Thus, even for those who don’t use applier systems for clothing that mush, Bakes on Mesh is important, as adoption of updated bodies / head can have the potential to help reduce general rendering load for everyone.

Around the 14:40 mark, Xiola indirectly replied to some speculation on my part (raised when writing about Lab Gab ahead of the show), when I wondered:

I also admit to being curious as to whether the show might at some point down the road – depending on its longevity – also occasionally “hop over the fence” into Sansar or even perhaps take some “behind the scenes” (desires for things like privacy allowing among staff) looks at the Lab itself. “Lab Gab” seems to be too broad a title to remain purely about Second Life (although there is a lot to explore on that subject alone), even allowing for it being intentioned as a “catchy” name for the show.

By way of “reply” (I’m not sure Xiola’s comment was driven as a result of my speculation or not) Xiola noted:

I know the name of our new show here is “Lab Gab” – we just really likes how that sounded … but currently, short-term, our plans are to definitely focus on Second Life, although obviously we work for Linden Lab and Linden Lab also has Sansar … but the focus of this show is, initially and short-term, Second Life and the Second Life Community.

After some general chit-chat around giveaways, the show turns to a mini Q&A session from around the 19:15 mark, some of which are summarised below:

  • Linden Lab is currently working on an communications / companion app for iOS
  • When are last names coming back?
    • Still being worked on, have a lot of variables involved in terms of back-end systems and complexity.
    • Again, those interested can catch the last formal update I have (including comments from Oz Linden) in the First and last names section of my coverage of Oz’s appearance at SL16B with April Linden in June 2019. This also addresses a number of questions on the topic.
  • Linden Homes:
    • There is now a weekly roll-out programme (Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays) when homes are made available through the Linden Homes web page.
    • New types and styles of Linden Homes are still in the works, but no release dates.
    • Best way to stay up-to-date is to keep an eye on the official blogs and on the Linden Homes update thread on the forums.
  • Will Lab Gab include interviews with Lab staff? – Yes.
  • Upcoming major updates:
    • Bakes on Mesh is now out, per above.
    • The Environment Enhancement project (EEP) is progressing towards release – but no definite time frame other than Soon™ as bugs are being stomped on.
    • Not directly mentioned in the show is the new Animesh enhancements work (Project Muscadine) and also back on the horizon is the restarting ARCTan (two name but two of the more user-facing projects – there is also a lot of under-the-hood work going on).
    • Details on projects like this can be found in my (generally) weekly Content Creation User Group meeting summaries and also my other SL tech summaries.

An interesting start to the series, nicely relaxed, and a segment where the voice issues didn’t spoil things too much. Some nice teasers were dropped on future shows and direction which suggest Lab Gab will be a good option for tuning into every couple of weeks. In the meantime, you can catch the entire first show below.

Frogmore: Swedish childhood memories in Second Life

Frogmore, August 2019 – click any image for full-size

Update, November 2019: Frogmore has relocated to a full region. The SLurls in this piece have therefore been updated to point to that location. A review of the new region location is available here: Frogmore: more Swedish memories in Second Life.

Frogmore – or to give it its full name, Frogmore Gamla Stan (“Frogmore Old Town”), is a homestead region designed by Terry Fotherington (of {PAPPADO} – read more here and Kekeland  – read more here – fame) on behalf of region holder Bengta. The region’s design serves a very specific purpose, as Bengta explains:

Frogmore Gamla Stan is a memory of life as a child in Öregrund, Sweden. The air is filled with the scent of the sea, old fishing boats, and smoked herring. A simple life filled with love and laughter.

Frogmore, August 2019

A quick check on Öregrund reveals it to be a small town (population 1,500-ish in 2010), on the Baltic coast of Sweden’s Uppsala County. It’s apparently a place that was largely ignored by Sweden’s 19th century industrialisation; other than bar iron passing through the town’s harbour en route to places like England, the town itself largely remained centred on fishing, although in the late 19th century it did became popular as a spa resort.

It is that history as a fishing town, as Bengta notes, that Frogmore draws a part of its inspiration, together with the rugged beauty of the Scandinavian coast, to form a wonderful little fishing hamlet clinging to a rugged coastal region / group of islands. Given that it is only inspired by childhood memories as visualised through the eyes of another, direct parallels between Frogmore’s look and Öregrund perhaps shouldn’t be made.

Frogmore, August 2019

Instead, it is better to simply wander along the single, cinder-topped road, passing between brightly-painted wooden places of business and cabins (none of which are furnished within, to allow the focus to be on the landscaping and overall setting, to where steps climb upwards and more inland. The waterfront cabins and buildings are literally that: right on, and sometimes over, the water, with steps and moorings for rowing boats, nets drying as they hang from walls, and sofas and benches set on raised porches.

More houses and places of business can be found on the stepped shoulders of rock rising on the landward side of the road, and with a little care and scrambling, you can make your way to where a primitive log bridge spans a narrow watery gorge separating the two largest islands. This is worth taking, as it leads the way past a superb little rocky stream that tumbles down from one pool to another which, presumably has an opening somewhere under the cold-looking waters to allow the flow to continue on its way. Created using one of Alex Bader’s new Animated River Building Packs (see here and here), it really shows what can be achieved with what is  – to me – the best mesh river system available in SL.

Frogmore, August 2019

Exploring the region can be both fun and a little frustrating. Fun, as there are little cinder trails to be found here and there, offering the way between rocks to cabins or down to little beaches and coves. Frustrating, because although there are a couple of paddle boat rezzers to be found on the different islands, the lie of the land means you can’t actually use them to get from the little town to the other islands or vice-versa, leaving flying the only alternative.

The other peculiarity I had with a visit was that on our first (exploratory) time in Frogmore, the region was backed by off-sim mountains. On my return for photos, these steadfastly refused to render (and I tried 3 different viewers and various tricks to try to force them to render). Hence why some of the shoots accompanying this article may be different to those of Frogmore you may have seen elsewhere. Chatting to a couple of other people on the region, I learned they were having similar issues between visits – sometimes the mountains would render, sometimes not.

Frogmore, August 2019

But, mountains or no mountains, there is no doubting Frogmore’s beauty or its uniqueness among public regions, not just because of its appearance, but because of its founding inspiration and the “third-party”, so to speak, interpretation of that inspiration by the designer.

SLurl Details