The Culprit Sonata Baby Grand piano in Second Life

The Culprit Sonata Baby Grand in two of its finishes

In September 2018, I wrote about the Culprit Sonata Bento Piano created by Eku Zhong and Yure4u Sosa (see The Culprit Sonata Bento piano in Second Life). At that time, I noted that Eko and Yure4u were working on a baby grand edition, and on March 13th, 2019 they graciously sent me a copy.

As I noted in that piece, as a pianist, I have a leaning towards the grand (concert or baby), as I appreciate the more rounded richness of its note. As having one in the physical world is impractical (although I do have a Yamaha N1), so I enjoy having them in-world, and have been looking forward to the opportunity to try this particular baby grand and seeing how the Bento animations work with such an instrument.

The Culprit Sonata Baby Grand

Unlike the upright variant, the Culprit Baby Grand is supplied in one size, and follows the accepted shape of a grand, with a sweeping case built around a horizontal plate and pin block / action. In this, the Culprit Baby Ground might appear little different to other grand pianos in SL. However, it is fair to say that it is the play mechanism in this piano that is one of the aspects that sets it apart from others, even without the Bento play capability.

Where others might in part reproduce the mechanism – some strings,  the plate and sound board – or offer a texture of a grand’s “innards”, the Culprit Baby Grand goes much further. A peek under the raised lid reveals the cast iron plate with soundboard below – and a beautiful pin block and hammer set, with strings neatly positioned, presenting one of the best facsimiles of a grand I’ve yet witnessed.

Play-wise the Culprit Baby Grand is similar in nature to the Sonata upright: sit at the piano and you’ll be placed in an “idle” pose – and moving your arms as if conducting – or perhaps warming-up in readiness to play. While mentioning this pose, note that as playing the piano can result in your avatar’s eyes rolling up into the head and flicking back to this option – available from the Muted option (see below) before standing will avoid this. Sitting will also display the piano’s menu, which has the following options:

  • Texture: allows the piano body and the stool’s cushion to be textured to suit your preferences.
  • Muted: presents a total of 12 different playing styles without any associated music – so you can set a style in keeping with the music you’re listening to out world, or on your parcel stream.
  • Songs: offers 54 solo pieces to play, all public domain, representing a good cross-reference of music.
  • Duets: offers 11 duet pieces of public domain music to be enjoyed with a friend of partner playing with you.
The Culprit Sonata Baby Grand – mechanism detail

The menu also includes options to adjust the seated position on the stool, and to swap positions when playing duets, all of which makes for a pretty comprehensive set-up.

Selecting a piece of music from the Songs or Duets menus will display sheet music on the piano and move your avatar into a matching playing animation. It is here where the Bento element comes in. If you have Bento hands and watch yourself play (note that non-Bento users can still play the piano, it will just be minus the finger movements). The animations appear to be those used in the Culprit Sonata Upright, so just like that piano, they are fluid and natural, if with a slightly dramatic flair in a couple of styles  – although even the fact this is a grand, they are perhaps more in keeping with playing classic pieces than might be the case with the upright version.

Bento hand movements  are available in the three playing options built-in to the Culprit Sonata Baby Grand. Note the thumb-led glissando (filmed on the Sonata)

For those who like their in-world pianos to autoplay without being physically seated at it, the Culprit Baby Grand is perhaps not an ideal choice, simply because it does require and avatar to be seated (you can set rights to control who can). But then, this is a piano that is all about the Bento playing actions. On a personal note, I found the Culprit Baby Grand a little larger than I was expecting; the width of the piano means the reaching the extremes of the keyboard is a stretch for an avatar proportioned close to a physical world build, like mine. However, this is a minor point when compared to the “interior” modelling of the piano, its music selection and playing animations mean, all of which make it an ideal addition to any home – and it is now the preferred piano at Isla Pey, replacing the slightly smaller Lisp Persimmon grand.

