On May 2nd, I wrote about the return of Kirsten’s Viewer and its return to active duty. In that review I noted that while what goes into a viewer is down to those who maintain it, it would be nice to see Kirsten’s adopt the client-side AO mechanism, as first seen in the Firestorm viewer.
Following that review, KirstenLee’s partner, Dawny Daviau let me know the AO system was being considered and then, just a couple of days later, she Tweeted that the viewer had been updated with the AO code.
Even as an inside joke, I was flattered that KirstenLee had responded so rapidly to both Dawny’s prompting and my comment.
I understand from KirstenLee’s own comments that getting the AO code into the viewer wasn’t easy, what with the UI changes created by EEP – so kudos and thanks got to KirstenLee and Dawny for going ahead and integrating it. Given it did take a little crowbarring, it’s not surprising that the AO floater has a couple of minor of rough edges to it – but these do not prevent it from being used or cannot be easily fixed.
For those unfamiliar with the idea of a client-side AO, it allows the animations from an animation overrider system to run directly from the viewer without the need to wear a resource-gabbing scripted HUD. It takes a little setting-up, but once done, it’s easy to use – and has the further benefit of allowing you to use multiple AOs together without having to worry about swapping HUDS or including different outfit links to different HUDs.
The best place to get information on setting-up and using the client-side AO is via the Firestorm wiki. A couple of points should be noted here:
When first loaded, the AO floater may not display all of the AOs in its floater (e.g. all your stands might be listed, but none of your walks). If this happens, click the Reload button at the bottom of the AO floater to get them to list and run.
The UI scaling in the floater is a little off in this S23-1387 KV iteration, so it my need to be broadened to correctly display.
Neither of the above points impact the AO’s usability, and in my own tests, I had no issues with setting it up and using it.
Also note that the AO will create a folder called #Kirstens in your invention, which will contain a copy of the AO(s) you have selected for client-side use – do not delete this folder when using the capability!
As a long-time user of client-side AO capabilities (including loading it with more than one AO set), I’m clearly a fan of the capability. I like the freedom it gives, and the fact there’s no need to have screen real estate (however small) taken up by a HUD and, more particularly, the fact that texture RAM and script resources needn’t be taken up by the use of a HUD. So while this might be a “small” update, I think it to be worthwhile and – if you’re trying out Kirsten’s Viewer and haven’t used a viewer-side AO system, this is a good opportunity to try it out.
For those who do use the client-side AO, and might be looking to an alternative to (say) Firestorm for photography, the addition of the AO button and floater offers another reason for giving Kirsten’s Viewer a try out.
My thanks again to KirstenLee for responding to the request from Dawny and I!
Around a decade ago, a popular third party viewer (TPV) among Second Life photographers was Kirsten’s viewer, produced by KirstenLee Cinquetti (aka skilled coder Lee Quick).
At the time, it pushed hard to make the graphical appearance of SL rich and deep. It was also the first TPV to experiment with analgyph 3D, far back in 2011, long before “VR headset” was in common use.
Sadly, development of the viewer drew to a close in late 2011 as a result of personal circumstance (some of which is charted in these pages), although KirstenLee kept dabbling with it on-and off (such as returning to the S19 UI version and updating it in in 2013, and keeping pace with significant viewer updates from the Lab, such as Bento for the S22.x (current UI) version in 2017). Now – and as pointed out to me by Austin Tate – the viewer is more formally back, KirstenLee having completed the self-certification required to have the viewer once more added to the Lab’s Third Party Viewer Directory.
Available for Windows, the updated Kirsten’s Viewer is bang-slap up-to-date, in that it is built on the most recent release of the official LL code base (release 184.108.40.2060188 at the time of writing), and so includes the viewer 3.x+ UI, and all significant updates from the Lab up to and including EEP, the Environment Enhancement Project, although as Kirsten noted with it’s release, some tweaks might still be required.
KirstenLee refers to the viewer as something of a “hybrid”, and when approaching it, it is as well to keep this in mind. “Hybrid” is this case is a reference to the fact that while it is based on the core LL code base, the viewer also pulls in elements from what might be LL project viewers (and so not necessarily ready for “prime time” use), and from other TPVs. In doing so, the focus is very much on code that improves stability / performance.
I tend as a rule to keep any feature or alteration within the existing code base and not add extras which cannot be integrated into the standard source. I also use LL code style and naming conventions.
In this regard, the viewer is also described as being “aimed specifically at experienced users, with emphasis on the visuals.” This is not so much to put people off, but to underline the fact that use of the viewer comes best if you have an understanding of the more esoteric aspects of viewer use – such as clearing caches and settings from any prior versions when installing a new version (aka, performing a “clean install”). Such capabilities are not hard to grasp, and can be found documented in various locations.
