Second Life 2021/22: the Lab’s review & preview (with my own notes!)

Stock image

On Thursday, December 23rd, Linden Lab published their review of 2021, which also included a quick look ahead to 2022. As it is also my custom to offer a personal look back over a year as it drawing to a close, I thought that this year I’d focus a little on the Lab’s review and offer thoughts of my own as well.

Linden Lab: Departures and Arrivals

As the official blog post notes, 2021 has been a year of transition for the Lab in terms of management and senior positions.

New Owners: 2021 saw Linden Research Incorporated (aka Linden Lab) and its subsidiary, Tilia Inc (Tilia Pay) under new ownership in the form of Brad Oberwager, J. Randall (Randy) Waterfield and Raj Date. Of the three, Mr. Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden) has been perhaps the most visibly hands-on of the three, taking up the Executive Chair on the Lab’s management team. He also brought in his long-time colleague, Cammy Bergren to take up a new (to the company) position of Chief of Staff. I offered something of a summary of the three new owners largely using their official bios from LL) in January 2021, which included some speculation on my part that Raj Date might be focused somewhat on Tilia (and he did take up a board position with that company – as did Brad Oberwager).

Ebbe Altberg: 1964-2021

Ebbe Altberg: Mr. Oberwager’s more direct involvement with running the company may have been due in part to Ebbe Altberg’s health situation as much as Mr. Oberwager’s approach to the businesses he takes on. As CEO, Ebbe’s presence at the Lab had always been large in the public eye, and late 2020 / early 2021, was conspicuously marked by his apparent absence. Of course, as we now all know, illness was taking its toll, and Ebbe sadly passed away in June 2021, and as the Lab’s end-of-year post notes, his absence is still keenly felt.

Ebbe’s passing did give rise to speculation as to who the next CEO might be / when a new CEO would be announced. However, given Brad Oberwager and Cammy Bergren’s presence within the management team, I’ve never been convinced the Lab actually needed to look elsewhere for a CEO (or promote from within); both are accomplished CEOs of small businesses in their own right. Also, given the fact that overall ownership of the company was still relatively new, it’s reasonable to assume bringing in a new face / ideas / point of view to run things could have complicated matters unduly.

That said, part of me had been wondering as the year wore on as to whether r not we would see Cammy Bergren slip into the CEO’s role – and, allowing for her commitments elsewhere, I still wonder if that might not yet be the case.

Linden Lab’s Chief of Staff, Cammy Bergren (centre left) and Board member / Executive Chairman, Brad Oberwager (centre right) are Participating in Team 2 for Bid A linden Bald through their respective avatars, Cammy Linden and Oberwolf Linden, seen flanking them

Oz and Mojo: February 2021 saw the departure of Oz Linden from the Lab, as retirement beckoned him. As the official blog post notes, Oz had been instrumental in driving key decisions and implementations of Second Life’s development for over a decade, culminating with overseeing the physical transition of the platform to run within an environment operated by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Oz’s influence on the technical development of SL – particularly as Sansar came into being in 2014-2019 cannot be under-estimated, as I noted in my own farewell to him.

Replacing him as Vice President of Engineering, and arriving in July 2021, is Andrew Kertesz, aka Mojo Linden, whom I offered something of a “hello!” to in August. After getting his feet reasonably under the desk, Mojo started to attend in-world user group meetings, demonstrating he is quickly getting up to speed with the many challenges – technical and non-technical – facing the platform in its continued development and growth, and has some ideas of his own – some of which I’ve noted in these pages.

The changing face of the Lab’s VP of engineering: (l) -Scott Lawrence (Oz Linden), who retired in February 2021, and Andrew Ketesz (Mojo Linden), who joined in July 2021

One notable name missing from the list of those departing Labbies in the official blog post is that of April Linden, who departed the Lab at the start of November. Originally a member of the Engineering Team, the group of engineers responsible for keeping the servers that run all of SL’s various services purring (or grinding) along, April rose to lead the team, reporting to Oz and becoming the public face of explaining What Went Wrong and Why with highly informative blog-posts – including the bumpy bits of 2021!

Technical Front

While there were no significant new features released in 2021, the development and engineering teams have been busy. With the initial transition to AWS completed at the end of 2020, the past year has been focused on bedding-in / optimising SL within its new environment and trying to leverage the improved capabilities of the AWS environment to improve performance, server management, etc. So a lot has been going on under-the-hood, and it will continue into / through 2022, starting with a server operating system upgrade.

The performance work has also involved the viewer as well, although it has yet to reach de-facto release status. This work includes improvements to threading within the viewer’s code and a re-working of avatar rendering. Other performance improvements in development include some by TPV developers that the Lab is interested in potentially adopting / adapting that could further help with overall viewer performance, and I’ll be taking these through my User Group meeting summaries in 2022.

2021 saw the arrival of some long-term projects, including the initial deployment of multi-factor authentication – a welcome move, despite some of the criticism levelled at it. Where the viewer is concerned, the most notable long-term project to finally surface is the  360º capture capability, and look forward to it becoming more widely available in TPVs. Those who may not have read them can catch my overviews of the project viewer version and the release version of this viewer (both are the same in terms of use), and WordPress users might be interested in my piece on embedding 360 images into WordPress.

Picking at the Rest

The Lab’s blog post also touches on the likes of Linden Homes deployments, which this year saw the release of the Chalet and Fantasy themes, and the promise of the Newbrooke theme to come in 2022 – quite possibly in a revised form, given the reactions to the preview region seen (briefly) at the RFL of SL Xmas Expo. While I was initially unimpressed by the Fantasy theme, I have to admit to finding the community centre for the the theme perhaps the most visually engaging of such centres yet offered.

Linden Fantasy Homes – Community Centre

In terms of Linden Homes, one thing I would like to see from the Lab during 2022 is the “finishing off” of coastal areas around the north / north-west side of the Log Homes regions.

