Second Norway and Sailor’s Cove East – status update

Second Norway, March 2020

I recently reported (with updates) on the situation with Second Norway and Sailors Cove East (SCE), both of which were facing possible closure due to physical world issues, including the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic – see: Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements.

On Friday, April 3rd, Ey Ren, founder of Second Norway contacted me to request that people wishing to keep up-to-date with developments on both estates refer to his Bad Elf Blog, and I’m only too happy to point those concerned about the situation to that blog.

In particular, Ey has posted three updates, all dated April third, and summarised below:

24 SCE regions to Transfer Ownership

A transfer ticket for 24 of the 45 Sailor’s Cove East regions has been submitted today. Original co-founder of Sailor’s Cove, Patrick Leavitt, has stepped up to ensure that over half of the estate continues to exist.

See Ey’s full blog post on this topic, which includes a list of the affected regions.

Ey is Still Working to Secure a Future for Second Norway and the Rest of SCE

As per the notice presented by Mialinn Telling in her profile (again, see: Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements), Ey is seeking to secure a viable future for the estates and the regions within them. In particular he notes:

  • Outside of the SCE regions that will be transferred to Patrick mentioned above, there should be no significant changes to either estate before May 2020. In particular:
    • No regions should be taken off-line in April 2020.
    • Rental payments are suspended until such time as the future of the regions within each estate is determined and / or regions are transferred to new ownership (at which point rental agreements will need to be entered into with any new owners).
  • Ey is actively engaged in seeking new ownership to secure the future of as many regions as possible, and investigating the means to finance those regions which cannot be transferred to new owners. However, due to his personal situation, it is possible that some regions that cannot be transferred to new ownership could eventually be removed from the grid.
  • He also wishes to extend thanks to Linden Lab for all they have done in expediting the unlocking of his account and in providing leeway for him to seek alternative arrangements to try to save as much as possible of both of these estates.

For full details on all of the above points please refer to Ey’s posts All Good Things Must Come to an End and No Tier Payments Until Changes are Made.

 

Again, if you are a tenant of Second Norway or SCE, or wish to be kept appraised of the situation directly be Ey, please make sure you bookmark or subscribe to his blog.

2020 Content Creation User Group week #14 summary

Garrigua, February 2020 – 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 2nd 2020 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, meeting SLurl, etc, are are available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

A large part of the meeting concerned options for what might be done when handling complex avatars that fall outside of what is currently being done through ARCTan, including esoteric discussions on when things like impostering should occur in the download / rendering cycle, etc. Discussions also touched on the sale of Sansar (see elsewhere in this blog) and SL’s uptick in user numbers as a result of the current SARS-Cov-2 pandemic.

Environment Enhancement Project

Project Summary

A set of environmental enhancements (e.g. the sky, sun, moon, clouds, and water settings) to be set region or parcel level, with support for up to 7 days per cycle and sky environments set by altitude. It uses a new set of inventory assets (Sky, Water, Day), and includes the ability to use custom Sun, Moon and cloud textures. The assets can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others, and can additionally be used in experiences.

Resources

Current Status

  • Is caught on a couple rendering bugs related to Linden Water and how the water / things under water are rendered by EEP.
  • The plan is still to have EEP promoted before any other viewer project is promoted to release status.

ARCTan

Project Summary

An attempt to re-evaluate object and avatar rendering costs to make them more reflective of the actual impact of rendering both. The overall aim is to try to correct some inherent negative incentives for creating optimised content (e.g. with regards to generating LOD models with mesh), and to update the calculations to reflect current resource constraints, rather than basing them on outdated constraints (e.g. graphics systems, network capabilities, etc).

As of January 2020 ARCTan has effectively been split:

  • Immediate viewer-side changes, primarily focused on revising the Avatar Rendering Cost (ARC) calculations and providing additional viewer UI so that people can better visibility and control to seeing complexity. This work can essentially be broken down as:
    • Collect data.
    • Update ARC function.
    • Design and provide tool within the viewer UI (i.e. not a pop-up) that presents ARC information in a usable manner and lets users make decisions about rendering / performance.
  • Work on providing in-world object rendering costs (LOD models, etc.) which might affect Land Impact will be handled as a later tranche of project work, after the avatar work.
  • The belief is that “good” avatar ARC values can likely be used as a computational base for these rendering calculations.

