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.
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.