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


I guess I don’t have much “personal” stuff to write these days.

Filed under: — adam @ 12:49 pm

Go check out my work blog, my food blog, my photos, or follow my random musings on or twitter.


Attn: Dyson, Inc.

Filed under: — adam @ 2:17 pm

“I have purchased a number of household appliances, more than a few of them made by the Dyson corporation, and never have I been so embarrassed about any of them as I am about this Dyson DC16. I am embarrassed for myself that I didn’t immediately return this unit after trying it out the first time, instead giving you the benefit of the doubt. I am embarrassed for you that you produced it and sold it as a functional appliance, sullying the reliability of your brand.

During the first year I had this handheld vac, never once did a full charge of the battery last more than 5 minutes. When it got down to less than 3 minutes, I spoke to your support representatives, who told me that the charger was probably defective, and sent me a new one. That helped for a short period of time, and I lived with it.

However, I’ve reconsidered. I no longer want to own this device. Its complete inadequacy at the task for which it was designed plagues me, and I am sufficiently disgusted with it that I cannot bear to pass it on to someone else. Nor am I willing to just throw it in the garbage – it is not worthy to even contribute to landfill somewhere.

I am therefore left with no choice but to return it to you. Please do as you see fit.”


On libertarian/capitalist intent

For some time, I was a staunch Libertarian. That lasted until I started to examine the boundary cases where Libertarianism didn’t seem to offer a good answer. I still hold a lot of those principles dear, but I’m no longer convinced that complete Libertarianism can work in the real world. What follows are some of my recent thoughts on the free market.

The proponents of the free market often propose that private ownership gives people an incentive to make the most of resources, and that people with ownership incentive are likely to make the best decisions about the use of resources.

I tend to agree in many cases – the market does often work and find the best solution, but I’ve been mulling over some exceptions to that rule.

Some traps that individual decisions in the market can fall into:

1) Divergent interests: the interests of the owning party may not be the same as the general public.

2) Irrationality: people don’t always act rationally or in their best interest.

2a) Obscured Information: even in the face of good information, which is often not present, the right decision isn’t evident.

3) Vested Interest: ownership of a thing is not the same as stewardship of a thing, and if you don’t have a personal vested interest in the thing, your best use of it may be to divest yourself of it (i.e.: use it up, parcel it, consume it) in exchange for lots of short term money you can use to buy something you actually want.

4) Value dilution: the more stuff you own, the less you care about any given individual thing. Ownership of lots of things probably means that each individual one is less valuable, because the value of a thing must be measured not just against the external market value, but also its proportion to your total assets, difficulty to replace, your incentive to replace it if you lose it, sentimental value, subsidiary values (prestige from ownership, etc…), and a whole host of other things.

5) Lack of patience and susceptibility to fear: People in control of a thing may require immediate access to it (liquidity), and will sometimes act to preserve that liquidity at the expense of the health of the overall economy, and therefore at the expense of some value of the underlying asset. This happens even though the people controlling an asset may be able to see the writing on the wall – everyone will be fine if everyone sits tight, but if you wait and someone else moves first, you lose. I think this usually manifests as “private enterprise tends to seek short-term gains”, but it’s tightly tied to #6:

6) The Tragedy of the Selfish: this is a concept I’ve been toying with on and off for a few years. It’s not the Tragedy of the Commons, and it’s not quite the Tragedy of the Anticommons, though there are aspects of both in there, as well as an arms race component, and some Prisoner’s Dilemma. This is the situation that exists when an individual makes what is logically the best decision to maximize their own position, but the sum effect of everybody making their best decisions is that everybody ends up worse off rather than better. Libertarian capitalism hinges on the assumption that making everybody individually better off is the best way to maximize the happiness of the group, and it’s simply the case that there are situations where that assumption does not hold. The example I often use for this is buying an SUV to be safer on the road. You buy an SUV, then other people do, because they want to be safer too. Except that if enough people make that same decision, you’ve overall raised the chances that if you’re hit by a car, it’ll be an SUV, which will do much more damage than a smaller car. Everyone is better off if everyone else backs off and drives smaller cars. It’s a simplification, of course, but I hope that makes the point.

That’s what I’ve come up with so far. I’m sure there are more. Of course these don’t always apply, but I think at least one of them does often enough to warrant a better justification that “the market will solve the problem”. They’re certainly things to watch out for when getting out of the way and letting the market work.

What do you think?


Just the really good stuff

Filed under: — adam @ 12:29 pm

I’ve added a new category to the blog, for aggregating the things I’m proud of. These are pieces I’ve put a lot of work into, or which I think I have some good insight on. If you just want the highlights without all of the random links, look no further:

There’s also a feed:

I’ve been going back through the archives (and wow, there are a lot of archives!) and putting old stuff in there. I’ve gotten a lot of it, but not all of it.


Jim Gray is missing, help find him

Filed under: — adam @ 2:59 pm

Jim Gray, an influential computer scientist, is missing at sea. Amazon has provided satellite imagery and is using the distributed Amazon Mechanical Turk system to enlist the public to sift through the massive amounts of data to help find him.

