A World That Never Happened

It’s been over a year since my last post.  In that time, I built a 32 region OpenSim grid for a client, doing everything from creating the terrain in L3DT, building and obtaining content, and administering the server, including writing the PHP and Powershell scripts that ran the grid.

Sadly, just when it was ready to open for beta. my client shut it down, so no one will ever see what I put so much effort into over the last year.  In retrospect I can see a number of things I could have done differently that might have avoided it, but maybe the most important is this:  my client never visited the world I was building for his company!  Despite my urging, he never had any interest in seeing it.

The next time I build a virtual world for a client, there are a number of things I’ll do differently, but at the top of the list will be making sure that my client sees what I’m building and has an interest in seeing it to completion.  It’s extremely disappointing to put over a year into building a world only to see it vanish before it even opens to the public.  I was paid for my time and gained good experience, so it wasn’t a wasted effort for me, but it is painful.

Adding regions in Diva Distro

It looks like I’ll be returning to Diva Distro for my little experimental virtual world after a year of using regular OpenSim, now that I’ve found that it’s ridiculously easy to add regions to Diva.

When I first created a little four region test grid in 2011, I used Diva on a Windows 7 machine with WAMP. It worked well, however I knew it wasn’t secure using WAMP and I wanted more than four regions, but I didn’t see how to expand beyond four regions with Diva.

After building and configuring my own OpenSUSE Linux server, I decided to try regular OpenSim instead of Diva. The challenge of installing a full OpenSim installation appealed to me, and I wanted more than four regions. I installed OpenSim with 10 regions. It went like a breeze. I had no problems. Although it’s a lot more complicated to configure than Diva, it actually installed with fewer problems than my first try with Diva. My only real problem was that I couldn’t get on the Hypergrid, which I assume was a configuration issue.

A year passed in which I had little time to work on my grid. A few friends were logging in and using it, but otherwise I wasn’t doing much with it. When I turned my attention back to it recently, my first order of business was to upgrade from OpenSim to 0.7.4. This turned out to be more of a challenge than I hoped it would be. No matter what I did, the newer version of OpenSim crashed every time I tried to run it. I don’t have a lot of time to put into it, so yesterday I decided to download the latest version of Diva (diva-r20232, which implements OpenSim 0.7.4) and to find out how hard it would be to expand beyond Diva’s basic four regions.

It was easy – trivial in fact – after noticed the following line in config-include/DivaPreferences.ini: “CombineContiguousRegions = true”. The problem is that this line causes Diva Distro to create a megaregion by default. To add regions without dealing with megaregions, all you have to do is modify the file config-include/MyWorld.ini by adding a single line. At the very beginning of the file, in the [Startup] section, add the line “CombineContiguousRegions = false”. Restart Diva and you’re all set. I created a 14 region grid, with no megaregions, using my own coordinates instead of Diva’s default 500x,500x coordinates.

To add regions, you edit Diva’s standard Regions/RegionConfig.ini file.  Copy and paste one of the existing entries to create a new entry.  Change the new entry to add the name, coordinates (Location), UUID, and port for each of your new regions. The following is what the new entry might look like:

[New Region]
RegionUUID = “11111111-2222-3333-4444-555555555554”
Location = “5002,5000”
InternalAddress = “”
InternalPort = 9004
AllowAlternatePorts = False
ExternalHostName = “SYSTEMIP”

Region Name: To add the name for your new region, simply type the new region name between the square brackets, where you see “New Region”

Region UUID: This is a unique identifier for your region. You can get your own unique UUIDs for your regions by going to the Online GUID Generator (www.guidgenerator.com/online-guid-generator.aspx) and generating them.

Location: This is the trickiest one.  You need to visualize your regions in a grid, numbered from the bottom up and from the left to the right.  If you start with a Location of 5000,5000 in the lower left, 5000,5001 will be directly on top of 5000,5000 and 5001,5000 will be immediately to the right of 5000,5000.  5002,5000 will be on the right side of 5001,5000, and 5010,5000 will be ten regions to the right of 5000,5000.  Assigning locations is where you’re most likely to make errors in creating your grid. If you’re going to put your grid on the Hypergrid, you probably should choose less common grid locations.

It helps to draw a chart.  It’s how I keep my 14 regions coordinated.  A chart for a basic five region grid based on Diva’s default coordinates might look like this:

My World 2
My World 4
My World 1
My World 3
New Region

Port: These should be numbered consecutively,  The default Diva configuration uses ports 9000, 9001, 9002, and 9003 for the basic four regions.  You should continue this numbering for your added regions.  The first region you add beyond the basic four will be port 9004, the next one  you add will be port 9005, etc.

I haven’t made the final decision yet to stay with Diva Distro.  I like having the full control that using regular OpenSim gives me, but considering that my time for dealing with upgrades is limited, Diva’s more automated upgrade process may make it the better choice for me.

