Second Life viewer: Starlight UI skins and options

Hitomi Tiponi's Starlight set provides a total of 10 different skinning options for the official viewer, together with a range of additional UI tweaks and options
Hitomi Tiponi’s Starlight set provides a total of 10 different skinning options for the official viewer, together with a range of additional UI tweaks and options (Starlight Silver Blue skin shown on viewer 4.0.6.315555) – Click any image for full size, if required

Reader Wolf Baginski posted a comment on the subject of alternative skins for the official LL viewer, prompting me to think about Starlight. This is a set of alternative UI skins and additional options available for the official viewer (and for some TPVs, although they are outside the scope of this article), which I last wrote about in these pages page back in 2010/11 when I was using it with viewer 2.x.

So, given I haven’t written about Starlight for a good while, and given there may be users of the official viewer who haven’t previously come across it, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at Starlight as it is today, and offer something of an introduction for those unfamiliar with it.

Overview

Produced and maintained by Hitomi Tiponi, Starlight has been available for the English language version of the viewer for a good few years, as noted above. Today, it includes no fewer than 10 alternative UI skins and a range of other UI updates and tweaks which may appeal to users. The ten skins comprise:

  • Original Orange: a dark theme with a touch of orange
  • Nostalgia Blue: features buttons and some layout changes to remind you of Viewer 1.x
  • Silver Blue: a ‘dark on light’ theme using a cool blue
  • Silver Pink: as above, but with a hint of pink
  • Mono Teal:  a high-definition black on grey / white & teal green buttons
  • Orb Red: designed to make the interface seem less one-dimensional
  • Orb Blue: as above, but a deep shade of blue
  • Original Teal: The Lab’s original viewer 2.x colour scheme with slightly improved contrast
  • Two customisable skins which can be modified via the  StarLight Colourful User Interface (CUI):
    • Custom Dark: for using with a backdrop of a black, navy blue, dark red etc.
    • Custom Light: for a brighter, vibrant look, ideal for integrating black text with a lighter theme.

The additional UI items offered within Starlight include, but are not limited to:

  • Top bar Draw Distance slider (between 32 and 992 metres)
  • Revised Preferences panels
  • Additional Toolbar buttons
  • Film menu, for photography and machinima fans
  • Inclusion of a “lite” version of PhotoTools
  • Comprehensive Shadows, Rendering, Depth of Field and Local Lights settings in Preferences > Graphics
  • Assorted UI layout improvements / updates.

For a full list of such options and updates, please refer to the Starlight wiki page.

Starlight-7_001
Starlight also offers a range of UI options, including updated floater layouts, new floaters, additional toolbar buttons, easy access Draw Distance slider and more. Click for full size, if required

Installing Starlight

Note that while available for the official viewer, Starlight is a third-party product, and isn’t supported by Linden Lab.

  1. Log out of Second Life.
  2. Go to the Downloads section of the Starlight wiki page.
  3. Read the notes on downloading the correct version.
  4. If you download the .ZIP file (suitable for Windows, OS X and Linux) following the manual installation instructions on the wiki page.
  5. If you download the Windows Easy Installer:
    • Launch the installer and follow the on-screen instructions
    • Make sure you install Starlight to the installation location of the viewer with which it is to be used
    • If you use different RC and project viewers, and wish to have Starlight available for all of them, you must install it for each one.

Note that if a new version of the viewer is subsequently installed to the same location used with Starlight, the Starlight files will be removed as a part of the installation process. You’ll therefore need to re-install the latest version of Starlight in order to keep using it. However, as the Second Life settings files are not removed during viewer updates / installations (they are only removed if you manually carry out a completely clean installation), the viewer should revert to the last active Starlight skin once you have re-installed your Starlight files.

For photographers and machinima makers, Starlight adds the Film menu to the viewer's menu options (Starlight Mono Teal skin shown)
For photographers and machinima makers, Starlight adds the Film menu to the viewer’s menu options (Starlight Mono Teal skin shown)

Running Starlight

  1. Launch the viewer.
  2. Select a Starlight skin from the drop-down displayed below the log-in button.
  3. Re-start the viewer and log-in.

Repeat these steps should you wish to change skins.

Selecting a new Starlight Skin
Selecting a new Starlight Skin

Additional Notes

Well documented and supported, Hitomi generally has an updated version within hours of any new official viewer de facto release, offering a good cross-section of UI skins and some excellent UI additions, Starlight remains the add-on for the official viewer.

As per Wolf Baginski’s suggestion, I’ll be adding links to Starlight wiki page to my Current Viewers Release List and my weekly viewer release summaries going forward, to help people more easily find it.

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Firestorm 4.7.9.50527: “I see jelly people!”

firestorm-logoMonday, August 8th saw Firestorm release version 4.7.9.50527 of their viewer. Coming a little over four months since the last release, 4.7.9 brings with it a lot of important changes from the Lab – perhaps most visible Avatar Complexity and graphics pre-sets – as well as a large number of nips, tucks, fixes and improvements from the Firestorm team and open source / TPV contributors.

