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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dead and Gone

Last night, I dreamed that I was dead. Not dead-dead...but in my dream, everyone THOUGHT I was dead.  Including the government.  And including Linden Lab and Second Life.

My savings were gone.  My accounts were closed.  My credit cards were canceled.  My Social Security checks stopped coming (well, they haven't STARTED coming yet...maybe this dream was set in the future!)  No one would talk to me except for one lawyer, who advised me that rather than trying, probably unsuccessfully, to get the world to admit I was still alive, I should pretend amnesia, throw myself on public assistance, and start a new life as someone else.

As if being dead in Real Life wasn't enough of a problem, I had some real problems in Second Life too.  I own a sizable chunk of Mainland, and I have a sizable store of $L  I have tenants who pay me rent every month.  Not to mention my various jobs and duties and commitments, and my 50,000 item inventory.  That money was about to vanish into thin air, and that land was going to be reclaimed by Governor Linden if I couldn't do something about it.

As scary as this scenario is, it could actually happen, except for the still being alive to experience the frustration part of it.  In fact, someday it WILL happen, it's inevitable.  Only the specific date is uncertain.  Any of us can die at any time.  It will happen to me, and it will happen to you.

So...have you made plans for it?  Any lawyer can help you draw up a will, or you can even do one yourself that will (probably) hold up in court, using the helpful resources of the Internet.  You should do that, and you should also write down a list of all your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, pension plans, mortgages and debts, insurance policies and last year's tax returns.  YOU know how to find all this stuff, maybe with a little digging through the files.  But will your heirs know?  Write it down!!  Current contact information for all your relatives and close friends will be a big help to them, too.

But planning for what will happen to your virtual life when your real one ends presents some unusual challenges.

Linden Lab will do nothing with your account, until one of two things occurs:
  1. Your payment method becomes invalid through expiration or cacellation, and they can't collect your tier and other bills.  Then they will simply terminate your account and confiscate your land.  
  2. They are contacted, in writing, by your executor who proves she is authorized to settle your estate with copies of your death certificate and her power of attorney.
Here's what I recommend:  Talk to someone you know in Real Life who understands Second Life and how it works, or at least understands computers and the internet.  This could be your computer-savvy teenager, your spouse, or a close and trusted friend.  Tell them where they can find your Final Instructions.

Then write down those final instructions, and store them somewhere safe.  Include your account names and passwords, your payment method and the password or PIN number for it.  State what you want done with your land and your transferable inventory, which of your friends you want notified, and so on.  If your Trusted Person is unfamiliar with SL, either include links to guides for the newcomer such as Linden Lab's "Quick Start Guide" or the name of a helpful friend in world.

Be sure and review your Final Plans, both RL and SL, at least once a year and update them as needed.

Maybe you have, shall we say, a tricky personal situation...your wife is your executor in Real Life, and you have a Second Life partner too...that you never got around to telling your wife about.  I will leave how to plan for your demise in this scenario as an exercise for the student.  But you know what?  Maybe you should just let LL terminate your account.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ice Skates!

I don't review specific products here very often, but there's one that I think deserves special mention...the wonderful ice skates sold by Abranimations.

These skates were given away free as one of Abranimations' Advent Calendar gifts.  But if you missed out on the gift version, you can still buy a pair for yourself, and in my opinion they are well worth the $L250 price.  I have some other skates that cost much more...they will do more tricks, but they also take a lot of effort to use.  The Abranimations skates are mostly just wear, go, have fun!


The skates come with a HUD.  It lets you choose from among 9 different colors, so your skates can match just about any outfit.  Once you have selected your color, you can minimize that portion of the HUD so it does not take up too much screen space.

You don't need the HUD at all to simply skate.  Just use the arrow keys as you normally would to walk, either forward or backward, and your avatar will do a skating animation.  You can either make this a wobbly beginner skate animation, or a skilled glide.

You can use the HUD to do tricks!  You can spin, leap into the air, even fall on your face.  In fact, there seems to be a random "fall on your face" that happens every once in a while regardless of what you actually command.  It's funny!  You can also buy ramps that will make you perform a spectacular jump.

Best of all, you can use the HUD even if you are being animated by something else at the time, like a dance ball or a skating animation at a rink.  The HUD's animation overlays the other one very nicely, and you can produce some very professional-looking moves in this way.

Find these skates in the vendor at the Masocado Resort...
Masocado Resort Ice Rink

...or The Blind Pig Music Co.
 Blind Pig Skating Rink

...or at the Abranimations main store.  Go in, turn left, walk about halfway down.
 Abranimations



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ukraine????

I was looking at my blog statistics today, and wondering why my popularity has taken a huge upswing.  Not that I'm complaining you understand, but the blog's been cruising along for months with a daily view total of somewhere around 100 pages.

But suddenly I've started getting 300, even 400 page views per day.

Most of them seem to be coming from Ukraine.  Page hits from there are ten and twenty times the rate from anywhere else, even the USA.

I want to tell the National Snoopy Agency right here and now that I have NO IDEA why the Ukrainians (or maybe the Russian invaders...go home, you guys!) are taking such an interest in my little blog about virtual worlds.  Hello, NSA...you there?  Silly me, of course you are.  Jerks.

All you spies:  Go Away!  Shoo!  Nothing to see here.

Friday, December 26, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Miss-Mas...

I admit it, I'm a world class procrastinator.  Every time a holiday looms up on the horizon, I put off and put off preparations, until I have to rush around in a last minute scramble, and then I wind up only being half-prepared.

In fact, I never really feel that I'm "ready" for a holiday until a day or two after it's over.

This year, I promised myself, it would be different.  I'd do things well ahead of time and be ready to relax and enjoy Christmas when it got here.  And I really did keep pretty much to my vow.  In Real Life, the house was decorated a week ahead of schedule.  The baking was all done.  The dinner was under control.  The presents were all bought and wrapped and under the tree.  I went to midnight church services on Christmas Eve without feeling frazzled.

