Aurora-Sim newest option for OpenSim servers

OpenSim grid owners now have another option for their grid server software — Aurora-Sim.

This branch of OpenSim, still in “pre-alpha” stage of development, promises more security features and better vehicle physics than mainline OpenSim, but it is still too early to tell whether it will be able to deliver.

We talked to Andrew Simpson, owner of the AnSky Grid, who converted his grid to Aurora-Sim on February 17.

Welcome area on AnSky Grid.

Simpson said that the switchover on his 12-region, 110-user grid took about five hours.

“It wasn’t hard, but I did need to make some edits in the database,” he said.

Groups didn’t transfer well, he said, and his grid is now no longer connected to the hypergrid since the Aurora-Sim software doesn’t yet support hypergrid teleports. AnSky Grid was formerly accessible to hypergrid travelers from other grids, with Club AnSky one of its travel destinations.

Simpson said that he doesn’t miss the hypergrid connectivity.

“I have been seeing some issues with it,” he said. For example, when visitors get content on one grid and bring it to another grid, that content doesn’t always arrive safely — especially if the content is usage restricted.

“You can’t open what you brought over the hypergrid if it doesn’t have full perms,” he said.

Meanwhile, Club AnSky will be up and running again soon, he said, as soon as all the migration work is complete, but only accessible to grid residents.

Simpson doesn’t recommend that other grid owners switch over right away.

“I would wait for an upgrade,” he said. “It’s a bit buggy at this time.”

In addition, as Aurora-Sim evolves, it may require edits to the database, he added. By waiting, grid owners can save themselves that work.

However, he added that he plans to stick with Aurora-Sim.

The software has built-in group support — the standard distribution of OpenSim requires the grid owners install a separate module. It allows allows for regions to be different shapes and sizes, and allows grid owners to ban users based on IP addresses.

“There are too many features to list,” Simpson said.

(See here for a full list of Aurora-Sim features.)

A welcome alternative

Simpson isn’t the only one experimenting with Aurora-Sim. Enrico Ranucci, operating officer of the New Voice OpenSim hosting company — known for its $9.90 region rentals — also has a test grid up running Aurora-Sim.

And the core developers of OpenSim aren’t opposed to the branch.

“OpenSimulator has several spin-off projects led by other teams,” said OpenSim core developer and hypergrid inventor Crista Lopes, professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine. “That is a great thing, that’s exactly what the project is all about.”

The Aurora-Sim isn’t the first such distribution, she added.

She herself maintains the popular Diva Distro, an easy-to-use version of OpenSim that’s pre-configured with a four-region megaregion and hypergrid enabled by default. Other OpenSim versions include the OSGrid distribution, which is pre-configured to automatically connect to OSGrid.

Intel-backed ScienceSim also has its own branch, Simian Grid. And private grids such as Avination, InWorldz, and SpotOn3D are also running customized versions of OpenSim.

There is also a version of OpenSim which has had full mesh support for a couple of years before Second Life began supporting it – realXtend — though it requires its own viewer and thus hasn’t been adopted by any public grids and has been used mostly for specialized, stand-alone projects like architectural demos.

The developers of many of these versions are contributing code and improvements back to the main release of OpenSim, but that could be a problem with regards to the Aurora-Sim distribution, Lopes said.

“I have some concerns about Aurora’s main developer being personally involved with the viewer’s GPL-licensed source code,” she said.

OpenSim viewers such as Hippo and Imprudence are licensed under the restrictive GPL license. This license requires that all derivative works must all be GPL licensed as well. But OpenSim itself operates under a different open-source license — BSD. This license allows derivative works to be kept proprietary. A role playing world, for example, might add special features to make its world more appealing and keep those features private. Or a developer might add extra security features and market their version of OpenSim to corporate customers.

“As you recently posted, the threat for the OpenSimulator project is copyrights,” said Lopes. “The OpenSimulator project, under legal advice, has not been accepting contributions from anyone actively engaged in GPL-licensed viewer development. Until this rule is replaced with something equally reassuring — like personal liability documents from individual developers — server-side code from those developers are high risk propositions for the community.”

As a result, Aurora developers haven’t been donating their code back to the main OpenSim project, she said.

“And we don’t have resources to monitor and filter their own fork of OpenSimulator for contributions that could potentially be safely ported back,” she added. “Their code has diverged considerably.”

Should you switch?

