A Scottish bard, balloons, and a mix of sci-fi

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 at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, January 21st, 13:30: Tea-Time with Robert Burns

Corwyn Allen and Caledonia Skytower get ready for Burns Night with some poetry by Scottish bard Robert Burns. Perhaps with a dram or two of whisky on hand!

Burns is the best known of the poets who have written in a form of the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.

Monday, January 22nd 19:00: The Wolfen

Whitley Strieber is perhaps best known for his book for Communion, a non-fiction account of his alleged experiences with non-human entities. However, his is also a writer of horror fiction, with The Wolfen being his first published novel (1978).

When two New York Police Department uniformed officer are violently killed, detectives Becky Neff and George Wilson are tasked with investigating the incident and bringing the perpetrator/s to justice. The evidence reveals the two uniformed officers were quickly and brutally attacked by some kind of animal – so rapidly, in fact, neither were able to fire their service handguns – one even had his hand and gun ripped from his arm before having time to open fire on his attacker. Worse, both men were disembowelled, their organs devoured.

Gathering the evidence from the crime scene, Neff and Wilson start their investigation by trying to understand what kind of animal might have left the bloody paw prints around the bodies. This leads them down a path that touches on the issue of police corruption which involves Neff’s policeman husband is taking money from certain groups. As more bodies are discovered, Neff and Wilson are drawn into a world where the natural meets the supernatural: the forgotten parts of New York where the abandoned of the city live – and are preyed upon by the Wolfen.

Join Gyro Muggins as he takes us inside Neff and Wilson’s investigations.

Tuesday, January 23rd 19:00: 21 Balloons

Faerie Maven-Pralou reads from William Pène du Bois’ 1947 children’s classic, The Twenty-one Balloons.

A steamship en route across the North Atlantic comes across the strange wreckage of twenty deflated gas balloons and rescue, much to their surprise, a lone man – one Professor William Waterman Sherman.

The professor had last been seen some three weeks previously, departing San Francisco aboard a giant balloon, determined to spend a year aloft and drifting on his own.

Now, as word spreads that the professor has been found alive and well – and in completely the wrong ocean to the one he had last been seen flying towards – the world awaits the story of how he came to circumnavigate the globe in record time, only to be fished from the wreckage of twenty balloons when he had started with just the one. When he has sufficiently rested and recovered after receiving a hero’s welcome on his homecoming, the good professor tells a tale most fantastic…

Wednesday, January 24th 19:00: Fractured Symmetry

In the future and 1,000 light years from Earth, a woman of action works for a reclusive, enigmatic genius…

Blair MacAlister is an expert at Judo, a credible AI hacker, and a certified pilot of craft atmospheric and interstellar. Her favourite weapon is sarcasm, or failing that, her ever-present blaster. Her boss is Terendurr the Black Stone: technical wizard, expert in the ethnography of myriad races, fancier of rare foods and wines, and even rarer fractalites. An Entharion Quadromorph, exiled from his homeworld and under constant threat of assassination, he is also somewhat irritable.

Together they investigate mysteries based on science, in a setting that brings them into contact with all the main races of Civspace: The mysterious Junn, the affable but biologically intense Raylics, the chaotic and powerful Oro-Ka, the commercial minded Keret, and the cynical Phair.

At the centre of their cases are transformative genetic therapies, unlikely fossils, the linked neurology of symbiotes, and more. Terendurr is over 300 years old and has seen and endured the worst and strangest the galaxy has to offer. Will Blair prove as durable as her boss?

Join Corwyn Allen as he reads from Fernando Salazar’s 2017 novel.

Thursday, January 25th

19:00: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

With Shandon Loring. Also presented in Kitely (hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/144/129/29).

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Contemporary science fiction with Finn Zeddmore.

 


Please check with the Seanchai Library’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The featured charity for January / February 2018 is Reach Out and Read, giving young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into paediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

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2018 SL project updates 3/3: Web User Group

Grumpity and Alexa Linden host the Web User Group meetings on alternate Fridays at Alexa’s barn.

The following notes are taken from the Web User Group meeting held on Friday, December 19th, 2017. These meetings are generally held on alternate Fridays, and chaired by Alexa and Grumpity Linden at Alexa’s barn. The focus is the Lab’s web properties, which include the Second Life website (including the blogs, Destination Guide, Maps, Search, the Knowledge base, etc.), Place Pages, Landing Pages (and join flow for sign-ups), the Marketplace, and so on and the Lab’s own website at lindenlab.com.

