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


ACLU goes pizza on corporate database aggregation

Filed under: — adam @ 6:32 pm


Is “We deeply regret this unfortunate incident” the hot new corporate motto?

Following close on the heels of the news about ChoicePoint, another “I’m a large corporation and I just exposed the personal data of lots of Americans, and ho ho ho I’m just going to apologize.”

“Bank of America Corp. has lost computer data tapes containing personal information on 1.2 million federal employees, including some members of the U.S. Senate.”


There are a whole bunch of problems here.

These companies have very little liability and regulation for aggregating personal data. So, Bank of America has financial information on 1.2 million customers. That’s to be expected. They are, after all, a bank and need access to your financial information. But once you step past that – what else is legal for them to do with the data? Are they liable if they expose it by accident? They have a privacy policy that says they’re careful with your data, but what happens if they break it? Are there actually any consequences?

Bank of America actually has quite a detailed privacy policy, but what’s hidden here is important – it doesn’t say anything about the risks. “Remember that Bank of America does not sell or share any Customer Information with marketers outside Bank of America who may want to offer you their own products and services. No action is required for this benefit.” But also remember that Bank of America is a target, and your recourse is largely limited to “telling them your preferences”.

I’ve been reading “The Digital Person” by Daniel J. Solove, and it’s been an eye-opener about the problems associated with the construction, storage, and use of digital dossiers. It’s possible that I haven’t gotten to the main point yet, but even in the beginning, he makes some good observations – the problems we’re facing here aren’t necessarily malicious, but they are impersonal and uncaring. The fact that an individual piece of data doesn’t really matter if it’s revealed doesn’t mean that lots of pieces all revealed together aren’t a problem.

There are synergistic network effects at play here. It needs to be recognized that the “simple” collection and aggregation of large amounts of data has side effects in and of itself.

Transparent toaster!

Filed under: — adam @ 10:10 am

(Poor naviagtion – it’s the last one on the right.)

Via boingboing:


Is it porn if there’s no nudity?

Filed under: — adam @ 6:19 pm

I’m leaning towards yes.

Chief Privacy Officer of Gator appointed to DHS privacy committee


AP adds RSS feeds

Filed under: — adam @ 11:11 am

This, I think, is huge.

Battlestar Galactica first episode is online

Filed under: — adam @ 11:10 am

I really like the new Battlestar Galactica. The plot’s pretty tight, all of the characters are interesting and well-cast, the sound engineering is fantastic, the special effects are good, the space combat has mostly realistic physics, and the cinematography is interesting.

This episode also has a great premise.

Using a proxy with firefox

Filed under: — adam @ 11:09 am

If you want to use an anonymizing proxy like Tor with firefox, you’re not going to want to use it all the time. Bouncing your traffic around takes a long time, and it will hurt your performance as a tradeoff. While you can set an individual proxy setting to not be applied for certain sites, this is generally a pain to manage.

It’s much easier with the SwitchProxy extension, which lets you set up multiple proxy profiles, and change proxy settings from the toolbar instead of going through the options dialog.

I smell bacon!

Filed under: — adam @ 11:08 am


Kottke goes full time

Filed under: — adam @ 5:56 pm

Good for him. I hope it works out for him. I’m still not sure this is any different from being an unemployed blogger except that you’re asking for money instead of not.

New Dyson cleaner orders its own spare parts

Filed under: — adam @ 5:45 pm

“The gizmo alerts the user if it has broken down or needs a replacement part. The owner then dials the number of the Dyson call centre and holds the telephone receiver to the vacuum cleaner. The machine transmits a message telling engineers what’s wrong and orders any new part it needs.”,,2-2005083127,00.html

Great hacking story on German rent-a-bikes

Filed under: — adam @ 10:28 am

Bruce Schneier relates a great story about hacking rent-a-bikes in Berlin. The hack is interesting, non-obvious, somewhat conscientious (they only made it so you can use bikes for free if they’re sitting idle). Probably still not nice, but it’s a good read.

eBay scams now using eBay servers

Filed under: — adam @ 10:17 am

How is it possible that eBay lets you redirect to arbitrary servers?

Rule number one of web application security is “Don’t trust user input”. Even worse than this is that they know about it and can’t easily fix it. That means they’ve probably got this problem copied all over the place.

(Note: Spoofstick sees through this.)


