Murderous doctors, beings of shadow and Celtic warriors

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in voice, brought to Second Life by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library.

As always, all times SLT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island.

Sunday, March 29th: Tea Time at Baker Street

Caledonia, Kaydon and Corwyn once more reconvene at the rooms of 221B Baker Street to read the story of The Adventure of the Speckled Band, which first appeared in The Strand Magazine in February 1892, and is notable for becoming the basis for a 1910 stage play written and produced by Conan Doyle, and which starred H. A. Saintsbury as Sherlock Holmes and Lyn Harding as Dr. Grimesby Roylott.

Dr. Grimesby Roylott confronts Holmes and Watson at 221B Baker Street (Sidney Paget, 1892)

Helen Stoner lives with her stepfather,  Dr. Grimesby Roylott, last survivor of what was a wealthy but dissolute and violent tempered aristocratic family. Roylott himself is known for his violent temper, and served time in India for the murder of a servant.

Miss Stoner’s visit to Holmes is prompted by Roylott’s demand that she move into a room at his country estate where her twin sister died under mysterious circumstances two years previously, her dying words being, “the band! the speckled band!” Helen is unwilling to occupy the room as there is something decidedly strange about it; thus she seeks Holmes in order to confide her fears in him.

After her departure, Roylott arrives and forces has way into Holmes’ presence, demanding to know what Helen has been saying. Failing to gain any information from Holmes, despite a show of brute physical strength intended to intimidate, Roylott leaves. However, his actions have now firmly established himself at the centre of the Great Detective’s attention…

Monday, March 30th

06:00: The Emerald Atlas

emerald atlasCata Charisma continues his reading of John Stephens’ The emerald Atlas, the first volume in his fantasy trilogy for young adults, The Books of Beginning.

Having been passed from pillar to post through orphanages, three siblings, Kate, Emma, and Michael, find themselves lodged at the home of one Dr. Stanislaus Pym. Kate, the eldest of the three is driven by a promise made by her mother, that if Kate protects her younger sister and brother, then their family will be one day reunited.

But in their explorations of Dr. Pym’s house the three of them find their way into the basement, where they come across a mysterious door and a equally mysterious emerald-covered booth, entirely without text. When an old photograph touches the blank pages of the book, however, the three are immediately transported to the time and place depicted in the photograph. Her they find themselves in a realm populated by witches, henchmen, giants, dwarves and more – and one Dr. Stanislaus Pym, a good deal younger than when they last saw him in his house…

19:00: Jack of Shadows

Gyro Muggins returns to Roger Zelazny’s 1971 novel which mixes science-fiction and fantasy, the title of which is an homage to Jack Vance.

jack-of-shadowsThe story takes place on a tidally locked planet – that is, one whose rotation about its axis precisely matches its orbit around its parent body, thus the same face is always presented to the the parent body (just like our own Moon always presents the same face towards Earth). Given that that parent object in this case is the planet’s Sun, it means that one side of the planet exists in perpetual daylight – and is the seat of science; while the other lingers in perpetual night – and has become the seat of magic.

It is from the latter that the protagonist of the story – Shadowjack – comes. Even among his own kind, he is unusual, for the manner in which he draws upon his power; something which can, in the right circumstances make him exceptionally potent. However, when placed in either complete light or complete darkness, he is almost powerless. Jack’s only friend, Morningstar is doomed to what is effectively eternal punishment unless Jack can cross between the two realms of light and dark, combining his abilities with the power of science. Thus Jack must risk being lost in total light or total darkness in order to to rescue Morningstar. And if he fails, who might rescue him?

Tuesday March 31st, 19:00: A Walk in the Woods

walk-in-woodsBy his own admission, Bill Bryson isn’t the world’s greatest adventurer. This being the case, you’d think he’d have serious misgivings about undertaking this particular “walk in the woods”, as he disarmingly calls it: taking the 3,500 kilometre (2,200 mile) Appalachian Trail – a journey which would take five months to complete.

