Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Ginormous Chat Log

Here's a slightly more advanced topic today.

I log my chat and IMs, because my memory is not as sharp as it used to be (and it probably never was, either!)  Besides, chat logs can be useful for determining if or when you met a person, when you went on line or offline, and for documenting Abuse Reports.

Your chat log files are kept on your local hard drive, in a directory that you can specify in your Preferences.  Exactly where in Preferences you do this depends on your viewer, so I'll leave finding it as an exercise for the student.  Besides, that isn't the main focus of today's post.

What I want to talk about today is one log file that can cause trouble if you let it get too large.

If you have opted to log local chat, it's stored in your chat log directory, and it will have the name "chat.txt."

Like any of your chat and IM logs, this file is added to each and every time you log on and send or receive this case, local chat.  Because you ALWAYS will have at least some local chat in every session on line, this file quickly grows much larger than any of the other logs.  If left unattended for too long, it will get too large to be easily handled by Notepad, the default text editor in Windows.

You can get around this somewhat by opening and editing it in a more powerful text editor (Wordpad) or a word processor (Word or Open Office.)  But even if the application you are using can handle a large file, having a couple of years' minute-by-minute chatter to wade through can be a total pain.

What I do is, once every few months, I open chat.txt and edit it.  I lop off three months' chat at a time and save each of these chunks in a new .txt file that I label chat_arc_XQ_YYYY.txt.  These quarterly chat archives are much more manageable.

I have no evidence that keeping the chat.txt file size down improves the performance of the viewer, but hey, it can't hurt!

On my last inspection of my chatlog folder, I also found that over the years I had collected well over 4,000 IM conversations.  That's every person I've ever spoken to in IM...not only close friends, but passing acquaintances and group chats too.  A great many of these were very short files, under 1KB in size.  Since I was in a housecleaning sort of mood, I deleted all these little mini-conversations.

I mean, sure, chat logs are useful, once in a while...but there's such a thing as being too much of a pack rat.  Just ask the NSA.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

An Example of the Empty Box Scam

Hello, Dear Readers!

A while back, I warned you of a scam on the Second Life Marketplace, one which I call the "empty box scam."  Today I decided to name some names (well, one name, anyway) and post an example of this exploit.

If you go to you will see the ad in the picture below.

If you look closely, you'll notice a few things that should tip you off to this particular scam.  For one thing, the beautiful woman in the picture is giving you the finger.  This is not one of the limited number of hand position morphs available to SL avatars.  Also, her skin and the level of detail shown is far beyond anything that is available in Second Life.

Reading on, we see some contradictory things in the item description.  In one place, it's described as a "full mesh avatar"...which it would have to be, to have that level of detail over the whole body.  But further on, the ad copy describes it as "hybrid mesh," a combination of a mesh head and a standard avatar body, which would enable you to wear regular clothing layers with it.

Are we beginning to get the idea that this might be "too good to be true?"  Good.

So next, we try to look up the "creator" of this wonder, a "KochSL."  Neither the old fashioned Search or the Web-based Search turns up any result for this name.  Clicking the KochSL link in his Marketplace Store also fails to open any profile.  Looks like KochSL has already flown the coop, leaving this one item and storefront behind.

Let's see if the images themselves lead to more clues.  Open  Now click the little camera icon at the right of the search bar.  Right click and drag the image of the girl in the ad and drop it into the search box.

Well, well, well.  We see that the same image can be found on a hentai porn story site.  So this is not a Second Life avatar at all, but merely an image stolen from elsewhere on the web.

Finally, the price is out of line.  Other full mesh avatars are selling for around $L2,000 or so, but this one must be super special, huh?  Or why else would it be selling for $L15,000?  I'll tell you why...because it's a SCAM.  Buy this, and you'll get an empty box.

Here are a few bits of advice for newcomers contemplating expensive purchases to make them "instantly beautiful" in Second Life.

