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Thursday, February 9, 2017

A New Marketplace Fraud

Just when you think that you've seen it all, someone comes up with yet another nefarious scheme.

This one takes advantage of LL's policy of tracking down transactions made with fraudulent $L or by phishers who have gained access to a person's account through trickery.

Here's how it works.

  • The scammer creates two accounts, Avatar A and Avatar B (or, there may be two scammers working as a team.)
  • Avatar A purchases an item on the Marketplace, and sends it to Avatar B as a gift.  He may do this several times, hitting a number of merchants, or buying multiple things from one merchant.
  • Avatar A then files a support case with Linden Lab, claiming his account was stolen and that the transactions were not made by him.
  • Linden Lab investigates.  If they ask Avatar B if they know Avatar A, who sent them a gift, Avatar B says, "No, I don't know him...I have no idea why he sent me a gift."  This supports Avatar A's claim that he didn't make the purchases, it must have been someone who stole his account.

Linden Lab then takes the money that Avatar A paid to the merchant back from the merchant, and returns it to Avatar A.  They tell the merchant, "we reversed the payment because it was a fraudulent transaction."

So, in the end, Avatar A pays nothing, Avatar B has some nice freebies, and the merchant is stiffed.

LL takes this stance because most merchants who sell their creations on the Marketplace have an unlimited supply...so according to their logic, the merchant isn't really harmed.  But this is not true; the merchant IS harmed, in at least one of two ways.

In all cases, a free copy of his creation, which ought to have been paid for, is now out there in the world.  And if the merchandise is a limited edition or one-of-a-kind item, he is also robbed of the item itself, as well as the payment he should have received.

I have always had my reservations about the Marketplace, for many reasons.  This is just another one to add to the scales.  Sure, I think the MP is a great place for creators who only sell a few items, or who are just starting out and can't afford to pay for land for an in-world store.  But as soon as you can, you really should set up a store in world.  It's a lot safer, as well as a lot more fun.

I hope that Marketplace merchants will be on the lookout for this latest scam, and carefully report instances of it to Linden Lab.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

All Hail the Resident Geek

Some of you who follow my blog and Second Life forum posts may have heard me mention the "Resident Geek."

He's my husband, my love, and my IT Department.

Recently, the Resident Geek has been messing about with our home network, trying to set up a video server so that we can watch media on any computer or device in the house, or even when away from home.

As a result of this, he's become very grumpy.  It seems that my main computer, the one I use to access the internet and Second Life, isn't doing what it should.  He diagnosed one problem, a bad cable between my computer and the FIOS internet router in the hall closet, and fixed that.  But it seems that even though my computer says it's connected correctly to the network, and I can use the internet just fine, videos from our home theater PC won't play on my machine.

I explained that I don't really need that.  I use this machine to get into Second Life, to type entries for this blog, and to read my email and do photo and video editing.  I don't need to watch TV at my desk.

He just grumped at me and said, "But it's SUPPOSED to be able to do that!"

He's obsessive about things like that.  The other day, he showed me a picture that he'd made of our home network.  I had no idea we had all that Stuff, and that it was all connected!  When I said that, he smirked and said, "And that doesn't even show all the Smart switches and appliances!"

I am worried that he's going to kick me out of my office and start rummaging around inside my computer (again!)  But if he does, I can console myself with the thought that when he's done, my machine will be faster and better than ever.  He takes a while to get there, but the man can produce miracles.  At least until the next power outage.

Or maybe a power outage would be a GOOD thing...it might keep my refrigerator from telling me I need to go buy it some eggs.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

You Can't Please Everybody

Way back last April, I found that Meike Heston had left a full perm, free version of her excellent Hug & Kiss 2.0 "hugger" HUD with us in Second Life when she left SL.

I put up a vendor in world in the lobby of my apartment building, and another on the campus of Caledon Oxbridge University, so everyone could enjoy this excellent little gadget.  And I blogged about it: http://acrossthegridwithlindal.blogspot.com/2016/04/free-hugs.html

A few months later, I became aware that a large number of people were selling versions of Meike's HUD on the Marketplace, for a very wide range of prices.  Regardless of price, all of these were no more than Meike's original HUD, which was available for free.