Given the S23.x release is based on the latest LL code base, you can comfortably expect all of the major Lab updates to be present, as noted, and may from time-to-time include elements from upstream of the release viewer (as with the Legacy Profiles, again as mentioned above). It also pulls some updates from TPVs like Firestorm; however, those familiar with the latter should not expect Kirsten’s Viewer to expose debugs or offer viewer-specific capabilities to anywhere near the same degree – that’s not the point of this viewer (although that said, it would be nice to see Kirsten’s adopt the client-side AO mechanisms, simply because it is available in several TPVs and used by many people as a result).
Given this, the viewer’s Preferences and Tool Bar options are pretty must as found in the official viewer, with just a trio of differences in the the former. The Move & View tab, for example, includes additional sliders for camera movement – lag, smoothness zoom time – again in keeping with the ideals of photography / visuals. Further, the Set-up tab does not include the auto update options, for reasons KirstenLee also explains:
I do not use the Linden auto build system. I host all the build libraries because I occasionally work on those in concert with the viewer code. It allows for much finer control over the entire process. I have a tendency to do custom compilations with different tool-sets which is something an official client would never do, for reasons of the broadest compatibility with the consumer.
Thirdly, Kirsten’s Viewer includes a custom Features tab (called S23 Features in the current release, although this will doubtless increment to match future versions). This is again camera / visuals related, and includes the option for running the viewer in analgyph mode can be found. This includes sliders for adjusting the analgyph 3D view to account for eye separation and focal distance.
Should you have analgyph 3D glasses and use the option, the following points should be noted:
Activating it will disable the viewer’s Advance Lighting Model (ALM) shaders – so shadows, ambient occlusion and depth of field will all be disabled.
Toggling analgyph mode off will not automatically re-enabled ALM, you must do this yourself from the Graphics→Advanced Settings floater.
If you log-out with the analgyph option enabled, it will be disabled automatically on logging back in, but again, ALM + options will remain disabled until turned back on.
If you use a 3D mouse such as SpaceNavigator, you may find activating the analgyph capability will severely alter default 3D mouse movement. As the overall defaults for the SpaceNavigator (Move & View→Other Devices) were not altered and given I don’t actually have analgyph glasses to make it worthwhile, I confess I did not fiddle with settings to see if the issue could be corrected.
It may seem odd in “bringing back” a viewer after so long, but there are reasons for it, again as KirstenLee notes:
Its a matter of public record as to how development ended, a perfect storm of circumstances made continued work on it impossible. But as with all things time is a great healer. Besides after nearly 16 years of SL I find myself enjoying my in world life. And have the luxury of a good work balance and a happy and healthy home. So while the sun shines make hay 🙂
For my part, and while I’ve not not driven the S23 release hard or far, I can only say its good to see Kirsten’s Viewer back on the active list once more. While it was never my main viewer, it was a go-to viewer for me for photography. And while it may only be subjective, it does seems to add more depth to EEP skies than I’ve noted with the official EEP viewer – the stars seem to “twinkle” more noticeably.
It’s always tempting to offer a list of what a viewer “could” or “should” have, particularly if coming from something like Firestorm – but the point of TPVs are that they are not meant to all provide the same things. With its emphasis on visuals, performance and stability, Kirsten’s Viewer addresses a specific set of goals and as such, has – and likely will have – only the tools it needs to achieve that, my own earlier comment on the client-side AO above notwithstanding. As such, I’m looking forward to seeing the viewer’s progress, and reporting on it.
Kirstenlee Cinquetti has issued a further update to the S19 version of Kirsten’s Viewer – version S19 1.19.4 (407). Released on Thursday May 16th, 2013, the update primarily fixes a nasty cache crash when user settings and local cache are manually deleted.
There have been a lot of questions as to why the S19 (v1-style) viewer from Kirsten’s stable is being updates rather than the S22/S23 viewers. In a blog post accompanying the release, Kirsten/Lee gives an answer:
So I guess the most pertinent question is why? It is probably the most pointless one to answer also.
But lets just take a wild stab at it!
I need to be in SL occasionally so I need a viewer (Duh), V2 is dead sorry S22 it was fun, V3 is well lets just say it’s not my cup of tea. I could just download someone else’s viewer but thats not what I want.
I LIKE S19 it was and still is quick, its code in comparison to newer clients is simpler it has much more modest hardware demands I can merge from many sources more rapidly etc, etc, etc.. It ticks all my boxes, on a more personal note it’s NOT limited to Second Life.
That is important to me, so it may have bugs, it may not compile on macs very well… sorry.
