CasperTech cease Metabolt client development

Metabolt, the 3rd-party text-based client appears to have ceased development, this time possibly permanently.

Rumours that development work on the client had ceased first arose in late 2013, after an extended period which had seen no updates or releases. However, in February 2014, news circulated that CasperTech were set to take over the curation of the project and continue it in the spirit in which it had been started.

The updated METAbolt log-in / splash screen from February 2014, the first indication that Metabolt would be continuing after several months of what appeared to be suspended development.
The updated METAbolt log-in / splash screen from February 2014 gave the first indication that Metabolt would be continuing after several months of what appeared to be suspended development.

The announcement was followed in June 2014 with an update to the client – version 0.9.71.0. However, since then, there haven’t been any further releases, which had again left some wondering if the client was still being actively developed.

It now appears the reason for the more recent lack of releases may in part be due to a dispute between CasperTech and the original developer of Metabolt over the use of the client’s name. A dispute which has resulted CasperTech withdrawing from active development of the client, as a recent terse announcement on the Metabolt web page makes clear:

The recent CasperTech announcement

Obviously, whatever arrangement (if any) had originally been reached between CasperTech and the original developer on how the client might be continued under its original branding is a matter for the two parties concerned, and not something for idle speculation. However, given a disagreement has now arisen on the matter, then as the CasperTech announcement states, this would appear to be the end of the line for the client in its current form at this point in time.

As can be seen from the notice, CasperTech are intending to issue an alternative client in the near future, although no time frames appear to be available at the time of writing this article. I’ll of course provide a review of any new client from them once it does appear.

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METAbolt updates to 0.9.71.0

Metabolt-logoMETAbolt is a lightweight text-based client for Second Life and OpenSim offering a range of features and capabilities. At the start of the year, there had been concerns that due to the long delay between updates (the last being August 2013), work on the client had stopped.

However, as I reported in February, this was not the case, but rather CasperTech were stepping-in to take over the project, as was announced on the METAbolt website at the time.

While it has taken a while for things to move forward since then, the initial interim updates from CasperTech have now started to appear.

The updated METAbolt log-in / splash screen highlighting the fact CasperTech are now maintaining it (Feb 2014)
The updated METAbolt log-in / splash screen highlighting the fact CasperTech are now maintaining it (Feb 2014)

The first of these was to update METAbolt from release 0.9.69.0 (Beta) to version 0.9.70.0 (release notes) on June 13th. As an interim update, this release did not bring with it new features or capabilities, but focused more on bug fixes and under-the-hood updates:

  • Bug fixes from CasperTech and contributed by users – for which CasperTach pass on thanks
  • The removal of x64 support – the viewer is now 32-bit focused and installs into C:\Program Files (x86) by default. The reason given for this is, “If METAbolt uses over 4gb of memory, it’s really not doing its job as a lightweight text client. Let’s use faster 32-bit pointers instead!”
  • Initial work on providing Mono support for Linux and Mac compatibility, although as the release notes state, it will be a while yet before this is complete

As this release resulted in an issue with METAbolt plugins, June 14th saw the release of version 0.9.71.0 (release notes) which, as well as fixing the plugins problem, also added a digital signature to the installer to prevent any security warnings from popping up on download.

Both of the releases present METAbolt as an installer .EXE, rather than packaging them as a ZIP file containing the installer and support files, as with previous versions. A little more work is required on cleaning-up some elements, as the installer does still refer to “METAbolt (64 bit)” and defaults to naming the installation folder “METAbolt (64 bit)” under Program Files (x86). However, this is purely a cosmetic thing, and not something that interferes with using the client.

The latest releases mostly contain under-the-hood updates and bug fixes. However a major code refactor for METAbolt is underway
The latest releases mostly contain under-the-hood updates and bug fixes. However a major code refactor for METAbolt is underway

Given the focus with these updates is on under-the-hood changes, the look and feel ofMETAbolt remains largely unchanged from earlier recent releases, other than the revised log-in / splash screen. Which is not to say additional work isn’t already underway.Tom Mettam, now leading the METAbolt project indicates that there is a major code refactor underway; as a part of this, CasperTech apparently plan to offer “bounties” for people willing to assist with the work. Those interested are advised to keep and eye on the Issues section of the METAbolt GitHub tracker for more information.

