Firestorm goes FUI

Firestorm 4.0.1.27000 has rolled-out alongside Phoenix 1.6.1.1691, and brings with it a whole host of changes – including the implementation of the team’s take on the Flexible User Interface (FUI).

As is common for Firestorm, it is recommended that you perform a completely clean install with this release.

The changes to the Viewer are apparent from right off the bat: on logging-in for the very first time, a pop-up is displayed asking you if you wish to have which Viewer you are using displayed in the Phoenix / Firestorm support group chat windows – a requirement resulting from the recent TPV Policy changes. Clicking Yes will append “(FS)” after your name when using Phoenix / Firestorm support group chat sessions, clicking No will not display your Viewer choice in the group chat. This is a one-time only pop-up, and only occurs the very first time you use Firestorm (just check the box above the options). Should you wish to change your mind later, you can enable / disable the option directly through a Phoenix / Firestorm support group chat window.

The FUI

The biggest single change to this release of Firestorm is the adoption of LL’s 3.2 FUI – although with the exception of a single button on the left side of the screen, you’d actually be hard-pressed to know Firestorm is now using the FUI. Quiet and full of cunning is the Firestorm team…!

The new UI: only a single button reveals the truth…

If you do need further proof that this is FUI, simply right-click on the buttons at the bottom of the screen and select TOOLBAR BUTTONS; the familiar button picker toolbox will be displayed – and is filled with a tidy range of additional buttons beyond those offered by LL.

Buttons: we haz them

As is common with V3.2-based Viewers, buttons can be placed to the left and/or right of the screen and/or along the bottom of the screen, and can be displayed as text or icons or both. However, in a welcome departure from the norm, buttons on the bottom of the screen can be left / right aligned and those on the left or right aligned to the top or bottom, rather than simply sitting in the middle. Hoorah!

Button alignment and size options

Additionally, and allowing for your screen resolution / size, you can set the buttons along the bottom so that they:

  • Fill the available space (as shown above, where they fill the entire space between the chat bar and the right side of the screen), and will dynamically resize according to how the chat bar is sized
  • Will auto-size themselves to the smallest possible size (depending on whether you opt to use icons, labels or icons and labels & the number of buttons on the bar, this may cause the buttons to wrap over two or more lines
  • Will fix the buttons to a given size (again, depending on the amount of space available, this may wrap the buttons over two or more lines)
Auto-sized buttons

In another move away from a weakness in the FUI, the chat bar in Firestorm is, by default, anchored to the lower left corner of the screen – again: hoorah!

Gimme Some Skin(s)!

Firestorm has, for a goodly while, had an appearance option in the log-in splash screen offering a set of default UI skin effects. These were called Phoenix, V3 and Hybrid. The Firestorm team caught a lot of flak over the use of “Phoenix”, because the UI didn’t look like Phoenix when used.

With 4.0.1.27000, the appearance option button is still there – but it now has four buttons, and does a whole lot more. For a start there are now four options:

  • Firestorm: which displays the default skinning and look seen so far in the screen shots in this article
  • V3: displays a more V3.2-like feel to the viewer (the chat window includes chat headers, etc.) and uses Hitomi Tipomi’s Starlight skins
    • Hitomi’s Starlight CUI option is also available from PREFERENCES->SKINS, which allows you to set custom button colours, etc.
  • Hybrid: uses the MetaHarper skin and utilises a degree of transparency around various elements of the UI (such as the buttons)

However, it is the final option – currently still called “Phoenix”, but potentially to be re-named “V1” – that should silence critics over the use of the “Phoenix” label. Here’s why:

Firestorm goes V1

Obviously, the UI isn’t totally V1 – “Radar” is called “People”, the menus are still the V3.x menus, pop-ups may not appear as expected – but various additional options (such as IM notifications appearing in the chat console, bottom left) can be set through Preferences. Given the layout has been built from scratch by Zi Ree, herself a V1-style Viewer user, this should satisfy the requirements of most who prefer that look and feel, offering a more than acceptable compromise.

Snapshot Floater Update

Snapshot floater updated

Firestorm 4.0.1.27000 sees the snapshot floater overhauled, with the “slider” effect used on the Build floater being used to open / close the additional snapshot options. PLUS – in a move that will have many cheering – you can now send snapshots to your web profile feed!

Direct Delivery and Other Bits

With Direct Delivery due for roll-out on Wednesday 21st March, this release incorporates the required support for Received Items.

This release also gets the Destination Guide floater (re-worked by Leyla Farazha) and the Avatar Picker floater common to Viewer 3.2 (and their associated buttons).