With a total LI of 11, the Culprit Baby Grand will début at the Boardwalk shopping event from March 15th, 2019, at a price of L$995. It will be generally available, including via the Culprit store, from April 15th.

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Flying the TBM Kronos in Second Life

Flying the TBM Kronos over Isla Pey

Every time I promise myself, “no more planes!”, something happens to change my mind. Most recently, I’ve been throwing the CLSA Stampe SV.4 around the sky a lot of late (you can read a review of this ‘plane – now costing L$15 – here). This, plus a couple of suggestions led me to try – and buy – the TBM  Kronos V6.

Resembling the Pitt Special S1 / S2, the Kronos is a partial mesh build weighing-in at a default 51 LI, with a display cost of just under 42K and a quite enviable physics cost of 1.5. All of which makes for a very nibble aeroplane with some of the best close-to-real handling I’ve experienced in Second Life – not that I’m necessarily an expert in such things.

The Kronos variants: the full-size version (centre rear); version for smaller avatars (l); version for Tinies (right) and the Petite version (centre front)

A single-seater the Kronos eschews any menu system, and instead offers all commands and options directly through chat or a simple HUD. By default the latter attaches to the top right of the screen, and is nicely shaped to fit the corner without taking up too much space. The controls provided comprise an airspeed indicator, compass, altimeter, and four pre-set camera options.

This is a plane that packs in a lot in many respects. Delivered in a neat suitcase, which opens to reveal a (non-functioning) radio controlled model, together with control handset and a little fuel supply, the ‘plane unpacks to revels not one, but five models. These are: the Default sized ‘plane (51 LI), a slightly smaller version for smaller avatars (43 LI, together with a 0.9 physics cost), a version for Tinies (35 LI), a really dinky version for Petites (32 LI). Also supplied is a non-flying static model. Also supplied is an engine test stand and engine, documentation (basic but sufficient) and a poster.

Inverted climb over Blake Sea

The plane itself is a good-looking little machine, by default presented in an eye-catching and logo-emblazoned finish suitable for the aerobatics / airshow circuit, although perhaps a little too loud for my taste with all the flame motifs.  The engine hood is presented semi-transparent, and the design of the ‘plane can make getting to it a little difficult if you’d prefer it to be opaque, as I did.

Flight controls are the usual for an aircraft: WASD / arrow keys for elevators / rudder and ailerons; E and C / PAGE keys for throttle. For those not used to such a responsive aircraft, remember use of the SHIFT key with the LEFT / RIGHT keys will allow rudder-only turns (unless in Mouselook). Lights are absent the ‘plane, but as it is intended for aerobatics, white smoke can be toggled by typing “i” once the engine is started.   Throttle-wise, 5%-10% provides suitable ground movement speed, and when steering, the plane is both responsive and positive – one of the best ground-handlers I’ve been in.

A low pass over Isla Pey

As a STOL plane, the Kronos will lift-off at anything over 35% of throttle once the airspeed is high enough, and it’ll place itself in “landing mode” with a fairly fast rate of descent at 25% throttle. 30-40% throttle is ideal for cruising, and anything above 45% suitable for aerobatics.

In terms of the latter, the Kronos is a delight, although those used to flying more sedentary ‘planes many find it an initial handful. Light and responsive, it will loop and roll t a touch, and with a little practice it is possible to throw this ‘plane around quite and lot and keep it inside the boundaries of a single region.

The plane is nippy enough in “standard” mode. However, it has two further modes: H for “hardcore” and HH for “hyper hardcore.” I confess, I didn’t feel a lot of difference between H and HH, but the Kronos did respond faster in “hardcore” mode.

The smoke system in action – be sure to have your viewer’s particle system turned up

A template is provided for painting, and there are also some commercial kits available. Custom work can be a little bit of a pain when applying manually: there are a number of transparent elements overlaying some of the ‘plane’s surfaces (notably the engine cover and the wing surfaces), so a little care and patience is required, but nothing that is particularly taxing. For my part, I opted to use the supplied paint scheme as a base – largely due to the presence of the tigers on the tailplane 🙂 .

