From a Little Village a Little Town does grow…

In March through April 2014, Cica Ghost has a charming installation on the region of Caramel. Called Little Village, it was a marvellous collection of whimsical little houses with wobbly chimneys, huddled together in groups or standing alone, some on level ground, others precariously straddling little hills, and about which I blogged at the time it was open.

Little Village may have gone from the virtual world at large, but on Thursday, October 30th, Cica opened Little Town, which might be regarded as Little Village all grown-up. And it is another absolute delight of the quirky and the fun.

The buildings here are “life-sized” (in avatar terms) when compared to Little Village, but they all display the same higgledy-piggledy charm. Most are gathered around a town square atop a large flat hill in the centre of the region, although several are scattered more widely afield.

Here you will find tall finger-like houses, their once-bright paint a little faded and warn, sharing space with other structures of unknown intent. Pipes and tubes and horns twist and run between buildings or point skywards while trees and bright patches of flowers add further colour to the scene, as bright balloons drift about the place. There’s even a building that looks peculiarly like a gigantic coffee pot, a pipe-like handle on one side, and the spout formed by a another pipe as it twists it way to connecting with conical neighbouring structure.

While the inhabitants may be conspicuous by their absence, this is a town that is very much alive in its own way; there is motion everywhere as windmills turn in the breeze, cogs and wheels rotate, horns stretch and contract from rooftops, strange spherical objects push their way through pipes; even the odd rooftop rises and falls as if breathing slowly, all of it serving to add a depth and further charm to the whimsy on display.

Getting around is easy: wide steel roads, heavy with rivets, offer various routes around the town and its outlying areas, while steps down from the hill provide access to those places off the main roads, and of course, visitors are free to wander where they like. For those not into walking, there are cars available from a rezzer near the cinema cafe, while a gift giver near the landing point will present you with Cica’s Flying Ventilator, if you fancy getting a bird’s-eye view of the town. And speaking of the cinema – do be aware that some of the buildings can be entered as well – there’s even a cage where you can do Airkix-style “skydiving / flying” :).

Should all the exploring tire you out, Cica has provide a trio of floating beds in the south-west corner of the region, where the weary can rest a while. The field over which the beds floats is also home to Cica’s little flower shop, where you can purchase sets of the flowers which can be seen around the town and region, as can copies of the two mechanical birds sitting under a nearby parasol – proceeds from sales doubtless help towards keeping the sim open.

Given Little Town involves so much motion, something no always captured in a simply snapshot, I’ll leave you with a video of the town in the hope it’ll encourage you to pay a visit and share in Cica’s whimsy!

Related Links

 

Lab asks: how is SL for you?

Just Another Tequilla Sunrise, Isle of Love; Inara Pey, October 2014, on FlickrSL should be looking and feeling a lot better for many of us as a result of recent work by the Lab – how’s it going for you? The Lab asks you drop them a line in the forums or via Twitter (image: Just Another Tequilla Sunrise, Isle of Love (Flickr) – blog post)

Following-on from the grid-wide deployment of CDN support and the promotion of the HTTP pipelining viewer as the de facto release viewer, the Lab has blogged about recent improvements to Second Life, finishing with the question “how is it for you?”

The blog post, entitled, Performance, Performance, Performance, opens thus:

Has Second Life seemed a bit faster for you lately? Improving performance for all Second Life users has been an important focus for us at Linden Lab, and we’ve recently seen some great results from several projects that should make your Second Life experiences faster, smoother, and more reliable.

It goes on to make fair mention of the CDN / HTTP work, noting:

Faster Texture & Mesh Loading
The entire grid is now using a CDN service for textures and meshes. This change means that textures and meshes should load more quickly, particularly for those who login to Second Life from places that are far from our US data centers. Our testing showed dramatic improvements: average download times for textures and meshes have been reduced by more than 50% on average, and the improvement is even more dramatic outside of North America.

Quicker Viewer-Server Communications
Another way we’re enhancing Second Life performance is through our HTTP project, which improves the way your Viewer communicates with grid services. With the HTTP Project Viewer out now, the faster content download times you’ll see thanks to the CDN change get even better – we’re talking 80% faster!

For those who may have missed news on the HTTP pipelining viewer and the CDN support, you can catch-up with things via a couple of posts on this blog: SL project updates week 42/2: Monty’s HTTP update and the HTTP pipelining viewer, and HTTP pipelining viewer reaches release status as CDN support is grid-wide.

Mention is also made of the recent Group Chat updates (work is still continuing on this, and you can get updates via the Group Chat tag in this blog).

However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the blog post is the news that there have been some significant infrastructure updates with the SL Marketplace, which appear to have slipped mention through other mediums such as the var UG meetings. Here the blog post notes:

Speeding Up the Marketplace
If you visit the Marketplace today, you should be seeing a much snappier experience than in the past. We recently deployed infrastructure upgrades for the Marketplace, and the site has since shown some of the best performance we’ve ever seen from it. Even during peak usage periods over the weekend, when in the past performance would degrade, we’re seeing response times that average 70% faster and page load times that are 30% faster than before the changes.

I’ve not used the Marketplace of late – although I have been covering the upcoming Viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM) changes that will be occurring in 2015, and which the Lab is currently gearing-up for, along with merchants and TPVs.

