Firestorm lead recommends Alchemy viewer for OpenSim

Jessica Lyon, the head of the Firestorm Viewer project, is now recommending the rival Alchemy viewer for OpenSim users.

“Alchemy may be the most compatible viewer to OpenSim right now,” she said, thanks to the efforts of viewer developer Cinder Roxley.

Lyon was speaking at a taping of the InWorld Review. Watch the video below, starting at the 1:06 mark.

“Cinder is heavily involved in OpenSim in various avenues,” Lyon said. Meanwhile, the Firestorm team is heavily tilted towards Second Life support. “We don’t have a developer on our team who does OpenSim.”

Firestorm is currently the most popular viewer in Second Life — more popular even than the official Second Life viewer.

“We have 400,000 users each month logged into Second Life, unique users logging into Firestorm on the Second Life grid,” she said. “And through OpenSim, maybe a thousand, maybe ten thousand a month, so we have to keep our focus on where we can do the most good.”

Meanwhile, both Linden Lab and the OpenSim team add new features and tweak their platforms, but there’s a lack of information coming out of the OpenSim developers, which makes it hard to maintain compatibility.

“OpenSim is going to need to develop their own viewer,” she said. “It boils down to that. Our older versions of Firestorm are more compatible with OpenSim than our newer ones, and that’s a gap that’s just going to continue to grow as we stay compatible with Second Life.”

How to install

Like most Second Life-compatible viewers, the Alchemy login screen defaults to Second Life.

To configure it for OpenSim grids, launch the viewer, click on “Me” at top left, then click Preferences.

Alchemy login screen

Select the “Grids” tab from the panel on the left, then add your grid by pasting its loginURI. You can get the loginURIs for all the active OpenSim grids here. Then just click the “Add” button.

Alchemy preferences

To show the grid selector on the main login screen, check that option before clicking “OK” to close the preferences window.

According to Roxley, who’s worked on both the Firestorm and Alchemy teams, there are a number of differences between the viewers.

“Firestorm is more geared towards developing new features and being sort of the kitchen sink of viewers with everything in it,” she told Hypergrid Business. “Alchemy’s focus has been on increasing performance and intuitive design. Most people who try Alchemy notice right away that it’s more like the Second Life viewer in appearance, but most of the work we do on it is under the hood where things are very different. In fact, we work closely with Linden Lab to push our under-the-hood changes back upstream which makes it easier for us to stay inline with their changes while preserving our own.”

These features might not always be immediately noticeable to users, she added.

In addition, Roxley said, she decided to clear the slate and write OpenSim compatibility from scratch.

“This made the OpenSim base much cleaner and accounts for fundamental differences that didn’t exist when OpenSim was added to other viewers — things like varregions, hypergrid, export controls weren’t around in 2010,” she said.

For hypergrid travelers, the main difference between the two viewers is that there are no hop:// links in Alchemy, which uses a different scheme called x-grid-location-info://.

I’ve been using the Alchemy Viewer on and off for the last couple of weeks, and have only been able to find a couple of minor difference between Alchemy and Firestorm. For example, the Phototools feature in Firestorm, which is kind of like an Instagram filter for your snapshots, is missing. Instead, you can use the less functional Environment Settings in Alchemy and its icon is a little cloud.

Since half of what I do in OpenSim involves taking snapshots, I’ll probably stick with Firestorm just for that, unless other issues come up.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

41 Responses

  1.' Da Hayward says:

    Meanwhile, the Firestorm team is heavily tilted towards Second Life support. “We don’t have a developer on our team who does OpenSim.” does that mean firestorm is not interested in open sim?

    •' XMIR Grid says:

      It probably means what she said in the video; the lack of clear communication + direction from the OpenSim developers makes it a substantial undertaking to support OpenSim in the viewer as the SL viewer moves fast forward. Given the 450000 : 5000 ratio between SL and OpenSim users of Firestorm it is easy to understand where their priorities are.

      •' Da Hayward says:

        well said. personally i use firestorm in open sim and it is my choice of viewer.I would love to see it developed more for open sim, but as you say with a lack of communication and direction that would indeed be a task.

      •' XMIR Grid says:

        Let me add to that OpenSim has a versioning problem as far as testing features that is largely non-existent in SecondLife. This adds to the time developing for OpenSim.

