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 Use the Matrix Before it Uses You

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Join date : 2009-12-31
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PostSubject: Use the Matrix Before it Uses You   Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:10 am

Use the Matrix Before it Uses You
Posted By: RazorOfLove

Quote :
Ever had an annoying shaman that couldn’t understand digital security protocol if his life depended on it, even though you explained it a thousand times? If only you could tell him to read the fuckin’ manual. Well, here’s a fuckin’ manual to pass to your teammates; it’s what I pass to mine. This looks like it was written for tweens, and it was, but it was written by a hacker with some real chops. She was a Matrix Science teacher before dropping into the shadows, and yeah, she was my teacher once. She said that she wouldn’t teach me how to hack, but if I paid attention I would learn, which is the way it works.
> Slamm-0!

Quote :
Is it just me, or is this file size too big for its contents?
> Hannibelle

Quote :
Nice catch. Razor used steganography to include Glitch’s Hacker’s Handbook as an easter egg for kids with the skills to pry it out.
> Slamm-0!

Congratulations! You’re probably reading this because you’re old enough to leave your KidLink™ behind and get your own fully featured commlink. There’s a big bad virtual world out there for you to explore, but if you’re not careful, it will eat you up and spit you out. Not to worry, you’re reading this guide, and soon you’ll be surfing the digital waves with the best.

The Basics
The first thing you’re going to need is a commlink (duh). You’re also going to need an operating system, or OS. Always try to get the best commlink model and OS you can afford. The electronics store is not a place to skimp in a wireless world.
You’re also going to need some interface gear. Sure, you can use the commlink’s built-in screen and thumb-buttons, but that’s pretty lame. Get an image link so you can see AR objects and data; it can be built into shades, regular glasses, goggles, or even contact lenses for that natural look. Grab some ear buds or headphones (depending on your look) so you can catch your tunes and other audio. A microphone will let you make commcalls without having to use your ‘link’s mic. Add some AR gloves to complete the ensemble; you can get them as gloves, paste-ons, or even as a set of full-finger rings. Whatever your look, you can use the Matrix in style.

Direct Neural Interface
Be wary of people who tell you that DNI is the only way to fly. You might think that you can get a datajack even though it’s illegal in most places to buy a DNI before you’re 18 or 21, but be careful. You’re probably not done growing, so a datajack is not a good idea yet. But even with trodes, DNI is a gateway directly to your brain, and a person can get seriously messed up through that interface. Nevertheless, the ability to simply think your commands is an incredible ease-of-use factor that makes trodes worth the risk. To roll with a DNI trode interface, you’ll first need to spend a few minutes configuring your trodes to your brain the first time you use them. Your trodes will slave themselves to your sim module, and then your commlink will give you a series of mental exercises to do. Don’t come crying to me if something nasty happens to your wetware.

Getting the Hook Up
Chances are, your family, enclave, or arcology already has a Matrix service provider, or MSP. Despite what the ads say, you don’t really need an MSP to get onto the Matrix, your commlink has all the hook-up you need. But MSPs provide you with storage space and a messaging service that will hold on to your messages when you’re offline, not to mention programs (usually Browse class programs and Edit class programs) that you would otherwise have to buy yourself. The more expensive ones let you use agents to do things for you.

Call Me, Baby
One thing an MSP is good for is to get a commcode. You need a commcode if you want people to be able to call you and send you text, image, and voice messages. Some MSPs will give you more than one. If you don’t use an MSP, you can get a commcode from any number of providers.
Don’t give your commcode to just anybody! Once it’s in the hands of a marketing node, your commcode will be on a hundred thousand spam lists.
And don’t worry about getting software to make calls. All the stuff you need to chat with your buddies is built into your OS. Speaking of programs ...
A Hard Look at Software You might want some programs if you don’t want to rely on an MSP. You can buy your own Browse class and Edit class programs and load them into your commlink. If you play a field sport like lacrosse, hockey, or football (either kind), your coach will give you a TacNet class program unless you’re in a classic-rules league. I also recommend an Encrypt class program, you can talk to your friends without your parents eavesdropping.
One program that is a must-have for your commlink is an Analyze class program. Keep it running as often as you can. It helps against hackers and lets you check out icons to see if they’re harmful. I recommend WhatsThat from the Matrix Open-Source Syndicate; it works and it’s free!
Quote :
This is a little out of date. MOSS was bought up by a subsidiary of Evo, so now WhatsThat costs around 200¥. But the advice is still good: always keep an Analyze program running.
> FastJack
There are other programs out there that let you do other things, but those are up to you to find and figure out. But remember: if you don’t have a program for what you want to do, you can’t do it, so load up that commlink!

