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


20 things gamers want from the next generation of consoles

Filed under: — adam @ 11:10 pm

Interesting. I don’t really agree with the last one, and despite its pleas for games to be more interesting, the rest of the complaints are a bit FPS-heavy, but that’s otherwise about right.

“Game makers: it doesn’t have to be a jumping game for you to give the characters the basic ability to jump low obstacles that all humans have. And when I walk up to little ledges that are 10-inches off the ground, a ledge a toddler could crawl over, and you arbitrarily don’t let me pass because it’s not a jumping game, you remind me of what I’m really doing: playing a game. We’re to the stage where it should be a minimum requirement in the game universe: rock should act like rock, air should act like air and humans should move like humans.”

Prediction: GTax

In a conversation this weekend, on a whim, I made the prediction that within 3 years, Google will offer electronic tax filing.

Yahoo releases search beta with intent slider

Filed under: — adam @ 11:44 am

New Yahoo search feature lets you slide the bar between commercial and informational results. That seems pretty helpful.

Heroin addiction gene identified and blocked in rats

Filed under: — adam @ 10:36 am

“Scientists have not only identified a critical gene involved in heroin addiction relapse, but they have also successfully blocked it, eliminating cravings for the drug.”

That’s huge.

It sounds like it doesn’t block the effects of the drug, only the cravings. I wonder if that means that more people will be inclined to try heroin. Of course, that’s not a good reason not to do it.

Plotting story vs. interactivity in Prince of Persia

Filed under: — adam @ 8:35 am

Interesting article about how as the plot progresses in the first Prince of Persia game (Sands of Time), and your involvement in the story grows, the amount of control you have over the game events also increases (and then ebbs and flows with the story arcs). I liked a lot of things about both this game and the sequel, and I’m very much looking forward to the third. These games are emblematic of a new kind of platforming that’s very immersive, well-designed, easy to navigate, and just a ton of fun all around.

Many spoilers for the game if you haven’t played it:


It’s definitely a whole big page of Dr. Who theme remixes

Filed under: — adam @ 6:28 pm

Drool. I love this song!

Some choice selections:

I’m very confused about EliteTorrents

The MPAA shut down EliteTorrents, which was supposed to be “one of the first peer to peer networks to post an illegal copy of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith before the movie officially opened in theaters last Thursday”, according to the MPAA press release.

(Sorry, word format.)

This kind of thing has a limited lifetime, because Bittorrent has gone trackerless. What this means is that once a full copy is out there somewhere, the network becomes very resistant to taking down any particular copy. I’ve written about the MPAA’s problems with this before, but I feel the need to reiterate: this is not something that you can just make go away. It’s not a technology, it’s a technique. The ability to reconstruct a whole from disparate parts, without a central resource means that it doesn’t help to shut down one, or even a few sites to stop the flow – you have to eradicate every last copy out there. Frankly, I don’t see that happening, and even if we did, the means to get there could not possibly be worth the end product.

So, assume that p2p file sharing is here to stay, and can’t be stopped.

Now, this is very interesting, because although I can’t find a reference for it, I’m told that Revenge of the Sith made back its entire investment in merchandising tie-ins before a single ticket was sold. If that’s true, even setting aside the record numbers of ticket revenue on opening weekend, this is hardly a poster child for revenue lost to filesharing, but instead an argument that filesharing is, in fact, great for generating buzz and activating supplemental revenue streams.

I’m not a marketer, I’m a technologist, but even this is obvious to me:

  1. People like to spend money.
  2. People don’t like to be treated like criminals.
  3. People like to spend money on those they consider friendly or part of their community, even if it’s not true (you know who you are).
  4. People share with their friends.

The creative commons folks get it.

I’m also confused about why EliteTorrents was hosting a copy of the movie, if in fact they were. With a trackerless torrent, if someone puts up a movie, and then they take it down, but multiple other people have sucked it down and are sharing it, you’ve got a pretty big whack-a-mole problem. The original sharer has probably complied with a what a C&D would accomplish, but the problem still exists. This is bad, I think – it increases the incentive for copyright owners to try to make the penalties greater for smaller instances of filesharing, and I think that would be counterproductive approach.


