OPEN_Studio is a java applet that connects through the Internet to a server running on a host computer. This connection is what allows the OPEN_Studio applet in your browser to talk to the other applets currently connected, so drawings can be shared by several people who may be in different countries.
Sometimes, due to high traffic, load on the server, or a technical problem, the applet may not be able to connect to the server. A common cause is that your PC is connecting to the Internet through a firewall, often the case if you're connecting from work. You will see the message 'Disconnected' on the applet. You will still be able to draw, but will not be able to see current drawing activity. You may, however, be able to see the various saved drawings that form the OPEN_Studio archive. See Connections for more details on problems with connecting.
Once you are connected the recent history of activity at OPEN_Studio can be viewed using the "play" button. These drawings are stored on the server, and redraw on your applet. Once the history is done you are seeing the present state of OPEN_Studio (there are no guarantees that you see exactly what others who are connected are seeing). You can stop the history by clicking the Stop button. The play button will return automatically when the history completely drawn. The history is a finite length, and so it changes as people continue to draw.
Use the drawing tools, color picker, and size control to create a wide variety of graphical marks and textures. Anything you draw on the applet surface is automatically added to OPEN_Studio.
OPEN_Studio relies on a connection with a central server to function correctly. There are several conditions that may cause the connection to fail.
Firewalls - Firewalls are used for network security. They prevent certain types of communication between computers and networks. They are often used in corporate environments to apply conservative standars of what may be done across the boundary between the institution and the Internet. A PC that connects to the Internet through a firewall may view the OPEN_Studio website, but the firewall will prevent the applet from communicating with the server. In this case you will see 'Not connected' on the applet. You will be able to draw, and will see the history of activity, but will not see anybody else drawing and they will not see you drawing.
Maximum Users - For practical reasons there is a limit to the number of people that can use OPEN_Studio at one time. Currently the limit is 9. This is primarily a bandwidth restriction. The server can't support unlimited connection at this time. This limit keeps the system performing at a reliable level. If you see the message 'Over user max' there are already 9 people connected. Try again in a few minutes.
Dropped connection - Sometimes due to unpredictable conditions (high traffic, line problems, etc) your connection to the server may 'drop'. You will see a message 'Try Reload' on the applet. Click the 'reload' button on your browser window or View-->Reload in the browser menu. (Internet Explorer uses the term "Refresh" for this.) This will reload the current web page, restarting the applet. This should re-connect you to the server.
Server is down - This message indicates either a firewall problem, or that the OPEN_Studio server is not operational. The latter should be rare, and usually will correct itself shortly. Try reloading the applet web page. If that does not connect you to the server, visit OPEN_Studio again in 15 minutes, at which time the server should be running again.
# Users - The number of people currently connected to OPEN_Studio. This includes you.
If you see any of the following messages it means the connection to the OPEN_Studio server may not be functioning. You can still draw in your applet window, but you drawing will not be seen by others connected to OPEN_Studio.
Reconnecting - The applet temporarily lost the connection with the server, and is in the process of re-establishing a connection.
Connecting - The applet is creating a connection to the central server.
Try Reload - The connection with the central server has been lost. Click the 'reload' button on your browser to restart the applet.
Disconnected - The applet was unable to connect to the server. This may be due to a firewall.
Over user max - There are too many people connected to OPEN_Studio right now. Try again in a few minutes. Server down - The Jam server is not operating. Try again in fifteen minutes.
OPEN_Studio was designed to perform well in as many different browser versions as possible. There are so many combinations of browser brands, versions, and computer hardware that it is impossible to test them all. OPEN_Studio runs best in Netscape 3.X and 4.X, or Internet Explorer 4.0, 5.0 on a PC.
Many older Mac browsers (and operating systems) have problems running java applets and so may not execute OPEN_Studio properly. Even newer Mac browsers tend to have inferior Java support. Netscape has notoriously erratic support in its Macintosh versions, and Internet Explorer 3.0, 4.5, and 5.0 also have known bugs when executing Java applets.
If you experience problems running OPEN_Studio please report your difficulties, being sure to mention the version of browser and operating system you are using.
Most of the interface is self explanatory, but for the sake of clarity here are some notes.