Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free Skin Appliers from Essences for Catwa, Lelutka, and Genus Project Bento Mesh Heads

I picked up this news from the Pure Eggs & Spam freebie blog: did you know that you can pick up free skin appliers for your Catwa, Lelutka, and Genus Project Bento mesh heads from Essences?

Just teleport here to get to the Essences store in-world. At the entrance, click on the wall (as indicated by the red arrow) to join the Essences Updates group for free:

Across from this wall are three panels (the Dakota skin applier for Genus Project mesh heads works perfectly with that free Strong Face Bento mesh head gift you picked up from the Genus Project store or group notices!):

If you own a Lelutka Bento mesh head, pick up the Waleria skin applier, and if you have a Catwa Bento mesh head, you can snap up the Sibyl skin applier. The appliers come in eight different skin tones, ranging from light to dark.

Then, head to the very back of the store where you can pick up matching NewGen skin appliers for your mesh body (Maitreya, Belleza, Legacy or Omega):

Here I used the darkest skin tone of the Dakota skin applier on the freebie Strong Face head from the Genus Project, paired with the Juliet body from Altamura (a free group gift from Valentine’s Day 2019; I picked up the Omega system kit for Altamura, which is available for L$99 at this exact SLURL in the Omega Solutions store):

I used the brows and shape that came with the Dakota skin applier (I found she was a bit too thin, so I had to beef up her upper and lower body muscles). Each of the eight skin tones comes with options of light, dark, or no eyebrows (so you can apply your own). Here’s a close-up shot:

(I also made the lips a little thinner, and did a few other minor edits to the sliders for the mouth, using the included Dakota shape as my starting point. The mesh eyes are part of the Strong Face head group gift package, and they are beautiful.)

Looking fabulous! I like the fact that there are a complete range of skin tones in this freebie, so you have lots of options to play with. So pop down to Essences soon!

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Districts: A Brief Introduction

There is no there there.

—Gertrude Stein, quote from Gertrude Stein, Everybody’s Autobiography (1937), often taken to be referring to the city of her childhood, Oakland, California

I am rather bemused that, at this point of my blogging odyssey, I now get enough traffic (averaging over 1,000 blogpost views per day in the past couple of weeks) that the news sometimes comes to me, instead of me having to go out in search of it.

So it was that, about a month ago, I received the following message via my Contact Me page about yet another blockchain-based virtual reality platform currently in development, called Districts:

Hi, I read the article with great interest https://ryanschultz.com/list-of-social-vr-virtual-worlds/. I wanted to point out that the list is missing at least one project: project Districts, which is in the launch phase and consists of a 360-degree virtual world ecosystem with a proprietary and original blockchain. I leave the link of the site hoping to do what I like https://districts.io/. Thanks and good job.

There are a couple of things that set the Dubai-based Districts platform apart from other blockchain-based virtual worlds which I have already covered on this blog (here’s a handy link to all my blogposts on that topic):

  • It is apparently based on the Unreal game engine (a relative rarity); and
  • It is based on a new blockchain called 3DCoin rather than on Ethereum.

According to the FAQ located near the bottom of their homepage, which for some unfathomable reason features an executive looking out over a ruined, post-apocalyptic city overgrown with jungle:

Why create a new blockchain instead of using Ethereum blockchain?

The main reasons is that Ethereum blockchain is expensive, limited, and cannot handle interactions in VR World. So the 3DCoin blockchain was born to ensures the decentralization of the Districts platform, live action hosting, decentralized application script hosting, DAPP [Decentralized App], land ownership and the vote system. A custom script system had to be created to improve and simplify contracts and DAPP creation, both have dedicated creation visual tools. Also, a safe script module that keeps unspendable transactions, defective contracts and DAPPs out of the network, thus protecting users and saving resources. 3DCoin as new crypto currency has many features that we judge very useful for people, instant and programmable transactions, coin blending for transaction anonymisation, and external key support.

According to their website, Districts has been in development since 2016, but they don’t seem to have a lot to show for it yet. At least with the three front-runner blockchain-based virtual worlds (Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space), there is an actual platform that you can visit. Districts appears to have a blockchain and cryptocurrency…aaand that’s about it so far, from what I can tell. There’s a lot of future tense in the FAQ: we will do this, we will do that.

The link to their user forums appears to be broken. Although their GitHub appears to have been started back in 2016, there’s precious little in it for what is supposedly a multi-year, ongoing project.

There is the usual blockchain babble (the power of decentralization, blah blah blah), with all the requisite use cases listed, including a few I had never encountered before:

Bored? We’ve got you coveredTired of browsing through the same sites repeatedly? Fed up with seeing the same mundane and recycled content on social media? Then come into the Districts ecosystem. Content? Where is the content here?

Investment opportunities? The Districts 3D world is an investor delight. Simply recruit content creators in the 3D world, enter a mutual agreement backed up by 3D coin smart contracts, and then develop your dream virtual solution.

