25 December 2011

The game has changed

It's been quite a while since I've written a post. I've been keeping my head down working on Firestorm. But, as before, I'm annoyed to the point of feeling it's time I spoke out again.

There's been a lot of words, a lot of arguments, and a lot of hate and discontent over the Phoenix team's announcement that, with the mesh release, we have ended major development efforts on the Phoenix viewer.

Come on, people. This should be a surprise to exactly nobody.

We've been saying ever since the release of Phoenix 1185, months ago, that we were concentrating on Firestorm. We haven't changed our tune one bit, and we're not going to. The reasons haven't changed. The only thing that has changed is that we thought it wasn't going to be possible to put a mesh renderer in a version 1 codebase...and Henri Beauchamp proved us wrong.

I think Henri Beauchamp is a great guy, and an outstanding programmer. The same goes for Siana Gearz and Shyotl Kuhr of the Singularity viewer. They are clearly dedicated to keeping version 1 viewers alive, but I think they've bitten off more than they can chew, long-term.

All Second Life graphical viewers are based on one of the official Second Life viewers. Emerald 1632 was based on 1.23. Phoenix is based on Snowglobe 1.5, as are CoolVL and Singularity. Imprudence is based on Snowglobe 1.4. Firestorm is based, currently, on Second Life 3.1; we'll rebase it on 3.2 as part of the next release, most likely.

The problem here is that, as Linden Lab updates the viewer, and updates Second Life to add or change features, they're only updating one code base: the one Firestorm is built on. That means that anyone maintaining a viewer based on something else has to do a lot more work to incorporate those new changes, or else do without entirely. Since those changes often mean the difference between the viewer being able to do something critical - like load inventory from the server - and not, that means that the maintainer has to do that extra work.

Meanwhile, the Firestorm team can just import the code and update those parts of it that it's modified, a much easier task. Henri and Shyotl and Siana took the same amount of time to put mesh in their viewers as it took the Firestorm team to update from 2.5.2 to 3.1.

This problem will only get worse as time goes on, and the result can only be that the version 1-based viewers become more and more a tissue of hacks and scar tissue and duct tape and chewing gum.

Quite frankly, I've got better things to do with my time. I'm a Second Life user. Yes, I'm a viewer developer, and I've sunk an immense amount of time into the code. But the main reason I do it, as satisfying as it is to help the SL user community, is that I want a viewer that fails to suck.

Firestorm is that viewer. It will continue to be that viewer. At some point, version 1-based viewers will not be.

Make no mistake. At some point, sooner rather than later, LL will start turning off the services that version 1 viewers depend on. The version 1 search, profile, texture, and inventory interfaces all run on separate systems, with separate services behind them, and there's nothing in it for LL to provide those services forever. They soak up resources: administrator resources, power, network bandwidth, computer servers. LL has every reason in the world to want to turn them off.

Not only that, but LL wants - needs - to add function to the platform. They're not telling us about their plans. (A serious mistake; we can't adopt their new shiny if we don't know about it.) Even so, it's obvious that there's new stuff coming that will need viewer support. We have limited resources, and Henri, Siana, and Shyotl even more so. We can either dedicate those limited resources to moving with the platform and fixing those things that continue to annoy users, or else we can dedicate them to wrapping more duct tape and baling wire around the version 1 codebase.

I choose to concentrate on making the viewer fail to suck even more, rather than propping up a dying codebase.

If you use and enjoy Firestorm, great! We put an immense amount of work into it, and that's really all the thanks we need.

If you haven't tried Firestorm, all I ask is that you give it an honest evaluation. Put your (quite understandable; I share it too) loathing for the Viewer 2/3 interface aside. We've spent a year de-sucking it. Give it a good, honest try. Then, if you can't stick with it, tell us why - specifically, in detail.

If you refuse to consider using Firestorm because it's based on Viewer 2...well, quite frankly, I've got no more time for you. I'm busy making Firestorm even better, and I'm getting to the point where telling me that there's no way that Firestorm will ever be usable is nothing more to me than uninformed insulting blather. I know better. Compare Firestorm to Viewer 3.1 and you'll see just how much we've done. I can't stand Viewer 3 either. You know what? When I run Phoenix these days, it feels old and clunky.

