Lab updates on viewer changes and CDN

secondlifeThe Lab has issued a blog post outlining some of the current improvements being made to Second Life.

Regular readers of my weekly SL project updates will already be familiar with the work referenced in the blog post, which focus on the changes being made to the viewer’s log-in screen, the removal of the viewer’s reliance on the GPU table when initially setting graphics preferences, the ongoing deployment of support for using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for texture and mesh fetching, and an announcement of the upcoming HTTP pipelining viewer, which should offer some significant improvements in people’s SL experience, as well as including further adjustments to leverage the CDN.

Commenting on the new benchmark viewer, which will eliminate the need for the GPU table, the Lab’s blog post states:

This is a new way of figuring out the best default graphics settings. Maybe this has happened to you: you got an awesome new graphics card, fired up SL… only to discover your graphics settings are set to Low, and can’t be changed? No more! This Viewer does away with the old GPU table and instead uses a quick benchmark measurement to detect your GPU to assign appropriate default graphics settings on startup. The settings on shiny powerful hardware should really let that hardware shine. Get a Project Benchmark Viewer today and help us gather metrics!  Please file bugs in JIRA if you find them.

The new log-in viewer is currently the only release candidate viewer sitting in the viewer release channel. As such, it is liable to be promoted to the de facto release viewer in the near future – probably in week 41 (week commencing Monday October 6th), assuming the statistics for it haven’t shown up any issues.

As the Lab’s blog-post indicates, this viewer is being introduced as a result of several months of A/B testing with the current viewer log-in screen. This testing appears to show that new user retention is some 3-5% better when incoming users are presented with the updated viewer’s log-in / splash screens than when compared with those for the current version.

For those interested in finding out how the new viewer differs from the current version, I have an overview of the new version already posted.

The log-in / splash screen in the login RC viewer seen by users who have previously logged-in to SL
The log-in / splash screen in the login RC viewer seen by users who have previously logged-in to SL

A point to note with the log-in screen changes is that they do not impact the widgets, etc., used by TPVs. Therefore, these changes shouldn’t force those TPVs using their own log-in splash screens to replace them with the Lab’s updates.

The final two aspects of the Lab’s blog post are the deployment of the CDN, which is currently for texture and mesh fetching, and which I’ve also extensively documented through my week SL project updates. At the time of writing, the CDN is available in ten regions across the main grid: Denby, Hippo Hollow, Hippotropolis, Testsylvania, Brasil Rio, Brocade, Fluffy, Freedom City, Rocket City or Whippersnapper. However, more regions will be added as time goes on.

There is no requirement for any special viewer in order to get an idea of the faster downloading of textures and meshes users should witness on entering any of these regions (there may be some rare instances where things are a little slower if you happen to reside closer to one of the Lab’s data centres than to your local CDN node, but these instances are likely to be very rare). However, once the CDN service is available across the grid, it may see a final viewer-side update as a part of final fine-tuning, and well as potentially being extended to include the delivery of other viewer-consumable assets.

The HTTP work, which has been ongoing for the last couple of years and very much a focus of Monty Linden’s work, is something I’ve also reported upon through my weekly SL project updates. This should have some general improvements on performance, both with texture and mesh downloads through the CDN, and with other HTTP-specific SL services. This viewer code is allegedly so fast, the Lab refer to it internally as the “weaponized viewer”.

The benefit of the CDN and the HTTP viewer code – which TPVs are being encouraged to adopt as quickly as their merge / test / release cycles allow – is summed-up in the closing comments on the Lab’s post:

Separately, each of these will improve texture and mesh loading performance, but put together, you should really see some exciting improvements in how long it takes to load new areas and objects – making touring the many fabulous places in Second Life you have not yet visited even better!

Those who have been independently testing both the CDN and the pipelining viewer (in a pre-project viewer release state) have been reporting that results with either / both are impressive. Check Shug Maitland’s comment on this blog, for example, after she tried the CDN regions with a current viewer.

MSABC: are you ready for Think Pink week?

