SL project updates week 51/2: SBUG, TPV Developer meeting

Frisland, Laluna Island (Flickr) – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Server Beta User Group (SBUG) meeting held on Thursday, December 18th, 2014, and the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, December 19th. A video of the latter is included at the end of the article, my thanks as always to North for recording it and providing it for embedding.

With reference to the meeting video, summary notes are provided below with time stamps to assist is spotting and listening to the associated conversations.

Server Deployments Week 51 – Recap

  • On Tuesday, December 16th, the Main (SLS) channel was updated with the server maintenance package deployed to the three RC channels in week #50
  • There were no deployments to the RC channels.

The end-of-year code freeze / no change window comes into effect from the end of the week, this means there will be no further server updates until January 2015.

SL Viewer

Release Viewer

The Maintenance RC viewer, version 3.7.23.297296, was promoted to the de facto release viewer on Thursday, December 18th. This viewer comprises a solid collection of bug fixes and improvements to many areas of SL, and also includes a range of fixes to previously released changes in the way joint offsets in rigged meshes are handled. Please refer to the release notes for further information.

Experience Keys RC Viewer

On Wednesday, December 17th, the Experience Keys / Tools viewer was updated to release candidate status with the release for version 3.7.23.297364. Please refer to my overview of the viewer (written while it was at project viewer status) for information on the viewer.

Further RC Updates

[00:50] As a result of the promotion of the Maintenance RC, both the new Experience Keys RC viewer and the HTTP Pipelining RC viewer are currently being rebuilt to include the Maintenance release code. These updates may appear in the release viewer pipeline on Monday, December 22nd, or they may be held over from release until after the end of the no change window.

Viewer Build Tools Project

[01:41] The new year should also see the first release of a project viewer for Mac and Windows built using the new build tools chain and autobuild process.

Group Chat

The last of the 2014 updates are being deployed to the back-end servers. At the time of the Server Beta User Group meeting, there were just a “few more” hosts that had yet to receive the updates, so things should be completed in short order. These improvement are focused on improving the overall robustness of the service and dealing with overload conditions.

CDN Work

What is being referred to as a “mini CDN” test was carried out on the BlueSteel region on the morning (PDT) of Thursday, December 18th. The test was designed to check a more flexible  CDN configuration that is going to make it easier for  the Lab to deal with fall overs. “It should be invisible normally but lets us have better control of where the viewer gets those mesh and texture assets,” Simon Linden said of the work, which will likely see a formal deployment in the New Year.

Viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM)

[03:53] There was an in-world meeting held on Friday, December 12th to discuss the Viewer-managed Marketplace (notes and transcript).

There should be a summary post from the Lab, covering JIRAs raised on VMM and comments made on the forums, which should be appearing on the current forum thread around the time this update is published. A further feedback meeting is being planned for the New Year.

 Z-offset Height Adjustment

[06:15] Vir Linden has been making good progress on this work, which is intended to provide a means of on-the-fly adjustments to be made to an avatars height above the ground / objects and which can be used whether the avatar is standing or sitting, without the need to use the current Appearance hover slider.

Jessica Lyon demonstrated part of the avatar height offset issue at the last TPV Developer meeting: when seated using her preferred sitting pose, her avatar floats above a chair, and she has no means of adjusting the height so that she appears to be sitting in the chair
Vir Linden’s work, kicked-off as a result of a proposal from the Firestorm team, should resolve issues such as being stuck hovering above (or buried inside) a seat and being unable to adjust your position (problem demonstrated by Jessica Lyon)

Instead, an additional slider will be added to the viewer, allowing users to fine-tun their avatar’s height when standing or sitting, etc., When complete, the adjustment is relayed via the simulator to all the other viewers connected to it, so everyone will see see the avatar’s adjusted height.

The work requires changes to both the viewer and the simulator code, so the current plan is to make a project viewer available in the new year, together with some test regions on Aditi, so that the capability can be more thoroughly tested, which should happen in early 2015.

Vir also noted The height adjustments that are made are persistent across log-ins for the viewer, and he’s going to see if that can be done on a per account basis when using the same viewer with multiple accounts. He further noted that to avoid too much complexity, the adjustment is purely graphical; it does not adjust the avatar’s physics base, so there may be edge cases where using it resulting a little odd behaviours (such as bumping into the odd door lintel when you might appear to be well below it).

Avatar Complexity (RenderAutoMute Functions)

[20:03] Oz is continuing to work on updating the RENDERAUTOMUTERENDERWEIGHTLIMIT debug option (which is somewhat tied to the Avatar Render Weight) to help control the impact of avatar rendering, one of the heaviest loads placed on the GPU by SL, has on the viewer’s performance.

The idea here, as I reported in the first part of my week 47 update, is to provide users with an adjustable an adjustable “rendering limit” (initially defaulted according to their GPU class) which they can use to determine how avatars are rendered by their viewer: if an avatar exceeds the limit, it will appear as a solid colour imposter; if it is below the limit, it will render normally.

Oz Linden is working on a means by which users can improve their viewer's performance by setting a limit on how avatars are rendered

So, for example, if you’re undertaking something where your computer could do with something of a performance boost and how other avatars look isn’t so critical, you can set a suitably low avatar rendering value. Conversely, if you’re in an environment where you want to see everyone else in all their glory, you can push the limit back up.

There is a lot more work still to be done on this idea, as indicated in the video, including looking at how the information used by the capability is passed back and forth between the simulator and the viewers connected to it to further assist in viewer performance (e.g. by allowing a viewer to “know” the relative cost of rendering other avatars in the region before it actually needs to actually fully render them), and in making other potentially useful aspects of the information available to the users.

Other Items

Lab to Further Revisit Support for the Education Sector?

While it is not a project per se, the TPV Developer meeting did touch upon the subject of the education sector, prompting Oz linden to comment [18:31]:

The education market is something we feel pretty strongly about, so we’re happy to do what we can to help. I’ve been getting other feedback on how to better server the education market from within the company, and it will be factored-in to some of our plans for next year; but that’s all much more distant stuff [in relation to the projects being discussed at the meeting].

Webroot Woes

[39:45] Webroot anti-virus is causing issues for a fair number of Second Life users. The problem appears to be (but not confirmed) that webroot is scanning cache files as they come in to the user’s computer, which results in textures (including avatar textures) failing to render properly in the viewer, and what feels to the user like excessive lag.

The only apparent means of preventing this is to whitelist the viewer’s cache folders. The Firestorm team have attempted to help users to do this by producing a wiki page on whitelisting.

2015 Meeting Dates

  • The first SBUG meeting for 2015 will be on Thursday, January 8th.
  • The first TPV Developer meeting for 2015 will be on Friday, January 16th.
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