This is pretty extraordinary.

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I like growl a lot

Filed under: — adam @ 10:23 pm

growl is a unified notification system for OS X. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s a transformative UI experience to have all of your apps notify you through the same customizable interface. After installing it, I immediately wanted to look around and find other things I could route through it.

There’s also a command line tool that lets you send notifications to growl from scripts. I wrote a cron job to do time notifications:

0,15,30,45 * * * * /bin/date +\%m/\%d/\%y\%n\%H:\%M:\%S | /usr/local/bin/growlnotify -n BEEP -I /Applications/

I set the “BEEP” application in growl to use the bezel style, and I get a flash every 15 minutes in the middle of the screen to remind me that time is passing. (I used the icon from countdown because it was the only application I had with a clock.)

I really can’t express how useful this is. I’ve never been quite happy with how any of the IM programs I’ve used have handled notifications, but Adium integrates deeply with growl and has allowed me to set things up exactly as I want, so that I see the important things, but I don’t get cluttered up with having to click on every little notification to make them all go away.

This is very very good.

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Very little time to blog

Filed under: — adam @ 3:29 pm

Several large projects, new baby, moving. No time. Talk later.


Dyson Root 6 is a bit of a marketing disaster

Filed under: — adam @ 11:21 am

So… wow.

I have a Dyson upright vacuum, and it is quite simply far far better than any other vacuum cleaner I’ve ever owned. I bought the newly released Dyson Root 6, the handheld model.

The only handheld that doesn’t lose suction… while it has charge.

It’s outstandingly good from a cleaning perspective – it does actually work very very well. But what they don’t tell you is that while the battery does charge faster than others (3.5 hours), it only lasts for 5 minutes on a charge. As a result, it’s really only good for spot cleaning, and not as a general purpose dusting vacuum, which means it misses an entire big use case of a handheld vacuum – carrying it around while cleaning the house to use for dusting shelves, surfaces, ledges, nooks, crannies, etc…. When I did this, I very quickly found that I had a completely dead battery, and I had to charge it again for 3.5 hours before being able to use it again.

What’s happened here is that, like Apple, Dyson has decided that they’re going to focus on one usage pattern (keep the vac in the charger and pull it out occasionally for spills and then put it right back in the charger) and optimize that pattern, completely ignoring any other possible uses that the customer might want to put the device to. Unfortunately, in this case, I think they’re going to be hard pressed to find many people willing to shell out $150 just for spot cleaning. Because of the real-world mechanics of lithium-ion batteries, the expected usage pattern of the vac (keep it in the charger most of the time so it’s always ready for short bursts) is at odds with the strategy for maximizing the life of the battery (drain the battery completely, then recharge fully before using again), and in a year, the effective run time will be 2.5 minutes, not 5. The value proposition would be a lot better if they included a spare battery or two that you could leave in the charger and swap out with the dead one, so you could at least rotate them and have some expectation of having a live one if you’re actually using the thing. Arguably, it has advantages over, say, a dustbuster, but at at least 3-5 times the cost for less than half of the usage pattern, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

I might have been more receptive to this idea if they’d said outright – “look, we made it work for 5 minutes, but for those 5 minutes, it’ll work much better than any other handheld vac”. But they didn’t. They completely glossed over this glaring design failure, and it’s kind of a surprise. Judging from the tone of voice of the customer service tech I called to find out if this was normal, they’ve been getting this question a lot, and it sounds like they’re a bit insulted that people would harp on something that they don’t consider to be a failure while overlooking the substantial advantages that they have produced. It’s almost a case study in misunderstanding the requirements of your audience. A 5 minute battery life is not an acceptable feature for a handheld vac, and if there’s a good reason why it should be, Dyson should have made some effort to educate people instead of just throwing it out there and letting people figure it out for themselves. I suspect that there isn’t, and this is just a design flaw that they haven’t been able to fix and one they’re trying to ignore. The users of the device, unfortunately, aren’t granted such a luxury, and the failings of it are far more evident than the successes.

That said, it’s certainly an open question about whether to return it or not, because those five minutes definitely suck as much as they should.

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Explaining RSS feeds the Oprah way

Filed under: — adam @ 11:51 am


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Upgraded to Wordpress 2.0.3

Filed under: — adam @ 8:43 am

Please let me know if you see any problems.


Someone’s been painting directional signs on the ground outside subway stop in NYC

Filed under: — adam @ 11:29 am

Great idea.

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Feeds are now full text

Filed under: — adam @ 4:04 pm

I’ve changed the feeds to fulltext. Please do still come to the site and comment if you find something interesting.


Best of 2005

Filed under: — adam @ 6:58 pm

Best of 2005

Originally uploaded by Caviar.


What, nothing about popcorn?

Filed under: — adam @ 1:22 am

Kottke posts his best of 2005 links.


My brother on the transit strike commute

Filed under: — adam @ 9:26 pm

My brother shares the story of his transit strike commute from Tuesday morning:

The story of my Tuesday Morning commute!

Strike? Not a problem. I’m a good New Yorker. I can make things work.

