27 February 2011

Answering RZ users' complaints

Another member of the Phoenix Viewer Project posted a rather lengthy reply to Avril Korman's excellent column at Search Engine Watch on the RedZone war. I posted my own reply to that, and will reproduce it here just in case it's removed or edited at the RZ forum.


I'm going to wade into the lion's den here, to raise a few points. As with Srilania, these are my own personal opinions, and not those of The Phoenix Viewer Project, Inc. or any other member of the project.

Yes, I'm the nasty evil person who added Sione Lomu's media filtering patch to Phoenix, and will add it to Firestorm. I did that and will continue to improve it because your profits don't override my right to privacy. I'm not a copybotter, or a griefer, and do not engage in, condone, or support either. (Comments that I do, whether because I added the media filter patch or for some other purported reason, will be summarily ignored.)

I am a content creator and vendor myself, as well as owning a store and a play area and a private sim. I don't have these kinds of problems.

Fundamentally, I have to ask: are you using the tools already in place? Those of you getting hammered with object spam, why haven't you turned rez and object entry off? Those of you calling for unlimited ban lists, have you filed a JIRA asking for them? (And if so, what's the number? Those of us on the other side of the argument would happily lend our support.)

Don't like getting flooded with freebie alt accounts? Have you turned on the option on your land to require payment info on file? Are you on mainland? If so, WHY? Band together, get a private sim, set whatever restrictive covenant you like.

Some things just aren't possible. For example, it is simply not possible for LL to stop copybotters. Never mind blocking copybotting viewers. They're not needed. It's entirely possible to have a proxy program in between a legitimate SL viewer - even, or especially, ones supplied by Linden Lab - and SL, and have it pass things through unaltered, but save textures and object data and everything else locally so it can be used later. It is not technically possible to stop such a proxy. Don't like it? Tough. It's a limitation of the platform.

Yes, I use alts. Some are public. Some are not. The ones that are not are nobody's business but my own and those who I choose to tell. The rest of you can simply butt the heck out. I have good and sufficient reasons for this, and it's neither open for discussion nor negotiable. Quit trying to destroy my privacy, and I'll reconsider my opposition to RZ. Until then, as far as I'm concerned, it needs to be killed with fire.

I refuse to be scanned any more than I doubtlessly already have by RZ. Don't want me on your property because I refuse to be scanned? Fine. I don't want to be there anyway. Had the club not dropped RZ, I would have stopped going to one of Avril's DJ sets (she's a close RL friend, and the one responsible for getting me into SL) rather than support a RZ user.

RZ is the wrong answer to solve legitimate problems. The fundamental technology is subject to far too many false positives, and yet RZ users treat it like it's gospel. Use the tools you have, and get LL to give you better ones. Don't destroy the privacy of legitimate users to solve problems you can fix in other ways.

I'm disappointed in all of this for a more personal reason. I use and like zFire Prim Animator. Stuff it made is in one of my products. However, I can't trust it any more. I can't use or recommend something from the guy who produces RZ.

23 February 2011

Kill zFire RedZone with fire!

I'm going to repeat my usual disclaimer here, just to pre-empt the whining and screaming that would otherwise follow. This post is purely my own opinions and thoughts. It is not a statement of The Phoenix Viewer Project, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of any other member of the Phoenix team. If you want to know what some other Phoenix developer thinks about this, ask them.

The subject of zFire Xue's RedZone system has ben a hot topic around SL for the past couple of weeks. RedZone is marketed as a tool against griefers and copybotters. It works by matching the avatar's name with its IP address by feeding the viewer a URL with the information encoded it it for that purpose and having it play it as media (a movie). The information thus collected is then used to link other avatars with the same IP address to that one, as an alt of that user.

This has many problems:
  • It's inaccurate. IP addresses are not normally fixed to a specific user. Even RedZone's own data server is on a dynamically-allocated IP address. Someone else who comes along behind a user on an IP address they've inherited will be listed as an alt of that user. People who use public access IP facilities, such as hotel wireless connections, will all be listed as alts of each other.
  • It violates the laws of several European countries which prohibit logging of IP addresses and associating them with any personally identifiable information.
  • It violates sections 8.2 and 8.3 of the Second Life Terms of Service, by transmitting content that violates users' privacy and is illegal.
  • It's nobody's $DEITY->damned business who my alts are.
The last is what makes this personal for me. Yes, I have alts. If I think you need to know about them, I will tell you. If not, I will not, and you have no right to know. That is my decision and mine alone. I have what I believe are more than good and sufficient reasons for keeping it that way. Don't like it? Too damned bad.

I'm far from alone in this belief. However, I am in a position to help users do something about it and keep their privacy.

First, I am working to make Sione Lomu's media whitelist/blacklist patch available in the mainline Phoenix and Firestorm viewers. The main code is present already in Phoenix. There are some refinements that need to be made; I'm working on them as quickly as I can. When it's ready, I will push as hard as I can to get a full Phoenix release out with that protection in place.

Next, I will, purely for myself and not as a part of the Phoenix project in any way, post instructions specifically on how to block RedZone with that facility. I will also do my best to make sure that they are widely spread around SL.

