Fourteen Not Out

•August 15, 2022 • Leave a Comment

Nothing much else to say. Fourteen years ago Rachael decided that I was suitable to become her collared probationer sub. a fortnight later I began my Second Life as her devoted slave. Those who understand D/s will understand the pride with which I say that. I have nothing further to add.

Actually, I lie. There will be a new Firestorm out fairly soon and unless I an very much mistaken, it will, courtesy of some hard work by both LL and TV developers, return the fun to SecondLife.

New Firestorm and an unexpected discovery

•April 18, 2022 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been running the latest Firestorm viewer, 6.5.3, for a couple of weeks (since the day of release actually) and I am happy to pronounce that it marks a considerable improvement in performance. That improvement is not down to the Firestorm developers for once but marks a step change in the render engine, developed by Linden Lab.

That said, some of the new tools that are in this release are highly instructive provided you understand how they work and that is a bit of a problem, since you do have to “read the instructions” if you want to get the best out of them. Beq Janus has been hard at work developing several new “shinies” but if I am honest they have little impact on how I set up the viewer, though I now understand WHY I use certain settings now, whereas before I reached them via pretty much trial and error!

However the great revelation to me in the functioning of the viewer (and basically my PC) came from a chance remark in the inworld Firestorn Support chat regarding the ability or otherwise of the viewer to use multithreading on both the CPU, which most knew about and occurs pretty much by default, and the graphics processor, which is NOT understood well (by me at least).

I have discovered that unless I set multithreading in the NVidia control panel, it is not set by the application (as I had assumed) and the upshot was a 25% increase in FPS in most scenes and even more of an improvement in more complex ones, such as clubs and the like, which had been a real PITA since the introduction by LL of EEP as a replacement/improvement for Windlight. That change produced the most significant performance hit since materials or Windlight itself was introduced in 2008. Water and specifically reflections in water are still vastly inferior to pre-EEP performance, but have improved a little and while there is still a LONG way to go before many will stop criticising EEP, it is at least now useable.

Whether this need to force the application to turn on threaded optimisation in the NV control panel is a peculiarity of my GTX1660Ti card or its relationship with my AMD Ryzen 9 CPU I do not know, but it has brought about a significant improvement in rendering speed and smoothness in SL (and coincidentally in BluRay DVDs when I use them.

Coupled with the viewer’s substantially improved use of its Cache files, an issue I have observed over several of the recent releases of Firestorm, the performance is now really very enjoyable, something I have not been able to say for a while.

I know there is more to come in the next few months and one must hope that the Firestorm Team gets a much needed influx of help (much greater than my inexpert musings) and the upcoming releases help return SL to its former enjoyable self.

Round and round the Mulberry Bush

•April 1, 2022 • Leave a Comment

I am beginning to feel that if you are in SecondLife for more than a few years, as I have been, you are fated to see folk come in and excitedly make the same mistakes over and over again.

While the SecondLife engine grows and changes a little over time, people, on the whole, don’t. I am currently watching a group of supposedly intelligent folk fail at what they planned to do in almost the exact same way I watched a group blow up about 5 years ago.

This has nothing to do with Ponyplay for once, but SL’s central pillar, person-to-person interaction (or should I say avatar-to-avatar).

I am writing this from the perspective of my Alt, Aishagain, aka Droid, assisting my partner in her most recent venture, both of us feeling that our thoughts and suggestions are being barely tolerated or downright ignored, by folk who appear to have left their commonsense back in RL when they logged on.

I will add to this when I have had more time to process some of my most recent interactions.

Firestorm 6.4.21 running assessment

•August 5, 2021 • Leave a Comment

So the latest FS is out and running. The First thing to say about it is that it is FAR better than either 6.4.12 or 6.4.13! Since the introduction of the sucessor to Windlight, EEP, I have found the performance of SL viewers to be poor at best and almost unusable in some circumstances. On the past two iterations of FS I have found performance in busy regions or locations with a wealth of high-resolution testures (my suggestion would be The Rubber Room Club on Sheer) to be so poor that I have had to drop my quality slider by one and sometime two notches to maintain reasonable (15+) FPS. This release is sufficiently good that I no longer need to do that. In most locations I can get 25+ FPS at 128m draw distance at high/ultra settings, in many cases over 40FPS.

