Geometry, water and the cosmos in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre: Nils Urqhart – The Beauty of Moving Water

Hermes Kondor is keeping busy in his work in making the Kondor Art Centre a hub of artistic expression  featuring 2D art from the physical world and 2D and 3D art from the the virtual. Over the course of the last month, three exhibitions have opened which, while I’ve visited all three, I’ve allowed to get stacked up within my backlog of blogging.

The longest-running of the three, and therefore the one I’ve getting to first – is another stunning exhibition of real world photography by Nils Urqhart. Famed for his photographs of the Alps and mountains of France, Nils here presents an engaging series entitled The Beauty of Moving Water, a collection of photographs featuring mountain streams, rapids and falls, all of which appear to have been taken in the spring months when winter meltwater was running free.

Kondor Art Centre: Nils Urqhart – The Beauty of Moving Water

Still these images may be, but in keeping with the title of the exhibit, each carries a tremendous sense of motion, from the foam kicked-up by a waters in spate striking mid-stream rocks or the way in which sunlight reflects off of water in a pond and highlight the splash of moss colouring the flanks of rocks or enhances the plants lining the banks of streams.

And, of course there is a sense of life and motion present in every photo – from the afore mentioned above to the the rush and fall of water down sheer or steps faces of rock.  It reminds us of both the importance of water to life here on the planet and also its power: water doesn’t just flow over rock, it shapes and sculpts it over time, smoothing rough and points edges to smooth curves, carving the land, allowing life to flourish around it. Thus through these pieces we witness the full beauty of nature.

Kondor Art Centre: Aneli Abeyante

Located in the Kondor White Gallery is another exhibition focused on motion – albeit it very different in content and design. Untitled, it focuses on digital art of a most hypnotic form, created by Aneli Abeyante, who might be better know for running her own gallery, La Maison d’Aneli, a place I’ve had the the privilege of visiting and writing about on many occasions.

However, Aneli is an accomplished artist in her own right – although the exhibition at the Kondor White Gallery is something of a departure for her, as she explains in her introduction to the exhibit:

I love geometry and mathematics. So after much practice, I managed to create structures and shapes.

– Aneli Abeyante

Thus we are presented with a series of images that hold within them a mathematical form and beauty that is captivating  – and given an even greater sense of form through the use of animations that gives them their motion and life  – and their rich hypnotic forms. These are pieces one can easily get lost within by following their lines and patterns and letting their shifting forms wash over thoughts.

They share the two levels of the gallery with static paintings that are equally marvellous digital abstractions.  Whilst they don’t have the same physical motion  as the animated works, they are still as engaging, drawing the eye to them.

There is something more here as well. In her art, she strives to achieve a harmony of ideas and an balance of expression – and this is perfectly exemplified in this series and then manner in which static and mobile pieces both counterpoint and synchronise together into a unified selection of expressive art.

Kondor Art Centre: Aneli Abeyante

The third exhibition I’m covering is by Hermes himself, and is to be found in the centre’s Into the Future Gallery.

The Explorers offers a three-part story of exploration and discovery utilising digital art. It starts on the ground floor and an unspecified point in the future, a time when humanity is clearly capable of exploring the realms beyond out Earth-Moon system in person – although looking at the style of their space suits, it is perhaps not a time too far into the future.

This story invites us to travel with a team of astronauts as they explore a moon or asteroid, discovering clear evidence of alien life as they do so. Each piece, beautiful rendered, allows us to share in their discovery of strange crystalline forms and what appear to be machines and – perhaps – a portal revealing an alien world.

Kondor Art Centre: Hrmes Kondor – The Explorers

The story continues on the gallery’s mid-level which can be reached via the teleport disk on the lower floor or the elevator at the back of the gallery space – the images in front of the doors are phantom, so you can pass through them. Here, we find the explorers appear to have used the portal and are now another place, one in which they encounter life in a variety of forms – strange growths, egg-like objects and what might be plants that use a form of photosynthesis and  more.

On the upper level, again reached via teleport disk or elevator, we share with the travellers as they encounter life and civilisation directly – but in forms that are intriguing and recognisable: trees and humanoid forms – and a young child on a swing.

What we’re to make of this is down to our own imaginations;  but perhaps it is a message that all life which may exist within the cosmos is connected to us and we to it, wherever we might come to find it and whatever form it might take.

Kondor Art Centre: Hrmes Kondor – The Explorers

Three very different exhibitions, all connected by threads of life, colour and motion. whether appreciated individually or in turn as part of a single visit to the Kondor Art Centre, these are three exhibitions by three superb artists that fully deserve our time and attention.

