2021 CCUG and TPV Developer meetings week #17 summary

Poison Rouge, February 2021 – blog post

The following notes were taken from my audio recording and chat log of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, April 29th 2021 at 13:00 SLT, and the TPV Developer’s meeting of Friday, April 30th.

These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, with dates available via the SL Public Calendar. The venue for the CCUG is the Hippotropolis camp fire, and the TPV Developer meeting is held at the Hippotropolis Theatre.

SL Viewer

The Eau de Vie Maintenance RC viewer version 6.4.18.558266, dated April 23rd, was promoted to de facto viewer release status on Thursday, April 29th.

The remaining viewers in the pipeline comprise:

  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Love Me Render (LMR) 5 viewer, version 6.4.18.558365, dated April 22.
    • Maintenance 2 RC viewer – Fernet, version 6.4.18.558441, dated April 21.
  • Project viewers:
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.4.11.550519, dated October 26.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, dated December 9, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 6.4.0.532999, dated November 22, 2019.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, dated July 16, 2019.

General Viewer Notes

  • The Legacy Profiles viewer should be getting an update that will include some cosmetic tweaks to the UI, but will be functionally identical to the current project viewer version.
  • The LMR 5 viewer is being readied for promotion to release status, and work on LMR 6 is continuing.
  • The revised Simple Cache viewer is back with LL’s QA team, and should be re-emerging fairly soon.
  • The improved UI viewer that is primarily intended to help new users looks like it will be issued during summer.
  • A viewer with a fix for the Mac notarisation fix (currently OS X users have to jump through some additional hoops to get the operating system to run the viewer) should be appearing Soon™.
  • Voice viewer: the Lab has been working to try to address the more annoying aspects of voice cutting out when someone is speaking. A viewer with various fixes / tweaks is currently being tested by Lab staff, and may be available for wider use also in a Soon™ time frame.
  • A further viewer in the works will include further updates / fixes for the Chrome Embedded Framework (CEF – used in media playback and streaming into SL).

One of the issues LL are running into is that thanks to the SNAFU following the release and roll-back of the original Simple Cache viewer, there is a growing number of official viewers stacking up waiting to enter the RC and project viewer pipelines.

RLV/RLVa and Experiences

Most people are familiar with the RLV and RLVa protocols / API functionality that is available in various third-party viewers. Whilst originally developed for more adult-oriented activities in Second life, these API options do have a wide range of other potential uses, some of which might be said to now be matched by Experience functionality (for example: automatic teleports).

While there is currently no specific project in the works to extend Experience functionality, the Lab has actually had internal discussions about the potential to provide various RLV-like options that could help improve Experiences. As such, the suggestion was made that if there are various (and generic, rather than adult-specific) use cases that might be achieved using RLV but would be useful to have as Experience functionality, these are noted in Jira feature requests so that they might be considered in due course.

 

Note: it was brought to my attention that not everyone is aware of the Soon™ joke. It is a play on the use of “Soon™” by Blizzard Entertainment, and the fact that, given LL’s preference not to present what might be taken as “tablets of stone” dates for the delivery of any given feature or bug fix, Oz Linden would refer to upcoming features / capabilities / fixes being available as “Soon”, “Pretty Soon” and “Real Soon / Real Soon Now”, which all become generally defined by the catch-all idea of “Soon™”.

Dropping into Inspira Gallery in Second Life

Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Rachel Magic

I recently had occasion to drop into the Inspira Gallery of Art operated and curated by Mark Uladstron. At the time of my visit, the gallery was advertising itself as being in a “new waterside location” – although I have to admit, it is not a gallery I’d previously come across, so my apologies to Mark for not having done so sooner.

Occupying a two-storey building, the gallery also presents itself as a museum of art, combining exhibitions of art from both the physical world and created through the medium of Second Life, the Former coming in presenting reproductions of works by some of the most influential artists  – east and west – of their respective ages, These are all presented on the lower floor of the gallery, and at the time of my visit featured Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and Gu Kaizhi (Changkang).

