Firestorm Beta 2.5.2 (16922) Release Review

A new Firestorm version is out. Apple, Linux, and Windows versions are available. This is the big step up in Third Party Viewers for builders. The development team has added the build tools. I think it was the lack of this feature most holding Firestorm back. Following is my experience with the new Firestorm.

Firestorm Viewer Beta 2

Download

Tuesday and Wednesday the download process was very slow. I am guessing lots of people are finally making the change over to a V2 type viewer. I certainly see patience with anti-V2 people running out in the support groups. Not Firestorm’s support people. They are great. But, the Firestorm users that chime into help other Firestorm users are getting an edge. After they made the change and survived.

May be I’ll make a T-shirt that says I survived the change… ummm… maybe I could word that better.

The download file is about 26mb. As small as that is it took a bit over 5 minutes to download… and no my connection is fine.

Install

Firestorm Viewer Languages

This install has several languages, see the image. Agree to the EULA and accept the default install folder. This beta uses the same folder as the previous beta.

 

Once again the Firestorm Team is recommending a clean install. If you only run Firestorm, then follow their wiki’s directions. If you plan to use a mix of viewers then check out my Second Life Clean Install article. I wrote it after I had a load of problems running multiple viewers. Installing one would break or disrupt other viewers. Many of the problems have been mitigated in newer viewers. But, there are still plenty of problems running multiple viewers.

Migration

You’ll see this word ‘migration’ used more often to refer to those coming to Firestorm from older V1 viewers. By default Firestorm is much more a V2 user interface. Think about it. All new users in SL will know the V2 interface. Moving from the LL Viewer to Firestorm is where most new Firestorm users will come from after the initial rush. Since they are more noobie than existing Firestorm users a choice had to be made.

Existing Phoenix and other V1 TPV users are more knowledgeable and are more likely to handle the change over with a minimum of help than noobies. To help out the Firestorm team has made a video. See it here: Firestorm Public Beta Tutorial Video! (15 minutes) This video will let you take Firestorm more toward a V1 or V2 user interface.

There are new features in SL. So, you can’t make it a perfect V1 viewer. Deal with it. This is called progress. You would have to deal with these new features even if the V1’s were being upgraded. But, you can get rid of most of the problem of things being in the wrong place.

Experience

I skipped the clean install. I did open Preferences before logging in and cleared the cache, as the Firestorm download page suggests. Restarting and logging in I get a warning that I may see low Frame Per Second (FPS) rates because of an empty cache. Well, yeah.

Firestorm Viewer Empty Cache

In my cottage I see FPS between 25 and 50.

The first thing I do is go through my setting to see if I notice any new features. I doubt I will catch them all. The release notes are published. See: Release Notes

CHAT – There is now a control for dealing with the chat/group popups, toasts, that you see in the lower right corner. You can have group chat popups on or off. Also, IM chats can be on or off. The ability to turn this one and off will make the viewer popular with the combat and RP gamers.

Google translation is still part of the chat system. Google has said they will do something with this service by December 2011. They are considering turning it into a paid service. We’ll see what happens here. Third Party Viewers (TPV) and Linden Lab may hop from free service to free service until they are all used up. Hopefully they will optimize the translation requests to reduce the load and prolong the free service hoping era. But, at some point the FREE is going away.

COLORS – most of the viewer colors are on this tab now. It is nice not having to chase all over to find them.

GRAPHICS – General – All the basic settings are on the panel. However, some of them trigger warnings. Lighting & Shadows is one such feature. There are some additional settings that will allow those with older machines to tweak performance. One is the Max number of lights, which Lighting & Shadows is all about.

Not All Functions Working

Graphics – Hardware Settings – Anti-aliasing is turned off by default, or may be depending on your video card. If you have a newer video card or computer you can turn this on for a much nicer render. It really uses up some computer power. But, it sure makes the render look nice. Turning it on or off requires a viewer restart.

