Update July 2nd: version 4.4.2 has been released by the Firestorm team, and Firestorm 4.4.1 has been blocked from accessing Second Life. If you have previously installed Firestorm 4.4.1, you can install 4.4.2 without needing a clean install. If you are updating from Firestorm 4.4.0 or earlier, a clean install is strongly recommended. The downloads can be found on the Firstorm website.
Firestorm 4.4.1(.34164) arrived as a release on Thursday June 27th. This is another major update to SL’s most widely used TPV, and one which all Firestorm users should update to sooner rather than later.
The reason for this latter comment is one which should be familiar to anyone who regularly reads this blog – Server-side Baking / Appearance (SSB/A) is a-coming.
Subject to final confirmation, the Lab plans to start deployment of the server-end of the capability on July 9th, and while it might take a while to encompass the entire grid, it will mean that anyone using a pre-4.4.0 version of Firestorm is going to start seeing increasing numbers of grey avatars around them as they travel the grid and (quite likely) finding themselves being told they are a cloud when seen by others.
Updating sooner rather than later will also greatly assist those volunteers who give up copious amounts of time to help with the in-world Firestorm Support groups. Right now, the Firestorm team estimate more than 77,000 users are still running versions of Firestorm older than 4.4.0, and thus have no SSB/A capabilities. It’s going to be impossible to supply all of these users with support and advice if they all leave updating their viewer until the 9th July or later – so please, if you are reading this review and you are using a version of Firestorm older than 4.4.0, consider updating now.
Doing so means that should you need to contact the Firestorm support team directly, because you are encountering problems and cannot find help through the Firestorm wiki or the troubleshooting index, you’ll be far more likely to receive a timely response to your request for assistance.
Even those who have updated to 4.4.0 should make the move to 4.4.1, as it includes the very latest updates and fixes for the SSB/A code from LL. Outside of SSB/A, release 184.108.40.206164 offers a number of important fixes for 4.4.0, and so it’s again important for 4.4.0 users to step up to 4.4.1 to gain these benefits.
As always, there is a lot to cover in a Firestorm release, so I’m not going to plough through everything here – the official change log provides a breakdown of all updates and fixes. 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 are mentioned here can be found in the release change log – again, please check them there.
What is NOT in this Release
I’m actually going to start with what is not in the 4.4.1 release. It does not include the following major updates from the Lab:
- The Communications Hub User Interface
- Materials Processing
The reasons for this are simple. For one thing, the Firestorm team have been largely focused on fixing issues and problems with Firestorm and on getting the viewer ready for the SSB/A release. This left them with little time to get changes resulting from the CHUI release by LL integrated into the viewer, although considerable work has been carried out in refactoring the code.
Similarly, there is no Materials Processing capability included with this release. This is in part because the Lab themselves have only recently moved the materials code to a release status (and it still has a number of very visible bugs associated with it), but mostly because changes made to the viewer as a result of the introduction of CHUI affect files which are also changed by the materials project. It is therefore important that the Firestorm team implement the changes in the same order – changes as a result of CHUI first, then the materials changes.
So those wanting to use materials in Firestorm are, unfortunately, going to have to wait a while longer.
New Features and Improvements from the Lab
Note these also include work by the Firestorm team arising from LL-development viewer updates.
- “Missing prims fix” – MAINT-2647 / BUG-2116 / FIRE-8950 – this should hopefully resolve the majority of issues around prims / linksets failing to render in the viewer until an action such as right-clicking on them or toggling atmospheric shaders off / on is taken
- Merge up to 3.4.5 codebase plus cherry picked fixes plus server-side appearance support improvements
- Major under the hood refactoring in preparation for the CHUI merge
- Added RegionHandshakeReply flags for Server-side Appearance – a fix for the SUN-74 issue.
Firestorm 4.1.1 includes an interim fix for the issue of black rectangles appearing in snapshots taken at very high resolutions. Note that this fix is not the recently released additional fixes arising from MAINT-628 made by Linden Lab. These fixes will be included in an upcoming release of Firestorm, and so the current fix should be considered interim.
Radar can now be accessed via its own button / menu option / floater for those who prefer not to access it via the People floater. The new button can be selected from the Toolbar Buttons floater, which will open the new Radar floater. Additionally, Radar can be accessed via World > Radar from the menus.
The Radar retains all functions found when displaying it in the Nearby People floater, including the ability to display the mini-map within it.
The Payment icons on the Radar / Nearby People floaters have also been updated: $ indicates the user has Payment Information on File; $$ indicates Payment Information Used.
For those who use the Friends list (Comm > Friends or CTRL-SHIFT-F), highlighting a person’s name in the list and then tapping ENTER will start an IM conversation with that person (no need to click the IM button).
For those who use Growl, dialogue messages and inventory received from object messages are now displayed with Growl. In addition, all Growl preferences check boxes will only be enabled if Growl is installed on the user’s system.
Firestorm 4.4.1 removes the 2-second delay when using the click-to-teleport functions or teleport chat shortcuts (gtp, etc.) or the Teleport To function in Radar.
A new option allows region grid coordinates to be displayed on the World Map (Preferences > Move & View > Firestorm > Show grid coordinates on the world map), which OpenSim users might perhaps find more beneficial than most SL users.
