Monday, September 1, 2014

Caledon Oxbridge University - Gateway to Second Life and the Steamlands

Hello again, faithful readers!  I've mentioned Caledon Oxbridge University many times in these pages, so today I thought I'd give you a little tour of the campus.  But first, some background information!

What is This Thing Called Steampunk?
Steampunk is the overall term for a genre of literature.  One could think of it as a sub-genre of science fiction, or possibly historical fantasy.  In the world of steampunk, we hark back to the 19th century and the reign of Queen Victoria.  Women wear long skirts and have "limbs," not legs.  Gentlemen dress in top hats, frock coats, and cravats.  But it's not just the 19th century, oh no.  Imagine the Victorian era in a parallel universe, one where Science...even Mad Science...reigns supreme.  Clockwork automatons, steam-powered airships, aetheric communicators...even Death Rays and reanimated creatures to put Dr. Frankenstein's monster to shame.

One of the very, very best examples of this literature can be found in the award-winning web comic, "Girl Genius" by Phil and Kaja Foglio.  Stop reading this right now and go bookmark it.  A new page appears three times a week (MWF.)  Follow the adventures of plucky Agatha Heterodyne as she makes her way through one thrilling, hair-raising adventure after another!

OK, I'm assuming you've come back here after being immersed for a couple of days in the Girl Genius back issues.  Back to Second Life...

Steampunk is very much a part of Second Life.  There are several estates that feature a steampunk theme.  Collectively, they're known as the Steamlands.  Perhaps the largest and best known of the Steamlands is Caledon, an estate (its citizens call it a mini-nation) of about 40 regions.  Caledon is the brainchild of Desmond Shang, the Guvnah of Caledon.  Guvnah Shang rules with a light touch, and his enthusiastic citizens have populated Caledon with a wealth of peculiar people and astonishing and beautiful places and things.  The citizens of Caledon may be thought of as engaging in a long-term form of "light role play."  That is, there are no rules that you must follow, but if you wish to create a steampunk character with an in-period appearance and a persona to match, you are more than welcome to.

Many people's first exposure to Caledon happens when they arrive at Caledon Oxbridge University.  COU's campus takes up one entire region.  It consists of six "colleges."  Each college is in a separate building, and contains a detailed, walk-through tutorial about one major aspect of Second to move, how to communicate, how to customize your appearance, and so on.  There is also a classroom where professors (including yours truly) hold forth on a number of Second Life subjects in more detail.  Come along with me as we take a stroll through the campus.  (As always, click a picture to see a larger version or to view them as a slide show.)
An Aerial View of COU.  Arrival Hall at Upper Left

Aetheric Transporter Arrival Point.  Start Reading, by the Numbers!

Some Helpful Signs

Class Schedule - Click to get a notecard version
Period Atmosphere
Beautiful Architecture, and the Bunneh, Mascot of Caledon
Across the Path from the Bunneh, the Lecture Hall
The College of Motion
Learn to Walk, Sit, Fly and Teleport
College of Camera Control

College of Communication - Chat, IM, Notecards
College of Finding - Inventory, Search
Learn by Doing:  Sit on a Poseball, Ring the Bell
College of Avatar Customisation

Free Steampunk Avatars!

Discreet Changing Rooms
College of Money and Commerce

All About $L

When you've finished all the tutorials, there's still more to see and do.  There's a couple of large notice boards with links to many other places in Caledon and the Steamlands.
There's the Hall of Caledon, which offers many amusing and informative exhibits and links to places in this fascinating mini-nation.
There is the Caledon Library, where you can click the signs and bookcases to get information on any number of subjects pertaining to the 19th Century and Steampunk.
Library of Caledon
 There's the Train Station, where you can pick up a bunch of free items...and yes, there IS a train that comes through.  You can hop aboard and take a leisurely tour through more of Caledon!
Baggage Claim Area (Freebies!)

If you don't like trains, there are many other ways to see Caledon.  There is the Caledon Air Transport service, an undersea tour, and a horse-drawn carriage ride, all within easy walking distance of the campus.  There is also the "Caledon Quest," a sort of scavenger hunt, that will take you to many of the notable places of Caledon while giving you a deep sense of accomplishment (or frustration, as the case may be.)

If you get lost or confused, or have questions about Second Life, Steampunk, or Caledon, there are almost always live helpers on campus.  You'll most likely find them on the circular benches across from the Lecture Hall.  Look for people wearing a group tag that says "Oxbridge Dean," "Oxbridge Professor," or "Oxbridge Tutor."

