Monday, September 24, 2018

Looking Back at Emeraldgate

By Bixyl Shuftan

2010 was a year that saw many things happen to Second Life. There was the layoff of almost a third of Linden Lab's staff, including some noteable Lindens. There was the resignation of M Linden as CEO, and the temporary return of Philip Linden as interum CEO. There was the decision to merge the Teen Grid with the rest of Second Life. And then, there was "Emeraldgate," a scandal which brought down the first popular third-party viewer.

To begin with, after years of using what would later be called Viewer 1, Linden Lab rolled out V2 in 2010. But most residents found it awkward to use, and continued to use Viewer 1, the V1 based "Snowstorm" viewer which was developed as an open source project with approval from the Lab, and third-party viewers, the most popular which was Emerald, owned by Modular Systems. But Linden Lab's Third Party viewer policy was so poorly written, even Linden viewers were technically in violation. So the Lab made a deal with Emerald that allowed them to operate without worry

But not everyone was happy. There were stories that a few on the team had checkered pasts. But most ignored them, or at least put them aside. Then in  August 2010, one of the team, Lord Greggreg, stepped down from the team. He stated there were abuses by the team, notably slipping in code that made the viewer vulnerable to intrusion, “Emerald is no longer what it was to me. I have been dedicating ... my time to the project for nearly two years now, and it’s been difficult to see it go the way it has.” But a few days later, Qarl Fizz, the former Qarl Linden, joined the team. With the man who had been one of Second Life's most enthusiastic supporters now on the Emerald team, that seemed to help bolster Team Emerald's case that Lord Greggreg was a "minor ex-developer" who couldn't agree with the team,“You can be assured that Emerald will maintain it’s high standard of integrity, honesty and ethics that have contributed to it’s development.”

Then on August 20, there was a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on the website of a critic of the Emerald viewer, who was saying "the Emerald Client was leaking potentially user-identifying information." It turned out that any computer online at the time with the Emerald viewer on was part of the attack. Emerald's Arabella Steadham tried to minimize the seriousness of the incident, admitting to "shenanigans," but denied this was the work of more than one person on the team, “The method for doing this was to add links to the Emerald log in page linked to said blog. Each time anyone logged in, our page loaded up and also the other page loaded up – simply to show off our volume of traffic. This was not a DDoS. This was a poor attempt at boasting that failed miserably. Once we discovered this, these links were deleted and the dev concerned was disciplined.” Two days later on August 22, Fractured Crystal made a statement on the Emerald blog, calling what happened the result of tinkering with the viewer out of boredom and then forgetting about it, and stepped down from the team.

Linden Lab had been quiet for the first couple days, then later on the same day of Fracture's confession and stepping down, it took Emerald down from it's list of preferred viewers. Two days later on August 24, it ended it's silence with a statement on "Malicious Viewers and Our Third-Party Viewer Policy," clearly calling what happened a Denial of Service attack, "We have removed Emerald from the list of third-party viewers, and are now in touch with the Emerald team to discuss what can happen next. We did this to do our best to protect the safety and security of Second Life users. We will not tolerate a viewer that includes malicious code ..." They went on say that they encouraged residents to use another viewer, either theirs or Third-Party, other than Emerald. Modular Systems stated they "“received a large list of requirements and conditions" from the Lab, going on to say they intended to go through with all of them "as soon as we possibly can," saying some were more difficult than others and would take time.

Between Team Emerald's "shenanigans," and Linden Lab's responses, there were no shortage of rumors about what the Lab might do next. One was the Lab would on short notice ban all use of the Emerald Viewer and ban anyone caught using it. Calmer voices responded if the Lab did block the viewer, it wouldn't ban the users, at least not without warning. After the DoS attack, many Emerald users naturally ditched it and either reluctantly began using the cumbersome Linden Viewer 2.0 or other third-party viewers such as Imprudence or Lord Greggreg's "Emergence" viewer. But a fraction of Emerald's users remained loyal, stubbornly refusing to let it go.

