Emerald Developer Lonely Bluebird Interview

by Alphaville Herald on 02/09/10 at 3:49 am

Soft Linden: I love that you guys are doing this — Lonely Bluebird: Saves you guys some work I guess

This evening, Emerald developer Lonely Bluebird – a.k.a. Phox – took time away from what has certainly been a difficult day, for an exclusive interview with the Herald in which he confirmed that a leaked chatlog at the SLUniverse forums is legitimate – but could be misinterpreted since it was taken out of context. Phox went on to tell me that Emerald remains popular despite the recent controversy and claimed to have seen over 114,000 logins over the last day. Can Linden Lab afford to ban Emerald?

Lonely Bluebird – a.k.a. _Phox

Our chat came after a wild day in which Jessica Lyons resigned from the Emerald group after a disagreement about how best to address Linden Lab concerns about the popular Second Life viewer. What maybe more noteworthy – if true – were the revelations on the SLUniverse forums of what are claimed to be chat logs in which Soft Linden encouraged the Emerald gang. According to Fleur Orchid, the chat logs date back to mid march – and are likely to raise eyebrows, while shedding light on the emkdu leaks that contributed to the Emeraldgate scandal.

In the chat, Soft Linden appears to encourage the Emerald developer to use the emkdu library to bake hidden information into avatar textures and jpeg images – despite the fact that including the emkdu libraries violated the GPL license under which the open source Second Life clients are made available. Including the emkdu library with the Emerald viewer is one of the third party viewer violations cited by Linden Lab as being unacceptable, according to Jessica Lyons. The chatlogs leaked by Fleur Orchid are appended to the end of this story.

Pixeleen Mistral: you are online
_Phox: I’m always online.

Pixeleen Mistral: I have a few questions
Pixeleen Mistral: are you guys getting a lot of downloads for the new version of the viewer?
_Phox: http://emeraldviewer.net/downloads.shtml
_Phox: Click on "More" to see all versions
_Phox: For mac just click the button
_Phox: It shows download counts for all versions, 2600 went up about an hour and a half ago?

Pixeleen Mistral: do you expect Linden Lab to attempt to ban Emerald? and will a ban work?
_Phox: I have no idea really.
_Phox: I don’t think they want to ban it, it would inconvenience so many people.

Pixeleen Mistral: well – if the Lab did ban the viewer – would it have much effect?
_Phox: Well yesterday 114k people logged in using emerald
_Phox: So I’d say that would be a pretty big effect.
_Phox: If you’re vaguely referring to the rumor that I made emerald "unblockable" then I can tell you that is false.

Pixeleen Mistral: Emerald has captured the imagination of the Second Life community – and I can see why – the jiggle boobs thing was pure genius – that really put you guys over the top
_Phox: Well, I think that certainly is what made it go viral, but there’s far more to it than that.

Pixeleen Mistral: I have a good friend who loves Emerald for building
_Phox: Yeah, there are a lot of scripters who rely on the script preprocessor for their products too.

Pixeleen Mistral: so I think your super power has been you actually play SL – and know what people want – unlike the LL staff
_Phox: It’s not just that, the project has a history of doing things that the users want, but LL refuse to do.

Pixeleen Mistral: why doesn’t LL do what user’s want?
_Phox: People have been asking for a client AO since 2006.

Pixeleen Mistral: right – client AO is a big deal – what is LL thinking ?
_Phox: I suspect it would vary on a case to case basis. I know that the breast physics stuff was discussed internally for example, it was "shot down" in favour of a more dynamic system for mesh physics, which while certainly better would take several years of development.
_Phox: Stuff like the build tools and preprocessor well, could be a lack of QA resources, they can’t release something like that without extensive testing.

_Phox: There was a pretty serious bug in the preprocessor that caused us to pull it from a version, and we got a bunch of complaints from people relying on it, so we put it back, albeit as a debug setting only…

Pixeleen Mistral: so looking ahead – what is next for you guys?
_Phox: As far as the emerald team goes?

