Linden Lab: L$ buy fee change + 2FA/TPV and Map tile updates – UPDATED

via Linden Lab

There have been a series of announcements from the the Lab – formal and informal – that I’m catching up on.

Linden Dollar “Buy” Fee Change

The biggest – and the one formal announcement – is the notice that Linden Dollar “buy” fees are changing as from Thursday, April 22nd, 2021.

Currently, a flat fee of US $.149 is applied to all Linden Dollar purchases. From April 22nd this will be changing. As of that date:

  • A new 7.5% buy fee will be applied, based on the total value of the transaction purchase amount, up to a maximum of US $9.99 per purchase transaction.
  • The US $1.49 will become the minimum fee charged per purchase transaction.

Examples:

  • You purchase US $15 of Linden Dollars – 7.5% of 15 is  $1.10 and less than US $1.49 – so the fee charged is US $1.49.
  • You purchase US $30 of Linden Dollars – 7.5% of 30 is $2.25 and greater than US $1.49, so the fee charged is US $2.25.
  • You purchase US $150 of Linden Dollars – 7.5 of 150 is US $11.25 and greater than US $9.99, so the fee charged is US $9.99.

Note that this new fee structure only applies to the purchase of Linden Dollars. Fees applied on the sale of L$ when cashing-out remain unchanged.

The reason for this changes has been given as helping to off-set costs involved in assorted service improvements. However, rather than repeat the entire official blog post here, please follow the link to read it in full, and should you be so minded, the lively forum discussion on the change can be found here.

Two-Factor Authentication and TPVs

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a  project the Lab is in the process of developing in order to improve access security across Second Life systems and services (and which gets a mention from Reed Linden in the above forum thread on increased Linden Dollar “buy” fees).

The future introduction of 2FA – and please note, there is currently no time frame for when this will happen – has prompted some to voice fears that it could “put an end” to third-party viewers.

However such fears / concerns are not justified.

Speaking at the Third-Party Viewer Development meeting on Friday, April 16th, both Vir Linden and Grumpity Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product commented on the matter:

  • Vir Linden:
We don’t know all the details about how 2FA is going to work, but we’re certainly not going to be disabling third-party viewers. That would be a large change.
  • Grumpity Linden:
That would be crazy and stupid. And while we may make mistakes here and there, on the whole they’re not crazy or stupid…
In general I would like to think that we have shown over many recent years that we’re committed to working closely with the TPV community to make sure that our changes are actually beneficial and incorporated and roll out in a predictable manner, and I intend for this to continue. 

World Map Update

Also at the TPV Developer meeting, Grumpity supplied an update on the world Map tile generation situation:

I’m also going to do a thing that is an absolute taboo and I totally shouldn’t be doing; but we’re in the process of putting out updates to Map generation. So fingers crossed, [things will] get back to normal. It has turned out to be a much bigger effort than anyone had wanted it to be … we wouldn’t have chosen for this to be so hard.

For those wishing to hear the comments via the video recording of the meeting, they can be found at 6:05 through 8:01 in the video, with Grumpity’s Map tile generation comments coming first.

UPDATE 17th April

Alexa and April linden both confirmed the deployment of the new map tile generation software has been successful and is now working better than ever.

Lab provides update on Group Chat

via Linden Lab

As many people are aware, Group Chat has had some problems of late, particularly with group chats failing, messages being dropped, etc.

One of the major causes of this has been known to be the manner in which the Group Chat member list updates – people in a group coming on-line, those going off-line and making the necessary updates to the group members list, then sending those updates to all the members of a group.

As you can imagine, all of this can take up a lot of time – in fact at a TPV Developer meeting before his departure, Oz Linden indicated that the service can spend more time managing these updates than in actually handling group chat messages. At the time, he indicated that Linden Lab was considering various ways in which the number of updates could be reduced to ease the load.

