This blog post (the first in a short series) talks about installing OpenSim and running it for the first time. I will discuss a few technical choices and the step-by-step installation process.
Part 1: Choosing where to run OpenSimulator
Part 2: Downloading and installing all components, and starting OpenSimulator for the first time
Part 3: Downloading and installing the optional MySql database engine
What is OpenSimulator again?
As mentioned in one of our previous posts; OpenSimulator is the central piece of software that actually runs your ‘Sim’, your world. It’s where regions, terrains, avatars, objects and scripts live. It’s just a program that runs on a computer, you can start it up and shut it down again. Once it’s running – your viewer (this is separate software, we use the Imprudence viewer on Mac and Windows) can connect to your OpenSimulator, then you can start building your own world.
All of this can run on one computer and that’s how we started. Still, it’s good to realise there’s a difference between:
- the OpenSimulator software, running on your computer or elsewhere.
- the Viewer software, which always runs on your computer.
What do I need to run this?
As you might already know, various Viewers are available for Windows, Linux and Mac. The good news is that the OpenSim software runs on these platforms too!
To note, I have only performed the OpenSim installation on Windows; which means that these blog posts mainly describe that process. However, I will try to give as much information as I can find for the other platforms.
I chose to run OpenSim on Windows because I’m comfortable working on a Windows machine. If you prefer working on a Mac or Linux machine that will be fine too. Installing and running OpenSim involves a number of things, so you should start out with a familiar and comfortable environment.
At home or on a server
I started out running everything on my Windows laptop, which worked quite well. If you’re just starting out with OpenSim; I recommend installing it on your own computer. In fact, if you’re doing this just for yourself, that may be all you need. You have control over when your Sim runs and that’s that. If you have modest plans for your Sim then it won’t need much computing power either.
If you’re thinking of giving other people access to your Sim that might still work at home as it’s possible to allow others to connect. This needs some extra settings but, at least, you have control over it. This is how we started out ourselves.
Advantages of running at home:
- It’s free: The software is free and you only need your own computer.
- It’s convenient: Again, you only need your own computer. It’s a compact solution.
- Continuity: Your sim can only be running when your computer is running. If you need your sim to be alive all the time (i.e, if you let others connect to it) then this will get inconvenient.
- Stability: Depending on your computer and router, your Cable or DSL connection, and whether you use a wireless connection in your home, you may occasionally experience some instability problems.
- Performance: The performance experience may also depend on your internet connection and your computer. Remember that if you have a consumer-level internet connection (like I do), the upload capabilities of your connection may be quite limited or even unstable. Other people will notice this if you let them connect to your Sim.
Because of these drawbacks we decided, after a while, to take it one step further and rent our own server, which runs in a professionally run data centre. This means that we moved the OpenSimulator software to a server, letting our viewers connect to that server.
Advantages of running on a server:
- Always on: A server is designed to run 24 hours a day. Your Sim will always run, even when you’re asleep and your own computer is switched off.
- Stability: If the server runs in a good data centre, it’s likely to have a stable uplink (the connection from that server to your computer), which should result in fewer disruptions.
- Performance: The uplink is probably much faster than your home connection, again resulting in fewer disruptions and a better experience in-world.
- Server cost: Obviously, buying or renting a server is not free. Usually you pay a monthly or yearly fee which covers the hardware cost, server space, power, data traffic and/or bandwidth, possibly a software license and optional services such as backup and managed services.
- License cost: A Linux operating system is free, Windows and Mac operating systems need a license; you pay for that license through the monthly or yearly fee.
I decided to run our Sim on Windows. For me, being familiar with the environment outweighs the extra cost. I estimate the additional cost for a Windows license (this may vary a lot, shop around!) at about 10 euros per month.
Actual installation of OpenSimulator
Part 2 of this series will be the most technical part. It will discuss downloading and installing all components required for OpenSim and making sure that the basic settings are correct.