There is a new article up on the Firestorm Viewer site. See: Be Careful What You Wish For. I can read a lot into the article. That doesn’t mean I have it right. The things I am pretty sure of follow.
We have known for some time that the FS Team planned a viewer release for November. It seems the release date is sliding. I am guessing Jessica is feeling pressure or anticipating blowback from users when the release goes out and thus posted the article. We know from her own words blogging is not a thing she really enjoys. Thus we can assume something is motivating the post.
Jessica is explaining the difficulties of releasing a viewer and deciding what is and is not going to be in this release. Her estimated release date is ‘a few weeks’… the word ‘few’ is ambiguous. Dictionaries define ‘few’ as a small number of things. As examples they give 2 to 5. But, in my family 2 to 5 was a ‘couple of’ and ‘a few’ was closer to 10. We have no way to know what ‘few’ means to Jessica. But, I suspect this puts a viewer release nearer to the end of November and possibly into December.
I am surprised to see Jessica say Firestorm is not and has never been a bleeding-edge viewer. But, come to think of it, that is accurate. I have always thought of Emerald and Phoenix as cutting edge viewers. That thinking carried over to Firestorm without any examination of the thinking. Thinking about it, Jessica is right.
Jessica has worked to make the Firestorm Viewer the most stable viewer going. I suppose that point is debatable. My 4.6.7 version is OK, but I do have problems with it. Alchemy and the SL Viewer seems to give me better performance and fewer black screen mini freezes. But, I have not had a viewer crash in some time with any main release of a viewer, TPV or SL. The SL RC Viewers crash from time to time.
Of course those problems and results may be more of a factor of my computer than the viewer tech. A single user just cannot know.
In general Jessica’s post is an explanation of why a number of hot new features boosting performance will not be in the next release of Firestorm… Group Ban, SL Share, HTTP Pipelining, and AISv3.
We are told there will be lots of nice new features and fixes. Jessica doesn’t list them. I don’t know if they are now avoiding putting the release notes in the wiki until the last moment or what. I do know I have not seen the release notes pop up. This is something that usually happens shortly before a FS Viewer release, like 1 to 3 weeks out. I would not be surprised if they moved the information into an area restricted to their QA test people. Whatever the case, we only know what won’t be in the viewer.
I expect the timing of the post is from this being the time most of us were expecting a viewer release.
There are problems in the SL Viewer, no doubt. Fixes for many are in the RC Viewer: Attachments Viewer version 184.108.40.2066355. See the fix list in Second Life News 2014-45 #2. While Jessica has considered these ‘show stopper’ problems, I don’t see them as that serious. I find most to be minor nuisances. But, I suppose when the code is merged there could be show stopping problems.
Other third party viewers are adding the features. Some are already in some viewers. I now suspect that they will have Group Ban, SL Share, HTTP Pipelining, and AISv3 before Firestorm does. Of course the SL Viewer has all these features now. How stable these viewers will be is a question. For that matter how stable the SL Viewer is remains a question.
CtrlAltStudio has updated their viewer to have more Oculus Rift updates. But, as it is based on the Firestorm Viewer I suspect is will NOT have the features set; Group Ban, SL Share, HTTP Pipelining, and AISv3. It still uses the GPU Table but does have support for NIVIDIA GTX 970 and 980 graphics cards.
Cool VL Viewer is likely to get the features soon, some it has. I don’t do the V1 interface. Otherwise this is a good viewer and Henri Beauchamp makes it look easy.
Things have changed. Firestorm is the most popular viewer in SL. For me the Photo Tools is the draw. FS has the reputation for being the most stable viewer going. I am not sure that is still true. As the Lab has changed how they report stability and crash rates, we have no objective frame of reference. But, FS has the rep.
The Linden viewer has moved from being a trailing tech viewer to the cutting edge viewer. I find it more than stable enough for most of my use. I don’t remember the last time a main release version crashed on me.
While FS Viewer is popular, I do believe it is getting serious competition from other viewers. Its lead is enough the competition has a long way to go to catch up. This suggests that Jessica’s management is taking the viewer and team down the right road. As impatient as we may be with the FS release speed and the distance they lag behind the SL Viewer, Jessica seems to have hit the right balance.