I live up in the Bronx, around 250th Street and realized that if the HOV-4 mandate was going to go into effect at 5:00 AM, I was just going to have to wake up earlier. Out the door at 4:15, past 96th street by 4:45 at the latest. I’m at work with a hot cup of coffee before the whole problem can begin.

Piece of cake.

I begin my commute and realize immediately that something is wrong. It takes me a couple blocks to realize that I am riding in my car with a flat tire. If I were not a business owner with a responsibility to my business, my workers and the general global economy, I probably should have taken this as an opportunity to stay home.

Instead, I changed my tire. Given the pothole situation in the City, I’ve done this before. Again, this by itself is not a problem. Fifteen minutes definitely beats my brother-in-law in terms of time to fix a flat. This morning, however, time was crucial. I get back on the road and race down to 96th Street, where I see many lights flashing at the blockade point. I look at the clock.


I am, of course, alone in my car.

I am deftly swept from the highway by flashing lights and three men in blue. It was poetic. They waved me to the right onto the exit ramp and I was back out, literally the second car swept off the Henry Hudson Parkway of the morning.

At this point, I figure that the only thing to do now is find some passengers. This is, after all, the intention of the blockade in the first place: to force a carpool to make sure transportation works like clockwork. It’s time to trawl the streets looking for some people who needed a ride.

But who is awake at five in the morning? The city that never sleeps, let me tell you, is quite dormant at 5:00 AM. The only people I could find were some homeless people and some intrepid early-risers in pajamas with cameras, tracking the chaos that was beginning to accumulate. None of these people were eager to take a ride — and very quickly, I realized I wasn’t the only car on the streets looking for passengers. This started to get a little serious.

At some point, I realized that finding people to go all the way was becoming a fruitless endeavor — but perhaps that wasn’t necessary either. Perched as I was now between 96th and 97th on Columbus Avenue, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. To get past the blockade, all I needed were four people in my car.

Even if they were only going for one block.

But how can I convince people to go just one block?

I decided to fall back on that good old American pastime: I would bribe people.

I started with my brother, who was conveniently located on Columbus Avenue and who I had already awakened several times trying to figure out what to do. I went to his building and found one onlooker, still in her pajamas and another woman who was on her way to the gym, unperturbed by the situation since she was already on vacation.

“Look,” I said, “I am willing to offer both of you $20 to ride one block with me.”

A couple eyebrows went up. After all, this really sounds like a proposition for the red light district. “Are you serious?” said gym girl.

“Absolutely,” I said.

“I don’t need the money, ” said the pajama lady, “I’ll just go along for the ride.”

Great, now I have three people. I called my brother again. “Come downstairs.” “What?” “No, really, come downstairs.” “In a few minutes.” “Just put on your coat and shoes and come down here. I have two people waiting, I’ll take you one block and then you can go home to sleep.” Younger brothers can be worn down in this manner. He relented, came downstairs with a grumpy attitude but with his coat on.

Due to the cold, we made a mad dash for the car. I started up and drove back to the blockade. The police shone flashlights in the car, counted us, and allowed us to proceed.

Fifteen feet beyond the police barricades, I pulled over. The gym girl said, “Happy holidays.” I passed her back a twenty. The woman in the pajamas said, “You know what? I’ll take you up on your offer after all.” I passed her a twenty. I looked at my brother. “You want one, too?” “Sure… why not,” he said, grabbing the bill before I had even finished the question, already going out the door.

On 95th Street, I’m alone in my car again and think to myself that this is how to negotiate a transit strike on $60 a day.

It then took me ten minutes to get from there to West Soho to work. No traffic, after all. If it were any other day, I would think I was fortunate to have found no traffic. But the empty streets pointed to the ridiculous situation that this strike has caused. People shouldn’t have to go through this rigmarole. It’s just wrong.

Besides, when I got to work, eager to have that hot cup of coffee that got me out the door in the first place, I discovered that there was no place around there open to buy coffee from. After all, the coffee brewers were having a hard time getting into the City as well. No Dunkin Donuts, no neighborhood deli, no guy on the corner. On a cold December morning, it’s a sad day in New York City when you can’t get a cup of coffee.


NYC Transit Strike 2005

Filed under: — adam @ 10:37 am

NYC Transit Strike 2005

Originally uploaded by Caviar.

I took some pictures this morning by the traffic blockades on 96th Street, where the NYPD was preventing people with fewer than 4 in the car from passing.


Clock and Dusk on the Metlife Building

Filed under: — adam @ 9:16 pm

Clock and Dusk on the Metlife Building

Originally uploaded by Caviar.

I really love the Metlife Building. It always looks very pretty lit up at night, but I happened by it just as the sun was setting the other day, and it just got this amazing glow about it.

The Cube Triumphant

Filed under: — adam @ 4:30 pm

The Cube Triumphant

Originally uploaded by Caviar.

The cube is back.


Red Closeup

Filed under: — adam @ 7:22 pm

Red Closeup

Originally uploaded by Caviar.

I just started playing around with macro photography, using a set of extension tubes on my existing lenses.

