In January, after the last server update, we asked for feedback from our community on a whole range of different aspects of SheepIt, from the user experience to the community as a whole. With this short article, we would like to start responding, beginning with your suggestions to possible client features.
The most commonly requested feature was support for multiple sessions with a single client instance so let’s start with that!
We can certainly see why this feature is so sought after, as the setup required for multiple sessions is admittedly not trivial. We definitely want to make that easier and plans to incorporate such a feature into the client already exist. This will also require changes to the UI to reflect that new feature.
This, together with the current architecture of the client, make this one of the most involved changes, as the client was never designed to run multiple sessions at once. A significant rewrite of more than 50% of the client code will be required. So while we definitely have it on our Todo it will take a while until it arrives, even though possible sketches for the new UI already exist.
Another often requested feature was to incorporate the project submission process into the client itself. While this would solve some of the issues we currently have to work around, it comes with a few drawbacks that make it a no-go from our perspective:
It would make the UI of the client even more complex, which is the opposite of what we strive for. And it would open us up to possible issues on our servers. Given the open-source nature of the client (The code can be found here: https://gitlab.com/sheepitrenderfarm/client/ ) allowing it to send such crucial data to the servers for further processing is always a risk that we would like to keep as minimal as possible. So for the time being the website will remain the only way to upload new projects.
Displaying more info in the client however will likely be a feature for the more immediate future. The info requested ranged from Load Graphs for CPU and GPU to the power percentage. In the past, we have refrained from including that info into the UI out of fear that it might confuse new users who would not know how to read their power percentage value.
Your feedback however made it very clear that a lot of you would like to see that so we will try to find a good compromise and a place in the UI.
As you can see, the UI is something that repeatedly comes up when considering the addition of new functionality and is admittedly in need of some love. While its goal has always been to allow a new user to add their machine within a few seconds, over time the new features, settings and checkboxes have made it more and more complex, something that is also reflected in the underlying code. Just to give an example, the Settings window alone is nearing 1000 lines of code. While none of us is a UI designer by trait we received some proposals over time from people far more talented than us in that regard and one of the next big projects we want to tackle is the jump from the old Java Swing Framework to the more modern JavaFX, which will also open us up to a redesign and will also make it easier for non-programmers to create new designs.
Leaving the future for a moment and coming to the present to address the next point, if you downloaded the latest Windows client recently you will have noticed that it already came with an auto-updater! A Linux/Mac version will follow, to everyones (including ours) satisfaction!
We also still want to bring the SheepIt client to the Windows Store. If you can help with that please contact us, we would love to hear from you.
Coming back to the future, another request we saw often was to include more tests to detect broken machines right from the start.
For those wondering about
this request: If you have rendered a lot of large projects on SheepIt you may find that some of the frames coming back to you expose some issues. The exact nature of those can vary from being black over the occasional strange artifact to undenoised frames. Often these broken frames all come from the same few machines, usually, older ones, that lack the required hardware features to (for example) properly perform the Open Image Denoise algorithm.
The good news: The code to detect such hardware already exists.
The not-so-good news: It is biding its time until we can update the Blender test frames to Blender 3.x (currently they are rendered using the 2.9x series). That in turn can only happen once Blender added support for both Mac and AMD GPUs and any bugs these new versions might introduce for us are fixed.
Wrapping this up, naturally, we can’t comment on any plans for easter eggs in the client, otherwise, it wouldn’t be easter eggs anymore :) For now, let’s say any bug you might find is an easter egg and is definitely handcrafted for your enjoyment!
We really want to thank you all again for taking the time to help us improve SheepIt and for all the kind words of gratitude and encouragement we received in your answers, as well as the valid critique.
Blender 3.1 is available!March 9th, 2022
200 million rendered frames!January 24th, 2022
Blender 3.0 is available!December 4th, 2021
Increase of allowed render timeJune 27th, 2021
Blender 2.93 is available!June 2nd, 2021
Blender 2.92 is available!February 26th, 2021
Blender 2.91 is available!November 26th, 2020
150 million rendered frames!November 15th, 2020
Help wanted!October 8th, 2020
Blender 2.90 available!September 1st, 2020
Blender 2.83 available!June 3rd, 2020
SheepIt network improvementsMay 1st, 2020
Blender 2.82 available!February 14th, 2020
Blender 2.81 available!November 23rd, 2019
Blender Conf rewards!October 23rd, 2019
You can support us on PatreonAugust 22nd, 2019
Blender 2.80 available!July 30th, 2019
100 million rendered frames!June 20th, 2019
Data lossJanuary 21st, 2019
Blender 2.80 beta available!December 26th, 2018
80 million rendered frames!October 27th, 2018
Filmic blender support!August 17th, 2018
Call for testing AMD gpuAugust 8th, 2018
70 million rendered frames!July 18th, 2018
60 million rendered frames!March 29th, 2018
50 million rendered frames!December 3rd, 2017
Blender Conf rewards!October 24th, 2017
Blender 2.79 available!September 12th, 2017
40 million rendered frames!August 8th, 2017
30 million rendered frames!April 26th, 2017
Filmic blender support!February 23rd, 2017
20 million rendered frames!December 12th, 2016
Blender 2.78 available!September 29th, 2016
New website!September 5th, 2016
Blender 2.77a available!March 23rd, 2016
10 millions rendered frames!March 8th, 2016
100 years of rendering!January 7th, 2016
Blender 2.76 available!October 13th, 2015
5 millions rendered frames!July 5th, 2015
Blender 2.75 available!July 2nd, 2015
4 millions rendered frames!May 14th, 2015
Blender 2.74 available!April 1st, 2015
3 millions rendered frames!March 3rd, 2015
Blender 2.73a available!January 10th, 2015
Client source code goes free!November 20th, 2014
2 millions rendered frames!October 30th, 2014
Blender 2.72b available!October 6th, 2014
Blender 2.71 available!June 26th, 2014
1 million rendered frames!May 11th, 2014
Blender 2.70a available!March 21st, 2014
500,000 rendered frames!February 6th, 2014
200,000 rendered frames!November 12th, 2013
Blender 2.69 available!October 31st, 2013
Support of single frameSeptember 17th, 2013
Blender 2.68a available!July 24th, 2013
GPU supportedMay 27th, 2013
Cumulated render time record broken!May 9th, 2013
Blender 2.67 available!May 7th, 2013
Blender 2.66a available!May 6th, 2013
Blender 2.65 available!December 10th, 2012