NZVWG – VLENZ Update, No 172, June 03, 2010

Does the Emperor have any clothes?

New Zealand’s NZVWGrid  ‘newbies’ get

free avatar skins, hair, eyes and clothing

A ‘noobie’ appearance is no longer necessary in the  NZVWGrid …
free avatarskins, eyes and hair have been made available for users  …

New Zealand academics, researchers and  virtual world builders,  using and testing the alpha phase of the New Zealand Virtual Grid (NZVWG), no longer have to look like ‘noobs’ even though given some of the vagaries of the OpenSim environment they might sometimes feel like that.

Open source  avatar skins,  eyes, hair and clothing  have  now been made freely available on the Auckland  portal of  NZVWG at Kapua 6  (NZVWG  Kapua 6/88/116/34), and are  likely to be made  available  near the Auckland entry point to the MUVE on Kapua 3  as well as at other Portal entry points.

The full permissions skins have been created by the likes of Eloh Eliot,  Ziah Li,  Greybeard Thinker and others, with  the clothing obtained  from a variety of sources outside  the Second Life environment, such as free, full permission listings of clothing textures.

All are being made available under   “Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported” Creative Commons licenses.

The  NZVWG Project which grew out of  Otago University’s ONGENS programme is a joint venture of the University of Auckland,  the University of  Otago the University of Canterbury and  the Wellington Institute of Technology, Weltech.  A number of other institutions both in New Zealand and oversea have expressed interest in the project which is supported by New Zealand Telecom.

It is an open access national virtual world grid based on open source software. It operates on NZ-based servers hosted at Otago, Auckland and Canterbury Universities, and leverages other national investments in IT infrastructure through deployment on the high-speed KAREN (Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network).

The grid has been set up with an academic focus and will be used for research and education, as well as for proof-of-concept application deployments and testing.

The project, based on opensource OpenSim  technology, is being led by one of New Zealand’s foremost virtual world education   champions, Dr Scott Diener,  an academic and  Associate Director, AC Tech, Information Technology Services,  at the  University of Auckland. Diener is well-known, both  as himself and as his Second Life personna, Professor Noarlunga, in MUVE  education circles around the world for his development of medical simulations and teaching programmes within Second Life.

Although little educational research is currently being done  in the alpha test phase of  the NZVWGrid there are opportunities once testing is completed. Besides  Diener’s Second Life University of Auckland virtual medical centre project in Second Life, which  may migrate to the NZVWG,  Otago University  has set up  the Otago Virtual Hospital in NZVWG (OtagoMedicalSchool/162/99/2800)  and is also hosting scenarios for medical students to gain experience practicing as doctors.   Some members of the now completed SLENZ Project are also active in the NZVWG although  there are no plans at this stage for a sequel to that successful research project.

… as well as  both men’s and women’s avatar clothing
and a limited range of footwear.

KAREN, VLENZ Update 171, June 01, 2010

KAREN goes  ‘independent’

NZ high-speed research/education

network in new partnership …

All NZ education to get real Broadband speeds

A year-old YouTube view of the FX Networks network  …
2200 kms of optical fibre and still counting.

Heralding a new era for online education and research  in New Zealand, Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand Ltd (REANNZ) has announced  that it has  entered into a long-term partnership with the country’s foremost, independent optical fibre network provider,   Wellington-based  FX Networks,   to provide the national connectivity for the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (KAREN).

The arrangement secures the continuation of KAREN’s existing 10Gb/s backbone connectivity and footprint around the country for an initial term of  three years through to December 2013, with two two-year renewal options.

The move should mean lower cost, and faster and more reliable  national bandwidth options for New Zealand tertiary and secondary education institutions, and could lead to a proliferation of virtual world and other third generation uses of the internet by  both faculty and students in education across the country. When coupled with other moves, it  should also provide benefits to distance learners.

Donald Clark, REANNZ

The Universities of Auckland, Otago and Canterbury, along with Weltech, in Wellington, are already operating a bandwidth-hungry,  OpenSim-based virtual world system (New Zealand Virtual World Grid) in test phase in conjunction with the KAREN network  which can only benefit from the latest development, which should ease both access and costs, especially  as NZVWG only uses local bandwidth, rather than international connections.

The decision to go with FX Networks  follows  what spokespeople for the two partners described as “a thorough and comprehensive evaluation process.”  The KAREN network has previously worked directly with  Telecom.

The contract also includes options to move KAREN to a dark fibre-based network infrastructure, which will be essential to ensure KAREN can continue to offer leading-edge network services within a constrained cost base.

The CEO of REANNZ, Donald Clark,  said, “This is the most exciting development for KAREN since the network was launched in 2006. We are confident that we have selected a progressive, long-term partner in FX Networks and have secured the best national connectivity options for our community and provided certainty to our members on cost and presence.”

