Speedlight: recent updates and iOS development

via Speedlight

Speedlight, the browser based / Android Second Life client, gained a further series of updates at the end of May and the beginning of June, together with an important announcement about the client’s future direction.

Key within the updates were the following:

  • The Android app now supports sending error feedback to the Speedlight team to help with bug fixing.
  • Web links are now displayed in IMs, local and group chats, together with a warning that following them will take a user away from the Speedlight site.
Links contain in IMs, chat and group chat are now clickable. Those that connect to external web pages will display a warning when clicked.
  • Further performance improvements.
  • Full-function 3D capabilities are now available to basic and well as Gold subscribers. So, Basic account holders can now move their avatar around.

The feedback capability means that the Speedlight developers are currently focused in bug fixing, although the team also note they are working on group management capabilities – viewing groups, sending notices and moderating group chat, and state these capabilities will be release soon™.

iOS Version Coming

While Speedlight is entirely operating system agnostic in its browser version, allowing it to be used on Windows, OS X, Linux, Android and iOS through a suitable browser, the team has already released a dedicated Android version, as I noted in Speedlight: using the Android app, back in February 2020.

On May 27th, 2020, the Speedlight team have started working on a dedicated iOS version of the client as well, with an expectation that it will follow the same development path as the Android app, and – if all goes according to plan – should initially be made available in around 2-3 weeks.

Observations

The two key points of the recent announcements are likely to be the 3D avatar capabilities now being available to all Speedlight users, Basic or Gold, and the iOS app development, and the upcoming iOS app version.

The former could help make Speedlight a more attractive alternative to users who would like a “light” / mobile client (remembering that with Android, the device must be running version 7.0 or higher, whether using the dedicated app or running Speedlight through an Android browser), but who were not keen on paying a fee to be able to do so.

This does, however, also beg the question as to what the Speedlight team plan to do in order to maintain the attraction of Gold subscription. Currently, there is the mass IM capability, but his is liable to have limited appeal for most SL users, some one can only assume other features will be made available on a Gold subscription basis, although obviously, time will tell on this.

Given that Speedlight is already on the road to developing world rendering with interactive capabilities, the news that they are working on an iOS app version of the client may also be welcomed by users, particularly given that many feel such a capability is is “essential” to a mobile client, and Linden Lab has indicated that it will be some time before their in-development iOS / Android client will have such a functionality.

Related Links

Speedlight version 5.143.1224 – May 2020

via Speedlight

Speedlight, the browser based / Android Second Life client, received an update on May 22nd, focusing heavily on the world rendering capabilities, offering updates to the UI displays, and various performance fixes / improvements, together with a step forward in avatar rendering.

The performance improvements are mostly under-the-hood – notably the addition of a further back-end rendering server pool, that I understand specifically handles textures and which corrects issues of textures with alphas failing to render correctly (so, among other things, no more “boxy” trees). There have also been updates in handling network traffic, so 3D world view freezes should be less apparent.

For client-side assistance with rendering, the Scene Progress / 3D Settings information panels have been updated thus:

  • The old connection status has now been revised to show three colour relating to “lag”:
    • Green – you’re “fully” connected to the server.
    • Orange – your connection is suffering from network lag.
    • Red – severe lag (/ awaiting data?).
  • The 3D Settings display in the panel now includes the option to switch between downloading and rendering objects at “high” or “low” quality, with the latter intended to reduce the network traffic load between your browser / device and the Speedlight servers.
The 3D World View, May 2020, showing the “lag indicator” (top) which will switch from green to orange if the connecting is lagging (or red if really problematic), and the new option in the 3D settings to select your preferred object rendering quality. Also visible is the revised avatar mannequin

With regard to these object rendering quality settings, I understand that for users on the “low” quality object setting, objects stay cached in the Speedlight intermediary server, speeding load times when camming / moving around. Objects cached in “high” quality”, however, may be discarded if not in the immediate view, so as to allow the servers to handle other object data.

The improvements to avatar rendering mean that avatars now have a body shape. It’s still primitive, but again somewhat in keeping the Lumiya’s progress with avatar rendering.

