Monday, December 7, 2015

Bot Invaders

By Becky "Sha" Shamen

   Shortly after joining SL, six years ago, I got my first job as a dancer in an adult club called Escort Oasis. I went to the club to dance and enjoyed the music, friendship and generous tips. Having avoided the "Escort" side of the business, I left with only fond memories of the club. I am still a member and return to my "Alma Mater," for fun, now and then. Recently, while at a party at Club Cutlass, I got a group chat from Escort Oasis. The owner, Jenwen Walpole was explaining the plight that many new, smaller clubs were experiencing. Jen emphasized that her concerns were not for her club, but rather for those trying to start new clubs, as she did eight years ago. Because I share Jen's desire to make SL a fun and profitable experience for every one of it's residents, I quickly volunteered to help get this story to a larger audience, by way of an article in the Newser.

   When my party ended, I flew to Escort Oasis and joined Jen in the overhead control booth. We talked a while and she gave me a notecard, which explained the problem. I have cleaned up the typos, written in haste, while managing a large club, and submit it below, in the hope that bringing it to public attention will aid in solving the problem of robots taking over SL.


*  *  *  *  *

 Recently quite a few clubs and venues have closed in SL. A few old favorites and quite a few newer ones. A few of these clubs and venues were great places. Their only issue is that their traffic never really grew  even though they put great efforts in getting the word out. They ultimately failed due to low revenue streams from advertisers and a general decline in clients throughout SL. 

   During this same time, places with lower real traffic thrived. Why? Those clubs used bots to boost up their traffic numbers. This has two effects. First is obvious, advertisers see the higher traffic numbers and will advertise in those locations, providing them revenue. It also gives an artificial boost to a likely inferior location raising their traffic numbers and having them show higher in search, allowing them to be seen by more potential clients. 

   The negative impact is that first, and newer users to SL, going to these places with fake traffic are greeted by inferior clubs with very few people in them or even worse, a room full of non responsive bots. This ultimately turns them off to adult SL. We loose a lot of newer users this way. Second is that newer clubs with great concepts, and great staff never get a chance to succeed because they are over shadowed by those that cheat the system.

   What is a bot? A bot is just an unattended avatar logged in usually using some kind of text based client. 

A typical location using bots to boost traffic will have 20-40 bots. How much does this increase traffic? 30 bots adds over 43,200 to their traffic score. So, a location that would normally have 10,000 in traffic, will show as 53,200 and be near the top of the search.

   Is the use of bots against terms of service, yes, and SL is supposed to be policing it, but the reality is they do not. Also, reports of places using these bots seem to be ignored by second life. There are locations that have been using bots for years with no response from sl.

   The reality is that use of bots not only benefits the places using them at the expense of those who do not, but it adds to SL's bottom line for number of concurrent users, increasing the apparent usership of SL. It is generality believed that because of SL's usership decline that there is little incentive for sl to police this.
This practice is killing the adult world in particular. The potential clients that the adult community counts on get fed up with the faked  traffic and poorer quality than the numbers would suggest. This leads to a decline in the persons we need to keep adult SL going and thriving.

   Are there legitimate uses for bots? Sure. and SL actually has a facility to mark an avatar as a "scripted agent" so it doesn't count as traffic. However most do not do this, and would be counter to the whole purpose of using a bot to increase traffic.

   What can be done? Well education is key. 

   Advertisers who patronize those locations using bots should be made aware of the negative impact they have on patronizing places that use bots. 

   Performers should be aware that their support of locations that use bots is hurting adult SL and will ultimately lead to more difficult times in finding clients.

   Clients should be informed that these places are not the norm, and that very good places exists that have real traffic. and be encouraged to explore and question traffic numbers. Removing the incentives of revenue and support for false traffic by the community will deter those who use bots in the adult community.

   We could start a campaign to report such places to SL. However many feel this would fall on already deaf ears. For those wanting to do that, reports should be filed under the help/report abuse, in your client.
* * * * *
Editor's Note: On Becky Shamen's blog, there were a number of comments to her article, which was originally printed there. To check them out, click here

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tales From Podex: This Is Goodbye

By Bixyl Shuftan

He couldn't believe it!

