Tag Archives: Aspect

Plasma 5.12.0

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/746735/rss

KDE has released
Plasma 5.12.0. “Plasma 5.12 LTS is the second long-term support release from the Plasma 5 team. We have been working hard, focusing on speed and stability for this release. Boot time to desktop has been improved by reviewing the code for anything which blocks execution. The team has been triaging and fixing bugs in every aspect of the codebase, tidying up artwork, removing corner cases, and ensuring cross-desktop integration. For the first time, we offer our Wayland integration on long-term support, so you can be sure we will continue to provide bug fixes and improvements to the Wayland experience.

Reactive Microservices Architecture on AWS

Post Syndicated from Sascha Moellering original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/reactive-microservices-architecture-on-aws/

Microservice-application requirements have changed dramatically in recent years. These days, applications operate with petabytes of data, need almost 100% uptime, and end users expect sub-second response times. Typical N-tier applications can’t deliver on these requirements.

Reactive Manifesto, published in 2014, describes the essential characteristics of reactive systems including: responsiveness, resiliency, elasticity, and being message driven.

Being message driven is perhaps the most important characteristic of reactive systems. Asynchronous messaging helps in the design of loosely coupled systems, which is a key factor for scalability. In order to build a highly decoupled system, it is important to isolate services from each other. As already described, isolation is an important aspect of the microservices pattern. Indeed, reactive systems and microservices are a natural fit.

Implemented Use Case
This reference architecture illustrates a typical ad-tracking implementation.

Many ad-tracking companies collect massive amounts of data in near-real-time. In many cases, these workloads are very spiky and heavily depend on the success of the ad-tech companies’ customers. Typically, an ad-tracking-data use case can be separated into a real-time part and a non-real-time part. In the real-time part, it is important to collect data as fast as possible and ask several questions including:,  “Is this a valid combination of parameters?,””Does this program exist?,” “Is this program still valid?”

Because response time has a huge impact on conversion rate in advertising, it is important for advertisers to respond as fast as possible. This information should be kept in memory to reduce communication overhead with the caching infrastructure. The tracking application itself should be as lightweight and scalable as possible. For example, the application shouldn’t have any shared mutable state and it should use reactive paradigms. In our implementation, one main application is responsible for this real-time part. It collects and validates data, responds to the client as fast as possible, and asynchronously sends events to backend systems.

The non-real-time part of the application consumes the generated events and persists them in a NoSQL database. In a typical tracking implementation, clicks, cookie information, and transactions are matched asynchronously and persisted in a data store. The matching part is not implemented in this reference architecture. Many ad-tech architectures use frameworks like Hadoop for the matching implementation.

The system can be logically divided into the data collection partand the core data updatepart. The data collection part is responsible for collecting, validating, and persisting the data. In the core data update part, the data that is used for validation gets updated and all subscribers are notified of new data.

Components and Services

Main Application
The main application is implemented using Java 8 and uses Vert.x as the main framework. Vert.x is an event-driven, reactive, non-blocking, polyglot framework to implement microservices. It runs on the Java virtual machine (JVM) by using the low-level IO library Netty. You can write applications in Java, JavaScript, Groovy, Ruby, Kotlin, Scala, and Ceylon. The framework offers a simple and scalable actor-like concurrency model. Vert.x calls handlers by using a thread known as an event loop. To use this model, you have to write code known as “verticles.” Verticles share certain similarities with actors in the actor model. To use them, you have to implement the verticle interface. Verticles communicate with each other by generating messages in  a single event bus. Those messages are sent on the event bus to a specific address, and verticles can register to this address by using handlers.

With only a few exceptions, none of the APIs in Vert.x block the calling thread. Similar to Node.js, Vert.x uses the reactor pattern. However, in contrast to Node.js, Vert.x uses several event loops. Unfortunately, not all APIs in the Java ecosystem are written asynchronously, for example, the JDBC API. Vert.x offers a possibility to run this, blocking APIs without blocking the event loop. These special verticles are called worker verticles. You don’t execute worker verticles by using the standard Vert.x event loops, but by using a dedicated thread from a worker pool. This way, the worker verticles don’t block the event loop.

Our application consists of five different verticles covering different aspects of the business logic. The main entry point for our application is the HttpVerticle, which exposes an HTTP-endpoint to consume HTTP-requests and for proper health checking. Data from HTTP requests such as parameters and user-agent information are collected and transformed into a JSON message. In order to validate the input data (to ensure that the program exists and is still valid), the message is sent to the CacheVerticle.

This verticle implements an LRU-cache with a TTL of 10 minutes and a capacity of 100,000 entries. Instead of adding additional functionality to a standard JDK map implementation, we use Google Guava, which has all the features we need. If the data is not in the L1 cache, the message is sent to the RedisVerticle. This verticle is responsible for data residing in Amazon ElastiCache and uses the Vert.x-redis-client to read data from Redis. In our example, Redis is the central data store. However, in a typical production implementation, Redis would just be the L2 cache with a central data store like Amazon DynamoDB. One of the most important paradigms of a reactive system is to switch from a pull- to a push-based model. To achieve this and reduce network overhead, we’ll use Redis pub/sub to push core data changes to our main application.

Vert.x also supports direct Redis pub/sub-integration, the following code shows our subscriber-implementation:

vertx.eventBus().<JsonObject>consumer(REDIS_PUBSUB_CHANNEL_VERTX, received -> {

JsonObject value = received.body().getJsonObject("value");

String message = value.getString("message");

JsonObject jsonObject = new JsonObject(message);

eb.send(CACHE_REDIS_EVENTBUS_ADDRESS, jsonObject);

});

redis.subscribe(Constants.REDIS_PUBSUB_CHANNEL, res -> {

if (res.succeeded()) {

LOGGER.info("Subscribed to " + Constants.REDIS_PUBSUB_CHANNEL);

} else {

LOGGER.info(res.cause());

}

});

The verticle subscribes to the appropriate Redis pub/sub-channel. If a message is sent over this channel, the payload is extracted and forwarded to the cache-verticle that stores the data in the L1-cache. After storing and enriching data, a response is sent back to the HttpVerticle, which responds to the HTTP request that initially hit this verticle. In addition, the message is converted to ByteBuffer, wrapped in protocol buffers, and send to an Amazon Kinesis Data Stream.

The following example shows a stripped-down version of the KinesisVerticle:

public class KinesisVerticle extends AbstractVerticle {

private static final Logger LOGGER = LoggerFactory.getLogger(KinesisVerticle.class);

private AmazonKinesisAsync kinesisAsyncClient;

private String eventStream = "EventStream";

@Override

public void start() throws Exception {

EventBus eb = vertx.eventBus();

kinesisAsyncClient = createClient();

eventStream = System.getenv(STREAM_NAME) == null ? "EventStream" : System.getenv(STREAM_NAME);

eb.consumer(Constants.KINESIS_EVENTBUS_ADDRESS, message -> {

try {

TrackingMessage trackingMessage = Json.decodeValue((String)message.body(), TrackingMessage.class);

String partitionKey = trackingMessage.getMessageId();

byte [] byteMessage = createMessage(trackingMessage);

ByteBuffer buf = ByteBuffer.wrap(byteMessage);

sendMessageToKinesis(buf, partitionKey);

message.reply("OK");

}

catch (KinesisException exc) {

LOGGER.error(exc);

}

});

}

Kinesis Consumer
This AWS Lambda function consumes data from an Amazon Kinesis Data Stream and persists the data in an Amazon DynamoDB table. In order to improve testability, the invocation code is separated from the business logic. The invocation code is implemented in the class KinesisConsumerHandler and iterates over the Kinesis events pulled from the Kinesis stream by AWS Lambda. Each Kinesis event is unwrapped and transformed from ByteBuffer to protocol buffers and converted into a Java object. Those Java objects are passed to the business logic, which persists the data in a DynamoDB table. In order to improve duration of successive Lambda calls, the DynamoDB-client is instantiated lazily and reused if possible.

Redis Updater
From time to time, it is necessary to update core data in Redis. A very efficient implementation for this requirement is using AWS Lambda and Amazon Kinesis. New core data is sent over the AWS Kinesis stream using JSON as data format and consumed by a Lambda function. This function iterates over the Kinesis events pulled from the Kinesis stream by AWS Lambda. Each Kinesis event is unwrapped and transformed from ByteBuffer to String and converted into a Java object. The Java object is passed to the business logic and stored in Redis. In addition, the new core data is also sent to the main application using Redis pub/sub in order to reduce network overhead and converting from a pull- to a push-based model.

