Firestorm: SL, MOSES, OpenSim and the future

firestorm-logoLogging-on to SL today, I notice from the Firestorm MOTD that Jessica Lyon brings word on Firestorm and what is going on with SL’s most stable and most popular viewer – and the viewer of choice for many OpenSim grids.

The team has been hard at work on the viewer while LL have been busy sorting out stability and crash issues on their own beta. As Jessica comment in her blog post, one of the reasons Firestorm is on a long release cycle is that until now, she has preferred to see the viewer go out with significant updates which users will want to have / see (both new capabilities and bug fixes), rather than pushing out much smaller, more incremental releases which might get on people’s nerves the their frequency. The next release will be no different in that regard, with a range of further fixes and well as a host of new features, including William Weaver’s marvellous Phototools, which I simply adore. William (Paperworks Resident in SL) has been working closely with Firestorm developer Ansariel Hiller to get the tools integrated into Firestorm. I’ve been able to use the integrated version ahead of the release, and love the work both Ansariel and William have put in on this.

Phototools, fully integrated into Firestorm in the next release, allows stunning images to be produced from within the viewer without necessarily relying on external processing through PhotoShop, etc. (image courtesy of William Weaver)

However, in the future, it seems things will be changing, as Jessica states:

We plan to make that updating process easier for you by setting up seamless behind-the-scenes updates you will hardly even notice, allowing us to provide more frequent updates and even hotfixes to improve your experience faster!

This sounds like the team will be implementing an automatic update process similar to that used by LL to update the official viewer. It will be interesting to see how this is implemented and how people respond to it. While it is likely most people won’t mind  / will welcome the move, some may prefer to keep the option turned off (if possible) so they can track what changes are being made to their viewer installation.

MOSES: collaboration with Firestorm

An intriguing part – for me at least – of Jessica’s news is that the team are liable to be working with Doug Maxwell and his MOSES team.

This is interesting for me as I covered MOSES last year in an article in this blog, and also covered a major upgrade to the platform after meeting Doug at a presentation he gave on the project. He’s looking to enhance OpenSim security for the MOSES grid, and it appears he’ll be working with the Firestorm team on security aspects affecting the viewer, which will in turn be fed back into the OpenSim community.

In terms of direct OpenSim support, Jessica has this to say:

While Second Life still remains the primary focus of our development efforts, we have begun working towards bringing Firestorm Viewer into better compatibility with the OpenSim Platform. It is important to point out where the extent of that effort ends, though. We are making Firestorm work better on the “base” OpenSim Platform, but we cannot fix problems that arise on specific OpenSim grids because of changes those particular grids have made to their OpenSim code. For those issues to be fixed, we will rely on those grids to provide us code contributions to address those issues.

This is a pragmatic and sensible approach and typifies the considered manner in which Jessica approaches projects.

To help support the OpenSim effort, Firestom had two regions on OSgrid donated to them for their use, one of which has been outfitted to serve as Firestorm’s OSgrid headquarters and which has been named, somewhat appropriately, Firestorm Island. Directions for visiting it can be found in Jessica’s post.

All-in-all, an interesting update.

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Nouveau steampunk with a rural seasoning

I first visited Steelhead, albeit very briefly, earlier this year when I was poking my nose into mazes around Second Life and dropped in on the Southwest Gate Hedge Maze of Nevermoor. I had a quick look around at the time and added Steelhead to my list of places to review for my series on SL destinations – something I finally managed to do over the past few days.

Steelhead is described as “an American Victorian Steampunk Community in the Second Life Nestled in the Coastal Pacific Northwest”. It’s a group of seven regions, which bring together commercial, residential and role-play elements in a themed community focused steampunk and which bring together an eclectic and fascinating range of themes.

Steelhead Port Harbour

There are a number of teleport points through the community, so rather than scatter them across this article, I’ll list them at the end.

Steelhead itself is the commercial centre for the community. here you’ll find the train station, stores and wide streets and the town hall, wherein a weekly meeting of residents is held to discuss community matters. To the west of this is Steelhead Shanghai, a fascinating “Sino-steampunk” region which brought to mind photos I’ve seen of the Hong Kong harbour front circa the 1920s (although Hong Kong admittedly never had dirigible junks sitting on the waterfront).

Steelhead Shanghai

Steelhead Harborside is mostly residential, and offers a nice walk along footpaths bordered by houses which keep to the theme of the community, and across bridges over canal-like waterways which give the place a very homely and attractive feel. To the north sits Steelhead Nevermoor, which brings a touch of mystery and magic to the estate (and which I most enjoy exploring at night). It is also where you can find the maze mentioned at the top of this article.

Steelhead Nevermoor

Continue reading “Nouveau steampunk with a rural seasoning”

SL projects update week 42 / 1

Server Updates

The main channel deployment took place as planned on Tuesday 16th October. As previously indicated, this was the code deployed to the BlueSteel RC channel in week 41 (essentially an improved database query that should help with the back-end system load).

Of the Release Candidate channels, these are due to be updated on Wednesday 17th October as follows:

  • Magnum – will not receive an update, but will continue to run with the code deployed in week 41, probably in the same configuration
  • BlueSteel – will get code that’s almost the same as the main channel, with some OS-level configuration changes that shouldn’t be visible to anyone
  • LeTigre – will be getting a minor update to the Havok library which is mostly about getting our servers to build under Visual Studio 2010 on Windows and autobuild on Linux.

The LeTigre update will use “slightly newer” versions of the Havok libraries, so concerns were raised at the Server  / Sim meeting on Tuesday 16th October as to whether this may lead to a resumption of the problem with mesh vehicles being unable to travel between regions running different versions of Havok.Andrew Linden confirmed this might well be the case for mesh vehicles moving between LeTigre regions and other regions following the deployment.

