Virtual World viewers: Part 4 – Exodus

From Part 4 onwards I’m going to be looking at viewers that are based on V2 or V3 code. Linden Labs launched Viewer 2 in 2010, bringing a new look to the User Interface and new functions to Second Life.

This review will be looking at a third-party viewer based on V3 code: Exodus.

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Virtual World viewers: Part 3 – Phoenix

In this review I’m looking at the well-known third-party viewer Phoenix. Originally I’d intended to review an older version but decided to try the more recent 1.6.0.1600 release. This is the team’s development to offer mesh-viewing capabilities.

I started using an older Phoenix version in 2011 when I became interested in some of the features that the Imprudence viewer did not have. Using this mesh-enabled viewer is a new experience for me. So, let’s take a closer look.

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Virtual World viewers: Part 2 – Imprudence

This is a review of a third-party viewer I’ve used extensively in SL and OpenSim regions. Imprudence 1.3.2 release was made available in early 2011. As this post is image intensive, please continue to read after the cut.

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Using Blender: A beginner’s thoughts – Part 2

In my previous post, Part 1, I discussed some of the things to think about before starting to use Blender. In this post I will be recommending some training materials and other information that I’ve found helpful.

Before getting to the links; a couple of issues which have made this post a bit problematic to write.

Blender versions

Which version of Blender to download and use? Currently the main, stable, release is version 2.49b. There are also beta versions available, the 2.5 series, which are in development and will replace 2.49 sometime in the near future.

You will find that there are guides and project resources already made for the 2.5 versions. There are a couple of drawbacks to going straight to using them. As betas there’s no guarantee they will be a reliably stable environment on your computer. Also, some controls and capabilities are very different from 2.49b so what you learn isn’t totally interchangeable.

If you want to start learning how to make and import sculpts for virtual worlds, Blender 2.5 versions will not support a Python-scripted program called Primstar. I will be explaining more about this in one of the tutorial links.

Sculpts vs. meshes?

With developments in Second Life and OpenSim to support meshes does anyone need to learn about sculpts anymore?

My own perspective is that sculpts will still play a part in virtual worlds for awhile and are worth learning and working with.

Mesh design and importing for virtual worlds is still a work in progress. Most of the popular viewers do not, as yet, have capabilities for importing mesh objects or being able to view them. No-one is certain when it will all be ready for a full launch or what the precise technical restrictions might be. In the long-term, it will probably revolutionise what can be built. Right now though, if you want to build something, you will still need regular or sculpted prims.

One of the things that I do consider is a big positive for using mesh is that, unlike information for making virtual world specific sculpts, there is so much more to find through websites and forums. It is a lot easier to see what can be achieved from beginner level to experienced professional.

With these changes it can make for a difficult decision on where to focus. I decided to go ahead and concentrate on sculpt information and Blender 2.49b because they’re in every day use. Some of the links below go to Blender sites that contain information on mesh work and the Blender beta versions, so if you want to read more there is that option.

Tutorial links and notes

1. The Blender Survival Guide by Paolo Ciccone

The Blender Survival Guide, made by Paolo Ciccone and hosted at Creative Cow, is a thirteen part, video tutorial series on the basics of using Blender 2.49b. It is a project-based learning series and covers a lot of the basic controls and the user interface that you will need to know. This series does not include specific information on sculpt objects but is aimed at beginners who want to learn about Blender’s capabilities. An additional note is the series is made on a Mac, so it may not cover all keyboard control differences for Windows or Linux users.

I found this an excellent introduction to the controls and interface, but, I realise it might not suit all beginners.

2. Machinimatrix Blender Sculpt tutorials

If you’ve already covered the basic controls and interface, or you want to jump forward to learning about sculpts (I’d advise covering the basics first!), then this resource is specifically aimed at sculpt making for Second Life. It is still applicable to other virtual worlds. This is mostly project based but it also has other information on sculpt making, basic controls and has recently added information on meshes.

Machinimatrix offer a bundled package of Blender, Primstar, Python and library resources called JASS. They do offer a free version of this package as well as a paid version which includes additional features. If you are an OpenSim user who is interested in using the paid for version I recommend contacting them first to see if they can, or are willing to, provide support outside of the Second Life environment.

I’d already installed Blender 2.49b before I visited this site. Out of interest, I did download their free package but encountered some installation problems that I couldn’t resolve and went back to my previous set-up.

