Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Macintosh Web World Plug-in - an update

A few months ago, SpotON3D came out with the first Web World plug-in for Windows. This was a ground-breaking development, as it allows those unfamiliar with virtual worlds to come into SpotON3D using a fully-functional viewer embedded into a web page, and in particular to come in directly from their individual Facebook accounts.

In contrast to the Windows plug-in, developing the Mac version of the plug-in has been a bit of a nightmare for us, BUT … having said that, the beta version has been out for about two weeks now. As expected, many bug reports came back and we’re working through them all.

The biggest problem we’re now facing is the invisibility bug, which has been a problem of late for the Window clients as well, but which we believe is an unrelated issue. We think that we’ve mostly solved the problem for Windows users, but we won’t be certain of that until we release a new client. The Mac plug-in, being a bug of a different breed, will undoubtedly take longer.

As for now, the Mac plug-in can properly display the World View in a browser. Unlike Windows or Linux, the plug-in for Mac required significant changes to the way it renders graphics and to how it handles mouse and keyboard input. These features are considered "low-level" and are badly documented, if documented at all. Making it work required a lot of trial-and-error, with the only feedback after fixing an issue being, "I still can't see anything in the browser".

When debugged and retested, the Mac plug-in should support all Mac OSX 10.6 and newer systems. Sorry, MACers with older systems! We do love you, but this is just the reality of the somewhat antiquated MAC graphics processing system.

The solutions for all the plug-ins and viewers included having to find a stable version of the Mono run-time system, and applying some other bug fixes. The issues are not completely gone, but we are investigating several alternative causes and solutions. One of the big changes is how HTTP calls are handled now. We’ve had to rewrite large parts of our server back end and how they handle internal calls to make it compliant with the standard. As a result we should all see a more stable platform experience, even when it’s stressed by multiple requests at the same time.

The remaining known issues with the Mac plug-in that are still open are:
- Avatars turn invisible after a few seconds. This has been reported to happen with the Mac standalone viewer too, but not as frequently.
- Safari is freezing up after a while, though Firefox and Chrome work fine.
- On Mac OSX 10.7, the plug-in tends to crash.

We hope that with continued feedback and testing, we will be able to introduce a fully operational version of the Mac plug-in to the community very soon.

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