Not all of these topics will be discussed at every meeting, however, the intention within the group is to gain feedback on the web properties, pain points, etc., and as such is very much led by comments and input from those attending. Along with this are two points of note:

  • Specific bugs within any web property  – be it Marketplace, forums, Place Pages or anything else), or any specific feature request for a web property should be made via the Second Life JIRA.
  • Alex Linden provides routine updates on the Lab’s SL-facing web properties as and when appropriate, which can be found in the Second Life Web thread.
  • Note that the SL forums are not covered by the Web User Group, as the management of functionality of the forums falls under the remit of the Support Team.

Lindens in the Web Team

A number of Lindens attend the Web User Group meetings in addition to Grumpity and Alexa (who are part of the Second Life Product team). While they may not be present at every meeting, Lindens staff directly involved in supporting the SL web services include:

  • Spidey Linden: QA Lead for SL Web and Marketplace.
  • Shrike Linden:  a QA tester on the Second Life web team.
  • Nazz Linden: a web developer who has thus far primarily worked on secondlife.com and the Place Pages.
  • Natty Linden: a web developer with a focus on the Marketplace.
  • Sherbert Linden: a web developer working on various SL web properties.

Support Portal Migration

Some people have reported that their support ticket histories are no longer intact. This may be a result of the ongoing migration of data from the old support system to the new system (see here and here for more).  If there are specific tickets raised prior to the start of 2017 people need to view, a new support ticket, including details of the ticket which needs to be viewed, should be raised, and the support team should be able to access the old ticket and provide any information on it.

360-Snapshot Viewer

Currently a project viewer (version 5.1.0.506743 at the time of writing), this is still in the process of being updated to offer higher resolution 360-degree images taken in Second Life, and for the uploading of 360 images to Place Pages (as well as the other viewer snapshot upload options).

Feature Requests

Feature requests are suggestions forwarded to the Lab on ideas and improvements which might be added / made to Second Life. They are raised via the Second Life JIRA:

  • Go to the SL JIRA – you may have to log-in.
  • Once logged-in to your Dashboard, click ob Create Issue (top right of the window).
  • A pop-up Create Issue form is displayed.
  • Click on the right of the Issue Type box on the form to display a drop-down, and select New Feature Request.
  • When filing a feature request, give as much information as clearly and concisely as possible: what the feature request is, what it is for, why it should be considered beneficial, what it might help improve, how it might work, etc., – as these things apply.
  • If you are requesting a UI change to the viewer, and can include images of proposed changes or new floaters / panels the feature would require, be sure to attach them.
Filing a Feature Request via JIRA – click for full size, if required

In 2017, 383 feature requests were filed via JIRA. Of these, 167 (roughly 43%) were accepted by Linden Lab for transfer into their internal JIRA system. It’s not clear how many of the accepted items were eventually actioned, but the figures nevertheless show that feature requests are triaged and some are taken for current or future consideration and possible implementation at a later date.

 

 

One Billion Rising in Second Life 2018 – call for volunteers


One Billion Rising in Second Life will once again be taking place in Second Life on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018.

When launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, One Billion Rising (OBR) was the biggest mass action in human history; a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls who are at risk. OBR aims to bring people together, raise greater awareness of the plight of those at risk the world over, and bring about a fundamental change in how vulnerable and defenceless women and girls are treated.

Since its inception, One Billion Rising has grown and the local campaigns deepened, it has also brought in economic violence and the violence of poverty, racial violence, gender violence, violence caused by corruption, occupation and aggression, violence caused by environmental disasters, climate change and environmental plunder, violence impacting women in the context of state sponsored wars, militarization, and the worsening internal and international displacement of millions of people, and violence created by corporate greed, among so many others.

On Wednesday, February 14th, 2018. One Billion Rising continues to sustain the theme of “Solidarity Against the Exploitation of Women”, and activities in Second Life event will be focused on a four-region stage where 200 people can come together to dance, surrounded by an area of art installations, an arena for poetry and dramatic productions, and informational exhibits. Activities at 00:00 SLT on the morning of February 14th, and will continue through a full 24 hours across the OBR regions.

To support the event, the organisers are currently seeking volunteer stage managers, security helpers, greeter, general volunteers to help gather information etc. Bloggers interested in covering the event both in the run-up and on the day itself are also being sought, as are sponsors to help cover the cost of the regions.

