Clouds and windlight skies by Stevie Davros

Saturn over Holly Kai Park, via the Cosmic Skies clouds set by Stevie Davros

During the Friday, January 26th TPV Developer meeting, mentioned was made of cloud texture sets produced by Australian photographer Stevie Davros, which he offers for sale through the Marketplace. Curious, I decided to go and take a look and have a play.

In all, Stevie is offering five sets of cloud textures at prices ranging from L$99 through to L$599. These are essentially collections of .TGA files designed to replace the cloud texture found in the viewer, and a selection of associated windlight sky .XML files specifically designed to work with the cloud textures, together with comprehensive set of installations instructions and links to his installation videos. To help people understand how they work, Stevie provides a sixth demonstration set for free.

As delivered from the marketplace, each set comprises a note card providing a general introduction to the sets, and a set of links, as follows:

  • A link to a Dropbox file location where the actual files for installation can be downloaded.
  • A link to a YouTube slide show of the various cloud textures.
  • A link to his set of Flickr albums showings the cloud images.
  • Assorted links to windlight tutorials.
The JuilaSet clouds and ~Clouds_JulietSet_Blue_Day windlight .XML by Stevie Davros (Sci-Fi and Fantasy clouds)

On receipt of a note card (delivered to your Received Items in its own folder), simply copy / paste the Dropbox link into your web browser to display a preview of the download ZIP contents (thumbnails of the folders and instruction files), and click the Download button, top right of the web page – don’t download the individual files.

I’m not going to run through the installation process here, as Stevie provides a comprehensive guide in both .PDF and .RTF formats, and links to his installation videos. Some file manipulation is required, but providing you are comfortable navigating a folder / directory hierarchy via your computer’s file manager / explorer, and with renaming files and copy / pasting files, you shouldn’t find the installation that taxing. Suffice it to say that the downloaded ZIP contains:

  • A choice of folders with the cloud .TGA files – one for PC, one for Mac OSX. These are intended to replace the default cloud texture provided in the viewer.
  • A folder of .XML windlight files that can be used with the cloud textures. Copy the contents of this folder to your viewer’s user windlight skies folder, rather than the viewer’s main windlight skies folder.
  • Installation instructions in .PDF and .RTF.
  • Two images used in the installation instructions.
The JuilaSet clouds used with Annan Adored’s Morning Dream windlight

For most viewers, using the different cloud textures requires renaming the texture you wish to use via your computer’s file manager, and restarting their viewer. Again, Stevie’s installation instructions explain what is required.

If you use Firestorm, you can simply copy all of the cloud textures to the viewer’s windlight\cloud folder and select your required cloud texture from the Preferences > Windlight > Cloud Texture drop-down, although a viewer restart will still generally be required to apply the change.

Note: when re-logging after selecting a custom cloud TGA, you may see no change in your sky if you are in a region using the default sky settings, or things might look initially messy. If this happens simply switch to a suitable windlight setting – see below.

There are a wide variety of ways to access windlight .XML files depending on the viewer you are using. Within the official viewer, windlights are access via the World menu > Environment Editor and then using either the Environment Settings panel or Sky Presets > Edit Preset floater, using the drop-down on each to select your preferred windlight setting (see below).

Selecting windlight pre-sets from the World menu in the official viewer – click for full size, if required

When applying the cloud textures and windlights supplied by Stevie, it’s worth keeping the following in mind:

  • Some of the cloud textures have recommended or specific sky .XML presets for use with them. For example, in the Cosmic Skies set:
    • The JuliaSet clouds have set of associated .XML files with the prefix ~Clouds_JuilaSet_[name]).
    • The Saturn cloud texture requires the ~Clouds_Saturn windlight sky in order to display correctly (the planet will display with some other windlights, but generally appears distorted)
  • Some of the cloud textures can look rough – faint rings may appear in the sky, the texture repeats might have a definable edge, etc. These issues can generally be corrected by adjusting the amount of cloud cover using the appropriate slider (e.g.  World menu > Environment Editor > Sky Presets > Edit Preset … > Cloud tab) and use the coverage slider to adjust as required.