Good-looking, manoeuvrable, fun-to-fly, the Kronos is a great little single-seater by Rafaell Sorbet and Tania Bouvier, with a nice little HUD by Bunnys Fride. At L$ 1,799, it’s a recommended buy – but if you’re new to flying in SL, try the demo at TBM’s in-world airfield first.

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Modemworld – navigation updates

blogging

One of the things I strive for in this blog is ease of access to information, be it through the way I use categories and tags for posts or through the use of the available menu options and widgets, etc., within the blog’s theme.

Three changes I’ve made through 2018 – which may or may not have been noticed  –  is to information displayed in the widgets bar on the right of the blog.

In terms of the order in which they appear, these are:

  • A section on SL user groups.
  • A section on SL tutorials in this blog.
  • A revised RSS feed from the SL grid status.

All three can be found between the Blogroll lists and Tag Cloud.

The new / updated blog widgets – all colour items are clickable links. These actually appear one above the next (l-r) in the widgets bar on the right of the blog. 

SL User Groups: provides direct links to all of the current Second Life user group pages on the Second Life wiki. These pages provide a summary of the purpose of the meetings, the date and times of forthcoming meetings and often, but not always an agenda for the next meeting and / or, where recorded, archives of past meetings. All meetings are open to those interested in attending. I provide summaries of all meetings I attend.

SL Tutorials: over the years I’ve provided a series of Second Life tutorials on various subjects. This widget is designed to provide a link to my full index of tutorials (which also includes links to tutorials by others). It also lists key Second Life tutorials I’ve produced either on my own, or with the assistance of Linden Lab (e.g. the Abuse Reports tutorial). I plan to add further relevant tutorials to this selection as they become available, together with what I think are the more interesting of my own tutorials on interesting subjects.

RSS Feed: this is tweak to the RSS feed from the Second Life Grid Status page, which hopefully presents updates in a clean, readable manner.

Menu Updates

Since the introduction of the current blog layout in 2017, I’ve continued to make adjustments to the menu system to try to ease navigation, not all of which I’ve subsequently written about.

Most recently, I’ve attempted to simplify the menu structure further by combining a couple of the top-level menus and reducing the sub-menu structure of each.

Revised menu structure as of December 2018

The top-level menus are now as follows:

  • SL (unchanged): provides access to all Second Life posts and pages, divided into the following sub-menus / categories, including news items, opinion pieces, my Exploring Second Life travelogues, all of my SL user group meeting summaries, art reviews, all viewer reviews, etc.
  • LL (unchanged): provides access to general news and information specific to Linden Lab, including all transcripts of Lab Chats and Q&As by Lab CEOs and senior staff.
  • Sansar (unchanged): provides a breakdown of all Sansar-related posts and articles in this blog, again divided into sub-menus / categories.
  • Other Worlds and Tech (unchanged): covers articles on other virtual worlds, AR and VR, pieces on general tech and my Space Sunday astronomy & space reports.
  • Guests (unchanged): provides access to all articles written by guests on this blog, accessed via the writer’s name.
  • Blog Bits (new): this now combines general information on this blog (blog guidelines, blog navigation, privacy statement and my review systems specifications), my “personal” items (biography, SL home life, my blogging journey, my SL videos, etc.), as shown in the image above.

Note that the majority of the menu items in the above options have right-pointing arrow (“>”) indicating sub-menu options can be accessed. However, do please note that all articles for a specific category can be accessed by clicking on the top-level menu / sub-category option, as (hopefully!) explained in the image below.  The only exception to this is the About Me item under Blog Bits – just use the sub-menu from this to navigate further.

