Artistic Gratitude in Second Life

The University of Western Australia has been a long-term patron of the arts in Second Life

The end of 2020 marks the end of an era in Second Life, as we will be saying farewell to the in-world presence of the University of Western Australia, as their last remaining active region is due to close.

Between 2009 and 2018, the University’s name was synonymous with patronage of the arts in Second Life, sponsoring as it did numerous Art Challenges with large-scale cash prizes on offer to participating artists. In the process these challenges yielded some of the most exceptional displays of art and creativity seen within – and beyond – Second Life. Art that I had both the privilege and the honour to both cover in these pages, and to help adjudicate as an invited judge for several of the challenges, allowing me to witness an appreciate first-hand the depth of creativity they seeded and nurtured.

UWA: Gratitude – Suzanne Graves
By way of a last farewell and to offer a “thank you” to the UWA for its support of the arts down the years, the arts platform over the region is currently home to a special exhibition of 2D and 3D art.

Entitled Gratitudes, the exhibition has been organised by Chuck Clip, who issued an invitation for artists to contributed 2D and 3D pieces back in September (see: Calling artists: an exhibition to say farewell to the UWA in Second Life). The result is a exhibition that includes news pieces created specifically for inclusion in it, as well a pieces that have been past UWA Grand Challenge winners – such as Sharni Azalee’s evocative Never Say Never,  a Grand Prize winner back in 2014.

UWA: Gratitude – Elle Thorkveld

The art is displayed on the sky platform over the UWA campus grounds in the region, and is framed by a collection of posters marking some of the art challenges organised by UWA under the stewardship of Jayjay Zifanwee and UWA in SL curator Freewee Ling.

Artists who responded to the open invitation to participate in the event include Sharnee Azalee, Chic Aeon, Suzanne Graves, Pixels Sideways, Merranda Ginssberg, Vroum Short, Ciottolina Zue, Cherry Manga, Alpha Auer, Sheba Blitz, Kayly Iali, Judylynn India, Monroe Snook and Chuck Clip himself, among numerous others. All of whom present s rich mix of 2D and 3D art to be appreciated and admired. Further 3D art selected by Jayjay can be found within the ground level of the university in what is very much a 3D art garden.

UWA: Gratitude – 2D art

All told, Gratitude presents a rich cross-section of art and creativity, and is well worth taking the time to visit and appreciate. It will remain open until the end of December 30th, 2020.

SLurl Details

  • Gratitude (University of WA, rated General)

Second Life and the Lab: looking back at 2020

It’s become an end-of year tradition in the blog to offer a look back over the past 12 months and summarise much of what has happened in terms of Second Life, Linden Lab, my involvement in the platform, and the various other topics covered in these pages.

Last year I altered my usual approach to these look backs, as I felt the 2-part format I had been using was perhaps a little dry, so instead, I focused more on the notable events in SL through the year. I’ve opted to follow that approach, with some the highlights of the year (at least, as I see them).

Linden Lab

Acquisition

The biggest news of the year with regards to Linden Lab was the July announcement that the company was in the process of being acquired by new investors. At the turn of the year, the negotiations, etc., still appear to be in progress, although there have been no further updates from the Lab on the matter. The latter is hardly surprising,  given the complexity that can be involved in such deals, which in some cases can take well over a year to complete.

At the time of the announcement, the news brought forth a lot of angst and some negativity – although such acquisitions are not uncommon by by no means  indicative of “bad” news. With this situation, and given the backgrounds of the new investors, the move appears positive,  prompting me to point out a couple of things and offer some speculation.

J. Randall Waterfield (l) and Bradford Oberwager, the incoming Linden Research Inc., investors.

Sansar

The start of the year was not a little confusing for Sansar. 2019 had seen some rapid changes of direction with the platform, suggesting Linden Lab were having trouble settling on a market  / audience for Sansar, with a portion of staff working on the platform being laid off. In February, rumours were circulating that the Lab had suspended all development for Sansar and were laying off the rest of their staff working on the platform. Such were the rumours, the Lab took the step of publicly providing  reassurance about the future of Second Life, whilst seeking a future for Sansar.

In March it was confirmed Sansar had been sold to Wookey Projects Inc., (later Wookey Technologies). The deal was largely brought about by members of the Lab’s team directly involved in managing and running Sansar, and saw the majority of those who had been laid-off being hired by Wookey, whilst former Linden Lab Management Team members Sheri Bryant and Julia Munck also moving to Wookey to directly manage things.

