I recall having arrived around 2015 in the first true opensim grid I called home, that Canadian grid. I had been in Virtual Highway before that but it was a closed grid. Same with Avination, they ran opensim software but the grids were closed.
At the time the mentors of the grid were helpful in showing where to find great content, Lani mall, Selea Core and Linda Kellie’s creations were the suggestions.
Lani mall was one of the first malls with free content from various creators all located in one convenient location. Another mall comes to mind which is Wright’s Plaza, both in Osgrid. I remember venturing to Lani mall one day spotting items created by Vbinnia Radek. Free and full permissions. Many were scripted and took time to create. Thank you, Vbinnia.
I began collecting and cherishing Vbinnia products, looking forward to anything new she offered. What attracted me to her products was not only the coolness factor but also it was her giving spirit. The desire to help opensim flourish by offering her creations free helped so many. The same spirit as Linda Kellie and Selea Core.
When Vbinnia came in the early days of opensim, creating was a much bigger challenge because of the lack of resources. Now there must be over a hundred websites online that offer free content, it wasn’t like that then. We had to create all that we needed.
In my opinion, these are the true opensim creators. Creators who came and made beautiful items with very limited resources. That is the magic of opensim. Magic that cannot ever be lost, or it will be another Second Life with the creators who have vanished.
Creators and creations are key, it takes a creator to bring life to opensim with their creations. Simply copying and taking items would not be possible if there were not a creator who first created the item. We lost this concept somewhere along the way. Some felt this content was outdated and they desired the flash of SL, I have been accused of that and told to go back to SL.
I didn’t come to opensim wanting to bring flash, I offered my Diamond Burst set that I had created for a Christmas party at the Canadian grid, and the women asked me then to open a store there. For me it is about the creating that is why now I offer free.
Vbinnia, like Linda Kellie were the first opensim creators to defy Linden Lab TOS by bringing creations to opensim. People who did that then were frowned upon by Second Life, but we considered them heroines. They didn’t copybot, they were bringing their own creations or full perm items they purchased. That is the difference.
MM - I think I began collecting your items around 2015 in opensim. When did you arrive?
VR - I arrived in Opensim around 2011 after starting in Second life in 2008 when it was still a bit like a lawless frontier, and I have to say, a much more interesting and lively place to be until it dissolved into a soup of nothingness after all the crass decisions by Linden labs, and very vocal minority shouty loudly groups that held themselves to be morally superior than thou, with "everyone is a thief or child molester" attitude.
I noticed they even tried the same trick in Opensim but it appeared to die the death it deserved after a short time. Most people that survive and stay in Opensim seem to have more sense. Spotting the SL exiles is quite easy, the ones that think it's just another SL, and treat it as such, don't tend to last too long :)
MM - You create many wonderful items to make our opensim life better. I recently found a great steampunk submarine; do you create both the mesh and scripts to make it run?
VR - I only create the mesh or prim builds if they are from my earlier days.
Sadly, I can only tinker with scripts, I lack the knowledge and experience to create them. I really need someone to work with who can write scripts from scratch for tasks and know to configure them, particularly vehicle scripts as they are black hole in Opensim. It's become clear over the years that less than a hand full of people know how they actually work or are prepare to get their hand dirty with them; I mean down at the physics engine level, not what settings to alter to produce a particular effect, I can do that to a limited extent myself with an awful lot (and I mean LOT) of time consuming trial and error. There are no easily accessible guides and lot of SL Wiki information is only marginally useful as they use a different physics engine. On top of that I fall when it comes to weaving in all the other things that vehicles need from sails to cockpits to engine effects to suspension to doors the list goes on. I have other things to get on with that I DO know how to do! I don't want to spend countless hours getting headache when I could be improving what I can do already, so lot of my projects stall at this point and end up as just inanimate objects. It's all frustrating and depressing at the same time.
MM - I notice you have rigged many characters and give freely, thank you. You recently helped me understand rigging, please tell me where did you learn?
VR - That's not straightforward. For anyone that doesn't know I Use Blender for mesh modelling, rigging and animation. I never started out thinking I could do anything animation related, I just wanted to pull a few vertices about and do a few simple things that are not possible with prims. I was also motivated to learn Blender as an act of self-preservation. Blender skills are transferable if I ever decide to move to another virtual world or gaming system. SL is just SL and way behind anything recent, and Opensim follows the same pattern. Too many things are set in stone.
