Radegast: recovering Voice capabilities

Gentle Heron, second from the right encountered a Radegast Voice installation during the recording of a Designing Worlds special. Credit: Beq Janus

Gentle Heron, second from the right encountered a Radegast Voice installation during the recording of a Designing Worlds special. Credit: Beq Janus

Update, November 30th: Cinder Roxley has updated the Radegast installer to work with the most recent SLVoice package. See her comments here and here (following this article). There is also a separate blog post on her work, for easier future linking.

It was recently discovered that the Radegast client was no longer installing the SLVoice extensions with a new / clean installation. On hearing of the problem, Beq Janus and Whirly Fizzle decided to investigate, and thanks to their work, we now two workaround solutions. As they had put the effort into sorting things out, I asked them if either would like to write about the issue and the solution, and Beq, with Whirly’s blessing, agreed to do so.

by Beq Janus

A few days ago when I was invited to reprise my role as a videographer for a special episode of Designing Worlds on the Future of Second Life, which will air in early December. The panel for the discussion included Gentle Heron of Virtual Ability Inc, the group who work to enable access to virtual worlds for those who, through disability or illness are unable to make ready use of regular viewers.

During the show, Gentle urged Linden Lab and us all to look for ways to make Virtual Worlds more accessible, remarking, somewhat fatefully, that many of her communities are limited to a single, troubled viewer, Radegast.

A subject of reviews in this blog, Radegast is a lightweight, extensible client which has been the ideal foundation for the disabled communities to build upon. It boasts an impressive set of speech to text and text to speech integrations and can be integrated with other devices such as braille screen readers. Sadly, Latif Kalifa, Radegast’s creator, passed away earlier this year and despite the code being open source, no-one has yet stepped forward to maintain it at a time when the Lab viewer is moving ahead in leaps and bounds, with the risk that non-maintained viewers and client might lose functionality.

 Radegast client is the leading lightweight client for many users with disabilities

Radegast client is the leading lightweight client for many virtual world users with disabilities

As if to underline this, Gentle fell silent towards the end of the show, as she was dealing with a number of users who were reporting they were unable to use Voice with Radegast as it was failing to install the all important SLVoice extensions. While I am unfamiliar with Radegast, I offered to try looking into it for Gentle.

SLVoice is a pre-built binary package supplied by Vivox and distributed by Linden Lab. During the summer, it had been upgraded to address some security concerns and so it seemed likely to me that Gentle’s problem might be that the older SLVoice package had been deprecated and removed from the download server. Sure enough, a quick check on the package URL resulted in  the dreaded 404 not found error. I sent an email to Oz and Patch Linden asking them to confirm whether older versions of SLVoice had been moved.

The next day Oz confirmed that all old SLVoice packages were still available and nothing had changed. Whirly Fizzle, the powerhouse behind Firestorm QA, leapt into action: she cracked open the installer and discovered the URL actually pointed to a separately hosted Voice package which was no longer available, causing the Voice installation to silently fail during a new or clean Radegast installation as a result. However, Whirly also found a working back-up archive we could perhaps use. Unfortunately, neither Whirly or I are C# coders and cannot update the installation package directly; so how could we get a Radegast installation to work with the back-up Voice package?

I hit on the idea of first installing the backup package that Whirly had discovered, and then running the standard Radegast installer. Success! So, for anyone who is performing a clean / new install of Radegast and needs Voice, I’ve produced a set of instructions – see the link below. There is, however, more.

I mentioned above that Linden Lab had updated the SLVoice packages over the summer to deal with security concerns. Because of this, older versions of SLVoice are to be blocked from connecting to the service, and Radegast would once again be without a Voice option. Knowing this, and never one to leave a job half done, Whirly successfully tested my approach using the most recent SLVoice package available from the Lab, and confirmed it will also work.

This means that providing that there is no internal dependency within Radegast on the legacy Voice package, we now have an upgrade path for Radegast users that will ensure continued voice support after the block on older SLVoice packages comes into force. To help ensure people know what they need to do, Whirly’s instructions can also be found in the link below.

Radegast Voice Installation Instructions.

A Plea to Developers

These instructions are only a workaround. We still need to find a way to have Radegast install the correct Voice extensions automatically, as a part of the client install process. So, if you are a C# (C-Sharp) developer and are willing to spare a few hours looking at this, please take a look at the Radegast codebase and see if there is a way to incorporate the correct binaries into an installer package. Thank you.

With grateful thanks to Whirly Fizzle.

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