Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Masocado Christmas

My home region of Masocado has, like many places in Second Life, a predominantly tropical theme.  Sandy beaches, warm sunshine, and swaying palm trees.  Most of the year, I love this.  I love the tropics, and eagerly look forward to any vacation we can arrange there in Real Life.  Sometimes I wish I was married to Jimmy Buffett instead of the Resident Geek (only a momentary fantasy, dear...don't be alarmed!)

But the tropical theme doesn't lend itself so easily to seasonal changes.  Still, I re-do the place for Halloween and for Christmas.  This time of year, our harbor freezes over, the palm trees get frost in them, and there's snow on the ground, at least in spots.  Penguins and polar bears take up residence, as Christmas trees, wreaths, and lights appear everywhere.  The dance floor at Ava's Gardens, our open-air jazz club, is turned into a skating rink.  And right around Christmas Eve, snowfall is very likely.

Polar bears in the tropics?  Well, why not?  This is Second Life after all, and what we experience depends more on our imaginations and whimsical notions than on dreary old scientific principles.

I hope some of my Gentle Readers will pay Masocado a visit this season...but even if you don't, DO be sure to visit at least some of the wonderful Christmas builds that pop up everywhere around the grid at this time.  The Destinations Guide will point you to some of them.  The regions of Caledon are always well turned out for Christmas, too.  The four regions of the Second Life Xmas Expo feature some great seasonally-themed shopping; please spare some $L to donate to the Relay for Life kiosks there as well.

And here is the inevitable Teaching Note:  If you use the popular Firestorm viewer, enabling Parcel Windlight and Region Windlight in your preferences will allow you to see many of these builds in the way their creators intended.

Winter Night at Ava's Gardens
Frosted Palm Trees
Even Old Stone Face Gets in the Spirit

Beary Nice Skating

And Homicidal Snowmen!  What More Could You Ask?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

How Typical!

Last night, I was at Caledon Oxbridge University, helping newcomers.  It's very common for me to get unsolicited Friends requests from newcomers, and sure enough, one popped up in my windows.

The avatar who had sent it wasn't even in visual range, and had never said a word to introduce himself.  This, too, is common.  Annoying, but I'm used to it.  I turned down the offer, with a polite comment that I didn't normally accept Friends offers until after I'd gotten to know a person.

This fellow, as it happened, was a Frenchman.  After exchanging a few increasingly biting comments, he said, "Typical American".

Well, that really made me angry.  I'm not a typical anything, thank you very much.  I'm me -- unique, one of a kind, accept no substitutes!  So I shot back, "Typical Frenchman!" and muted the annoyance.

But he was not anything of the kind, of course.  I have met several Frenchmen (and French women) in Second Life.  Except for this one rude one, every one of them was friendly, open, interesting, and willing to work with me to communicate across the language barrier.  Vive la France!

It's too easy to shove people into boxes.  Then we can dismiss them with a shrug.  Typical Jew.  Typical American.  Typical liberal, typical conservative.  Just a typical man...or woman.  First we generalize, then we belittle.  It's only a short step to turning the other person into a Them.  You know, the They who are Out to Get Us.  Us vs. Them.  They are no good.  Them is the Enemy, the faceless nonpersons we're allowed to hate.

While this person may have been a typical jerk, he was most certainly not a typical Frenchman, and it was only my anger that caused me to snap out that comeback.

My point?  Just this:  No matter who we are, and how rational we think we are, we all have to be on guard against this tendency to simplify our world picture by popping people into boxes. It may be typical...but it's wrong.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mechanics of Cyber-Sex

Up until now, this has been, as my friend Glorf Bulmer likes to say, "Not That Sort of Blog".  But I've been getting a lot of questions lately about how this cyber-sex stuff works in Second Life, so I thought I would give you an overview.  No, you DON'T get racy pictures!  Sheesh.

The general idea of cyber-sex is simple.  You and a friend are connected via the Internet.  This could be in a virtual world, or in Skype, or just in a chat room.  Through the use of a combination of animations, various toys, and chat emoting (depending on what your communication method offers), you arouse each other sexually, and engage in masturbation back there behind your monitors.

In Second Life, the primary method is chat emoting in text (or you can use voice.  Personally, I've always gotten more arousal from well written text emotes than from audible moaning and grunting, but Your Mileage May Vary!)  You write emotes by prefacing your text with "/me".  (Some viewers allow you to use a colon instead, which over time saves a ton of keystrokes.)  So, if I type

/me slowly undoes the buttons of your shirt, then slides her hands over your chest

The way it appears is

Lindal Kidd slowly undoes the buttons of your shirt, then slides her hands over your chest

Now, we can combine this with a little roleplay.  When I say something like that, you can right click your avatar, and select Take Off/Clothing/Shirt.

And let's not forget all those poseballs and menu-driven sex beds.  Not to mention sex rugs, sex kitchen counters, sex showers, sex couches, and sex hot tubs.  You name it, someone has probably made a version of it with sex poses built into it.

Either partner can click the bed and call up the menu to change the pose.  However, usually one partner does most or all of the "driving".  Some beds have long scripted sequences that go from petting animations, to foreplay, to oral sex, then to full coition.  But if these are not to your taste or don't run at the pace you wish, you can choose the animations yourself.

Besides furniture, there are genital attachments.  Since female skins have the basics painted on, attachments aren't strictly necessary for us girls...but Linden Lab forgot to give the male avatar a penis.  Fortunately, this lack has been addressed by a great many entrepreneurial souls.  Plus there are prim attachments for the ladies too, if you feel the painted on sort isn't realistic enough.

These genital attachments come in two basic varieties.  The first is controlled only by the wearer.  You wear the prim attachment on your avatar, and click an on-screen HUD to increase your visible state of arousal, and even to make yourself orgasm.  An example of this type is the "Real Penis" made by Dark Delights.

The second type is more complex.  It's scripted to respond to your partner's touch, although you can override it with your own HUD controls.  These genitalia also talk in local chat.  If your partner clicks on your scripted nipples, a menu appears on their screen, asking them what they wish to the case of nipples, choices might include pinch, touch, pull, flick, lick, and other actions.  When they make a choice, the device says in chat, "Suzy Avatar licks Lindal's nipple".  You can edit these responses in a notecard to customize them to your liking.

