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Linden Lab

As we blogged about last week, we’re making some changes to our JIRA implementation to make our bug reporting system a more transparent and productive experience. We just wanted to take a moment to let everyone know that these changes are now live!

One of the questions we’ve seen in the past week is how previously submitted issues would be treated - namely, will those also be viewable by everyone and open for comment prior to being triaged?

While we want to make issues visible for the reasons described in our last post, we’re not going to extend this to old issues, because at the time they were created, users knew that those reports would have limited visibility and they may have included sensitive and/or private information. We don’t want to take information that someone thought would be private and suddenly make that visible to everyone, so the new visibility settings will apply only to new issues.

 

Linden Lab

Today, we’re happy to announce some changes to our JIRA implementation - the system we use to collect, track, and take action on bugs reported by users. You’ll see these changes take effect next week.

Recently, this system was working in a way that wasn’t very transparent, and it frankly wasn’t a good experience for the users who care enough about Second Life to try to help improve it, nor was it the best set-up for the Lindens tasked with addressing these issues. So you can see why we’re happy to be changing it!

Moving forward, we’re going to make our JIRA implementation a more transparent experience. All users will be able to see all BUG issues, all the time. You’ll be able to search to see if there are duplicates before submitting an issue, and if there’s a bug that’s particularly important to you, you can contribute your info to it and see when it’s been Accepted and imported to the Linden team.

You’ll also be able to comment. Before an issue is triaged, everyone can comment to help isolate and describe the issue more clearly. Do remember, there are some basic guidelines for participation that need to be followed. Once an issue is Accepted and imported by Linden Lab’s QA team, the original reporter will still be able to comment, as will Lindens and a small team of community triagers - a group that includes some third party Viewer developers and others selected by Linden Lab for having demonstrated skills in this area. This group has been invaluable in helping to keep the bug database orderly and cross-referenced as well as troubleshooting bugs before they’re triaged, and we’re glad to have their continuing help with this process.

Lastly, “New Feature Request” is back! If you’ve got a great idea for a feature, you don’t need to slip it through the system disguised as a bug report - just select the “New Feature Request” category when you submit. Commenting for this category will work just like for bug reports, and submitting improvements through this category will make things much easier for the Linden team reviewing these. Please remember that JIRA is an engineering tool - it’s not meant for policy discussions and the like nor is it a replacement for the Forums, where you can have all kinds of stimulating discussions.

If you’re one of the many who have taken the time to submit a bug report through the JIRA system - thank you! We really appreciate your work in tracking down the issues, and it’s a significant help to us as we continue to improve Second Life. 

We think these changes will make for a better, more transparent and more productive experience for all of us, but if you have additional ideas on ways to improve our implementation, you can share them with us in this Forum thread.

 

 

Linden Lab

As we continue to work on improving the Second Life experience, one challenge we’ve been tackling is the length of the Viewer installation process. No one likes waiting, and now with Project Zipper, you don’t have to!

With the project Viewer available today, there’s really only one thing different - the installation is super fast. Rather than waiting for install to complete, you’ll quickly be in Second Life doing what you love.

Try out Project Zipper with the project Viewer here.

This is still a project Viewer, and if you find bugs while testing it out, please let us know by filing them in BUG project in JIRA.

Linden Lab

On deck for immediate release are more improvements to Project Sunshine. New updates include better stability and performance enhancements in retry logic, redundant requests, and better detection for appearance conditions. This release also includes lots of bug fixes and quite a bit of cleanup of old code from the old client-side baking framework.

Additionally, we’ve integrated support for the latest AISv3 code (which will improve how back-end processing of inventory items work). We are just awaiting the latest server components to go live before this feature is fully functioning. More on this soon.

Update to the latest Viewer today and take advantage of the new Sunshine refinements!

Linden Lab

 

Since late in 2012, there's been a project to improve HTTP communications between Viewer and grid services. One of the metrics we've tried to improve is maximum request rate: the number of  HTTP requests that can be issued and responded to over a time interval. Improving this figure has been challenging. There are and will always be factors beyond our control, such as the characteristics of the home network, ISP policies and capacities, physical distance to services, and transient network problems, to name a few. However, we can do something about other factors that are under our control.

These factors can be fixed limits intended to implement a rate throttle. Or they can also be side-effects of other decisions, such as connection handling. The impact of fixed limits and connection handling is shown in the diagram below taken from texture and mesh fetching. The lowest curve (red) represents the highest possible request rate when using a unique connection for each HTTP request for a maximum of five (5) concurrent connections. The curve above it (blue) shows the doubling of the request rate limit when HTTP keepalives are used. And both of these limits are strongly affected by packet round-trip (ping) times. Finally, the horizontal line at 100 RPS represents an approximate limit on request rate that's independent of ping time.png;base642573309221b495a0.png

At the beginning of this project, most HTTP traffic, texture fetching in particular, was constrained to region 'A'. This was the result of a combination of factors. One was the lack of connection keepalives. This forced a TCP connection handshake prior to every HTTP request. Another was the delay in launching new requests on completion of previous requests.

 

Viewer 3.4.3

Released in early 2013, Viewer 3.4.3 included a new library, llcorehttp, to begin to address the above issues. It was foundational in that it didn't attack the above problems directly (nor other problems not discussed here), but it established a structure that would allow the problems to be addressed over a series of releases.

While its goals were modest, the efficiency and latency improvements yielded some nice gains. Texture fetching was the first component to use the new library and throughput and robustness increased while tendencies to stall have disappeared. With these changes, texture fetching solidly entered the 'B' region of the diagram.

 

DRTSIM-203

Deployed in April, 2013, the DRTSIM-203 server release included the first support for HTTP keepalive connections between viewers and simulator hosts. For small transfers, it halved the number of round-trips required to fetch an object. For larger transfers, the impact of TCP slow-start was also reduced. There were several other beneficial side-effects; the greatest of these was creating fewer TCP connections for a given workload. A high rate of connection creation, called connection churn, is one factor in destabilizing many home routers. Symptoms of this include: router reboots, loss of connectivity, timeouts, and DNS failures.

