The 1st Question in Second Life (with Ebbe Altberg)

The First Question

Pooky Amsterdam alerted me to the return of The 1st Question, a fast paced science themed show that will be taking place at Scilands on Sunday, June 28th, at 12:00 noon SLT.

Creator, founder and host of the show, Pooky is staging the event in honour of Paradox Oblers (aka Bruce ‘Spike’ MacPhee in the physical world), who sadly passed away in 2019, and it features some special guests – including the Lab’s own Ebbe Altberg.

For those unfamiliar with Paradox, he was owner/manager of the Spindrift island Space Gallery where he was also a curator for the Intentional Association of Astronomical Artists art wing, a SciLands science Senator and Council member, an International Spaceflight Museum planner & head of operations, a NASA SL CoLab manager, and a MICA Advisory Council member. He was a long-time member of the New England Science Fiction Association and the founder of the small press company Paratime Press.

Bruce “Spike” MacPhee

In Second Life, he helped to establish SciLands, a region for educators, scientists and science related people. It was a safe space where universities and government agencies could set up shop. It did much to establish Second Life as a resource for learning, discussion, the promotion of science, thinking, and the sharing of ideas.

Memory works like a small film, and we can “roll” that film before our minds eye by pressing play on that moment … My memory of the day I met Paradox Olbers runs like that. There he was, standing outside the large virtual conference auditorium with some other people I interacted with.

Arthur C. Clarke had just died and we both spoke of being affected by his writings and sad he was gone … Paradox asked me if I wanted to see something cool; I said yes, so he disappeared in a cloud of orange smoke and soon a prompt to take a teleport to him appeared on my screen. And with an instinctual trust, I took it.

Then we were in a large dome shaped building, and a large man creature elf was playing the most illusory sounds with electronics and flutes. We sat and watched, and Paradox noted he wished he could get more people interested in SL. I said, “Well, I have an idea…” and so The 1st Question was born as a weekly show.

Hearing of his passing only recently, I must make the steps back to Second Life to remember and embrace Paradox’s memory here.

– Pooky Amsterdam, recalling Paradox Oblers

For the special edition of The 1st Question Ebbe Altberg will be joining contestants Troy McLuhan, Jimbo Perhaps (who also has a platform over Scilands where visitors can witness a to-scale model of the solar system and Larry Niven’s Ringworld),, and Korii Tiger. The show is being called The Guru edition, to mark Paradox’s role as a mentor and guru to many.

The game is science-focused, as noted, and offers the tag line If you have an answer – We have a question. It comprises four rounds:

  • Yay Me or Nay Me – 16 questions – are they the truth or not?
  • You’re So Elemental – with which element in the periodic table do each of the four contestants identify?
  • Word-Up – everyone has words they’ve made up at some point (mine are usually made up right after I’ve stubbed my toe on something or broken a finger nail…). Each of the four panellists is asked to reveal one of theirs, and the audience votes for their favourite.
  • Your Inner Geek – a quick fire, on-the-buzzer round of questions on recent science in the news, or scholarly discovery and work, or heroes of science. He who buzzes first – and gets the right answer – gets the point. But he who buzzes before the question has been fully asked and gets the answer wrong, gets locked out of answering again until the entire question has been asked.

The winner is the contestant earning the most points, and those watching can play along with the question-and-answer rounds for themselves.

With the Tiny Marauders on-hand to bring opening craziness to the mix and music from guest musical director Cypress Rosewood and Pooky and Hydra asking with questions, The 1st Question is a fun event and a fitting way to recall Paradox, who loved science and enjoyed the show and having fun. So why not hop along to the theatre or overflow gallery, or catch it via a You Tube live stream.

With thanks to Pooky Amsterdam.

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A new Storybook in Second Life

“With a Smile and a Song”: Storybook, June 2020:  – click any image for full size

Caitlyn and I have long enjoyed visiting the Lost Unicorn regions held by Natalie Montagne and designed by Noralie78. The designs offered within them have been the most captivating of any within Second Life. Sadly, as I reported in The closing of a Storybook in Second Life in March 2020, one of the region designs – Storybook Forest  – went away, although in a kind-of compensation, Noralie78 went on to design Finian’s Dream, also held by Natalie (see A touch of Celtic magic in Second Life).

