Around a decade ago, a popular third party viewer (TPV) among Second Life photographers was Kirsten’s viewer, produced by KirstenLee Cinquetti (aka skilled coder Lee Quick).
At the time, it pushed hard to make the graphical appearance of SL rich and deep. It was also the first TPV to experiment with analgyph 3D, far back in 2011, long before “VR headset” was in common use.
Sadly, development of the viewer drew to a close in late 2011 as a result of personal circumstance (some of which is charted in these pages), although KirstenLee kept dabbling with it on-and off (such as returning to the S19 UI version and updating it in in 2013, and keeping pace with significant viewer updates from the Lab, such as Bento for the S22.x (current UI) version in 2017). Now – and as pointed out to me by Austin Tate – the viewer is more formally back, KirstenLee having completed the self-certification required to have the viewer once more added to the Lab’s Third Party Viewer Directory.
Available for Windows, the updated Kirsten’s Viewer is bang-slap up-to-date, in that it is built on the most recent release of the official LL code base (release 184.108.40.2060188 at the time of writing), and so includes the viewer 3.x+ UI, and all significant updates from the Lab up to and including EEP, the Environment Enhancement Project, although as Kirsten noted with it’s release, some tweaks might still be required.
KirstenLee refers to the viewer as something of a “hybrid”, and when approaching it, it is as well to keep this in mind. “Hybrid” is this case is a reference to the fact that while it is based on the core LL code base, the viewer also pulls in elements from what might be LL project viewers (and so not necessarily ready for “prime time” use), and from other TPVs. In doing so, the focus is very much on code that improves stability / performance.
I tend as a rule to keep any feature or alteration within the existing code base and not add extras which cannot be integrated into the standard source. I also use LL code style and naming conventions.
– KirstenLee, discussing Kirsten’s Viewer
In this regard, the viewer is also described as being “aimed specifically at experienced users, with emphasis on the visuals.” This is not so much to put people off, but to underline the fact that use of the viewer comes best if you have an understanding of the more esoteric aspects of viewer use – such as clearing caches and settings from any prior versions when installing a new version (aka, performing a “clean install”). Such capabilities are not hard to grasp, and can be found documented in various locations.
Given the S23.x release is based on the latest LL code base, you can comfortably expect all of the major Lab updates to be present, as noted, and may from time-to-time include elements from upstream of the release viewer (as with the Legacy Profiles, again as mentioned above). It also pulls some updates from TPVs like Firestorm; however, those familiar with the latter should not expect Kirsten’s Viewer to expose debugs or offer viewer-specific capabilities to anywhere near the same degree – that’s not the point of this viewer (although that said, it would be nice to see Kirsten’s adopt the client-side AO mechanisms, simply because it is available in several TPVs and used by many people as a result).
Given this, the viewer’s Preferences and Tool Bar options are pretty must as found in the official viewer, with just a trio of differences in the the former. The Move & View tab, for example, includes additional sliders for camera movement – lag, smoothness zoom time – again in keeping with the ideals of photography / visuals. Further, the Set-up tab does not include the auto update options, for reasons KirstenLee also explains:
I do not use the Linden auto build system. I host all the build libraries because I occasionally work on those in concert with the viewer code. It allows for much finer control over the entire process. I have a tendency to do custom compilations with different tool-sets which is something an official client would never do, for reasons of the broadest compatibility with the consumer.
– Kirstenlee, discussing Kirsten’s Viewer
Thirdly, Kirsten’s Viewer includes a custom Features tab (called S23 Features in the current release, although this will doubtless increment to match future versions). This is again camera / visuals related, and includes the option for running the viewer in analgyph mode can be found. This includes sliders for adjusting the analgyph 3D view to account for eye separation and focal distance.
Should you have analgyph 3D glasses and use the option, the following points should be noted:
- Activating it will disable the viewer’s Advance Lighting Model (ALM) shaders – so shadows, ambient occlusion and depth of field will all be disabled.
- Toggling analgyph mode off will not automatically re-enabled ALM, you must do this yourself from the Graphics→Advanced Settings floater.
- If you log-out with the analgyph option enabled, it will be disabled automatically on logging back in, but again, ALM + options will remain disabled until turned back on.
- If you use a 3D mouse such as SpaceNavigator, you may find activating the analgyph capability will severely alter default 3D mouse movement. As the overall defaults for the SpaceNavigator (Move & View→Other Devices) were not altered and given I don’t actually have analgyph glasses to make it worthwhile, I confess I did not fiddle with settings to see if the issue could be corrected.
It may seem odd in “bringing back” a viewer after so long, but there are reasons for it, again as KirstenLee notes:
Its a matter of public record as to how development ended, a perfect storm of circumstances made continued work on it impossible. But as with all things time is a great healer. Besides after nearly 16 years of SL I find myself enjoying my in world life. And have the luxury of a good work balance and a happy and healthy home. So while the sun shines make hay 🙂
For my part, and while I’ve not not driven the S23 release hard or far, I can only say its good to see Kirsten’s Viewer back on the active list once more. While it was never my main viewer, it was a go-to viewer for me for photography. And while it may only be subjective, it does seems to add more depth to EEP skies than I’ve noted with the official EEP viewer – the stars seem to “twinkle” more noticeably.
It’s always tempting to offer a list of what a viewer “could” or “should” have, particularly if coming from something like Firestorm – but the point of TPVs are that they are not meant to all provide the same things. With its emphasis on visuals, performance and stability, Kirsten’s Viewer addresses a specific set of goals and as such, has – and likely will have – only the tools it needs to achieve that, my own earlier comment on the client-side AO above notwithstanding. As such, I’m looking forward to seeing the viewer’s progress, and reporting on it.
3 thoughts on “Kirsten’s viewer: a return to active duty”
Reblogged this on KULTIVATE.
I never liked Kirsten’s viewer, just couldn’t get used to the V2 and V3 styles. Still using Singu exlusively and am happy as a clam with it. What remember most about Kirsten’s viewer was when a meddlesome Niran V. tried to push his ideas into Kirsten’s viewer and made himself, like, important for the project. I guess he was instrumental in Kirsten’s quitting and took over her viewer after she was gone.
UI-wise, it’s personal preference. I actually find the old V1 UI cumbersome and limiting when compared to the more free-form allowances offered by the 3.x FUI. But that’s the beauty of having a range of TPVs: we get freedom of choice.
I would point out that KirstenLee’s decisions to pull back from viewer development were purely due to circumstance, as was made clear at the time. It had nothing to do with any perceived conflicts with others.
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