Some makers have created whole systems of interoperable parts.  Perhaps the best known of these is Xcite.  Their in world store is something to see...a bewildering variety of ways to add on, or customize, your intimate parts.

Not all users like this sort of system, saying it is too mechanical and too complicated.  They prefer to do everything themselves, using chat emotes.  That's fine!  Whatever turns you and your partner on is the way you should do it, there are no hard and fast rules.  I like the Xcite system mostly because its HUD offers an "arousal meter" that shows your level of arousal, and that of your partner.  You can use this as one more way to communicate your feelings to your partner.

For those who want to really be out there on the edge of technology, there is "teledildonics".  You can buy a vibrating egg or other device that connects to your computer with a USB cable.  Then you can get software that interfaces this peripheral to, for example, an Xcite system.  When your partner touches your avatar's genitals in Second Life, the egg buzzes and "touches" you in Real Life.  I haven't tried this myself -- on the one hand, it sounds fascinating.  On the other, I am not sure I want to hook myself up to my computer QUITE that intimately!

The main thing to remember about all the toys and mechanisms is that they are there for YOUR enjoyment.  If a particular method doesn't turn you on...don't do that!  The real key to successful cyber-sex is an emotional connection with your partner.  The animations and toys are just useful ways to express that connection. bit of etiquette.  Don't wear your genital attachments until you're ready to use them.  They all have controls that will turn them invisible, and that's fine.  But people in the know can still see them by enabling transparent textures with CTRL+ALT+T.  And they will assume that a guy with a scripted schlong attached is interested in only one thing.  This goes for girls too.  A woman who wears her Xcite bits in public, with them set to be accessed by anyone, is a slut. 

Whew!  I think I managed to get through that and it's STILL Not That Sort of Blog.  Or nearly.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fun at the Infohub

In the immortal words of Obi Wan Kenobi and Brenda Connolly, Infohubs are "wretched hives of scum and villainy."   I seldom go there.

But there is one Infohub in the Blake Sea, not too far from my home, that I visit occasionally, in the Barbarossa region.  Yesterday I went there, and I discovered that it has a small rezzing area at the dock, for seaplanes.

For a wonder, there was no one abusing the rez privileges to create griefing litter.  Not that this NEVER happens, but at the time, everyone was Playing Nice.  I rezzed my little float-equipped ultralight plane, and had fun flying around the island at low altitude, and practicing touch and go water landings, and flying in formation with other planes, and pacing boats.
Ultralight from Cloud Dancer Aviation

While I was doing this, someone else rezzed a gigantic aircraft carrier, so I then practiced carrier landings!

This is the way play should be in Second Life.  Playing WITH other residents for mutual enjoyment, not griefing them and playing tricks on them.  There was another recent similar event at Caledon Oxbridge University, where Professor Damian Delacroix showed up as a monstrous King Kong avatar.  My fellow professor, Wendyslippers Charisma, has blogged about this, complete with pictures.   Giant avatars are not welcomed at Oxbridge in the normal course of things, but this was Halloween and the Deans allowed it.  We had a grand time!

Contrast this with the griefing I encountered at the Brazilian help area, Ajuda SL Brasil.  There, a throwaway avatar (she had about fifty related alts, when I looked her up to file the Abuse Report) rezzed something that filled the local chat with page after page of text, "y0u n00b!"  This made local chat completely unusable until the volunteers could locate and remove the object and the griefer.

This gets you banned and abuse reported.  Some fun, huh?

(So of course, when I go there the next day, someone has covered the entire place with noob dolls and devices that crash your viewer.  Sigh.)

A Wonderful Halloween, and an ALERT

I had a great SL Halloween!  My partner Cindi and I went to a Haunted Mansion.  They had dancing skeletons, a skeleton rock band (The Rolling Bones), seances, ghosts, and lots more.  There were bar stools that floated into the air when you sat on them, and one chair I sat in removed my head and floated it about five feet above my neck.

But best of all, my costume won me a prize!  Tradewinds Yacht Club had a photo contest, and my pictures of a ghost girl haunting a ghostly shipwreck won me "Best Composition".  Whee!
Regular readers will recall my mention of a griefing object called ExDepart.  That item has run its course and I haven't seen or heard of any new infestations recently.  But there is a new griefing object that is something of a copycat of ExDepart.  This new one offers you "free gestures and walkers".  If you get an offer from this object, even if you know the owner, don't accept the offer.  If you do accept it, delete it from your inventory.

If you rez the free gift, it creates another copy of the griefing object, which moves itself up to a high altitude and begins making offers of its "free gift" to everyone in the region.  You must then find it and delete it.

It is very small, and transparent.  Fortunately, your local chat log will note its coordinates when it makes its offer.  Go to those coordinates.  Make transparent objects visible with CTRL+ALT+T.  Also, go to the World menu and select Show More/Beacons.  Turn on beacons for scripted objects in the Beacons window.

Now look for a tiny red cube with a set of crosshairs through it and a bounding box around it.  That's the nasty little culprit.

If it makes another offer, it will also change its altitude.  Go to the new coordinates and chase it down.  Right click it and Delete it.

Don't bother Abuse Reporting the object owner if you run across one of these.  They are probably an innocent victim just like you.  But, like ExDepart, it may be worthwhile to Abuse Report the object's creator.  (Sorry, I can't tell you who it is.  I deleted the one copy I encountered before noting the creator's name.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Zen of Relationships

This will be a short one! Many times, I'll see a Forum post, usually from a young girl, who asks, "How do I find a boyfriend?"  Or a partner, or a husband.  Once in a while the question comes from a young man.

There's nothing different about finding a Special Someone in Second Life.  It works the same way it does in Real Life.  You meet a lot of open and pleasant...and as you get to know someone better, a relationship may develop.

That sounds easy, doesn't it?  But it's not.  For one thing, the people who ask this question are often socially challenged, through youth or inexperience or through being saddled with a difficult personality.  And so many of them are desperately seeking that special relationship.

And therein is the difficulty.  If you are looking for a relationship, it will elude you.  The trick is to stop trying so hard.  Just sit back, chill out, calm down.  Stop thinking about how much you want to find someone.  Sigh...I know, it's not easy.  Keep working on it. 