This is the first gallery museum I’ve visited in quite a while that offers an audio tour of some of the works on display (the very first art museum I visited that did so was the Vordun back in 2016 – see: The Vordun: a new art experience in Second Life). Here, the audio tour is provided for the exhibits of Picasso’s and da Vinci’s works. It is facilitated by a HUD which should be offered as you enter the gallery, but if not, it can be obtained by clicking the blue globe at the reception desk, and while not a necessity for a visit, I would recommend using it.

Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Leonardo da Vinci

Once added to your screen, and unlike other tours of this nature, the HUD isn’t tied to a local experience, but is triggered by simply entering a hall where the tour in enabled. When you have done so, the palyback buttons are activated, and you just need to tap ESC on your keyboard a couple of ties to ensure your camera is free, then press the central Play / Stop toggle button in on the HUD. Doing so will trigger the HUD’s scripts and focus your camera on the first image within the exhibit  and trigger the associated audio track, together with a text display in local chat. In addition:

  • Clicking the “fast forward” or “rewind” buttons on the HUD will position your camera at the next painting in the sequence (or the previous, if moving back through an exhibit), again, triggering an audio / text exposition.
  • Clicking the Stop / Play button will re-centre the camera on your avatar, halting the audio / text. Providing you do not leave the hall, clicking the PLAY / STOP button again will centre the camera back on the last painting examined by the HUD and resume the audio / text expositions from there.
  • If you prefer, you can disable the text display or the audio by clicking either the Closed Caption or Audio toggle buttons directly under the main playback buttons.
  • Two further buttons will invite you to join the Inspire art group or receive a landmark to the gallery respectively.
Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Pablo Picasso

The audio files appear to be drawn from a variety of sources, with some sounding slightly artificial / electronic in nature. The alternate between various male and female speakers, and the provided information strikes a good balance between being informative whilst avoiding going on too long.

As the audio doesn’t extend to the hall featuring Gu Kaizhi’s work, traditional museum-style information displays are provided for in-world reading. It would perhaps be nice to see these information plinths also offering a note card when clicked to help thought who might find reading such in-world text difficult, but again the information that is provided in informative and adds to the experience of a visit.

A noted politician, painter, poet, calligrapher and author – he wrote three influential books on the theory of painting – Gu is most noted today for his silk scroll paintings, which form the focus on the exhibit at Inspira.

Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Gu Kaizhi

Stairs hidden behind the reception desk offer the way to the upper floor of the gallery, where two halls are devoted to Second Life artists. At the time of my visit, these were showing landscape images by the always captivating Rachel Magic (larisalyn) and pieces by Thomaz (Thomaz Blackburn). Between the halls is a cosy café / venue area, where images by Mark’s SL partner, Lisa Cruise (lisacruise), might be appreciated / purchased.

I will admit to being surprised that the reproductions of the images by da Vinci, Picasso and Gu are offered for sale. While I appreciate galleries, etc., in-world need to cover the cost of tier, seeing the images available via right-click buy did raise concerns (e.g. the potential for transgressing copyright on owned works or contravening any established Creative Commons (or other) licence that might be applicable, etc).

Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Thomaz

However, this discomfiture duly noted, I will say that the Inspira Gallery of Art does makes for an engaging visit, and I particularly enjoyed becoming acquainted with Thomaz’s SL art, and the opportunity to see more of Rachel’s work on display.

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The S&H Hug & Kiss HUD ReAnimated

Ten of the animations to be found in the new Hug & Kiss 3.0. Via Meike Heston

There’s likely to be few in Second Life of a certain age who do not have, or have not encountered, Meike Heston’s Hug & Kiss animator. I’ve personally been using it for well over a decade – generally with the “mini” version tucked into a corner of my screen.

For those who have not come across it, it’s a HUD that allows you to select an avatar around you and offer them a hug or a kiss – in greeting, in farewell, in comfort or simply just because. If accepted, the system will animate them and your avatar so they will come together in the selected greeting – the vagaries of Second Life animation system allowing.

