Research - Firewalls

Access to virtual worlds from within firewalled networks that also require proxy authentication can be a long and difficult process.

Firstly an accurate up-to-date list of the required TCPs & UDPs with Ports are needed from each virtual world service (eg Second Life and Reaction Grid)
Because these can change over time a process needs to be put in place to maintain up-to-date lists. (eg subscribe to updates from each service)

Secondly these TCPs & UDPs with Ports must be opened if blocked. This may need to be done by both the ISP and local network managers.

These processes can take months to negotiate and are facilitated by:
  • good relationships with local ICT staff and external virtual world service providers
  • buy-in from local ICT staff, administrators and curriculum/learning managers
  • well documented business and education cases (including risk management)
Alternative access may be useful for demonstration or pilot projects with small numbers of users. This can be organised by using 3G wireless access through mobile phones or pre-paid wireless broadband USB devices where coverage is available. In addition a travel router may provide small wireless networks for a few laptops.
Access to in-world voice chat may be difficult to arrange. Some educational institutions have solved this issue and this is currently being investigated. Voice chat alternatives such as Skype may be considered if voice is required. Some virtual worlds have 'comms-badges' to facilitate the use of Skype with avatars.

Recommendations for possible Guidelines/Standards

  1. Allow several months to resolve access issues at an institution.
  2. Consider alternative network access or local installs of OpenSim (including OpenSim on a USB memory stick).
  3. Develop some national guidelines for ICT staff concerning firewall security and access to learning technologies.