SL projects update, September 26th

Update 28th September: Please also refer to an update post on some of the projects / news given here.

SL Viewer Status Updates

Linden Lab have been working hard on a range of viewer-related issues, notably crash rates and memory leaks, which have slowed the viewer update a release process up over the last few weeks. In terms of memory leaks, tcmalloc has been identified as the culprit, with Linden Lab deciding that dropping it is “probably a good idea”, according to Oz (tcmalloc has previously been implicated in crashes linked to the use of things like Microsoft’s Skydrive). There have also been an issues with LL’s statistics system which have meant that the viewer hasn’t necessarily been accurately tracked in terms of crash rates, etc.

Beta Releases

As it stands, LL hope to have the blocks on the various code merges removed during this week, which should see a rapid series of beta releases coming down the pipe. This work commenced with an initial 3.4.1 beta release ( emerging on September 24th. It will be followed by around three or so additional and rapid 3.4.1 build iterations aimed at confirming the viewer’s stability and at replacing various fixes which had previously been removed from the viewer code while trying to identify the causes for the viewer crashing / suffering memory leaks. It is expected that each of these iterations will be on the beta release build channel for a couple of days, prior to being replaced. Following these there will be a series of project updates, the first of which gatekeeper compliance project, which is also targeted for a 3.4.1 release build.

Project-related Releases

Once the stability of the beta viewer has been confirmed, it is anticipated that project-related code will be merged into the viewer, most likely starting with 3.4.2 builds. Among the releases planned for 3.4.2 is Monty Linden’s HTTP Library Services and Baker Linden’s Group Services code. These are currently targeted to reach the beta build channel in week 40 (week commencing Monday October 5th).

These releases will at some point include the Steam updates currently in a Development branch as well, which might in turn mean that Second Life could be ready to appear on Steam in the very near future, once these updates have reached a release version of the viewer.

Account creation prompt: heading for the beta viewer

Group Services Project

The Group Services project is an attempt to improve the management and editing of large SL groups by replacing the current UDP-based service (which has capacity issues with the size of group lists it can comfortably handle) with a new HTTP-based service. The project viewer for this is already available (for Windows, Linux and OSX.), however, as mentioned above, the current plan is to get this into the 3.4.2 build stream alongside the HTTP textures project, possibly in week 40.

Originally, the server code for this project was due to have been rolled to the RC channels during week 38, (week commencing September 17th), but the channel deploys were postponed after QA issues were found. As a consequence, the roll-out was due to take place on Wednesday 26th September, but has again been postponed.

There has been some confusion as to the aim of this project, with some people believing it is focused on fixing group chat issues such as  lag and chat failing to start. This is not the case at all; as stated above, the project is aimed at improving the management and editing of large groups (10K+) through the use of a new HTTP service.

HTTP Library Services

As indicated above, the first phase of this work, covering a new texture fetch service, should be appearing in a 3.4.2 beta release of the viewer in the near future.

HTTP Libraries project viewer: improved texture loading and rezzing

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Second Life RC channel server deploys cancelled

The server deploys planned for Wednesday September 26th have been cancelled. The news was given in a brief update to the the Sever Deploys blog post, which simply read:

UPDATE: There were blocking bugs found in both the RC’s planned for release this week. There will be no releases Wednesday morning. There will be no rolling restarts.

Oskar Linden also added a comment:

We found blocking issues during our pre-RC smoke tests. These issues will block the Wednesday morning RC releases. Regions will not be restarted.

Classified as maintenance releases, the deploys were to have included back-end configuration work designed to help SL run better on new and future hardware, and Baker Linden’s new Group Services code.

The postponement is the second time RC deploys have been cancelled in the last two weeks, with those planned for the week commencing 17th September being cancelled as a result of failing to pass QA testing.

As a result of last week’s RC cancellation, there was no main channel deploy on Tuesday 25th September. While the RC channel deploys might be rescheduled for later this week, depending on the severity of the reason for them being cancelled in the first place, if they do not take place then it is probable that there will be no main channel roll-out again next week.

Kirsten’s Viewer: a trip down memory lane

On Sunday 23rd September, Kirstenlee Cinquetti made a surprise update to Kirsten’s Viewer. It was accompanied by a short blog post:

I cannot help but find myself drawn in once more, you would think after nearly ten years of what sometimes seems like punishment you would throw in the towel.

But like I have stated in the past you catch a spark of what could be.. and once more you re-discover.

The shape or form of your time devoted to this most unusual habit is not yet set in stone, but you know you quite fancy the journey once again.

Version S22(1a) was not a major update to the viewer, and wasn’t intended to be, although it has been followed by a second release on the 26th, version S22 2.8.2 (11). Both are still very much Viewer 2 in terms of UI, and are more “tidy-ups” rather than any resumption of development.

Seeing the old V2-style UI actually brought a smile to my face. Well, not so much a smile as a big, sloppy grin. Even though I’ve never been a fan of the tabs on the right side of the screen, I’ve still missed the Sidebar in so many ways. It is ironic that by the time LL decided to remove it altogether, several TPVs had re-worked it into something that was both reasonably functional and no longer a blight on people’s use of SL – with Kirsten’s Viewer being at the forefront of many of the early improvements and Sidebar innovations.

Kisten’s Viewer: a trip down memory lane

That this isn’t a return of Kirsten’s viewer – and shouldn’t be taken as such – was made clear by Kirsten’s partner, Dawny Daviau, who chatted with me earlier this evening about the updates. “He grabbed the latest Kirstens viewer and just played a bit with it and compiled it again with just here and there an adjustment,” she explained. “There wont be any serious work anymore done as he still works and doesn’t have the time for that. It’s just refreshed, and wont get the new things LL offers now like pathfinding etc. See it as recreational work on the viewer but because we had so many requests for the viewer we put it up for the fans.”

One of the last releases on Kirsten’s Viewer included a (still unique) 3D view of the world. That’s still present in the updates – you can find the option under Preferences->Graphics->Advanced-> Misc->Toggle Anaglyph Render. You may also need to disable deferred rendering (lighting and shadows) – but if you’re able to view 3D rendering on your computer, it brings a whole new depth to Second Life.

Being based on V2, performance isn’t perhaps as good as the latest generation of V3.x viewers. On my system, it ran at around 23 fps at ground level with deferred off and Draw set to 128m. Pushing Draw up to my usual test range of 360m reduce the frame rate to around 18 fps. However, I do have an older GPU, and it did always tend to struggle with Kirsten’s, sadly. This is reflected by the fact that with deferred active, I was reduced to single digit frame rates – just 7 fps at 128m, and 4 at 360m.

There is far too much in V3.x I’ve become used to  – and dependent upon, in some respects –  to make a return to using Kirsten’s viewer full-time, but seeing these two releases was a welcome trip down memory lane, tinged with no small measure of regret at what might have been, had the Crowdfunder funding raised enough for work on the viewer to continue.

Related Links

With thanks to Nalates Urriah.