Linux OS update to servers a cause of SL TP issues?

As we’re all (probably painfully) aware, the last few months have seen Second Life plague by region crossing issues, with users frequently disconnected (with teleports – being the most common form of region crossing – in particular being affected). One of the pains in dealing with these issues has been identifying the root cause – with most thinking being around it being a timing issue with communications between the region receiving and incoming avatar and the user’s viewer.

However, speaking at the Content Creation User Group meeting on Thursday, April 18th, Vir Linden indicated that the problem might be related to the server Linux operating system update the Lab recently rolled out.

That update – was initially deployed to a small cluster of regions on a release candidate channel called Cake, and it has been reported by those using Cake regions for testing in April, that it was those regions that first demonstrated the teleport issues – although at the time, they were thought to be local connection issues, rather than indicative of a deeper potential issue.

Commenting on the situation at the CCUG meeting, Vir said:

We’ve been having some issues on the simulator side where people tend to get disconnected during teleports … it’s been common enough that shows up as a significant blip on our stats … and that issue seems to have come along … basically when we upgraded the version of Linux that we’re using on our simulators. so we’ve had to do some roll-backs there, just to try to get that issue to go away.

[But] that pushes out the time-line for [deploying] all the things that are based on … the later version [of Linux] that we’re trying to update to … Hopefully we can get those out soon, but I can’t tell you anything about the time-line.

This might explain the scheduled maintenance witnessed on April 18th, with large number of regions going off-line and restarted. If this is the reason, whether it does see a reduction in the teleport issues with those regions rolled-back remains to be seen. But if data does indicate the region crossing issues have been reduced, then this can only be good news and potentially worth the disruption of the maintenance and restarts.

In the meantime, the audio of Vir’s comments is provided below.

 

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Lab looking to meet Linden Homes houseboat demands?

The new Linden Home houseboats have proven exceptionally popular – so popular that demand has exceed supply

With most of with eyes fixed on Fantasy Faire (you can catch my own shorthand guide if the mood takes you). Daniel Voyager was looking in another direction, and tweeted an interesting find.

It seems the Lab and the Linden Department of Public Works could be busy working to address the demand for more houseboats within the new Linden Homes continent, with Daniel identifying a new 48-region SSP development being put together south of the original SSP development area.

There has been no official word on whether the new regions are being developed in response to the demand for houseboats, but certainly, that demand has been strong enough to warrant this, with repeated disappointment being voiced over the fact the houseboats initially made available were very rapidly snapped up. As such, it seem a reasonable deduction to see this latest SSP development as a move to meet at least some of this demand.

The new SSP regions under development appear geared towards providing more space for the Linden Homes houseboats

The new regions form a series of sandbars with extensive moorings of the same general type seen within the new Linden Homes continent of Bellisseria, strongly suggesting they will provide space for more of the new houseboats (see right). Some of the waterways between the sand bars look to be a little too narrow to fit houseboats and piers – perhaps these are intended for use by float planes and the like, if not to form a natural break to prevent the regions from feeling overcrowded.

There is no available date on when the new regions might be added to Bellisseria – again assuming the intent of their development is to meet demand. Nevertheless, it does bring with it a couple of questions.

The first is: where might the new development sit in relation to Bellisseria’s existing land mass? While I have nothing more to go on than instinct, my own thoughts are the area to the south and east of Bellesseria would seem the most likely. There is plenty of space for further regions to be dropped in there (south of the lower eastern tip of the continent), whilst still leaving room for the “unfinished” line down the east side of the continent’s western “finger” without causing any feeling of crowding. Or perhaps the new regions will eventually be placed to the south of that western finger, although that might put them a little too close to the channel running to Jeogeot (unless they are linked directly to it).

The second question is more intrinsic to Bellesseria as a whole. while houses along the cost are being picked up – they did so after the houseboats had gone. So, simply provisioning more houseboats possibly runs the risk of the continent’s inland areas remaining under-populated unless they are made more inviting.

