Tag Archives: ALPHA

Confused About the Hybrid Cloud? You’re Not Alone

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/confused-about-the-hybrid-cloud-youre-not-alone/

Hybrid Cloud. What is it?

Do you have a clear understanding of the hybrid cloud? If you don’t, it’s not surprising.

Hybrid cloud has been applied to a greater and more varied number of IT solutions than almost any other recent data management term. About the only thing that’s clear about the hybrid cloud is that the term hybrid cloud wasn’t invented by customers, but by vendors who wanted to hawk whatever solution du jour they happened to be pushing.

Let’s be honest. We’re in an industry that loves hype. We can’t resist grafting hyper, multi, ultra, and super and other prefixes onto the beginnings of words to entice customers with something new and shiny. The alphabet soup of cloud-related terms can include various options for where the cloud is located (on-premises, off-premises), whether the resources are private or shared in some degree (private, community, public), what type of services are offered (storage, computing), and what type of orchestrating software is used to manage the workflow and the resources. With so many moving parts, it’s no wonder potential users are confused.

Let’s take a step back, try to clear up the misconceptions, and come up with a basic understanding of what the hybrid cloud is. To be clear, this is our viewpoint. Others are free to do what they like, so bear that in mind.

So, What is the Hybrid Cloud?

The hybrid cloud refers to a cloud environment made up of a mixture of on-premises private cloud resources combined with third-party public cloud resources that use some kind of orchestration between them.

To get beyond the hype, let’s start with Forrester Research‘s idea of the hybrid cloud: “One or more public clouds connected to something in my data center. That thing could be a private cloud; that thing could just be traditional data center infrastructure.”

To put it simply, a hybrid cloud is a mash-up of on-premises and off-premises IT resources.

To expand on that a bit, we can say that the hybrid cloud refers to a cloud environment made up of a mixture of on-premises private cloud[1] resources combined with third-party public cloud resources that use some kind of orchestration[2] between them. The advantage of the hybrid cloud model is that it allows workloads and data to move between private and public clouds in a flexible way as demands, needs, and costs change, giving businesses greater flexibility and more options for data deployment and use.

In other words, if you have some IT resources in-house that you are replicating or augmenting with an external vendor, congrats, you have a hybrid cloud!

Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud

The cloud is really just a collection of purpose built servers. In a private cloud, the servers are dedicated to a single tenant or a group of related tenants. In a public cloud, the servers are shared between multiple unrelated tenants (customers). A public cloud is off-site, while a private cloud can be on-site or off-site — or on-prem or off-prem.

As an example, let’s look at a hybrid cloud meant for data storage, a hybrid data cloud. A company might set up a rule that says all accounting files that have not been touched in the last year are automatically moved off-prem to cloud storage to save cost and reduce the amount of storage needed on-site. The files are still available; they are just no longer stored on your local systems. The rules can be defined to fit an organization’s workflow and data retention policies.

The hybrid cloud concept also contains cloud computing. For example, at the end of the quarter, order processing application instances can be spun up off-premises in a hybrid computing cloud as needed to add to on-premises capacity.

Hybrid Cloud Benefits

If we accept that the hybrid cloud combines the best elements of private and public clouds, then the benefits of hybrid cloud solutions are clear, and we can identify the primary two benefits that result from the blending of private and public clouds.

Diagram of the Components of the Hybrid Cloud

Benefit 1: Flexibility and Scalability

Undoubtedly, the primary advantage of the hybrid cloud is its flexibility. It takes time and money to manage in-house IT infrastructure and adding capacity requires advance planning.

The cloud is ready and able to provide IT resources whenever needed on short notice. The term cloud bursting refers to the on-demand and temporary use of the public cloud when demand exceeds resources available in the private cloud. For example, some businesses experience seasonal spikes that can put an extra burden on private clouds. These spikes can be taken up by a public cloud. Demand also can vary with geographic location, events, or other variables. The public cloud provides the elasticity to deal with these and other anticipated and unanticipated IT loads. The alternative would be fixed cost investments in on-premises IT resources that might not be efficiently utilized.

For a data storage user, the on-premises private cloud storage provides, among other benefits, the highest speed access. For data that is not frequently accessed, or needed with the absolute lowest levels of latency, it makes sense for the organization to move it to a location that is secure, but less expensive. The data is still readily available, and the public cloud provides a better platform for sharing the data with specific clients, users, or with the general public.

Benefit 2: Cost Savings

The public cloud component of the hybrid cloud provides cost-effective IT resources without incurring capital expenses and labor costs. IT professionals can determine the best configuration, service provider, and location for each service, thereby cutting costs by matching the resource with the task best suited to it. Services can be easily scaled, redeployed, or reduced when necessary, saving costs through increased efficiency and avoiding unnecessary expenses.

Comparing Private vs Hybrid Cloud Storage Costs

To get an idea of the difference in storage costs between a purely on-premises solutions and one that uses a hybrid of private and public storage, we’ll present two scenarios. For each scenario we’ll use data storage amounts of 100 terabytes, 1 petabyte, and 2 petabytes. Each table is the same format, all we’ve done is change how the data is distributed: private (on-premises) cloud or public (off-premises) cloud. We are using the costs for our own B2 Cloud Storage in this example. The math can be adapted for any set of numbers you wish to use.

Scenario 1    100% of data on-premises storage

Data Stored
Data stored On-Premises: 100% 100 TB 1,000 TB 2,000 TB
On-premises cost range Monthly Cost
Low — $12/TB/Month $1,200 $12,000 $24,000
High — $20/TB/Month $2,000 $20,000 $40,000

Scenario 2    20% of data on-premises with 80% public cloud storage (B2)

Data Stored
Data stored On-Premises: 20% 20 TB 200 TB 400 TB
Data stored in Cloud: 80% 80 TB 800 TB 1,600 TB
On-premises cost range Monthly Cost
Low — $12/TB/Month $240 $2,400 $4,800
High — $20/TB/Month $400 $4,000 $8,000
Public cloud cost range Monthly Cost
Low — $5/TB/Month (B2) $400 $4,000 $8,000
High — $20/TB/Month $1,600 $16,000 $32,000
On-premises + public cloud cost range Monthly Cost
Low $640 $6,400 $12,800
High $2,000 $20,000 $40,000

As can be seen in the numbers above, using a hybrid cloud solution and storing 80% of the data in the cloud with a provider such as Backblaze B2 can result in significant savings over storing only on-premises. For other cost scenarios, see the B2 Cost Calculator.

When Hybrid Might Not Always Be the Right Fit

There are circumstances where the hybrid cloud might not be the best solution. Smaller organizations operating on a tight IT budget might best be served by a purely public cloud solution. The cost of setting up and running private servers is substantial.

An application that requires the highest possible speed might not be suitable for hybrid, depending on the specific cloud implementation. While latency does play a factor in data storage for some users, it is less of a factor for uploading and downloading data than it is for organizations using the hybrid cloud for computing. Because Backblaze recognized the importance of speed and low-latency for customers wishing to use computing on data stored in B2, we directly connected our data centers with those of our computing partners, ensuring that latency would not be an issue even for a hybrid cloud computing solution.

It is essential to have a good understanding of workloads and their essential characteristics in order to make the hybrid cloud work well for you. Each application needs to be examined for the right mix of private cloud, public cloud, and traditional IT resources that fit the particular workload in order to benefit most from a hybrid cloud architecture.

The Hybrid Cloud Can Be a Win-Win Solution

From the high altitude perspective, any solution that enables an organization to respond in a flexible manner to IT demands is a win. Avoiding big upfront capital expenses for in-house IT infrastructure will appeal to the CFO. Being able to quickly spin up IT resources as they’re needed will appeal to the CTO and VP of Operations.

Should You Go Hybrid?

We’ve arrived at the bottom line and the question is, should you or your organization embrace hybrid cloud infrastructures?

According to 451 Research, by 2019, 69% of companies will operate in hybrid cloud environments, and 60% of workloads will be running in some form of hosted cloud service (up from 45% in 2017). That indicates that the benefits of the hybrid cloud appeal to a broad range of companies.

In Two Years, More Than Half of Workloads Will Run in Cloud

Clearly, depending on an organization’s needs, there are advantages to a hybrid solution. While it might have been possible to dismiss the hybrid cloud in the early days of the cloud as nothing more than a buzzword, that’s no longer true. The hybrid cloud has evolved beyond the marketing hype to offer real solutions for an increasingly complex and challenging IT environment.

If an organization approaches the hybrid cloud with sufficient planning and a structured approach, a hybrid cloud can deliver on-demand flexibility, empower legacy systems and applications with new capabilities, and become a catalyst for digital transformation. The result can be an elastic and responsive infrastructure that has the ability to quickly respond to changing demands of the business.

As data management professionals increasingly recognize the advantages of the hybrid cloud, we can expect more and more of them to embrace it as an essential part of their IT strategy.

Tell Us What You’re Doing with the Hybrid Cloud

Are you currently embracing the hybrid cloud, or are you still uncertain or hanging back because you’re satisfied with how things are currently? Maybe you’ve gone totally hybrid. We’d love to hear your comments below on how you’re dealing with the hybrid cloud.

[1] Private cloud can be on-premises or a dedicated off-premises facility.

[2] Hybrid cloud orchestration solutions are often proprietary, vertical, and task dependent.

The post Confused About the Hybrid Cloud? You’re Not Alone appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

The answers to your questions for Eben Upton

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/eben-q-a-1/

Before Easter, we asked you to tell us your questions for a live Q & A with Raspberry Pi Trading CEO and Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton. The variety of questions and comments you sent was wonderful, and while we couldn’t get to them all, we picked a handful of the most common to grill him on.

You can watch the video below — though due to this being the first pancake of our live Q&A videos, the sound is a bit iffy — or read Eben’s answers to the first five questions today. We’ll follow up with the rest in the next few weeks!

Live Q&A with Eben Upton, creator of the Raspberry Pi

Get your questions to us now using #AskRaspberryPi on Twitter

Any plans for 64-bit Raspbian?

Raspbian is effectively 32-bit Debian built for the ARMv6 instruction-set architecture supported by the ARM11 processor in the first-generation Raspberry Pi. So maybe the question should be: “Would we release a version of our operating environment that was built on top of 64-bit ARM Debian?”

And the answer is: “Not yet.”

When we released the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, we released an operating system image on the same day; the wonderful thing about that image is that it runs on every Raspberry Pi ever made. It even runs on the alpha boards from way back in 2011.

That deep backwards compatibility is really important for us, in large part because we don’t want to orphan our customers. If someone spent $35 on an older-model Raspberry Pi five or six years ago, they still spent $35, so it would be wrong for us to throw them under the bus.

So, if we were going to do a 64-bit version, we’d want to keep doing the 32-bit version, and then that would mean our efforts would be split across the two versions; and remember, we’re still a very small engineering team. Never say never, but it would be a big step for us.

For people wanting a 64-bit operating system, there are plenty of good third-party images out there, including SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Given that the 3B+ includes 5GHz wireless and Power over Ethernet (PoE) support, why would manufacturers continue to use the Compute Module?

It’s a form-factor thing.

Very large numbers of people are using the bigger product in an industrial context, and it’s well engineered for that: it has module certification, wireless on board, and now PoE support. But there are use cases that can’t accommodate this form factor. For example, NEC displays: we’ve had this great relationship with NEC for a couple of years now where a lot of their displays have a socket in the back that you can put a Compute Module into. That wouldn’t work with the 3B+ form factor.

Back of an NEC display with a Raspberry Pi Compute Module slotted in.

An NEC display with a Raspberry Pi Compute Module

What are some industrial uses/products Raspberry is used with?

The NEC displays are a good example of the broader trend of using Raspberry Pi in digital signage.

A Raspberry Pi running the wait time signage at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios.
Image c/o thelonelyredditor1

If you see a monitor at a station, or an airport, or a recording studio, and you look behind it, it’s amazing how often you’ll find a Raspberry Pi sitting there. The original Raspberry Pi was particularly strong for multimedia use cases, so we saw uptake in signage very early on.

An array of many Raspberry Pis

Los Alamos Raspberry Pi supercomputer

Another great example is the Los Alamos National Laboratory building supercomputers out of Raspberry Pis. Many high-end supercomputers now are built using white-box hardware — just regular PCs connected together using some networking fabric — and a collection of Raspberry Pi units can serve as a scale model of that. The Raspberry Pi has less processing power, less memory, and less networking bandwidth than the PC, but it has a balanced amount of each. So if you don’t want to let your apprentice supercomputer engineers loose on your expensive supercomputer, a cluster of Raspberry Pis is a good alternative.

Why is there no power button on the Raspberry Pi?

“Once you start, where do you stop?” is a question we ask ourselves a lot.

There are a whole bunch of useful things that we haven’t included in the Raspberry Pi by default. We don’t have a power button, we don’t have a real-time clock, and we don’t have an analogue-to-digital converter — those are probably the three most common requests. And the issue with them is that they each cost a bit of money, they’re each only useful to a minority of users, and even that minority often can’t agree on exactly what they want. Some people would like a power button that is literally a physical analogue switch between the 5V input and the rest of the board, while others would like something a bit more like a PC power button, which is partway between a physical switch and a ‘shutdown’ button. There’s no consensus about what sort of power button we should add.

So the answer is: accessories. By leaving a feature off the board, we’re not taxing the majority of people who don’t want the feature. And of course, we create an opportunity for other companies in the ecosystem to create and sell accessories to those people who do want them.

Adafruit Push-button Power Switch Breakout Raspberry Pi

The Adafruit Push-button Power Switch Breakout is one of many accessories that fill in the gaps for makers.

We have this neat way of figuring out what features to include by default: we divide through the fraction of people who want it. If you have a 20 cent component that’s going to be used by a fifth of people, we treat that as if it’s a $1 component. And it has to fight its way against the $1 components that will be used by almost everybody.

Do you think that Raspberry Pi is the future of the Internet of Things?

Absolutely, Raspberry Pi is the future of the Internet of Things!

In practice, most of the viable early IoT use cases are in the commercial and industrial spaces rather than the consumer space. Maybe in ten years’ time, IoT will be about putting 10-cent chips into light switches, but right now there’s so much money to be saved by putting automation into factories that you don’t need 10-cent components to address the market. Last year, roughly 2 million $35 Raspberry Pi units went into commercial and industrial applications, and many of those are what you’d call IoT applications.

So I think we’re the future of a particular slice of IoT. And we have ten years to get our price point down to 10 cents 🙂

The post The answers to your questions for Eben Upton appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Kubernetes 1.10 released

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/750236/rss

Kubernetes 1.10 has been released. “This newest version stabilizes features in 3 key areas, including storage, security, and networking. Notable additions in this release include the introduction of external kubectl credential providers (alpha), the ability to switch DNS service to CoreDNS at install time (beta), and the move of Container Storage Interface (CSI) and persistent local volumes to beta.

