Firestorm Viewer News 2014-7

There is a load of new information about what is going on with the Firestorm Viewer. Some is great and you will be happy. Some of the news is a real downer and depressing. Mac users are going to be crying. Sorry…

Firestorm Viewer Releases

Firestorm Logo

Firestorm Logo

From the TPV Meeting Jessica said her team hopes to have the HTTP changes merged in, QA’d and released by March 9. The key word in that is ‘hopes’. Then they will have a couple of months work to do before there next release (in May?).

By early next week (8) they will have a version of the HTTP code merged with Firestorm and out to FS beta testers. But, things are not simple. Read on.

HTTP Coming

HTTP is the project that deals with how the viewer and SL servers talk to each other. Monty Linden has been fixing the Linden code that deals with these communication problems. 

It is looking like the Linden code may be released next week (8). But, a private release has been provided to third party developers to test. That is apparently what is being given to beta testers. So, if the code is officially released next week, by Tuesday, the FS Team, well Jessica, wants to include it in this coming Firestorm release.

This code reduces the number of connections your viewer has to make and the server answer. So, while the speed of your connection will not increase things will render faster. If you are wondering how that can be, think of a phone call where you can only talk for a minute then you must hang up and redial. That is sort of what the viewer does now.

If we were to eliminate the redialing and let you talk for as long as you want in one call, you can get more said in less time, but you don’t talk any faster. You just waste less time dialing and making connections. The same sort of thing is happening with the new HTTP code.

Jessica is rushing the team to get HTTP implemented. If the Lab releases by Tuesday, HTTP will probably make it into this release. Otherwise it won’t.

It may be that the Lab releases Sunshine before HTTP. Jessica says getting Sunshine merged into Firestorm will take more time than merging HTTP. But, I doubt that the Lab will roll the Sunshine Viewer to main by Tuesday. They just released a main viewer update this week… or may be Jessica just means officially releases the code to developers, which could happen.

For now the Team is aiming to release the next Firestorm update about March 9th.

HTTP is being merged without much testing. The quality of Monty Linden’s code has been such the team feels they can get by with less testing. I know I am looking forward to this code being released to the main viewer. Using the RC version of the viewer has been great. Way nicer experience in SL with it than without it.

Oz has pointed out that the HTTP RC Viewer has the lowest crash rate of Linden viewers.

Monty has pointed out that while the body of changed code is small, figuring out what to change and how it worked with various threaded processes in the viewer and servers was a lot of work.

HTTP is something to look forward to.

Mac Users

Jessica said they were seeing problems on the Mac Cocoa™ version of the FS viewers. Most of the FS Mac users have gone back to FS 4.2.2, which is the current 3rd version FS has running.

The FS Team announced some time ago they would be blocking older versions of Firestorm to limit their support to only the 3 latest versions of Firestorm. This means that with the next release Firestorm 4.2.2 would be blocked. Mac users will have a problem because newer versions have Cocoa support and that is a problem.

If you are trying to figure out what Mac Cocoa is see: Mac OS, Apple’s Cocoa Framework, and Cocoa API. The short explanation is that it is a set of libraries with API’s that allow programmers to do a lot of visual stuff with only a few lines of code. It seems to me this is Apple’s way of making the code for desktops and mobile devices more compatible and thus requires less developer work (supposedly) to support multiple hardware platforms.

The problem seems to be developers are not that thrilled with it for whatever reasons and are running into problems when using it. While it has lots of fixes and nice stuff, it also has a load of problems. The SL Viewers and TPV’s are apparently hitting some of those problems. Whatever the case, Mac users are going to have problems with Second Life viewers and probably any 3D virtual worlds. If you use a Mac, it sucks to be you. Sorry.

To get help, Mac users need to be filing JIRA bug reports. So, let your Mac using friends know. If they are seeing things like: BUG-4774Keystroke echo lags significantly behind typing in low FPS areas, file a JIRA on it. The ALT-Caming has problems and annoys people because the camera goes flying of who knows where, so they should be reporting it.

In the future Mac users will start to find that they cannot render Fitted Mesh without viewer problems, performance stuff. So, getting all the current problems into the JIRA and getting the JIRA count up may head off future pain. But, there is pain ahead.

For the near term future Mac support is going to have to come from the Lab, as the Firestorm Team is not going to be able to support Mac. More on this later.

There are just a lot of things Apple is not supporting. While many of us can empathize with Mac users, the problem is with Apple. Most of the crashing problems are beyond the FS Team. The Lab has their Apple people on their new projects and no time for older version of Mac OS. So, working out work-around mehtods for Apple problems is down the road.