Current Status

  • Internal testing is awaiting a Bake Service update related to the issue Vir identified that was causing issues in gathering data.
  • In the interim, Vir has been looking at the tools available for manipulating viewer performance (e.g. imposters, the Jelly Dolls tools, blocking, etc.). He’s specifically been looking at “peculiarities” in how the various options work and raising internal questions on possibly re-examining aspects of how they work.
  • One point with imposters / Jelly Dolls is that while the settings may be used – and as was raised as a concern prior to that project being deployed – is that rendering data for all attachments on an impostered or jelly dolled avatar is still downloaded to the viewer, which is not optimal.
    • Removing attachment data could improve performance, but would also make jelly dolled avatars in particular look even more rudimentary.
  • A bug with the  Jelly Doll code means setting an avatar to never render causes it to load more slowly than just lowering the complexity threshold so it doesn’t render. This is viewed as a known bug.
  • There have been suggestions for trying to limit access to regions (particularly events) based on avatar complexity.
    • Right now, this would be difficult, as the simulator does not have authoritative information on avatar complexity – it’s calculated in the viewer, which in turn is based on data the simulator doesn’t even load.
    • This means there would have to be a significant refactoring of code before the simulator could be more proactive around avatar complexity. Given the cloud uplift work, this is not something the Lab wishes to tackle at this point in time.

General Discussion

  • Arbitrary skeletons: The question was raised on SL allowing entirely custom / arbitrary skeletons.
    • This again would be a complex project, one that was rejected during the Bento project due to the risk of considerable scope creep.
    • There is already a volume of available humanoid mesh avatars, each operating with their own (mutually incompatible) ecosystems of clothing and accessories that can already cause confusion for users. Adding completely arbitrary skeleton rigs to this could make things even more complicated and confusing.
  • The major reason there is little work being put into developing new LSL capabilities is because the majority of the LSL development resources are deeply involved in – wait for it – cloud uplift work.

Next Meeting

Due to the Lab’s monthly Al Hands meeting, the next CCUG meeting will take place on Thursday, April 16th, 2020

Sea Brook’s haven in Second Life

Sea Brook, April 2020 – click any image for full size

A full region with the 10K bonus LI, Sea Brook is a remarkable setting that offers a stunning location that forms a rich, eye-catching, highly-photogenic haven of a destination that offers a tour de force of what can be achieved with vision and considered execution in region design in Second Life.

The work of Muira (Angelique Vanness) on behalf of Rahnn Parker (Rahnn), Muira has a remarkable eye for region design, as I wrote about in 2019 after visiting Season’s Cove (now closed, but see The magic of Season’s Cove in Second Life), this is one again a place that feels far bigger than its 256m on a side size. In this instance, the sense of size and space is made all that more remarkable by the fact that much of the centre of the region is given open to open water.

Sea Brook, April 2020

The water takes the form of an extensive lake fed by falls that drop from a massive up-thrust of rock that rises to the north-east of the region in great granite or basalt blocks, topped by high fir trees. A broad, paved footpath winds its way around the lake’s shoreline in a loop, connecting three small terraces that thrust their own out into the clear blue waters. One of these terraces  forms the regions landing point, whilst all three present impressive views over the lake. At one end, this footpath connects to an imposing lodge that whilst grand in size, utterly fits with its surroundings. To the other end the path gives way to a rocky path – one of two in fact – that switch-backs up to the top of the high plateau.

Between the lake and the waters beyond the edge of the region, the land is entirely-low-lying with the exception to the huge plateau. Theses lowlands are rich is detail and  – if I might use the term again – present an expansive setting. Rich in tall Scots pines, they are marked by gravel tracks that run around the outside of the paved path around the lake, the woodlands between pavement and gravel cut through with winding trails that allow visitors to wander and discover all that lies under the shade of the trees: ponds, little camp sites, a children’s playground, picnic spots – the list is extensive without – the setting ever feeling crowded.

Sea Brook, April 2020

The paths also provide links to other locations within the region. These include a west side beach, tucked between two headlands. One of these is home to the ruins of an ancient church that now offers a cosy retreat. A second, intact chapel forms a book-end to the ruins, sitting on a low hills on the other headland, resting atop a low hill that allows it to look north across the beach towards the ruins of its companion.