Here it is. You'll have a choice at some point in the not too distant future. You can either switch to Viewer 3, switch to Firestorm, or get off of Second Life. You won't have the option of sticking to a version 1-based viewer.

As for us, we'll keep working on making Firestorm something you'll want to switch to when that day comes. That means we don't have resources to spend on Phoenix any more.

Phoenix was the best viewer on the grid for quite a while. Those days are past. Lead, follow, or get flattened by the stampede. Your choice.

30 May 2011

Answering the ProKook, 2 of 2: BDSM is loving and consensual, not a cult

My last post dealt with Prokofy Neva's complaints about open source software. I'll turn now to his complaints about BDSM.

He and I have crossed swords about this before, on the old SL forums (before the current "community" website, a community where you're welcome only if you toe the LL line). From what I can decipher of his argument, it comes down to a refusal to believe that BDSM can be anything but violent and exploitative.

I guess he's never heard of the bedrock principle of BDSM. It's called SSC: safe, sane, and consensual. Any activity must meet all three requirements to be considered acceptable in the BDSM world. In practice, what is safe and sane is left up to the people involved, but the point is that they're both considered necessary and those involved must agree that what they're about to do is both. Consensual is the third part of that, and it underlies everything. Without it, it's just abuse. Some folks adhere to a slightly different principle, RACK: risk-aware consensual kink. It works out the same in practice, though, and both are recognized as valid.

Those who adhere to either philosophy have a shared commitment to only doing what is agreed on in advance, and strictly respecting limits set by anyone involved on what's permissible, and making sure to take care of their partner before, during, and after. Failing to follow any or all of this will get you ostracized from the BDSM community in very short order.

Fundamentally, it comes down to a basic principle: If two adults in possession of their faculties consent, then it's none of my $DEITY->damned business - and none of Prokofy's, either - what they do.

Now, he may have a complaint when he says "um, *you* get the fuck out of the public space with your fucking *cult*." It goes back to being about consent: if you're subjecting someone else to watching you whip your slave and they didn't consent to that, then you're violating their right to consent or not.

This isn't as cut and dried as it appears. What's "public"? If I were to rez one of my pieces of bondage furniture in the middle of Help Island, lock a slave into it, strip all her clothes off, and whip her until she made a big puddle of sexual juices on the ground, it would obviously be over the line. But there are many public spaces that are explicitly BDSM-friendly. I have a public playroom full of my furniture, and the public is invited to use it all. Obviously, if you walk in there, you should expect to see the kind of activity I just described, and if you're shocked by it, it's your own fault - and you have no right to demand any recourse other than the right to turn around and teleport the hell right back out.

It doesn't have to go to that extreme, either. There are many clubs in SL, for example, that are explicitly BDSM-friendly. If you go to an event at the Rubber Room, you shouldn't be surprised to see that kind of thing going on, and you have no complaint coming when it does.

I can't tell from Prokofy's ravings whether he merely objects to BDSM outside of that kind of space, or whether he objects to it in SL, period. If the former, then he's got a legitimate complaint. If the latter, then he can kindly fuck off, for this is no different from demanding that gay men and lesbians crawl back into their closet - a demand society is rejecting more and more as the years pass.

From his comments, I suspect it's the latter. Strange that someone bellowing about freedom wants to deny others the freedom to be who they are.

Answering the ProKook, 1 of 2: No, open source isn't communist

Prokofy Neva is a deranged kook. As long as I've known of him, he's had very little to say that has made any sense whatsoever to anyone in even minimal possession of the facts, let alone advancing an informed dialogue. I know of almost nobody who gives him any credence.

He tweeted, a month or so ago,
 please point me to a prominent SL furry who is in business, making a profit, and stumping for capitalist policies in SL
My good RL friend Avril Korman, known inworld as Axi Kurmin (and no, I'm not revealing anything she doesn't publicize herself), replied:
 I can, but you wont like it. If you want to discuss Real World Politics with , go ahead. You'll be very surprised.
I rose to the bait. This led to being called a techcommunist who undermines livelihoods and promoting a dangerous cult, that of BDSM. The latest blast was no less than eight tweets, one right after the other.

I refuse to argue this topic 140 characters at a time. As anyone who's read this blog knows, I argue exhaustively, using lots of words and examples and facts, and Twitter doesn't fit my discussion style at all. Hence this post and the next: this one will deal with Prokofy's irrational hatred of open source, and the next will deal with his irrational hatred of BDSM.

