Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Commentary: A Few Words on "My Little Pony"

by Nydia Tungsten

I have never been what one would call a “Brony” I have never even watched the show when I was little or even a full episode. But I have interacted with some MAJOR fans of the show in Second Life and they did their best to try and teach me about their passion for “My Little Pony.” They even took me to one of the many MLP sims, some stayed in character as this bipedal fox wandered around (I have to say I enjoyed that). I even got a bipedal version of “Vinyl” when I DJ’d a party for some of the MLP’s in Second Life.

There is a LARGE fandom in Second Life, been there the entire time I have been in SL and I have gotten to know many fans of the show. I have even visited a Minecraft world built to scale. After all that I had still never watched an episode of “My Little Pony” So I decided to finally sit down and watch it, since it is on netflix I figured “Why the hell not?” I started at the beginning and I am currently in the 7th season, (I had no idea there were so many).  There has been a LOT of “art” shared on common Discord servers I am on, and I am glad to say it is not like the art, that it IS a children's show (LOL). I like some characters more than others, Luna, Zacora, and Twilight, but the main story is around Twilight and her five friends teaching about “The magic of friendship.”

But for the life of me I can NOT see a reason for the hate people have shown for those that like the show. I know of a lot WORSE shows that I won’t mention. I find them stupid, inane, and just down right drivel.  But I would never look down on someone enjoying that crap. We just agree to disagree. Well, for most of the time. I have come across people that if I didn’t like their favorite show, I was an idiot and had no education or appreciation for the more “sophisticated”  shows….. Bleh. But I see people actively “Shaming” those that enjoy the show, I am a bit familiar with this since I do count myself a furry and have felt that sting myself.

But what really surprises me, is that I have heard of Furries and Bronies attacking each other, Seriously? What the heck is wrong with them? They come from a similar spectrum of fandom (Goddess I know I am going to get a lot of hate for that one).

Live and let live is my opinion, it is something they enjoy, not hurting anyone. So why bother them? I know you're asking “Are you a “Brony now?” Well, to be honest I don’t know how to answer that. Do I enjoy the show? Yes. Am I going to adopt pony speak and make my own pony? No, I don’t think so, because I like who I am.

We all like what we like, and as long as you’re not hurting anyone, what's the big deal? Some people compare this to a “Sick fetish” and my answer to them is a resounding… So? There are a lot worse ones out there, they aren’t hurting anyone. They are enjoying their lives so leave them alone!

Just relax, have a cup of coffee and relax, all our lives would be better if more people did this.  As for me, I am going to get another cup of coffee and finish season 7. Until next time, Enjoy your life and let others enjoy theirs.

Image Credit: Wikipedia, DeniseUnicorn Toonie, Deaflegacy

Nydia Tungsten

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Fire Disaster in Madori Falls Wilderness


By Gemma Cleanslate

 Well,  what an adventure! Sunday I went to explore Madori Falls Wilderness high on a hilltop . I hiked through a forest to the small lake that was the headwaters of the waterfall. It was so pleasant and quiet I sat to rest and fell asleep for a while.

I awoke smelling smoke and hearing crackling in the distance. Above me on the hill I saw the fire watch tower and the nearby trees were aflame.

As I turned in the distance below I saw more smoke rising. This fire was encircling the area. It is a good thing there was a small meadow around me and the lake in case I needed to save myself there. I felt very alone until several others walked out of the woods to join me.

Several elks trotted out of the woods too crying with fear. Happy to see the water they stood at the edge drinking, ignoring us.

We  stood around, sat , chatted and hoped someone was looking for hikers. I was happy to be prepared for this with a water bottle and some snacks which I shared. We could smell the smoke and hear the fire getting closer. 

A bear appeared out of the woods across the lake frightening humans and elks! He stayed on that side so we felt somewhat safe.

 We could hear helicopters above and waved and waved. we were urged to head for the lower waters and finally took a short jump into the falls to the creek below. Most of us followed the creek to a large lake and waited there . One was missing,  Kees, who got the wrath of the bear before he jumped and was bitten so rescue for him would take place elsewhere.

As we waited it was so cold we danced in place in the thigh high water. Finally , two rescue copters appeared in the sky above and one by one we were lifted up on a rope . Slowly the pilot made her way to the rescue ship off the coast that was well equipped for medical issues. Each of us was assigned a cot in a tent to await clearance that we were not injured or ill in any way. Serenity joined us but she had fallen from the copter when being lifted so was the most injured of us.

 We heard Kees arrive on a gurney and he was swiftly examined and began treatment for his bear bite. It was good to see that at least he was alive and sounded pretty much ok. His treatment sounded a bit painful though. The nurse taking care of him thoroughly discussed each step of the treatment as she went along .

The Doc  came in to our tent and questioned each of us to see if we were aware of who we were , what day it was, did we know how we got there , were we injured in any way and finally released most of us to go topside. Serenity stayed to have an MRI and I hope she is ok.

Kees was still there when I left too and I hope to see that he has recovered . 

Great thanks to all who assisted in the rescue and putdown of the fires. I witnessed the rescuers getting thanks and being dismissed from all their work before I left the ship. Well, not sure I will go back to Madori Falls Wilderness again soon. I know quieter places to go hiking.

Gemma Cleanslate

Friday, September 4, 2020

Genus Project Wins DMCA Suit, Reopens Today

By Bixyl Shuftan

Good news for fans of Genus Project. They've won the DMCA suit against them, and will be opening today, Friday September 4. The suit, the second filed against them, was made on July 4, just hours after the store reopened following winning the first.

On the Genus Discord channel, owner Anna Ivanova would explain how the case was made.

"The person who did this thought out his plan very well. ... So what happened exactly? This person, I am sure, is ... an experienced Second Life user. Basically, he copybotted my mesh from the game. And then, having some editing skills, he used Photoshop CS6 to create the ad ... on April 5, 2020 (shortly before filing a fake copyright complaint against me), and uploaded this product to be sold on a third-party site.

"He called himself by my name and said that he had been developing mesh for a very famous game studio for 13 years. ... The ad was ready ... Then they came up with a fake address, fake phone number, fake lawyer from NY, cuz it's not even in the database. They came up with a text about the alleged studio itself, that they have been doing business for 13 years, and a list of claims they have against us. In the end, they ask (us) to remove all Genus content from ALL of the inventories, so that even a trace of mine will not remain in ... SL - no store, no products - nothing."

Unfortunately, while finding out how the culprit pulled off the forgery took only a short time, getting the DMCA shutdown resolved would take time, and help from lawyers, "The most disappointing thing to me in this whole situation is that I and my 5 lawyers were ignored for several months. Nobody wanted to answer me, all my letters were unanswered - no feedback at all. My lawyers received only references to the old letters and a copy of this complaint. And of  course, nobody answered us from those fake addresses and phone numbers. After months of silence,we were finally able to achieve the result. A very famous and strong American lawyer took up the case, for which I am immensely grateful to him. I have received return-on-sale approval for all my items and there is no longer any DMCA against GENUS Project. All charges were dropped. All copyrights for my work are registered. All complaints and DMCA that are sent to me from now on will be invalidated. LL is notified of the registration of rights and trademarks."

Anna would state, "The thought I was a thief caused depression in me ... But I'm not used to giving up. ... I was treated unfairly, and realizing how easy it is to frame the real author of works, it's just insane." Her advice to serious content creators in Second Life, "I ... shout out to everyone who engages in creativity and creates something, you should register the copyright for each of your work(s), so that no one can ever, ever, do the same to you."

