Viewer Pipeline Update

The Viewer Release Candidate pipeline is operational. Get ready for some surprises. Remember. I’m writing as a Windows user. Things may be different on a Mac.

Open Source Meeting 2013-30

Open Source Meeting 2013-30

Oz Linden explained some of the thinking about and intended operation of the new pipeline. Part of the explanation was getting my terminology straightened out. Words convey meaning and people have to have the same meanings for the words being used to communicate. 

First Beta Viewers… we still have them. Release Candidates are NOT beta versions. Oz explains that a Release Candidate (RC) is a viewer that they expect to go to final release version without change. An RC version is post beta… a final stable version that is expected to become the main release viewer.

Oz describes them as, “A Release Candidate is a viewer that we _do_ think is ready for general release, but we’re prepared to be proven wrong. So, we give it to a smallish set of users (so far, 1000 to 2000) and see what happens.”

There will be RC versions all the time. Also, there will be Beta Viewers from time to time. These will be special cases. They are versions that the Lindens feel are not ready for general use, but need user testing. The Beta versions will likely have to be manually downloaded and installed. Oz says they are definitely opt in… beyond the setting in Preferences.

Installation Foibles

To understand how the RC pipeline works consider: Oz says, “What we expect is that most users that accept an update to an RC viewer will just use it as their viewer… it will install over their previous viewer. If we have reason to update an RC viewer, all users of that RC viewer will get it as a required update. If/when an RC viewer becomes the default download, those users _don’t_ get an update … they’ve already got it.”

This is where some people are running into problems. Provided you do NOT depart from the one viewer installed concept, things are good. It is when someone like me wants to experiment with multiple Linden viewers from the RC channels. Then things get funky.

Whirly Fizzle tells us that the updates install to the last folder where a Linden RC viewer was installed. Think about that. If I have Snowstorm RC and Maintenance RC installed along with the latest main release, and Snowstorm was the last installed, and an update to either the main or Maintenance version comes out, it will over write Snowstorm.

Inara Pey confirms that her Vivox RC version was overwritten by a Maintenance RC update.

I can confirm that my Maintenance RC 3.6.2-278602 was just overwritten by the main version 3.6.1-278007. :/ I have no idea what’s up with that.

The simple solution for those that want to run multiple Linden viewers is to turn off automatic updates and handle them manually.

Work Around

There is a command line setting that is supposed to help with this update problem. The setting is: –channel. But, this does not seem to be working. The Lindens are looking to see why.

Whirly is trying a change in the viewer’s [install folder]/app_settings where you can find settings.xml. Change the key: UpdaterServiceURL. Change this <string>https://update.secondlife.com</string> to <string>http://secondlife.com/sod-off-don’t-wanna-update/</string> or whatever.

This will stop the viewer from being able to update. Why not just turn off automatic updates? Well, unless you do some custom command line changes to the start icons, all viewers are using the same settings file. So, this change only affects the parent viewer of the settings file you change.

This UpdaterServiceURL key is not in the main viewer’s files. I only found it in the RC version’s file.

Other Things

Looking through the registry I find several keys with entries for Second Life. These seem to be confused as they refer to some files in my main install and others in the Maintenance RC. For instance the slvoice.exe is listed in two places and referenced by the same data name. Not a normal thing.

And, I haven’t tried to uninstall one of the RC’s yet. There is only one uninstall in the Control Panel and in the Start Menu. This suggests that the RC install process is deeply targeted to a single version  install. Any multi-version Linden viewer install is going to be complex. New users are going to get bit when they try to experiment.

Summary

Programmers always think they have things working. That is normal human nature. I never press the run button on a program until I am at a place I think the program is going to run. So, I expect some RC versions to have a some fails.

Oz mentioned that in the past they have seen a 1 to 2.5% increase in crash rate as a viewer moved from Beta to Main viewer. One can sort of say 2±% of users are going to some problem with a viewer the Lindens thought was ready for the general population of SL.

Well… that is going to be the RC user seeing those problems now. It is an improvement. Only 1,000 to 2000 will bump into those problems. But, what if it is a problem that knocks you off SL or stops you from accomplishing a daily task?

The problems with installing another viewer will mean you either revert to the main viewer and turn off Willing to run RC or fire up a third party viewer. Between the SL Forum and various blogs there are probably only a few thousand people that will know what is going on. So, each problem will tend to bruise the reputation of RC viewers.

I don’t see an upside for users that try the RC’s. But, since people are mostly unaware of the previous beta process and the current problems with RC’s, there should be adequate numbers opting to help.

Previously it was easy to try an beta version. If you didn’t like it is was easy to fall back to another version. The risk of a problem was minimal. I think this new pipeline changes the risk-reward ratio.

I’m thinking it would be better to not start installing multiple RC and Beta viewers just yet. Over the next few weeks this will probably get sorted out.

If you really need to test with an RC or Beta, turn off automatic updates. And learn how to use the command line options to create separate settings files and caches.

8 thoughts on “Viewer Pipeline Update

  1. LL should straighten out their terminology on the web as well.
    When you follow the link to ‘Beta viewers’ from the official download page, it will bring you to a page with largely unexplained ‘Alternate viewers’ as they are suddenly called when you arrive.

    See http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Linden_Lab_Official:Alternate_Viewers

    After I started the Maintenance viewer that I just downloaded, it was updated online and had to restart immediately.

    • There is a lot of content in the Wiki that will need to change. Much of it the users can update. But, I doubt it will all get changed.

      Double check your version numbers in Help->About. I lost my Maintenance version to an overwrite. I have yet to decide what I am going to do.

  2. I find a lot of the terminology the Lab is using to be confusing. All these Release Candidates are called “Release” in the wiki and when you download them. This means there is no way to distinguish between a Release Candidate and the official Release – Oz says this is partly to do with the way these releases are being handled by their system (presumably as RCs progress to becoming Releases supposingly seamlessly).

    The other problem is that the Lab’s customers are now unknowing guinea pigs -with the old system you knew you were using a Beta viewer and that there may be unexpected issues. Now users will just download what they are given and may not realise that something that is happening shouldn’t be…until a disaster happens.

    We all know that there have been unexpected bugs in some of the recent Beta viewers. I doubt that a RC will be any better than that, not through any failure by the Lindens, but simply because bugs always become more apparent when more real users use it.

    • I think the new process will make things better for viewer development.

      But, for those that choose to opt-in to RC versions, it may get confusing. But, that opt-in means they did volunteer and chose to be guinea pigs.

      My concern is like yours. There will be problems and mistakes in the future. I think this process means it will be more difficult to escape problems. But, we’ll have to see.

  3. Well… that is going to be the RC user seeing those problems now. It is an improvement. Only 1,000 to 2000 will bump into those problems. But, what if it is a problem that knocks you off SL or stops you from accomplishing a daily task?

    It’s much better than you make it sound there. If 1-2% of users used to hit a problem not corrected in the Beta, then that was a big number because it was 1-2% of all official viewer users. Now, it will be 1-2% of the small number to which we send the rc viewer; perhaps a few tens of users, and we have a better chance to correct the problem before it goes to everyone.

      • I used to attend Second Life Beta server meetings and was astonished at the small number of residents who would take the time to login to Aditi.
        On the other hand the time of the meeting (at midnight for the European mainland) has always been a barrier I had to overcome.
        Especially when I had an early shift next day.

        • Yeah, a big turn out for a meeting is 30 people.

          Meeting times are a problem for international groups.

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