My Opinion Has Changed


A week or so ago I smiled mischievously as the hack against Sony was revealed. After a little more thought my opinion has changed. And, I guess I should add, I understand what happens when private emails go public.

For totally blameless Sony employees this has been a public undressing. Every detail of their personal life that crossed their work computer was laid bare.

Every number associated with their existence will have to be changed!

That’s a very 21st Century concept most of us don’t understand. Once something is in Google, forget it being forgotten!

Some of the Sony emails are brutal, but not unexpected. We all do a little of that with our friends (though probably not the Obama stuff–definitely not).

There’s no way Amy Pascal can survive. Amy: I said the same thing about Roger Goodell.

Sony’s lawyers are trying to quash the publication of any new details. God bless them if that works. Experience says it’s a fool’s errand.

Schadenfreude And Sony

I feel bad for the Sony employees affected. This can’t be fun for them. But for Sony itself, a company I once respected as the leader in consumer electronics I have little sympathy and lots of schadenfreude.


Sony has been hacked. It’s pretty severe. Company and personal secrets have been spilled. Some data has probably been lost. Media files from finished, but unreleased, movies are now online. It’s a very big problem.

Hacking like this has happened before. In 2005 Bruce Schneier wrote about sneaky code on music CDs which

modifies Windows so you can’t tell it’s there, a process called “cloaking” in the hacker world. It acts as spyware, surreptitiously sending information about you… And it can’t be removed; trying to get rid of it damages Windows.

Nasty stuff. Which leads me to my favorite German word, “schadenfreude.”

Schadenfreude (/ˈʃɑːdənfrɔɪdə/; German: [ˈʃaːdn̩ˌfʀɔɪ̯də] ) is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This word is taken from German and literally means ‘harm-joy.’ It is the feeling of joy or pleasure when one sees another fail or suffer misfortune. It is also borrowed by some other languages.Wikipedia

Why would I feel pleasure from Sony’s misfortune? It was Sony that installed malware on buyers of its CDs!

Back to Bruce Schneier:

It’s a tale of extreme hubris. Sony rolled out this incredibly invasive copy-protection scheme without ever publicly discussing its details, confident that its profits were worth modifying its customers’ computers. When its actions were first discovered, Sony offered a “fix” that didn’t remove the rootkit, just the cloaking.

Sony claimed the rootkit didn’t phone home when it did. On Nov. 4, Thomas Hesse, Sony BMG’s president of global digital business, demonstrated the company’s disdain for its customers when he said, “Most people don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?” in an NPR interview. Even Sony’s apology only admits that its rootkit “includes a feature that may make a user’s computer susceptible to a virus written specifically to target the software.”

However, imperious corporate behavior is not the real story either.

This drama is also about incompetence. Sony’s latest rootkit-removal tool actually leaves a gaping vulnerability. And Sony’s rootkit — designed to stop copyright infringement — itself may have infringed on copyright. As amazing as it might seem, the code seems to include an open-source MP3 encoder in violation of that library’s license agreement.

What goes around comes around!

I feel bad for the Sony employees affected. This can’t be fun for them. But for Sony itself, a company I once respected as the leader in consumer electronics I have little sympathy and lots of schadenfreude.

Sony: I Don’t Believe You

I got an email from Sony Online Entertainment touting some new games. I’m not a gamer. Not interested.

As required, Sony’s email contained an unsubscribe link. Here’s the page it brought up.


This is the page Sony’s been delivering for the last five hours. Maybe I’m too much of a skeptic, but I don’t think this is an accident or being handled as expeditiously as possible.

Is Sony’s just “going through the motions?” It sure looks like you’re doing something, but you’re not!

My Life As A Web Designer

Stef took a look at my work today and said it looked awful. She was right.

I’ve been working on-and-off on a website showcasing Roxie. In case you didn’t notice she photographs well.

Stef took a look at my work today and said it looked awful. She was right. She was brutally honest. Maybe just plain honest would have been enough.

I started fooling around again with the ‘skinning’ of the site. Most websites separate content from layout. As you redesign you keep the words and just change how they’re displayed.

This time I showed Helaine.

“Too sterile.” Not her exact words, but close.