He'd been after the place for years. Ever since his initial robbery attempt of the Podex Exchange went awry due to bad luck, he continued to try and try again to get back at them for that and then successive failures. He'd come up with a plan to sneak in and burgle some Linden dollars, and then sneak away vindicated, his reputation as a "liberator of assets" restored. But every single time he'd been cursed with rotten luck! Sometimes he got away, sometimes he was caught. But he would always plan again.

And now, the game was over. There would be no next round.

He had heard some rumors about the place being threatened with shutdown. It seemed the powers that be that made the rules for the land had decided places like Podex were no longer needed. Some thought they were acting out of paranoia, others out of greed. But he didn't pay much attention to the stories, until he decided to scope out the place from a distance for his next plan of attack.

And he found the place abandoned. Not even a "closed" sign.

He stared at the area where the building was for a long time. He thought of both his defeats, and his plans for victory. Over and over again, he thought of what might have been if his luck had finally held and he had won. After a while, he began to feel tired. So he sat down, and closed his eyes for a moment.

"And it has begun."

The burglar turned and found a dark figure, his appearance concealed with a hood and cloak. He jumped, "The Mastermind!!"

"Yes." the dark figure spoke in a menacing voice, "It seems the first part of my plans have finally come to fruition."

"Y-you mean you were trying to close the banks, not just rob them?"

The Mastermind chuckled, "My little minion, oh how small you think about greater goals. Mine included much more than simple currency exchangers."

"W-what were you planing?"

"Perhaps my real appearance will give you some idea." The Mastermind reached for his hood, pulled it back, and let it and the cloak fall, revealing ...

"Philip Linden?!!" The thief was shocked.

"Yes, but a Linden no more," the figure spoke, "I had grand designs for this Grid, grand wonderful plans. But you the residents just had to muck it up! This place is too badly damaged for me to repair. So I've been starting over."

"Damaged? Starting over?" The burglar looked both confused and scared.

"This should have been a place of higher learning, of culture, of humanity. Instead, there's sim after sim of stupid clubs, debauchery and sex, and worst of all, perverted twisted versions of humanity, tinies and furs."

"B-but you allowed them." The thief looked more confused and scared.

"Only because I thought they were a passing phase. Well, I've been developing a new Grid, with new rules. No clubs, no sex, no furs. Manipulating things behind the scenes to close the exchangers was just the first step. Soon, this Grid will collapse, and the human residents will have no choice but to head to mine."

"W-what about residents like me?"

"You get to find out whether or not there's an afterlife for avatars."


"Muhahahaha!" the voice became that of when he was in the Mastermind guise, "Yes!"

"Nooooo!" The bandit fell to his knees, "Nuuuuuuuuuuu!!"

"Muhahahahahahaha! Muhahahahahahaha!! "

The burglar covered his ears and shut his eyes, muttering, "This can't be happening! This can't be happening!"

"Excuse me?"

The thief blinked his eyes. He'd fallen asleep. It was just a bad dream

"Are you okay, you looked like you were having a nightmare or something."

The bandit turned, and saw a certain figure, "You. You're ..."

"Jacek Shuftan, CEO of Podex. Although as this Grid is concerned, now just an ordinary resident like you."

The burglar stood up, "So you're the owner of this bank."

"Yes." The man looked over the figure with the masklike face and the stripped tail, "I don't suppose you're this 'Clumsy Cooper' I've been hearing about?"

"Um ..." the bandit wasn't too sure about answering

Jacek smiled, "No worries. One can't report a crime that can no longer be committed."

"Oh," Clumsy looked more at ease, "I don't suppose you can tell me what happened?"

"I'm afraid the reasons for Linden Lab doing what they did are not leaving their headquarters. Since they couldn't be made to change their mind, there is nothing more for me to do but move on to where I can do my business."

"Yeah," Clumsy spoke, "I guess this is goodbye."

"But what will you do? Find someone else to launch your attempts at robbery on?"

Clumsy thought for a moment, "No, it's over. I'm not a common griefer. And I'm not going to other grids to do burglaries. I'll find something else to do."

Jacek smiled, "Well, it looks like you're taking the opportunity to turn a new leaf."

"Yeah, no more 'Clumsy Cooper.'"

"Did you have another name?"


"Well, pleased to have met you, Melvin. Perhaps one day we'll see each other again."

"Same here. Good luck where you're going."

"And you as well."

The banker and the former burglar shook hands. Then Jacek turned and walked away. Melvin watched him for a long time, and eventually he was out of sight. He then looked at the former site of the Podex Exchange one more time, then walked off.

