Firestorm – an update on updates

firestorm-logoOn the 4th October, the Phoenix Hour was on-air and had a sort-of celebration for it’s first birthday, having first aired in 2010, and moved home in the interim. A belated happy birthday from me to Phalen, Jess and all the team who work on the show.

Support Groups

Jessica kicked-off the meat of the show with a warning about “unofficial” in-world Support Groups for Phoenix/Firestorm.There are a number of such Groups operating in-world, some of which have proven to be problematic for Phoenix and Firestorm users who have joined them in the mistaken belief that they are a part of the Phoenix / Firestorm team. In order to help people avoid similar issues in the future, Jessica reiterated that “official” support teams will always have either herself (Jessica Lyon) or Ed Merryman as a Founder and / or in the Ownership. As such, when looking to gain “official” support, users should only join these Groups.

Phalen Fairchild (l) and Jessica Lyon filming The Phoenix Hour

Firestorm Update

V1 Functionality

Firestorm has surpassed Linden Lab’s Viewer 2(/3) usage hours, which demonstrates the Viewer has a very strong uptake. However, adoption among existing Phoenix users remains an issue of concern. To overcome this, the team will be carrying out further work on the Phoenix mode log-in option for Firestorm:

  • The toolbar at the bottom of the screen will receive further work, possibly to include text rather than icons in the buttons to help make it look more like Phoenix
  • Phoenix / V1 chat bar behaviour is to be included in the mode:
    • V1 Auto-hiding of the chat bar will be included (Preferences option), so that when ENTER is hit, the chat bar will slide off to the left of the screen (rather than behind the toolbar buttons, as with V1 behaviour); pressing ENTER again will display the chat bat once more
    • Similarly, pressing ESC will hide the chat bar and allow the WASD keys to be used for avatar movement, a-la V1 behaviour. Pressing Enter will display the chat bar once more for text entry
    • A major source of complaint from V1 users coming into Firestorm has been the use of chiclets in the V2 code. The team are looking into an option for users to replace the chiclets with V1 style dialogue boxes if they wish. Firestorm does currently display script menus in the top right and also V1-style notices appearing in the lower right-hand corner – although they do not currently stay open – and the team are looking to enhance this

A further issue with adoption from V1 has been identified with the menu bar – which is clearly very different in V3 Viewers from V1.To assist people in transitioning to the new menu system, the team have started looking at ways in which the V1 style menus can temporarily displayed in Firestorm for a period of around 30 seconds at a time.

The idea behind this is not to replace the V3 menu system, but to help people orient themselves with the new menus – the capability can be used to quickly find & use options under the V1 menu system (such as uploading an image) – once an option has been used, the menu bar will revert to V3 style. In this way, people can find much-used options without frustration, while learning the new menu system at their own pace. While details are yet to be finalised, the capability will most likely be enabled through a button on Firestorm’s menu bar.

As Jessica stated in the show, the Team are trying to provide means by which V1 users find it easier to orient themselves to using Firestorm without impacting the team’s ability to keep pace with V3 developments coming out of Linden Lab. To achieve this the team must balance changes within the Viewer’s functionality with the ability to merge such changes with the code base coming out of the Lab.

Jessica also indicated that not all of the above changes will be implemented in the next Firestorm release, although the chat bar changes will be there (and gave the impression things like hiding the chat bar may be common to all three of the Viewer’s log-in modes).

General Updates

Away from V1 adoption issues, Jessica reported that:

  • Spell check is finished and will be in the next Firestorm release, there are just a couple of bugs to iron out
  • Mouselook has been updated (notably for combat users) to include:
    • The ability to see beacons in Mouselook
    • Mouselook zoom – press and hold the right mouse button and use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in / out
    • The ability to display local chat and IM history
  • The current “chat echo” behaviour that sees anything typed into the chat bar being repeated in the Local Chat window (if open) and vice-versa, has been fixed, allowing different comments to be typed into each of the chat entry bars
  • Nicky Dasmijn has been working on the mesh uploader, and it looks very much as if this will be in the next release of Firestorm – there was some doubt as to whether it would be finished in time for the next release when Jessica last mentioned it in The Phoenix Hour
Mesh uploads coming to Firestorm (image from Viewer 3 for representative purposes)
  • Similarly, the inventory “jump” issue has been fixed by Kitty Barnett and will also be in the next Firestorm release
  • Notecard find & replace will be included, together with a number of fixes to the text editor, including, it would appear, the cursor placement issue
  • Radar is to made available as a floater in its own right, rather than as a part of the Nearby People Sidebar tab / floater – work has just started on this, so it may not be in the next release
  • Anti-spam controls are to be included in Firestorm – but it is unclear if these will be in the next release or not
  • There are a number of AO bug fixes, although at the time of the show (4th October), the issue of the AO turning itself off when you log-in was still unresolved

