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).

Previewing Lab Gab 20: cloud uplift and engineering

via Linden Lab

The 20th edition of Lab Gab will be live streamed on Friday, April 3rd at 10:00 SLT (18:00 UK; 19:00 CET). For those who have not seen the official blog post about it, the segment will feature members of the Second Life Engineering team: Oz Linden, April Linden and Ekim Linden.

Oz Linden is the Lab’s Vice President of Engineering and a member of the company’s management team. Together with Grumpity Linden and Patch Linden, he is responsible for SL’s technical and operational directions. He specifically overseas the Lab’s engineering teams to manage all aspects of the Lab’s server environment (hardware and software) and the teams engaged in all aspects of viewer development and testing.

April Linden has become familiar to many SL residents for her honest and informative blog posts explaining what happened and how things were fixed when Second Life suffers a significant system upset and / or outage. As the Lab’s Systems Engineering Manager, she particularly coordinates and manages all aspects of the Lab’s server operations, including dealing with the third-party teams who physically care for the Lab’s hardware at its data co-location centre.

Ekim Linden is the Lab’s Director of Web Engineering, as manages the engineering team directly responsible for the Lab’s web properties (such as the Marketplace, the secondlife.com website, etc).

Ekim Linden (l), Oz Linden and April Linden (r) on the Lab Gab set. Credit: Linden Lab

All three are responsible for managing and coordinating the extensive work in transitioning all of the Lab’s services from their dedicated hardware and infrastructure and to recognised cloud services operated by Amazon (AWS) and Google. As such, they are appearing on Lab Gab to talk about this work – which the Lab refers to as the Cloud Uplift – although doubtless, other subjects will come up for discussion.

If you have a question you’d like to put to Oz, April or Ekim (or all of them), particularly on the uplift, make sure you submit it via the Lab Gab Google form.

As usual, the programme will be streamed via YouTube, Facebook, Mixer, or Periscope, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll have a summary of the video (and the video itself) available soon after the the broadcast, for those unable to watch live.

Second Life companion app: mini update, March 2020

As I’ve previously reported (see: Linden Lab confirm Second Life iOS client in the making), Linden Lab is developing a companion app for Second Life.

As the last mini-update I gave for the product was in July 2019 and there is some further news to be had, I thought it time to provide a further update on where the client stands.

First and foremost, while the client was initially defined as an iOS client, speaking during the 19th episode of Lab Gab on March 27th, 2020, Ebbe Altberg confirmed the Lab has now started on an Android version as well, which they have to have up to parity with the iOS version at some point.

In addition, he indicated that the iOS version is currently close to being at an “alpha” testing status, which may only be for internal testing.

So, lot’s of activity there. We have a person who’s worked on a mobile – what do we call it? Companion client, because I want to make it clear that people understand that the mobile client will be primarily a communication client, where you can chat with people, and stay connected, but it’s not a 3D viewer. So you will not be running around with your avatar in the mobile client for quite some time. But you can at least, when you’re on the road, stay connected with your friends and customers, etc.

The iOS client is very close to what we call an “alpha”; I don’t know exactly how the alpha will then progress to a beta to like a full release that people can try…

I’m not sure if alpha is even just for internal people; we probably want to get the whole company using it first, but we might, umm, some pre-production grid, get some external users involved in the alpha as well, I don’t know the exact details. But it’s being worked on; hopefully most of us will be able to use the iOS client to stay connected with Second Life in, I don’t know, a month or two, I’m guessing.

And we also have added more resources, so we now have people working on an Android version as well. So hopefully that will catch-up and will get neck-and-neck or almost parallel with iOS here by the time we get to full release. So, actively being worked on.

– Ebbe Altberg, Lab Gab, March 27th, 2020
(video extract)

Summary of What is Known

The following notes are an amalgam of my July 2019 mini-update, and more recent comments from Third Party Viewer Developer Meetings, Simulator User Group meetings and the aforementioned Lab Gab session.