Looking Ahead

In looking ahead to 2022, LL point to a number of projects, including the implementation of Premium Plus, the “upper tier” of Second Life subscriptions that was put on hold for a number of reasons in 2020. The post also mentions further performance improvements, better avatar optimisation and continued work on the New User Experience – some of the work on the latter being surfaced in 2021, such as the viewer Guidebook and the new Welcome Islands that are part of the ongoing A/B testing. Plus there’s the much-promised work to overhaul and improve Search

However, three things on the Lab’s bullet point list for 2022 particularly caught my eye:

  • Avatar “expressiveness” that brings camera-based gestures and movement to your avatar for a whole new level of interaction and connectedness.
  • A new mobile viewer to enhance and improve your Second Life experience.
  • Improved materials and terrain.

The Avatar “expressiveness” project is something not (so far as I can recall) previously mentioned. I’ll reserve comment on this until I know more about it; not that I’ll be able to use it unless I go get a camera for my home desktop, I guess. All I’ll say here is that this might in in response to others jumping onto “the metaverse” bandwagon, and a desire to make SL’s avatars more appealing to a wider range of possible use cases.

The reference to a new Mobile viewer (my emphasis) rather than “client” or “app” has me wondering if, given the suspension of work on the iOS app a couple of months back, LL are now looking towards a streaming option for the viewer, rather than a “companion app” (as their mobile work has thus far been called. As such, I’ll be attempting to keep an eye and ear out for more on this.

Improved materials and terrain is interesting, as the question of terrain was raised at the last CCUG meeting of 2021, but not as a project under active consideration; rather it was raised as a discussion point to get feedback on what people might like to see if LL were to work on SL terrain. So things seem to have moved on this.  Thing like materials (and things like PBR) have been indicated as potential areas of work by the Graphics team, so it will be interesting see what materialises through 2022.

SL and “the Metaverse”

Ever since the announcement about Facebook / Meta pivoting to focus on “building the metaverse”, there have concerns / predictions that Meta will at some point acquire LL. Frankly, while the Lab is right to watch “the metaverse” hype, I don’t put any stock in the likes of Meta wishing to acquire the company, simply because LL for the most part doesn’t have IP that’s worth acquiring. Nor, given the likes of Meta have established user bases in the hundreds of millions, is LL’s user base really worth anything. What, potentially, is of value comes down to two things: skillset among staff, and Tilia Pay. And in the case of staff / skillset, there’s no need to acquire the entire company to gain them – head-hunting / poaching is far more effective. Tilia is an interesting question – but it is one best left to another post. In terms of “the metaverse” as a whole, it is fair to say it is still early days – but frankly, and pushing the hype to one side, I tend to share John Carmack’s view on things:

I have pretty good reasons to believe that setting out to build the metaverse is not actually the best way to wind up with the metaverse.

– John Carmack, October 2021

Capitalism being what it is, if the likes of Meta, Epic, Nvidia et al do build their versions of “the metaverse”, I doubt they’ll offer any form of open frontier beloved of the metavangelists. Rather they’ll be another series of walled gardens, large and small; an environment in which there is no reason why something like SL cannot continue to survive and even enjoy modest growth. Of course, the day may come when a single entity – our equivalent of Innovative Online Industries – attempts to gobble up all the opposition and establish themselves as “the metaverse” – but I doubt that is anywhere near being on the horizon (and I equally doubt they’d start with acquiring the likes of LL).

My Predictions for SL and 2022

Well, actually, I don’t have any, other than the obvious: Second Life will continue to chug along; LL will role out updates and improvements that will please some, aggravate others and possibly pass right over the heads of a few. Attempts will be made to try to grow the user-base, in part through yet more “partnerships” of the Film Threat / Titmouse / Zenescope variety with, I’m tempted to say, less-than-stellar results. For the majority of us as users, the year will likely be “business as usual”, unless the utterly unexpected pops up. And I’ll continue to eclectically blog on SL, technical (as best I can!) and non-technical.

Second Life and the Lab: looking back at 2020

It’s become an end-of year tradition in the blog to offer a look back over the past 12 months and summarise much of what has happened in terms of Second Life, Linden Lab, my involvement in the platform, and the various other topics covered in these pages.

Last year I altered my usual approach to these look backs, as I felt the 2-part format I had been using was perhaps a little dry, so instead, I focused more on the notable events in SL through the year. I’ve opted to follow that approach, with some the highlights of the year (at least, as I see them).

Linden Lab

Acquisition

The biggest news of the year with regards to Linden Lab was the July announcement that the company was in the process of being acquired by new investors. At the turn of the year, the negotiations, etc., still appear to be in progress, although there have been no further updates from the Lab on the matter. The latter is hardly surprising,  given the complexity that can be involved in such deals, which in some cases can take well over a year to complete.

At the time of the announcement, the news brought forth a lot of angst and some negativity – although such acquisitions are not uncommon by by no means  indicative of “bad” news. With this situation, and given the backgrounds of the new investors, the move appears positive,  prompting me to point out a couple of things and offer some speculation.

J. Randall Waterfield (l) and Bradford Oberwager, the incoming Linden Research Inc., investors.

Sansar

The start of the year was not a little confusing for Sansar. 2019 had seen some rapid changes of direction with the platform, suggesting Linden Lab were having trouble settling on a market  / audience for Sansar, with a portion of staff working on the platform being laid off. In February, rumours were circulating that the Lab had suspended all development for Sansar and were laying off the rest of their staff working on the platform. Such were the rumours, the Lab took the step of publicly providing  reassurance about the future of Second Life, whilst seeking a future for Sansar.

In March it was confirmed Sansar had been sold to Wookey Projects Inc., (later Wookey Technologies). The deal was largely brought about by members of the Lab’s team directly involved in managing and running Sansar, and saw the majority of those who had been laid-off being hired by Wookey, whilst former Linden Lab Management Team members Sheri Bryant and Julia Munck also moving to Wookey to directly manage things.

Following its acquisition, the platform continued to focus on “live” events, including a major link-up with Lost Horizons to host a virtual Glastonbury Shangri-La festival in the summer, and a further Lost Horizons set of events at the end of the year – see my general Sansar reporting for more.

