SL project updates: week 52: viewer, misc items

Sarawak; Inara Pey, August 2014, on FlickrSarawak (Flickr) – blog post

Server Deployments

With the no change window in effect throughout the week, and running through until the 2nd week of January 2015, there were no server deployments to ether the main channel or the three RC channels during the last full week of 2014.

SL Viewer

The Experience Tools RC viewer was updated on Monday, December 22nd to version 3.7.24.297643 (although the Alternate Viewers wiki page has yet to be updated). This saw the viewer brought up to parity with the current release viewer.

2015 Updates

Early January 2015 should see the Windows and Mac viewer start to use the new viewer tools chain the Lab has been working on, and the updated autobuild process.One of the hopes with the Windows switch-over to Visual Studio 2013,  and the availability of Visual Studio Community 2013, is hoped that over time, many (or all) of the differences between the open source build configurations and the Linden versions can be eliminated, other than when using  proprietary packages.

Oz Linden has been working on the Linux side of things in order to get the Linux builds working with the new tools and gcc 4.6; he’s also actively soliciting for assistance from TPV developers for help in this.

Once the tools work is completed, it would appear that “avatar awareness” (aka “radar”) for the official viewer may well be heading towards the top of the list for new viewer capabilities, with Oz indicating he’d like to get to work on a specification for the capability. If not this, then quite possibly a further round of environment updates within the viewer, as noted in my week 51 report.

Other Items

SL Wiki Update

It is still not clear when the SL wiki will be re-opened for editing by SL users. According to Oz Linden, speaking at the Open-source Developer’s meeting on Monday, December 22nd, “every time they get close to finishing the QA, another batch of security problems comes out that we need to integrate fixes for.”

Alpha Map Support for Mesh

JIRA BUG-8100 has been raised as a feature request to provide an additional material map option alongside the existing diffuse, specular, and normal maps that allows a user to apply either a black and white map, or an alpha bit texture to mask out areas of a mesh and render them fully transparent (with a 1-bit edging). The JIRA has gained support and feedback from content creators (including the need for LSL from the outset, if implemented. Those interested / in agreement, should ensure they read the JIRA and WATCH it (remember, VOTE is not as strongly responded to by the Lab).

Next Meetings

  • Open-source Developers: Monday, January 5th.
  • Simulator User Group: Tuesday, January 6th.
  • Server Beta User Group: Thursday, January 8th.
  • TPV Developer: Friday, January 16th.

With thanks to Mona Eberhardt for the Open-source dev meeting notes and the BUG-8100 pointer.

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SL project updates week 51/2: SBUG, TPV Developer meeting

Frisland, Laluna Island (Flickr) – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Server Beta User Group (SBUG) meeting held on Thursday, December 18th, 2014, and the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, December 19th. A video of the latter is included at the end of the article, my thanks as always to North for recording it and providing it for embedding.

With reference to the meeting video, summary notes are provided below with time stamps to assist is spotting and listening to the associated conversations.

Server Deployments Week 51 – Recap

  • On Tuesday, December 16th, the Main (SLS) channel was updated with the server maintenance package deployed to the three RC channels in week #50
  • There were no deployments to the RC channels.

The end-of-year code freeze / no change window comes into effect from the end of the week, this means there will be no further server updates until January 2015.

SL Viewer

Release Viewer

The Maintenance RC viewer, version 3.7.23.297296, was promoted to the de facto release viewer on Thursday, December 18th. This viewer comprises a solid collection of bug fixes and improvements to many areas of SL, and also includes a range of fixes to previously released changes in the way joint offsets in rigged meshes are handled. Please refer to the release notes for further information.

Experience Keys RC Viewer

On Wednesday, December 17th, the Experience Keys / Tools viewer was updated to release candidate status with the release for version 3.7.23.297364. Please refer to my overview of the viewer (written while it was at project viewer status) for information on the viewer.