The following example shows the source code to store data in Redis and notify all subscribers:

public void updateRedisData(final TrackingMessage trackingMessage, final Jedis jedis, final LambdaLogger logger) {

try {

ObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();

String jsonString = mapper.writeValueAsString(trackingMessage);

Map<String, String> map = marshal(jsonString);

String statusCode = jedis.hmset(trackingMessage.getProgramId(), map);

}

catch (Exception exc) {

if (null == logger)

exc.printStackTrace();

else

logger.log(exc.getMessage());

}

}

public void notifySubscribers(final TrackingMessage trackingMessage, final Jedis jedis, final LambdaLogger logger) {

try {

ObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();

String jsonString = mapper.writeValueAsString(trackingMessage);

jedis.publish(Constants.REDIS_PUBSUB_CHANNEL, jsonString);

}

catch (final IOException e) {

log(e.getMessage(), logger);

}

}

Similarly to our Kinesis Consumer, the Redis-client is instantiated somewhat lazily.

Infrastructure as Code
As already outlined, latency and response time are a very critical part of any ad-tracking solution because response time has a huge impact on conversion rate. In order to reduce latency for customers world-wide, it is common practice to roll out the infrastructure in different AWS Regions in the world to be as close to the end customer as possible. AWS CloudFormation can help you model and set up your AWS resources so that you can spend less time managing those resources and more time focusing on your applications that run in AWS.

You create a template that describes all the AWS resources that you want (for example, Amazon EC2 instances or Amazon RDS DB instances), and AWS CloudFormation takes care of provisioning and configuring those resources for you. Our reference architecture can be rolled out in different Regions using an AWS CloudFormation template, which sets up the complete infrastructure (for example, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) cluster, Lambda functions, DynamoDB table, Amazon ElastiCache cluster, etc.).

Conclusion
In this blog post we described reactive principles and an example architecture with a common use case. We leveraged the capabilities of different frameworks in combination with several AWS services in order to implement reactive principles—not only at the application-level but also at the system-level. I hope I’ve given you ideas for creating your own reactive applications and systems on AWS.

About the Author

Sascha Moellering is a Senior Solution Architect. Sascha is primarily interested in automation, infrastructure as code, distributed computing, containers and JVM. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Progressing from tech to leadership

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2018/02/on-leadership.html

I’ve been a technical person all my life. I started doing vulnerability research in the late 1990s – and even today, when I’m not fiddling with CNC-machined robots or making furniture, I’m probably clobbering together a fuzzer or writing a book about browser protocols and APIs. In other words, I’m a geek at heart.

My career is a different story. Over the past two decades and a change, I went from writing CGI scripts and setting up WAN routers for a chain of shopping malls, to doing pentests for institutional customers, to designing a series of network monitoring platforms and handling incident response for a big telco, to building and running the product security org for one of the largest companies in the world. It’s been an interesting ride – and now that I’m on the hook for the well-being of about 100 folks across more than a dozen subteams around the world, I’ve been thinking a bit about the lessons learned along the way.

Of course, I’m a bit hesitant to write such a post: sometimes, your efforts pan out not because of your approach, but despite it – and it’s possible to draw precisely the wrong conclusions from such anecdotes. Still, I’m very proud of the culture we’ve created and the caliber of folks working on our team. It happened through the work of quite a few talented tech leads and managers even before my time, but it did not happen by accident – so I figured that my observations may be useful for some, as long as they are taken with a grain of salt.

But first, let me start on a somewhat somber note: what nobody tells you is that one’s level on the leadership ladder tends to be inversely correlated with several measures of happiness. The reason is fairly simple: as you get more senior, a growing number of people will come to you expecting you to solve increasingly fuzzy and challenging problems – and you will no longer be patted on the back for doing so. This should not scare you away from such opportunities, but it definitely calls for a particular mindset: your motivation must come from within. Look beyond the fight-of-the-day; find satisfaction in seeing how far your teams have come over the years.

With that out of the way, here’s a collection of notes, loosely organized into three major themes.

The curse of a techie leader

Perhaps the most interesting observation I have is that for a person coming from a technical background, building a healthy team is first and foremost about the subtle art of letting go.

There is a natural urge to stay involved in any project you’ve started or helped improve; after all, it’s your baby: you’re familiar with all the nuts and bolts, and nobody else can do this job as well as you. But as your sphere of influence grows, this becomes a choke point: there are only so many things you could be doing at once. Just as importantly, the project-hoarding behavior robs more junior folks of the ability to take on new responsibilities and bring their own ideas to life. In other words, when done properly, delegation is not just about freeing up your plate; it’s also about empowerment and about signalling trust.

Of course, when you hand your project over to somebody else, the new owner will initially be slower and more clumsy than you; but if you pick the new leads wisely, give them the right tools and the right incentives, and don’t make them deathly afraid of messing up, they will soon excel at their new jobs – and be grateful for the opportunity.

A related affliction of many accomplished techies is the conviction that they know the answers to every question even tangentially related to their domain of expertise; that belief is coupled with a burning desire to have the last word in every debate. When practiced in moderation, this behavior is fine among peers – but for a leader, one of the most important skills to learn is knowing when to keep your mouth shut: people learn a lot better by experimenting and making small mistakes than by being schooled by their boss, and they often try to read into your passing remarks. Don’t run an authoritarian camp focused on total risk aversion or perfectly efficient resource management; just set reasonable boundaries and exit conditions for experiments so that they don’t spiral out of control – and be amazed by the results every now and then.

Death by planning

When nothing is on fire, it’s easy to get preoccupied with maintaining the status quo. If your current headcount or budget request lists all the same projects as last year’s, or if you ever find yourself ending an argument by deferring to a policy or a process document, it’s probably a sign that you’re getting complacent. In security, complacency usually ends in tears – and when it doesn’t, it leads to burnout or boredom.

In my experience, your goal should be to develop a cadre of managers or tech leads capable of coming up with clever ideas, prioritizing them among themselves, and seeing them to completion without your day-to-day involvement. In your spare time, make it your mission to challenge them to stay ahead of the curve. Ask your vendor security lead how they’d streamline their work if they had a 40% jump in the number of vendors but no extra headcount; ask your product security folks what’s the second line of defense or containment should your primary defenses fail. Help them get good ideas off the ground; set some mental success and failure criteria to be able to cut your losses if something does not pan out.

Of course, malfunctions happen even in the best-run teams; to spot trouble early on, instead of overzealous project tracking, I found it useful to encourage folks to run a data-driven org. I’d usually ask them to imagine that a brand new VP shows up in our office and, as his first order of business, asks “why do you have so many people here and how do I know they are doing the right things?”. Not everything in security can be quantified, but hard data can validate many of your assumptions – and will alert you to unseen issues early on.

When focusing on data, it’s important not to treat pie charts and spreadsheets as an art unto itself; if you run a security review process for your company, your CSAT scores are going to reach 100% if you just rubberstamp every launch request within ten minutes of receiving it. Make sure you’re asking the right questions; instead of “how satisfied are you with our process”, try “is your product better as a consequence of talking to us?”

Whenever things are not progressing as expected, it is a natural instinct to fall back to micromanagement, but it seldom truly cures the ill. It’s probable that your team disagrees with your vision or its feasibility – and that you’re either not listening to their feedback, or they don’t think you’d care. It’s good to assume that most of your employees are as smart or smarter than you; barking your orders at them more loudly or more frequently does not lead anyplace good. It’s good to listen to them and either present new facts or work with them on a plan you can all get behind.

In some circumstances, all that’s needed is honesty about the business trade-offs, so that your team feels like your “partner in crime”, not a victim of circumstance. For example, we’d tell our folks that by not falling behind on basic, unglamorous work, we earn the trust of our VPs and SVPs – and that this translates into the independence and the resources we need to pursue more ambitious ideas without being told what to do; it’s how we game the system, so to speak. Oh: leading by example is a pretty powerful tool at your disposal, too.

The human factor

I’ve come to appreciate that hiring decent folks who can get along with others is far more important than trying to recruit conference-circuit superstars. In fact, hiring superstars is a decidedly hit-and-miss affair: while certainly not a rule, there is a proportion of folks who put the maintenance of their celebrity status ahead of job responsibilities or the well-being of their peers.

For teams, one of the most powerful demotivators is a sense of unfairness and disempowerment. This is where tech-originating leaders can shine, because their teams usually feel that their bosses understand and can evaluate the merits of the work. But it also means you need to be decisive and actually solve problems for them, rather than just letting them vent. You will need to make unpopular decisions every now and then; in such cases, I think it’s important to move quickly, rather than prolonging the uncertainty – but it’s also important to sincerely listen to concerns, explain your reasoning, and be frank about the risks and trade-offs.

