15 December 2012

The clock is officially ticking

At yesterday's TPV meeting, Oz Linden gave TPV developers notice: the server-side baking code is now in the queue to be rolled out to the grid. Here's the announcement he sent to the TPV developers list:
We have now made available the code for our upcoming server side baking changes - you will need to update to be compatible with this in order for users to see avatars correctly once the server side change is rolled out to the main grid (some time > 8 weeks from now, but no date has been set yet). 
See https://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Project_Sunshine-Server_Side_Appearance for information on this new code, and watch it for updates.
As Oz said in the meeting, the clock is now ticking. We asked for at least two months' notice, and yesterday we got that. LL would like to roll the code out to the grid in February, but they'll work with TPV developers to make sure we all have had the code and a good chance to implement it before they actually roll it out.

Why are they being so solicitous? Because this will break every existing viewer. Any viewer that does not have the new code in it will see every avatar that connects to Second Life through a simulator running the new code as either a cloud or as a gray shape. This means you will have to upgrade your viewer sometime in February or early March. No exceptions.

This is not news. Oz first told us of this change back in July. I said then that that put Viewer 1 on borrowed time, and I meant it. The loan is about to come due.

There have been a lot of vocal folks telling me I was lying about Viewer 1 being a dying codebase. Well, folks, you've been wrong all this time, and now it's time to shut up. These changes will be extremely difficult to backport to version 1 viewers, because LL refactored most of the avatar appearance code to let them split out the parts that do the baking. It's not a drop-in replacement.

Siana Gearz yells at me whenever I speculate about the maintenance load of Singularity. Still, I think they've got quite a substantial amount of work ahead of them. Henri Beauchamp did recently implement the Current Outfit folder in CoolVL, so he's at least got that work behind him.

And Phoenix? Stick a fork in it. It's done.

We've been saying for a year that we will not put any more significant effort into Phoenix. Adding the server-side baking code to it is a significant effort. We've got our hands full with Firestorm, and none of the developers has any desire to take time away from that and update Phoenix.

That's why we announced at today's Phoenix Firestorm Office Hour that we are ending support for Phoenix at the end of the year. The support team doesn't run it or know it very well any more, and the development team is heartily sick of patching it together one more time.

LL is not going to block older viewers. As Oz said at the meeting, "if you want to live in a world of gray, cloudy avatars, that's your choice - if a weird one - and we're not going to stop you." Similarly, we are not going to block Phoenix, or even remove the download. If you want to stick with it, go ahead - but don't complain to us when you can't see your friends.

If you want to still see everyone else, you will have to upgrade. There are folks who will be diehard V1 users and not even consider Firestorm or any other V3-based viewer. There are V1-based options for them; Phoenix will simply not be one of them any longer. For the rest of you, I strongly recommend you switch to Firestorm now so you can learn its ins and outs at your leisure instead of having to do it under the pressure of not being able to do anything on Second Life, period.

And for those of you whose computers are so old you can only run 1.23 or older Phoenix? Sorry, folks, but you will have to spend some money. There's no way around it. It doesn't take all that modern a computer to run Firestorm, but it does take one that's newer than 2003. If you can't swing that, then I'm sorry, but the platform has moved on and left you behind.

We've known this day was coming for a long time. So has anyone who was not willfully blind to it. I have no sympathy for the latter. Upgrade or leave, your call.


  1. Quote "Upgrade or leave, your call."

    Perhaps that's why so many have left and of the 10k+ daily signup's only a tiny fraction stay. Second Life has become a geek's paradise with a bewildering array of complicated viewers the new comers can't understand. Minecraft is far simpler and far more successful so there is something to be said for the lowest common denominator when it comes to getting the masses on board.

    Second Life has proved incapable of serving a mass audience. V1 viewers handled more people in the past than V2/3 viewers do now and there were a lot more happy people willing to pay Linden Lab's high charges - another reason why people are leaving. The grid is declining steadily (2600 so far this year) and the traffic is dropping too. The forecast's are not good and then we read "upgrade or leave, your call."

    Sadly, the excessive charges, the geekish attitudes of the Lindens and a very vocal bunch of viewer fanatics is, IMHO, causing the decline of Second Life.

    What you don't seem to realize is that the vast majority don't give a hoot for all the tinkering when in the past what they had worked ok. It's been a roller coaster ride of upgrades and disruption for the loyal users to endure and all that is promised is more of the same. And all the stuff they bought in the past becomes obsolete into the bargain. But then, that's really what it's all about, right?

    1. Gaga, I'm not the one making the changes you complain of. That's Linden Lab's doing. All I'm doing is pointing out that platforms evolve and users have to evolve with them. I can't hold back that evolution even if I were inclined to. Some fo the changes I agree with (mesh); some I see as just plain useless (pathfinding); and others are in between. Regardless, those changes are happening. All we can do is live with them.

    2. And I have one other observation to make: Firestorm is by far the most widely used viewer on Second Life. It's not even close. Phoenix is number two. 1.23's usage is dropping fast, and server-side baking will kill it entirely (I expect that only a very, very few will continue to use it when they see every other avatar as unbaked).

      Geek's paradise? I disagree. I deal with people daily who aren't geeks at all, but are willing to upgrade their computers more often than once a decade.

  2. Finally! Wonderful news, Tonya, thanks for sharing.

    The people who have refused to leave Phoenix are holding the rest of us and our world back. They have had more than ample time by now to make the move to the next generation of viewers. As you say this has been long coming.

    You made my day, thanks! ;)

  3. Tonya, i shout at you because you never cared to look at our code, or even just our release history, and nonetheless allow yourself ignorant conclusions about how bad our prospects are, so you earn it all the way. I don't even know why you hate us so much, i have not said a single negative word about your projects, have i. I'd have a lot of bad words to say about you personally, which i'll keep to myself though.

