Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at adamfields.com 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 app.net.

11/3/2008

Vote.

Get out there tomorrow and do what you feel you need to. This country has gone astray, and we need to fix it. The next four, eight, twelve years are important, and what you do tomorrow will dictate the path for those years. We need strong leadership who will listen to the concerns of our citizenship.

On that note, the Columbia Journalism Review has reported on a new map of political blogs that my company, Morningside Analytics recently produced for a study being conducted by Columbia’s Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Reporting and the Berkman Center at Harvard.

Political Clustermap
(Click the image to read our blog post about it.)

I find this map extremely compelling, and it speaks volumes about the respective approaches that will follow one of these two men to the White House tomorrow.

John Kelly, our chief scientist and founder, sums it up:

“There are some groups of pro-McCain and anti-Obama blogs that are well connected to each other but not densely linked with bloggers in the longstanding political blogosphere, even those on the conservative side [...]. If these were typical political bloggers, we would expect to see them better woven into the fabric of the network.”

Cogitate on that, sleep well, and vote proudly.


5/7/2008

How to cut a pepper

Filed under: — adam @ 10:26 am

Some people were asking, so I finally got around to making a short video of how I cut a bell pepper. I haven’t been able to find anything on the web illustrating this, but I haven’t actually looked very hard.

[Update: Okay, yes, it's a stupid minor thing, but I made this in response to the proliferation of instructions like this.]

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1/5/2008

Warner Bros. goes Blu-ray exclusive

Filed under: — adam @ 12:15 pm

Warner Bros., one of the big dual-format holdouts in HD video, announced yesterday that they’re switching to Blu-ray only as of May 2008, abandoning HD DVD. The format war isn’t quite “over” yet, but this is a significant victory for Blu-ray.

This leaves Paramount as the only major studio still backing HD DVD [update: oops, Universal too.].

http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=803

http://www.timewarner.com/corp/newsroom/pr/0,20812,1700383,00.html

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9/2/2007

New Star Trek movie apparently reboots with an open time loop

Filed under: — adam @ 10:15 am

“Picture an incident that throws a group of Romulans back in time. Picture that group of Romulans figuring out where they are in the timeline, then deciding to take advantage of the accident to kill someone‚Äôs father, to erase them from the timeline before they exist, thereby changing all of the TREK universe as a result. Who would you erase? Whose erasure would leave the biggest hole in the TREK universe is the question you should be asking.

Who else, of course, but James T. Kirk?”

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/33832

Although I don’t think it would work as a standalone movie, I’m still waiting for the followup series they hinted at the end of TNG – the continual use of warp drive is found to be definitively unraveling the fabric of space-time. How do you deal with that? What does that do to interplanetary politics? How do you develop alternate forms of travel that don’t use warp technology? How do you stop everyone from using warp drive, and how do you police that? How do you impose that restriction on hostile entities? Nothing like a good galactic environmental crisis to bring Star Trek back into relevance.

(Of course, in TNG, the answer obviously lies in Wesley Crusher’s newly acquired godlike Traveler capabilities, but I think there are a lot of people who would find that objectionable.)

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Newer PS3s apparently use software emulation for PS2 games

Apparently, Sony dropped including the PS2 hardware in the 80GB model, and the last version that includes it is the now discontinued, recently price-cut $499 60GB model. If you care about playing older PS2 games and are thinking about getting a PS3, you probably want to get that one, before it disappears. It should also be noted that the HD is user-replaceable, so there’s actually very little tradeoff there.

http://astore.amazon.com/buyadam-20/detail/B0009VXAM0/105-0381338-1255632

The new model includes a software emulator, but a fairly large number of the older games have at least some problems.

I’ve really been pretty blown away by how much fun the PS3 is, both for the newer games (which are huge and gorgeous) and for how much better it makes the PS2 experience – all games that support it can play in widescreen, everything’s faster, using the hard drive instead of memory cards is both more convenient and MUCH faster, and the analog sticks are more precise. I think dropping the hardware emulator is an unfortunate cost-saving move that will probably diminish the experience, if you care about that.

Also interesting – I found this list of current and upcoming PS3 exclusives, including PSN (downloadable) games:

http://www.psu.com/PlayStation-3-Exclusives-List-Feature–a1079-p0.php

I think the PS3 has only shown a mere fraction of its power, and Sony didn’t do even a passable job of promoting it properly at launch, but the slate of games on the list for the next six months and beyond has me very excited.

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5/10/2007

Brilliant DMCA side effect

Crappy DRM company says the DMCA forces you to buy their technology instead of building your own because not buying their technology is a circumvention of an effective copyright tool.

The thing is, I think they’re right. I mean, it’s stupid, but then so is the DMCA.

There are some other provisions (which seem to not apply), but the crux of it is:

“No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that–

`(A) is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of
circumventing a technological measure that effectively
controls access to a work protected under this title;”

It explicitly does NOT say “copy the work”, it says “circumvent the technology”. “Circumvent” is not the word they were looking for.

In fact, now that I think about it, convincing someone that DRM is bad is also a violation, as that may be interpreted as offering a service that is primarily design for the purpose of circumventing technological protection. Crap.

http://www.forbes.com/business/feeds/afx/2007/05/10/afx3708595.html

(via boingboing.)

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4/14/2007

Remember when DoubleClick was pretty universally reviled and sued for privacy violations a few years back?

Oh yeah.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/14/technology/14deal.html?ex=1334203200&en=d94eb7f788b32db5&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss


4/13/2007

Cadbury got busted for reducing the size of the Creme Egg and then lying about it

Filed under: — adam @ 3:31 pm

I used to get a Cadbury Creme Egg a year about the same time I had my annual McRib. Since I’ve realized over the course of the past few years that you’re only supposed to eat food, I didn’t know that Cadbury reduced the size of the Creme Egg this year. And then they lied about it! And they blamed it on the increasing size of their consumers (possibly from eating too many Creme Eggs)! And then they got busted on National TV! At least they could have had the dignity to release the “New Creme Egg”, and then release the “Creme Egg Classic” in the smaller form factor when people complained about the new formula.

http://consumerist.com/consumer/cadbury/cadbury-our-eggs-arent-smaller-you-are-bigger-250559.php

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4/9/2007

New in Photoshop CS3 – “Quick Selection Tool”

Filed under: — adam @ 11:07 am

They took the best of the magic wand, color range selection, magnetic lasso, and channel selection, and rolled it all up into a new kind of brush – the quick selection tool.

You paint with the brush for broad strokes to define your selection, then you have a dialog box to refine the edge with radius, contrast, smoothing, feathering, and contrast selectors, with 5 kinds of masked preview. (Also, it appears that the Refine Edges dialog is also available on all of the other selection tools.)

This alone is worth the price of the upgrade.

Documentation is non-existent in the beta, but I found this tutorial:

http://www.photoshopcafe.com/cs3/qs.htm

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4/2/2007

The end of DRM is nigh

The iTunes store is about to start selling the entire EMI catalog DRM-free. It’s slightly more expensive, but also higher quality.

This completely destroys the rationale behind having any DRM at all. It can’t be because they’re afraid of the higher quality recordings getting out, because those are the ones they’re releasing without DRM. All that remains is shafting the customer, which is of course all that DRM is actually good for.

http://www.boingboing.net/2007/04/02/itunes_store_will_se.html

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3/16/2007

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.

http://internet.seekingalpha.com/article/29449

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3/14/2007

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.

http://redeye.firstround.com/2007/03/the_first_penny.html

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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2/28/2007

My Windows Vista “review”

Filed under: — adam @ 10:23 pm

I haven’t run Vista. I have no intention of doing so. Here’s my “review” anyway:

SCANNER COMPATIBILITY PROBLEMS?!? What year is it?!?

What a total embarassment.

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1/18/2007

Gorillapod – yes!