On Monday, April 5th, 2021, Maestro Linden provided an update via the Technology → Second Life Server forum on what has now been done to the Group member list updates  – and what the viewer will display as a result. In it, he describes the changes thus:

What changed, exactly?
Second Life has historically listed all the people on-line in a group or ad-hoc chat session.  In an effort to improve overall chat performance, we have limited when these updates are sent.
The Second Life group chat servers has been modified so that large group (over 10 on-line at once) will work so that only moderators get the full list of everyone on-line. Non-moderators now only see on-line moderators listed in the group chat participants list, for large groups.   Groups with 10 or fewer users on-line should not be affected by this change.
How does this change appear in the viewer?
The list of visible group chat participants shown in the Conversations panel, when the drop-down menu is expanded.  Before this change, the participants list would show all on-line members who were currently subscribed to the group’s chat session.  With this change, updates to list is limited for large groups, as described above, unless the “Moderate Group Chat” ability is enabled for the agent.
Will this change affect who can send or receive a group chat message?
No, regular chat messages are unaffected by this change – any group member with the “Join Group Chat” ability will be able to participate in group chat just as before.

– Maestro Linden in Group Chat member list updates, April 5th

While this change means general members of a group many not always be able to seen the full member’s list for the group, the change has been made in the belief that it is more important to be able to send and receive messages in a chat session rather than view the full group list.

How well the change works in practice remains to be seen; there have been response on the thread that indicate some are seeing no significant changes to their group chat sessions – although it’s not clear from the forum post quite when the change to the service was made, and whether or not it is something that will take time to propagate out sufficient for all all users to see benefits.

As well as indicating that additional back-end updates to monitoring tools have been made to allow Lab staff to better monitor SL systems and services, Maestro commented on whether or not this change will be “permanent”:

I would expect this change to remain in place in medium term – there are currently no plans to revert it. That said, I would not declare the change as “permanent” – group chat will continue to evolve as Linden Lab evaluates its performance and tweaks the design.

– Maestro Linden in Group Chat member list updates, April 5th.

For further information, please refer to the forum post, as linked to above.

Lab invites users to suggest new SL last Names

via Linden Lab

On Thursday, February 11th, Linden Lab announced the release of a new selection of last names for Premium members as a part of the Name Changes capability.

As I noted at the time, the 15 new names added to the list (which also saw the removal of a number of the less popular names from it) included some suitable for the Valentine’s period, and comprised a mix of names suggested by users during the 2019 Last Names competition that was held prior to the launch of Name Changes, and names selected by Linden Lab.

This makes for a quite varied selection of names for those wishing to change their avatar’s last name – but the Lab is always looking for new names that might be suitable.

To this end, the Last Names Suggestions form has been created, allowing anyone who has a suggestion for a potential Second life Last Name to submit it to the Lab for consideration.

When doing so, there are a couple of caveats to note:

  • The Lab does have an extensive list of names already, so submitted and selected names may not immediately appear in any updates to the list of available Last Names.
  • At this point in time, the Lab is not re-using any “legacy” Last Names (those users were able to select prior to 2010) – so be sure to check the list of legacy names before submitting your ideas.

About Name Changes

Name Changes is a Premium-only benefit that allows Premium subscribers to change their first name, their last name or both their first and last name on the payment of fee (US $39.99 + VAT  / sales tax, where applicable at the time of writing). Through it, users can opt to use any first name of their own choice, while last names are selected from a pre-defined list.

If you are unfamiliar with the capability, you can read more via the following links:

 

Oz Linden announces his forthcoming departure from Linden Lab

Oz Linden, circa 2014

On Tuesday, February 16th, 2021, and in a surprise to Second Life users, Linden Lab’s Vice President of Engineering, Oz Linden (aka Scott Lawrence in the physical world) announced his forthcoming departure from the Lab.

Oz joined Linden Lab in 2010, taking on the role of Director of Open Development. At that time, the viewer was in something of a state of flux; the “new” Viewer 2 had not long been launched, the development of which had largely excluded the user community and, particularly, developers who had long been associated with viewer development through the submission of code contributions.

As a result of this and other factors, users and developers alike were at the time feeling alienated and disenfranchised – facts that Oz immediately recognised and sought to address.

In the first instance this was done by replacing the open-source viewer Snowglobe project with a new Snowstorm project, intended to bring as much of the viewer development out into the open as possible – an approach Oz continued to push for throughout his time at the Lab, thus bringing order and surety out of a time that might be best described as having been “chaotic”.

The most obvious areas in which this was demonstrated was his adoption of weekly Open Source Meetings, initially held on Mondays before moving to their current Wednesday slot. These meetings continued alongside other technical in-world meetings such as the Server and Scripter meeting(now the weekly Simulator User Group), which took place even during the drought of other office hours meetings. He also implement the fortnightly Third Party Viewer Development meetings, allow Third Party Viewer developers to discuss all matters relating to the viewer directly with him and members of the Lab’s viewer engineering team.

