Sara Diamond is the savvy tech behind the Fire and Ice grid. Her tech knowledge is what keeps her grid running 24/7 with very little downtime.
Sara often posts about improvements and info that is beneficial to others which benefits the opensim community, thank you Sara.
I wanted to get to know her a little better so thought it would be great to feature her and ask about her awesome grid.
Sara, watching your grid develop over time has been fascinating to watch. The information you share on the tech end helps new grid owners set up, the knowledge is much appreciated, thank you. I thought others would be interested too in learning more about Fire and Ice grid to see just how much you have accomplished. Having the grid owner who is also the grid tech is invaluable to your residents, it gives them a sense of calm that you have things under control.
MM - Sara you came to virtual worlds in 2004, please tell us about what it was like during those years. I came three years later much probably had changed. Please share with us the experience then.
SD- As you eluded, to things were very different then. Two considerable constraints spring to mind. There was not a lot of content available to buy. Of course, I landed a year after it all started, but still, the selection was limited.
Back in those days, it was prim only. Sculpt maps didn't arrive until 2007, before then shoes were made of prims, hair was either prim or classic avatar hair, neither was elegant.
When I first landed in a virtual world, I was still using dial-up internet. I didn't get broadband for another six months. It was perfectly normal to teleport then go and make a drink while rezzing. Due to the limited power of PC's compared to today, draw distances were frequently limited to 128m or less. Even with the significantly reduced graphics in viewers at the time, things were still considerably slower than they are today.
Everything felt more magical to me in those early days. I had almost no understanding of how everything worked, it was all mysterious and fascinating. Over time that changed, the more I learnt, the less magical it felt. However, that was replaced love for creating content.
MM – I liken the elemental force of fire with the emotion of desire, and ice with denial of love. What does Fire and Ice represent for you?
SD – Fire and Ice are two of the most potent forces of nature that exist. Seemingly opposites, yet intrinsically connected. They are bound together in a beautiful symphony, shaping each other, and the world around them.
The name came from myself and my partner originally. They are the names we gave to each other. When creating together, we work in entirely different ways. Each of us has very different skill sets. Yet we come together and complement each other.
I see this idea of coming together against the odds throughout virtual worlds. The very basis of love inside a virtual world is laughable to a lot of people. Yet despite this, those of us who have used them for a long time will have seen it happen multiple times.
There are more powerful platforms available than Opensim. In many ways, both Opensimulator and Second Life are old technology. Despite this, they have a very loyal user base. I think it is because of the way it allows people to come together collaboratively.
Like Fire and Ice, we all come together in a beautiful yet volatile symphony which sparks emotions. This is Fire and Ice.
MM – When did you open for business, what was your first store?
SD – My first business started in 2003, offering transport services to a real-world rural community. In virtual worlds, I made my first lindens working the clubs and largely forgotten casinos. By 2007 I had made enough to buy a plot of land. Starting with an area of just 2048m. I rented the ground out. At its peak in Second Life, there were three full. At around the same time, I began selling items which I had created through Covey Stores. Later I moved from Second Life into Opensim.
MM – Please share with us what is your aspirations for your grid? What do you hope to convey with your regions?
SD– I am a believer in social equality. I would like to create an environment where everyone feels welcome. Where everyone can feel at home, creating spaces which mean something to them. Many of us have used virtual worlds to escape something. It can be so much more than an escape. I guess this is what I would like to convey. Hope.
MM –When you planned your grid, what were the main considerations to consider?
SD – First and foremost, it had to be feasible. Both on a financial level and in terms of the time, I needed to invest in making it happen. Looking beyond that, considerations about my technical skills. I expected to be challenged and was, but my firm belief in multi-level backups saved everything.
MM –Please share with us, your experience do you code? Have skills with 3D modeling? What do you offer at your store Covey?
SD – I do code, I started writing LSL scripts around the same time I began Covey in 2007. My coding skills are something I would describe as a work in progress. I have just completed my first year of study doing a Meng (a degree with integrated masters) in Computer Science. Currently, the primary language I code in is C#.
I began modelling in 2010/2011 using Blender. I have created many items of clothing as well as static objects. Although many of them are now dated I have several tutorials on using Blender for Virtual Worlds. Those can be found on Youtube under my old second life name. Covey has gone through several transformations. I brought mesh feet to second life within three days of it being released to their primary grid. Currently, it has a limited selection of clothing and fantasy skins. Covey is now mostly about creating and modifying scripted tools to use in Opensim.
MM –What are the regions of Fire and Ice please explain your regions and what they offer.
SD – There are several regions operated by the grid itself.
