Lab blogs on recent billing / transaction failures

On Monday, June 26th, 2017 many Second Life users encountered issues  when trying to purchase Linden Dollars or purchase goods via the SL Marketplace following a period of scheduled maintenance and updates to the billing system. These incidents were escalated to the Lab, resulting in a further period of unscheduled maintenance, during which time payment processing was suspended, which itself had some knock-on impact.

Some of these issues were still being felt on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017. However, Xiola Linden took time out to blog about what has been happening, in which she provides the following update on the situation:

After some intensive troubleshooting that – despite our best efforts – took longer than we’d have liked, the base cause of these failed transactions was resolved as of 3:51PM PDT on the same day. However, we still have the task of refunding the thousands of failed transactions to the impacted users ahead of us. A large number of Lindens across several departments have been coming in early and staying late between Monday and today to fulfil that responsibility to our users. Your patience is greatly appreciated, and we hope to complete the work as quickly as possible.

We’ll post an update to this blog as soon as we have more information to pass along. Our support agents on the phone lines and live chat do not have any additional information to provide at this time. Support cases which have already been submitted will be answered once this situation has been resolved.

Xiola goes on to note that as a result of the issues “Shrek ears” are being worn by Lab staff  – a reference to April Linden’s May 10th blog post about a bit of a SNAFU with Place Pages, in which April explains:

We encourage people to take risks and push the limits of what we think is possible with technology and virtual worlds. It helps keep us flexible and innovative. However… sometimes things don’t work out the way they were planned, and things break. What we do for penance is what makes us unique.

Around the offices (and in-world!) we have sets of overly sized green ears. If a Linden breaks the grid, they may optionally, if they choose to, wear the Shrek Ears as a way of owning their mistake.

If we see a fellow Linden wearing the Shrek Ears, we all know they’ve fessed up, and they’re owning their mistake. Rather than tease them, we try to be supportive. They’re having a bad day as it is, and it’s a sign that someone could use a little bit of niceness in their life.

At the end of the day, the Linden takes off the Shrek Ears, and we move on. It’s now in the past, and it’s time to learn from our mistakes and focus on the future … If you see a Linden wearing them, please know that’s their way of saying sorry, and they’re really having a bad day.

Posts of this nature, explaining what went wrong and why (and, where possible steps being taken to try to ensure there are no  – or at least few – repeats) are an important part of reassuring users and shining a light on just how complex a beast SL can be when things do go wrong.

In that vein, I’m still hoping we’ll get one of April’s informative blog posts on concerning the June 14th log-in issues (although I appreciate she and the Ops team likely have their hands full right now!).  but in the meantime, the “Shrek ears” notes remind us that those who work at the Lab are no different from the rest of us – something we can at times lose sight of in our own frustrations when things go wrong.

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Lab announces updates to LindeX and credit processing fees

On Tuesday, June 13th, Linden Lab announced updates to LindeX and credit processing fees, which will come into effect from Monday, June 19th, 2017.

These changes will see an increase for those purchasing Linden dollars on the LindeX and some of those paying out higher volumes Linden dollars. Specifically:

  • The fee for purchasing L$ on the LindeX will increase from $0.40 (USD) to $0.60 (USD) per transaction.
  • The fee structure for process credit transactions (i.e. paying real money into PayPal or Skrill accounts) will remain as a 1.5% fee with a $3 (USD) minimum, but the maximum fee per transaction will increase from $15 (USD) to $25 (USD).

The blog post explains the reasons for the increases as:

Underlying SL’s successful user-to-user L$ economy and the ability to buy and sell L$’s for real currency is a significant amount of ongoing work to ensure that everything remains compliant with applicable laws and regulations, while also preventing fraud and money laundering.

Investing in improvements to these processes and the ongoing compliance work required comes at a cost to Linden Lab, and we will be making some LindeX fee adjustments in order to share a portion of those costs with Residents active in the SL economy.

As there have been various reports of issues being experienced by some trying to cash-out, the news of the increases is unlikely to be welcomed, whatever the reasons for any delays being experience or however valid the reasons for increasing the charges.

Second Life Windlight environmental enhancements

As I recently reported, Linden Lab are starting on a set of Second Life environmental enhancements, including the ability to define the environment (sky, sun, moon, clouds) at the  parcel level. These changes to the environment controls are quite extensive, and wrap a number of ideas together into a single project.

On Tuesday, June 13th, Rider Linden, who is leading the work made a preliminary document on what is being considered available via the Simulator User Group meeting. In it, several enhancements to the windlight environment capabilities are outlined, and are summarised below – please read Rider’s document for the full details.

Environment Inventory Asset

A new asset type that can be stored, managed and traded through the Second Life inventory and the Marketplace. This asset type will:

  • Comprise a Sky asset for adjusting atmospheric effects, clouds, the sun,moon and stars; and a Water asset for controlling the environment under the surface of Linden water and the appearance of the surface of the water)
  • Allow users apply any environment settings, viewer-side (they will not affect how others see things) directly from inventory. When dismissed by the user, the environment reverts to the current parcel or regional environment settings.

Parcel-based Environment Settings

This will allow parcel owners to apply their own custom day cycles and environment settings independently of the region settings, and which will be applied to all viewers entering the parcel. Estate owners / managers will be able to explicitly disallow parcel owners in their estates from setting a custom environment.

