Beyond the Phoenix Viewer

Saturday Jessica Lyon, representing the Firestorm development team and support groups, spoke at the first Phoenix Hour since March 2012. This meeting was to announce the coming end of support for the Phoenix Viewer. That announcement could have been a sentence on the blog. So, why have a Phoenix Hour meeting to make the announcement?


Part of human nature is people having personality and beliefs. The nature of Jessica, the leader of the development team, is such that she is a volunteer. That says something, good I think, about Jessica. So, Jessica was doing her best to explain why they have chosen to end support for the Phoenix Viewer.

I’m going to explain what she said using my words and analogies. Others will be paraphrasing her and repeating previously used analogies. I think so far those analogies lack clarity for the less geeky.

The primary reason the development team developed Phoenix was for fun and to be of service. If you have never volunteered for service projects, I doubt I can convey the sense of reward they provide. Suffice to say the developers write computer code because they enjoy it and they receive a reward that works for them.

Jessica pointed out that the team does have an income from the web sites that pays for the sites, the Kakadu JPEG2000 software license, and some other miscellaneous costs. They do NOT make a profit. It is a deliberate choice to avoid turning the viewer into a money making deal. So, they provide free viewers because they enjoy doing so.

Now writing the Phoenix Viewer code is no longer fun. It has become a chore. It is like work. It isn’t something that developers want to do. As Jessica pointed out, when volunteers are repeatedly made to do things they don’t like doing, they stop volunteering. That is human nature. There are no longer developers that want to work on Phoenix.

Why So Hard?

If you’re not a geek, you probably wonder what the difference is between writing code for Phoenix and Firestorm. It is a fair question. It’s hard to explain to someone not writing computer software. So, we use analogies.

Imagine writing a book that is a story. You and 10 or 15 friends are going to write it. You may know that only two people usually write collaborative books. There is a reason for that. Think about how the 10 of you will write a story. How will you keep track of characters? How will each of know what the other characters have done and when?

As you try to bring each person’s writing together into a single document, you’ll find problems. One writer has Sally as a 20-year old. Another has done their part with her a 40-year old. Parts of one writers work have to change for the story to work or the story has to change to account for time.

Now imagine the story you have all worked on takes place in the past, say 1920’s. Now the other 5 of the fifteen bring out an exciting story that is SciFi based in 2100’s. It is way more fun, new, exciting, and taking advantage of story plots not possible in the 1920’s. The characters can grow in ways not possible in the 1920’s.

Now imagine having to go back and revise all the work the 10 were doing and try to make that 1920’s story stuff work as part of a 2100 era SciFi story. Fixing stuff is nowhere near as fun as creating new stuff. People tend to want to abandon the old stuff and move on to the fun new stuff.

Imaging a fight on a train. As the characters fight one falls off the train due to the engine smoke and the other sees something, may be a sign, at just that moment so it makes a connection which is key to the plot. Now translate that to a spaceship. Start to see the problems?

This is why the developers are working on Firestorm rather then Phoenix. It is possible to continue development on Phoenix. But, no volunteers on the team are volunteering to do that. Working on Firestorm is easier and more fun.

Support Ending

A similar thing is happening with the support volunteers. Imagine you are a Phoenix user and you love using Phoenix. Are you going to volunteer to to provide support for those using the SL Viewer? Probably not. Most Phoenix support volunteers have moved on to Firestorm and REALLY dislike going back to Phoenix.

I tend to only answer questions about a viewer I am currently running. I limit my self because I often need to run through a menu or check a setting in the viewer before answering a question about it. Basically I have to use the viewer I am answering questions about. It seems that is true of the Firestorm-Phoenix support team people too.

Fewer and fewer people are willing to volunteer to support Phoenix users. So, Jessica is not going to try to force them to do something they don’t have their heart in.

User Self Help Starts

All is not lost. If you want the Phoenix Viewer to continue on, get a copy of the code, it is open source, and continue the development yourself… or pray you find a saint that will do it for you. I suppose you could start a Kickstart project and pay someone to develop it.

In the mean time user support is going to come from a group of Phoenix users in a new group named: Phoenix Viewer Self Help Group. If you are a Phoenix user, join that group now.

Why Now?

The reason this end comes now is because of changes coming to Second Life. Inara and a few others have covered the recent announcement, Friday, that the Lab has set a date for delivery of the Avatar Baking Service. We are probably 60 to 90 days from the full roll out of this change to Second Life.

I covered the details of the new service back in September 2012. See: Server Side Avatar Baking. That article explains how avatar appearance baking works now and how it will eventually work. This change is to solve the avatar appearance problems we’ve had; blurry, gray, different clothes, no clothes, etc.