Diva Distro can be downloaded from github.com/diva/d2/downloads.  The current version is diva-r20232.zip as of today, September 11, 2012.  That’s the only file required to install Diva.  You’ll see a download for wifi, but that’s only for OpenSim installations running Robust.exe. Wifi is included in the Diva Distro.

Diva Wifi 7.4 released

Diva Canto has just released Wifi 7.4.  This means that those of us who have been waiting since OpenSim 7.4’s release last week can now upgrade.  Diva’s Wifi provides a convenient user interface for managing OpenSim logins.  To download Wifi 7.4, go to https://github.com/diva/d2/downloads and download wifi-0-7-4.zip. You can download OpenSim 7.4 at http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Download.

If you want to experiment with your own grid but don’t want to contend with the much greater technical challenge of full OpenSim, the Diva distro is a very nice preconfigured package that handles many of the technical details for you in setting up your own standalone OpenSim 7.4 world.  I’ve used it and it worked very well for me.  Diva Wifi is included as part of that package.  Go to https://github.com/diva/d2/downloads and download diva-r20232.zip.  It includes the Wifi package.

Exploring alternatives to Second Life

With Second Life® undergoing profound changes, many of us who love it have been left wondering how we should react to the changes.  Some people have been exploring other virtual worlds and a few of us have been experimenting with building our own.  In future posts, I’ll be writing about both.

In particular, I’ll be sharing my own experiences in creating my own little virtual world, which is still in very early stages of development.  I need to state up front that I am neither a Linux expert nor an OpenSim expert.  I’m learning both as I go.  My intention in this blog is to share my experiences from time to time with you, in the hopes that it will help you start and run your own world.

My little virtual world currently consists of 8 sims hosted on my own OpenSUSE server that I built and configured myself, running on my home dsl.  It’s still under development.  Time pressures have kept me from resolving some issues that I want to take care of before inviting more people into it.

I started by creating a test world using WAMP with Windows, and the Diva distro.  Diva is great – you can read about setting it up in an excellent Hypergrid Business explanation.  It allows you to get a basic four sim world up and running quickly, and a WAMP server is fairly easy to set up.  The problem is that WAMP is not very secure.  It’s a great way to start getting server and OpenSim experience, but if you choose to try it, don’t do it on your regular computer, or on any computer containing personal or confidential data!  Because I build my own computers, I had a spare lying around on which I could run WAMP without taking any great risks.  WAMP is a great way to do development on Windows, but it should not be used on a regular basis for an OpenSim grid that’s open to the public.

After getting a good introduction to OpenSim using WAMP and Diva, I built my own OpenSUSE Linux server and created an entirely new world with full OpenSim rather than Diva.

Why didn’t I stick with Diva?  I was impressed with Diva.  It’s fairly easy to set up and works well.  Diva does require a fair amount of technical skill, but much less than regular OpenSim.  For most people, Diva is the better way to go.

However I’m someone who enjoys tackling technical challenges and although I didn’t have much prior Linux experience, I am technically proficient – I’m a former software engineer and I’ve been building my own computers for 20 years – so I decided to plunge into regular OpenSim.

In future posts I’ll be writing about some of the challenges I’ve faced, solutions I’ve found, and useful resources.

I still love Second Life and although I’ve scaled back on my land ownership there, I have no intention of leaving. However the universe of virtual worlds is growing and in the future, we’ll probably be active in more than one.  For me, the prospect of being able to create my own world is even more exciting.  Not long ago it would have been an impossible dream, but with alternatives such as CloudParty, Kitely, Diva, and OpenSim emerging, it’s becoming a possibility even for those without technical skills.

You can have your own virtual world

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your own virtual world?  It might be for your business or university, or maybe just for you and your friends to hang out in without having to deal with griefers.   Or maybe you’ve wished you could experience other virtual worlds without having to create a new account in each one.

Both are becoming possible.  Two emerging software packages, OpenSim and HyperGrid, will soon make them realities and in some cases even easy.  Best of all, Second Life® members  won’t need to learn much that’s new.  The skills you’ve learned In Second Life will mostly carry over to the OpenSim worlds and you can use unofficial Second Life viewers such as Imprudence and Phoenix to visit any OpenSim world.  The Hypergrid will do something even more wonderful: it will connect OpenSim virtual worlds in much the way that the Web connects websites.  The day is coming when you can have a website that will contain a portal to your own virtual world, and when you’ll be able to teleport from your world to other virtual worlds.