1. Clicking a top-level menu will display all articles under that topic, as indicated by the yellow lines. 2. Clicking on a topic within a top-level menu will display all articles for all sub-menus under that topic, as indicated by the red lines. 3. Clicking on a topic within a sub-menu will display all articles found under any sub-sub-menus for that topic, as indicated by the black lines. 4. Clicking on a specific topic name without any “>” will display only the articles related to that topic.

I hope these changes and updates further help people locate information within this blog. Obviously, the tag cloud can also be used to assist with finding article sets, and don’t forget there are the search options, also found in the right-side widget bar, which include the ability to list post by the major article categories used in this blog, or to list all articles published in a given month (most recent to oldest).

Isla Pey: year-end changes

Isla Pey

Back in April 2018, I returned Fallingwater – albeit somewhat modified to better suit our needs – to Second Life, redesigning Isla Pey around it in the process. Since then, we’ve been very settled, and the need to fiddle around with things hasn’t really come up.

However, in facing north and out over the “edge” of the grid, we may well see nothing but open seas, but we also miss a lot of the passing surface traffic; something that can be attractive to watch. Making a big move with the house wasn’t something I particularly wanted to contemplate (and not something the shape of the land would really tolerate). But, it did occur to me that by swinging the house through 180-degrees and cutting the island in two, something might be done…

Isla Pey

And so as Caitlyn reached for the hard hats, I started playing. Again.

As the parcel holding Isla Pey is rather long and slender, and given we already had a “north” and “south” end, linked by a large pond, stream and waterfall, cutting the land in two was easy enough. Out went the water, the falls and the surrounding mesh landforms creating the basic landmass was created.  Then, by swinging the house around and moving it southwards, there was room to add a fair-sized back garden – the landscaping made easier (again) by the re-use of the lawn design from the “old” island design.

Isla Pey

This, expanded with the use of Alex Bader’s superb Tiered Garden Wall Building Set, providing room for the art from Ciottolina Xue and pieces from Morgan Sim Designs that have long been features of our garden, while the JIAN Koi Pond Gazebo I’d modified for use with the “original” garden pond helped fill-out the space in the garden.

The southern end of the parcel, now an island in its own right, needed no real changes. It’s still home to our little folly from Trompe Loeil (actually the Amelie pavilion), just a section of HPMD cliffs needed to be added.

Isla Pey

This little island, also home to our sculptures from Silas Merlin, affords the house retain some privacy (one of the reasons I’ve tended to site houses at the north end of the island rather than the south is to help give a sense of privacy whilst being able to see passing ships). But, we needed a way to reach it.

The easiest way to do this was to extend the boat moorings under the house (actually the Botanical Edged Brick Park Path with a little re-texturing), using them as a kind of footbridge while also offering more room for boat / seaplane rezzing in our own little bay. The added room meant I could also add a couple of favourites to our vehicle rezzer that had been missed, the bay offering the perfect area in which to rez them.

Isla Pey

Fiddling with the island home is fun. But with the April changes (which I have nicely stored in a rezzing system 🙂 ) and now this reorganisation, means we probably won’t be making massive changes in the future, unless we opt to move elsewhere.

Just don’t hold me to that statement 😀 .

Twelve years in Second Life

At home

Twelve years ago on December 5th, 2006, I decided to give Second Life a second chance, creating Inara Pey in the process. At the time I never expected to actually still engaged in the platform 12 months on from that date, let alone twelve years – but here I am. Not bad for someone who was at one time considering hanging up her Second Life boots (so to speak) on reaching 10 years.

So why am I still here?

I can probably sum that up in three words: fun, discovery, and freedom. Fun, because – as well all know – Second Life has an awful lot to offer, from playing games through learning to role-play, to doing things we cannot (or would not) do in the physical world. For me, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, it’s the ability to do things like skydiving, or to enjoy flying whenever I want (or the expense of actually owning / leasing a plane or obtaining my PPL!) or to get out on the water under sail or power.

