In this long overdue post, I introduce “Mirror Worlds”, an eternal (I will explain what I understand by ‘eternal’ in a minute) art exhibition located in the Opensim-based, hypergrid accesible, Condensation Land grid. The exhibition features pictures from Florence Babenco, Monika Finchy, Shoshisn Shilova, and Senna (SennaSpirit) Coronet, and from the Condensation Land residents Ludmilla Writer, Mikil Tiki and myself. Shoshisn also has contributed several of her wonderful sculptures for the exhibition.
Art exhibitions of all sorts are very common in Second Life, but unfortunately they are more unusual in the Opensim-based worlds — and, in case they exist at all, they get little or no publicity. Which is a real pity, because, contrary to the general lack of content for avatar clothing and embellishment in Opensim, for example, there is nothing which prevents Opensim-based worlds from hosting beautiful exhibitions. Nobody will ask where did you take a picture, after all — and texture uploads can’t be cheaper :-)
In this post I’ll present the exhibition and explain some of its more unusual features. I’ll also describe some of the difficulties that I encountered in my work as an amateur curator — some of these difficulties may be due to my inexperience at the task, but I think that the other ones may help as a diagnosis of some problems the Opensim movement is facing. Continue reading
At the end of June 2009 I was interviewed by Alyne Dagger for the online magazine Bad Girls Magazine (BG Magazine). The interview was planned around may, and I received a draft questionnaire by email at the end of June. I wrote a first working draft with my replies, and we interchanged some emails until we both were satisfied with the results. Working with Alyne was fantastically easy, and the interview, first appeared on the portuguese edition of BG Magazine, no. 19, and later in the english edition, no. 19, was very nicely presented; big thanks to Alyne for her wonderful, careful work :-) I reproduce the interview here in its entirety, with permission. Text in italics is from BG Magazine, while my replies use a normal font; image subtitles, when present, are also from BG magazine. The images are all mine; some of them where proposed by me, and some of them were chosen by the interviewer.
Most of the material covered in the interview can also be found here and here, but the presentation is different — being in an interview format, the reading is probably more agile. You’ll also find two arguments about why Second Life cannot scale; these were previously published, in a similar form, as comments on other people’s blogs.
When speaking about virtual worlds, two months are like two years in RL. That’s why I include, at the end of the post, a small section with some corrective remarks; these were not part of the original interview.
HERALD OF DIGITAL FREEDOM
Intense and passionate in every project she’s got herself involved, ZONJA CAPALINI was a mix between muse and investor of the Metaverse when the Openspaces crisis blew up in 2008.
Revolted, she’s began to try to revert the price policy through mobilization and protest, but seeing doesn’t worry with the investors and residents like her, she went to the fight and had searched for solutions for her business in other metaverses, before to begin her own grid, using the Opensim as a tool.
She tells us with exclusivity how was this painful process which can have opened horizons and frontiers for the age of the free metaverses.
BG Magazine: How did you come to SL and what you did in your first SL year?
Zonja Capalini: I was captured, as many other people were, by the hype about Second Life at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007. I first created an avatar in december of 2006, but I had some difficulties with it and did never log in. Zonja first rezzed on february the first, 2007. It was a pure adventure. Complete immersion from the first second.
At the time the process was more complicated than it is today, and it was almost not localized. I spent several days at Orientation Island, then Help Island, until I found a way to get to the mainland. I first teleported into a german-speaking infohub (all europeans seemed to be routed to that hub at the moment), and started to socialize.
I was feeling awkward, was very shy, and besides I didn’t control my avie properly, I was crashing against all the walls I found, flying unexpectedly, etc. — as everybody else. I had the impression to have landed in the recovery area of a hospital specialized in brain injuries :-)
One of my main customers is a company dedicated, amongst other things, to education.
I saw that LL was announcing voice in SL, and I thought that creating a campus for that company in SL could be a great way to allow them to have students from all over the world. I talked to the executives of the company and showed them SL, and they agreed that it looked as an interesting platform to evaluate. So that from the beginning my SL experience was dual: on the one hand I was living my own second life, experiencing the universe as a “resident”; on the other hand, I was learning to master SL as a technological platform.