Tilia

Tilia Inc., is the wholly-owned subsidiary of Linden Lab that handles all micro-transactions and payments /payouts related to Linden Dollars and Sansar Dollars, and which manages the Lab’s compliance with regulations relating to its role as a Money Transmitter / Money Services Business (MSB).

I’d previously speculated that Tilia might be a means for the Lab to spin-off its expertise with managing micro-currencies to other companies wish to offer such services. With the sale of Sansar, Wookey Technologies effectively became the Lab’s first customer in this regard. Then in May 2020 it was announced that the property trading game Upland. had become Tilia’s second client customer.

Merchandise

After requests to do so for many years, Linden Lab started offering SL-related merchandise via RedBubble – see: Linden Lab launches the Official Second Life Merchandise store.

Second Life Marketing

2020 allowed users to see into the Lab’s marketing efforts for Second Life – which, contrary to popular belief – are actually carefully managed and coordinated. In February, Brett Linden penned The Heart & Science of Second Life Marketing, while in March, he and Darcy Linden appeared on Lab Gab information / insight into the Marketing Team’s work, with the entire team also participating in the 2020 Meet the Lindens sessions at SL17B.

Then at the end of the year, Brett followed-up with a further blog post looking back  at yhr year and offering a “behind the scenes” look at a Second Life’s first broadcast quality commercial – about which I’ll have a lot more to say come 2021.

Two of the more curious aspects of the 2020 marketing activities came in the form of tie-ins with  [Adult Swim], the American adult-oriented night-time programming block of the Cartoon Network (see: Adult Swim special streaming event in Second Life), and with animation studio Titmouse (see: Second Life to have a smashing time with Titmouse).

Technical Updates

Project Uplift: AWS Migration

The majority of the year was dominated on the technical front by the work to migrate all of the Second Life services and infrastructure to Amazon AWS hardware and infrastructure. Initiated in 2017, the reached a point of critical mass in 2020 with the transfer of all services from the Lab’s co-location facility in Arizona to running on AWS service out of Oregon. The last major element of the project was the migration of all of SL’s main grid regions to AWS, a process that came in the last part of the year, and proceeded relatively rapidly and smoothly, with the Lab confirming all regions were running on AWS services on November 19th.

The migration of all regions was not the end of the work, nor was it entirely without issues, technical and otherwise. In the case of the latter,it did require the suspension of new region provisioning from May through November. The work also saw a delay in the release of the Premium Linden Homes Stilt theme. However, by the end of 2020, the vast majority of the work had been completed, the Lab to discontinue all operations out of the Arizona co-location  facility just before Christmas 2020.

April Linden celebrates the Lab moving out of their former co-lo facilities.

2021 will see further adjustments and fine tuning of all SL-related services that will hopefully see like general improvements. For you wish to review the year’s progress, please use my SL in the Cloud and Cloud Uplift tags.

Viewer Highlights

  • In January 2020,the Lab ceased providing support and viewer-side updates for Windows 7, in line with Microsoft ending its support of the operating system.
  • Camera Presets – the ability to create a save multiple positions for your viewer camera arrived in a Release Candidate viewer. When the viewer reached de facto release status, I provided a complete tutorial for the capability.
  • The Environment Enhancement Project – a complete replacement for the Windlight rendering system – was launched in April, and I provided both a primer and an in-depth tutorial.

The official iOS / Android client continued to progress, with the iOS version making it to a closed alpha release, and from that to being submitted to Apple for evaluation – which remained its status at the end of the year. The Android client has year to surface, but is being actively worked on. Details on both can be found in my SL Mobile updates.

Second Life and the SARS-CoV-2 Virus

March 2020 saw the growing issue of the SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-situation start to bite the world very hard. As a result, the Lab switched to fully remote  working (a large portion of the Lab’s staff already worked from home either full-time or on a regular basis, allowing the company to switch all of its centres  – Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and Atlanta – more readily  than other companies might have managed).

At the same time, the Lab put in place some practical steps to help those wishing to use Second Life as a means to support their staff working remotely. These steps included:

  • A new micro-website secondlife.com, and an accompanying updated FAQ on working in Second Life.
  • A reduction in region fees for registered non-profits and educational organisations / institutions, with Full regions fixed at US $99 a month.
  • Region holders experiencing difficulties in meeting their tier obligations as a result of the pandemic were encouraged to contact LL to discuss their situation and to see if assistance could be obtained.

In addition, I provided coverage of a number of ways in which Second Life was utilised by various organisations and groups as a direct result of the pandemic. See:

The Balticon science fiction convention was one of a number of physical world event that used Second Life as a means for attendees to come together

The pandemic also gave me pause to look at what was left of one of the most extensive past uses of Second Life – by the US Armed Forces in the platform’s early years. See Coalition Island: looking at the US military’s use of Second Life.

The pandemic almost also brought about the end of one of the popular Second Life estates – Second Norway – but rescue came, and the estate not only survived, but is growing. See: Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements, Second Norway and Sailor’s Cove East – status update, Second Norway: the future is bright, Second Norway: making the changes and Second Norway: a closer look.

Continue reading “Second Life and the Lab: looking back at 2020”

Looking at Second Life updates in 2019 and ahead to 2020

Each year through this blog I attempt to track news about, and changes to, Second Life, as driven by Linden Lab. On the technical side, this is do through my weekly SL project summaries, whilst news and general updates are drawn from sources such as Lab comments on the official forums and official blog posts or as a result of attending public meetings and Q&A sessions, etc.

As a lot can happen during the course of the year, so in this article I’ve tried to summarise the more notable updates to occur during the course of 2019.

Land

Mainland Auctions

In March 2019, Linden Lab introduced Mainland user-to-user land auctions. The auction system leveraged Second Life Place Pages as the medium for presenting land for auction and for placing bids, together with a “cover page” listing available parcels up for auction available at https://places.secondlife.com/auctions. At the time of the launch, Linden Lab provided a Land Auctions Walkthrough.

Unfortunately, these auctions had to be suspended in October / November 2019 due to unspecified “abuse” by users. The system is to be revised, but there is currently no indication of when the auctions will be re-enabled.