There are a host of other fixes, tweaks and revisions all of which can be found in the release change log (complete with originator attributions), and which include:

  • Growl support for Windows (still a work-in-progress)
  • Optional viewer tag colors based on distance (chat, shout, beyond shout range)
  • Option to include distance to other avatars in their name tag
  • Toolbar buttons for area search, statistics, web browser, debug settings
  • “Eject from Group” on the group participant context menu
  • RLVa updates
  • Ability to hide empty system folders in a dynamic way
  • The AO button is now a single button for configuration with an inset button for turning AO functions on / off.

Feedback

Possibly one of the most anticipated Firestorm updates since the Viewer was first launched, this release packs a lot into it, and it is clear the entire team has worked hard to incorporate a lot of features and people’s feedback, and rise to the challenge of producing a Viewer that can meet the needs of a very diverse audience.

And I think they’ve succeeded.

There is much here to please those who still feel frustrated with the V3.2 in terms of buttons and alignment, those who like the existing Firestorm layout and those who prefer a V1-style approach to their Viewer. Equally, there are probably a couple of things that are going to be missed for those who liked them, such as the Sidebar-like sliding of floater from the right side of the screen (although obviously, panels can be moved there and will persist on opening between log-ins). But we should all try and move with the times…

Performance-wise, this release is on a part with other Viewer releases of late, with fps rates around the mid-30s on reasonably busy sims, dropping to mid-teens with shadows enabled. I’ve not run the Viewer fast or hard enough as yet to really consider stability, but in logging between appearance settings I didn’t have any of the “locking up” on log-out I’ve experienced of late with 3.3.0.24880 (in particular) and .24882.

While it may be my eyesight and the lateness of the hour, shadows appear to render somewhat more sharply with this release, and I’m finding myself wishing Firestorm has a gamma correction capability for photography – but we can’t have everything!

I’m particularly enamoured of the button alignment / autosize functions. These have allowed me to retain the look-feel from 3.3.0.24882 and be able to position my custom “multi-HUD” where it is both within reach and nicely tucked out of the way. Coupled with the anchoring of the chat bar, this alone makes this release of Firestorm a winner in my book.

Firestorm Videos

Two videos introducing the Firestorm FUI Beta

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Phoenix gets set for Direct Delivery

Phoenix 1.6.1.1691 has been released today. This has been expected since the recent updates to the TPV Policy required the removal of the on-line truth status from the profile floater.

More importantly, the update prepares Phoenix for the forthcoming roll-out of Direct Delivery, scheduled for this Wednesday, the 21st March. As such, it is very important for Phoenix users to upgrade to this release if they wish to be able to use the SL Marketplace to receive items once Direct Delivery is launched and merchants switch over to it. Additionally, the Viewer includes the V2 inventory fetch system.

Other updates include:

  • RLV updates (Kitty Barnett)
  • Optional support group viewer version identification (Zi Ree, Kadah Koba)
  • GPU table updates (TankMaster Finesmith)
  • Added CHOP, MAINT, EXP, SINV, PATHBUG, and DOC to jira parser (TankMaster Finesmith)
  • Option to show script time in either ms or µSeconds (Kadah Coba)
  • Allow /me’ when using viewer prefix (Inusaito Kanya)
  • Support for CreateInventoryCategory capability (Henri Beauchamp)
  • Backport of V3 inventory loading at login (Henri Beauchamp & Singularity Viewer)
  • Additional fast timers from V3 (Henri Beauchamp)

It is recommended that a clean install is performed for this release.

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Niran’s Viewer 1.30: pushing the envelope

Note: Niran subsequently released versions 1.31 and 1.32 following this review. Both contain tweaks and additions to 1.30, including further floater layout alignments (most notably the People floater (1.31) and the Merchant Outbox is translated and functional in German (1.32). You can catch these updates on Niran’s blog

NiranV Dean has released version 1.30 of Niran’s Viewer, which is described as “a complete overhaul” – and there is enough that has gone into it to justify that comment.

The Viewer has been something of a differentiator in the TPV world on a number of fronts: elements of UI presentation are markedly different (such as the menu presentation and things like the Build floater), the Viewer also offers a huge amount of nips, tucks, tweaks and changes to the graphic end of things which, while geared towards higher-specification machines, offer much that is of benefit to machinimatographers and photographers. Finally, and as the Viewer has developed, NiranV has not been afraid to seek to incorporate more of a game-like approach to things.