FCirrus v2 Windlight: Pinky Yellow, by Stevie Davros, on FlickrCirrus v2 Windlight: Pinky Yellow, by Stevie Davros on Flickr


Given there are a lot of windlight .XML sets freely available to users, charging for them might at first seem odd – but remember, with these sets, it is not the .XMLs you are paying for, but the .TGA cloud files. How useful then might be to the individual depend on your Second Life use. Photographers will potentially find the sets to be of the most use; however, there are some points to be noted:

  • The cloud .TGA files are copyrighted by Stevie Davros. As such, although they are supplied outside of Second Life, they should be regarded as supplied under the following permissions: Copy, Modify, No Transfer, and so should not be passed to other users.
  • These sets are intended to be applied on the viewer side only (the cloud .TGA files can only be applied on the viewer-side), so only you will see them in operation when applied (those with their own region / with EM rights, might apply the windlight .XML files to their region).

It is perhaps also worthwhile pointing out that Rider Linden is working on the Environment Enhancement Project (EEP) – read this overview about the project for more. The point of this is that some might prefer to see how this project is implemented – testing is due to start on Aditi very soon – before purchasing sets of clouds.


Flying the CLSA Fairey Gannet in Second Life

The CLSA Fairey Gannet over Blake Sea Half Hitch

I’m not that into military aviation outside of airshows, and in SL, all my flying is restricted to civilian light aircraft with the exception of a Supermarine Spitfire, which was a thank you gift from its creator, Eric Gregan, and a civilian version of the PBY6A Catalina. So I’m a little surprised to be writing about a veteran military ‘plane, the Fairey Gannet.

I confess to having known next to nothing about the Gannet prior to obtaining this particular model – but wikipedia was once again my friend, helping me fill-in the blanks about this post-World War Two Royal Navy aircraft. I came across the model in question after learning through Whirly Fizzle that CLS Aviation, owned by CaithLynnSayes were being sold at L$10 per aircraft on an unsupported basis. At the time, I picked up a couple (see here for more). A subsequent chat about the CLSA range with friend Jodi Serenity led me to an impulse buy of CLSA’s Fairey Gannet – it’s not as if L$10 is going to break anyone’s bank!

The CLSA Fairey Gannet on rezzing

The first thing that struck me is that it is a comparatively big aeroplane (by the standards of the aircraft I generally fly, at least!). It is also something a very faithful reproduction by Helijah Bailey (sold under a licence agreement by CLSA) with a lot packed into it – more, it would seem, then the instruction manual explains. The complete package comprises the aircraft, a minimal but acceptable flight HUD for those who like them, a pilot’s headset and two manuals. By default, the aircraft rezzes with wings folded – these can be deployed when sat in the pilot’s cockpit by typing w(ing) or wings in chat. They unfold quite satisfactorily, and the twin turboprop engines can be started at the same time via the Engine button on the HUD if you use it, or by typing s(tart) or engine in chat – note chat commands are not case-sensitive.

Starting the engines will also do a couple of other things – activate the Gannet’s strobe and nav lights, and cause the other two crew members pop-up in their respective cockpits (the plane is a single avatar seater).  With the exhausts under the rearmost cockpit spewing fumes and heat, the ‘plane is ready to fly. This is achieved by releasing the parking brake (p) and then using the conventional controls: PAGE UP / PAGE DOWN for the throttle (5% increments or nX – where X is a number between 1 and 100, for quickly setting), UP / DOWN for nose pitch, LEFT / RIGHT for banking.

