Friday, July 31, 2015

Commentary: Windows 10's Dark Secret

By Nydia Tungsten
Edited by Brandi Tungsten

When I first heard Windows 10 was in the works, I was skeptical. We all knew that Windows would skip an OS version with quality for example, Win 98 was okay and then NT was a flop, XP was a good one then Vista. I have Windows 7 and I skipped 8 for just this reason. That is a personal opinion I share with quite a few other folks and we all thought okay, 10 should be the good one, then I heard they would be giving it away for free.....

Okay....these are the people that wanted to charge me $100 for a new copy of Vista because I reinstalled it so many times, the same ones that did that with my copy of MS Word. Then, when I bought it electronically and had to download it again, it said there was no record of me buying it.

Now out of the goodness of their hearts, they are going to give away their latest OS. Okay, I smell something fishy, so I looked and looked and was lulled into a false sense of hope. Then, last night, my friend, Lomgren, posted something in our family group chat about Microsoft's new privacy agreement and what they are helping themselves too in the process. I read that article then went looking for more, and dear Goddess, a scary thought popped into my head as I looked at article after article. Let me show you a bit of what I had found.

Microsoft has grabbed some very broad powers to collect things you do, say and create while using its software. Your data won’t be staying on your computer, that much is for sure. Sign into Windows with your Microsoft account and the operating system immediately syncs settings and data to the company’s servers. That includes your browser history, favorites and the websites you currently have open as well as saved app, website and mobile hotspot passwords and Wi-Fi network names and passwords. You can deactivate that by hopping into settings, but I’d argue that it should be opt-in rather than on by default. Many users won’t get round to turning it off, even though they would probably want to. ”

I read that and was shocked why would it need to send my passwords and history to the company? But then it got worse...

Turn on Cortana, the virtual assistant, and you’re also turning on a whole host of data sharing:
To enable Cortana to provide personalized experiences and relevant suggestions, Microsoft collects and uses various types of data, such as your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device.
Cortana also learns about you by collecting data about how you use your device and other Microsoft services, such as your music, alarm settings, whether the lock screen is on, what you view and purchase, your browse and Bing search history, and more.”
Lots of things can live in those two words “and more.” Also note that because Cortana analyzes speech data, Microsoft collects “your voice input, as well as your name and nickname, your recent calendar events and the names of people in your appointments, and information about your contacts including names and nicknames.”

Realistically, Cortana can’t work in the semi-magical way it does without being able to gobble up all that information. But it’s worth being aware of just how wide-ranging its access to your and your friends’/contacts’ data is.”

Now I was more than a bit nervous when I read that then thought about it, yes for a virtual assistant to work it would need that info, but again it should stay on your system NOT the Microsoft servers. Advertisers will know exactly who you are:

"Windows 10 generates a unique advertising ID for each user on each device. That can be used by developers and ad networks to profile you. Again, you can turn this off in settings, but you need to know where to look.”

With that one it looked like Microsoft is in league with the spammers. I mean really? A custom ID for every one of us that don't know about this so advertisers can track us online more than they already do, and this would defeat any anti-spyware you already have because it would be authorized by the OS itself. But even with all of this mounting evidence of Microsoft digging their fingers into our PRIVATE systems, came this next piece, dear Goddess......

Microsoft can disclose your data when it feels like it
This is the part you should be most concerned about: Microsoft’s new privacy policy assigns it very loose when it comes to when it will or won’t access and disclose your personal data:
We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services.”

Good Faith? Just who's good faith are they talking about? And why should we give them the back door when even the NSA doesn't have one …..yet? So, they would be able to peruse your system and look for things THEY think might be wrong is some way or another. They can even look at any networks you are connected to and the other systems there, so even if you are not on your home network you give them rights to look at others systems, not just your own.
So, here is my horrifying thought, we all know the music and entertainment industry has been pushing bill after bill after bill at Congress, as well as pushing the ISP's around trying to get access like this. What if they now have Microsoft in their pocket and paid them off to create an OS that would track us for them and give it away for free so EVERYONE could have one, so EVERYONE could be tracked, and EVERYONE would be under their thumb?

So it turns out the old adage is most likely true, if it looks to good to be true, it probably is. As for me, Windows 10 will not be touching my networks nor will I share my network with anyone that has a Windows 10 system anywhere that they interact with.

Am I being paranoid? Maybe.... but I now say this tongue in cheek:

Just because I AM paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get me”

So, be careful out there on the World Wide Web. It CAN be a dark place, and a lot of things can be hidden from us. That said, below are a few of the sources I have read about this. I urge each and everyone of you to look into these deeply before you get Windows 10.