Keepalive connections were enabled for texture fetches and SSL-encrypted HTTP between viewers and simulator hosts. This raised the ceiling into region 'C,' increasing texture download throughput. Mesh downloads continued to use the original connection scheme, and monitoring and enforcement watchdogs were added to protect common services from monopolization.

 

What’s next?

We continue to evaluate our HTTP protocols with goals of improving our user experiences. Here are some of our most recent areas of interest.

DRTSIM-216/229 + Viewer DRTVWR-329

Mesh fetching, like texture fetching, is a relatively heavy-weight activity in the viewer. It takes time to acquire these assets and display a scene. So mesh fetches will be the next area to receive the above treatment, putting them in region 'C' as well.

The challenge is that mesh fetching has been built around extremely high connection concurrency. A new capability service, called 'GetMesh2', will supersede the existing 'GetMesh' service. It is designed around low connection concurrency. That, in turn, will permit connection keepalive and even HTTP pipelining while promising higher throughput, lower overhead and improved router stability.

 

Pipelining

As significant as the above changes are, they still leave most users under a ceiling strongly influenced by ping time. Europe and Asia are usually over 100 ms and South Africa often reports 250 ms. There will always be a 'ping tax' on those who are far from grid services. But there is something we can do: HTTP pipelining.

Pipelining reduces the impact of ping time by issuing multiple HTTP requests at once without waiting for responses. This will allow our servers to keep filling the download stream rather than stalling between requests. Mesh and texture fetching will get first crack at pipelining. There will be new problems to discover. An essential library, libcurl, has only just started supporting pipelining. We will need to update some of our services as well. But those will be solved and asset fetches will begin to operate in region 'D'.

 

Sky's the Limit

Progress doesn't stop with pipelining. There are more opportunities to push upwards into 'E' and 'F' regions. A few possibilities:

  • If you participated in the DRTSIM-203 beta test, you had an opportunity to try our 'Happy' regions (TextureTest2H, MeshTest2H, etc.). These regions ran on hosts with elevated limits to see what would happen. The results were positive and invite a permanent increase as HTTP behavior improves.

  • Updating other HTTP-based services, moving them up the throughput curve. This would include services such as inventory operations and display name lookups, which make heavy, bursty demands.

  • Looking into other transport protocols. SPDY is interesting and tries to solve some of the challenges Second Life presents. How well it solves them is yet to be seen.

 

These shouldn’t be taken as commitments or written-in-stone plans, as priorities and goals may shift, but we’ve seen good results from our work on the HTTP project and are looking forward to continuing to improve Second Life’s infrastructure.



Linden Lab

A new set of Materials work has become a Release Candidate Viewer. This Viewer includes support for Materials underwater, render support for impostors, and fixes that will address issues with transparency and alpha layers. See the Release Notes for full details.

 

UnderwaterCoral.pngA quick coral study with Normal and Specular maps shown underwater. Land Impact is 14.

As of today, approximately one fifth of the regions in Second Life have at least one object using Materials, and this is increasing at a rate of about 2% per week. Users with high-end graphics cards are seeing a significant increase in frames per second when Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) is turned on -- we highly recommend that those users turn ALM on. In addition, we will be updating the GPU tables to include newer graphics cards, allowing more users to take advantage of advanced graphics features like Materials.

 

original.png

 

Thanks to those who have already tried out Materials and submitted a bug report to the MATBUG JIRA project! Once this release candidate has completed the release process, we will be moving any active MATBUGs to the BUG project and track any future issues from the BUG project.


If you’d like to experiment with Materials, download the Materials Release Candidate Viewer today. And don’t forget to check the Good Building Practices wiki for more tips and tricks and the Knowledge Base for updated user documentation.

Linden Lab

We are making some improvements to how we release new Viewer features. Our goal is to accelerate the pace at which we bring new features and improvements to all Second Life users by removing what had previously been a bottleneck in our release process.

 

In a couple of weeks, we’re going to begin following a process similar to what we already do with the simulator. We’ll release more than one new version at the same time in parallel to subsets of users for final validation, and then promote the most important of the best of those to the default Release Viewer when that testing shows it to be ready.

 

In the past, we have used the 'Second Life Beta Viewer' channel for this final user validation, but because we had only one Beta channel, some features and fixes have been significantly delayed waiting for their 'turn' in the channel. We will now be able to put those Viewers in the regular Release channel to a smaller randomly chosen group, allowing us to test and release new features more quickly.

 

If a development project wants to put out an early version for testing prior to it being ready for the Release channel, a channel specific to that project (either 'Project <project>' for very early versions, or 'Beta <project>' for more mature ones) will be created, just like we do today. These will be shut down when the project is ready to move to final testing in the Release channel, and users in the early project test channels will automatically be upgraded to the corresponding Release candidate version.

 

Because several different beta Viewers will be tested concurrently in the Release channel, the ‘Second Life Beta Viewer’ channel will no longer be used; there will be a web page where users who want to try early versions can find them. The existing inworld 'Second Life Beta' group is not affected.

 

Following a similar process has enabled us to accelerate the pace at which we release improvements to the simulator, and we’re looking forward to using this new process to more quickly introduce new features to the Second Life Viewer.

Linden Lab

The Snowstorm project is happy to announce that we have a Materials Project Viewer available for alpha testing of support for Normal and Specular maps on Second Life objects!  When generally available, this will enable content creators to make much richer looking materials with less geometric complexity.

This is a very early test version - there are still known bugs, and certainly some that we don't know about yet. We do not recommend using it to manipulate content that you care about. Bugs should be reported in the Materials Project Viewer (MATBUG) project on Jira.  If you use it, please leave automatic updates enabled, because we expect to release updates relatively frequently.