McAfee Security Experts Weigh-in Weirdly With “Fresh Kodi Warning”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mcafee-security-experts-weigh-in-weirdly-with-fresh-kodi-warning-180311/

Over the past several years, the last couple in particular, piracy has stormed millions of homes around the world.

From being a widespread but still fairly geeky occupation among torrenters, movie and TV show piracy can now be achieved by anyone with the ability to click a mouse or push a button on a remote control. Much of this mainstream interest can be placed at the feet of the Kodi media player.

An entirely legal platform in its own right, Kodi can be augmented with third-party add-ons that enable users to access an endless supply of streaming media. As such, piracy-configured Kodi installations are operated by an estimated 26 million people, according to the MPAA.

This popularity has led to much interest from tabloid newspapers in the UK which, for reasons best known to them, choose to both promote and demonize Kodi almost every week. While writing about news events is clearly par for the course, when one considers some of the reports, their content, and what inspired them, something doesn’t seem right.

This week The Express, which has published many overly sensational stories about Kodi in recent times, published another. The title – as always – promised something special.

Sounds like big news….

Reading the text, however, reveals nothing new whatsoever. The piece simply rehashes some of the historic claims that have been leveled at Kodi that can easily apply to any Internet-enabled software or system. But beyond that, some of its content is pretty weird.

The piece is centered on comments from two McAfee security experts – Chief Scientist Raj Samani and Chief Consumer Security Evangelist Gary Davis. It’s unclear whether The Express approached them for comment (if they did, there is no actual story for McAfee to comment on) or whether McAfee offered the comments and The Express built a story around them. Either way, here’s a taster.

“Kodi has been pretty open about the fact that it’s a streaming site but my view has always been if I use Netflix I know that I’m not going to get any issues, if I use Amazon I’m not going to get any issues,” Samani told the publication.

Ok, stop right there. Kodi admits that it’s a streaming site? Really? Kodi is a piece of software. It’s a media player. It can do many things but Kodi is not a streaming site and no one at Kodi has ever labeled it otherwise. To think that neither McAfee nor the publication caught that one is a bit embarrassing.

The argument that Samani was trying to make is that services like Netflix and Amazon are generally more reliable than third-party sources and there are few people out there who would argue with that.

“Look, ultimately you’ve got to do the research and you’ve got to decide if it’s right for you but personally I don’t use [Kodi] and I know full well that by not using [Kodi] I’m not going to get any issues. If I pay for the service I know exactly what I’m going to get,” he said.

But unlike his colleague who doesn’t use Kodi, Gary Davis has more experience.

McAfee’s Chief Consumer Security Evangelist admits to having used Kodi in the past but more recently decided not to use it when the security issues apparently got too much for him.

“I did use [Kodi] but turned it off as I started getting worried about some of the risks,” he told The Express.

“You may search for something and you may get what you are looking for but you may get something that you are not looking for and that’s where the problem lies with Kodi.”

This idea, that people search for a movie or TV show yet get something else, is bewildering to most experienced Kodi users. If this was indeed the case, on any large scale, people wouldn’t want to use it anymore. That’s clearly not the case.

Also, incorrect content appearing is not the kind of security threat that the likes of McAfee tend to be worried about. However, Davis suggests things can get worse.

“I’m not saying they’ve done anything wrong but if somebody is able to embed code to turn on a microphone or other things or start sending data to a place it shouldn’t go,” he said.

The sentence appears to have some words missing and struggles to make sense but the suggestion is that someone’s Kodi installation could be corrupted to the point that someone people could hijack the user’s microphone.

We are not aware of anything like that happening, ever, via Kodi. There are instances where that has happened completely without it in a completely different context, but that seems here nor there. By the same count, everyone should stop using Windows perhaps?

The big question is why these ‘scary’ Kodi non-stories keep getting published and why experts are prepared to weigh-in on them?

It would be too easy to quickly put it down to some anti-piracy agenda, even though there are plenty of signs that anti-piracy groups have been habitually feeding UK tabloids with information on that front. Indeed, a source at a UK news outlet (that no longer publishes such stories) told TF that they were often prompted to write stories about Kodi and streaming in general, none with a positive spin.

But if it was as simple as that, how does that explain another story run in The Express this week heralding the launch of Kodi’s ‘Leia’ alpha release?

If Kodi is so bad as to warrant an article telling people to avoid it FOREVER on one day, why is it good enough to be promoted on another? It can only come down to the number of clicks – but the clickbait headline should’ve given that away at the start.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Happy birthday to us!

Post Syndicated from Eben Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/happy-birthday-2018/

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that today is 28 February, which is as close as you’re going to get to our sixth birthday, given that we launched on a leap day. For the last three years, we’ve launched products on or around our birthday: Raspberry Pi 2 in 2015; Raspberry Pi 3 in 2016; and Raspberry Pi Zero W in 2017. But today is a snow day here at Pi Towers, so rather than launching something, we’re taking a photo tour of the last six years of Raspberry Pi products before we don our party hats for the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend this Saturday and Sunday.


Before there was Raspberry Pi, there was the Broadcom BCM2763 ‘micro DB’, designed, as it happens, by our very own Roger Thornton. This was the first thing we demoed as a Raspberry Pi in May 2011, shown here running an ARMv6 build of Ubuntu 9.04.

BCM2763 micro DB

Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi, 2011-style

A few months later, along came the first batch of 50 “alpha boards”, designed for us by Broadcom. I used to have a spreadsheet that told me where in the world each one of these lived. These are the first “real” Raspberry Pis, built around the BCM2835 application processor and LAN9512 USB hub and Ethernet adapter; remarkably, a software image taken from the download page today will still run on them.

Raspberry Pi alpha board, top view

Raspberry Pi alpha board

We shot some great demos with this board, including this video of Quake III:

Raspberry Pi – Quake 3 demo

A little something for the weekend: here’s Eben showing the Raspberry Pi running Quake 3, and chatting a bit about the performance of the board. Thanks to Rob Bishop and Dave Emett for getting the demo running.

Pete spent the second half of 2011 turning the alpha board into a shippable product, and just before Christmas we produced the first 20 “beta boards”, 10 of which were sold at auction, raising over £10000 for the Foundation.

The beginnings of a Bramble

Beta boards on parade

Here’s Dom, demoing both the board and his excellent taste in movie trailers:

Raspberry Pi Beta Board Bring up

See http://www.raspberrypi.org/ for more details, FAQ and forum.


Rather to Pete’s surprise, I took his beta board design (with a manually-added polygon in the Gerbers taking the place of Paul Grant’s infamous red wire), and ordered 2000 units from Egoman in China. After a few hiccups, units started to arrive in Cambridge, and on 29 February 2012, Raspberry Pi went on sale for the first time via our partners element14 and RS Components.

Pallet of pis

The first 2000 Raspberry Pis

Unboxing continues

The first Raspberry Pi from the first box from the first pallet

We took over 100000 orders on the first day: something of a shock for an organisation that had imagined in its wildest dreams that it might see lifetime sales of 10000 units. Some people who ordered that day had to wait until the summer to finally receive their units.


Even as we struggled to catch up with demand, we were working on ways to improve the design. We quickly replaced the USB polyfuses in the top right-hand corner of the board with zero-ohm links to reduce IR drop. If you have a board with polyfuses, it’s a real limited edition; even more so if it also has Hynix memory. Pete’s “rev 2” design made this change permanent, tweaked the GPIO pin-out, and added one much-requested feature: mounting holes.

Revision 1 versus revision 2

If you look carefully, you’ll notice something else about the revision 2 board: it’s made in the UK. 2012 marked the start of our relationship with the Sony UK Technology Centre in Pencoed, South Wales. In the five years since, they’ve built every product we offer, including more than 12 million “big” Raspberry Pis and more than one million Zeros.

Celebrating 500,000 Welsh units, back when that seemed like a lot

Economies of scale, and the decline in the price of SDRAM, allowed us to double the memory capacity of the Model B to 512MB in the autumn of 2012. And as supply of Model B finally caught up with demand, we were able to launch the Model A, delivering on our original promise of a $25 computer.

A UK-built Raspberry Pi Model A

In 2014, James took all the lessons we’d learned from two-and-a-bit years in the market, and designed the Model B+, and its baby brother the Model A+. The Model B+ established the form factor for all our future products, with a 40-pin extended GPIO connector, four USB ports, and four mounting holes.

The Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ — entering the era of proper product photography with a bang.

New toys

While James was working on the Model B+, Broadcom was busy behind the scenes developing a follow-on to the BCM2835 application processor. BCM2836 samples arrived in Cambridge at 18:00 one evening in April 2014 (chips never arrive at 09:00 — it’s always early evening, usually just before a public holiday), and within a few hours Dom had Raspbian, and the usual set of VideoCore multimedia demos, up and running.

We launched Raspberry Pi 2 at the start of 2015, pairing BCM2836 with 1GB of memory. With a quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 clocked at 900MHz, we’d increased performance sixfold, and memory fourfold, in just three years.

Nobody mention the xenon death flash.

And of course, while James was working on Raspberry Pi 2, Broadcom was developing BCM2837, with a quad-core 64-bit Arm Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.2GHz. Raspberry Pi 3 launched barely a year after Raspberry Pi 2, providing a further doubling of performance and, for the first time, wireless LAN and Bluetooth.

All our recent products are just the same board shot from different angles

Zero to hero

Where the PC industry has historically used Moore’s Law to “fill up” a given price point with more performance each year, the original Raspberry Pi used Moore’s law to deliver early-2000s PC performance at a lower price. But with Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, we’d gone back to filling up our original $35 price point. After the launch of Raspberry Pi 2, we started to wonder whether we could pull the same trick again, taking the original Raspberry Pi platform to a radically lower price point.

The result was Raspberry Pi Zero. Priced at just $5, with a 1GHz BCM2835 and 512MB of RAM, it was cheap enough to bundle on the front of The MagPi, making us the first computer magazine to give away a computer as a cover gift.

Cheap thrills

MagPi issue 40 in all its glory

We followed up with the $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W, launched exactly a year ago. This adds the wireless LAN and Bluetooth functionality from Raspberry Pi 3, using a rather improbable-looking PCB antenna designed by our buddies at Proant in Sweden.

Up to our old tricks again

Other things

Of course, this isn’t all. There has been a veritable blizzard of point releases; RAM changes; Chinese red units; promotional blue units; Brazilian blue-ish units; not to mention two Camera Modules, in two flavours each; a touchscreen; the Sense HAT (now aboard the ISS); three compute modules; and cases for the Raspberry Pi 3 and the Zero (the former just won a Design Effectiveness Award from the DBA). And on top of that, we publish three magazines (The MagPi, Hello World, and HackSpace magazine) and a whole host of Project Books and Essentials Guides.

Chinese Raspberry Pi 1 Model B

RS Components limited-edition blue Raspberry Pi 1 Model B

Brazilian-market Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Visible-light Camera Module v2

Learning about injection moulding the hard way

250 pages of content each month, every month

Essential reading

Forward the Foundation

Why does all this matter? Because we’re providing everyone, everywhere, with the chance to own a general-purpose programmable computer for the price of a cup of coffee; because we’re giving people access to tools to let them learn new skills, build businesses, and bring their ideas to life; and because when you buy a Raspberry Pi product, every penny of profit goes to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation in its mission to change the face of computing education.

We’ve had an amazing six years, and they’ve been amazing in large part because of the community that’s grown up alongside us. This weekend, more than 150 Raspberry Jams will take place around the world, comprising the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend.

Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend 2018. GIF with confetti and bopping JAM balloons

If you want to know more about the Raspberry Pi community, go ahead and find your nearest Jam on our interactive map — maybe we’ll see you there.

The post Happy birthday to us! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

EСПЧ: когато телевизията излъчи депутат, записан със скрита камера

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2018/02/23/echr_10-2/

ЕСПЧ се произнесе по делото Alpha Doryforiki Tileorasi Anonymi Etairia v. Greece.

Решението се отнася до прилагането на чл.10 ЕКПЧ в случаите на използване на скрита камера. Решението е интересно, защото частично признава правото на запис и излъчване и частично – не.

Дружеството-жалбоподател  е собственик на гръцкия телевизионен канал ALPHA. Телевизията излъчва  три клипа, заснети със скрита камера. В първия видеоклип А.С., след това член на Гръцкия парламент и председател на комисията по   хазарт, е показан да влиза в  зала за хазарт и да играе на две машини. Второто видео показва срещи на А.С. по повод заснетото първо видео.

Телевизията смята, че  използване на скрита камера е оправдано поради това, че А.С. е публична личност, има  обществен  интерес – доказан  и от факта, че излъчването е довело до освобождаването на А.С. от парламентарната група на съответната политическата партия – според телевизията това е резултат не само на хазартните игри на А. С., но и на факта, че той се е опитал да преговаря с репортерите. Използването на скрита камера   било изключително и служело за получаване на информация, която не би могла да бъде проверена по друг начин, тъй като никой нямало да повярва на твърденията на журналистите, ако са докладвали за проблема, без да излъчват  изображения. Медийният регулатор обаче санкционира телевизията.

ЕСПЧ прилага теста за пропорционалност и като начало намира, че е налице намеса в свободата на изразяване. Съдът отбелязва, че последователно е постановявал, че свободата на изразяване включва публикуването на снимки (Von Hannover)  и излъчването на видеоклипове (Haldimann).  Намеса в свободата на изразяване би нарушила Конвенцията, освен ако не отговаря на изискванията на член 10, параграф 2. Следователно Съдът трябва да определи дали намесата е “предвидена от закона”, дали “преследва една или повече от законните цели, изложени в чл.10.2”, и дали е “необходима в едно демократично общество” за постигането на тези цели.

Оспорваната намеса е “предписана от закона” в Гърция. Тя има законна цел да защити доброто име на засегнатото лице. Дали намесата в упражняването на правото на свобода на изразяване е “необходима в едно демократично общество” по смисъла на член 10 § 2 от Конвенцията?  Съдът отбелязва, че трябва да се вземе предвид необходимостта от постигане на точния баланс между различните интереси. Поради  наличието на пряк и постоянен контакт с реалностите на страната, съдилищата на държавата са в по-добра позиция от международния съд да определят как в определен момент може да бъде постигнат точният баланс. По тази причина по въпросите по член 10 от Конвенцията   държавите имат известна свобода на преценка при преценката на необходимостта и обхвата на всяка намеса в свободата на изразяване. Тази свобода обаче върви ръка за ръка с европейския надзор, обхващащ както законодателството, така и решенията, които го прилагат, дори тези, произнесени от независим съд. При упражняване на надзорната си функция задачата на Съда не е да замества националните съдилища, а да разгледа дали решенията, взети от тях в съответствие с правомощията си за преценка, са съвместими с разпоредбите на Конвенцията, на които се позовава. Ако  националните органи са предприели упражняването на баланс между две противоречащи си права в съответствие с критериите, установени в практиката на Съда, Съдът би изисквал сериозни основания, за  да замени становището  на националните съдилища.