For the majority of OpenSim grid operators, the prudent thing to do is to wait until Aurora-Sim is out of the experimental testing phase before making a decision.

It will take time for Aurora-Sim developers to get their software ready for prime time. By that time, some of the most wanted feature might already be available in mainline OpenSim, or in add-on modules.

Furthermore, because Aurora-Sim doesn’t support hypergrid teleports, grids that are hypergrid-enabled should wait until such support is in place.

There’s a possibility that Aurora-Sim might wind up with a different, incompatible version of hypergrid, which they call IWC, or InterWorldConnector. According to developers, IWC will allow greater security than standard hypergrid by allowing grid owners to specify which other grids are trustworthy and which aren’t. This could be a plus for grid owners who only want their users to be able to teleport among a small number of other worlds to avoid content theft — but could also cut a grid off from the rest of the metaverse.

Another potential warning sign is that the Aurora-Sim developers are currently working under pseudonyms.

“We only have three core developers, and we only use VR [virtual reality] names,” said a developer who identified himself only as “Greybeard.” The reason for the anonymity? “Mainly personal security,” he said.

In the main release of OpenSim, most of the core developers have been happy to be quoted under their real names.

Some enterprise users may prefer that there are at least some project leaders who are real people before they commit to a particular platform.

In part, this is a security concern, since software produced entirely by anonymous volunteers may include malicious code — or, more likely — code that is improperly licensed, and pose a copyright issue for its users.

But also, companies sometimes hire open source developers to do custom work. For example, core developers Justin Clark-Casey, Melanie Thielker of 3D Hosting (and founder of the Avination grid) and Adam Frisby of DeepThink all provide OpenSim-related consulting services.

Without real people behind a project, it can be harder to find expert people for customization or problem solving.

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.

  • WordfromtheWise

    Nice Article, but i have to say some words. What is the thing about the … "working under pseudonyms " ? Do you want your readers think that those hard working guys on the Aurora project are doing malicous stuff ? .. Some , if not all of those developers in the Aurora team are well known people in the opensim/osgrid community. Just as an example Revolution Smyth which is/was deeply involved with the physics engine part of opensim. Greybeard is also knows and even WhiteStar Magic is a talented guy which roamed and helped the best he can on the Osgrid forums for quite a while. I know them from email and IRC conversations and the fact that i dont know their name doesnt make them malicous.

    And i have to say i love the ideas behind Aurora. The feature list reads like a opensim wet dream. I had also connected some regions to it. I used .oar files from my osgid island. I also helped Andrew Simpson testing some bugs as i rent my avatar body as a crash test dummy.

    So if you are curious about "those anonymous guys," join their IRC Channel [ freenode / #aurora-dev ) and talk to them ; they dont`t bite —

    best regards,

    Wordfromthe Wise

  • Wordfromthe Wise —

    There are plenty of decent, hard-working programmers who work under pseudonyms. And plenty of others who do shoddy work under real names.

    But there are business owners who prefer to know the people they do business with. For example, I would never hire writers who wouldn't tell me their real names — at the very least, because they wouldn't be able to sign employment contracts and copyright assignment documents. And, at the worst, if they misused their jobs for personal gain, it would be difficult to bring them to justice.

    This is very different from using a pen name or a stage name. Madonna's real identity isn't a secret. Hypergrid inventor "Diva Canto" is happy to be known as UC Irvine professor Crista Lopes, I trust her to do a fantastic job. Her professional reputation is on the line — but also, she gets credit for what she does.

    Tim Berners-Lee doesn't hide the fact that he invented the World Wide Web. Marc Andreessen doesn't hide the fact that he founded Netscape. Apache founder Brian Behlendorf still works for a living — he's the CTO of the World Economic Forum — but he's getting the recognition he deserves.

    The folks working on OpenSim are pioneers. The stuff they're building now will be running the world when our kids grow up. They should take credit for it, and claim their place in history.

