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Friday, April 11, 2008

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Melissa Yeuxdoux

"[Windlight] cannot be disabled, only tuned down with a single performance slider (gone are all the settings of the old graphics tab)."

I presume the writer of this sentence hasn't bothered to click on the "Custom" checkbox on graphics settings,which will give him or her lots of knobs to twist.

Katharine Berry

Ticking this box would also reveal that you can indeed disable the atmospheric shaders by intocking the appropriate box.

This makes for an article based on a major factual error. My low-end laptop runs 1.19.1 better than older versions (with WindLight disabled)

Meghamora Woodward

Even with all the settings tweaked and turned down to the lowest level, with everything unchecked in the Custom settings, and with Windlight supposedly "disabled", the new viewer does not work with some systems that were previously able to run SL without difficulty.

Case in point: 1.19.1 is functionally unusable on my MacBook, with a giant black triangle flickering on the left side of my screen, frame rates dramatically reduced, and frequent crashing. Now, granted, the MacBook is not an officially supported system due to the Intel integrated graphics. But it's hardly an uncommon system, especially in the world of academia - I saw quite a few of them at the Metaverse U conference, as a matter of fact.

For now, 1.19.0(4) is still working just fine. But it's missing current features that have nothing to do with Windlight. Eventually, I assume it will no longer be supported, and many people who were able to use Second Life before will be shut out - but is that necessary?

I wonder how difficult it would be for LL to continue to offer alternate viewers that function without Windlight? While I'm in a position to get a new system if I absolutely have to, I know very well that most students wouldn't have that luxury on a ramen-noodle budget. I also know of at least one professor currently teaching in SL who will be between a rock and a hard place if forced to update the viewer any time soon.

Windlight is beautiful, from the screenshots I've seen... but I personally believe SL has much more to offer aside from just "ooh! shiny!", especially in terms of educational usage. It'd be a shame to cut off those who have seen that potential.

Laetizia Coronet

In Preferences, click the Custom button for the graphics settings, indeed. I run on a three year old bog standard laptop and it works. It's no picnic but it does run.
Of course people are bound to fall by the wayside - that's the price of innovation. If the educators would rather have us all on Win 3.0 with beautiful monochrome text screens, I think they'll run into some stiff opposition.
That said, it may be a good idea for the Dells and IBMs and HPs of this world to make 'outdated' (=one year old) computers available cheaply for educational institutions. But that's up to them.

Velouria Infinity

Agrees w/ Katharine.

The new engine is indeed much faster and customization is just a click away. Perhaps Torley may post a guided tour that is specific to this matter an emphasize it through the community.

My business partner runs WindLight on a 1.6G, 256MB ATI PowerBook and has never been happier. If nothing else working closely w/ Apple as they have on the OpenGL issues shows astounding progresses.

Aleister Kronos

While I think Windlight is a great leap forward, it is also true that it places significant strains on your kit and perhaps as importantly in an edu setting, can lead to inconsistent UI experience. The absence - thus far - of sim-based Windlight environment settings is a nuisance in this regard.

I know you can tweak down settings - but at what point does this become all-but-unusable? There is some deuced clever tech, but it has its limits. Incidentally, I'm pretty sure Torley did cover tweaking/optimising settings on Windlight when it was first made available all those months ago.

While I've been a committed Windlight user since it became available in First Look, I have always felt it should be an alternative to, not a replacement for, the "classic" viewer.

Daman Tenk

Just download Nicholaz viewer BE-v.

Begone Windlight! Hello stability!

Deryck Hodge (Anders Falworth in SL)

Like Katherine and others are saying, this just isn't factually correct. The current viewer with Atmospheric Shaders unchecked is just like the previous viewer. In fact, there are additional sliders that should allow you to dial down and run on slower/older hardware.

When people say "windlight won't run on my hardware" it seems it might be more accurate to say "the default settings windlight tried to run with won't run." This, too, is a problem, i.e. Windlight is mis-configuring for certain platforms, but it's not at all accurate to say that Windlight won't run on hardware that the previous viewer would. In fact, Windlight should run on a wider range of hardware.

