Restaurant Review: Captain Fishbones (Quincy, MA)

Cindy and I decided to head to Captain Fishbones tonight after work. Capt. Fishbones is located in the Marina Bay area north of Wollaston Beach in Quincy, MA. Parking can be scarce on the weekends, but on a Tuesday night it was not a problem. Located directly on the marina boardwalk, it sports a nice view of the marina. Unfortunately, the enclosed dining area isn’t high enough up to really see out into the bay past the ships. But overall, the ambiance is comfortable and pleasant. There is an outdoor area with gas space heaters, but since it was fairly cool and foggy this evening, we stuck to the indoor dining.

The menu included a nice variety of fresh seafood leavened with traditional burgers, chicken, and pasta fare for the land-lubbers. They also have a selection of beers, wine, and cocktails (we stuck to water tonight though). Cindy ordered the fried whole clams with coleslaw and I went with one of the specials, a blackened swordfish steak served on a Caesar salad. The service was quick and friendly and everything looked great when it arrived.

(Despite the fact that I was talking with Cindy about taking a picture of the food when it arrived, I took a bite of mine before I remembered to photograph it. Sorry. 😉 )

Cindy’s clams were good with little to no grit – I think she only complained about sand in one of them out of the whole plate. This is a marked improvement over our experiences at Legal Seafoods. For some reason, those guys at Legal can’t get the hang of washing grit out of shellfish. But I digress… Cindy’s coleslaw was a mild sweet-cream based slaw, something she’s had no experience with and thus didn’t particularly enjoy. I thought it was delicious (although I tend towards enjoying a hint of mustard in cream based coleslaws). It would make a good side dish choice for anyone trying to avoid spicy foods though.

My swordfish was excellent – cooked to a perfect temperature and seasoned with just the right bite. I’m always nervous when ordering “blackened” fish in the north – while this wasn’t up to true Cajun standards, it was still very well executed. The salad was adorned with hearty dark croutons and a well executed Caesar dressing. I’d had the option of adding anchovy fillets, but they turned out to be a little too much salt for my taste. If you’re into anchovies, they appeared to be of good quality and were certainly tasty.

The pricing was not outrageous – total price for our dinner with water to drink was $27 (pre-tip). Bear in mind that my salad was only priced at $8 – which was amazing because that swordfish steak was not particularly small. So a typical two-entree dinner should run about $36-40, well within budget for a good seafood meal. Lobster and other market priced seafood was available, but I didn’t check the rates.

Overall, I’d recommend Captain Fishbones to anyone interested in some quality dining in the Quincy area. Their website also features a entertaining little flash animation (I’m not normally in favor of splash screens on websites, but this one got a chuckle). Check it out if you’re in town!

Captain Fishbones
332 Victory Road
North Quincy, MA 02171

phone: 617-471-3511

Hypocrisy Watch: Internet Monitoring

Apparently Senators Schumer and Graham are upset enough about Iran’s efforts to monitor it’s citizens’ Internet activities that they want to ban Seimens and Nokia from future contracts with the federal government. According to Graham…

“The Internet has proven to be one of the strongest weapons in the hands of the Iranian people seeking freedom and trying to chart a new destiny for their country. Companies that provide technology to the Iranian regime to control the Internet must be forced to pay a heavy price.”

Why aren’t the Senators going after NSA’s activities in the Pinwale program with the same fervor? Or is it only wrong to meddle with the Internet when you’re not the US government?

The IMAX Experience

Cindy was still feeling sick today, so we decided to skip the Phantom Gourmet BBQ Contest at Suffolk Downs. Instead we went to Olive Garden for lunch and then drove cross town to the Jordan Furniture IMAX theater to see Transformers 2: Rise of the Fallen. Needless to say we were both pumped to see this in IMAX. When we started out, Cindy asked me if I wanted to try to buy tickets online (on the iPhone) before we got there. I told her “No, I’m sure they won’t be sold out for a 2:00 showing.”