East and south, behind the great lodge – which appears to be open to the public and itself offers an impressive place to explore – the land opens a little as at sits between rocky highlands and a growth of mangroves that surround one of the smaller islands sitting just off the coast. This little island is home to an old gazebo that offers a place to dance. Across the narrow channel separating the gazebo from the lodge, sits a little fenced meadow, a place where visitors can rez a horse to ride around the region – something that is well worth doing.

Sea Brook, April 2020

Atop the plateau there is yet more to discover, the switched paths leading up to it connected one to the other by gravel trails that wind across the plateau, separating the woodlands to offer obvious paths for people (and horses) to follow and which take visitors past table-top games, and along an arched path to another dance area that offers an elven theme.

As with the lands below, the plateau is also cris-crossed by wooded paths that reveal more secrets among the trees, and which I’m not going to spoil by mentioning here. However, I will say that look carefully enough and you will find a zipline that runs down to the little finger-like island rising from the middle of the lake and where bumper boats can be rezzed by those looking for a little fun.

Sea Brook, April 2020

Nor is this all; below the plateau, and nestled in the roots of the cliffs, are wooden doors awaiting discovery. They lead to a network of tunnels and chambers that run through the rocks from on side to the other. With paved floors and faced stone walls, these tunnels and the halls and rooms that open off of them make for an intriguing point of exploration on their own; one looks like a former wine cellar, others present more intimate spaces.

A truly stunning design, Sea Brook is absolute perfectly set within the encircling region surround of high mountain peaks that – with the right windlight – give it tremendous depth, this is not a setting to be missed. It has a huge amount to discover (I’ve only scratched the surface here), and is finished with a matching sound scape.

Sea Brook, April 2020

SLurl Details

Mapping Second Life’s mainland railways

via Linden Lab

The Second Life Railroad network is one of the major features of Second Life mainland – notably Heterocera – with lines also to be found on south and east Sansar and on Bellisseria, with number smaller (and private) lines also to be found across Second Life (such as the system in Second Norway).

Much as anyone can operate a car on the roads in Second Life, any Resident may use this public facility for any purpose consistent with the Second Life Community Standards/TOS (and at times the Lab has provided automated rail services). However, finding your way around the network can be a tad confusing, so enter 由里子 (Rydia Lacombe).

Not only is Rydia the creator of the sci-fi themed Aoshima, a homestead region Caitlyn and I enjoyed visiting in February (see: Beaming in to Aoshima in Second Life), she is a SLRR enthusiast, and something of a cartographer. She recently sent me her most recent map charting the major Linden-supplied train routes across and around Heterocera, Sansar and Bellisseria – and it is an impressive piece.

Rydia is a keen SL rail-roader, something she noted to me as we chatted about the map.

It’s what keeps me exploring! Mostly it stems from the time the WARR started building in front of the Burns freebie warehouse. I made my first SLRR railway maps in 2013 / 2014. I don’t have a formal means of distributing the maps, except through the various groups. The Virtual Railway Consortium [VRC] distributed my previous maps, but they don’t appear to be quite as active now.

– Rydia talking about her SLRR map work

WARR is the West Atoll Railroad, an electric railway line founded by Hilto Meridoc in 2010 and operating in southern Heterocera Mainland. The line opened in stages, first from Neumoegen to Electra, then east to Hera and west to Elpenor, before eventually closing in 2013, although I understand a part of it reopened in 2019.

Click the map above to go to the full-size version which you can examine on-line or right-click and download.

Despite its age and need of upgrade or overhaul, the SLRR has remained popular over the years and can offer a unique way of seeing Second Life mainland. Such are the number of lines and routes in Heterocera alone, that having a map makes a lot of sense, and the version Rydia has produced is an extensive, impressive,  polished, professional, and informative piece of work.

As with a physical world railway map, the various lines are colour-coded, and the map includes all the major routes associated with the SLRR, form the SLRR Main Line through to the likes of the old WARR line,  the the Okemo, Nakiska, and Southern Railway (ONSR), the Great Second Life Railway (GSLR), as well as the smaller and the more metropolitan routes such as the Northern Branch or the East River City Metro, the Bay City Trolleys and the current routes available in Bellisseria. Stops for the likes of airports are provided, together with crossover stations.

Rydia’s 2014 map of the Second Norway system

Unsurprisingly, Rydia’s work has been positively received in the past, with her approach to maps being adopted in a number of mainland regions.

