As has been written both here and on basically the overwhelming majority of the blogs that cover any aspect of Second Life, Server-Side Appearance (also known as Project Shining, Project Sunshine, Server-Side Baking, Server-Side Baking/Appearance, SSA, SSB, SSB/A) has been implemented grid-wide. As has also been written numerous times, if you didn’t want to see grey all around you and appear grey yourself, therefore making you look and feel like you should for having spent so much L$ (and, more often than not, real-world money that you used to buy LL’s virtual currency) on clothing, skins etc that no one can see, you had to update your viewer and use something that’s compatible with this new server capability.

Yeah, yeah, I know. The “evil” Linden Lab is forcing a viewer down your throats, blah, blah, blah, yadda yadda yadda. Drama, drama, drama. Cry me a river, see if I care. Fact is that, as Tonya Souther of the Firestorm team reports, more than 85% of SL’s users are already on SSA-capable viewers and even more people are updating as we speak. When everyone else (let’s face it, 9 out of 10 users) took the “trouble” to… “sacrifice” ten minutes of their usual Second Life routine to download a new, up-to-date viewer and readjust the viewer the way they want it, could you please be so kind to explain to me why you still haven’t bothered to update, even though you knew months ago that this was coming? Were you too busy clicking on others’ Xcite! parts, filling the atmosphere with green spam? Or perhaps were you too busy posting inane comments on blogs about how LL and the TPV developers are “evil”? Whatever your excuse, let me remind you that updating and readjusting your viewer would take you less than it’d take you to post a whiny blog comment. If you think anyone’s going to be sympathetic to you, think again.

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On Monday 19 August, it was announced that Server Side Appearance (also known as Server Side Baking/Appearance, SSA, SSB/A, Project Shining or Project Sunshine) would be enabled this week, after a period of testing on the Release Candidate servers, BlueSteel and LeTigre. Now, although the announcement on the official blog post doesn’t give any specific date for when LL will “throw the switch” and enable SSA across the grid, Nyx Linden confirmed that:

  • SSA will be enabled on the Main channel after the server deployments (read: rolling restarts) today, August 20.
  • As for the Release Candidate servers (BlueSteel and LeTigre), SSA will be enabled on them after the server deployments of Wednesday, August 21. Right now, the only RC channel with SSA enabled is Magnum.

Of course, this means that those who were “holding out” for the last moment or holding on to obsolete viewers (which are also laggy, as they don’t take advantage of the significant improvements in the rendering pipeline that had been implemented in the past few months) have only a few hours to update their viewers. Currently, all maintained viewers (i.e. viewers that haven’t been abandoned) support SSA, with the exception of Dolphin (V3-based), which is hoped to get SSA support shortly, and Imprudence (V1-based), which has become practically obsolete and will need a lot of work before it gets up to speed again.

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I know it’s a bit late in the game and that, in all likelihood, every Firestorm user will have updated their viewer to version, the “emergency update”, but a reminder never hurt anyone. First of all, although version 4.4.0 was already SSB/A-ready, there have been several additions to the code, provided by Linden Lab, which are intended to improve performance once SSB/A begins being deployed across the main grid. I want to remind everyone here that, according to an announcement Nyx Linden made on 22 June, on the 9th of July (this Tuesday), SSB/A will start being deployed – all things being equal, of course.

What does this all mean, in practical terms? Well, for starters, people who insist on using Firestorm 4.3.1 (or older versions) will begin to see more and more grey avatars around them, while they themselves will be seen as clouds by those around them. And I’m not exactly sure how many of those who will try to log in to Second Life using obsolete viewers will be affected by the current outfit folder corruption issue – for more information, see the detailed coverage by Exotix (Inara Pey)  (1 and 2) and the related JIRA (SVC-7653). Nyx did say that they’re working on it, but I advise everyone to err on the side of caution and not be one of the lazy and stubborn folks that keep using antiquated, slow, laggy (yes, the lag you may be experiencing could very well be because your viewer doesn’t take advantage of recent improvements in the rendering pipeline, so you have one more reason to update your viewer) viewers.

Server-Side Baking/Appearance (SSB/A): Most viewers should soon support this new capability. Make sure that you have installed an updated release of your favourite viewer, otherwise you will see grey avatars when this new capability is added (deployment is scheduled to begin on 9 July 2013). - Image by Exotix (Inara Pey)

Server-Side Baking/Appearance (SSB/A): Most viewers should soon support this new capability. Make sure that you have installed an updated release of your favourite viewer, otherwise you will see grey avatars when this new capability is added (deployment is scheduled to begin on 9 July 2013). – Image by Exotix (Inara Pey)

Now, it’s true that in an unusually short time, we had two consecutive Firestorm releases: we were advised to upgrade from 4.4.0 to (with a clean install being strongly recommended) and then, very hurriedly, the Firestorm team blocked that release from logging in to the grid and told us to switch to (which did not require a clean install from, but does require one if you’re upgrading from 4.4.0 or earlier).

What’s going on?

Well, as far as the users are concerned, releases and of Firestorm are identical in every respect, save for one detail: in the run-up to the release of 4.4.1, the Firestorm team had, in agreement with Linden Lab, drastically increased the frequency its data logging subsystem was sending data to Linden Lab, so that the Lab would have the data it needed, as they were well on the way to enabling SSB/A on the main grid. Then Firestorm was released as a stable release, but the data logging was forgotten in the aforementioned setting, which inundated LL’s statistics servers. Major oops.

So, rather than pull an Apple and pretend the problem wasn’t there, the Firestorm team owned up, put together a new release to fix that problem, made an announcement (actually, two – here‘s the most recent one) whose honesty was a most welcome change from what the most jaded among us have been used to and duly went and blocked 4.4.1 from logging in to the grid themselves. Of course, the tin-foil hat brigade was on hand to provide the team with numerous headaches and facepalms, but encountering idiots is like death and taxes (at least for us proles): unavoidable.

