OpenSim adds group, teleport functions

Developers released a new version of OpenSim this week, with support for group management of land, the ability to offer teleports to other avatars, and other minor improvements and bug fixes.

Many OpenSim users would already have seen these features on OSGrid, the Diva Distro, and other grids running the experimental versions of OpenSim.

Other grids, including the business and education-focused ReactionGrid, please a premium on stability and wait for official releases and test extensively before rolling out new functionality.

ReactionGrid is “testing this release hard,” said ReactionGrid CTO Chris Hart in a Twitter note yesterday. “Would love a stable migration for ReactionGrid.”

The grid is currently using the 0.6.6 release of OpenSim, Hart told Hypergrid Business, the most recent stable release of the platform.

“They’re a little conservative,” said OpenSim core developer Justin Clark-Casey. Using the latest release of software can be risky, he said, and grids like ReactionGrid wait for new features to be thoroughly tested and proved stable before they roll them out to their users.

“They want to be providing a good service to their clients,” he told Hypergrid Business.

Not all clients have appreciated ReactionGrid’s focus on stability.

As we wrote earlier, Wayfinder Wishbringer of the Elf Clan Social Network, was frustrated with the lack of progress on ReactionGrid.

“Elf Clan needs to go where progress is being made,” he said last week, announcing his group’s move from OpenSim-based ReactionGrid to InWorldz, which has recently started doing its own development.

ElfHaven on ReactionGrid. (Image by ElfClan.)

ElfHaven on ReactionGrid. (Image by Cinnamon Raymaker.)

Other new features in this week’s release are some building blocks of vehicle physics.

“Vehicle physics themselves have not been implemented,” Clark-Casey said, since some functions remain to be rolled out.

The latest release also upgrades the export functionality, so that the region files — known as OARs — include water heights, terrain textures, and other region settings.

This 0.6.9 release does not include the results of the recent refactoring changes, which include significant improvements to the underlying infrastructure of OpenSim. Those are currently only available in the cutting-edge, experimental versions of Opensim, but will be included in the upcoming 0.7 official release.

“The refactoring needs to undergo a good period of testing and debugging,” said Clark-Casey. “It does change the database tables quite a bit.”

The switch to 0.7 will also require extra work on the part of grid owners who upgrade, he said.

“A lot of the Web front ends out there got kind of tied into the existing database schemas,” he said. “There are going to be considerable changes in configuration.”

The other big change in the upcoming 0.7 release is added security for hypergrid teleports, which allow users to teleport from one grid to another with their avatars, appearance — even access to their inventories.

There have been no reported instances of this happening, but it’s possible for hackers to set up rogue grids and steal inventory items from visiting avatars. As a result, some grids have been hesitant about enabling hypergrid teleports for their users.

Most major public grids — including OSGrid and ReactionGrid — are hypergrid-enabled, however, and the number is growing steadily. At Wilder Westen, for example, a Wild West-themed grid based in Germany, half of all visitors currently arrive over the hypergrid, said grid owner Kai Ludwig.

Content theft via the hypergrid is currently a theoretical concern, said Ludwig, who also owns and runs the Open Neuland grid, which is not on the hypergrid.

“If you wish to hack or steal content, there are much easier ways,” he said. Hackers with the technical skills to set up their own grids, wait for visitors, and hijack their inventories have many other options, he said, which are much faster and more effective. He provided some examples, which we’re not going to list here, to avoid giving anybody any ideas.

However, the security hole does exist and, as the hypergrid grows, eventually people will start to exploit it, he said.

A Native American camp on the Wilder Westen grid, where half the visitors come via hypergrid teleport.

A Native American camp on the Wilder Westen grid, where half the visitors come via hypergrid teleport.

According to Crista Lopes, professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine and inventor of the hypergrid, full hypergrid security will only come with Hypergrid 2.0, which requires changes to the viewer software. But we’ll see some security improvements before then, she added.