A place of recluse for shy people?!?? Now that’s a new one. Are they aiming for people in self-isolation because of the coronavirus pandemic?

I’ll give the company behind Districts points for some unintentional humour.

So, bracing myself, I perused their white paper, trying to parse all the cryptojargon. Here’s a representative sample:

Project Districts is the world’s first fully capable decentralized virtual ecosystem designed to project real-world and ethereal experiences to users all over the globe. Its robust architecture and highly competent development portal (the Districts Visual Studio), makes it the perfect candidate for bootstrapping real-world ideas and solutions. Districts is dissimilar from conventional virtual realities in that it is run and governed by its thriving community. Users who power the blockchain network by functioning as nodes hold the power to create and modify rules governing the ecosystem. Quite practically, its strength is in its numbers. It is this expansive number of users interconnected by the blockchain that has made Districts a hub for social interaction and innovation.

Unlike in the classic blockchain systems (BTC, DASH…), 3DCoin transactions are not placed at the base of a Merkle root, but they are directly arranged into The real-time outputs list. The Merkle root is created only after the reception of all the transactions to be integrated into the block, but the RTOL list is hashed every time a transaction is added to it in all nodes, eliminating the need to duplicate the last transaction in case of an odd set. the final hash (3DCoin root) is what replaces the Merkle root in the block. This change adds new functionality (instant validation) while keeping the same level of safety.

You follow all this? It makes my eyes glaze over (then again, I admittedly am not the target audience here). And honestly, after reading all this, I cannot for the life of me tell what’s actual deliverable product and what’s simply vapourware and handwaving. And believe me, the promotional videos don’t help (the first one is irritatingly vague):

And, as far as I can tell, there doesn’t even seem to be a client program for Districts (what the company calls their Explorer, which is referenced in passing in this video, is basically a website that seems to list the 3DCoin blocks as they are mined).

The second video is a bit more interesting, but I ask myself: Why would anybody want to do this, when you can just set up an online web store using Shopify? Who is going to put on a VR headset to go retail shopping? This reminds me of nothing so much as Mark Space’s vapid, abandoned shopping mall concept, except it does appear to actually be based in real virtual reality this time, instead of just 360-degree photos. Again, I have no idea if this demo is actually available to visit, because I cannot find any trace of actual client software anywhere on the website or on the GitHub.

The third and final 2-minute promotional video I will show you dates from 2017, and is supposed to show you what Districts are supposed to look like, but again, there’s no way of knowing if this was just a high-end model of a house interior used to create some slick-looking visuals, or an actual virtual place you can visit (and there’s zero sign of avatars). The video ends with an exhortation to join their crowdfunding campaign, but I can find no record of this campaign on the internet, or whether or not it met its goal. Troubling.

So, if you are still interested at this point, you can go to their website, take a peek at their GitHub, or follow Districts on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Reddit, and (of course!) Telegram (because like a website with an .io domain, every blockchain/crypto project has to have a Telegram…).

What do I think about Districts? As Gertrude Stein said up top, there seems to be no there there. I am mystified as to why the company even bothered to approach me to blog about their nascent platform. I mean, they must have read some of my earlier, sharply critical blogposts about other blockchain-based virtual projects like Mark Space. There are dozens of them, and many of them appear to be failing, hard.

Then again, I could well be wrong, as I freely admit I was wrong about Cryptovoxels (which, by the way, is having their final auction of land parcels, a roaring success). My track record for predictions in this space has been lousy.

But frankly, the world does not need yet another blockchain-based virtual world in these perilous times of pandemic, when people have other, much more pressing problems on their minds, and holding firmly onto their wallets and purses. So I am going to take a hard pass on this one.

As before, I am not investing a single personal penny in any blockchain-based platforms, and I would very strongly caution you to do every single shred of your homework before investing in any crypto scheme. Caveat emptor!

Sigh…yet another mystifying, opaque image from District’s whitepaper

Pandemic Diary: April 7th, 2020 (AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!)

Today has not gotten off to a good start.

I have type II diabetes, a condition related to my obesity, and recently I switched from a lancet and digital blood sugar monitor to the FreeStyle LibreLink app on my iPhone, which has the advantage that I can check my blood sugar as many times during the day as I want.

The system requires that I apply a blood sugar sensor (with a fairly large needle) into my upper arm, which I then activate and scan using my iPhone. I have to change the sensor every two weeks. When the system works, it works well.

But the sensors are expensive as hell (I still have to look into whether my health insurance covers them and how to apply for it), and out of the last five sensors I have used, only three have worked until the end of the two-week period. The sensors are applied using a fairly strong adhesive, but after one night of restless sleep (a frustratingly common occurrence lately), it detached and I actually bent the needle, making it useless.

