Category Archives: News

Lab updates on viewer changes and CDN

secondlifeThe Lab has issued a blog post outlining some of the current improvements being made to Second Life.

Regular readers of my weekly SL project updates will already be familiar with the work referenced in the blog post, which focus on the changes being made to the viewer’s log-in screen, the removal of the viewer’s reliance on the GPU table when initially setting graphics preferences, the ongoing deployment of support for using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for texture and mesh fetching, and an announcement of the upcoming HTTP pipelining viewer, which should offer some significant improvements in people’s SL experience, as well as including further adjustments to leverage the CDN.

Commenting on the new benchmark viewer, which will eliminate the need for the GPU table, the Lab’s blog post states:

This is a new way of figuring out the best default graphics settings. Maybe this has happened to you: you got an awesome new graphics card, fired up SL… only to discover your graphics settings are set to Low, and can’t be changed? No more! This Viewer does away with the old GPU table and instead uses a quick benchmark measurement to detect your GPU to assign appropriate default graphics settings on startup. The settings on shiny powerful hardware should really let that hardware shine. Get a Project Benchmark Viewer today and help us gather metrics!  Please file bugs in JIRA if you find them.

The new log-in viewer is currently the only release candidate viewer sitting in the viewer release channel. As such, it is liable to be promoted to the de facto release viewer in the near future – probably in week 41 (week commencing Monday October 6th), assuming the statistics for it haven’t shown up any issues.

As the Lab’s blog-post indicates, this viewer is being introduced as a result of several months of A/B testing with the current viewer log-in screen. This testing appears to show that new user retention is some 3-5% better when incoming users are presented with the updated viewer’s log-in / splash screens than when compared with those for the current version.

For those interested in finding out how the new viewer differs from the current version, I have an overview of the new version already posted.

The log-in / splash screen in the login RC viewer seen by users who have previously logged-in to SL

The log-in / splash screen in the login RC viewer seen by users who have previously logged-in to SL

A point to note with the log-in screen changes is that they do not impact the widgets, etc., used by TPVs. Therefore, these changes shouldn’t force those TPVs using their own log-in splash screens to replace them with the Lab’s updates.

The final two aspects of the Lab’s blog post are the deployment of the CDN, which is currently for texture and mesh fetching, and which I’ve also extensively documented through my week SL project updates. At the time of writing, the CDN is available in ten regions across the main grid: Denby, Hippo Hollow, Hippotropolis, Testsylvania, Brasil Rio, Brocade, Fluffy, Freedom City, Rocket City or Whippersnapper. However, more regions will be added as time goes on.

There is no requirement for any special viewer in order to get an idea of the faster downloading of textures and meshes users should witness on entering any of these regions (there may be some rare instances where things are a little slower if you happen to reside closer to one of the Lab’s data centres than to your local CDN node, but these instances are likely to be very rare). However, once the CDN service is available across the grid, it may see a final viewer-side update as a part of final fine-tuning, and well as potentially being extended to include the delivery of other viewer-consumable assets.

The HTTP work, which has been ongoing for the last couple of years and very much a focus of Monty Linden’s work, is something I’ve also reported upon through my weekly SL project updates. This should have some general improvements on performance, both with texture and mesh downloads through the CDN, and with other HTTP-specific SL services. This viewer code is allegedly so fast, the Lab refer to it internally as the “weaponized viewer”.

The benefit of the CDN and the HTTP viewer code – which TPVs are being encouraged to adopt as quickly as their merge / test / release cycles allow – is summed-up in the closing comments on the Lab’s post:

Separately, each of these will improve texture and mesh loading performance, but put together, you should really see some exciting improvements in how long it takes to load new areas and objects – making touring the many fabulous places in Second Life you have not yet visited even better!

Those who have been independently testing both the CDN and the pipelining viewer (in a pre-project viewer release state) have been reporting that results with either / both are impressive. Check Shug Maitland’s comment on this blog, for example, after she tried the CDN regions with a current viewer.

Lab issues Skill Gaming Policy enforcement notice

secondlifeMonday September 1st saw the Skill Gaming policy come into effect. However, as the application process has apparently been slow-going, those who had submitted an application to become Operators and / or Creators of Skill Games were permitted to continue to operate as such, even if they had not received formal approval on their application from the Lab.

