Archive for the ‘3. Personal’ Category

Whitehat Hacking

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Today I got one of those typical phishing attack emails.  On a whim I decided to have a quick look at the source, to see where it was going.  The source indicated a free host in the U.S. – something you don’t usually see…usually it goes overseas.  So I went there and much to my surprise directory listing was turned on, and I was able to browse the directories.  Inside a folder called /tmp was a little php script and beside it a little text file.  In the text file was, lo and behold, the results of the phishing attack which had about a half a dozen what seems to be the actual credit card info of unsuspecting people, along with a couple funny submissions too.  Check it out.

I’m not surprised to see the phishing attack working, but what (kind of) surprises me is that the phishers are so careless they leave the directory exposed for the world to see.

Needless to say visa and the FBI have been notified.  Be careful everyone!

To tease or not to tease

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I was never a huge fan of teasers.  They just seemed to be an annoying way to break one’s flow while reading and inhibited scanning someone’s blog.  But when making a blog they are nice!  Is it just me or is it really something writers like and readers don’t I wonder.  Certainly the re-do of Fake Steve fell into this category.  I used to read it all the time on the iphone but now don’t – because of the teasers and the template which loads like a dog on the iphone.

I have felt the same about tags and categories too.  Maybe (Maybe!) makes sense for huge blogs or blogs with a ton of writers but I always felt that between the title and google, categorizing and tagging are covered.  Maybe I should categorize more though.  I do like one blog (Alan Storm) because he tags his tutorials on Magento appropriately.  But I haven’t seen other good uses of the notion.

Working in wordpress

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Wow! Blogging has gotten easier, or maybe it’s more that I haven’t given wordpress a fair shake since I got into Drupal several years ago…trying this new theme, (tanzaku) a Japanese one that resizes automatically.  It’s a re-think of “dynamic width” – the articles float into columns based on the window size, which is a great concept.

Screen shot 2009-12-15 at 7.04.40 PM

My old site was actually HTML, I am almost embarrassed to say.  It was in blogger originally, and I thought about putting it in Drupal, but was never happy with the UX for editing a blog in Drupal.  While Drupal is a very strong platform it’s a sucky blogging tool, but it remains oriented around the blogging concept.

I actually got a bit down on blogging in the past year or so (not that I was ever a huge blogger) for a few reasons: (more…)

A Digital Move

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I am working on a website for Jessica and I at Its only a framework at this point – I am thinking about the theme and logo. I am planning to use it as a pointer to our sites that we run our consulting work through. It’s time to wind down It seems Drupal and DRM are just not compatible, and have been thinking about abandoning DRM consulting at least as a main business. I think it’s essentially over – the very notion of DRM is no longer useful because it’s been contaminated by so much bad press.
How did it get so bad? Well, I think it’s a simple case of extremism damaging the environment for everyone. DRM was never as bad as a notion as the EFF oriented people would like to believe. It’s possible to have content that is rights managed that is not even copy protected, something I have always advocated – that the rights are attached to the content and payment etc is handled by the system. There would be a tremendous amount of leakage to be sure. On the other side, the content companies have been so reluctant to get their stuff out there for use that they have encouraged a lot of piracy. Plus they don’t seem to understand the real value in letting content move “on it’s own” and utilizing the peer to peer nature of the web. The recent successes digital delivery like Hulu and even Netflix are really just extensions of the broadcast paradigm, something that the internet is not well suited to at all.

In any event this blog has been running for a while now (it’s not really a blog since it’s flat html – I’ve moved it so many times). It’s time to update our site to match the company and I might as well use this as a chance to build it properly in Drupal 6.

Marlin site totally done

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Jan 19, 2009

I got word a couple weeks ago that there will be no new features added to the Marlin site. That’s ok, it’s quite stable and the fact that Intertrust can manage it on their own and don’t need me is testament to how well Drupal works. Looking for work – it’s certainly harder than it was. The recession seems to be at the top of everyone’s mind. Fear seems so powerful that people cut back because they hear about others cutting back. Not a huge revelation but it seems that the economy does badly because the economy does badly. People seem so..I don’t know…influenceable.
In the past I had moved to where there was more work (Tokyo, San Francisco) – now that’s not an option as I am quite dug in and anyway, there aren’t any booming areas.

Maybe because we went fast and in a global, interconnected way into recession we will come out fast.

