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  • On May 29, 2013

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Fresh From delicious today

Explorations in manipulation: Scams in security testing
I’d add that it’s impossible to do good security testing at scale without using automated security testing tools and services and understanding the value they can bring.

Fresh From delicious today

Explorations in manipulation: Scams in security testing
I’d add that it’s impossible to do good security testing at scale without using automated security testing tools and services and understanding the value they can bring.

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Fresh From delicious today

Explorations in manipulation: Scams in security testing
I’d add that it’s impossible to do good security testing at scale without using automated security testing tools and services and understanding the value they can bring.

Fresh From delicious today

Listening Room 7 – Harvard Glee Club Foundation: Long may continue our unity and joy!
Very cool–a bunch of recordings from Don Loach’s Glee Club in 1978 at the Harvard Festival of Men’s Choruses. This is the one where someone walked up to Loach afterward asking which label the Club was on and was shocked to learn that they didn’t have a record deal.

Fresh From delicious today

Think your Skype messages get end-to-end encryption? Think again | Ars Technica
Skype isn’t private. News at 11.

Fresh From delicious today

Stanford Topic Modeling Toolbox
GUI wrapped text mining software that takes a feed from Excel or other data files, is scriptable in Scala, and otherwise is kind of very cool.

Welcome, Andris Nelsons

Boston Globe: BSO names Andris Nelsons music director, succeeding James Levine. An exciting day. I sang with Nelsons last summer at Tanglewood in a deeply felt (if a little idiosyncratic) performance of Symphony of Psalms. I also watched him conduct the BSO in a spine tingling version of Ravel’s La Valse that was easily the best musical moment of the Tanglewood anniversary concert. Can’t wait to sing with him again.

Careless Love: The Virginia Glee Club in the 1950s

Glee Club 1956 promo acetate

There’s not a lot to say about the Virginia Glee Club in the later 1950s, seemingly. The group lost one of its more influential directors, Stephen Tuttle, to Harvard in 1952, and saw two directors alternate during the remaining years. There were tours, sure; legend has it there were even panty raids on other campuses. But no LP survives from the period between 1952 for almost 20 years; no big commissioned work exists; nothing remains but a bunch of concert programs.

Except this. The image above is of an acetate recording that was made as a promo record and sent to radio stations. Seems that Donald MacInnis didn’t spend much time with his group recording because they spent time trying to get on live radio. We know they were broadcast on WTVR radio, probably as a result of this acetate.

(Aside: an “acetate” is actually made of aluminum—or, in the WWII years, glass—coated with a thin layer of lacquer. You could cut one live, and some did, but you could also copy prerecorded music onto it. It was common to use acetates for promotional recordings when the number of playbacks was unlikely to be high. You can see the aluminum under the black lacquer of this disk around the hole of the record.)

The repertoire on the disk is interesting, too. The Bach is pretty straightforward, but it’s followed up by a downright woozy version of “Careless Love,” and then by MacInnis’s own version of Tom Lehrer’sThe Hunting Song.” I’m trying to imagine that on a Glee Club program today. In fact, I’d pay money to see this paean to hunting, in which the protagonist bags 7 hunters, two game wardens, and a cow, on a modern day program.

It’s a fun recording, albeit short, at around 6 and a half minutes. 

We’ve moved!

After a really good run with Weblogger, Jarrett House North is no longer hosted there. The team there is now focusing on things other than WordPress hosting, and I’ve moved on accordingly. I wish them all the best–Erin Clerico has been great to work with, and I know the new endeavors there will be successful.

I’ve moved to page.ly, who seem on first blush to have the right balance between ease of use and security — at least they mention security in their service description, unlike some of the other WordPress hosting leaders that are out there. The transition has been interesting, and something I did with one of my plugins seems to have dropped a lot of my posts on the floor–the autoposts from FriendFeed, so nothing really lost there. But we’re up and running.

And maybe this will be the kick I need to start writing some more. I’ve got a lot to talk about, so stay tuned.

New mix: my love invented all of you

This has been building for a bit. I had more work to do on it, then I thought it was done. Then I heard the last two songs side by side and realized they were the perfect coda. So it’s a little longer than CD length. Oh well…

  1. The Empty PageSonic Youth (Murray Street)
  2. Rock And RollLed Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin Remasters)
  3. Don’t CareKlark Kent (Klark Kent)
  4. What Difference Does It Make?The Smiths (Hatful Of Hollow)
  5. Manta RayPixies (Complete ‘B’ Sides [UK])
  6. Carry Me OhioSun Kil Moon (Ghosts Of The Great Highway)
  7. Vengeance Is SleepingNeko Case (Middle Cyclone (Bonus Track Version))
  8. Back Of A CarBig Star (#1 Record – Radio City)
  9. Just Like HeavenThe Cure (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me)
  10. Space (I Believe In)Pixies (Trompe Le Monde)
  11. Lick the Palm of the Burning HandshakeZola Jesus (Conatus)
  12. Gravity’s AngelLaurie Anderson (Mister Heartbreak)
  13. Water BabiesMiles Davis (The Columbia Years 1955-1985)
  14. Working For The ManPJ Harvey (To Bring You My Love)
  15. Lil Wallet PictureRichard Buckner (Richard Buckner)
  16. In the Devil’s TerritorySufjan Stevens (Seven Swans)
  17. I Don’t RecallLavender Diamond (Incorruptible Heart)
  18. Dawned On MeWilco (The Whole Love)
  19. Morpha TooBig Star (#1 Record – Radio City)
  20. Kiss Me On The BusThe Replacements (Tim [Expanded Edition])
  21. DauðalognSigur Rós (Valtari)
  22. End of the LineSleigh Bells (Reign of Terror)

Nowel

2012 card alternate

I wanted to use this for our Christmas card this year, but wiser heads overruled. So here it is for posterity. Physical card recipients, we’re a little late but should have cards out in the first week of the new year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Cousin Frantz

NewImage

As these things tend to go, my Virginia Glee Club history project has ebbs and flows. Sometimes there’s not a lot to write about; sometimes there’s too much. Like this past week, when I nailed down the identity of a few presidents of the Glee Club and discovered one was a third cousin.