“Over the last four years, the demands of our members has driven innovation in network supply and services across the telecommunications industry,” he said. “In earlier times our investments have helped other network suppliers extend their networks, now we’re helping FX Networks.”

Through moving to the new network, REANNZ will put into effect a new Network Access Policy which  will provide greater flexibility to REANNZ and KAREN members around access, and use of the network. The network is currently recruiting a number of secondary  schools to add to its current tertiary institution base.

A virtual region on the Weltech portal of the 'alpha' test NZVWG Grid .... online and MUVE education can only benefit from the latest KAREN move.

Work has already begun on comprehensive transition plan to ensure a smooth cross-over from current national connectivity arrangements to the new arrangements in December.

REANNZ is currently in the  late stage contract discussions with the preferred supplier for KAREN’s international network. An announcement on the selected provider will be made later this month.

FX Networks already has completed most of an optical spine the length of the country and is completing   a network right around the country to join with the spine – a number of  local bodies like those  controlling Hawkes Bay, Pahiatua, Dannevirke and Eketahuna among others   have already signed up with FX Networks -  which should make access to  KAREN  and true high-speed broadband internet an affordable reality for most  institutions as well as distance education students.

Jamie Baddeley, FX Networks

Previously, despite claims to the contrary, the major Telcos in New Zealand  have supplied  provincial New Zealanders  with Broadband, which they pay Broadband prices for, but which  generally  have not delivered consistent Broadband speeds. In fact,  in areas like the Manawatu, consumers, although paying Broadband prices, have often been left with a service, during  times of high contention, which   has run at dial-up speeds.

FX Networks’ fibre optic ‘backbone’ network  covering both islands of New Zealand, however,  is the fastest independent intercity pipeline in the country, capable of transferring data and voice at speeds up to 10Gbps.

The organisation describes its   network as a  ” a ‘green fields’ operation, our 21st Century technology and lean business practices mean we can deliver a Ferrari-type network for Corolla-type pricing.”

The company is privately owned and funded, with 30 percent equity held by New Zealanders. It is independent from the Telcos  operating in New Zealand.

FX Network’s partnership with REANNZ  follows the announcement  in April that FX Networks  had signed an agreement with Telecom Wholesale for the exchange of local internet traffic (local peering) at 19 of  Telecom’s points of interconnection – 39 currently available) around the country,  laying the groundwork for the “most efficient routing” of New Zealand’s growing volumes of Internet traffic through New Zealand’s two main internet backbones.

One of the regions on the University of Auckland portal of NZVWG grid which should benefit from both the KAREN decision and local "peering."

Peering allows traffic to be exchanged on a local or regional basis rather than transported back and forth throughout the country to be exchanged in Auckland.

Announcing this agreement the two companies said, “With the Government’s $1.5bn ‘Ultra Fast Broadband’ and $300m ‘Rural Broadband initiatives both on the horizon, the agreement paves the way for a whole new range of competitive broadband packages to be developed by ISPs and other service providers.”

FX Networks Jamie Baddeley said at the time of the agreement  that it meant  that the Governments investment of $1.8bn in urban and rural broadband “will now be able to run local content in a fast and efficient manner.

“This is a big step in New Zealand’s digital transformation that will revolutionise many aspects of society including health, education, commerce and entertainment,” he said. “…  I think many ISPs are going to have to rethink how they charge for traffic and there will now be competitive pressure to separate international traffic from local usage and charge accordingly.”

Ernie Newman, TUANZ

Senior industry consultant Dr Murray Milner said: “This is a very positive outcome with the industry tackling a major issue that is fundamental to the success of the current fibre roll-outs. Local peering means that internet backbones will not be clogged up with local traffic and we will see smart uses of the capability in areas like healthcare where digital X-rays can be shared simultaneously in full definition.”

Ernie Newman, CEO of TUANZ said: “Peering has been on the table for a number of years as one of those too hard issues, after some carriers depeered from the earlier system a few years ago. It was the users who bore the brunt of that with traffic romboning to Auckland when it didn’t need to, or worse to the USA. I’m delighted to see industry players resolving this issue without the need for regulation or government intervention and users will benefit from better performance and lower charges. What’s emerging is the national digital architecture that TUANZ has been calling for.”

SLENZ Update, No 137, September 19, 2009

LIFE IN A NEW ZEALAND VIRTUAL WORLD

ONGENS  gets its first ‘Kiwi Tavern’

as  virtual ‘Aotearoa’  grows …

ONGENS1_004Sign of the ONGENS times … The Kiwi Tavern  at Port Cook.

