Get yourself up on the hypergrid

[Update: You can browse all hypergrid-enabled public OpenSim grids with Hyperica, the directory of hypergrid destinations. Directory indexes more than 100 shopping and freebie store locations. Updated hypergrid travel directions hereFull, up-to-date list of OpenSim hosting providers is here.]

There are a lot of different OpenSim versions flying around, most of them buggy and unstable. You’d hate to download the OpenSim equivalent of Windows Vista, when you could have picked Windows XP or Windows 7 instead.

Currently, each grid makes its own determination of which version to run, and in which configuration. OSGrid, as the development grid, runs the latest software and tries to break it, so they can fix it later. ReactionGrid, as the business and education grid, runs an old, stable and reliable version — safe and comfortable for its teachers and business owners. Windows XP,  if you will. Other grids fall somewhere between the two extremes.

Since there’s no consensus out there, I’m hereby creating my own.

If you are a small business owner and need a small grid — just three or four regions at the most — to use for small group meetings, here is what I recommend:

  • Download OpenSim version 0.6.4.9395 here. (If this link doesn’t work, go directly to the OSGrid’s downloads page and find it on the list.)
  • Unzip it and install it in the appropriate programs folder. If you’re on Linux, you will need Mono to run it. If you’re a Linux type, you’ll know what that is.
  • Replace the OpenSim.ini file provided with this one.
  • Check your router configuration, if you’re using a router. You should make sure that port 9000 is open, and pointing to the computer that will be running your world. Check that your 9000 port is open here.
  • Run OpenSim.exe (if you’re on Linux, type mono OpenSim.exe after using cd to get to the right directory — but  if you’re running Linux, you know how to do this, too).

Okay, now OpenSim is running, and wants you to create the first region. If OpenSim is not running, then go for help to the OSGrid forum. Those guys are great (you’ll have to register to get in).

If everything worked, and OpenSim is running, here’s what to enter:

Region name: Pick any name for your region. It should be two words. Mine was Maria Home.

Region location coordinates: Type 1000 for the x-coordinate and 1000 for the y-coordinate. Unless all your friends are on high-numbered grids like OSGrid and Grid4Us. In that case, use 10000 and 10000. Makes it one step easier for them to teleport in, at least, until the browsers are fixed to allow long distance teleports.

Internal IP Address: Hit “enter” to accept the default values, which are 0.0.0.0.

External Host Name: Type in your IP address. You can find your IP address here. If your IP address changes frequently, you might want to get a permanent IP address from DynDNS and use that, instead.

Avatar first name, last name, and password: Use your own name. Don’t be like one of those crazy gamers with fake names. You’re a real person! After all, you stopped using [email protected] for your business email ages ago.

The region should now be built, and be a little tiny island surrounded by water.

To make it a flat field of grass, type terrain fill 21 in the console window. That will create a nice flat field for you to put office buildings on (the water table is at 20 meters).

My ReactionGrid avatar on my Trombly Ltd region -- buildings to come soon. I'm wearing hair and shoes from OSGrid, clothing from ReactionGrid.

My ReactionGrid avatar on my Trombly Ltd region -- buildings to come soon. I'm wearing hair and shoes from OSGrid, clothing from ReactionGrid.

Now you can create more regions, by typing create region. You will need to provide a region name, and a file name to store the region data in. You will also need to provide new x and y coordinates. Good ones to pick are those right next to existing regions — for example, if you have a region at 1000,1000 you could put regions next to it at 1000, 1001 or at 1000, 999.

One you do this, the region data will be stored in XML files in the Regions folder in your bin directory. If you want, you can shut down OpenSim and edit those XML files directly with a text editor. You can change the x and y coordinates of the regions, for example, or change their names or port numbers if you made a mistake when setting them up – or if you just change your mind later.

One thing to keep in mind is to give each region a different port number — I used 9002, 9003 and 9005 for mine — and remember to open each new port in your router, if you have a router.

Now, how can people visit your region?

First, download the Hippo browser, or any other Second Life-compatible browsers.

I recommend that would-be visitors go to ReactionGrid to pick up a free avatar, if they don’t have one already. Of all the major sites on the hypergrid, ReactionGrid currently has the nicest sign-on process. OSGrid also has free avatars, as do Grid4Us and FrancoGrid.

