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.

Materials Viewer

The beta version of the Materials Processing viewer went through another release on June 14th (3.6.0.277409). The current plan is for this to be the last beta release for materials, which is expected to go to release in the early part of week 25 (week commencing Monday June 17th).

Materials should reach the SL release viewer early in week 25
Materials should reach the SL release viewer early in week 25

Other Viewer Projects

There are a number of viewer projects in the pipeline. While the prcise order in which they may appear is unclear, they include the following, which we are liable to see sooner rather than later.

Beta Maintenance Viewer

This is a maintenance viewer (based on the 3.5.4 code base) which includes a huge amount of fixes and updates, with some notably being:

  • MAINT-2152: MAINT-628 High res snapshots tiling fix breaks custom screenshot resolution (see part one of this update)
  • MAINT-2268: Particle system selector – the new capability by which you can right-click on particles to automatically block them from your viewer (according to Widely Linden, right clicking will block any particles coming from the person who set-up the particle generator)
  • Fixes for Neck and Avatar Center attachment point issues
  • Assorted mesh fixes (e.g. Mesh clothing color change not visible to other people).

These updates are liable to appear in an LL project viewer “real soon”, and in the meantime the code is available for TPVs to look at. Commenting on the updates, Widely Linden added, “we have some more interesting stuff coming here in the future. This is just the first batch which has been kind-of lingering in our MAINT backlog for a little while. I think you guys will like the next batch of stuff coming along soon.”

Interest List Viewer Updates

The interest list updates for the viewer are currently being reviewed internally by LL in terms of when a viewer containing them might see the light of day. The project, currently code-named “Viewer-Interesting” (which may change), contains a range of updates to help the viewer leverage recent interest list changes on the servers and includes additional fixes for the “missing prims” issue (some of which were addressed in the most recent updates to the release viewer). As such there is – pardon the pun – considerable interest in getting these updates out to users.

Other Updates

In addition to the above, the following are also in the pipeline:

  • The Vivox updates, which are apparently all-but-ready to be released
  • The Cocoa updates for the Mac viewer are at the point of wrapping-up the last elements of work, including non-English language support updates, and a project viewer is anticipated in “the next couple of weeks”
  • There is potentially going to be a series of open-source contributions to the viewer which may be targeted for release candidate viewer
  • An Experience Tools viewer is also expected to appear “real soon”.

How soon / when these are likely to appear is liable to be largely down to a combination of the Lab moving to the new viewer release process and determining how many viewer variants they want to initially push to the various channels.

Viewer Release Process

The Lab continues to work towards implementing the new viewer release process. As a part of this work, a new wiki page is being created listing the viewer repository information for the various viewers the Lab is in the process of making available. The page isn’t 100% complete as yet (it is partially based on test data), and is primarily intended to direct TPVs as to where they can see the various viewer repositories by channel, what the various viewers are and the status of the repository (i.e. whether the repository is publicly available or not).

Please not that the official download pages for SL viewers remain the main viewer download page and the Alternate Viewer page of the wiki.

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