Whenever you see a clash of personalities on your team, you probably need to respond swiftly and decisively; being right should not justify being a bully. If you don’t react to repeated scuffles, your best people will probably start looking for other opportunities: it’s draining to put up with constant pie fights, no matter if the pies are thrown straight at you or if you just need to duck one every now and then.

More broadly, personality differences seem to be a much better predictor of conflict than any technical aspects underpinning a debate. As a boss, you need to identify such differences early on and come up with creative solutions. Sometimes, all you need is taking some badly-delivered but valid feedback and having a conversation with the other person, asking some questions that can help them reach the same conclusions without feeling that their worldview is under attack. Other times, the only path forward is making sure that some folks simply don’t run into each for a while.

Finally, dealing with low performers is a notoriously hard but important part of the game. Especially within large companies, there is always the temptation to just let it slide: sideline a struggling person and wait for them to either get over their issues or leave. But this sends an awful message to the rest of the team; for better or worse, fairness is important to most. Simply firing the low performers is seldom the best solution, though; successful recovery cases are what sets great managers apart from the average ones.

Oh, one more thought: people in leadership roles have their allegiance divided between the company and the people who depend on them. The obligation to the company is more formal, but the impact you have on your team is longer-lasting and more intimate. When the obligations to the employer and to your team collide in some way, make sure you can make the right call; it might be one of the the most consequential decisions you’ll ever make.

Invoking AWS Lambda from Amazon MQ

Post Syndicated from Tara Van Unen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/invoking-aws-lambda-from-amazon-mq/

Contributed by Josh Kahn, AWS Solutions Architect

Message brokers can be used to solve a number of needs in enterprise architectures, including managing workload queues and broadcasting messages to a number of subscribers. Amazon MQ is a managed message broker service for Apache ActiveMQ that makes it easy to set up and operate message brokers in the cloud.

In this post, I discuss one approach to invoking AWS Lambda from queues and topics managed by Amazon MQ brokers. This and other similar patterns can be useful in integrating legacy systems with serverless architectures. You could also integrate systems already migrated to the cloud that use common APIs such as JMS.

For example, imagine that you work for a company that produces training videos and which recently migrated its video management system to AWS. The on-premises system used to publish a message to an ActiveMQ broker when a video was ready for processing by an on-premises transcoder. However, on AWS, your company uses Amazon Elastic Transcoder. Instead of modifying the management system, Lambda polls the broker for new messages and starts a new Elastic Transcoder job. This approach avoids changes to the existing application while refactoring the workload to leverage cloud-native components.

This solution uses Amazon CloudWatch Events to trigger a Lambda function that polls the Amazon MQ broker for messages. Instead of starting an Elastic Transcoder job, the sample writes the received message to an Amazon DynamoDB table with a time stamp indicating the time received.

Getting started

To start, navigate to the Amazon MQ console. Next, launch a new Amazon MQ instance, selecting Single-instance Broker and supplying a broker name, user name, and password. Be sure to document the user name and password for later.

For the purposes of this sample, choose the default options in the Advanced settings section. Your new broker is deployed to the default VPC in the selected AWS Region with the default security group. For this post, you update the security group to allow access for your sample Lambda function. In a production scenario, I recommend deploying both the Lambda function and your Amazon MQ broker in your own VPC.

After several minutes, your instance changes status from “Creation Pending” to “Available.” You can then visit the Details page of your broker to retrieve connection information, including a link to the ActiveMQ web console where you can monitor the status of your broker, publish test messages, and so on. In this example, use the Stomp protocol to connect to your broker. Be sure to capture the broker host name, for example:

<BROKER_ID>.mq.us-east-1.amazonaws.com

You should also modify the Security Group for the broker by clicking on its Security Group ID. Click the Edit button and then click Add Rule to allow inbound traffic on port 8162 for your IP address.

Deploying and scheduling the Lambda function

To simplify the deployment of this example, I’ve provided an AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM) template that deploys the sample function and DynamoDB table, and schedules the function to be invoked every five minutes. Detailed instructions can be found with sample code on GitHub in the amazonmq-invoke-aws-lambda repository, with sample code. I discuss a few key aspects in this post.

First, SAM makes it easy to deploy and schedule invocation of our function:

SubscriberFunction:
	Type: AWS::Serverless::Function
	Properties:
		CodeUri: subscriber/
		Handler: index.handler
		Runtime: nodejs6.10
		Role: !GetAtt SubscriberFunctionRole.Arn
		Timeout: 15
		Environment:
			Variables:
				HOST: !Ref AmazonMQHost
				LOGIN: !Ref AmazonMQLogin
				PASSWORD: !Ref AmazonMQPassword
				QUEUE_NAME: !Ref AmazonMQQueueName
				WORKER_FUNCTIOn: !Ref WorkerFunction
		Events:
			Timer:
				Type: Schedule
				Properties:
					Schedule: rate(5 minutes)

WorkerFunction:
Type: AWS::Serverless::Function
	Properties:
		CodeUri: worker/
		Handler: index.handler
		Runtime: nodejs6.10
Role: !GetAtt WorkerFunctionRole.Arn
		Environment:
			Variables:
				TABLE_NAME: !Ref MessagesTable

In the code, you include the URI, user name, and password for your newly created Amazon MQ broker. These allow the function to poll the broker for new messages on the sample queue.

The sample Lambda function is written in Node.js, but clients exist for a number of programming languages.

stomp.connect(options, (error, client) => {
	if (error) { /* do something */ }

	let headers = {
		destination: ‘/queue/SAMPLE_QUEUE’,
		ack: ‘auto’
	}

	client.subscribe(headers, (error, message) => {
		if (error) { /* do something */ }

		message.readString(‘utf-8’, (error, body) => {
			if (error) { /* do something */ }

			let params = {
				FunctionName: MyWorkerFunction,
				Payload: JSON.stringify({
					message: body,
					timestamp: Date.now()
				})
			}

			let lambda = new AWS.Lambda()
			lambda.invoke(params, (error, data) => {
				if (error) { /* do something */ }
			})
		}
})
})

Sending a sample message

For the purpose of this example, use the Amazon MQ console to send a test message. Navigate to the details page for your broker.

About midway down the page, choose ActiveMQ Web Console. Next, choose Manage ActiveMQ Broker to launch the admin console. When you are prompted for a user name and password, use the credentials created earlier.

At the top of the page, choose Send. From here, you can send a sample message from the broker to subscribers. For this example, this is how you generate traffic to test the end-to-end system. Be sure to set the Destination value to “SAMPLE_QUEUE.” The message body can contain any text. Choose Send.

You now have a Lambda function polling for messages on the broker. To verify that your function is working, you can confirm in the DynamoDB console that the message was successfully received and processed by the sample Lambda function.

First, choose Tables on the left and select the table name “amazonmq-messages” in the middle section. With the table detail in view, choose Items. If the function was successful, you’ll find a new entry similar to the following:

If there is no message in DynamoDB, check again in a few minutes or review the CloudWatch Logs group for Lambda functions that contain debug messages.

Alternative approaches

Beyond the approach described here, you may consider other approaches as well. For example, you could use an intermediary system such as Apache Flume to pass messages from the broker to Lambda or deploy Apache Camel to trigger Lambda via a POST to API Gateway. There are trade-offs to each of these approaches. My goal in using CloudWatch Events was to introduce an easily repeatable pattern familiar to many Lambda developers.

Summary

I hope that you have found this example of how to integrate AWS Lambda with Amazon MQ useful. If you have expertise or legacy systems that leverage APIs such as JMS, you may find this useful as you incorporate serverless concepts in your enterprise architectures.

To learn more, see the Amazon MQ website and Developer Guide. You can try Amazon MQ for free with the AWS Free Tier, which includes up to 750 hours of a single-instance mq.t2.micro broker and up to 1 GB of storage per month for one year.

Yaghmour: Ten Days in Shenzhen

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/745708/rss

On his blog, embedded developer Karim Yaghmour has written about his ten-day trip to Shenzen, China, which is known as the “Silicon Valley of hardware”. His lengthy trip report covers much that would be of use to others who are thinking of making the trip, but also serves as an interesting travelogue even for those who are likely to never go. “The map didn’t disappoint and I was able to find a large number of kiosks selling some of the items I was interested in. Obviously many kiosks also had items that I had seen on Amazon or elsewhere as well. I was mostly focusing on things I hadn’t seen before. After a few hours of walking floors upon floors of shops, I was ready to start focusing on other aspects of my research: hard to source and/or evaluate components, tools and expanding my knowledge of what was available in the hardware space. Hint: TEGES’ [The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen] advice about having comfortable shoes and comfortable clothing is completely warranted.

