Linden Lab really wants you to use the Second Life "Viewer 2" - a beta version so you will report all that you find wrong with it, also it affords you the opportunity to get used to it. There are many comments and SLogoshpere articles on the merits (good and bad) of Viewer 2 and my own experience is that I like it much more than I dislike it.

As for bugs, the only real bug that bothers me thus-far is that my preferred inventory sorting method (by name, not date, and "system folder" not always at the top) is not "sticky" between sessions. Each logging requires these settings to be reapplied. This was in the original beta version released some time ago. So, in fairness, Linden Lab has just released an updated version. However, the blog post announcing it included a "detailed" list of bug fixes and this bug was not mentioned, so I'll pass on this round.

As for "features" - there are two that really irk me:

  • Setting properties (including permissions) on multiple items in my inventory. Previously a tabbed widget would appear, each tab representing one of the items. In the new viewer, properties appear in the slide-bar - and only one. So how do I change properties on multiple items in my inventory at the same time without dropping them into a prim and using the "batch" permissions change?
  • The other thing that irks be is that there is no way to see your grid/region coordinates unless you click the "location" bar at the top of the screen. Region coordinates are those number that tell you where you are: 128, 200, 21 - being on the map: east, north, altitude. The problem is you must click your location bar to see the coordinates. However, as soon as you begin moving again, they disappear. I use those coordinates constantly - most often the altitude, but also the east and north numbers.

I'll wait for the next beta (I often skip a version on most of the software I own anyway). So how do I know Linden Lab really, really wants you to use V2?

Take a simple look at the Linden Lab download page.

If you are logged-in to your Second Life account it's actually more difficult to locate the current release of the official viewer and considerably more difficult to locate the release version of the Snowglobe viewer. However, we are blasted in the face with the "download Viewer 2 beta" adverts on practically every page (even in our dashboards) - everywhere we go. I don't blame Linden Lab for this. Were I in Mr. Kingdon's shoes, I'd decree the same thing.

I rebuilt my computer system with windows XP again, and went to download the current Snowglobe and that is when I really paid attention to the location, navigation and availability changes regarding these downloads.

  • Side-note: when will Linden Lab get a clue? Why does Linden Lab officially maintain two release viewers? It's not only confusing but seems also to me to be a waste of Linden Lab resources.

Attention Linden Lab: Drop the twin-viewer nonsense. Take the performance code from Snowglobe, inject it into Viewer 2 then drop Snowglobe or vice-versa. Stop forcing us to choose. Get a freakin' clue, will you?

So in this fracas of trying to locate Snowglobe (I was in a hurry as I had nothing installed at the time) - and I knew I didn't want the official current release, nor the Viewer 2 Beta 1 and I'm really not interested in Emerald (a bit bloated with unnecessary features for my own tastes) I decided to go back to my old die-hard: Kirstens Viewer.

Until Snowglobe came along, Kirsten's was by-far the best performing viewer to come along. With the advent of Snowglobe, Linden Lab and Kirsten Cinquetti have been leap-frogging each-other with each new respective version. Kirsten's viewer first noted for it's stunning performance then became even better known for its "shadow-cast" ability.

Apparently there is shadow-casting code built-into the official viewer (and by extension third-party viewers) but that code is not only not officially supported and the use of it is even perhaps discouraged by Linden Lab. In fact, you have to be pretty darned technically-minded and jump through a few hoops to be able to turn it on. At first, Kirsten used this code but has since tweaked and tinkered and now her shadow-casting code is more or less a custom thing.

So I installed Kirsten's current S19 viewer (she already is working on S20, "Viewer 2" code-injection) and as always, the performance is stunning. Is it as fast as Snowglobe? I'm not sure. But it is certainly close enough (except for grid map-rendering).

The wonderful thing is how easy Kirsten makes it to turn the shadows feature on an off. It requires three easily-accessible check-boxes available in the main interface. Your computer will take a performance hit with shadows turned-on, but it's gorgeous and in my own case that hit isn't so heavy as it used to be.

So, with shadows turned-off I get blazing performance. However, as a picture-taker I can quickly and easily switch shadows on, snap away, then turn them off again when I need that performance back (such as when I am sailing and moving across the grid rapidly, especially in prim-heavy mainland areas.)

And the one single sole feature Emerald offers that I do miss: double-clicking to teleport is in the current version of the Kirsten viewer! And, no bloat with useless features I personally really don't care about such as bouncing primtits.

Now, if only Kirsten could set that shadow on/off option to a be one-click toggle (instead of three) - we'll really have something. As for updating S20 with Viewer 2 code: Kirsten, please note my two grievances about V2 above. I don't need or want another hud to tell me my region coordinates and I certainly don't want to dump inventory into a prim to batch-change properties.

Example pix... the first being what most see in SL with standard rendering. The second being the same view with Kirsten's "shadow-casting" turned-on. The only issue other than the slight (for me) performance hit is how shiny objects are treated (note the mariner bell, the lamp on the mast and the compass podium at steerage).

Here is the no-shadows, standard look everyone else sees:

And the same view with shadows turned-on. In both cases sunlight was manually set to "Midday". (Click each image to see the high-resolution version at my Flickr page).

Check out Kirsten's blog (and where you can get her viewer) here.

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