She would have a message to the person whom filed the DMCA takedowns, "I assure YOU I will not give up trying to find YOU. ...  And to YOU, I say this. If you hate me and my brand so much, then don't be a coward and tell me about it personally. If you want to compete with me, then learn how to work like me and do it honestly and professionally. Otherwise, you are a nobody for me, not a rival, not an enemy. Just an empty spot - nothing. I am not afraid of weak people. ... The responsibility that you have taken upon yourself is so huge, you could end up in jail."

Her final message was to her customers and other supporters, "I love you all and I am proud that we are ALL a big family. Me, you, everyone who loves Genus. I will reopen the store tomorrow. Until then, let's celebrate this beautiful day."

On Discord, there were numerous well-wishes from fans, "Yay!!!! Welcome back! We've missed you!" "I am so glad that Genus Project is back in action!! This is a happy day." "i am so glad you back and all sorted and i hope you catch whoever is doing this cause i may be being paraniod but i got a feeling they gone after **** too seems strange they are down now i think this is some major lame troll." "I want to personally say, Anna, I am so terribly sorry for (what felt like an eternity to both you and us) the countless months of undeserved stress that you've endured.  I am happy to know you can breath a sigh of relief, even if a little.  As you already know, your supporters, have been in your corner the entire time; having faith you'd persevere.  We are proud of you for, NOT GIVING UP, wasn't easy.  It proves just how good and STRONG you are!  ONLY POSITIVE LIGHT from this point on, Anna.  YOU ARE A TRUELY A SHINING STAR!"

And so after being down for months, Genus Project is back in business, to stay this time. For them, what looks like the end of a long nightmare. For others wanting to be serious content creators in Second Life, a cautionary tale about what can go wrong.

Hat Tip: Ryan Schultz

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Chrome is Becoming a Real OS

By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich)

A couple of months ago, I came to realize that I needed something better than my old crappy HP laptop. I had gotten the laptop as a hand-me-down because the previous owner ended up with viruses and didn’t want to deal with it anymore. This was fine as I knew how to erase the hard drive and install Linux and even a new copy of Windows. However, there was something that I couldn’t fix, even with the extra RAM that I installed in it. The laptop’s CPU was just way too underpowered. It was just way too slow and cumbersome for even what I wanted to use it for, that being a computer that I could use while sitting on the couch in front of the TV. I wanted something snappier and thus more enjoyable to use.

The problem was I was on a very tight budget. I thought about getting an android tablet but then I thought about all the other android tablets that I’ve had over the years and how underpowered they all were. It was then that I was suggested a Chromebook by Game Wylder. Android tablets have been sort of dead in the water for a while aside for underpowered Amazon and Kindle tablets. Apparently, Chrome OS is now where it’s at. I was suggested the Lenovo Chromebook Duo and since it was at my price point and had very positive reviews I decided to go ahead and buy one.

I had not had much experience with Chromebooks aside from the ones that I have to use at work to clock in and check my emails. My experiences with Chrome OS up until that point had not been great. I just thought that it was way too limited to be a real OS. I just figured that it was just a browser. While this may have been true in the past, Chrome OS has since gotten Android app support and a beta version of Linux, which means that you can install applications on it. Steam support could also be available in the near future for more gaming options. There’s still no official way to run a full Second Life browser in Chrome OS, but I was able to hack my way around and side-load a version of the now unsupported Lumiya thanks to some help from Tantari. I don’t foresee myself using it much but it’s there in case of emergency or something.

As for my new Chromebook itself, I’m not disappointed. It’s just as snappy as my main PC when it comes to mundane tasks, transitions seamlessly between laptop and tablet mode, and does everything that I need it to. The keyboard and trackpad are surprisingly usable. I’m even writing this article on it while watching YouTube on my TV. If you need a second computer, I would highly recommend a Chromebook or Chrome OS.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Second Life Store Hit With Two DMCA Shutdowns, Second Hours After Reopening

By Bixyl Shuftan

Since Bento mesh came out, there have been a number of products based on it. Among them are the avatar heads by the Project Bento store, which blogger Ryan Schultz describes as "highly successful." Unfortunately in April, they were hit with a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown order.

Recently, we have received a DMCA complaint against us for the first time from another Second Life creator. According to the rules,we need to delete our content before the end of the proceedings. Our lawyer is currently filing a counter-DMCA complaint. It has all our files created for second Life, and we hope the situation will be resolved soon. 

The author of the complaint is unknown, but when we receive the response from Linden Lab, we will send the case to court. 

We ask you to treat this with understanding, these are forced actions that we must take to ensure the security of our intellectual property. Please note that content will not be removed from your inventory, it will only be removed from the Genusproject Resident inventory. During the closing of the store, we will stay in tough in social networks (discord and Facebook) as well as in the world group. Thank you for your attention and understanding. 

So for a time, the store was closed until the issue was resolved. According to Ryan Schultz's article, there were some angry accusations by fans of Genus that one of their competitors was behind the takedown. But several brands stepped forward to deny the claims, and Genus themselves while thanking their fans for their support strongly urged them not to spread rumors. It never was revealed whom filed the DMCA takedown order.

First, I would like to thank everyone for supporting Genus and taking the time to help each other and form a solid community in this group. Second,Genus is temporarily closed until the DMCA claim is reconciled and Third.Sadly i need to make this clear. All will be banned from group & sim if you disrespect Genus Project  or  speak negatively about another creator or mention their products  that do not support Genus Project Brand. In a world where you can be anything. Be Kind.  Be Safe - #Be Strong.

Finally on July 4, the store reopened. But only a few hours passed before Genus was hit with yet again another DMCA takedown order. The staff would announce the news on the Linden forums, and their Discord channel.

While we had hoped the DMCA business was behind us, we have received another notice from Linden Labs that we must remove our inventory and our store.  As we have not been given info regarding who initiated this the first time, we are left to assume it is the same person and that it is someone with no actual claim.

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused anyone - your patience, support, and loyalty to our brand is not something we take for granted.  It is unfair to ask you to stand by us and stand with us as we fight this, but nothing about this situation has been fair.  Please understand that we cannot provide details we don't know and we ask that you keep rumors and accusations down while we work with our lawyers and with Linden Labs to prevent this from happening again.

And if whomever has filed this is reading?  Please understand that filing these claims does more than hurt us as creators - it prevents us from giving customers the support they deserve.  It stops us from releasing updates and letting customers get redeliveries.  That is who you are hurting the most.

As Schultz would put it, "It would now appear that The Genus Project is now going to be involved in a long and costly court battle before they can sell their products again. A major player has effectively been knocked out of the Bento mesh head market for the foreseeable future, and perhaps permanently. This is going to affect not just the team at The Genus Project, but it is also going to impact all the content creators who created skins and cosmetics for this brand of mesh heads."

As before, it is unknown who filed the takedown order, or why.

Sources: Genus Discord, Ryan Shultz, Linden forums  

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Online Comics: Five More Strips

By Bixyl Shuftan

Among the things people do online are reading online comics. And there are some serial comics out there with long-lasting storylines. A few months ago, I wrote a review of five of the more popular ones. Since then, I've gotten suggestions to review a few others. Some of those pointed out to me either weren't running for very long, or were beyond a PG-13 rating (including a few good ones that might get someone in trouble if they were seen at work, even at break time). But I came up with five more to take a look at in-depth.

Two Kinds

TwokindsDrawn By Thomas Fischbach since October 2003, "Two Kinds" is described by the artist as a "Fantasy Manga." It takes place in a Medieval Fantasy world with three main races. There are the humans, whom are the technologically and magically most advanced of the three. There are the Keidran, whom come in many varieties such as tigers, wolves, foxes, and others, whom are the shortest-lived of the three and are more instinct-driven and territorial. A third group are the fennec-like Bastians, whom live in a militaristic society and are unable to use magic. The Humans and Keidran share a large landmass, and as humans occasionally make slaves out of the furs there's been trouble between the two kinds for centuries. The Bastians, whom live on a group of islands apart from the continent, have largely been left alone.

