Firestorm and Phoenix: updates and support notes

firestorm-logoThis week’s Phoenix Hour saw a couple of guests sharing the sofa with Jessica: Ed Merryman and Lette Ponnier, who would be joining Jessica and Phaylen in a discussion on matters relating to Viewer support. Ed actually heads-up the Viewer support side of the Phoenix / Firestorm group, and both he and Lette provide classes in using Firestorm.

To kick things off, however, Jessica ran though the latest status for both Phoenix and Firestorm before going on to pass comment on the new LL Viewer UI – which, at the time of her comments, was about to be merged with the Development Viewer code but had not actually been released for anyone to see.

The Viewers

Overall, not a lot has changed since my last report on The Phoenix Hour – the team are really waiting on LL to resolve issues their end before making any further releases of either Phoenix or Firestorm.

Phoenix Status

  • The mesh rendering code, supplied by Henri Beauchamp, is in the Phoenix code repository
  • The current graphic issues being experienced with the Firestorm Mesh Beta (and other mesh-capable Viewers) will be in the code for mesh rendering in Phoenix; Jessica estimated that around 50% of people using mesh-enabled Viewers are caught with the issue (basic shaders causing Viewer crashes)
  • This issues are Linden Lab issues, and as such, Phoenix is being held pending a fix or fixes from the Lab
  • The team have been working with LL with these bugs, and a version of Firestorm would be pushed to the Beta group to assist with further testing on the working being undertaken to fix things.

Firestorm Status

  • The next release of Firestorm is good to go, but again awaiting the GPU-related fixes from Linden Lab
  • All blocking issues from with the Firestorm project that might have delayed a release have now been resolved
  • There are still a number of targets the team would like to achieve prior to a release, but these are not blockers to a release; so if a graphics fix comes out of LL before all the targets have been reached, a release may still go ahead
  • Issues and fixes for Firestorm can be tracked via the project JIRA – although people will need to register in order to gain access
  • Focus has been placed on Firestorm locking-up and going into “(not responding)” mode and also inventory load times; Nicky Dasmijn has, in Jessica’s words, “Made a world of difference” to the issues
    • Jessica is convinced even those who didn’t have major inventory load time issues are going to notice a significant performance improvements as a result of this work once the new release can be rolled out
    • As an example of the improvements, she stated her own 72K+ inventory now takes around 20 seconds to load!
  • While the new mesh uploader will be in the next release, as per the last Phoenix Hour, there are some issues around the physics weight calculations for mesh objects (which are presumably being worked on)
  • New feature: Jessica revealed during discussions that a new feature has been added to Firestorm for the next release: right-click -> reload texture. This forces the server to re-send a given texture (worn or on a prim) which has failed to rez.

So to repeat: progress on both Phoenix and Firestorm has been good, but until the graphics issues are resolved by Linden Lab, there will not be any releases. As a side note, Jessica and Ed said the Lab themselves are indicating it will possibly take another two weeks of effort on the Lab’s part to resolve the issues – but this is not guaranteed.

New Official Viewer UI

Jessica expressed disappointment around the way in which Linden Lab has handled the  new Viewer 3.x UI, going so far as to state the view that working “in secret” on the UI was “Wrong. In so many ways”. Given the degree with which TPV developers working on V3-based code have been trying to make the Viewer more accessible and acceptable to die-hard V1.x users, one has to admit it is hard not to agree with her – although not necessarily for the reasons she cites.

Had the Phoenix team, for example, been made aware of LL’s plans, they could have made a choice as to whether to pursue the massive amount of effort they’ve put into creating a V1-style option for the Firestorm UI or whether to direct that effort elsewhere – such as in supplying even more help to LL in trying to resolve the current graphics problems. As it stands, a lot of effort on the part of the team may well have been wasted, and LL have run the risk of alienating TPV developers who might otherwise be well-placed to assist them with future issues.

However, the flip side to this is, of course, that the new UI hasn’t been developed “in secret” in the strictest sense. While the code may have been developed without much in the way of consultation with the user community, Linden Lab nevertheless do have over 18 months of considerable feedback from users on the Viewer 2 UI. They’ve also taken positive steps to better understand its limitations for themselves, as demonstrated at SLCC 2011. Ergo, the redevelopment work isn’t directly comparable to the situation that brought about Viewer 2.0, with the work being carried out in an apparent vacuum.

