Category Archives: Downtime

What goes on when the Grid goes down…

Once More, With Feeling

I stand before the fourth version of the Evans Family Compound.

I’ve been so far from here,
Far from your warm arms,
It’s good to feel you again,
It’s been a long, long time…
…Hasn’t it?
Genesis, “Supper’s Ready,” Foxtrot (1972)

A year and a half has passed since last I wrote the despairing post that has headed Evans Avenue Exit for all this time.  In that time, my First Life has gradually improved.  I found a new job for more money, was let go from that job, then found another new job for even more money.  Selena has traveled through other games, such as the mighty World of Warcraft and a knockoff of it for kids (as many fantasy MMOs tend to be), Wizard 101, with some detours into the life of a sniper in Modern Warfare 2 on Xbox Live.  Yet there’s always been that thought between us…”We’ll be back in SL some day.”

Yesterday became “some day.”  At the urging of Lexxi and Chelle, who’ve been in here all this time and have missed us terribly, we leased a largish parcel on a private sim, very much like the Fantasyland-run sim where the first Evans Family Compound was.  We’ve erected a new dwelling that is in the great ostentatious tradition of Evans dwellings.  (And it was unbelievably cheap, from my experience…I paid L$300 for a furnished dwelling that would have easily run me L$5,000 or more in 2008!) And, perhaps, one day, we will join the ranks of sim owners again.  Or I may take up the trade of DJ again; heaven knows I’ve kept my broadcaster updated with new music as I’ve acquired it.  Or we may find something else to occupy our time.

For now, though, we’re consolidating and getting things squared away before we figure out what comes next.  And, of course, we’ve been welcomed back by our friends (and neighbors).

As a blogger of my experience likes to say…”More anon.”

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Filed under Downtime, First Life, Meta

BZZZT! WRONG!

Just two days after I posted my call to Linden Lab™ to cut the crap and make the Second Life™ Grid, you know, actually work, they’ve proven they can’t listen worth a damn:

Today we are very happy to share some exciting news with you: Linden Lab has acquired Xstreet SL and OnRez – the two leading Web-based marketplaces for buying and selling creations for Second Life. Over the past few months we’ve been working with the folks at Virtuatrade and the Electric Sheep Company to hammer out the details…

How much of those “last few months” spent in negotiating to take over two services that, unlike the Grid, actually work, could have been spent on, say, making the Grid actually work?

How much effort will integrating these two services into the overall SL environment suck away from making the Grid actually WORK?

And will these two services now quit, you know, actually working once they’re subsumed into LL’s already bursting-at-the-seams infrastructure, thus requiring even more effort to make them work again, effort that could have been devoted to making the Grid actually WORK?

(Are you starting to see a pattern here?  I hope so. 🙂 )

I’ll leave it to others to debate the business aspects of this acquisition.  I’m more interested in having a working environment in SL.

Linden Lab: Does the phrase “fiddling while Rome burns” do anything for you?

UPDATE: Okay…now maybe I can start to believe that LL is taking these problems seriously.  But I’ll refrain from sending the roses until I see some real results.

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Filed under Bugs, Business, Downtime

Linden Lab: This has gone FAR ENOUGH. Fix SL *NOW*.

As I write this, Selena has just had to cancel our Sunday night event because Second Life™ is brokenAGAIN.

Most In world services are at reduced functionality at the moment. Please avoid L$ transactions or handling valuable (no-copy) assets until we post an ALL-CLEAR. Regettably, our ability to broadcast a warning in world is also disabled. Please let your friends know if you’re logged in. [emphasis mine]

When the system is so broken that the Lindens can’t even broadcast a message to tell people in-world how broken it is…well, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  And it sure as hell ain’t Danish blue cheese.

Friday night, we had to cancel our event because the sim on which Solar Moonlight sits (Tyros) suddenly crashed on us, logging us out, fifteen minutes before the event was due to begin…and, upon logging back in, we were unable to TP there.  Thank God Lexxotica still seemed to be up and running, or who the hell knows what would have happened?

And this doesn’t just affect us; Prokofy Neva, one of the few people who tries to run a rental business in a reasonable manner, reports that he’s getting lots of people breaking leases:

I don’t know whether people refund because they can’t log on and get sick and suspicious of SL even when they *can* log on (or perhaps they get mad their friends can’t log on), or whether, more likely, they can log on, but they can’t get me to do something for them because *I* can’t log on.