More playing will follow. Designing websites is fun for me, but not without obvious artistic challenges. How do you find the right mix of open space/images/text? How do you make a static webpage look like fun at first sight? How do you hide the fact that the web demands rectangular layouts?

Stef also asked why I was doing this in the first place? I think money can be made on blogs—though surely not this one you’re reading which grossed $1.04 so far today (an exceptionally good day judging by recent history).

Maybe a sharply focused, dog oriented blog is worth something if it can attract a crowd? And, of course, you don’t have to strike it rich with one blog when you can easily run many.

From The New York Times: Lisa Sugar began blogging about celebrity gossip in her spare time four years ago. Now she and her husband, Brian, have a little media empire called, sensibly enough, Sugar Inc., with 12 blogs, 11 million readers a month and advertisers like Chanel and Sony.

The dream of quitting the day job and making a living from blog revenue has proved to be far-fetched for most bloggers. But a few entrepreneurs, like the Sugars, have found success in blog networks.

For every success story like the Sugar’s there are thousands of sites with limited reach and earnings potential. How can you know which you are if you don’t try?

The PhotoWalk Returns

It sounds like a dig against New Haven. It’s really a beautiful city with some interesting architectural flourishes. They are not built for photography.

I did the annual PhotoWalk yesterday. Last year Steve Brenner and I went to the Brooklyn Bridge. This year it was the New Haven Green and Yale campus. Bad choice on our part.

It sounds like a dig against New Haven. It’s really a beautiful city with some interesting architectural flourishes. They are not built for photography.

Too much of Yale is hidden behind stately and historic trees (here’s a panorama of a Yale quad). That’s not something wrong with Yale. It just doesn’t lend itself to photography.

One of the photo programs I use breaks out the different photo parameters in a shoot. I used five separate ISO settings and apertures from f/1.4 to f/20, I was searching. Four different lenses were on the camera. None was quite right.

The list of numbers that summarizes the technical elements is all over the place. It’s unfocused. That stands to reason.

The people on the PhotoWalk couldn’t have been nicer. Steve noticed early on nearly. with the exception of one person shooting a Sony, everyone was using Canon or Nikon.

We walked the Yale campus first, than on to the Green. A few of Yale’s buildings were enveloped in scaffolding. Disappointing. On the Green a band was playing to a nice crowd.

I will do another of these next year (hopefully), but only after thinking about what’s there to shoot.


yale university lion statue.jpg

yale universityman's bust statue.jpg

new haven lampost.jpg

The best part of the day was pizza outside in the back at Zinc. This was a white pie with goat cheese, pesto and grilled shrimp.

zinc pizza new haven.jpg

The Upside Down Time Lapse

Stevens Avenue overpass West Haven, CTYeah – it’s an obsession. This time lapse thing is starting to take over my life.

Tonight,after work, Jose and I headed out to I-95 to shoot another time lapse movie. I wanted to try a busy highway, where streaking tail lights add an interesting blur and really bring the compression of time home.

Jose made two suggestions – places where I-95 ducked under a city street.

The first was in East Haven. We headed over the “Q” Bridge, took a quick look and decided it wouldn’t do. Visual access to the highway was interrupted by a closed on ramp. This shot needed a long visible stretch of road.

Next stop was West Haven. There, Stevens Avenue, a relatively quiet residential street, passes over a straight section of the highway. It’s a few hundred yards from where the West Haven Tolls once stood. There is a cyclone fence on the overpass, but the spaces looked large enough for my 30mm lens to get off a clean shot.

Upside Down Photography Over I-95I spent a few minutes trying to thread my Gorillapod through the lattice work to support “Clicky.” No matter what I did, the camera wouldn’t sit correctly for the shot.

Then, Jose recommended I flip it upside down! That solved my problem. A few seconds later, I was ready to shoot.

Make no mistake, it’s unnerving to have your camera hanging upside down on a fence over the Interstate. We took the shoulder strap and tied it to the fence as a safety backup.

I fired off a few test shots. The lights streaked, as I expected. Everything looked good. The camera was set to .a &#189 second exposure at f1.4. For low noise, my ISO dialed down to 200.

The intervalometer was plugged in next. It was set to fire a shot every four seconds.

