Kokua and Black Dragon go 64-bit in Second Life

As the Lab’s 64-bit Alex Ivy viewer progresses through release candidate stage and the point where the code is regarded as a stable enough for TPVs to start picking up, viewer developers having been doing just that.

First out of the v5-stage gates at the start of September was Nicky Perian with 64-bit versions of Kokua for Windows and Mac. Towards the middle of the month, NiranV Dean issued a 64-bit version of Black Dragon for Windows.

It should be noted that in neither case are the provided 64-bit viewers the final, polished article. Nicky has clearly labelled his versions as test releases, which Niran is referring to his as an alpha series of releases.

I’ve not driven either viewer to any great extent, so the following is more informational than anything else. Please refer to the links at the end of this article for all download links to the viewers.

Kokua 64-bit

The Kokua 64-bit builds come in both RLV and non-RLV versions. Each is functionally identical to the other, with the exception of … RLV inclusion.  For convenience, I downloaded the 64-bit Windows version with RLV. all of the versions are based on the Lab’s Alex Ivy code base.

The Windows viewer builds include the SL Launcher .EXE, designed to ensure the correct version of the viewer (32-bit or 64-bit) is installed on your PC when updating the viewer. However, at this point, neither actually utilises it directly: the installation short-cut for the viewer points directly to the viewer .EXE. As the Launcher is also intended to start / terminate the viewer’s crash logging, and given – if I recall correctly – Kokua utilises the Lab’s viewer update process, I assume use of the Launcher may / will be folded-into the Kokua’s 64-bit Windows flavours in the future.

Beyond this, the viewer is functionally identical to the last full release of Kokua (5.0.6.41208), with additional updates from the more recent LL viewer releases since that date. This means the 64-bit viewer now includes the Asset HTTP updates from the Lab and the current release version (5.0.7.328060). I understand the 32-bit versions of the viewer have also been merged with these updates, but have not been formally released.

Nicky does note that there are some issues with the Mac 64-bit version of the viewer, some of which prompted an update following an initial release of the test viewers. Some of these have been logged via JIRA with the Lab (such as BUG-41395). For those downloading and trying the viewer, he particularly requests that feedback be given on notifications and taking / processing snapshots, which have caused noticeable issues in merging the code (obviously, feedback on other aspects of the viewer and problems encountered is also welcome).

Black Dragon 64-bit

Black Dragon currently has the SL Launcher removed. This generates a warning on starting the viewer, advising users to run things from the Launcher and to update short-cuts accordingly. However, it doesn’t interfere with the viewer’s operations.

The 2.9.0 64-bit version incorporates Niran’s more recent updates up to his 32-bit 2.8.2 release. For those with hardware which can handle it, Black dragon continues to offer a graphics experience several points above other viewers. For some people, this is somewhat mitigated by the viewer’s menu system presentation, which can take a little getting used to but really isn’t that hard to steer around. The large number of graphics options exposed / added can be a little frightening to those not into graphics tweaking – but again, there’s no real need to play around with any you’re not familiar with when adjusting settings.

In addition to the 64-bit iteration, the viewer includes further refinements to SL shadows, including an attempt to deal with a particular annoyance for photographers: disconnected shadows. That is, shadows which just fall short of actually visually connecting with the object casting them, and which at time no amount of jiggling with settings such as shadow quality and/or shadow bias can fix. A further change is that HTTP pipelining has been disabled within the viewer.

Rough-and-Ready Performance Notes

The benefits in using 64-bit versions of the viewer – for those who can – are much better memory utilisation and potentially a reduced crash rate and, potentially, a boost in overall viewer performance. In terms of the latter, and while direct comparisons are always subjective (and dependent upon some factors outside of your control, such as the complexity of any other avatars in your field of view / in the region, etc), I carried out some very rough-and-ready tests using ~Neive~ as my testing-point, and with the viewers all set-up according to my review system specifications.

Baseline test location: ~Neive~ 199, 155, 27, facing west, with three (or in the case of the Black dragon 32-bit version test, four) avatars within draw distance. All measurements were taken after setting the preferences in each viewer, and clearing object and texture caches before doing a fresh load to ensure each viewer had the scene locally cached. I then launched each viewer in turn, let the scene load from cache, measured, shut-down and launched the next & repeated.

Viewer
FPS Static FPS panning left / right
Firestorm 64-bit 5.0.7.529121 25 22-28
SL Alex Ivy 5.1.0.508209 38 33-38
Kokua 32-bit 5.0.6.41208 23 20-23
Kokua Alex Ivy 5.1.0.42217 37 34-37
Black Dragon 32-bit 2.8.22 36 33-38
Black Dragon 64-bit 2.9.0 Alpha2 45 33-46

Notes:

  1. Firestorm 64 is currently not using the Lab’s 64-bit code base, and so might be considered an indirect comparison, rather than a like-for-like code base comparison.
  2. Black Dragon has many additional exposed / tweaked graphics options, and a number of defaults somewhat different to the default viewer. In measuring, I attempted to tweak the viewer back more towards the default viewer.

Also note that the static fps numbers are a median based on fluctuations in numbers; the panning figures represent the average high/low fps values when panning. All measurements taken via the Stats floater (CTRL-SHFT-1) to ensure consistency of displayed floaters in the viewer.

As indicated towards the top of this article, I’ve not really played that much with either viewer, so cannot comment in-depth on overall performance  / stability, etc.

Links and Downloads

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