Buyer Beware

Before I continue here I want to point out that this post is my personal opinion, nothing more and nothing less.

I have a complaint about some creators of content in Second Life. Far too many of them do not consider what their creations look like with graphics settings other than what they use. I’ve seen many items in SL that only look good with one particular combination of settings. With any other settings they look like crap. Now I do understand that that is their choice, they create the items that many of us cannot, but it still bugs me.

That said I have a more serious complaint about certain creators. (you’re about to see why I  put the disclaimer at the top of this rant)

Some of these people may be very talented, but some either don’t have a clue about the effects of their recommendations, or they just don’t care as long as they get your money. Many recommend setting LOD above 4, or antialiasing to 12 or more. Then there are those that tell you to raise the  “MeshMaxConcurrentRequests” debug setting. Even worse is a recommendation to enable  “Full Res Textures”. This last one will crash probably 90% of the users in SL quite  quickly. This sort of thing has been a pet peeve of mine for some time, so why the rant now?

I had a user IM me for help today and they told me about some recommendations being made by TMP (The Mesh Project) and I snapped. The fact that they recommended setting antialiasing to 12 (which doesn’t exist, 2,4,8 and 16 are the choices) was bad enough as you need a pretty good computer to do so without taking a big hit in performance was bad enough, but no they went even further. They suggested enabling full res textures as well. For those of you not aware of what that setting does here is the short explanation. That setting will make ALL textures res at their full resolution regardless of how far away they are, thus loading far more textures than you actually need, which often overloads your memory. So not only will you take a large hit in performance but will also cause you to crash.

So for the 5000 L$ this user spent they also got recommendations and suggestions that will cause them lower performance and result in a crash. Oh and then there is the HUD they have that causes texture thrashing.

For those of you who are interested here are a few links that may help you understand why I am actually taking the time to do this rant. Take the time to read everything on the linked pages, and pass the information on to your favorite  creators folks. Maybe they will listen.

LL Jira

Community Forum

Firestorm Wiki

Questions, Chat lag and perceived rudeness

We get complaints about moderators in the support groups being rude all the time. Sometimes they are rude, it happens. That is not to say it is right, but it is proof that we are human. However a lot of time what you may perceive as rudeness isn’t and I am going to give you a couple of examples.

Quite often a moderator will say something along the lines of “please post your problem, comment, question in ONE (1) post, being as clear and concise as possible.”  or, “chat can be laggy, there is no reason to keep saying you have a question. Just post your question in ONE concise post.”.  I can see how someone who is frustrated might think that is rude, but it is not. Chat lag in groups is rampant and indiscriminate, it affects pretty much everyone at one time or another. I think we all know how frustrating it is to post a question and get “The message sent to Firestorm Support English is still being processed.If the message does not appear in the next few minutes, it may have been dropped by the server.” and have to type it all over again. As an aside I personally have started copying any longish (for me) post before I hit enter, that way it is a simple paste to post again if the message gets dropped. Also worth mentioning is that hitting Ctrl-Up arrow will get the previous text back into the text line. If you post a problem in multiple lines chatlag will often mix the order of the posts up making it hard, if not impossible to understand, let alone follow. Thus the advice, “please post your problem, comment, question in ONE (1) post, being as clear and concise as possible.” is  just plain sensible.

Another common complaint is that we talk down to users. a great example of this is when asking if you are sure you’ve done a clean install. many people see that as rude considering they said they did a clean install. To you I would ask if you have watched group chat after a release and seen users say “there’s more than one folder?” I cannot tell you the number of times I personally have had users say that to me. We attempt to talk as simply as possible so that everyone “gets it”. As the English group lead Lette Ponnier said in one of her blog posts “Our responsibility is to keep mental note of what topics we’re asked to explain over and over and over again and to adjust our approach to them if we have to. That process is continuous — we’ve all been doing it since we joined the team, and we’ll continue doing it while talking to you.” (  If you see that as being rude then I am sorry but that will never change. I could give lots more examples of this type of thing but my fingers are ready to go on strike already and I do have more to say.

We also get told/asked to help in IMs. In some cases we do just that. However  when questions get asked and answered in the group everyone gets to learn the answers which is (in my opinion) the ideal way to do things. For those who want one on one help I recommend coming out to one of our free classes where we do an open Q&A after the class (and who knows you may learn something you didn’t know). At that time you can ask anything. If you are on the latest release there is a link to the class schedule in the help menu, otherwise see the start page on the wiki where you will find a link to the schedule.

Lastly I would like to ask you this. How would you like to answer pretty much the same questions repeatedly, not just day after day but also many times a day in some cases. Especially when you know that a lot of the questions could be avoided if the individuals asking them were to go to some of the free classes the team holds pretty much every day. Go ahead tell me that would not frustrate you and I will tell you to help out in the support chat for hours a day, day after day for exactly the same pay as the moderators get, which by the way is nothing but thanks from the users as we have a rule that we cannot accept L$ for anything we do for the team.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, even if you disagree.