I've argued before that open sourcing the viewer is nothing but good for Second Life and Linden Lab. That argument hasn't changed in the seven months since I made it; if anything, it's gotten stronger, because without it, the users of Second Life would be condemned to use a viewer they demonstrably hate. Instead, they're getting a choice, and in Firestorm, hopefully a viewer they love while still allowing Linden Lab to move the platform forward.

Prokofy's argument, insofar as I can make any sense out of it at all, is that "OS undermines business & livlihood everywhere". That argument gets made by people like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer and Larry Ellison, because open source does undermine their business and livelihood. In the wider world, however, it's demonstrably false.

The simple fact is that, were it not for open source software, I wouldn't be writing this and you wouldn't be reading it. The Internet is powered by open source software. Every last bit of the software infrastructure that makes the Internet work, from the Domain Name System to the Apache web server to the Firefox web browser to the various email servers and clients, either is only used in open source form or else was pioneered and is dominated by open source choices.

I don't know of anyone who thinks the Internet does anything other than create livelihoods and markets on an unprecedented scale.

As I've mentioned before, I'm honored to be able to count Open Source guru Eric S. Raymond as a personal friend. Not only is he an open source developer, he's also a thinker about open source itself and an evangelist for the whole idea. He was one of the founders of the Open Source Initiative and its first president.

Eric is also a libertarian who has said that communism is the greatest evil ever perpetrated. I would strongly recommend that, should you ever have the opportunity - say, at an SF con, which he and his wife Cathy frequent - you not call him a communist, software or otherwise, to his face.

There's a fundamental reason that open source isn't communist: it's entirely voluntary. Don't want to join the revolution? Don't open source your software. It really is that simple. And if you do, nobody but the rabid Stallmanites will argue with you. You see, it's about choice, something that is antithetical to communism. (The Stallmanites want to deny you the choice to buy closed source software, but I've been arguing against them for two decades.)

I chose to open source my furniture script engine for two simple reasons. First, I have long direct experience with the open source development model, and know first hand how well it works. Second, I want to improve the BDSM ecosystem in Second Life.

I know very well that open source development has many benefits, starting with Raymond's Law: "Given a sufficient number of eyes, all bugs are shallow". I've seen this in action more times than I can count. It works for countless open source projects, often attracting developers and assistance from companies that use the software in their products. I'm the manager for an open source project with about 40 developers and tens of thousands of users, and it wouldn't be where it is today if it weren't for being open source.

The second reason is no less important. I take my cue here from the OpenCollar project. They provide a free, open source collar scripting system that has been incorporated into a wide range of devices, not just collars but many other things. My furniture scripting efforts started out from an OpenCollar-provided free script. I've since totally rewritten it, but the basic idea is still valid: having the scripts be open source lets people who understand BDSM furniture design but not scripting make their ideas real - and sell them to others, if they wish. That makes the pie bigger for us all.

If open source undermined businesses, then it certainly wouldn't be used by them, let alone be the basis for corporations large and small. Just ask Red Hat or Mozilla. It's certainly not undermining mine. I choose to compete in the marketplace based on my ideas and my designs, not my script engine.

"Compete". "Marketplace". "Choose". Those are not words a communist would use, let alone embrace.

Am I undermining the market for BDSM furniture in SL? Hardly. Not only do I not sell very much to begin with - I'm not ThinkKink, by any stretch of the imagination - I've enabled others to enter it and sell things. That's an improvement, not a detriment. Even though there are plenty of free OpenCollar-based collars, there are also people selling others. Amethyst and Mars and MoDesign and Dominatech still sell plenty of control devices, and they're not complaining about OpenCollar.

How do they do it? They compete with OpenCollar. They provide better products to their customers, at least as far as their customers see things, at a price that's justifiable for that improvement. They don't try to drive OpenCollar out of existence by complaining about it. They roll up their sleeves and do it better.

So no, open source isn't communist, and it doesn't undermine business. It improves business by freeing it to compete on what really matters to customers: features and price. That's not anti-business. It's pro-business. Yes, some businesses will have to adapt - but that's true of any business anywhere, any time. A business that does not adapt to changing conditions dies. The real reason that Microsoft is so anti-open-source is simply that they cannot conceive of a way to adapt.