You have to take it easy, because if you give off that desperation vibe, it will repel the very people you want to attract...and attract the sort of emotional predators you want, at all costs, to avoid.

Once you get to the point where you aren't thinking about it...when you are just going along, doing other things...that's when your Special Someone will show up.  It's amazing how this happens.

Stay away from dating and matchmaking sites, stop thinking about finding your soulmate.  Instead, work on being the best person YOU can be.  Once you're working on that, on the things you can'll be astounded at how everything else will work out.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Today I’m going to discuss a topic that I should not…because I know almost nothing about it. (When has that ever stopped you before, Linnie?  Oh, hush.)  That topic is…scripts.
Scripts are what bring life to the world of Second Life.  Scripts make doors open, planes fly, Animation Overriders work, and shoes change color at a touch.  Scripts make rivers flow, fish swim, birds sing, and dogs wag their tails.  They are the magic of Second Life, and the people who understand how to create them are wizards indeed.
A script is a computer program.  In SL, scripts are written in a unique software language called LSL – Linden Scripting Language.  LSL is, my programmer friends tell me, related to C, or C+, or C++…they seem to think the number of plus signs is important, anyway.  I wouldn’t know…the computer languages with which I have even a passing familiarity are now nearly obsolete…BASIC and FORTRAN.  So this article is not going to go into ANY of the details of LSL.  Instead, my intention is to give those of you who have no ambition to become scripting wizards a basic understanding of scripts, just enough so that you don’t tremble in fear when someone whispers the word. 
Well, a bit more than that...even if you can't write scripts, you should be able to open one and make some minor tweaks to its variables.
Here is an example of a script, the simplest possible.  You will see this if you right click in your inventory and select “New Script”.
        llSay(0, "Hello, Avatar!");

    touch_start(integer total_number)
        llSay(0, "Touched.");
What does it do?  Nothing, yet.  Scripts don’t do anything until you put them into a prim.  So, rez a cube and select Edit.  Click on the Content tab of the Edit window.  Now drag your script to the edit window and drop it into the prim’s Content area.  Close the Edit window.  Or use the alternate method...just drop your script on the object itself.
Now touch the prim by left clicking it.  Wow!  Your prim spoke, didn’t it?  Isn’t that amazing?  A talking prim!  Let's make our prim just a little smarter.  Remove the first script from the prim and drop this one in...or edit the initial script and replace the text with this.

    touch_start(integer a)
            string sName = llKey2Name(llDetectedKey(0));
            llSay(0, "Hello, " + sName);
Now touch the prim again.  Hey, it knows your name!
Here is a script that I used a lot, before LL made the transparency box in the texture window go all the way up to 100%.  If you drop this script into a prim, it will do two things…turn the prim completely transparent, and then delete itself.
        llSetAlpha(0.0, ALL_SIDES);
Now have a look at a more complex script.  This one is for a sliding door. 
key owner;
// Will be used to retrieve owner's key.

integer iChan = 1000;
// Channel door will listen on if other doors are touched;
// also the channel this door will broadcast on.

integer iSteps = 3;
// How many steps the door will open in, used to provide the
// illusion of sliding. Fewer steps means it opens faster,
// but more steps will make it "slide" smoother.

vector vOffset = <0.0, 2, 0.0>;
// Indicates how far the door will move with each step.
// Multiply by iSteps to calculate the total distance the
// door will move.

vector vBase;
// Used to "un-stick" the door if something blocks it.
// Not sure if this is needed since 0.5.1, objects don't
// seem to block the door any more. Leaving it in just
// in case, though. I think attempting to edit the door
// while it's moving may make it stick. This will solve
// that problem as well.

float fOpenTime = 25;
// How long the door stays open

string sSKeyword = "open1";
// Keyword door broadcasts when it's touched, to make
// other doors open. You can chain these to make multiple
// doors open when any one is touched.
// NEVER make sSKeyword and sRKeyword the same, or you may
// get some doors stuck in an infinite loop, continuously
// re-triggering each other.

string sRKeyword = "open2";
// Keyword door listens for from other doors. Will open
// when it "hears" this keyword.
// Again, NEVER make sSKeyword and sRKeyword the same.

integer bMove = FALSE;
// Is the door moving?

integer bLock = FALSE;
// Is the door locked?

integer bVerbose = FALSE;
// Confirm when owner locks/unlocks the door.

// open() -- the meat and taters of the code,
// makes the door actually move.
bMove = TRUE;
integer i;
vector basepos = llGetPos();
for (i = 0; i < iSteps; i++)
llSetPos(basepos + i*vOffset);
vOffset *= -1;
basepos = llGetPos();
for (i = 0; i < iSteps; i++)
llSetPos(basepos + i*vOffset);
vOffset *= -1;
if (llGetPos() != vBase) {
} else {
bMove = FALSE;

//************************************************** *
// state_entry() -- set up our global variables and
// initialize the listen events.
//************************************************** *
vBase = llGetPos();
owner = llGetOwner();

//************************************************** *
// listen() -- listen for other doors opening, and
// if owner wants to lock/unlock doors.
//************************************************** *
listen(integer chan, string name, key id, string msg)
if (chan == iChan && msg == sRKeyword) {
if (!bMove && !bLock) open();
if (bLock && bVerbose) llSay(0,"Locked!");
if (chan == 0 && id == owner && msg == "lock") {
bLock = TRUE;
if (bVerbose) llWhisper(0,"Locked!");
if (chan == 0 && id == owner && msg == "unlock") {
bLock = FALSE;
if (bVerbose) llWhisper(0,"Unlocked!");

// touch_start() -- what to do when someone
// touches the door.
touch_start(integer count)
if (bLock) {
} else {
if (!bMove) {

//************************************************** **
// timer() -- this is only used to un-stick the door
// (see vBase definition above).
//************************************************** **
if(llGetPos() == vBase) {
bMove = FALSE;
(NOTE: The above script is courtesy of my friend Qie Niangao.  It may not be re-sold as a script, but may be included as a part of your builds for resale.  If you use it for any purpose, a donation to Qie would be courteous.)