Travelling with his good friend “Stephen Katz”, the book is both a humorous guide to the trail and a set of serious and insightful comments / discussion on the trail’s history as it winds its way from Georgia (where Bryson was living at the time the book was written in 1998), to Maine. These discussions cover a broad range of subject including the sociology, ecology, trees, plants, animals and people of the states through which the trail passes (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine).

Join Kayden Oconnell as he resumes retracing Bryson’s footsteps through the pages of this classic.

Wednesday June 1st, 19:00: An Interesting Year at the Newberys

With Caledonia Skytower.

Thursday June 2nd

19:00: Turlogh Dubh O’Brien

Robert howardRobert E. Howard is probably best known for his Conan the Barbarian series. However, despite a relatively short writing career (he committed suicide at the age of 30), he wrote in a number of genres include sword and sorcery and horror.

In the 1930s, towards the end of his writing career, he found an interest in fascinated by Celtic themes and his own Irish ancestry, going so far as to teach himself a little Gaelic. He also started writing two series of Irish tales, focused on Turlogh Dubh O’Brien and Cormac Mac Art, although only the former have so far seen publication.

Set in 11th Century Ireland, the initial Turlogh Dubh O’Brien stories were published in 1931, being The Dark Man and The Gods of Bal-Sagoth (which, despite being the sequel, saw publication first). The remainder of the stories, including the unfinished and untitled story were published posthumously between 1975 and 1996

Join Shandon Loring as he delves into this series of short tales.

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

With Finn Zeddmore.

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Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for April / May is Habitat for Humanity, with a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live – a safe and clean place to call home.

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Firestorm: of releases and springing into Spring

firestorm-logoAs note in a recent TPV Developer meeting summary, things are in a state of flux with regards to Firestorm updates.

Originally, it had been hoped the team would have an update released during March; however, there have been numerous projects coming through the Lab which have encouraged the team to delay their release. These include things like fixes for the assorted issues of attachments either dropping off following region crossings (notably teleports) or failing to attach, and also with the upcoming Viewer-Managed Marketplace updates (VMM).

In addition, testing of the current pre-release beta has resulted in a very mixed bag of feedback from users involved in the beta process. Some have reported significant issues which may be linked to HTTP pipelining or the recent AIS v3 updates from that Lab, while others have indicated they’ve encountered very few issues, up to and including the attachment loss / failure issues mentioned above (although somewhat limited due to PC issues, my own use of the 4.7.0 pre-release versions of Firestorm has given me almost no issues whatsoever).

Because of this, it now seems likely that the Firestorm team will be handling the next release as follows:

  • Two initial preview releases, issued to the Firestorm preview group. One of these will have the latest AIS v3 updates and HTTP pipelining updates from the Lab enabled by default, and the other will have them disabled by default. The hope is these will help determine how many users may be impacted by any AIS v3  / HTTP pipelining issues, and how things should be defaulted for the follow-up releases
  • A public beta release will follow these two preview releases, which will see Firestorm brought up to par with the current LL viewer code
  • A “full” release will follow some weeks after the beta release, which may include any additional updates from the Lab (e.g. the attachment fixes and / or VMM, depending on the overall status of these updates from the Lab).

No precise time scales are available for any of these releases, but it seem likely (based on comments passed at the TPV meeting linked-to above), that there will likely be an initial call for users to join the Firestorm preview group to assist with the preview testing. The public beta then many still appear later in April.  So, keep an eye on the Firestorm blog for any call that may be made, and for news on upcoming releases.

Seth Regan (Mankind Tracer in SL) will be headlining Firestorm's "Fed up with Winter" party, with Ed Merryman spinning the discs afterwards

Seth Regan (Mankind Tracer in SL) will be headlining Firestorm’s “Fed up with Winter” party, with Firestorm’s Ed Merryman spinning the discs afterwards

In the meantime, the Firestorm has announced a “Fed up with Winter!” party – or as I’ll prefer to call it, a “spring into Spring” party.