Premium Homes

The first styles of the new Premium Homes were unveiled at the annual Home and Garden Expo in March 2019 in a single “preview” region that provided both the four types of Traditional homes and four types of Houseboat that would be the first  of the Premium Homes themes that would be issued.

The Homes themselves launched on April 15th, 2019, with the opening of the new Bellisseria continent and a mass release of both Houseboats and Traditional homes.  As with the original Linden Homes, they are available through Premium member’s Land Homes page, accessed through their secondlife.com dashboard.

The new Linden Homes are available to Premium members through the existing Linden Homes registration page

The first mass release of houses and houseboats had been snatched up within 48 hours of the release, with the houseboats proving particularly popular – so much so, that the Lab immediately started planning a 709-parcel add-on to Bellisseria specifically to meet the demand. In the meantime, one of the points noted about the new region was its lack of airstrips and this was addressed with the opening of the continent’s first airstrip in late April 2019.

The new bolt-on for the houseboats opened on May 15th, 2019 – and were all gone within 27 minutes of the release. Then in June 2019, Patch Linden announced that releases would shift to a smaller-scale rolling basis with regions of new houses generally being made available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Also in June, the Lab previewed the next major theme for Linden Homes, the Trailers and Campers, which were introduced in September. In December 2019, the Lab previewed and then released the Victorian theme of Premium Homes.

Fees and Account Changes

Fee Changes

2019 saw the introduction of significant fee changes for Second Life.

From June 2rd, 2019 Private region tiers changed as follows:

  • Full regions were reduced from L$249 a month to US $229.
  • Homestead private regions were reduced from US $195 to US $179.
The changes to Premium fees, announced in June 2019. Source: Linden Lab

These changes were exclusive of VAT, where applicable, and did not apply to Skilled Gaming region; however, Education / Non-profit (EDU/NP) discounted Full islands were be re-priced to maintain their 50% discount off the regularly priced Full island fees.

From June 24th, 2019, Premium fees were increased for the first time in their history:

  • The monthly fee increased from US $9.50 to US $11.99 (an annual increase of 26.21% from US $114 pa to US $143.88 pa)
  • The quarterly subscription increased from US $22.50 to US $32.97 (an annual increase of 46.53% a year from US $90 pa to US $131.88 pa). This fee was to be discontinued to users upgrading to Premium after July 24th, 2019, but a later decision saw it continued on a “temporary” basis that means it is still currently available.
  • The annual fee increased from US $72 to US $99 (an annual increase of 37.5%).
  • In addition, both existing quarterly and monthly subscriptions would again be subject to VAT.

Note: included with the announcement were proposed changes to Basic account users available off-line IMs and total group allowance. However, after receiving wide-ranging feedback (such as this letter from myself), the decision was made to not implement the group changes.

To help sweeten the Premium fees increase, between June 3rd through June 24th, Premium users were offered the chance to “lock-in” their Premium fee for an additional period commensurate to their subscription period from the end of their existing period. In addition, existing annual Premium subscription members were offered the chance to renew their subscription for an additional year from their next renewal date at the Winter Premium discounted rate (10% off).

There was also the 5% increase in Marketplace commission fees which caused some consternation. While the reason for the increase is understandable when put in the proper perspective, it could have been framed a little better.

Account Changes

In July Linden Lab announced that as from August 1st., their subsidiary company, Tilia Inc., would be taking over all responsibility for managing SL user’s USD denominated accounts. In short, this meant that anyone with a US dollar balance on their account would have to agree to the Tilia Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, and in order to process USD amounts out of Second Life, might have to supply personal information to Tilia. See:

Technical Updates

Teleport Disconnects

The early part of 2019 was marked by users experiencing a significant number of teleport disconnects. These proved problematic for the Lab as well,with assorted causes from EEP deployments to server OS updates being suggested as a possible cause. A series of user-involved stress tests on the best (Aditi) grid to help with investigations, allowing adjustments to be made on the simulator side. These helped point towards a race condition, with LL implementing changes and updated monitoring to counter the issue.

Script Processing Changes

Over the course of the year,  number of script-related issues have surfaced:

As a result, LL has worked to improve script handling – such as adjusting how idle scripts are handled to reduce the overhead with place on CPU cycles – and these changes and adjustments have helped to eliminate some, but not all, of the problems encountered through the year.

Marketplace

Release Notes

In May 2019, the Lab introduced new web-based release notes for the official viewer, together with a index page for said release notes. There were some initial teething problems with the system for those who track official viewer releases (sometimes a viewer update would appear on the index page, sometimes on the new Alternate Viewers page, sometimes on both that took a while to smooth out.

Server release notes made a similar move to web pages in September. After this, LL stopped breaking down simulator updates by release channel (e.g. BlueSteel, Magnum and LeTigre), listing all releases as “Second Life Server”, regardless of the actual channel used for a release.

iOS Client

In January, evidence surfaced that Linden Lab are working on a Second Life iOS. After enquiring with the Lab, I received confirmation the app was being actively worked on. As the year progressed, more details were revealed about the app, including: the app should work on both the iPhone and iPad, and will initially be more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client; it will provide a log-in option, and chat options (e.g. chat, group chat), but will not present users with an in-world location, or rez and avatar in-world. Over time it will be enhanced – but additional capabilities are still TBD. See my mid-year update for more.

Cloud Transition

Work – most of it transparent to users – has continued on the migration of Second Life to the cloud. Most of this work has been on the back-end services, notably the web services. Currently, no public-facing simulators have been transitioned to AWS provisioning. All of this work has been achieved without any significant disruption to services or – more particularly – without users actually being aware the services had been moved, and the Lab reports that the migrated services have been able to achieve almost 100% up time.

Continue reading “Looking at Second Life updates in 2019 and ahead to 2020”

2018 in review – part 2: July to December

2018 in review

The end of another year is approaching, bringing with it a time of reflection as we look back over the old before pausing to await the arrival of the new. It’s become something of a tradition in these pages for me to offer a summary of the year as recorded in these pages, and offer a chance to revisit the ups and downs and the good and the bad the last twelve months have brought us. And so it is for 2018, starting with January through June.