A few days later on September 1, there was a statement on the Modular Systems blog that the team would soon be folding, and there was an attempt at a "takeover" from within. Later, the blog would point out Jessica Lyon as the person behind the attempted takeover.  This was something of a surprise, as Arabella and Jessica appeared together on an SL media broadcoast a few days before to defend Emerald and give it's point of view together. Jessica responded by starting her own blog and gave her point of view of what happened. Of Linden Lab's list of demands, the one that Team Emerald had a problem with was that three of the team step down: Lonely Bluebird (Phox), Skills Hak, and Discrete Dreamscape. According to Jessica, Skills and Discrete were willing to do so. But Lonely refused to go. Jessica's blog gave details of a conversation between she and him in which she pleaded with him to step down to save the team, "staying means your willing to kill Emerald. How can you be that selfish? ... I can’t believe you’re willing to kill this project just because of.. well, I don’t know why?" But Lonely wouldn't budge, "Well, when you figure it out, let me know. ... I don’t care at all." Jessica did say she was trying to "find a way to forcibly remove him from the team in order for emerald to comply with LL’s requirements. Now if you want to call that a 'take over', your free to do so."

On September 3, Jessica announced she had been assembling a new team of viewer developers, some whom had been with Emerald, some from outside, but "All are respected reputable residents in the Second Life Community." "From the ashes, the Phoenix has risen," Jessica proclaimed, and branded the new viewer "Phoenix."

A few days later on September 7, Linden Lab announced the Emerald Viewer would be blocked from accessing Second Life the following day, "As of 10am PT Wednesday, September 8, the Emerald Viewer will be blocked from logging in to Second Life as a result of violations of our Policy on Third Party Viewers. Residents who have been using any version of the Emerald Viewer will need to use a different Viewer to access Second Life. ... We take Residents’ privacy, safety, and security very seriously and will take action to enforce the policies that help protect it." Linden Lab also warned that attempts to get around the blockage with an Emerald Viewer was a bannable offense. Also on September 7, Linden Lab added Phoenix and Emergence to their list of approved third-party viewers.

Talking to a friend about this time, he told me he knew ahead of time Emerald was going to be banned from use on Second Life. He had been listening to BBC radio, and at one point they talked about Second Life and the Emerald scandal. Linden Lab could afford to be a little lax with Team Emerald as long as all discussion of the problems were within the circle of Second Life users, he told me. But once the trouble was being talked about in mainstream media, it's reputation was now on the line and would have to take action.

Arabella Steadham, whom had taken on the role of Modular Systems' Communications Manager, did not see it that way at all. She reacted very badly to Linden Lab's announcement by writing an angry post full of rants and insults, the professionalism she had shown up until then stripped away. She attacked rival viewers, she attacked her former teammates whom had defected to Phoenix, and she repeatedly attacked Linden Labs. She ranted the “dunderheaded buffoons” of the “pond-sized American company” had bullied them for no reason other than their viewer being more popular than theirs, and the blocking of it’s use was part of some underhanded conspiracy to force the users to use Viewer 2.0. Second Life, she branded, had no future among virtual worlds except as a backwater.

The following day, Arabella announced that Linden Labs had terminated her account. Banned. She made a few more words defending her rights and branding Linden Labs as dictatorial “Thought Police,” warning readers they could be thrown out for the slightest criticism. Then basically stated she no longer wanted to be part of Second Life. According to an article in the Herald, Phox, the Team Emerald member whose refusal to resign led to several members quitting and forming Phoenix, was also banned. Fractured Crystal, the member who resigned following the Distributed Denial of Service Attack, was not banned but apparently vanished on his own.

Effectively banished from Second Life, Arabella and what was left of Modular Systems had signed up with Utherverse, which boasted “a Virtual World Web of interconnected 3D communities." But of their virtual worlds, only the X-rated "Red Light District" had gotten much attention. Of the people I talked to, most hadn't heard of it. The one person who had wasn't impressed, feeling Utherverse was so eager to get more users they were not stopping to think of the potential damage that could be done. The chance that they could rise above being a backwater, to borrow Arabella’s word for what she saw as SL’s future, was just too tempting. But he felt “the real battle is in SL,” reminding that there were still these Emerald viewers with “spoofers” to get around the Emerald ban.

After that, "Emeraldgate" began to fade from the headlines. With stories such as the development of mesh, limited access to Second Life by teens as young as 13, Linden Lab ending it's discount to non-profit sims, rumors of Microsoft considering a buyout of the Lab, Philip Rosedale stepping down as interum CEO, and others, the residents had many other things to concern themselves about. Most of Team Emerald whom had gotten in trouble were never heard from again. A few years later, there was a rumor Fractured Crystal was being considered for a position on the development team of an Opensim world, but nothing ever came of it. If there were Emerald users who were so loyal they gave up on Second Life, they were very few in number as there was no great change in it's numbers. Nor did Utherverse did the boost it hoped for, remaining in obscurity. Skills Hak avoided the Linden banhammer during Emeraldgate, and would go on to help found the Insilico sci-fi roleplaying community. But the controversial figure would be banned in 2016.

