An Introduction To OpenSim: the "Apache of Virtual Worlds"
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An Introduction To OpenSim: the "Apache of Virtual Worlds"
by Guest Editor - Aug. 18, 2008Comments (7)
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By Wagner James AuYou've probably read a bit about OpenSim, the BSD-licensed virtual world server, and recent news that IBM and Linden Lab are working to make Second Life and OpenSim interoperable. Besides that project, what's OpenSim about, who's working on it, what are they doing with it, and how do you get involved as a developer and participant? Here's a starter's guide, created with the help of Tish Shute, whose virtual world blog UgoTrade is an indispensable resource on the latest in OpenSim news. What's OpenSim's Relationship To Second Life? Coded in C# and developed to operate under Mono or Microsoft .NET runtimes, OpenSim was created with libsecondlife, an open source library derived from the source code to the Second Life's viewer (which Linden Lab released in January 2007.) The code that operates SL's server grid remains closed source, however, so OpenSim is a fully open alternative. As leading OpenSim developer Adam Frisby once told Shute: "We used the term 're-engineered'-- it was re-implemented from standards, but on the backend it's a very, very different beast. As best as we can tell (without seeing the source to the Linden Lab server), the structure internally is radically different partly due to our desire to keep things usable for non-SL style worlds." Related to that, Frisby clarifies that OpenSim is not itself a virtual world, but code designed to run virtual worlds. By his analogy, OpenSim is to virtual worlds what Apache is to websites. "The Apache webserver is not a website," as he writes on his blog, "but ~50% of the websites online are running Apache."What are the server grids running OpenSim?Over two dozen on the OpenSim group's Grid List, many designed to serve specific groups and activities, such as non-English users or adult content.What viewer software is compatible with OpenSim?Many, including: - realXtend, a virtual world platform with impressive graphics and physics. - The Hippo OpenSim viewer, a modified version of the SL viewer. - The Opensim Kid Browser, a simplified virtual world for minors. - Xenki, an open source XBAP app that runs Second Life and OpenSim in a web browser. Of course, a release candidate of the official Second Life viewer can also access OpenSim; the company is currently taking applications for SL "gridnauts" willing to test interoperability between the two worlds.What companies and/or organizations are most important to OpenSim development?Tish estimates that IBM now has three or four staffers working fulltime on OpenSim, recently joined by developers with Intel. "[The] Microsoft Developer community should get a mention as being the newcomers of note," she tells me. "They have been contributing code and have set up their own grid, The Manhattan Project." In addition, there's a number of start-ups working with OpenSim, including 3Di and Genkii of Japan, and Tribal Media of Sweden, Frisby's Deep Think in Australia, and the aforementioned realXtend of Finland.What Interesting Practical Applications Are Being Developed on OpenSim?Shute cites the 3D virtual machines project from Michael Osias of IBM; that's an operations center for managing server networks in OpenSim. There's also the n-body simulation work by MICA and Princeton astrophysicist Piet Hut, and a fashion design prototyping lab created in OpenSim by The Fashion Research Institute. These are promising early examples, but, Shute believes, "soon everything from energy management to product life cycle management, and city planning will occur in collaborative, programmable 3D space… The power of OpenSim is that its open source, modular design allows it to be used in a lot of different applications. Open and distributed will win." What Are The Biggest Challenges With Interoperability Between OpenSim And Second Life? Right now, it's only possible to move avatars between SL and OpenSim; the far greater challenge is trust management-- creating a workable, agreed-upon system for moving virtual objects, currency, and other valuable items in between worlds. For Linden Lab the company, says Shute, the biggest concern is how quickly OpenSim has grown apart from their own efforts a year after they released the source code. "OpenSim is moving very, very fast," she tells me. "Linden Lab has to invest an enormous amount of energy into maintaining their current grid and this could be an obstacle re: keeping up with the future they have seeded." How Can Open Source Developers Get Involved in OpenSim? The blogs OpenSim User and Virtual White are good places for interested OpenSim developers/users to get started. The heart of the OpenSim development community happens on IRC, at the channels "#opensim" and "#opensim-dev". The OpenSim Wiki is also an essential resource.
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7 Comments
 
by Anymouse on Aug. 18, 2008As far as I was aware, any SL viewer can access OpenSim, not just the RC. (And it's "OpenSim", not "Open Sim").
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by an anonymous user on Aug. 18, 2008The one thing OpenSim seems to be lacking is kinda critical - Users! Sure, it is easy to go create a virtual world, but if you build it, will they come?!
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by Morgaine on Aug. 19, 2008Anonymous #2's question is quite easy to answer: people will come and visit your world, if they know about it and its description matches their interests.
In other words, the issue boils down to the appearance of inter-world search engines and other forms of promotion. These will come once there is interesting content available, guaranteed, because there is money to be made, and easily. :-)
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by Mo Hax on Aug. 21, 2008I am particularly interested in the content question and have made chosen to my focus my participation on IBM OpenSim team to organizing more stock content submissions. We have streamlined the process of stock content submissions and are looking at ways of layering 'packages' of content over that provided initially with any OpenSim installation, but we have a long way to go. One of the best ways SecondLife content creators can help promote OpenSim is to open more of their content, perhaps the older stuff, to the OpenSim community and submit it for inclusion. There is still a lot of work to be done to streamline the process of content submission to OpenSim, but forming a sub community around the specific content effort will really help.
By the way, one of the main reasons I became interested in OpenSim that James did not specifically mention was as a very quick and immediate alternative to using the SL Beta grid or SL itself for content previewing during the creation process. I fire up Poser/Photoshop/Blender as well as a desktop OpenSim instance and immediately preview my content during development on the same machine I am creating it on. I believe this niche usage often overlooked in OpenSim reviews holds tremendous potential for those seeking an alternative to the SL Beta grid, or the many other "previewing" steps in other content creation workflows. In fact, I don't mind hinting at experiments to have Photoshop plugins and macros, for example, _directly_ load and cloth an avatar in another window in one click from Photoshop. With the REST asset upload functionality recently committed to OpenSim such content development desk-side mashups are becoming more and more a reality. We still have a way to go, but clearly OpenSim has a strong presence in the future of the 3D internet. This is amazing, fun stuff. Here's hoping you join us.
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by tahir on Jun. 08, 2010i"ve probably read this about blog very nice and very usefull because that is do very nice OpenSim, the BSD-licensed virtual world server
thanks to sharing thought to me
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by an anonymous user on Jun. 26, 2011The fact that they are running it on .NET pretty much will piss off many developers of open source and Java.
And as of 2011, Second Life is still leap years ahead of this monstrosity.
And of course, it looks like Microsoft is now moving away from .NET much to the chagrin of "loyal" developers all over LOL....
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