Space Sunday: space stations, telescopes and images

A conceptual image of the completed Orbital Reef space station, with a mix of rigid and inflatable additional modules, and a Dreamchaser Cargo spaceplane docked to the right, and two Boeing CST-100 Starliners docked on the left. Credit: Blue Origin / Sierra Space

October 25th, 2021 saw an announcement that caught much of the space media by surprise during the proceeds of the 72nd International Astronautical Congress in Dubai, when Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Sierra Space, the space development arm of the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), revealed they plan to lead a multi-corporate venture to establish a commercial space station in Earth orbit by 2030.

Orbital Reef, as the facility is to be called, is intended to see the consortium led by the two companies establish the basics for the station by the later 2020s, allowing for a potential transition of orbital operational from the International Space Station (ISS) to Orbital Reef by the time the ISS is retired in 2030.

Under the partnership, Blue Origin will develop large-diameter core modules and utility systems, as well as provide launch services using its still-to fly New Glenn heavy lift launch vehicle (HLLV), whilst Sierra Space will provide additional inflatable modules for the facility, and use its Dream Chaser cargo space plane for resupply missions, and (at some point) the original crewed version of the space plane to transfer personnel to / from the station.

Conceptual rendering of Genesis Engineering Solutions “single person space vehicle”. Credit: Genesis Engineering Solutions

Other companies involved in the project include Boeing, who will supply a science module for the station provide their CST-100 Starliner crew vehicle for personnel transfers and provide all ground-based systems operations and support for the station, and Genesis Engineering Solutions will provide a “single person space vehicle” that is already being called the “space pod” for on-obit operations around the station in situations where “suitless” EVAs are desirable.

Blurb for the station states it will be used for a variety of roles: commercial ventures, research across a number of fronts (with Arizona State University leading a consortium of 14 international universities that plan to participate in the research work) and – inevitably – a vacation destination for those with deep pockets.

A promotional video for the station shows it have a long, pressured core module, complete with large windows, together with fore-and-aft docking ports for visiting space vehicles, and multiple port along its sides for the addition of permanent or temporary modules, which can also have their own docking facilities. However, this is said to be the “final” configuration of the station, complete with a multi-array solar power system; the initial “baseline” facility will be far smaller and more modest.

The completed station will be positioned at 500 km altitude – somewhat above the ISS’s nominal 475 km – and will be capable of supported up to 10 people at any one time, with 830 cubic metres of usable internal space – marking it as slightly smaller than the ISS – although this can, as noted, be expanded through the use of additional modules.

The announcement comes as one of several offered in response to NASA’s Commercial LEO Destinations programme, which will select up to four proposal for commercial facilities to replace the ISS, and finance the initial R&D ins each, with further funding to cover certifying the stations for use by NASA astronauts. However, both Sierra Space and Blue Origin have indicated they plan to move ahead regardless of any NASA seed funding.

A critical factor for the project will be Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. Development of this initially commenced as a design study in 2012, with the project formally announced in 2016. However, unlike the development of the SpaceX Starship / Super Heavy (which started development at the same time as New Glenn), it has yet to fly, and has seen a number of shifts in direction.

Like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 core stage and their Super Heavy booster, the first stage of New Glenn is intended to be reusable. However, earlier in 2021, the company announced plans to accelerate the development of a reusable upper stage, code-named Jarvis which – in grabbing a leaf from the SpaceX book of how to do things – will be in part be of a stainless steel construction. Because of this, coupled with issues experienced in developing the vehicle’s primary engine, the BE-4, the first flight of New Glenn most likely will not take place until very late in 2022, or early 2023, some three years behind the original target date.

Dreamchaser Cargo spaceplane and external unpressurised cargo module / power “trunk”. This craft is due to start flying to the ISS in 2022, and would be used to fly resupply missions to Orbital Reef. Credit: Sierra Space / SNC

While timeline slips in any developing project are to be expected (just look at NASA, or indeed, “Elon Time” vs actual time with SpaceX projects), the pace of development with New Glenn does question whether Blue Origin can meet a 5-7 year timeline to provide the core of a space station. By contrast, Sierra Space is due to start flying their Dreamchaser Cargo vehicle on resupply flights to the ISS in 2022, and prior to losing on a contract to fly a crewed variant of the vehicle to carrying astronauts to / from the ISS as part of NASA Commercial Crew Programme, SNC has continued to maintain research into a crewed version of the vehicle.

