On Tuesday, January 16th, Linden Lab promoted the Alex Ivy 64-bit viewer (version 18.104.22.1681732 at the time of writing). This is a significant release, not so much because of any specific new features (although it does include improvements to media handling), but because it marks a number of important changes to the viewer.
Following the release, which Oz Linden blogged about the viewer and the Lab’s plans around it, on Wednesday, January 17th, 2018, and I’ve highlighted a few points of note from that blog post below – but do please read it in full.
Most notably, this version of the official viewer is built using an updated set of libraries (some of which will be undergoing a further update in the future), and a revised build process. It is currently being made available for download for Mac OS X (64-bit) and Windows (32-bit and 64-bit) – there is no Linux version of this viewer at this time, as explained below.
For Windows users, the most significant update lies with a new viewer executable, the SL_Launcher, which – as Oz explains in his blog post:
Manages the viewer update process, and on Windows also ensures that you’ve got the best build for your system (in the future it may pick up some other responsibilities). For Windows systems, the best build is usually the one that matches your operating system. For example, if you’re running a 64-bit Windows, then you’ll get the 64-bit viewer. If not, then you’ll get the 32-bit viewer. However, some older video cards are not supported by Windows 10, so the launcher may switch you to the 32-bit build which is compatible for those cards. You won’t have to do anything to make this work – it’s all automatic – if you get an update immediately the first time you run this new viewer, it’s probably switching you to the better build for your system.
Oz also notes that if you have a shortcut to the viewer set-up, you should update it to point to SL_Launcher rather than the viewer .EXE, to avoid issues with running / updating the viewer, and indicates there is a slight bug with both the SL_Launcher and Second Life Viewer processes both show as icons on the OS X Dock, and will be fixed in a future update so that only a single icon is shown.
One of the things the Lab has been tracking with the Alex Ivy viewer is overall performance / stability. It had long be noted that running the 32-bit version of the Windows viewer on 64-bit version of Windows with more than 4 Gb of memory could lead to fewer crashes related to running out of memory. However, with the 64-bit version of the viewer, the Lab have seen further benefits for Windows users, and so are encouraging those who can to switch to using a 64-bit version of their preferred viewer, if one is available (e.g. users still running a 32-bit version of a viewer on a 64-bit version of Windows, or those upgrading their hardware to a system running 64-bit Windows).
Linux is the notable exception to the Alex Ivy branch of the official viewer, as there is currently no support for the operating system.
Linden Lab halted Linux development work in 2015 for a number of reasons (see here for more), and sought the support of the Linux community (who represent around 1-1.5% for the SL user base) to help maintain the viewer on Linux. More recently, as I’ve reported in a number of my weekly SL project updates (see here for an example), the Lab has set out new plans for Linux support going forward, With Oz explaining:
We’re reorganising the Linux build so that instead of a tarball, it produces a Debian package you can install with the standard tools, and rather than statically linking all the libraries it will just declare what it needs through the standard package requirements mechanism. We’ll post separately on the opensource-dev mailing list with information on where that project lives and how to contribute to it.
Again, a key aspect of this project will be continued support from the open-source / Linux community to help maintain the Linux viewer going forward, in providing bug fixes, etc., and the Lab providing essential QA and the core build environment, as noted above. This approach is seen as beneficial, as it will remove many of the idiosyncrasies / overheads involved in producing a Linux viewer, such as maintaining multiples libraries associated with the viewer, and instead provide a basic viewer package which can be used by TPVs / Linux users to meet their specific preferences.
Some TPVs have already released versions of their viewers based on the Alex Ivy code, and Firestom’s upcoming release should also, I believe, include a 64-bit version based on Alex Ivy.
And if you’re wondering about the viewer’s name – as Oz explains (and I noted back when the first 64-bit project viewer appeared), Alex Ivy is derived from 64 in Roman numerals: LXIV – aLeX IVy.