Windows 10, Microsoft and your personal data: what you need to know (only in French, 11.06.2015)

Microsoft provides privacy dashboard ahead of Windows 10 launch (04.06.2015)

Nydia Tungsten

Friday, July 24, 2015

Commentary: New Health Group, The International Blood Disorder Community

By Wesley Regenbogen

You might have noticed that my latest article dates from the end of April. This is due, in part, to the fact that I was thinking about creating a SL group and how to make it all real.
In real life I have Thalassemia minor ( or trait ) ( more info : ) and I found out that there wasn’t a SL group about it, so I set out to create one with the name : “International Blood Disorder Community.” Finally, the group, the website, and the Facebook group has been created.
My group has the purpose of helping those people with a real life blood disorder, both in real life and in Second Life. Since there are many blood disorders in the world, it’s impossible to list them all. Blood disorders are mostly inherited and some can’t be treated. They can be acute or chronic. Some blood disorders can affect your life drastically, leading to a special treatment or medication or even blood transfusions. Luckily, in my case, I don’t have to do medication or blood transfusions.
I’m also member at Virtual Ability, a SL organization that helps out people with a disability in Second Life. Having a blood disorder ( eg. Thalassemia and others ) is considered as a “hidden disability” which is invisible, but it is there. So, if you have a real life blood disorder, please join Virtual Ability. I love having a place again to call “home” again.
My group ( International Blood Disorder Community ) can be found through Second Life Search when you search for groups with the words “blood disorders” and it’s the first group listed. I have created a website too with some basic information about what a blood disorder is at ( Pcfreakske2000 is my nickname on the internet, by the way ).
You can find my Facebook group at this location :
I hope to hold my first meeting for the group in the near future.
I will keep you all posted.

Wesley Regenbogen  

Edited on request of Gentle Heron

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Confederate Flag's Place in Real Life and Second Life

By Bixyl Shuftan

Lately in real life national news, the Confederate flag has been in the news. Following the murder of nine people in a historic black church in Charleston south Carolina, there have been demands to take down the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia from the grounds of South Carolina's state capitol. But it hasn't ended there. Other states have begun questioning the use of the flag in the use of places such as personalized license plates, and some stores such as Wallmart and Amazon that were selling the flag have taken it down from sales stocks. Not everyone has been supporting the takedowns. Former Virginia senator Jim Webb, considered a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, has cautioned against denoucing the flag. Ben Jones, the actor behind the character "Crazy Cooter" in "The Dukes of Hazard" TV show, has defended the use of the flag, even though Warner Brothers has been distancing itself from the emblem of the show's car lately. Apple has gone as far as to take down Civil War games from it's app store because they feature the Confederacy, and it's flag.

For those less familiar with the United States, the controversy stems from different people in the country having very different views. For some, especially those from the Southern part of the country, the flag represents heritage and the Southerners who died defending their land in the American Civil War. To others, the flag represents the oppression of blacks, due to slavery in the South, in addition to segregationists and then hate groups using the flag beginning in the 1950s and 60s. A third group identifies the flag with rebellion and toughness. The flag has not always been unpopular. The flag has frequently been in cartoons and TV shows up to the 1980s, such as the popular "Dukes of Hazard" TV show in which the two heroes drive a race car with the Confederate flag prominently painted on top of the car's hood. Tourist spots had Confederate themed items such as swimwear and beach towels.

In a recent commentary in New World Notes, Hamlet Au brought into question Confederate flags and items made with the flag's pattern into Second Life, feeling because of it's use by hate groups, it's use could be considered against Second Life's terms of service. The result was a lively debate in the comments following his article. Checking marketplace for myself, one could get a flag for just a few Lindens. There were also Confederate (and Union) uniforms, useful for roleplays or a costume party, and confederate themed items such as jackets and swimwear.

Deciding to ask about someone knowledgeable about the Confederate Flag, I contacted DakotaCheynne, whom is with a Civil War roleplay group, as well as the Relay for Life team some members of the roleplay are part of. "He should come and get the correct historical meaning of the flag and what it actually stands for," DakotaCheynne spoke when finding out about Hamlet's article, "unfortunately it's modern day that made the battle flag into what they are talking about now."