However, on Monday September 29th, the Lab issued a further updated on Skill Gaming, stating that as from Saturday November 1st, enforcement of the updated Skill Gaming Policy will come into effect – and will include anyone with an application currently pending with the Lab.

The blog post reads in full:

On September 1, 2014, the updated Skill Gaming Policy for Second Life went into effect. As a reminder, this policy allows for skill gaming activity in Second Life, but establishes that only approved Creators may make skill games with L$ payouts, only approved Operators may run them, and they may only be run on designated Skill Gaming Regions, where access is restricted to those who meet certain qualifications.

As our FAQs explained, applicants to the program who submitted their applications prior to the September 1 deadline have been permitted to continue their skill gaming activity while their applications are reviewed.

Beginning November 1, 2014, the enforcement of our Policy will apply to all Residents, including those with pending Skill Gaming applications that await Linden Lab review and approval. As of that date, any objects or regions found in violation of our Policy will be taken down. We strongly encourage all applicants to submit any outstanding materials for our review as soon as possible so that their applications may be processed before the deadline.

From the start, we’ve seen strong interest from Residents seeking to become approved skill gaming Creators and Operators. You can find the current list of approved participants here, and we’ll continue to review applications as quickly as possible to expand that list. If you would like to apply to become an approved skill gaming Creator or Operator, you can do so here.

The third paragraph is key to this announcement, as it suggests that the delay in processing applications may be as much down to a failure to supply required information to the Lab as with any internal delays in processing applications on the Lab’s part.

Therefore, if you have submitted a request to the Lab and have not received approval, now might be a good time to check to see whether you have missed any requests from the Lab to supply additional or missing information, or to touch base with them to ascertain the current status of your application.

In the unlikely case that anyone has been attempting to continue to operate or create games of skill without having made a suitable application, or who has been delaying submitting an application,  now might also be the time to do so. Please refer to the EchoSign application form.

A small aside in to this is that while the Lab indicates “strong interest” from people wishing to become approved Creators and / or Operators, there have been no updates to the list of Skill Gaming Approved Participants, which is linked-to in the Lab’s blog post, the only operators and games having been listed on August 21st. It will be interesting to see if this announcement yields further additions to the list.

In the meantime, you can keep abreast of the Skill Gaming Policy changes through the links below.

Related Links

USMP’s Introduction to Second Life 2nd Edition

In April, I followed the Lab’s lead in reporting on a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) designed to help Spanish-speaking educators in the use of Second Life as a starting point in their interaction with emerging and innovative environments that can be used for education.

Professor Max Ugaz, UMSP

Professor Max Ugaz, UMSP

Since that time, and as the Lab again reports, the course has been improved and updated, and a new session is set to start on Monday September 29th.

The course has been developed by the Universidad de San Martín de Porres (USMP), located in Santa Anita, Lima, Perú, under by the university’s Project Director of Virtual Worlds, Professor Max Ugaz.

The course will comprise three week-long modules with a total of 17 lessons and an average workload of around 5 or 6 hours per week.Details on the course, together with a registration form for interested parties, are available the university’s website, which includes an introductory video for the course (in Spanish). The course will take place at one of the USMP’s teaching areas in Second Life, commencing on Monday September 29th, as noted.

As my own Spanish is poor to non-existent, I’ve taken the liberty or reproducing the Spanish portion of the Lab’s blog post below:

l Proyecto en Mundos Virtuales de la Universidad de San Martín de Porres de Perú, inicia este 29 de setiembre la segunda edición del curso en la modalidad MOOC (Curso Masivo Abierto En línea) titulado “Introducción a Second Life para Educadores 2da. Ed.”. El curso es gratuito y está diseñado para capacitar a educadores y público en general de habla hispana en el uso del mundo virtual Second Life, a fin de ofrecer conocimiento que permita desempeñarse en este entorno y aprovechar su potencial, especialmente en el ámbito educativo.

 Si tú o alguien que tú conoces pueden beneficiarse de un curso como éste, pueden acceder al vídeo de introducción y registrarse en la página web. Inicio: 29 de Set.

Además se puede visitar la sede del curso dentro del mundo virtual desde nuestra Guía de Destinos.