Even though the New Zealand National Virtual World Grid appears to be going through a difficult and, at times, fragile gestation, there is a small band of enthusiasts who are willing to put up with the frustrations of working in an Alpha test world to ensure that the ONGENS Grid moves through Beta on into a full-blown phase which will allow productive  education research and possibly hypergrid access to  other open-source, OpenSimulator virtual worlds.

One of those  enthusiasts is Auckland University academic Dr Scott Diener who “shouted”  the first “drinks” – a tankard of Kiwi ale – to  virtual world builder Cira Emor, who is re-creating the build of a log cabin(piece by piece!), and your’s truely Johnnie Wendt, who is creating a beachside “slum”, Arcadia Asylum Memorial City, with a little bit of help from the creations of the  late and much lamented Second life “artist” Arcadia Asylum.

Besides its two  regions, soon to be three, in Second Life, the University of Auckland  has something like 12 regions  on the ONGENS Grid, some named Kapua (a small cloud) keeping with the university’s  virtual world Second Life theme of  Long White Cloud or Aotearoa.

As well as constructing  Port Cook – it is still in the ongoing construction phase – Scott (SL :Professor Noaralunga)  has also opened up two storefronts under the buildings  which are giving away “freebies”  such as office and home furnishings. Another  has been allocated for the supply  of  freebie textures, to be stocked in cargo boxes.

ONGENS1_005
Johnnie Wendt,  Scott Diener (pink shirt) and  Cira Emor at the Kiwi Tavern.

Designed primarily for research into  the benefits of virtual world education and Web3D technology the ONGENS Virtual World Grid, within the  ONGENS (Otago Next Generation Networks and Services)  Test Bed Project, championed by Dr Melanie Middlemiss of  Otago University, is a joint project on which the Universities of Canterbury and Otago and part of the GNI (Global Network Interconnectivity) Project, The GNI Project has been designed to  develop research, enterprise training, and knowledge sharing activities to support new ICT technologies, such as JAIN SLEE, on the way to telecommunications, multimedia, and information systems convergence. It is  funded by the New Zealand Tertiary  Education Commission Growth and Innovation Pilot Initiative (The SLENZ Project is also funded by TEC).

ONGENS2_001One of the ONGENS residents, Wendy Steeplechase, at the Port Cook furniture store.

Since the  launch of the grid Canterbury and Otago have been joined by the University of Auckland  and WelTec, each with a node and regions within the ONGENS Grid. Students from  WelTech have already used the  grid for real world learning projects.

The grid is currently running on OpenSimulator software, and utilises the high-speed KAREN (Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network) connectivity between New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, and research organisations as well as public Broadband.

ONGENS2_003The attractive stone buildings in Port Cook – the tunnel leads through a forest to a castle.
ONGENS2_002The Port Cook Harbour … from the inside
ONGENS1_007… and the  harbour entrance from the outside with the castle in the background

THE ONGENS team plans to develop the ONGENS Grid into a New Zealand National Virtual World Grid initiative, and is currently seeking funding and expressions of interest for involvement in the project.

Meanwhile in a related project, an Otago Open Source Software Initiative has been set up by Otago University’s Department of Information Science to provide advice and support to schools and small-medium sized businesses (SMEs) in New Zealand on a range of open-source software technologies that have the potential to reduce IT operational costs, leverage productivity and enable companies to “work smarter”.

“The main issue holding back schools and small businesses from moving to open-source solutions on the desktop is the often limited support and documentation that makes much open-source software a difficult proposition to maintain and manage,” a spokesperson said. “This lack of documentation and support often results in the running cost of open-source software, i.e. the costs associated with lost productivity due to downtime and the cost of in-house technical-staff time required to support the software, quickly outstripping the initial purchase price of a commercial alternative.

“It is this situation that has lead the Department of Information Science to establish the Open Source Software Initiative to support the take up of open source software by schools and SMEs by using its expertise to develop standardised, tested software bundles that “work” and to provide a support forum with “expert advisers” to assist in the identification of appropriate open-source solutions,” the spokesperson said.

The SLENZ Update – No 115, July 22, 2009

Upcoming Aotearoa New Zealand events

ONGENSWELCOME_001

GNI Project Symposium ’09

An invitation has been issued by Melanie Middlemiss to the GNI Project Symposium ’09 to be held from  8.30 am – 5 pm on Friday, September 4, 2009, at the  School of Business, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Online Registration is free but must be completed before 5pm, Friday, August 14.

The one day symposium has been designed to bring together academic and telecommunications and internet industry leaders to discuss current and future issues relating to convergence in the ICT and Telecommunications arena.

Discussion topics will include: Next generation networks and LTE convergence; Evolved Packet Core; IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS); Applications and services; WiMAX-LTE; Architectures and standards for service development and operation, such as JAIN SLEE; Multimedia telephony and service convergence; Integration of real-world services and applications within virtual worlds and augmented reality systems; Convergence of the network core vs. convergence on the application layer; Next generation web and telecommunications services;

The Global Network Interconnectivity (GNI) Project was established at the University of Otago in 2006 to develop expertise, provide knowledge sharing and conduct activities supporting new ICT technologies that contribute to telecommunications, multimedia, and information systems convergence.