DakotaCheyene suggested I talk to SadieIsabella, who was also with the Civil War sim in addition to being a teacher in real-life. After greeting her in Instant-Message and a few lines, she teleported over, "Greetings Sir." I mentioned why I was here, and she responded, "The flag is a choice, just like every thing else here. We choose to fly the Battle Flag, because this is a Historical sim and we represent the 1860s. It was not according to racial issues as is seen in the modern world only by some people."

I brought up the flag's design being on items such as bikinis and on biker jackets. SadieIsabella responded, "Any one can interpret anything to their own choosing. How do they not know that the person wearing the flag does it for historical reasons, not racial? Some people wear the cross as a sign of religion, some as anarchy against religion, and some as decoration. Why not disallow all flags, so others will not be offended. Exactly why we have the freedoms we do, to make choices."

"How many people have to be offended before something is not allowed? I am not offended. And I have black friends who know I fly my flag to honor my ancestors who gave their lives for what they believed is right. I am not a racist, and never intended flag to represent it either."

I asked her when and where she flew the flag. She answered, "I have one in my home. and have carried one to march in parades as the Mary Custiss Lee Auxiliary." Civil War themed events in both real life and Second Life where one place she flew it, "We honor the Confederate Memorial Day as well. We are not 'rising' again, only preserving a part of history that needs to be remembered by all."

SadieIsabella went on, "The Battle Flag is not the real issue. I believe power is the issue. The power to dictate to others what they should believe, do and say, according to a singular opinion. here are many Northerners who participate in the Freedom of their Battle Flag, and it is not a Rebel / Yankee issue. But it was a battle flag, a symbol of freedom to choose for oneself. No one forces the Battle Flag on anyone. At the time it was not even the National Confederate Flag."

"The racial issue occurred when Forest dispanded the KKK, and some continued to use it as a racial issue, and not just against blacks. Notice I said 'some.' Not all Southerners were involved in the radical KKK flag bearing racists. As you is a personal choice, and these are my opinions and choices, as a citizen of the United States, not a citizen of the Confederate States." *smiles*

I asked her what she had to say to those comparing the Confederate States of America to Nazi Germany, noting there was a WW2 combat roleplay in Second Life, but they had rules against the swastika. She answered, "Some people have made the flag into this type of hatred and I think those people are in the same category. Ask them why they chose the flag, and how to they feel about the Nazi. Usually they belong to the same type of groups, not me. The Nazis enslaved and killed humans. The Southern people did not enslave and kill people. The Northern states also had slaves." She paused, "correction, the Southern people did not kill slaves. The northern and southern states had slaves also."

I brought up the four slave states, using the term "border states," that had remained in the Union. She answered, "In history, border states were either free sates or slave states. Once (a territory was) voted (in) as a free state, slaves where not owned. This war issue was when states were added to the Union, they were either free or slave states to keep the (Senate) even." It was a balance of power issue, keeping the number or slave and free states even so they would be equally represented in the Senate to balance out the more populous North, and that being reflected with greater numbers in the House of Representatives, "As I said, this is about power."

SadieIsabella suggested propaganda then had an effect on how the war would be remembered by the North, "War issues were about economy. They used everything they could to get the sympathies of people on their side, from agriculture to slaves, to trade, to alliances. Had the war been postponed, the Industrial Age of machines, such as cotton pickers and others, would have replaced slaves. But money was the issue, and the South was rising in power in Congress. Slavery was a huge issue, and was used to tip the scale of sympathy. The North did not offer to provide for their well being by freeing them. They really didn't care, as long as the power was in their hands. And our government is the same today, power and control are the issues of the individuals and the group."

She then concluded, "I am an American, who appreciates all the sacrifices that the soldiers of our country have made and are making, even today. I salute the Confederate Flag, but I pledge allegiance to the American Flag. ... I will step off my soap box now. ... thank you for listening." DakotaCheyene told me, "I"m so glad you have come over and trying to make known the other side of the issue."

We discussed the Civil War roleplay for a while, then SadieIsabella had one more comment about the efforts to censor the Confederate flag, "If this proceeds and is successful, I wonder what doors will be opened next? When will it end, when there is no more history to preserve, and we are a conquered nation?"

The Civil War RP sim is in Dakota (240, 94, 28). So far, only human avatars can be active participants in the roleplays, but for the parties anyone who can fit through the door is welcome.

*note* Hamelt Au wrote about the issue again as I was writing this article. Apparently he has concluded Linden Lab is declining to intervene in the Confederate flag issue. He expressed disapointment, but some of those commenting disagreed, "Get a life, dude."

Bixyl Shuftan