In SL, the region's winter landscaping was all put in place three weeks before C-Day.  I got a present for my partner (well, I took her shopping and let her pick out something she liked!)  I had plenty of Christmas outfits ready to put on for any holiday occasion.

I was READY, baby...and on time for once!  And, when Christmas Day arrived, along with family and friends, I had a good time.

So why...Why....WHY do I feel like I missed Christmas AGAIN, now that it's the Day After?

By golly, I'm going to start campaigning for holidays that last at least three days.  A single day is not enough time to enjoy them.

I hope you were able to enjoy YOUR Christmas, or at least wave to it as it flew past.  See you next year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Blame

When things go wrong, the natural tendency is to blame it on someone.  In Second Life, it's not always clear who that someone is.  Take what happened to me just today...

A few days ago, I'd bought a sexy new pair of boots from the high fashion creator, LivGlam.  These were Mesh boots designed for SLink feet, which were also new to me even though I'd been using SLink's mesh hands for several months now.

When I got home, I unboxed the boots and the feet and put them on.  The feet were great, and worked just as expected, but the boots...something was wrong.  They showed as "Worn" in my inventory, but I couldn't see them.  Then I COULD see them, but they were just shapeless white clubs at the ends of my feet.

I should add that at this particular time SL was undergoing some "unscheduled maintenance."  This is Linden Lab's euphemism for "ye gods, the system is borked big time!"  I logged off and decided to come back when things were back in working order.

The next day, I tried the boots again.  They came, like most Mesh clothing, in several sizes, and I am a Medium.  The other sizes showed up fine, but the Medium boots were flat out invisible.  So I decided to go to LivGlam and contact their excellent customer support (they have actual live helpers at the store, an unusual feature for Second Life merchants.)  I complained about my "faulty product" and asked for a redelivery.  During my discussion with the representative, it turned out that she saw my boots just fine, while I did not.

At this point, it occurred to me that maybe the cached texture of the boots had gotten messed up during the technical difficulties of the previous day.  So, I logged off and cleared my cache.  When I logged back on, lo and behold, there were my boots!

There are a couple of morals to this story.  One might be, "Get a second opinion before you jump to conclusions."  Another is probably, "Don't blame somebody for messing up until you've checked ALL the possible explanations."  And a third one is, "They really mean it when they say don't rez stuff during times of grid issues."  The real bottom line is, LivGlam wasn't to blame, Linden Lab wasn't to blame.  It was (gasp!) All My Own Stupid Fault.

My thanks to Lanna at LivGlam who helped solve the Mystery of the Invisible Boots!  Oh, and here's a picture of me wearing them.  The boots are "Anne" by LivGlam, the dress is "Rockette" by Thera, available in her Venice store.

I'm Under the Tree...Unwrap Me!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

FLASH! Missing Animations and Dances

A lot of people have been complaining that dances and animations that they've bought from reputable SL merchants like Henmations, Akeyo, and Vista have been removed from their inventories.

When someone submits a DMCA notice to Linden Lab, alleging that another person has infringed their intellectual property rights, LL removes the allegedly infringing content from Second Life...including from the inventories of everyone who owns it.

However, sometimes the DMCA notice is wrongfully made.  Also, sometimes, the LL intellectual property police make a mistake and remove things that are NOT a subject of the DMCA action but that only have a similar name.  It appears that this may have been the case in this instance.

Once the mistake is straightened out, the missing items should be returned.  However, if you are not content to wait and see if this happens, go to the store where you bought your deleted content and make use of their re-delivery terminal, if they have one.

For current discussion of the issue, see this forum thread: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/General-Discussion-Forum/Firestorm-AO-in-viewer-animations-abscounded/td-p/2874423

Friday, December 12, 2014

Losing It

A while back I told you, Gentle Readers, that I intended to improve my Real Life by adding back diet and exercise.  I'm not going to bore you with an endless play by play, but I am here to tell you that it's working!  I've lost 11 pounds in the last month, my clothes are fitting better, and I feel great.  And that's just with dieting, I haven't even begun my exercise program yet.  AND it includes the Thanksgiving Dinner and assorted leftovers.

I can recommend the Atkins Nutritional Plan (a low-carbohydrate approach) without reservation.

As Porky Pig says, "Th-th-th-that's all, folks!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming!

Ever since I've been in Second Life, one of the perennial complaints about Linden Lab is, "they never listen."  People would make suggestions in the forums, in open letters, on blogs, and at in world Office Hours, and nothing ever seemed to come of any of them.

Yesterday, Linden Lab announced a new "Suggestions" page on the Second Life website.  You can read the official blog post here: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/A-New-Way-to-Share-Your-Suggestions-for-Second-Life/ba-p/2867935

And here's the direct link to the new Suggestions page: https://support.secondlife.com/suggestions/

I won't say that LL will actually DO anything about any suggestions submitted.  But I have to say, it's another indication that the Lab is actually making an effort to improve communication with the Residents.  This is the FIRST TIME EVER that they've ever said officially, "we want you to send us your ideas."

I hope you all will put some thought behind the suggestions you leave there.  A lot of impractical suggestions like "free land for everyone!" could make them back off their new open approach.

By the way, the corporate attitude of "we are NOT listening" is very pervasive in business these days.  Many corporations are forbidden from considering any ideas submitted from outside, for fear of later legal complications.  If they come out with a new product, they don't want some jerk filing a lawsuit claiming "hey, you stole the idea I sent you a few months ago!"  So it's even more gratifying to see the Lab opening their doors...and, one hopes, their minds...to ideas from the Residents.

