The SLENZ Update – No 88, May 21, 2009

THE ‘OPENSIM’ EXPERIENCE

Worlds of difference  but  ones  that Kiwi

developers should probably try out

My experience in  OpenSim, OSgrid, OpenLife and New Zealand’s own ONGENS would suggest to me that  the variety and usability of  multi-user virtual worlds are really opening up and educators should not rule  out any of the possibilities.

I have not previously quantified/qualified my feelings about the OpenSim movement,  which is based on Second Life software – as opposed to being a resident of Second Life itself -  and I must admit I have had problems in a number of OpenSims, which have at times made me somewhat critical of them

But I am  not as critical as some of the Second Life experience, still having fun, building memories, and feeling it is a “real world” despite the Linden’s often-criticised, totalitarian-appearing regime and changing rules – many changes that I believe, in hindsight, have been beneficial.

However,  Zonja Capalini (pictured right and below)Capalini, Zonja1,  in a recent article, “The Open Space fiasco: six months later,” clearly sets out the benefits and pitfalls of  joining the  OpenSim movement.
At times I feel she is hypercritical of  Second Life but  her article and the comments are worth reading if one wants to really get a feeling of what a move to an OpenSim is like.

But I will let you form your own opinion: I think it is essential reading if you are interested in multi-user virtual environment technology and the changes that are taking place every day.

Although there have been some stability problems in the past the best opportunity for Kiwi education developers to get a look at the OpenSim movement is probably through ONGENS, running on KAREN, but accessible via Broadband internet.

The major thing these worlds don’t yet have for the general user is people, clothes, SHOPPING (products and goods to buy in world) entertainment, both live and recorded, and social networking.

Social networking to me is the major advantage of Second Life.

One can choose to benefit from the Second Life world, with up to 100,000 people on-line at any one time, and make “friends” from around the world, or one can choose to ignore them – become a recluse on your own little island – and get on with building, terraforming or just exploring a far richer environment than any of the Second Life-based other virtual worlds currently have.

For education, however, the opportunity to be on your own server and in an education world  of your own creation might be attractive.

Even if you don’t move now you should watch these spaces.

PS: I’m indebted to SL resident Wendy Steeplechase for pointing me to the Capalini blog.

capalini, Zonja

Update your viewer

For Second Life residents Dessie Linden has announced:  “The third iteration of the 1.23 viewer, Release Candidate 2 (RC2), is now available for download as a mandatory upgrade. As always, this RC may be installed along side any official viewer, and remember… on Thursday, May 21, anyone still using version 1.20 will be required to upgrade to either 1.21 or 1.22.”

It should be noted that the new release viewer also gives you the option of choosing whether you are PG, Mature or Adult, in the first page of preferences.

The SLENZ Update – No 87, May 20, 2009

AUCKLAND U’s  VIRTUAL MEDICAL CENTRE

Students learn those communication,

teamwork, clinical  skills – virtually

Virtual simulation in an Auckland University, New Zealand, virtual medical centre  training environment is returning similar results to a  real life training facility at a fraction of the cost of a facility of that type, according to Dr Scott Diener PhD (Pictured at right).

Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga) (http://scottdiener.edublogs.org), the university’s associate director of IT Services, an enthusiastic proponent of learning in virtual worlds and creator of the University’s Academic and Collaborative Technologies’ Long White Cloud Island sim in Second Life, made this remark in  a YouTube video presentation on the Virtual Medical Centre.

The University of Auckland’s interest in virtual worlds is such that it has also taken up 12 islands on the ONGENS OpenSim Virtual World Grid (on the ONGENS Test Bed Facility), a start-up being run by Otago University and the University of Canterbury on the KAREN network. ONGENS (Otago Next Generation Networks and Services)  is supported by the Global Network Interconnectivity Project which is funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission Growth through an Innovation Pilot Initiative.DienerScott

American-born Diener (right), who is also a blue-water yachtsman, notes that  to set up a similar training facility in real life, using mannequins, would cost something like US2.5 million.
In the SL Medical Centre simulation, however, Diener said, the instructor could set various similar simulations/situations that students teams had to diagnose and treat.