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (MSABC) in SL is underway, and run through until the end of October. With activates taking place across the grid, and kiosks available in stores ,clubs and venues to allow people to donate to the cause, and the I Feel, You Feel hunt underway, The MSABC in SL committee want to get people in a pink mood through the first week of October, with Think Pink Week.“From October 1 to 8, 2014 avatars in Second Life will spread the message of pink throughout the grid, in order to raise awareness about breast cancer,” the MSABC chair, Jessii2009 Warrhol states in a press release about the week’s activities. “During this special week we will have fun themes, events, and contests to make you think pink! Below is a schedule of committee ran events and contests.”

The week will be marked with events taking place each day from Wednesday October 1st through until Wednesday October 8th inclusive, and everyone is invited to participate.

  • Wednesday, October 1st, 2014: Pink Ribbon Day – show your support for breast cancer awareness by wearing a pink ribbon throughout the day in Second Life
  • Thursday, October 2nd, 2014: Pink Shoe Day – help stomp out cancer by wearing pink shoes, boots, flip-flops, or pink feet!
  • Friday, October 3rd, 2014: Pink Denim Day – in the physical world, the American Cancer Society in association with Lee Jeans runs National Denim Day, with Lee Jeans donating US$5.00 every sale to the American Cancer Society. In SL, the MSABC team ask that you wear denim attire and/or buy the special par of mesh jeans for only L$5,00 each at the MSABC kiosk on the American Cancer Society island
  • Saturday, October 4th, 2014: Pink Your Parcel Day – turn your house, grass, and trees pink! Send us a photo and enter the special Pink Your Parcel photo contest. (Please see the note card available at the MSABC in SL kiosk on the American Cancer Society island for information on submit contest photos)
  • Sunday, October 5th, 2014: Pink Spirit Day – drop-in at the American Cancer Society Island for a day long party with live DJs and music
  • Monday, October 6th, 2014: Mission Pink – learn about the Making Strides mission and help us spread the word of Strides throughout Second Life, by placing your mission posters (available from the MSABC in SL kiosk on the American Cancer Society island) at your SL home or business
  • Tuesday, October 7th, 2014: Pink Swag Day – put on your best pink attire and show off your pink swag throughout the day. Go entirely pink and enter the Pink Swag Day photo contest!
  • Wednesday, October 8th, 2014: Pink Honor & Remembrance Day – as Think Pink Week ends, it is time to honour and remember those who have lost their fight against breast cancer. Honour a loved one by place the special pink ribbon at your Second Life home or business. Enter a special dedication to a loved one to be displayed on the MSABC in SL website.
The MSABC information kiosk on the American Cancer Society island
The MSABC information kiosk on the American Cancer Society island

Why Not Run Your Own Think Pink Event?

Clubs, shops, groups and venues across SL are invited to run their own Think Pink Week event. It doesn’t have to run for the whole week or even a whole day – as long as it meets the aims of MSABC in SL in raising awareness about breast cancers (and helps raise funds for the American Cancer Society!).

Simply pick-up a fundraising toolkit from the MSABC kiosk, make sure your event meets the MSABC in SL fundraising guidelines and then pass on details of the event to the MSABC team through the events submissions page on the website. They’ll then promote it through the official MSABC social media sites and on the Strides Fundraising Event Boards in Second Life.

About Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer or MSABC is the largest network of breast cancer awareness events in the United States, uniting more than 300 communities across the country. Every breast cancer walk run during the MSABC’s season is seen as an incredible and inspiring opportunity to honour those who have battled breast cancer, raise awareness on how the risk of breast cancer can be reduced, and to raise money to help the American Cancer Society fight the disease with research, information, services and access to mammograms for women who need them.

Related Links

Lab issues Skill Gaming Policy enforcement notice

secondlifeMonday September 1st saw the Skill Gaming policy come into effect. However, as the application process has apparently been slow-going, those who had submitted an application to become Operators and / or Creators of Skill Games were permitted to continue to operate as such, even if they had not received formal approval on their application from the Lab.