Headlining the event which will start at 12:00 noon SLT on Saturday, March 28th, will be Seth Regan, known in-world as Mankind Tracer. After his set, Firestorm’s own Ed Merryman will be providing the music in his usual style of spinning the discs until he (or everyone else) fall over from exhaustion!

The party is open to all – or at least, all who can get into the region, and will take place in a party area overhead on the Firestorm Support island.

SL Project updates week 13/2: TPV Developer meeting – HTTP, VMM and more

Matoluta Sanctuary, Sartre; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr Matoluta Sanctuary (Flickr) – blog post

The following notes are primarily taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, March 27th,  a video of which is included towards the end of the article (my thanks as always to North for recording it and providing it for embedding), and from the Server Beta meeting held on Thursday, March 26th. Any time stamps contained within the following text refer to the TPV developer meeting video.

Server Deployments Week 13 – Recap

As always, please refer to the deployment thread in the forums for the latest updates / news.

  • On Tuesday, March 24th, the Main (SLS) channel received the server maintenance package deployed to the three RCs in week 12, comprising updates which allow the Lab to make various configuration changes without having to necessarily run a rolling restart when they have done so. It contains not actual functional changes to the simulator software
  • On Wednesday, March 25th, the three RC channels received the same new server maintenance package, which is focused on inventory loss issues, and provides the Lab with better error detection and logging, improving their ability to look at some of the failure places and the removal of unused code. This updates does not remove the server-side messaging used in support of RTLP.

SL Viewer Update

Avatar Layers Project Viewer

Vir Linden’s work on a new global limit for system layer clothing was released as a project viewer, version 3.7.26.299805. With this viewer, a user can wear any combination of clothing layers (wearables), up to a maximum of 60, rather than being limited to (in general, and as with the official viewer) to a maximum of 5 items per layer type. Note that these changes do not apply to body part wearables (skin, shape, hair, eyes), for which the limit is still one of each, and do not affect attachments, for which the limit is still 38 total.

[07:18] There is already an update in the pipe for this viewer, which should be appearing next week.

Camera Positioning / Handling

[05:12] While there are no specific details as yet, the lab is hoping to put some work into improving camera positioning and handling in the not too distant future, in the hope of removing various glitches and issues.

Build Tools Viewer

[05:54] There have been a few fixes added to this viewer (currently version 3.7.26.299443), so a further update to the release candidate version is with the Lab’s QA team and should be appearing in week #14 (week commencing Monday, March 30th).

Maintenance Release Viewer

[06:29] Currently at version 3.7.26.299845, the latest Maintenance release viewer has a range of issues, many of which have hopefully been addressed with a series of fixes, so an update to that viewer is also with the Lab’s QA team. However, given the scope of the updates, it is proving a little harder to pass the QA process.

Experience Tools Viewer

[06:50] The Experience Keys / Tools viewer (currently version 3.8.0.299338) is being merged-up with the latest release version of the viewer code (version 3.7.26.299635). The updated version should also be appearing (again as an RC) in week #14.

Viewer Code

[17:27 – 19:50] There is an interesting discussion on the viewer code which, for anyone interested in how the viewer has developed over the years, and how much of it dates back some 14 years.

Viewer-Managed Marketplace

[00:00] There was a pile-on test of the new Viewer-Managed Marketplace capability on Aditi in week #12, and Brooke Linden was at the TPV Developer meeting to provide feedback. The pile-on test did not reveal any significant issues in terms of performance.

However, there is still a viewer / simulator / marketplace  communications issue which has to be resolved, which may take another couple of weeks to fix. After that, there are two grid deployments which need to take place: one for the VMM code itself, and one for updates to the Advanced Inventory System (AIS), so it is unlikely VMM will be fully deployed within the next month to two month, and the project viewer (currently version 3.7.25.298865) is unlikely to progress through a release candidate to release status until after the server components have been deployed.

