Wednesday July 11th saw the release of Firestorm 18.104.22.168744. Using the Linden Lab 3.3.3 viewer code base and bringing RLVa support up to 1.4.6, the release includes and extensive range of updates, improvements and changes. I don’t propose covering all of these in detail – that’s what release notes are for – but will attempt to give a broad flavour of what are likely to be the more popular changes and outline where you can find them.
Download and Installation
The download is 32.9Mb in size for Windows, and installation threw out no surprises. As per usual, I did a completely clean install – something that is actually strongly recommended for the release. If you’ve not performed a clean install of a viewer before, the Firestorm team have some notes to help you.
There are a number of updates to the menus, which can be seen in the table below:
The World menu gets two brand new options, the Sound Explorer and Asset Blacklist:
- The Sound Explorer displays all current sound sources within audible range. The list will continue to update as new sounds are played. Sounds can be located, played locally for you to hear and can be blacklisted. directly from the Sound Explorer. You can read more details in the Phoenix wiki
- The Asset Blacklist works with an updated object de-render. With release 4.1.1, objects can now be “permanently” de-rendered (on previous releases, any object de-rendered would re-appear in your view following a teleport or re-log). With this release, all objects so treated are listed in the Asset Blacklist, from where they can be re-rendered if required. You can read more details on this in the Phoenix wiki
Vaalith Jinn’s Local Bitmap Browser has been removed from the Build menu because this release of Firestorm sees the incorporation of Vaalith’s Local Textures functionality, as contributed to Linden Lab (which is also available for clothing and skins uploads). However, all those who use Temporary Textures need not panic – that option is still available as well.
There has been further rationalisation of the various Preferences tabs. I’ve summarised the updates in a PDF file for ease of reference, and will focus on the notable changes here.
The most significant additions to Preferences are the new Crash Reports and OpenSim tabs.
The Firestorm team recently repeated their commitment to support of the OpenSim environment, and this tab can been seen as evidence of that. However, given Linden Lab’s requirements around the Havok sub-licence arrangement, this tab is liable to be vanishing from future “SL flavours” of Firestorm once the new sub-licencing comes into effect.
One important element in Preferences that needs additional emphasis is the option to Enable Lossy Texture Compression, found under GRAPHICS->HARDWARE SETTINGS. This enables texture compression during rendering, which can give improved performance and a smaller graphics memory footprint – but at the cost of lower quality rendered textures which may end up pixellated. As such, it is not recommended that this be enabled unless you have little video memory on your system.
There are two new buttons making their début with this release:
- Fly – a dedicated button to enable you to easily fly
- Region/Estate button – provides access to the Region / Estate floater (WORLD->REGION DETAILS or ALT-R).
Additionally, buttons now display their keyboard shortcuts in their tool tips.
In addition to the options that can be set for various floaters in the updated Preferences (see the PDF file linked-to above), a number of the floaters themselves have new or revised options:
- AO floater: A new safeguard added to the DELETE THIS ANIMATION SET button so that everything that’s not an animation link is moved to “lost and found” to prevent accidental deletion
- Appearance floater–>Edit Outfit – now includes the Local Textures picker (from the gears button) for testing self-made skins and clothes
- Conversations floater
- Contacts tab uses new coloured icons for options (Friends can see when you’re online, etc).
