OpenSim is simply the best – sometimes . . .


pssst – big secret . . . shh, i love OpenSim! okay, so a few of you may have figured that one out and i loved Second Life when i was in it. i love several aspects of both and some additional ones only OpenSim offers

but . . . i am also myopic and highly biased in my love of OpenSim. mainly because it’s the “tool” i enjoy using so much. i find it relatively easy to use (although my scripting skill is lacking) and really think that it is a pretty easy tool to learn and use. that “easy” part is very subjective and the ease of doing things in OpenSim depends a lot on your desire to use it. if it’s just another software to learn so that you can build immersive 3D graphics then it will be a bit of a chore and less exciting to use and therefore less “easy” to an extent

OpenSim does have a bit of a learning curve and there is no substitute for spending time in it. i suppose if i had spent the number hours in anything else that i have spent in Second Life and then in OpenSim, i’d probably be decent at whatever that thing was. i recognize this bias in me toward OpenSim (and Second Life) and typically cite it as a big caveat to my advice to use OpenSim for this or that (after all, i have never used Open Wonderland or done anything in WebGL so i can’t honestly and sincerely speak to those)

some would consider me an expert in certain aspects of OpenSim (but i’m really just someone that, like most of you, just enjoy using it a lot) and one of the trappings of becoming an “expert” in anything is that the box you were once seen as thinking outside of is now a box with very thick walls. when you really learn the ins and outs of something and develop an expertise of it, you actually think more inside the box and continue to make the walls of that box thicker


sure because you learn what can and can’t be done with that thing. in this case with OpenSim, there are some things that all of us start saying is not possible and that starts to define boundaries in what OpenSim can do. those boundaries are the walls of the proverbial box. while most of us still hold that anything is possible with virtual worlds, we do “see” limitations, even if they are ones we hope to overcome. like being browser-based and able to work on an iPad. both are possible (isn’t anthing possible?) but we also “know” that OpenSim needs a certain level of hardware which bumps anemic tablets out of the equation and that it needs more than what a plugin can deliver

yes we can do Unity but you can’t build in Unity (those darn caveats and box walls) and we could do with less hardware power but would need to sacrifice graphics. you get the gist of my sentiment and this is not anywhere near any kind of manifesto, it’s actually a long-winded preamble to the topic the title is supposed to allude to

i belong to a Virtual Worlds group in LinkedIn and it’s a bit low key and not a source of much new information but a thread was started a few weeks back that relates to the above rambling

the person starting the thread, and who has now emailed me directly with the same question, has a project for his engineering degree at a university in Pakistan – it’s about what to use to build a virtual campus

several people responded to him with various solutions such as Open Wonderland, WebGL, and Unity. it was clear (to me) that the need was for something very inexpensive but that was only said later. Pathfinder responded with the shortest answer saying that Reaction Grid’s Jibe would work and it would if you had a budget, but his answer was more about making a sale than understanding the person’s need. i know i go overboard and probably “help” more than i should (i mean free sim-on-a-stick? what am i, a canadian socialist?). but i am truly interested in helping this person find an enjoyable and suitable solution, not in making a sale

i do think Unity would be good and you’ll see why after i list his requirements:

  • VIRTUAL TOUR of my university campus with 4 main blocks as a 3d environment
  • immersive virtual collaborative conference meeting environment
  • university teachers can attend and address conferences virtually in 3d
  • attendees have login with their customized avatar
  • voice in realtime 
  • text support, multimedia projector for presentations, etc
  • implement it as a webpage with no viewer installation or plugin
  • no programming
  • free
  • develop in under a year on a part-time basis

okay – this is a tough list and back to that expertise thing and box walls. i don’t know of anything that can do all of those items (darn walls are closing in when applied to real issues). but some things can do various items. WebGL could be without a plugin but does need a WebGL browser and some serious programming skills. Unity would not need a viewer but in order to have concurrency for a conference and accounts, you’d need something like Pathfinder’s Jibe which is not free. Open Wonderland is Java-based so that involves programming, Second Life costs way more than free, and all i can speak to is OpenSim

for the free part, that may be possible if the university has server space for him and somehow he can get OpenSim installed for free or figure it out (but that seems unlikely due to not wanting any programming – server deployment with voice takes real tech savvy)

something like installing OpenSim on your own box or using sim-on-a-stick could make the development part free but won’t allow local concurrency without additional tech work

so it seems to me that only OpenSim offers any hope of meeting some of these needs but does require a viewer and some way to serve it up to the outside world (but i am biased)

if you have additional ideas, post them and maybe a link so this guy can check them out because he has to delve into this for himself and determine what items in his requirements can be set aside and compromised

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written by Ener Hax

September 21st, 2011 at 9:58 pm

posted in OpenSim,virtual worlds

tagged with

13 comments to 'OpenSim is simply the best – sometimes . . .'

