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August 23, 2010

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.
Posted in Viewers

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