#SL Firestorm 3.3.0 (24880) Release Review

I heard there is a new Phoenix Hour out. I suppose someday it will change to a Firestorm Hour. At about the same time the Phoenix Hours restart the next release of Firestorm is released.

This release has a load of features. As best I can tell all the Phoenix features have made it over to Firestorm.  In addition to those features new ones have been added. A good example is the Particle Editor. The code for the Particle Editor was written by Zi Ree. I understand it was written for Firestorm and shared with the community. I first saw the editor in Dolphin Viewer-3 in mid December last year. It has been popping up in other TPV’s ever since.

Particle Editor

Finding the Particle Editor is a bit trick. It is not part of the standard build panel as I expected it would be. After all one is editing a prim’s attributes, so it seems to me that is where it would be. The number of controls in the panel would be difficult to put in a build panel tab.

The Particle Editor

To use the Particle Editor create or edit a prim. Then in the top menu open Build -> Objects -> Edit Particles. Not overly intuitive. It would seem a button in the Build panel to open the editor would be more intuitive. The Features tab seems like an obvious place to put a button.

There are some gotcha’s in the editor. It’s not really ready for the novice, but that’s true of Second Life in general. You will need to read the ‘instructions’ the Firestorm Team has published. See their wiki: The Firestorm Particle Editor. These are instructions. You’ll need to look to other sources for a particle tutorial. If you have never visited Jopsy Pendragon’s  The Particle Laboratory in Teal, check it out. It has an awesome collection of tutorial exhibits. Best of all there are free scripts one can use to create things with interactive particles…  well… things that respond to actions and change particle emission.

The instructions in the Firestorm Wiki will get you started and provide excellent text descriptions of the various particle settings. If you have worked with particles and understand them, the wiki article is way more than adequate.

There are things like the start and end colors that can throw you a curve. If you attempt to set the End Color it fails. You must first check the Interpolate Color checkbox. Then you can set the end color. I expect at some point in time someone will modify the editor to remove these annoyances and reduce the learning curve.

The Particle Editor is somewhat mis-named. An editor usually lets one edit settings, as in see and change existing settings. This editor only allows you to create settings and inject them into the prim or a script. If the prim already has particle settings, those will NOT be retrieved and your new settings will overwrite the previous settings. If you have a prim emitting red particles and you attempt to edit the settings, you will see the prim emitting red and the default white particles. It can be rather confusing. So, the ‘editor’ is not going to be all that handy for EDITING particle settings.

I am impressed with the Particle Editor feature. I hope to see it polished in coming releases. I think it is a great addition to the building tools.

User Interface

The Firestorm Team is changing the viewer over to the new FUI (Flexible User Interface). It’s hard to know where the maximum effort is being spent. But, there Phoenix emulation mode is pretty much like the Phoenix Viewer User Interface (UI). See the images for a comparison. The controls in the upper left are from the New UnityCore RP/Combat HUD, not part of Firestorm. I kept the HUD on to see how it works with different viewers. One will have to move the HUD around as you change between viewers.

Firestorm G

Firestorm in V3 Mode

When you change between UI modes you must restart the viewer.

They do not have an exact duplicate of the Phoenix Viewer user interface. They are working to improve the similarity. To get as close as possible use the Phoenix mode and make sure you are using the Vintage skin.

The V3 Mode is more of a V2 mode. The Firestorm ‘V3’ mode uses the sidebar, which I think of as a V2 feature. The new V3 UI viewers removed the sidebar, which I never really liked and the more I use it now the less I like it. I expect we’ll see the sidebar disappear in the next Firestorm release.

Firestorm E

Firestorm in Phoenix Mode

The sidebar thing makes some problems. Inventory has no CLOSE ‘X’. It only has a dock/undock icon and a minimize icon. The Minimize icon will close inventory or one has to dock and close the side bar or click the Inventory Icon in the bottom menu, which is a bit annoying.

Also, I think of the FUI feature of being able to drag buttons around, as a V3 feature. For now that is missing from this release. The UI uses the older V2 style of turning buttons on and off. You can drag the buttons around to change the order of them in the bottom bar. But, you cannot drag them to the left and rights sides of the viewer.

Firestorm G

Phoenix Viewer 1600

The team will catch up with these minor issues. They have done a huge amount of work on this release. It looks like much of it was to duplicate the Phoenix UI and adapt to the Lab’s FUI. I expect future effort will be focusing on getting the V3 UI up to date then adding improvements to the UI.

