What Is Object Path Hosting?
An object path is a collection of specific files, sorted into specific folders, and all placed on an Internet server. The ActiveWorlds VR browser will access these files using the HTTP protocol, so the files and folders must reside on a web server. Other files can go in these folders, and other folders can exist, but the extraneous files and folders will be ignored by the AW VR browser. Being on a web server, these files and folders are also accessible with any web browser, this may not be what you intend. These specific folders and their files are:
avatars This folder contains two file types, models which can be either any valid .rwx file, or any valid .cob file; and the avatars.dat file. Both models files and the avatars.dat file must be zipped. More can be learned about the avatars.dat file in the resources pages for world owners and world builders.
models This folder contains only models files which can be either any valid .rwx file, or any valid cob file. All models files must be zipped. ActiveWorld's help files also mention that trueSpace .scn files are supported as models (when zipped of course). I've never seen this done (yet).
seqs Here is where you put the gesture files (.seq files) used by the avatars. Gesture files must be zipped.
sounds Sound effects and music files go into this folder. Three basic types are supported; .mid, .mp3, and .wav files. The .mid and .wav format files must be zipped, while .mp3 must not be zipped.
textures Two basic file types go in here. Ordinary texture files (.jpg files), which do not get zipped. And texture mask files, which are .bmp files that must be zipped. Ordinary textures can also be used for the backdrop and for the picture building command. A mask may be 1-bit (on/off) or grayscale (levels of transparency). It is customary to name a texture and its mask as <name>.jpg and <name>m.bmp (which is then zipped before uploading). However, you may see use of the "!" in place of the "m". The animate building command depends on the "m" to function properly.
To use an object path you must first place it on a web site(1). Then you need to set the object path attribute for your world to point to where these five folders are located. In my world SkunkWks, my object path attribute is skunkwks.frobozz.ws/op3. The web site for SkunkWks is at http://skunkwks.frobozz.ws/ and I've put my object path in a folder called op3 (my original object path is in a folder called op). You can have more than one object path on a web site(1).
More object path details are available on the resources for world owners and world builders pages.
Some Helpful Definitions:
The term web site is a bit complex to define because there are two intertwingled, yet distinct meanings. Throughout this page I use "web site(1)" and "web site(2)" as defined below. When you see only "web site" then it takes either/both meanings.
Web site(1): The first is the Frobozz definition: A collection of files and folders on a web server and referred to by a fully qualified domain name (FQDN). For example www.frobozz.ws is a FQDN (it resolves to an IP address), which points to a web server, which has a collection of files and folders (these web pages you are viewing). It is possible to have multiple web sites(1) on a single web server, but being independent sites, each will have its own parameters such as; security, scripting controls, bandwidth throttling, default document names, performance tuning, etc.
Web site(2): The second is perhaps a more common meaning: A collection of HTML files (or files that generate HTML files, such as scripting files linked to a database) which contain elements (pictures, animations, sounds, etc.), are related to each other, interlinked, and all residing on a web site(1).
Typically, a web site(1) will contain files which are viewable in a web browser (both definitions (1) and (2) together). However, several of my customers have only object path files and folders on their web site(1), while others build an elaborate web site(2) in addition to having their object path on their web site(1).
A home page is a web browser friendly file (typically HTML) that is found at the root of a web site so that when a visitor enters only the site's FQDN as a URL into the browser, this page is displayed. For this to work, a default file name must be set for the web site(1). For example, if someone were to enter www.frobozz.ws into a web browser, the browser would rely on the web server to supply the file name (and then the file of course), in this case index.htm which is the home page for www.frobozz.ws.
To test the web site(1) I set up for you, I place a simple home page on the site. Some customers never touch it, some replace it with their own, and others just delete or rename it.
An Object path or OP is a collection of specific files, sorted into specific folders, and found on a web site(1). Access to the object path by the ActiveWorlds VR browser is controlled by setting the object path variable in Options/World/Features... If the web site(1) were at http://skunkwks.frobozz.ws/ and the object path folders were in a folder named op3, then the object path variable would be set to skunkwks.frobozz.ws/op3.