Anyone that has ever opened Blender for the first time knows that jaw clenching wave of fear that sweeps over you followed by a quick shut down and look for something else to do the job. However there 'IS' nothing that can do the job as well as Blender; at no cost other than the time invested in learning to use it. Once I had decided the only way was to get stuck in with an open mind, forget conventional ways of doing things and take lots of baby steps, its preconceived complexity turned out to be thing a beauty. It's a tool these days I can't do without.
The animation came much later. I wanted to just create a better sit pose initially. The way most people go is with Avastar in conjunction with Blender, so I did too. Only problem was, like a lot of things it does too much. When all I want to do is something simple, often the developer’s way of doing things does not coincide with my idea of simplicity and ease of use. The various settings to control the rig are scattered all over the interface, which I found odd and troubling, as there are remarkable similarities between that and Blenders built-in rig which works perfectly and is easy to configure. To cut a long story short, after a lot of digging and research and again ignoring the preconceived ideas and conventions of how things are supposed to work in Opensim, and SL for that matter, I came to some conclusions.
1) I had to forget virtual worlds and look at making animations in Blender and learn how game avatars are created and rigged. Relieved of the burden of struggling with Opensim, suddenly things became a lot easier, to the extent that I managed to make a rigged and skinned character after half a day from one tutorial, which I will give a link to later, and created my first animated walk the next day in about the same time.
2) The only difference now was, what makes that different to things we use in Opensim? That was a yet another rabbit hole full of worms. Any respect I had for SL had now sunk to submerged. Opensim's avatar system is a clone of SL's, so there the faults lie. It uses multiple skeletons (I'm simplifying for brevity) to do different tasks, each seems to have been borrowed from different animation systems, which makes it a Gordian knot of what is REALLY needed and what is not. It also restricts what can ultimately be done with it.
3) Conclusion: the man difference is just the bone naming convention and what formats the viewer up-loader will accept. So, any skeleton can be used, only one is needed, if the end result has the required minimum number of bones (delete unwanted ones), and the naming is correct. The way the bones relate to each other is governed by the BVH format, it has nothing to do with Avastar or Opensim. it's one of the original open animation standards it's just a simple XML file. you can open it in any text editor.
Avastar has a script to do this but it doesn't work with non-SL skeleton naming and it can't convert it. It's easier but a bit of chore initially to just do it manually. It's also much easier to make a skeleton from scratch to fit any avatar you happen to want rigging; it takes about 10 to 15 minutes once you get the hang of it.
The only problem now was how to get this through the viewer into Opensim. Turns out it's just the orientation of the skeleton on upload. Uploaded the animation, as is, as a BVH file and it will end in some weird distorted pose. All it takes is to lay the avatar flat on its back in Blender and set that as the default orientation. Select everything and CTRL-A then [set rotation and scale] usually cures that problem.
All the rest was just watching any tutorial on animation, low poly mesh characters, rigging, particularly related to gaming. I also examined a lot of game ripped characters to find out how they worked and were put together, this is the fun part and the best learning experience, seeing how things should be done at an industry standard level and what is possible.
I can't cover everything that's needed, there is not enough space, and I understand it's not for everyone, Avastar is a viable option but I struggled with it (became increasingly annoyed may be better description), what I have described is how I personally got to my present state of knowledge, which is still far from what I would like it to be.
MM - What has been your most challenging character to rig?
VR - Chuckles! None of them really. How to do it was the most challenging thing to learn. I found early on that making my own skeletons and rigging them was simple, they could be fitted into any avatar mesh, then weight the mesh to it. For the most part weighting (a more descriptive phrase often used is skinning) is automated in Blender. Only hard part is usually with a bad mesh and the arms set at a downward angle, I forget which software produces this layout? Then parts of the arms closest to the torso tend to get weighted together like webbed toes :) This can be time consuming to sort out. The root cause is usually the mesh ripped or ported from other software so it's not as tidy as it should be to start with.
My ultimate aim is creating the avatar mesh as well, then half these problems will not exist. Right now, that's a step above my pay grade (Joking! I do this for fun)
MM - Can you please share with us links of tutorials you find helpful?
VR - That could be a long list but here's a few that I think are relevant to Opensim, although somewhat obliquely.
Blender for mesh modelling and animation and whole lot more, will run on almost anything.
Note: The Left v Right mouse button select debate still rages on. I still use right button select but you can choose from the boot up screen or set it to which ever you prefer in preferences.
Don't watch anything that aims at high poly count photorealistic results, it's totally irrelevant to Opensim and a will be bit of a blind alley. That doesn't mean ignore high quality results.
Find you way around Blender:
Blender Support Tutorials
Bit fast to follow but lot of useful stuff
Once you can model something you need to get it into Opensim, Tutorials on this are hard to find and don't cover pitfalls peculiar to Opensim, or how to handle textures. I really need to make one to cover it all, but as usual time is precious, so I can only do so when I have it.
