SL Linux viewer to help bridge the gap

As noted in my recent article on the promotion of the Lab’s Alex Ivy 64-bit viewer to release status, there is currently no official 64-bit support for Linux at this time.

It is hoped with will change: the Lab is establishing a viewer build environment to build a Debian version of the viewer with the various specialist libraries required by the various flavours of Linux. The hope being that this, with contributions from the open-source community, will provide a means for the Linux flavour of the viewer to continue, with viewer developers adding the specific libraries they may need as required.

It’s not clear how long it will take for all of this to mature, and for a Debian version of the viewer to appear. In the meantime, it means that as the Lab baseline their viewer build process on Alex Ivy, and existing project and release candidate viewers are updated to the Alex Ivy code, they will cease having Linux versions. This can already be seen with the 360 snapshot viewer, the project render viewer, and the Nalewka RC at the time of writing (versions 5.1.0.506743, 5.1.1.511873, and 5.1.1.511871 respectively), none of which have a Linux flavour of the viewer. As the remaining project and RC viewers currently in the pipeline are updated with the new code case, they will also be without a Linux version for the time being.

To help compensate for this, on Thursday, January 18th, 2018, the Lab release the Linux Spur release candidate viewer, version 5.0.9.329906.  Dated November 17th, 2017, this viewer is in fact the Martini RC viewer which was promoted to release status on  November 29th, 2017 – the latest viewer to be promoted to release status prior to Alex Ivy being promoted.

While it is not explicitly stated in the release notes, it is unlikely this version of the viewer will be updated with bug fixes, updates, etc., but will be offered until such time as a Linux viewer using the 64-bit libraries is made available.  As such, it may offer a means for SL viewer users on Linux wishing to continue using that viewer, rather than a TPV flavour of Linux.

Obviously, those TPVs providing their own Linux flavour of the viewer are free to continue to do so.

Advertisements

2018 SL project updates 3/1

La virevolte; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrLa virevolteblog post

Server Deployments

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest news and updates.

  • On Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 the Main (SLS) channel was updated with the server maintenance package deployed to the RC channels in week #2.maintenance package  18.01.08.511751 comprises internal fixes.
  • Speaking at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, January 16th, Simon Linden indicated that the next RC deployment should be in week #4 (commencing Monday, 22nd January.

SL Viewer

The Alex Ivy 64-bit viewer, version 5.1.0.511732, dated January 9th, 2018, was promoted to de facto release status on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018. All other viewer in the pipelines remain unchanged at this point in time, although the Voice and Nalewka RC will be updated in due course for parity with the Alex Ivy code base. This means the viewer pipeline currently reads as follows:

  • Current Release version 5.1.0.511732, dated January 9th – formerly the Alex Ivy Maintenance RC
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Nalewka Maintenance viewer version 5.0.10.330173, January 10, 2018.
  • Project viewers:
  • Obsolete platform viewer version 3.7.28.300847, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

Other Items

  • Simon Linden is working on a new feature – due to go to Aditi (the beta grid) for testing soon – but will not be drawn on specifics at this point in time.
  • Joe Magarac (animats) has been digging into the viewer code handling region crossings in an attempt to improve avatar handing  when seated on objects and looking at the “partial unsit”issue (when the avatar becomes visual detached from a vehicle on a region crossing, but acts as if still attached (e.g. appearing seated, with any attempt to stand causing a viewer crash. He’s documented his work on a Firestorm JIRA (see FIRE-21915). Commenting on the work, Oz Linden indicates that if Joe would like to submit the change to the Lab (via the Second Life JIRA) the Lab would be interested in working with him to further improve agent  / object handling during region crossings.

 

2018 SL project updates 2/1

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o Xblog post

Update, January 10th: Subsequent to this post being published, the deployment plans for the RC channels were revised, and details have been add below to reflect this. My thanks to Kyouko for drawing my attention to the updated server deployment thread.