However, on Monday September 29th, the Lab issued a further updated on Skill Gaming, stating that as from Saturday November 1st, enforcement of the updated Skill Gaming Policy will come into effect – and will include anyone with an application currently pending with the Lab.

The blog post reads in full:

On September 1, 2014, the updated Skill Gaming Policy for Second Life went into effect. As a reminder, this policy allows for skill gaming activity in Second Life, but establishes that only approved Creators may make skill games with L$ payouts, only approved Operators may run them, and they may only be run on designated Skill Gaming Regions, where access is restricted to those who meet certain qualifications.

As our FAQs explained, applicants to the program who submitted their applications prior to the September 1 deadline have been permitted to continue their skill gaming activity while their applications are reviewed.

Beginning November 1, 2014, the enforcement of our Policy will apply to all Residents, including those with pending Skill Gaming applications that await Linden Lab review and approval. As of that date, any objects or regions found in violation of our Policy will be taken down. We strongly encourage all applicants to submit any outstanding materials for our review as soon as possible so that their applications may be processed before the deadline.

From the start, we’ve seen strong interest from Residents seeking to become approved skill gaming Creators and Operators. You can find the current list of approved participants here, and we’ll continue to review applications as quickly as possible to expand that list. If you would like to apply to become an approved skill gaming Creator or Operator, you can do so here.

The third paragraph is key to this announcement, as it suggests that the delay in processing applications may be as much down to a failure to supply required information to the Lab as with any internal delays in processing applications on the Lab’s part.

Therefore, if you have submitted a request to the Lab and have not received approval, now might be a good time to check to see whether you have missed any requests from the Lab to supply additional or missing information, or to touch base with them to ascertain the current status of your application.

In the unlikely case that anyone has been attempting to continue to operate or create games of skill without having made a suitable application, or who has been delaying submitting an application,  now might also be the time to do so. Please refer to the EchoSign application form.

A small aside in to this is that while the Lab indicates “strong interest” from people wishing to become approved Creators and / or Operators, there have been no updates to the list of Skill Gaming Approved Participants, which is linked-to in the Lab’s blog post, the only operators and games having been listed on August 21st. It will be interesting to see if this announcement yields further additions to the list.

In the meantime, you can keep abreast of the Skill Gaming Policy changes through the links below.

Related Links

Aakriti Arts: giving art shape

Aakriti Arts
Aakriti Arts

If I seem to be writing a lot of art-related entires at the moment, it’s because there’s a lot going on right now in terms of art and SL, and I’m also trying hard to catch-up on a number of posts, some of which are art-related or have an art focus, like this one.

Aakriti Arts, located on the homestead region of Amadora, is a stunning venus for art, relaxation, music and meditation operated by Ranadeep Resident. To refer to it as a gallery or exhibition space would be an understatement; the build is itself a work of art, drawing on designs from a number of SL architects, notably Colpo Wexler, to create a venue which is simply stunning to behold, beautifully suited to its various purposes and worth seeing first-hand as much for its looks as for the art exhibitions hosted within its halls and guest areas.

In all, there are seven gallery spaces within Aakriti – which I believe means “shape”. The first and largest of these is Gallery One, a completely stunning design by Colpo providing a home to Ranadeep’s fractal and abstract art.

Aakriti Arts - Ranadeep's fractal art
Aakriti Arts – Ranadeep’s fractal art

In front of Gallery One is a series of wooden walkways and concrete and glass platforms sitting just above the water, which connect the gallery spaces to one another and to the meditation and lounge areas, sweeping, glass-like awnings providing a measure of shade, and an ultra-modern live performance area.

These walkways can be used to reach another impressive design by Colpo, which forms Gallery Two, which is currently being prepared for an exhibition of Ziki Questi’s images from Second Life. The remaining five exhibition spaces are grouped around a paved plaza, also facing out towards the platforms over the water. Four of these spaces are contained in low, rectangular buildings either side of the plaza.