What you see below is the result. Because the camera was upside down, I had to flip this video 180&#176 – pretty easy with Sony Vegas 8… but it would work as well with nearly any editing program.

There is some lens flare, probably from a street lamp, on the right side of the image. I wish I’d seen it before I started shooting. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with the result.

This 10 second clip took around 20 minutes of shooting.

Since I’m still really testing what I can do, here’s another version. The color has been corrected, making blacks ad whites a little closer to reality and the frame a little brighter. I’ve also stretched the time by a factor of approximately two. Vegas 8 creates the extra frames necessary, so the movie continues to render smoothly.

Radio In The Home

Radio is having trouble competing with TV in the one daypart radio has historically dominated. That’s good for TV, because AM drive is the one daypart that’s going to be difficult for the interactivity of computers to reach, and which has shown growth substantial viewing growth in the last two decades.

I start most weekdays late. Saturdays start even later.

In the shower six’ish, I turned on the radio. Garrison Keillor was just starting A Prairie Home Companion on Public Radio.

Helaine walked in to use the sink and wash her face. She couldn’t help but hear the radio blasting away. He’s not her favorite.

OK – that’s too kind.

She dislikes the show. There, I said it.

As I listened to some guy from Louisiana that Garrison was praising as if he was the second coming, I started to think about radio. These are tough times for radio.

It’s not just the competition from satellite services and iPods, it’s also TV. Does anyone listen to the radio at home except me?

I asked my friend Bob last week. He said he thinks the vast majority of his morning show’s audience (Bob & Sheri, heard across the US) is out of the home. Some are in cars, others at work. There are downloaders listening to podcasts, but that’s still a small minority.

Radio is having trouble competing with TV in the one daypart radio has historically dominated. That’s good for TV, because AM drive is the one daypart that’s going to be difficult for the interactivity of computers to compete in and which has shown substantial viewing growth in the last two decades.

My only in-house radio listening takes place in the shower. I have a Sony radio (using 3 c-cell batteries that last well over a year between replacements), mounted on a bracket on the shower’s side wall.

We have a clock radio next to the bed. It’s hardly used. When I turned on the family room receiver during last week’s poker game, it was the first time it had been on in months… maybe years. That radio is at least thirty years old. When it dies, it won’t be replaced.

It’s very difficult for sound to compete with sound and pictures. That’s probably a good thing for me.

Working For You – Not

I’m not in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters convention. I wish I was.

It’s a hardware, not content, affair. I was there a few years ago, demonstrating products on behalf of a weather equipment vendor. This broadcasters convention attracts a lot more production companies than TV stations.

Announced at NAB and most interesting to me, without really knowing everything that’s there, are new software suites from Adobe and Microsoft. These are made for posting richly interactive multimedia content on the web. This software facilitates an experience more than a few steps beyond just watching a video on YouTube in a small window.

What concerns me is the deep insertion of DRM, or digital rights management into the output of these products. Producers want the ability to make sure you watch the commercials if you watch their content. Certainly they’re entitled to make money to pay for their troubles.

The problem is, so far DRM has been an invasive add-on. It adds another layer of complexity to the viewing experience. It is software designed for the customer, but not the end user… or at least it has been until now.

I worry because Microsoft’s Silverlight platform requires people watching the content to first download a new plug-in (as you do for Flash, Real, PDF files, etc.). When Microsoft asks me to install free software, I instinctively count my fingers and lock the silverware.

A perfect example of DRM gone wrong shows up in the Sony-BMG DRM debacle. Sony’s audio CDs installed secret software on computers to protect Sony. Unfortunately, the software wreaked havoc with some PCs.

There are rumors Sony’s at it again with DVDs that won’t play in some (even Sony’s own) DVD players.

Maybe, in these rapidly changing days, there’s a better way to include commercial content? Maybe the ‘roadblock commercial’ we’ve accepted for over 50 years needs to change?

In the meantime, my opinion is, Adobe and Microsoft are not working for you.

Help Me Buy A Laptop

It’s time to buy a new laptop. I don’t want to spend a lot. I want everything. Are they necessarily mutually exclusive?

