Yesterday I noted a tweet by Maria Korolov, the editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. Her tweet said, “OpenSim on a USB Stick…” When I first started researching the use of OpenSim in education, I recall reading something about this however, I was still getting my head around the basics of this kind of virtual world and had no idea of the possibilities it offered.
So what does “OpenSim on a USB Stick” actually mean? By downloading and installing the required files to a USB Stick, you can then use your 3D viewer software, for example, Hippo OpenSim Viewer, to access your “local grid”. Therefore, you create an OpenSim grid that runs directly from your own computer and USB Stick. Whilst this is not a multi-user environment, there are still a number of advantages that I will outline shortly.
Maria’s tweet had a link to the Tasmanian Polytechnic Wiki, featuring the incredible work by Roger Stack with detailed instructions and video tutorials about the process. After watching the tutorials and reading a blog post by the wonderful Ener Hax regarding her experience with the setup process, I decided I was up to the challenge and would give it a go!
My technical knowledge is very, very limited but Roger’s video tutorials are excellent and I found that within 30 minutes (in between preparing our Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner! ) I was running an entire OpenSim grid directly from my USB stick!
There are a number of clear advantages for educators wishing to utilise this feature:
- For educators who are investigating OpenSim as a virtual worlds platform, this is the perfect way to explore the features and possibilities. You can “try before you buy”.
- Our private grid is made up of four sims, all of which are being used for our current projects. OpenSim on a USB Stick offers me the opportunity to continue experimenting in a virtual space. I can import and export items that I build in this space, just as I would on our regular private grid.
- I have previously blogged about the use of OpenSim Archive files (OAR files) and their exciting possibilities. There are many wonderful OpenSim users who kindly share OAR files. I can now upload these OAR files using OpenSim on a USB Stick to explore them prior to use on our private grid. As mentioned above, this is particularly useful when all of the sims on our private grid are being utilised for other projects.
- I also love the idea that OpenSim on a USB Stick offers you the ability to explore, create, test, etc… and then “surprise” the students with something on our private grid that they have not seen at all.
- Whilst I have not tested this myself as yet, I am hoping that the USB Stick can be used on another Windows PC with a 3D viewer installed and also without the need for an internet connection.
Overall, I can see that OpenSim on a USB Stick will offer us even greater flexibility and a valuable testing space to continue our school’s Virtual Worlds Project.
Sincere thanks to Roger Stack for sharing his amazing work!
One of the tasks of our Virtual Worlds Project Team was to help establish the Begonia Island Code of Conduct, a set of guidelines for our school’s virtual worlds community.
Part of the process in establishing the Code was for members of the Project Team to suggest words that they felt described the kind of virtual space they wanted Begonia Island to be.
You can view the Code of Conduct Display below or the full document on SlideShare.
Our school is very fortunate to have a Portal that has quickly become a vital tool for many teachers who use SharePoint sites as virtual classrooms. As you can imagine, there are many tasks associated with developing a virtual world and a variety of resources that you want to share with your students. We have found that our SharePoint Site, Virtual Worlds Project Resources, has provided the prefect tool to achieve this.
The site comprises of the following components, all easily created via different SharePoint web parts:
- Announcements: An easy way to quickly share news about our project with students, staff and parents
- Tasks List: Assists in the organisation of specific tasks and allows us to allocate tasks and keep track of their progress
- Links: A list of frequently used links such as the Begonia Island Blog (of course!), password reset facility, building tutorials, etc…
- Picture Libraries: We have found that the Picture Libraries are an excellent way to share textures. Students can easily browse the libraries and see thumbnails of the textures. They can then copy a texture and upload it for use in OpenSim.
- Document Libraries: These libraries are used to share project documentation, eg: the Begonia Island Code of Conduct and even text files that students can use to re-create Scripts in OpenSim. Frequently used Scripts are saved as text files and uploaded to a Document Library. Students can then access these files, copy the Script and use OpenSim to re-create them and use in conjunction with objects they are building.
- Slideshow Display: Visitors to the site can also see an automated slideshow that displays images uploaded to a specially created Picture Library.
We have quickly found that our SharePoint Site is a “must have” item, especially when we commenced working on our special project for the Religion, Philosophy & Ethics Faculty. (I will post about this project soon!) Students can not only access a variety of resources to assist them with their projects, but it also enables them to learn about the building process from start to finish, eg: sourcing textures, saving to their computer, uploading to OpenSim and applying to their own objects.
It’s been an exciting couple of weeks as the time draws closer to introduce Begonia Island to the students who are part of our Project Team. During this time, I’ve learnt about OAR files (OpenSim Archives) and have been amazed at what they offer OpenSim users.
What is an OAR file?
The OAR file system allows you to backup your objects, known as primitives or “prims”. However, OAR files do not just backup primitives but everything on your sim, including all of the assets such as related scripts, textures, etc… It will even include a backup of the terrain!
Restoring your OAR files – the magic begins!
Because you are creating a backup of your sim, it is then possible to restore it when necessary. However, the file restoration is not just useful if something goes wrong with your sim. OpenSim users use this facility to make the most of their virtual spaces by creating a series of sims that they know they can backup and reload when required. Our Begonia Island private grid is made up of four sims. Therefore, it will be possible for us to backup and reload different sims in each of our four regions. This, of course, offers amazing flexibility as you can reload sims as required. One week you may require your Rocketry sim, the next your Gold Rush sim. OAR files make this possible.
Even more magic!
Another exciting aspect of the OAR file system is that you are not just limited to reloading your own sims. There is a strong culture of sharing amongst OpenSim users so it is actually possible to obtain other OAR files and load them onto your sim. I recently read a blog post by virtual worlds expert Jo Kay about OpenVCE resources (Open Virtual Collaborative Environments). This led me to the OpenVCE resources page where I was able to download an entire sim containing incredible resources. By loading it onto one of our sims, I was able to copy the items I needed straight into my inventory for use on Begonia Island.
Simple OAR file management with ReactionGrid
The ReactionGrid server tools provide us with an easy way to backup and restore sims using OAR files. I was actually quite amazed at the simple commands required and the speed at which the entire process was done. Once again, we are grateful to the team at ReactionGrid for helping to provide these powerful yet simple tools to better manage our virtual space.
Thanks to our wonderful friends at ReactionGrid and especially Christine Hart, Begonia Island residents will now have the ability to reset their own passwords!
Whilst it is a straight forward process for me to change passwords via remote access to our ReactionGrid server, this is obviously not going to be practical way to perform this task as the number of users increases over the coming months.
Begonia Island residents can now go directly to our Reset Password Page and easily perform this task themselves. The URL is sent to new residents along with their account information via email. Begonia Island residents also have access to the Reset Password Page whilst they are in-world.
Many thanks once again to Chris Hart and the ReactionGrid team!