ISPs inserting ads on webpages.

I've seen this covered on slashdot and digg but haven't seen many people weigh in on it, so I figured I'd write it up with my opinions.

Back in June, there was a post from someone to thinking he was infected by spyware since he was getting additional ads from a company called "Fair Eagle" inserted on all the pages he visits. After a little analysis he found this happened from his home but not from his office and mentioned that his ISP is MoonOverAddison and it appeared that they were inserting the advertisements. At which point jaiku user Chrisr chimed in with this information:

I noticed this at work and reported it to our IT department who contacted our ISP (Redmoon, who owns MoonOverAddison). Here's what we learned.

Fair Eagle sells a hardware device that sits between the ISP and all customers. It attempts to insert the ad Javascript into all HTTP traffic. Redmoon has purchased this device, intending it for all home customers, however, it lacks any sort of configurability based on IP address so all customers, including business customers leasing T1s from them, are affected.

Redmoon installed this device knowing that the ads would alienate some customers, but not enough to make the device unprofitable.

Very shady.

Some additional research reveled this to be the likely device. Basically this device is a transparent proxy that add advertising to every web pages that passes through it. Basically the ISP becomes a piece of adware which is just slightly out of your reach.

I don't see how this device is anything but a copyright circumvention device. I am writing some AGs in the next couple of days, explaining what the device is, how it effects us and explaining how it violates the DMCA (they gave me the gun, I'm going to try and use it).

Recently, The CS folks over at the University of Washington has an integrity checker which will check your connection and determine if your ISP is adding content and tracking the information for later publication. You should head over there to make sure your ISP is behaving.

Buried in the ISP's TOS, the user is agreeing to allow this to happen, of course. The problem for these ISPs is that they are still breaking the content owner's copyright by creating a derivative work of the webpage. This effects content providers in a number of ways.

If a site is kept in business by advertising the additional ads reduces the odds that someone is clicking on an ad that supports your site, losing potential income. If a site is advertising free either through a subscription model or through social contract, this device makes it appear that the provider is violating that agreement. Vows not to accept advertise from certain businesses or industries are now moot. At the end of the day the ISP makes the profit and we, the content providers, are left holding the bag.

What worries me more then this, is what the ISPs can do next. What prevents them for changing the content owner's adsense id to theirs, or replacing the website's ads with their ads altogether? I have no problem with a user blocking ads (let's face it anyone who goes through the effort to block ads isn't clicking on them anyway), but an ISP replacing them for their own profit is another matter entirely.

I'm planning on writing a drupal module to test of this and report back in the next couple of days (I'm writing the UW folks right now). Hopefully, if enough parties are interested we can get some visibility to this problem.


    Posted: Jul 27, 2007

IT in the Harry Potter universe

OK, this found it's way into my inbox and I thought it was chuckle worthy. It contains no spoilers so don't be alarmed. For the record I didn't write just find this to be more efficient then email.

To: Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster
From: Coxrid, IT director, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Re: My resignation


I regret that I must resign my position, effective two weeks ago, at least.

It is simply impossible under these conditions to create a modern, integrated, flexible IT architecture aligned with the school's educational mission and objectives.

Deployment of the OC-3 fiber backbone met insuperable difficulties, as you know, when the cabling crew was attacked repeatedly by Dementors. Cabling staff rarely are effervescent people in the best of times, and having their life force sucked through their faces by cloaked, shadowy horrors as they lay paralyzed in icy terror is a serious de-motivator.

I may say that your presumably jocular suggestion that the Cisco Certified Network Professional training be modified to include instruction in casting the Patronus Charm was not well received.

As you know, it was considered impractical to deploy CAT5 cable in most areas because of the prevalence of solid granite walls, floors and ceilings and your adamant refusal to consider installing drop-down ceilings - not to mention the difficulties imposed by randomly moving staircases.

But attempts to deploy a wireless LAN have been frustrated by first-form students removing the antennas from the access points, in the conviction that these make superior wands. A conviction that proved immune to a very rigorous, indeed educational, outreach program by the school's able caretaker, Argus Filch.

Of course, this obstacle was dwarfed by the so-called magical-interference problem. Reluctantly, at your request, I did raise this issue in a series of phone calls with Cisco Technical Support.

It quickly became clear that magic was not an issue with which Cisco Tech Support was familiar, even when escalated to the highest level. I patiently explained that, of course it was not magical spells per se that were causing interference, but the transmission of the wizard's (or witch's) energy, via the wand, occasioned by the spells. This explanation was met, variously, by expressions of confusion and outright disbelief and not infrequently, by ridicule.

"This sounds like a spectrum-regulation issue for the FCC," said one Cisco employee, nearly choking in laughter at his own leaden attempt at humor.