Let me throw this out now – your advice is solicited and will be appreciated. Where to buy? What to buy? Any tidbit!

I might not do what you suggest, but I can assure you, right now I don’t know what to do!

Helaine and Stef both have Dell laptops, which they’re happy with. I am using a very old (PII 300 128 mb RAM) Dell laptop which is built like a tank! I had a Sony and it always seemed fragile.

With all that experience, Dell seems logical. I’m willing to consider anything.

I want a small laptop with a high resolution screen. I’ve looked at the Dell Inspiron E1405 with a 14.1″ screen and the WXGA+ upgrade (1440×900 pixels). Maybe a 12″ screen would be OK too, though I’m not sure I want to give up the pixels (though I’d gladly give up the pounds).

Dell offers loads of choices for the CPU (the ‘brains’ in the package), but there’s very little documentation to actually explain the difference between any two. What’s the difference between a Core Duo, Core 2 Duo and Pentium dual core?

The same goes with the new four flavored Windows Vista. How ‘deep’ into their marketing must I plunge to know which is which? I think Vista Home Premium will be fine – though I’d just as soon use Windows XP (or Linux, if I could get away with it… which I can’t).

Since I do a lot of photo editing, I suppose more memory is better – maybe 2Gb? I really don’t know. I’ve heard varying things on how memory intensive and efficient Vista is.

I am extremely disappointed with Dell’s website. No matter what I enter, I am unsure if I’m getting the best deal! There are always coupon codes listed on websites like FatWallet and Techbargains, but I’ve never seen them really bring the price down. If you add those online discounts, you lose Dell’s seemingly automatic discounts. And, it would seem, no one really pays the posted price.

Also, Dell’s site does a terrible job in explaining the differences in the CPUs that are available. The site has links that promise this info, but fall terribly short.

As a Dell stockholder (minor position in my retirement account) I am disappointed that their website makes the buying process more, not less, confusing! If it’s baffling to me, a knowledgeable power user, how do neophytes know what they’re looking at?

Anyway, advice is being sought. Let the games begin. Aloha.

Thank You For Smoking

Back in college… back in 1968… I did some work at WERS, the Emerson College FM radio station. Among the stranger things I did was occasionally running the control board for “Country at 88.9.”

Go ahead – guess our dial position?

The hosts of that show were Lloyd Roach and Walker Merryman. Lloyd and Walker weren’t your typical Emerson students. Lloyd had already been in the service and was quite politically conservative at a time when most college students were very liberal.

Walker was at least a year old than I was, but seemed (at least at the time) worlds older. I was from New York City. He was from South Dakota. We could not have been more different.

I liked Lloyd and Walker, and I enjoyed the times I was their board op… especially when I got to play Tex Ritter’s country classic, “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette.”

Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette puff puff puff and if you smoke yourself to death

Tell St Peter at the Golden Gate that you hate to make him wait

But you just gotta have another cigarette

Over the years I’ve lost touch with both Lloyd and Walker – except when I’d see Walker on TV as the spokesman for the tobacco industry.

A little about his job, in his own words, from a suit brought on by the State of Minnesota:

Q. Now tell us how is it that you came about to take a position with The Tobacco Institute?

A. Well I became aware of their interest in hiring someone who was familiar with broadcasting and journalism. Friend of mine who ran a job-placement service for the Radio and Television News Directors Association told me of the position. I applied for it, and they asked for a substantial amount of background material on me, which I submitted, and went to Washington then for a personal interview, and subsequently I was hired.

Q. And what were you hired to do?

A. I was hired to respond to inquiries from the news media about issues that The Tobacco Institute addressed on behalf of its member companies.

Q. What kind of media inquiries were you responding to?

A. Well typically a reporter would call and ask for information on tobacco economics, tobacco history, taxation, smoking bans, smoking and health also on occasion. We responded, if we could, if we had the information, to those questions and were in a position of being the spokesman for the industry on those issues on which there was a common position.

He was a very effective spokesman – at least as far as I could see. Always respectful. Always well spoken.

Of course it was the tobacco industry he was speaking for. I’m not sure that’s a job I would have taken.

