Viewer 1: adieu!

Some may count this post as premature, but given we’re now into July, and what is coming down the road, I’m getting my goodbyes in early.

Viewer 1 has been with us since Second Life opened its doors. Over the years, it has seen features added, tools moved around, the capability for API elements to be introduced (perhaps the most widely-used being Marine Kelley’s Restrained Love Viewer); the code has been open-sourced, allowing a raft of famous (and not a few infamous) Viewers to come into use: the OnRez Viewer, Cool Viewer, Rainbow Viewer, Meerkat, Imprudence, Phoenix and of course the “Devil incarnate” itself: Emerald (and that’s without mentioning the various “blackhat” Viewers).

Many changes to the Viewer were welcome (remember the introduction of the first skin option? of Windlight?), many were being decried and striking fear in the hearts of some even before they rolled out (remember the hoo-haw in some camps over the arrival of Voice?); others were met with much facepalming and LL’s apparent failure to grasp how people used their viewer (remember the consternation when the chat windows all changed and “communicate” turned up?). Some of the criticism aimed at the Viewer and LL was justified; a lot of it wasn’t. But through it all, Viewer 1.x, in all its many guises has remained a perennial favourite among Second Life users. Not even the demise of the official 1.x series of Viewer did much to put a dent in this: people simply switched over to V1-based TPVs in preference to going over the Viewer 2.

Viewer 1.18 at the Windlight launch (with thanks to Eckhard Jager)

Now all of that is about to change. In truth, the writing has been on the wall for V1-based Viewers for the last 12 months or so: ever since Linden Lab depreciated all versions of their Viewer prior to 1.23.5 and then turned off Snowglobe work in favour of Snowstorm for Viewer 2.x.

Snowglobe showing the silver skin (thanks to SamanthaS Nightfire)

From this month, however, even those using V1 TPVs are going to have to consider where they are going to move to next. As LL remind us (via retweets of this announcement, at least through @SecondLife), mesh commences its roll-out this month, starting with, I understand, the Blue Steel Release Channel prior to the remaining Release Channels & the rest of the main grid being mesh-enabled by the end of August.

The key issue here is that V1-based TPVs apparently will not be able to render mesh objects in-world, nor will they be able to upload mesh imports even if they follow LL’s “registration” requirements.

Ergo, if people want to see mesh objects, they are going to have to move to a V2-based viewer. What’s more, unless the TPV developers have persuaded LL otherwise, it is possible those wanting to upload mesh imports will be forced to use Viewer 2 for this purpose, given LL were looking to ring-fence this capability (whether this is still the case is unclear – like much else around mesh).

Mesh: heralding the end of the road for Viewer 1 TPVs (model by Timmi Allen)

Nor does the bad news for Viewer 1 end there; Oz Linden is on record as saying that developers of such Viewers are facing an uphill battle: “[A]ny Viewer that isn’t being actively maintained is going to start having fairly serious problems over the next months. We’re making a lot of changes… if viewers don’t keep up, things will break.” 

The fact is, it will become harder and harder for TPV devs to try and maintain Viewer 1 code. Kirstenlee Cinquetti saw the writing on the wall over a year ago, and has moved over entirely to the development of the outstanding S21 Viewer. Announcements made at the end of last year concerning the future of the Viewer 1 Search prompted Phoenix and Imprudence to start down the road to developing a V2-based Viewer each. While Imprudence are still putting effort into their V1-based 1.4 Viewer, it is evident that their longer-term aim is not merge this work into their V2 Kokua Viewer, while Phoenix already have the outstanding Firestorm available. Individual TPV developers are also transitioning: Lance Corrimal hasn’t done anything significant with his V1-based Viewer since the end of April, while his V2-based Viewer comes on in leaps and bounds.

It is going to take a while for mesh to really make its presence felt – assuming, again, that the roll-out goes smoothly and without any major updates; it’s also possible that some TPV developers will look to try and backport the Search 2 functionality into their offerings in the hope of keeping things alive. So it’s possible that some may try to cling to Viewer 1 for a little longer; but while it may be seen as an unpopular statement in some quarters, the era of Viewer 1 really is now drawing to a close.

I don’t say that with any sense of superiority (I am an unabashed V2-based Viewer convert – Firestorm and Kirstenlee’s S21); I started out with Viewer 1 (version 1.14 or 1.15), and personally have no problems with it. But, sad to say, we all come to a time where, for better or worse (depending on one’s own feelings), we must move with the tide.

And the tide is now assuredly flowing to Viewer 2’s shore.

18 thoughts on “Viewer 1: adieu!

