Jan 082011

This is the first in a series of Second Life Absolute Basics-type posts. We’re going to begin at the very beginning, with determining whether you can run Second Life in the first place, and then we’ll move swiftly on to the sign-up process. This series is aimed at the curious, as well as the newbie. So whether you’ve clicked something about Second Life and just seen this crazy map thing that you can’t get into, or whether you want to know exactly what to expect the second you log in, this post series is for you.

Words that you’ll need to know (such as terms for things in-world, jargon and slang, etc) will be written in bold.

Hop behind the cut!

Before we get started…

To determine if your system is capable of running Second Life, visit the Can You Run It? website. Choose Second Life from the dropdown menu and click the button. You will be prompted to install a small applet (it’s perfectly safe) and your system will be analysed. It may take a few minutes, but the website will show you where your system might fall short. Second Life takes a lot of out graphics cards, in particular, so if you’re trying to run it on an old system, or a laptop with integrated graphics, then you may need to tweak your viewer’s preferences considerably. You can find the minimum requirements to run Second Life here.

IMPORTANT: Read this whole post before you set up your account!

OK, if you’re all set then we’re going to sign up! Here’s where you need to go: http://secondlife.com/

Obviously, you’ll need to fill in some info. First, you need to pick a name for yourself. This will be your unique username and once you’ve created it you cannot change it. It will be your login ID when you launch the viewer. Once you’re in-world, though, you can use the display name feature to change the name that appears above your head (although people will still always be able to see your unique username). The display name feature is only available to those using the new Second Life Viewer 2, and third party offshoot viewers. The one that you, as a new avatar, will download is the Viewer 2, or V2.

Older avatars have first and second names, and those second names differ. Recently, Linden Lab (creators and owners of Second Life) moved to a single unique username. To avatars not using a display name viewer, you will appear to have the surname ‘Resident’. That’s what we all are in Second Life: Residents (sometimes shortened to Resi’s). Not many of us use that term, though, but it is our official title.

Choose a starter avatar. You have lots more avatars in your inventory library, so don’t worry too much if you’re not keen on the ones you see on the website. And there’s LOTS more content once you’re in-world, to get you looking exactly how you want to!

TIP: To the ladies who want to explore Second Life but might be a bit wary about some of the more salacious media reports they’ve heard about it, I suggest picking a male starter avatar to begin with. You can always change this any time you like, to a female one (or any other type, from a furry to a ‘tiny’ to a robot) but in the newbie areas people tend to look at the actual avatar rather than at the name. If you want to be left alone to acclimate yourself to the world in your initial hours there, a male avatar is a good start, because there is a high possibility that a female avatar will draw a crowd of (most likely well-meaning, but bewildering to a complete newbie!) men pretty quickly.

Scrolling down the page we come to your personal info.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you give a valid email address that you have access to. You’ll need it to activate your account, and other things (such as offline IMs and inventory offer notifications) will be sent to you there.

Once you’ve clicked ‘Create Account’ you’ll be sent to this confirmation page:

Log into the email account that you registered with, find your activation email, and click the link inside it:

Twiddle your thumbs for a few seconds…

And hey presto!

This is where you decide if you want to remain a free account while you check out Second Life, or whether you want to put payment information on file (become a premium account). A free account is perfectly good to begin with, and you can always put payment info on file at any time you like, so there’s no pressure to do it now. See the questions section at the end of this post for more info.

OK, so now you need to download the Second Life viewer, which is needed to access the world. Save the file to a location on your computer:

Find where you saved it, and install it:

Twiddle your thumbs a bit more:

The program will offer to run as soon as it’s installed. If you’re ready to go, then let it run!

It’s usually safe to ignore this warning message, but be aware that if you do get it, your viewing experience at the very beginning will be basic, as the viewer will automatically select the lowest possible graphics options for you. So don’t think that Second Life looks crappy and boring if that’s the case: you just need to crank your graphics up a bit! We’ll look into doing that later in this series:

Yay! We’re all set to log in!

Here’s a close-up of the log in bit at the bottom. Pay heed to the warning about shared computers!

Yeah yeah. Terms of Service. Sorry; you can’t get in without accepting them!

Eee! Are you excited? I am!

And here endeth the first part: dedicated to signing up for Second Life. In the next part we’ll deal with what happens when you rez in-world!


Because Second Life has to be streamed to your computer, it will use up a fair amount of bandwidth. The more places you visit, the more content has to be streamed to you, so please bear this in mind if your ISP imposes a monthly bandwidth limit. I suggest getting a freeware bandwidth monitoring application and keeping an eye on how much you’re using.

