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 188.8.131.525003 and dated January 22nd, promoted January 27th, formerly the Xanté RC viewer, – NEW.
We dropped into Bart Bader’s Homestead region of Kindred Spirit at the weekend as we bounced around Second Life. It’s a place that has recently had a make-over, a Bart noted to me as we chatted while I took photographs in preparation for this article.
I did have it as a rural country sim, but returned to my love of Fantasy for this build. Every month I’ll be making small additions to keep it fresh. We’ve had a few of the Photo clubs using it for their challenges, so changing things up helps keep it fresh for them.
– Bart Bader, discussing Kindred Spirit
With the new design, Bart has created a setting that is eye-catching and imagination calling. The fantasy element is evident almost from the time of arrival, but in the must subtle of ways. The landing point, located towards the south-west corner of the region, sits at the end of a meandering track illuminated by ornate lighting posts that glow from within, the delicate forms of Noke Yuitza’s glass roses growing large to one side of the track, a crystal raised amidst ruins on the other. More fantasy elements await the opportunity to reveal themselves as visitor explore the region.
This is a place of multiple settings, each carefully separated from the rest to give a sense of space and privacy, all of them drawn together by landscaping and theme into a contiguous whole that draws visitors ever deeper into a feeling that they are in a mystical realm. Beyond a three-way bridge, for example, the path branches, one arm dipping down to the west where a ring of elven arches encircle a netted bed, while a second arm leads to a cliff edge sculpted by the fall of water from high pools to form arches, walkways and vantage points offering views to the east across the bay that cuts deeply into the landscape.
Here steps lead down to the very water itself, where tiles of flagstones raise their backs above the gentle waves, leading the way to a cavern below the cliffs – a place, Bart informed me, recently added as a part of refreshing elements of the build over time. The cavern, cliffs and their surrounds present multiple places to sit that in turn offer a captivating view to the eastern extent of the region of which more in a moment.
The region is split into two large islands linked by a single narrow bridge. The more northern of these islands continues the presentation of multiple settings ranging little track-side cosy spots to more hints of elven influence together with medieval twists – notably the low-lying ruins at the north-east headland of the island. To the east lies a marvellous grass-topped plateau to the east, home to the remnants of what might have once been a little chapel, but is now home to the first of a number of Mistrero Hifeng’s sculptures to be found within the region, and an aged piano.
To the eastern end of this almost garden-like setting stands a circular gateway with stone steps beyond forming a cleft that descends once more to water level, and what can only be described as the most marvellous water garden that dominates the eastern side of the island – and perhaps the region as a whole – with its beauty.
It is here that frosted trees raise their boughs to the sky as they in turn rise from the waters, forming an extended copse through which mist swirls and stepping stones wind. Awaiting discovery here are sculptures, statues, more of Yoke’s glass flowers, a little draped pavilion with winged chair and ornamentation and more, all watched over by another of Mistero’s statues sitting atop a winding stair. It is a place just made for photography, and with several places to sit and appreciate it scattered through out.
Standing tall over this quite beautiful setting, and at its easternmost extreme, there rises a tall tree. It is home to an elven platform reached by a covered stair that coils upwards around the tree trunk. Reached via a path passing beneath what can only be described as water splashes frozen in time to form a series of arches, the tree stands as if looking eastward across the Sundering Sea, awaiting sign of ships sailing from the far-off lands of Middle Earth to reach the hallowed lands of Aman, of which Kindred Spirit might be considered an offshore pairing of islands.
It is this water garden that so captivated me on looking outward from the southern island’s cliffs, and which I would suggest is the gem of this evocative region. However, the north island has one more setting – possibly easily missed when crossing the bridge if one is focused on following the track eastwards. Clearly revealed from the high elven platform and sitting on a low shelf of rock thrusting out into the bay is a glass pavilion (a Trompe Loeil design popular with region designers), fronted by a deck built out over the water. Home to the cosy bric-a-brac oft found in the presence of men and women, it is distinctly un-elven in look and feel, yet it fits the setting perfectly, not only offering another little setting-within-a-scene, but also reminding us that while Aman was the spiritual home for Tolkien’s elves, it was by no means exclusively so; and thus with the pavilion, Bart adds another delightful twist to the fantasy themes running throughout Kindred Spirit.
