I started out here checking and comparing viewers and when the viewer updates started to overwhelm me i couldn’t keep it up. Then my graphics card, which had barely survived the terrible overheating problems at the point of the Emerald viewer demise, fried. I moved to regulalr use of the COOL VL viewer from Henri Beauchamp which i still rely on. I liked the Phoenix for certain aspects of its build tool but for performance the COOL almost never let me down. Then the Phoenix went into no more updates. The Firestorm update got too low a frame rate for me in my antequated video card rescued from the recycle heap until now. I just got a new Radeon HD 7850 graphics card and put it in my old antequated Athlon dual core asnd I am soaring. Framerates in the COOL VL viewer go off the charts, my charts anyway, over 100 fps. The current Firestorm is getting about half that, which is adewquate for my purposes.
I will start reviewing and place the new viewest viewer updates in my spreadsheet comparison chart. I am still using Windows XP 32 on my fastest computer, my laptop uses Vista, and i may look for an old GT 9800 to put in my slowest Athlon desktop. I am exhilarated to be able to go places like Fashion for Life and move easily thru the sims, the designer stores and the crowds.
I will start a comparison chart for various hardware combos as well. I was going to work on these in the meditation time enforced on me by the long slow teleports but since my recent graphics card upgrade, I am no longer an involuntart teleport meditator.
I am currently exploring use of the new Zen viewer and awaiting the updates for Phoenix and Firestorm (any day now), and working on bringing all the others on my list up to date.
While I wait I keep meeting new viewers and become more and more comfortable with the V3 FUI as a tool for building and social activity. So very many folks are working on making viewers that will meet our needs and enable us to have fun and they deserve a great deal of appreciation.
The Zen viewer is comfortably handling all the building i am currently doing plus it has a particle tool built in for activating the particles in a prim and for generating a script (for easy replication of the designed particle effect). Particle tool will become a must have for me. Better and better tools and infrastructure will surely lead to new and different presentations just as mesh promises new and different builds.
So far every viewer I have updated (Feb 1 2011) is looking faster and more stable, including the SL Beta.
MOAP has become a necessity for me as I expect Mesh will become. Use of the chatline as a CMDLine interface seems necessary to me too. Builtin AO only for social situations and even then I can still get along without it although I must admit having loaded my firestorm AO with a Dance card.
At the LakeBottomLab I try to keep track of the viewers for Second Life as they come and go. I post comparisons to the spreadsheet at the LakeBottomLab results site. Currently I have tried (not the same as extensive use) more than 18 viewers. For in depth reviews of the viewers I always recommend Nal’s blog http://blog.nalates.net/ : that is where I look for briefs on the current flow of infrastructure development in Second Life.
You may want a generalized experience viewer that “just works, lagfree, all the time and does everything.” No one offers that, not even the Official Second Life viewer which has has been changing constantly and significantly. The Firestorm crew diligently provide the best all-around viewer experience and extensive support, a massive and incredible job. Then they end up having to defend themselves in the face of attacks for failing to adequately rebuild the Phoenix. The greatest current need in viewer development is User Development, growth and change, to be resilient and proactive about coping with changes to the Second Life experience and to the virtual world experience. Time spent fermenting pisnmoanbtchnwhine is time lost. Coping capably with constant change must become our habit. Our responsibility as users is to find ways effectively to wield the tools, to wend our way through world provided and to support such use by our friends.
Viewer development has reached the point where viewers have specialized uses. On the LabResults spreadsheet I try to identify specialized focus (and specialized system requirements) of each viewer so you can choose and try. I have added a page where I keep (I hope up to date) info on how you can find the viewer download. I will be adding the viewer’s home blog or forum info location to the download links page. I will be sore chagrined when i have to remove the Kirsten’s viewer from active but I will be removing it soon since the development funding goal was not reached. You can always go to the Second Life TPV page for a download location for any SL approved viewer.
I like having a basic viewer I use for building, a viewer I use for events I am hosting, coordinating or streaming, a viewer I use for exceptional graphics experience or photography, and a viewer that i can use to pop out to the OS grid easily. If one viewer will serve more than one of these uses, I will use it unless that makes it too resource bloated. I no longer expect to use only one viewer for all my activities. My current favorites: Phoenix (build), Catznip(V3speed), Kirstens (graphics) and Cool(V1and OS)
I would love to have a built-in viewer chat easily connect a group universe wide for community events that serve a crowd in various locations including both SL and OS grid. I would also love to have a viewer that can be reconfigured for my various uses by selecting from a menu instead of muddling my way through all the mare’s nest of preferences. Maybe someday: the Swiss Army Knife Chameleon Viewer with Reconfiguration Tabs.
I usually follow Nalates blog for info on what is happening in Second Life (infrastructure).
I used to follow the MystOnline forum but no longer have time to check it regularly. For my DniRefugee (SL) activities and news I stay current with Dmom’s renewed DniVoice and the DniRefugee Calendar.
I belong to several support or special interest groups in SL and try to stay current withthe Phoenix-Firestorm crowd becasue their work has been so helpful to me over their active time. They also have the most active support group I have seen, comprised entirely of volunteers. It is important to ask your questions succinctly there and to be patient while they figure out how to help you. Sometimes you have to weed thru suggestions and helpers but there are plenty of both.
So recently when I decided to explore the range of viewers available to me in SL, I looked for a composite review site. Nal comments as she tries them and sometimes as they update. I wanted a side by side comparison so i decided to make one. I will be revising the rating catogories but i will post preliminary reviews here and a link to my Google site.
I have been comparing and will post a spreadsheet comparing my results uf the various viewers I try. I have to give them several trials because when i experience difficulty in one, the cause could be SL or the Net or even my own machine here at home., not the specific viewer i am using at any given time. (Operator error notwithstanding)