Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas at Devon Dream

By Bixyl Shuftan

I recently stopped by the sim of my friend Safra Nitely, Devon Dream. Every year, Safra decorates her sim for the holidays. And this year was no exception. "It's a work in progress," she told me when I met up with her, "I started it last night."

While she had only been building for less than a day, most of the work was already done. The place was snow covered and there were walkways going around much of the sim, often with short stone walls on either side and going through pine forest, the green needles with snow in the leaves. There were also streetlamps with wreaths every so often. One stretch of walkway had colorful lights on the brick walls and white lights on the boards underneath. With the sun set to midnight, it was quite a pretty view. One branch of the road led to what Safra called a crystal island, trees with colorful glowing leaves surrounding a crystal carousel. Once again, this was best viewed the sun set to Midnight, showing a rainbow of lit-up trees.  

Going further, there was a pond of skating penguins. Unlike what was hinted with the penguins Strawberry Linden looked at earlier, there was no sneakiness with them. As we walked, we passed three stores, which were currently empty. Safra told me they were free to whomever wanted them, "If there is demand, we will add more." We went by another icy pond with what looked like cups large enough for a person to sit in, "We have bumper snowball cars too." There was also a Santa's workshop in which the big guy checked over a list while in one corner elves made some toys and juggled candy canes. By the largest pond is a hangout area, with a sweets stand with lots of candy and cookies on display. One can sit by a table near a stove and nibble on a jam-flavored tart.

Around the area were various smaller displays. There were reindeer, there were elves, there were snowmen, there were polar bears, some playing music, and there were piles of presents. All added to the cheerful atmosphere.

"So this is unfinished," Safra told me, "Another one or two days I think, given I started yesterday on a blank sim. So it's all gone up in twenty-four hours. Most of the time was doing the path and the walls, the rest just filled in after." Originally, she was going to take a break this year, "Some people contacted me asking if I was going to do Christmas (decorating). When I said no, they were line 'What are we going to do then?' Apparently some rely on this place to be together Christmas D ay. This level is open to the public from Monday. It will not be pony-themed, it will be for generally everyone, welcome to come sit, have a coffee or chat, take photos, or just chill out." She commented her work should be all done the following day.

Safra planned a party at the area as well, "There will be a Christmas party here from 12PM SL time to 5PM, it will be taking all of (the) EU into Christmas, with 'NORAD Track Santa. Yes, we will be tracking Santa. We'll have a contest, and fun."

A couple friends of Safra joined us, and there was a few minutes of joking around, then Safra went back to work. Dropping by later, it was evening and there was a pretty aurora in the night sky. A well-done Christmas area.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, December 14, 2020

Winter Holiday Village and Love Valley

By Gemma Cleanslate

I was a little concerned when I had not seen any notice of Winter Holiday Village which is always a favorite  to visit for years. Finally notice came for the opening last week. This is  a great place for ice skating . Though scaled back in size this year it still is a marvelous experience.

The Ice Ballroom is there with the carousel and chairs for dining. You cant miss it as you skate by. It was good to see the Penguins marching by their part of the village.

Nearby on a hill stands Mrs Claus Bakery and Santa’s Workshop.  Look for the Reindeer Farm too where all sorts of reindeer are for sale .  Another crystal building holds Santa’s chair with his elves in attendance. Santa will be live there soon taking requests and photos. . There are many places to just sit and relax  or snuggle and watch the skaters as they move along the lake and rivers.

The stage stands on the ice too. There are many shows both live  and concerts and dj’s  going on every day right up to the Christmas eve. Join the group for notices or check the board for information.

One great activity is taking a ride Santa’s Magic Snow Owl. It takes you over all the venues and you get a good look . Look for free skates and also some good choices for skates with AO on sale. I will be going back for some skating.

There is also a Club near by you might want to check out on the same region. Santa eats there and they have a nice bar.

What a busy site I found went over to check out Winter Christmas Love Valley.

This is a place to go skating and touring with your honey and your friends. The skating there is great! The place glitters with falling snow and coated trees, and glistening ice. When I was there it was filled with 18 skaters, walkers and people just relaxing by fires and in little cuddles places.

