Firestorm Beta Release: Group Services and Havok sub-licence

As a result of the release of the Group Services project code to all of the main grid this week (see my SL Projects news report), The Firestorm team have released a beta version of their upcoming Firestorm viewer update.

The new Group Services code allows for improved loading of membership lists of very large groups, together with improved reliability in editing such groups (i.e. assigning roles, removing people, etc.), by the group moderators. however, in order to be used, it requires additional viewer-side code. Without this additional code, the viewer will be unable to display membership lists for groups with more than 10K members.

To overcome this, and to allow Firestorm users who manage very large groups, the Firestorm team have released a beta version of the Firestorm viewer which includes the necessary code – as well as a lot of other updates.

Group Services update – the difference: On the left, an attempt to load a group with almost 20K of members in the current release of Firestorm 4.2.2. On the right, the same group loaded using the new Firestorm 4.3.0 beta.

Announcing the release, Jessica Lyon, the project manager for Firestorm notes, that while this is not an official Firestorm release, it will be supported by the team but requests that only those who need to manage and edit groups with more than 10,000 members download and install this release. She comments:

– This is NOT an official release, but we will provide support for it.
– This has NOT been thoroughly tested by our Quality Assurance team.
– We can NOT make any promises regarding how stable or bug-free it is.
– This DOES have some really cool new stuff in it!

– You need to manage large groups inworld.
– You’re tired of seeing unknown alert messages in Phoenix.
– You’re feeling brave, you live on the cutting edge and you want to get an early look at what’s coming in December’s Official Release.

This release means that Firestorm joins Niran’s Viewer, Zen, and Cool VL viewer alongside the official beta viewer in enabling large group editing.

Havok Sub-licence

This beta also includes code to access LL’s new Havok libraries. This means that it will be able to view the pathfinding navmesh, but as a result of the sub-licence arrangement, it will not be able to access OpenSim grids.

Downloading and Installing

The beta viewer is available here for Windows, Mac and Linux. As usual, a completely clean install is recommended for the most stable results.

A full review of the new Firestorm release will be appearing on these pages in due course.

A Note on Phoenix

The blog post from Jessica includes a section directed at those still using the Phoenix viewer, in which she states:

Our developers and support staff have been extremely busy trying to balance their real working and personal lives while continuing their volunteer efforts to develop SL’s most popular viewer for you. Unfortunately, most of us cannot easily compile Phoenix anymore because of missing/expired libraries like Fmod, compiler changes we’ve had to make for Firestorm, OS upgrades (Win8), etc. To update Phoenix to current LL code now would be a very, very big task and, because we are already at our limit of what we can do, there are no plans to update Phoenix Viewer to support this new group code or handle the new notification system at this time. We are, after all, only human.

This is unlikely to make popular reading in some quarters. However, as Jessica notes, the team have striven to make Firestorm’s front-end as much like Phoenix / Viewer-1 as humanly possible. While it is not possible to revert menus, etc. fully to the Phoenix format, the skinning and broad approach to getting as much of the look and feel on Phoenix into Firestorm should go a long way towards easing people willing to make the conversion a lot easier.

This does not mean the end of the road for Phoenix, but with user number falling and Firestorm proving to be a much more stable and reliable viewer which is capable of embracing viewer changes being driven out of LL, it is understandable that the Firestorm team is sounding a warning note as to the future and continued enhancement of Phoenix.

InWorldz on the move

This weekend will see InWorldz move to a new hosting service. The move, after months of planning, was announced at the start of the month, and should take place over Friday 15th / Saturday 17th November, 2012.

Announcing the move, Beth Reischl (known as Elenia Llewellyn in-world), one on the InWorldz LLC co-founders, said:

As an international company, who deals with 1/3 of our customers being outside of the US, it has long been apparent to us that it can be very difficult for our global customers to connect and enjoy their time here. While we have striven to help each one that has had issues, we also realized a need to be able to scale our services globally for our residents. While scaling services globally is important, so too is our bottomline costs, and keeping those in line with what we expect our residents to pay for. We have always strove for keeping our costs down, so that we can pass that on to our residents. Combining these two pieces of information, along with the amount of asset storage we hold, we felt it was the right time to look for a company that could provide us with a long term roadmap that would benefit our global customers, keep our costs down, and do this at a time where our migration process wouldn’t be harmful to our residents.

As a result, InWorldz will be relocating to RackSpace, where their servers will initially be located at that company’s facilities in Elk Ridge, Illinois. However, an important factor in the move is that it will enable InWolrdz to expand their servers into target areas such as the UK, Hong Kong and Australia.

This move also brings to an end InWorldz relationship with CariNet, their current hosting provider, with who they announced a joint venture back in July 2011, and reflects the founder’s commitment to growing their business and their community.

The shutdown is scheduled to commence at 03:00 PST / IWT on the 16th November and, assuming all goes according to plan, re-opening at 03:00 PST / IWT on Saturday 17th November.

PhysX Deployment

Alongside the expansion notice, Reischl confirmed that InWorldz will undertake deployment of their nVidia / GeForce PhysX physics engine implementation across their entire grid as a part of the migration. PhysX has been under development for InWorlz for some time, and recent deployment saw it added to water regions in the InWorldz grid to enable some final testing and bug-fixing to take place, and well as allowing users to try the new engine out without impacting the entire grid.

Both of these moves should substantially increase both the appeal of InWorldz and its ability to manage growth in the coming years. Possibly in recognition of this, InWorldz LLC has contracted Pooky Media to develop machinimia films which will form the backbone of the company’s marketing  and promotion activities commencing in 2013.

With thanks to Hypergrid Business.