Filed under: — adam @ 9:11 am

I’ve been continually unhappy with all of the ultraportable tripods I’ve bought. They’re too heavy, not flexible enough, take too long to set up, and the smaller ones won’t support my big camera. The gorillapod fixes all of that. It’s incredibly light, totally portable, and even sufficiently adjustable to wrap around small objects (benches, railings, bike frame, etc…). It is, in short, the best portable tripod I’ve ever seen.

It comes in three sizes:

http://www.gorillapod.com/

I got the DSLR-Zoom for my big camera (which holds up to 6 lbs.) and the regular size for my little pocket cam (which is more portable). I’m a big fan of Canon’s wireless flash system, so this also seems like a great way to mount a remote flash in an inconspicious location.

Regular (digicams and flashes):
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EVSLRO/002-0315298-6861671?ie=UTF8&tag=buyadam-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B000EVSLRO

DSLR (no zoom):
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000HAVVFG/002-0315298-6861671?ie=UTF8&tag=buyadam-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B000HAVVFG

DSLR-Zoom:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000KFRSG4/002-0315298-6861671?ie=UTF8&tag=buyadam-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B000KFRSG4

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1/12/2007

Don’t look at the Fnords

Filed under: — adam @ 9:50 am

Robert Anton Wilson is dead.

http://robertantonwilson.blogspot.com/2007/01/raw-essence.html

I can’t say enough about the importance of his writing to our national culture of weirdness. He will be missed.

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1/10/2007

iPhony

Cisco owns the trademark on “iPhone”. Apple was apparently in negotiations to license the term, but had not actually completed doing so prior to the product announcement. Negotations would not seem to be going well, as Cisco has filed a suit against Apple for trademark infringment:

http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2007/corp_011007.html

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10/10/2006

Google has your logs (and all it took was a fart lighting video)

The non-obvious side of Google’s purchase of YouTube: Google now has access to the hit logs of every page that a YouTube video appears on, including LOTS of pages that were probably previously inaccessible to them. MySpace pages were probably going to get Google ads anyway, because of the big deal that happened there, but many others weren’t.

Add this to AdSense, the Google Web Accelerator, Google Web Analytics, and Google Maps, and that’s a lot of data being collected about browsing habits, and the number of sites you can browse without sending some data to Google has just dropped significantly.

Previously:

http://www.aquick.org/blog/2006/02/03/detailed-survey-of-verbatim-answers-from-aol-ms-yahoo-and-google-about-what-details-they-store/

http://www.aquick.org/blog/2006/01/30/flickr-pictures-web-beacons-and-a-modest-proposal/

http://www.aquick.org/blog/2006/01/29/whats-the-big-fuss-about-ip-addresses/

http://www.aquick.org/blog/2006/01/27/google-does-keep-cookie-and-ip-correlated-logs/

http://www.aquick.org/blog/2006/01/26/does-google-keep-logs-of-personal-data/

http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/11/21/google-really-wants-your-logs/

http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/05/05/google-wants-your-logs/

http://www.aquick.org/blog/index.php?s=google&submit=Search

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10/7/2006

400D support is out with ACR Camera RAW 3.6

Filed under: — adam @ 11:17 am

It’s a beautiful thing. I downloaded the ACR 3.6 update (still beta, but seems stable), and the output on the 400D shots is very very good.

As predicted, with a decent RAW converter, the evident noise is strongly diminished, and the noise that remains is very very fine and can be easily removed with Noise Ninja.

Here’s a shot I took at ISO 800 with no flash:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fields/262621826/

Get the update here:

http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html

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9/27/2006

The state of Adobe RAW processing for the Canon 400D

Filed under: — adam @ 5:01 pm

Camera RAW 3.5 doesnt support it. Camera RAW 3.6 will be out “soon”. My results with the Canon DPP processor have been pretty dismal. Lightroom Beta 4 is out, which does support it, but I haven’t really played with it yet, as it got a bit choked up (but hasn’t crashed yet) when I threw my 30,000+ photos into its library.

Some comments from Thomas Knoll (the man):

http://www.adobeforums.com/cgi-bin/webx?13@@.3bb6a869.3bc1b01e/0

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9/20/2006

GOOD Magazine

One of the projects I’m working on is GOOD Magazine. We have some incredible things planned for their site in the next few months, and there will be future updates about that. In the meantime, the magazine itself is pretty good. The first issue has come out, and it’s an interesting read. These guys are genuinely interested in the phenomenon of doing good, and they’ve uncovered some great stories.

For a $20 subscription, you get a year’s subscription (six issues), and 100% of your subscription fee goes to your choice of 12 partner organizations.

http://www.goodmagazine.com/subscribe/why/

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9/17/2006

Amazon Unbox is a travesty

I was going to write something about this, but Cory beat me to it.

http://www.boingboing.net/2006/09/15/amazon_unbox_to_cust.html

Amazon Unbox has the worst terms of service I’ve seen in a long time. Like Cory, I’m a longtime Amazon supporter, and I think their customer service is outstanding, and this is a travesty. Way to fuck over the people who won’t actually read the terms because they just want to download a movie.

I only really have one thing to add with respect to the “if it has value then we have a right to charge money for it” proposition. Does the MPAA reserve the right to charge more retroactively if you enjoy a movie more than you expected to? That’s hidden value, right? This madness has to stop.

Mr. Bezos, you should be ashamed of yourself, and also whoever you put in charge of this.

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9/14/2006

Why Johnny Can’t Code

Filed under: — adam @ 9:19 am

Interesting article by David Brin from Salon today on the lack of an educational consensus on what constitutes “the learning language”, or indeed >any< learning language at all.

http://salon.com/tech/feature/2006/09/14/basic/index.html

It used to be BASIC – textbooks of other subjects had BASIC programs in them to try out, and it was installed everywhere. Even my Intellivision, one of the early game consoles, had a BASIC module.

Sure, it’s not good for teaching you about any modern programming concepts, but that’s less important in the beginning than understanding how computers fundamentally work.

There’s been a lot of ranting recently about how kids these days can’t program because all they learn is Java and they never get near the guts of the computer itself (because why should they learn something they’re never going to use?), but I think I agree with Brin’s point – it’s deeper than that. The prevailing opinion is that languages that force you to understand what they’re doing are not only useless but obsolete. The analogy to eating your seed corn is apt – we’re cutting off an entire generation from the hacker tools they need in order to learn how to do interesting stuff with technology instead of just put other people’s pieces together (and people who have never learned the basics are far more likely to be stumped when something doesn’t behave as they expect).

I’m not sure what the answer to this is, really, but it’s definitely worth discussing.

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8/25/2006

Doing what the terrorists want

I’ve often said that terrorism is an auto-immune disease afflicting civilization. Bruce Schneier has a great article up about how responding to terrorism by locking things down is, in fact, exactly what the terrorists want.

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/08/what_the_terror.html

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8/18/2006

An important lesson about key races

Filed under: — adam @ 10:13 am

Britt pointed me at this piece about how Lieberman still has very strong support:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/009461.php

There’s an important lesson in here. When you hang principles on a single race, and then lose, the principle goes with the race and suffers a horrible blow. This >WAS< the Dean mistake – it represented the internet way, and everybody fled when he lost, and how long has it taken that approach to recover its reputation?

When Lieberman wins, the ENTIRE “unseat the incumbents” approach dies a horrible death, in one single event.

How to dissociate the principles from the individual race?

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6/30/2006

Addressing the lamentations of the local

Filed under: — adam @ 9:27 am

Meg says it’s too expensive to shop locally:

http://www.megnut.com/2006/06/the-expense-of-eating-local

I have some responses to this.

1) The Union Square greenmarket is, in my experience, significantly more expensive than the other satellite markets throughout the city. There are a few possible reasons for this – it might draw the more expensive farms which sell different but slightly more expensive varietals of the same produce, the thriving restaurant business in the area could be a factor, or it could just be fame. What I do know is that everyone I know who shops at the USGM says “hey, this stuff is really expensive” far more than the people who don’t. I’d suggest doing some comparison shopping at other markets.

