Firestorm 4.5.1: living in a materials world

firestorm-logoThe long-awaited Firestorm update has arrived in the form of Firestorm 4.5.1.38838. And for windows, it comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavours. If you’ve read my recent interview with members of the Firestorm team, or the transcript of the Firestorm Q & A held on October 26th, you’ll know both versions essentially have the same functionality, although there are some slight differences, which I’ll come to anon.

As far as the 32-bit release is concerned, however, there are a few  of up-front notes to be read:

  • It is a beta release, not a “final” release. What does this mean? Essentially that it is coming out with both new functionality and with a fair few bugs, some of which may well continue to irritate while others people should be able to live with
  • The reason it is not a “final” release is that there is a lot more coming down the pipe from Linden Lab – additional SSA + inventory work, further viewer-side interest list updates, new HTTP updates, group ban functionality, and so on. However, none of this has been officially released by LL, and so while it has been hoped to bring to users in a 4.5.1 release, the Firestorm team have (wisely) opted to draw a line under what they have and clear the decks for the next round of code integration and updates (which will also hopefully resolve a number of the more irritating bugs to be found in the viewer – any viewer – where things like inventory, interest list work, etc., is concerned)
  • Although the release is “beta” it is fully supported by the Firestorm support volunteers.

These releases see Firestorm reach parity with the Linden Lab 3.6.7 code base, and all fixes up to that release. What follows here is not intended as an in-depth review of Firestorm 4.5.1.38838, but rather an overview of what is likely to be the more popular features and updates and a look at some aspects of the Windows 64-bit version. This being the case, please also check the release notes / change log for a full list of updates and all attributions thereof.

Download and Installation – 32 bit

It is strongly recommended that users perform a clean install of the new release. For Windows users, this means ensuring you remove the Firestorm folders found in C:\Users\[username]\AppData – under the Local and Roaming folders respectively, as well as uninstalling the program. Do make sure you use the settings back-up option (Preferences > Backup) to back-up your settings prior to uninstalling your current version of Firestorm and deleting these two additional folders.

The 32-bit installer weighs-in at just over 44MB in size, which is pretty much par for the course for Firestorm, and (for me) installation was smooth and didn’t trigger any AVG Pro alerts.

Once started, I noted this release appears to follow the menu bar colour scheme introduced by the Lab alongside of their updated viewer release process. Rather than being the default Firestorm colour, the menu bar is tinged a deep purple, indicating it is a beta release.

CHUI Updates

As Firestorm already had a communications interface which does much of what Linden Lab’s Communications Hub User Interface (CHUI) does, Firestorm does not implement CHUI in its entirety, although some features have been added. These include:

  • Block tab added to the people panel
  • Support for showing/hiding timestamp and names, replacing own name with (You)
  • Added expandable chat entry fields (Firestorm specific improvements made by Cinder Roxley)
  • A new menu item, Comm > Conversation Log (see below)
  • Access to Conversation Log and Chat History from the People floater
  • Sounds for teleport and inventory offers.

Conversation Log

The conversation log allows you to review saved logs of past conversations from within the viewer. As noted above, options can be accessed via the Comm menu or via the People floater.

The Firestorm 4.5.1 Conversation Log floater
The Firestorm 4.5.1 Conversation Log floater

Using Comm > Conversation Log opens a floater listing all available conversation logs. Right-clicking on any name in the list will display a series of options: IM, view profile, offer teleport (if the person is online), etc.

Open Chat Transcript will open up the conversation history with that person in a viewer floater, or if you prefer, Open Chat Transcript Externally will display the conversation history with that person in an external application such as Windows Notepad. These options are also available from the gear cog button at the top right of the floater, while the button next to it allows you to sort the order in which logs are displayed and access the Nearby Chat history.

When using the People floater, right-clicking on an individual’s name will display an option to view your chat history (if available) with them within the viewer. If there is not available history, the option will not be displayed.

Export / Back-up and Import

Firestorm becomes the latest in a number of TPVs to include the capability for users to back-up or export their own creations to their hard drive. Version 4.5.1 provides two file formats for this:

  • .OXP format for backing-up your own creations – which can include prims, textures, sounds, animations and note cards
  • .DAE format (Collada) for exporting objects as mesh.

