November 18th: Firestorm to commence blocking of older versions

firestorm-logoOn Monday November 18th, Firestorm will commence blocking older versions of the viewer from accessing Second Life.

This is a move that has been coming for some time, and has been announced on a number of occasions through the Firestorm blog, through Firestorm user meetings and Q&A sessions, and which has been repeated through various blogs, including mine.

As it is, there are a good number of users still running versions of Firestorm that pre-date the introduction of Server-side Appearance (“avatar baking”) and some which even pre-date mesh rendering. Not only does running such versions lessen the user experience and increase the workload Firestorm support volunteers have in trying to assist people on older versions of the viewer.

Nor are the Firestorm team doing this entirely off their own backs. For obvious reasons, the Lab would like to see more users benefiting from the broad range of improvements which have already been rolled-out to SL (and those still being deployed in terms of further viewer-side updates), including SSA, interest list updates, improvements to the rendering pipe, improvements to viewer / server communications, and so on, all of which should improve the user experience, even for those on older hardware.

Given that Firestorm does have the lion’s user of active users, just under 65,000 of whom are still logging-in to Second Life on versions of the viewer pre-dating the more recent SL updates such as SSA, the easiest way to encourage them to update is to block older versions of the viewer.

Many Firestorm users are on version pre-dating SSB and mesh rendering
Many Firestorm users are still on versions pre-dating SSB and mesh rendering

This being the case, once the block comes into force, it means only users on Firestorm 4.4.0 through to the current version(s) will be able to access Second Life. As such, from November 18th, the following versions of Firestorm will be blocked from Second Life (numbers of people still using each version given in brackets):

  • 4.3.1.31155 (40,451)
  • 4.2.2.29837 (14,120)
  • 4.2.1.29803 (60)
  • 4.1.1.28744 (3334)
  • 4.0.1.27000 Beta (4585)
  • 3.3.0.24882 maintenance release (606)
  • 3.3.0.24880 hotfix release (571)
  • 3.2.2.24336 (881)
  • 3.2.1.24179 (166)

For those who feel they may be unable to run later versions of Firestorm, the recommendation is to give a later version a go and to contact Firestorm support teams for assistance or try the Firestorm troubleshooting wiki pages, as issues encountered may be fixable. For those who have genuine issues in trying to run later versions of Firestorm, Linden Lab’s Third-party Viewer Directory offers a list of self-certified alternative viewers you might want to try.

For further information, please refer to the Firestorm blog announcement.

Please note: I cannot address technical questions relating to Firestorm through this blog. Please contact the Firestorm support groups if you have specific technical questions.

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11 thoughts on “November 18th: Firestorm to commence blocking of older versions

  1. My own guess is that old video cards are the big problem, and I wonder if a machine like the one I started using Second Life with can even be upgraded now. It was AGP graphics, and that started being supplanted by PCIe around nine years ago. The computer lasted a long time, and I maxed out on memory before I even started on SL.

    People do run computers for longer than many businesses think. But there is a practical limit, and if I still had that old machine it wouldn’t be worth an upgrade. Too much has changed. About the only component standard that might still be current is the case. And that HDD was old. Could it even have lasted until today?

    So this is definitely going to be an “ouch” moment for some people. And I don’t see an easy fix.

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    1. Very old systems will have a problem, GPU-wise or otherwise. As it is, I understand that nVidia are looking to downgrade GT-style cards to a “legacy” status (if correct, I believe this will impact 7000, 8000 and 9000-series cards). so over time this is liable to come to hurt some people as well. The good news is that some of the improvements in SL and coming down the pipe should help those on older systems and potentially make upgrading something like the GPU a lower-cost option for those in a position hardware-wise to do so, than might otherwise be the case.

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      1. My own GPU has been thrown into the “legacy” bin by AMD (formerly ATI) about two years ago. I can use SL just fine, with Advanced Lighting Model enabled. However, we must note that owners of old laptops might find themselves in an awkward situation, as they simply can’t upgrade their GPUs (provided their machines have a dedicated one).

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    2. Yes. And there are also people still on old and not so old laptop computers, that have poor graphic cards (mostly Intel), and those can’t be replaced. These machines are fine with anything else they do, so they don’t feel like to replace their portable computers just because of some usage of SL.
      Also there are some people around the world with very poor monthly wages and what seems a little amount of money in a country could be pretty high elsewhere. And text-only viewers aren’t a sufficient replacement.
      And so on…
      I read many reasons. The world is quite varied and complex.
      But in many cases tinkering with the settings etc. helps.

