Sane settings for SL


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?


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.


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.



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