Then, if you’re on the ReactionGrid, teleport over to Hypergrid Core (go to Map at the bottom right and type “Hypergrid Core” into the search box) for teleporting if your grid is at 1000,1000.  If you placed your regions at 10000,10000 and neighboring locations, then teleport to HG Gateway 1 instead, then immediately after to HG Gateway 2. There’s a bug in today’s viewers that won’t let you teleport more than 4000 regions away in one jump. It’s supposed to be fixed in Hippo later on this summer. At least, that’s the rumors I’m hearing.

If you’re on one of the other grids, you will need to go to a hypergrid-enabled region first. On OSGrid, Nibiru is my favorite place to teleport from (they also have stargates there preconfigured to take you to the most popular destinations). But more and more region owners are configuring their regions to be hypergrid-capable, for their own convenience and that of their visitors.

When you’re at a good launching point, you can hypergrid teleport to your own region. Your regions’s address is your IP address with “:9000” after it. For example, if you want to go to my home, go to Map and search for 24.77.32.91:9000

If you want to go to another one of your regions, add the name at the end. For example, to go to my company’s headquarters building, you would type in  24.77.32.91:9000:Trombly Ltd in the search field.

Don’t want to type that nasty number all the time? Use the “A” DNS setting to point any subdomain of your URL to that location, or create a new URL. For example, to get to my company, instead of typing all those numbers, you can simply enter grid.tromblyltd.com:9000:Trombly Ltd in the search field.

You can also get a free URL from DynDNS — but it won’t be as pretty.  Not that it’s that pretty in either case.

I’m sure that a bunch of kids are sitting in basements now figuring out ways to make this easier, and some of them will get very rich as a result. They’ll deserve every penny.

Troubleshooting

OpenSim won’t run: Check the OpenSim.log file for errors (in the bin directory). There might be a clue there. Check that your 9000 port is open here. While you’re checking the port, make sure that your router is working. You might want to disconnect the router temporarily and just use your cable or DSL modem directly if the router is causing you problems, and deal with the router later.

OpenSim runs, but Hippo can’t find your regions: Did you check that your port was open?  Oh, and check that the computer running OpenSim is plugged in and on, and that OpenSim is running. I once spent hours trying to connect to a region — when someone had tripped over and disconnected an Internet cable. Once you’ve ruled out the obvious, try teleporting from different locations. Some regions won’t connect to other regions, for various knowable and unknowable reasons. And some regions are not hypergrid enabled. Try using your IP address if you’re using your URL — and vice versa.

The good news? Most connection problems are solveable. The bad news? It may take a few days of fiddling to do it, and lots of help and support from the OpenSim and OSGrid forums and chat rooms.

Warnings

When you first do this, you will miss something trivial and obvious in retrospect, and it will take you hours to find it. Or there will be a deep and insurmountable problem with your router or a break in an Internet cable somewhere or something else that will keep things from working. If your time is worth money, you might want to outsource these hassles to an OpenSim hosting provider. After all, you probably don’t host your own website at home, do you?

But if you want to learn how this software works, and you you’re looking for a new hobby — or running OpenSim is part of your job description, you techie you — then just stick with it. After all, if I’m able to get it to work, anybody can.

Also keep in mind that the default files I set you up with use something called the SQLite database. It is generally considered to be vastly inferior to the MySQL database, which, in turn, isn’t as good as really expensive databases. Or so I hear.

The advantage of using SQLite is that you don’t have to set up a MySQL database, which is a pain in the butt. The disadvantage is that you won’t be able to create too many users. But in my example above, you won’t actually be creating any users on your standalone little island — you’ll be piggybacking on the user creation facilities at ReactionGrid, OSGrid, or one of the many other fine grids that let you create free users. This is a little bit like using Gmail for your email, instead of hosting your own email server on your own website.

If you want to create a giant virtual universe, with dozens or hundreds or thousands of regions and registered users, you’ll have to switch to a heavy-duty database. And you’ll have to stop using the quick-and-dirty standalone setup as described here, and invest in a full grid infrastructure, with separate servers to handle voice communications, and your users’ inventories and instant messages, and all that good stuff.