2) There are regional variations in the growing season and only the most prime produce will be at better prices. The berry season has barely started here in NY, so they’re more expensive. But lettuce, greens, beans, and cucumbers are all MUCH cheaper at my green market than the supermarket, and much higher quality. You’ve got to pick your battles. One exception I’ve found to this has been tomatoes. Local tomatoes are outrageously expensive compared to shipped tomatoes. But on the other hand, they’re incomparable, because tomatoes were not meant to be shipped. They are completely different beasts. $3/lb for local tomatoes is an indulgence I’ll gladly pay to consume what I consider to be among the most pleasurable culinary experiences we have available to us. The depth of flavor and delicate texture in a local tomato is simply something you can’t get for any price nonlocally, because what it must go through to survive shipping destroys its unique characteristics. I feel the same way about Ronnybrook Farms milk. It’s pretty expensive compared to other milks, but that’s only if you assume that because they have the same name that they’re somehow the same product. They’re not.

3) There’s a lot to be said about the freshness and fridge life of fruits and vegetables purchased locally. If you’re actually going to eat it in a day or two, the quality will likely be unmatched by anything you can find even at Whole Foods. On top of that, a head of lettuce purchased at Whole Foods will last maybe 3-5 days in the fridge before it starts to wilt, but I’ve eaten lettuce purchased two weeks prior from the farmer’s market, and it’s always still crisp and green.

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    6/29/2006

    New Thunderbird function – Group By Sort

    Filed under: — adam @ 8:22 am

    I noticed that sometime recently, Thunderbird added a new item to the View menu – Group By Sort. (If you don’t see it, it’s time to upgrade. If it’s greyed out, you need to choose a different sort key.)

    This is really cool!

    If you’re sorted by date, the mailbox displays as groups characteristic of the message date – Today, Yesterday, Last Week, Two Weeks Ago, Old Mail.

    If you’re sorted by sender, you get a group for each sender.

    Now, we only need the ability to sort the groups separately…

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    6/23/2006

    I’m about to waste your whole day (and your wallet won’t like me either)

    Filed under: — adam @ 9:48 am

    Pandora is a music recommendation network.

    It’s extremely easy to use.

    You tell it a song or artist you like, and it builds you a customized “station” based on songs that are like that. At each song, you tell it whether you like it or not, and it learns. Alternately, you can branch off a new station based on any song playing.

    I have not yet signed up or reviewed the privacy policy, but this seems intensely cool.

    http://www.pandora.com

    Also, it’s integrated with the Squeezebox, which I’ve recently obtained, and about which I’ll be writing a full review.

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    6/21/2006

    Opera 9 is out

    Filed under: — adam @ 1:00 pm

    I’m a huge fan of Opera; I’ve been using it on an off since around version 2. It got really good at version 5, and became my primary browser of choice until I switched to Firefox because version 7 was crap. But version 8 was great again, and now 9 is a big improvement over that. It’s fast, it’s smooth, standards support is better, they made some usability fixes, and it’s pleasant. I haven’t really delved into widgets yet, but those seem well-suited to being in the browser instead of in some standalone app.

    http://www.opera.com

    Also, the development team is blogging. They’ve been releasing weekly snapshots, most of which have been great, leading up to this release. They’ll continue doing so going forward.

    Congratulations, guys!

    http://my.opera.com/desktopteam/blog/

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    6/20/2006

    All video is suspect

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:18 am

    Fascinating movie about the process of making Marlon Brando speak new lines for Superman Returns.

    Remember when you first realized that everything you saw in a photo could be faked and you couldn’t tell the difference? It’s here for video too.

    http://raincloud.warnerbros.com/wbmovies/supermanreturns/jor_el/jor_el_large.mov

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    6/16/2006

    Google Government search

    I think it’s simultaneously good that Google is turning a watchful eye on the government, but also somewhat creepy that they’re putting themselves in the position of proxying people’s access to potentially sensitive information. I do NOT think that the Google privacy policy is sufficient to cover this situation.

    As many have predicted, this is also likely to expose some interesting accidentally unprotected things at some point in the future.

    http://www.google.com/ig/usgov

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    6/14/2006

    Support local farms by joining a CSA program.

    Filed under: — adam @ 9:52 pm

    We finally got around to signing up for a CSA share this year.

    I strongly support the concept in principle – you buy a “share” of a small local sustainable farm, and in return you get a portion of the harvest every week (or two weeks, depending), for the duration of the growing season, which is usually June through October for NYC. For the one near us, this seems to be an assortment of about 7-10 vegetables plus 2-3 fruits (which are two separate shares). You have to go to the drop location to pick up.

    We picked up our first drop tonight. It was a bit sparse, but it’s still very early in the season and I expect that the volume will pick up over the summer.

    What we got this week:

    5 garlic scapes
    a small bunch of red radishes
    about a gallon ziploc bag of mesclun greens
    about a gallon ziploc bag of escarole
    about a gallon ziploc bag of spinach
    1 pint of sugar snap peas
    5 rhubarb stalks
    2 pints of strawberries

    We also got the fresh flower share, which was just a bunch of assorted flowers. For $6 a week, this is definitely cheaper than any florist around here.

    We ate the radishes and some strawberries tonight. The radishes were intensely peppery raw, but cooked up nicely braised with butter, balsamic vinegar and chicken stock. The strawberries are among the best I’ve ever had. Not yet prime of the season, and small, but again, very intensely flavored.

    Depending on whether the portion sizes increase, I suspect that the prices are going to be about equal to going to the farmer’s market, but I like the idea of supporting a farm directly. This is somewhat of an experiment; we’ll see how it goes.

    If you’re interested in this, it may not be too late to sign up, but do it ASAP. This is the NYC one; if you’re not in NYC, you might be able to find a local program by searching for CSA.

    http://www.justfood.org/csa/locations/

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    6/5/2006

    Software radio is here, and it’s open source

    Filed under: — adam @ 2:15 pm

    I’ve been talking about software radio for a while, and wondering when it would become cheap. Basically, all wireless devices are just radios of different kinds, and there’s no theoretical reason why one device couldn’t talk to them all. Except that it was prohibitively expensive, but apparently it’s not anymore.

    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/1,70933-0.html

    This is very very cool.

    The software’s open source, and the hardware is cheap:

    http://www.ettus.com/

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    6/4/2006

    The motivations of wiretapping

    Boingboing points out this Wired article about a reporter who crashed a conference of wiretapping providers, mentioning this quotation in particular:

    ‘He sneered again. “Do you think for a minute that Bush would let legal issues stop him from doing surveillance? He’s got to prevent a terrorist attack that everyone knows is coming. He’ll do absolutely anything he thinks is going to work. And so would you. So why are you bothering these guys?”‘

    It’s an interesting read, but I fundamentally disagree with the above statement, and this is the problem.

    It’s not the surveillance that bothers me, it’s the resistance to oversight, even after the fact.

    If there was any confidence that what they were doing was a reasonable tradeoff, they wouldn’t have to a) lie or b) break the law to do it. Yet they’ve done both of these things.

    If the law enforcement community said “well shit, we’re out of ideas about how to stop these people, and so we really need to have our computers read everyone’s email and tap everyone’s phones and we guarantee that this information won’t be used for anything else, and anyone we find doing something nefarious will be dealt with according to due process”, then we could, you know, engage in a meaningful discussion about this. And then we could move on to the fact that “terrorist” is not a useful designation for a criminal, and then maybe we could fire the people who thought up this brilliant idea and find someone who would practice actual security because wholesale surveillance and profiling have been widely debunked as largely useless for anything besides persecution, political attacks, and invasions of privacy.

