Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Much more OpenSim testing

Every day, several new revisions of OpenSim are committed to the subversion repository. Bugs are fixed, new directions are discussed during office hours or on IRC; there's limited but official involvement from IBM, and obviously Linden Labs is aware of Opensim, and talking with OpenSim people too. Things are happening, and much progress is made.

This wouldn't be surprising if Opensim were carried by an active community of dozens or hundreds of developers. But if you check out the project stats, it's really quite a limited group who's actively contributing code. They are doing a good job and deserve some public praise.

So, here's to the opensim developers!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Technorati Trouble

A quick note .. yesterday I found out that Technorati hasn't updated my blog for the last 22 days, despite manual pings etcetera. My other blogs are fine, but this one isn't. Working on it..

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Onrez viewer - first experiences (and some screenshots)

A couple of minutes ago, I've downloaded and installed the OnRez viewer. I must say, I'm inpressed with what I've seen so far. For instance, it looks cleaner and more tight when compared to the normal SL client (wich I will call the LL client, as of now). At first sight, OnRez looks much more intuitive than the LL client as well.

I've tried it on Second Life, and on my OpenSim install, and both seem to work ok. At that time, OnRez was using around 120 MB of RAM. Then, I started the LL client in order to compare the two, both usage and memory wise. All over sudden, the memory usage for OnRez dropped to 16 MB, and the waves turned funky.. after I quit the LL client, and restarted OnRez, all was back to normal.

Might have been a bug, though, because when restarting OnRez, I got an upgrade notification for a newer version! That was fast :-)

A couple of screenshots of my OnRez viewer can be found here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

OpenSim update

I've been quite busy working on a couple of OpenSim installs, one at home behind the firewall, and another one at a cheap hosted environment. Both installs run on Linux: one on CentOS (see my installation adventures here) and one on Fedora Core. Fedore proved to be the bigger challenge, because that one runs at the hosted environment. Their default install of Fedora does not include any development tools, so I had to download and install several packages (mono, nant, a whole lot of libraries and stuff) in order to be able to compile and run a mono based opensim environment. Maybe we should work on a comprehensive overview of what's needed in such an environment!

In the mean time, I've got the hang of downloading the code, installing and running the stuff, both in standalone and in grid mode. But, I think it's too early yet to allow others to use the environment. A teacher at my daughters' school has expressed interest in using my sim for educational purposes, and it's something I very much would like to do, but there's a couple of issues that may need to be solved before we're ready for that.

One of the most important issues in my opinion, is the lack of persistence in avatar customization, inbetween sessions. Every time you login to an opensim environment, you're reset to the default avatar - Ruth, a female. You can create new bodyparts and clothing, and you can wear those too, but once you logout, those modifications are (partly) gone. The next time you login, you have to go into your inventory and reselect the bodyparts and clothing you want to wear.

In grid mode, I have not been able to store new items in my inventory at all. Only the default inventory items are stored in the MySQL database, nothing new gets added. For a user, there is no inventory persistence in grid mode, it seems.

Another issue: customizations in terrain are not persistent between server reboots. Somehow, every time I restart the server, the terrain is reset to a relatively small flat pancake island. I've been experimenting with larger islands, and modified terrain, but I haven't been able to make much progress there - yet.

The good news is, these are known issues, and several of them are being worked on for the next release, 0.5. Remember, OpenSim is still alpha software which is being built by volunteers, so we can't and shouldn't expect everything to work. Tomorrow, I hope to take a look at the OpenSim Office hours, where OpenSim development will be discussed. That should be interesting.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

virtual synagogue

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Rome; we also visited the Grand Synagogue there, in the original 'ghetto'. I wondered if there would be synagogues in SL too? The answer of course, is yes. Btw, I am not really doing much in SL lately; I've been busy building my own OpenSim world for my kids :-)
posted by Sered Woollahra on IR SHALOM using a blogHUD : [permalink]

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The nail on the head

A year ago, when Second Life became a hype, many companies went there as fast as they could, put up big impressive buildings - and then nothing happened. Some of them pulled out again, others evaluated the failures and learned some valuable lessons. As did Cisco:

It turned out people wanted to log on to Second Life to hang out with friends and play casual games, not visit a 3-D version of a corporate Web site.


“Two or three months in we bulldozed everything we’d done. It’s now a place for meetings (with customers and employees) rather than repurposed Web content,” Renaud said. “If I can have an intimate talk with 50 people a week, man, I’ve won the lottery.”