Критериите при балансиране на конкурентните права: принос към дебати от обществен интерес; степента, в която засегнатото лице е известно; предмет  на новината; метод  за получаване на информацията и нейната достоверност; предходното поведение на съответното лице; съдържанието, формата и последствията от публикацията;  строгостта на наложената санкция (Couderc и Hachette Filipacchi Associés,  Axel Springer  и von Hannover  № 2). Освен това се взема предвид, че аудиовизуалните медии често имат много по-непосредствен и мощен ефект от печатните медии (вж. Jersild,  § 31, и Peck срещу Обединеното кралство, no. 44647/98, § 62). Съответно, въпреки че свободата на изразяване обхваща и публикуването на снимки, Съдът припомня, че това е област, в която защитата на правата на другите придобива особено значение, особено когато изображенията съдържат много лична и интимна  информация.  Факторите, които са от значение за оценката на баланса между конкуриращите се интереси, включват допълнителния принос от публикуването на фотографиите към дебатите от общ интерес, както и съдържанието на снимките.

Оосновен критерий е приносът на статиите в пресата за дебати  от обществен интерес. Съдът вече е признал съществуването на такъв интерес, когато публикацията засяга политически въпроси или престъпления.  В случая темата   е въпрос от обществен интерес.  Оспорва се само правото на жалбоподателя да излъчи видеоклиповете  в допълнение към самата новина. Съдът отбелязва по-специално, че разпространението на хазарта представлява въпрос от значителен обществен интерес. Отразява се поведението на депутат по отношение на електронните хазартни игри,  като освен това депутатът е председател на парламентарна комисия за електронните хазартни игри.

Съдът отново заявява, че ролята или функцията на заинтересованото лице и естеството на дейностите, които са предмет на новинарската публикация и / или фотографията, представляват друг важен критерий, който трябва да се има предвид (вж. Von Hannover (№ 2) § 110 и Axel Springer  § 91). Степента, в която дадено лице е известно, влияе върху защитата, която може да бъде предоставена на личния му живот. Обществеността има право да бъде информирана за някои аспекти на личния живот на обществени личности (Karhuvaara и Iltalehti). При определени обстоятелства обаче, дори когато дадено лице е известно на широката общественост, лицето може да се позовава на “оправдани   очаквания” за защита и зачитане на личния си живот – фактът, че дадено лице принадлежи към категорията на обществените личности, не може по никакъв начин, дори при лицата, изпълняващи официални функции, да разрешава на медиите да нарушават професионалните и етичните принципи, които трябва да ръководят действията им, или да легитимират навлизането в  личния живот.

В конкретния случай Съдът отбелязва, че А. С., като член на парламента  безспорно е видна политическа фигура. Според съда този елемент е бил взет предвид в достатъчна степен от местните власти при постигането на баланс между конкурентните интереси.

Новината може да се излъчва, но  се прави разграничение между излъчване на новината и излъчване на клиповете към нея, въпреки че несъмнено излъчването на видеото е довело до по-голямо доверие в  излъчената новина.

Начинът, по който е получена информацията, и истинността й, също са важни фактори. Съдът подчертава, че защитата, предоставена от член 10 от Конвенцията на журналистите, е подчинена на условието те да действат добросъвестно, за да предоставят точна и надеждна информация в съответствие с принципите на отговорната журналистика. Но понятието “отговорна журналистика” като професионална дейност, която се ползва от закрилата на член 10 от Конвенцията, не се ограничава до съдържанието на информацията, която се събира и / или разпространява чрез журналистически средства. Това понятие обхваща, inter alia, законосъобразността на поведението на журналиста  при упражняване на журналистически функции. Фактът, че   журналист  е нарушил закона, е  релевантно, макар и не решаващо, при определянето на това дали е действал отговорно.

Съдът отново подчертава в този контекст, че журналистите, които упражняват свободата си на изразяване, поемат “задължения и отговорности” – параграф 2 от член 10 не гарантира пълна свобода на изразяване, дори и по отношение на медийното отразяване на въпроси от сериозно обществено безпокойство. По-специално и независимо от жизненоважната роля на медиите в едно демократично общество, журналистите по принцип не могат да бъдат освободени от задължението да се подчиняват на обикновения наказателен закон . Журналистът не може да претендира за  имунитет от наказателна отговорност единствено поради това, че за разлика от другите лица, упражняващи правото на свобода на изразяване, въпросното престъпление е извършено по време на изпълнението на   журналистически функции.

Използването на скрита камера не е абсолютно забранено в националното право, то може да бъде прието при строги условия. Между страните не беше оспорено, че съгласно член 9, алинея 1 от Кодекса за етика в областта на журналистиката използването на тази техника е разрешено само при наличие на по-висш обществен интерес от разпространението на съответната информация, при условие че събирането на информацията не нарушава достойнството на дадено лице.

В първия видеоклип А. С. е бил заснет да влиза в хазартна зала и да играе на електронни игрални автомати – следователно на място, достъпно за всеки.

Що се отнася до второто и третото видео, Съдът смята, че A.C. има очакване за неприкосновеност на личния живот, когато влезе в частни пространства.

С оглед на гореизложеното, Съдът заключава, че при обстоятелствата по настоящото дело мотивите на гръцките власти са “релевантни” и “достатъчни”, за да оправдаят намесата (санкцията) по отношение на второто и третото видео. Като се има предвид свободата на преценка, която се ползва от националните съдилища при балансиране на конкурентните интереси, Съдът заключава, че няма сериозни основания да замести становището на местните органи и че съответно не е налице нарушение на Член 10 от Конвенцията по отношение на второто и третото видео.

Напротив, доколкото става въпрос за първото видео, Съдът приема, че  – независимо от факта, че е използвана скрита камера, записът не е в частни помещения и  намесата в правата на А.С. по член 8 е значително по-малко сериозна.  Съдът е на мнение, че  – когато влиза в зала за хазарт – A.C.   би трябвало да очаква, че поведението му е наблюдавано и дори записано с камера, особено с оглед на фактa, че той е публична фигура.

Следователно Съдът заключава, че  наложената санкция  за първото видео е намеса в нарушение на член 10 от Конвенцията.  Такова нарушение не е налице при налагане на санкция за второто и третото видео – които са заснети в частна зона и чието излъчване не е достатъчно обосновано.

Facebook Will Verify the Physical Location of Ad Buyers with Paper Postcards

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/02/facebook_will_v.html

It’s not a great solution, but it’s something:

The process of using postcards containing a specific code will be required for advertising that mentions a specific candidate running for a federal office, Katie Harbath, Facebook’s global director of policy programs, said. The requirement will not apply to issue-based political ads, she said.

“If you run an ad mentioning a candidate, we are going to mail you a postcard and you will have to use that code to prove you are in the United States,” Harbath said at a weekend conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State, where executives from Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google also spoke.

“It won’t solve everything,” Harbath said in a brief interview with Reuters following her remarks.

But sending codes through old-fashioned mail was the most effective method the tech company could come up with to prevent Russians and other bad actors from purchasing ads while posing as someone else, Harbath said.

It does mean a several-days delay between purchasing an ad and seeing it run.

Random with care

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/01/02/random-with-care/

Hi! Here are a few loose thoughts about picking random numbers.

A word about crypto


This is all aimed at frivolous pursuits like video games. Hell, even video games where money is at stake should be deferring to someone who knows way more than I do. Otherwise you might find out that your deck shuffles in your poker game are woefully inadequate and some smartass is cheating you out of millions. (If your random number generator has fewer than 226 bits of state, it can’t even generate every possible shuffling of a deck of cards!)

Use the right distribution

Most languages have a random number primitive that spits out a number uniformly in the range [0, 1), and you can go pretty far with just that. But beware a few traps!

Random pitches

Say you want to pitch up a sound by a random amount, perhaps up to an octave. Your audio API probably has a way to do this that takes a pitch multiplier, where I say “probably” because that’s how the only audio API I’ve used works.

Easy peasy. If 1 is unchanged and 2 is pitched up by an octave, then all you need is rand() + 1. Right?

No! Pitch is exponential — within the same octave, the “gap” between C and C♯ is about half as big as the gap between B and the following C. If you pick a pitch multiplier uniformly, you’ll have a noticeable bias towards the higher pitches.

One octave corresponds to a doubling of pitch, so if you want to pick a random note, you want 2 ** rand().

Random directions

For two dimensions, you can just pick a random angle with rand() * TAU.

If you want a vector rather than an angle, or if you want a random direction in three dimensions, it’s a little trickier. You might be tempted to just pick a random point where each component is rand() * 2 - 1 (ranging from −1 to 1), but that’s not quite right. A direction is a point on the surface (or, equivalently, within the volume) of a sphere, and picking each component independently produces a point within the volume of a cube; the result will be a bias towards the corners of the cube, where there’s much more extra volume beyond the sphere.

No? Well, just trust me. I don’t know how to make a diagram for this.

Anyway, you could use the Pythagorean theorem a few times and make a huge mess of things, or it turns out there’s a really easy way that even works for two or four or any number of dimensions. You pick each coordinate from a Gaussian (normal) distribution, then normalize the resulting vector. In other words, using Python’s random module:

def random_direction():
    x = random.gauss(0, 1)
    y = random.gauss(0, 1)
    z = random.gauss(0, 1)
    r = math.sqrt(x*x + y*y + z*z)
    return x/r, y/r, z/r

Why does this work? I have no idea!

Note that it is possible to get zero (or close to it) for every component, in which case the result is nonsense. You can re-roll all the components if necessary; just check that the magnitude (or its square) is less than some epsilon, which is equivalent to throwing away a tiny sphere at the center and shouldn’t affect the distribution.

Beware Gauss

Since I brought it up: the Gaussian distribution is a pretty nice one for choosing things in some range, where the middle is the common case and should appear more frequently.

That said, I never use it, because it has one annoying drawback: the Gaussian distribution has no minimum or maximum value, so you can’t really scale it down to the range you want. In theory, you might get any value out of it, with no limit on scale.

In practice, it’s astronomically rare to actually get such a value out. I did a hundred million trials just to see what would happen, and the largest value produced was 5.8.

But, still, I’d rather not knowingly put extremely rare corner cases in my code if I can at all avoid it. I could clamp the ends, but that would cause unnatural bunching at the endpoints. I could reroll if I got a value outside some desired range, but I prefer to avoid rerolling when I can, too; after all, it’s still (astronomically) possible to have to reroll for an indefinite amount of time. (Okay, it’s really not, since you’ll eventually hit the period of your PRNG. Still, though.) I don’t bend over backwards here — I did just say to reroll when picking a random direction, after all — but when there’s a nicer alternative I’ll gladly use it.

And lo, there is a nicer alternative! Enter the beta distribution. It always spits out a number in [0, 1], so you can easily swap it in for the standard normal function, but it takes two “shape” parameters α and β that alter its behavior fairly dramatically.

With α = β = 1, the beta distribution is uniform, i.e. no different from rand(). As α increases, the distribution skews towards the right, and as β increases, the distribution skews towards the left. If α = β, the whole thing is symmetric with a hump in the middle. The higher either one gets, the more extreme the hump (meaning that value is far more common than any other). With a little fiddling, you can get a number of interesting curves.

Screenshots don’t really do it justice, so here’s a little Wolfram widget that lets you play with α and β live:

Note that if α = 1, then 1 is a possible value; if β = 1, then 0 is a possible value. You probably want them both greater than 1, which clamps the endpoints to zero.

Also, it’s possible to have either α or β or both be less than 1, but this creates very different behavior: the corresponding endpoints become poles.

Anyway, something like α = β = 3 is probably close enough to normal for most purposes but already clamped for you. And you could easily replicate something like, say, NetHack’s incredibly bizarre rnz function.

Random frequency

Say you want some event to have an 80% chance to happen every second. You (who am I kidding, I) might be tempted to do something like this:

if random() < 0.8 * dt:

In an ideal world, dt is always the same and is equal to 1 / f, where f is the framerate. Replace that 80% with a variable, say P, and every tic you have a P / f chance to do the… whatever it is.

Each second, f tics pass, so you’ll make this check f times. The chance that any check succeeds is the inverse of the chance that every check fails, which is \(1 – \left(1 – \frac{P}{f}\right)^f\).

For P of 80% and a framerate of 60, that’s a total probability of 55.3%. Wait, what?

Consider what happens if the framerate is 2. On the first tic, you roll 0.4 twice — but probabilities are combined by multiplying, and splitting work up by dt only works for additive quantities. You lose some accuracy along the way. If you’re dealing with something that multiplies, you need an exponent somewhere.

But in this case, maybe you don’t want that at all. Each separate roll you make might independently succeed, so it’s possible (but very unlikely) that the event will happen 60 times within a single second! Or 200 times, if that’s someone’s framerate.

If you explicitly want something to have a chance to happen on a specific interval, you have to check on that interval. If you don’t have a gizmo handy to run code on an interval, it’s easy to do yourself with a time buffer:

timer += dt
# here, 1 is the "every 1 seconds"
while timer > 1:
    timer -= 1
    if random() < 0.8:

Using while means rolls still happen even if you somehow skipped over an entire second.

(For the curious, and the nerds who already noticed: the expression \(1 – \left(1 – \frac{P}{f}\right)^f\) converges to a specific value! As the framerate increases, it becomes a better and better approximation for \(1 – e^{-P}\), which for the example above is 0.551. Hey, 60 fps is pretty accurate — it’s just accurately representing something nowhere near what I wanted. Er, you wanted.)

Rolling your own

Of course, you can fuss with the classic [0, 1] uniform value however you want. If I want a bias towards zero, I’ll often just square it, or multiply two of them together. If I want a bias towards one, I’ll take a square root. If I want something like a Gaussian/normal distribution, but with clearly-defined endpoints, I might add together n rolls and divide by n. (The normal distribution is just what you get if you roll infinite dice and divide by infinity!)

It’d be nice to be able to understand exactly what this will do to the distribution. Unfortunately, that requires some calculus, which this post is too small to contain, and which I didn’t even know much about myself until I went down a deep rabbit hole while writing, and which in many cases is straight up impossible to express directly.

Here’s the non-calculus bit. A source of randomness is often graphed as a PDF — a probability density function. You’ve almost certainly seen a bell curve graphed, and that’s a PDF. They’re pretty nice, since they do exactly what they look like: they show the relative chance that any given value will pop out. On a bog standard bell curve, there’s a peak at zero, and of course zero is the most common result from a normal distribution.