The story begins as a human named Trace awakens, having lost his memory. Shortly afterwards, he comes across Flora, a tiger Keidran girl . They soon run into a Bastian named Keith, a fighter whom was banished from his land until he brings back someone to his people's islands. This is the start of an adventure that involves a number of other characters. Raine is a seemingly normal young woman aside from her gray hair whom has a very unusual background. Natani is the younger of two wolf assassins whom were magically linked after an accident, and is not what first appears to be. There's Lady Nora, a two-thousand year old dragon whom has a fondness for Trace. And there are a number of other characters.

The characters end up splitting into two groups after some time in the story, and the comic would switch from one to another for a while. Trace quickly learns that he's a powerful person in his land. But as time goes on, he gradually learns details of his past showing that he wasn't always the kindly person he has become. Eventually, Trace's group makes it's return from the Bastian Islands. But this isn't the end of their adventures as someone decides to cause more trouble between the humans and Keidran. Recently the characters have decided to check out Trace's old home, which has it's share of secrets, and dangers.

The comic currently updates an average of once a week, though occasionally may take longer. Due to violence and some mature humor, the comic rates a PG rating.

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Girl Genius

A popular Steampunk online comic, "Girl Genius" is written by Phil and Kaja Foglio. This "gaslamp fantasy" is the tale of Mad Scientst Agatha Heterodyne and her friends (and enemies).

The story takes place in 19th Century Europe in an alternative Earth where "mad scientist" isn't just an expression but a fact of life. Either the helpers of powerful men and women, or powerful men and women in their own right, "sparks," as they're called when the speaker is being polite, have been the cause of much mayhem, as well as people finding a solution to it. Probably the among the most feared were the Heterodynes, at least until Bill and Barry Heterodyne, also known as the Heterodyne Boys, came about. Using their talents to stop trouble rather than cause it, they became heroes whose stories became the stuff of legend. They disappeared putting an end to "The Other," the most feared of all sparks whom tried to enslave Europa's population. Peace was restored by way of Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, whom installed what became known as the "Pax Transylvaia" over much of Europa. While many are relieved that any trouble will be met with a quick response, Wulfenbach's often ruthless ways have made him a controversial figure. Helping Wulfenbach are the Jagers, odd-looking humanoids often with claws and fangs that are super-strong and feared by most.

At the story's start, Agatha Clay is a lab assistant in Transylvania Polygnostic University. One day on her way to the lab, her locket is stolen. After an incident at the lab, she returns home and ends up making a "clank," or steam-age robot, in her sleep, which activates when she awakens. Eventually, she learns she is really Agatha Heterodyne, the daughter of Bill Heterodyne. Baron Wulfenback also finds out and goes after her, considering the idea of any heir to the Heterodynes a potential threat to the peace he's established over Europa. Agatha gets away with the help of allies, and after some adventures decides to make her way to Mechanicsburg, the ancestral home of her family.

Other characters in the story include the Baron's son Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, sometimes called "Gil" by those who know him, whom ends up falling in love with Agatha, much to his father's annoyance. One of Agatha's first allies is Krosp, an intelligent cat, whom is sometimes known as "the Emperor of Cats." Another friend is Zeetha, a green-haired woman whom can be a terrifying fighter whom Agatha first meets at a traveling circus. Captain Bangladesh DuPree is one of the Baron's more ruthless enforcers, among those pursuing Agatha. Tarvek Sturmvoraus is part of the "Storm King Conspiracy" that opposes the Baron, and ends up being a rival with Gil for Agatha's affection. There's Maxim, Ognian, and Dimo, three "wild" Jagers whom end up as Agatha's bodyguards.

It should be noted that the strip has plenty of fans among Second Life's Steamland community. The virtual world even has it's own Baron Klaus Wulfenbach. There's also that while many webcomic artists hope to "strike it big" and gain a big enough following to sell books in print, with Girl Genius it was the opposite. It came out in print first, and only later on started appearing online. The story has it's own wiki page (link).

Girl Genius is updated three days a week, and rates G with occasional PG. While the naughtiest you'll see is the occasional scene of lady in Victorian undies, there is occasional death and violence.

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21st Century Fox

In the words of "Freefall's" artist Mark Stanley, "21st Century Fox" is, "Probably the most improved comic on the web. From near scrawls and stick figures at the beginning to full color animated gifs. Even with the improved art, this comic's strongest point remains the writing." Drawn by Scott Kellog, this "Romantic comedy of the future" is about Jack Fox and Cecil Giraffe and some friends and acquaintances of theirs as they go about various adventures in the late 21st Century.

The world of 21st Century Fox is an anthromorphic version of Earth in 2066. Much is different from ours, such as the uneasy relationship between herbivores and carnivores (unless the herbivore is so big, instincts aren't a problem), and that scientific progress has gone to the point people are working and living in space. Technology has gotten to the point women can have a pregnancy in artificial wombs (which look a lot like lava lamps). But some things are very much familiar such as prejudice, differing beliefs clashing, and the quest to find love and romance.

At the beginning of the story, Jack Black the fox and Cecil Stewart the giraffe are quite literally on the road, cruising in Jack's restored 1950s Thunderbird. Engineers for hire, they go from job to job solving various technical problems. As one might expect in a comic, not all of their jobs are mundane such as when they're hired by a mad scientist to repair equipment that fried in a lightning storm. Eventually, the two find love. Jack meets Dr. Jenny Curtis and Cecil ends up in relationships with Beth and Barbara (It's a giraffe "herd thing"). But for Jack and Jenny, their relationship gets inconveniently long-distance at times as at one point she gets sent to space to work for months and his various jobs get him sent to places such as North Korea. But despite everything thrown at them, they manage to make it to the end of the day. In the current plot, Jack is hired by a Middle-Eastern country under sanctions to upgrade old computers in a deal approved by the State Department as a peace offering. But not everyone wants him there, and Jack and his team come across something they weren't meant to find out.

Kellog didn't start the strip with as much drawing skill as he does now, and the beginning of the archives are black and white sketches (though still better than what yours truly ever did). If one looks around in the comic long enough, they can come across his "ancient archeology" of the pre-story comics done in the 1990s which he considers embarrassing (though may remind aspiring writers everyone has to start somewhere). While the comic has a number of scares and drama, in the end it's a comedy and punch-lines are never far away. Kellog also does his share of poking fun at things such as politics, such as plans for a nuclear fusion rocket being voted against in Washingtoon because politicians are scared of the word "nuclear," and religion such as the "Disney Fundamentalists" whom have taken certain lines from the movies to the point of an actual religion. There are numerous pop-culture references. While predation is a concern early on in the strip, after a few years into the comic "Scientifically Produced Animal Matter" is perfected to the point the carnivores stop going after the herbivores. A couple times, the story takes a side trip from Jack and Cecil to Johann Maus as he takes a job on the moon, and later on to Dr. Steve Carlson as his career after college starts off in a space station.

Scott Kellog is a farmer in real life, a small place in West Virginia not too far away from a huge radio observatory, and occasionally he has to slow down or put in a filler strip in order to take care of the animals. Besides pictures of farm animals as strip filler, there are occasional tributes to moments in history such as the Moon Landing and the Wright Brothers' Flight. He's married to fellow cartoonist Kathy Garrison, whom does the strip "Carry On."

21st Century Fox is rated G with occasional PG

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Carry On

Drawn by Kathy Garrison, "Carry On" is the story of Kathy Grrsn, a hyena woman, and her friends and family. It originally started off in 2004 as a tribute to the wedding of Cecil, Beth, and Barbara Stewart of "21st Century Fox." But after the wedding was over, Garrison kept writing.

