Meeroos: LL’s CS shoots itself in the foot. Again

I hate wagging the finger at Rodvik, I really do. But there are times when it has to be done; and this is one of them.

As has been the talk of Twitter, Malevay,  the creators of Meeroos recently came under a form of attack: one day old avatar accounts with names closely approximating the official “Meeroo Resident” asset management account started to be used in attempts to cash-in on the Meeroo success – right under Malvay’s own noses. You can read about the situation in detail here.

As a result, the Malevay raised a series of tickets against the culprit accounts – and to cut a long story short, someone at LL’s Customer Support reacted in a totally lackadaisical and inexcusable manner and simply banned all account names looking like “Meeroo Resident” without thought or consideration as to the possible consequences. The result: the official Meeroo asset management account also got banned, with potentially serious repercussions for all involved.

How this came about is unclear, but what is apparent is that it smacks of sloppy enforcement and LL’s Customer Services end, and a lack of checks and balances to prevent avoidable mistakes occurring when dealing with people’s accounts. As Crap Mariner points out, are LL’s Customer Services incapable of carrying out the most rudimentary of checks on accounts prior to blocking them?

Insult was added to injury when the account was apparently reinstated on the QT without the account holder receiving any communication from Customer Services. They simply found out when they another periodic attempt to log-in to the account and see if it was there.

Now, this is not the first time this kind of thing has happened; numerous people have reported they’ve experienced their accounts being suspended without warning, only to be subsequently reinstated equally without notification, for no readily apparent reasons.

Back when the new “communications platform” was launched, people  – like Darrius Gothly – who accidentally violated the community standards for the platform were horrified to find members of the Customer Services team were publicly chastising them and using screen captures that clearly showed personal information – although why the heck Customer Services should need to capture screenshots was, and remains, a mystery. At the time, Amanda Linden tried to excuse the situation as “working out the kinks” in the new system. And explanation which, frankly, floated on the sea of scrutiny about as well a brick on the Atlantic.

This most recent incident involving Meeroos has many questions around it; to be fair, a lot of them are unrelated to LL’s Customer Service operations per se. However, it is and will be the actions on the part of LL’s Customer Services that will continue to receive a lot of attention – and a lot of criticism – both for the original account blocking error and the manner in which it was silently reinstated.

Had this been a one-off situation, people might be a little more forgiving, but it is not, as pointed out above. Rodvik identified customer services as being one of the Achilles’ Heels of Second Life. This situation with Meeroos demonstrates that this is very much still the case, and that it really is about time LL were seen to be tackling the problems, rather than people being left feeling they’re still only talking about tackling them.

Redzone: closure of a sort

As headlined by Tateru Nino, the RedZone farrago both returns and gains a measure of closure.

Michael Stefan Prime (Aka TheBoris Gothly and Zfire Xue) – identified as the man behind the RedZone tool by other SL users – has been remanded into the care of US Marshalls and a four-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to four out of seven charges of parole violation, specifically:

  • Associating with Shawn Cahill, a three-time convicted felon, in violation of standard condition 9 that he not associate with any person convicted of a felony.
  • Failing to allow the U.S. Probation Officer to inspect any personal computer owned or operated by the defendant in violation of the special condition directing him to do so.
  • Failing to notify the U.S. Probation Officer of all computer software owned or operated by the defendant in violation of the special condition directing him to do so.
  • Beginning employment without prior approval by the U.S. Probation Officer, working for cash, and engaging in employment that did not provide regular pay stubs in violation of the special condition directing him to do so.

Interestingly, as recorded in court documentation, the prosecution moved to dismiss three other violations when Prime pleaded guilty and waived his right to any evidentiary hearing relating to the four charges above. The three additional charges comprised:

  • Committing the criminal offence of Possession of Stolen Property 1st degree on or before March 23, 2011, in violation of the general condition that he not commit another federal, state, or local crime.
  • Committing the criminal offence of Trafficking in Stolen Property 2nd degree on or before March 23, 2011, in violation of the general condition that he not commit another federal, state, or local crime.
  • Associating with Shana Bobo, a three-time convicted felon, in violation of standard condition 9 that he not associate with any person convicted of a felony.

The first two of these charges relate to earlier convictions against Prime, although it is the third charge, relating to one Shana Bobo, that is liable to generate further speculation among SL users who have followed this case and the entire RedZone situation, given Prime’s involvement with a female SL user at the time of RedZone.

Details of the original case against Prime, which lead to his imprisonment and eventually the violation of the terms and conditions of his parole as a part of the entire RedZone affair, can be read on-line.

There are still issues surrounding this entire sorry affair – not the least of which are vulnerabilities within the Second Life software environment and the fact that four months down the road, Linden Lab still have yet to incorporate the Media Filter code that is readily available in all responsible TPVs, which can warn users of a potential threat to their privacy.

However, as far as RedZone itself is concerned, this will hopefully see closure brought to that particular sorry affair without people feeling the need to dig further into this individual’s past and engage in trial-by-forum, which came to undermine much of the good work carried out to try and stop such exploits and identify in-world sims where people could find themselves open to data-scraping by the RedZone tool.