Also, map beacon ranges now show the distance from the avatar, not the camera.
Building and Scripting Updates
Firestorm 4.4.1 brings a good number of updates for builders and scripters, including:
- Copy Keys button on the Build floater has been revised so that:
- By default, clicking the Copy Keys button on the build tool will now only copy the object’s root key
- Hold SHIFT to copy all keys when clicking the Copy Keys button
- If an individual prim is selected in a linkset, Copy Keys will copy only that prim’s key
- If the user hasn’t set an external script editor, the operating system will open whatever it thinks is the editor for LSL files
- LSL editor support for new and already missing content type constants has been added, together with missing LSL editor constants for llGetObjectDetails and missing strings for avatar script info (neck and avatar center attachment spots)
- LSL script editor support for the new json functions and constants has been added
Firestorm 4.4.0 saw the introduction of the Backup Settings function (Preferences > Backup) which allows users to back-up many of their global and account settings to a local hard drive. Firestorm 4.4.1 adds two additional features to this capability:
- Restoration of Cache Path from a settings backup
- Restoration of Custom port setting from a settings backup
Full details of the Backup Settings functions can be found in the Firestorm documentation.
Firestorm 4.4.1 gains the Avatar Textures floater from Phoenix. This can be accessed by right-clicking on an avatar and selecting Show Textures from the Context Menu, or for those using the Pie Menu, either right-clicking on their own avatar and selecting Textures or right-clicking on another avatar and selecting, More > More > Textures.
In addition, the following options are also ported from Phoenix:
- The “Nick auto complete” feature (Preferences > Chat > General > Enable automatic name prediction in nearby chat bar) so the viewer will attempt to auto-complete a name based on the names of those near you
- Region script count change notification feature (Preferences > Notifications > Notifications > When the region’s total script count changes & set threshold) displays a message if the total number of scripts in a region suddenly jumps (up or down), according to the threshold set
- New option to minimise floaters to bottom-left instead of top-left (Advanced > Debug Settings > FSLegacyMinimize > Set to TRUE for bottom left behaviour)
Some of the Rest
As noted earlier, the best place to get full details of the 4.4.1 updates is from the release change log. However, here are some of the other updates people might want to check-out
- Need help? before you contact the in-world support teams, try going to the Firestorm troubleshooting index by clicking om Help > Troubleshooting in the menu bar?
- Hearing an annoying sound? Add them to your Asset Blacklist (World > Sound Explorer > Blacklist or World > Blacklist)
- Like the music stream being played and would like it? World > Parcel details > Sound >Copy music stream URL to clipboard
- Search updates:
- Searching in inventory search box now expands folders
- Searching from the navigation bar search option now always opens the Web search tab and a lot of code refactoring and improved layout for less screen wastage
- There’s a new Black Glass skin theme for Meta Harper Modern (Preferences > Skins > MetaHarper Modern > BlackGlass) and various custom skin improvements
- Inventory context menu Touch option: If you are wearing any scripted items which respond to touch, right clicking on the item in any inventory tab (Inventory, Recent, Worn), will display a Touch option in the context menu (allowing you to open the item’s menu, for example)
- New switch to automatically remove the temporary upload option when on a SSB/A region: SSB/a will not support temporary texture uploads (which relay on a viewer-side hack). To prevent error messages resulting from attempts to upload temporary textures when on an SSB/A region, this function will hide the temporary upload options from the relevant floaters.
Metropolis Metaversum and UFS Grid to the default grid list
Register hop: links with Firestorm on windows
Pathfinding disabled icons are now hidden on OpenSim grids
The snapshot to profile panel hidden when connected to non-SL grids
Minimum listing fee for classifieds and parcel directory fee are no longer hardcoded on non-SL platforms.
While containing a lot of updates, including many fixes and stability improvements, Firestorm 4.4.1 is more an evolutionary update release than has perhaps been the case with previous releases of the viewer. This doesn’t lessen its importance for Firestorm users, however, because it does contain much of value and importance – particularly around the matter of SSB/A, as has been mentioned.
For Phoenix users, there’s again more added functionality to give more of a Phoenix flavour and familiarity to the viewer – especially when running it in the Phoenix mode. Given there are no plans to implement SSB/A support for Phoenix, it is even more imperative that users on that viewer look towards updating their viewer choice before July 9th. Firestorm’s Phoenix mode offers an experience which is now largely on a par with Phoenix (items such as menu names and options allowing), and this release takes that a step further. For who are interested in giving it a go, there is even a video available to help Phoenix users make the switch.
However, if Firestorm / v3-style viewers aren’t to people’s liking, it is important to remember that both Cool VL viewer and Singularity provide SSB/A support and offer a v1-style UI.
For Firestorm users, there really isn’t any excuse not to update to 4.4.1, and hopefully many of those 77,000 using versions older than 4.4.0 will heed requests that they do so sooner rather than leaving it to the last-minute on the 8th or 9th of July.
Certainly, coming on top of the huge number of additions and updates made to Firestorm with the 4.4.0 release in April, 4.4.1 is a more than worthwhile update which offers a lot of goodies and treats.