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      1. You’re absolutely right is saying that twiddling with settings can help, hence why I mention something like the older nVidia cards being reduced to legacy status will likely only become an issue over time – right now, nothing will change, and as long as people are willing to twiddle and accept the fact that some functionality will impact usability and so is best not used, then nothing need become an issue with them for a good while yet.

        Here’s where LL are caught between a rock and a hard place: on the one hand they take a slamming from users and people outside of SL for the fact that the graphics look so “dated”, and when they try to update the capabilities, they run headlong into the wall of supporting old systems. They simply have to draw a line somewhere if they’re going to make headway.

        Perhaps part of the problem here as well is that the minimum specifications given for SL are perhaps overly optimistic and need revisiting. As it is, SL’s minimum specs are less than those required to run most modern games, and even the recommended specifications look like they could do with a little tightening.

        Systems with dedicated graphics will often be an issue – and not just where SL is concerned; such systems often have trouble running a range of grames, and often seen as compromised from the get-go. Sadly, as you say, they are generally the least expensive, which makes them attractive to purchasers. This is perhaps where the other side of the balance comes into play: those using such systems need to accept the fact that if Second Life is to continue to evolve and pave the way for whatever else Linden Lab will be bringing forth in the future, then inevitably, there will be options and capabilities they’ll be unable to use given their choice of hardware. I know that may sound harsh, but that is the nature of the beast (to use Sarah’s term above) with computing in general.

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        1. I agree with that. Changing the graphic settings won’t affect the render quality always though. An example is VBO. Another example is, when I see people lagging and crashing horribly, experiencing slow rezzing of the region etc… I ask them what is their drawing distance and then it turns out they have it at 512 or similar distances, and reducing it to 128, 64 or even 32, depending on the place and the situation, helps greatly in those cases, without to affect the rendering. Most TPVs offers shortcuts to adjust it dynamically. Also LOD and Flexyprims can be adjusted, increasing the frame-rate and not affecting the view too much. And so on.

          Another issue that LL face, in modernizing SL, besides legacy hardware (that affects anyone in the gaming industry too), without forgetting the legacy content that they prefer to not break (there are pros and cons, and many difficulties, but an avatar 2.0 would be great, for example), is that SL has a different 3D engine, compared traditional 3D game engines and it works in a different way. Thus, on the same machine, you could run Crysis or Skyrim well, with shadows etc and a good framerate, while SL with shadows enable could barely reaches 10 FPS if not worse.
          Part of this problem and of the outdated look comes from the amateurish content. SL is wonderful for creative people, but the content is developed by the users in an inconsistent and not optimized way. SL is like a 3D Internet, somehow, where you may think at each region or parcel as a different website: there are beautiful websites and the poor looking and/or poorly usable ones. So the content may vary. I saw pretty stunning and well done mesh objects in SL anyway. Also I saw good mesh models, but with each face using a different large texture, that is a thing that in the game industry would get you fired at once. A good amount of the issues that people experience in SL is because of the texture loading and/or filling their video memory. PennyCow wrote good advices about that:
          http://pennycow.blogspot.com/2013/06/building-better-second-life.html

          However I agree that who is using an ancient and/or under-performing hardware can’t demand too much and expect that they should upgrade anyway, sooner or later. They could still use the old viewers, but as SL improves, they would get broken. Now, still comparing with the Net, people could still use Netscape and IE5 if they want so, but most websites would look bad or would be not usable at all. Also there are standards that modern browsers are following more and more, and LL enforces some standard in their policies, so that anyone can see the same things, whichever SL viewer their are using. Still you could let people decide what they want keep to use anyway, but in the special circumstances of SL, there is something more: if I spend hours (and L$) in playing with my clothes and my mesh shoes, just to hear: “uh, you don’t have feet” or “lol you are only head and hands”… isn’t so nice and encouraging. The same with buildings. With the introduction of mesh and the inertia from users and some viewers, that happened very often in the beginning.

          Yet, there are understandable reasons. But who thinks to not have alternatives left besides to see gray people in a pre-SSA/B viewer or to leave SL, should ask for support first, as you said.

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  2. It’s the nature of the beast. Microsoft will stop supporting XP soon. It is unfortunate that some can not afford to adapt. However, SecondLife is evolving and we are all better off as a result.

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  3. I still have Xp running in my 2 oldest computers, one of them is running 24/7 as host for my Osgrid regions, and more!
    That one still uses a Nvidia 9600 gtx vga and it still does a perfect job!
    So there will be always use for old hardware (My soul mate still uses her 8 Year old dektop as host for a region on Sogrid!)!
    In last resource, ill have to deal with the fact one day i must probably be changing to Linux (I should have done it long ago, but helas, never had any reason to blame Windows Xp or 7!)

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