Monthly Archives: January 2007

Welcome to Growth Corporation of America

And the numbers, as they say, just keep on climbing…

Total signups, having just cracked the two-million mark in December, are now within the ace of breaking three million. The 60-day return visits counter stands at over one million, and user concurrency routinely breaks 25,000 most days now. The infrastructure is decidedly showing strain; reports of database-related issues are now almost an everyday occurrence, and even the secondlife.com Web site itself seems to be slowing down. (Given that the Web site is crucial to so many parts of SL, including the LindeX and the land auction system, that’s not good.)

Boom times are definitely here, though. LL has added over 600 new sims to the Grid this month–more than they added in all of December, and we still have a week to go. A message I got recently from Sirux Mahoney of the Fantasyland group (home of the Evans Family Compound) ends with this message: “As from February, we plan to bring up 4 new sims each month.” And I recall seeing, not long ago, that LL was adding fifty new sims to the southwest edge of the southern Mainland continent. Despite this, land demand remains high, pushing average land prices up to L$12.32/sq.m, up 25% from December. The LindeX exchange rate continues to hover at around L$265/US$1, probably because Supply Linden has been pumping L$ into the economy like it was going out of style; nearly L$200 million last month, and over L$120 million month-to-date. This keeps injecting liquidity into the system to match the expansion of the economy.

Riding the MakerSo, despite the words of the “Negative Nancies” out there, people are still pouring in, apparently from all over the place. Griefer attacks continue, but apparently they’re getting more creative, not resorting to the tired old “prim boy parts” (to use Allie’s phrase) as self-replicating objects. And innovation continues to appear on the Grid, not only from large corporate presence (Pontiac’s six-sim Motorati island is fun to drive around), but from other sources as well, such as The Dune Project, highlighted recently by Reverend Watermelonmother Torley. That’s a sim you’ve got to see to believe, and this is the sort of thing I envisioned SL being used for in the first place. (At left: Danielle and I become sandriders, wearing our new stillsuits and standing atop Shai-Hulud.)

Even today, I can still look at SL with a sense of it being a great adventure, a great experiment that no one knows the outcome of. The star is still ascending, and it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. I imagine Philip sitting in his office, looking at it all–the current Grid map, the statistics pages, the “heartbeat” of the world he’s created–and getting the biggest damned grin on his face at what he sees.

“The human adventure is just beginning,”Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Filed under Community, Current Events, Philosophy, Roadside Attractions

My People Will Call Your People, We’ll Do Lunch

Did I think I was going to be any less busy after we moved the Gin Rummy to Club Fairplay sim? I was sorely mistaken. 🙂

For one thing, our usual event schedule continues unabated. This means I’m often looking over the Event Calendar on the intranet site, editing event descriptions and assigning personnel, and posting the completed event descriptions to the SL Events calendar. If I have to DJ, I also have to make sure I get my “base” playlist set up in advance; though it’s subject to modification at event time by people sending me requests, I have to start with something. In the case of specialized events, like tonight’s 50’s event, I have to immerse myself in a specific music genre…I actually had to do research for this event, finding appropriate songs I could play. I hope the crowd appreciates it.

Not only that, I find I’m doing an increasing amount of interaction with other club owners. Often times, this will be Zues Burali, one of the owners of Velvet Dreamz (formerly “The Cutlass Club”). Let me just say that I’m Godalmighty impressed with how far he’s come; he started out working for us as a pole dancer, and now he and his “Lil’ Sissy” ZoeyStar Rankin (another former dancer) run the joint, and have successfully negotiated a number of obstacles and built the club into something far more than it ever was under my management. He also now works under DaRealNeo Crossing’s banner, and has Velvet Dreamz set up on land Neo owns in Osterhout (right next to Mera Pixel & Company and the Mera Art gallery!). Where I’ve helped him out has primarily been in scripting and scripted objects; I gave him a copy of my Distributed Music Changer Mk.I (the same one I have set up at the Gin Rummy, and that we use at the family compound), and adapted my Application Kiosk 3.0 for his use. But Danielle and I have also joined him and his partner Sonoma for things like a friendly game of Texas Hold’Em.

In addition, Chelle Moore, our top-drawing guest DJ, has now found herself the sole owner of her own club, the Black Diamond, after her business partner decided to step down and she successfully bought him out. I’ve been acting in a bit of an advisory capacity for her, and I may help her get set up with the same kind of intranet deal we use for the GR. (The idea isn’t original with us; Danielle first saw the specific software we use, Joomla, being used for that purpose at Soulmates. We adapted the idea and extended it in a few useful ways.)