Pixeleen Mistral: yes
_Phox: There’s nothing left.

Pixeleen Mistral: you can probably sell a special version
_Phox: I suspect various groups will fork and continue, and possibly a few entirely new people will join and make new projects to "replace" it, but it can’t happen.

Pixeleen Mistral: so the 2600 version is the end?
_Phox: Unless something major happens, yes.

Pixeleen Mistral: funny how it worked out to be 2600
_Phox: Emerald really can’t continue.

Pixeleen Mistral: if Emerald is over then what will you do next?
Pixeleen Mistral: please don’t say "spend more time with your family" or "pursue other interrests"
_Phox: Actually it wasn’t 2600, but the last svn revision was 2587, and the switch to hg meant we didn’t really have a revision number for the last one, so we decided to make it 2600.
_Phox: There are two popular references in the technology world for the number that I’m aware of.

Pixeleen Mistral: yes
_Phox: Anyway, what I do next probably won’t involve viewers.

Pixeleen Mistral: 2600 also means something to those interested in old-school phone hacking
_Phox: I have one viewer project I’m working on for a university, and after that I’m out.
_Phox: Well make that three then.

Pixeleen Mistral: so you used to have a lot of support from Linden Lab
Pixeleen Mistral: but they have turned on you
_Phox: We did.

Pixeleen Mistral: there are some chatlogs being circulated where Soft Linden is encouraging you to include info in the baked avatar textures
Pixeleen Mistral: are those real?
_Phox: If you’re referring to the two conversations from March posted on SLU yesterday, then yes, they are genuine, though I wouldn’t say he was encouraging anything, since I was simply informing him of what we were doing.

Pixeleen Mistral: Soft did say he "loved" what you were doing
_Phox: Yes, though it was certainly referring to the overall effort of the Onyx project in reducing the use of viewers with copybot or other malicious functionality.

Pixeleen Mistral: I guess that could be taken two ways
_Phox: Keep in mind, that these are two small parts of very long conversations.

Pixeleen Mistral: right
_Phox: He was in no way encouraging us to collect user data, in fact, he even came back to me to ask that I ensure the path on linux is cut down to only the containing folder because he was concerned about the /home/<username>/ issue

Pixeleen Mistral: you guys had a lot of access to Linden staff – did that give you an advantage over the other viewer developers?
_Phox: I couldn’t really speculate on that, but the support Linden Lab provided us was for our users, not for the development of the viewer itself, to which Linden Lab has always seen themselves as a competitor. The certainly weren’t helping us create new features.

Pixeleen Mistral: I heard that Linden Lab set things up so they would answer questions about Emerald  with their support staff – was that true?
Pixeleen Mistral: that was in some of the leaked documents attributed to Fractured Crystal – but I was never sure of that was real or not
_Phox: No, that’s not the case. There were widespread issues of people being told to uninstall emerald for all sorts of issues, including obvious sim problems. There was a large focus on support because of that issue.
_Phox: In fact, LL support were instructed not to support users of any third party viewers at first.

Pixeleen Mistral: so – if Emerald is pretty at the end – and if you could do it all over again – what would you do differently?
Pixeleen Mistral: would you change anything?
_Phox: Well there were certainly some mistakes made along the way, but I’d say as a whole, Emerald itself, it went quite well.

Pixeleen Mistral: so – no regrets?
_Phox: Discounting of course the issues that happened as a result of developers involved in something else.

Pixeleen Mistral: so – anything else that the Herald readers should know? have I missed anything?
_Phox: I’m sure there are a lot of things Herald readers should know, but I don’t have any announcements to make at the time.

