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Project Aardvark Revealed

Courtesy of Christopher Hawkins (

Project Aardvark site:

It could be a trick to lead us off the right track, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Monday, June 20, 2005
Hook . . . Line . . . *SUNK*
Anonymous Coward
Monday, June 20, 2005

Well, if its a decoy, its coming from FCS.  If its the real thing...

SOMEONE TAKE PHOTOSHOP OFF YARON'S MACHINE!  Oh and just to be extra nitpicky, apply a stylesheet... something.
Orange Letterman
Monday, June 20, 2005
That's the famous 'logo'?

And that's the amazing name which they spent so long on?

And if someone is knowledgeable to fix someone else's computer they're knowledgeable enough to walk them through a VNC download.

This whole thing is a farce. Joel has truly lost it.
Justin Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
Jesus, you guys should take a deep breath, go out and take a nap in the sun before replying...
Sebastian Wagner
Monday, June 20, 2005
Yeah, and if you can walk them tnrough VNC remotely,
you can just walk them through fixing their problem themselves! So you wouldn't need VNC...

The value-add I assume is ease-of-setup - one click install, user won't have to know anything about remote IP addresses etc. All packaged up in a supported product.

But... do this for free. The client-side stuff is invisible to the average user. The only difference is logmein users have to invite a guest, whereas with SidePilot the guest (pilot?) invites the user to allow them access - which might work better for the typical support situation. But logmein could do this pretty easily too.
MugsGame Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
I can understand administrative contact. But, technical contact? Is FC that small an organisation?
KayJay Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
Jeeez, you guys are harsh. How do you know that's the final logo, and who cares if their org is small enough that the WHOIS administrative contact == the technical contact.

It is a useful service. My company uses Citrix GoToAssist which is very nice. It's compatible with most firewalls but Norton Internet Security, which is pretty popular, breaks it. Hopefully Aardvark, or SidePilot, does better vs. the dreaded Norton.
Nate Silva Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
1) The domain is hosted on of FCS's servers. Therefore, figuring out what the domain is took only a reverse dns lookup (

2) Google doesn't have any real hits for the keyword 'sidepilot', which makes the domain name pretty valuable.

3) The domain was registered on June 7th, that's 10 days before they decided on the final name, according to the aardvark website.

4) The components on the sidepilot website have meaningful names (source). Who'd bother with that if it were a hoax?

I vote: not a hoax.

And the feasibility? I have my doubts. And the wording "allow my computer to be takne over" undoubtedly scares away the less techsavvy people.

Monday, June 20, 2005
Given some prior excellent guesses that they were playing around with TightVNC, it seems right on.
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
Hmmm well at least Yaron read this thread

The spelling mistake(!) has been corrected.
The right hand side of the blue wave is now straight(ish).
The shadows now slant correcly.
The crossroads junction has been made sharp(ish)
Fading from violins to fogbugz looks smoother.
The wave looks better but still a bit iffy.

Probably good enough now not to waste more time on.

I'm actually quite surprised Joel didn't have the foresight to keep hi-res images of his website logo in the first place.

 Aardvark has definitely made Joel look a bit more like a mortal, albeit still an exceptionally good one.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Oh dear, it appears,,,, ... are all still available.

Trademark registration? I doubt it. Better buy them up before squatters get them.

Lessons to be learnt:
1) Never challenge bored geeks, collectively they are smarter than you, always.
2) DNS/WHOIS records can be grep'ped.
3) Trademark your marks early and make sure get all the popular domain names.

I thought a day pass meant a Salon type advert scheme. That could have worked. But ten bucks? There's no way anyone will pay for that.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Its also possible that Joel is allowing the interns to make mistakes, which is the best way to learn.  I don't think it would even be that damaging to Fog Creek, because the prodect is clearly and publicly stamped as "built by interns", and the documentary will only increase that.  I think most people will overlook a lot of things and chalk them up to rookie mistakes.

I have to guess that Joel is aware of design quality.  He had all the rest of his stuff designed by Dave Shea, a veritable rockstar of web design.  I'd guess it wasn't cheap, either. 

So why allow the sub-par Photoshopping work? (trust me, you can google for Photoshop tutorials on making smooth curves and there are tons.  Its very easy to follow the steps.)  I have to believe its to allow the interns to learn from experience what their own boundaries are, and how to approach things differently the next time.
Clay Whipkey Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
Yikes, will that sell?
Berlin Brown Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
To be honest, its possible the interns aren't making any mistakes at all in the stuff we've seen. In terms of the poster banner that got linekd off of the blog, perhaps Yaron  simply didn't put that much effort into exporting his file as a jpg and sticking it up on the web - the finished, poster version may very well look much, much better. Perhaps people attending CFUnited would care to comment after the con?

In terms of the SidePilot website, this feels very much like a demo, quick-lets-get-something-out-there for the conference website. You'll recall, I'm sure, that Yaron mentioned on Friday that they had just made an agreement for an outside company to do the logo for Aardvark. I somehow doubt they got the finished result in by today.

