Firestorm: the future of OpenSim Support

On Wednesday, September 18th, and after some lengthy deliberation, Jessica Lyon issued a Firestorm blog post outlining the future of that viewer’s future support for OpenSim environments.

The post is going to make difficult reading for OpenSim users, but the reality is that for assorted reasons, the Firestorm team have to consider priorities and how to best support their two disparate user communities.

The most important point with the blog is that Firestorm is not about to abandon OpenSim: but there are certain hard realities that need to be faced.

The first of these is that Firestorm are struggling to meet the demands of OpenSim support. While it is easy to talk about OpenSim in the singular – as if it is a single network of grids running to the same overall framework of server code – this isn’t really the case, as Jessica notes:

So many grids and no standard specification. Grid features that vary from grid to grid. We fix an issue on one grid that breaks something on another. Compatibility with OpenSim is vastly more difficult than it is with Second Life. Add to that the fact that we have to continue to merge upstream code from LL on a regular basis. We just don’t have the human resources.

Resources in this case being a developer who not only has the time to devote to OpenSim development on behalf of the Firestorm Team, but also the depth of knowledge of the various OpenSim protocols required to implement viewer-side updates while avoiding many of the problems Jessica mentions.

To try to assist in matters going forward, Jessica outlines some of the steps that the Firestorm team will be taking:

  • Firestorm will no longer accept OpenSim viewer features without direct communication via viewer patch contributions, or better yet, some kind of reference viewer. Simply put, the team cannot expected to keep up with all developments in OpenSim, which features have been introduced in some grids and how they might impact others.
  • Firestorm can only include features compatible with the current recognised OpenSim version number – features based on in-development or upcoming server code cannot be accepted, particularly those that may work on one grid one way, but differently on another or not at all.
  • Firestorm can no longer guarantee keeping old / deprecated protocols active within the viewer indefinitely. Attempting to do so  simply increases many of the complexities involved in developing and maintaining a viewer – and Firestorm is already hard-pressed in keeping pace with updates rolling out of Linden Lab for Second Life and with the major updates and improvements being made to OpenSim.

This last point has particular relevance when it comes to upcoming major releases like Linden Lab’s Environment Enhancement Project (EEP), which will entirely replace Windlight.  This is actually what prompted Firestorm to try to split viewer development between different repositories  – one for OpenSim and one for Second Life – which in turn resulted in a lot of concerns being raised by OpenSim users that have, in part, informed the thinking leading up to this blog post.

Simply put, Firestorm cannot continue to support both Windlight and EEP, and will be focusing on EEP as that reaches release for Second Life, with the hope that OpenSim will find the means to adopt the EEP protocols in the future. Similarly, it is likely that projects such LL’s on-going Love Me Render work to improve viewer rendering, the Estate Access Management project and others may well impact Firestorm’s ability to support OpenSim.

So What Does This Mean?

Simply put, it means that if Firestorm is to continue supporting OpenSim to the fullest possible extent, it is going to need the help and support of the OpenSim community.

Part of this can be due through the likes of communication and viewer patch submissions and testing, as noted above. However, the most practical way to help Firestorm is for those within the OpenSim community who are competent viewer developers and who have – or can quickly understand – the Firestorm code, to volunteer their time and expertise.

To do so, drop the Firestorm team an e-mail providing your name, contact details and a brief outline of your experience in viewer code development, and how you believe you would be able to help.

So if you are that person – please do considered applying; or if you know someone who can help – point them towards the Firestorm blog post. In the meantime, OpenSim users who may read this blog are asked to follow the link to Jessica’s blog post to read her comments first-hand.

Firestorm’s Pets for New Residents 2018

Do you have a wearable / follow pet that you no longer use, and that is Transferable? Why not donate it to the Firestorm team for gifting to a new SL user this Christmas?

You may remember that in August, the Firestorm team ran a fun-raiser, asking people to donate their unwanted gacha items?

Well for the end of 2018, they are again asked for the donation of items – but this time with a very different aim in mind, as they explain in the following  Firestorm wiki article:

With Christmas around the corner we think of ways to spread the cheer and give gifts to those who are dear to us. This Christmas, how about extending that love to the ones brand new to Second Life, to let them see what a wondrous place they have entered with loving and generous people.