SLurl Details

Waka is rated a Moderate region.

Lab announces Linden Homes Chalet Theme released

The Linden Home Chalet Theme and a public space

Tuesday, March 30th saw Patch Linden announce the release of the Chalet style of Linden Homes for Premium members.

First unveiled in December 2020, this latest style of Linden Home has something of an Alpine edge to it, with the official forum post noting:

Chalet theme homes are modelled after stylized European alpine wood-timbered houses (fachwerkhaus), of a type that you might expect to find in mountains of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, or northern Italy. These are not rustic buildings, but contemporary homes ready for 21st century living.
The Linden Home Chalet Theme and a public space

As with the majority of the Linden Homes releases, these houses come with 1024 sq metre parcels (only the Campers and Trailers have thus far diverted from this footprint size). However, unlike previous Home releases, there are effectively eight variants that are available for rezzing, something Patch originally indicated to me when I previewed the theme back in December.

In short, the the chalets come in four exterior styles, each one of which is offered with either a “complete” set of rooms, or an “open plan” layout with minimal pre-built internal walls. The latter is intended to offer those who like designing their homes more flexibly with interior design. Each of the eight variants is distinguished by a unique name:

  • Matterhorn: 2 large ground floor rooms, linked by a rear hallway with back door, and a central front hallway / reception area with stairs to the upper floor. This has two large rooms, one with gabled windows to the front and rear, the other with large windows to one side aspect.
    • Moritzburg: open plan version of the Matterhorn: fully open plan on the lower floor other than three walls supporting the central stairway. A single separate upper floor room with large open-plan space at the top of the stairs.
  • Alpenrose: a two-storey house with offset front entrance with vestibule, three ground floor rooms, one with a side door to the garden. Stairs from the entrance hall provide access to three upstairs rooms, each with windows to a side aspect and either the front or rear.
    • Albus: open-plan version of the Alpenrose, featuring a single large lower-floor area partially divided by a stairway supporting wall. Two upper floor rooms, one with door door access from the stairs.
Linden Homes Chalet Theme – the path and road leading to an inebriated rodent 🙂
  • Reizend: a single-storey cottage-style chalet with two open-plan rooms, the front porch opening directly into one of them, with doorways serving the remaining two rooms.
    •  Ravensburg: open-plan version of the Reizend offering a single individual room and a large open-plan space combining the remaining three, with partial dividing walls.
  • Edelweiss: a two-storey house with front entrance to one side serving the stairs to the upper floor and giving access to the single open-plan ground floor room, which also includes a side door to the garden. A landing upstairs provides access to two bedrooms, each with widows to a front or rear aspect, and to the side aspects of the house.
    • Eikelen: open-plan version of the Edelweiss with the same ground-floor design, with and open-plan, door-less approach to the upper floor spaces.

The setting for the Chalets isn’t “Alpine” mountainous, but it is ruggedly hilly with plenty of changes in elevation that keep the landscape rolling. The roods are paved, with rez zones (where available) clearly marked. The footpaths are finished in red brick and a nice contrast to the concrete road surface, while the coniferous flora helps with the higher altitude feel to the regions.

Die Betrunkene Maus

Those who visited the demo region back in December may recall it featuring a windmill – and several examples are scattered about the new Chalet regions, together with open public spaces with parasol shaded seating. Those fancying a more noisy time out might try a visit to Die Betrunkene Maus (“The Drunken Mouse”), the new community centre and hostelry for the Chalets. When I dropped in, Xeno Mole was suitably attired in a feathered cap and giving it a bit of wellie on an accordion.

With the regions stretching up to Satori, the Chalet homes form the bridge between that continent and Bellisseria, forming the much requested contiguous access to the major southern continents – Satori, Sansara, and Jeogeot, with Bellisseria sitting in the middle.

The Chalets and their regions are an attractive addition to the Linden Homes range – each iteration of the homes tends to be an evolution, and I particularly like the idea of adding open-plan variants of designs into the mix – hopefully we’ll see more of this in the remaining themes that will be appearing through the year.

Linden Homes Chalet Theme

But that said, I have to admit these aren’t for me – although I’ve nothing against the theme or style. It’s just that it took me a fair while to finally make the jump from a Houseboat to a Stilt Home, so I’m not about to leap elsewhere!

As with other Linden Homes, the Chalets can be obtained by Premium account holders through their dashboard and the Linden Homes page available from it. Those who do fancy one of the Chalets are asked to note the following request from Patch:

As a general reminder and to help facilitate the release process, please do not play “game of homes” by taking and releasing homes during the initial phases of launch. Also it is extremely helpful to refrain from rapidly switching through different home styles to give the regions time to settle and not overload the back-end systems.
We hope everyone enjoys the latest additions to the Belliseria continent and community!