Eggs with copper

Filed under: — adam @ 11:09 pm

I had pretty much given up on using a copper bowl for whipping egg whites long before I even started to cook seriously – it never seemed to make a difference in the way the whites whipped, or how long it took.

Turns out I was misinformed – the copper isn’t supposed to do anything for the whites as they’re whipping, but it reinforces the foam and gives you two important characteristics. Firstly, the foam lasts longer, so you have a little more leeway to do what you’re going to do with them before it starts to sag. Secondly, it stabilizes the foam matrix as it cooks, giving you more rise and firmness in the final product.

Yesterday, I took another stab at the pudding cakes, this time with a newly purchased copper bowl, and the texture difference in the cakes with copper was striking.

If you buy a copper bowl, remember that they almost always come with a coating of laquer (keeps it shiny in the store) that needs to be removed with nasty chemicals and steel wool before you use it the first time.


MAME trademarked

Filed under: — adam @ 12:29 pm

Apparently, some dude not affiliated with the MAME project has trademarked the name and logo, and is planning on suing the creators.

T-Mobile security is looser than…

Naked pictures, celebrity phone books, random ramblings.

Hunter S. Thompson killed himself

Filed under: — adam @ 12:28 pm


Oh, by the way – yeah, humans cause global warming

Filed under: — adam @ 9:40 pm

“It found that natural variation in the Earth’s climate, or changes in solar activity or volcanic eruptions, which have been suggested as alternative explanations for rising temperatures, could not explain the data collected in the real world. Models based on man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, however, matched the observations almost precisely.”,,3-1489955,00.html

Homebuilt computer controlled coffee roaster

Filed under: — adam @ 4:38 pm


Don’t walk, Rock!

Filed under: — adam @ 11:39 pm

New York Metro piece on “Thundercut”, the Brooklyn couple who deface the Walk/Don’t Walk signs downtown.

I’ve photographed their handiwork (without knowing who they were) before.

You can order a real pizza in Everquest II

“Real” meaning “physical”, of course. It is, after all, Pizza Hut.



Filed under: — adam @ 11:33 pm

Bugs Bunny to be reincarnated as a solarized time traveling martial arts expert who shoots laser beams from his eyes.

“What we’re doing is taking Bugs Bunny, a classic and changing him for the kids – making him fresh, cool and hip.”

But does he speak “leet”?!

Was this information useful, l33t h4×0r?

Filed under: — adam @ 11:32 pm

Microsoft instructional page on how to speak “leet”.

New Canon cameras I immediately want

Filed under: — adam @ 5:38 pm

Digital Rebel XT is an 8MP, no-startup time, E-TTL II, DIGIC II, 2nd curtain sync, mirror lock-up, 25% smaller, 10% lighter version of the Digital Rebel. And it comes in black. For under $1000.

Also, there are new 5MP (SD400) and 7MP (SD500) minimicro pocket sized doodads:

I can almost heard the gentle bread browning and butter spreading as Nikon becomes toast.

Yahoo and Google take different evil baby steps

Filed under: — adam @ 1:16 pm

So I noticed that sometime in the past few days, Yahoo has started tracking outbound links. When you do a search on Yahoo, say… for “stuff”, you get this page, on which all of the links for results are filtered through one of yahoo’s servers, so they can see what you actually clicked on. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t always the case, but I could have missed it.

The links look like this:*-http%3A//

Meanwhile, Google has resurrected Microsoft’s much-reviled Smart Tags, in the form of Autolink on the Google Toolbar. Google has decided in their infinite wisdom that, for example, anything that looks like an address should link to Google Maps. I fail to see how this was monopolistic behavior on the part of Microsoft but it’s totally okay for Google. There’s actually a word for this kind of unsupervised, non-user-controlled substitution… it’s “hijacking”.

Evil? Maybe. Potential for evil? Certainly. I’d call them “evil baby steps”. But both of these things certainly bear some discussion.

Wordpress 1.5 is out

Filed under: — adam @ 10:43 am

I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks like there’s some nice improvement there.

I really hate the new Kubrick theme though. It looks just like all the other “generoblogs”. And one of the things that originally drew me to Wordpress was that, unlike many of the others systems, the default layout was both attractive and used the entire width of the screen. Oh well. At least you can change it easily.


Life on Mars?!?