Object path hosting: To provide a web site(1) which contains an object path. However, a web site(1) with its object path is not enough. You also need FTP access to your web site(1) so you can manage the object path files, if you have one, your web site(2) files. The Frobozz Magic Hosting Company will provide the web site(1) and FTP access, you provide and manage the object path and optional web site(2).
What Is Involved?
After receiving your order for object path hosting, and getting some basic information from you, I will:
Step 1: Set up the necessary DNS records (or a new zone, if required) and test those records.
Step 2: Build the basic folder structure on my primary Internet server for your web site(1), including a root directory for your site and a directory for your web service log files. Within the root folder I will build an empty folder structure to house your object path (or paths) as requested. If you'll be starting with one of ActiveWorld's published OP collections, I'll place these files into the new folder structure. Published collections are: Alpha World, Colony Alpha, Mars, Megapath, and the Metropolis avatars.
Step 3: Set up the web site(1) and set the requested attributes on that site. Note, if you've chosen an option with multiple sites(1), then this step applies to all. Attributes currently include: Directory listing (on/off); and default-page file names (index.htm versus default.htm, or whatever you like). Note, Active Server Pages (.asp files) are supported.
Step 4: Place a simple home page on the new web site(1) and test basic site access with a web browser. If you don't care for my sense of humor or design style, you'll want to replace this test page.
Step 5: Setup the required FTP accounts, account home folders, and virtual folders (pointers) to; your new web site(1), web service log folder for the new site(1), and optional pointers giving access to only portions of your site (useful for limiting access of your helper's accounts). Test FTP access with all accounts.
Step 6: Provide help as needed to get you started and keep you going.
The Basic Information I Need To Get Started:
DNS option #1, a subdomain under frobozz.ws: The desired subdomain name of course. Some suggestions might be: The name of your world; a thematic name ("xtreme", "bugz", "artistic", etc.); your name (either real, online, or even just your initials); or just about anything that is not offensive. Remember, shorter and simpler is better. Also, if you wish to publish web pages on your site, this name will be part of your URL. Picture this: "http://bugz.frobozz.ws/" could be your web site's(2) identity, does it fit?
DNS option #2, your own domain name: Both your domain name and your desired subdomain for the web site (a very popular web site subdomain is "www"). For FTP service under your domain name I will setup a second subdomain of "ftp". Your user names will be of the form <username>@<yourdomainname> and not simply <username> as it would be if you have FTP accounts on the Frobozz FTP service. This is a limitation of the FTP protocol when putting more than one FTP site on a single server. An advantage of having your own FTP service is; no duplication of account names with the Frobozz FTP service.
Object path, folder options: Do you want one object path in your web site(1), or several? What do you want for the folder names? "op" is pretty popular for a single object path, but for several OPs, world names or thematic names work nicely. As does the simple "op1", "op2", etc. Note, depending on your FTP options, this may not be terribly important at setup (you can rename things). However, if you need FTP accounts for several people and you need to restrict access for some of them. Then I need to setup the major folders in advance so I can create the necessary pointers in the FTP service. This issue can be revisited later if things change.
Object path, content options: Do you want one of ActiveWorld's published object path file collections? If using only some of these files, many world owners just pick through them and upload only what they need. Still, if you want a whole collection I can copy them into your object path at setup time far quicker than you can FTP them later. Published collections are: Alpha World, Colony Alpha, Mars, Megapath, and the Metropolis avatars.
Web site(1) options: Defaults are: Directory listing off and index.htm, index.html, and index.asp for default web page names. Performance tuning is set appropriately for an object path.
FTP options: I need a list of user names and initial passwords. Passwords can be changed later (but most FTP client software makes this unnecessarily difficult). Also, do you need to restrict some accounts to only portions of your web site(1)? This only really makes sense if you have multiple OPs and/or a lot of sub-sites(2), perhaps for multiple worlds.
