How to set up a mini-grid

A mini-grid is a small, standalone OpenSim grid that doesn’t require a separate grid administration server. How small? Small enough so that all its regions can be run on a single computer. For a typical home computer, four regions is plenty. For a high-speed computer or server, you can get nine or sixteen regions into a single mini-grid.

A mini-grid is one of the easiest ways to set up OpenSim and get on the hypergrid. It’s good for personal regions, creative space for artists and designers, a small shop or meeting area. You can also use a mini-grid to test out OpenSim for a corporate deployment, or run one over an internal network on a school or corporate campus.

If hypergrid-enabled, people can teleport in from other grids to visit or to shop, and then teleport back to their home grids with their purchases.

Keep in mind that the number of people who can visit at the same time, and the number of objects you have on your region, are determined by the speed of your computer and the capacity of your broadband connection. With a typical home high-speed Internet connection, expect to have no more than a handful of simultaneous visitors.

Last week, I set up a clean new mini-grid on my home computer in record time — for me! — and these are the steps that I followed.

How to set up OpenSim

Start out by downloading the Diva Distro, which is a pre-configured four-region mini-grid, no border crossings, hypergrid-enabled out of the box. The Diva Distro comes with a convenient upgrade utility. Without it, upgrading OpenSim manually when new releases come out is a huge pain.

Save it to the computer that will be running OpenSim for you. You will probably want to use a separate computer — if you have one — to run OpenSim and a second computer to run your Hippo browser (or whatever viewer you use to log into OpenSim).

The Diva Distro requires two additional programs to work: the MySQL database platform, and the .Net framework.

You can get MySQL here. You can get .Net for Windows here.

If you’re running Linux, you will need to install Mono instead of .Net. Some Mono information is here, though if you’re smart enough to be running Linux, you probably already know about Mono. If you’re running Mono 2.6.3 and get errors when you run OpenSim, you should erase Mono.Security.dll from the Diva Distro bin directory.

You will need to know your external IP address — you can get it here.

You will also need to configure MySQL to create your OpenSim assets database. The Diva Distro comes with a MySQL ReadMe file with step-by-step instructions.

After you’ve set up MySQL, follow the other ReadMe files to go through the rest of the installation.

You should now be able to run OpenSim and get a prompt in its console  window. Ironically, OpenSim — a 3D server — doesn’t have a graphical user interface. It’s totally old school. If you type “show regions” into the console monitor window at the prompt and hit “Return” you should get a list of all the regions in your mini-grid.

If you have problems, try asking for help in Live OpenSim Chat. I’ve personally found that the OpenSim community is extremely eager to help people set up their grids, since their want the platform to grow and develop. They even helped me, even though I was trying to run my Diva Distro on Linux, which I knew nothing about — not even what “mono” was. I thought it was a disease. And I’m still not too sure about “sudo.”

Set up your port forwarding

If you only have one computer in your house, and it’s connected directly to the Internet, then you can skip this section. You don’t need to forward your ports — they all go to the same place. And if you don’t want people from other grids to come visit you, and you don’t want to teleport from your mini-grids to other grids, you can ignore this part as well.

But if you want to be able to travel the hypergrid from your world, you will need to be able to tell other grids how to find you. You only get one external IP address per Internet connection, and if there is more than one computer sharing that IP address, then they won’t be able to do that. What you will have to do is forward your OpenSim ports to the specific computer in your house running OpenSim.

With the Diva Distro, these ports are going to be 9000, 9001, 9002, and 9003.

To forward these ports, you will need to get to your router’s administration panel, usually located here. If you’ve never changed it, your login will probably be “admin” and your password either “admin” or “password” or “1234”.

On my Linksys router, the port forwarding options are located under the “Applications and Gaming” tab. You might also be able to find them under “Port Forwarding”. If you can’t find them, Google the name of your router and “port forwarding.”

To set your ports, type “OpenSim1” for application name, 9000 for internal port, 9000 for external port, and select both TCP and UDP under “protocol”. Then you will need to provide the internal IP address of the computer running OpenSim. Now repeat this three more times — for 9001, 9002 and 9003. (I used OpenSim2, OpenSim3 and OpenSim4 as my application names.)