Following its acquisition, the platform continued to focus on “live” events, including a major link-up with Lost Horizons to host a virtual Glastonbury Shangri-La festival in the summer, and a further Lost Horizons set of events at the end of the year – see my general Sansar reporting for more.

Tilia

Tilia Inc., is the wholly-owned subsidiary of Linden Lab that handles all micro-transactions and payments /payouts related to Linden Dollars and Sansar Dollars, and which manages the Lab’s compliance with regulations relating to its role as a Money Transmitter / Money Services Business (MSB).

I’d previously speculated that Tilia might be a means for the Lab to spin-off its expertise with managing micro-currencies to other companies wish to offer such services. With the sale of Sansar, Wookey Technologies effectively became the Lab’s first customer in this regard. Then in May 2020 it was announced that the property trading game Upland. had become Tilia’s second client customer.

Merchandise

After requests to do so for many years, Linden Lab started offering SL-related merchandise via RedBubble – see: Linden Lab launches the Official Second Life Merchandise store.

Second Life Marketing

2020 allowed users to see into the Lab’s marketing efforts for Second Life – which, contrary to popular belief – are actually carefully managed and coordinated. In February, Brett Linden penned The Heart & Science of Second Life Marketing, while in March, he and Darcy Linden appeared on Lab Gab information / insight into the Marketing Team’s work, with the entire team also participating in the 2020 Meet the Lindens sessions at SL17B.

Then at the end of the year, Brett followed-up with a further blog post looking back  at yhr year and offering a “behind the scenes” look at a Second Life’s first broadcast quality commercial – about which I’ll have a lot more to say come 2021.

Two of the more curious aspects of the 2020 marketing activities came in the form of tie-ins with  [Adult Swim], the American adult-oriented night-time programming block of the Cartoon Network (see: Adult Swim special streaming event in Second Life), and with animation studio Titmouse (see: Second Life to have a smashing time with Titmouse).

Technical Updates

Project Uplift: AWS Migration

The majority of the year was dominated on the technical front by the work to migrate all of the Second Life services and infrastructure to Amazon AWS hardware and infrastructure. Initiated in 2017, the reached a point of critical mass in 2020 with the transfer of all services from the Lab’s co-location facility in Arizona to running on AWS service out of Oregon. The last major element of the project was the migration of all of SL’s main grid regions to AWS, a process that came in the last part of the year, and proceeded relatively rapidly and smoothly, with the Lab confirming all regions were running on AWS services on November 19th.

The migration of all regions was not the end of the work, nor was it entirely without issues, technical and otherwise. In the case of the latter,it did require the suspension of new region provisioning from May through November. The work also saw a delay in the release of the Premium Linden Homes Stilt theme. However, by the end of 2020, the vast majority of the work had been completed, the Lab to discontinue all operations out of the Arizona co-location  facility just before Christmas 2020.

April Linden celebrates the Lab moving out of their former co-lo facilities.

2021 will see further adjustments and fine tuning of all SL-related services that will hopefully see like general improvements. For you wish to review the year’s progress, please use my SL in the Cloud and Cloud Uplift tags.

Viewer Highlights

  • In January 2020,the Lab ceased providing support and viewer-side updates for Windows 7, in line with Microsoft ending its support of the operating system.
  • Camera Presets – the ability to create a save multiple positions for your viewer camera arrived in a Release Candidate viewer. When the viewer reached de facto release status, I provided a complete tutorial for the capability.
  • The Environment Enhancement Project – a complete replacement for the Windlight rendering system – was launched in April, and I provided both a primer and an in-depth tutorial.

The official iOS / Android client continued to progress, with the iOS version making it to a closed alpha release, and from that to being submitted to Apple for evaluation – which remained its status at the end of the year. The Android client has year to surface, but is being actively worked on. Details on both can be found in my SL Mobile updates.

Second Life and the SARS-CoV-2 Virus

March 2020 saw the growing issue of the SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-situation start to bite the world very hard. As a result, the Lab switched to fully remote  working (a large portion of the Lab’s staff already worked from home either full-time or on a regular basis, allowing the company to switch all of its centres  – Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and Atlanta – more readily  than other companies might have managed).

At the same time, the Lab put in place some practical steps to help those wishing to use Second Life as a means to support their staff working remotely. These steps included:

  • A new micro-website secondlife.com, and an accompanying updated FAQ on working in Second Life.
  • A reduction in region fees for registered non-profits and educational organisations / institutions, with Full regions fixed at US $99 a month.
  • Region holders experiencing difficulties in meeting their tier obligations as a result of the pandemic were encouraged to contact LL to discuss their situation and to see if assistance could be obtained.