Filed under: — adam @ 11:22 am

he SysInternals guys have been around for years, putting out great and very helpful utilities for Windows systems. I’d forgotten about them and visited their site recently, to find that they’ve greatly expanded their line. Most of their line has free versions and paid versions with more features.

Some helpful looking things I haven’t tried yet:

Rootkit Revealer
RegMon realtime registry monitor
Process Explorer
Just a whole host of other things.

Spamusement made me laugh AGAIN today

Filed under: — adam @ 10:01 am

That’s just too funny.

C-list bloggery

Filed under: — adam @ 9:48 am

In reading that Warren Ellis is a B-list blogger, I’ve noticed that I’m a C-list blogger.

So’s Margaret Cho. She’s funny.


Encryption is not a crime

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

A Minnesota court has ruled that the presence of encryption software is valid evidence for determining criminal intent. On the one hand, it seems like a severe misunderstanding of how the modern world actually works, given that encryption is absolutely essential for many things we take for granted.

I guess I can see that if there’s other evidence, this might be used as evidence that you have something to hide, but I worry for the situation where there isn’t any other evidence of a crime, and the fact that there’s something to hide becomes the key determining factor.

Everyone has something to hide. It may be private, it may be secret (not the same thing), it may be evidence of a crime, or it may be evidence of something that someone else thinks is a crime but you don’t. For the latter two, that is, of course, why we have a legal system in the first place. For the former two, there are plenty of legal reasons to want to keep those things private or secret.

Gizmodo doesn’t like Verizon either

Filed under: — adam @ 10:03 am


Fields, not Field

Filed under: — adam @ 12:54 pm

A misunderstanding illustrated to me that the title of this weblog was unclear. I’m Adam Fields, not Adam Field. Accordingly, I’ve changed the title to “the Adam Fields weblog”, to disambiguate it from “Adam Field’s weblog”.


We hate you when you’re petty, vindictive, small, and bickering

Filed under: — adam @ 10:37 pm

Congressional approval ratings took a real dive recently.


Filed under: — adam @ 8:20 pm

A harrowing tale of suspicion, murder (vegetable), and vampire bunnies. This is a kid’s book fondly recalled from my childhood.

As if that’s important.

Filed under: — adam @ 7:55 pm

“Researchers Pinpoint Brain’s Sarcasm Sensor”

Murdered blogger’s last entry leads to killer

Filed under: — adam @ 5:06 pm


Dealing with telemarketers

Filed under: — adam @ 2:56 pm

I love people fucking with telemarketers. This is a particularly brilliant example.

“I think it’s obvious by this conversation that I don’t take your time seriously.”

Via boingboing.

Flickr is now DHTML

Filed under: — adam @ 1:59 pm

Flickr is now DHTML, on some pages anyway.

This is a particularly interesting example:

This homemade Prozac needs more ice cream

Filed under: — adam @ 12:22 pm

“Two Star Wars fans are in a critical condition in hospital after duelling with lightsabres made by filling fluorescent light tubes with petrol.”


Scooba mopping robot

Filed under: — adam @ 11:49 pm

Now this, I might actually want.

iRobot announces a companion to the Roomba. It’s Scooba, the amazing mopping robot.

676,000 accounts stolen at multiple banks

Filed under: — adam @ 6:02 pm

Fancy that. Yet another ID data theft.

‘CNN is reporting that about 676,000 bank accounts in at least four banks (Bank of America, Wachovia, Commerce Bancorp, and PNC Financial Services) have had personal information “illegally sold”.’

Look folks, banks – remember banks? The paragons of financial security, right? THEY HOLD YOUR MONEY FOR YOU TO KEEP IT SAFE. Banks. CAN. NOT. keep. your. data. safe. They can’t, they won’t, and they aren’t.

If not them, then who?

The only answer I can come up with is that this kind of data must simply not be aggregated. Once it’s all in one place, it’s a target that can’t be protected.

Useful LCD Dead Pixel Test Images

Filed under: — adam @ 12:59 pm

Via Lifehacker:

Raspberry Fro-yo

Filed under: — adam @ 11:23 am

It’s warm enough to pull out the ice cream machine again. I’ve decided to try frozen yogurt this year. I found this recipe:

I’ve never made frozen yogurt before, but it seems about right – some milk to thin it out, cornstarch for a little body, and two kinds of sugar to keep crystals from forming. Raspberries are getting cheaper now, and they’re the best of the bunch (strawberries are varying now, and it’s too early for blueberries).

