Saturday, February 02, 2008

From to and back again to

Oops... someone at Linden Lab is more confused than us poor residents.

Late Friday, when logging in to Second Life, I was presented with the nice image that was available. Strangely, Linden Lab's blog did not make any announcement. I downloaded it and tried it out — I'm always afraid about future releases of the SL viewer that may make my poor one-year-old iMac run incredibly slow and like to know in advance if I'm running "obsolete" hardware, like with the WindLight viewers — and so I was intrigued because of the lack of information on this one.

The first thing that captured my attention was the immensely long list of new bug fixes! Tateru Nino was clever enough to make a copy of the release notes. It includes a record number of them, and this boded well. Lots of fixes are related to adding voice support for Linux and to fix several compile bugs. Several are of the class "obscure, but annoying".

Logging in was a new experience — nothing on the release notes said as much, but has the same new interface than the Mono Beta viewer. Nicer icons, and a different arrangement of the troublesome "Communicate" box (it'll take some time to get used to the Release Keys button on the far left) which is now much more conveniently smaller and wasting less space on the screen. I like the cool icons (if you never saw them before, try the Mono Beta viewer) although I have some doubts on the layout/arrangement... but one thing that was re-enabled again was the ability to load the XML for the UI, so I guess some people will tweak that again.

I was also expecting that included WindLight on the Release Candidate series, which would make some sense. In spite of its incredible lack of performance on the Mac/ATI combination (you have basically to turn everything off to get as much performance as on the regular series of SL viewers), Linden Lab announced that WindLight was soon going to be integrated in the RC, as Havok and Mono enter their "alpha" stage of development. Alas, it seems that will be still a non-WindLight release; we'll have to wait for 1.20.X I guess.

Friday was also the day when two major submarine cables connecting Europe and Asia went down, and with the traffic re-routing, I was not too surprised with the sudden lack of performance on But then again... what was going on? On a region where I usually have 10-12 FPS with the RC or regular viewer, I was getting 4-5 as an average, dropping often to 2.4, sometimes jumping to 10. I thought it was the connection so I asked my roomie what the performance was on her PC — she was at a rock-solid 10 FPS on the same region. Hmm. Well, I'm on wireless, although the antenna is less than half a metre away, so that might have been a temporary interference... even if I just had 0% packet loss.

After an hour or so... FPS jumped suddenly to 30, or even slightly more, and I was not doing anything! I couldn't believe my eyes, so I turned the camera a bit, saw the FPS decline as new textures were loaded, but it crawled back to 30 again. Wow, now that was impressive! And as suddenly, it went down to 2-5 again for a minute or so. Then back to 30 for another minute. And back to 2... and so on. Very, very annoying.

I had to attend a meeting at that time and was actually quite unusually tired, so I did not make more tests with Something was going on, and I was willing to investigate, using different sims, trying a few settings out, tweaking Preferences... alas, big mistake: when finally on Saturday I logged in back again, Linden Lab had just announced that this was a premature launch by mistake. Aww!

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