But if I wish to drift around SL or jump into Opensim I can.. anyway hope that kinda answers some of my motivations, and why I share the corresponding installer.
As mentioned in my last piece marking the “return” of the S19 viewer, and people shouldn’t anticipate routine updates and improvements; as Lee indicates in his bog post, this viewer has been updated and is being tweaked purely to suit his needs – and rightly so.
A couple of notable changes have been made since version S220.127.116.11.(404), the last version I used. Preferences have been moved from their “traditional” location in the File menu to appear under the S19 menu, and Depth of Field (DoF) has been added to the Graphics tab, in a dedicated sub-tab.
Sadly for me, I’m unable to test DoF, as deferred will not run on my hardware set-up, no matter how I fiddle with AA (which was Lee’s suggestion to me after I’d encountered problems with the 404 build). But then, as I noted last time, while I’ve always like Kirsten’s Viewer, my hardware has tended to sulk badly when using it.
However, for those of you missing Kirsten’s Viewer, here’s yet another update for you! Going on feedback following my original piece on S19’s return (in comments, IMs and DMs), it’s good to know the viewer still has loyal fans!
The blog post says it all – “old school” – a simple message with a lot of meaning. Kirstenlee Cinquetti has been twiddling under the hood with the S19 (v1-style) version of Kirsten’s Viewer with the result that an updated version – code-named “Blackbird” (version S19.404 at the time of writing) was released via Google Code on Wednesday 24th April.
This is the second time there has been a surprise update to one of Kirstenlee’s viewers – in September 2012 a couple of updates were made to the v2-style S22 viewer. As with those updates, the new release of S19 does not mean that Kirstenlee is returning to the field of viewer development per se. Nor is this a complete update – although it does incorporate a lot of v3 code and is Server-side Baking ready. As it stands, the release – as with the S22 releases in September 2012 – is offered “as is” and without support – and there is no time scale or firm commitment where further updates are concerned.
As readers, know, I’m not a fan of the v1-style interface, but I admit there is something pleasing about loading and running this release – quiet possibly because it is one of Kirstenlee’s builds, which, despite the odd hiccup between the viewer and my hardware, I’ve always felt pretty much at home with. Perhaps it’s the green :).
Some of the New Bits
I’m not proposing an in-depth review, but here are some of the main features in the update.
Server-side Baking / Appearance: as mentioned above, this update is “server-side baking / appearance ready – it will render avatars correctly on SSB/A-enabled regions and avatars using the viewer will render correctly to others. However, the new “hover” mode partial z-offset “fix” is not included in the Edit Appearance floater.
Mesh Uploads: Nicky Dasmijn’s mesh uploader is included in this release of S19, again bringing it into line with other viewers and the age of mesh.
Anaglyph [3D] rendering: Kirsten’s first introduced 3D rendering in the S22 viewer. While still very experimental, with all the interest in Oculus Rift, its inclusion in S19 with this release is perhaps a little pertinent and timely as a means of generating a 3D view in a viewer.
Restrained Love: RLV comes to Kirsten’s viewer with a dedicated preferences panel which includes the ability to set a “profile” against your RLV use – one of “BDSM Persona-Player”, “BDSM Role-player” and “Non-BDSM”. These define how many (and which) RLV controls can be blacklisted (i.e. prevented from operating), so that, for an example, someone using the “Non-BDSM” option can make use of options such as automatic chat redirection, shared folders for changing outfits and “forced” teleports which necessarily having to also have the more restrictive RLV options active.
Pathfinding: Kirsten’s Viewer S19 also gains options to display pathfinding information on linksets and characters. These options are on the Tools menu. As S19 supports OpenSim, there is no navmesh visualisation as there is no Havok sub-licence agreement.
Overall, this is a sudden and interesting update to Kirsten’s original v1-style viewer, incorporating a lot of v3 code which more than makes it capable of running on today’s grid. On the whole I found it to be stable, and with performance levels I’ve tended to get from Klee’s builds (somewhat lower than with other builds for reasons I’ve never fully fathomed). I did encounter an odd issue – while I could run the viewer in deferred mode, when I enabled shadows, my in-world view turned black, and refused to come out of its sulk until I disabled shadows once more. Whether this was due to a problem with the viewer, or simply another of the hiccups which seem to occur between my hardware an Klee’s viewer builds at times, I couldn’t say.
There are a few bits missing from the update as well – no Depth of Field for photographers, for example, (although Dawny Daviau, Kirstenlee’s partner, tells me this might be coming). So don’t expect it to be fully up to S22 / v3 standards in terms of options, etc.
Again, this release is not a return of Kirsten’s viewer per se, although there is an open invitation for those who like the viewer or the v1-approach to give it a go. Just remember, support isn’t given – and it may be a while before a further update arrives.
