Tag Archives: ASA

[$] ROCA: Return Of the Coppersmith Attack

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/738896/rss

On October 30, 2017, a group
of Czech researchers from Masaryk University presented the ROCA paper
at the ACM CCS Conference, which earned
the Real-World Impact
Award
. We briefly mentioned ROCA when
it was first reported
but haven’t dug into details of the vulnerability yet. Because of its
far-ranging impact, it seems important to review the vulnerability in
light of the new results published recently.

The Pirate Bay & 1337x Must Be Blocked, Austrian Supreme Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-1337x-must-be-blocked-austrian-supreme-court-rules-171014/

Following a long-running case, in 2015 Austrian ISPs were ordered by the Commercial Court to block The Pirate Bay and other “structurally-infringing” sites including 1337x.to, isohunt.to, and h33t.to.

The decision was welcomed by the music industry, which looked forward to having more sites blocked in due course.

Soon after, local music rights group LSG sent its lawyers after several other large ISPs urging them to follow suit, or else. However, the ISPs dug in and a year later, in May 2016, things began to unravel. The Vienna Higher Regional Court overruled the earlier decision of the Commercial Court, meaning that local ISPs were free to unblock the previously blocked sites.

The Court concluded that ISP blocks are only warranted if copyright holders have exhausted all their options to take action against those actually carrying out the infringement. This decision was welcomed by the Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA), which described the decision as an important milestone.

The ISPs argued that only torrent files, not the content itself, was available on the portals. They also had a problem with the restriction of access to legitimate content.

“A problem in this context is that the offending pages also have legal content and it is no longer possible to access that if barriers are put in place,” said ISPA Secretary General Maximilian Schubert.

Taking the case to its ultimate conclusion, the music companies appealed to the Supreme Court. Another year on and its decision has just been published and for the rightsholders, who represent 3,000 artists including The Beatles, Justin Bieber, Eric Clapton, Coldplay, David Guetta, Iggy Azalea, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Metallica, George Michael, One Direction, Katy Perry, and Queen, to name a few, it was worth the effort.

The Court looked at whether “the provision and operation of a BitTorrent platform with the purpose of online file sharing [of non-public domain works]” represents a “communication to the public” under the EU Copyright Directive. Citing the now-familiar BREIN v Filmspeler and BREIN v Ziggo and XS4All cases that both received European Court of Justice rulings earlier this year, the Supreme Court concluded it was.

Citing another Dutch case, in which Playboy publisher Sanoma took on the blog GeenStijl.nl, the Court noted that linking to copyrighted content hosted elsewhere also amounted to a “communication to the public”, a situation mirrored on torrent sites like The Pirate Bay.

“The similarity of the technical procedure in this case when compared to BitTorrent platforms lies in the fact that in both cases the operators of the website did not provide any copyrighted works themselves, but merely provided further information on sites where the protected works were available,” the Court notes in its ruling.

In respect of the potential for blocking legitimate content as well as that infringing copyright, the Court turned the ISPs’ own arguments against them somewhat.

The ISPs had previously argued that blocking The Pirate Bay and other sites was pointless since the torrents they host would still be available elsewhere. The Court noted that point and also found that people can easily upload their torrents to sites that aren’t blocked, since there’s plenty of choice.

The ISPA criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling, noting that in future ISPs will still find themselves being held responsible for decisions concerning blocking.

“We do not support illegal content on the Internet in any way, but consider it extremely questionable that the decision on what is illegal and what is not falls to ISPs, instead of a court,” said ISPA Secretary General Maximilian.

“Although we find it positive that a court of last resort has taken the decision, the assessment of the website in the first instance continues to be left to the Internet provider. The Supreme Court’s expansion of the circle of sites that be potentially blocked further complicates this task for the operator and furthers the privatization of law enforcement.

“It is extremely unpleasant that even after more than 10 years of fierce discussion, there is still no compelling legal basis for a court decision on Internet blocking, which puts providers in the role of both judge and hangman.”

Also of interest is ISPA’s stance on how blocking of content fails to solve the underlying issue. When content is blocked, rather than removed, it simply displaces the problem, leaving others to pick up the pieces, the Internet body argues.

“Illegal content is permanently removed from the network by deletion. Everything else is a placebo with extremely dangerous side effects, which can easily be bypassed by both providers and consumers. The only thing that remains is a blocking infrastructure that can be misused for many purposes and, unfortunately, will be used in many places,” Schubert says.

“The current situation, where providers have to block the rightsholders quasi on the spot, if they do not want to engage in a time-consuming and cost-intensive litigation, is really not sustainable so we issue a call to action to the legislature.”

The domains that were listed in the case, many of which are already defunct, are: thepiratebay.se, thepiratebay.gd, thepiratebay.la, thepiratebay.mn, thepiratebay.mu, thepiratebay.sh, thepiratebay.tw, thepiratebay.fm, thepiratebay.ms, thepiratebay.vg, isohunt.to, 1337x.to and h33t.to.

Whether it will be added later is unclear, but the only domain currently used by The Pirate Bay (thepiratebay.org) is not included in the list.

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

Съд на ЕС: финансиране на обществена телевизия, приходите от реклама, казусът TV2 Danmark

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/tv2-danmark/

I

Публикувано е решение по делото C‑649/15 P TV2/Danmark A/S  срещу Европейска комисия.

С жалбата си TV2/Danmark   иска частична отмяна на решението на Общия съд, с което той отменя Решение 2011/839/ЕС на Комисията относно мерките, приведени в действие от Дания (C 2/03) за TV2/Danmark в частта, в която Комисията е приела, че приходите от реклама  са държавни помощи  и  отхвърля жалбата му в останалата ѝ част.

Държавни помощи — Член 107, параграф 1 ДФЕС — Обществена услуга по разпространение на радио- и телевизионни програми — Мерки, взети от датските органи за датския радио- и телевизионен оператор TV2/Danmark — Понятие за помощ, предоставена от държава членка или чрез ресурси на държава членка — Решение Altmark

TV2/Danmark е втората обществена телевизия в Дания. Дейността на обществената телевизия  се финансира от  такса, плащана от всички телевизионни зрители в Дания,  и от рекламна дейност.

В резултат на жалба, подадена  от SBS Broadcasting, ЕК анализира финансирането и приема, че това са държавни помощи, съвместими с вътрешния пазар  – с изключение на една сума, която представлява свръхкомпенсация.

Срещу решението на ЕК постъпват четири жалби. Общият съд отменя посоченото решение. Комисията преразглежда въпросните мерки. Тя запазва позицията си относно квалификацията на разглежданите мерки като „държавни помощи“ по смисъла на член 107, параграф 1 ДФЕС и приема, че приходите от реклама  представляват ресурси на държавата.

И второто решение на ЕК се обжалва. TV2/Danmark иска от Общия съд да отмени спорното решение в частта, в която Комисията е приела, че:

–        всички разглеждани мерки представляват нови помощи,

–        приходите от  такси, прехвърлени на регионалните станции на TV2/Danmark, представляват държавни помощи за TV2/Danmark,

–        приходите от реклама представляват държавни помощи за TV2/Danmark.

Общият съд отменя спорното решение в частта, в която Комисията е приела, че приходите от реклама представляват държавни помощи, и отхвърля жалбата в останалата ѝ част.

TV2/Danmark обжалва.

Жалбата  е отхвърлена в нейната цялост,  пълният текст на решението

II

В отделно решение Съдът се произнася и по дело C‑656/15 P   , в което Комисията иска от Съда  да отмени обжалваното съдебно решение в частта му, в която е отменено   решението на Комисията, че приходите от реклама, платени на TV2/Danmark чрез фонд TV2, представляват държавни помощи

Според ЕК:

Общият съд е тълкувал неправилно понятието „ресурси на държава членка“ по смисъла на член 107, параграф 1 ДФЕС.  Комисията поддържа, че тъй като TV2 Reklame е публично дружество, чийто единствен акционер е датската държава, това дружество е изцяло под контрола и на разположение на последната, така че средствата му е трябвало да се считат за ресурси на държава членка по смисъла на тази разпоредба. По-конкретно Комисията твърди, че произходът на съответните ресурси не е релевантен за такава квалификация и че първоначално частният характер на тези ресурси не отнема характера им на ресурси на държавата членка.

Според решението:

40      Съгласно постоянната практика на Съда, за да бъде квалифицирана дадена мярка като „помощ“ по смисъла на член 107, параграф 1 ДФЕС, трябва да са изпълнени всички посочени в тази разпоредба условия.

41      Посочената разпоредба предвижда четири условия. Първо, трябва да става въпрос за намеса на държавата или чрез ресурси на държавата. Второ, тази намеса трябва да може да засегне търговията между държавите членки. Трето, тя трябва да предоставя предимство на ползващия се от нея. Четвърто, тя трябва да нарушава или да създава опасност от нарушаване на конкуренцията (вж. решение  Altmark Trans и др.)

45      Всъщност правото на Съюза не може да допусне правилата в областта на държавните помощи да бъдат заобикаляни единствено със създаването на самостоятелни институции, отговарящи за разпределянето на помощите.

46      Освен това следва да се припомни, че съгласно постоянната практика на Съда член 107, параграф 1 ДФЕС обхваща всички имуществени средства, които публичните органи могат ефективно да използват, за да подкрепят предприятия, като е без значение дали тези средства спадат постоянно или не към патримониума на държавата. Ето защо, макар съответстващите на разглежданата мярка суми да не се притежават постоянно от държавата, обстоятелството, че те остават непрекъснато под публичен контрол и следователно на разположение на компетентните национални власти, е достатъчно, за да бъдат квалифицирани като „държавни ресурси“

47      Следователно, при положение че ресурсите на публичните предприятия попадат под контрола на държавата, така че са на нейно разположение, тези ресурси се обхващат от понятието „ресурси на държава членка“ по смисъла на член 107, параграф 1 ДФЕС. Всъщност посредством упражняването на своето доминиращо влияние върху тези предприятия държавата е напълно в състояние да насочи използването на техните средства, за да финансира евентуално специфични предимства в полза на други предприятия

52      Вследствие на това въпросните приходи се намират под публичен контрол и на разположение на държавата, която може да взема решения относно тяхното разпределяне.

53      При това положение съгласно припомнената в точки 43—48 от настоящото решение практика на Съда, разглежданите приходи представляват „ресурси на държава членка“ по смисъла на член 107, параграф 1 ДФЕС.

54      Следователно, като е приел, че приходите от продажбата от TV2 Reklame на рекламните блокове на TV2/Danmark и са преведени на последното посредством фонд TV2, не представляват ресурси на държава членка, поради което Комисията неправилно ги е квалифицирала като „държавна помощ“, Общият съд е допуснал грешка при прилагане на правото.

63      Впрочем, както вече бе отбелязано, настоящото дело се отнася до публични предприятия, в случая TV2 Reklame и фонд TV2, създадени, притежавани и упълномощени от датската държава, за да управляват приходите от продажбата на рекламните блокове на друго публично предприятие, а именно TV2/Danmark, така че тези приходи се намират под контрола и на разположение на датската държава.

По изложените съображения Съдът (първи състав) отменя решението на Общия съд TV2/Danmark/Комисия (T‑674/11, EU:T:2015:684), в частта му, в която е отменено Решение 2011/839/ЕС на Комисията относно мерките, приведени в действие от Дания (C 2/03) за TV2/Danmark, в частта, в която Европейската комисия е приела, че приходите от реклама, платени на TV2/Danmark чрез фонд TV2, представляват държавни помощи.

