Firestorm meeting: SL Go explored

firestorm-logoOn Sunday, December 21st, The Firestorm Team held a short-notice meeting which focused on Firestorm and SL Go. The special guest for the event was Dennis Harper, OnLive’s Product Manager for SL Go, who provided commentary on the background to SL Go and OnLive, and addressed audience questions.

Chakat Northspring was on-hand to record proceedings. As usual, the video is embedded here, and a transcript of the Q&A session is provided. However, in the interests of brevity, the first part of the meeting is provided a summary format, rather than a full transcript. Time stamps are provided for key topic areas, and for the Q&A session, for those who would like to listen to any point of interest within the video. Note that dates mentioned in the initial conversation reference 2012 and 2013, in actual fact, these should be 2013 and 2014, as reflected in the text.

A Summary of the initial Conversation

This initial conversation on SL Go, OnLive and the relationship with Firestorm lasted some 35 minutes, and is summarised here. Some questions were asked during the discussion on topics such as privacy and payment options. For ease of reference these have been moved to the Q&A section and placed with other questions on the same topic. Time stamps are provided to the relevant part of the video (below).

How Firestorm Got Involved with OnLive SL Go

  • Gary Lauder, OnLive's Lead Investor (and company chairman at the time), approached LL's former CEO, Rod Humble, about OnLive providing SL to users through their service (Image courtesy of LinkedIn)
    Gary Lauder, OnLive’s Lead Investor (and company chairman at the time), approached LL’s former CEO, Rod Humble, about OnLive providing SL to users through their service (Image courtesy of LinkedIn)

    [0: 03:57] The OnLive / Linden Lab partnership came about as a result of OnLive’s Lead Investor (and at the time, Chairman), Gary Lauder, indicating he believed SL would be a good match for OnLive and then initiating contact with Rod Humble at the Lab in May 2013 (see my article on the launch of SL Go)

  • [0:0515] Initial closed beta testing commenced in October 2013, while Dennis Harper joined in November 2013, charged with getting the product published and launched. The occurred in March 2014, using the SL viewer, offering to Mac and PC systems and Android tablets
  • [0:05:25] The initial metered pricing plan wasn’t popular with users. However, OnLive launched with it as they really didn’t know what to expect. Their service costs money to provide (servers, data centres, network, support), and SL users are a very different type of user compared to games users, spending up to 10 times longer active on the platform compared to someone playing a game. Metered payments were seen as a means of balancing use against cost
  • [0:06:48] As the reaction to metered payments was bad, OnLive revisited things and in April changed the pricing model to one of unlimited use of the service for US $9.95 (UK £6.95) a month – and the service started gaining traction, Then in October, the service launched on the iPad
  • [0:07:25] OnLive had always been aware of Firestorm and its large market share of the SL user base, and it was felt that offering Firestorm through SL Go would be a good way to bring the OnLive experience to a wider audience
  • [0: 08:24] Jessica Lyon was initially unsure of the, but was convinced when Dennis pointed-out that a large take-up of SL Go was among users on low-end computer systems, who were finding the service gave them renewed access to the platform, complete with a rich graphical experience. As many Firestorm users on such low-end systems complain that each new update of the viewer is pushing them further and further out of SL, she felt that having Firestorm on SL Go could include them once more

SL Go is a Service

[0:12:59] The launch of Firestorm on SL Go drew some negative feedback from Firestorm users (and from elsewhere). However, it is important for people to remember:

  • SL Go isn’t intended to be another viewer offering like a TPV. It is a service intended to meet very specific goals:
    • To provide people who are on older, lower-specification systems with a rich, immersive Second Life experience comparable to that enjoyed by someone using a much more capable computer
    • To provide those who wish to have the same rich, graphic SL experience as supplied by the viewer when accessing SL from their Android Tablet or iPad
  • [0: 12:25] Dennis Harper is the first to admit that the service isn’t for everyone, but for those who might have a need for it, it is available on a 7-day free trial basis, so people have nothing to lose in giving it a go.

SL Go and the Firestorm Take-up

[0:13:40] Dennis describes the take-up of SL Go following the addition of Firestorm as “scary” and being like “the hockey stick term” in the way that there was gradual take-up up until the Firestorm launch, which saw a large substantial increase in initial adoption, as Firestorm users gave SL Go a try under the 7-day free trial offer. He also notes that there is an affiliate programme available for those wishing to refer people to the service via blogs, websites, etc., and earn money via referrals to the service.