Other entities / consortiums throwing their hats into the ring to provide commercial orbital facilities include Axiom Space, with plans – as noted in past Space Sunday articles – to fly at least one module to the ISS in the mid-2020s, with the planes to use the module(s) it flies to the ISS as the core of a new station as ISS reaches its end-of-life at the end of the 2020s. Another consortium, Nanoracks, Voyager Space Holdings and Lockheed Martin, announced plans to fly a much more modest space station, Starlab. Utilising an inflatable module and core docking / power facility, Starlab would have an internal volume of 340 cubic metres and would be capable of supporting up to 4 people at a time.

Hubble Suffers Further Glitch

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the thirty-year-old veteran of orbital space science, suffered a further operational glitch on Monday, October 25th, unexpectedly switching itself into a “safe” mode that has suspended all science operations.

The switch-over happened after Hubble experienced synchronisation issues with its internal communications”; however, the telescope is reported to otherwise be in good health. This is the second time this year the telescope has switched to a safe mode – in summer an issue with the primary payload computer that took a month to diagnose and rectify, gave rise to concerns over HST’s future – although this issue is not as serious, but there is currently no estimate as to when normal operations might be resumed.

While it may not be considered serious, this latest issue is, however, indicative of HST’s advancing years and the fact that it was last serviced in 2009, so sadly, elements aboard it will be approaching their end-of-life – although it is hoped the telescope will be able to remain operation through until the late 2030s.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: space stations, telescopes and images”

Grimm Stories, steampunk tales and fantasy treats in Second Life

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home in Nowhereville, unless otherwise indicated. Note that the schedule below may be subject to change during the week, please refer to the Seanchai Library website for the latest information through the week.

Sunday, October 31st, 13:30: The Brothers Grimm

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786–1859), were German academics, philologists, cultural researchers, lexicographers and authors who together collected and published folklore during the 19th century. They were among the first and best-known collectors of German and European folk tales. Their classic collection, Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), was published in two volumes: the first in 1812 and the second in 1815, with multiple revisions between then and 1857 that saw the collection of tales grow from 156 stories to more than 200.

In addition to collecting and editing folk tales, the brothers compiled German legends, whilst working individually, they published a large body of linguistic and literary scholarship. In 1838 they began working on a massive historical German dictionary (Deutsches Wörterbuch) – but were only able to reach the word Frucht (fruit) within their own lifetimes.

Many of their folk tales have enjoyed enduring popularity, being available in more than 100 languages, and adapted by filmmakers the world over. Possibly less well-known is that during the 1930s and 1940s, the tales were used as propaganda by the Third Reich, tarnishing their appeal outside of Germany in the war years. Later in the 20th century, psychologists such as Bruno Bettelheim reaffirmed the value of the tales in spite of the cruelty and violence to be found in some of the original versions – which the Grimms themselves had sought to sanitise through their editing and writing.

The Tea Time Crew (Da5id Abbot, Gloriana Maertens, Corwyn Allen, Kayden Oconnell, Caledonia Skytower, and Elrik Merlin) presents five of these tales, mostly from the lesser known parts of the canon. All would be grim enough on your average day, but are all the more so on All Hallows.

The stories will also be available via Virtual Community Radio – so tune-in via your Internet radio player, your browser or even you parcel’s audio stream!

At the Haunted Hollow.

Monday, November 1st, 19:00: The Stone God Awakens

A 20th century scientist is rendered frozen at the molecular level, and then reanimated millennia later by a freak accident. He finds himself in a strange world populated by sentient, anthropomorphic animals, who take his awakening to be the fulfilment of prophecy.

He accepts the mantle of godhood and sets about discovering this brave new world, hoping to find clues to the past while finding his place as the last human. But his quest leads to to question the reality of his status – might other humans also have survived? To find the answers he must lead his tribe of feline worshippers to the heart of a rival god: a great tree spanning half a continent.