III

По дело C‑657/15 P  с предмет жалба на Viasat Broadcasting UK Ltd, установено в Уест Драйтън (Обединеното кралство) Съдът приема следното –

27      Според Viasat прехвърлянето на съответните средства чрез фонд TV2 не променя факта, че те са ресурси на държава членка, тъй като фонд TV2 също е публично предприятие, контролирано от датската държава.

28      Предвид тези обстоятелства Viasat счита, че настоящото дело се различава съществено от делата, по които са постановени решения от 13 март 2001 г., PreussenElektra (C‑379/98, EU:C:2001:160), и от 5 март 2009 г., UTECA (C‑222/07, EU:C:2009:124), отнасящи се до случаи, при които съответните ресурси в нито един момент не са напускали частния сектор.

Съдът уважава първото основание, изтъкнато от Viasat,  в подкрепа на жалбата му.

*

За заключенията на ГА

На вниманието на всички, които имат намерение да се произнасят по реформата на финансирането на обществените медии.

Filed under: EU Law, Media Law Tagged: съд на ес

Bringing Datacenter-Scale Hardware-Software Co-design to the Cloud with FireSim and Amazon EC2 F1 Instances

Post Syndicated from Mia Champion original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/bringing-datacenter-scale-hardware-software-co-design-to-the-cloud-with-firesim-and-amazon-ec2-f1-instances/

The recent addition of Xilinx FPGAs to AWS Cloud compute offerings is one way that AWS is enabling global growth in the areas of advanced analytics, deep learning and AI. The customized F1 servers use pooled accelerators, enabling interconnectivity of up to 8 FPGAs, each one including 64 GiB DDR4 ECC protected memory, with a dedicated PCIe x16 connection. That makes this a powerful engine with the capacity to process advanced analytical applications at scale, at a significantly faster rate. For example, AWS commercial partner Edico Genome is able to achieve an approximately 30X speedup in analyzing whole genome sequencing datasets using their DRAGEN platform powered with F1 instances.

While the availability of FPGA F1 compute on-demand provides clear accessibility and cost advantages, many mainstream users are still finding that the “threshold to entry” in developing or running FPGA-accelerated simulations is too high. Researchers at the UC Berkeley RISE Lab have developed “FireSim”, powered by Amazon FPGA F1 instances as an open-source resource, FireSim lowers that entry bar and makes it easier for everyone to leverage the power of an FPGA-accelerated compute environment. Whether you are part of a small start-up development team or working at a large datacenter scale, hardware-software co-design enables faster time-to-deployment, lower costs, and more predictable performance. We are excited to feature FireSim in this post from Sagar Karandikar and his colleagues at UC-Berkeley.

―Mia Champion, Sr. Data Scientist, AWS

Mapping an 8-node FireSim cluster simulation to Amazon EC2 F1

As traditional hardware scaling nears its end, the data centers of tomorrow are trending towards heterogeneity, employing custom hardware accelerators and increasingly high-performance interconnects. Prototyping new hardware at scale has traditionally been either extremely expensive, or very slow. In this post, I introduce FireSim, a new hardware simulation platform under development in the computer architecture research group at UC Berkeley that enables fast, scalable hardware simulation using Amazon EC2 F1 instances.

FireSim benefits both hardware and software developers working on new rack-scale systems: software developers can use the simulated nodes with new hardware features as they would use a real machine, while hardware developers have full control over the hardware being simulated and can run real software stacks while hardware is still under development. In conjunction with this post, we’re releasing the first public demo of FireSim, which lets you deploy your own 8-node simulated cluster on an F1 Instance and run benchmarks against it. This demo simulates a pre-built “vanilla” cluster, but demonstrates FireSim’s high performance and usability.

Why FireSim + F1?

FPGA-accelerated hardware simulation is by no means a new concept. However, previous attempts to use FPGAs for simulation have been fraught with usability, scalability, and cost issues. FireSim takes advantage of EC2 F1 and open-source hardware to address the traditional problems with FPGA-accelerated simulation:
Problem #1: FPGA-based simulations have traditionally been expensive, difficult to deploy, and difficult to reproduce.
FireSim uses public-cloud infrastructure like F1, which means no upfront cost to purchase and deploy FPGAs. Developers and researchers can distribute pre-built AMIs and AFIs, as in this public demo (more details later in this post), to make experiments easy to reproduce. FireSim also automates most of the work involved in deploying an FPGA simulation, essentially enabling one-click conversion from new RTL to deploying on an FPGA cluster.

Problem #2: FPGA-based simulations have traditionally been difficult (and expensive) to scale.
Because FireSim uses F1, users can scale out experiments by spinning up additional EC2 instances, rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on large FPGA clusters.

Problem #3: Finding open hardware to simulate has traditionally been difficult. Finding open hardware that can run real software stacks is even harder.
FireSim simulates RocketChip, an open, silicon-proven, RISC-V-based processor platform, and adds peripherals like a NIC and disk device to build up a realistic system. Processors that implement RISC-V automatically support real operating systems (such as Linux) and even support applications like Apache and Memcached. We provide a custom Buildroot-based FireSim Linux distribution that runs on our simulated nodes and includes many popular developer tools.

Problem #4: Writing hardware in traditional HDLs is time-consuming.
Both FireSim and RocketChip use the Chisel HDL, which brings modern programming paradigms to hardware description languages. Chisel greatly simplifies the process of building large, highly parameterized hardware components.

How to use FireSim for hardware/software co-design

FireSim drastically improves the process of co-designing hardware and software by acting as a push-button interface for collaboration between hardware developers and systems software developers. The following diagram describes the workflows that hardware and software developers use when working with FireSim.

Figure 2. The FireSim custom hardware development workflow.

The hardware developer’s view:

  1. Write custom RTL for your accelerator, peripheral, or processor modification in a productive language like Chisel.
  2. Run a software simulation of your hardware design in standard gate-level simulation tools for early-stage debugging.
  3. Run FireSim build scripts, which automatically build your simulation, run it through the Vivado toolchain/AWS shell scripts, and publish an AFI.
  4. Deploy your simulation on EC2 F1 using the generated simulation driver and AFI
  5. Run real software builds released by software developers to benchmark your hardware

The software developer’s view:

  1. Deploy the AMI/AFI generated by the hardware developer on an F1 instance to simulate a cluster of nodes (or scale out to many F1 nodes for larger simulated core-counts).
  2. Connect using SSH into the simulated nodes in the cluster and boot the Linux distribution included with FireSim. This distribution is easy to customize, and already supports many standard software packages.
  3. Directly prototype your software using the same exact interfaces that the software will see when deployed on the real future system you’re prototyping, with the same performance characteristics as observed from software, even at scale.

FireSim demo v1.0

Figure 3. Cluster topology simulated by FireSim demo v1.0.

This first public demo of FireSim focuses on the aforementioned “software-developer’s view” of the custom hardware development cycle. The demo simulates a cluster of 1 to 8 RocketChip-based nodes, interconnected by a functional network simulation. The simulated nodes work just like “real” machines:  they boot Linux, you can connect to them using SSH, and you can run real applications on top. The nodes can see each other (and the EC2 F1 instance on which they’re deployed) on the network and communicate with one another. While the demo currently simulates a pre-built “vanilla” cluster, the entire hardware configuration of these simulated nodes can be modified after FireSim is open-sourced.

In this post, I walk through bringing up a single-node FireSim simulation for experienced EC2 F1 users. For more detailed instructions for new users and instructions for running a larger 8-node simulation, see FireSim Demo v1.0 on Amazon EC2 F1. Both demos walk you through setting up an instance from a demo AMI/AFI and booting Linux on the simulated nodes. The full demo instructions also walk you through an example workload, running Memcached on the simulated nodes, with YCSB as a load generator to demonstrate network functionality.

Deploying the demo on F1

In this release, we provide pre-built binaries for driving simulation from the host and a pre-built AFI that contains the FPGA infrastructure necessary to simulate a RocketChip-based node.

Starting your F1 instances

First, launch an instance using the free FireSim Demo v1.0 product available on the AWS Marketplace on an f1.2xlarge instance. After your instance has booted, log in using the user name centos. On the first login, you should see the message “FireSim network config completed.” This sets up the necessary tap interfaces and bridge on the EC2 instance to enable communicating with the simulated nodes.

AMI contents

The AMI contains a variety of tools to help you run simulations and build software for RISC-V systems, including the riscv64 toolchain, a Buildroot-based Linux distribution that runs on the simulated nodes, and the simulation driver program. For more details, see the AMI Contents section on the FireSim website.

Single-node demo

First, you need to flash the FPGA with the FireSim AFI. To do so, run:

[[email protected]_ADDR ~]$ sudo fpga-load-local-image -S 0 -I agfi-00a74c2d615134b21

To start a simulation, run the following at the command line:

[[email protected]_ADDR ~]$ boot-firesim-singlenode

This automatically calls the simulation driver, telling it to load the Linux kernel image and root filesystem for the Linux distro. This produces output similar to the following:

Simulations Started. You can use the UART console of each simulated node by attaching to the following screens:

There is a screen on:

2492.fsim0      (Detached)

1 Socket in /var/run/screen/S-centos.

You could connect to the simulated UART console by connecting to this screen, but instead opt to use SSH to access the node instead.

First, ping the node to make sure it has come online. This is currently required because nodes may get stuck at Linux boot if the NIC does not receive any network traffic. For more information, see Troubleshooting/Errata. The node is always assigned the IP address 192.168.1.10:

[[email protected]_ADDR ~]$ ping 192.168.1.10

This should eventually produce the following output:

PING 192.168.1.10 (192.168.1.10) 56(84) bytes of data.

From 192.168.1.1 icmp_seq=1 Destination Host Unreachable

64 bytes from 192.168.1.10: icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=2017 ms

64 bytes from 192.168.1.10: icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=1018 ms

64 bytes from 192.168.1.10: icmp_seq=3 ttl=64 time=19.0 ms

At this point, you know that the simulated node is online. You can connect to it using SSH with the user name root and password firesim. It is also convenient to make sure that your TERM variable is set correctly. In this case, the simulation expects TERM=linux, so provide that:

[[email protected]_ADDR ~]$ TERM=linux ssh [email protected]

The authenticity of host ‘192.168.1.10 (192.168.1.10)’ can’t be established.

ECDSA key fingerprint is 63:e9:66:d0:5c:06:2c:1d:5c:95:33:c8:36:92:30:49.

Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes

Warning: Permanently added ‘192.168.1.10’ (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts.

[email protected]’s password:

#

At this point, you’re connected to the simulated node. Run uname -a as an example. You should see the following output, indicating that you’re connected to a RISC-V system:

# uname -a

Linux buildroot 4.12.0-rc2 #1 Fri Aug 4 03:44:55 UTC 2017 riscv64 GNU/Linux

Now you can run programs on the simulated node, as you would with a real machine. For an example workload (running YCSB against Memcached on the simulated node) or to run a larger 8-node simulation, see the full FireSim Demo v1.0 on Amazon EC2 F1 demo instructions.

Finally, when you are finished, you can shut down the simulated node by running the following command from within the simulated node:

# poweroff

You can confirm that the simulation has ended by running screen -ls, which should now report that there are no detached screens.

Future plans

At Berkeley, we’re planning to keep improving the FireSim platform to enable our own research in future data center architectures, like FireBox. The FireSim platform will eventually support more sophisticated processors, custom accelerators (such as Hwacha), network models, and peripherals, in addition to scaling to larger numbers of FPGAs. In the future, we’ll open source the entire platform, including Midas, the tool used to transform RTL into FPGA simulators, allowing users to modify any part of the hardware/software stack. Follow @firesimproject on Twitter to stay tuned to future FireSim updates.