It’s a HUD that hasn’t been updated in over a decade – in part because Meike herself has been absent from Second Life for a fair amount of time, but also because it has always simply worked. However as Meike has once more been semi-active in Second Life, she’s been working with Chance Strike (ChanceStriker) on a completely new version of Hug & Kiss, and they gave me the opportunity recently to take it for a test drive.

Called Hug & Kiss Animator 3.0 ReAnimated, the most obvious difference between version 3.0 of the HUD and earlier versions is in its appearance, as shown below.

Left: The Hug and Kiss 3.0 (top) compared with the Mini Hug & Kiss 2.02. Right: the Hug & Kiss 3.0 buttons explained.

But a new look is only the start. Version 3.0 of Hug & Kiss has:

  • 16 completely new animations, twelve of which retain the names of their predecessors from earlier versions or which offer similar styles of animation under a new name, plus four brand new animations unique to version 3.0 of the HUD.
  • An improved height matching capability that automatically attempts to more accurately compensate for differences in avatar height of +/- 60 cm for a more realistic hug / kiss / pose (the vagaries of the SL animation system allowing).
The 11-step automated height adjustment system should help to better account for differences between avatar heights. Via
  • Ability to add your own animations / run your own configuration of animations – details are provided in the *config note card in the HUD itself.
  • Automatic update service – the HUD will notify you if / when an update is released,  and present you with the option of receiving it.

Given the nature of SL animations, the HUD still requires some basic preparation when wanting to greet someone – most obviously the avatars need to be face-on to one another – but otherwise the operation of the HUD is simple and direct,particularly for those familiar with earlier versions:

  • Use < and > to page through the HUD’s animation until the one you wish to use is displayed in the centre black button.
  • Click the centre black button to select the animation, and then click on the desired avatar name from the dialogue box in the top right of your screen.

Providing your target accepts the request, the animation will play, bringing both avatars together.

By default, animations will play for a set length of time, but if you would prefer great manual control,the the padlock button on the HUD can be clicked to set it to “locked”. Animations will now only end when the centre black button is clicked a second time.

And that’s pretty much it. As noted above, the configuration notecard within the HUD includes instructions should you wish to add couples animations of your own. I confess to not having tried this, simply because I don’t have any suitable animations, so I’ll lave that to others to explore.

General Observations

Overall, a nice update with animations potentially suited to a wider set of uses than previous versions (round-and-round might be used by a parent greeting a child, for example). In my testing, the height adjustment seemed to work well, and animations on the version 3.0 of the HUD looked more natural as a result.

At L$750, the HUD isn’t expensive, but it will be interesting to see if those with an earlier version opt to purchase it (no update path is available because both the animations and the control scripts are entirely new). I suspect this will come down to a  combination of how often the HUD is used and which animations in particular are used / appeal. And, of course, there are other options available through other creators, some at a lower price – so weighing-up which might be the better comes down to personal taste.

I do wonder if the “transparent” option might cause confusion, given it leaves the HUD on-screen (but “invisible”) so that it might come between a user and something they are trying to click in-world – but this is really more of a passing thought. That said, if making the HUD transparent doesn’t suit your needs, it will allow a certain degree of re-sizing should you wish it to have a smaller on-screen footprint – which is actually what I opted to do with it.

My thanks to Chance and Meike for the opportunity to try out / test the new Hug & Kiss HUD.

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Space Sunday special: Michael Collins

Michael Collins in his official NASA Apollo 11 photo. Credit: NASA

On Wednesday, April 28th, 2021. the news came that Michael Collins, the Command and Service Module pilot on Apollo 11 had passed away at the age of 90.

Collins was the unsung hero of Apollo 11. While Armstrong and Aldrin held the world’s attention, he quietly circled the Moon in the CSM on his own. A natural loner, he stated he never really felt lonely, and in the 48 minutes of each orbit when he was out of radio contact with the Earth as Columbia passed round the far side of the Moon, has was not afraid. Rather, he felt “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation”.