Either way, bad for business.

Much as Prok’s critics might cheer his business troubles, anything that’s bad for his business is likely to be worse–perhaps fatally so–for other businesses.

Meanwhile, the Lindens issue self-congratulatory blog posts, promise “pie in the sky, by and by” with infrastructure improvements (that have yet to materialize), and continue to chase educators with a platform that can’t seem to even support its present level of use, let alone act as a mission-critical tool for education.  Anyone else have the words “fiddling while Rome burns” coming to mind?

It’s time for the Lindens to start bringing what Jim McCarthy, in his book Dynamics of Software Development, called “radical focus” on the problem of stability of the SL platform.  You can’t call for radical focus too many times over the course of a project, as McCarthy points out, but at this point the Lindens are overdue.  Come on, M Linden, now’s the time to show leadership.  If my own boss in RL can do it, you can do it.  LL’s ability to ship bug-free code has fallen from “average” down to “marginal at best,” and is continuing the spiral towards “complete fiduciary misconduct” at this point.  How much more do they think their paying customers can take?

“…I warned the distributor I’m a Hershey bar…The Hershey bar gets smaller and smaller to stay the same price.  But it can only get so small.  I can shrink myself only so small before I’m nothing, a man without quality or quantity.” – Mort Lesser, “Mouthpiece,” by Edward Wellen

UPDATE: FJ Linden has posted a big, semi-technical explanation of what’s been going on and how LL is moving to fix it.  All well and good, FJ, but, as we say in America, “Talk is cheap.”  If you want to convince me, and other dissatisfied Residents, that you mean business, here’s the way to go about it:

  • Your timeframe for the rollout of these fixes is WAY too long.  Think “days,” not “months.”
  • What about manpower to meet that timeframe?  Easy: Every Linden who can code should be working on stability fixes right now.  Every Linden who can’t code should be working on testing said stability fixes. It’s “crash priority” time.  You guys’ future is at stake.
  • Forget all those other side projects, like building more mainland sims, or replacing the browser engine in the client, or other such foolishness.  All other considerations must be secondary to stabilizing the Second Life Grid and making it so people can actually USE it. I remind you: Your future is at stake here.

In other words, LL:  It’s time to shit or get off the pot.  Go big, or go home.

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Filed under Bugs, Downtime

Report From The Aftermath

1.13 Upgrade StatementFour days ago, on the 29th of November, Linden Labs released the new version of Second Life to the world, version 1.13.

That version has turned out to be every bit as much “bad luck” as its version number would suggest.

Now, before we go into the litany of woes the Grid has experienced since then, I do want to highlight some of the things this new version seems to have gotten right. The new Friends List functionality, for instance, is far more flexible than it used to be, and should hopefully reduce, if not eliminate entirely, the problem of friends TP’ing in on you at the wrong moment. (This happened to me once…a young newbie TP’d in on me as Danielle and I were sharing, ahem, a tender moment.) My old friend Vertex Zenith is no doubt pleased to see that his feature proposal, allowing emotes in IMs, has come to fruition at last; that and the “typing…” indicators do a lot to help bring SL IMs into the 21st century. And the “Web” tab in the profile is, of course, the shiznit; not many people seem to be making use of it yet, but you may now read a “stripped-down” version of Evans Avenue Exit straight from my profile in-world. I have not explored some of the more esoteric things, like the new parcel info functions in LSL, but more-experienced scripters than me are actively doing so.

Are these things enough to compensate for the living hell the Grid has gone through these past few days? I don’t know…especially when you consider what has happened since then…

Basically, most of the problems can be traced to the main database, which keeps track of pretty much everything about the world. Database failures cause all kinds of things to happen:

  • Teleports start failing
  • People’s avatars fail to appear on their screen, or their cash balances fail to show up
  • Search no longer works
  • Money and inventory transfers in-world fail
  • Profile and group information fails to come up
  • The new Friends List functionality fails to work, in that permissions cannot be changed
  • Things fail on the secondlife.com Web site itself, mainly the Friends Online indicator, but also things like the Partners page and even the LindeX, on occasion.