Server Deployments

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest news and updates.

There are no planned deployments for 2018 week #2. All channels remain on the same server release 17#17.12.01.511131. However, the Main (SLS) channel was restarted on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018.

There was no deployment to the SLS Main channel on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018, leaving it on  server release 17#17.12.01.511131. The channel was, however, restarted.

Following the original publication of this update, the server deployment thread was updated to indicate there would be a deployment to the major RC channels on Wenesday, January 10th: server maintenance package 18#18.01.08.511751, comprising internal logging improvements.

SL Viewer

The Alex Ivy RC viewer was updated to version 5.1.0.511732 on January 9th, 2018. All other viewers currently remain as per the end of week #1:

No Copy Exploits Update

An area of concern / upset for content creators has been the use of server exploits to generate copies of No Copy items. While a long-standing problem, the issue has gained a lot more coverage of late due to the frequency with people have been using various exploits to illegal copy and then sell gacha items. In November, the Lab closed one exploit used in generating No Copy items, and reported this, and the steps they put in place to help recognise when someone might be attempting to use it (see: Exciting Improvements to SL Fee Updates to Enable Even More).

Since then the Lab has continued to work on issues (see my SL project update from 2017 week #47). However, there have been mistaken claims that the Lab stated it had resolved “the” exploit, which is not the case – see the Lab’s blog post above), which Oz and Simon sought to correct in the meeting, with Oz Linden stating:

We never said we were sure we’d fixed all possible exploits, and we won’t say that because we might not know about them all.

Simon then added:

I know that statement and we deliberately and clearly said it wasn’t done. There was more work but we were making progress. I know a lot of people reading it probably wanted it to say (and mean) we fixed everything. We know we haven’t.

In terms of what more is being done, Oz said:

If I were to tell you now that we’re working on “method X” for object copying, I’d be letting people who might not know about it that it existed, and telling those who know how to use it to hurry up while the getting is good.

Other Items

  • New Linden: the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, January 9th was joined by Bugsly Linden. A new member of LL’s QA team, he joined the Lab around a month ago – and is a former Second Life resident.
  • Group chat issues: there has been a noted uptick in group chat issues. Commenting on this, Simon Linden said, “We looked into group chat recently and did a few things that should have helped. [In the meantime] for group chat lag problems, please send in a support ticket – the group name is crucial as its most likely a specific server needs attention. Also [give the] time it happens, and the region you’re on. Sometimes it’s the region’s issue.”

2018 SL project updates 1/3: Web User Group and viewer

Grumpity and Alexa Linden host the Web User Group meetings on alternate Fridays at Alexa’s barn.

The majority of these notes are taken from the Web User Group meeting held on Friday, December 8th, 2017. These meetings are generally held on alternate Fridays, and chaired by Alexa and Grumpity Linden at Alexa’s barn. The focus is the Lab’s web properties, which include the Second Life website (including the blogs, Destination Guide, Maps, Search, the Knowledge base, etc.), Place Pages, Landing Pages (and join flow for sign-ups), the Marketplace, and so on and the Lab’s own website at lindenlab.com.

Not all of these topics will be discussed at every meeting, however, the intention within the group is to gain feedback on the web properties, pain points, etc., and as such is very much led by comments and input from those attending. Along with this are two points of note:

  • Specific bugs within any web property  – be it Marketplace, forums, Place Pages or anything else), or any specific feature request for a web property should be made via the Second Life JIRA.
  • Alex Linden provides routine updates on the Lab’s SL-facing web properties as and when appropriate, which can be found in the Second Life Web thread.
  • Note that the SL forums are not covered by the Web User Group, as the management of functionality of the forums falls under the remit of the Support Team.

