Linden Lab CEO To Make Rare Second Life Appearance On April 20

Windows 10 Spring Update – Embrace Or Delay?

The year’s first of two major feature updates to Windows 10 will occur in April (the second will come in November). Microsoft allows some customers to delay major updates for up to a year. Are you among those chosen ones? Should you postpone major updates or let them happen on schedule? Read on to learn the answers to these and other burning questions about Windows 10 Spring and Fall updates… You’re asking yourself whats this got to do with Second Life? Well it’s always been my opinion that without proper running OS/updated (operating software) Then the rest of the software/hardware on your computer won’t work as well. So if you are still running Windows XP to 8 it’s about time you upgraded and update.

Should You Postpone Windows 10 Updates?

First, if you activated Windows 10 less than 30 days before any major update is due to happen, you get a pass; the update will not come to such “young” Windows installations. Presumably, that’s because infant Windows 10 installations are born current.

Second, if you have not been updated to the last major update, then the next one will not be delivered to you, and you will not be able to install it manually. The 2017 Fall Creators Update is Version 1709 (Each Version number consists of the year [‘17] and month [09 – September] of the update’s scheduled release). It is important to have Version 1709, else Version 1803 will not install.

(Yes, it looks like this 2018 Spring Creators Update slipped its schedule by one month; it should have started rolling out in March. Recall that Version 1709, scheduled for September, 2017, became known as the November Fall Creators Update.)

You can check to see if Version 1709 is installed by typing “winver” in the “Search Windows” box and pressing Enter. You should see “Version 1709” on the second line of small type, under “Microsoft Windows.”

Windows winver windows version

If you need to install Version 1709, use the Media Creation Tool to do an automated re-install of Windows 10; it’s the easiest and most foolproof method. You can find instructions on Microsoft’s Download Windows 10 page.

If you have the Home Edition of Windows 10, you cannot postpone major updates. Only users of Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education Editions are allowed to delay major updates, presumably because their IT departments carry more weight with Microsoft than your family does.

Should you defer major updates if your Edition of Windows 10 permits it? It depends on how well Version 1709 is serving you right now (or soon after you finally get it installed). I have few complaints or unfulfilled wishes; so I will defer the Version 1803 update a few months to give Microsoft time to iron out the inevitable wrinkles.

What’s Coming in the Windows 10 Spring Creators Update?

How-To Geek has an exhaustive (and exhausting) review of all new features coming in Version 1803. “Easy Wireless File Sharing” piques my interest. A new app called “Diagnostic Data Viewer” shows exactly what data Win 10 is transmitting back to Microsoft; it’s “too much information” for all but the geekiest readers. “Quick Pairing for Bluetooth Devices” should have been here long ago.

“Progressive Web Apps” will run in their own windows, have their own taskbar shortcuts, and generally behave as desktop apps should; unfortunately, they work only with the Edge browser. But PWA is a new standard for apps that Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, and even Apple are supporting, so it’s something you and I had better get used to. Just not at the same time as everyone else, please!

Better user control over the permissions granted to apps is a welcome security feature. So is the improved “don’t let apps use my webcam” option.

The Home-group concept is gone with Version 1803. Sharing files, printers, and other resources with a group of known or unknown users is better done with cloud storage and other modern solutions.

The list of new features gets a little tedious after the above. If you can live without paired Bluetooth devices for a few months, you might avoid the pain of a new version’s bugs.

How to Defer Windows 10 Updates

So let’s see exactly how to defer the Spring and Fall updates, The following instructions assume you have Version 1709 installed.

Go to Settings > Update & security > Advanced options. You will see three options.

Option 1 lets you defer updates until Microsoft declares them “business ready.” That’s usually about four months after an update’s initial release. To enable this deferment, simply change “Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)” to “Semi-Annual Channel.”

Option 2 works only on Enterprise, Education, and Pro Editions of Windows 10. It lets you add additional time to the update delay set by Option 1. You can add as many as 365 days, in which case you won’t see any major updates until mid-year, 2019.

Option 3 has nothing to do with Spring or Fall feature updates. Instead, it lets you defer security updates for up to 30 days after their release date. I would pick about one week, giving Microsoft time to fix any bugs while limiting the time my system remains vulnerable.

If you plan to ride out the (quite possibly imaginary) storm of the update, the first two weeks of April should be a time of heightened backup discipline. Create a new System Restore Point at least once a week until you get Version 1803. Make a system image file on an external drive, or store it in the cloud. (Did you make a backup on World Backup Day?)

Remember, 99% of the things we worry about never happen. Just be prepared in case they do.

