Firestorm 4.5.1: living in a materials world

firestorm-logoThe long-awaited Firestorm update has arrived in the form of Firestorm 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, 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 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”

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.

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