SL Shopping Tutorial: How To Inspect Items Before You Buy So You Don’t Get A Lag-Causing Lemon

 

Chic Aeon has a very valuable, illustrated tutorial for customers (and creators) of Second Life content who want to avoid buying items with mesh textures that have been poorly optimized — a hot topic of late, because many if not most SL content creators poorly optimize their textures, contributing quite a bit of lag and poor performance for everyone in the vicinity.  Fortunately,
the latest release of the popular third party viewer Firestorm has some tools to find out if an item has been optimized before buying.

 

The New Firestorm Building and Shopping Tools

Remember when jellydolls and Avatar Complexity came on the scene?  It changed our world — well for q portion of us anyway.  Some designers paid attention also and our clothes and hair got “lighter” and that’s a GOOD thing for our overall SL experience.

The newest release of Firestorm adds to our information with three new features that let builders — and shoppers — see what they are getting. This of course if there is a demo out to view. On the SL forums we don’t always agree but we have a pat line when folks complain.  “Try the DEMO; No DEMO; No Buy.”

I reminded myself of that today when a popular creator had a very pretty set for sale on the Saturday Sale list. It was $50. I ventured over to the shop which was filled with vendors and almost NO demos out to view. Now I know this is a “well respected” creator and the items are lusciously textured, but still == NO demo. So I passed.

The MESH board of the SL forums has been interesting to read lately. So much info that before we could only guess at — or get the info through many steps and in a not very easy to understand way — is now at our fingertips.

NOW you can inspect an object in the build menu and not only see how “heavy” it is, you can see what distance it will break up and disappear. This isn’t a replacement for visual testing of course, but it is very handy for builders when they are testing their own creations.

I am using Mesh India’s work here as an example. Partly because I have a rule with blogables and I don’t keep things that I don’t blog or truly believe I will be able to blog in the future.   The close up above is from a really lovely chest available at this round of Tres Chic.

The MI Samyukta Lamp Cabinet isn’t low prim but it is very pretty and fairly SANE from my point of view anyway. It also has great LOD for long distance viewing without turning your LOD setting up to 4 or more. Since the new tools have come out, not only have I used them daily in my own work, I have been inspecting some work of other creators.

I found a very small bench (very small) that had NINETEEN textures on it and a vertices (think more vertices – more lag even if that is simplistic) count that was astronomical.  Another gacha item from awhile back caused lots of conversation on the board with enough vertices in the match heads to make a small building — you get the idea.

MI Samyukta Lamp Cabinet

Another VERY helpful tool that has been added is an enhancement in the Object Inspect pane.  It’s a big one now and tells you LOTS including the number of textures used and the download for those textures.

click to enlarge

This is a screenshot of the inspection pane on one of the buildings that I created for the upcoming Fantasy Faire. It has three textures total and a reasonable vertices count. It is various sizes up to 35 x 38.

THIS screenshot below is for an item that is less than one meter in the largest dimension — the bench I mentioned.

My point is that not all mesh is created equal. Some is more efficient than others and some will “cause” lag. Put enough of these heavy mesh and unreasonably textured  items together and moving can become an issue. It is up to BOTH the creators AND the consumers to pay attention. 

The folks that have been complaining about objects “disappearing” at a short distance and not being able to move in their house after they added their furniture now have the tools to make better choices when purchasing.

And, if the consumers pay attention, it won’t be long until creators not on the LOD 2 or less, good physics,  game asset bandwagon — will hop on. This would be a good thing for everyone.

One more tool, most likely used by builders rather than consumers is the physics model view. You can now see the shape of the physics on a mesh object. This could be particularly helpful with houses that may have incorrect physics. Again, you need to be able to SEE them (demo, demo, demo) before this will be helpful.

This is a build of mine that will be showing up at the Imaginarium in a few days.

There are plenty of opinions on the MESH forums about what is “best”. Some folks may create very low poly, lag free items that work but are less than glorious in their look. Others (not on the mesh board but they might read — I do not know) make gorgeous items that fall apart visually at three meters for the Firestorm default of LOD2 (the Linden viewer is 1.25 – even lower).

I, like Mesh India, try to find a happy meeting place where things can be reasonably low poly, have good LODs and still have nice textures.

Anyway, this was to let the folks that CARE know that there are now tools available via Firestorm that will let them make more informed choices should they care to.

Happy Shopping.