"I wonder if the Green Lanterns could use someone to test their equipment? ... Nah, I don't want to get beat up."

The End

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, November 2, 2015

Commentary: Once Upon a Cure

By Becky "Sha" Shamen

At a recent meeting of the Sunbeamers Club, Rita Mariner announced the theme of the 2016 RFL will be "Once Upon A Cure". For this writer, the theme is perfect, for reasons that follow.

I am a member of two SL groups, dedicated to helping find a cure for cancer. In "Sunbeamers" the goal is to gather donations, for use in cancer research. In the "Second Rife" group, the goal is to inform the public of alternatives to conventional treatment.

EVERYTHING that exists, in the world of form, was first an image in a thinking mind. Like it or not, any pictures we keep in our minds will draw that thing into our envinronment, as if by magic. This magic becomes super powerfull, when the same image is in the minds of many. Now, follow me in your imagination.

RFL teams are challenged to come up with fairy tale elements, that promote the curing of cancer. Our group, as it's centerpiece, could have a magnificent, steampunk machine, with lots of moving dials, gears and other parts. In front of the machine, we see a small platform. When clicked on, the platform puts you in a pose, bathes you with rainbow light and puts an object in your inventory, called "rainbow torus."  When it's worn, it makes a spinning rainbow, around your av, as shown in the above picture. In theory, this spinning rainbow is a protective ring that keeps cancer out. Here's the good part; there is no mental image for the word NOT, so it doesn't matter if our fairy tale machine really works. What our machine really does is churn out a stream of people that are presenting a symbolic IMAGE of [rainbow/cure]. Even those not wearing them will learn the symbol. With a positive image, over the rainbow,pot of gold sort of thing, planted in the minds of thousands, we now have a super powered force, that will hasten the true cure to enter our world. We are turning a fairy tale into real life science.

When the cure is manefest, it is simple and inexpensive. They'll even make apps for your phones and computers. Nobody will want the expensive surgeries and toxic chemicals. I now return your imaginations to you. These ideas may or not not be those of the newspaper and it's sponsors. It's all just my opinion of what would be a fun and useful adventure in Second Life.

Editor's Note: The article has been edited from the original.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Sim The Lab Wouldn't Close

Bixyl Shuftan

Lately, there have been a number of sims either closed down, almost closed down, or slated to be shut down. But the Newser was recently informed of a sim Linden Lab wouldn't close, despite the wishes of the owner.

In late September, I was contacted by Annie Brightstar. She told me about the MIC sim, and the troubles it's owner was having. Known as Marina MexiLane Bellini, she posted about her problems on Facebook. Annie used a translation program for her post.

The seriousness of Linden Lab.

As you know I've asked, via the form on the website of SL, the offline the sim mic on 17 July, specifying that I could no longer support the sim card. After an exchange of mail on the part of the support, in which I was advised to "find the money", That much to put offline the sim we wanted to "15 days and also much more", I reiterated that mic would come only with a new project funded by the Italian institutions, because I could not afford to pay for that rata every month.

All this time mic was online and only a few days ago I found out that they were asking for 600 $ arrears, in practice for the instalments 18-July / 18 August and 18 August / September 18 . Not only. The month of August I paid the monthly fee avatar premium but was rejected. Now the account is suspended, gone, deleted, and I can't interact with them by the owner (meximic chant).

The sim continues to stay on, but at this point I think it is an embezzlement, given that the earth is my property as all the rest.

In my shoes, how would you behave?

Deciding to check things out, I looked around. The place was a well-designed island with  builds of Ancient Roman architecture among the rocks and trees. One building served as the location for a store, another as an art gallery. It didn't take me long to find a gathering of people, and I went over. I found a "Mexi Lane" chatting with a couple men in Italian. I greeted them, and explained why I was there. She explained, through a translator, "This is a place (for) cultural events, especially art exhibitions and museums of Rome. ... I apologize for the inconvenience translator."

Mexi explained that the place, "was always a sim quiet and very successful." It had been up for over five years, "I've SL projected on screens in Rome, Capitoline Museums, Congress Palace, Biblioteca Angelica, all of Rome knew." It was advertising and exposure for the artists.