“Release 0.7 will have the reasonably secure Hypergrid 1.5,” she told Hypergrid Business.

Lopes declined to give a release date for 0.7.

Clark-Casey also couldn’t provide an estimated arrival time for 0.7, since the testing and debugging work is being conducted by volunteer open source developers.

“It all depends on how fast people work,” he said. “I still think we’re talking several months, myself.”

The 0.7 release will be a significant turning point for OpenSim, he said. In addition to the structural changes to the underlying OpenSim data organization, there will be more of an emphasis on stability, instead of rolling out as many new features as quickly as possible.

“My personal hope is that we do start to see more reliable releases,” he said.

For more details about the the ongoing changes to OpenSim, Clark-Casey posts weekly progress updates on his blog.

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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. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

4 Responses

  1. As Elf Clan adapts to its new home on Inworldz, we are both happy and saddened. On the one hand, the folks at Inworldz are doing a wonderful job. Our members are for the very first time reporting excitement and enthusiasm regarding grids external to Second Life. This is due largely to Inworldz doing their own dev work… something I feel more people should be doing.

    I wish to say that the folks at Reaction Grid are fine people and that's the part where we are saddened. We love the RG concept (that they have the courage to create a family-friendly total-PG grid), and their focus on education as well as balanced view that big businesses are not a bad thing. All can co-exist peacefully. So as far as their philosophy, their excellent support and friendliness, Reaction Grid was just what we wanted.

    But as the article states, they are hesitant about making unproved updates– and rightly so. In my personal opinion, one of the flaws in OpenSim is lack of THOROUGH testing on a test-grid before releasing to the public (a problem that also exists with Linden Lab). So we fully understand RG's hesitance to implement software "hot off the presses".

    But at the same time, in the year that we've been there groups still were not operative, we still could not send IMs or inventory to people offline (communication and groups is the heart of VR society). We couldn't even make notes in user profiles– making it difficult to track who we've met and where. These things made it very difficult (if not impossible) to run a large group like Elf Clan.

    Without the community tools we needed, our lands on RG consisted mainly of builds. That's what we were a year ago when we first came to the OpenSim project. Stagnancy isn't what we're looking for. We are all for security, but we believe security, stability and progress are not mutually exclusive. RG unfortunately doesn't hire its own devs (I think it could, considering the size of their grid). So we had to make the hard choice– and leave a company we loved for a company that is progressive. Thus our migration to Inworldz.

    Inworlds has functional groups, working profiles, the ability to message and transfer inventory to offline inventory, and their user support is Grade-A. They have their own devs and are already making progress beyond what we've seen on other grids (that's what cooperative work brings… progress). Not only this, but their work is stable, debugged and functional at the time of release (which is how proper coding and debugging process works). Overall, we have found a stable, progressive, user-friendly environment in Inworldz and for the first time in a year– Elf Clan feels like we're moving forward rather than waiting on the industry to catch up with our needs.

    I think OpenSim could take a lesson from Inworldz, both in coding method and implementation. It is possible to code well, with stability, and insure that stability before releasing code to the public. It takes a little more care, a little more time, and some really dedicated alpha testers– but that's really the only way to do things and do them right.

    Our very best wishes to Reaction Grid. It is my sincere hope that eventually OpenSim becomes what the philosophy of RG deserves (I still greatly love their total-PG concept). We hated leaving, but after year of basic stagnancy had to make the hard choice. We look forward to great things and encourage all involved in external grids: people need an alternative to $295 a month and arbitrary, self-serving corporate decisions. The ability to fulfill that need is in your hands. Please cooperate better, organize better, and work as a body to accomplish that most desirable goal.

    Our best wishes to OpenSim, Reaction Grid, and our good friends at Inworldz.

  2. I keep telling people we backed the right horse when we picked Opensim as the basis for all our virtual world development work a year ago. So I'm delighted to see such steady progress and grateful to you Maria for distilling it down into a digestible blog post.

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