(Okay, actually, since the results are continuous, it’s vanishingly unlikely that you’ll get exactly zero — but you’re much more likely to get a value near zero than near any other number.)

For the uniform distribution, which is what a classic rand() gives you, the PDF is just a straight horizontal line — every result is equally likely.

If there were a calculus bit, it would go here! Instead, we can cheat. Sometimes. Mathematica knows how to work with probability distributions in the abstract, and there’s a free web version you can use. For the example of squaring a uniform variable, try this out:

PDF[TransformedDistribution[u^2, u \[Distributed] UniformDistribution[{0, 1}]], u]

(The \[Distributed] is a funny tilde that doesn’t exist in Unicode, but which Mathematica uses as a first-class operator. Also, press shiftEnter to evaluate the line.)

This will tell you that the distribution is… \(\frac{1}{2\sqrt{u}}\). Weird! You can plot it:

Plot[%, {u, 0, 1}]

(The % refers to the result of the last thing you did, so if you want to try several of these, you can just do Plot[PDF[…], u] directly.)

The resulting graph shows that numbers around zero are, in fact, vastly — infinitely — more likely than anything else.

What about multiplying two together? I can’t figure out how to get Mathematica to understand this, but a great amount of digging revealed that the answer is -ln x, and from there you can plot them both on Wolfram Alpha. They’re similar, though squaring has a much better chance of giving you high numbers than multiplying two separate rolls — which makes some sense, since if either of two rolls is a low number, the product will be even lower.

What if you know the graph you want, and you want to figure out how to play with a uniform roll to get it? Good news! That’s a whole thing called inverse transform sampling. All you have to do is take an integral. Good luck!

This is all extremely ridiculous. New tactic: Just Simulate The Damn Thing. You already have the code; run it a million times, make a histogram, and tada, there’s your PDF. That’s one of the great things about computers! Brute-force numerical answers are easy to come by, so there’s no excuse for producing something like rnz. (Though, be sure your histogram has sufficiently narrow buckets — I tried plotting one for rnz once and the weird stuff on the left side didn’t show up at all!)

By the way, I learned something from futzing with Mathematica here! Taking the square root (to bias towards 1) gives a PDF that’s a straight diagonal line, nothing like the hyperbola you get from squaring (to bias towards 0). How do you get a straight line the other way? Surprise: \(1 – \sqrt{1 – u}\).

Okay, okay, here’s the actual math

I don’t claim to have a very firm grasp on this, but I had a hell of a time finding it written out clearly, so I might as well write it down as best I can. This was a great excuse to finally set up MathJax, too.

Say \(u(x)\) is the PDF of the original distribution and \(u\) is a representative number you plucked from that distribution. For the uniform distribution, \(u(x) = 1\). Or, more accurately,

u(x) = \begin{cases}
1 & \text{ if } 0 \le x \lt 1 \\
0 & \text{ otherwise }

Remember that \(x\) here is a possible outcome you want to know about, and the PDF tells you the relative probability that a roll will be near it. This PDF spits out 1 for every \(x\), meaning every number between 0 and 1 is equally likely to appear.

We want to do something to that PDF, which creates a new distribution, whose PDF we want to know. I’ll use my original example of \(f(u) = u^2\), which creates a new PDF \(v(x)\).

The trick is that we need to work in terms of the cumulative distribution function for \(u\). Where the PDF gives the relative chance that a roll will be (“near”) a specific value, the CDF gives the relative chance that a roll will be less than a specific value.

The conventions for this seem to be a bit fuzzy, and nobody bothers to explain which ones they’re using, which makes this all the more confusing to read about… but let’s write the CDF with a capital letter, so we have \(U(x)\). In this case, \(U(x) = x\), a straight 45° line (at least between 0 and 1). With the definition I gave, this should make sense. At some arbitrary point like 0.4, the value of the PDF is 1 (0.4 is just as likely as anything else), and the value of the CDF is 0.4 (you have a 40% chance of getting a number from 0 to 0.4).

Calculus ahoy: the PDF is the derivative of the CDF, which means it measures the slope of the CDF at any point. For \(U(x) = x\), the slope is always 1, and indeed \(u(x) = 1\). See, calculus is easy.

Okay, so, now we’re getting somewhere. What we want is the CDF of our new distribution, \(V(x)\). The CDF is defined as the probability that a roll \(v\) will be less than \(x\), so we can literally write:

$$V(x) = P(v \le x)$$

(This is why we have to work with CDFs, rather than PDFs — a PDF gives the chance that a roll will be “nearby,” whatever that means. A CDF is much more concrete.)

What is \(v\), exactly? We defined it ourselves; it’s the do something applied to a roll from the original distribution, or \(f(u)\).

$$V(x) = P\!\left(f(u) \le x\right)$$

Now the first tricky part: we have to solve that inequality for \(u\), which means we have to do something, backwards to \(x\).

$$V(x) = P\!\left(u \le f^{-1}(x)\right)$$

Almost there! We now have a probability that \(u\) is less than some value, and that’s the definition of a CDF!

$$V(x) = U\!\left(f^{-1}(x)\right)$$

Hooray! Now to turn these CDFs back into PDFs, all we need to do is differentiate both sides and use the chain rule. If you never took calculus, don’t worry too much about what that means!

$$v(x) = u\!\left(f^{-1}(x)\right)\left|\frac{d}{dx}f^{-1}(x)\right|$$

Wait! Where did that absolute value come from? It takes care of whether \(f(x)\) increases or decreases. It’s the least interesting part here by far, so, whatever.

There’s one more magical part here when using the uniform distribution — \(u(\dots)\) is always equal to 1, so that entire term disappears! (Note that this only works for a uniform distribution with a width of 1; PDFs are scaled so the entire area under them sums to 1, so if you had a rand() that could spit out a number between 0 and 2, the PDF would be \(u(x) = \frac{1}{2}\).)

$$v(x) = \left|\frac{d}{dx}f^{-1}(x)\right|$$

So for the specific case of modifying the output of rand(), all we have to do is invert, then differentiate. The inverse of \(f(u) = u^2\) is \(f^{-1}(x) = \sqrt{x}\) (no need for a ± since we’re only dealing with positive numbers), and differentiating that gives \(v(x) = \frac{1}{2\sqrt{x}}\). Done! This is also why square root comes out nicer; inverting it gives \(x^2\), and differentiating that gives \(2x\), a straight line.

Incidentally, that method for turning a uniform distribution into any distribution — inverse transform sampling — is pretty much the same thing in reverse: integrate, then invert. For example, when I saw that taking the square root gave \(v(x) = 2x\), I naturally wondered how to get a straight line going the other way, \(v(x) = 2 – 2x\). Integrating that gives \(2x – x^2\), and then you can use the quadratic formula (or just ask Wolfram Alpha) to solve \(2x – x^2 = u\) for \(x\) and get \(f(u) = 1 – \sqrt{1 – u}\).

Multiply two rolls is a bit more complicated; you have to write out the CDF as an integral and you end up doing a double integral and wow it’s a mess. The only thing I’ve retained is that you do a division somewhere, which then gets integrated, and that’s why it ends up as \(-\ln x\).

And that’s quite enough of that! (Okay but having math in my blog is pretty cool and I will definitely be doing more of this, sorry, not sorry.)

Random vs varied

Sometimes, random isn’t actually what you want. We tend to use the word “random” casually to mean something more like chaotic, i.e., with no discernible pattern. But that’s not really random. In fact, given how good humans can be at finding incidental patterns, they aren’t all that unlikely! Consider that when you roll two dice, they’ll come up either the same or only one apart almost half the time. Coincidence? Well, yes.

If you ask for randomness, you’re saying that any outcome — or series of outcomes — is acceptable, including five heads in a row or five tails in a row. Most of the time, that’s fine. Some of the time, it’s less fine, and what you really want is variety. Here are a couple examples and some fairly easy workarounds.

NPC quips

The nature of games is such that NPCs will eventually run out of things to say, at which point further conversation will give the player a short brush-off quip — a slight nod from the designer to the player that, hey, you hit the end of the script.

Some NPCs have multiple possible quips and will give one at random. The trouble with this is that it’s very possible for an NPC to repeat the same quip several times in a row before abruptly switching to another one. With only a few options to choose from, getting the same option twice or thrice (especially across an entire game, which may have numerous NPCs) isn’t all that unlikely. The notion of an NPC quip isn’t very realistic to start with, but having someone repeat themselves and then abruptly switch to something else is especially jarring.

The easy fix is to show the quips in order! Paradoxically, this is more consistently varied than choosing at random — the original “order” is likely to be meaningless anyway, and it already has the property that the same quip can never appear twice in a row.

If you like, you can shuffle the list of quips every time you reach the end, but take care here — it’s possible that the last quip in the old order will be the same as the first quip in the new order, so you may still get a repeat. (Of course, you can just check for this case and swap the first quip somewhere else if it bothers you.)

That last behavior is, in fact, the canonical way that Tetris chooses pieces — the game simply shuffles a list of all 7 pieces, gives those to you in shuffled order, then shuffles them again to make a new list once it’s exhausted. There’s no avoidance of duplicates, though, so you can still get two S blocks in a row, or even two S and two Z all clumped together, but no more than that. Some Tetris variants take other approaches, such as actively avoiding repeats even several pieces apart or deliberately giving you the worst piece possible.

Random drops

Random drops are often implemented as a flat chance each time. Maybe enemies have a 5% chance to drop health when they die. Legally speaking, over the long term, a player will see health drops for about 5% of enemy kills.

Over the short term, they may be desperate for health and not survive to see the long term. So you may want to put a thumb on the scale sometimes. Games in the Metroid series, for example, have a somewhat infamous bias towards whatever kind of drop they think you need — health if your health is low, missiles if your missiles are low.

I can’t give you an exact approach to use, since it depends on the game and the feeling you’re going for and the variables at your disposal. In extreme cases, you might want to guarantee a health drop from a tough enemy when the player is critically low on health. (Or if you’re feeling particularly evil, you could go the other way and deny the player health when they most need it…)

The problem becomes a little different, and worse, when the event that triggers the drop is relatively rare. The pathological case here would be something like a raid boss in World of Warcraft, which requires hours of effort from a coordinated group of people to defeat, and which has some tiny chance of dropping a good item that will go to only one of those people. This is why I stopped playing World of Warcraft at 60.

Dialing it back a little bit gives us Enter the Gungeon, a roguelike where each room is a set of encounters and each floor only has a dozen or so rooms. Initially, you have a 1% chance of getting a reward after completing a room — but every time you complete a room and don’t get a reward, the chance increases by 9%, up to a cap of 80%. Once you get a reward, the chance resets to 1%.

The natural question is: how frequently, exactly, can a player expect to get a reward? We could do math, or we could Just Simulate The Damn Thing.

from collections import Counter
import random

histogram = Counter()

TRIALS = 1000000
chance = 1
rooms_cleared = 0
rewards_found = 0
while rewards_found < TRIALS:
    rooms_cleared += 1
    if random.random() * 100 < chance:
        # Reward!
        rewards_found += 1
        histogram[rooms_cleared] += 1
        rooms_cleared = 0
        chance = 1
        chance = min(80, chance + 9)

for gaps, count in sorted(histogram.items()):
    print(f"{gaps:3d} | {count / TRIALS * 100:6.2f}%", '#' * (count // (TRIALS // 100)))
  1 |   0.98%
  2 |   9.91% #########
  3 |  17.00% ################
  4 |  20.23% ####################
  5 |  19.21% ###################
  6 |  15.05% ###############
  7 |   9.69% #########
  8 |   5.07% #####
  9 |   2.09% ##
 10 |   0.63%
 11 |   0.12%
 12 |   0.03%
 13 |   0.00%
 14 |   0.00%
 15 |   0.00%

We’ve got kind of a hilly distribution, skewed to the left, which is up in this histogram. Most of the time, a player should see a reward every three to six rooms, which is maybe twice per floor. It’s vanishingly unlikely to go through a dozen rooms without ever seeing a reward, so a player should see at least one per floor.

Of course, this simulated a single continuous playthrough; when starting the game from scratch, your chance at a reward always starts fresh at 1%, the worst it can be. If you want to know about how many rewards a player will get on the first floor, hey, Just Simulate The Damn Thing.

  0 |   0.01%
  1 |  13.01% #############
  2 |  56.28% ########################################################
  3 |  27.49% ###########################
  4 |   3.10% ###
  5 |   0.11%
  6 |   0.00%

Cool. Though, that’s assuming exactly 12 rooms; it might be worth changing that to pick at random in a way that matches the level generator.

(Enter the Gungeon does some other things to skew probability, which is very nice in a roguelike where blind luck can make or break you. For example, if you kill a boss without having gotten a new gun anywhere else on the floor, the boss is guaranteed to drop a gun.)

Critical hits

I suppose this is the same problem as random drops, but backwards.

Say you have a battle sim where every attack has a 6% chance to land a devastating critical hit. Presumably the same rules apply to both the player and the AI opponents.

Consider, then, that the AI opponents have exactly the same 6% chance to ruin the player’s day. Consider also that this gives them an 0.4% chance to critical hit twice in a row. 0.4% doesn’t sound like much, but across an entire playthrough, it’s not unlikely that a player might see it happen and find it incredibly annoying.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to explicitly forbid AI opponents from getting consecutive critical hits.

In conclusion

An emerging theme here has been to Just Simulate The Damn Thing. So consider Just Simulating The Damn Thing. Even a simple change to a random value can do surprising things to the resulting distribution, so unless you feel like differentiating the inverse function of your code, maybe test out any non-trivial behavior and make sure it’s what you wanted. Probability is hard to reason about.

Kodi Piracy and Addon Predictions for 2018

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-piracy-and-addon-predictions-for-2018-171228/

During 2017, Kodi and its sea of third-party addons hit the headlines hundreds of times.

Streaming in this fashion became a massive deal throughout the year and eventually, copyright holders decided to take action, cracking down on groups such as TVAddons, ZemTV, and addons offered by jsergio123 and The_Alpha.

In November, the problems continued when the Ares Project, the group behind the hugely popular Ares Wizard and Kodi repository, threw in the towel after being threatened by the MPA-led anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

The combined might of Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Netflix, Amazon, and Sky TV was too much, leading to Ares Project leader Tekto shutting everything down.

This was a significant development. Over a two year period, Ares serviced an estimated 100 million users. After interviewing Tekto last month, today we catch up with the developer again, listening to his thoughts on how the scene might further develop in 2018 and what threats lie ahead.

TF: Could you tell us a bit about Kodi’s suitability as an unauthorized streaming platform moving forward? Is it flexible enough to deal with threats, is its current development effort sufficient, do addon developers like the way it works, and how could it be improved?