I’ve already blogged (here and here) about hypergrid, a virtual world architecture that allows the federation of Opensim grids (or “worlds”), and in particular teleports between grids. Using hypergrid, you can teleport, for example, from OSGrid to my grid, the Condensation Land Grid, or between OSGrid and Sciencesim, or between Sciencesim and the Cyberlandia grid, etc. Wagner James Au reported in the New World Notes blog about a demo run by Tom Murphy at the Metaverse University in which hypergrid teleports were shown between grids located in different parts of the US. Hypergrid is developing very fast, and once it’s stabilized and distributed widely, it will implement the vision of a world-wide network of connected grids, where big corporate or educational grids will coexist with small, home-based grids. And thanks to the hypergrid teleport, all these grids will appear as a single world like Second Life is today — hence the name “hypergrid” :-)
Here’s a sample video showing hypergrid teleports in action:
In this article I’ll discuss some details of the current hypergrid architecture, some of the security risks involved, and how a new, more secure hypergrid architecture (sometimes called “safe hypergrid” or “hypergrid 2”) is being developed.
The Openspace fiasco
In case you’ve not read the post, let me make a quick summary: I work for a company which we will call “C”; C owned a standard sim C1 and three openspaces C2, C3 and C4; at the same time, I was the owner of the Condensation Land archipielago (the Condensation Land, Condensation North, Condensation Beach., Condensation South and Condensation Southwest sims); all the islands were Openspaces, except Condensation Land. When the unjustifiable increase of 66% in the price of Openspaces was announced, C’s executives asked me to start researching for an alternative to Second Life, because they had lost their confidence in Linden Lab. I was also forced to look elsewhere for my own islands, because most of my tenants were not able to afford the price increase, got fed up, and left Second Life.
In this post I’ll describe the alternatives that were considered, the decisions that were taken, and what we learned in the process. Although the experience has been bitter in many aspects (having to abandon land which you have carefully created and helped to make beautiful is awful; Second Life customer service is a disaster; etc), the final results are quite interesting. I’ve though to share them, in case somebody can find them of interest and profit from our experience.
Would you like to have your own SL-like micro-world in-house, to be able to make backup copies of your islands and your inventory at will, to be able to clone your avatar with all your inventory into your friend’s micro-world when needed, to be able to pack a whole island and share it with friends or with the world, to be able to use fantastic buildings and landscapes others have created, to be able to add an island instantly, to decide how much computer power you’re going to allocate to your regions, to be able to run 10+ islands with 20+ avatars in a single computer, …?
“Sure,” you’ll say, “all these things are very nice, but this has to come at a price, right? Everybody will be isolated in their own micro-world, and what’s the fun of that?”
Up to recently, that was it. Either you were in a “big” world (Second Life, Open Life, OSGrid, etc), or you had your own micro-world, and then you were isolated in it. This started to change when Christa “Diva” Lopes, from the OpenSim dev team, implemented the first phase of the Hypergrid concept, what we can now call static hypergrid. I blogged about it one month ago; here’s an older article from Vint Falken; of course it all started with Justin Clark-Casey‘s seminal post “Could there be a future without big grids?”.
With static hypergrid, grid owners decide whether their grids will be accesible from outside (i.e., if they’ll run their grid in hypergrid mode) and if so they inform other grids; other grid’ operators then use a simple command to link their grid to the first. This architecture gets complemented with the possibility to use prebuilt .xml files to link several (potentially thousands) of new regions at once with a single command.
That’s a great architecture, but it puts the power of jumping from one grid to another into the grid owner’s hands. And it’s good that it is so, because the foreign regions appear on the origin grid’s map, and if I were a grid operator I’d love to be able to control what appears on my map. However, it has several disadvantages for the end-user: it precludes the possibility to jump to an arbitrary grid; if grid A links to grid B and grid B links to grid C but grid A does not link to grid C, you have to jump to B to get to C, which is preposterous; in general, the major problem is that you’re limited in where you can teleport to by your grid owners. Of course SL works that way, but SL is not an open grid, at least for the moment. And if OpenSim has to become the 3D web, you have to be able to teleport, to jump, anywhere. The very same notion of your ISP determining which web pages you can visit and which you can’t visit is against the fundamental idea of the internet.