Prokofy is arguing the Microsoft side of history. Events are showing that that's the losing side. I wonder if his phone is Android or Windows 7?

04 May 2011

Tried fixing VWR-25479, but had a little problem...

After discussing with Arrehn Oberlander last night, I came up with a workaround for VWR-25479. Unfortunately, it didn't work as expected, because the server tries to be helpful.

I've opened SVC-6943 to address the server side of the workaround. I don't know how far it'll get, but I felt I needed to at least raise the issue and get LL's promise not to break 1.23 without an announcement on the record.

01 May 2011

LL breaks 1.23 and 1.x TPVs. Film at 11.

Linden Lab has, for the past several months, promised faithfully that they would not break Viewer 1.23, and version 1-based TPVs, until they had made a formal decision to do so.

Last week, they broke that promise.

Viewer 2 version 2.6.3 adds a neat new feature: avatar physics. The feature that gave Emerald, way back when, its biggest boost in users and vaulted it to the top of the heap is breast physics: the ability to make a female avatar's breasts bounce. There are lots of problems with the Emerald implementation, which was carried forward to Phoenix unchanged, but it's there and used. Don't believe me? Just wait till it breaks in one way or another, and see how many complaints surface in Phoenix Viewer Support.

LL implemented the feature themselves, and got it right. This is still a source of endless amusement to me. They put it in the control of the user whose avatar is being shown, and made it work right, and also made more than breasts bounce. All in all, it'a good thing. Even if I still get a giggle out of it.

The problem is that they changed the way that the avatar's description is sent to the viewer. The network message they use to do that hasn't been changed in ages. They needed to extend it to add the new physics descriptions, so the viewer can show it properly. Unfortunately, both 1.23 and Snowglobe are too picky about the contents of that message, and reject it entirely rather than simply ignore the parts they don't recognize. This is also true of every popular TPV out there, all of which are based on Snowglobe 1.5.

Honest mistake, right? Wrong.

Dan Linden's comment on the LL JIRA describing the problem, VWR-25479, is telling:

Dan Linden added a comment - 27/Apr/11 12:49 PM
This is a known incompatibility with 3rd party viewers. We are not going to commit to fixing this.
A known incompatibility? Really? Then why was it rolled out without using the communications channel specifically set up for LL to let TPV developers know of this exact kind of problem?

But it's worse than that. It affects 1.23, too - and it won't be fixed.

How does this affect 1.23 users, and those of V1-based viewers? Basically, if a user of a 2.6.3 or later viewer, or one that has had avatar physics retrofitted (such as Firestorm Preview 3, due out soon, I hope), changes their shape at all, that change won't be shown, and all other users on 1.x viewers looking at that avatar will see the system default hair base as well as any prim hair they're wearing.

Needless to say, this breaks content for the majority of users of Second Life, at least until they move to a viewer with the fix for the issue in it. We're hoping to get out a version of Phoenix that has the fix sometime this week. All current versions of Phoenix, up to and including, are affected by the change.

If you read down to Oz's reply to my comment, you'll see that LL thinks this is a bug that was fixed long ago, and that we should track LL's changes to the codebase. In general, he's right - but how do we find out about other fixes that have been in v2 from before the code was opened up, but aren't in v1? Do we read through all 800K lines of code in both versions, comparing how they both work? That's a superhuman task.

The practical effect of this is that LL has broken 1.23. TPV developers have the fix - literally, deleting 7 lines of code - and will be putting out updates very soon to account for it. 1.23 users have no such update to go to. They've got four choices:

  1. Put up with the problem.
  2. Change to Viewer 2.
  3. Change to a TPV with the fix.
  4. Get off of SL.

Which choice they'll make depends on why they're still on 1.23. If they're there because they saw no need to update, they now have one, and will move. If they're still there because they can't stand Viewer 2, then they'll either pick a TPV or else get off of SL. If they're still there because they're a casual SL user, they might update - or might simply say "screw this!" and get off of SL.

In any case, LL, for better or worse, has now decided, unofficially or otherwise, to break 1.23. They're gong to have to live with the consequences of that, and not get the benefit of having done it in a deliberate manner with plenty of warning for folks. I hope it works out for the best, but I'm not as hopeful as LL appears to be.

