Joe Miller podcast transcript now available

Apologies for taking so long to get this up. We’re looking into more efficient ways to get transcripts produced.

Download the transcript here or view the entire podcast transcript after the jump.

Miss the podcast? Read more (and download it) here.


Inside the Lab – Joe Miller Jan 08

[intro music]

Catherine Smith: Hi, my name is Catherine Smith, Director of Marketing at Linden Lab, and I have Joe Miller, VP of Platform and Technology Development. For those who don’t already know you, Joe, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Linden Lab?

Joe Miller: Sure, Catherine, thanks. As you point out, I am the Vice President of Platform and Technology Development. I joined the company in that capacity almost two years ago. Quite frankly, what I have been doing for the last couple of years is focused inwardly on building a team and extending a team around the various challenges we have on the technology front.

Some of that involves some outside partnerships, such as what we did with the voice integration. But largely I have been focused internally on building, rolling out our teams, and growing our capabilities, inside the company.

Catherine: From a technical standpoint, what are Linden Lab’s priorities this quarter and what can residents expect to see in the coming months?

Joe: Sure. I think it’s been said several times in different ways, but I would really like to make it clear today, that our focus right now continues to be on the elements of the stability and predictability of the platform broadly, for all of our stakeholders, and we have many different kinds of customers, as you know.

But we have lots of work to do to create a predictable environment so that when you come in to a region on a Wednesday afternoon that it will behave pretty much the same way as it might be if you came in to the same region on Friday, regardless of how many avatars might be there with you.

So there are a number of projects we have underway inside the company, many of which have been long term projects which are coming to conclusion now, which will really help us address the primary issues around perceived variability in the performance lag, certainly cutting our downtime. We have done several things already. I think our listeners will know that the Wednesday downtimes have been reduced to the bare minimum.

We no longer take the grid down when we push new versions of the simulator software. We try to do that on a rolling update basis, so that we can do that with the least disruption to most of our customers as possible. We no longer require mandatory viewer updates unless there is a very good reason to do. That was also disruptive to most folks; they have to download a new viewer when we would update the simulator.

So those are some things we have already rolled out, that have helped us create a more predictable environment. One that doesn’t require thinking about what day of the week it is, or what the hour might be, and is the grid going to be there for you to use it in the way you wish. But we are doing a number of other things, number of other projects I would be happy to talk about more, here today.

Catherine: Great, I would love to hear some specifics.

Joe: Sure. I think, again, the Havok project has been bandied about a bit, and our primary goal with the move to re-factor the primary physics engine in the simulator code from the original Havok engine, which was really Havok one — it was one of the first versions of Havok that was shipped commercially — to what is now Havok 4.6, which is the latest version of the code that we began working with quite some time ago. The purpose in updating that engine isn’t to introduce any new features at all.

The primary purpose in investing almost a year of effort now in this project has been to significantly modernize the way the simulator deals with physics. The Havok engine is used for vehicle motion, for friction, for the interaction of objects to themselves; and certainly the way the avatars interact with the world is all controlled and sort of governed by the physics engine.

One of the biggest challenges we have had with stability is, there are many states that a resident could get in to, either perhaps by accident or in some cases on purpose, that would cause the physics engine to go into a compute intensive mode that would ultimately lock it up and require the sim to crash, or to take itself down, to terminate. That in turn, caused not only loss of connectivity for the users who were on that sim, but could cause content loss in some cases.

It has been a high priority for us to remove the possibility that any activity the users with respect to the physics engine can actually cause the sim to crash. The good news is, after almost a year’s worth of effort in refactoring this low level functionality in the simulator, we are now, this month, at a stage where we are going to bring up 200 regions on the main grid.

To people who would like to put this new engine to use, the new physics code to use on their regions, there will be a lot more news about that and a lot more information posted on the blog. That is something that both Andrew Linden, and Sidewinder Linden, are hosting in world office hours about, be a lot more about that.

