The shadows of Second Life refuse to remain hidden, for the community's most talented hackers insist on bringing them out. What you're looking at is Kean Kelly standing in the shade created by the latest version of Shadowdraft, an open source version of the SL viewer from KirstenLee Cinquetti. The Linden code for displaying dynamic shadows in-world has been available for months, but there's no word when it'll be incorporated into the official release candidate. Programmer KirstenLee plunged ahead to integrate it into her "Kirsten Viewer", which many in SL are already using.
"As you're probably aware," Ms. Cinquetti tells me, "Shadowdraft is a branch of code that concentrates on the power of the modern GPUs but isn't getting the fanfare because of its hefty hardware requirements. It's wayyyy far away from stable. Compiling it into a meaningful viewer is not too much trouble, I have a dev system which very closely matches the Linden Lab systems, and a fast prototyping setup."
Cinquetti (seen here in the Shadowdraft version of Second Life's Welcome Area, in the black bodysuit), says her viewer is about as stable as the official version of Second Life. "It's no worse than some release candidates," she says, "but is very very dependent on hardware and drivers. Frame rates on good hardware range from 10 to 25 FRPS depending on location and many other factors."
The instructions for downloading and trying out Kirsten's viewer are, unfortunately, require heavy ninja. (And like all experimental open source projects, user beware.) I recommend this step-by-step tutorial from Ms. Vint Falken.
"I have a bit of a history of producing sneaky peeks," KirstenLee Cinquetti tells me, explaining her motivation. "Also I don't have the constraints of Linden Lab, so I can be a bit more maverick with compiler optimizations and patching/hacks to get very experimental code working. Besides," she adds with a grin, "generally speaking my standard type viewers tend to work better than the official stuff and that's my motivation-- showing people what the Labs have in store for us mere mortals."