For the longest time, I avoided the official Second Life viewers like the plague.
There was always some update they wanted me to do when I had the least time to do it.
There was no grid selection at startup, and, compared to Hippo, everything was in the wrong place and the wrong color.
So I used Hippo for both, and then switched to Imprudence when that become the standard OpenSim browser.
Then Viewer 2 came out and I was forced to use it for some Second Life events, because they required media-on-a-prim. With media-on-a-prim – aka MOAP or Web media — you can show a slideshow in Second Life without having to upload every single slide individually as an image. You can pull up a spreadsheet and people can make edits to it — right there, inside Second Life. You could collaborate on Google documents and drawings.
For some business applications, media-on-a-prim was a savior.
So, for a while, I went back and forth. Each time I had to use Viewer 2, I would grumble — all the tool bars were in a different places. I could never find anything I needed. I couldn’t figure out how my clothes worked. And so on and so forth.
Viewer 2 was pretty much unusable for OpenSim because of the lack of grid selector at startup. Sure, you could edit the viewer shortcut to pull up the grid, but each time you went to a new grid you’d have to create a new shortcut, and that was a pain in the butt.
Especially since it usually took me three or four tries each time to get the shortcut to work… Is there a space after the hyphen? Is the loginURI in quotation marks? Is it a single or double hyphen?
Some of my confusion may have had to do with the fact that in my house we have Windows XP, Windows 7 and Linux computers, and the rules change depending on the machine.
But slowly, things started to change.
I was using the grid selector less and less because I was making hypergrid teleports to other grids, instead of logging in directly.
And the official Second Life viewer became more usable — the sidebars more logical, smaller, less obtrusive, and customizable. Once I finally rearranged everything to suit me, going back to Imprudence felt like stepping back in time.
So … I created a new shortcut pointing to my company grid, put it on my Taskbar and started using it every day. The media-on-a-prim was the big draw, of course, but if I ever came across any mesh, I’d be able to see it — OpenSim had compatible mesh the day after Second Life released it into beta. (It had another version of mesh for years prior.)
Sure, I have to be careful not to hit the search button, since that takes me into Second Life search and I haven’t figure out how to turn it off yet.
But other than that, Second Life Viewer 3 makes me happy. There you go. I’ve admitted it. I’m out and I’m proud.
It turns out that everything I love about OpenSim — hypergrid teleports, hypergrid landmarks, hypergrid friends and hypergrid instant messages, megaregions, free texture uploads — all those work just as well with the official viewer as with Imprudence.
And I’m not enough of a builder to tell the difference when it comes to the building tools. It’s ironic that OpenSim server code, which was built from scratch and is completely different from Second Life’s back end server code, is able to match Second Life’s latest and greatest features — mesh, media-on-a-prim, NPCs — faster than the third-party viewers developers can, even though they’ve got the Second Life viewer source code to work with.
But then, OpenSim is a huge project, with major corporations behind it as well as entrepreneurs, academics, and volunteer coders. Many companies are already making money from OpenSim. Meanwhile, viewer teams tend to be small, all-volunteer, and have little hope of turning their viewer development skills into viable businesses.
Maybe once the third-party viewers get away from the Second Life source code and make viewers from scratch, they’ll be able to commercialize those projects — and, in the process, make the viewers user friendly, accessible to newbies, and able to play well with the whole metaverse.
Meanwhile, I’m going to be clicking on that green hand with the weird eye for a while, instead of the purple hand making the sign of the devil horns.
There was one more straw still left to fall, though. You see, I’ve been using the grid selector to check grid statuses and look up grid welcome screens — where grid statistics are usually displayed.
But it turns out you don’t have to pull up a viewer to do that. You can just add “/get_grid_info” to the loginURI.
For example, CloneLife’s loginURI is clonelife.eu:8002. So you’d go to http://clonelife.eu:8002/get_grid_info — and you’d get a little XML list with the grid’s information. Plus, if you didn’t get any information back, you’d know the grid was down.
Note to developer gods — I’d also love to be able to pull grid stats the same way — total regions, total registered users, active 30-day users, and currently logged in. Since 140 out of 141 grids already release these numbers — SpotON3D is the lone exception — it wouldn’t hurt to make it a little easier for people like me to gather them.
(And no, not everybody automatically looks at the biggest grids, or the most active grids — though yes, that is a draw. Some people prefer smaller, cozier grids. Others are looking for fast-growing grids, with more opportunity to make an impact.)
Want all the loginURIs for all 140-odd public OpenSim grids, by the way? I just created a handy export page from my database, which will be updated monthly when I do the stats, or whenever I hit the update button: Active OpenSim Grids.