In addition, I provided coverage of a number of ways in which Second Life was utilised by various organisations and groups as a direct result of the pandemic. See:

The Balticon science fiction convention was one of a number of physical world event that used Second Life as a means for attendees to come together

The pandemic also gave me pause to look at what was left of one of the most extensive past uses of Second Life – by the US Armed Forces in the platform’s early years. See Coalition Island: looking at the US military’s use of Second Life.

The pandemic almost also brought about the end of one of the popular Second Life estates – Second Norway – but rescue came, and the estate not only survived, but is growing. See: Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements, Second Norway and Sailor’s Cove East – status update, Second Norway: the future is bright, Second Norway: making the changes and Second Norway: a closer look.

Continue reading “Second Life and the Lab: looking back at 2020”

A Bridge House in Second Life

The CONVAIR Bridge House at Isla Caitinara, with modified bridge / deck with added pergola from Maya’s Builds

So, another couple of months have gone by, so it must be time for a change of house at Isla Pey 🙂 . Well, the reason is a bit more complicated than that, given it involves things going on in Second Life and the physical world that combined to make me feel I needed to tinker around and ktbash … again.

The SL side of things was in part down to the fact that, while the last house was fun to covert (see: A Country Hall in Second Life), it was, given the size of our new island, a little small. So, given we were in Second Norway, I hunted around for a design that might be taken to have something of a Scandinavian feel to it. And I found the CONVAIR Bridge House by Tobias Convair.

Priced at L$2,00 in-world, or L$2,200 via the Marketplace, the Bridge House is a single-storey property with a linear layout: a central lounge / kitchen /dining area flanked by end rooms on either side, one the same width as the lounge area,  they other slightly narrower, and with a narrow fourth room – advertised as a bathroom – to one side.  The lounge area benefits from a large fireplace and exposed ceiling trusses and boarding that gives it a very spacious build. The three remaining rooms all have flat, lower ceilings in wood. Outside, the house has extended eaves, particularly at either end, whilst one side also has full hight windows that could offer picturesque views in the right setting, the other having small windows. double doors are set into the “windows” side of the house, and a single door on the other.

The re-textured CONVAIR Bridge House, coloured in an attempt to match the original, sitting without our garden

No lighting is supplied, nor does the house come in a rezzer – at 56 LI, the structure doesn’t need one, being a single linkset. However, it comes are a range of deck / bridge “add-ons” that can be used in a variety of ways to extend the available space around the house and offer various over-the-water options. These are something I found particularly attractive, as they gave me a range of ideas for dock and deck options for a water-side setting like Isla Caitinara.

However, there are a couple of small niggles I have with the design. The fist is that it includes baked textures. Nothing unusual with this – many SL items do include shadow elements, both baked and linkset elements. However, with this house, the bakes reflect the shadows cast by chimneys, eaves, timber frames, etc, by a static Sun. Not a problem if you run with Shadows disabled in the viewer or life under a fixed sky. Bu, if you’re like me, and run with shadows enabled and under a dynamic sky, these baked shadows can conflict with “natural” shadows, and look odd. Getting around this was was no biggie; as I like kitbashing (and wanted to retexture the floors and stone walks in the build, it was a simple task to replace the supplied textures – once I’d found some that close matched the original woodwork and roof, as I wanted to maintain as much as a the original character of the design as possible.

The other point to note with this design is that it relies very heavily on transparent prims to provide physics / “solidity”. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this per se, particularly if you’re using the house “as is”. However, I found it preferable to remove those making up the floors and the floor mesh with prims I could then more easily texture to suit our needs, Doing so his increase the default LI a little – from 56 to 61; but it allowed for a better finish from my perspective.

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Like the Country Hall build, I opted to make  the new house a waterside house adjoining our boat docks, and the included bridge add-ons worked as a good template for me to re-work the existing dock, and a deck for a gazebo. However, again given the use of transparent prims, I opted to replace almost all of the bridge elements with my own, again for no increase in LI – at least until I linked them in to the existing docks on the island!

Despite the above niggles on my part, the Bridge House does make for a stylish home, and can be used “as is” from the box – instructions are supplied with it for correctly aligning the desired bridge and deck sections; although this does assume the bridge goes to one side of the house and the deck to the others. But again, if you’re OK with editing and moving items in-world, manual  alignment of elements can be done relatively easily.

Overall, an aesthetically pleasing build offering plenty of scope for customisation / expansion that can easily be tailored to suit individual needs. Ours came out at a total of 89 LI, including additional rugs, pictures and wall hangings, lighting, net curtains and window blinds.

