OpenSim deployment gets easier

Normally, creating an OpenSim grid requires not just downloading and running the grid software but also setting up a MySQL database, configuring firewall ports, editing an initialization file, and editing region files. And upgrading the OpenSim software is a hassle almost as major as installing it in the first place.

This process has recently become significantly easier.

University of California at Irvine professor Christa Lopes (“Diva Canto”) has released an OpenSim distribution already pre-configured with most popular settings, saving a potential grid operator hours of work getting all the settings right.

We tried it out here at Hypergrid Business.

First, the bad news.

  • You still have to set up a MySQL database. Lopes includes easy-to-follow instructions in with the distribution, but it still took us a few tries to get it right.
  • If you’re running Linux, you’ll need the latest version of Mono, an application that allows Microsoft programs to run in a Linux environment. We needed the help of a teenager here, WordPress developer and all around Linux-geek Anastasia Trombly, to upgrade Mono. It took about an hour. If you’re not running Linux, you can skip this step.
  • You still have to configure your ports if you have a router. In our case, this meant pulling up the control panel for our Cisco Linksys router — located at http://192.168.1.1  — and opening up the “Single Port Forwarding” panel located under “Applications and Gaming.” We already had a couple of ports forwarded to the machine running OpenSim, now we forwarded a couple more, since the Diva Distribution includes a starting package of four regions. Previously, we’d already set up a fixed internal IP address for that computer, using the “DHCP Reservation” function to link a static internal IP address to the computer’s MAC address. This was not fun, and required quite a bit of trial and error when we first did this last summer. If there’s no router, and your computer is connected directly to your broadband modem, then you can skip this. If you have multiple computers in your house, however, then you’ll need to deal with your router. This typically is the most difficult part of setting up an OpenSim grid.

Now, the good news.

  • Once the ports were configured and the MySQL database was set up, OpenSim ran and worked on the first try.
  • The Diva Distribution is automatically enabled for hypergrid. We’ve been happily teleporting in and out from the minute we had our grid up. This is great for us, but some companies and schools looking for privacy might not want to enable hypergrid for their grids and require all users to have accounts. Previously, getting hypergrid working was a time-consuming, trial-and-error process that we did not enjoy at all.
  • The Diva Distribution is composed of four regions joined together into one megaregion. That means that there aren’t any annoying border crossings — you can treat the entire area as one big 64-square-acre parcel (or 512 square meter parcel, if you’re into the metric system).
  • The Diva Distribution includes an Upgrade application. So when a new release comes out — and, with OpenSim, new releases come out frequently — upgrades are much more straightforward. We haven’t upgraded it yet, since it’s only been running for a few days. And we don’t plan to upgrade until a new release comes out with significant improvements over the current system, which is pretty good and stable as it is. But it’s nice to have the feature available.
  • The Diva Distribution is a standalone system. This means that it’s not linked to any grid. For us, this is a positive — we want our company grid to be a separate entity from the other grids out there, and the hypergrid teleports make it easy for folks to visit without having to create a separate account. In fact, teleporting between grids is now as easy as teleporting within a grid. However, it does eliminate walk-by traffic. So a retailer might want to locate a shop in a high-traffic area on one of the bigger public grids, instead.
  • The Diva Distribution can be connected to other Diva Distributions to create a large grid running on different machines (though they can run on the same machine, as well, if there’s enough horsepower). This means that if my company expands, we don’t have to invest in heavy-duty centralized grid infrastructure — we can just string standalone grids together for the same end result. That makes us happy.

So what are we using this for?

My avatar sits on a bench on our new land on our standalone grid running the Diva Distribution of OpenSim.

My avatar sits on a bench on our new land on our standalone grid running the Diva Distribution of OpenSim.

Here at Trombly International, we’ve been reconfiguring the company a bit these last couple of months (you might have noticed a slowdown in posts on this site). The new company will be a virtual organization, with employees logging in from China, India, Europe and around the US into an interactive website. To some degree we were doing that already, using a combination of online databases and documents, video conferencing, and our own workflow management system.

With OpenSim, we will expand this to include virtual staff meetings in our new virtual offices. We piloted virtual staff meetings this summer with this year’s crop of summer interns, and it worked well. In the future, all regular employees will be expected to use the new platform for meetings and collaboration.

So far, the cost to us has been exactly zero. We use an old spare computer to run the OpenSim grid. This enough for us to have a handful of employees online at once. Larger meetings will take place at a different location — ValleyGrid — which is relaunching next week after a management change.

