SL project updates week 44/1: Server, CDN update

The Pines at Jacob's Pond, Jacob; Inara Pey, October 2014, on FlickrThe Pines at Jacob’s Pond, Jacob (Flickr) – blog post

Server Deployments Week 44

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

Main (SLS) Channel

On Tuesday, October 28th, CDN support was deployed across the Main channel, meaning that the entire grid now utilises the Highwinds CDN for texture and mesh fetching.

As the 130 regions deployed to the Snack channel were all originally from the Main channel, they have been / will be reabsorbed into that channel, and Snack will once again be dissolved.

Release Candidate Channels

On Wednesday, October 29th, all three RC channels should receive the same server maintenance project. which includes some minor improvements.

SL Viewer

There are currently two RC viewers possibly vying for promotion to the de facto release viewer. These are the HTTP Pipelining RC (version 3.7.19.295700) and the Benchmark viewer (version 3.7.19.295759), which should put an end to the use of a manually maintained list of GPUs in order to initially set the graphics defaults in the viewer.

Both of these were updated on Friday, October 24th, which has delayed any promotion to the de facto release viewer while the Lab gathers performance statistics on both of them. commenting on the status of both during the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, October 27th, Oz Linden indicated that all things being equal, the HTTP Pipelining viewer should be promoted in the next 24-48 hours. He also indicated that there may be a further round of updates to come to Benchmark viewer in the offing as the Lab continued to tweak it.

CDN: Next Steps

In the vast majority of cases, the CDN is working as expected for users. There is a very small minority who, possibly because of their geographical closeness to the Lab’s servers or possibly due to issues between their ISP and the Highwinds services, are experiencing slightly worse ping times to their nearest CDN nodes when compared with pinging the Lab’s servers directly.

Even with the deployment to the Main channel, the Lab is continuing to monitor reports from CDN closely. However, as previously mentioned in my CDN coverage, it is likely the scope of CDN usage will be expanding in the future to handle other asset data – sounds, animations etc.

Also, and as noted in my week 43 TPV Developer meeting report, an offshoot of the CDN work is that there is a belief within the Lab that viewer caching may not be working as well as it might be. Internal discussions have held on possibly validating whether or not this is the case, and it is likely some work will be carried out in this area – and may well involve TPVs.

However, where both the viewer cache and extending the use of the CDN to cover other asset data are concerned, there are no time frames currently in mind. At the moment, the focus is very much on get the new tool chain and build process for the viewer finalised and into production, and in dealing with bugs and issues. As such, it might be a while before specific work on the viewer cache and / or work on extending the use of the CDN gets underway.

On a wider front, as well as monitoring the direct effectiveness of the CDN service, the Lab will be “spending quite a bit of time and effort assessing just what the effect of this change has been on operations from a number of perspectives”, to quote Oz.

Other Items

LI Issues?

There are reports circulating of unexpected changes to Land Impact (LI) values. While the Lab hasn’t altered land accounting, there have apparently been incidents of LI suddenly increasing in builds which have gone unchanged; one instance quoted during the Simulator User Group meeting referenced a door which apparently increased from 0.5 LI to 3 LI.

There have been instances in the past of the viewer incorrectly reporting the LI for an item when it is pulled from inventory. Corrections can generally be made either by relogging or by returning the item to inventory and rezzing it again. Altering the physics shape of linksets (from prim to convex and back again) can sometimes lead to problems, particularly if a prim in the linkset is contains torturing (such as a hollow or advance cut / twisting) or a script. However, this issue appears to be new, and a cause is proving hard to identify.

As always, if you have encountered the problem, and it is both persistent and reproducible, please raise a bug report.

Graphics Profiles in the Viewer

A suggestion was put forward during the Simulator User Group meeting for the Lab to allow the saving of graphics profiles. This would mean, for example that you could have a graphics profile where various options – the quality slider, shadows, occlusion, draw distance, etc., could be pushed towards their upper limits; and another where the setting are more conservative and less taxing on your GPU / system.

