13 July 2012

Viewer 1 is officially on borrowed time

At today's Third Party Viewer Developers meeting, Oz Linden announced three upcoming changes. (The audio recording of the meeting can be heard from the archive here.)

1) Pathfinding. The pathfinding code has been rolled out on the Magnum RC channel, after a few false starts, and seems to be running well. The pathfinding tools will soon be released in source form for integration into other viewers. They'll be needed to edit the pathfinding properties of objects, and to trigger a rebuild of the navigation mesh that pathfinding objects use to move around.

2) From the Shining Project, an overhaul of the HTTP interface in the viewer. The code has been completely reworked. The new code fixes many, many HTTP bugs in the current viewers - but it's incompatible. It'll go on a new TCP port. It'll also not work very well with older consumer WiFi or DSL routers.

3) Also from the Shining Project, server-side baking. Currently, your shape and hair and system-based (but not prim-based) clothing are all initialized and merged together by your viewer and then uploaded to the servers. This is known as baking, and when it doesn't work, you get bake fail. That's what produces the orange clouds you see when someone logs in sometimes. The new code will have your viewer attach whatever, update the Current Outfit folder, and then notify the server - which will then turn around and notify an internal server that does the actual baking. This should eliminate bake fail. However, once again, it is incompatible with current viewers.

The second and third changes are longer-term. Oz said that we should plan for two to six months; I don't know if that estimate is better than Linden Lab's historic estimates (which tend to be optimistic), but we should plan on their being accurate.

The result of the final cutover to the new HTTP library is that the viewer won't be able to communicate. The result of the server-side bake is that viewers that don't handle it will simply see gray avatars, with no way to fix them.

Needless to say, there will be plenty of warning before the switch gets flipped. Oz committed to giving us at least two months' notice, unless he is unable to convince higher ups that they need to give us that after making a decision to switch faster. There's not a lot he can do in that case.

When it does, though, viewers that have not been updated will simply refuse to work. 1.23 will not be updated, and this will spell the end of it on Second Life. Older versions of all other viewers will also stop working. Viewers that are not actively maintained will die off.

We will, of course, be fully ready with Firestorm, assuming that Linden Lab gives us enough lead-time to actually integrate the code and release with it before they flip the switch.

Other folks may choose to make the necessary adaptations to work in the new environment. It will be interesting to see whether Henri Beauchamp implements the new bake, since he doesn't like the Current Outfit folder and went to some lengths in CoolVL to avoid having to use it. Some viewers are in active development, and I expect them to continue. However, the only V1-based viewer that will survive is Singularity, I expect, with the possible exception of CoolVL. I expect Siana Gearz to do the needed work as soon as the code's available. Nobody else is developing a V1 viewer any more.

Phoenix is a more interesting question. Just in case there's any doubt, what I'm about to say is my own personal opinion, and not that of the Phoenix Viewer Project. The group has not made any decisions yet.

To me, it's time to say that we are not going to put any more effort into Phoenix.

Yes, that's right. As far as I'm concerned, it's time to put Phoenix to rest. The developers don't like working in the codebase, as in many ways it's an unmaintainable tissue of hacks, the support team barely remembers how to run it, and Firestorm now provides essentially all of the function Phoenix has and much more besides. There's even a selectable interface that caters to Phoenix users. (If you are one of those, select Phoenix mode at the login screen. Have fun.)

I realize this will be an unpopular change, especially for folks who refuse to run Firestorm or any other V2/V3 viewer. However, there comes a point when making an old program run in a new environment simply isn't feasible. We're a volunteer project. There's essentially nobody here who wants to keep putting effort into Phoenix any more. Firestorm does everything that Phoenix does. (Two exceptions: OTR IM encryption, which a small but very loud fraction of users want, and object import/export and some build tools that depend on it. I expect both to be in Firestorm by the time the incompatibility switches get flipped.)

There are some folks whose creaky old computers won't run Firestorm. Guess what, folks? It's time to upgrade. Past time. If your computer isn't hopelessly low-end and was built in the last 4 years or so, it'll run Firestorm. If not, then it's past time to upgrade anyway. Yes, I know this is hard-hearted sounding. It's also simple reality.

There are other folks who swear up and down they'l never run Viewer 2 or its descendants. Well, folks, your bluff is being called. You've been saying you'll leave SL before you'll run Viewer 2. It's time to shit or get off the pot.

Me? I'll be happily running Firestorm 5. (Or whatever we choose to call it.)


  1. I'd love to make a counter argument to this post and I'd love for Phoenix to still be around for the people who use it.

    But I really can't, Phoenix has been on borrowed time since Mesh implementation and I said when Mesh came in people would "have to go to a V2/3 viewer" Henri proved me wrong that time, I'm not sure he can do it again.

    It's time to put all Phoenix volunteers onto Firestorm, it's time to pack up the old and bring in the new.

  2. Full of horse puckey as always, Souther, and you know it. Linden Lab isn't about to disable viewers the usage of which far surpasses their own according to statistics compiled and posted on new World notes. To turn off access to half the grid would simply be stupid, and even the people who run Linden Lab know that. So do you.