The case remains that only Gold members can move their avatars in the world view while free account users can only orbit / zoom their camera / turn their avatar on he spot. However, both Gold and free account users can see others avatars moving in their field of view, and the walking is fairly fluid, and certainly a good start to things. The short video below highlights the avatar movement.

According to the release notes, seated avatars should be rendered in a basic sitting pose (and a seated avatar is shown in the video). However, whether this is limited to just Gold users or a glitch with my experience, I’m not entirely sure (my Gold membership has lapsed at present) – but I found that when my avatar (running on a viewer) was seated on a lounger, my alt (running on Speedlight) rendered her as standing on the back of the lounger, rather than offering a view of her Speedlight avatar in a basic sit pose.

Speedlight should render seated avatars in a basic sit pose in this release. Whether it was because I’m currently only using a free account or not I couldn’t say, but in testing I found this not to be the case. My other avatar appeared to be standing on her seat.

Observations

At the time of the release, there were apparently a number of issues with world view rendering, but these did appear to get fixed fairly rapidly. Certainly, by the time I got to play with the release for around 3 hours, I didn’t encounter any of the problems that had been reported; generally speaking, I found my experience was a lot smoother than previously: no sudden lock-ups  / freezes / log-outs within minutes of starting the world view rendering.

As noted, I did have an issue with rendering seated avatars, which might be down to the fact I’m currently not at Gold status. The lack of the latter also meant that I couldn’t check to see if a fix had been made to my issue of my avatar refusing to stop once walking had been initiated (unless she hit and insurmountable obstacle or I logged out / in).

The “high” quality object rendering appears to have fixed a little niggle I’ve had with earlier versions failing to render two of the more complex mesh boats we have have moored at home; one or other would invariably be left with holes in it / missing mesh faces when the download / rendering process apparently completed – but, no more! With this release, both boats render as I’d expect to see them. It was also good to see the trees around our house render correctly, thanks to the alpha issue being fixed.

Quite probably the best experience I’ve had with Speedlight to date, and I understand more improvements are coming down the pipe in the near future!

Related Links

Speedlight: Gold capabilities and recent updates

via Speedlight

Speedlight, the browser based / Android Second Life client, continues to be developed and updated, with new or improved capabilities being added almost weekly. The following is a round-up of some of the more recent updates, and well as some I’ve not previously mentioned, including the Gold-only Mass IM tool.

Transfer Gold Status between Avatars

If you have two or more avatar accounts connected to your Speedlight account, one of which is Gold status, you can now transfer that status between your avatar accounts. Handy if you find you suddenly need a second account to briefly have the advantages of Gold, but not sufficiently long enough to justify an additional subscription or for becoming a Speedlight Patreon member.

To move your Gold status between avatar accounts:

  • Log-in to Second Life via your Speedlight account and then log-in to Second Life with the account that is not Gold.
  • Click / tap on the Make Gold option on the right of your avatar box.
  • The Gold upgrade screen is displayed. This now includes the name(s) of any Gold avatar accounts you already have under the title Take Gold From Another Avatar.
  • Click on the avatar name from which you want to transfer Gold status.
  • The Gold status will be removed from that account and conferred on the account you are using. Note that no confirmation is given, but the current logged-in account will list itself as being Gold.
Swapping Gold status between accounts

Word View

Rendering Updates

April 22nd, 2020 saw a series of updates to the rendering system generating the 3D world view. These include:

  • In-world objects are now load quickly in low quality, then get a higher quality when you look at them.
  • The distance fogging can be turned off if preferred.
  • The draw distance can be adjusted.
  • Linden Water level is correctly displayed.
  • Multiple performance improvements / fixes.
  • Updated scene information panel that can be toggled on / off.
  • UI touch joystick now allows walking and rotating.
  • Gold only: seated avatar mannequins are now rendered.
  • Overall 3D UI is more compact.