Work Those Programs
Of course, just loading a program into your ‘link doesn’t mean you can use it. In order to use a program, you’ve got to run it first. Running programs takes up processor time and memory space in your commlink, and if you run too many programs, your ‘link will s-l-o-w d-o-w-n, big time. The better your OS, the more programs it can handle at once (I told you not to skimp!). You might want to run an agent or two (who wouldn’t?). Remember that those agents are programs, too, and cause the same slow-down that other programs do. Not to mention that the programs the agents use have to be running along side them. Another thing to remember is the one-user limit: you and an agent can’t share the same running program. If you’ve got a program loaded, you can run two copies of it as long as the agent is yours, too, but that’s even more programs to slow your commlink, so don’t go crazy on the progs.
Now that you’re loaded up, let’s take this puppy for a test drive …

Surfin’ the ‘Trix
The Matrix is a virtual place. Technically, it’s a synthetic hallucination that is expressed using the analogy of geography by consent of its users. Which is the scientific way of saying that it’s only a place because we’ve decided it would be. All those nifty virtual landscapes you’ve been looking at? All fake, phony, and not there, not even a little bit. Somebody’s imagination on steroids. What does this mean for you? Absolutely nothing. The Matrix was designed to appear to be a physical location on purpose, so if you treat it like it’s a place, everything will work just fine. But the Matrix isn’t just an imaginary place, it’s a bunch of imaginary places.

Nodes and Icons
The Matrix is really made up of a whole bunch of nodes. A node is a virtual location that represents a Matrix system. Everything in the Matrix is either a node or in a node. In fact, your PAN (that thing we set up with your commlink and peripherals) is a node, too!
Everything else in the Matrix is called an icon. Every file, user, agent, datastream, device interface, everything has an icon. Icons usually look like things, and you can touch them to interact with them, just like in real life. Everything in the Matrix that isn’t a node is an icon (yes, even technomancers).
Quote :
That’s not entirely true.
> Icarus
Things in the Matrix are designed to look, smell, feel, taste, sound, and act a certain way. This is called sculpting. A node can be sculpted to look like a church, a classroom, a beach, or even empty space. Icons are sculpted, too.
Don’t worry about not being able to tell different icons apart from each other and from the node. Your commlink will identify which objects are icons and which are just pretty background.
Quote :
This is where Stealth programs do their work. It’s impossible to make your icon undetectable in a node without getting disconnected, but it is possible to make your icon look like something innocent.
> Slamm-0!

Less Talking, More Surfing
Okay, let’s have a look. You’re currently just look at things in AR mode, which means you have a couple of small windows open to the side of your field of vision. Note how in AR, everything is depicted as small icons, small amounts of text, and small trid clips? And it’s all transparent, so you can see what’s happening in the realworld too? That’s because that’s the point of AR, to let you interact with the meat world and the Matrix at the same time.
First off, mental click on that icon to the right, and take a closer look at the expanded view. That’s your current icon. When people see you in the Matrix this is what they’ll see. Unless you got a really cheap OS, you’ll have hundreds of different options to play with. Go ahead and sort out your first look, I’ll be here when you’re done.
All set? Okay, now see that window on top, the one with the logo on it? That’s your commlink icon. Mental click on that and drag it to the center of your vision. Now mentally toggle over into virtual mode. See how it shifted from an icon to a window?
Through that window, you’re looking at the default sculpting of your OS, a bare-looking room with a logo on it. This is what your commlink node looks like in VR, only we’re still viewing in AR so you see it like you would presented on a display screen. VR is a whole different experience—if you were in VR, you’d actually be there, completely immersed in that environment. It’s not a real place, but it might as well be. Don’t worry about the decor right now, you can futz with it later.
Now, let’s check out the ‘Trix. Start by mentally clicking the icon that says “local grid.” See the window that popped up with a big list of names? Those are all of the local nodes within wireless range. Now look back to the virtual view window, and you’ll see the point of view has changed so that you’re now floating above your node, which probably looks like a box with the same logo (you can fix that, too). This is a spatial representation of the nodes that your PAN can access directly. Straight down is your node, and there’s probably your household node nearby (unless you’re not at home, natch). Maybe some neighbors’ nodes around, and possibly some others. You might see some moving nodes that belong to passersby or vehicles outside. You can probably see a lot of advertising, too, floating here and there. Nice view, huh?
Ok, pop up a search window and look up the address for your MSP, or just select it from that node list. Hit the connect button. Bam! You’ve just accessed the public area of the MSP’s nexus. If you were in VR, you could have just flown over (or zoomed in on) and touched the MSP node’s icon. By convention, they’re usually sculpted as towers (but then so are nodes for actual towers, so if you live near a tower, it could get confusing). In the virtual view window, you can see what the inside of this node looks like in VR. Pretty wild and noisy, huh? Go ahead and look around, you can’t damage anything here, and you certainly won’t crash the ‘Trix.
Quote :
You can’t crash the Matrix. In fact, the unwired version of the Matrix is made up of independent nodes sharing information. If another crash is imminent, all of the “safe” parts of the Matrix will isolate themselves and localize the crash. The Matrix is uncrashable.
> Clockwork
Quote :
“Uncrashable” sounds a lot like “unsinkable.”
> The Smiling Bandit