Code Contributions

Jessica raised the issue that Phoenix / Firestorm is in some ways viewed as the “giant” in Viewer development and as being somehow untouchable – which is far from the case. While the team does have an extensive support network for users, the development side is actually quite small (thirteen developers in total, only some of whom are able to commit large amounts of time to the project).

Therefore, rather than being large and untouchable, the team actually welcomes contributions from other developers that can be incorporated into the Viewer. Such contributions don’t have to by major new features or bug fixes, as Jessica stated:

“You may think that you’re not worthy, or you’re not good enough – but you are. Trust me. Even the littlest, smallest contributions you can provide are sometimes really big impact things Even just a typo that you find in the interface … and you can fix that easily and submit it to us … The thing is, I can put Aaron on a typo, and he’s going to spend 15-20 minutes on that typo; but that 15 minutes of Aaron’s time can be spent on really complicated things, and I’d rather keep him on the more [high] impact stuff, the complicated things that only he can do, than to put him onto something small. But if you can supply us [with] a patch, we can right-click, commit, give you credit for it and suddenly it’s fixed and it hasn’t taken us any time at all.”

Jessica then went on to outline the contributions that have come from a number of people – and other Viewers – that have helped to improve Firestorm, culminating in a further statement that Firestorm would not be where it is today without the efforts of a lot of contributors outside of the core team, “So if you have something in your Viewer that  improves your experience, I bet you it’s going to improve someone else’s. Send us a patch”.

Patches can be submitted via the Phoenix JIRA – you will require an account. There is also a mailing list available for developers and compilers to join. Note that this is not for asking questions on using the Viewer or for making suggestions for future features, etc – all of these should be handled through the usual support channels. The mailing list is purely for those actively engaged in Firestorm development, or who to assist in developing the Viewer (so it could be used to confirm whether or not someone is already working on fixing a particular bug or not, for example). Full credit for all patches / code used are given.

New Classes for Firestorm

There are new classes for Firestorm covering subjects such as troubleshooting, creating and using Contact Sets. Notification on these classes are provided through the  Phoenix / Firestorm Support Groups.

When Will the Release be Made?

There are a number of things still to be sorted as core issues prior to the next release of Firestorm.

  • As previously indicated, there are a number of issues inherited from Linden Lab within the code, and for which the team are still awaiting fixes from the Lab
  • Jessica would personally like to see the issues of settings reverting and the Viewer locking up as “not responding” periodically for some to be fixed prior to the next release

As such, there is still not given date for the next release – too much depends upon Linden Lab in many respects.

A further issue for the team are the recently announced changes to the Viewer UI that are to be forthcoming from Linden Lab.  At the time the show was recorded, little was known as to when these changes would start to be implemented by Linden Lab (or, in fact, what they would be), and Jessica was of the opinion that the team would likely release Firestorm prior to merging it with any UI updates coming out of LL.

However, given that some of these are now apparently due by the end of October (merging the Basic & Advanced modes, click-to-walk functionality, etc.), as indicated by Rodvik Linden speaking over on the SLU Forums, plans for Firestorm may have again been changed. As such, there is liable to be a further update on the release status for Firestorm at the next Phoenix Hour to take this particular matter into account, once more is known on LL’s plans.

Jessica was also unable to commit to supplying a date for the release of Phoenix with Mesh support. This has dependencies other than mesh (such as a complete update of the RLV system), which the team would like to see completed priority to making a further Phoenix release.

Finally, both Firestorm and Phoenix are also waiting on LL fixing the mesh-related OpenGL  issues and graphics issues that are currently being investigated by Runitai Linden.

The next Phoenix Hour is schedules for 14:00 SLT on Tuesday 18th October.