SL projects news week 33 (1): server, “grey box attachment” issue, SSA, materials

Server Deployments Week 33

As always, please refer to the week’s forum deployment thread for news, updates and feedback.

Second Life Server (SLS Main) Channel – Tuesday August 13th

There was no update to the Main channel. It had been anticipated that the package deployed to BlueSteel in week 32 would reach the Main channel this week, but this is not the case, for the reason given below (see the Grey Box Attachment issue notes, below),

Release Candidate Channels – Wednesday August 14th

    • Magnum remains with SSA enabled, but otherwise received no further updates.
    • LeTigre should receive a new maintenance package which “only includes a few internal bug fixes which shouldn’t show any visible changes to the residents”. In describing this at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday August 13th, Simon Linden said, “There’s one performance fix that you might see in the viewer … you shouldn’t get those situations where you see lots of ‘duplicate caps. messages”
    • Bluesteel should receive a new server maintenance package comprising:
      • A fix for the “grey box attachment  issue” (non-public BUG-3547, details below)
      • A (further?) update to for “llListen in linked objects is listening at root instead of linked object local position *after re-rezzing the linkset*”, which was also listed in the BlueSteel release notes for week 32  (non-public JIRA BUG-3291)
      • The code to block avatars entering a region / objects being rezzed in a region during the last 60-seconds before a restart. In addition, restart warning pop-ups will include the region name. This was again in the release notes for week 32, so would appear to be a further update to that code
      • Fixes for further simulator crash modes.

“Grey Box” Attachment Issue

This is a problem whereby a grey prim appears around any passenger(s) sitting on a boat / vehicle when crossing from a BlueSteel region to any other region (including another BlueSteel region) – the driver / pilot is left unchanged. The affected avatar has no control and requires a relog, while the prim itself appears to be linked to vehicle when edited.

The "grey box attachment issue" (image courtesy of Jen Cuddihy via the SL forums)
The “grey box attachment issue” (image courtesy of Jen Cuddihy via the SL forums)

It is thought the bug was introduced during the week 32 BlueSteel deployment, and Simon Linden indicated it was the reason there was no Main channel deployment for week 33, saying:

We didn’t update the main channel today. There was a bug found involving vehicles and region crossings that needed to be fixed, so that update will go out tomorrow [the BlueSteel RC deployment].  Basically, don’t sit more than 1 person on a vehicle when leaving a BlueSteel region, otherwise it turns you into a box :P.  It happens to the 2nd (and probably more, if you had a crowd) person seated on the object.

Kelly Linden explained what was happening to cause this:

Every agent has a ‘task’ representation on the server that is the same as a prim. The bug is in sending the linked set w/ avatars to the other region: avatars after the first are losing the special avatar treatment and getting passed as a regular linked prim. So that prim is what the server thinks all avatars look like.

Simon added:

The region crossing code basically un-sits avatars from an object, sends both the avatars and object to the next region [as separate sets of data], which puts them back together. In this case, the 2nd avatar doesn’t get detached properly and things go south from there. So the 2nd avatar gets sent over bundled up with the object … which it’s not designed to do.

The additional avatars on the vehicle at the time of the region crossing essentially end-up in limbo, with data caught between the two simulators. “The regions are very confused about that avatar data by that point, I’m sure a relog would be needed,” Simon said.

An interesting side-effect of this is that the bug makes it possible to exceed the 256-prim linkset limit – sort-of. Enterprising individuals have realised that if you rez a 256-prim linkset, sit a number of avatars on it and move it across a region boundary, it will acquire an additional prim for each additional passenger over the first avatar to sit on it. However, the ability is of limited value; make any changes to the enlarged linkset, such as unlinking a child prim or trying to texture one of the greyprims, and the entire thing turns no modify / no copy – and the fix being deployed to BlueSteel should correct the problem anyway.

Server-side Appearance

Just as a reminder. There are no further SSA deployments planned for week 33. This is to allow for some back-end updates to be made to the SSA servers. These updates shouldn’t result in any visible difference to users on SSA-enabled regions, and are intended to fix a couple of scenarios where the viewer would have to re-try requests when it shouldn’t have to. The Lab wants to get these updates deployed to the SSA server prior to making any move to rolling-out SSA to the entire grid.