Random Thoughts After a While

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Over a year since my last post. I guess that’s what having a 2nd kid does to one’s schedule. But honestly, it’s been really busy – DRM for video in particular is really getting a lot of attention. Lately I have been reccomending to all my clients that want to put video online to simply go with Windows Media DRM (or rights manager or whatever they call it these days). It goes against my gut feeling about the whole industry (I think Microsoft makes crap products and is finally in serious trouble as Ballmer totally botches what Gates built) but it’s the only game in town for downloadable content because the platform is so ubiquitous. And even though I love Apple stuff, until the allow others to use FairPlay, that’s all we’ve got. Maybe that means the best thing is to simply sell unprotected mp4 files. If I can get that idea to pass I usually try. But usually it is not a popular idea with rightsholders.

I’ve also been playing a lot with DLNA, especially on the PS3. It’s well implemented on the PS3 but I have not found a great option on the server end – at least not in XP. TVersity is not bad. The workflow to get content onto the server is slow and rather cumbersome. But it’s still much better than getting stuff to the TiVo and since it goes to the Playstation which is a great rendering machine, it looks ok. For a while I thought I could play VOB files but it seems the PS3 does not deinterlace properly through the DLNA client.


Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

January 16, 2007

Last week was splitting my time between the OSCMS, where I presented on Video Delivery with Drupal and SD West. The difference was staggering – the freshness at the OSCMS was exhilirating whereas the mood at SD West among the attendees at least was, well dour.


Dries Butyart and Rasmus Ledorf (in blue – he’s a Yahooligan!) discuss PHP4 vs PHP5 in front of a rapt audience


Thursday, March 30th, 2006

March 30, 2006
I’ve been thinking about what would make Netflix better…the ideas I have fall into three categories. They range from the totally trivial to the rather elaborate. Note that Netflix is now running a contest to imporive its rating system.


New Job

Monday, February 2nd, 2004

So the haps is that I am now working at Dolby, well actually a subsidiary of theirs, Via Licensing. It’s great so far, and I’ll write more about as I get my sea legs.


Friday, January 16th, 2004

Phil Windley’s site had a neato visited states thingy – I couldn’t resist. You can see the paths I have taken in roadtrips – we planned to take the minivan through idaho etc to Portage La Prarie in Manitoba a couple years ago but then our fab president took us to war and gas went to $3/gallon – so that was out. :(

create your own personalized map of the USA

UPDATE: 2009: nothing has changed.  almost got out again to winnipeg but the kids are still to young to get into it. Interesting point – this image is still up at world66, where many articles referred by this blog on newspapers are gone gone.  When will newspapers get a clue?


Sunday, August 17th, 2003

Thursday, August 07, 2003

I was trying to re-tool my post to be a little less harsh on Steve but he was all over it before I could finish:

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with your quote “The not-so-subtle implication is that Apple does not use DRM.”

I am well aware that Apple uses DRM. While the
sentence in the article is open to interpretation, I
don’t think that it implies that Apple doesn’t use

Apple clearly uses DRM to control how downloaded
content is distributed. I believe, however, that
Apple’s implementation of DRM does indeed “slip in
under the social acceptability threshold”. Their DRM
has managed to seem harmless to buyers because buyers
can copy music to three different Macs and allows
users to burn songs as many times as they want.

The BuyMusic hodgepodge is simply a very poor
implementation of DRM as several publications have
pointed out.

This is not to say that Apple’s DRM is perfect.
However, they seem to have read consumer wishes and
offered them DRM they can live with.

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

It’s a tired expression and I used to hate it, but I have to say that I think we’re in ‘violent agreement’.


Friday, August 1st, 2003

This is a good summary of the “Super DMCA” that is being quietly pushed through in states all over the US. (Irony: Unfortunately it requires a subscription – Business2 just changed from a free website to one that is paid.) The essence of the this legislation is that the cable companies are pushing for legislation that gives them more control what kinds of things can connect to the Internet. It’s interesting legislation because one of the things holding back the introduction of good content and more business uses of the Internet is the ‘excessive anonymity’ that means the Internet is a generally too ‘wild and wooly’ for many content providers.

On balance, however, this legislation seems to me to be far too likely to be misused – the idea that new every device, be it a computer, phone or even a firewall/router would have to be approved by a cable company is regressive and out of touch with what makes the Internet so dynamic. The author points out that had AT&T been able to hold on to laws that prohibited the connection on non-sanctioned devices we would not have had the internet become a public phenomenon as modems would likely not have been approved, at least not as quickly.

