2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #41

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, October 11th. These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Dates and times are currently floating, so check the Sansar Atlas events sections each week. The meeting was hosted by Eliot, and well attended by members of the Sansar product team, with Ebbe also dropping in.

Release Process Flow: Overview

The various teams working on Sansar are developing and refining multiple features and aspects of the platform, and periodically, a feature freeze is called.

  • This occurs roughly 2-weeks from the planned deployment date for the next release.
  • At this point the decision is made on which features are developed and stable enough to include in that release, and no additional features tend to be added to the release after the feature freeze.
  • Those features assigned to the release then go through extensive testing and bug squashing.
  • The amount of bug fixing, etc, required determines whether the release ships on the target date or slips.

While dates are not set in stone, this cycle means that for the next release, R27, the feature freeze date in October 17th, 2018, and the planned release date in October 31st, 2018.

Release 26: Thumbs Up

General Points

  • New VR hand gestures: the current Vive controller will support the hand clenching gesture; however, as noted in the release notes and my R26 overview, full Vive support for all of the new hand gestures will likely come with support for the new Vive hand controllers.
  • Galen has developed two scripted elements to support the new broadcast capability:
    • The first is a simple trigger volume that can be used for things like stage settings, etc. An avatar standing in the trigger volume will have their voice automatically broadcast throughout the experience.
    • The second is a broadcast script that can be configured to work as required within a scene.
    • Linden lab will be providing simple scripts to support broadcasting as well.
  • Panel readability in VR: there have been requests that the various client panels now visible in VR (e.g. chat, settings) be given a transparent background so they don’t block the world view so much.  However, these requests are countered by those who felt that having the chat panel fairly transparent (as it was during the initial release) made reading text difficult. For their part, the Lab believe what they have with the panels may be the best solution.
  • There appears to be a bug in the scene object drop-down that can lead to something other than the desired object being selected. This has been noted by the Lab, but at the time of the meeting the status of any fix was unknown.
  • A major under-the-hood change made in R26 is to the way the camera’s focus is handled. While this is now much improved, there are edge-cases that need to be tweaked. Examples of this:
    • If an avatar’s name tag is displayed by hovering over it, and an attempt is made to right-click and drag the camera around when the mouse pointer is over the name tag, the camera may not actually move.
    • When selecting objects in the scene-object drop-down, it can be possible to point to one object, but actually select another on clicking.
    • When renaming an object, clicking the anchor the cursor in the text entry field may result in the rename dialogue vanishing.
    • As there is no mechanism to push updates to customers, items updated in this way must be re-purchased at present.
  • Chat copy / paste has been lost in both VR and Desktop mode, this should be corrected in the next release.

Permissions Licensing

  • Materials editing: the decisions to disable in-scene materials editing on purchased legacy objects and the need to make new objects full perm in order to allow in-scene materials editing have both been criticised. Both decisions may yet be subject to revision.
  • Some creators have already started re-listed their items on the store to enable the save to inventory capability introduced with R26.
    • Only re-listing is required to enable this; items do not have to be completely re-uploaded and listing.
    • The process is put the item into a scene, take in to inventory, set the permissions against it, then upload it to the store.
  • It been requested that the Lab provide a means of flagging or tagging items on the Store (and in inventory – which might be harder) to indicate they are legacy (and therefore outside of the new permissions / licensing system). For example, a tag on Store listings to say “legacy Content” or similar, and / or legacy items in inventory appearing in a different colour – e.g. red.

R27 Release (October)

Not many details as yet, as the freeze features date hasn’t been reached. However, the release will hopefully include:

  • Sprint set via settings button.
  • Custom animations upload.

