Abstract: We review the salient evidence consistent with or predicted by the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe (H-W) thesis of Cometary (Cosmic) Biology. Much of this physical and biological evidence is multifactorial. One particular focus are the recent studies which date the emergence of the complex retroviruses of vertebrate lines at or just before the Cambrian Explosion of ~500 Ma. Such viruses are known to be plausibly associated with major evolutionary genomic processes. We believe this coincidence is not fortuitous but is consistent with a key prediction of H-W theory whereby major extinction-diversification evolutionary boundaries coincide with virus-bearing cometary-bolide bombardment events. A second focus is the remarkable evolution of intelligent complexity (Cephalopods) culminating in the emergence of the Octopus. A third focus concerns the micro-organism fossil evidence contained within meteorites as well as the detection in the upper atmosphere of apparent incoming life-bearing particles from space. In our view the totality of the multifactorial data and critical analyses assembled by Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe and their many colleagues since the 1960s leads to a very plausible conclusion — life may have been seeded here on Earth by life-bearing comets as soon as conditions on Earth allowed it to flourish (about or just before 4.1 Billion years ago); and living organisms such as space-resistant and space-hardy bacteria, viruses, more complex eukaryotic cells, fertilised ova and seeds have been continuously delivered ever since to Earth so being one important driver of further terrestrial evolution which has resulted in considerable genetic diversity and which has led to the emergence of mankind.
It’s a public holiday here today (yes, again). So, while we indulge in the traditional pastime of barbecuing stuff (ourselves, mainly), here’s a little trove of Pi projects that cater for our various furry friends.
Nicole Horward created Project Floofball for her hamster, Harold. It’s an IoT hamster wheel that uses a Raspberry Pi and a magnetic door sensor to log how far Harold runs.
JaganK3 used to work long hours that meant he couldn’t be there to feed his dog on time. He found that he couldn’t buy an automated feeder in India without paying a lot to import one, so he made one himself. It uses a Raspberry Pi to control a motor that turns a dispensing valve in a hopper full of dry food, giving his dog a portion of food at set times.
He also added a web cam for live video streaming, because he could. Find out more in JaganK3’s Instructable for his pet feeder.
Shark laser cat toy
Sam Storino, meanwhile, is using a Raspberry Pi to control a laser-pointer cat toy with a goshdarned SHARK (which is kind of what I’d expect from the guy who made the steampunk-looking cat feeder a few weeks ago). The idea is to keep his cats interested and active within the confines of a compact city apartment.
All of these makers are generous in acknowledging the tutorials and build logs that helped them with their projects. It’s lovely to see the Raspberry Pi and maker community working like this, and I bet their projects will inspire others too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m late for a barbecue.
GDPR day, May 25, 2018, is nearly here. On that day, will your inbox explode with update notices, opt-in agreements, and offers from lawyers searching for GDPR violators? Perhaps all the companies on earth that are not GDPR ready will just dissolve into dust. More likely, there will be some changes, but business as usual will continue and we’ll all be more aware of data privacy. Let’s go with the last one.
What’s Different With GDPR at Backblaze
As a reminder, at Backblaze your data falls into two catagories. The first type of data is the data you store with us — stored data. These are the files and objects you upload and store, and as needed, restore. We do not share this data. We do not process this data, except as requested by you to store and restore the data. We do not analyze this data looking for keywords, tags, images, etc. No one outside of Backblaze has access to this data unless you explicitly shared the data by providing that person access to one or more files.
The second type of data is your account data. Some of your account data is considered personal data. This is the information we collect from you to provide our Personal Backup, Business Backup and B2 Cloud Storage services. Examples include your email address to provide access to your account, or the name of your computer so we can organize your files like they are arranged on your computer to make restoration easier. We have written a number of Help Articles covering the different ways this information is collected and processed. In addition, these help articles outline the various “rights” granted via GDPR. We will continue to add help articles over the coming weeks to assist in making it easy to work with us to understand and exercise your rights.
What’s New With GDPR at Backblaze
The most obvious addition is the Data Processing Addendum (DPA). This covers how we protect the data you store with us, i.e. stored data. As noted above, we don’t do anything with your data, except store it and keep it safe until you need it. Now we have a separate document saying that.
Every company we have dealt with over the last few months is working hard to comply with GDPR. It has been a tough road whether you tried to do it yourself or like Backblaze, hired an EU-based law firm for advice. Over the coming weeks and months as you reach out to discover and assert your rights, please have a little patience. We are all going through a steep learning curve as GDPR gets put into practice. Along the way there are certain to be some growing pains — give us a chance, we all want to get it right.
Regardless, at Backblaze we’ve been diligently protecting our customers’ data for over 11 years and nothing that will happen on May 25th will change that.
Eric Snow kicked off the 2018 edition of the Python Language Summit with a look at getting a better story for multicore Python by way of subinterpreters. Back in 2015, we looked at his efforts at that point; things have been progressing since. There is more to do, of course, so he is hoping to attract more developers to work on the project.
This is the start of the Python Language Summit coverage for this year; articles are being collected on a dedicated summit page as they are finished.
A new PGP vulnerability was announced today. Basically, the vulnerability makes use of the fact that modern e-mail programs allow for embedded HTML objects. Essentially, if an attacker can intercept and modify a message in transit, he can insert code that sends the plaintext in a URL to a remote website. Very clever.
The EFAIL attacks exploit vulnerabilities in the OpenPGP and S/MIME standards to reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails. In a nutshell, EFAIL abuses active content of HTML emails, for example externally loaded images or styles, to exfiltrate plaintext through requested URLs. To create these exfiltration channels, the attacker first needs access to the encrypted emails, for example, by eavesdropping on network traffic, compromising email accounts, email servers, backup systems or client computers. The emails could even have been collected years ago.
The attacker changes an encrypted email in a particular way and sends this changed encrypted email to the victim. The victim’s email client decrypts the email and loads any external content, thus exfiltrating the plaintext to the attacker.
A few initial comments:
1. Being able to intercept and modify e-mails in transit is the sort of thing the NSA can do, but is hard for the average hacker. That being said, there are circumstances where someone can modify e-mails. I don’t mean to minimize the seriousness of this attack, but that is a consideration.
2. The vulnerability isn’t with PGP or S/MIME itself, but in the way they interact with modern e-mail programs. You can see this in the two suggested short-term mitigations: “No decryption in the e-mail client,” and “disable HTML rendering.”
3. I’ve been getting some weird press calls from reporters wanting to know if this demonstrates that e-mail encryption is impossible. No, this just demonstrates that programmers are human and vulnerabilities are inevitable. PGP almost certainly has fewer bugs than your average piece of software, but it’s not bug free.
3. Why is anyone using encrypted e-mail anymore, anyway? Reliably and easily encrypting e-mail is an insurmountably hard problem for reasons having nothing to do with today’s announcement. If you need to communicate securely, use Signal. If having Signal on your phone will arouse suspicion, use WhatsApp.
I’ll post other commentaries and analyses as I find them.
EFF is reporting that a critical vulnerability has been discovered in PGP and S/MIME. No details have been published yet, but one of the researchers wrote:
We’ll publish critical vulnerabilities in PGP/GPG and S/MIME email encryption on 2018-05-15 07:00 UTC. They might reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails, including encrypted emails sent in the past. There are currently no reliable fixes for the vulnerability. If you use PGP/GPG or S/MIME for very sensitive communication, you should disable it in your email client for now.
This sounds like a protocol vulnerability, but we’ll learn more tomorrow.
This article, pointed out by @TheGrugq, is stupid enough that it’s worth rebutting.
“The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the positions of the U.S. Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.” <- I sincerely hope so… “the cyber guns of August” https://t.co/xdybbr5B0E
The article starts with the question “Why did the lessons of Stuxnet, Wannacry, Heartbleed and Shamoon go unheeded?“. It then proceeds to ignore the lessons of those things.