Steffie and I went to the theater tonight to see “Thank You For Smoking,” a movie about a guy just like Walker Merryman. And, to bring that point home, the opening credits are presented over Tex Ritter singing “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette.!”

Nick Naylor is the tobacco industry’s lobbyist with an ex-wife and a loving son (who speaks a little too much like an adult from time-to-time).

It would be easy to make Naylor into a bad – and isn’t he? He’s defending merchants of death. And yet, it’s not that simple.

Kid #3: My Mommy say smoking is bad for you

Nick Naylor: Oh, is your Mommy a doctor?

Kid #3: No.

Nick Naylor: A scientific researcher of some kind?

Kid #3: No.

Nick Naylor: Well then she’s hardly a credible expert, is she?

This move had a likable personality (if it’s even possible to ascribe that characteristic to a film). And, even when he was doing the work of the devil, it was tough to dislike Naylor or those around him.

There was lots of good acting here, from people you’d expect, like Robert Duvall, William H. Macy and Sam Elliot. Aaron Eckhart (If I’ve seen him before, I don’t remember it) was great as the complex Naylor.

I’d like to be equally generous to Rob Lowe, but I’ve seen this part before – Jeff Megall, an over the top, heartless, soulless, Michael Ovitz wannabe. Though some of the dialog was good, Lowe seemed to be going through the motions.

Jeff Megall: Sony has a futuristic sci-fi movie they’re looking to make.

Nick Naylor: Cigarettes in space?

Jeff Megall: It’s the final frontier, Nick.

Nick Naylor: But wouldn’t they blow up in an all oxygen environment?

Jeff Megall: Probably. But it’s an easy fix. One line of dialogue. ‘Thank God we invented the… you know, whatever device.’

Oh, I now understand what Tom Cruise sees in Katie Holmes. I’m also glad she was fully dressed in her simulated sex scenes with Aaron Eckhart, since I was sitting next to my daughter.

On IMDB this movie get 7.8 stars. That’s a very good number from a tough crowd. I agree. I left the theater satisfied I had seen a very good movie.

One more thing. I smoked for 16 years, from the time I was 18 until my mid-30s. Helaine is the main reason… no, the only reason I quit.

Even when I don’t say it, I thank her every day.

SonyBMG’s Rootkit – Real World Story

I have written a few times about SonyBMG’s rootkit, originally intended to protect songs on their CDs. All my writing has been in the abstract, looking at the whole situation from afar.

Tonight I got this email, and the problem has come closer to home.


I have been reading your blog since you started it. Therefore I thought of you recently when my computer was harmed. I have been online for about 7 years and have had my current computer for 3 years. NO problems with virus’ etc. I have been very careful with my online activity.

Now comes the problem. I am a Neil Diamond fan (no laughing) for at least 30 years. Therefore my husband bought his latest CD “12 Songs” the minute it was released. Not his best but still a good thing after 4 years with no released CD’s. Unbeknown to us this CD was infected with XCP software. I played it in my computer and it disabled my CD and CDRW drives.

I contacted Dell techs (no help). I never mentioned the CD. Next step….I called our computer repair man. He spent two visits eliminating possible reasons for the unresponsive drives. I did tell him that the last CD in the drive was the ND/CD. No problems with my BIOS, drives, motherboard etc. So he determined it was my Windows OS that was corrupted.

Upon starting the repair disk it seemed to be working. NOT– it kept looping. At this point we wanted to return to the computer as it was. Again it wouldn’t allow this.

So Windows had to have a clean install. You know what that means!!!!

Lost all hard drive and software and everything that has been done on this computer for 3 years. Frustration. You bet. I am trying to restore my poor computer one step, one day at a time. What a lot of unnecessary work. I would have expected this from my online time NOT a CD. If I had ANY idea that this was possible I could have prevented this.

We still had no proof that the ND/CD was to blame. Then by chance my husband came across an announcement on the SONY/BMG site that explains the infected CD problem.

All the info is a day late and a dollar short for me and my computer.

All SONY wants to do is replace the CD.

Why has this problem not been more widely shared with the public? It is a huge problem. 52 artists have been affected. has pulled many many CD’s. This IS big news affecting a large part of the music listening population. However I found all of this out too late.

Do you think this is right? And where do you suggest I go from here?

