Firestorm: major updates on the way

There is a lot of exciting news coming out of the Phoenix / Firestorm team this week, as Jessica Lyon revealed during the fortnightly Phoenix Hour Metamix TV broadcast on Tuesday. Here are the highlights.

Phaylen (l) with Jessica

Hybrid with Mesh

The next release will be a true hybrid version for Firestorm, utilising code from the SL Viewer 2.6, 2.7 and 2.8 / 2.8.3 releases. It will include the capability to render mesh objects.

There is no actual release date for the new version – although Jessica hopes it will be in “The next couple of weeks.” The version is being referred to as 2.6 internally, as this was the code it was initially based on. However, given it has now developed into a hybrid encompassing several V2 releases, it is possible the version number will change to reflect the fact Firestorm is not tied to a specific Snowstorm build.

There are a couple of “blockers” to the release, one of which is getting the spell check tool into this release. This has hit a few problems, but the number of requests that have been received for its inclusion mean that it Jessica would prefer not to release the next version until the spell check is working.

Jessica Lyon discusses Firestorm

Beyond this, there are a number of other 2.6-related targets to be met, which (I gather) include regression fixes. However, rather than delaying the release unduly, the team may opt to release 2.6 with the major additions (mesh, the spell check, etc.) as a Release  Candidate, then add the remaining 2.6 targets before moving it to a Full Release status.

Viewer Modes in Firestorm

Viewer 2 introduced the concept of Viewer “modes”: Basic or Advanced. The next release of Firestorm will introduce a similar concept of “modes”, but executed very differently, in that three interface modes will be supported:

  • Phoenix mode: the Viewer presents a Phoenix-like UI
  • Viewer 2 mode: the Viewer presents a Viewer 2/3 UI
  • Firestorm mode: the Viewer presents its own hybrid UI

Friends List Overhaul – Contact Sets

This is something that is bound to excite a lot of people – and it is also something LL have been thinking about, going on comments at SLCC 2011.

Firestorm will include the ability to group / categorise your friends and contacts.

Called Contact Sets, the new feature allows a user’s Friends list to be organised according to individual needs (e.g. all business contacts can be put into a set, close friends into another set; individuals can appear across multiple sets, etc.).

Additionally, users will be able to set Viewer tag colours for their Contact Sets, making it easier to identify people from a Contact Set when seen in their own in-world view or when looking at mini-map icons.

The feature also includes the ability to include people not on a user’s Friends list, however:

  • It will not give a user any additional privileges over someone they include in this way, so users will not be able to see the online status, etc., to “non-Friends list” people in a Contact Set
  • Any group Teleports, conference calls, etc., will not be seen by “non-Friends list” people in a Contact Set

Other Features

The next release will include a number of additional features, including:

  • The Phoenix Log-in Manager will be included, allowing users to quickly and easily log-in to Second Life using any of their avatar accounts, as is currently the case with Phoenix. Once an avatar has been logged-in through the Viewer, the information is retained by Firestorm and is available from a drop-down list in the log-in screen
  • The Grid Manager has been improved, thanks to code donated by the Kokua project, together with some OpenSim support code, allowing Firestorm to operate more smoothly with OpenSim grids
  • Selection beam customisation has been added to Firestorm, allowing you to customise your selection particle beam
  • Auto-correct has been ported from Phoenix into Firestorm. Auto-correct is a macro-like option which can also be used as an auto-complete tool: if you have terms you frequently use, such as referencing a web page (your blog?), you can use auto-correct to set up a suitable abbreviation & when you type the abbreviation, the full text is automatically inserted into the chat / IM bar
  •  Viewer tags gain greater customisation in terms of how you see them; custom colours can be used, rather than being restricted to a pre-defined set
  • Volume control pop-up (Impudence example) to be in Firestorm

    The volume control pop-up common to V1.x Viewers next Firestorm release, providing users with access to all volume control sliders. This will be accessible by clicking the volume control option at the TOP RIGHT of the Viewer window, rather than the bottom right, as with V1/x TPVs

  • Font options are to be introduced, allow users to change the font used in the Viewer. A warning here is that the Viewer is coded around the default font size, so if you change the font, words may not correctly display
  • Proxy options will be included in the next release,while scripts opened and edited from inventory will be able to save them in LSL or Mono
  • Additional skins will be provided with the next firestorm release. In addition, there is also documentation available on how to create a Firestorm skin this includes information on a competition for new skins to be officially added to Firestorm
  • Display Names will offer users t the abilityo alter Display Names for other people as they are seen in their own in-world view. So if someone has used ASCII to create an incomprehensible Display Name, you can change it to some readable for yourself, with the following important notes:
    • The change doesn’t impact the actual user’s Display Name as they or others see it
    • This doesn’t in any way affect another user’s user name
    • The new name will appear in asterisks, and is not persistent if the person concerned later changes their Display Name to something else.

Major Bug Fixes

  • Log-in bug: Firestorm can crash as a result of too many chiclet notifications being received while offline. The default for the number of chiclets the Viewer can handle was raised in the current release, and this is thought to have been the problem. The permitted number has been reduced to the LL default in the upcoming release. In the meantime, those experiencing this problem, there is a work-around in the Phoenix wiki
  • Screen blackout / freeze on teleport: the mini-lock-up that can turn the screen black and  / or freeze things following a teleport has been linked to an issue with the LL code, but a fix is to be included with the next Firestorm release.

Other Notes

  • The Contact Set feature will be included in a Phoenix maintenance release around seven days after the release of Firestorm
  • There are other V1-based Viewers successfully integrate mesh rendering into their offerings, the code might be included in Phoenix in the future.

The full presentation can be seen on Metamix TV, complete with the Q&A session. Overall, these updates are almost exactly what people have been asking for – not just with Firestorm, but of linden Lab as well when it comes to the improvements to the Friends list. As such, Contact Sets idea in particular is liable to set Firestorm head-and-shoulders above other Viewer 2.x offerings and could potentially see a lot of people switching over to it.