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  1. Ironically this user contacted me directly and I recommended OpenSim yesterday. I sent him to the OpenSim site to download and use it and offered any tips I might avail him to if he asked. He specified free and open source which to me disqualified Unity3D for his needs. Good job helping others in need…


    21 Sep 11 at 11:11 pm

  2. If it’s the same guy — I was asked to recommend a platform that was free, open source, and had a web viewer, and the only thing I could think of off the top of my head was Sirikata and Kataspaces.

    Maria Korolov

    21 Sep 11 at 11:19 pm

  3. i knew the project manager for an older server that was java-based, Project Darkstar. Open Wonderland uses Project Darkstar server. they use the jMonkeyEngine with their version of multithreading. they use collada for avatar, which i guess is good.

    but i would go with opensim since he doesnt have much time. maybe go and use diva or the stick. i think (havent tried it yet) for the stick all you have to do is change the localhost to your external IP and you are in, sort of. but diva is fairly easy to do too.


    22 Sep 11 at 4:20 am

  4. seems that guy is a serious pain in the butt! subQuark also got the same email!

    i have been really patient because of the language issue but this guy needs to get off the pot and try something out!

    thanks on the insight Kyle, i think Unity is a great way to go and am secretly envious of how well it works, but for me it’s a bit too complex

    Ener Hax

    22 Sep 11 at 8:23 am

  5. Im no techie. But this Twinity thingie, is that Unity? I think Twinity is similar to SL and opensim but a lot easier for newbies to figure out. Can opensim and SL learn from Twinity? You can create stuff in twinity via sketch up and similar software i think.


    22 Sep 11 at 10:52 am

  6. there were 100 companies after ibm make the hardware public for pc. but only three of them were making any money from it. thats the way i feel about vworlds.

    opensim is the way to go. realXend is too complex. what opensim needs to do is have a partnership with a group that has a client for it. maybe firestorm. or at least have a document to show the architecture and how to build different things in the client. i still would like to see a strip down client that includes the streaming graphics, avatar, bvh and motion,terrains and how to make things and store things. the rest of the stuff is “as needed”. a sort of opensim client toolkit.


    22 Sep 11 at 12:34 pm

  7. This inquiry from this person is a loaded question.

    If anyone values themsleves, they would stay away from getting involved.

    Ener, with your graphic design background “develop in under a year on a part-time basis” should be a flag. That translates to develop in six months, full-time, for no renumeration.

    Breen Whitman

    22 Sep 11 at 1:19 pm

  8. nice translation Breen! and yes, i naively hope people are being genuine and many are far from it and more than glad to waste anyone’s time within earshot!

    Ener Hax

    22 Sep 11 at 3:42 pm

  9. i just want to mention some other good opensource VW engine: Open Cobalt

  10. so Mera, have you used Twinity?

    nive on the Open Cobalt mention hoch, i had forgotten about that

    Ener Hax

    25 Sep 11 at 4:29 pm

  11. Yes I logged in to see what is was and there are a lot of stuff I think virtual worlds like SL and inWorldz could learn from. But I havent been there enough really to give a review and I havent tried Sketch up to create stuff either. Still its a lot easier for noobs to grasp how things work I think…


    27 Sep 11 at 2:18 am

  12. thanks Mera! if you have not yet tried Google SketchUp, give it a shot. it’s far easier to learn than Blender but still harder than OpenSim

    i don’t know how you import the DAE file but understand you can

    i dabble in SketchUp for work (making 3D models of buildings for use in Fl;ash campus maps)

    i think you’ll find that after an hour or two with SketchUp (and their suggested links on video tuts that load when you start the app) yiou’ll understand the basics and how to create things. there is also the Google Warehouse which has a lot of models – some really good but high poly and some really dumpy ones

    good luck!

    Ener Hax

    27 Sep 11 at 7:32 am

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