As I said, I’m not going to go into details of commands and syntax.  But I am going to mention a few things that will, I hope, help you find your way around a bit.
First, all brackets and parentheses must have their proper counterpart.  Each { must have its corresponding }, or the script will give you an error message.
Second, any line preceded by a double slash, //, is a comment.  It’s intended to tell a human reader something about the script…what it does, who it belongs to, what parameters can be changed, and so on.  You can also use the // to turn off a line of code (by turning it into a comment), or enable a line of code by removing the slashes ("uncommenting".).
Third, every time you make a change to a script, no matter how small, the script will not run until it is saved.  When you hit the Save button, a “Compile Successful!” message will tell you that you have obeyed all the laws for writing a viable script.  It may not do what you want it to do, but at least it is not broken so badly that it won't run at all.
While you can write scripts directly in a Second Life script window, if you are doing anything that’s at all complex, it’s useful to write it in a script editor.  You can get a free LSL editor at Source Forge and several other places.
Note that our door script has places where you can tweak values to change the way it operates.  You can select the axis and direction and speed of the slide, just by changing a few numbers.
A lot of complex scripts use a separate notecard to set up their various properties, rather than have you mucking about inside their actual code.  In this case, your item will come with such a notecard, probably called “Configuration” or some such.  For example, the popular ZHAO II animation overrider comes with three parts:  The actual HUD object, the script, and a Configuration notecard.  Both the script and the notecard are dropped into the HUD’s Content tab.  You then add your own animations to the AO, again by dropping them into the HUD’s Content.  Finally, you edit the Configuration notecard to mention each animation by name and assign it to a category…walking, standing, sitting, and so on.
At the bottom of the script window is a button that allows you to compile the script “normally”, or in “Mono”.  Mono is an innovation that Linden Lab added about four years ago.  It increases the efficiency of how SL handles scripts, at least in certain ways.  This is getting close to the area of my ignorance, but as I understand it, go ahead and compile the script in Mono if it is going to be moving from place to place…in a vehicle, for example, or worn as part of an avatar attachment.  If it is going to be at a fixed location, compile it under the old method.  [EDIT:  This is bad advice from your ignorant hostess.  Please see Comments 5&6 below for better information.  Short answer:  Use Mono for everything, you'll be right more often than not.]
I’ve mentioned particles (see "Fireworks!") before in these spaces.  Particles are used to make lightning, fountains, rain, smoke, tall grass, fireworks, bling, and many other effects.  ALL particles are controlled by only ONE all-purpose particle script.  How you change the many parameters in this script determines what your particles will look like and how they will behave.  I’m not going to reproduce the script here, but you can get a copy of it, and a bunch of tutorials that show you how to obtain various effects from it, at The Particle Laboratory .
Sometimes a script will not operate.  If that happens to you, first look at your top menu bar to see if you are in a No Script area.  If you are, fly up about 50 meters or so.  The scripts will begin working again, and will remain working when you fly back down.  You can’t, however, change the way they are working with any HUD controls they may have.
If you are a land owner and have problems with griefers, you may want to (temporarily, we hope) disable script operation on your land.  This can be done in About Land/Options. 

 If you are in a script-enabled area and the script still isn’t working, you can sometimes correct the problem by selecting the scripted object, then go to the Build menu on your top bar and choose Scripts/Reset Scripts.
Somebody has probably written a script to do just about anything you want, and many of them are free.  You can find a number of collections of LSL scripts with a simple Google search.  Here are some links:
You can find a complete run-down on the various LSL commands and what they do in the Linden Lab LSL Portal But it’s mighty dry technical reading, and not always easy to understand.
You can also get help from fellow scripters on the Second Life website Scripting Forum.
If you want more detailed instruction, check out the College of Scripting Music and Science  If you want to become a true scripting wizard a few visits to this place will be worth it.
Most scripts except flat-out freebies are No Modify…because you have to see it to change it, and if you can see it, you could copy it into a new window, then give it away to all your friends.  This is another reason scripts use Configuration notecards to modify their parameters.  But there is one bit of good news:  scripts, even with full permissions, are not susceptible to theft via copybot software.
One parting bit of advice:  If you are not interested in learning the complexities of LSL yourself, make friends with a scripter or two.  Their talents can come in VERY handy!  But remember Gandalf’s advice:  “Meddle not in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Boater's Halloween

A very short piece this time...everyone is blogging about great Halloween spots.  I found one that's a little out of the ordinary.

It's a Halloween Boat Show at the Tradewinds Yacht Club.  Come on by and see some very...unusual...craft!

Here are a couple I saw in a very brief visit.

Pumpkin Sails and a paddlewheel barrelboat

Giant Squid Attacks Haunted Pirate Ship!

...I think those sort of speak for themselves!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Go the Extra Mentor Mile

Usually, when I mentor newcomers, I stand around the arrival point at Caledon Oxbridge University, or White Tiger Help Island and greet newcomers when they appear.  If the newcomer replies to me (about four out of five don't say anything!) we go on from there.  I tell them a bit about the location and how to use the tutorials, and then answer any specific questions they have.

A few times this last week, I've had an opportunity to do a bit more.  One friend is building her first house in SL, and I have given her some advice on various parts of the build, and even whipped together a little model to show her how her house design could be done in a minimum number of prims.  She told me today that she is helping another friend build HER house now...that gave me a very warm feeling, knowing that I'd helped her get to where she was comfortable helping others.

During my avatar safety class, a student asked a question about how voice and sound parcel limitations worked.  I was not entirely sure of the correct after class, we went back to my land and did some experiments.  Not only did this answer my student's question, but it solidified my own understanding of how land settings work.

Following my land class, one of the students stayed to talk.  I wound up showing her my home, and taking her sailing.  We went to Tradewinds Yacht Club where I showed her how to get the free Becky's Baby Sloop sailboat.

My last example involves a young man I met at Freebie Island.  He asked me if I would like to dance...and then proceeded to animate his avatar with one of the horrid default dance animations.  I took him to a club with a good dance ball, and patiently showed him how to use it.  It was not easy, he had some trouble figuring out how to accept the dance machine's animation offer.  As we were talking, he expressed an interest in learning SL photography.  By happy chance, the Oxbridge photography class was just beginning, so I took him there and dropped him off.

These are the sort of encounters that really make mentoring worth while.  Showing someone things that not only give them an immediate answer to a question, but open their eyes to some of the larger possibilities of Second Life.  Thank you Xali, pj, Emileen, and Bray.

