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11/11/2008

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Rock Ramona

gee prok,i wish i would have known you were in the marketi couldve built you an awesome machine with top of the line parts for 1100,all parts that have good warranties and a video card guarenteed for life.to help with some of yer questions,the big companies like dell and gateway buy parts by the boatload from korea and china to help keep their profit high.these parts are often very poor and lead to nitemare customer service calls.places like best buy and others like them are staffed by people who know nothing,selling you over priced underpowered equipment,then shoving a insurance program down yer throat for future service.these places infuriate me the way they treat people and sell them crap just to clear their shelves.its to bad you are in nyc and dont have any good local computer builders.im not telling you this to make you feel bad,but im afraid i could have ordered you parts and put together twice the machine you bought for the price you paid.ive been hacking software and hardware since 1978 and can tell you from experience that whenever the code monkeys at ll do a new update,they code and trouble shoot for the newest hardware out there,then the people with the older stuff just have to crash for a week till they get the rest figured out.next time you are ready to buy and you are still without a local shop,contact a place like alienware,they often have specials on their stuff,also they only use the highest quality and have awersome service,if anyone reads this and you are about to buy something new,please feel free to contact me in world and ill try to help you the best way i can :)

Rock Ramona

gee prok,i wish i would have known you were in the marketi couldve built you an awesome machine with top of the line parts for 1100,all parts that have good warranties and a video card guarenteed for life.to help with some of yer questions,the big companies like dell and gateway buy parts by the boatload from korea and china to help keep their profit high.these parts are often very poor and lead to nitemare customer service calls.places like best buy and others like them are staffed by people who know nothing,selling you over priced underpowered equipment,then shoving a insurance program down yer throat for future service.these places infuriate me the way they treat people and sell them crap just to clear their shelves.its to bad you are in nyc and dont have any good local computer builders.im not telling you this to make you feel bad,but im afraid i could have ordered you parts and put together twice the machine you bought for the price you paid.ive been hacking software and hardware since 1978 and can tell you from experience that whenever the code monkeys at ll do a new update,they code and trouble shoot for the newest hardware out there,then the people with the older stuff just have to crash for a week till they get the rest figured out.next time you are ready to buy and you are still without a local shop,contact a place like alienware,they often have specials on their stuff,also they only use the highest quality and have awersome service,if anyone reads this and you are about to buy something new,please feel free to contact me in world and ill try to help you the best way i can :)

Clarrice

Would be nice if the Lab with all their money, would go out and test cards, machines etc. and then let everyone know what works the best.

What seems to work great for high graphics multi player games don't work well at all with SL.

Seems like every time I update drivers on my old graphics card I lose graphics on SL and wish I would of left my PC alone.

I have an old machine and take tons of pics but now can not see the bottom of the oceans, they are black. Every day I spend less and less time in SL because of the graphics problems.

pyotr wolf

i totally agree with you that the SL viewer is way too resource hungry; the system requirements, particularly in terms of video cards have the effect of shutting out a huge portion of the potential userbase.
that being said, i don't think pointing the finger at geeks is really the issue here. all the geeks i know (myself included) absolutely hate the current state of prebuilt systems. the lack of decent video cards in off-the-shelf computers is driven by economics; the shitty onboard cards that come with most pcs cost the manufacturers a fraction of the price of a decent, useful card. because the average non-geek/non-gamer user has only a limited need for 3d acceleration, most pcs come with the cheapest chip that'll run the fancy graphics on vista; the intel 950 series is a great example of this. it was specifically designed to run the vista aero interface, and it pretty much useless for anything more demanding. of course, the user who just uses their computer to surf the web and watch movies will never even notice this deficiency, but the minute they try and play a game, they'll rue the designer's decision.
i wish LL would recognize this situation and lower system requirements, but part of the basic architecture of SL makes this unlikely.