The CLSA Fairey Gannet: the two observers appear when the engines are started

In flight, the Gannet handles well – I’d rate it the best of the CLSA aircraft I’ve flown to date.  Being a beast, it does require constant pressure on the controls with banking or it’ll simply try to rapidly straighten out, but this adds a level of realism in flying. Airspeeds are given in metres per second, and when landing, you’ll need around 8-15 m/s to both avoid stalling on approach or coming in too fast and having to force it onto the ground.

As noted the ‘plane comes with plenty of features: the aforementioned folding / unfolding wings; a deplyable radar dome for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), the Gannet’s primary role in this variant and an extensible arrestor hook for deck landings (would that there were a Royal Navy carrier steaming around Blake Sea!). There are no fewer than 10 default camera positions and 11 preset paint schemes (5 Royal Navy Air Squadrons, one Royal Australian Navy Air Squadron (albeit it with UK roundels), one Indonesian Navy Aviation Squadron, 3 Marineflieger (German Navy) options, and one simply labelled “FAA” (Fleet Air Arm). There is also a custom option. There’s also a fuel system, a sliding pilot’s cockpit canopy, and a park / unpark mode (only use the latter with the wings folded, as it includes the stays to hold the wings in that position).

The CLSA Fairey Gannet: weapons bay doors open – flying in a region with rezzing rights will drop a torpedo

The Gannet is also fully VICE enabled for combat operations – although this is missing from the flight manual. I’m not into combat flying and so blindly fiddled around until some things worked. Enabling VICE via the menu prims the weapons bay, and typing b in flight will open the bay doors and drop a torpedo (providing you have rezzing rights in the region you’re flying through). There is a cycle delay limiting the frequency at which torpedoes can be released. There are also weapons hard points under the wings with depth charges (I assume) and missiles attached. These are alpha’d by default, and appear to be unscripted. I’ve no idea if they can be accessed by this particular variant of the Gannet, or if they an hold-over from another design, and confess I didn’t spend too much time trying to figure them out.

Overall, I found this a nice aircraft to fly – and one that is certainly nippy at high throttle settings, which offers some fun in flying. While it is not something I’d use with any frequency – only curiosity and the price caused my to buy it, as noted -, for those who like their military aircraft, it potentially offers a pretty good value for money, particularly given the preset finishes.

Additional Links

CLS Aviation on the Marketplace

CLSA: flying in Second Life at L$10 a plane

Flying over the home island in the CLS Aviation P2010

Whirly Fizzle pointed me in the direction of CLS Aviation on the Marketplace after owner CaithLynnSayes introduced an across-the-board price drop for all aircraft in this modest collection to just L$10 per vehicle – the catch being that the aircraft are now sold completely unsupported. As such, they make a bargain basement opportunity for those curious about SL flying to kick-start their exposure.

There are only nine aircraft in the CLSA range, and these form a mix of vintage and light aircraft. The models are built by Helijah Bailey and scripted by Reconx86, the scripts being based on those originally developed by Cubey Terra.

Both the P2010 (shown) and the P92 have acceptable default paint options (in theory changeable via the menu), and support custom finishes. Each features touch-to-open doors

I have previously flown the Firestorm limited edition of the CLSA Ryan Navion and found it acceptable, if not exceptional. For this test, I grabbed the “Tec-N” (aka Tecnam of Italy) P92 and the P2010 on the basis I haven’t got any high-wing monoplanes in my collection. Each aircraft is supplied with at least one variant of the plane itself (the P92 has a version with fixed wheel undercarriage, suffixed “T”, and a version with floats, suffixed “W”), a detailed manual, a quick start guide, a basic HUD, and a set of set of basic texture templates for creating custom paint finishes.

The flight system is the same for both aircraft, offering the usual control options: PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN for the throttle, UP / DOWN; arrow keys for pitching the nose down / up; the LEFT / RIGHT keys for banking (or WASD, if you use them). Other control surfaces (flaps, air brakes) are accessed via text. The HUD for each is fairly basic, and includes a button option for accessing the menu system (also accessible via chat command when sitting in the aircraft).

