Virtual Pioneer

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I am now the proud owner of two full, 15 kiloprim regions, both named LaloLand. The server that runs them is the computer on my desk at home; yes, they’re OpenSims. One is a standalone that only exists on my desk; the other is connected to OSGrid, at coordinates 9998, 9993. And they don’t cost me a dime — no set-up fees, no “tier”, only the electricity my computer uses to run them (and my monthly ISP bill, which I pay anyway).

Actually, I haven’t run the standalone since entering OSGrid (really, there’s no need), but it’s still there and I could boot it up at any time. Inspired by my partner Kate, I downloaded it on Jan. 22 and messed with it for a few days. Then, on Jan. 26, she emailed me to say she’d created a sim in OSGrid — I jumped in the following day, and was lucky to grab an adjacent empty square.

View looking north: LaloLand in the foreground, “Kate1” beyond

View looking south

There are a lot more photographs, with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one telling what each one is*… that is, the region’s evolution up to yesterday. You can find them in my Picasa album “LaloLand” [and do please look at the other albums in the series :) ] I didn’t want to go into a lengthy discussion of the progress here, or turn this into a primer on starting up your own (but there’s a list of essential links at the end of this post).

I want to talk about why.

People love metaphors and analogies — they help us think about unfamiliar concepts and situations by comparison with something familiar. Sometimes the metaphors themselves become so ingrained in our shared culture that they become icons, and sometimes even clichés. Such a one, often applied to Second Life, is the “Wild West”: a romanticized time after the initial exploration and pioneer settlement, when frontier towns were forming with all the trappings of civilization, but not always with the societal norms of civilized behavior. You might commonly have found the church, the library, the doctor’s office, the general store, the blacksmith, and the saloon with its “good time girls”, all arrayed along the town’s single street. Sounds pretty much like a sim in SL, doesn’t it? (that is, until July of last year)

When law and order — and enforced morality — came to the “lawless” West, it wasn’t always the result of democratic consensus among the townsfolk. Sometimes the very town itself was built on land owned by one person, whose rule was law de facto, not de jure. One of the standard plots in Western films and books opens with the town’s strong man setting up his own cronies as sheriff, judge, and sometimes even the preacher. In other words, the facade of civilization, disguising continued self-aggrandizement and corruption.

Or — to switch to a metaphor more economically fitting — consider the “company town”. You don’t have to go West for those, or even confine yourself to the US. In them, The Company owned everything: the workplace, the worker’s homes, the single store they were allowed to buy from, the land it all stood on, ad infinitum. Often they paid the workers with scrip (a.k.a. “virtual currency”) instead of genuine government-backed money, to keep them tied even tighter to the town. Nothing could be done without The Company’s permission, while it could — and did — make decisions affecting every life in the town without consulting the Residents, or listening to their protest after the fact.

The deal is, that method of controlling the populace only works when there’s nowhere else to go. For years, that was true of Second Life: there were no other worlds like it. But now there are. Thanks to the OpenSim server code, and any number of SL-compatible viewers, there are plenty of places to go. And many of them are free!

That brings me to the other important reason why there’s a LaloLand in OSGrid: not only does it not cost anything to have a sim there, it doesn’t cost anything to be there. There’s no economy! I’ve learned more about terraforming, building, installing scripts in linksets, and modding freebies to make the most of them in two weeks in OSGrid than in two years in SL. You can’t buy your way into complacency and laziness (as I did in SL), because nothing’s for sale. Make it yourself, make do with freebies, or do without. And if you’re proud of what you build and feel like sharing? Give it away! I plan to do just that with the structures I built, joining dozens of others already on OSGrid who mark their creations “free to copy”, or box them up and leave them on a shelf in one of many freebie centers scattered around the grid.

I’ll leave you with another metaphor to contemplate: The Pioneer Spirit.

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Useful Links for OpenSim & OSGrid:

OpenSim’s main page. The copies of the code found there for various operating systems will start up a standalone sim server on your desktop, and it’s not confined to one region.

OSGrid’s main page. OSGrid’s version of the OpenSim code is pre-configured to connect your region to their grid during installation. You’ll probably want to replace the data base software bundled in that package with MySQL (also free!): here’s how to do that, recommended by this installation guide. If you have a dynamic IP address (that is, your ISP changes it periodically — most do), you’ll need this.

Learn about Inventory Archive files (.iar) here, and then go here to grab a licensed free one with a bunch of goodies in it, including two female and one male shape and skin, so you can de-Ruth once you’ve arrived (others can be found in-world).

Good Luck, and Have Fun!

* — bonus points if you can identify the source of that line ;)
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3 responses to “Virtual Pioneer

  1. Wow!
    Being so not a geek I'll likely have to work at this for awhile. I do have a friend/manager that is a tech genius and perhaps I can entice her to help.
    I have already preserved my name in OS.
    Thanks so much for the info…in someway's I can imagine it's like SL beta and Stellar Sunshine circa 2002!

  2. Pingback: Three Years On | Telling: Like it Is

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