CtrlAltStudio issues Oculus CV-1 update

CAS-logoOn July 18th, 2016, Strachan Ofarrel (Dave Rowe) released an updated Windows version of his CtrlAltStudio viewer. Version 1.2.6.43412 Alpha use Oculus Rift SDK 1.5.0 and so should support the Oculus CV1, DK2 and DK1.

The release has been made to provide a level of Oculus HMD support in Second Life and OpenSim following the Lab’s decision to withdraw their own project viewer support for the Rift, after significant issues were found with the July update to that viewer.

However, as Strachan states in his blog post on the release, the CtrlAltStudio Windows update is presented “as is”, and still utilises the Firestorm 4.6.9 code-base, which is itself running well behind current releases, and therefore lacks functionality users might otherwise be familiar with in more recent versions of the SL viewer. This means CtrlAltStudio doesn’t support recent HTTP updates, inventory improvements or the TLS 1.2 update (so the built-in web browser will not work with things like Marketplace transactions when using the built-in browser).

Stratchan also warns that it is unlikely that users will get the level of recommended frame rates for CV1 use (which is something the Lab were stating prior to the release of their update), although he notes – again as did the Lab – that the experience should be enough to get a feel for what user-generated VWs are like in immersive VR.

Windows CtrlAltStudio users should be able to install this version over the 1.2.5 Alpha and 1.2.4 Alpha versions if they have either already installed. Those with older versions of the viewer should carry out a clean install (and can always back up and restore their settings before / after doing so). Note that if you install over the top of a previous version you may need to press the “Reset” button next to the “UI depth” Display Output option.

To overcome issues of the viewer failing to recognise very high perfromance GPUs, CtrlAltStudio 1.2.6.43412 includes and Enable All GPU Features option to force enable all graphics settings (e.g. Basic Shaders, etc.)
To overcome issues of the viewer failing to recognise very high performance GPUs, CtrlAltStudio 1.2.6.43412 includes and Enable All GPU Features option to force enable all graphics settings (e.g. Basic Shaders, etc.)

The full set of updates in this release are given as:

  • Updated to Oculus Rift SDK 1.5.0 so that the viewer works with the Oculus runtimes supporting the CV1 as well as the DK2.
  • Fixed the “UI depth” display setting to work for both DK2s and CV1s.
  • Added an “FOV multiplier” display setting that decreases or increases the field of view with respect to the Rift-recommended value.
  • Added a “Pixel density” display setting that decreases or increases the number of pixels rendered in the process of calculating the Rift display output.
  • Removed the following display options which are no longer available in the Rift SDK: “Low persistence”, “Dynamic prediction”.
  • Fixed crash at start-up if Rift display output is enabled but no Rift is connected and turned on.
  • Updated the GPU table.
  • Added an “Enable All GPU Features” display setting that enables all graphics settings that may otherwise be limited if a new, high performance GPU is not listed in the GPU table.
  • Added a “Combine Xbox One triggers” joystick setting that combines the left and right trigger values of the Xbox One controller into a single value like the Xbox 360 controller outputs, thus letting the triggers be used to fly up and down.

It is worth noting that when in Riftlook mode, the cursor is only visible in the left eye. This is intended behaviour, allowing the cursor to hover over UI elements and in-world objects correctly without having to use additional and complex code to calculate what relative depth should be used to place the cursor in a stereo rendering.

Release 1.2.6.43412 also includes a new FOV Multiplier and Pixel Density display settings to adjust the displayed field of view and number of pixels rendered in the Rift images. Depending on your graphics card capabilities, these may provide improved visuals when adjusted upwards (at the cost of FPS). Reducing the settings will improve FPS. Both require a viewer restart after adjustment
Release 1.2.6.43412 also includes a new FOV Multiplier and Pixel Density display settings to adjust the displayed field of view and number of pixels rendered in the Rift images. Depending on your graphics card capabilities, these may provide improved visuals when adjusted upwards (at the cost of FPS). Reducing the settings will improve FPS. Both require a viewer restart after adjustment

Ai Austin has provided a blog post on his experiences in using this viewer, and I would recommend it for further reading, particularly in you are new to using the Rift with Second Life, as Ai provides point-by-point sets on getting started.