  1. from what i read from oscar linden on mesh release, it won’t be going to an RC channel first, but rolling to the entire grid at once. (and mesh-prep releases are tested on magnum as well).

    here comes progress. hold onto your hats!!!

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    1. Cinder,

      That’s interesting from Oscar, thanks for the update!

      I took Blue Steel to be the mesh RC, as that is the one the Wiki was pointing to, the last time I checked – which admittedly, was about two months ago. Although I appreciate there are no in-depth hard-and-fast rules as to what goes where at times: it depends on which channel has the “spare” capacity.

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  2. Yes… I tried again last eve to use 1.23.5… got and error. cleaned.. reinstalled… still wouldnt load. I decided that it was on the way out.
    Yes, I do remember the cries over windlight…I found and early picture with 1.14 recently {pre windlight).

    Ive been here long enuff to have seen a lot of, “Chicken Little, the skys falling”.
    Im praying that TPVs hold on long enuff to allow me a level of comfort with the spewer2 code UI.
    Ive way too much time… and money… invested to not use it.
    It really comes to acceptance.. I dont like it. I dont have to like it.
    But… like everything else The Benevolent Monarchy has ever done… their ball, their court, and if I dont like it….leave.

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    1. V2 TPVs are pretty good; KIrstenlee’s is a tad taxing on older machines, but has lead the way to a large degree in innovation and improvement around Viewer 2. Dolphin 2 is a good, reliable V2 Viewer, but I have to say, for sheer usability and flexibility, Firestorm sets the bar.

      I ceased using anything V1-oriented when the first Firestorm Public Beta came out. Wild horses wouldn’t drag me back to to Viewer 1 now I’ve had a several days with the latest Beta release. If you’ve not already done so, give it a go – doubly so if you are a Phoenix user.

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  3. To my mind, the most attractive features of Firestorm are the re-written AO, which is a huge improvement on the Phoenix version, the fact they’ve now brought over the enhanced building tools and, possibly most importantly, the fact it adopts Kitty Barnett’s system for handling outfits, which is streets ahead of anyone else’s — it’s intuitive and logical, for one thing.

    However, my problem with Firestorm is that, while the current Beta release is certainly a big improvement on the previous, pre-Beta versions, it’s based on an older version, V2.5.something, of the V2 code. This means that for me, being used to Marine’s RLV, which normally keeps pace pretty well with the official viewer, Firestorm feels like a very noticeable downgrade in terms of performance and graphics compared what more up-to-date versions of V2 are like. That’s not because of anything wrong with Firestorm, particularly — it’s to do with the fact LL improved the code between 2.5 and 2.7.

    I can see the attraction of the Firestorm UI for people who’re not used to V2. That doesn’t really do much for me, though, since I’m used to the V2 UI by now, as mitigated by Hitomi’s Starlight skins, to which I switch to in Firestorm rather than use the Firestorm ones. This, I suppose, makes the comparison between Firestorm and other versions of V2 much clearer — take away the UI changes and it’s far more noticeable you’re using an outdated version of V2, albeit with some useful extras.

    It’s going to be very interesting to see how this all works out in practice. One of the main reasons for Emerald’s success, to my mind, was that LL pretty much ignored 1.23 for a year, concentrating on developing V2, so Emerald and the other TPVs were the people ringing all the changes. That’s now changed completely, so we have LL making the running and the TPVs trying to keep up. It’s also going to be interesting to see how Firestorm deal with known bugs in specific versions — there’s at least one minor but irritating bug in 2.6 that was fixed in 2.7, and there’s another similar irritation in 2.7 that one hopes will be fixed in subsequent versions.

    I’m wondering if Firestorm will, for their 2.6-based version, release something with the known 2.6 issues that were fixed in subsequent versions or whether they’ll try to fix them on their own in 2.6, knowing that this is, in some ways, a futile exercise of little long-term benefit since most of those particular issues won’t be present in 2.7 anyway, but some other ones will.

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    1. I agree on the AO, which I covered in my review of the latest public beta for Firestorm plus the outfit handling. The beta does lag in terms of LL’s releases at present – but then, it is beta, and the team were working on code stabilisation more than keeping pace with LL’s releases, in fairness.

      I think performance issues demonstrate how sensitive the Viewer code in general tends to be. Viewer 2, up until 2.5, performed pretty badly for me on my own hardware. Version 2.6 reversed this substantially, putting it as the best overall Viewer in terms of performance, although it slipped somewhat with the 2.7 release. Firestorm also started in a very mediocre fashion on my system, but I have to say that the current release easily performs as well as Viewer 2.7 and marginally better than Kirstenlee’s S21 build 8. In fact, it is the first Viewer that I can run with shadows all the time (albeit the older Emerald / Phoenix “dynamic shadows”, rather than LL’s “real time shadows code – assuming there is a difference) and maintain reasonable frame rates (i.e. in excess of 20 fps on reasonably-busy sims). Currently, with Viewer 2.7, I can’t get frame rates out of single figures when on busy sims, and on quieter, it still rarely gets much above 12-13fps.