Then, where you are in a region (your own, or somewhere you know), where you know you can use the higher settings, you can quickly enable that profile, but when you move on to a region where (say) there are a lot of avatars and a lot going on, you can select the more conservative profile and thus reduce the potential performance issue on your system without actually having to go through and manually adjust all your settings.

Responding to the idea, Oz suggested the idea might be best suited to being a code contribution – and there was some potential interest in taking the idea on. However, this does not guarantee the idea will be carried forward – but it will be interesting to see if the idea does move forward at all in the coming months.

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Alchemy 3.7.19: mainlining HTTP and enhancing legacy search

Alchemy-logoOn Monday October 27th, the Alchemy team released version 3.7.19.34077 Beta of their viewer. This latest release brings with it a series of updates, nips, ticks and tweaks which collectively move the viewer further towards a full release status.

As with the last release (for which I also provided an overview), the latest version is available for Windows on both 32-bit and 64-bit flavours, and a “universal” Mac offering suitable for both 32-bit and 64-bit (Linux is still “coming soon”). As is common for my reviews of viewer updates, this is not a detailed examination of every change made in the release, but rather an overview of those items which are liable to be of significant interest to users. Details of all updates can be found both on the Alchemy release notice for the viewer, and the change log.

Lab Updates

As this release of Alchemy is based on the Lab’s 3.7.19 code base, it has almost all of the most recent updates from LL, with the notable exception of the revised log-in splash screen – so the log-in area remains in its familiar place at the foot of the screen. And I say “notable” here only because I’ve become familiar with using the Lab’s log-in screen while playing with various versions of the official viewer, not as any indication of anything else.

The viewer does, however, get the latest bug fixes, etc., from the Lab to make it to release status and incorporates things like the updated snapshot floater and AIS v3. More particularly given the deployment of CDN support across the grid, it includes Monty Linden’s latest viewer-side HTTP updates, which should see the viewer handle scene loading a lot faster, as well as generate significant improvements in inventory fetching.

Search

Search has been given an impressive overhaul with this release, allow the use of both the v3-style web search option and also legacy search. Considerable effort has gone into how results in the legacy search options are displayed, so that all the information relating to a specific search item can be shown in the right side of the search panel without the need to open additional floaters (see below).

Alchemy now has full legacy search support, which includes the ability to display all the information on a selected item (such as my profile, as seen above) in a single pane of the search floater
Alchemy now has full legacy search support, which includes the ability to display all the information on a selected item (such as my profile, as seen above) on the right side of the search floater panel

Another nice refine is that when searching for groups, if you select a group you have not joined, only the essential information is displayed – group description and purpose, the JOIN button, creator, who can join, etc. However, should you join the group, simply click on the reload button, and the displayed group will update to show all options and information.

When using the Search option to locate a group you have not joined, the results pane will only display the essential information on the group (l). However, should you then join the group, clicking on the reload button (highlightd on the left image) will refresh the g
When using the Search option to locate a group you have not joined, the results pane will only display the essential information on the group (l). However, should you then join the group, clicking on the reload button (highlighted on the left image) and the group information will update to a full display

World Map

The World Map gets an update with this release, with some trimming and realigning, together with a noticeable move of the legend and search options to the left of the map tile area. If I’m honest, I’m really not sure of how much of a difference this makes. There doesn’t seem to be that much space reclaimed, and the move of the legend, etc., to the left of the map seems as much as change for the sake of change rather than presenting a specific benefit. But then, that is the subjective nature of using viewers – we all see things differently.

Camera Floater

The old and new camer floater - note the button for minimising the controls on the latter
The old and new camera floater – note the button for minimising the controls on the latter

A potentially more appreciable change lies with the camera controls. Until now, Alchemy has defaulted to the v3-style camera floater which, as the website release notice states, takes a fair amount of screen space, a lot of which is made up of a blank panel.

The new Alchemy camera floater is a lot smaller and neater, making it a lot less real estate hungry without losing any of its useability.

For those who would like it almost completely out-of-the-way without having to close it entirely, the control buttons now include a button (highlighted in the lower image, right) which will hide / show the actual camera movement controls, sliding them neatly out of, and into view.

