Solipsis – another online world

They’re getting to be like cockroaches: everywhere. Here’s another online world. From its own publicity:

“Solipsis is a pure peer-to-peer system for a massively shared virtual world. There are no central servers at all: it only relies on end-users’ machines.

Solipsis is a public virtual territory. The world is initially empty and only users will fill it by creating and running entities. No pre-existing cities, inhabitants nor scenario to respect…

Solipsis is open-source, so everybody can enhance the protocols and the algorithms. Moreover, the system architecture clearly separates the different tasks, so that peer-to-peer hackers as well as multimedia geeks can find a good place to have fun here!

Current versions of Solipsis give the opportunity to act as pionneers in a pre-cambrian world. You only have a 2D representation of the virtual world and some basic tools devoted to communications and interactions. But it just works, so, come on and enjoy !”

Some reflection on this is provided here:

“[...]I wonder if Linden’s mad rush to open up its servers over the coming quarters towards “multiple grids by 2009″ (see my previous post) is driven at all by the accompanying mad rush of developers in all corners to open source other options. I’ll make a call to the Virtual World’s Standards Consortium to check that all these worlds will be interoperable and that we’ll have access to portable avatars per IBM’s scheme, if I can only find the number.

Final notes:
– Oh, and if anyone can slice through the acronyms and tell me whether it will support interoperability with 3D modeling I’d love to know.
– Keep an eye on the Wikipedia entry for Solipsis. It sounds like it was written by the company’s PR folks. Now that Wayne has brought attention to this (yay attention!) expect the OpenSim and Linden folks to go over and make a few corrective adjustments to the entry. )

Lulu.com and bypassing the publishers

PDQ Submission
I first became aware of Lulu.com, the print-on-demand site, after visiting Sebastian Heath’s ‘Mediterranean Ceramics‘ blog. He writes:

“As I’ve mentioned before, Billur Tekkök and I are editing the digital publication Greek, Roman and Byzantine Pottery at Ilion (Troia). I’ll talk about our work as part of the AIA panel “Web-Based Research Tools for Mediterranean Archaeology“.

One point that I will stress is that we intend to deliver this information in whatever formats will be useful to users. Currently, this means the website, a PDF file released under a Creative Commons license, and as a bound volume available for purchase from Lulu.com. It’s pretty trivial to generate the PDF – which we produce so that users can take all our content into the field – and then upload it to Lulu, after which third parties can purchase a printed copy.”

Sebastian writes that the version for purchase from Lulu.com – the printed version – will ultimately only be an archived version of the constantly changing internet edition, and so he writes, “don’t buy this book”. I was struck immediately by how useful this approach is. There are things I’ve written for various conference proceedings that, anywhere from 3 to 6 years later, still have not come out. So over to Lulu.com I went.

This site is one of the print-on-demand variety. You upload your files (formatted according to their specs), and they keep it, with cover art and blurb, in their database. Should somebody purchase it, they print it and send it off. You the author set the price after the printing cost, and Lulu takes a 20% of that as a commission. You’re getting therefore 80% of the profit. Not a bad deal, really. A downloadable version can also be made available, at any price you set.

In the spirit of scientific inquiry, I set about to publish my own book. Now, for archaeologists, I can see many advantages to this system- specialist catalogues that wouldn’t otherwise find a publisher, site notebooks, conference proceedings, textbooks, collected writings… I opted to create an archive of this blog. After all, I have no idea *where* in the real world this blog lives. What happens if the server goes on the fritz? I’ve got somewhere around 140 posts, nearly 30 000 words of material. This thing has eaten many hours of my time. I want something to show for all of that effort, just in case… It seemed to me too a good idea to make the download free, because after all who would pay for what they can already get freely by going to this site?

It was all quite straightforward. I selected what turned out to be 98 pages of blog postings, organised them thematically, added a table-of-contents, and turned any links into footnotes with the full urls. Then I uploaded it to Lulu, selected some nice cover art, and voila. I’ve purchased one copy to keep on my shelf – an archive of this blog. I might never sell a single copy, but that’s ok. What is a nice benefit though is that people might find it without ever having come across this blog, and so widening my readership.

Anyway, if you’re interested, the book lives here.lulubook.jpg

Civilization Revolution

It seems that the Civilization franchise is coming to the console market. This can only be a good thing, since I believe that Civilization is one of the greatest gifts the games industry ever gave us historian-folk. Civilization: Revolution is not a straightforward port though of the PC version to the console. There are numerous differences, one of which is that it would seem that new content, scenarios etc will only be available for people with the Xbox Live service. On the plus side, presumably the interesting errors and glitches that exist in the player-created content won’t be there (in my mod, if you look carefully, the Roman Senate looks an awful lot like the modern United Nations building… :) ). Anyway, an in-depth review is available here.

What I find also quite exciting, is that a port is planned for the Nintendo DS (the dual-screen; you’ve seen them, they look like little PDAs). The Nintendo DS allows multiplayer play when players are sitting together, over a tiny wi-fi link. This port will allow head-to-head competition over that link. From an educational point of view, this is the most valuable part of any commercial game used educationally: the ability for players/students to discuss and think about the playing – the metagame. Hopefully, new content will become available periodically for the DS version too.

Official site: http://civilizationrevolution.com/