The first everyone will see is the welcome region. This is at the very heart of the grid. This is a social gathering area with lots of spots for people to find and enjoy.
An interactive adventure game, walking through nose mythology. Solve puzzles, learn about the power of the Norse Gods while using some of the very latest opensim has to offer.
This is a medieval castle provided to enjoy as is or as part of a role-play.
Is a stunning winter wonderland best experienced around Christmas time.
Help Island – Firestorm:
A handy sim if you're very new to using firestorm or OpenSimulator.
Help Island – Singularity:
A handy sim if you're very new to using Singularity or OpenSimulator.
The LGBT Safehouse is a sim which was initially set up at the start of the Covid19 pandemic. It was provided, so the LGBT forum charity from the UK had a place for its members to meet. This sim is now available as a space for all members of the LGBT+ community to meet share together.
Sandboxes provide space for those without land to build and create. Our public sandbox is open to everyone.
MM –Do you offer land rentals? Please share what you offer.
SD – I do offer land rentals. As a grid, we provide full regions which come with a range of prim allowances. Unlike most other grids we do not charge extra for bigger sims. A standard 256m*256m sim costs the same as a 1024m*1024m var region, so long as the prim allowance is the same. Prices start at just £2 (GBP) per month for 2000 prims rising to £21 per month for 150'000 prims. Beyond this, we have residents who are offering both free and paid house rentals on smaller parcels.
MM –Do you have events on the calendar? What entertainment or classes do you offer residents?
SD – Currently, we do not have a calendar system for events. However, this is something we are hoping to add as residents start adding their own affairs.
Image submitted by Sara Diamond
MM –Do you have a team that helps run your grid?
SD – Leisha and I have made most of the grid's own regions as a team. The grid admin is all currently done by me. This is something which will need to change as the grid grows, and the time demands increase.
MM –What social networks can we find Fire and Ice grid listed, please share those links.
SD – There are several places we can be found, including our own website blog and wiki pages.
Google Hangouts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/fireandicegrid
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/511890436119320/?ref=pages_group_cta
MM –What policy do you offer the residents that is important to you?
SD – Backup, Backup and Backup. It is something I am a little paranoid about and something my residents benefit from. Everything is backed up daily and kept for a period. In addition to the primary server backups, individual regions have oar's taken every other day. We will not lose the places you work hard to create. All our backups are stored in multiple locations. Short of a continental scale disaster, we can recover your data.
MM –What do you envision for Fire and Ice grid in the future?
SD – There are a lot of long-term plans for the grid. These include load-balanced servers and web interfaces to allow users to administer their own regions and automatic deployment of new servers as they are required. These are all long-term goals, however.
MM –What is your technical experience?
SD – I have been working with the Linux operating system for several years. Before opening the Fire and Ice grid that was mostly using desktop computers rather than cloud-based servers. All our servers start as bare-bones, the operating system and respective tools are configured manually. Since starting the grid, I have written several Bash scripts to aid in the smooth running of the grid.
Everything is set up to be accessed remotely, meaning I do not have to be in the office to work on the grid. Additionally, our automated backup system has been proven to work.
I have also implemented a crash detection and recovery system. This means that in most cases if something goes wrong, the system will recover on its own without my intervention.
MM –If there was one thing you would want residents to know what would that be?
SD – I care, I am not the most experienced opensim operator. Neither am I the largest with the most features enabled. What I am is passionate and dedicated. I will always work hard to make sure you have the best service I can deliver. The Fire and Ice Grid stay be priced as low as possible. It is priced, to be affordable, for as many people as possible.
Thank you, Sara for taking the time to reflect and share with us about your grid Fire and Ice. I know I speak for others when I say, it is very refreshing to have experienced grid owners who care, thank you. We would love to see you flourish.
I am not sure what your first reaction was to seeing the works of Cherry Manga.
For me, seeing an artist push the norms, to go beyond the limits and push it a little to create the element of “strange” thought provoking art captivated me.
Cherry’s art reminds me of Nanomi Cowdroy who creates pen and ink art works that combine her Japanese and European heritage with a modern sensibility. Nanomi is an illustrator but she captures the same “strangeness” which stimulates all those damaged neurons in my brain. https://www.creativityfuse.com/2010/11/striking-ink-illustrations-by-nanami-cowdroy/
I find Cherry Manga’s work fascinating and wanted to ask her a few questions, to highlight her work. Art that lies in the deep recesses of your mind. And when viewed, it seems to all make perfect sense.
MM - Is opensim or virtual reality a source of inspiration, a place for expression, and if both, what are you seeing or feeling that makes you want to express yourself?
