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Combating Emerald Atrophy

Looks like I’m not the only one considering Emerald Atrophy, over on the Modular Systems blog (and why are they still using that?) Arabella has posted an invitation for developers.

Are You Interested in being an Emerald Developer?

Emerald Dev Team is currently fielding applications for new Windows, Mac and Linux developers. Experience building the sl viewer or the Emerald viewer and C++ required. Experience with Pyhon, cmake, svn and HG preferred.

Must be able to work in a team environment but most importantly, have the courage to help us bring the Emerald Viewer back from the brink. Please submit applications in the form of Notecards titled “Dev Application” to Jessica Lyon.

~ by arabellasteadham on August 27, 2010.

Posted in Emerald Viewer
Tags: Developer, Emerald Viewer, Emeraldviewer

One has to wonder how many developers would be attracted to working on Emerald at this point in time.  Certainly as a real life developer myself, I would defiantly not be interested in getting involved.

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The Law, Emerald Atrophy and Emergence

Let me first start out by saying that I’m not a hater of the Emerald Viewer or of any of the (legal) achievements of the Emerald team.  I used the viewer myself for a long time and prefer it over the official viewer, personally I’m not to sure of the 1.4 beta interface, but it was still a lot better than Viewer 2.  What I do have a problem with is the history and some of the actions of some of the developers that were or are involved in Emerald.

Theres a law over here in the UK that may make it illegal to knowingly be involved in a DDoS attack, the jury is still out on whether or not it applies to owners of machines co-opted into a DDoS by someone else if the owner knew of the use of the machine.  But I personally don’t want to take the chance, and while we didn’t know the Emerald Team could use Emerald to launch a DDoS and didn’t know certain members would use it in that way, we do know now and I believe it to be too much a risk that it could be done again.

So the solution would be to remove anyone from the team that have proven themselves untrustworthy in the past right?  Well, apart from the difficulty in verifying that any such person is actually removed from the team, it seems that the main problem for Emerald is there are very few developers left.

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Deleted Blog Post: LL requirements for Emerald

A post from the Modular Systems blog seems to have disappeared, maybe their having some back-end problems over there, but google cache caught it and I’ll reproduce it after the break.

The only comment I’ll make is on the highlighted part below, just how out of compliance with the TPV Policy was Emerald and the Emerald Team?

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Linden Lab call out Emerald

It seems that Linden Lab have finally responded to recent events surrounding the popular Emerald Viewer.  Currently actions are restricted to removing the viewer from the Third Party Viewer Directory, an event some tried to pass off as being because of the change or project ownership and while delisting is not terminal for the viewer, LL seem to be keeping their options open.

We take privacy, safety, and security very seriously, and we will act to the best of our abilities to protect it. We have not yet disabled logins via the Emerald viewer, but will do so if we feel the software and the team behind it is not able to meet the standards we’ve set. While Emerald is currently the focus of our attention because of what happened recently, all third-party viewers are held to the same standard, and must comply with the third-party viewer policy.

Emphasis mine.

It’s certainly good that Linden Lab will consider blocking the viewer if it and the team behind it don’t meet LL’s standards, but many still question if Emerald should have been there in the first place.  And only time will tell if Linden Labs standards are high enough to protect their customers from the untrustworthy.

In the mean time, I’m getting to love Imprudence, and I still recommend anyone using Emerald visit the TPV Directory and try a new viewer.

Edit: It seems a very message to that linked above has been emailed by Philip Linden to many, if not all, Second Life users.  A full copy of the text after the break.

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Faux improvements in the new Marketplace announced by Grant Linden

More incomprehensible changes in the new Marketplace from the XStreet standard announced by Grant Linden.

A note on reviews:
You  may have noticed that reviews are showing up on the SL Marketplace Beta  site that are not currently showing up on XstreetSL. The way that  XstreetSL is designed, no reviews are revealed for a product until four  reviews are written. We improved on this feature in the new marketplace,  and products on the new marketplace will show reviews after the 1st  review is posted.

Now it seems to me that the reason behind waiting for four reviews on XStreet is quite simply to avoid the situation where someone malicious comes along and one-stars an item just for the hell of it, causing that item to be buried whenever someone orders things by rating.

People do take note of star ratings when browsing the XStreet, I certainly do, and skip over items rated very low.  It isn’t going to end well if you allow one person to have the power to cause a new item to be one-star rated.

Grant, if your reading this, it’s not a good idea and its defiantly not an improvement.


Emerald: There is still an Onyx Phox in the hen house

OK, not strictly about TalTECH in any way, but stick with me because the emerald fracturing events happening over at Modular Systems HQ bear comment.

For those not keeping track, there has been disquiet recently with the actions of a number (though I hasten to add not all) of the developers behind the popular Emerald Viewer.  Many opinions abound of permanent bans being issued to previous avatars of JCool/Fractured Crystal and Phox, to name just a few which would mean that Emerald should never have been in the TPV Directory in the first place.