An interesting broader note in Ai’s post is with regards to using the HTC Vive with CtrlAltStudio – a questions which has been raised a a couple of “Meet the Lindens” sessions. In this regards, Ai:

Some users have reported that the CtrlAltViewer set to use the Oculus Rift works with the HTC Vive using LibreVR/Revive. This is a compatibility layer between the Oculus SDK and OpenVR. It allows you to play Oculus games on your HTC Vive.

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CtrlAltStudio updates to Oculus SDK 0.6

CAS-logoOn Saturday, October 3rd, the Oculus Rift supporting CtrlAltStudio viewer updated on Windows to version 1.2.5.43397.

The release sees the viewer reach parity with the Oculus SDK 0.6. However, it is not at this point being regarded as a “formal” release, as David Rowe, the viewer’s developer, notes that it requires additional user testing.

David lists the other changes of note with the release as being:

  • The viewer works in both direct and extended Rift display modes
    • If using extended mode you no longer need to drag the viewer onto the Rift’s screen before toggling into Riftlook view
    • If you switch between direct and extended Rift display modes, you’ll need to restart the Oculus Configuration Utility and the Oculus VR Runtime Service.
  • Advanced Lighting Model no longer needs to be enabled in order for Riftlook to work
  • The hardware cursor used in previous versions has been replaced with a basic cross hair software cursor. It may not look pretty but it should still work as before
  • There’s a new “Mirror Rift display to desktop” option in Preferences > Graphics > Display Output
  • The scale of the UI depth Display Output option has been altered to work with the updated Rift rendering
  • A “Mirror Rift display to desktop” Display Output option has been added
  • The following Display Output options, which are no longer available in the Rift SDK,have been removed from the viewer: Timewarp, Timewarp waits, V sync, and Pixel overdrive
  • If you install over the top of a previous version you’ll probably want to press the “Reset” button for the “UI depth” Display Output option.
The 1.2.5.43397 updates sees the removal of the Timewarp, Timewarp waits, V sync, and Pixel overdrive from Preferences > Graphics > Display Output, and the addition of a new Mirror Rift display to desktop option
The 1.2.5.43397 updates sees the removal of the Timewarp, Timewarp waits, V sync, and Pixel overdrive from Preferences > Graphics > Display Output, and the addition of a new Mirror Rift display to desktop option

As always, for a full list of changes and updates, please refer to the release notes.

David also goes on to note:

I can achieve a pretty smooth 75 FPS experience on the Rift if the scene’s not too complex, though only if I have my main monitor set to 120Hz. If I set it to 60Hz I only get a somewhat juddery 65 FPS on the Rift. I haven’t looked into this yet and am keen to hear how other people get on. Note: You can use Ctrl+Shift+1 to display a statistics window in Riftlook.

The release doesn’t see the viewer updates to a more recent Firestorm code base than 4.6.9, and there is no corresponding Mac release at this time.

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UKanDo and Black Dragon get Experience Tools

Both UKanDo and Black Dragon have recently incorporated the Lab’s Experience tools, following their were promotion to release status in the official viewer on June 30th, 2015.

UKanDo arrived with Experience Tools on Thursday, July 2nd, with the release of version 3.8.0.28122. As with the official viewer, this adds the Experiences floater access to the ME menu, and also has the Region / Estate and About Land panel also updated with their respective Experiences tabs.

The Experiences floater and an Experience Profile as they appear in UKanDo with the default skin. The viewer also includes the Region / Estate and the About Land Experience Tools updates as well
The Experiences floater and an Experience Profile as they appear in UKanDo with the default skin. The viewer also includes the Region / Estate and the About Land Experience Tools updates as well

In addition, as a part of this release, UKanDo updates to RLV 2.9.12, with the NaCl / Marine Kelley avatar shadow rendering updates for rigged mesh – see my article of RLV 2.9.12, available here.

UKanDo 3.8.0 also includes Marine Kelley's RLV 2.9.12 update, with the avatar shadow rendering debug setting to help with rendering performance when running with shadows enabled and surrounded by avatars using mesh bodies & other rigged mesh attachments
UKanDo 3.8.0 also includes Marine Kelley’s RLV 2.9.12 update, with the avatar shadow rendering debug setting to help with rendering performance when running with shadows enabled and surrounded by avatars using mesh bodies & other rigged mesh attachments

Black Dragon release 2.4.3.5 sees the Experiences floater added to Dragon > Edit menu. As with UKanDo, it also adds the Experiences tabs to the Region / Estate and About Land Floaters.