Information on how to prepare textures in a way that's compatible with the Materials Project Viewer available on the wiki.

This project is a great example of how we can improve Second Life through collaboration: it includes contributions from members of the Exodus, Firestorm, and Catznip development teams, as well as from Linden Lab. We don't yet have a target date for when it will be in the regular Release Viewer, but we're working toward that, and your help testing will make that happen sooner and with higher quality.

Linden Lab

Engineering and Operations at Linden Lab are constantly striving to make performance improvements to Second Life and we want to share the results of a recent one.

An optimization on a single query against the read pool of one of the main core database clusters has resulted in nearly a 75% reduction in load on that cluster, improving numerous systems including group functions and teleports. There has been a 7% improvement in teleport performance in peak concurrency hours and an 86% reduction in group query times.


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This is only one of the performance changes we will be making over the next few months, so keep an eye out.

Linden Lab

User-submitted bug reports help improve the Second Life experience for all Residents, so we greatly appreciate all of you who take the time to provide this invaluable information to us.

Because we want to make it even easier to report bugs, today we are making some changes that will streamline the bug reporting process, allowing us to more quickly collect information and respond to issues.

Following is a summary of the JIRA changes:

  • All bugs should now be filed in the new BUG project, using the more streamlined submission form.
  • Second Life users will only see their own reported issues.  When a Bug reaches the "Been Triaged" status, they will no longer be able to add comments to their issue.
  • Once a Bug reaches the “Accepted” or “Closed” status, it will not be updated. You can watch the Release Notes to see when and if a fix has been released for your issue.
  • Existing JIRAs will remain publicly visible. We will continue to review and work through these.


To those of you who have taken the time to alert us to bugs and provided the information we need to fix them -- thank you! We hope that you will continue to help us improve Second Life, and this new process should make it easier for all of us. Ideas about how we can continue to improve the bug reporting process can be shared here.

For more information, visit:
How to report a BUG (Knowledge Base Article):
Bug Tracker (wiki page):
Bug Tracker Status/Resolutions (wiki page):

Linden Lab

 

pr3AP_DADAY

 

One of the challenges that virtual world creators face is the trade-off between rich visual detail and geometric complexity. Ideally, by adding more and smaller faces to an object, a designer can model different surface textures and create realistic variations in the interplay of light and shadow. However, adding faces also quickly increases the size of the model and its rendering cost. Normal and Specular Maps are ways to address this by allowing for the appearance of a complex surface without actually modeling fine scale geometry.

A Normal Map is an image where the color codes indicate how the renderer should reflect light from each pixel on a surface by modifying the direction that the pixel "faces" (imagine that each pixel could be turned on tiny pivots). This means that pixels on a simple surface can be rendered so that they appear to have much more detail than the actual geometry and at much lower rendering cost. Light and shadow are rendered as though the surface had depth and physical texture, simulating roughness, bumps, and even edges and additional faces.

Similarly, a Specular Map allows each pixel to have its own degree of reflectivity, so that some parts of a single face reflect sharply, while adjacent pixels can be dull.

The open source developers of the Exodus Viewer are contributing Viewer support for Normal and Specular Maps, as well as some additional controls for how light reflects from faces. Linden Lab is developing the server side support so that this powerful tool will be available in Second Life.

Design and development are under way. Watch this blog and the Snowstorm Viewers page for information on when test Viewers with these new capabilities become available.

For additional information, or to learn more about how you can participate in the open source program, please contact Oz@lindenlab.com.

 

Linden Lab

Somewhere below the regolith in the Linden Lab secret lunar base, some of the Lab’s top minds have been tackling performance issues in Second Life. The areas of focus range from infrastructure improvements to server-side texture compositing to object caching.

This year, Linden Lab is making the single largest capital investment in new server hardware upgrades in the history of the company. This new hardware will give residents better performance and more reliability. Additionally, we are converting from three co-locations to two co-locations. This will significantly reduce our inter-co-location latency and further enhance simulator performance.

The Shining project is the name given to a recent Lab effort to identify and measure delays and other problems with streaming avatars and objects and to propose and implement solutions. During the Shining project, several small improvements have been identified and deployed. The next small improvement from Shining to be deployed will be pre-rendering the starter Avatars to improve the new resident experience.

As a result of the Shining investigation, the project has been split into three larger performance projects: Project Sunshine, Object Caching, and HTTP Library.

All together, the hardware upgrades and the Shining projects should improve avatar and object streaming speeds significantly. Depending on your unique situation, your mileage will vary.


Project Sunshine (Server-side Baked Texture Generation & Storage)


Currently, all client viewers are responsible for compositing their own Avatar textures, then sending the results back to the Sim for other viewers to access. This method can lead to slowdowns and errors. The actual calculations for compositing textures are straightforward and not particularly time-consuming. However, in order for the viewer to do the calculations it first has to download a lot of individual assets from the Sim, and must then upload large results back to the Sim. This pushes a lot of bits through the Sim / Viewer connection, which can be slow and unreliable.

Depending on client hardware to do the compositing and uploading of the resulting baked textures can introduce erroneous results (like way too much pink). In order to handle these errors, a number of retry and fallback mechanisms have been put in place. This adds further load and overhead to the whole system.

Project Sunshine stands up a Texture Compositing server that is separate from the Sims servers. When a Viewer needs to render an Avatar, it sends a message to the Sim, which in turn sends a message to the Texture Compositing Server. The Texture Server then performs the texture compositing and sends the results back to the Viewer.

The Texture Server has access to a database of previously generated Avatar textures. If the Sim is asking for the baked textures for an Avatar that has been previously calculated, the Texture Server can pull the results out of the database instead of recalculating. Even if it’s not the same Avatar, but the set of clothes is the same, the Texture Server can use the previously calculated results.