Both options will export objects and their textures (the .DAE export code is from Singularity), and both are fully compliant with the Second  Life permissions system, meaning:

  • Objects must belong to you, and all parts made by you or export will fail.
  • All textures on the object must be in your inventory, and be made by you. This includes sculpt maps
  • If you are not the creator of any element in an object, it will be replaced by the default when saving to your hard disk (so any prims you did not create will be replaced by a default cube, for example)
  • Any items contained inside the object (e.g. scripts, notecards, etc) must also be made by you
  • Back-up cannot be used to save mesh objects or objects containing mesh parts.
Back-up (l) to .OXP format and export (to Collada .DAE) from Firestorm
Back-up (l) to .OXP format and export to Collada .DAE (r)  from Firestorm. Note that as I am attempting to back-up / export an object which uses textures I did not create, Exportable Textures is set to 0 – on saving the file, the three  textures in the object will be replaced with the default plywood texture

Objects which have been backed-up should be imported using the Import Linkset option via the Avatar / Build > Upload menu. Objects exported as Collada .DAE files can be uploaded using the mesh importer.

To initiate a back-up or export, right-click on the object in question in-world and select Save As > Backup or Save As > Collada as required (if you’re using the pie menu: right-click and More > More > Save As and select the required option). The required dialogue floater is displayed – please then follow the Instructions on the Firestorm wiki.

When importing a back-up, it’s worth noting the following:

  • Importing a backed-up object
    Importing a backed-up object

    If you back-up a textured object to your hard-drive, note that as long as you have the textures in your inventory, you do not have to re-upload them when importing the object once more. Therefore, you can leave Upload unchecked and avoid paying to re-upload the textures. Once the object has been uploaded, the texture will be applied from your inventory

  • If the object contains textures, sounds or animations which have been completely flushed from your inventory since the object was backed-up, you will either need to check the Upload box on the importer and pay to re-upload them as a part of the import, or import them separately
  • You can opt to restore the imported object to the same region co-ordinates as recorded when it was backed-up (use with care) and opt not to have the object re-attach itself to you if it was originally attached when backed-up.

Materials Processing

Full materials processing support (diffuse, normal and specular maps) are included with this release. See my article on materials processing if you’re not already familiar with it. Or if you prefer, simply watch the video.

Movelock

Movelock is designed to provide a means of “replacing” avatar phantom (which no longer works as a result of other changes within LL’s viewer code) as a means of deterring people from trying to push your avatar around (such as when you’re afk, or simply because they are being an 18-karat wombat).

It uses LSL through the Firestorm bridge in order to try to “lock” your avatar wherever it stands (although you can still move around yourself with Movelock is enabled – it comes into play when others try to bump you around).

Movelock can be activated via Avatar > Movement > Movelock or by CTRL-ALT-P, or through the Movelock toolbar button. Once enabled, your avatar can still be pushed by other avatars and objects, but will return to its prior position when the pushing ceases. North, who coded the feature, produced a video on her early work with Movelock, demonstrating it in action.

Again, this isn’t the same functionality as avatar phantom,  but will hopefully act as a deterrent to those who insist on shoving others around.

New Particle Capabilities Support

This release of Firestorm includes the “new” particle system capabilities, comprising:

Arton Rotaru has produced a video demonstrating the ribbon particle effect to create tyre tracks left by a vehicle.

Particle Griefing Alleviation

Note that these new particle capabilities include the ability to right-click on a particle stream / any rendered particles and mute their associated emitter, effectively blocking them. This can greatly simplify dealing with unwanted particle effects, such as during a particle griefing attack be eliminating the need to find the actual emitters and muting them. Also, as part of a general anti-griefing measure, particles will automaitcally cease rendering if FPS drops below 4 (both of these are Linden Lab improvements).

Continue reading “Firestorm 4.5.1: living in a materials world”

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War of the Worlds returns to Second Life

Two years ago, Seanchai library and friends set themselves a towering goal: to re-create one of the most famous radio events in history. One which, legend has it, caused panic across the United States as that great nation, like the world at large, suffered its share of pre-war jitters.

Orson Welles’ adaptation of H.G Wells’ allegorical classic, War of the Worlds sits in the annals of history as one of the most remarkable adaptations ever undertaken of a work of fiction – even though it would appear that some of the panic it was said to have caused at the time was perhaps not quite so widespread as later claimed. As such a famous piece, it has down the years frequently been recreated in various forms; not that this popularity has made it any easier a broadcast to recreate in any medium.

WotW 2013Staged in time for Halloween 2011, the Seanchai Library’s adaptation, however, was nothing short of marvellous. So much so that additional performances had to be scheduled.

Now, on Friday November 1st, 2013 at 17:00 SLT, the Avatar Repertory Theatre will be staging a single performance of War of the Worlds at their New Theatre at Cookie. The performance  will see several of the cast from Seanchai Library’s 2011 production return to the microphone, together with a host of new (to the play) voices from ART.