In other news, Masocado has its winter clothes on!  There are frosty trees, polar bears skating on the rooftop pool, snow falling all around, and a skating rink to enjoy.  If you visit, set your Windlight sky to either Midnight (for a nighttime look) or "Raymond's Bright&Hazy Day", and your water to [TOR] Ice-like.  Photos and machinima are permitted, but please give a location credit.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Sad Day on Campus

Today I learned that two of my friends, both Deans at Caledon Oxbridge University, are leaving the university due to Real Life commitments.

Ravelli Ormstein and Martini Discovolante are two of the founding members of COU, and have contributed their building, teaching, and management skills to provide free help to Second Life residents for over five years.  They've created a space that's both incredibly informative and fun to explore and just hang out in.

Their departure is a heavy blow to COU, and they will be sorely missed.  Both for the huge hole they leave in the staff, and for themselves alone.

Rav, Martini -- thanks for everything!  We'll do our best to soldier on, and can only hope our efforts will do you proud.  And of course, we hope you'll come back when you get that pesky RL thing under control.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Manglage

The internet and texting are killing the English language.

Or maybe it's our wonderful public non-educational system, or the TV generation.  Whatever the reason, kids today (and plenty of adults too) have no regard for spelling, grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure.

As a semi-professional wordsmith, this gives me great pain.  Not because I'm picky.  Not because I'm a grouchy, blue-haired old schoolmarm.  Well, OK, I am both of those things, but the sensibilities of one old fashioned lady are not the issue here.  The issue is communication.

I mean, here we are in the digital age, the age of Instant Communication.  Ideas and news, pictures and videos, can flash from one side of the planet to the other in mere seconds!  But with all that, we've raised an entire generation and more of people who cannot communicate!  That's a truly bitter irony.

wtf do i mn?  Just go to any crowded Infohub or one of the Social Islands in Second Life and pay attention to the local chat for a few minutes.  The overall impression is one of remarkably foul-mouthed fourth graders, even though everyone there is (supposedly) at least 16 years old.

sup my nigga?  were cn i get cloes 4 my av?  RU a reel person?  Rly!  ty.  yw.  A/S/L.

Arrrgh.  I understand the need for speed and brevity, truly I do.  Especially when you're in a messaging application and using a tiny phone keyboard.  But Second Life is not a texting app.  If you want speed, practice your typing skills.  If you can't spell, take a remedial English course or two.  Or at least use the built in spell-checker!

Yes, English is a twisty and difficult language, even for native speakers.  To, too, two.  Their and they're.  Were, we're, and where.  I before E except after C.  But these things must be learned, not ignored.  They matter.  The correct, precise use of language can convey thoughts, ideas, and even emotions with remarkable accuracy.  Those who can use language precisely are perceived as being more intelligent than those who can't, or who don't bother.

And it works both ways.  If you can communicate well, you also know enough to be critical of what you hear.  You can more easily tell when you are being lied to or bamboozled.  Our politicians are masters of appearing to say one thing while saying nothing at all, or actually saying the opposite.  It's gotten to the point where I assume that the intent of any particular new law or regulation is exactly the opposite of whatever its title says.

How can you combat this creeping degradation of the ability to communicate and to understand?  Two words:  Read.  Books.  Take some time away from the web, videogames, email, texting, social media, TV and movies.  Open a book and read it.  Start at the beginning and go on to the end.  Then do it again with another book, and again and again.  They don't have to be great literature.

And if you have kids, read to them every day.  Teach them to be bookaholics.  A kid who loves books and reading will do just fine, even in today's ever-increasing flood of drivel.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Some Mesh Terms, and Other Shopping Tips

Tonight, someone asked on the SL Answers forum about the difference between mesh, rigged mesh, Liquid Mesh, and fitted mesh.  I don't blame them a bit for being confused!  If you are, too, here's the scoop...

Non-rigged mesh is just a simple, "rigid" mesh object.  It can be edited for size.

Rigged mesh is linked to your avatar skeleton (a process called "rigging" by 3D animators) and can bend and move with you.  However, it cannot be re-sized.

Liquid Mesh is an attempt to get around that, invented by Redgrave.  Liquid Mesh will re-size itself to fit your individual body shape.

Fitted mesh is the "official" Linden Lab version of Liquid Mesh.  Like Liquid Mesh, it will adjust to your body shape automatically.

Like rigged mesh, both Liquid Mesh and fitted mesh will bend and move with you, and cannot be edited with the Edit tools.  Both types will still most likely require that you wear an alpha mask layer to hide bits of your body that would otherwise stick through the mesh.

Some designers are providing both a fitted mesh and a standard rigged mesh (in the various standard sizes.)  Try on both the fitted and the rigged versions.  I've found several outfits where I liked the look of the regular rigged mesh better than the fitted mesh version.

There are a few other pitfalls that can bite you when you are out shopping.  One of them is the fact that more and more designers are making clothes and accessories that are designed to work ONLY with certain other accessories.

For example, only clothing outfits that include an "applier" for the popular Lolas Tango mesh breasts can be used while wearing these breasts.  The applier applies the clothing texture over the mesh breasts so it appears that they are properly covered.

The mesh feet and hands from SLink are also very popular.  Some fingernails are really "appliers" made specifically for these mesh attachments.  Look for the red and white SLink logo on the ads for nails to see if they are "stand alone" fingernails, or texture appliers.  (Even more confusing, for those who want longer nails than the SLink hands have built into them, some SLink nails ARE actual mesh objects that are worn along with the SLink hands!)

Shoes designed for the SLink mesh feet also carry the red and white SLink logo on their ads.  Don't buy these shoes unless you have the SLink feet.  Unlike shoes designed for the normal avatar feet, these shoes do not come with a "foot" inside them, since they expect you already have feet.

Of course, there are other mesh hands and feet besides those from SLink.  N-core, for example, has just released mesh feet designed to work with new shoes designs, also by N-core.  I haven't yet tried any of the new N-core shoes to see if they will work with SLink feet as well, but my guess is, probably not!