In 2013, Oz oversaw the complete overhaul of the Lab’s internal viewer develop process, officially called the Viewer Integration and Release Process, which greatly simplified viewer update and viewer feature development. This project also brought me into my first direct contact with Oz when I offered a summary of the new process.  It marked the start of a long and informative acquaintance that I’ve continued to appreciate over the years.

As well as direct contributions to the viewer, Oz also helped open the door to user-led projects aimed at providing broader capabilities for the viewer. While constraints on what could / could not be accepted would always have to be enforced, this approach nevertheless resulted in the adoption of materials in Second Life, and helped to encourage project-based contributions to the viewer that have included capabilities such as the hover height slider, and graphics and camera presets. This approach also included major lab-led projects such as Project Bento also encompass direct user involvement pretty much from their outset.

While it has always been the Lab’s policy to try to recruit personnel from the ranks of users as and when there is a suitable “fit”, in his time at the Lab, Oz has become perhaps one of the most enthusiastic proponents of this approach, frequently seeking – and often succeeding – to recruit qualified users into technical positions under his management.

Oz in his human form. Credit: Linden Lab

As the Lab opted to start work on Project Sansar, Oz decided to pro-actively campaign to take on the work in continuing to develop Second Life, drawing to him those within the Lab who also wished to stay engaged in working on the platform. It is not unfair to say this resulted in one of the most intense periods of Second Life development we have seen, interrupted only be the need to focus on the work of transitioning all of Second Life and its services to run on AWS.

In 2019, Oz – together with Grumpity and Patch Linden – officially joined the Lab’s management team, taking on the role of Vice President of Engineering and putting an official seal on what Grumpity refers to as the Troika: the three of them being largely responsible for determining much of the product and feature direction for Second Life.

In announcing his departure, which sees his last day with the Lab being Friday, February 26th, 2021, Oz states that it has been something he’s been considering for a while:

Some time ago, I reached the point that I could afford to think about retiring but decided to stay to finish moving SL to its new cloud platform. I can’t imagine a better last act in my working life than ensuring that Second Life has this better platform for its future growth. Now that project is done (well, except for a few loose ends), and it’s time for me to move on to the next phase of my life.

He also emphasises – hopefully to prevent the rumour mill turning its wheels – that his decision to leave the Lab is not in any way connected to the company recently being acquired by new investors:

I want to emphasise in the strongest possible terms: my decision has nothing at all to do with the change in ownership of the Lab; the timing really is a coincidence. If anything, I regret that I have overlapped with them for only a few weeks; in that time (and in the time leading up to the change) I have come to respect and appreciate the skills and energy they bring to the company.

For my part, I cannot claim to know Oz as well as I would like to – but I’ve always found find his enthusiasm for Second Life never to be anything less than totally honest and infectious, and his high regard for users utterly genuine and sincere.

As such – and while his actual departure from the Lab is still more than a week away,  – I’d like to take this opportunity to offer him a personal and public “thank you” for all the times he’s provided me with insight and / or encouraged me to get involved in various projects, all of it has been greatly appreciated. I am, and will be, genuinely saddened to see him leave the Lab; we are all losing something in his departure, and the void left will not be easy for the management team to fill.

Name Changes: new last names released

© Linden Lab

On Thursday, February 11th, Linden Lab announced the release of a new selection of last names for Premium members as a part of the Name Changes capability.

As with other updates to the last names list, the release comes with the retirement of a number of the less popular names that had been on the list. The update also come on the heels of Keira Linden indicating during the February 2021 Web User Group meeting that the Lab were hoping to get some new names out in readiness for Valentines Day – and some of the new options could be said to reflect this.

Absinthe – Amore – Aviator – Blackwood – Bunny – Caboose – Dakota – Darkheart –  Evergarden
– Incognito – Knickers – Nebula – Orlando – Suki  – Venus

Of these, Amore, Venus, Suki (to like / have a fondness for) and Darkheart also appear to have the promised Valentine lean – and Darkheart itself was suggested at the Web User Group. All the rest are a more general mix, although I confess to finding Knickers and Caboose raising a smile, given their relationship to underwear and the human rear end – as such, a part of me is anticipating some more …. imaginative … pairings of these two names with first names!