Other Items

  • A point release is being worked on. This may include a fix for an issue whereby assets added to a legacy scene can inherit legacy permissions (those enforced prior to the R26 release).  This release may also include fixes related to the use of folders in scene editing and  other fixes.
  • Twitch channels: when watching a Twitch channel from within Sansar, all avatars watching the stream count as individuals on the stream count.
  • IK issues in VR: when using VR it is still possible to end up with an avatar looking like it is a professional contortionist (or trying to impersonate a pretzel). The Lab is still working on the IK system to prevent this.
  • Setting avatar height / reach arm length: a recent change was to introduce an “arm stretch” movement that is tied to the scaling of an avatar. The result is intended to have the avatar’s height, reach, arm length more close match the user’s actual height, reach and arm length.
    • This help ensures a naturally sense of proportion between user and avatar, for comfort of movement, etc.
    • It has specifically been done to allow avatar scaling in the future – so movements will continue to feel natural in whatever size of avatar is being used, and arm reach will appear correctly proportioned to body size, etc.
    • It does mean there will be a difference in perspective: when inside an experience with a small avatar, the space will appear to be much larger than when using a big avatar.
    • A side issue with this is that the stretch movement has to be performed whenever a headset is worn.The Lab is looking to improve on this, so the movement only has to be performed once, or in specific situation (e.g. when seated or standing).
  • Private messaging. Currently, to find out who is sending a private message, all private messages must be opened. This has been reported and a fix is in the works.
  • Exporting own models: currently, it is not possible to export models from Sansar. With the introduction of the licensing system with R26, it may in the future be possible for creators to export their own models they’ve uploaded to Sansar to help deal with issues of local loss of creations, etc. This currently isn’t a priority for the Lab to develop.
  • Materials editing on uploaded clothing: this has been requested so as to avoid the need to repeatedly upload an item when making adjustments to it. The request will be looked into.
  • The desktop throw animation has been tweaked, and now makes it difficult to simply drop an object after picking it up, and is proving somewhat unpopular.
  • Combining multiple objects into a single unit for resale: how this will work is still under consideration at the Lab. The idea currently being considered is to utilise a folders based approach: saving multiple items (complete with all the local transforms and scripts and associations they have) and extract that back to inventory, then offer the folder on for sale through the Store. People buying the folder would then be able to place it in their scene and see the objects exactly as they were when “packaged”.
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Alo’s Black and Colours in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: Black and Colours

Opening on Friday, October 12th, 2018 at 12:00 noon SLT is a new installation by Alo (Aloisio Congrejo). Black and Colours is being hosted in The Womb, the recently revamped exhibition space at DiXmiX Gallery. And I have to say, that it is a curious piece.

Lacking liner notes from the artist, the installation is a multi-faceted piece entirely open to interpretation. Within the darkened hall is a mix of 2D the 3D elements, some of which are presented more-or-less as “traditional” photos; others appear to be 3D images offered 2D images; some are strongly abstract in nature while others mimic a polarisation approach similar to that found used by 3D movies to present what appears to be 2D art in 3D. All of which adds up to a richly diverse installation.

DiXmiX Gallery: Black and Colours

As might be expected from reading the title of the installation, there is a deliberate play through between black and the use of colours – most notably red and yellow, together with that other neutral – white. This is itself highly effective in drawing the eye into the installation, while the linear aspect in much of the art adds a geometric dimension to the entire installation that allows the wall mounted elements (together with the figures that might be close to them) to both exist independently to one another, and yet also be bound together by the white-on-black pattern of lines on the floor.

This subtle linking may well not be initially apparent, the eye perhaps initially being drawn to a colourful, strongly abstract free-standing scene within the hall. At first looking like paper shapes patterned in swirls and lines of black-and-white or red-and-black, skewered by red, yellow and black pins forced into the floor, these shapes are transformed by camming around them into  what might be dancing couples caught in a complex set of tangos performed to unheard music.

DiXmiX Gallery: Black and Colours

This abstract element is bookended on either side along the length of the hall by Alo’s photo images, which I confess to finding the most eye-catching. Furthest from the floor sculpture is a series of enticing white-on-black images of a near-naked woman. Marvellously lit, this series of images looks almost 3D in its execution, each of the images emphasising a different element of her pose: full body, booted legs, gloves arms with turned-away head between… In their midst is a further version of the image set behind 3D elements, all of which combine to suggest – from a distance, 2D art projected as a 3D piece.

