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

 

WATCH: Philip Rosedale & Kent Bye On How A VR-Driven “Experiential Age” Might Evolve Our Relationship To Material Possessions, The Economy — And Each Other

In case you missed it, here’s last week’s fireside chat held within High Fidelity featuring the avatars of SL/HiFi founder Philip Rosedale and VR evangelist Kent Bye. I couldn’t attend, but famed HiFi content creator XaosPrincess (seen stage left in the amazing gown, more on that later) was there, and she suggested some highlights:

  • Around 15:00 minutes in, when Ken starts talking about the Experimental Age, and what that means.
  • About 22:00 minutes: Philip talking about how we’ll remain in physical, real life contact with our family and close friends, while offloading much of our “loose tie” social relationships to VR spaces. They go on to talk about access to VR experiences, and how to monetize them: Subscription fee vs. a donation model.
  • After 42:30 minutes: The Yin and Yang principles of social VR.

XaosPrincess’ in-person notes:

“To me,” she tells me, “the most insightful quote of the talk was Kent pointing out that ‘We’re moving from the Information Age into the Experiential Age’. As someone who just loves being in VR, I’ve always had a vague feeling about this, but it was only after listening to Kent’s and Philip’s talk that I realized just how huge the potential of experiential technologies (like VR, AR & AI) having a deep impact on people’s hearts and minds really can be.”

That shift has some interesting applications for material possessions and our relationship to them:

Fireside Chat High Fidelity Social VR Philip Rosedale Ken Bye

“With the Experiential Age,” as Xaos puts, summarizing Bye, “we are moving from a materialistically-driven world, in which people just want to own and consume products, to a world which is much more about the instant: In order to have an experience you actually have to be there, so the access to experiences will supersede the ownership of objects regarding psychological impact and importance.

“Referring to this, Kent had a very interesting philosophical take on how the economy could work in the future: Instead of a subscription fee which could put creators under update and innovation pressure, a donation or gift economy like that practiced in Buddhism could lead to higher creative freedom and therefore, more diverse and interesting experiences.”

I’m personally skeptical if that’s possible, because I’ve seen too many great virtual experience creators go broke depending on the Buddhistic benevolence of others. But it doesn’t hurt to hope a Yin/Yang models may arise:

“In the Experiential Age,” says Xaos, citing Kent, “Yin-based principles like cooperation as well as emotional and embodied presence will become as – or even more – important than the Yang-based principles like competition and mental presence.”

Alternately, both will exist in tandem and in fierce competition with each other. Anyway, fascination conversation and insights (and reactions from Ms. XP.

Virtual World Developer’s Visit To Linden Lab Hints At Big Updates To Sansar And Second Life Coming Soon

Credit: New World Notes

Will Burns, Vice-Chair for IEEE’s Virtual Worlds Standard Group, recently stopped by Linden Lab’s headquarters in San Francisco for a visit, had a good long chat with CEO Ebbe Altberg (pictured here with mandatory hoodie, next to Will with bonus Deadpool T-shirt) and got a tour of upcoming Sansar content. What exactly Will saw in Sansar he cannot say, since he signed an NDA at the door, but reading between the lines of what he reported afterward, it looks like Sansar and Second Life will see some pretty big updates soon (or soon-ish).

“I’m not telling anyone what they’re doing exactly,” as he puts it to me, “but rest assured they didn’t drop the ball with Ready Player One. It’s really mind-blowing. I think people will be in awe and pleasantly surprised.”

Will is a longtime Second Life user and content creator, where he’s known as “Aeonix Aeon”. And having gotten this first-hand, full-blow demo of upcoming Sansar content at Linden Lab, sees the two this way:

“When I want high-end mind blowing, I’d dip into Sansar with a headset for a half hour. Then come back to Second Life for the rest of the evening. Best way I can find an analogy for SL users is this: Imagine Sansar is Disneyland. Second Life is the everyday after that. You pop off with the family and friends to Disney for a fun afternoon or vacation, then come home. In the same manner, Sansar is Second Life’s Disneyland. It’s fun, impressive with the right hardware, and mind blowing. Then you come home and while home isn’t as exciting or high end packed with thrills and wow factor, it’s home and you spend most of your time there. Each has a legit purpose.
“Now, could I see everyone running out to get a headset for this? Of course not. It’s still niche audience at best. But I definitely recommend a proper engagement with it if you get a chance.
Long as you keep in mind it’s Disneyland to SL, it’ll make sense.”

Other dedicated SLers have made the theme park/home analogy for Sansar. Speaking of which, here’s the notes Will posted to a private Facebook group after his visit to Linden Lab which hint at updates for both:

Sansar Spielberg Cline Ready Player One Linden Lab Ebbe

  1. Unlimited groups. Prolly not likely. I imagine the load on servers would kill it.
  2. Reducing Lag: We actually discussed a way that could help do this substantially and bring other benefits as a side effect. Can’t say what, but it’s on their mind (and whiteboard) now. If they actually run with it or not is a totally different story.
  3. Flexi Bento: No summoning C’thulu
  4. Land costs: Sounds like it will be addressed. How, I’m not at liberty to disclose. Be patient.
  5. Inventory mess: Can’t help ya there.
  6. From Wagner James Au’s post concerning Ready Player One: Prepare to be amazed.

Ebbe showed me around, we hung out, then he strapped me into an Oculus Rift for a private demo of Sansar. Some was user-generated scenes, others were scenes made by Linden Lab.  Of the latter, I have this to say: Sansar is actually incredibly impressive so far. Still couldn’t deal with the headset longer than twenty minutes. Still has a ways to go for desktop users. For short term experiences, treat it like a theme park. Second Life is still my choice for longer term engagement. When I want to be blown away for half hour, Sansar is where it’s at.

Wildly speculating from those notes, I would not at all be surprised if Second Life users see say, a playable version of the OASIS from Ready Player Onedeployed in Sansar. (Spielberg and author Ernest Cline wouldn’t do an in-person visit just to see an Intel cross-promotion demo., would they?) But we shall see!

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.

 

SL Tutorial: How To Cut Land Impact & Memory Load Of Second Life Buildings By 40%+ With Modding