As per my usual MO, what follows is  not an in-depth review of the release, but rather an overview, highlighting some of the more significant / interesting changes, updates and  fixes, which I feel will be of most interest to users.

For full details of all changes, and all due credits to contributors, etc., please refer to the official release notes.

When installing this release, uninstall the existing version and then install the new 4.7.9 release – no need for a clean install.

Available Downloads

Prior to getting stuck into the details, please note that with this release:

  • There is no 32-bit Havok version for OS X, due to incompatibilities with the RLVa update
  • Firestorm have discontinued producing a 32-bit Havok version of the viewer for Linux, due to the relatively low demand for it.

Firestorm is and will continue to be available as a 64-bit non-Havok (“OpenSim”) version for OS X and in both 32-bit and 64-bit non-Havok (“OpenSim”) versions for Linux. These versions can obviously be used with Second Life, and are available for the 4.7.9.50527 release.

This means it is unlikely there will be any Firestorm Havok support for either Max OS X or linux until Linden Lab release the 64-bit versions of the Havok library alongside their own upcoming 64-bit viewers. In the meantime, the Firestorm team offer their apologies for any inconvenience caused, and ask that those on either OS X or Linux who require Havok functionality (e.g. for mesh uploads reliant on Havok physics or for pathfinding purposes) to briefly switch to the LL viewer.

Log-in Credentials Display Update

The first noticeable aspect in this release is the log-in credentials area at the bottom of the splash / log-in screen have been revised, offering a slightly more Viewer 4 style look and bringing all the options together alongside of a single, obvious log-in button.

The revised log-in credentials area of the splash / log-in screen
The revised log-in credentials area of the splash / log-in screen

Note that if you prefer the old login screen layout, you can set the debug setting FSUseLegacyLoginPanel to TRUE.

Another change with this update is that opening Preferences from the log-in screen should no longer cause splash screen layout problems, thus fixing FIRE-17518.

Lab Derived Updates

Firestorm 4.7.9 brings the viewer up to parity with the Lab’s 4.0.6 code base, and so includes the Avatar Complexity (aka “Jelly Dolls”) and graphics presets, as noted above, and includes many maintenance fixes, things like Voice updates and the most recent HTTP updates.

Avatar Complexity – or “Why is everyone I’m looking at an odd colour?”

Avatars can often be the biggest single rendering load on our computers. Hence why the bottom falls out of your viewer performance in a crowded place. Avatar Complexity is a means to offset this impact by allowing you to set a “complexity limit” for avatar rendering. Any avatar (including their attachments) exceeding this limit will be rendered as a solid colour – a “Jelly Doll” – putting a lot less load on your computer. You can adjust the limit according to your needs, and you can also override the setting for individual avatars around you. Do note as well that the setting only applies to other avatars in your view; your own avatar will always be rendered fully.

When first installed, a viewer with Avatar Complexity will set a default limit for you based on your current viewer graphics settings. Hence why you might see a lot of solid colour avatars around you when logging-on for the first time with Firestorm 4.7.9. These default limits are:

  • Low: 35,000
  • Low-Mid: 100,000
  • Mid: 200,000
  • Mid-High: 250,000
  • High: 300,000
  • High-Ultra / Ultra: 350,000

You can adjust you Maximum Complexity setting at any time in Firestorm in one of two ways either via Preferences > Graphics or via your Quick Preferences.

In both cases, moving the Max(imum) Complexity slider to the right increases your threshold, allowing more avatars around you to be fully rendered, while moving it to the left decreases your threshold, increasing the number of avatars liable to be rendered as solid colours.

"Avatar

Note that you can set the Max(imum) Complexity slider to No Limit (all the way to the right). However, this isn’t recommended simply because it leaves your viewer vulnerable to any graphics crashers some inconsiderates still occasionally try to use. It’s far better to simply set your viewer to a high limit (e.g. 350,000) if you don’t want to be bothered by seeing Jelly Dolls

Displaying Avatar Complexity Information

You can display Avatar Complexity information for all avatars (including your own) in Firestorm in one of two ways, depending on your preference (or both can be active at the same time, if you so wish):

  • By going to the Advanced menu (CTRL-ALT-D if not visible) > Performance Tools > Avatar Complexity Information (previously Show Render Weight for Avatars). This displays three items of information over the heads of all avatars Including yours):
    • The render complexity for each avatar
    • A ranking of the avatar’s distance from your camera (1=closest)
    • The attachment surface area for an avatar, expressed in square metres
  • Or by going to Preferences > General and checking Show Avatar Complexity (if not already enabled). This will display the render complexity for each avatar in their name tag, and includes two sub-options, which are pretty self-explanatory:
    • Only [show avatar complexity, when enabled] If Too Complex
    • Show Own Complexity.
The Firestorm options for displaying Avatar Complexity information in the viewer
The Firestorm options for displaying Avatar Complexity information in the viewer

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