Setting up a Simple Open Sim Sandbox on your hard drive

This is an edited repost from last August.

Most people that play Second Life, run into this problem eventually: You want to build stuff, and cant afford a lot of land, so you go to a sand box region, and when you go, its laggy and overcrowded.

Why is it even necessary to build stuff in world anyways? We can make our own textures and animations offline using other programs then import them into SL. Why cant be build objects in a third party program and import them?

There is a solution with OpenSim. You can create a free, lag free personal sandbox island on your own computer and build what you want.

I heard horror stories about setting up an Open Sim server of my own. Unfortunately, instructions to set it up are often overly technical and have the format “if you want to do this, then A, but if you want to do that then B.” A lot of tutorials want you to compile the latest source and set up another database, none of which are really necessary.

All I want to do is set up an Open Sim sandbox on my own hard drive. I’m not looking to connect it to a grid, or invite my friends to connect to it. I just want a free place to play and experiment. How difficult is that?

Its not difficult at all. Here is the process for Windows PC’s in four easy steps:

Note: If you already  have an earlier Open Sim set up, back up your build in an OAR file, and your inventory in an IAR file, so you can reload them later, then completely erase the old files before beginning.

Step 1: Download and unzip the latest Open Sim build. They now have a zip file for PC’s that makes loading Open Sim on your hard drive really easy.  You just need to know where you want to unzip it to.

The download page is here.  The file you want for the PC is http://dist.opensimulator.org/opensim-0.6.8-binaries.zip

Step 2 : Open the directory you installed the program to, and find “opensim.exe” if you have a 32 bit version of windows, or “opensim.32bitlaunch.exe” if you are running a 64 bit version. Right Click and “create a shortcut” and move it to your desktop. (Vista and 7 users only: Right click on the shortcut you just created and go to Properties, then the “Advanced…” button, and check “Run as Administrator”). This is needed to get all the permissions right. Every time you launch the shortcut you may also be asked to “allow” the program to run. Its a very minor inconvenience.

Step 3: Run Opensim for the first time. The scary part is that it will look like a DOS command prompt which you may not be used to. Don’t worry its easy. It will ask you to fill out a bunch of initial settings. You need to make up a first name, a last name, a password, and a server name. The rest of the settings you can just press enter to use defaults.

Step 4: Right click on your Second Life shortcut, and create another shortcut. Right click on this new shortcut, rename it to whatever you want, maybe something clever like “Local Life”. then in the “Target” section add the following info the the end of whatever is there already:

-loginuri 127.0.0.1:9000 -login firstname lastname password

The last three things should of course be whatever you made up in step 3. Launch shortcut!

OR Step 4: Launch the Hippo Viewer (downloadable here) and put your name and password in, then select “local” on Quick Grid Select and sign in. If you plan to do some building, this is better as the Second Life client does not support building with prims bigger than 10 meters on any side.

The first time on you will probably see a puff of smoke on top of a small round dome shaped island. Going into inventory under Body Parts you can create then wear a new shape and new skin. If you still see a puff of smoke press ctrl+shift+R to rebake your texture.

Note some third party viewers do not work in Open Sim, especially the Emerald Viewer.  This may change in the future, but for now stick with the Second Life client or the Hippo Viewer client.

There you are on your new island. There are no shops to buy stuff and you will have to load all your own textures, build your own stuff, and basically start from scratch. But at least there will be no lag. For help you may want to consult the opensim wiki page.

Free Content

If you feel lonely stuck on this tiny atoll with nothing visible in any direction. I found the following free content you can download and load to your private server.

Here is a decent OAR file you can download (read the thread for details).  If you do not know how to import OAR files to your private server, read this page.  It will create a city in the clouds high above your head along with teleporters on the ground so you can easily reach it.  You can edit to your hearts content.

Here is a decent collection of freebies in an IAR file you can download into your inventory. If you do not know how to import IAR files to your private server, read this page.  This should give you a decent collection of props (including trees, campfires, etc) to make your island less barren.

Moving Content from Second Life to Open Sim Using Hippo Viewer

You say you have too much invested in SL to move over to OS?  There is a simple and free way to move your own prim based content, and full perm content from SL to OS without getting a paid program like Second Inventory. This also works with the Meerkat viewer for Macintosh computers.

1. Go to SL and select the object in world. Right click and select “more” then “more” again, then “Export”. Save item as an XML file on your hard drive.

2. Quit Hippo and go to an Open Sim grid of your choice. Click “File” then “Import” then “Upload Textures + Import”, then select the XML file you saved. Instantly the object appears in front of you.

If you can find some nice full perm prim hair or prim shoes in SL to export, you can look stylish in OpenSim. Demo Video.

Have Fun!

