Changes for Second Life & possibly OpenSim viewers

Here are notes about some major changes coming in the areas of  the Second Life and 3rd Party viewers.  This will impact SL and possibly OpenSim grids in three main areas of: (1) Server Side baking; (2) Materials Project; and (3) HTTP Communications Protocol.

SL changes to Viewers: What does this mean for other viewers?  Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable (VWER) Meeting  Thursday, March 7 at 11:30am SLT VWER Roundtable Amphitheater BGSU Community (111,107,28)

——————————————————————————————–
Moderator Introductions by Chris Robinson (SL: Grizzla Pixelmaid)
——————————————————————————————–

Yes, this meeting is not about Firestorm per se, but about the upcoming changes in SL’s code, which will affect all viewers.  OK – so – today will start out a bit different because I want Jessica to have a chance to explain a few things with minimal interruptions.

——————————————–
Guest: Jessica Lyon of Firestorm
——————————————–

Not here to promote Firestorm, here to inform about upcoming linden changes to the SL service, which will impact all viewers.  So LL has been working on a number of very significant improvements to the SL service. Server side baking, Materials project, HTTP comms protocol changes and various other things. I’ll talk very briefly about these but provide links to informative blogs you can all read afterwards, which explain these changes in far more detail.

SERVER SIDE BAKING

First, Server side baking which LL is now choosing to coin Server side appearance. The term “baking” is a techy name for the process of avatar textures setting on avatars for yourself, those in your region and those in neighboring regions who render you. You have all at one point or another experienced what we call “bake fail” which is basically when your avatar appearance doesn’t get transmitted properly. There are dozens of causes for bake fail to occur mainly because the system for rendering avatar textures is extremely complicated and there are so many areas that can go wrong during the process.  So SSB is a rewrite, to simplify the process, eliminate all the extra work that gets done, so that there are less things, which can go wrong.  More info on this effort here: http://modemworld.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/avatar-baking-and-the-clock-has-started/

MATERIALS PROJECT

Being brief as I can here. Next we’ll talk about materials project.  Materials will be a really great improvement to the way textures render, effectively giving them real 3d type texture.  More info on Materials here: http://blog.nalates.net/2012/08/16/second-life-materials-system-announced/ and
http://modemworld.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/more-on-materials-processing/

HTTP COMMUNICATIONS PROTOCOL

This is the system used for transmitting data back and forth from the viewer to the LL server. From your computer, through your modem, router, ISP’s, to LL’s servers.  This is another system which is extremely complicated in design and has been problematic since Ll started using it a few years back.  Some believe (and I think I have to agree), bake fail became more prevalent when HTTP protocol started being used by LL.  So this rewrite is also instrumental in improving the user experience and the SL Service. More info on HTTP here:
http://blog.nalates.net/2013/01/06/connecting-to-second-life/

So the good news with all of these changes is that LL is listening! They are trying and they want to improve this service.  They are addressing some of the biggest issues that have plagued SL for a very long time.  Here is the catch… the reason these issues haven’t been addressed for so long is because they are very complicated issues to fix. With complexity comes trial and error, so there is a very good likely hood that all these changes, coming in all around the same time may not all happen harmoniously and bug free.

And this is where you guys are wondering what to expect over the next few months. HOPEFULLY everything will just work exactly as planned!  But I’m a realist when I can be, and with major rewrites of such fundamental code, bugs happen, it’s just the way things go.

————————————
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
————————————

[Q] Ellie Brewster: Do we know when all this is going to happen to us?

[A] Jessica Lyon: We don’t know exactly when Ellie, other than very soon. LL has already passed their original date for server side baking which was set end of Feb. Lots of issues still, lots for them still to do.

[Q] Warthog Jun: what open houses with lindens be set up? what beta groups?  which lindens will be assigned to what?

[comment] Oronoque Westland: I was not paid to type this (smile) but a BIG PLUS in using Firestorm is the online support…that is what I am counting on to get me through the changes ahead

[Q] Iggy (ignatius.onomatopoeia): *When* is the big Q, as I’m planning my final exam in SL and want a viewer that works 🙂

[A] Jessica Lyon: Ignatius, first thing we can expect to roll out will be SSB, though we don’t know when. I can relatively assure everyone that they won’t make it live on the grid until at least the most popular Third party viewers have it in a released state. Because this isn’t one of those things that if it’s screwed up people won’t notice. This will affect everyone if it is broken or if there are a lot of people on viewers that do not support it.