An additional advantage of having a Texture Generation server is that the heavy HTTP communication about the individual assets that make up an Avatar will happen on reliable, fast internal network connections instead of external connections.

Object Caching & Interest Lists

Caching objects on a resident’s hard drive is intended to provide faster drawing of objects that are most likely to be redrawn later in a resident’s session or in the next session.

The current object cache implementation has room for improvement. Currently, the viewer only caches objects at the point the resident disconnects from a region and only objects currently in view are cached. The current caching communication between Sim and Viewer when a scene is initially being loaded is inefficient and resource intensive.

The new system is designed to make sure that a viewer never has to download object information that it already has and is still valid. This will reduce the load on the Sim and on the Sim / Viewer connection.

With the new system, when the Viewer connects to a region, the Sim first says to the Viewer, “Here’s a list of all my object groups by UUID.” The Viewer checks its cache and replies, “Here are the timestamps for the object groups that I found in my cache.” (If an object group is not found in the cache, the timestamp is 0.) The Sim checks the Viewer’s timestamps against its own data and responds, “Here’s a list of object groups in your cache that are still valid.” While the Viewer starts drawing valid objects from its cache, the Sim starts streaming the new object data that the Viewer needs, based on the particular Viewer’s object priorities.

HTTP Library

Top performance for the Shining initiatives depend on the speed and reliability of HTTP messages initiated by both the Viewers and the Sims. The third part of the Shining project, the new HTTP Library, implements modern best practices in messaging, connection management, and error recovery.

Linden Lab

Latest Update on Mesh

With the initial release of mesh in August, Linden Lab introduced an entirely new way to measure the impact that objects have in Second Life. Since then, we’ve seen that providing customers with this additional insight has allowed them to design with more performance efficiency.

Now, with this new release of mesh, creators get a more detailed understanding of the actual impact of objects on the world around them. Being able to see Resource Weights, as well as how they drive Land Impact, helps creators more easily build responsive and low-lag locations, improving the overall resident experience.

To better show what effect an object will have inside Second Life, we have developed four weight values: Download, Physics, Server, and Display. Each of these values can be used by creators to determine the impact that a given object will have on performance from different perspectives (e.g. client vs. server) and under different circumstances.

 

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Here’s how they break down:


  • Download measures how much bandwidth we need to send out the information about an object so that everyone can see it.
  • Physics is a value that shows how difficult the object is for the physics and Havok processes to create, track, and update the object.  
  • Server is a value that shows you how difficult the object is for the server processes to create, track, and update the object.  
  • Land Impact (formerly PE or Prim Equivalence) is the highest of the above server-side weights. It defines a theoretical limit under which performance remains acceptable for residents.

 

  • Render is a value that shows you how difficult it is for the client renderer (your viewer) to draw the object. Because it’s related to the client, this is informational only. This is the same calculation used to create Avatar Rendering Weight.


    Knolwedge Base Article on Weights and Impact.


How you see it in the viewer:


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We hope understanding the relationship between objects and performance will help land owners and creators make even more efficient content. As always, we welcome feedback to help us make this information even easier to understand.


Linden Lab

You may have noticed that we’ve added a Mesh Enablement tab to your Account. Get ready to explore the latest innovation from the Lab!

Mesh? What the heck is that?

We’ve had quite a few questions from users about mesh —  mostly along the lines of what is it? How can I use it? When will it become available? Well, we’ve got some answers for you — and some good news!

First of all, what is it, exactly?The term “mesh” refers to an object that consists of polygonal geometry data. Essentially, it’s what you see in modern video games, special effects and 3D animation. It's extremely flexible — and when it’s well-made, it can be way more efficient than the existing prims and sculpties you’ll find inworld currently. Mesh objects are first created in external programs, such as Blender or Maya, and then imported onto the Second Life grid. Once there, mesh objects can be manipulated in pretty much the same ways you would manipulate a regular old prim. And, here’s the best part — the wait is almost over! We’ve been rolling out mesh-upload capability to selected regions over the past week, and the rollout pace will increase in the coming weeks.

Mesh on the Main Grid

Because we’re rolling out mesh-upload capability across the Main Grid over the next few weeks,  mesh is not going to be available everywhere all at once. But, you can get a preview. Ready to try mesh? Here are a few steps you'll need to complete to get started:

1. Get enabled. To do this, you'll need to first complete a short tutorial about mesh and intellectual property rights.

2. Download the Mesh Project Viewer.

3. Once you’re inworld and using the Mesh Project Viewer, teleport to the selected Project Regions where mesh capabilities are enabled. If you're interested in uploading mesh objects, you will want to visit public areas to test. View the list of current mesh enabled sandbox regions here.



If you have a region and want to get upgraded early, check here.

Before you do visit a Project Region, you should check out the Mesh Project Wiki Page and read about uploading mesh.

It's also a good idea to read through the Mesh Forums to get more info and to ask questions of your fellow creators.

During the rollout period (until we enable upload in the next version of the Release Viewer), Linden Lab will charge a discounted fee for uploads. Also, during this initial period, no mesh items should be posted to the Second Life Marketplace due to the limited availability of places to rez mesh objects.

We’re excited to share our latest project with you — and can’t wait to see the awesome things you’ll build with mesh!

Go out and create something amazing – have fun!

Linden Lab

Linden Lab

Mesh Update

Linden Lab is excited to announce the latest updates on one of our coolest new features — mesh. With mesh, you’ll be able to create, build and beautify even more incredible objects inworld! You’ll find a new Mesh Enablement functionality tab in the My Account section of your Account screen. It’s just another part of the innovation and imagination that makes Second Life the magical place it is.

Uploading Mesh

Now that mesh is in rollout stage and many users will soon be able to utilize its content-creation capabilities, there are a few things creators should know before giving it a whirl. Potential creators will need to satisfy a couple of requirements in order to gain access to mesh-upload capabilities. First, you’ll need to review a short tutorial that is intended to help Residents understand some of Linden Lab’s intellectual property policies — they can be kind of tricky, and we at the Lab want all content creators to be well-informed This tutorial outlines some of the key points relating to intellectual property.