Then, based on what we learned through this roll out process over the course of the remainder of this month, in early February we will begin to install the Havok four code grid-wide. We think this will have a very significant effect, measurable effect, not only in reducing the frequency of sim crashes, but because the physics engine itself is, frankly, much more optimized and modern, it will free up compute cycles on those regions for lots of other things, including execution of scripts and other activities that avatars are undertaking on a given region.

Catherine: So, can you tell me a little bit about Mono?

Joe: So Mono is another project, probably on a similar vein. We have been operating with the original scripting engine, actually it is the second version of the scripting engine; LSL two has been in use now for five years.

Quite frankly, one of the challenges with Second Life, as a technology platform, is because we are driven by user-generated content, the kinds of experiences that people create, the kinds of interactions that people can create with the system, are largely governed by the flexibility and the performance characteristics of our scripting engine. People have gotten very good at living within the boundaries of LSL, the Linden Scripting Language.

But we are at a stage now, where we want to provide a much more efficient scripting engine, or a much more efficient way of executing scripts. So Mono is a refactoring of the interpreter, the interpreter approach to actually executing scripts, moving to a compiler. So no longer a script is interpreted in real-time, which is inherently not as efficient — byte code interpreter — as pre-compiling scripts and executing them on the simulator at a much higher rate.

The primary advantage of Mono is, it will not have some of the memory limitations that you have today, that require scripts to be perhaps split up into multiple scripts and running in different objects and create some complexity and some load associated with a simple function that you might be able to create with less of a memory constraint. But the other value is that the scripting engine will run much faster. We think, once it is completely deployed and in full use across the grid, it will actually execute 100 to 150 times faster than the existing engine today.

Again, the net effect on our residents will be that, not so much new features, but the performance of simulators, when scripts are being executed, when many scripts are being executed, should be much more predictable. You will be able to walk into a region that is heavily scripted; it has many scripted objects, and not see a noticeable performance hit as you might see today with the existing scripting engine.

That’s a rather deep, and unfortunately maybe too deep a dive into the bowels of Mono, but we can come back up here and perhaps talk about something more interesting.

Catherine: OK. So, Havok and Mono sound like great backend projects. Do you have any projects in the works to addres viewer stability?

Joe: We do, Catherine. Certainly the frequency of unplanned interruptions, let’s just say crashes, of the viewer is way, way too high. It has been for many quarters, and indeed is as much a priority for us as the backend improvements that I just described. But frankly, one of the first challenges we have had are improving the ways that we can see all the primary sources of these crashes, because as you can imagine, we have a wide range of users running a wide variety of computer configurations, many, many different combinations of graphics cards, and so on and so forth.

Frankly, the crash reporter has not been as helpful to us as we would like, to really be able to identify the primary source of the major problems there. So we spent the last quarter, the fourth quarter of 2007, rewriting completely the crash reporter function, within the viewer. That has now been shipped as part of the release candidate viewer that has been up for some time.

We are now able to see with much more clarity, the actual causes, the root causes, of the top ten sources of our crash problems, and we can deploy our viewer experts, our engineers associated with viewer functionality, directly where they need to be, to significantly address the crash rate in the viewer.

So, quite frankly, I don’t have enough data to be able to tell you that we have made a big difference yet, but we have the infrastructure in place for Q1, to be able to significantly reduce the frequency of crashes. I hope to be able to say at the end of Q1, we have reduced the crash rates by at least 50% over where we are today. We publish that data monthly. So you will be able to see how well we have done against this goal of actually cutting that number at least in half.

But we are doing some other things though, on the viewer. We have established much more closer fruitful dialog with the graphics card manufacturers themselves. We are in much tighter relationships with the engineers who are responsible for the drivers from ATI, from NVidia. We are working very closely with Apple as they begin to work on improving the level of functionality for 3-D graphics applications broadly on their platform.

We believe, this will actually finally allow us to identify the source of problems that we couldn’t control in the viewer that are inherent in graphics drivers. But again, none of that is going to happen without the assistance of the crash reporter as I have described, but also the dedicated team of engineers we have focused on the viewer stability project.