Danielle, of course, has a lot of things she needs my help on…such as her house-building projects, finding new furniture and fixtures for the club (or the house), or just bouncing from point to point on the Grid, exploring hither and yon. And, when I’m not doing that, I have scripting projects of my own I continue to hack on, as well as appearances I like to put in. I try to make it for the Sunday Building Shelter games; yesterday, I even competed in a couple of rounds. Didn’t win anything though…

You know, even if I wanted to depart Second Life, at this point, I don’t think I’d be allowed to. 😀

“Work is not an end in itself; there must always be time enough for love.” – Captain Aaron Sheffield, nee Woodrow W. Smith, sometimes known as Lazarus Long et al., Time Enough For Love, Robert A. Heinlein

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Filed under Business, Current Events, People

Mama, If That’s Movin’ Up, Then I’m Movin’ Out

Our landlord at South Sunset, Doeko Cassidy, started getting shirty with us about the Gin Rummy, especially since our new contest boards were given to a lot of shouting. We tried to mitigate the situation, but Danielle rather thought it was time for a move anyway. So we went on the hunt for commercial properties where the GR could be placed.

That’s when Danielle ran into DaRealNeo Crossing, a real FIC type who’s been in-world for 4 years and who manages casinos, which include some of the best-designed casino games in Second Life (not available for sale, but far higher in quality than games you might spend hundreds of thousands of L$ on). After he convinced her that he was on the level and could help us–and the two of them convinced me–we had a new home for the Gin Rummy, on the southwest corner of Club Fairplay sim.

We’ll be paying about a quarter sim’s worth of tier, for which we get the location for the club, including a great building, and enough prims to outfit it pretty much any way we want. The vendors from Don’t Panic! Designs can go in nearby, too, or in other locations in SL. And we get some added goodies, including fancy casino and gambling games and a dance floor that is to die for. (Neo brings in new gizmos all the time, often in the middle of our events. This guy’s like Santa Claus.)

One thing about the new arrangement…there are no land bounaries on the sim, because Neo wants to drive up the whole sim’s traffic figure this way. This means, among other things, when we have live DJs working the club, they get widebanded to the entire sim. (Chelle, when she heard about this, said “WHAT???” 😀 ) But it’ll help draw traffic to our corner while an event is running, which is a Good Thing.

Do come out to the club and check it out for yourself; you’ll have to see it to believe it. Tomorrow night Danielle begins a tradition of “Friday Night Formals,” and, Saturday night, “CoolJ’s 70’s Disco Party,” featurning the DJing talents of Yours Truly, rocks the house.

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Filed under Business, Roadside Attractions

Open Source

In a response to Tateru’s post on Second Life Insider in which she predicted various developments this year–among them, that the Second Life client would be open-sourced–I commented that I didn’t expect that to happen this year.

Never have I been proven wrong so quickly and so dramatically.

You should have been here when I opened up the secondlife.com home page, on my way to the Events page (to delete an event scheduled for tonight).  I think there was an audible klunk! as my jaw hit the floor.

“But surely,” I thought to myself, “they’ll be using some sort of weird license for the code that’s not compatible with anything else out there?  After all, that’s what Apple did, and Sun, and…”

Nope.  GPL Version 2, with an exception to allow open source licenses that aren’t GPL-compatible.  You can’t get much more standard than that.

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Did I say, “Oh my God”? 🙂

I’ve long been an advocate of open source and Free software.  The only reason I use Windows to run SL, rather than Linux, is that I’ve never been able to get the accelerated X drivers to work with my Radeon X1600 Pro.  But I have not only used a lot of Open Source, I’ve written a substantial amount of it…including the conferencing system used by Electric Minds.  This part of me looks at LL’s announcement and gives an unqualified “YAYZERAMA!

And yet…and yet…will this make it more likely that someone will use this open source code to create attack tools against SL?  Obviously, this underlines, boldfaces, and puts red asterisks by the statement I’ve made in the past: “You can never trust the client.”  The question is, has LL properly “hardened” the SL servers against possible attacks of that nature, mis-formatted protocols and the like?  I guess we’ll find out.

It’s too early to guess at the ramifications of this  development, but one thing is certain: The rules have changed, irrevocably.  SL has turned a corner, and now heads down a new road.  No one, least of all me, knows where it will end.

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Filed under Current Events, Technical

Behind the Scenes: Rolling Those Blogs

I thought I’d include some info here on how the Evans Avenue Exit blogroll, and its Elite Band of Bloggers®©™, is managed, for all two or three of you out there that actually give a damn. 🙂 But first, a little historical perspective.

