FITC Toronto Dead Drop Explained

FITC Toronto is done for another year and it was again a great event. This year there seemed to be a lot more students and the turnout in general was fantastic. During the conference I did a dead drop for Master Collection CS5, an unlocked Google Nexus One, and admission onto the AIR for Android private beta. Due to my schedule at the conference, this one only consisted of three steps, but it still gave people plenty of trouble. Below are the solutions.

The Good Shepherd

The first clue was fairly straightforward. The image on the left is of Matt Damon from the movie The Good Shepherd. In addition to that you can see the word street on the handrail. A quick look of the streets around the Hilton would reveal Edward street. Edward was the name of the character played by Damon. On Edward street you will find the billboard shown in the image at the right. Comparing the actual location to the photo would reveal that the numbers were removed from the photo. Putting those numbers into the form will get you to the next step. Several people did not recognize Matt Damon and at least one person thought it was Johnny Depp. One person solved this by finding a map of all of the ad locations in the city and somehow they got the correct number.

Japanese Subway

The next step consisted of a photograph taken from the Flickr feed of Mike Chambers. Everyone was definitely over thinking on this one as all you needed to do was to take the image into Photoshop and zoom in on it. Many people were printing out maps of the Tokyo subway and trying to determine the station shown in the photo. If you adjusted the levels of the photo you would see the answer (WH975) printed on the back of a lady’s leg.

The Finish

The last step consisted of the photo above with the text Hilton 31. This was quite easy as you only needed to go to the 31st floor and retrieve the dead drop coin from the pillow shown in the photo. There were several teams that were close to winning, but the prize went to Raz Peel. This was actually great because Raz came in second last year and he worked his ass off on that one. Congratulations Raz!


Win An Ultimate Android Developer Kit At FITC Toronto

I leave tomorrow for FITC Toronto and this is looking to again be a great conference. Luckily the volcano cleared up just in time so the European crew should make it. As part of the conference I am going to be doing another dead drop. If you’re familiar with the dead drops you know that you can expect anything. The prize for winning for the dead drop is a complete development kit for building AIR applications for Android. First you will get a copy of Master Collection CS5 as soon as it hits the streets in a couple of weeks. In addition to that you will also receive a brand new, unlocked, Google Nexus One phone so you can start building apps right away. The final part of the prize is the most important as you will be added to the AIR for Android private beta program.


The dead drop is now underway

The dead drop has now started so if you want the prize package go and check out the live map to see where I am right now. Check the last updated text on the map to see when the last update was. I may be going through a 3G dead zone. This experiment will also serve as a good test of AT&T’s nationwide network coverage.

One you find me there is a code printed on my tailgate which you need to enter into this web form in order to claim the prize. Don’t have Flash on your mobile device? You can also see my current position by going to this static page. Want to make your own tracker? You can also get a raw XML representation of my position on this page.

My truck is a dark blue 2003 Ford Ranger. You’ll be able to tell it’s me by the stickers in the back window.

Good luck!

Catch me to win the utlimate Flash CS5 prize!

So as I mentioned in my last post that I will be driving across this great country beginning tomorrow morning. As a part of that I am doing a different kind of dead drop where your mission is simply to find me out on the road. I have created the ultimate Flash CS5 prize package for those who track me down. The package consists of the following:

  • The coveted Adobe Dead Drop Winner coin.
  • A new iPod Touch that you can use to create applications for with CS5 if you don’t have an iPhone.
  • A full boxed copy of CS5 Master Collection as soon as it is released.
  • Assuming you meet the requirements, I will get you added to the Flash CS5 pre-release so you can start playing right now!

