2019 viewer release summaries week #48

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates for the week ending Sunday, December 1st

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 6.3.4.532299, formerly the Ordered Shutdown RC viewer, dated November 4th, – No Change.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • No updates.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V6-style

V1-style

Mobile / Other Clients

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Thoughts on Second Life fees, tier and revenue

via: thebluediamondgallery.com

Monday, December 2nd saw the introduction of the new Marketplace (MP) commission fee of 10%, as announced in the Lab’s November 21st blog post The Return of Last Names and Changes to Marketplace, Events & Premium.

The announcement of the fee change unsurprisingly caused some upset, with a couple of forum threads popping-up on the subject (see: MP fees raising to 10% per sale. Thoughts? and Second Life® is still a world of opportunities). Various points are raised in both threads, some fair, some perhaps not-so-fair. While I’m the first to note that I’m not in any way, shape or size a “merchant” or “commercial creator” in SL I thought I’d try to step back and try to take a broader look at fees and tier, etc., in general.

The first point to note is that in making the claim that the increase to the MP transaction fees still leaves them “significantly lower than most digital content commissions across the industry” while citing Apple and Google as examples, the Lab did so with a certain amount of spin.

The 30% charged by Apple, for example, incorporates payment clearing, fraud, indemnity, insurance, and dunning; local tax law enforcement & reporting; service provisioning and distribution, etc. Due to the nature of Second Life these fees are incurred separately to the MP – but they are still incurred by many merchants using the MP, and when taken into consideration, they amount to somewhat more than 10%, a point Cat Hunter makes in this comment.

Also in their blog post, the Lab note that that fee change is to help offset costs incurred at the Lab due to investing in new Marketplace features and improvements. This is fair enough; however, given that the first of these changes is apparently within weeks of being deployed (improved MP search filtering), it might have been an idea to perhaps to wait until these changes had been introduced  before announcing the fee increase – and then to champion them alongside the improvements that have been made over the last 12-18 months, such as the much-requested Store Manager capability and the notifications and redelivery capabilities and wishlists and favourites¹.

However, there is a more intrinsic reason for fee increases – be they with transaction fees or anything else (such as the recent increases in Premium subscriptions), and it is one the Lab perhaps doesn’t communicate clearly: and that’s trying to reduce virtual land tier.

While tier has contributed to the loss of regions in SL, including places such as Venexia (above) and its sister region, Goatswood, lowering it without increasing fees elsewhere would always hurt Linden Lab more than help users

This is something that users have (rightly or wrongly – there are actually arguments on both sides of the coin) been demanding for at least the last decade. And since the start 2018, Linden Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg, has repeatedly stated the company would like to reduce land tier – but would only be able to do so if the resultant loss of revenue the company would suffer as a result could be compensated for through other means².

In fact, the Lab have taken steps to reduce tier: in 2016 there was the private region buy-down offer³ (the interim boost to LL’s revenue as a result of the fees payable likely long since having passed), and in July 2018 reduced private region tier from US $295 to US $249 for Full regions (that now stand at US $229), and Homesteads from US $125 to US $1094.

While it is hard to accurately quantify, given the various factors involved (e.g number of grandfathered, skill and educational regions, the more recent slight increases in region count, etc.), it is – with the help of Tyche Shepherd’s Grid Survey and the Internet Wayback machine – possible to reasonably (conservatively?) estimate the impact of the July 2018 tier reductions at around a LS $300,000 a month fall in the Lab’s land revenue. This may not sound a lot – but it is something LL would likely want to recoup – and it can only be done through increases in other fees, as Altberg noted in his comments on the matter.

This should not be taken to mean the transaction fee is wholly associated with compensating for the tier reduction, but it’s not unreasonable to assume it might nevertheless help, either now or in the future. More to the point, and regardless of where the revenue from the MP fee increase is used, it wouldn’t hurt for the Lab to remind people of the strategy to pivot revenue away from land tier and to other options when making similar fee adjustments elsewhere (or indeed, the introduction of new fees, even it they may also help offset the cost of implementing new options and capabilities).

There are two final points that come to mind when looking at the MP transaction fee change. The first is that of all the fee changes thus far introduced, it is the one that merchants can most directly compensate for, as some in the forum threads have noted. Merchants can raise their MP prices, for example, whilst keeping their in-world prices lower (which is allowed5); or those with in-world stores might focus more on sales through that channel, with associated group advertising.

The second point comes back to the timing of the announcement. It would seem that the increase has been made so that the Lab can benefit from the likely increase in MP sales during the run-up, and indeed over, the holiday season. There’s nothing wrong with this per se; but given the increase has likely been on the cards for a while, it would have perhaps have been preferable had LL given more of a lead time on its implementation so allow merchants more time to prepare for it, and so help them in compensating in what might come across as a reduction in their own ability to generate revenue through the same holiday period.