Further RC Updates

[00:50] As a result of the promotion of the Maintenance RC, both the new Experience Keys RC viewer and the HTTP Pipelining RC viewer are currently being rebuilt to include the Maintenance release code. These updates may appear in the release viewer pipeline on Monday, December 22nd, or they may be held over from release until after the end of the no change window.

Viewer Build Tools Project

[01:41] The new year should also see the first release of a project viewer for Mac and Windows built using the new build tools chain and autobuild process.

Group Chat

The last of the 2014 updates are being deployed to the back-end servers. At the time of the Server Beta User Group meeting, there were just a “few more” hosts that had yet to receive the updates, so things should be completed in short order. These improvement are focused on improving the overall robustness of the service and dealing with overload conditions.

CDN Work

What is being referred to as a “mini CDN” test was carried out on the BlueSteel region on the morning (PDT) of Thursday, December 18th. The test was designed to check a more flexible  CDN configuration that is going to make it easier for  the Lab to deal with fall overs. “It should be invisible normally but lets us have better control of where the viewer gets those mesh and texture assets,” Simon Linden said of the work, which will likely see a formal deployment in the New Year.

Viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM)

[03:53] There was an in-world meeting held on Friday, December 12th to discuss the Viewer-managed Marketplace (notes and transcript).

There should be a summary post from the Lab, covering JIRAs raised on VMM and comments made on the forums, which should be appearing on the current forum thread around the time this update is published. A further feedback meeting is being planned for the New Year.

Continue reading “SL project updates week 51/2: SBUG, TPV Developer meeting”

SL project updates week 51/1: server, viewer

Umbral Photography, Hydra Isles (Flickr) – blog post

A little late this week – holiday preparations and being a little under the weather are to blame.

Server Deployments Week 51

On Tuesday, December 16th, the Main (SLS) channel was updated with the server maintenance package deployed to the three RC channels in week #50. This update comprises:

  • A fix for BUG-7595 “Allowed & Blocked experiences persist with parcel owner change after purchase or abandoning”
  • A fix for (non-public) BUG-7036 “Experience based scripts in attached child prims reference their operation by region position instead of root position like non-experience based scripts”
  • A fix for (non-public) BUG-7048 “llGetExperienceDetails() returns 4 for state and “operation not permitted” for state message while over mainland parcels that have the experience allowed”
  • A fix for BUG-6757 “Different error code returned for an Experience that is not permitted to run on a parcel / region OR a user clicked No on the permission request dialog”
  • Additional internal Experience Key fixes
  • To find experiences with all unicode names you have to leave the search field blank and page through all results.

This deployment marks the last planner server deployment for 2014. There will be no deployments to the RC channels on Wednesday, December 17th, and no further planned deployments until January 2015.

SL Viewer

The new build tool chain for Windows is moving close to being implemented. Commenting at the open-source Developers meeting on Monday, December 15th, Oz Linden said:

We’re very close to having the new tools builds working on Windows… once we’ve done that, I’m going to merge them to the Snowstorm repository as well and all open source contributions will be on that base.

This means that self-compilers will have to update their tools, and work with the new autobuild  process.  As Microsoft recently issued Visual Studio Community 2013, which allows developers to create non-commercial applications for free, it is hoped that over time, many (or all) of the differences between the open source build configurations and the Linden versions can be eliminated, other than when using the proprietary packages.

Other Items

Windlight Assets

We all love windlight settings – so much so that since the arrival of windlight and wiki instructions on how to create our own windlights, it is fair to say that many hundreds of windlight settings have been created and circulated, and many of them have been incorporated into viewers (I actually keep a folder of my favourite windlights I use to replace the “default” offerings in the viewers I routinely use, and add new ones to it that I find and like or tinker with as I go along).

Now it looks like there may be some movement on the subject of windlight and environmental assets from the Lab. “I’m hoping that doing a new round of development on environment settings will get to the top of the list before too long,” Oz Linden said, during a general discussion on windlights during the Open-source developer’s meeting. If the work is taken up, it could led to the introduction of windlight assets which could help make things like ll-supported  parcel windlight settings a lot easier.