About this time, you’re probably getting your first spam, unless you’ve got a really good firewall. Spam’s not dangerous, and most of the time your OS pushes them to the edge of your view, but they can get annoying. You’ll only encounter extreme spam in heavily-trafficked areas (both in real life and the Matrix). Trust me, you don’t want to buy anything from a spammer, so just let them open, do their thing, and close again. You don’t actually need to see all this wild bedlam, so this would be a good time to start playing with your filters. Look for a funnel or sieve icon, or the “filter” kanji (if you’re using DNI like I told you not to, you’ll need to think it; it might take you a few tries). Select (or think) “Remove Traffic” from the menu that pops up. That should calm things down a bit in the virtual view window. Now your commlink has stopped rendering network traffic. It’s still there, but you don’t sense it any more. You can be as selective as you like with your filter, and even “fly blind” by filtering out everything but the scenery. Try out some different settings; you can fine-tune it later.
If you’re done playing around with the MSP’s node and your filters, look around for the regional link. It usually is sculpted in the form of a globe or a map. Use your Analyze program if you’re having trouble sorting out which icons do what. Now touch the map and activate the regional view. Yow!
An even bigger list of nodes has popped up! This is all of the nodes that the MSP is aware of, and that’s usually in a big area. You can go to any of
these nodes you like, although you’ll only be able to get into the public areas (and most of those just say “go away” or a variation thereof ). Later on, you
can bookmark or fave nodes that you like, so you can just go straight there instead of hunting for it.
If you want to get into a node properly, and not just its public areas, you’ll need an account on that node. Then you’ll be able to get inside the node and use whatever the owners allow you to use.
Quote :
For those who are less than Matrix-savvy, when we’re hacking a node, we’re creating an account for our own use. The more access this hacked account has, the harder it is to create.
> The Smiling Bandit
Let’s try a public library. Open a search box and find one. Then go to it and sign up for an account. It will access your SIN information and get you hooked up. Check out how the virtual view of the node changes when you get your account. You’re on the inside, baby! You can check out books and videos and stuff later, but first notice how big the place is. It’s actually bigger, but there’s stuff here you can’t see. Just like stores and things have back rooms, nodes have private areas that you can’t even see without a higher-level account. In fact, there are probably icons for things you can’t access floating around right now. Don’t worry, if your ‘link can’t detect it, it can’t interact with you, either.
Okay, that’s your training flight. Go play around or buzz your friends’ home nodes or something. Don’t be afraid to try things, a node won’t let you do anything it doesn’t want you to do. When you’re ready to find out more about the Matrix, keep reading.

Face Time
Now that you’re loaded up and running some progs on your ‘link, let’s get out into the wide world of wireless. The Matrix is a big place, so you’ll not only be able to keep in touch with your current friends, but make new ones around the world. It’s not all fun and games, though; there are some freaks and dangers out there, but if you follow my lead and surf smart, you’ll be able to use the Matrix before it uses you.