Oh yeah, the standalone setup here doesn’t handle voice. Run Skype in the background — or just use the phone. I’ve actually done telephone interviews, in conjunction with virtual world meetings. It works. If voice is a must have, check with the folks on the OpenSim and OSGrid forums about how to install and activate FreeSwitch.

Finally, the version I picked for this tutorial — and the version that I’m running at home — is 9395. Why? Well, basically, nobody has anything bad to say about it and it’s been remarkably stable for me. ReactionGrid currently runs 9332, which is very similar. Most other grids, including OSGrid, run later versions of the software, however.  If you plan to connect your regions to these grids, you will need to upgrade to a compatible version. The grid administrators will usually let you know what version you should be running somewhere prominent on their website.

If you’re trying to decide when to upgrade, and you’re a conservative business user, keep an eye on ReactionGrid. You can find out which version of the sofware a region is running by going to Help and clicking About.

Finally, don’t forget to save plenty of backups. As I learned this week, it is far too easy to lose all your work if you don’t keep your backups in a separate location.

To make backups

  • On the console, type: change region Region Name
    (For example, I would enter: change region Trombly Ltd).
  • Type: save oar filename
    (For example, just now, I entered: save oar June122009).
  • Repeat above steps for each region.

More resources

  • Upgrading to MySQL? Instructions are  here and here or here. It’s complicated — you have to download the MySQL software and create a MySQL database, then change your OpenSim.ini file to point to the MySQL instead of to the SQLite.
  • Need more help? MaxPing has a nice list of resources here.

If I made a mistake

Please write a comment below! It is certainly possible that there’s a misplaced apostrophe that mysteriously appeared in the OpenSim.ini file that causes everything to crash, or that I missed a critical step.

If you point it out, I’ll fix it, and all the other readers and I will be eternally greatful.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Wonderful blog post Maria, this is going to be a huge help to us as we try to set up our own Opensim server in the coming weeks. It's a daunting prospect but I'm very excited about it.

  • Your starting region should be using port 9000, since the .ini file listens at port 9000 for inbound traffic.

  • James — Keep us posted on how it goes! — Maria

  • I was able to get both osgrid and standalone opensim servers running simultaneously on one machine. I used port 9000 per the howto in this post for the standalone set-up, and changed the port to 8000 in both the OpenSim.ini and the default.xml region file.

    Note that I'm using different versions for each: 9395 for the standalone (as in this article) and whatever osgrid requires at the time for the other.

  • Pingback: Virtualization 101 - Hypergrid Business()

  • Router info — this is what I had to do on my Linksys router to get things to work. Your results may vary.

    To get to my router, I pulled up http://192.168.1.1/ in my browser.

    I went to Setup and clicked on DHCP Reservations. There, I created a new reservation for the computer that was running the OpenSim application. Basically, I created a static internal IP address for my computer, using my computer's MAC address, a.k.a. HWaddr. It was a Linux computer, so I was able to get the number by entering "ifconfig -a" at the command prompt. (On a Windows PC, you would type "ipconfig /all" at the DOS prompt.) A MAC address looks something like this: 00:1B:24:1A:7D:79

    Once I permanently forwarded that MAC address to an internal port — I picked 192.168.1.106 — I went to the "Applications & Gaming" tab and added a new entry under "Single Port Forwarding." For the name of the application, I used "OpenSim", for the internal and external port I used 9000, selected both UDP and TCP, entered 192.168.1.106 for the TP address and clicked on "Enabled."

    Then I repeated the process twice more for port 9001 and 9002, pointing them all to 192.168.1.106. (You should do this for each region port that you're using.)

  • I've been hearing good things about OpenSim version 0.6.6 Post-fixes version r9993

    http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Download

    Scroll down to "Installers."

    We're using this over on ValleyGrid and it seems to work very well. And, more importantly, is compatible with OSGrid (which recently updated all its regions).

    By upgrading, you can hypergrid teleport both to and from OSGrid.

    When you run an earlier version on your home server, you can only hypergrid teleport FROM OSGrid.

    Another new development is OSGrid's new automated region server. It automatically downloads and install all the right files — AND CONFIGURES YOUR ROUTER for you. (Wow! Really??)

    Check it out here: http://www.osgrid.org/elgg/pg/utilities/connect

    — Maria