CronoCloud Creeggan

Old laptop here, single core mobile celeron, i852/855 graphics. It'll run SL, barely. My first viewer was a 1.10 series, which would crash if I looked at it funny or tried to run anything else, even Notepad. Each successor viewer has been mostly better, except for the 1.13 Release of Satan. The laptop currently runs the 1.20 Windlight enabled RC build. I don't get the atmosphere effects but I do get the lighting effects which is handy for a fashionista. I have my settings turned up for "pretty", but do turn them down, depending. It doesn't have much effect on frame rates though. My frame rates actually seem better in 1.20 than any other viewer.

Funny thing is, I tried one of the First Look Windlights and I didn't get any of the windlight lighting features, so avoided it, until another fashionista convinced me to try it again.

The worst thing about the newest RC viewer is #@$%@#$ Dazzle! My vision is not so good and Dazzle makes it much harder to read. I told one of the onRez folks that their Dazzle style viewer needed what we Linux folks would call an "-rv" option. "-rv" puts a terminal window in reverse video mode. I've installed that customization pack which makes it much better.

Ann Otoole

I have dubbed the dazzle viewer the "baffled" viewer. I don't know how they managed to call it a release candidate. They obviously never bothered to unit test most of the functionality.

At any rate... Skinning is now possible. Maybe I'll see if i can make one. Maybe someone will beat me to it.

You can scale back the graphics effects but overall the performance is worse. Judging from the lynch mob after pastrami linden at his office hours I would have to say his efforts are not well received by many. Here this guy is part of a team that got "acquired" last year yet he is in charge of the viewer for a system him and his team have no long term relationship with nor do they have any sense of the community of sl? Well he does now after that office hour. Time will tell if he adopts the position of lofty arrogance others around that place hold or if he adopts a much needed concern for consumer satisfaction.

From the strategic perspective, the people that make this thing we love seldom, if ever, do any research with the customers before making a decision. Hopefully a new CEO can help with that. Hopefully the new CEO will make sure his industrious employees are required to spend a significant amount of time in world on a daily basis and that there is never a team lead that does not have a long history with sl from the position of having been a business owner in sl for a very long time.

Pastrami Linden

As the project manager for WindLight at Linden, I second a lot of what people are writing here- the WindLight viewer IN NO WAY MAKES CARDS OBSOLETE- by going into the Graphics Tab in Preferences, under Edit, you can put the slider at LOW and you will have an experience that is 99% likely to be faster than previous viewers- and this LOW is NOT the same as LOW before. Then, if you click on the Custom box, you can turn on features one by one. EVERYTHING is there, including WindLight (under "Atmospheric Shaders"). I repeat- THIS NEW CODE DOES NOT HINDER OLDER CARDS. You can choose to turn on the new features- but you can also turn them off.

Jayden Emmons

In testing the new client for the computers in my department at school, (most of which are Dells with Intel 945G chipsets, so they'll run SL, but are not technically supported), I noticed that in many cases, the 1.19.0 viewer showed better frame rates (up to 10 fps better!) than the 1.19.1 viewer for us (even when the 1.19.1 viewer was set to the rock-bottom graphics settings that it recommended for itself).

There was a lot of variation though, and I noticed that with the new viewer, in some cases my frame rate went down (drastically) as I walked towards the center of our island, but went back up as I walked towards the edges. Since my render distance was set to the bare minimum, I think this may have been because of the overhead of trying to calculate what the viewer needed to render in front of me at any given time (since the number of objects between me and the edge of the sim dropped off dramatically when I moved outward).

Now that we've deployed it, though, our users are telling us it works fine, but I understand better now when people say the old client works better for them.

By the way, while we can still run some of the new features of Windlight (hooray for avatar imposters!), we do not have the option of running any of the new shaders with our graphics cards, so we don't get atmospheric shading or reflections. (Those options are grayed out; couldn't check them if we wanted to.) Fine for getting around, but I wonder how it will affect our design team, since they won't be seeing things the same way that other people do.

qarl

James - i heartily encourage you update this article to correct its major factual errors.

the current viewer, when all the new shiny features are disabled, runs BETTER than the old one.

now, there are a small number of situations (hardware configurations, etc.) where it runs worse - and we're trying to track them down. but literally 95% of our efforts here are absorbed by trying to correct misinformation (like is in this article.)