Is the slow initial take-up of houses simply that the initial selection wasn’t seen as attractive enough, or was it down to something more fundamental? A lack of ability to link them to the continent’s road structure, for example or – as I noted in Making a (Linden) houseboat a home – is it the general lack of additional amenities people might appreciate having, such as a few airstrips scattered around to offer people the attraction of being able to rez and fly their light ‘planes off of the grass. Or perhaps some of the houses along the rivers could have small boat access to the water (although this could create issues of its own).

Time will tell on both of these questions, but in the meantime – and again assuming the move is to address the demand – the potential of more houseboats becoming available in the (hopefully!) not too distant future could well be as welcome as the recent moves by the Lab to deal with issues of banlines across the new region.

Lab launches new Linden Homes

Bellisseria – New Linden Homes

On Monday, April 15th, Linden Lab launched their new Linden Homes for Premium subscribers. These new Homes, each located on a 1024 sq metre parcel, are located in a dedicated new continent – which, as I revealed in my March preview, is called Bellisseria – situated between Sansara and Jeogeot.

The continent itself – like the homes on offer – is a significant step up from the original Linden Homes and lands first introduced in 2010. Landscaped, and offering a degree of infrastructure: roads, rivers, paths, coastal regions with beaches, offshore-lighthouses, and so on. All of which offers an environment that is pleasing to the eye and make for a pleasant environment in which to live.

Bellisseria – New Linden Homes

For the initial release, two types of house are available: traditional suburban houses and houseboats, each of which comes in a total of four styles apiece. These four styles offer a varied set of looks that is enough to ensure neighbourhoods have a mix for looks. All come with a land impact of 351 LI, offering a lot of opportunity for furnishing.

It’s important to note that the houses / houseboats are not 1024 sq m in size; this is the size of the parcel on which they sit: and all have been designed to provide a degree of garden / yard space or waterside moorings for boats. The roads within the continent are driveable (although houses are not supplied with a driveway to link to the roads), while the waters are navigable in many places and a channels links the continent with Joegeot and Sansara.

Bellisseria – New Linden Homes: coastal community space

Unlike the older Linden Homes, these have controls built-in via a panel on the interior walls close to the front door. So, no going to a website to change the decorative style, set the window shutters, etc., everything can be done directly from the control panel – including getting a pack of extra fixtures, should you want to use them, and a box of textures that can be used so that any additional elements – room dividers, walls, etc., – you might want to add can match with the overall décor.

Individual style of house and houseboat are selected from the outside mailbox / life buoy. An interior control panel can be use for the window blinds, door control, etc.

To say these new Linden Homes are a major step up from the originals isn’t really saying a lot; the old Linden Homes  – as noted – are around 9 years old, and a lot has moved on in Second Life since then. However, the attempt to create a sense of community within the new continent is impressive and potentially goes some way towards reversing the “build and forget” approach to Linden Homes seen in the past – although how well it succeeds in terms of getting people not just to take the houses and engage within the develop to create local neighbourhoods / communities remains to be seen; and the matter really is up to those of us who take up the houses.

For my part, I like the approach, and several of the designs. Yes, the use of rooms in some can make them feel a little cramped, and some of the houseboat designs might not strike the right of aesthetic note, but there is no escaping the fact these are properties with potential, and if you are a Premium subscriber, they may well be worth taking a look at, even if you already hold land.

Applying for a Home

Note: for full details on the new Linden Homes – prerequisites for obtaining one, the application process, and so on, please refer to the Linden Homes wiki page.

If you have not used your default allocation of free tier – (1024 sq m), then a new Linden Home is yours without any additional payment. Otherwise, the standard Premium tier rates apply.

As with the original Linden Homes, the new homes are obtained through the Linden Homes registration page – which, at the time of writing still includes options for the existing Linden Homes, although these are to be gradually phased out. However, unlike the “old” homes, you only select with you want a house or a houseboat, not the actual style of the house / houseboat you prefer; these are selected in-world, via a mailbox for the houses or a life buoy for the houseboats. These controllers also let you change the style of your house / houseboat at any time, presenting another flexible option not available with the old Linden Homes.