General Capabilities

  • As noted, the app should initially be regarded as more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client. The intention is to provide users with a means of maintaining basic contact with other users whilst away from their main means of accessing SL.
  • It will support logging-in to the Second Life service and initially provide IM and group chat support.
  • Initially it will not:
    • Present you with an in-world location, nor will your avatar rez in-world.
    • Support local chat (as your avatar does not have a defined in-world location)

A mobile user won’t actually be in an area … they can use p2p or group chat, but not local, because we’re not rendering the world (yet) in the mobile app [and] we didn’t want things to be unbalanced: you can see me but I can’t see you, I can “go” somewhere but can’t see anything [etc.]. [But] direct IM is supported (that’s what I meant by p2p).

– Oz Linden, VP of Engineering, Simulator User Group Meeting,
March 17th, 2020

  • In theory, the app should work with both mobile ‘phones and tablets / iPads, although there may be some configuration differences.
  • Over time it will be enhanced – but additional capabilities and their order of development is still TBD.

Availability

  • As noted above, the iOS client will likely be available to users ahead of the Android client.
  • The time frame for the iOS client appearing is not confirmed, but might be in a next 2-3 months.
    • The Lab had started the work on getting the initial test versions through Apple’s acceptance process some time ago.
    • It had been previously stated that iOS users will need to have TestFlight installed on their iPhone (or iPad), as the app will be made available though Apple’s beta testing environment for apps. I assume this is still the case.

 

There may be further news on the mobile client in the April 3rd Lab Gab session, in which case, I will update this article.

Lab Gab 19 summary: Ebbe & Brett; LL, SL, Sansar & more

via Linden Lab

The 19th edition of Lab Gab was live streamed on Friday, March 27th, featuring Brett Linden, the Lab’s Senior Director of Marketing, and linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, who were invited to discuss the Lab’s response to the SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic and talk about Second life in general.

The official video of the segment is available via You Tube, and is embedded at the end of this article. The following is a summary of the key topics discussed and responses to questions. Note that the last 15 minutes of the video is something of an advert for the Linden Lab sponsored Mankind Tracer concert being held on Sunday, March 29th, which is not a part of this summary.

Sansar Summary

[0:40-3:00]

  • The decision to sell Sansar came, at least in part, from the recognition that as a platform, Sansar is at a very different stage of its evolution compared to Second Life, requiring different investment and resourcing.
  • Some 30 of the original team have received offers to join the new entity running Sansar (Wookey Project Corp), and “a bunch of them” are already back at work.
  • It appears that the focus for the platform will potentially remain on it being a platform for large scale virtual events in the music / entertainment sectors, utilising the platform’s ability to instance events for “many thousands” of attendees. Also, desktop and VR support will both likely be maintained.
    • However, the overall strategy and focus for developing Sansar is now obviously up to the new owners.
  • Linden Lab will remain a “partner”, inasmuch as Tilia will continue to be used for Sansar Dollar transactions and fiat money payouts, with Tilia also due to gain more customers in the near future..

Coronavirus Related

Dealing with the Virus

[3:00-7:48] plus as timestamped below.

  • On a set of personal notes,Ebbe, Brett and Lab Gab’s host, Strawberry Linden have thus far avoided infection (like the rest of the Lab’s staff they are working from home), but obviously, they do have concerns about the virus and its potential to impact family and friends.
  • Linden Lab is fortunate that it is exceptionally well geared towards remote working (many staff worked from home as a matter of course well before the current pandemic, and that’s been the way since the company’s formation).
  • It is not anticipated that Second Life should experience significant service interruptions due to the current health situation.
  • A comment that has been used among LL staff during calls and virtual meetings has been, “stay safe, stay virtual”.
  • [14:53-17:04] Users can help ease unnecessary stress on SL / LL staff by avoiding squabbles and upsets that can result in unnecessary abuse reports, etc., and by providing help to one another to lighten calls to support staff, as well showing support / friendliness to new users.
  • [27:55-29:33] All LL offices are closed. The co-lo data centre is open for access, if required, but all co-lo work is actually outsourced.

Usage and Concurrency

[7:48-11:09]

  • The last several weeks has seen a resurgence in the number of returning users (those who have not logged-in to SL for some time) as well as a rise in new users accessing the service.
  • New registrations are up by some 60%, with a rise in concurrency of around 10% overall.
  • These rises particularly correspond with cities, regions and countries where a lock-down is ordered.
  • Established users are encouraged to be kind and support incoming new and returning users, given they are likely trying to deal with the anxieties of the current situation.

