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


Stanford scientists directly monitor RNA polymerase (which is way cooler than it sounds)

Filed under: — adam @ 9:59 pm

They’ve perfected a technique to allow, for the first time, protein activity to be directly monitored. They’ve focused on RNA polymerase, and have proposed a mechanical action theory about how RNAP moves up the DNA chain.

The technique is directly applicable to a whole host of other biochemical processes.

That’s just incredibly cool.


Google really wants your logs

I wrote here about some of the privacy implications of Google’s data retention policies:

With the launch of Google Analytics, Google is now poised to collect that data not only from every Google visit, and every site that has Google ads on them, but also every site processed by Google for “analytical” purposes (although there’s probably a fair amount of overlap between the latter two).

Remember – Google does not consider your IP address to be personal information, and so it’s exempt from most of the normal restrictions on how they use the data they collect. The terms of service for Google Analytics suspiciously do not mention whether Google is allowed to utilize any of the data they collect on your behalf. One must conclude that they therefore assume that they are, and consequently that they do. It’s unclear, but it’s probably the case that Google could, according to the terms of these agreements, correlate search terms from your IP address with hits on other websites. I don’t see anything in there preventing them from doing so, because the two pieces of correlated data are obtained by different means.

Looky there, Google Web Accelerator is back

Filed under: — adam @ 12:59 pm

Google has apparently relaunched their controversial Web Accelerator.

I think I’ve already covered in detail all of the problems with this, and nothing seems to have changed except they’re just hoping people forgot about all of the reasons since last time, so just go read the previous articles if you missed them the first time around:

And especially this one:


Google Base launches

Filed under: — adam @ 12:46 pm

Clearly, Google would just as soon prefer not to have an internet at all.

Does BASE stand for “Big All-Seeing Eye”?

USPTO apparently grants patent for warp drive

I don’t remember who originally sent this to me, but I got it a few times. This is apparently a patent for a warp drive.

” A cooled hollow superconductive shield is energized by an electromagnetic field resulting in the quantized vortices of lattice ions projecting a gravitomagnetic field that forms a spacetime curvature anomaly outside the space vehicle. The spacetime curvature imbalance, the spacetime curvature being the same as gravity, provides for the space vehicle’s propulsion. The space vehicle, surrounded by the spacetime anomaly, may move at a speed approaching the light-speed characteristic for the modified locale.”

They’re off their rocker.,960,975.WKU.&OS=PN/6,960,975&RS=PN/6,960,975


Hey baby, wanna hear my Krayt Dragon call?

Filed under: — adam @ 10:33 am

Hey baby, wanna hear my Krayt Dragon call?

Originally uploaded by Caviar.

During a recent discussion about Star Wars, it occurred to me to wonder what it was that Obi-Wan was doing on Tatooine for all those years when he was supposed to be watching over Luke, and then I realized that it had already been answered by the first thing we see him doing in Star Wars.


EFF calls for Sony to fix what they broke

The EFF is calling for Sony to do a number of things to rectify their horrible botched DRM attempt, mostly recall the CDs, work with people to remove the software, and refund the money paid for those CDs.

I say that’s not enough. Sony, if you REALLY want to “make it right”, do this. How about you admit you tried really hard to fuck us, got caught with your pants down and both hands in the cookie jar, and do the right thing. Make a statement. Declare that henceforth, our computers are more valuable than your music, and demonstrate that you believe it. Take as a sacrifice of your lamb against the mountain of consumer rights every one of those 20-odd CDs, and donate them to the public domain. Distribute them as unrestricted files. Open them up. Do it. You know you want to.

You may find that with a little generosity, people might want to start being your customer again.

Oh, but do all that other stuff too.

New York Chocolate Show 2005

Filed under: — adam @ 1:57 pm

New York Chocolate Show 2005

Originally uploaded by Caviar.

This weekend, I helped out at the Compleat Sculptor booth making chocolate fingers for the kids at the show. I took a bunch of pictures of the booth and the rest of the show.