Hamlet Au

Qarl, I'm reporting what some SL educators are saying-- for various reasons, the WindLight version is difficult for them to use. Even if they're not aware of some customization options for older computers, it still remains true that those options aren't immediately obvious in the new viewer. Then there's the larger point, which I discussed on this blog when WindLight came out: a balkanization of experience based on what computer users can afford. Educators generally don't have the budget to upgrade, so their choices becomes learning to cope with a markedly downgraded version of SL... or looking for an alternative.

Speaking of which, Qarl, Pastrami-- can you offer a Linden perspective on Nicholaz quitting the open source effort in the belief the Lindens aren't supporting it enough? Be happy to add that in an update as well.

Karl Breda

Each SL Resident's system is different. Some old pcs or macs seem to cope fine with windlight viewer and others with mid-range setups experience peculiar triangles, frequent crashes, bizarre bugs et al.
The "low" setting is Not as low as a custom setting with draw distance at minimum of 64 and particle effects reduced. Draw is the best/easiest way to reduce lag.
But most residents i know don't realize they have to open custom and move sliders down.
I tried the lowest of low on everything but it still would not improve my frame rate. I used to have max frames at the low settings but now I can't get over 10.
We need an optional, stable, low level viewer for Sl'ers who can't handle the strain this version puts on their systems.

qarl

again let me be clear: there is no "marked downgrade" in an absolute sense to the new viewer. if you return the settings to their pre-windlight values - the performance *should* remain the same. (honestly, it should be better, due to the various improvements.) now, as i said before, there are a small number of cases (perhaps Karl Breda above is among them) that have worse performance with the new viewer - we consider that a "bug" and are actively working to correct it.

if by "marked downgrade" you mean in the relative sense (i.e. everyone else can see pretty skys now but i can't because i have an old computer) - i don't know what to tell you. anytime i purchase a RL car, within a year it becomes downgraded in this same way (next year's cars have airbags and whatnot.) it's not something i blame on the car manufacturer. do you propose we stop making improvements?

regarding Nicholaz (although i don't see how it's relevant to this discussion) i've been in personal contact with him. a group of us at LL realize we've done a poor job here and are beginning a new initiative next quarter to provide much improved support for our open-source community.

Opensource Obscure

I'd like to point out that you don't really a uber-gamer, super-powered computer to have a nice SL experience.

With laptop computers this won't work, but on desktop systems, if you choose the right hardware, you can buy spare components for a few money (<100 US$) and have a huge improvement in performances.
I suggest more RAM and a SL-well-supported graphic card.

Pay attention to drivers you're using, look for unofficial, better-performing drivers and give them a try; if your graphic card ships a configuration - management application, you may want to use it to tweak card settings.

I recommend checking 'Custom' checkbox and tweaking every setting to get the best match between performances and graphic quality. Have a look to viewer FPS rate (View menu > Show Statistics Bar). Do this in the places you usually hang in, and repeat it at different times.

On both my two elder computers, Windlight clients (at low settings) have better performances than the previous client (at low settings).

Ravenelle Zugzwang

Educators need to get real about their unrealistic expectations of Second Life
http://consortium.typepad.com/ravenelle/2008/04/educators-need.html

QueenKellee Kuu

I'm sorry, but I have to say this is, yet again, another case of Chicken Little.

I'm getting pretty tired of the same-old-same-old Windlight is killing my computer, they're leaving people behind blah blah. The technical facts are stated better by the Pros in the above comments (Pastrami and qarl).

Plus, they have stated over and over and over (so much I'm tired of hearing it) that LL will continue to support an older version of the viewer for some time.

Everyone's gotten so EMOTIONAL about Windlight...so much so they have lost all sight of facts, or seeking out answers.

Why is this a blog post that seems to only spread misinformation* and not a blog post about how the correct information helped some teachers who thought they were FUBAR'd?

(first stop for them: Torley's great video tutorial telling about the graphics settings)

*because, and all due respect Hamlet, the updates don't do enough to underscore that quite a few "facts" of the story are absolutely NOT correct.