      You’re right to a point on the development cycle, with all that is going on in the Viewer 2 camp at LL right now, with new functionality (mesh) being added, and long-standing problems (search) finally being constructively and visibly being addressed, and releases being fired out in rapid succession (even leaving aside the various “project” Viewer flavours), then LL definitely have the running on things right now, and TPV devs are potentially hard-placed to know where to put their efforts: do they continued to roll-out a version of their Viewer knowing it has been superseded by something from LL in the meantime, or do they scrap it and start over in the hope that another release doesn’t roll out of LL’s doors in the meantime? But is it credible (even with any automated update process in place) for LL to keep running at such a pace long-term? I’d venture to suggest that there will come a point (probably sooner rather than later, although I wouldn’t measure it in weeks), when the release cycle from LL settles down, and TPVs will potentially have more breathing space between major releases. At the same time, they’ll also largely be free of the need to maintain two code bases and focus efforts on just the one. Again, Kirstelee Cinquetti abandoned the S19 viewer a goodly while back, and the S21 is managing to keep reasonable pace with with LL releases (S21 Build 8 is, I believe, based on Viewer 2.7.1) – so why not Phoenix / Firestorm, and (in time, admittedly) Imprudence. Lone TPV devs may have a harder time of things, certainly, but I’m not sure that keeping pace will be a major issue.

      Bug fixing will be interesting – LL do potentially have the advantage here in that they have the auto-update capability built-in to Viewer 2, so implementing bug fixes will be “easier” from their perspective (although doubtless some will complain about the process and “not having a choice”). But again, once we’re through the current tide of releases and updates and LL ease off on things, will it be any more an issue than TPV devs have faced when dealing with Viewer 1’s development from, what? 1.18 through to 1.23.5? Will be interesting to find out, as you say.

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  4. I wonder, Inara.
    There is much of value in the advances that LLv2.x has made, and to be sure, the Phoenix Team are having their work cut out persuading the likes of me to switch to Firestorm. As for bug-fixing, I really do think that LL could take a leaf out of the TPV devs’ book when it comes to acknowledging shortcomings and fixing them. And presently that does not confine itself to the viewer.
    As far as Mesh is concerned, I think the signs I’ve seen so far indicate that there is a mountain for LL to climb before Mesh is fit to roll out to the Main Grid. The number of crashes (not viewer, but sim-related) on the Mesh-prep equipped RC channels is a worry, and the debacle over Kelly Linden’s mono2 upgrade, lead me to think that there is a void to cross before anything Mesh-related is ready for prime-time. Mind you, if LL have the bit between their teeth, we’ll have a wild ride, ready or not.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a stick-in-the-mud, though I am still running a v1 (you know why that is, Inara), v2 codebase is the future for SL. Mesh? I’m still not convinced.

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    1. I’m not vindicating mesh in anyway, don’t get me wrong. I’m actually of the opinion it will not have the dramatic impact LL are hoping for (or possibly in the *manner* LL are hoping for!).

      However, LL have pretty-much nailed their colours to the mast on this one in terms of rolling it out so unless something *very* dramatic happens to cause the entire project to be halted (with potential loss-of-face), I can’t see it not going ahead.

      With the greatest of respect to all concerned, I do wonder why people remain so resistant to V2-based Viewers. Firestorm, for example, offers significant advantages over Phoenix in many areas (including RLV/a), and truth be told, the UI isn’t actually *that* bad. Given I’m aware of your hardware, I’d suggest that all things being equal, you should see significant improvements in performance with Firestorm.

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      1. Well, Inara
        If the events of the past two weeks on the Main and Beta Grid aren’t dramatic enough, maybe I’m too old for SL. I remember the pain of the move through Havoc 4 into Windlight – and sure enough the gain was worth the pain – to me.
        Others still feel differently, even those whose graphics and computers are more than able to use it.
        By the way, it isn’t my PC that holds me back, I upgraded to a beastie that is more than capable of running a v2 installation, probably even Kirstenlee’s S21 at max.
        No, it is a more human matter, and until others are ready for the step forward, I must wait.
        To be honest I think you are right and LL will plough ahead with Mesh (“ready or not, I’m coming”?) since the loss of face would be enormous, but they have a lot of work to do before their own infrastructure is ready and capable of supporting Mesh. This is not a case of the user base being unready, LL’s system is not ready.