The other display is a subtle and complex set of images of a woman’s head which I strongly recommend camming across slowly to fully appreciate them. Each is a layered construct, designed to mimic a polarised 3D effect, something which comes into focus (quite literally) as the camera faces them and glides from one side to the other. Not only does this highlight the “polarising” element, it also brings forth the subtle shift in colour tones used within the images.

DiXmiX Gallery: Black and Colours

I confess I have absolutely no idea how to interpret or quantify Black And Colours – or even determine if it needs interpreting in any way; I also admit there are elements to the piece that escape my ability to quantify. But this does not diminish  Black and Colours in any way; it simply means this is a piece very open to personal interpretation throughout, and thus an installation that should be witnessed first-hand.

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2018 SL UG updates #41/2: CCUG summary

A simple 5-minute (including uploading the textures) demo of EEP, replacing the Sun and Moon with Mars and Jupiter respectively, then adjusting their respective sizes &; putting them in the same quadrant of the sky

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on Thursday, October 11th, 2018 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, meeting SLurl, etc, are usually available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

Environmental Enhancement Project (EEP)

Project Summary

A set of environmental enhancements, including:

  • The ability for region / parcel owners to define the environment (sky, sun, moon, clouds, water settings) at the parcel level.
  • New environment asset types (Sky, Water, Day that can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others.
    • Day assets can include four Sky “tracks” defined by height: ground level (which includes altitudes up to 1,000m) and (optionally) 1,000m and above; 2,000m and above and 3,000m and above, plus a Water “track”.
  • Experience-based environment functions
  • An extended day cycle (e.g a 24/7 cycle) and extended environmental parameters.
  • There are no EEP parameters for manipulating the SL wind.
  • EPP will also include some rendering enhancements  and new shaders as well (being developed by Graham Linden), which will allow for effects such as crepuscular rays (“God rays”)
    • These will be an atmospheric effect, not any kind of object or asset or XML handler.
  • The new LSL functions for finding the time of day according to the position of the windlight Sun or Moon have been completed, and are more accurate than the current options.
  • EEP will not include things like rain or snow.
  • It will still be possible to set windlight local to your own viewer.

Resources

Current Status

  • Testing still in progress on Aditi, with test parcels for users still available.
  • Test region: Aditi EEP Testing (secondlife://Aditi/secondlife/EEPTesting/128/128/23).
    • Parcels cost L$1, but as Aditi funds are provided by Linden Lab, you are not paying for anything with your own money.
    • You MUST be using the EEP test viewer why trying to purchase a parcel on the test region – if you are using any other viewer, your purchase will time out.
  • Feedback via Jira (bugs and requests) and / or through comments on the forum feedback thread.
  • An update to the project viewer is expected soon.
  • Graham Linden is continuing to work on the shader support.

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 viewer and 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.

This work does not include normal or specular map support, as these are not part of the existing Bake Service, nor are they recognised as system wearables.

Resources

Current Status

The update to the Bake Service to support 1024×1024 textures has run into problems. Anchor Linden is working on fixes for the issues, and once these have been implemented then the viewer should receive and update as well.

Animesh

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.

Resources

Current Status

  • The RC viewer updated on October 8th to version 6.0.0.520211. It had been hoped with would be the last RC version, but issues mean this will not be the case.
  • Performance issue:  BUG-225584 and forum thread. This is related to the new dynamic bound box used with Animesh. Vir is working on the issue, and Beq Janus from the Firestorm team has been involved in investigations as to the degree of potential impact. There have been one or two sensationalist blog headlines – best to read the forum thread and the bug report.
    • Part of the thread has spun away into handling attachments on Animesh. While this is not a part of the initial Animesh release, hopefully the discussions can be split off into their own thread.
  • Imposters issue: Animesh objects can imposter independently to avatars. This can result in an avatar rendering normally when seen by others, but any attached Animesh being impostered (or possibly vice-versa).
    • This is being fixed so that an Animesh attachment will now have the same imposter setting as its parent avatar. The update will be in the next RC update.
  • There is a Mac-specific graphics issue that can result in Animesh objects vanishing from the scene when crossing a region. This is also being worked on.