There are numerous small changes to the chassis of this viewer and now there is a seperate Asset Cache setting within the settings, which appears to improve object rezzing, though even with a week or more’s use I cannot be sure.

With the changes to RLVa made in 6.4.13, this is now as good a Firestorm as I can recall and worthy of consideration by any user.

New Firestorm…with Vision spheres (sort of)

•March 22, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This past week has seen the arrival of the second new Firestorm viewer in a few weeks. Yes OK the last one was at the beginning of December last but it seemed a shorter period than it really was (Covid isolation does funny things to your sense of time). Firestorm 6.4.13 brought the biggest change to RLVa for years, Kitty Barnett’s “setsphere” code. This is not Vision Spheres and as Kitty has long insisted, it is much more than simply a vision blocker. On her Catznip Blog, Kitty sets out the function for all to see and for creators to work into their items. shows just what can be achieved by this function and Marine Kelley quickly adopted the code for her RR Blindfolds which now dispense with HUD objects for vision blocking.

It should be noted that setsphere is NOT Vision spheres and unless the items are specifically scripted to recognise the setsphere code in Firestorm’s RLVa API, you will not see anything. So far I have acquired a fully updated Deluxe Blindfold (thankyou Marine Kelley for this) all RR Blindfolds can be updated to this format now and if you wish to experience the new RLVa you WILL need to update your restraints. I can report that the new code works flawlessly but as much due to the new EEP code as anything else, you DO need a reasonably powerful GPU, since the render code used is fairly demanding.

On that point I must make it clear; EEP is here to stay and much like the change to Windlight render code back in 2008, it will make some GPUs especially integrated ones struggle. This was obvious when Firestorm adopted EEP rendering with their Public Beta 6.4.5, which was NOT well received. Firestorm 6.4.12, the “full release” version was better, but not by much. The current version, 6.4.13, is a considerable improvement, incorporating revised code from LL and some fixes from the FS developers, but it still puts much more load on the rendering engine and hence the GPU capability of a user’s computer. That will improve in time, EEP is not yet a finished function, even after 3 years of development, 2 of which have seen it in general use!

My overall verdict is that for many this is a superb viewer, but Firestorm is by no menas the all conquering operation that it once was: other viewers do many of the things that Firestorm does at least as well, but I do not think that there is a better “all round” viewer. Being a long-time Firestormer, maybe I am biassed but I find this viewer does everything I want it to do really well and the addition of this new RLVa code has filled the one niche that I felt was lacking. It is an abiding pity that there is now such apathy within the Firestorm project for the RLVa aspect (it is NOT all about BDSM for heaven’s sake!), but withall that, this is a great advance for those prepared to upgrade.

There is and will be for some time a great wailing and gnashing of teeth about the merits and demerits of EEP vs Windlight (I for one think it is utterly unneccessary) but it is here to stay and we had better get used to it. I think I have already.

The Luck Ran Out

•December 13, 2020 • Leave a Comment

This week we were expecting, and received, another slew of rolling restarts as part of the final push (or so Oz Linden had said) to get SL totally into the cloud.

The Rolls on Monday and Wednesday appeared to go to plan, but then it became clear that there was a problem updating EEP settings on all regions. It seemed that the second update to the servers had introduced either a bug or a regression and EEP function was corrupted.

The solution was a set of back-end and server-side changes necessitating a further roll to all sims on Friday.

All well and good except….. the rolls did not occur when they were supposed to though nearly all sims were rolled in due course. I say nearly all because my home region (and several others at the least since there must have been other regions on that server) did not get the updated software version and as a result EEP still could not be customised. However that was not all! The “back-end” changes had caused a communications glitch for scripts that needed to communicate with external servers. That issue was quickly and efficiently dealt with and the weekend began.

However , when I contacted SL support regarding the missed regions, I was astonished to find that the support operative had no idea what to do about it and eventually told me that I (and the other region owners, I assume) would have to wait for the next round of rolling restarts before my region could be put on the fixed server version! It not transpires that LL, at the weekend at least, cannot effect rolls and thus correct errors!

I was offered a region restart, but since that would not change the server version, it was irrelevant. So as of now I await developments, but I suspect this is not going to be performed any time very soon.

A shame, it had all been going so smoothly until this week and now the uplift, as far as I am concerned, has crashed and burned.

One aspect of this bothers me: just how much control does LL actually have on these uplifted AWS servers and are we now dependant upon AWS techs to perform rolls? That seens to be an unreasonable penalty to pay for the presumable saving in running costs.