There has been controversy over CDS, a grid wide ban link system them purports to detect copybot clients and ban them, sadly totally useless and a waste of L$ since anyone with half a brain, and thus most copybotters, can figure out how to make CDS useless against them.  Kind of ironic however that a previous copybot client creator is now making money out of preying on content creators fears of copybots,  however useless the tool actually is.  The side effect of this tool however is to place in the hands of people who have previously proven themselves as untrustworthy, data which can be used to geo-locate Residents and may be used to associate different alts with the same user.  Add to that data collected from the Modular Systems RegApi interface, against RegApi rules I might add, and you have a seriously worrying amount of data in these people’s hands.

And then Onyx. I pointed out above that a previous copybot creator was making money out of CDS, except that it appears Fractured and his friends never stopped making copybots.  Onyx appears to be a version of Emerald with all the copybot goodness from vlife included and examination of the leaked source code repository shows active development from our friends Fractured and Phox.  Many people would agree that after a revelation like this, Linden Lab should have taken action, allowing a large proportion of their account users to continue using a viewer that these people were involved with shows irresponsibility on LL’s part.  Sadly LL did nothing.

And then Fractured went to far. You see he committed a crime and he used every Emerald user to do it.  By his own admission, Fractured added hidden iFrames to the bottom of the Emerald login window which loaded pages and images from a critics website.  The owner of that site reported that over 10 days, over 800GB of data was downloaded from his site and approximately 170,000 page hits a day with the Emerald login screen as the referer.  This had a side effect of breaking part of the terms of the TPV policy, specifically section 2.d.iii

You must not launch Denial of Service (“DoS”) attacks, engage in griefing, or distribute other functionality that Linden Lab considers harmful or disruptive to Second Life or the Second Life community.

And sure enough, take a look at the TPV Directory today and Emerald is no longer listed.  Last night, Arabella Steadham announced a restructuring of the Emerald project.  Fractured has apparently stepped down from the project and is handing it lock, stock and barrel over to Arabella, but is this enough or is it too little too late?

First, how can we be sure Fractured won’t be back under a different name?  Given what Fractured has thought he can get away with in the past, is it possible that he’s still going to be involved in Emerald though the rest of the developers will claim not?  And even if he has totally left right now, whats to stop him coming back later under a different name?

Second, whats happening with Onyx and CDS?  Fractured is, as far as I can tell, in charge of these projects too and they still exist.  Unknown amounts of data about users are stored by Fractured and his friends, and he’s known to actively develop a copybot client, isn’t it about time Linden Lab stepped on this kind of thing?

And third, as the post title says, there’s still a Phox in the hen-house.  In the past a griefer, involved in the creation and maintenance of a current copybot and rumoured to have received a permanent ban from LL in the past, and still involved in the development of Emerald and a conduit for “features” to make their way into Emerald from Onyx.  If the Emerald team want to regain any respect they need to remove people like him from the team permanently.

Is it too late for Emerald?  I don’t really know at this time, but what I do know is that I don’t trust Emerald any more.  I’ve switched to Imprudence already and I would encourage anyone reading this to consult the Third Party Viewer Directory and select a new viewer for themselves.

Don’t forget to change your passwords after you switch, just in case.

Edited 24/08/2010 to correct some typos.
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Marketplace updates, XStreet features turned off

A few days ago I posted a list of what is wrong with LL’s new Marketplace complaining primarily about LL’s push to add features that would cost the merchants over features that would actually be useful.  It seems LL has pushed out a new update with some new features, so lets revisit that list (the scored out items are the updates).

  • A listing of items sold and who to.
  • The ability to re-deliver items if the original delivery fails.
  • Feedback / rating system.
  • Traffic reporting.
  • Listing templates.
  • The ability to change the object associated with a listing (useful if you put version numbers in the name for your products)
  • Mass activation/deactivation of items.
  • An interface that doesn’t reset to defaults whenever it likes (for example, in your Manage Inventory screen, click the link to show only listed items, click the link to unlist one of the items and the table returns to the default of showing all inventory)
  • The ability to sort the inventory table
  • Search Inventory function that can search on partial words, not just full word.  (for example, searching for Bun in my inventory returns no hits, Bunker returns all my Bunker Assault ranges)

So it’s an improvement at least.  But here the big problem, hidden away in a sub-sub-sub bullet point

Ratings and Reviews feature for XstreetSL will be turned off, meaning that no new Ratings or Reviews can be added to the site.

Yup, LL have decided to start neutering XStreet SL in preference to their half-finished, feature-light Marketplace. Some times you have to wonder who comes up with these ideas.


Firing Ranges on the “NEW” marketplace..

You may have noticed that LL are pushing their new, still in beta, marketplace at the top of the welcome page to XStreet SL.  A few people have asked me why they can’t find my firing ranges in the new marketplace.  The simple answer is, because they aren’t there.

The new marketplace simply doesn’t yet have the features necessary to make it useful, I’ll list these after the break, but I’d describe the current state of the marketplace as in-development or Alpha at best, there is no way it can be described as beta.

Whats worse is that LL appears to be concentrating on features that the can charge merchants for rather than features that are actually useful, as shown by their recent announcement of if chargeable feature placement on the checkout and cart pages.

In the mean time, you can still find TalTECH firing ranges on the original XStreet SL marketplace.

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Were moving…

Were moving this domain over to another hosting site, so you might find things not working for a short time over the next few days as DNS propagates and files get transfered.

Edit: If your seeing this, your looking at the new site, welcome! There are a few things that still need fixed, we’ll get everything working asap.

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