A little Edelweiss in Second Life

The CONVAIR Edelweiss Chalet at Isla Caitinara with a Trompe Loeil pavilion on the deck

In December 2020 I picked up the CONVAIR Bridge House by Tobias Convair for use on our main island home in Second Norway (see: A Bridge House in Second Life). It’s a nice looking house with a good internal layout and it fits well with the Second Norway environment, having something of a Scandinavian feel.

It is also a design that gave me something of a taste for CONVAIR builds. So when we recently visited The Redwoods (see: Exploring The Redwoods of Second Life) and saw another CONVAIR build being used as the park lodge, I started getting the itch to see how well it might fit as yet another alternative for our house – and as it turns out, it does so fairly well.

The design in question is the Edelweiss Chalet, a two-storey design with wood exterior and exposed beams and woodwork inside. Unfurnished at purchase, it is priced at L$2,200 both in-world and on the Marketplace, and is supplied Copy and Modify. While delivered boxed, it doesn’t come with a rezzer. Instead, the entire 99 LI building is a single item that can be pulled out of inventory and positioned as required.

The layout comprises a single large main room on the ground floor with two smaller rooms at one end. the upper floor area is split between a bedroom and gallery overlooking the main room and one end and reached via a staircase, with a loft-like space accessed via a ladder located at the other end of the house. This sits over a broad verandah that also continues along the length of one side of the house.

The CONVAIR Edelweiss Chalet at Isla Caitinara with a Trompe Loeil pavilion on the deck

This verandah is one of the attractions of the house. As it is raised on stilts, the house can sit partially over water, making the long arm of the verandah – with suitable modification – ideal for mooring boats.

Having said that, the slits were something we needed at Isla Caitinara, as the water’s edge there is sufficiently elevated. This allowed me to locate the house at ground level, the verandah neatly forming a part of the existing moorings while also allowing me to remove the eternal steps leading up to the verandah and to the two doors leading into the house on the other side, together with their attendant transparent prims. Making the space available to boats was then a simple matter of removing the railings guarding the edge of the verandah.

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In terms of living space, this is a house that really has a lot to offer: the main room has plenty of space for use as a living / dining / kitchen area, as I hope the slideshow above demonstrates. The two additional downstairs rooms could be used as a separate bathroom and toilet or as a small bathroom / toilet and second bedroom. The upstairs bedroom has a reasonable amount of space, although given the slope of the ceilings, fitting taller furnishings might be a little difficult.

I particularly like the gallery overlooking the main room; this both offers a lower ceiling for a kitchen area helping to make it feel cosier, whilst also offering a nice location for one of my pianos so that it isn’t crowding out the main room – but the space could just as easily be a little office area or similar. Across the main room, the “loft space” is similarly very flexible – it could be a little reading space with books or – as we’ve done, a little snuggle spot, made warmer through the addition of a wood-burning stove that uses the main fireplace flue.

That said there are a few niggles with the build. There is a slight over-reliance in the use of transparent prims. The main floor,for example, uses a mesh and two transparent prims – so why not simply forego the former and make the latter visible and texture hem? That’s what I did. The use of baked shadows can also be an annoyance when modding the build. Again, replacing the main floor solved this in part, although I had to retexture the exterior walls in order to get rid of other nuisances. Finally, some of the textures are disappointingly blurred: I’m still fiddling with options to replace the texture used for the wooden beams.

A mug of hot chocolate before bed, after outfitting the new house

Fortunately, there aren’t insurmountable problems;  as noted above, I solved them easily enough, allowing for fixing the texture blurring. I will admit I felt this let what is otherwise a very capable and worthwhile design down. certainly, the interior mesh faces are more than sufficient to allow comfortable re-decorating of the walls if you wish (I did!), and as noted you get a good deal of space in which to make a home – indoors and out.

Link and SLurl

A personal look at the Linden Stilt Homes in Second Life

My over-the-water Stilt Home parcel at Bellisseria, with the Tortuga style house rezzed and furnished

Back when I previewed the Linden Homes Stilt House theme, and again when the theme was released at the end of 2020, I mentioned it was the first theme that might tempt me away from the Houseboat theme, which has tended to always win-out against the subsequent Linden Home releases in terms of desirability.

