SL viewer and project mini-update

A couple of items came up at the Open Dev meeting held last night (Thursday 27th September) which are worth pushing out by way of updates to my SL Projects Update from earlier in the week.

Beta Viewer

The beta release ((3.4.1.265134) made available on September 24th is still suffering from high crash rates. Whether these are related to memory leaks or not is currently unclear, as the Lab is apparently having trouble reproducing specific causes of crashes. It is believed that tcmalloc is no longer a part of the code. As a result of the investigations, the planned frequent deploys of 3.4.1 beta releases as specified by Oz last week has been delayed. This is liable to have a knock-on effect with planning for the 3.4.2 beta releases as well, although 3.4.2 continues to roll to the development branch, with 3.4.2.265141, released on the 25th September being the current development build at the time of writing.

Mesh Deformer

Following the release of version 3.4.1.265139 on September 25th, the Mesh Deformer project viewer updated to 3.4.1.265192 on September 26th. This version has the normals calculation disabled, as it conflicted with how Blender creates sharp edges and would cause the deformer to split the edge. In addition, it appears from comments made at the Open Dev meeting that meshes uploaded prior to this version will not deform unless worn with a mesh uploaded using this version, which is intentional.

There have been further contributions to the test clothing at Hippotropolis, and Nalates Uirriah commented that some creators are placing free copies of clothing for testing up on the SL Marketplace for people to use in tests. Oz requested that anyone doing this to please explicitly state the version number of the project viewer they used to upload the mesh clothing.

At the moment, and based on contributions received, Oz is hoping to arrange for a new series of tests to be run to test the overall functionality for the deformer as it stands. Again, if you do wish to contribute clothing (uploaded using the current version of the project viewer), please refer to Oz’s original request on the subject.

Avatar Baking

Bake fail: a familiar problem for many

Avatar baking is progressing, although there is still no time-frame for any project viewer or roll-out of code on the server-side.

Currently, work is being undertaken to move the viewer’s baking code to its own library, which will be used with the new server-side baking service as well. Thus the same code will be used when changing your appearance locally, and to send your updated appearance out via the new baking service, once it has received the updates from your viewer. This aim of this work is to further eliminate some of the errors which can occur as a result of the current baking process being reliant upon viewer-side hardware, drivers, etc., wherein the same inputs can lead to different results when using different hardware.

One of the biggest benefits of this work will be removing the burden of texture caching from the simulators. With the new system, avatar texture caching will essentially be a global service: the Texture Compositing service becomes a single point-of call for avatar texture information, instead of a simulator having to contact the simulator a visiting avatar was originally baked on in order to obtain texture data.

This not only means that texture caching will be removed from the simulators once the new service is up and running smoothly, it could pave the way for other benefits as well, as Oz mentioned in the meeting, “In theory at least, that lets us introduce persistent connections and pipelined requests (don’t know if that will be in the first version or not), which could enormously speed up getting the bakes when you enter a crowded area.”

Plans for the project remain aimed towards providing TPV developers with as much advanced warning as possible prior to the new service being enabled on the main grid (Oz has been aiming at around two months’ notice), to give them time to incorporate the viewer-side code changes and assist with testing the new service. When the server-side code is ready, a project viewer will be released, and a series of regions on Aditi (the beta grid) will be updated to use the new service for testing purposes.

I have a more explicit explanation of the core aims of the new avatar baking service available in an overview of the Shining project.

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