What’s wrong with the Google Print argument

Does this phrase sound familiar? “You may not send automated queries of any sort to Google’s system without express permission in advance from Google.” It’s from Google’s terms of service, and it’s just one of several aspects of that document that make this leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Larry Lessig makes the point that “Google wants to index content. Never in the history of copyright law would anyone have thought that you needed permission from a publisher to index a book’s content.” But that’s not what Google wants to do. Google wants to index content and put their own for-pay ads next to it. Larry says ” It is the greatest gift to knowledge since, well, Google.”

Don’t forget this for a second. Google is not a public service, Google is a business. Google isn’t doing this because it’s good for the world, Google is doing this because it represents a massive expansion in the number of pages they can serve ads next to. In order to do that, the index remains the property of Google, and no one else will be able to touch it except in ways that are sanctioned by Google. It’s not really about money, it’s about control. It’s against the terms of service to make copies of Google pages in order to build an index. Why should it be okay for them to make copies of other people’s pages in order to build their own? It’s not that they’re making money that bothers us, it’s the double standard. The same double standard that says that Disney can take characters and stories from the public domain, copyright them, and then lock them up and prevent other people from using them.

Oh, but you hate that, don’t you, Larry? (And I think a lot of us do.) How is what Google is doing any different? Google is just extending the lockdown one step further, into their own pockets. There’s no share alike clause in the Google terms of service, and that is what’s wrong with it. They want privileges under the law that they’re not willing to grant to others with respect to their own content.

The day Google steps forward and says “we’re building an index, and anyone can access it anonymously in any way they please”, then sure – I’m all with you.

(Found at

MIT students study tinfoil hats

Conclusion: tinfoil hat makes it easier for the gummint to read your brain. It’s a conspiracy!

It’s almost as if they’re allergic to quality

Filed under: — adam @ 1:12 pm

Fox cancels Arrested Development, again, citing declining ratings.

Earth to network people… perhaps, just maybe, if you’d put the show on more than one week in a row in the same timeslot, you might get people to watch it. 4 million viewers for a single viewing after the show’s been on hiatus for some sports thing or another. How many Tivos are out there, anyway?


On sharing

Filed under: — adam @ 12:29 pm

There are two competing monetary questions in content ownership: “How can I get the maximum amount for what I’ve already done?” and “How can I get the maximum amount for what I’m going to do next?”.

The former is seemingly answered by maximum control. Tight focused marketing, sell as many copies, wring every last dollar out of existing properties by making sure that people need to buy them more than once and can’t do anything interesting with them. In my opinion, this is a strategy for shooting the latter. It makes enemies, it makes people not care what else you have, and it makes people upset.

Feeding the commons is about ongoing effort. Releasing your work to as many people as possible gets you attention for the next thing you do. It’s so simple. It’s not about selling any one thing anymore, it’s about selling your stream. My previous post, Preaching to the Esquire, is a link that contains the entire text of an article from Esquire. It’s blatantly copied. But if it hadn’t been, only existing subscribers would have read it. As it is, that article is getting forwarded around to lots of people, and it has at the bottom of it this:

Wow. Not something I expected from “Esquire.”

followed by this ringing endoresment:

Esquire is a great magazine. Read it more often: there’s tons of articles on politics, science, current events…it’s, like, Maxim for intelligent people.

Esquire probably had nothing to do with this, but in one stroke, Esquire has certainly grabbed more people for their stream. Many of them will buy an issue. Some of them will subscribe. It’s not about monetizing this article, it’s about getting people to pay attention to what you’re going to do next – the recurring and predictable revenue streams that keep ongoing operations… ongoing.

Put your best work out there, let it speak for itself, and maybe someone will already be paying attention next time you have something interesting to say. Maybe they’ll even pay for the privilege. Locking it up where only people who are already interested can find it is a recipe for obscurity and irrelevance. Yes, TimesSelect, I’m looking at you.

Preaching to the Esquire

Long article copied shamelessly from Esquire about”Idiot America”.

