On Wednesday, September 18th, and after some lengthy deliberation, Jessica Lyon issued a Firestorm blog post outlining the future of that viewer’s future support for OpenSim environments.
The post is going to make difficult reading for OpenSim users, but the reality is that for assorted reasons, the Firestorm team have to consider priorities and how to best support their two disparate user communities.
The most important point with the blog is that Firestorm is not about to abandon OpenSim: but there are certain hard realities that need to be faced.
The first of these is that Firestorm are struggling to meet the demands of OpenSim support. While it is easy to talk about OpenSim in the singular – as if it is a single network of grids running to the same overall framework of server code – this isn’t really the case, as Jessica notes:
So many grids and no standard specification. Grid features that vary from grid to grid. We fix an issue on one grid that breaks something on another. Compatibility with OpenSim is vastly more difficult than it is with Second Life. Add to that the fact that we have to continue to merge upstream code from LL on a regular basis. We just don’t have the human resources.
Resources in this case being a developer who not only has the time to devote to OpenSim development on behalf of the Firestorm Team, but also the depth of knowledge of the various OpenSim protocols required to implement viewer-side updates while avoiding many of the problems Jessica mentions.
To try to assist in matters going forward, Jessica outlines some of the steps that the Firestorm team will be taking:
- Firestorm will no longer accept OpenSim viewer features without direct communication via viewer patch contributions, or better yet, some kind of reference viewer. Simply put, the team cannot expected to keep up with all developments in OpenSim, which features have been introduced in some grids and how they might impact others.
- Firestorm can only include features compatible with the current recognised OpenSim version number – features based on in-development or upcoming server code cannot be accepted, particularly those that may work on one grid one way, but differently on another or not at all.
- Firestorm can no longer guarantee keeping old / deprecated protocols active within the viewer indefinitely. Attempting to do so simply increases many of the complexities involved in developing and maintaining a viewer – and Firestorm is already hard-pressed in keeping pace with updates rolling out of Linden Lab for Second Life and with the major updates and improvements being made to OpenSim.
This last point has particular relevance when it comes to upcoming major releases like Linden Lab’s Environment Enhancement Project (EEP), which will entirely replace Windlight. This is actually what prompted Firestorm to try to split viewer development between different repositories – one for OpenSim and one for Second Life – which in turn resulted in a lot of concerns being raised by OpenSim users that have, in part, informed the thinking leading up to this blog post.
Simply put, Firestorm cannot continue to support both Windlight and EEP, and will be focusing on EEP as that reaches release for Second Life, with the hope that OpenSim will find the means to adopt the EEP protocols in the future. Similarly, it is likely that projects such LL’s on-going Love Me Render work to improve viewer rendering, the Estate Access Management project and others may well impact Firestorm’s ability to support OpenSim.
So What Does This Mean?
Simply put, it means that if Firestorm is to continue supporting OpenSim to the fullest possible extent, it is going to need the help and support of the OpenSim community.
Part of this can be due through the likes of communication and viewer patch submissions and testing, as noted above. However, the most practical way to help Firestorm is for those within the OpenSim community who are competent viewer developers and who have – or can quickly understand – the Firestorm code, to volunteer their time and expertise.
To do so, drop the Firestorm team an e-mail providing your name, contact details and a brief outline of your experience in viewer code development, and how you believe you would be able to help.
So if you are that person – please do considered applying; or if you know someone who can help – point them towards the Firestorm blog post. In the meantime, OpenSim users who may read this blog are asked to follow the link to Jessica’s blog post to read her comments first-hand.