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. When 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.
The Phoenix Firestorm Project, Inc.