A supervisor finally confirmed that Cisco had no plans to modify its radio-frequency management software to detect and compensate for magic, but that I could file a request for change through my Cisco account representative. In retrospect, I believe this, too, was intended as humor.

Even usually mundane issues proved burdensome. Just one example will suffice. One of the main wiring closets was to be the rarely used second-floor girls' bathroom, which when renovated would be an ideal location. Except, of course, for the ghost. Moaning Myrtle's initial flooding of the bathroom resulted in the loss of switches and associated equipment worth in excess of 18,000 galleons. Negotiations proved fruitless in the face of her unceasing moaning and crying, and the
project was abandoned.

Also abandoned was a plan to create a wireless mesh network to cover the outlying Quidditch pitch, when beaters on both teams repeatedly used the mesh nodes as practice targets for their bludgers.

Despite all this, one could have persevered (IT professionals are uncommonly stubborn, which is often mistaken for thickheadness), but for the quite unexpected and even more stubborn resistance by Hogwarts faculty to the introduction of modern technology into the classroom.

I made a thorough and elaborate PowerPoint presentation on the benefits that an online learning management system would deliver for faculty and students (Professor Snape's contemptuous dismissal of it as the work of a "PowerPoint wizard" was uncalled for).

In vain did I describe how online courses could increase the school's revenue stream and achieve profitability goals; the greater flexibility, not to mention safety, of using 3-D online simulations of boggarts instead of the shape-shifters themselves; the desirability of an online potions catalog, cross-referenced with the Ministry of Magic's database of potential side effects; an interactive, voice-automated Parseltongue translation system; a Defense Against the Dark Arts curriculum based on next-generation gaming software; a digital library to replace the heavy, often musty tomes of incantations; and an information security infrastructure to block access by He Who Must Not Be Named.

Yet when Professor of Divination Sybill Trelawney said the proposed IT architecture was "insensitive to the Inner Eye," I realized my efforts were hopeless.

I have done all I can, Headmaster. I'm afraid that despite my best efforts, Hogwarts' IT communications infrastructure will remain dependent on owls, talking letters, the use of Floo powder and a fireplace network, and of course, divinations, dreams and visions.

I am returning (once the full moon is past) to the Muggle world of cellular data services and high-tech IPOs. They at least, appreciate the true magic of information technology.

Your obedient servant,


From: Coxrid, IT director, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

    Posted: Jul 25, 2007

I might be the only one who doesn't like Blackberry email

So, a week back I bought a Blackberry to replace my Treo (lots of posts on it in this forum). I foolishly though that it would help me manage my email better, I have some mixed results.

I have 2 major email accounts. One is an exchange hosted email account at my main client's site. The other is my corporate / personal email account hosted on an IMAP server.

The email with my client is great. Blackberry + BES seems to be a powerful tool. Up until now I have been unable to receive mail remotely from these folks so it's nice not to have to know what's happening before I get in in the morning.

My personal email is another matter. I get a lot of email a day (a few hundred non-spam messages). Up until now I have used Chattermail on the treo to give me full IMAP support on the device. In addition to writting, reading and responding to messages, I've been able to sort and file messages. My inbox is usually a todo list. Once I've acted on an email I don't want it in the inbox, but archived in an appropriate folder. At this point, none of this seems to work on BIS. I seem to be doing double duty on my email.

So, a question to all of you, other then getting you mail fast, what is the appeal of blackberry email?

    Posted: Jul 25, 2007

An Open Letter Regarding NYC's Proposed Changes To Permit Requirements for Photography

Edit4 8/1/2007 - There is a protest in Union square tomorrow 8/2/2007 from 11:30 AM til 2PM. Look here for more info.

Edit3: Followup article here (

Edit2: 7/30/2007 Obviously I cut and paste my rough draft in here (I know I corrected the affect / effect thing before sending the final draft). When I get home I'll replace it with the final draft (there were some other changes in there I want to include).

Edit: 7/30/2007 I have made this sticky for the rest of the week to bring attention to the issue.

Recently, the Mayor's Office of Film and Broadcasting proposed new rules regarding photographers. The proposed rules would require a permit for "activity involving a tripod and a crew of 5 or more people at one site for 10 minutes or more" (the 10 minutes include the time to set up the tripod) or or the same activity among two people at a single site for more than 30 minutes. The permit process also requires the photographer to carry 1 million dollars in liability insurance. Although the city believes that this is rare for "recreational" photographers, most amateurs I know would require a permit a good percentage of the time.