Updated Scene Information Panel

The world view information tab has been updated, and comprises four core elements:

  • The Scene Progress display link (generally open by default). When open, displays the land, object and texture load data.
  • The 3D Settings display. When open allows you to:
    • Toggle the distance fogging on/ off.
    • Increase / decrease your draw distance (default 50m).
  • Your connection status:
    • Green – you are connected to the region simulator.
    • Red – you are not connected to the simulator and will need to relog.
  • The current region coordinates of your camera.
The Scene Information panel and options

Notes on this panel:

  • It can be expanded  / reduced by clicking on one or other of the scene process or 3D settings links.
    • One click will toggle from one to the other.
    • Clicking on the same link twice will either expand / close it or close / expand it, depending on its initial state.
  • Be careful with setting the draw distance too high; this could place additional data transfer load on your connection to the rendering server.

Accessing Avatar Profiles in World View

An option I’ve not previously covered in discussing the 3D world view is the ability to view another avatar’s Profile directly in the world view.

  • Click / tap on the avatar.
  • The avatar’s Profile opens on the right edge of the world view.
  • The Profile buttons will function as follows:
    • The Send IM and Notecard buttons will switch you to the IM window in the client.
    • The Pay L$ will switch you to the L$ and transactions window in the client.
    • Offer Teleport and Offer Friendship will open an invitation in the world view.
Another avatar’s profile can be displayed in the world view by clicking on the required avatar mannequin

Send Note Cards via IM

Introduced on April 16th, Speedlight’s Note Cards from IM allows you to:

  • Send a note card directly from an IM session.
  • Reply to a received note card in an open IM session with a *new* note card.

Sending a Notecard Using IM

  • Open an IM session with the person to whom you want to send a note card.
    • Note that you can already be chatting with them, and simply wish to send additional information.
  • Click / tap on the down arrow to the right of the Send button at the bottom of the IM display to open a list of options.
  • Click / tap  on notecard.
  • The text input area will expand to display:
    • The note card title field, which will default to “From [avatar name] [time stamp].
    • The body text area.
  • Change the title as required, and use the text entry field to write the contents of the note card.
  • Click / tap Send to deliver.
The send a note card from IM capability

Reading the Replying to Note Cards via IM

Should you receive a note Card via an open IM session, the text of the IM will be displayed in the main IM window, as shown below. A button displayed at the end of the note card text that allows you to reply using a fresh note card..

Receiving the text of a note card in IM, and replying using a note card

Again, the note card fields at the bottom of the IM window should be filled out as requires, and the Send button used to send it.

Gold Only: Mass IM Tool

This is not a new feature to Speedlight, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to review it. In short, it does exactly what the title implies: allows you to send a single IM to multiple recipients.

Accessed via the IM option in the left side menu, Its use is self explanatory as well:

  • Enter the message in the top field.
  • Add a list of intended recipients in the lower left field, one name per line (this must be avatar names, not group names).
  • If required, check / tap the Save Sent Messages to Speedlight IMs to save a copy of the message to your IM logs.
  • Click /tap the Start Delivery button.
  • As the IM is delivered to each name on the list, a confirmation of delivery is displayed in the lower right text field.
    • You’ll also receive a notification on the status of each delivery.
The Speelight Mass IM option (Gold only)

Observations

The ability to transfer a Gold membership between avatar accounts is an excellent move for those who may occasionally need to have an alt access the more advanced world view available to Gold accounts, or to remain on-line without hourly re-logs. Similarly, the notecard updates in the IM options makes Speedlight even more flexible as a communications tool.

The world view rendering performance improvements should also be a welcome update for Gold members (I didn’t notice and particular increase for free accounts, but that might have simply been my connection). I did find the the problem of the avatar not stopping walking once in motion, as reported in my April 8th Speedlight update, to still be present; while I’ve heard two other users say they’ve had the same problem as well, I’ve no idea how widespread it might be.

That issue aside, Speedlight  – while still very much in an beta stage of development – continues to progress. Watching the Discord server channels for the client, I’ve been impressed with the degree of communications from the team responsible for Speedlight, and their willingness to engage with users.

Related Links

Speedlight: using the Android app

via Speedlight

Earlier in February, I reviewed Speedlight, the browser-based app for accessing Second Life from almost any web browser (see Speedlight: access SL via a browser (incl. mobile devices), February 14th). Created by long-term Second Life resident Glaznah Gassner, who is responsible for the SmartBot group / bot management application, SpeedLight is still very much under development, with the cost of the work paid form via the Gold account subscription fees and through optional Patreon support.