The new Linden Homes are available through the existing Linden Homes registration page – just make sure Bellisseria is selected in the Theme drop-down (arrowed) and select your choice of house or houseboat by clicking on the buttons shown in the red square

The selection process is straightforward, and you’ll be required to accept the Linden Lab Terms and Conditions prior to being able to receive the details of your new home.  These are presented on the web page – just click the Go To Your Home button.

(Unsurprisingly) I’ve already claimed my new Linden Home. Being an aviator and sailor, I went for a houseboat, selecting what I personally think is the roomiest of the options, the Windlass. Split-level it offers a good feeling of space, with a rooftop deck, and good opportunities for customisation. Sitting on one of the numerous sandbars surrounding the coast of the new continent, it opens out onto a nice community beach on one side, and presents plenty of mooring space on the other.

My new Linden Home houseboat with one of my motorboats moored alongside. Note that the water in front of the houseboat is also part of the parcel, offering more mooring space, but the wooden piers are not part of the individual properties.

Using a houseboat means I also have room for boats and planes on the water – particularly through the use of a rezzing system that allows me to select which vehicle I have rezzed (up to the land capacity, obviously). For those interested, I’ve previously covered this approach to having vehicles available without using up all your land capacity in Adding a little vehicle space with a rezzing system.

Overall, a nicely done new environment. It will be interesting to see how things grow here – and how it might affect rentals among private estates for Premium members, given the overall attractiveness of this new continent. It’ll also be interesting to see how LL handle the retirement of the “old” Linden Homes, including any possible relocation among Premium subscribers who opt not to move voluntarily.

The launch was accompanied by a new video from the Lab, which I’ve embedded below.

Additional Information

High Fidelity changes direction: the reality of VR worlds today (& tomorrow?)

Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity founder and CEO (centre left) addresses the weekly General Assembly meeting in High Fidelity, Friday, April 5th, 2019. Credit: High Fidelity

On Friday, April 5th, Philip Rosedale stunned attendees at High Fildelity’s weekly General Assembly meeting (see the video here and embedded at the end of the article), when he announced that the company would no longer be sitting within the content creation / public space provisioning area with its platform, and that forthwith all public spaces hosted by the company, together with the large-scale events they have been hosting would cease as the company switches tracks to focus sole on software / platform development.

The news was greeted with a sense of shock by High Fidelity users, and the company certainly moved very quickly to follow through on the announcement, shutting down all of the public spaces it has hosted, included social spaces and their flagship Avatar Island, which opened just over a year ago as a means of showcase virtual commerce, shopping and the power of the platform’s micro payments capabilities (see Commerce in High Fidelity, this blog, February 2018).

One of the driving forces behind the decision is that High Fidelity is currently unable to gain major traction – and this despite major pushes to do so with some large-scale events pushed out to the media for promotion, and the former monthly stress tests of the system, trying to push concurrency rates up to determine just how well High Fidelity domains can handle multiple hundreds of avatars. Which is not to say all events are coming to an end: the platform’s popular bingo sessions are set to continue and – taking a leaf from Sansar’s book – High Fidelity is promoting coverage of the first operational launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with an in-world event on Thursday, April 11th.

High Fidelity have, until now, straddled themselves across the software development, content creation and event hosting environments in both trying to generate an audience for their platform and develop the platform itself. Going forward, they plan to focus solely on the latter

However, moving away from large-scale event hosting and hosting domains and environments to try to encourage user growth and instead turning to users and (I assume) suitable partners for audience-generating content, means the company will no longer be pulling against itself trying to both develop the software and platform and provide engaging content and events intended to acquire an audience and encourage their retention.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what Linden Lab have, for the most part, been trying to do with Sansar. While the company have provided various social spaces, for the most part they have left content development to users, or have facilitated content creation on behalf of partner organisations (Intel, HTC, the Smithsonian, OpTic Gaming, Roddenberry Entertainment to name a handful) through Sansar Studios – and it has recently been indicated that we’ll be seeing more of this in the future.

One potential benefit of the move for High Fidelity deomain creators is the move will hopefully spur more interest in their environments, as Rosedale noted:

By shutting down our public servers, I actually make the prediction that there will be… more people concurrent across the servers that you guys run than us. So I’m not saying that we’re giving up on the servers, I’m saying that I want you to run them.