As well as the 2013/2014 maps and this new iteration that would add grace to any SLRR station, Rydia  has also produced maps for some private region transport network, such as the Second Norway system (also perhaps in need of a little TLC, depending on what eventually happens to that estate).

There is a wealth of information available in the SL wiki about the SLRR – although I cannot vouch for how up to date it is – starting with the official page, and also covering the likes of the VRC, and from these, it’s possible to find out more about various lines and routes. Links from these pages also point to more technical discussions of the SLRR and Second Life vehicles. There are also various private estate lines (as with Second Norway), but these are currently outside the scope of the current map.

Despite some of the issues that can be encountered on the SLRR, if you’ve not tried it before, it’s certain worth exploring – even if only be reading about it initially. For my part, it’s something I’ve never actually blogged about per se in these pages, although I’ve ridden various trains and tracks.

Hmmm… so perhaps it might be time for an occasional series in these pages, something perhaps called From the Footplate or similar.

My thanks to Rydia for contacting me and for our chat.

April 2020 Web User Group: Name Changes et al

The Web User Group meeting venue, Denby

The following notes are taken from my recording of the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020. These meetings are held monthly, generally on the first Wednesdays of the month, with dates and details of the meetings available via the Web User Group wiki page.

When reading these notes, please keep in mind:

  • This is not intended as a chronological transcript of the meeting. Items are drawn together by topic, although they may have been discussed at different points in the meeting.
  • Similarly, and if included, any audio extracts appearing in these summaries are presented by topic heading, rather than any chronological order in which they may have been raised during the meeting (e.g. if “topic X” is mentioned early in a meeting and then again half-way through a meeting, any audio comments related to that topic that might be included in these reports will be concatenated into a single audio extract).

Name Changes

  • Deployment of the Name Changes capability is now “really, really close”.
  • As of the meeting, all of the major elements for Name Changes are with the Lab’s QA team for testing.
  • IF no significant issues / showstoppers or the like are uncovered by QA, it is probable that Name Changes will launch before the end of April.

Premium Plus

  • All of the required / update workflows for managing Premium Plus are in place, and the various web pages that will need to be refreshed with updated information have been prepared ready for the eventual Premium Plus launch.
  • All of the back-end work is in place.
  • LL are still “sitting on” all of the various values (fee, benefits, etc.), that are associated with Premium Plus.
  • No release date but said to be be “closer” – however, as I’ve previously noted, it will not come until some time after Name Changes have been made available.

Marketplace

  • Keywords and unlisting: if an item is unlisted from the MP for keyword use issues, the merchant will now get an automated e-mail notification.
  • Further improvements to the keyword system will be made over time.
  • There have been multiple fixes to the Marketplace, including:
    • Corrections for translations for non-English languages and alternate language descriptions on listings being incorrect or not displaying correctly.
    • Fixes for issues with the transaction e-mail settings.
    • Correcting the issue of some listings failing to appear in search results on Merchant’s Manage Listings pages.
    • Cleaned up the behaviour of received items.
    • Single sign-on session handling between the viewer and the Marketplace has been improved to prevent the system getting confused between which account a user was using to make a MP purchase if they were logged-in and using the MP from two accounts.

SL Marketing

  • Work has been put into refreshing a lot of the Second Life landing pages as a part of promoting Second Life.
  • This work includes the development of the enterprise / business micro-site, including the new explore page for the (at present) seven turnkey solutions.
    • I’m currently discussing with LL a possible article on this aspect of Second Life that will present a walk-through of the micro site and how interested parties can use it to engage with LL and progress through to using one of the region types.
    • The global MuseWeb 2020 conference is in progress at the time of writing, and has moved to an entirely on-line status as a result of the current pandemic. Portions of this event are being presented in or relayed through Second Life, using one of the enterprise turnkey solutions – see: MuseWeb: utilising Second Life in support of a global conference).
  • Internally to the Lab, one of the new consumer campaigns (yet to launch at the time of writing) is called the Comfort Campaign, promoting Second Life as a virtual social environment where people can meet, share times, enjoy the company of others (pretty much in keeping with the ideal of “stay safe, stay virtual”) during the current crisis, whilst at the same time avoiding the appearance of being in any way exploitative.

Two-Factor Authentication

  • Still being worked on.
  • First step will likely be sending out an e-mail notification when an attempt to log-in to a Second Life service is made from an unrecognised device.
  • More robust 2FA controls will be added, and will initially be opt-in before eventually becoming required.