If you get bitten by the Steampunk bug and want to LIVE in Caledon, you can do so.  Open the profile of the Guvnah, Desmond Shang, and look in his Picks for available properties.  Or if you have specific desires, send him a notecard and he will get back to you when something meeting your needs becomes available.  There is a notecard drop box in the COU Lecture Hall, or you can drop a note right on his Profile picture.  Desmond is a very approachable person, don't let his title intimidate you!

There is a community group, Independent States of Caledon (ISC.)  If you are a resident, or even if you have a deep interest in the Steamlands or steampunk roleplay, ask Desmond or any prominent citizen for a group invitation.  The group chat is often hilarious, as well as informative, and it's always Well Mannered.

See you around the campus!
Caledon Oxbridge University

Friday, August 29, 2014

FLASH! Skill Gaming - LL Drops the Ball Again

Well, we were all holding our breaths as LL moved to implement the new Skill Gaming policy.  And, once again, it seems that LL has managed to stick their foot down their gullet.

A great many people have suddenly found that they can no longer access regions which have had the new Skill Gaming flag added to them.  This could be for a legitimate reason, or it could be due to LL's improper implementation.

Here are some legitimate reasons:
If you think you've satisfied all of the above requirements, and still can't get in, here are some things to try:
  • Find the region on the Map and teleport there directly, instead of using a landmark
  • Try teleporting to a nearby region and walking in
  • Try accessing SL using a different Internet Service Provider (ISP)
  • Try changing to a different DNS server, such as the Free Public Google DNS
  • Change your payment info...use a different credit card, or use your PayPal account instead of a credit card.
If nothing works, then file a Support Case with Linden Lab, and also visit the JIRA bug-reporting page and comment and/or vote for Bug 7097

For discussion on this issue, see this forum thread:

And, if you come to Second Life primarily for, skill gaming...then consider that you might have a gambling addiction.  Go here to get help:  Gamblers' Anonymous

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bargain Hunting

I've been doing more shopping than ever lately, but spending a lot less!  "How do you manage that, Lindal?" I hear you ask in astonishment.  Read on to discover my secret!  (Gosh, that sounds like one of those infomercials for getting rich in real estate with nothing down.)

It's actually FOUR secrets, anyway.

SECRET No. 1 -- Group Gifts and Discounts.
Lots of stores have a monthly group gift.  In addition, many of them put certain items on special for group members at 20, 30, even 50% off the regular price.  Plus, some stores have Lucky Chairs or Midnight Mania contests for their group members.  Most store groups are still free to join, but some of the more expensive, upscale places charge a fee to join their group, often as much as $L500.  The trick is to only join the groups for stores where you shop often.  This way you get maximum use out of your 42 group slots, and make up for any joining fees in savings!

SECRET No. 2 -- Weekly Specials.
There are several programs that sign up stores to participate.  Each participating store puts one (or sometimes two or three) things on sale for a very limited time.  Perhaps the oldest such program is "Sixty Linden Weekends."  Every weekend, subscribers get a two page list of stores that have specials for just $L60.  These things often carry a list price of several hundred $L, so the savings add up fast.
Other similar programs are My 60L Secret, 55L Thursdays, and Steals and Deals.  Many fine stores participate in more than one of these programs.

Sixty Linden Weekends

My 60L Secret

55L Thursdays

Steals and Deals

SECRET No. 3 -- Lucky Chairs and Midnight Mania Boards.
Lucky Chairs have a letter displayed over them.  It changes at random every few minutes.  When the letter matches the first letter of your user name, sit in the chair and you win a prize!  Some stores have long rows of Lucky'll see a cluster of avatars hanging around them, trying to be the first to sit in a Lucky Chair when their letter comes up.

Midnight Mania boards are fun.  You click the board to be added to the contestants.  When the number of contestants reaches the set limit, the contest is closed to further entries.  At midnight, everyone gets a copy of the board's prize.  If the number of entries doesn't reach the set limit, no one wins the prize, and the board is re-set for another round.  Midnight Manias can result in flash mobs, as one person calls up all her friends to come slap the board.

There are groups you can join that send notices about Lucky Chairs or Midnight Mania contests in group chat.  These can lead to tons of bargains, but may prove to be annoying as well.  They are very chatty groups, and sometimes you will not want to be distracted by news of new treasures!