Plus, I get to use my new food processor to make the raspberry puree (when you puree seeded fruit in a food processor, remember to use the dough blade to avoid nicking the seeds, which can be bitter – that’s not noted in the recipe).

I’m also going to add an extra cup of lightly diced raspberries near the end of the freezing cycle, to give it a little more texture variety.


Filed under: — adam @ 10:27 am

Underwear that moisturizes your skin while you wear it.

Real ID Rebellion blog

Filed under: — adam @ 10:02 am

I’ve written before about why a National ID card, and particularly dependence on a National ID card, is actually likely to make us less safe, not more. This is a new blog collecting ways to fight it:

Can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe?

Filed under: — adam @ 12:31 am

Via Makeblog:


Sith Review – meh.

Filed under: — adam @ 12:00 pm

I was going to write a detailed review, but after the past few days of discussion on the comments thread of the lessons learned post, I don’t think I have anything else meaningful to say.

NYC subway photo ban plan aban…doned

Filed under: — adam @ 11:34 am

Good, because this wasn’t going to help.

What the gamers are running

Filed under: — adam @ 10:25 am

Steam is Valve’s online game download and authentication(?) system that powers Half Life 2 and their other games. HL2 is famous for pushing the envelope in hardware requirements. These are interesting aggregate results of what the gamers are running on their boxes:

Color picking tools

Filed under: — adam @ 10:16 am

Great post on 11 different palette picking tools:


You know those guitars that are like… double guitars?

Filed under: — adam @ 9:56 pm

Sith pre-review

Filed under: — adam @ 7:30 am

A full review is coming soon, but I won’t have time to write it until this weekend.

Here’s my summary:

This movie was beautiful. Grand and epic in terms of vast visionary space battles (although the closeups, surprisingly, leave something to be desired), and absolutely stunning fight choreography.

And that is about everything good I have to say about it.

Like the Hitchhiker’s Guide, this movie is essentially two hours of holding up things we like, naming them, and saying “It’s got raisins in it. You like raisins!”.


Lessons learned from Revenge of the Sith

Filed under: — adam @ 11:26 pm
  1. When the leader says “Everything’s fine, go wait on the LAVA PLANET”, be suspicious.
  2. The Dark Side of the Force is called “The Dark Side” for a reason. It’s not like “The Dark Side of the Moon”.
  3. Robots with cutesy voices are annoying, not adorable. That goes double for aliens with cutesy voices. Triple for robots with cutesy voices and smoker’s cough.
  4. For some reason, robots talk to each other in English, instead of using wifi or bluetooth or something.
  5. Coruscant OB/GYN technology leaves something to be desired. [Update: "Luke" and "Leia" are clearly the Naboo words for "Morphine" and "Epidural"]
  6. 20 years seems like nothing when you’re ruling the galaxy.
  7. Don’t forget what happened to your mother in the last movie, or there will be extra exposition.
  8. Darth Vader is not scarier with an artful allusion to Frankenstein.

Great fight choreography, but man… what a piece of garbage.

Star Wars theories redux

Filed under: — adam @ 9:38 am

Over beers after watching Attack of the Clones, I posited two theories that were not explicitly mentioned in the movie, but which make it much more interesting.

  1. Padme doesn’t love Anakin, but has instead been coerced into thinking that she does with Jedi/Sith mind tricks. Anakin as much as says this, and it explains all of a) her rapid change of heart, b) why she falls for Anakin in the absence of any redeeming qualities and c) all of the bad dialogue.
  2. Yoda is complicit. Rather than being an idle participant or “the good guy”, he’s an integral part of the plot. There’s a fair amount of evidence for this. Someone high up in the Jedi order erased the existence of the cloner planet from the archives. Yoda thinks the Jedi are too set in their ways and crumbling as an institution, and need “balance” restored (which is not necessarily good). It’s not believable that he could stand in Palpatine’s presence and not pick up on something. He clearly lets Dooku get away in the fight at the end, feigning being “distracted” by some tiny falling beam. We know he survives the purging. All training leads back to Yoda (Anakin trained by Obi-Wan trained by Qui-Gon trained by Dooku trained by Yoda. For that matter, big open question – did Yoda train Palpatine? If not, then who?)

