Which SL Software is Best? – 4 Viewers Reviewed

by Alphaville Herald on 04/09/07 at 9:20 pm

An expert’s guide to SL client software – including the Nicholaz Beresford options
4 great ways to a better SL experience!

by JayR Cela, SL viewer connoisseur

After living in the Second Life metaverse for 2 years, I have seen quite a few changes take place. Sometimes it seems to me the Lindens are hell bent on shooting themselves directly in the foot. Other times I can actually see some forward progress being made, a bit slowly, but forward none the less. One such area I seldom see discussed outside of a few blogs and in-world meetings is the SL client application -or- SL viewer. The recent addition of voice chat to the main grid, starting with the 1.18.xxxx series warrants a look at exactly what sort of progress is being made. Let’s look at the recent history of the SL client software – and decide what works best.


This probably will be the last official non-voice version released. This was a mixed upgrade, more of a move sideways in preparation for for the voice enabled release. It was certainly a great place for the open source community to provide some wonderful improvements of their own to this little gem – as is definitely evident with the Nicholaz Beresford Edition. Mr. Beresford has a blog I highly recommend reading available here. Versions 18a to 18k2 – the current incarnation – are his way to differentiate the incremental improvements.

Nicholaz has done so much behind the scenes improvements, not evident to the casual SL lifer. One of the biggest obstacles he has managed to overcome is the incessant memory leaks that have proven so elusive for the Lindens to solve. For those unfamiliar with the term, a memory leak is a bug or series of interconnected bugs that cause the running program to actually seem to grow larger and consume more or your computers memory resources.

In other words, when you first start the SL client, it may be only consuming X amount of memory, but as your logged in session continues X will gradually increase its memory footprint to X+1 then X+1+1 and so on an so on. Eventually it may grow in size to X+100 or more, resulting in many different anomalies. Lockups and crashes may become more frequent. Hard disk thrashing may also become more noticeable as your computer moves pieces of the SL client’s code in and out of physical memory to your disk drive while your avatar is moving about in the world of SL


The first LL released SL Client being the first grid wide implementation of a non Beta or First Look viewer introduced not only voice capabilities but a new user interface (UI) into our everyday SL experience. This particular Client was met with howls of despair from all throughout SL. Complaints included poor performance, difficult UI, and numerous anomalies, not present in the previous release, and was quickly updated to version so there is not much reason to continue further discussion on this issue, besides one point in particular. Nicholaz wisely decided to avoid doing update patches for this ill fated orphan.


This client solved many of the performance problems that seemed to plague the previous version. However the UI remained the same, clunky and obtuse. Although not as problem-free as the version, it was a quick, and positive response on the part of the Lindens. As before Nicholaz quickly set to work applying his knack for problem solving and bug squashing to task and introduced 18xa to 18xh versions. Again the majority of the improvements may not really affect the casual SL user. But in my opinion they were very much welcomed by the SL Content Creator community. Fewer problems equals more time in which to be productive producing SL content. And now the Lindens are moving forward and sideways again, with a new Release Candidate SL Client


Keep in mind that when the Lindens say Release Candidate they actually may as well be saying First Look or Optional, even Beta. I believe the reason that they have chosen a more software industry standard descriptive name has everything to do with recent improvements to their server software, a recent gradual application of HET-Grid technology that allows us to use different versions of the SL Client. See the SL Blog for more details.

Hopefully the HET grid will almost eliminate the need for mandatory client upgrades, which means less downtime on Linden Labs servers. It is still too early to make any assumptions as to the quality of this newest update. However speaking with a few LL employees and some of the Open Source community developers seems to indicate, that the developers’ ears are open, and our voices as a community are being heard at last. By the way the current Nicholaz 18xi3 O.S. patch does solve the memory leaks that are still present in the LL release candidate viewer.


Please remember that a new SL Client cannot solve all of the persistent problems we all experience – these may have nothing at all to do with the client you chose to use. Some problems are due to issues LL is dealing with on their servers, software, database, routers and switches – and numerous other aspects the client has zilch to do with.