SECRET No. 4 -- Hunts.
I've discussed hunts before.  See this older post to get started with this (very literal!) form of bargain hunting!  On the Hunt

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Soul Seize - Another Griefer Tool Alert

Dear me, it seems that these days I'm posting more and more often to alert you readers to yet another scam or pitfall in Second Life.

Today's subject is the "Soul Seize" HUD.  This is an item that a griefer can use to try to trick you into granting PERMANENT permission to animate your avatar.

It masquerades as a more or less standard "hugger" item.  It will send you the standard animation request, "(object name) owned by Lindal Kidd is requesting permission to animate your avatar.  Accept/Deny/Mute?"  What it does not tell you is that, unlike most such requests, if you grant it permission, it will ALWAYS have permission to animate you, with no way for you to take back that permission.

What this means is that whenever you are in the same region as the person wearing the HUD, they have the ability to impose an animation on you.

There is a JIRA bug report on the LSL code that permits this, but it's been a known bug since 2007 and still has not been fixed.  So, don't count on any help from LL any time soon.

There are several things you can do, although none of them is a perfect solution.
  • Leave.  Go to a different region.
  • Go into Appearance mode.  The stand animation has a higher priority than any animation the HUD is likely to impose on you.
  • If you know who the villain is, file an Abuse Report on them.
  • If you use the Firestorm viewer, try using the Avatar/Avatar Health/Revoke Permissions menu item.  This may only be a temporary fix, because the villain can delete the HUD and wear a fresh copy from his inventory.  The new copy will once again be able to animate you, until you revoke permissions again.
  • Try Muting the villain.  This may block the animation control.
The best thing is not to be caught in the first place.  Don't accept animation offers from people you don't know and trust!

This sort of annoying griefer tool should give LL some serious pause about their new "Experience Keys" feature that is now in open beta test.  Experience Keys would, in effect, provide this same capability to control your avatar repeatedly, after you give a one-time permission.  The idea is to improve the flow and the immersion in certain types of games and quests.  But I certainly hope that LL will build sufficient safeguards into the Experience Key functions to allow us to take back our permission!

No, I am not going to give you a link to where you can buy a Soul Seize for yourself.  But be aware that several purchasers have also had complaints about it...apparently, it isn't as all-powerful (or at least not as versatile) as the extravagant claims made for it by its creator.  That's what I call a thorough job...not only does it annoy its victims, but its users, too.  You Have Been Warned!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Offers from Linden Lab and a Problem with PayPal

Hello again, faithful readers!  Today's post is a quickie to talk about a couple of recent developments.

First, we have new offers from Linden Lab for existing and prospective Premium members.  For all Premium members, there's a new Premium Gift.  It's a Pirate Airship vehicle, with plenty of sit positions for captain and crew, and firing guns.  That's nice...but it's also very primmy, with a Land Impact value of 502.  Don't sail into any almost-full parcels, matey!

LL is also repeating their periodic offer of 50% off on a new quarterly Premium membership.  Note that this applies only to NEW Premium members.  You can't cancel your current membership, then sign up again and get the discount.  It only applies to the FIRST quarter.  After that, you pay the regular quarterly Premium fees.  What all this boils down to is that you actually get a better deal if you simply sign up for the annual plan at $72 per year.  But do be aware that LL never gives refunds.  If you decide you want to downgrade back to Basic, you will NOT get a refund of unused time on your membership!  You're locked into whatever period you select until the end of the billing cycle, whether that is monthly, quarterly, or annually.

The Official Blog Post:

Everything You Should Know About Premium Membership:

Last, we have a New Bug.  Some people who use PayPal as their payment method are finding themselves unable to log in, getting the message "Unable to Connect to a Simulator."  If this sounds like you, first go to your Account page and remove PayPal as your payment method.  Then log in.  After you've logged in successfully, you MAY be able to add PayPal back to your account.  Read more about this bug here:

Oh, and one last tidbit:  N-Core is retiring all their old sculpty shoes, and is offering them at 60% off for a limited time.  There's not a thing wrong with using sculpties for shoes instead of Mesh, so this is a great time to save some money on some of the cutest shoes in Second Life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Linden Lab Clarifies Terms of Service! Or Do They?

Almost a year ago, Linden Lab modified the Second Life Terms of Service.  In that change, they included wording that appeared to many creators to be a sweeping grab of intellectual property rights.

In the ensuing months, there was a great deal of discussion about this, including several open forums held by residents who were intellectual property lawyers in Real Life.  A number of popular creators removed their products from the grid, or even left SL in protest.