Friday, October 12, 2012

On Being a Good Neighbor

Yesterday's post was on Home Security.  There are certainly times when you'd like a little privacy in Second Life, and so how to establish that (at least to some extent) is important.

But the avatar who walls herself away from all others, all the time, is not being a good neighbor.  A fortress mentality harms not only the people who live next door to you, but it harms you as well.  Second Life is all about community.  If you want total privacy, set up an OpenSim region on your own computer and go live in your own little world!

Here are some things that other residents do that strike me as Bad Neighbor stuff!

  • Ban Lines.  There I am, flying blissfully along and taking in the scenery.  Suddenly, BAM!  I run up against yellow stripes of police tape in the air.  Ick, ban lines.  Now I have to find a way over or around this annoying obstacle.  It's even worse if the ban line creator lives next door to me.  Depending how my house employs alpha textures, the ban lines can appear to be INSIDE my home (even when they are not, really.)  Vehicles can become mired in ban lines.  But the silliest situation of all is when you teleport to an empty parcel that is for sale, and find ban lines around it. 
  • Security Systems.  A properly set up security system is one thing.  But one that spreads out to cover supposedly public land like a canal or a river are totally annoying.  So are the ones that are set up to boot you ten seconds after issuing a warning.  If you're traveling in a slow vehicle like a sailboat, that's far too little time to notice the warning, figure out which way is "away", and get to a safe distance.
  • Privacy Borders.  OK, I get it.  You don't want to have to look at the neighbor's Really Ugly Castle, or their Midnight Black Cube of a club.  But if you MUST put up these tall "walls" around your parcel, just texture them on YOUR side.  Make the outside of them transparent, and be sure to make them Phantom as well.  You are not really hiding yourself behind a screen like this, you're just creating an eyesore.  A much better choice, if you have the prims for it, is to put landscaping around your parcel.
  • Ugly Builds.  Yes, I know.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  But surely, we can all agree that some builds are just...ugly?  Amateurish, cobbled together.  Garish, clashing colors.  Buildings that are completely at odds with everything else surrounding them.  Go ahead, be creative!  But please do it up above a few hundred meters, OK?
  • Building Up To the Border.  On small parcels especially, the desire is to use every precious square meter.  But a couple of meters back from the property line!
  • Low Skyboxes.  Draw distances are up these days, as video cards get more powerful.  I can see your ugly sky platform at 200 meters.  Put them up high, please, unless you can build something really visually pleasing.
  • Slash and Burn Terraforming.  Try to avoid those land transitions at parcel borders that look as if they were cut by a knife.  Talk to your neighbor and arrange a smooth transition between your parcels.  It's quite possible if there is a little compromise on both sides.
  • Encroachment.  Get your prims off my land! No, not even one centimeter over the border!
  • Abandoned vehicles.  This one I don't mind so much, because I know that most people don't abandon their vehicles on purpose.  They crash, and are unable to find where the vehicle embedded itself.  Still, please take your vehicles with you if you're able to do so.
  • Blocked water access.  It's your land, and you can do what you want with it.  But when what you do means that you block the passage of water vehicles for everyone else, you're being a Bad Neighbor.  Think about what you are building, and see if passage can't be incorporated into your design.
  • The Silent Treatment.  I don't insist you come over for tea every time both of us are on line.  Neither of us would get anything done!  But it's nice to meet and talk to your neighbors at LEAST once.  
See you around the neighborhood!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Home Security

Way back, I wrote a post from the point of view of the housebreaker...the poor homeless noob who comes across a luxurious home standing vacant, just packed with toys to play with.  Today, I'm going to write from the opposite point of view...the home owner who is disturbed by a naked newbie popping in during a romantic interlude and insisting on joining in.  What can you do to prevent this unwanted intrusion?  (Some earlier thoughts on this can be found in my post, "Privacy")

There is NO real privacy in SL, and locks on doors are only for fun, not for real deterrence.  But there are some security features you can employ, and some actions you can take.

Ban lines.  In About Land/Access tab, if you uncheck the public access box, yellow "police tape" ban lines will surround your property and roof it over at 50 meters.  You and people on your Access List will not see them, and be able to enter your parcel.  I don't like ban lines.  They ugly up the landscape and prevent innocent people who just want to pass over or through your land from doing so.  But it is one option.

Security systems.  You can get many types of "security orbs" from the Marketplace, some of them free.  I don't like these either...they can be tricky to set up, and you have to make sure they are not affecting people OUTSIDE your parcel or you can be reported for abuse.  This is especially critical when neighbors are close together, as they are in the Linden Home areas.

Invisibility.  Ban lines and security orbs only prevent physical intrusion.  People can still move their cameras inside your house and look at you.  In About Land/Options tab, un-check the box "make avatars and chat visible to people outside my parcel".  People outside your parcel will still be able to see a blip from you on their radars, but cannot see you or hear your local text chat.  (And you cannot see or hear them either.)

You can also limit voice chat and gesture sounds to your parcel with the Sound tab of About Land.  And of course, IMs (text and voice) are always private.

Open access poseballs:  Many pieces of scripted furniture allow the owner to set them to "group access only".  You and your partner will have to wear the correct group tag to use them, but no one else can. (You may need to create a private little group to use this feature.  That's another topic!)

As I said, I don't like any of these methods much.  We are only in SL a few hours a day, and it seems uncharitable to block off a bit of it for all the hours we are not there.  Besides, people can't actually take or damage any of your stuff.  But there is a very effective method of dealing with intruders when you ARE home:  The eject and ban function.

Right click an intruder on your parcel.  Select Eject.  You will get a menu with choices to eject, ban, or eject AND ban.  I generally select the last one.  Poof!  They are tossed out of your home and can not get back in unless you remove them from the parcel ban list.

That's generally all that's needed.  If they were extremely rude or did some nasty griefing while they were there, you could Abuse Report them, but in the usual run of things, it's a case of overkill.
I teach a class on Avatar Safety on Saturdays at 12 noon SL time, at Caledon Oxbridge University.  We cover all this and many more Second Life hazards, and the class is free.  I hope to see you there!

(Thanks to RickerR Resident for providing the inspiration for this entry!)