Finally, I will continue to work with others to help spread the word about RedZone and see that it is removed from places that people frequent. Put simply: Anyone who uses RZ is declaring war on their users' privacy, and they should be shunned.

I really wish it hadn't come to this. But since there's a war on, I intend to help the right side win it.

Now, anyone know of a good replacement for zFire Prim Animator? It may be the best thing out there to do that job (far better than Prim Puppeteer), but it has to go. I refuse to support its maker as long as he conducts a war on privacy.

08 February 2011

Where I've been hiding

I was moved to post the last post by annoyance about FUD from a Viewer 2 partisan, trying to convince version 1-based users to switch so they wouldn't ruin others' SL experience. It took something liek that to get me motivated to write here again.

Where have I been hiding?

Mainly, I've been heads down working on Firestorm. By now, the initial preview release of Firestorm is out and available for folks to try. It's only a preview, and those who try it should keep firmly in mind there's a long way to go yet. Many of the most popular features from Phoenix, like the radar and AO, simply aren't there yet.

Nevertheless, if you want to see where we're going, check it out. To find out more, join the Phoenix-Firestorm Preview Group inworld. That's where you'll find support for it, and the notice with the notecard that has the download links and a link to Jessica Lyon's video explanation of what's in it. Please be sure to watch the video first.

Now, back to beating on the code...

Answering anti-v1 FUD

Ash Qin has been passing around the following notecard full of FUD, arguing that people shouldn't use version 1-based viewers:
Users of 1.x viewers might not be aware...
As it stands, the 1.x viewer branch currently creates more lag and issues for other Second life residents as they are more harmful to simulator resources. In the 2.x branch of Second life, textures, assets, inventory and even various detailed information are downloaded from dedicated servers for these resources.
Many 1.x viewers don’t even support these options and those that do are using outdated methods or buggy implementations that automatically fall back onto older methods. These older methods do not request the data from the dedicated servers, but instead hammer the region with requests which degrades performance of the region for everyone. The difference measured in a region between ten users using a 1.x viewer and ten using a 2.x viewer on a region can be enormous resource wise.
Additionally, a few popular 3rd party 1.x viewers use various non-standard methods where standards have been established. One example is the use of secondary attachment points, when Second life supports attaching attachments to any point multiple times without needing to readjust attachments in the 2.x branch of viewers. The non-standard attachment points are incompatible with all the different viewers out there, while we have already a proper standard for them, this stifles the Second life user experience as 1.x viewer developers are not conforming to standards.
To summarize, the 1.x viewers are introducing more lag and creating incompatibility which reduces the user experience exponentially. 
I ask that you be more considerate and not ruin other people’s Second life experience - please don't use a 1.x viewer.
Thank you for taking the time to read this,
Quite simply, Ash, you're full of prunes.

What he's referring to in the paragraphs talking about lag is HTTP GET for textures. (No code, not even Linden Lab's Viewer 2 production releases, uses HTTP fetching for inventory. Remember the inventory problems last December or so? Those were caused when LL tried turning HTTP inventory fetch on. They had to turn it back off, and viewers will need code changes to use it now. Those changes are not in 2.4 or earlier viewers.)

All currently running Phoenix releases can and will use HTTP GET for textures, just as Viewer 2 will. The ability was turned on by default in release; users still on can set it with a menu selection. (I recommend everyone upgrade to 818 anyway, for this and many other reasons.)

The argument against secondary attachment points is an old one, dating from the time Emerald introduced it - many months before LL introduced their own system. There were a few folks complaining about others using secondary attachment points because it made things look wrong to those not using advanced viewers. As it happens, Phoenix 818 (and 725, for that matter) support multi-attach, while still viewing things on the secondary points correctly. This is the best of both worlds. People who switch from 373 or earlier to 725 or later will automatically have their attachments on secondary points converted to the new system.

Ash has a comment in his profile that's telling here:
If you can't see some attachments (ie: parts of me are missing), it's because your viewer doesn't support Linden lab's standard multi attachment support.
This is just the same complaint people raised against Emerald's secondary attachments, but in reverse. The difference is that, until the release of Phoenix 725, more people could see and use secondary attachment points than multi-attach. Even now, significantly more people use Phoenix than Viewer 2 - in any incarnation.

Who sets the standard? LL tries, but the users vote with their feet. Less than a third of users currently use Viewer 2. The percentage on Phoenix is higher than that.

I firmly believe in the idea that one should not ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity. However, I do note that Ash is associated with INSILICO and has posted some blog entries and comments defending the CDS package, claimed to be a copybot defense system. Both are projects of Skills Hak, one of the three folks LL insisted leave the Emerald team - though Skills, at least, agreed to go to keep Emerald alive.

Even so, I can't help but suspect his motives in slamming V1 viewers - and especially Phoenix, the most popular viewer on the grid - are somewhat less than pure. His arguments are either simply wrong or amount to equine sadonecrobestiality.

If you're running Phoenix 818, you're not hurting the grid in any way. The choice of what viewer to use is yours and yours alone. Don't let FUD from anyone tell you any differently.