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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Into the Rift

A while back, I did a short piece on the Oculus Rift immersive 3D virtual reality headset.  This device is still in development, but it's come a long way, so today we'll do a short update.

For those who've never heard of Oculus Rift, it's a device conceived by a young man, Palmer Lucky, and initially funded with a Kickstarter crowdsource funding campaign.  Everyone who has tried the prototypes absolutely raves about the total immersive experience the Rift provides.  You turn your head to look around you, and the headset senses that and changes the view.  You feel as if you are actually "inside" the on-screen reality.

This has really got the gaming community excited.  Big names like John Carmack (formerly of ID Software, and author of the hugely popular DOOM games) and Elon Musk are jumping on board the Rift bandwagon.  Carmack recently took a position as OculusVR's Chief Technical Officer, and has left ID to devote himself full time to the new technology.

There is even at least one game that was developed from the start to use the Rift...it's a space dogfighting simulator based on Eve Online, called EVR.

The problem with using the Rift for Second Life is that Second Life has a lot of keyboard, mouse and menu controls.  When you're wearing the headset, you can't see your keyboard...how can we use SL if we can't see to hit combinations like CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+9?  If we display the chat window, inventory window, and all those other windows as an overlay to the virtual reality, won't that mess up our immersion?  Can other devices, like the Kinect sensors, be used to sense our body position and transfer that to our avatar in world?  Could the hand and gesture-sensing LEAP Motion device be used to let us "pick up" and manipulate objects in Second Life?

What's needed to use the Rift with Second Life is a new User Interface.  Linden Lab has been working on one, but as usual, they're taking their sweet time about it.  So David Rowe has come up with a viewer that has support for the Oculus Rift.  You can find his blog, and download the experimental viewer, at his website http://ctrlaltstudio.com/

Oh...and you can get a developer version of Oculus Rift at http://www.oculusvr.com/

This stuff is definitely NOT yet ready for the masses.  Neither Oculus Rift or the CtrlAltStudio viewer are fully developed products, they are both very much still in the experimental stages.  But if you like tinkering at the very bleeding edge of technology, if writing code doesn't faze you...you might find that you've become the next Internet gazillionaire.

As for me, I'll wait for the commercial releases...but I'm really excited!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Con Jobs

There's an old saying..."If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."  And yet, every day in Real Life, on the internet, and here in Second Life, people fall for various scams and con games.  Don't be one of them!  Read on...

Phishing.  Phishing is a scam in which you are invited to click a link to a web site that seems to be one thing, but is really a trick to get you to divulge important information, like your password or an account number.  Most of us are aware of this in our normal online lives, and know better than to click a link in an email that seems to come from our bank or our credit card company.  But people fall for phishing scams all the time in Second Life, because we aren't expecting a link that appears in local chat, group chat, or an IM to lead to a phishing site.  Treat ALL links that you are given, through whatever means, with caution.  There are many signs that give away phishing scams, but perhaps the most common is that the URL does NOT begin with "https", but with "http".  Any legitimate Linden Lab web site will be secure, and will have the form https://id.secondlife.com/

Besides beginning with the secure https designator, a legitimate LL website will have the domain "secondlife.com" somewhere in it.  If it has any other domain, like "2ndlife.com.ru" (a made-up example), don't go there.

URLs can be masked, though, so a link might look legitimate but still lead you to a bad web site.  Before entering any data, check the actual URL once you are on the web site.  Just how you do this depends on your browser.  It's always best never to click links you get in the wild at all, and browse manually to the site the link claims to be from.

There is a great deal more information on the web about phishing and how to keep from getting hooked.  Do a web search!

Free $Lindens. There are some Second Life groups or organizations that hold out the prospect of making "free" linden dollars.  Some of these ask you to teleport around and visit certain merchants in return for money.  Others ask you to complete various surveys elsewhere on the internet.  The survey type operations are a good way to get your computer infected with adware, spyware, or malware.  Furthermore, I have never met anyone who said they actually got the free $L they were promised.

Bargain $Lindens.  Some sites offer to sell you $L for almost half off the price you'd get through the Lindex (the official Linden Exchange, found on the Second Life website or through your viewer's "Buy $L" button).  The exchange rate for $L varies up or down by a small amount, but is usually very close to $L250 = $1.00 USD.  There are some third party exchanges out there, but unless they are on the Authorized $L Reseller list, don't buy $L from them.  They could be a phisher or a thief.  Even if they are not, LL can terminate your Second Life account if you buy or sell $L from an unapproved source.

Remember...any $L reseller has to buy their $L from somewhere, and ultimately all $L come from LL.  If they are offering to sell to you at far less than LL's price, you have to ask yourself how they plan to stay in business.  In most cases, they don't...they plan to take your money and run!

Further Reading:

Linden Lab's Information on Phishing

Test Your Phishing Knowledge

Ripoff Report (Note: controversial scam reporting site.  Use or believe at your own discretion.)


Sunday, November 17, 2013

FLASH! Older versions of Firestorm viewer to be blocked this week

Hi, readers!  The title says it all...starting this week (November 18), older (pre-Mesh, pre-Server Side Appearance) versions of the popular Firestorm viewer will be blocked.  Jessica Lyon explains why in this Firestorm blog post.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

FLASH! Vote on an email to Linden Lab on IP Rights

The residents of Second Life who are also lawyers have drafted an email to LL with questions about the revised and draconian Terms of Service.  Go to this link to vote on it, your support could ensure the Lab pays more attention!  http://www.google.com/moderator/#15/e=20de26&t=20de26.40