[SLED] New Laptop - SL Video Issues - Clearing Up SomeMisconceptions

Trevena, Stan Trevena.S at monet.k12.ca.us
Sat Jun 16 23:37:24 PDT 2007

Schools need to be VERY aware of the compatibility of the current Second Life client before diving in.  
In the K-12 arena many computers use video cards that have shared memory with the video chipset on the motherboard.  If this is not taken into account, a K-12 educator might have plans for using Second Life in a specific lab on campus only to find out that they will need to upgrade to compatible video cards to get Second Life running.  With the constrained budgets of many K12 districts, this simply might not be possible.  On college campuses I am sure that many computers are of the "workstation" variety (like my laptop).  A professor planning on supplementing their class with Second Life might not even think that the high end workstations in their lab would have a problem running Second Life.  And with Vista, even some of the more mainstream video cards are apparently "not supported yet".  Many educational institutions have already started their rollouts of Vista.  
I am heavily invested in the Second Life platform, owning three islands for our project.  Read the blog (http://pacificrimx.wordpress.com) and you will find that I am far from a "doom and gloomer" on Second Life.  I am however a realist.  And I try to raise awareness of the issues that will cause pain for those in education who are thinking about running with Second Life.  There is currently not enough critical discussion of the platform, especially among educators.  Most posts steer clear of anything critical of the platform, or of the company.  If there's no pressure from the community these things will not have any priority in getting fixed, and we will continue to see other changes made to the platform instead of some of the fixing that needs to take place. 
Since I am posting this, I'll toss out another recent pet peeve.  We are having one giant pain in the neck trying to support the Second Life client in a locked down Windows desktop environment (very common on many campuses).  I know some have figured out how to kludge together a thumb drive installation, but this has failed in our environment (we could not provide a thumb drive for every student even if it did work).  We have finally had to resort to having a technician fire up and update a master copy of Second Life, then copy this up to a mapped drive on a network server.  Then, we have scripted those with rights to run Second Life to pull an updated copy to their mapped network drive when they start up.  This work around is far from ideal and really causes a noticeable delay the in start up of the client.  Why can't a .msi or .zip file be distributed for updates to the client by Linden Lab?  If I can push an image of a server directory to a client and make it work, an .msi or .zip should not be that difficult to add to the support site.  I've asked this question several times of Linden Lab and have only been told that it can't be done "at this time".
You said "several people have indicated that they're using information obtained on this list to make the case for SL at their institutions, and they're entitled to accurate information about potential issues with the platform."   
My general statement about OpenGL might have been too generalized and Windows biased, but the underlying fact that Second Life has problems with Vista and some video cards is accurate, and that is the message that was intended to be conveyed.  I don't see many educators going to their administrators and quoting technical system specifications.  These individuals need to know what works, and how the Second Life platform might be used to enhance the curriculum.  
This was stated by Philip Rosedale recently:

"Something is broken on Vista and we'll figure it out. The challenge we have is rendering a world in 3D because historically only games have used 3D. What we are saying is SL is the next world wide web and so every computer has to do 3D perfectly. We are probably 18 months away from where every machine with Vista or Mac OS X should be able to run SL. I think we started a little bit early but the enthusiasm that people have about co-creating the world has sustained it. What is amazing is this is only the beginning of the 3D-web and SL." - source: http://tinyurl.com/yqy9jq

18 months!?!?!?!  How many people on this listserv think that 18 months to bring a mainstream online application/client into compatibility with two new OS's (Vista AND OS X) might be a bit too looooooong?  How many mainstream applications could survive a delay of that length?  What would happen to Adobe Premire, Adobe Photoshop, or even Maya if they took 18 months to update compatibility with the latest OS's?  And the statement that "SL is the next world wide web" was pretty bold given the serious grid issues.  I know, a fix is on the horizon that will exponentially expand concurrent resident numbers on the grid, but how long?

I see some stress cracks forming in the platform, I see some major issues that are not being resolved in a timely fashion, and I am more than a little bit worried that if things don't get resolved quickly that the momentum may start to bleed off of Second Life's extraordinary rise in popularity over the past six months.  They are not dead in the water, nor are the doomed to fail.  I am simply trying to wave some warning flags in hope that someone is out there listening to these listservs that has the ability to address some of these issues with resources at their disposal.  

These are all personal opions, and I seriously doubt that anyone would base their recommendations to use SL at their campus on my posts to this listserv alone.  And that's what makes these environement so useful, the diversity of opinons that are posted.

Stan Trevena



From: educators-bounces at lists.secondlife.com on behalf of Ruben R.Puentedura
Sent: Sat 6/16/2007 10:31 PM
To: SL Educators
Subject: Re: [SLED] New Laptop - SL Video Issues - Clearing Up SomeMisconceptions


While you're entitled to your opinion about what SL needs to do to 
"make it" as a mainstream platform, some of the points you've made in 
this thread are misleading or simply incorrect:

1. You said in an earlier message that "Open GL was released back in 
the day of limited video memory.  It was introduced in 1992..." - this 
is about as relevant as the fact that Direct3D came out originally in 
1995. Both OpenGL and Direct3D have been revised extensively in the 
meantime; the latest versions are about equally powerful, and skilled 
developers can do equally well using either API.

2. While it is indeed true that most Windows-only games released 
today are based on Direct3D 9.0c (dating from late 2005), this has 
little to do with driver or 3D API issues, and more to do with 
Microsoft's excellent developer support for the complete DirectX API 
from that version onwards. However, almost all cross-platform games 
use OpenGL in some form (at least for the Mac OS X or Linux versions) 
- for Second Life to remain cross-platform, it will likely need to 
continue using OpenGL as the 3D graphics API.

3. Leaving the games community aside for a moment, OpenGL enjoys 
excellent support in the scientific and 3D modeling communities - 
Maya, for instance, requires OpenGL.

4. The urban myths surrounding whether ATI/NVIDIA loves/hates 
Direct3D/OpenGL on Vista/Tiger could fill several volumes. Suffice it 
to say, some cards have better drivers than others for some APIs on 
some systems - but I've yet to see anybody point out a pattern that 
holds up under serious scrutiny. Your particular example (the FireGL) 
is not a mainstream card - it is optimized for workstation use (e.g., 
Maya), not games or game-like applications. While I agree that Second 
Life should eventually work properly on this card under Vista, I can 
also understand why Linden Lab/ATI might not view this as their 
highest priority.

Not trying to nitpick here - but several people have indicated that 
they're using information obtained on this list to make the case for 
SL at their institutions, and they're entitled to accurate 
information about potential issues with the platform.

All the best,

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