SL project updates week 50/1: server, viewer, misc

Black Basalt Beach; Inara Pey, August 2013, on FlickrBlack Basalt Beach, August 2013 (Flickr) – blog post

Server Deployments – Week 50

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread in the forums for the most recent news and updates.

On Tuesday, December 9th, the Main (SLS) channel was updated with the server maintenance package deployed to the three RC channels in week #49. This update comprises:

  • A fix for BUG-7515 “Restarting region turns off ‘block parcel fly over’”
  • A fix for BUG-4949 (non-public) “Cannot manage block list with certain object names”
  • A fix for BUG-7850 “Experience tools: ‘Script trying to teleport other avatars!’ script error” appears incorrectly
  • A fix for BUG-6789 “Spelling mistake in llGodLikeRezObject”
  • Minor server change to help configure the texture and mesh CDN.

On Wednesday, December 10th, all three RC channels should receive a new server maintenance package comprising:

  • A fix for BUG-7595 “Allowed & Blocked experiences persist with parcel owner change after purchase or abandoning”
  • A fix for (non-public) BUG-7036 “Experience based scripts in attached child prims reference their operation by region position instead of root position like non-experience based scripts”
  • A fix for (non-public) BUG-7048 “llGetExperienceDetails() returns 4 for state and “operation not permitted” for state message while over mainland parcels that have the experience allowed”
  • A fix for BUG-6757 “Different error code returned for an Experience that is not permitted to run on a parcel / region OR a user clicked No on the permission request dialog”
  • Additional internal Experience Key fixes
  • To find experiences with all unicode names you have to leave the search field blank and page through all results

SL Viewer

No further updates to any of the SL viewers (release, RC or project) since my last viewer release summary. Please refer to my Current Viewer Releases page for the current status of SL and TPV viewers.

However, as I noted in a separate report, the most recent AMD update to their Catalyst™ drivers, version 14.12 does not resolve the problem of failing to display rigged meshes unless the viewer’s hardware skinning is disabled. I’ve also been informed that this issues also extends to the most recently AMD / Nvidia Omega driver update.

Experience Keys / Tools

the RC deploy due on Wednesday, December 10th, sees a number of fixes and updates for the Experience Keys / Tools project. Again, commenting on the status of the project at the simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, December 9th, Simon Linden said:

 We’re getting close on that … there are some last-minute things to take care of, and we’re being extra careful that we have the systems in place to handle the key-value storage usage.    How much load that will create is some interesting guesswork, but it’s better to be over-prepared.

However, with the holiday season now fast approach, and with it no change windows for server and viewer updates popping-up, it may be that the project doesn’t make it to a deployment beyond its current beta status until the new year.

Once Experience tools are deployed, the Lab will seek to address issues through the Simulator User Group meetings. However, if there is sufficient demand in terms of issues raise for discuss, etc., during the Simulator UG meetings so a to warrant a separate meeting, they will look into doing so.

Group Chat

Commenting on his recent group chat work, Simon had this to say:

There’s another chat server update this week.   It’s pretty minor, but you shouldn’t see the problem where it gets way behind and then starts delivering ancient (more than 5 minutes old) messages.  I’m still chasing the main bug but this should make the recovery faster and less confusing. The new code is on only one of the server cluster machines but will go to more this week, assuming we don’t see new problems.   So far it’s looking good.

He went on to comment that, while a complete overhaul of the group chat system is unlikely, simply because it is unlikely to result in a significant enough improvement in things, despite recent improvements. “the servers still spend more work updating your chat member lists than it does sending messages. That’s just not right.” So it would seem further tweaking of things will continue in 2015.

Tuesday, December 16th will be the last Simulator User Group meeting for 2014.

SL project updates week 49/3: TPV Developer meeting and VMM

The following notes are drawn from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, December 5th, as shown in the video below. Where relevant, timestamps are included in the article to allow for referencing to the video. My thanks as always to North for the recording.

SL Viewer

[00:30] The Benchmark viewer RC, containing the fix for the crash-on-start-up issue (see BUG-7776, BUG-7783), version 3.7.22.297128, was promoted to the de facto release viewer on Friday, December 5th – release notes.

