Thursday, January 21, 2010

Naturalistic Fallacy: Natural Doesn't Mean Safe!

Every once in a while, you hear some health nut or organic produce advocate say "If it's natural, it's safe!"  They repeat this without questioning it.  But when you seriously think about it, you realize just how false that line of thinking.  Scholars of logic have a few names for this line of thinking: "Naturalistic Fallacy" or "Appeal to Nature".  It is defined as the mistaken assumption that because something is natural, it is safe or morally acceptable.

There are numerous arguments to disprove that line of thinking.  Nobody in their right mind would believe that rape, incest, murder, or cannibalism are morally acceptable or safe.  And those all occur in nature.  But what about natural being safe?  As I said before, health nuts and advocates of organic products claim that natural means safe.

So, what in nature is unsafe?  A lot of stuff:  Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac, for starters.  Then we have Tobacco and Eggplant, which contain nicotine.  Solanine, the alkaloid toxin behind Deadly Nightshade, which is also found in the leaves and stems of Tomatoes and Peppers.  Any plant with the name "Bane" in it is generally going to be poisonous.  The Castor Oil Plant, which contains the notorious poison Ricin.  Then there's Hemlock, which causes stomach pain, vomiting, and paralysis.  Hemlock is best known as the poison used to execute Socrates when he was sentenced to death.  Another one is the Strychnine Tree, from which the pesticide Strychnine originates.

And then, there's mushrooms.  There are hundreds of poisonous species of mushroom, many of which are deadly.  Death Caps earned their name for good reason!  And many of the deadly mushrooms look almost exactly like the ones that are safe to eat!

Poisons aren't just limited to plants and fungus, either.  Many members of the animal kindom are poisonous too.  Snakes are well known for their venom.  The skin secretions of frogs are often poisonous or act as a painful irritant.  Toads produce a milky cocktail of toxins and irritants when aggravated.  Many insects have poisonous bites or stings.  All spiders have poisonous bites, though very few species are able to cause more than mild irritation, but the more poisonous species (like the black widow and brown recluse) are very notorious.  Scorpions are well known for their poisonous stings, too.  Then, there are bacteria.  Many species of bacteria make you sick because of the toxins they produce, such as the infamous E-Coli bacterium.  And (unless you're a conspiracy theorist), viruses are natural too, and they are almost universally harmful.

If you thought that natural meant safe, are you still convinced?

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Unlock the Limit on Object Movement Distance

    You ever notice how after you move an object 30 or so meters at once, you can't move it any further and need to release it and then start moving it again? Well, I've found out how to disable that behavior! Here's how to do it:

    1) Go to the Advanced menu. If you don't have it, press CTRL-ALT-D (CMD-ALT-D on Mac, CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-D on Linux) and it should pop up to the right of the Help menu.
    2) Select the Debug Settings option from the advanced menu
    3) type "LimitDragDistance" into the Debug Settings window
    4) Set it to FALSE, and close the window

    Now, you should be able to move objects without having to start and stop frequently.

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    OpenSimulator's Fail: Admin Powers for Sim Owners

    For anyone who has run opensimulator at one point or another, you are probably already familiar with the "god powers", or the Admin menu. Like its name implies, it gives you some elevated powers that let you do things not normally possible. While very useful, they have a darker side to their utility.

    By default, sim owners on OpenSimulator are able to obtain admin powers without restriction. There are three main admin powers that are of particular concern under the Admin->Object menu: Take Copy, Force Owner To Me, and Force Owner Permissive. The first two allow the sim owner to force ownership of a rezzed object to themselves, or to take a copy of it into their inventory. The last one, Force Owner Permissive, allows them to obtain creator permissions on a rezzed object: it effectively becomes full permission to them.

    The implications of these abilities are obvious: a dishonest sim owner can become a content thief easily. All he needs to do is rez an object on his sim, or trick someone into rezzing the object, and can immediately take ownership and gain full permissions. But it doesn't just stop there. At least two online marketplaces for Second Life are branching out into OpenSimulator, allowing merchants to sell on opensim grids.

    What does that mean? A dishonest sim owner can gain creator permissions on the ATM's and Vendors used by the marketplace, and gain full view of their networking protocols. Using this, they can steal funds from other marketplace users by spoofing their UUID's, or try and trick the system into delivering free merchandise to them.

    Copybot can't do this: it can only "steal" the content it can see, and it is unable to grab the object contents because it can't see them. And even if it could see them, the permissions would prevent theft to a degree. But what can be done with admin powers is worse: copybot just rips what it can see. The admin powers let you directly grab the ownership of an object and change its permissions.

    With these capabilities at the fingertips of sim owners, commercial activity within opensimulator grids simply is nowhere near viable. Virtual commerce can only be viable on grids that do not allow sim owners access to admin powers. To my knowledge, there aren't any grids which block access to admin powers. Not even professional grids like ReactionGrid block it. So, until we get grids that block access to admin powers, you can just forget trying to sell content on opensimulator.