Second, if you have never given us billing information, you'll need to enter it into your account. Why, you ask? Because having payment information on file is an important step in establishing direct relationships with content creators who will be working in mesh. Note: We do realize that with the current configuration, some Residents will need to make a purchase in order to enter their billing information.

The first round of rollouts of mesh will be happening over the next few weeks! We look forward to seeing your continued imagination, skill and creativity in this exciting new format. We hope you’ll be pleased with our innovations — and can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Now go create something amazing!

Linden Lab


Linden Lab

Today, we released the latest version of the SL Viewer into general availability with Voice included in Basic mode. All that new users have to do is click on a simple microphone button--a well-understood symbol for voice/sound. For those seasoned Residents, the microphone button is where the Speak button is in Advanced mode.

SLViewerBasic-voice.jpg

Look for more improvements to the SL Viewer coming soon. In the meantime, download the latest SL Viewer and give Basic mode a try.

Helpful Links
    •    Download SL Viewer with Basic and Advanced:
    ◦    Windows  |  Mac  |  Linux
    •    SL Viewer Release Notes
    •    Feedback Forum on SL Viewer Basic Mode
    •    Twitter hashtag #slviewer

Samuel Linden

Today, we’re releasing a new feature with the SL Viewer Beta, available only in Advanced mode--Enhanced Avatar Physics. In this viewer, you can now configure the amount of movement that you would like for your avatar’s soft body parts, making your avatar much more (ahem) realistic. Since the physics are controlled by a wearable object, you have the ability to easily customize and personalize your settings just as if you were editing any other clothing item. So whether you want lots of movement, or only a bit, you can adjust your settings and they will apply only to your avatar’s targeted body part.

Of course, we continue to smash bugs and make strides in viewer stability and performance, but we figured that you would be much more interested in avatars bouncing and jiggling. Please check the SL Viewer Beta Release Notes for system compatibility and known issues. So, download the new SL Viewer Beta today and give it a try.

See you inworld!

Helpful Links
    •    Download SL Viewer Beta (v2.6.3) with Enhanced Avatar Physics:
         Windows  |  Mac  |  Linux
    •    SL Viewer Beta Release Notes
    •    SL Viewer JIRA for Bugs Click on the "bugs" button on the upper right.
    •    Knowledge Base Article on Enhanced Avatar Physics
    •    Feedback Forum on SL Viewer
    •    Twitter hashtag #slviewer

 

UPDATE ON 4/26/11: SL Viewer with Enhanced Avatar Physics is now out of beta and generally available as the default Viewer for new users. Download it today on the main Second Life Downloads page. Then, let us know what you think on the SL Viewer Feedback Forum and in Twitter using the hashtag #slviewer.

Q Linden

Today we launched Viewer 2.5, now out of Beta. The most significant update is a new, web-based profile system, which allows profiles to be viewed and edited both on the web and in the Viewer. For example, here's mine. Please note this is just a starting point for the web-based profiles; we’ll be doing a lot of work to refine the usability and make them richer over time.

In response to your feedback from the early beta versions of Viewer 2.5, we've added some privacy settings that will allow you to control just how public your profile is. Once you’ve logged in, click on “Privacy Settings” in the upper right corner of your profile. Group settings set in the Viewer will be overridden by these group privacy settings.

  • "Everyone" means that the information is available to the whole Internet and can be picked up by search engines.
  • "Second Life" means that the information is available to all Second Life Residents who are logged into the website or inworld. This is the default for all existing Residents using Viewer 2.5.
  • "Friends" means that only your Second Life friends can see the information on the web and inworld.

This is why we have a beta process--to address concerns and improve your user experience. We will continue to iterate as we get more feedback. Thank you for all your help and comments. Please attend the Viewer 2 User Group meetings if you would like to share your thoughts and feedback directly with me and the Snowstorm team.

Viewer 2.5 also has some other new features. The one I like best is that you can now have your Favorite landmarks also appear on the login screen, so that you can log directly into your favorite locations. Torley made a video about this, so check it out! We've also improved some texturing performance and fixed another batch of bugs. Watching the internal data, we've already seen a noticeable improvement in stability and performance--on par with Viewer 1.23.

Download Viewer 2.5, try it out, and keep the feedback coming! And, if you Twitter, please use the hashtag #slviewer2.

Helpful Links

Q Linden

In addition to many grid enhancements that FJ shared last week in his technology update blog post, the Viewer 2.5 beta cycle begins today. Viewer 2.5 Beta 1 is now available and includes several new features, usability improvements, and bug fixes.

Improved Web and Viewer Resident Profiles
The biggest change in Viewer 2.5 Beta 1 is that we've replaced the Viewer-based profiles with web-based profiles. You can access the redesigned profiles on the web using your Second Life user id and in the Viewer itself. For example, here’s mine. In the Viewer, profiles now open in a web browser and you can open as many profiles as you like at the same time. And, if you wish, you can even connect other social identities from Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to your profile.

Logging In to your Favorite Locations
A long-standing feature request has been the ability to access some of  your favorite Landmarks from the login screen, so you can quickly teleport to places inworld. In the Viewer 2.5 Beta, we've added a preference that gives you access to the Landmarks on your Favorites Bar from the Login Screen. To use this feature, go to Preferences > Privacy and select the check box labeled, "Show my Favorite Landmarks at Login." If you log off and then restart your Viewer, then you'll see a list of your Favorite Landmarks in the "Start At" drop-down box on the login screen. Also, when this feature is enabled and you share a computer account (login) with other people, they will see your list of Favorites if they run the Viewer 2.5 Beta.

