SL projects update 24 (5): viewer news: SSB/A, upcoming releases

Server-side Baking / Appearance

SUN-74 – Asset Corruptions With Non-SSB/A-enabled Viewers

I’ve recently reported on the issue of BUG-74 in relation to server-side baking / appearance. This affects some non-maintained viewers which do not have SSB/A support and which might result in some worn modify assets (skin, hairbase and eyes) being corrupted  – see here for details. The issue was finally repro’d successfully by the Lab in week 23. Since then, investigations have been ongoing.

Commenting on the situation during the TPV Developer meeting on Friday 14th June, Nyx Linden said, “we have a technical solution for SUN-74. I have tested it against 1.23[.5], and the old behaviour is no longer reproducing. So hopefully that will mean that once we get it in a place where we can test against Phoenix there should be no more asset corruption.”

Nyx Linden (stock)
Nyx Linden (stock)

It’s not clear when this will happen, but it seems likely the updates will be deployed to the “closed beta” regions where TPV testing of the SSB/A code has been ongoing for the last couple of weeks, and tests will be taken there to ensure non-SSB/A viewers will not be negatively impacted when moving between SSB/A-enabled and non-SSB/A regions during the initial deployment of Server-side Baking / Appearance.

However, this does not mean that people on older, non-maintained viewers no longer need to update to an SSA/B-compatible viewer.

Regardless of the fix for SUN-74. people on non-maintained viewers will start to see increasing numbers of grey avatars around them as SSB/A is rolled out, and will find that others see them as a permanent cloud. So the only way to be sure of being ready for the deployment of SSB/A is – update or upgrade your viewer if you have not already done so.

Additional Viewer Patch

A side effect of the work carried out on this issue is that the Lab will also be producing a small viewer-side patch which is not any kind of “bug fix” for SUN-74, but which will help viewers get their own appearance messages “just a little bit faster” than is currently the case.

While TPVs are encouraged to incorporate the patch once it becomes available, it is not seen as a mandatory requirement ahead of SSB/A being enabled on the main grid. As such, TPVs have been encouraged to integrate the patch once it becomes available and as it best fits their own release schedules.

Grid-wide Deployment

When asked about how the Lab plans to deploy SSB/A server-side at the TPV Developer meeting on Friday June 14th, Nyx replied:

Carefully. Definitely carefully. We are doing a lot of testing, and as most of you know, we’re doing an Agni pile-on [see later in this report] … and we have been doing a lot of load testing and we’re pretty confident we have enough hardware on the back-end to handle the load.

[So] We’re going to start with a small group [of regions] and go to an RC channel, and then more, and then take over the entire grid.

Whether “go to an RC channel” means enabling SSB/A across an entire RC channel (Magnum, BlueSteel or LeTigre) or enabling across a portion of regions on the selected RC channel is currently unclear. That decision doesn’t rest with Nyx, but will be dependent upon on number of factors including how well the initial steps in the deployment go.

In light of things like the pile-on test (see the next section) and readying the SUN-74 patch, the Lab remains unwilling to commit to specifying a date by which SSB/A deployment might be expected to start. This is understandable as there is still no guarantee that further issues such as SUN-74 won’t be uncovered as a result of either the pile-on test or as a result of further closed beta testing, which the Lab continues to monitor.

Main Grid Pile-on Test

On Friday 14th February pile-on test was conducted across a number of regions which had been specifically set-up to stress test Server-side Baking with some “real world” avatar numbers. Some fifty or so people turned up for the tests using various viewers with Appearance debugging enabled, including a version of the official viewer which had been pre-set with debugging enabled. The test was in three parts:

  • Baseline testing on regions using the current avatar baking mechanism
  • Testing on regions in the Snack RC channel running a version of the SSB/A code
  • Testing in the “closed beta” region specifically set-up for TPV testing running the SSB/A code

The precise differences between the code on the Snack regions and the code on the TPV test region (the Testylvania Sandbox). Questions were asked in open chat, but the nearest answer which seemed to be given was that the Testylvania region was the one the Lab “cared about the most”.

Testing on the current baking mechanism saw familiar issues of slow clothing / skin rendering and the need to use manual rebakes to try to encourage non-blurred appearances. Things appeared to be a lot better on the SSB/A-enabled regions (I personally experienced no issues in changing skins / clothing layers and found rendering of both fast and error-free, for example). However, some did report issues with rendering, and filed JIRAs / provided log files as a result.

There were multiple reports of attachment rezzing failures as of the asset service coming under pressure as a result of so many outfit / look changes going on simultaneously and in rapid succession. Whether these will see further work undertkaen on the inventory system (some work has already been carried out in a wider context by the Sunshine team), remains to be seen.

Expect more on the tests once LL have had time to chew on the data gathered and review the logs of those who did encounter issues.

Continue reading “SL projects update 24 (5): viewer news: SSB/A, upcoming releases”

SL10B: The return of Magellan Linden (sort-of)!

SL10BThe Lab has launched a further part of its input into the SL10B celebrations, with a new free pack offered on the SL Marketplace and a new grid–wide hunt for Premium members.

The Party Pack contains a handful of items all designed to help promote the arrival of materials processing in Second Life, and comprises various items including top hats, lunchboxes, a bottle of something or other (you decide), novelty and sunglasses and jewellery.