The improvements in the inspect floater including VRAM usage, contributed by Chalice Yao and Arcane Portal, based on code originally by Cinder Roxley.

And the great LOD info was courtesy of Beq Janus. Many thanks to both.

At right, for instance, is what you see using the Inspect feature (as Chic does)– a furniture item for sale with a crazy amount of poor optimization. She writes:

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with people poorly optimizing content (or buying it) in the privacy of their own sims, but in public regions, it’s a tragedy of the commons kind of deal. The problem becomes even worse when popular and highly profitable SL brands sell poorly optimized content — making as much as six or seven figures in real income every year while making the overall SL experience worse for everyone else.

SL Land Owners Know your Rights! Parcel Ownership and Menus 101!

Residents of Zoha Islands –

I’d like to take a moment to ask people to turn off open build on your parcel.

If you need to give certain members rights to build, rez etc, do so via deeding your land to a group.

This can be done by

  1. Go to the land and right-click it. Select About Land from the pie menu.
  2. Click on the General tab.
  3. Click the Set button next to the Group name. A list of groups will appear. (please not you will want his to be a group you personally own so you can have full control)
  4. Select the group you want and click Set.
  5. Check the Allow Deed to Group box and click the Deed button that shows up after.

Then go into your options tab and set build and object entry to group only and give members the corresponding rights that you want them to have via roles in group. 

This prevents griefings via object littering and scripts griefing…in those objects.  It stops replicating objects from spilling over into your personal parcels as well, thus not affecting your items.

Below you will find a list of each tab via about land and what each corresponding tab represents.

General Tab

Name – The name of the parcel which will show at the top of the screen when you are on the parcel, and in search if the parcel is set to show in search.

Description – Additional description of the parcel which is visible in this window and in search results if the parcel is set to show in search.

Type – The type of map region the parcel is located on from among Mainland or Estate/Full Region, Homestead, or Openspace

Rating – The maturity rating of the map region from among PG, Mature, or Adult

Owner – The avatar name or “Group Owned” if such who “owns” the land parcel. Normal users do not actually have ownership rights in the virtual land in the common real life sense of owning something. They have control over the parcel as long as they pay maintenance fees directly or indirectly to Linden Lab, who actually own the servers the map region is hosted on. In this sense it is more like a lease in real life. Governor Linden is the Account set up by Linden Lab to hold parcels assigned to them, as opposed to their customers (users). In this case, the listed owner and the actual real life owner is the same.

The info button will open the ‘Profile’ floating window for the listed owner.

Group – The group assigned to this parcel for the purpose of access or controlling settings. This is distinct from group ownership. The Set button will open the Groups tab of the Communicate or Contacts window in order to set or change the group assignment.

Allow Deed to Group – Permits a landowner to sell the parcel to the assigned group. The owners of the group effectively become the new owners of the land. The Deed button opens the ‘Deed to Group’ floating window in order to transfer ownership.
Owner Makes Contribution With Deed – When transferring ownership to a group, this check box also assigns land area from the owner’s land allowance to the group at the same time.

For Sale – Shows for sale or not for sale status. If for sale, shows price and whether for sale to anyone, or a specific person. If you own the land, buttons to set for sale, not for sale, or abandon the land will appear.

Claimed – The date and time the current owner became the owner of the parcel.

Area – The horizontal area of the parcel. Sloped land is measured in the XY horizontal plane, not along the slope. Land is divisible into units 4×4 meters in size, so the minimum parcel area is 16 sq.m., and can be any multiple of 16 up to the full area of a map region (256x256m or 65,536 sq.m.). A single parcel must be entirely within the boundaries of one map region, but may consist of discontinuous pieces.

Traffic – The number of avatar-minutes present on the parcel over the last measurement interval. Thus one avatar present for one hour = 60 traffic. The normal measurement interval is over the previous 24 hours, and is updated 2 times a day.

Covenant Tab

Estate: – Estates consist of one or more map regions with a single owner who has overall control over the estate and can set rules over and above the general Second Life rules. These rules are detailed in the text box of this tab.

Name: – The name of the estate. There are approximately 5000 regions on the ‘mainland’ estate. These are grouped into 9 ‘continents’ (large groups of adjacent regions). Other large estates include Dreamland (# of regions?)… There are an estimated X total estates, consisting of nearly 29,000 regions total on the main Second Life grid or 3D world.

(Untitled) – Text Box for entering and showing the Estate covenant.