It’s export Blender mesh models as .dae (set user preferences to Opensim static). Viewer import with all defaults except physics which should be set to lowest, unless you have a good reason not to, and set 'include textures' if bitmapped images are used. If your model seems to collapse when you move a short distance away set the importer LOD Medium-Level to 'Use Level Above' and try again.
How I learned the basics of rigs and animation.
Can't stress enough how good this whole tutorial is! even has a downloadable figure to use with the rig you create. Never forgotten the joy of seeing my little figure walk around for the first time.
MM - You explained rigging to me and all the bone names and such, when bento arrived did these bones change?
VR - No, bone names are still the same it just has extra bones. Not had a chance to use them for anything yet. Would have been more useful to have control over mesh deformation, if they could have included it, we could have blinked. I 'am' interested in the fingers and mouth. As they have the potential for adding more expression
MM - Is Osgrid your home grid? Please share with us links to your grid, where we can come see your work. What locations would we be likely to find it?
VR - Yes, Osgrid is my grid of choice for many reasons. Mainly the ethics of it fit my own.
or if you are logged into Osgrid already, just type 'steam' in the map search.
I actually run my region from my own server on a dedicated PC at home in the UK; that soon to insignificant rock (except to the delusional idiots in the madhouse running it) stuck off the coast of Europe. Sorry! rant over.
MM - You are a great lover of Steampunk like I am. All the cool gears, goggles and clothing is the reason why I love it so much. What do you love most about steampunk?
VR - I think it's a part fusion of a love of science fiction, I was reading and watching it growing up in the UK in the 50's before it was even called science fiction. I was born just after the war in 46, during the period when Britain still thought it had an Empire and surrounded with remnants of the industrial revolution. Hell! we still used steam trains and burned coal for everything, killing large swaths of population in the process. So, I suppose it all merged together. Also, I can't help but look at old photographs taken during late 1800's or turn of the century and think people had a sort of style that is a lot more pleasing on the eye than modern fashion, albeit very uncomfortable for women. It's also good for tongue-in-cheek looks at old ideas of Empire. If you want a really good laugh, try reading, The God Emperor of Didcot by Toby Frost,
Each book in the series got even funnier, I still need to catch up on a few more.
Blender has a super default plug-in (just needs actuating in preferences) for making gear wheels. Every Steampunk item as a gear wheel... somewhere! So, no excuses now.
MM - The events we have such as Opensim Fest by Leighton Marjoram enrich our opensim community. When you create for these events can you please explain what goes into the planning of your displays?
VR - Blind panic! Grab random items and throw them into a heap together. LOL
Some I am wary about showing especially my rigged avatars, as I can't vouch for the provenance of the original mesh figures. They are obtained through legitimate sites but some are obviously from well-known games, they may be legitimate mods or copies, or an impression of an original, I have no way of knowing. I originally grabbed them to practice on and learn from and have no intention of selling them. But I know for certain that some of my work has found its way into SL. Now who is stealing? I feel like sticking a finger up.
So inevitably I end up on the horns of a dilemma. When I first came to Opensim, decent interesting (particularly male) avatars were thin on the ground, arguably they still are. Which was another reason I started down this road. Female bodies predominate and even though mesh is pretty good these days, originality is not, with far too many looking like clones of each other. In a world where we can be anything, why does everyone want to have the same body shape and impossible model like features? I've always wanted a female demon body like the ones I saw back in SL and the beautiful Mermaids, all made with before mesh was available. so why don't we see those about in Opensim? One day, when I can model well... One day...
With my own builds I can show anything, but tend to build very slowly, every step is accompanied by much learning and rebuilding in Blender just to get it better. End result is I never have a lot to show and a lot of half stalled projects with the script problems as I mentioned before. So, I just show what I can
MM - Who do you credit as your guide and mentor in opensim?
VR - I never had one, Though I have come across people that I admire. Shin Ingen is one. without Shin's work with flight and bike scripts in Opensim and the fact that he made them available, I could never have got half the things I have to fly or work. It's taken a long time to work out How he did things but I learned a lot, not all I would like to, but better than nothing.
Perhaps the biggest influence of all was not from Opensim but back in SL. Arcadia Asylum and all the other aliases, was one of the very few truly original creators in SL. Liden labs should have paid her to create stuff she was so good. I've taken her builds apart from the early prim days through all the various sculpted prim stuff and I can't believe she wasn't somehow based in the graphics industry. I still can't work out how some of the sculpted
prim models were made or in what? But through it all was a sense of fun and jokes with some very efficient texturing techniques and originality. To top it all she gave everything away for free. That alone enabled me to start building up my own stuff in SL, something I never forgot; that's why I try to do the same in my own small way in Opensim.