Decompression Performance Improvements
For a long time, we’ve used an older version of the Kakadu library known as KDU to load textures and images in the Viewer. The KDU Library has been updated to version 6.4 in the Viewer 2.5 Beta, which allows the Viewer to take advantage of significant decompression performance gains; our preliminary measurements gauge the performance gain at 30% for decoding images, which should translate to a visible improvement in rezzing time for complex scenes.

Please note that per our support policy, we’re also deprecating Viewer 2.1.1 today. If you’ve been running Viewer 2.1.1, you’ll be prompted to download the latest Viewer release. To stay up to date on future deprecation announcements, please subscribe to @secondlife on Twitter.

As  always, we want to know what you think of the latest beta so please keep that feedback coming. Share your impressions with us on Twitter and use the hashtag #SLViewer2.


Helpful Links

FJ Linden

As we begin 2011, I want to share the progress that we’re making on several important technology enhancements that I discussed in my last post.  As I mentioned, we are focused on improving the overall performance of Second Life while addressing some long standing limitations such as  raising group limits, improving the chat system, and reducing lag.

Group Limits Raised to 42 Today

In October, we committed to increase group limits from the current 25 up to 40 in the first quarter of 2011. As of today, group limits have been raised to 42! To add groups beyond the previous limit of 25, you must be using Viewer  2.4 (or a more recent version). And if you’re still using Viewer 1.23, or a third-party viewer based on Viewer 1.23 code, then you can add more groups in Viewer 2.4 and they will still be accessible when you switch back to Viewer 1.23.

That said, if there is an unexpected load, then we may need to lower the group limitation to maintain acceptable performance levels across the grid. If we decide to do that, then any Residents who have up to 42  groups will not lose their memberships. But, other Residents will not be able to exceed the new limit.

Group Chat System Will Launch Gridwide By March 31st

We were set to deploy a prototype of the new group chat system in December, but last minute licensing issues were found with our chosen open source library. Now that a solution is in place, we expect to have the prototype available by the end of this month and an industry standard and high performing group chat system available by the end of this quarter.

Performance Improvements When Teleporting and Crossing Regions

As you teleport, or cross regions, all of your avatar data (often a very  large amount of data) needs to be processed by both source and destination regions. In order to streamline this process, we are now compressing avatar information, making your teleports and region crossings faster and more reliable. In fact, we’ve found that teleport failures, due to avatar complexity, have dropped 40%. See the graph below for a more detailed view showing how much we’ve shortened region crossing time.

region_crossing_compression_2011_01_11.jpg

Viewer 2.5 Beta Releasing Soon

We will soon launch the latest version of the Second Life Viewer -- Viewer 2.5 Beta. In addition to more performance and stability improvements, we’ve added enhanced web-based profiles, accessible both on the web and in the Viewer. And, if you wish, you can even connect your Second Life profile to other social identities including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! You will also have the option in Preferences to choose your first inworld destination from the saved Landmarks in your Favorites Bar. This is very handy when you need to get to a specific destination quickly.

Also, one of the most important new features added to Viewer 2.4 was the auto-updater capability. If you're using Viewer 2.4 or higher, then you won’t be inconvenienced by the notification and download process when we release a new Viewer.

Planning to Implement Significant Grid Infrastructure Enhancements in 2011

We’re planning significant grid infrastructure enhancements throughout the year including technologies to speed server-side rendering (SSR) and server virtualization (web and simulator services). We are also exploring new storage and asset delivery systems. Some of the benefits will not always be noticeable, but they are foundational platform changes that set the stage for rapid performance and scalability improvements. We will continue to keep you updated as we roll out these systems.

I’m pleased with the progress that we made across the platform last year and I'm looking ahead to newer technologies that we will deploy in 2011 to enhance your Second Life experience. As always, I'll be watching for your feedback and thank you for making Second Life such an amazing place.

Esbee Linden

Viewer 2.4 Released!

As of today, SL Viewer 2.4 is the default Second Life Viewer download for new Residents! As was mentioned in the Viewer 2.4 Beta blog post, this is largely a maintenance release focused on improving user experience, stability, and performance. This release does, however, have a few important changes and additions, including the following:

A Cleaner User Experience and More Customization Options in Preferences

Throughout 2010, we’ve added many new Preferences to the Viewer and it was time to not only reorganize and clean up the layout, but also add popular customization options, such as:

  • Color and transparency options that allow you to change the look of Viewer windows
  • Options to easily enable the Advanced and Developer menus
  • A new preference that you can use to turn group and IM chat pop-ups on or off whenever you like
Support for External Text Editors when Working with LSL

Here’s a good one for content creators and developers. Now, you can use your favorite script editor to edit LSL scripts outside of the Viewer. In  Viewer 2.4, enabling the new ‘ExternalEditor’ debug setting will allow you to specify the path to your own text editor (for example: /Applications/TextMate.app/Contents/MacOS/TextMate). When the setting is enabled, just open the Script Editor in the Viewer and click the “Edit” button, and the text editor you specified in debug settings will then open with the script you have open in the Viewer. Any changes you make and save in the text editor will automatically appear in the Script window in the Viewer.

Graphics Improvements

We continue to make numerous improvements to Viewer graphics as we move closer to integrating Mesh Import into Viewer 2. You can see more detail in the Release Notes, but we’ve improved antialiasing, anisotropic filtering, snapshots, and we’ll see even more in upcoming releases.

Performance Improvements

Viewer 2 performance is improving, as shown by steadily decreasing crash rates that are now close to those for Viewer 1.23, but we know there’s still more to do. So if you do crash, please be sure to send us a crash  report, as they are essential to helping us understand where issues occur, which allows us to better prioritize our work.

An Auto-Updater Tool

We now have an auto-updater for Viewer 2! This means that whenever a new Viewer is released, the next one being Viewer 2.5, it automatically  downloads the newest software in the background and offers you the  ability to upgrade when it’s ready. You can still decide whether you want to install the new version or not, but the auto-updater will help ensure that you’re always using the most up-to-date version of the SL Viewer. Keep in mind, the auto-updater will only work with optional updates. Mandatory updates will continue to work as they have in the past.