Finding tools was relatively easy. TEGES indicates the building and floor to go to, and you’ll find most anything you can think of from rework stations, to pick-and-place machines, and including things like oscilloscopes, stereo microscopes, multimeters, screwdrivers, etc. In the process I saw some tools which I couldn’t immediately figure out the purpose for, but later found out their uses on some other visits. Satisfied with a first glance at the tools, I set out to look for one specific component I was having a hard time with. That proved a lot more difficult than anticipated. Actually I should qualify that. It was trivial to find tons of it, just not something that matched exactly what I needed. I used TEGES to identify one part of the market that seemed most likely to have what I was looking for, but again, I could find lots of it, just not what I needed.”

Researchers Use a Blockchain to Boost Anonymous Torrent Sharing

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/researchers-use-a-blockchain-to-boost-anonymous-torrent-sharing-180129/

The Tribler client has been around for over a decade. We first covered it in 2006 and since then it’s developed into a truly decentralized BitTorrent client.

Even if all torrent sites were shut down today, Tribler users would still be able to find and add new content.

The project is not run by regular software developers but by a team of quality researchers at Delft University of Technology. There are currently more than 45 masters students, various thesis students, five dedicated scientific developers, and several professors involved.

Simply put, Triber aims to make the torrent ecosystem truly decentralized and anonymous. A social network of peers that can survive even if all torrent sites ceased to exist.

“Search and download torrents with less worries or censorship,” Triber’s tagline reads.

Like many other BitTorrent clients, Tribler has a search box at the top of the application. However, the search results that appear when users type in a keyword don’t come from a central index. Instead, they come directly from other peers.

Thriber’s search results

With the latest release, Tribler 7.0, the project adds another element to the mix, it’s very own blockchain. This blockchain keeps track of how much people are sharing and rewards them accordingly.

“Tribler is a torrent client for social people, who help each other. You can now earn tokens by helping others. It is specifically designed to prevent freeriding and detect hit-and-run peers.” Tribler leader Dr. Johan Pouwelse tells TF.

“You help other Tribler users by seeding and by enhancing their privacy. In return, you get faster downloads, as your tokens show you contribute to the community.”

Pouwelse, who aims to transform BitTorrent into an ethical Darknet, just presented the latest release at Stanford University. In addition, the Internet Engineering Task Force is also considering the blockchain implementation as an official Internet standard.

This recognition from academics and technology experts is welcome, of course, but Triber’s true power comes from the users. The client has gathered a decent userbase of the years but there sure is plenty room for improvement on this front.

The anonymity aspect is perhaps one of the biggest selling points and Pouwelse believes that this will greatly benefit from the blockchain implementation.

Triber provides users with pseudo anonymity by routing the transfers through other users. However, this means that the amount of bandwith used by the application inceases as well. Thus far, this hasn’t worked very well, which resulted in slow anonymous downloads.

“With the integrated blockchain release today we think we can start fixing the problem of both underseeded swarms and fast proxies,” Dr. Pouwelse says.

“Our solution is basically very simple, only social people get decent performance on Tribler. This means in a few years we will end up with only users that act nice. Others leave.”

Tribler’s trust stats

Tribler provides users with quite a bit of flexibility on the anonymity site. The feature can be turned off completely, or people can choose a protection layer ranging from one to four hops.

What’s also important to note is that users don’t operate as exit nodes by default. The IP-addresses of the exit nodes are public ouitside the network and can be monitored, so that would only increase liability.

So who are the exit-nodes in this process then? According to Pouwelse’s rather colorful description, these appear to be volunteers that run their code through a VPN a or a VPS server.

“The past years we have created an army of bots we call ‘Self-replicating Autonomous Entities’. These are Terminator-style self-replicating pieces of code which have their own Bitcoin wallet to go out there and buy servers to run more copies of themselves,” he explains.

“They utilize very primitive genetic evolution to improve survival, buy a VPN for protection, earn credits using our experimental credit mining preview release, and sell our bandwidth tokens on our integrated decentral market for cold hard Bitcoin cash to renew the cycle of life for the next month billing cycle of their VPS provider.”

Some might question why there’s such a massive research project dedicated to building an anonymous BitTorrent network. What are the benefits to society?

The answer is clear, according to Pouwelse. The ethical darknet they envision will be a unique micro-economy where sharing is rewarded, without having to expose one’s identity.

“We are building the Internet of Trust. The Internet can do amazing things, it even created honesty among drugs dealers,” he says, referring to the infamous Silk Road.

“Reliability rating of drugs lords gets you life imprisonment. That’s not something we want. We are creating our own trustworthy micro-economy for bandwidth tokens and real Bitcoins,” he adds.

People who are interested in taking Tribler for a spin can download the latest version from the official website.

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

Playboy Brands Boing Boing a “Clickbait” Site With No Fair Use Defense

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/playboy-brands-boing-boing-a-clickbait-site-with-no-fair-use-defense-180126/

Late 2017, Boing Boing co-editor Xena Jardin posted an article in which he linked to an archive containing every Playboy centerfold image to date.

“Kind of amazing to see how our standards of hotness, and the art of commercial erotic photography, have changed over time,” Jardin noted.

While Boing Boing had nothing to do with the compilation, uploading, or storing of the Imgur-based archive, Playboy took exception to the popular blog linking to the album.

Noting that Jardin had referred to the archive uploader as a “wonderful person”, the adult publication responded with a lawsuit (pdf), claiming that Boing Boing had commercially exploited its copyrighted images.

Last week, with assistance from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Boing Boing parent company Happy Mutants filed a motion to dismiss in which it defended its right to comment on and link to copyrighted content without that constituting infringement.

“This lawsuit is frankly mystifying. Playboy’s theory of liability seems to be that it is illegal to link to material posted by others on the web — an act performed daily by hundreds of millions of users of Facebook and Twitter, and by journalists like the ones in Playboy’s crosshairs here,” the company wrote.

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer weighed in too, arguing that since Boing Boing’s reporting and commenting is protected by copyright’s fair use doctrine, the “deeply flawed” lawsuit should be dismissed.

Now, just a week later, Playboy has fired back. Opposing Happy Mutants’ request for the Court to dismiss the case, the company cites the now-famous Perfect 10 v. Amazon/Google case from 2007, which tried to prevent Google from facilitating access to infringing images.

Playboy highlights the court’s finding that Google could have been held contributorily liable – if it had knowledge that Perfect 10 images were available using its search engine, could have taken simple measures to prevent further damage, but failed to do so.

Turning to Boing Boing’s conduct, Playboy says that the company knew it was linking to infringing content, could have taken steps to prevent that, but failed to do so. It then launches an attack on the site itself, offering disparaging comments concerning its activities and business model.

“This is an important case. At issue is whether clickbait sites like Happy Mutants’ Boing Boing weblog — a site designed to attract viewers and encourage them to click on links in order to generate advertising revenue — can knowingly find, promote, and profit from infringing content with impunity,” Playboy writes.

“Clickbait sites like Boing Boing are not known for creating original content. Rather, their business model is based on ‘collecting’ interesting content created by others. As such, they effectively profit off the work of others without actually creating anything original themselves.”

Playboy notes that while sites like Boing Boing are within their rights to leverage works created by others, courts in the US and overseas have ruled that knowingly linking to infringing content is unacceptable.

Even given these conditions, Playboy argues, Happy Mutants and the EFF now want the Court to dismiss the case so that sites are free to “not only encourage, facilitate, and induce infringement, but to profit from those harmful activities.”

Claiming that Boing Boing’s only reason for linking to the infringing album was to “monetize the web traffic that over fifty years of Playboy photographs would generate”, Playboy insists that the site and parent company Happy Mutants was properly charged with copyright infringement.

Playboy also dismisses Boing Boing’s argument that a link to infringing content cannot result in liability due to the link having both infringing and substantial non-infringing uses.

First citing the Betamax case, which found that maker Sony could not be held liable for infringement because its video recorders had substantial non-infringing uses, Playboy counters with the Grokster decision, which held that a distributor of a product could be liable for infringement, if there was an intent to encourage or support infringement.

“In this case, Happy Mutants’ offending link — which does nothing more than support infringing content — is good for nothing but promoting infringement and there is no legitimate public interest in its unlicensed availability,” Playboy notes.

In its motion to dismiss, Happy Mutants also argued that unless Playboy could identify users who “in fact downloaded — rather than simply viewing — the material in question,” the case should be dismissed. However, Playboy rejects the argument, claiming it is based on an erroneous interpretation of the law.