The same sort of compatibility problem can be found with clothes.  Lilou Designs has a whole section of their store dedicated to clothing designed to work with Belleza's "Eve" mesh avatar body.

Be careful and read the ads before you buy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

FLASH! Linden Lab Develops Preliminary Build to Address Main Viewer Crash Issue!

Some of you, especially those with Intel graphics, might have been experiencing the very frustrating situation of installing the latest viewer update, only to have the viewer crash repeatedly at the "initializing VFS" step.

Linden Lab has developed what (they hope) is a fix for this, although I caution that it has NOT yet been fully tested or approved as an official release.

If you want to try it, here's the download link: http://automated-builds-secondlife-com.s3.amazonaws.com/hg/repo/oz_maint-4678/rev/296857/index.html

Use the CYGWIN version for Windows, the Darwin version for Macs, and the Linux version for...uh, Linux, of course.

UPDATE:  Two new developments.  First, the latest AMD/ATI  Radeon graphics driver is causing problems for some people.  If you experience this, revert to an older driver.

Second, the "fixed" viewer is now available here: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Linden_Lab_Official:Alternate_Viewers  Use the Second Life Benchmark Viewer version 3.7.22.297128

Your Cheatin' Virtual Heart

I came across an older post from one of the premiere virtual world blogs, Werner James Au's New World Notes: http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2014/05/cheating-in-second-life.html#more

The post summarizes a study of 400 participants, asking them how they'd feel if their SL partner cheated on them.  The interesting thing is, people who didn't use SL pretty much dismissed this as a non-event.  They couldn't see how the actions of a pixel person on a monitor could upset them emotionally.  However, the people who DID use SL, and were familiar with the phenomenon of immersion, did tend to feel emotional upset.

For those of us who are long time residents of virtual worlds, this result is no surprise.  But it's interesting to see that what we all already knew is now backed up with numbers.

In other news, Philip Rosedale's "High Fidelity" project is generating some interesting results.  One of the things they're exploring over there is getting avatars to respond to their person's gestures and facial expressions in Real Life.  While the avatars themselves are as yet very crude, the way they convey their operators' actions is pretty amazing, and I can hardly wait until this technology is available, combined with more realistic avatars.  Have a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX6R6sMyd2M

That, and a cloth and hair dynamics system are what I want for Christmas!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

FLASH! Latest Viewer Update Won't Run for Some

We are seeing a lot of reports that go something like this:  "When I logged in, the sign on page told me I had to download and install a mandatory viewer update.  When I did, the new viewer wouldn't start, and kept crashing when it got to "initializing VFS."

It's not happening to everyone.  I downloaded and installed the latest version (3.7.20.296094) with no problems.  But if it happens to you, here are some things you can do.

Uninstall and do a clean reinstall of the previous version.  Instructions here:
http://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/How-to-uninstall-and-reinstall-Second-Life/ta-p/1375231

If you did not save the previous version's installation file in your Downloads folder, try one of the many third party viewers.

Or you can try this version: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Release_Notes/Second_Life_Release/3.7.20.296355

Add your comments and any unique information you have, especially about your computer system and graphics card, at this link: https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/BUG-7783  That link will also lead you to some related bug reports and discussions of some further things to try.  The comments by Whirly Fizzle are especially worth paying attention to.  Whirly is one of the Firestorm developers, and what he doesn't know about viewer code would fill a very short book indeed.

Finally, if you have automatic updates enabled in your Preferences, I suggest you disable it and choose to download and install updates manually instead, to avoid problems like this in the future.  Let the other early adopters find the bugs!

EDITED 11/14/14 to add:  The ever-alert Nalates Urriah has blogged about this too, and she has some tips to keep your viewer from insisting that it needs a mandatory update.  See her post here: http://blog.nalates.net/2014/11/11/second-life-main-viewer-failing/

Apples and Oranges, and Pie in the Sky

All right, all right.  So I guess I'm not quite out of things to say yet.  So...I'm back!

I'm back to rant a little bit, in fact.

The other night, I met a newbie, and gave my standard "Welcome to Second Life!" greeting.  In response, I got "thanks, but I'm really not going to be here long."  I asked her why, and she explained that she'd heard about Second Life for years and finally decided to check it out, but she was really unhappy with the graphics quality.

Well, I rolled up my sleeves and got ready to help her delve into her graphics preferences and Windlight settings to show her how SL can really rock, in the "look of the world" department.  But as we talked further, it turned out that she was really excited by other offerings on the web with much better graphics, especially something called "Project Nebula."

So, I googled it.  It's harder to find than you might think.  Google InWorldz or IMVU and you'll immediately find a link to their sign up pages.  But the only thing I was able to find on this Project Nebula was a Kickstarter campaign, and eventually a website with some discussion forums.

The Kickstarter and the developer's website had a video preview of this brave new virtual world.  It had avatar customization (looked a lot like SL) and it showed some clips of two spacecraft chasing each other across a desert (looked a lot like SL vehicles -- rather awkward in how they maneuvered.)  It showed the interior of an apartment being customized and furnished (and I've seen homes in SL that looked just as good if not better.)

So, my conclusion was that my newbie friend was stone crazy.  The "superior graphics" she was raving about simply did not come through, not in the demo video that I saw.  But beyond that, Project Nebula does not even exist yet!

Who in their right mind would choose smoke and mirrors and promises over a place with 11+ years of history?  A place with 26,000 regions, and trillions of user hours lavished on creating everything in it?  I have seen several grandiose game or virtual world ideas come and go.  The ones depending on crowdfunding usually go.

Some day, maybe even next year, someone will come up with something to top Second Life, and then we will all pack up and move there.  Maybe it'll be Philip Rosedale's High Fidelity.  Maybe it will be LL's own "new virtual world."  Or maybe it will be something else.  But I'll bet you $L10 that it won't be Project Nebula.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Closed Until Further Notice

Hello again, Faithful Readers.  Or, I should say, "Hail and farewell."