    But we won’t, because that’s not what this is about.

    This opinion of a member of the Dutch National Police is particularly telling:

    ‘He said that in the Netherlands, communications intercept capabilities are advanced and well established, and yet, in practice, less problematic than in many other countries. “Our legal system is more transparent,” he said, “so we can do what we need to do without controversy. Transparency makes law enforcement easier, not more difficult.”

    The technology exists, it’s not going away, and it’s really not the problem. The secrecy is the problem.

    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/1,71022-1.html

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    5/31/2006

    Better presentation of search results

    Filed under: — adam @ 12:40 pm

    I just happened to notice that Clusty, which I’ve been using for searching for the past few months (their privacy policy is better than the others, although not perfect, and the results are mostly indistinguishable from Google’s or Yahoo’s), has some neat little buttons next to each result that are totally unobtrusive, to the point that I only even realized they were there today, but also extremely useful.

    Two of them are kind of standard (open in a new window, and view the cluster for the search result), but the other one is so mindbogglingly obvious that I’m ashamed that they don’t all do this.

    It’s preview. Click it and the link opens up in a small frame underneath the result without leaving the page. Even PDFs.

    Duh.

    http://www.clusty.com

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    5/25/2006

    10,000 sheep drawn by the Amazon Mechanical Turk service

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:04 am

    Definitely click the “More…” link.

    http://www.thesheepmarket.com/

    This is indicative of something, but I’m not sure what.

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    5/23/2006

    Good articles on using RAID1 with linux

    Filed under: — adam @ 7:29 am

    I have my big data drives on a RAID5 array, but they can’t boot individually if the array fails. RAID1 addresses that problem.

    These links are helpful for migrating an existing system to using a RAID1 boot/root disk setup.

    That first is particularly good, as it details how to set up the array with a failed member initially so you can get it set up, copy your data to it on the new drive, then add your existing drive to it, without overwriting your existing contents. I haven’t tried it yet, but the instructions look right. The others are about using grub with RAID1 drives.

    http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/238
    http://www.doorbot.com/guides/linux/x86/grubraid/
    http://www.linuxsa.org.au/mailing-list/2003-07/1270.html

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    5/19/2006

    Privacy without hiding

    Filed under: — adam @ 8:57 am

    Excellent article from Bruce Schneier on why privacy is important, even if “you have nothing to hide”.

    ‘We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.’

    http://www.wired.com/news/columns/1,70886-0.html

    Privacy is freedom. It is freedom from judgement, the freedom to stew in our own individual cognitive juices, the freedom to express and learn and argue.

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    5/18/2006

    Musings on Consumer Content Experience (or sometimes, maybe you need a brand)

    Filed under: — adam @ 3:00 pm

    Doc Searls gave an interesting closing keynote talk on the Live Web at the Syndicate conference yesterday. He started with search engines and how they index the static web, but they’re also branching off into indexing the live web via blog search and rss (not sure I agree, but more on that later). From there, he drew further dichotomies between marketing and participation/demand, and publishing as a finished product and blogging as a provisional conversation. All of this centers around his assertion that the Live Web is (or will be) a dynamic expression of the demand side of the equation fulfilling its own needs. Instead of a value chain, you get a value constellation, where each star participates in the network, and in between is freedom. I like that metaphor, and it flowed right into his main point that the Live Web economy consists of two halves – the attention economy and the intention economy. In the Live Web, consumers not only command where they look (attention), but are also in control when they’re ready to buy (intention).

    The intention economy hasn’t really arrived. As a customer (no longer “consumer”), when you’ve decided what you’re going to buy, you still have to go find someplace to buy it. In the intention economy, you should be able to announce your intention to buy, and companies who are selling will come looking for you. We’re getting closer to that – shopping comparison sites help, but they’re still static snapshots. What’s needed is a dynamic marketplace around these ideas. Incidentally, that’s why I don’t necessarily think that blog search is a marker of the Live Web – RSS feeds aren’t interactive. They’re push, to be sure, so you get more updated static information, but like the shopping comparison sites, they’re still just static snapshots. On the other hand, getting people used to having some automated process working in the background is a step in the right direction.

    The existence of branding is tied very closely into this. In a certain sense, a brand exists primarily to help make products seem better than they are, by associating them with other things that are known to be good. If you already know what you want to buy, maybe you’re past this point, and it’s more honest to do without. As a counter example, consider these two products, which are made by the same company and basically identical. One’s a piece of foam sex furniture for adults, and one’s a piece of foam gaming furniture for kids. Esse vs. Zerk. Same product, two very different uses. Brands serve to make the distinction. Does the fact that the same product has two different names for two different audiences make a difference? I’ll have to think about that one some more. Incidentally, if you switch the marketing copy on those two pages, it’s really funny.

    (Who wants to help me come up with a brand for my spool-fed bacon-wrapped CPU cooling scheme? You have to refresh the bacon every once in a while, but on the plus side, it’s tasty.)

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    5/11/2006

    New “security glitch” found in Diebold voting systems

    Filed under: — adam @ 9:08 am

    “Elections officials in several states are scrambling to understand and limit the risk from a “dangerous” security hole found in Diebold Election Systems Inc.’s ATM-like touch-screen voting machines.

    The hole is considered more worrisome than most security problems discovered on modern voting machines, such as weak encryption, easily pickable locks and use of the same, weak password nationwide.”

    Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that the Diebold systems themselves ARE the security glitch.

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_3805089

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    5/8/2006

    Bosses generally suck

    Filed under: — adam @ 4:19 pm

    Hah, fooled you. This is a gaming post, not a business post. Wired article on the greatness of boss battles:

    http://www.wired.com/news/columns/1,70832-0.html

    I disagree. I often find the boss battles to be the most tedious parts of the game. Instead of another interesting level, you’re treated to a 10-30 minute repetetive motion fest until you can find the one pattern that works against the increasingly overpowered enemy.

    Sometimes, this is well done, but often not. I’d feel better about them if the boss battles required a little strategy or intelligence beyond “Find the four switches/weak spots/colors, hit them in order, then the boss will reveal the little extra boss inside the other boss and you can kill that too. And once you figure out the trick, the next three are all exactly the same as the first one, and between doing these tasks, you have to run in circles to avoid the predictable fireballs/rocks/energy blasts.”

    The Vizier in Prince of Persia 3? Nope, I don’t think so. That battle almost killed me with its tedium alone. I could almost hear Hank Azaria’s character narrating along between hits … “dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge!” And to add insult to injury, after a fantastic game about sand powers and time travel, you get to use almost none of those interesting powers, because there’s no refill sand during the battle. Bleh.

    God of War was refreshing in this instance, by accident. They had to leave some of the bosses out due to time pressure, and I’ve never been so relieved as I was when progressing from one really interesting level to another really interesting level without another button masher in the middle.

    The boss battles should be woven into the pace of the game, not grind it to a halt. Integrate the boss battles into everything else. Have other stuff going on at the same time. Punctuate it. Don’t make me start all over unless I do every single keypress right. If the way to kill the boss is to find the pattern and do something specific more than once, you’ve done something wrong. When done well, boss battles can be interesting. But they rarely are anything more than a placeholder for a lack of gameplay imagination.

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    5/4/2006

    Original Star Wars coming to DVD in September

    Filed under: — adam @ 9:40 am

    I have two things to say about this.

    1:

    The original films’ video quality will not match up to that of the restored versions. “It is state of the art, as of 1993, and that’s not as good as state of the art 2006,” Ward said.

    You have no idea why we like Star Wars, do you?

    Wait… what was that? 1993?