Jordan's Furniture IMAX

So, we arrived there and we’re both excited and everything, and then as we got up to the door, I saw the worse poster possible…

Transformers 2 - Sold Out

So, after I ate some crow pie, we decided we might as well go in and check out the mall. Neither of us had been there before, and it turns out it was very kid oriented. There was a giant animatronic Wally (the Red Sox mascot) eating a New York Yankee…

Wally

and a water fountain that had changing light and water patterns to mesmerize the kids…

Trippy Water Spouts

and a “trapeze school” for the adults who wanted to get on a trapeze for 2 minutes and get their picture taken…

Trapeze School

After taking in the sights at Jordan Furniture, we headed back across town to the theater we normally frequent – with Cindy buying tickets online this time. The movie was… a Michael Bay movie. Unencumbered by character development, it made up for it’s theatrical shortcomings by having lots of robots, explosions, and Megan Fox. Also, Linkin Park’s new song is feature in the sound track as well. Cindy and I both liked the movie (although I’m probably more critical of the movie’s theatrical shortcomings than she is).

After the movie, we headed back to the hotel. Apparently the mystery fog bank that had enveloped downtown Boston while the suburbs enjoyed sunshine had decided it was time to move south and drown Quincy as well. Thus ended our day…

Ninja Fog Attack

Clearly Screwed

The Clear Registered Traveler program was a service that basically collected a bunch of information about you, ran a background check, then gave you a card that let you skip to the front of the security line at 20 airports around the country. Since Dulles International Airport was one of them, I signed up for the card a little over a year ago. I’d had good experiences with it, and renewed it for $179 in May this year.

Then on June 22nd, Clear abruptly announced that they were closing operations effective immediately. (News which I learned about via Twitter before I learned about it from Clear’s customer service email. Viva la revolution!) The first order of business was to call American Express and dispute the charge from Clear. Clear has since announced that they won’t be issuing refunds due to the “financial condition of the company”. (In other words, they be broke.) This is why you should always use a credit card for purchases, kids. It’s a lot easier to dispute a charge on a credit card than a debit card.
Anyway, the more disturbing thing about the Clear closure is that they have a huge amount of personal information about their customers – iris photos, fingerprints, names, addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, etc. It’s really their most valuable asset – to a prospective purchaser or to a hacker. I reviewed their privacy policy again the day I found out about the closure, and it seems to indicate that they can’t sell the data. But as this Wired article points out, the policy isn’t explicit about what happens if the company is liquidated or acquired.

So now I’m wondering if I should try to get an injunction against them transferring all my personal information to a third party… Good luck with that, right?

Ironic… no wait…

I was going to use “irony” in this post, but since everyone always complains about misuse of that word (we’re talking about you Alanis), I thought I would double-check the definition. It seemed suspiciously close to sarcasm, so I looked up the definition for it as well. Turns out sarcasm is “irony with the intent to cause pain.” Huh. Who knew? So all those times I was being sarcastic w/ my friends, at least 50% of the time it was actually irony. What a crazy world. Anyway, back to the point of this post… (which apparently isn’t ironic – glad I looked that up!)

Since this isn’t “ironic”, I guess it’s in the category of stupidity… Why are companies so stupid? Seriously… Now that I’m a small business owner, these seem like obvious things not to do?

  • Give your employees security awareness training about things like don’t go to websites with invalid certificates and how to avoid running untrusted mobile code (like Java applets). Then, setup your company webmail with an invalid SSL certificate and include a Java applet with an invalid signature.
  • Setup a multimillion dollar project to sell your client a document management system. But put all your internal project documentation on a file share, then email copies around to get edits, and have no internal document management practices or tools.
  • Tell everyone you’re in a cost cutting mode and that they need to share rental cars and try to reduce costs. But don’t setup a telework arrangement even though you’re spending $100k per month on travel for the team. And you have the equipment and expertise to setup a telework VPN with minimal effort or investment.

Got any other examples?

Not funny

Me: I’ll set you up with FTP access to my website so you can hack on it.
Cindy: Isn’t that illegal?
Me: I’m using ‘hack’ in the traditional sense of making something work.
Cindy: You mean the old sense? Hahaha
Me: Yeah….
Cindy: Well, I definitely wouldn’t know that one!
FML
— Post From My iPhone

Dreams

Last night I went to sleep listening to Jon Hopkins’ song Light Through the Veins on endless loop. I picked it up a few months back when it was featured on the Free iTunes Songs blog. It’s a very mellow electronica song that I’ve enjoyed, and I occassionally like to leave music on when I sleep.