Tekto: The public awareness of Kodi and the easy ways with which it can be customised via builds and its open source nature makes it the perfect platform for Python coders. It’s easy to fork, copy, adapt and learn, and it’s good for “builders” who modify, personalize, and “brand”.

It’s also easy for users to obtain, install, and work with the plethora of wizards and addons etc, all backed by up blogs and YouTube tutorials. It’s the perfect open source platform to develop and customise to access a massive range of content. Content that may well be contentious but regardless, it is publicly available all over the web.

TF: Obviously Kodi is the big thing at the moment but other apps, such as Showbox, TerrariumTV, and similar products are carving a decent niche for themselves. Where do you see the market sitting on these kinds of products moving forward and are they a threat to Kodi’s dominance?

Tekto: The apps and other services don’t offer the same level of personalization. That’s what will keep a certain dedicated following happy with Kodi. We’ve had Plex, Streamio, Emby and so on, but none offer the flexibility of Kodi.

TF: Does Kodi have any major weaknesses that you know of? Is it under threat from other systems perhaps?

Tekto: Lets not forget we had CCcam [card sharing] for a decade and with Sky [UK TV provider] changing their encryption to end that source, a myriad of IPTV providers sprung up to replace it. All that killing the CCcam method has done, is moved people off CCcam to IPTV. It hasn’t stopped piracy or access to “premium content”, it just moved somewhere else. It probably also makes the providers more money than CCcam accounts ever did.

TF: There have been a lot of legal threats in 2017. Are third-party addon developers and their community under serious threat?

Tekto: If Kodi third-party devs “stopped”, something else would take over. All the Android apps that have sprung up (some have been around a while anyway) are already filling some gaps or giving options for those looking to stream.

Having tried some of these, I have to say for non-tech users there are two or three apps that will suit them perfectly. Others need more work and fewer invasive ads to be more successful. Will Kodi stop? No. It is evolving and finding a new path. It has to. Well, the coders have to, at least.

TF: What is your overall assessment of the various legal attacks this year?

Tekto: What is being missed by all these legal “efforts” is the removal of the sources being accessed. Whilst the sources exist, apps and Kodi add-ons will find ways to access them.

Did taking out a few Kodi devs and a wizard remove any content? Did it stop just one movie from being accessed? No. It did nothing to stop piracy. It did, however, give those receiving HUGE fees to act for the various movie and broadcasters, something to write on their “success” boards and reports.

It just upset users for a few days whilst things adapted to the new situation. The Kodi builds listed on Ares all had their own wizards anyway – so they all carried on working. All the add-ons on Ares were mostly linked to Github, so they carried on working anyway.

The takedown of guys working on the URL resolver for Covenant didn’t work at all. The code still works and if you add, let’s say, Real Debrid, it won’t ever stop working, even Exodus still works! Let’s add to this that Covenant was then forked five or six times and re-marketed.

I’d say it probably increased “acts of copyright infringement” or at least access to “copyright infringing material”. TV Addons immediately took over development of the “URL resolver”, so it will be maintained and fixes for it released.

The URL resolver module uses regex – regular expressions to emulate a web browser (for the most part). Let that sink in; A URL resolver is a way to bypass a web browser, as most of the content is hosted on “publicly accessible” websites, that still remain publicly available with or without Covenant or whatever the forks are called.

TF: Sp there isn’t a Doomsday scenario?

Tekto: If the Kodi third-party scene is somehow stopped – all Wizards, builds, etc were all stopped this very second – there would be a dozen new apps for Android in weeks. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of websites you could switch to, to watch the same content. ACE, MPA etc need to wake up to that fact.

TF: One of the big deals this year, as far as the legal position goes, has been the clarification of “communication to the public” following cases at the European level featuring [pirate box seller] Filmspeler and The Pirate Bay. How do you think this will affect the addon and build scenes moving forward?

Tekto: I’ve long believed that Kodi wizards and scraper addons operated in a way that wasn’t illegal, in that they never provided content, never actually handled the copyright protected files themselves.

It still remains my belief that the recent efforts to use the Ziggo [Pirate Bay] ruling concerning “communicating to the public” is directly linked to torrents or at the very least actually providing content itself. It may be legal “saber rattling” – however standing your ground in the face of a well-funded legal behemoth is beyond hobbyists.

TF: An addon developer I spoke with recently said that fellow addon developers will need to be smarter in future, perhaps by developing addons that aren’t so obviously infringing and are more general in their functionality. Do you feel this is a route they’re likely to take and will it make any difference? How do you think a more ‘underground’ scene will affect the situation on the ground?

Tekto: Going Underground? Most will say grab a VPN and you’re safe – take note that a VPN isn’t enough. They may not get your logs, but they will get your payment info, or the times you are online tagged against another log etc. Anything like PayPal, Gmail, AdSense, etc is 100% out too – they will give people up in a heartbeat. People will have to avoid Facebook, Twitter and so on, as again, they will also link back to the “real you”.

I expect more will move to Tor as a first level of hiding their identities. Hosting via Tor-only sites might be a way to avoid some obvious methods of tracing people. Add-on devs could access Github and release code without ever having to reveal who they are.

Let’s not get into the whole “freedom of speech” etc scenario, however. It should mean that any developer should realistically make much greater efforts to hide their identities.

TF: Thank you for your time, Tekto. Any final messages for the readers?

Tekto: Yes, our Ares Wizard has returned. It’s a mainentance tool now.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Rosie the Countdown champion

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/rosie-the-countdown-champion/

Beating the contestants at Countdown: is it cheating if you happen to know every word in the English dictionary?

Rosie plays Countdown

Allow your robots to join in the fun this Christmas with a round of Channel 4’s Countdown. https://www.rosietheredrobot.com/2017/12/tea-minus-30.html

Rosie the Red Robot

First, a little bit of backstory. Challenged by his eldest daughter to build a robot, technology-loving Alan got to work building Rosie.

I became (unusually) determined. I wanted to show her what can be done… and the how can be learnt later. After all, there is nothing more exciting and encouraging than seeing technology come alive. Move. Groove. Quite literally.

Originally, Rosie had a Raspberry Pi 3 brain controlling ultrasonic sensors and motors via Python. From there, she has evolved into something much grander, and Alan has documented her upgrades on the Rosie the Red Robot blog. Using GPS trackers and a Raspberry Pi camera module, she became Rosie Patrol, a rolling, walking, interactive bot; then, with further upgrades, the Tea Minus 30 project came to be. Which brings us back to Countdown.

T(ea) minus 30

In case it hasn’t been a big part of your life up until now, Countdown is one of the longest running televisions shows in history, and occupies a special place in British culture. Contestants take turns to fill a board with nine randomly selected vowels and consonants, before battling the Countdown clock to find the longest word they can in the space of 30 seconds.

The Countdown Clock

I’ve had quite a few requests to show just the Countdown clock for use in school activities/own games etc., so here it is! Enjoy! It’s a brand new version too, using the 2010 Office package.

There’s a numbers round involving arithmetic, too – but for now, we’re going to focus on letters and words, because that’s where Rosie’s skills shine.

Using an online resource, Alan created a dataset of the ten thousand most common English words.

Rosie the Red Robot Raspberry Pi

Many words, listed in order of common-ness. Alan wrote a Python script to order them alphabetically and by length

Next, Alan wrote a Python script to select nine letters at random, then search the word list to find all the words that could be spelled using only these letters. He used the randint function to select letters from a pre-loaded alphabet, and introduced a requirement to include at least two vowels among the nine letters.

Rosie the Red Robot Raspberry Pi

Words that match the available letters are displayed on the screen.

Rosie the Red Robot Raspberry Pi

Putting it all together

With the basic game-play working, it was time to bring the project to life. For this, Alan used Rosie’s camera module, along with optical character recognition (OCR) and text-to-speech capabilities.

Rosie the Red Robot Raspberry Pi

Alan writes, “Here’s a very amateurish drawing to brainstorm our idea. Let’s call it a design as it makes it sound like we know what we’re doing.”

Alan’s script has Rosie take a photo of the TV screen during the Countdown letters round, then perform OCR using the Google Cloud Vision API to detect the nine letters contestants have to work with. Next, Rosie runs Alan’s code to check the letters against the ten-thousand-word dataset, converts text to speech with Python gTTS, and finally speaks her highest-scoring word via omxplayer.

You can follow the adventures of Rosie the Red Robot on her blog, or follow her on Twitter. And if you’d like to build your own Rosie, Alan has provided code and tutorials for his projects too. Thanks, Alan!

The post Rosie the Countdown champion appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Elisa 0.0.80 Released

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/741172/rss

A very early alpha version of the Elisa music player has been released.
Elisa allows to browse music by album, artist or all tracks. The music is indexed using either a private indexer or an indexer using Baloo. The private one can be configured to scan music on chosen paths. The Baloo one is much faster because Baloo is providing all needed data from its own database. You can build and play your own playlist.

Serverless Automated Cost Controls, Part1

Post Syndicated from Shankar Ramachandran original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/serverless-automated-cost-controls-part1/

This post courtesy of Shankar Ramachandran, Pubali Sen, and George Mao

In line with AWS’s continual efforts to reduce costs for customers, this series focuses on how customers can build serverless automated cost controls. This post provides an architecture blueprint and a sample implementation to prevent budget overruns.

This solution uses the following AWS products:

  • AWS Budgets – An AWS Cost Management tool that helps customers define and track budgets for AWS costs, and forecast for up to three months.
  • Amazon SNS – An AWS service that makes it easy to set up, operate, and send notifications from the cloud.
  • AWS Lambda – An AWS service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers.

You can fine-tune a budget for various parameters, for example filtering by service or tag. The Budgets tool lets you post notifications on an SNS topic. A Lambda function that subscribes to the SNS topic can act on the notification. Any programmatically implementable action can be taken.

The diagram below describes the architecture blueprint.

In this post, we describe how to use this blueprint with AWS Step Functions and IAM to effectively revoke the ability of a user to start new Amazon EC2 instances, after a budget amount is exceeded.

Freedom with guardrails

AWS lets you quickly spin up resources as you need them, deploying hundreds or even thousands of servers in minutes. This means you can quickly develop and roll out new applications. Teams can experiment and innovate more quickly and frequently. If an experiment fails, you can always de-provision those servers without risk.

This improved agility also brings in the need for effective cost controls. Your Finance and Accounting department must budget, monitor, and control the AWS spend. For example, this could be a budget per project. Further, Finance and Accounting must take appropriate actions if the budget for the project has been exceeded, for example. Call it “freedom with guardrails” – where Finance wants to give developers freedom, but with financial constraints.


This section describes how to use the blueprint introduced earlier to implement a “freedom with guardrails” solution.

  1. The budget for “Project Beta” is set up in Budgets. In this example, we focus on EC2 usage and identify the instances that belong to this project by filtering on the tag Project with the value Beta. For more information, see Creating a Budget.
  2. The budget configuration also includes settings to send a notification on an SNS topic when the usage exceeds 100% of the budgeted amount. For more information, see Creating an Amazon SNS Topic for Budget Notifications.
  3. The master Lambda function receives the SNS notification.
  4. It triggers execution of a Step Functions state machine with the parameters for completing the configured action.
  5. The action Lambda function is triggered as a task in the state machine. The function interacts with IAM to effectively remove the user’s permissions to create an EC2 instance.

This decoupled modular design allows for extensibility.  New actions (serially or in parallel) can be added by simply adding new steps.

Implementing the solution

All the instructions and code needed to implement the architecture have been posted on the Serverless Automated Cost Controls GitHub repo. We recommend that you try this first in a Dev/Test environment.

This implementation description can be broken down into two parts:

  1. Create a solution stack for serverless automated cost controls.
  2. Verify the solution by testing the EC2 fleet.

To tie this back to the “freedom with guardrails” scenario, the Finance department performs a one-time implementation of the solution stack. To simulate resources for Project Beta, the developers spin up the test EC2 fleet.


There are two prerequisites:

  • Make sure that you have the necessary IAM permissions. For more information, see the section titled “Required IAM permissions” in the README.
  • Define and activate a cost allocation tag with the key Project. For more information, see Using Cost Allocation Tags. It can take up to 12 hours for the tags to propagate to Budgets.

Create resources

The solution stack includes creating the following resources:

  • Three Lambda functions
  • One Step Functions state machine
  • One SNS topic
  • One IAM group
  • One IAM user
  • IAM policies as needed
  • One budget

Two of the Lambda functions were described in the previous section, to a) receive the SNS notification and b) trigger the Step Functions state machine. Another Lambda function is used to create the budget, as a custom AWS CloudFormation resource. The SNS topic connects Budgets with Lambda function A. Lambda function B is configured as a task in Step Functions. A budget for $2 is created which is filtered by Service: EC2 and Tag: Project, Beta. A test IAM group and user is created to enable you to validate this Cost Control Solution.

To create the serverless automated cost control solution stack, choose the button below. It takes few minutes to spin up the stack. You can monitor the progress in the CloudFormation console.

When you see the CREATE_COMPLETE status for the stack you had created, choose Outputs. Copy the following four values that you need later:

  • TemplateURL
  • UserName
  • SignInURL
  • Password

Verify the stack

The next step is to verify the serverless automated cost controls solution stack that you just created. To do this, spin up an EC2 fleet of t2.micro instances, representative of the resources needed for Project Beta, and tag them with Project, Beta.

  1. Browse to the SignInURL, and log in using the UserName and Password values copied on from the stack output.
  2. In the CloudFormation console, choose Create Stack.
  3. For Choose a template, select Choose an Amazon S3 template URL and paste the TemplateURL value from the preceding section. Choose Next.
  4. Give this stack a name, such as “testEc2FleetForProjectBeta”. Choose Next.
  5. On the Specify Details page, enter parameters such as the UserName and Password copied in the previous section. Choose Next.
  6. Ignore any errors related to listing IAM roles. The test user has a minimal set of permissions that is just sufficient to spin up this test stack (in line with security best practices).
  7. On the Options page, choose Next.
  8. On the Review page, choose Create. It takes a few minutes to spin up the stack, and you can monitor the progress in the CloudFormation console. 
  9. When you see the status “CREATE_COMPLETE”, open the EC2 console to verify that four t2.micro instances have been spun up, with the tag of Project, Beta.

The hourly cost for these instances depends on the region in which they are running. On the average (irrespective of the region), you can expect the aggregate cost for this EC2 fleet to exceed the set $2 budget in 48 hours.

Verify the solution

The first step is to identify the test IAM group that was created in the previous section. The group should have “projectBeta” in the name, prepended with the CloudFormation stack name and appended with an alphanumeric string. Verify that the managed policy associated is: “EC2FullAccess”, which indicates that the users in this group have unrestricted access to EC2.