27 February 2011

Answering RZ users' complaints

Another member of the Phoenix Viewer Project posted a rather lengthy reply to Avril Korman's excellent column at Search Engine Watch on the RedZone war. I posted my own reply to that, and will reproduce it here just in case it's removed or edited at the RZ forum.


I'm going to wade into the lion's den here, to raise a few points. As with Srilania, these are my own personal opinions, and not those of The Phoenix Viewer Project, Inc. or any other member of the project.

Yes, I'm the nasty evil person who added Sione Lomu's media filtering patch to Phoenix, and will add it to Firestorm. I did that and will continue to improve it because your profits don't override my right to privacy. I'm not a copybotter, or a griefer, and do not engage in, condone, or support either. (Comments that I do, whether because I added the media filter patch or for some other purported reason, will be summarily ignored.)

I am a content creator and vendor myself, as well as owning a store and a play area and a private sim. I don't have these kinds of problems.

Fundamentally, I have to ask: are you using the tools already in place? Those of you getting hammered with object spam, why haven't you turned rez and object entry off? Those of you calling for unlimited ban lists, have you filed a JIRA asking for them? (And if so, what's the number? Those of us on the other side of the argument would happily lend our support.)

Don't like getting flooded with freebie alt accounts? Have you turned on the option on your land to require payment info on file? Are you on mainland? If so, WHY? Band together, get a private sim, set whatever restrictive covenant you like.

Some things just aren't possible. For example, it is simply not possible for LL to stop copybotters. Never mind blocking copybotting viewers. They're not needed. It's entirely possible to have a proxy program in between a legitimate SL viewer - even, or especially, ones supplied by Linden Lab - and SL, and have it pass things through unaltered, but save textures and object data and everything else locally so it can be used later. It is not technically possible to stop such a proxy. Don't like it? Tough. It's a limitation of the platform.

Yes, I use alts. Some are public. Some are not. The ones that are not are nobody's business but my own and those who I choose to tell. The rest of you can simply butt the heck out. I have good and sufficient reasons for this, and it's neither open for discussion nor negotiable. Quit trying to destroy my privacy, and I'll reconsider my opposition to RZ. Until then, as far as I'm concerned, it needs to be killed with fire.

I refuse to be scanned any more than I doubtlessly already have by RZ. Don't want me on your property because I refuse to be scanned? Fine. I don't want to be there anyway. Had the club not dropped RZ, I would have stopped going to one of Avril's DJ sets (she's a close RL friend, and the one responsible for getting me into SL) rather than support a RZ user.

RZ is the wrong answer to solve legitimate problems. The fundamental technology is subject to far too many false positives, and yet RZ users treat it like it's gospel. Use the tools you have, and get LL to give you better ones. Don't destroy the privacy of legitimate users to solve problems you can fix in other ways.

I'm disappointed in all of this for a more personal reason. I use and like zFire Prim Animator. Stuff it made is in one of my products. However, I can't trust it any more. I can't use or recommend something from the guy who produces RZ.

23 February 2011

Kill zFire RedZone with fire!

I'm going to repeat my usual disclaimer here, just to pre-empt the whining and screaming that would otherwise follow. This post is purely my own opinions and thoughts. It is not a statement of The Phoenix Viewer Project, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of any other member of the Phoenix team. If you want to know what some other Phoenix developer thinks about this, ask them.

The subject of zFire Xue's RedZone system has ben a hot topic around SL for the past couple of weeks. RedZone is marketed as a tool against griefers and copybotters. It works by matching the avatar's name with its IP address by feeding the viewer a URL with the information encoded it it for that purpose and having it play it as media (a movie). The information thus collected is then used to link other avatars with the same IP address to that one, as an alt of that user.

This has many problems:
  • It's inaccurate. IP addresses are not normally fixed to a specific user. Even RedZone's own data server is on a dynamically-allocated IP address. Someone else who comes along behind a user on an IP address they've inherited will be listed as an alt of that user. People who use public access IP facilities, such as hotel wireless connections, will all be listed as alts of each other.
  • It violates the laws of several European countries which prohibit logging of IP addresses and associating them with any personally identifiable information.
  • It violates sections 8.2 and 8.3 of the Second Life Terms of Service, by transmitting content that violates users' privacy and is illegal.
  • It's nobody's $DEITY->damned business who my alts are.
The last is what makes this personal for me. Yes, I have alts. If I think you need to know about them, I will tell you. If not, I will not, and you have no right to know. That is my decision and mine alone. I have what I believe are more than good and sufficient reasons for keeping it that way. Don't like it? Too damned bad.