January to June is available here.

Note that this summary isn’t supposed to document everything that happened through the year, but is intended to be a highlight some of the more notable events reported on through these pages. In addition, and for a more detailed look at the various technical and Lab-driven updates to Second Life, please refer to A look at Second Life updates in 2018.

July

Second Life

With the changes to private region fees – and the inevitable backlash from some over grandfathered regions being excluded, I offered an alternative perspective. Whatever estate holders thoughts might have been, two weeks after the private region price restructuring grid growth was slow – but positive. The Lab launched the revamped mainland auction system, initially for Lab held land only.

My Second Life

I repurposed a rezzing system to use as a personal rezzer for vehicle, and got to take the Airfish GEV by Ape Piaggio for a test run – expect it on the marketplace soon! The Get The Freight Out! system came in for examination.

Travel and Arts
July Travels July Art Reviews
Abandale (closed) Cica Ghost: Another Planet
In the Wild (closed) Terrygold: A Rusted Farm
Strawberry Lake (closed) Astral Dreams Project
Smash Starz Art Corner
Ravenwold (closed) DiXmiX: Bicycles
Cloudbreak (closed) Lin C Art Gallery
Erebos Harbor (closed to public access) Diomita Plaza Gallery: LuAnne Anatine
Ponto Cabana Kayly Iali
Pandora Box farewell

Sansar

The July Sansar release saw the introduction of custom avatars with UI and scripting updates. Linden Lab made a surprise announcement that the number of experiences granted to users was dramatically increased.

The Secret Of Mount Shasta; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrThe Secret Of Mount Shasta – click any image for full size

Sansar Travel

My visits for the month encompassed The Secret of Mount Shasta, Horizon Maze and Ebucezam, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Linden Lab

The Second Life 15th anniversary celebrations included another series of Meet the Lindens talks featuring Keira and Patch, Grumpity and Oz, Xiola and Brett and Ebbe Altberg, all of which I attempted to summarise (with audio extracts) under a general heading.

Space and Astronomy

At the start of July, the Martian dust storm reached global proportions, and I looked at asteroids and attempts to study them. The Parker solar probe was readied for launch and I revisited the Chinese space programme. Rockets and a temperate exoplanet also occupied my writings, the UK announced its first spaceport location, while evidence of a subsurface lake on Mars grabbed the headlines. NASA got ready to turn 60, and many were treated to the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century.

August

Second Life

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer announced their 2018 season, while the American Cancer Society announced announced a major overhaul of how it will go about fund-raising from 2019 onwards and sought ideas from supporters. I got to tour some of the new Themed Learning Islands designed to help bring new users with specific interests into Second Life. Firestorm launched a fund-raiser of their own to help cover technical and licensing costs.

Tech and Viewers

Linden Lab issued the Estate Access Management viewer to enhance the estate access management tools available to region holders and their estate managers within the viewer. A new version of the Second Life bug tracker (Jira) was launched.

The Estate Access Management viewer offers greater access control to regions for estate managers
My Second Life

After several weeks of work, the re-vamped Holly Kai Park, featuring a brand-new gallery space, neared completion.

Travel and Art
August Travels August Art Reviews
Black Kite G.B.T.H. – Mistero Hifeng
Chakryn Forest Club LA and Gallery: Carolyn Phoenix
Summer Wind InterstallART: Simply Spiritual
Kekeland – Bardeco La Maison d’Aneli: Barbara Borromeo and Cherry Manga
Bellefleurs and the House Sakura Paula Cloudpainter
Athenaeum Cica Ghost: Daydream
Missing Melody Nitroglobus: Hypnopomia
Peace of Mind LEA: Ethereal Shapes
DiXmiX: Retrospective
Lin C Art Gallery: Sisi Biedermann
La Maison d’Aneli: Cullum Writer, Aneli Abeyanti and Megan Prumier
The Rose Gallery
DaphneArts: Confinement

Sansar

With the first anniversary of the Public Creator Beta reached on July 31st, I offered some personal thoughts on Sansar. The Lab gave some indication of plans for the platform’s Edit Mode and the planned permissions system. The end of August brought the monthly update, known only by its release number, but which included a lot of information.

Sansar Travel

I visited the Roddenberry Nexus for some Star Trek and Wurfi’s Little Gallery.

Linden Lab

The Lab announced a further Town Hall with Ebbe Linden, to take place in September.

Other Virtual Worlds

High Fidelity announced the ability for users to earn and exchange HFC for USD

Space and Astronomy

The “Commercial Nine” – the first astronauts to fly aboard the US commercial vehicles designed to carry crews to / from the International Space station were announced, although there were concerns about the launch schedule The Parker Solar Probe launched. A study was published on the availability of water on the Moon.

An artist’s impression of the Parker Solar Probe swinging around the Sun at a distance of 6.2 million km (3.85 million mi) . Credit: NASA

September

Second Life

RFL of SL announced an expanded Making Strides Against Breast Cancer season. I provided a summary with audio of the 2nd Town Hall with Ebbe Altberg, and also dropped in on Les Fest 2018, A Spoonful of Sugar 2018, Rock Your Rack and the 2018 Hair Fair.

Linden Lab released the new sign-up process and new user experience for Second Life. The Governance User Group resumed in-world meetings, and Dog Food Days were launched for members of the SL teams. Team Diabetes of Second Life announced their 2018 season.

My Second Life

I got to try the Culprit Sonata Bento piano.

Travel and Art
September Travels September Art Reviews
Eclectica: A New Dawn (closed) Gates of Oria
Destiny Gardens (closed) National Museum of Caledon: Phrynne
The Cat Museum Silas Merlin – Carnival of the Arts
Sea Monsters (closed) LEA: Astral Dreams Project
Lost Unicorn Club LA and Gallery: Lyra Romanas and Io Bechir
Storybook Forest Cica Ghost: The Girl Who Cried Wolf
Savor Serenity Solo Arte
Ashemi Reprise Holly Kai Gallery: LuAnne Anatine
Tagus Enchanted Forest ArtCare Gallery
Little Havana and Voodoo In My Blood Rainbow Painters
Zone One DiXmiX: Maloe Vansant, Isa Messioptra and Harbor Galaxy
Florence Bay The Galleries Museum
Frog Hollow LEA: DC Spensley Retrospective
Deadpool Reborn

Sansar

The R25 release came out, bringing with it the in-client store, shopping cart for the web store, avatar and Look Book updates and the ability to gift Sansar dollars. I re-visited the Smithsonian American Arts Museum to see the upper floor expansion.