Web Single Sign-On

Single sign-on (SSO) should have been implemented for most of the Lab’s web properties (e.g. sign on to your account dashboard and then visit the Marketplace using the same browser, and you should be automatically logged in there) – although there are some properties (such as the JIRA and the land auctions domain) which are not currently part of the SSO process. However, there seem to be inconsistencies in how it is working, with some reporting that:

  • If the log into their dashboard, they can access the Marketplace via the Shopping link OK, but if they attempt to use the Marketplace via a separate tab, they sometimes have to log-in again, or
  • They also have to sign-in to different properties when opening them in new tabs, even if already signed-in elsewhere.

Having very restrictive cookie settings could cause problems with SSO. There may be a specific order of log-in that is required for it to work, which the Lab will check. Otherwise those experiencing such problems are asked to write-up a details JIRA on the problems they are experiencing, and the domains where SSO appears to be failing.

Governance, Legal, Finance and Technical

Often at user-group meetings questions are asked around matters of governance or which may be related to legal / financial issues (e.g. fraud or alleged cases of fraud). All of these matters are overseen by teams outside of the technical personnel who attend the in-world meetings, and so  – while it may be frustrating for those raising the questions – cannot comment on or address such issues.

Marketplace

  • Blank folder names in listings: see BUG-9984 – this is still occurring, and the JIRA has been re-opened for comment, with a request that specific recent instances of the problem are reported (you may need to send an email to LetMeIn@lindenlab.com & request access to comment.
  • Variants in listings: this is a long-standing request – to allow things like colour variants of an item in a single Marketplace listing, rather than having to list the variants individually. This is something the Lab wants to address, although it is not on the short-term list of work they will be tackling, nor is it necessarily an easy thing to implement, but it is climbing slowing up the list.

  • Marketplace Demos: demos are a pain point for some users of the MP, in that they cannot be easily filtered out of searches, even when using boolean parameters. various ideas have been put forward over the years for better handling of searches / excluding demo items. However, most are difficult to implement successfully, simply because of the way the system can be gamed (e.g., boolean exclusion of “demo” can be currently gamed by people listing items as “d_emo” or similar). The Lab is aware of the pain points with demos and free item listings, but again, this are things which have yet to rise to the top of the list of improvements they would like to make to the Marketplace.

Feature Requests

Feature requests – raised via the Second Life JIRA – are the best way of bringing ideas to the Lab’s attention. These are reviewed an assessed (triaged) on a weekly basis. When raising a feature request, remember to state a clear user case: what the issue being addressed is, why it matters, how your idea improves things, an indication (the more detailed the batter) of how the idea can be implemented, and so on. If you’re proposing a UI improvement, then consider including mock-up images of whatever you are proposing; if it is possible to illustrate the idea clearly some other way, do that, and provide an explanation. Try to be as clear and direct as possible.

Place Pages

The Lab continues to tweak and improve Second Life Place Pages, the most recent addition being to the seach option, which now titles thumbnail images and descriptions of places matching the search criteria.

Place Pages search now titles results with thumbnails and descriptions

Other Items

  • The wiki search is currently broken: this is a known issue at the Lab and is being actively investigated.
  • Inventory & load times: The Lab hopes to do further work on inventory, looking to improve things like load times and overall inventory robustness. This work will initially focus on fixing some bugs and deprecating various old UDP messaging, mostly likely sooner in the year than later, before moving on to hopefully making it more performant.
  • Aditi inventory syncing: there is still an issue with synchronising Aditi (the beta grid) inventories with main grid inventories. The latest issues occurred just before Christmas and are still being investigated.
  • Re-activating old accounts: if yo have a Basic account you have not used in a number of years and wish to activate it, it is possible that its associated inventory has been place in what the Lab call “cold storage”, and could subsequently exhibit continued slow response times. If the account is to be regularly use, a request can be made to support to have the associated inventory for the account moved – although this must be done at a time when you are not using the account.
  • Keeping abreast of web property updates: Alexa Linden routinely posts updates on various SL web properties on the forums, where they can be seen and commented on.

