Is Rathe Sniffing Our Packets?

by Alphaville Herald on 16/12/05 at 12:13 am

By Dow Jonas

While the story this week is FBI agents possibly coming to sniff round Second Life to see if charges of denial-of-service attacks can be filed, another story about possible land-baron packet-sniffing is percolating up through SL-related blogs and the official forums.

Rathe Underthorn, a long-time resident and land dealer, has been quietly buying up large swathes of mainland parcels in both mature and PG sims. He is now the main rival to Anshe Chung in the land-baron business, and appears positioned to overtake even Anshe on the mainland as she turns her back on Governor Linden and heads off from telehub wars to preoccupy herself with her Islands Nation in the north, known as Ansheland.

Mindful of grief-ridden sims with ugly builds and the blight of the “Impeach Bush” signs seen as many as more of a land-sale extortion than a political statement, Rathe offers a previously-unknown benefit to customers: your money back in full after 30 days if you are not satisfied – even if that means your neighbor has mounted a 10-storey day-glo horror with spinning toroids on your border utterly blocking your awesome waterfront view.

His prices appear to analysts to be middling in-range; many of his plots are in the vast, unsold prairies and hinterlands of SL where people tend to liquidate in a hurry come tier bill due date, and are grateful for the friend they find in Rathe.

With non-descript land-for-sale signs, 0 profile on the SL forums and no participation in SL’s raucous lobbying groups, Rathe seems ready to play the role of the People’s Land Baron.

Not everyone agrees. The chronically-controversial Prokofy Neva, alarmed at what he sees as a huge takeover of the mainland in the wake of barons like Anshe Chung and Hiro Queso fleeing to private island business, has raised the issue of whether Rathe has achieved some sort of undue leverage over other barons through his use of what he terms “automated processes” to list land for sale on his third-party web-site

Earlier, Rathe had unveiled an invention he long worked on known as ROAM, which has delighted many SL residents by giving them the ability, before p2p, to travel quickly to a sites around the world. Rathe has listed all the sites he has documented from SL at an impressive device that appears to be embryonic Google Earth for SL (currently 21,448 places or 63,747,456 m2) .

At his website at, Rathe combines the sites listed on the ROAM with the SL map coordinates, and now with point-to-point telepointing, anyone can browse for land, then click on a parcel and transport directly there.

Land sales are expected to increase in SL as people find it easier to travel and shop.

Yet not all land dealers, some of whom stand to lose in the high-stakes of SL competition, are thrilled with Rathe’s point-and-click and-selling and raise questions about how he could have amassed the information needed to create the service.

At the furious, overflowing blog at, the Neva River is dotted with ice floes:

“In fact, the rapaciousness of those land barons who are still left in the game of Second Life after the telehub blood-letting will dwarf all previous rapaciousness. Already we can see signs of it with market grabs with automated processes like Rathe Thorn’s (many observers are asking: did he hack the client or did the Lindens give him a special LSL code to be able to do such massive land management) which will lead to higher prices in the long run.”

Several readers asked Prokofy to back his claims, and he cited other unnamed residents who were programmers who had raised questions as to whether Rathe could have hacked the client, or program for running SL from one’s home computer, or whether the Lindens, many of whom are former residents themselves, could have helped him out with some inside coding tips.

“That there’s a market grab is visible to the naked eye, and visible not only in the land list, but in the map. And indeed it is true, as I reported, that MANY OBSERVERS ARE ASKING whether he hacked the client or got a deal. This is the truth. They ARE asking that. This isn’t a claim that their QUESTIONS means it is TRUE. It means they are questioning the huge land grab,” wrote Neva.

“i seriously doubt rathe is changing land prices from a database,” commented another experienced and dealer Jauani Wu. “1>if he had hacked the client, LL would have banned him by now. 2>there is no way LL would give one player features and not the whole community.”