The Project currently runs  the alpha release virtual world Grid ONGENS.

This is an experimental Grid set up in the ONGENS Test Bed Facility between Otago University and Canterbury University to explore the possibilities of Virtual Worlds and Web3.D technology.

This grid is currently running the OpenSimulator software, and utilises the high-speed KAREN (Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network) connectivity between New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, and research organisations.

The GNI Project plans to develop this Virtual World Grid into a New Zealand National Virtual World Grid initiative, and is seeking funding and expressions of interest to be involved in this project.

ongensTumanako_003

One of the “development” sim islands in the ONGENS virtual world

Teaching and Learning +

eFest 2009  conference

efest

The New Zealand  Teaching and Learning Conference and eFest are joining forces for 2009. The combined conference will held Wednesday,  September 30 – Friday, October 2, 2009 at  UCOL in Palmerston North, New Zealand. It will have an  “Open Space” unconference day on Tuesday,  September 29.

The conference themes are “Teaching excellence – excellence in teaching” and “The changing role of the teacher in the 21st century”. 2009efestlogo

Speakers at the conference proper are scheduled to include Dr Angie Farrow (pictured left), a senior lecturer at Massey University, New Zealand specialising in drama and creative processes, and a playwright, Colin Cox, Colin Cox, currently the only Master Trainer of Neuro Semantics in the world,  Helen McPhun, a learning and development specialist, Dr Lisa Emerson, a Massey University lecturer and recipient of a Prime Minister’s Supreme Award in  2008 and Paul McElroy, chief executive at UCOL.

Angie FarrowThe two principal sponsors are: Ako Aotearoa, the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, and UCOL.

You can download the registration form here.

The SLENZ Update – No 97, June 9, 2009

‘Exciting’ Kiwi development

Major New Zealand universities seek  funding

to establish  national virtual world grid

nzvwgsm

Proposal pdf here

Three major New Zealand universities are planning to establish an open-access, open-source New Zealand National Virtual World grid based on the ONGENS OpenSim grid which is currently under development.

The universities are Otago University, the University of Canterbury, and the University of Auckland. They have been joined by Telecom in the proposed establishment of the grid which will operate on New Zealand-based servers and will leverage other national investments in IT infrastructure. Funding is currently being sought to support this initiative.

Although the NZVWG will be primarily for research and education it will also offer proof-of-concept application deployments and testing. It is being designed to provide both experimental and routine use of VWs in teaching and research; to develop engaging interactive in-world content customised for New Zealand use; and to develop new context-specific plug-ins, enabling interaction between virtual and real (non-virtual) worlds.

The announcement of the planned NZVWG was made by Dr Melanie Middlemiss, manager of the GNI Project, from which the ONGENS testbed originated and which she runs with GNI technical manager Ms Hailing Situ.

The developmental ONGENS Grid, set up in the ONGENS Test Bed Facility developed by Otago University and Canterbury University to explore the possibilities of Virtual Worlds and Web3.D technology, already has nodes run by the University of Auckland, the University of Canterbury and Weltec. It currently is “open” for avatar registration but because it is in the developmental phase is not as stable as some other virtual worlds. It has about 100 registered users.

ONGENSWELCOME_001

ONGENS uses both the Government-funded KAREN (Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network) system and local networks.

Otago, Canterbury and Auckland Universities along with Telecom have formed a Governance Board for the NZVWG.

The proposed NZVWG will be composed of individual nodes at each University, connected together.

The project has been described as ” exciting” by the University of Auckland’s associate director, IT Services, Scott Diener, who is well known for his championing of virtual world education. The university, which has a two-sim presence in Second Life, is currently is running full test and development servers, hosting 12 islands on the ONGENS grid.

Announcing that further funding was being sought, Dr Middlemiss, said it was hoped to get more New Zealand and Pacific universities involved – the University of Papua New Guinea already has a research site – but it was a matter of finding people who were enthusiastic and dedicated to the development of the NZVWG.

Meanwhile the Government announced as part of the 2009 Budget in May a NZ$16m investment in KAREN to support the organisation’s ongoing operation and transition to a self-funding model.

Welcoming the Government’s new investment “to ensure KAREN keeps operating as New Zealand’s advanced network,” Donald Clark, Chief Executive of REANNZ said, “Such an investment, especially in these difficult economic times, indicates a strong commitment to science and to the investing in the underlying infrastructure of the country.”

NZNVWG

The proposed  New Zealand National Virtual World Grid

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 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.

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