But unfortunately her economic situation changed. She came to the conclusion she could not keep up the teir payments, "It could not be paid by July 18 and asked the offline (on the) 17. LL tried to convince me to stay and find the money, but if the money is not there you do not find on the street. And I said 'no, I want the sim offline.' LL closed the ticket, and two months later I found out that they asked me two months to charge and account owner deleted." Talking to her more, she explained the account deleted was an alt "used only for transactions and management."

"The sim is still on, and I do not know what they want to do." She mentioned, "MIC is among the 25 selected for the sim card with the oculus Rift." I asked if she thought that might be a factor in their not closing the place. "It can be one of the reasons," she answered, but she thought the real reason was money, trying to get as much off her as they could.

Despite her problems, Mexi continued to help out others, "Yesterday the owner of Fashion Week, I was responsible for making the video teaser of their event. I'm here to serve the community." But she was still working on her problem, "I must write to LL as a guest and specify my ticket. It was opened on July 17. ... if they offer a service (for residents) to request (their sim) offline, must comply with the requirements of users and not to be clever. I do not have $600 to give to them." She did say some Italian institutions owed her money, but "it is not known when they will give them to me."

It was about then that we parted. Some days later, she posted on her Facebook page an image of her sim on a map, tinted red meaning offline, "Biggies: They did it to put the MIC offline! 2 months and a half after my request." I sent her a message about it, and she reaffirmed the sim was still down. It was not yet clear whether her bill was also nullified, and her alt account restored, but she wouldn not be billed aditional money.

So the sim that the Lab wouldn't take down finally was closed.

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, August 13, 2015

News and Commentary: Of "Morphological Freedom" in Real Life and Second Life

By Bixyl Shuftan

Valkyrie McGill (also known as Valkyrie Ice), besides being the Sunweaver's resident succubus, is also a writer for online magazines. Earlier this summer, she wrote a commentary that touched on two real-life news events at the time. One was about Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, whom had recently completed a sex change operation. After it was finished, she appeared in a "Vanity Fair" cover shoot. The other news item was about Rachel Dolezal, a former NAACP chapter leader, whom made news as she had been calling herself black but her parents stepped forward to say she was really white. She defended her reasoning by stating she identified as black.

The reaction to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner's transformation has been on the whole positive, with a number of people praising her. Outright condemnation seems to have been mostly limited to a few religious fanatics whom I wouldn't have heard about if someone on my Facebook feed hadn't posted the stories, and one band of radical feminists who condemned sex changed operations, calling transsexuals gay men who ought to stay gay men. The criticism I heard was of coworkers, family, and a few Facebook friends cracking jokes, such as a picture of a beagle labeled "Bruce Jenner's cat." One local talk show host didn't crack any jokes, but explained he could not understand why a man would have his sex changed, at one point comparing it to a teenager cutting herself, "Did he do something in his past that made him ashamed to be male and he wanted it cut from him?" And at another he was wondering if this was a denial of reality, "how can a man in his sixties see himself as a woman in her thirties?" But in the end, he stated Jenner had every right to go through the operation.

Although the change of appearance made by Dolezal was much less drastic, the reaction to her was much less supportive and much more negative. At best, people expressed reluctant support. More often was confusion or people questioning her judgement. At worst, she was accused of being "deceptive," a "con artist," a "homegirl hoaxer," and of doing a kind of "blackface" only with tanning pills or a spray tan instead of facial makeup. In contrast to Jenner being called a hero, she found herself condemned and vilified. That she might have been influenced by her parents adopting a number of black children was seldom mentioned.

Why the difference in how they were treated? One radio political commentator charged that certain organizations saw that a white person would want to be considered black as a threat to their claims of discrimination. Not being black, I can only speculate. It may be that with racial tensions increasing in the country lately, people from the group Dolezal wants to be a part of are more likely to assume such an unusual move must have some hostile agenda. There's also that although sex-change operations and transsexuals have gotten renewed interest after Jenner, they are not new but have been going on for years.While there have been tales of whites disguising themselves as black as part of a social experiment, to "be in another's shoes" so to speak, and in the past light skinned blacks have passed as whites to better fit in mainstream society when Southerners were still bitter about Reconstruction and Northerners felt those who were different should be in their own separate neighborhoods such as "Little Italy" or "Chinatown," it's pretty rare for a white to change one's racial identity to black.