Animesh and the Marketplace

  • There has been some preliminary discussions in the Lab on how to make Animish distinguishable / locatable on the Marketplace (e.g. categories, etc.).
  • No decisions as yet, but the Lab is interested in feedback at CCUG meetings or through the Animesh feedback thread.
  • Problem here is the risk of confusion cross-over. Do trees animated via Animesh require their own sub-category under “Animesh”, should they have  an “Animesh” style sub-category under trees and shrubs (itself already a sub-category of Home and Garden >: Landscaping)?
    • There’s also the question of what to call an over-arching category: “Animesh” is a truncation of “Animated Mesh”, and has been used within the project, etc., but those unfamiliar with the project might be confused by it; so might “Animated Mesh” be preferable? A problem here is “Animated Mesh” itself is a little ambiguous in meaning.
  • Triangle counts have been suggested as an alternative, but this requires some form of automated count system for items uploaded to the MP, which in turn would require significant changes to the MP tools.
    • Even if a tri count could be auto-generated, would people take more notice of it or a given LI?

In Brief

  • A portion of the meeting was taken up with Blender / Maya specific conversations on bone placement for making taller avatars or for use in things like snakes and ropes.
  • There was some discussion on altering the axis rotation in the mesh uploader to match the likes of Maya and Substance Painter. As Vir noted in the meeting, there are an array of potential improvements that could be considered for the uploader – but as yet, a specific project hasn’t been defined to it – and any such project would likely be open for creator input.
  • Support for additional material maps: there has been various discussions (in the forums, etc), but SL supporting additional material maps – roughness, metalness, displacement, etc. Nothing official is on the table from the Lab,  but earlier in 2018, Kitty Barnett did some experimenting with displacement maps with the Catznip viewer – although this should not be taken to mean this is something that will be supported by Catznip or other viewers.
    • Vir hopes that Graham Linden will be able to give some thoughts on expanding material maps support in the future CCUG meeting.
Displacement maps, experimented with by Kitty Barnett earlier in 2018, might – if they could be implemented – add further depth to surfaces. For example: top left – a prim wall with a brick texture; top right: a prim wall with a texture and normal map applied, as we’re used to seeing in Second Life – some depth is added to the cement grouting between the bricks etc. Bottom centre: the same prim wall with the same texture added, but now using a displacement map: note the greater apparent depth between bricks and cement grouting, etc (highlighted).

 

 

SL Marketplace update: wish lists and favourites

via Linden Lab

After  pause of a couple of weeks when a last-minute hitch held up deployment, the latest Marketplace update rolled out during week #41, with the Lab blogging about it on Wednesday, October 10th, 2018.

It’s an update that sees a trio of new features added to the MP, all of which have been the subject of numerous requests – wish lists and favourites / follows. The update also includes a number of bug fixes.

For this article, I’m looking purely at the wish list and favourites options:

  • Wish lists:
    • Add items you’re not ready to buy to your personal wish list.
    • Make purchases from your wish list.
    • Share your wish list with friends (so they can buy you rez day gifts, etc.).
  • Favourites:
    • Add favourite items to a personal list for easy relocation.
    • Make purchases from your list.
    • Add favourite products to your wish list.
    • Add favourite stores to your list (use them to check on new releases more easily).
    • View one of your favourite stores from the list.

Adding Items to Your Wish List and Favourites Lists

Individual items are added to your wish list   / favourites list by viewing them in the Marketplace and then click on the Add to Wishlist or Add to Favourites options, located on the right of the item display.

Individual items can easily be added to your personal wish list or favourites list

Add A Store to Your Favourites

To add a store to your favourites, open the store’s main page in the Marketplace, and click the Add To Favourite Stores option on the left of the store’s main page.

Adding a Marketplace store to your Favourites

Viewing Your Favourites

You can view your favourites whilst on the Marketplace by clicking on your account name (top right) to go to your account page, then clicking the My Favourites drop-down, which will display the options: Products (favourites), Stores, Wishlist. The Products page will open by default, but may be blank if you have not selected any favourites.