There have been comments on the forums that SSA “must” be encountering major problems as the deployment has been so protracted. This is not the case. Linden Lab (via Nyx Linden) have always stated that the deployment would proceed very, very cautiously because it is such a fundamental change in how Second Life functions. Even though the Lab has indicated that very, very few problems have been encountered with enabling the service so far, and the load testing on both Magnum and LeTigre (representing a little over 20% of the grid) has been very positive, they are sticking to their softly, softly approach.

Viewer Updates

As the Vivox updates became the de facto release viewer in week 32, the remaining five release candidate viewers in the viewer release channel have been underground rebuilding using the updated release viewer code base. On Monday August 12th, updates for both the Cocoa Viewer for Mac (version – download and release notes) and the Maintenance Viewer (version – download and release notes) were released.

Materials Project

The Materials Project viewer was updated to version on August 8th. This release lists a large number of fixes, perhaps most notably those related to problems with the appearance of alpha textures under both local lights and sunlight, and numerous issues with mesh rendering and lighting within the materials viewer. Please refer to the full list of JIRA items in the release notes linked-to above.

ALM Concerns

Concerns have been raised about performance issues as a result of having the Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled by default (as is now frequently the case for most graphics cards, as is a requirement in order to see materials in use in-world).

The amount by which ALM can affect the user experience is variable, and subject to a lot of influences, not just the graphics cards / computer system the viewer is running on. Some people with systems similar to my own (see the panel on the right for my system spec), have noted “significant” impact when running with ALM enabled on a materials-capable viewer.

Part of the problem is the “ALM” is a very broad term, and other options within the viewer can influence performance, but will not impact the ability to see materials even if they are turned off – such as having shadows set to None, for example, or having water reflections set to Minimal and turning off local lights (via debug or Phototools, for example). So part of the problem is that of communicating what can be done from within the viewer to help offset performance impacts should they occur, but which don’t limit their ability to see materials in use.

Quick ways to improve performance when running in ALM to see materials. Top left: you can uncheck Ambient Occulsion, keep Shadows set to None and drop water reflections to Minimal. Bottom Left: Using Debug Settings from the Advanced Menu, set  RenderLocalLights to FALSE. Right: Firestorm / Phototools, ambient occulsion, hadows, local lights and facelights can all be disabled from the Light tab and water reflections lowered from the WL tab
Quick ways to improve performance when running in ALM to see materials. Top left: you can uncheck Ambient Occlusion, keep Shadows set to None and drop water reflections to Minimal. Bottom Left: Using Debug Settings from the Advanced Menu, set RenderLocalLights to FALSE. Right: Firestorm / Phototools, ambient occlusion, shadows, local lights and facelights can all be disabled from the Light tab and water reflections lowered from the WL tab

Related Links

Firestorm meeting 10th August, 2013 – video and transcript

firestorm-logoOn Saturday 10th August, 2013, the Firestorm team hosted a question-and-answer session so they could outline the current status of the Firestorm viewer, the issues the team are facing, and outline plans for the future, as well as address questions from the audience.

While the meeting was recorded, the Firestorm team are aware that many of their users have hearing difficulties, and / or prefer to read text. It is because of this that this transcript has been provided. When reading it, please remember:

  • This is not a word-for-word transcript of the entire meeting. While all quotes given are as they are spoken in the video, to assist in readability and maintain the flow of conversation, not all asides, jokes, interruptions, etc., have been included in the text presented here
  • If there are any sizeable gaps in comments from a speaker which resulted from asides, questions to other etc,, these are indicated by the use of “…”
  • Timestamps are provided as guidance should anyone wish to hear the comments in full from any speaker on the video
  • Questions were asked in chat while speakers were talking. This inevitably meant that replies to questions would lag well behind when they were originally asked. Therefore, to provide context between questions and answers, questions in the transcript are time stamped at the point at which each is addressed by a member of the Firestorm team
  • Some questions were asked and answered purely in text. These have been excluded for one of two reasons. Either a) they lacked context with the voice conversation, or b) the seating arrangements in the auditorium meant there were some questions or answers which didn’t appear in my local chat window.

Please note: This transcript is provided for informational purposes only. As such, questions on technical issues relating to Firestorm and  / or project-specific questions cannot be answered here unless one of the Firestorm team drops by.

Video courtesy of Northspring

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