SL project updates 2015 week 3/2: SBUG and TPV; texture thrashing

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr) – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Server Beta User Group (SBUG) meeting held on Thursday, January 15th, 2015, and the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, January  16th. 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), and any time stamp contained within the following text refer to both it and the TPV Developer meeting.

Server Deployments – Week 3 Recap

  • There was no Main (SLS) channel deployment on Tuesday, January 13th.
  • On Wednesday, January 14th, all three RC channels received the same server maintenance package comprising: a fix for BUG-8002 “Experience Tools Allowed & Blocked experiences are lost with parcel subdivision”; crash mode fixes and avatar-related region crossing code clean-up related to “clean-up and polishing” rather than to performance improvements.

SL Viewer

The Experience Tools RC viewer was updated to version 3.8.0.298091 on January 15th, bringing it up to parity with the current release viewer (the HTTP pipelining release).

[00:15] There is a new maintenance release candidate viewer that is being queued-up for the viewer release channel.

Otherwise, LL viewers remain as per the download and Alternate Viewer wiki pages, and my Current Viewer Releases page.

Tool Chain

[09:52] The Lab now has both Windows and Mac versions of the viewer building successfully using the new tool chain (which among other things, used Visual Studio 2013 for Windows and xcode 6 for Mac), and may be “pretty close” to achieving the same with Linux, although that is still to be determined.

It is anticipated that project viewers using the new build process will start to appear soon, and the process gradually be applied to RC releases and the viewer release itself, but only after full regression testing has been undertaken to try to ensure there are no hidden issues remaining.

This work does potentially make it easier for the Lab to start producing 64-bit versions of the viewer, but there are currently no detailed plans for them to start doing so at this point in time.

Experience Key Tools

[01:20] The initial release of the Experience Tools is still on the horizon, with the release candidate viewer currently the only RC in the pipeline, and which has no further viewer-side changes waiting to be implemented (which doesn’t automatically mean it will be promoted to release status next). However, the Lab is still working on some back-end issues which must be fixed before the key can be turned and the capabilities formally released.

Group Chat

[01:24] The lab is continuing to push out changes intended to make group chat more robust. While happy with the overall improvements that have been made to performance in terms of reducing the noticeable amounts of group chat lag, the problems to the chat servers locking-up every so often and requiring a restart are still being worked on. Additional testing is continuing, and Oz linden indicates that the Lab aren’t about to give up on getting to the bottom of things.

Z-offset Height Adjustment

Vir Linden
Vir Linden: working on the z-offset height solution

[02:52] This 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. It will work in a manner similar to the old z-offset height adjustment found in some TPVs, and will likely comprise a slider access through the avatar right-click context menu. As well as working for individual avatars, it is thought the capability will also work against thinks like couples poseballs for dancing, although this has yet to be tested.

Vir Linden, who has been working on the project reports that the capability is now to be persistent across logins on a per-account basis (so you will be able to set it for each of your accounts, and have the viewer remember the setting for those accounts, rather than having a global setting in the viewer applicable to all accounts using that viewer).

The viewer code is about to go through internal QA testing with the Lab, and the hope is that it will appear as a project viewer during week 4 (week commencing Monday 19th January). This will be available for testing the capability on Aditi (the beta grid), where a number of regions have been set-up on channel DRTSIM-274 (notably regions Hover1 and Hover2). The project viewer will be released with notes on how to use it, and people will be invited to tes it both on these regions with the necessary server-side support and on regions without the server support (and when moving between the two), with a request that any issues found are reported via the JIRA.

Assuming no major issues are found, the server-side changes are already in the queue for release onto Agni (the main grid), and the viewer code will hopefully rapidly progress to RC status as well.

[05:21] A further server-side update which is forthcoming and will assist with this testing is the avatar attribute testing fix, about which I reported in part 1 of this update.

SL Voice

[07:34] There is a further update to SL voice on Windows and Mac due, which is being built for the new viewer build tool chain. The update includes a number of sound quality fixes and additional monitoring to generate more detailed reports on voice quality issues. There are also improvements to help prevent unexpected disconnects.

Other Items

Snapshot E-mail Issue

The RC deployment on Wednesday, January 14th resulted in the snapshots-to-email functionality in the snapshot floater failing (see BUG-8223). The Lab have confirmed this as an issue, and Maestro Linden has found a possible cause, although this has led to questions about what is happening, as there haven’t been any apparent changes to the code concerned.

A Texture Thrashing Cause Found?

[32:15] Texture thrashing is the term used to described the situation when textures continually appear to be constantly switching between clear and blurred, a result of them being constantly reloaded as the viewer runs out of available texture video RAM and starts swapping textures in and out of memory as a result.

The Alchemy team have been looking into things, and believe the problem may in part be related to the use of the little profile image icons which are used in things like CHUI, chat headers, the Friends list, etc. These images are apparently assigned as UI elements (as full-sized textures), and marked as “no release, no discard”, so the video memory allocated to them is not released, even if the panel displaying them is subsequently closed or hidden. This means that simply opening your Friends list (particularly if you have a lot of friends) can immediately impact texture memory allocation and availability.

A suggested fix for this would be to increase the amount of video RAM allocated to textures, however, Runitai Linden attempted this recently, and the tests resulted in a series of unwanted regressions, and the work was never successfully concluded. In the meantime, Alchemy are looking at a means of preventing the problem.

Linden Gossip

[29:16] Monty Linden has moved on from the SL HTTP work and is currently engaged with the Lab’s next generation platform. This doesn’t mean he has “finished” with SL; as has been previously stated by Oz linden, skill sets within the Lab are fairly fluid, with resources moving between SL and the new platform as and when required / available. As such Monty is still keeping an eye on SL matters, and will be available to consult as any additional HTTP work is carried forward. It also appears that Runitai Linden is in the same position.

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