[21:15] One change that has come from the move away from the GPU table to benchmarking is that GPUs that may have been previously blocked (e.g. because they simply aren’t supported) are no longer blocked. This is because the Lab is no longer attempting to spend time on identifying GPUs that don’t work with SL. Instead, best efforts are made on the basis of the data obtained from testing a system’s GPU and applying the Lab’s own heuristics, but if a card doesn’t work with SL, the view being taken is that – it doesn’t work. A suggestion has been made where this is the case to provide some kind of feedback to the user informing them that their GPU cannot support SL.

[01:10] Data from the HTTP Pipelining RC, version 3.7.21.296736, is still being being studied; however, it may not progress to release status. Whether this means further updates may be made or not prior to the viewer progressing further, isn’t clear.

[01:30] The Attachments RC, version 3.7.21.296904, was withdrawn from the release channel on Wednesday, December 3rd, after being merged with the Maintenance release RC, 3.7.22.297131. However, the repository for the viewer which contains just the attachment fixes is being kept open for the time being to allow those TPVDs who wish to cherry-pick the fixes and incorporate them into their viewers.

[02:15] It is anticipated the the Experience Tools project viewer (currently version 3.7.16.293901) and the Viewer-managed Marketplace viewer (currently version 3.7.21.296858) will both be moving to release candidate  status “soon”.

Tool Chain Update

[13:24] The Lab is now “very close” to being able to build on both Mac (e.g. Xcode 6.1. with clang on Yosemite) and Windows (e.g. Visual Studio 2103) with the new Autobuild process “cleanly and with all the right stuff”.

[16:26] Linux is lagging well behind Windows and Mac in terms of the new tool chain, and the Lab welcomes any help TPV developers are willing to provide to help get it updated. In the meantime, it looks likely that the Windows and Mac versions of the viewer built using the new tools and process will start to be deployed once everything is ready, rather than being held-up while the Linux version of the viewer is brought up to speed.

CDN Update

[02:45] The Lab is continuing to “play with” how the CDN is working, making tweaks and changes, some of which have helped Highwinds make improvements to the service, and monitoring of the service is continuing. Thanks is again expressed to all those users who have helped the Lab pin-down issues.

Viewer-managed Marketplace

If you're a merchant or creator using the SL Marketplace, and haven't already done so, you might want to check-out the Viewer-managed Marketplace beta
If you’re a merchant or creator using the SL Marketplace, and haven’t already done so, you might want to check-out the Viewer-managed Marketplace beta

[03:20] Testing of the new Viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM) functionality is continuing on Aditi.

Various issues have been logged against the project, and the Lab has been addressing them. The testing facilities on Aditi will remain available through the holiday season to January – although, as noted above, the viewer may move from project to RC status in that time.

Beta testing is still very open to anyone with an interest in trying VMM out for themselves – particularly content creators and merchants who use the SL Marketplace, obviously. If you haven’t already availed yourself of the opportunity, the Lab encourages you to do so over the holiday period. Note that you must have the VMM project viewer and be on the VMM regions on Aditi in order to do so – see my VMM beta test and viewer overview.

In-world Meeting

Also, merchants and content creators should note that the Commerce Team is liable to hold a meeting to discuss VMM in the near future. This will mostly likely be held on Aditi, and Brooke Linden is organising it. So please watch for notice of the meeting via the forums, blogs, etc.

Avatar Z-offset Height Adjustment

[11:11] No major news here, other than “work is continuing”.

Other Items

Wiki Editing

[14:27] In October, the SL Wiki was made read-only (editable by LL staff only) while it underwent maintenance, and has remained that way since. However, updates are now being tested, and it is hoped that the wiki will be unlocked to allow users to edit (where applicable) soon.