Some of the actual lessons should be things like how Stuxnet crossed air gaps, how Wannacry spread through flat Windows networking, how Heartbleed comes from technical debt, and how Shamoon furthers state aims by causing damage.
But this article doesn’t cover the technical lessons. Instead, it thinks the lesson should be the moral lesson, that we should take these things more seriously. But that’s stupid. It’s the sort of lesson people teach you that know nothing about the topic. When you have nothing of value to contribute to a topic you can always take the moral high road and criticize everyone for being morally weak for not taking it more seriously. Obviously, since doctors haven’t cured cancer yet, it’s because they don’t take the problem seriously.
The article continues to ignore the lesson of these cyber attacks and instead regales us with a list of military lessons from WW I and WW II. This makes the same flaw that many in the military make, trying to understand cyber through analogies with the real world. It’s not that such lessons could have no value, it’s that this article contains a poor list of them. It seems to consist of a random list of events that appeal to the author rather than events that have bearing on cybersecurity.
Then, in case we don’t get the point, the article bullies us with hyperbole, cliches, buzzwords, bombastic language, famous quotes, and citations. It’s hard to see how most of them actually apply to the text. Rather, it seems like they are included simply because he really really likes them.
The article invests much effort in discussing the buzzword “OODA loop”. Most attacks in cyberspace don’t have one. Instead, attackers flail around, trying lots of random things, overcoming defense with brute-force rather than an understanding of what’s going on. That’s obviously the case with Wannacry: it was an accident, with the perpetrator experimenting with what would happen if they added the ETERNALBLUE exploit to their existing ransomware code. The consequence was beyond anybody’s ability to predict.
You might claim that this is just the first stage, that they’ll loop around, observe Wannacry’s effects, orient themselves, decide, then act upon what they learned. Nope. Wannacry burned the exploit. It’s essentially removed any vulnerable systems from the public Internet, thereby making it impossible to use what they learned. It’s still active a year later, with infected systems behind firewalls busily scanning the Internet so that if you put a new system online that’s vulnerable, it’ll be taken offline within a few hours, before any other evildoer can take advantage of it.
See what I’m doing here? Learning the actual lessons of things like Wannacry? The thing the above article fails to do??
The article has a humorous paragraph on “defense in depth”, misunderstanding the term. To be fair, it’s the cybersecurity industry’s fault: they adopted then redefined the term. That’s why there’s two separate articles on Wikipedia: one for the old military term (as used in this article) and one for the new cybersecurity term.
As used in the cybersecurity industry, “defense in depth” means having multiple layers of security. Many organizations put all their defensive efforts on the perimeter, and none inside a network. The idea of “defense in depth” is to put more defenses inside the network. For example, instead of just one firewall at the edge of the network, put firewalls inside the network to segment different subnetworks from each other, so that a ransomware infection in the customer support computers doesn’t spread to sales and marketing computers.
The article talks about exploiting WiFi chips to bypass the defense in depth measures like browser sandboxes. This is conflating different types of attacks. A WiFi attack is usually considered a local attack, from somebody next to you in bar, rather than a remote attack from a server in Russia. Moreover, far from disproving “defense in depth” such WiFi attacks highlight the need for it. Namely, phones need to be designed so that successful exploitation of other microprocessors (namely, the WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular baseband chips) can’t directly compromise the host system. In other words, once exploited with “Broadpwn”, a hacker would need to extend the exploit chain with another vulnerability in the hosts Broadcom WiFi driver rather than immediately exploiting a DMA attack across PCIe. This suggests that if PCIe is used to interface to peripherals in the phone that an IOMMU be used, for “defense in depth”.
Cybersecurity is a young field. There are lots of useful things that outsider non-techies can teach us. Lessons from military history would be well-received.
But that’s not this story. Instead, this story is by an outsider telling us we don’t know what we are doing, that they do, and then proceeds to prove they don’t know what they are doing. Their argument is based on a moral suasion and bullying us with what appears on the surface to be intellectual rigor, but which is in fact devoid of anything smart.
My fear, here, is that I’m going to be in a meeting where somebody has read this pretentious garbage, explaining to me why “defense in depth” is wrong and how we need to OODA faster. I’d rather nip this in the bud, pointing out if you found anything interesting from that article, you are wrong.
It’s been just over three weeks since we launched the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. Although the product is branded Raspberry Pi 3B+ and not Raspberry Pi 4, a serious amount of engineering was involved in creating it. The wireless networking, USB/Ethernet hub, on-board power supplies, and BCM2837 chip were all upgraded: together these represent almost all the circuitry on the board! Today, I’d like to tell you about the work that has gone into creating a custom power supply chip for our newest computer.
The new Raspberry Pi 3B+, sporting a new, custom power supply chip (bottom left-hand corner)
The Raspberry Pi 3B+ has been well received, and we’ve enjoyed hearing feedback from the community as well as reading the various reviews and articles highlighting the solid improvements in wireless networking, Ethernet, CPU, and thermal performance of the new board. Gareth Halfacree’s post here has some particularly nice graphs showing the increased performance as well as how the Pi 3B+ keeps cool under load due to the new CPU package that incorporates a metal heat spreader. The Raspberry Pi production lines at the Sony UK Technology Centre are running at full speed, and it seems most people who want to get hold of the new board are able to find one in stock.
Powering your Pi
One of the most critical but often under-appreciated elements of any electronic product, particularly one such as Raspberry Pi with lots of complex on-board silicon (processor, networking, high-speed memory), is the power supply. In fact, the Raspberry Pi 3B+ has no fewer than six different voltage rails: two at 3.3V — one special ‘quiet’ one for audio, and one for everything else; 1.8V; 1.2V for the LPDDR2 memory; and 1.2V nominal for the CPU core. Note that the CPU voltage is actually raised and lowered on the fly as the speed of the CPU is increased and decreased depending on how hard the it is working. The sixth rail is 5V, which is the master supply that all the others are created from, and the output voltage for the four downstream USB ports; this is what the mains power adaptor is supplying through the micro USB power connector.
Power supply primer
There are two common classes of power supply circuits: linear regulators and switching regulators. Linear regulators work by creating a lower, regulated voltage from a higher one. In simple terms, they monitor the output voltage against an internally generated reference and continually change their own resistance to keep the output voltage constant. Switching regulators work in a different way: they ‘pump’ energy by first storing the energy coming from the source supply in a reactive component (usually an inductor, sometimes a capacitor) and then releasing it to the regulated output supply. The switches in switching regulators effect this energy transfer by first connecting the inductor (or capacitor) to store the source energy, and then switching the circuit so the energy is released to its destination.
Linear regulators produce smoother, less noisy output voltages, but they can only convert to a lower voltage, and have to dissipate energy to do so. The higher the output current and the voltage difference across them is, the more energy is lost as heat. On the other hand, switching supplies can, depending on their design, convert any voltage to any other voltage and can be much more efficient (efficiencies of 90% and above are not uncommon). However, they are more complex and generate noisier output voltages.
Designers use both types of regulators depending on the needs of the downstream circuit: for low-voltage drops, low current, or low noise, linear regulators are usually the right choice, while switching regulators are used for higher power or when efficiency of conversion is required. One of the simplest switching-mode power supply circuits is the buck converter, used to create a lower voltage from a higher one, and this is what we use on the Pi.
A history lesson
The BCM2835 processor chip (found on the original Raspberry Pi Model B and B+, as well as on the Zero products) has on-chip power supplies: one switch-mode regulator for the core voltage, as well as a linear one for the LPDDR2 memory supply. This meant that in addition to 5V, we only had to provide 3.3V and 1.8V on the board, which was relatively simple to do using cheap, off-the-shelf parts.