    We have reached complete structural parity with V3 in outfit handling code, including complete COF support back in 1.7.0 last summer exactly in anticipation that it will be super duper necessary right about now. So yeah, we have THAT part behind us too.

    It definitely looks like we're gonna make the transition just fine and way in time.

    1. Siana, I don't hate you. I think you're doing the SL world a valuable service. Even though I still have my doubts about your project's long-term viability, I respect you for trying and hope I'm wrong. For whatever reason, there are people for whom Firestorm is not the right choice, and I'm happy for others to provide alternatives.

      I hope the serious refactoring of the outfit/appearance code won't be harder on you than it will be on us. I haven't looked to see how much is UI.

      So, please go ahead and prove me wrong. I'd love to see it. But please stop saying that I hate you or I'm out to get you, because I don't and I'm not.

  4. I already use Firestorm, and I'm getting used to it, so I guess you can claim another "victory". However, Phoenix is not dead for me yet. Like it or not, Phoenix still works and does things that Firestorm simply cannot do. For example, since Firestorm has errors sometimes when I try to save new shape settings, I'll still be using Phoenix to make shapes as long I can see the avatar I'm using. I make a lot of shapes, and losing my work is no fun. I will also use Phoenix when I search for land until Firestorm is actually able to show all search results. I must be one of those "weird" people who likes to see all the results. Yes, I know about Legacy Search, and I have tried it. Unfortunately, it doesn't work, unless I'm supposed to wait more than thirty minutes while it says "Searching..." Sorry, I just don't have time for that.

    No, I did not spend a year tinkering with Phoenix's settings to make everything work properly. It did the things I wanted it to do as soon as I installed it. I suppose you're going to tell me that there are settings buried somewhere in the Firestorm menu that I need to take classes to find out about. Just what I need.

    1. What kind of errors are you getting when you try to save shape settings? Can you file a JIRA with the error, and an example of a shape that gives a problem in Firestorm but works in Phoenix? This is the kind of thing we need to know about so we can fix. I haven't heard of this issue before.

      Cinder's making improvements to legacy search daily. We know it's a work in progress. What land are you searching for and how? I'll make sure she knows there's an issue.

      We aren't makign this decision lightly, and we know that there are things that Phoenix does that Firestorm does not. That list is shrinking daily, and is already near zero. Problems like yours are something we're committed to fixing.

  5. I really do appreciate the effort you and your fellow team members have put into Firestorm. All I'm saying is that if Firestorm can't do what I want it to do, then I have to use a viewer that works properly.

    When I try to search for land using Legacy Search, it returns no results; it says "Searching..." even if I wait 20 minutes. I just tried it again. Select a search category: Land [checked]. Enter search terms: [can't enter anything]. Price: 2000. Area: 1120. Mainland sales [selected]. Mature (checked). I hit the Find button. I didn't get any results.

    I think I found the cause of the problem I have experienced when making shapes, and it points to a bigger problem than the Appearance Editor. I'm using the Phoenix legacy settings. The problem is that Firestorm does not accurately report which shape I am actually wearing. Sometimes it says I'm wearing two shapes (the one I'm currently wearing and the one I removed). The "Worn" tab also displays the folders that contain the items I was previously wearing but removed; this might be a related issue. Let's say I'm working on a shape where the Body Height is set to 50. I've got my inventory open to see which shape I'm wearing. I change the Body Height to 100 and click on Save As and give the modified shape a new name. When I do that, the shape appears to resize itself again, which is very jarring. When I look in my inventory, it shows that I am wearing the shape I just modified, so naturally, I continue editing it. However, I am actually wearing (and now editing) the original shape I was wearing, not the new one, even though Firestorm says I am wearing the new one. So the problem is not that the Appearance Editor isn't saving the changes, like I thought before; the problem is that Firestorm cannot accurately tell me which shape I am wearing.

    1. Your issue with the shapes not showing up as different is in the Linden Lab viewer, as well. It's documented as VWR-29211. It's bugged me in the past, as well. It's in our JIRA as FIRE-8037.

      I was just able to replicate the issue with legacy search and land: if you set a price, the search hangs. (But not if you don't set a price, even if you set an area.) I don't know if there's an existing JIRA on that one, but one way or another, it'll get fixed in the next release.

    2. Cinder found and fixed the bug in area search. It'll be in the next release.

    3. Thank you for your help, and a big thanks to Cinder. I'm very grateful to have Legacy Search.

      It looks like all V3-based viewers will impede my ability to work on shapes for the foreseeable future. (Making custom shapes is one of my favorite SL activities.) At least the issue is clear now. Thank you for the information.

  6. I for one have mixed feelings about the disappearance of Phoenix, even though I've been using Firestorm myself almost from my start in SL. I do understand the folks that have some habits no only with their UI, but also with functionnality, and I can understand that many will leave due to the lack of support for Phoenix or the lack of money to upgrade their computers.

    On the other hand I do understand that developpers have had their hand forced by LL and can't be expected forever to give their time an effort to a code base that's been promised to become obsolete for more than 2 years.

    However, be it FS or the V3 code base, those still have a LOT of bugs, some minor, some really annoying (as the shape issue mentionned earlier, or some new that the phototools introduced) and these are going to really prevent a fraction of the population to make the jump. The good news about it is that you, meaning FS developpers at large, are going to may be able to give more time to FS to weed out those and port the Phoenix missing functionalites to FS instead of backporting functionnality to Phoenix :)

    So all in all, for users that have been on FS it's a benediction, but my heart does bleed a little for the hardcore Phoenix users, at least until they find a truly similar experience into FS and not what some call an ersatz :)