Every year we are presented with amazing new pets from talented creators and they seem to get better and better with each new creation. And although they are just virtual companions, these pets have the ability to make the times we are here without human contact seem less lonely. They transcend the realm of mere fashion accessories to a loving addition to this our Second Lives.

When the new loves come along, our past companions are packed away in a folder, maybe to come out another day. So why not make that day today and why not pass them on to be loved by another.

Many entering Second Life are shy and overwhelmed with learning the basics. Having a virtual friend and companion to share those first tentative steps with could make a world of difference. Just think your well-loved pet going on to give the warmth of friendship to another, touching their second lives and bringing joy to their hearts.

So for December 2018 make it a true month of giving and pass on your Ex-Loved pets so that they too get a chance at a Second Life.

Kindly contact Kio Feila and entrust her with your Ex-Loved Pets and know that they will be warming the hearts of someone new this Christmas.

Christmas is, as they say, the time for giving. So, if you do have a pet or pets now forever kennelled, caged or locked in a folder in your inventory, and which do have suitable permissions for passing them on to others,  why not follow the article’s suggestion and donate them so that they might get to have a second life with a new owner? Just drop a line to Kio via the link above!

Firestorm: fake website and downloads warning

There are always certain risks involved in on-line living. With Second Life, we’ve all likely seen or heard of various scams and attempts to either data-scrape or gain people’s account details through phishing and other means.

Another area of risk is using viewers from untrusted sources, making a careful checking of linking to TPV sites mandatory (e.g. by checking them through the Third Party Viewer Directory page on the SL wiki) – particularly when they appear in note cards or pop-up in group chat sessions, and so on.

I raise this because Firestorm has been the subject of fake accounts posting links to a completely fake Firestorm viewer website.

Group and individual IMs have been circulating from fake “Firestorm” accounts, pointing to a fake Firestorm website & viewer downloads – with the Windows download link infected

The website – note the addresses arrowed above – is a scam site that is particularly nasty, as the Windows download link is infected – see virustotal.com – and so should not be used.

For clarity, Firestorm’s actual web address is: http://www.firestormviewer.org/ – no “pro” or anything else in the URL. Furthermore, outside of their own support and test groups, Firestorm do not spam other groups or individuals with links for downloading their viewer.

Currently, the Firestorm team is trying to get the false site taken down, and Linden Lab are working with them to ban the fake accounts.

However, if you do receive an IM similar to the one shown above, fielding fake website URLs, or see a similar message in a Group IM or notice, please don’t simply dismiss it. Linden Lab have requested those in receipt on such messages / notices should file an Abuse Report.

When filing a report, make sure you take a screen shot showing the message / notice displayed in your viewer – the abuse report screen shot feature will automatically capture open IM windows, etc. Reports can be filed under the Harassment category.

If you need assistance with raising an Abuse Report, please refer to my Abuse Reports tutorial, written with the assistance of Linden Lab’s Governance team.

Firestorm viewer seeks volunteers

Are you a little bit crazy? Have a slight taste for personal suffering? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to develop a personality tic? You might be perfect for our team!

– From the Firestorm blog post on volunteers

This is light-hearted start to a blog post by Firestorm’s Jessica Lyon that has a serious intent: a call for assistance from Firestorm users willing to give some of their time to help support both the Firestorm viewer and the Firestom team’s other activities in Second Life.

As the most popular Second Life viewer (and a viewer with a strong following in OpenSim), Firestorm actually requires a lot of upkeep; not just in maintaining and extending the code either by exposing debug features provided by Linden Lab or through the provision of dedicated code contributions, but also in ensuring the viewer is fit for purpose ahead of any release and in providing that same vast user community with ongoing support and assistance.

As such, Firestorm is looking for volunteers willing to join the following teams:

  • Firestorm Support: helping residents solve problems they may encounter with installing and using the Firestorm viewer through the in-world support groups and by filing support tickets on the Firestorm Jira (bug-reporting system).
  • Firestorm QA Team: helping to ensure each viewer release is as good as it can be, by finding and reporting bugs (part of which means accepting frequent crashes). But it also means getting to see, use and test new features before the rest of the user base.

You can read more about the roles through the blog, and the Support Team Application Form.