Graphics Rendering – This is where HTTP Texture Get is turned on and off. There is lots of bad information out there about this setting. Turning on improves performance or not depending on a number of factors some of which are changing. I am speculating that at some point Linden Lab begin moving hardware that supported the previous UDP texture fetch over to the HTTP systems. As users moved over to HTTP there were probably periods where the Lab was over loaded and had to catch up. Now HTTP Texture Get is noticeably faster than the previous UDP Get.

Individuals may find that their connections have less UDP traffic than HTTP traffic and they get better performance with UDP. You have to experiment. In general you want HTTP turned on for the best performance.

Graphics – Global Illumination – This feature really takes some serious video capability. If you have a newer machine with a high end graphics card turn it on.\

SOUND & MEDIA – RedZone used the media ability in viewers to exploit SL residents. Firestorm has settings to add protection. There are two. Media Filter, which I find to annoying to use. But, it does a job of preventing a region of object in SL from sending you to an infected site so a virus can be injected into your system. Use it or not, your choice.

The other is Allow Media to Autoplay… By turning this off you avoid a region or objects from automatically sending you to a media site.

NETWORK & CACHE – The new cache system is apparently in Firestorm. The new system uses an indexed 1,000mb cache. The idea is to make rendering often revisited regions faster. There is a REAL cache clear button.

Network & Cache has additional access to chat logs and settings folders. Plus the browser controls for the internal web browser are here.

MOVE & VIEW – there are some novel settings here for posing the avatar in various scenarios. Also, the double-click navigation feature is enabled or disabled in the panel. You can double click to tp to a new place (illegal in most combat games) or double-click to walk to a place (the fairness of this one is unclear in combat games).

PRIVACY – The controls for the chat logs are here. Also, one manages their Block/Mute lists here.

ADVANCED – Not much in this dialog. Allow multiple viewers, Allow login to other grids (OSGrid), and Show Advanced and Developer menus (Ctrl-Shift-Q and Ctrl-Shift-D).

USER INTERFACE EXTRAS (UI Extras) – Lots of new stuff here. This is where most of the V1 and V2 tweaks live. You can select right-click V1 Pie Menus or V2 Lists. You can make dialog menus blue and put them in the upper right, very V1-ish. Toasts settings, so you can change them from horrendous, to just annoying. Button flash rates and avatar head look controls are here too.

SKINS – Just what you would expect, viewer skin choices (4). There is also a control to allow you to have V1 style cursors.

FIRESTORM – This panel is loaded with Firestorm stuff. It is all explained in the Firestorm Classes and wiki.

An interesting feature is the ability to change between V2 Standard Search and Beta Search. Use the Beta, it gives you a chance of finding something. If you are searching for people, select the PEOPLE Filter as it understands Display and Login names and searches both.

BUILD TOOLS

Extra Basic Prims

This is the much anticipated feature addition. These features include Build Math. This is one of the handiest features ever for build-by-number builders. It allows one to type +, -, *, or / in the dimension, rotation and position windows to do math. This is a really big deal.

The Copy/Paste of triplets is included. This allows you to copy the size of an object’s X, Y, and Z values and past all three to a new object. The same is true for position and rotation.

  • Added most of the build options from Phoenix
  • Clickable group name on build floater
  • Object highlight toggle on build floater
  • Pivot point controls
  • Default size and material controls
  • Link number of build floater (with same bugs as Phoenix)
  • Build options pref panel Prefs> Firestorm> Build
  • Copy/paste obj pos, size, rot, and prams; as well as textures
  • Alt, control and shift keys modify increment on spinners (Alt: x10. Control: x1/10. Shift: x1/100)
  • Higher precision on pos, size and rotation
  • Phoenix’s additional path profiles and transforms types
  • Added button for copy keys (UUID) to clipboard
  • Require confirm before setting object for sale (prevents sale sniping)
  • Expand/Collapse button
  • Always show last owner

Build Tools and Features Added

Fashion Blogger’s Dream

This allows one to copy information from the worn panel for use in a blog post. There are various ways to get to the WORN panel. Right-click your avatar and Edit Outfit, click the left-arrow button at the left-top of the panel. Once in WORN click the gear and select Copy outfit list to clipboard. Then you can paste the list into your favorite editor. VERY neat.