Valkyrie argued that both Jenner and Dolezal had a right to change what they were, calling it "morphological freedom," and if anyone had a problem with it, they had no right to stand in their way, "Caitlyn is going to be a woman, and Rachel is going to be black, because that is what THEY ARE. You can claim it’s a choice, a mental illness or a fetish, but it’s not going to matter in the end what anyone else thinks ..." She herself had the goal of wanting to look like her Second Life avatar in real life, a succubus with wings and horns. Something that couldn't be done with current technology, but she has been hopeful developments in the near future will make it possible.

In Second Life, "Morphological Freedom" has been more or less with us from the beginning. The first ones coming on could tailor their avatar's height, skin color, sex, and other details as they pleased. And it wasn't long before nonhuman avatars were developed, and sometimes an option for newcomers before they even set foot on the Grid. Here you can be an elf, a demoness, a tiny feline, a huge dragon, a five foot tall anthro fox with opposable thumbs in a fedora and overcoat, and most anything else, limited only to one's talent or the budget to purchase such talent. While there have been stories about some people having issues with appearances, such as a self-described "elite" place considering a furry avatar the equivalent of wearing a T-shirt to an opera, it's my experience most residents don't have a problem. Conservative or liberal, religious or atheist, all have been overwhelmingly accepting of differences in appearance, as well as choosing to be different themselves.

The issue of people choosing to be the opposite sex in the grid has seen no shortage of discussion. While it's most commonly imagined as women in Second Life actually being men in real life, this isn't always the case. While there have been some whom have expressed a problem with or been confused as to the motivations, it's my experience most people are content with such residents listing on their profiles their real-life genders, or give some other kind of warning, to prevent any "accidents" with those looking for a date or admiring appearances of the opposite sex.

The issue of someone wanting to look like a different race than in real life hasn't been touched on as much as wanting to look like a different gender, or even look like one of a race of people from a fantasy or sci-fi story. Still, there have been stories about it. There have been a few tales of residents in black avatars being taunted with racial slurs and real life whites trying a black avatar getting the impression they were treated differently, such as one article in New World Notes in 2006. My own impression when I had on a black human avatar as part of a Relay for Life fundraiser was that I didn't experience much of a difference in how I was treated, and a few people asked if I was considering changing to the dark-skinned avatar for good.

In real life, people can't change appearances as fast as they can in Second Life of course. Tanning pills take many days, weeks, to work. A transsexual's journey to the opposite sex is a series of hormonal treatments, surgeries, and counseling sessions that lasts for years. Changing into a "furry," in real life it can't really be done ... yet. But here have been body modifications, such as that of "Stalking Cat" a few years ago, that are a hint as to what can be developed as technology and techniques improve.

It's doubtful that we will ever be able to change our sex or species as fast as we can in Second Life. Even in Star Trek, surgical alterations took time. But as the possibilities become wider, the time becomes shorter, and the money needed becomes less, it isn't hard to imagine some people, especially science-fiction/fantasy fans, wanting to change to a new look. And if such a change could be easily reversed, there's less to be afraid of, and more people would be more likely to undergo such a change. Just look at how popular tattoos are today.

Second Life might be a guide as to how society might react, most people not usually making a big deal. What would happen to the dating scene? Just as there has been at least one lesbian club on the grid asking that women confirm their gender by going into Voice, might there be singles clubs that demand that they have access to all your medical records to make sure one always was the gender they appear? What would happen to the concept of "race" if people could easily appear dark-skinned, or even blue, green, or other tones seen currently in Second Life. Might some Japanese restaurants offer a bonus for waitresses whom sport cat ears and a tail, or a furry anthro feline with a full coat and muzzle with whiskers?

For now, such questions are of the realm of science-fiction. Unless you're a user of a popular virtual world, in which case such questions are already here.

And you can be "foxy" in more ways than one.

Image Credit:,

Bixyl Shuftan

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

Monday, June 8, 2015

My Time At Second Life Newspaper

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was November 2007 in which I became more or less what I am today in Second Life. Although I first came here almost a year before, for months I'd only come on only intermentally. It wasn't until June in which I began appearing inworld with any sense of regularity, enjoying the creative builds, such as those of the Relay for Life, and finding a social hangout where there was always someone: Luskwood, where I began making a few friends.

But where to find out about interesting places to see and do inworld. Word of mouth was one way. But what about blogs? I began Googling and Yahooing for Second Life based websites and found a number. Some were more frequently updated than others and covered more subjects. There was the Alphaville Herald, but I found it to be mostly "peanut gallery" material with it's stories about griefing and a focus on drama. New World Notes was useful, updated about five times a week. But one newsletter stood out: Second Life Newspaper. It had several sections, and had multiple updates a day. So it was definitely a source of Second Life news to check every day.