The changes in this release are extensive – and some are not always obvious (such as localisation in the log-in and log-in progress screens),, which doesn’t make them any less time-intensive to produce. I’ve aimed this piece at covering the more visible changes.

Over-the-Shoulder

The first noticeable difference between 1.30 and earlier versions is that the camera default position has been moved to an over-the-shoulder view. This may not be to everyone’s liking, but it does offer an improved world-view in many respects. As someone already using Penny Patton’s camera offsets to achieve a similar result, I found the look very familiar and comfortable when I logged-in, although the camera position is a little closer than I’m accustomed to seeing. This isn’t a problem until one uses the DOWN ARROW / S-key for moving backwards; while this now turns your avatar around, it also tend to have your avatar well over to the left on-screen, making navigation even over a short distance a little harder. For those that aren’t keen on these views, it’s obviously possible to reset to a more “traditional” view.

Staying with the camera for a moment, mouselook also gains the ability to use the SHIFT key in combination with mouse movements to smooth the motion of the latter on-screen and provide precise tracking. Handy for those in combat / shooting situations.

Floating Away

NiranV’s work on redesigning various floaters continues. With this release, People and Mesh Upload come in for attention.

The People floater joins Build in going horizontal – – and this works particularly well with Nearby, wherein the people list and mini-map can be displayed without having to have a long vertical panel opening on-screen.

Revised People floater

Another nice touch with this is that both ONLINE and ALL are displayed side-by-side (although may require extra scrolling if you have an extensive list of friends!).

The Mesh Upload floater has been compressed and the lay-out tided so that it also doesn’t require so much on-screen real estate. The result is a clean, compact approach that is still relatively easy on the eye, although the ability to resize it via dragging might not go amiss for those who would prefer it to be a little bigger.

Mesh upload

The Build floater has been further tweaked and again provides a cleaner display and appears less cluttered than early iterations.

Menus and floaters have also had their transparency adjusted to give a consistent feel right across the Viewer, and to aid in readability.

“Pick a colour, any colour…”

Perhaps the biggest single update in terms of the ability to customise the Viewer is that users can now set the colour and transparency of every common floater in the Viewer and set colours against every common widget.

UI colour and transparency options for floaters

Changes to floaters require a Viewer restart to take effect, while changes to widget colours will be applied immediately.

For those missing KLee’s Viewer, a small nod has been added to Niran’s 1.30: the UI buttons can now by displayed in KLee Viewer style.

And there’s more…

As well as these changes, 1.30 also sees:

  • More work on translating the UI for German and French users
  • Improvements and tweaks to various Preferences panels
  • Fixes to media roll-off and max sliders
  • Incorporation of the latest Shining fixes
  • Text compression (which may help with some crash issues on older cards, but not recommended for ATi systems)

A full list of changes can be found at the end of the blog post on the release.  Gone from this release is the “main menu” option and the SL Kinect2 option. The former is being reworked, the latter may be gone for good due to compiling issues with Linux.

Feedback

I’ve always liked Niran’s Viewer – the “dares to be different” approach has meant that the Viewer has been very innovative and something very different from “standard” 3.x-based offerings. My experience has suffered over the last few releases because my PC has struggled to manage the Viewer, particularly when running some of the more advanced deferred rendering options. Whereas early versions ran very well – frame rates up in the mid-30s sans deferred options, more recent releases have been barely half that.

Release 1.30 goes some way to reversing this trend, allowing me to achieve frame rates of between 28-32 with 3 or 4 others on-sim, and deferred rendering is back on a par with earlier releases (around 8-9fps). This still isn’t as fast my PC can manage with other Viewers, but it’s a lot faster than I’ve enjoyed of late with Niran’s, and as such is very welcome.

In all, the Viewer runs smoothly, exhibits no proclivity towards crashing on me (it rarely has), and I had no lock-ups when taking lots of snapshots with deferred rendering turned on (an issue I tend to get with other viewers, particularly if I move the camera around a lot with the snapshot floater open when running in deferred).

In terms of the UI changes, the ability to make the UI multi-hued may find a lot of appeal among those who like a highly individual look to their Viewer. For me, I like the general tidying done to the Build floater – which is starting to grow on me – and I very much like the new People floater, which really maximises the use of space. The new default camera position is also something that appeals, given I already use something similar, although I’d personally prefer to set my camera back a little further.

Overall, a lot of work continues to go into this Viewer, it’s still one of my two preferred Viewers when it comes to my amateur attempts at photography, and given I’ve got a slight boost in performance with this release, it may well see a lot more use again as I hop around the grid exploring and snapping pictures.

Kudos!

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