Join Gyro Muggins as he reads a novella by the fantasy and sci-fi author Philip José Farmer.

Tuesday, November 2nd

12:00 Noon: Russell Eponym

With music, and poetry in Ceiluradh Glen.

19:00: The Wild Wood

A young artist returns to her cabin in the deep woods of Canada to concentrate on her illustrations. But somehow, strange and beautiful creatures are slipping into her drawings and sketches. The world of Faerie is reaching out to her for help – and she may be its last chance for survival.

With Willow Moonfire.

Wednesday, November 3rd, 19:00 Steampunk Stories

Finn Zeddore opens the pages of Lightspeed magazine to read Carrie Vaughn’s Harry and Marlowe and the Talisman of the Cult of Egil.

Some would say the Cult of Egil was not far wrong, to take the artefact as a holy talisman. Harry couldn’t be bothered with the theology of the matter. She needed it for more mundane purposes. This was a piece of Aetherian technology that no one else in the world possessed. Britain had brought Aetherian wonders to the rest of humanity; by rights, it should have this as well, before anyone else. If she could convey it back home successfully.
Carefully, with gloved hands, she removed the object from its stone niche, where it had rested for centuries deep underground, inside the dormant volcano where the mysterious Icelandic cult that guarded it made its home. It hardly weighed anything. Surely the tingling she felt from it was her mind playing tricks. Merely the anticipation of finally having it in her possession. Nerves, that was all.

Thursday, November 4th

19:00: Alice In Wonderland

Don’t fall down any rabbit holes, or allow yourself to get waylaid by airborne grins, because this is one tea party date for which you cannot afford to be late as Shandon Loring dives into Lewis Carroll’s popular tale – albeit this time a version with a certain Tim Burton twist!

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Contemporary sci-fi / fantasy with Finn Zeddmore.

Artistic Sensuality in Second Life

Art Korner: Izabela Navarathna – Sensuality

Update, June 27th, 2022: Art Korner has Closed.

Words have a habit of evolving over time. Take “sensuality” as an example. Within the English language, it has its roots in the 14th Century Old French sensualite (“the five senses”), which in turn lies rooted in the Late Latin Sensualitatem (nominative sensualitas) “capacity for sensation,” or  “endowed with feeling.” As used in the 14th Century, the term was oft used as a sign of “spirituality”, describing the ability to sense or perceive the meaning of Holy Scripture. Two hundred years later, however, “sensuality” was largely frowned upon by the religious, who saw it as a direct reference to our baser animal instincts and lusts of the flesh.

Today, we tend to use the word to express the the idea of enjoyment of the innocently pleasurable to give it an edge of “naughtiness” (“the sensually smooth dark chocolate”; ” the rich, sensual aroma from the blend of oils…”, etc.), as well as in reference to the lascivious and suggestive – particularly in reference to the female form. The latter use is perhaps most noticeable within the world of photography and advertising, where images – generally in monochrome – are used to encourage desire without actually being in sexually explicit it is the suggestion of want might happen or might just have happened, that is used to taunt our senses and emotions.

All of which forms a lengthy introduction to a collection of 32 images by Second Life photographer Izabela Navarathna entitled Sensuality, which is currently open through until November 15th, 2021 at Frank Atisso’s Art Korner Gallery.

Art Korner: Izabela Navarathna – Sensuality

This is a veritable tour de force of photographic depictions of sensuality that at first appears to be lifted from that monochrome world of suggestive advertising – but which is actually far more, offering as it does multiple takes on the idea of sensuality. And whilst the the use of monochrome might suggest an intent to emulate such advertising images, it is actually because since her entered the world of Second Life photography, Izabela has specialised in black-and white avatar studies, believing – and I would agree with her – that they convey a greater depth of emotional content.

