Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kindle, Light My Words With Fire

I have just got a new toy: An Amazon Kindle. Its a really nice device, even though the GUI is rather old-fashioned compared to modern pads. No touch-screen.  No colours.  But the features that are there are well thought out and works flawlessly.

I like it so much I thought my avatar would want one too.  So I quickly buildt one. Now he can sit and read The Times like an old-school british gent, even if its a modern variety:

I have previously blogged about the PC version and the Kindle Store so I won't repeat that; it's enough to say that my Kindle has 3G access to more books than I could ever read almost whereever I am.

And even if I am out in the sun, its a joy to read because of it's electronic inc screen.  It really looks like paper, and there is no glare or reflection.  One cool feature of e-ink screens is that they only uses power when changing content.  Amazon has made use of this and made a feature that displays an image on the screen whenever you turn if off.  The image is choosen randomly from a set, and it just stays there. 

Interestingly enough, I think I like the thing precisely because it is rather limited.  When reading a book one does not get tempted to surf facebook and read email at the same time, because that's just not possible (or at least too cumbersome, LOL).  Instead, I fall into this state of natural relaxation that I get when reading an old-fashioned book printed on paper. 

And if I do sit down with the thing just to play, I end up reading much more text than I would normally do when just spending some free time on the web. 

And it got me wondering: Second Life is a highly graphical environment.  State-of-the-art 3D moving graphics and animations.  But would that be enough to make me stay and spend as much time and money inworld as I do?  Actually, the answer is simply no.  If I could not spend lots of my SL time "talking" to people, that is, creating written words and stories, I would not have found the motivation to stay. 

So, words are important, and words with people even more so.  In a world where pad-and-phone makers are duelling for the nicest icons and the most vivid pictures, it's good that someone still focuses on the words.  They make my day and my life, and I so look forward to both read and write a lot more.

Monday, March 21, 2011

At Nordan Art

I got a group message about an exhibition at a place called Nordan Art the other day, and figured I should take the taxi and check it out.  Om the outside it looks rather classic; a great build though with lots of details.  Notice the gorgeous glass windows in the back.

If you have the courage to face the unknown (litterally) and walk right through it, it's like you take the blue pill and walk straight into wonderland.  Luckily, I ran into Bella on the first floor, and when she made it safely through I dared follow.

"Standing, she lit her cigarette, took a puff, took a leap of faith and walked on fire for the first time. It was incredible!!."  -- from Bellas profile

After climbing several stairs we got to the top, facing the most gorgeous crystal art.  Rebeca Bashly is the artist, and here she has done some amazingly detailed work.  This is a must-see.

Bella wore the most fabulous detailed costume I have yet seen in SL.  Made by a Japanese designer that must really have worked his mouse arm to exhaution.  It led us to talk about avatar apperance as art, and further on to discuss what kind of people where staying in SL. 

We landed pretty much on the idea that SL is populated with people that has imagination and creativity above average.  At least those that stay and that you like to meet.

Also, that art in SL takes many forms, and that SL in itselves makes us all content creators, just to different degrees.  How amazing it would have been if everyone was in SL - a true global village!

But today the bombs are falling on Libya, my country are sending 6 jet fighters to that desert land so far away, and our PM is desperately trying to convince everyone that Norway is not at war with Libya.

And even though one can argue it's for the greater good of the people living there if we do get rid of their mad dictator, we all know that our government-owned oil company has been doing business with Muammar "al"-Gaddafi for a long time, enabling him to strenghten his position and continue his life in luxery. 

So now we have to bomb them.

It's a hard word.  I hope there will still be beauty and happiness around for people in Libya when this is over.  Like there is in SL between our RL battles.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to protect yourselves against RedZone and other IP tracing technologies

RedZone was a tool for banning potential content thiefs and griefers, including known alts of known perpetrators.  It could also warn you if someone in the vincinity was a know alt.

The question is: How did RedZone know about your alt accounts?  The answer is that the RedZone servers used a loophole in SL to track the IP adress of the users computer, and when it discovered multiple accounts using the same PC it was fair to suspect they where alt accounts.

As you may know, your IP adress is also quite useful for tracking down your RL location and identity, so the privacy issues here goes far beyond alt tracking.

RedZone is now banned from SL, but the basic technology loophole that can be used to track down your IP adresses is still available.  In other words, nothing can stop other people from doing the same thing.

The problem is the handling of media and HTML in the SL client.  Whenever the viewer plays media or shows a web site, it will contact the media or web server directly.  So if you walk into a store with a music URL, media URL or HTML on a prim, your viewer will get the URL from Linden Labs servers, but will proceed to call that URL directly.

Now, whenever you contact a server, that server will know your IP adress.  So the following sequence may happen:
  1. You walk onto someones land
  2. The parcel have a music URL pointing to the land owners home server
  3. Your PC will call that server and dutifully tell it your IP adress
  4. The land owner have a visitor scanner that will know your Second Life name
  5. The visitor scanner will send your second life name to the same server that serves the Music URL
  6. That server will log that your SL avatar walked onto the parcel at the same time as your PC requested the music URL.  
It's a no-brainer to deduce that the two are connected, and your IP is busted.

How can you protect your IP adress?  The simple answer is: Don't play media or music unless you trust the owner of the thing.

The following setting should do:

That is, remove the check from "Allow Media to auto-play" and "Play media attached to other avatars".

Update: I guess you should also remove the check from Streaming music: Enabled" (forgot that one).

The drawback is that you have to press Play in the viewer whenever you really want to listen to the music or watch the HTML-On-A-Prim thing, but that may be a small price to pay to keep your RL identity safe.