Monday Meme: me and my system

Jacob's Pond; Inara Pey, Feb 2014, on FlickrJacob’s Pond, February 2014 (Flickr) – blog post

Berry has offered-up another Monday Meme, this one on system specs and viewers. As my “new” PC has just reached its first anniversary (and is already starting to look a tad long in the tooth compared to some), I thought I’d give one of my intermittent replies.

The instructions are simple: share your computer specs and answer the following questions.

  1. Share any of your computer specs (video card, memory, etc..) Click here if you don’t know any of those things or just share the year you bought it. The specifications of my primary system, and default viewer settings are on my system specifications page, together with those of my laptop and tablet. Additional points on the primary system: motherboard: Asus P8-Z77-V LX2; PSU – Corsair RM 850W Gold; Cooling – air (water capable), with front, rear and dual side fans + CPU fans; monitor: HP 1440×900 19-inch flat panel. Currently on my wish list is a Space Navigator; I’d like to give “proper” machinima a go
  2. Which viewer do you use most often? Firestorm, although just about every current TPV installed  as well as several of the SL viewer RC’s and project viewers, all for review purposes, and I do swap and change between them on occasion
  3. What is your FPS (Frames Per Second) when you have your graphics on Ultra? No idea. I find High sufficient for most things and push to High-Ultra for reviews / photographs. FPS is a very subjective figure, given the number of factors that can impact it. On my home region, with all the graphics bells and whistles enabled, I can average an FPS in the 50s with the neighbours around, and tends to be around the same in most “quiet” regions. Elsewhere it can bottom-out in the teens.
  4. How often does Second Life crash for you? Is it usually just a viewer crash or your whole system crashes? What are you usually doing at the moment of the crash? Rarely, and on those occasions when it does, it’s usually just the viewer. I used to suffer crashes when flying / sailing in SL, but since swapping my service to fibre, those instances have ceased (crosses fingers). I do occasionally hit a graphics memory issue when being overly ambitious taking photos at really high resolutions (e.g. 4000 px across or greater. I now tend to keep to 3000 across as my upper limit).
  5. Do you know of any tips or tricks in the settings that could improve performance?
    Just as a short general list of viewer-focused suggestions for daily use:

    • Don’t ramp-up up your bandwidth, follow Firestorm’s recommendations; don’t ramp your LOD ridiculously high 3-4 should be sufficient for most things (I think this is actually capped, but can’t remember); keep your draw distance reasonable; don’t ramp-up the number of concurrent mesh requests the viewer is making, it won’t improve things, but could end-up hurting you and others (LL have done a lot of work in this area, but viewers opening 100s of HTTP connections to a server are still a problem); don’t clear cache as a first resort when hitting an issue
    • Drop your particle count down unless you specifically need it high. Particles are all viewer-side, so it’s just extra work for the GPU if you’re not taking any notice of them.
    • Use the Max. No. of Non-impostor Avatars slider (Preferences > Graphics) to reduce the number of avatars your GPU has to completely render when in busy regions (e.g. set to 0 or just above – unless you’re taking photos, of course!)
    • If you have a system with limited memory, don’t have dozens of tabs open in your web browser when running SL; you’ll just have the browser and the viewer vying for resources.

One day, I might even get one of these out the day Berry actually posts a meme, particularly given I actually started this one on Monday before things started distracting me!

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SL projects update week 33/1: SL news and BCU exploit

Server Deployments

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest news and information.

It’s another lightweight week in terms of deployments.

  • On Tuesday August 12th, the Main (SLS) channel received the server maintenance package deployed to the RC channel in week 32, which primarily includes the JSON issue “Valid JSON numbers like 0e0 no longer valid after 14.06.26.291532″ (BUG-6657).  As noted in week 32’s report, this “fix” in fact roll backs the fix for an earlier JSON issue (BUG-6466) which appears to have triggered the more recent issue. A fix for both problems is now currently in the works
  • There are no RC channel deployments for week 33.

SL Viewer

As I reported here, a new version of the experimental log-in viewer arrived on Friday August 8th. Version 3.7.14.292660 has yet to appear on the Alternate Viewers wiki page, but displays a revised log-in screen which has the log-in credentials moved to the top of the screen.

The new log-in splash screen sees the removal of the Create Your Account option and the placement of the log-in options at the top of the screen in a new header area
The new log-in splash screen sees the removal of the Create Your Account option and the placement of the log-in options at the top of the screen in a new header area

In addition, for users logging-in to Second Life for the very first time using the viewer (or who have performed a completely clean install), a very simple log-in screen is displayed, which explains to users that they’ll be logged-in to a Learning Island, where they’ll have to find their way to the exit portal in order to proceed to a Social Island (both the Learn Island and Social Island being elements introduced to the new user experience in July 2013).

All other SL viewer versions remain as per the Alternate Viewers wiki page  / my Current Viewer Releases page.

Simulator User Group Meeting

There was no Open-source Development meeting on Monday August 11th or Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday August 12th, as the Second Life technical team are all attending a planning / brainstorming session. These meetings will resume as usual in week 34, with the Server Beta meeting on Thursday August 14th the next scheduled User Group meeting.

Other Items

Windows BCU Exploit

This isn’t a project update or notification from Linden Lab. I’m including it here for ease of reference.

A note card is circulating from the United Content Creators of SL relating to an exploit using the  Browser Configuration Utility (BCU) which can be found on Windows systems.

BCU is described as a “Search Hook Addin is an Internet Explorer URL search hook that redirects search results when an address or search keyword is entered into the web browser.” Among other things, it is sometimes bundled with Gigabyte motherboards, although there have been reports that it can also be shipped with Asus and other main boards. It’s been a known source of potential annoyance since mid-2009.

According to the UCCSL note card, some people are using BCU as a phishing exploit using profile weblinks, streaming media, media on a prim and perhaps even via bots wearing transparent prims with streaming media. To quote the note card:

This Exploit redirects your Viewer to another website other than SL that will display the normal SL login screen, then tell you that your login credentials are incorrect.   while it is telling you that your login credentials are incorrect, it is collecting your login data. At this time we have found hundreds of web resources that are transmitting this infection, and a large number of user profiles with these links in them.

Apparent signs of infection are that the viewer takes a lot longer to initialize when you try to start it, and it fails to recall your user name, if saved, and the note card refers to an EULA being displayed, which I assume is a reference to the ToS.

The recommended means of dealing with the issues is to:

  • Use the Windows Task Manager’s Process tab to see if your computer is running BCU.exe*32 and BCUService.exe (make sure you use Show Process from all users if more than one person uses your computer)
  • BCU can generally be removed from a computer without affecting its performance or use, so you may want to check your system and remove the utility altogether, either via the Control Panel > Programs and Features or manually (the utility should be around 356-357 KB in size according to DirectVM)
  • Go to the SL website at http://www.secondlife.com, and use the account section of your dashboard to change your password. Logout and log back into the website to confirm your updated password

As further precautionary measures, disable your viewer from playing media automatically and from playing media attached to other avatars (both under Preferences > Sound and Media). Also, if you have a viewer with the media filter installed, make sure you have it enabled so you can check audio streams – but remember the filter doesn’t provide any safeguard against media on a prim, so always be wary of untrusted MOAP sources. Finally, don’t click on links in the profiles or people you don’t know / trust.