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.

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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.

think.pink“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.

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