Phoenix update released

Phoenix have issued a new Viewer release – .908 – potentially one of the last maintenance releases as work gathers pace on Firestorm and we approach the end-of-the-line for Viewer1.2x-based clients.

The release is timely, given the rising issues users have been experiencing, particularly those that use the Restrained Love Viewer/a extensions.

Here’s a bullet-list of key fixes:

  • Improved overall performance and stability
  • RLVa Assertion Failure fix
  • 42 group auto detection, no need to enable via debug
  • Showcase TP links have been fixed to work properly for Windows & Mac, Linux to follow in the next release
  • Updated Webkit helping webpages load faster in the web browser, improved memory handling etc.
  • The momentary viewer lock-ups experienced on 373, 725 and 818 should be a thing of the past
  • Texture jumping issues (where textures load, then unload, load, then unload) resolved
  • Updated Viewer tags
  • Built in IRC client has been fixed! No more ??? ???  names in IRC rooms
  • Huge improvement to ‘De-render’, which now permanently de-renders items until they are removed from the Asset Blacklist
  • Skin downloader fixes
  • Improved installer, no more downloading additional files during the install process.

Of these, I have a bias towards the De-render option fix, and I hope this finds its way into Firestorm. Having recently suffered the blight of a view-blocking eyesore popping up (or perhaps pooping up) my home sim, having to constantly de-render it from my view each time I logged in / returned home was a complete and perishing nuisance.

The updated Viewer is now available on the Phoenix wiki.

Improvements to Web Profiles

Q Linden has posted about Viewer 2.5 going live, and in particular brings up the subject of web-based Profiles.

The introduction of web profiles has caused a lot of consternation, not least because of the inclusion of Facebook and Twitter buttons. For myself, I actually rather like the approach in general: being able to edit my Profile from the web, rather than having to log-into SL is a useful feature. The moving Profiles to this format reduces asset server loads is also no bad thing (assuming it does).

However, privacy has been a thorny issue for some – and not just because of the aforementioned buttons. Many kicked back against the idea that their Profile, far from being nice and secluded inside Second Life, would now be viewable by anyone on the Web. Protests were written  – Linden Lab read them and listened.

Firstly, they made the Facebook and Twitter buttons optional – but only if you opt not to have your Profile searchable in-world. Not an ideal start, it seemed at the time, but a start.

Now, with Viewer 2.5, Linden Lab have extended the degree of privacy you have with regards to your Web Profile. You can now:

  • Opt not to have your Profile displayed on the web at all
  • Select whether your Groups and Picks are viewable by “everyone” – the entire Internet and by search engines, or visible only to Second Life Users logged into SL / using the SL website, or only visible to your friends
  • Select whether any Classifieds yo may have are searchable / viewable on the web as a whole, or only by Second Life residents.

These are welcome changes, and even the defaults for Groups, Picks and Classifieds are sensible (they are set to Second Life). I’d personally prefer to see the option to have your Profile displayed on the web given precisely the same level of granularity as Groups and Picks, rather than it simply being an “on” or “off” affair – but perhaps that will come in time.

To see your profile and set your defaults, type:

into the address bar of your browser (where First.Last are your SL first name and last name). Press RETURN and your Profile page will be displayed.

You may have to log-in to the page using the link at the top right, which will take you to the log-in screen. Once you’ve logged in (SL username and password), you’ll be returned to your Profile page, which will now be editable and have a Privacy Settings link in the top right corner (see below).

Click on this link to open the Privacy option page, which is quite straightforward in its use.

Also, if you leave your Profile as viewable on the web, and are concerned about personal information, you can use the EDIT button from your profile page to re-word  / remove references to your real life – all such edits will be reflected back in your in-world Profile as well.

These moves are not perfect, but they are stepping in the right direction, and Linden Lab deserve the credit for adding this functionality to Viewer 2.5.