  2.' Carlos Loff says:

    There is one issue where I envy SLrs above Opensimers – Everything is always changing to much in Opensim, we never know when we wakeup what the hell will be lacking or not working, even viewers, sometimes I find it 5.645 TIMES more useful to just let it all stay as it is for at least 6 month or even 1 year each time – I know innovation is importante but what the hell, do I live happy in my house if every week Im changing furniture tearing down walls and making it better every single week ??? No, Im not hapopy on my house like that with constant innovation7renovation, NO

  3.' Butch Arnold says:

    I can say that we’ve had very good luck with the custom DigiWorldz version of Alchemy on our grid and others. It also has support for “Mesh Deformer” as well as fitted mesh so you can use either with our viewer.
    After trying many different version of FireStorm, we have found that version 4.6.9 seems to work the best for opensim.
    Cinder and the rest of the Alchemy team has done a fine job, but some users will miss many of the features found in other viewers which Alchemy does not yet have.

  4.' Jim Tarber says:

    Last year, the InWorldz 2.x viewer (which was based on Firestorm) ran into many of the same difficulties that Jessica was describing in this interview. Firestorm is the kitchen sink of features and options, over quite a long period of time, and each of those features and options adds to the pile of work that must continue to be supported, pretty much for eternity, and just gets bigger and bigger until it is unmanageable, or unless you start cutting features and options and thus breaking backwards compatibility with the previous feature set. The result was that with limited personnel to do the work, InWorldz could not really continue to provide updated viewers for all platforms that also included newer features from the LL viewer, and I see that also showing on the Firestorm project now too.

    I completely understand the heavy weights hanging from the ankles of the Firestorm team, and can only offer my support behind whatever they feel is necessary to go forward in the long term as a third-party viewer, for any grid, even if it’s just SL.

    Some time ago, InWorldz made the decision to abandon further attempts to keep the Firestorm-based viewer codebase up-to-date, and ceased development of the FS-based IW2 viewer. Instead, the idea was to wipe the slate clean on the huge feature set that bulked up the viewer, and refocus limited resources on a new viewer derived more directly from the current LL viewer code, making it *much* easier to stay up-to-date with LL fixes and additions in their SL viewer, i.e. to make the big pile a whole lot smaller. Alchemy was very close to that, with a small number of improvements but not diverged from the LL code nearly as much as Firestorm had become. Cinder’s work to produce a special version of the Alchemy viewer for InWorldz, based on continued feedback from the user community, has been incredible, and a game-changer. It has enabled InWorldz to move forward full-speed again, after getting hung up a bit on a viewer that wasn’t getting further updates. And the work by Drake and Cinder on Alchemy provides a lean, mean viewer alternative to other grids too. (Actually, I use the InWorldz 3 viewer in SL, and it is also an alternative for other OpenSim grids, although it might seem a bit strange to use it that way! But the differences are in direct requests from the experienced users, many who are FS users, so those differences may also be important to other grid users as well.)

    Project Bento is not nearly as big a deal as Mal seemed to feel in the last 30 minutes there. It’s really just a more *complete* 1.0 version of the avatar bones, so more like an avatar 1.1, and InWorldz will fully support Project Bento very quickly. In fact, it’s a much smaller update than we had been hoping for, where we would have ideally like to have seen user-specified bones added in some kind of user-definable skeleton definition, rather than a few more pre-defined, hard-coded bones. But it’s another incremental step forward, and given LL’s distractions elsewhere, it’s great to see that welcome addition to the standard (upstream) viewer.

    Maria’s comments in the last 30 minutes about prims vs mesh are a bit off. There is no “copyright on prims”, let alone held by LL. Prims precede LL’s work by many years, and are generic terms, and are probably less encumbered than Collada™-format files (which you can’t even name without invoking a trademark). Prims already exist in Blender, for example, or any other 3-D creation tool. You don’t need rez a series of vertices there, you can “rez” a box, or a sphere, for example. Prims are just pre-defined simple meshes.

    I think it’s a good time for the community to wake up a bit and recognize that “free” does get you very much. Free gets you a dwindling FS team that must now take a hard look at scaling back operations to deal with the realities of the scope of the project. If you are using a tool on a daily basis, and you want there to be someone there to support it going forward, you should be sending them at least a little funding for their work on an annual (or monthly) basis. If you are a grid owner, you should be sending them a lot of funding. Pay them what they deserve, if you want them to still be available next time you need them! This goes for the Firestorm team, the Alchemy team, and any other volunteer developers, managers and testers not running their own commercial grids or products from their developments. And for those who are doing work for commercial grids, support them with whatever you can in terms of sales, rentals, tier, spreading the word (especially to non-virtual world users), or even just with your presence. At least to the ones who are active and working for the future.

    The SL-compatible virtual world community isn’t growing, despite what you may had read, and personally I feel that both viewers and grids are now in a battle of who has staying power to last long enough to still be around when the new arrivals no longer make up for the attrition. If you like a viewer, or a grid, help them. And that can be a donation (for the volunteers), a land rental or other subscription from the commercial groups, or it might just be offering new virtual products, or going to events, or telling others about your favorite things, including spreading the word outside the virtual world community.