In the meantime, some more 3D, this time courtesy of a video demonstration from Chantal Harvey, filmed back when the capability first appeared in Kirsten’s Viewer.
On Sunday 23rd September, Kirstenlee Cinquetti made a surprise update to Kirsten’s Viewer. It was accompanied by a short blog post:
I cannot help but find myself drawn in once more, you would think after nearly ten years of what sometimes seems like punishment you would throw in the towel.
But like I have stated in the past you catch a spark of what could be.. and once more you re-discover.
The shape or form of your time devoted to this most unusual habit is not yet set in stone, but you know you quite fancy the journey once again.
Version S22(1a) was not a major update to the viewer, and wasn’t intended to be, although it has been followed by a second release on the 26th, version S22 2.8.2 (11). Both are still very much Viewer 2 in terms of UI, and are more “tidy-ups” rather than any resumption of development.
Seeing the old V2-style UI actually brought a smile to my face. Well, not so much a smile as a big, sloppy grin. Even though I’ve never been a fan of the tabs on the right side of the screen, I’ve still missed the Sidebar in so many ways. It is ironic that by the time LL decided to remove it altogether, several TPVs had re-worked it into something that was both reasonably functional and no longer a blight on people’s use of SL – with Kirsten’s Viewer being at the forefront of many of the early improvements and Sidebar innovations.
That this isn’t a return of Kirsten’s viewer – and shouldn’t be taken as such – was made clear by Kirsten’s partner, Dawny Daviau, who chatted with me earlier this evening about the updates. “He grabbed the latest Kirstens viewer and just played a bit with it and compiled it again with just here and there an adjustment,” she explained. “There wont be any serious work anymore done as he still works and doesn’t have the time for that. It’s just refreshed, and wont get the new things LL offers now like pathfinding etc. See it as recreational work on the viewer but because we had so many requests for the viewer we put it up for the fans.”
One of the last releases on Kirsten’s Viewer included a (still unique) 3D view of the world. That’s still present in the updates – you can find the option under Preferences->Graphics->Advanced-> Misc->Toggle Anaglyph Render. You may also need to disable deferred rendering (lighting and shadows) – but if you’re able to view 3D rendering on your computer, it brings a whole new depth to Second Life.
Being based on V2, performance isn’t perhaps as good as the latest generation of V3.x viewers. On my system, it ran at around 23 fps at ground level with deferred off and Draw set to 128m. Pushing Draw up to my usual test range of 360m reduce the frame rate to around 18 fps. However, I do have an older GPU, and it did always tend to struggle with Kirsten’s, sadly. This is reflected by the fact that with deferred active, I was reduced to single digit frame rates – just 7 fps at 128m, and 4 at 360m.
There is far too much in V3.x I’ve become used to – and dependent upon, in some respects – to make a return to using Kirsten’s viewer full-time, but seeing these two releases was a welcome trip down memory lane, tinged with no small measure of regret at what might have been, had the Crowdfunder funding raised enough for work on the viewer to continue.
The crowdfunder effort to keep Kirsten’s Viewer alive did not reach the required target of £25,000.
Kirstenlee (Lee Quick) posts a sad message today on the subject, confirming that the end of the road has now been reached, saying:
I will no longer have the time ( or inclination ) to develop any more, on January the 1st I start a new job, and will be busy looking after my nearest and dearest.
Given all they are facing, a move back to England, getting into a new home, Dawny’s health and the need for full-time work, one cannot help but extend both Lee and Sylvia (Dawny) love and best wishes.
It’s easy to dwell on what might have been in terms of the crowdfunding effort, and not to feel regret that Kirsten’s Viewer will not longer be under development. However, I’d like to remember some of what Kirsten’s gave us.
It may not have been my primary Viewer, but it was the one I always looked to when I wanted to take really good photos in SL – simply because it was so good, it made anything I took look good.
It was the first Viewer (indeed, the only Viewer for a long time) on which I could experience shadows in SL.
It was the first Viewer to demonstrate what Viewer 2 could have been and that the V2 UI could actually be made into something usable.
It was the first Viewer to give us DoF in a usable degree and the first hybrid TPV to bring us both mesh rendering and mesh uploads.
It remains the most comprehensive viewer made available for photography and machinima.
It was the first – only, to date – Viewer that dared to go 3D.
To Kirsten and Dawny, and on a personal note, I hope that Second Life continues to bring you both fun, friendship and enjoyment throughout 2012, and I’d like to wish both Lee and Sylvia a happy and bright Christmas and a prosperous and healthy 2012.
Thank you to both of you, and to everyone involved in Kirsten’s Viewer.