This blog has run for over four years now, and I find that I've said just about everything I have to say about Second Life.  It's been an amazing journey, both as a resident of the virtual world and with this, my first (and so far, only) blog.


If you're coming here for the first time and reading this post, please don't go away.  There are over 300 OTHER posts, and many of them contain information about Second Life and the whole virtual world experience that you may find useful, interesting, and maybe even amusing from time to time.

In just a few years, perhaps, some historian of the digital realms may stumble in here and say, "My goodness, how quaint!  How primitive!  They really did THAT?"

Thanks for reading these pages.  I wish you all good things in your lives, both real and virtual.

Love,
Lindal Kidd

Friday, October 17, 2014

FLASH! A Small Problem with Outfits

A while back, I explained how to use the handy Outfits feature of your inventory to create a wardrobe of complete looks that are ready to put on with a single mouse click.  (See "The Ins and Outs of Outfits.")

However, it's possible to run into difficulty with this feature, and a person asking a question on the SL Answers forum brought it to my attention (thanks, Chinook!)

Outfits are intended to be made up of LINKS, those useful items in your inventory that point back to an actual object, helping to keep your inventory organized.  They aren't made for containing the actual objects themselves.

When you buy a new dress or shoes, DON'T store them in a folder in My Outfits!  If you do, you could experience odd behaviors like your shoes being dumped into the Trash folder.  Unpack the dress or shoes, and store them in your Clothing folder.  Then wear them, and assemble the other parts and accessories you want for your complete look.

When you have it all together, use the procedure from the Outfits post to save it (Appearance--> Edit Outfit--> Save As.)

And glam on, Fashionista!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hoist the Q Flag

Today, we once again divert our course from Second Life to talk about Real Life.  A very, very nasty part of Real Life...the Ebola virus outbreak.

As I'm sure you know, there is an epidemic of Ebola in West Africa.  This is a horrendous disease, and it's got about a 50% mortality rate.  If you catch it, the tissues of your body break down and you literally bleed to death internally.  Fortunately, the virus is not readily transmitted...it's not an airborne contagion but is transmitted through contact with the body fluids of an infected person.  Moreover, a victim does not become infectious until they begin to show symptoms.

While those factors help to limit the spread of Ebola, nevertheless the current outbreak is the worst on record, with over 6,000 known cases to date.  Because viral epidemics expand exponentially, there will surely be a great many more before it's over.

That's bad enough, to be sure.  But last week the first case of Ebola was diagnosed here in the USA...a Liberian man visiting his family in Texas.

Now, the officials at the CDC had been telling us in the news that this was likely to occur, but not to worry -- we have a much better health system than the poor countries in West Africa, we have the means to contain the spread of the disease, and yadda yadda yadda.  In the event, the first time the man visited the hospital complaining of a fever, he was misdiagnosed and released.  Now the CDC is playing catch-up.  They've quarantined the man's family, under guard.  They are looking for over a hundred people with whom he may have come in contact, so they can be placed under observation.

This is exactly the wrong way to deal with the problem.  By waiting for a victim to be identified, and only then trying to determine who else he may have infected, the CDC has placed us in a position of following along after the Doom Bugs, instead of being out in front of them in the first place.

For centuries it's been known that the best way to keep a population from contracting a disease is to prevent infected people from getting in.  Of course, the downside to this is that you have to inconvenience a great many NON-infected people.  But in a situation where the disease kills half its victims, extreme measures may well be justified.

What the CDC should have been doing, weeks ago, is instituting a nationwide quarantine.  Anyone arriving at the border who's been to West Africa in the previous month should be isolated for 30 days.

For God's sake, people, we quarantined the Apollo astronauts for a month after they got back from the moon, just on the off-chance of extraterrestrial germs.  And that was only a theoretical possibility!

We need a quarantine, and we need it yesterday.  Anyone who thinks that having a lot of hospitals and doctors with gleaming, modern equipment automatically makes us safe against a mindless killer better think again.

EDIT as of October 17.  We have two new US cases, and hundreds more potentially exposed people are being tracked by the CDC.  There have been failures to follow adequate procedures, failures to follow the CDC's own guidelines about restricting travel and exposure.  How many people are going to have to die before we get serious?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Premium Pros and Cons

Over and over again, we get people in the Second Life Answers forum who've just gone Premium asking "where's my money!?"  You can read all about how Premium membership works by checking out this link: Premium Membership

But lots of people don't read that, it seems, or they read it but don't understand it.  So today's post is a very brief discussion of Second Life Premium Membership.

A Premium membership costs $9.95 per month.  Because you are paying LL money each month, you also need to have an accepted payment method on file.  There are two forms of payment LL will accept:  a major credit card, or a verified PayPal account.  Debit and prepaid cards are not accepted.  See this link for cards that ARE accepted:  Accepted Credit Cards

For PayPal, "verified" means that you have to back up your PayPal account with a Real Life bank account or a major credit card.  If you choose the bank account method, you must ALWAYS keep enough money in the PayPal account to pay your Second Life bills.  Linden Lab will not wait several days for money to make its slow way from your bank to PayPal to LL.

You will NOT get a notice that your Premium payment is due.  LL will simply charge you automatically at the start of each new billing period.  They will take the money first from your $USD account balance.  If there is not enough there to cover the charges, they will charge your payment method for the difference.  It's up to YOU to keep track of when your payment is due!

Note that having a payment method on file is NOT the same as having a Premium membership.  You can register a payment method with LL WITHOUT having to sign up for Premium.  You might want to do this if, for example, you are setting up a store in the Marketplace to sell things you've created, or even if you just want to buy some $L occasionally.