Link and SLurl

 

2020 SUG meeting week #52: Experience Keys and Map issues

Nostalgia Falls, October 2020 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Tuesday, December 22nd Simulator User Group (SUG) meeting.

For the TL;DR brigade: nothing major to report; not deployment, no viewer releases; meeting was a solstice / year-end party.

Server Updates

Week #51 eventually saw deployments every day of the week, which reportedly left all RC channels running on server release 553685 and the SLS Main channel on 553176. However, our home island was on the SLS Main channel is reporting it is running 553685,  so I assume that given there was no apparent deployment on Tuesday, December 22nd (as assuming our home island hasn’t been shuffled to an RC, the entire grid is now running on 553685.

SL Viewer

There have been no changes to the current crop of official viewers, leaving them as:

  • Current release viewer version 6.4.11.551711, formerly Cachaça Maintenance RC viewer promoted on November 12 – No Change.
  • Release Channel cohorts:
    • Dawa Maintenance RC Viewer, version 6.4.12.553723, December 15.
    • Custom Key Mappings project viewer, version 6.4.12.552100, November 12.
  • Project viewers:
    • Simple Cache project viewer, version 6.4.11.551403, issued on November 12.
    • Project Jelly project viewer (Jellydoll updates), version 6.4.12.552224, December 4.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.4.11.550519, October 26.
    • 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.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, July 16, 2019.

In Brief

Map Tiles

Map tiles are still not being regularity updated, however the Lab both identified the cause of the issue and a possible fix, however, it now seems probable this will not be deployed until after the holiday break. On December 20th, Oz posted a comment to the SL forums, explaining the issue:

This is a temporary situation…  the data needed to generate the maps has been moved to AWS, but the code that does the work has not yet. Because of how the data centre version expected to fetch that data, it was not possible for us to make it work until the code has been moved too. That move is in progress and shouldn’t be too much longer (sorry, I don’t want to jinx the developer by setting a date).

Experience Keys

There is a significant issue with Experience Keys the is affecting all experiences grid-wide see: BUG-229892 “[Upilft] Experiences Failures”. This is also apparently impacting the Lab’s ability to release the new Linden Stilt Homes, as per an update to my article on the release of this new linden Home theme.

Uplift – Closure of Co-Lo Facility

Both April and Oz Linden have reported that with all SL systems and service now running on AWS, the work in clearing all of LL’s hardware and infrastructure from their former co-location facility in Arizona (a part of which involves the complete shredding of all hard drives) , and according to Oz, the work is “almost done”.

Date of Next Meeting

The next SUG meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 5th, 2021.

A little Andante in Second Life

Andante Gallery

Andante is the name Jules Catlyn and Iris Okiddo (IrisSweet) have given to their cosy gallery, located in is own gardens alongside, but quite separate to, Jules’ car business of [Surplus motors].

I have to confess that this is a gallery I’ve somehow managed to miss until now, which is a shame as it is very charmingly appointed within its grounds.It comprises the Apple Fall Country Hall (a place that, coincidentally, we have set for one of our own home designs). It’s a versatile build, and here has been “twinned” with itself to provide two large exhibition spaces with an interlinking open-air courtyard.

The garden offers art of its own in the form of sculptures by Mistero Hifeng, the ground around the gallery richly flowered in a manner that is inviting and encourages a sense of warmth and of taking thing slowly in the manner of the gallery’s name.

Andante Gallery: Charlie Namiboo, December 2020

Exhibitions apparently open here every 5-6 weeks, although at the time of our visit, the current exhibition was into its 10th week. Not that I’m complaining;  the guest artist is Charlie Namiboo, and her work is always a delight to see – but just keep in mind that as it has been around for a while, the gallery could be changing artists fairly soon.

Don’t Judge Me is a series of images by Charlie predominantly focused on avatar studies, with a handful of landscapes to break the mould.

Offered in both colour and black and white, the avatar studies present thoughts and feeling on life and relationships that are genuinely emotive. they are mixed with self-studies that while posed, can oft appear as candid, spur-of-the-moment snaps that give them their own unique depth. The landscape pieces, meanwhile reveal Charlie’s ability to both capture a scene and render it as a piece of art guaranteed to capture the eye and and found myself particularly drawn into Wildness is the preservation of the world.

Andante Gallery: Charlie Namiboo, December 2020

As noted, I don’t know how much longer Charlie’s work will be on display at Andante, but I would recommend hopping over sooner rather than later in order to see it – contrary to the exhibit’s title, these are pieces worthy of our judgement in that they are all very much pieces worthy of viewing and appreciation. As to Andante Gallery itself, it’s now on my list, and I hope to be returning in the new year to see who else Jules and Iris invite to exhibit there.