That change will break any viewer that is not updated to use the new service. Phoenix will not be updated. After the service goes into affect, any one using Phoenix will be a gray avatar to anyone that sees them and all avatars they see will be gray.

This change to improve the SL experience will effectively end the use of old viewers. Only viewers that update to the new Baking code will work.

The Issues

The announcement of the end of support could have been a couple of paragraphs on the Phoenix blog. Instead the announcement was a 90 minute meeting. Why?

I gather from several things Jessica has said, speaking at the Phoenix Hour is not her first choice of things to do. So, this announcement was obviously something she felt strongly about and saw as a necessity.

I see the necessity as coming from the abusers and self-center people that use the Phoenix Viewer. The Phoenix-users are generally great people. They are grateful for what the development team and support personal do… and for free. But, there is a minority that is vocal and vile.

I think much of the necessity Jessica saw was to mitigate the problems the support staff will have to handle from an abusive and self-centered minority. The self-centered haters are a problem for us all.

I have a theory. My experience so far is the most hateful people are also the least knowledgeable people. They are the least educated about the problem they are complaining about. In less PC terms: the most hateful are the most ignorant.

Go to the Phoenix blog and start reading comments. It is amazing what people say to those providing them a free product and services. The arrogance and stupidity is exceedingly well done.

The Cost of Haters

I just wrote From #SL Griefing to Extortion. Aspects of that come into play here too. Also, we have seen the Lindens progressively withdraw from community communications. Since I’ve come to SL the number of Office Hours and User Groups has steadily decreased. Others and I have written several times about how the community is driving the Lindens away by their behavior.

The JIRA Change is an example of the Lindens getting tired of dealing with the drama. They have effectively locked it out of the JIRA so they can avoid it.

Oskar Linden was, as best I can tell, banning people from user group meetings and the forum threads to reduce drama. Something in the way he did that got him fired… I doubt that but, no one knows.

We are seeing some of that response to abusers with the Firestorm team in friday’s announcement. My take is Jessica is doing her best to mitigate the heat the support people have to handle. But, it is taking its toll on her and the teams. They are learning, to some extent, what it is like to be a Linden.

What to Do?

There are no simple answers. But, there is a lot to consider.

This week in America we are dealing with a tragedy. In Connecticut a 20-year old killed his mother and 27 others, mostly kindergarten children. (Reference) Speaking about it is the only time we have ever seen Pres. Obama start to break up on air.

Many think guns and lack of laws are the problem. Connecticut has the strictest gun laws and they already made it illegal for this killer to have weapons. What puts this in perspective is that on the same day in China a man used a knife to attack 23 people in an elementary school. (Reference) The problem is psychology not weapons. Israel, a country with more weapons per capita than the USA, does not have these types of killings.

What is it that caused this young man to so hate his mother so much that he killed her and destroyed her life’s work? If you don’t know, the children killed were her students. As time goes by we will learn more. AS is typical in these cases we will learn about the warning signs that were ignored by far too many people that may have prevented the deaths.

The FBI in a January 2011 Violence Prevention report concluded:

Research has shown that many of these situations are over in minutes and law enforcement may not arrive in time. As a result, employees have to become stakeholders in their own safety and security and develop a survival mind-set comprised of awareness, preparation, and rehearsal. Vigorous prevention programs, timely intervention, and appropriate responses by organizations and their employees will contribute significantly to a safe and secure work environment. (Reference)

There is nothing anyone can do for us to stop violence and abuse or protect us from the insane. This is something that we must be doing for ourselves. Tolerance of abusive behavior has to be addressed as such and dealt with. The Connecticut killer did not just out of the blue decide to off his mom and kill innocent kids. I see behavioral connections between all haters. Reacting to acts of violence doesn’t prevent the problem. Preparation does mitigate the scope of the problem. Sane, rational people need to be able to protect their selves, family, friends and co-workers. But more importantly, we need to be looking at how to prevent and avoid the violence.

In conversation after the Phoenix Hour meeting some were talking about the hope that the more abusive Phoenix users would move on to Singularity or Cool VL Viewer and not be a problem for the Firestorm teams. Wow! Does that say something?

I see that as kicking the can down the road not starting to solve the social problems. It is just passing the problem on. I think we need to be dealing head-to-head with the problems.

So, tell idiots they are idiots and haters they are haters and the ungrateful how out of line they are.

While you are at it, drop by the Firestorm forum or groups and say thanks for the work they do.

15 thoughts on “Beyond the Phoenix Viewer

  1. I just wanted to correct some misconceptions. It seriously annoys me that people bring up Autism Spectrum in this nasty event. People at the higher functioning end of Autism do not have a tendency to be violent at all. If they do, it probably has more to do with the medication they are taking than autism. People closer to the lower functioning end of the spectrum do have outbursts and show much frustration, but this is because of their language problems. Think of a baby that cries when they have a full diaper. The kids at the lower end spectrum are no different. They don’t have the language skills to express their problem, so they end up getting frustrated quicker and acting out. These kids are no real danger to any1. Again, in almost all case of people doing crazy things, it comes down to the medications, not the disorder.