It’s a very serious topic that we are working on in parallel to AWS work. Which means it made the cut of “what can we stop working on to make AWS go faster.

– Ekim Linden

In Brief

  • Website polls. People visiting Second Life web properties such as secondlife.com and the Marketplace may have noticed a pop-up poll appearing when they do so, asking if they would recommend SL to others.
    • Apparently, those responding at largely indicating they would (although obviously saying and doing aren’t the same).
    • At the same time, the poll also received a lot of negative feedback due to the annoyance factor (it would keep popping up on a user logging into any Second Life web property until responded to), and so has been turned off.
    • However, there are more such polls being planned, although how they are being presented might be reconsidered.
  • Web profiles and legacy profiles viewer: there are further fixes awaiting before this profile can roll forward, and these are queued behind other work at present.
  • Forum spamming. There has been an upturn in new accounts spamming the forums. It is possible that if this continues and gets worse, LL may consider some form of throttling / limits on the volume of posts that can be made by an individual account at a given time.

Lab releases new Log Theme Linden Homes

The Linden Log Homes: the Lincoln (l), Overlook (c) and Grand View (r)

On April 1st Linden Lab released the latest Linden Homes theme for Premium members. The Log Homes (a terms that sounds somewhat odd to me, so I’ve tended to call them lodge homes), were unveiled in February during the Home and Garden Expo for Relay for Life of Second Life – see: Previewing the Linden Home Log theme in Second Life.

Since that time, the Moles have been busy dropping a new bunch of regions off to the east of Bellisseria  – a location I’d previously mused as being the most likely direction for expansion now that Bellisseria directly abuts Sansara to the north and Joegeot to the south (see: Linden Homes: recent expansions, future thoughts). And when I say “a few” I men an area of regions pretty comparable in size to the original Bellisseria continent that first opened to the public back in April 2019.

The linden Log Homes and landscaping

Within these regions, the initial release of Log Home saw a staggering 4,828 unit made available as a single – many of which were promptly jumped on by existing Linden Home owners deserting their original offering.

As I noted in my preview for the theme, the houses come in for styles, any of which can be selected by the occupant of a house parcel. However, at the time of that previews, the styles hadn’t been given names, so’s here a quick recap of each:

  • Lincoln (formerly “Log 1”): 2 front aspect entrances, 3 open-plan ground floor rooms, one overlooked by the galleried upper floor that forms the bedroom area, complete with a balcony recessed into the roof and offering a side aspect view.
  • Grand View (formerly “Log 2”: semi A-frame, with full height picture window to the front aspect, and a porch running across the front under the A-frame roof, and part-way down one side to the front door. Three rooms on the ground floor, the front room overlooked by the galleried upper floor bedroom.
  • Overlook (formerly “Log 3”): full length front porch, 1/2 length rear porch. Three rooms on the ground floor, 2 open-plan, with one of the latter overlooked by a galleried landing providing access to two bedrooms.
  • Mountaineer (formerly “Log 4”): 2 entrances to the front aspect, 3 ground floor rooms, 2 open-plan, stairs to upper floor with two bedrooms, one with en-suite bathroom; further stairs up to an attic space with windows to all four aspects.
The Linden Log Homes: the Lincoln

In keeping with their theme, these are houses with a good proportion of open space within them and opportunities (if the house is facing the right way) to enjoy vista-like views through the picture windows and / or the balcony that feature in a couple of the designs.

The regions containing the houses are – again as may have been seen with the H&G Expo preview set-up – designed as rolling, open country, crossed by tracks a-la the Campers and Trailers homes, with open woodland – including redwood style trees – populating the landscape, while the tracks are marked by lamps, stone walls and wooden fences. Rivers appear to be sparse, water apparently restricted to moderate to small lakes, while somewhere buried within their midsts is a new community centre build. I’ll be seeking that out when I get a chance to explore more of the regions on horseback.

I have to admit, these are the first batch of new Linden Homes that have almost had me upping stakes and trying to claim one (throwing over my houseboat in the process). But, I like messing about on the water and so will hold out in case LL and the Moles work out an option that gives people the option to have a house on land with some degree of direct water access.

In the meantime, once this batch has been gobbled up, expect releases of the Log Homes to slot into the rolling schedule of smaller releases (officially) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (although some releases have come pretty much daily).