    •' Dharma Galaxy says:

      Could you cut this down into bullet points? I do think the viewer was overhyped, but your reaction was too dense for me. My first reaction was this was geared to a developer side that I am no longer interested in and that the people involved never really spend time inworld….but I gave up development back in 2010 when I lost a lung to cancer. I’d like to see this facit go somewhere, and clearly defined complaints will help.

      My first complaint is that I haven’t been able to hear a stream I am generating on a site I host…and NO, I am not willing to do anything different for them.

      •' Jim Tarber says:

        I’m not sure which viewer you are referring to, and I don’t follow the rest of the first paragraph except for the last sentence. Constructive feedback of outstanding things people would like to see fixed (in any viewer) is always the best path forward. Re: the music stream, if there’s a problem hearing one, to get it investigated the first step would be to report it on the Firestorm JIRA, Alchemy JIRA, or InWorldz Mantis problem reporting system with the actual relevant information, such as the actual stream URL you’re trying to listen to, and which viewer, and *especially* which platform. Mac OS X has its own separate URLs for streams and often can’t handle “normal” music URLs, except perhaps in iTunes. So URL, viewer, version, and platform at the very least, reported to the appropriate viewer. Also would be good to know if the stream plays in the SL viewer, or in other media players like VLC Player (which tends to handle everything), iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc.

        •' Dharma Galaxy says:

          No…the first step is to delete the failed viewer. If you want to get anywhere you first have to work out of the box.

    •' Da Hayward says:

      If you like a viewer, or a grid, help them. And that can be a donation (for the volunteers), a land rental or other subscription from the commercial groups, or it might just be offering new virtual products, or going to events, or telling others about your favorite things, including spreading the word outside the virtual world community.

      I couldnt agree more

  5.' Dharma Galaxy says:

    Um….I’ve just started into Alchemy and I’m wondering if these people have ever used either SL or Opensim. I’m not going to figure out how to listen to my stream their way, and they can eff off. I run a private grid, and a private audio stream. If I have to figure out how to listen to my music on my web they have already lost.

  6.' Dharma Galaxy says:

    I gather there is no reason to bother asking why.

    •' Cinder Biscuits says:

      Hi Dharma, not only do we regularly clock in more hours in OpenSim than other viewer developers do by a landslide, but we have contributed code to the OpenSim project and Second Life as well! Our “effing off” would probably not be in your best interest. Enjoy the blissful ignorance on your private grid, and we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing since 2008. 🙂

      •' Dharma Galaxy says:

        Thank you for responding…that is better than Usual. Now…

        I’m not going to do anything to hear my WINAmp stream on my Grid. Please let me know when to bother to try again — since I see no reason to keep a watch either — other than the fact that FS is crashing with the latest NVIDIA. I wouldn’t even be looking at you otherwise.

        (I know I am being an asshole…but at least I am telling you; which most would not.)

        •' Cinder Biscuits says:

          Can you send me a link to your stream so I check see why Alchemy isn’t playing it?

        •' Jim Tarber says:

          A wise person once said: “I’d like to see this facit go somewhere, and clearly defined complaints will help.” It serves no purpose to just report that something doesn’t work, without providing any relevant information (see my reply above). And a HGB post isn’t an appropriate place to report a problem in a viewer anyway.

          •' Dharma Galaxy says:

            Yes it does. Itr provides the fact of failure. Expecting more from me is expecting me to do your development; which I am not willing to spend the effort upon. Why don’t you provide a clean way for my software to report at the point of failure — even if it isn’t a crash?

          •' Jim Tarber says:

            In general, music streams work. The clean way to report this is to just provide the known information, that only you know. If you can’t even include the which viewer, version and platform, and refuse to report the URL with the problem, then you aren’t providing any information for the viewer developers to follow up on and investigate with. It’s like going into a police station and reporting that your car was stolen but not offering the license number, model, or location it was last scene. Don’t expect much of an investigation, especially from volunteers offering you something for free. (In fact, you can pretty much guarantee that your report is ignored, because it isn’t a report.)

          •' Dharma Galaxy says:

            I am not interestest in the clean way, I am interested in a customer centered development — and I did not read beyond “clean way” because it would be a complete waste of time to bother.

          •' Jim Tarber says:

            You were the one who asked for the clean way, however I think your intent may be clear here now. I too should have stopped reading after “I’m not interested”. I wish you well with whatever viewer you are using, on whichever platform it is, which has the problem you aren’t interested in reporting.

