Catznip goes mesh

catznip logoThe Catznip Viewer has been extensively updated in a new 2.8 release (2.8.0 (3)). Not only have the RLV capabilities been updated and a host of new features added and others enhanced, Catznip becomes the latest SL Viewer to support mesh object rendering.

Installation and Start-up

Like all Viewer 2.x /3.x Viewers, Catznip installs direct from the box as a standalone Viewer, and offers no changes or surprises along the way.

On start-up, Catzip joins Dolphin 3 in becoming one of the first Viewer 2.x/3.x TPVs to display the new SL log-in screen with the Destination Guide, etc., options. It’s good to see this option gaining wider traction – and it would be a joy to see it in Firestorm. Departing from the official Viewers, but in keeping with Viewer 2.x TPVs, Catznip dispenses with the Basic mode and keeps both feet firmly planted in the Advanced mode.

Once logged it, the UI looks very similar to that of Viewer 2.x/3.x with a modified toolbar.

Catznip toolbar (top) and the current Viewer 3.x toolbar

Interestingly, there in no Speak button by default on the Catznip toolbar – because Voice is off by default. However, the toolbar does include an inventory button which, as with Dolphin 3, opens an inventory window floater independent of the Sidebar (which can also be open at the same time).

Another nice touch with Catznip is that media is turned off by default on logging-in – a wise move given there is, unfortunately, no media filter.

Given its heritage, Catznip also has the RLVa menu displayed in the menu bar by default, although as with most RLV-capable Viewers, RLV  itself – updated to 2.7 – is disabled on such time as it is turned on through Preferences.

A full list of updates is available from the Catznip website (see the note at the end of this piece on Catznip 2.6), but here are the most visible / user-related changes / differences to the official Viewer.

Preferences

Within Preferences, Catznip has everything common to the official Viewer, plus a few little tidbits and nips and tucks of its own:

  • General Tab: The SHOW MY FAVORITE LANDMARKS AT LOGIN option is moved from the Privacy tab to the General tab, just under the START LOCATION drop-down
  • Privacy tab: adds options to select whether you wish to clear one or more of the following: web cookies, teleport history, Search history and / or Navigation Bar history before you click on CLEAR HISTORY
  • Spell Check: allows you to enable the spell checker (words incorrectly spelt underscored in red, right-click to select options for correction / adding to dictionary). Language can be set to one of four options: British-English; Canadian-English, Australian-English and US-English
  • Skins tab: provides Starlight and Stardust skin options in a choice of colours
  •  Crash reports tab: allows you to select whether or not crash reports should be sent to catznip.com, and the information the reports should contain
Crash report options
  • Catznip tab:
    • General: allows you to: use legacy multi-attach support (i.e. non-Linden “Emerald” system for multiple attachments); activate RLV support; adjust avatar offset; toggle object inspector on / off; toggle full screen windowed mode on / off
    • Chat: set your chat / IM preferences. An interesting item here is to enable a multi-line chat input option to the Nearby Chat floater
Multi-line chat input option
    • Inventory: allows you to: select the format preference for saving scripts (LSL or Mono); direct inventory you decline directly to trash; set notecard / texture options
    • UI: allows you to: display Group information either in the Sidebar or as a window floater; display an avatar’s Profile as a window floater or their Web profile (an additional nice touch is Web Profiles open on the ABOUT tab, rather than the person’s FEED tab – far more relevant); change the way in which script dialogues are displayed in the bottom tray; alter your My Outfits tab display between “Inventory” and “accordion” displays.

Sidebar

  • People tab:
    •  HISTORY tab replaces of the RECENT tab. Whereas the RECENT tab only records the contact you have with people during your current session in SL, the HISTORY tab retains a full history of those you’ve interacted with via IM
    • NEARBY tab includes options for parcel owner to eject / freeze one or more avatars in the parcel (CTRL-click to select, right-click of options)
    • NEARBY gears button includes options to: show people in range (defined by the radar slider); show people in the current parcel (regardless of range setting); show people in the region (regardless of range or parcel setting)

Performance

I tested Catznip on my usual system: Intel quad-core Q6600 2.4Ghz with 3Gb memory and a nVidia GE9800 GT with 1Gb of memory. Overall, performance was comparable to that of Viewer 3.0.3, operating in the mid 30’s in terms of fps when in a sim with just a couple of other avatars, dropping to the low-to-mid 20s when is a sim with more than 5 avatars present.

Lighting and shadows did give me a massive performance hit; far greater than the current Firestorm release and Dolphin 3: rates tumbled to around 5-6, somewhat lower than I experienced with Dolphin, but on a par with the current Viewer 3 release.

Stability-wise, I’ve had absolutely not reason to complain – one clight issue when the Viewer stalled on logging-out, and I suspect that was more to do with running it alongside Viewer 3 than anything else.

Mesh Options

Unsurprisingly, mesh object rendering isn’t a problem for the 2.8 release. It functioned flawlessly on the Beta grid, rendering multiple mesh objects in the sandbox I wandered through without hindrance or delay.

Catznip haz mesh rendering

The MODEL upload option does appear on the Build menu – but as per most TPVs at present, Catznip is currently unable to complete the upload process, and the option therefore isn’t functional. Hopefully, this will change in the future once TPV developers have been able to work around the current issues with mesh uploads and the reliance on the Havok engine.

Opinion

Like Dolphin, Catznip is a good alternative to Viewer 3.x. It doesn’t offer all the features found in Firestorm – but then, it isn’t a Firestorm clone. The features it does have are well put together, and it offers some nice usability improvements over the official Viewer 3.x.

Given the amount of concern around issues of data scraping through the misuse of media, the one thing I personally would like to see in Catznip is the widely available media filter option as an additional layer of privacy for those that don’t want to disable media entirely, but like to know what feeds their Viewer is being asked to accept.

I’m also a little surprised at the lack of both Mu* poses (using “:” to replace “/me”) and the auto-closure of Out-of-Character comments (i.e. adding “))” automatically at the end of such comments). These are pretty much standard fare in other TPVs, and as such, their absence in Catznip, while not critical, is noticeable.

These points aside, Catznip is a more than creditable alternative to the official Viewer and this most recent update adds some nice features and options. Well worth a look at.

Catznip 2.6 Update

For those who have issues with mesh, Catznip 2.6 gets a maintenance update, which gets many of the updates included in the 2.8 release, but which is minus:

  • Mesh object rendering
  • Spell checker
  • Multi-line chat input in NEARBY CHAT floater
  • HISTORY tab in the People tab of the sidebar
  • Options to eject / freeze avatars in the NEARBY tab of PEOPLE

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