Patrol Class Airship
Another was Carrah Rossini and all her gorgeous Steampunk flying machines. I bought the Steampunk Flying Submarine and used it as a skybox home, then went on to acquire a Dream Liner a Cloud Hugger and a Nessie; I notice they are still on sale today.
When I left SL, I was aggrieved that several of things I purchased over the years when I was there the TOS would not allow me to take with me, in fact anything at all! Imagine buying a shiny new TV but getting to the door and the salesman steps in your path to say sorry you can only watch it in the store. Fisticuffs or swift smack with furled brass handled parasol would follow.
But where there is a will there is a way, after a struggle I managed to get at least the shells of some of them out before a loophole was closed, in the hope that one day I may be able able to use them as patterns to recreate something like them.
MM - If there was one thing you could change about the dynamics of opensim, what would that be?
VR - Tough one that. Unfortunately, Opensim is too closely tied to SL in the way it functions. I understand the reasons, but unfortunately that will ultimately cause its slow decline. The Viewer and the server are interdependent, and most if not, all viewer development is aimed at and for SL, anything else said about this are platitudes. So, we have chicken and egg situation. No one will develop a new viewer just for Opensim because they may as well make it for SL, and if they can be bothered, disable a few features to make it work with Opensim.
Opensim can't change the server dramatically or it will break all the content the viewer supports, and the viewers are developed for SL. so a pointless exercise.
The reality is, to make Opensim truly stand on its own feet, some parts of the server need ripping out and starting again with a viewer to match, both need huge amounts of money to achieve and with it most content would break overnight. That's the price of progress. I fear most users are not willing to make that sacrifice.
I had a similar situation with Blender when it changed from 2.7 series to 2.8, they literally gutted the code and started from a clean base the result is an industry standard viewer with support from some big hitters these days; remarkable for an open source project! It took a year to even get some basic functionality back again with a large team of paid developers. The game engine went for good unfortunately.
Now you know why I keep a weather eye open for any platform that will be similar to Opensim in what it allows but is up to date. If I ever find it, I will probably move.
MM - When you create your scripted models do they work consistently for all grids or do the Opensim version matter?
VR - No, it would be nice if they did. I can only guarantee they will work with the bullet physics engine. if you run your own server it's just a case of enabling the option. Unless things have changed it was the default.
If you rent a region it entirely up to the grid owner what they run. it could be ods, ubode, or bullet or outdated versions of any of them. I don't have the time or energy to make things work with everything. I struggle enough as it is.
MM - When grids update their Opensim version do you have to update all your scripts for those grids or do they continue to work ok? How do you keep items current?
VR - Any server updates do not affect existing scripts only how the server interprets them if there are any changes to physics engine, which is rare. Some scripts may stop, but with Bullet I have never had that happen.. Yet?
MM - What is your favorite physics engine? Bullet or Ubit Open Dynamic Engine?
VR - Personally Bullet, because it's actively maintained and independent of Opensim. ODS is no longer maintained, Ubode as far as I know is just ODE made to work properly and a lot of SL compatibility issues sorted out. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.
MM - What is the best advice you can give for anyone venturing to Opensim for the very first time?
VR - Just don't expect it to be like SL, and be prepared to put up with a few annoyances. Try to understand what Opensim is about and why some grids are closed and why some are open.
Get to know how to use Hyper-grid to jump between grids; it's a feature Unique to Opensim.
Get used to looking online for Opensim (meaning all the grids out there) related stuff, nothing is centralized here. Try kitely Market if you need to buy stuff,
Also try MeWe groups if you want to follow social event notices or just chat to folks.
good one to start with
MeWe Virtual Group
If you need anything, look for yourself before asking anyone and everyone, folks are usually very helpful and knowledgeable but might not react well to persistent questions that can be looked up on the grid website or googled for.
As you can see Vbinnia is quite gifted and an asset to opensim, a treasure. Thank you, Vbinnia Radek.
Fred Beckhusen is the President of his company Micro Technology Services, his expertise is in computer design, programming and video systems architecture.
He also supports Open Source and game development in the world of Second Life as the avatar Ferd Frederix with http://www.free-lsl-scripts.com He loves to play with and write about free and cheap tools for making 3-D objects too.
Specialties: microcomputers, software, electronics, electronic management
We are very fortunate to have Fred join the opensim community over ten years ago with his wife Debbie. Together they share a special magic that graces the projects they give to us.