I see a pattern: it seems that business interests with content under management (in this case cable companies) work to have restrictive laws passed, society does something else (fair use), and the end result is somewhere in between. We saw this with Xerox machines, the cassette tape, and VCR’s. I think that this is similar – technology companies should theoretically be lined up on one side with their interests aligned with consumers – it’s unlikely that the apocalyptic vision that some are afraid of is somewhat exaggerated.

I remember a great story I heard several years ago: RCA was demonstrating the an early video casette to Disney back in the ’70′s and had made this video casette that would only play once before having to be returned to the manufacturer to be reset. Disney’s response: “This is great stuff, but we could never support it. I mean, how on earth could we ever know how many people are actually watching the movie?”


Wednesday, July 23rd, 2003

I’ve been meaning to write about iTunes for a while. It’s a remarkable achievement -
- Sales settling at around 500,000 per week.
- All labels participating
- Windows iTunes SW on the way
- Indie support – 9% comission/$40 registration to list an album

The $1 price for a track seems to be acceptable to the market. The most important thing, I think, is that Apple seems to have, either conciously or unconciously, realized that protection is not the main game – DRM as an accounting system and breadth are. The issue is not piracy but convienence.

This makes me think, for the first time ever, that apple may be a decent investment – the revenue possibilities from itunes, particularily in the windows market, are perhaps not priced into the stock. Of course Apple’s flawed model (HW+SW) is likely to always drag it down, but this seems like a real win on its own – this is the label-displacing energy in a paid model that has been so absent till now.

The thing that amazes me is Jobs’ skills in the entertainment business. (this and Pixar) It’s almost like he’s unaware where his true abilities lie.

Thanks to Rajiv Sinclair for keeping me up to date.
See this article


Thursday, June 12th, 2003

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued four students on April 3 for allegedly operating music-sharing Web sites, accusing them of enabling large-scale copyright theft. Although the RIAA initially asked for $98 billion in damages, it settled the case on May 1, with the four students paying fines ranging from $12,000 to $17,500.


Sunday, February 23rd, 2003

Guess what. The labels are in trouble, according to this article from the New York Times (free registration required, sorry). This is a replay of the same article with the same types of quotes we’ve been seeing for 5 FRIKKING YEARS. “Sales are down”. “Kiosks might help”. “Prices too high?”. “Record Execs lethargic”. “Downloads not working” It’s bloody boring already. The (major) labels are finished, and I say that without emotion, though the glacial realization of that fact is rather maddening. They’re just not going to pull through. The only interesting question any more is how long they will live in the ICU of legally brain dead companies (the major airlines are in the same terminal ward.) There’s been a major accident, people. They won’t pull out of their collective coma. Nothing going on upstairs.

Moreover, it looks like the movie studios are just being wheeled into the emergency room. The price of DVD-R blank media is falling like a rock. The death spasms are going to be more violent but the outcome is very likely to be the same.


Sunday, January 12th, 2003

Phew, that was quite a pause…a very busy end of term in my MBA (almost done now, looks like the summer will be the end!) and a new contract with Cenzic, doing product development for an interesting new website security product.

Another thing that I’ve been doing is talking with Smart Mediary Systems who is doing some great things in the legal publishing arena. They are doing very sane things with DRM in that they are doing what works – get the content, offer ways to manage it well, put protection that works but is not onerous, listen to your customers and give them what they want. Basically the opposite from Movielink. (I tried them and it’s a long story but basically they wouldn’t refund me $2.99 even though the system ran aground on technical issues – well, maybe they will, but they want me to phone them about it. Who has time for that kind of thing?)


Monday, November 11th, 2002

The BBC reports that movielink is now launched. The movie industry is just a hair ahead of the recording industry with the benefit of that awful experience. They have a slightly more reasonable catalog. But they are still pricing it at a “what the hell?” level…$2-5 for a 24 hour playable MPEG-4 download. It’s a small step for a company and a small step for mankind.

The sad thing is that when someone comes up with a decent business model, they get shut down, like, a scrappy little Tiawanese company. Reminds me of the story, a little Canadian company offering timeshifted TV over the internet, something that is legal in Canada but the MPAA still managed to shut them down.