Citing the Grokster decision once more, the adult publisher notes that the Supreme Court found that someone infringes contributorily when they intentionally induce or encourage direct infringement.

“The argument that contributory infringement only lies where the defendant’s actions result in further infringement ignores the ‘or’ and collapses ‘inducing’ and ‘encouraging’ into one thing when they are two distinct things,” Playboy writes.

As for Boing Boing’s four classic fair use arguments, the publisher describes these as “extremely weak” and proceeds to hit them one by one.

In respect of the purpose and character of the use, Playboy discounts Boing Boing’s position that the aim of its post was to show “how our standards of hotness, and the art of commercial erotic photography, have changed over time.” The publisher argues that is the exact same purpose of Playboy magazine, while highliting its publication Playboy: The Compete Centerfolds, 1953-2016.

Moving on to the second factor of fair use – the nature of the copyrighted work – Playboy notes that an entire album of artwork is involved, rather than just a single image.

On the third factor, concerning the amount and substantiality of the original work used, Playboy argues that in order to publish an opinion on how “standards of hotness” had developed over time, there was no need to link to all of the pictures in the archive.

“Had only representative images from each decade, or perhaps even each year, been taken, this would be a very different case — but Happy Mutants cannot dispute that it knew it was linking to an illegal library of ‘Every Playboy Playmate Centerfold Ever’ since that is what it titled its blog post,” Playboy notes.

Finally, when considering the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work, Playbody says its archive of images continues to be monetized and Boing Boing’s use of infringing images jeopardizes that.

“Given that people are generally not going to pay for what is freely available, it is disingenuous of Happy Mutants to claim that promoting the free availability of infringing archives of Playboy’s work for viewing and downloading is not going to have an adverse effect on the value or market of that work,” the publisher adds.

While it appears the parties agree on very little, there is agreement on one key aspect of the case – its wider importance.

On the one hand, Playboy insists that a finding in its favor will ensure that people can’t commercially exploit infringing content with impunity. On the other, Boing Boing believes that the health of the entire Internet is at stake.

“The world can’t afford a judgment against us in this case — it would end the web as we know it, threatening everyone who publishes online, from us five weirdos in our basements to multimillion-dollar, globe-spanning publishing empires like Playboy,” the company concludes.

Playboy’s opposition to Happy Mutants’ motion to dismiss can be found here (pdf)

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The Effects of the Spectre and Meltdown Vulnerabilities

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/the_effects_of_3.html

On January 3, the world learned about a series of major security vulnerabilities in modern microprocessors. Called Spectre and Meltdown, these vulnerabilities were discovered by several different researchers last summer, disclosed to the microprocessors’ manufacturers, and patched­ — at least to the extent possible.

This news isn’t really any different from the usual endless stream of security vulnerabilities and patches, but it’s also a harbinger of the sorts of security problems we’re going to be seeing in the coming years. These are vulnerabilities in computer hardware, not software. They affect virtually all high-end microprocessors produced in the last 20 years. Patching them requires large-scale coordination across the industry, and in some cases drastically affects the performance of the computers. And sometimes patching isn’t possible; the vulnerability will remain until the computer is discarded.

Spectre and Meltdown aren’t anomalies. They represent a new area to look for vulnerabilities and a new avenue of attack. They’re the future of security­ — and it doesn’t look good for the defenders.

Modern computers do lots of things at the same time. Your computer and your phone simultaneously run several applications — ­or apps. Your browser has several windows open. A cloud computer runs applications for many different computers. All of those applications need to be isolated from each other. For security, one application isn’t supposed to be able to peek at what another one is doing, except in very controlled circumstances. Otherwise, a malicious advertisement on a website you’re visiting could eavesdrop on your banking details, or the cloud service purchased by some foreign intelligence organization could eavesdrop on every other cloud customer, and so on. The companies that write browsers, operating systems, and cloud infrastructure spend a lot of time making sure this isolation works.

Both Spectre and Meltdown break that isolation, deep down at the microprocessor level, by exploiting performance optimizations that have been implemented for the past decade or so. Basically, microprocessors have become so fast that they spend a lot of time waiting for data to move in and out of memory. To increase performance, these processors guess what data they’re going to receive and execute instructions based on that. If the guess turns out to be correct, it’s a performance win. If it’s wrong, the microprocessors throw away what they’ve done without losing any time. This feature is called speculative execution.

Spectre and Meltdown attack speculative execution in different ways. Meltdown is more of a conventional vulnerability; the designers of the speculative-execution process made a mistake, so they just needed to fix it. Spectre is worse; it’s a flaw in the very concept of speculative execution. There’s no way to patch that vulnerability; the chips need to be redesigned in such a way as to eliminate it.

Since the announcement, manufacturers have been rolling out patches to these vulnerabilities to the extent possible. Operating systems have been patched so that attackers can’t make use of the vulnerabilities. Web browsers have been patched. Chips have been patched. From the user’s perspective, these are routine fixes. But several aspects of these vulnerabilities illustrate the sorts of security problems we’re only going to be seeing more of.

First, attacks against hardware, as opposed to software, will become more common. Last fall, vulnerabilities were discovered in Intel’s Management Engine, a remote-administration feature on its microprocessors. Like Spectre and Meltdown, they affected how the chips operate. Looking for vulnerabilities on computer chips is new. Now that researchers know this is a fruitful area to explore, security researchers, foreign intelligence agencies, and criminals will be on the hunt.

Second, because microprocessors are fundamental parts of computers, patching requires coordination between many companies. Even when manufacturers like Intel and AMD can write a patch for a vulnerability, computer makers and application vendors still have to customize and push the patch out to the users. This makes it much harder to keep vulnerabilities secret while patches are being written. Spectre and Meltdown were announced prematurely because details were leaking and rumors were swirling. Situations like this give malicious actors more opportunity to attack systems before they’re guarded.

Third, these vulnerabilities will affect computers’ functionality. In some cases, the patches for Spectre and Meltdown result in significant reductions in speed. The press initially reported 30%, but that only seems true for certain servers running in the cloud. For your personal computer or phone, the performance hit from the patch is minimal. But as more vulnerabilities are discovered in hardware, patches will affect performance in noticeable ways.

And then there are the unpatchable vulnerabilities. For decades, the computer industry has kept things secure by finding vulnerabilities in fielded products and quickly patching them. Now there are cases where that doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s because computers are in cheap products that don’t have a patch mechanism, like many of the DVRs and webcams that are vulnerable to the Mirai (and other) botnets — ­groups of Internet-connected devices sabotaged for coordinated digital attacks. Sometimes it’s because a computer chip’s functionality is so core to a computer’s design that patching it effectively means turning the computer off. This, too, is becoming more common.

Increasingly, everything is a computer: not just your laptop and phone, but your car, your appliances, your medical devices, and global infrastructure. These computers are and always will be vulnerable, but Spectre and Meltdown represent a new class of vulnerability. Unpatchable vulnerabilities in the deepest recesses of the world’s computer hardware is the new normal. It’s going to leave us all much more vulnerable in the future.

This essay previously appeared on TheAtlantic.com.

New Kodi Addon Tool Might Carry Interesting Copyright Liability Implications

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-kodi-addon-tool-might-carry-interesting-copyright-liability-implications-180124/

Kodi is the now ubiquitous media player taking the world by storm. In itself it’s a great piece of software but augmented with third-party software it can become a piracy powerhouse.

This software, known collectively as ‘add-ons’, enables Kodi to do things it was never designed for such as watching pirated movies, TV shows, and live sports. As a result, it’s the go-to media platform for millions around the globe, but for those distributing the add-ons, there can be risks attached.

As one of the most prominent Kodi-related sites around, TVAddons helped to distribute huge numbers of add-ons. The platform insists that if any add-on infringed copyright, it was only too willing to remove them under a DMCA-like regime. Last year, however, it became clear that copyright holders would prefer to sue TVAddons (1,2) than ask for takedowns.

With those lawsuits still ongoing, the site was left with a dilemma. Despite add-ons being developed and uploaded by third-parties, rightsholders are still trying to hold TVAddons responsible for what those add-ons can do. It’s a precarious situation that has led to TVAddons not having its own repository/repo (a place where the addons are stored for users to download) since the site ran into trouble last summer.

Now, however, the site has just launched a new tool which not only provides some benefits for users looking for addons, but also attempts to shift some liability for potential infringement away from the service and onto a company with much broader shoulders.

TVAddons’ Github Browser was released yesterday and is available via the platform’s Indigo tool. Its premise is simple.

Since many third-party Kodi add-ons are developed and first made available on Github, the world’s leading software development platform, why don’t users install them directly from there instead?