Carry On is somewhat unusual for a "furry" comic as it's main character and a number of the others are hyenas. Garrison would state she wanted to do something different, and as she couldn't think of any sympathetic hyena characters in stories, and the most familiar were the villainous ones in "The Lion King." There's also that some details about them are more than a little weird when one thinks about it.

The world of "Carry On" is an anthromorphic version of Earth, with a few other differences such as the country of Rackenroon in Africa. Although the comic started out as a tribute to the strip of the artist's husband, it's present day rather than near-future, though a little future tech slips in at one point when a scientist has a supply of nanites handy. Kathy may be an American, but as her parents came here from Africa, there are occasions her hyena heritage as coming from a background of a society of fierce warriors where the women are in charge comes up. This most notably happens when relatives from Africa or those recently from there show up at home. While Kathy does have a temper, the ways of her grandmothers are a bit much for her.

Following the first story arc in which Kathy is a bridesmaid of the Stewarts' wedding, she returns back to her life as a writer at a city newspaper. She writes mostly obituaries, though occasionally does other topics. When not working, she's dealing with her sister Sandy, or her parents Arf and Tina. Arf is a mortician, which provides the family with some meat. Tina comes from a line of hyena nobility.

For the first several years of the strip, Kathy deals with various misadventures with her job and her family, such as covering a convention in which she ends up making the news as well (not something a reporter wants to do). Then it's revealed that Kathy is the heir of her Great-Grandmother's title of the Duchess of Rackenroon, plus there's been an arranged marriage between her and Lieutenant Fredrick Kruger, whom is from the wealthiest family in the kingdom, as well as the sole male officer in the female-led Hyena Brigade. While his mother is not liked by Kathy's family, they consider Fredrick's intelligence an asset. Kathy isn't so sure about either the idea of marrying someone she's never met or being the ruler of a society with a well-earned reputation for bloodthirstiness. But her family convinces her to go through with it. It's then off to darkest Africa, with Sandy joining them to help protect Kathy. But to avoid spies and possible assassination, the trip to the city is a cross-country trip through African wilderness and hostile animals and tribes. But even when Kathy and her friends arrive in the city, her challenges have only just begun.

Like her husband Scott Kellog, Kathy Garrison is a farmer. And there are occasional strip filler pictures of life on the farm.

Carry On is updated three days a week, and rates a PG (subtle mature humor).

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Drawn by Chris Grant, "BOHICA Blues" is the story of Joe Rock and his time in the Army Reserves at the time of the Iraq War. Life as a reservist isn't like that of GIs in WW2 movies as they're not facing death every single day. But life is far from easy as problems arise from all kinds of sources from regulations and rules that make little sense to troublesome NCOs, and the ever present threat of the Good Idea Fairy.

The main character of the comic, Joe Rock, was inspired by "Sgt. Rock" of DC Comics, and the term "Joe Rock given to all recruits when Grant was in training. The name of the comic, "BOHICA Blues," comes from the acronym-loving Army's expression "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again." In his Army days, Grant would do his "hastily scrawled"" comic for his fellow soldiers. After the Army, he would put aside cartooning for a few years, but bring it up again as a reservist in Iraq with an earlier edition of "BOHICA Blues."

Joe Rock of Boise Idaho has just joined the Army Reserves after his term of enlistment in the regular Army is done. "College money, one weekend a month, and none of that active-duty nonsense!" he feels. But to his surprise, he finds he'll be going to Iraq just after processing. While life in the 213th Combat Engineers may be serving his country, it's hardly all guts and glory. There's plenty of boredom and tedious work.

Life as an Army Reservist called to duty has plenty of absurdities. And it's not just that your vehicles are second-hand from the regular Army. There are the Sergeant Majors whom ignore your concerns, aside from issuing occasional trivial rules or telling you to mow the grass. There's the rules while deployed such as no alcohol in Islamic countries, which meant no beer, while being served bacon and ham in the chow line. There are things like soldiers whom spent months in cold areas training and wearing t-shirts and shorts next to soldiers fresh from Iraq and bundled up from still being used to hot weather. There's the latrines stinking to the point of a new level of Hell because the locals driving the poop trucks have been threatened by insurgents. There's the local police using similar uniforms and ski masks to the local insurgents. There's the vehicles with inadequate armor being sent in, plates put on as extra shielding, and the mechanics having to do extra work due to the wear and tear. There's the ice cream at the PX being only pink-wrapped "Princess Bars" for a month, and jokingly blamed on Osama Bin Laden as a deliberate effort to undermine morale.

When a soldier goes back home on leave, and talking to civilians, friends and otherwise, they often don't even know where the war is or even if there is one. On the other hand, those against the war (whom aren't always liberals) want them to come home safe and sound, and often have a better knowledge of what's going on than some of the supporters. And when a soldier talks about the war, there's the tend to over-exaggerate talking about the dangers to one's buddies and any girls one hopes to date, but tells the parents things were easygoing. And no matter how boring things were back in the USA while on leave, when you come back to Iraq, it almost seems like it was paradise. And even at the spookiest Halloween party, no monster or zombie was really feared as much as Involuntary Extension Orders. And then there's the ever present threat of the "Good Idea Fairy," whom torments both the battalion and the whole Army with "good ideas" that turn out to be things from minor annoyances to strategic decisions with unintended consequences that last for years.

Eventually, Joe Rock does get promoted to Sergeant Rock. But rather than the nerves of steel comic-book character, this Sgt. Rock tends to be more easy going. And not unexpectedly, he finds rank does have it's privileges, but it can also be a pain in the butt as soldiers now look to him to help solve problems. And of course there's the paperwork to take care of.

There's no shortage of subjects for humor, such as Grant musing if the tank was the symbolic vehicle of WW2, and if it was the helicopter for Vietnam, would it be the poop truck for Iraq? And unlike previous wars, soldiers now had access to video and computer games, or Dungeons and Dragons, which could get a soldier talking not about what was shooting at him in real life, but a video game. But not everything was so funny. Hard work and progress done over months could be undone by "an act of monumental stupidity," and was with Abu Ghraib.

One more thing about the predecessor strip made in Grant's days in Iraq. It seems his comic poking fun at Secretary Rumsfeld's "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want" comment (current strip) was mentioned in the news website "The Hill."

BOHICA Blues would conclude on June 29, 2020. The 213th is doing some reconnaissance when they're ambushed by insurgents. And on "That Last Hard Day," not everyone makes it. Two of the characters are dead and two with lasting injuries. "At some point in a war comedy," Grant would write, "you have to confront the war part. ... To pretend this never happens does a disservice to not just the story and the characters, but to the real-world people who suffered in the conflict." The comic would end with a "ten years later" strip showing how Joe and his inner circle of Army buddies turned out. Grant did say this might not be the end as there might be an occasional random strip once in a while in the future.

BOHICA Blues rates a G to occasional PG rating.

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What other online comics do you read? Feel free to point them out in the comments below.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Last Roll: An SL Avatar Builder Makes a Fun Game For Real Life

By Bixyl Shuftan

2020 has been both a tragic, and crazy, year. On one hand, the Coronavirus has caused a great deal of tragedy. On the other, it's caused people to behave in strange ways. Local grocery stores in the United States and some other developed countries have often been short on particular foods and supplies. But for some peculiar reason, the item many seem to want to hoard more than anything else isn't canned food or bottled water. It's toilet paper. A number of us, presumably a small minority, bought up all they could early on in the Pandemic. And to this day, bathroom tissue can still be hard to come by.

Nance Clowes, a noted Second Life game maker, recently informed the Newser about "a free downloadable board game" poking fun at the absurdity of the situation made by an avatar maker in Second Life. So I tracked down the person better known for dinosaurs than tush tissue, Wanders Nowhere.

