Tuesday, 23 November 2010

First OpenSim project?

Although I've experimented with OpenSim, and created a few generic educational tools, we haven't used it in a project at the University yet. Although we might do in the very near future.

Shown above are characters on the stage of our virtual Globe Theatre. A previous activity involved students positioning the mannequins (foreground) to explore issues of actor positioning and movement during a scene. To give a better understanding of the affordances of Second Life, it was decided to replace the mannequins with student controlled avatars (centre). This probably seems like an obvious decision to users of Second Life, but the students in question are being introduced to and using Second Life in a single session, and we wanted to reduce distractions from the core activity (navigation issues, creating logins etc). As a compromise we'll be providing pre-made accounts where avatars start in the right locations.

However, a challenge is that the class will need to be divided into groups for the activity and there is only one theatre. There isn't space on the island to duplicate it, and so hopefully OpenSim can come to the rescue.

Our Globe Theatre was created by a developer in our department, and so we were able to export it to OpenSim fairly easily (see image above). The costumes are an entirely different matter, as they were produced by Karen Royer. Even large parts of the mannequins are purchased pieces.

This is a major issue in the educational use of OpenSim, which several people have highlighted. Generally speaking most academics don't have the time or ability to create good quality virtual environments. Even if they could, constantly rebuilding things that others have already made is wasted effort. Thankfully some resources are appearing, such as myOpenSim, although I'd prefer if they did away with the concept of pretend money.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Trying Diva - Part 2: wifi

Just a quick update to post some thoughts on the web interface supplied with Diva. The bottom line is that it's sole purpose at the moment is to administer accounts, and it does that well. It looks quite nice too.

I can definitely see the benefits of allowing people to register their own accounts, even in a stand-alone, classroom setting. However, there is potential to do a lot more. True, it also allows you to view your inventory, create folders and shuffle things around, but that's not particularly useful.

An alternative is the Opensim Webinterface - opensimwi (redux), as described here. It seems to have more features, including a more easily customisable front-end, but it looks a little dated. Out of the two I would probably still go with the Diva version.

A promising integration that was trialled a while back was linking Elgg to OSgrid. It was supposed to synchronise friends and groups between the two, and I'm sure it did when I registered some time ago, but it seems to have lost all of the functionality now. That's a shame.

I also remember hearing something about being able to buy things from other people's inventories. I'd like to see something like XStreetSL linked into the OpenSim database so that you can just list something as for sale in your inventory, and it would appear for sale in a web listing.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Trying Diva

I finally got around to trying the diva distribution of OpenSim. I followed the instructions available here, which actually weren't as complicated as it seemed at first glance. So long as you follow it step by step then it's pretty fool-proof. Although I've had previous experience with both OpenSim and an equivalent of MoWeS called XAMP, so I'd be interested to hear about other people's experiences.

One step that did look as though it could be a lot simpler was the setup of the MySQL server. My recommendation would be that at the point when you're choosing Apache2, MySQL5 etc in the MoWeS mixer (pretty much the first step in the instructions), that you also select PHPMyAdmin in the Application software section.

In step 1, after you get confirmation that Apache and MySQL is running, open a web browser and go to: http://localhost/phpmyadmin/

In the window that opens click on the Privileges tab (shown as 1 in the image).

Enter a User name of opensim, set a password (including retyping it), as shown in 2. Then select the radio button option to create a database with the same name, as shown in 3. That's it. No use of command prompts or typing in unfamiliar strings of text.

I've only had a brief play so far, but I'm looking forward to trying out the web interface and sending things flying around the Megaregion. My only concern was that I couldn't connect to it from another PC. Whether this is due to permissions or the hard-coded local IP I don't know. Hopefully the former.