But wait. You probably don’t know the internal IP address of your computer. The internal IP address is what your router uses to tell your computers apart — it will look something like “192.168.1.105”. Your router will probably assign IP addresses on the fly to computers as they connect and disconnect from your network. You want your OpenSim computer to have a permanent IP address that doesn’t change. To do this, you will need to enable DHCP Reservation — on my router, this was under the Setup tab, the Enable DHCP Reservation button. When I enable this, and click on “DHCP”, my router shows me the names of all the computers on their network, their MAC addresses, and their internal IP addresses. That internal IP address is what you want, and you may have to create a new one. You may need to Google your router name and “DHCP” to find out how to do this.

Yes, this is all a big pain in the butt. It took me a week the first time out to figure out what “DHCP” was and that I need it in the first place, and where to find it. You might want to keep reminding yourself, “I’m saving $1,200 a month. I’m saving $1,200 a month,” as you try different things, going back to OpenSim chat repeatedly for help, before you get it to work.

Once you have your port forwarding working, you should be able to log into your mini grid and hypergrid teleport from there to any of the 50-plus public grids on the hypergrid — or to your friends’ minigrids. Our Hyperica directory of hypergrid destinations is here.

Make it pretty

One of the first things you’ll probably want to do is change the names, locations, and master avatars for all your regions. To do this, shutdown the OpenSim server (enter “QUIT”) and go to your Regions folder (in the “bin” subdirectory of your “Diva Distro” folder) and click on the OpenSim regions file, called Regions.ini.

There will be a short section for each region, looking like this:

[Region Name 1]
RegionUUID = “9a91ba4e-5719-4330-bb93-38619baa722f”
Location = “2002,9433”
InternalAddress = “0.0.0.0”
InternalPort = 9000
AllowAlternatePorts = False
ExternalHostName = “123.45.67.89”
MasterAvatarFirstName = “Master”
MasterAvatarLastName = “Avatar”
MasterAvatarSandboxPassword = “password”

Don’t change the RegionUUID, InternalAddress, InternalPort, or AllowAlternatePorts. You can change everything else.

You can pick new coordinates for the region’s location, change your region’s name, and create a name and password for your master avatar — the one avatar who will have god powers on your region, able to move or edit any object on it. You need a master avatar for when visitors come and leave a bunch of junk lying around — the master avatar will have the power to get rid of all of it. You will also have the power to take people’s stuff and give yourself full perms. With this power comes the great responsibility of respecting other people’s intellectual property rights. Ask permission from the original creator before modifying objects you don’t have modify rights to.

For the coordinates, I recommend picking a number between 7000 and 12,000 for both coordinates. You cannot currently teleport more than 4,096 regions in any direction. If your friend has a region located at 1000,1000 and you put your region at 9000,9000 you won’t be able to get there in one hop — you will have to teleport to a region at, say, 5000,5000 first. About 15% of all regions are located near 1000,1000. Another 15% are located near 5000,5000. All the rest are up near 10,000, 10,000 — that’s where OSGrid and many other big public grids are centered. The Diva Distro randomly assigns you a set of coordinates, and chances are that you won’t like where they are.

I recommend changing the first digit of each set of coordinates to 7 or 8 if you want to be up high near OSGrid and most other grids, or to 1 or 2 if you want to be down near ReactionGrid.  Leave the other digits as they are – it’s easier, and you won’t have to worry about maintaining the relative position of the regions. In a Diva Distro, the four regions are right next to each other, in a square, and you don’t want to lose this positioning.

Try to avoid round-numbered locations like 1000,1000 — you can’t jump from one location to another when they have the same coordinates, and people put a lot of their regions at 1000,1000 because it’s a nice round number, or because their version of OpenSim sets that as a default location. You should also avoid coordinates used by your favorite destinations, for the same reason. So if you and your buddy plan to spend a lot of time teleporting back and forth, check to see what coordinates he’s using and pick different ones. If you do want to teleport to another region that has the same coordinates, just jump someplace else first.

