KirstenLee Viewer s20(30) Released – Review

Today I see Kirsten has a new S20 (30) release out. I’ll get around to trying it out later today.

Update 7/29 – I got to use the viewer. It has a really nice render. Things look better than normal.

There are several under the hood improvements. No black screens as I change settings. I only had to re-log once as I tried out the shadows settings. Plus I have a tiny bit better FPS rate.

The search dialog has been fixed so Classified ads show now. I actually use that from time to time. Search has changed. The search modifiers in the drop down list have changed to four tabs; Search, Events, Destination Guide, and Classifieds. The Maturity settings look like they can be enabled in search, they can’t. One has to enable them in Preferences -> [General]. One can then disable and enable Maturity classes for any search.

If something opens the sidebar, it is still a problem to get it closed. It takes two clicks, which is annoying.

KirstenLee says she was working on improving code and polishing the User Interface. I think it shows in this version.

However with my settings, after running around in a SIM for 15 minutes or so the viewer was down to 3 or 4 FPS. A relog or TP to another SIM corrects for another 15 or 20 minutes.

Then after a logout something went wrong. All of a sudden I have first name and last name fields on the login that are empty… mmmm… seems I changed to the Starlight skin. That skin doesn’t work. One has to relog to see a skin change take effect. Fortunately one can open Preferences at the login screen and changes skins.

KirstenLee Viewer Performance Dialog Settings

There is a thing about performance settings. If there were one set of settings that were great for everyone, we would not need settings. So, what is good for you may be horrible for others. Most of us have one computer we use for SL as do many of those that write about SL and performance. So, some of us get a bit parochial in our view. The problem is knowing what is good for others… or for you to know your particular computer’s best settings. Here is how to find out.

The viewers have debugging capabilities that most of us don’t need to use. However, they are great for tweaking your viewer for performance. Niran´s Guide for Kirstenviewer is awesome for figuring out things. But I find that much of what Niran is telling me is not working on my Core-2 Duel CPU and 8800 GTS nVidia. Niran is keeping the post updated so it is an excellent reference. What follows is what I’ve experienced and found.

Performance Panel

In the Menu -> Me -> Preferences ->  [Graphics] [Advanced] [Performance] there are a number of settings that improve your experience of SL. I read lots of threads about SL and viewers and listen in on the Group chat for Emerald and Kirsten viewers. The consensus on the various aspects of these settings  is what I’m providing here.

Allow Multiple Threads – There is lots of confusion around this item. As with many of the settings it depends on your computer. A duel Core-2 and older video card (not a 200 or 400 series nVidia or an ATI*) is probably going to slow down if you set this setting ON. It cut my performance in half. On Core-5 (i5) quad cores and 200/400 series graphics cards and some high end ATI’s setting it on speeds things up. So, which setting should you use?

To figure out any setting, press Ctrl-Shift-1 to open the viewer statistics. At the top is a value FPS… Frames Per Second. The higher the value the better. But, there is more at work here than just you and your viewer. There are the Linden Lab servers, the network, and other residents all effecting your performance in some way. So, how to know if your FPS represents what your viewer is doing?

As you look down through the information you will see Time Dilation and Physics FPS. These tells you how well the server is doing. Time Dilation should be 0.99 or 1 and Physics FPS 44 or 45. If these numbers are low, you won’t be able to tell if the performance values are low because of you or the server. So, it they are low move to another SIM/region.

Another setting in the stats is; Bandwidth, which tells you how much stuff is downloading and how fast. Don’t try to change settings and check performance while the values are high. Wait until the region loads and the values decrease.

Packet Loss and Ping Sim – these tell you how well your network connection and the server’s connection are doing. A high packet loss value is bad. While 1 or 2 % loss is livable, you may want to try moving to another region to see if it gets better. If not it may be on your end, talk to your ISP. High Ping means something is slowing down your communication with the server. 80 to 120msec is good. Up to 250 to 350 is tolerable. Above that is no fund. With high loss or ping you cannot test your settings reliably.