Aakriti Arts - Gallery Two
Aakriti Arts – Gallery Two

These four units host monthly displays by guest artists – and it is somewhat to my shame I’m just mentioning them now, as September draws to a close, because the works on display really are worth seeing. Spiral Silverstar offers her own fractal art, while Toy Soldier Thor presents a mix of 2D and 3D art from both the real world and Second Life; Creative Sam India (Sumanta Dutta in the physical world), who modestly describes himself as “just a beginner” with photography, displays some of his real life images, and ChapTer Kronfeld offers an intriguing series of 3D art pieces entitled, The Third Dimension of the Stroke.

Aakriti Arts - Peeking inside Gallery Two, where Ziki Questi will be exhibiting her work
Aakriti Arts – Peeking inside Gallery Two, where Ziki Questi will be exhibiting her work

On the far side of the plaza, sitting between the two pairs of guest art exhibit spaces is the final gallery space which is currently home to the LTD Gallery Shop, which features a newly opened exhibition of 2D and 3D art curated by Quan Lavender and featuring Sylvia Fitzpatrick, Mistero Hifeng, Kubbrick, Louly Loon, Sabine Mortenwold, Fushia Nightfire, Bryn Oh, Oh (Ohsoleomio), Janine Portal,  FirleFanz Roxley,  Milly Sharple, and Trill Zapatero, with all of the pieces being linked to the current edition of LTD Magazine.

Aakriti Arts - the LTD Shop Gallery
Aakriti Arts – the LTD Shop Gallery

Aakriti Arts offers a fabulous venue for art, and a very photogenic place in its own right. Those who don’t wish to spend their time walking between the various exhibition areas can use the teleport boards, while the lounge and meditation areas offer places to set and relax.

Patons of the art or anyone wishing to keep up with events in the region, be they exhibition openings or music events, etc., can do so by joining the Aakriti Arts group. If you do enjoy art in SL and have yet to visit Aakriti, it is definitely one to add you your list of “must see” galleries.

Related links

Black Dragon 2.4 Beta

Blackdragon logoUpdated, Thursday October 2nd, 2014: Niran released Black Dragon, a “feedback update” containing a number of additions and revisions based on feedback received for the initial 2.4 release. These includes a revision to the world map, see the end of this review for details, and the Black Dragon blog post for a complete list of revisions.

NiranV Dean released the latest version of his Black Dragon viewer on Sunday September 28th. Version 2.4 Beta, which is supplied in two flavours, a “normal” version, which comprises Niran’s additions and modifications to the viewer merged up to the Lab’s 3.7.15 code base (and is thus also referred to as version and a “current” version, which also has Niran’s updates and additions, but merged with the Lab’s 3.7.17 code (and is thus also referred to as

As well as emphasising this is a beta, with work still to come, Niran notes that the 3.7.17 version has not been thoroughly tested, and as such, may be subject to issues which might not be found in the 3.7.15 version. Keeping this in mind, for the purposes of this look at Black Dragon 2.4, I opted to go with the 3.7.17 version.

Note that this isn’t intended as an in-depth review of the viewer, but rather an overview of some of the more significant updates, together with some initial feedback.

Log-in / Splash Screen

This release of the viewer does away with the YouTube video which has been a feature of many of Niran’s viewer releases, and the log-in credentials area of the screen has been updated. Gone are the bold links to the right of the log-in area, replaced by a set of smart-looking buttons directly above the log-in credentials fields, with the Quit button ranged to the right and a link to the Black Dragon change logs to the left. A large, friendly CONNECT button has also been added below the credentials fields.

The old log-in credentials area for Black Dragon (top) and the cleaner, smarter new version (bottom) - click for full size
The old log-in credentials area for Black Dragon (top) and the cleaner, smarter new version (bottom) – click for full size

UI and Toolbar Buttons

The 2.3 release of Black Dragon, as noted in my last look at the viewer, saw some changes to the UI and to the toolbars, The “ink blots” effect within the UI are still there, but are more subtle in nature that the last release, although they have now found their way onto the various panel floaters as well, giving them a ragged look I personally found distracting; I found my eyes being drawn to the edges of any floater I opened, particularly if opened against a much lighter in-world background, rather than focusing on the options within it.