Have a Great Week

Zi Staff

Keeping Your Software Updated

Many computer problems can be avoided or cured simply by keeping all of your software up to date. Updates include patches for security vulnerabilities as well as fixes for bugs, new features, and improvements of existing features. Check out these free programs that will do the job for you…

Do You Need a Software Updater, Driver Updater, Both, or Neither?

Over the years, I have consistently exhorted readers to “keep your software up to date.” The efficiency of your computer system depends upon this basic maintenance chore. So does the security of your system, the information stored on it, your identity, your credit rating, your ability to rent or buy a home… well, let’s just say a lot of important things depend upon how well you keep your software up to date.

An old version of any program may seem “good enough” but it is constantly getting worse in terms of vulnerability to hackers and conflicts with more recent software. So it is essential to keep your all software up to date. Unfortunately, that’s no easy task.

Most important is your Windows operating system, and fortunately, that’s taken care of by Windows Update, which runs automatically. Windows Update also auto-updates Microsoft Office and other Microsoft software. But you probably have other vendors’ software that also needs updating. Some vendors provide auto-update utilities similar to Windows Update, others do not.

Some up daters are notorious resource hogs or may be so buggy that they disrupt normal operation of your system. It is not uncommon for users to disable problematic up daters, leaving the software they support vulnerable to hackers and the increasingly inferior performance of obsolete software. That’s where third-party “software updater” software can come in handy.

SUMo (Software Update Monitor) is one such program that was brought to my attention. Developed and supported by the French firm, KC Software’s, SUMo replaces all those one-trick software updater ponies with something akin to Windows Update. SUMo loads at startup, and consumes far fewer system resources than umpteen software up-daters. SUMo learns what programs are on your system and checks for updates of them automatically or manually.

SUMo downloads and installs software updates so you don’t have to, and so that your system remains as secure as possible. You can even access DUMo, KC Sofwares’ Driver Update Monitor. (More on driver updates later.) But the free version of SUMo is effectively demo-ware; it will show you what needs updating but won’t update anything. A license to use SUMo on up to 4 machines per user, plus a 1-machine license for a second user, costs 14.99 EUR ($18.49) per year; a lifetime license costs 29.99 EUR ($36.98). Another (much more serious) problem with SUMo is that third-party crap-ware is bundled with the software updates.

One Ring Updater to Rule Them All?

That’s unacceptable! Fortunately, there are software up-daters that are free, and have the smarts to strip out those unwanted (and sometimes dangerous) extras. Let’s take a look at two I believe are best of breed.

Patch My PC silently updates over 300 popular programs. I like that it downloads your updates directly from the software vendor websites, to ensure you’re getting the official version from the most up-to-date source. It takes only a few seconds for it to identify any software that needs updating. Even better, it strips the foist ware out of installation packages before installing updates; no toolbars or browser hijackings!

Also nice is that programs update silently, bypassing the “install wizards.” There’s an option to create a restore point before updating, and you can also use it to quickly uninstall any unwanted programs. Patch My PC is 100% free and downloads quickly. The user interface is a bit cluttered, but just keep in mind that outdated software will show in Red, and software that’s already up to date will show in Green. You can scroll through the list of suggested updates in the left column and uncheck any items that you do not want to update.

Ninite is a similar tool for software updates. It doesn’t scan your system for outdated software, but instead focuses on simplifying the process of downloading, installing and updating your programs. Ninite bundles software installers and updates into a single, foistware-free package. Just check boxes next to the programs that you want to install or update, click “Get Your Ninite” and Ninite does the rest.

It fetches the latest files from the vendor websites, bundles them in a Ninite installer package, and downloads just one file to your computer. When the Ninite installer is run, it installs and/or updates everything in the background, stripping the foistware out of each. And my favorite part, it eliminates all the Next, Next, Next button clicking during the installation.

Aside from the fact that Ninite does not identify software in need of updates, there’s one other issue to be aware of. The free web version of Ninite lets you easily select and install software, but there is no mechanism to keep things automatically updated. You must remember to re-run the installer that Ninite creates for you. To solve that problem, you can download the Ninite Updater ($10/year) which runs on your computer and automates the process of checking for and installing the updates.

What About Device Drivers?

Device drivers, more commonly called “drivers,” are small programs that act as translators between your operating system and the hardware devices it uses. Every hardware device needs a driver. Your printer, scanner, mouse, keyboard, hard drive, graphics card and network adapter are all examples of devices that require a software driver in order to respond to commands from the operating system. For example, when you hit the Print button, Windows issues the generic command “print,” and a device driver translates that command into the specific instructions needed to enable your Dell computer communicate with your Epson printer.