Senior Lindens who were contacted off-the-record about these claims also denied that any one resident could gain special privileges or access to LSL code to give them an advantage over others.

But at least one highly-placed Linden is said to have acknowledged that Linden Lab is simply unable to follow everything going on: there are just too many servers in the 1400-plus grid (the exact number is not known because some owners elect to conceal their islands), too many people coming into the burgeoning world (at more than 90,000 residents currently), and just a lot going on.

But if the client is hacked, say some programmers with experience of the phenomenon at SL, i.e. if a player changes anything about the client coming into his hard-drive, detectors at Second Life are instantly activated and residents will receive a reprimanding letter telling them the TOS forbids modifying their software in this manner. “Reverse engineering” is also interpreted as a violation of the TOS by some.

But, say knowledgeable experts, there’s an action known as “packet sniffing” where a programmer could arrange to take a look at data coming in and out of SL’s servers and harvest the information for use in their own programming.

It’s this sort of activity that Prokofy and others have been hinting about.

Unamused, Rathe has responded to the charges in an increasingly heated blog flame war.

Readers may rest assured that the Herald staff will be watching this closely, camping on the perimeter with a cooler of PBR and lots of cheap cigars to keep us awake when this story explodes into the infosphere as the latest installment of Court TV: Today in Second Life.

5 Responses to “Is Rathe Sniffing Our Packets?”

  1. Plastic Duck

    Dec 16th, 2005

    Haha if FBI agents log onto SL I want names. I will grief the fuck out of them.

  2. Freeze

    Dec 17th, 2005

    I remember when a guy called Chance Small used land scanners to scoop up public land. Rathe’s buddies where all over the place flaming that poor soul into obliteration and smearing his name all over the forums until he collapsed and gave up. A couple weeks later Rathe’s own scanners were installed in every corner of Second Life.

  3. Brace

    Dec 17th, 2005

    he might be buying a shitload of land – but good luck selling it.

    his customer service sucks

    dont buy land from Rathe!

    let him just sit on all that land and pay max tier forever

    I’m sorry, let me repeat that: his customer service sucks ie is non existant

    meh I don’t actually care that much but I can’t sleep so I’m typing

  4. Fallen Hasp

    Dec 17th, 2005

    aww Brace :) sweet dreams beautiful lady.

  5. Prokofy Neva

    Dec 18th, 2005

    I should note that Rathe is threatening me with libel suits very nastily, even to my RL name, merely for *discussing* and *asking questions about* this issue. See my blog under the story “Compensation”.

    The whole land-scanning issue is an interesting one. I tend to think that land-scanners should be banned, because it puts land barons who have the talent or money to get them scripted at an unfair advantage over everyone else trying to deal with land manually. But LL doesn’t care about that, they love automatic scripted thingies to pieces, especially if they can either lease or co-opt them, and knowing this, I think it will be interesting to see what they do with Rathe’s system eventually, maybe they’ll just GOM it or Telehub it, either take it over or make it obsolete.

    I find land-scanners to be rather low forms of life, myself. They often profit over other people’s misfortunes, and not all of them return accidently abandoned or sold land. It’s so funny to me to see all the high and might of the forums turn out to be despicable land scanners, whining about other people whom they view as “immoral” for things like buying a second piece of first land on an alt, and whining about “illegal scanners,” when they are merely a slightly higher level of low-lifedness themselves.

    Example: Weedy Herbst, first off her block to seize land that I’ve witnessed — land scanner, scooping up land somebody priced too low or released, for her profit, to resell, crabbing at people on the forums over their scanning. Hilarious.

    Another example personally witnessed last night: Nolan Nash — remember him?! Imagine! I had to adjust one of my group’s tiers and saw a piece of land wasn’t renting so I put it at $750 for a 512, it was in PG, just so as not to take the time to sell it etc — and who should show up to grab it with his land scanner but Nolan Nash. Meh. What a low-life!

    I guess land-scanning is the FIC’s secret vice.

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