You can save some money by choosing the Quarterly or Annual Premium plans.  The Quarterly plan costs $22.50 every three months.  The Annual plan costs $72.00 per year.  Here's the comparison on a monthly basis:
  • Monthly Plan    $9.95/mo
  • Quarterly Plan  $7.50/mo
  • Annual Plan      $6.00/mo
The annual plan is the best deal, but there's a catch:  if you decide to cancel and downgrade back to a Basic membership, you will NOT get a refund on unused time.  In fact, your membership benefits will continue until your last paid-for period ends.  At that time, you'll drop back to a Basic level.

Linden Lab occasionally offers a half-off introductory rate on a Quarterly Premium membership.  The rate goes back to the normal $22.50 level in the second quarter.  The Annual plan is actually the better buy, even with the introductory offer.

What do you get for your $6 - $10 per month?  There are several Premium benefits.
  • Mainland ownership.  This is probably the biggest Premium benefit.  You can't own land on the Mainland unless you are Premium.  However, lots of people prefer living on a Private Estate.  Estates make up about 75% of the land in Second Life, and you don't need to be Premium to live on one.  You can also rent land on the Mainland from another resident. 
  • A Free Home.  You can get a Linden Home on a 512 square meter land parcel.
  • If you don't want the restrictions of a pre-built Linden Home, you can buy land anywhere else on the Mainland, and you will not be charged a monthly land fee on the first 512 sq. meters.
  • A weekly "stipend" payment of $L300.  This is paid on Tuesdays.  If you signed up for Premium on a Wednesday, you'll have to wait almost a week for your first payment.
  • A one-time $L1,000 retention bonus.  This is paid only after you have been a Premium member for 45 consecutive days.  It is not, repeat NOT paid as soon as you sign up!  You will not get a second bonus if you downgrade to Basic and then upgrade to Premium again later.
  • Access to better technical support.  You can file support cases for things like inventory loss that you can't do as a Basic member.
  • Access to Live Chat.  This can be a lot more responsive to problems than filing a Support Case.  However, Live Chat will NOT help you deal with griefers, only with technical issues.
  • Access to certain Premium-only areas.  These include Premium-only sandboxes which are generally a lot less infested with griefers than the fully public sandbox areas, as well as the Linden Wilderness area.
  • Premium gifts.  These are offered at irregular intervals, and are usually not all that great in terms of build quality.  Still, it's something that Basic peons don't get!
There is a potential drawback to a Premium membership.  Some people leave SL for a long period.  As long as your payment method remains valid, LL will continue to charge you automatically at the start of each new billing period.   When your credit card expires and LL can't collect its fees, they will delete your account.  This means you'll lose your land, all your $L, and all your inventory.  This does not happen to Basic members, whose accounts are retained indefinitely.  If you are leaving SL for an extended time, be sure to get your account in order!

Is Premium worth it?  You'll find a lot of arguments on this, both pro and con.  It's a personal decision.   For me, the answer is "yes," for the mainland ownership, the weekly stipend, and the access to tech support and Live Chat.

Oh, a last word here...there is also a membership level called "Concierge."  You become a Concierge level member if you pay LL $100 or more in monthly land fees.  That applies whether the land fees are paid for Mainland, or are paid because you own one or more Private Regions.  Concierge level members have access to Live Chat and better tech support whether or not they are also Premium members.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Virtual and Real Bodies

In the seven-plus years I've been in Second Life, one of my greatest concerns has been my appearance.  I think that's true for most of us in the virtual world, with some notable exceptions.  My friend and personal hero Desmond Shang comes to mind. Desmond is so focused on being himself that he has no time or patience to waste on what he might look like.  His words and actions tell you who he his, the avatar is just a placeholder. 

But Des is a wonderful exception to the rule.  For most of us, our avatar represents who we are in SL, our own ideal self-image made visible.  It says "Look!  This is who I am!"

And I like my Second Life self a lot.  In SL, I'm young, slender, curvy and beautiful.  I wear high fashion clothes, expensive jewelry, sexy shoes.  In short, I'm one put together babe, honey.

One of my SL friends told me that her sexy SL appearance had had a salutory effect on her Real Life one...since starting SL, she said, she'd dropped 20 pounds in RL so she would look a bit more like her avatar.

I think I've finally come around to that attitude.  Since coming to SL, almost all of my spare time has been spent sitting in front of a computer monitor.  My fingers are about the only part of me that's gotten a workout in a long, long time.  And my physical body has, not to put too fine a point on it, gone to hell.

Well, it's time to do something about that.  I can't do anything about the "young" part (sigh!) but I can and do hereby resolve to do two RL things religiously from now on:  Diet.  Exercise.

It's a lot harder to re-make our physical selves than to put on a new shape and skin in SL.  But I'm going to Do It!  If you are spending too much time in front of your monitor, maybe you should, too.  I bet it will improve both your SL and your RL, and might even give you a few years longer to enjoy them.

Monday, September 15, 2014

FLASH! Across the Grid Picked by LivingSL

A couple of weeks ago, I screwed up my courage and asked the nice people at the big LivingSL blog feed if Across the Grid might be added to their (large!) stable of Second Life blogs.  Today I got a lovely email from Alianna telling me I'd made the cut.  (Her actual words were a lot more welcoming than that, even flattering...so I won't repeat them here.  You'd think I was being immodest!)

In any case, we're now a part of the Second Life Blogosphere, along with some HUGE names like New World Notes and Living In A Modem World.

PLUS we have broken the 100,000 pageview milestone.

All I can say is WOW.  And hey, thanks for reading.

Run over to LivingSL and bookmark it or subscribe to the feed, it's a terrific resource.

Monday, September 8, 2014

FLASH! Fine Adjustment of Avatar Height Above Ground

I've written before about the Hover adjustment in the Appearance/Edit Shape/Body sliders, and how it can be used to get your feet up out of the floor, or down to the ground.

But as you probably know, the Hover slider has two big drawbacks.  One, its adjustments are too coarse.  Even a one-number change can leave you either floating, or embedded.  And two, it doesn't work with No Modify shapes.