Firestorm are also looking for people to help with work at the seven regions of the Firestorm Community Gateway

In addition, Firestorm is looking for mentors to help assist new users at the Firestorm Community Gateway. The work is rich and diverse, including providing insight, advice, and direction, responding to questions of every possible variation on the viewer and Second Life, helping new residents learn about the viewer and interact with the virtual world, and more.

Those interested in the role are invited to visit the Social Club at the Firestorm Gateway in world, where a red box can be found, offering an application form, which should be posted back to the box when completed.

Find out more via the official Firestorm blog post.

Firestorm fund-raiser

Firestorm fund-raising market

The Firestorm team has launched a fund-raiser, primarily to help cover the cost of a new main server, used to host the team’s JIRA, web site, wiki, code repository, and so on. However, as the Firestorm blog post on the matter also notes, the team also have recurring costs involved in the license they have to pay in order to use the Kakadu codec for rendering in the viewer, and costs involved in running the land costs (albeit subsidised by the Lab) involved with the Firestorm Community Gateway.

To this end, the new fund-raiser is planned as a hopefully long-term event, and also designed to help people get rid of their unwanted gacha items.

Located over the Firestorm gateway regions is a “Firestorm market” featuring stalls and vendor boards where visitors can purchase collected and donated gacha items. Note that despite the confusing blog title, this is not itself a gacha event – there are no machines, just the opportunity to buy individual items and complete sets previously sold via gacha vendors, which the Firestorm team have collected or have received as donations.

The prices of items vary throughout, and many of them might well be offered under the acronym WTGTG – when they’re gone, they gone.

Firestorm fund-raising market

Anyone wishing to donate items can do so by contacting Kio Feila in-world.

In addition, those wishing to help the Firestorm team but who don’t find anything of interest on sale, can make direct L$ donations, or flow links to the Firestorm listings on the Marketplace, which male and female Firestorm Jackets can be purchased, with all funds also going towards helping cover the team’s costs.

All funds raised will be used directly and solely towards  the Firestorm operating costs and overhead; all Firestorm team members are volunteers who receive no financial or L$ compensation.

Kokua update, MetaChat issues and Firestorm version block

A quick round-up of news relating to a handful of viewers and clients.

Kokua

Kokua 64 bit (Windows, Mac and Linux) updated both the RLV (5.1.7.43693) and non-RLV (5.1.6.43692) flavours of the viewer on Sunday, August 11th. I’ve not had time to drive the update – and my not be able to, due to other commitments. However, the core of the update brings the viewer to parity with the SL viewer 5.1.7 code base, and offers some updates from the Kokua team, described in the release notes as follows:

In addition the options for configuring the chat range rings and colours move from the Kokua General preferences tab to Kokua Chat which as well as being more logical also frees up space needed in the RLV version for a new option on the General tab.

The RLV version gains an option on the Kokua General tab which allows @standtp to be disabled. This has been added because @standtp tends to operate in various counter-intuitive ways despite operating as intended.

Here’s one scenario that illustrates the problem:-

  • @standtp is applied to the avatar.
  • The avatar hitches to (sits on) a cart.
  • The avatar pulls the cart from location A to location B.
  • The avatar is unhitched from the cart (stands up).
  • At that point @standtp teleports them back to location A.

Links

MetaChat

MetaChat the iOS client  is having problems courtesy of Apple. The app was removed from the iStore on August 9th, as part of a purge by Apple on “gambling apps”.

Enquiries have been lodged with Apple on when / if the app will be allowed to re-list, but thus far, no response has been given.

In the meantime, versions already downloaded  / downloaded and installed will still work, this move by Apple only affects the client’s listing on the iStore.

iOS / MetChat users can read more on the MetaChat blog, where updates will also be posted.

Firestorm Version Block

A reminder to Firestorm users, Firestorm 5.0.1.52150 (released December, 2016) will be blocked from Tuesday, August 14th, in keeping with the Firestorm team’s policy of only allowing the current, and the two version immediately prior to it.

This means that if you are still used Firestorm 5.0.1, you need to update to a more recent version: 5.0.7, 5.011 or the current 5.1.7 release.

To find out more about why Firestorm versions are blocked, please read this blog post from the Firestorm team.