Last Modified: – Date and time the covenant was last edited

Region: – Map regions are the standard unit of the 3D world, with a fixed location in the 3D world map. They are 256×256 meters horizontally and unlimited in height, although placing objects is limited to below 4096 meters altitude.

Name: – Each map region has a unique name up to X characters long.

Type: – Regions may be Mainland or Estate, and Full, Homestead, or Openspace. Mainland regions may be owned in units of less than a full region, while Estate regions are only sold in full region units. Limits on number of objects and avatars are set according to type. Full regions may have 15,000 objects and 40-100 avatars, Homesteads may have 3,750 objects and 20 avatars, and openspaces may have 750 objects and 20 avatars.

Rating: – The maturity rating of the region determines the kind of activity and content is allowed in the region. It is one of PG, Mature, or Adult, and is set by the estate owner, or Linden Lab for mainland regions.

Resale: – (who sets these?)

Subdivide: – (who sets these?)

Objects Tab

WARNING: Returning objects en mass using this tab can easily remove items you did not intend to remove, so use with care, or return individual objects using the object context menu.

  • Simulator primitive usage: – Shows the number of ‘primitive shapes’ (prims for short) used on the land parcels owned by the same owner in this region. If you own more than one parcel, the total for all parcels in this region are given. Also shows the total number allowed, and number not used. Complex objects are made of more than one primitive shape, so it is not the same as the number of objects.

Prim allowances are shared among all parcels owned in the same region. You may distribute you actual objects as you see fit. For example, if you own three parcels, you can place all your objects on one of them, using the combined allowance of all three, and leave the other two empty.

  • Primitives parcel supports: – Shows the number of primitive shapes the currently selected land parcel can have located on it. If the geometric center of an object is located within the parcel boundaries, all of its component prims are counted, even if some parts overhang onto other parcels. Prim allowances are proportional to land area as a fraction of the total allowed in the region. Hence if your parcel is 4096 sq.m., which is 1/16 the area of a full region, then it would receive 1/16 of a full region’s allowance of 15,000 prims, or 937 prims.
  • Primitives on parcel: – Shows the actual number of prims on the parcel currently. The “Show” buttons under this heading will highlight the class of prims with white outlines, to make them easier to find. The “Return” buttons will take them off the parcel and return them to the “Lost and Found” folder of the owner.
  • Owned by parcel owner: – The number of prims owned by the avatar listed as the parcel owner.
  • Set to group: – The number of prims set to the same group as the General tab shows for the parcel.
  • Owned by others: – The number of prims owned by avatars other than the owner or group.
  • Selected/sat upon: – The number of prims currently selected or sat upon.
  • Autoreturn – Allows a timed return of objects other than owner or group owned. If set to 0 the timer is off, otherwise will return items after a set number of minutes. This allows temporary placement of items.
  • Object Owners: – If you have the correct ability as owner or group member, provides a detailed list of object owners by name and allows returning those objects when highlighted.

Options Tab

This tab controls permissions and restrictions on the parcel for users other than the owner. Generally the parcel owner keeps full abilities on the parcel.

  • Allow other residents to:
Edit Terrain, Create Landmarks, Fly – If checked, then other residents than the parcel owner are permitted to do these actions.
Create Objects, Object Entry, Run Scripts – These permissions are divided into “All Residents”, and “Group”, which refers to the group set on the General tab. Object Entry refers to objects not attached to an avatar, such as a bullet fired from a gun. Run Scripts refers to all scripts, whether in attached or detached objects.
  • Land Options:
Safe (no damage) – If checked, the health % level is not displayed on the top menu bar, and avatars cannot be sent home when “killed” (health falls to zero %). Most land is set safe, except for areas intended for combat.
No Pushing – If checked, then pushes from objects is disabled. Pushing another avatar is often used to annoy them, and most regions have turned on this item to prevent it.
Show Place in Search – If checked, the parcel will be listed in the “Search” floating window with the name and description from the General tab, and the snapshot below from this tab. A fee of L$30 per week is charged for listing in search, and optionally a category can be chosen from the dropdown menu on this item.
Mature Content – One of the region maturity ratings is “Mature”, but parcels are not required to have mature content on Mature rated land. This item is intended to indicate that there is mature content on the parcel.
  • Snapshot – This image will be displayed in the “Search” results and landmarks created for the parcel. Clicking the image area will open the “Pick: Texture” floating window so that you can choose the image to display. Alternately, your chosen image can be dragged from your inventory to the image area.
  • Landing Point: – Lists the coordinates of the landing point if set, or (none) if not set. The set button will set the landing point to your current avatar position, and the clear button will unset it.
  • Teleport Routing: – Determines where teleport landings are allowed for other users. Blocked = Teleports into the parcel are not allowed. Landing point = teleports are limited to the landing point set above. Anywhere = teleports may arrive at any location on the parcel.