one of the reasons SL is so much slower than systems like there is the content generation system. most 3d games do all sorts of calculations at the time the map is generated to boost performance. in the simplest terms possible, they create a chart of what parts of the map are visible from each possible location as well as things like lighting and shadows that won't change during gameplay. on a complicated map, this can take several minutes to even several hours, but the chart that's produced at the end enables the engine to display objects much more efficiently.
in SL, we create and move objects in realtime. if SL were to use this sort of optimization, it would be necessary to perform that entire suite of calculations every time a prim was moved. obviously a 20 minute lockup every time a prim was moved wouldn't fly, so the engine doesn't have this sort of optimizations. the upside of this approach is that the world can be much more dynamic and sims can be streamed in on demand instead of requiring the whole world to be downloaded to your harddrive like in WoW. i'm just guessing here, but were this possible, i wouldn't be surprised to see a five-fold increase in framerates.

that being said, it's amazing how much of an impact video drivers can have. since the drivers basically translate the language the application you're running speaks to the language the video card understands, the drivers, and thus the method of translation, have a huge impact on stability and performance. not to say that LL is entirely innocent in this regard, but video drivers are such an integral part of the whole second life system that suggesting people upgrade them is pretty reasonable.

Ciaran Laval

Rock you're missing the point somewhat. Alienware is aimed at the gamer market and their prices reflect this. This isn't the sort of kit the average Second Life resident should need. Aren't they still owned by Dell anyway?

Even if you hand delivered Prok a custom built PC what happens if something goes wrong? Even good kit fails sometimes.

The specs are too high for the market Second Life attracts, it's one of those strange situations whereby the average Second Life resident isn't into high intensity first person shooters.

One strong area for Linden Lab is education, but again education departments don't buy state of the art kit, they generally can't afford it.

Someone at Linden Lab needs to take a reality check and look at ways of engaging with their core audience. Failure to do so could one day prove costly.

Whereas the world can't stand still, Second Life needs to take heed of who its customers are. This is something that Blizzard have been very good at with World of Warcraft. I know people will say you can't compare the two, but you can compare how Blizzard know their customers with Linden Lab's approach.

Anna Gulaev

I just checked the Dell site and the first XPS system I chose had a 3650 as a $50 option, and configured with a 3GHz processor, 3G RAM and a 24" monitor came to $1200. It'd make a fine SL system.

The bigger problem is that the system that people already own won't run SL acceptably, so their first taste is a 2-fps slideshow. My first SL experience was on a Mac mini (the old one) and I got 1-2 fps. If the social aspect hadn't hooked me I wouldn't have stayed, and the social aspect is nothing like it was when I joined. If I tried SL on a 1-2 fps machine now I'd likely not find anyone to talk to in time to keep me interested.

Peter Quirk

Thanks Prok for starting this conversation. The problem really needs to be solved. However, it starts with the graphic driver layer and the quest for cross-platform operation using OpenGL. There just aren't good OpenGL drivers for every graphics card. Many will damn Microsoft for fighting OpenGL, but Microsoft really moved us a long way from Hercules cards and all that nonsense in the DOS days. Remember when a game required a specific card and TSR stack? Microsoft worked diligently to eliminate that and create a coherent DirectX stack that works well pretty well with all graphics cards on a Windows system. (It walso works on the XBox which has a very different architecture.) They created certification tests, logo programs and all the other ancillary programs to get the chip and card manufacturers aligned. At the same time they told vendors that they couldn't include OpenGL drivers in the Windows drivers. That's their prerogative.

The OpenGL camp hasn't done nearly as well in promoting their stack. They really need to do more to promote a layer above it like Ogre that allows a cross-platform application to target the OpenGL or DirectX stack.

Lastly, with the shift to notebooks, graphics chip vendors seem less inclined to publish drivers to end-users. Due to complex interactions between the on-board graphics chip and other support chips, they leave it to the notebook vendors to do the qualification of new drivers.

Since the notebook vendors don't really have a business model for supporting anything but warranty repairs after the sale, there is little incentive for them to qualify half-a-dozen or more graphics driver releases over the lifetime of a notebook. My Dell 630 has an nVidia graphics chip, but I can't run with the Dell driver update because it breaks the realXtend viewer.