[0: 15:32] There was an initial issue with the system as a result of the way the texture cache was being handled.

  • The SL viewer uses a default 512 Mb cache, which users rarely adjust. Originally, on exiting the SL Go service, an entire user’s cache, together with their settings would be copied to a secure, encrypted store. Then, the next time the user logged-in to SL Go, the cache and their settings would be copied to the server they were assigned for their SL session, a process that didn’t take long
  • Firestorm, by default uses a 2Gb cache, and users often set it larger. This made the copy process a lot more protracted, with the result that if a Firestorm user opted to restart the viewer by logging out (which ends their SL Go session), on immediately relogging, they’d get an error
  • To avoid this, users now get a 2 Gb cache, which is automatically flushed at the end of each session, leaving only their inventory files and settings to be copied back to and from the secure store.

Continue reading “Firestorm meeting: SL Go explored”

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May 17th Firestorm meeting: audio and transcript

firestorm-logoOn Saturday May 17th 2014, the Firestorm team hosted another of their Q and A sessions to discuss Firestorm and Second Life, and to address users’ questions. Unfortunately, no public video for the meeting is available. The following transcript is therefore provided from a personal audio recording made by myself.

For those who wish to listen to the audio, and for ease of reference, it has been broken down into a number of files, each of which precedes the text to which it relates

When reading, please remember:

  • This is not a word-for-word transcript of the entire meeting. While all quotes given are as they are spoken in the audio, to assist in readability and maintain the flow of conversation, not all asides, jokes, interruptions, etc., have been included in the text presented here
  • If there are any sizeable gaps in comments from a speaker which resulted from asides, repetition, questions to others etc,, these are indicated by the use of “…”
  • Questions / comments were made in chat while speakers were talking. This inevitably meant that replies to questions would lag well behind when they were originally asked. To provide context between questions and answers, questions in the transcript are given (in italics) at the point at which each is addressed by a member of the Firestorm team, either in voice or via chat
  • This transcript is provided for informational purposes only. I am not an official member of the Firestorm team, and technical or support issues relating to Firestorm cannot be addressed through these pages. Such requests for assistance should be made through the in-world Firestorm Support groups or at the Firestorm support region.
Firestormers Assemble: Takoda, Tonya, Jessica and Ed settle-in for another Firestorm Q&A session
Firestormers Assemble: Takoda, Tonya, Jessica and Ed settle-in for another Firestorm Q&A session

Firestorm 4.6.5 and the Release Cycle

 

00:00 Jessica Lyon (JL): So we released 4.6.5 two months early – surprise! It’s been a more-or-less, pretty much across-the-board, a really good release for folks, with few problems and lots of improvements, although it is primarily just bug fixes which are in it anyways. So that was sort-of to be expected and hoped.

00:25 JL: It was a bit of an experiment, because we’ve had a lot of people complain about how long our releases take, including some of our own developers and even some support people. So it was a bit of an experiment in some ways just to see what happens if we do a release in half the time. And the results are interesting.

00:48 JL: Adoption – the rate at which people upgrade from whatever older version they’re on, has been very slow compared to other releases; although that’s not to say it’s non-existent. We have … 85,000 people on 4.6.5 now, and that’s not quite in a full week [since release]. So that’s no slouchy number; but in a typical release, we’re usually up around 140,000, so almost twice that.

01:28 JL: It’s easier for support, certainly, because fewer people are updating all at the same time, so I guess that stretches out the support load. [It’s] easer for QA, that’s good to know. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be able to do releases in that two-month time frame all the time.

01:56 JL: For example, our next task is going to be project interesting, which I’m sure most of you are aware of, Linden Lab just finally released it, and it’s apparently really, really good. Things rez much faster, and we can’t wait to get … to the point after we’ve merged it … [there’s a description of the interest list work, as per the blog post linked to above].

The interest list updates provide more predictable and faster scene rendering, such as large objects and those closest to you appearing first, rather than at random. more use is also made of the viewer's cache (so the warning for not clearing cache as a first action in "fixing" issues becomes even more important
The interest list updates provide more predictable and faster scene rendering, such as large objects and those closest to you appearing first, rather than at random. More use is also made of the viewer’s cache (so the warning for not clearing cache as a first action in “fixing” issues becomes even more important)

Continue reading “May 17th Firestorm meeting: audio and transcript”

April 12th Firestorm meeting: video, transcript and notes

firestorm-logoOn Saturday April 12th 2014, the Firestorm team hosted a meeting and Q and A session to discuss a number of issues, including the OpenSSL issue and how it affects SL / Firestorm, Firestorm blocking, the next Firestorm release and more, and answer audience questions.