    — Maria

  • WordfromtheWise

    and as a follow up ; here is the link to Auroras forum with introductions to a lot of users and developers .. http://forum.aurora-sim.org/viewforum.php?f=9&sid=705c774960feefbc8f2a572247b17304

  • WordfromtheWise

    Hi Maria, i understand your point but ..

    if i connect my region to a Grid like the AuroraGird or the OSGRID i do not do "business" with them .. The business is done with my hosting provider .. If i would rent land from e.g the AnSky gird i would (mayby) ask around about the founder of it — I must admit the first "provider" i used on the OSGRID was Ralf Haifish and i meet him running around on his islands, talked to him, he seemed nice and i rented land from him. I did no regret it even i did not knew him at that point. And even if you "knew" the people you are doing business with . it can be fatal like what happend with some of the providers (was it openlife ? , dunno)

    Anyhow, keep up the good work and promoting the opensim worlds..

    regards

    Wordfromthe Wise

  • Word –

    I'm thinking more of a company looking to create a large, internal grid. Personally, I'd go with ReactionGrid, or SimHost, or PioneerX to help me set it up — these are real companies with real people behind them. And if I needed something special, that required deep knowledge of OpenSim, I'd call on Justin or Melanie or Adam or one of the other core developers.

    And if they wrote custom "secret-sauce"-level code for my company, I'd need them to sign work-for-hire agreements so that my company would have all the rights to that code. You need to have a legal entity in order to be able to sign an agreement — a real name, or a real, legal company.

    But even if I was just renting regions, I'd want to rent from a real company. Not because I'm the kind of person who files a lawsuit every time something goes wrong. But because I know that there are plenty of other people who do file lawsuits — and real companies therefore have to be on their best behavior, have contingency plans in place, maybe even have liability insurance.

    It's the same way as when I go to a doctor. If he's an idiot who messes up a lot, then he'll have a lot of malpractice lawsuits and his insurance would go through the roof and he'd be out of business.

    But if a developer works anonymously, there's no possibility of repercussions. Even if you hire a private detective to track down the "Luke Skystalker" who messed up your company servers, who's to say that the "Luke Skystalker" who agreed to do the work was the same "Luke Skystalker" who actually did it? There's a law against impersonating real people, but no law against impersonating characters — you can't copyright names. Of course, if Luke Skystalker trademarks his name then there's a real person there, doing the trademarking.

    As a general rule, the more money is involved, the more careful companies are with these kinds of things.

    Meanwhile, if you connect to Aurora Grid (run by Enrico Ranucci of New Voice) or OSGrid — run by a registered non-profit and headed up by Michael Cerquoni and David Coyle — you are dealing with real people and real companies. If something goes wrong, you know who to complain to. If something goes right, you know where to give credit.

    — Maria

  • SG

    and my real life name is Samuel Greenway. 🙂

  • Ener —

    You're confusing brand name with legal identity. If I was hiring a performer for a concert, I'd be more likely to hire Lady Gaga than Stefani Germanotta — but (unless she's legally changed her name!) it would be Stefani's name on the contract.

    Similarly, my legal name is Maria Korolov but a lot of folks know me as Maria Trombly, back from when I was married. Most of my best technology clips were published under the Maria Trombly byline, and when I introduce myself to new clients, I have to explain this.

    To me — from a purely business sense — "real" means being able to sign a contract, deposit checks, pay taxes and appear in court. You don't have to be a physical person to be real in this sense — corporations can do all of these things.

    And, if the brand "Ener Hax" becomes very successful, I'd recommend that you incorporate (or at least set up a DBA under that name) or trademark it, to make it "business real."

    — Maria

  • SG

    I stopped using Aurora Grid, cause my Virus Software detected a Trojan virus in one of their downloads. I posted this concern on their IRC Chat channel and they said that it had happened on several other virus programs and that I shouldnt worry about it, and that it would be reported. Maybe it was a fluke and they are honest people, but this did give me enough cause for concern to stop downloading their software. I have never had an issue with any of Opensim or OSGRIDs code doing that. Im not trying to give them a bad name, but if they are not willing to let their real names be know to the world and the fact that this did happen to me, makes me feel obligated to state my experiences.

  • Ener Hax

    “another potential warning sign is that the Aurora-Sim developers are currently working under pseudonyms.”

    lol, my soapbox!!!

    so if i tell you (generic you, not you Maria) my name is Renée Miller that makes me more real than Ener Hax? i certainly have tons more online as Ener Hax and would point to that as a reflection of my identity more than my real name (i suppose i should make sure i am also strongly identified as a french canadian jewish woman to insure that appropriate prejudice and discrepancies can continue)

    without a driver’s license/passport and birth certificate how would one know if Ener Hax is my real name or Renée Miller? incidentally, in New Hampshire it only costs $80 to file the freely available paper to change your full name legally and it only takes 3 minutes in front of the judge – by noon that same day, bank accounts, passport office, and social security were all changed over – theoretically of course) =p

    if you (generic) wanted to assess whether i knew anything about virtual worlds, Ener Hax would reign supreme over Renée Miller as far as online “proof”

    a rose by any other name . . (Ener equated herself to a rose, pretty slick!) =D

    so i would say that adage of judging someone by their actions applies here, in this case developing the intense code for Aurora, as proof of their commitment. many a “real”person has been fraudulent in this world – Bernie Madoff comes to mind . . .