All told, a nice, tidy update.

Chat Updates

Alchemy 3.7.19.34077 includes a number of updates to chat, including:

  • When an avatar is typing in chat, “Typing” is displayed over their head (can be enabled / disabled via Preferences > Chat > Show Nearby Chat Indicators)
  • When someone engaged in an IM conversation with you is typing a message, a pen will appear alongside their name in the Conversations floater, indicating they are typing, and “XX is typing…” will appear in the header bar of the conversations floater, where XX is the other person’s name
  • You can prevent Alchemy from sending those people your own IM typing notifications via checking Preferences > Chat > Don’t Send Typing Notification in IM
  • You can change the nearby chat channel for use with translators and scripts:
    • /setchannel \  will set the desired channel (so /setchannel \1 will set it to channel 1)
    • /setchannel 0 will change it back
  • Alchemy will now allow up to 3096 characters in a single chat message.

Other Items of Note

  • Ability to display a pop-up when people enter / leave a region (People floater > Options > check Radar Alerts)
  • Option to select the display of user names, display names, both, etc., (Preferences > General > drop-down menu under Usernames (the Highlight Friends option the drop-down replaces can now be found under the Colors tab)
  • Preferences > Move & View includes three new check boxes:
    • Always enable flight ability
    • Moonwalk (aka don’t turn avatar around when walking backwards)
    • Nimble (aka don’t run certain animations, such as the landing “splat” when falling, to appear more nimble)
New movement options under Preferences > Move & View
New movement options under Preferences > Move & View
  • Inventory auto-accept options moved from Preferences > Privacy to Preferences > Interface > Inventory
  • Preferences > Interface has two new sub-tabs, Mouselook and Security, and numerous new options throughout all the sub-tabs
  • Teleport progress bar now displays the region to which you are teleporting
  • Geenz Spad’s projectored reflections improvements.

Feedback

A further nice update from the Alchemy team, which adds some neat additions to the viewer – the work on legacy search is particularly impressive. There has also been a lot of under the hood work as well, with memory leak fixes, fixes for bottlenecks, slowdowns, etc., which the Alchemy team say should lead to better performance in addition to the updates that have come from the Lab.

For those who tend to ask, there is still no support for the Restrained Love API as yet, but it the promise is there that it will be added in the future.

Related Links

Blood, lust, letters and sleuths as MadPea go adult

posterSamantha Mason, blonde, beautiful, sexy, provocative … deadly. A woman with an appetite for lust – and for murder. “The Mantis” they called her, someone in whom “evil never looked this sexy.”

It didn’t matter whether her victim was male or female, the pattern was the same: seduce, lure, kill. Before being finally apprehended, she had been responsible for no fewer than eight gruesome deaths. Tried and convicted, she was locked away, and society breathed easy once more.

But now, a year later, the murders have started again. Sadistic and twisted, each a measure of erotic savagery wreaked upon a helpless victim. It seems that perhaps someone is picking up where “The Mantis” had left off. But just who is responsible, and where will it end….?

This, in essence (and with thanks to Kess Crystal from the team for the press release) is how the scene is set for the latest hunt to come from the folks at MadPea Games – Blood Letters.

Starting on Saturday, November 1st, 2014, and running through until the end of that month, Blood Letters is billed as the first adult-themed hunt to be run by MadPea – and it is also somewhat timed-based, which makes it a double departure from past events, something which has “Queen Pea” Kiana Writer, who heads-up MadPea, pretty excited. And everything hinges on a series of letters – the Blood Letters of the title.

“Participants take on the role of a private detective,” she tells me as we discuss the new hunt. “And they have their office. Every day a letter will appear at the office; this letter reveals a part of the story, a quest that leads them to a location. And when they solve that day, they will receive a prize from that store.”

Participants in the hunt take on the role of a private detective, operating out of the offices of Checkmate Inc
Participants in the hunt take on the role of a private detective, operating out of the office of Checkmate Inc

In all, 25 creators and stores are taking part in the hunt, each one a destination for those joining the hunt. But finding the daily prizes are only part of the story. The name of the game is finding the killer.