2021 SUG meeting week #13 summary + World Map alternatives

Amrum, January 2021 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Tuesday, March 30th, 2021 Simulator User Group (SUG) meeting.

Server Deployments

Please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest news and updates.

  • Tuesday, March 30th: no planned deployment or restart.
  • Wednesday, March 31st: the SLS RC channels should all be updated with simulator release 557505, defined as containing “internal fixes”.

On Region Restarts

There is a general assumption that region restarts result in a region and its simulator being relocated to a new server. However, this is not always the case, as Rider and Simon Linden explained:

Simon Linden: the host change isn’t burnt into the design for a restart. basically you stop the region, and another part of the system sees the region is down and hands it out to a system to run it. Based on random timing that might end up on the same host.
Rider Linden: We simply do not guarantee that you will remain on the same host after a restart. Where a region comes back up depends on a lot of factors that are outside the realm of predictability.
Simon Linden: [However] during a version update, that’s VERY unlikely since the old ones get replaced with new ones.

SL Viewer

There have been no official viewer updates to mark the start of the week, leaving the pipelines as:

  • Release viewer: version (Jelly Doll improvements) originally promoted February 17th.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Maintenance RC viewer – Eau de Vie, version, dated March 25.
    • Custom Key Mappings project viewer, version, dated March 24.
    • Love Me Render (LMR) 5 project viewer, version, dated 23, 2021.
  • Project viewers:
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version, dated October 26.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version, dated December 9, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version, dated November 22, 2019.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version, dated July 16, 2019.

In Brief

Region Crossings

  • While they were not intended to directly benefit vehicle region crossings, there have been reports by some that the changes made in the deployment over the previous two weeks have improved things. However, and equally, others are reporting declining smoothness of crossings. As it is, Rider noted that the team haven’t yet had the chance to dig deeply into the code since uplift.
  • BUG-229871 “Unable to re-enter or telport to a region that I’ve been to during same session” – this remains an issue. Unfortunately, issues with testing the upcoming simulator release been the work on a fix has been delayed.

Map Tiles

Map tiles continue to be worked on, but not fully fixed. There are now a couple of user-developed alternatives available, each with mixed functionality:

Nelipot’s beauty in Second Life

Nelipot, March 2021 – click any image for full size

Shawn Shakespeare (SkinnyNilla) is not only a superb photography artist and discoverer of regions to explore, he is also a dab hand at designing photogenic settings – as anyone who remembers The Mill will agree. And right now there is an opportunity for all of us to appreciate his eye for design, along with that of his partner, Lein (Lien Lowe), as they have opened up their current Homestead region of Nelipot for visitors to explore and enjoy.

Nelipot, March 2021

Set with a green surround of hills, Nelipot as a small coastal island, such as might be found along the Baltic coast of Denmark. Small and rugged, it is the kind of place many of us might sometimes imagine escaping or retiring to – or perhaps moving to in order  to take up a new life style away from the hue and cry of the city.

Rising from a rocky shoreline that is broken only by a small shingle beach, the island forms a small hill that rises in rugged steps up to its flat top. Most of the land is wild and almost untouched – although rope marked trails offer a route around and over it, together with stone or wooden steps that allow visitors to reach points of interest. The top of the island is crowned by a farmhouse that carries a hint of Danish about its name, adding to its sense of location. Sheep graze just down slope from the house, while between it and the water, a field of lavender is being cultivated.

Nelipot, March 2021

This is a place with a subtle sense of history to it: down on the shingle is a fragment of an aircraft wing with propeller engine still attached. It sits as a suggestion that a World War 2 ‘plane attempted a forced landing here. Elsewhere the building around the base of the hill have a sense of having been around for a good while – longer than the farmhouse, perhaps.

A further twist of age is added across the island from the beach, where is single stretch of railway track sits accompanied by a span of road. Neither leads anywhere, while a small building stands alongside both, almost like a local railway station.

Nelipot, March 2021

A train sits on the track – but it is clear it has never travelled the line to get to the island, nor will it ever use it to leave; instead, it sits, fronted by a pilot (aka cow catcher). This points to it likely having originated in America, whilst its overall styling points to it belonging to an era that has long since passed. Quite what it might be doing here is up to you to decide; my own story for it is that it was brought to the island as a collector’s piece, but the years and the salt air have perhaps not been kind to it.

Throughout the island are multiple places to sit and admire the setting it presents, together with a lot of small touches that add to its photogenic looks. The former encourage visitors to enjoy a leisurely exploration, while the detail waiting to be discovered is genuinely captivating.

