Virtual World viewers: Basic Information

As explained in Virtual World viewers: Part 1 I’m going be testing different viewers for basic, Mac-friendly, useability in Second Life.

Before starting the reviews it might be helpful to new users to explain some of the differences between viewer use.

For Second Life users: there is only one official viewer series – Linden Lab’s own. Every other viewer available has been developed outside of Linden Lab, which is why they are called Third-Party Viewers (often shortened to “TPVs”). For further reading this wiki page explains more: Second Life Downloads

Two key things to mention: if you do regularly switch between the official Linden Lab viewer and TPVs, or use a third-party viewer all the time, it is useful to know that Linden Lab accepts no responsibility for problems arising from installing anything but their own official viewer. If you have concerns about security or privacy issues the most usual advice is to not download and install a viewer on your computer.

There are no longer any official Viewer 1 releases available from Linden Lab. Support for Viewer 1 in Second Life will be withdrawn at some point, although a definite date for this has not been clearly stated (to my knowledge at the time of writing).

For OpenSim users: there is no single, official viewer. This is left entirely to the choice of the individual and what works best for them. In the case of larger grids they may suggest, when signing up, which viewer suits their particular environment.

TPVs, like many other subjects in virtual worlds, can cause heated debate and disagreement. I don’t intend to raise those arguments. I don’t generally find it helpful and these reviews are not in-depth enough to cover every possible discussion.

The review series starts off with Imprudence 1.3.2. This is based on a version of Viewer 1 code. The user interface is distinctly different to Viewer 2 and 3 and will be most familiar to people who started out in SL or OpenSim pre-2010. Viewer 1 remains popular with those who prefer the design and functions or are unable to run more recent viewers.

So, let’s take a closer look with Virtual World viewers: Part 2!

First visit to an OpenSim region

As Thom has described in his previous entries (Part 1 and Part 2) the initial testing of OpenSim software was something that he started on his laptop. It was with that set-up in place that I first logged in to view what was going to be our new virtual environment. This was at our first, default shaped, region which we named Perelandra.

It was an exciting moment for me; even though I was aware that it would be an entirely blank world. I’d use the analogy of moving into a new home – you know what to expect because you’ve lived in a building before and yet you aren’t quite sure how it will look when you’ve moved in and what you may encounter in a new place. Here are some of my impressions.

For anyone who has logged into an OpenSim based grid previously; you will probably know, or have heard of, what a Ruth avatar is. If you don’t then a quick visit to this Second Life wiki will give you one example of the general look.

Everyone’s avatar is a Ruth by default. After a very long time without my avatar being in this particular form, at least not deliberately, it was the first thing I noticed. The next, automatic, step was to look at my Inventory as you do have a standard Library folder available with the OpenSim software. Depending on what you are used to it can be quite spartan on some resources; it is worth noting that avatar clothing, skins, hair, accessories and attachments, pre-fabricated buildings and objects are not included.

Your OpenSim Library folder contains the following assets:

Animations – Includes twelve basic animations, of particular note are two standard T-poses. One is provided for when you are creating your own static poses and animations, one is the T-pose used in a posing stand.

Gestures – Sixteen basic gestures are included with such things as a wave, a laugh and three definitely silly, but fun, dances.

Notecards – A Welcome to OpenSim note is including in your Library as well as a sample notecard (which contains an example of Mr Open Sim’s sense of humour).

Scripts – The Scripts folder contains the most information by far. There are five sub-folders of scripts: .Kan-Ed Scripts, Other testing scripts (this is an empty folder), A, B, Open Sim specific scripts, R and S. I have not investigated these fully but the selection seems to cover the most common scripts such as colour, texture, positioning and rotation changes for objects; also land management scripts (i.e., ban lists, access, music streaming). All are full permission.

Textures – You will find quite a selection of textures, most of which are for building structures or landscaping. You’ll find textures of bricks, ceramic tiles, wood, trees, an alpha transparency etc., also some terrain textures. All textures are full permission.

Everything else you may need or want has to be uploaded by you. If you want to move past your Ruth avatar look sooner rather than later I would suggest some pre-planning of resources, I’ll be covering that in further posts.

The other quickly noticeable feature is the space. I’ve included here a picture that shows the default land shape. This is where the big differences between virtual worlds started to impact.