But last night, I repeatedly had the most vivid dreams – dreams that I actually woke up remembering! I don’t normally remember my dreams, so to remember not just one but three when I woke up was really unusual. Maybe the music was stimulating my brain?!? Have you had more vivid dreams when listening to music at night?

iPhone: A Polished Turd

My last smart phone – a Sprint Mogul – finally died a few months back. So I found myself facing the decision – to iPhone or not to iPhone? I decided to take the plunge, and Cindy and I ended up with two brand new iPhone 3G phones (a few months before the iPhone 3G S came out… of course….).

Since I’m not a Apple fanboy, I didn’t automatically cream my pants when touching my iPhone for the first time. As a matter of fact, I quickly came to find it had a number of shortcomings compared to my several year old Windows Mobile based Sprint Mogul. I eventually did find some of the strengths of the iPhone as well. But now that the much anticipated iPhone OS 3.0 is out I’m more convinced than ever that iPhone is really just a well polished turd. Let me list a few reasons why before you Apple fanboys slash my tires…

  1. You pay for hardware you aren’t actually using. The iPhone 3G camera was capable of recording video. If you jailbreak it, you actually can record video. And yet even with the release of OS 3, video recording is not supported on the 3G. It is supported on the 3G S, but guess what? Same deal – the 3G S camera hardware could record HD video, but Apple only allows you to record VGA video.
  2. Apple supplied apps look good, but actually have usability flaws. Bad usability flaws. Usability flaws that a college undergrad software engineer could find and fix. Two illustrations: First, mail account navigation is stupid when you have multiple accounts. To check the inboxes in my two accounts on my iPhone requires 6 taps after starting the mail app. In Windows Mobile, it took 2. This was a known complaint in OS 2 and nothing was done to improve it in OS 3. Second example, the new voice memo app. It looks really slick, and the developers even took the time to make the signal meter jump if you “tap” the picture of the microphone. But the damn record/pause/stop buttons are so small, I can’t reliably hit them without concentrating on the screen. News flash, I want a voice memo app so I can record thoughts while driving, when I can’t safely look at the screen to type. What I need is a big record/pause/stop button, not a artistic rendition of a mic that takes up 80% of my screen. Want to record a voice memo in Windows Mobile? All I had to do was hold down the memo button on the phone, listen for the beep and start talking.
  3. Photo management is non-existent. This was another area that was desperately in need of work in OS 3 and got nothing. I can have folders for my photos, but I have to copy the photos to my laptop and organize them there then sync them back to the iPhone. What? Are you serious? Apple apparently spent a year working on cut-n-paste but couldn’t devote a month to coding this functionality. So my Photos app continues to be nothing but a huge long linear stream of photos in a timeline. If I’m going to load them on my laptop, I’m not going to bother to organize them and sync them back to my iPhone. I’ll just tag them and send them to Flickr, thank you very much.
  4. No Task List. Again, I can only say “Seriously?” This is supposed to be a “business savvy” smart phone and you don’t support a task list of some sort?
  5. No file management and no business apps. So now I have a 16GB device, but I can’t load files on it? Of course, I can always email my documents to myself and then open them in email. *cough* *hack* *cough* But even if I do that, I can’t edit anything. Again, Windows Mobile has had a “Mobile Office” suite for years. It’s not as powerful as the real thing, but at least I can put together a spreadsheet when I need to. Of course, for $99 a year, you can get Apple’s MobileMe service which is reportedly going to start offering the ability to send files to your iPhone via the me.com website. But you still can’t edit your docs…
  6. No Adobe Flash for Safari. I was surprised it wasn’t in the original iPhone, amazed it wasn’t in the iPhone 3G and just stunned that it hasn’t been added to OS 3. Please, someone at Adobe and/or Apple, get your heads out of your asses!

So, given that I have some major issues with the iPhone 3G, am I ready to chuck it out a window? Not really. Just like the iPod, the iPhone really has done some revolutionary and great things. It’s just that those things aren’t really technical! But here’s an obligatory list of what I see as the iPhone’s strong points, just to present a little balance to my opinion.