Linden Lab

Linden Lab switched to using Stellar Connect to provide Second Life first-line support.

Other Virtual Worlds

High Fidelity announced their second load test on the road to One Billion in VR, and set a new concurrency record for the platform. The event proved so popular, High Fidelity then put out a call for paid help with future load tests.

VR and AR

Facebook announced the Oculus Quest.

Space and Astronomy

Following the dust storm on Mars, NASA launched an attempt to re-connect with the rover Opportunity and a Soyuz space vehicle suffered at the ISS. I focused on the potential of the space elevator while NASA launched a mission to observe Earth’s changing ice patterns. SpaceX announced a new private mission around the Moon and Spock’s “homeworld” was discovered.

October

Second Life

EEP, the Environmental Enhancement Project reached a test release status on Aditi, the Beta Grid. Linden Lab blocked an Android client (IM To Secondlife) due to “serious TPV policy violations”. Linden Realms was re-launched following a total makeover. Wish Lists and Favourites arrived on the SL Marketplace.

Tech and Viewers

Second Life suffered another large-scale DDoS attack.

Shug Maitland kept an eye on the ups and downs of log-ins during the DDOS attack via https://etitsup.com/slstats/ through Sunday, October 28th, 2018 and into the early hours of Monday, October 29th, sending me this above capture
My Second Life
Travel and Art
October Travels October Art Reviews
SilentRane (closed) Barry Richez
Calas Galadhon’s MAZE (Halloween only) Rofina Bronet
Malaika Park Nitroglobus: Monique Beebe
Pendle Hill The G.T.B.H. Project: Artefatos
Nowhere Else DiXmiX Gallery: Aloisio Congrejo
Black Bayou Lake (closed) Club LA and Gallery: oYo
Tokyo Street Subway Entrance Anibrm Jung
On The Other Side Lin C Art Gallery: Janine Portal
World of Soap DiXmiX Gallery: CapCat Ragu and Meiló
Winter Moon Artful Expressions: GiulianaNicol
The Peak Black Label Gallery: Blip Mumfuzz
Cold Ash Nitroglobus Roof Gallery AretevanCyrene
La Frontera DiXmiX: Nel4481
{Glenrosa} (closed) Holly Kai Park: Milly Sharple
Meadow Rose JadeYu Fhang

Sansar

October saw Release 26 (R26), also called the Thumbs Up release, which included the first release of Sansar’s long-awaited permissions system. Following initial feedback, this saw some revisions. The Lab announced Sansar would be expanding to Steam before the end of the year.

Linden Lab

Jason Ghoulston, Product Manager for Sansar and responsible for the formation of the Lab’s Sansar Studios, departed the company,

Other Virtual Worlds

High Fidelity announced their first VR festival, to be held in November.

Space and Astronomy

NASA published its latest roadmap for returning to the Moon and China’s space programme got another examination. Astronomers discovered the first exomoon. A Crewed Soyuz booster suffered a mid-flight abort. Bepi-Columbo lifted-off on a mission to Mercury. I offered a quick round-up on news from Mars.

November

Second Life

Animesh as officially released, grid-wide. The November town hall meeting featured Oz, Grumpity and Patch Linden taking questions, and I produced a summary with audio.

Tech and Viewers

November saw further updates to the Marketplace, including new categories, with one for Animesh / animated objects. It was also confirmed that January 2019 will see the final deprecation and removal of all UDP asset fetching messaging from the viewer. In short: if you’re using a viewer that doesn’t use HTTP for asset fetching, you’ll not see avatars correctly.

Firestorm put out a call for volunteers, and was a victim of a fake account attempt to obtain user details. Kokua caught up with the official viewer Animesh release.

VWBPE announced a call for paper for the 2019 conference and news came that a Second Life machinima had probably achieved a world first.

A restructuring of the Linden Endowment for the Arts, set to start in 2019, was announced.

My Second Life

Ape allowed me to try out her Roadrunner electric scooter – and I find it’s a lot of fun. I also wrote about kitbashing in Second Life.

Travel and Art
November Travels November Art Reviews
Ocho Tango Men in Focus Gallery
Broken Dreams Project La Maison d’Aneli: Cybele Moon, Anadonne, Barret Darkfold, Nevereux, Rikku Yalin
Soul2Soul Highlands Vintage Art
Masters Amusement Park Cica Ghost: Rust
Somewhere in Time Paola Mills: Behind the Avatar
Magritte Blue Orange Gallery
Dagger Bay Sisi Biedermann
Snow Falls The Vordun Gallery
Lutz City Monroe Snook
Let It Snow! 2Lei: No Violence
Cherished DiXmiX Gallery: Kimeu Korg
Pfaffenthal 1867 Rainbow Painter’s Gallery
Winter’s Hollow
Isle of May
Tranquil Bear Winter Resort
R.A.H.M.E.N.L.O.S
Calas Midnight Clear

Sansar

More feedback is given on the expansion to Steam. The Look at Me release arrives, with a new client UI, new VR capabilities and new options in general. Linden Lab also announces a new event / series involving well-known comedians coming to VR. And with Pfeffenthal closing in Second Life, I look at their new project in Sansar.

Linden Lab

With controversy surrounding recent DMCA actions and speculation around about them LL issued a statement on creator rights and IP protection.

Other Virtual Worlds

While not exactly a virtual world, Flickr is popular with Second Life users, and news of changes caused some upset. I also offered my own thoughts on things, while Flickr issued a clarification on free accounts with images uploaded under a Creative Commons license.