SL  Viewer

On Thursday, January 4th, the Nalewka Maintenance RC viewer updated to version 5.0.10.330148. On Wednesday, January 3rd, the follow two viewers were updated:

The rest of the viewer pipeline remains as:

2018 SL project updates 1/1

Sol Existence; Inara Pey, October 2017, on FlickrSol Existenceblog post

Server Deployments

There are no planned deployments for the opening week of 2018. There are currently no DRTSIM projects on Aditi (the beta grid) awaiting promotion to the Main grid, however, there may be new RC deployments for week #2 (commencing Monday, January 8th).

SL Viewer Updates

There have been no SL viewer updates over the holiday period. This leaves the viewer pipeline as per the end of 2017:

  • Current Release version 5.0.9.329906, dated November 17th, promoted November 29th – formerly the “Martini” Maintenance RC
  • Release channel cohorts:
  • Project viewers:
  • Obsolete platform viewer version 3.7.28.300847, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7. This viewer will remain available for as long as reasonable, but will not be updated with new features or bug fixes.

TPV Updates

The following  third-party viewers updated over the holiday period:

  • Black Dragon updates to version 2.9.6.
  • Cool VL viewer updated to version 1.26.20.40 (stable), and 1.26.21.6 (experimental).
  • Catznip updated to version R12 on January 2nd, 2018 – see my overview for more.

My weekly viewer release summaries will resume from week #2, 2018.

SL Feature Summit

The next Second Life “feature summit” when potential projects and major updates for SL are considered / reviewed, is due to take place in February 2018. These meetings are generally held around every 6 months.

A look at Second Life updates in 2017

La Vie; Inara Pey, October 2017, on FlickrLa Vie, October 2017 – blog post

Each week through the year, I try to get to as many in-world and other meetings held by the Lab to keep an eye on technical developments and updates which are in the works for the viewer and the simulator, relaying the notable items via my SL project updates. As such, I thought it might be interesting to look back at some of the technical changes and updates have come our way in 2017.

Visible Projects

The year started with everyone still getting their heads around 2016’s Project Bento, which reached release status at the end of that year, bringing with it a much extended avatar skeleton with masses of new bones allowing a range of new animations and opportunities for more diverse avatar looks that used bone animations rather than resource-heavy options such as alpha flipping and so on.

Thus, 2017 – or at least the early part of it at least – saw many Bento releases hitting Second Life, from animal avatars through to Bento-enabled avatar mesh heads and hands which offer a greater range of expressions and natural motions, natural jaw and mouth movements to go with Voice or with text chat, and so on. Given the interest in Bento, I offered a behind-the-scenes look at the project from a personal perspective, having been an observer of the work from the initial closed development work all the way through the open beta to release.

I eventually made the move to a Bento head in September 2017, after extensive fiddling with demos from all the major makers, with Lelutka proving to be the best in terms of maintaining much of my “original” (aka “2010 onwards”) look (shown right, as I played with the demo model & test skin)

The Bento project gave rise to several potential follow-on projects, of which the three most popular among creators at the Bento / Content Creation meetings were: supplemental animations, to allow smooth interaction between animations as a result of conflicts arising between the extended bone groups (currently on hold), animated mesh – eventually renamed “Animesh”, and bakes on mesh – with the latter two becoming a particular focus of the in-world Content Creation User Group meetings, together with the Environment Enhancement Project (EEP).

Animesh is a means of animating rigged mesh objects using the avatar skeleton, in whole or in part, to provide things like independently moveable pets / creatures, and animated scenery features via scripted animation. It involves both viewer and server-side changes. It can be used with any object (generally rigged / skinned mesh) which and contains the necessary animations and controlling scripts in its own inventory (Contents tab of the Build floater) required for it to animate itself. During 2017, the focus has been on getting a basic Animesh capability working in Second Life, which by the end of the years saw a project viewer at an advanced stage of development. 2018 should sett this move to RC status, and the project as a whole move to release. A potential follow-on project may then see the capability extended to allow more in the way of NPC creation through Animesh.

