12 August 2008

Second Life

I have one. Can't think why I haven't blogged this before!
I had a brief look at SL several years back, but the interface was clunky and I wasn't enthused enough to continue. A few months ago I tried again, found it much improved, and as soon as I got beyond the 'new player experience' I was hooked.

I'll assume you've at least read the media accounts of Second Life, which indicate that it is populated by pedophiles, virtual conferencing business suits and land sharks. Well those people are there in small numbers, but the bulk of 'residents' do other things.

The difference between SL and other online games is that players have the in world editing program. Almost everything you see in SL is constructed by players - buildings, avatars, vehicles and so on. There is a scripting language that enables them to add animations, sound and video. So what do they do with this? Well actually they do what people do in Real Life...

Have sex. Sex in SL is (for me at least) mostly fun, but now and then a good animation with attractive avatars and a good partner can be surprisingly erotic. For others, I gather it works quite well as a masturbation aid, and good luck to them! It's also interesting as part of the overall kick I get out of roleplaying games, which is to be 'someone else'.

Learn new skills. In SL this means finding out how to Create things, something I've only scratched the surface of so far. I've extensively rebuilt my castle, modified clothes, can do textures but my scripting is still Read Only.

Make money. Well, not so far. as in RL that requires a good product, marketing and after sales service with the added twist that the relative values of things are entirely different. A castle is cheaper than a sex bed because of the time spent creating them, since raw material cost is zero.

30 July 2008

Anonymous terrorism

My Anonymous friends have just notched up their sixth monthly worldwide protest against the Church of Scientology, and the cult still hasn't a clue about how to stop them. In most locations the cult seems to have retreated inside its buildings, stuck its fingers in its ears and pretended nothing is happening, which would have been a sensible reaction from the start if the leader of Scientology David Miscavige had effective control over his staff.

However with his rational senior staff leaving or locked up in Scientology's prison camp in California Miscavige is increasingly at the mercy of the fanatics, who are telling members that the Nazi Communist terrorists that the multinational drug companies are paying to attack the Scientology religion will be exposed as sex criminals any day, any month, any year, any decade now. Fine - except that they are telling the press the same because they really believe it.

Personally I've been concentrating recently on getting protests going at Saint Hill, the cult headquarters in the UK. It's a big mansion out in the beautiful Sussex countryside, a pleasant day out with pints in the pub afterwards.

ISP, broadband update

My ISP (Orange) like most large mass market ones offer webspace as part of their package. However as they don't actually make any money out of personal websites their wonks keep trying to correct this. Their first attempt was an ad banner, easily circumvented by linking direct to index.html. Their latest is to delete my website, scrap FTP access and tell me to rebuild from scratch using a crap online editor.
Enough! I moved to the company (Freezone) that look after the Newsfrombree domain for me. They have the dreadfully old fashioned idea that providing services that customers want is a good way to run a business.

On the Broadband front however Orange are improving. I switched to their current package which comes with a wireless router though I'm using its Ethernet connection at present, and it has an automatic speed regulator that typically has me at 3Mb. Heh, right now it's 0.7Mb, it does wobble now and then but at least the connection rarely drops.

24 March 2008

Stealth upgrading

Did I mention that the 2006 attempt to upgrade my broadband speed from 1Mb to 2Mb failed? The line was dropping too often so Silent Fred, the BT engineer who doesn't tell you anything, reset it back to 1MB.

Easter Sunday, with no warning, my connection went up to 2Mb again and this time it's holding steady without a single dropout. I can only suppose there's been an upgrade somewhere along the line.

It took me a long hunt on the Internet to find a webpage that explained with numbers how to check your own connection, so let me pass this on:

The two parameters that matter are Signal to Noise ratio (S/N, Margin) and Drop off (Attenuation). Both are measured in decibels (Db).
S/N is the difference in strength between the signal and the background hiss. It needs to be >10Db. Attenuation is the difference between the signal strength when it leaves the Exchange and when it reaches your modem, and the higher the speed the lower the limit for this. 1Mb requires lower than 60Db, 2Mb lower than 45Db.

For the copper wire telephone lines we have in the UK, this equates to ~6km maximum for 1Mb and ~3.5km for 2Mb.

My Attenuation is a steady 40Mb so 2Mb is the most I can get. My S/N is 24Db at 1Mb but 17Db at 2Mb, still OK though it can fall to 10Db on a bad day. I suspect that it is S/N discrimination that has improved for me.

23 March 2008

We live in interesting times

This is the title of an entry in another guy's weblog. Mr G Allen is he says just an ordinary American who heard about a local protest, went along to take photographs and find out what was all about.

Later he received a legal letter saying he was a member of the protesting group. The letter accused the group of illegal activity such as making bomb threats and demanded that 'his' organisation stop behaving illegally.

An employee of a nearby coffee shop who just happened to be walking past the protesters received an identical letter. He and she had been followed to their cars and had their number plates photographed by private detectives. This was, apparently, the sole 'evidence' the lawyers had.

OK, you've guessed. This is the Church of Scientology again, making new friends.

17 March 2008

Ides of March

The second outing for the Anonymous worldwide pickets against the happy fun cult was just as successful as the first it seems, plus better organised and larger. I attended at London as previously, and whilst waiting for Anonymous to arrive I and a suppressive friend popped into a sandwich bar for sustenance. We were soon joined to our amusement by a spy from the Org a couple of doors away - so the DSA recognised me then! - but too late, my contact from Smith-Kline-Pharma had already handed over the thick wad of notes for me to pass on to the Anonymous Central Committee so we were talking about... I forget, was it the ARSCC elections? Nothing of interest to OSA anyway.