I want sexxies!
Well yes, of course you can get ‘SL sex’ here. But in order to access the adult-rated continent of Zindra you’ll need to have payment information on file and also used, or you’ll need to verify your age. You can do both of these things by logging into secondlife.com and clicking ‘Account’ in the left-hand bar. Look for ‘Age Verification‘ and ‘Change Membership Plan’. Once you’ve verified your account by either method, log out and log back in (we call this ‘relogging‘) and make sure you change your search settings to include ‘Adult’ as well as Gen and Moderate (aka: ‘mature’). you’ll then be able to view Adult search results and visit adult-rated regions.

The stipend:
If you have a premium account, you’ll receive a weekly stipend of L$300 from Linden Lab into your avatar’s L$ balance. Be aware that Linden dollars are not worth the same as US or any other dollars! You can access the Linden Exchange (LindeX™ – yes, there’s a money market in Second Life!) under the ‘Linden Exchange’ section of your account on the website. Click ‘Manage’ and then ‘Market Data’ to view the current exchange rate.

Buying money:
You can buy money on the website (as long as you have payment information on file) by visiting the Linden Exchange section of your account and clicking ‘Buy L$’. Input the amount of L$ you want (or the amount in US$ that you want to spend). Be aware that there is a buy limit for the first few days, which is triggered by this first purchase. USD25 is more than enough to get you started, and USD10 is perfectly sufficient, too You can also buy money (again, if you have payment information on file) through your viewer while logged in. We’ll get to that later in this series.

Important words and phrases you’ve learned from this post

Here’s a quick rundown of the bolded words and phrases you’ve learned in this post. If a word is highlighted in red then it’s one you’ll hear in-world quite a bit (in other words, it’s a term we all use and that you should know). Alternate phrases are supplied in brackets.

Unique username: this is the name you choose when you sign up. It’s also your login ID when you start the viewer and your identifier in-world. Your unique username will be a single word (such as joe1982) but older avatars that were created before the new registration process came into effect will have a double, punctuated name (such as fred.smith). Unique usernames are always completely in lowercase.

Display name: this is a secondary name that you can configure once you’re logged in-world. You can change this once per week. It does not, however, completely replace your unique username, which can always be viewed if people choose to enable that setting in their viewer.

Residents (Resi’s): the term for all avatars in-world. Not many residents actually refer to themselves as this, though. To other avatars not using a viewer capable of showing display names (such as an older viewer, or a third party viewer based on the older models) you will appear to have Resident as your surname (so if your unique username is joe1982 they will see you as joe1982 Resident in their viewer). However, any transactions you make (for example, if you buy something from someone) will simply show your unique username.

Viewer (Viewer 2, V2): This is the software you need to download and install in order to access Second Life.

Linden Lab (LL): the creators and owners of Second Life. Note: there is no ‘s’ at the end; it’s Linden Lab, not Linden Labs!

Offline IMs (Offlines): you can choose to have any instant messages that you are sent when you’re not logged-in to be sent to the email address you supplied when you registered. These are called offline IMs.

Inventory offer notifications: if you have the offline IMs setting enabled (see above) you will also receive email notifications when someone offers you something, such as a notecard from a store group that you have joined.

Premium account (paid account): this is what you have once you have registered (and used to buy in-world cash) payment information with Linden Lab. A premium account entitles you to extra bonuses, such as a weekly stipend (see below) paid into your avatar’s monetary balance, the ability to own a Linden Home, and live chat support.

Rez (rezzing, rezzed): this term has several meanings. It can be applied to you appearing in-world when you’ve logged-in; to the world appearing around you when you have arrived at a certain place; to something appearing in-world when you’ve dragged it from your inventory; and to something appearing in-world when you’ve created (built) it .

Zindra: this is the name of the Adult continent in Second Life, which comprises many regions (see below). You can only access Zindra if you have registered (and used) payment information with Linden Lab, or have verified your age.

Sim (region): Not to be confused with The Sims! ‘Sim’ is short for ‘simulator’, which is a server that runs anything from one to half a dozen areas in Second Life. The correct term for a sim is ‘region’, but in-world you’ll find most people referring to them as sims.

Stipend: the weekly L$300 that your avatar will receive while you’re a premium account holder.

Relog: this is the term that residents use for logging out of Second Life and then logging back in again. If you have problems with your avatar (such as it showing up as a cloud, etc) or your L$ balance not registering correctly, etc, you’ll often be advised to ‘relog’.

L$ (Linden dollars, Lindens): the in-world currency of Second Life, regulated by the LindeX: the in-world money market. L$ have a real world value (the approximate conversion rate is 250 or so L$ to each US$; it varies on or around that amount). The term ‘Lindens’ can refer to L$ or to the Linden avatars, controlled by employees of Linden Lab.

 Posted by at 7:40 pm

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