The Firestorm Viewer version 6.4.21 had been out for a bit now. People are reacting to it. The thread Newest Firestorm version – lag monster popped up 8/4. Which made me curious because that is NOT my impression. So, I went and ran my tests, which I rate at one half-a-posterior.
This version is covered in detail over on Inara’s blog here: Firestorm 6.4.21. I’m not going to repeat what she has already written. I just want to consider what people are experiencing based on what I can see and measure.
My experience is: this version is better.
The big thing is Firestorm’s viewer now uses multiple threads for decompressing textures. Decompressing is a task that has bottle-necked performance forever. But since it has had little effect on Frames per Second numbers it doesn’t seem to have been a high priority to change. The major effect of texture decompression is in scene render time. I think scene render is much faster. But actually, measuring it well is quite complicated. I suspect most of us hit a region and consider how long it takes for the place to render. A few of us may now and then even time it. Which is practical and simple. Neither is precise and measurements are highly influenced by our location in the region, which way we are looking, our cache – when did we last visit, the region’s construction, and avatar occupancy.
One thing that can affect our perception is this install clears our viewer’s cache of downloaded content. We have to reload EVERYTHING. I think this should only affect your first-time post-install-visits to places you frequent.
A while ago the Firestorm Viewer was upgraded to use the simplified cache developed by the Lab. I think this is the first release of Firestorm that has this upgrade. Beta testers for Firestorm will have had the upgrade for some time.
From the changes the FS Team has made, I would expect this viewer to be faster at rendering a scene. I wouldn’t expect a higher FPS (Frames per Second) rate. I guessed that I might even see FPS dip while textures were decompressed as more CPU cycles would be getting used by the texture processes. That is what I experience… sometimes… There are some oddities happening when one teleports. So, detecting a slowing or a speed-up due to the new multiple threads is tricky.
There are 20 to 30+ Firestorm threads running at anyone time. My four cores are all carrying about the same load but the overall use is about 50%, which is similar to past versions.
Penny Patton has a new written EEP tutorial out about how to use the Enhanced Environment Project, the Windlight update, on your land. She uses the Black Dragon viewer in her tutorial for the source of the illustrations. Most viewers have the exact same panels for setting up the environment. So, the only problem for Firestorm and other viewer users is getting the initial About Land panel open. About Land allows you to edit the parcel’s environment settings. Otherwise, you are editing your personal view of the environment.
At ground level in Firestorm, you can right-click the ground and select About Land. You can then edit the environment at the parcel or region level. Easy.
In Firestorm, the World->Region Details or Alt+R and then the Environment tab opens the same environment panel but, for Estate Managers until you right-click the ground you are editing your personal settings. And if you click on anything else you snap out of the parcel environment edit mode.
Also, if you teleport up to a high altitude you will likely lose the link to the parcel and can’t edit the environment.
This week Firestorm release an update to their viewer, 6.4.13. For details of what got updated see Inara’s article Firestorm 6.4.13 Release. I am only going to talk about the stuff that interests me.
It seems they made the viewer easier to fix when it comes to the Firestorm Bridge.
The bridge is an attachment the viewer puts on your avatar. It provides an interface between in-world scripts and the viewer. Basically, it gives the Firestorm viewer more capabilities. The techy details are here: Firestorm Bridge.
As one bounces between viewers, like I do, one can run into problems. Also, the general flakiness of a connection to a virtual world can cause problems with the bridge. The viewer is smart enough to resolve most problems on its own when something goes wrong with the bridge. But, not all of them. Then it can be a pain to fix the bridge… and often a headache figuring out just what the problem is.
Now there is a BUTTON! Yay! Well… more a menu command than button, but you get the idea. Click Avatar->Avatar Health->Recreate LSL Bridge. Poof the problem bridge is turned into free electrons to evaporate into the valley of lost bits. A new one is generated and attached. Problem should be solved.
This makes it so easy to fix you could add it to your first steps of troubleshooting.
I recently saw a video about getting Firestorm Viewer’s shadows to look as good as Black Dragon’s shadows. Huh? What?
The thing they were doing is getting hair shadows to render well on the avatar face. The video (4 min) I found has horrible audio. Luca The Guide, the author, was ill the day she made the video. So, I can’t complain too much. I don’t even try to make video tutorials when I am sick.
The video did get me looking and comparing Black Dragon and Firestorm. I launched Black Dragon (BD) and took a couple of pictures, see below. Then Launched Firestorm (FS) and took a couple.
With both, I used the same projector attached to the Center of Gravity attachment point aimed at my nose and in front and above my head. Both viewers were set to use the default environment in the Bellisseria region. Both viewers were using their default shadow settings.
I have survived CoVid-19. It took me down for about 15 days. Still recovering, I easily tire. My four-mile hiking is down to a half-mile.
What I learned about CoVid-19 is there is more confusion, contradictory information, and horrible reporting. The worst information and often deliberately injurious information is coming from California and New York. Even my doctors had little information and kept saying they would have to talk to experts and get back to me when I asked questions.
Being in California I was dealing with the state’s and country’s requirements and quarantine instructions. Most annoying was the followup contact tracing. It was obvious there is a political bias in the contact tracking. They only collect information related to those facilities the state wants to close down. Information for those facilities the state wants open is not collected.
EEP is the Enhanced Environment Project. I consider this a step in the Lindens rebuild of the render engine. Whatever it is, the Firestorm team has released a Beta version of their viewer with EEP.
Beta, in this case, means the software is not yet ready for prime time. It also means it is your choice as to whether you install this version. And for those of you using a version three versions back, this does not count as one of the three allowed versions. So, you aren’t going to have that 3rd old version blocked from the grid. Yet…
In 2013 Strawberry Singh posted a couple of articles (here & here) about positioning and moving avatars when setting up snapshots. This was needed for those areas where you do NOT have rez rights. Over time viewer upgrades broke those processes.
Every so often I would check to see if the problems with those processes had been fixed. With Firestorm 6.3.9 (May 2020 release date) I can move the avatar again sort of with her process.
Strawberry explained the process for moving your avatar. (Ref)
Open the Develop menu. Top menu, press Ctrl-Alt-Q to reveal it.
Then enable Develop->Avatar->Character Tests->Allow select avatar.
Press Ctrl-3 to open the Build Panel.
Right-click the avatar. Move arrows appear. Move.
Here is a video showing how it used to work. If you have a mesh avatar, right-clicking the avatar likely is not going to work. Instead, you have to right-click on your name tag. Then it works.
Everyone is interested in when Firestorm will release a new viewer with the EEP feature. Me too. However, it isn’t urgent for me as I may use the new Linden EEP viewer for a bit as it is said to have a really low crash rate. Something that has been an issue for me with this version of Firestorm. But, I am addicted to some Firestorm tools that keep me coming back to Firestorm.
Whirly Fizzle says Firestorm has just branched their code tree. This is something they do in preparation for releasing a new version. Sort of a feature and fix lock to allow items in the build to be cleaned up so it is ready for release. They stop adding stuff in. The new stuff goes into the new branch of programing code.
I am usually overly optimistic about Firestorm release dates, but I’ll say probably in the next 2 to 4 weeks.
NOTE: Flying often results in a crash from network and region issues. This version of Firestorm has contributed its share of crashes often poofing and dropping me to desktop. So, I am looking forward to the coming Firestorm update with the hope the crash rate improves.