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NSFW We welcome freelancer Destiny Welles to Vulture Central. She will contribute an occasional column from within Second Life: thus we join our colleagues CNET and Reuters with a correspondent embedded in the popular online universe. As a budding young journo, Destiny has already earned a remarkable reputation for hard-thrusting investigative work - Ed.

Destiny Welles

Writes Destiny: When The Register invited me to become their Second Life correspondent, I had no idea what I was getting into. But the concept seemed so totally next, I flung myself at the opportunity like it was a stripper's pole.

I've been asked simply to be myself and report my experiences, so this column is to be my journal. That means I won't always identify myself as a reporter, so I can't use anything people say to me, even if it's news. Only conversations understood to be on the record by all parties will appear in print: nothing else will.

It also means I'll never use anyone's name - not even their alias, unless they knowingly go on the record. This journal will be about my impressions and experiences. But still, you'll learn all about Second Life as I make my "pilgrim's progress" within it.

If you're a newbie, you'll relate. If you've never been to Second Life, this column will offer a taste of what lies in store. And if you're already way ahead of me, feel free to meet me on the grid and offer a pointer toward an interesting future topic.

Now for my first impressions.

Whew, it definitely took me time to get the hang of Second Life, or "SL" as it's called by users (or "residents" as they're called by themselves). Still with me? lol. When I first logged in a few days ago, everything was a mystery. For example, you get clothes when you first configure your avatar, but I thought they made me look like a dork. And yet I saw all these ppl running around in totally fab outfits. I was sooo jealous!

Fortunately, an older gentleman with piles of Linden Dollars (that's what there money is called) spotted me and took me into his care. Let's call him "Max". He was so helpful and patient; and as soon as I enthusiastically expressed my gratitude toward him, I was set for a major shopping spree. It must have been so boring for poor Max, lol, but he took me to the best shops and I tried on scores of custom outfits and scads of expensive jewellery. It's so cool; your bf just gives u the money and you click on what you like and try it on.

Max spent a fortune on clothes, jewellery and accessories for me, but we made a pact that I wouldn't wear them for anyone else. So then I was stuck, needing to get decent outfits for banging around SL on my own. Fortunately, I met a young man with no Lindens who knew about getting by without money, and he took me to a fab shop called Free Dove where a girl can get a respectable wardrobe for nothing. You can see the result in my pic (sorry, that's all I can wear for you; only Max gets to see me totally iced out, lol).

Everything I saw at Free Dove was so sexy, and the sales girls there are the best, always ready to help a noob without making u feel like a dork. Alot of the SL designers give away some clothes and accessories, basically to advertise there skillz and products, so it works out great for everyone. And guys, they have clothes for you too! Also, there are lots more places to explore for freebies, but personally I'm staying loyal to Free Dove cos the staff was so helpfull. Real-life companies could learn alot about customer service from the residents here in SL!

Once you've got a wardrobe, well, you've just got to show it off, haven't you? Max took me dancing so I could do just that. Dressed in the wonderful things he'd bought me, I was teh hawtness. Everyone was IM'ing me. I couldn't keep up!

There are dance clubs all over the grid with streaming music. They also have a variety of scripts set up in objects - spheres usually - that you just click on, and then your avatar begins to dance (or whatever, lol!) So there you are, and u can hear the music, and your dancing with all the others. You all chat and enjoy watching your avatars interact at the same time. It's like IRC on steroids.

Many of these experiences are free. Plenty of dance clubs are open to all, and it's a great way to meet people. And of course, each person you make friends with will open up different avenues on the grid for you to explore. I am sooo looking forward to being shown more of it, now that I've had a taste!

Still, just like in real life, some of the best experiences cost money. At least for you men, ha! (As for us girls, well, we just need to show our gratitude in the right way, lol.) Now, Max is stinking rich, so he's opened a quiet world of SL society to me. I'm not at liberty to discuss much of what happens on Max's island, but I can say that our time together involves such activities as shopping, gambling, sailing, and even dinner parties with the movers and shakers of this artificial universe. (And of course, he has some totally wild custom scripts for the things we do after hours!)

Again, like in daily life, free experiences are often rather coarse. And even when they're good, they're confining: penniless residents simply can't access some of what SL offers. If you want real freedom here, you've got to pay, or offer something desirable in return (which I'm always happy to do, lol). It's sad to think there are poor people in the world, but it's not so bad in SL.

Be that as it may, there are thousands of people to meet: you can certainly enjoy an active and varied social life without spending a cent. All your basic needs are free. You pay only for what you want. Unfortunately, there's often a difference in quality of experience between those with means and those without. This is especially evident in what passes for sex in SL, which I'll probe deeply in my next column.

So, my most important first impression is, SL is way more fun than real life. I'm not saying 'better', just way more fun. I could go on and on, but I think I ought to look around some more, and see if this impression lasts. I'll get back to u soon!

Meanwhile, gtg: I've got a date with Max, and after that I'll be free to wander. If I should pop into your corner of the grid, don't hesitate to wave. Byes! ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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