Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Diary: 30th December 2008

Open User Manual
Work has now begun on the Open User Manual, for opensim users. There are several contributors who have volunteered for the project, and I have made a start by uploading a draft of the manual to the Forge, which basically converts the tutorials on this blogsite into book-form. Most, if not all, of the info on the user part of the opensim wiki website will also be incorporated.

Giving the IRC Channels a Rest
I have noticed that there are one or two less than friendly characters in the #opensim-dev irc channel, though most there are friendly. As the 2nd birthday of the OpenSim project is almost upon us (29th January, 2009), I thought of preparing an article for the blog, outlining the views of the developers on where they thought the project was after two years. Is it on schedule, or behind schedule (or is there a schedule)? Are they happy with the progress so far, or less than happy? Has there been or are there still any major obstacles to further development? These questions I hoped to get some opinions on.

However, upon asking in the #opensim-dev channel how the developers thought the progress was, almost two years into the project, I was given a terse response from one of them:

#opensim <--- Rock Vacirca

This is shorthand for 'don't ask this question here, ask it in the #opensim channel instead'.

The #opensim channel is for 'general chat' and the #opensim-dev channel is for 'development topics'. Apparently, asking about the current state of development is not a 'development topic'.

I was taken aback by this snub, not least because looking at the chat on this channel, both before and after I was asked to take my question somewhere else, I saw several chat exchanges of little or no relevance to development, and no-one else was asked to take their questions/comments elsewhere that day.

This was not the first time that something like this has happened in that channel, and at other times I have asked a question, and have been met with silence. If the channel is for developers only, then that should be made clear in the description.

I received several Private Messages of support following this incident, and I thank all who wrote.

However, I do have a bit of a short temper, so rather than risk the possibility of being told where to go with my questions again, I have decided to opt out of the channels for a while.

Now that the forum for the new Open User Manual has been kick-started, there is no longer any neccessity for me use the irc channels.

I wish all who read my blog a very happy and prosperous 2009.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Diary: 20th December 2008

pCampBot for Fun and Romance
Opensim now includes your very own bot, called pCampBot, which you can use for load testing of your region or grid, and anything else you can think of ;-)

To get pCampBot download the latest binary from the OSGrid website, but you do not need to upgrade if you do not wish to, you can still use pCampBot. In the bin folder you will see some new files:


To run pCampBot you need to open a command console (Start, Run..., and type 'cmd' in the Open text box). You then need to navigate to the bin folder containing pCampBot.exe.

Once you are in the bin folder just typing 'pCampBot' at the prompt will display Help:

usage: pCampBot <-loginuri loginuri> [OPTIONS]
Spawns a set of bots to test an OpenSim region

-l, -loginuri loginuri for sim to log into (required)
-n, -botcount number of bots to start (default: 1)
-firstname first name for the bot(s) (default: random string)
-lastname lastname for the bot(s) (default: random string)
-password password for the bots(s) (default: random string)
-h, -help show this message

I found the easiest way to use pCampBot was to write a simple batch file in Notepad, and save it as CampBot01.bat

The script I used was as follows:

cd c:\Users\Administrator\Desktop\bin 7708\
start pCampBot.exe -l http://yourhost.com:8002 -firstname Test -lastname User -password test

The first line above is simply the path to the folder containing pCampBot (I always rename my bin folder to include the revision number, in this case: \bin 7708\)

The second line starts pCampBot, and gives the url of your region or grid, and the firstname, lastname and password of an existing user. If you want to test with a lot of bots, you will need to create user accounts for them first. I suggest Test1 User test, Test2 User test, etc.

You can then copy this batch file for as many bots as you want to login in, and rename them to CampBot02.bat, CampBot03.bat etc, and you only have to change the number in the firstname, in each file, i.e. Test1 to Test2 etc.

pCampBot does not keep still. He will leap about and walk around all over your sim, sometimes running off the edge of region boundary out into the void, so keep an eye on them on the mini-map!

You can type Help into the console at any time while pCampBot is logged in, and you will see some more commands:

Region# :
shutdown - graceful shutdown
addbots - adds n bots to the test
quit - forcequits, dangerous if you have not already run shutdown
Region# :

I tried using the addbots command, (addbots 2) but it just closed pCampBot down and closed the console window.

I also tried typing in some sentences to the pCampBotSentences.txt file, hoping that the bot would randomly utter some of the sentences I put in there, but alas he was completely mute.

I will look into pCampBot a little further, and update the Diary entry accordingly.

Merry Christmas to Everyone

Monday, 15 December 2008

Diary: 15th December 2009

Database Woes
I logged into my opensim grid on Saturday, and was dismayed to find lots of my palace build missing. I tried restarting the opensim server software, and then the server platform itself, but the missing prims were definitely gone. 'No problem', I bet you're thinking, 'Rock makes regular backups, doesn't he?' Ermm, well, I used to, but I have been so busy of late, the last one I had was 20 days ago, and we have done lots of building and creating shoes and clothing since then. It was time to think of a recovery strategy.

All of the prims that were missing were in the backup. However, if I loaded the backup I would lose all the builds and objects created during the last 20 days. So, what to do?

I decided to take into inventory all the builds and objects created during the last 20 days, then go to a void region and rezz them all there. I then did a save-oar on that region. (Unfortunately, drag-selecting and Taking does not work in opensim yet as it does in SL. In SL you get a single, coalesced object. In opensim you get all the objects individually, so every one would have to be repositioned).

I then wondered if I needed to delete my existing opensim database, then create a new, empty one, and then populate the new one with the backup sql file. As it would be no loss, I decided to see what would happen if I restored the backup over the existing database. Would it clear then write; would it overwrite some, but not all; or would it append? The answer was that it appeared to clear then write.

I then logged in to find all the missing prims back. I now needed to get back the builds and objects created during the last 20 days, and so I did a load-oar into the void region. On going there I saw all the objects where I had left them, and I took them into inventory. Then it was back to the main regions to put them back where they belonged.

I am now looking at scripts that will do a daily unattended backup for me.

Clearing the Clouds
Do you like the white cloud that represents avatars nowadays, when their shape or clothing has not fully downloaded yet, or do you prefer to see the avatar, even if they are Ruthed and/or grey?

If you prefer to see the avatar, rather than the cloud, you can. Here's how:

In the viewer go to the Advanced part of the menu (Control-Alt-D will bring it up if it is not already there). Then go to Debug Settings, and in the text box, type: RenderUnloadedAvatar, and in the lower drop-down box select TRUE, then close Debug Settings.

That's it.
Monday, 8 December 2008

Diary: 8th December 2008

Web Interface
What a great week!

