PostHeaderIcon When an Emerald is not a stone or a color

EmeraldsIsn't choice a wonderful thing? Where "Emerald" relates to Second Life, it also is a Grid Viewer and a damned good one.

I, like many other 'experienced' SL residents am hugely disappointed in the current iteration of the "official" Second Life grid viewer coming from Linden Lab (version 1.23.x). I was looking forward to the many new usability features and massive list of bug-fixes included in this, such as the setting of default permissions for uploaded files, bulk permissions-setting for object contents and the fixing of an annoying bug that unloads textures too quickly. Unfortunately, this viewer is horribly buggy with regard to breakage, primarily (for me) the total mess-up of picture-taking among other things. I suppose I'll wait for the next version before looking at the LL version of the grid viewer again.

So, it's back to the open-source viewer scene for me. The best open-sourced viewer I have found to date with regard to performance (which really translates to how fast will it download textures and "rez" the world for you) is and has been the Kirsten Viewer.

Then I found out about the Meerkat viewer, which offers some serious features not available anywhere else; specifically the ability to back-up your creations to your local machine, and restore them back into the Second Life grid, even onto other grids. In fact, it is the multi-grid functionality that stunned me the most. This is by-far the absolutely best, most useful feature I have experience in any grid viewer. There is no doubt that when mature, the Meerkat grid viewer will be the universal viewer for most, if not all grids.

The first thing I noticed about the Meerkat viewer is that there is a Logout feature. yes, that simple feature SL residents have been begging for for the last six-years. Logout. In other words, logout of the current grid without having to actually exit the application and then restart it in order to log back in with another account, or nowadays another grid.

But Meerkat takes this a bit further. It includes a "Grid Manager". A simple database built-into the viewer that allows you to set-up your accounts on multiple grids, even multiple accounts on the same grid - all with your account information.

Then you only need open the Map window, choose a grid from the drop-down window (even another account on the same grid, such as an alt account) and click Teleport. You will be logged out of the current grid and logged into the chosen grid automatically.

Basically a one-click grid/account swap. Now that's a feature.

There also are many other features to be had. However, the viewer is a bit behind in the times with regard to how it compares to other grid viewers, including the Linden Lab (LL) viewer. Additionally there are some stability issues for me. On a couple occasions the viewer simply closed-down on me so I've decided to hold-off on it for now, but definitely keep an eye out on it's progress.

So I went back to my tried-and-true performance workhorse: Kirsten's Viewer S17. As expected, it blows away all other viewers in terms on sheer rezzing performance. TP into an entirely new region you've never been to before and the entire sim is rezzed for me within a couple minutes (I have draw distance set to 512).

This is definitely the viewer to have if you do a lot of grid-hopping and bouncing around from place to place, especially shoppers and explorers. However, my heart sank while in a static location - working on stuff - and I turned around and everything was grey. I waited for the textures to rez again and turned back to my work. Not 60-seconds later, I turned about again and everything was grey again.

Kirsten's viewer still suffers from the "texture unload" bug and far worse than the way the LL viewer does it - as in "immediate". The bug I am referring to is "VWR-11420[c]: Objects/textures are removed from viewer memory too aggressively". At least I think that's the one. Even beefing-up my cache size didn't really help that much.

I am certain Kirsten will get this fixed as soon as possible and I'll keep my eye out. Thus I decided to look at a couple other grid viewers and went over to the Linden Lab "Alternate Viewer" page to see what's up. I've played with the Cool Viewer and I liked it. But this time decided to go guns and bravely experiment a little more by trying a few I've not looked at before.

Among the cool features of Meerkat is the "Avatar List" - a wicked "radar" built-into the viewer that allows you not only to see where people are and what they are doing along with payment info, age and all that (even cam-in on them,) but also great estate-management tools, such as eject, ban, whatever - including teleporting to them, them to you, friending, profile and so on. As it turns out, this "radar" is implemented into other viewers as well, though often called by another name, such as : "radar".

I took a peek at the Gemini viewer, which takes a large departure from "established" user interface. Unfortunately, I couldn't really evaluate it properly as "features' from other viewers were showing in that viewer. It seems many of the Alternate Viewers (LL's words) will draw from the 'official' viewer and even other viewers as developers make it easy as possible for users to have a comfortable and feature-rich experience as possible, using smart installers that will even copy for you the files they are not allowed to distribute directly from the "official" SL viewer installation location.