It’s fun!


Hey baby, wanna hear my Krayt Dragon call?

Filed under: — adam @ 10:33 am

Hey baby, wanna hear my Krayt Dragon call?

Originally uploaded by Caviar.

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


New York Chocolate Show 2005

Filed under: — adam @ 1:57 pm

New York Chocolate Show 2005

Originally uploaded by Caviar.

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


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.


Something bugging you?

Filed under: — adam @ 2:50 pm

Got a bug, and don’t know what it is?

Ask What’s That Bug:


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?


Unthrilled with the Office 12 UI

Screenshots for Office 12:

Okay, they’ve cleaned up the interface a bit by grouping related things into similar boxes that are actually labeled, and I’m told that the interface elements are all vector-based so you can resize them arbitrarily. That’s nice.


Over many years of designing custom content management interfaces for lots of people to use, it became crystal clear that there’s a huge difference between a “tool” and a “task”. A tool is a function that lets the user do something, but a task is a function that lets the user accomplish something.

In my experience, most successful content management interfaces are primarily task-based. When the user sits down in front of the computer, the goal is to get something done, not just use some tools. Tasks are for most people (beginners and power users alike), but tools are for power users. If you know what you want to do, but it doesn’t fit nicely into the framework of getting something done, you need a tool. Tasks should be the default.

This is why the new Office UI is still confusing – it’s full of tools.

Let’s take Word as an example. The forefront example of tools vs. tasks is the question “why is there still a font box?”, and the corollary question “why do the font options still occupy a huge chunk of prime screen real estate?”. Changing the font is a “tool function”. When you change the font in a document, you haven’t really accomplished anything. Sure, you’ve made it look different, but “making it look different” probably wasn’t the goal. What you were really doing is the unspoken “drawing attention to this text” or “making it match the company colors” or any number of other things that aren’t just “making it look different”. With a tool, you can “make it look different”, but it requires a lot of input from the user in order to get the rationale right, and this is why expert users get frustrated when beginniners change the fonts and their results don’t match their intent. The software shouldn’t make it easy to change the font without understanding why. There should be tasks centered around things you might want to do, and the software should guide you. Importantly, if you do understand why, and you have different intentions than the software does, it should get out of your way – but that comes around to letting you use tools to get around the limitations of pre-defined tasks.

(An important note: a “wizard” is not a task-based interface. It’s a poor substitute that attempts to graft tasks onto what is primarily a tool-based interface.)

This goes right to the heart of the debate of semantic content vs. formatting. A huge portion of the tech community has been trying very hard to get people to think in ways that are structured, for various reasons. It’s not always the best approach, but it’s by far the best default if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you go through your document and decide “this needs to be 14 point Helvetica and this needs to be italic and this needs to be 24 point Times”, the onus is on you to understand why you’ve chosen those particular settings. “It looks nice” isn’t good enough, if it doesn’t match your intent. You’ve lowered the chances of getting the right result, and you’ve made things more difficult for the next person to go through and standardize your settings when your one-page memo gets reformatted to be used in the company brochure. You’ve probably also made things more difficult for yourself. Instead of trying to decide what it should look like, you could have just told the machine “this is a heading, that’s a title, and this paragraph is a summary of findings”, and made your life easier.

The UI appears to have some of this by grouping tools by tasks, but it doesn’t follow through — “Write”, “Insert”, “Page Layout”… but then, “References”? Nope. “Mailings” – maybe, but probably not. “Review” – we’re back. “Developer”? That’s a noun. Obviously there isn’t a consistent organizational structure here. Task-based interfaces are a radical shift from tool-based ones, and they require the UI designer to ask of every function put in front of the user: “Do I really want to give them this power? Am I making their life easier by doing so, or just giving them a shotgun to aim at their feet?”. It’s Microsoft Office, not Microsoft Fun with Fonts, Colors, and Margins. There’s a strong argument to be made that it shouldn’t be easier to use all of the features, because they’re a waste of time for most users.

Microsoft should have taken this opportunity to put together a new interface that’s not only prettier, but also radically easier to use, more intuitive, and above all, more productive. Instead, they’ve produced what appears to be more of the same.


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.


Robert Barada Nikto

Filed under: — adam @ 7:12 pm

Robert Wise died yesterday.

Forget the moment of silence, give me a few minutes of the opening theme against a flickering starfield.


Bounce Fresh Ideas messageboard capture

Filed under: — adam @ 3:31 pm

Bounce Fresh Ideas messageboard capture

Originally uploaded by Caviar.


Blogging from a datacenter in New Orleans

Filed under: — adam @ 4:48 pm

I heard mention of this yesterday, but didn’t see a link.

Here’s a link. He’s in an office building on the 27th floor, in the datacenter with generators and food and stuff. There’s also a live video feed out the window.

Amazon has a red cross donation page up again

Filed under: — adam @ 3:59 pm


Release your inner (outer) hipster asshole

Filed under: — adam @ 4:58 pm

On a mailing list I’m on, someone pointed out the ipodmyphoto site, which I won’t link to out of common decency. Someone else followed up with ‘I want an ipodded shirt that says “hipster asshole”. Orange and Black please. ;) ’.