Some Musings on an SL Halloween

It seems like just a few weeks ago I was doing this...decorating our sim for Halloween.  And here I am today, dusting off the ghosts, the Jack O' Lanterns, and the coffins.  Hanging spiderwebs and placing the Ghost Ship in our harbor, changing the sky and water to an eerie setting, building the Haunted Graveyard... Yes, another SL Halloween is just around the corner.

Halloween is a huge holiday in Second Life; the residents give it even more attention, perhaps, than Christmas.  It's a little puzzling to me...since EVERY day in SL is, in a sense, a vast costume party.

We change our bodies nearly as often as we change our clothes.  Many of us spend our virtual lives as fantasy characters...mermaids, faeries, or vampires.  And yet, for this one season, we go even further, pulling out all the stops.

I enjoy decorating the sim, but I never seem to be able to decorate myself nearly as well as some of my friends do.  I don't want to look gross or scary, and I'm already about as sexy as I can imagine myself (she said modestly) would be hard to find a costume that was an improvement.  The best I was able to accomplish in that vein was back about four years ago, when I dressed up as Marilyn Monroe. 

Simply finding a skimpy, revealing little outfit is not the answer that it is in Real many SL women dress in little nothings every day that it just doesn't have any impact.

Sigh...I guess I just don't have the imagination that it takes to compete in the SL Halloween lists.  But don't let that stop YOU...look around at some of the great Halloween builds, check out the SL Markeplace, and do something spooktacular this year!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

FLASH! Don't Buy $L from Strangers!

There was a post tonight on the SL Answers forum from an avatar who had purchased $L321,000 from another avatar.  She'd been told (I presume by that avatar) that he was "Risk API Positive", so she felt the transaction was approved by LL.

She was very upset when Linden Lab took those $L from her account, telling her they were fraudulent.

Here's the straight goods:  There are no "Risk API Positive" avatars.  The Linden Lab Exchange Risk API is a software tool furnished by LL to certain third party linden dollar exchange web sites.  The API is not something that applies to individuals.

A popular money laundering scheme involves stealing a credit card, then using it to buy $L.  Then these fraudulently-obtained $L are peddled on eBay or other venues.  If you buy these "hot $L", Linden Lab will take them back out of your account, and assess you a 50% penalty besides.

All $L come from LL.  The official exchange rate is always pretty close to $L250 = $1 USD.  Anyone who offers to sell you $L at a rate significantly better than this should raise an immediate red flag.

NEVER buy $L from an individual.  NEVER buy $L on eBay.  There are legitimate third party linden dollar exchanges out there.  Use them if you must...although LL will take no responsibility if you get taken, and the best price will nearly always be the official Linden Exchange on the SL web site.

Full Steam Ahead? I Wonder...

Hello, faithful readers!  Still out there?  If so, thank's been way too long since my last update here.

Many of you have heard that Second Life will soon be available through Steam, the big game-distribution web site/service run by Valve.  You may see this as a good thing, or not...resident opinions have been mixed.  As for me, I'm taking a wait and see position on this one.

But one thing perplexes me.  Valve has a "no adult content" policy.  Oh sure, a lot of the games they distribute have blood, gore, criminal activities, and extreme violence.  But naked people?  Sex?  No way, says Valve.

A few weeks ago, a developer put up a new game on Steam.  It was a dating/flirting/hookup simulation.  If you were smooth and cool, you could talk a beautiful woman into going off somewhere with you...and you got rewarded with a racy "bedroom scene".  The game was up for a day, maybe even less, before Valve yanked it as being in violation of their no adult content rules.

Now, that's OK with me.  I think the policy is pretty stupid, but's their company, and they can make the rules.  What bothers me is that Second Life contains just a teeny leetle bit of adult content...

Well, OK.  More than a bit.  Well, considerable.  Oh heck, all right:  everyone knows that SL is all about Teh Secks. 

I wonder if the folks at the Lab have mentioned this to the folks over at Valve?  And if they have, how do the folks at Valve reconcile this with their current policy?  Just asking.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Classroom Discipline, Part II

We had a minor epidemic of nudity in my class at Caledon Oxbridge University tonight.  Since Oxbridge is a General region, and the citizens of Caledon are genteel Victorian ladies and gentlemen, this was a matter of somewhat more concern that it might be in some other places.

The first was a girl.  She came in and sat down while I was lecturing, and it was a little while before I realized that she was nude.  In between bits of the lecture, I IM'd her privately.

"Do you realize that you are naked?"
"I'm not."
(at this point, I suspected an SL glitch, a bug I've seen before.  I quickly took a picture of her, and passed it to her.)
"I believe you.  But this is what I'm seeing on my screen."
She got up and promptly left the room.  I continued both my lecture in local chat, and my IM with her, in case she thought I was playing some trick on her.
"This is a bug I've seen before.  It's very annoying."
"I'll re-log."
"Good idea."
After a few minutes, she reappeared, properly clothed.
"Yay, you're fixed!"

A bit later, a gentleman walked into the classroom and sat down.  He'd been clothed on his way in, but when I noticed him again, he'd taken off every stitch.

"Mr. ----, please put some clothes on."
He did so promptly, but also jumped up and flew out of the classroom.

Now, in both these cases, I could have ejected and banned the offenders.  It being a General region, I could even have Abuse Reported them.  But I didn't.  In the first case, the offense was unwitting, and promptly corrected.  In the second, I feel the offender was attempting to disrupt the class, but a firm yet polite stance, and a complete failure to appear shocked or flustered, solved the problem.

I am not relating these incidents to show what a marvelous teacher and disciplinarian I am.  They are simply examples of how, by keeping one's temper, a lot of acrimony and Drama can be avoided.

This works outside the classroom too.  The other day, my home region was offline (yes, again!) and I was logged into an Adult infohub instead.  While I fired up my web browser to contact Live Chat, I sat myself down on the nearest railing.  As I was sitting there, an IM window opened up.  And the first comment was:

"Nice tits"

I was MOST annoyed by this rudeness.  But I chose to simply ignore it, even though I very badly wanted to snap back a rejoinder.  This silent treatment worked perfectly.  The oaf gave up and moved on to his next victim.

Stay frosty out there!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Trust, Distrust

The other day, I was helping a relative newcomer solve a problem.  But something set off alarm bells in her head, and for some reason (I put it down to too many hours on line without a break) she began to suspect that I was an alt of someone who had been giving her a hard time. 

