Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


Yeah, it’s a DRM kind of day

Filed under: — adam @ 2:46 pm

One hardware expert’s nightmare with DRM-protected content.

This isn’t good for anybody. It’s a poor consumer experience, it’s alienating, it’s difficult to set up, it makes you feel like a criminal.

AND IT DOESN’T ACTUALLY STOP ANYBODY WHO WANTS TO PIRATE THE MOVIE. Software DRM never fully can. This is why we say that copy control is mutually exclusive with open computing.

I think the people who are pushing this terrible technology on us need a lesson in Turing Completeness.

(Update: I wrote a longer piece on this.)

Oh, it looks like just so much goodness

Filed under: — adam @ 2:39 pm

“I understand that in the movie, Zaphod’s second head is inside his nostril. And this all ties in with the increased prominence of the Church Of Arkleseizure in the movie (a race with fifty noses, and the first to develop the aerosol deodorant before the wheel) and their leader John Malkovich, who also has a second head, and Zaphod’s unwillingness to sneeze.” Update: I’m informed that this isn’t true. It still looks good!

Moldable plastic

Filed under: — adam @ 2:09 pm

“You get a bag of plastic pellets, put them in 160F water, and they phase change, becoming soft and moldable. If you don’t let the water get too hot, when you take the plastic out, it’s cool enough to shape with your hands.

When it cools down, it hardens into a strong, durable, paintable, machine-able white plastic. If you don’t like what you made, you just put it in 160F water again and reshape it.”

Who is reading this?

Filed under: — adam @ 1:14 pm

My traffic tends to spike between noon and 1pm ET.

Are you reading this over lunch on the East Coast, or right when you get in on the West Coast?

Secure the Homeneck

Filed under: — adam @ 12:44 pm

Heh. Via Karm:

(Brought to you by the exclusive maker of Chrissy Caviar, which I’ve mentioned before.)

The MPAA has no idea what’s about to hit them

Recently, several large Bittorrent tracker sites were shut down, citing concerns about problems with copyright holders.

The movie studios think this is a good thing. They’re wrong. P2P is the Content Industry’s worst nightmare…. to date. But it just keeps getting worse from there.

Mark Pesce (inventor of VRML, which, despite completely failing to take off in any meaningful way, is still really frickin’ cool) has an extended rant about it, which is worth reading.

Here’s what I think it boils down to – a simple choice. We, as a society, have to choose one of:

1) Copy protection.
2) General purpose open computing.

They are not compatible. Copy protection (and everything else that goes along with being able to perform copy protection) simply cannot be enforced in a world where the end user has control over their hardware and software. (Update: I wrote a longer piece about this.) Everything else is a thin sugar layer on top of that, disguising the fact that we’re heading for one of two worlds – where all entertainment (and consequently, all other computing) is viewed with industry-mandated black boxes, or the content creation industry (movies, music, games, etc…) learns to live in a world where they can’t force people to pay for their product. Currently, it’s a weird mishmash, but eventually, It’s one or the other.

Fortunately, there’s still a looong way to go before general purpose computing is outlawed, and there’s not a long way to go before technology makes it possible to anonymously copy whatever you want. Two things work in favor of that outcome – 1) storage keeps getting cheaper, and 2) because everything’s digital, a distribution mechanism that works for one kind of media can be easily adapted to work for all kinds of media. Eventually, there will be enough storage out there that the entire music library of the human race will be able to fit on a card or disc that’s small enough and cheap enough that it will be practical to just hand them out with a cup of coffee. Then, eventually, the entire movie library. Then, without the cup of coffee. All radio. Recordings of every live performance. P2P is just a way station on the road to constant on-demand availability of all digital media. It may be over the wire, it may be on cheap storage, it’ll probably be a combination of the two. But how it happens doesn’t matter – it will happen. Eventually, it isn’t about “piracy” vs. “legitimate usage”. It’s about facing a world where copying is not only widespread, it’s simply unavoidable.

What will the music and movie industries do when faced with the prospect of such a world? It’s tricky. They can try to fight it, but, sadly for them, these enabling technologies are also really good, and in some cases necessary, to all kinds of other interesting (and interested) parties, industries, and countries. I think fighting it is doomed to failure, and any attempts to do so only prolong the agony of all concerned, make criminals out of legitimate users, and alienate any goodwill towards actually saving these industries by paying for their product in some other way. They can try to make money off of live performances, but eventually those will all be available as recordings immediately after the fact. It’s already starting to happen. And that doesn’t help the movie industry much – although it’s been longer in coming, the movie industry is going to do much worse than the music industry out of this – they don’t have live performances to fall back on and their main revenue model is built around staggered, restricted distribution.

But here’s the real point – these industries are going to have to find other ways to make money. Many people will pay voluntarily, if they think they’re giving their money to people who are working hard to produce the content they like, and they don’t think they’re being taken advantage of by asshats who don’t respect them. Suing them doesn’t help. Trust me on that one. Maybe we need a voluntary entertainment pool, where people pay in (say, monthly), then they get to vote on media they’ve seen. If you make good content, you get a bigger piece of the pie. Maybe we need to return to a patron model. Maybe it becomes much more difficult to be “a professional creator” (and maybe it becomes MUCH more difficult to be “a professional content distributor”). The argument “if you can’t make money off it, no one will create” is just wrong. People will create because they need to, and the consequential technologies that increase the distribution of content also make it cheaper and easier for everyone else out there to express their creative energies. We need to find a way to pay them (us), and they (we) need to find a way to convince us (them) to do so.

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