Phoenix: hard truths

Update 17th December: The video of the meeting is available on You Tube (and embedded below). Links have also been added to the official announcement and a transscript of Jessica’s presentation given at the start of the meeting.

PhoenixJessica Lyon and members of the Phoenix Firestorm Team hosted an in-world / streamed meeting on Saturday 15th December, 2012 to discuss the future of Phoenix.

As expected, the core of the news was the Phoenix has essentially come to its end of line. As from December 31st, all official support provided by the Phoenix / Firestorm team will cease.

There are many reasons as to why this step is finally being taken, but they all have their roots in the fact that in late 2010, the decision was taken that to ensure future ease-of-development and enhancement of the viewer, it would be more in the Phoenix Team’s interest to develop a viewer which could more easily keep pace with LL’s development curve, rather than attempting to continually backport new code and features into a viewer that would be based on what would become an increasingly outdated code base. Thus, Firestorm was born. Whether one agrees with this decision or not is actually moot. It was a decision the Phoenix Team were entitled to make.

Jessica Lyon (stock image)
Jessica Lyon (stock image)

The major reason as to why the team has opted to formally announce the end of line for Phoenix now is because Linden Lab have notified TPVs of the forthcoming roll-out of server-side avatar baking in 2013.

As I’ve explained in a recent blog post, server-side avatar baking is a significant change in the way Second Life operates and which should see an end to the major issue of avatar bake fail. However, it brings with it not only changes to the server-side of Second Life, but very major changes to the viewer itself.

Such is the complexity of these viewer changes that Linden Lab has sought to provide TPVs with an eight week window in which to implement and test them. Given the overall status of Phoenix, it simply is not possible for the Phoenix Firestorm team to implement the changes in Firestorm and backport and integrate them into Phoenix (together with all the other changes required to get Phoenix back on a par with LL’s viewer development) in that time frame. The reason why it is vital for all TPVs incorporate the new code is because without it, avatars will fail to render correctly – so if Phoenix does not have the code, it simply “won’t work” when the new service is deployed.

Avatar baking 2013 and Phoenix in brief: These images show the impact of the new avatar baking service on viewer which are not updated to the new code. (l) as I appear on a viewer without the code, and someone on another viewer (regardless of the code it is using) looks to me. On the right, someone running the new code, and how I look to them - a never-rezzing cloud.
Avatar baking 2013 and Phoenix in brief: These images show the impact of the new avatar baking service on a viewer which is not updated to the new code. (l) as I appear on a viewer without the code, and someone on another viewer (regardless of the code it is using) looks to me – a “grey ghost”. On the right, someone running the new code, and how I look to them – a never-rezzing cloud.

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22 thoughts on “Phoenix: hard truths

    1. Thanks, Lizzie. Stream was kind-of interesting. Ads would suddenly pop-up unnannounced (and pretty loud!) around every 20 minutes or so completely blanking out what was being said. Hopefully none of them interrupted the stream recording.

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  1. Personally, I have no problems with the v2 and v3 UI. It’s cleaner, sleeker and doesn’t take up too much space on the screen. Also, unlike some other UIs (yes, Gnome 3 and Unity, I’m talking about you), it doesn’t hide options and features. Some users have complained about the sidebar and cite it as the main reason for not using it. But I’ve news for them:

    Sidebars have been with us (and yes, they are considered useful by many people) since the days of NeXTSTEP and its derivatives (OpenStep, AfterStep, GNUstep, Window Maker etc) in the UNIX/Linux world. As a matter of fact, the panels in Gnome 2 (and its fork, MATE), KDE (I think) and Xfce can be given a vertical or horizontal orientation. Heck, my brother even had his Windows 95 taskbar as a right-hand-side taskbar.

    Personally, I’m all for sidebars, especially with today’s 16:9 displays that have precious little useful height, because that way one can have more screen height available. Oh, and… When I switched to the current UI, back when I was still using LL’s official viewer, it took me a whopping 10 minutes to find my way to all the options, features and settings. OK, so I’m not an imbecile, but I’m no Einstein either. I’d expect anybody whose IQ is higher than Lord Percy Percy’s or Baldrick’s to figure these things out in a very short time.