I got the Web Interface up and running fully now for my grid (go here to see what it looks like), and also found how to synchronise the user and the wi_user tables.

I also got the loginscreen working too. This makes my login screen now look like the OSGrid login screen, with that nifty drop-down list of regions, so you can select which one to arrive at.

I have written the tutorials for the Web Interface now, and under More Tutorials I have added one to change the location within the region that you will arrive at.

I have also updated the Money in Opensim tutorial to include all the latest experience.

Latest on Blue Mars
After all the media coverage of this exciting new Virtual World, and that impressive teaser trailer, I was getting a bit worried that their website has not been updated since early August.

Their news section speaks of two shows it intended to participate in:

25-27 August, Nvision 08, San Jose

3-4 September, Virtual World, Los Angeles

Both shows have long passed but there has been no update to their website informing readers of how the shows went.

However, I emailed Blue Mars yesterday, and was told that they were very busy getting the beta prepared for January/February 2009.

I am on the list of beta testers, and this is one world I really want to visit.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Diary: 29th November 2008

Give me money, that's, what I want
It was only a small question. "Where can I get information on the use of money in OpenSim?"

That was the question I asked in the #opensim-dev irc yesterday. It raised quite a few hackles, I can tell you. Some even complained that the question had been asked there at all, and to avoid upsetting anyone, one of those involved in the debate that was brewing, fword, informed everyone that he had created another opensim channel for discussing just that one topic, #opensim-money.

I joined, and said 'Hi'. Within a couple of minutes 12 people had joined the channel, and the debate began. I have never experienced such a heated debate before in any channel, and those 12 members generated more chat during the next hour than both the #opensim (72 members) and #opensim-dev (66 members) channels combined. The views could not have been more diverse.

I will try to leave out the passion behind some of these views, but simply present them as options.

I was hoping to get some info on whether money could be used in opensim, and if so, how. Tomorrow, (leaving aside the debate on whether money should be in opensim or not, and if so, how should it be implemented), I hope to have a tutorial prepared showing how money is currently implemented in opensim, because, yes, it is implemented.

Should Money be implemented in Opensim?
Some people favour the adoption of money in Opensim, in much the same way as it is in Second Life. This has the advantage of using a well tried and tested system.

Others would argue that
there is no need for any currency in Opensim, and that there are already RL options available for buying and selling, by using a PayPal plugin, for example, or sites such as SLX where you pay for goods in an online store, and have the goods delivered to you inworld.

Other options include using 3rd party solutions, such as that provided by fatfoogoo, and one grid is currently operating with its own proprietory currency module, xumeo/Legend City Online.

But it should also not be forgotten that the use of PayPal and Credit Cards is not universal. For example, in Germany you will be hard-pressed to find stores that accept Credit Cards. The Germans do not like the idea of some middlemen taking a cut of every transaction. They prefer to use Debit Cards, so the money goes directly from your account into theirs, with no PayPal or Credit Card company taking a slice on the way.

Several developers have also pointed out that Opensim is simply not ready, in its current state of development, (Version 0.6), to even contemplate the use of inworld money, and that it needs to get to Version 0.8 or 0.9 before they take a serious look at it. This was clearly demostrated in the recent 'bug' problem that faced 3rdRock, and they had to develop their own fix to avoid problems with their residents.

However, some grids are already using money, such as the 3rdRockGrid, A Biker's Life, Avatar Hangout, Club SL Portugues Opensim, and United Grid. OpenLife has no inworld currency as yet, but you can buy land in OpenLife externally, while VirtualSims says that land sales is coming soon.

Then there are the legal aspects that should be considered. LL avoids (for now) controversy over the use of its inworld currency, by calling it something completely different (
a limited license right, and the 'buying' and 'selling' of the L$ is simply a transfer of those rights). But with governments around the world waking up to the fact that real money and real profits can be had from virtual worlds, they are wanting their share, via income or profit taxes. How long before they start demanding sales tax or VAT on inworld transactions?

Then there are the problems associated with money being taken for goods, but due to faulty scripts the goods are not delivered. Who will sort that out? Has anyone attempted to request a chargeback on a Credit Card for virtual goods not delivered? And what if an entire inventory or asset server gets borked, and users lose 1000s of dollars in lost inventory, that they paid for with real money? LL may have the resources and financial clout to defend a lawsuit, but what about the smaller gridowners? It is well recognised that the LL Terms of Service may (possibly) hold up in California, but in other countries around the world they are simply against their legislation and will not hold up. What do you do if your servers are hosted in New Zealand, your address is in the UK, and your users come from every country in between?

This is not a subject for the faint-hearted!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

OpenSim + HyperGrid = The Metaverse

Yesterday was a fairly quiet day, but a momentous day in the development of the Metaverse. As of yesterday, the Hypergrid facility is now incorporated directly into the opensim build.

What is HyperGrid?

HyperGrid is the functionality to permit teleporting between any two opensims, whether they are in standalone or gridmode. HyperGrid is the glue that will bind all opensims into one vast Metaverse, and will allow intrepid travellers to wander this Metaverse at will.

HyperGrid is similar to the Open Grid Protocol (OGP) that is being developed to allow teleporting between opensims and the LL grids. However, HyperGrid has more functionality built in. For example, yesterday, when I successfully teleported from my opensim to the OSGrid, I arrived with all my appearance intact, and all my inventory was available too!!

There were some bugs however, which I am sure will be squashed pretty quickly. For example, because of the numbering of the regions on my grid, where the central sim has X and Y coordinates of 1000 1000 on the grid map, I found that when I teleported to the OSGrid I could not see the land or any avatars (just sky).

The reason for this 'all sky' bug is that the central sim in the OSGrid is numbered 10000 10000 and differences in the grid coordinates between two teleport points should not be greater than 4096. The temporary solution was for me to renumber the X-Y coordinates for the regions on my grid to be in the 8000s or 12000s. This problem was first noted during OGP tests, and is described in Jira SVC-2941.

However when I rotated the camera I could see the neighbouring sim, and when I crossed the region boundary to go there I suddenly saw myself, and all my appearance had persisted.

I was so excited by this development I left a marker pole on this sim, which was just the default 'Boob Island'. The marker I named: 'Rock Vacirca was Here', with a Description that reads: 'Arrived via the HyperGrid from Anubia'. When I returned for another test an hour later, a second marker pole had been erected by someone (have I started something here?).

I am currently writing a tutorial on setting up and using HyperGrid, so check the Main Tutorials page over the next day or two. In the meantime you can find more information on the HyperGrid on the OpenSim wiki page.