So, I made a Marketplace listing of my own and offered the hugger for free: https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/Meikes-Hug-Kiss-202/9714182 .  Sales have been pretty constant, with about six or eight people a day grabbing a copy.

But one person wasn't satisfied.  She left me a one star review, claiming the product was not full permission, as I'd stated, because the animations in it were No Copy.  Well, that's quite true.  Once you wear the HUD, the animations DO become No Copy.  Not only that, the scripts at the heart of the HUD are both No Copy and No Modify.  You can't see them to copy or alter the code.  This is pretty standard practice for the makers of HUDs and other devices that contain content that's valuable in and of itself.

However, the HUD itself IS full permissions.  You can give a copy of it to anyone, and keep a copy in your inventory.  The animations transfer right along with the HUD.  And the HUD is modifiable; you can take animations out, and you can add your own.  You can change the textures and colors of the buttons.

I must admit that I'm miffed.  Here is a great product, for FREE, and I went to quite a bit of trouble to create the Marketplace listing and put it out for sale...and I get a one star review and a complaint.  Some days you just can't win.

Some Common Second Life Problems

Hello, gentle readers!

Today's post is a bit of a recap.  There are a number of questions that we see over and over again in the Second Life help forums.  Here are some of them, along with (hopefully) helpful advice.

How do I play Second Life?
You need to be at least 16 years old in Real Life.  You need to sign up for an account, and then you need to download and install the "viewer" software.  See this post: http://acrossthegridwithlindal.blogspot.com/2014/04/getting-started-in-second-lifean-update.html   And also read this: https://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/Second-Life-Quickstart/ta-p/1087919?lang=en-US

Can I play SL on my phone/tablet/chromebook?
In a word, no.  Second Life requires a fairly powerful computer and a fast internet connection.  However, if you own an Android phone or tablet, there are a couple of viewers with a reduced feature set that will let you log in to SL.  See "Mobile Grid Client" or "Lumiya" in the Play Store.  My preference is for Lumiya.  Sorry, iPhone users, neither one is available for Apple devices.

I'm confused.  How can I learn more about SL?
There's a great walk-through tutorial, and live helpers, here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Caledon%20Oxbridge/103/184/27  You can find other resident-run help areas in Search, too.  Look for "New Citizens Incorporated" or "New Resident Island".  The Second Life website has a huge amount of help.  Check the link "What Next" at the top left of your Dashboard page, and also the Help/Knowledge Base link.

I'm confused.  I made an avatar, and did the initial tutorials.  What do I have to do now?
You don't HAVE to do anything!  Second Life isn't like a traditional computer game with rules, quests, or levels.  It's like life!  You decide what you want to do, where you want to go.  You can do anything you want with your Second Life, just as you have free choice in your real life.  This amount of freedom is upsetting to many people, I admit.  Having endless choice, they can't seem to choose.  If you are one of these, maybe SL is not for you.

I'm bored.
See the above answer.  You have endless choice and endless possibilities in Second Life.  If you're bored, you're Doing It Wrong.

I bought $L, and I never got them.
You placed a "limit buy" at an exchange rate that no one is interested in.  See this post: http://acrossthegridwithlindal.blogspot.com/2016/08/i-bought-l-but-i-never-got-them.html

I took off my clothes, and now I'm mostly invisible.
Mesh clothing is now the norm in Second Life.  Mesh clothes and body parts come with an "alpha mask" clothing layer that hides part or all of your avatar body to keep it from poking through the mesh and making you look moth-eaten.  Either put the clothing back on, or right click yourself and choose Take Off/Clothing/Alpha.  You can also fix your appearance quickly by clicking the "Avatars" button, the one with a symbol of two people on it and choosing an avatar from the pictures that are displayed.

