Second Life is the Big Kid On The Block when it comes to virtual worlds. More regions, more content, more users, more functionality, an economy...but it's not the only game in town, as I pointed out in an earlier post some months back.
A number of people I respect have actually left SL and "emigrated" to one or another of the OpenSim based grids. The last time I tried another grid was a very brief look around InWorldz a couple years ago, so I decided that maybe it was time for another look. I had run across a post on OpenSim grid statistics in Tateru Nino's great blog, Dwell On It -- Tateru reported that the largest of these was OSGrid, with over 6,000 regions. So I decided to take a look at it.
OSGrid is a strange sort of animal to a visitor from Second Life. Its organization is...well, almost nonexistent, compared to SL. They do have a website (which loads a heck of a lot faster than LL's!). It's easy to find the basics...how to join, a set of forums, a Wiki with information, a Map, basic statistics on how many people are members, or on line. The Downloads page has just two items, really: a copy of the OpenSim simulator software, customized for OSGrid use, and their recommended viewer (Imprudence).
The simulator software was what I was really interested in.
Second Life, or any virtual world based on it, consists of two major pieces of software: The viewer, which you run on your computer, and the simulator, or server software. This latter piece is what creates the region(s) your avatar exists in, handles your inventory, and provides the means to communicate with others. One can think, somewhat inaccurately, of the viewer software being associated with your avatar, and the server software as being associated with the virtual world itself.
The OpenSim software was developed beginning in 2007, following LL's release of the client (the viewer) software as Open Source code*. Since then, lots of independent developers have worked on OpenSim to (it is to be hoped) improve it.
Anyway, with OpenSim on your computer, you can create your own private island, right on your desktop. No need to pay tier to LL, or worry about friends or groups interrupting you while you're creating marvels. Very inexpensive, very private...but lonely. No one else can join you in your private paradise. Unless...
Unless you connect it to a grid. This is where OSGrid comes in. You can link your region, hosted on your own computer, to the larger OSGrid. For free, yet! (If you want more stability and better performance out of your region(s), you can also sign up with any of several hosting companies to put your region on their servers, with better uptime and faster internet connections. This does cost money, but at least you are paying the hosting company directly, not a middleman like LL).
But, even hosted on your home PC, your OSGrid region can be visited by anyone signed up to the OSgrid.
This is not a project for the PC illiterate. I'm getting some help from the Resident Geek ("Honey? Can you come here a minute? I can't figure this out...") Just getting the OpenSim software properly downloaded and installed called for a deal of research and troubleshooting. For example, who would have thought that you can't put the OpenSim files in the C:\Programs(x86) directory, where every other 32 bit application I own resides? But it won't work if you do. It needs its own directory.
When you DO get it working, it runs in a DOS window. You know, those old fashioned windows with a black background and white text? A LOT of text. When you start the program, hundreds of lines of obscure computerese go scrolling up the screen. Then it starts asking you some questions, like your avatar name, and the name you want to give your region.
The program is pre-configured to run in "grid" mode and connect to the OSGrid. I wasn't ready for that yet; I want to try it in "stand alone" mode first. So that is where I stopped for the evening. And that is where I'll stop this post too -- but I'll let you know about further adventures as they happen.
*Edited in response to Dahlia's comment below