I’ve tried  three ways you can have your own virtual world today.  All are new and still under development.  None are really products yet.  They are for pioneers, but they are real and available for you to try.  The ones I’ve tried are:

  • Kitely.  This is an amazing concept.  It’s what will interest most people.  You can have your own single sim virtual world created in just two minutes or less!  I have three Kitely worlds.  It’s the only one of the four that requires no technical ability to se it up.  The limitations are present are that you can’t get on the HyperGrid yet and you can have only one sim.
  • Diva distro.  This is the easiest way to get you to get a world with more than one sim and that’s on the Hypergrid, but you should try it only if you have some technical skills, such as being able to configure port forwarding on your router.  Nonetheless, for someone accustomed to configuring computers and software it’s fairly easy to set up.  I had mine up fairly quickly and friends were logging into it and enjoying it.  The Diva distro will meet the needs of most people.
  • OpenSim.  If you anticipate needing more than one server for your world or if you want full flexibility in building your world, then the regular OpenSim distro is what you need.  It’s not for the faint of heart, however, and requires a fair amount of technical skills.  If you have the skills and the strong pioneering spirit required for plunging into software that’s still being developed, the big problems you’re likely to face are the lack of documentation and the fact that because it’s still evolving as a product, answers you find to your questions are likely to apply to older versions of OpenSIm and not to yours.  I have just gotten my own 8 sim virtual world going, but it still needs work to get it to run right.  I’ll be writing about my progress in future posts.

Here are some links where you can learn more:

Kitely:  http://www.kitely.com/

Download links for Diva and Opensim: http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Download

Diva Canto’s blog (Diva Canto created the Diva distro and in RL is University of California at Irvine professor Cristina Lopes): http://metaverseink.com/blog/

Kitely, finally

After two days of trying, I managed to login to Kitely.  It turned out that there was a bug in their software preventing me from getting in.  I was impressed with their quickness in finding a workaround. Here’s my new world:

My new Kitely.com virtual world
My new Kitely.com virtual world

In case you haven’t heard, Kitely is way to host an OpenSim world in the cloud, at minimal cost.  You can create your own world – the size of a sim in Second Life – or you can download free download free OpenSim Archive files that Kitely will use to automatically generate your new world.  This picture is of the Faerie Castle world. You can download this and other files at opensimworlds.com/index.php?part=worlds.

I’ll write more about Kitely after I’ve had some time to play with it.  In the meantime, if you want to try it for yourself, Kitely is offering an allowance of Kitely Credits to get you started. You’ll need a Facebook account to use it.  Eventually they’ll probably offer logins from other sites, but during Kitely’s beta, it’s restricted to Facebook.  You can learn more at their website, www.kitely.com.

Other virtual worlds to visit besides Second Life

Second Life may be the 8000 pound gorilla in the virtual worlds universe, but it’s not the only one. There are several dozen worlds for you to choose from, though most are still small and even the largest doesn’t yet come close to matching Second Life’s massive user base.

Comparing worlds by population size is not easy, because of the difficulty in determining how many are actually active users, of determining how many are multiple avatars of a single person, and because not all worlds report population in the same way.

An alternate way of measuring world size is by the number of regions in that world.  HypergridBusiness.com reports that the dozen largest virtual worlds (Open Sim worlds and Second Life) by region are:

  1. Second Life: 31,552 regions
  2. OSGrid: 5,758 regions
  3. Avination: 925 regions
  4. Virtual Worlds Grid: 819 regions
  5. InWorldz: 816 regions
  6. New World Grid: 612 regions
  7. ScienceSim: 338 regions  (for science researchers and projects)
  8. AlphaTowne: 316 regions
  9. Meta7: 292 regions
  10. NexXtLife: 288 regions
  11. FrancoGrid: 262 regions  (French speaking)
  12. MyOpenGrid: 245 regions

OSGrid is run by the same group that has established the Open Sim platform for hosting virtual worlds.  All the virtual worlds on this list except Second Life are based on it.  It has a feature that will appeal to people like me: the ability to host a region in the world on your own computer, at no cost other than the cost of operating your computer.

Avination has unique feature that I haven’t encountered in other worlds: although when you’re creating your account, it forces you to choose from a list of avatar last names, you can change it to your Second Life avatar name through a two step process in which you first register your Second Life name with Avination and then visit an Avination ATM in Second Life, where you complete the linkage.  Avination appears to also offer the ability to use the ATM for transferring funds between it and Second Life through these ATMs, though I didn’t try it.

InWorlds is the world that people I know personally in Second Life are beginning to migrate to, and it’s the world that most favorably impressed me when I first logged on.

I wasn’t able to open an account in Virtual Worlds Grid.  I tried but wasn’t able to navigate to the account creation page.  Maybe they were having problems today, but it’s the most confusing page I’ve seen in any of the worlds.

The other world where I had a problem was New World Grid.  I got several errors when I tried opening my account, including being told that my password was too short (it was) and that my email address was invalid (it wasn’t).  When I tried reentering the information, it told me that the avatar already existed, so I tried logging and had no problem, despite the too-short password.

However when I tried creating a second avatar, I got the very same errors but this time I wasn’t able to log on with that avatar.  Very confusing!

I use the Imprudence viewer for logging into all these worlds; if a world isn’t listed in the Grids on the Imprudence login page, you can use the Grid Manager to add it.  You can also use other viewers, including Phoenix and Hippo.