Group Chat

Simon Linden has been working on significant improvements to the group chat service

Simon Linden has been working on significant improvements to the group chat service

[07:32] Simon Linden has been continuing to work on the group chat code, and all of his current updates should have been deployed to the back-end group chat servers. A broad consensus is that the issues which recently occurred as a result of some changes have been reversed, and that the group chat service as a whole is now running a lot better, both in terms of the early performance improvements Simon made, and with regards to the overall stability of the service and the servers.

[08:24] There is a further round of updating in the planning, but these require a platform upgrade to be carried out for the group chat service first. Therefore, unless unless the latest set of updates deployed by the Lab start to show issues, the engineering team will be switching focus for the immediate future, and will return to working on group chat once the necessary upgrade work has been completed.

Experience Keys  / Tools

[09:20] One of the items the engineering team want to focus on in particular is Experiences, and getting the remaining back-end issues sorted out so that Experiences can be properly deployed.

Voice Updates

[09:59] There will be a further round of voice updates which are expected to appear in a project viewer “shortly”. They include (but are not limited to) things like general code clean-up to prevent unnecessary list loading, removal of media messaging in person-to-person calls (which has never worked), fixes for issues related to microphone volume and improvements to the microphone test so that you can now hear yourself when testing your microphone, and improvements for hot swapping microphones / headsets.

[13:58] There is some confusion over whether or not a fix to voice designed to prevent someone’s voice channel being “left behind” when teleporting between regions has actually worked. It had been thought that the fix for this had been deployed in later 2014. However, bug reports are still being made still reporting issues (see BUG-8543 and STORM-2109), prompting the Lab to re-examine the status of the fix.

[19:54] Voice package updates from Vivox are also expected to be forthcoming in the future as well.

Restore To Last Position (RTLP)

Oz Linden - keeping an eye on feedback through the Firestorm blog on "restore to last position"

Oz Linden – keeping an eye on feedback through the Firestorm blog on “restore to last position”

[21:08] There have been around 400 responses to the Firestorm call for feedback on how people use the Restore To Last Position functionality found in some TPVs. As I’ve previously reported, the Lab had been considering deprecating the server-side message RTLP uses as an overall part of on-going work to reduce the amount of inventory loss issues (real or perceived) which can occur.

Firestorm’s call is helping the Lab to better understand how, as faulty as it might be, RTLP does fulfil a range of useful / valid use cases. Commenting on the fact the he has been reading through the feedback, Oz Linden said:

[21:49] Well, I understand that there are user scenarios that need to be addressed and need to be better supported. Whether the existing feature is the way to do that or not, I still consider to be an open question. I do want to take those use cases and work back through that process [of determining how best to serve them].

So the Lab still isn’t going to do anything “quickly” either way on RTLP, and people needn’t worry about RTLP vanishing / breaking “suddenly”.

In the meantime, they are working on other changes intended to address various rezzing failure situations. This work is more server-side focused, although it may be a while before updates appear on the grid as the exact nature of the updates is still being determined.

[23:42] Oz also again thanked everyone who responded to the Lab’s call for feedback on inventory losses in general, defining the feedback as “really, really useful”.

Continue reading

Second Life is [in] Good today

Nalates Urriah pointed me to an article in Good magazine in which freelance writer Mark Hay discusses Second Life.

Now, before you start groaning, the piece is actually pretty good. Unlike wannabe writers of the Marlon McDonald ilk (whom I rebutted last year), Mark Hay has actually – shock, horror! – researched his subject prior to putting fingers to keyboard.  Not only that, he’s actually taken the time to comb through Flickr and found images that both reflect how Second Life actually looks today – so double kudos to him from the outset.