At the time of my first look at Speedlight, I focused on using it purely through a web browser on both a PC and on an Android device, highlighting its OS-agnostic nature. However, the team behind the app has also released Speedlight as an Android app available through Google Play, so this article serves as a brief introduction to the app.

The Android version is available for free, and offers all of the same capabilities when compared to running it within a browser, using the same style of interface. It requires Android 4.4 or above to run.

In order to use the app, you will need a Speedlight account, to which you can then link the Second Life avatar account(s) that are to be used with Speedlight (you can add and remove accounts as required). If you’ve previously created a Speedlight account via the Speedlight website, you’re good to go. If you don’t have a Speedlight account, the app will offer you the option of creating one through it.

You’ll need a Speedlight Account to use the app (in addition to your SL account) if you don’t have a Speedlight account when first using the app, you can see the Have No Account? link to create one

Those new so Speedlight will also then have to connect the avatar account(s) they wish to use with Speedlight. This is a on-time operation (unless you opt to remove an avatar account later). Link avatars to a Speedlight account is simple, and is covered in my article on the web browser version of the application (link below).

Those who already have avatar accounts link to their Speedlight account, will, on logging into the Speedlight Android app, be presented with a list of their available avatars (and can add more via the + panel if required. Tab the log-in button for the avatar that is to be used, and enter the required log-in credentials (you can optionally have the app save the credentials).

Logging-in to an SL avatar account via the Speedlight Android app

Once logged-in to Second Life via the app, note that:

  • As with the browser version, Free account holders are limited to one hour of continuous log-in time before they must re-log, while gold subscribers can remain logged-in all the time, or until actually logged out or until the Speedlight app is closed.
  • The clock in the left menu column will advise you on the remained time before you may need to re-log or will be logged out.
  • The Speedlight menu on the left of the screen will switch to a set of icons, making room for your avatar menu, just as it does in the browser version of speedlight.
  • Minimising the app will not disconnect you, and you have the choice of:
    • Logging out of SL and leaving Speedlight active on your device.
    • Exiting Speedlight, both disconnecting you from SL and terminating the current app session on your device.
  • The application offers the same options for both Free and Gold account users as seen when running Speedlight in a web browser. The only difference between the two is the larger amount of screen real estate available to the application, as it does not require a browser tab.
  • Details on using the available options can be found in my article on using the web browser version (link below).
There is absolutely no difference is using Speedlight in a browser on a computer or mobile device (left) or via the dedicated Android app version (r), other than the latter doesn’t run in a browser tab (click for full size, if required)

Feedback

As light clients go, there is no faulting Speedlight. It does, as the saying goes, exactly what it says on the tin. If you’ve not seen it before, I do recommend reading Speedlight: access SL via a browser (incl. mobile devices) to get a more thorough overview.

Given the Android app gives an identical experience to running Speedlight through a web browser, whether you opt to actually install the app or not comes down to the choice between the convenience of a simple tap-to-launch (and potentially smaller memory footprint) the app brings, or being happy launching a browser and fiddling with URLs / bookmarks.

As noted above, the app offers the same capabilities as using Speedlight through a browser, and has the same seamless switching between devices (I was happily flicking between the app on my Nexus and browsers on both the device and on a PC without any issues or being logged out in more back and forth when using my test avatar account and playing with the app).

Still only text based for the time being, Speedlight is already a credible SL mobile solution, and I understand we’re now not that far from seeing the first iteration of its 3D world rendering.

Related Links

Radegast 2.24

Radegast Rebranded

Cinder Roxley continues with her promise to maintain and improve the Radegast lightweight client for Second Life and OpenSim, and on July 15th she released version 2.24, which sees a range of improvements, both visible and under-the-hood.