These problems were all amply documented in various posts to the Grand Unified Linden Blog between then and now; in particular, Torley seems to have been run ragged trying to cope. Other bizarre issues have cropped up, such as missing water in some sims. A couple of temporary workarounds have been posted, too.

As I write this, seated at my computer desk in the main house at the family compound, the Grid seems quiet right now…but Search Places is still nonfunctional, as are Classified and Event icons on the map. This hits the Gin Rummy and Don’t Panic! Designs right where it hurts, as we depend on Event listings for nightly traffic, and on Classifieds to attract new potential employees, which we sorely need right now. It gets worse, too; money transfer failures can inhibit our ability to conduct events at all. (We were literally about to call off an event two nights ago, until the money transfers mysteriously started working again.)

So are people packing it in? Bailing out of SL and going back to whatever else they did before they found this world? Not bloody likely, says Tateru:

Ultimately the litmus test of the issues that Second Life is having right now is in what we do, not what we say. We might say it stinks, and howl, scream or grumble about it, but what we’re doing seems to indicate no especial lack of enthusiasm.

[…]

You might be unhappy about glitches, performance or whatever, but you’re still logging in for about the same amount of time on the same days. Or, if you’re cutting back, more people are logging in in your place. That suggests you’ve either got confidence, or that you don’t, but something keeps you coming back anyway.

Well, glitches or not, I still have responsibilities, to the club, to our employees, especially to Danielle (still trapped in RL after her house fire)–and not least to my own sense of self-respect. But aside from that, I still believe in the potential of Second Life. We’ve seen upgrade-related glitches before, albeit not of this magnitude, and likely we will again. This is, as I have pointed out time and again, both on this blog and in-world (including to at least one Linden), the single most complex software system I have ever used or heard of. That it even works at all is something of a miracle in and of itself. Plus, I have friends here…friends I would miss if I decided to abandon the Grid, and that hopefully would miss me.

Does that keep me from feeling a little screwed, like lots of people? Oh, hell no. But I’m not giving up hope.

“Never give up, never surrender!” — Jason Nesmith as Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, GalaxyQuest

(Special offer: For a limited time, I’m giving away copies of the T-shirt you see me wearing in the picture above, “I Survived The 1.13 Upgrade.” Come find me in-world for your copy…)

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Filed under Bugs, Current Events, Downtime

How To Have Fun With The Grid Down

Well, I’m guessing that the 1.12.1 release will go down in history as one of the more memorable fusterclucks* of Second Life. Not to fault the Lindens too badly; SL is one of the most complex pieces of ‘ware you’ll ever work with, and as a professional software engineer myself, I know it’s all too easy to introduce bugs when you’re fixing so many other things. And Torley, in particular, did everything she could to keep Residents informed of just what the hell was going on; I’ll recommend her for the Order of Merit, with watermelon clusters (of course!).

Still…how do you pass the time when the Grid is down?

Well, if you’re me, you get picked up by Danielle on Windows Live Messenger (which I run at least partly due to her influence) and added to a group chat with Bott and Skye. We stayed on that for awhile, riffing on a couple of different topics; it got rather intense when Danielle and Bott were acting like they were playing Dungeons & Dragons, while I was throwing in characters from Piers Anthony’s “Incarnations of Immortality” series of books, resulting in Danielle telling me, “Erbo, you can’t be the DM anymore!” Through it all, I was still trying my Second Life login (“The grid is closed for maintenance; access is restricted to employees only”) and checking with the Grand Unified Linden Blog to see if there was any more info available. Even Star made an appearance, sitting on my lap for awhile as I described her actions to the others. (Danielle, sadly, is allergic to cats…)

I toyed with the idea of firing up Live365 Broadcaster and DJ’ing a stream for everyone else, but we decided on another course of action; we all launched Skype (even though Bott had to download it), synced each other’s names onto our contact lists, and set up a conference call. As Skye predicted, there was a lot of laughter on the line, and in fact Pamela complained that I was talking too loudly (which I sometimes do, it’s hard for me to help that). The call continued even after Skye noticed that the Grid was finally open, and we all hurried to log in. All four of us met up at The Shelter, which was about the only place that had anything happening, then teleported back to the (otherwise-empty) Gin Rummy, where we sat around and shot the breeze for awhile, dumping money into the Sploder as we felt like it. First Skye dropped out (of both the call and SL), then Bott, leaving me and Danielle to bounce around and explore a couple of the more popular areas, despite her lag. We wound up at IceDragon’s Playpen, where I taught Danielle how to play Tringo, much as Keeva taught me some months back (except it was easier with the voice line in place, rather than having to do it through chat or IM). After three rounds, I had to go (it being 2 AM, my usual weeknight cutoff time), so we exchanged our goodnight kisses on the front doorstep of our house, and I logged out and hung up.