Well, this morning, my LibreLink app was giving me abnormally low blood sugar readings, and to boot, the spot where I had attached it was painful. I tested my blood sugar using the old method, and there was a clear mismatch. Between the pain and the misreadings, I tore it off in disgust and threw it into the trash. Another very expensive sensor bites the dust. Looks like I will be pricking my fingers for the next couple of weeks.

To top it off, my brief perusal of this morning’s Google News website brought forth the following distressing articles:

Zubrin says it’s just a matter of time before others are facing the same decision she and her sister had to make. 

“Everyone is really tight with finances right now. They’re being laid off, there’s no money, they’re going to be keeping every dime they possibly can. Even though let’s say six months down, the road everything’s been lifted and everything’s fine, and they want to do shopping, they still have how many months worth to catch up,” she said.

“They’re not going to go shop, shop, shop, so us little small businesses, we’re not going to survive. We’re not.”

It would appear that the coronavirus pandemic is going to spark, at the very least, a major global recession, possibly even another Great Depression. Oh, joy. I may land up working to age 65 after all.

Wade Kidd of Winnipeg

Kidd’s family said he started experiencing flu-like symptoms on March 18. After contacting health officials, Kidd self-isolated in his home.

“He stayed at home until he was feeling so unwell that we knew he needed help. He was admitted to hospital on March 27, where his condition quickly deteriorated,” his family said.

Kidd died on April 2. His family said he was a loving husband, father and grandfather.

“He was going to be 55 in May, and had a love of life,” the family said. “Wade should be remembered for the amazing man he was, not for how he died. He was humble and unassuming in his life and would not know what to do with all this attention. He was a steady ship in a crazy storm, and now he is gone.”

Kidd’s family said he lived a healthy active life, though he did have some underlying health conditions.

Now, I don’t know what underlying health conditions Mr. Kidd had, but he was two years younger than I am, and I most certainly do NOT live “a healthy, active life”. Between my obesity, my hypertension, my asthma, and my type II diabetes, I am a sitting duck if I catch this coronavirus. I might well be stuck in my small apartment for the duration of the pandemic, creeping out wearing a respirator mask, eye protection, and surgical gloves, truly safe only when I can receive a vaccine, which is likely 12 to 18 months away, at best. AT BEST.

So, yes, I am in an absolutely foul mood today. (That’s MISTER Crankypants to you, buster.) You are all hereby forwarned. I will probably step well away from the blogging keyboard today, lest I vent that anger into a blogpost directed at somebody, or some social VR platform or virtual world that really doesn’t deserve it (as evidenced here, here, and especially here).

I’ll return when I am in a better mood.

UPDATE 12:59 p.m.: Well, things are going rapidly downhill.

I have spent the last hour and half on the phone with technical support for the FreeStyle LibreLink system, because when I replaced the old sensor with a second, new one, my iPhone app wouldn’t scan it, and worse, my iPhone app still thinks I have two weeks left on the old sensor. There doesn’t seem to be any way to reset it unless I can actually scan the new sensor, which, after quite the lengthy period of trial and error, the technical support person thinks is probably defective. So they are mailing me two replacement sensors: one to replace the old one, and one to replace the new one. She tells me they should arrive in three to five days to my mailbox.

And I’m still not sure, if I open my last remaining sensor box, whether or not it will work with the FreeStyle LibreLink app (which apparently still thinks that it has 14 days left on the old sensor).

Oh, and another thing: I forgot my password for the whole goddamn system, and the technical support person had to talk me through a password reset via their website, which (thankfully) worked. So, at least I can now uninstall, then reinstall this fucking app from scratch, to make sure that it will work with my last sensor. All my blood sugar data should be stored “in the cloud”, so I should be okay. (Should be.)

What a fucking circus. I feel as if I am beta-testing this goddamn thing.

Oh, and on top of all that, WordPress had a temporary system outage, and it wouldn’t let me edit this blogpost, even when I entered my correct username and password. So I’m like, this, right now:

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

The only ray of light in this whole fucking day so far is that my best friend FaceTimed me to ask if I needed anything from the grocery store (since I haven’t gone out shopping since March 16th). He’s already picking up groceries for himself, and some breakfast supplies for his mother, who lives in an assisted-living home, so a few extra items wouldn’t be a big deal for him.

I begged him to pick up a couple of loaves of bread: real, actual, store-bought multigrain bread. I went through my entire supply a week and a half ago, and I haven’t yet been brave enough to attempt to bake my own bread (even though I have all the ingredients on hand). I expect he will be dropping them off on front doorstep later today, as I wave at him through the living room window of my apartment.

I was so grateful I almost cried. I even told him I would name my first-born child after him. (He knows that’s never gonna happen. I know that’s never gonna happen. EVERYBODY WHO KNOWS ME, knows that’s NEVER gonna happen.)

Jesus-fucking-Christ-tapdancing-on-a-cracker, what a day. I need to go lie down now. I honestly don’t think I can handle anything else going wrong today.