Up until now, changes to the list of available names has been somewhat infrequent – this is only the second update to the list since the capability was introduced in April 2020. However during the Web User Group meeting, Keira further indicated that the Lab would like to issue updates somewhat more regularly – although how regularly had still to be determined.

In terms of how names are selected for addition to the list, this appears to be through the use of two main sources: names selected from the entries received during the 2019 Last Names competition (which saw several thousand suggested names submitted), and names selected by the Lab. Future lists might also see “normal” last names from the physical world added to the list, whilst there has been a suggestion that there has been some debate within the Lab  about returning legacy last names to the mix, which had previously been rued out.

About Name Changes

Name Changes is a Premium-only benefit that allows Premium subscribers to change their first name, their last name or both their first and last name on the payment of fee (US $39.99 + VAT  / sales tax, where applicable at the time of writing). Through it, users can opt to use any first name of their own choice, while last names are selected from a pre-defined list.

If you are unfamiliar with the capability, you can read more via the following links:

Virtual Community Radio: music and more for your world

Virtual Community Radio in Second Life

Virtual Community Radio (VCR) is a new 24/7 new internet radio station based within Second Life and service the wider metaverse, be it other virtual worlds, those who reside in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and their associated territories, can listen to the service via a web browser – including using the links on the right of this blog -, whilst the the station’s URL (http://main.vcradio.org/) can be used through in-world region and / or parcel media and suitable app players such as VLC or WinAmp.

Founded by Richard Elen, known in-world as award-winning DJ and radio presenter, and co-host of Designing Worlds, Elrik “Rik” Merlin, will officially launch on Saturday, February 6th with an in-world gala at their new headquarters. Programming is hosted through Live365 and primarily consists of light classical music, with some selected additional classical, baroque, early music, soundtracks and easy listening pieces.

Virtual Community Radio is about Virtual Communities – groups of people with common interests in virtual worlds like Second Life® – and about Community Radio – talking to people in those groups and providing entertainment and information they enjoy. In addition to being aimed at listeners in virtual worlds, it’s also for listeners on the wider Internet.

from VCR’s About page

Outside of their primary programme schedule, VCR will provide additional and wider selections of music genres on a rotating basis of special programming, alongside an an expanding schedule of additional content with a particular emphasis on spoken word presentations – live and recorded readings, radio drama and other similar material.

In this latter regard, VCR will be working with the likes of Seanchai Library, Engines Of Our Ingenuity and ZBS Media to present  unique, quality content, and the station is open to suggestions for similar suitable spoken word programming – so if you know of an individual or group presenting such, please contact the station.

Virtual Community Radio Theatre

With the launch of VCR, initial programming will include Where’ve You Been? This will be a discussion-style programme covering a range of topics: interesting sights and places around Second Life and Tarot @ Teatime a series on the history and techniques of Tarot card reading. Meanwhile The Grove (commencing on Saturday, February 13th) will offer live presentations of new age music on an evocative starlit sea.

Drama presentations will launch with the airing of the classic landmark radio drama series The Black Mass, featuring thirty tales of mystery, imagination and the human mind, created by the late Erik Bauersfeld over half a century ago.

As a non-commercial, non-profit public radio service, VCR is supported by direct sponsorship by individuals, organisations, and businesses. Those who would like to support the station can do so by visiting the station’s sponsorship page, but in brief:

  • Currently, there is one level of sponsorship set at L$5,000 (approx. US $20) per 4-week period. In return, sponsors receive a 300x300px graphic panel on the VCR website, which is displayed in rotation with those of other sponsors; a link to a URL or SLurl, and a crafted, suitable public service announcement (PSA) that will be frequently broadcast as a part of programming.
  • Those interested in providing sponsorship should contact VCR via info@vcradio.org or IM / send a note card VirtualCommunityRadio Resident in Second Life.
  • Additional sponsorship opportunities will be made available in due course.
  • Those who appreciate VCR in-world presentation or enjoy listing to the station’s programming can additional make donations towards the station’s costs via the tip jars within the VCR Theatre or by direct in-world payment to VirtualCommunityRadio Resident.

As noted above, the station will officially launch with an opening gala ball that will be held at the VCR Theatre, commencing at 14:00 SLT on Saturday, February 6th. Formal wear is requested for the opening.

With thanks to Caledonia Skytower.

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