ADDENDUM – Feb 14th

There are times when one should look before one leaps. I’ve just had time to fiddle with Viewer 2.5, and I have to say two things:

  • Profile loading is abhorrent. I’m running a quad-core system with a newly-upgraded graphics card exceeding the recommended specification for SL, with bandwidth wide  open for SL – and the average time for a Profile to be grabbed and loaded is around 5 seconds. Hideous.
  • It appears the option to “Hide your profile” from the web means that no-one in-world can view your Profile either. This makes the ability to “hide” your profile about as useful as a chocolate shovel is for moving hot coals.

Far from deserving credit, as I originally stated, someone at LL needs a swift kick up the arse. Not everyone wants their profiles blasted across the interwebs; yet to maintain visibility in-world, that’s precisely what people have to do with Viewer 2.5, and frankly, that’s pathetic.

I sincerely hope there will be a way to correct this idiocy and give people a genuine choice.

And, having updated this post, I’m off to nibble on crow pie…

More from Rod Humble: Privacy

Privacy is extremely important for anyone putting themselves out there, expressing themselves, or expressing a side of themselves through an avatar. People don’t want other people to connect the dots from their avatar to their real life person – or even, for that matter, to an alt. One of the ethical obligations we have is to protect people’s privacy

“People come to Second Life because they want a story, they want to be in a story….and we have an ethical obligation to protect that.

I’m not so sure that the conventional wisdom makes any sense. Yes, it might be technically easy to track people and all that. But in the long-term I’m optimistic that we’ll see the pendulum swing back in the other direction towards more privacy.

Thus speaks Rod Humble in what is quite possibly the best interview held with him since he took office at Linden Lab, and Kudos to Dusan Writer for bringing it to us.

It’s an uplifting piece on many levels. The comments about privacy, for example, are particularly relevant given both the degree to which Linden Lab seems determined to shovel users of Second Life towards Facebook and the manner in which data is being scraped and potentially used by the likes of RedZone.

For me, the interview is encouraging, as I’ve been advocating the need for Linden Lab to take what I term a more holistic view of Second Life, and to stop looking at it in terms of how it can be “compartmentalised”: focusing on individual technical issues, trying to tap into audiences, etc., and start looking at it as a complete, unified entity. In fact, I’ve already had concerns that Rod Humble is sliding into this very trap.

But no, he does seem to get it: he recognises the fact that the magic of Second Life is about the ability to create – physically and metaphorically (he talks about us being able to create “personas” in SL and imbue them with specific identities) – and he really does demonstrate he’s thought about these ideas, and is not simply peddling words.

Similarly, he recognises that Second Life can increase its relevancy in terms of real world interactions by providing n-world and supportive tools that work with the platform to empower people to interact with one another through Second Life (rather than telling them to bugger off elsewhere).

This is marvellously encouraging. Of course, there is a degree of hyperbole that strays dangerously close to Rosedale Country; after making very valid points about the relevancy in having multiple personas in life (which we all do), and these personas / identities being an integral part of our being (a marked difference from Zuckerberg over at FB, who views  multiple identities as demonstrating a “lack of integrity”), Rod does unfortunately slip into Pipspeak:

“I don’t want to get all geeky about it, but I sort of see this day coming when there’s a formalization of identity that happens. We haven’t had the tools before to formalize our broken up bits of identity…We can increasingly go deep on each element of identity and they become more valuable and I can’t help thinking that if we formalize the structures around those identities and have the tools to do that it might actually change us – it might change the person.”

Shades of Transhumanism lurking there – but not enough to shake one’s feeling that here, finally, Linden lab have struck gold. Rod Humble not only gets Second Life technically, he gets it visually, socially, personally, and metaphorically. In short, he appears to understand it holistically.

Lets hope that understanding translates itself into policies and action that allow us all to look back in 12 months or so, and we”ll all be “talking about all the new kinds of content and creations and categories of creation…and say ‘Wow, it’s amazing, look how far we’ve come in having ways to make stuff‘.” And that we’re all secure and confident in the levels of privacy and security Second Life affords us.