Performance

Without or with Lighting & Shadows and Ambient Occlusion enabled I get between 18 and 22 FPS. That is a bit faster than I get with the SL Viewer with Lighting & Shadows, Ambient Occlusion, and Sun/Moon Shadows enabled. Once I enable Sun/Moon Shadows I drop to about 13 to 15 FPS. So, its bit slower than the SLV 3.3.0 (248913) Dev Viewer.

Installing

The Firestorm Team recommends a clean install. A ‘clean install’ is more than just an un-install. See my article Second Life Clean Install for information on doing a clean install when using multiple viewers. If you only use Firestorm then use the FS Team’s Clean Install instructions.

I tried just running un-install and then installing the new version. I was able to run the viewer but I had a couple of crashes. So, I did a clean install and seem to have avoided more crashes.

Watching the FS/PH Viewer Support group I see lots of different problems I’m not experiencing. Many of the recommendations for fixing are to do a clean install. So, save yourself some hassle and do a clean install.

Tricks

Some users have a problem seeing mesh. There is a trick to getting things working.

Lette Ponnier (of FS/PH Viewer Support fame): Enable Advanced menu (Ctrl-Shift-D), go to Advanced > Show Debug Settings. Type MeshMaxConcurrentRequests. Bump up the number until the mesh comes in. Then reset to default.

Lette warns that this will cause a bit of lag for you and others. So, be sure to reset it to DEFAULT once the mesh rezzes.

Some people want to have all there chat logs in one place. One can do that with Firestorm. By default Firestorm places chat logs in a Firestorm folder in Roaming. To override that setting set your chat logs to save in the Roaming\SecondLife folder. Logs will combine. Most TPV’s can easily use the same text logs, so all the text for a group or an individual’s chat will be in the same file regardless of the viewer used, provided you direct the viewer to use the SL folder.

The setting is in: Preferences (Ctrl-P)->Network & Cache->Chat Logs Location.

Stale attachments in group notices are often a problem. This is a bug. The bug is in a number of viewers including older versions of the SL Viewer.  You will need to go into the group and open the announcement to get the attachments. The problem is less or worse depending on what you click to get to the attachment. I’m not clear on which are the best and worst ways, so I’ll avoid confusing you.

Tip

Depending on the viewer mode you choose, different features will be visible or not. However, all the features are available in all modes. The viewer modes allow you to start with different beginning points. You can then move through the settings to regain features. So, one can add features from the V3 mode to the Phoenix mode.

The modes change the appearance only.

Mesh Deformer

The Mesh Deformer Qarl has out in alpha and we see appearing in other TPV’s is not in Firestorm. The FS/PH Team feels the alpha version is too buggy to add into Firestorm.

I suspect this is a feature that at present is a low priority for the team. I’m sure they have way more to do than try to get alpha software working that may change drastically. I do feel they are making better use of their time working on things other than the Deformer.

Basic Information

FS/PH Support provides classes. They come in text and voice flavors. Lette Ponnier presented the voice version I attended. I highly recommend you attend one of the classes. I experiment with lots of viewers and have used the Firestorm viewer for some time. Still, there were things I learned. Lette has an excellent speaking voice, very pleasant, and presents in a professional style. Little ramble and no and-uh’s.

Summary

As much as I like some of the other TPV’s, I consider them for power users. If I feel a need to recommend a TPV to a new user, I recommend Firestorm. It is a good viewer, but I make the recommendation because they have excellent support, in-world and on the Wiki.

In many ways I have felt Firestorm has been a Beta level viewer. With this release I don’t get that feeling. I still do not think the viewer is up to the level I suspect the team wants. But, this release appears to me to be getting very close. More and more of the foundation work seems complete.

Try the viewer. Use it for 3 or 4 days. You may stay with it.

Update: I’m having minor problems with this new Firestorm. I tend to crash more often. It is randon… or at least I can’t tell what it is related to. It not time online or a specific task. Sometimes I’m on for a long time other times in I crash in 20 minutes.

I’m also having attachment problems as I switch back and forth between FS and the SL Viewer. If I change clothes in one I’ll have problems in the other.

2 thoughts on “#SL Firestorm 3.3.0 (24880) Release Review

  1. I cannot find the x and minimumize in firestorm 4.0.1. I have to exit firestorm to enable my desktop, or to work on my data base for my amaretto horses. I like the convienince of being able to minimumize the virtual browser…Can you advise?

    • Make sure you are using FS 4.0.1.

      If you still don’t have a minimize button, there is an option to change to Window Mode in Preferences. I think it is on the General tab. If not ask in-world in the FS/PH Support group.

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