You have to admit that those prizes are worth getting out on the highway for. Of course there are some loose rules to this dead drop that you must follow in order to win. These rules are the following:

  • The dead drop begins once the official blog post goes up sometime tomorrow. So don’t wait outside my house tonight thinking you will just catch me as I leave.
  • There will be a maximum of 5 winners and there cannot be more than one winner per state. Follow me on Twitter to see the latest contest status.
  • Assuming you are an actual Flash user (i.e. not an MS evangelist), I should have no problem adding you to the pre-release. But this part of the prize is NOT guaranteed.
  • I will hand you the dead drop winner coin when you find me. The iPod Touch and Master Collection CS5 will be shipped to you. The iPod will ship within a couple of weeks and obviously CS5 will ship when we release it.

So what will you have to do when you find me? All will be explained in the kickoff post tomorrow. If you are planning on participating keep a close watch on my Twitter feed as well as my blog.


The Catch Me If You Can Dead Drop

I’m going to be heading to my parents house in Virginia for the holidays and have decided to drive. I’ve always loved road trips and have really missed seeing the country this way. Back in the day I used to drive from coast to coast with no sleep without even thinking about it. We’ll see how I do this time. I will be taking I-40 across the country which will keep me out of most of the inclement weather. I-80 at this time of year can be very bad news when going through Utah and Wyoming. I will begin my journey sometime early on Monday.

Since I’m doing this road trip I thought that it would be a great opportunity for another dead drop! This one is quite different from the other ones you may have read about. I built a cool little iPhone application in Flash CS5 that updates a database with my current GPS location. Assuming I have a data connection it should do it every few seconds. I have also built a Flex 4 application that plots my current position using the Google maps API. It also will automatically update my position every few seconds. The goal is simple. Find me out on the open highway and do a yet-to-be-determined action to claim the prize. More details will come about the prizes, rules, and what that action will be. Below is a screenshot of the Flex application which you’ll be able to use to track me.

Stay tuned!

The Adobe MAX Dead Drop explained

Well another Adobe MAX has come and gone and this one seemed to be a great event. As part of this year’s event I put together an official dead drop competition. At first I was concerned that the involvement of Adobe legal would stifle the fun but it turned out to be a great drop. There were some Flash celebrities competing for the prize but in the end the prize went to savvy web developer Trevan Richins. Below are the details of how the prize was won.

The Hidden Star
I wanted the first clue to be one that designers would perhaps have a slight edge at since there were many attending MAX. The clue consisted of a downloadable Illustrator file containing a bunch of stars. This sent many developers scrambling as they either had never opened Illustrator before or didn’t even have it installed on their machine. The trick was realize that there were 16 star paths in the layers panel but only 15 that were visible on the artboard. Way off to the left hand-side there was a microscopic star with a sequence of numbers cut into it. You can download the Illustrator file to see for yourself.

ASCII Keyboard
The next clue was a little more of developer thing as you were required to read a string of numbers and convert them into their ASCII equivalents. Now I know this is child’s play for developers but for designers this may pose somewhat of challenge. The translated string gave the location of a serial number that they had to retrieve to move to the next challenge. Translate the string below to find out where that was.

83|101|114|105|97|108|32|110|117|109|98|101|114|32|111|102|32|107|101|121|98|111|97|114|100|32| 97|116|32|83|99|101|110|101|55|32|112|111|100

The next challenge involved nothing more than good old fashioned research. The contestants were taken to a page which contained a video of a documentary about espionage. They had to first figure out that the video was about Aldrich Ames and then they were asked to find out the FBI cryptonym of the old man with no shirt on. The easiest way was to go to YouTube and find the video. This would give you the agent’s name, Dimitri Polyakov. From their you could go to his Wikipedia page to find out that his cryptonym was TOPHAT.

