October 19, 2009

Everybody knows Emerald steals passwords

The following dialogue is quoted from memory - I had similar conversations in the past, so this is quite symptomatic:
Random Avatar: I don't trust a viewer that hides code in an open source project.
Peter Stindberg: How do you hide code in open source software?
Random Avatar: Code obfuscator! It is common knowledge on the Linux mailinglist that Emerald has some shady stuff hidden in the source.
Peter Stindberg: So you personally found hidden code in the Emerald source?
Random Avatar: No, it was discussed on the list.
Peter Stindberg: So someone you know and trust found hidden code and posted it on the mailinglist?
Random Avatar: No, it got widely discussed on the list.
Peter Stindberg: But you personally saw hidden code posted on the list?
Random Avatar: [does not answer anymore]

Even though I lately use Emerald more and more often, I am not a big fan of that viewer. Early version crashed quite a lot on me (<= 10 minutes) - newer versions still crash typically after 60-90 minutes. Some features seem to be incorporated in a haphazard way. All in all it looks a bit chaotic from a development point of view, with many people adding very exciting new features, but with no coordinated development roadmap and little bugtesting. I also don't like that in public perception features get attributed to Emerald that were first shown in other viewers, like the "worn" tab, or inventory-double-click which dates back to the old Nicholaz viewers. But for that only the public perception is to blame, and not the Emerald team. Anyways, no other viewer has experienced such a rumor mill and is source for so many conspiracy theories. Allegedly, Emerald sends your passwords to a hidden server, secretly steals your L$, tracks your every move, eavesdrops your IM's, will steal YOUR creations or allow YOU to steal OTHER's creations (depending on who you listen to). And no, I did not make that list up, those were issues brought up in open chat very much like the chat I quoted from memory above.

  • Fact is, that Emerald is open source. Which means everybody has access to the sourcecode, and can examine the code and can compile the code to get their own executable fileset. In fact, making the modified code open source is one of the requirements of the license imposed by Linden Lab if you want to make an alternative viewer. There is only ONE viewer I am aware of that does NOT publish the code, and this is Kirsten's Shadow Viewer. There would be WAY more reason to think anything shady (pun not intended) might be hidden in the Kirsten viewers, but I heard no allegations so far.
  • Fact is, that if Emerald would steal your passwords, we would know by now! For whatever reason there are a whole bunch of folks out there who would have a heyday if something shady could be proven to be hidden in Emerald. Which means that not only in theory the code can be checked by anybody, but I am pretty sure the code IS ACTIVELY checked by 3rd parties, thoroughly, with each new release. I am convinced same 3rd parties run packet sniffers and all sorts of tools to catch Emerald with a smoking gun. The person who proves that Emerald does something illegal will be the hero of the day, and many will take their chances and thoroughly check it. If Emerald would be a Trojan Horse, we would know it by now.
  • Fact is, that Emerald has a whole bunch of functions that prevent theft and griefing! Emerald protects your clothing layers, uploading only baked layers to the server, so no one can steal individual layers of your clothing. Emerald detects a whole range of griefing attacks and stops them dead in their tracks.
Use Emerald if you like - a lot of great features speak for it. Don't use Emerald if you don't like. If you have security concerns, simply don't use it. But please stop spreading unverified rumours! The code is out there for anybody to see.

October 09, 2009

Musings on my 3rd rezday

I don't know what exactly made me sign up on that 9th of October back in 2006. I knew of Second Life before, in fact followed coverage of it loosely on BoingBoing.net - I even downloaded the client a few times but never took the final step to register. Back then a credit card was mandatory even for free accounts, and while I had a CC (not typical in my spot of the world) I was reluctant to use it.

But on that day, I made all these steps, registered my account, gave my credit card details, chose my name and logged in, stumbled my way over orientation island, talked to the parrot, made my first clumsy moves with camera control to see the back of that test-panel, lifted a stone and practised my object moving skill and finally climbed to the temple, leaped into the air, and flew into my new life.

My first months in SL were not the best. In retrospect I consider them lost time. I met the wrong people, hung out in the wrong places, and spent an incredibly silly amount of time with camping. When I look at "people my age" (read: signed up in fall 2006) many have more or less directly shaped this world for themselves. I was on the brink of leaving when I found my first real friends, people who made me stay, who are intelligent, creative and who give soul to this place. I am blessed with the ongoing friendship of some of them. Cake Kidd, Caterin Semyorka (though she is barely on anymore), lorinz Gloucester.

My Second Life got some structure when I founded Babel Translations in summer 2007. Babel posed a great and exciting challenge, Babel provided wonderful successes, Babel provided financial independence. And in the process of building Babel, new friends came. Tina Lynch and Gina Glimmer, who became a friend, a soul mate, finally in January 2008 my partner - and a while later my lover.

Real drama and artificial drama found me in 2008. My beloved Gina was forced to leave SL. A friend turned enemy over false claims - I got blackmailed and threatened in the process. But also good things happened. I found one of my closest friends and now my SL-sister Trinity Dechou, who helped me through the loss of Gina, and with who I forged a strong band of friendship. I found a new love, and while it ultimately did not last, I enjoyed the time with her very much. I renewed the friendship with London Spengler. I met one of the most amazing talents in SL - Ivanova Shostakovich - and founded GREENE concept with her. I came across Rika Watanabe's blog and when I met her in-world for the first time it "clicked" and we formed a strong friendship as well and find exceptional fun in working on projects with each other. And two other close friendships formed in 2008 - with the wonderful Quaintly Tuqiri and with the equally wonderful Zippora Zabelin.

This year - 2009 - started with a bang. Having been partnered for only a few weeks after having been together for almost 9 months, my partner broke up with me. While I was confused and also hurt at that time, it was the beginning of a new chapter in my SL. Being dragged to an event by my friend Nadine Nozaki to "get some brooding thoughts out of my mind" I discovered the Blacklist, a club which showed me the whole beauty of Second Life and the liberties to be whoever we want to be there. The Blacklist has become my favourite hangout where I can be found typically several times a week. I made friends there too, especially Lectra Forte, but also Hyang Zhao, Shye Kidd, Jo Soosung, Yoshimi Yoshikawa and many others.

In many aspects 2009 was the best year so far. I found love from unexpected and unusual sides, finally admitting the mutual feelings with London, but also - carefully and constantly surprised - finding out that I can love more than one person at once. While being with London - and actually encouraged by her - I finally allowed romantic feelings for another person who I unfortunately still can not name publicly. And finally there is Nissa Nightfire. I met Nissa the year before doing PR for my former partner when I contacted her as fashion blogger. We had occasional contact, but in 2009 the contact intensified, and we became friends. And the contact intensified more, and over the course of months, of slowly getting to know each other, we became lovers - something neither of us expected, but something that is thrilling each day anew.

By the time of posting this, there will be a party at the Blacklist to honor me. Nissa secretly planned the party, and from what I have seen during this day, she must have worked her lovely butt off with everything she arranged. As a thank you for organizing that, I spent quite some time and thought on an outfit I hope no one ever expected from me - King Peter I. of Beachwood.

I am blessed to have great friends! Blessed to have their affection, blessed to have their respect. Blessed that they opened their hearts and souls to me. Blessed to have two wonderful lovers. Blessed to have a great sister. There are so many of you not explicitely mentioned, but all of you make my life special, make my SL rich.

Thank you, thank you everybody I met over the past three years who I can call friend.

Thank you!