Pixeleen Mistral: thanks for talking
_Phox: No problem.

the leaked chatlogs between Soft Linden and Lonely Bluebird

[2010-03-18 16:43:19] Lonely <3: Ah, well, we needed some way to identify people using our kakadu library, we came up with something really clever: The Emkdu variant encodes the window title into the j2c comment.
[2010-03-18 16:43:32] Soft Linden: Nice!!!
[2010-03-18 16:43:41] Lonely <3: The OnyxKDU variant contains the other end of the cipher, and an exported function to retrieve said comment.
[2010-03-18 16:43:44] Soft Linden: I’d figured that library would be the place to hide things. So it shows up in their baked texture.
[2010-03-18 16:44:07] Lonely <3: Yup, Linux variants encode 128 characters of the path, since window title depends on window manager etc.
[2010-03-18 16:44:27] Lonely <3: I’ve got it nicely tied in to the radar here, it’s fun to see the various names I get when all I see on people is a shiny emerald tag.
[2010-03-18 16:44:45] Soft Linden: I’d look at other places you might store that. We were at least planning to start encoding some info there to help us with DMCA takedowns
[2010-03-18 16:44:56] Lonely <3: We caught the HXO/Sl Black edition creator that way.
[2010-03-18 16:45:11] Soft Linden: Does the jpeg2k format support arbitrary tag/value pairs?
[2010-03-18 16:45:12] Lonely <3: Hmm, well there are various places we could encode that.
[2010-03-18 16:45:21] Lonely <3: Yes
[2010-03-18 16:45:25] Lonely <3: At least I think it does
[2010-03-18 16:45:33] Soft Linden: You could make something misleading like "encode parms" or w/e
[2010-03-18 16:46:38] Lonely <3: Unless someone starts poking at it with a disassembler all they’ll find is a string of mixed printable and unprintable characters in the comment.
[2010-03-18 16:47:18] Lonely <3: We figured it was a good way to keep track of who’s using the proprietary library without a license, not to mention identifying those viewers that want to hide, which is always a goal.
[2010-03-18 16:47:29] Soft Linden: :3
[2010-03-18 16:47:33] Soft Linden: I love that you guys are doing this
[2010-03-18 16:47:55] Lonely <3: Saves you guys some work I guess.
[2010-03-18 16:49:01] Soft Linden: I’d also be inclined to get the end of the path for Windows & Mac builds too. Odds are people are going to rename the viewer filename, even if they don’t change the window title, etc
[2010-03-18 16:49:12] Lonely <3: Yeah that’s what I said >_>
[2010-03-18 16:49:15] Soft Linden: just w/e is in **argv
[2010-03-18 16:49:19] Lonely <3: Zwagoth and Fractured wanted the window title.
[2010-03-18 16:49:19] Soft Linden: I thought you said you just did it on Linux?
[2010-03-18 16:49:27] Soft Linden: Gotcha.
[2010-03-18 16:49:32] Soft Linden: Yeah, I’d shoot for both.
[2010-03-18 16:49:35] Lonely <3: Only because linux doesn’t offer a single function to grab the window title in all window managers.
[2010-03-18 16:49:55] Lonely <3: Yeah I know the path is more useful.

[2010-03-25 16:35:40] You sense a disturbance in the force… (Soft Linden is typing)
[2010-03-25 16:35:51] Soft Linden: Are the marked textures in the current release version?
[2010-03-25 16:36:01] Lonely <3: Yes
[2010-03-25 16:36:06] Soft Linden thumbsup
[2010-03-25 16:36:27] Lonely <3: After we spoke I decided to make a bit of a change to kdu
[2010-03-25 16:37:40] Lonely <3: I made it check the top corner of the image for transparent pixels, if it finds any it encodes the folder name like the linux lib originally did.
[2010-03-25 16:37:50] Lonely <3: If not it encodes the window title.
[2010-03-25 16:38:28] Soft Linden: ah cool hack :3
[2010-03-25 16:38:56] Lonely <3: That hasn’t been released yet, but it can go out at any time since the pack is seperate from the binary.
[2010-03-25 16:39:00] Soft Linden: the transparent pixels specifically – last I knew you were only doing the meta tag
[2010-03-25 16:39:04] Lonely <3: We are
[2010-03-25 16:39:08] Lonely <3: Just the image comment
[2010-03-25 16:39:14] Soft Linden: right

113 Responses to “Emerald Developer Lonely Bluebird Interview”

  1. history

    Sep 9th, 2010

    Leaving bans in the hands of residents? Brilliant idea! Then we can be certain that the last two people on the grid not yet banned, will find a reason to ban eachother. Like the sniper in Team Fortress “meet the” videos said, when there’s only two people left on earth, one will want the other dead.