I’m curious to see if either of these is acknowledged, or at least not contradicted by the third movie (I’ve got my tickets for tonight).


Kelsey Grammer cast as the Beast for X-Men 3

Filed under: — adam @ 5:51 pm

I agree.

Trump’s Plan to Rebuild the Twin Towers

Filed under: — adam @ 1:53 pm

One story taller, of course.


Per Se review

Filed under: — adam @ 6:52 pm

I was talking about the meal we had at Per Se a year ago, and I realized I’d never posted the review here. This originally appeared on my livejournal blog, but what’s a repost among friends…

A year later, I can still taste everything on the menu.

Here’s the original review I wrote:

It’s not so much a restaurant as it is a very well oiled food perfection delivery machine. Not everything was 100% perfect, mind you, but the things that weren’t were mostly of no consequence (or wrong only out of convention and not in the sense of being, say, inferior in any way), and only served to add character to the things that were. More on that.

I can’t remember the last time going out to eat gave me the giggles.

To say that the food was exquisite is missing the point – it’s just in a different class altogether. Every bite is full of both genius and playfulness. Keller’s lighthearted flavor fugue is all over the place, and it shows. For example:

Bread. They start with a choice of three kinds of bread – 9-grain, “simple” country white, or a french bread roll, with two kinds of butter. All great. But then later, they bring out something else – “this is the only bread we make here”. It’s a “Parker House roll”, little quatrains of fleur de sel crusted puffy cubes. Imagine a pretzel crossed with a croissant, and you’re mostly there. But it doesn’t stop. At the end of the explanation of the bread, the service captain tells us “we’ll revisit this later”. The dessert course has a bunch of amazing simple things on the plate; one of them is a little puddle of cream. “Remember I said we’d come back to the Parker House rolls?” The cream is ‘”Pain au Lait” Coulis’, and it’s made out of the rolls. They pulverize them in a food processor, then cook them down in a process I don’t entirely understand. But it’s outstanding.

Wine. The wine was reasonably priced. We had a bottle of Neyers 2002 Chardonnay ($50), which was great. The captain recommended individual glasses of sharper whites (which I don’t remember) for the second course, which we did and was the right decision. The bottle went with everything, one bottle lasted the meal, and it hit a perfect match with the lobster course. The wine list is a staggering book of much more expensive choices, but I think this was a fine selection.

They have over 200 kinds of plates, most of which were custom designed by Chef Thomas with Limoges. This attention to detail is in every aspect of the meal.

We each started with the Per Se cocktail – ciroc vodka with a white port, glasses washed with a fruity liquor, and garnished with two red grapes. Extremely refreshing, and smooth.

A note on the service. About halfway through the meal, we got fairly confused about who was doing what and had to have it explained. There were no fewer than 6 people involved in various parts of our meal – the waiter, the sommelier, two or three servers, and also a service captain to top it all off. They were very well coordinated, and the service was exceptionally attentive and, for lack of a better word, bright. I felt like everyone was extremely proud of their job, and rightly so.

Shortly after drinks, we ordered, and Chef Thomas’s signature amuse-bouche was presented to us – salmon tartare “ice cream cones”. A black sesame tuile filled with onion creme fraiche, topped with salmon tartare. Delightful and fresh.

** Course 1:

“Oysters and Pearls”
“Saybayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Iranian
Osetra Caviar

Fantastic! Thomas Keller talks a great deal about the texture of luxury in his cookbook. Strain strain strain. This is it. A sweetish custardy pudding with droplets of oceanic salty goodness.

** Course 2:

Marinated Holland White Asparagus
White Asparagus Terrine and Garden Mache

“I feel like I’m eating Spring.”

“Peach Melba”
Moulard Duck “Foie Gras Au Torchon”
Frog Hollow Farms Peach Jelly, Pickled White Peaches, Marinated Red Onion, and Crispy Carolina Rice

“I feel like I’m eating a big fat duck liver.”

In a sea of a meal of the best things I’ve ever tasted, this stands out. Wow. Foie gras and peaches. Perfectly smooth, fruity, creamy, and surrounded by crunchy crisp bits.