 

Perelandra _ OpenSim Region default

OpenSim Region default.

 

Your region, and subsequent regions you create, will have a prim allowance of 15000. Which takes a bit of time to get used to. As a comparison: during the time Thom and I were residents in Second Life we rented managed Estate parcels for our home. The maximum prim count for four parcels of land was around 5900. Which seemed a vast amount of space and prim resources for building at the time!

Other immediate differences also relate to building. You are able to build structures with mega-prims (for non-builders this means that if you have tried building in Second Life the height, length and depth restriction of 10x10x10m that you can stretch a single primitive to doesn’t apply). If you want an instant skyscraper or pyramid by stretching a primitive shape you can do so.

There is no flight limitation, so the need for a wearable object or HUD that assists you being able to fly above a certain height is unnecessary. You do still need one to assist with accelerated flight speed.

And finally, because this runs on your own computer or server space, all your uploads are free of charge.

These facilities and resources are just the immediate ones that were apparent to me at the time of logging in. From my next post I will be, hopefully, starting a series that covers what resources you can make use of to start building in your virtual world.

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.


What is OpenSimulator and is it for you?

Defining OpenSim can be a difficult task, especially if you are moving from an established virtual world with no background knowledge or experience of what other environments and communities have been developed. Even the standard terms used can be easily misunderstood. I’ve included some explanations below – which are by no means comprehensive or all encompassing.

Basic Definitions

OpenSim/OpenSimulator:

Sometimes people use the words ‘opensim’ or ‘Open Sim’ in a way that can be confusing. Essentially what this means is the free software. This is the programmed framework that many companies and individuals have based their virtual world on.

You can use OpenSim software as a private, entirely self-contained, virtual realm on your own computer. You can choose to host it on a server so that you and friends can access it. You can even build a grid for the use of others, commercially or not, if you wish to. (For further reading visit the OpenSimulator website)

Grids:

These are the virtual worlds created by others (individuals, groups and businesses) and based on OpenSim. Some of the better-known grids aside from Linden Labs’ Second Life are Third Rock, InWorldz, OSgrid. There are many variations and themes. There’s a Grid List at the OpenSimulator website, but, please bear in mind that not all grids that are available will be listed or that those listed will be open at the time of reading.

Hypergrid:

This refers to the ability to move (teleport) between different public grids that have the facility enabled. As myself and fellow writer, Thom Lunasea, have not yet used hypergrid it is something that may feature in another, separate, entry in the future.

Regions:

What most people (within Second Life) call ‘sims’, this is the basic square of land, islands and water, ocean or whatever variant it has been terraformed into.

Viewers:

If you have used an established grid then you will have, at some point, downloaded a viewer. Some virtual worlds have specific viewers that are the preferred method to log into that place; some leave that preference open to the user. For the purposes of this blog, on our own regions, myself and Thom Lunasea use the Imprudence viewer.

Is it for you?

To go it alone, or with support and help from a few keen friends, to create your own regions with OpenSim is definitely not to everyone’s taste or preferences. It is something that depends, roughly speaking, on three things:

  • what you want from a virtual environment
  • what level of involvement you want or can give
  • what your primary interests are

If your particular areas of interest are socializing, shopping, role-playing, being active in groups and events, etc., then it is likely that an established or developing grid will offer a more familiar level of user experience, interaction and support.

If building, creative experimentation or having a private environment is your key interest then using OpenSim may hold a greater attraction.

Moving to work directly with OpenSim does mean managing your expectations and developing a self-sufficient frame of mind. If you are acquainted with a grid that has a developed commercial infrastructure, where you are able to purchase or trade for all goods and services, then the entire lack of those facilities within your own virtual world does mean being prepared and interested to adapt to making what you need.

It can be a long-term project demanding time and there is a cost involved if you want to rent server space to host your regions.

All of that said: the possibilities that are on offer are fascinating. The chance to learn, to create and to build from the terrain on upwards is one that can make for an exciting sense of freedom. In turn that gives rise to creative ideas to see what can be made with such a blank canvas to work on.

In my next post I will be writing about my first experience of logging in. Up next though is the initial instalment by Thom Lunasea on how to use OpenSim software. Over to you, Thom!