"It has, absolutely nothing to do with Second Life, or what I do (here), which is the Dawn Kingdoms dinosaur sims," Wanders told me, "And it's mostly my partner's work. But it is fun and topical. It's a printable, downloadable boardgame which is a satire of the Toilet Paper panic. We call it 'The Last Roll.' and you can find it at . It comes in (so far) two forms, the family-friendly boardgame version, Supermarket Dash, and the upcoming tabletop RPG version, TPocalypse."

When asked just when did he and his partner get the idea, he answered, "We were at a friend's house in the early days of the Covid crisis, before lockdown became a thing. We live in Australia, so things have all progressed a bit differently here, and at the time we'd convened for a solstice celebration party. We were discussing upcoming D and D games, and I got up to go to the bathroom. Someone made a joke about the toilet paper panic. And by the time I got back, everyone was laughing at the idea of turning that into an RPG set in a post-apocalypse, where TP is the only remaining currency.

"As the country locked down, the idea eventually shifted into doing two games, one that would be a family-friendly boardgame aimed to help families locked down together to have a laugh at the crisis. And another that would be the post-apocalyptic RPG, with a kind of over the top Mad Max meets Nightvale in a supermarket vibe. That's the upcoming 'TPocalypse' variant, which we're putting the finishing touches on now.

"We're offering both games on a pay-what-you-want basis. We understand that the crisis has hit people very hard economically and want to be able to share this even with people who can't afford to buy frivolous things like games right now. It's designed to be printable at home, but even if you don't have a printer, there's instructions for making your own board and markers. If we can give people even a bit of levity at this juncture, we'll consider it a success."

Wanders told me the game hadn't been around long enough yet for much of a response on social media, but, "We have playtested all our games and had a strong positive response. Dash in particular has become a favorite with some of the local families in our area."

He went on to explain the difference between the two games, "Supermarket Dash is a friendly silly tongue-in-cheek kind of game, TPocalypse goes all out on the surreal humour. Fungus zombies in the veggie section, a vacant-eyed cult of former staff members serving a Lovecraftian unseen Manager locked in an aisle-by-aisle turf war with a koven of murderous Karens gunning for the Manager's blood. And that's just the tip of the iceberg lettuce, shambling mounds made of shopping bags that can devour your character whole, you name it."

There's also a third game in the works: The Last Roll: Biggest Hoarder. In the words of the website, "Form alliances and break them, help out and hinder, tempt and trip up. You all arrive at the store together, but when it comes to the finish line, it’s every shopper for themselves. Pack out your cart with panic-buying, elbow whoever you can out of the way, and come out on top. But it’s all for nothing if you don’t have that precious roll of TP! An irreverent parody board game for 2-6 players aged 12+ (parental guidance). May the most underhanded shopper win!"

As for what Wanders makes in Second Life, he's one of the people at Dawn Kingdoms, making dinosaur avatars. When I asked him which was his favorite, he answered, "Whatever dinosaur I'm currently working on, that's my favorite at the time. I fall in love with each creation as it is born. It's the John Hammond in me, I swear." Prehistorica had grown since the Newser last wrote about it, "It's three sims now. There's a rocky plains, deep jungle, canyon, active volcano, all the classic dino tropes. There's also three underwater areas, a reef, kelp forest and abyss caves. And a floating dragon island with a minigame where you battle earth elementals." He did say there was one thing in the works, "That's my big hush master project (grin), so that will need more time." He then laughed, "Hell the only limit on my ambition is now 'how many prims do I have left to spawn animesh creatures with?' "

When asked if he had anything else to say about the game, Wanders answered, "I guess I could say that in times like these where everything is unexpected and everything feels like it could go badly at any minute, it's more important than ever to hold on to a sense of humour and be able to use that to get through things instead of only blocking out the bad stuff, particularly for kids. We hope our game can highlight that and give parents a way to introduce the idea of these sorts of changes, shortages and restrictions in a way that doesn't seem scary or overwhelming as it can be, even for adults. And with the TP panic easing off in many places that can be a relatively harmless aspect of this serious and terrible crisis, something safe to have a laugh at. Because let's face it, the fact that, when the chips are down and we're facing a global crisis, the first thing people do is panic buy toilet paper is really, really silly."

Read more about the games, and get them if you wish, at .

Bixyl Shuftan

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Reader Submitted: The Cloud Move

By Kἶէმƈεlἶმ Lմἶղƈօɾἶმlօէε Kεlνმɾl (Kitacelia Resident)

The first thing I have noticed, is much slower rezzing sometimes taking as much as 20 minutes to rezz an area and some items still not rezzing no matter how long you wait or leave or relog that weren't blocked or blacklisted.

The next thing I have noticed is that DJ streams seem to hiccup or skip quite often now, regardless of their internet, PCs, DJing program or location. I notice this because I host quite often so listening to DJ streams is  a large part of that. I hate to imagine what a DJ goes through trying to run a DJ  program and Second Life with all the current SL issues.

I have also experienced increased logging in times, as much as two to three times longer at times.  I have experienced increased lag and crashing as well.  I have major cable company high speed internet and while my PC isn't top of the line it is fairly decent and relatively newish.

Another issue, while I am uncertain it is related, is that I had once experience several months ago where all the scripted objects on land I rent broke, and had to be reset. Some permanently broke, and had to be replaced or were gone forever.  Several other times the same land my avi wouldn't rezz and nothing could be rezzed.

Several items that were scripted seem to have broken in some fashion due to updates and often it was up to the creators to fix them or not as LL apparently did little to nothing to deal with the script issues on certain items caused by these updates.

I have also noticed more bugs, and it taking longer for them to fix them. One especially annoying one that apparently took two weeks to fix was the recent timestamp issue on group notices where they looked like they were all sent the exact min, second, hour, day etc you looked back at the notices.  There were also issues with flickr and other things that came up and didn't seem to be resolved in a particularly timely manner.  

Increased scheduled and unscheduled maintenance has also been happening, which makes it difficult to do much in Second Life, much of it during prime time hours for the US and/or Europe. Also, it seems the servers either have a very small limit or aren't good at keeping track of blacklisted items.

While they have introduced some really cool new projects in the last few years, I hope they will reconsider this cloud move as it seems to be not only hindering the application of the cool new additions to a degree but also making more traditional applications/objects difficult as well to a point Second Life is sometimes barely playable and possibly not playable at all for some.   I have been in SL almost daily for nearly eight years. So while I am not one of the first or close to it, I am not even remotely close to new, recent, or a casual user.

I think Second Life has the population they have kept going mainly because they have had no real competition. If these issues persist or worsen I wonder how many will remain here post Covid-19.


Friday, April 10, 2020

Reflections: Ten Years Ago ...

By Bixyl Shuftan

I forget the exact date, but it was one weekend a decade ago that the decision was made by it's editor to close the newsletter I worked for at the time, the Second Life Newspaper.

It had not been the best of times. Second Life's Golden Age was behind us. This was partially due to the hype from the 2006-08 years having faded as stories in real life media about the possibilities of what could be done here such as the Relay for Life became replaced by tales of marriages broken by virtual adultery and "flying penis" griefing attacks. So fewer people were signing up. The global economy was still sluggish after the 2008 crash, and it was reflected in Second Life with fewer people having plenty of money to spend. The number of private sims down began a long slow decline, and it was harder to make good money.

For the Second Life Newspaper, we had our own troubles. One of our sponsors had suddenly up and went under in a very public collapse that angered many of his customers and some of it went our way due to his sponsorship. There were also fewer reporters on the staff. The owner of SLN, JamesT Juno, had left Second Life for personal reasons. Editor Dana Vanomer was in charge, but was also being dragged down by real life matters. Fortunately, the paper had a short-term contingency plan for times she wasn't available for a day or two. The "office manager" of the newsletter, me, would post articles when she couldn't. So we continued on.