    2:
    Two-disc special editions? Come ON. Everyone who’s going to buy this either already has the revised DVD edition, or doesn’t want it.

    http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?id=35855

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    4/30/2006

    US Mandatory Data Retention laws are coming

    Filed under: — adam @ 9:35 am

    Remember the privacy implications of the government asking Google for search data? (http://www.aquick.org/blog/2006/01/19/doj-demands-large-chunk-of-google-data/)

    It’s going to get worse before it gets better. No online service considers your IP address to be private information, and now they will be required to maintain logs mapping your IP address to real contact information, for a period of at least one year after your account is closed.

    The only way to prevent this information from being misused is to not keep it, and now there won’t be any choice.

    http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200604/msg00176.html

    I’ve discussed this before:

    http://www.aquick.org/blog/2006/01/29/whats-the-big-fuss-about-ip-addresses/

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    4/25/2006

    Thoughts on questions every high school student should be able to answer

    Filed under: — adam @ 4:29 pm

    The Star Tribune wrote a fluff piece asking scientists to come up with their (seemingly) most disappointing question that every high schooler should be able to answer. (via Kottke)

    http://www.startribune.com/389/story/369290.html

    MJD (hey, man – what happened to Advocacy?) rightly savages the list:

    http://www.plover.com/blog/physics/questions.html

    The analysis is mostly very strong. My only complaint is that he failed to note that evolution doesn’t actually “choose” anything, and saying that it does is just typical “owning the terminology” ID doublespeak.

    And what is up with that last paragraph in the article about family life interfering with remembering things you learned in high school?

    My choice for this question would probably have been “What is the scientific method?”.

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    4/7/2006

    An important first step towards unmanufacturing

    Filed under: — adam @ 11:08 am

    Nokia phones are going to use a heat disassembly process that allows them to be broken down into their constituent materials, which can then be separately recycled. It’s not quite unmanufacturing, but it’s the first thing I’ve heard about a step in the right direction.

    http://www.nokia.com/nokia/0,6771,27610,00.html

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    4/6/2006

    MIT student told to drop out of school by the RIAA to pay settlement fines

    http://www-tech.mit.edu/V126/N15/RIAA1506.html

    Of course, this is nothing compared to the fact that the RIAA says you shouldn’t be allowed to break DRM even if it’s going to kill you if you don’t:

    http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=984

    I’ve discussed this before:

    http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/08/01/why-i-oppose-drm/

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    4/5/2006

    Impacts of Eolas patent on web pages

    Filed under: — adam @ 9:43 am

    Due to a lost patent claim, on April 11th, Active X controls (all embedded objects in IE) will have changed behavior and will require an “activation click” before they can be interacted with.

    http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1943847,00.asp
    http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/?url=/workshop/author/dhtml/overview/activating_activex.asp

    1) This does not affect pure DHTML/javascript, only DHTML/javascript that interacts with embedded applets.

    2) As described in the MS article and some of the links below, it is possible to bypass the restriction by loading the objects from an external page, and this can be automated in some circumstances. Apparently, Adobe/Macromedia is also working on better fixes.

    http://www.macromedia.com/devnet/activecontent/
    http://www.devx.com/webdev/Article/18063
    http://news.com.com/Microsoft+tweaks+browser+to+avoid+liability/2100-1012_3-5980658.html
    http://www.betanews.com/article/Microsoft_Offers_60Day_ActiveX_Reprieve/1143650536

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    4/4/2006

    Turning off the Blizzard background downloader

    Filed under: — adam @ 8:10 am

    Apparently, with a recent update, the Blizzard background downloader defaults to on all the time. Since it uses Bittorrent, this means that even if you’re not actively downloading updates, you’re still using your bandwidth for uploading pieces of it to other players.

    Maybe that’s okay with you, but it really ought to be a personal decision and not something that’s foisted off on you. Here’s how to turn it off if not:

    http://www.blizzard.com/support/wow/?id=aww01954p

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    3/2/2006

    Greek wiretaps were enabled by embedded spy code

    Power, once given, will be abused. And not necessarily by those it’s given to.

    Bruce Schenier has a blog entry about the Greek cell phone tapping scandal – about 100 cell phones of politicians and officials, including the American embassy, have been tapped by an unknown party since the 2004 Olympics.

    Bruce points out that the “malicious code” used to enable this was actually designed into the system as an eavesdropping mechanism for the police.

    “There is an important security lesson here. I have long argued that when you build surveillance mechanisms into communication systems, you invite the bad guys to use those mechanisms for their own purposes. That’s exactly what happened here.”

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/03/more_on_greek_w.html

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    2/22/2006

    Handy trick for mobile users

    Filed under: — adam @ 12:04 pm

    I have net access on my phone, but it’s reasonably slow. A click to follow a link is expensive, especially when I just want to look up a word or something.

    I’ve noticed that answers.com and m-w.com are now both supporting putting a query in the url path:

    http://www.answers.com/privacy
    http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/privacy

    Also, there’s gada.be search, which lets you do things like:

    http://privacy.gada.be

    Any others?

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    2/7/2006

    Oil-based lenses on the way

    Filed under: — adam @ 12:38 pm

    Oil based lenses have the potential to put zoom cameras basically everywhere. Because they require no moving parts, they’re very compact, power efficient, and fast. The digital imaging world is changing fast. Sensors are already tiny , and glass lenses have been an obstacle to miniaturization. Oil based lenses, where the zoom can be adjusted by running a charge through the lens, will fix that problem.

    http://www.phonescoop.com/news/item.php?n=1577

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    1/31/2006

    iRAM SATA ramdisk is now available

    Filed under: — adam @ 1:22 pm

    Someone pointed out to me that the iRAM is now available. It’s a PCI card with standard DIMM slots that plugs into a standard SATA port to give you up to a 4GB ramdisk that doesn’t require separate drivers. It draws power off of the PCI slot to keep the memory intact even if the machine is off as long as it’s plugged in, and it even has a battery backup for up to ten hours of complete shutoff.

    Tech Report did some testing, and the results are pretty impressive:

    http://www.techreport.com/reviews/2006q1/gigabyte-iram/index.x?pg=1

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    1/30/2006

    More specific Google tracking questions

    I asked two very specific questions in a conversation with John Battelle, and he’s received unequivocal answers from Google:

    1) “Given a list of search terms, can Google produce a list of people who searched for that term, identified by IP address and/or Google cookie value?”

    2) “Given an IP address or Google cookie value, can Google produce a list of the terms searched by the user of that IP address or cookie value?”

    The answer to both of them is “yes”.

    http://battellemedia.com/archives/002283.php

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    1/27/2006

    Google does keep cookie- and IP-correlated logs

    I asked John Battelle the question about whether Google keeps personally identifiable search log information, particularly search logs correlated with IP address. He asked Google PR, who confirmed that they do.

    http://battellemedia.com/archives/002272.php

    From my comment there, ultimately, this is bad for users. If the information is kept, it’s available for request, abuse, or theft.

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    Some evidence that Google does keep personally identifiable logs

    This article from Internet Week has Alan Eustace, VP of Engineering for Google, on the record talking about the My Search feature.

    http://internetweek.cmp.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=161500556

    “Anytime, you give up any information to anybody, you give up some privacy,” Eustace said.

    With “My Search,” however, information stored internally with Google is no different than the search data gathered through its Google .com search engine, Eustace said.

    “This product itself does not have a significant impact on the information that is available to legitimate law enforcement agencies doing their job,” Eustace said.

    This seems pretty conclusive to me – signing up for saved searches doesn’t (or didn’t, in April 2005) change the way the search data is stored internally.

    Comments?

    (This was pointed out to me by Ray Everett-Church in the comments of the previous post, covered on his blog: http://www.privacyclue.com/index.php?p=68)

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    1/25/2006

    Tim Wu article on Google and search engine privacy

    Filed under: — adam @ 11:03 am

    This is pretty much exactly the point I’ve been trying to make – while Google is commendable for standing up to the government, they created this problem in the first place by aggregating search data.