So if there was another player who produced a cross-platform graphics abstraction layer which didn't cuase a performamce penalty, and who also managed the qualification of graphics chip drivers for notebooks (now the dominant computing platform), what would its business model be, and how much would we pay annually for the support (directly or indirectly)?

Jane2

I got a super duper machine with a 9800...SL ate up 1.5m kb before the computer was out of its considerable memory. The JIRA was useless as Lindens would periodically ask if people were still having this issue, but not offering a solution...and this over about six months. A user posted to lower the graphics memory and that worked for me...so why in heavens name wouldn't "Workingonit" figure that out and just post it?

pyotr wolf

Peter, outside of the windows world, OpenGL is the standard, and is very very well supported; OpenGL is basically the descendant of IrisGL, the old graphics abstraction layer from SGI in the 80s. So essentially, OpenGL existed back during those awful days of TSRs and 640k, and has been in continuous development ever since. The lack of support on windows has nothing to do with the technology and everything to do with M$ actively trying to discourage its use in favour of their proprietary Direct3D (thereby locking the app down to windows.)
Please note, OpenGL was active, and even supported on windows, in the days before directx and direct3d. And for the record, it's also got a much clearer syntax to go along with that cross platform compatibility. The problem is the windows implementation; I've been able to successfully run the SL client on linux on machines that glitch out when running it on windows.

Yumi Murakami

I will never understand the attitude of people who post that SL cannot possibly have lower graphics requirements because it has a dynamic environment. 6 years ago I played a game where I could knock a standing lamp over (in a physics-simulated, unpredictable fashion) and have its light realistically shine and reflect on the surfaces in the room - and that ran just fine on the PC I had back then. Now, there are 3D modelling packages whose preview renderers are faster than SL's display on the same machine, and have more potential changes to worry about, and output higher quality (FPrime, for example). It's just not a good excuse anymore. Sorry.

On the graphics card issue, I think you can easily buy a MacBook as a "box" and run SL on it. SL will run on a GeForce 9800 - the "recommended list" is really lagging behind.

Maggie Darwin

Back last January we went to the HP website, ordered two boxes that met the LL recommendations, and have been fairly happy with them ever since. (Walking into a store to buy a computer is probably not a winning strategy anymore; bricks-based commerce is tanking hard; ask Circuit City.)

Of course there are still viewer bugs, in particular the continuing memory leaks on multicore machines, and the "palleted textures" clothes-munging disaster on nVidia, which turns out to have beeen due to an LL coding error after having been blamed on nVidia's drivers for six months.

But it runs. Until it crashes.

Since crashing is the norm, the server really should do a better job of handling a reconnect request than "go away until you timeout".

It's really hard to get LL to admit that the mound of cash they laid out for Windlight isn't actually a prudent investment.

I do very much like Windlight personally, but I agree with Prok that it's a significant barrier to entry, especially for people who don't have a lot of money to spend...but them maybe that's the idea.

All that said, I'm able to get on SL from very much less powerful machines. But it's not as much fun.

Ann Otoole

So how is SL with the new machine?

What was the look on the faces of the Best Buy people when they realized they were not going to pass that obsolete unit with the decrepit nvidia 6100 in it off on you?

Clubside Granville

Peter is absolutely correct, and pytor who cares if other systems use OpenGL when an overwhelming majority of end users have Windows. At this moment DirectX is the superior product in features as well, and graphic card manufacturers cater to its wants not the other way around like the 3dfx days. If Linden Lab had two graphic trunks, one for DirectX and one for OpenGL, Windows users would get far greater performance and no abstraction layer would be necessary. You can achieve cross-platform if you dedicate resources the right way, but the current track punishes everyone by using the lowest common denominator. Shadows, shaders and more would be much further along if not live today if it weren't for bowing to OpenGL. Go ahead and support fringe platforms but not at the expense of the vast majority.