The concept of the blogroll is almost as old as that of the blog itself. Bloggers include links on their blogrolls for a variety of reasons; just because they want to, or because the’re exchanging links with someone else, or because that’s the list of blogs they themselves read. Some people just starting out will link madly to the various “A-list” bloggers, in hopes that those “A-listers” will link back to them and boost their traffic. One person who bucked the trend was Steven Den Beste, author of the blog USS Clueless (now inactive) and a reluctant “A-lister” himself. He chose to use his blogroll to highlight new or up-and-coming blogs which he felt deserved more attention, and he periodically rotated the links to spread the attention around. Two excellent blogs which benefited thereby were Wretchard’s The Belmont Club and Bill Whittle’s Eject! Eject! Eject!, both of which are still going strong today.

As such, I reserve the right to be slightly quirky with the way I manage my own blogroll. 🙂

First of all, since this is a Second Life blog, for the most part, only Second Life sites are highlighted, though I did make exception for EMinds, for obvious reasons. Some of the other blogs I read on a daily basis would no doubt shock the living hell out of you–but you won’t find them linked here.

Second, we have what might be called the Evans Avenue Exit Blogroll Prime Directive: Only blogs of people I have actually encountered in-world are listed here. (There is one exception which was “grandfathered in” from my very first set of blogroll entries–and even on that one, I can claim a technicality. Not that I wouldn’t love to properly remedy that situation…even if it’s unlikely, due to time zone differences if nothing else.) The frequency of the encounters doesn’t matter; some people on the blogroll I see every single day, while others I run into once in a blue moon at best, and everything in between. (Second Life Insider qualified because of Akela, though I’ve encountered Aimee and Tateru in-world since. World of SL is an “aggregate” blog, and is hence kind of outside the scope of this rule. As for the Grand Unified Linden Blog…well, I’ve certainly encountered at least one Linden in-world. 🙂 )

Third, each entry on the ‘roll gets a “title,” usually related to something about that person’s personality or persona, often my attempt at being funny. (You can see these titles by rolling your mouse over the entries and waiting for the tooltip text to pop up.) One of my early posts detailed the source of the tags for all my initial blogroll entries…and I’ve tried to explain them as I add them.

Fourth, when I add a new name, I’ll post an “intro post” here, welcoming their blog to the Elite Band of Bloggers®©™ that makes up the site’s blogroll. In this post, I’ll post a little of what I know (or what I think I know, at any rate) about the person, just to kind of flesh out the entry a bit and help people see that there’s more to them than just a name on a list.

I don’t prune names, either, unless I see that someone has fallen by the wayside both on their blog and in-world. That’s why Valorna Edgeworth is gone now, for instance; her blog only ever had two entries on it, and her account seems to have vanished. Both conditions were necessary to trigger her removal.

And that’s pretty much about the size of it. With that, I dedicate what has become Official Post #100 to Evans Avenue Exit to those elite bloggers…from Mera Pixel (first to give me a link, even before this blog existed; she linked to the topic on EMinds where I posted about my adventures) to FireEyes Fauna (most recent addition to the blogroll), and everyone in between. Cheers, and word up!

“I get by with a little help from my friends / I get high with a little help from my friends / Gonna try with a little help from my friends.” – The Beatles, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

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The Trouble With libsecondlife

I touched on the libsecondlife project to a certain degree when I talked about CopyBot back in November, but a recent comment on that post reminds me that this subject is worth considering in more detail. (Oddly enough, when I tried to bring up that link to the project’s home page, it came back with an internal server error…and then with an infinite-redirection error from Firefox. Hmm. — UPDATE: And now it works. Go figure.)

Libsecondlife (so-named from the Unix convention for naming library files “libsomething.a” or “libsomething.so”) is, ostensibly, a project to reverse-engineer the protocol used by the Second Life client to communicate with the Grid and create a library, as open source code, allowing other programs, such as replacement clients, to be written. In this respect it’s a little like the various libraries allowing programs to communicate with proprietary instant-messaging networks, such as ICQ, AIM, or MSN. I did a little work with libicq back when I worked for Jabber, so I know something of the processes involved here. By capturing the network traffic flowing between the SL client and the Grid, they have worked out many of the details of the communications protocol and many of the functions which may be called upon in the server.

