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

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,

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..