Viewer Stats and GPU Frame Rates

[17:24] Some stats on viewers are being to be produced for TPVs once more, related to operating systems, and some have been produced (for the SL viewer) by GPU. This led to a request for the Lab to update an old Frame Rates by GPU table (bear in mind the table shown is very old, and doesn’t take into consideration a lot of more recent updates to SL which affect frame rates). This also came up at a recent Open-source development meeting, and Oz has passed a request onwards within the Lab to see if an updated for of the table could be produced.

Firestorm Release

The next Firestorm release is scheduled for 18:00 SLT on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014. This release will, among other things, include the group ban capability. I’ll have my usual review available when the viewer is issued.

SL project updates: week 49/2: viewer, group chat

Let it snow! Isles of Lyonesse; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrLet it Snow! Isles of Lyonesse (Flickr)blog post

Note: most of the following notes are taken from the Server Beta User Group meeting held on Thursday, December 4th, 2014.

Server Deploys for Week 49 – Recap

  • There was no deployment to the Main channel, following-on from the lack of any deployments to the RCs in week #48.
  • On Wednesday, December 3rd, all three RC channels received the same server maintenance package, comprising the following updates:
    • A fix for BUG-7515 “Restarting region turns off ‘block parcel fly over’”
    • A fix for BUG-4949 (non-public) “Cannot manage block list with certain object names”
    • A fix for BUG-7850 “Experience tools: ‘Script trying to teleport other avatars!’ script error” appears incorrectly
    • A fix for BUG-6789 “Spelling mistake in llGodLikeRezObject”
    • Minor server change to help configure the texture and mesh CDN.

SL Viewer

On Tuesday, December 2nd, the Lab released a new Benchmark release candidate viewer, version 3.7.22.297128, which should address the VFS crash-on-start-up issue some users were experiencing following the promotion of the original Benchmark viewer as the de facto release viewer on November 10th (see BUG-7776, BUG-7783). If you are still experiencing issues with the SL viewer on start-up, please give this RC viewer a try, and report your experiences via BUG-7783.

The Maintenance RC viewer was updated on Wednesday, December 3rd to version 3.7.22.297131. This viewer includes a range of updates and fixes for voice, privacy, rendering, texture animation, avatar distortion, inventory management, sounds, mouselook in Mac, multiple UI fixes in script editor, pay flow, chat, stats floater, edit menu, etc.

The attachment fix RC viewer (version 3.7.21.296904) has been withdrawn from the release channel, possibly pending further fixes to be incorporated into it.

Group Chat

Simon Linden has carried out further work on group chat, so that if a server ever gets to the point where there is a bad message backup, instead of sending potentially “sale” messages, the server will drop those messages that are 5 minutes or more old which are sitting in the queue.

The focus on this change is to eliminate issues where – as recently has been the case – back-end issues (rather than simply the weight of messages being handled by the chat servers), mean that messages stop getting sent out and start building up in a held queue; then when the back-end issue is fixed, users suddenly receive a flood of old and outdated messages that they likely have no interest in, due to the length of time that has passed while the chant server is “down”.

Simon has also been working on the logic the chat server use to send messages to people, which should mean that as long as the chat service knows where you are, messages should now reach you somewhat faster.

However, the logic behind what happens should you move between regions while engaged in a group chat still means that the group chat server to which you are connected will send message to the last region it knew you to be on; if you’ve moved on, then the simulator will inform the chat server of this, and the chat server will then perform a look-up to find out where you are. Even so, and while it may have been placebo, during a test at the end of the Server Meeting, it did seem there was less delay in receiving messages when moving between multiple regions & closing and re-opening group chat windows.

Experience Keys / Tools

Server-side updates are anticipated as being in the RC channel deployment for week 50 (week commencing Monday, December 8th). As noted in part 1 of this week’s report, there is a hope the the project may be released by the end of the year – although the project viewer is still awaiting update to RC status (and parity with more recent viewer updates), and there apparently is further QA work to be completed. Speaking about the project during the Server Beta meeting, simon again re-stated the overall intent with the initial release, when it does occur:

We know this first release isn’t perfect and doesn’t have the full feature set we’d love to build, but it’s a start.  Hopefully we’ll see some usages and those will show it’s promising for more attention and features.