Costa Blanco, Costa Blanco; Inara Pey, May 2017, on Flickr The new environmental inventory asset will soon make it possible for users to set the sky, lighting, etc., they see in their viewer directly from inventory, while parcel environment settings will allow parcel holder to set the environment in their parcel (subject to region override), which will be seen by all visitors to the parcel

Experience Based Environment Settings

Two new two script functions will allow LSL scripts to change the environment for an individual agent (avatar), providing the agent has accepted the associated experience. Setting the environment for an agent through LSL will override any region or parcel environmental settings and freeze the day cycle for the agent. Leaving a region will dismiss any changes made by either of these functions.

The two new functions are currently outlined as:

llSetAgentEnvironment(key agent_id, string environment, float transition)

Where:

  • agent_id: The participating agent’s UUID
  • environment: The name of an environment setting in the inventory of the prim. This item may be either a sky or water setting
  • transition: The number of seconds over which to gradually apply the new settings.

Sets the agent’s environment to match the environmental settings identified by environment. Passing a null key in environment_id will restore the environment to the parcel or region settings. A script may set water and sky settings independently.

llAdjustAgentEnvironment(key agent_id, list env_params, float transition_time)

Where:

  • agent_id: The participating agent’s UUID
  • env_params: A list of environment parameters to be applied to the agent. Any parameters omitted from the list are unchanged
  • transition: The number of seconds over which to gradually apply the new settings.

Sets specific environment settings for this agent. Environmental parameters not specified in the params list are taken from the current environment and frozen. Passing an empty list will restore the environment to the parcel or region settings.

Extended Day Cycle and Extended Environmental Settings Parameters

The day cycle for a region or parcel may be set between 4 and 168 hours (7 days), and may contain multiple sky and water settings spaced over the course of a day. The environment will smoothly interpolate from one setting to the next over the course of a day.

Further, all adjustable environment fields may be recorded in a sky or water settings object, and  in addition the following fields may also be changed:

  • cloud_noise – the UUID for texture describing cloud noise pattern
  • cloud_texture – UUID for a texture describing the base cloud texture
  • moon_texture – UUID of a texture used to render the moon
  • sun_texture – UUID of a texture used to render the sun
  • wave_texture – UUID of the normal map used to render waves.

Feedback

Again, please note, all of the above are preliminary ideas for the work, and shouldn’t be necessarily taken as being set in stone. As Rider Linden said in the meeting:

[Here’s] what I’m planning scope wise in very broad strokes. I’d love to hear some feed back over the next couple weeks.

This being the case, those with an interest in contributing ideas and suggestions, etc., about the work are initially invited to do so through the forum of the weekly Simulator User Group meetings, which are held every Tuesday, between 12:00 noon and 13:00 SLT, in Denby. Details on the meetings can be found on the Simulator User Group wiki page.

Lab issues Second Life account security tips / warning

Linden Lab has issued a reminder / warning about the need for Second Life users to keep their account details secure.

It comes as a result of tools such as viewer “wrappers” (third-party applications which must be launched in order to run the viewer) which effectively takes away a user’s ability to control their account. by making changes to both the account password and the e-mail address associated with the account (thus effectively preventing the user from ever recovering their account). In some cases, these viewers / wrappers may even effectively pass control of an account to another user.

All of the above is not only dangerous in terms of account security / integrity – it is also against Linden Lab’s Terms of Service.

The blog post carrying the warning is reproduced in full below, was issued by the Governance Team. It is designed to clarify the use of such viewers / wrappers, and provide Second Life users with guidelines on keeping their accounts secure. Please read and keep in mind.

Hey everyone,

It’s recently come to our attention that there has been an increase in the use of a third-party tools that give account credentials and control over a Resident’s account to another Resident. This and similar products can change an account password and/or details, such as email address, which could prevent an owner from accessing an account, or even from being able to recover the account.

We want to remind everyone that giving another Resident access to your account or account information, by any means and for any reason, is both dangerous and not permitted by the Terms of Service. An account is intended to be used solely by its creator, and keeping your account details secret and secure helps you keep it that way.

We’d like to provide you with some quick tips on how to keep your account secure:

Choose a secure password with upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, spaces, and symbols, and avoid common dictionary words or phrases. For instance, “password” is not a good password, but “wh4tAr g@t4P55!” is much better (though you shouldn’t use that last one either, now that all of Second Life just read it, too).

Choose a secret security question answer. To keep your information extra secure, choose an answer that you will remember, but that no one else could possibly guess. For example, answering “What is your favourite vacation spot?” with “Potsdam, Pennsylvania” isn’t secure if you have that listed as an interest on your social media accounts. Answering “The Wide Wide World of Sports” might be much more secure!

Keep your password and the answer to your security question secret from everyone, regardless of their relationship to you. Only you should know this information; not your significant other, family member, casual acquaintance, person with an honest look in their eye, or anyone else.

Keep your password unique and special to Second Life. Reusing the same password across different platforms or websites makes your account vulnerable if one of those sites suffer a data breach.

No Linden will ever ask for your password. Likewise, there is never a reason for you to enter your password to unlock an item, receive a discount, or anything else.

Use only the official Second Life Viewer, or a Third Party Viewer from the Third Party Viewer Directory. If the viewer does not allow you to log directly into your account for any reason, the viewer is NOT secure.

You can read more about keeping your information secure on the wiki at Linden Lab Official: Password Protection

If you have any problems accessing your account—especially if you believe that your password or security information may be known to anyone other than you—please contact the support team by opening a support case.

Thanks for keeping your account secure!

– Governance Linden