Note: I get very different results when viewing the HyperGrid wiki page with IE or Firefox. Firefox produces perfect results, while IE seems to overlay some of the graphics over some of the text, so you cannot read it. If you only have IE then right-click the page, and choose View Source, and you can read the missing text in there.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Diary: 20th November 2008

Warned over SL Forum Post
For the first time in 4 years of posting to the Residents Answer section of the SL forum I received a warning from one of the Linden moderators. What had I posted? The post was this:

A Maze Terrain Tutorial and other Goodies for Opensim

New in the blog so far this month:

A Maze Terrain Tutorial
Megaprim Mayhem

Several new tutorials have been added to the More Opensim Tutorials list, and now includes:

Creating More Regions
Terrain File to Cover Multiple Regions
Using Toad for MySQL
Upgrading OpenSim
Running two Instances of OpenSim
Choosing a Server
Got my own Server
Tips and Tricks
Moving a MySQL Database
Updating the World Map
Changing a Region or Estate Name
Deleting A Region

I hope there is something there you'll find useful


The warning I received was that I should not use the SL forum to advertise non-SL related goods and services. My post was removed.

I was shocked. All my previous posts informing residents of updates to my blog had incurred no wrath, and they were all still there. So why had this one caused offence?

I contacted the Linden in charge of the Gridnauts project (a collaborative project between SL and the OpenSim community to develop the Open Grid Protocol [OGP] to enable teleporting between Sl and OpenSims) and asked if the use of the word 'Opensim' was now banned in the forums? He promised to look into it.

I later received an email from the Linden forum moderator to say that she was confused, that writing and promoting my tutorials could continue, but that I should not promote OpenSim or mention its fees!

I think the main problem lies in the confusion that many people have now concerning the terms:

Openspace sim
Open Life

Open Life is a competitor to SL, and does charge fees, considerably cheaper than the fees in SL, and I can well understand how LL could get miffed if their own forums were being used to promote the offerings of a competitor. The Linden obviously had Open Life confused with Opensim. If you go into SL, and use their Search facility, and type in the work 'Opensim', you will see dozens of ads from people selling or renting their 'Opensims', when in fact they mean their 'Openspace sims'.

I think some name changes are in order, to stop this confusion once and for all.

I started to think about the possibility of allowing free access to my grid for people who had a real interest in my Ancient World themed grid. There is some software that allows people to register via a web-based form, and once they had received their confirmation via email they could then log in. I will post a tutorial on this once I get it fully understood and working. However, as a precursor to getting the Web-Interface setup I was advised by someone who had been down this road before, the indefatigable DigiDaz, to download and install the free WAMP suite onto my server.

WAMP stands for Apache, MySQL, PHP on Windows (sort of back-to-front I know). This free suite is amazing, and a piece of cake to install and get going.

Basically the suite installs:

Apache: this will turn your server into a fully-fledged web-server

PHP: this will enable your server to run php scripts to run things such as a Web-Interface

MySQL: the preferred database engine for opensim

I already have a tutorial on installing MySQL by downloading it directly from the MySQL website, but getting all three (Apache, PHP and MySQL) in one free suite such as WAMP, I think I will write a tutorial just for this.

The suite has some great tools included too, such as phpMyAdmin which allows you to explore and change your MySQL database.

Look out for the tutorial.


Monday, 17 November 2008

Diary: 17th November 2008

Problems with the latest Binary
Several people reported over the weekend that downloading the latest binary from the OSGrid website (OpenSimulator v0.6.0.7324 ) resulted in the OpenSim server closing down before completion with a "Registration Failed" error message. I tried myself and was able to reproduce the error.

The problem was in the opensim.ini file, in the [Network] section. All the URLs for the gridmode services had been changed to point to the OSGrid. The relevant settings were these:

grid_server_url = "http://osgrid.org:8001"
user_server_url = "http://osgrid.org:8002"
asset_server_url = "http://osgrid.org:8003"
inventory_server_url = "http://osgrid.org:8004"

To operate a local grid on your own PC or server these URLs should be changed to:

grid_server_url = ""
user_server_url = ""
asset_server_url = ""
inventory_server_url ="

Maze Terrain
I thought it might be cool to create an underwater maze terrain to link my sims of Anubia and Rhodes (currently, the sim in between is a void sim, just sea, which I called 'Eastern Med'). As Crete is (almost) between Egypt and the Greek island of Rhodes [give me some leeway here :) ], the famous Minotaur's Labyrinth might be an interesting way of getting from one sim to the the other.

The steps I followed were these:

a) I downloaded the free Daedalus 2.2 Maze Generator

b) I let Daedalus create a maze for me, then I saved it as a bitmap file (c:\maze01.bmp). I did not change any of the Daedalus settings, and fortunately this program draws the maze with the black lines representing the path, and the white lines representing the walls, which is perfect for a terrain file.

c) I then loaded the file into MS paint, and changed the size and format to 256x256 pixel 24 bit RGB format (Image, Attributes, and set Width and Height to 256, and select the Colors radio button).

d) I then created a custom colour (Edit, Colors, Define Custom Colors), by typing 20 into each of the RGB boxes, creating a dark shade of grey, which should translate to a terrain height of just under 20m, and thus just below the sea level.

e) I then selected this custom color, then chose the Fill Tool (the one that looks like a paint can pouring), and filled all the white areas with the new color. The result is difficult to make out, as the background is black, and all the maze walls are a dark shade of grey, but I could just about make it out.

f) I then saved the result back as c:\maze02.bmp

g) I then loaded this file using

change-region Eastern Med
terrain load c:\maze02.bmp

The result was great and should prove quite a challenge to my visitors.

Note: SL does not accept bitmap (*.bmp) files for terrain loading. However, you can convert bitmaps quite easily to the SL RAW format by using the free Bailiwick program, http://www.spinmass.com/bailiwick/

Monday, 10 November 2008

Diary: 10th November 2008

Megaprim Mayhem
This weekend I had a play with megaprims. I built a 250m x 250m platform at 1000m, and placed a 100m dome on it, with a 150m spiral tube around the dome. I stood back to admire my work (not near the edge of the region) when suddenly, blackness, and I then appeared at 2950m in a neighbouring region!

Over the next hour this happened several times, with me appearing suddenly at various heights in various neighbouring regions. Was this because of the megaprims? Or because of the height at which I was working (1000m)? A strange one indeed. Let me know your experiences of working with megaprims.

Changing a Region Name
I agreed for a friend to take over one of my void regions at the weekend. Her art galleries were to be installed at 1000m, so they would not affect the views or the Ancient World theme on the ground.

Before I renamed the Red Sea 4 region to Gala (the name she wanted for her region), I paused to think of the consequences. I had assumed that changing a region's name would be as simple as renaming the region in the Regions folder, then opening it and changing the sim name inside too.

