G.E.S. Who!’s Blog

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New projects…

So, I’ve been advising Jane Steranko on her science educational podcast and accompanying WordPress website. Visit her at The World Revealed™!

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Hello Virtual World!

What is this you ask? I am working on a project, in my spare time, to simulate in 3-D the former Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science building in Pittsburgh, PA and its artifacts from the time before it changed into The Buhl Science Center, then Carnegie Science Center, then The Carnegie Science Center Allegheny Square Annex, then an empty building and finally the addition to The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. I’m doing this with the help of my friend Sean. This was all inspired by our love for the building we worked in, and the activities we did at the Science Center. It was also inspired by Sean creating a “level” or “map” in the Doom II engine where you could run around the old Buhl building (with a gun and monsters to shoot at) from the time when the building was closed off to everyone but the City of Pittsburgh. At the time it was the only way to reminisce about the place and what was in it. Since it was created, the building has been reopened, but it is not the same and several areas are not open to the public and their current state is therefore unknown.

As Sean’s creation is only good for quick exploration and shooting monsters, but not education, and it is only good for 1 or 2 “players” at a time, without any real interaction (other than shooting monsters, if they are “turned on”), I decided that I wanted to find another way to “Simulate” Buhl, and possibly create a virtual Science Museum. I hit on the idea of creating it in the Simulator/Game called Second Life, but the cost of the virtual “land” was too much for me to support building a simulation of a real museum and hope that people might come an pay me to keep it open. So, at least to start, I needed to find another way. I then hit on the idea of the OpenSource “clone” of Second Life, running on my own machine. I introduced him to the world of Second Life and OpenSim and with Sean’s help we set up two servers, one in each of our own homes, to start the development of the 3-D model. Once it is done and can be made available to the public, we can then leave it on one of our servers at little cost, or move it onto a commercial server, or even into Second Life at some point in the future.

At the same time, this project is allowing me to fill a long time desire to keep my skills up to date and to learn and grow in my use of Unix based servers and services. So far I’ve successfully installed the OpenSim server, setup Apache to include PHP and MySQL to run WordPress and soon also iCalendar.

I would also like to point out that today is the 7oth Anniversary of the Opening of the Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science to the General Public all the way back in 1939. Won’t you come along for the ride?

Visit http://buhl.game-host.org/ if you are interested in seeing more as it progresses.

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