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Hands-on with the new SLim release

Tateru Nino

Among all the current Second Life kerfuffle and protests going on about unexpected price-rises and policy changes surrounding certain categories of virtual land, it might have been forgotten that Vivox is preparing to release the SLim lightweight instant messenger system, and Linden Lab is preparing a Second Life viewer that is able to communicate with it.

The release of the former, and the first-look version of the latter appears to be very close now. We got our hands on both (as they appear to be available for download now), and took them for a bit of a spin to see how they might have improved over the demonstration versions that were temporarily available earlier this year.

One thing we immediately noticed is that communications between Linden Lab's First Look SLim-enabled viewer and the Vivox SLim client are comfortably instantaneous. The delay between sending a message with one and reception at the other is fast enough that it gives you the 'instant' feel that you really want with so-called 'instant messaging'.

Linden Lab's First Look viewer has been enhanced with simple icons that show whether someone on your friends list is online via Second Life, is connected through Vivox's SLim client, or both (you can run both at once). Vivox's SLim client does much the same, with one exception. Linden Lab's viewer works.

Even forcing the Vivox SLim client to refresh, it seems to take a very tardy view towards updating the status of people in your friends list. In fact, compared to the demo version, this may even have deteriorated. Vivox's SLim client seems to pay little or no attention when one of your online friends goes offline, and continues to report them as online in the main view (unless Linden Lab's First Look Viewer is still logged in, and not always then). We'd rate that as a 'moderate fail'; it is certainly annoying and frustrating.

We're rather hoping that this is a matter that will be resolved with Linden Lab's planned deployment of SLS-1.25 across the main grid next week.

Linden Lab has documentation and download links online for SLim in its Support Center, and you can find them here. At present, however, there seems to still be no way to create a Vivox account to log into the Vivox SLim client, unless you created one when you were playing with the demo previously. We anticipate that will change shortly. The documentation suggests that it may run you through the process on the first install, and perhaps since we already have one, it passed us by. By all means try it, and see what happens.

Be aware, however, that there is no Vivox SLim client for Linux. Only Windows and Mac are presently supported by Vivox. Linden Lab's First Look viewer, on the other hand, supports all three.

On balance, Vivox's IM network makes an interesting bolt-on addition to Second Life, and we're interested to see how well it works as people try it out.

UPDATE - 3:45 PM ET: Linden Lab have now announced this, and reenabled the the signup webpages for Vivox accounts.

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