I bought something, and it's only a picture of the thing.  And it's stuck to my hand!
You have a "boxed item."  Many things in SL are delivered inside a box, and you have to open the box to get the stuff out.  See here: https://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/Opening-boxes/ta-p/700185

I can't get to Adult areas.
You must be at least 18 years old to access Moderate and Adult areas in Second Life.  You set your maturity preferences in three places.

  1. In Me/Preferences/General
  2. In the viewer Search window (the magnifying glass button, or CTRL+F)
  3. In My Marketplace on the Second Life website.  Follow the Shopping/Marketplace link.
You may have done the above and still not be able to go to a particular location.  Many owners of Adult venues limit access to accounts that are older than 30 days, to cut down on visits by troublemakers.  You'll just have to be patient for a bit before visiting these places.

I see some avatars as being all one color.
You can set a limit on how complex an avatar your viewer will render and display, in Me/Preferences/Graphics.  A higher setting will give you poorer performance, especially in places with a lot of avatars.  A lower setting will improve your performance, but make some or all of the people you see appear as ugly "jelly dolls."  For more information, see this: https://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Why-are-all-these-people-made-of-colored-jelly/ba-p/3031255

I was unfairly banned from a location.
Tough.  A landowner has the right to admit or exclude anyone she likes, at any time, for any reason...or even for no reason at all.  You can send an IM or note to the landowner and politely request that they reconsider, but you are probably out of luck.  There are thousands of other places to visit in Second Life.  Go find some of them, and try not to repeat the behavior that got you banned.

I'm being griefed and stalked.
Your best tools to deal with persistent griefers or stalkers are Mute, Ban, and the Abuse Report.  Also, do not talk to or respond to the person in any way.  Ignore them as completely as you can.  Griefers are encouraged to continue their harassment if they see that it is bothering you.  Abuse report each incident, and refer to previous reports.  In extreme cases, you may want to create a new account, an "alt".  If you do so, be very sure to not visit your previous favorite locations and be careful about which friends you tell about your new identity.

I bought something and I never got it.
This could be due to several reasons.  One common cause is that you are in Busy (Unavailable) mode.  If you have set this flag, items sent to you are automatically refused and they are lost in cyberspace forever.  It might have been a glitch in Second Life, or a mistake on the part of the merchant.  Some stores have redelivery terminals.  Make use of them if they're available.  If not, check your Transactions History on your Second Life Dashboard web page, find the transaction, and send the information to the seller in a polite notecard and/or IM, requesting a redelivery.  NOTE:  The seller is not required to send you a replacement item, although many will.  If you bought an item on the Marketplace and got nothing but an empty box, you might be the victim of a scam.  In this case, Abuse Report the seller for fraud.  Here's more about that: http://acrossthegridwithlindal.blogspot.com/2014/04/an-example-of-empty-box-scam.html

How do I have sex in SL?

Help!  I'm pregnant!  (Or, how do I get pregnant?)
Pregnancy in Second Life is a type of roleplay, often supported by various props.  If your boyfriend's pixel penis tells you that it's made you pregnant, that's just a prop talking.  You can ignore it if you wish.  Or, if you want a baby, you can go along and roleplay your pregnancy to any extent you want.  See this link: http://acrossthegridwithlindal.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-does-babby-grow.html

Help!  I've been hacked!
Second Life accounts are never "hacked"...broken into right out of the blue.  But yes, your account CAN be compromised.  The most usual reason is that you clicked on a link someone sent you and you entered your login information on what appeared to be a Second Life web page.  However, it was a "phishing" scam, and now the scammer has access to your account.  He changed your password and stole your $L.   If you suspect this has happened to you, immediately follow the instructions here: https://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/Password-and-account-information/ta-p/700017#Section_.5

Besides phishing scams, the second most dangerous scam in SL is the account debiting object.  For more on this type of hazard, see: http://acrossthegridwithlindal.blogspot.com/2011/09/disappearing-dollars.html

That's all for now...but if you have more Common Problems and Answers, leave a comment!

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Visit to Gee's Wonder Island

There are many magnificent builds in Second Life.  My fellow blogger Inara Pey just posted about the return of one such, Mont St. Michel.  There are even more tacky builds.  But there are very few places that can lay claim to being both!  Recently, I found one on my very doorstep.

