Monday, 9 April 2012

Teapot Viewer: Developer Working to build New Grid List

  I was please to learn Armin Weatherwax - an Imprudence/Kokua developer - has been working on the grid list. I was given a first look at the experimental grid list functions which Armin has added to his personal Teapot viewer which is based on Second Life 3.3 viewer code. The grid list in the viewer has been replaced with a list populated from the list maintained at Hypergrid Business. Armin said, "The list is converted from the list at hypergrid business. Initially I had the plan to make it more fancy by adding thumbnail pics of the login screens and some css magic. However that's rather not my domain of coding, and the plain list as it is now is a start."


I downloaded the viewer and on the footer is a familiar drop-menu of grids and also a "New Grids" button which I clicked and a small window opened with the full grid list and a note at the top stating 141 grids were found and a warning notice "Note: some of these grids, especially smaller ones, might be not online all day, or, at all." Anyway, I proceeded to click on the grid names from the popup window and the splash screens appeared in the main window displaying each active grid in turn as usual. Some failed with a popup saying address was wrong or the site could not be found. I found a few of those so Hypergrid Business list needs updating or some of the grids were off line. However, OSgrid failed too and I knew it was online so I guess the address on HB is out of date.

It was great to have so many grids to choose from without finding and entering every one myself. I still could add to the list for personal use anyway by entering an address on the footer drop-menu. I entered the correct address for OSgrid and it came up fine but this is just a start and entering addresses wont update the database so if HB list is going to be used in the future grid owners will have to make sure they get listed on that site by contacting Maria.


The list will get longer as more grids come on line and the owners add them to the database. Eventually, the list could get so long it becomes a chore to wade through trying to find a grid of interest. In fact, if the Metaverse keeps growing the list could get impossibly long! There is also the problem that grids are listed by their name which may or may not give any indication what kind of grid it is. Some are obvious like Universities or small clubs and games but commercial grids just use an interesting name as branding like InWorldz, Kitely and Avination. But what does the name say? This is where a Search option could be developed where users can enter keywords to get a shortened list of grids that fit their search words. For example; entering "roleplay" in a search box will filter out grids that don't have roleplay. I would suggest limiting the number of keywords anyway to a maximum of five that describes a particular grid. It would be up to the owners to state those five keywords. If Maria's list continues to be used then it will probably need further development. It does already carry active users stats so the search function could use those to place the most active grids to the top of the list in the menu.



However, Armin has said he would like to develop the login screen something like hgdirectory but a little less playful. Currently it's a static html page and to develop a search function he would need hosting with cgi. Well, that is something I would be willing to talk to him about since I already have a number of servers in use.

I have campaigned for a grid search function for several years so I am more than pleased there is some movement. I think here we have a good start thanks to Armin and I hope others will contribute to the development. I wrote about this issue recently here and I was pleased ZitZat of the Imp/Kokua team took up the matter and has got it on the work bench. Opensim and the open Metaverse needs it's own viewer or at least a greater focus on it's needs. Many are agreed on that and I am convinced the grid search will benefit users and grid owners alike.

Armin's Teapot viewer can be downloaded from here but please be aware that it is not listed by Linden Labs on their authorized TPV site although Armin says it complies with Linden Policy as far as he knows.

19 comments:

  1. maybe they can add sim-on-a-stick like the Zen viewer has? =)

    localhost but port 9100

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ener

      ATM Armin's viewer draws data from Hypergrid Business which make it dynamic now and no longer hard coded. Whatever is currently there will populate the Viewer grid list and it may be different every time you open it. Maria lists active grids so I don't know how SoaS can be added given how it is formatted. You will have to speak to her about that.

      An example of how dynamic it is was Maria updating OSgrid address which I noted was out of date. Now when I open the viewer OSgrid can be found easily and I didn't have to download a new version of the viewer to get it.

      That is progress!

      Gaga

      Delete
    2. Actually Ener. I think Armin would have to hard code SoaS into the static drop-menu to same as localhost is.

      Delete
  2. Gaga -- Thanks, I fixed the OSGrid listing. They changed their loginURI from osgrid.org:80 to login.osgrid.org.

    If anyone comes across any other corrections, please don't hesitate to email me at: maria@hypergridbusiness.com

    Or to suggest new grids that I don't have listed yet.

