Second Life and the Future of Apple Users

For SL users there is the Apple question, will Second Life™ run on Apple? Or… continue to run on Apple?

In June of this year Apple announced its discontinuing support of OpenGL after macOS 10.14 Mojave (scheduled for release Sept 2018), the core aspect of SL’s render engine. It will take a couple of years for Apple to phase it out. But, updates and support officially stop now. For some time support has been really bad.

● 1325 Colorful Disaster

They explained their reasoning when some game developers declared they would stop making games for Apple.

The reasons;

  • OpenGL was designed 25 years ago.
  • Core architecture is from the beginning days of 3D graphics.
  • Designed is based on outdated thinking.
  • OpenGL is a legacy tool with updates ‘tacked’ on.
  • Hardware GPU work flow has changed.
  • Never designed for multi-threading.
  • Today’s rendering is asynchronous.

On the PC side of things OpenGL is still supported. We can’t know for how long. Khronos, OpenGL’s developer, has introduced Vulkan. (See: State of Graphics: DirectX 12 & Vulkan – 4/2016) Development is exciting and popular. The group is on the forefront of some interesting tech. But, I don’t know that it will be helpful for SL.

Vulkan 1.1 was released in March 2018. It took two-years to get from 1.0 to 1.1. Vulkan is generally well accepted, Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, Linux, etc.

Video cards made in the last 24± months will support Vulkan. And interestingly Android supports Vulkan.

The challenge is Apple, which does not support Vulkan and will not allow the installing of third-party drivers… It is Apple’s open source Metal or else… The big problem with that is Metal is NOT cross platform, meaning developers have to develop a special version for Apple and another for everything else. Sort of like DirectX on the Microsoft side.

However, there is a work-around that allows a Vulkan to Metal translator to ship with a game and thus run on Apple. But, it is a Vulkan subset, meaning limited. Khronos only translates the fast commands that directly translate. It isn’t a slow emulator attempting to do everything.

Details on the state of Vulkan: Vulkanised 2018 – Welcome and Intro.

So…

For Linden Lab supporting older systems and Apple is a criterion. One has to wonder which way they will go with any rendering updates and future support for Apple users.

Khronos says they are and will continue to develop OpenGL. I consider OpenGL and Vulkan to be like Second Life and Sansar. One is popular and widely supported and the other is new, gaining acceptance, and free of legacy constraints.

News wise any word on what Khronos is doing with OpenGL is buried by the news Apple is dropping it. I wasn’t willing to dig past that blizzard.

The Lindens are likely watching the developments in the graphics field and are aware of the coming challenges to OpenGL. While a change would have lots of advantages, there is no clear cost to benefit ratio to make a change while OpenGL is viable. Or at least none that is being communicated to the SL user base.

We’ve seen similar challenges on the Sansar side. See: Mac Users and Sansar. (8/2017)

From the Firestorm Dev Team, we know about 10% of their users run Apple. We guess the same numbers are true on the Linden viewer. In general Apple has a 3-4% share of the PC market. We also know that some of the top managers at the Lab run SL on Apple.

With about 600k active users on SL the suggestion is about 60k people run SL on an Apple.

I think that suggests the Lab will be concerned about Apple dropping OpenGL in version 10.15. The current macOS is 10.13 with 10.14 announced in June 2018. No release date for 10.14, but probably September. However, that is the last version that will run an SL viewer. New versions seem to come out once a year. So, in June of 2019 version 10.15 will be announced and it will likely release in September 2019.  It then becomes a matter of how long SL Apple-users will run an old OS.

It would seem the Lab has a couple of years to come up with something.

2 thoughts on “Second Life and the Future of Apple Users

  1. It is not just SL. Plenty of other things are in this mess too. For example, I play a LOT of Guild Wars 2. After around 5 years it finally made it so the 32 bit wine wrapper would not work and at the same time released a 64 bit version. Yay! A few bugs but people set out to start finding and reporting them, happy we were making forward progress. Then the announcement. Now nobody knows what will happen.

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