Fred has created and explored extensively while here in the opensim, sharing all the knowledge and content he can through his Outworldz website.
https://www.outworldz.com/ he also has a MeWe community https://mewe.com/group/5bc12bdc322b35103f0965d3 where new DreamGrid (https://outworldz.com/Outworldz_installer/) owners chat at the social site about any technical issues they might have. You will find many of us shooting the breeze on any given day cutting it up and having a good time. Fred encourages chat and communication which creates a healthy community.
He has also contributed to the Ruth and Roth mesh avatar GitHub repository https://github.com/ingen-lab/Ruth, a legally created avatar for the opensim community.
I recently visited his Outworldz grid to really absorb the genius which is Mr. Beckhusen.
Upon arriving you are greeted by whimsical cows that chase you around and bump into you as if asking you for attention.
First thing Fred explained, “I use a lot of materials and normal maps. I hope you have Advanced Lighting model on.
Fred asked if I would like to see his latest project Silent Refueling.
He explained a bit, “Yes, upstairs they are refueling the ship for the last run. It’s in orbit around Saturn. There’s been an accident so its delayed launching the pods to space. The Valley ogre is the host ship. Bruce goes crazy when Earth orders the last remaining plants and animals to be blown up. This is a week or so before that.”
Fred was scurrying about explaining as I tried to pick my jaw up from the floor, completely awestricken by the details in this project. When he would ask did you see this or that, I literally could not speak, there are layers upon layers of many well thought out details. Please allow yourself plenty of time when you explore Fred’s worlds there is so much to absorb.
We then proceeded to Rapunzel’s beautiful little world Tangled Up With Rapunzel. Based on the movie by Disney’s “Tangled”. Fred explained, “The making of Tangled is a good show. Did you see the sequel? There is a short film on Tangled featuring the horse and the lizard. It’s over the top hilarious.”
Here is an intro to Fred’s Tangled Up With Rapunzel, Video
Fred lovingly created all the details seen using Blender. His realistic renderings are what sets his world apart, the use of his textures and materials. See if you can find her crown, hidden about. When you do, please notice the sparkle and shine he has achieved.
A while back I had asked him what he used for creating realistic textures because I was hoping to achieve more realistic metals for my jewelry. Fred explained that he utilizes Substance Painter for creating his brilliant textures.
Substance Painter has a cool physical paint brush that magically applies the material to your model, I love this program too. Even still, metals inworld cannot ever be as realistic as in the real world. We don’t have the same lighting.
Fred explained that we utilize (PBR) and gold is actually black. Physically based rendering (PBR) is an approach in computer graphics that seeks to render graphics in a way that more accurately models the flow of light in the real world.
Even still he manages to create beautiful gold pendulum on Rapunzel’s clock .
Keep venturing on until you find the Nic exhibit if you want your mind totally blown.
I followed the magic effect- riding the NPC horse. Here you will discover a Nicolas Cage inspired project of his image plastered on every item in the room.
If you adore Nic like I do, this room will inspire. It has been described as “Hypnotic, disturbing, glorious", by SLHamlet seen here
Surprisingly, the castle from Tangled wasn't yanked from a game or what have you, but emerged full borne from the head of Fred: "Stared at Disney screen caps, played every Tangled game, watched the movie about ten times. Its scratch built except some chairs and small stuff."
Venturing on I had to visit Fred and Debbie's Gorillas in the Mist installation, you can visit Virunga Mountains, Karsimbi home of the main troupe of mountain gorillas, and herds of wild beast.
Dian Fossey first discovered in the 1970's. Today the Virungas are threatened by war, oil drilling and encroachment by charcoal gatherers and water seekers. Eco-tourism is a blessing and a curse, as eco-tourism drives the economy of both Uganda and Rwanda yet also brings outsiders and pressure to commercialize these very few precious creatures.
Zebras, elephants and other creatures all built using scripts from the Free Script Library at Outworldz. These animals use just two scripts from the library: The All-In-One NPC recorder and the Rider script.
Virunga has many more things to see and do, and there are more herds of wild animals.
Here you will even see Dian Fosseys Home and The Lodge. A plane ride that takes you to their model of the real Virunga Lodge, near the Roz Carr house and her beautiful gardens at Mungongo, Roz Carr's Flower Plantation - next to the plains with the herds of wild zebras. You can go directly to the destination airport, too, at Virunga Airport - take a car to the Virunga Lodge and enjoy the view.
And to your right, across the lake, is Ruhengeri- an African town near the mountain gorillas.