This release, which arrived on July 4th after a couple of hiccups with versions 2.4.3.3 and 2.4.3.4, also includes Niran’s July 3rd update, which focused on a complete RLVa update, as per the release notes for that version.

I’ve not had an opportunity to extensively drive either of these viewers; my time is a little squeezed at the moment, and I’m struggling to clear a backlog of work and bits. So, consider this more a heads-up than any attempt at a review.

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Dolphin viewer bows out of Second Life, Adams style

dolphin-logoSometimes it takes us humans quite some time to admit something to ourselves that we don’t want to admit, but eventually there’s no more putting it off.

It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce the end. It’s over. No more new Dolphin Viewer.

Thus opens a blog post dated June 22nd, from Lance Corrimal, which I am ashamed to admit I missed when it appeared.   It serves as an introduction to Lance officially announcing the end of all Dolphin viewer development / maintenance work at his end of things.

He goes on:

With my current RL job and all the travelling that I’m doing there are more exciting things to do with the little time I have to spend on SL and other hobbies, than maintaining a third-party viewer… especially when most of the “maintenance” involves fixing stuff that shouldn’t have been broken in the first place.

I have been porting a few of the things that used to be in Dolphin Viewer 3 to Firestorm in the last few weeks …  I invite the FS team to grab anything from there that they like.

TheDolphin Machinima Toolbox was one of the last additions to Dolphin to be release (in beta form), and held a lot of promise
The Dolphin Machinima Toolbox was one of the last additions to Dolphin to be release (in beta form), and held a lot of promise

This is sad news; over the years Lance had built the Dolphin viewer into an excellent offering (it was my second viewer of choice of a good while). But time has conspired against him, even though he did attempt to get the viewer back on track (and in doing so started implementing some nice additions, such as the Machinima Toolbox, seen on the right).

But the viewer is very much a living, evolving things, and playing catch-up, even with the best will in the world, can become increasingly hard (and probably more than a little demotivating when the “to do” list constantly remains longer than the “done” list). This being the case, we can hardly blame Lance for wanting to spend what free time he has to devote to SL in enjoying things in-world that he finds fun and relaxing; I know if I were in his shoes, I’d have given up a long time ago.

Lance closes his blog post with a paraphrase of a Douglas Adams quote, saying, “Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish!”

I’ll add a small response of my own, “thanks, Lance, for all of your work over the years. May the wind be always be at your back!”

With thanks for the pointer to Nalates Urriah

UKanDo goes VMM with a beta update

logoThe UKanDo viewer, maintained by Connor Monaron updated to version 3.7.28.34230 on May 11th.

As the version number suggests, this brings the viewer to parity with the Lab’s 3.7.28 code base, and specifically with the Viewer-Managed Marketplace (VMM) functionality.

For those who may not recognise VMM, and keeping things relatively brief, the aim of the project is to enable merchants to manage the creation and management of Marketplace product listing through the viewer, bypassing the need to use the Merchant Outbox (and have copies of items stored on the Marketplace inventory servers) or using Magic Boxes.

It does this by adding a new Marketplace Listing panel to to viewer, which will eventually replace the Merchant Outbox entirely, and by adding additional back-end and web functionality which allows merchants to carry out a number of tasks associated with their Marketplace listings from within the viewer, and by enabling products to be delivered to customers directly from the Lab’s asset servers, rather than having to store them as separate inventory on the Marketplace servers.

Rather than go into a detailed explanation of all the functionality here, if you haven’t come across VMM before, please read my notes from the initial testing in 2014.

The Merchant Listing Panel for VMM, as see in the UKanDo beta, with some of my migrated items
The Merchant Listing panel for VMM, as see in the UKanDo beta, with some of my migrated items

The key point here is that, at the time of writing, VMM is still very much undergoing beta testing, and the viewer-side code has yet to reach a release candidate status in the official viewer, so the 3.7.28 release of UKanDo is slightly ahead of the curve – the Lab prefer that TPVs don’t release code which the Lab themselves have not issues in release candidate form.

To this end, Connor has clearly indicated this 3.7.28 release is a beta version of UKanDo, and the earlier 3.7.27 update remains available as the full release.