- Build floater:
- Now includes the Local Textures picker
- Allows colours to be defined as hex values as well as RGB and will generate LSL vectors
- Inventory floater:
- A “Remove from current outfit” menu option has been added to folders that contain active gestures also, not just attached objects
- People floater:
- Nearby tab: the additional radar reporting options are included in the gear menu and the radar range slider has been removed; search now functions correctly
- Groups tab: hidden groups show in a different colour to those displayed in your profile
- People floater visibility now persists between login sessions
- Buttons at the bottom of the floater nopw use icons rather than labels
- Places floater: Search now works properly and folders correctly collapse
- Profile floater (legacy): hidden groups show in a different colour to those displayed in your profile for other to see; The Born field is now accessible so data can be highlighted/copied
Quick Prefs floater:
- Added option to enable/disable LookAt crosshairs (marking where people are looking)
- Added option to enable/disable on-screen reporting of colours under the cursor
- Name tag offset slider added, allowing placement of name tags to be adjusted (affects tags on all avatars, but only in your view)
- Snapshot floater:
- Temporary snapshot upload option added for when saving to inventory
- Floater will now open at last-used tab
Builders and scripters also get a wide range of new and additional options to work with, all of which are listed in the release notes, including (for scripters):
- The LSL preprocessor, which has a comprehensive set of instructions on the Firestorm wiki. As mentioned in the PDF file, the Pre-processor in enabled via PREFERENCES->FIRSTORM->BUILD
- The ability to right-click on an object and compile the scripts within in LSL or MONO or remove all scripts from the selected object (note that this will remove ALL scripts in a selected linkset, so remember to use EDIT LINKED if you only wish to remove scripts from ONE prim in a linkset)
- The Firestorm AO can now be controlled via scripts.
Growl is a notification system which allows applications to send alert you about events and actions. Firestorm can use this to alert you of received IMs, when you are working in other applications. The option can be set via PREFERENCES->DIALOG ALERTS->ENABLE GROWL NOTIFICATIONS, however it does require that you have Growl installed on your computer.
Other Notable Updates
- ALT-H shortcut reinstated and now brings up teleport history directly
- Gestures no longerstick on wait states
- Six new Windlight presets
- A range of translation updates and improvements
- Custom skin improvements and the inclusion of a brand new UI skin, AnsaStorm
- Text buffer is now increased and text that exceeds the maximum length of the text buffer will automatically split into multiple messages
- CTRL/SHIFT+Scrollwheel now alters camera focus and offset:
- ESC resets to default camera values
- SHIFT+ESC resets camera angles
- Profile, script info button and estate kick function added to top scripts and top colliders floaters
- The legend area of the fast timers window is now scrolable so all the entries can be looked at
- Non-default fonts improved to properly display unicode
- Many LL-driven fixes and enhancements and code contributions from other TPVs that have been made to the Snowstorm code base
Feedback and Performance
I’ve been running Firestorm 4.1.1 since the release and found it to be potentially more stable than 4.0.1 (which would tend to fail on me when using Windlight presets and taking photos). However, a direct performance check with any earlier version isn’t really possible, as I’ve moved my in-world location recently, and so have no prior test results while using my home sim. However, given the major of viewer tests are always going to be subjective, and I am using the same hardware and viewer settings as always (see the relevant panel on the home page of this blog), here’s some very broad feedback on performance.
At 370 metres, running in default High graphics, with no deferred rendering options switched on, this release clocked a very respectable 42-45fps on my PC. Dropping to ground level saw this decrease to around 28-32fps, while at 2875m (the height of my build platform), the viewer was hitting 53-56fps.
Enabling deferred and shadows on this release appears to generate a much sharper drop-off than I’ve noticed with Firestorm 4.0.1. At 370m and above, fps remains relatively constant in the mid-teens (around 15-17fps). At ground level, it drops to around an average of 9fps – the lowest I’ve experienced in Firestorm for a good while. However, this could be as much an artefact of my new home region as anything. Tripping over to one of my other “test regions” did lift the fps rate with shadows enabled very slightly (averaging 10-11fps), but overall this release does seem slower on my hardware. Again, this could be an artefact of the LL code – I’ve noticed those who have reviewed recent LL releases have reported drops in fps.
In terms of tools and features, there is much here that should satisfy Phoenix diehards; to me it appears that, features-wise at least, Firestorm is pretty much on a par with Phoenix. It is also fair to say that the release is a logical consolidation for Firestorm, rather than a radical update – and this is to be expected. The viewer is maturing, and as such, development should be more a case of evolution rather than revolution.
Please note that all credits for contributions, features and code included in this release of Firestorm can be found in the release notes.