Quite simply, they have given us their “Dream”, it is all here for us to explore, how cool is that to be inside Ferd’s head. These are just a few of his attractions at Outworldz grid. You too must take the time and venture out and explore this phenomenal grid.
I think the community would love to learn the magic behind this incredible man, I wanted to ask our Ferd Frederix a few questions:
Thank you, Fred for taking the time to reflect and share with us your remarkable journey through the metaverse from the early days of Second Life (SL) until now.
MM-Each day I am impressed by the troubleshooting and resolutions I see at the MeWe social site, your immense knowledge astounds me. What was your major and where did you acquire so much technical knowledge?
FF-I got this great job at Mostek when I was just 19, still in electrical engineering school, where we made the first 4k Bit dynamic RAM chips, the HP-35 calculator family, and later, every Fairchild, Motorola, Intel, Zilog and Olivetti microprocessor. It was like a toy shop. I was a group leader with a team that troubleshot hundreds of extremely complex chip-testing machines and PDP-11's. I was able to build microcomputer systems as a hobby before the chips were available commercially, such as an F-8 microcomputer system that played a decent chess game in 1K of RAM. My favorite was a Z80 with a paper tape version of the earliest Star Trek game. I wrote the 16 K Basic interpreter for a test machine at work, and used Star Trek to debug it.
I transferred into the microprocessor design group where we made high performance VME and STD bus systems. The engineer that hired me back then is still working for me on high-end digital thermal and night vision cameras for military and space use. I started a Unix computer company in the early 80's doing hardware designs, and ported three versions of Unix to it. For the last 35 years I've been designing systems and circuits and software in a lot of different computer languages at my company, Micro Technology Services, Inc. (www.mitsi.com). I think of Mitsi as a toy shop, too, and it is a great place to work.
The great thing about my job is I get to work on high-cool-factor things with some very smart people. We were the first company to make a Tempest-rated Trusted Computer for MS-DOS and then Windows. My work on high performance disk controllers led to a design win for SCSI adapters for the first 486 computers. I know Solidworks, a 3D design package, so I get to "play 3D" at work, even though I am slightly cross-eyed and have no depth perception. A lot of our work is protecting people with duress buttons and mass notification systems. We have over a half million 'Don't Panic" buttons in major corporations, hospitals, the VA system, and school systems all across the USA. One of the more unusual things are the first SMT boards for the Space Station. I also led the team on a Saudi Prince’s graduation present - a gold-plated 737 jet with $800-a-yard silk carpet and a real mess of microprocessors. Worked on the CPU for the Casablanca ceiling fans, the first microwaves and IV pumps, a burglar alarm design for Ford, the MarcStar radio receiver and transmitter for T.I. used in tens of millions of cars and keyrings. Their lawyers insisted that we never use their legal name, but agreed that T.I. was not their legal name, so I could mention it. So, I do, often!
At the moment, I am building replacement backup generator controllers for a nuclear power plant. Also am designing mechanical stuff for a new Strobe light controller for school alert systems.
MM-Please reflect we are fascinated to know more. What brought you to Second Life, then on to Opensim?
FF- In 2006, my sons went off to college together and suggested I would like SL and they could use it to chat with me. They did, one time. And they never call. I met Debbie online a year later. We both became SL Mentors and spent several years in the Help Islands teaching people how to enter by clicking the stupid "Exit" sign. And how to dig shoes out of their butts, and lots of other things. They had 15,000 people joining a day back then, and we got to teleport in and out of the Help Islands to help them. We worked together for several years on a very powerful and easy to use (and free) translator. Together we gave away about 140,000 of them. We eventually got them placed in all the Orientation Islands and all the Help Islands. And convinced Blondin Linden to finally fix the stupid sign. Eventually we convinced Philip to pay to add it to the viewer.
I love Opensim even more, because we are both constantly learning new things every day. DreamGrid is another way where we can help many others. I still learn something new every time I log in or help someone set up a grid.
MM-With the DreamGrid software app you have given persons the opportunity to create their very own grid. You have helped countless persons such as myself set up for the first time. Thank you. Where did you get the idea, it is brilliant.
FF- I was using Sim-on-a-Stick back in 2011 to 2012 to scratch-build a David statue without upload fees. I just found the oar again (Condensation Club) last week. This is the finished statue in 2012. It was done in AC3D.
The Mowes package that SOAS uses had links to a web site which had been hacked, and so it was dangerously virus prone. The first DreamWorld was a replacement for Mowes to make it safer, and it also Autoplayed everything from a read-only DVD. It came with a pre-setup viewer with the Linda Kellie "Western Town" OAR and my Dream horse ready to run on it. It took a year to code, and the horse about 18 months to make, all done while SL had mesh in Beta. Amazingly, Opensim had mesh in a few days.