Acknowledgements

FireSim is the joint work of many students and faculty at Berkeley: Sagar Karandikar, Donggyu Kim, Howard Mao, David Biancolin, Jack Koenig, Jonathan Bachrach, and Krste Asanović. This work is partially funded by AWS through the RISE Lab, by the Intel Science and Technology Center for Agile HW Design, and by ASPIRE Lab sponsors and affiliates Intel, Google, HPE, Huawei, NVIDIA, and SK hynix.

Steal This Show S03E09: Learning To Love Your Panopticon

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/steal-show-s03e09-learning-love-panopticon/

stslogo180If you enjoy this episode, consider becoming a patron and getting involved with the show. Check out Steal This Show’s Patreon campaign: support us and get all kinds of fantastic benefits!

In this episode we meet Diani Barreto from the Berlin Bureau of ExposeFacs. Launched in June 2014, ExposeFacts.org supports and encourages whistleblowers to disclose information that citizens need to make truly informed decisions in a democracy.

ExposeFacts aims to shed light on concealed activities that are relevant to human rights, corporate malfeasance, the environment, civil liberties and war.

Steal This Show aims to release bi-weekly episodes featuring insiders discussing copyright and file-sharing news. It complements our regular reporting by adding more room for opinion, commentary, and analysis.

The guests for our news discussions will vary, and we’ll aim to introduce voices from different backgrounds and persuasions. In addition to news, STS will also produce features interviewing some of the great innovators and minds.

Host: Jamie King

Guest: Diani Barreto

Produced by Jamie King
Edited & Mixed by Riley Byrne
Original Music by David Triana
Web Production by Siraje Amarniss

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

Coaxing 2D platforming out of Unity

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/10/13/coaxing-2d-platforming-out-of-unity/

An anonymous donor asked a question that I can’t even begin to figure out how to answer, but they also said anything else is fine, so here’s anything else.

I’ve been avoiding writing about game physics, since I want to save it for ✨ the book I’m writing ✨, but that book will almost certainly not touch on Unity. Here, then, is a brief run through some of the brick walls I ran into while trying to convince Unity to do 2D platforming.

This is fairly high-level — there are no blocks of code or helpful diagrams. I’m just getting this out of my head because it’s interesting. If you want more gritty details, I guess you’ll have to wait for ✨ the book ✨.

The setup

I hadn’t used Unity before. I hadn’t even used a “real” physics engine before. My games so far have mostly used LÖVE, a Lua-based engine. LÖVE includes box2d bindings, but for various reasons (not all of them good), I opted to avoid them and instead write my own physics completely from scratch. (How, you ask? ✨ Book ✨!)

I was invited to work on a Unity project, Chaos Composer, that someone else had already started. It had basic movement already implemented; I taught myself Unity’s physics system by hacking on it. It’s entirely possible that none of this is actually the best way to do anything, since I was really trying to reproduce my own homegrown stuff in Unity, but it’s the best I’ve managed to come up with.

Two recurring snags were that you can’t ask Unity to do multiple physics updates in a row, and sometimes getting the information I wanted was difficult. Working with my own code spoiled me a little, since I could invoke it at any time and ask it anything I wanted; Unity, on the other hand, is someone else’s black box with a rigid interface on top.

Also, wow, Googling for a lot of this was not quite as helpful as expected. A lot of what’s out there is just the first thing that works, and often that’s pretty hacky and imposes severe limits on the game design (e.g., “this won’t work with slopes”). Basic movement and collision are the first thing you do, which seems to me like the worst time to be locking yourself out of a lot of design options. I tried very (very, very, very) hard to minimize those kinds of constraints.

Problem 1: Movement

When I showed up, movement was already working. Problem solved!

Like any good programmer, I immediately set out to un-solve it. Given a “real” physics engine like Unity prominently features, you have two options: ⓐ treat the player as a physics object, or ⓑ don’t. The existing code went with option ⓑ, like I’d done myself with LÖVE, and like I’d seen countless people advise. Using a physics sim makes for bad platforming.

But… why? I believed it, but I couldn’t concretely defend it. I had to know for myself. So I started a blank project, drew some physics boxes, and wrote a dozen-line player controller.

Ah! Immediate enlightenment.

If the player was sliding down a wall, and I tried to move them into the wall, they would simply freeze in midair until I let go of the movement key. The trouble is that the physics sim works in terms of forces — moving the player involves giving them a nudge in some direction, like a giant invisible hand pushing them around the level. Surprise! If you press a real object against a real wall with your real hand, you’ll see the same effect — friction will cancel out gravity, and the object will stay in midair..

Platformer movement, as it turns out, doesn’t make any goddamn physical sense. What is air control? What are you pushing against? Nothing, really; we just have it because it’s nice to play with, because not having it is a nightmare.

I looked to see if there were any common solutions to this, and I only really found one: make all your walls frictionless.

Game development is full of hacks like this, and I… don’t like them. I can accept that minor hacks are necessary sometimes, but this one makes an early and widespread change to a fundamental system to “fix” something that was wrong in the first place. It also imposes an “invisible” requirement, something I try to avoid at all costs — if you forget to make a particular wall frictionless, you’ll never know unless you happen to try sliding down it.

And so, I swiftly returned to the existing code. It wasn’t too different from what I’d come up with for LÖVE: it applied gravity by hand, tracked the player’s velocity, computed the intended movement each frame, and moved by that amount. The interesting thing was that it used MovePosition, which schedules a movement for the next physics update and stops the movement if the player hits something solid.

It’s kind of a nice hybrid approach, actually; all the “physics” for conscious actors is done by hand, but the physics engine is still used for collision detection. It’s also used for collision rejection — if the player manages to wedge themselves several pixels into a solid object, for example, the physics engine will try to gently nudge them back out of it with no extra effort required on my part. I still haven’t figured out how to get that to work with my homegrown stuff, which is built to prevent overlap rather than to jiggle things out of it.

But wait, what about…

Our player is a dynamic body with rotation lock and no gravity. Why not just use a kinematic body?

I must be missing something, because I do not understand the point of kinematic bodies. I ran into this with Godot, too, which documented them the same way: as intended for use as players and other manually-moved objects. But by default, they don’t even collide with other kinematic bodies or static geometry. What? There’s a checkbox to turn this on, which I enabled, but then I found out that MovePosition doesn’t stop kinematic bodies when they hit something, so I would’ve had to cast along the intended path of movement to figure out when to stop, thus duplicating the same work the physics engine was about to do.

But that’s impossible anyway! Static geometry generally wants to be made of edge colliders, right? They don’t care about concave/convex. Imagine the player is standing on the ground near a wall and tries to move towards the wall. Both the ground and the wall are different edges from the same edge collider.

If you try to cast the player’s hitbox horizontally, parallel to the ground, you’ll only get one collision: the existing collision with the ground. Casting doesn’t distinguish between touching and hitting. And because Unity only reports one collision per collider, and because the ground will always show up first, you will never find out about the impending wall collision.

So you’re forced to either use raycasts for collision detection or decomposed polygons for world geometry, both of which are slightly worse tools for no real gain.

I ended up sticking with a dynamic body.


Oh, one other thing that doesn’t really fit anywhere else: keep track of units! If you’re adding something called “velocity” directly to something called “position”, something has gone very wrong. Acceleration is distance per time squared; velocity is distance per time; position is distance. You must multiply or divide by time to convert between them.

I never even, say, add a constant directly to position every frame; I always phrase it as velocity and multiply by Δt. It keeps the units consistent: time is always in seconds, not in tics.

Problem 2: Slopes

Ah, now we start to get off in the weeds.

A sort of pre-problem here was detecting whether we’re on a slope, which means detecting the ground. The codebase originally used a manual physics query of the area around the player’s feet to check for the ground, which seems to be somewhat common, but that can’t tell me the angle of the detected ground. (It’s also kind of error-prone, since “around the player’s feet” has to be specified by hand and may not stay correct through animations or changes in the hitbox.)

I replaced that with what I’d eventually settled on in LÖVE: detect the ground by detecting collisions, and looking at the normal of the collision. A normal is a vector that points straight out from a surface, so if you’re standing on the ground, the normal points straight up; if you’re on a 10° incline, the normal points 10° away from straight up.

Not all collisions are with the ground, of course, so I assumed something is ground if the normal pointed away from gravity. (I like this definition more than “points upwards”, because it avoids assuming anything about the direction of gravity, which leaves some interesting doors open for later on.) That’s easily detected by taking the dot product — if it’s negative, the collision was with the ground, and I now have the normal of the ground.

Actually doing this in practice was slightly tricky. With my LÖVE engine, I could cram this right into the middle of collision resolution. With Unity, not quite so much. I went through a couple iterations before I really grasped Unity’s execution order, which I guess I will have to briefly recap for this to make sense.

Unity essentially has two update cycles. It performs physics updates at fixed intervals for consistency, and updates everything else just before rendering. Within a single frame, Unity does as many fixed physics updates as it has spare time for (which might be zero, one, or more), then does a regular update, then renders. User code can implement either or both of Update, which runs during a regular update, and FixedUpdate, which runs just before Unity does a physics pass.

So my solution was:

  • At the very end of FixedUpdate, clear the actor’s “on ground” flag and ground normal.

  • During OnCollisionEnter2D and OnCollisionStay2D (which are called from within a physics pass), if there’s a collision that looks like it’s with the ground, set the “on ground” flag and ground normal. (If there are multiple ground collisions, well, good luck figuring out the best way to resolve that! At the moment I’m just taking the first and hoping for the best.)

That means there’s a brief window between the end of FixedUpdate and Unity’s physics pass during which a grounded actor might mistakenly believe it’s not on the ground, which is a bit of a shame, but there are very few good reasons for anything to be happening in that window.

Okay! Now we can do slopes.

Just kidding! First we have to do sliding.

When I first looked at this code, it didn’t apply gravity while the player was on the ground. I think I may have had some problems with detecting the ground as result, since the player was no longer pushing down against it? Either way, it seemed like a silly special case, so I made gravity always apply.

Lo! I was a fool. The player could no longer move.

Why? Because MovePosition does exactly what it promises. If the player collides with something, they’ll stop moving. Applying gravity means that the player is trying to move diagonally downwards into the ground, and so MovePosition stops them immediately.

Hence, sliding. I don’t want the player to actually try to move into the ground. I want them to move the unblocked part of that movement. For flat ground, that means the horizontal part, which is pretty much the same as discarding gravity. For sloped ground, it’s a bit more complicated!

Okay but actually it’s less complicated than you’d think. It can be done with some cross products fairly easily, but Unity makes it even easier with a couple casts. There’s a Vector3.ProjectOnPlane function that projects an arbitrary vector on a plane given by its normal — exactly the thing I want! So I apply that to the attempted movement before passing it along to MovePosition. I do the same thing with the current velocity, to prevent the player from accelerating infinitely downwards while standing on flat ground.

One other thing: I don’t actually use the detected ground normal for this. The player might be touching two ground surfaces at the same time, and I’d want to project on both of them. Instead, I use the player body’s GetContacts method, which returns contact points (and normals!) for everything the player is currently touching. I believe those contact points are tracked by the physics engine anyway, so asking for them doesn’t require any actual physics work.

(Looking at the code I have, I notice that I still only perform the slide for surfaces facing upwards — but I’d want to slide against sloped ceilings, too. Why did I do this? Maybe I should remove that.)

(Also, I’m pretty sure projecting a vector on a plane is non-commutative, which raises the question of which order the projections should happen in and what difference it makes. I don’t have a good answer.)