As with the Seanchai Library production, the ART performance will be taking place with the blessings of the estate of Howard Koch who, with writing partner Anne Froelich, wrote the original 1938 script.

Caledonia Skytower, who directed things in 2011, will be producing this very special performance to mark the 75th anniversary of Welles’ original Mercury Theatre production, which went out over the airwaves on October 30th 1938. In it, Welles transferred the events of the novel in both setting  and time from England in the late 19th century to New Jersey and New York in 1939.

Welles during his October 30th 1938 broadcast
Welles during his October 30th 1938 broadcast

Producing the show as well as performing in it, Welles is said to have deliberately structured his adaptation so that the first “news broadcast” from Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, would occur some 12 minutes into the show, knowing full well that it was around that time that those listening to NBC Radio’s The Chase and Sandborn Hour would frequently re-tune their radios to listen to his Mercury Theatre on CBS. Thus, they would immediately be caught-up in the drama as if it were real-life events unfolding before them through their radios – a move which perhaps worked a little too well, as subsequent real life events would demonstrate.

The ART production will feature the voice talents of Kayden Oconnell, Corwyn Allen, MadameThespian Underhill, Ada Radius, Avajean Westland, Sodovan Torak, Em Jannings, Thundergass Menges, and will also include dynamic effects. Because of the latter, and in order for lag in general to be reduced as far as possible, members of the audience are asked to refrain from wearing heavily scripted attachments, to remove HUDS and meters, prior to arrival, etc.

The performance is free to attend, although donations are welcome.  I’ll likely see you there!

Join the cast of ART on Friday November 1st at 17:00 SLT to mark the 75th anniversary of Orson Wells' War of the Worlds broadcast
Join the cast of ART on Friday November 1st at 17:00 SLT to mark the 75th anniversary of Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds broadcast

H.G. Wells and Orson Welles met only once in real life, and that was after the infamous 1938 broadcast. However, in 2008, a group of students from the Vancouver Film School presented a short film which brought the two men together in a fictional 1938 radio interview, the events of which just might have given Orson Welles a certain seed of inspiration. I’ll leave you with it in order to further whet your appetite.

Related Links

Visiting a Tudor Rose

I’ve been a little behind things of late due to a project elsewhere taking up a large portion of my time and RL in general being somewhat awkward in its scheduling of things. So there are a few SL Destinations pending a write-up, including another Halloween theme or two which may or may or now seen the light of day. If they don’t my apologies to the creators concerned, both for my failure to get them blogged and because when I do make it in-world, I get totally distracted.

For the latter, you can blame Honour :). You see, I love castles; a good deal of my time has been spent travelling around England and Scotland visiting castles and the ruins of castles, so when Honour blogs about a castle I’ve not seen in SL, then that was it as far as the day’s plans were concerned; I was off to see for myself.

Tudor Rose
Tudor Rose

And Tudor Rose, with its castle, cathedral and waterfront, is certainly worth seeing. It has been developed by Amas Veritas (ppeapod) on behalf of region owner Elizabeth I (Elizabetth Chester), and the Whiteraven group. About Land provides the background to the region:

The setting is north of London along the Thames River to a castle that has been occupied by King and Queens alike for over 900 years, the Elizabeth castle.

This beautiful kingdom is a stage for councils, state ceremonies, summit politics, important feasts and Renaissance dances rich in culture.  A place where Queen Elizabeth I takes respite from the hectic life of court in London in this country retreat.

Tudor Rose
Tudor Rose

I admit that I wasn’t aware that the Thames ran north from London, nor did I realise the lands north of that great city were quite so hilly (the region has a near-mountainous surround on all sides); but this really is nit-picking on my part. What we’re presented with here is plenty to appreciate, enjoy and photograph.

Tudor Rose can be split into a number of distinct areas. The castle itself sits on an island on the north-east side of the region. To the west and south of it lies a small waterfront town, dominated by the huge bulk of a cathedral . Here can be found an inn, a quayside with two ships alongside and a slipway where a third vessel is under construction, its hull looking ready to be tar-sealed. Together the castle the cathedral with its entourage of houses and places of business make up the focal points to the region.

The cathedral is imposing. While built on lower ground to the castle, the spires atop its towers almost match the highest spire on the castle itself. Both the castle and cathedral are open to exploration, although in the case of the former, you may well want to take care if Her Majesty is in residence. Period costume does not appear to be a requirement for visitors, but I’m sure it would be appreciated.

