SL projects update 44 (3): viewer, AIS, and HTTP

The following summary is taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday November 1st. A video, courtesy of North, can be found at the end of this report. The numbers in braces after each heading (where given) denote the time stamp at which the topic can be listened-to in the video.

General Viewer News

As noted in part 2 of this week’s report, there are currently two release candidates in the LL viewer release channel, the GPU Table RC, which contains updates to the viewer’s GPU table but no functional changes, and another Maintenance RC, which includes finer access control for estate/parcel owners; CHUI: toggle expanding Conversations by clicking on icon  + more.

It is expected the Google Breakpad RC will be returning to the RC channel in week 45 (see below).

Several of the remaining anticipated viewer RCs / project viewers, again as previously reported, held-up as a result of issues uncovered in QA and / or bugs being re-introduced into them. These include:

  • The Group Ban List viewer: work here, which involves server and viewer changes, is held-up as a result of QA testing revealing some issues which Baker Linden is addressing (as per part 2 of this report)
  • The interest list viewer, which recently saw the issue of objects failing to render without a relog return to the code after having been fixed, and which still has one or two other issues to be fixed, although Oz Linden feels those working on it are homing in on solutions
  • The HTTP viewer updates, which were for a time awaiting QA resources (see below for a further update).

AIS v3

[02:29-07:07]

Nyx Linden, Tiny RobotTM, is in the Halloween spirit
Nyx Linden, Tiny RobotTM, in the Halloween spirit

The Lab is keen to start progressing this work towards a release. As with Server-side Appearance, they’re looking to TPVs to help with various aspects of testing.  To this end, a request has been passed to TPVs that they indicate to the Lab when they have merged the code into experimental versions of their viewers so that a pile-on test can be arranged in order to put the updates through their paces.

There is no specific date for when this will take place, and commenting on the project in general, Nyx Linden said:

Now is a good time to start your merges, I’ve just pushed an updated to Sunshine external, so you guys should have our latest and greatest … But again, this is not formally QA’d, we’ve been testing things as we’ve been going on, but it is not ready for release yet. But now is a good time to start doing test merges and getting side branches up-to-date with that.

The latest code includes a fix to viewer-side behaviour. On logging-in to Second Life, the server sends a list of the things it believed an avatar was wearing, although the message only had room for one wearable of each type (e.g. undershirt, shirt, jacket, etc.), and so it may or may not be up-to-date with the Current Outfit folder.

While the current release versions of the viewer ignore the contents of the message, they do still wait on the message for timing (thus slowing down avatar processing). With the new code, the timing pause is being done away with, so that the viewer should be able to start resolving the avatar from the Current Outfit Folder whether or not the message has been received. There is a slight side-issue with this change that may affect some avatars under limited circumstances, but a fix for this issue is due to be made available to TPVs before the code even reaches any experimental versions of their viewers.

Viewer Crash Reporting

[09:00-14:50 and 26:03-31:15]

There is an issue with the viewer crash reporting which means that a lot of crashes are being incorrectly reported as viewer “freezes”. This is something the Lab is aware of and is working to address. The problem lies with a number of the mechanisms used to determine various types of crashes are not working, with the result that the associated crashes are being misreported as the viewer freezing.

As well as addressing this issue, the Lab has also been working in other areas related to Google Breakpad and crash reporting, including:

  • Simplifying and cleaning-up the creation and interpretation of the marker files used to generate crash rate numbers
  • Re locating these files much earlier in the viewer initialisation and log-out processes so that crashes which occur during the viewer’s initialisation or termination can also be captured
  • Addressing those crash reports which are generated, but lack associated stack dumps or mini-dumps and ensure that in the future that do have the required information, thus allowing the Lab to fill-in more of the blanks and ensure even more meaningful data is gathered as a result of crashes.
TPV Developer meeting, Friday November 1st
TPV Developer meeting, Friday November 1st

It will be a while before this work is ready for inclusion in viewers; one reason for this is because the improvements to Google Breakpad require continual rounds of user testing as changes are made (hence why the Google Breakpad RC appearing and vanishing and reappearing in the viewer release channel). However, once the code is ready for release, it should provide for more accurate crash reporting across all viewers. As the work comes to fruition, it should allow for more accurate identification of a range of crash situation and assist with the work in trying to eliminate them.

Continue reading “SL projects update 44 (3): viewer, AIS, and HTTP”

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From Horsell Common to Grover’s Mill: a Second Life for a famous broadcast

I think everyone expected to see a man emerge–possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks–like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me–and then another.