Within them, we can find the full range of interpretations of sensuality from the clear pleasures of the flesh evoking by touch, closeness and – yes – the suggestion of sexual activity (which carries with it a discomforting frisson as we are cast also into the role of voyeur), through to pieces that might be considers personal takes on the “classical” suggestions of female sensuality, and the use of an image to engage our senses in response, through to a reminder that sensuality can be experienced in multiple ways, some simple others through our need to simply indulge ourselves, with many (if not all) of the pieces containing a subtle twist or layering of meaning.

The clearest examples of sensuality as experienced through physical pleasures are those featuring both man and woman together. But then there are images such as Wings, Hand in Hand and Back all of which present suggestions of sensual, sexual bondage – the placement of hands and arms behind back, the collar around the neck, together with an innocent twist through their titles. Elsewhere, Cherry, presents a classical image of the sensual / sexual: a ripe fruit caressed by pouting lips as they hold it almost teasingly; whilst the use of nude and semi-nude images present the that subtle projection of sexuality, the desire to be able to touch without tipping into raw nudity: it is the suggestion, rather than the exposure, giving them a sensual twist.

And then there are the likes of I Wait To See You Smiling, My Body Is My Temple, and Rose, all of which offer their own takes of the use of a partially-shadowed face, camera angle and / or single item – a hat, the cigarette, a rose, to evoke a system of sensual mystery and desire.

In this respect, I could wax on about individual images, but these are pieces that deserve to be witnessed first-hand and their richness experienced, they are a genuine and skilled demonstration of the art of photography, the ability to evoke an idea and / or sensation merged with a narrative skill that is utterly superb; Izabella has a unique ability to visually encourage the imagination in one direction, then pull the emotions in another, just be her consideration of the title she gives a piece.

Just take La Llorona (which, of all the pieces in the collection, for me is the most utterly captivating). Within it there are all the familiar suggestions of sensuality: the woman in the bath; pouted lips, lowered eyes, the symbolic cigarette held between languid fingers, the presence of the decanter indicating a rich liqueur / liquor awaiting consumption. All speak to sensuality (and a hint of sexuality).  But then take the title of the piece into consideration, and the emotional narrative is utterly transformed, and with it our perception of what each element in the image is actually saying.

Art Korner: Izabela Navarathna – Sensuality

Most of all, however, is the manner in which this collection offers a stunning demonstration of Izabella’s skills as a photographer, storyteller, and sensualist (in the most positive sense of the word) through her choice of pose, camera angle and lighting, followed by cropping and finish. to produce imaginative images that weave subtle narratives through perfectly framed images.

A truly engaging exhibition, offering much to appreciate and admire.


2021 TPV Dev meeting week #43: viewer performance + Mobile App

Mimmo, July 2021 – blog post

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, October 29th, 2021.

These meetings are generally held every other week.  They are recorded by Pantera Północy, and her video of the meeting is embedded at the end of this report – my thanks to her for allowing me to do so – and it is used with the chat log from the meeting and my own audio recording to produce this summary, which focuses on the core topics discussed.

SL Viewer

This list gives the status for all currently available official viewers.

  • Release viewer: version version, formerly the Apple Notarisation Fix RC viewer, issued September 24 and promoted October 15.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • 360 Snapshot RC viewer, version, issued October 21.
    • Maintenance RC viewer updated to version, on October 20.
    • Simplified Cache RC viewer, version, dated September 17, issued September 20.
  • Project viewers:
    • Performance Improvements project viewer, version, dated October 12.
    • Performance Floater project viewer, version, issued September 2.
    • Mesh Optimizer project viewer, version, issued September 1.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version, dated October 26, 2020.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version, dated December 9, 2019.

Apple Notarisation Viewer Issue

[Video: 26:10-27:38]

With the release of the Apple Notarisation Viewer there were updates to many of the viewer’s third party libraries, and some of these updates have be found to cause issues related to playback of certain media types in-world (notably MP3s and MP4s). A fix is in progress, and once ready, LL intend to fast track it through QA ahead of other viewer updates and make an RC viewer with the fix available ASAP.