“Readings and charts change when someone becomes a patient,” he said, adding that the students, through working in the simulation, learned teamwork and communication skills alongside the clinical skills.

In the virtual  ward, actors could sit in beds  (as avatars) acting as patients with specific problems, he said. He didn’t mention it  in the video but this means they can be accessed/interviewed/diagnosed by students and interns – and even working doctors needing to upgrade their skills – with access to Broadband internet anywhere but not the time to travel to New Zealand’s two medical schools, one in Auckland and  the other in  Dunedin.

“Participant take a survey to determine if virtual simulation provides comparable results to laboratory settings,” he said, adding, “So far, the virtual simulation is offering comparable results at a fraction of the cost.”



The SLENZ Update – No 73 , April 29, 2009

SL:  import-export with ‘SLENZ Shuffle’

The new ‘Arfur Daley’?

slenzshuffle_004

Import-export “expert” bot, SLENZ Shuffle, with creator, Toddles Lightworker

SLENZ Shuffle? Well he might not be the new “Arfur Daley” (of TV Minder fame) but it looks like he might be able to do a good job in the virtual world import-export business.slenz-shippingnode1

He has already successfully “shifted: the lower floor of the  Foundation build on Kowhai, in Second Life, to one of Nelson Marlborough Institute 0f  Technology’s regions on a node on the ONGENS OpenSimulator, set up by Otago and Canterbury  Universities, in the SouthIsland of New Zealand.

A creation of WelTec’s Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker), a  SLENZ developer, he can only export-import an object’s textures and prims, including mega-prims and sculpties, rather than scripts, at the present time but, according to Cochrane (pictured left), it  should be possible “to drop stuff onto an object which wakes up our robot avatar. “

“The robot then exports the objects and with the help of in-world script other items,” he said, pointing to the SLENZ shipping node (right). “Eventually we could get the robot to logout and then login to ONGENS and complete the transfer.

“At present the object wakes up our robot and under the right conditions it exports the object … I’m using the same avatar name in both universes.”

The robot is being developed as part of the SLENZ Project to ensure all project builds and other elements created by the SLENZ team can be  backed up outside Second Life as SLENZ-owned IP.

img_0501The team has  previously trialled other “back-up” methods but found them not to be suitable for the SLENZ needs, mainly because the IP is held in another organisation’s storage.

Cochrane stressed that SLENZ Shuffle could not be used to export IP  developed/owned by Second Life, Linden Labs and other Second Life developers and residents.

Cochrane also pointed out that the creation of the import-export facility is not unique, it is an extended version the existing OpenMetaverse code.

And for example IBM has already done something similar as well, teleporting avatars led by Second Life’s Zha Ewry RL: David Levine) between Second Life and OpenSim.

WelTec currently is running two regions in the WelTec Virtual Lab, and at the Petone Campus, as part of the Weltec programme to trial a varietyof virtual worlds for education under a variety of conditions.

Cochrane  is currently considering allocating space in Weltec’s ONGENS regions for Human Computer Interaction students doing Interaction Design projects.
“Having our own node means we are contributing to the New Zealand Virtual Worlds grid.” Todd said.

The node is currently on WelTec’s 3D server, deep.weltec.ac.nz, but may eventually be connected through KAREN, New Zealand’s tertiary institution high-speed Broadband link.

The SLENZ Update – No 39, January 15, 2009

SL ‘valuable’ for HS science

globalkids

The value of virtual world education for high school students has been demonstrated  in a  recent independent evaluation of a Science through Second Life project run in New York last year.

The project integrated Second Life and a wide range of web tools into a standards-based high school science class in New York City, according to Rafi Santo (pictured), Senior Program Associate Online Leadership Program, Global Kids.(Access pdf of evaluation at http://groups.google.com/group/GKVirtualWorldUpdate/browse_thread/thread/860139ff56a01e29)santorafi

Global Kids is a New York-based organisation that provides a range of international education and leadership development programs in 21 public high schools and myriad online venues. Its MacArthur-funded work is leveraging after school programs, online dialogues, contests, machinima, and virtual worlds to bring attention to voices of youth on the role of digital media in their lives.