Jacek Antonelli announces retirement

Jacek Antonelli, one of the major driving forces behind Imprudence  / Kokua has today announced she is retiring form the Imprudence team. Her announcement in part reads:

After 3 years of serving this project, I will be retiring effective September 1. As often happens in life, the priorities in my life have shifted over time, and it is now time for me to focus on other things.

Obviously, this will be a major transition for the project. But, I will be working for the next month to make it as smooth as possible, so that everything can continue with minimal disruption. At this time, we have not yet decided who, if anyone, will replace me as “benevolent dictator“, or whether there will be some other form of project leadership. Of course, we will keep you guys informed as the details are fleshed out.

My retirement is not an occasion for somberness, but rather for fond reflection on the past, and hope-filled anticipation for the future. I am proud of the work we have done and what we have accomplished so far, and I look forward to the great things that will be accomplished after I am gone. What’s more, I am immensely proud that we have accomplished all this without compromising our principles or our integrity, even when the road was most difficult, and the temptation most pressing.

Imprudence has been a major force in the world of third-party Viewers, and the team, lead by Jacek, have rightly gained themselves a loyal and enthusiastic following. Over the years, Imprudence has often been a pathfinder for new functionality, and/ or has striven to meet the most-needed requirements of users.

It is not entirely clear what will be happening in the future – the team have a month to get things sorted out, and hopefully both Imprudence and the still in-initial-development Kokua will remain with us, and the vision of seeing Imprudence 1.4 stablised and Kokua gorwing into its worthy replacement will be realised over time.

As a former Imprudence user myself, I’ve always appreciated all the work the team has put into the Viewer, and I personally wish Jacek every good wish and every success, both in her virtual and real lives.

Thank you for everything you’ve done, Jacek.

Linden Lab calls for more mesh volunteers

Charlie Linden reports there are currently 100 mesh-enabled sims on the main Grid – but LL wants to treble that number. In an e-mail posted to the the opensource dev group by Oz Linden, Charlie states:

We’re at about 100 regions right now – but we want to be at 300+ by the end of the week.

Now we want to accelerate the process, and to do that, we need more volunteers. If you have a region, or know a resident who has one, the mesh team would love for you to volunteer it to run mesh.

Those interested in joining the initial roll-out should go to the Mesh/Live Volunteers wiki page to find out more – including risks and limitations (programme is only open to private sim owners, Mainland sims cannot participate, for example).

For those wishing to see what mesh is like for themselves, there are a series of mesh-enabled sandboxes located around Mesh Sandbox 0 (Surl). However:

Alternatively you can visit Morbidette, a private sim that is mesh-enabled, but does not require you join the Volunteer Group – you will, however still need a mesh-enabled Viewer.

With thanks to Opensource Obscure for the info on the call for additional volunteers & info on Morbidette.

Phoenix out

Phoenix have released the latest maintenance update to the Viewer. This comes with a number of bug fixes, including:

  • Phoenix appends (PH) in official support groups, with an option to disable
  • Fix for crash on changing shape and sometimes on appearance (fixes PHOE-59, and part of PHOE-3002)
  • Fix for crash when an animation is played on another avatar with an unknown joint
  • Partial fix for crash when script error buffer is overloaded by only displaying your own script errors by default.
  • Webkit related updates and fixes.
  • Linux Webkit updated to 4.7.1 (to same as windows and mac)
  • Fixes showcases not working for regions with a space in the name
  • Add Plugins and Javascript settings to web preferences
  • Add ability to disable SSL certificate errors in LLQtWebkit.
  • Add ability to add certificates.
  • Fixed Mac OSX Lion error messages about missing files
  • Updated bridge to prevent other objects from making your av move
  • Added option to disable server version change notifications, and set notifications to a lower priority
  • Updated copy paste code in build floater and fixed position on attachment
  • Avatar physics fixes – pie menu detach works, as does setting beer belly bounce on male
  • Handle llRegionSayTo() messages sent to local chat properly. Fixes PHOE-2998.
  • Webkit related upgrades and fixes
  • GPU list corrections and additions.

Of particular interest to many is the inclusion of the following functions:

  • The new Parcel Privacy options, and the ability to mute avatar sounds (generated by gestures) have been backported from Viewer 2
  • The “official” code for sharing region environment settings has been incorporated
  • STORM-1037 compliance has been added, and the redundant “hide URL” checkbox removed (redundant, as there are other means to obtain the URL even when the checkbox is ticked).
  • Viewer 2’s capability to mute avatar sounds at the parcel level
  • Phoenix can now detect whether a region supports the upcoming new maximum prim size of 64x64x64 (which will be introduced alongside mesh, as is currently available in the mesh-enabled sandboxes and private sims that signed-up to the Mesh/Live Volunteer program). This option will obviously become redundant once mesh is rolled out across the main Grid, but for now is useful, as it gives Phoenix users the opportunity to find a suitable sim and play with the new prim sizing capabilities.

Jessica also appears to have been following me around the mesh-enabled sims on both agni and aditi, as she also supplies a series of images showing mesh when seen in a mesh-capable viewer and a non-mesh viewer!