But the clever Nalates Urriah has come up with a workaround for this.  It takes some effort, and two more attachments, and it's kludgy, but it works.

For the gory details, see her blog: http://blog.nalates.net/2013/05/21/second-life-hover/

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Avatar Appearance - A Fragmented Landscape

Actually, it's more like a minefield.

Avatar appearance in Second Life used to be pretty straightforward.  Way back at the beginning, you just used the Appearance sliders to change everything.  If you wanted a new shirt or pants or skirt, you created a texture in Photoshop, uploaded it, and applied it in the Appearance window.  If you wanted to change your shape, the Appearance sliders were what you used.  If you wanted different makeup or hair, well, there were Appearance sliders for that, too.

But Second Life residents are endlessly inventive, and kept looking for ways to improve on the look that was available with the Appearance sliders.

First came fully painted, detailed skins.  These could not be modified with Appearance makeup sliders, so creators offered them in "fatpacks" with an assortment of makeup choices.

But for some, five or six or eight makeups wasn't enough.  So when the Tattoo layer was introduced, along came makeup tattoos that could be applied over the skin.

The ugly "system hair" was replaced by much prettier prim hair (although system hair is still around, in the form of the mandatory "bald head" body part.)  Then hair became flexible, when flexiprims were introduced.  Mesh hairstyles took away the flex, but created hair that didn't penetrate our shoulders.

Bodies became more flexible, first with the system introduced in the old Emerald viewer (which later evolved into Phoenix and then Firestorm) and then in the stock viewer with the addition of the "physics" clothing layer.

Fingernails evolved.  First there were nails painted on the glove clothing layer, and later on the tattoo layer.  Then someone invented prim nails, which were much more crisp and detailed than the glove layer nails...but tended to "pop off" in certain hand poses.  When Mesh was introduced, we got whole hands and feet, with the nails built in and adjustable with texture "appliers."  Now, in fact, it's getting harder to find shoes that are NOT made for the wildly popular SLink mesh feet.

Speaking of feet, when sculpties were introduced, we got pretty shoes for the first time.  Then the creators started making shoes with integral feet (which I must admit, looked a lot better than the clubs that come with the standard avatar.)

Soon, prim attachments, then sculpted prim attachments, supplemented clothing layers, making clothing much more realistic...but also more complex.  A shirt might require not only a shirt layer, but attachments for collar, shirttail, front ruffles, and poofy sleeves or cuffs.

Then Mesh clothing came along.  Since it wasn't resizable like the old clothes, we now had to worry about "what size will fit me?"  And even if we wore a "standard mesh" shape, nothing was guaranteed.  An alpha layer was almost always needed in addition to the mesh clothing item, and even when Fitted Mesh came along, the alpha was still a requirement to keep us inside our mesh clothes.

Shoes used to hide the avatar foot with "invisiprims" but when Alpha mask layers were introduced, those became obsolete.  Alphas look much better, but you do have to pay attention and manage your alpha layers.  You can have one for your shoes, another for a skirt, a third for a top, another for your head, and yet another for your mesh hands.  You're maxed out at five.

Girls who wanted a more voluptuous figure were accommodated with mesh breasts and buns.  But again, these required special attention...texture appliers had to be included with outfits by designers to paint the clothing texture on the mesh attachments.

Oh, what the heck, why not replace the entire avatar with a mesh body?  Some of these are very beautiful.  But they can't wear standard clothes, or indeed any clothes that are not created to work especially with them.

If you're new to Second Life, nobody can blame you for feeling lost and confused as you try to navigate the complexity of today's avatar appearance choices.  Maybe you would feel less stressed if you just put on a Furry avatar and told the clothing designers to take a long walk off a short pier.  (Or maybe not.  My friend Tali Rosca pointed out to me that Furries have had to deal with all these problems longer than us human avatars, what with all the attachments that make up a Furry avatar!)

Or maybe LL will cut through all this with the design of the new virtual world that may one day replace this messy old Second Life.

You'll have to excuse me...I'm behind on assembling outfits for all the new dresses I just bought!

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 Life...how 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: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/General-Discussion-Forum/Gaming-Skills-Region-Problem/td-p/2811058

And, if you come to Second Life primarily for gamb...er, 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 Chairs...you'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: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Limited-Time-Offer-Save-50-on-Premium-Membership-and-Get-the-New/ba-p/2779820

Everything You Should Know About Premium Membership: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/Premium-membership/ta-p/1054477

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: https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/BUG-6735?

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:  http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Updates-to-Section-2-3-of-the-Terms-of-Service/ba-p/2777874

And be sure to re-read the new Terms of Service here: http://lindenlab.com/tos

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:  http://insertfunnyname.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/linden-lab-whiffs-the-tos-again/

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 it...it'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 with...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 temptress...no, 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."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Overkill and Games of Skill

Well, dear readers, it appears that Linden Lab has done it to us AGAIN.

Back in 2007, LL banned gambling in Second Life, to avoid falling afoul of US regulations on internet gambling.  Those of us who were around back then remember what a huge blow this was to the Second Life economy.

But some games, especially the "slot machine" types of games such as Zyngo, were deemed to be "games of skill" and not "gambling."  So, they remained.  There were also a number of popular table games like "Greedy Greedy," which is roughly based on the popular Real Life game of Yahtzee.  And there continued to be a large number of "sploders" at clubs...devices into which you could deposit money, and after a preset time/number of players, would "explode" and pay out random prize amounts to the players.

The slot machines, in particular, seem to me to have been making something of a comeback.  At least, I have been running across an increasing number of "arcades" featuring rows of them.

But in a recent blog post, Linden Lab announced a new policy on "skill games," effective August 1, 2014.  On this date, skill games will only be permitted on "skill gaming regions."  These will be private estate regions...no skill games will be permitted on the Mainland.  Owners of these regions must register as "skill game operators" and pay a nonrefundable $100 registration fee.  In addition, such regions will cost $345 per month (regular estate regions cost $295 per month.)  There are additional costs as well, since LL is requiring that operators and game creators obtain an opinion from an attorney that their games comply with the definition of "skill games."