Absolutely. We’re seeing quite [an] interesting resurgence of returning users, as well as new users coming in to explore Second Life. We see registrations up over 60% and concurrency’s up north of 10%, and we’re just a week or so into people being locked up. We can actually see countries and states that imposed strict stay-home policies, we see a corresponding jump in people in those markets jumping into Second Life.

– Ebbe Altberg, Lab Gab, March 27th

  • LL is not focusing any new features / activities specifically for those coming into SL as an alternative to watching television, playing games, etc. They are constantly working to increase registrations and user retention outside of any crisis.
  • The company is heavily committed to the the cloud uplift to AWS  / Google through until the end of the year, so there is not a lot of available resource to take on major new initiatives. This work will likely take the majority of the Lab’s technical resources through until the end of the year (see below as well).

Region Owners Impacted by the Virus & Assistance from the Lab

[17:10-18:54]

  • Contact support – see also: Region owners impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic encouraged to contact LL.
  • LL has no wish to see regions go under because holders are experiencing hardship as a result of result income at this time. however, the company also cannot afford to just give across-the-board reductions in tier.
  • Where cases can be explained  / discussed / explored, Linden Lab will try to do what they can and is taking a “human, compassionate” approach to people’s needs”.

Supporting Businesses and Education

[18:59-27:50]

  • Linden Lab has been “inundated” with requests from educators, businesses, etc., on whether Second Life can provide support for them.
  • The volume has been such that LL has had to re-assign resources to help deal with the incoming requests. There has also bee a certain amount of media attention on what Second Life can offer – the UK’s Daily Telegraph ran a paywalled article on SL and remote working on March 26th, for example)
  • It takes time to bring organisations in: understanding their requirements, getting them into SL, ensuring they have the required in-world facilities, etc.
  • In addition, LL have been carefully crafting a media campaign to raise awareness of SL as a place for socialisation and discovery. These have been garnering high rates of click-through that may be contributing to the upswing in registrations.
  • For the business side  – remote working, conferences, meetings, etc.,  – the Lab launched a micro-website and an accompanying updated FAQ promoting Second life as a working environment (see also: Second Life: support for remote working & reduced education / non-profit fees – updated, March 16th). This provides access to a series of seven turnkey region solutions for business use, comprising single and multi-region settings, capable of handling up to 350 avatars, with individual regions intentionally optimised such that they can comfortably and consistently handle 75 avatars apiece without becoming stressed.

The seven new turnkey business/ meeting environments provided by Linden Lab.

  • Education is still very much a factor in Second Life as well, with the platform again seeing an uptick in interest from educational organisations.
    • Various schools and universities can be found in the Destination Guide, and some have been active in SL for over a decade.
    • More are not publicly visible as they operate gated access for staff and students only.
  • Organisations such as CNDG are using Second Life for teaching / simulations in what is referred to as an “ambitious long-lasting run in SL”, with up to 10,000 students involved with Second Life experiential teaching modules.
  • Training also forms a part of learning in SL. For example, many nurses and medial staff have received simulation training within Second Life.
  • LL is committed to continuing to support educational use cases and make it easier for educational organisations and students to take advantage of what SL can offer.
  • Second life is also the focal point for the annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference.

Other Topics

Book Club and Showcase Streams

[11:10-14:43]

  • Despite the cloud uplift work, Linden Lab did announce two new two new initiatives on the marketing side:
    • The Second Life Book Club will launch on April 8th and a monthly event. A spin-off from the Draxtor Book Club hosted on Sansar, the Second Life Book Club will feature Draxtor Despres in conversation with authors from around the world, with the first instalment featuring Matt Ruff, Ken Liu, SL Huang, CB Lee, and a possible additional guest.
    • Showcase Streams will be a series of spontaneous “drop in” video streams that will aim to spotlight the many music, art and cultural events in Second Life.
  • Outside of the current pandemic, a reason for implementing initiatives like these is that the Lab has seen an uptick in interest in second Life as a result of the their social media engagement and the success of formats like Lab Gab in capturing non-SL users’ interest.