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    1. For my part, I loathed the Sidebar when it first appeared in Viewer 2. Not because it was there, but because of the incredibly bad way in which it had been implemented – shunting the entire world-view to the left in order to may way for it, rather than sliding out smoothly as an overlay and taking up far, far, too much room on the screen when open.

      Ironically, and by the time LL opted to can can it with the arrival of the v3 FUI, the Sidebar had actually become one of the most useful elements of the v2 UI – largely as a result of the work put into it by Kristenlee Cinquetti, the very first to undo all the wrongs within the initial sidebar implementation (which LL really should have caught themselves and insisted were corrected prior to shoving the viewer out the door) and then through Firestorm.

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      1. You haven’t seen the Launcher in Ubuntu’s Unity desktop then – only on the left and no chance for adjusting its width (which is excessive) unless You install a third-party configuration tool like Ubuntu Tweak (yes, Unity and Gnome 3 are non-configurable).

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        1. You don’t actually need Tweak to tame the Unity launcher, if you’re brave: Compiz Config Settings can make the nasty thing auto-hide, and with Ubuntu’s standard System Settings appearance panel, the launcher icons can be scrunched down to 32 pixels. It’s useful for SL Linux users (regardless of viewer) to muck around with these things anyway, to reclaim some shortcut key bindings and mouse gestures.

          In any case, the V2 sidebar had worse problems than its appetite for screen real estate. Too many things were locked into a single instance of a single pane, completely breaking some functionality. For a particularly painful example, it was impossible to view profiles of more than one individual–or of an individual and a group–at the same time. A sidebar _could_ have been a useful design feature that actually helped users expose more of their screen to view the world; as designed, however, it was a poor first attempt that seemingly couldn’t be improved. So good riddance; the v3 UI works just fine without it.

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          1. Thanks for the information, but I’ve given up on Unity already. For the time being I’m on MATE and soon I’m going to Xfce, as per my computer at work.

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  2. ooh god this is terrible news to me as i haven’t been able to run firestorm efficiently on my computer as i cant wear any alphas they turn me invisible the min i wear one . i have been told its my puter i need to update but this costs money and i have none atm
    so cries idk what t do:((

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    1. Phoenix and Firestorm aren’t the only viewers that are out there. Have you tried Singularity or Cool VL? Both utilise the the v1 UI, both have a wide range of features (although not everything Phoenix has), and Cool VL in particularly is known to run well on older hardware.

      If you’re willing to try the v3 UI, there is also Catznip, Dolphin and Zen, all of which are more “lightweight” than Firestorm and run well on most hardware. Then there’s also Exodus and Niran’s, both of which may come closer to Firestorm in terms of required horsepower to drive them.

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    1. The Sidebar was a pain when first introduced but as stated, it did improve with Kirsten’s viewer leading the way. It’s actually ironic that by the time LL opted to axe the Sidebar, it had actually evolved into one of the most usable elements of the v2 UI – as the many protests TPVs and LL encountered when it was removed with the introduction of FUI clearly demonstrated.

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  3. I like the little jab at the end there.

    It’s still a fair shot to complain about the menus and chiclet/toasts. FS is easily the best all-around v3 viewer, and they’ve made great strides in making it adaptable for lots of users, buuut it’s not like it’s wrong or unreasonable to ask for better menus and more a visually-relevant IM-notification system.

    With v1 viewers still around and thriving, I don’t see how the end of Phoenix is the ‘end of an era’, unless we’re talking exclusively with the Phoenix/FS team.

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    1. It’s also not unreasonable for those demanding “everything” to appear as they like it in v1 to meet the team half-way. To you, the changing of menus may seem non-trivial, but that may not be the case in terms of maintaining the viewer.

      That said, you and I have no idea as to what they have planned in order to try and make Firestorm more usable for those unwilling to adapt themselves to the Firestorm menu layout, just as they’ve already stated they are working on the chiclet and toast situation (and indeed, have worked on the latter and made it perfectly usable for an awful lot of people already). Patience is often rewarded.

      As to the ending of Phoenix, I can only repeat more-or-less what I said in the article.

