|On Monday, March 21st, 2022, the Firestorm team released version 6.5.3 of their viewer.
This is a significant update to Firestorm, containing major new elements aimed at helping to improve viewer performance / the user experience. As such, these elements for the major focus for the notes below.
As per usual, it also brings Firestorm closer to the current official SL release viewer by including a number of updates and capabilities previously released by LL. Again, from an end-user perspective, one of the most noticeable of this is likely to the incorporation of the 360º snapshot capability, which is also looked at in detail below.
Also as per usual, Firestorm 6.5.3 includes additional fixes and updates directly from the Firestorm team to also improve the user experience. Not all of these are covered in the notes below, and readers are referred to the official release notes alongside of this article.
|Table of Contents
- There is no need to perform a clean install with this release if you do not wish to.
- Do, however, make sure you back-up all your settings safely so you can restore them after installing 6.5.3.
Splash Screen Update
Whilst not strictly part of the 6.5.3 release, having been prototyped with and added to the 6.4.21 release, Firestorm now has a new splash / log-in screen. It incorporates elements familiar to Firestorm users and also to users of viewers that use splash screens more closely modelled on Lab’s own.
In all, the “new” Splash screen can be split into five elements:
- A set of six panels at the top, four of which are Firestorm-specific (version details, wiki and Jira links, and on the far right, Firestorm social media links), and two related to official SL information (grid status data and links to information on current grid issues, LL support and grid status updates).
- A three-panel selection of blog links from the Firestorm blog, the official SL Featured News blog and the SL Blogger’s Network.
- An expandable scrollable list of currently-popular destinations in Second Life (complete with a count of recent visitors).
- These are drawn from the What’s Hot Now (default), Recently Added, Featured Events and Editors Picks sections of the Destination Guide (the corresponding links on the right of the panel to select these).
- Clicking on any of the displayed thumbnails will provide further information on the destination in a pop-up floater, complete with the option to Visit This Destination after logging-in.
- The Firestorm & associated software logos.
- The log-in panel at the bottom (unchanged, and not shown below).
The updated Firestorm splash screen (click for full size)
Linden Lab Viewer Parity
This release brings Firestorm up to parity with the official viewer release 6.5.2, and so includes updates seen in the following official viewer releases:
- Mac Voice hotfix viewer, version 18.104.22.1687427, dated January 13th, 2022.
- Cache + 360º Capture viewer, version 22.214.171.1246335, dated December 7th, promoted December 15th – see below for more on the 360º capture.
- Maintenance RC viewer version 126.96.36.1995607, dated November 10th, promoted November 15th, 2021.
- The Apple Notarisation Fix viewer, version 188.8.131.524172, issued September 24th and promoted October 15th, 2021.
- CEF update viewer, version 184.108.40.2061752, dated July 24th, promoted August 10th, 2021.
- Fernet Maintenance RC, version 220.127.116.111414, dated July 14th, promoted July 19th, 2021.
More Robust Encryption of Login Credentials
In line with changes from Linden Lab, the way Firestorm encrypts your log-in credentials has been changed to make it more robust and to reduce the number of times stored passwords will have to be re-entered. The update to the new method is automatic on logging-in to SL for the first time using Firestorm 6.5.3; however, it means that should you switch back to using an older version of Firestorm, you will have to re-enter your credentials.
Note: this update is not in any way related to multi-factor authentication in the viewer, which is currently in RC testing in the official viewer.
Linden Lab’s 360º snapshot capability allows you to capture of 360º degree panoramic images of environment around your avatar / camera position (if freecamming). The images are automatically processed by the viewer so that they can be uploaded to most platforms supporting 360º panoramic images (e.g. Flickr, Meta), and for embedding into blogs that support 360º images (such as WordPress).
Within Firestorm, the capability can be accessed in one of three ways (Firestorm have disabled the shortcut option of CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-S, as this combination is bound to opening the viewer’s Debug settings):
- Via Avatar → 360 Snapshot.
- By clicking on the links seen in the expanded Preview image view of the Snapshot floater.
- Via a toolbar button (when enabled in a toolbar area).
Taking an image comprises a few simple steps:
- Position your camera.
- Select the image quality – for finished images you’ll need to set High or Maximum quality using the radio buttons.
- Click the Create 360º Image button to generate a preview in the floater’s preview panel.
- Click on the preview image and drag it around to ensure what you’re seeing is what you want / that things like textures have actually rendered correctly.
- Check the Hide All Avatars option, if required – if not, the process to include all avatars present, which could be blurred if they are moving at the time the image elements are captured.
- When you are satisfied with the preview, click Save As… to save it to your hard drive, renaming it if / as required.
Note: if you change the image quality, you must also click Create 360 button to update the preview AND image capture process to the new image quality, before clicking Save As… once more.
- 360 Capture viewer now de facto SL release viewer (this blog, December 2021).
- Embedding Second Life 360 images directly into WordPress (this blog, December 2021).
Improve Graphics Speed (Experimental)
Overview (please read!)
This is a new UI floater Developed by Beq Janus. It brings together a range of viewer graphics options and is intended to help keep you better informed of the viewer’s performance in terms of frame rates, rendering, etc.), and make your own adjustments to suit the environment you’re in. It is also intended to help users be better informed about viewer performance.
The floater comprises three core elements:
- The Frame / Performance Summary.
- An Auto Tune Capability.
- Four additional floater panels that can be used together / individually and independently of Auto Tune. These bring together some of the most commonly-user graphics / rendering options, allowing you to make changes quickly and easily to manually adjust performance, including defining how avatars around you are individually rendered, and lowering to load your own avatar places on both your system and those of the people around you.
This section is intended to provide an overview to the new floater, and offer general notes on the various options and their use. When reading it, please remember:
- The entire panel – and particularly the Auto Tune capability – is experimental. Options presented may well change over time (such as in reference to LL’s own performance improvement work).
- While intended to try to optimise the viewer’s performance, please note: these options will not magically make elderly (e.g. 6+ year old) computers with outdated CPUs / GPUs suddenly zoom along at rates seen with the latest high-end gaming rigs; everything is very much dependent on the capabilities of your hardware.
- Also, and in respect of Auto Tune:
- While it will try to maintain your frame rate at the expense of other settings (such as overall graphics quality). So, depending on your system, the frame rate selected, the complexity of the scene, you may find other aspects of your experience suffering.
- Does not run on Mac M1 systems at present.
- If you experience particularly awkward results or are unhappy with how the in-world scene looks, you can disable all performance optimisation, and the floater includes the means to quickly load / revert to any Graphics Presets you have previously set-up.
Accessing the Floater
The Improve Graphics Speed floater can be accessed in two ways:
The various options and panel displays are examined in the sections below.