Another note on the service here. Two of the aforementioned minor imperfections in the service were on this course. First, the server spilled some of the rice crispies on the table while spooning them into the bowl. Unforgivable. Second, they served this with three slices of melba toast, and were about 45 seconds after I thought “they really should have served this with more toast” with offering more. They were going for a surprise, but missed it. Terrible.
As you can see, the service was less than outstanding. :)

** Course 3:
“Pave” of South Florida Cobia “A La Plancha”
Fava Beans, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and a Preserved Meyer Lemon Emulsion

I wasn’t familiar with Cobia before, but I think this was the most well-balanced fish course I’ve ever had. The texture was great, perfect crust, a little citrus.

** Course 4:
Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster
“Cuit Sous Vide”
Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach and a Saffron-Vanilla Sauce

Yeah… It’s just indescribably good. I can’t even try.

** Course 5:
Pan Roasted Cavendish Farms Quail
“Puree” of Spring Onions, Apple Wood Smoked Bacon “Lardons” and Split English Peas

This seemed a little out of place to me, seasonally. But it was still amazing.

** Course 6:
Elysian Fields Farm “Carre D’Agneau Roti Entier”
Grilled Swiss Chard Ribs “en Ravigote”, Roasted Sweet Peppers, and a Nicoise Olive Sauce

I think this qualifies as a “main” course. Lamb is all good.

** Course 7:
“La Tur”
“Gelee de Pomme Verte”, Satur Famrs Red Beets and English Walnut Short Bread

Cheese course, a wedge of something creamy with tart apple gel and beets. Anne doesn’t like beets, but I found this very refreshing.

** Course 8:
Napa Valley “Verjus” Sorbet
Poached Cherries and Cream Cheese “Bavarois”

Sorbet course. My palate was refreshed!

** Course 9:
“Tentation Au Chocolat, Noisette Et Lait”
Milk Chocolate “Cremeux”, Hazelnet “Streusel” with Condensed Milk Sorbet and “Sweetened Salty Hazelnuts” and “Pain au Lait” Coulis

Formal dessert, basically a chocolate mousse with puddles of creamy things, and the Parker House bread pudding.

** “Mignardises 1″

Creme Brulee

Anne really liked this, but I found it, to my surprise, to be too smooth. It’s the texture of luxury, but I still think that Le Cirque has it beat. It was quite delicious, but it wasn’t right for me.

Hazelnut Panna Cotta w/ Apricots

This is Keller’s take on yogurt with fruit on the bottom. Yummy.

** “Mignardises 2″
Assortment of cookies & chocolates
Rosemary / Thyme chocolate

Here, I had an espresso, and we both had white tea. I’m quite pleased that more restaurants seem to be offering high-end teas.

The cookies were tasty and buttery, but the standout here was the filled chocolates, particularly one with a rosemary and thyme cream.

So, that’s it. Afterwards, we got a tour of the kitchen, which is like some sort of serene temple.

I had a fabulous time. Previously, I didn’t really feel up to the task of tackling any of the recipes in the French Laundry cookbook, but now I feel like I have some idea of where they’re supposed to go. This is unmistakably one of the standout meals in my appreciation for the art of cooking.


Super water kills microbes, harmless to humans

Filed under: — adam @ 3:30 pm

“The solution looks, smells and tastes like water, but carries an ion imbalance that makes short work of bacteria, viruses and even hard-to-kill spores.”,1286,67472,00.html?tw=rss.TOP

Blood spinning

Filed under: — adam @ 7:35 am

Apparently, there’s a way to centrifuge your own blood to concentrate its mystical healing powers, and this is illegal according to some sports.


New fuel cell runs on blood

Filed under: — adam @ 9:33 am

Via jwz:


Secret Wall Tattoos

Filed under: — adam @ 9:59 am


Subversive art behind regular art, furniture, etc… in hotels.

View all:


Non-allergenic latex

Filed under: — adam @ 11:35 pm

My friend Perry lives near the wall that collapsed onto the West Side Highway

Filed under: — adam @ 11:11 pm

Raw, unedited, likely to move, gets interesting around 1449:

Pictures from Alinea opening day

Filed under: — adam @ 4:35 pm

The restaurant of Grant Achatz (who studied with Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria) is full of insanity.