Not long after I started reading it, there was a request for "reader submissions." So I sent in a few funny pictures and a small article about a couple funny situations. It wasn't long before it's owner JamesT Juno and Editor Dana Vanmoer asked me to drop by the office for a possible job. A bit nervous, I showed up, and we talked for a while. It was a happy moment when they welcomed me aboard their team. In real life, I had taken pride in keeping up with the news. Now in Second Life, I would be covering it. With my first paycheck, I decided it would be better if I dressed in a classical reporter's outfit. So I got a fedora and overcoat. I had a "Fox News" look that fit pretty well, and gave me a unique look.

I ended up covering a bit of everything. There were art shows that Dana didn't have the time to write on herself that she felt needed a spotlight. But my exploring around, a number of the places I saw through Sean Voss' Second Life Tours, provided no shortage of material. I also reported on the happenings of my first hangout after Luskwood: The STA. And I would write about the various people I came across, such as musicians. And of course the screenshot cartoons. I kept sending as many as Dana would put up.

And of course we were a team. Just after I joined was the first anniversary party, and I ended up chatting with the others durring a dance. James and Dana also had a club, the "Metamorphasis." The name was from it's being changed to reflect the theme of the dance. One month, it resembled a bloodly mad doctor's hospital. Another month it looked like an alien base. Another month it was a Fantasy settling. But the place took a lot of time to rearange. So eventually it was given up. But there were also the beach parties, often DJed for by KONA and GoSpeed Racer. I made a number of friends among the staff, such as Dashwood Dayafter, Breezes Babii, Delinda Dyssen, and Dixie Barbosa. Gemma Cleanslate signed on just after I did, and we would stay in touch.

To my sadness, among the things I ended up covering early on was the STA's closing. And so my "home location" would be the office building for a while. Or rather the new office as they had moved from the place they had when I came aboard. The favorite hangout of my friends was gone, but Second Life would go on, and there were still places to explore and write about, such as the Silverscreen area setup by a real life movie company whom had exhibits of various movies set up, and even a freebie Transformer av and Greek Spartan outfit. There was the Mystery Science Theater 3000 build, which prompted me to do one of my most whimsical articles. There was Tuna Oddfellow's "Odd Ball," which I would continue to write about for years. There were performances such as "The Wall," and exhibits such as the Berlin Wall. And then there were the three grand events. June had the Second Life Fifth Birthday, of which there were many exhibits to see, including one for the paper shaped like a newsbox. The Relay took place on an "H" shaped track, and the number and variety of sights never failed to amaze me, exceeding even the year before. And in October came Burning Life, Second Life's largest art festival which was a reflection of the yearly Burning Man festival in real life that was an inspiration to help create this virtual world. Then there was my interview with Azar Shelman, who in real life was Tony Dyson, the man who was credited with creating R2D2.

Two happy times stood out for Second Life Newspaper in 2008. One was of James and Dana's virtual wedding in June. I was among those who James trusted to invite for his bachelor party (and what happened still stays there *wink*). And the wedding itself was just beautiful. So was the reception which was reporter Breezes Babii's real life daughter Glitter made her debut appearance. The other happy time was the paper's two year anniversary. It was a week of celebrations from formal dances to a western party, and more. One party was distinguished by a "sploder" that broke and people kept feeding it cash for when it would eventually release the cash, giving half to the last guy to put in money and spliting the other half with everyone else. It was over 25,000 Lindens when it finally exploded, giving one lucky guy almost 13,000. One guy whom was broke whom I loaned 10L to put in the machine ended up with a few hundred Lindens. A year ago, the team had gone from a glorified blog to a respeciable newsletter. Now we were clearly established as the source of news to check out about Second Life.

And this was the time Second Life was in the media spotlight. Real life media, such as CNN and Reuters were establishing presences here. So were real life businesses, such as car companies whom were making cars inworld with hopes people would be inclined to buy the real thing in real life. Just before I joined the paper, CBS and Linden Lab were doing a cross-promotion in which the CSI TV show had an episode in which the police investigated the virtual world to catch a killer, and Second Life was host to a game in which players solved murder mysteries. The grid also found itself the scene of political expression as people set up HQs for political candidates, and even politicians such as Newt Gingrich popped in. IBM was known as a generous sponsor, paying for dozens of sims.