Cinder Roxley

Cinder Roxley has left the Firestorm Team. This is really bad news for Mac users. Cinder was the FS Team’s Mac expert. Jessica explains she believes this is SL burn out. It happens. But, whatever the reason, Cinder has moved on leaving the FS Team with out a Mac programmer.

This puts several of the Firestorm Team’s projects in limbo; LEAP Motion Controller, Mac development, and OpenSim development. Major bummer three times.

Leap Motion

Drax and I have made reviews of our respective experiences using LEAP Motion Controllers with Second Life. Drax is (was?) excited about it, but I haven’t heard any more about LEAP from him since his video. I was excited about LEAP. I have one and wrote my review here: My Second Life LEAP Motion Experiment.

The developers at Firestorm are not impressed with LEAP at the moment. The makers of LEAP are promising an update that will fix the accuracy, stability, and smoothness problems people are complaining about. Rumor is the improvement is a MAJOR improvement. I am hoping for a big improvement. As things are I haven’t turned on my LEAP for over a month.

But, getting the support into Firestorm for Mac without Cinder is a problem whether LEAP does its thing or not. But, there is hope for the controller.

CtrlAltStudio & Firestorm Partner

Announced this Saturday is the partnering of CtrlAltStudio and Firestorm. CtrlAltStudio is the maker of the third party SL compatible viewer with Oculus Rift support.

CtrlAltStudio is David Rowe. He has agreed to work with Firestorm and will be contributing code to the Firestorm code repositories. His viewer is based on Firestorm now. So, this is probably not a difficult decision for him. With Cinder having left it makes sense for Firestorm to reach out.

There are a number of reasons for the partnership, suffice to say this is a good thing for the SL Community.

I understand CtrlAltStudio has LEAP support somewhat implemented as the FS Team does. But, neither FS or CtrlAltStudio (CAS) want to release LEAP support until after they see the new LEAP Motion code and gauge its performance. I think that is wise, as I have met few people that are thrilled with LEAP for use with SL. There is no point giving people a bad taste for what can possibly be a big advance in UI controls, just because some want it before it is ready. 

6 thoughts on “Firestorm Viewer News 2014-7

  1. Maybe Ebbe Altberg can let Apple know how the Apple code structure is a fail . CEO to CEO. How many laptops will Apple sell if they don’t run 3d games?

    I know a lot of creators use macs so people no longer being able to function in world is more than just more people logging off. The creative end and commerce will be damaged.

    I am major disgusted with this whole thing — to spend programming time so a few people can hop up and down with some visor on their heads flapping their arms but ignore working on a platform for customers with more expensive machines who probably have more money to spend in SL and who probably do more creative work is long term death.

    And from what I read fitted mesh will be an eyesore for apple users — why stay in world to see that?

    Seems like the sky did fall for mac users and no fix in sight–

  2. Just clearing things out about the HTTP (llcorehttp) changes: they are publicly available in the viewer-http branch (and, for some older changes dealing with LLHttpClient and Curl, in viewer-sunshine), so they are not just in a “private release” and anyone can test them and backport them; the latest changes have been backported to the Cool VL Viewer (all branches) as soon as they were published, in early January this year.

    I do concur with your statement about Monty’s code quality: he did things the right way, he did spot and fix the weaknesses in the old code, and his code is mostly bug-free.

    • Thanks for clearing up ‘private release.’ I got a different take listening to the videos. I expected things to be as you describe. It just didn’t sound that way, at least to me. Thanks.

  3. Thanks, Nalates, now I understand why recent releases of the SL and Firestorm viewers, both incorporating the latest CHUI code, have so many issues with my (old) Macs — namely, the chat lag bug where keystrokes take seconds, nay, sometimes even minutes, to appear on screen.

    I found it so strange that it has affected Mac users for so many months without even the slightest hint on what could be done to fix the issue. I guess it’s “unfixable” — because the framework was changed and it’s unlikely that anyone (either at LL, or the TPVs) will ever go back to the old code?

    It’s such a pity, really. The latest incarnation of viewers give me almost twice the performance (in FPS) than the “old” ones, which is simply too dramatic to be ignored. But… at the cost of forfeiting text chat, which is unacceptable. This is a tragic dilemma!

    • At least they are working on Chat…

      Apple required adoption of Cocoa. This has proved to be a problem for most Apple developers and certainly for SL devs.

  4. Pingback: Second Life and the Mac WebKit Problem | Nalates' Things & Stuff

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