  2. Nelson Jenkins

    Sep 9th, 2010

    @ history

    Boom, headshot.


  3. Jayd3n

    Sep 9th, 2010

    No they all lined up in a row, I shot them in the head, but the bullet seem to miss Skills Hak ); Thats sad.

    LOL And true, I didn’t want the wars, I loved Skills Hak, and the Emerald, but they left no choice, and their personal attacks against me and my friends.

  4. Friend of all

    Sep 9th, 2010

    Oh jayd3n, we should hang out.

  5. Bubblesort

    Sep 9th, 2010

    @ history: It would not be without precedent. When I started in SL there was some kind of volunteer group jury-of-your-peers setup to appeal bans. It’s been long since discontinued, but it used to exist. I can only imagine how corrupt it must have gotten.

    To fix the corruption in the governance system there needs to at least be transparency. Once you have that you can talk about juries and whatnot. That’s minor details compared to lack of transparency. Without transparency the g-team can be as corrupt as they like without repercussion, and we have no way to offer suggestions on how to improve things if we don’t know how things work to begin with.

  6. Marcusmangler

    Sep 9th, 2010

    So the g-team – which is long gone, by the way – should unmask while the rest of us run around with full anonymity.


    Tell you what. You take the lead and publish your name address and phone number, and then we’ll follow suit.

    Trust me.

  7. Bubblesort

    Sep 9th, 2010

    I’m not saying that the g-team (or whoever these people are) need to give us their RL IDs at all. I’m saying that their process for deciding what infractions are punishable, who is punished and what kinds of punishment they receive needs to be a public process. The enforcers of policy can use their avatar names or whatever. Names have nothing to do with this.

    The problem is that the TOS is “artfully” enforced, so nobody really knows what will get you banned and what will not get you banned, and if you do get banned then how do ban appeals work? Nobody knows this. If they want to turn a blind eye to people hacking half the SL user base for a DDoS attack but hardware block people for particle spamming then I think we need to start asking ourselves, “what will get me banned in SL, and does the TOS accurately describe the kinds of activities I need to avoid in order to retain my digital identity and assets?”

    I don’t see how anybody can sink serious assets into SL without some kind of transparency from the people who have the power to remove all of those assets with a few keystrokes.

  8. Little Lost Linden

    Sep 10th, 2010

    Holy Moly!!!

    Hamlet Au just went INSANE!

    Hamlet is now a Blue Mars Consultant!


  9. beer monster

    Sep 10th, 2010

    hhmm weird, i havent logged onto SL in 2 weeks now due to RL issues and i got an email from a friend of mine who says i’ve been in world in the emerald point sim.

    i contacted SL via email for information and it seems my account was logged into from an ip address in the usa, i asked the lindens to change my password and send it to my email address, they asked me what my email address was and it was recently changed to an email address from an account that was just recently banned.

    they clarified what happnd and it turns out they also have the ip# which was from a recently banned account.

    it seems the emerald ppl collected more info than they let on, it seems emerald collected user logins as well,

    i logged into sl today on an alt and i saw myself in emerald point and lo and behold i watched em talk to some other ppl and 1 of em was my rl friends account (he was next to me rl at the time) and from the way they were talking on voice i swear it was frac and phox and they were bragging about how ll will never stop them.

    i wish i could have took a screenshot but that doesnt prove it if i could have recorded voice then i would have but dumb shit me dident.