    You also know for a fact that the problems people have with Firestorm have little to do with "old" computers and everything to to with the inherent instability and user-unfriendliness in Firestorm. The interface is still the same unusable mess it always has been, the viewer still crashes on startup or refuses to start at all, people are still reporting glitches, and it still uses far more computer resources than Singularity, Cool VL, and Singularity. Even assuming the "old computers" lie at face value, you're making a pretty big assumption about people's finances. A lot of people simply haven't got a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to spend on a spiffy new computer that can handle the bloated unstable mess that is Firestorm, and it's simply dumb to assume that they can go out and get new computers even if that were the reason most people who don't use Firestorm aren't using it.

    if you'd pull your head out of your rear end, stop lying to people, and cease the condescending elitist attitude, you'd be surprised at the change in how people respond to your baloney.

  3. Archangel, for someone who speaks of "how people respond to your baloney", you sure throw around a lot of it yourself. If you'd quit accusing people of lying for merely disagreeing with you, you'd get a lot better responses yourself.

    Don't believe me about what LL plans? Go listen to the recording yourself. That's why I linked it. It's on a Linden site, so I can't have edited it. Oz lays it all out in black and white.

    The usage of Firestorm is rapidly approaching that of Phoenix, and the trend line has them crossing very soon. As for the NWN statistics, did you read all of those stories? Hamlet and I went round and round on his methodology.

    And how do you know what I know for a fact? Are you a mind reader? Yes, there are people out there who have problems with stability. There are far more who report that Firestorm 4.1 is the most stable they've ever used. The user interface is not the unusable mess it always has been; it's been reworked by LL, and then reworked again by us. It's customizable to a degree Phoenix never was. Don't like it? Change it!

    Yes, it uses more resources. It also does more. Yes, it crashes, far more than I as an old mainframer consider acceptable. We're working on that, and 4.1 is already the least crashy viewer on the grid.

    I understand finances are tight. I have the same problem myself. Even so, if you're using a computer from 2007, it's time to upgrade, no ifs, ands, or buts. Your machine is hopelessly outdated, and will only encounter more and more problems as people stop supporting your OS and applications, and they slowly get eaten up by security hacks that nobody will patch against. It doesn't take that spiffy a new computer to handle Firestorm. You can get one from Best Buy for $429. (A Toshiba Satellite L755D-S5104 15-inch laptop. My roommate got one in February for that price. The key is to get something that doesn't use Intel graphics. Runs Windows 7 *and* Linux just fine.)

    What people are telling us about why they don't use Firestorm falls into one of three categories: it doesn't do what they need, they hate Viewer 2 and refuse to run it, or they can't run it on their system. We're fixing the first. The second is simply stubbornness, and I've got no time for that. The third? Wish I could help, but I can't buy every SL user a new machine.

    Viewer 1's day is coming. Oz said so in his own words on that recording. I'm not lying when I tell you that's what's going to happen. A lie is a deliberate falsehood. If LL changes course again, that makes me wrong, not a liar. At the moment, I'm neither.

    And as long as you accuse me of lying for telling it like I see it with facts to back it up - thereby, not a deliberate falsehood - you're directly attacking my integrity, something I'm very serious about. So no, I'm not going to let up, and I will happily stand and point at you and laugh when 1.23 and older versions of viewers can't use SL any more.

  4. I make creature avatars for SL theater and machinima makers. I use Phoenix 1.5 to download Character Meshes and Morphs, so I can texture my anthropomorphized shapes as obj files in PhotoShop, the Dolphin Viewer for easy import/export of avatar shapes and layers, and Imprudence to import and export to my lands in other grids. I WOULD LOVE to switch to a 3.0 viewer if I could do those three things in one viewer. But I can't, so I can't.

  5. Character Meshes and Morphs was removed from Phoenix because it ciuld be used as a content theft tool. The other festures you mention have the same ability. We are planning to put import/export in Firestorm in a way that protects content creators' rights; that's something I want to see too. Even so, you should plan for the time when the tools you use now quit working.

  6. Tonya comes with a prediction of doom for V1 viewers on regular basis. She's been wrong every single time including this.

    All of the LL's plans she outlines are correct, but there is nothing stopping developers of Cool VL Viewer or Singularity to adopt those changes. At this point much of their code is V3 anyway so merging in those changes is no more difficult than merging then into Firestorm.

    V1 viewers will as long as there are people willing to keep them up to date, and not a minute sooner, no matter what protocol changes Linden Lab introduces.

  7. Well, I *did* say that Siana would probably, and Henri might, update their code. (I've since spoken to Henri. He still thinks the Current Outfit folder is hazardous, but he'll do it if it's required to keep running on SL.)

    At some point, though, I think the work will just be too much.

  8. Tonya, i've said before, and i'll say it again. For Singularity codebase, it just keeps getting simpler, not harder to keep up. And i think what you're doing is an attempt to undermine your rivals.

    Now go ahead and try to think of any attempt i made to harm Phoenix or Firestorm. You wouldn't be able to, cause i NEVER did!

    But try me again, and i just might!

  9. Siana, I am in no way trying to harm you, your team, or your viewer. Please do your best to prove me wrong by keeping Singularity around. But that's just it: you have to prove it. I refuse to let you or anyone else intimidate me from calling it as I see it.

    I will be happy to see Singularity stick around for the long term. If you throw in the towel at some point in the future, we will all be poorer for it. Even so, it is my considered opinion that you will find yourself doing just that.

    Now, if you don't like my opinion, then that's fine. People disagree all the time. But I am not threatening you or your project by speaking out. I will not sit idly by and watch you harm the project I've given nearly two years of my life to because you don't like what I say. You're not in any sort of fight anywhere outside your own head.


    Nemo me impune lacessit.