– Philip Rosedale, April 5th, 2019

Another aspect of the decision is the slow growth of VR in the broader public marketplace. In this, High Fidelity is possibly more vulnerable than other platforms, in that while it has a Desktop option, it has largely marketed itself as “the” VR virtual spaces company. All of their major event activities; for example, the monthly One Billion in VR events, the FutVRe Lands festival, etc. (bold emphasis my own), have all been VR-centric in their titles, potentially spurring a feeling among a broader audience that High Fidelity isn’t for them due to the lack of any personal HMD.

One of the factors influence High Fidelity’s decision is the slow take-up of consumer VR

Which is not so say others platform built to try to ride the wave of VR don’t also face issues building an audience. For example, much is made of the “success” of VRChat (which can be played both in VR and via desktop), yet the fact is, its average and peak hourly concurrency is only roughly one tenth that of Second Life. But, having said that, the take up is likely to come in time. In fact, as I’ve noted in other articles on VR, right now there are clear niche markets / environments where VR can have a significant impact  – if someone can leverage them correctly: education; training / simulation; architecture / design / prototyping; healthcare; visualisation and computer modelling, etc. And in the future, as VR / AR (or more particularly MR / XR)  do start to gain a broader consumer audience traction, then opportunities for broader virtual environments will arise.

There is perhaps a broader take-way from the High Fidelity announcement: and that is, companies like High Fidelity, Linden Lab, Altspace VR, etc, are likely to face something of an uphill battle to gain an audience for their emerging platforms, even when VR does gain a firmer consumer foothold.

This is not Second Life in 2004. Second Life actually took off like a rocket, once it got working. Even though it had tons and tons of problems… but it took off like an absolute rocket. And the reason that it did, I think, was that this experience of bringing a lot of people together and letting them build things together live, well, in the time frame when we built Second Life, it had never, ever been seen by anyone …

The problem we have today is that that’s just not true. The internet affords us many, many, many, many different ways to be together as people, for example, or just to chat. And so one of the things we are up against here is that there is not as much of a genesis moment … Coming on-line you just don’t have the kind of meme in the sense of a grand or cultural meme kind of written out there like Second Life did. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to make it. It simply means that we have to be more clever and the strategy that we use to get people in here has to be somewhat different.

– Philip Rosedale, April 5th, 2019

In other words, Second Life has been successful because, at the time of its birth and in the years of its initial growth, it was largely unique on all fronts in the way it captured people’s imaginations*, and its broadness of scope and its ability to embrace people’s imaginations and desires meant it could gather an audience to its shores long before anything came along to seriously challenge it.

This is no longer the case. Today, the digital realms we have at our fingertips are limitless, be they for gaming, socialising, sharing, entire virtual environments, and so on. Whatever we might be seeking, the chances are there is already something there to sate appetites. Even creators can build and mod for a range of games and environments and – through the likes of Unity and Unreal and so on – build environments, all without necessarily getting too hung up on arcane tools built-in to platforms.

Thus, and even if / when VR does become far more consumer mainstream, any attempt to build a world-girdling, audience-rich metaverse is going to face something of a challenge without a significant fiscal weight behind it. Not just in terms of developing the technology, but also into the marketing and PR and – most importantly – the licensing of content. To put this last point another way: were OASIS real, would all the models, characters, and so on from major franchises / brands seen within it really be user-built, or would they more likely be the result of hefty licensing deals that brings the content to the platform whilst protecting the rights (and royalties) of the licensors?

But this is looking further down the road. Right now, High Fidelity’s decision is worth marking; how much of a wider impact it has is a matter yet to be seen.

* Revised, from the original after Will Burns correctly reminded me Active Worlds predated SL.

Lab blogs on SL teleport / region crossing disconnects

(Copyright Linden Lab)

As I’ve been reporting in my weekly Simulator User Group meeting summaries and my Third-Party Viewer Developer meeting updates, there have been widespread issues with disconnects during region crossings – both via teleport and physical region crossings (e.g. via boat or aircraft or on foot).