While swapping homes wasn’t high on my priority list, I have to admit that the temptation to just give the Stilt Homes a try had been growing over the Christmas break. And so, while it did cause no small amount of anxiety – my Houseboat location was really very good – at the start of the week, I decided to make the swap, trying for an over-the-water Stilt Home.

Obtaining one took a little time – Stilt Homes-are obviously popular, being new, and the over-the-water version particularly so (Stilt Homes are offered individually as over-the-water; with pier or on land variants on the Linden Homes selection page). But careful refreshing within the page throttle limit meant I was able to eventually pick one up.

My Linden Stilt Home parcel with the Havana style house with moorings I’ve added myself

When previewing the houses, I had been somewhat swayed towards the two-storey designs (Lauderdale and Santiago). However, after re-familiarising myself with all four styles, I actually found the Havana and Tortuga better suited to my tastes, providing the best value (in my view) between living space and available water in the parcel for mooring boats, and betted options for interior customisation, having very good sized rooms (the Tortuga in particular).

Both styles are 3-roomed designs, with the Tortuga offering the slightly greater interior space in the form of two large through-rooms and a smaller room, while the Havana presents a central front-to-back through room flanked by a smaller room on either side. Both designs have a large, split-level rear deck that gives plenty of scope for sun decks and moorings.

Havana interior: the main room gives plenty of room for expression

While I cannot compare it directly with  Camper / Trailer, Victorian or Log Home themes, the Content Creation Pack for the Stilt Homes offers a somewhat greater range of options than the pack for the Houseboats, with furniture plants, textures, useful colour matching guides and other little goodies than might be put to good use. I was a little disappointed no corner posts were offered to go with the additional deck railings, or that there was no bi-fold door that might be used to split the Tortuga’s two through-rooms, but these are not exactly hard-to-overcome “shortfalls”.

Although there are already add-on kits for the Stilt Homes a-plenty on the Marketplace, I much prefer building / kitbashing, and the Tortuga with its big rooms immediately attracted me with the potential for adding my own features. So much so, that I spent several hours playing with different ideas in both rooms!

The Tortuga’s large deck area can be used for boat moorings without it feeling crowded – although admittedly, I’ve thus far minimalised décor and furnishings( a simple pergola, suitably sized, shading a couple of rocking chairs and some planters with flower to break things up

In the end, I went with the simplest approach: a free-standing “room divider wall” that splits the largest room in the Tortuga into two without actually dominating the space or looking out-of-place. One side of this became my “living room” overlooking the rear decks, with the divider itself neatly providing space for a fireplace (with added chimney jutting from the roof above!). This then allowed me to use the “front” part of the room as a kitchen / the dining area, with the long interior wall ideally suited for placing kitchen units, while the width of the room meant I could include a kitchen island, again naturally breaking up the floor space quite naturally.

While the Havana’s large main room could be similarly broken up, I found that with a little careful placement of bits, this isn’t really necessary; I was again able to include living area, dining area and kitchen comfortably into it. With the addition of decking and steps to  moorings outside the front of both (and the use of one side of the Tortuga’s deck), I have been able to provide ample space for mooring those boats I want to have rezzed (all of them otherwise sitting in my vehicle rezzer until I want them).

I’ve deliberately kept furnishings and décor on the decks of both the Havana and Tortuga to a minimum, the former having a free-standing pergola with large sofa, etc., and the latter a pergola and shades directly adjoining the back of the house (thus helping to shade the living room from the Sun) and a couple of rocking chairs  I may admittedly play with both decks a little more in the future, but for now, that’s all I really need.

I like the large main room of the Tortuga particularly amenable to being made a comfortable living space – plenty of room for a kitchen, dining area and lounge space – and even a fireplace to act as a natural room divider

As noted earlier, giving up my Houseboat did give me a moment of anxiety after I’d let it go, but over the last 3+ days I’ve become more settled with my decision; the Tortuga has been proving to be a very comfortable and flexible living space (even if only as a second home when Isla Caitinara isn’t available), and it is very likely I’ll end up saving several internal layouts of furnishings, etc., into my personal rezzer, just as I did with the Houseboat. I’m also admittedly fortunate that, like my old Houseboat, the parcel I’m on is fronted by a large channel of open water (a natural divide between Stilt Homes and Houseboats), so I don’t feel at all crowded in.