Should you look into the mirror?

The Firestorm team had a fourth birthday party recently that included a live performance and some free gifts. This should be a good thing right? Well we’ve done these parties for a few years and every time we get complaints from both content creators and live performers that they were excluded. I have decided that to address these complaints, so here it comes.

To those of you who feel left out or slighted, thinking that we as a team are showing favoritism. Starting with the content creators. We did not ask any of the creators to make the gifts that were/are given out, they volunteered to create these gifts and give them out for free. So if you’re one of those feeling left out it is simply because you did not offer to do it, NOT because you were not asked. If you want to complain to someone that you were not included stand in front of a mirror and complain all you want. As for the live performers the story is basically the same. If you’d like to do a live performance for free we may be interested, simply contact us and we’ll see what we can work out. If however all you want to do is complain that so and so is getting preferential treatment find yourself a mirror because quite frankly I am not interested in listening to any whining.

Sane settings for SL

SANE SETTINGS

So you went out and spent a gazillion dollars on a brand spanking new supercomputer for Second Life. You installed Firestorm, maxed out all your preferences (because your new computer can obviously handle it), then found you were having problems. Maybe it should be able to handle SL fine, but a lot of so-called “gaming computers” are not powerful enough for SL.

Why not?

    Bandwidth

This is one very misunderstood setting in the viewer. Lette Ponnier came up with a great story that help explain bandwidth.

You are given a funnel, some bottles and a big barrel of beer (feel free to substitute the beverage of your choice). Your goal is to get the beer into the bottles. If you pour too fast the beer will foam up, overflow the funnel’s speed, splash and spill out, thus wasting the beer. Pour slowly however and you’ll get every last drop into the bottles. Okay so substitution time here. The bottle is your viewer, the funnel your networking hardware, and the beer is the bandwidth data. Hopefully that makes bandwidth (at least as we’re talking about here) a little clearer.

People seem to think that setting the bandwidth higher is better. While for some this is true, we have found that most people actually get better results with a lower maximum bandwidth setting.

There are several things that are not affected by the Firestorm bandwidth setting (which is actually a throttle) in the viewer. Voice, media and music streams for example do not respect that setting since they are delivered to you outside of Firestorm. Thus if you have your bandwidth set too high for your particular setup you may have issues with any or all three of those as well as other weirdness because Firestorm may be taking up too much of your bandwidth’s actual capacity.

    Graphics settings

Everything you see has to be drawn by your graphics card. When there is too much to draw, and your computer cannot keep up, you experience client-side lag.

People often ask what are the best graphics settings to use. There is no one answer for a couple reasons. One, the “best” setting depends on your hardware and two,the better you make SL look, the slower (worse performance) it will be. What matters is what works best for you. If you are a photographer for portraits, speed of rendering might not be important… whereas if you want to do dancing at busy clubs, the quality of the image is likely less important than avoiding lagging.

That said, no matter what you are doing in SL, there are some things that will cause a bigger performance hit than others. Shadows are a good example of this. While they look very cool, rendering shadows take up a lot of resources on your computer. Those with  high end computers will see less of an impact than those on mid range or low end machines, but they will still take a hit.

A 64m draw distance covers a sphere with a volume of 1098066 cubic m.

A 128m draw distance covers a sphere with a volume of 8784529 cubic m So doubling your draw distance actually renders 8 times the area!

There is another way to look at this as well. A  draw distance of 1024 m (which is four times more than the default when set to ultra) will (depending where you are on a region) allow you to “see” at least part of 64 regions or more. Imagine all the objects that your computer is having to draw for you (and why would you need to do that to your computer?)

Learn to adapt your settings to the environment you find yourself in, you will have fewer issues and more fun.

   Cache

Generally your cache should be set to as large a size as possible, based on the free space on your hard drive. You should not clear your cache unless you need a clean install of Firestorm, you are having texture errors or inventory issues that cannot be resolved by other means. It is also recommended that you learn to clear it manually so that if it is an inventory issue you can clear just that portion of the cache.

    How your settings (as well as what you wear) affect SL

Back to why your brand new supercomputer has not resolved all your SL issues:

There is a correlation between draw distance and bandwidth when you login. The higher your draw distance, the more information you have to get from the region. This uses more bandwidth both server side and client side. Thus having a lower DD on login can reduce the number of issues you may experience. The same applies to a slightly lesser extent on a teleport.

Most people are aware that wearing lots of scripted objects will cause lag that affects everyone on the region. However most people do not know that avatar movement is actually the number one cause of lag on a region in most cases. Avatar movement is considered more important than scripts running. Thus if the “Physics” lag gets too high, scripts will simply stop running.

This is not to say that scripts are not important.

The fact is: different places in SL have different setups as well as problems. An overly “scripted” region will have issues with just a few avatars and a region with very few scripts but lots of moving avatars are two different things. Both will have their own issues.