Various theories have popped up over the weeks as to why the problem is occurring  – with fingers most often being pointed at the server-side deployment of the Environment Enhancement Project (EEP). Whether or not EEP is responsible or not is hard to judge.

As I noted in my March 30th TPVD meeting notes, one of the problems with the issues is that they appear to strike randomly, and cannot be reproduced with any consistency; were a single cause behind them, it’s not unreasonable to assume that investigations would lead to a point where some degree of reproduction could be manifested.

It has been suggested by some users that de-rendering the sky (CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-6) before a teleport attempt can apparently ease the issue – although this is hardly a fix (and certainly no help to aviators and sailors), nor does it appear to work in all cases.

As trying to get to the root cause(s) of the problem is taking time, on Monday, April 8th, Linden Lab issued a blog post of their own on the matter, which reads in full:

Many Residents have noted that in the last few weeks we have had an increase in disconnects during a teleport. These occur when an avatar attempts to teleport to a new Region (or cross a Region boundary, which is handled similarly internally) and the teleport or Region crossing takes longer than usual.  Instead of arriving at the expected destination, the viewer disconnects with a message like:

Darn. You have been logged out of Second Life.

You have been disconnected from the region you were in.

We do not currently believe that this is specific to any viewer, and it can affect any pair of Regions (it seems to be a timing-sensitive failure in the hand-off between one simulator and the next).  There is no known workaround – please continue logging back in to get where you were going in the meantime.

We are very much aware of the problem, and have a crack team trying to track it down and correct it. They’re putting in long hours and exploring all the possibilities. Quite unfortunately, this problem dodged our usual monitors of the behaviour of simulators in the Release Channels, and as a result we’re also enhancing those monitors to prevent similar problems getting past us in the future.

We’re sorry about this – we empathise with how disruptive it has been.

As noted, updates are being provided as available, through the various related User Group meetings, and I’ll continue to endeavour to reflect these through my relevant User Group meeting updates.

Copyright, the EU and user-generated content (2)

On Tuesday, March 26th, 2019, the European Parliament voted in favour of the EU’s new European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. As I noted in Copyright, the EU and user-generated content, this has proven a controversial piece of legislation. Although intended to help protect the rights of content providers / creators, aspects of the Directive – notably Articles 3, 11 and 13 – have been seen by opponents as potentially causing damage to the Internet.

These three articles are, in summary:

  • Article 3, relating to text and data mining, which could adversely hit genuine research organisations and things like tech start-ups in Europe (see Why The Copyright Directive Lacks (Artificial) Intelligence as an example).
  • Article 11, (colloquially referred to as “the link tax”) which could severely restrict how we can share links, and information found on European on-line sites.
  • Article 13 (the so-called “meme tax”, although its scope is far greater), which has drawn the heaviest criticism,which could do much to block or restrict the availability of user-generated content.

Article 13 – which is now, somewhat confusingly, Article 17 –  has been of particular concern, as it pushes the onus of rights protection aware from rights holders and pro-actively onto the shoulders content sharing platforms, which potentially causes issues, as I noted when writing on the topic at the start of March:

Aimed at the likes of Google (including YouTube), Facebook and the like, Article 13 could fundamentally impact any platform playing host to user-generated content (UGC), including Second Life, Sansar and other virtual worlds.

Under the Article, all such services are expected to pro-actively prevent any content that might violate the Directive from being uploaded. They are to do so through the use of “proportionate content recognition technologies” – that is, automated content filtering, designed to block anything that might by in violation of copyright. However, such systems a) may not be affordable to those required to implement them, and b) don’t actually work as advertised (as is the case with Google’s multi-million-dollar ContentID system, which has been shown to be far from successful).

Drawing the loudest criticism, Articles 11 and 13 (/ 17) have seen the Directive pass through a number of re-writes, and amendments were being put forward right up until February 2019. The final Parliamentary vote was subject to intense debate, but saw the Directive pass with 348 votes in favour, 274 against. A proposal to allow MEPs to debate and vote on individual amendments was rejected by just five votes*.

