“Project Interesting” arrives as a release candidate viewer

The long-awaiting “Project Interesting”  viewer has finally made it to release candidate status with the arrival of version 3.6.11.283895 of the viewer on Thursday November 14th.

This viewer represents the last stage in the current work on improving interest list functionality, the code which controls how the data relating to your in-world view is handled by both the server and the viewer. This includes what is sent to the viewer, what is retained by the viewer for reuse and things like the order in which objects are rendered when you log-in to SL or teleport (so that the “interesting” objects which are closer to you or which are particularly large should render first, for example).

The vast majority of the interest list work has already been delivered, and everyone should already be enjoying the broader benefits. However, the final phase of the current batch of work has been focused on both server and viewer changes, and the latter have been somewhat delayed due to a number of bugs, some of which were the result of the need to further tweak things server-side which in turn adversely affected the viewer’s behaviour, while others were bugs which appeared to have been dealt with, only to return in a later build.

AS-12_001
The “project interesting” viewer updates should further improve scene loading for users through improved caching of region and object data, better use of memory, etc.

The core changes within this viewer relate to what can be cached locally. This should allow the viewer to store more information on objects and regions than is currently the case, enabling it to re-use object / region data without having to rely on the server to re-send the information, improving rendering times when you are exploring a region / teleporting back to a region previously visited.

One of the bugs which delayed the arrival of the “project interesting” viewermeant that some objects would not render (as is the case with the house in this image). Unlike the recent “missing prims” issue, no bounding box, etc., was loaded by the viewer, so right-clicking where the house should be would not resolve the issue – a relog was required (image courtesy of Whirly Fizzle)

There are other improvements to further assist with scene loading as well. For example, when teleporting into a region never before visited, the viewer can now tell the simulator that it has no data for the region cached, and the simulator can in turn simply get on with prioritising the data and downloading to the viewer, rather than it having to repeatedly ask the viewer if it needs the data, as is currently the case. The result of this is that “several seconds” can be shaved from scene loading times for uncached regions. Also, the viewer will no longer load objects from cache into memory if they are completely by scene geometry, thus reducing unnecessary memory use.

The viewer is currently a release candidate, which means it will be downloaded and installed for some users who have indicated a willingness to participate in the release candidate programme through their viewer Preferences (Set-up > Willing to update to release candidates). Those who wish to manually install the viewer can read the release notes and download it from the link below.

The Lab issued a blog post to accompany the viewer release (which I initially missed), which includes a video demonstrating the changes, narrated by Torley Linden.

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Small town winter

Small Town Green
Small Town Green

Winter is coming. At least in the northern hemisphere it is. I know this not so much because the days are getting shorter and colder (although these are both the case), but because today my car went to the garage for its pre-winter check-up. I’m a bit of a Sloane Ranger in that I don’t exactly live in the countryside (although I’m not far off it), but I do drive a 4×4 in the shape of a Land Rover Discovery. It’s a bit of a monster, I know, but I in part got it after my previous car was totalled in a head-on, courtesy of someone deciding going around corners on the wrong side of the road was a good idea. My other reason for getting it was that at the time, spending a good deal of my winter time in the woolly wilds of Northumberland, and having a 4×4 up there in winter really is a good idea.

Anyway, all the talk of winter checks and making sure everything was topped-up, cleaned-up, safe for the rigours of winter driving (ice, frost, snow, slush, salt, etc.), left me feeling I needed a little bit of an early winter wander in SL. There’s obviously going to be a good many regions switching to winter themes over the coming weeks (many already have, I know), so I opted to start my winter travels a little modestly, visiting a region I dropped-in on back in summer, but never actually blogged about.

Small Town Green
Small Town Green

Small Town Green has been completely redesigned since my initial summertime visit. Most of the region has been sunk to form a deep water bay surrounded by a U-shaped island, with a rocky central islet. While the theme is again winter in look and feel, rather than presenting a contiguous scene, the region is perhaps more of a series of interlinked tableaux, which makes for interesting wandering.

You start at the small town (village?) of the title, which lines a winding road leading away from the railway on the west side of the island and which meanders around to wilder country to the north-east, and the towers of an old stone bridge which looks to have once spanned the mouth of the bay.

Meanwhile, the railway line, running from nowhere to nowhere on the west side of the island, forms a little tableau of its own which links with the town with the snowy hills to the south. Here sits a log cabin, possibly a house or perhaps a hunting lodge, with trees bereft of their leaves climbing up the hills behond in orderly ranks.Wander through the trees and you’ll pass reindeer and come to a small camp at the top which someone has managed to reach in their own 4×4, ready for a spot of snowboarding.

Small Town Green
Small Town Green

Each of these elements, together with the central island, linked to the rest by two slender rope-and-wood bridges, present the visitor with individual scenes to be enjoyed and photographed, while also leading one on from one to the next, encouraging exploration.

Within each of these scenes are additional stories, each of which is separated from the others and yet part of the whole. In the town, for example, there’s the pizza bar, clearly a takeaway service, sitting at the side of the road with only an old telephone box from the UK to keep it company.  Is the ‘phone box actually where orders for pizza are received? And what’s the story at the cottage at the foot of the hills? Clearly someone is living there – someone with a good taste in literature, given they’re reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. Are they a resident, or someone here for the hunting season? If so, are the reindeer further up the hill really safe?

Small Town Green
Small Town Green

There are also odd little juxtapositions here as well, such as the old cart, complete with solid wooden wheels from a bygone era of history, slowly hauled down the street by a shaggy ox while shiny new cars sit parked at the roadside.

