KirstenLee S21(5) Viewer Released Review

Kirsten Radar or Nearby

Radar or Nearby

This version is released in Windows and Mac versions only. The release is labeled an early build… All the typical versioning designators used by most software developers do not apply to the Kirsten Viewers. It is somewhat like experimental aircraft. Even when an experimental plane reaches a stable model and is sold to others it remains an experimental model. So, it is not completely accurate to say this is an alpha or beta version.

One has to realize KirstenLee is developing for the high-end techie with a high-end machine. Consideration for legacy machines and novice users is NOT high on KirstenLee’s priority list. It isn’t an animosity; it’s just that KirstenLee is not letting requirements to be compatible with older technology disproportionately hold back development of the viewer.

In keeping with that line of thinking this viewer will NOT install on machines that do not meet advanced requirements. I suppose too many people with old hardware and software were complaining of problems. No matter what KirstenLee says about the viewer being an advanced model with advanced hardware requirements people tried to run it on equipment that was not adequate and then complained. Now it should be blatantly obvious when you don’t have the hardware to get it up.

If S21(5) will not install, you should drop back to S20(41).

It is also time for the SL community to start thinking about the reality that shadows and mesh are going to require hardware upgrades. High-end hardware made in the last year is what we are talking. I’m currently on the wrong side of that fence.

Changes

The release notes or History/Noteworthy changes, has not been updated since build (4). So, the only information we have, without looking at code, is that OpenJPEG has had some work. I did not see any stuck textures, while I was watching downloads (Ctrl-Shift-3).

Install

I uninstall S21 viewers using the uninstall program. I’ve had some problems doing an install over the top of a previous version. At the end of the uninstall process there is a request to reboot the computer, which is different and probably a good idea.

The uninstall does not remove all the files. Settings are retained. The cache is cleared. Chat and logs are retained.

The install is uneventful and no reboot is requested.

Experience

The viewer starts. I guess I made the cut. The default skin is the rich purple one, pretty I think.

Inside my little cottage I get about 35 FPS for default High-Graphics settings. The initial download of textures and my avatar rez seemed slow. But, everything downloaded and my avatar rezzed. All my clothes and attachments are right.

I was able to enable Light & Shadows and Ambient Occlusion without logging out. With them enabled I’m getting 20 to 25 FPS. Going to Celtic Myst (Region: MILKY WAY) I slow down to 10 to 11 FPS. I was able to enable Sun/Moon shadows without logging off. Nice. That slows me down to 5 to 6 FPS. Moving around in Celtic Myst with Sun/Moon on, I average about 3 FPS. For me that is useable for photography but not shopping.

The order in which stuff rezzes is still not nearest first. As best I can tell there is no Speed-Rez feature. However, the Lab is working on improving ‘Interest Lists’ which could greatly improve rez/render order.

Alpha Layers

I keep finding that my Alpha Layers are detaching… unwearing… whatever it is. My eye lashes and feet use the new alpha layers to hide parts of the base avatar. So, it is quickly obvious when I lose them. However, I haven’t paid close enough attention to tell what the cause is or exactly when it happens. Because I change viewers so often it may be an effect of all the viewer changes. It is probably related to changes between series 1 and 2 viewers. Let me know if you are seeing the problem.

Skins

There are 8 skins included with this version. I stuck with the default.

CameraOffsetRearView

I really like this new Debug Setting in series 2 viewers. This controls the camera position for the normal camera view when it is behind the avatar, the default location when one presses ESC. The X value is in the direction the avatar is looking, forward and back. A value of -3.5 places the camera 3.5m behind the avatar. The Y value moves the camera left and right. Positive values move the camera left. The Z value is up and down. A zero value pretty much lines up the horizon, head, and camera.

If you use arrow keys to move and steer this is a very handy setting to know about. If you mouse steer it saves lots of extra mouse-ing. I think it is great for shopping. One can see the walls rather than the floor.

In the Kirsten viewer the value sticks from secession to secession. However, each new install seems to wipe it out.

Stability

Stability… or does the viewer crash? Well, not in the first couple of hours. Memory use seems static, so I’m assuming there are no significant memory leaks. Depending on where I was my FPS ran from 10 to 20 (no Sun/Moon).

I do find that the longer I am on, the more problems I have turning Sun/Moon shadows on and off. Eventually I did crash. After about 5 hours with 4 or more of that being in complex areas, shopping malls. The shopping areas in Oxymoron are home for a number of latex stores and will put a load of textures in your cache. Oh… and there is a bunch of guy stuff there too.

After any viewer crash, reboot the computer. Otherwise problems return quickly.

The Reset button in Preferences->Setup will clear the cache and instead of setting the location to the Second Life cache it leaves the cache location at:

C:\Users\[user_name]\AppsData\Local\Kistens S21\

User Interface

This version is using Kirsten’s modified interface. I personally like this interface over the other SLV2 interfaces I’ve used. Having a one-click exit on the sidebar style panels is great!

Being able to move the bottom menu buttons around and select which ones to show it is nice and is becoming common among most series 2 viewers.

One also has the choice to have the sidebar button on the right side as in the SLV2’s or move them to a button in the bottom menu. To change which style you are using, right-click the bottom menu bar and select or deselect Sidebar Button.

I think in Firestorm we are seeing an interface develop for series 1 users, those that have been in SL longer. In Kirsten’s we are seeing an interface that is easier for those new to SL to use. In general, I think it is an easier interface for first time users to learn. But, many people coming to the S21 viewer will come only having ever used SLV2. I think they will find this a much easier interface to use than many TPV’s (Third Party Viewers).

This current interface is not the final answer. The SL Viewer User Interfaces are going to continue to change. More changes are coming to SL and some of those changes will impact the user interface. Hopefully, new and better interface ideas will come from the Lab and TPV Developers. The Snowstorm team is already working with version 2.7. So, at this rate we may not be far from a 3.0 viewer.

Profiles

This version uses Web Profiles. These are still a mess. I had a horrible time figuring out how to delete a pick. Changing it is easy. Whatever, the trick is to open the Profile, click MORE in the picks, and select the Pick.

Now look closely. At the end of the Pick Title is the small word ‘Edit’, which is a link. Clicking it opens a sidebar panel to edit the Pick’s attributes. Close the edit by clicking the ‘left arrow button thing’ at the top to the left of the title: Pick Info. Now select the Pick. Look at the bottom of the panel to find the now highlighted trash can. Click it and pick is gone.

So, you can see it seems undecided whether editing will be in the web page window or sidebar panel. Some parts of the profile edit in one and other parts in the other. Eventually this will get resolved as the Lab gets things worked out. Until then this is a mess and needlessly obtuse.

Redundant Clicks

This click thing is still a problem in S21(5). It is a carryover from the SLV2. There are several processes in which one has to make what feel like redundant clicks. For example refuse an item given by a greeter, say a landmark. That is not a single click process. One then has to dismiss the notice and acknowledge one dismissed the notice. Some of these click-beggars will time out, if you wait. But, they are often in the way of other things. Some viewers are allowing the ‘Toast’ part of these announcements to be turned off and/or the time to be set to your preferences.

Eventually I expect these ‘extra’ clicks to get handled. I suspect the problem is in how these processes bubble up through the events.

Summary

The viewer remains one of my favorite viewers. I look forward to each release. It does not have all the features of other TPV’s. It is not a builder’s best friend. It is targeted at high-end users wanting the best render image possible. I think it does that better than any other viewer.

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