Yumi is also correct. It might be a dfferent story if meshes or bones were involved, but the prim is circa 1988, the days of the Amiga and Sculpt 3D. There just aren't enough triangles in even the most tortured prim to get modern graphics cards to even yawn. Optimization is just not important. What is important is the fact that the simulator is doing more work than necessary in terms of occlusion and other optimization tricks that would better be handled by the client. Transferring the geometry of nine regions would take seconds and the simulators would only have to transfer updates. Add in a real texture cache and the simplistic 3D of Second Life would scream at 100fps+. We could even continue to survive with full simulator-based physics though local with collision upload would be faster and still enable scripts to function as intended.

On topic, Prok is right, you should be able to walk into a retailer and walk out with a working box. While I may build my own that is no more the common experience than people using Windows. It's been over ten years since personal computers became as simple a commodity as other electronics, and Second Life's simplistic 3D environment should be a no-brainer for middle-of-the-road consumer retail machines, not a system requiring top-of-the-line game oriented graphic showcases that already outclassed its look back at launch.

Ann Otoole

There are plenty enough "triangles" in the Windlight team's unnecessary and unasked for product (massively polygoned sky sphere and water layer) to make a decent video card have issues and heat up when combined with an attractive detailed build in the simulator.

If Windlight were removed and those resources allocated to something else then most lag in Secondlife would vanish overnight.

Windlight is the root cause of all issues in the SL viewer today.

Crap Mariner

Glad to hear you got the new box. Named it yet?

I could see a "Will Work With SL" certification going, but there are so many models and manufacturers out there. The install base is just too small for the manufacturers to do it themselves, unlike, say WoW or Halo.

Perhaps, instead, letting the early-adopters and daredevils who get systems to report on their performance and findings, then post them to a site that lets you look up make, model number, and even by component for how well they run for folks?

Lephty Lewsey

A Mac could be a nice stable box for SL but it'll cost you at least $2000.
although
I got a second hand MacBook for $700. Avatars look gray at social events, but it works and is fairly stable. It's as good as it's gonna get for now.

I can't convince my rl friends to upgrade or buy new computers just to try sl.

Prokofy Neva

Geeks will never get it, and yes, they are the problem. I do not want some geek to build me a box. I've *done that already in life*. I will not be doing it again. Why?

o The geek is nowhere to be found when the machine breaks or I have problems with routine things like Verizon and routers, and I can't get them to help -- no service

o They put in stolen copies of all the programs like Word or Microsoft Access and then when they get buggy or won't work, I have nowhere to call. I actually wound up going out and buying a licensed Word, just to stop all the problems I was having with the Word -- that seems incredibly, I'm probably the only person in America who actually bought and paid for a Microsoft Word licensed copy but after I did that, all problems ceased, and I also had a person to call.

o the box is cobbled together with parts cribbed from old computers or new parts, and again, I can't fix or replace them.

The hatred for these big companies is the usual socialist utopian hatred. I see absolutely nothing wrong with companies engaging in economies of scale, buying in bulk, and buying from third world companies where wages are lower, and people have jobs in these factories. That's how the world works. The world is not going to be working differently because some tekkie fumes about it, says the parts are crappy, or the process capitalist and exploitative.

The little computer shop merely does the same thing at its level, buying from the same Asians for the same or lower prices, that's all. It's not as if they are buying software and computers tooled by Swiss watchmakers in Geneva. Please.

I didn't think it would take long for some geek to come up and whine, "But I checked on the site and found it".

But I didn't. I looked for four hours. I talked to the customer service on IM, and they said, no, they didn't have it on any machine. I called them, and they said no. They said you can buy it separately, not build it in as the custom order online, but buy it separately.

So I'd challenge Anna to go and find the URL to this box she claims she found, and look carefully to see if it is in fact a package, in a box, that will arrive in the box, and not separately. I don't want to be told, "Oh, you can order it separately online there for only $50". I want it *in the box*.

What I'm starting to realize from this OpenGL crap that everyone is talking about here is that once again, we have a huge Linden ideological problem, based on the usual opensource fanaticism. They insist on using some opensource thing, and then it won't play nice with the commercial things. They have to decide whether they are making doctrine and communion for a religion, or whether they are selling the software to play on the boxes that people can buy. It sounds to me like they are not ready to part from their religious beliefs in an opensource element in order to deal with Microsoft.