But, and as the saying goes, you just can’t put a good book down, so Storybook Forest is once again back; this time with a new name – a simple Storybook -, a slightly different approach and entirely the work of Natalie, who announced the new design in her blog on June 26th, 2020:

I have been working on and just recently completed my first attempt at building a region all on my own. I had a lot of fun and am pretty excited about it and am ready to share it with everyone 🙂 Remember Storybook Forest at Lost Unicorn? This is an all new version … now called Storybook. It is above the gallery region, Faerie Tale.

– Natalie Montagne, Lost Unicorn Gallery blog

Storybook, June 2020

As a sky build, Natalie has been able to combine the new design almost seamlessly with a mountainous region surround. This gives the real feeling that this is – to coin a phrase used in relation to fairy tales – a land far, far away, something which the ground-level Storybook Forest couldn’t achieve to the same degree. A further difference between this design and that past iteration is that this includes a number of rentals properties that present people with the chance to live within a fairytale setting, and of which more anon.

Visitors initially arrive at a landing point sitting on its own – a click of the storybook there will carry them onwards to the setting itself, delivering them to a small town setting that may at first look quite ordinary. But again, as a saying goes – looks can be deceptive. A mouse looking a little like Stuart Little awaiting a tour guide stands close to the landing point; down the street, another mouse is carrying a try of drinks and cakes in the café; the street, an antlered jackalope enjoys a cup of hot chocolate while another bunny is preparing to take a photograph – perhaps of the little robot trundling down the street or perhaps of Mary Poppins, who is dropping in via umbrella overhead (so much so that it’s hard not to hear the melody of A Spoonful of Sugar as she drifts in).

Storybook, June 2020

The little town marks the heart of the setting – and the detail that has been poured into it: as well as the characters on the streets, the little shops are all given furnishing and décor entirely within the contexts of a storybook setting; but it what lies beyond it that gives the land its soul. The T-shaped streets all end in tall wrought iron gates, neatly splitting the land into three area of exploration: south and east, north and west, and westwards, with the first two – south and east and north and west – having paths that loop through them to return to the little town fairly close to the landing point.

Which route you take is entirely a matter of choice: all three offer much to see, although the forest itself lies through the gates that sit to the west, within an archway of a great castle. Beyond them, steps descend into the forest, mist snaking among the trees, the paths between the tall trunks set out with paved slabs of stone, each with a name that reflects the theme to be found along them: Cinderella Way, Brave Boulevard and Snow White St.

Storybook, June 2020

Each of these gives a clue as to what lies along them by way of vignettes. Those familiar with the past iteration of Storybook Forest will be pleased to note that here – and elsewhere – familiar characters from that build can still be found, although some are now offered in a new aspect of their story, as is the case with Snow White. There are also some new characters to be found as well. Follow Brave Boulevard, for example to its twisting end you’ll discover the old woman who lived in a shoe sitting and reading, while her children are at play. Behind them, their shoe (or in this case boot) house rises – and a careful examination will reveal it is one of the units available for rent.

And therein lies the secret of seven rentals here: all of them are offered in a style entirely in keeping with the vignette they may be placed alongside, or the theme of the setting as a whole- shoe, forest cabin, pear house, watchtower and more, none of which interfere with people’s ability to explore.

Storybook, June 2020

Elsewhere are other reminders of the previous iterations of the design: Alice is still attending an unusual tea party; the little village of animal houses curves around one of the paths, while books and quotes on stories await discovery.

Within the castle – a new addition that forms a gallery space – the Wonderland theme continues on the lower floor with the Red Queen / Queen of Hearts waits. Through its halls, floors and towers can be found more of the Storybook Forest characters, offered in reflection of the art on display: interpretations of Peter Pan (while Captain Hook’s ship floats over the region), Cinderella, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel, making for a visit in its own right.

Storybook, June 2020

The new design offers a setting that captures much of the magic of the original whilst offering something new – a new chapter in Storybook’s tale.