However, would changing a region's name have any negative impact on prims already on that region? After all, they must be referenced to a location in the database.

The answer is that it was simple. Objects ARE referenced in terms of location within the database, but not by the region name, or the region coordinates, but by the region's UUID. Providing this stays unchanged then you are free to rename a region, or even move its coordinates. I would still backup any objects using save-oar anyway, as it is always a good idea to be safe rather than sorry when making any changes.

Hmmm, I think we need another tutorial, on database and object backups. Watch this space..

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Diary: 29th October 2008

OpenSim Releases Pass the 7000 Mark
Yesterday, on the #opensim irc channel, I was pleased to see three releases in a row (which fix various bugs, implement various SL features, or introduce new ones, etc), that took the number of releases past the 7000 mark (the version now is 0.5.11.r7002), and the binary for release can now be downloaded from the OSGrid website, and has the new Search facility switched on.

Second Inventory is now Back Up Again
I was also pleased to see that the SI website was back up and running (I have not seen, either for the last outage they had, or for this one, any mention on their website about the same. No words of explanation, no apology to its customers, nothing. They need to be a bit more forthcoming with the PR aspects of their business.

Blue Mars
Coming soon, in April 2009, Blue Mars, the absolutely stunning new MMVW from Avatar-Reality, based on the awesome CryEngine 2.

Just take a sneak peak at this new World.

After seeing this video I really began to worry about the future of Second Life and Opensim. If Blue Mars, with its truly stunning graphics, allow content creation and an economy, as in SL, then Second Life will look quite amateurish compared with Blue Mars. I will keep a close eye on this one.

Blue Mars hopes to go beta in late 2008, and launch in April 2009 (but we all know about 'hopes' don't we?).

If they want beta testers, they can sign me up, yesterday.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Diary: 27th October 2008

Something Strange with DynDNS?
I went to log into my sims but I got the error message from Hippo saying that the name anubia.servegame.org could not be resolved?? I then tried to ping it, but got no response. I then pinged the IP address that anubia resolves to, and that pinged ok. I then went to the DynDNS website, went into my account, checked my hosts, and anubia was there. I then tried to ping it again, and this time I got a response, and was able then to log in.

Two hours later, I tried to log in once more, and the same problem, and again it just fixed itself after visiting the DynDNS website. A real puzzler.

Second Inventory is down again
For the second time in a month, the Second Inventory server and website are down.

www.secondinventory.com could not be found. Please check the name and try again.


Saturday, 25 October 2008

Diary: 25th October 2008

Latest Server News
I now have 9 regions up and running, five of which I will build on, and 4 void regions (they are just sea, no prims, but you can sail on them and fly over them). I will then surround the 9 regions with 16 void regions, so I can sail around every region.

No issues as yet with the server.

Updating the World Map
I have found 1 method to force the World Map to redraw:

a) Stop the opensim server,

b) Open each file in the Regions folder and set the value for lastmap_refresh to '0',

c) Restart the opensim server and log in,

d) Open the World Map, and over the next minute or two you will see it redraw.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Diary: 18th October 2008

Moving a MySQL Database

While I am waiting for my server (which hopefully be available on either Monday or Tuesday), which has a Windows 2008 Web Server OS, I thought I would have a go at moving my opensim and MySQL database from my home PC to my laptop, to see if it was straightforward. I am glad I have tried to have a go, because I got bogged down for quite a while, but fortunately with the help of DigiDaz from the #opensim irc channel, I eventually got there. Here are the steps:

1. Getting opensim onto my laptop was as easy as copying my bin folder from my home PC onto a memory stick, and copying it onto my laptop.

2. I then installed MySQL onto my laptop. When configuring I used the same user name (root) and password as on my PC, I then created an empty opensim database. (see article 5 on the 6th September, below, for full instructions on installing MySQL and creating the opensim database).

3. On my PC I made a backup copy of my opensim database. I did this by opening a command console window (go to Start, Run, and type 'cmd' (without the quotes) in the Open: box.). In the command console I typed the following:

mysqldump -u root -p opensim > opensim.sql

This command starts the mysqldump backup utility. The full syntax for this command is:

mysqldump -u [username] -p [databasename] > [backupfile.sql]


username = the user name you use in MySQL, usually 'root'
the -p switch will prompt you for the password you use for MySQL
databasename = the name of the database you wish to backup, in our case this is 'opensim'
backupfile.sql = the name of the backup file, can be anything, I chose 'opensim.sql

Like this.

I had to do a search to see where this file had been saved, I found it in the 'C:\Documents and Settings\Colin' folder.

4. I then copied opensim.sql file onto my memory stick, and pasted it in the C:\ root folder on my laptop.

5. I then opened a command console on the laptop, and navigated to the root folder by typing:

cd c:\

(it is important to be in the same folder as the test.sql file)

6. I then restored the database by typing at the command console:

mysql -uroot -p opensim < opensim.sql

It was successful and it returned me to the c:\ prompt.

7. After starting my Opensim, and logging in with my Hippo viewer, I was pleased to see my region exactly as it was on my PC.

A very happy bunny indeed, eventually :)

Again, many thanks to DigiDaz.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Diary: 16th October 2008

My First Steps with Linux
I have not been having much luck in my first attempts to get to know Linux. There are a number of problems which together conspire to deter the newcomer to this Operating System:

1. There are just too many flavours of Linux to choose from, and there is no clear guidelines on which one to choose, or how to go about choosing, other rather reading the documentation of each and every one of them. If you ask in the #opensim irc channel 'which one?' you will likely get as many different answers as there are people in the channel.

2. Linux users (at least in the #opensim irc channel) tend to be developers, rather than pure users. Consequently they speak a language all of their own, which no newcomer can understand, even if they declare themselves to be newbies.

3. Some also like to try to convert users into developers. They abjure the use of binaries, and encourage you to compile and build your own OpenSim software, using terms such as 'svn', 'trunk' and 'bleeding edge', which may mean something to them, but means absolutely nothing to me.

4. Many also seem to have a strong dislike for any kind of Graphical User Interface, GUI, (which is what Windows and Macs use), and prefer you to get a flavour of Linux that has no GUI and instead you need to learn the command-line usage, with all of its syntax and switches to remember, reminiscent of the old DOS.

So, I need to make it completely clear, I am not a developer, nor do I wish to be. I want to be a user, nothing more. My raison d'etre is the social interaction within my Opensim. In order to experience that I must engage in some designing, building, scripting, animating, texturing, which I enjoy, but are secondary to the primary reason. As far as the software itself is concerned I have no interest at all (except to report bugs, or wish lists). The only interest I have in which Operating System to use lies only the fact that if I choose one over another I will save money and have a faster system.

