Interview – Nathan Organ (AUGrid)

Back in February this year we interviewed Steve Sima, founder of the Openlife grid. Since then another Australian has set up a grid based on the Open Simulator architecture. This one is called AUGrid and has been set up by Norgan Torok (RL: Nathan Organ) and we caught up with him for an interview this week.

Lowell: Can you tell me a little about your background and how you got into virtual
worlds?

Norgan: I discovered Second Life around a year ago, after resisting for a while I finally logged in and started exploring. I found it fascinating but had to look into this “game”and work out just what it was about. After realising quickly just how great and diverse the culture and people in
there were I had to explore more. As with most things i encounter I looked deeper and deeper into it. Until the interoperability announcement I considered SL a closed system. The interop test showed me the light into OpenSim and its great possibilities.
.

Lowell: What was the impetus for you setting up AUGrid?

Norgan: Two things inspired me to do AUGrid. Firstly, the interoperability of OpenSim and Second Life opening up that user base to a wider world of virtual worlds. There was concern that Linden Lab would make Second Life a closed world for a while there. Secondly, my own work supporting 1000 hours for autistic kids and my work with EnGeneIC who develop novel cancer treatments, and my
yearning to help support these admirable causes. AUGrid is focused on providing exposure and services to these causes as well as the education sector.

Lowell: Are you personally hosting the grid or working in conjunction with
others?

Norgan: For the moment i am personally paying for co-located servers, with a view to reselling regions servers to help bring money back into the project. Reactiongrid have been helping with supply of cost effective servers to run the grid on. My training and experience in network design and operation helps me manage the topology of the grid servers and plan for growth. We also get support form various developers and sub-communities within the OpenSim project and in return I share my knowledge and experience in networking and my work in OpenSim with the community at large. AUGrid has also set up its own dedicated PayPal account to more easily manage any donations or funds coming in. With
these funds I hope to bring in extra resources to help expand the project and donate services to schools and charities.

Lowell: How far along the development path is AUGrid?

Norgan: AUGrid follows the core development path of OpenSim. I have been busy
talking with the core development teams and some people from Microsoft who have been helping AUGrid along with feedback, advice and techniques. This project and many others on OpenSim are a 2-way development structure where the users and various groups contribute to each other and the common code. This is how I am able to setup AUGrid confident in the fact that the OpenSim community is there to help as am I to help them. As I mentioned before I try to keep the
code quite new, which can bring in new bugs and cause some down time but also pick up the improvements as they are developed.

Lowell: Compared to say Second Life, what would a new resident see on your
grid? Is it a similar experience at this stage?

Norgan: The experience is quiet similar to Second life for general navigation and user experience, in fact you use the SL viewer in many cases to log into AUGrid. There are also other viewers with extra features like building higher height and megaprims allowed. The LLFunctions script
implementations are two-thirds the way through with new ones being added every day, so the scripting and building environment is similar also. The real difference is the flexibility on the server side. For example, we can play with gravity and I have setup an experimental sim that has moon gravity; but really that’s just the start. With some projects using RL integration of robots and information fed in from hardware and external databases, the possibilities are almost endless. This is
the real power of the OpenSim platform – using a modulated approach to the code design, you can create and integrate your own modules on the server. An example of some of AUGrid’s technology is the data center that monitors RL servers in real time. It actually pointed out a problem with one of my DNS servers which I was able to investigate and correct as a direct result of seeing the server in-world.

Lowell: What have been some of the biggest challenges to date with the grid’s
development?

Norgan: Biggest hurdle is the code management and avoiding downtime. Rapid development code is always a task to handle but for the most part the core systems are very stable. We try to explain and notify of any bugs and issues as they asrise and why there was any downtime to help the
users understand how the system works and just how quickly things can change.

Lowell: What are you plans for AUGrid in the coming 6-12 months?