I’m not sure I’ll make use of the 2-storey styles;  while I like to look of both, they’re a little too big for my needs. But then, I might just be tempted at some point to have a play.  in the meantime, would I recommend the Stilt Home designs to someone looking for a new Linden Premium Account Home? Absolutely.

Paint your skies with Stevie Davros’ EEP sets

A dramatic EEP Fixed Sky with custom cloud texture (Painted Drama Windy Afternoon from the Painted Clouds set) by Stevie Davros

Back in 2018, I wrote about Stevie Davros, and Australian photographer, who had produced as series of Windlight skies and clouds for people to use to help enhance their environment when taking pictures, or to offer a unique environment within their region (see: Clouds and windlight skies by Stevie Davros).

Since the arrival of the Lab’s Environment Enhancement Project (EEP), Stevie has been working on new skies and cloud assets specifically for use with EEP, and offered me the opportunity to try some of them out. And I have to say, that like his Windlight skies and clouds, these are impressive collections, ideal for photographers looking to enhance their images, and offering region and parcel holders a set of options for setting a Fixed Sky over their parcel / region (and which can also be used to create dynamic Day Cycles).

If you are unfamiliar with using EEP assets and settings, I recommend you refer to one of the following:

However, and for completeness, these notes include a quick overview of how to apply Stevie’s settings.

Saturn looms large: a EEP Fixed Sky setting from the Cosmic Skies set by Stevie Davros

At the time of writing this article, Stevie had a dozen EEP packs available via his Marketplace store, comprising:

  • Painted Clouds: a folder of 13 Fixed Sky assets featuring cloud texture files sampled from the brush strokes of 19th Century French impressionist painters.
  • Aussie Cirrus: a folder of 19 skies featuring cloud texture files created from photographs Stevie took of the skies over Adelaide in Australia, and then processed.
  • Gossamer Cirrus: a set of 19 skies featuring cloud textures depicting very high altitude cirrus strands, some of which are presented in a their own “fantasy” style of sky.
  • Cirrus Cloudbank: a set of 21 skies featuring strands of cirrus cloud overlaid with / extending from banks of cloud
  • Cirrus Clouds: a bumper set of 34 cloud textures, suitable for “real” and “fantasy” settings.
  • Stormy Skies: a selection of cloud texture collages created by Stevie to give dramatic sky and cloudscapes.

All of these packs, whilst focusing on cloud formations, include customised ambient lighting and may include custom Sun / Moon textures.

Painted Sky Banded Sky from the Painted Clouds set by Stevie Davros

In addition, Stevie has produced several sets of Fixed Skies offering more of a “cosmic” setting:

  • Replacement Moons: a set of six replacement Moon textures (crescent, waxing, full, gibbous dual crescent and blue).
  • Replacement Suns: a set of replacement Sun textures very suitable for sci-fi settings, including a blue giant and a binary system with a blue giant and red dwarf star.
  • Cosmic skies: a set of 10 textures offering various astronomical / sci-fi images, including solar eclipses, a comet, a (frighteningly large) meteor, galaxies, a crescent Earth (ideal for a Moon base setting) and Saturn with his rings.
  • Aurora Night Sky: a selection of night skies with cloud textures designed to give the effect of looking at the aurora (Borealis or Australis, you pick 🙂 ).

The remaining two packs are more quirky in nature the first presents something for the romantics: link heart clouds,  and the second that places an erupting volcano on the horizon (the volcano replacing the Sun texture).

A radical sunrise (Gossamer Cirrus Surf Beach Sunrise from the Gossamer Clouds set) by Stevie Davros

There are a few points worth noting with these sets:

  • When purchased, each pack is delivered as a folder to the Received Items folder / panel of  your inventory (so no unpacking required). They can all be used directly from the folder they are received in; however, you might want to copy said folder to the Settings folder in your inventory – the system folder than is intended to contain all EEP assets you create and / or purchase.
  • As Fixed Sky elements, these are all assets that have fixed ambient lighting, and fixed Sun / Moon positions in the sky, with the clouds moving dynamically in response to the wind direction and speed.
  • The assets are supplied Copy / Modify, so you can make copies of any of them and then make alterations to it using the EEP Fixed Sky editor to produce your own variants. You can also use any of them as a basis to create your own dynamic Day Cycles.
  • Alternatively, to make changes purely for photography purposes, these assets can be applied and then adjusted using the Personal Lighting panel.
Use the standard EEP options for using Stevie’s assets

