Tuesday, September 02, 2008

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Dynamic Shadows Get An Open Source Viewer


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."

Shadow_2 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." 

Top two screenshots by Kean Kelly from her Flickr stream, second from Kirstenlee's blog.


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Tateru Nino

*headscratch* Doesn't that viewer distribution violate the license - or am I mistaken...

It seems to be shipping with components that require a commercial license is all..


Your Quite correct Tateru , to supply the viewer to any other grid besides secondlife requires me to remove the fonts and replace them with opensourced font's, also i cant use LL version of the J2c KDU decompressor so i have to use my own. For trademarks i replace the LL hand with my own icons. For other closed source elements i have to register as a developer with those elements of the viewer that require it like quicktime. And to satisfy GPL i supply the entire build and modified sources at the Download site where i supply the viewer. Thankfully most of the closed source elements like KDU,FMOD are quite ok as long as i dont supply the viewer for finacial gain.

Robustus Hax

Ive tried Kirstens viewer (which, thanks for putting that together btw) and I have a pretty good computer but found right now its really only good for taking static photos. Moving around or taking any meaningful moving movie footage seemed pretty much impossible to me.

Tateru Nino

I thought the voice component was another problematic one. Not that I'm complaining, I'm more curious than anything.

vint falken

Just my two (experience cents):

With the new RC client, I can stay in SL for about 30 minutes and then it's - over - for me, my system almost asking for a reboot. And that's with graphic settings on 'medium'.

Kirstens Viewer runs longer and more smooth, even with shadows rendering on & graphics settings to max (including a 500 meters draw distance). It lasted for 2 hours without crashing.

As for now, I know which one I'll be on most of the time. :D


Actually The Voice component is the least troublesome as it will only work when connected to the SL grid,so theres no problem packing the required Voice components as outside of SL they are completly inoperative which is why they are availaible when downloading the source code :)

Tateru Nino

I understand that slvoice.exe is inoperable except when connected to the SL grid - but as far as I recall, the license does not allow any third party to redistribute the binary. I couldn't send it to you, for example, nor could I send you any file containing it.


Just a snippet from the license file contained within the kirstenviewer, its not an issue to redistribute as long as the viewer maker remebers to include the license file but its well worth mentioning Tateru, useful info for any viewer builders :)

* The Vovida Software License, Version 1.0
* Copyright (c) 2000 Vovida Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.
* Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
* modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions
* are met:
* 1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
* notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
* 2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright
* notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in
* the documentation and/or other materials provided with the
* distribution.

Tateru Nino

Hurrah! Somehow I got the notion that there were additional restrictions. I'm really glad to see that's not the case.

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