Pi Zero sporting a BCM2835 processor which only needs 2 external switchers (the components clustered behind the camera port)
When we moved to the BCM2836 for Raspberry Pi Model 2 (and subsequently to the BCM2837A1 and B0 for Raspberry Pi 3B and 3B+), the core supply and the on-chip LPDDR2 memory supply were not up to the job of supplying the extra processor cores and larger memory, so we removed them. (We also used the recovered chip area to help fit in the new quad-core ARM processors.) The upshot of this was that we had to supply these power rails externally for the Raspberry Pi 2 and models thereafter. Moreover, we also had to provide circuitry to sequence them correctly in order to control exactly when they power up compared to the other supplies on the board.
Power supply design is tricky (but critical)
Raspberry Pi boards take in 5V from the micro USB socket and have to generate the other required supplies from this. When 5V is first connected, each of these other supplies must ‘start up’, meaning go from ‘off’, or 0V, to their correct voltage in some short period of time. The order of the supplies starting up is often important: commonly, there are structures inside a chip that form diodes between supply rails, and bringing supplies up in the wrong order can sometimes ‘turn on’ these diodes, causing them to conduct, with undesirable consequences. Silicon chips come with a data sheet specifying what supplies (voltages and currents) are needed and whether they need to be low-noise, in what order they must power up (and in some cases down), and sometimes even the rate at which the voltages must power up and down.
A Pi3. Power supply components are clustered bottom left next to the micro USB, middle (above LPDDR2 chip which is on the bottom of the PCB) and above the A/V jack.
In designing the power chain for the Pi 2 and 3, the sequencing was fairly straightforward: power rails power up in order of voltage (5V, 3.3V, 1.8V, 1.2V). However, the supplies were all generated with individual, discrete devices. Therefore, I spent quite a lot of time designing circuitry to control the sequencing — even with some design tricks to reduce component count, quite a few sequencing components are required. More complex systems generally use a Power Management Integrated Circuit (PMIC) with multiple supplies on a single chip, and many different PMIC variants are made by various manufacturers. Since Raspberry Pi 2 days, I was looking for a suitable PMIC to simplify the Pi design, but invariably (and somewhat counter-intuitively) these were always too expensive compared to my discrete solution, usually because they came with more features than needed.
One device to rule them all
It was way back in May 2015 when I first chatted to Peter Coyle of Exar (Exar were bought by MaxLinear in 2017) about power supply products for Raspberry Pi. We didn’t find a product match then, but in June 2016 Peter, along with Tuomas Hollman and Trevor Latham, visited to pitch the possibility of building a custom power management solution for us.
I was initially sceptical that it could be made cheap enough. However, our discussion indicated that if we could tailor the solution to just what we needed, it could be cost-effective. Over the coming weeks and months, we honed a specification we agreed on from the initial sketches we’d made, and Exar thought they could build it for us at the target price.
The chip we designed would contain all the key supplies required for the Pi on one small device in a cheap QFN package, and it would also perform the required sequencing and voltage monitoring. Moreover, the chip would be flexible to allow adjustment of supply voltages from their default values via I2C; the largest supply would be capable of being adjusted quickly to perform the dynamic core voltage changes needed in order to reduce voltage to the processor when it is idling (to save power), and to boost voltage to the processor when running at maximum speed (1.4 GHz). The supplies on the chip would all be generously specified and could deliver significantly more power than those used on the Raspberry Pi 3. All in all, the chip would contain four switching-mode converters and one low-current linear regulator, this last one being low-noise for the audio circuitry.
The MXL7704 chip
The project was a great success: MaxLinear delivered working samples of first silicon at the end of May 2017 (almost exactly a year after we had kicked off the project), and followed through with production quantities in December 2017 in time for the Raspberry Pi 3B+ production ramp.
Front row: Roger with the very first Pi 3B+ prototypes and James with a MXL7704 development board hacked to power a Pi 3. Back row left to right: Will Torgerson, Trevor Latham, Peter Coyle, Tuomas Hollman.
The MXL7704 device has been key to reducing Pi board complexity and therefore overall bill of materials cost. Furthermore, by being able to deliver more power when needed, it has also been essential to increasing the speed of the (newly packaged) BCM2837B0 processor on the 3B+ to 1.4GHz. The result is improvements to both the continuous output current to the CPU (from 3A to 4A) and to the transient performance (i.e. the chip has helped to reduce the ‘transient response’, which is the change in supply voltage due to a sudden current spike that occurs when the processor suddenly demands a large current in a few nanoseconds, as modern CPUs tend to do).
With the MXL7704, the power supply circuitry on the 3B+ is now a lot simpler than the Pi 3B design. This new supply also provides the LPDDR2 memory voltage directly from a switching regulator rather than using linear regulators like the Pi 3, thereby improving energy efficiency. This helps to somewhat offset the extra power that the faster Ethernet, wireless networking, and processor consume. A pleasing side effect of using the new chip is the symmetric board layout of the regulators — it’s easy to see the four switching-mode supplies, given away by four similar-looking blobs (three grey and one brownish), which are the inductors.
The Pi 3B+ PMIC MXL7704 — pleasingly symmetric
It takes a lot of effort to design a new chip from scratch and get it all the way through to production — we are very grateful to the team at MaxLinear for their hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm. We’re also proud to have created something that will not only power Raspberry Pis, but will also be useful for other product designs: it turns out when you have a low-cost and flexible device, it can be used for many things — something we’re fairly familiar with here at Raspberry Pi! For the curious, the product page (including the data sheet) for the MXL7704 chip is here. Particular thanks go to Peter Coyle, Tuomas Hollman, and Trevor Latham, and also to Jon Cronk, who has been our contact in the US and has had to get up early to attend all our conference calls!
The MXL7704 design team celebrating on Pi Day — it takes a lot of people to design a chip!
I hope you liked reading about some of the effort that has gone into creating the new Pi. It’s nice to finally have a chance to tell people about some of the (increasingly complex) technical work that makes building a $35 computer possible — we’re very pleased with the Raspberry Pi 3B+, and we hope you enjoy using it as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it!
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, news articles and commentators have focused on what Facebook knows about us. A lot, it turns out. It collects data from our posts, our likes, our photos, things we type and delete without posting, and things we do while not on Facebook and even when we’re offline. It buys data about us from others. And it can infer even more: our sexual orientation, political beliefs, relationship status, drug use, and other personality traits — even if we didn’t take the personality test that Cambridge Analytica developed.
But for every article about Facebook’s creepy stalker behavior, thousands of other companies are breathing a collective sigh of relief that it’s Facebook and not them in the spotlight. Because while Facebook is one of the biggest players in this space, there are thousands of other companies that spy on and manipulate us for profit.
Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff calls it “surveillance capitalism.” And as creepy as Facebook is turning out to be, the entire industry is far creepier. It has existed in secret far too long, and it’s up to lawmakers to force these companies into the public spotlight, where we can all decide if this is how we want society to operate and — if not — what to do about it.
There are 2,500 to 4,000 data brokers in the United States whose business is buying and selling our personal data. Last year, Equifax was in thenews when hackers stole personal information on 150 million people, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
You certainly didn’t give it permission to collect any of that information. Equifax is one of those thousands of data brokers, most of them you’ve never heard of, selling your personal information without your knowledge or consent to pretty much anyone who will pay for it.
Surveillance capitalism takes this one step further. Companies like Facebook and Google offer you free services in exchange for your data. Google’s surveillance isn’t in the news, but it’s startlingly intimate. We never lie to our search engines. Our interests and curiosities, hopes and fears, desires and sexual proclivities, are all collected and saved. Add to that the websites we visit that Google tracks through its advertising network, our Gmail accounts, our movements via Google Maps, and what it can collect from our smartphones.
