31 May 2013

One thousand six hundred sixty five

That's how many different versions of different viewers were reported to log into SL last week, according to Oz Linden at today's third party viewer meeting. You can see the recording on YouTube. The discussion starts about nine minutes in.

One thousand six hundred sixty five.

Think about that for a moment.

That's beyond anyone's ability to test thoroughly. The combinations quickly grow well beyond insane to downright impossible.

Even individual TPV teams can't test their own viewers thoroughly. Out of that 1665, 50 are different versions of Phoenix, 151 of Singularity, and 262 of Firestorm. Many of the latter two are probably developers and self-compilers, but still...LL has real money to pay for resources to sit and test viewers. Those resources aren't endless, and the time certainly isn't. If LL can't, a team of volunteers like the Firestorm team damned sure can't!...never mind even smaller teams like Singularity, or individual developers like Henri.

And that doesn't even begin to take into account viewers for which the maintainers have long since given up, or left SL, or simply disowned the code.

This came up in the context of a serious bug in the server-side baking code. The bug causes people using Phoenix or 1.23 who teleport into a server-side baking region to be prompted to save changes to their avatar - and that save corrupts modifiable skin, eyes, or system clothing. Permanently. Unrepairably. Gone. Poof.

Oz's point was that they'll try very hard to fix the bug - but they won't know for sure they've fixed it, simply because it's impossible to test all the cases. All they can do is hope, and if you are using an old viewer that doesn't support SSB, you're going to be out of luck.

My point is much simpler than this.


Really, people. There is NO EXCUSE any more for running older viewers that don't support the way SL works now. By now, you can even get second-hand machines for not a lot of money that will run Firestorm just fine. You're going to have to bite the bullet.

We put in a metric crapload of work to make Firestorm something that people of all abilities - even those firmly wedded to Phoenix - can use and use effectively. If you don't like the result, fine. Get Viewer 3. Get Singularity. Get Exodus. Get CoolVL. Get something, anything that supports SSB, but do it now!

If you don't, don't come crying to me when your inventory gets ravaged by some bug that nobody could reasonably test for.

30 May 2013

I wish we got paid!

When Jessica Lyon posted about dealing with less than wonderful user interactions with the Firestorm team, she disabled comments. That didn't stop one person from commenting, though...she commented, on the next post after that (about 4.4.1 on the way),
I find your last blog post (before this one) to be very amusing. You did an excellent job making people believe that you are doing all this voluntarily. I won’t be surprised if even your team did not know the truth behind all this.
I guess no one knows that you sold Firestorm to LL, right? No one knows either that you currently work for LL, isn’t it? LL manage to do a fine job making people work on its viewer voluntarily without having to spend a dim (well, besides your monthly paycheck of course).
Anyway, I know pretty much that a lot of peoples won’t believe but if you (the reader) REALLY want to see proof on how Firestorm is now the property of Linden Lab… send me an e-mail!
I'm going to channel my friend Axi Kurmin here. What the. Nickel. Plated. FUCK?!

This is wrong on more levels than I care to think about.

For starters, Firestorm is owned, so far as any viewer can be owned, by The Phoenix Firestorm Project, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, legally organized and in existence for a couple of years now. To sell it would require either selling the corporation - a legal impossibility; non-profit corporations aren't owned to begin with - or the corporation agreeing to sell the code. It has not done so.

As a practical matter, to sell the code would require the agreement of every developer who's contributed to it. There's a reason that LL requires every code contribution to its viewer be done by someone who has a signed Contributor Agreement on file with them. That's the only way they can guarantee they can do what they need to with it, with no encumbrances. We have no similar agreements with our contributors, because we have no intention of ever doing anything with the code but releasing it as open source under one common license.

Then there's the more practical matter: Jess knows just how destructive it would be for her to accept payment from LL for Firestorm. There are lots of reasons that the folks involved with the project contribute, be it code or support effort or testing. None of them involve money. We do it because, fundamentally, we care, if not about the users, at the very least about our own Second Life experience. We pour lots of time and effort into it. I would venture to guess, at this point, that the effort we've put into Firestorm coding above and beyond the LL codebase - never mind support! - would add up to somewhere on the order of 10 man-years. For one person to be paid for all this effort would destroy the team, probably beyond any hope of recovery, and render the code permanently unusable as a base of effort going forward.

Yes, I've gotten some material compensation for my viewer efforts. Not for working on Firestorm, though. I've been involved in the LL materials project, and for that, I got an "I contributed to your Second Life" T-shirt and this nifty green laser pointer:

Guaranteed to warm the heart of any true geek. I play with it often. (But never point it at an aircraft. That's just st00pid and dangerous and illegal.)

Mind you, I'd love to get paid in real dollars for working on the viewer. So would my bank, my mortgage company, my car lender,... But it's not going to happen, and that doesn't bother me very much.

The original commenter simply doesn't understand the realities of the situation. She's either deluded or trolling. I've probably given her more effort than her comment deserves, but I did feel like shining a green laser pointer on the absurdity of the idea.