So have you noticed changes and improvement in your Second Life experience? If so, then why not follow the Lab’s request:

So, How’s Second Life Performing for You?
Performance improvements are generally behind-the-scenes work, and we know it’s not always as exciting as rolling out a new feature, but these changes directly impact all our Second Life experiences and our daily lives in-world. We hope you’re starting to notice the effects of these improvements – if you are, please let us know in the Forums, on Twitter, or however you prefer.

Note that is let the Lab know – not me (although general views are always welcome here, they might not be picked-up by the Lab)!

Kite flying in Second Life

Nigh on two years ago I blogged about Black Kite, the home of Black Cloud (Theblackcloud Oh), and a region open to visitors to enjoy. In the intervening time I’ve been back there on a number of occasions, drawn in part by the fact that it is a water-themed region. As regular reader know, I have something of a soft spot for such places.

Truth be told, not a lot has changed with the region in that time – and that shouldn’t be taken as a critique in any way, because that’s certainly not how it is intended. That Black Kite continues in look and feel as the months go by, so does the feeling of comfort and familiarity one gains with each subsequent visit. When so much can be subject to chop and change within Second Life, it is sometimes nice to have anchor points which can be returned to and enjoyed without the uncertain surprise of change; hence another reason for my visits.

For my part, I love how Black Kite mixes the natural and surreal, presenting an environment which is at once familiar and yet faintly alien. A place where wooden board walks and telegraph poles sit alongside the twisted, ball-topped forms of snake trees, and water droplets rise by the dozen from around armchairs sitting in the water while fish swim through the air indoors.

In my original post about Black Kite, I commented that it is very a much a place where one can get away and simply *be”. It still is; here are places – such as the aforementioned chairs – where one can sit and / or share with a friend or two. Nor are you restricted to ground (or water!) level: ladders provide access to the rooftops of several of the wooden buildings scattered across the region,  where additional chairs and benches might be found.

One of the delights of the region is that almost everything is carefully spaced across the region that conversations and the scenery can be enjoyed without the feeling of being overheard or sitting within earshot  / view of someone else’s privacy.

For those of a photographic bent, the default windlight presents Black Kite beautifully – but it is also a place where twiddling with settings can yield some quite unexpected and delightful results. A Flickr group is available for those you like to share their shots.

Visitors are free to wander where they will when visiting Black Kite, but if you’ve never dropped-in before, do be aware that Black Cloud has her private house in the north-east corner of the region, so do please respect her privacy.

I couldn’t resist a further attempt at doing a little video recording while visiting the region, so I’ll leave you with that – and a reminder of the Black Kite SLurl.

Related Links

HTTP pipelining viewer reaches release status as CDN support is grid-wide

On Wednesday, October 29th, the Lab promoted the HTTP pipelining viewer to the de facto release viewer, a move that came just after the grid-wide deployment of CDN support on Tuesday, October 28th. While the two are complementary rather than reliant upon one another, both should help improve the majority of users’ Second Life experience to some degree.

Monty Linden: the HTTP pipelining viewer marks the culmination of over 2 years of work inproving SL's HTTP capabilities

Monty Linden: the HTTP pipelining viewer marks the culmination of over 2 years of work improving SL’s HTTP capabilities

The HTTP pipelining viewer is the latest phase of over two years of work on Second Life by Monty Linden, and which has involved both the viewer and the servers and back-end services which support SL.

The work, originally a part of Project Shining, which was itself heralded as complete in June 2014, initially focused on texture handling between the servers and the viewer. Since then, Monty has gone on to tackle a number aspects of improving the use of HTTP in Second Life, such as making connections more robust and reliable, improving throughout to the viewer via HTTP, and so on.

The HTTP pipelining viewer, as the name suggests, leverages HTTP pipelining, a technique in which multiple HTTP requests are sent on a single TCP connection without waiting for the corresponding responses, which significantly improves the download of data (currently avatar baking information, texture data, and mesh data) to the viewer. The upshot of this is that the impact of a user’s physical location on scene loading is reduced, improving their overall experience.

As well as this, the HTTP viewer includes significant improvements to inventory folder and item fetches, which can markedly decrease the time taken for inventory to load, particularly if a user’s local inventory files have been flushed as a part of a cache clearing (or similar) exercise.

These inventory updates alone are liable to be appreciated by users as the viewer-side HTTP code gains wider adoption by TPVs. Tests have shown that a decently structured inventory (e.g. one that uses a folder hierarchy, rather than everything dumped into just a handful of top-level folders) of 100K can have a “clean” load time of 16-18 minutes reduced to around 3 minutes.

Earlier in October 2014, Monty blogged on his work, showing how both the CDN and the HTTP pipelining viewer, coupled with his earlier HTTP improvements have benefited texture and mesh fetching in SL. If you’ve not read that blog post, I recommend that you do.

Monty Linden's recent blog post shows how the HTTP work has improved texture and mesh fexture within SL

Monty Linden’s recent blog post shows how the HTTP work has improved texture and mesh texture fetching within SL

As well as working on HTTP, Monty has also been engaged on rebuilding and cleaning-up many of the third-party libraries used in the building of the viewer. This work should not only improve the viewer build process and such third-party libraries are consistently used in the build process, it may also help pave the way toward the Lab producing 64-bit versions of their viewer in the future.

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