That phone is probably the most intimate surveillance device ever invented. It tracks our location continuously, so it knows where we live, where we work, and where we spend our time. It’s the first and last thing we check in a day, so it knows when we wake up and when we go to sleep. We all have one, so it knows who we sleep with. Uber used just some of that information to detect one-night stands; your smartphone provider and any app you allow to collect location data knows a lot more.
Surveillance capitalism drives much of the internet. It’s behind most of the “free” services, and many of the paid ones as well. Its goal is psychological manipulation, in the form of personalized advertising to persuade you to buy something or do something, like vote for a candidate. And while the individualized profile-driven manipulation exposed by Cambridge Analytica feels abhorrent, it’s really no different from what every company wants in the end. This is why all your personal information is collected, and this is why it is so valuable. Companies that can understand it can use it against you.
None of this is new. The media has been reporting on surveillance capitalism for years. In 2015, I wrote a book about it. Back in 2010, the Wall Street Journal publishedan award-winning two-year series about how people are tracked both online and offline, titled “What They Know.”
Surveillance capitalism is deeply embedded in our increasingly computerized society, and if the extent of it came to light there would be broad demands for limits and regulation. But because this industry can largely operate in secret, only occasionally exposed after a data breach or investigative report, we remain mostly ignorant of its reach.
This might change soon. In 2016, the European Union passed the comprehensive General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The details of the law are far too complex to explain here, but some of the things it mandates are that personal data of EU citizens can only be collected and saved for “specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes,” and only with explicit consent of the user. Consent can’t be buried in the terms and conditions, nor can it be assumed unless the user opts in. This law will take effect in May, and companies worldwide are bracing for its enforcement.
Because pretty much all surveillance capitalism companies collect data on Europeans, this will expose the industry like nothing else. Here’s just one example. In preparation for this law, PayPal quietlypublished a list of over 600 companies it might share your personal data with. What will it be like when every company has to publish this sort of information, and explicitly explain how it’s using your personal data? We’re about to find out.
In the wake of this scandal, even Mark Zuckerberg saidthat his industry probably should be regulated, although he’s certainly not wishing for the sorts of comprehensive regulation the GDPR is bringing to Europe.
He’s right. Surveillance capitalism has operated without constraints for far too long. And advances in both big data analysis and artificial intelligence will make tomorrow’s applications far creepier than today’s. Regulation is the only answer.
The first step to any regulation is transparency. Who has our data? Is it accurate? What are they doing with it? Who are they selling it to? How are they securing it? Can we delete it? I don’t see any hope of Congress passing a GDPR-like data protection law anytime soon, but it’s not too far-fetched to demand laws requiring these companies to be more transparent in what they’re doing.
One of the responses to the Cambridge Analytica scandal is that people are deleting their Facebook accounts. It’s hard to do right, and doesn’t do anything about the data that Facebook collectsaboutpeople who don’t use Facebook. But it’s a start. The market can put pressure on these companies to reduce their spying on us, but it can only do that if we force the industry out of its secret shadows.
The data center keeps growing, with well over 500 Petabytes of data under management we needed more systems administrators to help us keep track of all the systems as our operation expands. Our latest systems administrator is Billy! Let’s learn a bit more about him shall we?
What is your Backblaze Title? Sr. Systems Administrator
Where are you originally from? Boston, MA
What attracted you to Backblaze? I’ve read the hard drive articles that were published and was excited to be a part of the company that took the time to do that kind of analysis and share it with the world.
What do you expect to learn while being at Backblaze? I expect that I’ll learn about the problems that arise from a larger scale operation and how to solve them. I’m very curious to find out what they are.
Where else have you worked? I’ve worked for the MIT Math Dept, Google, a social network owned by AOL called Bebo, Evernote, a contractor recommendation site owned by The Home Depot called RedBeacon, and a few others that weren’t as interesting.
Where did you go to school? I started college at The Cooper Union, discovered that Electrical Engineering wasn’t my thing, then graduated from the Computer Science program at Northeastern.
What’s your dream job? Is couch potato a job? I like to solve puzzles and play with toys, which is why I really enjoy being a sysadmin. My dream job is to do pretty much what I do now, but not have to participate in on-call.
Favorite place you’ve traveled? We did a 2 week tour through Europe on our honeymoon. I’d go back to any place there.
Favorite hobby? Reading and listening to music. I spent a stupid amount of money on a stereo, so I make sure it gets plenty of use. I spent much less money on my library card, but I try to utilize it quite a bit as well.
Of what achievement are you most proud? I designed a built a set of shelves for the closet in my kids’ room. Built with hand tools. The only electricity I used was the lights to see what I was doing.
Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Trek: The Next Generation
Coke or Pepsi? Coke!
Favorite food? Pesto. Usually on angel hair, but it also works well on bread, or steak, or a spoon.
Why do you like certain things? I like things that are a little outside the norm, like musical covers and mashups, or things that look like 1 thing but are really something else. Secret compartments are also fun.
Anything else you’d like you’d like to tell us? I’m full of anecdotes and lines from songs and movies and tv shows.
Pesto is delicious! Welcome to the systems administrator team Billy, we’ll keep the fridge stocked with Coke for you!
Unless you’ve been AFK for the last two days, you’ll no doubt be aware of the release of the brand-spanking-new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. With faster connectivity, more computing power, Power over Ethernet (PoE) pins, and the same $35 price point, the new board has been a hit across all our social media accounts! So while we wind down from launch week, let’s all pull up a chair, make yet another cup of coffee, and look through some of our favourite reactions from the last 48 hours.
Our Twitter mentions were refreshing at hyperspeed on Wednesday, as you all began to hear the news and spread the word about the newest member to the Raspberry Pi family.
This sort of attention to detail work is exactly what I love about being involved with @Raspberry_Pi. We’re squeezing the last drops of performance out of the 40nm process node, and perfecting Pi 3 in the same way that the original B+ perfected Pi 1.” https://t.co/hEj7JZOGeZ
And I think we counted about 150 uses of this GIF on Twitter alone:
Is something going on with the @Raspberry_Pi today? You’d never guess from my YouTube subscriptions page… 😀
A few members of our community were lucky enough to get their hands on a 3B+ early, and sat eagerly by the YouTube publish button, waiting to release their impressions of our new board to the world. Others, with no new Pi in hand yet, posted reaction vids to the launch, discussing their plans for the upgraded Pi and comparing statistics against its predecessors.
Happy Pi Day World! There is a new Raspberry Pi 3, the B+! In this video I will review the new Pi 3 B+ and do some speed tests. Let me know in the comments if you are getting one and what you are planning on making with it!
It’s Pi day! Sorry, wondrous Mathematical constant, this day is no longer about you. The Raspberry Pi foundation just released a new version of the Raspberry Pi called the Rapsberry Pi B+.
If you have a YouTube or Vimeo channel, or if you create videos for other social media channels, and have published your impressions of the new Raspberry Pi, be sure to share a link with us so we can see what you think!
We shared a few photos and videos on Instagram, and over 30000 of you checked out our Instagram Story on the day.
5,609 Likes, 103 Comments – Raspberry Pi (@raspberrypifoundation) on Instagram: “Some glamour shots of the latest member of the #RaspberryPi family – the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ ….”
As hot off the press (out of the oven? out of the solder bath?) Pi 3B+ boards start to make their way to eager makers’ homes, they are all broadcasting their excitement, and we love seeing what they plan to get up to with it.
On a day where science is making the headlines, lovely to see the scientists of the future in our office – getting tips from fab @Raspberry_Pi founder @EbenUpton #scientists #RaspberryPi #PiDay2018 @sirissac6thform
Principal Hardware Engineer Roger Thornton will also make a live appearance online this week: he is co-hosting Hack Chat later today. And of course, you can see more of Roger and Eben in the video where they discuss the new 3B+.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is now on sale now for $35.