In terms of user-visible changes, Radegast2.24 allows:

  • Triggering gestures directly from nearby chat, just as you would from any viewer (e.g. by whatever trigger is set for the gesture – such as “/hey”).
  • The wearing of multiple system layers (multiple pants, shirt, jacket, tattoo, layers), again as has been the case with the viewer for the last several years.
  • An audible “pop” sound when blue notifications open, to assist the visually impaired when notifications are received.

Under the hood are even more changes, with Cinder continuing to refactor and improve the code – notable focusing on the plug-ins manager, and a new tarball for Linux installation. In the case of the latter, Cinder notes you need to have a recent (4.6.x or later) version of mono installed, together with the latest patch set.

The tarball could potentially be used with Mac OSX, although Cinder also states, “it will run if you put a lot of effort into configuring Mono and Xquartz to properly handle WinForms … but WinForms is poorly supported on MacOS.” She goes on to say she’s still working on getting the client more readily installable on Mac OSX.

The Linux installation has not be thoroughly tested, so if you are a Linux user and would like to help Cinder, please download and install 2.24, and record any issues you encounter on the new Radegast issue tracker.

If you are a coder / developer, and would like to assist in maintaining Radegast, please contact Cinder Roxley.

Related Links

Radegast – new website and updates

Radegast Rebranded

Radegast, the third-party Second Life / OpenSim client which has proven to be especially popular with those on low-end systems and / or those with visual impairments, now has a new home, and recently underwent a new update. As I’ve missed the last couple of cycles with this client, the following is intended to be a quick overview of its status and a brief look at the updates which have been made since my last review.

New Home

Radegast now has a new web presence, where details of updates are blogged, and which will see things like the wiki and user guide move across to it in due course.

As there is no means to access the “old” Radegast site, this remains available for legacy purposes.

The client itself, as I noted towards the end of 2016, is now being maintained by Cinder Roxley, who would welcome any support that can be offered in helping to maintain and develop Radegast and the website.Those interested in doing so code-wise, can find the source code, build instructions, and examples at https://bitbucket.org/cinderblocks/radegast.

In her first blog post on the site, Cinder also provides a brief summary of things:

So far, any updates have been Windows-based. This has allowed me to roll with the punches and familiarize myself with the codebase without getting mono too much in the mix. The roadmap for other platforms is as follows:

  1. Update LibreMetaverse to be compliant with .NET Core
  2. Update Radegast to be compliant with .NET Core
  3. Begin packaging .deb releases for Linux
  4. Begin packaging installers for MacOS
  5. Bring speech support to Linux and MacOS

Updates

There have been two updates to Radegast since my last review of the client (which essentially laid-out the updates Cinder had made to restore Voice capabilities reliably after Beq Janus provided a workaround for issues being experienced as a result of Radegast no longer being maintained as a result of Latif Khalifa’s sad passing).

The first of these updates, which saw Radegast increment to version 2.21, was released on February 12, 2017, and comprised:

  • RLV updates
  • Second Life Enhanced Skeleton Support (Project Bento)
  • Branding changes
  • Updates to
    • FMODStudio 1.08
    • SLVoice files
  • Swap of base system to LibreMetaverse
  • Many bug fixes.

Version 2.22, release on May 17th, 2017, comprises:

  • Updates to:
    • OpenTK 3.0.0-pre nuget
    • VS2017 .NET 4.5
    • LibreMetaverse 1.4.40
  • New build system
  • Fix Give Inventory menu item for screen readers
  • Many bug fixes

General Notes

An important note to remember with Radegast is that while it has a 3D scene rendering capability, allowing you to see the world around you, it is very experimental, therefore, the degree of success you may get with rendering things might be variable. In testing the client, I found Radegast had a hard time trying to render rigged mesh body parts, making it impossible to visually confirm the Bento support. However you mileage may vary.

Certainly, the fact that the 3D scene renderer is experimental and may hiccup shouldn’t put those who need / prefer Radegast off (I sincerely doubt it ever would). The bottom line is that with or without the rendering capability, Radegast is a superb lightweight client, and both the 2.21 and 2.22 updates are ensuring it keeps abreast of updates to the “full” viewer, and remains a useful tool for those who rely on it.

Links

with thanks to John Brianna for the note on the new Radegest website.