20 November 2010

Pushing to release

The Phoenix Viewer team is pushing hard to get a beta of the next release out. We've been working on bug fixes and ironing out a few features where they haven't interfered with getting the release more stable.

This release is intended to be the last one before we turn our attention to Firestorm and de-sucking the Viewer 2 user interface. As such, we're trying hard to get as much into it as we can. One of the biggest feature additions is Display Name support. It's not as extensive as the one in Viewer 2; in particular, it doesn't put the DN in chat or IM texts, or on your friends list, but it does show it in tags and profile views and object ownership and things like that.

The guy who implemented this is our QA lead, Wolfspirit Magic. He's earned a developer tag for it. This is a classic case of an open source developer scratching their own itch, but it turned out to be prescient when LL released DN gridwide a week or so ago and then, a couple of days ago, flipped the switch and changed registrations to a single username instead of the old Firstname Lastname system.

There's some confusion about how to use a new-style username with existing viewers. If your viewer has a Firstname Lastname login window, you need to put your username in the Firstname field, and the word "resident" in Lastname. This will be true of Phoenix in the next release. We decided not to change the login window at this stage of the development cycle. It would have caused too many changes to the login manager, and especially the part that maintains saved logins.

We've gotten requests to add things, as well, even pretty recently. An example was a request that came in just yesterday to add the OpenSim LightShare feature to Phoenix. I sympathize with the submitter who says that not having it will hinder Phoenix's adoption among OpenSim users. He may well be right. However, that's a feature that, again, will take more time to code, integrate, and test than we have available before the beta is cut.

I keep mentioning the time available. It's short: we're planning to cut the beta version Sunday evening, let the beta team pound on it for a week, and if everything goes well - not at all guaranteed - then release Thanksgiving weekend. We haven't released a new version since 373, almost a month ago, and that's getting to be just too long. I believe in the bit of open source wisdom that says the best release policy is "release early and often"; that's not quite as practical when your userbase is measured in the hundreds of thousands, but is still sound advice.

The big change people will notice in the next version is multi-attachments. Henri Beauchamp's patch was imported, and extensively worked on to improve and extend its function. The old secondary attachment points are being deprecated, as well. If you have attachments on secondary points, Phoenix will migrate them to the corresponding primary point and attempt to put them in the same place on your avatar. You may need to do some minor tweaking, but should only have to do it once. The good news is that Phoenix will still display secondary attachments on other avatars correctly. The new system is also compatible with the one used in Viewer 2.

This is planned to be the last major release of Phoenix. Once it's out, we'll start in on Firestorm in earnest. Phoenix may get bugfixes, especially for high-impact bugs, but new features probably won't be added unless they're both crucial to continuing to use SL and straightforward to implement and test. We know that the V2 codebase is the future, and it's time to make it usable for folks who tried Viewer 2 and found it sucked.

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