It’s also worth pointing out that initially, the current VMM beta was by invitation, so if you want to try the functionality either using the UKanDo beta or the Lab’s own project viewer, you’ll have to apply to join the beta via the link towards the bottom of your Merchant Home Page on the Marketplace.

All that said, I’ve been driving the VMM version of UKanDo over the last couple of days, using it to gradually convert my own modest store on the Marketplace from Direct Delivery to VMM (as shown in the image above right, taken as I got started), and have found absolutely no issues with it – not that I was actually expecting any.  Everything works smoothly, and updates made via UKanDo are accurately reflected when checked in the official VMM project viewer.

For Merchants who prefer using UKanDo over the official viewer, and who would like to try-out VMM as the Lab moves it gradually towards full deployment (which could occur in June 2015), the 3.7.28 presents an opportunity to do so.

Note that as a VMM beta release, the 3.7.28 update does not contain any other functional or other updates compared to the UKanDo 3.7.27 release.

VMM allows merchants to carry out some Marketplace listing related tasks from within the viewer (subject to how they have web browsing set-up) - here I'm editing a listing associated with an item in my Merchant Listing Panel
VMM allows merchants to carry out some Marketplace listing related tasks from within the viewer (subject to how they have web browsing set-up) – here I’m editing a listing associated with an item in my Merchant Listing panel – click for full size, if required

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OnLive: “so long, and thanks for all the fish” as SL Go ends

Even ideas around offering Sl Go as a Premium offering, while simple in concept, are potentially less-than-simple to implementSL Go has officially gone. The service ceased functioning on Friday, May 1st, after some considerable speculation on exactly when the service would stop.

As most, if not all, SL Go users are aware, notice that the service – along with OnLive’s other cloud services – would be coming to an end was given early in April, after OnLive decided to sell its portfolio of patents to Sony Computer Entertainment America. Way this came about is explained in a blog post from OnLive’s main investor (and former Chairman), Gary Lauder, and I also covered the reasons in a blog post of my own.

OnLive gave notification that their services had come to an end with a message borrowed from Douglas Adams, seen by users as they attempted to log-in via the OnLive clients
OnLive gave notification that their services had come to an end with a message borrowed from Douglas Adams, seen by users as they attempted to log-in via the OnLive clients

While it has originally be thought that SL Go would be popular as a means of access Second Life from tablets and while on the move in the physical world, it actually turned out that the service gained significant traction among those users accessing Second Life (and OpenSim, with the arrival of Firestorm as a supported viewer within SL Go), from low specification computers and laptop, as it enabled people to enjoy the full graphical richness of Second Life in a manner that would otherwise be beyond the capabilities of their hardware, and with few significant issues.

So what now for those people?

At the moment, the most likely alternative on the horizon is Bright Canopy, which will allow users to access Second Life and OpenSim through a conventional web browser. Again, as many people who have used SL Go know, Bright Canopy is currently undergoing beta testing, and it is hoped that a broader, invitation-only  pre-launch testing phases will be starting soon, with a formal launch to follow thereafter.

Like SL Go from OnLive, it is important to recognise that Bright Canopy is not endorsed by Linden Lab, but is effectively a third-party viewer service. As it is also being streamed (via Amazon G2 servers initially), there will obviously be a cost involved in using it, and prices have yet to be confirmed. Also, the service is likely to take time to grow – initially, it will be run using Amazon’s servers in the USA, although the plan is to leverage other data centres as time progresses (Bright Canopy is facilitated by Frame, who already use Amazon’s data centres on both the west and east coasts of the USA, plus Ireland, Australia, Singapore and Japan).

Those interested in learning more about Bright Canopy can sign-up for news on the official launch via the website, and and learn more about the service via the Bright Canopy blog.

In the meantime, and once again – as an SL go user myself, particularly when my main PC was in hospital for an extended period earlier this year, my thanks once again to Dennis, Jeff, Shae, Jersey, Robby and everyone else at OnLive involved in SL Go – including Jane Anderson in the US and Mark Bevan here in the UK – for striving to make it an outstanding service.

In the interests of disclosure, I am involved in providing support to Bright Canopy and in helping to administer the Bright Canopy blog. However, I am not officially involved in the management and operation of the company itself.