I may eventually write about upgrading the database on your home grid and connecting your build to the OS Grid, but these are more complicated, and I have not even figured them all out myself yet.

For now I have a sandbox to play in and build stuff… FREE!

Why BUILDERBOT is an Awesome Idea!

The Second Life world seems to have its panties in a bunch over a new 3rd party utility by Rezzable dubbed Builderbot.

Basically, Builderbot can copy every object in an Second Life sim and put it into an OAR file that can be loaded onto any OpenSim server, thus making a near exact copy (scripts as usual are a problem).  They also are creating an OAR editor, and (even more impressively) a way to port OAR files into Second Life, thus making transfers from OpenSim to Second Life possible.

There are two things that are upsetting to the Second Life community: 1. Builderbot does not look at copy permissions or ownership, it just copies everything on the sim. 2. Rezzable was planning to release the SL to OAR part of the Builderbot for free.  These things had the whole community grabbing torches and pitchforks ready to boycot Rezzable. Rezzable finally gave into demand and will not be releasing the SL to OAR part free.

Hate to be the person that disagrees with pretty much everybody on this issue, but maybe I’m the only one who sees the big picture. Builderbot is an awesome idea and a key component to expansion of the 3D web. It is probably the most important 3rd party SL utility ever, and if Rezzable doesn’t release theirs, someone out there should release something similar, including the ignoring copy permissions and ownership part.

Mobile Building

Lets start with the obvious need for Builderbot. Currently, putting a build in Second Life requires that you actually be in Second Life and spend sometimes weeks building there, paying monthly tier as you build. If you want to take your time and do it right it will cost you. Then there is the occasional system hiccup that could cost you hours of work.

Builderbot does two things, it moves the building part of the project off the SL grid. You can now build your server build on your own computer, no system outages to worry about. You can save and backup your work to OAR files as often as you like. If you make a mistake, just load the latest backup. When you are done building and ready to move your build to SL, it can be moved into SL in a matter of minutes, or at most hours. This is the primary design of this program.

Fixing SL’s Design Flaws

Second Life as it was initially concieved is a flawed system. Whoever thought it was a good idea to equate Real Estate with computing power, I hope they have learned a valuable lesson. I have written about this major flaw before. Bottom line, SL runs on thousands of computers, and as many as 80% are not doing anything at any given time.

The obvious fix is to store unused regions in memory and load them up to an available server as needed. Linden Labs could cut their server need by 50-75% with such a system.

They could also bring up mirrored instances of extra busy servers. Want to give a concert that 1,000 people can attand? Just copy the build on 10 different servers that can service 100 people each. If more people want to show up, add more instances.

None of this is possible without a reliable backup system. OpenSim has OAR files, SL has got copybot (basically nothing). What Rezzable is doing is creating a tool to save SL regions as OAR files that can be stored when not in use, quickly loaded when needed, quickly mirrored on multiple servers. Obviously there is some extra programming involved to do all this, but considering the cost savings it is definitely something worth doing.

Why it is necessary to ignore permissions

The biggest concern from most of the Second Life players, is that Builderbot ignores permission. Copy a region, move to OpenSim, and everything in that region has no permissions at all. Anything in Second Life could be quickly copied, permissions be damned.

Rezzable argues that there is nothing in SL that cant be copied already. Players argue “True, but you shouldn’t make it so easy.”

Building a region is like building a website. I build websites myself and anyone can steal my code by right clicking and click “view source”, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. It is super easy.

What most Second Life players  are asking for is DRM management for SL content!

DRM has been a failure everywhere it is tried. Music, video, ebooks, the case against DRM is pretty clear. Read boingboing.net to find out why. How many of you asking for DRM for SL have stripped DRM off a music or video file so you can play it in the format you want?

A Future Marketplace

I come from the 3D Artist community where people build and sell detailed models for use in other people’s projects. All of these models are distributed DRM free and fully copyable and sharable. Yes, there is piracy in 3D models, but it is part of the cost of doing business. But since I do artwork I may want to sell, I pay for all my models and commercial licenses.  This business model is where the 3D web (SL and Opensim) will eventually go.

Most SL players are thinking in L$ economic terms without seeing the big picture. Eventually there will be an xstreet for all grids, and the ability to buy a pre built full region builds (OAR files) to load on to your personal server or hosted server is likely to be a new popular alternative method to static build exploring.

There is much money to be made in building custom regions.  Especially commercial clients who would not dare copy other people’s work. Individual objects and props have their place in the new marketplace as well, especially if they include commercial licenses that will allow the objects to be put into other builds.

I believe this could be a huge market. If I could explore lag free by loading OAR downloads to my computer based open sim server, I would love it! If I could edit them and share with others to show my edits, that would be really awesome as well. I’m quite certain I am not the only one.

