Phoenix: hard truths

So What Are the Options?

Those currently using Phoenix have a number of choices:

  • Continue to use Phoenix, at least until the server-side avatar baking system is fully deployed
  • Move to Firestorm or another v3-based viewer / the SL viewer
  • Move to an alternative v1-style viewer which will be supporting the new baking service, such as Singularity or Cool VL.

For those wishing to remain with the v1-style UI, the last choice would seem the most appropriate route to take – particularly where performance / hardware issues are concerned (Cool VL is reported to be particularly well suited to running on older hardware). Not only are both being maintained such that they will support the new baking service, they already support a range of options and capabilities popular among TPV users.

For those wishing to continue with Phoenix for as long as possible and are concerned about support after December 31st, 2012, an in-world there is a peer-based Phoenix Viewer Self Help group has been established, and it is recommended those using Phoenix sign-up to that. The official Phoenix / Firestorm support team will be referring Phoenix to that group come January 1st, 2013.

What of the Future?

With the decision made to officially cease support of the Phoenix viewer, it is very likely that it will be removed from the official Third-party Viewer Directory in the new year and it will be removed from the main download page on the Phoenix Firestorm website.

However this does not mean Phoenix will be blocked from accessing the SL grid. Phoenix users will continue to be able to log-in to SL as they always have, and Phoenix will remain available as a download option on the Phoenix Firestorm wiki.

Firestorm: forking development

Going forward, the Phoenix Firestorm Team remain committed to advancing and enhancing Firestorm, which already officially stands as the most stable of all available viewers, including both the official SL viewer and Phoenix. This not only includes implementing all changes and features needed in order for the viewer to keep pace with LL’s development and enhancement of Second Life (through the implementation of support for things like server-side baking) but also continuing to integrate as many outstanding features and capabilities from Phoenix as it is feasible to integrate without negatively impacting the viewer. They also remain committed to improving Firestorm’s overall performance  – itself no easy task, as viewer performance is so hardware-dependent.

This does not mean that Firestorm will ever be entirely Phoenix-like in its overall presentation and UI style – and frankly, it is somewhat unreasonable for people to demand that it is. At the end of the day, any perception of the “superiority” of any given viewer UI over another is largely a subjective interpretation rather than any objective measurement. This is not to trivialize any of the real shortfalls people can experience with a UI – readability as a result of eyesight issues, etc. But when it comes to complaints about menus being different, or the use of chiclets and toasts – the truth is these are simply not insurmountable problems to adaptation – as the majority of SL users have shown through their use of Firestorm, Catznip, Dolphin, Exodus, RLV, Niran’s Viewer, Zen and the SL official viewers demonstrates.

The passing of Phoenix does, nevertheless, mark the end of an era and is an emotive subject; not just for those who use the viewer, either. Leave us not forget that those who made Phoenix possible in the first place did so at the cost of many, many hours of their free time. They’ve worked hard to develop, present and support what has been a very popular viewer, and as such, many of them will be finding it as hard to say goodbye to Phoenix as anyone using it.

For my part, I can only pass on my thanks to Jessica and the team as both a Phoenix user (I was there from the moment the first release was made) and Firestorm user (ditto again – there from the start, and stuck through all the warts and bumps of the v2 UI). What the team as achieved with both Phoenix and Firestorm is simply remarkable.

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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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