Updates from the week ending Sunday, December 12th
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
Release viewer: version version 184.108.40.2065607, formerly the Maintenance RC and dated November 10, promoted November 15 – this viewer now contains a fix for the media issues caused by the Apple Notarisation viewer.
Release channel cohorts:
The combined Simplified Cache and 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 220.127.116.116335, issued on December 7.
The Jenever Maintenance RC viewer, version 18.104.22.1686306, issued on December 6.
The Koaliang Maintenance 2 RC viewer, version 22.214.171.1245905, issued on December 6.
Performance Improvements project viewer updated to version 126.96.36.1996443, dated December 8.
Back in November 2020, I dropped into Snowdrops, a Homestead region designed by Kess Smith (Kess Crystal), and made available during the winter months of 2020 / 2021 for people to enjoy (see: Snowdrops in Second Life). For 2021, Kess has brought the setting back, only this time bigger and with more to see, utilising a Full region for her vision – which this year she has shared with Trouble Dethly in designing and building it.
Snowdrops returns for its second year, bigger and better than before. We welcome you to explore this family friendly, photogenic, winter region in Second Life. With a variety of cold weather activities like a snowboarding, tobogganing, ice skating, teegle horses, mini golf and much more, there is something for everyone. Be sure to pick up your Christmas tree at the farm, take Santa’s train to a café for a cup of warm cocoa and other treats and find all the hidden nooks and hang out spots. Along the winter village, there are also free holiday gifts from Dahlia, KraftWork, Pitaya, Thor, Zerkalo, Elm, Moss&Mink and Atelier Burgundy.
A visit begins in a town square sitting towards the middle of the region. It is bounded on two sides by boutique stores for the brands mentioned in the notes quoted above, each of which has a little seasonal gift giver just outside the door.
The remaining two sides of the square are marked by a gazebo housing a small skating rink (with a skates giver) and a cosy little chapel, the two looking at each other across the band stand in the middle of the square. This band stand is home to a quintet of musicians and to information boards for the region’s social media links and to web pages that provide information on booking the local restaurant or the vacation cabins.
The latter are located in the north-east of the region, five in all, gathered around a frozen pond. All are warmly furnished and offer a little outdoor deck for patrons to enjoy as well during a stay.
The fine dining restaurant, meanwhile, sits atop the region’s high peak, located to the south-east. Offering indoor dining for small parties and a separate gazebo for couples wishing to have a romantic dinner, the dining areas offers commanding views over the rest of the region.
Reached via a ski lift that rises from the south side of the town square, the restaurant shares its hilltop location with a pavilion warmed by an outdoor fire, and a long slope that drops all the way back to the ski lift station, with sled and snowboard rezzers available for those who fancy a little on-piste fun. For those not interested in winter sports, the little mini-golf tucked under the trees a very short walk from the ski lift station might be more to their liking.
Across the region from the rental cabins, and tucked into its north-west corner, is Santa’s North Pole workshop, the walk to it from the cabins passing by a Christmas tree shop and the fenced grazing for Santa’s reindeer, perfectly at home in the falling snow.
These reindeer are not the only animals waiting to be found here; more deer are wandering among the trees or watching those who come and go from the rocks and hills that form a part of the region’s landscape, while horses wander their own fenced areas, with one offering rezzable copies of itself to ride through the region’s wilderness.
With paths and trails to connect its various points of interest – which include several cuddle spots – and finished with a gentle sound-scape, Snowdrops once again provides a photogenic, enjoyable winter visit.
My thanks to Kess for the LM and invitation to visit.
NASA has successfully restored the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to full operations after more than a month with the telescope either being in a “safe” mode, or only able to partially operate its science instruments.
The longest-running space mission in Earth orbit, HST has been subject to a range of issues throughout its career, all of which have been overcome, although this has been only of the more draw-out in getting resolved. It started on October 23rd, when the telescope started sending error codes indicating the loss of a specific synchronisation message that provides timing information used by its instruments use to respond to data requests and commands correctly. Two days later, the same error codes were again issued, prompting Hubble to cease science activities and enter a “safe” mode.
Throughout out the rest of October and early November, mission engineers on Earth worked to diagnose and rectify the issue, and on November 8th, 2021, were able to report a restart of the main computer system and a set of back-ups had allowed science operations to recommence on the telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Later in November, operations were restored to the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and then the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC-3), Hubble’s most heavily-used instrument, leaving just one major science instrument out of commission.
That was the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which was finally restored to operational status on Monday, December 6th, marking Hubble’s full return to its science programmes.
However, the October glitch, following on as it does from a systems error that caused the telescope to enter a safe mode in July 2021, serves as a reminder that HST is running on software and systems designed and built in the 1980s.
As a result, the mission team has been evaluating and testing ways and means to refine and update the telescopes software on both its operating systems and its science instruments. This means that mid-December should see the COS gain a significant software update, with the remaining science instruments also being updated early in 2022.
Such upgrades are vital to Hubble’s continued career, given there has been no means to physically service it since the space shuttle was retired in 2011 – and NASA / ESA very much hope to keep the observatory running through until at least the end of the 2030s, consumables permitting.
That said, and if all goes according to plan, Hubble will so no longer be the only large-scale, space-based observatory in operation.
As I’ve frequently reported in these pages, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is due to be launched from the European Spaceport, Kourou, French Guiana, on December 22nd, 2021. This is actually 4 days later than planned, the result of unexpected vibrations passing through the telescope after a clamp unexpected released as JWST was being integrated with the Launch Vehicle Adapter (LVA) – the element that physically connects the telescope to the rocket. This required a period of checks to be carried out to confirm the telescope’s instruments and systems had not been damaged by the vibrations.
However, following confirmation that no damage had been caused, two of the four remaining pre-launch operations for the telescope have now been completed and a third is in progress.
On November 23rd, European Space Agency engineers started the delicate operation to fill JWST’s propellant tanks with 168 kg of highly toxic hydrazine gas and 133 kg of equally toxic dinitrogen tetroxide oxidizer, both of which are needed to power the observatory’s thrusters. So harmful are both of these propellants, the loading took a total of 10 days, during which time engineers working in the same space as the telescope had to wear Self-Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensemble (SCAPE) suits – essentially space suits for use on Earth that completely isolated them from their surroundings.
With fuelling completed on December 3rd work then commenced on bringing both the telescope, mounted on its LVA, and its Ariane 5 launch vehicle together for the first time, moving both of them into the Final Assembly Building and readying them for mating together. This work was completed on December 7th, 2021, clearing the way for the mating process to commence.
Mating involves lifting JWST and its LVA up to the high bay of the building, and then lowering it on to the top of the Ariane booster. Once this has been done, a final series of tests on telescope, LVA and booster will be carried out and the Ariane payload fairings will be closed around the telescope. After this, a final check-out will take place, and the final pre-launch activity will see booster and payload moved to the launch pad a few days ahead of the launch.
The launch itself will in turn mark the start of the most complex deployment of a space instrument undertaken to date. It will take JWST 16 days to reach its operational halo orbit at the Earth-Sun L2 point, with the entire deployment taking some 29 days, as the video below explains.