I believe some time ago I mentioned I was starting to try some of the third party clients that are now available out there.
And I started with the Nicholaz line of third party Second Life software. It is one of the more popular ones out there (if we ignore some of the more griefer oriented clients).
First, I will say that of the three version I tried, none installed any noticeable malware or spyware or anything malicious. In fact, the download itself is fairly minimal and easy. You basically move four files into your Second Life folder, and you're done. Nothing too complex or complicated or messy. Cut, paste, finished.
The first relief is that the entire time I used it, Second Life ran like a dream. Nicholaz claims he plugged some memory holes in the code, and I believe one can really notice the difference. Rarely did I end my SL sessions in glorified lagfests, usually ending with my computer crashing out.
Another plus is that his client does away with the clunky 'Communications' button (at least, for the older SL versions. I only tried the current version with Nicholaz' client so I don't know if LL took that out themselves) and allowed me to resize the IM window to any size I desired. It made my interface a little more crowded on the bottom row, since it fits in a friends tab and an IM tab among others. But for me, I'll gladly sacrifice ease of reading client interface buttons with the ability to make the IM window not take up a quarter of my screen.
But all is not fun and games. My sessions remained lag free, but after about three hours, four hours max, it would crash out for no readily apparent reason. I don't know why, and I never sent a crash report (which I should have!). It may just be something with Second Life itself, or maybe it's in Nick's coding. It's not a deal breaker, unless you want mammoth marathon sessions. I'm of the school of playing in hours spurts, taking long breaks for sleep, eating, and RL; but not everyone is me. If you plan on playing all day long, expect to crash out and relog about three times or so daily. But it will be lag free in between those crashes.
Many of the features of this client are not noticeable or superficial. But I believe Nicholaz has hit upon an important idea. We don't want fancy new features, we want stability and a more friendly interface. Nicholaz delivers on those points: his client lags less and crashes less, and he's made almost the entire window adjustable to one degree or another. He didn't spend days and months developing some silly gimmick to get people to use his client. If LL had any mote of intelligence, they should take a hard look at what he's coded into his clients and mimic it.
Maybe then we'll see more varied comments on the Second Life Blog, comments that go beyond "Hay guyts, y is my secondlife crashign?? Pleas fix it is laggin and not stable fix plz fix plz!!1!"
I would give the Nicholaz client a 8 out of 10. I would recommend it to people using Windows (his Mac and Linux versions are kinda new and probably spotty at the moment), and who wants a stable experience but doesn't mind the occasional relog. It's great for someone who comes on, goofs around for a bit, and then crashes out and goes to bed. If you're looking for longer running clients, you might want to look elsewhere. If you like the default Linden interface, the Nicholaz version will also drive you up walls as it borrows from the much older pre-voice viewer interface. Otherwise, I would recommend it.