(I note that my LÖVE setup does something slightly different: it just tries whatever the movement ought to be, and if there’s a collision, then it projects — and tries again with the remaining movement. But I can’t ask Unity to do multiple moves in one physics update, alas.)

Okay! Now, slopes. But actually, with the above work done, slopes are most of the way there already.

One obvious problem is that the player tries to move horizontally even when on a slope, and the easy fix is to change their movement from speed * Vector2.right to speed * new Vector2(ground.y, -ground.x) while on the ground. That’s the ground normal rotated a quarter-turn clockwise, so for flat ground it still points to the right, and in general it points rightwards along the ground. (Note that it assumes the ground normal is a unit vector, but as far as I’m aware, that’s true for all the normals Unity gives you.)

Another issue is that if the player stands motionless on a slope, gravity will cause them to slowly slide down it — because the movement from gravity will be projected onto the slope, and unlike flat ground, the result is no longer zero. For conscious actors only, I counter this by adding the opposite factor to the player’s velocity as part of adding in their walking speed. This matches how the real world works, to some extent: when you’re standing on a hill, you’re exerting some small amount of effort just to stay in place.

(Note that slope resistance is not the same as friction. Okay, yes, in the real world, virtually all resistance to movement happens as a result of friction, but bracing yourself against the ground isn’t the same as being passively resisted.)

From here there are a lot of things you can do, depending on how you think slopes should be handled. You could make the player unable to walk up slopes that are too steep. You could make walking down a slope faster than walking up it. You could make jumping go along the ground normal, rather than straight up. You could raise the player’s max allowed speed while running downhill. Whatever you want, really. Armed with a normal and awareness of dot products, you can do whatever you want.

But first you might want to fix a few aggravating side effects.

Problem 3: Ground adherence

I don’t know if there’s a better name for this. I rarely even see anyone talk about it, which surprises me; it seems like it should be a very common problem.

The problem is: if the player runs up a slope which then abruptly changes to flat ground, their momentum will carry them into the air. For very fast players going off the top of very steep slopes, this makes sense, but it becomes visible even for relatively gentle slopes. It was a mild nightmare in the original release of our game Lunar Depot 38, which has very “rough” ground made up of lots of shallow slopes — so the player is very frequently slightly off the ground, which meant they couldn’t jump, for seemingly no reason. (I even had code to fix this, but I disabled it because of a silly visual side effect that I never got around to fixing.)

Anyway! The reason this is a problem is that game protagonists are generally not boxes sliding around — they have legs. We don’t go flying off the top of real-world hilltops because we put our foot down until it touches the ground.

Simulating this footfall is surprisingly fiddly to get right, especially with someone else’s physics engine. It’s made somewhat easier by Cast, which casts the entire hitbox — no matter what shape it is — in a particular direction, as if it had moved, and tells you all the hypothetical collisions in order.

So I cast the player in the direction of gravity by some distance. If the cast hits something solid with a ground-like collision normal, then the player must be close to the ground, and I move them down to touch it (and set that ground as the new ground normal).

There are some wrinkles.

Wrinkle 1: I only want to do this if the player is off the ground now, but was on the ground last frame, and is not deliberately moving upwards. That latter condition means I want to skip this logic if the player jumps, for example, but also if the player is thrust upwards by a spring or abducted by a UFO or whatever. As long as external code goes through some interface and doesn’t mess with the player’s velocity directly, that shouldn’t be too hard to track.

Wrinkle 2: When does this logic run? It needs to happen after the player moves, which means after a Unity physics pass… but there’s no callback for that point in time. I ended up running it at the beginning of FixedUpdate and the beginning of Update — since I definitely want to do it before rendering happens! That means it’ll sometimes happen twice between physics updates. (I could carefully juggle a flag to skip the second run, but I… didn’t do that. Yet?)

Wrinkle 3: I can’t move the player with MovePosition! Remember, MovePosition schedules a movement, it doesn’t actually perform one; that means if it’s called twice before the physics pass, the first call is effectively ignored. I can’t easily combine the drop with the player’s regular movement, for various fiddly reasons. I ended up doing it “by hand” using transform.Translate, which I think was the “old way” to do manual movement before MovePosition existed. I’m not totally sure if it activates triggers? For that matter, I’m not sure it even notices collisions — but since I did a full-body Cast, there shouldn’t be any anyway.

Wrinkle 4: What, exactly, is “some distance”? I’ve yet to find a satisfying answer for this. It seems like it ought to be based on the player’s current speed and the slope of the ground they’re moving along, but every time I’ve done that math, I’ve gotten totally ludicrous answers that sometimes exceed the size of a tile. But maybe that’s not wrong? Play around, I guess, and think about when the effect should “break” and the player should go flying off the top of a hill.

Wrinkle 5: It’s possible that the player will launch off a slope, hit something, and then be adhered to the ground where they wouldn’t have hit it. I don’t much like this edge case, but I don’t see a way around it either.

This problem is surprisingly awkward for how simple it sounds, and the solution isn’t entirely satisfying. Oh, well; the results are much nicer than the solution. As an added bonus, this also fixes occasional problems with running down a hill and becoming detached from the ground due to precision issues or whathaveyou.

Problem 4: One-way platforms

Ah, what a nightmare.

It took me ages just to figure out how to define one-way platforms. Only block when the player is moving downwards? Nope. Only block when the player is above the platform? Nuh-uh.

Well, okay, yes, those approaches might work for convex players and flat platforms. But what about… sloped, one-way platforms? There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to have those. If Super Mario World can do it, surely Unity can do it almost 30 years later.

The trick is, again, to look at the collision normal. If it faces away from gravity, the player is hitting a ground-like surface, so the platform should block them. Otherwise (or if the player overlaps the platform), it shouldn’t.

Here’s the catch: Unity doesn’t have conditional collision. I can’t decide, on the fly, whether a collision should block or not. In fact, I think that by the time I get a callback like OnCollisionEnter2D, the physics pass is already over.

I could go the other way and use triggers (which are non-blocking), but then I have the opposite problem: I can’t stop the player on the fly. I could move them back to where they hit the trigger, but I envision all kinds of problems as a result. What if they were moving fast enough to activate something on the other side of the platform? What if something else moved to where I’m trying to shove them back to in the meantime? How does this interact with ground detection and listing contacts, which would rightly ignore a trigger as non-blocking?

I beat my head against this for a while, but the inability to respond to collision conditionally was a huge roadblock. It’s all the more infuriating a problem, because Unity ships with a one-way platform modifier thing. Unfortunately, it seems to have been implemented by someone who has never played a platformer. It’s literally one-way — the player is only allowed to move straight upwards through it, not in from the sides. It also tries to block the player if they’re moving downwards while inside the platform, which invokes clumsy rejection behavior. And this all seems to be built into the physics engine itself somehow, so I can’t simply copy whatever they did.

Eventually, I settled on the following. After calculating attempted movement (including sliding), just at the end of FixedUpdate, I do a Cast along the movement vector. I’m not thrilled about having to duplicate the physics engine’s own work, but I do filter to only things on a “one-way platform” physics layer, which should at least help. For each object the cast hits, I use Physics2D.IgnoreCollision to either ignore or un-ignore the collision between the player and the platform, depending on whether the collision was ground-like or not.

(A lot of people suggested turning off collision between layers, but that can’t possibly work — the player might be standing on one platform while inside another, and anyway, this should work for all actors!)

Again, wrinkles! But fewer this time. Actually, maybe just one: handling the case where the player already overlaps the platform. I can’t just check for that with e.g. OverlapCollider, because that doesn’t distinguish between overlapping and merely touching.

I came up with a fairly simple fix: if I was going to un-ignore the collision (i.e. make the platform block), and the cast distance is reported as zero (either already touching or overlapping), I simply do nothing instead. If I’m standing on the platform, I must have already set it blocking when I was approaching it from the top anyway; if I’m overlapping it, I must have already set it non-blocking to get here in the first place.

I can imagine a few cases where this might go wrong. Moving platforms, especially, are going to cause some interesting issues. But this is the best I can do with what I know, and it seems to work well enough so far.

Oh, and our player can deliberately drop down through platforms, which was easy enough to implement; I just decide the platform is always passable while some button is held down.

Problem 5: Pushers and carriers

I haven’t gotten to this yet! Oh boy, can’t wait. I implemented it in LÖVE, but my way was hilariously invasive; I’m hoping that having a physics engine that supports a handwaved “this pushes that” will help. Of course, you also have to worry about sticking to platforms, for which the recommended solution is apparently to parent the cargo to the platform, which sounds goofy to me? I guess I’ll find out when I throw myself at it later.

Overall result

I ended up with a fairly pleasant-feeling system that supports slopes and one-way platforms and whatnot, with all the same pieces as I came up with for LÖVE. The code somehow ended up as less of a mess, too, but it probably helps that I’ve been down this rabbit hole once before and kinda knew what I was aiming for this time.

Animation of a character running smoothly along the top of an irregular dinosaur skeleton

Sorry that I don’t have a big block of code for you to copy-paste into your project. I don’t think there are nearly enough narrative discussions of these fundamentals, though, so hopefully this is useful to someone. If not, well, look forward to ✨ my book, that I am writing ✨!

"Responsible encryption" fallacies

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/10/responsible-encryption-fallacies.html

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave a speech recently calling for “Responsible Encryption” (aka. “Crypto Backdoors”). It’s full of dangerous ideas that need to be debunked.

The importance of law enforcement

The first third of the speech talks about the importance of law enforcement, as if it’s the only thing standing between us and chaos. It cites the 2016 Mirai attacks as an example of the chaos that will only get worse without stricter law enforcement.

But the Mira case demonstrated the opposite, how law enforcement is not needed. They made no arrests in the case. A year later, they still haven’t a clue who did it.

Conversely, we technologists have fixed the major infrastructure issues. Specifically, those affected by the DNS outage have moved to multiple DNS providers, including a high-capacity DNS provider like Google and Amazon who can handle such large attacks easily.

In other words, we the people fixed the major Mirai problem, and law-enforcement didn’t.

Moreover, instead being a solution to cyber threats, law enforcement has become a threat itself. The DNC didn’t have the FBI investigate the attacks from Russia likely because they didn’t want the FBI reading all their files, finding wrongdoing by the DNC. It’s not that they did anything actually wrong, but it’s more like that famous quote from Richelieu “Give me six words written by the most honest of men and I’ll find something to hang him by”. Give all your internal emails over to the FBI and I’m certain they’ll find something to hang you by, if they want.
Or consider the case of Andrew Auernheimer. He found AT&T’s website made public user accounts of the first iPad, so he copied some down and posted them to a news site. AT&T had denied the problem, so making the problem public was the only way to force them to fix it. Such access to the website was legal, because AT&T had made the data public. However, prosecutors disagreed. In order to protect the powerful, they twisted and perverted the law to put Auernheimer in jail.

It’s not that law enforcement is bad, it’s that it’s not the unalloyed good Rosenstein imagines. When law enforcement becomes the thing Rosenstein describes, it means we live in a police state.

Where law enforcement can’t go

Rosenstein repeats the frequent claim in the encryption debate:

Our society has never had a system where evidence of criminal wrongdoing was totally impervious to detection

Of course our society has places “impervious to detection”, protected by both legal and natural barriers.

An example of a legal barrier is how spouses can’t be forced to testify against each other. This barrier is impervious.

A better example, though, is how so much of government, intelligence, the military, and law enforcement itself is impervious. If prosecutors could gather evidence everywhere, then why isn’t Rosenstein prosecuting those guilty of CIA torture?