[Q] Sam (samlan.actor): there is a common texture fault the pink texture bug that happens on even high end graphics cards… is this going to be fixed with the new updates

[Q] James OReilly (eurominuteman.jameson): when will the dis-service phase be over… give us a ballpoint estimate

[A] Jessica Lyon: @ Euro.. we do not know when this process will stabalize, that’s as good a guess as anyones. Even LL doesn’t know when they’ll have SSB ready, or materials, or HTTP.  Just “soon” is what we have.  I’m going to guess by my experience to expect maybe 3-4 months before things really get back to normal. That I hope is a worst-case guess.  Well, in fairness to LL, this projects are major overhauls of the backend service. Core code, to how everything works. It’s extemrely complicated stuff and I’m grateful LL has taken on the task.

[Q] Iggy (ignatius.onomatopoeia): Thank you, Jessica. Fingers crossed for May, when classes are done. LL does not understand the US education calendar.  Of course–unbaked or half-baked ruins everyone’s experience.

[A] Jessica Lyon: well in this case, their calendar is that they want it done and working well as soon as humanly possible.  But it is impossible to accurately predict how long that will take.

[comment] Ellie Brewster: I don’t understand why they don’t work out bugs in the release candidate first.

[comment] Grizzla (grizzla.pixelmaid): Yeah, it would sure be better if they wait longer to release it – work out more bugs

[comment] Oronoque Westland: @Iggy, LL does not care to understand education, much less the calendar

[A] Jessica Lyon: right, currently the bake fail issue is a pandemic, everyone has experienced it.  We all have gone through it and even today I had bake fail when I first logged in.

[Q] Zotarah Shepherd: I am worried about accessibility. It seems with every update higher end graphics and newer computers are required and more bandwidth to work properly. SL eats up my data limit fast.

[A] Jessica Lyon: Many manifestations of bake fail, sometimes you’re a cloud, sometimes your naked to others but fully dressed to yourself.  that’s awkward!

[Q] Sam (samlan.actor): there is a common texture fault the pink texture bug that happens on even high end graphics cards… is this going to be fixed with the new updates

[A] Jessica Lyon: Right, Samlan, the Pink bug. Though I like pink! I am not a supporter of the pink bug!  so, pink actually started quite a long time ago, and is often associated with ATI drivers, sometimes old drivers, sometimes cutting edge new drivers from ATI. But it does also occasionally occur on Nvidia drivers too. So I’m not laying blame on any card manufacturer. It is effectively an incompatibility between the viewer code and a particular vid card driver.  As vid cards issue new drivers, viewers need to keep up with, and test against those drivers. Sometimes that slips through the cracks as with the last release of Firestorm.

[comment] Kalanite Bluestar (kalanite.bluestar): bake fails more if http default is on if have found btw… some many of these issues seem inter-related

[comment] Ed Merryman: re the pink bug,,,, http://wiki.phoenixviewer.com/ati

[A] Jessica Lyon: It’s not that we’re blaming vid card drivers exactly, it’s like I said, an incompatibility that arises from time to time. More frequent lately.

[comment] Iggy (ignatius.onomatopoeia): btw, Jessica, thank you for supporting Mac OS. I have never updated a driver and never plan to do so.

[A] Jessica Lyon: lol, we support all three equally, as best we can Ignatius.

[Q] Sam (samlan.actor): so the material changes wont change this?

[A] Jessica Lyon: Materials project won’t change the pink issue, no.

[comment] Jessica Lyon: Now, server side baking requires everyone to be on a viewer that has the server side baking code.  which means, that whatever viewer you are on right now, this minute.. will NOT be compatible. Unless your on Singularities Alpha version with SSB.

[A] Carlos Whitefalcon: what is SSB?

[A] Jessica Lyon: I use (SSB) as a shorthand for server side baking Carlos.

[Q] Kali Pizzaro: I assume SL viewer will be ok or not?

[A] Jessica Lyon: When LL flips the switch for server side baking (SSB), and you are not on a (SSB) capable viewer, avatars will not render correctly to you and your avatar will not render correctly to others. Exactly how that will look keeps changing as the code is still developing but you can be assured it won’t be pretty.

[Q] Brielle Coronet: <–using singuarity. how do i know which one

[A] Jessica Lyon: Brielle, I understand they have an alpha available on their website but I’m not sure where exactly.

[Q] Carlos Whitefalcon: anyone know if opensim will have to go through these changes too?

[A] Jessica Lyon: Good question Carlos!  Ok, Opensim…so while the process of texturing avatars will be different server side in Second Life, Third party viewers have the option of leaving the old avatar rendering code in the viewer. Meaning when you log into SL on a given third party viewer, it will use the new code for rendering avatars. But if you log off SL and onto opensim, the viewer will use the Old code.  So while the server side code in SL will not be backwards compatible, at least Firestorm will have backwards compatibility for opensim. I have to assume some of the other third party viewers who support open sim will as well

[Q] Naring’nari (joey.aboma): Will the new viewer changes coincide with the release of the Steam viewer Jessica?  Or will Steam just be using the standard Firestorm viewer?

