Update April 29th: Don’t forget my additional piece on the new cloud options in Firestorm 4.4.0.
Firestorm 18.104.22.168720 made its formal debut on Monday 22nd April, although it has been well and truly put through its paces by both the Firestorm beta testers and the preview group for some time now, in order to ensure it is as ready for mainstream release as possible. It includes a huge number of updates and revisions, both from the Firestorm team and their contributors and from Linden Lab.
Given the size of the release, this is not intended to be a review of absolutely everything within Firestorm 4.4.0 – please refer to the release change log for that. Instead, this review focuses on what I regard as the key updates / changes. As always, credits for the various updates and contributions to Firestorm which re mentioned here can be found in the release change log – again, please check them there.
Server-side Baking /Appearance Support
Note that this item is Second Life-specific.
This isn’t actually a visible change to the viewer in term of UI, etc., – but it is an important one.
Server-side Baking / Appearance is a major change within Second Life which is primarily aimed at reducing or eliminating issues of “bake fail” (when the avatar skin & clothing layers fail to render correctly and with remain blurred or show the avatar wearing the “wrong” outfit). This capability is being introduced in two parts: viewer-side support and server-side support.
Viewers which do not have the viewer-side support will not work with the Server-side Baking / Appearance service once it starts being deployed on the grid – people using them will increasingly see grey avatars around them. Therefore, it is essential that Firestorm users update to Firestorm 4.4.0.
For further information on Server-side Baking / Appearance, see the following blog posts:
This release sees a large number of Preferences updates, all of which are reported in the change log, and which include:
- General: new option to select display name format for IM tabs – a drop-down list of: Display Name, Username, Display Name (Username) and Username (Display name)
- Notifications: a new option to Show group chat in chat console (useful if you opt to hide chiclets – see below); new drop-down option for IM receipt sounds: Play sound only if not in focus
- General: the Quality and Speed slider incorporates additional settings (Low-Med, Med-High and High-Ultra); Lighting and Shadows is renamed Advance Lighting Model (as per the LL viewer); the Depth of Field check box is moved to the Depth of Field tab; the Windlight Sky Detail slider and the Avatar Physics slider swap positions
- Rendering: Max number of concurrent HTTP GET requests slider removed; check box to Enable rendering of screen space reflections added
- Sound and Media > General: uses radio buttons to show stream title notifications in chat, toasts or to be turned off
- Move & View:
- View: new check boxes to: disable the mouse wheel from controlling camera zoom; Show user interface in Mouselook; Enable context menus in Mouselook and Leave Mouselook after regaining focus
- Firestorm: new check boxes to Reset camera position on avatar movement and Show the default camera controls mini-floater always as opaque
- User Interface > General: new check boxes to open group profiles, teleport history, landmarks, place details, block / mute list in their own floaters; adds an option to show / hide the media control in the menu bar (useful when using a skin which includes the media controls elsewhere) and an option to hide IM and group chat chiclets completely (the notifications envelope and the number of IM’s will remain on the screen all the time whether or not chiclets are disabled)
- Skins: new colour option (Ectoplasma) for AnsaStorm
- Backup tab – see below.
Custom Quick Preferences
A popular feature with Firestorm is the Quick Preference floater which, as the name suggests, provides fast and easy access to some of the most frequently used options in the viewer without having to open the “full” Preferences floater.
With release 4.4.0, the Quick Preferences floater has been made somewhat customisable – essentially allowing almost anything which is a debug setting to be added to the floater. However – be warned that this capability is considered to be for advanced users, and does require a willingness to delve deeper into the viewer than some users may be used to. Further, not every debug setting can be added to the floater.
Often, when installing a new version of a viewer, the recommendation is that one performs a “clean install” – removing all cached and settings files. This can make any viewer installation labour-intensive, as settings all need to be restored after the installation is complete, and this can take time and effort.
Firestorm 4.4.0 attempts to ease some of the pain by presenting users with a Preferences option which allows them to back-up many of their global and account settings to a local hard drive. Once done, the back-up can then be restored to an updated version of Firestorm following installation; so providing the back-up is kept up-to-date, restoring the majority of preferred settings is no longer a chore.
The back-up option can be found in Preferences > Backup. To use it, simply select a folder on a local hard-drive as the back-up location, then select those options which are to be saved; you can then delete all files associated with Firestorm prior to performing a clean install.
A very useful part of the option is that it includes the ability to save relevant settings on a per account basis. So if you have several accounts, each with different settings, you can back-up each of them separately – just make sure each back-up has a unique location.
Restoring previously backed-up files requires the viewer is restarted after the restore – and again, this is conveniently taken care of by the viewer allowing you to quickly log-out following a successful restore – although you’ll have to manually re-start the viewer once you’ve been logged out.
The last release of Firestorm re-introduced elements of the legacy “V1 search” into the viewer, using their own floater and toolbar button. With 4.4.0, the full set of legacy search options are once more available (People, Groups, Places, Land Sales, Events and Classifieds), and the options have been integrated with the v3 “web search” floater and toolbar button to present all search options in a single place.
Also, when teleporting when using search, you can choose to close, minimise or leave the search window open via a debug option: Advanced > Debug Settings > FSLegacySearchActionOnTeleport. There is also a Firestorm wiki page for search.
Firestorm now includes a temporary de-render option. If there is an object you wish to temporarily remove from your view, right-click on it and select Derender. Teleporting away, loging out / in or changing your acitve tag will cause it to re-render. Permanent de-rendering with the Asset Blacklist is still available.
You can also select several objects at once and temporarily or permanently de-render them using SHIFT-right-click multi-select.