But eventually, Dana came to a realization. So it was one weekend in early April 2010 that we met for an "emergency meeting." I had hoped it was a new sponsor. But instead, she told us the newsletter would be closing in three months. I was, stunned. For over two years, most of my time here in Second Life, I'd spent my time as a reporter, and it had become my online identity. And now, we were faced with it coming to an end. Gemma Cleanslate was the most outspoken of us, saying there had to be a way to keep things running. But the way Dana saw it, it was James' paper, and she had no right to give it to anyone else.

And after that, some of the team dropped out. The rest of us continued to do what we'd been doing, reporting the news about Second Life. But we talked to one another. And four of us came to a conclusion: start a new paper, a new newsletter. And the very day Second Life Newspaper folded, the Second Life Newser would begin.

If it was in my power, I would have taken the chance in an instant to be the owner of the old Second Life Newspaper. But after a rough start, we continued to do well under the new name. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here. Life, virtual and real, is full of change. But life goes on. Sometimes it means saying goodbye to something, or someone, you've cherished. But still, life goes on. It always has.

Ten years later, Gemma Cleanslate and I have been part of the Second Life Newser, having worked with some fantastic writers over time, Grey Lupindo, Shelly Sands, DrFran Babcock, and many others. Numerous sponsors have backed us over the years. Times have changed, both in virtual reality and real life. But our mission remains the same: reporting the news big and small about the people, places, and events across Second Life. And we have every intention of keeping it up.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

ApRiL fOoL!!!

Happy April Fools Day from the Second Life Newser!

May your April Fools Day be filled with joy, merriment, and general foolery.

For previous April Fool jokes, check out 20192018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 20142013, 2012, and 2011.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Online Comics: Five Longtime Running Strips

By Bixyl Shuftan

Many of us as kids have fond memories of reading the comic page in the newspaper. For those of us in their 40s or 50s and older, we may remember serial cartoon strips which had a plotline that would last for weeks or months. But as time has gone on, some newspapers have retired those. But while most of us have a favorite one or two, for many a number of the strips aren't that enjoyable or not enjoyable at all. And if you cancel your newspaper subscription, no more "funny pages." So where can you go for more cartoons?

In this age of online content, the Internet.

It's difficult to say when the first reguarly-updated serial cartoon went online. The oldest ones I've seen are from the mid-1990s. By now, thousands of artists have posted online cartoons up. Unlike the comic page in the newspaper, you don't have to wait for one to be dropped to see a new one. Online cartoonists don't have to worry about a newspaper censor either, and can range from squeaky clean to midly edgy to something you don't want to get caught seeing at your workplace. The quality of the artwork, and the stories, can also vary a lot. Some cartoons are done by skilled artists but have bland plotlines. Others have fantastic stories but the artwork has much to be desired. Some have both good art and good stories. And some have, plenty of room for improvement. The artist also doesn't have the same level of pressure to update as one from a newspaper comic, and so the frequency of updates can range from daily to a few times a week to once a week, to once a month or so.

Yours truly first came across them in August 1999, and have been reading ever since. Over time, a number of new ones have appeared. Some old ones have also concluded or simply stopped. While there are hundreds I can reference, here's five that I've kept up with over time.

Kevin and Kell

Drawn by Bill Holbrook, "Kevin and Kell" is a furry cartoon about a large male rabbit and a lady wolf in a mixed marriage. In a society where who you are is judged by what you eat, the concept of a herbivore and a carnivore married and raising a family together hasn't gone well with everyone. So Kevin and Kell Dewclaw, and their friends and family, face no shortage of situations. The strip is clean enough for a real newspaper, and while there is some violence as it's a place where the carnivores gotta eat, it's "cartoon violence" in which a prey animal is shown unhurt in one pannel and in the next one there's bloodless bones, not unlike some animated cartoons by major studios. The cartoon also has numerous computer jokes and references.

The comic has updated daily since Sept 3, 1995, and since then a LOT has happened. As time has passed, characters have developed and changed. Some early running gags were changed or dropped to reflect changes in the characters involved. Kell started out as a worker for "Herd Thinners," but since then her career has taken many twists and turns. The couple's daughter Connie was born shortly after the strip started, and over time has grown.  Kevin's adopted daughter has graduated from college. Kell's son from a previous marriage has graduated high school and gone on to college. The early strips reflect the computer technology of the day, and a few years in there was a Y2K plotline. Numerous new characters have been added over time, and a few from early on would drop out.

Kevin and Kell updates seven days a week, and with only cartoony violence is G-rated. You can start reading from the start, though with thousands of strips in the archives, be prepared for a long read.

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This is the second online comic I've come across, and perhaps my favorite. Drawn by Mark Stanley whom started in 1998, the science-fiction strip takes place on a colony world far from Earth and revolves mostly around three characters. Sam, or Sam the Sqid, is the alien owner of a starship that at the start of the story is so badly damaged very little works. He wants to get the ship up and running, but also fancies himself a con-artist and doing misdeeds is no problem with him. So he bribes a clerk to arrange a "clerical error" to get the help of an engineer: Florence Ambrose. Florence is a "Bowman's Wolf," a genetically-engineered lifeform that while wolflike is just as intelligent, if not moreso, than most humans she meets. She's also an extremely skilled and adept engineer. The third main character is Helix, a fully intelligent but still simple-minded and naive robot whom acts as Sam's sidekick.

The story starts out fairly simple, the characters doing their best to get the spaceship up and running. One of the early running gags is Florence's honesty coming in to conflict with Sam's con-artist ways. Finally, the ship is repaired enough to move to a hangar at the spaceport, where the story gets more detailed as the main characters are seen coming into contact and otherwise dealing with more people, and robots. As an "organic AI," Florence lacks many of the rights humans have, and while her paitence and friendly manner win over many, it's still the source of some trouble.

It's soon clear to Florence that many of the robots here are fully inteligent, a fact that has escaped most of the humans. As robots far outnumber humans, it's easy to see many would rather not believe it. Eventually, an antagonist in the story hatches a plot that puts the robots, and the colony, in danger.

Sam's pratfalls aside, the story is not usually very "cartoony," at least in the sense of going beyond the laws of physics. Even when the story sometimes gets serious, the strips have a way of always ending with a punch line. Aside from the D.A.V.E. (Dangerous And Very Expensive) faster than light engines on starships, "Freefall" stays within hard science more than most other science-fiction tales. Sam's people, known as the "Sqid," are the only known intelligence to humans. Sam would comment following a scoutship coming across their world, humans were not impressed by what they found. The comic has an active forum (link), that's been described as having the most intelligent fanbase for an online comic on the Internet, with occasional off-topic threads on science news. One fan even made limited edition books of the first 1024 strips, along with some of Mark's earlier work.

Freefall updates three times a week, and although there are a couple shower scenes, rates a G.

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The Cyantian Chronicles

Drawn by Tiffany "Skye" Ross, "The Cyantian Chronicles" are a collection of comics taking place in the same sci-fi story universe. Starting off in the late 1990s as "Satin and Silk," it has grown to a number of serial comics. Most of these have been concluded or on hiatus as Skye works on one or two. Currently, the main one is "Campus Safari."

