New Major Firestorm Release 4.3.1.31155 Review

Yay! A new release of the Firestorm Viewer (FS) hit the net last night. You can read the team’s release announcement here: Firestorm Major Release 4.3.1.31155. This is a big release for the Firestorm team. It has lots of new features. Since the SL Viewer released a load of new features the FS team usually feels they can release their implementation of them.

Firestorm Splash Screen

Get your SL downloads for Windows, Mac, and Linux here: Firestorm Viewer Download.

For OpenSim use this link: OpenSim Firestorm Viewer Download. More about this later.

Download & Install

The files size for windows is about 40mb. The download is fast, taking only a couple of minutes.

With this and the last several releases the team has recommended a clean install, meaning remove the previous install. That of course wipes out your viewer settings.

On Windows the program installs into:

  • C:\Program Files\Firestorm-Release\
  • C:\Users\[win_login_ID]\AppData\Local\Firestorm
  • C:\Users\[win_login_ID]\AppData\Roaming\Firestorm

On Mac and Linux the files are here:

  • Mac: /Users/[YOUR USERNAME]/Library/Application Support/SecondLife
  • Mac: ~/Library/Caches/PhoenixViewer
  • Linux: ~/.secondlife
  • Linux: ~/.secondlife/phoenixviewer

Long ago I wrote an article on doing clean installs: Second Life Clean Install (Feb 2011). Not much has changed since then. The article explains how to retain your chat log and Windlight settings files. About the only change is more viewers now put their setting and chat files in a folder just for their viewer. I think that has greatly reduced the problems of having numerous viewer brands installed.

Firestorm Snapshot Panel

If you want OpenSim® and Second Life™ access from FS, you will need to install both versions of FS. BE SURE you install the different versions in different folders. The OpenSim version will work on both grids. But, the SL viewer with all the Pathfinding Tools will only access the SL Grid.

WARNING: Be sure to rename your Firestorm disktop shortcut BEFORE installing the second copy. If you do not, your shortcut to the first version you installed will disappear. You can still start it by going through the Start menu, I think. Or just make a new shortcut. Google for the ‘how to.’

WARNING: ATI users are running into pink screens. If you have, see: FS Wiki Pink ATI Screen.

My Experience

The first thing I try is installing over the top of the existing viewer. It is a risk. But, I think it a worthwhile risk and the odds have so far been in my favor. It seems to have worked this time too.

When I started the viewer after installing my User ID and password dots were not showing. FS handles multiple users, so there is a little down arrow on the user ID field that lets you select a user. My login info was there. Yay!

User Interfaces

If you are used to the SL Viewer User Interface, the FS interface takes some learning. But, you can set the interface to use the SL Viewer interface or the Phoenix or a Hybrid, or the default FS interface. So, you should be able to pick up the new features supported by FS and keep whatever interface with which you are comfortable. They aren’t perfect copies of the interfaces. But, they are close enough in my opinion.

Firestorm’s Photo Tools Panel

Photo Tools

In this release the FS Team rolls out their implementation of Camera or Photo Tools. Or you may take this as two spate features. Whatever, this is a big change in how we use the camera and control viewer settings for the render engine. There is an Intro Video by William Weaver (Video – Play list) that shows how to access the controls (below 7 min). Or just use the top menu-> World-> Photo & Video-> Photo Tools (or Ctrl-Alt-P) and top menu-> World-> Photo & Video-> Camera Tools (or Ctrl-Shift-C). There are also buttons in the Tool Bar Buttons panel – Right-click any button and select: Toolbar Buttons… drag those to where

He has a number of other video tutorials on the subject. The first one I found on Flickr, which I find frustrating to use for video. But, there are copies on Youtube, which I like much better. Whatever, William explains some of the teams thinking and shows how to basically use the tools.

I strongly recommend that you watch the video tutorials (Video – Play list), if you want to use these tools. There are 7 videos each about 15 minutes long, that is 1 hour 45 minutes. But, these are well done and well explained. Forgive all the ‘ummmm’s’ in the videos. I think William ad-libbed the videos from a small outline. Whatever, there is lots of high quality information for photographers and machinamists.

There are some glitches you will learn about in tutorials, not necessarily in the FS Viewer but in the SL system. Some of these the team thinks it can fix and some are just part of how SL works.

These tools are not just for photographers and machinamists. Builders are going to find some of the tools very handy.

Script Recovery

This version of the viewer has the ability to turn on a ‘script backup process.’ If the viewer crashes or you get disconnected, the viewer will put a copy of the script in Lost & Found.  The viewer saves copies of the script locally, on your drive – if I understand correctly. When you come back on you have a choice to save a copy of the script saved by the viewer before crashing.

There is no OSSL script language support in the OpenSim version of FS.  Whitestar has made a fix for that. So, there is some hope we may see it in the next OpenSim release of FS.

Other Changes

There are a lot. See the Release Notes.

The Havok Library is used only in the SL version of the viewer. Since it is not used for the OpenSim version you are missing a few features. Since there is no OpenSim grid that I know of that uses Havok, the Pathfinding features don’t mater as OpenSim does not have them.

The other feature Havok supports is mesh upload, but only a part of the upload. When uploading mesh objects a physics model of the item is needed for the servers to calculate collisions. When uploading mesh there is an open source library that helps the upload calculate the ‘convex hull’ of an object. In uploads for SL the Havok Library supplies the part of the viewer that makes the calculations. This is not so missing feature in the OpenSim version as it is a different version of the feature.

The different versions only make a difference in the shape of the hull that is calculated. Most people manually create their physics shapes as they can do a MUCH better job than either the OpenSim or Havok processes can. Jessica Lyon describes the difference as:

The two builds are exactly the same except that the OS version doesn’t have Havok. You cannot upload physical mesh objects or see navmesh with pathfinding. The SL version doesn’t allow you to log into other grids. That’s the only difference.

It isn’t so much that you CANNOT upload physical mesh as it is a matter of the viewer not creating the physical part for you. You can still create it and make it physical manually.

Summary

The Photo Tools are a really nice addition to the viewer. The Firestorm implementation is nicely done. The video tutorials are rich in information for using them. So, it you have been wondering how people get some of the great shots of SL that you see, play with these tools to make your own.

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