I know this has been floating around for a while. I have intentionally held back on this, knowing that the cutoff for feed back was August 3, 2007. If you know about this and was planning on writing, this is a friendly reminder. If you are new to this, get involved. Write Katherine Oliver, Commissioner, Mayor's Office of Film and Broadcasting here: tell her your personal stories where this will effect you. Here is the letter that I am posting on this subject.

An Open Letter To Katherine Oliver, Commissioner, Mayor's Office of Film and Broadcasting, Regarding The Proposed Changes To Permit Requirements for Photography

Ms. Oliver:

I am writing in reference to the proposed changes to permit requirements for photography on public property. The proposed rules, as I understand them, would require a permit for "activity involving a tripod and a crew of 5 or more people at one site for 10 minutes or more" (the 10 minutes include the time to set up the tripod) or or the same activity among two people at a single site for more than 30 minutes. The permit process also requires the photographer to carry 1 million dollars in liability insurance.

I understand that it is important for the city to draw a line between amateur and professional photographers. I have often been mistaken for a "professional" solely because I use a low-end SLR camera. However this rule does little to make that separation and effects a good number of New Yorkers (as well as tourists). Let me tell you some of the ways this will affect me.

About once or twice a month, myself and a few friends will get together, walk through the Central Park and photograph the sights. We often wind up taking photos of some of the musicians and sporting events that one runs across in the park, sometimes spending up to an hour shooting these spontaneous events.

I am involved with a number of groups through the photography / social networking website flickr ( Often we'll get together to shoot areas and events in the city. Now these informal gatherings will require permits and insurance, something that will probably limit participation.

My family has a tradition. Sometime in the fall, near my mother's birthday, we go out to a city park and take an annual family photo. As the family has grown, this has become more of a production (each of my brother's has a family of his own, the grandchildren all get individual pictures taken, etc). Of course, as I want to be in some of the photos there is a tripod involved.

I understand that none of this is what you intended when this rule was proposed; however the rule as written effects each of these activities. Even if you do not intend to enforce this rule this way, there's no guarantee that future administrations won't enforce it this way. I implore you to take another look at this rule and find a way so that it doesn't affect the amateur photographers.

I will be posting a copy of this letter on my website,

Thank You for Your Time,

Sean P Reiser

8/1/2007 - There is a protest in Union square tomorrow 8/2/2007 from 11:30 AM til 2PM. Look here for more info.

    Posted: Jul 23, 2007

Why I switched to Blackberry.

OK, been using my blackberry for about a week now. Some folks have been asking me questions so I'll answer some of them.

Why are you switching away from the Palm?

To start with understand this is not an easy change for me. I've been a PalmOS user for over a decade. I have an original Pilot 1000 (monochrome, no backlight and a whoppin' 128K of RAM) which I used back in 1996. Since then I've moved with palm through the III, to a 5x,a Visor, a Clie and to 2 Treos (a 600 and a 700p). With the exception of a 6 month period where I used a WindowsCE machine, because a client required it, I have used PalmOS exclusively since 1996 and I really like the simplicity of the device. I have written applications for Palms, and have enjoyed using them.

However, the lack of any real change in PalmOS, and the Treos over the last few years, have driven me to looking elsewhere. I've been bored with the platform. I'm used to buying a new toy every year, the last couple of toys have not been anything exciting. I'm also concerned for the long term health of Palm. The lack of innovation really have me concerned with the future of the platform.

I know Palm has a Linux version of PalmOS in the works and when it's finished out and stable, I'll reevaluate my decision. I just don't want to wait another year or 2 until Palm has released something interesting.

Why not an iPhone?

I've been rather public on my thoughts on the iPhone. But here they are, in writing.

First off, I won't use a version 1.0 product for any mission critical product (my phone is rather important to me and my business). I'm an Apple fanboi but not insane.

Secondly, until the iPhone can replace my iPod, I'm not really interested in it. The Music, Podcasts, and Videos I carry daily can't fit in 8 Gig. If Apple had released one with at least 40Gigs of storage. I would've been more tempted.

On the third hand, I really need to be able to change the battery on my phone. When I travel, I like to carry a spare battery so I can swap them in an emergency. Especially, if the iPhone is also my media player, I can't drain my batteries listening to a podcast and be unable to make a phone.

Fourthly, GSM. I travel domestically often for business and this country still has better CDMA coverage then GSM. Someday that will change, and I'll gladly switch with them.

Lastly, AT&T rivals Verizon as my least favorite cellular provider. My feelings for these companies go back years to when I had to use them for landlines. I don't like giving money to them and avoid it at all costs.

How about a Windows Smartphone?

Most of the Windows Smartphones I've worked with seem to be trying to be a PC in your pocket instead of a "window to your PC". I really buy into the "Zen of Palm" attitude, these devices should do less and do it efficiently, smartphones seem to do a lot more but do it inefficiently.