Finally, I need full contact data for the person(s) who will be taking responsibility for the web site's(1) content: A real name, online name, address and phone number where they can be reached in a reasonable amount of time (a PO Box or work address and work phone number is fine), and a stable e-mail address. Additionally, the responsible person(s) needs to read the Terms of Service document and agree to it. Also, if someone else is paying for the service (and anticipates continuing to pay for it as renewal comes up), then at least a name and stable e-mail address would be very useful. I consider the responsible person(s) my primary customer, my responsibility is to them, their wishes override the wishes of others.
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What Does Object Path Hosting Cost?
There is a one-time setup fee of $10 (US) for each web site(1) and the FTP accounts to access that web site when you choose a subdomain name under frobozz.ws.
If you have a domain name of your own (or will be getting one), the one-time setup fee becomes $15 (US), because of the necessity of adding a zone to DNS (both primary and secondary) and managing the new zone. With your own domain name you can do some fun and flexible things. Such as have more than one web site(1) under different subdomain names, such as op.yourdomain.com and www.yourdomain.com. You can also have several different domain names all point to the same web site (for example, to cover spelling variations). Or you can have a main domain name point directly to your web site(1), then have secondary domain names that go through a redirect web site(1). If you're interested in anything like this, contact me with your ideas and I can give you a quote.
The normal annual fee for object path hosting is based on resource usage. For a web site(1) used as an object path, CPU cycles are not bad, but RAM and disk use can be pretty heavy, and the bandwidth requirement can be very high. Bandwidth is my greatest expense. The more visitors which a world (or worlds) can have, and the richer an object path, the greater the bandwidth usage. Therefore, the annual fee for object path hosting depends on the total number of possible visitors to all the worlds using that object path and the total storage limit (the richness of the OP). This price matrix tells all...
Important: Because the annual object path hosting fee is dependent on the total number of visitors to all worlds using the object path(s) on your web site(1), I must insist there be no sharing of your OP with anyone who does not also have world hosting by The Frobozz Magic Hosting Company (this includes you). It is permissible for two or more world hosting customers to share a single web site(1) with one or more OPs.
When sharing an OP, Sometimes friction will arise, so consider carefully. There is also the issue of purchasing licensed objects then putting them on a shared OP. As it is possible to password protect only selected zip files (the unprotected files will open normally), I suggest you take this route with licensed objects. Each world owner can use a unique password, thus some of the objects in the OP be exclusive to their world(s). Please note that some object artists do not allow the use of their objects on a shared OP.
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Odds And Ends:
I was running a special service (that is a part of the server's operating system) to automatically mirror all the web site files between my primary and secondary Internet servers. Thus allowing me to easily set up the same web site on the backup server. This mirroring service is called FRS, which unfortunately turned out to mean "Flaky Replication (dis)Service". Until I find a more reliable solution, I've been running a big batch file (which creates its own issues). It is not a clean enough solution to claim full mirroring of web sites between servers. Step 3 should say "Set up the web site on both primary and secondary servers...". While steps 1 and 4 should say something about extra, temporary DNS test records and testing the new web site on both servers. I'll get this fixed as soon as practical.
Be sure to check out the resources for world owners and world builders.
|The Frobozz Magic Internet Companies , home.|
|The Frobozz Magic Hosting Company , hosting home.|
|Don't want just a world? Here are some other choices .|
|Do you want to do it? Learn to host your own world and object path .|
|Let Frobozz do it: The resources to do the job, get the details .|
|Let Frobozz do it: What to expect from world hosting and the cost.|
|Let Frobozz do it: I'm ready to order world hosting now.|
|Let Frobozz do it: What to expect from object path hosting and the cost.|
|Let Frobozz do it: I'm ready to order OP hosting now.|
|Let Frobozz do it: The Terms of Service agreement.|
|Let Frobozz do it: News and announcements in The New Zork Times .|
|For world owners and world builders: The resources you need.|
|The Frobozz Magic Objects Company , objects home.|
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This page last edited 01-Jun-04.
Copyright 2002 and 2003 by Scott D. Miller of Colorado, USA.