I'm far from alone in this belief. However, I am in a position to help users do something about it and keep their privacy.

First, I am working to make Sione Lomu's media whitelist/blacklist patch available in the mainline Phoenix and Firestorm viewers. The main code is present already in Phoenix. There are some refinements that need to be made; I'm working on them as quickly as I can. When it's ready, I will push as hard as I can to get a full Phoenix release out with that protection in place.

Next, I will, purely for myself and not as a part of the Phoenix project in any way, post instructions specifically on how to block RedZone with that facility. I will also do my best to make sure that they are widely spread around SL.

Finally, I will continue to work with others to help spread the word about RedZone and see that it is removed from places that people frequent. Put simply: Anyone who uses RZ is declaring war on their users' privacy, and they should be shunned.

I really wish it hadn't come to this. But since there's a war on, I intend to help the right side win it.

Now, anyone know of a good replacement for zFire Prim Animator? It may be the best thing out there to do that job (far better than Prim Puppeteer), but it has to go. I refuse to support its maker as long as he conducts a war on privacy.

08 February 2011

Where I've been hiding

I was moved to post the last post by annoyance about FUD from a Viewer 2 partisan, trying to convince version 1-based users to switch so they wouldn't ruin others' SL experience. It took something liek that to get me motivated to write here again.

Where have I been hiding?

Mainly, I've been heads down working on Firestorm. By now, the initial preview release of Firestorm is out and available for folks to try. It's only a preview, and those who try it should keep firmly in mind there's a long way to go yet. Many of the most popular features from Phoenix, like the radar and AO, simply aren't there yet.

Nevertheless, if you want to see where we're going, check it out. To find out more, join the Phoenix-Firestorm Preview Group inworld. That's where you'll find support for it, and the notice with the notecard that has the download links and a link to Jessica Lyon's video explanation of what's in it. Please be sure to watch the video first.

Now, back to beating on the code...

Answering anti-v1 FUD

Ash Qin has been passing around the following notecard full of FUD, arguing that people shouldn't use version 1-based viewers:
Users of 1.x viewers might not be aware...
As it stands, the 1.x viewer branch currently creates more lag and issues for other Second life residents as they are more harmful to simulator resources. In the 2.x branch of Second life, textures, assets, inventory and even various detailed information are downloaded from dedicated servers for these resources.
Many 1.x viewers don’t even support these options and those that do are using outdated methods or buggy implementations that automatically fall back onto older methods. These older methods do not request the data from the dedicated servers, but instead hammer the region with requests which degrades performance of the region for everyone. The difference measured in a region between ten users using a 1.x viewer and ten using a 2.x viewer on a region can be enormous resource wise.
Additionally, a few popular 3rd party 1.x viewers use various non-standard methods where standards have been established. One example is the use of secondary attachment points, when Second life supports attaching attachments to any point multiple times without needing to readjust attachments in the 2.x branch of viewers. The non-standard attachment points are incompatible with all the different viewers out there, while we have already a proper standard for them, this stifles the Second life user experience as 1.x viewer developers are not conforming to standards.
To summarize, the 1.x viewers are introducing more lag and creating incompatibility which reduces the user experience exponentially. 
I ask that you be more considerate and not ruin other people’s Second life experience - please don't use a 1.x viewer.
Thank you for taking the time to read this,
Quite simply, Ash, you're full of prunes.

What he's referring to in the paragraphs talking about lag is HTTP GET for textures. (No code, not even Linden Lab's Viewer 2 production releases, uses HTTP fetching for inventory. Remember the inventory problems last December or so? Those were caused when LL tried turning HTTP inventory fetch on. They had to turn it back off, and viewers will need code changes to use it now. Those changes are not in 2.4 or earlier viewers.)

All currently running Phoenix releases can and will use HTTP GET for textures, just as Viewer 2 will. The ability was turned on by default in release; users still on can set it with a menu selection. (I recommend everyone upgrade to 818 anyway, for this and many other reasons.)