In my last overview of Black Dragon, I pointed to the new toolbar button placement area Niran had implemented, up in the top left corner of the viewer window, where one would normally expect to see the menu bar options. Buttons displayed in this area default to Niran’s “Tiny” size, and while it was a good use of available space, it could quickly become overrun if button labels are used rather than icons, or someone went daft placing buttons there, leading to the buttons wrapping themselves over two or more rows. More particularly, displaying the Navigation Bar / Favourites would result in the Navigation Bar clashing with any buttons placed there.

Niran has solved this latter problem in version 2.4 Beta by providing a new toolbar button. This is displayed by default when clean installing Black Dragon (or can be selected from the Toolbar Button floater). When clicked, it “opens” the Navigation Bar and Favourites, hiding the top button area (and also the Dragon menu, it must be said). The Navigation Bar has a corresponding button on the right-hand end which will hide them again.

The new toolbar buttons in Black Dragon 2.4 Beta
The new toolbar buttons in Black Dragon 2.4 Beta

Two other new toolbar buttons with this release are the Teleport History buttons, which allow you to teleport back to the last location visited, or on to the next location (if any) in your teleport history. Again, these buttons are displayed by default during a clean install, or can be selected from the Toolbar Buttons floater.

Preferences and Panel Updates

The Preferences panel witnesses improvements in layout, with a number of outdated options (such as Niran’s own Navigation Bar buttons for editing the sky, etc.) removed, and a general improvement on font and colour contrasts against the darker background of the viewer’s UI which does much to assist readability. Those perhaps small, these updates do much to make scanning through the Preferences options a lot easier on the eye.

Specific improvements to Preferences see the following panels overhauled: General, Display, Sound and Media, Chat, Camera, Interface and Viewer. Some of these see layout overhauls, some include new options or updated capabilities – please refer to the change log for specifics.

Alongside the Preferences panel, a number of other panels have also been overhauled, including the: People floater (incl. the Group tab), appearance panel, Outfit selection panel, Picks, and Destinations floater. Please refer to the change log for a full list of updates and changes.

World Map

Please refer to the end of this article for notes on the black Dragon update, which revised the world map to address some of the comments mentioned below.

The World Map gets a further update with the 2.4 Beta, which sees the layout once again resemble the World Map found in other viewers – albeit with the legend moved to the left side of the map this time, rather than along the top, where they are joined with the coordinates display and the option buttons. The search options remain to the right of the map, and slide  into view when an additional Show Search button to the left of the map is clicked.

The revised Wolrd Map showing the legend and options moved to the left of the map, and the open search options to the right (displayed by clicking on the button)
The revised Wolrd Map showing the legend and options moved to the left of the map, and the open search options to the right (displayed by clicking on the button)

Personally, the World Map legend in something I tend to set & forget. It’s the search options I use a lot more frequently, together with the coordinate fields and Copy SLurl options. I think  I’m likely not alone in this, so if the World Map is to be revised, I’m surprised that no-one has made the legend the section hidden by default (if, indeed, anything really needs to be hidden) and left the more frequently used search options available for use, be they to the left, right, top or bottom of the map itself. It may not result in so much of a saving in screen (or map display) real estate, but I’d take convenience of use over having to click buttons to reveal slide-out options.

Continue reading “Black Dragon 2.4 Beta”

Viewer release summaries: week 39

Updates for the week ending: Sunday September 28th, 2014

This summary is published every Monday and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version updated to version on September 22nd (formerly the Maintenance RC viewer core updates: fixes for inventory and outfit management; appearance editing; group & group ban management; camera controls; multi-grid support for favourites; notifications management; stability, bug and crash fixes) (download page, release notes)
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • No updates.
  • Project viewers:
    • Benchmark project viewer version released on September 25  – core updates: removes reliance on the GPU table for determining the viewer’s initial graphics settings (download and release notes)

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers


  • Black Dragon updated to version 2.4 Beta ( or on September 28th – core updates: please refer to the change log


  • No updates.

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links