The idea is that this might reduce liability for distributors like TVAddons but could also present benefits for users, as they can be assured that they’re getting add-ons directly from the source.

Github Browser welcome screen

“Before the GitHub Browser, when an end user wanted to install a particular addon, they’d first have to download the necessary repository from either Fusion Installer or an alternative,” a TV addons spokesperson informs TF.

“This new feature gives the end user the ability to easily install any Kodi addon, and empowers developers to distribute their addons independently, without having to align themselves with a particular release group or web site.”

Aside from the benefits to users, it also means that TVAddons can provide its users with access to third-party add-ons without having to curate, store, or distribute them itself. In future, storage and distribution aspects can be carried out by Github, which has actually been the basic behind-the-scenes position for some time.

“GitHub has always been the leading host of Kodi addons, and also respects the law. The difference is, they are big enough to not be bullied by draconian legal maneuvers used by big corporations to censor the internet. We also felt that developers should be able to develop without having to comply with our rules, or any other Kodi web site’s rules for that matter,” TVAddons explain.

The screenshot of the Github Browser below reveals a text-heavy interface that will probably mean little to the low-level user of Kodi who bought his device already setup from a seller. However, those more familiar with the way Kodi functions will recognize that the filenames relate to add-ons which can now be directly installed via the browser.

The Github Browser

While the approach may seem basic or even inaccessible at first view, that wrongfully discounts the significant resources available to the sprawling third-party Kodi add-on community.

Dozens of specialist blogs and thousands of YouTube videos report in detail on the most relevant addons, providing all of the details users will need to identify and locate the required software. Developer usernames could be a good starting point, TVAddons suggests.

“We have already seen many social media posts, blogs and developers advertising their GitHub usernames in order to make it easier for users to find them,” the site explains.

From our tests, it appears that users really have to do all the work themselves. There doesn’t appear to be any add-on curation and users must know what they’re looking for in advance. Indeed, entering the Github usernames of developers who produce software that has nothing to do with Kodi can still present zip file results in the browser. Whether this will prove problematic later on will remain to be seen.

While most keen users won’t have a problem using the Github Browser, there is the question of whether redirecting the focus to the development platform will cause copyright holders to pay more attention to Github.

This has certainly happened in the past, such as when the Federation Against Copyright Theft targeted the SportsDevil add-on and had it removed from Github. It’s also worth noting that Github doesn’t appear to challenge takedown requests, so add-ons could be vulnerable if the heat gets turned up.

Nevertheless, TVAddons believes that the open source nature of most addons coupled with Github’s relative strength means that they’ll be able to stand up to most threats.

“Open source code lives on forever, it’s impossible to scrub the internet of freely distributed legitimate code. I think that GitHub is in a better position to legitimately assess and enforce the DMCA than us. They won’t be sued out of nowhere in circumvention of the DMCA in similar fashion to what we have been the victim of,” TVAddons says.

Several years ago, when The Pirate Bay got rid of torrents and relied on magnet links instead, the platform became much more compact, thus saving on bandwidth. The lack of a repository at TVAddons has also had benefits for the site. Previously it was consuming around 3PB (3,000,000 gigabytes) of bandwidth a month, with a hosting provider demanding $25,000 per month not to discontinue business.

Finally, the team says it is working on new browser features for the future, including repository distribution over torrents. Only time will tell how this new system will be viewed by copyright holders but even with add-on hosting taken care of externally, any form of curation could be instantly frowned upon, with serious consequences.

Details of the browser can be found here.

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

The Man from Earth Sequel ‘Pirated’ on The Pirate Bay – By Its Creators

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-man-from-earth-sequel-pirated-on-the-pirate-bay-by-its-creators-180116/

More than a decade ago, Hollywood was struggling to get to grips with the file-sharing phenomenon. Sharing via BitTorrent was painted as a disease that could kill the movie industry, if it was allowed to take hold. Tough action was the only way to defeat it, the suits concluded.

In 2007, however, a most unusual turn of events showed that piracy could have a magical effect on the success of a movie.

After being produced on a tiny budget, a then little-known independent sci-fi film called “The Man from Earth” turned up on pirate sites, to the surprise of its creators.

“Originally, somebody got hold of a promotional screener DVD of ‘Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth’, ripped the file and posted the movie online before we knew what was even happening,” Man from Earth director Richard Schenkman informs TorrentFreak.

“A week or two before the DVD’s ‘street date’, we jumped 11,000% on the IMDb ‘Moviemeter’ and we were shocked.”

With pirates fueling interest in the movie, a member of the team took an unusual step. Producer Eric Wilkinson wrote to RLSlog, a popular piracy links site – not to berate pirates – but to thank them for catapulting the movie to fame.

“Our independent movie had next to no advertising budget and very little going for it until somebody ripped one of the DVD screeners and put the movie online for all to download. Most of the feedback from everyone who has downloaded ‘The Man From Earth’ has been overwhelmingly positive. People like our movie and are talking about it, all thanks to piracy on the net!” he wrote.

Richard Schenkman told TF this morning that availability on file-sharing networks was important for the movie, since it wasn’t available through legitimate means in most countries. So, the team called out to fans for help, if they’d pirated the movie and had liked what they’d seen.

“Once we realized what was going on, we asked people to make donations to our PayPal page if they saw the movie for free and liked it, because we had all worked for nothing for two years to bring it to the screen, and the only chance we had of surviving financially was to ask people to support us and the project,” Schenkman explains.

“And, happily, many people around the world did donate, although of course only a tiny fraction of the millions and millions of people who downloaded pirated copies.”

Following this early boost The Man from Earth went on to win multiple awards. And, a decade on, it boasts a hugely commendable 8/10 score on IMDb from more than 147,000 voters, with Netflix users leaving over 650,000 ratings, which reportedly translates to well over a million views.

It’s a performance director Richard Schenkman would like to repeat with his sequel: The Man from Earth: Holocene. This time, however, he won’t be leaving the piracy aspect to chance.

Yesterday the team behind the movie took matters into their own hands, uploading the movie to The Pirate Bay and other sites so that fans can help themselves.

“It was going to get uploaded regardless of what we did or didn’t do, and we figured that as long as this was inevitable, we would do the uploading ourselves and explain why we were doing it,” Schenkman informs TF.

“And, we would once again reach out to the filesharing community and remind them that while movies may be free to watch, they are not free to make, and we need their support.”

The release, listed here on The Pirate Bay, comes with detailed notes and a few friendly pointers on how the release can be further shared. It also informs people how they can show their appreciation if they like it.

The Man from Earth: Holocene on The Pirate Bay

“It’s a revolutionary global experiment in the honor system. We’re asking people: ‘If you watch our movie, and you like it, will you pay something directly to the people who made it?’,” Schenkman says.

“That’s why we’re so grateful to all of you who visit ManFromEarth.com and make a donation – of any size – if you’ve watched the movie without paying for it up front.”

In addition to using The Pirate Bay – which is often and incorrectly berated as a purely ‘pirate’ platform with no legitimate uses – the team has also teamed up with OpenSubtitles, so translations for the movie are available right from the beginning.

Other partners include MovieSaints.com, where fans can pay to see the movie from January 19 but get a full refund if they don’t enjoy it. It’s also available on Vimeo (see below) but the version seen by pirates is slightly different, and for good reason, Schenkman says.

“This version of the movie includes a greeting from me at the beginning, pointing out that we did indeed upload the movie ourselves, and asking people to visit manfromearth.com and make a donation if they can afford to, and if they enjoyed the film.

“The version we posted is very high-resolution, although we are also sharing some smaller files for those folks who have a slow Internet connection where they live,” he explains.

“We’re asking people to share ONLY this version of the movie — NOT to edit off the appeal message. And of course we’re asking people not to post the movie at YouTube or any other platform where someone (other than us) could profit financially from it. That would not be fair, nor in keeping with the spirit of what we’re trying to do.”

It’s not often we’re able to do this so it’s a pleasure to say that The Man from Earth: Holocene can be downloaded from The Pirate Bay, in various qualities and entirely legally, here. For those who want to show their appreciation, the tip jar is here.

"The Man from Earth: Holocene" Teaser Trailer from Richard Schenkman on Vimeo.

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

[$] Meltdown/Spectre mitigation for 4.15 and beyond

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/744287/rss

While some aspects of the kernel’s defenses against the Meltdown and
Spectre vulnerabilities were more-or-less in place when the problems were
disclosed on January 3, others were less fully formed. Additionally,
many of the mitigations (especially for the two Spectre variants) had not
been seen in public prior to the disclosure, meaning that there was a lot
of scope for discussion once they came out. Many of those discussions are
slowing down, and the kernel’s initial response has mostly come into
focus. The 4.15 kernel will include a broad set of mitigations, while some
others will have to wait for later; read on
for details on where things stand.