    Aurora does look cool but i don’t like the HG unknown of it . . .

    *steps off soapbox* =)

  • Greybeard

    SG

    I stopped using Aurora Grid, cause my Virus Software detected a Trojan virus in one of their downloads. I posted this concern on their IRC Chat channel and they said that it had happened on several other virus programs and that I shouldnt worry about it, and that it would be reported. Maybe it was a fluke and they are honest people, but this did give me enough cause for concern to stop downloading their software. I have never had an issue with any of Opensim or OSGRIDs code doing that. Im not trying to give them a bad name, but if they are not willing to let their real names be know to the world and the fact that this did happen to me, makes me feel obligated to state my experiences.

    —————————————————————————————————————————-

    Allow me to answer this.

    I am one of the founding members of the Aurora-sim Team. Head of testing, not as Maria mistakenly wrote, "one of the developers" as such. My real name is in this sites member profiles if you wish to check. I am known in OSGrid and to several other VR communities as Greybeard Thinker, and have quite a long association with OpenSim and its developers.

    Now, to answer Samuel, yes, I do remember his mention and also remember explaining that his virus signature was a false positive. From memory Samuel uses Norton Antivirus, which in fact also reports the very same false positive Trojan for Opensim code.

    The fact that the code is open source, released under BSD License, and available for download at github for anyone to check, should show that it is NOT in any way hiding anything unpleasant, IF anybody had taken the time to check that fact.

    There are very few who have commit access to the source code, which we control quite tightly, and we can assure any potential users, Aurora-sim is completely virus free.

    In fact we at Aurora take user security very seriously indeed, which is why we have implemented many new security features for both grid operators and general users alike, into aurora code.

    If one cares to ask around, you may even find all Aurora developer coders are quite well known to most OpenSim developer coders too.

    I would like to take this opportunity to also counter current rumours that Aurora-Sim is aiming to go closed source. This is not true, there are no plans to do so, in fact none of us has even considered it. And is contrary to our own beliefs and commitment to users.

    For more info please see our web site

    Our web site is

    http://www.aurora-sim.org

    with the full BSD Licence at

    http://www.aurora-sim.org/index.php?option=com_co

    GT.

  • "Greybeard is also knows and even WhiteStar Magic is a talented guy which roamed and helped the best he can on the Osgrid forums for quite a while. I know them from email and IRC conversations and the fact that i dont know their name doesnt make them malicous. "

    Interesting conjectures by this question even being raised. The fact that Whitestar Magic, for example, has built a reputation in the wider OpenSim community including Aurora under his 'brand' name as Whitestar Magic – in no way diminishes his constant attempt to 'help' everywhere he can. To walk and talk with him in RL, as I have done more than once, only makes it clear how genuine and brilliant his contributions have been to date in the advancement of virtuals as a 'life tool'. He has worked tirelessly on many projects including 'cleaning up' a small 'commercial' grid which badly needed his handholding and expertise. That grid runs much smoother now. Kudos to Whitestar Magic for spreading himself 'out there'

    His 'brand' is intact and pristine – his intentions are of proven quality and deepest quantity.

    I'm absolutely convinced that the other 'pseudonyms' or brands used for their tireless work benefiting all, are of equal pristine quality. Kudos to all that further virtual 3D as a near future tool most worldwide will take for granted as their internet interface shortly.

    These 'brands' will be remembered as the pioneer.

  • Almo Skytower

    Hi Maria,

    I have been long time fan of your blogs. Think you are on the edge of technology too most the time. Wanted to ask some stuff if you don't mind. My team and I have started to plan our own grid for the last three months we have many tasks already sorted. However I'm looking for a guide to help me through the pitfalls of hosting, different types of sim options etc. Almost like an ambassador of our new grid?!

    Kind regards
    Almo Skytower