I was taken aback...I was NOT an alt of this person, of course...but how could I prove it?

The answer is, you can't.  As liberating and fun as the anonymity of Second Life (and much of the rest of the internet) is, it has this drawback.  When someone chooses to believe something of you, there is very often little or nothing you can do to prove to them that they're mistaken.

There are many situations in Second Life where you must take another person on faith, and simply trust that they are telling you the truth.  When a helpful stranger sends you a free item, should you accept it?  Or is it a griefing object that will cause you all sorts of problems?

When someone tells you, "Suzy SlutTastic is Lindal Kidd's alt, you know"...should you believe them?  If I say indignantly, "Don't be absurd, I never heard of this Suzy!"...should you believe me?

If someone is selling a line of items that look an awful lot like the items you bought from another merchant six months ago...who is copying whom, or is it a case of independent development?

Someone sends you a URL in chat or IM, and when you click on it, it takes you to what seems to be a familiar SL sign in page...should you enter your user name and password?  Or is it a "phishing" site that will compromise your account information?

If you download and install a third party viewer, is it safe?  Or will it invade your computer and steal your passwords and identity?

There are two avatars nearby.  Suddenly, you are orbited and go soaring off uncontrollably into the sky.  When you confront the pair, they both say, "It wasn't me, it was HIM!"  Whom do you believe?  Or do you just Abuse Report them all and let LL sort them out?

In an anonymous world, trust is tricky.  It's easy to abuse it, easy to be taken in by a scoundrel.  On the other hand, if you never trust anybody, you will have a very constrained and unhappy Second the newcomer who refused my offer of a Newbie Kit, saying scornfully "I don't fall for crap like that."

I don't have a solution to this.  I certainly don't want to go around everywhere on the web with my real ID hanging out.  I think that web anonymity is a powerful form of freedom, one we enjoy almost nowhere else these days.  But it means that you have to take people on faith a lot.  By and large, most people are at least moderately worthy of your trust.  But, now and're going to get burned.  Be alert to the signs of scams, con artists, and shady characters.  The primary one is always:  If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

And be a trustworthy person yourself.  What goes around, comes around.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Abandon, Land!

As I've mentioned several times, there is a lot of Abandoned land on the mainland these days.  A LOT.  There is so much of it that LL has for the most part stopped trying to cycle all of it through the Land Auction process.  Instead, land that is Abandoned back to "Governor Linden" is automatically set for sale to anyone at $L1 per square meter.

After having one's unwanted land set for sale for a tier billing cycle or two with no takers, just walking away from the ongoing monthly expense does, I admit, start to look pretty attractive.  But consider this:

In this land glut environment, there are a lot fewer land speculators/developers than there used to be...but there are still some out there, and even if you can't sell your land at anything close to what you paid for it a year or two ago, you can still sell it for SOMETHING.

Instead of Abandoning your land, set it for sale at something less than $L1 per m2.  Then wait.  If a landbot doesn't show up pretty quickly to take it off your hands, lower the price a little.  Keep on doing that until one of those automated land-grabbers does show up and buy the land.

Or, you could take the longer-term, constructive view.  BUY land.  Become one of those land developers who buy up little parcels all over a bombed-out region, join them together, terraform them and add a few landscaping touches to make it all look pretty again.  Then sell it...or rent parcels there.  Think of it as being engaged in Virtual Urban Renewal.

Bombed-Out, Abandoned Land

Restored Land

Will you make money?  Probably not.  But you'll at least be doing your part to improve the virtual world we live in...and that's a Good Thing.

Personal note:  My first Mainland was in the Lebettu region, where I owned half the sim, with some business partners.  A few months ago, I returned to Lebettu...I was dismayed to find that it looked rather like the first picture here (although that picture was NOT, in fact,  taken at Lebettu.)  When I went back there today to get pictures like the first one, to illustrate this article, I found that someone had restored the region...the SECOND picture IS taken at Lebettu, and I'm very grateful to the current owner(s) for returning it to something like the beautiful place it was when I was there.

The Ten Percent Solution

I recently got a call from an inexperienced land owner.  She'd bought a parcel to add to her existing land, and the total area came to 8960 square meters.  But she was very upset, because her tier payment had jumped from $40 per month to $75.  That was more than she felt she could afford...but she didn't want to give up the extra prims that the larger piece of land gave her.

I explained that the tier jump in this case happened at 8192 square meters.  You can own that much mainland for $40 per month...but one square meter over puts you in the next tier "bracket" of $75.  But, I went on, there was a solution that could let her own the whole 8960 square meters and still pay only $40 per month...give the land to a group.

Groups get a 10% break on mainland ownership -- a group can own 10% more land than an individual for the same amount of tier.  So in her case, my friend could own, through a group, up to 8192+819 = 9011 square meters.  Here's how to do that:

1.  Create a group to hold the land.  This costs $L100, and requires at least one other member in the group.  The second member has 48 hours to join the group; otherwise, the group is automatically disbanded.  I suggest that you use an alt, a second Second Life account, for this purpose.  Using a friend can create problems, if you should have a falling out, or if your friend decides to leave the group.  (You don't have to create a new group for this purpose; any group can hold land.  But I prefer to have a dedicated group for this purpose to avoid complications.  Also, your alt does not have to be a Premium member.)

2.  With your new group active, go to your land and right click the ground and open the About Land window.  In the General tab of About Land, select Deed to Group, and also check the Owner Makes Contribution With Deed box.  Check to make sure that the land now shows as being owned by your group.  CAUTION:  The group you have active at the moment you deed the land is the group that will wind up owning it.  BE CERTAIN that the group you made to hold the land is your active group!  A mistake cannot be undone, except by the owner of the group you deeded the land to.

3.  Open your group information window.  Click the Land and $L tab.  Check that you are contributing (in this case) no more than 8192 m2 of tier to the group.  Check to see that the group's land holdings show the parcel you just deeded.  And check to make sure that the group has enough tier in donations to cover that size parcel.

Because the 10% bonus is automatically calculated, the group's available tier will be larger than the amount you donated.  You can "tweak" your donation so that the group has "just enough" tier to cover its deeded land.