I just couldn’t resist, and you shouldn’t either.

Instant Labeling Tape

Filed under: — adam @ 9:20 am

It looks like an LED ticker, and you just fill in all of the bars that aren’t in your letters with a black magic marker.

Great idea!

Via makeblog:



Filed under: — adam @ 9:33 am

We’re doomed.


What does an ID textbook look like?

Here’s what I don’t get. What would it even mean to teach intelligent design in schools?

Chapter 1: Some things are too complicated to have arisen by evolution, specifically people.
Chapter 2: …..?
(Chapter 3: Profit?)

As far as I can tell, there’s nothing to it. It’s the opposite of science.

“I don’t understand this, so there must be no possible answer”.

It says not just that we don’t know, but that we can’t know, so there’s really no point in trying to figure it out.


Flickr adds some new features

Filed under: — adam @ 5:53 pm

Flickr adds tag clustering and interestingness aggregate pages.

But where are the feeds?!?!


That’s just a lot of hairstyles

Filed under: — adam @ 2:24 pm



Filed under: — adam @ 5:40 pm

How are we doing?


Beautiful Temperature Sensitive Faucets

Filed under: — adam @ 10:12 am

I love technology applied in creative ways to everyday objects.

These are faucets with the top removed so you can see the water flow, which is illuminated with red and blue LEDs to indicate the temperature of the water.


Via Futurismic:


The things people do to their pets

Filed under: — adam @ 3:04 pm

They missed a huge naming opportunity here – it should have been called Cat-amari Damacy.


Is the paint buddy new?

Filed under: — adam @ 9:02 am

This thing has been making the rounds:

It’s a new Rubbermaid product called the “Paint Buddy”. The idea is that when you paint, you leave a little left over in this thing for making touchups.

Didn’t I see this in a Lillian Vernon catalog, like 20 years ago?


Crappy new Freedom Tower panned by the NYTimes

Since when does “one tower” evoke “two towers”?


Psychonauts is fun

Filed under: — adam @ 10:24 am

I’ve just started playing Psychonauts, and it’s tremendous fun. I’ve been a fan of Tim Schafer games for a long time – I’ve played all of them except Day of the Tentacle.

It’s rare to find kid friendly games that aren’t boring for adults.

I’ll be posting a review to Buy Adam when I’m done with it, but there’s one piece of dialogue I just have to share (possibly slightly inaccurately quoted from memory):

Raz: They’ll be looking for Raz, the boy, but they’ll find Raz… the Psychonaut!
Dogen: And then you’ll make their heads explode?
Raz: What? No! You do that?
Dogen: No…
Dogen: Except that one time. But now I wear this special hat. Do you want to try on my hat?
Raz: No, no, that’s okay.


End of the 9 line

Filed under: — adam @ 6:58 pm

The 9 line has been eliminated by the MTA:

P2P is a technique, not a thing

Filed under: — adam @ 9:44 am

This message to the IP list claims that Tarleton University will “shut down P2P”:

P2P file sharing programs provide Internet users with the ability to share files on their computers with millions of other Internet users. Common P2P use includes song and movie file sharing, gaming and instant messaging. P2P file sharing software makes it possible for people to accidentally share personal files or sensitive data. These programs also allow easier access to computer systems for theft of sensitive documents and unauthorized use of network resources. There have been incidents where P2P programs have exposed sensitive federal government documents.

P2P file sharing software potentially compromises computer systems. The use of this software creates vulnerabilities through which malicious code (viruses, worms, Trojans, bots) or other illegal material can be introduced.

The use of P2P file sharing can result in network intrusions.

Few, if any, university owned computers have an operational reason for running P2P file sharing software. These applications represent a network vulnerability that cannot be afforded without a strong justification.

This followup message illustrates a number of ways to get around that restriction:

As I’ve written before, P2P is not a technology, it’s a technique. You can’t just wish it away by eliminating programs or blocking ports. Bits are just bits. By themselves, they’re meaningless, until you apply a filter to them that explains what they are. Once again, all together now. Content is a pattern, not a thing.

P2P isn’t going anywhere.


C-list bloggery

Filed under: — adam @ 9:48 am

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

So’s Margaret Cho. She’s funny.


Fields, not Field

Filed under: — adam @ 12:54 pm

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


Murdered blogger’s last entry leads to killer

Filed under: — adam @ 5:06 pm



Can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe?

Filed under: — adam @ 12:31 am

Via Makeblog:


Trump’s Plan to Rebuild the Twin Towers

Filed under: — adam @ 1:53 pm

One story taller, of course.


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

Filed under: — adam @ 11:11 pm

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


Cool clock

Filed under: — adam @ 12:32 pm


Happy 05/05/05

Filed under: — adam @ 11:56 am

Just because.


Note to users of Earth

Filed under: — adam @ 2:37 pm

“Google’s success doesn’t automatically mean that every wacky idea is worthwhile.”