    “Imagine we were to find out one day that Starbucks had been recording everyone’s conversations for the purpose of figuring out whether cappuccino is more popular than macchiato. Sure, the result, on the margin, might be a better coffee product. And, yes, we all know, or should, that our conversations at Starbucks aren’t truly private. But we’d prefer a coffee shop that wasn’t listening – and especially one that won’t later be able to identify the macchiato lovers by name. We need to start to think about search engines the same way and demand the same freedoms.”

    http://www.slate.com/id/2134670/?nav=tap3


    1/19/2006

    Update on DOJ/Google

    This is a fascinating deconstruction of the court documents and letters available so far:

    http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/060119-161802


    DOJ demands large chunk of Google data

    The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

    The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.

    In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.

    http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/13657386.htm

    I’m sort of out of analysis about why this is bad, because I’ve said it all before.

    See (particularly 4 and 5):

    1. http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/04/21/google-adds-prove-adam-right-button/
    2. http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/05/06/they-dont-necessarily-know-who-you-are/
    3. http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/06/23/beware-the-google-threat/
    4. http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/05/08/google-is-destroying-the-private/
    5. http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/05/05/google-wants-your-logs/
    6. http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/11/21/google-really-wants-your-logs/

    It really comes down to one thing.

    If data is collected, it will be used.

    It’s far past the time for us all to take an interest in who’s collecting what.


    1/18/2006

    By the way, now’s probably a good time to update your hosts file

    Filed under: — adam @ 11:54 am

    The hosts file is a long list of known advertising and spyware domains. Using the hosts file makes these sites invisible to your computer.

    http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm


    Sometimes it hurts to be right.

    Filed under: — adam @ 11:37 am

    ‘The Mozilla Team has quietly enabled a new feature in Firefox that parses ‘ping’ attributes to anchor tags in HTML. Now links can have a ‘ping’ attribute that contains a list of servers to notify when you click on a link. Although link tracking has been done using redirects and Javascript, this new “feature” allows notification of an unlimited and uncontrollable number of servers for every click, and it is not noticeable without examining the source code for a link before clicking it.’

    http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/06/01/18/1427212.shtml

    ‘I’m sure this may raise some eye-brows among privacy conscious folks, but please know that this change is being considered with the utmost regard for user privacy. The point of this feature is to enable link tracking mechanisms commonly employed on the web to get out of the critical path and thereby reduce the time required for users to see the page they clicked on. Many websites will employ redirects to have all link clicks on their site first go back to them so they can know what you are doing and then redirect your browser to the site you thought you were going to. The net result is that you end up waiting for the redirect to occur before your browser even begins to load the site that you want to go to. This can have a significant impact on page load performance.’

    http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/darin/archives/009594.html

    Oh, well, that makes it all okay then. It’s for the user experience.

    Where does Darin’s next paycheck come from? Oh, right. It’s Google. But I’m sure they have only our best interests at heart.


    1/14/2006

    This is very very bad for Google’s stock price

    Filed under: — adam @ 7:46 pm

    “Billy Hoffman, an engineer at Atlanta company SPI Dynamics unveiled a new, smarter web-crawling application that behaves like a person using a browser, rather than a computer program. “Basically this nullifies any traditional form of forensics,” says Hoffman. The program comes from different internet addresses, simulates different browsers and throttles itself to human-like speeds.”

    Currently, it’s hard to tell the difference between a human click and a robot click, but it’s still possible to make a reasonable guess, and cheap as they are, getting banks of low-paid clickers in 3rd world countries is still comparatively pricey.

    But the ability to run a crawler that’s indistinguishable from a human blows all of that out the airlock. And if it’s impossible to tell the difference between an automated click and a human, the AdWords value proposition goes away.

    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70016-0.html?tw=rss.index


    1/7/2006

    WMF official patch is out

    Filed under: — adam @ 12:26 pm

    You should have the MS patch by now for the WMF exploit.

    You can verify that the MS one is successfully installed by checking the box in Add or Remove Programs that says “show updates”. The proper one is KB912919.

    Once this is installed, you should remove the unofficial patch, if you installed it.


    1/3/2006

    WMF exploit unofficial patch

    Filed under: — adam @ 11:55 am

    This is pretty unbelievable. A major exploit was announced, diagnosed, and confirmed. While Microsoft has sat on their ass and said they won’t have a patch available FOR ANOTHER WEEK, someone has reverse engineered the binary and issued their own patch. The patch has been verified by a number of reliable sources as being trustworthy, effective, and reversible. Install it now, if you use Windows.

    http://isc.sans.org/diary.php?storyid=994

    I’m not a lawyer, but this sounds like grounds for bringing a negligence lawsuit against Microsoft. It is completely unacceptable that the fix is simple enough that it can be done by someone without access to the source, there are known exploits in the wild, and it’s going to take another week for an official patch.


    12/30/2005

    Nasty MS Web Image Exploit

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:01 am

    There’s an exploit of the Windows code used to render WMF files (windows metafile – it’s an image format). There are multiple reports of sites in the wild exploiting this to drop trojans.

    http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2005/12/exploit_release.html
    http://sunbeltblog.blogspot.com/2005/12/new-exploit-blows-by-fully-patched.html
    http://www.f-secure.com/weblog/archives/archive-122005.html#00000752

    ***All versions of IE are vulnerable to automatic infection.***
    Earlier versions of Firefox (1.04) and all versions of Opera are still vulnerable, but they prompt you first. Firefox 1.5 is not vulnerable. Some email and IM programs may be vulnerable if they do previews or you click on a link that opens in a vulnerable browser or opens a vulnerable desktop program (Windows Picture and Fax Viewer).

    Obviously, the best workaround for this is not to be using Windows.

    If you can, disable all access to WMF files at the network level.

    A temporary workaround (although it’s apparently still possible to get infected if you open a malicious file in mspaint):

    A Microsoft spokesperson said the company is investigating, though no official word from them yet. A couple of security firms, including Verisign’s iDefense, have published workarounds that appear to mitigate the threat. According to iDefense, Windows users can disable the rendering of WMF files using the following hack:

    1. Click on the Start button on the taskbar.
    2. Click on Run…
    3. Type “regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll” to disable.
    4. Click ok when the change dialog appears.

    iDefense notes that this workaround may interfere with certain thumbnail images loading correctly, though I have used the hack on my machine and haven’t had any problems yet. The company notes that once Microsoft issues a patch, the WMF feature may be enabled again by entering the command “regsvr32 shimgvw.dll” in step three above.

    Now’s a good time to point out that VMWare now has a free player that you can use to run pre-built machines, and also a “safe web browsing” machine that you can download that comes pre-configured with firefox 1.5 running on Ubuntu. If you have enough memory, this is not a bad thing to do for general web browsing.

    http://www.vmware.com/download/player/
    http://www.vmware.com/vmtn/vm/browserapp.html


    12/27/2005

    Opera blogging policy

    Filed under: — adam @ 8:34 pm

    Opera has a public blogging policy. Google, which has fired at least one person for comments on his blog, doesn’t. Yet one more reason why I like Opera.

    http://my.opera.com/community/blogs/corp-policy/


    12/15/2005

    Wireless USB hubs are starting to trickle in

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:51 am

    This is fantastic. Soon, any USB compatible device will also be a wireless device that can be located anywhere. Sort of. They don’t say explicitly, but I’m guessing that this won’t work with non-powered devices that draw power off the bus, such as tablets and some external drives. Still, this will be nice for relocating printers and such across the room without running cables.

    http://www.biosmagazine.co.uk/article.php?id=2572


    12/7/2005

    Why are Firefox and Thunderbird at mozilla.com now?

    Filed under: — adam @ 8:15 pm

    Firefox and Thunderbird used to be at mozilla.org. Now, with the latest release, they’ve moved to mozilla.com. What’s the deal?


    12/5/2005

    Is the world ready for a female Joker?