Name Changes

[29:41-30:52]

  • Most recently subjected to an internal pile-on test (stress test with mass use of a capability, in this case by LL staff) to uncover any previously missed bugs or issues.
  • Could now be just “a very few weeks” away from launching.

iOS Mobile Companion

[30:58-33:11]

  • Lots of activity.
  • Must be understood this will primarily be a communications tool (e.g. IMs, group messaging, etc., but not local chat or in-world presence / 3D view initially).
  • Now very close to Alpha status, which may only be for internal testing, and the path from that to initial release isn’t currently clear (iOS apps are subject to Apple strictures, among other things).
  • Work has now started on the Android version of this companion app as well, and the hope is this will quickly catch-up with the iOS version.

Future Plans / Updates

[36:10-39:27]

  • For 2020, the cloud uplift. This is occurring on a service-by-service basis on the back end (e.g. log-in service, web services, group services, etc.).
  • Transitioning the simulators will be a huge undertaking.
  • Some services have seen significant performance improvements following their transition, just because services a moving to more up-to-date hardware and newer infrastructure.
  • Because of this, 2020 will not be a major SL feature release year beyond what is already stated as being in the works (e.g. EEP, Name Changes, Premium Plus, mobile companion). Anything else will be subject to resources being available.
  • Note that more on SL tech and the uplift will be featured in the April 3rd Lab Gab which will feature Oz Linden, VP of engineering and members of his teams.

Region owners impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic encouraged to contact LL

via and © Linden Lab

Speaking at the Above the Book session at the 2020 Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference on March 26th, Patch Linden had this to say about region owners who may be facing financial issues / loss of income as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 / Covid-19 pandemic that is currently having a significant impact on people’s lives around the world. In doing so, he also  touched on the plight of the Second Norway / Sailor’s Cove East estates that formed the subject of a March 23rd report in these pages (see: Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements).

Region owners are absolutely encouraged to approach my support team, if you find yourself in a situation of difficulty because of what’s going on.

And specifically for Second Norway, we are working with Ey on that situation, and actually, I think we’re going to see a really good outcome there.

Patch’s comment can be heard at the 1:11:16 point in the session video.

As he notes, region / estate owners facing hardware as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 situation should in the first instance contact the Second Life Support team for advice / assistance.

You can read a full summary of the VWBPE session with Patch and Lab CEO Ebbe Linden here: VWBPE 2020: Above the Book with Ebbe and Patch – summary.

Second Life Skill Gaming applications re-open

via and C Linden Lab

On Tuesday, March 24th, 2020, Linden Lab announced they would be accepting a new round of applications from those interested in becoming Skill Gaming Operators and / or Skill Gaming Creators.

While gambling and games of chance that provide a Linden Dollar Token payouts are prohibited in Second Life, skill games that offer Linden Dollar Token payouts are allowed in Second Life, providing they are only available within approved Skill Gaming Regions, and both the creator of such games and the operator of any Skill Gaming region (often, but nor always, one in the same) must also be approved by Linden Lab.

Changes were made to the Second Life Gaming Policy in 2014 to reflect the provisioning of skill games in Second Life and the introduction of the Lab’s Skill Gaming regions, and from time-to-time the Lab has opened its doors to applications from those wishing to become skill game creators and / or operators (the last being at the. The last time this was done was in 2017, when applications remained open for a month.

Skill Gaming is covered by the Second Life Skill Gaming Policy, which in turn is supported by a Skill Gaming FAQ. In short, Skill Games are games which, in the Lab’s words:

1) whose outcome is determined by skill and is not contingent, in whole or in material part, upon chance; 2) requires or permits the payment of Linden Dollars to play; 3) provides a payout in Linden Dollars; and 4) is legally authorized by applicable United States and international law.

All Skill Games in Second Life must be created and / or operated by Lab approved Skill Gaming Creators (SGCs) and / or Skill Gaming Operators (SGOs), and must be located within Skill Gaming Regions. The latter must be Full regions, which cannot be located on the Mainland, and cannot be located adjacent to non-Skill Gaming Regions. They have an increased maintenance fee (tier) compared to Full regions.

Applications for those wishing to become Skill Gaming Operators and / or Skill Gaming Creators re-open on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017
Applications for those wishing to become Skill Gaming Operators and / or Skill Gaming Creators re-open on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

The Skill Gaming Policy sets out all requirements in full, and should be read, along with the FAQ, by anyone wishing to become a Skill Gaming Operator and / or Creator, or who wishes to access Skill Gaming regions and participate in the games on offer.

Links