The Cyantians are a number of anthromorphic races that were created over a thousand years earlier by an alien race mixing human DNA and the DNA of various animals, felines, rabbits, ram, mice, wolves, foxes, fennecs, coyotes, and a few others. Then hundreds of years ago, their creators up and left, leaving them to run themselves. More recently, a company called "Exotica Genoworks" created several more, including skunks, the kangaroo-like Jiiac, and the raccoon-like Sirac. Following a time of calamaty on their planet, there is a desire to get in contact with the planet of their orgin, Earth, and they start to terraform Mars and set up a base there, Mars Academy. Unfortunately for them, those authorities on Earth that are aware of life outside of the planet consider any alien hostile.

The original story centered around Chatin and Chilke Akalee, two Cyantian skunks. Sisters, Chatin is an engineer and a tinkerer while Chilke is the better fighter although more nieve. Chilke finds an experimental device that Chatin hasn't yet finished, and before the engineer can stop her, they and several of their friends are teleported to various places on Earth. Chatin and Chilk end up at a science-fiction/anime con and meet up with Jules and Marcus. Both agree to help the Cyantians, but Marcus' fanboyish behavior proves to be an annoyance. They also run into Twinky, whom at first looks like an ordinary skunk but is actually someone whom can assume the form of a human, regular skunk, or anthro skunk. Eventually the characters manage to call for help and meet up, but the journey home does not go as planned.

Skye would start other strips. One is "Sink and Swim" about the adventures of a group of Exotica Genoworks Cyantians whom treated as slaves manage to escape their captors on a ship and make a living as traders. Another is Shiave, the characters being some of Cyantia's "sapient wildlife," the descendants of dinosaurs that somehow made it from Earth to Cyantia and over time became intelligent but remained feral and wild. When the original story was concluded, Skye began "Akalee," which takes place years before the main story. Eventually, she would get back to the main story, renamed "Campus Safari." But instead of continuing from where it was, it would be rebooted with some changes here and there. Like Freefall, the action is not usually "cartoony," with a few exceptions such as Marcus' misfortunes (often caused by his behavior around women).

Cyantia is not a simple world, but a complex one with many sapient races and a thousand years of history of the "Immigrant Cyantians" alone. There is occasional violence, and occasional hinted at adult situations. WIth all the details, the comic has it's own Wiki page (link) to help readers keep track of what's what. There was a forum-based roleplay based on the comics, Mars Academy, that lasted a few years.

The Cyantian Chronicles is currently updated once or twice a week, and rates G/PG

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Sabrina Online

Sabrina Online is the first serial online comic I've come across. Drawn by Eric Scwartz, this furry comic is about the life and times of Sabrina the skunk and her friends, online and off. Started in September 1996, Sabrina comes across an Internet Service Provider at a computer show, and decides to get her computer connected. After some attempts, she finally succeeds. But life online isn't so simple, especially for a girl. She soon ends up with an online boyfriend, whose identity isn't revealed until a few years into the comic. And when looking for a job as a website designer, much to her embarassment ends up the webmistress of a porn studio, ZZ Studios, run by Zig Zag. Zig Zag finds Sabrina cute as well as inteligent, and her flirting with the new employee becomes a longtime running gag for the strip. Sabrina's roomate Amy the Squirrel ends up pregnant, which is the source of more than a few situations for a time.

Scwartz has a way of pushing the envelope without going past a certain line with "Sabrina Online." Although there are clearly some occasional adult situations, the only nudity is "tasteful" (covered by a towel or something like a tail in the way). And in all the years the comic has taken place, there are very few swear words (I can only recall one, but there's probably one or two more I forgot about). This balance, along with the quality of art and likeable characters, is part of it's charm.

Early on, Scwartz was an Amiga computer fan, and this shows in the first few years of the strip. As time went on, the Amiga references stopped. Zig Zag was not Scwartz's creation, but a character borrowed from Max Blackrabbit, who was a self-described fanboy of Sabrina. In the late 90s, Sabrina Online was highly popular, and got a lot of fanart and even fanfiction. The tone of the comic changed somewhat after 2000 following the birth of Amy and Thomas' son and the identity of Sabrina's Internet romance revealed. But the comic remained popular. In Second Life, one fan named Cindi Babii took on the identity of Zig Zag and created a virtual version of "ZZ Studios."

Sabrina Online would update regularly for 20 years. Then on it's twentith anniversary in 2016, Scwartz announced the story was concluding. But he would start the strip again the following year with a new story, "Baby Steps." The newly-married Sabrina is now pregnant, and not unlike Amy near the start of the first strip has a new set of challenges.

Sabrina Online updates once a month, with several strips uploading at once. Due to it's mature content, it rates a PG-13.

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General Protection Fault

Drawn by Jeff Darlington, this is the story of a group of computer geeks. The name comes from the name of the small Internet business they work at, which is also a term for a computer problem you don't want to have. The main character, Nick, is in the words of the artist, "a relatively short, quiet, and, well... nerdy kind of guy with quite an imagination." Ki is the "girl geek" of the group and the company's programmer, whom has a crush on Nick. Fooker is the weird guy, the one whom never quite grew up and has hygiene problems and a seeming aversion to long pants. Dwayne is the owner and boss of the company, whom is usually friendly and reasonable. Trudy, the marketing director, is seemingly just a cute and happy woman at first, but a darker and more malicious and scheming side of her soon appears. Fred isn't human, but a sapient slime mold that lives with Fooker, seemingly having evolved in the squalor and garbage of his apartment, and helps pay the rent in return. Dexter is an overweight fanboy who loves all things sci-fi whom would be more popular if he wasn't so annoying.

For most of the comic's history, it would have the characters go about life at the workplace and on computers doing things like coding and other things such as science-fiction conventions, enduring alien abductions, taking a ride on the time machine of Nick's uncle (destroyed at the end of the adventure), and more. There are also occasional dream sequences such as "Harry Barker and the Napier's Bones" that parody popular stories. Over time, Nick's skills go beyond programing and he starts building things that over time help set the stage for some adventures for the characters. However, over time they also attract the attention of secret agents, James Bondish villains, aliens, and a few characters not of this universe.

Three times in the course of the story are major plotlines that take months to resolve, "Surreptitious Machinations," "To Thyne Own Self," and "Scylla and Charybdis." Following the end of each, the characters have to deal with some big changes in their lives, the last one being the characters end up in space for an indefinite time period.

Over the course of the strip, the lighthearted and often silly fun at the start eventually made way for some more serious plotlines. But there's still plenty of chuckles and humor. There's been no outright profanity, no nudity, and while there's been a little violence, it's not much. Computer fans will enjoy the references and programing jokes.

General Protection Fault updates three strips a week, and rates a G, with occasional PG.

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These are just five of the many, many, online comics out there. So feel free to look for more. The Freefall comic site had a page of links to a number of them. It also had a page of comic directories. Among these is "The Belfry," which is a huge database of comics, some from the newspapers but most by unpaid artists, that is frequently updated and ranks them (CAUTION: some are very explicit).

Do any of you have favorite online comics? Feel free to make a comment in the comments below.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

How To Second Life : A Guide For Those Who Are New - Part Two

By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich)

In part one of this guide, I focused on getting started and taking your first steps in Second Life. In this part, I’ll focus on more advanced features. Before that, though, reader Cynthia Farshore recommended the Caledon Oxbridge University which is an educational center for new and/or young Second Life residents. This place can be found here, Caledon Oxbridge (93/194/27).  Once you teleport there, just follow the numbered path and begin reading the signs. This place goes much more in depth than I could with a series of articles and is a valuable resource.

Now that you’re fairly familiar with the basics of Second Life, I’ll share some more advanced features you can take advantage of in Firestorm. First, assuming that you’re over the age of 18, you can choose to make more Adult locations visible in search (which we will touch on in a moment). Click ‘Avatar’ in the top left corner of Firestorm and then click ‘Preferences’ from the resulting drop down menu. In the general tab, where it says ‘I want to access content rated:’ you can change this to whatever you want. By default, adult locations are filtered out.