Space and Astronomy

November was the month to say goodbye to the Kepler Observatory. ‘Oumuamua gets the first of two mentions in November Space Sunday articles, and SpaceX announce BFS testing plans.  ‘Oumuamua gets its second mention for the month, alongside more on exoplanets. NASA’s insight mission arrives on Mars.

December

Second Life

Linden Lab offered their own look at the last 12 months for Second Life. I offered my own look at the key SL updates through the year.

Team Diabetes of Second Life ran their Winter Showcase and RFL of SL their Christmas Expo. Firestorm launched a Pets for New Residents drive. There was some apparently sad news concerning ACS and RFL of SL, which quickly got turned around, together with additional good news. Survivors of Suicide also had a winter market. Harambee Charity Market returned to raise more funds for the IKSDP schools project.

Tech and Viewers

Firestorm 6.0.1 was released as an “early access” update, and Kokua updated.

My Second Life

I celebrated 12 years in Second Life and made some small end-of-year changes to Isla Pey, and to this blog. I also picked up two ‘planes during the month: the CLSA Stampe SV.4 for L$10 (now L$15), and the TBM Kronos V6. I also caught up one vehicle product review, looking at the aR Wild Goose and Piaggio Tracky.

The CLSA Stampe SV.4, one of two ‘planes I found hard to resist
Travel and Art
December Travels December Art Reviews
The Forest – Winter Wonderland Club LA and Gallery: La Robbiani and Wintergeist
Mesmeric Cove DiXmiX Gallery: Megan Prumier
Hollyee and Winter Dream Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise
Bay of Dreams Cica Ghost: Lullaby
Junbug (Monet’s Garden) Ribong Gallery
Wild Edge La Maison d’Aneli Gallery
Nevgilde Paris Metro Art Gallery: Cybele Moon
Zimminyville MC Grafite
[Valium] Nitroglobus Roof Gallery
:nostos:deer: Diotima Art Gallery
Ponto Cabana DiXmiX Gallery: Neveraux

Sansar

Sansar launched on Steam, and was followed with the final release for 2018. I offered some thoughts on Sansar at the year’s end.

Sansar on Steam. Courtesy of Linden Lab

AR and VR

I opened the first part of a series offering a personal look at AR and VR.

Space and Astronomy

NASA’s Mars InSight mission took up a lot of my month, with a look at the lander’s arrival, the opportunity to hear the sound of the Martian wind, and the start of initial operations – a piece which also looked at the latest success for Virgin Galactic. When 2019 being the 50 anniversary of Apollo 11, I recalled the momentous Apollo 8 mission, then looked ahead to New Horizon’s encounter with Ultima Thule.

2018 in review – part 1: January to June

The end of another year is approaching, bringing with it a time of reflection as we look back over the old before pausing to await the arrival of the new. It’s become something of a tradition in these pages for me to offer a summary of the year as recorded in this blog, and offer a chance to revisit the ups and downs and the good and the bad the last twelve months have brought us. And so it is for 2018, starting with January through June.

July to December is available here.

Note that this summary isn’t supposed to document everything that happened through the year, but is intended to be a highlight some of the more notable events reported on through these pages. In addition, and for a more detailed look at the various technical and Lab-driven updates to Second Life, please refer to A look at Second Life updates in 2018.

January

Second Life

I started the year with a look at Tyche Shepherd’s end-of-year Grid Survey report for 2017, which saw the grid contract by 4.0%. R. Crap Mariner joined the blog as a guest writer, with a regular series through the first half of the year covering dance in Second Life.

Tech and Viewers

Catznip was the first major viewer release for 2018, with the arrival of the shopping-focused R12. Firestorm issued version 5.0.11.53634, with lots of content creation goodies. Linden Lab released the 64-bit version of the official viewer, together with an update on plans for Linux. As the Alex Ivy release saw Linux removed as a viewer download option, the Lab re-issued their last stable Linux viewer version

My Second Life

I took to the air in the CLSA Fairey Gannet, a bargain for military flyers at just L$10.  brightened the skies of my Second Life with Stevie Davros’ clouds and skies.

We don’t (yet) have EEP, but Stevie Davros’ Windlight clouds and skies provide a means of being funky in your viewer
Travel and Arts
January Travels January Art Reviews
Brand New Colony (closed) The Listening Room
La Vie (closed) Cica Ghost Bird People
R.A.H.M.E.N.L.O.S. Gem Preiz – Sapiens
Ivy Falls Gallery Cecile
Thor’s Land MetaLES closure
Oh Deer (closed) Dreamer’s Feelings
Neverfar (closed to public access) Bryn Oh: Lady Carmagnolle / 26 Tines
Flying Coyote River MOSP
Les Reves Perdus Nitroglobus: Cold Frog

Sansar

Linden Lab launched the Sansar Top 5, a video review of popular experiences on the platform, and took the platform to the 2018 CES alongside Intel.  With the announcement that 2018 work would start to focus on user acquisition, I had a few thoughts.

Sansar Travel

My visits for the month encompassed Whystler’s The Bridge Room and Whyst Garden; Aech’s Garage; C3rb3rus’s 2077; and Anu’s Copper Valley.

Linden Lab

In something of a shock announcement, the Lab’s Director of Global Communications, Peter Gray, announced he was leaving for pastures new.

Space and Astronomy

I marked the sad occasion of the passing of John Young; looked at the ups and downs of China’s space programme – together with the first of many pieces on exoplanets; examined lunar lava tubes and commercial gamesmanship; and looked towards the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy while also returning to TRAPPIST-1.

February

Second Life

February marked the annual Mole Day event in Bay City, recognising the work of the LPDW – the Linden Department of Public Works, and the annual One Billion Rising event, which I previewed.

Tech and Viewers

Second Life had its first major DDoS attack for 2018 and I reviewed the latest iteration of the 360-snapshot viewer.