Animesh allows you to take rigged mesh objects, add animations and controlling scripts to them, associate them with an avatar skeleton, and have them run in-world without the need for any supervising viewer / client

Bakes on Mesh extends the current avatar baking service to allow wearable textures (skins, tattoos, clothing) to be applied directly to mesh bodies as well as system avatars. This involves server-side changes, including updating the baking service to support 1024×1024 textures (but does not include normal or specular support). Once this initial work has been completed, an intended follow-on project to actually support baking textures onto mesh surfaces. This has yet to fully defined in terms of implementation and when it might be slotted into SL development time frames.

Environment Enhancement Project is a set updates to Windlight settings, etc. These include the ability to define the environment (sky, sun, moon, clouds, water settings) at the parcel level; a new environment asset type that can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others; scripted, experience-based environment functions, an extended day cycle and extended environmental parameters. This work involves both a viewer updates (with a project viewer coming soon) and server-side updates.

While 2017 didn’t see the deployment of many high-profile user-facing projects, it did see a considerable amount of back-end work take place, not all of which was necessarily user-visible, and some of which also affected the viewer. In summary this work included:

  • A complete overhaul of the simulator code build process, including upgrading the Linux OS for the simulator servers – the first of such rounds of OS update.
  • Moving most of the remaining SL asset (inventory items) handling from UDP messaging through the simulators to HTTP delivery via the CDN.
  • Increasing Region capacity (avatar numbers), with a perk for Premium members.
  • Announcing a major initiative to move all the Second Life services into the cloud, if possible. More info came through a TPVD meeting and Tara Hernandez, Senior Director of Systems and Build Engineering at Linden Lab, touched on the project in a presentation at AWS:Invent.
  • Changing how multiple, repeat teleport requests made via scripted HUDs were handled to reduce the impact such requests have on region performance.
  • The start of a project to revise the complexity calculations (in-world objects and Avatar Rendering Complexity) to make them more accurate / stable and reflective of the true cost of rendering items – this work is still ongoing.
  • Continuing work to eliminate exploits use to crash regions and to make the simulator code generally more robust, trying to curb illicit content copying, etc.

The Viewer

Much of 2017’s focus on the viewer was directed at moving it to 64-bit for Windows (whilst also maintaining a 32-bit version as well) and for Mac OS X. Started in 2016, with a significant overhaul of the viewer build process and its associated libraries, the first project viewer release for the 64-bit viewer – code-named Alex Ivy (aLeX IVy = LXIV = 64) – arrived in early January, with work continuing throughout the year to refine the viewer, work out issues in the build process, and move the project towards release status – which should now happen in early 2018.

The 360-snapshot viewer received an overdue update which, while suffering from pro resolution issues, did streamline the production of 360-images. This was the only update to the viewer in 2017, leaving it as project viewer status. More work will be forthcoming in 2018.

The revised snapshot floater in the July 2017 360-snapshot project viewer

The Lab also restated their desire to continue with Linux, by offering a Debian build of the viewer – but only with the help ogf the Linux community.

Other updates for the viewer in 2017 included custom folders for uploads, the launch of a new release candidate branch of the viewer specifically to manage fixes and updates to the viewer’s rendering pipe, the first pass at improving region / estate ban lists for estate owners,  the viewer’s avatar rendering options (right-click context menu and Preferences > Graphics) were improved to allow users to better define how avatars around them are defined. New region / parcel access controls were introduced and a WORN tab was (finally) added to the inventory floater. There was also the ongoing series of Maintenance RC releases throughout the year, aimed specifically at fixing bugs and issues, which in 2017 gained their own code-name series, each one being named for an alcoholic beverage.

Other Updates and Changes

You can follow my updates on SL technical developments and updates through the likes of my weekly SL project updates and weekly viewer release summaries (which also cover TPV releases).