Oh, you say, government is a special exception. If that were the case, then why did Rosenstein dedicate a precious third of his speech discussing the “rule of law” and how it applies to everyone, “protecting people from abuse by the government”. It obviously doesn’t, there’s one rule of government and a different rule for the people, and the rule for government means there’s lots of places law enforcement can’t go to gather evidence.

Likewise, the crypto backdoor Rosenstein is demanding for citizens doesn’t apply to the President, Congress, the NSA, the Army, or Rosenstein himself.

Then there are the natural barriers. The police can’t read your mind. They can only get the evidence that is there, like partial fingerprints, which are far less reliable than full fingerprints. They can’t go backwards in time.

I mention this because encryption is a natural barrier. It’s their job to overcome this barrier if they can, to crack crypto and so forth. It’s not our job to do it for them.

It’s like the camera that increasingly comes with TVs for video conferencing, or the microphone on Alexa-style devices that are always recording. This suddenly creates evidence that the police want our help in gathering, such as having the camera turned on all the time, recording to disk, in case the police later gets a warrant, to peer backward in time what happened in our living rooms. The “nothing is impervious” argument applies here as well. And it’s equally bogus here. By not helping police by not recording our activities, we aren’t somehow breaking some long standing tradit

And this is the scary part. It’s not that we are breaking some ancient tradition that there’s no place the police can’t go (with a warrant). Instead, crypto backdoors breaking the tradition that never before have I been forced to help them eavesdrop on me, even before I’m a suspect, even before any crime has been committed. Sure, laws like CALEA force the phone companies to help the police against wrongdoers — but here Rosenstein is insisting I help the police against myself.

Balance between privacy and public safety

Rosenstein repeats the frequent claim that encryption upsets the balance between privacy/safety:

Warrant-proof encryption defeats the constitutional balance by elevating privacy above public safety.

This is laughable, because technology has swung the balance alarmingly in favor of law enforcement. Far from “Going Dark” as his side claims, the problem we are confronted with is “Going Light”, where the police state monitors our every action.

You are surrounded by recording devices. If you walk down the street in town, outdoor surveillance cameras feed police facial recognition systems. If you drive, automated license plate readers can track your route. If you make a phone call or use a credit card, the police get a record of the transaction. If you stay in a hotel, they demand your ID, for law enforcement purposes.

And that’s their stuff, which is nothing compared to your stuff. You are never far from a recording device you own, such as your mobile phone, TV, Alexa/Siri/OkGoogle device, laptop. Modern cars from the last few years increasingly have always-on cell connections and data recorders that record your every action (and location).

Even if you hike out into the country, when you get back, the FBI can subpoena your GPS device to track down your hidden weapon’s cache, or grab the photos from your camera.

And this is all offline. So much of what we do is now online. Of the photographs you own, fewer than 1% are printed out, the rest are on your computer or backed up to the cloud.

Your phone is also a GPS recorder of your exact position all the time, which if the government wins the Carpenter case, they police can grab without a warrant. Tagging all citizens with a recording device of their position is not “balance” but the premise for a novel more dystopic than 1984.

If suspected of a crime, which would you rather the police searched? Your person, houses, papers, and physical effects? Or your mobile phone, computer, email, and online/cloud accounts?

The balance of privacy and safety has swung so far in favor of law enforcement that rather than debating whether they should have crypto backdoors, we should be debating how to add more privacy protections.

“But it’s not conclusive”

Rosenstein defends the “going light” (“Golden Age of Surveillance”) by pointing out it’s not always enough for conviction. Nothing gives a conviction better than a person’s own words admitting to the crime that were captured by surveillance. This other data, while copious, often fails to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is nonsense. Police got along well enough before the digital age, before such widespread messaging. They solved terrorist and child abduction cases just fine in the 1980s. Sure, somebody’s GPS location isn’t by itself enough — until you go there and find all the buried bodies, which leads to a conviction. “Going dark” imagines that somehow, the evidence they’ve been gathering for centuries is going away. It isn’t. It’s still here, and matches up with even more digital evidence.
Conversely, a person’s own words are not as conclusive as you think. There’s always missing context. We quickly get back to the Richelieu “six words” problem, where captured communications are twisted to convict people, with defense lawyers trying to untwist them.

Rosenstein’s claim may be true, that a lot of criminals will go free because the other electronic data isn’t convincing enough. But I’d need to see that claim backed up with hard studies, not thrown out for emotional impact.

Terrorists and child molesters

You can always tell the lack of seriousness of law enforcement when they bring up terrorists and child molesters.
To be fair, sometimes we do need to talk about terrorists. There are things unique to terrorism where me may need to give government explicit powers to address those unique concerns. For example, the NSA buys mobile phone 0day exploits in order to hack terrorist leaders in tribal areas. This is a good thing.
But when terrorists use encryption the same way everyone else does, then it’s not a unique reason to sacrifice our freedoms to give the police extra powers. Either it’s a good idea for all crimes or no crimes — there’s nothing particular about terrorism that makes it an exceptional crime. Dead people are dead. Any rational view of the problem relegates terrorism to be a minor problem. More citizens have died since September 8, 2001 from their own furniture than from terrorism. According to studies, the hot water from the tap is more of a threat to you than terrorists.
Yes, government should do what they can to protect us from terrorists, but no, it’s not so bad of a threat that requires the imposition of a military/police state. When people use terrorism to justify their actions, it’s because they trying to form a military/police state.
A similar argument works with child porn. Here’s the thing: the pervs aren’t exchanging child porn using the services Rosenstein wants to backdoor, like Apple’s Facetime or Facebook’s WhatsApp. Instead, they are exchanging child porn using custom services they build themselves.
Again, I’m (mostly) on the side of the FBI. I support their idea of buying 0day exploits in order to hack the web browsers of visitors to the secret “PlayPen” site. This is something that’s narrow to this problem and doesn’t endanger the innocent. On the other hand, their calls for crypto backdoors endangers the innocent while doing effectively nothing to address child porn.
Terrorists and child molesters are a clichéd, non-serious excuse to appeal to our emotions to give up our rights. We should not give in to such emotions.

Definition of “backdoor”

Rosenstein claims that we shouldn’t call backdoors “backdoors”:

No one calls any of those functions [like key recovery] a “back door.”  In fact, those capabilities are marketed and sought out by many users.

He’s partly right in that we rarely refer to PGP’s key escrow feature as a “backdoor”.

But that’s because the term “backdoor” refers less to how it’s done and more to who is doing it. If I set up a recovery password with Apple, I’m the one doing it to myself, so we don’t call it a backdoor. If it’s the police, spies, hackers, or criminals, then we call it a “backdoor” — even it’s identical technology.

Wikipedia uses the key escrow feature of the 1990s Clipper Chip as a prime example of what everyone means by “backdoor“. By “no one”, Rosenstein is including Wikipedia, which is obviously incorrect.

Though in truth, it’s not going to be the same technology. The needs of law enforcement are different than my personal key escrow/backup needs. In particular, there are unsolvable problems, such as a backdoor that works for the “legitimate” law enforcement in the United States but not for the “illegitimate” police states like Russia and China.

I feel for Rosenstein, because the term “backdoor” does have a pejorative connotation, which can be considered unfair. But that’s like saying the word “murder” is a pejorative term for killing people, or “torture” is a pejorative term for torture. The bad connotation exists because we don’t like government surveillance. I mean, honestly calling this feature “government surveillance feature” is likewise pejorative, and likewise exactly what it is that we are talking about.

Providers

Rosenstein focuses his arguments on “providers”, like Snapchat or Apple. But this isn’t the question.

The question is whether a “provider” like Telegram, a Russian company beyond US law, provides this feature. Or, by extension, whether individuals should be free to install whatever software they want, regardless of provider.

Telegram is a Russian company that provides end-to-end encryption. Anybody can download their software in order to communicate so that American law enforcement can’t eavesdrop. They aren’t going to put in a backdoor for the U.S. If we succeed in putting backdoors in Apple and WhatsApp, all this means is that criminals are going to install Telegram.

If the, for some reason, the US is able to convince all such providers (including Telegram) to install a backdoor, then it still doesn’t solve the problem, as uses can just build their own end-to-end encryption app that has no provider. It’s like email: some use the major providers like GMail, others setup their own email server.

Ultimately, this means that any law mandating “crypto backdoors” is going to target users not providers. Rosenstein tries to make a comparison with what plain-old telephone companies have to do under old laws like CALEA, but that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, for such rules to have any effect, they have to punish users for what they install, not providers.

This continues the argument I made above. Government backdoors is not something that forces Internet services to eavesdrop on us — it forces us to help the government spy on ourselves.
Rosenstein tries to address this by pointing out that it’s still a win if major providers like Apple and Facetime are forced to add backdoors, because they are the most popular, and some terrorists/criminals won’t move to alternate platforms. This is false. People with good intentions, who are unfairly targeted by a police state, the ones where police abuse is rampant, are the ones who use the backdoored products. Those with bad intentions, who know they are guilty, will move to the safe products. Indeed, Telegram is already popular among terrorists because they believe American services are already all backdoored. 
Rosenstein is essentially demanding the innocent get backdoored while the guilty don’t. This seems backwards. This is backwards.

Apple is morally weak

The reason I’m writing this post is because Rosenstein makes a few claims that cannot be ignored. One of them is how he describes Apple’s response to government insistence on weakening encryption doing the opposite, strengthening encryption. He reasons this happens because:

Of course they [Apple] do. They are in the business of selling products and making money. 

We [the DoJ] use a different measure of success. We are in the business of preventing crime and saving lives. 

He swells in importance. His condescending tone ennobles himself while debasing others. But this isn’t how things work. He’s not some white knight above the peasantry, protecting us. He’s a beat cop, a civil servant, who serves us.

A better phrasing would have been:

They are in the business of giving customers what they want.

We are in the business of giving voters what they want.

Both sides are doing the same, giving people what they want. Yes, voters want safety, but they also want privacy. Rosenstein imagines that he’s free to ignore our demands for privacy as long has he’s fulfilling his duty to protect us. He has explicitly rejected what people want, “we use a different measure of success”. He imagines it’s his job to tell us where the balance between privacy and safety lies. That’s not his job, that’s our job. We, the people (and our representatives), make that decision, and it’s his job is to do what he’s told. His measure of success is how well he fulfills our wishes, not how well he satisfies his imagined criteria.

That’s why those of us on this side of the debate doubt the good intentions of those like Rosenstein. He criticizes Apple for wanting to protect our rights/freedoms, and declare they measure success differently.

They are willing to be vile

Rosenstein makes this argument:

Companies are willing to make accommodations when required by the government. Recent media reports suggest that a major American technology company developed a tool to suppress online posts in certain geographic areas in order to embrace a foreign government’s censorship policies. 

Let me translate this for you:

Companies are willing to acquiesce to vile requests made by police-states. Therefore, they should acquiesce to our vile police-state requests.

It’s Rosenstein who is admitting here is that his requests are those of a police-state.

Constitutional Rights

Rosenstein says:

There is no constitutional right to sell warrant-proof encryption.

Maybe. It’s something the courts will have to decide. There are many 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Amendment issues here.
The reason we have the Bill of Rights is because of the abuses of the British Government. For example, they quartered troops in our homes, as a way of punishing us, and as a way of forcing us to help in our own oppression. The troops weren’t there to defend us against the French, but to defend us against ourselves, to shoot us if we got out of line.