Pictures of the entire meal, with commentary:

Guide to making isometric pixel art

Filed under: — adam @ 12:24 am

Suitcase PC

Filed under: — adam @ 12:21 am

Cool case mod.

Firefox 1.0.4 is out

Filed under: — adam @ 12:19 am

Addressing the recent javascript vulnerabilities.


Why you should urge your Senator to vote against REAL ID

In short, the Real ID Act is a huge waste of money that will likely have the opposite of the stated effect, but will enable other kinds of tracking that are not worth the cost at best and totalitarian at worst, while leaving huge vulnerabilities for legitimate users of the system (i.e. MOST of the population).

On Tuesday, it comes up for vote in the Senate. It’s already passed the House.

Senator Durbin’s opposing viewpoint:,594,8140,9251

Bruce Schneier has written extensively on why a National ID card is both a waste of money and likely to make us less safe.

I’ll paraphrase here, but I urge you to read his versions:

And particularly, his analysis of REAL ID:

There are several key points:

1) It’s a common fallacy that identification is security, and that putting a label on everybody will automatically mean you can identify the bad guys. This is simply not true, and it’s an excuse to get an ID card implemented for other things. It is not possible to make an unforgeable ID card, and spending money on that is money that could be better spent on other, more useful (from a security standpoint) things, like training border guards. This fallacy has been propagated for years by the airline industry – matching ID to the name on the ticket does nothing for security.

2) A national ID card is a single point of very valuable failure for ID theft. With a one-stop card that’s good for everything, the incentive to forge that one card goes WAY up.

3) There isn’t one database of every citizen, currently, although the IRS probably comes closest. There has been no discussion about the feasibility of merging a bunch of databases into one, or how access will be limited to that data, how it will be secured, etc… This is not a small problem, and it’s being swept under the rug as an afterthought.

4) A very simple question – “is this a smart way to spend how much money for … what gain exactly?”.

A few quotes from Bruce:

“REAL ID is expensive. It’s an unfunded mandate: the federal government is forcing the states to spend their own money to comply with the act. I’ve seen estimates that the cost to the states of complying with REAL ID will be $120 million. That’s $120 million that can’t be spent on actual security.

And the wackiest thing is that none of this is required. In October 2004, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 was signed into law. That law included stronger security measures for driver’s licenses, the security measures recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report. That’s already done. It’s already law.

REAL ID goes way beyond that. It’s a huge power-grab by the federal government over the states’ systems for issuing driver’s licenses.”

“Near as I can tell, this whole thing is being pushed by Wisconsin Rep. Sensenbrenner primarily as an anti-immigration measure. The huge insecurities this will cause to everyone else in the United States seem to be collateral damage.”

A few observations of my own:

- This comes on the tail of the realization that the TSA has spent 4.5 BILLION dollars in the past few years on useless “security” measures in the past 3 years, some not insignificant chunk of which was spent on things relating to identification of passengers. It has been widely concluded that the airlines are no safer than they were in 2001.

- This administration is seriously deluded about security measures in electronically readable identification (particularly RFID implementation), and was recently forced against their every protest to face the fact that bad guys don’t play by your rules, and you need to design security measures against the worst case, not the best case. I see nothing like that here.

- Just the fact that it was slipped into a military appropriations bill and will pass with no debate is reason enough for me to be suspect.


Cool clock

Filed under: — adam @ 12:32 pm

Google is destroying the private

Filed under: — adam @ 12:13 pm

A year and a half ago, I read a great essay by Danny O’Brien (who now works at the EFF) illustrating the difference between public, private, and secret:

Google has a history of disregarding the private-but-not-secret. The Google Toolbar causes pages that aren’t linked from anywhere to end up in the index anyway when they’re visited. Now, they’re dismantling this distinction even further.

Some things aren’t linked, or they’re protected with plaintext passwords. THIS DOESN’T MEAN THEY ARE PUBLIC. By putting up a password but not encrypting, or not linking to pages, you’re saying “I know this isn’t really secret, but go away anyway. There’s nothing valuable to you here, and don’t make me work too hard to keep you out.” This is roughly equivalent to putting up a “no-trespassing” sign.

The Web Accelerator ignores private-but-not-secret login functionality by returning pages generated with the cookies (i.e.: logins) of other Web Accelerator users.