If you are missing a skate AO,  no worries there are free skates and skate balls to help you . There is a cute North Pole area to hang around .Enjoy the tiny train ride around the tree .

Horse riding is fun here too along the snowy lanes . Bring your own or use the available horse rezzer. There is a  teleport board near the entrance that will take you off to any of these choices.  If you are looking for a place to take stunning photos, this is it! Pick up a notecard about the 2020 photo and film contest at the entrance “.Winter Love Valley Photo & Film Contest 2020 Win 15,000L” Lots to enjoy here!

Today , Wednesday the 9th, Patch and a bevy of Moles visited the Relay for Life Christmas Expo. Patch did duty listening to whatever the visiting populace of second life asked for. I wonder how much he could promise. The Moles were arrayed around him and stood patiently. I took some pictures .

Patch Linden in Santa's chair.

 Grumpy Mole  looking grumpy as usual .

Alotta Mole looking angelic ... unusual .

Gemma Cleanslate

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Christmas Places, Part Four

By Gemma Cleanslate

Bellisseria is ready for the season too. Not only are people decorating their own homes and yards, at the Fairgrounds there is an entrance to the enchanted gathering place. 

The softly falling snow has covered the ground, some of the animals we don’t see very often have populated the area. A dance area is set up and ready for all the parties that will take place.

If you don’t live on Bellisseria continent it does not matter . You can visit and enjoy the dancing and fun on this special ground. When you arrive at the fairgrounds walk over to the rock formation near by and touch the dark shadow entrance to get here. I am looking forward to getting to some of the parties .I made the opener.  Prudence (PrudenceAnton) and  Cian Wycliffe created this for everyone to enjoy . To get a peek at the venue take a look at this!

and then go visit!!

Christmas at Tayren’s region is an experience not to be missed. Here you have a chance to get some  really nice outfits for those formal occasions that may come up during this seasons and some medieval clothing or fantasy for those role play  regions you might go to visit that ask for this clothing . I love her outfits . I discovered them at a Christmas expo about  years ago and have some that I use year after year.

But after you peruse her huge store get out and walk down that long hill to find some quaint shops and farther on a marvelous area to explore. 

Walk or ride into the Fairie Valley to see how they live. Their homes are built right into the tree stumps, or other natural places. I met a family having a great time exploring.

Back up at the top there is a carnival setting with carousel, some shops and I found Santa and sat down to tell him how things are going. I have a feeling most of us have the same wishes this year and he can only do so much.

I love going to the Creations Park Christmas fairs. This year it is called Grown with Love. Shopping in the Creations regions is a good gesture because much is donated to Team Fox for Parkinson disease research and help. You will find an Advent calendar there too. It is a little smaller than usual but well stocked with decorations and outfits.

Step into Swing Town part of Creations and check out the events planned at the Savoy for December . It is always swinging and there is great shopping in other areas of Creation Park so don’t miss it.  From the Savoy you can take a left and go into the regular shopping area with a myriad of shops.

I also stopped over at the opening of the look at the new Linden homes that will become a choice in the future for premium members. It is connected to the American Cancer society site. Many people who already have homes on the Bellisseria continent wait anxiously for new themes in case they might like to move . Right now many are waiting for the Stilts to be released.  

Drop by to take a look.

Gemma Cleanslate

Friday, November 20, 2020

Commentary: Thirteen Years of Writing The News in Second Life

By Bixyl Shuftan

Although it was December 2006 I first came to Second Life, it wasn't until July 2007 I started coming on regularly. By late summer, I had bought my first avatar following the one I walked into the grid with, and was talking to people, making friends, and exploring around. Wanting to know more about this strange new world, I started looking up blogs and newsletters. Some were more informative than others. The most interesting of them was the Second Life Newspaper, owned by JamesT Juno with Dana Vanmoer as it's editor. One day, I saw a request for some reader submissions. So I sent in an amusing picture. A couple weeks later, there was another, so I sent in another picture and a short commentary. That got the attention of the editor and owner as they asked me to meet up with them at the office for a possible job. And at the end of the meeting, I got it. 