SLurl Details

Linden Stilt Homes released in Second life

Premium Linden Stilt Home became available on Monday, December 21st, 2020

Update, December 22nd: it appears that a significant issue with experience keys that affects grid-wide experience is impacting the deployment of the Stilt Homes – see: BUG-229892 “[Upilft] Experiences Failures”. The issue is currently being investigated by Linden Lab.

Updated: The release is on hold due to “unforeseen circumstances” – see Patch’s update for more.

Monday, December 21st, 2020 saw the long anticipated release of the new Stilt Homes theme for the Premium-only Linden Homes.

The new homes were first unveiled in June 2020 (see: Second Life: looking at the new Linden Homes Stilt theme), but their roll-out was delayed as a result of the work involved in transitioning Second Life to running on Amazon AWS servers, coupled in the last few days by some back-end issues the Lab needed to get under control.

Over 3,800 Stilt Homes have been added to Bellisseria and will be made available in the run-up the Christmas. As with other releases, four styles of house are included in the theme

The Stilt Homes are inspired by coastal home common to the south-eastern United States,notably Florida, where such house styles can be found along low-lying (and often hurricane prone) areas. As with previous Linden Homes releases, the house come in four styles, any of which can be selected by the controller cunningly disguised as a lamp that sits adjacent to each 1024 sq metre parcel.

The four style in the theme are:

  • Havana: single-storey 3-roomed, cross-shaped house with central front-to-back room providing access to front covered porch and rear covered deck, also accessible from one side room.
  • Tortuga:  single-storey with largely open-plan design providing two room, with a smaller third room to the front. A small porch area to the front aspect, and large deck / dock to the rear.
  • Lauderdale: a two-storey unit with two rooms downstairs  and two upstairs, one with a balcony. Features a full length front porch with roof over, and sliding doors to the rear opening to a rear deck-come-dock.
  • Santiago: a two-storey house with open-plan ground floor and two bedrooms, one with a rear-facing balcony.  Features a ½-porch with verandah over to the front, and deck to the rear. A front facing balcony is accessible from the upper floor.
“Land side” Stilt Homes

Just as we saw with the preview region seen in June, the Stilt Homes are broadly split into two categories: those built on low-lying sandy land and sandbars, and those either partially or fully over water, with some of the later connected to the land via board walks. Those on land are adjacent to the local roads, and have wooden stairways leading up to them. All four designs have decks / docks associated with them, with the entire release occupying a new expansion to the the east of Bellesseria that also have some Houseboats included in the mix, for a total of 3,875 Stilt Homes and 552 houseboats.

This expansion takes the form of a series of sandy islands made up of multiple regions, with none of the islands connected directly to another, except via the water channels between them. This perhaps makes these Stilt Homes an ideal place to live for those who enjoy puttering about in an amphibious car – although admittedly, transitioning from water to land (or vice versa) can be a little tricky given the need to  avoid intruding on someone’s privacy / land. Perhaps LL should consider providing ramps into and out of the water at various public reaches of sand in the future.

Some 552 of the ever-popular houseboat theme (foreground) are also included alongside the Stilt Home release

Given the problems being encountered with various SL web properties, the release was cautious – the first region to be offered up being Alagoon, with around 22 units built over water and three more either fully or partially on land. It was presented as a test region to see how things went in terms of hiccups, etc. However, availability soon increased to other regions.

Back in June, I commented that of all the Linden Home designs, the Stilt could be the first to tempt me away from my Houseboat. Six months on and that still holds true; if I could guarantee getting an over-the-water Stilt (or at least one partially over water), I would be sorely tempted. In this I admit that an added attraction would in part due to some of the region names that have been selected, given my liking for a good (or bad!) pun.

Take for example MARLIN Munroe, Rocky Bal Boata, Otter Limits, Getmah Drift, Shore Thing, Lone Shark, Knot Atoll, Mussel Beach, To name but a few. Then there is Tuna Turner (which adjoins the water region of Immoral Porpoises, both of which are just one region over from Salmon and Gillfunkel, and more besides, include my personal favourite: Jamaica Me Crazy.  It’s clear that tongues were firmly in cheeky was putting these regions together!

Abnor Mole of the LDPW inspects the newly available Stilt Homes in Alagoon

As always, all of the Linden Homes can be obtainedby Premium Members  (subject to individual theme availability) through the Premium Member’s Linden Home page at secondlife.com, whilst the regions in Bellisseria are open to general access.