This is Google coming by and taking down all of the no-trespassing signs on the web, and forcing everybody to put up fences to keep the poachers out. I can’t even begin to see how this is okay.

Would Google be equally fine with the situation if some other company (Yahoo or Microsoft come to mind as the obvious candidates) were to release their own Web Accelerator that proxied Google pages and mangled all of the relationships between cookies and users?

Just because this stuff isn’t secret doesn’t mean it’s public either. There’s a distinction here that should be maintained, and isn’t. Google, not using https for all of its own pages, should realize and recognize this.


20% life increase in mice

Filed under: — adam @ 1:34 pm

“His team made mice that produce high levels of catalase in their mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells. They found that cellular damage, as well as age-related damage in the heart, decreased in comparison to control mice that produced catalase in just cytoplasm or
in cell nuclei. The lifespan of the mitochondria-catalase mice was extended by more than five months – an increase of around 20%.”


Default is one of my favorite photo blogs

Filed under: — adam @ 10:07 pm

On logging clicks you never made

Filed under: — adam @ 9:01 pm

When the browser pre-fetches a page, does it also get the adsense ads on the page? Does this count as a “click”, even if you never actually visit the page?

Sweet red notebook

Filed under: — adam @ 7:16 pm

I don’t get what makes this a “ladies” laptop.

That cat looks like it’s wearing pajamas.

Filed under: — adam @ 3:06 pm

Oh no.

Google Web Accelerator breaks web apps

Filed under: — adam @ 11:03 am

By prefetching every link on a page, the Google Accelerator apparently clicks all of the “delete this” and “cancel” links too, and ignores javascript confirmations.

Way to go.

They don’t necessarily know who you are

In the last post, I wrote a lot about what’s wrong with Google’s new services and terms of service. I think one thing bears important repeating.

MANY of your important interactions with Google are unencrypted. As such, it is even more trivially easy to steal the value of someone’s Google cookie, and possibly pose as that person to Google. It’s possible that Google has taken precautions against this, but the risk is currently unknown. If this is possible, I think that throws a huge wrench into the use of this information by law enforcement.

I remember early discussions when it was first revealed that Google was storing a persistent lifetime cookie. It was generally perceived to be “okay” only because the value was not to be tied to search history in any way. We predicted that someday it would be.

Sometimes the slippery slope is actually slippery.


Google wants your logs

I’ve been kicking this around for a while, given the release of Google’s ability to save searches.

Google just announced the Google Web Accelerator, and this has the same kinds of privacy issues surrounding it, so I’ll discuss them both here. For those not in the know, Google Search History is the feature that lets you access your past searches if you’re logged into Google. The Web Accelerator is a proxy that pushes all of your browsing through Google’s servers. Ostensibly, this is to make your browsing faster, but it also has the side effect that Google can (and presumably will) monitor both the URLs and contents of every web page you’re looking at. You make a request for a web page, and Google fetches it for you. I’d expect that they’re also doing various tricks with preloading and caching.

Google is poised to collect a lot of data on browsing habits, and every indication is that they plan to keep it around.

As a brief aside, while I don’t personally know anyone who works for Google, I do have some friends who do. Every one of them has, in the past, asserted during conversations about Google’s privacy concerns, that Google both has (or had) no intentions of keeping permanent searching / browsing logs, and has (or had) actually built up complicated encryption / hashing mechanisms to allow aggregate data to be kept without individual search histories. That may have been true at one time, although I personally found it doubtful, given that if it were true, Google could only benefit by stating it publicly. They have never done so, and recent events have shown that assertion to be presently categorically false. Google does want to keep your individual search history. I think that’s a relevant point to the privacy debate.

In reference to search history, I wrote but never published, the following: “Search history is a sensitive area. Saving and aggregating search history is of dubious value to the end user – it’s maybe a minor convenience at best. If you care about that sort of thing, you’ll want to capture for yourself far more information than just search history, and do it locally across the board. There are several plugins for Firefox that will do exactly that for you, and not only watch your tracks, but save complete copies of everything you’re browsing.” In reference to the web accelerator, it’s evident that Google is heading towards collecting that information for themselves.

