Linden Lab have announced a revamp to the way in which they will be releasing viewer updates in future.
Currently, the process for the majority of viewer changes is that they go through a progression – generally being seen first in the development channel (or sometimes prior to that in a project viewer), before moving through to the beat viewer (where updates go through what is effectively a final validation / user test) prior to being adopted into the SL release viewer.
This system has generally worked, but can cause problems, particularly when there is a lot going on in terms of projects and updates, and things end up being “queued up” for the release (as is currently the case, where CHUI, Server-side Baking / Appearance, and a host of other updates / fixes are concerned all being “queued” awaiting their turn in the beta viewer release channel.
Another problem – as seen at the end of last year – can be that should a significant issue occur within the beta viewer code, it can completely block further viewer releases until such time as the problem can be tracked down and effectively fixed. Last year this meant that viewer updates were effectively stalled for around a two month period while LL sought to isolate and fix the problem.
To try to overcome any bottlenecks which might occur with viewer releases, the Lab is adopting a similar process to that used by the server-side code release mechanism, as the blog post explains:
We’ll release more than one new version at the same time in parallel to subsets of users for final validation, and then promote the most important of the best of those to the default Release Viewer when that testing shows it to be ready.
If a development project wants to put out an early version for testing prior to it being ready for the Release channel, a channel specific to that project (either ‘Project <project>’ for very early versions, or ‘Beta <project>’ for more mature ones) will be created, just like we do today. These will be shut down when the project is ready to move to final testing in the Release channel, and users in the early project test channels will automatically be upgraded to the corresponding Release candidate version.
This means that in the coming weeks, we’ll start to see different versions of the viewer start to appear in parallel in their own “release candidate”
channels, and people will be able to choose which versions they want to download and try-out. Once it is deemed the code from a specific “release candidate” viewer is ready for release, it will be integrated into the SL viewer and made available to the community through the established mechanism. As such, the beta viewer channel will be vanishing in the near future.
Quite how well different flavours of the viewer will run together on a single computer for those who want to try-out more than one upcoming release remains to be seen. Generally, different versions of the SL viewer tend to play nicely together. However, as was seen with the 3.4 and 3.5 code base changes problems can occur. In that particularly instance, running a development or beta viewer using the 3.5 code and then swapping back to the SL release viewer on the 3.4 code resulted in all the toolbar buttons vanishing from the latter.
The overall hope is that this change will mean that specific features and updates will reach the release version of the viewer at a greater pace than can be achieved with the current process, which in turn should not only smooth the path for new capabilities and features to reach users quicker (allowing for the inevitable bugs and hiccups such projects tend to encounter anyway), but perhaps also help in get fixes for significant issues and problems out to the mainstream viewer.