You may also want to create an easy URL to use for logging into and teleporting to your world, instead of the default IP address, which looks like 123.45.67.89. Much nicer to teleport to something like gridname.com. (You can leave off the :9000 if that’s the port number, since Hippo automatically uses that as the default.)

To do this, you will need to register the gridname.com URL and point your A record to your IP address. If you already have a URL, you can point a subdomain to your external IP address. For example, I use grid.korolov.com as the address of my home-based mini-grid, pointed to my IP address, and korolov.com is my personal website.

You point subdomains by setting your “A record” in the DNS management area of the site where you first registered your domain. I use DreamHost, and it’s under Domains-Manage Domains-DNS.  If you don’t have a domain and don’t want to pay $10 a year to buy a new one, you can use a free domain from a service like DynDNS. Your free domain name will looks something like this: mygrid.ath.cx.

After you’ve got the DNS pointed, change the ExternalHostName to the new URL. Not only will you now to be able to log in and teleport in using the nice URL instead of the IP number, but when you teleport to another grid, you avatar name will be something like “[email protected]:9000” instead of “[email protected]:9000”.

If you want your website and your grid to have the same exact URL (instead of using a subdomain for the grid) you will have to run both your website and your grid on the same server.

Once you’re happy with the region names, avatar names, and passwords, save the file, and restart OpenSim.

Now you should be able to log into your regions. I use a separate computer for this. I go to “Grid Manager” on the Hippo login screen, then add a new grid, and enter my grid’s address — either an IP address like 123.45.67.89:9000 or mygrid.com:9000 — and hit “Apply.” Then I login with my master avatar name. Alternatively, I log into OSGrid and teleport to my grid by typing that address into Map and hitting “Search” then double-clicking on my grid when it shows up.

When you teleport in, you will automatically land in the center of your first region. If you want to land on one of your other regions, teleport to: mygrid.com:9000/RegionName.

You should be standing on a tiny little island. Useless for anything practical.

If you want to create a nice flat terrain for building on, go to the computer running OpenSim, pull up its console monitor window, choose the region you want to work in by typing “CHANGE REGION RegionName” (“RegionName” should be the name of your region) and then enter “TERRAIN FILL 21” — 20 meters is the default water level, so by entering “21” your ground will be one meter above water. You can then log in as master avatar and lower or raise the terrain to create beaches or hills. Remember that it’s a lot easier to build on flat land, and a lot easier to move buildings around later, so don’t mess with the terrain too much if you want a lot of buildings and roads.

If you want a nicer-looking terrain, you can load any terrain file with the “TERRAIN LOAD FileName” command. For some free terrains — or entire regions — check out our resource page here. To load an OAR region file, enter “LOAD OAR FileName”.

You can save your terrain once you’re done working on it with “TERRAIN SAVE filename” and if you want to save a backup of your entire region, type “save oar filename”.

OpenSim commands

Here’s a quick list of the commands you’ll use the most:

CHANGE REGION RegionName — selects the region you want to make changes to

TERRAIN FILL 21 — makes the selected region completely flat

SAVE OAR FileName — saves a backup of the selected region, including terrains and all objects and scripts located on it

LOAD OAR FileName — loads in an OAR file you saved previously — or downloaded or bought from somewhere else. Note that this destroys everything that was there before, so you might want to save a backup first.

TERRAIN SAVE FileName — saves just your terrain

TERRAIN LOAD FileName — loads a new terrain, over-writing the terrain you had in place previously

CREATE USER FirstName LastName Password — creates a new user account on your mini-grid

SHOW USERS — shows all the users logged into your mini-grid

SHOW REGIONS — show a list of all the regions on your mini-grid

RESTART — restarts all regions

QUIT — shuts down the world after saving everything to the dabase. When you start it back up again, everything will be where you left it.

A full list of OpenSim commands is here.

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is a science fiction writer who covers cybersecurity, AI and extended reality as a tech journalist at her day job.
Check out her author page on Amazon or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Her first virtual world novella, Krim Times, made the Amazon best-seller list in its category. Her second novella, The Lost King of Krim, is out now.