So now the vote has been taken, what does this mean?

Well, contrary to the more alarmist reactions, the Internet is not about to totally implode before the weekend arrives; nor are we going to see sudden changes to policies relating to content upload within Second Life. But the risk to EU based content creators, bloggers, vloggers, streamers, etc., is still very much there, and shouldn’t be sidelined; it’s just that there are some more steps the Directive must go through.


Julia Rada, former rapporteur of the EU’s Parliament’s review of the 2001 Copyright Directive referring to the new EU Copyright Directive as “a disaster for the Internet and a generation”

The first of these will come on April 9th, when the Directive is put to the European Council for adoption. Until recently, this looked like a foregone conclusion. However, despite being one of two countries responsible for the final wording of Article 13 (/ 17) in particular, it seems Germany is having something of a change of heart, with their Minister of Justice publicly opposing the idea of upload filters:

We think #Uploadfilter is the wrong Way to go about it. Dear Union, if You want to maintain a Spark of Credibility, You support our Motion in the European Parliament. How we can prevent Upload Filters.

– German Minister of Justice Katarina Barley on Article 13 via Twitter, March 23rd

This means Germany might still retract its support, particularly giving the depth of public opposition to Article 13 (/ 17) that has been voiced. While this seems unlikely (see the video above), it is still important because five other member states – the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Italy, and Finland – have voiced public opposition to the Directive the vote. So should Germany, a key nation behind the legislation and of the EU, change its mind between now and April 9th, it would prevent a Council majority being reached. This would likely result in further negotiations n the Directive being required after the EU elections due to be held on May 26th, 2019 – elections which could see those determined to see the Directive passed over and above the many concerns raised, voted out of office.

And even if the Council pass the Directive, it will still take time to come into effect. EU nations (and probably the UK, despite Brexit), are theoretically allowed two years to transpose EU Directives into legislation; more often than not, it takes longer than this to be achieved. In the case of Article 13 (/ 17), the process could well be exacerbated by the fact  – and as I again noted in my March 5th article – it contains many holes which need to be dealt with. This in itself could result in a chaotic situation – something that activists in Germany and Poland, as well as concerned organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation are already taking up ahead of the April 9th EU Council meeting.

Despite potentially benefiting from the Directive and Article 13 (/ 17) Google, whose parent Alphabet has spent $100 million pursuing the development of content recognition filters, has joined with other major players within EDiMA, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Snap and Microsoft, in speaking out against the vote, noting the Copyright Directive stands at odds with other European legislation:

EDiMA, representing digital businesses and online platforms in Europe, regrets the lack of clarity and practicality of two key articles of the Directive.

Specifically, Article 11 of the Directive have been found to be ambiguous and will lead to the greater likelihood of litigation. Whilst Article 13 continues to be technically unworkable because it imposes a monitoring obligation on platforms, in conflict with the e-Commerce Directive which states that there should be none.

– from EDiMA reaction: EU Copyright Directive is not
fit for [the] Digital Era

The Computer & Communications Industry Association in Europe has similarly spoken out against the passage of the Directive, referring to it as a “missed opportunity” and commenting:

We regret the adoption by the EU Parliament of the #copyright directive. We fear that upload filters and the press publishers’ right will harm on-line innovation and restrict on-line freedoms.

Some hope that gentler language added to Article 13 (/ 17) after the September 2018 vote, and which talks of platforms putting the means in place for rights holders to more ready point to infringements in order to have them removed, might present a means to prevent the more dreaded impact of the Directive. But this is very far from certain.

As such, while a significant battle against the EU Copyright Directive has been lost, it is not unreasonable to say the war is now over – but it is going to be significantly harder to win for opponents of Articles 11 and 13 (/ 17) as the fight moves to a more national level in order to persuade governments and the Council of the Directive’s flaws.

Sources:

* Ciaran Laval, via Twitter, informed me this was actually the result of an error: a group of Swedish MEPs apparently intended to vote in favour of allowing the debate on individual Articles, but pressed the wrong electronic buttons. Unfortunately, the vote stands as recorded, but the error has been noted.