ETA Jan12th 20201: Just to clarify all the above, I was told later that week by Mazidox Linden that indeed some regions had been deliberately NOT rolled to give them a comparison for the new code rolled to most regions, though there was no explanation WHY they decided to do such a thing. Subsequently it became clear to users that all was not quite as it seemed and LL were not inclined to explain their actions.

Over the period between then and now a few more restarts have occurred, the last one on Friday last between 10am and 2pm SLT (brilliant timing, one of the peak periods for events for European users) was simply to re-roll identical code but since the same code could not be rolled twice (why?) it was renumbered. No explanation has been forthcoming as to why such an action was needed and no performance issues seem to have come as a result, but while LL have trumpeted the end of the uplift, they tell us that some systems are still not working due to code chages being necessary. One casualty of this is the World Map, which still is non-functional to a large extent. This has made sailing long distances a greater lottery than ever, though I have been told that the Gulf of Jeogeot is now mapped and good for sailing!

EEP! A New Firestorm!

•December 11, 2020 • Leave a Comment

The new full-release EEP-equipped Firestorm Viewer was unveiled during the night (in my timezone) of 9-10th December. It contains all the usual upgrades and brings it pretty close to parity with the current release LL viewer. Oh by the way, EEP = Environment Enchancement Project…well it was a project once, about 2 years ago!

The BIG THING about this release was the EEP code which totally changes the way our environment is presented and altered. It is the biggest change since the introduction of materials to the Windlight rendering system, and frankly it is the biggest change to the way we “see” SL since the introduction of Windlight to SL some 12 years ago.

EEP is not universally liked by users and this release by Firestorm has not met with universal praise from its users. This is a shame because in its highly revised and improved form as it is in both FS and the “official” viewer, it is quite an advance.

Together with the substantial changes made to the render pathway ( nicknamed “Love Me Render” by LL…[why DO they do this, its cringeworthy]) your SL is going to look far better than it has done to date. For one thing, you are now allowed to use a great deal more texture memory if your GPU has it and the upshot of that is much finer detail on nearly all items and most noticeably materials equipped mesh clothing.

EEP skies and water are radically changed….the stars are back to their correct size and they twinkle! Day length and type is now customisable (though I haven’t played with that yet). Some folk are ranting about the loss of their favourite windlight settings and whether ot not this will be a significant issue remains to be seen.

Some older and more basic hardware will struggle with this new system just as older hardware struggled with Windlight back in 2008-9 (mine did and I had to upgrade my graphics card in the end to make it useable).

This is a “first look” and I will post more in due course but the transition so far has been relatively painless and the plus points are significant. There are the now expected bug fixes and feature refinements in this version and so far I have noticed no new bugs apart from a couple of odd rendering issues with non-projector lights (which are very old now) and flexiprim or alpha channel containing surfaces, which are also very old (a bit like me, I guess). Nothing is perfect but as a way into the realms of EEP, this is a good effort by the capable and hard-working Firestorm Development team.

An Uplifting Experience

•November 13, 2020 • Leave a Comment

The cuurent work of LL to “uplift” all SL functions to the Amazon Web Services cloud servers has raised so much dust that it has been hard to see where we were going. However as of this week my home on SL’s Main Server made it into the cloud and since nearly all the other server-related functions are already there I was hoping for a significant improvement in performance.

I was NOT disappointed. There was no change to client frame-rate, which was something a lot of folk seemed to be expecting (why I cannot understand since frame rate and rendering lag are entirely down to one’s own computer, its graphics processor and one’s connection speed to SL). What I am seeing so far is a slight reduction in ping and rock steady time dilation at 0.999. Object and texture rezzing seems much quicker and while some folk say that scripts are occupying more server time than was the case at the datacentre, I must be honest and say I am not seeing it.
Scripts are running better even though % scripts run per frame has not changed.

I was hearing of troublesome region border crossings on Blake Sea but I have not observed this in the past few days…maybe that BUG has been squashed! There are one of two new ones, as one might expect but none affects me in my day-to-day SL. Profiles (individual and group) load slowly at first but do load consistently, so I can live with that for now. Teleports for me have been fine, with only a few failures, scripted object property changes seem fine as do all editing funtions that I have used, so for now I am happy with the result of LL’s hard work.