The argument against secondary attachment points is an old one, dating from the time Emerald introduced it - many months before LL introduced their own system. There were a few folks complaining about others using secondary attachment points because it made things look wrong to those not using advanced viewers. As it happens, Phoenix 818 (and 725, for that matter) support multi-attach, while still viewing things on the secondary points correctly. This is the best of both worlds. People who switch from 373 or earlier to 725 or later will automatically have their attachments on secondary points converted to the new system.

Ash has a comment in his profile that's telling here:
If you can't see some attachments (ie: parts of me are missing), it's because your viewer doesn't support Linden lab's standard multi attachment support.
This is just the same complaint people raised against Emerald's secondary attachments, but in reverse. The difference is that, until the release of Phoenix 725, more people could see and use secondary attachment points than multi-attach. Even now, significantly more people use Phoenix than Viewer 2 - in any incarnation.

Who sets the standard? LL tries, but the users vote with their feet. Less than a third of users currently use Viewer 2. The percentage on Phoenix is higher than that.

I firmly believe in the idea that one should not ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity. However, I do note that Ash is associated with INSILICO and has posted some blog entries and comments defending the CDS package, claimed to be a copybot defense system. Both are projects of Skills Hak, one of the three folks LL insisted leave the Emerald team - though Skills, at least, agreed to go to keep Emerald alive.

Even so, I can't help but suspect his motives in slamming V1 viewers - and especially Phoenix, the most popular viewer on the grid - are somewhat less than pure. His arguments are either simply wrong or amount to equine sadonecrobestiality.

If you're running Phoenix 818, you're not hurting the grid in any way. The choice of what viewer to use is yours and yours alone. Don't let FUD from anyone tell you any differently.

12 January 2011

It's easy to design a mall, right?

Well, maybe. It's certainly easy to design one poorly, but not so easy to do well.

One place I have a store is redoing their mall. The new one is where the sim landing point will be set, and the users will, hopefully, shop a bit before heading into the sim; the sim owner is also hoping this will reduce lag in the main sim. Okkay, fine. I can deal with that.

Unfortunately, I was asleep for the opening land rush (which happened overnight US time), and wound up with a less desirable location than the one I currently occupy, right where the teleporter drops a new arrival into the current mall. This wouldn't be quite so bad except that the design of the new mall makes only a few spaces desirable, and leaves the rest with significant handicaps.

When I open up a store, I look for one where my products can easily be seen from where a new arrival comes in. The idea is to grab their attention right off the bat. There are usually several places in a mall that qualify, and I try hard to grab one. This particular mall seemed designed to minimize those spaces, however. Here's the basic design unit of the mall:

That's me standing on the landing point, using the standard camera view from behind. It's an island pod in four quadrants, with spaces around the outside wall. Four of these units are arranged in a square. Because of the layout, though, only the one island space is clearly visible, and all of the outside spaces are at least partially obscured. There are four spaces visible straight down the lanes between the islands. One of those, however, is where the wall will be removed when the mall is expanded at some point in the future, leaving only three, plus the four inward-facing island spaces, as desirable locations. Those were, of course, all gone by the time I got there.

From this picture, it looks like there's not as much of a problem for folks not in the 7 prime locations. That's because I derendered all of the vendors visible in this picture. The reality is much worse, because no limits were initially imposed on the folks inhabiting the islands. This one isn't too bad:

(All I did was move the camera around; I didn't move myself at all.) That vendor, at least, showed some restraint. (So to speak.) The real horror is this one:

That vendor essentially blocked out one entire corner of the mall, and management let them. When I complained, the manager told me she'd impose a 5-meter height limit on shops in the islands, and a 15-meter height limit on the ones along the wall. This misses the point, to me, though. Even that kind of height limit doesn't preserve the sight lines from a user just popping in to the shops behind the islands.

I wound up here, to the left of Chorazin Creations:

The two vendors in the island in front of my shop had kept to the low height of the walls, and my sign, at least, was visible over them. I'm not entirely happy with this location, but I don't think I'm going to be able to do better. I'm stuck in that mall for a while longer, since I'd (rather stupidly, it appears) prepaid my rent at the old mall for quite a while in advance.

I'm not a designer. I leave that to my good RL and SL friend Axi Kurmin (of, among other businesses, Urban Forge Virtuatecture). But if I can see problems with this design, I'm sure she can outline many more.