Norgan: To expand the grid onto more servers, which is why we have started taking donations, and allow a more powerful grid for better in-world experiences. The topology of
AUGrid is designed in such a way that it can be easily scaled up and this has been done because i have grand visions for AUGrid. Aside from the obvious expansion of the grid the biggest thing will be to provide free or low cost regions to educational and medical projects, allowing them a powerful platform on which to teach and learn. Ideally, the grid will pay for itself and allow donations of regions to schools and charities.

We have started toying with the idea of medical and education hubs and once we acquire more servers i will be setting these up so when users visit in-world they may more easily get to those areas and projects they are interested in.

Lowell: What differentiating factor do you believe you have over other grids, including Australian ones like Openlife?

Norgan: The differing factor is AUGrid’s primary focus on real life support of charities and good causes and it’s non-profit business model. As well as a true aussie flavour while travelling around the grid with many and varied parts of aussie culture on show. Triple X Industries sim is
a great example with an Aussie pub and amazing aussie shop fronts and areas. This is one of the big helpers to establishing AUGrid’s content – I don’t know what I’d do without him. We also have an accurate representation of Brisbane’s Southbank with much more coming along.

Lowell: For people wanting to check out AUGrid, how do they best do that?

Norgan: Thanks to TheCritic we have an SL Launcher that can be downloaded from a
link on www.augrid.org. It works for Windows, Linux and Mac and allows the user to quite easily launch their existing SL Viewer to connect to AUgrid, among others. There is also a Hippo Viewer made for OpenSim that with a quick shortcut modification can be used on AUGrid allowing the extra features like higher build height limits and larger prim sizes.

Comments

  1. Great to see so many talented Aussies doing great things with VW platforms for such good causes.

    I guess one thing that is not clear for me is the transferability factor between each of these various VWs. I am an educator and have spent a fair amount of time and resources setting up in SL. I love the fact that in one VW you can have contact with people from so many different places. In fact, I have actually leveraged this aspect of SL in my lessons, as I am sure many other educators have. So, while I am very excited about a VW with some serious Aussie content, I am also hoping that there will be an easy way to move between the various VWs without having to re-invent the wheel each time. I still believe the only way the various VWs will survive in the long term is by a high level of interconnectivity.

    Keep up the good work.

    Scott Grant
    Monash University

  2. Hi again,

    Just thought I would let you know, I tried to pop in and have a look at AuGrid, but found the instructions for modifying the SL viewer too hard to understand and couldn't seem to get the Hippo Viewer to download at all.

    Again, as an educator, I would love to support Aussie enterprises establishing VWs, but if I may be so forward as to suggest, the setting up of the viewer and the instructions for doing so really need to be a lot more user friendly, otherwise you are in danger of only having users with far higher levels of computer knowledge than the average punter being able to access your VW.

    Scott
    Monash University

  3. Great to see so many talented Aussies doing great things with VW platforms for such good causes.

    I guess one thing that is not clear for me is the transferability factor between each of these various VWs. I am an educator and have spent a fair amount of time and resources setting up in SL. I love the fact that in one VW you can have contact with people from so many different places. In fact, I have actually leveraged this aspect of SL in my lessons, as I am sure many other educators have. So, while I am very excited about a VW with some serious Aussie content, I am also hoping that there will be an easy way to move between the various VWs without having to re-invent the wheel each time. I still believe the only way the various VWs will survive in the long term is by a high level of interconnectivity.

    Keep up the good work.

    Scott Grant
    Monash University

  4. Hi again,

    Just thought I would let you know, I tried to pop in and have a look at AuGrid, but found the instructions for modifying the SL viewer too hard to understand and couldn't seem to get the Hippo Viewer to download at all.

    Again, as an educator, I would love to support Aussie enterprises establishing VWs, but if I may be so forward as to suggest, the setting up of the viewer and the instructions for doing so really need to be a lot more user friendly, otherwise you are in danger of only having users with far higher levels of computer knowledge than the average punter being able to access your VW.

    Scott
    Monash University

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