While I have not covered every release of METAbolt through this blog, those unfamiliar with the client may want to read my initial review, mush of which still appears to be relevant, and check the METAbolt category of this blog for those updates I do have.

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Metabolt set to live on

Metabolt-logoThere have been concerns and rumours circulating about Metabolt, the text-based client for Second Life and OpenSim. The last update occurred in August 2013; the long delay coupled with the recent unavailability of the Metabolt website, fuelled rumours that the client was being discontinued.

However, this is not the case; CasperTech are stepping-in to take over curating the project, as an announcement on the Metabolt website reveals:

Same Viewer. New Opportunities

It was recently announced that the METAbolt project was being discontinued. We are very happy to announce that this has not happened, and instead CasperTech have stepped in to curate and maintain the project.

CasperTech is a leading provider of solutions for content creators within Second Life. We believe that METAbolt will benefit from our strong legacy and foundations.

It is not our intention to commercialise the project, and we will maintain it in the same spirit of open source community collaboration. We do intend, however, to rejuvenate the METAbolt community with active development, support and new innovation. We are very excited by this opportunity, and we hope you are, too!

Please bear with us while we complete the transitional period – we’re working on a new website and will be making our first release of METAbolt soon.

– Casper Warden, CasperTech Ltd.

While the new Metabolt site is being set-up, a link to the download page / source code for the current release of the client is included below the message.

Metabolt: set to continue thanks to CasperTech
Metabolt: set to continue thanks to CasperTech

Metabolt is popular text-based client for users of various types of bot in SL (such as the Pandora Bot), which can be used for a variety of role, such as greeters, automated assistants, etc. As such, the news that the client looks set to continue should be warmly received.

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Group Tools: website revamp

GT-logoGroup Tools, the Windows-based third-party client aimed at users who need to manage large groups in terms of regular notices, group-wide IMs, or operate a region greeter bot, etc., updated on December 28th to version 2.2.26.

With it  – or quite possibly before the update, as I’ve not visited the Group Tools website since my week 51 viewer release summary – came a revamp to the Group Tools website itself, which very much helps to put information clearly and cleanly before people unfamiliar with the client.

I last looked at Group Tools itself in September 2012. The client has been through several iterations since then, so I’ve no idea how relevant that review is compared to the current version. Because Group Tools requires the purchase of a licence, and I don’t actually have any specific need for the client, I’ve not actually subscribed to the services in order to keep up-to-date. As a result, and given there are no publicly available release notes for updates, it’s a little hard for the likes of me to keep track of changes to the client as they are released.

The revamped Group Tools wesbites is cleaner and easier to read
The revamped Group Tools wesbite is cleaner and easier to read

I have tended to poke my nose into the website on a weekly basis, however, if only to check for application updates for my weekly viewer release summaries, which is why I copped the changes to the site this week.

The amount of information – with a couple of possible exceptions – in the site hasn’t overly changed; however, the layout has, and the result is a series of web pages which are easier to read, have improved navigation (the left-side menus would appear easier to read than the old white-on-blue menus), and the site appears to benefit somewhat from smoother loading – although that could be purely a placebo effect on my part. Some of the individual pages lack clear subject headings, it’s true, and the text could perhaps benefit from a little more white spacing between lines, but these really are minor niggles on my part; overall the look is very sharp and pleasing to the eye.

The two possible exceptions to the information presented appear to be the Support Ticket area and the updated FAQ area. I’m a little cautious as to calling these part of the revamp, as it is entirely possible they’ve been part of the website for at least a couple of months, and I’ve simply messed them when visiting it – although neither appear to have been there prior to late October. So if they are new, they’re likely to be very welcome for established users and those coming to Group Tools for the first time.

One thing I would personally like to see added to the site are details of updates to the client alongside of the downloads. While it may well be that such details are sent to registered users of Group Tools when an update is available, having them also recorded on the website, either as formal release notes or simply as a bullet-list of key changes, would also be of benefit both to registered users and to parties potentially interested in the client.

If you are a Group Tools users and haven’t seen the updated website, it might be worth hopping over and taking a quick look. In the meantime, for those unfamiliar with the application, here’s an introductory video.

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