Saturday, July 30, 2011

Of Second Life Viewers

"The time has come," the Walrus said,

"To talk of many things:

Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
nd why the sea is boiling hot--

And whether pigs have wings."
     The Walrus and The Carpenter, by Lewis Carrol
And perhaps of Second Life Viewers. The Lab's continual refusal to keep viewers for Apple users (and Linux users, though I don't know any) on par with viewers for Windows is very disappointing. Sure, I chose to upgrade to v2.8 despite the warning that it was not compatible with my operating system. Some of the blame for poor performance falls upon me. But I see no reason that it could not be as useable as it should have been.

So I've been using Kirsten's Viewer again (v2.7.5(8); Web). In fact, at this moment I'm in a region that is normally a wee bit laggier than most other places and I'm getting over 30 frames per second with my graphics set to Ultra. Earlier today on the official viewer I managed 10 frames per second with my graphics set to Mid. Sure, Windows users of Kirsten's are one version more advanced than the Apple users  but consider the financial and human resources behind each project. I'm walking around pretty much lag-free and with a stunning looking environment by not using a viewer built by the founders.

Like any viewer there are bits of the GUI I'm not fond of using, but there are always trade offs. Performance is the key issue. In fact, I've come to believe over the last few weeks that what The Lab needs more than introducing some really nice new avies for noobs, more than "re-branding," and more than trying to be Facebook, is increased in-world performance to save our struggling world. Being able to move smoothly, to see crisp textures instead of blurry (or worse, gray) patches, and having a delay-free chat system would increase overall satisfaction and boost hours used plus retention. The Lab should start with making the viewer process images (and all data, really) more efficiently.

Populus adveho. Populus animadverto. Populus licentia.

Here's what leads me to that conclusion: Noobs. Hard core Residents understand the lag issue and, in some ways, embrace it as part of our culture. But I meet many new users and after they get done asking for sex or money, they ask "why are things gray?" Or "why can't I move?" Unless these folks embrace the lag or at least tolerate it until they find something that keeps them in Second Life they are merely Players. People come. People see. People leave. Less lag would go a long way to retaining them as Residents.

I'm no programmer, but I've used software since I was old enough to hold a computer mouse and I know that a scalable interface is often used to improve performance. The Lab has started this, in a fashion, but providing a Basic Mode and an Advanced Mode. Keeping things simple, however, doesn't necessarily improve processing ability. Take this idea and run with it. Allow functions to be activated only as needed so that the viewer doesn't have to process bits of information needlessly. Have you noticed that your inventory "stutters" when friends sign on or off? That's the system updating the Calling Cards. So that item you were looking at in your Inventory is whisked away as the window updates and you have to scroll back to it. There must be a more efficient way to solve this problem than by turning off the notifications in Preferences.

What about exploring different ways to cache textures? Perhaps a "baking" system can be developed that would allow builders to optimize texture size for any given prim even if a very large texture is initially applied (a 128x128 pixel texture rezzes faster than a 512x512 pixel texture, though large surfaces are crisper with higher resolution textures)? What about a more efficient method of storing inventory? Are the new Web profiles as efficient as possible?

Why not take everything to the Web? Surely this could be a precursor to Second Life Anywhere (my term), the ability to visit Our World in a web browser or a mobile application. A scalable interface would allow hardware of various capabilities to access Second Life more efficiently than having one set of bloatware trying to run on all platforms.

Certainly I have more questions than answers. As I said, I am no programmer. But I am a Resident and I know how most thing work in the end. And right now things are not working very well.


SpaceCase said...

Great questions and well said! SL needs *something* to get it welcoming for new people.

sororNishi said...

apparently 16,000 people a day sign up and see how badly SL works. .... surely someone at LL has a brain?

Uccello Poultry said...

Just this morning I was at the Ahern Welcome Area and 9 out of 10 avatars were grey. One was a cloud. Similar findings at the Violet Welcome Area. Adding insult to injury, the neither the boat rezzers nor the poseballs/seats were functioning.