Snapshots and Vignetting
There are couple of handy new options when taking snapshots. The first of these is a new toolbar button – symbolised by a camera with a flash blub – which allows snapshots to be quickly captured to disk. There are a few things to note about this:
- All options – file format (PNG, JPG, BMP), image size, etc., are automatically inherited from the snapshot floater
- If you have already used the snapshot floater to save snaps during a session logged-in to SL, any pictures subsequently captured using this button will be automatically saved to the same folder and use the same default file name as the last snap saved unless the snapshot floater is used to change either
If you use this button directly after logging-in to SL, it will display the Save As option for selecting a folder and entering a default file name for snaps the first time you use it. Thereafter, all snaps will be saved to the same folder, until changed using the snapshot floater or you log-out of SL
- As with the snapshot floater, all images will increment numerically when using the same file name (“photo_001”, “photo_002”, “photo_003”, etc.).
Vignetting is a photographic / optical technique which reduces an image’s brightness or saturation at the periphery compared to the image centre. In photographs, it usually takes the form of a picture or portrait which is clear in the centre, and fades off at the edges.
Firestorm 4.4.0 introduces vigetting, courtesy of Exodus, through the General tab on the Phototools floater. The controls comprise three sliders:
- Vig Amount: this controls how much vignette effect to apply. The default is zero, for no effect.
- Vig Power: this controls how intense / dark the vignette effect should be. The higher the number – the darker the circular shadow
- Vig Multiply: increases / reduces the size of the shadow effect – higher number = smaller surrounding shadow.
The Firestorm wiki has some examples of how vignetting can be used in snapshots.
Note that this option is Second Life-specific.
Firestorm now includes a “pose stand” capability which enables you to fit and adjust attachments, etc., wherever you are. As with other TPVs which incorporate this functionality, Firestorm does not require a physical pose stand to be rezzed – so the option can be used anywhere, regardless as to whether object entry / rezzing is disabled.
The option is accessed via Avatar > Pose Stand, or via a now toolbar button, and includes a range of pose options accessed from a drop-down list (right).
For OpenSim users, Firestorm 4.4.0 includes a number of additional options as well, including:
- Saved user names from any grid always show in the Username selection list
- Separate user settings and chat logs by grid
- Support for OpenSim Lightshare messages
- OSSL/AA syntax highlighting to OpenSim builds
- Better hypergrid jumping support
- Greatly improved grid manager
- SL-specific things like Merchant Outbox, pathfinding, etc., hidden while on OpenSim grids
- Aurora-sim support:
- Support for Aurora ToS
- Support for giant-sized var region and megaregion teleports
- Support for aurora-sim regions with non power of two sizes.
Other Items of Note
- Create Landmark and Teleport history each get their own toolbar buttons
- The World menu gains a series of new options – Resync Animation, plus a number of options to access Firestorm’s Twitter and Plurk feeds, You Tube channel, etc.
- Code merged with LL 3.4.5 codebase
- RLVa improvements and fixes – merge up to RLVa v1.4.8a
- Blocking an avatar now derenders their worn lights
- Phoenix mode now has better default settings
- No more crashing when editing attachments or rezzed objects while wearing mesh
- You can now use estate banning tools directly from Comm > People > nearby tab
- Fix for seams in high res snapshots when lighting and shadows is enabled (the “snapshot tiling issue “- MAINT-628)
The Firestorm team have done everything possible to support Phoenix users and to provide as Phoenix-like an experience as possible when using Firestorm, including updates to the default behaviour of the Phoenix mode (such as all IMs and group chats now going into the console, full length of group names shown in console for group IMs, etc.). A new tutorial video has also been produced to specifically help Phoenix users make the move to Firestorm. If you are still unhappy with Firestorm as an option going forward, remember that there are still v1-style viewer available for use with both Second Life and OpenSIm, such as Singularity and Cool VL viewer, both of which support server-side baking and more.
What is NOT There
This release of Firestorm does not include the following notable viewer developments from Linden Lab:
- The Communications Hub User Interface (CHUI): As server-side baking has an immediate and unavoidable impact on all users, work on integrating those elements of the CHUI UI and code considered beneficial / necessary to Firestorm was deferred in favour of ensuring Firestorm is SSB-ready
- Materials processing: there is no support for materials processing in this release of Firestorm because Linden Lab have requested all TPVs refrain from implementing the viewer-side materials processing code for the time being, as the code is still very much being tested.
This is a huge update to Firestorm, and one which has seen a massive amount of work poured into it from the Firestorm team and from beta and preview testers. There are enough new features in the release to keep the majority of users happy, together with the knowledge that Firestorm is – barring last minute changes coming out of the Lab – effectively “server-side baking ready”. Considerable work has been put in to the OpnSim side of things as well as readying the release for Second Life – and it’s hard to see how anyone can by upset with what has been provided.
For my part, I’ve been using both initial 4.4.0 releases and the recent Release Candidate versions, and have found the latter to be remarkably stable and with a performance on a part with the last release. As such, I’m more than happy to update to 22.214.171.124270 (barring unforeseen hiccups in changing up from 126.96.36.199718 RC!) as my primary SL viewer.
- Firestorm website
- Firestorm download page
- Firestorm 4.4.0 change log
- Firestorm tutorial videos:
- Settings backup and restore (new to the upcoming release)
- Custom Quick Preferences (new to the upcoming release)
- Built in pose stand (new to the upcoming release)
- Custom Prim Parameters (imported from Phoenix and new to the upcoming release)
- Derender and blacklist (updated with new blacklist capability for upcoming release)
- Migrating From Phoenix to Firestorm