While the meeting was recorded, the Firestorm team are aware that many of their users have hearing difficulties, and / or prefer to read text, so this transcript has been supplied on their behalf.

When reading, please remember:

  • This is not a word-for-word transcript of the entire meeting. While all quotes given are as they are spoken in the video, to assist in readability and maintain the flow of conversation, not all asides, jokes, interruptions, etc., have been included in the text presented here
  • In the interests of readability, topics in the transcript are not necessarily presented chronologically compared to the video. For example: specific topics of interest raised in the Q&A session, and which are self-contained, are presented under their own heading outside of the Q&A section.
  • If there are any sizeable gaps in comments from a speaker which resulted from asides, repetition, questions to others etc,, these are indicated by the use of “…”
  • Timestamps are provided as guidance should anyone wish to hear the comments in full from any speaker on the video
  • Questions / comments were made in chat while speakers were talking. This inevitably meant that replies to questions would lag well behind when they were originally asked. To provide context between questions and answers, questions in the transcript are given (in italics) at the point at which each is addressed by a member of the Firestorm team, either in voice or via chat.

Please note: This transcript is provided for informational purposes only. I am not an official member of the Firestorm team, and technical or support issues relating to Firestorm cannot easily be addressed through these pages. Such requests for assistance should be made through the in-world Firestorm Support groups or at the Firestorm support region.

With thanks, as always, to North for the video.

The TL;DR Summary

The following is a brief summary of topics discussed. Timestamps in braces refer to times in the video where the relevant commentary can be heard. All sections are expanded upon in the main transcript – click on the timestamp to go to them.

  • 0:00:15 Ebbe Linden – a review of Ebbe Linden’s (LL CEO Ebbe Altberg) presentation and Q&A at the VWBPE conference on Friday April 11th (video and transcript)
  • 0:05:15 Firestorm 64-bit download: an issue with the certificate for the 64-bit Firestorm expiring meant the download had to be temporarily pulled. It has now been restored.
  • 0:08:22 Firestorm DUI: the dynamic User Interface is very proof of concept and requires a lot of work and if it is developed, will possibly require as much as a year before it is remotely usable, and this with the collaboration of over TPVs and developers. Right now, it doesn’t require bug reports.
  • 0:23:04 The Heartbleed SSL bug: a error in versions of an OpenSSL extension called Heartbeat can be used to expose server-side information to attackers. The SL servers are safe, the Firestorm server is safe, however, people can be at risk when connecting to external sites using MOAP or the built-in web browser. Firestorm 4.5.1 and 4.6.1 use OpenSSL, but the chances of them being vulnerable are negligible, and because of the log-in hash, users names and passwords are secure. The very, very small risk will be removed in the next release.
  • 0:39:21 Firestorm blocking: older versions of Firestorm are blocked to try to encourage users to keep reasonable pace with the latest updates and capabilities in the viewer, and to meet with LL’s requirement that as many users as possible are on up-to-date viewers. It is not a Trojan, backdoor, spyware or malware. Log-in IDs, etc., are not compromised, nothing is passed to the FS server. Period.
    • 0:56:19: Why Firestorm doesn’t use an auto-update process and the pain of clean installs
    • 1:02:00: Due to a coding error, Firestorm 4.4.2, 4.5.1, 4.6.1 will be blocked from accessing OpenSim when the time comes to block them. This is not deliberate; it is the result of the code required to limit blocking to Second Life not making it into the viewer, which will be rectified with the next release. Firestorm remains committed to support OpenSim.
  • 1:09:30 Due to the use of automatically-generated SLurls with images uploaded to Facebook accounts using SL Share to Facebook, the snapshot upload capability was blocked by Facebook. This situation has now been resolved between the Lab and Facebook, and photo uploads work once more.
  • 1:14:05: The Next Firestorm release hopefully will be available in early May, and will include updates, fixes and new features, including some Mac updates, the new Vivox files, etc.
  • 1:31:36: bugs don’t get fixed in either Firestorm or the LL viewer without people filing bug reports via the JIRA. Please help in making Firestorm, the SL viewer and SL better
  • 1:36:25 Oculus Rift is coming, but it’s coming via Linden Lab. If you want to have a play, join the closed LL beta, or try CtrlAltStudio (just make sure you have a headset!)
  • 2:02:02 a look at the SL Share 2 capabilities, and why they won’t be in the next release of Firestorm
  • 1:51:06 Ed’s reminder about Firestorm Classes
  • 1:28:36 Start of the Q&A seesion

Continue reading “April 12th Firestorm meeting: video, transcript and notes”

March 15 Firestorm meeting: video, transcript and notes

firestorm-logoOn Saturday March15th 2014, the Firestorm team hosted a meeting and Q and A session to discuss the recent 4.6.1 release, provide updates on a number of issues, and answer audience questions.

