Very soon, Linden Lab will release Second Life version 1.18.0. As Zero posted about “Message Liberation”, almost all viewer updates will be optional, so you can download them if and when you want. Message Liberation lays the groundwork for a project known as “Heterogeneous Grid”, or “Het-Grid” for short. Het-Grid will provide Second Life a smoother transition between both small and major patch releases. We have understood for a while now that by having separate beta grids, we aren’t able to fully test new releases thoroughly. With Het-Grid, we will be able to release new server versions to small areas of the Main Grid for testing. This allows Residents on the Main Grid to beta test without having to connect to a separate grid.
Het-Grid will be released in steps. Linden Lab will have Step 1 ready to go fairly soon, but we are still defining what will comprise Step 2 and beyond. By gaining resident feedback through Step 1 of Het-Grid, we will be able to decide what features we should incorporate into Step 2 and up, and how those features should work. Here’s the current list of design decisions that matter to you:
* You can test our beta versions just by using the normal viewer, which will be both forwards and backwards compatible. This means you will be able to fly between beta and standard regions with minimal side-effects. If we need to upgrade the beta pieces of the grid, we will just push a rolling restart to those specific regions, and the rest of the grid won’t feel a thing.
* Areas which are running beta versions will be clearly marked for you. You don’t have to worry about Second Life becoming buggier than usual just because we’re running beta versions on the main grid. You will only see the effects if you actually wish to venture into those beta regions.
* Whether you are on the normal viewer or a beta viewer, you will be able to fly/teleport into and out of all regions you would normally be able to traverse on the grid. If you fly into a beta test region, you will be prompted with release notes for that version. If a viewer upgrade is available for that new version, you’ll be given the option to download it, and thus experience whatever new features that version gives you. If you prefer not to participate in Het-Grid, you will have the option to turn off notifications altogether, and thus Het-Grid will not affect your daily SL routine.
* If we’re ready to release a new version, we may only release it to a portion of the grid at a time in order to make sure that the code is stable. By doing this, we’ll be able to easily roll back those specific regions if a problem occurs with the new version. This also means that the grid-wide rolling restarts (the wave of death) you’re accustomed to will be implemented less frequently.
* If you are an estate owner, you will be able to select “version channels” that allow your regions to update to a beta version for testing. As an example, some channels would be “mainland,” “voice beta,” and “<INSERT SECRET PROJECT BEING ANNOUNCED SOON>.” You can then set a “deploy policy” of either automatic updates (your region will update as soon as a new version is released) or manual updates (your region will update to the latest version whenever you choose). This gives the estate manager control over their regions so that our updates don’t interrupt your business.
Keep in mind that none of these features will be released with version 1.18.0, but are made possible by it. These design decisions, which reflect our commitment to place version control in your hands for both your viewer and your estates, will be discussed at Zero’s office hours tomorrow at 1pm PST (located here). We can possibly hash out more tasks to add to Step 2 and even figure out good ideas for Step 3 and beyond. We need all the feedback we can get to ensure that we release versions that makes sense to you and versions that you’ll enjoy using. See you during office hours!
Edit: That’s 1pm PDT, not PST. AKA: Linden Lab time. 😉