My advice to everyone is start with your settings low, move them up gradually and see what works best for you… adapt your settings to the situation you are in.

 

Is Firestorm the right viewer for you?

Maybe, maybe not, that depends on you, your computer, and what you do in Second Life.

If you are new to Second Life and a touch overwhelmed by all it has to offer then you would probably only feel more overwhelmed using Firestorm.
In this case I’d tell you to take your time, get used to Second Life on Linden Lab’s official viewer and once you are comfortable then decide if you want more from your viewer.

If your particular setup (by that I mean hardware and software) does not run Firestorm reasonably well, then again maybe not.
Some computers hardware do not “like” the default settings, sorry but there is no one size fits all. If you are willing to play around with the viewer settings most people can have a “relatively” trouble free Experience. Yes software that you have installed and use on your computer can cause problems as well.

If you don’t trust people who are willing to provide you a viewer and support for free then once again, Firestorm may not be for you.
The Phoenix Firestorm team is made up of volunteers that do not recieve any monetary compensation for what we do. None of our developers QA or support team members get paid for what we do. Our code is publicly available for anyone to download, compile and check. We make a point of being open about what we do, and if we make a mistake (yes it happens, we are human) we own up to it.

If you want a simple viewer and do not want a lot of options as well as free support and inworld classes about the viewer then it may not be.
Firestorm is not a simple viewer. It is in fact one of, if not the most complicated available for Second Life. That is the price you pay for a viewer that gives you as many options as Firestorm does, and yes there are a lot of them. Want simple? Linden Lab’s official viewer is about as basic as it gets.

Still reading? In that case maybe Firestorm is the viewer for you. The only way you will know is by trying it.
We are happy to help you figure out what the preferences do. There are many ways to learn what the preferences do. There is our Wiki which you can access on the web as well as through the viewer (either through the help menu or the question marks you will find at the top right in most windows in Firestorm. There are our inworld support groups (in nine different languages) as well as our free classes.
We hold open question and answer sessions after our classes and at other times as well.
Help is available on the troubleshooting page on our Wiki if you have issues. There are also the inworld support groups and our Jira if you cannot find the answer on our Wiki.

So,,, is Firestorm the right viewer for you? Only you can answer that question. All I can tell you is that for some the answer is yes, for others it is no.
Linden Lab says “Your World. Your Imagination”
I say “Your viewer, your choice”

Lette Ponnier has written a companion piece that you may also want to read

Regarding complaints about Firestorm and its support

We get a fair number of people complaining in our inworld support groups about Firestorm. Some people seem to think that this means that their problems are because of the viewer. In some cases people complain from frustration and while we can understand that, it does not help and disrupts the chat which can cause people to not get answers. However some seem to only want to complain rather than get help. To anyone who fits in the latter category I have one thing to say. No one is forced to use Firestorm. You have  other viewers available to you, not only Linden Lab’s official viewer but any of the other TPVs (Third Party Viewers) and I wish you all the best while using them.

If you’re still reading this now perhaps you would really like some help rather than just want to complain. If so then please read on.

Others complain about the support that they receive, on our JIRA, our Wiki and in our official support groups inworld. Let’s talk about the JIRA first. We often get a backlog, especially right after we have a release,  in there and it may take time to get your issue looked at. Sorry to be so blunt about it but that’s just the way it is. In some cases it takes time for us to figure out just what is going on in your case, and there are some cases where we never can. Differences in computer hardware, operating systems as well as other applications that you have installed that may interfere with the viewer can cause this. Then there are those that complain that the Wiki is too complicated and hard to understand. To you I say come out to some of our inworld classes, we go through a large number of the preferences, menus and features explaining what they mean and do. There is an open question and answer session after our classes when you can ask questions, we will do the best we can to help you  understand things and in some cases we can even help you out with issues you may be having. Incidentally we also have some video tutorials up on YouTube, you can find a link to them on the Wiki or in the content menu in the viewer.

That brings us to our support groups. Chat lag is alive and well as anyone who is a regular in there should know. Add people who only want to complain into the mix and it can get very frustrating, for the support team as well as the users asking for help. Please do not come in and do nothing but complain, all that does is make things worse for everyone. State your question as clearly as you can in a single post and watch for suggestions or questions that may help us figure things out and come up with an answer. If you really want a simple way to look for solutions try the troubleshooting page on our Wiki. Common problems that we see, and a few not so common ones as well, are almost always on that page. You can access this page through the help menu at the top of your screen, just click on Troubleshooting. If neither the wiki or the group  can help you out I’d suggest dropping by to one of our classes. You might learn something there that helps, and if not ask after the class. Our teachers will do the best they can to try come up with a solution

One more thing I want to point out is this. All of the people on the team do what we do for free. No one from the team makes any money from our work either making, testing or supporting the users. We all do this because we want to improve peoples experience in Second Life. If you simply want to complain do it some place else and let us help those who really want help.