While the meeting was recorded, the Firestorm team are aware that many of their users have hearing difficulties, and / or prefer to read text, so this transcript has been supplied on their behalf.

When reading, please remember:

  • This is not a word-for-word transcript of the entire meeting. While all quotes given are as they are spoken in the video, to assist in readability and maintain the flow of conversation, not all asides, jokes, interruptions, etc., have been included in the text presented here
  • In the interests of readability, topics in the transcript are not necessarily presented chronologically compared to the video. For example: questions asked during the various updates, etc., are presented in the Q and A section of the transcript, rather than at the point at which they were asked (unless directly relevant to the topic being discussed). Similarly, topics of discussion which came up during the Q and A session, but which were not tied to specific questions, have been placed under their own subject heading outside of the Q and A section
  • If there are any sizeable gaps in comments from a speaker which resulted from asides, repetition, questions to others etc,, these are indicated by the use of “…”
  • Timestamps are provided as guidance should anyone wish to hear the comments in full from any speaker on the video
  • Questions /comments were made in chat while speakers were talking. This inevitably meant that replies to questions would lag well behind when they were originally asked. To provide context between questions and answers, questions in the transcript are given (in italics) at the point at which each is addressed by a member of the Firestorm team, either in voice or via chat.

Please note: This transcript is provided for informational purposes only. I am not an official member of the Firestorm team, and technical or support issues relating to Firestorm cannot easily be addressed through these pages. Such requests for assistance should be made through the in-world Firestorm Support groups or at the Firestorm support region.

The TL;DR Summary

The following is a brief summary of topics discussed. Timestamps in braces refer to times in the video where the relevant commentary can be heard. All sections are expanded upon in the main transcript – click on the timestamp to go to them.

  • [0:0015] viewers are often subject to flase flagging by anti-virus programs as carrying a potential virus / Trojan. With the Firestorm 4.6.1, Norton anti-virus in particular had issues with viewer, prompting a positive response from Norton’s support
  • [0:14:32] Mac issues update: work is being done on some Mac issues within the Lab, but there is no major project to address problems some users are having. Firestorm are somewhat stymied in dealing with issues due to both a lack of developers  / developers with free time and because some of the issues are beyond their ability to resolve
  • [0:31:00] Windows XP officially reaches its end-of-life on Aprial 8th, 2014. What does this mean for users on XP using Firestorm?
  • [0:38:25] Even running a 32-bit viewer on a 64-bit OS yields stability improvements, although if you have a 64-bit version available, it’s obviously preferable to use that on a 64-bit OS
  • [0:57:40] Firestorm are often critiqued on the frequency of releases. The team are moving to imporve things to a 3-monthly cycle, and there are reasons why a more frequent cycle may not be feasible
    • [1:21:05] It remains that Firestorm will not offer nightly or weekly builds, because there are significant support issues
    • [1:27:32] The team already try to release based on feature sets, however, a time-based cycle offers potentially better management of releases in keeping with the needs of the developers, QA and support
    • [1:35:21] The target will therefore be a 3-monthly cycle of major releases, with possible interim releases with bug fixes or for special features, such as might be the case with the group ban functionality
  • [1:58:53] With a target of a 3-monthly release cycle, it is probable that the next 2-3 releases are going to be primarily focused on incorporating features and capabilities coming out of the Lab, simply because there are so many of them: group bans, SSA updates, AIS v3, interest list, voice updates, etc.
  • [2:01:55] The new download server has performed admirably with not craches or other issues.
  • [1:55:40] Firestorm classes – with a new release just out, don’t forget there are Firestorm classes which cover all the new features, including things like the updated Contact Sets
  • Questions and Answers: including information on clean installs / re-installs; using settings back-ups; troubleshhoting issues; the status of voice improvements; why group limits are unlikely to increase in the near future; helping Firestorm support, etc.

With thanks, as always, to North for the video.

Continue reading “March 15 Firestorm meeting: video, transcript and notes”