As many of you know, or suspect, I'm not a great explorer of Second Life.  I'm a homebody, and spend most of my time on my home region of Masocado or at Caledon Oxbridge University.  A few weeks ago, I noticed that the large parcel in Impish Glee, the region just to the north of Masocado, that had been up for sale had been purchased.  And soon I began to notice some building activity going on there.  Would it be a competitor offering rentals?  Another marina?  Something atrocious like the ninety meter tall pink Barbie castle that had infested the parcel for a couple of months?

A few days ago, my curiosity got the better of me and I popped over for a closer look.

It was an amusement park.  I love amusement parks, and have visited some really great ones in SL, so I wandered about and started playing with the rides and attractions.  The first one I rode was an enormous roller coaster with loops and a 360 degree roll.  The cars ran on a pink track.  The ride was properly thrilling, and at several spots I threw my arms up in the air and challenged gravity and speed to do their worst!

There was a Tornado, a tower that blows a column of air up and lets you skydive while hovering stationary.  An archery game.  A water pistol arcade challenge.  A gypsy fortune teller.  There was a rocking Pirate Ship, a Beanstalk, and a hoverplane ride.  There was The Geyser...a platform that got blown aloft atop a powerful fountain of water.  A Ferris Wheel.  And of course, the Clown College Bumper Boats.

In fact, the place seemed to have just about every carnival ride that ever caused a preteen to lose her funnel cake, and they were all scattered about without much rhyme or reason.  In nooks and crannies between the rides were kiosks selling drinks, hot dogs, hamburgers, and all manner of junk food...the better to help you enjoy the rides, of course!  There were also pleasant gazebos and other places to sit and chat and rest up for another go at the rides.

Clown College Bumper Boats, Beanstalk, Ferris Wheel

Eeek!

I See Motion Sickness in Your Future

Mine Ride

Skating Rink...and skates!

The Tornado Tower

Gee's Wonder Island


In addition to all this, there was a large open space with helipads, to accommodate visitors arriving by air, and spacious docks for those arriving by boat.  If you forgot to bring your own vehicle, there were rezzers to try out various forms of transportation, and a number of vendors with helicopters and aircraft for sale.

At about this point, I met the author of all this, Geetaraa...or "Gee" to her friends.  She explained that the place was called "Gee's Wonder Island" and offered to show me the rest.  "There's MORE?" I said.

And, as it turns out, there was.  All that I'd seen was only the ground floor.  There are three sky platforms in addition, which boast even more coasters and rides, plus an ice skating rink and a War of the Worlds game.

Gee's Wonder Island is laid out with absolutely no discernible plan or theme.  It's a hodgepodge.  But there is, I think, an underlying motif:  Carnival Tacky.  The place conveys the unmistakable air of an old fashioned traveling carnival.  You can practically smell the caramel corn and the sawdust, and feel the soles of your shoes sticking to the pavement.  Gee herself describes it as "unique, one of a kind," and it is most certainly that!  Besides which, it's a ton of fun!

Wonder Island is living proof that you don't need the latest Mesh models, or have to be an incredibly talented architect or 3D artist to create something of worth in Second Life.  Gee obviously put a lot of effort into it, and just as obviously had fun doing it.  I think if you visit, you'll have fun too.  But don't wait too long; Gee told me that unless the visitor traffic justifies keeping Wonder Island open for a while, she'll move on to new projects in a few months.

Gee's Wonder Island SLURL


Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Horizons Homes

For a long time now, Linden Lab has offered a free Linden Home to Premium members of Second Life.  These were always intended to be "starter homes" and as such, they have a number of limitations.  The most obvious is, they're small.  They are on 512 square meter parcels, and until recently only allowed 117 prims (the recent prim limit increase to Mainland regions has raised that to 175.)

Besides being small, you can't get rid of the Linden Home and put a house of your choosing on the parcel, or place a skybox above it.