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on FlickrThe ability to explore so many fabulous places, like  Black Bayou Lake, is one of the reasons I continue to enjoy Second Life 

Discovery, because Second Life is always evolving. Not just technically – although this year, with the “15 reasons” roadmap, there’s hopefully ample evidence of this – but also in terms of how regions are always in flux. Yes, it is sad when places vanish, and the shrinkage of the last few years has been of fiscal concern (although not necessarily indicative of any large-scale loss of users): but when it comes to publicly accessible regions, things are surprisingly stable – as fast as one popular place vanishes, another pops up elsewhere.

Twelve years – and counting!

Freedom, in that Second Life allows us to meeting, mingle with, get to know, spend time with, people from all over the world, most of whom we’d probably never likely meet in the physical world. This obviously feeds back into both the fun and the discovery elements, as sharing with friends adds depth to everything we do.

There’s also the aspect that our avatars allow us to be who we wish to be, as well as potentially allowing us to extend ourselves in ways that may not be otherwise expressed. I’m actually a lousy formalised role-player, for example; finding a character inside of myself, one I can maintain and live through with personality aspects perhaps foreign to my own, is something I’ve never managed to comfortably achieve. It’s probably the biggest reason my first attempt with Second Life “failed”;  I came with preconceptions of dropping into role-play (historical or sci-fi or something on those lines), but never really found anything in which I felt “at home”.

As “me” (or “me through Inara”, so to speak) I’ve found a greater range of freedom than might otherwise have been the case: the freedom to share friendships that can be in some respects transient, but because of the nature of Second Life, allow a lot more depth to be plumbed, and genuine connections to be forged.

I’d be a fool if I denied blogging had played a role in my continuance with Second Life. I actually started in 2007, but it wasn’t until I relocated the blog to WordPress in 2009 and really set out trying to learn more about how rich and complex the platform is, both in terms of use and technicality, that I felt I’d really found my niche.

I’m genuinely not a technical person, so discovering all that goes on “behind the scenes”, so to speak have been a constant – and still evolving – learning experience for me. It has also taught me a lot about the platform in general – the users, the places, the art – all of which have expanded my horizons, helped grow my understanding of a range of topics and taught me lessons in appreciation and thinking.  I may not get things right all the time – but that’s part of the fun and discovery.

Looking ahead, there’s liable to be a lot more to write about – be it technical with the move to the cloud, the return of last names, the arrival of EEP, the potential of Animesh products, or as a result of having yet more places to explore, art to appreciate and things to try. So hopefully, I’ll have plenty of opportunity to continue to experience Second Life and report on it.

Thank you to all of you who continue to read this blog, who support me through Twitter and Plurk; you as much as anything keep me engaged in Second Life. And my thanks once again to Caitlyn and all my friends who continue to make my explorations and time in SL fun.

The CLSA Stampe SV4 in Second Life

The CLSA Stampe SV.4: making a low pass over the island home

Over the course of just over a year, I’ve written a couple of pieces about the aircraft available under the CLS Aviation, brand, owned by CaithLynnSayes. These have included the P92 and P2010 (read here for more) and the CLSA Fairey Gannet (read here for more), and both articles came after my initial introduction to CLS a aircraft via the freebie Firestorm Ryan Navion, also supplied by Caith (read here for more). My responses to these aircraft have been mixed – but given they are provided (albeit as unsupported items) at just L$10 per ‘plane, they cannot be faulted as means to get started with flying in SL.

Hence why I was drawn back to try another aircraft in the CLSA range: the Stampe SV.4. Originally a Belgian-made 2-seat tandem trainer that was first flew in 1933, it didn’t come into its own until after the Second World War, when it served as both a basic trainer for the Belgian Air Force (1947-1975) and was built under license in France and Algeria, becoming a popular civilian light aircraft / trainer in the process.