It’s been a supremely busy week here at Pi Towers and across the globe in the offices of our Approved Resellers, and seeing your wonderful comments and sharing in your excitement has made it all worth it. Please keep it up, and be sure to share the arrival of your 3B+ as well as the projects into which you’ll be integrating them.
The worst thing for a computer user has happened. The hard drive on your computer crashed, or your computer is lost or completely unusable.
Fortunately, you’re a Backblaze customer with a current backup in the cloud. That’s great. The challenge is that you’ve got a presentation to make in just 48 hours and the document and materials you need for the presentation were on the hard drive that crashed.
Relax. Backblaze has your data (and your back). The question is, how do you get what you need to make that presentation deadline?
Here are some strategies you could use.
One — The first approach is to get back the presentation file and materials you need to meet your presentation deadline as quickly as possible. You can use another computer (maybe even your smartphone) to make that presentation.
Two — The second approach is to get your computer (or a new computer, if necessary) working again and restore all the files from your Backblaze backup.
Let’s start with Option One, which gets you back to work with just the files you need now as quickly as possible.
Option One — You’ve Got a Deadline and Just Need Your Files
Getting Back to Work Immediately
You want to get your computer working again as soon as possible, but perhaps your top priority is getting access to the files you need for your presentation. The computer can wait.
Find a Computer to Use
First of all. You’re going to need a computer to use. If you have another computer handy, you’re all set. If you don’t, you’re going to need one. Here are some ideas on where to find one:
Family and Friends
Community or religious organization
Local computer shop
If you have a smartphone that you can use to give your presentation or to print materials, that’s great. With the Backblaze app for iOS and Android, you can download files directly from your Backblaze account to your smartphone. You also have the option with your smartphone to email or share files from your Backblaze backup so you can use them elsewhere.
Download The File(s) You Need
Once you have the computer, you need to connect to your Backblaze backup through a web browser or the Backblaze smartphone app.
Backblaze Web Admin
Sign into your Backblaze account. You can download the files directly or use the share link to share files with yourself or someone else.
If you have an iOS or Android smartphone, you can use the Backblaze app and retrieve the files you need. You then could view the file on your phone, use a smartphone app with the file, or email it to yourself or someone else.
Backblaze Smartphone app (iOS)
Using one of the approaches above, you got your files back in time for your presentation. Way to go!
Now, the next step is to get the computer with the bad drive running again and restore all your files, or, if that computer is no longer usable, restore your Backblaze backup to a new computer.
Option Two — You Need a Working Computer Again
Getting the Computer with the Failed Drive Running Again (or a New Computer)
If the computer with the failed drive can’t be saved, then you’re going to need a new computer. A new computer likely will come with the operating system installed and ready to boot. If you’ve got a running computer and are ready to restore your files from Backblaze, you can skip forward to Restore the Files to the Drive.
If you need to replace the hard drive in your computer before you restore your files, you can continue reading.
Buy a New Hard Drive to Replace the Failed Drive
The hard drive is gone, so you’re going to need a new drive. If you have a computer or electronics store nearby, you could get one there. Another choice is to order a drive online and pay for one or two-day delivery. You have a few choices:
Buy a hard drive of the same type and size you had
Upgrade to a drive with more capacity
Upgrade to an SSD. SSDs cost more but they are faster, more reliable, and less susceptible to jolts, magnetic fields, and other hazards that can affect a drive. Otherwise, they work the same as a hard disk drive (HDD) and most likely will work with the same connector.
Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
Solid State Drive (SSD)
Be sure that the drive dimensions are compatible with where you’re going to install the drive in your computer, and the drive connector is compatible with your computer system (SATA, PCIe, etc.) Here’s some help.
Install the Drive
If you’re handy with computers, you can install the drive yourself. It’s not hard, and there are numerous videos on YouTube and elsewhere on how to do this. Just be sure to note how everything was connected so you can get everything connected and put back together correctly. Also, be sure that you discharge any static electricity from your body by touching something metallic before you handle anything inside the computer. If all this sounds like too much to handle, find a friend or a local computer store to help you.
Note: If the drive that failed is a boot drive for your operating system (either Macintosh or Windows), you need to make sure that the drive is bootable and has the operating system files on it. You may need to reinstall from an operating system source disk or install files.
Once logged in, you will be brought to the account Overview page. On this page, all of the computers registered for backup under your account are shown with some basic information about each. Select the backup from which you wish to restore data by using the appropriate “Restore” button.
Selecting the Type of Restore
Backblaze offers three different ways in which you can receive your restore data: downloadable ZIP file, USB flash drive, or USB hard drive. The downloadable ZIP restore option will create a ZIP file of the files you request that is made available for download for 7 days. ZIP restores do not have any additional cost and are a great option for individual files or small sets of data.
Depending on the speed of your internet connection to the Backblaze data center, downloadable restores may not always be the best option for restoring very large amounts of data. ZIP restores are limited to 500 GB per request and a maximum of 5 active requests can be submitted under a single account at any given time.
USB flash and hard drive restores are built with the data you request and then shipped to an address of your choosing via FedEx Overnight or FedEx Priority International. USB flash restores cost $99 and can contain up to 128 GB (110,000 MB of data) and USB hard drive restores cost $189 and can contain up to 4TB max (3,500,000 MB of data). Both include the cost of shipping.
You can return the ZIP drive within 30 days for a full refund with our Restore Return Refund Program, effectively making the process of restoring free, even with a shipped USB drive.
Selecting Files for Restore
Using the left hand file viewer, navigate to the location of the files you wish to restore. You can use the disclosure triangles to see subfolders. Clicking on a folder name will display the folder’s files in the right hand file viewer. If you are attempting to restore files that have been deleted or are otherwise missing or files from a failed or disconnected secondary or external hard drive, you may need to change the time frame parameters.
Put checkmarks next to disks, files or folders you’d like to recover. Once you have selected the files and folders you wish to restore, select the “Continue with Restore” button above or below the file viewer. Backblaze will then build the restore via the option you select (ZIP or USB drive). You’ll receive an automated email notifying you when the ZIP restore has been built and is ready for download or when the USB restore drive ships.
If you are using the downloadable ZIP option, and the restore is over 2 GB, we highly recommend using the Backblaze Downloader for better speed and reliability. We have a guide on using the Backblaze Downloader for Mac OS X or for Windows.
Recent versions of both macOS and Windows have built-in capability to extract files from a ZIP archive. If the built-in capabilities aren’t working for you, you can find additional utilities for Macintosh and Windows.
Reactivating your Backblaze Account
Now that you’ve got a working computer again, you’re going to need to reinstall Backblaze Backup (if it’s not on the system already) and connect with your existing account. Start by downloading and reinstalling Backblaze.
If you’ve restored the files from your Backblaze Backup to your new computer or drive, you don’t want to have to reupload the same files again to your Backblaze backup. To let Backblaze know that this computer is on the same account and has the same files, you need to use “Inherit Backup State.” See https://help.backblaze.com/hc/en-us/articles/217666358-Inherit-Backup-State
You should be all set, either with the files you needed for your presentation, or with a restored computer that is again ready to do productive work.
We hope your presentation wowed ’em.
If you have any additional questions on restoring from a Backblaze backup, please ask away in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our help resources at https://www.backblaze.com/help.html.
LWN has covered the open RISC-V (“risk five”) processor architecture before, most recently in this article. As the ecosystem and tools around RISC-V have started coming together, a more detailed look is in order. In a series of two articles, guest author Richard W.M. Jones will look at what RISC-V is and follow up with an article on how we can now port Linux distributions to run on it.
I won’t repeat everything here, so please go and read those articles. You can really shoot yourself in the foot with JWT, it’s complex to get to know it well and it has little benefits for most of the usecases. I guess for API calls it makes sense, especially if you reuse the same API in a single-page application and for your RESTful clients, but I’ll focus on the user session usecase.