Born on October 31st, 1930 in Rome, Italy, Collins, was the second son and forth child of James Lawton Collins and Virginia Collins ( née Stewart). The Collins family was steeped in military service, a fact that helped shaped Michael’s life.

Rising to the rank of of major-general, his father served in the 8th Cavalry during the Philippine–American War, and also saw deployments in both World Wars; he was also an aide-de-camp to General of the Armies John Joseph (Black Jack” Pershing. His brother – Michael’s uncle – was General J. Lawton Collins, the Army Chief of Staff during the Korean War. Collins’ elder brother, James Lawton Collins Jr., also served in US Army in World War II and rose to the rank of brigadier general, and served as the U.S. Army Chief of Military History from 1970 to 1982.

Given his father’s career, Collins spent the first 17 years of his life following his father to his various US and overseas posting. During this time – and possibly fuelled by his father’s tale of flying on a Wright Brother’s biplane in 1911 – he jumped at the chance to take the controls of a US Army Air Corp Widgeon being flown by a family friend, awakening a nascent talent for flying.

Graduating from college in 1948 Collins briefly toyed with the idea of entering the US diplomatic service,  but opted to follow in the footsteps of his father and older brother, entering the United States Military Academy at West Point, sharing his class with future fellow astronaut Ed White. Graduating from West Point in 1952 with a BSc in military science, Collins had the choice of pursuing an Army or Air Force career and decided on the latter in part because of his love of flying and the rate at which aeronautics were developing, and in part because given the careers of his father, uncle and brother, he was worried about accusations of nepotism should he enter the Army.

Collins aboard Apollo 11. Credit: NASA

It  turned out that Collins was a “natural” pilot who easily took to flying jets. After training, he was selected for advanced day fighter training – a highly dangerous activity at the time, with 11 of his classmates killed during the 22 weeks of the training course. He also trained with fighter-bombers and gained qualifications in nuclear weapons delivery as well as maintaining his edge as a fighter pilot, winning first prize in a 1956 gunnery competition.

During the late 1950s, Collins was awarded command of a Mobile Training Detachment allowing him to accumulate over 1,500 hours flying time, which in turn gained him admittance to the USAF Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. From 1960 through 1962, he flew numerous jet aircraft – although the test pilot’s life of hard flying and occasional ’bouts of hard drinking in celebration / commiseration encouraged him to quit smoking, with a four-hour flight as co-pilot of a B52 Stratofortress bomber getting him through the initial stages of nicotine withdrawal.

In 1962, like millions of others, Collins witnessed the flight of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. As s result, he applied to be a part of the second NASA astronaut intake, but his application was unsuccessful. However, as the Air Force was trying to enter space research via its own means, Collins applied for a new postgraduate course offered on the basics of space flight. He was accepted into the third class, studying alongside future astronauts: Charles Bassett, Edward Givens and Joe Engle.

In mid-1963 NASA started recruitment for their third astronaut intake – and Deke Slayton, the Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA, personally called both Collins and Bassett and offered them places in the astronaut training programme after reviewing their applications.

After completing his basic training, Collins opted to take pressure suits and extravehicular activities (EVAs, also known as spacewalks) as his specialised area of study. In writing his autobiography, he admitted that he was concerned at being excluded from the planning for the first American space walk – undertaken by Ed White in June 1965 – despite have the greatest expertise in the practical operation of space suits and in EVA protocols.

He was the first Group 3 astronaut to receive a crew assignment – back-up pilot for Gemini 7, which assigned him a flight seat on Gemini 10, alongside mission commander John “Jim” Young, who would go on to become NASA’s most experienced astronaut, flying Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle.

Collins (right) with John Young ahead of their Gemini 10 flight. Credit: NASA

Gemini 10 was one of the most ambitious of the Gemini programme. It carried fifteen scientific experiments – more than any other Gemini mission outside of Gemini 7; it also called for two EVAs, and multiple rendezvous and docking with two Agena target vehicles. The EVAs meant that Collins became the first person to complete two spacewalks in the same mission.