To help reduce issues with situations like this arise, it was suggested that areas such as the Blake Sea regions are either removed from the RC channels, or placed on the same channel. While this would not solve the problem grid-wide, it would reduce the impact somewhat for people using mesh vehicles in these regions. A query was put to the LL deployment team on this by Andrew Linden, and they  agreed to try to make the Blake Sea regions more homogenous by ensuring they are all on the same channel.

SL Viewer

A further stability test build for the beta viewer was made on Friday October 12th, and reached the download page on Tuesday 16th (3.4.1.265898release notes) after being cleared by QA. This should be the last stability test release and should see the OK for code merges to resume. Merges and release priorities are still being looked at, and speaking at the Open Dev meeting on Monday 15th October, Oz indicated that there are “a few open source contributions in the pipeline that are in the mix”, as well as the anticipated LL merges such as the Steam code, Monty Linden’s HTTP library updates, Baker Linden’s Group Services project code, Apple OSX Mountain Lion support (including gatekeeper compatibility), etc.

Kelly Linden reports fixing SVC-7870 (Edit Linked Parts isn’t returning creator/owner), but given the current backlog, it may be a while before this makes it through to a beta  / release viewer.

Avatar Baking

The aim of this work (Project Sunshine) is to improve issues around avatar baking and to eliminate bake fail issues. It will primarily focus on moving the emphasis for the baking process from the viewer to a new Texture Compositing server. The viewer will retain some elements involved in avatar baking – the actual baking of the avatar shape (i.e. shape values and IDs) will still take place on the viewer side, for example.

As of Monday 15th October, no major news. Commenting at the Content Creation / Mesh Import meeting, Nyx Linden said, “Still plugging along at it :). It’s a complex project with many moving pieces, we’ll let you know when there are updates, and I will definitely be asking for beta testers here when we’re ready for feedback”.

Interest Lists and Object Caching

The focus of this project is to optimise the data being sent to the viewer, information already cached on the viewer and the manner in which that data is used in order to ensure it is used more efficiently so that things rez both faster and in a more orderly manner than is currently the case.

Interest lists and object rezzing: ironing-out the bugs, wherever they are

Andrew Linden continues to iron-out the bugs in the interests lists project, including one in the main viewer codebase wherein after crossing a region boundary the connection to the region you were just in will get reset after about 60 seconds. This is impacting the interest lists work and requires resolving, so Andrew is currently focused on trying to sort it out. A problem has also been reported with objects rezzing in the test regions on Aditi (e.g. Ahern) when moving through them in a vehicle, and will be looked into.

Pathfinding

A question was raised at the Content Creation / Mesh Import meeting on the 15th October as to why a 1-prim pathfinding character  has a land impact of 15. The reason for this is due to the increase physics load on the character. As previously covered, while this may seem harsh, it actually means that characters with a much higher prim count will also have a land impact of 15 (for example, a 30-prim character will still only have a land impact of 15), unless other factors (such as streaming cost) come into effect.

There are a couple of other issues with pathfinding characters which are being (or are about to be) looking at:

  • A bug whereby copies of single-prim characters only have a land impact of one (not 15). This problem is being addressed under PATHBUG-194.
  • A problem wherebypathfinding characters suddenly appear to “fly away” when adjusting your camera position, almost as if they are suffering from lag, and then reappearing there they should actually be (I gather this tends to happen when looking at a pathfinding character, which is following a set path then turning the camera away and then back again). Andrew Linden believes the problem is related to interest list updates, and will be looking into it.

Mesh

The patch to enhance the mesh uploader when dealing with rigged mesh items was discussed at the Content Creation Mesh Import group meeting on October 15th, with Nyx expressing interest in the idea, and agreeing with a suggestion that the patch needs to be formally submitted to LL’s bit bucket repo applied to a cloned version of the development viewer, supported by a JIRA outlining the patch and with a link to the repro.

Mesh uploda enhancement: suggested that it is submitted as a patch to LL

SH-3055 is a bug relating to mesh uploads which has been around for a while, but which appears to be affecting more people of late. With it, mesh uploads fail without any error message or warning on clicking CALCULATE or UPLOAD on the mesh upload floater. The issue is hard to track down (or even reproduce) as it doesn’t occur with any consistency. Either the upload works, or it simply sits as if waiting for something – whether it is waiting for data to be returned by the server, or whether it is receiving information and failing to action upon it.

Darien Caldwell and Nicky Dasmijn have been working with a debug viewer in an attempt to pin the problem down, but so far without success. One school of thought they are pursuing is that it is a problem with the viewer’s cURL wrapper (which is also thought to have been responsible for the recent crash issues being experienced in the beta viewer). The thinking behind this is that the problem appeared to come about with the introduction of a multi-threaded cURL in v3.2.5 of the viewer – with 3.2.4 having exhibited no major issues with uploading.Nyx Linden has stated he’ll take the problem to the team work on cURL to see if they can identify anything.

Materials Processing

No further updates. When talking to Geenz Spad and Oz Linden on Tuesday 16th October, Geenz could only say, “There’s not much to really report on materials for the time being unfortunately, but when there is something I’ll be more than happy to tell everyone.” Oz then added, “We’ll do more than tell you – we’ll give you something to play with :-)”.

Network Pile-on Test Update

Commenting on the thread for the pile-on test, Oskar Linden said: “All of the tests passed and the code will be going to RC next week. Thank you all for your help!”

With thanks to Baz deSantis for information on the Sim / server Group meeting.