If you are interested in helping with any of these aspects of the event, please follow the links below:

The following links are also available for those wishing to learn more about One Billion Rising:

Lost in Thor’s Land in Second Life

Thor's Land; Inara Pey, January 2018, on Flickr Thor’s Land – click on any image for full size

Land of Thor is a huge setting designed by Thor (Anaadi Resident), who recently extended an invitation for Caitlyn and I to visit. Located on a Full region, it is one of the first places we’ve visited to make use of the additional 10K Land Impact allocation available to Full private region owners who wish to raise their overall total from 20K to 30K – and the additional allocation has been put to extensive use!

“The region is very loosely based on Norse Mythology,” Thor informed me when offering the invitation, “and has a lot of interesting places to discover.” Which, as it turned out, was something of an understatement!

Thor's Land; Inara Pey, January 2018, on Flickr Thor’s Land

The land itself, bathed in sunlight under a cold-looking blue sky and surrounded by tall, rugged peaks with flanks cloaked in fir trees, certainly has a Nordic feel – on arrival I was reaching for a woolly jumper. Roughly divided into four parts by river channels, the land is a curious set of contrasts, with each part named for one of the nine realms of Norse mythology.

The main landing point sit on the largest of these four parts: a huge table of rock occupying the north-west quadrant of the region. Sitting beneath a humped shoulder of rock from which rises Asgard, legendary home to the Æsir tribe of gods. Facing south, the landing point looks out over much lower-lying lands. A switchback path curls down to these lowlands from a slightly lower shelf of rock reached via stone steps, while a great waterfall plunges from a cleft in the great plateau.

Thor's Land; Inara Pey, January 2018, on Flickr Thor’s Land

Like its namesake, Asgard is surrounded in part by a (albeit low) wall, while smooth path of smooth stone snakes up to it from the west, where sits Yggdrasil, the mythical tree that connects the nine worlds in Norse cosmology. Travel north from the tree, and then west along the cliff edge of the plateau, and you’ll come by way of a grassy trail through avenues of trees leading east, to where a great stone arch spans a deep chasm, offering visitors a way to reach Alfheim (or Álfheimr, “Land Of The Elves” or “Elfland”). This is another highland area, rich in tall grass and where time seems to have stood still, sitting among low, pointed peaks of rock.

Below these northern heights sits Midgard, home of the humans in Old Norse, and for the region, the location of a modern-looking settlement broadly split into three parts: an open-air entertainments area sitting at the foot of the high cliffs of Asgard / the main landing point and separated from the rest of the town via a narrow channel. South of this, and straddling a small natural harbour, sits the rest of the town. Many of the houses are raised on stout wooden stilts, several of them brightly coloured, and fishing boats are tied-up at wharves, marking this as a working town, rather than a holiday setting. A large house – that of the mayor? – sits slightly elevated and a little separated from the rest, occupies the south-east corner of the land, and all of the houses are open to the public.

Thor's Land; Inara Pey, January 2018, on Flickr Thor’s Land

But this is not all; sitting under the plateau of Asgard, and reached via teleporter (look for the carved stone disks located around the region) or – for those keen of eye – via a hidden entrance curtained by water – is Helheim. Traditionally the abode of Hel, daughter of Loki, in this instance it is a place of winding tunnels and chambers. Easy to find one’s way into, but perhaps not so easy to find a way back out.

Helheim is sometimes linked with Niflheim (“land of Mist or “world of the darkness”), which is one of the locations only reached via the teleport system. Like its namesake, this a place of ice and snow – and home to another great castle-like hall, this one equipped as a club.  Also accessed via the teleport system are Jotunheim (or Jötunheimr, the land of the Giants) and Svartalfheim.

Thor's Land; Inara Pey, January 2018, on Flickr Thor’s Land

For Land of Thor, Jotunheim is presented as an oriental / Japanese environment, although at least one giant is present near the landing point. Cobbled paths run through the landscape here, linking points of interest, which include an interpretation of FLW’s Fallingwater, and floating islands reached via ropes bridges, as well as a pagoda rising from a nearby peak – also reached via rope bridge.

In Norse mythology, Svartalfheim is the home of the svartálfar (“dark elves”). Here, and while dark (being underwater), it has more of a sci-fi / post-apocalyptic feel to it, with a particular emphasis on a certain sci-fi franchise. It can also be reached without teleporting – for those travelling far enough through Helheim’s tunnels.