  • Don't spend more than $L2,000 for ANYTHING, and preferably a lot less, until you have been in SL for at least six months.  By that time, you should have an idea of how SL works, and be able to tell when someone is trying to snow you.
  • Don't believe you can make a single purchase and instantly overcome noobitude.  It takes time, and some wrong turns, and some effort on your part to select things that work well with each other and that, together, make the statement about yourself you want to make.  There's no one-size-fits-all, instant solution.
  • Don't spend big money for anything on the Marketplace unless you can see it in world first.
  • Don't buy any expensive items from people whose account is very new, and who don't have a completed Profile.  Such things are a clue that this person is a "throwaway" alt account.
  • And above all, remember:  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!  
Be careful out there!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Purse

I'm never without my purse in Real Life, and if you're a woman, Dear Reader, I bet you aren't far from yours, either.  So why don't we wear purses in Second Life?

Well, for one thing, we don't have to!  Everything, INCLUDING the kitchen sink, is right there in our inventories, no matter where we go.  So there is no need for a bag.  One could make the argument that the Inventory is the Handbag, Done Right, were it not for the fact that one's inventory is not much of a fashion statement.

For another, the darn things are useless.  They can't actually hold anything.  Anyway, see above.  The inventory does a much better job of that.

But there are times when I've wanted a purse or a handbag in Second Life, just as an accessory to complete or complement my outfit.  And yet, most bags are a terrible nuisance.  They only look good in one particular pose, and if you change your stand (or worse yet, fly or sit) they just look silly, sticking out in some unlikely direction.

Even if the bag has a "bag hold" animation, it's more than likely that your animation overrider will, um, override it.

But the other day, I finally found a bag that looks good...not only on the store shelf, but when worn.  It's the Satchel Bag by Maitreya, and it comes in a variety of colors to go with most outfits.  It's Mesh, and it has a slouchy, weighty appearance and a beautiful pebbled leather texture.
Best of all, it's versatile.  It comes with four different versions -- carried in the hand, carried on the forearm, and both a rigged and a non-rigged shoulder carry version.  All the bags are editable except the rigged mesh shoulder version.  Each version has an appropriate "bag hold" animation, and wonder of wonders, they work with my SEMotion AO poses. Well, almost...when my AO switches stands, it overrides the bag hold, but a quick switch off and on again brings it back.

If the satchel bag isn't your preferred style, there are a couple of options you can explore...not the bags themselves so much (although there are thousands in the Marketplace!), but carry poses that will work with your AO.  Vista Animations has some AOs now that include handbag poses for your arm, and SEMotion has a set of stands that are designed for use with a bag.  And SLink makes a pose for their mesh hands that's specifically for carrying a purse.

For those times when your outfit just cries out for a handbag as the final touch, I recommend the Maitreya Satchel Bag.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Visit to So Cal

Today a Destination I hadn't seen before came to my attention...SoCal.  This is a full region re-creation of a beach community in Southern California, and it's VERY well done.  It has elements of Venice Beach, Redondo Beach, and LaJolla.  The Pacific ocean rolls in with an ever-present roar.  You can walk along a sandy beach with just enough debris and beach grass to look like those beaches I remember from my years in the Los Angeles area.  Even the terrain profile of the beach is correct, rising at the back to a boardwalk/bike path.

At one end of the beach are some rocks, with spray from the endless surf, and some sea life.  You can wade in the tide pool here.  At the other end is a long pier with a gazebo out at the end where you could fish, if you brought your pole.

On the other side of the bike path are stucco'd apartments and shops, just as you'd find in Venice or Redondo. 

Behind them are stone walkways and parks with brilliant flowers.  On the other side of an asphalt road, palm trees sway in the Endless Summer.

Climb the hill behind the palms, and you come to a grassy area above the sea, with cliffs plunging to the surf below.  In this area is a park and an outdoor amphitheater type dance club under a geodesic dome.