Filed under: — adam @ 7:15 pm

Apparently, NASA scientists are claiming that they have “found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water.”

Remember the Eggs?

Filed under: — adam @ 11:37 am

Shortly after 9/11, I sent around a story about a team of scientists with a series of random number generators that they claimed went crazy a few hours before the planes hit.

Turns out they predicted that something big was going to happen 24 hours before the tsunami hit too.


Your camera does matter

Filed under: — adam @ 10:56 am

Ken Rockwell (who, I feel compelled to say, takes outstandingly beautiful pictures) starts off “Your Camera Does Not Matter” with the definitive: “Your equipment DOES NOT affect the quality of your image. The less time and effort you spend worrying about your equipment the more time and effort you can spend creating great images. The right equipment just makes it easier, faster or more convenient for you to get the results you need.”

I respectfully disagree. While this may be true if you define “equipment” loosely enough to cover the bare minimum of “professional-level equipment” and “quality of your image” to mean “something good, whether you wanted it to look like that or not”, those are pretty loose definitions. In the digital non-professional realm, you’re dealing with this issue every day. Most digital cameras are not only sub-professional, they’re just plain bad.

Certainly, there’s value in not blaming your tools for bad pictures, or on spending all of your time fretting over your equipment to the detriment of the art in photography, but I think it’s wrong to say that good tools don’t affect the final result.

He goes on to say “You finally realize that the right gear you’ve spent so much time accumulating just makes it easier to get your sound or your look or your moves, but that you could get them, albeit with a little more effort, on the same garbage with which you started. You realize the most important thing for the gear to do is just get out of your way.” In the modern world, this is unrealistic. A lot of the “features” of digital cameras exist only to do as much as they can do to get in your way, not out of it. Good photographers can get better results out of cheap cameras because they understand how photography works. But there are some shots that you simply can’t get at all without the proper equipment, some technical limitations that cannot be overcome with vision or technique.

Maybe you can get something, and maybe it’ll even be “interesting”. But will it really be what you wanted, or what you saw, or will it just be your inferior equipment imposing its own vision?


Canon 20Da (astro)

Filed under: — adam @ 2:50 pm

Canon has apparently modded the 20D to optimize it for long night shots with low noise:

Street Kodama

Filed under: — adam @ 2:49 pm

Via Josh Rubin:


Marvel characters in City of Heroes (bare feet or no?)

Nice little piece about actually trying to create Marvel characters in City of Heroes.


Part of this article is the claim that you can’t make bare feet in CoH. Yet, on page 041 of this month’s Wired, there’s a similar article, with an accompanying graphic clearly showing a “Not The Incredible Hulk” mockup claiming to be from CoH, but with big green toes and everything!

What gives? Did Wired fudge the graphic?

[Update: I've been informed that yes, it is possible to create bare feet in CoH. You just have to be a bigger geek.]


Theater to DVD in 4 days

Filed under: — adam @ 4:00 pm

I sort of wonder why they bother releasing it in the theater at all.

Check out those melons!

Filed under: — adam @ 3:59 pm


Bloglines acquisition is official

Filed under: — adam @ 3:02 pm

Good for them! I really like bloglines.

Judging age with bone scans

Filed under: — adam @ 1:49 pm

i-mature claims to have some new technology that can identify the age group of the user by a quick, cheap, painless bone density/composition scan.


Firefox and IDN

Filed under: — adam @ 1:33 pm

I notice that when my firefox tries to hit an IDN spoofed site, while the address bar says “”, the status message says “Looking up”. So it’s not completely borked – there’s got to be an easy way to bubble this up.

Firefox looking up


Something on passwords

Filed under: — adam @ 3:11 pm

Interesting thought piece on whether passwords are useful at all.

I’m not convinced either way, but I do have a huge gripe with one assertion. 4-6 digit pins are not fine for ATMs because they have more diligent security experts watching the gates. They’re fine for ATMs because it’s physically very hard to try more than a few numbers in succession, and because they have physical lockouts if you do, and you’re also on camera just trying random numbers. Oh, and they also know exactly where you are. If you notice, bank websites don’t just let you use your PIN anymore – you need a password that goes with it.

Some forms of online password transaction forms will lock you out if multiple failed attempts are made – I’d be worried if anything that required real security didn’t do this.