Hamlet Au, whom had once been Linden Lab's embedded reporter, felt that Emeraldgate proved that the only viewers residents could trust were those with real-world names behind them, the Linden viewers "with avatar-to-avatar trust so thoroughly broken in this case." Indeed considering some decisions before and since by Linden Lab, such as the third-party currency exchanger ban, they could easily have decided to block all third-party viewers. But they didn't, possibly due in part to most residents were still passing up their viewer in favor of third-party ones. Because Jessica Lyon and part of Team Phoenix had been part of Emerald, there were a few whom had doubts about the team's integrity. But most people did not harbor such feelings. Jessica and Phoenix quickly won the hearts and minds of Second Life residents, the viewer quickly becoming the most popular of Second Life users.

Team Phoenix, later known as Team Firestorm after it made the decision to retire it's first viewer in favor of the Firestorm Viewer which had code based more on the Lab's existing viewer, would have some challenges over time. But over the past eight years they never get into anything remotely like the trouble Emerald had. Indeed they've been quite open to the public, with Jessica taking part in many conferences. They've also established a support center for newcomer residents. Eight years later, the development team is going as well as ever, and so is their support from the residents.

Sources: Jessica Lyon, Dwell on It, New World Notes, SL Wikia, SL Newspaper, Lord Greggreg, Alphaville Herald

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sept. 11 Memorial Ceremony at Yellow River Memorial

By Deaflegacy

There are many memorials in September 11 to those whom were lost in the September 11 terrorist attacks. But the one made by Geena Zackerly-Magic (geena.zackerly) stands out for it's size and design. Once at Stagg Island for several years, which got it the name "Stagg Island Memorial," it was recently moved to the Yellow River sim. On every anniversary of the attacks, there are at least two ceremonies at the memorial. This Tuesday September 11, I attended one.

Before the ceremony began, Geena advised us to turn our environmental setting to midnight. She would explain that each wall at the memorial contains every name of a precious life lost that day. The individuals on the Airlines, in the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon were all on the walls. Geena would explain that there is an eternal flame signifying the light of these souls and keeping their memory forever alive. Above the eternal flame rotates the Earth. “This signifies that all countries were impacted by this terrible tragedy. We lost people from all nationalities, colors and creeds that day.” said Geena . “Evil does not discriminate. Angels at each other guard all the individuals honored here.”

“The two recessed waterfalls represent the footprint of each building.” Geena  pointed out. “The beam of light in each footprint signifies each tower and are intended to light up the heavens for our loved ones as a guiding beacon to eternity.”

Geena went on, "The two recessed waterfalls represent the footprint of each building, The beam of light in each footprint signifies each tower and are intended to light up the heavens for our loved ones as a guiding beacon to eternity.

"Andy Bernheim (andy300uk) is honored and proud to wear the uniform as well to be standing here at the ceremony.

“At one point in our ceremony the 'Lanterns of Souls' will rise out of the water (from each footprint) to the heavens, signifying the rising to heaven of the souls of every human being being lost that day.” Geena continued. “Commemorating the strength of the Two Towers and the never ending struggle against all that ie evil, to stand tall.”

“Representing the innocent passengers flown into targets strategically selected by the scum who took the planes over. You will hear the towers being attacked in the background.” said Geena.

While Geena  was giving the presentation, music was being heard. “A live television broadcast that we all watched that day, a very comprehensive description of the events of the day.” Geena  explained about the news coverage that came up.

Dayanara McDonnagh explained that he was only four to five blocks from the Pentagon when it was attacked. It is sad. “All is lost.” he said.

Geena went on to explain, “As the day progressed, every human being felt the need to arm themselves, protect their families, friends, their property and their neighbors. Not really knowing why this happening, who was behind it, why so many innocent people had to die in such a horrible way, for what reason?? How could this act be justified?? By anyone?? With no valid answers to any of those questions all there was to feel was 'vengence.' Someone will pay for this!”

“The world realizes that this tragedy not only effects the families of those taken, but strikes at each person, it has touched us all!! We are all saddened! We have all been violated! Victims family' reach out for their loved ones... praying they made it through everything. Hoping against all hope that they survived.”