Monday, October 28th, 2002

This is a good idea:
The impractical method for stimulating broadband adoption is to make music free on the Internet. As Thierer notes, Napster and its cognates have been among the main reasons people buy broadband connectivity. Instead of using the law to choke file swapping, perhaps we should encourage the telecom industry to buy off the music studios. Total recorded music sales in the US come to a grand total of about $15 billion per year, while
telecom spending is over 20 times higher. Thus in the abstract, it might be a wise investment for the phone companies to buy out the studios. This is of course wildly impractical for business and legal reasons, but it would quickly stimulate demand for broadband. (It would also demonstrate that the content tail should not be wagging the telecom dog, as it too often does in political, legal, and business discussions.)


This is a somewhat naive and highly academic solution that would require a lot more coordination than is likely possible, but it brings up an important point about the relative scales of the music and telecom industries. It also underscores a core problem with the internet (and, I believe, some part of the internet crash) – that good digital content is simply not available online. There are two reasons for this: the lack of a good DRM system and the lack of public acceptance of paying for bits with no physical manifestation of the content.

What’s interesting is that there is an important psychic tug of war going on between what people think they are buying and what companies want to sell. With a CD, the record company wants to sell a temporary copy. They effectively do so by changing the format every 20-40 years (72, LP, 8 track, cassette, CD). On the other hand, consumers want something permanent or at least the sense that it’s permanent. I think that this gap will plague the development of digital media vending mechanisms until the consumer has the sense that the copy they are getting is accessible indefinitely and that they will be able to move it to another medium. Record companies have a tough time with this idea.

I also suspect that going forward, music may share some characteristics with long distance telephone service: as it gets cheaper we spend more on it by consuming a disproportionately larger amount. My telecom bill is higher than it’s ever been despite the steady decline in prices because I never think about the cost of a long distance call anymore.


Tuesday, September 24th, 2002

Origionally an animation tool, Flash was gradually co-opted to be an animated logo generator. This was an annoying but essential development of the standard. (by the by, why do little companies feel compelled to have the flash thing running across the page? Respected companies, who can definitely afford to, don’t. Have a look – Oracle, Cicso, Microsoft, even Apple are all not inclined.

The good news is that there are some excellent things happening with Macromedia Flash these days. I am very happy to see that some extreemely creative people have started using Flash as a means of publishing animated shorts My favorites: Zefrank, OddTodd, and Dogshitter Wants. Okay, some of it is bizarre, but I love it.

Here’s the sad part. These people who now have a channel don’t have a simple way to get paid for their work. (Zefrank, for example, is looking for a web host.) Advertising turns out to be pretty much a bust all over the web, at least for small operators – the web is, after all, a narrowcasting medium (with all the things advertisers hate: no national borders, short attention span, and altogether too much control over the outlet device (the computer)). Macromedia would appear to be oblivious to this: at a conference I posed to a Macromedia product manager the issue of valuable content in Flash, and the potential value of putting in a vending mechanism. It’s a natural: you have the UI, and now with FlashMX there is some excellent database connectivity. (You could even use it for music.) He was completely flat on the subject. Maybe they’re keeping quiet about something. I doubt it.


Friday, September 13th, 2002

Friday, September 13, 2002

At Seybold yesterday I stumbled across E-Book Systems and spoke with the president, Sengbeng Ho, for a little while at the end of the show (is the end of a show when more senior people are around? I never noticed before). Sengbeng has a doctorate in something like cognitive science/usability and E-Book has created a neat application that really does simulate the feeling of flipping pages. It was high performance and had good tactile feedback – you could see the contents of the pages as they turned and, maybe even more importantly you can see where you are in the book, how much more there is to go, etc. We talked a but about this style which on the face of it would seem unnecessary and inefficient, hell, just plain old-fashioned, (vs scrollbars) but in actuality just seems to make sense once you see it in action. I have always thought that when portables have better battery life, and more importantly, wake from a non-power consuming state almost instantly, and most importantly are really much tougher, we will start to see the move to E-Books. What I hadn’t realized was that the UI was not right either.

Just later the same day I was in the SF MOMA around the corner and saw an E-Book with Lewis Carroll’s photographs (in addition to the photos themselves, which were surprisingly uninteresting, actually). The (hypercard based, I think) piece was done in the style that the photographer used to like to present his photos in an album, one per page. The reason I bring this up is that there was a page flipping thing here too, but just that little less tactile feedback (no visibility of the images on the turning pages, no sense of where you were in the book, no ability to turn more than one page at the same time). It was just enough less ‘real’ and felt phony and computery.