    Right now, I've got 279 grids to check each month, of which it looks like 154 may be active -- I'll be updating all the info within the next five days. I've been able to automate some, but not all of this work, and am occasionally able to offload it on an intern, but many grids hide their stats in weird and unusual places, using a variety of different languages, and for some I have to contact the grid owners individually to get the numbers.

    Nobody volunteers them -- they have too much other stuff to do, like everybody does.

    Besides changing their addresses, here are some other reasons some grids may not be accessible:

    * They're not up 24/7. (Most common for home-based grids or group grids where they're only loaded up, say, in the evenings or weekends.)

    * They're down for maintenance, upgrades, restarts, etc...

    * Their IP address has changed and they haven't redirected the DNS -- or they don't have a domain at all, and just use the IP address as the loginURI. (Often happens with home-based grids, where the broadband company regularly resets the IP addresses.)

    * They're only up when classes are in session.

    * The grid has changed its name or merged with another grid.

    * The grid has switched hosting providers and is in the process of being moved.

    * The grid has been temporarily suspended as the owner deals with other stuff.

    * The grid has shut down.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Maria

    It was very helpful that you already had your HB list of grid for the viewer to call on and Armin has made a great start with it. I think they way in which the viewer dynamically updates it's list every time you open the viewer is an important leap forward for the open Metaverse. I am really excited about this.

    Armin clearly has more work to do and I think he has the measure of what I have been calling for. Whether he will continue to use your HB list I can't say but the search function is definitely the next step in my book.

    Gaga

    P.S. Someone mentioned to me that search should also filter according to rating. ie, General, Moderate and Adult grids. And maybe it could be possible for Teacher/parental locking of a viewer to block Adult grids from appearing in the Grid List. I agree with that and it would give the viewer wider appeal I think.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Gaga --

    I just added five new grids to my database today. I have a feeling that the pace of growth is about to get a lot faster very quickly.

    That means that there's going to be a market for a NetNanny-type of viewer that checks lists for bad or adult grids.

    And for viewers that detect malicious activity and issue warnings -- although on the Web, it took over a decade for us to get that!

    I think there's a business opportunity here. And a post topic... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Maria

    I will open the viewer to see the new grids (I love this!) and, yes, I think grid owners will welcome the opportunity to get their grid into a viewer quickly without the need to get a viewer menu hard coded.

    I absolutely agree with the need for Nanny controls because I am sure the Adult sector will increase it's presence on the open Metaverse very soon now and we may well see some sexually explicit splash screens appearing. The viewer devs need to be ahead of them.

    I wonder too if it might not be possible for the Overte Foundation to keep a register of malicious grids that get reported to them so viewer can call on that data to block bad grids and help protect content IP. Just a thought.

    A think you are right that there is a business opportunity here *laughs* I am sure you have post topic in mind!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, I downloaded it and gave it a very short and fast run. There's a couple of initial problems. No method of adding a new grid by hand. SoaS now uses port 9100, so the usual localhost of 127.0.0.1:9000 doesn't work. I had to go to my harddrive and edit the grid list to add my at home stand-alone.

    There's no import/export of linkset XMLs. And there's no way of setting it to show build axis on root prim. Those two are very important to me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for all the feedback :)

    Just a few additions: "The list is converted from the list at hypergrid business" means: I used a script to convert the list from there to the html file the viewer loads from the web. Currently you can set the address in the debug setting GridSelectorURI. Probably that (and more) will get a tab in the preferences soon.

    Then I agree very much with the idea to have peer reviewed data, thats still the best way for filtering out unwanted content and other annoyances, and, more important, to find places you can really enjoy.

    About "No method of adding a new grid by hand", there are indeed several, of which editing the xml file is the one I'd rather not recommend. This screenshot shows probably the easiest way: http://imageshack.us/f/641/snapshot45u.png/ just paste the new loginuri into the grid selector, then click the reload symbol next to it. You also can pass it in the command line, or, depending on browser and operating system, you can use the address field of the browser prefixing it with "hop://" (see http://img213.imageshack.us/img213/3310/snapshot46.png ).

    :)
    Armin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As in type it in in the pulldown? Cool, didn't know that. I ended up copying the localhost :9000 section to the last entry and then edited it for SoaS's :9100, worked no problem. *grins* Whatever works and I've been jazzing on a build, so it wasn't all that much of hassle.