We have some other things we are doing with the viewer that I will mention, and this won’t be surprises to listeners of this podcast. The Windlight project has been in first look has actually been in first look now for well over a month. It is nearing the point of reaching a stage where we are going to begin to transition that functionality into the mainline viewer. It will show up as a release candidate here, in the next several weeks.

One of the interesting aspects of the Windlight technology is that the ability for users to dial the level of functionality that they want to try to achieve with their computer is made much easier. There is a simple slider now, a single slider that you can control, that trades off performance versus visual quality. We think that will go a long way to help people tune the performance of the viewer to their machine in a way that will allow them a much more predictable and stable environment for the viewer.

And we intend to head this direction with additional sort of streamlined user interface elements, simply to make it easier for people to set the viewer to a state that is much more appropriate for the equipment and the graphics capabilities they have. But some of that is visible in the Windlight trial.

The other thing that we are about ready to release is a project that we internally codenamed Dazzle. Dazzle is simply a project to modernize the look, feel, color, and the overall visual experience of the viewer that we think is long overdue. And again, it has been a project that several of our engineers and user interface professionals here at Linden Lab have been working on for some time. That will actually appear in a first look viewer in the next several weeks, probably three weeks from now.

Catherine: That’s great. To close on a personal note, it is 2008, what aspect of Second Life are you most excited about?

Joe: [laughs] Wow, interesting question, tough one, because I think, if I am not mistaken, Philip already took the education angle. I am very passionate about the educational uses of Second Life, both for formal learning and informal learning. But I think I am most excited about 2008 really being the year that the unique uses of 3-D worlds for true collaboration, whether it is learning, or building, or playing, become more self-evident.

That the ability to truly collaborate with either a shared experience that you can’t receive in a traditional 2-D web environment; or for that matter, technical improvements in the platform that allow true application sharing – the ability to bring up a document and work with 10 people around the world on reshaping a script or a story, or for that matter, a simple Word document. It is a truly shared environment. It is something that we will certainly see in 2008.

I think for me, the excitement for this year is really leveraging the unique aspects of the platform in ways that are going to be surprising, and will delight people who choose to sample what 3-D virtual worlds are all about. Certainly going to be an exciting year for us, because I think now the question of value of virtual worlds has been answered, now it is a matter of how rapidly can we move this forward to deliver on some of the bigger pieces of the promise.

Catherine: Great. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

Joe: I look forward to doing this again.

Catherine: Yes, I think everybody will like that. Thank you everybody for listening and we will talk again next month.

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27 Responses to Joe Miller podcast transcript now available

  1. Argent Stonecutter says:

    It would be a lot easier for people to read that transcript if it was saved as text or even HTML rather than Word DOC format.

    This is kind of like the way transaction reports are available in Excel XLS format instead of the completely equivalent (from the point of view of Excel) but more widely readable CSV format. And, no, the XML version is not a reasonable alternative… it’s even harder for most people to read that than XLS.

    You’ve done a reasonable job of using portable formats in the viewer itself, it would be great if you could do that elsewhere.

  2. Mego Ryba says:

    THANK YOU for making transcipts available!!! they r sometimes quicker to read than videos. like Torley videos, these r great but it woudl be nice to have a transcript or even just a outline/ summary.

    Thanks for all these “resources”!!!

  3. nomoresecrets says:

    who uses doc? its mimi-software… no one without a gun on his head will use that

  4. Winter Ventura says:

    Who’s Joe Miller?

  5. Buster McNutt says:

    Who needs linebreaks or Carraige Returns!!!!

    zomgz you would think you might try to make it READABLE after going thru the trouble to type it in

    lulz indeed

  6. HD1080i says:

    excellent. we are developin a plan to implement SIM on a large scale reneweable energy project, this will require scripting to sim the process controls, flight, ground support, etc. Windlight, Havoc, nVidia and High Definition screens play a major role in the viability of this as teams from around the country plan to converge and brainstorm in our planned environment. This enabled the networked minds to participate far more fully than is possible in any other way. Scripting performance is an issue we would live to see optimized.

    please make region buying a less painfor process, we would like to do it over the phone actually, immediately.