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:24 pm

    This post got me thinking about Batman villains for the next movie – particularly casting for the Joker. It struck me that there’s really no reason that the Joker couldn’t be female, and Carla Gugino would be an interesting choice.

    http://www.themovieblog.com/archives/2005/11/batman_begins_villains_revealed.html

    Maybe not the best image, and she’s not grinning, but this has elements of the right look. Most of the smiling ones I found were smiling-nice, not smiling-evil, but I think she could make the transformation.

    Other good choices, I think, would be Robert Downey Jr., Craig Bierko, and Lyle Lovett. Also, I have a soft spot for Enrico Colantoni. He could probably pull it off, but maybe would be better as the Penguin.


    Prince of Persia – The Two Thrones

    Filed under: — adam @ 8:55 pm

    Once again, the folks from Ubisoft have delivered an amazing game experience. The Prince of Persia games have been consistently top-notch in terms of beautiful graphics, fluid action, and the best acrobatic combat engine around, and The Two Thrones continues the trend.

    Just a heads up – the PS2 version seems to have a minor glitch. In the Hanging Gardens of Babylon after the elevator, there’s a dagger hole on the center column after a narrow shimmy crevice. There’s another dagger hole clearly visible off to the left, but pushing left and pressing R1 causes the Prince to jump to the right instead, off the pole and to his death. There’s nowhere else to go, and pushing right and pressing R1 does nothing. I discovered through trial and error that pushing UP and pressing R1 sends him left, as needed.

    Hope that helps, if you have the same problem.


    11/21/2005

    Looky there, Google Web Accelerator is back

    Filed under: — adam @ 12:59 pm

    Google has apparently relaunched their controversial Web Accelerator.

    http://webaccelerator.google.com/

    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:

    http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/05/08/google-is-destroying-the-private/

    And especially this one:

    http://www.aquick.org/blog/2005/05/05/google-wants-your-logs/


    11/14/2005

    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.

    http://www.eff.org/IP/DRM/Sony-BMG/?f=open-letter-2005-11-14.html

    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.


    11/11/2005

    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?

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051111/tv_nm/shows_dc


    11/7/2005

    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.


    11/4/2005

    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.

    http://www.securityfocus.com/brief/34

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

    http://www.aquick.org/blog/2004/12/23/the-eff-backs-tor/


    11/1/2005

    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.

    http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire2005/index.php?id=33120


    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.

    http://www.sysinternals.com/blog/2005/10/sony-rootkits-and-digital-rights.html


    10/29/2005

    The ELF invades Sears

    All this talk about plays written in the dark ages made me reread the skit I wrote in high school with my friend Tristan.

    I give you The ELF invades Sears.

    It still makes me laugh.

    http://www.hedge.net/fields/elf.html

    (It’s an homage. Read a book!)


    Republic Dogs

    Hah.

    My friend Nat’s screenplay “Republic Dogs”, a Plato/Tarantino mashup, is making the blog rounds:

    http://web.mit.edu/afs/athena.mit.edu/user/d/r/dryfoo/www/Funny-pages/republic-dogs.html
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/10/perhaps_the_ult.html
    http://www.boingboing.net/2005/10/28/platos_republic_meet.html
    http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/006952.html#006952
    http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2005/10/republic_dogs.html
    http://blog.org/archives/001337.html1/
    http://tjic.com/blog/2005/10/29/boats-boats-boats-boats-boats-boats-boats-hence-the-trojan-war/

    There seems to be some contention over when it was actually written. I can personally attest to being present around the time of the original writing and presentation, at or near Columbia’s Philolexian Society (Columbia’s oldest student organization, founded in 1802), sometime between 1992 and 1996. Nat says 1994, and I believe him.

    In fact, I made a poster for its theatrical (okay, in the basement of River) performance as part of a series of one-act plays, Onion Days and Starry Nights in the Zero-Sum Republic:

    Republic Dogs


    10/26/2005

    Google Base

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:41 am

    Google has a new product in the works – Google Base. It’s essentially a free-form database with flexible and user-defined schemas that lets you “publish” items. Where they’re published is not yet apparent, although they’re clearly targeted directly at various Google services in addition to whereever they “live”.

    Google, obviously, is tired of crawling the web for all your shit, and wants you to just give it to them directly in a way they can easily index.

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20051025-5480.html


    10/19/2005

    Apple announces pro-level raw and image processing software

    Filed under: — adam @ 3:32 pm

    Looks like Apple has finally decided that they don’t need any other software companies at all.

    http://www.apple.com/aperture/


    10/12/2005

    “No 911″ sticker for VOIP phones

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:30 am

    Some VOIP and computer phones don’t support 911 dialing in a way that’s equal to the conventional phone system. In an emergency, you probably don’t want to accidentally grab the wrong phone and use it to dial 911.

    I sell a set of stickers that you can cut out and stick on phones that don’t support 911:

    http://www.cafepress.com/cp/prod.aspx?p=adamf.33930969

    [Update: 50% of all profits from this will be donated to the EFF.]


    10/11/2005

    Horse, barn door, something.

    I got the new Fiona Apple album today. It came with huge labels, both on the box and the disc, reading:

    “FBI Anti Piracy Warning: Unauthorized copying is punishable under federal law.”

    Bang up job, folks.


    On responses to threats

    Filed under: — adam @ 1:26 pm

    I love this comment on Bruce Schneier’s blog in reference to the recent NYC subway threat which turned out to be a hoax:

    “Every time I read this kind of nonsense, I have a mental image of our government — from city level on up — as a strung-out derelict curled up in a fetal position in a corner, screaming about the spiders all over him as he clutches a bottle of cheap fortified wine cut with paint thinner.”

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/10/exploding_baby.html


    10/8/2005

    Changed the base font

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:45 am

    I’m working on a new design, but as I’m not a designer, and I have many many other things to do, and I’d much rather write, it could be years before it actually appears.

    I have, however, changed the base font, as some have complained about that.

    Is it better?


    Akane apples are in

    Filed under: — adam @ 9:58 am

    Akane apples are absolutely, bar none, my favorite kind of apple. To me, they embody everything an apple should be.

    They’re reddish/greenish (but sometimes bright red) with a pale interior. They’re crisp, tart, sweet, and have a complex perfume. They have a little scent on the outside, but when you bite into one and smell the flesh, it’s filled with an incredibly deep aroma. They have a slightly acidic aftertaste that persists in all of the right ways.

    I had them once a few years ago, and haven’t seen them until today, when I found them again at the greenmarket at Union Square. They’re from Samascott Orchards, and they said they’d be in for about 8 more weeks.

    Get ‘em while you can.


    9/30/2005

    New $10 or something

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:31 am

    Can we please stop calling it “The New Currency” everytime we release a new kind of money? I’m getting confused about whether this is the new $10, the last new $10, or the one before that. They need version numbers or years or funny names like Hurricanes have.

    Bonus points for scoring “moneyfactory.gov” though!

    http://www.moneyfactory.gov/newmoney/main.cfm/currency/new10


    9/19/2005

    Pocketmod is a pretty cool paper template generator

    Filed under: — adam @ 11:08 am

    I don’t know if it’s really a PDA replacement, as they claim, or that PDAs have failed, as they also claim (my Treo takes that pretty personally). But this does seem like a useful little thing anyway, for shopping lists or whatnot. I like their paper folding method.

    http://www.pocketmod.com/


    9/16/2005

    Nintendo announces new Revolution Controller

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:47 pm

    It looks pretty interesting. It’s a one-handed, modular, expandable (to two hands in various configurations), wireless, motion sensing, rotatable kind of stick thing.

    That’s good. I like console games, but I really hate the standard console controller, and have pretty much since I ever picked it up. I’ve gotten used to it, but I still find it very clunky and unnatural for many kinds of games. My gut says this is a good move.

    http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3143782


    9/13/2005

    More on oil shale extraction

    Filed under: — adam @ 8:35 am

    Obviously, this won’t be an alternative to oil field extraction, and I believe we should move to alternative energy sources as quickly as possible. But infrastructure shifts like that take time, and this may provide a needed buffer to ease the transition.

