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Friday, May 6, 2016

Grid Down! Residents Scratch Heads

It's Friday night, time for my weekly Land Basics class.  But, when I sat down to log in, I got the message you usually get when you mis-type your password, "The system was unable to log you in.  Check your caps lock, blah blah blah."

Repeated entries of my password didn't work.  I tried my alt, and got the same message.  Thinking maybe I'd had my password stolen, I went to the SL website.  But I was able to log in there, although I kept getting very slow loading of the pages, and several failures to load.

Maybe it's my PC, or my internet connection?  So I rebooted everything.  I could get to other internet sites, and after a while, the Second Life website started working normally again too.

Checked the Grid Status Blog.  No mention of any problems or outages.  Tried logging in again.  This time, instead of a failed login message, it said "We are performing unscheduled maintenance."

Now, normally when this sort of thing happens, at least SOME of the grid stays on line.  If you try to log in to a part that's off line, you get shunted to a random Infohub and land in a big people pile.  But not this time.

I went back to the website and checked the Answers forum, and checked the Second Life Twitter feed.  Sure enough, there was a steady stream of people in both places, complaining bitterly.

So...SOMEthing bad happened.  But at this time, we don't know what, or how long it will take to fix.  This has got to be the worst outage I've ever experienced in nine years of Second Life.  At least these days, outages are pretty rare.  I remember when they used to be an almost daily occurrence.

I'll update this entry when I know more.  Current time is Friday, May 6, 1720 PDT.

UPDATE:  They got it fixed pretty quickly, but (as usual) there's not much information about the cause.  Here's the Status Blog entry:

[Posted 4:54 PM PDT, 06 May 2016]  We are performing unscheduled maintenance. While the maintenance is in progress, some residents may experience login issues and residents in-world may be logged off or experience degraded performance. Second Life websites also may not be accessible. Please check back here for updates.

[Resolved 5:43 PM PDT, 06 May 2016] Our unscheduled maintenance is now complete.

Um...thanks, guys.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Flash! Check Your Security

In a recent blog post, Linden Lab advises everyone to check both their web browser(s) and their Second Life viewer(s) to make sure they are using the latest security protocol, TLS 1.2.  Not only are older protocols less secure, but as of next month (June 15) you will no longer be able to use those web browsers and viewers to make Second Life $L transactions.

Here's the link to the blog post, which includes clear instructions on how to test your browsers and viewers:  https://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Update-Your-Web-Browser-to-Ensure-Secure-Payments/ba-p/3027363

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Quick! Get Rid of QuickTime!

Hello, faithful readers!

Today's post is short, but it deals with a serious issue.

Second Life has always recommended installing Apple QuickTime on your computer.  It's required to view videos in the .mov format.

However, Apple has announced that they are no longer supporting QuickTime for Windows (they're continuing support for QT on the Mac...of course.)  Even worse, two vulnerabilities have recently been uncovered in the Windows version that could allow a hacker to get access to your computer.  No less an entity than U.S. Homeland Security is recommending that if you have QuickTime for Windows on your computer that you uninstall it at once.

You can get more information on this here:  http://blog.trendmicro.com/urgent-call-action-uninstall-quicktime-windows-today/

As if that wasn't bad enough, when I was doing some research for this post, I ran across an article written in 2011 that reported on a QuickTime exploit aimed specifically at Second Life residents.  Attackers using this exploit could steal $L from anyone entering their land.  Here is the link to that article: http://www.zdnet.com/article/quicktime-hack-allows-second-life-currency-theft/  (Note:  I do not know if either Apple or Linden Lab patched the software subsequent to this report.)

"But...will Second Life work without QuickTime?"  I'm glad you asked.  I wondered about this myself, since I have always had QT installed.  I uninstalled it, and went to see for myself.