But hype and reality, or in this case virtual reality, had a way of clashing. Real life reporters coming in as newcomers were puzzled by how to go about the virtual world. Real life carmakers when making virtual cars often tried making them themselves instead of hiring local builders and made shoddy products. Of CSI fans who saw the Second Life episode and came here found the place much different from the idealized depiction on TV, few people using Voice, bugs, and of course the lag.

Then came the sex stories, or "cyber noggie" as my real-life coworkers called it, real life media reporting on couples whom were in trouble or breaking up because one was using Second Life to have virtual intimacy with someone there. The addage "sex sells" is well known, and the stories were soon less about the virtual world being a technical marvel and a place where people could build anything and socialize from people around the world, and more of a place where people could go to indulge in sexual fantasy, or even a place that attracted sexual deviants. It got to the point Newt Ginchrich's visit here was used as a minus against him. Stories such as charities raising money here and disabled veterans using Second Life to meet up and chat became increasingly ignored. Alesia Schuman, who worked with real life media, called it a sad reality, "It is so easier to sell to the public when there is controversy than when the story is constructive."

Another problem was Linden Lab itself began to seem increasingly detatched from the residents. In October 2008 came the Openspace controversy when the Lindens announced a huge price increase for the sims intended as low use areas. The result was protests and demonstrations, people accusing Linden Lab of "bait and switch" tactics. In May 2009, changes were annouced with a new "Adult" content rating, an "adult content" filtering system, and a new continent with all Adult rated sims, Zindra, coming up soon. Critics feared Second Life would be about to go through massive censorship, unable to wear small dresses or even engage intimately with partners in private behind closed doors. There was Linden Lab getting rid of their official mentors group. There was their new Viewer 2, which residents found awkward to use.

Why was Linden Lab doing this? I couldn't help but think of the Ferengi of "Star Trek" whose motto was "never let long term thinking get in the way of short term profits." Later on, others would suggest something else was at work. One blogger would write that this was an attempt by the leadership of Linden Lab at the time to "transform Second Life from an anarchic virtual frontier settlement into a business-friendly company town." As I would write later, This wouldn't the first time a business decided to alter it's focus in an attempt to gain a wider audience. Unfortunately like many such businesses, it ended up alienating it's existing market while failing to gain a new one.

But Life, or rather Second Life, went on. Although some friends of line moved on from the paper, Delinda heading to become a part of the "Tonight Live" talk show, others came in such as Covadonga Writer and Fox M, whom did some interesting SL fiction. While at the SL6B, I ran into Grey Lupindo, who saw my reporter's tag and asked about Second Life Newspaper. She would later sign up with us, and we remained good friends. Also coming in was Shelie Sands, whom distinguished herself with her poetry. We soon moved to a larger brick office. It was there that James and Dana offered me a promotion of sorts, "Office Manager." This meant updating the paper when James and Dana didn't that day, and answer any questions others had when they weren't around.

We continued to report on stories such as the rumors about Australia banning Second Life, the Sixth Second Life Birthday Celebrations (of which the second time around might not have been as exciting as the first, but still great), a moon rocket ride to celebrate the Apollo landing's 40th anniversary, the Relay for Life (of which I helped put the spotlight on the Passionate Redheads and their Wild West camp, and got a special "Hope Kitty" avatar from Lost Furest), the Netroots political convention, Paisley Bebee's "Live n' Kickin." the 9/11 anniversary, the goings on at our minor sponsor Mystery, my appearance on "the 1st Question" game show, and more.

Unfortunately, it wasn't just Linden Lab's blunders and Second Life's dwindling public spotlight that were our problems that year. In October dropped a bombshell: Our main sponsor BNT went bankrupt, taking the area where our office was with it. It was reopened just long enough for us to get our things. We were eventually able to find another sponsor, and space for a new office. But there was another problem. James had departed Second Life for personal reasons. Dana was now in charge, but with her partner gone, things just weren't the same. I was updating the paper for her more often. But I was confident she would eventually step back to resume her role.

The first quarter of 2010 went on with us exploring about the Grid as usual, covering the people, places, and events. But there were fewer of us. There weren't quite as many coming in to replace those stepping out.  But still we went on. We were still Second Life's number one newspaper, getting the news of the Grid to the residents.