However, for those wishing to avoid the issue, the following workarounds are offered:

  • Windows:
    • Uninstall the Second Life viewer the usual way.
    • Navigate to your Program Files folder (Win 64-bit) or Program Files (x86) (Win 32-bit); locate and delete the “SecondLifeViewer” folder.
    • Download and install the Simplified Cache viewer (the previous release viewer).
  • Apple Mac:
    • Remove the Apple Notarisation viewer from your system.
    • Download and install the Simplified Cache viewer (the previous release viewer).
    • Read the instructions on this page to work through any occurrences of unwanted notarisation warnings.

Viewer Performance Notes

[Video: 3:18-15:35]

As has been reported in these pages, the Lab is focusing on a range of performance improvements in both the viewer and on the back-end. In respect of the viewer, a new Performance Improvements project viewer has been released (linked to above. This prompted an update from Runitai Linden and Ptolemy Linden of the graphics team during the meeting:

  • The core of the viewer work thus far has been on profiling and optimisation using the Tracy debugger.
  • Results thus far are described as going “pretty well” with some systems / hardware and “not bearing much fruit” for others.
  • The Lab are keen to get feedback from users for this viewer – particularly in comparing frame rates with the current official viewer release.
  • However, the request for users to try the viewer come with the warning: it is known to suffer regular crashes, in part because LL have been playing “fast and loose” with settings, such as enabling OpenGL core profile, and also as a result of experimenting with moving some processes to background threads, etc., – although the overall effect of such thread moves is eventually to provide improved performance in stable viewers.
  • Windows 32-bit and a version for Apple will be made available in due course. However, the Apple version is subject to frame rate issues associated with the Mac build being rectified.
  • The availability of an external analysis tool that can be enabled during the viewer compile process means that a lot of the internal instrumentation within the viewer will likely be removed – notably around block timers, which can generate a lot of performance woes.

Upcoming Work

  • Future work includes adding further threading capabilities:
    •  Nat Linden working on a generic project to try to unify all the various background threads into something that can pick-up any given task, removing the need for multiple threads effectively being “asleep” for much of the time, but taking up processing cycles.
    • Runitai is working on re-writing how rigged avatar attachments are handled. This is perhaps the most frame-intensive operation performed by the viewer in trying to draw them individually (none of the operations are batched).
      • Runitai is currently working on the fork of the render pipe inside the avatar draw pool that handles this work and move it to the same machinery that handles the other draw pools,. This should hopefully enable rigged mesh rendering to be handled on a batch basis, rather than one face at a time.
        • (There are some hurdles to overcome with this, such as texture changes; however, if the work is successful this could result in a substantial reduction in the number of draw calls the viewer has to perform with avatars+rigged mesh).
      • A degree of optimisation has already been carried out with rigged meshes (e.g. not re-uploading the matrix palette for every single face when it can be re-used which should help reduce draw calls; looking at the extra load placed on the viewer by making singletons thread safe, thus causing viewer locking, etc.).
    • OpenGL textures now have a dedicated thread and GL context (LLimageGL) for processing and then re-sync’d back to the main thread, which has resolved a lot of frame stalls. This working currently encompasses all fetched textures (sky rendering and media texture rendering is still bound to the main thread).
  • Ptolemy Linden is looking into render frame stalls (e.g. due to some EEP calls getting into a loop and can cause stuttering in the viewer).
  • Uniform buffer objects have also been looked at, but it requires a further tidy-up of other code within the rendering system (e.g. handling of EEP parameters) before any real results will become visible with this work.

Increasing the Default VRAM limit from 512 MB

  • Runitai referred to the limit as misleading, as the system will use more VRAM where available, even with the limit set.
  • LL have run into problems in low-end systems running out of memory if the value is increased (possibly because Intel don’t provide an API to provide information on actual VRAM usage), and so the request was put to TPVs who have solved this issue to consider supplying the Lab with a patch they could look at, it would be appreciated.

OpenGL Replacement

[Video: 15:36-16:43 and 35:00-38:35]

As has been noted in previous meeting summaries, Apple are deprecating OpenGL on their OS. This has prompted LL to look for alternative APIs.