Linden Lab is attempting to address these limitations with a new offering in the Horizons regions.  The Horizons Experience is a quest-type game against the clock, featuring a number of challenges.  But besides the game, the new Horizons regions offer residential parcels.  These are 1024 square meters in size.

You can rez your choice of several pre-installed Horizons-themed houses (which don't count against your 350 prim allowance, similar to a Linden Home), or you can place your own structure.

Horizons parcels are NOT offered as a free Premium benefit.  You can, however, use your 512 sq. m. land allowance and apply it to your Horizons parcel.  That means that you will only pay tier on the remaining 512 sq. m., or $5.00 USD per month (in addition to your Premium membership fee.)

Horizons parcels are currently being sold on the Land Auctions page.  After they've been auctioned off, the only way to get one will be to buy it from another resident, or find one that has been Abandoned by its former owner and purchase it from "Governor Linden."

Surprisingly, the Horizons regions are rated Adult.  This is a departure from the Linden Homes, which are on Moderate regions.  I would never have expected LL to associate themselves so closely with Adult activities...heck, just a few years ago they scraped up all the Adult stuff on the Mainland and exiled it to a whole separate continent, Zindra.

For lots more about the new Horizons land parcels, see this Wiki entry: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Horizons_Parcel_Ownership

I'm sure these will be of interest to many people, especially those fairly new to SL.  But, as a landlady, I'm feeling quite grumpy about them.  Once again, Linden Lab is setting itself up in direct competition with the Residents.  Phooey.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Prim Increases - Pros and Cons

This week, LL increased the land capacity of Mainland regions, and they will shortly be increasing the capacity of Private Estate regions as well.  Here's a breakdown of the changes:



While full Mainland regions are getting a boost from 15,000 to 22,500 (a one third increase), full Estate regions will only go up to 20,000.  That's still a nice increase, however.  Plus, LL says that for an additional $30 initial fee and an extra $30 per month, Private Estates can increase their land capacity up to 30,000.

Homestead and Openspace regions will also be getting an increase, to 5,000 and 1,000 respectively, across the board.

What does this mean for us?

For the ordinary Second Life resident, it's terrific.  In effect, prims have just become about 33% cheaper.  Alternatively, you can think of it as being able to add 33% more Stuff to your home.

This is especially beneficial to those with small parcels of land, such as Linden Homes.  Instead of 117 prims, now you can have 175!

It's an incentive to creators to make more realistic content, too.  Regions can now support more Mesh objects with higher levels of detail.

On the other hand, I see some downsides.

For those of us who are in the land business, land has just, in effect, been devalued by a third.  The price we pay to LL has not gone down, but instead of being able to charge, say, $L 7 or 8 per prim for a rental, we'll now be faced with charging around $L 5 per prim.  We can make that up, but ONLY if our tenants are willing to rent more prims from us.  If they aren't, then we'll have to think about renting smaller parcels to our tenants, and squeezing more tenants into a region.  With SL slowly shrinking, I do not think this model is going to be very attractive.

Some landlords may not be willing to pass the additional prims or the lower cost of them on to their tenants.  This will probably result in some changes in who's living where, as people seek the best deal for themselves.

The additional prims available to Linden Homes and the owners of other 512 square meter parcels may reduce the incentive for them to upgrade to a larger parcel, or to rent additional square meters and prims from a landlord or Private Estate owner.  This will further increase the pressure to reduce rental fees, and could result in more landlords being unable to remain in business.

While we're talking about devaluation, you may also have noticed that the Linden Dollar has been devalued a bit as well.  A couple of months ago, the exchange rate for selling $L was about $L250 to $1.00 USD.  Now it is steady around $L261: $1.00.  (If you go back a few years, the normal rate was around $L270 : $1.00, so if you take the long view, this change may not be all that significant.)

One may speculate on any number of reasons for these moves on the part of the Lab:  for example, the coming of Sansar, or declining interest in SL.  Whatever the reason, though, SL is still alive and well and I expect it to be so for a good long time to come.  We'll adapt to these changes just as we've done for many others in the past.