Don't be fooled by the look: Mark E. Hay offers a perceptive take on Second Life (image: Mark E. Hay)

Don’t be fooled by the look: Mark E. Hay offers a perceptive take on Second Life (image: Mark E. Hay)

What’s more, while at a little under 1500 words in length, Second Life is Staying Alive may not be a in-depth piece of analysis, but it is a considered and balanced peace which offers a largely impartial and fairly accurate examination of the platform – and a thought-provoking one at that, and in a number of ways.

For my own part, what makes this article particularly interesting is the social bent it takes. That it does is not precisely the interesting point, after all, Mr. Hay has something of a background in sociology by education. Rather it is the views he offers up which may not only be eye-opening for those who have heard about, but not really looked at, but which also offer food for thought on a number of levels even for those of us already engaged in the platform.

Some of the latter may not be immediately obvious, and may require a second reading in order for them to fall into place. As such, they may not even have been intended at the time of writing, although I suspect some of the examples he cites are far from mere happenstance when one looks at the wider context in which SL is at times held within the media.

This really kicks-in after he gives a very short potted history of some of the platform’s highs and lows and the apparent loss of interest in it that occurred within the wider world. Here he points out that despite all the claims otherwise, the platform does continue to enjoy widespread use around the globe with average monthly log-ins not that far below those enjoyed during its “peak” popularity. from this, he offers his own explanation to why this is the case: the ability to socialise and create / join communities in which those who are otherwise globally dispersed to engage with one another and create environments for that interaction which go beyond anything achievable through other mediums.

Give Us a Kiss, Dear, by Serena Snowfield on Flickr Not only does Mr. Hay offer an interesting and thought-provoking take on SL, he also takes the time to search through Flickr and locate images for his article that offer a fairer indication as to how the platform can look, such as with this image called “Give Us a Kiss, Dear”, by Serena Snowfield on Flickr

OK, so for those of us within SL this may generate something of a “no s*** Sherlock,” reaction; we are, after all, seeing this on a daily basis, either directly through our own involvement in the platform, or as a result of our travels within the platform.  However, other than the “fnar, fnar” finger-pointing or feigned outrage  at “the porn”, the ability for SL to provide a means to generate such societal interactions and ties seems to be something that has gone right over the heads of most of those willing to comment on the platform. Thus, Mr. Hay’s view is a timely, and welcome counterpoint to the frequent negatively which accompanies public mention of Second Life.

But this isn’t the sole thrust of his thinking. as he points out, the ability for SL to generate such social and sub-cultural networks and groupings isn’t actually new; it’s actually pretty much the way in which the Internet as a whole has grown. What does make SL unique, however, again as he identifies, is in the manner of the depth of creation and tangible persistence it offers all these various groups and sub-cultures, something what hasn’t previously been found within digital mediums and which has thus become the reason why many of us keep coming back to SL.

In this – and while he doesn’t point to it directly, but rather references it obliquely in mentioning attempts to bring the likes of the Oculus Rift into SL – his piece also highlights another potential within Second Life. Because it it can and does present the means for the creation, growth and sustained use of sub-cultures and societal interactions and structure which might not otherwise exist, it stands as the precursor for things to come in the promised VR revolution over the course of the next decade. Hence, his reference to Tom Boellstorff‘s seminal Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, although offered in a broader context, is both unsurprising and entirely appropriate.

But even without all of this deeper ponderings, which as Mr. Hay correctly states, are all part of the future, his article neatly encapsulates why Second Life has endured and will likely continue to endure for the foreseeable future, as he points out in his closing statement:

For now all we can say is that Second Life is not as dead as many think. It just wasn’t the world we thought it was half a dozen years ago. Rather than a place that would reinvent everyday life for the masses, it became a place for the gathering, manifestation, and expression of societies and ideas that might not otherwise get to exist. And as long as it fulfils that purpose, it will most likely not fade away any time soon.

If you haven’t done so already, go read what Mr. Hay says about Second Life, and if you like what you’ve read, Tweet him. Better yet, get your SL-dubious friends to give him a read, they might just change some of their perceptions.

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