Hamlet Au

The central fact remains: at least some educators, as reflected in the Pacrim post, the blog that pointed me to it, some of the Commentators above, are frustrated with the WindLight version of SL. Simply pointing to the technical tweaks that they didn't know about (in part because they're not clearly listed in the UI) doesn't fully address that frustration, it seems to me.

On an experiential level, I'm not sure I buy Qarl's new car analogy. Second Life is more like a highway system, and individual users' computers are the cars. WindLight is like a shiny new superfreeway added to the system-- that only BMWs and other expensive cars are fast enough to drive on. People who can't afford to get a new car are bound to feel left behind, and even if they can still use the old highway system, they're also likely to wonder how long the city is gonna keep supporting it.

Qarl, thanks for the info, will update accordingly.

John Branch

In case this discussion hasn't petered out, I've got a question: how does SL's platform dependence compare with that in other virtual online worlds and RPGs? I'm thinking of places such as EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes, and (the biggest, I think) World of Warcraft. Having checked in now and then with a friend who for some years was into gaming on a Windows platform (and who recently gave that up, opting to use a Mac for computing and an Xbox for gaming), I know that at least some of those worlds expect high-end systems. In other words, I think Linden Labs is trying something that some of the other companies aren't: to make their product accessible to a broader range of users. Clearly, that opens them up to a broader range of expectations, not to mention complaints.

I for one don't have any gripes at the moment. Until last night I did, because earlier versions of the viewer were prone to freeze my MacBook Pro, and when they weren't freezing they weren't performing that well. V1.19.1 of the viewer was such an improvement that it changed my whole weekend mood for the better.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

I have a class of 24 students in-world this semester on a variety of machines (about 75% XP or Vista systems, 25% Macs).

We have found that other barriers are worse than those posed by the client...such as the culture of SL itself, which can make it miserable for noobs.

As one German student put it:

"As the grid becomes more developed and grows older, more and more people are excluded from SL. New users don’t have the Lindens, the patience, the experience, or the knowledge to navigate the world....When I first heard about SL, I was excited to be a part of a virtual world in which anything was possible. . . .But my dreams never came true in the metaverse."

On the technical end of things, the slowness of SL over our campus' wireless network, which is how most students now wish to connect. And we are a wealthy school with top-notch connectivity. When on a cable, things work better but lately LL's many database problems are messing with the students' explorations.

I don't play online games, but my gamers seem to like SL much better than a prior group did in 2007. Gamers are also the most likely to gripe about lag...so, yeah, we have pretty sunsets and water now, but at what cost?

I will tell my next group to try alternate clients for my next class. Onrez seems to work pretty well for me.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

I'll add, in reference to one of Opensource Obscure's points, that for an increasing number of college students, laptops (and they are not ten-year old ones :) ARE their primary system...LL should consider that in its plans for new clients.

Moreover, many campus labs, even with the newest PC or Mac desktops, are "imaged" once per semester. That means that IT staff who use SL themselves will not install it on campus machines for classes b/c within three weeks they'd have to re-do the image. Few campuses have enough support to do that. In my classes, I kept the latest clients .zip and .dmg files available on a network drive for kids to use in class--we had to install them every time since the disk image is reset with each reboot.

Torley's tips have been most helpful, btw. I run SL on an Intel-CPU Mac laptop just fine--smokin' in fact with the Dazzle Release Candidate. Frequency of crashes have dropped appreciably from causes on my end...

Still, that pesky LL database creaks and groans at 60K concurrency "sum'fin rite feerce, like an 80-year-old feller on hunnymoon wif a 20-year-old bride," as my Hillbilly avatar-friend Pappy Enoch might put it.

Seems to me that the issues on the LL lab side of things, rather than in our clients or video-cards, will do more to hurt educational investment in SL.

Suzanne Aurilio

First I'd like to thank everyone for this exchange. I benefited greatly, primarily because I found out that I need to do some Preferences tweaking to get my performance up to snuff again. Phew, I don't need to get a new computer afterall.

As for the concerns educators share, they're all valid points but missing the ferry on some counts. VEs are not mature technologies at all, to have expectations that they function as such (i.e. are reliable, accessible, usable out of the box, etc.) leaves one open to the risks and pitfalls some folks have described.

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