SL project updates week 45/3: TPV Developer meeting

The following notes are drawn from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, November 7th, and shown in the video above. Time stamps, where relevant, have been included for ease of reference to the video. Note that items are listed according to subject matter and not necessarily chronologically, so some time stamps may appear out-of-sequence in places. My thanks as always to North for the recording.

SL Viewer

Maintenance RC Viewer

[00:06] The Lab released a further maintenance viewer on Thursday, November 6th (although it didn’t reach the release candidates section on the alternative Viewers wiki page until Friday, November 7th). Version is a further maintenance release RC, offering a broad range of fixes for voice, privacy, rendering, texture animation, avatar distortion, inventory management, sounds, Mouselook in Mac, multiple UI fixes in script editor, Pay flow, chat, stats floater, edit menu, and so on. Follow the link above to the release notes. This viewer also includes a couple of the AIS v3 fixes as well.

Benchmark Viewer

The Benchmark RC viewer, which eliminates the need for a manually maintained GPU table in order for the viewer to initially set graphic options, looks set to be the next viewer that will be promoted to release status.

Viewer Build Tools

[01:36] As the Lab is primarily focused on completing the updates to the viewer build chain and tools. As has been previously reported, the Mac viewer can now be built using the new build process, but it isn’t performing as well as expected, so it is being looked into. The Lab still has yet to get the new windows build process up and running.

[33:08] This work also means that the Lab currently isn’t attempting to progressing getting 64-bit versions of the Havok libraries at the present time.

Group Chat

[02:15] As noted in part 2 of this week’s update, the Lab is continuing to poke at group chat.  Oz confirmed there are still “one or two” more rounds of changes to be made, and the overall, the Lab is “pretty happy” with what has been achieved thus far. The Firestorm team, who perhaps have one of the most active of groups with a large number of users in their English Support group, have noted a substantial increase in group chat performance.

Z-offset Height Adjustment

[03:20] Vir Linden has resumed work on the z-offset height adjustment (aka, on-the-fly avatar height adjustment feature), after having been diverted to take look at the AIS v3-related attachment issues (the fixes for which are now out in an Attachments RC viewer, as noted in part 2 of this report). While there currently isn’t any significant news on progress as yet, it is hoped that there will be an update at the next TPV Developer meeting.


[03:50] The Lab issued a further update on the CDN on Friday, November 7th (my report is here). commenting on this during the TPV Developer meeting, Oz added:

Mostly, it’s going really, really well, and that contributes to figuring out what is going wrong when it isn’t going well. But we have a lot of things to work on, and we think we are making progress even on those. 

As the Lab’s blog post indicates, there have been a lot of people assisting the Lab with remote testing, which Oz described as “invaluable”, given that tying-down issues has a lot to do with where you are on the Internet, which CDN nodes / PoPs you hit, and so on.

Viewer Managed Marketplace

[06:10] Testing on Aditi for the new viewer-managed marketplace updates is due to commence “pretty soon”, although it appears to be running a little behind the schedule outlined for it when first announced. Testing will hopefully commence prior to US Thanksgiving towards the end of the month, but the overall plan remains that this will be a slow but steady implementation; there will be no quick-firing testing on Aditi with a sudden main grid deployment, particularly given the Christmas shopping season is now on the horizon (not to mention the Lab’s own code freezes over the holiday periods).

Other Items

Of Sidebars and  the Passage of Time

The idea of a sidebar in the viewer wasn't actually that bad. It was just terribly badly implemented when it first appeared in 2010 ...
The idea of a sidebar in the viewer wasn’t actually that bad. It was just terribly badly implemented when it first appeared in 2010 …

[09:52] Oz revealed that recently the Lab has been getting a “wave” of people requesting the viewer includes something like a sidebar. This is seen as slightly ironic, given Viewer 2 was universally hated for its sidebar, and was accompanied by demands for it to be removed – but when it was eventually removed, people also got upset. However, there are extenuating reasons why this may be the case.

The idea of a sidebar wasn’t actually that bad – the problem was that when originally introduced, it was an appallingly bad design and implementation, doubly so considering it was designed by external agencies who claimed to be experts in UI design (80/20 Studio).It took up a lot of screen real estate and when opened, it didn’t slide over the in-world scene  – it shunted it to violently to the left, then pulled it back to the right on closing, completely disrupting any feeling of immersion.

The irony was that but the time the sidebar was retired (with the arrival of viewer 3.x), the Lab and TPVs had massively improved it such that it had become both usable and useful. More recently, a sidebar-like functionality has reappeared in the likes of the Exodus viewer and, more to the point given its current status, Black Dragon (inherited from Niran’s viewer), where it has proven to be very useful.

We’re also several years on from the arrival of viewer 2.x, so it is entirely likely that many people have forgotten the trials and tribulations that occurred when that viewer first arrived (and the sidebar was just one of them!). Ergo, it’s in some ways hardly surprising that it is once more being seen as an alternative means of making information and options in the viewer. Whether than means one will reappear in the official viewer, however, is highly debatable. One can’t blame the Lab if they take a “once bitten, twice shy” approach, the poor design of the original implementation of the sidebar notwithstanding.

Support Issues for Non-Premium Members

[11:15] Mister Acacia recently filed a feature request (BUG-7378) asking the Lab to refactor certain support case options which require active intervention by the Lab so that they include non-Premium users as well as those with premium accounts. Suggestions for inclusion in any such refactoring include:

  • Asset server or database issues
  • Inventory server or database issues
  • Chat server issues
  • Login server issues

While there are a number of support ticket options Basic members can fall back on (such as “reporting a region is offline” to help get a region restarted), there are issues where it is very hard for Basic members to get support and where the Lab’s intervention is required – such as having inventory issues where folders end-up outside of My Inventory and the Library, where multiple trashcans appear in their inventory panel, etc. Izzy Linden has agreed that the JIRA should be passed up to the support team managers to see if anything can be done to assist with such issues – even if it is just broadening certain support case types so that Basic members can raise tickets against them.

Firestorm Bits

[07:11] Jessica Lyon, speaking for the Firestorm team jokingly revealed that the next release has been delayed until December 24th, 2014 (Christmas Eve); among the laughs, this drew a lighthearted reply from Oz, “Go ahead! See if I ever speak to you again!” However, and more seriously, it now looks as if the release will have group ban functionality.

[18:00] There is a discussion on the Restore to Last Position function (including its limitations, due to the server-side griefing vector – see SVC-7907), which examines the history of the functionality (never officially completed or released by the Lab, but used during the move of Adult content to Zindra to assist with migration there, etc.), and some of the valid use cases that come with it. There are also some potential issues with how it might be used which the Lab sees as possibly problematic. However – and without promising that something will be done – Oz has agreed to look at the situation again to see if how and when the functionality can be used might be improved.