There's a very realistic mixture of the tacky and funky and the gorgeous to be found here, that took me right back to the west coast.

There are park benches with lots of sit poses in them, and there's a skateboard park where you can get a board and show your skillz.  There's a fast food burger joint next door where you can relax and refuel after a hard skating session. 

SoCal is still under construction, but they are open for business and offer rentals for stores and residents.  Krissy Darkfury is the person to contact, if you're interested.  While I was there, I met Jena Delwood as she was setting up a new tattoo store, JD's Ink, on the boardwalk.
Jena Delwood, Tattoo Artist

Jena's new Store, JD's Ink
Go take a walk on the boardwalk, listen to the surf and the gulls, poke around the shops...and put on some Beach Boys tunes to complete the mood.  SoCal gets the Lindal Kidd Stamp of Approval!

Here are more snapshots of my West Coast trip.  As always, click one to get a better view!

Gosh, I'm Finally Getting Noticed...Is This Good?

I've been making these posts (irregularly!) for over three years, and never gotten any spam comments.  Now in the last month I've actually received TWO spam comments.

Ah, fame.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Protect Yourself! (Nobody Else Will)

Many times, someone will post a question on the Answers Forum, saying something like, "My password stopped working," or "I forgot my password," or even "Why did Linden Lab ban my account?"

In some cases, no doubt, these people actually committed a serious breach of the Second Life Terms of Service (that's a link for a reason, Dear Reader.  If you have not read the TOS, you really should.)  But in most cases, they probably have done nothing more than be a little gullible, or greedy, or careless -- someone sent them a URL via email, or in an IM, or a group chat, or in a notecard, and they clicked on that link.

Such links are often "phishing" scams.  The web page may look at first glance like a Second Life page, but if you enter your user name and password, they are sent to the scammer.  Then he can change your password, take all your $L, delete your inventory, and use your account to commit serious TOS violations.

And the REALLY awful thing about this is that you...yes, YOU...are responsible.  Right there in the TOS Linden Lab clearly says:

(From TOS Section 4.2, emphasis added)
You are solely responsible for all activities conducted through your Account whether or not you authorize the activity (except to the extent that activities occur because someone gains access to our system without using your identifiers and password). In the event that fraud, illegality or other conduct that violates this Agreement is discovered or reported (whether by you or someone else) that is connected with your Account, we may terminate your Account (or Accounts) as described in Section 5.

You are solely responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your password and for restricting access to your Internet Device. You are solely responsible for any harm resulting from your disclosure, or authorization of the disclosure, of your password or from any person's use of your password to gain access to your Account or Account Name. You will immediately notify us of any unauthorized use of your Account, password or username, or any other breach of security related to the Service. At no time should you respond to an online request for a password other than in connection with the log-on process to the Service. Your disclosure of your password to any other person is at your own risk. 

In other words, if someone else gets access to your account, and you fail to promptly notify LL, then they may simply terminate your account.  And any alt accounts you may have.  And you won't be allowed to make another account or use SL again.

How to Protect Yourself:
  • Read the TOS and the Community Standards and the various policies that are linked to them.  They govern your relationship with LL.  We can complain all day long about how unfair and one-sided it is, but nonetheless, this is what you agree to when you sign up for Second Life.
  • Get smart about phishing scams.  Do a web search on "phishing."  There are lots of sites that will show you what to watch out for.
  • Don't enter your password on any web site that does not start with "https" and/or does not have the domain ""
  • Don't use the same password for SL that you use for other things
  • WRITE DOWN your account, password, email, and secret question and answer...and keep them somewhere safe.
  • DO NOT leave "remember my password" checked on the login screen.
Be careful out there!

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

I've been a teacher, mentor, and newcomer helper in Second Life since just a few months after my own rez date.  I am or have been a member of several "helper" groups, including the now-disbanded Second Life Mentors, GQ Start, Help People, Caledon Oxbridge University, White Tiger Mentors, and, most recently, Social Island Helpers.