The easiest way to use these assets is to apply them directly to your avatar – highlight the asset you wish to use the right-click on it and select Apply only To Myself. This can be done from inventory or from World → Environment → My Environments … Applied in this way, the setting you’ve selected is only visible within your viewer, and will not be seen by others.

Alternatively, and if you have the requisite permissions, you can apply the asset to your parcel, where anyone within it who is using an EEP-supporting viewer set to (World → Environment →) Used Shared Environment, will also witness it. Further, if you are a region holder, you can apply the asset to your region  this option is not shown in the image above, as I do not have region rights, and so Firestorm has removed the option from my context menu).

Rigel in the sky (Big Giant Sun from the Replacement Suns set) by Stevie Davros
With prices ranging from L$99 to L$399 for the cloud packs, and the “cosmic” sky packs all priced below L$100, Stevie’s EEP sets represent very good value for money for photographers, and a potentially useful means for those interested in learning how to manipulate EEP settings (although the latter can admittedly be done via EEP settings available through the Library → Environments folder as well).

Again, you  can pick up Stevie’s packs from his Marketplace Store, and my thanks to him for taking them for a test drive.

A Bridge House in Second Life

The CONVAIR Bridge House at Isla Caitinara, with modified bridge / deck with added pergola from Maya’s Builds

So, another couple of months have gone by, so it must be time for a change of house at Isla Pey 🙂 . Well, the reason is a bit more complicated than that, given it involves things going on in Second Life and the physical world that combined to make me feel I needed to tinker around and ktbash … again.

The SL side of things was in part down to the fact that, while the last house was fun to covert (see: A Country Hall in Second Life), it was, given the size of our new island, a little small. So, given we were in Second Norway, I hunted around for a design that might be taken to have something of a Scandinavian feel to it. And I found the CONVAIR Bridge House by Tobias Convair.

Priced at L$2,00 in-world, or L$2,200 via the Marketplace, the Bridge House is a single-storey property with a linear layout: a central lounge / kitchen /dining area flanked by end rooms on either side, one the same width as the lounge area,  they other slightly narrower, and with a narrow fourth room – advertised as a bathroom – to one side.  The lounge area benefits from a large fireplace and exposed ceiling trusses and boarding that gives it a very spacious build. The three remaining rooms all have flat, lower ceilings in wood. Outside, the house has extended eaves, particularly at either end, whilst one side also has full hight windows that could offer picturesque views in the right setting, the other having small windows. double doors are set into the “windows” side of the house, and a single door on the other.

The re-textured CONVAIR Bridge House, coloured in an attempt to match the original, sitting without our garden

No lighting is supplied, nor does the house come in a rezzer – at 56 LI, the structure doesn’t need one, being a single linkset. However, it comes are a range of deck / bridge “add-ons” that can be used in a variety of ways to extend the available space around the house and offer various over-the-water options. These are something I found particularly attractive, as they gave me a range of ideas for dock and deck options for a water-side setting like Isla Caitinara.

However, there are a couple of small niggles I have with the design. The fist is that it includes baked textures. Nothing unusual with this – many SL items do include shadow elements, both baked and linkset elements. However, with this house, the bakes reflect the shadows cast by chimneys, eaves, timber frames, etc, by a static Sun. Not a problem if you run with Shadows disabled in the viewer or life under a fixed sky. Bu, if you’re like me, and run with shadows enabled and under a dynamic sky, these baked shadows can conflict with “natural” shadows, and look odd. Getting around this was was no biggie; as I like kitbashing (and wanted to retexture the floors and stone walks in the build, it was a simple task to replace the supplied textures – once I’d found some that close matched the original woodwork and roof, as I wanted to maintain as much as a the original character of the design as possible.

