Saturday, April 26, 2008

SecondLife Perpetual Beta & 1 Big Crap Shoot

By JayR Cela 4-25-08

Ok it has been a while since I have posted here, I hope fate, smiles upon me. So with out further adieu. I am here today to explain, as I see it, my opinion of. The current state of affairs, dealing with the issues of server instability and client disaster within SecondLife the Virtual World owned and operated by Linden Labs.
As most readers already know, the SL (tm) grid seems to have turned into a mass of mush the past several months. Not only that, but the flurry of poorly designed and implemented SL client viewers, tends to make one wonder, what and the heck is going on. The recent firing of Corey (Ondrejka) Linden, ( Linden Labs lead technical architect) was thought by some to signal trouble ahead, perhaps they were correct, perhaps not so. And Phillip stepping aside, hmm I believe this was, and still is a good idea, simply because this is considered to be a logical move for many growing companies that start out small, and suddenly grow faster than anticipated. So lets start with the with some very apparent facts.
The first open to the public release of SL was in October of 2003 with version 1.0.0, prior to that SL was an open beta, and prior to that a closed internal beta. Currently the server code is at and soon to be updated to 1.21.x.xxxxx. For a look at the version history ( see > ) ( this shows a complete history of SL version progress with explicit details included ) The client viewer software version, generally runs concurrent with the server software. It is important to remember that the two, although intertwined, are separate pieces of code, and that they perform different functions from one in other, as are the subsets of other contained code within each of them. So often, I hear or read in the blogs people getting the two of these programs functions confused with one in other. Example: "Since the introduction of Havok 4 the inventory system is ruined!" This is simply not true, and for that matter an impossibility. The inventory asset system and the Havok physics engine ( although they run together on the Server side of the equation) perform two completely different and separate tasks. This would be similar to making a statement that your automobile started running poorly, because you overfilled your windshield washer fluid reservoir. The two have nothing to do with one in other, besides the fact they are both a part of the same overall end result. Getting from point A to point B. In September 2005 when I first became aware of SL, the server and client code at that time was the1.6.12.x series. And I can tell you for the past 2-1/2 years that the one thing about LL that remains the same, is that, things are constantly in a state of flux, that will never change. Sometimes problems get solved only to resurface for no apparent reason again, months down the road. Old problems that have been here forever seem to be completely ignored, while the coders at LL feverishly pile on new features, that seem to most of us, that not many users really want, or care about. Although I am sure LL has their reasons for doing so.
Another thing that however regrettable also seems to remain the same. Is that the utter lack of seeming concern by LL, of its life and blood. The Customer, that's right, the Customer! Mind you now there are a variety of customer types. You have the free accounts, paying, premium, land owners , estate owners, corporate & educational accounts. And I am sure that, priorities come into play when dealing with different account types and their various concerns. For instance, consider the addition, and botched introduction of live voice chat into SL. if I recall correctly, there was a huge outcry from the basic and premium account holders against this feature being added to the platform. However the cooperate and educational communities felt this was a necessity, in order for SL to become a viable venue. The latest features to be frowned upon by the community at large, Wind Light & Dazzle have been met with the same vigorous dismay, as so were the previous introduction's of Flexi & Sculpty Prims. ( I don't recall hearing any recent rantings about these now invaluable features )
Why you ask, does LL do these things. The answer is simple, in order for them to remain competitive, in what is probably the fastest growing industry seen in recent times, ( see article >Ignore Second Life at your own peril< ) they simply have to, in order to survive. No if ands or buts about it. Face it quite a few people, whom are technically savvy enough, and who even have the desire to dabble in Virtual Worlds, like their bells and whistles. We are for the most part a gadget obsessed society. However to obtain all these perks at the sake of having countless system breakdowns, major issues that continue to remain unresolved, and the general population so often simply to be told to file their complaints into the almost incomprehensible bottom less pits, so unaffectionately referred to as the JIRA, and PJIRA can be utterly maddening at the least.
So what are we as users to do? Complain in different ways available to us, yes. Will our voices be heard? Maybe they will, maybe they wont, who knows. Its all one giant crap shoot, a big game of chance, the players being us the customers, and Linden Labs the persons running the gambling table. We are all gambling here. And as with all business ventures of any sort there are risks that must be taken. We constantly here from different sources, issues such as, why don't you fix what is broken, instead of adding new features? Well the reason for that may well be, that all companies except for the smallest Mom & Pop shop types, are sectioned off into separate teams, these individual team members work on different aspect's of the overall performance for the business as a whole. The fact remains that SL in of and as itself, is a huge undertaking, unprecedented before now. I ask you to sit back for a moment and think about this question. Have you ever not been able to find something to do here in SL? ~No !!~ I'll bet that you have not. That is because the possibilities of things to do are practically limitless. And you have to keep in mind another truism, if nothing else, remember this whole on line environment, that we call SecondLife, is has been and will continue to be one giant Beta Project. So hold on tight, and fasten your seat belts. Either way no matter how things eventually work out, it will be interesting to say the least. And years down the road, you can look back and say, I was there when it all started ! And then you can smile.
Finally, a prediction for the future. Database server related problems will soon become a thing of the past, now that Sun Micro Systems has acquired MySQL, the open source company that developed the underlying data management software that runs SL. ( see Sum Micro press release > ) 4/15/08 Cheers & Rock On !!

JayR Cela :_)