The Mysterious Grid
The next challenge was quite a bit more complicated. People were brought to a page containing the this image. Most people were completely stumped about what to do with it. Many thought that they were supposed to find a similar grid somewhere in the convention center. People were wandering around looking at the ceiling and windows. In reality, the image contained the full text of the Declaration of Independence. The ASCII values of each letter were encoded as pixel colors and spread out to form a grid. Some hardcore flashers like Joa Ebert, Mario Klingemann,and Marc Thiele solved this one very fast however. The winner, Trevan, solved this one in a really cool way. He opened up the Firebug console and created an HTML 5 Canvas and used it parse the pixel values, as there is a full bitmap API. How cool is that! I’m including his clever code snippet below.

var canvas = $(‘test2’).getContext(‘2d’);
canvas.drawImage($(‘test1’), 0, 0);
var canvasData = canvas.getImageData(0,0, 400, 200);
var width = 400;
var y = 0;
var x = 0;
var pixel =[(y * width + x) * 4 + 2]
var text = ;
for (var i = 0; i < width; i++) {
    x = i;
    pixel =[(y * width + x) * 4 + 2]
    text += String.fromCharCode(pixel);

Room Within a Bathroom
The final clue said nothing more than FIND ME NOW. I started walking through the expo hall when Joa and Marc came running at me. After trying to run away I handed them the final clue which was a photo of a bathroom and another door. Trevan was next to find me followed by several others. Joa and Marc found the bathroom first as well as the interior janitorial closet inside of it. I had hidden the coin behind some pipe insulation on the water heater. Worried about being caught, they locked themselves inside and soon a janitor was there trying to unlock it. Trevan had come to the room, found it locked, and then went and got said janitor to open it for him. After Joa and Marc had given up, they decided to go back for one last try. They found Trevan there who was just removing the insulation to reveal the coin. Marc saw it and said he could of snagged it but being the nice guy that he is, he let Trevan claim it for the win. Talk about a hilarious end to a great dead drop.


Adobe Dead Drop Challenge Coin

I have just received a box of collectible dead drop challenge coins. In future dead drops, these coins will be placed at the final clue. So in addition to the great prizes, winners will also own a unique piece of Adobe memorabilia. If a team wins I will distribute one to each team member. These are 2″ coins with an epoxy dome to help protect it from the elements. I have to say that the video below doesn’t do the coin justice.

If you previously won a dead drop, email me at brimelow [at] adobe so I can get one out to you.


NorCal Super Dead Drop explained

Update: The winning team consisted of Troy Steinmetz, Jesse Young, Daniel Jacobs, Ben Savage, and Kevin Petersen. Congratulations guys!

Wow this was a wild one. After two days there is finally a winner for the dead drop. This one focused more on physical challenges rather than on crypto puzzles. Some of these challenges posed quite a problem as they took people slightly out of their comfort zone. So let’s get into the details on how this one was solved.

Kaufmans Camera Store
In my initial blog post I told people to go over to the Flex Facebook page and become a fan. After that you would be able to see the an image of Kaufmans Camera Store in San Mateo. Clicking on the image took you to a Flash application with a larger version of the image and an input text field. What you had to do was to compare the photo to the actual store front. If you looked carefully you would notice that a sign with the word copies on it was removed from the image. That is what you had to enter into the text field to move on. Mike Chambers and I were actually hiding down the street from the store and saw the first few teams arrive. We’ll post some video and photos of that soon.

Soda Gulch
People were then led to another Flash application which contained a scrambled trail name. The actual trail name was Soda Gulch which is a trail in the Purisma Open Space Reserve. It is a beautiful set of trails that I have hiked many times before. If you had your audio turned on you would hear music of a guitar solo that was slowed way down. The song was Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So obviously the clue was located under the bridge on the Soda Gulch trail. Now there are actually three bridges on that trail so you needed to do your research before heading out. Many teams stopped at this point because they were scared away by the mountain lion warning signs. Understandable but it is no issue if hiked during daylight hours. The actual clue was some numbers that I screwed into the underside of the bridge. This is quite a hike and takes a couple of hours to complete. Once submitting the code 083 you passed to the next clue. The team that won actually performed a dictionary attack on most of the clues to get the answers which was cool. But you had to take photos at each clue so they still had to physically go to them all.