Hope this isn’t too long and will be of some interest to you.

Thank you for any consideration.

Barbara (last name removed)

Seymour, CT

I told Barbara to write our state’s Attorney General. This is the kind of case he often takes.

Truthfully, I don’t know what Sony’s responsibility is, or if there is a responsibility. Obviously, there is real damage and real costs incurred by Barbara.

I don’t know how Sony will deal with it. So far, their position has slowly evolved as if it was being formulated based on response to their last action. I’m not sure there are provisions for the Barbaras of the world… or if there ever will be.

I wonder how Neil Diamond feels about all this?

One More Sony DRM Posting

Sony has recalled all their CDs which contain ‘rogue’ digital rights management software (DRM), but do they really want to get the word out? Maybe yes, maybe no.

The software they installed has a feature which could reach out and touch the users.

As it turns out, there’s a clear solution: A self-updating messaging system already built into Sony’s XCP player. Every time a user plays a XCP-affected CD, the XCP player checks in with Sony’s server. As Russinovich explained, usually Sony’s server sends back a null response. But with small adjustments on Sony’s end — just changing the output of a single script on a Sony web server — the XCP player can automatically inform users of the software improperly installed on their hard drives, and of their resulting rights and choices.

As of now, I have seen nothing to indicate Sony has turned proactive. Maybe this is finally a chance for them to stop the terrible publicity they’ve gotten? Even people who don’t understand what Sony’s done sense something’s not right.

This is fifteen or twenty times as weird as I originally anticipated it would get. What hath Sony wrought?

Texas Sues Sony BMG Over Rootkit

Texan Attorney General Greg Abbott said he filed suit against Sony BMG over rootkit. I guess this was to be expected.

I anticipate this will be one of many suits filed, not only about the installation of this software but also over the use of ‘open software’ within the rootkit without proper permission.

There are many people who don’t want this kind of technology or even more passive forms of digital rights management. I suspect they’re going to try and make any company that is thinking of implementing DRM think twice.

Sony, who probably bought a solution from a vendor without understanding everything it did, has given a textbook demonstration of how not to win friends and influence people.

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More On The Sony DRM Thing

This entry makes the third time I’ve written about Sony’s Digital Rights Management debacle. I need to hold this in check. I don’t want it to appear I’ve got some vendetta against them… especially as I type this on a Sony laptop.

Earlier, it looked like this would become a public relations nightmare for Sony. It still does.

If you’re just joining me on this: First came word that Sony was protecting its music CDs with software that installs on users computers. Then word the software hides itself so even experienced users can’t see it’s there and taps into the deepest depths of Windows where it can affect other programs.

After an early hard line attitude, Sony began to offer limited relief.

Today comes strange and somewhat ironic news. And, again, I’m going to have to explain a little before I go on.

Within the computing environment there are some very good, free programs. The Linux operating system comes to mind as does the Firefox browser. There are loads of others.

Though free, these programs are not without restrictions. In many, you can’t integrate the program into derivative work unless you jump through a few hoops. Source code and object files must be released. A copyright notice must be attached which lays all this out.

It looks like&#185 Sony’s DRM incorporates a free program called LAME. But, Sony complies with none of LAME’s licensing restrictions.

Here’s the irony. Sony is trying to protect its intellectual property from exactly what it is doing to LAME!

Of course Sony is entitled to have full protection of its intellectual property. I just question their heavy handed method of enforcement. And maybe, that adds to my amusement over this latest revelation.

&#185 – Though it looks like Sony is using LAME, I am not personally able to independently confirm this. It has been published by otherwise trustworthy sources, in places where it will be scrutinized. If what I’ve written in later questioned, I’ll try and post that too.

Put A Fork In Sony Music

A few days ago, I wrote about Sony’s DRM&#185 software, packaged on audio CDs, which hides anti piracy files on computers. I thought this would unleash a can of worms. I was underestimating.

Today, an officer with the Department of Homeland Security implied Sony’s tactics could risk lives during an outbreak of Avian Flu. Holy cow! Them’s fighting words.

This is really going to hurt Sony Music and the longer they take to clear it up the more harm it will do.

&#185 – DRM = Digital Rights Management.