Pushing the Limits II — Snowglobe and ultrafast texture download [UPDATED THRICE]

On my last post, I’ve covered the amazing possibilities of dynamic shadows and the new lighting system, even on under-powered graphics cards and low-end, old computers, thanks to KirstenLee Cinquetti.

This time, I’ll be showing you a video comparing the standard SL viewer (1.23.4) with Snowglobe (1.0.2), LL’s open-source-driven-and-contributed “separate” branch of their main viewer. The main feature it has right now (as well as some user-contributed patches) is downloading textures via HTTP (e.g. a “Web” request). All textures on all other viewers, right now, use LL’s own texture streaming protocol (based on UDP) developed, oh, probably in 2000 or 2001 (it’s hard to say!). Textures are right now just “another asset”, and you get all sorts of packets from sims for all kinds of information: avatar movement, asset download, linksets, instant messages. This means these packets may come out of order, or even get lost, and require retransmission. They can also time out “forever” if you’re unlucky (so a texture remains unloaded and displays as a gray surface).

The new mechanism is more complex, and it’s not very easy to figure out if it’s fully implemented or not (LL says it isn’t; but the results on the video below tend to show otherwise!). It allows a texture to be retrieved using a common HTTP call (just like a normal Web browser) directly from LL’s asset servers — or, in the future, from anywhere on the World-Wide Web (which has the huge advantage that you could, in theory, serve them from your own server — or from Flickr or Picasa! — and bypass LL’s own asset storage entirely). Thus, in the future, providing superfast storage for textures will be a line of business 🙂

Right now we’re just at the first stage: bypassing LL’s cumbersome protocol and just retrieve the textures via HTTP. The difference is… astonishing. You can watch a comparison by yourself on the video below and judge for yourself. Yes, I’ve tried it on very texture-intensive sims: Hair Fair 2009, Neufreistadt, and Armidi.

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