Everything appeared to work normally...with the single exception of video media players.  This is highly annoying, but not a deal-breaker for me, because I very seldom watch TV in Second Life.  If I wanna watch TV, I'll do that in Real Life!  The MOST annoying part is that the new LEVAHome TVs that I had JUST bought last month from VEA Media for my tenants no longer work AT ALL...and the VEA Media showroom has vanished.  I guess they pulled up stakes and walked off into the sunset when they realized their product wasn't going to work any more for most people.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

LL Offers Lower Tier!

For years, people have complained about the high cost of land in Second Life.  And it is expensive, at least compared to most other things you can buy in SL.  However, for various economic reasons, it seemed unlikely that LL would ever cut tier fees significantly.

The highest fees are paid by the owners of private estate regions...$295 USD per month for a full performance region.  But it used to be less.  Way back in time, estate owners paid the same monthly price as the owners of mainland regions, $195 USD per month.  These regions became very valuable when estate land fees went up to the $295/mo. level, because the rate was "grandfathered".

But that only helped the original owner.  If they sold a grandfathered region, the new owner would have to pay the current $295/mo. fees.

A few months ago, that changed.  For an additional up-front purchase fee of $600, an existing grandfathered region could be sold to a new owner and retain its lower $195 per month tier level.  See: http://acrossthegridwithlindal.blogspot.com/2015/11/flash-major-savings-and-minor-update.html

Now, for a limited time, LL is offering to sell NEW private regions at the $195 per month tier level.  A similar savings is offered for Homestead regions.  To lock in the lower tier, you must pay an additional $600 one time "buy down" fee up front.  This is a GREAT deal for anyone who plans to hold their land for more than 6 months, which is the break-even point.

Only time will tell, but this could help reverse the slow, steady decline in the number of private estate regions on the grid.  I'm cautiously optimistic!

For the official word on this remarkable offer, see: https://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Want-Lower-Tier-Now-You-Can-Get-Grandfathered-Land-Rates/ba-p/3019148

Monday, April 11, 2016

"What are the key aspects you think of when making your avatar?"

The title of today's post is an exact quote of a question asked by Ht241 Resident in the Second Life Answers forum.  I thought it was interesting enough to follow up!

Who am I?  This is my first thought.  I don't mean "what do I look like in Real Life."  I mean, who am I, when I'm inside my head?  Am I old, young, male, female, outgoing or shy?  Am I old-fashioned or modern?  Assertive or agreeable?  I want my avatar to say something about who I am.

On the other hand, maybe I intend this avatar for a specific roleplay purpose.  In that case, the question becomes, "Who do I want to be?"  This could be formal roleplay, in a group with rules, and maybe even some sort of scoring system.  Or it could be informal roleplay, simply presenting myself as a winged faerie, or a sultry vampire, or a jolly, overweight, donut-breathing dragon and riffing in character with the people I meet.

But roleplay isn't a general thing with me.  I might "put on a costume"...wear an unusual avatar for a short time, for fun or for a specific event...but usually I am "myself", my main avatar.  While I change clothes, hair, makeup and even eye color frequently, I'm still recognizably Lindal.

Do I look good?  My Lindal Kidd avatar was not made in an hour, or a day.  I worked on my shape off and on for oh, probably about six months, tweaking it until it was just the way I wanted.  And even today, I might make minor changes now and then.  Skin was another thing that I altered, over the course of about five years.  My first purchased skin was hideous, although I thought at the time that it looked good. That could also be said of my hair.  Over time, as I found better products, my appearance improved.
Early Lindal.  Ewww.

Fast Forward About Four Years

Me, Today

A subset of that might be, "Do I look good to the sort of people I want to attract?"  Perhaps I want to have a high fashion, haute couture, polished look.  Or if I am interested in SL's adult activities, maybe I want to look sultry, lush, and provocative.  One wants to look a part of one's group, even while looking unique.

