Second Life News 2014-40

Changes

The Lindens have a new post in the SL Forum titled: An Update on Several Improvements to Second Life™ (9/30 9:36AM SLT).

The first thing they mention is their changing the viewer from using a list of graphics cards to determine what settings to use to using a benchmark process to test the installed video card. Based on the tests they estimate what the card is capable of doing.

The viewer that has this change is a Project Viewer and can be found here: Second Life RC Viewers. I would call this more of a beta version than an RC version. Whatever it is, the Lindens could use some help testing it, especially if you have one of the newest video cards out. 

New Login

The new Login arrangement is available in an RC Viewer. See: Second Life RC Viewers. This viewer has been the subject of A-B testing for a couple of months are more. I think the changes are mostly cosmetic, but it is supposed to make a difference in how many people signing up actually get into SL.

This new post explains what the Lindens plan to do with this new login style, saying:

A new look for the login screen is coming in stages. We’re tweaking the login screen and A/B testing the results. We’ve simplified the new user login screen to remove distractions, and we’re adding instructions for new downloads and installs. We’re also streamlining the returning user login screen to help you get where you’re going faster – or find a new place to visit. You’re likely to see some incremental changes continue over the coming weeks.

One of the known challenges for the Lindens is improving player retention. One of the key aspects of player retention is getting people to where they want to be. Said another way, it is exposing the vast and varied content of Second Life to new users. The Lindens are working on figuring out how to best do that.

Performance

This is another ongoing challenge for the Lindens. Over the past few weeks I have covered the two primary projects that have been works-in-progress for several weeks.

Content Delivery Network – CDN is one of the projects. The point of CDN is to cache SL content in a server near you. Typically 20±ms away. Web sites have been using CDN for years. The SL system is now moving to use of CDN.

Your avatar appearance already uses CDN and has for months. The World Map has been changed to use CDN. Both of the instances of CDN use are grid wide. The World Map got its update in the last couple of weeks.

Now the Second Life Assets are going to be delivered to your viewer via CDN. That means mesh and textures will download much faster. Overseas users will have a much better experience, but all users will see an improvement.

HTTP Pipelining – This tech has been a work-in-progress for months, first formerly announced by the Lab in January 2014. Much of the infrastructure of the SL system had to change to allow pipelining to be used. The servers, viewers, and the libraries of computer code that seldom change which are used to build the server and viewer software all had to change. Inara, in her blog, and I. in mine, have been writing about these changes for months. They are now on the verge of final release.

HTTP Pipelining is a more efficient way for the viewers and servers to communicate. Think of the difference as may be text messages on a phone representing the older style of how SL communicated. While I hesitate to use it, SL chat is more like the newer way to communicate. I’ll explain. Another way to think of the way is text verses a voice connection.

With text messages we look up a person’s number, tell the phone we want to message, write the message and send it. There are some shortcuts if we want to immediately send another message to the same person. But, in general we have to do the look, dial, and send process for each message.

With chat once we open a group we can chat all day and not have to do anything other than chat. We make one connection and send lots of messages.

HTTP pipelining is similar in that it makes one connection to the system and uses it until it has everything it needs. Previously each asset required the viewer to open a connection, the server to answer, deliver a single asset, and then disconnect. All the opening and closing takes time and resources. It is the opening and closing that is being streamlined with pipelining.

Summary

The result of these changes will be a Second Life that loads much faster. It will be interesting to see how much better things get. Those testing the combined CDN and pipelining say it is substantially faster. Monty Linden the one doing most of the development work describes it as ‘scary fast’. So, I suppose delivery around Halloween is appropriate.

Viewers

No changes since Friday. See: Second Life News 2014-39 #3

Servers

Tuesday we did get a roll to the main grid. The update had been running on all 3 RC channels. It includes some general fixes and ‘tweaks’ to the experience tools system.

RC Channels

All three channels get a package with fixes for some issues in Skill Gaming areas.

Snack Channel

This is a small RC channel. It had 10 regions last I heard. These are regions in the main grid that are using CDN. The last I heard these regions of the main grid are running CDN. No pipelining yet, just CDN. No special viewer is needed.

  1. Brasil Rio
  2. Brocade
  3. Denby
  4. Fluffy
  5. Freedom City
  6. Hippo Hollow
  7. Hippotropolis
  8. Rocket City
  9. Testsylvania Sandbox
  10. Whippersnapper

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