All told, Small town Green is an ideal location if you’re seeking somewhere that offers a number of unique locations linked by a central theme or series of idea for a photo shoot. It’s also ideal for the SL traveller who is looking for somewhere to simply enjoy a winter’s feel; the region lends itself particularly well to early morning misty settings in windlight, or early evening / night scenes.

I was also going to mention that you should make a point of crossing the bridges to the central islet and taking a peek at the frozen pond there, complete with penguins. On ice skates. Sadly, the penguins vanished at some point during my visit, to be replaced by a couple of ice sculptures.  While they are not quite as wacky as penguins on ice skates, the sculptures and the pond and its seats are still worth a visit.

Small Town Green
Small Town Green

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UKanDo 3.6.10: nips, tucks and tweaks

logoUKanDo, the v3-based viewer from Connor Monaron updated to a new release on Wednesday November 13th. Version 3.6.10.27888 sees the viewer return to parity with the Lab’s release code base and gain the most recent improvements from the Lab including the Facebook SLShare capability.

This is more of a progressive update on capabilities already in the viewer rather than a major update with lots of new features and shinies, which is entirely in keeping with Connor’s stated intent to produce a viewer which is reasonably close to LL’s own, but which incorporates some of the more popular TPV functions and abilities.

In my last look at UKanDo, I reported on the arrival of the QuickTools floater, a variation of the popular Quick Preferences options found in a number of TPVs, which offers  rapid access to a number of the viewer’s capabilities. At the time, I pointed out that the icon for the toolbar button for the panel could perhaps do with a re-think, given it was the same as the icon for the viewer Preferences panel, so there was a risk of the two buttons being confused when set to Icon Only display mode.  With this release, the QuickTools button icon has been revised so that it is now a film reel / pie menu, making the button quite distinct from the Preferences button when both are used in a toolbar.

As well as the QuickTools button, the Area Search button and the Build button also get new icons.

Area Search Udpate

Area Search also sees the addition of further search criteria in the form of check boxes which allow the user to define the kind of objects which are to be located: physical, temporary, attachments, or others. These can be checked individually or in combination, and provide an additional level of granularity to object searches.

Area Search: updates with new checkboxes for more granular searches and a new option button (bottom left)
Area Search: updates with new checkboxes for more granular searches and a new option button (bottom left)

A new gear button has also been added to the floater, which can be used to access additional configuration options. Currently this only comprises Auto-Track Selections (displays beacon for an item selected from the list) and Stop Tracking (removes beacon). However, as this is reported as “part 1” of an overhaul of Area Search, more options may be forthcoming in the future.

Advanced Build Options

Version 3.6.10.27888 of UKanDo see the introduction of an Advanced Build Options floater, which contains some of the options also found in Preferences > UKanDo > Building, as well as some options not present in that tab.

The Advanced Build Options floater, offering additional default / options for builders, some of which can also be found in Preferences > UKanDo > Build
The Advanced Build Options floater, offering additional default / options for builders, some of which can also be found in Preferences > UKanDo > Build

The new floater is accessed by editing / creating an object and selecting Build > Options > Advanced Build Options from the menu bar or pressing CTRL-ALT-B.

Geometry Overload Protection

A new addition to the Graphics tab of Preferences with release 3.6.10.27888 is the Geometry Overload Protection. Enabled by default, this is designed to stop the viewer crashing due to someone using objects with excessive geometry (a common form of viewer attack in some regions). This addition brings a slight change in layout to the default display of the Graphics tab, which includes the option to enable the Advanced Lighting Model without having to access the Advanced options.

Preferences > Graphics gets revised to include the Geometry Overload Protection option and an option to enable / disable ALM without having to access the Advanced options
Preferences > Graphics gets revised to include the Geometry Overload Protection option and an option to enable / disable ALM without having to access the Advanced options

Other Updates

This release also includes:

  • Further adjustments to the viewer UI, with the buttons looking even more V1-style
  • Favourites Bar Landmark text now white for easier reading
  • Select only copyable objects Added to the Build -> Options menu
  • Show each avatar’s age in their name tag unless they are older than the number of days specified in Preferences > UKanDo > Avatar
  • Show LookAt / PointAt- includes names on crosshairs option Preferences > Privacy
  • Status Bar Hide/Show options for the:
    • Marketplace button
    • Buy Currency button
    • NetStats Bar Graph
  • Option to displayed log-in names as well as Display Names in the People floater tabs (click the options button and check View Login Name)

Feedback

A small, tidy update to the viewer which again draws upon some popular TPV features without risking the viewer becoming top-heavy.

Still no media filter at this point in time, which I’d personally like to see (and would like to see in the official viewer for that matter). Having it available discourages a complete disabling of media and allows one to more easily enjoy music when travelling around without necessarily being over-exposed to more nefarious goings-on. Another thing I’d like to see is the proper release note attributions for those elements incorporated from other TPVs.

That the Advanced Build Options floater and the options in Preferences > UKanDo > Building have an odd level of functional cross-over which might cause some confusion at times. Given both the degree of overlap between them and the degree of individual options found in one but not the other, it might be an idea to make them consistent in terms of the options offered by both, but this is a minor quibble.

Performance-wise, the viewer operates pretty much as anticipated, and I didn’t notice any particular drop-off in frame rates when using CHUI in expanded mode, so I assume this issue has been fixed in the last rebuild of the 3.6.10 viewer, and that UKanDo has the fix. However, this is only my experience, so don’t quote me on that if you find you are still having that particular problem either with the latest release of UKanDo or the official viewer!

In the meantime, I’ll keep following UKanDo as it develops.

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