Finally, to those of you who gave us feedback on previous versions of Viewer 2, we offer a heartfelt thank you for all your bug reports, forum and blog comments, and Tweets using the #slviewer2 hashtag. Your input is invaluable as we continue to prioritize our 2011 Viewer 2 roadmap.

So download Viewer 2.4 -- and keep that feedback coming!

Helpful Links

Jack.Linden

Today we’re making available the first beta release of Viewer 2.4. We’ve done a great deal of maintenance work for this release, with significant help from the Second Life open-source community, including fixing a number of interface problems, hunting down and eliminating some key crash bugs, and making several performance improvements.

A number of features and changes are worth noting with this release. For the most part, we consider the work we're releasing today to be intermediate steps on the way to a better future:

  • A new auto-updater: Whenever there’s a new viewer release, the viewer will now download the new installer automatically in the background, and offer to install an upgrade when you next log in. You still control whether you want the new version, of course. We’ll continue to improve the auto-updater experience in future releases.
  • Clearer preferences: We’ve reorganised several of the preferences tabs to make them more understandable (and to make it easier for us to create new preferences, should the need arise). We've added some colour and transparency options, and fixed some bugs too. There will be more work to come in this area as we strive to make the viewer more customisable.
  • External text editor support: This is one we’re extremely happy about, as it's something Residents have wanted for a long time. If you’re a scripter, then you can now use your own text editor for scripting. The feature still needs a lot of user interface work, but as we work more on build tools in coming months, it will keep getting better and easier to use.
  • Graphics improvements: We’ve also integrated some graphics improvements as we work towards integrating mesh import into Viewer 2. Our graphics systems are undergoing major renovation, and there have been improvements to anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, and snapshots, with more to come in future releases.

So, although Viewer 2.4 is fundamentally a maintenance release, it has a lot of great stuff in it. Please give it a try and give us your feedback!

Download the Viewer 2.4 Beta today, try it out, and Twitter your thoughts using the #slviewer2 hashtag.

Helpful Links
Jack.Linden

At Linden Lab, we recognize that SL Search is an aspect of the Second Life experience that is a top “back to basics,” priority to improve. So, over the last few months, the SL Search team has been working hard to make Search results more accurate and prepare for the Teen Second Life migration to the Main Grid. Here's a brief overview:

 

New Filters for Search with General or Moderate Ratings

Until now, we've had both land and language filtering in search results. However, there was no real difference between General and Moderate content filters. We're tweaking the content filters, both by defining a "Moderate" set of keywords and by altering some of the teen-related language in the adult filters. If your parcel or profile does not appear at the maturity level you expect it to, then edit your text. You will usually see your edits reflected in Search within six hours.

 

Classified Ads Now Get Extra Level of Rating Validation

Classifieds have always allowed Residents listing a Classified to self-declare the maturity rating of their ad. With teens gaining access to the Main Grid, we've added content filtering to provide another level of rating validation. If you list an ad and don't see the maturity level you're optimizing for in search results, then just edit your text. You should see the edits reflected in Search in about an hour.

 

New Functionality Automatically Builds in Keyword Variations

We’ve also added new functionality (stemming and stop words, for all the industry professionals out there) into Classifieds, which means that advertisers don’t have to stuff their descriptions with every variation of a keyword. For example, a search for “Dance” will return descriptions with “dancing,” “dances,” and “danced."

 

More Sophisticated Filters to Identify Spam and Optimize Search Results

We've moved from the more rigid "past this point and you get dinged" method of calculating boost to one that balances several features of your page. These aspects include how often words are repeated, the nature of the objects on your parcel, the size of the parcel, unique descriptors, and the use of symbols and ALL CAPS. It is important to note that the filter takes into consideration many things. Depending on the combination used, your score could be impacted negatively or not at all.

A note about the perceived "size boost": We want to promote all relevant locations in Second Life -- big or small. Larger stores, with bigger inventories, are more likely to be mistakenly downgraded in Search for repetition in their descriptions and objects. So, we give larger parcels a minor buffer to allow for that. We’ve also adjusted this buffer so that it should be less noticeable. In addition, we now apply a negative boost for parcels that are below the minimum size permitted in search.

All of these factors are now rolled into the one visible spam boost rating on each parcel. It’s worth checking it over the next two weeks as we roll out changes and make the appropriate updates to your information. Edits are typically reflected on the World page in a few minutes and up to six hours in Search.

 

Destination Guide

Finally, we’ve made some changes to the Destination Guide to reflect each listing’s parcel maturity. This will ensure that teens have access to all of the Destination Guide listings they see in the Find window and all Residents will now see Destination Guide entries filtered by maturity level.

 

Let Us Know What You Think

We hope that these changes benefit everyone in Second Life -- inworld businesses and Residents alike. Keep an eye on Search release notes for ongoing updates. Try it out and let us know if you notice the improvements. We look forward to your feedback in comments below!

Note: Edited to fix spacing and headings on new platform. - Sea

Jack.Linden

Today, we are excited to launch the latest version of Viewer 2 -- Viewer 2.3 Beta -- that makes it even easier to connect to friends and relevant experiences in Second Life. We’ve come a long way since we first launched the first Viewer 2 Beta in February. We’ve dramatically increased performance and stability while adding cool new features like Shared Media. We’ve also made many usability improvements, based on your feedback, that make it easier for content creators and developers to build in Second Life.

With the Version 2.3 Beta, Viewer 2 takes another big leap forward. This Beta not only includes many performance enhancements and bug fixes, but it also allows you to more freely express your inworld identity with Display Names, introduces helpful pop-up hints to make it easier to learn Viewer 2, and gives group owners more control of SL Events.