You can access your lists from your Marketplace account page : click your account name at the top (arrowed) then click the My Favourites drop-down (circled, left). This will display the list options and open your Products (favourites) page (shown). Note the Add To Wishlist button, arrowed at the bottom.

With these lists:

  • Clicking on an item in the Product or Wishlist pages will take you to the Marketplace listing for that item.
  • Stores in the stores list will be displayed with up to four of their most recent releases.
  • Clicking on a store in the Stores page will (unsurprisingly) take you to the store.
  • Listed items / stores can be removed individually or in bulk by clicking on the check box on the left of an item / store and then clicking the delete button.
  • Favourite items can be added to your wish list via the Add To Wishlist button on the Product page.
  • You can share your wish list with friend using a dedicated URL:
  • You can view your wish list or list of stores directly using the following URLs:

 

Sansar: R26 – the thumbs-up release

The new avatar VR gesture and ability to hold objects correctly – parts of the R26 Thumbs Up release. Credit: Linden Lab

On Tuesday, October 9th, Linden Lab issues the October release for Sansar (R26). Called the thumbs-up release, it includes some significant updates and additions, not all of which I can review in-depth, simply because they are VR-oriented. However, the VR such is not perhaps the most significant element within the release – although it is impressive.

This article is designed to provide an illustrative summary of the release, but do note the lack of an VR headset and controller on my part means that any features described in detail here are looked at from the Desktop Mode.

The full release notes for R26 are available here.

Permissions / Licensing System

This is perhaps the most anticipated element within the release. With it, content creators can now set permissions against their goods, allowing them to be sold and re-sold via the Sansar Store.

Resale Price and Buyer’s Permissions

Sansar’s permissions system is built around the concept of the supply chain: creators can sell complete items “as is”, or they can create items – such as components as well as complete objects like a house or a suite of furniture, etc.,), expressly for other creators to use in their own creations which can also be sold on to consumers, with both the maker of the object and the creator of the original item receive payment.

This means, for example, a creator might make the engine and gearbox for use in cars and place them for sale / resale in the store for use in vehicle products built by others. When one of those vehicles is subsequently sold, the creator of the engine / gearbox receives a commission from the sale.  To achieve this, the permissions  / licensing system has two key elements:

  • The Resale Price: set by the original creator, it defines the price at which the item must be resold and is their commission on any re-sales of that item / any objects in which it is used. So using the car engine / gearbox example, if the resale price for these is set at S$400, then anyone building a car using them must factor this amount into their car price, as the engine / gearbox creator will receive S$400 from the sale of each car using the engine / gearbox.
  • The Buyers Permissions: set by the creator of an object sold via the Store, these define what purchasers can change with the object when they have bought it.
Creators can now set permissions on the elements in their objects purchasers can change, or they can opt to offer then with full permissions. Credit: Linden Lab.

There are some important concepts around resale prices and buyer’s permissions, so please read the official documents linked to above – particularly the small print.

Additional Notes On Permissions

  • Save to Inventory: Objects with edited properties or with additional components can now be saved from a scene in Edit mode back to inventory.
    • With this release, it is still not possible to join two objects together.
    • Note: Legacy items created by other store sellers cannot be saved back to the inventory.
  • Licensing: Any item uploaded to Sansar or saved back to inventory will not contain a basic license with information of the avatar uploading / saving it. This is part of the mechanism to allow items to be resold and commissions paid.
  • Disable materials editing: it is no longer possible to change the materials of legacy items purchased prior to this release. For new items, materials editing can be enabled by giving full editing permissions or limit it by setting it to property changes only.

Store Integration

With the September 2018 R25 release, Linden Lab took the first step towards integrating the Sansar Store into the client. At that time, users could browse the store from within the client, but when wishing to purchase an item would be transferred to the web version of the Store in their browser to complete their purchase.

With this release, purchases can now be completed within the client.