Now, finally, LL has modified the Terms of Service to, as a post in the SL blog today puts it, "more closely match our intent."  The blog post also states that LL has no plans to appropriate or re-sell content created by residents.

Although it's taken them the devil of a long time to do it, I have to give LL kudos for this action.  Read about it here:

And be sure to re-read the new Terms of Service here:

But, despite the soothing, upbeat words of the official LL blog, others are still taking LL to task, pointing out that the new wording does not substantially change the TOS.  And, from a legal standpoint, they're right to do so.  It's the TOS that constitutes the binding agreement between you and Linden Lab no matter what they may say on their blog or elsewhere.

Those of you with nasty, suspicious minds should have a look at this blog post:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"The Woman Tempted Me, and I Ate"

The title of today's post is, literally, the oldest excuse in the book.  The Book of Genesis, in fact.  That's what Adam said when God asked him why he'd done the one thing that he'd been commanded not to do.

But you know, as lame as his excuse sounds, poor Adam deserves some sympathy.  Men have always been susceptible to temptation from a woman.  They probably can't help's hard wired into the species, part of the male imperative to spread their genes as widely as possible.  Or, as some of my cruder-minded friends put it, "men think with their dicks."

Why, you may ask yourselves, is Lindal going on about this well-known phenomenon?  I'll tell you in a moment.  But first, let me call your attention to a situation that occurs all too often:  cheating.  Specifically, cheating on your partner -- having sex with Someone Else.  It happens in Real Life, and it happens even more often in the virtual world.

Why more often?  I think there are several factors.  For one, there are not the same sort of consequences as there are in Real Life.  There, cheating can lead to broken marriages, divorce, huge legal fees, alimony payments, loss of reputation, and on and on.  In the virtual world, outside of upsetting one person (your partner) and maybe some of her friends, there are very few consequences to cheating.  And if you are even a little careful, the chances of actually getting caught are slim.

The temptation is, arguably, greater as well.  Second Life is full of stunningly beautiful, exotically dressed avatars.  For anyone who immerses at all, it's almost a certainty that you're going to meet someone (besides your current partner) that you find alluring.  If they seem at all willing, it's terribly easy to let one's libido rule one's actions.

So:  A lot of people cheat in Second Life.  We all know it, we've seen it.  The next question we have to ask ourselves is, "does it matter?"  After all, as I just pointed out, there aren't many social or financial consquences.  We don't have to worry about the kids not having a father.  For gosh sakes, even the sex isn't REAL, it's just people talking over the internet and arousing each other.  What's the big hairy deal? 

Well, in fact it's "no big deal" for a lot of people.  "It's only a game" is an attitude I've encountered many, many times.  However, I don't agree.  Even though the physical, financial, and social costs of cheating don't apply in the virtual world, the emotional consequences do, or at least they do for many people.  The relationships we form in Second Life are real, the emotions are real, the time and effort we invest in them are real.  The hurt from a betrayal of trust is real.  If you partner with someone and agree to a monogamous relationship, your promises and your moral responsibility are real.

I say, cheating on your partner in a virtual world is wrong.  It's bad.  If you do it, shame on you.

Having said that, let's go back now to the subject of temptation.  Some people, it turns out, are so insecure in their relationships that they decide to "test" their partner's fidelity.  They get a friend to flirt with their partner, trying to seduce him (or her...but men are a lot easier to tempt in this way.  See paragraph 2, above.)  Or they will create an alt, and do the same thing themselves.  (Of course, IS it cheating if he cheats on you  Ow, my head is starting to hurt.)

All too often, the partner who is tempted in this fashion will, in fact, succumb.  Then his partner can feel justified in screaming at him, "YOU CHEATED ON ME, F*CKER!"  Well, of course he did, dear...after you trailed an irresistable bait in front of him.

In this case, while it was certainly wrong of him to give in to temptation, the greater sin lies with the, not the friend who actually seduced the poor shmuck, although she gets a share of the blame for participating in this little virtual badger game.  No, the person who is really at fault is the Wronged Woman, the insecure and jealous partner who set the whole scene up in the first place. 

To any immature, insecure folks out there who are thinking that they need to see if their partner is REALLY faithful, I have only one piece of advice: Don't.  You have to let go and trust.  You really do.  Sometimes, your trust will be misplaced and you'll be hurt.  That's a risk in any relationship.  But if you put your relationship to the test, you are far more likely to break it...even if it wasn't broken to begin with.  Or, to put it more simply, "If you can't stand the answer, don't ask the question."