I don’t write much about the Cool VL (Virtual Life) Viewer a viewer made/maintained by Henri Beauchamp. However, if you are using any viewer for Second Life or OpenSim, you are likely running some of Henri’s code. I won’t try to itemize all of his contributions to the SL and OpenSim communities. I will say his contributions and name shows up in many places. Today I saw that the Cool VL Viewer, formerly Cool SL Viewer, has a new release: 184.108.40.206.16 – 2011-08-27. So, I wanted to take a look at it.
For some time Cool VL Viewer was more stable and more up to date than the Linden Lab (LL) viewer. Sense the release of SLV 2.0 it has become a more complex issue to compare viewers. One can’t say without qualification one viewer is ahead of or better in all aspects than another. Henri’s viewer is made with the intent of having as many of the useful open source fixes and features as possible integrated into the viewer as quickly as possible. Plus he draws from the LL Snowstorm code.
A significant feature of the viewer is a consistent user interface. The interface is very much a Series 1 Viewer interface. It is hard to make simple comparisons of this viewer to the new Series 2 & 3 viewers. I’ll explain and you’ll understand as we go along.
Download & Install
The download is here: Download Cool VL Viewer (12mb – slow download). Read the rest of this article before you start downloading.
The Cool VL Viewer is installed using Difference Files. If you have never heard of difference files, well… I’ll see if I can write a simple explanation. First, the files are usually called DIFF files. They may or may not use the .diff file extension. The files are a list of things to change in another program. And may include the program to read the list and make the change for you. If the program to make the changes is not built-in a diff file may require a separate program to make the change and it may or may not be included.
Why do all that brain damage? It is a way to get around licensing restrictions. Rather than create a whole new program and have to get a license for, say, Havok to distribute your program, you let the user get a program with a Havoc license, install it, and then change that program. They distribute not you.
Cool VL Viewer uses diff files to install. That means you need a file for it to change. In this case that is the Snowglobe Viewer 1.4.2-3626 (direct link to download – 26mb). The program is from LL. It will install in the folder: C:\Program Files\Snowglobe. So, it should not break your other installs.
However, Cool VL will change the protocol handler for URL’s starting with secondlife:. In other words it will commandeer your SLURL’s. I have an old article on how to set your SLURL’s to use whatever viewer you prefer; Emerald Viewer vs SLURL. I wrote it for Emerald, but you’ll see the obvious changes to make, basically substituting the Emerald Viewer name with the name of the viewer you want to use.
Or you can just reinstall your preferred viewer last. You can also Google to learn how to set a browser to use a specific protocol handler for SLURL’s. Changing browser settings will allow you to have different browsers open different viewers. I prefer to change the Windows setting so all browsers use the same viewer.
When Snowglobe is installed it will place its cache in the default SL Viewer location. C:\Users\[windows_user_name]\AppData\Local\SecondLife. If you are using series 2 or 3 SL Viewers, that can cause problems. So, change it to another location. See: File->Preferences->Network.
Snowglobe uses its own settings file; settings_snowgloberelease.xml. So, that doesn’t mess up your other viewers. But, you will have to redo all your settings for this viewer.
I checked the settings file against the SLV 3.0.3 settings file using file comparison. There are 131 differences and whole sections of either file are not in the other file. So, I do NOT recommend copying your settings from SLV over. There are 81 differences between the Snowglobe and Cool VL settings files. So, copying those settings is probably a bad idea too.
Cool VL Viewer has the program to make the changes built-in. All you need to do is down load it and run it. In the install it asks which folder Snowglobe is installed in and provides the default location. As long as you installed Snowglobe in the default folder you can accept the default location.
Cool VL Viewer installs the new changed files. When you run Cool VL it starts the now modified version of Snowglobe. So, the original install of Snowglobe is essentially gone, overwritten by Cool VL. However, Cool VL uses its own set of settings. The settings file is named: settings_coolvlviewer_126.xml. If you use the Snowglobe desktop icon Snowglobe makes you use some Snowglobe settings. If you create a Cool VL icon on the desktop you may have a slightly different experience.
The Cool VL does not change the viewer’s cache location. So, if you have not changed it and hope to use series 2 and 3 viewers without problems, it is time to change the cache location and restart. Be aware that it appears this viewer does not use the larger 1gb cache, another reason to give it a separate cache.
The viewer does use the newer texture fetch, HTTP Texture Get. It sets the max number of of fetch requests to 16. Firestorm/Phoenix had some problems with a high setting and moved it down to 8, if I remember correctly. So, if you run into problems you may want to lower this setting. It worked OK for me. But, I didn’t do much testing.
I don’t see any settings for dynamic shadows in the graphics settings.
Cool VL uses the standard SL chat logs. As it appears these are now just text files, so that should not be a problem. But, you can change the chat log location.
One can select the buttons that appear in the bottom menu. File->Preferences->Cool Features (tab).
One can select vertical chat tabs, something I like. File->Preferences->Cool Features (tab).
It is possible to enable double click teleport, speed-rez, and several more features.
The viewer is Restrained Love capable with the enable control in File->Preferences->Cool Features (tab)->Miscellaneous (tab).
The viewer does not render mesh. The image shows how mesh appears in Cool and in SLV 3.0.3.
The viewer is fast. In the mesh sandbox in AGNI is was getting 55 FPS. With roughly the same settings in SLV 3.0.3 I get 15 FPS. (Duel Core2 w/nVidia 8800)
The viewer uses the older inventory, profile, search, and other series 1 features with some series 2 twists.
Several of the new build tools are missing; build-math, triplet copy-paste, and align.
The viewer is fast and has lots of nifty features. I understand it is popular in BDSM circles. But, it is a Series 1 viewer and lacks mesh support. I expect it to be some time before it has mesh support. However, Henri is an experienced programmer and may surprise me.
Update: There is an experiemental release out, version: 1.26.1 (experimental, MESH branch). This version is mesh capable. Cool VL Viewer Mesh Download Scroll down until you see the red MESH.