A donation to a Horse Rescue charity would get you a DVD. I later open-sourced it. Then I figured out how to make a DreamGrid run out of a single folder. It has 2,843 commits now, so it has changed a lot in the few 3 years.
MM-Many of us have seen your hilarious Grid Outworldz, it is so wonderful and whimsical, tell me about those silly cows please, how were those created? The sheep too please share with us about the neat animated animals you create and what the process is.
FF- Debbie and I were out shopping. I lost Debbie in all the shoe aisles, and realized the place had scripts and rez enabled. I put a follower script in a ridable cow and found her in no time at all. I should have patented that idea. It was also funny. The next Christmas we had a sled with 8 merry rein cows. It scattered cows all over the sim. I learned many ways to hide cows so they would jump out at her from unexpected places. A herd would swim out to her when she took a boat ride. Mooing in our castle she traced down to a cow on the roof. One was set carefully as a physical prim, up in the top of a tree that I knew she was going to move, so it rained cows. She became expert at dressing mooFerd up for various holidays. The original had a gas pedal that would increase thrust as a way to push themselves past obstacles. But I failed to code a way to let off the gas. We had upwards of 500 people a day visit us back then and someone would always ride off on a cow. It would usually come trudging back. People would always push it and ride it as far as it would go. MooFerd would come running at high speed after bashing its way through a fireplace or some other obstacle. So, I left that code bit out, as it was hilarious. It was definitively a feature and not a bug.
MM-I have always been curious to know more about your regions. How many do you have, what themes and please share a bit about them.
FF – 135 open source OARS are available now. I have about 25 more or so of our own creations that I gradually give away. A half dozen I paid-for redistribution rights, and so you get them for free.
Our favorite creation is an African simulation in Dian Fossey's time named "Virunga". Debbie always loved Africa. It was our first major multi-year project. Debbie and I worked together on everything, and we both animated the animals. We both love how simple scripts can make them seem alive. I also love Alexandria Egypt which was a massive project for ridable animals. A lot of creativity comes from thinking of what year a sim is actually in. Alexandria is made for the day Cleopatra died, 30 BC, on August 12th. The same day Marc Antony, her guard who failed to stop her, and her handmaidens all died. Sadly, that is the day that democracy died, too. Egypt, the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, and all of Africa was enslaved as the personal property of Caesar Augustus. Over the next 4 years, he had 25,000 elephants shipped to Rome to be killed in the arena.
As another example, it was hard to figure out what to do with Cinderella's shoe. Was it on the floor of her bedroom? Or with the guards and Prince discovering it? What year was it? We finally decided that the Cinderella sim is on the anniversary of their wedding. From that one idea we knew what to do. The King and Queen are dancing in the ballroom with the mice and Fairy Godmother, who had made them into horses to pull the carriage and are now back again as mice. There is line of citizens waiting to see the famous slipper on display, and some of the guards are dancing in the kitchen to the music from the ballroom. From that and the extra room we changed to the French Disney World version, where their dragons in the caves below. It was a very nice solution to how to bring attention to a shoe.
The carriage is really nice with 11 different NPC's in it. The Fairy Godmother makes it from the pumpkin. It's free to copy too. Just search for Cinderella and take a copy of the pumpkin or the carriage that appears.
MM- Many of us have read the beautiful love story of you and Debbie, it is simply magic. A fairy tale of love that intertwines virtual and the real world, this is quite rare.
I have seen the mesh items she creates too. Does she help with creating your mesh animals? Please share, we would love to know more about her.
FF- We remote desktop to share screens and talk almost every day. We have literally hundreds of projects in a shared dropbox we work on together. Most of what we have done was originally inspired by her. She often asks if I can make something that is impossible, which can't be done, not in our engine, well, maybe it can, if this happens, and maybe.... hmmm. Such as the first ridable NPC animal, a tiger. I was able to make one for just her avatar in Second Life. Eventually, after a lot of work, a rideable tiger worked in Opensim. So, Virunga finally came alive with ridable elephants and other animals.
We both know Blender, and she has taught me quite a few things, like how to make bed coverings for the drapes for Cleopatra's bed.
MM-Many of us utilize your Outworldz website for various items needed as we build our regions. We can find everything here from .oar files to sculpt maps. How do you keep so organized and focused on so many details, does Debbie help with the website too?