Following the success of the 3-day Gemini 10 mission, Collins was assigned to the backup crew for the second crewed Apollo flight (Apollo 2), serving as the lunar Module Pilot, with Frank Borman as Commander and Thomas P. Stafford the Command Module Pilot. The training exposed Collins to both piloting the lunar module and the command module, and allowed him to receive training as a helicopter pilot – helicopters being believed to be the best way to simulate the descent of the lunar module.

With the ending of the Gemini programme, NASA opted to reshuffle the Apollo mission line up, axing Apollo 2 as it was seen as largely a re-run of Apollo 1. This and alterations to the crew rosters resulted in Collins – with the benefit of his experience and vehicle exposure – being transferred from lunar module pilot to command module pilot. In his role, he was promoted to the prime crew for Apollo 8.

Tragedy and health then intervened: the first in the form of the Apollo 1 fired that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, and which prompted a redesign of the Apollo Command Module and a reorganisation of the planned Apollo flights. The second came as a result of Collins suffering a cervical disc herniation in early 1968 that required surgery. As a result, Collins was initially moved from Apollo 8 to Apollo 9, and then removed from that mission to allow time to recuperate from his surgery.

As a result of all of this, Collins was selected with fellow Group 3 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and the exceptional Group 2 astronaut Neil Armstrong for the crew of Apollo 11, now earmarked to make the first crewed landing on the Moon – providing Apollo 9 and Apollo 10 missions completed successfully.

Collins (left) with Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in an engaging black and white portrait (later colourised). Credit: NASA

Given his role as Command Module Pilot, Collins often trained separately to Armstrong and Aldrin – and given they would be the two who would be the first humans to land on the Moon, they often took the lion’s share of media interest . Yet it was his role in the mission that perhaps carried the heaviest burden: if anything went wrong with the lunar module that left his colleagues stranded, Collins would be the one who would have to abandon them to their deaths and return to Earth alone.

Apollo 11 lifted-off from Kennedy Space Centre on July 16th, 1969. The mission has been documented to such a degree (including in these pages), that little need be said about the major elements. While Armstrong and Aldrin were on the lunar surface, Collins – who was also responsible for design the mission’s patch – kept himself busy with a range of tasks aboard the command and service module, which he came to regard as his personal space to the extent he wrote a dedication to the vehicle in the equipment bay:

Spacecraft 107 — alias Apollo 11 — alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP

He also dealt with a potential malfunction in the vehicle’s coolant system which, if unchecked, might have resulted in parts of Columbia freezing.

Mission Control advised him to follow a complicated procedure for taking manual control of the system as he passed out of radio range around the far side of the Moon. When he regained radio contact, he reported the issue dealt with – although he did so by the simple expedient of ignoring Mission Control entirely and simply switching the system to manual control and then back to automatic!

I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.

– Michael Collins, recounting how he felt after Armstrong and Aldrin had departed for the lunar
surface, and he was passing around the Moon’s far side
Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys, 1974)

Continue reading “Space Sunday special: Michael Collins”

Sharing Memories of Us in Second Life

Memories of Us, April 2021 – click any image for full size

Occupying a quarter of a Homestead region that goes by the same name, Memories of Us is a corner of Second Life that Shaun Shakespeare (once again!) pointed me towards as a place to visit.

Designed by Candi McCulloch (Candi Melune), this is a setting that is easy on the eye, centred on a lake ringed by land that is mostly low-lying, but which does rise to the north-east, where broad waterfalls feed a stream that in turn curves its way around to feed the lake.

Memories of Us, April 2021

The landing point sits alongside an open field, where a lean-to stands and what looks like a Romany camp site has been established.  From here, a path winds its way around the lake, and visitors are invited to follow it on foot or by bicycle – although by warned that as the path does climb into the north-side uplands, getting all the way around on two wheels might be a little difficult! Those who have wearable horses are invited to use them and ride the path if they wish.