“Once they have visited all locations, on day 25 the big end game begins,” Kiana says. “So they’ll have to be good little detectives, because there are clues to be discovered throughout the 25 days. They truly need to check all the locations and make sure they’ve collected everything to solve the case!”

With a touch for the noir about it, Blood Letters is in some respects a further step down the investigative storytelling route for MadPea, a path they so successfully trod in 2013, with Room 326 and Mad City, and which this time takes a more narrative flow.

Like all of MadPea’s games, Blood Letters is HUD-based, the HUD in this case being used to reveal the contents of each day’s letter. Vendors for the HUD will be available outside the office of Checkmate Inc., the same office in which the letters will make their daily appearance. Located in a suitably shabby corner of R3volt’s home region (R3volt being one of the stores participating in the hunt) and which is also the home of MadPea’s new satellite store, the office is intended to be a focal-point for those engaging in the hunt. “We thought that would be nice to have a central location where people can meet each other. A base of operations,” Kiana notes.

Take on the role of a private detective in MadPea Games slight nior-esque adult murder mystery hunt starting on Saturday, November 1st.
“The name’s Bullit. Traci Bullit…” – Take on the role of a private detective in MadPea Games slight noiresque adult murder mystery hunt starting on Saturday, November 1st.

And the adult aspects? Well, the team are staying tight-lipped about that; there should be some surprises, after all. However, the promise of “sexual content and gore” isn’t an idle one, so participants had better be ready to engage in some careful sleuthing and be ready for a shock or two as the mysterious and deadly killer taunts them with his or her Blood Letters, leading them across the grid and towards the final end game…

Blood Letters launches at 12:00 noon SLT on Saturday, November 1st. For those Private Eyes who like to party before taking a case, there will also be a special “Kinky Killers” themed launch party at !Exodus! Rock Club, starting at 13:00 SLT the same day.

Related Links

MSABC: Awards Gala

galaAs the first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Second Life season draws to a close as the month of October comes to an end, the MSABC Across SL committee have announced a special MSABC Across SL Awards Gala.

This special event will take place at the Rose Theatre, Angel Manor, on Sunday, November 2nd, 2014, commencing at 13:00 SLT and running through until 14:00 SLT, as will feature a special awards ceremony followed by a gala ball in the Rose Ballroom.

The awards being presented at the event have been created to honour those people in Second  Life who have provided awareness, generosity, and vision to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Across Second Life movement.

These awards include:

Margery Gould Rath Award:  named after the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer movement, this award will be presented to the individual who has embraced the concept, spirit, and message of Making Strides with humility, care, and dedication.

Making Strides Awareness Award: will be presented to the individual who has spread the concept, message, and mission of Making Strides in Second Life the most.

Friends of Strides Award: will be presented to individuals throughout the Second Life community who have contributed to the Making Strides season in Second Life in various ways.

Tickle Me Pink Award:  will be presented to who gave funny and laughable moments throughout the 2014 Making Strides season.

Pink Power Award: will be presented to those individuals who took “wearing pink” to an entire new level!

In addition there will also be special Pink Club Sponsor and Pink Striders Awards.

The awards ceremony will be broadcast live by T1 Radio, and the gala ball will commence immediately after ceremony, featuring music from DJ Trader1 Whiplash.

Attendance at the awards and the gala ball is free, although formal attire (black tie for the men, gowns for the ladies) is required.

The first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Across Second Life season has been a tremendous success, featuring events and activities right across the grid. At the time of writing, over US$16,000 has been raised during the course of the month, and this may well rise even higher by the time of the awards gala.

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.

About the American Cancer Society

For more than 100 years, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has worked relentlessly to save lives and create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Together with millions of  supporters worldwide, ACS helps people stay well, helps people get well, find cures, and fights back against cancer.

