Project Shining, a concerted effort on behalf of Linden Lab to improve Second Life’s server-side underpinnings and give users a (hopefully) better experience, has been underway for quite some time now. A sub-project of Project Shining is Project Sunshine, which is more widely known among SL’s users and observers nowadays as (take your pick) Server-Side Baking (SSB) or Server-Side Appearance (SSA) or Server-Side Baking/Appearance (SSB/A). Project Sunshine’s objective is to resolve an issue that has been bothering SL users for as long as I can remember myself in SL: avatar bake fail. Avatar bake fail is this annoying situation where avatars (yours or others’) fail to render correctly either to you or to others around you (or both) and appear blurry.
On 29 May, just a few short hours ago before I sat down to write these lines, LL formally announced the forthcoming arrival of SSB/A with a special announcement on their own blog, in which a short video explaining the changes and improvements was also included:
As indicated in the post and the video, the deployment of SSB/A will take place in three stages:
- Viewer update: Available now for the majority of popular SL viewers
- Deployment of server-side changes, which will begin soon
- A second viewer update that will happen after server deployments are completed
Don’t expect the server-side changes to take place overnight, though. This new service will require extensive testing, which will take place in order to ensure that things will be working as smoothly as possible before LL decides that the time has come to enable SSB/A gridwide. So, a number of region will have SSB/A enabled and they will be used as testbeds to assess the new service’s performance for a period of time (which is not yet determined, as LL is being cautious and working closely with third-party viewer (TPV_ developers to ensure a smooth transition. When the results of the testing are deemed to be satisfactory enough, the decision will be made to “throw the switch” and SSB/A will be enabled throughout the grid. Please note that the number of test regions may increase over time, depending on the progress of the testing.
Now, it must be pointed out that none of us will be able to tell which regions are SSB/A enabled and which aren’t. So, it’s extremely important that you make sure that you have updated your viewer with a release that supports the new avatar baking capabilities, otherwise, when SSB/A is activated gridwide, you will see grey avatars and others will see you as a cloud. To illustrate the situation that you will encounter if you keep using an outdated viewer, I’ll use a picture that Exotix (Inara Pey) has used on Her blog (where you will find some of the best coverage of not only Project Shining, but numerous other SL-related issues, technical or not):
Right now, the viewers that support SSB/A are the following:
- The official SL viewer
- Cool VL Viewer
- Niran’s Viewer
- The Restrained Love Viewer for Windows and Linux
For more details on SSB/A, I highly recommend reading the detailed and concise coverage that Exotix (Inara Pey) has offered on Her blog ever since LL disclosed technical details about it.
- Avatar Baking: “and the clock has started!” (15 December, 2012)
- Server-side Baking / Appearance update (6 April, 2013)
- Server-side Baking / Appearance: key questions answered by the Lab (14 May, 2013)
- Server-side deployment news (18 May, 2013)
- All SSB/A updates by Exotix (Inara Pey)