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


Does your old PS2 play dual-layer DVD games?

Filed under: — adam @ 5:21 pm

I have an old Playstation 2 (30001 series). It has never played dual-layer DVD movies – it plays the first layer, and then freezes. Everyone I know with this model has the same issue with it. It was never a problem, because all of the games on DVD that I had were single layer. But now they’ve started releasing games on dual-layer DVD, notably God of War 2. And, of course, it won’t play on my old player. The official word from Sony is that this is a problem isolated to my machine (which also, incidentally, has stopped playing the purple CD-ROM games too), and they want me to pay $45 for a refurbished machine of the same old model. Before I do that, I’d like to locate some corroborating opinions.

Do you have an older PS2? Can it play God of War 2?

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ISPs apparently sell your clickstream data

Apparently, “anonymized” clickstream data (the urls of which websites you visited and in what order) is available for sale directly from many ISPs. There is no way that this is sufficiently anonymized. It is readily obvious from reading my clickstream who I am – urls for MANY online services contain usernames, and anyone who uses any sort of online service is almost certainly visiting their own presence far more than anything else. All it takes is one of those usernames to be tied to a real name, and your entire clickstream becomes un-anonymized, irreversibly and forever.

I’ve talked about the dangers of breaking anonymization with leaking keys before:

Short answer: It is not enough to say that a piece of data is not “personally identifiable” if it is unique and exists with a piece of personally identifiable data somewhere else. More importantly, it doesn’t even have to be unique or completely personally identifiable – whether or not you can guess who a person is from a piece of data is not a black and white distinction, and simply being able to guess who a person might be can leak some information that might confirm their identity when combined with something else.

This is also completely setting aside the fact that you have very little direct control over much of your clickstream, since there are all sorts of ways for a site you visit to get your browser to load things – popups, javascript includes, and images being the most prevalent.

Preserving anonymity is hard. This is an egregious breach of privacy. Expect lawsuits if this is true.

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Google to purge some data after 18-24 months

Filed under: — adam @ 6:33 pm

Well, that’s a nice start. Good for them.

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Confabb is hosting the Personal Democracy Forum 2007 site

Filed under: — adam @ 11:39 am

Exciting! — Confabb is hosting the site for Personal Democracy Forum 2007.

The science of politics is changing, and these are the people who are doing interesting things about it.

You can browse information about the conference (news, events, sessions, speakers, and more), and register from the site. You can use your existing Confabb login, if you have one (OpenID is coming, but not yet).

(Disclosure: I’m one of the co-founders of Confabb.)

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The Penny Gap is the difference between free and mostly free

Filed under: — adam @ 11:16 am

Interesting post about the Penny Gap. I think this is directly related to a similar concept which might be called the Unlimited Chasm.

The Penny Gap says that if your service is actually free, it will have a much greater uptake than one that is merely very very cheap. Rather than being a smooth curve up the value chain, there’s a quantum shift between “free” and “costs anything”. I think this is largely due to the implicit value factoring of the “cost” (in effort) of the transaction. If you could just wave your hand and pay a penny for something without getting out your credit card number or typing in your password, it seems like this gap would largely disappear.

There’s a similar effect at play when dealing with “unlimited” services. If you have to pay for usage, it takes a lot of mental effort to add up everything you’re paying and make sure you’re not over a certain amount. If you don’t, and have an unlimited plan, that mental effort goes away. Even if the unlimited service is more expensive than you’d pay with metered service, there’s less hesitation to use it because you never have to worry about keeping track of it. I feel like this effect is less prominent on services that give you constant feedback about how much you’ve used. Presumably the extra security of insurance of not ever going above a certain limit has some value to it as well.

Free and unlimited are obviously closely related, mentally and emotionally. I’ll have to think about this some more.

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Followup commentary on Windows Vista

Filed under: — adam @ 12:29 am

Perry said “I think you held back too much. Tell us what you really think.”