And that’s what crypto backdoors do. We are forced to be agents of our own oppression. The principles enumerated by Rosenstein apply to a wide range of even additional surveillance. With little change to his speech, it can equally argue why the constant TV video surveillance from 1984 should be made law.

Let’s go back and look at Apple. It is not some base company exploiting consumers for profit. Apple doesn’t have guns, they cannot make people buy their product. If Apple doesn’t provide customers what they want, then customers vote with their feet, and go buy an Android phone. Apple isn’t providing encryption/security in order to make a profit — it’s giving customers what they want in order to stay in business.
Conversely, if we citizens don’t like what the government does, tough luck, they’ve got the guns to enforce their edicts. We can’t easily vote with our feet and walk to another country. A “democracy” is far less democratic than capitalism. Apple is a minority, selling phones to 45% of the population, and that’s fine, the minority get the phones they want. In a Democracy, where citizens vote on the issue, those 45% are screwed, as the 55% impose their will unwanted onto the remainder.

That’s why we have the Bill of Rights, to protect the 49% against abuse by the 51%. Regardless whether the Supreme Court agrees the current Constitution, it is the sort right that might exist regardless of what the Constitution says. 

Obliged to speak the truth

Here is the another part of his speech that I feel cannot be ignored. We have to discuss this:

Those of us who swear to protect the rule of law have a different motivation.  We are obliged to speak the truth.

The truth is that “going dark” threatens to disable law enforcement and enable criminals and terrorists to operate with impunity.

This is not true. Sure, he’s obliged to say the absolute truth, in court. He’s also obliged to be truthful in general about facts in his personal life, such as not lying on his tax return (the sort of thing that can get lawyers disbarred).

But he’s not obliged to tell his spouse his honest opinion whether that new outfit makes them look fat. Likewise, Rosenstein knows his opinion on public policy doesn’t fall into this category. He can say with impunity that either global warming doesn’t exist, or that it’ll cause a biblical deluge within 5 years. Both are factually untrue, but it’s not going to get him fired.

And this particular claim is also exaggerated bunk. While everyone agrees encryption makes law enforcement’s job harder than with backdoors, nobody honestly believes it can “disable” law enforcement. While everyone agrees that encryption helps terrorists, nobody believes it can enable them to act with “impunity”.

I feel bad here. It’s a terrible thing to question your opponent’s character this way. But Rosenstein made this unavoidable when he clearly, with no ambiguity, put his integrity as Deputy Attorney General on the line behind the statement that “going dark threatens to disable law enforcement and enable criminals and terrorists to operate with impunity”. I feel it’s a bald face lie, but you don’t need to take my word for it. Read his own words yourself and judge his integrity.

Conclusion

Rosenstein’s speech includes repeated references to ideas like “oath”, “honor”, and “duty”. It reminds me of Col. Jessup’s speech in the movie “A Few Good Men”.

If you’ll recall, it was rousing speech, “you want me on that wall” and “you use words like honor as a punchline”. Of course, since he was violating his oath and sending two privates to death row in order to avoid being held accountable, it was Jessup himself who was crapping on the concepts of “honor”, “oath”, and “duty”.

And so is Rosenstein. He imagines himself on that wall, doing albeit terrible things, justified by his duty to protect citizens. He imagines that it’s he who is honorable, while the rest of us not, even has he utters bald faced lies to further his own power and authority.

We activists oppose crypto backdoors not because we lack honor, or because we are criminals, or because we support terrorists and child molesters. It’s because we value privacy and government officials who get corrupted by power. It’s not that we fear Trump becoming a dictator, it’s that we fear bureaucrats at Rosenstein’s level becoming drunk on authority — which Rosenstein demonstrably has. His speech is a long train of corrupt ideas pursuing the same object of despotism — a despotism we oppose.

In other words, we oppose crypto backdoors because it’s not a tool of law enforcement, but a tool of despotism.

PS4 Piracy Now Exists – If Gamers Want to Jump Through Hoops

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ps4-piracy-now-exists-if-gamers-want-to-jump-through-hoops-170930/

During the reign of the first few generations of consoles, gamers became accustomed to their machines being compromised by hacking groups and enthusiasts, to enable the execution of third-party software.

Often carried out under the banner of running “homebrew” code, so-called jailbroken consoles also brought with them the prospect of running pirate copies of officially produced games. Once the floodgates were opened, not much could hold things back.

With the advent of mass online gaming, however, things became more complex. Regular firmware updates mean that security holes could be fixed remotely whenever a user went online, rendering the jailbreaking process a cat-and-mouse game with continually moving targets.

This, coupled with massively improved overall security, has meant that the current generation of consoles has remained largely piracy free, at least on a do-it-at-home basis. Now, however, that position is set to change after the first decrypted PS4 game dumps began to hit the web this week.

Thanks to release group KOTF (Knights of the Fallen), Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 4, and Assassins Creed IV are all available for download from the usual places. As expected they are pretty meaty downloads, with GTAV weighing in via 90 x 500MB files, Far Cry4 via 54 of the same size, and ACIV sporting 84 x 250MB.

Partial NFO file for PS4 GTA V

While undoubtedly large, it’s not the filesize that will prove most prohibitive when it comes to getting these beasts to run on a PlayStation 4. Indeed, a potential pirate will need to jump through a number of hoops to enjoy any of these titles or others that may appear in the near future.

KOTF explains as much in the NFO (information) files it includes with its releases. The list of requirements is long.

First up, a gamer needs to possess a PS4 with an extremely old firmware version – v1.76 – which was released way back in August 2014. The fact this firmware is required doesn’t come as a surprise since it was successfully jailbroken back in December 2015.

The age of the firmware raises several issues, not least where people can obtain a PS4 that’s so old it still has this firmware intact. Also, newer games require later firmware, so most games released during the past two to three years won’t be compatible with v1.76. That limits the pool of games considerably.

Finally, forget going online with such an old software version. Sony will be all over it like a cheap suit, plotting to do something unpleasant to that cheeky antique code, given half a chance. And, for anyone wondering, downgrading a higher firmware version to v1.76 isn’t possible – yet.

But for gamers who want a little bit of recent PS4 nostalgia on the cheap, ‘all’ they have to do is gather the necessary tools together and follow the instructions below.

Easy – when you know how

While this is a landmark moment for PS4 piracy (which to date has mainly centered around much hocus pocus), the limitations listed above mean that it isn’t going to hit the mainstream just yet.

That being said, all things are possible when given the right people, determination, and enough time. Whether that will be anytime soon is anyone’s guess but there are rumors that firmware v4.55 has already been exploited, so you never know.

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

Julia Reda MEP Likened to Nazi in Sweeping Anti-Pirate Rant

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/julia-reda-mep-likened-to-nazi-in-sweeping-anti-pirate-rant-170926/

The debate over copyright and enforcement thereof is often polarized, with staunch supporters on one side, objectors firmly on the other, and never the twain shall meet.

As a result, there have been some heated battles over the years, with pro-copyright bodies accusing pirates of theft and pirates accusing pro-copyright bodies of monopolistic tendencies. While neither claim is particularly pleasant, they have become staples of this prolonged war of words and as such, many have become desensitized to their original impact.

This morning, however, musician and staunch pro-copyright activist David Lowery published an article which pours huge amounts of gas on the fire. The headline goes straight for the jugular, asking: Why is it Every Time We Turn Over a Pirate Rock White Nationalists, Nazi’s and Bigots Scurry Out?

Lowery’s opening gambit in his piece on The Trichordist is that one only has to scratch below the surface of the torrent and piracy world in order to find people aligned with the above-mentioned groups.

“Why is it every time we dig a little deeper into the pro-piracy and torrenting movement we find key figures associated with ‘white nationalists,’ Nazi memorabilia collectors, actual Nazis or other similar bigots? And why on earth do politicians, journalists and academics sing the praises of these people?” Lowery asks.

To prove his point, the Camper Van Beethoven musician digs up the fact that former Pirate Bay financier Carl Lündstrom had some fairly unsavory neo-fascist views. While this is not in doubt, Lowery is about 10 tens years too late if he wants to tar The Pirate Bay with the extremist brush.

“It’s called guilt by association,” Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde explained in 2007.

“One of our previous ISPs [owned by Lündstrom] (with clients like The Red Cross, Save the Children foundation etc) gave us cheap bandwidth since one of the guys in TPB worked there; and one of the owners [has a reputation] for his political opinions. That does NOT make us in any way associated to what political views anyone else might or might not have.”

After dealing with TPB but failing to include the above explanation, Lowery moves on to a more recent target, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom. Dotcom owns an extremely rare signed copy of Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) and once wore a German World War II helmet. It’s a mistake Prince Harry made in 2005 too.

“I’ve bought memorabilia from Churchill, from Stalin, from Hitler,” Dotcom said in response to the historical allegations. “Let me make absolutely clear, OK. I’m not buying into the Nazi ideology. I’m totally against what the Nazis did.”

With Dotcom dealt with, Lowery then turns his attention to the German Pirate Party’s Julia Reda. As a Member of the European Parliament, Reda has made it her mission to deal with overreaching copyright law, which has made her a bit of a target. That being said, would anyone really try to shoehorn her into the “White Nationalists, Nazi’s and Bigots” bracket?

They would.

In his piece, Lowery highlights comments made by Reda last year, when she complained about the copyright situation developing around the diary written by Anne Frank, which detailed the horrors of living in occupied countries during World War II.

Anne Frank died in 1945 which means that the book was elevated into the public domain in the Netherlands on January 1, 2016, 70 years after her death. A copy was made available at Wikisource, a digital library of free texts maintained by the Wikimedia Foundation, which also operates Wikipedia.

However, in early February that same year, Anne Frank’s diary became unavailable, since U.S. copyright law dictates that works are protected for 95 years from date of publication.

“Today, in an unfortunate example of the overreach of the United States’ current copyright law, the Wikimedia Foundation removed the Dutch-language text of The Diary of a Young Girl,” said Jacob Rogers, Legal Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation

“We took this action to comply with the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), as we believe the diary is still under US copyright protection under the law as it is currently written,” he added.

Lowery ignores this background in its entirety. He actually ignores all of it in an effort to paint a picture of Reda engaging in some far-right agenda. Lowery even places emphasis on Reda’s nationality to force his point home.

“I don’t really know what to make of her except to say that this German politician really should find something other than the Anne Frank Diary and the Anne Frank Foundation to use as an example of a work that should be freely available in the public domain,” he writes.

“Think of all the copyrighted works out there for which she might reasonably argue a claim of public domain. She decided to pick the Anne Frank diary. Hmm.”

Lowery then accuses Reda of urging people on Twitter to pirate the book, in order to hurt the fight against anti-Semitism and somehow deprive Jewish people of an income.

“After all sales of the book are used by the Anne Frank Foundation to fight anti-semitism. It’s really quite a bad look for any MP, German or not. (Even if it is just the make-believe LARPing RPG EU Parliament),” Lowery writes.

“Or maybe that is the point? Defund the Anne Frank Foundation. Cause you know I read in the twittersphere that copyright producing media conglomerates are controlled by you-know-who.”

At this point, Lowery moves on to Fight For the Future, stating that their lack of racial diversity caused them to stumble into a racially charged copyright dispute involving the famous Martin Luther King speech.

The whole article can be read here but hopefully, most readers will recognize that America needs less division right now, not more hatred.

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

Google Signs Agreement to Tackle YouTube Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-signs-unprecedented-agreement-to-tackle-youtube-piracy-170921/

Once upon a time, people complaining about piracy would point to the hundreds of piracy sites around the Internet. These days, criticism is just as likely to be leveled at Google-owned services.