Having all this criticism, I’ve gone against what the articles above recommend, and use JWT, navigating through their arguments and claiming I’m in a sweet spot. I can very well be wrong.
I store the user ID in a JWT token stored as a cookie. Not local storage, as that’s problematic. Not the whole state, as I don’t need that may lead to problems (pointed out in the linked articles). In fact, I don’t have any session state apart from the user data, which I think is a good practice.
What I want to avoid in my setup is sharing sessions across nodes. And this is a very compelling reason to not use the session mechanism of your web server/framework. No, you don’t need to have millions of users in order to need your application to run on more than one node. In fact, it should almost always run on (at least) two nodes, because nodes die and you don’t want downtime. Sticky sessions at the load balancer are a solution to that problem but you are just outsourcing the centralized session storage to the load balancer (and some load balancers might not support it). Shared session cache (e.g. memcached, elasticache, hazelcast) is also an option, and many web servers (at least in Java) support pluggable session replication mechanisms, but that introduces another component to the archtecture, another part of the stack to be supported and that can possibly break. It is not necessarily bad, but if there’s a simple way to avoid it, I’d go for it.
In order to avoid shared session storage, you need either the whole session state to be passed in the request/response cycle (as cookie, request parameter, header), or to receive a userId and load the user from the database or a cache. As we’ve learned, the former might be a bad choice. Despite that fact that frameworks like ASP.NET and JSF dump the whole state in the HTML of the page, it doesn’t intuitively sound good.
As for the latter – you may say “ok, if you are going to load the user from the database on every request this is going to be slow and if you use a cache, then why not use the cache for the sessions themselves?”. Well, the cache can be local. Remember we have just a few application nodes. Each node can have a local, in-memory cache for the currently active users. The fact that all nodes will have the same user loaded (after a few requests are routed to them by the load balancer in a round-robin fashion) is not important, as that cache is small. But you won’t have to take any care for replicating it across nodes, taking care of new nodes coming and going from the cluster, dealing with network issues between the nodes, etc. Each application node will be an island not caring about any other application node.
So here goes my first objection to the linked articles – just storing the user identifier in a JWT token is not pointless, as it saves you from session replication.
What about the criticism for the JWT standard and the security implications of its cryptography? Entirely correct, it’s easy to shoot yourself in the foot. That’s why I’m using JWT only with MAC, and only with a particular algorithm that I verify upon receiving the token, thus (allegedly) avoiding all the pitfalls. In all fairness, I’m willing to use the alternative proposed in one of the articles – PASETO – but it doesn’t have a Java library and it will take some time implementing one (might do in the future). To summarize – if there was another easy to use way for authenticated encryption of cookies, I’d use it.
So I’m basically using JWT in “PASETO-mode”, with only one operation and only one algorithm. And that should be fine as a general approach – the article doesn’t criticize the idea of having a user identifier in a token (and a stateless application node), it criticizes the complexity and vulnerabilities of the standard. This is sort of my second objection – “Don’t use JWT” is widely understood to mean “Don’t use tokens”, where that is not the case.
Have I introduced some vulnerability in my strive for architectural simplicity and lack of shared state? I hope not.
Bug bounties end up in the news with some regularity, usually for the wrong reasons. I’ve been itching to write about that for a while – but instead of dwelling on the mistakes of the bygone days, I figured it may be better to talk about some of the ways to get vulnerability rewards right.
What do you get out of bug bounties?
There’s plenty of differing views, but I like to think of such programs simply as a bid on researchers’ time. In the most basic sense, you get three benefits:
Improved ability to detect bugs in production before they become major incidents.
A comparatively unbiased feedback loop to help you prioritize and measure other security work.
A robust talent pipeline for when you need to hire.
What bug bounties don’t offer?
You don’t get anything resembling a comprehensive security program or a systematic assessment of your platforms. Researchers end up looking for bugs that offer favorable effort-to-payoff ratios for their skills and given the very imperfect information they have about your enterprise. In other words, you may end up with a hundred people looking for XSS and just one person looking for RCE.
Your reward structure can steer them toward the targets and bugs you care about, but it’s difficult to fully eliminate this inherent skew. There’s only so far you can jack up your top-tier rewards, and only so far you can go lowering the bottom-tier ones.
Don’t you have to outcompete the black market to get all the “good” bugs?
There is a free market price discovery component to it all: if you’re not getting the engagement you were hoping for, you should probably consider paying more.
That said, there are going to be researchers who’d rather hurt you than work for you, no matter how much you pay; you don’t have to win them over, and you don’t have to outspend every authoritarian government or every crime syndicate. A bug bounty is effective simply if it attracts enough eyeballs to make bugs statistically harder to find, and reduces the useful lifespan of any zero-days in black market trade. Plus, most researchers don’t want their work to be used to crack down on dissidents in Egypt or Vietnam.
Another factor is that you’re paying for different things: a black market buyer probably wants a reliable exploit capable of delivering payloads, and then demands silence for months or years to come; a vendor-run bug bounty program is usually perfectly happy with a reproducible crash and doesn’t mind a researcher blogging about their work.
In fact, while money is important, you will probably find out that it’s not enough to retain your top talent; many folks want bug bounties to be more than a business transaction, and find a lot of value in having a close relationship with your security team, comparing notes, and growing together. Fostering that partnership can be more important than adding another $10,000 to your top reward.
How do I prevent it all from going horribly wrong?
Bug bounties are an unfamiliar beast to most lawyers and PR folks, so it’s a natural to be wary and try to plan for every eventuality with pages and pages of impenetrable rules and fine-print legalese.
This is generally unnecessary: there is a strong self-selection bias, and almost every participant in a vulnerability reward program will be coming to you in good faith. The more friendly, forthcoming, and approachable you seem, and the more you treat them like peers, the more likely it is for your relationship to stay positive. On the flip side, there is no faster way to make enemies than to make a security researcher feel that they are now talking to a lawyer or to the PR dept.
Most people have strong opinions on disclosure policies; instead of imposing your own views, strive to patch reported bugs reasonably quickly, and almost every reporter will play along. Demand researchers to cancel conference appearances, take down blog posts, or sign NDAs, and you will sooner or later end up in the news.
But what if that’s not enough?
As with any business endeavor, mistakes will happen; total risk avoidance is seldom the answer. Learn to sincerely apologize for mishaps; it’s not a sign of weakness to say “sorry, we messed up”. And you will almost certainly not end up in the courtroom for doing so.
It’s good to foster a healthy and productive relationship with the community, so that they come to your defense when something goes wrong. Encouraging people to disclose bugs and talk about their experiences is one way of accomplishing that.
What about extortion?
You should structure your program to naturally discourage bad behavior and make it stand out like a sore thumb. Require bona fide reports with complete technical details before any reward decision is made by a panel of named peers; and make it clear that you never demand non-disclosure as a condition of getting a reward.
To avoid researchers accidentally putting themselves in awkward situations, have clear rules around data exfiltration and lateral movement: assure them that you will always pay based on the worst-case impact of their findings; in exchange, ask them to stop as soon as they get a shell and never access any data that isn’t their own.
So… are there any downsides?
Yep. Other than souring up your relationship with the community if you implement your program wrong, the other consideration is that bug bounties tend to generate a lot of noise from well-meaning but less-skilled researchers.
When this happens, do not get frustrated and do not penalize such participants; instead, help them grow. Consider publishing educational articles, giving advice on how to investigate and structure reports, or offering free workshops every now and then.
The other downside is cost; although bug bounties tend to offer far more bang for your buck than your average penetration test, they are more random. The annual expenses tend to be fairly predictable, but there is always some possibility of having to pay multiple top-tier rewards in rapid succession. This is the kind of uncertainty that many mid-level budget planners react badly to.