Once you have decent stats you can start changing settings.

Enable Occlusion – With this on, what you cannot see is not rendered. If it is behind a wall, your viewer won’t spend time drawing it. You get some extra FPS from work saved. How much performance difference it makes depends on your computer and which shaders you have on. You find out which way to set this by watching your statistics and trying it.

Render Prims using Triangle Strip – Turn this off. This is a setting for when we have the new meshes. For now it breaks the render.

Disable Textures/Sound Preload – You often are not aware of when the viewer is trying to preload sounds and textures. There are scripting commands that trigger preloads. I can’t find anything about this setting. I assume this setting stops that preloading. That would let the viewer focus on loading the textures it needs to render.

Dynamic Level of Detail – First level of detail (LoD)… when you walk up to or away from some prims, and especially sculpties, you see them changing shape. What you are seeing is the levl of detail changing. You may be seeing the sculpty texture loading effects. But if you can move closer and farther away and see those changes repeat then it is level of detail. Changing the LoD is what your viewer does to save work, meaning hgher FPS.

Disable VSync – In television it has to do with sync’ing signal and receiver… for a viewer I have no clue. It doesn’t do anything that I can see.

UI Transparency off (UI Buffer) – Turning this off makes all floating dialogs opaque. Theoretically, this should get one a tiny speed boost. It is not enough that I can see it in the FPS reading. I leave it on. When I turn mine off much of the text goes blurry.

Animate Trees – pretty much what one would think. It takes CPU cycles to animate trees. Having this off speeds things up… I see may be 1 FPS difference.

Full Gamma/Hardcoded 2 Gamma – This doesn’t seem to affect FPS. It does change the looks of glow. Niran writes that when using normal shaders it should be on. Using normal shaders and turning it off drops me from 33 FPS to 14. Niran writes this can be reversed depending on SOM settings and your computer… turn on Statistics (Crtl-Shift-1) and watch what happens when you try it.

Background Yield Time – Possible values 0 to 100. Kirsten’s dialog allows 0 to 60. This setting tells the viewer how much time to five to other processes when the viewer is not the focus. If you watch the Viewer Statistics (Crtl-Shift-1), you will see the FPS drop off after switching away from the viewer, say, when you open a browser. As I flip between my editor and the viewer I see a drop from 35 FPS to 11 FPS.

That takes care of the performance settings in a basic way. Now let’s look at Shadows and see what that does to performance.


The first trick to shadows is getting them turned on. In Me -> Preferences -> [Graphics] [General] there are settings titled Bump mapping and shiny, Basic shaders, and Atmospheric shaders. These need to be on and are the basic settings for normal use. Clicking Lighting and Shadows (L&S) enables Dynamic Shadows and Global Illumination. For both of these there are additional settings in other panels. Checking both of these should enable your shadows and may be turn them on.

Below Ambient Occlusion is a Shadows drop down list with None, Sun/Moon, and Sun/Moon + Projectors. With this set on None and Lighting & Shadows ON, my FPS drops by a third to half. The lighting changes.

Changing Shadows from None to Sun/Moon turns on shadows. This drops my FPS by about 66%.

The order in which one turns some of these options on makes a big difference. If I turn on L&S and set Shadows to Sun/Moon and then try to turn on Ambient Occlusion my viewer stalls dropping to 0.1 to 0.5 FPS. I have to relog to get out of the problem. However, if I have Shadows set to None and turn on L&S and Ambient Occlusion then set Shadows to Sun/Moon things work well.

The Sun/Moon + Projectors enables dynamic shadows and the new projectors. See: Second Life 2.1 Viewer Shadows & Projectors and Kirsten Viewer S20 (29) Released for more information about projectors and what they do. If there are ever a lot of projectors… this +projectors could slow down your system.

Once I have shadows running, I can go back and turn on Allow multiple threads. I don’t see an improvement, but I also do not get the big slow down I do when shadows are off. So, one has to test combinations of settings to find the best for their computer.

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