YouTube, in particular, has come in for intense criticism, with the music industry complaining of exploitation of the DMCA in order to obtain unfair streaming rates from record labels. Along with streaming-ripping, this so-called Value Gap is one of the industry’s hottest topics.

With rightsholders seemingly at war with Google to varying degrees, news from France suggests that progress can be made if people sit down and negotiate.

According to local reports, Google and local anti-piracy outfit ALPA (l’Association de Lutte Contre la Piraterie Audiovisuelle) under the auspices of the CNC have signed an agreement to grant rightsholders direct access to content takedown mechanisms on YouTube.

YouTube has granted access to its Content ID systems to companies elsewhere for years but the new deal will see the system utilized by French content owners for the first time. It’s hoped that the access will result in infringing content being taken down or monetized more quickly than before.

“We do not want fraudsters to use our platforms to the detriment of creators,” said Carlo D’Asaro Biondo, Google’s President of Strategic Relationships in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The agreement, overseen by the Ministry of Culture, will see Google provide ALPA with financial support and rightsholders with essential training.

ALPA president Nicolas Seydoux welcomed the deal, noting that it symbolizes the “collapse of the wall of incomprehension” that previously existed between France’s rightsholders and the Internet search giant.

The deal forms part of the French government’s “Plan of Action Against Piracy”, in which it hopes to crack down on infringement in various ways, including tackling the threat of pirate sites, better promotion of services offering legitimate content, and educating children “from an early age” on the need to respect copyright.

“The fight against piracy is the great challenge of the new century in the cultural sphere,” said France’s Minister of Culture, Françoise Nyssen.

“I hope this is just the beginning of a process. It will require other agreements with rights holders and other platforms, as well as at the European level.”

According to NextInpact, the Google agreement will eventually encompass the downgrading of infringing content in search results as part of the Trusted Copyright Removal Program. A similar system is already in place in the UK.

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

MetalKettle Addon Repository Vulnerable After GitHub ‘Takeover’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/metalkettle-after-github-takeover-170915/

A few weeks ago MetalKettle, one of the most famous Kodi addon developers of recent times, decided to call it quits.

Worried about potential legal risks, he saw no other option than to halt all development of third-party Kodi addons.

Soon after this announcement, the developer proceeded to remove the GitHub account which was used to distribute his addons. However, he didn’t realize that this might not have been the best decision.

As it turns out, GitHub allows outsiders to re-register names of deleted accounts. While this might not be a problem in most cases, it can be disastrous when the accounts are connected to Kodi add-ons that are constantly pinging for new updates.

In essence, it means that the person who registered the Github account can load content onto the boxes of people who still have the MetalKettle repo installed. Quite a dangerous prospect, something MetalKettle realizes as well.

“Someone has re-registered metalkettle on github. So in theory could pollute any devices with the repo still installed,” he warned on Twitter.

“Warning : if any users have a metalkettle repo installed on their systems or within a build – please delete ASAP,” he added.

MetalKettle warning

It’s not clear what the intentions of the new MetalKettle user are on GitHub, if he or she has any at all. But, people should be very cautious and probably remove it from their systems.

The real MetalKettle, meanwhile, alerted TVAddons to the situation and they have placed the repository on their Indigo blacklist of banned software. This effectively disables the repository on devices with Indigo installed.

GitHub on their turn may want to reconsider their removal policy. Perhaps it’s smarter to not make old usernames available for registration, at least not for a while, as it’s clearly a vulnerability.

This is also shown by another Kodi repo controversy that appeared earlier today. Another GitHub account that was reportedly deleted earlier, resurfaced today pushing a new version of the Exodus addon and other sources.

According to some, the GitHub account is operated by the original Exodus developers and perfectly safe, but others warn that the name was reregistered in bad faith.

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

Turtle, the earthbound crowdfunded rover

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/turtle-rover/

With ten days to go until the end of their crowdfunding campaign, the team behind the Turtle Rover are waiting eagerly for their project to become a reality for earthbound explorers across the globe.

Turtle Rover

Turtle is the product of the Mars Rover prototype engineers at Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland. Their waterproof land rover can be controlled via your tablet or smartphone, and allows you to explore hidden worlds too small or dangerous for humans. The team says this about their project:

NASA and ESA plan to send another rover to Mars in 2020. SpaceX wants to send one million people to Mars in the next 100 years. However, before anyone sends a rover to another planet, we designed Turtle — a robot to remind you about how beautiful the Earth is.

With a Raspberry Pi at its core, Turtle is an open-source, modular device to which you can attach new, interesting features such as extra cameras, lights, and a DSLR adapter. Depending on the level at which you back the Kickstarter, you might also receive a robotic arm as a reward for your support.

Turtle Rover Kickstarter Raspberry Pi

The Turtle can capture photos and video, and even live-stream video to your device. Moreover, its emergency stop button offers peace of mind whenever your explorations takes your Turtle to cliff edges or other unsafe locations.

Constructed of aerospace-grade aluminium, plastics, and stainless steel, its robust form, watertight and dust-proof body, and 4-hour battery life make the Turtle a great tool for education and development, as well as a wonderful addition to recreational activities such as Airsoft.

Back the Turtle

If you want to join in the Turtle Rover revolution, you have ten days left to back the team on Kickstarter. Pledge €1497 for an unassembled kit (you’ll need your own Raspberry Pi, battery, and servos), or €1549 for a complete rover. The team plan to send your Turtle to you by June 2018 — so get ready to explore!

Turtle Rover Kickstarter Raspberry Pi

For more information on the build, including all crowdfunding rewards, check out their Kickstarter page. And if you’d like to follow their journey, be sure to follow them on Twitter.

Your Projects

Are you running a Raspberry Pi-based crowdfunding campaign? Or maybe you’ve got your idea, and you’re soon going to unleash it on the world? Whatever your plans, we’d love to see what you’re up to, so make sure to let us know via our social media channels or an email to [email protected]

 

The post Turtle, the earthbound crowdfunded rover appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Apache Struts Statement on Equifax Security Breach

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/733322/rss

The Apache Struts project has put out a
statement
on the possible role played by a Struts vulnerability in the
massive Equifax data breach. “Regarding the assertion that
especially CVE-2017-9805 is a nine year old security flaw, one has to
understand that there is a huge difference between detecting a flaw after
nine years and knowing about a flaw for several years. If the latter was
the case, the team would have had a hard time to provide a good answer why
they did not fix this earlier. But this was actually not the case here –we
were notified just recently on how a certain piece of code can be misused,
and we fixed this ASAP. What we saw here is common software engineering
business –people write code for achieving a desired function, but may not
be aware of undesired side-effects. Once this awareness is reached, we as
well as hopefully all other library and framework maintainers put high
efforts into removing the side-effects as soon as possible. It’s probably
fair to say that we met this goal pretty well in case of
CVE-2017-9805.

The Weather Station and the eclipse

Post Syndicated from Richard Hayler original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/weather-station-eclipse/

As everyone knows, one of the problems with the weather is that it can be difficult to predict a long time in advance. In the UK we’ve had stormy conditions for weeks but, of course, now that I’ve finished my lightning detector, everything has calmed down. If you’re planning to make scientific measurements of a particular phenomenon, patience is often required.

Oracle Weather Station

Wake STEM ECH get ready to safely observe the eclipse

In the path of the eclipse

Fortunately, this wasn’t a problem for Mr Burgess and his students at Wake STEM Early College High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. They knew exactly when the event they were interested in studying was going to occur: they were going to use their Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station to monitor the progress of the 2017 solar eclipse.

Wake STEM EC HS on Twitter

Through the @Celestron telescope #Eclipse2017 @WCPSS via @stemburgess

Measuring the temperature drop

The Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Stations are always active and recording data, so all the students needed to do was check that everything was connected and working. That left them free to enjoy the eclipse, and take some amazing pictures like the one above.

You can see from the data how the changes in temperature lag behind the solar events – this makes sense, as it takes a while for the air to cool down. When the sun starts to return, the temperature rise continues on its pre-eclipse trajectory.

Oracle Weather Station

Weather station data 21st Aug: the yellow bars mark the start and end of the eclipse, the red bar marks the maximum sun coverage.

Reading Mr Burgess’ description, I’m feeling rather jealous. Being in the path of the Eclipse sounds amazing: “In North Carolina we experienced 93% coverage, so a lot of sunlight was still shining, but the landscape took on an eerie look. And there was a cool wind like you’d experience at dusk, not at 2:30 pm on a hot summer day. I was amazed at the significant drop in temperature that occurred in a small time frame.”

Temperature drop during Eclipse Oracle Weather Station.

Close up of data showing temperature drop as recorded by the Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station. The yellow bars mark the start and end of the eclipse, the red bar marks the maximum sun coverage.

 Weather Station in the classroom

I’ve been preparing for the solar eclipse for almost two years, with the weather station arriving early last school year. I did not think about temperature data until I read about citizen scientists on a NASA website,” explains Mr Burgess, who is now in his second year of working with the Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station. Around 120 ninth-grade students (ages 14-15) have been involved with the project so far. “I’ve found that students who don’t have a strong interest in meteorology find it interesting to look at real data and figure out trends.”

Wake STEM EC Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station installation

Wake STEM EC Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station installation

As many schools have discovered, Mr Burgess found that the biggest challenge with the Weather Station project “was finding a suitable place to install the weather station in a place that could get power and Ethernet“. To help with this problem, we’ve recently added two new guides to help with installing the wind sensors outside and using WiFi to connect the kit to the Internet.

Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station

If you want to keep up to date with all the latest Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station activities undertaken by our network of schools around the world, make sure you regularly check our weather station forum. Meanwhile, everyone at Wake STEM ECH is already starting to plan for their next eclipse on Monday, April 8, 2024. I wonder if they’d like some help with their Weather Station?

The post The Weather Station and the eclipse appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Summary of the DebConf 2038 BoF

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/732794/rss

Steve McIntyre reports from a BoF session on the year-2038 problem at
DebConf 17. “It’s important that we work on fixing issues *now* to stop people
building broken things that will bite us. We all expect that our own
computer systems will be fine by 2038; Debian systems will be fixed
and working! We’ll have rebuilt the world with new interfaces and
found the issues. The issues are going to be in the IoT, with systems
that we won’t be able to simply rebuild/verify/test – they’ll fail. We
need to get the underlying systems right ASAP for those systems.

Hunting for life on Mars assisted by high-altitude balloons

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/eclipse-high-altitude-balloons/

Will bacteria-laden high-altitude balloons help us find life on Mars? Today’s eclipse should bring us closer to an answer.

NASA Bacteria Balloons Raspberry Pi HAB Life on Mars

image c/o NASA / Ames Research Center / Tristan Caro

The Eclipse Ballooning Project

Having learned of the Eclipse Ballooning Project set to take place today across the USA, a team at NASA couldn’t miss the opportunity to harness the high-flying project for their own experiments.

NASA Bacteria Balloons Raspberry Pi HAB Life on Mars

The Eclipse Ballooning Project invited students across the USA to aid in the launch of 50+ high-altitude balloons during today’s eclipse. Each balloon is equipped with its own Raspberry Pi and camera for data collection and live video-streaming.

High-altitude ballooning, or HAB as it’s often referred to, has become a popular activity within the Raspberry Pi community. The lightweight nature of the device allows for high ascent, and its Camera Module enables instant visual content collection.

Life on Mars

image c/o Montana State University

The Eclipse Ballooning Project team, headed by Angela Des Jardins of Montana State University, was contacted by Jim Green, Director of Planetary Science at NASA, who hoped to piggyback on the project to run tests on bacteria in the Mars-like conditions the balloons would encounter near space.