Related Links

  1. See:
  2. See (all with audio comments by Ebbe Altberg):
  3. Lab: get grandfathered tier in 6-month buy-down offer (April 2016).
  4. Linden Lab announces major SL private region pricing restructure (June 2018) and Looking at the new private region and L$ fees (July 2018).
  5. Web Team Springs some Deploys on you, April 2018.

Christmas tales and science fiction in Second Life

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, December 2nd 19:00: Teacher’s Pet / War and Peace

Gyro Muggins returns to Larry Niven’s Known Space universe and the Man-Kzin Wars series to bring us two short stories from that series written by Matthew Joseph Harrington, and which appeared in the Man-Kzin volume 11 (edited by Niven), first published in 2005.

Set after the end of the war, the stories within Man-Kzin XI are predominantly set during a period where the Kzin are down (but not necessarily out) and having to adapt to no longer being the masters of all races they encounter, and are in roughly chronological order.

The two stories by Harrington follow the trio by established writer Hal Colebatch, and marked his début as a published author at the age of 35. They are regarded by many as being strong studies in the Man-Kzin lore, whilst also drawing on other literary sci-fi sources. The stories are also noted for Harrington’s ability to round-out a number of “loose ends” within the Man-Kin wars as well as offering new slants on the broader carves of Niven’s Known Space universe.

Both stories use a play on words in their titles, with War and Peace doing so both in the manner it reflects the period of peace following war, and also for the way it focuses on the life and work of Peace Corben, a human female Protector, who returns in Harrington’s sequel story, Peace and Freedom, published in the 2009 volume Man Kzin Wars XII.

Tuesday, December 3rd

The library is closed.

Wednesday, December 4th

14:30: The Dickens Project

Music in Dickens Square.

19:00 Spirit of Steamboat

Kayden Oconnell returns to the tales of sheriff Walt Longmire, reading the ninth volume of Craig Johnson’s tales about his laconic US Marine-turned-lawman protagonist.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Longmire is reading A Christmas Carol in his office when he is visited by a ghost of Christmas past: a young woman with a scar across her forehead. He doesn’t recognise her, but she clearly knows him and his predecessor, sheriff Lucian Connally, under whom Longmire started his career as a deputy sheriff in 1972.

His interest aroused, Longmire takes the the young woman to see Connally, now a resident at an Assisted Living Home. But Connally, a former US Army Air Force pilot who flew B-25 Mitchell bombers in the Second World War, fails to recognise her. This is in some ways hardly surprising, given Connally’s frequently inebriated state.

Disappointed at the two men’s reaction, the young woman whispers a single word, “Steamboat”. In doing so, she embarks on a tale that tales Longmire and Connally back to Christmas Eve 1988, when Longmire had been a deputy sheriff just two months. The holiday season had brought with it a record-breaking blizzard – and a road accident that left Longmire and the (again inebriated) Connally with no choice but to pull a B-25 out of mothballs and make a dangerous flight through the blizzard to Denver, Colorado, in order to save a life.

Thursday, December 5th

19:00: Rock Crystal

Seemingly the simplest of stories—a passing anecdote of village life— Adalbert Stifter’s Rock Crystal opens up into a tale of almost unendurable suspense.

Young Conrad and his little sister, Sanna set out from their village high up in the Alps to visit their grandparents in the neighbouring valley. It is the day before Christmas but the weather is mild, though of course night falls early in December and the children are warned not to linger.

The grandparents welcome the children with presents and pack them off with kisses. Then snow begins to fall, ever more thickly and steadily. Undaunted, the children press on, only to take a wrong turn. The snow rises higher and higher, time passes: it is deep night when the sky clears and Conrad and Sanna discover themselves out on a glacier, terrifying and beautiful, the heart of the void…

With Shandon Loring, and also presented in Kitely (grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI).

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Contemporary Sci-Fi-Fantasy with Finn Zeddmore

Friday, December 6th 22:00: The Dickens Project

Idle Rogue Productions present The Midnight Dinner in the Opera House.

Saturday, December 7th 11:00: The Dickens Project

VCARA Read Aloud at the Dickens Resource Centre.

Virtual Existence Society Honouree

My VES Amica award

On Sunday, December 1st, 2019, I was one of a number of recipients of the first honorary titles to be awarded by the Virtual Existence Society (VES).

The Amica (Friend) award is a title awarded by VES to individuals in recognition of:

Their contribution to the practice of virtual embodiment and the cause of virtual existentialism through years of excellent journalism.

Those in receipt of the Amica award were invited to attend a special awards ceremony held by the VES on Sunday, December 1st, where they, and the members of the Society who had been nominated for, and accepted, were able to receive their award and title.

Unfortunately, due to the ceremony being held at a time that makes it difficult for me to be in-world on a weekend (and particularly Sundays), I was unable to attend in person.

However, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to VES senior / founder members lucagrabacr and Nodoka Hanamura and to the brothers and sisters of VES for nominating me to be one of the first recipients of the Amica title, and congratulations to my fellow recipients, and to all of the VES members in receipt of the Fidelis title.

You can see a full list of all recipients on the VES website.

About The Virtual Existence Society

The Virtual Existence Society is a non-profit group of like-minded individuals who find value in the practice of virtual embodiment and the philosophy of virtual existentialism, and want to preserve, and promote those things.

The purpose of the Society is to preserve and promote shared belief and values by the means of passively strengthening members’ faith through philosophical formulation and understanding of those values, and actively participating in activities aimed to preserve and promote said belief and values.

In addition, the society also conducts activities aimed to preserve and promote virtual world platforms to which it resides in (e.g. Second Life).

You can find out more about VES, including its structure on the Virtual Existence Society website, and visitors are welcome at the society’s in-world headquarters.

The VES Headquarters in Second Life

Space Sunday: budgets, space planes, landers, oxygen and dust

A new ESA budget confirms the space agency’s commitment to the Space RIDER uncrewed space plane Credit: ESA

On Thursday, November 28th, 2019, European Space Agency (ESA) members agreed to a record €14.4 billion, promising to maintain Europe’s place at the top table alongside NASA and China. The four largest contributors to the budget are Germany (€3.3 billion); France (€2.7 billion), Italy (€2.3 billion) and the United Kingdom (€1.7 billion – ESA is not an EU organisation, so the UK’s involvement will remain unchanged when / if Brexit occurs, although EU funding of UK science and technology projects will be impacted).

The funding will allow ESA to move forward on a number of fronts in space exploration and technology development, including:

  • The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) – the first space-based gravitational wave observatory, comprising three spacecraft placed in a triangular formation 2.5 million km apart and following the Earth in its orbit around the Sun. LISA will launch in the early 2030s.
  • Transitioning ESA to the next generation of launchers: Ariane 6 and Vega-C.
  • Continued support of the International Space Station, including continued participation in crew missions.
  • Direct involvement in NASA’s Artemis lunar programme, including technology for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) and crewed missions.
  • A joint Mars sample-return mission with NASA.
  • Development of flexible satellite systems integrated with 5G networks, as well as next-generation optical technology for a fibre-like ‘network in the sky.’
  • The development of a European reusable space vehicle: Space RIDER.

Space RIDER (Reusable Integrated Demonstrator for Europe Return) is a project I first wrote about in 2015, when ESA flew the European Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV). An uncrewed vehicle weighing just under 2 tonnes, it had the primary objective to research the re-entry and flight characteristics of a lifting body type of vehicle and test the re-entry shielding technologies for such a vehicle.

The Space RIDER vehicle shown in cutaway, showing the open payload bay, forward parasail deployment system and after avionics. Credit: ESA

IXV paved the way for the initial development for Space RIDER, which will be an uncrewed cargo vehicle designed to be launched by the Vega rocket and capable of carrying up to 800 Kg of payload into orbit. All Space RIDER vehicles will be able to carry out around 5 flights apiece, reducing the overall cost of placing payloads into orbit. Following re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, the vehicle will descend to Earth under a parasail, allowing it to glide to a nominated landing zone.

As well as being suitable for launching space payloads into orbit, Space RIDER will itself be a technology development vehicle for possible larger reusable vehicles using similar lifting body technology.

Space RIDER will largely be developed by Italy and the first flight is due to take place in 2022.

Happy Anniversary, InSight

On Monday, November 26th, 2018, NASA’s InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander, built with international cooperation, arrived on the surface of Mars. The focus of the mission is to probe the Red Planet’s interior – its crust, mantle and core in order to answer key questions about the early formation of the rocky planets in our inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – more than 4 billion years ago.

A simulation of InSight touching down on Mars using its 16 rocket motors. Credit: NASA

Since that landing, the year has been an eventful one for InSight, the lander’s super-sensitive seismometer suite has detected more than 150 vibration events to date, about two dozen of which are confirmed marsquakes. However, and I’ve I’ve reported a number of times in these pages, InSight’s other primary science instrument, a burrowing heat probe called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³), has had tougher time.

The self-propelled “mole” probe designed to burrow down into the Martian sub-surface having been stuck for most of the year after only penetrating a few centimetres into the ground. Those operations only resumed in October 2019, and were short-lived after the probe inexplicably “bounced” its way almost completely out of the hole it had burrowed, leaving scientists and engineers still trying to work out what happened.

Side-by-side: (l) the first image returned by InSight using the lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC), still with its dust cap in place. Note the lander’s leg in the lower right corner. (r) a photo captured by the robot-arm mounted Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) as the arm is exercised on November 30th, 2018

The solar-powered InSight is scheduled to operate for at least two Earth years.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: budgets, space planes, landers, oxygen and dust”