Geena pointed the lanterns rising from the footprint of the towers signify the rising of souls to Heaven. “Our hearts have been hardened and desensitized to every day life.” Geena explained. “Reality is more than we can bare. Every day life will never be the same as we knew it. The shock, the pain that all of us have to deal with as to what has happened to our nation, our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, children and neighbors... our very existence! Only time will reveal what is going to happen. Will this happen to us again? Have we learned to protect ourselves against evil in the world? Will we become complacent... let our guard down? Who can say? Only time!! It is our duty and our responsibility to those we lost to do everything in our power to prevent this from ever happening again. Let us hope for a strong nation and better times as we honor our loved ones in their peaceful rest.”

“A senseless act like this reminds us all that our lives are just a drop of water in a large ocean. At any given time we or our loved ones can be gone. So hold those you love close, EVERYDAY, for tomorrow may never come.” Geena said, “The time has come to accept what has happened... it isn't a nightmare... It's real! We are mad, we want vengeance, someone has to be held responsible for these horrible acts. On the other hand however, our innocents.. our family members, our loved ones are free now. Free from the human suffering brought on to them from these evil people. It's time to let go of their physical beings and embrace their spirits.”

As the ceremony drew to an end, Geena  said, “Thank you for remembering with us. We must NEVER FORGET!”

Six String (roleplayismylife) said that he wrote a song because of this event. He recited his song,

When I woke up that morning, the leaves were changing hues
When a friend called me, and said "Turn on the news!"
The horrors I saw, I couldn't believe my eyes
At first I was so shocked, I couldn't even cry.

It was a fateful day in September
When the Trade Center fell
Fire, and death were all around,
And the world was going to hell

I didn't know, just what I should feel
But then I saw the replay, and I knew that it was real
I didn't know, if I was going to live, or die
I had mixed emotions, and I felt empty in side

On that fateful day in September
When the Trade Center fell
When fire, and death were all around
And the world was going to hell

I asked myself "Is the world coming to an end
Then I hear a voice from above say "don't give up hope, my friend!"
So that's my advice to you, when you've lost your Ameerican pride
Remember 9/11, and all the people who died.

On that fateful day in September
When the Trade Center fell
When fire, and death were all around
And the world was going to hell.

The ceremony had been a very touching one as we remembered the fateful day on September 11, 2001. I have a feeling that we would continue to hold a ceremony every year on that day to remember that day. I think I will continue to go to the ceremony every year because what happened on that day touched me so deep that I cannot shake it loose. Thank you, Geena , for holding the ceremony this year. I will always remember it.

The ceremony was held at The memorial is still there.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The "Christmas in August" Fundraiser Party in Caledon

By Bixyl Shuftan

Christmas can be such a fun holiday, some look for reasons to throw a "Christmas" party in the summer months. So when some people looking to have a benefit event for the Caledon Oxbridge University, a "Christmas in August" theme was soon settled on. And on Friday August 31, people met up in a decorated skybox high over the Caledon Oxbridge Village sim to listen to enjoy the music and scenery, and have fun.

For those who don't know, Caledon Oxbridge University is best known for its orientation classes for new residents. Details about the classes can be read at the university's website at ( As for the party, the scenery around the skybox was quite Christmasy with a frozen pond in the middle, a merry-go round, stands where people could grab a cup of coco, a gazebo meant for Santa Claus to sit in, though this being August he was absent, with a sack people could grab a present from, a smaller pond where a few mechanical carolers were dancing, a red house in the middle of a white picket fence all decorated for Christmas, and plenty of reindeer and other critters. There was also a campfire somewhere.

From 3 to 5PM SL time, DJ Nyree Rain played music for the crowd. There was a number of traditional Xmas tunes. But there were some other songs. After a one hour break, DJ Cynthia Farshore took the music stream. She played songs such as, "A Pirate Christmas," Mannheim Steamroller's "Coventry Carol," "O Holy Night" sung in Navajo, the "Grinch" song by Boris Karloff, Queen's "Thank God It's Christmas," and others.

"Lovely place!" Shockwave Yareach commented as he looked at the scenery, "I'll have to finish my Xmas lights soon." Cynthia chuckled, "like Wal-Mart, not even Labor Day and he's putting out lights." When Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards in Winter" started playing, Shockwave commented, "And EVERYONE asks me to have this song in my show!"