You’ve Got the Look
You get to decide how people see you in both AR and VR. The technical term for what people see when they look at you in the Matrix is “icon,” but a lot of people call it your avatar. There are literally thousands of icons available from stores, “off-the-rack” as it’s called in the Matrix. You can get pretty much any one you want, and all of them come with customizable detailing. If you really want to stand out, though, you use a custom icon. Custom icons are hella expensive, but totally wicked, and guaranteed to be unique. If you’ve got an artistic bent, you can make your own icon, too, but you’ll need a good Edit-class program and a massive amount of time (every single action of your icon has to be programmed, animated, and pre-rendered).

You’ve been able to get commcalls on your KidLink™ already, but now you’ll be able to call anybody, not just the people your parents okay. When you make the call, you can specify audio, text, image, video, or any combination of the above. Just pick the commcode of the person you’re calling, hit the commcall button (or whatever you’ve set up for your personal commlink), and wait to connect. If you don’t need to talk to them right away, just compose a message, in voice, text, or images or whatever, and bam, you’ve sent an email. Now that you have a real ‘link, you’ll also be able to call more than one person at once. You don’t even have to have all of the conversations at once. You can hold some, merge others, only send messages to part of a group, whatever you want. The power is totally in your hands!
Remember that while you can call anybody, anybody can call you, so always screen your calls before you connect, and leave the auto-answer feature alone!

You Are Who You Know
One of the coolest things you can do on the Matrix is connect with your friends on social sites. There are a bunch to choose from, like blog hosts, interest clubs, forums, info boards, and so on. They offer chat proxies (so you can call people without giving out your commcode), file sharing, and discussion groups where you can post your thoughts and read those of others.
A social network can help you out and help you find folks who can do you favors, but don’t forget that it’s all give-and-take. Every social network has a reputation system of some sort, be it ranks or smileys just a number. If your reputation is low on a site, you’re not likely to be popular, and if you ask for too much you might get kicked off, so be polite and lend a hand when you can.

Awesome Places to Be
There are some sweet clubs, hip-hoppin’ hang-outs, and neorawkin’ raves going on in the ‘Trix. These places are just like real-life clubs, except that all the architecture is virtual. Jump in, pop your AR to full-view (you still aren’t using VR, right?), and enjoy. These are the places where your icon can be important. They are the best venues to see and be seen, whether you’re wearing off-the-rack or a custom number. In fact, if your avatar is good enough, people won’t immediately assume you’re a kid and not take you seriously (yeah, grown-ups suck, I know). Some places won’t even let you in if your icon isn’t up to snuff. A lot of places will disconnect visitors who misbehave, too, so mind your manners!
It’s true that you could go to these places in VR. I’d hold off on the whole virtual reality thing, but if you’re going to do it, read what I have to say about it later on before you jack in!

Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Pwned!
You da playa? Got game? Prove it over one of hundreds of massively multi-player games! You can find pretty much any kind of game you’re looking for, from Miracle Shooter to Pony Trainer and everything in between and on either side. Be careful not to get into it too much, though, ‘cuz the stories about kids dying because of an AR game aren’t all urban legends.
Quote :
She’s right. They’re not.
> Snopes

The Matrix Knows Everything
Almost the whole of human knowledge is sitting on the ‘Trix, waiting to be found. You’ll need a Browse program of some sort, but your MSP has one, if you have an MSP. Most databases aren’t free, but a lot of them will come with your MSP. For the others, you might need an account. Aetherpedia is a good and comprehensive database of information about everything under (and around) the sun, and it’s free if you have any kind of MSP.
Quote :
Aetherpedia’s got an augmented wiki-style editing and peer review scheme, so it’s always a good place to start. Plus it’s trivial to hack if you don’t have an MSP.
> Glitch

But Wait! There’s More!
There are all kinds of services and surprises available in the Matrix. Data havens, hidden clubs, meta-games, blogs, escrow services, newsfeeds, you name it, it’s probably out there.
Quote :
Data havens? Isn’t this for kids? And escrow services? Why the heck is she talking about escrow services?
> Kane
Quote :
She’s probably planting seeds in the minds of future shadowrunners. The employers who are up-front about paying will set up an escrow account with a trusted entity, usually your fixer. That way you know you’ll get paid, and the issue of trust is never raised.
> Fatima
Quote :
Another way to gauge Mr. Johnson’s credibility is to ask that they use an escrow service to insure payment after the job is complete.
If they balk, you walk.
> Haze
But that’s not all that’s out in the big bad virtual world …

The Dangers
There’s more to the Matrix than data searches and a social scene full of awesome. There is a lot of bad stuff out there, and if you don’t play it smart, it’ll chew you up and spit you out. The ‘Trix ain’t for kids. Don’t worry, though, just read my warnings and stay smart, even if your friends aren’t. Don’t be a statistic!