Treasure Island
The next Flash application had an image of some treasure and an island as well as a satellite photo. This was obviously a place on Treasure Island. Mike and I headed out there on Sunday to plant a clue. There is an abandoned military base there and I placed some more numbers inside an electrical junction box. You had to analyze the satellite photo and find out where it actually was on the island using Google maps. The winning team said that they were being eyed pretty closely by the cops during this clue. Below is a photo taken by the winning team.

Skaggs Island
During my research for this drop I came across a site describing an abandoned military base up in Sonoma county called Skaggs Island. This base used to crypto stuff during the Cold War. Sufficed to say, this was a great candidate. The next Flash application contained the Skaggs Island patch and the building number. The island is now used by the Navy SEALs to practice urban warfare. You can be arrested for trespassing on this base but hey, that’s half the fun. Here is a funny video I found of some kids getting busted. Mike and I passed through the south gate and walked for a couple of miles until we got to building 156. This building was torn to bits by SEAL artillery and was quite dangerous to walk around in. The building is also inhabited by a dozen or so huge owls. As we walked around in building they would freak out and fly out of the building almost hitting us. I decided to place the numbers on the outside of the building because it was somewhat dangerous on the inside. The winning team ran into some parolee on the island who showed them where the building was. Typing in 031 into the form took you to the last clue page. The photo below is the winning team at Skaggs.

Mare Island Roof
The final Flash application contained an image and text saying that it was at Mare Shipyard. This is another abandoned military base that Mike and I explored. This required analyzing Google maps to find out what building was being represented. The actual clue was the serial number of an electrical box on the roof. You go to the roof by a ladder attached to the side of the building. The lower part was covered in thorn bushes making it a somewhat painful ascent. The winning team said they saw a huge animal by this clue but are not sure what it was. The photos below shows the ladder that led to the finish.

The Missing Clue
There was actually one other clue that I didn’t include due to the fact that teams were having trouble in the beginning. On the Mare Island base Mike and I explored an awesome old electrical training facility. Inside there was actually crime scene tape all over it. This was a creepy place but Mike got some awesome photos there. The clue was near the crime scene. Exploring abandoned places was so much fun.

Congratulations to Troy, Jesse, Daniel, and Ben for solving this very interesting dead drop. You now know about some beautiful and scary places right here in the Bay Area :) .

São Paulo you’re next!

The NorCal Super Dead Drop starts now

It’s 11:00 PM and the dead drop is officially underway. This one requires both problem solving abilities and also contains some physical aspects to make things more interesting. In the last post I mentioned some of the things that will come in handy during the mission and I have a few more to add. You should have comfortable shoes, long pants, a flashlight, and an internet-connected device, ideally a laptop.

There are two rules for this dead drop that you must follow in order to win. First you need to take a photo of each clue when you’re there for verification purposes and I will also feature them here on the blog after the competition. Secondly you cannot destroy any of the clues to prevent others from proceeding. I have surveillance in place in most places so please play a clean game.

Below are some recommendations that will help you on your mission:

  • research all clues thoroughly before starting to look for them
  • use your best judgement and be careful out there
  • be prepared for things like thorn bushes, owls, and crime scene tape

To get started, go over to the Flex Facebook page, become a fan, and check out the Boxes area to begin. Good luck and maybe I’ll see you out there during the mission :) .

Tips for the Super Dead Drop

It’s a little over 48 hours until the start of the biggest dead drop to date! If you are in Northern California make sure you read my other post so you have all the details. Now there are some things that you can do in preparation that will potentially help you come Sunday night. Here are a list of things that you should have handy in case they are necessary:

  • a good pair of shoes (i.e. not sandals) as there may be some hiking involved
  • a decent flashlight, the brighter the better
  • a car as there will be some driving involved
  • some type of internet-connected device
  • bail money (just kidding I hope)

Please blog and tweet about the dead drop if you can so we have a good turnout. If you tweet about it use the #deaddrop hashtag so we can all follow it.