A small part of the Upper West Side has died

Filed under: — adam @ 6:38 pm


Williams Chicken, the kosher catering company with the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, a staple of my Upper West Side childhood, seems to be closed. A moment of schmaltz for these fine purveyors of golden poultry goodness paired with half sours and barley.

Williams Chicken is Closed!


Bike Tree is secure city bike storage

Filed under: — adam @ 1:09 pm

That’s very cool. It locks up your bike and suspends it high above the ground, away from thieves and rain.

Of course, in NYC, that would probably just mean there would be a rash of clear-cutting…


Buy Adam launch – product reviews

Filed under: — adam @ 2:33 pm

I’ve launched a new blog dedicated to product reviews of things I use. Check it out!

From my about page:

“I am an expert consumer.

Im that guy that all of my friends go to for advice before they buy things. Im picky. I wont keep something unless Im satisfied with it. I routinely buy things, find I dont like them for some reason or another, and return them. But, even through all that, there are a lot of things I do like, and I see no reason to keep that to myself.”

Listed at Master Blogs

Filed under: — adam @ 12:53 pm

I’ve been listed at Master Blogs.

This seems like a good collection of blogs, judging by the ones listed that I know. I’ll have to check the others out.


Spout Ladles

Filed under: — adam @ 11:52 am

I posted a review of spout ladles for Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools list. (The review hasn’t been posted to the site yet, just the email list.)

Basting Spoon (Spout Ladle)
Spout Ladle Side View

To be honest, I don’t remember at which store I got mine – I picked it up years ago. Sorry about that.

There are a large number of restaurant supply stores in Chinatown (NYC). I’d try one of those. Here’s a big long list of some of them:


“10 Things I Have Learned”

Filed under: — adam @ 9:31 pm

Interesting read. Basically, be true to thine own self, be honest with others, and some people just suck.


Visual baby name navigator thingy

Filed under: — adam @ 1:01 pm

Via my friend Mark:


Eggs with copper

Filed under: — adam @ 11:09 pm

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

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

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

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


Hunter S. Thompson killed himself

Filed under: — adam @ 12:28 pm



Filed under: — adam @ 1:43 pm

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



Clothing Labels

Filed under: — adam @ 10:04 am

“Failure to provide reliable care instructions and warnings for the useful life of an item is a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act,”


Justin Hall puts his emotions on film

Filed under: — adam @ 11:50 am

This is moving, and I’m not sure what to say. I’m assuming that this is honest, although it’s in the nature of the internet now to question such things. Maybe that’s part of the problem. I’ve started to write a number of things, advice, useful suggestions, tips, platitudes, and I’m just giving up. Nobody asked for my opinion, so I’ll just do this one thing and tell you to watch it for yourself.


Comments feeds

Filed under: — adam @ 11:28 pm

I’ve noticed that some of the post comments feeds have been getting a lot of hits. It’s not clear that these aren’t bots of some kind.

If you are an actual human, reading the comment feeds, you must email me if you want to prevent me from removing them.


Computerized train service coming to the L line

Filed under: — adam @ 12:52 pm


Bembo’s Alphabet Zoo

Filed under: — adam @ 7:26 pm

This is really cool. Each letter gets one animal that’s then made out of the letters in its name, by scaling, rotating, and repeating them.



Urine Charge!

Filed under: — adam @ 12:00 am

I haven’t read the book, but I imagine that a lot of the advice consists of:

Step 1: Pee in the plants.
Step 2: …
Step 3: Profit!

Really – It’s a book about recycling your urine to grow your plants. Seems like a fine idea, I suppose. Not having read the book, I can’t see how this requires a whole book. But I guess I could be wrong.


Shoes with interchangeable heels

Filed under: — adam @ 12:42 pm

Popgadget found these shoes with interchangeable variable height heels.


Extreme Public Monitoring

Interesting post from Cringely, about what it might take to make a grassroots tsunami early warning system.

Obviously, the Government approach is The Cathedral:

“We can’t rely on governments to do this kind of work anymore. They just take too darned long and spend too much money for what you get. Besides, since governments are almost totally reactive, what they’ll build is a warning system for precisely the tsunami we just had — a tsunami bigger than any in that region since the eruption of Krakatoa eruption of 1883. One could argue (and some experts probably will) that it might even be a waste of money to build a warning system for a disaster that might not happen for another 121 years.”

The Extreme in the title of this post is a reference to Extreme Programming (XP), a very interesting and sometimes blindingly effective development methodology based around collaboration, communication, the philosophy of as-little-documentation-as-needed-but-no-less, and frequent testing and rebuilding of small, modular, pluggable pieces. It was designed to accomodate frequently changing requirements in a highly dynamic environment. One of the aims of XP is to be able to walk away from the project at any given release (typically spaced two weeks apart), and still have a working system, even if it doesn’t meet all of the feature requirements. This is exactly what’s needed here – get something up and running quickly, and build on it over time.


Happy New Year!

Filed under: — adam @ 11:10 am

We’re off.

See you in 2005!