What’s new in Firestorm since

First of all, they incorporated some fixes and improvements that Linden Lab provided:

  • Fix for some objects not rendering until first LoD switch/selection – this is a fix for MAINT-2647, provided by Runitai Linden. Please note that, as Whirly Fizzle commented on 1 July 2013, the fix reduces the problem, but does not eradicate it. LL are working on more fixes, but the code is not public yet.
  • Added RegionHandshakeReply flags for Serverside Appearance – Added a flag to hint to the sim that this viewer knows how to handle AvatarAppearance messages for self in SSA-enabled regions. Once Linden Lab roll out the updated servers, old viewers will not get AvatarAppearance messages for their own avatar, unless they make an appearance request (transitioning to a new region, changing clothes/outfits, forcing a rebake). Viewers that integrate the above fix will tell the region in advance that they support the new protocol. This is the viewerside fix to deal with SUN-74. Provided by Nyx Linden.

Regarding fixes and improvements by the Firestorm team, we have the following:

  • Merge up to 3.4.5 codebase plus cherry picked fixes plus server side appearance support improvementsTankmaster Finesmith, Ansariel Hiller
  • Major under the hood refactoring in preparation for the CHUI mergeAnsariel Hiller
  • RLVa 1.48a maintenance and keepers of naughty catzKitty Barnett, Trinity Dejavu

There are also numerous other improvements, for which I think you should read the change log.

That said, you really should update your viewer now.

As the slogan goes, don’t be cloudy and grey – enjoy sunshine today!




See also:

For more details on SSB/A, I highly recommend (as always) reading the detailed and concise coverage that Exotix (Inara Pey) has offered on Her blog ever since LL disclosed technical details about it.



Yesterday, a notecard containing a message from Nyx Linden started doing the rounds. Its subject is, as this post’s title so subtly implies, SSB/A (Server-Side Baking/Appearance). To cut a long story short, we now have a date for when Linden Lab will gradually enable SSB/A: It’s the 9th of July. The message in full is as follows:

Greetings all,

Wanted to give everyone a quick update on the status of Server Side Appearance. First of all, thanks to all who helped participate in last week’s pile-on test, and a special thanks to those viewers who are already integrating the RegionHandshakeReply flag posted recently. We’ll likely be doing one more pile-on next week, targeting a smaller set of users (to avoid inventory limits that have caused attachments not to load, etc) next week. Let me know if you’d like to participate.

We currently are not aware of any major release-blocking bugs and are starting to look at scheduling the roll-out process. We have a number of QA passes and tests to run through before we can get the final greenlight to do so, so we are currently targeting July 9th as the earliest date at which we will enable SSA for a significant portion of the grid (a server RC channel). Please note that if we find additional bugs in the meantime, or run into other scheduling difficulties this date could be pushed back. We will not be going to RC before this date however.

Please consider this an official warning that this is imminent – We’ve been saying for a while that we’re getting ready for release. We hope with a solid date in mind, all viewers can start messaging to their users that they will need to update or they will start to see issues. There are a few methods by which we will be messaging to the SL community as a whole about this, but we highly encourage you to use your judgement in the best way to reach out to your users and transition them to SSA-compatible viewers.

As always, if you have any questions, or see any issues that could be worrisome if they are not fixed before release, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and/or file a JIRA. Thanks for all your work in preparing for this release!

Nyx Linden

As has already been mentioned by Exotix (Inara Pey), whose blog is my go-to resource whenever I need SL-related news in a way that even people that are not 3D graphics experts can understand, when SSB/A is fully deployed, those who insist on using antiquated viewers and hardware that cannot support SL at all will appear as clouds to others and others will appear grey to them. Please note that I’m not buying the “I can’t afford a new graphics card” excuse; pretty decent ones (even pretty decent complete computers, actually) are available second-hand at very reasonable prices. After all, Second Life has never been intended for ultra-low-end hardware.

Update your viewers now. All viewer projects that are maintained by their teams and not abandoned (only Dolphin and Exodus have not incorporated the SSB/A code as I’m writing, but I expect they will get with the programme posthaste) now support SSB/A – regardless of whether they implement a V3-style interface or stick to V1. There’s no excuse for people to not update their viewers. So, at this moment, the options are as follows:

  • If you want a V1-style interface: You have CoolVL and Singularity. Take your pick.
  • If you prefer the V3 interface: You can install the official SL viewer (obviously), Catznip, Firestorm, Kokua, Niran’s, and RLV.

Also, Lumiya, Metabolt and Radegast are SSB/A-ready.

Oh, and please don’t give me any conspiracy theories about LL and TPV developers “having plotted” to kill your favourite viewer. Either update your viewer(s) or leave SL. After all, SL has never been intended for technophobes.




See also:



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):

Server-Side Baking/Appearance (SSB-A): Most viewers should soon support this new capability. Make sure that you have installed an updated release of your favourite viewer, otherwise you will see grey avatars when this new capability is added (deployment schedule is undetermined at the moment).

Server-Side Baking/Appearance (SSB-A): Most viewers should soon support this new capability. Make sure that you have installed an updated release of your favourite viewer, otherwise you will see grey avatars when this new capability is added (deployment schedule is undetermined at the momentis scheduled to begin on 9 July 2013). – Image by Exotix (Inara Pey)


Right now, the viewers that support SSB/A are the following:

In the meantime, Catznip‘s R8 release, which will feature SSB/A compatibility, has been in development for quite a while now. Also, I fully expect that Dolphin and Exodus will be SSB/A-capable soon.

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.