Set aside the fact that Google has now become an extremely juicy target for a one-stop shop for identity thieves. I’m sure they’ve got great security. But do you? Google’s lifetime cookie is, as always, a serious point of possible failure. One good cross-site scripting attack or IE exploit, or even a malicious extension, and the Google cookie can be easily exposed. What’s your liability for being associated with a search history, or now a browsing history, tied to a stolen Google cookie?

But here’s the real doozie.

The Google Privacy Policy states that Google may disclose personally identifiable information in the event that:

“We conclude that we are required by law or have a good faith belief that access, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public.”

Welcome to Google, where the Third Law comes first.

This has serious implications. For logged-in users using all of Google’s services, this now includes the contents of your emails, your complete search AND browsing history, any geographical locations you’re interested in, what you’re shopping for, and probably plenty of things I haven’t thought of yet.

I posit that it would not significantly damage Google in any way for them to actually make use of this information, and that Google could withstand any public backlash resulting from it.

I think we’ve long passed the point at which we say “this is bad”.

This is bad.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, there’s a word for this.

It’s called “surveillance”.

I believe that Google should revise their privacy policy to reflect the actual intended usage of this information, and they should clarify under what circumstances this information will be released, and to whom. Will this information be used to catch terrorists? Errant cheating spouses? Tax evaders? Jaywalkers? Anarchists? Litterbugs? As a user, you have a right to demand to know. Of course, don’t expect Google to tell you, since they don’t actually get any of their money from you.


Happy 05/05/05

Filed under: — adam @ 11:56 am

Just because.


George Lucas, where have you been?

Filed under: — adam @ 4:37 pm

Wired article on George Lucas and his desire to finish up Star Wars and get back to real interesting filmmaking.

The relevant quotation from Mr. Lucas is this:

I’ve earned the right to just make things that I find provocative in my own way,” he says. “I’ve earned the right to fail, which means making what I think are really great movies that no one wants to see.

To which I have only this to say:

“Holy shit, George – what the hell do you think we’ve been waiting for?!? You earned that right 20 years ago.”


Guild Wars and two screens

Filed under: — adam @ 2:39 pm

I’ve been playing Guild Wars. I like it. More later on that.

But, there’s a very important thing.

Unlike most games, it lets you play full screen, spread out across two monitors.

Some may find it distracting, since your avatar and some of the text screens are split along the divider line (yes, I know – buy another video board and do three screens), but I found that pretty easy to ignore, pretty quickly. Other than that, it is jaw droppingly beautiful.


Most modern video boards support two monitors easily, monitor prices are always dropping, and it’s no longer just a fringe feature.

Building a lockpicking gun out of an old hard drive

Filed under: — adam @ 11:28 am

Now >that< is hacking.

Time traveler convention at MIT

Filed under: — adam @ 11:06 am


What is it?

Technically, you would only need one time traveler convention. Time travelers from all eras could meet at a specific place at a specific time, and they could make as many repeat visits as they wanted. We are hosting the first and only Time Traveler Convention at MIT in one week, and WE NEED YOUR HELP!


Hitchhiker’s Guide movie was a waste of everyone’s time

Filed under: — adam @ 11:20 pm

It wasn’t bad, per se. It was certainly better than most of the crap Hollywood churns out. But – why? Why did they even make this movie?

I understand that certain things need to be modified, sped up, adapted, cut out, spliced, twisted, and generally modified in order to make a good book into a good movie. But they took an absolutely fantastic book, did all these things, and ended up with a wholly unremarkable movie.

Some specific complaints:

1) The comedic timing was off. It really felt like everyone, with the possible exception of Sam Rockwell, was just reading off of a script, rather than saying their lines as their characters.

2) There weren’t very many new jokes! In fact, there weren’t very many jokes at all. There was some physical comedy, but very much of what was funny in this movie was funny ONLY because it was funny in the book. As previously noted by others, a fair number of the jokes lack any context whatsoever.

3) Douglas Adams imagined a galaxy full of wonder and absurdity. The movie is a galaxy full of tedious adherence to rules.

I could go on, but that’s about all the energy I have for that.

Again, it wasn’t actively bad, it just wasn’t good. Oh well.

Ten out of ten for picking good source material, but minus several million for misinterpreting the Restaurant at the End of the Universe joke.

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