It is possible to download Primstar and Python separately and install them to follow these tutorials.

The Machinimatrix tutorials are aimed at beginners and I found them fairly easy to follow and well-designed to take you step by step to a completed sculpt.

What is Primstar?

Primstar 1.0 is a free, Python-scripted program, created by Domino Marama, for Blender 2.49a/2.49b.

At the moment, to the best of my knowledge, there is no way to make Primstar 1.0 work with Blender 2.5 betas (which I assume is down to the differences in Python versions and coding). The Domino Designs website shows little sign of updates over the last year and, unfortunately, it looks as though there will not be any Primstar updates coming out.

Primstar uses a separate, floating, window accessed by drop down menu once it is installed in Blender. It adds pre-defined shapes to your workspace, i.e. a cube, cylinder, hemisphere and so on, for you to model with and also assists with making your sculpt map. The reason this is incredibly useful for beginners is that all the shapes have been set up to meet the technical limitations that virtual worlds have for sculpts. Put simply; if your sculpt map information is not correct you will end up with a deformed sculpt in-world.

Primstar in Blender 2.94b

Primstar 1.0 in Blender 2.49b

I won’t attempt to explain in detail here what these limitations are as it won’t really make sense to anyone who hasn’t used a sculpt program before.

You can download Primstar here. Installation notes are included in the download. You will also need to download the correct version of Python that your Blender installation uses. For example: Blender 2.49b needed Python 2.6.6 for Mac OS downloaded.

As a Mac user: I can’t speak for others’ experiences but for me Primstar does have some noticeable instabilities and can prove difficult for a manual installation. Unfortunately, it tends to crash Blender a lot. Mostly when I’ve been adding new sculpt shapes to my workspace or baking a sculpt map. Another thing I’ve found is that you must click on the very top of the Blender window to have it become active again after you’ve had the Primstar window open. It remains the active window even when it has completed its action and closed.

If you are prepared to persist with using it (it is a very useful and popular tool) then save your project frequently, especially right before you need to access the Primstar window again.

Other Blender links

Blender – Blender home page with all available downloads as well as tutorials and technical information.

MasterPrim – Written tutorials on sculpts for Second Life by Parinya Rung.

Sculpt Blender – Four written tutorials for beginners to Blender and Primstar by Robyn Huffaker.

Blender Guru – Tutorials, guides and articles for Blender users.

Blender Cookie – Tutorials, resources and articles for Blender users.

Super3 – Video tutorials and resources by the well-known Super3boy. Also worth checking out is the link to the Nystic forum for Blender users.

I hope that these links will be helpful to beginners. Happy Blendering!

Installing OpenSimulator – Part 3

In this blog post, I will be looking at how you install MySql as the database engine for OpenSim.

Reasons for using MySql for OpenSim

It’s good to realize that installing MySql as the database engine for OpenSim is completely optional. You don’t need it to run the full version of OpenSim – using MySql doesn’t give you extra functionality or options when you’re in-world. In fact, if you’re running OpenSim just for you, on your own computer, it’s easier and sufficient to use the default SqlLite database engine.

However, if you’re planning to let other people connect to your OpenSim region(s), MySql is going to give you better performance and stability, because it has been designed to deliver data very quickly, for multiple users at the same time. You’re likely to experience delays and instability when you’re using the default database engine.

Please note that you will need to plan your strategy. You can start out small, as an experiment, or for research, by using the default database engine. Later on you can switch to MySql, but there is no easy way to upgrade or move everything inside your sim to the new database environment. When you move to MySql, you will get a new, empty, OpenSim environment.

Downloading MySql

You will need to download two install files. The first download is for the database engine itself. This is the software that runs the database; it runs invisibly, and once it is installed on your computer or server, it will be started automatically.

The second download is the MySql workbench. It is a tool that allows you to perform administrative tasks on the database engine, such as creating databases, and making backups. To operate OpenSim, you will only need it once: to create a new, empty database, which the OpenSim installation process can use to prepare your OpenSim environment.

Download the MySql database engine (Community Server edition) from this location: http://www.mysql.com/downloads/mysql/.

If your server or PC is running on Windows, download the MSI Installer. For Mac, there is a DMG Archive available for both Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6. Linux users can choose a version that is specific for their Linux distribution.