Display Names Arrives on the Main Grid

Display Names, as you know, gives all Residents two names: a unique username and an optional Display Name that you can change on a weekly basis. Display Names gives you the ability to use Unicode characters and multiple words so you can use your current SL Name, your real name, a pseudonym, or a gamer tag. It’s your choice!

Since we originally blogged about Display Names, and subsequently launched the Display Names Project Viewer on the test grid, we’ve made a range of changes to the feature that address the Resident concerns and feedback we received around impersonation and griefing. If you want to learn more, there’s a video below showcasing the enhancements and a full list detailing each change. We have also compiled a Frequently Asked Questions wiki page and two Knowledge Base articles, one on Display Names and another on usernames, complete with video tutorials from Torley that show you how to use this new feature.

Check out this video to see Display Names in action:


 

Because we need to ensure that Display Names operates correctly, we will not enable Display Names for the entire grid immediately. Today, it will work in a few thousand regions; once we see how it performs,  we will dial that up over the next few weeks until the whole grid is enabled. If you want to try using Display Names, then head to Blake Sea and Bay City, as those areas will be enabled first.

Group Owners Can Now Control Event Scheduling

The Viewer 2.3 Beta now allows group owners to control events scheduling on group-owned land. Please read more and see our step-by-step instructions on the SL Events wiki pages.

Viewer Hints Make the Switch to Viewer 2 Easy

We understand that there’s a bit of a learning curve when you make the switch from Viewer 1.23 to Viewer 2. So, we have added helpful pop-up hints for newer users around commonly used features, such as walk and chat. These disappear when the user takes the appropriate action, or dismisses the hint, and then you’ll never see them again.

Download the Viewer 2.3 Beta today, try it out, and Twitter your thoughts using the #slviewer2 hashtag.

Helpful Links

Esbee Linden

Viewer 2 (Version 2.2.0) has been released today as the main Second Life Viewer! This is an important release for us because it marks the first big release using the Snowstorm process. A few months ago, we formed the Snowstorm Team as a dedicated Viewer team who works with the open source community and entirely in the open to make user experience improvements to the Viewer. We've been holding almost all our meetings in public, working with open source developers to integrate their work, sharing our backlog with the community, and releasing daily development Viewers which are available for anyone to download.

Over the last few months, we've improved the velocity of our teams and shortened the release cycle. The Version 2.2.0 release today comes after a three-week beta cycle during which we released Betas weekly and focused on stabilization and crash fixes on the Beta Viewer. Your feedback, crash, and bug reports during our beta cycles are crucial - so thank you to all who participated in that process.

Version 2.2.0 introduces some new features, usability enhancements, and crash fixes. Here are a few highlights:

  • Sidebar Panels can now be undocked and turned into regular floating windows: Simply click on a Sidebar Tab and drag it away from the Sidebar to undock it. You can also click the undock icon in the top right of a panel. To redock a sidebar panel, click the redock icon in the top right of the panel. Once sidebar panels are undocked, they behave like any other floating window in the Viewer.

  • Buttons on the Bottom Bar can now be reordered: In the last Viewer release, we added a few optional buttons to the Bottom Bar. In the 2.2.0 release, you can now reorder buttons on the Bottom Bar, so they’re arranged just the way you like them.

  • Right-click on your avatar and select “Sit Down” to sit anywhere: A great feature that came to the Viewer, by way of Snowglobe, allows you to right-click on yourself and select “Sit Down” from the context menu to make your avatar sit anywhere. To stand back up, just click the “Stand Up” button or right-click on yourself again and select “Stand Up” from the context menu.

  • Parcel Property Icons are now on by default: Parcel property icons indicate what users can, or can’t, do on a particular parcel. The icons can be found in the Location Bar and are now on by default. If you’d like to turn them off, you can do so by right-clicking the Location Bar and unchecking “Show Parcel Properties” from the context menu.

  • Selection Beams are working again: In Viewer 2, there was a bug that hid selection beams. This made it hard for people to see when you were building or the object you were currently editing. This has been corrected!

  • Language translations in local chat (via Google Translate API): Another great feature that came to the Viewer via Snowglobe is local chat translation. Simply click the “Translate chat” check box in the upper left hand corner of the local chat window. Language preferences can be set at the bottom of the Chat tab in the Preference window.

  • Group permissions now work in Snapshots: This corrected a bug in Snapshots which prevented you from sharing a Snapshot texture with a Group.

  • Turn off scripted particles and lights: This feature allows photographers and machinemists to turn off scripted lights by accessing the Debug Setting, “EffectScriptChatParticles” and setting it to FALSE. To turn scripted particles and lights back on, simply go to the Debug Setting window again and set “EffectScriptChatParticles” to TRUE.

  • Builders can more easily align textures across linked prims using planar mapping: This feature allows builders to align textures across faces so that several prims can look like a single prim. Simply select the faces of a set of linked prims, then open the Textures tab of the Build tool, make sure your Mapping setting is set to “Planar”, then click the checkbox labeled “Align planar faces.”

  • View profile inspectors via the Mini Map: When you hover over the little dots (people indicators) on the Mini-Map, you’ll see the familiar “i” icon pop open with a user’s name. Clicking the inspector allows you to view that user’s Mini Profile.

  • Pan the Mini-Map with shift-drag: If you hold down the <SHIFT> key and then click and drag on the Mini-map, you can now pan the map to view other areas.

As I mentioned in the blog post announcing the Version 2.2 beta, many of the features included in this release come directly from Resident contributions - via the Snowstorm process, as well as through past contributions to the Snowglobe project. Thank you to all of you who have contributed code, testing, and commentary. Please keep it up!

The Viewer 2 (Version 2.2.0) release is not a mandatory upgrade at this time, but will be the default download for the Second Life Viewer on the downloads page.

You can view the full release notes for Viewer 2 (Version 2.2.0) here.

Download Viewer 2 (Version 2.2.0)
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