The other point to note with this design is that it relies very heavily on transparent prims to provide physics / “solidity”. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this per se, particularly if you’re using the house “as is”. However, I found it preferable to remove those making up the floors and the floor mesh with prims I could then more easily texture to suit our needs, Doing so his increase the default LI a little – from 56 to 61; but it allowed for a better finish from my perspective.

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Like the Country Hall build, I opted to make  the new house a waterside house adjoining our boat docks, and the included bridge add-ons worked as a good template for me to re-work the existing dock, and a deck for a gazebo. However, again given the use of transparent prims, I opted to replace almost all of the bridge elements with my own, again for no increase in LI – at least until I linked them in to the existing docks on the island!

Despite the above niggles on my part, the Bridge House does make for a stylish home, and can be used “as is” from the box – instructions are supplied with it for correctly aligning the desired bridge and deck sections; although this does assume the bridge goes to one side of the house and the deck to the others. But again, if you’re OK with editing and moving items in-world, manual  alignment of elements can be done relatively easily.

Overall, an aesthetically pleasing build offering plenty of scope for customisation / expansion that can easily be tailored to suit individual needs. Ours came out at a total of 89 LI, including additional rugs, pictures and wall hangings, lighting, net curtains and window blinds.

Link and SLurl

 

Fourteen years, Oh my!

Contemplating fourteen years

I logged into Second life to receive a greeting from Johan Neddings congratulating my on reaching my fourteen rezday – and I have to state that, but for his IM (And tweet, when I looked at Twitter!), the date honestly would not have registered with me at all.

While I try not to bring the personal and the physical world into this blog too much, the fact is that 2020 has been a real stinker of a year for all of us, thanks in large part to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has impacted so many people around the world in so many ways, and in relation to work and things, I’m no exception. There have also been some personal matters, particularly in the last month or so and which will continue through the next few months to varying degrees, that mean SL is not currently a primary focus for me, although I am trying to keep abreast of news and articles.

Within Second Life, 2020 has certainly been interesting. On the technical front, things have clearly been dominated by Project Uplift and the Lab getting everything transitioned to run on Amazon AWS services. Much could be said about this,but I think the most important aspect to it is that while some remaining services have yet to be migrated, and we have yet to go through a period of fine-tuning / performance tweaking, overall, the entire process has been really smooth. Yes, there are some visible teething problems that need to be sorted, but when you consider there were a fair few SL services transitioned to AWS without users ever noticing they had been moved, LL have done a really good job with what might have been a really disruptive undertaking.

Of course, one of the visible changes to SL that has come along this year is EEP – the Environment Enhancement Project. While this also has some issues that are still to be sorted (and some UI niggles that may not be, given they tend to be subjective in nature), I’ve found it to be a very flexible and usable capability, if a bit of a beast to get one’s head around at first. I’ve particularly had fun creating a number of personal Fixed Sky environments, as well a 24-hour  day/night cycle for Isla Caitinara (and I will at some point get back to my tutorial on Day Cycles, which has again be pushed to one side due to the aforementioned physical world matters).

A gibbous Moon rising over Isla Caitinara, part of the Day Cycle for our island home

On the personal SL front, things have been pretty quiet. Circumstance / opportunity led to us shifting home to settle within the “new” Second Norway estate, now under the management of Vanity Bonetto and her team (which also includes Ey and his team), and as someone who has followed that entire situation from initial rumours through the takeover to becoming a resident there, I can honestly say Vanity and her team have done a superb job, both in maintaining the core of the estate in its “mainland” regions, and in revamping the estate’s island offerings, and in bringing in new opportunities and features to the estate, as I noted in Second Norway: a closer look. In fact, we’re so settled that we actually recently up and relocated to a slightly larger island within the estate!

2020 also saw me unexpectedly get involved in administrating an in-worlds arts group – the Phoenix Artists Collaboration. Things  haven’t gone quite as well as had been hoped, particularly in the area of exhibitions, largely due to all three of us who have taken on the responsibility for managing the group all being hit with physical world demands. But hopefully, once the page has turned to mark the start of 2021, we’ll be able to start properly pulling things together.