Since we’re not using this for retail sales, the basic infrastructure is very utilitarian. An office building with private rooms and a conference area, overlooking a small lake. The weather, of course, is always perfect.

As the company grows, we may move the entire grid to a hosted facility to allow for higher traffic, and more space.

But, for the time building, 64 acres is more than enough space for a small company campus.

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.

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  • Lee Bryan

    Great article Maria. I've set up a desktop using the diva and it works great – apart from hypergrid functionality. Seems like there is some ways to go on that one – although I am glad you got it working first try. I'm convinced that Hypergrid is going to change the nature of this technology fundamentally, allowing semi mass users to work with it. Looking forward to seeing where it goes next.

  • If hypergrid teleports don't work, the first step is check to make sure that all your ports are open. Go here: http://www.seemyport.com/

    Try the following ports: 9000, 9001, 9002, 9003. They should all be open. If not, then the problem is with your router configuration.

    To hypergrid teleport to your new SA, log into another grid, click on Map (bottom right of screen), and enter your IP address followed by ":9000" into the Search box and click search.

    For example, mine is: "97.80.118.69:9000"

    If the Map doesn't find your SA it doesn't mean that the hypergrid isn't working — it just means that either your starting location isn't hypergrid enabled, or that you're too far away (they still haven't fixed that distance bug!).

    In my case, when I teleport in from OSGrid, I first have to jump to Dahlia Island. Dahlia Island is on the southern side of OSGrid, and close enough to my SA to jump there.

    If the Map finds your grid, but the teleport itself fails, it's probably a matter of incompatible software versions. For example, I am able to teleport in from OSGrid, but not from Reaction Grid. This isn't a hypergrid problem, but a regular teleport problem — it occurs with in-grid teleports as well. Again, the fix is to try different starting locations for your teleports. And the compability issues are weird — you might be able to jump from A to B but not B to A, or from A to B to C but not A to C.

    As OpenSim stabilizes and they stop putting out new upgrades every few hours, this problems will probably appear less and less.

    Good luck teleporting!

    — Maria

  • Update on saving and restoring backup OAR files on the Diva Distro megaregion:

    http://www.metaverseink.com/blog/?p=28

  • wow! this is great news! setting it up is so daunting, nice to see such an advance

    especially in light of the "starts at $55k" solution Linden Lab has!

    we were so exasperated with Linden's policy changes having a negative impact on our business (plus the cost) that we entered in Reaction Grid for our corporate focused solution offerings

    but for solutions that need to be self-contained, Dr. Lopes' deployment looks rather viable =)

  • Ener —

    The big advantage to using Reaction Grid over the self-hosted Diva Distro is that ReactionGrid takes care of all the hardware, networking, and upgrading issues — more than worth the $25 (starting price) they charge for their regions.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "self contained" however. You can run self-hosted grids as standalones, or you can attach them to existing grids. And ReactionGrid can run worlds for you that are attached to their grid, or that are separate grids.

    The Diva Distro is pre-set with hypergrid enabled, allowing teleportation in and out. Reaction Grid is also hypergrid enabled, and if you use them to run a private grid, you can either enable or disable hypergrid, as you prefer. (Disabling hypergrid is good for closed worlds, like schools that don't want strangers teleporting into classes or enterprises holding private meetings.)

    If you've got technical staff — or just want to get closer to the tech to learn how it works — the Diva Distro is a free way to get worlds up and running.

    — Maria

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  • thanks Maria on your clarification. i answer now because we had a private grid with Reaction Grid for about 2 months and are now connected to their main grid (about 2 months also)

    it runs great but the Diva Distro looks approachable by me and subQuark. like anything else, it's just a matter of learning more. like what it means to run it on a fibre optic network and what concurrency limits that creates

    our focus is shifted to being a virtual field trip destination to go along with a lab manual/workbook and maybe hypergridding would be a solution. we have only lost internet connectivity twice in three years during power outages

    thank you again for being "the" voice on all of this (and a voice that we can understand!) =)

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  • I wrote a detailed article on “How to Build Your Own Virtual World” at

    http://rocketvirtual.com

    It uses the Diva Distro Standalone Hypergid version of Opensim. Assumes a “Data Center” setup and not home cable modem. But would work with such. Includes FREE 12 region terrain files… A model version of this world can be visited and exists at

    http://viradu.com

    This is a themed science fiction virtual world that goes along with my sci-fi blog at

    http://webmac.com