  • Runitai indicated that MoltenGL may be looked at specifically for Apple. This essentially provides many of the performance benefits of the Metal framework, while maintaining compliance with the OpenGL ES 2.0 API. However, any move towards this solution will require further evaluation, together with a better understanding of how possible licensing requirements might impact TPVs.
  • Beyond this, all plans remain fluid. The options primarily under consideration are:
    • Using Vulkan (Windows) and Metal (Apple).
    • Running Vulkan extraction layers on top of G3D on Windows (and MoltenGL for Apple?)
    • Implementing an off-the-shelf multi-API extraction layer.
    • Home-brew a dedicated extraction layer.
    • Stick with OpenGL for Windows and use MoltenGL for Apple (as noted above).
    • Initially supporting Vulkan + OpenGL for Windows and then retiring OpenGL and running Vulkan extraction layers on top of G3D (no word on Apple solutions in this scenario)
  • However, a consensus has yet to be reached on the direction to be taken, the focus is on furthering an clean-up of the rendering code and improving performance on OpenGL as far as possible, then consider making the move to alternatives.

Windows 11 and SL

[Video: 28:02-30:17]

  • So far there do not appear to have been any significant issues encountered by LL  / users in using Second Life on Windows 11 as the latter is made more broadly available.
  • There are a couple of reported minor issues:
    • BUG-231041 “[Windows 11] Memory creep running with Windows Insider Beta version, when Viewer is minimised”, which has apparently yet to be confirmed as an issue with the release version of Win 11.
    • The viewer reports the OS build as: Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit (Build 22000 [and above]).
  • If anyone is encountering reproducible issues which appear to be tied to Windows 11, please file a Jira.

Update on Mobile Status

[Video: 32:45-33:52]

As has been reported elsewhere, work on the SL Mobile App for iOS has been suspended for the time being. Commenting on why and for how long, Mojo Linden (LL’s VP of Engineering) commented:

  • LL is still “very interested in moving things forward in the mobile space”.
  • The pause is liable to last “a number of weeks”.
  • The hope is that following any review, the Lab will be bringing “bigger and better things to the table”, although the pause has also been due to the need to divert resources into other work.
  • Not much more was said (in part because Mojo did not want to steal Grumpity Linden’s thunder), but there will be “more news in the future”.

In Brief

  • [Video: 1:16-1:42] Chap Linden is the new Product Manager for the viewer, taking over from Alexa Linden. He has been with the Lab for around two weeks (at the time of writing), and his responsibilities may expand in time.
  • [Video: 20:25-26:00] A general discussion on viewer build tools and simulator-side changes on the beta grid to ease viewer build testing.
  • [Video: 43:32-42:50] LL is apparently dealing with an (allegedly) China-based website that has (or had) been using the Second Life name to illegally sell cryptocurrency.
  • Kitty Barnett from the Catznip team hopes to be able to contribute her work on Linden Water occlusion (so “unseen” Linden Water is effectively ignored by the viewer, reducing the render load & improvement frame rates) to the Lab Soon™.

An Inverse House in Second Life

inVerse Tarzana the (latest) Pey abode

So yeah; another couple of months have passed, so it’s time for me to play housey again with yet another build for the home island. There were a couple of reasons for this (outside of me wanting to bore you!). The first was that, whilst happy I managed to customise my Fallingwater build such that it “fit” within the island setting, I couldn’t quite get the interior décor to the point where the place felt entirely “right”. The second was that in thumbing through the Marketplace, I happened across the inVerse Tarzana Contemporary House by Novocaine Islay, and it tickled my curiosity enough to have me take a look at it at the inVerse in-world store.

inVerse is not a new brand to SL; I actually have a couple of their houses from long time ago packed away in Inventory, and if I’m honest, their builds can be (for me) a mixed bag, largely because of the use of baked shadows / lighting in some of their older models. However, once I’d seen the Tarzana in-world, I was sufficiently taken by the design’s potential to start mentally ticking through the possibilities as to how it might fit within the home island without me having to necessarily change too much. And given the house is priced at a mere L$349 with Copy / Modify permissions, it wasn’t as if it was going to break the bank if I opted to get it and things didn’t work out.