There are two stages of verification for this serverless automated cost controls solution: simulating a notification and waiting for a breach.

Simulated notification

Because it takes at least a few hours for the aggregate cost of the EC2 fleet to breach the set budget, you can verify the solution by simulating the notification from Budgets.

  1. Log in to the SNS console (using your regular AWS credentials).
  2. Publish a message on the SNS topic that has “budgetNotificationTopic” in the name. The complete name is appended by the CloudFormation stack identifier.  
  3. Copy the following text as the body of the notification: “This is a mock notification”.
  4. Choose Publish.
  5. Open the IAM console to verify that the policy for the test group has been switched to “EC2ReadOnly”. This prevents users in this group from creating new instances.
  6. Verify that the test user created in the previous section cannot spin up new EC2 instances.  You can log in as the test user and try creating a new EC2 instance (via the same CloudFormation stack or the EC2 console). You should get an error message indicating that you do not have the necessary permissions.
  7. If you are proceeding to stage 2 of the verification, then you must switch the permissions back to “EC2FullAccess” for the test group, which can be done in the IAM console.

Automatic notification

Within 48 hours, the aggregate cost of the EC2 fleet spun up in the earlier section breaches the budget rule and triggers an automatic notification. This results in the permissions getting switched out, just as in the simulated notification.

Clean up

Use the following steps to delete your resources and stop incurring costs.

  1. Open the CloudFormation console.
  2. Delete the EC2 fleet by deleting the appropriate stack (for example, delete the stack named “testEc2FleetForProjectBeta”).                                               
  3. Next, delete the “costControlStack” stack.                                                                                                                                                    


Using Lambda in tandem with Budgets, you can build Serverless automated cost controls on AWS. Find all the resources (instructions, code) for implementing the solution discussed in this post on the Serverless Automated Cost Controls GitHub repo.

Stay tuned to this series for more tips about building serverless automated cost controls. In the next post, we discuss using smart lighting to influence developer behavior and describe a solution to encourage cost-aware development practices.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.


How to Patch, Inspect, and Protect Microsoft Windows Workloads on AWS—Part 2

Post Syndicated from Koen van Blijderveen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-patch-inspect-and-protect-microsoft-windows-workloads-on-aws-part-2/

Yesterday in Part 1 of this blog post, I showed you how to:

  1. Launch an Amazon EC2 instance with an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) role, an Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volume, and tags that Amazon EC2 Systems Manager (Systems Manager) and Amazon Inspector use.
  2. Configure Systems Manager to install the Amazon Inspector agent and patch your EC2 instances.

Today in Steps 3 and 4, I show you how to:

  1. Take Amazon EBS snapshots using Amazon EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots based on instance tags.
  2. Use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

To catch up on Steps 1 and 2, see yesterday’s blog post.

Step 3: Take EBS snapshots using EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In this section, I show you how to use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take snapshots of your instances at specific intervals. To do this, I will show you how to:

  • Determine the schedule for EBS Snapshot Scheduler by providing you with best practices.
  • Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler by using AWS CloudFormation.
  • Tag your EC2 instances so that EBS Snapshot Scheduler backs up your instances when you want them backed up.

In addition to making sure your EC2 instances have all the available operating system patches applied on a regular schedule, you should take snapshots of the EBS storage volumes attached to your EC2 instances. Taking regular snapshots allows you to restore your data to a previous state quickly and cost effectively. With Amazon EBS snapshots, you pay only for the actual data you store, and snapshots save only the data that has changed since the previous snapshot, which minimizes your cost. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to make regular snapshots of your EC2 instance. EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes advantage of other AWS services including CloudFormation, Amazon DynamoDB, and AWS Lambda to make backing up your EBS volumes simple.

Determine the schedule

As a best practice, you should back up your data frequently during the hours when your data changes the most. This reduces the amount of data you lose if you have to restore from a snapshot. For the purposes of this blog post, the data for my instances changes the most between the business hours of 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time. During these hours, I will make snapshots hourly to minimize data loss.

In addition to backing up frequently, another best practice is to establish a strategy for retention. This will vary based on how you need to use the snapshots. If you have compliance requirements to be able to restore for auditing, your needs may be different than if you are able to detect data corruption within three hours and simply need to restore to something that limits data loss to five hours. EBS Snapshot Scheduler enables you to specify the retention period for your snapshots. For this post, I only need to keep snapshots for recent business days. To account for weekends, I will set my retention period to three days, which is down from the default of 15 days when deploying EBS Snapshot Scheduler.

Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In Step 1 of Part 1 of this post, I showed how to configure an EC2 for Windows Server 2012 R2 instance with an EBS volume. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take eight snapshots each weekday of your EC2 instance’s EBS volumes:

  1. Navigate to the EBS Snapshot Scheduler deployment page and choose Launch Solution. This takes you to the CloudFormation console in your account. The Specify an Amazon S3 template URL option is already selected and prefilled. Choose Next on the Select Template page.
  2. On the Specify Details page, retain all default parameters except for AutoSnapshotDeletion. Set AutoSnapshotDeletion to Yes to ensure that old snapshots are periodically deleted. The default retention period is 15 days (you will specify a shorter value on your instance in the next subsection).
  3. Choose Next twice to move to the Review step, and start deployment by choosing the I acknowledge that AWS CloudFormation might create IAM resources check box and then choosing Create.

Tag your EC2 instances

EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes a few minutes to deploy. While waiting for its deployment, you can start to tag your instance to define its schedule. EBS Snapshot Scheduler reads tag values and looks for four possible custom parameters in the following order:

  • <snapshot time> – Time in 24-hour format with no colon.
  • <retention days> – The number of days (a positive integer) to retain the snapshot before deletion, if set to automatically delete snapshots.
  • <time zone> – The time zone of the times specified in <snapshot time>.
  • <active day(s)>all, weekdays, or mon, tue, wed, thu, fri, sat, and/or sun.

Because you want hourly backups on weekdays between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time, you need to configure eight tags—one for each hour of the day. You will add the eight tags shown in the following table to your EC2 instance.

Tag Value
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:0900 0900;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1000 1000;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1100 1100;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1200 1200;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1300 1300;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1400 1400;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1500 1500;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1600 1600;3;utc;weekdays

Next, you will add these tags to your instance. If you want to tag multiple instances at once, you can use Tag Editor instead. To add the tags in the preceding table to your EC2 instance:

  1. Navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console and choose Tags in the navigation pane.
  2. Choose Add/Edit Tags and then choose Create Tag to add all the tags specified in the preceding table.
  3. Confirm you have added the tags by choosing Save. After adding these tags, navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console. Your EC2 instance should look similar to the following screenshot.
    Screenshot of how your EC2 instance should look in the console
  4. After waiting a couple of hours, you can see snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console.Screenshot of snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console
  5. To check if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active, you can check the CloudWatch rule that runs the Lambda function. If the clock icon shown in the following screenshot is green, the scheduler is active. If the clock icon is gray, the rule is disabled and does not run. You can enable or disable the rule by selecting it, choosing Actions, and choosing Enable or Disable. This also allows you to temporarily disable EBS Snapshot Scheduler.Screenshot of checking to see if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active
  1. You can also monitor when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule as shown in the previous screenshot and choosing Show metrics for the rule.Screenshot of monitoring when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule

If you want to restore and attach an EBS volume, see Restoring an Amazon EBS Volume from a Snapshot and Attaching an Amazon EBS Volume to an Instance.

Step 4: Use Amazon Inspector

In this section, I show you how to you use Amazon Inspector to scan your EC2 instance for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) and set up Amazon SNS notifications. To do this I will show you how to:

  • Install the Amazon Inspector agent by using EC2 Run Command.
  • Set up notifications using Amazon SNS to notify you of any findings.
  • Define an Amazon Inspector target and template to define what assessment to perform on your EC2 instance.
  • Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs to assess your EC2 instance on a regular interval.

Amazon Inspector can help you scan your EC2 instance using prebuilt rules packages, which are built and maintained by AWS. These prebuilt rules packages tell Amazon Inspector what to scan for on the EC2 instances you select. Amazon Inspector provides the following prebuilt packages for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2:

  • Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures
  • Center for Internet Security Benchmarks
  • Runtime Behavior Analysis

In this post, I’m focused on how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances patched, backed up, and inspected for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs). As a result, I will focus on how to use the CVE rules package and use your instance tags to identify the instances on which to run the CVE rules. If your EC2 instance is fully patched using Systems Manager, as described earlier, you should not have any findings with the CVE rules package. Regardless, as a best practice I recommend that you use Amazon Inspector as an additional layer for identifying any unexpected failures. This involves using Amazon CloudWatch to set up weekly Amazon Inspector scans, and configuring Amazon Inspector to notify you of any findings through SNS topics. By acting on the notifications you receive, you can respond quickly to any CVEs on any of your EC2 instances to help ensure that malware using known CVEs does not affect your EC2 instances. In a previous blog post, Eric Fitzgerald showed how to remediate Amazon Inspector security findings automatically.

Install the Amazon Inspector agent

To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use EC2 Run Command, which allows you to run any command on any of your EC2 instances that have the Systems Manager agent with an attached IAM role that allows access to Systems Manager.

  1. Choose Run Command under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console. Then choose Run a command.
    Screenshot of choosing "Run a command"
  2. To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use an AWS managed and provided command document that downloads and installs the agent for you on the selected EC2 instance. Choose AmazonInspector-ManageAWSAgent. To choose the target EC2 instance where this command will be run, use the tag you previously assigned to your EC2 instance, Patch Group, with a value of Windows Servers. For this example, set the concurrent installations to 1 and tell Systems Manager to stop after 5 errors.
    Screenshot of installing the Amazon Inspector agent
  3. Retain the default values for all other settings on the Run a command page and choose Run. Back on the Run Command page, you can see if the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances.
    Screenshot showing that the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances

Set up notifications using Amazon SNS

Now that you have installed the Amazon Inspector agent, you will set up an SNS topic that will notify you of any findings after an Amazon Inspector run.

To set up an SNS topic:

  1. In the AWS Management Console, choose Simple Notification Service under Messaging in the Services menu.
  2. Choose Create topic, name your topic (only alphanumeric characters, hyphens, and underscores are allowed) and give it a display name to ensure you know what this topic does (I’ve named mine Inspector). Choose Create topic.
    "Create new topic" page
  3. To allow Amazon Inspector to publish messages to your new topic, choose Other topic actions and choose Edit topic policy.
  4. For Allow these users to publish messages to this topic and Allow these users to subscribe to this topic, choose Only these AWS users. Type the following ARN for the US East (N. Virginia) Region in which you are deploying the solution in this post: arn:aws:iam::316112463485:root. This is the ARN of Amazon Inspector itself. For the ARNs of Amazon Inspector in other AWS Regions, see Setting Up an SNS Topic for Amazon Inspector Notifications (Console). Amazon Resource Names (ARNs) uniquely identify AWS resources across all of AWS.
    Screenshot of editing the topic policy
  5. To receive notifications from Amazon Inspector, subscribe to your new topic by choosing Create subscription and adding your email address. After confirming your subscription by clicking the link in the email, the topic should display your email address as a subscriber. Later, you will configure the Amazon Inspector template to publish to this topic.
    Screenshot of subscribing to the new topic

Define an Amazon Inspector target and template

Now that you have set up the notification topic by which Amazon Inspector can notify you of findings, you can create an Amazon Inspector target and template. A target defines which EC2 instances are in scope for Amazon Inspector. A template defines which packages to run, for how long, and on which target.

To create an Amazon Inspector target:

  1. Navigate to the Amazon Inspector console and choose Get started. At the time of writing this blog post, Amazon Inspector is available in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (N. California), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Seoul), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Regions.
  2. For Amazon Inspector to be able to collect the necessary data from your EC2 instance, you must create an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector. Amazon Inspector can create this role for you if you choose Choose or create role and confirm the role creation by choosing Allow.
    Screenshot of creating an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector
  3. Amazon Inspector also asks you to tag your EC2 instance and install the Amazon Inspector agent. You already performed these steps in Part 1 of this post, so you can proceed by choosing Next. To define the Amazon Inspector target, choose the previously used Patch Group tag with a Value of Windows Servers. This is the same tag that you used to define the targets for patching. Then choose Next.
    Screenshot of defining the Amazon Inspector target
  4. Now, define your Amazon Inspector template, and choose a name and the package you want to run. For this post, use the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures package and choose the default duration of 1 hour. As you can see, the package has a version number, so always select the latest version of the rules package if multiple versions are available.
    Screenshot of defining an assessment template
  5. Configure Amazon Inspector to publish to your SNS topic when findings are reported. You can also choose to receive a notification of a started run, a finished run, or changes in the state of a run. For this blog post, you want to receive notifications if there are any findings. To start, choose Assessment Templates from the Amazon Inspector console and choose your newly created Amazon Inspector assessment template. Choose the icon below SNS topics (see the following screenshot).
    Screenshot of choosing an assessment template
  6. A pop-up appears in which you can choose the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you (choose Finding reported).
    Screenshot of choosing the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you

Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs

The last step in using Amazon Inspector to assess for CVEs is to schedule the Amazon Inspector template to run using Amazon CloudWatch Events. This will make sure that Amazon Inspector assesses your EC2 instance on a regular basis. To do this, you need the Amazon Inspector template ARN, which you can find under Assessment templates in the Amazon Inspector console. CloudWatch Events can run your Amazon Inspector assessment at an interval you define using a Cron-based schedule. Cron is a well-known scheduling agent that is widely used on UNIX-like operating systems and uses the following syntax for CloudWatch Events.

Image of Cron schedule

All scheduled events use a UTC time zone, and the minimum precision for schedules is one minute. For more information about scheduling CloudWatch Events, see Schedule Expressions for Rules.