    • I disagree that it is always the medication. We have a load of people not taking medication that are haters. But, your other points are well taken and made.

  2. Why the school shootings? Guns have always been around and actually more accessible in the past. What’s changed? Google “school shootings ssri” and then ask yourself if the “gun lobby” is to blame. Follow the money.

    • I’m not sure how the gun lobby would figure into a school shooting. If the gun lobbies had their way, the teachers would have been packing and stopped the killing spree.

  3. You have merged 2 SL issues and one RL in one well written, cohesive statement.
    The vast majority of people are good & well meaning. We have unfortunately become a “politically correct” society that allows the most vocal to determine actions and reactions.
    Or…maybe…my ex-roommate was right with: “99% of the people out there are A**holes…just like the rest of us.” True, if all perspectives are taken into account.

    • Thanks for the kind words. Your roommate is partially right. I believe we all can be and are all a-holes from time to time.

  4. Pingback: Project Sunshine – Don’t Panic! » Ciaran Laval

  5. “Many think guns and lack of laws are the problem. Connecticut has the strictest gun laws and they already made it illegal for this killer to have weapons.”

    And we now know Adam Lanza was refused by a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Danbury, Connecticut to buy a rifle 3 days before the shooting because of waiting periods and background checks. Those strict gun laws kept him from buying his own gun.

    He used his mother’s guns for the massacre, which she bought for protection and taught him to use at gun ranges.

    “What puts this in perspective is that on the same day in China a man used a knife to attack 23 people in an elementary school. ”

    Pretty huge difference between a knife attack wounding 22 kids and a gun attack killing 20 kids.

    “The problem is psychology not weapons. Israel, a country with more weapons per capita than the USA, does not have these types of killings.”

    Israel also is a country with mandatory military service for men and women, and have many people living in settlements.

    Israel isn’t a “right to bear arms” country, its a REASON to bear arms. And gun laws there dictate that reason be reaffirmed regularly. That reason can go away and so with it, gun ownership, because it’s not a right.

    Nancy Lanza wouldn’t have been allowed guns in Israel just because she wanted to teach her son “gun responsibility”.

    A huge contributor to civility is rules everyone has to play by. Logical, results oriented rules. Laws.

    • All the laws currently proposed have been tried and failed. The law proposed by California Senator Feinstein is a near duplicate of the law in force when the Columbine massacre happened. So, we know that is not going to work.

      Gun control is something the left side of political spectrum wants and will use any excuse to get. While they may believe they are helping the FBI stats and history shows most of their proposals produce the opposite affect. When the numbers are cleaned up America’s high gun death rate comes from a huge percentage of suicides. I can’t find a significant difference in suicide rates that relates to gun laws. So, it is rational to assume suicides will just change the means of their death.

      Until laws consider mental health, the entertainment industries portrayal of violence, and the news medias coverage of violent crime gun control laws will continue to be ineffective.

      • Laws and civilian disarmament can and have been enacted in other countries in the world to bring gun ownership and homicide rates down to near non-existent.

        There’s no law that can be passed to change whether a person is born prone to mental illness or not.

        Yes, mental healthcare should be widely and freely available to treat those that have or develop issues, but at the same time we should emulate countries that’ve solved this whole gun violence issue and not pretend like it’s a solved problem.

        We have a cultural issue where some love the idea of being on the crux of some armed insurrection. The idea of government mandating that only military and police have guns unless a person has good reason (security detail, hunting) sends too many people into a tizzy.

        We don’t reach an evolved society where kids aren’t massacred en masse by treating the constitution like a dead letter rather than a living one tailored for the present and refusing to ignore how this problem is solved in other places in the world. We reach it by valuing each other and our kids as much as other countries that’ve solved this problem do and get over our insecurities towards government as if government, and “the left side”, is something that’s not us.

        • I understand many people believe as you do. But, history and current examples show disarming the citizens always shows an increase in violence. Syria is an example of what happens to disarmed populations.

          The severity of shootings like Aurora Colorado and Newtown Connecticut are greatly reduced when someone on site has a weapon and stops the shooting. Britain is a good example of what happens. Burglaries and street robberies started to increase in 2009 as the economy declines and people cannot defend their selves. Argentina demonstrates the severity of economic decline (2001 collapse – read Surviving the Economic Collapse for a firsthand account.) Greece is another example of what happens when the government that claims it can protect the citizens economically fails, protection stops or is greatly reduced.