In fact, the package comes not with one house, but two: a version that is the bare-bones house, and a second that includes furniture and furnishings. Both variants include an outdoor pool and a control centre for lighting, security, privacy, and with a built-in radio that can be used to set music streams via parcel audio. The design of the house is also something that attracted me: it’s pretty well established that I am a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, however, I also appreciate the work of Sir Geoffrey Bawa; and with its cantilevered design and use of wood textures, the Tarzana has hints of both.

inVerse Tarzana

Comprising two large lower / ground floor rooms and three good sized upper rooms, two of which are cantilevered out over the front and one side aspect of the house respectively, and with a neatly stepped roof that avoids it appearing flat and boring, the house offers a layout that gives a good amount of space. In its default rezzing, the house includes a front pool and patio and some outdoor plants, with the patio continuing around one side of the house to the front doors which in turn access one of the two ground-floor rooms. The second on this level room includes a dogleg stairway to the upper floor, and provides adequate room for a kitchen / dining area. Upstairs, the three rooms are arranged so two are in tandem, requiring you pass through one to reach the other, a slightly awkward arrangement, but also a flexible one when it comes to putting the rooms to use.

Given the House is Copy / Mod, a check of the demo at the in-store rez areas confirmed it was also modular enough to probably undergo the kitbashing I wanted to perform – essentially trying to fit the Tarzana into a space created for the Fallingwater house without having to make extensive changes to the existing landscaping. In essence, this meant blending the house with a stream running through the island to the front aspect, and an elevated Zen garden to the rear.

As it turned out, checks on the height of the two floors of the Tarzana quickly confirmed it would pretty much fit as intended, the lower floor rooms sitting just above the waters of the stream, and the upper floors almost perfectly placed to allow access to the raised Zen garden. All that was needed was the replacement of the windows to the back of the lower floor rooms with solid walls, and the addition of new sets of doors on the upper floor to provide the garden access. Fortunately, the landing at the top of the Tarzana’s stairs includes a neat little passageway between it and one of the bedrooms, giving me the perfect place to locate one set of doors, and I worked out it would be possible to add further doors to access the garden from the bedroom pretty easily. So, following a check to confirm the overall modularity of the meshes used in the build, it was time to purchase and start work!

The Inverse Tarzana merged into the raised Zen garden from the previous house layout – note the two sets of doors added to access the garden, and the stairway visible to the left end of the house, providing access to the lower floor

The core work of fitting the house into the existing space proved easy, Wall sections can be simply unlinked, copied and used, and windows easily resized to fit their purpose. The basic alterations to fit the house into the garden and river took me a little over an hour, including the construction of the new “back” doors on the the upper level and making some small alterations to the Zen garden. With that work done, I set about some other minor changes.

As noted, when rezzed, two of the upper floor rooms are in tandem – you need to pass through one to reach the other, making the first less of a room and more of a passageway. Also, the upper floor balcony can only be accessed from the front upper room. Not a design fault by any means (in fact, excellent if the front room is to be the master bedroom), but I wanted access to the balcony without having to traipse across the corner of a room. The easily solution to both problems was to divide the “middle” upper floor room to create a passage way and room. The latter then lent itself ideally to becoming the bathroom, while the former was easily adapted to house the balcony doors, with a new window and frame serving to fill the hole they (and the surrounding  wall) left in the side of the bedroom.

Meanwhile, the downstairs dining / kitchen are demanded a few minor changes to suit my chosen positions for both kitchen units and dining table / chairs. These include the addition of a new internal wall and swapping the position of the side elevation windows and wall, the latter to provide a view of the of the island’s modest waterfalls from the dining table. Finally, and as I don’t like script-heavy control systems, I stripped out various security and other scripts and replaced the lighting with a simpler, automated system.

The reason for not wanting the supplied pool and terrace was not because of any fault with them, but simply because I’d already kitbashed my own for the Fallingwater build, and in the location where I wanted the pool to remain: alongside, rather than in front of, the house. So it was much easier to adopt this to suit my needs than buggering about with the supplied pool and trying to make things fit. I also didn’t use many of the furniture and décor items supplied with the the furnished version of the house – I have plenty of my own. But the pieces I did use are well made and naturally lend themselves to modding where required – most notably in replacing those textures that contain shadow bakes intended to match the supplied ornaments, etc.

