Firestorm the wait is over

Firestorm: forking development

On November 17th, the Firestorm team made a beta release of their latest update to Firestorm in order to offer users access to the new Group Services updates for managing large groups. At the time, it was indicated that the “full” release would occur in early December.

Keeping to their word, the team released on December 3rd, which includes everything featured in the beta release, and a few more goodies besides.

Given I’ve already given a comprehensive review of the beta release, this article will be focused primarily on the updates made between it and – although there will be some overlap.

As always, please refer to the Firestorm release notes for full details on credits, etc., for code contributions to the viewer, and for details of known issues and problems (known issues carried over from the LL code can be found here).

Download and Installation

As noted in the last review, the download .EXE is big – 40MB, which is unsurprising given that Firestorm packs so much into it. Installation – at a least for Windows users – is where the first set of changes occur, and it is worth recapping on these for people who have not installed the beta release:

  • A pop-up requesting whether or not the user wishes to have a Windows Start menu entry created for Firestorm during installation
  • Addition of the version string and estimated installed size to the installer
  • Addition of new OS detection code to warn if Windows Service Packs are not up-to-date and to prevent Firestorm being installed on Windows XP with
  • Publisher data, Phoenix URLs and Firestorm icon for the Firestorm entry in the Windows uninstall list
  • Automatic deletion of all previously installed skins to reduce issues arising from an unclean install
  • Addition of a DETAILS button in the installer pop-up window to allow the installation to be reviewed.

Havok Sub-licence

As noted last time, Firestorm has now signed a Havok sub-licence agreement with Linden Lab. This means that Firestorm is now available in two flavours – one for SL and one for OpenSim grids, with the SL version having both the –loginURI capabilities and the Grid Manager functionality removed.

This change means that Firestorm is now able to access the new LL-supplied Havok libraries, allowing the viewer to immediately include the pathfinding navmesh visualisation tools (as covered in my review of the beta release), and which could allow Firestorm to switch over to using the official LL mesh uploader code in the future, should they so wish, rather than using the current HACD code for mesh uploads.

For those using OpenSim, Firestorm can be downloaded here, and I’ve included an update on the OpenSim-specific updates to the viewer at the end of this article.

One point to note is that it is possible to use the OpenSim version of Firestorm on SL – the only difference is the OpenSim flavour of the viewer will not be able to access the SL Havok libaries or use any functionality associated with them.

Updates from Phoenix

Further updates from Phoenix have been added to Firestorm 4.3.1 in addition to those found in the 4.3.0 beta:

Texture Comment Metadata

When opening any texture, this will display the uploader name with a link to their profile together with the date / time the texture was uploaded. If permissions are sufficient, it will also display the asset ID on the texture preview floater.

Progressive Draw Distance (PDD)

A popular Phoenix feature, when enabled, this causes Firestorm to use a progressive Draw Distance stepping after a teleport, to help improve rezzing times. The Firestorm version includes an option to cancel stepping in progress if Draw Distance is manually changed (Preferences > Firestorm > General).

More Phoenix-like default settings for Phoenix Mode

The following Phoenix-like behaviours have been added to Firestorm when running in the Phoenix mode (selected via the Firestorm log-in splash screen):

  • “Resident” is not trimmed off legacy names
  • L$ balance changes will be shown in nearby chat instead of toasts
  • Received Items folder is shown as a normal Inventory folder
  • Firestorm will now send accept/decline responses for inventory offers after the according button has been pressed and not if the item has been received at the receiver’s inventory already
  • Group and IM notifications are now sent to the nearby chat console (v1-style) instead of toasts (v3-style)

Legacy Search

Firestorm re-introduces the V1-style “legacy” search capability for those who prefer it to the V2/V3 web-style search functionality.

The Legacy Search floater and its associated toolbar button
The Legacy Search floater and its associated toolbar button shown in icon mode

Provided by Cinder Roxley, the legacy search option is currently available via a menu option (Content > Legacy Search) or via a dedicated toolbar button, and works for all search categories except Events, which will be added in a future update.

Documentation on the search function is available via the Firestorm website.

Phototools, Windlight and Snapshots Updates

The main Phototools floater and dedicated toolbar button, shown in icon mode
The main Phototools floater & toolbar button, shown in icon mode

Phototools is a suite of floaters which bring together a range of controls, debug settings and options available within the viewer into a single, cohesive set of options aimed at the SL photographer and machinima artist. I’ve covered them in detail previously, and provided a further update in my last Firestorm review. With this release of Firestorm the Phototools floaters (Phototools and revised Camera floater) can be accessed via a menu option: World > Photo and Video.

Alongside of these comes a windlight update of some 100+ presets for water and sky developed by Phototools developer William “Paperwork Resident” Weaver.

