Managing an OpenSim installation with only the tools offered by the console is possible and for some tasks necessary, but especially when it comes to user administration it can be a bit tedious. So at some point or the other every prospecive OpenSim administrator will reach the point where he or she needs to look for a webgui to manage as much as possible. A commercial grid with sufficient funding might be able to pay for a custom development, but most will look for a standard tool that also integrates into a cms.
One of the first guis you will probably encounter is the gui built into Diva’s standalone distribution, Wifi. If all you need is a gui to handle user registration and user administration for you this is probably a good choice to begin with. For those thinking bigger from the start there is also a ROBUST version that ties into a grid configuration. You can create users or have them register themselves with basic approving mechanisms, and ket them choose between several prebuilt standard avatars. It will also let the see their inventory and reset a forgotten password. Enough for a small userbase. Changing the layout and design of the pages is not too difficult, but integration into a a larger cms is not what this gui is intended for.
But what if want more? Like integration into a cms, webbased grid administration, web based grid service administration? Do not worry, there is an app for that …. Actually there are several, and each has its strengths and its flaws. One of the first I looked at was the OpenSimulator Webinterface from Opensimforge OpenSimWi. I installed and quickly deinstalled again. The code is no longer maintained and several releases behind the current OpenSim release which would make a major code overhaul necessary just to get it working.
The next GUI that caught my interest was Xoopensim, created by a japanese developer for Xoopscube, it integrates several services, like groups, offline messaging, etc, as modules into the Xoopscube cms. I liked it until I found out hat it had problems with PHP5.3. And it is meant for a grid installation, making implentating it for a standalone somewhat clunky (but doable). So after tinkering with it for a while I moved on.
In one of the posts in the OpenSim-User mailinglist I read about D4Os, a Drupal-module. To be honest my experiences with Drupal have not been the best in the past, so I hesitated. In the end my curiousity won, and I installed Drupal and D4os. Even though the documentation is a bit inconsistent at times, I wsas done quickly. It is nicely integrated into the cms and its user administration. Once registered a user can create his avatar and can choose out of up to ten different avatars. New users can be automatically assigned to a group and placed at a predefined location in the virtual world. Except for the handling of offline messages D4os relies on the Flotsam group module and the external profile implementation. However profiles can also be edited using a web interface including home postion and partner. If used with an existing userbase users can use the web interface by just logging in using their grid credentials.
Another very interesting project is jopensim, a module for the popular cms Joomla. It has gotten a complete overhaul and srtives to integrate all services, including a (planned) currency system, making it a seamless integrated Gui. As with D4os installation and configuration was quick and easy. User registration is quick and easy. How ever new users can not choose a prebiilt avatar. Existing grid users can either be linked by the administrator through the web gui or by using inworld terminals.
Things all guis have in common are that they are all open source and free of charge. Some of jopensim’s future extensions, like the currency module, will have to be bought though. All authors, except for Opensimwi, which is no longer developed, provide quick, friendly and competent support.
In conclusion I find it hard to give any of the guis preference. Which gui you choose basically comes down to which cms you prefer to use. For the time being I will be using d4os because I am more comfortable with Drupal than Joomla. I will however follow the development of jopensim very closely, since I think it is on a very good way. Xopensim is also one to keep an eye on. once the author updates it to be compatible with PHP 5.3 it will become a strong contender. For those preferring a no-hassle ready to use solution and who do not need a cms Wfif should be the product of choice. Big kudos to all the authors for making the use of OpenSim easy to use and for their great work.
I am aware that there are more Guis out there than just the four I have written about here. If you woul like me to check out your implementation leave me message.