With R26, it is possible to browse the Sansar Store within the Sansar client and complete purchases from within it as well

Continue reading “Sansar: R26 – the thumbs-up release”

Time on a Black Bayou Lake in Second Life

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on FlickrBlack Bayou Lake – click any image for full size

Jade Koltai and Serene Footman have a reputation for designing stunning regions (see my reviews of FurillenKhodovarikha, La Digue du Braek and Isle of May to give you an idea, if you’re unfamiliar with their past work). Their designs are  generally inspired by locations to be found in the physical world, and are always a stunning and photogenic mix of beauty, presentation and personal interpretation that are a must-see.

Such is the case with their latest offering, Black Bayou Lake, which recently opened in October. We were alerted to it by friend and photographer AJ (AnyaJurelle). “It’s beautiful!” AJ informed me via IM. “Really well put together!”  And she’s not at all wrong.

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on FlickrBlack Bayou Lake

As is always the way with Serene and Jade, they not only design a region – they provide extensive background information on their inspiration and thoughts on the design through the Furillen website. Doing so adds considerable depth to their designs, and makes visiting any of their regions both visually informative and stimulating in the way they can reveal far off places to us. This is once again the case with this region.

Black Bayou Lake  is located in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. The lake is part of an 800 acre nature reserve which seethes with wildlife: there are many species of bird, insect, reptile and fish, along with a variety of trees such as cherrybark oak, cedar elm, ash, hickories, willow oak, shortleaf pine, loblolly pine, mockernut hickory and post oak. It’s a stunning place, which attracted us because we had not yet tried designing a sim that consists mainly of water.

– Serene Footman describing the inspiration behind Black Bayou Lake in Second Life

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on FlickrBlack Bayou Lake

Serene notes that not only is the lake alive with wildlife and flora, it can also – thanks to the may denuded trees found in its waters – be a somewhat creepy place. All of this is perfectly captured in the region design, which casts the lake under a darkening, cloud-laden sky, just as the mist is rising through the tall grass and reeds. It’s a perfect look and feel for the time of year, but such is the design of the region it is perfect for photographing under a broad range of environment settings, and I opted to go with a little more daylight with the images here.

To try to describe this raw beauty of this location would be pointless; it has to be seen to be appreciated, such is the love and care with which it has been designed and everything within it has been curated to present a genuinely immersive setting that carries the visitor into the heart of the Louisiana swamplands, revealing both their natural and man-made beauty whilst incorporating many touches we all tend to associate with bayou life, courtesy of natural history programmes and fictional films.

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on FlickrBlack Bayou Lake

The natural beauty is fully evident in the mix of and water in this wetland. Trees and mangroves rise from the water and cling to the more solid grassland areas, the tall grass mixing with reeds along the water’s edge to make is difficult in places to discern where dry ends and wet begins. Birds and water fowl can be seen and heard throughout (it’s absolutely essential a visit has local sounds enabled!), while alligators patrol the waters as a warning to would-be waders.

The man-made beauty comes in the ramshackle nature of the buildings to be found scattered across the land. Run-down, some with once-bright paint now dried and fading with the passage of time, they are both a reminder of the poverty that can be found within the bayou and the pride those living there can take in their lifestyle and ways: airboats, also looking a little aged, sit with engines in pristine working order and fish dry outdoors  in a sign of independent living.

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on FlickrBlack Bayou Lake

One of the cabins also encompasses the mystique of the bayou so beloved of fiction. Within its walls are the paraphernalia of the occult: a pentagram marked on the floor, voodoo dolls suspended from the sealed, tarot cards on (or dancing over) a table where  crystal ball sits… It’s a place hidden behind shrubs among the gnarled fingers of tress pointing to the sky, hiding but nevertheless waiting to be found.

A major feature within the physical Black Bayou Lake, as Serene notes in his blog post, is a raised walkway that allows people to venture out over the lake. This has a distinctive inverted V section rising above the surroundings, and Jade and Serene have included their own version of the board walk, complete with its unusual V section as a part of this design.

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on FlickrBlack Bayou Lake

Wonderfully atmospheric, with careful attention to detail and plenty to discover and photograph, Black Bayou Lake is another visual feast from Serene and Jade. It will, however only be around for a short time – so if you are planning an excursion, do not leave it too long before going.

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