Now, having said that, let me be equally clear on what my requirements are:

I want my Opensim to be hosted on a dedicated server, so I can have it available 24/7, and my friends can visit without being lagged to death. It is noticeable that servers are much cheaper when the default Operating System on them is Linux (no license fee), rather than Windows (which requires a license fee). I am also told that Linux is much faster than Windows, as it has much less overhead (fewer processes going on in the background), and thus takes up far less valuable resources, such as CPU time and RAM.

However, I do not want to learn Linux from scratch (for the reasons stated above), I just simply want to get up and running as quickly as possible, to enjoy my Opensim, and be reasonably confident of knowing what to do if a problem should occur.

Therefore, I would like to take a server service that uses Linux, to save me money, but with a Windows-like GUI, such as Kubuntu or Knoppix, so I am not outside of my comfort zone.

Having decided that, I now need to know how to load OpenSim onto a Linux server. With Windows I know what to do, I go to the OSGrid website, download the latest binary and unzip it, edit the OpenSim.ini file, double-click the OpenSim.32BitLaunch.exe file, and I am up and running. I want to do the same with Linux, so how is that done?

Does anyone compile the OpenSim software and provide a binary for Linux users, in the same way as binaries are provided for Windows users? I shall investigate, and report my findings.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Diary: 15th October 2008

Another Server Failure

Hot on the heels of the Second Inventory server failure reported earlier, comes another server failure, this time it is none other than the OSGrid, and their website too.

Why is that companies and organisations such as SL, SI, and OSGrid deem it wise to host their websites on the same server as their services? When the service goes down, so does their websites and their forums, so no-one can ask what is going on.

IRC Channels
You may have heard me mention about the help I get from the opensim irc channel. What IS an irc channel anyway, you might ask. "Internet Relay Chat (irc) is a form of real-time Internet chat or synchronous conferencing. It is mainly designed for group communication in discussion forums called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication via private message, as well as chat and data transfers via Direct Client-to-Client." (courtesy of the WikipediA entry).

To access irc channels you need to either download a client, such as Bersirc (which I use at home), or use a web service such as Mibbit (which I use when away from home). Mibbet is an excellent irc web client, just go to the website and type 'opensim' in the Find Channels box at the top-right. The first hit should be #opensim@irc.freenode.net, just click on this link. Then give yourself a nickname, and you are in. Here you can follow the chat among the developers and the users, and when you feel comfortable, introduce yourself, and pose a comment or question. There is no archive, so I just leave it running in the background and scan the chat every so often for any interesting threads.

I learnt today that there is an irc channel for OSGrid too, #osgrid. Do the same with Mibbit above, and type 'osgrid' into the Find Channels box.

Anubia Update

Been working on my standalone region this last three days, as I had some time off work. I got an intra-sim Menu-Driven Teleporter system working, a Video Jukebox, and a Dance Machine. Yesterday it was poseball making for all my sofas and chairs, various sits and lounging, that sort of thing, and the day before I made the sofas and chairs. I am going to start work on sounds tomorrow.

Have fun with yours,

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Diary: 11th October 2008

Second Inventory Down
Second Inventory has been down for the third day now. Rumour has it a server HD failed. People who have downloaded their inventory from SL to their HD cannot restore it to OpenSim or elsewhere, as the SI program will not even start up as it needs an authentication from its home server. I bet they wished they never encouraged people to buy their product for this reason on their website: "The SL™ Asset Server is not absolutely reliable and often loses irremediably the hours of your work or the expensive objects that you bought." I guess they don't know all they think they know about reliability, backups, and server redundancy strategies.

Edit (12th Oct 2008): Second Inventory is now restored. The earlier notice about a hard disk failure has now been superceded by a notice saying that the server farm they were on had a massive problem.

Attempt to Get a Server Failed
I tried this week to get a dedicated server to host my OpenSim. The attempt failed miserably at the first hurdle. The two suppliers I tried (both USA firms) insisted that my Credit Card be issued in the same country as my billing address. I wonder if they insist that US cardholders have the card issued in the same State as their billing address?

No such problems with Europeans suppliers, but I will have to re-evaluate their plans.

Is it time to bite the bullet and switch to Linux?
It is noticeable that server plans are far cheaper if you take Linux as the OS (no license fees to pay, as with Windows). The gurus on the Opensim irc channel also tell me that Linux is faster too (it is much slimmer than Windows and has far less processes taking up valuable CPU time and other resources) and that OpenSim was mainly a Linux development.

Perhaps I will get that Linux-on-a-Bootable-CD and give it a whirl. Or maybe load it onto a spare PC and play with it. Could save me a packet in the long run.

Have fun

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Diary: 8th October 2008

Deleting a Region
In Article 9 I bemoaned the fact that there was no OpenSim command to delete a region. Fortunately, with the latest release of OpenSim, Version 0.5.11. 6676, we now have a new command, delete-region. This command deletes a region and its associated region file.

Just in case the command was introduced earlier, and I have been lacking in observation, it might be a good idea to benchmark the current commands in release 6676, so I can tell at a glance if they are changed in future.

Current OpenSim Console Commands
alert - send alert to a designated user or all users.

alert [First] [Last] [Message] - send an alert to a user. Case sensitive.

alert general [Message] - send an alert to all users.

backup - persist simulator objects to the database ahead of the normal schedule.

clear-assets - clear the asset cache.

create-region - create a new region.

change-region - select the region that single region commands operate upon.

command-script [filename] - Execute command in a file.

config set section field value - set a config value.

config get section field - get a config value.

config save - save OpenSim.ini

create user - adds a new user.

debug - debugging commands.

debug packet 0..255 - print incoming/outgoing packets (0=off).

debug scene [scripting] [collision] [physics] - Enable/Disable debug stuff, each can be True/False.

delete-region [name] - delete a region and its associated region file.

echoTest - this echos your command args to see how they are parsed.

edit-scale [prim name] [x] [y] [z] - resize given prim.

export-map [filename] - save image of world map.

force-update - force an update of prims in the scene.

kickuser - kickuser [first] [last] - attempts to log off a user from any region we are serving.

load-xml2 [filename] - load prims from XML using version 2 format.

load-oar [filename] - load an OpenSimulator region archive. This replaces everything in the current region.

quit - equivalent to shutdown.

restart - disconnects all clients and restarts the sims in the instance.

remove-region [name] - remove a region.

reset user password - reset a user's password.

save-oar [filename] - Save the current region to an OpenSimulator region archive.

save-xml2 [filename] - save prims to XML using version 2 format.

script - manually trigger scripts? or script commands?

set log level [level] - change the console logging level only. For example, off or debug.

set-time [x] - set the current scene time phase.

show assets - show state of asset cache.

show info - show server information (e.g. startup path).

show stats - show statistical information for this server.

show threads - list tracked threads.

show uptime - show server startup time and uptime.

show version - show server version.

show users - show info about connected users (only root agents).

show users full - show info about connected users (root and child agents).

show modules - shows info about loaded modules.

show regions - show running region information.

shutdown - shutdown the server.

terrain help - show help for terrain commands.