This time Anonymous were loaded with cake, chicken, and good humour. They chanted, cheered honking cars and sang Ron 'Happy Birthday' with three Hip-hip-hoorays; the old folk stood at the back and chatted, it was especially nice to meet a lady who had sailed on the Apollo with Ron. I left when the threatening rain finally started around 16:00, but they were good for hours more.

21 February 2008

Joanna on webcam

Back in June I started blogging about a remarkable series of Internet pages and blogs concerning the alternate reality of Joanna. At the time I had assumed that she could not possibly be real, that 'Joanna' was a persona devised for purposes unknown that happened by chance to include Scientology, history, the occult, conspiracy theory and other interests of mine. Was this an extended joke, an alternate reality game? Why was I apparently the only person in the world reading this?

I was wrong.

Over the past two weeks the author has made 21 Youtube videos, presumably influenced by the explosion of such clips from Anonymous and others concerning Scientology. They appear to be a restatement of her reality along with some more mundane information, I haven't watched them all yet, too much at once and I'll vanish down that rabbit hole...

10 February 2008

Judgement Day

So I'm sitting trying to wipe this grin off my face.

It's crunch day for Anonymous. Could they bring their merry band of virtual personas out of the Matrix, down the Internets and into the Real World? I say 'is' because since we don't live on Discworld results from California are not in yet, but first reports look good.

I arrived at the London Dianetics and Scientology Improvement Centre at around 11:00 for a quick chat with the bobbies setting up barricades. Barricades? Yes, police radio was reporting crowds assembling at the London Scientology Org a couple of miles away. Hundreds of them...

As planned they moved to Tottenham Court Rd a couple of hours later. It was a noisy but well behaved crowd, improving their chants by the minute - some football fans amongst them I'd say. Placards, masks, leaflets of all descriptions, and an anarcho-syndicalist flag.

My fellow critics had followed them, and it was good to see old friends who had come out of the shadows for the Big Day. There were several Youtube wannabes filming, including a livecam.

Cult reaction? Exactly what I'd hoped for in London. They came out to play, but could only watch in bemusement.

01 February 2008

There can be only one doll

Rozen Maiden is a Japanese TV anime series that ran for two seasons 2004/5 plus a 2006 Christmas special. It was popular there but will never be shown in the UK, but then no Japanese anime series of this kind will be shown outside Japan.
Why not? It's a cultural difference. Rozen Maiden is made for teenagers not children. The central (human) characters are all teenagers, and the human plotlines revolve around specifically teenage concerns.

Oh, sorry, go read some background. Read, now!

I watched the whole series over the holidays, it was my treat one episode a day since the TV had nothing I wanted to see except for Kiki's Delivery Service which is, oh dear, an anime. It was... wonderful, the best anime I've watched since 'Scrapped Princess'. I could type pages over how wonderful it is, but I don't expect to convince anyone so, duely noted.

Now my question: am I the only person who can see this? Rozen Maiden is 'Highlander' as played out by magic dolls. Consider: immortal beings who are destined to fight until one is left who gains a great prize? A story which has amongst its themes the consequences of being immortal; the effects on the mortals around them who will grow old and die as they go on?

31 January 2008

Hackers destroy Scientology

Well not as such, but it's been an interesting couple of weeks.

Jan 15th, Andrew Morton's much heralded unauthorised (by a long way) biography of Tom Cruise was published. It revealed two shocking facts - Tom was heterosexual and he was a Scientologist. Not many people knew that.
So Tom isn't suing. Being caught lying about having been cured of dyslexia by his religion is it seems a small price to pay for a 'Not Gay' certificate.

The famously litigious Church of Scientology however was distressed to find that the book was in its second half mostly about it and its hitherto publically unknown leader, Mr David Miscavige. As Chairman of the Board of Religious Technology Center and the most ethical being on the planet, Mr Miscavige has been the absolute dictator of the Church since the death of founder L Ron Hubbard in 1986.
The Church put out a 14 page non-denial of the lies in the book but that as I predicted at once was it - no libel writ has been served.

It was then that the bombs began to go off. Cue repeat of the Panorama disaster - a short clip of Cruise from a 2004 Church promotional video, long known about by its critics, popped up on YouTube. Since it appeared to show that Tom had gone raving mad four years ago but we somehow hadn't noticed, the Church tried to get it off the Internet but failed, as it always fails against sufficiently annoyed Freedom of Speech advocates. More clips from the video were posted, and other videos are (I happen to know) queued up ready to roll.

A niece of Mr Miscavige blew her top and wrote an incensed open letter to the Church, which had made its routine denial that it broke up families. "Oh yes it does", she refuted, claiming she had been cut off from her parents.

From out of nowhere an Internet prankster community known as Anonymous (because they are) suddenly got serious, announcing in a series of hilariously over the top video manifestos that they were going to drive the cult off the Internet starting with a DDos attack. That's where you get lots of people to access a website all at once, so it overloads and crashes.

If they were expecting moral support from the existing critics of the cult they didn't get it, indeed a chorus of condemnation resulted. DDosing and hacking were Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Internet vs Scientology war, held by both sides but not used. Alarmed, Anonymous switched tactics and surprisingly decided to try to get their previously virtual people out onto the real life streets for a worldwide protest February 10th, which we await with some trepidation.