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        1. Also, I should add my two penn’orth re Innula’s comments. V2 is as good as it is only after nearly a year of upgrades by the team that develop the grid on which it works -that, to me is no great shakes. most folk are reluctant to use V2 because of the dog’s breakfast that it was at the start. Initial reactioons and impressions are hard to overcome in any commodity -V2 is no exception.
          When the Phoenix Team are able to concentrate on Firestorm exclusively, which won’t be long now, I doubt if such a gulf to LL’s own viewer will last long, and I’m sorry, Innula, Marine’s RLV2, while better than it was (and it was awful) is still not as good as Phoenix, IMHO.

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        2. If there have been problems on the main grid, they may have been restricted to the RC channel – I’ve not actually noticed anything beyond the wider roll-back the other week, nor seen anything from others outside of the RC channels.

          I think the infrastructure will support mesh – but it is likely that the initial compromises in order for it to be able to do so will be enormous. May even – as other commentators suggest – call into question the value of having mesh.

          Guess we’ll find out later this month, once the fog of confusion / possible misunderstand / lack of information from LL clears up.

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  5. It seems logical that V1 will stop to exist in the near future… And I’ll be sorry to see it go.

    I’ve switched to V2 as soon as it came out and generally like it but I’m still using V1 as a content creator. I somehow keep fighting with V2’s controls when it comes to editing multiple items, clothing layers and uploads. Too many clicks to get simple stuff done and buttons aren’t in places they should be
    I can imagine V2 is good for ‘normal’ use of SL (I use it too…) and I’m all for progress but I really hope that in all coming changes, usability of SL will really have a bigger role…

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    1. Try Firestorm, Erik!

      You can have the pie menu back, which may aid you. It also offers more options vis-a-vis buttons, although they still may not be in the order you’re used to :).

      As a content creator, albeit in a different field than you, I don’t have an issue with the tools, options and buttons; things took a bit to get used to, fair enough – and I’m a lot happier now that Firestorm has the Phoenix build tools – but on the whole, I fould it more a matter of mental adjustment than any *serious* flaw with the Viewer itself once we were over the hump of the initial releases, which were somewhat diabolical in the lack of consideration given to usability. I appreciate that’s not the same for everyone, and as I’ve never really tried making clothing in earnest for myself, I’m really curious as to the issues you have. I *have* had my frustrations with *wearing* clothing and creating outfits at times (different to actual clothing creation, I know), but again, Firestorm now has Kitty Barnett’s approach to the latter, which places it somewhat above Viewer 2 in terms of ease-of-use and convenience.

      Turning to usability – one of the things I hope LL will do in any future major overhaul of the Viewer (should this happen) is sit down with TPVs devs and discuss issues and ideas; it’s fair to say that TPVs enjoy their popularity simply because they *are* far more responsive to users’ needs & thus tend to have a finger better placed on the plus of things than LL might enjoy.

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      1. Inara
        You touch on a very important aspect of this Linden Lab vs TPV dev issue. At the start of Firestorm, I was under the (mistaken) impression that Linden Lab were actually going into a partnership with the clearly successful Phoenix team to develop what is now Firestorm, via the Snowstorm viewer. Now it apprears that Snowstorm never existed, or if it does I don’t know where to find it. It seemed logical, nay sensible, to team up folk who knew about the simulation to build and develop SL and to put the building and development of the viewer in the hands od folk who knew how best to do that…it that a naiive thought?
        Clearly this hasn’t occurred, but it still seems, despite the leaps that LL have made with v2, that they are facing in too many directions at once, and a little focus is needed.

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        1. The Snowstorm development viewer is available from the Snowstorm pages of the wiki.

          Project snowstorm does engaged with the TPV development community, and is also responsible for coordinating the various development / project builds for the Viewer and ensuring code is properly integrated in to Viewer releases from Linden Lab. Where TPVs are concerned – and in fairness to LL following my earlier comments – the project team also review improvements to the viewer suggested by TPVs and, where appropriate, feed those into the develop process as well (although how this process works in detail seems a little arcane. The media filter code, for example, was accepted several months ago and has yet to appear in any version of Viewer 2).

          My comment in reply to Erik was aimed more at a broader engagement with TPV devs; that is, should the Viewer ever undergo another such extensive overhaul, that LL will seek their input in terms of the interface, what works, what doesn’t, etc. – as the TPVs are very often right on the firing-line from users in this regards (take the in-world Phoenix / Firestorm user group as an example of this). Again, I’m not suggesting that LL seek to implement everything that might come out of such discussions, were they ever to happen, but rather such engagement might help steer them to a better understand as to what works and what doesn’t (beyond the obvious).

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