Nelipot, March 2021

From the rabbits at the “station” to the cat on the bonnet of a pick-up truck to the blue tit and robin engaged in a conversation, these are all a treat, whilst the little cabins and old camper vans and the many bicycles give the setting a different kind of attractiveness. And while some of the buildings are run-down and / or broken, they are each given a unique character through their décor and furnishings.

Throughout all of the island there is a depth of life and  – again, the birds, cats and so on, together with the sheep and seagulls. This richness of life is particularly evident within and around the farmhouse itself. This is been furnished is a homely, inviting manner that is simple but fully homely.

Nelipot, March 2021

This is a setting that is proof that while it might might well be long in the tooth, the old adage of less is more is very much true. When people tend to cram their regions absolutely full of masses of plants and suchlike, Nelipot shows us there  is no reasons we cannot have open spaces or make frequent re-use of objects and textures to lighten the render load.

It’s not clear how long leave Nelipot will be open for public exploration; when discussing it with me, Shawn suggested it will probably be available through to the summer. But, and however long it remains open Nelipot is not going to be a place the Second Life traveller is going to want to miss.

Nelipot, March 2021

Many thanks to Lien and Shawn for opening their home!

SLurl Details

  • Nelipot (Kings Harbor, rated Moderate)

2021 viewer release summaries week #12

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

Updates from the week ending Sunday, March 28th

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 viewer: Project Jelly viewer (Jellydoll updates), version and dated February 5th, 2021, promoted February 17th – No change.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Maintenance RC viewer – Eau de Vie – updated to version, dated March 25th.
    • Custom Key Mappings project viewer updated to version, dated March 24th.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers



Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: getting ready to fly on Mars

An art’s impression of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. Credit: NASA

If all goes according to plan, on Thursday, April 8th, we could be witnessing the first powered flight of an aerial vehicle on another planet as the blocky Ingenuity helicopter, part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, takes to the air for the first of what should be at least five proof-of-concept flights.

The helicopter itself is not a particularly exciting thing to look at: a cube-like fuselage no more than 20 cm across on its longest side that contains the vehicle’s avionics, a heater system to keep the sensitive circuitry warm and operating, a battery system to provide energy to the headers and the vehicle’s propellers, and its science systems. It is supported by four spindly legs just 38 cm long, and is topped by a mechanism of two contra-rotating co-axial rotor systems measuring 1.2 metres from tip-to-tip, with the main communications antennae above them, topped by the solar panels hat will be used to recharge the vehicle’s batteries.

Ingenuity and its systems. Credit: NASA

However, looks can be deceptive. Ingenuity is actually a highly capable aircraft and spacecraft combined. Its systems were designed to withstand 6+ months of interplanetary space travel , while its flight systems have been designed to get it into the air on  a planet where the atmosphere is only about ​1100 as dense as Earth’s.

To put that in perspective: Ingenuity will be attempting to lift off in an atmospheric density that matches our own at 30,000 metres  – that’s almost four times the height of Mount Everest and a height well beyond the capabilities of any Earthbound helicopter. And where the lower gravity of Mars means Ingenuity ways just one third as much as it does when measured on Earth, this offers little in the way of compensation for the rarefied atmosphere.

Hence why Ingenuity is a proof-of-concept vehicle: just getting aloft with be a tremendous achievement – but if it can be shown to do so repeatedly, and to manoeuvre successfully, it could dramatically alter future robotic and human missions to Mars by providing  aerial support for them as terrain scouts or standalone science vehicles carrying their own payloads  operating remotely or – in the case of human missions – flown drone-like from a base of operations.

The first phase of operations for the mission was for Perseverance to scout the land close to its landing point – Octavia E. Butler Landing – to  find a suitable area of level ground over which Ingenuity can fly. This required finding an area some 90 metres in length and roughly 12-15 metres wide relatively clear of significant obstacles that might limit landing options., and with an area 10 metres on a side from which the first flight will be made and which has been dubbed “the airfield”. 