LL has stated, on at least one occasion, that the reverse-engineering work being done by the libsecondlife project is legit, and not a violation of the TOS. In fact, some Lindens are even involved with the project, and libsecondlife has been successfully used as a tool to expose bugs in the server-side implementation of SL. (The server code needs to handle anything the client can throw at it, even stuff which is obvious garbage, even if the real client would never even dream of sending such a thing. This is in keeping with the prime security rule for client-server software systems: You can never trust the client. libsecondlife allowed non-standard data to be thrown at the server, to see what happens.)

The creators of libsecondlife speak glowingly of possible applications of this technology, such as IM clients allowing people to send and receive real-time IMs in SL without using the complete client to do so. However, two of its best-known applications are, shall we say, somewhat more problematic. CopyBot was one of those, and, while the most dire predictions of various concerned individuals, including myself, did not come to pass, the aftereffects are still being felt by many. Another one appears to be the appearance of “CampBot” avatars, created and operated for, seemingly, no other purpose than to siphon money from camping chairs at casinos and other popular locations; indications are that these avatars are guided by “autopilots” created with libsecondlife. (While I’m not fond of camping as a general rule, I don’t think hordes of CampBots are fair to either the people deploying camping chairs or the newbies who seek them out to provide some manner of income, now that LL has completely shut off Basic stipends.) Still another involved the creation of “megaprims” larger than the 10-meter restriction for ordinary prims. (This illustrates the point I raised earlier: the megaprims could only be created because the server didn’t check the dimension values being fed to it by the client. LL has since fixed that hole, so no new megaprims can be created.) These megaprims are known to confuse the sim servers to a certain extent, yet people still use them, and, furthermore, sell them. There are some indications that LL may be cracking down on the megaprims, but they still exist. (A sky structure constructed using megaprims is visible from the Gin Rummy’s skybox office/conference room, for instance.)

There are allegations that many of libsecondlife’s project members are little better than griefers, or, worse, are griefers, or members of various griefing groups, and that they sit back in their private IRC channel and laugh while their tools are used to wreak havoc on the Grid. (Side note: “Griefer groups” are one thing we don’t need, no matter what tools they’re using. If I were in Philip’s shoes, I’d do everything I could to locate all identifiable members of these groups, then mass-ban and call in the FBI. These groups not only wreck the experience of SL for all the legitimate end users, some of whom are paying customers, they wreck it for all the companies coming in and setting up shop in SL, all of which are even higher-paying customers. This is one instance where “good business” and “the right thing to do” go hand-in-hand.) In my post on CopyBot, I argued that “the libsecondlife project needs to ‘clean house’ in a big way.” This does not appear to have happened, at least not to any great extent.

It’s a shame, really, because, from a purely technical standpoint, libsecondlife is working in an interesting and challenging environment, and I might have the ability to contribute something to their efforts. As long as the specter of griefers and griefing hangs over the group, though, I am leery of involving myself in any way with their project, even to the extent of downloading their code to try it out. And therein lies what should be a major cause for concern on the part of libsecondlife: if their reputation is such that potential contributors are scared away from their project, does this not run contrary to their stated goals? I quote from their own home page:

The libsecondlife project is an effort directed at understanding how Second Life works from a technical perspective, and extending and integrating the metaverse with the rest of the web. This includes understanding how the official Second Life client operates and how it communicates with the Second Life simulator servers, as well as development of independent third party clients and tools.

How does their association with griefers and griefing mesh with this mission statement? Is this not a concern which should be addressed, post haste?

I still think, as I originally stated, that the ultimate solution to restoring libsecondlife’s credibility is for LL to assume administrative control of the project, setting up a sponsored “foundation” to manage the source tree, hold the copyrights (with availability under the same licensing scheme that libsecondlife uses now), and serve as an umbrella for development work on the project. This is similar to the arrangement that Jabber Inc. has with the Jabber Project, and it has been largely successful for both. (In fact, largely due to the synergy between the company and the project, XMPP, the Jabber protocol, is now an Internet standard.) However, in order for this to work, the existing leaders of libsecondlife would have to cede some degree of control of their project…and that would appear to be unlikely.

Still, it would be worth it to see LL make the offer, just to see how the libsecondlife people respond to it. The logical choice, if they truly are interested in what their mission statement says they’re interested in, would be to accept. After all, they would surely benefit from increased resources, increased cooperation from LL, an “official” imprimatur given to the project, and perhaps even to LL hiring some of the libsecondlife developers. If, however, they turn it down…some may then draw unsavory conclusions about where their true motives lie.

What can those of us on the “outside” do about this right now? Very little. Mostly, we can just watch…and wait.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” – Thomas Jefferson

“CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” – Mad-Eye Moody, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Filed under Griefers, Philosophy, Technical