Why and what is the Cool VL Viewer ?
The "Cool VL Viewer"(*) (formerly known as "Cool SL Viewer" which first public release was v184.108.40.206, released on 2007-11-16) is a third-party viewer for Second Life® and OpenSim grids. In the name, "VL" of course stands for virtual life.
The exact reasons behind the creation of the Cool VL Viewer can be found in this message on the forum, but fact is that Linden Lab® (hereafter referred as by "LL") just cannot happen to take into account in a timely manner all the patches and bug fixes which the open source community provides. You can publish a patch and see it actually taken into account only months later... when at all !
Plus, LL often implements changes in their viewer without any or with very little regard to what their customers, the "residents" do like or not (one of the worst of all these changes in regard to the UI was probably the Voice viewers chatterbox, or the new sidebar in their v2.0 viewer UI). Such changes are considered by many users as true regressions, either in usability or functionality, and usually both.
As a response to the problems cited above, the Cool VL Viewer puts emphasis on high UI coherency from one version to the other (meaning no bad surprise for "old timers") while staying in sync with Linden Lab's official viewer features, high stability and reliability, and a high reactivity to new patches and bug fixes provided by the Open Source community. The Cool VL Viewer is also kept fully OpenSim-compatible.
(*) Please, get the name right when citing it elsewhere: the name is "Cool VL Viewer", and not "Cool VL", "Cool Viewer", etc...
Who is maintaining this viewer ?
Henri Beauchamp, creator of the "Cool Products" in SL.
For announcements and support, please see the Cool VL Viewer forum.
Why would I use your viewer ? What can I expect from it ?
Using this viewer or not is entirely up to you, of course. But it got quite a few bugs and regressions fixed, as well as really Cool new features (see the Features & Screenshots and the list of patches)...
The code changes used in this viewer have been either produced or reviewed and tested by me (and I have been programming for over 3 decades now... Not a script kiddy). This viewer is the one I use everyday, and should a patch introduce any regression, it would be either corrected or removed.
Such things as the actual usefulness of a new feature comes into consideration before implementing it. I try to stick the closest possible to LL's official viewer and only patch the bugs and regressions, sprinkling the mix with some, really useful features (such things I could not myself "live" without anymore after having tried them).
This viewer also implements the RestrainedLove (formerly known as "RestrainedLife") features: these features are disabled by default, so you won't notice any difference with a "normal" viewer till you enable them manually.
To enable or disable the new features of the Cool VL Viewer, you simply open the "Preferences" menu and use its new "Cool features" tab.
Please note that since LL published a Third-Party Viewers (TPV) policy, in order to use this viewer to connect to Second Life, you must first read and agree with these terms (which will be presented to you on the first run of the Cool VL Viewer).
The Cool VL Viewer is itself TPV-policy compliant (and for people wondering why it is not listed in LL's TPV directory, it's simply because I don't want to provide private data to LL about myself, data which is illegal to require for such a purpose in my country. Being listed in the directory is in no way a requirement for a viewer to be considered TPV-policy compliant anyway: see the paragraph 6 of the TPV policy).
What operating systems and what hardware are supported ?
You will find Linux and Windoze builds on this site, and MacOS X builds can be found in the Latest MacOS X Releases section of the forum (they have been built by Hyang Zhao and Guru Coyote in the past, and Kathrine Jansma is now providing builds: thanks and kudos must go to them for their contribution). The viewer should run on any Linux system with glibc v2.8 (and stdlibc++ v6.0.10) or newer installed and on any Windows system from XP SP3 (or XP 64bits) upwards.
As for the hardware, the Cool VL Viewer uses SSE2 (because the Mesh code requires it); it won't work on CPUs without SSE2 (Pentium 3 or Athlon XP, for example).
The supported video cards are the same as for the official Second Life viewers (i.e. OpenGL v2 capable and better graphic cards, with NVIDIA or ATI GPUs). Some Intel GPUs might fail to pass the requirements and are known to be too slow, most of the time.
OK, where are the files ?
Please, see the Linux installation HOWTO or the Windows installation HOWTO for the details on how to install the viewer.
Cool VL Viewer v1.26.8 (current stable branch with the v3.5 renderer and server-side baking support):
Linux: CoolVLViewer-220.127.116.11-Linux-x86-Setup (2013-05-25, 50Mb) : to install, download the package, make it executable (chmod +x), then execute it and follow the dialogs.
Windows: CoolVLViewer-18.104.22.168-Windows-Setup.exe (2013-05-25, 36Mb) : to install, download the package then execute it and follow the dialogs.
Cool VL Viewer v1.26.4 (legacy stable branch with the v2.6 renderer and server-side baking support):
Linux: CoolVLViewer-22.214.171.124-Linux-x86-Setup (2013-05-25, 50Mb) : to install, download the package, make it executable (chmod +x), then execute it and follow the dialogs.
Windows: CoolVLViewer-126.96.36.199-Windows-Setup.exe (2013-05-25, 36Mb) : to install, download the package then execute it and follow the dialogs.
Cool VL Viewer v1.26.9 (EXPERIMENTAL branch with server-side baking, mesh deformer and materials rendering support):
Linux: CoolVLViewer-188.8.131.52-Linux-x86-Setup (2013-05-25, 51Mb) : to install, download the package, make it executable (chmod +x), then execute it and follow the dialogs.
Windows: CoolVLViewer-184.108.40.206-Windows-Setup.exe (2013-05-25, 37Mb) : to install, download the package then execute it and follow the dialogs.
IMPORTANT: this is an EXPERIMENTAL branch: do not expect it to be as stable and reliable as v1.26.8 and do not use it as a production viewer: it is meant for experimenting only ! Also, materials support implies deep changes to primitive editing and the current code is known to have flaws: DO NOT EDIT VALUABLE ASSETS WITH THIS VIEWER BRANCH AS THEY COULD BE CORRUPTED ! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.