Finally, you need to be able to fix the bugs you receive. It would be nuts to prefer to not know about the vulnerabilities in the first place – but once you invite the research, the clock starts ticking and you need to ship fixes reasonably fast.
So… should I try it?
There are folks who enthusiastically advocate for bug bounties in every conceivable situation, and people who dislike them with fierce passion; both sentiments are usually strongly correlated with the line of business they are in.
In reality, bug bounties are not a cure-all, and there are some ways to make them ineffectual or even dangerous. But they are not as risky or expensive as most people suspect, and when done right, they can actually be fun for your team, too. You won’t know for sure until you try.
Apple is bowing to pressure from the Chinese government and storing encryption keys in China. While I would prefer it if it would take a stand against China, I really can’t blame it for putting its business model ahead of its desires for customer privacy.
We have been busy adding new features and capabilities to Amazon Redshift, and we wanted to give you a glimpse of what we’ve been doing over the past year. In this article, we recap a few of our enhancements and provide a set of resources that you can use to learn more and get the most out of your Amazon Redshift implementation.
In 2017, we made more than 30 announcements about Amazon Redshift. We listened to you, our customers, and delivered Redshift Spectrum, a feature of Amazon Redshift, that gives you the ability to extend analytics to your data lake—without moving data. We launched new DC2 nodes, doubling performance at the same price. We also announced many new features that provide greater scalability, better performance, more automation, and easier ways to manage your analytics workloads.
To see a full list of our launches, visit our what’s new page—and be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed.
Major launches in 2017
Amazon Redshift Spectrum—extend analytics to your data lake, without moving data
We launched Amazon Redshift Spectrum to give you the freedom to store data in Amazon S3, in open file formats, and have it available for analytics without the need to load it into your Amazon Redshift cluster. It enables you to easily join datasets across Redshift clusters and S3 to provide unique insights that you would not be able to obtain by querying independent data silos.
With Redshift Spectrum, you can run SQL queries against data in an Amazon S3 data lake as easily as you analyze data stored in Amazon Redshift. And you can do it without loading data or resizing the Amazon Redshift cluster based on growing data volumes. Redshift Spectrum separates compute and storage to meet workload demands for data size, concurrency, and performance. Redshift Spectrum scales processing across thousands of nodes, so results are fast, even with massive datasets and complex queries. You can query open file formats that you already use—such as Apache Avro, CSV, Grok, ORC, Apache Parquet, RCFile, RegexSerDe, SequenceFile, TextFile, and TSV—directly in Amazon S3, without any data movement.
“For complex queries, Redshift Spectrum provided a 67 percent performance gain,” said Rafi Ton, CEO, NUVIAD. “Using the Parquet data format, Redshift Spectrum delivered an 80 percent performance improvement. For us, this was substantial.”
DC2 nodes—twice the performance of DC1 at the same price
We launched second-generation Dense Compute (DC2) nodes to provide low latency and high throughput for demanding data warehousing workloads. DC2 nodes feature powerful Intel E5-2686 v4 (Broadwell) CPUs, fast DDR4 memory, and NVMe-based solid state disks (SSDs). We’ve tuned Amazon Redshift to take advantage of the better CPU, network, and disk on DC2 nodes, providing up to twice the performance of DC1 at the same price. Our DC2.8xlarge instances now provide twice the memory per slice of data and an optimized storage layout with 30 percent better storage utilization.
“Redshift allows us to quickly spin up clusters and provide our data scientists with a fast and easy method to access data and generate insights,” said Bradley Todd, technology architect at Liberty Mutual. “We saw a 9x reduction in month-end reporting time with Redshift DC2 nodes as compared to DC1.”
On average, our customers are seeing 3x to 5x performance gains for most of their critical workloads.
We introduced short query acceleration to speed up execution of queries such as reports, dashboards, and interactive analysis. Short query acceleration uses machine learning to predict the execution time of a query, and to move short running queries to an express short query queue for faster processing.
We launched results caching to deliver sub-second response times for queries that are repeated, such as dashboards, visualizations, and those from BI tools. Results caching has an added benefit of freeing up resources to improve the performance of all other queries.
We also introduced late materialization to reduce the amount of data scanned for queries with predicate filters by batching and factoring in the filtering of predicates before fetching data blocks in the next column. For example, if only 10 percent of the table rows satisfy the predicate filters, Amazon Redshift can potentially save 90 percent of the I/O for the remaining columns to improve query performance.
We launched query monitoring rules and pre-defined rule templates. These features make it easier for you to set metrics-based performance boundaries for workload management (WLM) queries, and specify what action to take when a query goes beyond those boundaries. For example, for a queue that’s dedicated to short-running queries, you might create a rule that aborts queries that run for more than 60 seconds. To track poorly designed queries, you might have another rule that logs queries that contain nested loops.
Amazon Redshift and Redshift Spectrum serve customers across a variety of industries and sizes, from startups to large enterprises. Visit our customer page to see the success that customers are having with our recent enhancements. Learn how companies like Liberty Mutual Insurance saw a 9x reduction in month-end reporting time using DC2 nodes. On this page, you can find case studies, videos, and other content that show how our customers are using Amazon Redshift to drive innovation and business results.
In addition, check out these resources to learn about the success our customers are having building out a data warehouse and data lake integration solution with Amazon Redshift:
You can enhance your Amazon Redshift data warehouse by working with industry-leading experts. Our AWS Partner Network (APN) Partners have certified their solutions to work with Amazon Redshift. They offer software, tools, integration, and consulting services to help you at every step. Visit our Amazon Redshift Partner page and choose an APN Partner. Or, use AWS Marketplace to find and immediately start using third-party software.
To see what our Partners are saying about Amazon Redshift Spectrum and our DC2 nodes mentioned earlier, read these blog posts:
If you are evaluating or considering a proof of concept with Amazon Redshift, or you need assistance migrating your on-premises or other cloud-based data warehouse to Amazon Redshift, our team of product experts and solutions architects can help you with architecting, sizing, and optimizing your data warehouse. Contact us using this support request form, and let us know how we can assist you.
If you are an Amazon Redshift customer, we offer a no-cost health check program. Our team of database engineers and solutions architects give you recommendations for optimizing Amazon Redshift and Amazon Redshift Spectrum for your specific workloads. To learn more, email us at [email protected].
Larry Heathcote is a Principle Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Web Services for data warehousing and analytics. Larry is passionate about seeing the results of data-driven insights on business outcomes. He enjoys family time, home projects, grilling out and the taste of classic barbeque.
Over the next few months the noise over GDPR will finally reach a crescendo. For the uninitiated, “GDPR” stands for “General Data Protection Regulation” and it goes into effect on May 25th of this year. GDPR is designed to protect how personal information of EU (European Union) citizens is collected, stored, and shared. The regulation should also improve transparency as to how personal information is managed by a business or organization.
Backblaze fully expects to be GDPR compliant when May 25th rolls around and we thought we’d share our experience along the way. We’ll start with this post as an introduction to GDPR. In future posts, we’ll dive into some of the details of the process we went through in meeting the GDPR objectives.
GDPR: A Two Way Street
To ensure we are GDPR compliant, Backblaze has assembled a dedicated internal team, engaged outside counsel in the United Kingdom, and consulted with other tech companies on best practices. While it is a sizable effort on our part, we view this as a waypoint in our ongoing effort to secure and protect our customers’ data and to be transparent in how we work as a company.
In addition to the effort we are putting into complying with the regulation, we think it is important to underscore and promote the idea that data privacy and security is a two-way street. We can spend millions of dollars on protecting the security of our systems, but we can’t stop a bad actor from finding and using your account credentials left on a note stuck to your monitor. We can give our customers tools like two factor authentication and private encryption keys, but it is the partnership with our customers that is the most powerful protection. The same thing goes for your digital privacy — we’ll do our best to protect your information, but we will need your help to do so.