“The Cylinder Opens”, Chapter 4 of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds

October 30th 1938, and across the airwaves originating from New York City, comes the familiar announcement  to thousands of radios within receiving range: Mercury Theatre on the Air is once more live and broadcasting. But this was to be no ordinary presentation by the company co-founded and led by the rising young genius, Orson Welles.

Orson Welles
Orson Welles

War of the Worlds has gone down in history as one of the most famous radio broadcasts ever made. Transplanting the story of a Martian invasion from 19th century rural England to the east coast of America in the 1930s, the Mercury Theatre on the Air gave a dramatisation that was – by some at least – taken all too literally as it reached out across the airwaves (although it appears much of the upset linked to the show actually occurred in the days after the broadcast, rather than at the time).

The confusion that did occur during the broadcast was most likely the result of Welles’ own clever structuring of the show, which was presented as a series of eye-witness accounts being reported-on “live” from a number of locations in upstate New York and in the city itself, and which saw the first “breaking news” announcement timed to coincide to the period when many listeners would re-tune their radios to CBS after listening to a popular show on a rival station.

On Friday November 1st, and with special permission of the estate of Howard Koch, one of the two co-writers of the original script, the Avatar Repertory Theatre (ART) staged a performance of Welles’ War of Worlds to mark the 75th anniversary of the original broadcast.

The production, which had first been performed in Second Life in 2011 by Seanchai Library and friends, brought several of that production’s cast back to the stage, together with new faces and voices from the ARTs team, all of whom once again filled the original stage set.

War of the Worlds, Avatar Repertory Theatre
War of the Worlds, Avatar Repertory Theatre

The set for the production was simplicity itself; eight members of the cast standing in the windows of what appears to be a broken and shattered building, perhaps a shop-front in one of the towns the Martians passed through en route to New York or which might even be the ruined remnants of one of that city’s towering skyscrapers. The wall behind the actors changed as the production progressed, displaying various backgrounds which helped enhance the story and offer visua cues as the settings for the unfolding tale changed.

Kayden Oconnell as Professor Richard Pierson
Kayden Oconnell as Professor Richard Pierson

Reprising the role of Professor Pierson, Kayden Oconnell stood a little forward of the main set, framed by an empty doorway.

Given Pierson, the pivotal character in the piece, had been played by Welles himself back in 1938 and already regarded as an actor, director and producer of some considerable renown, any adaption of the radio play needs a lead who can fill Welles’ shoes with confidence. Kayden Oconnell is just such an actor. In reprising the role, he brought with him the same gravitas, tone and authority he presented to audiences in 2011.

Alongside of him, the rest of the cast, often performing more than one role, also presented the material with authority and skill, so much so that if you closed your eyes, it was easy to imagine yourself back in a war-jittery America, listening to the most chilling “news” being broadcast on a dark, early winter’s night.

But the production wasn’t all words; great care had been taken to add both aural and visual effects, as with the original broadcast. Thundergas Menges provided the sound effects and music, the latter of which did much to recreated the feel of the original broadcast through the inclusion of pieces Welles had used to  represent the various bands playing during the “regular broadcasts” from CBS which his “news bulletins” would periodically interrupt at the start of the piece.

The visuals with the piece were once again a treat, and added another famous ingredient to the mix. As the Martians started on their attempted conquest of the Earth, a huge fighting machine taken from Jeff Wayne’s more recent but equally famous adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel, reared up over the audience, heat-ray menacing and ready to fire.

"They were inside the hoods of machines they'd made. Massive metal things on legs ... giant machines that walked..."
“They were inside the hoods of machines they’d made. Massive metal things on legs … giant machines that walked…”

I thoroughly enjoyed War of the Worlds when first presented in-world in this format back in 2011, and found myself equally enthralled this time around. In both cases, the cast presented a piece that offered us a window into the past and those chilly October nights when the fear of war was once again on the minds of many people, while at the same time presenting us with an aural and visual treat we could enjoy simply as a re-telling of one of science-fiction’s all-time great stories.

My only regret is really that this was only a single performance; it’s a piece I’d happily sit through again, and would, were it possible, encourage everyone to go see and enjoy.

Bravo to all involved!

The heat-ray strikes!
The heat-ray strikes!

War of the Worlds was staged at the Avatar Repertory Theatre’s New Theatre. It was directed by Caledonia Skytower and featured the voice talents of Corwyn Allen, MadameThespian Underhill, Ada Radius, Avajean Westland, Sodovan Torak, Em Jannings, Thundergass Menges, and Caledonia Skytower, with Kayden Oconnell as Professor Richard Pierson.