  7. Jeska Linden says:

    Thanks for the feedback, we’ve added the entire transcript to the blog and formatted it for your enjoyment. 😉

  8. Ciaran Laval says:

    Well Open Office and the like are available for free to read Doc format Maybe if you are able to point people in the direction of applications like Open office it will help with communication.

    However RTF can be read by most word processors. Alternatively you could use one of the free packages that convert a document to PDF format.

    As for the transcript itself, lots of positives, they don’t excuse the sorry state of affairs this week (especially the 503 issues) but there’s a lot on the horizon and it all sounds good.

  9. How about hiring a intern to write the transcript. 😛

  10. Ann Otoole says:

    windlight has a long way to go before it is ready for public use. the texture damage remains significant and intentional. although windlight is nice for taking staged pictures and some movie making the general use of secondlife is not for those purposes. sometimes i find myself thinking the windlight team never goes into the actual main grid at all and that they have never seen light textures, such as white marble which is commonly used, because during most daylight modes those textures are blinding. windlight has good aspects provided we can dynamically control them such as glow. however glow also suffers from the light amplification of windlight. most of the time glow is only useful when limited to 0.5 or less. the graphics control screen is great. such potential yet such … something.. that has resulted in the windlight team thinking they know whats best for the residents. its the other way around.

  11. Darien Caldwell says:

    I would like to see the transcript translated into Binary for easier assimilation by the much maligned minority group known as the Borg. Your letter-centric view of information is disheartening LL, please make valuable information like this readily accessible by human-machine hybrids everywhere. Thank you. 🙂

  12. Otter Botha says:

    Seems the phone system could use some work to! I just called the fraud support division to see if my account had been comprimised and was told” please call back later” Nice thanks alot

  13. Pingback: Linden Lab Press ‘Tech Talk’ Media Conference - Aussie Second Life servers still likely. : The Metaverse Journal - Australia’s Virtual World News Service

  14. les says:

    *complains about the font used…kidding!

    08 sounds like 2006 all over again. Not kidding!

    Joe says : “technical improvements in the platform that allow true application sharing – the ability to bring up a document and work with 10 people around the world on reshaping a script or a story, or for that matter, a simple Word document.”

    If this ever really happens (not holding my breath) then SL would actually be useful for collaboration. Take a look at wonderland and croquet. They already allow this…sorta.

    This transcript is almost comical on top of all the Issue post below. Why not split the blog? Put all the “We Suck [RESLOVED]” post under their own heading? Like Grid Status Blog or something such and leave the main blog for other things like .plans, news, reports and pictures of Torely’s finger paintings.

    Now I’m forced to be off topic, Mathew says in a CLOSED post : As part of the rolling restart we implemented a fix for an issue on the Public Issues Tracker, SVC-674.

    This fix may cause problems for scripts relying on long object names and descriptions. END

    Mathew’s post could have provided a bit more information, such as what is the new limit (128 as far as I can tell) for desc and name strings? Is this the new hard limit or temp “fix”? Perhaps a link to the jira could have been used? Why is longer strings now an issue? What kind of “problems” can we look forward to?

    It’s not a fix…it’s a workaround that breaks much content. Leaving comments closed on a post like that is non-sense.

    On a positive note; it’s good to see havok and mono finally break cover and hit the grid for testing. Though I would really like to see more people working on it as havok seems to still have countless issues that make it far worse then H1. A dedicated tech who actually uses second life being assigned to sorting vehicle problems would be very helpful.

  15. Bobo Decosta says:

    When will second life be reachable from out of a web browser? I think that’s the challenge that’s a head for LL.

    Mono sounds cool but everything LL tells sounds cool until you actually try it.

    And why don’t you guys focus on bringing back the fun into SL in 2008 since you deprived SL in 2007 of all the fun, a lot of its residents and all of our freedom?

    Can we expect democratic decisions instead of rules imposed on us by people who seem to have lost all touch with the grid?

    Get back to basics and toss away all the real life mumbo jumbo imposed on virtual beings!