To create the CloudWatch Events rule:

  1. Navigate to the CloudWatch console, choose Events, and choose Create rule.
    Screenshot of starting to create a rule in the CloudWatch Events console
  2. On the next page, specify if you want to invoke your rule based on an event pattern or a schedule. For this blog post, you will select a schedule based on a Cron expression.
  3. You can schedule the Amazon Inspector assessment any time you want using the Cron expression, or you can use the Cron expression I used in the following screenshot, which will run the Amazon Inspector assessment every Sunday at 10:00 P.M. GMT.
    Screenshot of scheduling an Amazon Inspector assessment with a Cron expression
  4. Choose Add target and choose Inspector assessment template from the drop-down menu. Paste the ARN of the Amazon Inspector template you previously created in the Amazon Inspector console in the Assessment template box and choose Create a new role for this specific resource. This new role is necessary so that CloudWatch Events has the necessary permissions to start the Amazon Inspector assessment. CloudWatch Events will automatically create the new role and grant the minimum set of permissions needed to run the Amazon Inspector assessment. To proceed, choose Configure details.
    Screenshot of adding a target
  5. Next, give your rule a name and a description. I suggest using a name that describes what the rule does, as shown in the following screenshot.
  6. Finish the wizard by choosing Create rule. The rule should appear in the Events – Rules section of the CloudWatch console.
    Screenshot of completing the creation of the rule
  7. To confirm your CloudWatch Events rule works, wait for the next time your CloudWatch Events rule is scheduled to run. For testing purposes, you can choose your CloudWatch Events rule and choose Edit to change the schedule to run it sooner than scheduled.
    Screenshot of confirming the CloudWatch Events rule works
  8. Now navigate to the Amazon Inspector console to confirm the launch of your first assessment run. The Start time column shows you the time each assessment started and the Status column the status of your assessment. In the following screenshot, you can see Amazon Inspector is busy Collecting data from the selected assessment targets.
    Screenshot of confirming the launch of the first assessment run

You have concluded the last step of this blog post by setting up a regular scan of your EC2 instance with Amazon Inspector and a notification that will let you know if your EC2 instance is vulnerable to any known CVEs. In a previous Security Blog post, Eric Fitzgerald explained How to Remediate Amazon Inspector Security Findings Automatically. Although that blog post is for Linux-based EC2 instances, the post shows that you can learn about Amazon Inspector findings in other ways than email alerts.


In this two-part blog post, I showed how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances up to date with patching, how to back up your instances with snapshots, and how to monitor your instances for CVEs. Collectively these measures help to protect your instances against common attack vectors that attempt to exploit known vulnerabilities. In Part 1, I showed how to configure your EC2 instances to make it easy to use Systems Manager, EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and Amazon Inspector. I also showed how to use Systems Manager to schedule automatic patches to keep your instances current in a timely fashion. In Part 2, I showed you how to take regular snapshots of your data by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

If you have comments about today’s or yesterday’s post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing any part of this solution, start a new thread on the Amazon EC2 forum or the Amazon Inspector forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Koen

Kodi Addon Dev Says “Show of Force” Will Be Met With Defiance

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-addon-dev-says-show-force-will-met-defiance-171119/

For many years, the members of the MPAA have flexed their muscles all around the globe, working to prevent people from engaging in online piracy. If the last 17 years ‘progress’ is anything to go by, it’s a war that will go on indefinitely.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner on board, the MPAA has historically relied on sheer power to intimidate opponents. That has certainly worked in many large piracy cases but for many peripheral smaller-scale pirates, their presence is largely ignored.

This week, however, several players in the Kodi scene discovered that these giants – and more besides – have the ability to literally turn up at their front door. As reported Thursday, UK-based Kodi addon developer The_Alpha received a hand-delivered cease-and-desist letter from all of the above, accompanied by new faces Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV.

These companies are part of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a massive and recently-formed anti-piracy coalition comprised of 30 global entertainment brands. TorrentFreak reached out to The_Alpha for his thoughts on coming under such a dazzling spotlight but perhaps understandably he didn’t want to comment.

The leader of the Ares Project was willing to go on the record, however, after he too received a hand-delivered threat during the week. His decision was to immediately comply and shutdown but TF is informed that others might not be so willing to follow suit.

A Kodi addon developer living in the UK who spoke to us on condition of anonymity told us that most people operating in the scene expected some kind of trouble – just not on this scale.

“Did you see the [company logos] across the top of Alpha’s letter? That’s some serious shit right there. The film companies are no surprise but Amazon delivers my groceries so I don’t expect this shit from them,” he said.

When the ACE partnership was formed earlier this year, it seemed pretty clear that the main drive was towards the pooling of anti-piracy resources to be more effective and efficient. However, it can’t have escaped ACE that such a broad and powerful alliance could also have a profound psychological effect on its adversaries.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re turning up mob-handed to put the shits up people like Alpha and the rest of us,” the developer said. “It’s hardly a fair dust-up is it? What have we got to fight back with, a giro [state benefits]? It’s a show of force, ‘look how important we are’!”

Interestingly, however, the dev told us that it isn’t necessarily the size of the coalition that has him most concerned. What caught his eye was the inclusion of two influential UK-based companies in the alliance.

“Having Sly [a local derogatory nickname for Sky TV] and the Premier League on the letter makes it much more serious to me than seeing Warner or whatever,” he commented.

“I don’t get involved in footie but Sly is everywhere round here and I think it’s something the Brit dev scene might take notice of, even if most say ‘fuck it’ and carry on anyway.”

When questioned whether that’s likely, our source said that while ACE might be able to tackle some of the bigger targets like Ares Project or Colossus, they fundamentally misunderstand how the Kodi scene works.

“If you want a good example of a scattered pirate scene, I give you Kodi. They can bomb the base or whatever but nobody lives there,” he explained.

“There’s some older blokes like me who can do without the stress but a lot of younger coders, builders and YouTubers who thrive on it. They’re used to running around council estates with real-life problems. A faffy letter from some toff in a suit means literally nothing. Like I said, all they have to lose is a giro.”

Whether this is just bravado will remain to be seen, but our earlier discussions with others in the scene indicate a particular weakness in the UK, with many players vulnerable to being found after failing to hide their identities in the past. To a point, our source agrees that this is a problem.

“People are saying that Alpha was found after trying to raise some charity money related to his disabled son but I don’t know for sure and nor does anybody else. What strikes me is that none of us really thought things would get this on top here because all you ever hear about is America this, Canada that, whatever. Does this means that more of us are getting done in England? You tell me,” he said.

Only time will tell but stamping out the pirate Kodi scene is going to be hard work.

Within hours of several projects disappearing Wednesday and Thursday, YouTube and myriad blogs were being flooded with guides detailing immediate replacements. This ad-hoc network of enthusiasts makes the exchange of information happen at an alarming rate and it’s hard to see how any company – no matter how powerful – will ever be able to keep up.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Popcorn Time Creator Readies BitTorrent & Blockchain-Powered Video Platform

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-creator-readies-bittorrent-blockchain-powered-youtube-competitor-171012/

Without a doubt, YouTube is one of the most important websites available on the Internet today.

Its massive archive of videos brings pleasure to millions on a daily basis but its centralized nature means that owner Google always exercises control.

Over the years, people have looked to decentralize the YouTube concept and the latest project hoping to shake up the market has a particularly interesting player onboard.

Until 2015, only insiders knew that Argentinian designer Federico Abad was actually ‘Sebastian’, the shadowy figure behind notorious content sharing platform Popcorn Time.

Now he’s part of the team behind Flixxo, a BitTorrent and blockchain-powered startup hoping to wrestle a share of the video market from YouTube. Here’s how the team, which features blockchain startup RSK Labs, hope things will play out.

The Flixxo network will have no centralized storage of data, eliminating the need for expensive hosting along with associated costs. Instead, transfers will take place between peers using BitTorrent, meaning video content will be stored on the machines of Flixxo users. In practice, the content will be downloaded and uploaded in much the same way as users do on The Pirate Bay or indeed Abad’s baby, Popcorn Time.

However, there’s a twist to the system that envisions content creators, content consumers, and network participants (seeders) making revenue from their efforts.

At the heart of the Flixxo system are digital tokens (think virtual currency), called Flixx. These Flixx ‘coins’, which will go on sale in 12 days, can be used to buy access to content. Creators can also opt to pay consumers when those people help to distribute their content to others.

“Free from structural costs, producers can share the earnings from their content with the network that supports them,” the team explains.

“This way you get paid for helping us improve Flixxo, and you earn credits (in the form of digital tokens called Flixx) for watching higher quality content. Having no intermediaries means that the price you pay for watching the content that you actually want to watch is lower and fairer.”

The Flixxo team

In addition to earning tokens from helping to distribute content, people in the Flixxo ecosystem can also earn currency by watching sponsored content, i.e advertisements. While in a traditional system adverts are often considered a nuisance, Flixx tokens have real value, with a promise that users will be able to trade their Flixx not only for videos, but also for tangible and semi-tangible goods.

“Use your Flixx to reward the producers you follow, encouraging them to create more awesome content. Or keep your Flixx in your wallet and use them to buy a movie ticket, a pair of shoes from an online retailer, a chest of coins in your favourite game or even convert them to old-fashioned cash or up-and-coming digital assets, like Bitcoin,” the team explains.

The Flixxo team have big plans. After foundation in early 2016, the second quarter of 2017 saw the completion of a functional alpha release. In a little under two weeks, the project will begin its token generation event, with new offices in Los Angeles planned for the first half of 2018 alongside a premiere of the Flixxo platform.

“A total of 1,000,000,000 (one billion) Flixx tokens will be issued. A maximum of 300,000,000 (three hundred million) tokens will be sold. Some of these tokens (not more than 33% or 100,000,000 Flixx) may be sold with anticipation of the token allocation event to strategic investors,” Flixxo states.

Like all content platforms, Flixxo will live or die by the quality of the content it provides and whether, at least in the first instance, it can persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash. Only time will tell whether its content will be worth a premium over readily accessible YouTube content but with much-reduced costs, it may tempt creators seeking a bigger piece of the pie.

“Flixxo will also educate its community, teaching its users that in this new internet era value can be held and transferred online without intermediaries, a value that can be earned back by participating in a community, by contributing, being rewarded for every single social interaction,” the team explains.

Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen when people begin sharing copyrighted content via Flixxo. Certainly, the fact that Popcorn Time’s founder is a key player and rival streaming platform Stremio is listed as a partner means that things could get a bit spicy later on.

Nevertheless, the team suggests that piracy and spam content distribution will be limited by mechanisms already built into the system.

“[A]uthors have to time-block tokens in a smart contract (set as a warranty) in order to upload content. This contract will also handle and block their earnings for a certain period of time, so that in the case of a dispute the unfair-uploader may lose those tokens,” they explain.

That being said, Flixxo also says that “there is no way” for third parties to censor content “which means that anyone has the chance of making any piece of media available on the network.” However, Flixxo says it will develop tools for filtering what it describes as “inappropriate content.”

At this point, things start to become a little unclear. On the one hand Flixxo says it could become a “revolutionary tool for uncensorable and untraceable media” yet on the other it says that it’s necessary to ensure that adult content, for example, isn’t seen by kids.

“We know there is a thin line between filtering or curating content and censorship, and it is a fact that we have an open network for everyone to upload any content. However, Flixxo as a platform will apply certain filtering based on clear rules – there should be a behavior-code for uploaders in order to offer the right content to the right user,” Flixxo explains.

To this end, Flixxo says it will deploy a centralized curation function, carried out by 101 delegates elected by the community, which will become progressively decentralized over time.

“This curation will have a cost, paid in Flixx, and will be collected from the warranty blocked by the content uploaders,” they add.

There can be little doubt that if Flixxo begins ‘curating’ unsuitable content, copyright holders will call on it to do the same for their content too. And, if the platform really takes off, 101 curators probably won’t scratch the surface. There’s also the not inconsiderable issue of what might happen to curators’ judgment when they’re incentivized to block curate content.

Finally, for those sick of “not available in your region” messages, there’s good and bad news. Flixxo insists there will be no geo-blocking of content on its part but individual creators will still have that feature available to them, should they choose.

The Flixx whitepaper can be downloaded here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Inside the MPAA, Netflix & Amazon Global Anti-Piracy Alliance

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/inside-the-mpaa-netflix-amazon-global-anti-piracy-alliance-170918/

The idea of collaboration in the anti-piracy arena isn’t new but an announcement this summer heralded what is destined to become the largest project the entertainment industry has ever seen.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition of 30 companies that reads like a who’s who of the global entertainment market. In alphabetical order its members are:

Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada and Bell Media, Canal+ Group, CBS Corporation, Constantin Film, Foxtel, Grupo Globo, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Millennium Media, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, SF Studios, Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, STX Entertainment, Telemundo, Televisa, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision Communications Inc., Village Roadshow, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The aim of the project is clear. Instead of each company considering its anti-piracy operations as a distinct island, ACE will bring them all together while presenting a united front to decision and lawmakers. At the core of the Alliance will be the MPAA.

“ACE, with its broad coalition of creators from around the world, is designed, specifically, to leverage the best possible resources to reduce piracy,”
outgoing MPAA chief Chris Dodd said in June.

“For decades, the MPAA has been the gold standard for antipiracy enforcement. We are proud to provide the MPAA’s worldwide antipiracy resources and the deep expertise of our antipiracy unit to support ACE and all its initiatives.”

Since then, ACE and its members have been silent on the project. Today, however, TorrentFreak can pull back the curtain, revealing how the agreement between the companies will play out, who will be in control, and how much the scheme will cost.

Power structure: Founding Members & Executive Committee Members

Netflix, Inc., Amazon Studios LLC, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios LLC, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, are the ‘Founding Members’ (Governing Board) of ACE.

These companies are granted full voting rights on ACE business, including the approval of initiatives and public policy, anti-piracy strategy, budget-related matters, plus approval of legal action. Not least, they’ll have the power to admit or expel ACE members.

All actions taken by the Governing Board (never to exceed nine members) need to be approved by consensus, with each Founding Member able to vote for or against decisions. Members are also allowed to abstain but one persistent objection will be enough to stop any matter being approved.

The second tier – ‘Executive Committee Members’ – is comprised of all the other companies in the ACE project (as listed above, minus the Governing Board). These companies will not be allowed to vote on ACE initiatives but can present ideas and strategies. They’ll also be allowed to suggest targets for law enforcement action while utilizing the MPAA’s anti-piracy resources.

Rights of all members

While all members of ACE can utilize the alliance’s resources, none are barred from simultaneously ‘going it alone’ on separate anti-piracy initiatives. None of these strategies and actions need approval from the Founding Members, provided they’re carried out in a company’s own name and at its own expense.

Information obtained by TorrentFreak indicates that the MPAA also reserves the right to carry out anti-piracy actions in its own name or on behalf of its member studios. The pattern here is different, since the MPAA’s global anti-piracy resources are the same resources being made available to the ACE alliance and for which members have paid to share.

Expansion of ACE

While ACE membership is already broad, the alliance is prepared to take on additional members, providing certain criteria are met. Crucially, any prospective additions must be owners or producers of movies and/or TV shows. The Governing Board will then vet applicants to ensure that they meet the criteria for acceptance as a new Executive Committee Members.

ACE Operations

The nine Governing Board members will meet at least four times a year, with each nominating a senior executive to serve as its representative. The MPAA’s General Counsel will take up the position of non-voting member of the Governing Board and will chair its meetings.

Matters to be discussed include formulating and developing the alliance’s ‘Global Anti-Piracy Action Plan’ and approving and developing the budget. ACE will also form an Anti-Piracy Working Group, which is scheduled to meet at least once a month.