New Year’s Resolutions for the blog

Filed under: — adam @ 2:25 pm
  1. Rationalize the permalinks and get rid of numbered link posts.
  2. Splice the photo blog, blog, category, and feeds if feedburner doesn’t beat me to it.
  3. Start formally using Creative Commons licenses.
  4. Figure out a better way to have conversations between blogs than trackback.
  5. Address the comment spam problem.
  6. Add auto hyperlinks to the rss feed.

Category RSS feeds

Filed under: — adam @ 2:05 pm

I just noticed that the rss feed page can be restricted by category.

So, if you’re just interested in, say, the DRM posts, you can use:

and it’ll give you a feed with just those.


The Sri Lankan animals all got away

Filed under: — adam @ 2:15 pm

22,000 people dead along the Indian Ocean coast, and all of the animals escaped. I guess this is what happens when you build houses and stuff.

Amazon has one-click tsunami aid donations

Filed under: — adam @ 11:36 am

Amazon has added a 1-click donation page for tsunami aid donations. As of the time of this writing, they’ve collected almost $1.6M. If you haven’t given already, please consider it.


What the bagel man saw (and started)

Filed under: — adam @ 11:50 am

This is a great story about a guy who retired to sell bagels on the honor system. It’s also an interesting glimpse into the sociology of white collar crime.

Update: My friend Mark points out:

“As noted at the very very end of your link, this is actually from the NYTimes Magazine 6/6/2004 (where I first read it). Of course, you can no longer read it at for free (too long ago), and it’s your choice to circumvent (c) by pointing to the blog entry. But you should at least give the proper credit in your lead-in, methinks.”

While credit is certainly due, I’m not sure I agree that it’s a copyright violation. It certainly is a sticky situation.

I think this may qualify as “copying for personal use” even though it happens to be accessible to the public. It looks like this may have come from the email list. The original ad is included, it links back to the source, and there’s no financial gain involved in distributing it. There’s ostensibly financial loss on the part of the NYT, because people who might have paid to view the full article now don’t have to. I will note that the NYT general terms of service includes no mention of articles sent via email. I will also note that this article does NOT appear in the Google cache, or even appear to be indexed at all by Google (although that may just have fallen into the hole where Google was unable to index new pages because they’d hit the 32-bit limit on their indexes, and not be directly copyright related).

But, let’s try to be fair about this. The NYT is charging $2.95 for back articles. That seems like a lot, although you get a bulk discount, which has never made sense to me for electronic content. Still, let’s call it a market rate of $3. Since they have a monopoly, they can set the price. So, I propose this. If you read this article and liked it, let’s be fair to the NYT, and try to convince them that they’ll do better by asking for money than by demanding it. Clearly, they can’t stop this article from being copied. I’m mostly of the opinion that they shouldn’t try.

So I’ve set up a dropcash donation page to make voluntary donations to the NYTimes for enjoying this fine piece of writing (and others).

“The New York Times charges for back articles. We think this is unfair and expensive. This is a voluntary fund to donate money to the New York Times as compensatory payment for viewing articles that have been copied. This is an exercise to convince the New York Times (and the content generation industry in general) that they can get more money by asking for it than by demanding it, and that we acknowledge that copying can’t be controlled.

For more background on how this came about, please see:

This is a voluntary donation, I’m guessing it’s not tax deductible, and I hope it’s not an admission of guilt.

The New York Times, as far as I can tell, has no official channel for receiving paypal donations. I figure that Daniel Okrent, “the readers’ representative” is the right person to deal with this sort of thing, so I have used his address as the paypal recipient.

I have chosen the current market cap of the NYT corporation (5.9B) as the goal for this campaign.”

Another update: It appears that the dropcash page doesn’t update the donated totals until the money has been approved by the recipient. Since the NY Times doesn’t officially accept paypal, they may never approve them, and so the donation page may never rise above zero. Please donate anyway.

(Also, don’t let this stop you from donating money to the Tsunami relief fund. Do both.)

The vice guide to everything

Filed under: — adam @ 11:35 am


Earthquake and Tsunami relief fund

Filed under: — adam @ 10:54 am

The Red Cross has set up an online form for making donations to the Earthquake and Tsunami relief fund.

I’m sure even $20 helps – give now, before you find an excuse to put it off!


Who is reading this?

Filed under: — adam @ 1:14 pm

My traffic tends to spike between noon and 1pm ET.

Are you reading this over lunch on the East Coast, or right when you get in on the West Coast?


The EFF needs your support

Filed under: — adam @ 1:13 pm

As you think about your taxes at the end of this year, consider donating to the EFF. They’re fighting the good fight for your electronic freedom, they produce tangible work, and their efforts affect everyone who uses the internet or technology in any way.

No, really. Do it now!


Do I Need a Jacket?

Filed under: — adam @ 3:44 pm

A Star Wars game retrospective

Filed under: — adam @ 3:23 pm

I think Shadows of the Empire remains one of the best games I’ve ever played. Tie Fighter is a close second in this batch.