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2020 SL project updates week #26: TPVD summary

South Shore Bay, May 2020 – blog post

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, June 26th, 2020. These meetings are generally held every other week, unless otherwise noted in any given summary. The embedded video is provided to Pantera – my thanks to her for recording and providing it. Time stamps are included with the notes will open the video at the point(s) where a specific topic is discussed.

SL Viewer News

[0:00-4:27]

  • On Tuesday, June 23rd, the release viewer updated to version 6.4.3.543157, dated June 11th, formerly the CEF RC viewer.
  • On Wednesday, June 24th, the Arrack Maintenance RC viewer, 6.4.5.544024, was issued. This viewer uses Viewer Manager 2.0.538279.
  • On Thursday, June 25th, the Tools Update RC viewer updated to version 6.4.5.544097. This viewer is built using VS 2017 / a recent version of Xcode, and Boost.Fiber. It contains no user-facing changes.

The rest of the current official viewer pipelines are as follows:

  • Release Candidate viewers:
  • Project viewers:
    • Mesh uploader project viewer, version 6.4.4.543141, June 11.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, December 9, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 6.4.0.532999, November 22, 2019.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.3.2.530836, September 17, 2019. Covers the re-integration of Viewer Profiles.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, July 16, 2019.

General Viewer Notes

  • The CEF viewer supports live streaming into Second Life by You Tube and Facebook. Other services may also work, but further bug fixes may be required for them to work smoothly.
  • The Love Me Render (LMR) RC viewer should be the next viewer in-line for promotion, mostly likely in week #28, however, this is dependent on it getting some remaining priority fixes related to EEP.
    • These fixes include the reported specularity issues and now include the reported HUD issues (BUG-225784).
  • The Legacy Profiles Project Viewer had been awaiting a web update which may have gone through. If so, and it correctly addresses the issue, then it is likely the viewer will go to RC status.
  • The Copy / Paste Project Viewer also shouldn’t be “too far” from an RC update.

Simulator News

[4:42-5:35]

  • A new simulator version that includes a fix for the failure to deliver inventory offers to a user who is off-line is available for testing by TPVs.
  • Viewer developers wishing to test the updates can do so on regions Preflight3, Preflight4 and Preflight7.

Texture Caching, HTTP and General Viewer Caching

[6:05-9:51]

  • Work had been in progress to update texture caching and HTTP2 (the TCO viewer. That viewer has been split between the texture caching work and the HTTP2 work, so it has effectively become two viewers in development.
    • The HTTP2 viewer will likely remain on hold until after the Uplift project work is complete.
    • It is not currently clear when work on the texture caching (TCO) viewer will resume.
  • In terms of revising viewer caching as a whole, this is liable to be a fairly large project.
    • First item of business will be to completely replace VFS caching (the system used to cache information on in-world objects) with a new, more performant format.
    • Once this has been done, other aspects of caching with the viewer will be looked at.
  • Inventory caching is another area of work that may be looked at in the future.

In Brief

  • [10:26-12:59] Beq Janus and Polysail have been digging into how normals are applied to mesh surfaces and have come up with some interesting findings that have been passed to Linden Lab.
    • Initial review suggest at least two issues are present.
    • However, the graphic team currently has its hand full until the LMR viewer is released, so work is unlikely to progress until then.
    • The “good” news is, at least one of the issues, related to debug normals, can be readily reproduced.
    • If the issues can be quickly rectified, the fixes might be pulled into the Mesh Uploader Project Viewer.
  • [21:15-22:15] In response to a question it was reiterated that Vulkan is being given serious consideration as the rendering API to replace OpenGL, given Apple’s intent to deprecate the latter.
    • One potential issue is that a lot of older PCs used with SL do not have support for Vulkan.
    • To assist in determining how big an issue this might be, the Arrack Maintenance RC viewer includes logging code to detect Vulkan support within client systems.
  • [22:45-26:07] the announcement by Apple that they plan to switch away from using Intel CPUs to their own ARM-based CPUs starting in 2020 was discussed. LL will be looking into this more once they get some dev kits from Apple.