These additional presets can be accessed either via the Fixed Sky / Water presets menu option (World > Environment Editor > Environment Settings) or via the Phototool floater (shown right). All of the Phototools presets have “Phototools” at the start of their name.

Also, the Flickr tab on the Firestorm snapshot floater includes Katharine Berry’s update which add the parcel name to the location option.


Updates for Builders, Creators and Scripters

In addition to the updates reviewed with the beta release, Firestorm  4.3.1 also includes:

Catznip Script Recovery floater (with thanks to the Catznip team)
Catznip Script Recovery floater (with thanks to the Catznip team)
Catznip Script Recovery – Kitty Barnett

First seen in Catznip R5, this feature locally auto-saves open scripts every 60 seconds. Should the viewer crash, scripts are presented to the user via the floater shown above, and optionally recovered to lost & found folder. Further:

  • The backup copy is only saved when the editor isn’t pristine
  • The backup copy is removed when the script has been successfully uploaded, or when the floater is closed.
Optional Texture Drag

Firestorm 4.2.2 added the ability to drag or scale textures on a selected face just using the mouse. This has received a mixed reception from builders. With Firestorm 4.3.1, the capability is made optional, and can be enabled / disabled via Preferences > Firestorm > Build > Allow click-drag or click-scale. When enabled, select a face of an object in build tools and then click the face and drag to move the texture or hold CAPS LOCK key and drag to scale the texture on the selected face.

Firestorm Build Tab in Preferences Updated

Preferences > Firestorm > Build has a new layout to improve readability.

The new Firestorm > Build tab in Preferences
The new Firestorm > Build tab in Preferences
Updated LSL Syntax Highlighting

Now includes the LSL constants:

  • OBJECT_PHYSICS Used with llGetObjectDetails to get an object’s physics flag
  • OBJECT_PHANTOM Used with llGetObjectDetails to get an object’s phantom flag
  • OBJECT_TEMP_ON_REZ Used with llGetObjectDetails to get an object’s temporary flag
Edge-on Prim Rotation Snapping Fixed

This is a bug fix for the long-standing issue of having rotation snapping occur with prims viewed edge-on, even when snap to grid is disabled via the build floater.

And the Rest…

This is a round-up of the remaining updates incorporated into 4.3.1 which were not part of the 4.3.0 beta.

  • GPU table update – from Runitai Linden, part of the ongoing work on how GPUs are grouped into classes
  • RLVa improvements and fixes – merge up to RLVa-1.4.7a
  • Added an option to show only active gestures in the gestures floater – Comm > Gestures > Active only checkbox
  • Added Preview and Reset To Default buttons to radar alerts sounds – Preferences > Chat > Radar
  • Objects muted by name now stay muted when worn as an attachment
  • Notecards embedded in a notecard now open and do not get copied silently to inventory
  • Typing animation will now not play when starting an emote via ”:” MU* pose style
  • Umlaute and other special characters now work with the ”:” emote shortcut, also in IM panels
  • Clicking on the mini lag meter in the top-right now opens the main lag meter window
  • Experimental fix for VWR-28388 (100% CPU) – an attempt to stop Firestorm eating a second CPU core from CURL sitting idle

OpenSim Updates

The following updates are specific to the OpenSim version of Firestorm, and do not apply to the SL version. Those wishing to run both the OpenSim and SL versions on the same computer can do so, but such ensure that each ins installed into s separated folder / directory (and shortcuts are independently named), and set-up an separate cache folder for one of them.

General Updates
  • The Grid selector is now enabled by default on OpenSim builds
  • Kitely added to the grid list in Preferences > Opensim
  • Preferences includes an option to have separate chat logs per grid (Preferences > Privacy > Append the grid name to chat log folders)
  • Patch added to maintain compatibility with Avination once they have removed non-ssl logins

Aurora-sim Support:

  • Added support for Aurora Sim Var regions
  • Off-sim water now renders properly on Aurora Varregions > 2048×2048 Core
  • Support added for AllowRenderWater on Aurora
  • Support added for Aurora var sized regions on the world map
  • Webprofiles now work for Aurora, Opensim and OSgrid
  • Aurora web profile URLs are now read from login data
  • Added support for Aurora-sim WindlightRefresh message
  • Added Open Region Settings panel to the Region Info floater for Aurora-Sim

Pink Screen

There have been some reports of the “pink screen” issue returning with this release. This is generally related to an updated ATi driver problem, and the Firestorm team provide a potential fix here.