If you have any comments on any of the above commands, or if any do not operate as expected, please feel free to post a comment, which I will be sure to pass on to the developers.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Diary: 1st October 2008

Premium Content
There is a lot of freebie content in the OpenSim Community, and the garden in OSGrid's Wright Plaza is well stocked in that regard, and by using Second Inventory you can move all full-perm objects from SL to your OpenSim. However, to make your OpenSim experience really great you will need some premium content, but the news there is not so good.

I have been speaking with a number of premium content makers in SL, the sort that rely on more than just prims - the gurus of animation, texturing, particles, scripting etc. who provide us with our quality poseballs, beds, dances, showers, plants and trees, and so on.

None of the creators I spoke to were prepared to supply their products to the OpenSim community, simply because they had no protection against their intellectual property getting out into the wild and destroying their SL business.

I was wondering if this could be managed by having a Premium Inventory Content Server (PICS), that could serve all the independent grids, containing the premium content purchased by customers, but held securely, and with full permissions applied. The server could have a merchant window, similar to SLX, but the products are never actually delivered to the customer, but are maintained on the PICS and are accessed in parallel with the normal content on the customers own Inventory Server in his OpenSim. In other words, a mixed local/grid mode as far as inventory is concerned.

The good news is, I finally managed to find a very realistic bathroom shower particle effect, that was full-perm. I had searched for quite some time. I found a link for it here.

Gridnauts Project - Latest News
OGP teleports between the Linden Lab beta and preview grids and OpenSim regions, running in both grid and standalone mode, are now a fact of life, with over 100 residents teleporting successfully. The OGP teleport specification has now been released, but bug fixing is still ongoing. The Gridnauts team are now currently considering the next steps, exciting days indeed.

I sincerely hope that avatar appearance at start and end of teleport can be maintained, and if the entire inventory of the avatar cannot go with him on his teleports, then at least an avatar suitcase facility. After all, when you travel in RL you do not take everything you own with you, do you? You take a suitcase.

Some Terminology
Maybe it is time to start a small glossary of terms. I will get the ball rolling with these two. Please feel free to add some more in the Comments. I will collate the best.

OpenSimmers (NOT OpenSinners, that was definitely a typo!): people who own and operate an OpenSim region or regions.

OpenSimmering: Getting frustrated with a release that fixed one bug while introducing three others.

Have fun

Friday, 26 September 2008

Diary: 26th September 2008

Creating MySQL Database Backups
I have just reached the point where the build in my standalone is sufficiently mature that I would hate to lose it. So, it is time to capture the moment, and make a backup.

Essentially there are two ways of making a backup, a physical backup and a logical backup, and I will describe both. Before proceeding, I created a folder to hold my backups. I have one of these standalone 'Brick' storage drives, that connects to my PC via the USB port, where I store all my backups (in case the HD in my PC fails). I created a folder called 'OpenSim Backup 26 Sep 2008'.

Physical Backup
Making a physical backup is simple, but can be dangerous. You MUST ensure that the database is not in use before doing this, so make sure that your OpenSim server is NOT running! OK, if you are sure that the database is not in use, navigate to the MySQL data folder, on my machine this was located at:- c:\program files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.0\data

Right-click the data folder, choose Copy, then navigate to your backup folder you created earlier, and Paste it there. Job done.

Logical Copy
To make a logical copy you can use the console command mysqldump, but as always, preferring the simpler life, I downloaded a lovely little application that does that for me. In fact, it is a great little suite of useful application for MySQL, it is the MySQL GUI Tools Bundle for 5.0, and can be downloaded from here. Once it is downloaded, running the download will install the tools under the MySQL folder. Then, go to Start, Program Files, MySQL, and select the MySQL Administrator tool. When the tool starts it will ask you which MySQL server to connect to. For the Server Host enter 'localhost' , for the Username enter the root username that you used when setting up MySQL (in my case, I left it as the default 'root'), and the password you created at the time, and click on OK. The tool will then open, and connect.

To create your backup, simply select the Backup icon on the left-side panel, click on New Project, call it Opensim (don't worry with a date in the filename, it will append the date and time to whatever name you choose automatically). You then select the databases you wish to backup, and I chose avatar_appearance, opensim, mysql, and test (not knowing what was in each of these databases, I decided to back them all up, to be safe). Selecting a database, and clicking on the '>' button moves them to the right-hand pane, ready to be backed-up. Once you have selected the databases to be backed up, just hit the Execute Backup Now button, choose where you want the backup to be stored, and click on OK. Job done.

A Better Console for OpenSim
The other little utility I played with after being recommended it in the #opensim irc channel, is a replacement for the OpenSim Console, which is not very user friendly. The utility is simply called 'Console', and is available from here. I chose Release 2.00

After unzipping the package, you will find in the Console2 folder the Console.exe program, double-click to launch it. To set it up, go into Edit, Settings, and in the Startup dir: navigate to your OpenSim Bin folder, then click on OK to select it. Close the program. Now, next time you start the program it will open in the openSim Bin folder, and you can enter the executable that you normally use for starting the OpenSim Server, either OpenSim.exe or OpenSim.32BitLaunch.exe.

You will see straight away how much nicer this console front-end is, much bigger than the Windows console window, and with handy Copy/Paste icons on the Tools bar to make life easier.

Have fun

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Diary: 23rd September 2008

Fixing Bent Leg Syndrome
I noticed that when recreating my SL shape in OpenSim, and using maximum height and leg lengths, I have the infamous bent-leg syndrome (the default OpenSim Ruth avatar does not suffer from this).

I decided to have a play with some of the settings in the OpenSim.ini file, in the Avatar Control section.

The first I tried was this entry:

; Max force permissible to use to keep the avatar standing up straight
av_capsule_standup_tensor_win = 550000

Setting this value higher, to 700000 fixed the bent-leg, but walking up inclines and stairs was quite difficult.

I then put that value back to the default value, and tried this one instead:

;girth of the avatar. Adds radius to the height also
av_capsule_radius = 0.37

I was not sure what this parameter actually was (initially), but I tried it lower, at 0.17, and I seemed to have even more bent-legs than normal, so, full of excitement, I then changed it to 0.57, and bingo, bent-legs fixed! I then tried walking up inclines and stairs and no problem :) However, when I spoke of this succcess in the opensim irc channel I was told by one of the developers that this change would result in my avatar having a bigger radius, in other words, I may have difficulty in walking through narrow doorways, so my vampire coffin weekends would be most definitely out :)

He suggested that I play with another setting:

av_height_fudge_factor = 0.52

I changed this value to 0.42, and again, success! I will leave this setting as it is.