GEMINI Viewer v5 ScreenshotsThe Gemini viewer does not have an installer and is currently only available on the MS Windows platform. However, because these viewers try to implement features such as voice and other things, they tend to "draw-off" each other, thus making it difficult to know exactly which features are "native" to that viewer when multiple viewers are installed on one system.

The Gemini viewer does include some very useful features - many of which come from the Emerald Viewer feature set, but also such things as shift+enter to whisper text instead of say it outright (much shorter range for chat) and some fancy interface things here and there. But for me, nothing too exciting beyond the fascinating interface paradigm employed.

The spoon was first used more than a thousand years ago (thank you Chinese culture.) However, the fork was invented only a bit more than 100-year ago and even then it wasn't very popular as it was considered rude to "stab" your food.

The point being that we do not know what 'features' of anything we might want until we have them, then can't live without them. If I had the know-how to create my own grid viewer from scratch, I can imagine now the "features" and usability enhancements I would build into it. My first effort, like with the Kirsten Viewer would be in rezzing performance. But then I'd create other features, such as I have described previously.

However, sometimes you don't know what you don't know and how indispensable the fork might be, even though you got along just fine without it.

Thus, I have all weekend had about five viewers on my system (listed and linked-to below) and the one I found myself using the most - for stability, features and plain-old-familiarity (interface-wise) is green.

Is Emerald a stone or a color or both? Well, it also is a grid viewer that rocks my world. The "GreenLife Emerald Viewer" employs features with the widest appeal of all feature-sets offered-up by many different viewers.

It is not geared specifically for grid-hoppers or sim-explorers or builders or scripters or ...

Rather, it is geared toward the average users with incredibly useful features I never would have thought of asking for myself. It is the brand new fork to go with my thousand-year-old spoon.

For example:

  • Double-click to TP to that location - like a "TP-to-camera" a lot of huds feature. Awesome if you end-up inside a prim for whatever reason (bad TP landing) or caged or whatever.

  • Forced Ground Sit - sit anywhere, even on a prim-floor. Newer ZAHO-II Huds have this feature. Allowing you to "sit on the floor" at any time. In this case, it's built-into the viewer. Wonderful!

  • Give object in Autoreply when "Busy" - Okay, wow. Set yourself to "Busy" mode, and auto send a notecard or object to anyone who IM's you.

  • Show agent keys in profiles - Ever needed someone's agent key - to pay commission for example?

  • Animation list - How about a list of all animations currently running, a way to force-quit any of them and even revoke permissions given?

  • Oh, and of course, that "radar avatar list" I mentioned that is awesome for estate owners and managers? it's in there.

Meerkat01In fact, there is a lot more than what I mention above. That's only a teaser list to whet your appetite. The full and very long feature list describes features that are not (as a basic rule of thumb) included in the current Linden Lab and many other grid viewers. Albeit, Linden Lab has included a few of these into the official viewer, but that viewer is barely into beta and not really ready for mass consumption.

Additionally, the "GreenLife Emerald" viewer installer will look to see if you have the official viewer installed already, and grab the required files to enable voice and some other 'standard' features that otherwise cannot be included in the distribution. However, it will install and run just fine all by itself, unlike some other viewers that are actually installed on-top of the official viewer. "Emerald" is a full, stand-alone viewer.

Of all the viewers I've looked at and played with, Kirstens is the fastest, but even with that, I find that I am seeing a lot of green lately. Not in envy, but just in plain old excitement again. As for role-players, the Gemini viewer may be what you're after as it includes many of the features of the Emerald viewer; albeit a different interface specifically designed to make your role-playing tasks a bit easier, such as transparent widget windows and the like.

So if you spend a majority of your in-world time as an avid role-player, take a peek at the Gemini viewer first. For the rest, the Emerald is worth a serious look. if you pop from grid-to-grid often, then Meerkat will be your tool of choice.

The others are good, too. I am simply writing from my own perspective as I really am not interested in "Restrained Life" features (primarily most popular in BDSM and 'slave' role player areas) and functionality, which some viewers such as SL Cool Viewer have implemented.

Since the Gemini Viewer closely mimics the feature-set of the Emerald viewer, which I have decided for myself is the viewer for me, I will spend some serious time in it to see how the "role-player' interface suffices for me. I don't know if I'll stick with it or go back to Emerald, but either way, for me it will be one of these two.

Viewer links:

Alternate Viewers page by Linden Lab (this list does not include all alternate viewers one can find on the Internet.)

Art: Jeri Marie; Skills Hak; Nalates Urriah
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