    SL has reset my password and a few ppl i know in sl and they have also let me change my rl info details on my account.

    today LL logged several dozen attempts to log into my account all from the same address.

    seems the emerald crew have stolen ppl’s login details to use for there own means

  10. & the big picture is....

    Sep 11th, 2010

    Just a thought here, in many locations it’s illegal to secretly record conversations (especially voice) without the parties to be recorded at the very least being made aware their conversation will be recorded. To publish copies of any illegally recorded conversations on the internet without the permission of all involved is a crime. In Australia it’s a federal offence to record and retransmit any conversation without the consent of those recorded. So lets ask ourselves is it acceptable that this whole series of events involving distribution of conversations secretly recorded continues? It would be unfortunate indeed if someone were to take legal action over LL for damages caused to their business via illegally recorded material simply because the SL program didn’t have adequate protection in place to prevent such from happening. Lets just accept EV is gone, those involved have paid the ultimate price and there are still many cans of worms laying about unopened…

    I have a note in my profile stating I log all chat conversations (for my own reference only) and advise anyone who does not wish to have their conversation recorded to simply not chat with me!

    I personally think things have been blown out of proportion but that is just my opinion. I try to weight thing up and balance between the features offered by EV that were welcomed and accepted by so many people vs the questionable acts done by just a few of the development team. There is no proof that all members of the team were involved in these issues.

    Beer Monster; with reference to the above suggestion that banned Modular/Emerald members might have been using your account, without presenting evidence, you should be careful stating that sort of thing. At the very least you could have done something about it right there and then, like snap some pics, save the general chat records, take note of exactly who was there, and record the voice chat for evidence ONLY to be handed to LL. If you didn’t, then your comments are simply fuel to add to a situation.

    Do you think LL might not have disassembled the Emerald Viewer source and know exactly what was being logged by now? If they were aware the log in password was being compromised they would have warned anyone who had used the EV to change their log in password. Lets face it, the only ones to have gained by it are the ones who are now banned so makes good sense to have called it don’t you think?

    You say you had previously contacted LL about it and LL have confirmed the logins and emails were as you mentioned etc yet you logged in using an alt at a later time and STILL find your account active in Emerald Point sim?? Does that not seem odd?? Given you just presented a situation that SHOULD have been of high priority to LL they would have acted rapidly to rectify it.

  11. Nelson Jenkins

    Sep 11th, 2010

    @ & the big picture is….

    Not going to argue, just wanted to point a few things out:

    “To publish copies of any illegally recorded conversations on the internet without the permission of all involved is a crime. In Australia it’s a federal offence to record and retransmit any conversation without the consent of those recorded.”

    It is in California as well.

    “I try to weight thing up and balance between the features offered by EV that were welcomed and accepted by so many people vs the questionable acts done by just a few of the development team. There is no proof that all members of the team were involved in these issues.”

    As I’ve said before, the team was only as good as its most malicious dev. In addition, while most of the devs knew about the DDoS plan before it was put into action, none of them tried to stop it.

    “Do you think LL might not have disassembled the Emerald Viewer source and know exactly what was being logged by now?”

    I doubt they did. It was pretty much obvious what was going on, and I’d assume that Phox would only try to hijack the accounts of those who brought down Emerald. Those people, if they used Emerald previously (like me), should have changed their passwords already (like I did). Even so, if some crazy loon that gets hard over Emerald source code gets hacked, he deserves it.

    “Lets face it, the only ones to have gained by it are the ones who are now banned so makes good sense to have called it don’t you think?”

    Bans mean nothing except losing inventory and a rez date, you know that, right? (You don’t even lose inventory if you have it backed up, like Fractured did.)

  12. Friend of all

    Sep 20th, 2010

    I think soft is a good guy caught up with all this emerald bull shit.

  13. Emerald Viewer DEAD!!!

    Apr 15th, 2011

    [...] Alphaville Herald has more information in Emerald Developer Lonely Bluebird Interview. [...]

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