I should have known that when I found someone named Frantz Hershey, he would turn out to be a relative. It turns out that not only do I know him, I have him in my genealogy. Ezra Frantz Hershey, Jr. was the president of the Glee Club in 1938–1939; he was also the son of E.F. Hershey, first cousin of Milton Hershey and treasurer of the Hershey Chocolate Company for over 40 years. Frantz is therefore my third cousin, twice removed.

As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.

I also confirmed Dan Vincent and Thad Polk as presidents of the Club in 1984-85 and 1985-86, thanks to a newly available Cavalier Daily article that showed up in Google News since the last time I checked. Surprisingly, even with those discoveries, I know less about the 1980s presidents than almost any other decade: I’m still missing information about 1980–81, 1981–82, and 1986–87. Always more work to do…

Whither iTunes Plus upgrades (again)

A while ago I wrote about how Apple’s offer to upgrade previously purchased music to iTunes Plus, their “drm-lite” offering that raised recording quality and eliminated copy restrictions, had gone missing.

At that point the issue appeared to be faulty infrastructure, since the link was sometimes available and since you could hit the page directly if you bookmarked it.

Today, it looks like the page may be gone for good. I haven’t seen it in the store in several weeks, and the bookmark now returns a “Could not complete the iTunes Store request” popup.

While I’m not entirely surprised—the promotion has been running for what, four years?—I’m disappointed. Because this is what I see in my smart playlist that contains the old, “FairPlay” encrypted, DRMed iTunes Store downloads:

671items

That’s right. 671 tracks, in about 178 albums, that were never made available for upgrade through the iTunes Plus page. I know, because every time something was made available in Plus, I paid the 30 cents per track or $3 per album to get my music out of DRM jail.

So my question to Apple is: what happened? Did the rest of the music never get “plussed” because of the labels? Or did you just forget?

I’ve read some speculation that iTunes Match is the new “upgrade to iTunes Plus”. If so, I’m still out of luck, because I have more than 25,000 songs in my library—all purchased legally, I might add, though some came from eMusic or Amazon, or were ripped from CDs or vinyl that I own.

So let’s see: I’m stuck with a bunch of DRMed music that I can’t unDRM, contrary to Apple’s iTunes Plus promises, and I can’t take advantage of the other legal path offered to me because I’ve been too good a music customer.

Is it any wonder that people just say “screw it” and download music for free?

Default to the right thing.

One of the things that makes me nuts is when a product gets the default settings wrong and makes me do work to make it do the right thing.

This happens more often than you’d think. Example 1: the stereo in my new car. I love the GTI for a lot of things, including the ride and the compactness of it. But I am really growing to dislike the way they did the stereo. Why? The default behavior when I turn on the car. It should remember that when I turned it off I was listening to music through the phone (either Bluetooth or the dock connector) and go back to that channel. But it doesn’t. Instead, its logic seems to be:

  1. There’s nothing on the dock connector!
  2. There’s nothing on Bluetooth!
  3. So let’s go back to the other thing we were listening to–the satellite radio.

Except, the reason there’s nothing on Bluetooth is that it takes about 30–45 seconds to pair a phone with the car, and the designers surely knew that. So why wouldn’t they just have step 2 wait for a while? That way I wouldn’t have to fiddle with the settings every time I get in the car.

(Why don’t I just plug the phone into the dock connector before I start the car? That works for about 30–45 seconds; then when the Bluetooth connection is established, the phone gets confused and stops playing back through the dock connector!)

The problem with this scenario is that it’s not obvious when you look at any of these pieces that they’re wrong. When you consider the component level, any of a number of choices look like they could be the right one. It’s only when you stitch them all together, and think about how the user would use them, that the right behavior becomes apparent.

I’m pretty sure there’s a product management law that describes this principle, something like don’t make me do more work than I have to. But it’s astonishing to me how often people, and products, get it wrong.

Breaking silence

My posting on this blog has deteriorated even from my low standards of the past few years. The blog made it to 10; it might not make it to 15.

I still love writing, and I’m not closing a door here any time soon. But I should probably acknowledge what is increasingly obvious: my energy, passion, and time are being spent elsewhere.

There’s a few reasons for that. My work at Veracode has grown increasingly to consume my better energies and thoughts. That’s good; where there were parts of it that used to be unrewarding, things are now at a point where I can take my whole energy and apply it and see a difference being made. I’m heading a group now and relearning the challenges, and rewards, of managing people as well as products. 

The other big reason is my family. I have two kids now, and staying ahead of them means using my whole energy and intellect at home too. And that’s turning out to be rewarding in ways I couldn’t have dreamed seven years ago. 

But… I still miss writing. So maybe I’ll start to make a little room at the edges for drafting my thoughts into words, maybe trying to make sense of some of the things I’m working on. It’s good practice for speaking sensibly and well, and it’s good to exercise those muscles more often. We’ll see.