Media & Sound Tab

This tab sets audio and video settings for the parcel. In general, only one audio and one video stream or web page may be set at a time on a single land parcel.

  • Media Type: –
  • Media URL: –
  • Description: –
  • Replace Texture: –
  • Media Options: –
  • Media Size: –
  • Music URL: –
  • Sound: –
  • Voice: –

Access Tab

This tab controls who may enter the land parcel.

  • Allow Public Access – If checked, any user may enter, subject to any restrictions set below.
  • Block Access By: – These two options are additive, if both are checked, then a user will have to have given both types of info to enter the parcel
Residents who have not given payment info to Linden Lab – Payment info is a credit card or Paypal account which can be used to pay for Second Life services. If this box is checked, then accounts which have NOT given this information will NOT be able to enter the parcel.
Residents who are not age verified adults – Age verification is providing ID information on the appropriate Second Life website page to show the account holder is over 18 years of age. If this box is checked, then accounts which have NOT given this information will NOT be able to enter the parcel. NOTE: This function is known to work erratically.
  • Allow Group Access: <Group Name> – If checked, members of the listed group may enter.
  • Sell passes to: – Seldom used, gives temporary access to the parcel by paying a fee.
  • Allowed Residents – Gives access to individual users by name. Limited to 300 names.
  • Banned Residents – Blocks access to individual users by name. Limited to 300 names.

The Add buttons for the last two items will open the “Choose Resident” floating window. Highlighting one or more names on the lists, and clicking the Remove button removes them from the list.

Experiences Tab

Link to experience wiki and information.

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!

SL15B_logo.jpg

  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

 

Spectre and Meltdown

You may have heard of Spectre and Meltdown, two security vulnerabilities that exist in virtually every CPU ever made by the chip giants Intel, AMD, and ARM. Either vulnerability can expose your system to “arbitrary code execution,” the geeky way to say, “A hacker could take complete control of your computer” and run any malware he wants on it. Read on to find out more, and if your computer is vulnerable to these attacks…

The Specter of a Meltdown?

Hacker in a hood on dark blue digital background

The Spectre flaw enables one compromised program, such as a web browser, to compromise another program running on the same machine, such as Microsoft Word. If a hacker can penetrate your browser via the Internet, he can leapfrog from there across every program running on the system.

The Meltdown flaw allows hackers to gain access to a portion of a computer’s memory that should be off-limits to all software except the operating system. And Meltdown doesn’t care if you run Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X. Any of those systems may be vulnerable.

As Meltdown’s name suggests, truly bad things can happen when a rogue program gains access to that portions of memory that should only be accessible by the operating system.. You may have seen the dreaded Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) where Windows displays the cryptic “fatal memory fault at address…” Boom! Crash! But what’s the point of crashing some stranger’s computer? “Some people’s children” just do it for the “lols,” that is, for laughs. Global superpowers may do it in the name of “national security,” their intelligence agencies spending unlimited money to develop nuclear-grade malware… which, as we now know, “spook shops” like the NSA have allowed to escape into the hands of the “children.”

Worse, Meltdown enables an attacker to access all memory, including areas where your personal information is stored while you are working with it. There lies the profit motive that drives the most widespread attacks. The mercenary “adults” can use Meltdown to make millions.

The titans of tech including chip makers, Microsoft, Apple, and the Linux community, have scrambled to issue hardware and software patches for Spectre and Meltdown. All hands on deck, as they say!

But there is still lingering uncertainty about whether the patches work, or if they do more harm than good.

Ah, fun with words. The software flaw known as “Spectre” is a homophone for “specter.” The former refers to a ghost, phantom, or apparition, and the latter is defined as “a source of terror or dread.” Both can be scary, but only one of them is likely to attack your computer.

As of January 23, Wired! magazine reported that firmware patches issued hastily by Intel, AMD, and ARM to close Meltdown vulnerabilities in their chips “can inadvertently cause serious problems beyond processing slowdowns, including random restarts, and even the blue screen of death.”https://www.wired.com/story/meltdown-spectre-patching-total-train-wreck/ Microsoft went so far as to release a patch that disabled the Intel patch.