Whether the glasses and jewellery will fit the 10th anniversary bear avatar, remains to be seen, but doubtless someone will give them a go (along with the top hat!), so expect to see more wacky pics on Crap Mariner’s SL10B Bear Flickr group!

Premium Hunt – Magellan Linden At Large!

It appears the fabled explorer of Second Life, Magellan Linden, has uncovered a dastardly plot on the part of evil genius, Doctor Talpa. The good bad doctor is attempting to build some form of mind-control machines and take over the world, the Magellan Linden, (mysteriously returned, it would seem, from his mysterious disappearance) is busy building a machine to counter this scheme, but in the meantime YOU are needed to gather materials and components — and to destroy any of Talpa’s machines you can find.

Would you fly with help this man? (image courtesy of Linden Lab)
Would you fly with help this man? (image courtesy of Linden Lab)

Premium members can start the hunt right away, by following a link to the Destination Guide, while non-Premium users who would like to participate are invited to upgrade to a Premium account.

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Catznip R8: purring with delight at SSB/A support

catznip logoCatznip slipped out R8 on June 11th. I actually missed it, as it appears the redirector to their wiki page was still pointing to the old blog, so when checking I was still seeing R7 as the last release; so I was a little surprised to check the link this evening and end-up at the Catnip wiki and see Catznip R8 sitting there and purring at me!

Anyway, the important thing is the release is here and sees Catznip join the ranks of Server-side / Appearance ready SL viewers, gain pathfinding functionality and become the latest viewer to offer full Havok support, as a part of the Lab’s Havok sub-licensing arrangement. As well as these two major updates, R8 gets a number of improvements and bug fixes.

Server-side Baking / Appearance

Not actually a lot to say here, other than “it works”!

Catznip R8: SSB/A ready: (l) my Alt (at the back), running the SL SSB/A-rady viewer, renders correctly in Catznip R8, while (r) I render correctly in the SL SSB/A-ready viewer
Catznip R8: SSB/A ready: (l) my Alt (at the back), running the SL SSB/A-ready viewer, renders correctly in Catznip R8, while (r) I render correctly in the SL SSB/A-ready viewer

When tested on an SSB/A enabled region, Catznip R8 rendered my Crash Test Alt (running on the official SL viewer, which is SSB/A ready) and my avatar correctly, as did the official SL viewer. No grey ghosts or clouds with either.

Pathfinding and Havok Sub-licensing

A major element missing for the last Catznip release – R7 – was pathfinding support. This wasn’t because the Catznip team have anything against pathfinding; they simply found time working against them, as I noted in my R7 review:

Catznip R7 does not include any pathfinding tools, as the team had enough on their hands getting all the updates, changes and fixes already planned for this release merged, tested and made ready for release. This doesn’t mean pathfinding is being ignored, however. Expect to see it in a future release.

R8 rectifies this. Not only does it provide the expected Linksets and Characters options, Catznip R8 becomes the latest SL viewer to sign-up to the Havok sub-licence agreement, meaning it also gains the ability to visualise the navmesh when working with pathfinding.

The pathfinding navmesh can now be visualised in Catznip R8
Pathfinding arrives in Catznip with the release of R8, and the Havok sub-license agreement means that the release includes navmesh visualisation

A further benefit with the agreement is that Catznip can also use the official Havok-powered mesh uploader.

Further Updates

In addition, Catznip sees the following added / updated:

  • Addition of a “Per user” option to the “Show friends permissions” in the friends gear menu to always show non-default permissions
  • Addition of an Edit Hover button functionality to show the shape editor, scrolled down to the “Hover” wearable param
  • Addition of a further toolbar at the top of the world view
  • Addition of a Close All Folders button to the inventory outfits view toolbar
  • Addition of alignment options to toolbar buttons. Those at the bottom of the screen can be centred or left or right aligned, while those to the side can be aligned to the top or bottom of the screen as well as in the centre.
Catznip R8 adds left/right alignment to bottom toolbar buttons and Top/bottom alignment to side toolbar buttons
Catznip R8 adds left/right alignment to bottom toolbar buttons and Top/bottom alignment to side toolbar buttons
  • changed : highlight the currently worn outfit folder in bold
  • changed : rearrange the avatar inspector to add extra lines to the profile description
    • one extra line added by default through layout changes
    • two extra lines are added by expanding the textbox to fill the volume slider space if voice is disabled
  • changed : report more useful information about memory state in case of a crash
  • changed : allow multiple crashes to be selected in the “Crash reporting” preferences panel.

There are also a number of bug fixes which have been implemented by the Catznip team and / as a result of fixes coming out of the Lab; there are also a number of updates to RLV/a. For details on all of these, please refer to the R8 release notes.

Feedback

This isn’t a huge update compared to others, but it marks a significant step forward for Catznip both with the Havok su-licence support and, most importantly, the SSB/A support. I also have to admit I like the button alignment options (something we’re unlikely to see in the official viewer, but which is so very handy in making screen space more usable.

Given this release is to ready Catznip for the grid-wide deployment of Server-side Baking / Appearance, it is strongly recommended that if you are a Catznip user and have not updated, that you do so ASAP.

Performance-wise, Catznip R8 on my PC offers around the same performance as most viewer releases over the past few months. Running with Advanced Lighting Model off while in my home region with around four other avatars, FPS varies from the high 20 through the high 40s, depending on my altitude. When running with Advanced Lighting Model enabled but no shadows enabled, rates tend to range from the low teens through to high teens / low 20s.

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