      The Phoenix Firestorm team developed Phoenix, and they made the choice to move to the v2 & v3 code base as they felt that it would massively ease their workload rather than constantly backporting and re-working. As I said in the article, whether or not one agrees with that choice – the point is moot. It was within their rights to do so.

      Remember, the Phoenix / Firestorm team aren’t paid for what they do; they give of their time and effort freely and repeatedly.

      So we could all at least show a degree of respect for the choices they make over time which they believe will improve their Second Life experience, rather than repeatedly digging at them at every single turn for spoiling a very small part of our own experience because menus don’t marry-up or we personally find IM notifications inconvenient.

      It’s not like they’re leaving anyone without any choice as to which viewer style they can use.

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      1. I don’t even care at this point if FS mimics v1, I’d just like better IM notifications and a smarter menu system if I’m going to have to use V3. I’m glad to hear that they’re going to work on the toast/chiclet thing, so yeah, awesome. I’m not impatient, I rarely post to your or the Phoenix blog, so yeah.

        Though my point regarding an ‘era’ was more on the emphasis of the “end of an era”, which…I don’t believe it is, because like I said above, there still exists v1 viewers and as well, I don’t think Phoenix was the newest out of the bunch that still work.

        I’m not digging at them, and I haven’t in quite a long time, their expertise and way better knowledge of what users want has almost totally swayed me; I have actually come to praise them over the last several months on making a solid viewer that many people can use and makes transitioning from v1 to v3 easier than any other viewer by a long shot, which is saying a lot.

        That said, as clearly as I can put, and standing with Firestorm a whopping 98%, I still don’t see an issue with asking for that remaining 2% be a more cohesive menu set, and better IM notifications, which they are already working on. That’s it. No digs, no hidden jab or hate, just a want for something that they are working on – Like someone who can’t wait another week for Christmas.

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        1. As you say, the Phoenix team have worked to get Firestorm 98% of the way there for you.

          You may not see an issue with asking for the extra 2% – but can you not accept that some of that 2% may not be technically feasible for the team to implement, such as menus exactly mimicking v1?

          Is it really that impossible for you to compromise on what is, after all, just 2% of a project in which the team have pretzeled themselves over in order to create a more Phoenix-like look and feel to what is, at heart, a totally separate product, rather than persistently standing with arms folded and demanding they meet 100% of your terms of use of their product?

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  4. Like I JUST said above, and though I have in the past asked for v1, I have said it a couple times now in this thread, that I DO NOT CARE IF IT’S V1, I JUST WANT A BETTER MENU & IM NOTIFICATION SYSTEM.

    Can you read that? It’s like the 3rd time I’ve said it now. I was really trying to be nice, but you keep harping on a point that I have corrected you upon already.

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    1. I’m not “harping on” about anything.

      You’re the one repeatedly demanding (“harping on”?) about the team providing you with a v1 menu system; all I’m doing is pointing out that it may not be technically feasible for them to actually do so.

      You appear to be completely unwilling / unable to accept / understand this latter point – that there may be very clear technical reasons as to why such a menu system cannot be implemented.

      So again, is it that impossible for you to accept what they’ve done to date and let matters go? If menus are such an impossible barrier for you to overcome, then perhaps Singularity or Cool VL are better suited to your needs going forward.

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      1. Holy hell, are you serious? I know you are not that dense, so you must be trolling now. I’ve said it 3 times, and you “don’t get it”, so I’m not going to repeat myself.

        It’s not impossible for me to accept, you just seem to be completely trolling me, or totally somehow not understanding what I’ve said THREE times.

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        1. 😉

          Happy Crhistmas.

          Actually, flippancy aside…. I don’t particularly care if you mean v1 or not. The menus are not something the Phoenix team define. They are something LL define, and to expect the Phoenix team to constantly have to re-merge a re-tailored menu each and every time there is a change rolling out of LL (which can and do include menu updates, as evidenced in the most recent beta release) is, again, unreasonable.

          I focus on v1 with because that has been your thrust in the majority of your arguments whenever you’ve commented on this blog – Firestorm should be more like v1 in X, Y, and Z, and was hoping
          you could actually see the logic of what I was alluding to if I couched my replies in that manner.

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