Accessing your OpenSim locally, when in External Mode
After you have changed your External_Host setting in the default.xml file in the Regions folder to allow visitors to come into your region, you find that you have to come in the same way, and suffer the same lag effects as your visitors. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to access your region locally? Well, you can! Try this little trick: Go into your Windows\system32\drivers\etc\ folder, and look for a file called 'Hosts' (no extension). Open this file with notepad, and add the following line at the bottom: myregion.hostname.com

Replace myregion.hostname.com with the actual external hostname you are using. Basically when you use the external hostname in your viewer, Windows will resolve what IP address this refers to, instead of the external web DNS servers (who will point that address to the IP address of your PC modem or router). In this case, whenever Windows comes across the myregion.hostname.com hostname, it will resolve the address automatically to, which as we learnt earlier, is the special address for this machine.

Edit: One or two people have reported that visitors could not log in when using this method. If you have any problems then just remove the entry. Meanwhile, I will look at a more universal solution to logging in locally while visitors log in remotely.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Diary: 14th September 2008

A common pitfall?

I had a friend get very interested in OpenSim, so she downloaded the binary and the Hippo viewer from the OSGrid site.

She followed my step-by-step guide to the letter, and it crashed with a 'Registration Failed' error message. I asked her to check that she had set gridmode=false, and she assured me she had. After more 'try-this, try-that' she sent me the contents of her OpenSim.ini file, and it all looked perfect.

I didn't get the clue until I asked her for the OpenSim.32BitLaunch.log, when she said she could not see one called 'log', did I want the notepad one?

The problem was that she was using Windows XP, with the default settings for folder view. If you open folder view, either by using Windows Explorer, or via My Computer, you will see in the menu at the top, Tools, go into there and select Folder Options, then choose the View tab, in the Advanced Settings, about 10 down, you will see Hide extensions for known file types. The default setting is 'checked', and this can lead to all sorts of confusion (I told her to uncheck it).

Because the extensions were hidden, when she looked into her Bin folder she saw the file I mentioned, OpenSim.ini, but this was in fact OpenSim.ini.orig (with the orig extension being hidden), and it was this file she was editing, not the OpenSim.ini file. Consequently, she was opening up in grid mode every time, as the real OpenSim.ini file never got edited.

Now that she could see the file extensions, and could edit the correct files, the step-by-step procedure worked perfectly.

Keep this in mind if a friend runs into trouble and asks for help.

I joined the Gridnauts program set up by LL to test teleporting between the LL Preview Grid (aditi) and OpenSim. You have to download the patched version of OpenSim, that has been OGP (Open Grid Protocol) patched. The teleporting worked very well indeed. This is an important first step. Appearance and inventory portability next?? Details of the program are here.

Changing an Estate Name in OpenSim
I wanted to change the default estate name of 'My Estate' in OpenSim, but could not find any info on how to do this. I noticed in the bin folder an xml file called estate_settings.xml, and in there was a setting: estate_name="My Estate", so I changed this to the name I wanted, estate_name="Kemet", and started everything up, full of confidence in my skill and perspicacity. I opened up the About Land, and there it was, Estate name: My Estate :(

Undaunted (actually I wept bucketfulls), I wandered into my database with Toad. There is a table called estate_settings, and in here I found that the name was set to 'My Estate'. A quick edit here to 'Kemet', and I shut everything down and fired it all up again. With somewhat subdued enthusiasm I opened the About Land...

Estate Name = Kemet, :) yay!!!!

Using Second Inventory
I wanted to have a go at transferring inventory from SL to my OpenSim, so I purchased a copy of Second Inventory. Basically you fire up SI, and do a backup of the objects, or the folders you want, or the entire inventory tree, to hard-disk. This can take hours for a lot of stuff, so, do it before going to bed, or to the store.

Once it is all backed-up on your hard-drive you can then restore to your OpenSim. But, first a few warnings:

a) It will only restore items that are full permission
b) It will not sort the full permission objects for you, you must find them yourself
c) Restore works on one single object only. So it is a lot of work restoring 100s or 1000s of objects.
d) Don't expect complex multi-prim objects, with textures applied, and containing various scripts, anims etc to restore perfectly. It won't.

Other than that, it works well.

Hippo Viewer Crashes
I found when using the Hippo Viewer that if I changed any setting in the Edit, Preferences (such as turn off Avatar Names, or change the Draw Distance) the Viewer would crash and close down. If I relogged (without restarting the server) I was told that Rock Vacirca was already logged in. Logging in a second time usually worked, but I could also have used the kickuser command in the server console.

Now, when I want preferences changed I do it BEFORE logging in with the viewer. All the preferences are available to set beforehand, by clicking on the Grids button on the viewer.

The odd thing is, I have found no-one else in the OSGrid forum who also have experienced Hippo Viewer crashes. So why me?

When is a hole not a hole?
I made a 20 x 20 x 0.5 floor, hollowed it to 40% to use as a pond/pool, and when I walked onto the hole I was amazed to find it completely solid. I had a quick lurk in the #opensim IRC channel, and Jenni there told me the problem, 'use the other mesher' she said. In the opensim.ini file, under physics, you have a choice of two meshers (don't ask me what a 'mesher' is). The default mesher was ZeroMesher, so I chose the other one MeshMerizer. After a restart, I was happily falling through the hole. I wonder why you get a choice of two, one that works, and one that doesn't?

Have fun,

Friday, 25 April 2008

Diary: 25th April 2008

Building work in Anubia almost complete now.

Earlier crashes and missing textures were due to a failing router (a hardware problem on my part). The software itself has not yet produced any problems, so far.

Going to try to connect to OSGrid this weekend, then do some visitor load tests to see at what level the number of avatars starts to affect my sim performance (currently, with 4 of us in there there is no lag whatsoever, but I wonder what it will be like with 20, 30??)

If the current upload speed from my ISP is sufficient to serve 10 avatars, then I don't think I will consider upgrading to a home/business account with my ISP for the higher upload speeds offered.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Diary: 20th April, 2008

Started building in my sim, which I have named 'Anubia'. As there are no stores the buildings, textures, scripts etc all have the be created by hand, from scratch, NOT for the faint-hearted!