In early April, Dana asked everyone to attend an emergency meeting. I showed up, thinking perhaps this was about a new sponsor or perhaps James ending his hiatus. Instead she delivered some stunning news. She told everyone she would not be able to keep up her duties as editor, and the paper would be closing in early June. Needless to say we were stunned. We asked why couldn't someone run the paper until she was ready to come back, even if it took months or over a year. Dana answered that this was really James' paper, and she felt she didn't have the authority to turn it over to anyone else. The only option was to close it down. Gemma in particular was outspoken, perhaps defiant, insisting there had to be another way. If not one of us, have someone else run the paper to keep it alive. But the decision was done.

Stunned, we could only move on, continuing to write as we did before. We had several more weeks, Dana wanting to honor our obligations to our sponsors. But we were asked to keep quiet about the paper closing, which we did. It was about this time our star reporter Nazz Lane went on his own to concentrate on his own blog and Second Life fiction. The rest of us talked amongst ourselves about what to do. Finally four of us, Gemma Cleanslate, Grey Lupindo, Shelie Sands, and myself came to a decision. There was no guarantee it would work, but we didn't have much to lose.

In mid-May, Dana gave us the date of the last day, Saturday June 5. The event would be marked not just with a final goodbye message, but with a party alongside our friends and readers, "Let's end this with a bang." Eventually the day came, James ending his hiatus for the event. The event was all smiles, until James got on stage to make the announcement, "It is with pain in our heart that we salute you tonight. It is with pain in our heart we leave this place. It is with pain in our heart we allow the final curtain to fall. For us as avatar, and for our beloved newspaper, its time to end it. The sl-newspaper will end."

The response was naturally sad sighs and expressions of sympathy, but James and Dana insisted that things go out with a great party. So that's what we gave them. After two hours, they logged out for what we thought could very well be the last time.

But their last word, or rather Dana's, would be that night. She had a farewell message thanking the staff, their sponsors and friends, and of course the readers. Dana did have two wishes. One was, "that people do not give up on the good that can be achieved within these virtual worlds," citing the Relay for Life as a prime example. Her other wish was also a final swipe at Linden Lab, "One thing I would hope for the future of SL is that the Lindens go back and realise what they are destroying with their policies. The sheer creativity, communication and international impact somewhere like Secondlife can be is being eaten away by the Lindens stupidly ignoring the content creators with their ill thought out policies which help no-one except their own pockets."

The website's main page was changed with a red "X" over the newspaper picture, symbolizing its closing. For some reason, most of the sections were taken down. Only the Front section remained, though one could sometimes access the People section. A few years later, the website and paper would vanish. Only parts of the front section could be accessed by way of the "Wayback machine" aka the Internet archiver.

The reaction to Second Life Newspaper's closing went on for days. People kept asking me what the heck was going on. The overall response was sadness, but there was some anger. One former minor sponsor was furious neither me or Dana told her about this, accusing her of selfishness. Our "arch rival" the Herald mentioned our closing in an article I felt was respectable, suggesting Dana was simply being practical.

The "Gray Lady" of Second Life was gone. What had been accomplished? As a source of news, it covered the Grid for three and a half years from November 2006 to June 2010. From when Second Life was the darling of the tech media, it's landscape littered with shopping malls and "ad farms," to when it's popularity among the general public had wanned, and those who came to make money were more and more replaced with those looking to build roleplays and the virtual home they couldn't have in reality. What started as one man's dream had grown to a staff that at one point was close to two dozen, others whom shared the dream. James and Dana had been great leaders of a great team. And for that we thank them.

But Second Life would continue on. Just a week after James and Dana's farewell party. Linden Lab dismissed thirty percenty of their staff. Gone were popular Lindens such as Teegan and Blue. Then came other events such as the resignation of Linden Lab's CEO, the "Emeraldgate" controversy, the decision to merge the Teen Grid with the main one, and others. It was a time when Second Life's future was in doubt.

What would cover these events was a new newsletter, staffed by those from the old. Shellie Sands, Grey Lupindo, Gemma Cleanslate, and me, Bixyl Shuftan, were back under a new name: Second Life Newser. This would be the legacy of JamesT Juno and Dana Vanmoer. And five years later, it would still be standing, keeping the dream alive.

Bixyl Shuftan