Despite SL’s issues, it turned out to be a fun evening. I don’t know if I’ll be doing the voice thing again anytime soon; Pamela complained that she had a hard time getting to sleep because she could hear me. But we made the best of a bad situation here, I think. Now…hopefully LL will get the Grid stabilized before tonight…

* – It’s a spoonerism…think “cluster-“. 🙂

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Filed under Downtime

Unnerving Developments

Everybody knows what happened five years ago today.

For my part, I was still in bed when I got the news. I had just been laid off the previous Thursday, and we had just brought home our second cat the day before. Pamela woke me up to deliver the news and turn on CNN in the bedroom. I felt sickened by the sight…and pissed off.

Maybe the fact that this is the anniversary of that horrible day is what makes this report from Reverend Triste Bertrand all the more disturbing:

It seems that nearly all of the Christian areas on the Grid today were attacked in some way. ALM CyberChurch was particle-bombed at least four times while I was there during worship and during the afterglow, and Christian Gide mentioned that a lot of Christian ministries were being attacked today. There were two Residents at the church this morning dressed in Taliban or Muslim garb attempting to disrupt the service. [emphasis mine]

If taken at face value, this report is profoundly disturbing.

I’m trying to warn myself, “Don’t make too much stew from one oyster.” There’s no evidence that those two griefers he described actually were Muslim; they just wore the clothes. It could easily have been just two random Resis out to get their jollies by disrupting a church service, for any reason or none. (Heaven knows there’s a lot of anti-Christian sentiment in this country, most of it having nothing to do with Muslims. But it could have been a truly random attack as well, just picking the church service as a target of opportunity.)

In fact, I hope it’s just that. Because the alternative is that Muslim terrorism has now come to Second Life.

And the thought of that makes me sick. And pissed off.

(Please, no political thrashes in the comments…if you want Electric Minds, you know where to find it.)

UPDATE: Triste elaborates on the attackers in his own 9/11 tribute post:

[…] the two I mentioned were actually in muslim-oriented groups in SL (I checked both their profiles early on the moment I noticed them). The bomb during the fellowship time was actually kinda funny. The particles were pictures of Bill Cosby holding a Jell-o® Pop with the caption “JELL-OWNED!”. Since they are particles, it’s easy to shut them off using menu commands. I did take a few moments to step outside and turn on the ability to view particle sources, to see where it came from if they attacked again. They didn’t try after that. But then, that was probably also because a Linden arrived shortly thereafter.

While I’m relieved that the attack was not particularly destructive, merely annoying at best (and yes, Triste, particles can be textured; I have a custom particle poofer that emits floating Electric Minds icons), the fact that the attackers were, in fact, associated with Muslim groups is a worrisome step along the path of the “Muslim terrorism” explanation. Again, let’s not be too hasty; they may not actually be Muslim themselves, just sympathetic to or friendly with Muslims…but that’s a big problem in and of itself. My advice to all Residents: Remain watchful, and AR as necessary if you are the victim of an attack. (Probably good advice at any time…)

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Filed under Downtime, Griefers

Whammo!

So I spend a bunch of time preparing a country-flavored set for Soulmates’ “Boots’n’Chaps” event tonight, even soliciting Pamela’s advice as to what bands would be good here…I include songs from Poco, Arc Angels, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Johnny Cash, Shania Twain, a remix of Faith Hill…

And what happens?

Midway through the 8th song of my set, Joe Linden sends out a broadcast message saying “The grid’s going down in two minutes.”

Crappity crappity crap crap crap.

I’m leaving my stream running just in case things come back up quickly. But I’m not hopeful.

Updates later if warranted.

UPDATE: It came back before my time slot was over, so at least I got to finish my set.

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Filed under Audio, Downtime