Thor's Land; Inara Pey, January 2018, on Flickr Thor’s Land

Even with all this description, I’m still only scratching the surface of Thor’s Land. There are paths to be explored, trails to follow, houses and castles to be examined, hidden walkways to be found, dragons to be ridden – and places to simply set and relax. There’s obviously a lot to photograph as well, for those so minded, and the region has a dedicated Fickr group to which images can be submitted.

Eclectic, eye-catching, detailed, and surprising, Land of Thor makes for an engrossing and worthwhile visit.

SLurl Details

  • Land of Thor main landing point (Mirrors Edge, rated: Adult)

2018 SL project updates 3/2: Content Creation User Group

A rally of (Animesh) raptors on Aditi

The following notes are primarily taken from the Content Creation User Group meeting, held on  Thursday, January 18th, 2018 at 13:00 SLT. For the purposes of Animesh testing, the meetings have relocated to the Animesh4 region on Aditi, the beta grid – look for the seating area towards the middle of the region. The meeting is chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, etc, are usually available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

There is no video for this meeting, as Medhue missed the first 30-ish minutes. Audio extracts are supplied instead, where relevant.

Animesh (Animated Mesh)

Project Summary

The goal of this project is to provide a means of animating rigged mesh objects using the avatar skeleton, in whole or in part, to provide things like independently moveable pets / creatures, and animated scenery features via scripted animation. It involves both viewer and server-side changes.

In short, an Animesh object:

  • Can be any object (generally rigged / skinned mesh) which and contains the necessary animations and controlling scripts in its own inventory  (Contents tab of the Build floater) required for it to animate itself.
  • Can be a single mesh object or a linkset of objects (link them first, then set them to Animated Mesh via the Build floater > Features).
  • Has been flagged as and Animesh object in the project viewer, and so has an avatar skeleton associated with it.
  • Can use many existing animations.
  • Will not support its own attachments in the initial release.

Note that the focus of this project is not currently about providing fully functional NPCs at this point in time, which is seen as a follow-on project.

Resources

Viewer Update

The Animesh project viewer updated on Thursday, January 18th to version 5.1.1.511908. This includes a merge up to the Alex Ivy viewer code base, and so is only available for Windows (32-bit and 64-bit) and Mac OS X (64.bit). A number of updates are also included with the viewer:

  • Reduced lag when zooming in and out on some models.
  • Improved rendering performance when preview wireframes are displayed.
  • Some diagnostic updates and performance fixes.
  • In mesh upload, allow underscores in joint names to substitute for spaces.

Performance Profiling / Animesh Limits

As promised in the week #2 meeting, a region has been set-up on Aditi for public Animesh performance profiling which has a tri cap that can be varied (called Animesh XL), allowing it to be set higher than the 50K limit found on the other Animesh regions on Aditi. The Lab has internal regions set-up for performance profiling as well.

There has been a request for a triangle count and/or skeleton count per square metre limit, rather than the triangle count and land impact limits the Lab are currently experimenting with. Vir concedes that this may give a similar result to the Lab’s approach with tri count and LI, but also notes that people are already pushing tri counts to the limit, and he’d rather have something that helps push towards more optimised content creation. He also notes that tri count isn’t the only potential performance impact  – texture use, for example can also have an impact – so it’s a case of finding the right balance and ensuring that balance uses figures which are easy for creators / users to grasp.

The tri count limit is per object / linkset for Animesh, and is something of an approximation based data specifying the size of an object, in order to avoid having the simulator having to carry out all the triangle count calculations (and possibly impacting simulator performance). The resultant figure does under-estimate of the actual number of triangles within an object / linkset – but not, Vir believes, by a huge amount.

One issue around performance is avatar attachments, which don’t directly count towards region limits in the same way as things like LI, but which can still have an impact on performance (as can be seen with avatars wearing a lot of high-poly mesh attachments). However, re-working how attachments are handled specifically for Animesh is considered problematic, and unlikely to be re-worked (and so is being handled by a straightforward cap on how many Animesh attachments can be worn at one time – initially 1 for testing purposes).

Animation Playback Issues

It’s been noted that animations already running on an Animesh object don’t necessarily play for those entering the region where they are running, or update correctly when camming to them for the first time. This appears to be a race condition, with the viewer receiving information on the animation before it has rendered the object being animated, resulting in the animation being ignored. Vir is confident that now the cause has been found, the issue can be fixed.