Regardless of your operating sytsem, you will notice 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the software. The 64-bit version will only work for you, if you have a 64-bit operating system. The difference between a 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems is the way they access the memory of your computer and the amount of memory they can use. If you don’t know if your computer’s operating system is 32 or 64-bit, you can safely choose to download and install the 32-bit version of MySql.

Download the MySql workbench tool from this location: http://www.mysql.com/downloads/workbench/. For Windows, get the 32-bit MSI installer. For Mac, select the 32-bit DMG Archive. There are no 64-bit versions are available for this software.

Note on downloading: the mysql.com website will ask you to register, but this is optional. There is a “No thanks, just take me to the downloads” link which allows you to go straight to the downloads, without registering.

Installing MySql

Start the first installer file to install the database engine. You do not need any special installation procedure or settings, so you can use all default settings that are presented during the installation procedure. At the end of the installation, the installer needs you to specify a root account and password. You will use this login information later on in the MySql workbench, to connect to the database engine.

Now start the second installer file, to install the MySql workbench. The installation is very straightforward, but once you start the workbench tool, you will need to do some configuration.

Registering a new server instance

First, you need to let the workbench know about the database engine. You do this by registering a new server instance  in the workbench. Click on ‘New Server Instance’ in the Server Administration section on the right.

Then complete the following steps:

  • Specify the host machine by selecting ‘localhost’ (which means that you’re referring to the database engine that runs on the same computer), and click Next.
  • The next step is titled ‘Set the database connection values’. Use the default values, but store the password by clicking on the ‘Store in vault’ button. Fill in the password you entered for the root account before and click Next.
  • Enter the password once again and click Next.
  • In the next step, entitled ‘Test host machine settings’, this message may appear: File doesn’t exist. This is okay, you can click Next.
  • The next step shows a review of the installation steps. Click Next.
  • In the last step ‘Create the Instance Profile’, click Finish.

Creating the empty database

On the workbench home screen, in the SQL Development section on the left, there now should be a connection entitled ‘localhost’.

  • Double click on the localhost connection to open it. A new SQL Editor tab opens.
  • In the Object Browser on the left, you will see a test database. Right-click or Control-click anywhere in the Object Browser and select the menu option Create Schema, or click on the icon I’ve highlighted using a red circle.

  • Create a new schema (new database) and give it the name ‘opensim’. Click Apply.
  • In the Review the SQL script dialog, click Apply SQL.
  • Click Finish, and Close.
  • In the Object Browser you will see the new database.

Allowing OpenSim to access your database

Later on you will start OpenSim, so it can start using the MySql database for the first time. However, you will need to give it access to the database first, by creating a login account. In the next section, you will instruct OpenSim to use that login account in order to access MySql.

First, create a new login account:

  • In the MySql workbench, click on the home tab to return to the Home screen.
  • In the Server Administration section, double click on the @localhost server instance. A new tab opens, allowing you to do database administration.
  • Click on the Accounts button. A list of accounts appears. Currently it only contains the root user.
  • Click on the Add Account button. Fill in a login name (I suggest you use ‘opensim’) and a password. Remember the login name and password – you will need it later on.
  • Click Apply. You will see that the user gets added to the User Accounts list on the left.

Next, give the new account specific rights to access the database (called schema here) you created earlier.

  • Click on the Schema Privileges tab. Make sure that the opensim user on the left is still highlighted.
  • Click on Add Entry.
  • Click the ‘Selected schema’ option, and select the ‘opensim’ schema. Click on OK.
  • Back on the Schema Privileges tab, click on the ‘Select ALL’ button, and click Save Changes.

Instructing OpenSim to use the MySql database

The final thing you need to do is tell OpenSim to start using MySql as its database engine. Without this step, OpenSim would use the default file-based database engine, so this is the part where you tie OpenSim and MySql together. In this section, you will be editing two configuration files. These are simple text files, so you can use the text editor of your choice. For Mac users in particular, editing .ini files may seem a bit unusual. However, the following procedure is applicable for any operating system.

