I think we’ve all suffered through the increasing instability of the SL viewer over the last year of releases. Mac-based users (like me) especially have to suffer a slow, laggy client which suffers from tremendous memory leakage, and will regularly crash two or three times in one four-hour SL session.

I’d been reading for some time about Nicholaz Beresford, a German programmer who has recompiled the viewer incorporating patches that he finds to correct the most nagging problems with the viewer. In particular, he’s recovered the old IM/friendslist/chat history windows, removing the new joint “Communicator” window. But more importantly, he’s devilishly good at rooting out the problems that make the viewer unstable. I hadn’t installed it because the process seemed technically complex, and also Windows-oriented (I only use the Windows client when I play on my laptop, and in Bootcamp on those rare occasions when I’m shooting machinima).

So lucky me, I was reading his blog last week when he posted that two people had compiled Mac builds incorporating Nicholaz’s patches. I chose Barney Boomslang’s “Bleeding Edge-q” version, just because I’ve met and know of Barney, but either version should be ok. Don’t be scared by the “bleeding edge” designation — it only means that it’s using the most recent version of the Linden Lab’s Release Candidate as its base, but I’ve had no problems with it at all.

I went whole hog this weekend. I installed these versions on both my laptop (Windows) and on my Mac, and used them all weekend. I think I’m in love.🙂

Mac: The Mac install is a little weird, as the Release Candidate doesn’t have an installer — you have to drag the application from the mounted disk image into a folder on your hard drive (I put it into a folder on my desktop, but since there are no little files generated, you could just as easily place it directly on your desktop). Then you run Barney’s patcher, select the folder into which you copied the RC, and watch as it applies Nicholaz’s patches. You then run this version of SL by double-clicking on the Release Candidate icon, which will run the patched version.

Windows: The Windows install is a bit easier, although the instructions are slightly unclear. First you install the Release Candidate. Then you unzip Nicholaz’s patcher (an .exe and three .xml files) into the same directory as the Release Candidate (which by default should be c:\Program Files\SecondLifeReleaseCandidate). Create an alias for the Nicholaz.exe file and place it on your desktop (the alias’s icon is actually a different color, a nice touch to remind you of the differing version). Run the patched SL by double-clicking on the alias.

When you start up the patched RC client, it will say you’re running Second Life (Nicholaz Edition) with the version number. What you’ll notice is a huge leap in stability and speed (NO CRASHING YAY!!!), your av’s skin texture no longer re-rezzing three or four times after you change skin or clothes, less lagging and freezing, and most notably, a return to the old interface of separate chat history, IM and friends list windows (yay!! ctrl+t works correctly for the IM window again!). In a way, I’d grown accustomed to the new window and found ways to make it more friendly to my style of SLing, so I missed it a bit, but I wouldn’t sacrifice the stability I gained with this version.

If you can handle the process of the install, I have no qualms so far in recommending that you use this version instead of the official viewer. I like that I no longer have to think about the client while I’m playing, because it just seems to work.