On a daily basis, the MPAA and its staff will attend to the business of the ACE alliance. The MPAA will carry out its own work too but when presenting to outside third parties, it will clearly state which “hat” it is currently wearing.

Much deliberation has taken place over who should be the official spokesperson for ACE. Documents obtained by TF suggest that the MPAA planned to hire a consulting firm to find a person for the role, seeking a professional with international experience who had never been previously been connected with the MPAA.

They appear to have settled on Zoe Thorogood, who previously worked for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Money, money, money

Of course, the ACE program isn’t going to fund itself, so all members are required to contribute to the operation. The MPAA has opened a dedicated bank account under its control specifically for the purpose, with members contributing depending on status.

Founding/Governing Board Members will be required to commit $5m each annually. However, none of the studios that are MPAA members will have to hand over any cash, since they already fund the MPAA, whose anti-piracy resources ACE is built.

“Each Governing Board Member will contribute annual dues in an amount equal to $5 million USD. Payment of dues shall be made bi-annually in equal shares, payable at
the beginning of each six (6) month period,” the ACE agreement reads.

“The contribution of MPAA personnel, assets and resources…will constitute and be considered as full payment of each MPAA Member Studio’s Governing Board dues.”

That leaves just Netflix and Amazon paying the full amount of $5m in cash each.

From each company’s contribution, $1m will be paid into legal trust accounts allocated to each Governing Board member. If ACE-agreed litigation and legal expenses exceed that amount for the year, members will be required to top up their accounts to cover their share of the costs.

For the remaining 21 companies on the Executive Committee, annual dues are $200,000 each, to be paid in one installment at the start of the financial year – $4.2m all in. Of all dues paid by all members from both tiers, half will be used to boost anti-piracy resources, over and above what the MPAA will spend on the same during 2017.

“Fifty percent (50%) of all dues received from Global Alliance Members other than
the MPAA Member Studios…shall, as agreed by the Governing Board, be used (a) to increase the resources spent on online antipiracy over and above….the amount of MPAA’s 2017 Content Protection Department budget for online antipiracy initiatives/operations,” an internal ACE document reads.

Intellectual property

As the project moves forward, the Alliance expects to gain certain knowledge and experience. On the back of that, the MPAA hopes to grow its intellectual property portfolio.

“Absent written agreement providing otherwise, any and all data, intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, or know-how owned and/or contributed to the Global Alliance by MPAA, or developed or created by the MPAA or the Global Alliance during the Term of this Charter, shall remain and/or become the exclusive property of the MPAA,” the ACE agreement reads.

That being said, all Governing Board Members will also be granted “perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive licenses” to use the same under certain rules, even in the event they leave the ACE initiative.

Terms and extensions

Any member may withdraw from the Alliance at any point, but there will be no refunds. Additionally, any financial commitment previously made to litigation will have to be honored by the member.

The ACE agreement has an initial term of two years but Governing Board Members will meet not less than three months before it is due to expire to vote on any extension.

To be continued……

With the internal structure of ACE now revealed, all that remains is to discover the contents of the initiative’s ‘Global Anti-Piracy Action Plan’. To date, that document has proven elusive but with an operation of such magnitude, future leaks are a distinct possibility.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Manage Kubernetes Clusters on AWS Using CoreOS Tectonic

Post Syndicated from Arun Gupta original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/kubernetes-clusters-aws-coreos-tectonic/

There are multiple ways to run a Kubernetes cluster on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The first post in this series explained how to manage a Kubernetes cluster on AWS using kops. This second post explains how to manage a Kubernetes cluster on AWS using CoreOS Tectonic.

Tectonic overview

Tectonic delivers the most current upstream version of Kubernetes with additional features. It is a commercial offering from CoreOS and adds the following features over the upstream:

  • Installer
    Comes with a graphical installer that installs a highly available Kubernetes cluster. Alternatively, the cluster can be installed using AWS CloudFormation templates or Terraform scripts.
  • Operators
    An operator is an application-specific controller that extends the Kubernetes API to create, configure, and manage instances of complex stateful applications on behalf of a Kubernetes user. This release includes an etcd operator for rolling upgrades and a Prometheus operator for monitoring capabilities.
  • Console
    A web console provides a full view of applications running in the cluster. It also allows you to deploy applications to the cluster and start the rolling upgrade of the cluster.
  • Monitoring
    Node CPU and memory metrics are powered by the Prometheus operator. The graphs are available in the console. A large set of preconfigured Prometheus alerts are also available.
  • Security
    Tectonic ensures that cluster is always up to date with the most recent patches/fixes. Tectonic clusters also enable role-based access control (RBAC). Different roles can be mapped to an LDAP service.
  • Support
    CoreOS provides commercial support for clusters created using Tectonic.

Tectonic can be installed on AWS using a GUI installer or Terraform scripts. The installer prompts you for the information needed to boot the Kubernetes cluster, such as AWS access and secret key, number of master and worker nodes, and instance size for the master and worker nodes. The cluster can be created after all the options are specified. Alternatively, Terraform assets can be downloaded and the cluster can be created later. This post shows using the installer.

CoreOS License and Pull Secret

Even though Tectonic is a commercial offering, a cluster for up to 10 nodes can be created by creating a free account at Get Tectonic for Kubernetes. After signup, a CoreOS License and Pull Secret files are provided on your CoreOS account page. Download these files as they are needed by the installer to boot the cluster.

IAM user permission

The IAM user to create the Kubernetes cluster must have access to the following services and features:

  • Amazon Route 53
  • Amazon EC2
  • Elastic Load Balancing
  • Amazon S3
  • Amazon VPC
  • Security groups

Use the aws-policy policy to grant the required permissions for the IAM user.

DNS configuration

A subdomain is required to create the cluster, and it must be registered as a public Route 53 hosted zone. The zone is used to host and expose the console web application. It is also used as the static namespace for the Kubernetes API server. This allows kubectl to be able to talk directly with the master.

The domain may be registered using Route 53. Alternatively, a domain may be registered at a third-party registrar. This post uses a kubernetes-aws.io domain registered at a third-party registrar and a tectonic subdomain within it.

Generate a Route 53 hosted zone using the AWS CLI. Download jq to run this command:

ID=$(uuidgen) && \
aws route53 create-hosted-zone \
--name tectonic.kubernetes-aws.io \
--caller-reference $ID \
| jq .DelegationSet.NameServers

The command shows an output such as the following:


Create NS records for the domain with your registrar. Make sure that the NS records can be resolved using a utility like dig web interface. A sample output would look like the following:

The bottom of the screenshot shows NS records configured for the subdomain.

Download and run the Tectonic installer

Download the Tectonic installer (version 1.7.1) and extract it. The latest installer can always be found at coreos.com/tectonic. Start the installer:


Replace $PLATFORM with either darwin or linux. The installer opens your default browser and prompts you to select the cloud provider. Choose Amazon Web Services as the platform. Choose Next Step.

Specify the Access Key ID and Secret Access Key for the IAM role that you created earlier. This allows the installer to create resources required for the Kubernetes cluster. This also gives the installer full access to your AWS account. Alternatively, to protect the integrity of your main AWS credentials, use a temporary session token to generate temporary credentials.

You also need to choose a region in which to install the cluster. For the purpose of this post, I chose a region close to where I live, Northern California. Choose Next Step.

Give your cluster a name. This name is part of the static namespace for the master and the address of the console.

To enable in-place update to the Kubernetes cluster, select the checkbox next to Automated Updates. It also enables update to the etcd and Prometheus operators. This feature may become a default in future releases.

Choose Upload “tectonic-license.txt” and upload the previously downloaded license file.

Choose Upload “config.json” and upload the previously downloaded pull secret file. Choose Next Step.

Let the installer generate a CA certificate and key. In this case, the browser may not recognize this certificate, which I discuss later in the post. Alternatively, you can provide a CA certificate and a key in PEM format issued by an authorized certificate authority. Choose Next Step.

Use the SSH key for the region specified earlier. You also have an option to generate a new key. This allows you to later connect using SSH into the Amazon EC2 instances provisioned by the cluster. Here is the command that can be used to log in:

ssh –i <key> [email protected]<ec2-instance-ip>

Choose Next Step.

Define the number and instance type of master and worker nodes. In this case, create a 6 nodes cluster. Make sure that the worker nodes have enough processing power and memory to run the containers.

An etcd cluster is used as persistent storage for all of Kubernetes API objects. This cluster is required for the Kubernetes cluster to operate. There are three ways to use the etcd cluster as part of the Tectonic installer:

  • (Default) Provision the cluster using EC2 instances. Additional EC2 instances are used in this case.
  • Use an alpha support for cluster provisioning using the etcd operator. The etcd operator is used for automated operations of the etcd master nodes for the cluster itself, in addition to for etcd instances that are created for application usage. The etcd cluster is provisioned within the Tectonic installer.
  • Bring your own pre-provisioned etcd cluster.

Use the first option in this case.

For more information about choosing the appropriate instance type, see the etcd hardware recommendation. Choose Next Step.

Specify the networking options. The installer can create a new public VPC or use a pre-existing public or private VPC. Make sure that the VPC requirements are met for an existing VPC.

Give a DNS name for the cluster. Choose the domain for which the Route 53 hosted zone was configured earlier, such as tectonic.kubernetes-aws.io. Multiple clusters may be created under a single domain. The cluster name and the DNS name would typically match each other.

To select the CIDR range, choose Show Advanced Settings. You can also choose the Availability Zones for the master and worker nodes. By default, the master and worker nodes are spread across multiple Availability Zones in the chosen region. This makes the cluster highly available.

Leave the other values as default. Choose Next Step.

Specify an email address and password to be used as credentials to log in to the console. Choose Next Step.

At any point during the installation, you can choose Save progress. This allows you to save configurations specified in the installer. This configuration file can then be used to restore progress in the installer at a later point.

To start the cluster installation, choose Submit. At another time, you can download the Terraform assets by choosing Manually boot. This allows you to boot the cluster later.

The logs from the Terraform scripts are shown in the installer. When the installation is complete, the console shows that the Terraform scripts were successfully applied, the domain name was resolved successfully, and that the console has started. The domain works successfully if the DNS resolution worked earlier, and it’s the address where the console is accessible.

Choose Download assets to download assets related to your cluster. It contains your generated CA, kubectl configuration file, and the Terraform state. This download is an important step as it allows you to delete the cluster later.

Choose Next Step for the final installation screen. It allows you to access the Tectonic console, gives you instructions about how to configure kubectl to manage this cluster, and finally deploys an application using kubectl.

Choose Go to my Tectonic Console. In our case, it is also accessible at http://cluster.tectonic.kubernetes-aws.io/.

As I mentioned earlier, the browser does not recognize the self-generated CA certificate. Choose Advanced and connect to the console. Enter the login credentials specified earlier in the installer and choose Login.

The Kubernetes upstream and console version are shown under Software Details. Cluster health shows All systems go and it means that the API server and the backend API can be reached.

To view different Kubernetes resources in the cluster choose, the resource in the left navigation bar. For example, all deployments can be seen by choosing Deployments.

By default, resources in the all namespace are shown. Other namespaces may be chosen by clicking on a menu item on the top of the screen. Different administration tasks such as managing the namespaces, getting list of the nodes and RBAC can be configured as well.

Download and run Kubectl

Kubectl is required to manage the Kubernetes cluster. The latest version of kubectl can be downloaded using the following command:

curl -LO https://storage.googleapis.com/kubernetes-release/release/$(curl -s https://storage.googleapis.com/kubernetes-release/release/stable.txt)/bin/darwin/amd64/kubectl

It can also be conveniently installed using the Homebrew package manager. To find and access a cluster, Kubectl needs a kubeconfig file. By default, this configuration file is at ~/.kube/config. This file is created when a Kubernetes cluster is created from your machine. However, in this case, download this file from the console.

In the console, choose admin, My Account, Download Configuration and follow the steps to download the kubectl configuration file. Move this file to ~/.kube/config. If kubectl has already been used on your machine before, then this file already exists. Make sure to take a backup of that file first.

Now you can run the commands to view the list of deployments:

~ $ kubectl get deployments --all-namespaces
NAMESPACE         NAME                                    DESIRED   CURRENT   UP-TO-DATE   AVAILABLE   AGE
kube-system       etcd-operator                           1         1         1            1           43m
kube-system       heapster                                1         1         1            1           40m
kube-system       kube-controller-manager                 3         3         3            3           43m
kube-system       kube-dns                                1         1         1            1           43m
kube-system       kube-scheduler                          3         3         3            3           43m
tectonic-system   container-linux-update-operator         1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   default-http-backend                    1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   kube-state-metrics                      1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   kube-version-operator                   1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   prometheus-operator                     1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-channel-operator               1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-console                        2         2         2            2           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-identity                       2         2         2            2           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-ingress-controller             1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-monitoring-auth-alertmanager   1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-monitoring-auth-prometheus     1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-prometheus-operator            1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-stats-emitter                  1         1         1            1           40m

This output is similar to the one shown in the console earlier. Now, this kubectl can be used to manage your resources.

Upgrade the Kubernetes cluster

Tectonic allows the in-place upgrade of the cluster. This is an experimental feature as of this release. The clusters can be updated either automatically, or with manual approval.

To perform the update, choose Administration, Cluster Settings. If an earlier Tectonic installer, version 1.6.2 in this case, is used to install the cluster, then this screen would look like the following:

Choose Check for Updates. If any updates are available, choose Start Upgrade. After the upgrade is completed, the screen is refreshed.

This is an experimental feature in this release and so should only be used on clusters that can be easily replaced. This feature may become a fully supported in a future release. For more information about the upgrade process, see Upgrading Tectonic & Kubernetes.

Delete the Kubernetes cluster

Typically, the Kubernetes cluster is a long-running cluster to serve your applications. After its purpose is served, you may delete it. It is important to delete the cluster as this ensures that all resources created by the cluster are appropriately cleaned up.

The easiest way to delete the cluster is using the assets downloaded in the last step of the installer. Extract the downloaded zip file. This creates a directory like <cluster-name>_TIMESTAMP. In that directory, give the following command to delete the cluster:

TERRAFORM_CONFIG=$(pwd)/.terraformrc terraform destroy --force

This destroys the cluster and all associated resources.

You may have forgotten to download the assets. There is a copy of the assets in the directory tectonic/tectonic-installer/darwin/clusters. In this directory, another directory with the name <cluster-name>_TIMESTAMP contains your assets.


This post explained how to manage Kubernetes clusters using the CoreOS Tectonic graphical installer.  For more details, see Graphical Installer with AWS. If the installation does not succeed, see the helpful Troubleshooting tips. After the cluster is created, see the Tectonic tutorials to learn how to deploy, scale, version, and delete an application.

Future posts in this series will explain other ways of creating and running a Kubernetes cluster on AWS.