The flight zone and “the airfield”, the area in which Ingenuity will be test flown. Credit NASA

This deployment requires a number of actions to occur, the first of which came on Sunday, March 21st, when the cover that had been protecting Ingenuity was dropped from under the rover (see my previous Space Sunday update). Once Perseverance is correctly positioned at the centre of “the airfield”, the rest of the deployment will take place over a period of 6 Martian sols (days):

  • Sol 1: restraining bolts locking Ingenuity in place under the rover will be released.
  • Sols 2 and 3: a cable also holding the helicopter will be explosively released, triggering a motor that will gently rotate the helicopter down into an upright position beneath the rover, allowing two of Ingenuity’s landing legs to spring into their deployed position in the process.
  • Sol 4: the remaining two legs on Ingenuity will be released to snap into place. At this point, the helicopter will be slung under the rover, held in place by a single bolt and a set of power connectors.
  • Sol 5: Perseverance will carry out a full charge cycle of Ingenuity’s batteries – until now, the rover has only charged the batteries to around one-third their capacity, enough to keep the helicopter’s system warm.
  • Sol 6: The rover will be commanded to release the helicopter, allowing it to drop the 13 centimetres to the ground.

At this point, things will get a little risky: there will be no means to communicate with the helicopter, and its batteries can only supply it with power for 25 hours without recharge. In this time, a final visual check on Ingenuity must be carried out using the WATSON imager on  the rover’s robot arm, and then the rover must carefully reverse away from the helicopter to a distance of 5 metres.

Once at this distance, the rover will be able to act as a communications relay between mission control and the helicopter, allowing mission control to command the helicopter to switch to charging its batteries from its solar cells and upload the required flight software.

In all, the flight team have 30 days from the moment Ingenuity is released from Perseverance to complete the planned five flights. After this time, the rover must commence its own science programme. The flight team will therefore be looking to complete those five flights in as short a space of time as possible. For the first flight, Ingenuity will do little more than attempt to rise to a height of 3 metres, hover for 30 seconds and then land safely. After this, the remaining four flights will be for longer and to heights of around 5 metres, and for increasing distances down “the airfield”.

If we get past those [flights], we will assess:  did we meet all our objectives during those flights? Do we want to go back and retry some of those things? Or, if everything goes really well, then we might try to stretch our capabilities beyond those basic capabilities.    

– Ingenuity chief pilot Håvard Grip

The late Jakob van Zyl after whom the elevated position from which Perseverance will observe Ingenuity’s flights has been named. Credit: NASA

All of the flights will hopefully be documented by Perseverance its powerful Mastcam-Z camera system and two on-board microphones from an observation point some 60 metres from “the airfield”, which it will drive to prior to the first flight.

This observation point has been dubbed the Van Zyl Overlook in honour of key Ingenuity team member Jakob van Zyl, the former director for solar system exploration and associate director for project formulation and strategy at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who passed away unexpectedly in August 2020.

When it makes its flights, Ingenuity will both make history and carry a piece of history with it: attached to the Helicopter is a small piece of fabric taken from the Wright Brother’s 1903 biplane, credited with making the he first powered, controlled flight on Earth on December 17th, 1903.

‘Oumuamua is Likely a Piece of a Planet

In 2017 the Pan-STARRS astronomical observatory in Hawaii identified an object of extra-solar origin on a course that would carry it around the Sun. Named  ‘Oumuamua, meaning “scout” or “messenger” in Hawaiian, it was the first such object to be positively identified as coming from beyond the solar system,  although it is now believed that as many as five such object could pass through the solar system every year.

‘Oumuamua, however, was not only the first to be positively identified, it was also highly unusual – so much so that it couldn’t be classified as either an asteroid or a comet, as it exhibited behaviour common to both – and behaviour and attributes not found in either. This has lead to a variety of possible theories being put forward for it might be – up to and including the idea it was actually an interstellar probe created by an alien intelligence.

An artist’s impression of 1I/2017 U1 (or `Oumuamua), which was first seen by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii on October 19th, 2017, and subsequently studied by a number of telescopes around the world, including the VLT of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser

However, two astrophysicists from Arizona State University believe they now have solved the mystery of ‘Oumuamua.Taking the more comet-like behaviours of the object, Steven Desch and Alan Jackson started looking for combinations of ices and volatiles that, when affected by the heat of the Sun, who produce the kind of reactions seen with ‘Oumuamua.

Their research lead them to a combination of nitrogen-dominant ices that, under computer modelling, not only produced the kind of non-tail generating outgassing seen with ‘Oumuamua, they they closely match combinations of nitrogen, methane and other ices found on Pluto and Neptune’s moon Triton.

These findings, coupled with further computer modelling, tend to suggest ‘Oumuamua  is likely a part of a Pluto-like planet orbiting a star somewhere in our stellar neighbourhood (separate estimates of data gathered on the object suggest it is around a billion years old, so must has originated fairly close to us, given its observed velocity through the solar system). If correct, then Densch and Jackson may not only have solved the nature of ‘Oumuamua , they may have shown that a new class of exo-planets exists: so-called “exo-Plutos”.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: getting ready to fly on Mars”