Support

The core of the show was devoted to support issues – especially in relation to Firestorm, but some of which also applied to Phoenix. This started with a review of the Firestorm courses the team offer, the schedule for which can be found on the Phoenix / Firestorm wiki, before moving on to the most common issues the support team deal with.

Bake Fail

Bake fail is the number one issue for the Phoenix / Firestorm support team, despite the fact it is not actually a Viewer issue per se. Rather it is a server-derived issue involving a communications failure, such as between the server and your computer, or the server and someone else’s computer / a group of computers. Typical examples of each are:

  • Everyone else sees you in an outfit you just changed into, but you still see yourself in the previous outfit = you have suffered bake fail
  • You see yourself wearing the outfit you’ve just changed into, but others see you still in your previous outfit = others have suffered bake fail.

Oz Linden has defined this problem as being the result of a series bugs within the rendering pipe (not all of them directly connected with bake fail itself) that have individually been treated with a band-aid at the time they occurred, with each bug causing the next bug in the chain. This has resulted in an issue that – as much as Oz has stated he’d personally like to see fixed – is next to impossible to sort out without significant time and effort (and risk) being put into the rendering pipe itself – a piece of code LL tend to treat with the utmost caution.

Once again, Phoenix provide a wiki page with information on how to fix a bake fail problem.

Back-up Your Appearance

Ed makes a point of expressing the value in making sure you make a “backup” copy of your appearance as far as you can – skin, hair shape & suitable clothing. If you have severe rendering issues, and REPLACE CURRENT OUTFIT isn’t available as an inventory option because it is grayed-out, drag the folder with the back-up from your inventory and drop it onto your avatar.

Blurry Textures

If your avatar bakes, then the textures go blurry, you rebake & go blurry, try:

  • Reducing your texture memory allotment by around 75% of the current setting
    • Firestorm: PREFERENCES -> GRAPHICS -> HARDWARE SETTINGS
    • Phoenix: PREFERENCES -> GRAPHICS -> HARDWARE OPTIONS
  • Reducing the number of HTTP concurrent requests by around 50% of the current setting
    • Firestorm: PREFERENCE -> GRAPHICS -> RENDERING
    • Phoenix: PREFERENCES -> PHOENIX -> PAGE 2 -> ADVANCED GRAPHICS
  • If both of these fail to resolve the issue, disable the HTTP Get function entirely (uncheck USE HTTP TEXTURES in Firestorm or GET HTTP TEXTURES in Phoenix, which are contained in the respective Viewer Preferences tabs defined in the above steps. If you disable the option, make sure you clear cache to avoid texture corruptions.
HTTP get texture options – possible aid in resolving avatar blurring issues

I See Grey People

An interesting tip from Ed Merryman formed a part of the bake fail discussion: if you see a grey avatar or avatars near you, don’t ask them to rebake – try changing your Group tag.

DNS Issues

Lette offer a number of solutions were offered for those experiencing a DNS related error on trying to log-in to Second Life:

  • Check your anti-virus software, some anti-virus software mistakenly view the Viewer as somehow harmful / trying to make an illegal connection and block it from doing so (some may even throw out a virus infection warning)
  • Try flushing your DNS cache
  • Change your DNS server to Google Public DNS or OpenDNS.

DNS errors appear to be on the increase across all Viewers, although why this should be isn’t clearly understood at this point in time.

The Phoenix / Firestorm Wiki

One of the best places to get help for either Phoenix or Firestorm is through the wiki. This includes details on basic troubleshooting, dealing with issues such as bake fail (as described above) and information on Firestorm classes, etc. The wiki also has a number of pages that cover broader issues and items, including:

Both of these pages are being continually updated, so people are asked to take a peek at them when encouraging issues.

The Phoenix Team Halloween Party

At 14:00 SLT on Saturday 29th October, the Phoenix team will be hosting its second annual Halloween Costume Party. Arrangements are still being made, but details and an LM will be sent out via the support group nearer the date.

See the show in full on Metamix TV.

6 thoughts on “Firestorm and Phoenix: updates and support notes

    1. For questions directly related to Firestorm, you’re best either joining the official Phoenix/Firestorm support tem in-world, or by e-mailing support-at-phoenixviewer.com (remembering to replace “-at-” with the customary “@”, of course).

      Support questions cannot be answered through this blog as I am not directly associated with the Firestorm project (or any other Viewer project).

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  1. My avi is sinking into the floor and my knees are bent. It’s been that way for several days. How can I fix it?

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