Travel and Arts
February Travels February Art Reviews
Cece’s Secret (closed) Club LA and Gallery
Meraki Islands DiXmiX: Titus, Gaus and Burk
Kisaragi Town Kimmy LittleBoots
Kamigami, Pandora Resort (closed) Cica’s 50 Cats
Realm Of Light DaphneArts: Je n’aime pas
Sanctuary Giovanna Cerise – From Worlds to the World
Soul2Soul River / Soul2Soul Bay The Art Garden Gallery
Chamonix City DiXmiX: Melusina Parkin
Cuivieenen
Bay of Dreams
Sansar

The Find and Connect release deployed, focusing on making it easier to find others in Sansar, together with assorted content creation and avatar updates and communication improvements were outlined.

Sansar Travel

I only visited a single experience during February: Eternity by C3rb3rus.

Linden Lab

Bjørn Laurin, formerly the Vice President of Product at Linden Lab, departed the company to join HTC Vive.

High Fidelity

I caught up with HiFi’s commerce plans, including the HFC and wallet,

Space and Astronomy

The hunt for exoplanets took a turn with the first discovery of planets in another galaxy, while it was suggested Russia might enter the space tourism market; the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launched while the USA indicated it wants to cease ISS operations at the end of 2025; I caught up with rover operations on Mars then reviewed NASA’s 2019 budget and SpaceX’s attempt to catch part of a Falcon 9 in a giant sea-going net.

Two from one: the moment at which two Falcon 9 cores are about to touch-down at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station following the February 6th, 2018 launch of Falcon Heavy. Credit: SpaceX

Continue reading “2018 in review – part 1: January to June”

2017 in review part 2

The Mill; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrThe Mill, December 2017 – blog post

The end of the year is once more approaching, which is often a time of reflection as we look back over the old before pausing to await the arrival of the new. It’s become something of a tradition in these pages for me to look back over the articles and coverage of the year’s events I’ve managed to write-up, and offer a chance to revisit the ups and downs and the good and the bad the last twelve months have brought us.

To keep things digestible, I’ve broken this year’s review into two parts. This one covers July through December. January through June can be found here, and a look at SL’s technical developments through the years is available here.

July

Second Life

The month opened with Jayjay Zifanwe contacting me to give me the (then) exclusive news that UWA’s regions would be remaining in Second Life for a further two years, albeit it on a reduced scale, rather than closing as anticipated. A celebratory Art of the Artists machinina challenge followed the announcement. The lab launched their “Bento equipped” starter avatars, and issued updates to the Terms of Service, while some purchase notifications were also updated. Nicky Perian announced he would be retiring from Kokua development in October 2017 to enjoy a well-earned rest, in the hope that someone else would take up the reins.

Sansar

The end of July saw the Creator Beta launch, with the platform opening to anyone wishing to join. The run-up through the month was marking with an increase in Preview invitations, plus profile videos featuring Ria, Blueberry and London-based Unit 9, all of which I reviewed and added some thoughts around vis Sansar’s reach and marketing. With the Public Beta openI did a quick getting started guide.

VR and AR

CastAR sadly closed and AltspaceVR gave notice they would be closing. On a brighter note, it was revealed how Google had been re-inventing Glass over the last two years.

Space and Astronomy

July 2017 marked 20 years of continuously studying Mars from both the surface of the planet and from orbit, and also marked the anniversary of the first lunar landing. Remarkable images of Betelgeuse were revealed, and further traction was gained for NASA’s Deep Space Gateway while Elon Musk walked back some expectations around the first flight of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

Voyager mission: 40 years on. Credit: NASA/JPL

Personal

Wouldn’t you just know it – I revised the island home again!

Travel and Arts

July Travels July Art Reviews
Stony Hill Vineyard Artful Expressions: Cecilia Mode, Lawrence Pryce, Rosy Hanry Jarom
Gale Storm Retreat Wintergeist: Pieces of a Whole
Collins Land Solo Arte: Terrygold’s Reflected on Black
Ash Falls Karma Avedon: One Tree Hill
Welcome to Somewhere Commonwealth Village: Inara Pey
Follow Your Bliss Commune Utopia: Cybele Moon
Solo Arte: Boudicca Amat and Inara Pey
MetaLES: Harbor Galaxy
Serena Arts: aldiladeisogni – Picture of Oh
Bailywick Gallery: August 2017

August

Second Life

It’s a quiet month for me, reporting-wise, the focus being on my weekly series of SL user group meeting reports, although Bay City does announce the 2017 Hot City Nights event, which takes place towards the end of the month.

Sansar

With the Public Beta open, I offer some initial hints’n’tips and suggestions of places to visit, following by a more detailed look at the Runtime Desktop Mode. I also look at what the media is saying, and offer my own thoughts on the opening.  Three visits to Sansar experiences launch my Exploring Sansar series, while also taking a look at some of the Creator Challenge winners before starting my series of reports on Sansar Product Meetings.  Keeping with the spirit of competitions, the Lab co-sponsors an avatar design competition, and Bjorn and Widely Linden discuss the new platform (with audio), while there’s a further official Creator Profile video.

Secrets of the World Whale; Inara Pey, August 2017, on Flickr Sansar: Secrets of the World Whaleblog post

VR and AR

AltspaceVR announces a reprieve from closure may be in the wind, and there’s a look at VR and AR in the wake of Sansar’s public Creator Beta while High Fidelity reveals currency and IP protection plans.

Space and Astronomy

There’s another anniversary to be celebrated – this one marking 40 years of the Voyager mission. Curiosity celebrates five years of Mars surface operations, and exoplanets once more step into the spotlight, while the 2017 total solar eclipse is tracked across America.

Travel and Arts

August SL Travels August SL Art Reviews August Sansar
Banana Bay Battle of the Little Liars Seven Wonders
Wimberly (2) Cica Ghost: Future LOOT Interactive
Yasminia Dathúil: Welcome to My Brain Secrets of the World Whale
Cocoon Split Screen: Creator Challenge winners
Fine Art Gallery and Jungle No Life Without Art
Yamagata Club LA and Gallery: Burke Bode and Twain Orfan
Les Reves Perdus  Anibrm Jung – Art by Nature
Long Journey Kultivate’s Black and White
De*cid*u*ous Nitroglobus: Marie (mariajo60)
Cica Ghost: Fairy Tale

Continue reading “2017 in review part 2”