Tudor Rose
Tudor Rose

Beyond the cathedral, moving southwards between it and the woodland separating it from a river, one can find the remaining features in the region. First are the jousting butts, heralding the days of chivalry, and which appear to be in frequent use. Make your way through the trees south-east from here and you’ll find a small church. From her, a path leads the way to a bridge crossing a stream, and which in turn brings you to a mystical dance circle, shrouded in mist and overlooked by a tall, round tower.

I’m not sure how much role-play goes on here; during my visit there were a good few people in period costume, but no-one accosted me for wearing modern clothing, and I didn’t come across any note card / rules giver either on my arrival or in my travels around the region.  Certainly, the opportunities for role-play would appear to be many; be it of a courtly persuasion within the castle itself, possibly involving Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers, or out jousting or perhaps (and possibly more mysteriously) at the open-air dance circle, where the rolling mist and surrounding gnarled trees suggest something of a dark nature may well be acted-out here at certain times of the year. There’s even a hint of the Arthurian within the castle.

Tudor Rose
Tudor Rose

There are a couple of slight incongruities with the architecture within the region in that both the castle and the cathedral have elements which are suggestive of them belonging more in a European landscape than perhaps having once sat close to London. However, as with my earlier quibble, this is a little bit of nit-picking; as a fantasy / role-play region, Tudor Rose has much which is welcoming, and the design lends itself to allowing several different activities or scenarios to be acted-out simultaneously.

For those looking for a period region offering opportunities to meet others interested in the Tudor history of England or similarly role-play, or if you’re simply looking for somewhere new to visit and photograph, Tudor Rose may well be worth adding to your list of places to visit.

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Firestorm Q and A, October 26th: video and transcript

firestorm-logoOn Saturday October 26th 2013, the Firestorm team hosted another informal question-and-answer session. 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 /comments were made in chat while speakers were talking. This inevitably meant that replies to questions would lag well behind when they were originally asked. To provide context between questions and answers, questions in the transcript are given (in italics) at the point at which each is addressed by a member of the Firestorm team, either in voice or via chat.

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.

The TL;DR Summary

The numbers in braces are timestamps which refer to the section of this transcript where more details can be read, and to the section of the video recording where the relevant comments can be heard.

  • The upcoming release will be a public beta. It will have a number of known bugs, some of which will be annoying [0:01:42-0:02:28]
  • There is a lot more coming from the Lab, so it is important the Firestorm team get a beta version out, so they can prepare for bug fixing and integrating the new code LL will be pushing out (and which is currently pending release by the Lab) including:
    • SSA updates (AISv3)
    • Group ban list
    • Interest list
    • HTTP updates
  • It will be a beta release, but it will be fully supported  [0:05:10-0:05:33]
  • The Firestorm team have been accused of “holding things back”, they are not. There are valid reasons for any apparent delays (such as the amount of work some code merges have required and code for newer projects has yet to appear from the Lab [0:05:33-0:07:43]
  • A full release is unlikely before February 2014 [0:07:43]
  • The beta will be accompanied by a Windows 64-bit version of the viewer [0:11:01-0:13:41]
  • Why feedback for the 64-bit version is being requested, what kind of feedback is sought, why feedback should be delayed for a week or more following the release, the placebo effect [0:11:37; 0:14:30-0:16:09; 0:32:52-0:34:13; 1:01:04-1:04:08]
  • 64-bit versus 32-bit: what to expect and what the differences are [0:16:09-0:18:22]
  • Linux 64-bit [0:28:50-0:29:34]
  • Why it is unlikely any viewer will have multi-screen support (tear-off panels and menus which can be moved outside the viewer window & between monitors) in the near future [30:09-32:52; 34:13-34:41]
  • Mac 64-bit [0:36:09-0:41:49]
  • The issues in building 64-bit versions of Firestorm [0:41:49-0:44:47]
  • Mac Maverick support [46:05-48:08]
  • Both Windows 32-bit and 64-bit can co-exist on the same PC [49:47; 57:29]
  • 64-bit and lack of Havok support [58:29]
  • A discussion on Firestorm on mobile devices & LL’s coming beta with OnLive [50:39-54-15]
  • Why clean installs are really, really necessary at times [1:14:47-1:18:39; 1:24:58-1:25:47; 1:32:50-1:35:24]
  • Important notes on the 64-bit installer / installation [1:19:20-1:21:29]
  • Why Firestorm should only ever be downloaded from the Firestorm website [1:22:14]
  • OTR is coming, but not a priority [1:23:48-1:23:54]
  • Questions on 32-bit and 64-bit throughout.

With thanks to North for the video.

Continue reading “Firestorm Q and A, October 26th: video and transcript”