I’ll keep this simple — you do not need a third-party driver updater. Windows Update handles typically the task of updating drivers, pushing them out to users when hardware vendors make them available. Some devices have built-in driver update features that download from the vendor’s website. The only time I’ve ever needed to manually update a device driver is when upgrading to a new version of the Windows operating system, and some hardware device was not working properly.

Have a great week

ZI Staff

More Details on the Upcoming Ability to Change Your User Name in Second Life

So I dug a bit more looking for information on the upcoming and highly anticipated name changes coming back to Second Life.

This is definitely something everyone has been anticipating for years to come here.  I don’t know about you but I can NOT wait!

Credits

Patch Linden added a bit more information to the recent announcement that Linden Lab was going to allow Second Life users to change their last names. He said, in a thread on the official Second Life user forums, that you would be able to change both first and last names:

It will be complete and total name changes, both first and surname.  Just to set expectations on this, it is a later this year item.

When asked if the change would be available to everyone, or just those with the Resident last name, he added:

It will be available to everyone.  ;)

And, in answer to yet another question about whether or not you could hide your name:

No hiding of names.  First name and surname combos will have to be unique like they are today.  A couple of other questions that came up – no re-use of retired names, once a name has been used, it belongs to that account forever.  We keep a transnational name change history.  Only standard English characters will be permitted.

Just to make it clear, this is an upcoming ability to change to the actual avatar name, not the display name. When asked about how this change will affect the display names of avatars (which can be updated once a week):

This has no affect on display names and largely I do not anticipate we will change how display names work.  If anything, it somewhat sunsets the need for them.

So, that makes everything a little clearer! Thanks, Patch! I predict that there will be a land rush on names once this feature is turned on for users. Being able to change both your first AND your last name (as long as somebody else doesn’t already have that combination) is a very nice feature to have!

UPDATE March 23rd: Inara Pey has a very detailed blogpost on this announcement by Linden Lab, with even more details:

The plan is to allow people to change their first and last name whenever they wish.

  • As with the “old” system, users will be able to choose whatever first name they like, then select their last name from a pre-set list of available names.
  • Once a name combination has been created, it is forever tied to that avatar, it cannot be used by anyone else, even if the “owner” later changes their name, or their account is deactivated.
  • Previous names will be retained by the system, so if you can remember someone’s previous name, you can search on that and get their current name.
  • As with the “old” system, this list of last names will be routinely changed with different names appearing on it.
  • To help keep the available names relatively fresh, the Lab is considering accepting suggestions from users.
  • It has not been determined if someone will be able to switch back to using a name they’ve previously used.
  • Unicode will not be supported when entering a first name.

 

HAPPY 15th BIRTHDAY, SECOND LIFE! FIFTEEN REASONS TO CELEBRATE

To kick off our year-long birthday celebration, we’ve rounded up 15 exciting improvements and features that make Second Life better than ever in 2018 and beyond!