Into the stratosphere

At around -35 degrees Fahrenheit, with thinner air and harsher ultraviolet radiation, the conditions in the upper part of the earth’s stratosphere are comparable to those on the surface of Mars. And during the eclipse, the moon will block some UV rays, making the environment in our stratosphere even more similar to the martian oneideal for NASA’s experiment.

So the students taking part in the Eclipse Ballooning Project could help the scientists out, NASA sent them some small metal tags.

NASA Bacteria Balloons Raspberry Pi HAB Life on Mars

These tags contain samples of a kind of bacterium known as Paenibacillus xerothermodurans. Upon their return to ground, the bacteria will be tested to see whether and how the high-altitude conditions affected them.

Life on Mars

Paenibacillus xerothermodurans is one of the most resilient bacterial species we know. The team at NASA wants to discover how the bacteria react to their flight in order to learn more about whether life on Mars could possibly exist. If the low temperature, UV rays, and air conditions cause the bacteria to mutate or indeed die, we can be pretty sure that the existence of living organisms on the surface of Mars is very unlikely.

Life on Mars

What happens to the bacteria on the spacecraft and rovers we send to space? This experiment should provide some answers.

The eclipse

If you’re in the US, you might have a chance to witness the full solar eclipse today. And if you’re planning to watch, please make sure to take all precautionary measures. In a nutshell, don’t look directly at the sun. Not today, not ever.

If you’re in the UK, you can observe a partial eclipse, if the clouds decide to vanish. And again, take note of safety measures so you don’t damage your eyes.

Life on Mars

You can also watch a live-stream of the eclipse via the NASA website.

If you’ve created an eclipse-viewing Raspberry Pi project, make sure to share it with us. And while we’re talking about eclipses and balloons, check here for our coverage of the 2015 balloon launches coinciding with the UK’s partial eclipse.

The post Hunting for life on Mars assisted by high-altitude balloons appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

ESET Tries to Scare People Away From Using Torrents

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eset-tries-to-scare-people-away-from-using-torrents-170805/

Any company in the security game can be expected to play up threats among its customer base in order to get sales.

Sellers of CCTV equipment, for example, would have us believe that criminals don’t want to be photographed and will often go elsewhere in the face of that. Car alarm companies warn us that since X thousand cars are stolen every minute, an expensive Immobilizer is an anti-theft must.

Of course, they’re absolutely right to point these things out. People want to know about these offline risks since they affect our quality of life. The same can be said of those that occur in the online world too.

We ARE all at risk of horrible malware that will trash our computers and steal our banking information so we should all be running adequate protection. That being said, how many times do our anti-virus programs actually trap a piece of nasty-ware in a year? Once? Twice? Ten times? Almost never?

The truth is we all need to be informed but it should be done in a measured way. That’s why an article just published by security firm ESET on the subject of torrents strikes a couple of bad chords, particularly with people who like torrents. It’s titled “Why you should view torrents as a threat” and predictably proceeds to outline why.

“Despite their popularity among users, torrents are very risky ‘business’,” it begins.

“Apart from the obvious legal trouble you could face for violating the copyright of musicians, filmmakers or software developers, there are security issues linked to downloading them that could put you or your computer in the crosshairs of the black hats.”

Aside from the use of the phrase “very risky” (‘some risk’ is a better description), there’s probably very little to complain about in this opening shot. However, things soon go downhill.

“Merely downloading the newest version of BitTorrent clients – software necessary for any user who wants to download or seed files from this ‘ecosystem’ – could infect your machine and irreversibly damage your files,” ESET writes.

Following that scary statement, some readers will have already vowed never to use a torrent again and moved on without reading any more, but the details are really important.

To support its claim, ESET points to two incidents in 2016 (which to its great credit the company actually discovered) which involved the Transmission torrent client. Both involved deliberate third-party infection and in the latter hackers attacked Transmission’s servers and embedded malware in its OSX client before distribution to the public.

No doubt these were both miserable incidents (to which the Transmission team quickly responded) but to characterize this as a torrent client problem seems somewhat unfair.

People intent on spreading viruses and malware do not discriminate and will happily infect ANY piece of computer software they can. Sadly, many non-technical people reading the ESET post won’t read beyond the claim that installing torrent clients can “infect your machine and irreversibly damage your files.”

That’s a huge disservice to the hundreds of millions of torrent client installations that have taken place over a decade and a half and were absolutely trouble free. On a similar basis, we could argue that installing Windows is the main initial problem for people getting viruses from the Internet. It’s true but it’s also not the full picture.

Finally, the piece goes on to detail other incidents over the years where torrents have been found to contain malware. The several cases highlighted by ESET are both real and pretty unpleasant for victims but the important thing to note here is torrent users are no different to any other online user, no matter how they use the Internet.

People who download files from the Internet, from ALL untrusted sources, are putting themselves at risk of getting a virus or other malware. Whether that content is obtained from a website or a P2P network, the risks are ever-present and only a foolish person would do so without decent security software (such as ESET’s) protecting them.

The take home point here is to be aware of security risks and put them into perspective. It’s hard to put a percentage on these things but of the hundreds of millions of torrent and torrent client downloads that have taken place since their inception 15 years ago, the overwhelming majority have been absolutely fine.

Security situations do arise and we need to be aware of them, but presenting things in a way that spreads unnecessary concern in a particular sector isn’t necessary to sell products.

The AV-TEST Institute registers around 390,000 new malicious programs every day that don’t involve torrents, plenty for any anti-virus firm to deal with.

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

New – Amazon Connect and Amazon Lex Integration

Post Syndicated from Randall Hunt original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-amazon-connect-and-amazon-lex-integration/

I’m really excited to share some recent enhancements to two of my favorite services: Amazon Connect and Amazon Lex. Amazon Connect is a self-service, cloud-based contact center service that makes it easy for any business to deliver better customer service at lower cost. Amazon Lex is a service for building conversational interfaces using voice and text. By integrating these two services you can take advantage of Lex‘s automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language processing/understading (NLU) capabilities to create great self-service experiences for your customers. To enable this integration the Lex team added support for 8kHz speech input – more on that later. Why should you care about this? Well, if the a bot can solve the majority of your customer’s requests your customers spend less time waiting on hold and more time using your products.

If you need some more background on Amazon Connect or Lex I strongly recommend Jeff’s previous posts[1][2] on these services – especially if you like LEGOs.


Let’s dive in and learn to use this new integration. We’ll take an application that we built on our Twitch channel and modify it for this blog. At the application’s core a user calls an Amazon Connect number which connects them to an Lex bot which invokes an AWS Lambda function based on an intent from Lex. So what does our little application do?

I want to finally settle the question of what the best code editor is: I like vim, it’s a spectacular editor that does one job exceptionally well – editing code (it’s the best). My colleague Jeff likes emacs, a great operating system editor… if you were born with extra joints in your fingers. My colleague Tara loves Visual Studio and sublime. Rather than fighting over what the best editor is I thought we might let you, dear reader, vote. Don’t worry you can even vote for butterflies.

Interested in voting? Call +1 614-569-4019 and tell us which editor you’re voting for! We don’t store your number or record your voice so feel free to vote more than once for vim. Want to see the votes live? http://best-editor-ever.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/.

Now, how do we build this little contraption? We’ll cover each component but since we’ve talked about Lex and Lambda before we’ll focus mostly on the Amazon Connect component. I’m going to assume you already have a connect instance running.

Amazon Lex

Let’s start with the Lex side of things. We’ll create a bot named VoteEditor with two intents: VoteEditor with a single slot called editor and ConnectToAgent with no slots. We’ll populate our editor slot full of different code editor names (maybe we’ll leave out emacs).

AWS Lambda

Our Lambda function will also be fairly simple. First we’ll create a Amazon DynamoDB table to store our votes. Then we’ll make a helper method to respond to Lex (build_response) – it will just wrap our message in a Lex friendly response format. Now we just have to figure out our flow logic.


def lambda_handler(event, context):
    if 'ConnectToAgent' == event['currentIntent']['name']:
        return build_response("Ok, connecting you to an agent.")
    elif 'VoteEditor' == event['currentIntent']['name']:
        editor = event['currentIntent']['slots']['editor']
        resp = ddb.update_item(
            Key={"name": editor.lower()},
            UpdateExpression="SET votes = :incr + if_not_exists(votes, :default)",
            ExpressionAttributeValues={":incr": 1, ":default": 0},
            ReturnValues="ALL_NEW"
        )
        msg = "Awesome, now {} has {} votes!".format(
            resp['Attributes']['name'],
            resp['Attributes']['votes'])
        return build_response(msg)

Let’s make sure we understand the code. So, if we got a vote for an editor and it doesn’t exist yet then we add that editor with 1 vote. Otherwise we increase the number of votes on that editor by 1. If we get a request for an agent, we terminate the flow with a nice message. Easy. Now we just tell our Lex bot to use our Lambda function to fulfill our intents. We can test that everything is working over text in the Lex console before moving on.

Amazon Connect

Before we can use our Lex bot in a Contact Flow we have to make sure our Amazon Connect instance has access to it. We can do this by hopping over to the Amazon Connect service console, selecting our instance, and navigating to “Contact Flows”. There should be a section called Lex where you can add your bots!

Now that our Amazon Connect instance can invoke our Lex bot we can create a new Contact Flow that contains our Lex bot. We add the bot to our flow through the “Get customer input” widget from the “Interact” category.

Once we’re on the widget we have a “DTMF” tab for taking input from number keys on a phone or the “Amazon Lex” tab for taking voiceinput and passing it to the Lex service. We’ll use the Lex tab and put in some configuration.

Lots of options, but in short we add the bot we want to use (including the version of the bot), the intents we want to use from our bot, and a short prompt to introduce the bot (and mayb prompt the customer for input).

Our final contact flow looks like this:

A real world example might allow a customer to perform many transactions through a Lex bot. Then on an error or ConnectToAgent intent put the customer into a queue where they could talk to a real person. It could collect and store information about users and populate a rich interface for an agent to use so they could jump right into the conversation with all the context they need.

I want to especially highlight the advantage of 8kHz audio support in Lex. Lex originally only supported speech input that was sampled at a higher rate than the 8 kHz input from the phone. Modern digital communication appliations typically use audio signals sampled at a minimum of 16 kHz. This higher fidelity recroding makes it easier differentiate between sounds like “ess” (/s/) and “eff” (/f/) – or so the audio experts tell me. Phones, however, use a much lower quality recording. Humans, and their ears, are pretty good at using surrounding words to figure out what a voice is saying from a lower quality recording (just check the NASA apollo recordings for proof of this). Most digital phone systems are setup to use 8 kHz sampling by default – it’s a nice tradeoff in bandwidth and fidelity. That’s why your voice sometimes sounds different on the phone. On top of this fundmental sampling rate issue you also have to deal with the fact that a lot of phone call data is already lossy (can you hear me now?). There are thousands of different devices from hundreds of different manufacturers, and tons of different software implentations. So… how do you solve this recognition issue?

The Lex team decided that the best way to address this was to expand the set of models they were using for speech recognition to include an 8kHz model. Support for an 8 kHz telephony audio sampling rate provides increased speech recognition accuracy and fidelity for your contact center interactions. This was a great effort by the team that enables a lot of customers to do more with Amazon Connect.

One final note is that Amazon Connect uses the exact same PostContent endpoint that you can use as an external developer so you don’t have to be a Amazon Connect user to take advantage of this 8kHz feature in Lex.

I hope you guys enjoyed this post and as always the real details are in the docs and API Reference.

Randall