An experimental release of the popular V1-based Singularity Viewer was made today – version 1.6.0 (0). According to the blog post accompanying the release, it has been four months in development, and most of the changes are under-the-hood, with the team acknowledging they still have a lot of work to do in some areas. However – the exciting news for Singularity user (and for those who prefer using V1-style Viewers as a whole) is that the release includes mesh rendering.
Currently the release is only available for Windows users – and requires systems running SSE2. Work is underway on a release for Linux, which is listed as “It’ll be here soon!”. However, Mac users may have a longer wait in store, as the download page states: “There are serious bugs affecting OS X in current codebase and also present in Linden V3 codebase. So far there is no known solution“.
So, how does this Windows release look and handle?
Installation and First Run
Given this is an experimental release, it is recommended that previous versions of Singularity are removed prior to installing 1.6.0. (0), or that you install it in an entirely separate folder hierarchy. I opted for the second option, and following the download and scan of the regularly sized .EXE file (22Mb), installed the new release into a folder I called “Singularity-Mesh”.
Starting the Viewer brought with it a surprise: up popped the “new” V3 login screen from LL with the Destination Guide, etc. This is the first time I’ve seen this login screen appear in a V1-based Viewer and as such, the Singularity team deserve double kudos; both for being the first, and for actively using the screen. It’s a massively useful feature for both old and new SL users – particularly when you want to get to a noted event fast (as I’ve done myself several times even if it has meant using V3 in preference to Firestorm).
Singularity uses the “new” LL login screen
Once logged-in, you’re presented with the familiar (or in my case nowadays – not so familiar!) V1 UI in Singularity’s stylish charcoal grey / black. Don’t expect any obvious updates or changes here in terms of menu options and Preferences options; again, as the release notes state, most of the changes with this release are under-the-hood.
However, one change that is obvious (for those that use it) is with the Grid Manager (accessed via the login screen or via PREFERNCES -> GRIDS). In most V1 Viewers including older versions of Singularity, opening the Grid Manager would display the full information relating to the grid you are / will be logged-in to (below left).
Grid Manager changes: old (left) and new (right) – but no GET GRID INFO button
With Singularity 1.6.0. (0), a cleaner, summary page is displayed (above right). To access detailed information for a specific grid, one needs to lick on the ADVANCED tab, near the top of the floater.
This is regarded as an experimental Grid Manager, which includes megaregion support for OpenSim. However, it is missing a critical element: there is no GET GRID INFO button in either the ADD or the AdVANCED tabs. Thus, there is currently no way to fetch information relating to a grid (login page URI, etc.) on the basis of the grid name and URL. Instead, all additional information has to be manually typed-in (assuming you have it to hand).
This is something of a major oversight for those of us who do jump between grids – particularly given the button was present on earlier Singularity releases. Hopefully it will be back in an update.
However, it is mesh that will be tweaking most people’s interest, and in this area, the Viewer is flawless in its ability to render mesh objects. A nice touch is that “Prim Equivalence” and “PE” have been abandoned in the Edit menu floater when viewing mesh objects, and replaced with a simple “Cost”. This should cause less confusion for users who still get caught between “Prims” and “Prim Equivalency” and also allow the Viewer code to easily be tweaked to read “Impact” once LL’s “Land Impact” approach becomes widely adopted.
There is no mesh upload tool at present, but apparently work on an uploader for V1 Viewers is underway on several fronts.
Other Noteworthy Bits
As those familiar with Singularity know, it includes much of the functionality found within Phoenix and other V1 TPVs. Radar, client-side AO, media filters, quick preferences, command line support (“/dd” for draw distance, etc), some shield options, and so on, so I’m not going to delve into these. However, a few things are worthy of note in terms of the “haves” and “have nots”:
- RLVais updated to the latest release. When using the Viewer, remember:
- RLVa is turned on by default in Singularity, so there’s not need to go hunting for a Preferences or menu option to enable it, and no need to then log out / log back in
- To disable RLVa, enable the ADVANCED menu, then click on RESTRAINEDLOVE API. A message will be displayed informing you RLVa will be disabled following a restart. Use the same procedure to re-enable
- There is no support for MOAP, multiple clothing layers and region Windlight settings, but these are being worked on
- Other updates include:
- Renderer updated to move from mixed-pipeline to shader-only pipeline on capable hardware, analogous to V3
- Editor support for more LSL/OSSL functions
- Additional Windlight presets
- A texture fetch and bake bug fix
- Improvements to the notecard editor
- V3-style media browser
Overall, performance good, although obviously slightly down on the non-mesh version. On my usual test machine (Q6600 quad-core Intel at 2.4Ghz, Windows 7 32-bit with all service packs, 3Gb RAM, nVidia GE9800 GT with 1Gb RAM), Singularity 1.6.0 (0) clocked an average of 23-25fps on a sim with 4 others, compared with 36-38 fps on 1.5.10 (2) – graphics set to ULTRA on both as usual, and Draw distance set to 256m.
Enabling shadows did, unsurprisingly, cause a huge fall-off in FPS – down to an average of 4-5fps. I also had issues with some mesh objects which had Shininess enabled rendering as plain white objects with shadows active; something I’ve not encountered with other Viewers.
Overall, the new release performed very well, and easily matched anything other mesh-enabled V1 Viewers could achieve.
Singularity 1.6.0 (0) and Other Grids
As mentioned above, the experimental Grid Manager floater has an issue in that it lacks a GET GRID INFO button. However, once you’ve set-up accessing another grid, Singularity 1.6.0 (0) seems to work as smoothly as Imprudence. I skipped around InWorldz quite happily with in and dipped a toe into a couple of OpenSim grids without mishap. Frame rates in InWorldz matched those for Second Life, although the Viewer suffered the same issue I’ve had with others in relation to InWorldz – crashing on attempting to log out (this happens for me with Imprudence on InWorldz as well).
A long-awaited and tidy update. Feature changes may appear small – but getting mesh rendering active is no trivial matter, and there are apparently in excess of 68,000 new lines of code within this release to enable it and take care of the other under-the-hood fixes and updates!
The release should go down well with Singularity users, the “experimental” tags not withstanding. Given Singularity also includes much that makes Phoenix popular it could prove to be a viable alternative for Phoenix users who want to get to see mesh now, but who don’t yet wish to make the jump to Firestorm or a V3 TPV.