Second Life asset fetching: HTTP, CDN and project viewer

Update, April 1st: Vir Linden’s comments on this viewer, offered at the Content Creation User Group meeting, are appended to the end of this article in an audio file.

Some of my recent SL project updates have mentioned that the Lab is working to remove the remaining task of asset fetching away from UDP running through the simulator and to HTTP (avatar baking information, mesh and texture data have been delivered to users via HTTP for the last several years).

This work involves changes to both the simulator and the viewer, both of which have been subject to testing in Aditi, the beta grid for the last few weeks.

However, on  Thursday, March 30th, the Lab effectively marked the start of testing on Agni, the main grid, with the release of the AssetHttp project viewer, version 5.0.4.324828.

This viewer enables the remaining asset classes used in Second Life – landmarks, wearables (system layer clothing and body parts), sounds and animations – will now be delivered to users the same way as textures, mesh and avatar baking information: via HTTP over a Content Delivery Network (CDN) rather than through the simulator. This should generally make loading of such content both faster and more reliable.

Hang On! What’s this CDN Thing?

If you’ve followed the HTTP / CDN project, you can skip this part 🙂 .

To keep things extremely brief and simple: a Content Delivery Network is a globally distributed network of servers which can be used to store SL asset information. This means that when you need an asset – say a sound or animation – rather than having to go via UDP to the simulator, then to LL’s asset service, back to the simulator and finally back to you (again via UDP), the asset is fetched over HTTP from whichever CDN node which is closest to you. This should make things faster and smoother, particularly if you are a non-US based user.

A generic CDN diagram: instead of the users in India, Spain, Peru and on the US West coast having to fetch data from a central server (marked in red) they can obtain the data more quickly and reliably from local caches of the data, held by CDN nodes located much closer to them.

There are some caveats around this – one being, for example, if you’re calling for asset information not stored on the local CDN node, then it still has to be fetched from the Lab’s services for delivery to you, where it can be cached by your viewer.

As noted above, the Lab started using CDN providers when they introduced the avatar baking service (called server-side baking) in 2013, and extended the use to the delivery of mesh and texture assets as part of a massive overhaul of Second Life’s communications and asset handling protocols spearheaded by Monty Linden (see my HTTP updates). Moving the remaining asset types to HTTP / CDN delivery effectively completes that work.

OK, So, What’s Next?

Right now, this is only a project viewer, and the Lab are looking to have people try it out and test fetching and loading of landmarks, wearables (system layer clothing and body parts), sounds and animations, so they can examine performance, locate potential issues etc.

However, the code will be progressing through project status to release candidate and ultimately to release status over the next few weeks / months (depending on whether any significant issues show up). Once this happens, TPVs will be given a period of time to integrate the code as a well, after which, all support for UDP asset fetching will be removed from both the viewer code, and from the simulators.

A rough time frame for this latter work is around late summer 2017. When it happens, it will mean that anyone using a viewer that does not have the updated HTTP code for asset handling isn’t going to be able to obtain any new or updated asset data from the Second Life service.

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Are you ready to help fill the cauldron in Second Life?

Filling the Cauldron: the Garden Design platform

It’s hard not to miss the fact that I’ve not been blogging as frequently as is usually the case for me over the last couple of weeks. That’s because I’ve been buried in preparations for Filling the Cauldron, a fund-raising event to help Elicio Ember and his family.

As anyone who attends the annual Fantasy Faire event in Second Life, Elicio is frequently one of the world builders for that event. He’s also a fabulous creator, owning Cerridwen’s Cauldron, which is itself a fabulous region build and an iconic store design. He’s also an artist in real life and has built art installation in Second Life as well.

Filling the Cauldron: Art Show

Most importantly of all, however, is Elicio has one of the biggest hearts in Second Life. He is wonderfully supportive of those around him, generous, charitable and kind. So when he does – and with a huge amount of reluctance and personal embarrassment – put out a call for help, you can be sure it is genuine.

Earlier this year, Elicio’s father suffered a serious stroke. Despite being a government employee, Elicio and his family were shocked for find their father was without medical cover, leaving the family with extensive bills to cover. You can read more, in Elicio’s own words in this letter from Elicio.

Filling the Cauldron: Cerridwen’s Corner

While he was never asking for anything more than for people to buy his Second Life creations, those of us who know Elicio were determined to do more – and so Filling the Cauldron was born. Given the urgency of the situation and the mounting bills, we knew we had to move fast – and so this entire event has been put together in just three weeks. Even now, we’re working frantically to get everything in place in time to open the doors on Saturday, April 1st.

We may still have a few rough edges to smooth off when we do – but I hope that they won’t stop you from coming by and spending time with us, and supporting Elicio and his sisters but donating to the cause. We’ve got a lot going on, all things considered:

  • DJs, live performers and dance troupes
  • Two fabulous auctions – a silent auction and a live auction with some amazing items to claim, including original pieces of Elicio’s art
  • A display of photography celebrating Elicio’s creativity in Second Life
  • A photo contest with some great prizes – which you can still enter
  • A garden design contest featuring the talents of nine extraordinary builders in Second Life – and from which we’d like YOU to help select the best build
  • A great market filled with stalls from 20 Second Life creators, all of whom are donating at least one item to be sold with 100% of proceeds going to the fund-raising
  • Cerridwen’s Corner – a miniature version of Elicio’s store where you can buy many of his plants and designs – so if you’d rather give directly to Elicio himself, you can do so through Filling the Cauldron and still enjoy the rest of the event.

So… with our doors opening this weekend, please take time to visit the Filling the Cauldron website – and from Saturday onwards, so please, please come along and join us in celebrating Elicio’s work, raising money for his family and having fun! All of the relevant SLurl will be appearing in these pages as we open the doors, and they’ll all be available on the event’s web pages. You can also catch Filling The Cauldron in the Destination Guide!

Filling the Cauldron: part of the marketplace

Calling All Bloggers!

Yes, we know it is short notice, but we’re looking for bloggers to help spread the word about Filling the Cauldron! We’ve been running around trying to get things in place, this nearly slipped through the cracks BUT!  If you’d like to blog about Filling the Cauldron, we’d like you to! SO… we’re holding two guided tours of the event region to help you get familiar with everything that is going on – hop on over the FTC Blogger Applications page to find out more!