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  1. Lower Mainland costs – Did you hear the newsWe’ve reduced Mainland costs by over 10 percent. This change is part of our continued commitment to move toward a healthier economy, with more balance between costs and fees associated with land ownership, Premium subscriptions, commissions and transaction fees. For more information and context on this and other pricing changes, see the section “Updates to Mainland Costs & Other Pricing Changes” below.
  2. Double Mainland tier – We also recently announced that Premium members get DOUBLE the Mainland allotment! That’s twice as much space to build, create and design your own home, business or experience in Second Life at no extra charge!
  3. More Value for Premium Members – In the coming months, we’ll be announcing new features for Premium subscribers — including brand-new advantages that will add more value for Merchants, Creators and Landowners. There’s never been a better time to upgrade to Premium!
  4. Environment Enhancements (code name: EEP!) – Soon you’ll see a series of new customizations in the environment rendering system (also known as Windlight). Creators will have more control over the sky, water, lighting and atmosphere. You’ll be able to adjust the number of real-world hours in the Second Life “day” to match that of a real world location; the cycle can be as short as the 4 hours it is now – or up to 7 real world days long. These changes will give more value, flexibility and marketability to land. Environment settings will also become tradable assets, so that they can be bought and sold in the Marketplace, creating another avenue for residents to profit from their creativity.
  5. More exclusive games and experiences – Last week, we unveiled “Linden Realms: The Wrath of Ruth” — a fiery update to a familiar classic that awards skilled players with unique prizes. There are more exclusive experiences on the way, including something special for our 15th anniversary celebration this summer.
  6. Themed Learning Islands – Getting connected to people who share your interests will be easier than ever with “Themed Learning Islands.” Soon newcomers may start their adventures in one of several themed areas, so their first experience in SL will be among Residents who share similar interests. This new initiative is in addition to our existing Community Gateway program which empowers independent communities to develop their own newcomer-friendly experiences.
  7. The return of Last Names – You’ve asked for it (a lot!), so we will provide a way to customize your last name in Second Life! More details will be available later this year.
  8. Gridwide Experiences – Currently, Creators can use the increased scripting capabilities of an Experience only in a region or parcel whose owner has explicitly enabled their Experience. One of the new Premium abilities will be an Experience that is enabled anywhere on the grid unless the landowner has blocked it.
  9. Auctions – We are updating our system for conducting Land Auctions. The new auction system will be integrated with Place Pages, providing much richer possibilities for describing the land for sale. Most importantly, Residents will be able to create an Auction to sell their land.
  10. Linden Homes improvements – We’re bringing newer and better Linden Home designs this year.
  11. Marketplace updates – We’ve got a number of improvements to Marketplace in the works, too! We’re integrating many long-requested features that will help to reduce clutter and improve the functionality of listings as the Marketplace gets a facelift later this year.
  12. Improved performance –  We’re working on a number of improvements to performance, from faster rendering in the viewer to reduce client lag, to changes in the simulator designed to allow more objects, scripts, and avatars.
  13. Animesh – Last year, we introduced Animesh in beta available to all Creator participants. This year, with diligent and invaluable input from the community, we plan to roll out this exciting new feature for everyone!
  14. Bakes on Mesh – Extends the Viewer and the Avatar Baking Service to allow wearable textures (such as skins, clothing and tattoos) to be applied directly onto mesh body parts as they are on system avatars. To do this, you’ll ‘wear’ the textures as you would for the system avatar, and then edit the mesh body part to indicate the body part that should be used on each of the mesh faces; the corresponding system body part is then automatically hidden for you. This project also increases the supported resolution of wearable textures by 4 times (from 512 pixels square to 1024 pixels square).
  15. Migration to the Cloud – Finally, a huge effort is underway to move our Second Life infrastructure to the cloud. This update aims to enhance the quality and performance of Second Life for all Residents, but it will be of particular value for those who are far across the world from us. We look forward to exploring new products and more flexible pricing possibilities once this migration is complete.

 

UPDATES TO MAINLAND COSTS & OTHER PRICING CHANGES

 

Last year, we shared with you our plans for millions of dollars of new investments into Second Life and its communities to make our virtual world better than ever. Our recent investments are already paying off with numerous improvements including the introduction of a new 64-bit ViewerPlace Pages and a refresh of our starter avatars. We’ve also added more value to Premium subscriptions and a unique grid-wide hunt. We’re also continuing to hire new software and web engineers.

We’ve got big plans for this year, as you can glean from above, and we’re continuing to invest even more to ensure that the Second Life economy and community will be around for another 15 years and beyond.  A significant part of this effort is continuously re-evaluating the health of our business and the Second Life economy.

Currently, Land costs can be quite high, and make up a lopsided portion of our Second Life revenues. To improve this imbalance, we plan to increase revenues in other ways so that we can lower land costs further. In order to avoid shocks to the in-world economy and to take care that we keep the business healthy, we plan to make these changes in a measured way, taking time to assess the impacts of each change as we go.

Last week, we announced that we have lowered the cost of Mainland by over 10 percent and doubled the Mainland tier allocation for Premium members. In the coming months some other fees may increase, including Marketplace commissions, Linden Dollar exchange fees, and cashout fees. In addition, we will soon announce new tiered Premium membership offerings that allow Residents to choose the membership level that provides the benefits most important to them.

We are committed to keeping Second Life a vibrant and growing community with a healthy economy well into the future. Stay tuned – this 15th year will see some of the biggest improvements to Second Life in many years so that you can continue to enjoy it for the next 15 years.

Best,

Ebbe Linden, CEO,  and the Second Life Team

 

Run a Deep Scan for Malware

Everyone want’s and thinks their computer to be safe but what about Malware and viruses you don’t know about? Here’s how to run a deep scan on your system easy and effective.

What is a Deep AntiVirus Scan?

As you’ve noticed, the “quick scan” option is the default in almost every anti-virus and anti-malware software. A quick scan examines only the most common spyware hiding places, such as the Windows system folders, your Documents and Settings folder, and the registry.

A deep scan, sometimes referred to as a “full scan”, “complete system scan”, or “whole computer scan” examines every bit of your computer’s RAM memory, hard drives, and removable drives. A deep scan will also scan your startup programs and the Windows registry for any traces of malware.