DNS spoofing attack

Filed under: — adam @ 12:55 pm

This seems pretty bad. It uses international support for alternate character sets to substitute a different character that looks like an english one. Moreover, it works with SSL, too.

This goes right through spoofstick. There’s a fix for mozilla/firefox, to turn off international character support.

There’s a demonstration of a fake paypal link here:

The link is:
<a href=’http://www.p&#1072;’>Click here to enter paypal</a>

Via boingboing.

(Update: You got your phishing scam in my internationalization! You got your internationalization in my phishing scam!)

PC Mag top 15 extensions

Filed under: — adam @ 12:34 pm

I’d never seen most of these. Scrapbook is awesome, and much better than Slogger, which I was using before for this. Colorzilla seems very useful too.,1759,1758861,00.asp

These have been added to my useful firefox extensions list.


Apparently, AskJeeves has bought bloglines

Filed under: — adam @ 4:49 pm

If this is true, I just hope they don’t botch it.


How to not get your bike stolen in NYC

Filed under: — adam @ 2:26 pm


Filed under: — adam @ 1:43 pm

I’ve launched a new blog called “Visiognomy”. I think this is a nice play on “Physiognomy”. The latter is the art of determining human character through facial expression. The former, according to me, is the art of determining human character through Visio diagrams.



Rice to Riches owner busted for huge gambling ring

Filed under: — adam @ 10:53 pm

Awesome. I love Rice to Riches! Manmade Mascarpone, baby!–gamblingarrests0203feb03,0,467055.story

Guerilla marketing for Huff?

Filed under: — adam @ 3:44 pm

“Movie beauty LARA FLYNN BOYLE has been accused of stripping nude and trying to seduce a fellow passenger during a recent first-class flight to London.”

Coincidentally, she plays an insane psycho wackjob on Huff.

Forget math – photography is the universal language

Filed under: — adam @ 2:14 pm

This photo blog consistently delivers pictures that just take my breath away.

Like this:

Adam responds to Rick Berman

Filed under: — adam @ 8:41 am

“Rick Berman, executive producer of the just-cancelled Star Trek: Enterprise, told SCI FI Wire that he was surprised not by UPN’s decision, but by the fact that viewers continued to tune out the series despite a marked improvement in quality, strong reviews and guest appearances by the likes of Brent Spiner.”

Newsflash: Enterprise was bad. Bad bad bad. Deserve-to-die bad.

I actually gave the show another chance – I watched the Brent Spiner episodes. Or at least, I started to – I couldn’t get through even two. The writing was terrible, the plot was listless and uninteresting, and none of the characters had anything to even vaguely recommend them.

As far as I can tell from the timelines and interviews, everything good about Star Trek left with Michael Piller, who seemed to really understand what made the shows compelling.

bittorrent cannot download faster than your internet connection

Filed under: — adam @ 8:29 am

Note to everyone:

Bittorrent is a useful protocol for streaming chunks of large downloads from multiple sources (everyone else trying to download the file at the same time) to avoid bottlenecking the source when a lot of people want the same file at once.

It is not “magical pixie downloading”, and your download speed is still limited to your actual maximum download speed from your ISP.

Very high tech cookery – watch this guy

Filed under: — adam @ 8:23 am

Homaru Cantu makes food with inkjet printers and soon, high powered lasers. Seems like interesting stuff.

How to Cut

Filed under: — adam @ 7:37 am

Beautifully illustrated and comprehensive knife skills tutorial for a number of vegetables. Good knife skills are incredibly important – it’s not so much about speed as it is about consistency. When you properly cut the foods you’re preparing, everything is easier – there’s less waste, evenly-sized pieces tend to cook in the same amount of time as each other, and it adds a good amount of important pride to the process.

There’s a lot of other good stuff on the site, too:


Amazon Prime

Filed under: — adam @ 5:03 pm

For $80/year, you get unlimited second-day shipping and overnight on any order for $4.


It only applies to items sold directly from Amazon, of which many are not these days.


First implantable male contraceptive

Filed under: — adam @ 12:13 am

“Several clinical trials on rats, primates and humans have shown that the IVD effectively stops the flow of sperm, said Pollock, who’s from Vancouver.

Normal sperm flow would resume after the device is removed, he said, compared to reversing a vasectomy, which lowers the chance of pregnancy to about 60 per cent. ”

So… it blocks sperm… which then goes where?

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