The P92-W(ater) version flying past a familiar (to this blog!) landmark

As with all CLSA aircraft, both models reflect their physical namesakes with reasonable accuracy. Each comes with a number of menu-accessible paint finishes, and slots within the menu for adding custom paint finishes (instructions for use in the user manual) – or that’s the theory. Both aircraft are also Shergood Aviation N-Number Registration compatible, meaning that when first rezzed, it will have a unique N (United States) registration number, which is also registered at the Shergood Aviation Aircraft Database.

Handling-wise I found the P92 and P2010 acceptable, although the P92 suffered the same issue I had with the CLSA Ryan Navion: banking tends to be flat, with the first part feeling like the aircraft is slewing into a turn. The P2010 felt a lot more responsive by comparison, rolling rather tightly in turns, but having the feel of a small, well-powered aircraft, and was definitely a lot more fun to fly. Airspeed is measured in metres per second, and it’s advisable to read the manual to get things like rotation and stall speeds fixed in your head.

The P92 float and wheeled variants, showing off two of the supplied pain finishes

I did have some issues with each plane – the aforementioned lack of initial banking when turning the P92, for example, together with a visual niggle that the main struts supporting the floats don’t actually meet the fuselage. There’s also no means to retract the wheels on the floats, giving the ‘plane an odd look when landing on water with wheels extended before and under the floats. As with the Ryan Navion, both the P92 and the P2010 will happily land on Linden water, taxi on it and take-off again, even when sans floats – which is a trifle odd, and possibly part of their Cubey Terra scripted heritage – as I noted in my review of the Ryan Navion, there is a degree of similarity in the handling of the Navion / P92 and Cubey’s Stingray in particular. However, these are relatively minor niggles.

A more annoying issue lies with the P2010. For me, this repeatedly gave a scripted texture call error when first sitting in the aircraft and on making region crossings, becoming quite the distraction at times. The menu option to access the paint controls was also non-functional, even after a full reset of scripts. However, I don’t believe the latter prevents the manual application of textures, if handled with care.

All CLSA aircraft seem to share the common trait of being able to operate on Linden water, regardless of whether they have floats! This is the P2010 “parked” on Blake Sea following a successful landing

If I’m totally honest, a CLSA ‘plane is unlikely to become a favourite with me; I’m simply too attached to my DSA aircraft (although the camera management on CLSA planes during regions crossings is admittedly far better than DSA). However, even allowing for the issues and niggles mentioned above, at L$10 per ‘plane, they really cannot be sneezed at for those wishing to join the world of SL aviation flying a fairly reasonable aircraft with a decent flight control system, and are a far better introduction to SL flying than many of the low-cost / freebie alternatives to be found on the MP.

Additional Links

CLS Aviation on the Marketplace

Isla Pey: all change

The Maven Eco IV, with mods, and part of the updated island

So, yeah. Last time I wrote about the pet project of Isla Pey, I passed comment that unless it went through a major make-over, it likely would not be changing too much. Well, guess what? We’ve just had a major make-over 😀 . It wasn’t intentional; we happened to visit Cerys’ magnificent Collins Land (see here), which got me reconsidering island designs; then I discovered the Maven Homes Eco IV house (available in either unfurnished or furnished variations), which became a “must have”.

The House particularly caught my eye for a number of reasons. The unfurnished variant offers  very flexible living space (a large open plan front area which can be easily made into two rooms and a separate room to the rear, alongside of a comfortably sized wooden deck) neatly fitted into a 25m by 27m footprint and 99 Land Impact. However, the attraction for me is the soft echo of Frank Lloyd Wright in the design and styling: the cool stone walls, the pseudo cantilever angling of the roofs, the use of glass. All of these made it pretty irresistible. So really, I had no option but the consign the cottage and ruins design to a rezzing system and start over…

The Maven Eco IV with Trompe Loeil Keliana pool (left foreground) and steps down the cliff to the boat moorings

Of the two variants of the Eco IV, I opted for the unfurnished since furniture is something we’re hardly lacking. As noted, the large space to the front of the house offers two open plan room spaces, either side of the front door. I borrowed an idea from Leaf and Birdy Moone, adding some low-level stone “room dividers” to further break up the space, putting a lounge on one side and a study / music / cosy on the other.