Now to be sure, there is a lot of mesh and textures used throughout the region which can impact performance, so disabling shadows when walking around or dropping draw distance might be advisable. However this is a small price to pay for spending time in what is, without a doubt, a captivating, utterly photogenic setting, one that calls on the imagine to take flight.
On January 29th, 2020, the latest mission to study planets beyond our own solar system opened its eye to take a first look, in what is the start of a 3.5-year-mission to examine stars with known exoplanets.
The CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) a joint European / Swiss mission, was launched on December 18th, 2019 by a Soyuz-Fregat from Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, together with a number of other payloads. It forms the first of ESA’s new S-Class (Small Class) missions, capped at a maximum budget of €50 million apiece. It’s a small mission not just in terms of cost, but also in its physical size: CHEOPS measures just 1.5 metres on a side. Following launch, it entered a 700 km Sun-synchronous polar orbit.
Once there, initial testing of the satellite commenced. These first confirmed that communications between it and mission control were all working correctly. Once these had been thoroughly tested, the command was sent to boot-up the primary computer system so it could be run through a series of diagnostics before the primary science components were initialised. These tests also included the vehicle’s temperature control systems and the primary elements of the main telescope system – a 30 cm optical Ritchey–Chrétien telescope.
These initial commissioning tests culminated in the opening of the telescope’s primary baffle – otherwise known as its lens cap. This was the most critical aspect of the initial commissioning – if the the baffle failed to hinge open, the telescope would be unable to observe its target stars.
Fortunately, the opening went as planned, allowing the final set of tests to commence. Over the next couple of months, these will see CHEOPS take hundreds of images of stars – some with exoplanets, some without, in order to examine the measurement accuracy of the telescope systems under different conditions, and confirm its operating envelope. At the same time, this period of testing will also allow this mission team to further integrate all aspects of ground operations. Again, if all goes according to plan, some of this first light images will be released by the CHEOPS science team, and the end of the tests will see the telescope commence its primary operations.
While thousands of exoplanets have been discovered, few of them have been accurately characterised in terms of both mass and diameter. This limits our ability to fully assess their bulk density, which is needed to provide clues to there composition and their possible formation history.So to help us gain better data, CHEOPS will accurately measure the size of known transiting exoplanets orbiting bright and nearby stars. These are planets that cause dips in the brightness of their parent stars as they pass between the star and Earth.
By targeting known systems, we know exactly where to look in the sky and when in order to capture exoplanet transits very efficiently. This makes it possible for CHEOPS to return to each star on multiple occasions around the time of transit and record numerous transits, thus increasing the precision of our measurements and enabling us to perform a first-step characterisation of small planets.
– Willy Benz, CHEOPS principal investigator
The transit method offer a “direct” means of detecting exoplanets, but it is not the only option open to us. A second method, generally referred to as the radial velocity method, or Doppler spectroscopy, can detect planets “indirectly”, by directing the doppler shifted “wobble” in a star’s motion. Around 30% of all exoplanets have been detected by this method, but it can be somewhat less informative than the transit method. This being the case, another aspect of the telescope’s mission will be looking at stars where orbiting planets have been detected via the radial velocity method in an attempt to detect the planets by the more direct transit method and again, by repeated observations, allow scientists to start to characterised them.
As a whole, CHEOPS will be particularly focused on exoplanets characterised as “super-Earths” – those thought to be between Earth and Neptune in size, many of which may well be solid in nature. While it will be able to characterise these exoplanets with a new level of precision, its work will pave the ways for follow-up observations in the future by telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST – operating in the infra-red), and by large ground-based telescopes like the 40m Extremely Large Telescope currently under construction, allowing them to both refine the CHEOPS data and add to it.