Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Status update

Why our long release cycles?
While Firestorm is plugging along towards another huge release, I often get asked why our releases are so far apart compared to other viewer projects'. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the main one is that updating is a royal pain in the butt, and I understand most users hate updating unless there is something really worthwhile in the update to make the effort. Because of this, I want each and every one of our Firestorm updates to have enough value that you will want to update to it and not be insulted by frequent minor updates that do little to improve your experience. When I say "value," I mean a significant combination of great new features, along with bug, stability and performance fixes that make the update process worth your time and energy. Now, not everyone on our team agrees 100% with this strategy, and I'm sure there will be some of you who don't, either, but I believe it to be a matter of respecting you (our users) and your time. In the future, however, we plan to make that updating process easier for you by setting up seamless behind-the-scenes updates you will hardly even notice, allowing us to provide more frequent updates and even hotfixes to improve your experience faster!

Upcoming Firestorm "value"
I'm VERY excited to say we have some great new improvements coming, like integrated Phototools contributed to us by Paperwork Resident! Paperwork has spent a lot of time with our developer Ansariel Hiller, getting his phototools integrated into Firestorm with their own floaters and panels. But we'll also have features like the ability to save/restore custom camera positions, improved Spellchecker and Autoreplace (courtesy of LL), an RLV update, crouch to toggle, a new "Dyslexia" font, "Autoresponse Sent" message in IMs, the ability to highlight people in a region through the object list in the About Land floater, customizable audio alerts for friends going on/offline, voice visualizers in the radar, the ability to exclude group-owned objects during selection, configurable interface sounds in Prefs, an option to report collision messages to scripts, etc., etc., etc. Not to mention a gazillion more stability and performance improvements. It's all coming soon!

OpenSim and our compatibility efforts
While Second Life still remains the primary focus of our development efforts, we have begun working towards bringing Firestorm Viewer into better compatibility with the OpenSim Platform. It is important to point out where the extent of that effort ends, though. We are making Firestorm work better on the "base" OpenSim Platform, but we cannot fix problems that arise on specific OpenSim grids because of changes those particular grids have made to their OpenSim code. For those issues to be fixed, we will rely on those grids to provide us code contributions to address those issues.

Military Open Simulator Enterprise Strategy
Several weeks ago, we were contacted by Mr. Douglas Maxwell, who is a Science and Technology Manager for Virtual World Strategic Applications of the Simulation & Training Technology Center. This is a branch of the United States Army Research Laboratory, and he runs the Military Open Simulator Enterprise Strategy (MOSES)  project. While MOSES does have a presence in Second Life, their primary focus and virtual headquarters exist on the Open Simulator platform. They expressed an interest in working together with us on Firestorm Viewer. More specifically, they intend to make the Open Simulator platform more secure for their grid, but more importantly to also give that work back to the OpenSim community by contributing it to our open source Firestorm Viewer. We think this is a fantastic goal and have already begun working with them. We are certainly looking forward to the results of these efforts in the future. If you have any questions for Mr. Maxwell, you can reach him through his email here.

Our new second home on OSgrid
Walter Balazic, owner of the Littlefield System, and Hiro Protagonist, who runs the servers the Littlefield regions run on, have very generously donated a couple of regions on OSgrid to us to use as we please. Not only that, but Walter and Camryn Darkstone landscaped and furnished one of them to be our OSgrid headquarters! See a snapshot here, or if you would like to check it out in person, you can create an account on OSgrid here and, once inworld, open the Map and look for an island called "Firestorm Island." Having a region there helps us to further test Firestorm's OpenSim capabilities and work towards ironing out all the bugs there. The region is absolutely beautiful, and we are so ever grateful for their generosity! Thanks Littlefield!

Jessica Lyon
Project Manager
The Phoenix Firestorm Project, Inc