There are one or two things about the Eco (as with any house design) which didn’t quite suit our preferences. The Eco’s fireplace, for example came across as a little too modern, while the lighting in part comprises fluorescent style strip lights which frankly aren’t that attractive. The old cottage came to the rescue here, providing me with both a replace fireplace and chimney, and a pair of suspended candle lights. The former did require a retexturing of all of the stone walls in the house to blend the chimney into the design, while the later required a little script tinkering and lighting prim placement to both get the candles to work with the built-in house controls and give a decent lighting effect both above and below, but none of this was in any way onerous work.

The modified day space in the Eco IV: the fireplace, dividing walls, ceiling fan and lighting candles are all additions to the basic house, and the stonework is not the original texturing

The use of several large base sections in the house makes it relatively easy to add to the structure and avoid bumping the LI too much. In this case, I added the fireplace, room dividers, additional lighting, rugs, carpets, wall hangings, paintings, photos, and ornaments totalling 38 LI individually for just an additional 14 LI on the house. Controls for the house a pretty good as well. The main panel includes a security /access system, controls for the lights (which can be set to turn on / off at region dusk / dawn and have a colour options), door controls (including setting them to auto-open) and a window opacity / tinting system.

Of course, a new house required a re-working of the island as a whole, and I opted for the Fantik Lofoten Summer rock kit for this, as it offered the best flexibility for the look I wanted to achieve. There are nine basic rock formations in the kit, all with physics. This can limit resizing opportunities due to increased LI; however, if you have rocks you won’t be walking on directly, use the old trick of flicking the physics over from Prim to Convex Hull (Build / Edit floater > Features tab), and you’ll find they are a lot more friendly to resizing.

Looking down on the new house. The chimney actually came from the “old” cottage, with a retexturing of the stone on it and the house to blend the two together. Some of the wood and cement beams on the house have also been tinted to darken them

Those who have used this kit will know just how flexible it is, and it allowed me to easily design the new island around the house and a new water feature of two rocky pools linked by a series of small falls (courtesy of Alex Bader’s Waterfall kit) stepping their way down the rocks, together with a final fall to the sea (with a sluice to prevent the ducks, geese and fishes from being swept away! Kriss Lehmann’s excellent Botanical Edge Brick Park Path kit came out of retirement to provide the paths and steps winding down the rocks, including down the the new boat moorings below the back of the house.

The southern end of the island has been a little truncated – we really didn’t need all the space – and redesigned using elements from the Fanatik kit. Some of the old castle ruins have been retained here – not about to get rid of them entirely! This provides a nice home for our MSD Dragon Garden and offers a shaded little seating spot, while the Trompe Loeil Outcrop Hut is also retained from the last design, giving us a place to watch the boat races go by.

The view from the front of the house looking south over the pond and water to the old ruins

So, that’s what’s been keeping me occupied for the last couple of days, and one (among several) of the reasons the blogging output has slowed of late. But as we’re both happy with the result, I’d say the effort has been worth it 🙂 .

If you’re interested in seeing Eco IV in-world, you can fint it at Cain Maven’s main store.

A little (Bento) horse riding at Calas Galadhon in Second Life

Out on the Calas horse trails, Caitlyn leading the way

I’m not a horse owner, but riding is something I’ve had the good fortunate to enjoy from time to time, and on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s also something I’ve occasionally enjoyed in Second Life, although I’m now long past the point, land-wise, where keeping a horse in-world makes a lot of sense. So, in the latter regard, my riding enjoyment is restricted to taking the opportunity in those regions where riding options are offered.