The garden of our new Isla Caitinara home
Fourteen years in Second Life is a long time, so do I have any insights to share? Oddly, no I don’t think I do. Second life is still offering me the three things I enjoy: fun, discovery and freedom, so I’ve little doubt I’ll be marking 15 years in-world in twelve months time. Perhaps the one thing I would say is that while fourteen years have passed since “Inara Pey” first arrived, I actually don’t feel any older than my first days in-world with her. Wiser (I hope!) perhaps, yes.  But not older. In this, I think my avatar has been a positive influence; largely unchanged in terms of looks for 10 of those years, she has – as past studies have pointed out in reference to people and their avatars – she has encouraged the vanity in me to exercise regularly and (generally!) mind my diet in an attempt to (in my own way) also look as good.

And of the future? perhaps the most burning question is that of Linden Lab and Second Life post the current acquisition process.

As I’ve noted before, I’m interested to see the overall shape of the revised board, and whether or not some current members will retain a minority holding. I’m not overly concerned about the risk of LL being stripped or sold on; as I’ve noted in these pages, the two incoming principals between them have good track records for long-term investment and company growth. Certainly, the Lab aren’t slowing down their own plans for SL: beyond / alongside of the “uplift” work, there are major plans for overhauling several aspects of the viewer to hopefully make it more performant and efficient, and projects to further improve things on the back-end as well. Much of this  work is fairly long-term, which speaks to a good level of confidence for the platform’s future, and I currently see no reason not to share in that confidence.

In the meantime, here’s to a happier time of things in general in 2021.

A Country Hall in Second Life

The Apple Fall Country Hall at Isla Pey

It’s pretty well established in these pages that when it comes to home life in Second Life (and while I do still build with prims), I’m one for playing with house builds and kitbashing bits to produce something I like. As such, I’m always on the look-out for building I think might fit the bill.

One of such building is Apple Fall’s Country Hall, available in-world from the Apple Fall store. It’s a unit that has long caught my eye, being a frequent choice with region designers who have often used as a summer house or a café, but it’s taken a while for my ideas with the building to develop into something I might want to have a try at bringing together. However, the recent addition of AustinLiam’s Captain’s Retreat to our range of homes (see: A Captain’s Retreat in Second Life) started me thinking more about seeing what I could produce using the Apple Fall Country Hall.

For those unfamiliar with the Hall, it is a single-storey, building with a brick exterior and a worn-looking interior priced (at the time of writing) at L$625. It has a footprint of 15m ant 14m  and comes in at 148 LI. The interior comprises two linked spaces: a room that runs the full length on one side with an almost full-length skylight, with a second square space opening off to one side, separated from the larger room by three columns. Double doors at either end of the building allow either end to be oriented as the “front”, so depending on preference you can have a double entrance or single.

The Apple Fall Country Hall with additional decking and moorings at Isla Pey

What is particularly attractive about this build (and I assume others in the Apple Fall range, although I’ve not tested them), is that it is designed with sufficient faces on parts, allowing it to be re-textured with relative ease. Which is not to say this must be done; the default finish has a certain shabby-chic interior look with faded plasterwork, paint flaking from woodwork, faded, worn (and in one place, damaged) floors, careworn doors, and so on. However, should you want something a little brighter on the interior, those individual faces make it comfortably possible.

For my part, I liked the aged look of the building’s exterior, but I wanted the interior to offer a brighter contrast and give the feeling that the interior has been renovated. To this end, I opted for a light cream paint look for the ceilings, white walls and refreshed woodwork. The two floor sections allowed themselves to be re-textured with a “new” herringbone parquet, which I finished with a light tint of grey to deepen the colour and a soft specular application to offer a slightly polished look.

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In terms of layout, the modular nature of the build also meant I could remove the interior columns and a section of the floor to incorporate a gallery kitchen that, with the assistance of blinds, can act as a divider between the large “living” area and the smaller “bedroom”. This required minor physical adjustment to the ceiling panels in the smaller room area to maintain a degree of symmetry, while a clean-up of the six doors helped finish things off.

For those who like smaller living spaces, the Apple Fall Country Hall offers a very flexible design that can be used in a number of ways (hence its popularity among region designers), and I hope the brief slide show above – taken at a time when things were still a work-in-progress helps gives others ideas at what might be achieved.

The Apple Fall Country Hall at Isla Pey

As noted towards the top of this piece, the Country Hall is available through the Apple Fall store in-world.

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