Again, this idea that "there shouldn't be such companies" or "they are evil" or "they take everyone's freedom away" is exaggerated, extreme, and utopian. These companies exist because by and large, the general public needs for them to exist. They serve the mass public who are not of the same zealous fanatical sect as these OS geeks. When they are ready to take off their ideological blinders, they will see this.

As for the excuse of the dynamic world, sure, I'm happy to have that be an excuse for why servers cost more. They aren't a rack in rackspace, they are interactive and programmed and maintained with a 3-D user-generated world.

But...we had that world in 2004-2006. It wasn't until late 2005 that it significantly deteriorated as an immersive world viewable with normal computers, more or less, possibly a cut above the mass offering. When they decided to make p2p available from anywhere on the map, the world went downhill. When they put in Windlight, it trashed further.

It went from a world that was easily viewable and navigable, but with softer hues, wispier clouds, a small sun, a flatter horizon, etc. that was "simpler," but which then was more immersive because it didn't distract you to itself and became background quickly -- to a world with sharp edges, all kinds of custom aspects in Windlight, and lag, lag, lag and grey squares everywhere.

Now, it may be that people and their objects changed the world's landscape. But for me it sharply correlated with the decision to add p2p. Grey squares were the price of p2p.

none

I have an Intel Mac that is now a year old. It ran the older pre-08 SL browser wonderfully. But as the updates to the browser came out, my computer's performance became touch and go.

Right now, it seems fine. But I still have lag, grey avatars and slow loading textures. My card is an ATI Radeon, but I have no idea if it is recommended for SL. I'm just nervous that I won't be able to run SL in the coming year. I can't buy another computer.

Ric Mollor

This subject really explains the whole issue with SL and normal PC users very well. It's very hard not to continue on with Proks rant against SL by adding the endless horror stories that everyone has heard repeatedly. However, I just can't resist and feel the need to add a bit of my own.

People just don't buy systems with high end graphics for the fun of it. Virtually anyone with such a system is either already a 'gamer' or has been exposed to real gaming and knows what to expect from current PC games. When they run Second Life on their systems and compare it to the current games it's like "LOL, WTF is that crap" and "hey guys, the 90s called and they want their graphics back". Windlight or not, Second Life is butt ugly compared to off the shelf serious offerings. This may be the SL content creators fault rather than Linden Labs but it's an inescapable fact. It's my personal opinion that this is why teen SL is such a failure. Everyone that age as been playing *real* games for years and instantly sees SL as the visual nightmare that it is.

Is whoever is holding the rudder (someone is, right?) within LL aware that the majority of PCs sold are *laptops*? And the overwhelming majority of laptops use integrated graphics that are incapable of being upgraded *and* incapable of running Second Life acceptably? Must be a strategic plan to limit growth by cutting the potential market by more than half.

Even if one surpasses all this and builds/buys a hot rig that *should* be able to run SL the ever present Nvidia graphics bug (VWR-7957) will pop out and ruin the entire experience. Not only will it make your avatar look deformed but also the SL viewer will take that unwanted 'you' and upload it to the server so everyone else will see you as a freak of nature too. This is an extra special catch 22 as the standard answer is to 'update your video drivers' but of course it's SL's incompatability with the current drivers that is causing the problems. And since the newest graphics cards *require* the new drivers well it's just tough luck until this bug is exchanged for 10 others.

I'd love to see a breakdown of total PCs sold vs percentage capable of delivering an acceptable SL experience. Probably no more than a few percent at best. As Prok says LL is way way out of touch with their market.

BTW->> I think that the Radeon 3650 won't be enough to do more than stagger around with. By the looks of this chart http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/video_lookup.php?cpu=Mobility+Radeon+HD+3650 its considerably weaker than other cards that are not good choices. Please give further details on your observations.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

Yes, p2p is a sure way to get gray squares, because it guarantees that you have to fetch a lot of textures. The alternative would be to let you hang in limbo long enough to retrieve all the textures near your landing point, which I'm sure people would object to, or vastly worse, not to support p2p at all, so that people would either spend the vast majority of their time traveling or, like people in RL from centuries ago, live out their (second) lives within a small region. I don't think anyone would be willing to accept that, especially those wishing to do business in SL.

