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Basics of Second Life

The Basics of Second Life

Second Life (SL) is a virtual world operated by the company Linden Lab (LL).   It is a flat world (flat-Earthers rejoice!), divided into a grid of parcels called sims (for simulator, each one is a node in the LL grid) or islands, that are 256 m squares.  Virtech is one of them.  Each user is represented by an avatar (it can be changed, but only one per user).  Users are called residents, and have unique names, plus a "display name" that can be set to whatever you like.  Each avatar has a home position; if you signed up through the Caltech Portal, Virtech is your home.


SL can be accessed through a special browser.  The official one is distributed by the Linden Lab,  However, most users seem to use one of the third party browsers, listed at  Firestorm seems to be the most popular one, and it has a good support, both on their website and (inworld = being in SL):  Almost every browser has an operating system specific version: Windows, Mac, or Linux, so download the right one.  Unfortunately, you cannot run SL from a mobile device such as a smart phone or an iPad.  You need either a laptop or a desktop.

SL can be a very rewarding experience, but there is no quick gratification: you cannot learn the interface in 10 minutes, it will take more time, but it will be worth it.  The interface to SL can be confusing at first, but the sooner you learn how to use it, the more fun you will have.  It may take an hour or two to get the very basics, and a few days of practice to get to the point where you are really comfortable and using the interface effortlessly, but it is worth the time and the effort in the end.  The basic skills include;

- How to communicate: text or voice, open chat (local) or private IMs.

- How to move and navigate: walk, run, fly, teleport, use landmarks, explore.

- How to make friends, join groups and communities, etc.

- How to change and personalize your avatar.

- How to get stuff, shop, open boxes, etc.

- How to build things.

There are many instructional videos on YouTube, such as this playlist [link: ] or this one [link:  ] . There are many, many more.

Here are some quick basics:


Local chat, in voice or text, can be seen/heard within a 30m radius.  Instant Messages (IM) are private and can be exchanged with anyone in SL, regardless of the distance.  You can make a voice call once you are IM-ing with someone.

Setting up your voice comm (in your Avatar Preferences menu) can be tricky.  It is best if someone helps you.  We may also deploy an alternative voice communications mechanism at some point.


In SL, you can walk, run (hit ctrl-R on your keyboard), you can fly, or you can Teleport.

The most common way of teleporting (TP) is using a Landmark (LM), and  those are stored in a folder in your inventory.  They can be also embedded in the Notecards (NC; also a folder in your inventory).  Clicking on a LM brings up a widget, click on Teleport to go there.  Another way is through the Map, also a button on your browser.  You can always teleport to your Home location, or create new LMs through your World menu.  You can offer teleports to people by clicking on the button in their profile pop-up, and if anyone offers a TP, do not accept it if you do not know that person.

In many sims, Virtech included, there are local teleporting networks.  Within Virtech, look for a blue circular stand, click on it, then click on the beam that emerges, and select your destination from a pop-up menu.


The best way is learning by doing.  Once you are in SL, there are several walk-through tutorials that we recommend:

- Virtech Quick Crash Course:

- We strongly recommend Caledon-Oxbridge:

(click on this landmark link and teleport there).  Go through it, and everything will make much more sense.  There are also usually some helpers at hand, who can answer your questions.  In general, do not be shy to ask anyone for help - people in SL tend to be helpful to the newcomers.  Caledon-Oxbridge also has regular classes about the various SL skills.

- Virtual Ability:

Shorter than the Caledon-Oxbridge, but still very good.

- New Citizens Inc. (NCI - multiple locations):

Usually some mentors are present.  Also some good freebies.

- Firestorm viewer New residents help area:

We may arrange for some mentors to greet the new arrivals at Viirtech, at scheduled times, but feel free to ask anyone for help.


SL is primarily a social platform.  As with other social media, you can and should have Friends.  To do that, click on their avatar, display their Profile, and click on "Add Friend".  Do not accept friend invitations from people you never met.  You should add some text in your Profile that indicates your interests, as it helps find  friends with the similar ones

Within SL, you can join groups (up to 42 of them), that may be people who share some interest, belong to some institution, like a particular store, etc.  If you are standing on Virtech, you are a member of the eponymous group, and only the group members can access Virtech.  The best way to find groups of a possible interest to you is to look into people's profiles (click on an. avatar and select Profile from the pop-up menu), or use the Search button on your browser