One such location is Calas Galadhon Park, which offers for Teegle and Breeder’s Choice horses and, since March of 2017, the Water Horse Bento horse. Although Ty Tenk of Calas dropped me a line about the Bento horses when they were added, we weren’t in a position to try things then, and to be honest, it just slipped my mind). However, the news that there’s a new Coast Trail for horse riding through the Calas regions gave Caitlyn and I just the excuse to hop over and try things out.

The Water Horse Bento horse makes for a very natural feeling ride, while the Coast Trail at Calas still takes you through the redwood forest

The new Coast Trail forms a circular route around several of the Calas regions. It nominally starts at the bridge linking Dimirill Dale to Calas Galadhon, then runs around the lake at Calas Galadhon and up through the redwood forest of Mirromere, before curving around the cliffs of the Misty Mountains and dropping down into the islands of Long Lake. From there it arcs down through Belegear, touches the Grey Havens, and so returns to Dimrill Dale. Along the way, it offers some stunning views over the Calas park lands and waters.

As we were commencing our ride further south, at the Bento horse giver in Glanduin, (another horse giver can be found at Mirromere), Caitlyn and I opted to start our ride from there – and do things “backwards”, looping up through Dimrill Dale to Belegear, and then swinging through Long Lake and down through the Misty Mountains and Mirromere, to reach Calas Galadhon.

The Coast Ride takes you through the wilds of Calas Galadhon Park, and past some of its picturesque landmarks, such as the Greek Village, a reminder of “old Armenelos”

The Water Horse giver is easy to use, with the instructions clearly visible on the sign. Follow them, and you really can’t go wrong. The supplied horse is provided as a temp attachment (so nothing in your inventory), and is a demo version with about an hour’s duration, after which it will be removed / deleted. As it is a demo version, I can’t offer a comprehensive review  of it here; but what I can say is that as a Bento extension to the avatar skeleton, the horse handles very naturally (just remember to turn off your AO!), and you do get the four motion speeds – walk, trot, canter and gallop. Given the lay of the land at Calas, there are plenty of opportunities to try all of them.

Being a demo with an hour’s duration, the horse provided by the giver isn’t as fully featured as the actual Water Horse Bento horses, so I can’t offer a review here. What I can say, however, is that it is more than enough to give you a basic feel for riding the horse, and to demonstrate just how well the horse works as an extension to your avatar. You do get the four speed options – walk, trot, canter and gallop, and the Calas trails provide plenty of places where each can be tired.

Trotting across a bridge

The trails through Calas are a joy to ride – whichever horse system you have / use – and are fairly clearly signposted throughout. As the newest, the  Coast Trail is beautifully picturesque, particularly if you tackle it clockwise, as we did. To do this, follow the track up from the horse giver and through the farm and across the covered bridge. Then follow the trail under the rock arch, and then bear left before the next bridge, following the water’s edge westwards towards the Grey Heavens, and over the marshes to Belegear’s slender peninsula.

Going around the trail this way really opens out the park’s fabulous beauty from the start, leaving the lakeside buildings of Calas Galadhon itself until last, where a well-deserved drink can be had. The hour-long duration of the demo Water Horse means there is plenty of time to take the trail without having to unduly hurry.

Resting in the saddle near the cliffs of the Misty Mountains

I’ve always enjoyed Calas Galadhon, whether on horseback or foot, and the new Coast Trail is a delight, bringing home the natural beauty of the parklands, whether riding a Bento horse or any other horse type available from the rezzers in the regions (and if you’re a member of the Calas group, yo can always hop along and ride your own, if you haven’t already).

My only regret with our little foray is that as my video software still isn’t playing nice with the viewer at times, leaving me unable to record our meanderings. Fortunately, Ty made this point moot, having produced his own video highlighting both the Water Horse Bento horse and the riding trails of Calas. So I’ll leave you with that instead 🙂 .

SLurls and Links

All Calas Galadhon regions are rated Moderate.