IlsaRose, Abby and Melinda came by later to have a look around, and I noticed that two of them had this chequerboard look all over their clothes and bodies (the equivalent of the Sl 'Missing' texture?). One of them went normal during the stay, the other did not. Two of my guests crashed during a 30 minute visit, and I froze twice, then the server crashed and we all had to relog after I restarted the server.

I also noticed that the basic body, skin, eyes, hair, and clothes that I created and wear do not persist from one login to another, and each time I log in I have to drag them all from inventory onto myself.

I also noticed that in my RealXtend viewer it is always midnight when I log in, while my four guests, all using the SL viewer, all arrive with it being noon for them.

Before I get any further with my building, I will backup my bin folder. I will then create a fresh copy of the bin folder and copy across the databases from my backup and see if all my inventory is restored. I am a little worried about what will happen to my inventory after I download a new release of OpenSim and install it. Is it really simply a matter of copying the *.db files from the previous version to the new bin folder?? We will see.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


Welcome to my blog.

First, an introduction.

I have been a resident of Second Life now since September 2006 (although it seems more like eighteen years than eighteen months), and my two main alts are Rock Ryder (business) and Rock Vacirca (social).

After being in SL for six months I decided to try my hand in the rental business, mainly because I was dissatisfied with the homes and environments on offer at that time, and so the Fair Isles Estate was born. My first sim was Sukka Mire, and it was a runaway success, filling very quickly, and with a waiting list for vacancies. This was due in no small part to the fabulous SkyHomes custom designed for me by that ace SL architect, ArchTX Edo, and with the inspiration for the interior design provided by another good friend, Kryss Atansoff.

The success of Sukka Mire prompted the purchase of another sim, Swey, and the same formula for success was employed there. Swey also quickly filled. The next sim was Hoini, and a different approach was adopted for this sim (I could always revert to the proven formula if the new approach failed). Hoini was to be a themed sim, and the theme was the 1001 Arabian Nights.

ArchTX was approached again, and he came up with a stunning design for the new SkyHomes based on his Blue Frost design, but again customised to employ domes and other nice touches. He also designed what has become a legendary place in SL, the Scheherazade Gardens, a magical place for hopeless romantics, floating serenely up at 700m. Each SkyHome was decorated to the highest standard, and all the art in the Homes came from the illustrations from the early editions of the 1001 Nights, with those of Edmund Dulac being prominent. Each tenant got a free magic carpet to get around on, and the sim became an overnight success on opening, and quickly became the flagship of the Estate. Whenever some one in the Resident Forums asked 'what is the best build in SL?', or 'what is the most romantic place in SL?', or 'where is a good place in SL to propose?', Hoini was mentioned by many people in response. You cannot imagine how this made me feel, I was glowing so much I almost went super-nova :)

But by the summer of 2007 things started to take a turn for the worse. Stability issues in SL started to stretch toleration, lag became the new demon, and support was almost non-existant. The introduction of a new continent, Corsica, brought land prices down which tempted some of my tenants to try their hand at land ownership/building, but I was able to replace them with those on the waiting list. So, I was still full, my tenants were reasonably happy, and it was costing me nothing (I never made a profit on the entire Estate, that was never the goal, the rents were set to simply break-even on my investment, with a capital amortization period being set at eighteen months).

However, in late September 2007 LL sprang a surprise announcement on their European-based customers, with the news that they would be charging European rates of Value Added Tax (VAT) on all land purchases and on monthly tier payments. They later admitted that they had been absorbing the cost of VAT for some time to ensure a level playing field for residents within SL, but could absorb it no more and were passing it on to their European customers. [Reference] There was no mention of the possibility of this in the Land Store when I was purchasing my sims. Had I known that LL were required to charge VAT to their European-based customers, but had been absorbing that cost for months, and that one day they may decide to stop absorbing that cost, I would never have expanded my rental estate. I was simply not made aware of this risk.

Although I am English, I reside in Germany, and my VAT rate there is 19%. There was no way that I could compete with US-based rental competitors who were not having to pay this tax, and I lost tenants quite quickly. Only a third of my tenants believed that the ambiance in my sims was enough of a factor to keep them from going off to other sims charging less rent for the same number of prims. Several of my competitors were openly advertising the fact that they were US-based, and not subject to VAT, and their rental rates would reflect this accordingly.

I had to cut costs, I got rid of two of my managers, which was not an easy thing to do at all, and I still could not compete, and I was losing money, fast. So in the following October I had to, very regretably, break up the Estate, selling all my sims, except for Hoini, which I wanted to hold on to as it was this sim that I had put the most work, time, and heart into.

As an aside, many people have asked me where I got the names for my sims from, such as Sukka Mire, Swey, Hoini etc. The answer is in the name of the Estate, the Fair Isles Estate. Fair Isle is an island off the north coast of Scotland. If you check a map of the island you will see that the names of my sims have come from field names and other places on the island.

More work was then done on Hoini to improve further the experience of living there, and eventually I managed to get the occupancy rate back up with a strong core of dedicated tenants who just loved the Hoini environment. I also purchased an OpenSpace sim to provide even more room for the tenants (luckily getting back my old sim name of Sukka Mire, after the purchaser of SM changed its name, making the SM name available again). However, more announcements by Linden Labs were to change things for good.

In early April 2008 LL announced drastic price changes on the purchase of new private island sims, down from US$1675 to US$1000, and OpenSpace sims down from US$420 to US$250. They also announced the release of more Mainland, and promised to review prices again in the third quarter of 2008.

Land prices dropped, tenants left to take up these attractive offers, and I was onced again faced with a 50% occupied sim, and losing money once more. New entrants to the rental market could afford to charge less rent, having less capital investment to amortize, the pressure was finally just too much to bear, as I had only just managed to keep my head above water following the 19% VAT hit, I now found myself sinking.

It was time to call a halt.

With a regret that I can only describe as deeply personal, I put up my sims of Hoini and Sukka Mire. I got US$1000 for them (not each, for both!), losing over US$1000 of the original purchase prices in the process. Luckily, the new owner Beady, intends to keep Hoini as it is, and is the reason I chose him to sell them to above the half-dozen other offers I received.

It was at this point that I decided never to put my fate in the hands of Linden Labs again, and I embarked on a new journey, with the up and coming OpenSim software.

As this was to be a new direction for me (while still maintaining a presence in SL, paradoxically as a tenant now in Hoini, rather than the owner), I thought it might be useful to start a blog on this new path, so that others might discover something about OpenSim, OpenLife, OSGrid, RealXtend etc and learn from my experiences purely as a user of this software, as i am no software developer/programmer.

I will post regular updates now to the blog, detailing my experiences in setting up a standalone sim on my own PC, then doubling the population, then inviting others to join me there, then connecting my sim to an opensource grid, such as OSGrid, etc.

The journey begins....