There is also an issue related to the Interest List where an Animesh object in a neighbouring region fails to update (animate), even when in your field of view and draw distance.

Both of these issues are still being investigated.

There is a claim that animations fail to play when an Animesh object is attached directly from inventory. This is something that isn’t being seen by the Lab, and which might be down to code within the animation script itself, or could be an issue. Vir has requested a JIRA specifying the problem and how to reproduce it.

Bakes on Mesh

Project Summary

Extending the current avatar baking service to allow wearable textures (skins, tattoos, clothing) to be applied directly to mesh bodies as well as system avatars. This involves server-side changes, including updating the baking service to support 1024×1024 textures, and may in time lead to a reduction in the complexity of mesh avatar bodies and heads. The project is in two phases:

  • The current work to update the baking service to support 1024×1024 textures.
  • An intended follow-on project to actually support baking textures onto avatar mesh surfaces (and potentially other mesh objects as well). This has yet to fully defined in terms of implementation and when it might be slotted into SL development time frames.

This work does not include normal or specular map support, as these are not part of the existing baking service.

Current Progress

Vir believes Anchor Linden has resolved the issues around getting the appearance service updates out.

Other Items

Screen Release Estate and Multiple Monitors

The Second Life viewer is constrained to the window / screen on which it is being used: however many floaters and panels a user opens, they can only be displayed in the one window / screen, which can quickly become crowded. This had led to various suggestions on how the issue of screen real estate use might be improved, including:

  • Making floaters and panels so they can be displayed outside of the main viewer window. Firestorm actually developed a proof-of-concept model for this several years ago. However, it was just an experiment, and the overall functionality was limited. The idea was thrown open to allow viewer developers to work on the idea, but the complexity of the work meant it was never carried forward.
  • Altering Second Life so that more than one viewer session can be run from the same account at the same time: the idea here being that a use with multiple monitors could log into SL with their account, position the viewer on one screen, then log in again with the same account, and have that viewer instance on a second monitor – so they could use one for all their chat and inventory floaters, while have a clear in-world view on the other. This would require extensive changes to the back-end of SL, and so is potentially even more complicated than making the viewer floaters work outside of the main viewer window.

Next CCUG Meeting

Due to various conflicts, it appears that the next CCUG meeting will not be until Thursday, February 16th, 2018. However, as this has yet to be confirmed, the best thing for the next 2-3 weeks is to monitor the CCUG wiki page for updates and meeting notifications.

SL Linux viewer to help bridge the gap

As noted in my recent article on the promotion of the Lab’s Alex Ivy 64-bit viewer to release status, there is currently no official 64-bit support for Linux at this time.

It is hoped with will change: the Lab is establishing a viewer build environment to build a Debian version of the viewer with the various specialist libraries required by the various flavours of Linux. The hope being that this, with contributions from the open-source community, will provide a means for the Linux flavour of the viewer to continue, with viewer developers adding the specific libraries they may need as required.

It’s not clear how long it will take for all of this to mature, and for a Debian version of the viewer to appear. In the meantime, it means that as the Lab baseline their viewer build process on Alex Ivy, and existing project and release candidate viewers are updated to the Alex Ivy code, they will cease having Linux versions. This can already be seen with the 360 snapshot viewer, the project render viewer, and the Nalewka RC at the time of writing (versions 5.1.0.506743, 5.1.1.511873, and 5.1.1.511871 respectively), none of which have a Linux flavour of the viewer. As the remaining project and RC viewers currently in the pipeline are updated with the new code case, they will also be without a Linux version for the time being.

To help compensate for this, on Thursday, January 18th, 2018, the Lab release the Linux Spur release candidate viewer, version 5.0.9.329906.  Dated November 17th, 2017, this viewer is in fact the Martini RC viewer which was promoted to release status on  November 29th, 2017 – the latest viewer to be promoted to release status prior to Alex Ivy being promoted.

While it is not explicitly stated in the release notes, it is unlikely this version of the viewer will be updated with bug fixes, updates, etc., but will be offered until such time as a Linux viewer using the 64-bit libraries is made available.  As such, it may offer a means for SL viewer users on Linux wishing to continue using that viewer, rather than a TPV flavour of Linux.

Obviously, those TPVs providing their own Linux flavour of the viewer are free to continue to do so.