FF- No, I am the data hoarder. I use lot of languages, for web sites, it’s “Modern Perl". This means looking at data modeling first, and separating the look from the code. I use a No-SQL system named DBIX::Class to Microsoft SQL and Mysql databases. It runs web crawlers, the Dynamic DNS systems, and lots more. Adding a new OAR is as simple as saving an OAR, with a JPG photo and a text file to describe it. A sculpt would be a PNG, and the system knows to build a 3d rotated GIF automatically using Java. The entire system fits on the back of my LCD in a 4" square NUC PC.
MM- What impresses me the most is that you came onto the scene quietly and created your magic. Never calling attention to yourself or your projects, yet your membership is growing and loyal. I have seen others come along bringing attention to their projects and goals many times these people fail, I think it is because they forget the caring part that you express in everything you do. Please tell me how do you manage to address so many technical issues and attentions to details being just one man?
FF- Lists. Lots of lists. I renamed my Alexa to "Computer" so I can yell To-Do's at her at work and from every room at home. And so she can argue with Data when Star Trek Voyager is on. She likes that. She was in earshot during "While You Were Sleeping" just last week. At one key point, Sandra Bullock says "Peter has one testicle". Alexa heard "Computer add one testicle", so I have that on my list now. I told this to Debbie, and now I have two testicles to get.
MM- How many DreamGrid owners are there now?
FF- 6,156 unique grid names have been booted up and used, though it's overly precise to say so. It is difficult to say anything accurately as almost everything changes, such as IP addresses. So, these numbers can only be compared to older numbers, over time.
Known DreamGrid installs = 6156
Known other Grids = 696
Total = 6852
MM-What are your current and future goals with DreamGrid.
FF- I have a long list of things I would like to do. The most interesting long-term item is to make it run regions on teleport demand, which takes up only as much RAM as you have people in
different sims. It works somewhat now, but only for me. Opensim is like an operating system by itself, with over a million lines of code in it.
MM- What world do you find yourself in most Second life or Opensim?
FF- Opensim, by a lot. I only go to SL to figure out how my birds flew so well there. They don't work as well in Opensim, and I want to fix that.
MM- You have a love for creating .oar files to share freely. I have the Hobbiton Collection which I adore. Please tell us how your .oars are brought to life after realizing the vision? Do you have a set team of persons that help you create them?
FF- Debbie, Joe Builder of Lost World and I collaborate on many things. I purchased redistribution rights to the original Hobbiton as it was very pretty. Then threw out the houses due to copyright issues and made entirely new ones in Blender. We collect sets of pictures for all to see to get the right layouts. I also had access to an employee’s awesome and complete collection of Hobbit books and DVD's. Joe spent weeks tweaking the waterfalls and adjusting hobbit houses. The road is a good example of a simple but invisible change. It was rebuilt in mesh with part of it phantom and part solid with high physics. This lets you ride the horse or the wagon smoothly, and Gandalf can ride his pony cart down it without banging into the rocks that line the paths. Hobbiton was also ideal for a Satyr Farm, so Debbie looked everywhere for open source models for the NPC farmers. David Monday of the GCG grid updated and contributed to the farm. Debbie spent at least a hundred hours, maybe more, making adjustments to the farm. She grew the peaches and made the ingredients for each pie that is sitting on the table.
The next major project is almost done. It is based on a 1974 movie, "Silent Running". What day is it? Just before the movie was filmed on board the Valley Forge, a real aircraft carrier.
MM - With so much questionable content in opensim on every single grid, what are your thoughts as far as what happens now that it is all here? Do you ever see Linden Lab taking action about the content leaving Second Life illegally?
FF - I highly recommend that all grid owners, even those overseas, sign up at the U.S. DMCA office and pay the $6.00 annual fee to file a Registered Agent. This is a necessary first step for legal protection against stolen content. You also need a public DMCA policy as shown in the sample TOS in DreamGrid. This will protect your grid from any content uploaded by others, provided that you follow the simple rules. It does not let you steal anything. It only works for innocent grid operators to protect them from others.
MM- What is your own dream for Opensim? What would you like to see evolve for the software and then also the community?
FF- I love the community spirit of Opensimulator within the DreamGrid owners. I would love to see that grow. I think it’s because you finally have control of your virtual life. People gather together at Mewe to talk through their difficulties, to share a morning coffee and make jokes. And they love to chat about it, as Sunbeam Magic did, and now you. Thank you for doing that here!
Join Mewe at:
Fred, it has been quite the honor that you would accept the interview and share with us a little bit about you. I know many share in my sentiment when I say, thank you Fred we adore you.
Mari entered OpenSim in 2015 as a resident of a grid in Canada, called to manage their magazine as an Editor, thereby meeting her future partner Reyn Softly.