Quick Preferences

There is a handy button in the bottom menu that open Quick Prefs. The things you most commonly change are in this control panel. The button icon is the Phoenix wings making a sort of circle.

Bug Fixes

Yep… lots of those. The operation of several things have corrected to make more sense.

KDU

The Firestorm team purchased the KDU third party JPEG2000 coder/decoder for image compression and decompression (J2C Decoder Version: KDU v6.4.1). This is a proprietary add-on. It is the same product used by Linden Lab. This should make Firestorm as compatible as possible. I don’t know if the Lab will give their changes to the team. But, in general it should be good.

KDU is also usually faster than OpenJPEG, its open source competition. However, Kirsten’s optimized OpenJPEG may be competitive.

This proprietary code is used to compile a binary executable DLL. So, the typical user has no idea what has been put in the file. The code cannot be published as it is proprietary and the author, not the team, does not permit it. This is how the Emerald Scandal got started. The plan is the new Firestorm team has a more open development team with better communication, so such should not happen again. Plus the team member names are publically known.

Performance

Jumping over to Celtic Myst I get 20 to 25 FPS while things load. Once loaded I’m up around 45 FPS. (This is all on default High settings). So, this seems to be a pretty fast viewer.

Next I jumped over to Sleek Beach Club. It took about 3 minutes for the area to rez. Avatars had not rendered after 10 minutes. That was a problem in one of the Linden viewers. It has been fixed. But, that fix has not made it to Firestorm yet.

With 16 avatars around, dancing and music I was getting about 9 to 12 FPS. The SIM performance was doing well, Time Dilation 0.988 and SIM FPS 44, and Physics FPS 44.

I could not find any way to decrease the Avatar Physics render settings. So, that may be the problem.

I jumped over to Dance Island to see how the viewer performed there. Things rendered faster. SIM performance sucked, TD: 0.65, SIM FPS 30-40, Physics FPS 20-40. Ping was hitting 3,000+ms. No my connection is fine. When SIM FPS jumped up my ping drops, so it is server side. Avatars still were not rendering. So, that is not a SIM thing.

While in Dance Island the viewer finally gave up and started to wink in out and I was logged out of SL. I’ve seen lots of people complaining about this problem in the Firestorm/Phoenix support and on the forums. So, the log out is probably not a Firestorm issue.

Summary

This is now a viewer that is as functional as Phoenix. I expect that we’ll see a big movement to the Firestorm viewer. I’ve had it running for 4 or 5 hours. My memory resource meter seems to be holding constant, so no big memory leaks. The CPU on my duel core2 runs about 60% at 50 FPS in my cottage.

This could well become my daily use viewer.

8 thoughts on “Firestorm Beta 2.5.2 (16922) Release Review

  1. Until this install I agreed with you re. “clean install”. This time it caught up with me. I crashed as soon as I opened the build menu, even just to move an already rezed object.

    All in all this viewer is almost there, a few more features and a bug fix or 2 and it will be at
    #1.

  2. Pingback: Firestorm Viewer 2.4.1.14579 Review

  3. I like the firestorm interface better then LL’s Viewer 2. Textures seem to load faster. My main complaint when comparing performance between the two is that the Firestorm viewer is laggy and runs choppy. This is not desireable especially to someone that records machinima. I am hoping this gets ironed out when Firestorm leaves Beta.

  4. what are the requirements on a macbook to download either of the viewers? i have os x lion 10.4.11, and neither viewer will open on my laptop…. help i miss secondlife now that i have a macbook

    • http://secondlife.com/support/system-requirements/ = Requirements for using SL. Anyone can download the files.

      Mac’s have some problems with SL. Search the SL Forum. Check out: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/1229582?start=0&tstart=0

  5. Seems that when I edit object, they turn invisible so that I can not see what I am editing. This does not happen on Phoenix, only Firestorm.

    Is there an option I can toggle on (or off) that will fix this?

    • Not that I know of… I suspect a video card – Firestorm problem. I suggest you visit the PH-FS Wiki and search. You can also search their JIRA, use the previous link to get there. Also, you can ask in-world in their support group. They have different groups for different languages.

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