          •' Dharma Galaxy says:

            I’m trying to pull the usual developer’s head out of their arse….you seem to be the norm. No wonder no one other than maybe a few developers likes your work.

            Basic rule you don’t seem to understand: the customer is always right.

          •' Jim Tarber says:

            Two things you don’t seem to understand:
            – Viewer developers are volunteers. You can’t come out of nowhere and make unreasonable demands of them.
            – You aren’t a customer. How much did you pay Cinder, or Jessica (or anybody) for whatever viewer you’re using? Yeah.

            And since you’re just trolling here, literally, ‘nuf said. You aren’t here to be constructive. Have a great evening, I’m done with your self-entitled nonsense.

          •' Dharma Galaxy says:

            As far as I can tell, at least half the volunteers ought to go find some other activity. There are some people out there who want to make a product to fill a need, and the others — it seems like you — are simple crud in the way.

            I really would rather see fewer developers doing this and have them be people who at least understand the theory of developing to fill a need. People who come back at the users the way you have need to go away, never to be heard from again. — This is the basic problem with Opensim development.

          •' Cinder Biscuits says:

            I’m glad you got your streaming problem all sorted out now, hun,

          •' Dharma Galaxy says:

            I asked for you to provide a clean way for you to collect the information….are you simply stupid?

  7.' Jim Tarber says:

    I believe if you just drop the “spherical” from the path and it’s a Shoutcast stream. Try:

    •' Dharma Galaxy says:

      Unlike you, bozo, Cinder understands our rolls. And no, bozo, I am not going to change anything.

  8.' Cinder Biscuits says:

    Thank you. I have this working now on our development branch. It was a bug with the audio decoding library. Next release (which is imminent) should fix the stream for you.

  9.' Jessica Lyon says:

    I’m sorry but this whole article is taken out of context from what I was saying. My main point was not that we were giving up on OpenSim, but that… IF OpenSim developers and grid owners do not start helping us by actually communicating with us then it becomes monumentally more difficult for us to maintain OpenSim compatibility. When OpenSim developers or grid owners make changes to their server code without notifying us they’ve made those changes how can we possibly stay compatible? So then when we release a new version of Firestorm there is a problem we had no idea about and we THEN we get accused of not supporting OpenSim. We DO want to continue to remain compatible with OpenSim AND have every intention to, but we can’t do so without the cooperation of OpenSim administrators.

    Furthermore, I did not say OS users should move to Alchemy, I said that Alchemy is probably the most compatible with OpenSim BECAUSE Cinder is involved with OS development and therefor is informed on what is being changed.
    At no point did I say people should leave Firestorm or that we are giving up on OpenSim.

    Jessica Lyon
    Project Manager
    The Phoenix Firestorm Project, Inc.

    •' Da Hayward says:

      Thank You Jessica, that is very re-assuring, personally i prefer firestorm. I’ll be talking to alex later today and suggest he contacts you, We have a large VAR located within the AviWorlds grid and I know that I would love to see more developement on the viewers for large VAR Regions.
      Thanks for your response

    • maria does that… A LOT!

    •' Da Hayward says:

      wow that is great.
      just goes to show tha by working together we can accomplish our tasks and meet our goals.
      I reccomend reading Jessicas link.
      Im sure the more wise of us will take on board what she has written

  10.' Adam01time says:

    You know I think this comes down to. people think opensim and closed grids that use a open sim flavor. then you have open sim that is configured heavily. Then you have IW that has there own way of handling data.
    So should a opensim viewer developer actually develop towards the raw code of opensim.
    or should they work with the individual grid owners. I think by far a simple note to any of the viewer developers that have taken time to have you on the grid manager by default would love to here feed back from grid owners.
    At that level only can and will you see satisfaction.
    As I look at the base code of all viewers I see the LL viewer some emerald “pheonix” viewer and a ton of Firestorm and singularity code. I never will get this my viewer is better than yours.
    If a viewer is developed for a grid that hand shake works the best.
    My Favorite Viewer in SL is the SL viewer that I maintain. But do I like FS sure world class viewer. Do I like Alchemy heck yes wonderful viewer. Kokua, But when in SL I like the SL viewer for my needs. I did not like the size of the camra tool so I changed it. I needed cef so I added it.
    When going to open sim I find FS has met my needs. I built the digi viewer in linux the v1 hybrid and the v3 one.
    pushed the art to it and logged in. it worked fine.
    When in IW I like to use the viewer built for IW. these are tools. and thats what it’s about. The hand shake.

  11.' Samantha Atkins says:

    Lack of information from opensim viewer developers? But wait, those are open source where much of the LL stuff is not. I am confused.

  12.' Cycro Enerugi says:

    This is not True… EVERY USER PLEASE READ!!!