Malware (viruses, spyware and other nasties) usually comes in the form of an EXE or DLL file, but it can also hide in a JPG file (graphics image), a DOC file (Microsoft Word), a PDF, and many other places you wouldn’t expect. If a virus or rootkit is lurking anywhere on your hard drive, external drive, flash drive, or on a CD/DVD disk, a deep scan should find it.

Because it must open and scan through every file on every drive, a full scan will take a lot longer than a quick scan. You should set aside at least two hours to allow a full system scan to complete. You can continue to work while the scan is in progress, but performance will probably take a significant hit due to the disk-intensive scanning operation.

How often should you run a full or deep scan? Most experts agree that a scheduled quick scan will do a good job of protecting you, if run on a daily basis, along with real-time malware detection. These are standard features for almost all anti-virus software, even the free versions. I would definitely recommend a full scan if you suspect that your system is infected. Beyond that, a full scan once a month seems more than sufficient. If you’re paranoid, or just have CPU cycles to burn late at night, schedule a deep scan to run weekly.

How to Start a Full Scan

There are many different anti-virus programs available, so it’s not always obvious how to initiate a full anti-virus scan, and which options are important. Below are step-by-step instructions for deep scanning with the most popular free anti-virus programs. Click the desktop icon or the mini-icon in the task bar to open your program’s main menu, then jump to the appropriate set of instructions. If you don’t have an anti-virus program yet, or you want to check into free alternatives to the paid security software you now have.

Avast Free – Full Scan

  • On the Avast main menu: click “Protection”
  • Click the “Scans” option
  • Under “Full Virus Scan”, click “Settings”
  • Under “Scan Areas” select “All hard disks”, “All removable media”, “Rootkits (full scan)”, and “Auto-start programs and modules loaded in memory”.
  • Select the “content” radio button under “Recognize file types by”
  • Check the box next to “Scan all files”
  • Click OK to save settings
  • Click “Full Virus Scan” to run the scan.

AVG Free – Full Scan

  • On the AVG main menu: click the gear icon next to the green “SCAN COMPUTER” button
  • Click the gear icon next to the “Deep Scan” option
  • Under “Full Virus Scan”, click “Settings”
  • Under “Scan Areas” select “All harddisks”, “All removable media”, “Rootkits (full scan)”, and “Auto-start programs and modules loaded in memory”.
  • Select the “content” radio button under “Recognize file types by”
  • Check the box next to “Scan all files”
  • Click OK to save settings
  • Click “Deep Scan” to run the scan.

You might have noticed that the instructions for deep scan with Avast and AVG are almost identical. That’s because AVG was purchased by Avast in 2017.

Avira Free – Full Scan

  • On the Avira main menu: click “Open” on the line that says “Antivirus”
  • Click the “Scan” icon
  • Select “Full Scan”
  • Select “Start Scan”

    MalwareBytes Anti-Malware – Full Scan

    In addition to the full scan option in your antivirus program, I recommend that you download the free MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) program and run the full scan option in this program as well. MBAM scans for all types of malware (not just viruses) and sometimes finds things that are not detected by other anti-virus scanners. MBAM makes it easy:

    • On the MBAM main menu: click the “Scan” button
    • Select the “Custom Scan” option and click the “Configure Scan” button.
    • Under “Custom Scan” options check all the boxes
    • Select the disk drive(s) you want to scan.
    • Click “Scan Now” to start the scan

      Windows Defender Offline – Full Scan

      If you are not able to start your computer due to a malware infection, the Windows Defender Offline (WDO) is a stand-alone deep scan utility that runs from a bootable CD or USB flash drive. You can also use WDO as an adjunct to the full scan option of your installed anti-virus software.

      Too Much of a Good Thing

      Let me repeat a caution here that I’ve mentioned before. It’s okay to run a dedicated anti-virus program along with an on-demand scanner such as MBAM. But I strongly advise that you run only ONE dedicated anti-virus program at a time. If you run two or more, the real-time virus detection engines can actually fight with each other. Each will think the other is an attacking virus, and the ensuing battle for supremacy can bring your system to a crawl.

      I actually tested this once on a Windows 7 system. After installing Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira, and Avast, my system came to what seemed like a complete halt. I hit the power button to reboot, and 20 minutes later it was still cranking away. Trying to open any program or navigate the web was like swimming in wet cement. If you want to install a second antivirus program to run a “second look” scan, be sure to use the option to disable real-time protection in the first one.

    • Have a great week From all of us on the ZI staff.