“Idiot America is a collaborative effort, the result of millions of decisions made and not made. It’s the development of a collective Gut at the expense of a collective mind. It’s what results when politicians make ridiculous statements and not merely do we abandon the right to punish them for it at the polls, but we also become too timid to punish them with ridicule on a daily basis, because the polls say they’re popular anyway. It’s what results when leaders are not held to account for mistakes that end up killing people.”

Via Novitz:

EFF releases list of infected Sony CDs

Filed under: — adam @ 11:33 am

EFF has put together a list of the known CDs infected with Sony’s rootkit:

Also, some pictures of what the labels look like:


Flickr finally adds “replace photo” feature

Filed under: — adam @ 9:38 am

Nice! I can’t say how many times I’ve wanted to fix a photo after I’ve uploaded it, because the transfer didn’t work properly, or I learned a new photoshop technique, or I could just make it better in some way.

The fine folks at flickr have just added a “replace photo” feature, which is now in the editing options of all pictures you’ve uploaded down on the right hand side under the “Additional Information” block.


Using Sony’s rootkit to defeat Blizzard’s spyware

Filed under: — adam @ 3:08 pm

Well that’s just cute. Apparently, Sony’s DRM rootkit process hider can be used to circumvent Blizzard’s cheating spyware.

And, yet again, I feel the need to say that everything I said here still applies:

Patenting Storylines

Filed under: — adam @ 2:11 pm

“A Plot or Storyline Patent application seeks to patent the underlying
novel and nonobvious storyline of a fictional story.”

Here’s an article about it:

And the actual patent application:


Michael Piller is dead

Filed under: — adam @ 5:09 pm

Michael Piller was strongly influential in everything good that’s come out of Star Trek since the 90’s. He died from head and neck cancer this morning at the age of 57.

Well, so much for MySQL

Filed under: — adam @ 12:57 pm

Oracle is releasing a free version of … Oracle.

My subject line is somewhat in jest – the success of this will depend HEAVILY on how easy the db is to administer. If it’s just as complicated as full Oracle, MySQL will still hold the lead in free dbs.

Sony copy-protected CDs apparently contain rootkits

This article details the finding of an actual root kit (that is, a program designed to remain hidden from security software by cloaking itself and pretending to be part of the OS), that turned out to have been installed by a Sony copy-protected CD.

“I ran a scan on one of my systems and was shocked to see evidence of a rootkit. Rootkits are cloaking technologies that hide files, Registry keys, and other system objects from diagnostic and security software, and they are usually employed by malware attempting to keep their implementation hidden”

The EULA, also, apparently contained no mention of it.

This is probably illegal. I won’t be surprised in the least if Sony gets royally sued for this.

On World of Warcraft’s spyware

World of Warcraft was recently revealed to have a piece of spyware hidden in it called Warden, that tracks a large amount of information about other things running simultaneously on the machine, in order to prevent cheating.

There’s been some commentary on Dave Farber’s IP list that Warden was found by someone trying to hack the game, implying that that somehow justifies its existence.

I wrote the following in response to that:


The fact that this piece of spyware was found by someone trying hack the game is totally irrelevant to what it is, and the fact that there are people in an arms race over hacking the game doesn’t justify Blizzard’s raising the bar on that race to trample the privacy of legitimate users who are probably unaware that this is even going on.

As has been previously stated, Blizzard’s assertion that it’s not doing anything with the information is little comfort. What if the next round of arms race escalation is to hack Warden and release all of that information? How long will it be before Blizzard can properly respond? How much data will get out, because of the infrastructure that Blizzard has constructed?

The fact that this is justified by text buried in a long EULA is deplorable. The fact is, few people read EULAs at all, and even fewer read them for >games< . There ought to be full disclosure right up front in large capital letters - "If you want to play this game, you have to agree to let us spy on you, because we assume everyone's a cheater. YOU'VE BEEN ADEQUATELY WARNED. To agree, and be allowed to play the game, type: 'I UNDERSTAND THAT BLIZZARD IS SPYING ON ME TO CATCH CHEATERS'." Let's have no more of this "Press OK to continue" crap.

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