Update 18:35 GMT: Sometimes one reads the release notes and misses things. See the section on the Volume Controls towards the end of this article
The official SL viewer has now moved to the 3.4.2 code base with the release of version 220.127.116.117137.
This release brings with it a couple of signficant changes and a host of updates and fixes.
Steam Link-up Changes
Anyone performing a completely fresh install (including the removal of all account-related folders from the computer) will clearly see that the code for the forthcoming link-up with Steam is now present in the viewer, as the prompt to create an account will be prominently displayed.
For those who do not perform a clean install, the prompt will not be displayed (as the viewer will locate existing account-related folders), nor will anyone who automatically updates their viewer should they see a prompt to do so. This means that the pop-up dialogue will not plague everyone who has an SL account, so shouldn’t be a source of annoyance. However, the cleaned-up bottom section of the screen (also with a “Create Your Account” option in the lower right corner) will obviously be visible to all, and gives a further indication that things are progressing.
This change also doesn’t mean the Steam link-up is live; I understand from Linden Lab that there are still some steps to be completed outside of this work. But again, given the viewer updates are starting to appear, it is reasonable to anticipate the time for a formal announcement to be drawing closer.
The prompt will also (I believe) be seen by those who come to SL via the “traditional” route of signing-up for an account first via the SL website (or any of the third-party sign-up options which may still be available) and then downloading the viewer. As such, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone gets a little confused by a prompt asking them to create an account when they believe they’ve already done so, rather than simply ignoring the pop-up by clicking CONTINUE.
Group Services Code
Key among the rest of the updates to the viewer is Baker Linden’s Group Services code designed to make use of the new HTTP service already available on the grid.
As there has been some confusion as to what this is all about, and at the risk of repeating myself, here’s a quick recap of the main points:
- The new code allows for improved loading of membership lists of very large groups, together with improved reliability in editing such groups (i.e. assigning roles, removing people, etc.), by the group moderators
- Until such time as the viewer-side code has been incorporated into all TPVs, the “old” method of loading group lists into the viewer will still be available. However, viewers using the “old” method (a protocol referred to as UDP) will have group loading capped at 10K members. This means:
- That for groups with 10K or fewer members, there will be no change regardless as to whether the viewer is using HTTP or UDP
- But for groups large than 10K, viewers running the UDP code will be unable to load the group until such time as they have been updated to the new code
- The code will not lead to any improvements in group chat reliability, and is not aimed at improving group chat.
The new code is gradually appearing across all third-party viewers, with many already incorporating it ahead of this release from LL. Further, the Lab will not be “turning off” the UDP service in the short-term, so there is no risk of a viewer which hasn’t yet updated being completely unable to load any groups at all.
Volume Controls – Update
This release also see the official viewer adopt the “Quick volume” controls from Firestorm. These provide access to ALL major volume control options for the viewer, rather than just the master volume control, and can be accessed by hovering the mouse over the speaker icon in the top right of the viewer window.
The controls appear colourless as they are awaiting work to render them in the official viewer UI skin colour; as this work has yet to be completed (JIRA STORM-1868), I missed the fact that the update has reached the release version of the viewer when writing this update.
Other Notable Changes
The list of updates for the release is extensive (and unfortunately without any JIRA references where relevant and tha JIRA themselves are still public). As such, it is advisable to take a look at the release notes to determine what has been fixed / updated.
What’s NOT Included
The new HTTP texture fetching service code from Monty Linden is not in this release. this work is currently a part of the beta viewer project (viewer code base 3.4.3), and will be making its way into the release version of the viewer in the near future.
Performance and Feedback
Performance-wise, 18.104.22.1687137 is very good on my personal set-up, and allowing for the arbitrary nature of such FPS tests.These were performed in my “new” test area, a premium sandbox with 3 other avatars present (and building):
- Deferred off:
- Ground: 38-39 fps
- 370 metres: 43 fps
- 2875 metres: 62 fps
- Deferred on + lighting set to Sun/Moon + Projectors; ambient occlusion off:
- Ground: 11 fps
- 370 metres:16-17 fps
- 2875 metres: 18 fps
The non-deferred rates have me wondering what might be achieved on an i5 machine with something like a GTX660 and oodles of memory with a 64-bit OS…
This is a somewhat overdue update to the official viewer and marks a return to periodic viewer releases. Linden Lab still have much more in the pipe to filter down to the release viewer, and it’s liable that we’ll be seeing Christmas before everything is sufficiently caught up such that the release cycle returns to its normal pace. In the meantime, there will be on-going frequent beta updates with changes filtering through to the release viewer as and when they are deemed ready. Overall, however, this release should be welcome news for those who use the official viewer.