Ideally, what I’d love to be able to do would be something similar to the following: assume that I’m working in my soon-to-be-opened OpenSim Condensation grid, I get tired of building, and I decide to teleport to my friend’s Ludmilla grid (note: to another grid, not to an island inside my grid) to see whether she’s available to go exploring, so that I tp to her world, and, lo!, there she is; I greet her, and we both tp to OSGrid (the free OpenSim grid) and start exploring from there… Impossible? No! Here’s a video that demonstrates exactly that:
[Update 20090106: Corrected information about names after hypergrid tp, added two captures]
This post presents a user experience with Hypergrid, a technology included in OpenSim that allows teleports between virtual worlds (or grids), and includes also a short tutorial so that you can try it yourself, link your virtual world with your friends’ worlds, etc. It assumes a minimal working knowledge of OpenSim, at the level described in my previous post. Yes, yes, I know, after a “Installing OpenSim” post there should come another titled “Saving our database” or “Our first Grid” — but I’m doing that for fun, ok? :-)
Why Hypergrid matters
Hypergrid represents a radical change in the model for 3D online OpenSim-compatible virtual worlds. Up to now, we’ve been used to big, monolithic worlds (like Second Life or OSGrid), modelled under the metaphor of a flat, grid-like world (hence the term grid). The world is made of pieces called islands or regions which occupy a place in the grid determined by two integer coordinates, and these in turn determine the visibility between islands. Thus, if island A is at (1000,1000) and island B is at (1001,1000), A and B share a border: the east of A is the west of B.
This “big world” model has several problems: big worlds don’t scale well, the data is in the hands of the service provider, not the customer, and it’s easy to for the service providers to scam their customers. Besides, if OpenSim has to become the 3D web, one doesn’t understand clearly why having some islands (= having a web) should imply having neighbours or occupying a position in a vaster plane — there’s no notion of “neighbour web” in the WWW.
Enter HyperGrid. HyperGrid allows us to work with a completely different model, what we could call a “small world” model. Everybody can have a world, a grid, in the same way that everybody can have a web. You, your community, your employer, whomever. And, as webs are linked using HTTP links, so grids are linked using HyperGrid. Easy, no?
Therefore HyperGrid matters. Indeed, it matters a lot. A hypergrided universe is a universe in which you can have your own world, take your own backups, create your own contents and save it to your HD, invite your friends… and still not be isolated.
To be fair, the technology has its problems. For example, DRM as we know it today cannot work, and there also are some security concerns. Anyway, these problems will most probably be tackled, one way or another.
Update 20090201: Included instructions for Windows 64 bit as reported by Xen Zerbino (Thanks! :-)).
Update 20090123:Fixed a bug in OpenSim.ini detected by Alpha Runningbear. (Thanks!)
Note 1: OpenSim is considered to be alpha software. This means that many things you expect from your daily use of Second Life don’t work in the same way, or simply they don’t work at all. Development of OpenSim is very active, tho, so that we can only expect OpenSim quality and features to better with time.
Note 2: This is not for the faint of heart. :-) You’ve been warned! :-)
Note 3: All the information presented here was valid on January the 3rd, 2009. I’ll correct errors that are brought to my attention, but this post should not be taken as a substitute of the official OpenSim wiki.
The purpose of this post is to present a short, comprehensive, do-it-yourself tutorial for the installation of OpenSim in a Windows XP machine, using MySQL as a back-end for persistence. I’ve tried to write the tutorial in such a way that you can understand it even if you’ve got no previous exposure to OpenSim or to database concepts; however, some familiarity with the operating system is required, in particular you’re assumed to know how to 1) open a system prompt; 2) open a text editor and create a file (the “notepad” application will suffice). A step-by-step procedure follows; you’ll be asked to download some files; these files implement OpenSim and MySql.
“We believe this is fair”
M. Linden, in A Letter to Second Life Residents