I had been writing fiction for over a decade, mostly sci-fi, and posting it on a website. But my last story had been a little depressing. So I thought it was time for a break from it. Since I prided myself on keeping up with the news in real life, the idea of being a reporter and writing news articles myself was a welcome change. And with my avatar being an anthro fox, there was the "Fox News" pun. My second and third articles were probably the trickiest to write as I was still getting the knack of things and wondering which things made the best topics. But I never did have real trouble sending in articles an average of once a week, and often twice a week. James and Dana also wanted pictures for cartoons. With my sense of humor, I had little trouble finding at least one a week and often twice.

And so over time, I would go about the Grid and explore places, attend events, talk to people, and take a closer look at things. And I would write about numerous people, places, and events in Second Life of many kinds. While I would do a few stories about the wilder and adult areas, most of my articles weren't about them. While occasionally I would write about some kind of controversy, I wouldn't do so for it's own sake. One of my coworkers at the old SLN commented that it was easier to sell something controversial than of people acting to help others. But I didn't think those interested in how the Grid was doing was interested in reading most of the time. For entertainment I did do a little Second Life fiction and a few obvious parody articles. And of course there were the screenshot cartoons, for which James and Dana were appreciative.

I would continue to write for Second Life Newspaper for two and a half years, eventually reaching the position of "Office Manager," which was updating the paper when Dana couldn't. But James and Dana's real lives would catch up to them, and in 2010 the decision was made to close the paper. I talked to three of the other reporters, and we made the decision to form a new one, the Second Life Newser. So my position had changed over time from reporter, to reporter and assistant editor, and finally the editor and head reporter of a new publication. Things were scary in those first few months. But as the stories came in and got reported on, and both ad purchases and sponsors came in, it became clear we were around to stay.

Many of my friends and family have been more than a little critical of the real-life press. Perhaps in becoming part of the Second Life media, I was subconsciously trying to do something about their concerns. But it's also given me something of a perspective from the inside. While a reporter can express his opinion, it should be obvious that's what it is when he does so. As a reporter turned editor/head writer of a newsletter, I try not to tell the readers what to think. It's my objective to give the facts and let people think for themselves. As of my observations of much larger real life news publications and networks, yes there have been times individual newspapers and networks have acted badly. But I see no grand conspiracy among major news media productions to brainwash the public, unless perhaps it's to make more money.

As the years have gone by, there's been numerous challenges and developments in both real life and Second Life. Being part of a community, one of the landholders provided space for an office as well as the office itself. In turn, I've helped them with their Relay for Life team and helping to manage one of their clubs. I've also chatted with a number whom have been feeling frustrated or down at times. And this year with a deadly pandemic and a sense of political crisis, there's been plenty. When I have a number of anxious and worried friends that need an ear and a word of encouragement, that can occasionally mean less time to write something. But that hasn't stopped me from still delivering the news.

And I've been writing about other things as well. At the suggestion of real life family, I started a blog to write about topics other than Second Life: "Food on the Table." It doesn't get updated nearly as often as the Newser, about an article every few months. But this is were I write about things such as current events and history. I've also gone back to science-fiction writing. I've done some short stories, and have been working on a science-fiction novel, "The Corsean Encounter," about the adventures of two humans as they end up in a Medieval/Renaissance/Pre-Industrial level world and dealing with both the friends and foes among the not-quite-human inhabitants and other humans that soon discover the way to the world. I've made some good progress, and it looks like it will be a series of novels. I'll likely discuss more about it in the near future.

And the future? Well, when I started I wasn't sure how much longer Second Life would be around as it's glory days were coming to an end and Linden Lab was reacting with some questionable moves. But Second Life has continued to provide many tens of thousands a place in virtual reality. And with the Pandemic, it's gotten a second wind. It will continue to be around for some time to come. Unless something out of the blue happens, such as a traffic accident I don't walk away from, I should be continuing to write for years to come.

I'll keep on reporting on the people, places, and events here in Second Life.

Thank you all for your support,

Bixyl Shuftan

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.

Main Page:

Story Start:

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.

Main Page:

Story Start:

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

Main Page:

Story Start?:

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).

Main Page:

Story Start:


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.

Main Page:

Story Start:

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