All of of which not only gave me a house that fitting my existing garden / patio / river space, it also gave me – pool and patio and house for just 103 LI, including additional walls, partitions, doors, replacement lighting, and additional pictures and wall hangings, leaving me a happy bunny with a new house to play with. Well, at least until Christmas!

inVerse Tarzana: by default rezzes with a 31×31 metre footprint, and has the following land impacts: 125 (unfurnished) 234 with furnishings and extras: 234 LI

There are some elements of inVerse houses that can leave something to be desired: the supplied plants generally are not of the highest quality (for reasons of LI), whilst some buildings can made over-use of baked shadows / lighting effects (common to many prefabs). BUT, with this build – which I understand is one of the more recent from the inVerse collection, neither of these is a serious issue. And to be honest, given the price is just L$349, it’s really not worth quibbling over such things. That said, if you are thinking of buying inVerse, it’s still worth checking out demo versions in-world first – which should be done with any house or structure to avoid surprises – even if modding is not foremost on your mind (as it always is with me!)

As it is, the Tarzana is an excellent design, a good build with reasonable LI and physics / display costs. It proved easily up to the challenge of my slinging and dicing and gluing, so no surprises that I give it a thumbs-up.


Grauland’s lights in Second Life

Grauland, October 2021 – click any image for full size

JimGarand has established a reputation for making his Grauland region designs as places well worth visiting. Each iteration offers something just that little different around the central idea a setting for exploration and photography mixed with the idea of each also being an environment intended for artistic expression.

As my last visit was in June, I decided to jump across and see what the current iteration holds – and was surprised to note that (in August, I believe), Jim had relocated the Grauland builds away from their long-term home of Mobile to a new Homestead region – prompting me to update the SLurl featured in past articles in this blog. On bumping into Jim on the region, he explained he decided to take a break for a couple of months to recharge, and so needed to obtain a new Homestead on his return.

Grauland, October 2021

The new setting is once again an interesting mix, a scene suggestive of an older part of a city, one overlooked by more modern skyscrapers alive with their walls of lights and neon, but separated from them to indicate that while they may be part of the same conurbation, they are not the same neighbourhood.

While there are high-rises within the main portion of the region, they are clearly older and smaller, speaking to a part of the town much older than the gleaming towers of glittering light. And while there is light and neon to be found here, it advertises establishments that might be considered unsuited to upmarket downtown spaces.

Grauland, October 2021

Caught under a twilight sky, the region is bracketed to the east and wet by a beach with pier and the tall city blocks with mountains beyond respectively. Between, it offers road that cut the buildings into tidy blocks – the majority façades, admittedly, but which offer numerous opportunities for photography.

However, that’s not the primary purpose with the build: whilst it blends that familiar sense of space with physical art elements – which I’ll come to in a moment -, the primary focus of the build is that of lighting. In this respect, I cannot stress strongly enough that the resign is viewed under its default EEP setting and with Advanced Lighting Model (Preferences → Graphics enabled (no need to also enable Shadows, etc).

Grauland, October 2021

This theme is represented in multiple ways, from the aforementioned skyscrapers with their shimmering rows of lights to represent towering floors, through the presence of the neon business signs, the lights that illuminates advertising hoardings or the streets themselves. Some of this is subtle in nature and form – such as at the Japanese noodle bar (inside and out), and elsewhere a little more obvious but still artfully presented – such as the red used at the strip club façade, compete with reflections in the puddles from a recent bout of rain.

The most striking elements of light and art however, can be found within the setting’s largest structure and around the south and west coastlines of the region. In and along these are pieces of modern art – blocks, triangles and squares, all of which have holes running through them, which offer projected lights to illuminate the inner circumference of the holes in the most engaging of effects. Further lighting can be found a long the sides of the main road, whilst further examples of lighting effects sit hidden around corners and within alleys, encouraging exploration and – again – photography.

Grauland, October 2021

SLurl Details