As well as the camp site, there are various places to sit waiting to be found, ranging from an old camper trailer to picnic tables and benches at various points around the setting, as well as the more esoteric – a blanket suspended from the branches of a tree or an upturned rowing boat on the lake’s shore.

Memories of Us, April 2021

Those who would like to spend time on the water can do so via the rowing boat that is sitting on the lake. Oars will be offered on sitting, so you can row yourself/ves out into the middle of the water, and the rezzer will leave a further boat for others to use. Note the boat you’re in will de-rez after you stand up.

Memories of Us is a simple, natural setting that really doesn’t need much in the way of exposition as it speaks for itself. There are one or two little points where the landscaping could do with a small amount of tidying up, but nothing that actually glaringly pokes you in the eye. Certainly this is a place where time can be whiled away peacefully – just be sure to have local sounds enabled to be more fully immersed!

Memories of Us, April 2021

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Motion and poetry in Second Life

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

Currently open at her gallery  space in Second Life is a new exhibition by Selen Minotaur. On the Move is a celebration of movement and life centred on Selen’s photography whilst combining setting, images, 3D art and the written word to present an environment which Selen describes thus:

The installation is meant to be a place out of time, where sculptures by Mistero Hifeng and Cherry Manga  blend into a décor between surreal and fantasy with a majestic dome (designed and built by Luxor Ragnarok AK moebius9), [displaying] unpublished photographs of mine, suspended like stars, and poetry by Andrée Chedid are projected on the floor.

– Selen Minotaur on On the Move

This is an environment in which visitors must have Advanced Lighting Model active (Preferences → Graphics → make sure Advanced Lighting Model is checked), and if your system can handle them, also enable shadows. Viewer should also be set to Use Shared Environment (World menu → Environment → Use Shared Environment).

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

With the viewer correctly set, On the Move can be reached either directly – as per the SLurls in this post -, or by clicking on the Map teleport globe outside of Selen’s main gallery (a similar sphere at On the Move will teleport visitors back to the gallery).

On arrival, I strongly recommend just moving slightly clear of the landing point and then allowing everything to rez / render fully so that the complete setting can be properly appreciated: the outer, water-borne space with the sculptures referenced by Selen, the inner garden and the dome with its display of art.All three are wrapped within the installation’s core themes, from the rippling of life-giving and sustaining water, through the symbolism of the violin and bow and music created by the movement of one upon the other, the timelessness of the cosmos as seen the the motion of the star-like motes that float through the garden, and more.

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

Within the dome, Selen displays her work in two ways: as a series of animated canvases circling slowing under the dome’s roof, and as panels placed around the dome between its columns which display the images in turn. These are pieces in which life and art are joyously celebrated, each conveying a perfect sense of motion which in turn offers a story, whilst mood is additionally set by projections of Andrée Chedid’s poems on the floor.

There is a timelessness through the installation that is captivating, a fusing of environment, lighting, framing through the use of water and the dome, and even the manner in which the art is presented through the slowly circling (and rotating) canvases.

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

Whilst double-sided, the twelve pieces carry something of a mystical edge to to them: they float in what might be regarded as a starlit sky that suggests they float like the signs of the zodiac, their slow circling marking the passage of time and the seasons, their rotation a metaphor for the more frequent passage of time as we experience it through the passage of days.

The opening of the exhibition featured a dance recital featuring Mist (Procrati Mistwallow) dancing to new compositions by Dandy Pianoman (pianoman1968) and supported by bass player Kali Beeswing that also encapsulated the core themes of life and motion within the exhibit. For those who were unable to attend, two video screens within the dome offer the opportunity to watch a machinima of the installation which includes aspects of the performance.

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

Captivating, evocative and vibrant, On the Move is well worth immersing oneself in, both for the art and for the environment itself.

SLurl Details

  • On the Move (Selen’s Gallery, Royale, rated Moderate)