The possibilities for Second Life are numerous as well. Can you imagine the fun of going to an SL club that has a different build for every event? Random combat locales? Roleplay setting that can be brought up as needed?

Like it or not this is the future! Second Life is just the early primitive beginning. In a few years we will probably wonder what all the fuss was about.

The Potential of the Open Sim Paradigm

This is a detailed follow up to my earlier “comic” post about Open Sim.

The Paradigm:  The Open Grid

For those who do not know, Open Sim is an open source clone of Second Life. The Second Life download client, itself an open source program, can connect to an Open Sim almost as easy as it can to Second Life.

Open Sim networks run the same way as Second Life runs. You set up an account with a first and last name, log into the grid, decorate your avatar, possibly buy some land to build on, attend events, make stuff, sell stuff, etc.  So far there is little difference between OS grids and the SL grids.

Except there are differences. SL runs SL server software, OS grids run OS server software. OS has some advantages over SL, generally less lag, megaprim support, etc. But, as of right now, SL is the superior and more fully supported system. For example LSL scripting is not fully supported in OS yet.

The first thing you notice when you go to an open sim is that you are starting from scratch again. There are legitimate ways to get some of the SL stuff over to Open Sim, but it is time consuming.

Within a year, the OS project hopes to be at parity with Second Life, meaning if you can do it in SL, you can do it in OS. Soon after that, it is hoped the pattern will be reversed and it will be Second Life playing catch up. Among the things being worked on:

  • “Mesh” imports made from 3rd party 3D models (Maya, 3DMax, Blender, GMAX, Lightwave, Cararra, etc.). Complicated models would generate serious lag, but simple models could do more than the current “prim” system with even fewer resources. This is what There uses.
  • New avatar meshes, allowing more detailed form fitting clothing, or  even non humanoid avatars.

The Paradigm: Region Archives

I mentioned before that Second Life’s fatal flaw is the lack of virtualization of real estate. Open Sim has an archive system (so does Second Life, but the Open Sim one is better). With some improvements, it could be used to store unused regions in storage, instead of taking up server power.

A system could be designed to work as follows:

  1. Player picks a region they want to travel to. System looks to see if the region is active, if so, player is sent to a server running the region, unless region exceeds maximum occupancy, in which case proceed to step 2.
  2. An inactive server is activated, as soon as possible, player is moved to the server. Items are loaded from archive file while simultaneously “data” is streamed to player’s client. If this is an “instance” copy, player may be prompted to move to original once room is available.
  3. When the last person leaves a region, temp items are deleted, foreign items are returned to owners, the region data is backed up (if changed by an authorized person), and sever is freed for later use.

Such a system would eliminate the need for so many servers, and would make expansion easier and less expensive, and also allow events to run across multiple servers with potentially thousands of players.

There is also the potential of people to run their own private servers on their own hard drives. People could build their region privately without needing to use web resources. People could share region archive files with one another allowing another method of group cooperation. Maybe people could even participate in certain events (concerts, lectures) on private sims by downloading copies of event venues and NPC data.

The Paradigm: The Multi Grid Marketplace

Under the Open Sim paradigm, there are multiple networks acting independently. Second Life could be like AOL of the early 90’s, and all the other networks like other web sites.

Under such a scheme there needs to be trade channels set up between networks, so stuff I make can be sold for use in any other network. In the 3D market place today there are web sites that sell 3D models for use in various 3D programs. Daz3d and Renderosity are ones I have used for my Poser work, but there are other big ones used by 3D artists using more professional programs (3DMax, Maya,  etc.). Artists can sell their original works for commercial and/or non-commercial use, via “brokering” arrangements. It wouldn’t be difficult to change XStreetSL into a multiple network market site.

Moving the SL model into the wider Open Sim model requires a lot of work, and involves a lot of hammering out of issues, chief among them being copyrights.

In future posts, I’ll discuss some of these issues, as well as an even broader 3D web paradigms (who says there has to be only one standard?).

I Have Seen the Future, and it is Open Sim!

There is a lot to say about the Open Sim paradigm, and I’ll be covering it in future posts. For now, I’ll just say it is very early and there is a lot of work still to be done. Right now all it is is a poor substitute for Second Life, but I think it has huge future potential as long as they diverge from the SL model at the right point and go their own way.

I just felt the need to introduce the topic in a clever way, because it will be an important topic for the future.

Links to stuff mentioned in the comic:
Second Inventory
OpenSimulator
NuAthens archive by Lordfly Digeridoo

Previous Related Posts:
Dark Times for 3DVWs Part 3: Second Life’s Fatal Design Flaw
SL Open Source Update!