      Delete
  8. Armin,

    Lets collab on your list. This area is sort of a specialty of mine.
    It'll solve some queries above, and leave you to focus on more important viewer areas.
    breen.whitman at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Quick & dirty way to check if a grid is responding is to poke it via HTTP. This could be coded via PHP or any other method to poke the target system, if reponded to flag as active, if not responded flag as possibly down and try again next test cycle. 5 test cycles (days)is likely more than enough.

    http://gridurl.com:9000/simstatus returns OK if it's running, if down you get an error

    http://gridurl.com:9000/get_grid_info returns the Grid Info as seen in the viewer. If down, no response.

    OSGrid http://login.osgrid.org/get_grid_info returns the info but "simstatus" does not respond. likely blocked with tehy rerouting

    simstatus "may" not respond on grids but get_grid_info always does regardless if Grid or SA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I rely on the get_grid_info very much, thats one reason why I hesitate to work on an UI for the data stored in the xml file mentioned above, and rather don't recommend to hack that xml file: virtually any data there is filled in the data from get_grid_info (even the loginuri, if it is different from the one the user typed in). That has the downside that one can't add a grid that is down (apart from localhost), but then my assumption is that who *really* needs to do that very likely already has a text editor with the ini files of that grid open.
      The simstatus is so far not used by the viewer, but its obvious that it can help in that process.

      Delete
    2. Hi Armin, :)

      I was pretty sure you were aware of these two methods, especially get_grid_info ;) . My reply was more oriented towards Maria's issue with polling the grids to check their status for updating her Database. I haven't seen your web UI part yet but I am wondering if you should be thinking of having a "Favourite Grids" tag in the viewer side. As the list of grid's etc increases and becomes unwieldy, it may be prudent to provide a mechanism for flagging/tagging favourites. Also some way to quickly identify a new addition to the grid list, so when the client get's the list of grids they can see that "Wonder Grid" was (added 09.04.2012) (last active chk 11.04.2012). Just thinking out loud as it were.

      One thing did occur to me from the above discussion (again relate to the DB). One option that could be used to provide an "image" of the grid in the DB, would be to capture the "splash page" of the target grid and save it as either 256x256 or 512x512 (gif tightest format). Disadvantage is most Standalone's and such do not have splash pages or web services out of the box, unless they are using Diva Distro or SOAS.

      I do have a sort of general question because I see a caveat which will occur I am sure. The "Grid List" is for grid's such as OSG, 3RG, IW etc... the "HyperGrid List" is for HG grid's (as above IF they have HG) _and_ SOAS, Diva, & SA installations run and operated by anyone anywhere with any config ? (scary potentials for abuse there). SOAS is portable & not designed by default to be a "public access" install, Diva distro goes either public or not.

      The Question: If all sorts of people start adding their Standalones, Diva & SOAS installs and all manner of variations in between , how will the end user, getting the info with the viewer / web interface know what the target system is that they intend to go to (thinking of security & data exposure of clients on possibly malicious systems) ? And just how large and cumbersome would this grid list become ?

      Delete
    3. Yeah, thats one of the considerations I also had, in the next version of Teapot you'll also see the loginuri in the "old" grid selector, so that you know where you are connecting to. However unless malicious systems choose to have loginuris like "nasty.fraud.com" peer review would help to minimize their chance.

      Delete
  10. Oddball question/idea, Armin, WhiteStar ... how interactive can the splash page be? Say, a grid of thumbnails of grid-splashpages that you can click on to choose to login, too. Probably need left-right scroll buttons to have second and third pages. And maybe a way of enlarging or shrinking the thumbnails so people can have them as easy to see as they like.

    Btw, how about the import/export of XMLs and being able to have Build axis shown on root prim? Those two would win me over before the grid manager would.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The splash pages can be HTML or PHP or combo of them, my own is PHP and reads in txt files to populate some data and has hotlinks.

    I'm not sure how far the viewer will let you go with splash page as it does have several limits but you should be able to experiment and find out. You could temporarily edit "your" grid settings for the viewer and change the path for the Welcome / Splash page to another site that has a variety of controls on the page to see how well it would / could work.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Me? *chuckles* I only just now figured out how to get my two computers to play nice together. I can now use my viewer on one system and run my sim on the other.

    Being able to do that and connect to the Internet too is another thing *laughs* And mess with the splash page? *falls out of chair laughing*

    But, since you guys are talking about the next version of Teapot ... :-D

    ReplyDelete