The independent evaluation’s key findings on the Science through Second Life project  included:

  • Students’ attitudes towards science-related careers changed positively with the StSL curriculum.
  • Students’ self-efficacy and self-confidence in their abilities to do science-related work increased.
  • Compared to the traditional science curriculum, the number of students reporting being overwhelmed by science class fell by 50%.
  • Low achieving students’ grades improved significantly compared to the previous semester.
  • Students’ collective intelligence skills improved throughout the semester. More students reported that they felt more comfortable working with others to get something done using digital media in the post survey.

For further information on  the Globalkids organisation: www.globalkids.org

OpenLife getting ‘V’ money

openlifesiltop

The OpenLife grid, which  has been proclaimed as a major albeit still small  competitor (45,000 residents) to Second Life,  is going to adopt a virtual currency system, so users can buy and sell items freely, according to VirtualWorld News( http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2009/01/openlife-grid-to-adopt-virtual-currency.html)

The new virtual currency system is currently scheduled to go live at the end of February, obviating one of the major concerns that the current user base has voiced. OpenLife is currently the largest grid running on the OpenSimulator 3D application server program.

OpenSimulator essentially allows individual users to create their own virtual world “grids” on their own servers that look and function much like Linden Labs’ Second Life. In fact, the technologies involved are so similar that it is possible to use a Second Life client to connect to any OpenSim grid [An experimental Grid, the ONGENS OpenSim Virtual World Grid, has been set up in the ONGENS Test Bed Facility between Otago University and Canterbury University to explore the possibilities of the technology (http://www.gni.otago.ac.nz/index.php/ongens-virtual-world-grid)].

“Exchangeable credits are a popular request from residents,” according to Steve Sima, founder of the OpenLife grid, in a statement to CyberTech News.

“However with interchangeable credits comes a range of new issues that must be addressed,” he said ” After a good six months of consultaton with Openlife users, we’re pleased to say we’re on track to deliver an in world payments solution in the forum of Openlife Credits before the end of February. This will follow shortly after new fixes and implementations in objects and inventory permissions are rolled out.”

The announcement  while it will be welcomed by OpenLife users could put paid to Linden Lab plans to attempt to spread a generic virtual currency through virtual worlds.

… but SL gets act together?

Are the US timezone Sunday “log-in disabled”  periods which have bedeviled Second Life users around the world recently – especially on Mondays in New Zealand and Australia – about to become a thing of the past?

It would appear from FJ Linden’s (Frank Ambrose) most recent update on improving the infrastructure that underpins Second Life (and the resulting forum dialogue) that Linden Lab is still confident it can overcome the problems which occur for all residents within and outside Second Life when user numbers reach 80,000, now a normal US Sunday afternoon and evening ocurrence, which has led to scheduled meetings in other timezones being disrupted when participants haven’t been able to log in. As the outages occur on Sundays they are not a “working” priority/problem in the US.

The easy answer, of course, is for  those in other timezones  to schedule meetings at other times but as more people join the  SL “over-population problem”,  if it is that,  has to be solved.

And that is what the Lindens appear to be doing. (http://blog.secondlife.com/2009/01/12/second-life-grid-update-from-fj-linden/)
While admitting its been a bumpy few weeks, with Level 3 outages, and central database issues, Frank says  “the good news is that LLnet (data center fiber network) continues ahead of schedule and we should be starting traffic migration in the next week. We’ve also made some headway in the area of asset storage. Right now, central database issues are our core focus and have been at the center of most of the recent grid problems.

“The benefits of LLnet are to not only get us off of our dependency on VPN’s for inter data center traffic, but also lay the foundation for diverse internet providers that will allow us to handle an outage on a single provider (currently Level 3) and potentially improve latency,” he says. “Most of our widespread and highest impacting outages have been network related, and that is why LLnet has been my top priority since joining Linden Lab this past summer.

“I expect final testing to be complete by the end of January, and production traffic cutover immediately after.”

Attaboy Frank!  We await the results with bated breath.

Useful link

A selection of books about Second Life (or virtual worlds) primarily  focused  on general descriptions, history, and sociological perspectives, but  also including several how-to guides is at:

http://www.worldcat.org/profiles/srharris19/lists/273349

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