Up to spec?

physics-homework-help_largeIf there’s one thing that we’re pretty good at, it’s finding fault with sl – if we’re not finding fault with the Lab, it’s the viewer – any viewer – that we’re having a dig at, or how about the latest innovation?… Mesh, pathfinding, premium gifts, the Marketplace – every one of them gives us plenty of mileage for complaint. Then there’s good old sl itself – our laggy, broken, slow, inefficient, screwball world that – if we are to be believed – barely works at all, most of the time.

Actually, it does work pretty well, most of the time – we just like to seize on those unfortunate moments when it all goes pear-shaped, forgetting all that time when everything is just fine and this, for some reason, colours our whole perception of the virtual world. It’s not just people that we tend to see the worst in, it’s our environments too.

OK, so i’m not going to deny that there are online games and platforms that are a whole lot sleeker, faster and in many ways better than sl, but that’s very much a result of sl’s rather unique niche in the online community and – i’m very much afraid – a lot of the things we moan about are a direct result of our own activities and those of our pixellated forefathers. SL could be as ‘good’ as ‘World of Thiefcraft’, or whatever the current flavour of the month is, but for that to happen would mean sacrificing a great deal of what we’ve personally invested in sl as well as losing much of the autonomy that comes with ‘Your world, your imagination’. If we really do want a virtual environment that’s nippy, sharp and zingy then we’re going to have to wave goodbye to amateur building, scripting and texturing, along with being able to rez anything where we want in whatever fashion we wish and the freedom to customise our avatars beyond certain limited constraints. Why? Because all of these are highly undesirable to ‘proper’ game-makers – they slow things down, break things and generally cause massive headaches when it comes to server loading, graphics optimisation and use of resources. So, given the choice, most of us would probably want to keep things – crappy though they may be sometimes – just as they are.

SL is actually pretty cutting edge stuff – despite what some know-it-alls may try to tell you (throw a few phrases about server farms, active matrices, baud, rails and buses into any conversation and you’re an instant expert… try it sometime!) To achieve what sl achieves on a daily basis – despite all our amateurish attempts to wreck it, (see above) – and constantly add new functionality, bug fixes and manage a world economy at the same time is pretty astonishing. Anyone who has ever tried to run a ‘simple’ single-region Opensim installation will be more than happy to tell you that’s it’s like playing one of those ‘get the little silver balls around a maze into the little holes’ games, whilst on a roller-coaster underwater with no breathing gear – it can be a little tricky. So maybe we should be grateful that somebody else is doing all the hard work for us?

It must be a bit soul destroying being a Linden sometimes – imagine having to trek into work, leaving the San Francisco sunshine for a little booth and monitor, knowing that not only will you have to put up with Torley’s insane enthusiasm all day, but you’ll also have to try and cope with practically every sl resident complaining about sl going wrong, when most of it is their fault!

Yep, you read that right – i’d hazard a guess and say that a good 80% of the problems that we experience with sl are our own stupid fault and can be easily and quickly fixed with a bit of effort on our part and maybe the occasional splashing of a bit of hard cash! Let me give you some pointers…

When was the last time you updated your graphics drivers?
It seems that even tech-savvy geeks are often under the misguided assumption that a 3-year old graphics driver is going to work just fine today, either that, or their graphics card will magically rise to the occasion with no help at all. Here’s a lesson from my own experience – a year ago, i couldn’t turn on shadows without crashing almost immediately – but i religiously update my drivers whenever a new one appears, the last one was 3 weeks ago… and since then, i’ve had shadows running continuously without a single crash, and i still get a decent framerate! Make a manual update check part of your login routine: booze; nibbles; comfy cushion; driver update check; login.

Crap connection = crappy everything!
It’s true – for some reason we think that our not-terribly-good string and sellotape internet connection will easily cope with running two viewers – one for us, one for the alt – surfing the net, downloading a blu-ray movie whilst letting Johnny watch streaming TV in his bedroom, while Doreen gets on with her geography homework research – and all at the same time… usually teatime, when the whole internet slows to a crawl and ISPs do what is optimistically referred to as ‘traffic smoothing’, known to us more prosaic individuals as ‘throttling’.

Stop multi-tasking right now! Switch to an ethernet cable connection instead of wireless and, while you’re at it, you might like to take a look at your modem/router… is it a crappy one that your ISP supplied that can only handle 32 simultaneous connections? Take a deep breath and invest in a dual band gigabit router that should give you something more like 36000! Whilst you’re installing it, dabble with the QoS settings and optimise it for sl. Yep it’ll cost you real money, but maybe you can cut back on the marketplace spending for a month, you won’t regret it!

Other cheap ‘n’ cheerful stuff

  • For pity’s sake – stop clearing that cache! There’s absolutely no need to, unless it’s become somehow corrupted… you’re just slowing things down for yourself;
  • While we’re thinking about it, put the cache on a disk all of its own if you can, failing that, a different one to the sl viewer;
  • Installing a new viewer? Do a proper clean install… that’s why the devs tell you to do it! (It’s their software, so do what they tell you!);
  • Defragment that hard disk… now!;
  • Shut down other running programs;
  • If you’re not taking inworld photos, switch off viewer anti-aliasing;
  • Bring that draw distance right down;
  • Vacuum your PC vents when you do the hoovering.

i promise you, it will make a difference, we won’t complain so much and the world will be full of happy, smiling Lindens. 🙂

What more can you ask?

s. x

Computers make me totally blank out. 
Dalai Lama 

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2 Responses to Up to spec?

  1. Well said and all true. re. your bullet 2. Invest in a solid state drive just for cache, much faster.
    Also, SL is really designed for desktop computers, I have run it successfully on a laptop, but a very high end gaming one. It will also run on a very high end, well set up wireless connection, but not many have the skill to set one up right.

  2. i like the idea of a solid state drive – good advice.
    s. x

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