One of the biggest problems of the "new user experience" in Second Life is, dismayingly, Second Life's own residents.  It seems that no matter what scheme LL sets up to make those first confusing hours in the virtual world exciting and pleasant, idiots, jerks and griefers do their very best to make that experience as unpleasant as possible for the newcomer.

Some helper groups solve the problem by providing live helpers in the learning area.  These helpers are empowered to eject and ban troublemakers, or at least to call for help from a senior member of the group who can do so.  Caledon Oxbridge University uses this model, and as a result it's a quiet, peaceful, and truly newcomer-friendly place.

But the drawback of using live helpers is that the system actually requires qualified, dedicated helpers!  Linden Lab's own "new user experience" attempts have not used live helpers since the Mentor program was disbanded, and even when the Mentors were around, they never had the authority to ban troublemakers.

LL has tried to keep the troublemakers out of newcomer areas, by making some or all of the New User Experience only accessible to actual newcomers (or, when the Mentors were active, to newcomers and Mentors.)  Thus, a newcomer would first log in at an Orientation Island.  After exploring that for a while, they would find the exit and be teleported to Help Island.  And then, after leaving Help Island, they would find themselves at an Infohub, or as they were misleadingly called, a "Welcome Area."  And there they would find a crowd of hecklers, belittlers, griefers, Bloodlines spampires and other riffraff, crowded into the very first place in the new user flow they could get to.

So, LL's next idea was to disperse the newcomers as soon as they entered the main grid, instead of funneling them all into one place and thus making that place attractive to troublemakers.  This was done in a couple of different ways.  The current method works pretty well.  The exit area at Social Island is a coliseum with a number of portal doors.  Each door leads to a type or category of Destination, but the actual Destination is chosen at random by the door.  The problem with this is that most of the newcomers are not yet ready to take on the main grid...they need more learning and possibly a live helper or mentor to answer questions, whether they realize it or not.  And now they are scattered all over the main grid.  Like the griefers, mentors need to find concentrations of newcomers too!

The Lab's latest attempt at a pleasant new user experience goes back to the "two island" format.  A new resident first appears on "Exploration Island".  This island is only accessible to brand new accounts.  When you find the exit, it funnels you to "Social Island".  Social Island is an improved version of the old Help Island (see my blog post, A Visit to Social Island.)  Two of the Social Island regions have been made accessible to ordinary Residents, as well as the newcomers themselves.

I actually had some hopes for this.  Mentor and helper groups quickly discovered that these islands were chock full of confused newcomers needing and wanting help, and volunteers soon began showing up to provide that help.  A new group, Social Island Helpers, was formed.

But it was not long before the people who infest the "Welcome Areas", infohubs, and Help Island Public also discovered they could get to Social Island, and started showing up in ever-increasing numbers.  I swear, it was like sharks converging on a helpless group of baby seals.  Today, if you go to Social Island 1, you are likely to find some or all of these people there:

- The Terminally Ugly Troll
Believe me, I've seen Uglier!
 - Bloodlines Recruiter (most will try to get you to join their clan, but a few will simply send bite requests to everyone in range)

- Shills for Rental Property, Stores, Clubs, or "Free Linden" scams

- People who just use Social Island as their own private club for socializing
Scary Foul- Mouthed Person on Arrival Spot

- Gangs.  These are groups of three or more avatars who use their superior numbers to heckle or intimidate newbies.  Some overlap with the previous group.

A Gang
 - Practical Jokers who send deformers or similar devices to newcomers

- Sex Maniacs (They have to be maniacs.  Who else would solicit sex from a newbie?)

- Linden Lab Impersonators

- Showoffs playing rap in the Voice channel, using huge particle poofers, or otherwise trying to be the center of attention
Weiners!  Get Your Weiners Here!
 Advice to newcomers:  If you run into things like this, just ignore them and move on.  If they insist on annoying you, right click them and choose Mute/Block from the menu.