Business card cutter

Filed under: — adam @ 2:03 pm

I have a need for lots of different kinds of cards (business cards for consulting, business cards for companies, personal cards, cards with just my blog address, photo release cards, among other things). I’ve simply done without rather than get them all printed, but recently I bought a Cardmate business card cutter:

This thing is great! I can print 10-up cards on cardstock, and cut them myself. They don’t look quite as good as professionally printed cards, but they’re a huge step up from the pre-cut peel-off cards (which are probably half the weight of good cardstock). The advantages of print-on-demand cards are numerous – you can vary them with your audience, print special colored ones for the holidays, etc…

(On a side note, I ordered it on the phone from ABC Office first and told them I needed it by a particular date, a week off. They said no problem, then sent me an email three days later saying it was out of stock and would be backordered. Until the week after I needed it. Nice. Laminator Warehouse was not only cheaper, they had it, were very helpful, and got it to me on time.)


Stem cell research without all the “babykilling”

Filed under: — adam @ 11:33 am


Blogging vs. slogging vs. communities vs. vs. bloglines

Filed under: — adam @ 1:23 pm

I have lots of online outlets in which to share interesting things.

Here’s how I decide what goes where.

  • Things I want to find again later or use on the web, I post to I also use this for things which have a lot of related links that I want to direct people to all at once, but where the set may change. Like firefox extensions I use.
  • Speaking of firefox, pages I want to read later that may disappear, or which I want to read offline, I save with slogger.
  • Anything I find interesting and timely or comment on extensively, I post to my blog. These are likely not “things I want to find again”, but just things I find interesting now, although there’s some overlap.
  • General, food-related, and photo questions currently go to Ask Metafilter, Chowhound, and, respectively. I try to also answer questions I can there.
  • Any online resource with an rss or atom feed that I like and want to keep tabs on gets added to my bloglines feeds.

Now is the time of year when we play TIA Santa

Filed under: — adam @ 9:57 am

Secret Santa is so 20th Century.

I invented an alternative – Total Information Awareness Santa. Not only is it not a secret, but you have to follow your target around for a few days and conduct interviews with their associates, collecting evidence about what they really need and want. Sharing databases is encouraged, as is paying exorbitant consulting fees to data integration experts.


Flash based virtual sketch artist

Filed under: — adam @ 11:19 am



I’m getting a little tired of the experiment

Filed under: — adam @ 11:29 pm

Can we perhaps try a new maze or something?

Disposable Travel Underwear

Filed under: — adam @ 11:18 pm

"Frequent travelers who don’t want to do laundry in the sink or pay
for expensive hotel laundry services can just take along several packs
of OneDerWear disposable underwear. OneDearWear is 100% cotton, 100%
biodegradable, and comes in several styles for men and women, from
boxers to thongs."

Apparently, boiling a lava lamp is not a good idea

Filed under: — adam @ 4:36 pm

Ummm… duh.

Well isn’t that just the cutest thing

Filed under: — adam @ 11:35 am


How to choose a computer from parts

This is adapted from a response I wrote to someone on a mailing list asking for help in picking components for a home-built machine. I’m a big fan of this – you can tune the parts to your liking, you get an intimate sense of how things fit together, and it’s substantially cheaper than buying the same machine from a vendor.



Print your own dodecahedric calendar

Filed under: — adam @ 9:34 pm


Today’s laugh comes from Eric Dietiker

Filed under: — adam @ 11:53 pm

I don’t know if the letters make it onto the Wired site, but my print copy arrived this morning, and this rebuttal to Intelligent Design made me laugh:

"I’m designed intelligently? As far as I can see, I was designed by an idiot. My parts are neither interchangeable nor replaceable. I could use a new ankle right now, and almost everything I do injures my
back. Some of my internal organs are useless, and can even kill me. My risk-calculation engine is useless. I am afraid to eat beef, but have no problem catapulting myself down tree-lined roads on my motorcycle. My judgment is so bad I can be convinced to send my life savings to a complete stranger with just one phone call.

The final stake in the heart of ID is that there are people we might
otherwise consider intelligent who, in the face of all this, maintain
we are functioning as intended."


Interesting article about undecided voters and "issues"

Filed under: — adam @ 1:50 pm

(Registration required. Use bugmenot. On a side note, I installed the bugmenot firefox extension, and it’s GREAT – totally effortless.)


All kinds of Windows XP performance tweaks

Filed under: — adam @ 11:18 am

This is a great, deep resource.


Be careful biking in the streets

Filed under: — adam @ 10:06 am

Bike messenger killed near Times Square yesterday.,0,2478983.story


Mefi is accepting new logins again

Filed under: — adam @ 11:30 am

If you want a Metafilter login, now’s your chance. It costs $5, which goes towards server expenses. Well worth it – I think that Metafilter is still one of the most interesting sites out there.

I’m totally addicted to Ask Metafilter.

So much for peak oil

Filed under: — adam @ 12:27 am

“Researchers at Luca Technologies have made a discovery regarding natural gas production in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin that could lead to a renewable source of energy for generations to come.

The company today announced that laboratory evidence shows that the Powder River Basin (PRB) coals are generating natural gas in real time through the ongoing activity of anaerobic microbes (bacteria that live in the absence of oxygen) resident in those coal fields.”

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