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Today we have to block version 4.6.9

The time has come again when we have to apply a block to an old version of Firestorm Viewer. This time the block will be more impactful than most because it is the last version to run on Windows XP and Mac 10.6, so I thought I would take the time to explain again why we block.

First, it is quite common for a software firm to force upgrades or encourage their users to update whenever possible. This is because the updates always have fixes to known bugs that their users continue to experience. This applies to us, any time folks on older versions ask us for help with problems that we in fact already fixed ages ago. Users on old versions sometimes warn their friends away from Firestorm because of some problem they’re having, not realizing they’d no longer have that problem if they were up to date.

Second, functionality. Linden Lab are continually updating server side stuff to provide newer, better, faster and more reliable functionality. As they do so they often drop the old functionality, and while they do notify us, and we try to notify you, most of our users remain unaware that changes are happening until suddenly they can no longer function. They then think we’re at fault for the breakage or believe it’s a bug that can get fixed, when in fact the only problem is that they are not up to date.

Third is the shared experience issue, which LL take very seriously, as they should. It is expected in any software environment that user A should experience the world in the same way that user B does; otherwise the effect of immersion is broken, and that is especially bad in a virtual world type of environment. The shared experience is also part of LL’s Third Party Viewer Policy, which we must adhere to.

Fourth, the alternative to Firestorm implementing blocks according to our own system is us implementing blocks according to Linden Lab’s system. We don’t see this as a better option. Linden Lab want us to use their auto-updater code, which works as follows:
LL issues a viewer update. LL Forced updateWhen you go to launch the viewer you see the following. You are then forced to download and install the update before you can move forward. If for some reason that update does not work for you, you’re stuck; there is no going back to an older version. Even if you reinstall the older version you will be hit with that same forced update as soon as you launch it again. We don’t agree with this approach and feel that folks should have some level of grace period and an alternative they can switch back to if the update does not work for them, at least so they can get back inworld and ask for help. So we decline to use LL’s updater in favor of our own system of blocking versions, which will give users an average of nine months’ grace period before they have to update. And in the case of the current blockage? A year, folks… we gave you more than a year.

I personally hate blocking old versions, and many others on our team do as well. I would be much happier to use LL’s updater, and folks can then direct their frustration toward LL instead of me and the Firestorm team. But I would rather absorb the backlash for applying blocks after a considerable grace period than to cause users to be stuck and unable to log in because an update doesn’t work for them.

4.6.9 was released in December 2014, which makes this version well over a year old. If we do not implement our blocks, then we risk LL forcing us to use their updater. It is for all the above reasons that we block old versions of our viewer.

Win XP and Mac OSX 10.6 users cannot use more recent versions of Firestorm because LL updated the infrastructure for compiling the viewer after our 4.6.9 release. The technical explanation would be much more detailed, but put in the simplest terms, the viewer can no longer be compiled to run on Windows XP or Mac OSX 10.6, period. If someone wants to claim they can compile the current Firestorm code to work with XP and Mac 10.6, then we look forward to their code contribution on our JIRA. Folks, don’t hold your breath. Update your operating system.

In the meantime XP users can temporarily switch to (but not receive support in Firestorm groups for) the CtrlAltStudio Viewer—or any other viewer that is not current with Linden Lab’s code—until you can get your operating system up to date. Or until those viewers move ahead to current LL code as well.

Sincerely,

Jessica Lyon
Project Manager
The Phoenix Firestorm Project, Inc.

TV not working on 4.7.7?

Lots of folks have been complaining that their Televisions in Second Life are not working with the latest Firestorm version 4.7.7. That’s because Linden Lab updated how media works and you need to install a new plugin. You can read about the CEF update HERE .

Windows users
You must have the Opera & Chromium version of the Adobe Flash plugin installed.

  1. Go here: https://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/otherversions.
  2. Select the download for “FP 21 for Opera and Chromium – PPAPI” in the list.
  3. Download, Install, Relog viewer and you should be fixed.


Linux users

  1. You need to have the pepperflash plugin installed, which can be satisfied by installing Google Chrome.


Mac users

  1. Go here: https://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/otherversions.
  2. Select the download for “FP 21 for Safari and Firefox – NPAPI” in the list. (Until we can find out if PPAPI is more correct we know NPAPI works for now)
  3. Download, Install, Relog viewer and you should be fixed.

 

NHC TV users.
Unfortunately you will need to contact NHC Support, the TV’s need an update to work. https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/BUG-11485

RLVa on Firestorm

One of the biggest complaints we’ve had with the 4.7.7 release is that we still have not updated RLVa, so I thought I would take some time to explain.

But first, some history. The RLV code was written by Marine Kelley for her own viewer to accommodate the sale of her own products. But because Marine was both protective of her code and reluctant to accept bug fixes from the community, a derivative of this original code was made in order for other viewers to have this functionality. So… many, many years ago Kitty Barnett started writing that derivative, called it RLVa and contributed it openly to other third party viewers so that the larger user base could have it beyond Marine’s viewer. It is only because of Kitty that we have the RLVa functionality in our viewers.

These days Kitty runs her own viewer project, called Catznip Viewer, which of course also has her RLVa code plus many amazing features unique to her viewer. She also tries to keep all the other RLVa-equipped third party viewers such as Firestorm updated and has to find time for her real life job. These days she is a very busy kitty, but to further complicate her situation, a little more than a year ago Kitty ran into some health problems. These problems have had her in and out of the hospital quite a bit, and currently she suffers ongoing chronic back pain that limits the time she’s able to sit in one spot.

A while back Marine Kelley issued an update to her RLV code, and this seems to be the update RLVa users are all asking to see in Firestorm Viewer. Unfortunately, due to Kitty’s health and lack of available free time Firestorm has not received an update derived from Marine’s RLV update. It should be understood that RLVa is only a derivative of the original RLV code, and just because RLV has an update does not automatically mean RLVa will get the same.

Finally, we anticipate that folks will ask, “Why not let someone else do the RLVa work if Kitty can’t?” The answer is that first, the RLVa code is very complex and really is a specialty area that few to none are willing to venture into. What Kitty has done with it is impressive, and it’s unlikely that another developer would be able to do the same thing in the time span of a viewer release cycle, and it’s not something that can easily be learned even through training. Second, the volunteer nature of the Firestorm team gives developers the freedom to work on what interests them and what their real lives will accommodate, when it accommodates it. This means that we cannot require one of our other developers—all of whom have existing responsibilities to the team as it is—to take on a mammoth new role.

I’m really hoping we’ll have it for the next release—Kitty already has plans to take off time from work to start working on the update—but no promises can be made at this time.

Sincerely,

Jessica Lyon
Project Manager
The Phoenix Firestorm Project, Inc