Editing OpenSim.ini

  • In your computer’s file system, navigate to the file folder where you installed OpenSim.
  • Find the file OpenSim.ini in the Bin sub-folder, and open it using your text editor.
  • Scroll down, or use the text editor’s Find/Search function to find the following two lines:
    storage_plugin = "OpenSim.Data.SQLite.dll"
    storage_connection_string="URI=file:OpenSim.db,version=3";
  • These lines need to be ‘disabled’ because they tell OpenSim to use the default database engine. Disable them by typing a ; (semicolon) in front of them. See the lines outlined in red in the screenshot below.
  • A bit further down, find the following lines:
    ; storage_plugin="OpenSim.Data.MySQL.dll"
    ; storage_connection_string="Data Source=localhost;Database=opensim;
      User ID=opensim;Password=*****;"
  • These lines tell OpenSim to start using MySql. Enable them by removing the semicolons at the start. See the lines outlined in green in the screenshot below.
  • Note the stars/asterisks in the second line. Replace them with the password you created in the previous section.
  • Save the file.

Editing StandAloneCommon.ini

  • Inside the Bin sub-folder, you will find another sub-folder called config-include.
  • Find the file StandAloneCommon.ini in that sub-folder, and open it using your text editor.
  • Find this line:
    Include-Storage = "config-include/storage/SQLiteStandalone.ini";
  • In the same way as before, disable this line by typing a semicolon in front of it. See the line outlined in red below.
  • Find the following lines:
    ; StorageProvider = "OpenSim.Data.MySQL.dll"
    ; ConnectionString = "Data Source=localhost;Database=opensim;
      User ID=opensim;Password=***;"
  • Enable these lines by removing the semicolons. See the lines outlined in green below.
  • In the second line, replace the asterisks with the password you created in the previous section.

Conclusion

You have now taken all steps necessary to run OpenSim with MySql. I recommend verifying that you have completed each step, before you start OpenSim again, especially the configuration changes in the last section.

When you start OpenSim again it will automatically connect to MySql and start adding tables and data to the new database for your regions, avatars and objects.

Installing OpenSimulator – Part 2

This is part 2 of a series of blog posts about installing and running OpenSim. In part 1 I talked about choosing where to install OpenSim: at home on your own computer, or on a server. Whichever you choose, you can do so on Linux, Mac or Windows.

Part 2 is going to discuss the technical details of downloading and installing OpenSim in its most basic form: running as a stand-alone OpenSim instance, on a single computer, accessible from that computer only, and using the built-in database system. Future blog posts will talk about accessing your OpenSim from other computers across the internet, and installing and using the MySql database engine.

All you need to install and run OpenSim, and use all of its features, is described here.

My experience of installing OpenSim is limited to Windows machines only. However, installing OpenSim on Mac or Linux is similar and I will try to describe the installation process as generically as possible.

Step 1: Prerequisites

Note: This step is for Mac and Linux users only. You can skip this step if you’re installing on Windows.
The software for OpenSim has been written using the .NET Framework. This means that the software can run on any computer, regardless of its operating system platform, that has an implementation of the .NET Framework for that platform.

The most common .NET Framework implementation for Mac and Linux is called “Mono”. Mono is available for free and can be installed very easily and cleanly. Windows users do not need Mono because they have Microsoft’s implementation of the .NET Framework by default.

To download the Mono installer file that’s specific for your platform (including Mac and various distributions of Linux), go to http://www.mono-project.com/Download, click on the appropriate logo, and follow the instructions to download the file.

For Mac users: You do not need the so-called CSDK packages; the Framework is sufficient because CSDK packages are useful for Mono software development only. The download consists of a single .dmg file. To find your .dmg download, you have two methods. If you want to just open it quickly then you can move your cursor to where your pop-up Dock is, find the Downloads icon, click once to expand the icon and it will show a list of your most recent downloads. Click on the icon of the download you want and it will open a Finder window with the folder or file highlighted for you.

Alternatively you can manually search by going to Users Folder> Your User Name > Downloads.

Step 2: Downloading OpenSim

The latest version of the OpenSim software (at the time of writing, this is version 0.7.0.2) is always available for download at http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Download, in the Binary Packages section. You will see two download links – both have the same content, they just have a different compression format. If you don’t know which one to choose, the .zip format is likely to work for you. Download the file and save it.

Step 3: Installing OpenSim

The compressed file you just downloaded contains a number of files and folders. Create a new folder on your hard drive (I used C:\opensim, but you are free to choose any folder name and location) and extract the contents of the compressed file to the new folder.

For Mac users: create a new folder called ‘opensim’ in your user folder.