As they say.. read the whole thing. And learn from it ;-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

IBM to partner with Linden Labs

Now here's some important and very welcome news: today, IBM and Linden Labs announced a partnership. The two companies intend to work on some areas of key importance. Here's a very short list:
  • avatar interoperability: take (some) properties of your avatar (e.g. assets, name, identity certificates and more) from one virtual world to another
  • integration with existing business processes: existing business applications and data repositories should be able to interact with virtual worlds
  • secure transactions - in and across worlds
  • open standards for interoperability with the current world wide web
This partnership may, in time, prove to be a breakthrough, if IBM and Linden Labs succeed in getting other worlds and platforms on board as well. Let's hope they do.

But in the mean time, read the whole thing!

Update: read the official IBM Announcement as well.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

RL interference part II

Again, RL is interfering with SL activities. There will be no posts until sometime mid next week. Until then, I'm going to spend some days exploring one of the roots of our RL civilization, in a mediterranean setting. Guess the destination ;-)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Synchronicity - when and where

My employers' website has been IM enabled for quite some time. You can chat with one of the CEO's, the commercial director, sales people and the front office desk (the reception), if they are online. This means that we offer an element of synchronous communication in a generally asynchronous environment, the 2D world wide web.

Recently, I asked my colleagues what their experiences with being online on the website are. It seems that while there is a lot of useless chatter, and even, incidentally, some harassment towards the sales ladies, there are also useful contacts. In some cases, these have resulted in actual sales, but not much. But, as it has been very positive for our image in the marketplace as an innovative company (there are not many CEO's online like ours), it's still a positive experience.

From asynchronous to synchronous, from 1-1 to 1-many
Written communications seem to move from asynchronous to synchronous at an ever higher pace. In the business environment, we moved from paper and snailmail, via email, to instant messaging in a couple of decades. There is another shift under way: from 'one to one' communications, to 'one to many'; from a personal letter, to a phone call, to group email, to online meetings, blogs and more recently applications like Twitter, which can be used to tell the whole world what you're doing in "140 characters or less". Broadcasting one's thoughts or opinions is easier than ever.

The 3D fit
In my opinion, the advent of 3D environments fits in with these developments. The 3D environment begs for synchronicity, as it were. I have spent quite some time in Second Life; the most rewarding and useful hours have been, those, where I interacted with other people. IBM briefings and meetings, blogger meetings, the people you meet incidentally at sites of mutual interest: these encounters offer something that's not easily repeatable in the 2D world wide web. Chat rooms and online meeting rooms may offer the same basic functionality (communicate with n people at the same moment), yet it cannot be compared with a 3D immersive experience. Viewed like this, environments like Second Life really belong in the "social software" world.

IBM virtual business office
IBM seems to be aware of this. They have had a Virtual Business center in SL for a few months now, which is being staffed by RL people. I have been over there for a couple of times, and twice there was someone there, indeed; unfortunately, both times these avatars were 'away'. Apparently, it's possible to summon them back to life by pressing a nearby button, but I have not attempted that, not having a real need to buy something from IBM at the time :-)

Associated cost
But it does point out an interesting difference between "being online on a website" and "being online in Second Life". For my colleagues who are supposed to be online on our website, no extra effort or time is required. When they logon to our internal IM infrastructure, they are automatically online on the website, as well. They can continue to work, without having to spend time or effort on "being online". There's almost no visible cost, but it brings positive PR (the CEO is online, which keeps surprising people) and even some sales.

What if we would require them to be online on a Second Life site? This would definitely require more time and more energy, and would result in far more visible direct costs. The return on investment would have to be substantially, in order to justify these costs. I don't see that happening anytime soon, not on the scale and size of companies like the one I work for.

At this time, I think the best way to make use of the synchronous communication advantage of a 3D environment, is by concentrating the in world presence. For instance, be there at published, fixed hours, like the recruiters of a bank I am aware of. Or, have targeted meetings for your (prospective) customers at, again, published, fixed hours. One other bank has investors' meetings every two weeks at thursday night, chaired by someone on the CxO level; they are actively trying to foster a community around these meetings.

Early Adopters mistake..
During the Second Life boomlet at the end of 2006, early 2007, many a company built an in world presence, only to be disappointed later on when almost no one came to visit them. Perhaps, some of these companies jumped the SL bandwagon without really thinking about what the differences between 2D and 3D presences are. Static content and asynchronous communication is fine on a 2D website, and for many purposes it's perhaps the best medium. But a 3D environment like Second Life asks for synchronicity, community and activities. Now there's a couple of buzz words to think about!