In the same General tab, you can also set up your ‘start location.’ You can set this to be the area you designated as your home (World/Set Home To Here) or your last location and you can check the box that says ‘Show on login’ which will automatically show you the location you set when you are first logging in. From this same tab, you can also set up how you want name tags to be displayed and what you want the browser to do when you are away. You may have noticed that my menu buttons are purple. You can set up different colors for your browser in the ‘Custom Colors’ tab.

You don’t have to touch the graphics tab. In fact, your browser should automatically set everything to what your computer can handle efficiently. However, I customized mine to show a little more detail just for the sake of having things look better. I used to get better performance with these settings when I was running Windows 7 with the same hardware. Now I’m lucky if I reach 60 FPS on Windows 10.

In the ‘Move and View’ tab, you’re going to want to click the checkbox that says ‘Disable camera constraints.’ Now hold Alt on your keyboard and click anywhere in the world while moving your mouse around. Check the box that also says ‘Allow the camera to move without constraints through prims’ and the box that says ‘Disable minimum camera zoom distance.’ You now are able to zoom all the way out and see everything there is to see. Holding Ctrl+Alt and clicking while dragging the mouse lets you pan around any fixed point.

In the privacy tab, click the ‘LookAt’ sub tab and if you don’t want others to see what you’re looking at, check ‘Don’t send my look at targets to others’ and ‘Don’t send any lookat targets at all, not even to myself’ for good measure. If you don’t want people to constantly see what you’re editing in world check ‘Don’t send my selection target hints.’

One of the most important tabs is the Backup tab. Click this tab and select the assets that you want to save and back them up. You never know when you may have to reinstall Firestorm only to find that all your settings are now wiped.

Now, to search for any person or place just simply type Ctrl+F to bring up ‘Firestorm Search.’ Here you’ll find different tabs to search for resident names (People), Groups, Places, Events, and Classified ads. This is one of the most valuable resources in Second Life and will help you find communities based on interests of yours. For instance, if you’re in to Star Trek, type Star Trek in the ‘Places’ search tab and you’ll be presented with a list of sims to choose from and teleport to to check out.

Before you go hopping around though, a word on trolls/griefers: Whatever you do, do not feed them. Do not give them a reaction. Do not talk to them. Do not even acknowledge their existence in your space. There are bad actors in Second Life who just want to have fun at the expense of others. If they are bothering you, click the region information in the top center portion of your Firestorm browser. This should bring up the ‘About Land’ menu which should tell you who owns the region. Inform them of the troll and move on with your day. If they are really bothering you, following you, making threats or anything of the sort. You can report them directly to Linden Lab. The easiest way to do this is to right click on their avatar, and click View Profile. At the bottom right corner of the profile window there should be a button with a gear on it. Click that and then click ‘Report’ from the resulting drop down menu. Now click Block in the bottom right hand corner of their same profile window. They should now be a harmless orange cloud.

In part 3, I will be focusing on land and setting up your first home. What else should I focus on in future installments? Sound off in the comments below!


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

How To Second Life : A Guide For Those Who Are New - Part One

By Cyfir

Counting my older account that I lost the password to, I’ve been in Second life for over eight years. In that time, I’ve learned from many people on how to use Second Life. I’ve done everything from a sim janitor (picking up spare objects that people have lost) to a sim co-owner. However, if there’s one major thing that I’ve learned it’s that there is a major learning curve and thus a sizable barrier to entry into Second Life. I’m hoping that this article will be useful to those who are thinking about joining Second Life, are new, or know someone that is thinking about joining. It’s really not that difficult to learn, and once you get it down, you will take it all for granted.

The first thing that you will obviously want to do is create an account. You will do this at Click on the ‘Sign Up’ or ‘Join Free’ button and from there you will enter in all your information, choose your username, and begin to choose your first base avatar. Don’t worry because there are near infinite possibilities on how you can customize this later.

Now here’s the important step. Do yourself a favor and skip the download of the official browser. You’ll want to download the third party client called Firestorm instead. It can be found here ( It is much more capable than the official browser and most people you will run into will be using it so they can help you better if you run into any issues.

Once you have Firestorm installed you can go ahead and launch it and enter in your new account information. Your new account’s avatar will likely be plopped in the middle of an info hub. I would recommend walking through this and reading all the signs to get acquainted with basic movements and such. The rest of this article assumes that you went through with that.

One of the main issues that I had when I first joined Second Life was that I didn’t know how to open items that I received in my inventory. I don’t remember there being any infohubs telling me how to do so back then. When you receive an item, your inventory window should automatically pop up for you. To get back to the inventory menu, all you have to do is click on Avatar in the top left corner of Firestorm and then click Inventory from the drop-down. Alternatively, you can type CTRL and I at the same time to bring it up or clicking the button for it in the Toolbar down at the bottom (should look like a briefcase). From here, you can click on and drag the item to the ground or right click on and attach the item from the resulting drop down menu if it’s a hud that provides the object. However, don’t just go trying to drop items from your inventory anywhere. You need to go to a place where you have permissions or “rez rights.”

Usually, you can drop (“rez”) items at sandboxes. One sandbox that I would recommend to those who are new is Curious Sandbox (Curious 20/19/23). This also happens to be where you can find a free feline avatar called the Felis to get you started. Assuming that you’re a furry, this is a perfect starter avatar. To obtain the avatar, find the rotating box below where it says ‘Felis’ on the wall. This particular avatar is not boxed, making it easier for those who are new to wear, but if you did need to ‘unpack’ it, you would go to the sandbox area (the big empty space) and drag the box to the ground. Once you see the box appear on the ground, you would right click on the box and then click ‘Open’ from the resulting drop down menu. The items should then appear in your inventory in their own folder.

If you want to wear the contents of the folder, the easiest way is to take out any parts that you may not need such as alternative ears (pierced ears or none-pierced for instance) or male and female shapes depending on which gender you want to be. Then right click on the root of the folder (the very top of where the folder starts in your inventory where the name of the folder is) and then click ‘Replace Current Outfit’ from the resulting dropdown menu. To save this outfit, you’ll want to click on Avatar at the top right of the browser window and then click Appearance from the resulting dropdown menu. In the appearance window, click ‘Save As’ and name the outfit.

You may have noticed a sign when you arrived at the Curious Sandbox that tells you that you may not be able to enter the sandbox without payment info on file. One of the reasons why I chose this particular sandbox is because this is a perfect opportunity for you to become familiar with your Second Life account. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll want to have payment information on file. While you can enjoy Second Life for free, you’ll really want to buy Linden Dollars (the platform’s virtual currency) in order to buy things that you’ll need. This is especially true when you’re new because you’re going to have trouble finding a Second Life “job.” Most clubs and other places do not hire accounts under a certain age because they want to make sure that their staff know how to use Second Life. That will come in time and before long you may find that you no longer need to hand over real money to buy things in Second Life.

To add payment information, you’ll want to go back to Once you log in to your account there, click on ‘Account’ in the left hand menu and then click on ‘Billing Information.’ From here, you can add a payment method (such as a debit or credit card or paypal account). You can buy Linden Dollar at any time by clicking the ‘Buy L$’ button near the top right of the Firestorm browser. Simply enter in the amount of ‘L$’ that you need and click ‘Buy Now’ but be careful because it takes a second for things to update as you type them since it has to calculate how much it will charge you for the L$. You don’t want to accidentally buy 50000000L and end up overdrawing your checking account! Now buy yourself a better avatar on the MarketPlace. You deserve it.

In Part 2 of this series, I will be focusing on some more basics of how to use Second Life as well as some more advanced features you can use. If by chance you have any suggestions for what to include in future installments, please feel free to comment or message me.