Related Links

A visit to a kitten’s garden

Petit Chat Gallery
Petit Chat Gallery

Petit Chat-Moumou’s Square is the home of Trinity Yazimoto’s store and art gallery, both are located within the grounds of a garden currently rich in the colours of autumn, and where visitors are invited to spend time relaxing.

Trinity’s store, Petit Chat, occupies an old mill partially surrounded by water features fed by the falls that tumble from the high cliffs that border the garden on three sides. The water actually divides the land into several distinct areas, all linked one to another by stone bridges. There is the store itself, with its own garden nestled behind it, complete with Romany caravan and lamp-lit lily pond, a bridge providing access to a cuddle area across the pond. In front of the store, and reached via another bridge, is a further garden area, complete with swings and a roundabout, rocking horses, and a pergola offering shade and a place to sit and enjoy a cake or two.

Petit Chat store
Petit Chat store

A further bridge offers a crossing to the rest of the garden, where stone steps lead up a grassy slope to where a cobblestone terrace, complete with fountain, can be found, offering further shaded seating for visitors. Beyond the terrace sits the ruins of an old tower, the curved steps of which lead the way to a artist’s workspace, while hidden behind its walls lies a picnic area.

But it is what lies under the tower and terrace that will be of interest to lovers of art and SL photography. Here, in a vaulted, crypt-like space, is Trinity’s art gallery, a ladder held within the curve of the old tower’s walls providing access – simply touch the ladder to climb down to it.

Petit Chat Gallery
Petit Chat Gallery

I first became familiar with Trinity’s work during the Terms of Service upset in late 2013, and then through seeing her work on the SL feeds and on Flickr, where her landscape work has always been incredibly eye-catching for me. Within the gallery, her landscape work is mixed with more personal pieces, all displayed in a manner that is well suited to lower lighting conditions that match the look and feel of the gallery space.

A nice touch with the items on display is that Trinity provides a note card with many of them (right-click on a piece, and select “Info” from the menu). This provides information on the inspiration for the picture and details of the location where it was shot – handy if you feel like paying it a visit.

Petit Chat gardens
Petit Chat gardens

Trinity openly admits she works extensively within Photoshop to produce her images; where her landscape work is concerned, some might say that the result doesn’t really represent the region in which it was taken.  I’d beg to differ with such views – as Trinity states in some of her note cards, these are her interpretations of the places she visits.

Besides, it’s not as if we don’t have tools within the viewer which can help us enhance / alter the look and feel of the regions we visit and photograph, whether it is simply by altering the windlight settings or using the likes of the SL Share filters or a tool set like Phototools or even doing it the hard way and digging through debug settings.

Petit Chat Gallery
Petit Chat Gallery

As such, whether or not Trinity uses Photoshop is incidental to the quality of her work; her landscapes are beautifully presented, and her still life work, often featuring herself as the model, is creativity composed and frequently conveys a strong message which draws the observer into it.

all told, Petit Chat-Moumou’s Square makes for a delightful visit, offering a charming garden in which to relax, excellent art to view and purchase, and an opportunity for the fashion hungry to do a little shopping. And for those who would like to combine art with fashion, check-out the top for of the shop 😉 .

Related Links

Trinity’s gallery also featured on the SL Destination Guide highlights for October 24th.

Viewer release summaries: week 43

Updates for the week ending: Sunday October 26th, 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 3.7.18.295539, released on October 20th (formerly the Browser Fix RC viewer – core updates: SSL 3.0 removal from internal browser due to the POODLE vulnerability (release notes)
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • HTTP Pipelining RC viewer updated to version 3.7.19.295700 on October 24th – core updates: Pipelined HTTP Operations for Mesh and Texture Fetches; Inventory fetch Improvements  (download and release notes)
    • Benchmark viewer updated to RC with version 3.7.19.295759 on October 24th  – removes reliance on the GPU table for determining the viewer’s initial graphics settings (download and release notes)
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V3-style

  • No updates.

V1-style

  • Cool Viewer Stable Branch updated to version 1.26.12.22 and Cool Viewer Legacy Branch updated to version 1.26.8.80, both on October 25th – core updates: please refer to the release notes.

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links