    Some counter comments on the original article are here:

    http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200509/msg00203.html


    9/7/2005

    On the Ipod Phone

    Filed under: — adam @ 1:39 pm

    I’m thoroughly underwhelmed by the ipod phone.

    It might be useful if it would let you stream your itms songs to the phone without having to have downloaded them first, or even better, stream your whole collection to the phone.

    As it is, it’s yet another example of “convergence” devices that are really two different things pressed together and not integrated.

    http://onlinestorez.cingular.com/cell-phone-service/itunes_ROKR.html

    The ipod nano looks cute though.

    http://www.apple.com/ipodnano/


    9/3/2005

    LAB color correction

    Filed under: — adam @ 5:29 pm

    This book has, quite frankly, revolutionized everything I know about dealing with color in Photoshop. If you do any kind of photo editing, you need it.

    I don’t think it’s a substitute for understanding color and contrast correction in RGB or CMYK, but if you already do, it provides an alternate way of looking at things that yields MUCH better results very quickly, and in some cases does some things that single-color channel correction can’t really do.

    If you don’t already have a solid understanding of how color channels work in RGB or CMYK, you’re likely to be confused by what’s being explained in this book. Learn that first, then come back to this.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0321356780/buyadam-20


    9/2/2005

    It’s not enough to say you’re sorry

    Filed under: — adam @ 12:52 pm

    Bush tours gulf coast, says “the results are not acceptable”. I feel bad for the guy. I mean, he’s only one man, right?

    If only there was something he could do to help out.

    If only he could have gotten some advance warning.

    If only there was some sort of trained, well-equipped organization that could begin to handle this sort of emergency.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9157866/


    8/30/2005

    AFP photo feed describes white people as “finding food”, black people as “looting”

    Filed under: — adam @ 8:40 pm

    [Update: I originally said: "Way to go for racial equality!", and I think it's important to temper that with the comments below. ]

    Screencaps here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fields/sets/854223/

    [ Update: There are some clarifications, including a copy of an email from the person who wrote one of the captions, here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fields/38749469/ ]


    Ad-free Opera for today only

    Filed under: — adam @ 9:08 am

    If you download Opera 8.02 today, you can get a free ad-free registration code (actually, I don’t think you even need to download it – just email them). I don’t know if there’s any special reason, or they’re just trying to build user base.

    Opera 8 is a substantial improvement over 7. I’ve been using it again for the past month or so. There are still minor compatibility glitches with things that assume you have Mozilla or IE, but overall, it’s very stable and fast. I’ve heard good things about the included mail client, too, but I haven’t used it.

    Via Jeff:

    http://www.download.com/Opera/3000-2356_4-10421507.html?tag=excl


    8/22/2005

    Canon announces 5D 12mp dSLR for $3300 (retail)

    Filed under: — adam @ 2:24 pm

    Canon is, quite frankly, kicking the shit out of Nikon. At this rate, I’m guessing that they’ll hit the $1000 price point for full-frame dSLRs in 4-5 years, possibly less.

    http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Canon-Makes-it-Official-Announces-Full-Frame-EOS-5D-.htm


    8/16/2005

    Some thoughts on the new Sur La Table in Manhattan

    Filed under: — adam @ 10:37 am

    A new Sur La Table store opened in Manhattan recently. I was looking forward to it, but having seen it, I think it’s a bad move. The store is far enough away that it doesn’t stand to take business away from The Broadway Panhandler, and it will compete directly with Dean & Deluca. Their selection is pretty good and interesting, but nothing special.

    On top of that, their prices are high, nearly a 10% markup over Broadway Panhandler (which I consider to be still on the expensive side) with a brief informal comparison on some items.

    The store is too small to be really great – I was very much looking forward to getting some of their famous classes here, and the space seems particularly poorly suited to that. It’s too small, too crowded, and too cluttered. On top of that, I assume they now have to charge sales tax on mail orders to NY, so that pretty much kills them as a mail order source too.


    8/15/2005

    US lowers expectations for Iraq

    Filed under: — adam @ 11:07 pm

    Well, the US government, anyway. I seem to recall a certain vocal minority saying all along that this is how it would turn out.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/13/AR2005081300853.html

    “The goal now is to ensure a constitution that can be easily amended later so Iraq can grow into a democracy, U.S. officials say.”

    Until someone else forgets that too.

    Also:

    “Washington now does not expect to fully defeat the insurgency before departing, but instead to diminish it, officials and analysts said. There is also growing talk of turning over security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces even if they are not fully up to original U.S. expectations, in part because they have local legitimacy that U.S. troops often do not.”


    8/9/2005

    Kottke asks “what’s next for the internet?”

    Filed under: — adam @ 12:54 pm

    I’m waiting for the computers to get out of the way.

    Kottke says: ‘”Web 2.0″ arrived a year or two ago at least and we’re still talking about it like it’s just around the corner. What else is out there?’

    I think that all of this stuff is still too difficult to use, and it’s spread out to too many services that don’t sufficiently talk to each other, and it’s not sufficiently preserved as raw data. Where are the other services supporting Flickr’s API on the receiving side, so tools built for flickr can just work with those other services too? It’s not a standard if no one else does it. Why can’t I download all of my pictures from flickr without writing some code? Why can’t I see my favorites as a set of del.icio.us links? Why can’t I browse del.icio.us links as Flickr sets?

    What’s missing is the usability layer that makes it possible to use all of these services together without writing to their individual APIs.

    http://www.kottke.org/05/08/the-present-future


    8/5/2005

    Google and MSN search results differ on Google/Microsoft lawsuit results

    Filed under: — adam @ 8:07 pm

    A researcher found that a search for “Dr. Lee court documents Google Microsoft” (no quotes), in reference to the lawsuit between MS and Google over the hiring of a key employee, yielded vastly different results from MSN and Google. As happens, the results have been a bit skewed by the existence of this observation, but my results seem to roughly correspond to those reported.

    http://www.webpronews.com/insidesearch/insidesearch/wpn-56-20050804MSNGooglesDrLeeLawsuitSERPsVastlyDifferent.html

    This is an interesting contrast to the usual “we refuse to comment during an ongoing investigation”. I wonder if this is indirectly caused by indexing of internal company pages that link to one viewpoint or another.

    Incidentally, I find it not suprising in the least that the search results aren’t impartial.


    8/3/2005

    Thoughts on flickr interestingness

    Filed under: — adam @ 9:48 am

    Exploring the flickr interestingness pages, I find that they certainly have a lot of dramatic and quite excellent photos, although they all sort of start to blend together after a while into one big high-contrast blur.

    http://flickr.com/explore/interesting

    But this seems likely to only increase the number of viewings for photos that already have a lot of, er, exposure.

    Where’s the revolutionary interface for browsing the lost gems that nobody looks at?


    8/2/2005

    Bush endorses Intelligent Design

    Bush thinks intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in schools -

    http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/newssentinel/news/editorial/12278405.htm

    “I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” Bush said. ” You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”

    That is, of course, the usual dodging of the real point. ID is not a theory, it is a vague notion. It is the embodiment of saying “we can’t know, so we’re free to imagine whatever we want”. It is as testable as the flying spaghetti monster “idea”. ID is useless as a scientific concept, because it closes off further investigation.

    (I might accept ID as a valid theory if it was accompanied by some attempt to identify, and possibly vanquish, said creator.)

    All ideas are not equal. ID should not be taught in schools any more than the “idea” that black people are inferior because they have smaller brains should be.

    “Because I say so” is not a valid logical argument.

    Why haven’t we put this idiocy to rest yet?

    [Update: here's some good dissection of this point.]


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