Related Links

 

SL project updates: week 39/1: server, viewer, iCloud and other issues

Matoluta Sanctuary and Bay; Inara Pey, September 2014, on FlickrSunrise, Matoluta Sanctuary and Bay (Flickr) – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Open Source Dev meeting on Monday 22nd September 22nd, and the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday 23rd September.

Server Deployments Week 39

As always, please refer to the forum discussion thread for the latest updates and information.

  • There will be no scheduled deployment to the Main (SLS) channel this week.
  • On Wednesday 24th September, all three RC channel should receive a further update to the Experience Tool maintenance release deployed in week 38, which includes a fix for an issue with llGetExperienceDetails().

SL Viewer

The most recent Maintenance release viewer, version 3.7.16.294015, was promoted to the de facto release viewer on Monday 22nd September. This viewer includes fixes for inventory and outfit management; appearance editing; group & group ban management; camera controls; multi-grid support for favourites; notifications management; stability, bug and crash fixes – see the release notes for further information.

On Friday September 19th, the New Log-in Screen RC viewer reached release candidate status when 3.7.16.294345 arrvied in the release channel. This viewer brings a simple and clean login screen for new users, and a corresponding update for returning users. (download and release notes, my overview).

GPU Table Retirement

An ongoing project at the Lab is to remove the need for the GPU table within the viewer. This is currently used to set the default graphics level for a user’s graphics card, and requires constant checking and update as new GPUs and cards are produced. Recent work has seen the GPU table massively updated, with the Lab working towards an alternative strategy of determining the capabilities of a graphics system.  This is primarily done by  measuring the memory bandwidth of a card and setting the default based on that (plus a couple of other parameters.

A viewer utilising this approach is currently with LL’s QA team and should be making an appearance soon. This strategy has already shown sufficient promise that new GPUs are no longer being added to the GPU table in preparation for it to be phased out.

Other Items

iCloud Conflict

A recent update to Apple’s iCloud service aimed at users of windows system using the service has had an unexpected impact on various aspects of the SL including killing mesh uploads, snapshots (saving to inventory fails with “Error encoding snapshot”) and textures (upload fail with “Couldn’t convert the image to jpeg2000″), and UI elements can turn completely black.

Full details of the issue can be found on BUG-7343,  and the problems have been particularly noted in both the official viewer and Firestorm, and Catznip. investigations are underway by both the Lab and the Firestorm team, and one line of thinking is that it might be some DLL injection poisoning issue.

The iCloud update, which was apparently deployed over the weekend of the 20th /21st September has, at the time of writing, yet to be deployed for Mac systems. There is some speculation that it may not result in similar issues for Mac users due to the way iCloud is implemented for each OS. One potential work-around is to roll-back to an earlier version of the service’s client, making sure that any auto-update option is disabled.

Group Tags

We’re probably all aware how changing group tags can often be a cure-all for a number of problems, even when logically it should be the case. One possible explanation as to why this is the case is that changing your group tag may trigger a full update of your avatar.

However, possibly as a result of interest list changes, there is now one situation where changing your group tag is not a good idea – and that is when a scene is still loading, as doing so can cause the scene load to fail, and the only means of resuming it is to relog – see BUG-6299. So, if you arrive in a location that sends you a request to join a group you’d like to join, wait a couple of minutes in order to give the scene the chance to fully load before you do so.

This issue is known to the Lab, but a fix has yet to be determined.

llSetlinkAlpha Update Issue

This is an issue that is getting a little long in the tooth – see BUG-1786 – which sees llSetLinkAlpha failing to correctly update a percentage of prims when a large(ish) number are updated simultaneously. Weapons users are liable to be familiar with this, as it can occur in “holstering”  or “slinging” a weapon which should cause the “held” version of the weapon to turn transparent and the “slung” / “holstered” version rendered, but often results in elements of the “held” version of the weapon remaining visible.

This issue appears to be related to UDP packets being lost between the server and the viewer, with Simon Linden commenting, “I remember digging into this and it seemed like lost packets.  It’s really hard to predict when they’ll get lost, but it seems it’s not slowing down updates quite right when there’s a sudden flood.” He promised to pass the issue with LL’s product team, but wasn’t optimistic it might move higher up the “fix” chain due to the current volume of work.