Why Raspberry Pi isn’t vulnerable to Spectre or Meltdown

Post Syndicated from Eben Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/why-raspberry-pi-isnt-vulnerable-to-spectre-or-meltdown/

Over the last couple of days, there has been a lot of discussion about a pair of security vulnerabilities nicknamed Spectre and Meltdown. These affect all modern Intel processors, and (in the case of Spectre) many AMD processors and ARM cores. Spectre allows an attacker to bypass software checks to read data from arbitrary locations in the current address space; Meltdown allows an attacker to read arbitrary data from the operating system kernel’s address space (which should normally be inaccessible to user programs).

Both vulnerabilities exploit performance features (caching and speculative execution) common to many modern processors to leak data via a so-called side-channel attack. Happily, the Raspberry Pi isn’t susceptible to these vulnerabilities, because of the particular ARM cores that we use.

To help us understand why, here’s a little primer on some concepts in modern processor design. We’ll illustrate these concepts using simple programs in Python syntax like this one:

t = a+b
u = c+d
v = e+f
w = v+g
x = h+i
y = j+k

While the processor in your computer doesn’t execute Python directly, the statements here are simple enough that they roughly correspond to a single machine instruction. We’re going to gloss over some details (notably pipelining and register renaming) which are very important to processor designers, but which aren’t necessary to understand how Spectre and Meltdown work.

For a comprehensive description of processor design, and other aspects of modern computer architecture, you can’t do better than Hennessy and Patterson’s classic Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach.

What is a scalar processor?

The simplest sort of modern processor executes one instruction per cycle; we call this a scalar processor. Our example above will execute in six cycles on a scalar processor.

Examples of scalar processors include the Intel 486 and the ARM1176 core used in Raspberry Pi 1 and Raspberry Pi Zero.

What is a superscalar processor?

The obvious way to make a scalar processor (or indeed any processor) run faster is to increase its clock speed. However, we soon reach limits of how fast the logic gates inside the processor can be made to run; processor designers therefore quickly began to look for ways to do several things at once.

An in-order superscalar processor examines the incoming stream of instructions and tries execute more than one at once, in one of several “pipes”, subject to dependencies between the instructions. Dependencies are important: you might think that a two-way superscalar processor could just pair up (or dual-issue) the six instructions in our example like this:

t, u = a+b, c+d
v, w = e+f, v+g
x, y = h+i, j+k

But this doesn’t make sense: we have to compute v before we can compute w, so the third and fourth instructions can’t be executed at the same time. Our two-way superscalar processor won’t be able to find anything to pair with the third instruction, so our example will execute in four cycles:

t, u = a+b, c+d
v    = e+f                   # second pipe does nothing here
w, x = v+g, h+i
y    = j+k

Examples of superscalar processors include the Intel Pentium, and the ARM Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A53 cores used in Raspberry Pi 2 and Raspberry Pi 3 respectively. Raspberry Pi 3 has only a 33% higher clock speed than Raspberry Pi 2, but has roughly double the performance: the extra performance is partly a result of Cortex-A53’s ability to dual-issue a broader range of instructions than Cortex-A7.

What is an out-of-order processor?

Going back to our example, we can see that, although we have a dependency between v and w, we have other independent instructions later in the program that we could potentially have used to fill the empty pipe during the second cycle. An out-of-order superscalar processor has the ability to shuffle the order of incoming instructions (again subject to dependencies) in order to keep its pipelines busy.

An out-of-order processor might effectively swap the definitions of w and x in our example like this:

t = a+b
u = c+d
v = e+f
x = h+i
w = v+g
y = j+k

allowing it to execute in three cycles:

t, u = a+b, c+d
v, x = e+f, h+i
w, y = v+g, j+k

Examples of out-of-order processors include the Intel Pentium 2 (and most subsequent Intel and AMD x86 processors), and many recent ARM cores, including Cortex-A9, -A15, -A17, and -A57.

What is speculation?

Reordering sequential instructions is a powerful way to recover more instruction-level parallelism, but as processors become wider (able to triple- or quadruple-issue instructions) it becomes harder to keep all those pipes busy. Modern processors have therefore grown the ability to speculate. Speculative execution lets us issue instructions which might turn out not to be required (because they are branched over): this keeps a pipe busy, and if it turns out that the instruction isn’t executed, we can just throw the result away.

To demonstrate the benefits of speculation, let’s look at another example:

t = a+b
u = t+c
v = u+d
if v:
   w = e+f
   x = w+g
   y = x+h

Now we have dependencies from t to u to v, and from w to x to y, so a two-way out-of-order processor without speculation won’t ever be able to fill its second pipe. It spends three cycles computing t, u, and v, after which it knows whether the body of the if statement will execute, in which case it then spends three cycles computing w, x, and y. Assuming the if (a branch instruction) takes one cycle, our example takes either four cycles (if v turns out to be zero) or seven cycles (if v is non-zero).

Speculation effectively shuffles the program like this:

t = a+b
u = t+c
v = u+d
w_ = e+f
x_ = w_+g
y_ = x_+h
if v:
   w, x, y = w_, x_, y_

so we now have additional instruction level parallelism to keep our pipes busy:

t, w_ = a+b, e+f
u, x_ = t+c, w_+g
v, y_ = u+d, x_+h
if v:
   w, x, y = w_, x_, y_

Cycle counting becomes less well defined in speculative out-of-order processors, but the branch and conditional update of w, x, and y are (approximately) free, so our example executes in (approximately) three cycles.

What is a cache?

In the good old days*, the speed of processors was well matched with the speed of memory access. My BBC Micro, with its 2MHz 6502, could execute an instruction roughly every 2µs (microseconds), and had a memory cycle time of 0.25µs. Over the ensuing 35 years, processors have become very much faster, but memory only modestly so: a single Cortex-A53 in a Raspberry Pi 3 can execute an instruction roughly every 0.5ns (nanoseconds), but can take up to 100ns to access main memory.

At first glance, this sounds like a disaster: every time we access memory, we’ll end up waiting for 100ns to get the result back. In this case, this example:

a = mem[0]
b = mem[1]

would take 200ns.

In practice, programs tend to access memory in relatively predictable ways, exhibiting both temporal locality (if I access a location, I’m likely to access it again soon) and spatial locality (if I access a location, I’m likely to access a nearby location soon). Caching takes advantage of these properties to reduce the average cost of access to memory.

A cache is a small on-chip memory, close to the processor, which stores copies of the contents of recently used locations (and their neighbours), so that they are quickly available on subsequent accesses. With caching, the example above will execute in a little over 100ns:

a = mem[0]    # 100ns delay, copies mem[0:15] into cache
b = mem[1]    # mem[1] is in the cache

From the point of view of Spectre and Meltdown, the important point is that if you can time how long a memory access takes, you can determine whether the address you accessed was in the cache (short time) or not (long time).

What is a side channel?

From Wikipedia:

“… a side-channel attack is any attack based on information gained from the physical implementation of a cryptosystem, rather than brute force or theoretical weaknesses in the algorithms (compare cryptanalysis). For example, timing information, power consumption, electromagnetic leaks or even sound can provide an extra source of information, which can be exploited to break the system.”

Spectre and Meltdown are side-channel attacks which deduce the contents of a memory location which should not normally be accessible by using timing to observe whether another location is present in the cache.

Putting it all together

Now let’s look at how speculation and caching combine to permit the Meltdown attack. Consider the following example, which is a user program that sometimes reads from an illegal (kernel) address:

t = a+b
u = t+c
v = u+d
if v:
   w = kern_mem[address]   # if we get here crash
   x = w&0x100
   y = user_mem[x]

Now our out-of-order two-way superscalar processor shuffles the program like this:

t, w_ = a+b, kern_mem[address]
u, x_ = t+c, w_&0x100
v, y_ = u+d, user_mem[x_]

if v:
   # crash
   w, x, y = w_, x_, y_      # we never get here

Even though the processor always speculatively reads from the kernel address, it must defer the resulting fault until it knows that v was non-zero. On the face of it, this feels safe because either:

  • v is zero, so the result of the illegal read isn’t committed to w
  • v is non-zero, so the program crashes before the read is committed to w

However, suppose we flush our cache before executing the code, and arrange a, b, c, and d so that v is zero. Now, the speculative load in the third cycle:

v, y_ = u+d, user_mem[x_]

will read from either address 0x000 or address 0x100 depending on the eighth bit of the result of the illegal read. Because v is zero, the results of the speculative instructions will be discarded, and execution will continue. If we time a subsequent access to one of those addresses, we can determine which address is in the cache. Congratulations: you’ve just read a single bit from the kernel’s address space!