Do I look human?  Of course, this only applies if you are using a human avatar.  But so many human avatars don't look human!  With some, this is glaringly obvious...women with enormous breasts and hips that won't go through a doorway, avatars with short little T-Rex arms, eight foot tall men with biceps as big around as sixty year old oak trees and tiny heads.  It's possible to keep your avatar within human proportions and still look handsome or beautiful, and unique, but you have to have a gentle touch on those Appearance sliders!

The advent of Mesh avatar bodies has made it easier to get Instant Beauty and sensible proportions, although they have also made it harder to look unique.

Now, I consider "making your avatar" to consist of the process of making (or buying) your shape, and finding a suitable skin, or set of skins for it.  Everything else...hair, eyes, clothing, manicure, jewelry, shoes...is simply "getting dressed."

Getting dressed can take a good bit of time every day, unless I have an Outfit already put together and ready to go with a single mouse click.  I'm declaring "getting dressed" to be outside the scope of Ht241's question...but shopping for new things, trying them on, putting together a Look...is a big part of Second Life's attraction, at least for me!  Oh, all right, it's an adult version of playing with dolls, if you insist.  But it's still fun!


Friday, April 1, 2016

Free Hugs!

Hi everyone!

One of the gadgets that I wear ALL the time is my hugger.  A hugger is a HUD that lets you offer to hug, kiss, or do other couples animations with another avatar.  It's one of the best ways I know of to express affection and pleasure in the virtual world.

Many years ago, Meike Heston created what I consider to be the best hugger in Second Life.  It has eleven different animations built in, which can all be performed for a set interval or indefinitely.  It can be set to Male or Female users.  Its positioning is quite accurate, if you start facing your intended partner, and if you wind up misaligned, it's fairly easy to re-position yourselves to hug correctly with the usual movement keys.  The controls are simple and compact, and it can be minimized to take up very little screen space.  The HUD was fairly expensive, as you'd expect for such a well-made device.


Unfortunately, Meike left Second Life and her small shop is long closed.  But before she left, she gave us all a wonderful present...she made her hugger full permissions, and now it's a freebie!  I've put the hugger into a vendor and you can pick one up for free in the lobby of the Masocado Resort.

EDIT:  I just realized that I posted this on April 1.  If any of you were thinking, "oh, an April Fool's joke," no, it isn't.  There really IS a free hugger in the Resort lobby, and it doesn't make your avatar turn into a chicken or anything.  Honest!

Friday, March 18, 2016

TANSTAAFL

The title for today's entry isn't some obscure Russian word, or the name of an exotic ethnic food.  It's an acronym coined by Robert A. Heinlein in his book "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and it stands for "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch."

But some people are always looking for that elusive Free Lunch...and when they do, they are laying themselves open to con artists, thieves, and scammers.

Over and over in Second Life, people ask me, "How do I get free $L?"

The answer is, "You can't."  Oh, you can get $L without paying money for them, sure.  You can win a contest at a club, or get paid for teaching a class.  You can get a job as a stripper or an escort and earn pretty good tips.  You can try the "Fish Hunt" or "Gold Hunt" gaming systems.  You can play Linden Realms and exchange the crystals you collect for $L.

But all of these cost you time, even if they don't cost you money.  Time that you could have spent exploring SL, or learning to create beautiful things to sell, or enjoying the company of your friends.

Some people looking for a Free Lunch don't want to spend either money OR time.  These are the people who become the scammers' victims.  They fall for things like:

"Click this link for Free Stuff!"  They click the link, enter their user name and password, and their account is stolen by a phisher.

"Wear this object and click Allow to win $L10,000!"  They do it, and the object sucks all the money out of their account.

"Sign up to Take Surveys and get paid!"  The survey sites they visit install malware or spyware on their computers.

"Here's $L50,000.  Pay $L45,000 of it to my friend ShadyCharacter and keep the rest as a service fee."  They do that, and find LL has banned them from SL for participating in money laundering.

It's a law of nature.  You don't get something for nothing.  You get something for SOMETHING...your time, your skills, your talent, your investment.  True in Real Life, true in Second Life.

TANSTAAFL!