The CLSA Stampe SV.4 is a fun plane to fly

It’s not clear which variant of the Stampe the CLSA model is based on, but its natty performance envelope allows it to potentially be any version you like, and from my perspective it is one of the most fun aircraft I’ve flown in Second Life.

As is usual with CLSA aircraft, the model is a very accurate reproduction of its physical world namesake, including the more rounded vertical tail and rudder and lack of the distinctive “hump” of a fuel tank in the centre of the upper wing to help differentiate it from the British de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth (which I’ve had the pleasure of flying in, and taking the controls of in the physical world!).

The ‘plane is delivered in the distinctive large crate of CLSA, which drops to the ground with an audible “whomp!” when rezzed. As well as containing the aircraft, the package also provides the default CLSA aircraft HUD, (not vital for flying the ‘plane), a radio headset / microphone combination, a Quick Start manual (a detailed manual can be obtained from the Help option in the aircraft’s menu – touch the aircraft to display this, or say “help” in chat when seated in the Stampe), and “templates” for painting. It would have been nice to have the headset supplied Copy / Transfer, to allow for sharing with any passenger carried in the forward cockpit, but never mind.

“Switches on! … Clear! … Contact!” – readying for take-off in the CLSA Stampe SV.4

Of the CLSA ‘planes I’ve flown, the Stampe is definitely the most fun. The basic controls are as one would expect: PAGE keys for throttle; Left and Right keys for banking; Down / Up for pitching the nose up or down. Additional controls – parking, brake, camera options, engine, etc., can be accessed via chat commands and / or via the  HUD.

The low speed of this aircraft means that it really is good for STOL activities: leave the brake on and run up the throttle before releasing, and you’ll be off the ground in a very short run. Conversely, keep your approach speed to around 30 km/h (19 mph or 8 metre per second) and you can drop the Stampe into almost any suitable area on the ground (including places you might not get out of again!). This STOL capability could make the Stampe ideal for GTFO! activities as a light courier, but as the GTFO! vehicle database is unavailable at the time of writing, I was unable to ascertain if it had been added or not.

That same low speed makes aerobatics a joy – I was stall-turning and looping to my heart’s content – and these can be further added to through optional elements such as the Luna Fatale Animated Wing Walker. It also means you can instruct passengers in the forward cockpit at a more leisurely pace than might be the case with other aircraft  – just use the “cmd” command in chat to pass control forward or take it back.

Pulling a loop over the island home in the CLSA Stampe SV.4

When it comes to aerobatics and flying, the Stampe includes a set of options to adjust its flight handling: pitch and roll rates, rate of climb, and throttle. these can be adjusted in  real-time when flying, and also output to chat for recording onto note cards which can be added to the ‘plane’s inventory. This means that if the Stampe is permanently rezzed as a shared plane within a group, pilots can load their personal flight preferences, thus allowing more experiences flyers to use more aggressive settings, while those with less experience can opt to use their own or say with the plane’s default characteristics.

A big plus (for me at least) is that unlike the Ryan, P92 and P2010, the Stampe *won’t* regard Linden water as land and happily taxi around on it or land on / take off from the surface.  Were I to critique the plane at all, it would be that banking – although far better than the Ryan, P92 and P2010 – can still be flat at times in the default handling mode (so use of the custom handling options might be called for).

I also feel the supplied exterior painting template leaves much to be desired. Some of the component parts are poorly rendered and indistinct, requiring a certain degree of skill when setting a personal colour scheme. A scripted painting mechanism is provided, which includes two custom finish slots, together with 6 supplied finishes. However, as the ‘plane is supplied with Modify permissions, it is possible to manually apply paint schemes, so multiple personal finishes can be used, if wanted.

Three of a kind: three of the supplied finishes for the CLSA Stampe SV.4

Overall, give this ‘plane costs just L$10, it’s a nice add to any collection and is, as noted a lot of fun to fly, and which tends to handle region crossings pretty well (allowing for speed and how you might tweak the speed settings).

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