Performance and Feedback

Performance-wise, Firestorm 4.3.1 gives very similar results as for 4.3.0, with my usual subjective checks carried out on my new (sandbox) testing zone with four other avatars present:

  • Deferred off:
    • Ground: 27-28 fps
    • 370 metres: 30-31 fps
    • 2875 metres: 42-44 fps
  • Deferred on + lighting set to Sun/Moon + Projectors; ambient occlusion off:
    • Ground: 8-10 fps
    • 370 metres:11-13 fps
    • 2875 metres: 16-17 fps

While I have not had the chance to put the release through its paces to an extensive degree, it has nevertheless appeared to be stable and has handled everything with the usual aplomb. All-in-all, another major update to Firestorm, and the additions since the beta release make this an absolute “must have” for Firestorm users. If you’ve held-off upgrading to the beta release from November – now would seem to be the time to forget your reservations and go grab 4.3.1!

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13 thoughts on “Firestorm the wait is over

  1. For what it is worth, Inara, I can report so far that seems to be up to the high standard expected of the Phoenix-Firestorm group. It runs and installs very easily, and once set-up to your preferences (it took me about 15 mins), once you stop gawping at the new features it simply allows one to get on with one’s SL.


    1. Fifteen minutes? That long? 😉

      Seriously, I’m loving it. I’ve no idea if the experimental cURL fix is responsible, but in around 6 hours of continuous use, this release has yet to give me any of my “usual” issues (particularly when using the snapshot floater).

      And on the subject of snapshots – I’ll be happily kissing William Weaver when I get to see him. The new Phototools windlights and Phototools make this release a complete dream…


      1. Yes. Fifteen ‘cos there is something wierd about the default camera setting. Never mind I use my own settings via Debug.
        I have a feeling that those with ATi(AMD) cards are none too happy though, even after driver updates.
        Why is it that AMD cannot improve their Catalyst Control centre? It’s clunkier than a Linden Viewer!


        1. No idea on the graphics….

          I use my own (well, Penny Patton’s!) camera settings rather than the default (they’re documented in the TUTORIALS menu at the top of the blog), and it still doesn’t take me 15 mins to set-up; I’m generally done in around 5-6 (and I bet some would even consider than a long time!) ;-).


        2. ATI (AMD) sucks when it comes to developing drivers and it’s even worse under Linux. Just avoid ATI. At all costs.


  2. Personally, I’m going to hold it off forthe time being. For the following reasons:
    1. The “teleport causes viewer to crash” JIRA, as I run Linux.
    2. The quagmire of crap known as ATI Catalyst drivers for Linux.
    I know none of these issues I’m facing is the Firestorm team’s fault, but I’m just going to have to wait a bit. For now, Firestorm serves me well. Later on, I’m going to use Firestorm again.


    1. For what it’s worth, I run Firestorm on a Linux Mint 13 system, built on an AMD A10-5800K APU with ATI 7660D graphics. I use the standard Catalyst drivers. Aside from the occasional X server crash – which seems to happen more if I try to run two sessions – it works fine. I get good framerates, too, better than my dual-quad Mac Pro. The whole system cost me under $500. I’m quite happy.


      1. That’s with Linux Mint 13. With 14, which is based on Ubuntu 12.04, you have to roll back to a previous version of the drivers, because the newest ones (12.8) aren’t compatible with Ubuntu 12.10 and its derivatives (!!!!). And yes, under Linux (and especially under lightweight desktops such as Xfce or MATE), it is faster and more stable.

        So, like I said, I’ll wait it out until I get an NVIDIA-equipped computer and break free from the idiocy of ATI.


        1. There are reasons I consciously decided not to upgrade to Mint 14. That’s one of them. Another is that they thoroughly broke multiarchitecture support, something Apple and Microsoft got right a long, long time ago.

          I’m running MATE, too, and you’re right, it is nice and fast.

          I’m new to running Linux ont he desktop…but I’ve always heard that the release after an Ubuntu LTS is only for the adventurous from all the stuff that’s stacked up waiting to get in that they didn’t let into the LTS. I expect I’ll be on Mint 13 for a good long time.


          1. I’m considering rolling back to Linux Mint 13, either Xfce like we’ve got it in the office or with MATE.


  3. When some manages to use Niran’s, one can not go back to such crappy viewers in graphics (sorry if many cant run Niran’s buat thats their problem!)
    So im going only to install and use the open sims version, where the Pheonix team deserves to be supported!


    1. Sorry, but given the way Niran goes about putting his viewer together, I’m not surprised that many can’t run it, or can;t run it reliably. Hardly “their problem”.

      We don’t stay as close to the LL bleeding edge as Niran does. I believe that has a whole lot to do with Firestorm being the most stable viewer in SL, by a not inconsiderable margin over even LL’s viewer. Since I don’t run with lighting and shadows enabled most of the time – I prefer my framerates above 30, thank you very much – the “crappy graphics” you complain of aren’t an issue for me. I’m in SL to interact with people, not ooh and ahh over the pretty pictures.


    2. Wait! Wasn’t you the same person that already had several bugs and issues with Niran’s according to your comments on his blog post? At least not my problem!


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