          We can also look at numerous riots and disasters in the USA. I posit that no government in a country, especially a free one, can protect its citizens at all times. Disasters, civil unrest (think Egypt), and economic declines all overwhelm civilian and military law enforcement. In those times when law enforcement is minutes or hours away, if available, when protection is needed in seconds. How do you propose to protect yourself in such situations?

          Until one can show me laws that work in the greater scheme of life, especially when governments collapse from economic stress, I’ll oppose disarming citizens. With America spending nearly twice its income and borrowing nearly 50% of every dollar to pay for current spending and with Congress unable to stop spending and only wanting to tax more, an economic collapse is likely. This is the exact path that Argentina and Greece took. Rational Americans can see what is happening and are arming and storing food. There are record sales of defensive items.

          Britain disarmed and it is hard to have guns. So, now mass killings are by explosives and gas, to which there is no practical protection…

          • Syria isn’t a disarmed population. Before the unrest there was plain view, unpermitted gun carry. There was some gun control but less than ours.

            Japan is a disarmed population if you need an example of one. And it’s an example of what happens when there’s a cultural shift away from fearing one’s government and one’s government leads by example of relying less on using guns as force against civilians.

            We’re our government. We don’t have a dictator and don’t live in a military state.

            As for somewhere being present to stop such shootings in places like schools, you mean like security? Awesome. Yes. Get guns out of the hands of those that shouldn’t have them (a mother with a mentally ill son and 99% of the rest of us) and put them in the hands of those well vetted, routinely checked up upon and actually of a profession that particularly reasons having a gun.

            As for disasters, I again point you to Japan. The 2011 earthquakes resulted in little discord. We invest in disaster preparedness for disasters, not proliferation in guns.

            Civil unrest akin to Egypt? Again, we don’t have a dictator and impending insurrection. Let’s tailor our laws to us and look to countries most similar to us that have much, much, orders of magnitude lower homicide rates. That’ll inform us on how our gun laws should be.

            As for laws that work:


            Refer to countries with the lowest homicide rates and read up on their specific gun laws.

            • It took some time to dig through the propaganda and do a proper look at other countries and the US gun laws and crimes rates. I cannot find any proof of your idea that countries with fewer guns are better off.

              Take Britain. They now have almost no legal gun ownership. One must look at the larger picture to understand the difference between Britain and the USA. For the last 200 years Britain has had lower murder rates than the USA. During that time Britain had far fewer restrictions on gun ownership than the US. Only in the mid-20th century did gun control come into play in either country. So, I think it obvious the difference in people not law is what is significant.

              In 1911 the Sullivan Act came into being in New York. The gun murder rate in NY was several times the rate in London with no significant restrictions. Also, the murder rate with other weapons was high in NY than London.

              Now that Britain has mostly been disarmed the crime rates with and without guns is several times what it was before gun control was enacted. 1954 had about 2 dozen armed robberies in London. After decades of gun control there are hundreds of times more armed robberies. So, I don’t see gun control improving things in Britain.

              Russia, Brazil and Mexico all have more gun control than the USA. But, their murder rates are higher than the USA’s.

              Gun ownership is three times higher in Switzerland than in Germany, but the Swiss have lower murder rates.

              Other countries with high gun ownership and low murder rates are; Israel, New Zealand, and Finland.

              Japan is interesting. Their law is simple: no one shall own a gun, guns, or sword. But while Japan may be a gun-banner’s dream, it’s a civil libertarian’s nightmare.

              Japan’s low crime rate has almost nothing to do with gun control, and everything to do with people control. Americans, used to their own traditions of freedom, would not accept Japan’s system of people controls and gun controls. Give up freedom for safety… history has a lot to say about that.

              I also find that Japan does not count deaths from ‘attempts to injure’ as a murder, even though the person died. In the US the FBI counts self-defense shooting deaths as illegal murder. So, several thousand self-defense shootings add to the murder rates each year. So, the numbers many use for proving a point do not reveal the true circumstance and are misleading. One cannot just rely on the numbers reported by governments. One must actually look at what is being counted, normalize the data, then compare. One must also look at a broad range of historic crime rates to see the cultural differences.

              The number of law enforcement officers per capita in Japan is much higher than any other industrialized nation. There is a good article on cultural differences and people control in Japan.

              So, I’ll take your position using Japan as a reference ‘for gun control’ is a rather uniformed one that repeats common talking points from gun control advocates. The more I research the more my point is supported: Gun Control does not reduce crime.

  6. Since the topic of the school shooting is still hot, and I think this information is important, I’ll post it here too. This site tracks violence connected to anti depressants. If people want to understand why the US has so many violent events such as the 1 that happened on Friday, this site can be a big eye opener. There are few other countries that have as many people on these drugs than the US. This link is to the school shooting sections of the site. Please to check this out, especially if you really think guns are the problem.

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