CM - Drawing, painting, sculpting clay, were hobbies I used to practice a lot before THE tool arrived in my life. With my first computer, an entire new world appeared, it became immediately the media I felt in love with, I started with the default programs such as Paint and movie maker to experiment new ways to create.
Then, in 2007, I logged in Second Life and wow.....immersion in art, build in 3D, it was a blast, I knew it was the beginning of a long story.
The most inspiring was to learn to use new tools, they gave me opportunities to express ideas I wouldn't be able to visualize without the technique itself, and then creating a little world where one can immerse was a totally new feeling to apprehend art. Opensim was a very important step, I met tech guys, they pushed me to learn further, we had incredible collaborations, it's a perfect place to grow, artistically and also humanely.
Being immersed in art provides strong feelings one can compare to meditation, when I use the oculus headset and I paint in TiltBrush, seeing the drawing reacting to the music I listen, it's like being in a place that only exists in the mind, a dream, a travel, that offers me joy and peace.
MM - How do you select what to share, and what not to share?
CM - If I could, I would just share everything, creations, but also knowledge, I don't, because of the lack of time, and also (and I hate it) to pay fees on SL for example, I have to sell some.
MM - What music do you listen to express your art when you create?
CM - It's wide...When not very focused on the sounds itself, I like to listen to webradios, such as
SomaFM's Fluid, or my own playlists...But some projects were driven by the music for example,
La Collection and Childhood were created with Cocorosie's albums, Strange Garden with Sainkho Namtchylak and Heilung... and of course the collaborations with musicians such as MorlitaM for different projects, Christine Webster for the Fest'Avis and most recently with JadeYu Fhang who made the musical background of State of Mind.
MM - When mesh arrived how did that enhance your creations? Do you prefer working with Mesh vs prims?
CM - Mesh was like any new tool, a joy to discover and explore. I don't make a big difference between prims and mesh, they are both a great way to create, they don't have the same specifications and of course, mesh is useful for organic, round lines, that are
sharper with prims. I'm just waiting for the « mind tool », you think of a shape, it appears !:)
MM - Do you create the clothing seen on the characters? I love the skirts you have created. My favorite is the Swan avatar. Please explain how you create the beautiful skirts.
The legs too, like the swan or bird avatar, how were those created?
CM - Before knowing how to make sculpt and mesh, I used a lot of full perm prefab to include in the creations, the skirt and the Swan's legs were made with this kind of sculpty, the bird was one of the first self-made mesh. Now I do all myself, using opensource resources, such as MB-Lab.
MM - Please tell us about the different events where we have seen your art, what has been your favorite exhibit?
CM - It's impossible to prioritize, each had its emotion, they all are part of a space-time.
Fest'Avi was the biggest adventure, several years of existence, an intense collaboration, it was the most challenging project.
Toxic Geisha, Fest'Avi 2015
AdA, Fest'Avi 2016
MM - When you visualize the idea, how then do you proceed to create the character?
CM - I think of the emotion I want to tell about, searching the good shapes, textures, effects, and I try to be as close as possible, being quite bad with Blender, I find my way avoiding heavy technique by hijacking the tools. Sometimes it's really fast to reach the goal, sometimes it takes many tries and uploads inworld:)
MM - What have been your favorite reactions to your art?
CM - The ones that don't flatter the ego, but push me to move on, and trust myself to continue.
MM - What has been your favorite character to create?
CM - Probably Line of Light avatar, I still wear it, the moving line has something hypnotizing, I use it very often in current works.
MM - Please describe a RL event that inspired you.
CM - Every event is part of the story, life is the inspiration in its whole, every joy, pain, everything.
MM - What themes do you pursue?
CM - Human kind, the human condition and Nature are the base of my work. It's mostly my own stories I am building, sometimes it's hard to find out for the viewer, hidden in surreal or abstract, but sometimes it's very obvious and raw. Creating is an outlet, an antidote to neurosis.
MM - If you could have any super power what would that be and why?
CM - Teleportation ! You all know why :)
MM - Please describe what you would love to see in the art world and why?
CM - The furthest from real constraints. We have the chance to experiment the 3rd dimension, I'd like to see more works freed from gravity, less 2D buildings, the more it's strange, better it is. Some creators are shy to show their depth, and they tend to show only their inner light, but it's the perfect place to push limitations and explore our own complexity.
MM - Favorite or most inspirational place?
CM - There are many, but if I have to choose, any installation by Claudia222 Jewell.
MM - Who is your favorite artist?
CM - I don't have one, the interest in one artist or another varies over time, the works resonate at the right time. The artistic current that never ceases to move me is surrealism .
Please visit the works of Cherry Manga located at Franco Grid https://opensimworld.com/hop/78650