You can read it in the newsfeed almost every day. Some kid gets brainfried on DNI. That kid thought that it could never happen to them, but there they are, brain dead and drooling. DNI can mess you up hard, before you can blink. You don’t need it. Everything you can do in VR you can do in AR. But if you’re not going to take my advice, then at least don’t be an idiot about it. Use trodes instead of an implant, so you can take them off if things get dangerous. If your ‘link suddenly starts the configuration process with your DNI again, take them off and reboot, you’ve been hacked. And never go solo; make sure there’s someone there with you to pull the trodes if things look bad. In today’s Matrix, you don’t have to use VR at all. You really shouldn’t. But if you’re going to do it anyway, always do it in a safe place with people you trust. You might think that you can handle it, and you’re probably right, but you can be dead right.
Quote :
> I’ve seen a copy of this in a public school, except it had all of the information and warnings about DNI stripped out, as if not telling kids about it would keep them from doing it.
> Butch

You Got the Power
There are plenty of hackers out there that might want to get into your commlink. They have different reasons: curiosity, data mining, marketing research, or they’re just mean or homicidal. They have tricksy ways of getting into your ‘link, too. It might look hopeless, but you’ve got an ace up your sleeve.
Find your commlink’s power button or switch and make sure you can find it by touch. Hackers can’t hack what isn’t on. The moment your ‘link starts to act funny, or an icon shows up in your node without your permission, hit that power switch and report it to the authorities (your parents, a teacher, the police, whoever). Hopefully, by the time you reboot, the hacker will have gone to look for easier pickin’s.
Quote :
They trained us on this in Knight Errant. If we thought we’d been hacked in a firefight, we called a “10-30,” found cover, and rebooted.
> Sticks
Quote :
If your OS has been hacked with a backdoor, this will only delay the hacker while you reboot. If it happens to you, and you can’t code, you can only fix it by reinstalling your OS.
> The Smiling Bandit

Analyze This
Use that Analyze program on everything. If it’s a strange icon, do it twice. Most of the icons in the Matrix are safe, but some are nasty and out to get you.
The bad ones might have a “Stealth” program that will make them look like normal, safe icons, so be especially careful when you don’t know the person behind the icon.

The good news is that when the world only sees your icon, they can’t be prejudiced about your metatype, gender, race, age, or anything else. But folks will judge you on your icon. It’s like extreme class discrimination, except that it’s based on your software. What passes for acceptable or contemptible changes depending on which node you’re in, so don’t let yourself get ambushed by digital bigots.
Quote :
The reverse is true, too. If you want to blend in, switch to an off-the-rack icon.
> Puck

Spam Spam Spam Spam
Most of the time, spam is just annoying. But some of it can carry viruses and other buckets of digital nasty. Never run a program attached to spam, ever. Keep that firewall up, and whenever you can, drop to passive mode.

Blog Smart!
Keep your personal information out of the public eye. Don’t give it to anyone that isn’t a cop, teacher, or other person who will keep it safe. Once you put something onto the Matrix, it’s on the Matrix forever.

Get Ready to Rawk
By now, you should be soaring through the Matrix like a natural. If you’re not, don’t worry; it’ll come. Now go out there and shake up that ‘Trix. You’ll have freedom that you’ve never had before. Enjoy it, but be careful. With great power comes great responsibility.
Be good, and if you can’t be good, be safe!
Quote :
And if you can’t be safe, name it after me!
> Glitch

"Be strong and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits." (Marauders of Gor, p.10)

After the lights go out on you/After your worthless life is through/I will remember how you scream
I can't afford to care/I can't afford to care ("Lights Out" Breaking Benjamin)
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