That said, the speed with which things and people rez does indeed seem to go at a glacial crawl these days... but I suspect that has to do with having a single asset server.

Nubo Timeless

The problem is not with the "power" of graphics cards. Even a run-of-the-mill card today is ahead of top-of-the-line cards from a few years ago. And yet these problems persist. It's not about power. I've got a Mac Pro, and still get SL lockups. My graphics card certainly handles any number of other complex tasks and 3D realtime physics simulations with aplomb. Techies within SL try to help with pointers to hacked drivers (because Nvidia does not HAVE an updated driver). And then I find myself in the dank world of opensource where I'm supposed to go on an Easter Egg hunt for bits and pieces of code, install yet more pieces to help me build an environment from which to compile them, etc... C'mon! Might as well be looking for someone in a trenchcoat. "Psst! hey buddy, you need a graphics driver?". Very sad. It's why I gave up on SL fairly quickly and only boot it up now and then out of curiosity. After about 10 minutes my curiosity is satisfied. That's about how long it takes to lock up, so everything works out. Now if I were in the position of trying to *market* SL, maybe I'd realize this is bad for business and think a little about programming to reasonable *standards* instead of making my app dependent on hens teeth.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

"When they run Second Life on their systems and compare it to the current games it's like 'LOL, WTF is that crap' and 'hey guys, the 90s called and they want their graphics back'."

Yes... and when LL tries to do anything about it, the chorus of "don't add any features until you fix all the bugs" starts. Classic double bind.

Anna Gulaev

http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=dxcwqj1&c=us&l=en&s=dhs&cs=19&kc=productdetails~desktop-xps-430

Dell links probably have short lifespans, so here's how to find it if the above link doesn't work...

www.dell.com
Home & Home Office link under "Shop" at the bottom of the page
Desktop PCs in the upper left column
XPS
XPS 420 (the cheapest XPS system)
Continue button
Customize up to 4GB in the left-most column (the cheapest)
Keep hitting "Go to next component" until you get to the video card option, or make changes if you like
When you get to the video card options, the ATI Radeon HD3650 256MB option is the top option, for an additional $50

Anna Gulaev

Curiously, if you select "Configure up to 8GB" you will not be given the same video card options, even if you select 3GB memory and therefore theoretically build the same damned system. So yes, I believe you when you say you couldn't find it. Perhaps I just got lucky with my first choice. The dell build-to-order process apparently sucks.

And a 256MB card isn't the best option for a $1200 system, either. If you must have a mass retailer build it for you your choices will be much reduced. That's unfortunate, but that's the way the wal-mart economy works. The choices made by the most price-sensitive people dictate the choices that are available to everyone. You'd get better choices and better service from a smaller shop, but the big boxes put them out of business. That's not LL's fault.

It's unfortunate that getting a well-designed PC is a geeky task, but that's the way it is. If I lived near you I'd be happy to build you one, and you'd have all legal software and retail-level parts (rather than wholesale parts from big boxes) which would come with their own manuals, warranties and support numbers, and I'd be happy to swap out parts for you when you had trouble. Is there nobody you know locally that can do that for you?

Anna Gulaev

"What I'm starting to realize from this OpenGL crap that everyone is talking about here is that once again, we have a huge Linden ideological problem, based on the usual opensource fanaticism."

This much is also true. It's the same reason we have a crappy interface. They chose something that was easy to make cross-platform compatible, because heaven forbid they not support Linux and use open source software. The interface and openGL were fine choices nine years ago when SL was conceived. It was a quick way for a small team to get a cross-platform product up and running. If they were to start today, with more modern software and the knowledge that they'd have a market, I'd hope they'd make better choices.

But...they probably wouldn't. Better choices wouldn't stick it to the evil capitalists.

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