A new Firestorm viewer is out. I gather it was released this weekend while I was off doing Mother’s Day stuff. See the announcement: Firestorm Viewer Release 4.6.5-40833. Also, Inara has a nice review of this release up here: Firestorm 4.6.5: steady as she goes.
This release addresses a number of the complaints that users of the prevision have made. Mac users get benefits from this update too. So, if you use Firestorm and have been having problems, you will want to update to this version.
Some Mac users are complaining about typing in chat. That can still be v e r y s l o w. Others are pointing out that an update to a new OS fixes the problem… I’m not sure what the complete story is. As I’m not a Mac user, I can’t research it.
The Firestorm site recommends a Clean Install. They explain how to do that here: Firestorm Viewer Clean Install.
The instructions there lack a few points, otherwise they are pretty good. I’ll point out a few things about the installation of a new version.
If you decide to do a clean install, backup your viewer’s settings before you start your install. You need to be logged into Second Life to do a full backup of your settings, so login. Then open Avatar (Top Menu)->Preferences->Backup (tab). You can select where the backup is placed. Pick some place easy to navigate to make restoring the settings easy. Also, avoid placing the backup in the Firestorm install folder.
Win Vista, 7, or 8 FS 32-bit: C:\Program Files (x86)\Firestorm
Win Vista, 7, or 8 FS 64-bit: C:\Program Files\Firestorm
Creating a backup is a good step to take in any case as a viewer crash can corrupt the FS Viewer settings, or so says the FS Wiki.
A clean install does not involve an UNINSTALL. If you plan to do an uninstall, remember that that process can wipe out chat logs. You have options when running the uninstall process. Make sure you understand the options.
A clean install just requires you to manually clean out the FS Viewer’s install folder and settings file.
There are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. There is also a 64-bit version for Windows and Linux, but not Mac. Those of us using the 64-bit version like it.
A section of the release notes lists the fixes for the Mac users: Mac Fixes.
I always try an install over the top of my existing Firestorm Viewer. It usually works, but not always. If you try that, don’t cry in Firestorm Support about problems until after you do a clean install.
This install of the 64-bit version seemed slow. The download was quick, but the install was slow.
My install over the top of the existing viewer has worked for me. That doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Firestorm Development has stopped supporting Windows XP. This version apparently won’t install on Windows XP machines with only Service Pack 1 (SP1) upgrades. Thought that was going to be bumped to SP2 level upgrades, meaning you would have to have SP3 installed to install FS new releases. May be that will be true for the next release.
There is a large number of fixes in this release. See Release Notes 4.6.5.
The Advanced Lighting Model feature of the viewer has been disabled for Mac users running Mac OSX 10.6.8 because it caused rendering glitches.
This version updates Firestorm to the Linden 3.7.4 code base. That basically means Linden fixes and features up to that version are included. FModeEx has been updated to 4.44.32. FModeEx is a library used with the SL Viewer and Third Party Viewers for sounds in the viewer. This version has the Vivox updates. These changes improve voice chat. Mac users should see a big improvement. OpenSSL has been upgraded. Remember the HeartBlood thing from a few weeks back? This is somewhat related.
RLVa did not get an upgrade. However, bugs were fixed; radar aletrs now properly work with chat headers enabled. A show names restriction could be circumvented. That is fixed. Something to do with RLV enabled checking is fixed.
PhotoTools had a problem with the Soften Shadows values not working. That is fixed. Plus image quality sliders now work/appear in several places where they were supposed to be but apparently did not show.
Builders got some fixes and features. The building preferences have been reworked for a better user interface. They are now in two panels to avoid the cluttered feeling. Various limits for moving prims can be set. If you have ever had a prim fly away when moving it, you’ll appreciate the limits. Rotations can be set to rotate in multiple sets of x-degrees even with snap off.
Several problems encountered by OpenSim users have been fixed.
There is also a good sized list of known bugs that the team did not get to. Read the release notes to see the list.
I find the folder sorting in inventory is different. The FS Dev Team has changed what their viewer considers to be System Folders. So, I get a different order of folders than I see in the SL Viewer. For those that switch back and forth that may be annoying. Otherwise, it is just a matter of what one gets used to.
Render speed is much better in this version. Jumping to a region with 74 avatars did slow me to single digit frame rates for a few minutes. For a time I stayed in single digits. But, soon was bouncing in the 7 to 15 FPS range. Some avatars and parts of other avatars remained gray for some time. But, in general the region rendered quickly. That includes all the textures on things for sale. So, this looks to be a great viewer for shopping.
Moving to a less populated nearby region brought my FPS back up into the 30’s. There I had to fly to get ahead of the render speed. It was possible to walk and find items that has not rendered yet. But, this version seems to be much better at rendering nearby things. I also was not seeing texture stalls, where a texture remains fuzzy/blurry. I didn’t do extensive testing. But, it certainly seems better.
Firestorm seems to be both ahead and behind the Linden Viewer. It remains the most popular viewer in Second Life. According to the Third Party Viewer list it is also the most stable viewer. Singularity is behinf it and the SL Viewer is 5th in the list.
I am not sure we are getting good comparisons in the list. The SL Viewer now uses Google Breakpad reporting. So, that viewer may be reporting crashes other viewers are missing. Whatever the case, I do think the Firestorm Viewer is more stable by a considerable margin.
I find my use is shifting a bit now. When I plan to be on for a time I’ll log in with the FS Viewer.
The CtrlAltStudio Viewer has updated to the new Firestorm code and added XBox360-Controller support. Thanks, Strachan Ofarrel. – More about that if I can get time to look at it.