Sunday, 29 April 2012

Latest Zen Viewer Includes Grid List/Search

Zena Juran, developer of Zen viewer, has added the grid listing function from Armin Weatherwax's Teapot viewer. Zena is maintaining the same list as Armin currently but it appears she has coded in the means by which grid owners can add their theirs. Zen is v3 based with a V1 feel to it and is gaining popularity amongst Opensim users.

I have been pushing the Imprudence team for over two years to upgrade the grid list and replace it with a searchable back-end database that grid owners can add theirs too. Armin Weatherwax took up the challenge recently and has release several versions of his Teapot viewer as he upgraded the functions.

So far good progress has been made but getting to the stage of being a searchable list may take some more time yet. In any event I welcome Zena's version in Zen. For many of us there is a strong belief that Opensim needs it's own viewer with features tailored to the open Metaverse and the grid listing and searching functions are not only very helpful in finding grids but it send a powerful message that the open Metaverse can stand on it's own without slavishly following whatever Second Life rolls out.

Download Zen here

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Teapot Test Viewer 1.5 For Opensim Release

Today Armin Weatherwax released test viewer 1.5 which is based on LL viewer 3.3 code and, although this is Armin's personal viewer, he is testing new features that squarely benefit Opensim. In particular the grid manager is being re-worked to dynamically update as new grids come on line and it is hoped eventually the list will be searchable too with some kind of filtering to pull up the grids of interest to you quickly.

Here is the list for changes, features and fixes in this release as published in Armin's release notes...

The coordinates are now shown after the region name which is a feature that will be helpful to Opensim users when deciding where to locate their sims when they connect to a larger grid like OSgrid.

Armin has added SoaS for Sim on a Stick users at the top
Show the actual grid name in the grid combo (that is the "old" one). Entries now look like "My Wonderful Grid (", so that you know where you are going to connect to. Sim On A Stick now has an entry in the grid combo. Obviously this will only work if SOAS is up and running :) the whisper/mumble voice module is rebased on mumble 1.2.3 now, which gives better voice quality (but only if all participants are using it) and even less latency. However the Linux versions may not work on any other distro than *buntu 10.04/Debian Squeeze (especially newer ones). I'm working on it (see Upcoming). In the worldmap clicking "copy slurl" on Linux now copies the slurl also to the primary selection, so you can middle-mouse-button-paste it.

Option to show region coordinates in units of regions in the world map. There is a checkbox on the bottom of the map floater to toggle it on and of. However it does't show the coordinates if they are not are not known (returned by the siminfo). Support of the gatekeeper url of the get_grid_info service of a grid. If present teleports to a different grid are performed as hypegrid jump rather than a relog. Note: This needs support on OpenSim side which is still under development, please be prepared that details may change. The UI preview now has a date column, though the formatting of the date is not ideal yet. However it already helps to find recently changed entries faster.

Huge memleak in the "About Teapot" floater, which made the viewer crash if the region doesn't have the "ServerReleaseNotesUrl" capability. The Linux 64bit viewer crashed trying to upload some meshes (e.g. the "Seymour.dae" example file of the colladadom library). Note these meshes (collada 1.5) are not supported, just the viewer doesn't crash trying to upload them.
Linden Labs TPV Policy

One particular clause in the latest TPV policy statement seems to be saying third party viewer developers must choose between working on Second Life only features or Opensim. This would probably also include grid list and further support for hypergrid and Aurora sim. In view of this, which is by no means certain yet, developers might be force to do one of perhaps three things...

1. Develop for Second Life alone.
2. Develop for Opensim alone.
3. Develop a new two-mode viewer that can switch between both so that each is masked from the other.

Whatever happens Opensim dose need features that support where it's going and the days of following what Linden Lab rolls out for Second Life are probably coming to an end. Personally, I think that might be a good thing but I can see it wont be an easy transition for a lot of people who currently enjoy switching grids on the same viewer. The mode button might turn out a good solution but it will be a lot of work no doubt and Linden Labs may still say no to it. Let's face it they are a big business with huge profits at stake and this Opensim is getting too big for its boots. They have something here they can do to stop it progressing so why wouldn't they use it?

But, ultimately, will it do them any good?

If Opensim has to have it's own viewer then the work Armin is doing on Teapot can't come a moment too soon.

Download Teapot 1.5 here

28th April 2012: UPDATE NOW AVAILABLE. Find Teapot 1.6 on link above.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Teapot Viewer: Developer Working to build New Grid List

  I was please to learn Armin Weatherwax - an Imprudence/Kokua developer - has been working on the grid list. I was given a first look at the experimental grid list functions which Armin has added to his personal Teapot viewer which is based on Second Life 3.3 viewer code. The grid list in the viewer has been replaced with a list populated from the list maintained at Hypergrid Business. Armin said, "The list is converted from the list at hypergrid business. Initially I had the plan to make it more fancy by adding thumbnail pics of the login screens and some css magic. However that's rather not my domain of coding, and the plain list as it is now is a start."

I downloaded the viewer and on the footer is a familiar drop-menu of grids and also a "New Grids" button which I clicked and a small window opened with the full grid list and a note at the top stating 141 grids were found and a warning notice "Note: some of these grids, especially smaller ones, might be not online all day, or, at all." Anyway, I proceeded to click on the grid names from the popup window and the splash screens appeared in the main window displaying each active grid in turn as usual. Some failed with a popup saying address was wrong or the site could not be found. I found a few of those so Hypergrid Business list needs updating or some of the grids were off line. However, OSgrid failed too and I knew it was online so I guess the address on HB is out of date.

It was great to have so many grids to choose from without finding and entering every one myself. I still could add to the list for personal use anyway by entering an address on the footer drop-menu. I entered the correct address for OSgrid and it came up fine but this is just a start and entering addresses wont update the database so if HB list is going to be used in the future grid owners will have to make sure they get listed on that site by contacting Maria.

The list will get longer as more grids come on line and the owners add them to the database. Eventually, the list could get so long it becomes a chore to wade through trying to find a grid of interest. In fact, if the Metaverse keeps growing the list could get impossibly long! There is also the problem that grids are listed by their name which may or may not give any indication what kind of grid it is. Some are obvious like Universities or small clubs and games but commercial grids just use an interesting name as branding like InWorldz, Kitely and Avination. But what does the name say? This is where a Search option could be developed where users can enter keywords to get a shortened list of grids that fit their search words. For example; entering "roleplay" in a search box will filter out grids that don't have roleplay. I would suggest limiting the number of keywords anyway to a maximum of five that describes a particular grid. It would be up to the owners to state those five keywords. If Maria's list continues to be used then it will probably need further development. It does already carry active users stats so the search function could use those to place the most active grids to the top of the list in the menu.

However, Armin has said he would like to develop the login screen something like hgdirectory but a little less playful. Currently it's a static html page and to develop a search function he would need hosting with cgi. Well, that is something I would be willing to talk to him about since I already have a number of servers in use.

I have campaigned for a grid search function for several years so I am more than pleased there is some movement. I think here we have a good start thanks to Armin and I hope others will contribute to the development. I wrote about this issue recently here and I was pleased ZitZat of the Imp/Kokua team took up the matter and has got it on the work bench. Opensim and the open Metaverse needs it's own viewer or at least a greater focus on it's needs. Many are agreed on that and I am convinced the grid search will benefit users and grid owners alike.

Armin's Teapot viewer can be downloaded from here but please be aware that it is not listed by Linden Labs on their authorized TPV site although Armin says it complies with Linden Policy as far as he knows.