  16. Very nice Jeska – I like this idea – being able to just read it right here! 🙂

  17. RobbyRacoon says:

    You can also use the freeware AbiWord word processor available for both Windows and Linux if you want something lightweight, or OpenOffice (ugh) is also available for Windows and Linux.

    @15(les) – Yes, it does sound like 2006 all over again, or as RAW had one of his characters say in one of my favorite books ever : “Same bleeding nonsense all over again”.

    Best of luck in realizing future goals, LL!

  18. It’s nice to see things like this up, just as it’s interesting to see a new update to the Release Candidate with some groovy button changes. The little things do count so that’s a chocolate brownie for you guys.

    However don’t forget the big things too: I’ve had a lot of script problems since the server update just, broken vendors and now you can’t even copy asset UUIDs from inventory items. While the little things are nice, the big things make the real difference still.

  19. Wyald Woolley says:

    I can see from this transcript that somewhere within Linden Labs there is a plan for greater stability & less lag and a thoughtful way of bringing that into being.

    Somehow, between that reality and the actual reality in-world there’s a huge gap.

    It’s got to be painfully embarrassing to be quoted in a month-old transcript, “We no longer take the grid down when we push new versions of the simulator software,” while on the very same day Moe, Curly, and Larry Linden are doing an unplanned rolling restart for that very reason…and on a FRIDAY to boot.

    There is some kind of problem with execution of the grand plan. Perhaps it’s lack of programmer oversight, or inadequate procedures, or some other internal cultural dysfunction.

    This is evident in watching how many things come about, or don’t happen as they should.

    A couple examples: Since Voice was added to the experience (against the majority’s wishes) the oversized box on my screen that shows the IM conversation has undergone multiple subtle changes. First the awful left-hand tabs came and went. Then the box can’t be shrunk as much as it once could.

    Then the wonderful meters one could glance at when things began to act funny or laggy disappeared and was replaced with a redundant “search” field.

    All this code-fiddling seems to be ill-thought out and unsupervised. It’s as if anyone in the coding group can get a wild hair and add their own untested viewer code, so there’s no telling what is causing problems.

    If this is going on with the viewer UI, which I can see, I can only imagine that it is just as much a “anything goes” code slinging on the server side bringing the current chaos of this very day.

    I am actually optimistic about where Joe Miller wants to take us. I’m less optimistic about how it is being executed, and while I don’t know that it’s Joe’s responsibility to supervise what gets put into the code, or whether he’s job is overview planning, the egg today is on his face and if I were him, I’d be concerned about putting a stop to the “Wild West” way things are being done in his name.

    Finally, I want to thank catherinelinden for leaving this thread open for comments, like some others today ought to have been.

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  21. Gaea Niven says:

    I’m confused. If it’s a podcast, where is the link to the audio? Can I sign up to it in iTunes? No offence but transcribing is not digitally progressive. I appreciate the work and effort that went into this. I’d like to see a podcast button on top of the sl website (much like the link to blogs) with links to the audio, and more preferentially where we can sign up to subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes.

  22. Thanks for posting the transcript, all this is great news! 🙂

  23. Alissa Sabre says:

    Wow! Thank you, Catherine. It greately helps.

  24. Jeska Linden says:

    @ 22 – this post provides the transcript to the previously released podcast, available here:
    http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/01/24/inside-the-lab-podcast-with-joe-miller/

  25. space rockett says:

    Seems to me like i arrived in one of George A. Romano films “Night Of The Living Dead” people seem happy to let lindens do as they please regardless of the cost to their integrity, I Would like to congratulate Lindens for their amazing brainwashing exercise they call Second Life.I too was a zombie sleeping walking to the Linden tune.No longer !!!
    Wake up people !!!!!

    Space Wide Awake Rockett.

  26. Linda Brynner says:

    Most Posts closed…. So here off topic then…

    “It is taking a while for the system to recover from the stress of today’s earlier problems. That means for the next few hours you may experience intermittent problems with teleports, rezzing objects, scripts, transactions, appearance etc.”

    Ohhh it means SL is still CRAP ! Get a real life !
    And get lost with your SILLY SL That never works !!!!!!!!!

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