All in all, I don't think I have enough information to judge whether or not this was a good product for Fog Creek. I doubt I ever will - somehow I don't think Joel is going to trip over himself to show me Fog Creek's balance sheet a year from now. I do believe the concept seems interesting to what I do, depending on if they've solved a couple of problems. (firewalls being one, the ability to run this on a tightly controlled corporate computer being another) I'd like to, personally, hold off before making any blanket statements that Aardvark is going to be the biggest disaster since the Titanic. Certainly, from the blog it sounds as if the interns are having the times of their lives! Jealous, I am.
John Christensen Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005

To be honest, I find the release of the SidePilot website much more interesting than the actual content of the website. Recall this post:, where Yaron stated that he was going to release little details about what the product would do, because he felt building a buzz was important, as compared to Joel's mouth wide shut approach. Now, today, we get this website. Presuming, for a moment, that the website is the legit thing, that says to me that the amount of control Joel is giving to the interns on this project is tremendous. It should be interesting to see what other decisions they make.

Then again, its very possible (some would say, even, likely) that I'm over-analyzing a few hundred words. Probably as a distraction when I could be writing code. :)
John Christensen Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
BTW, I want to know how Chris discovered it in the first place. It's not like you can do domain search on registered domains by who owns it, or atleast I am not aware about any such service.

JD Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
It's a reverse IP lookup.  Basically you're seeing what other domains point to the same IP address. provides such a service.  It's just a scan of the whois records.
Lou Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
There are sites that allow reverse searches by company name as well as return lists of all sites hosts on a given physical server (and JOS and sidepilot both resolve to the same IP).

For the domains, I can only image they were after or something similar.  Side pilot seems a little odd but really the name is not very critical IMHO.  I do wonder how many people are willing to pay $10 to fix someones system.  It think a flat rate subscription would be more attractive (for an ISV) but for an individual why not remote desktop.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Just did a lookup to confirm:

1) ping
2) reverse lookup 3 domains found on


A great site for all things domain / whois:
Monday, June 20, 2005
Cool. Thanks Lou. :)

JD Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005 the "reflector" is the thing that runs on FogCreek's server that allows me to control my mom's computer without either of us exposing a port to the Big Bad Internet....

And, a documentary to promote such a service is just perfect.  For less than a $10K investment, Joel will likely get thousands (if not more) people to watch what will amount to a very entertaining 1 1/2 hour infomerical that repeatedly mentions and cites the consumer benefits of paying $10 for the service.  Amazing.  And, if it's available via Netflix, people will actually pay for the right to learn about sidepilot.

On a personal note, I spent about two hours yesterday installing VNC on both of my father-in-law's computers so that I don't have to use his laptop via voice proxy (me talking to him on the phone) when he has a problem.  So, sidepilot seems really useful, especially to someone who's not so good at setting up routers.
Steve Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
I hope Joel can buy out the advertising slots from that "Gazelle Guy" with the long hair...
hoser Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
I just noticed that for $20 per domain you can block IP reverse lookups on  It's a little late for that I guess.
Monday, June 20, 2005
I would assume that SidePilot is the "backup" name and domain that they said that they already own.
--Josh Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
$9.95 for a day pass for what you can do with Remote Assistance (built-in, easy to use... XP only, but XP has wide penetration in the home market) or VNC (not built-in but very easy to install) for free?

Mr Laughing Guy
Monday, June 20, 2005
I have a name, you know!
Tony Little [p.s. buy Gazelle]
Monday, June 20, 2005
>On a personal note, I spent about two hours yesterday installing VNC on both of my father-in-law's computers so that I don't have to use his laptop via voice proxy (me talking to him on the phone) when he has a problem.  So, sidepilot seems really useful, especially to someone who's not so good at setting up routers.

You should check out UltraVNC and there SingleClick install.

I got switched on to UltraVNC about a week back from another post here and really like it. It is definitely a lot better than TightVNC. For example I can log on to the remote PC without it having to be logged in, which I couldn't do with TightVNC.

I haven't had the need to try SingleClick, yet but it sounds cool.

That said, I wish Joel the best of success with whatever he is or isn't doing.
Neville Franks Send private email
Monday, June 20, 2005
$10 bucks a day to do what Remote Assistance (build right into XP!!!) and VNC (easy to install) can do for free!

Joel truly is the master of the software business!!!

Mr Sarcasm
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Someone should tell Yaron that unveiling a secret about Aardvark every other day is kind of pointless now!
John Topley Send private email
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
For the naysayers out there, there is still a little hope hidden in this statement:

"The other poster has a chart comparing the features Aardvark has with those of the free alternatives."

Seeing as how Joel is totally developer-focused with his software, this product might include more targetted features that are useful for devs.
Clay Whipkey Send private email
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

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