Fingers crossed, this stage of the uplift seems to be going better than nearly everyone had expected and the whole operation should be completed well before Christmas. With all the restrictions placed upon our First Lives, it is nice to know that our Second Lives seem to be running well again!

ETA Sat Nov 21st:

Linden Lab completed the Uplift of SL’s simulators to the cloud this week, just two regions have been left on datacentre servers for debugging purposes (they are essentially sandboxes with quite short return times). The uplift appears so far to have gone without any further major hitches, the small number of bugs found are now to be tracked down and squashed, according to LL sources.

Just when you thought it was safe to…….

•June 15, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Go sailing. First trip NW of the Blake Sea we had a pleasant trip on my partner’s Catamaran, no real issues at sim crossings. Same evening, crossing into a populated but not overstuffed region (same area NW of Blake)…BOOM! At the crossing the boat vanished though we were still sat on something….skittered across one region out of control, then a second…tried to stand and neither of us could. Finally at the next border we were unceremoniously dumped on the seabed. Tried to TP out…SL said no. three tries later I gave up and logged out. Tried to relog…SL said no, the logging out process was still ongoing, please try in a few minutes. I did. Five times over the next 10 minutes. Clearly that region was not letting go of my avatar. So I changed my login to Home, tried again …SL said the region was STILL logging me out!!

Finally, after ten more attempts I got logged in at home. It took my partner a further ten minutes to get home the same way. LL Support had no idea why it would take so long but reminded me that using the Firestorm viewer was probably the reason. I was polite but begged to disagree.

So…after over a year and umpteen “improvements” to region hand offs we are still at square one….I shudder to think how it will go when the servers are virtualized in the cloud. And, guess what? We have both rather “gone off” sailing for now!

Edit to add on 22nd July:
From recent comments on the Technology Blog, folk who have bravely gone sailing on LL’s cloud-based recreation of Blake Sea on Aditi (the Beta grid) seem to be having very mixed experiences. One thing seems clear on the cloud there are no half-measures, either the crossing works well or the object, be it boat, plane or whatever vanishes and you end up unceremoniously dumped on the ocean floor. Apparently another crossing failure mode results in you banging your virual head on the region border as though a glass wall had been errected arount the region. The information I take away for this is that there is a lot more to do!

Further edit Sept 9th:
Following some extensive research on the BetaGrid Aditi connected to the much anticipated move of Server functions to the cloud, for once LL sought the involvement of residents and as a result of some very positive feedback, LL introduced some new region-crossing code to Agni…and it worked! Region crossings were vastly improved and at last sailing was not a pursuit that required large amounts of luck if you were to complete a race or even a pleasure trip! This continued until the last Roll, to Server Version 547626, which contained a fix for an outstanding Server script bug detailed in SL-13785. LL believed it addressed a significant issue when crossing between regions with scripted objects(craft) they proudly announced: “SL-13785 improves some instances where vehicles would stop responding to control inputs after a region crossing. We don’t believe we’ve fixed all instances of this issue yet, but this patch should offer some relief for the issue.”
Sadly it didn’t. In fact it almost completely ruined region crossings! Sufficiently so for some very pointed comment to be made on the SL Server Forum. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted! This week there is a hiatus due to Labor Day and the anniversary of 9/11. so we must wait and see if anything is rolled to the RC channels next week that mitigates this FUBAR.

Going Viral – The Value of SL

•March 22, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Sorry, that is probably in bad taste but that’s me. It is interesting to see the wholly expected upkick in online numbers for SL these last couple of days…more than 10% so far. When many of us worldwide are told in no uncertain terms to “Stay at Home”, most of us do. It is clear also that a small percentage of many poulations either think they are exempt from such restrictions or (more likely in my opinion) just don’t give a monkey’s.
Over the years I have defended the facilities of SecondLife to critics of many types…now perhaps, some will see the value of our online social world. SL is not twitter, it is not WhatsApp, it is NOT Facebook, it is something altogether more immediate and intimate. For some of us who, thanks to various forms of physical disfunction, have come to rely on SL for our interractions and social life, that folk are now realising the value of SL comes as an “oh at last you get the point” moment.
In SL we must never forget that our social world (no it is NOT a game, games are competitive and have defined goals) is maintained and operated by RL folk who, we must hope, can keep the lights on while remaining safe themselves.
I look forward to seeing some of those who deliberately or inadvertently read this inworld soon.