Stereo Nacht wondered if her outfit was more complex than her avatar, "Hm. I worry the snowflakes with my dress are rising my complexity. It's not often I get about 100k as a Tiny." Liška Bystrouška (Liska Fuchs) brought up Shockwave's buck goat avatar, and Cynthia's vixen, "One week, and Shocky and Cynthia will be their old selves again (smile). Andrea Jones (andreajonesms Resident), whom was in a taur avatar that had a few teddy bears on her back, responded, "Aww, I like them this way Liska." Shockwave joked, "Well I'm tired of can food." Andrea countered, "But don't you enjoy being nimble footed Shockwave?" He answered, "I miss having soft toes to wriggle ..."

Cynthia was saying, "Wow! Showing ... some one in Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka is tuned in to the stream." "A Ceylong way," Liska mused. It was at this time Weird Al Yankovic's "Christmas At Ground Zero" began playing. Cynthia joked, "Now to make them in Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka really go HUH?! with this tune." It was brought up two of the small country's bigger neighbors were nuclear-armed rivals.

It was probably inevitable, but eventually someone got a snowball thrower and started tossing. "Oh no!" Andrea commented after getting hit, "Snow Balls!" The frozen missiles zipped around for a couple minutes. Then something new was added: frogs! "Frogs .. is we in Egypt now?" Leelee Blessed asked. Shockwave chuckled, "Toadly in theme." "Did somebody croak?" I asked. "Or did they just get frog in the throat?" Shockwave joked, "Coming soon to your freezer - frozen frog legs." Other things were soon tossed, from turkeys to rolls of toilet paper, to pies.

Then the "Doctor Who" music began playing. Which at a steamlands party often means some certain metallic company is not far away, "Get yer guns ready!" And then came the Daleks, the infamous robotic villains from the sci-fi show. "A Christmas Dalek I love it!" Peter From New York called out. But if they hate anything more than humans, it's other factions of Daleks, Renegade versus Imperial. So most of the robots wiped out one another, and the two left were easily overcome by snowballs, or "exterminated." Andrea sighed at the mess, "Daleks, always leaving a mess for someone else to clean up."

Eventually, the two hours came to a close. "Thank you all for coming," Andrea told everyone. When asked about the event's fundraising totals, Wordsmith Jarvinen commented, "I'll count it up in the morning. If we did as well as earlier we'll be out of deficit. My goal is to have a constant buffer in the account after paying all instructor stipends and tier quarterly." He went on to say their fund hadn't been in the positive since January, "Keeping Oxbridge runs about 107k $L per quarter, about 75k of that tier. ...I'm very hopeful that tonight turned the trick. ... I always feel very humble about the willingness of many to keep Oxbridge afloat."

It was a fun event that this summer helped us keep our cool.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, September 3, 2018

LoveFest 2018

By Deaflegacy

LoveFest 2018 is an annual festival in Second Life for fans of American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Timed to take place around the time of his birthday, this year marks the 128th anniversary of Lovecraft's birth, August 20, 1890. People were coming from around all of Second Life, and from all around the world in real life, to experience it, in the Ravenheart sim.

There was plenty to do during Lovefest..  There was shopping, dancing, and music at places there. There were also readings of H.P. Lovecraft's stories.  I have been to some places at LoveFest 2018.  It was a good event, although at the same time, it was scary and frightening. While it is not recommended for people who get scared easily to go there, it is definitely recommended for people who love a good thrill, especially horror fans.  There is an asylum, and it is definitely a scary place to visit.

But there are also stores to go shopping at.  At one point, I was at a coffee shop.  It is a good cafe with plenty of desert and coffee.  I also took the tram.  It took me all across the sim

I went to the Arkam Asylum.  It was a spooky, scary place. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who would like to test their nerve to go there.  There is an adventure game called, “The Maze to Madness.” I went down to the Maze. And to be honest with you, it was not what I was expecting.  I checked it out and only saw a couple of rooms.  One is a cell with jail like feeling to it and another was a treatment room.  That was it.  I hate to tell you this but I did leave the place, feeling disappointed.  But the other areas were really good. 

I heard that there were readings in which someone would read out H.P. Lovecraft's stories.  I also know that there were plays happening at certain times.  Don't forget the tram.  One can always take the tram and enjoy the trip.  I would really recommend that people go to LoveFest. It is celebrating the birthday of a unique writer.  I think I will go buy a book that H.P. Lovecraft had written and give it a read.  Just by going to LoveFest had gotten me curious about his work.  I don't know about you, but I'm a horror fan and would love to read Lovecraft's stories.