  1. App Store. Part of what you have to admire about Apple is that they don’t really sell products, they sell integrated systems. Before the iPhone, no one had a marketplace like the App Store. Personally, I think the slick integration of the App Store directly with the phone is the single biggest reason for it’s success.
  2. GPS integration. Other phones have GPS, but Apple really pushed the concept of integrated location awareness for both native apps and for third party development. Geotagged photos, Zagat To Go, and with iPhone OS 3 Safari extends the location awareness possibilities to websites and not just apps. Very cool.
  3. Social media integration is really stellar. Not much I can do to explain this one – if you use social media (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter) the iPhone has you covered.
  4. Camera quality is really quite good for a phone. The Windows Mobile phones seem to have universally shitty camera hardware and the iPhone still takes mediocre photos at best, but it’s a big step up from the Mogul.
  5. Seamless data network usage. On the prior smart phones I’ve used, you had to connect the data network and disconnect it when doing Internet Stuff. Apple and AT&T really went the extra mile to make the network experience seamless on the iPhone.
  6. Web rendering is excellent. Safari may not be perfect, but it does the best job of any mobile browser I’ve seen, bar none!

Should you buy an iPhone? Honestly, I’m not sure what else is on the market that would convince you not to. Blackberries didn’t impress me and I haven’t played with a Palm Pre enough to judge it. If you’re a business user, you might want to at least shop around. If you’re a social media or mobile game junky, stop wasting time reading blogs and just go buy one already.

The Corruption of Security Culture by Twitter

So, one of the big attack modes in computer security these days is “phishing”. Phishing is when someone induces a victim to disclose a username & password (or other important identity information) using something that appears to be a valid website. For example, someone might setup a fake Bank of America website, then email that link to thousands of people asking them to login and confirm their account. Even if only 1% of the recipients falls for the trick, the attacker gets access to hundreds or thousands of bank accounts.

One of the most important countermeasures to this attack is user education. Organizations have spent lots of money trying to educate users that they should never disclose their password to another site. Things as simple as never opening links from an email and verifying the “SSL Lock” icon on your browser are cornerstones to this process. But more importantly, users should never give their password to a site with the wrong URL. In our example above, if the link in the email goes to http://bankofamerica.com@geocities.com/~spammer/fake_login.html, the goal of user education is to get the user to stop and say “Hey, that doesn’t look right….” In fact, social media pioneer MySpace spent a lot of time and effort combating these exact types of attacks through user education efforts on their login screens and banners.

That brings us to Twitter. There appears to be a whole universe of Twitter related tools and websites that ask you to use your Twitter username and password to access their services. This is a bad idea! First, in the specific instance, we are building up a huge body of websites with access to our Twitter accounts – a break in at any of them could result in massive compromise of Twitter accounts, regardless of Twitter’s policies and security controls.

But more importantly, Twitter’s importance to the “youngins” means that we’re now raising a whole new generation of Internet users that are 1) vulnerable to exploitation because of their age and now 2) trained by prior experience that sharing their username/password with other sites is a good idea. Now, I’m not one of those people that will do anything “for the children”, but this is still a scary prospect.

And before you pooh-pooh me, how many of you out there are using the same username and password for a lot of your social media sites, email accounts, Amazon, Etsy, etc.? I’d be shocked if most kids have strong passwords let alone separate passwords for all the different sites they use on a daily basis. So these phishing vulnerabilities are only going to be more important as time goes on. And the really scary thing – even if you and your kids are smart enough to avoid these pitfalls, the vulnerability has what we call a “network effect”. Even if YOU aren’t vulnerable, someone you’re connected to probably is. And that can be just as bad. Think your 13 year old would never talk to strangers online? What about when his friend’s account is compromised and some stranger is using that friend’s Facebook or Twitter to talk to your 13 year old? Still feel safe? Think you would know better even if your 13 year old wouldn’t? What if your best friend sent you a Facebook message to let you know that the party tomorrow is cancelled? How paranoid are you willing to be….?

What can be done? Well, for starters, Twitter should implement an API Key approach to programmatic sharing like the one used by Flickr (or some other well engineered security mechanism for sharing access). Then they need to lead the charge in educating users not to share their passwords with a site that doesn’t end in “twitter.com”. And parents, don’t forget to spend some time with your kids – and not just explaining this stuff!

Touch-Typing Gone Wrong

Cindy says (3:55 PM):
pre sake tucjet ebtrabce wukk be far left lane of the main gate
Daniel Hagan says (3:55 PM):
I’m sorry…. can you tell me that in English?
Cindy says (3:55 PM):
lmao
LMAO
i was staring at my fone when i typed
SORRY
Pre sale ticket entrance will be far left lane of the main gate