4.  Go to your account page on the Second Life website.  Open the Land Manager link.  Check to see that a) you do not own any land (you deeded it, the group owns it now, not you); and that b) your tier donation is in the proper bracket (in this case, $40 a month for 8192 m2).  If things look awry, go back over the numbers in the group Land and $L tab carefully to find your error.

Note that the only time you can take advantage of this group tier break is if the amount of land you want to own is less than 10% over the tier level you want to stay within.  If not, the bonus won't get you back "under the line" and you'll still wind up paying the higher amount.

One more caution:  If your group does have other members (your tenants, for example, if you are renting your land to others), be sure to review the group's roles and abilities carefully.  You don't want your tenants to have the ability to sell your land, and if YOU sell your land, you don't want the other group members to share in the proceeds.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Masocado Down! Up! Down!

The last several days have been very annoying at my home region of Masocado.  The region keeps dropping off line for no apparent reason...sometimes as many as five times  a day.

When I noticed the first occurrence, I contacted Support using Live Chat.  Believe me, Live Chat is absolutely worth the price of a Premium membership!  Every time I have used it, the response has been fast, polite, and competent...and my problem has been resolved within minutes.

The Live Chat assistant got us up and running again in short order.  But only a short time later, WHAM!  We went off line again.  Another call to Live Chat, and another restart.  But then it happened AGAIN.  And AGAIN!

This kept up for several days, through about eight or ten occurrences.  Finally this morning, Derrick Linden of Live Chat suggested I submit a Support Ticket to initiate a more detailed investigation of whatever was causing the problem. great as it is to work with the people in Live Chat, working with the people who handle Support Tickets is a royal pain.  Bianca Linden responded to my ticket, saying "Well, I went there and it's running fine now (well, duh!  Of course it was, Live Chat had just restarted the region.)  She went on to say "I checked the logs and didn't see anything out of the ordinary."

Say what?  Ten restarts in four days is normal behavior?  Lady, my tenants are starting to complain, and I don't blame them!

And, "Do you get an error message when you try to access the sim?"  Um...yes and no.  It depends on HOW you try to get to an offline region.  If you log in to one, you are automatically shunted to a random Welcome Area.  If you try to teleport there, you get a "Teleport Failed" message.  If you try to walk or fly from a neighboring region, you see only empty ocean where your destination ought to be, and you run into the familiar "void" barrier showing there's nothing on the other side of the border.

The last straw was her closing suggestion: "If you have problems with it again, update this ticket with more information."  Oh, sure.  I'm going to let my tenants twiddle their thumbs for hours or days while an updated Support Ticket makes its way through the System?  I don't think so.  Sure, I'll update the ticket every time we go offline.  But I'm also gonna call the nice people at Live Chat for a timely (if, so far, temporary) fix.

EDIT, THE NEXT DAY:  Bianca Linden responded to the additional information I submitted (which was a shorter version of this post.)  She told me that LL had been experiencing "hosting issues" on a number of regions, but that the problems had been fixed.  And indeed, we seem to be back up and running smoothly for the last day and half.  I assume "hosting issues" is shorthand for "the server farm provider tripped over the power cords."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

FLASH! ExDepart Still Alive

In the Real World we have ants, cockroaches, fleas and rats.  Despite centuries of efforts by mankind, these pests are still with us.  The best we can do seems to be a temporary holding action, and that is only achieved by ceaseless pest control warfare.

Recently, a griefing object called ExDepart was released into the wilds of Second Life, and it seems to have the hardiness of a cockroach.  Here's how it works...

You get a message and an offer that reads something like, object .::ExDepart::. owned by Lindal Kidd has offered you "Free Gift 2012".  Accept/Decline/Mute?  If you accept the offer, you get a new object in your inventory.  "Ooh, a gift box!" you think, and rez the object.

Immediately, it disappears.  It becomes invisible and teleports itself to 4,000 meters, where it begins sending out its offer of "Free Gifts" to anyone in the sim.  Because it came from your inventory, it lists YOU as the owner.  So anyone who knows you will probably accept the item, and feel safe in rezzing it.  Also, anyone who Abuse Reports the item as a griefing object will report YOU.

Some people have claimed that ExDepart empties their inventories, and drains their $L account balance.  This is the sort of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) that gets spread through the rumor grapevine.  ExDepart is pernicious and highly annoying, but not diabolical.  Even so, I am puzzled that Linden Lab has not deleted all of them from the grid and from people's inventories.  They have not, so if you encounter ExDepart, you'll have to deal with it yourself.

1.  If you are offered anything by ExDepart, decline it, and notify the land owner of ExDepart's presence.
2.  If you accept it, and/or find it in your inventory, do not rez it.  Just throw it in the Trash.
3.  If you rez it, turn on Show Transparent, and turn on Beacons/Show scripts.  Go up to 4,000 meters and look for it.  When you find it, delete it.  There may be more than one, so look carefully.
4.  If you recognize the person that ExDepart claims as its owner, contact them and tell them to get rid of the damn thing.

The creator of ExDepart has supposedly stated that it was merely a scripting experiment that got away from him.  I don't know about that...but in this one case, if you decide to submit an Abuse Report, I would Abuse Report the object's creator, not its owner.

FLASH! Phantom Mode is Broken

As most of you know, one of the best ways to keep some rude person from pushing you (or shooting you with a push bullet) is to sit on an object.  But, WHY does sitting give you this protection?

The answer is, your avatar becomes phantom when you sit on something.  Other avatars and objects pass right through you.  This is actually a pretty good thing, for more reasons than defense against griefers.  It would be hard to dance with a woman in a full skirt if you kept bumping into it!  (Sitting on a poseball is still "sitting", even if your avatar is waltzing with a partner.)

Those of you who use the Phoenix and Firestorm viewers, and possibly other third party viewers as well, may be familiar with the "Phantom Mode" feature they offer.  By hitting CTRL+ALT+P, your avatar becomes phantom, just as if you were sitting on a prim.  That is, it DID become phantom until the latest round of server updates from Linden Lab.

This update removed the functionality that permitted the Phantom Mode to work.  Oh, your viewer still says "Phantom Mode On" as if it knew what it was doing...but it's NOT on, and people can still shove you around.

I sure hope Pathfinding and forced attachments and teleports are worth it.