This last one has me scratching my head, because it seems that what's really needed to make this determination isn't a lawyer, it's an LSL script expert.  But, since the whole issue revolves around LL's legal exposure, I suppose it has a certain cockeyed logic to it. 

I suspect that the greatly increased costs of getting permission to make or have these games will cause most people to simply give them up rather than jump through all the new hoops.  If LL were being honest, instead of titling their blog post "Coming Soon:  Skill Gaming in Second Life," it should have been "Going Away Soon..."

Not everyone will be able to participate in skill gaming.  Residents of about ten or so U.S. states will be prohibited, due to laws in those states.  You'll also have to be at least 19 years old.

Game creators will also have to register with LL, and in many cases will have to revise their games.  Here is why:  The new policy classifies any game which relies on skill, AND requires that the player pay money to play, or can be set to pay-to-play as falling under the "skill gaming" policy.  Unfortunately, many popular games like Greedy Greedy have this flexibility.

This is why the new policy has me all steamed.  I have a small game room in our Mainland rental parcel in the Masocado region.  It has a Greedy Greedy game table, and two other games from the same creator.  All of them have always been completely free to play, to everyone.  They are there for the amusement of tenants and guests.  However, the fact that they could be set to require payment from players means that either the creator will have to provide a revised "free play only" version of the games either as a free update, or as a new version that I would have to purchase.  If not, I'll have to remove the games.

Or, of course, one could argue that because these games do have some element of chance, they are not "skill games" at all, but fall under the Gambling policy instead.  Interestingly, under THAT policy, as long as I keep them free to play, they're allowed.  It's only if I set them to pay-to-play that they become "gambling" under that policy.  So, like most of LL's policies, what seems black and white becomes instead a gray area. 

Of course, LL could change the policy in response to resident input, or issue some meaningful clarifications.  But, um, I wouldn't bet on it.

For Further Reading:
Coming Soon:  Skill Gaming in Second Life (LL Blog Post)
LL Skill Gaming Policy
Skill Gaming Participant Requirements
Skill Gaming FAQ
LL Forums Skill Gaming Thread

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Game Changers

This blog is almost entirely about Second Life (and occasionally, other virtual worlds.)  But I just had a thought that I wanted to share with you all about Game Changers.

Game Changers (with the capitals, please!) are innovations.  They could be things like social institutions, or novel investment schemes, but since I happen to be trained as a scientist and engineer, I tend to think of them as actual inventions.  A Game Changer is something that is so revolutionary that it completely revises the world and the way we look at it.  The automobile and the airplane were Game Changers.  The personal computer and the internet were Game Changers.

Here are three Game Changers that we need very badly, and they all have to do with energy.
  1. Cheap, clean power.  No, not wind, solar, or nuclear power.  I mean something really cheap, and really clean.  There are rumors of this sort of Game Changer here and there on the internet.  Most of them are probably hoaxes, or at least wishful thinking on the part of their proponents.  However, I recently ran across a report of an Italian fellow who claims to have made cold fusion work in a generator about the size of a picnic cooler.  Independent investigators confirmed that the device seems to be making a heck of a lot more heat than can be attributed to any chemical reaction, but the inventor hasn't come forth with any of the details of how it works.  So, it could be a hoax as well...but we NEED something like this so much!  Even if this report is a hoax, there are others working on the problem.  Electrostatic confinement for fusion looks very promising, if they can just scare up some funding.
  2. High power density storage.  Batteries suck.  They are heavy, expensive, contain harmful chemicals, and don't store nearly enough power.  The person who invents the battery that stores as much energy as your car's gas tank, in the same weight and volume, will go down in history.  And there is a report that some scientists have (maybe!) come up with a way to do it, by producing "spongy" electrodes that have enormous surface area for their physical size.  If the lab experiment can be scaled up to an industrial process, we could see cell phone batteries the size of postage stamps that charge in ten seconds and last for days.  We could see REAL electric cars, at prices like today's gas buggies.
  3. Low loss power transmission.  We need a low cost room temperature superconductor.  I haven't seen any recent reports in this area, but the problem is being worked on.  I hope there's a breakthrough soon.
And one more, not in the energy area:  Really high strength materials.  There are great strides being made every day in this field, particularly with "carbon nanotubes."  As we learn more about this stuff, we could find our cars becoming so light you could pick up a car body.  Or someone building a "space elevator," and making it possible to get into orbit without all those expensive and risky rockets.  No, no, I am dead serious.  Game Changer, remember?

And one last one, this time in industrial processes:  3D printing.  Right now, you can get a "maker cell" that will let you "print" plastic jewelry and knick-knacks in your own home.  There are industrial 3D printers that can "print" rocket engine parts, or medical prosthetics.  Even actual replacement internal organs, or skin.  There is a big machine that can extrude concrete to "print" an entire house right on the building site.  They are even "printing" food!  The latest term for this sort of thing is "additive manufacturing."  Instead of cutting parts out of a chunk of material, the parts are built up in many layers with an extrusion or spraying type of machine that's controlled by a computer and a digital template.

All right, let's tie this discussion back to virtual worlds, at least a little bit.  Virtual worlds are, at least potentially, a Game Changer too.  Second Life and its competitors have changed the way in which we interact with others, as well as the way we perceive others.  As the fidelity of the virtual world experience increases, we'll see even greater impacts on our lives.

Game Changers are, by definition, unexpected.  And they have unexpected consequences, both good and bad.  The airplane ushered in an age of cheap, rapid travel to anywhere in the world...and warfare in a whole new dimension.

Keep your eyes open for new developments.  The future is almost sure to be more wild and crazy than we can imagine, thanks to Game Changers.