If you do not use or care about voice capabilities, then stick with version 1.18.06 and apply the latest Nicholaz patch: 18k2. All of the official LL SL Client downloads can be found here. The Release Candidate is available here. The Nicholaz patches for all the LL versions are located here.

If you decide to give these Nicholaz clients a try, you will find that for the voice enabled viewer he seems to have combined some of the new UI enhancements while still retaining the look and feel of the older non-voice enabled clients. As always have fun and enjoy.

10 Responses to “Which SL Software is Best? – 4 Viewers Reviewed”

  1. Reg Baxter

    Sep 5th, 2007

    this is great info, thanks for summing it up in a small easy to digest package.

    I hope that there will patches coming for the new “wind light” thingy or whatever its called – I was playing with original firstlook viewer back when it was up and belch. It was great for still pictures, very pretty, but for day to day use moving around I recommend buying stock in headache medicine as its going to be flying off the shelves. Not a performance issue at all, much more a visual nausea inducing diarrhea of anarchy.

  2. Kahni Poitier

    Sep 5th, 2007

    I’d heard about the Nicholaz version, but never knew where to get it.

    Thank you! I’ll be giving that a try VERY soon! (downloading as we speak)

  3. Kahni Poitier

    Sep 5th, 2007

    Is there a list of OTHER 3rd party versions available?

  4. maginot line

    Sep 5th, 2007

    That’s about the first useful post i’ve seen – ever – on the herald. Perhaps it’s a sign that, having kicked out the whinging and whining Prokofy, the Herald is looking to start doing some journalism. Although, this is hardly breaking new ground here. I think i’ll go back to reading the Avastar. At least its a lot of fun as well, unlike the misery that comes out of the comments left on this site.

  5. Dire Allen

    Sep 5th, 2007

    I stumbled on the Nicholaz version by accident a few months back, while trying to compile an OpenSL Client. I have to say when I played with his version I was very impressed with the performance on the Grid.

  6. JJ

    Sep 5th, 2007

    Great post, and on the Herald no less (now that’s shocking!)

  7. Nicholaz Beresford

    Sep 5th, 2007

    Oh, being mentioned on the Herald … Woot!

    Khani: There is a (probably not complete list) of alternate builds on the Linden Wiki: https://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Alternate_viewers

    Btw, regarding the Linden “Release Candidate”: Release Candidates are in the industry distinctly different from Betas. Betas are early bird versions expected to be in constant flux and development. Release Candidates are basically feature frozen (and even fix frozen).

    Changes between a RC and Release will only address issues, which were *newly* introduced in the RC. If done properly, this ensures that no release will become worse than the previous, then being a solid platform for the next round of features and fixes.

  8. FlipperPA Peregrine

    Sep 5th, 2007

    Thanks, Nicholaz, for all of your hard work. I was glad to see you get an award at SLCC this year…and great post and summation of all the options! :)

  9. like_ummm

    Sep 5th, 2007

    That was a bit too light on the techno-detail for my likings. Now what I would really be interested in is for Nicholaz Beresford to do an analysis of the Open Source code – is it really a tragic mess – or is it quite good? What kinds of errors does he have to fix?

  10. Nicholaz Beresford

    Sep 5th, 2007

    flipper: thanks :-)

    like_ummm: The deep tech stuff is on my blog, but probably JayR did wisely to not go into things too deeply here … I guess even most of the tech interested users don’t understand most of what I’m posting on my blog (like this one: http://nicholaz-beresford.blogspot.com/2007/08/under-hood-release-candidate-1183.html).

    But in a nutshell: The code isn’t a tragic mess. It’s in normal shape for a project of that size and with that many programmers, even more on the good than on the bad side. The viewer that is, nobody outside LL has seen the server code, or nobody without an NDA (I have neither … not seen it and not an NDA).

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