Wednesday, June 15, 2011

RLV 2.7.2 as an optional download

Hi there,

A couple days ago I have released RLV 2.7.1, with a few new features... No need to repeat them here, you can read all about them there.

I must admit, this release was a little rushed. Linden Lab had been working in their Mesh Viewer branch for more than a year (the first line of code of this branch is more than 2 years old), and had merged it with the "viewer-development" branch a few weeks ago.

Think of "branches" as full-fledged projects, usually requiring a full team of developers. On the LL side, Mesh, Windlight, Search etc are branches to the main SL viewer codebase. On the TPV side, Phoenix/Firestorm, Dolphin, Kirsten, Imprudence, RLV etc are "branches" to the main SL viewer codebase. Each branch drifting further and further off the official SL viewer as new features are added to them. Eventually, LL-side branches are bound to be merged to the main SL branch and be rendered available for download. This is how you benefit from the work of dozens of teams working on separate but complimentary projects. All these branches forming, in the end, the SL viewer.

There are two main branches : "viewer-release" and "viewer-development". The former is the one the official SL viewer is built from it is supposed to be stable because it went through all the QA testing, while the latter is more advanced (read : it has more features and more fixes, but also more bugs sometimes) and is the one I built my RLV from. It serves as a buffer and testing grounds for new features before they hit "viewer-release" and the general public.

In other words, the RLV was about to get the latest merge from the Mesh team right in the face. It was daunting. The Mesh team had been working not only on adding Mesh support to SL (the Beta grid had it live for a year now), but also on improving the visual effects dramatically. Dynamic shadows, that's them. Depth of Field, them too. Shadow smoothing, yup. Ambient Occlusion, ditto. And Mesh support, of course. They've been working hard and some of their work had been integrated into several TPVs over time (including RLV), but it was still beta.

Now that their work was about to go mainstream, I had to get the latest features into the RLV, test them and release them before taking the big leap. Because grabbing their own work to add it to the RLV was like adding Windlight and Sculpties in one move. It was bound to take some time and vacations are approaching. Hence the release of RLV 2.7.1 with those not-so-RLV enhancements.

Once the release was done, I thought I was out of the woods for a while, but I took a head-start and tried the Mesh code anyway. Just to see the damage it would do to my code. And it went... surprisingly well (thanks to Mercurial). Many things that had been annoying me for months have been fixed (small prims not rezzing, horizontal scrollbar messing the text selection, alpha-sorting not done properly, and dozens others), and more importantly it's SMOOTH ! I had received a powerful graphics card for xmas, just so I could run the dynamic shadows on my machine and had been less than impressed at the improvement... But now it's smooth even with everything on (SSAO, sun & moon with projectors, depth of field). It looks GOOOOOD ! And the Depth of Field feature, although a marginal addition, has the nice side effect of making sub-standard looking structures look, well, less sub-standards. When a building has ugly seams but stays in the background, they won't ruin your snapshots anymore. For someone as snap-happy as I am, this is a nice perk.

All this to say... I actually love this new viewer. This is what I've been awaiting for so long, and I've heard here and there that LL has been listening to their users as to what needed to be improved first. Kudos to the team for their work !

The only downside is that it crashes a lot. I don't know if it comes from the "viewer-development" codebase or my computer, but taking snapshots or sometimes even playing with the sidebar would do funny things like crash to desktop.

However LL has just released their "Dynamic Shadows Viewer" as the official SL 2.7.2 yesterday. The corresponding RLV is ready, but does crash. That's why I am releasing it at the same time, but as an optional download, leaving 2.7.1 available for now. I don't know how it will behave on your computer. I do know that it crashes more than the last on mine. But it's too good to pass on so here it is.

The Windows dowload is at the same place :

And the MD5 hash is :

Attention, aside from the crashes there is a known bug : hearing an emote on the chat will display as "/me ..." if the chat history is not shown. This is not a RLV bug.

Have fun with it and don't forget, if it crashes too much you can still go back to RLV 2.7.1.

PS : I'm hearing Henri yell at me from here "Stop mapping your RLV version to the SLV version, it confuses the hell out of my users !" I didn't do it on purpose ! This is a coincidence again !