[comment] Iggy (ignatius.onomatopoeia): @Naring’nari, a very good Q. Would make a lot of sense

[A] Jessica Lyon: Joey, if there is any correlation between steam and these changes it would be purely coincidence I think.  We’ve made no decision about steam yet we being Firestorm.

[Q] Treacle (treacle.darlandes): What about changing from viewer to viewer, some people do that. Will that be worse than it is now? 🙂

[A] Jessica Lyon: @ Treacle, changing from viewer to viewer ‘should not’ be impacted any differently than it already is…I don’t’ think.

[Q] Grizzla (grizzla.pixelmaid): Jessica, am I correct in having heard you say that you have no idea when the new changes will come, nor what they will coincide with?

[A] Jessica Lyon: Grizzla, that’s correct. The best I can offer is the best guess we’ve been given by LL, which I might add keeps changing from week to week.  Generally, that answer is “Soon”.  We were originally told end of Febuary, obviously we’re passed that date, and from knowing a little bit about the problems they’ve been having with testing SSB, (We’ve been helping LL with this testing process as well), it’s still at least a few weeks away

[Q] James OReilly (eurominuteman.jameson): beyond the pink pixel issue, do you have an educated completion estimate for project management purposes

[A] Jessica Lyon: The underlying message about HTTP issues is that LL is aware of them now, and they are making great efforts to address them. A bit of a concern with this is that server side baking requires the user of HTTP and if the HTTP issues aren’t addressed, it’s going to complicate problems quite a bit.

[Q] Naring’nari (joey.aboma): Will there be differences in affect for different operating systems? HTTP Textures had been really hard on Mac users

[A] Jessica Lyon: @ Joey, HTTP has been a problem for a lot of people, and it isn’t necessarily operating system specific. Often times there are routers that simply do not allow enough connections for SL to operate properly. Sometimes it’s ISP’s.

[Q] Carlos Whitefalcon: Steam is a viewer?

[A] Sam (samlan.actor): its a gamining platform – like grandcentral station for gamers

[A] Naring’nari (joey.aboma): @ Carlos – Steam is Steampowered.com which is largest gaming community in world.  Linden Lab announced several months ago that they would roll out a client via steam to reach more people, but that month to release had long been passed

[Q] Carlos Whitefalcon: Before HTTP, LL used a different protocol I assume…

[A] Jessica Lyon: Carlos, yes they did. They used UDP primarily I believe.

[A] Warthog Jun: UDP and now TCP

[A] JeanClaude Vollmar: HTTP has been a problem for me because of our HTTP filter. I have to fire up a browser (IE9 for example) so that it can authenticate me. Then I can fire up a viewer in my office.

[A] Jessica Lyon: Jean, if you have systems on your end that don’t like HTTP, you are going to have to find a reliable work around for that when server side baking goes live.

[comment] Jessica Lyon: often times bake fail and many many other bugs occur when communications are interrupted between the viewer and the LL server. Network congestion can cause data to get lost, including appearance data.

[Q] Treacle (treacle.darlandes): I thought I had read a link had been made with Steam already Joey. I will have a look for it. Perhaps I am wrong.

[A] Naring’nari (joey.aboma): @ Treacle – only thing on Steam from LL so far is the Patterns game

[comment] Treacle (treacle.darlandes): that must be it Joey, thank you.

[comment] Wrenaria Antiesse: this is the only LL post I can find about the steam announcement http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Second-Life-is-Expanding-to-Steam/ba-p/1637751

[comment] Jessica Lyon: HTTP is a fast protocol, but sometimes that can be a problem in itself…it’s speed and the amount of data packaged

[comment] Warthog Jun: most modern firewalls do packet inspection and filter http packets

[comment] Iggy (ignatius.onomatopoeia): LL posted about SSB last June…nothing since I could find

[A] Jessica Lyon: no, most information about LL’s work you’ll find from SL bloggers.

[comment] Naring’nari (joey.aboma): Just wish LL would be a bit more informative about things. We all know these are complex issues, but can’t tell normally that anyone is doing anything to address them

[A] Jessica Lyon: Joey, I couldn’t agree more with you, the lack of communication benefits no one.

[comment] Jessica Lyon: Keep an eye on those two bloggers btw folks. They are well informed, speak laymens and are very informational

[comment] Grizzla (grizzla.pixelmaid): The official meeting is over, but please feel free to hang around and chat “unofficially” as long as you like!

———
LINKS
———

Server side baking, LL now coining Server side appearance: http://modemworld.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/avatar-baking-and-the-clock-has-started/

Materials project: http://blog.nalates.net/2012/08/16/second-life-materials-system-announced/ and another link http://modemworld.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/more-on-materials-processing/

HTTP communication protocol work: http://blog.nalates.net/2013/01/06/connecting-to-second-life/

Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable (VWER): http://www.vwer.org

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s