Why GDPR is Important
At the center of GDPR is the protection of Personally Identifiable Information or “PII.” The definition for PII is information that can be used stand-alone or in concert with other information to identify a specific person. This includes obvious data like: name, address, and phone number, less obvious data like email address and IP address, and other data such as a credit card number, and unique identifiers that can be decoded back to the person.
How Will GDPR Affect You as an Individual
Even if you are not a citizen of the EU, GDPR will still affect you. Why? Because nearly every company you deal with, especially online, will have customers that live in the EU. It makes little sense for Backblaze, or any other service provider or vendor, to create a separate set of rules for just EU citizens. In practice, protection of private information should be more accountable and transparent with GDPR.
How Will GDPR Affect You as a Backblaze Customer
Common GDPR Questions:
Here are a few of the more common questions we have heard regarding GDPR.
GDPR will only affect citizens in the EU. Answer: The changes that are being made by companies such as Backblaze to comply with GDPR will almost certainly apply to customers from all countries. And that’s a good thing. The protections afforded to EU citizens by GDPR are something all users of our service should benefit from.
After May 25, 2018, a citizen of the EU will not be allowed to use any applications or services that store data outside of the EU. Answer: False, no one will stop you as an EU citizen from using the internet-based service you choose. But, you should make sure you know where your data is being collected, processed, and stored. If any of those activities occur outside the EU, make sure the company is following the GDPR guidelines.
My business only has a few EU citizens as customers, so I don’t need to care about GDPR? Answer: False, even if you have just one EU citizen as a customer, and you capture, process or store data their PII outside of the EU, you need to comply with GDPR.
Companies can be fined millions of dollars for not complying with GDPR. Answer: True, but: the regulation allows for companies to be fined up to $4 Million dollars or 20% of global revenue (whichever is greater) if they don’t comply with GDPR. In practice, the feeling is that such fines will be reserved (at least initially) for egregious violators that ignore or merely give “lip-service” to GDPR.
For all the hoopla about GDPR, the regulation is reasonably well thought out and addresses a very important issue — people’s privacy online. Creating a best practices document, or in this case a regulation, that companies such as Backblaze can follow is a good idea. The document isn’t perfect, and over the coming years we expect there to be changes. One thing we hope for is that the countries within the EU continue to stand behind one regulation and not fragment the document into multiple versions, each applying to themselves. We believe that having multiple different GDPR versions for different EU countries would lead to less protection overall of EU citizens.
In summary, GDPR changes are coming over the next few months. Backblaze has our internal staff and our EU-based legal council working diligently to ensure that we will be GDPR compliant by May 25th. We believe that GDPR will have a positive effect in enhancing the protection of personally identifiable information for not only EU citizens, but all of our Backblaze customers.
If you’re an educator from the UK, chances are you’ve heard of Bett. For everyone else: Bett stands for British Education Technology Tradeshow. It’s the El Dorado of edtech, where every street is adorned with interactive whiteboards, VR headsets, and new technologies for the classroom. Every year since 2014, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been going to the event hosted in the ExCeL London to chat to thousands of lovely educators about our free programmes and resources.
On a mission
Our setup this year consisted of four pods (imagine tables on steroids) in the STEAM village, and the mission of our highly trained team of education agents was to establish a new world record for Highest number of teachers talked to in a four-day period. I’m only half-joking.
Educators with a mission
The best thing about being at Bett is meeting the educators who use our free content and training materials. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the everyday tasks of the office without stopping to ask: “Hey, have we asked our users what they want recently?” Events like Bett help us to connect with our audience, creating some lovely moments for both sides. We had plenty of Hello World authors visit us, including Gary Stager, co-author of Invent to Learn, a must-read for any computing educator. More than 700 people signed up for a digital subscription, we had numerous lovely conversations about our content and about ideas for new articles, and we met many new authors expressing an interest in writing for us in the future.
We also talked to lots of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators who we’d trained in our free Picademy programme — new dates in Belfast and Dublin now! — and who are now doing exciting and innovative things in their local areas. For example, Chris Snowden came to tell us about the great digital making outreach work he has been doing with the Eureka! museum in Yorkshire.
Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Snowden
Digital making for kids
The other best thing about being at Bett is running workshops for young learners and seeing the delight on their faces when they accomplish something they believed to be impossible only five minutes ago. On the Saturday, we ran a massive Raspberry Jam/Code Club where over 250 children, parents, and curious onlookers got stuck into some of our computing activities. We were super happy to find out that we’d won the Bett Kids’ Choice Award for Best Hands-on Experience — a fantastic end to a busy four days. With Bett over for another year, our tired and happy ‘rebel alliance’ from across the Foundation still had the energy to pose for a group photo.
Another thing they have in common is that they are useful. All of them have some pretty good applications that are definitely worth the time and investment.
Yet another thing they have in common is that they are far from universally applicable. I’ve argued that monoliths are often still the better approach and that microservices introduce too much complexity for the average project. Big Data is something very few organizations actually have; AI/machine learning can help a wide variety of problems, but it is just a tool in a toolbox, not the solution to all problems. Single page applications are great for, yeah, applications, but most websites are still websites, not feature-rich frontends – you don’t need an SPA for every type of website. NoSQL has solved niche issues, and issues of scale that few companies have had, but nothing beats a good old relational database for the typical project out there. “The cloud” is not always where you want your software to be; and SOA just means everything (ESBs, direct integrations, even microservices, according to some). And the blockchain – it seems to be having limited success beyond cryptocurrencies.
And finally, another trait many of them share is that the hype has settled down. Only yesterday I read an article about the “death of the microservices madness”. I don’t see nearly as many new NoSQL databases as a few years ago, some of the projects that have been popular have faded. SOA and “the cloud” are already “boring”, and we’ve realized we don’t actually have big data if it fits in an Excel spreadsheet. SPAs and AI are still high in popularity, but we are getting a good understanding as a community why and when they are useful.
But it seems that nuanced reality has never stopped us from hyping a particular technology or approach. And maybe that’s okay in order to get a promising, though niche, technology, the spotlight and let it shine in the particular usecases where it fits.
But countless projects have and will suffer from our collective inability to filter through these hypes. I’d bet millions of developer hours have been wasted in trying to use the above technologies where they just didn’t fit. It’s like that scene from Idiocracy where a guy tries to fit a rectangular figure into a circular hole.
And the new one is not “the blockchain”. I won’t repeat my rant, but in summary – it doesn’t solve many of the problems companies are trying to solve with it right now just because it’s cool. Or at least it doesn’t solve them better than existing solutions. Many pilots will be carried out, many hours will be wasted in figuring out why that thing doesn’t work. A few of those projects will be a good fit and will actually bring value.
Do you need to reach multi-party consensus for the data you store? Can all stakeholder support the infrastructure to run their node(s)? Do they have the staff to administer the node(s)? Do you need to execute distributed application code on the data? Won’t it be easier to just deploy RESTful APIs and integrate the parties through that? Do you need to store all the data, or just parts of it, to guarantee data integrity?
“If you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” as the famous saying goes. In the software industry we repeatedly find new and cool hammers and then try to hit as many nails as we can. But only few of them are actual nails. The rest remain ugly, hard to support, “who was the idiot that wrote this” and “I wasn’t here when the decisions were made” types of projects.
If the answer is really “yes”, then great, go ahead and deploy the multi-organization permissioned blockchain, or fork Ethereum, or whatever. If not, you can still do a project a home that you can safely abandon. And if you need some pilot project to figure out whether the new piece of technology would be beneficial – go ahead and try it. But have a baseline – the fact that it somehow worked doesn’t mean it’s better than old, tested models of doing the same thing.
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