Okay. I think Windows is rotten to the core and always has been. Between Windows 3.1 and XP, there were no serious contenders. With Win2K and XP, it’s at least had the benefits of:

1) it being reasonably possible to hammer it into sufficient shape to be usable and secure “enough”.

2) running on significantly cheaper hardware.

3) being reasonably open for a closed-source product, and at least focused towards providing a good user experience, and aimed at the needs of the end user.

4) providing a mostly effortless hardware compatibility experience. Most of the things I’ve plugged into my XP box have simply worked, without too much trouble. Sure, I’ve had to install the driver, but there are a number of things where you have to do that with OSX, too.

5) having software exclusives, and existing in the world where virtualization/emulation on other platforms was at the end-user performance level of “barely usable, if you really need it”.

All of that seems to change with Vista and the fun 2007 world it inhabits:

#1 might have been good enough with XP, but I fail to see why none of those lessons have been learned, and we have to do it all over again with a new OS, especially one which otherwise seems to provide marginal benefits.

#2 the hardware requirements for Vista seem like simply an excuse to sell more hardware for overly bloated and inefficient software, because…

#3 they’ve totally sold out to the content industry and everything has been reoriented towards content protection, all of which eats hardware resources and diminishes usability, because of which…

#4 they broke the unified driver model and so we have to start all over again with hardware compatibility, and…

#5 now there are cheaper, better alternatives for running the same software, which actually seem to work this time around.

We’ve known this all along – Unix in any flavor is superior to Windows. We’ve finally reached the complexity point in operating systems where that difference is unmistakable even if you don’t have advanced degrees in Computer Science.

I’ve been a Windows user and defender for a very long time, because of the list of five advantages above. My primary desktop still runs XP. I expect that to be the case until I need to replace it, at which point I’ll probably get a Mac, for the five same reasons. Obviously, I haven’t hit all of the reasons, but this is a big chunk of why I have little interest in Vista. It’s the same reason I got tired of manually assigning SCSI ids to all of my disks. Tinkering is fun. Sometimes, tinkering is fun even when it’s mandatory and things don’t work unless you tinker. But after a while, you just want things to work.

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Treo 700p Text Messaging Problems

Filed under: — adam @ 1:46 pm

My Treo 700p has many problems, but one of them is completely infuriating, so obviously the result of a bug, and so invasive that I can’t imagine that everyone with the same phone hasn’t seen it.

When Palm introduced the 700p, they replaced the SMS application that was used on the 600 and 650, to a new centralized messaging application. Setting aside the fact that it couldn’t import the sms messages from the old application, it obviously suffers from some sort of indexing bug, because if I have more than a handful (maybe 20-30) of messages saved on the phone, EVERY time I send a text message, the phone freezes for some amount of time before it responds again. The more messages I have saved, the longer it hangs. I’ve timed it at over 2 minutes with a lot of messages. Purging all of the existing saved messages completely fixes the problem, until a sufficient number of messages accumulate again.

This is a real pain – I often refer back to old text messages, and I feel like the phone is robbing me of some of my history by forcing me to delete them.

And it can’t just be me – with Verizon support, I tried a brand new phone with none of my programs or data installed, and the problem recurred after sending and receiving a bunch of text messages. I can’t believe that Palm hasn’t fixed this already.

Do you have a Treo 700p? Does it exhibit this problem?

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Daylight Savings Time updates this weekend

Filed under: — adam @ 5:45 pm

Congress changed Daylight Savings Time, and the changes take effect this weekend.

Most Windows and Mac machines will auto update if allowed to do so. If you have a unix box, you probably already know about this.

Don’t forget to also update your Palm and other handhelds that are DST-aware.

If you have a network-aware Palm device, you can do this over the air, with this:

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Leopard has support for ZFS

Filed under: — adam @ 8:06 pm

I’m probably a bit behind in hearing about this, but very cool nonetheless.

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