So, why the Blackberry?

My primary use for a cell phone is as a data device. I receive email, surf the web, and use SMS. I need access to my appointments and contacts. Making phone calls is not as important. I've always been curious how email works on these devices so I thought this was a good excuse to spread my wings and take a look at this.

    Posted: Jul 22, 2007

Swtiching from Palm to Blackbery - Day 1

So, now that Sprint's managed to provision my phone, I've been able to really play with my Blackberry for about a day. Here are my initial reactions.

The 8830 is a sexy unit. It's thinner then my Treo was, remarkably so. I don't need the camera phone so that's not a loss. The keyboard is something I have to get used to. Probably another day or so. The screen is beautiful, nice bright. It washes out a bit in full sunlight, but I can live with that. It feels good in my hand and is a solid little device.

Using the Blackberry OS is an interesting change. I've been using PalmOS based devices for over 10 years now, so I've gotten used to interacting directly with the screen. I find myself touching the screen and looking for the stylus from time to time. I'm sure the trackball will become second nature to me in no time, but for today it's annoying.

I'm still getting the hang of email on the device. Although I get it faster, I'm not sure I like the implementation. Using chattermail on my palm I was able to do more the read and reply to the message. I was sorting into folders, etc to keep the messages in my inbox low. I still haven't found a way to do this on the BB yet (I'm sure it's there, just don't know where).

So, with cautious optimism I head into day 2. Don't know if this will stick. Although I've given away the Palm so if it doesn't it'll be another toy for me.

    Posted: Jul 18, 2007

Wifi on mass transit - Good Thing or the end of the last bastion of serenity?

Engadget is running a story about Hong Kong installing wifi on their mass transit system. I don't want to sound like a luddite here but I'm not sure it's a good thing.

My ride to and from work is the only part of my day where I am truly detached from the world. With Wifi and cell service in the city I am available to folks all day long, from morning til night. I use the time when I commute to reboot the mind and get set for the rest of the day, I'm sure I'm not the only one.

This generation is the first generation that has less personal time then the one before it. Gone are the days of the 40 hour work weeks; 50-60 hours are now the norm. Gone is the idea of a corporation training an employee to advance, if you're not spending your nights preparing for advancement you're not going to advance. Gone are the days of leaving the office behind you on vacation, there have been numerous articles on the topic of people checking their email and voicemail and actually working on their vacations. This is the reason I've become a consultant to be honest, employees are treated like consultants with health benefits.

To me there are 2 places to detach from the world. One is Mass Transit. The other is and airplane (don't get me started on cell service on an airplane... it's another rant). Please don't take them away from me.

    Posted: Jul 17, 2007

Spam, Spam Spam Spam Spam!

Most of my spam gets filtered for me (I've spent a lot of time setting things up so I don't have to see spam). However one got through today and this was at the bottom of it:

Privacy Policy - Terms and Conditions of this Email:
This notice outlines the privacy policies associated with his Email. By clicking any image and/or text link in this Email (excluding the removal link), you are accepting the practices described in this Privacy Policy. As such, you are representing that you have the authority and are authorizing [link removed] and/or any of its business associates to contact you via email, postal mail, or telephonically with information stored in the [link removed] database.
Changes to the Privacy Policy:
We reserve the right to change the terms of this Privacy Policy at any time. We encourage you to check the Privacy Policy in each new email sent to you regularly. Your continued use of our email service following any changes to this Privacy Policy will constitute your acceptance of such changes. This privacy policy was last amended on October 9th, 2006.
Personal Information and IP Address:
Each time you view and/or click any image or text link in a [link removed] sponsored email, our web server automatically recognizes your IP address and contact information. Your IP address is used to help us identify and gather broad demographic information about you. We also use your IP address and contact information to help diagnose problems with our servers, pre-populate [link removed] administered Web Sites, and to better serve you in using the features associated with our email service.
View Complete Policy Here.
Contacting Us About Privacy Questions Or Concerns:
If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please email us at [link removed], or by sending a letter to:
Privacy, P.O. Box 425 , Newark, NJ, 07199

note: I have removed links to the website.

Now, I'm not a lawyer but, if I click the link to view the complete policy I'm agreeing to it, right? And by privacy, you mean lack of privacy, right. Maybe it's because I don't see much spam anymore but I'm surprised that they have Terms and Conditions. What's next "By reading this email, you agree to send us 1 Billion Dollars"? Hey, I should try that!

    Posted: Jul 17, 2007

Problems with Sprint - Resolved

OK Mystically, the service book just got pushed to the blackberry. It's up and running, don't know why. I'll call Sprint tomorrow to get them to refund my time without service.

    Posted: Jul 16, 2007