Step 4: Starting OpenSim for the first time

The first time you start your sim, it will automatically create the database that OpenSim needs. The built-in SqlLite database engine will be used by default, but the automatic process will work for MySql too. As a database engine, SqlLite is sufficient for now; if you’re planning to create a large sim, and have multiple users connect to it at the same time, you may get better performance by using a MySql database. I will describe the installation of MySql for OpenSim in a future blog post.

Starting OpenSim in Windows

To start your sim, look in the folder contents you just extracted. In the subfolder called “bin”, find the file OpenSim.exe, and double-click to start it.

Starting OpenSim on Mac/Linux

On Mac or Linux, we need to open Terminal and type one simple Mono command in order to start OpenSim. Please take the following steps:

  1. Open the Terminal program, which should be located in the Applications… Utilities folder.
  2. Type: cd opensim <Enter>
  3. Type: cd bin <Enter>
  4. Type: mono OpenSim.exe <Enter>

Installation progress

If you are using firewall software, you may see warning about OpenSim trying to gain access to your network or internet connection. This is normal and you can allow access.

You should see a console window or terminal window now. During preparation of the database, and other configuration, you will see a long list of messages. They are just there for problem solving and showing progress – you do not need to read them.

After the initial configuration, OpenSim is going to ask you for some information so it can create your default region and avatar. OpenSim will suggest a default value for some questions. Just press the Enter key to accept the default value.

OpenSim console window

OpenSim console window, waiting for input

The information you need to enter, is:

New region name: Choose your region name
Region UUID: Choose default value
Region Location: Choose default value [1000, 1000]
Internal IP address: Choose default value [0.0.0.0]
Internal port: Choose default value [9000]
Allow alternate ports: Choose default value [False]
External host name: Choose default value
Do you wish to join an existing estate: no
New estate name: Choose your estate name
Estate owner first name: Choose the first name for your avatar
Estate owner last name: Choose the last name for your avatar
Password: Choose your password
Email: Leave this empty

That’s it! Your sim is running now.

Step 5. Connecting your viewer to the sim

Before you can log into your new sim and see your avatar, you need to tell your viewer where to find your sim. You can do this in your viewer’s Grid Manager, which you should be able to access from the main screen of your viewer.

Open the Grid Manager, and create a new grid. Choose a new name for your sim, and fill in the following value in the “Login URI” field: http://127.0.0.1:9000
To confirm, click Apply, and OK.

OpenSimulator grid manager

Configuring your grid in the OpenSimulator viewer

Now it’s time to connect to your new sim. In the login screen of your viewer, fill in your avatar’s first name, last name and password, and select the grid you just created. You should be able to log in now.

In our next blog post, Belochka will talk about the first visit to an OpenSim region. What you will see, what is in your inventory, and which things you can do next.


Installing OpenSimulator- Part 1

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?

Platform

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.

Drawbacks:

  • 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.

Drawbacks:

  • 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.

This blog post (actually, a short series of posts) 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.

What is OpenSimulator exactly?

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) can connect to your OpenSimulator, and you can start building your own world.

All of this can run on one computer, that’s how we started too. Still, it’s good to realize that there’s a difference between:

the OpenSimulator software, running on your computer or elsewhere, and

the Viewer software, which always runs on your computer of course.

What do I need to run this?

Platform

As you probably know, various Viewers are available for Windows, Linux and Mac. The good news is, that the OpenSim software runs on these platforms too!

I’ll be honest – I have only performed the installation on Windows, which means that this post mainly describes that. I will try to give as much information as I can find for the other platforms.

I chose to run OpenSim on Windows, only because I’m comfortable working on a Windows machine. If you prefer working on a Mac or Linux machine – great! Installing and running OpenSim involves a number of things, so you should start out in a comfortable environment.

At home or on a server

I started out running everything on my Windows laptop, and that worked quite well. If you’re just starting out with OpenSim, I recommend installing it on your own computer too. 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, it won’t need much computing power either.

If you’re thinking of giving other people access to your Sim, then that might still work at home. It’s possible to allow others to connect to your Sim. This needs some extra settings, but at least you have control over it. This is how we started out ourselves.

Advantages of ‘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.

Drawbacks:

Continuity: Your sim can only be running when your computer is running. If you need your sim to be alive all the time (for example, if you let others connect to it), 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.

Drawbacks:

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 (see below), and optional services such as backup and managed services.

License cost: A Linux operating system is free, but 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 monthly cost for a Windows license (this may vary a lot, shop around!) at about 10 euros.