On January 22, father-of-Linux Linux Torvalds said, in one of his more diplomatic comments, “the patches are COMPLETE AND UTTER GARBAGE.” Speaking of Intel’s patch crisis managers, he asked rhetorically, “Has anybody talked to them and told them they are f***ing insane?” At least he used an asterisk. (I added two more.)

Since then, there has been thunderous silence from the tech press corps. Does that mean the coast is clear? Is it safe to install firmware updates to your CPU and BIOS, as Intel, AMD, and ARM urge you to do? And how is that done, exactly?

We Need a Gadget Inspector

Before tinkering with the most delicate parts of your system’s delicate “brain,” I recommend that you run the InSpectre (“inspector,” get it?) utility developed by Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Corp. InSpectre “was designed to clarify every system’s current situation so that appropriate measures can be taken to update the system’s hardware and software for maximum security and performance,” according to no less an authority than itself. (Sorry, I couldn’t let that one pass by!)

InSpectre is freeware, less than 200 KB of code, and perfectly safe to run. It will analyze your Windows PC no matter who made its CPU and BIOS, detecting and reporting its vulnerabilities, if any, to Spectre or Meltdown. InSpectre reports its findings in clear, simple terms that even non-geeks can readily understand. (I don’t know of a similar utility for Linux or Mac OS X systems.)

Best of all, its user interface includes two big buttons allowing you to Enable or Disable protection for Meltdown and/or Spectre. If either is greyed out, your system lacks that type of protection. Gibson goes into detail on why you might want to disable either of the protection options, to avoid the performance penalty they may impose. But unless you are noticing a marked decline in speed, I would not recommend doing so.

If InSpectre reports that your PC will remain vulnerable to Spectre or Meltdown until its firmware is updated, then it will be necessary to contact the maker of your PC to download a firmware patch specific to that make/model of PC. A Microsoft Support Page bears a “List of OEM /Server device manufacturers,” including links to their respective Spectre/Meltdown firmware and BIOS update help pages. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4073757/protect-your-windows-devices-against-spectre-meltdown

The only annoying things about InSpectre are the goofy sound effects, and the display of the results. Looking at InSpectre report is a bit clunky, because the window cannot be resized, and the small font can be hard to read. Position your pointer anywhere within InSpectre’s text window, press Ctrl-A to “select all,” then Ctrl-C to copy the selection, and then Ctrl-V to paste the report into a word processor or text editor. Then you can make the text as big as you like, save the report, or print it.

The best protection against Spectre on the operating system side, as opposed to firmware and BIOS, is Microsoft Windows 10, Fall Creator’s Update, version 1709. Automatic updates are on by default in Windows 10, so you should have v 1709 unless you have deliberately delayed its installation. If you have, go to Windows Update Settings and allow v 1709 to be installed.

Windows 7 users should have auto-updates enabled, too. Run Windows Update and let it install all critical and important updates to protect your system as much as possible via Windows.

It is shocking to learn that nearly everything digital, from desktop PCs to phones and tablets to Internet of Things things, contains a chip that is vulnerable to Spectre or Meltdown. But bear in mind that the world is still not on fire; these vulnerabilities can and are being fixed, if they are not already fixed in your device(s). For now my best advice is “Keep calm and carry on,” auto-updating all of your software.

Have a great week.

Zi Staff

Discord Resources For Virtual World Users (Second Life and Sansar Links)

Discord Resources For Virtual World Users (Second Life, Sansar, Sinespace)

So I’ve been using Discord for quite some time for online communication – gaming etc.  I’ve found it much more reliable than Teamspeak and 100% more reliable than Skype, without being a tremendous resource hog on my PC.  It allows users to connect via text and voice channels, I’ve been on the lookout for SL content and user based servers – so I’ll add and update this list as I find more!  There are sub servers for photography, mesh creation, bloggers, vloggers, event organizers etc…get connected!

I’m loving New World Notes’ new Discord server, which has already become one of my go-to places for post ideas and fun random chat.

Here’s some more Discord resources for fans of Second Life and other virtual worlds:

 

Extra Servers for VR:

If you’re a Sansar user, here’s details for connecting your account to the official Sansar discord server.

Bonus: Here’s the link for joining the official Discord to new kid on the block, VRChat.