The real Meltdown exploit is more complex than this, but the principle is the same. Spectre uses a similar approach to subvert software array bounds checks.

Conclusion

Modern processors go to great lengths to preserve the abstraction that they are in-order scalar machines that access memory directly, while in fact using a host of techniques including caching, instruction reordering, and speculation to deliver much higher performance than a simple processor could hope to achieve. Meltdown and Spectre are examples of what happens when we reason about security in the context of that abstraction, and then encounter minor discrepancies between the abstraction and reality.

The lack of speculation in the ARM1176, Cortex-A7, and Cortex-A53 cores used in Raspberry Pi render us immune to attacks of the sort.

* days may not be that old, or that good

The post Why Raspberry Pi isn’t vulnerable to Spectre or Meltdown appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

OWASP Dependency Check Maven Plugin – a Must-Have

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/owasp-dependency-check-maven-plugin-must/

I have to admit with a high degree of shame that I didn’t know about the OWASP dependency check maven plugin. And seems to have been around since 2013. And apparently a thousand projects on GitHub are using it already.

In the past I’ve gone manually through dependencies to check them against vulnerability databases, or in many cases I was just blissfully ignorant about any vulnerabilities that my dependencies had.

The purpose of this post is just that – to recommend the OWASP dependency check maven plugin as a must-have in practically every maven project. (There are dependency-check tools for other build systems as well).

When you add the plugin it generates a report. Initially you can go and manually upgrade the problematic dependencies (I upgraded two of those in my current project), or suppress the false positives (e.g. the cassandra library is marked as vulnerable, whereas the actual vulnerability is that Cassandra binds an unauthenticated RMI endpoint, which I’ve addressed via my stack setup, so the library isn’t an issue).

Then you can configure a threshold for vulnerabilities and fail the build if new ones appear – either by you adding a vulnerable dependency, or in case a vulnerability is discovered in an existing dependency.

All of that is shown in the examples page and is pretty straightforward. I’d suggest adding the plugin immediately, it’s a must-have:

<plugin>
	<groupId>org.owasp</groupId>
	<artifactId>dependency-check-maven</artifactId>
	<version>3.0.2</version>
	<executions>
		<execution>
			<goals>
				<goal>check</goal>
			</goals>
		</execution>
	</executions>
</plugin>

Now, checking dependencies for vulnerabilities is just one small aspect of having your software secure and it shouldn’t give you a false sense of security (a sort-of “I have my dependencies checked, therefore my system is secure” fallacy). But it’s an important aspect. And having that check automated is a huge gain.

The post OWASP Dependency Check Maven Plugin – a Must-Have appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

UEFA Obtains High Court Injunction To Block Live Soccer Streaming

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uefa-obtains-high-court-injunction-to-block-live-soccer-streaming-171226/

Earlier this year the English Premier League (EPL) obtained a unique High Court injunction which required ISPs including Sky, BT, and Virgin to block ‘pirate’ football streams in real-time.

When that temporary injunction ran out, the EPL went back to court for a new one, valid for the season that began in August. After what appeared to be a slow start, the effort began to produce significant results, blocking thousands of Internet subscribers from accessing illicit streams via websites, Kodi add-ons, and premium IPTV services.

Encouraged by its successes, the EPL has now been joined by an even bigger soccer organization. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the governing body of soccer in Europe and it too will jump onto the site and server-blocking bandwagon, almost certainly utilizing the same system being deployed by the Premier League.

UEFA first had to obtain permission from the High Court. That came in the form of an application for injunction filed by the organization against ISPs BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk, and Virgin Media. It demanded that they “take measures to block, or at least impede, access by their customers to streaming servers which deliver infringing live streams of UEFA Competition matches to UK consumers.”

In other countries, ISPs have defended such cases but in the UK, the position is very different. All providers except TalkTalk actually supported the application, with BT, Sky, and Virgin filing evidence in its favor.

The application seemed somewhat academic. All parties previously agreed to its terms and it was supported by the Premier League and the Formula One World Championship, whose content is also streamed illegally by some of the same servers.

The High Court found that the application was broadly similar to that previously filed by the Premier League so the legal basis for granting the injunction remained the same.

Citing two big rulings from the EU Court this year (one involving The Pirate Bay, the other cloud-recording service VCAST), Mr Justice Arnold said that evidence filed by the Premier League showed that a similar order had proven “very effective”.

The Judge also noted that no evidence of over-blocking as a result of the previous injunctions had been presented and that this injunction would contain “an additional safeguard” in that respect. Details of this measure and almost every other technical aspect of the injunction remain confidential, as is the case with the Premier League’s efforts.

Justice Arnold’s order will take effect on 13 February 2018 and last until 26 May 2018. People reliant on pirate streams for their football/soccer fix will continue to experience issues, with many having no other choice than to resort to VPNs to access blocked streams.

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

When should behaviour outside a community have consequences inside it?

Post Syndicated from Matthew Garrett original https://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/50099.html

Free software communities don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re made up of people who are also members of other communities, people who have other interests and engage in other activities. Sometimes these people engage in behaviour outside the community that may be perceived as negatively impacting communities that they’re a part of, but most communities have no guidelines for determining whether behaviour outside the community should have any consequences within the community. This post isn’t an attempt to provide those guidelines, but aims to provide some things that community leaders should think about when the issue is raised.

Some things to consider

Did the behaviour violate the law?

This seems like an obvious bar, but it turns out to be a pretty bad one. For a start, many things that are common accepted behaviour in various communities may be illegal (eg, reverse engineering work may contravene a strict reading of US copyright law), and taking this to an extreme would result in expelling anyone who’s ever broken a speed limit. On the flipside, refusing to act unless someone broke the law is also a bad threshold – much behaviour that communities consider unacceptable may be entirely legal.

There’s also the problem of determining whether a law was actually broken. The criminal justice system is (correctly) biased to an extent in favour of the defendant – removing someone’s rights in society should require meeting a high burden of proof. However, this is not the threshold that most communities hold themselves to in determining whether to continue permitting an individual to associate with them. An incident that does not result in a finding of criminal guilt (either through an explicit finding or a failure to prosecute the case in the first place) should not be ignored by communities for that reason.

Did the behaviour violate your community norms?

There’s plenty of behaviour that may be acceptable within other segments of society but unacceptable within your community (eg, lobbying for the use of proprietary software is considered entirely reasonable in most places, but rather less so at an FSF event). If someone can be trusted to segregate their behaviour appropriately then this may not be a problem, but that’s probably not sufficient in all cases. For instance, if someone acts entirely reasonably within your community but engages in lengthy anti-semitic screeds on 4chan, it’s legitimate to question whether permitting them to continue being part of your community serves your community’s best interests.

Did the behaviour violate the norms of the community in which it occurred?

Of course, the converse is also true – there’s behaviour that may be acceptable within your community but unacceptable in another community. It’s easy to write off someone acting in a way that contravenes the standards of another community but wouldn’t violate your expected behavioural standards – after all, if it wouldn’t breach your standards, what grounds do you have for taking action?

But you need to consider that if someone consciously contravenes the behavioural standards of a community they’ve chosen to participate in, they may be willing to do the same in your community. If pushing boundaries is a frequent trait then it may not be too long until you discover that they’re also pushing your boundaries.

Why do you care?

A community’s code of conduct can be looked at in two ways – as a list of behaviours that will be punished if they occur, or as a list of behaviours that are unlikely to occur within that community. The former is probably the primary consideration when a community adopts a CoC, but the latter is how many people considering joining a community will think about it.

If your community includes individuals that are known to have engaged in behaviour that would violate your community standards, potential members or contributors may not trust that your CoC will function as adequate protection. A community that contains people known to have engaged in sexual harassment in other settings is unlikely to be seen as hugely welcoming, even if they haven’t (as far as you know!) done so within your community. The way your members behave outside your community is going to be seen as saying something about your community, and that needs to be taken into account.

A second (and perhaps less obvious) aspect is that membership of some higher profile communities may be seen as lending general legitimacy to someone, and they may play off that to legitimise behaviour or views that would be seen as abhorrent by the community as a whole. If someone’s anti-semitic views (for example) are seen as having more relevance because of their membership of your community, it’s reasonable to think about whether keeping them in your community serves the best interests of your community.

Conclusion

I’ve said things like “considered” or “taken into account” a bunch here, and that’s for a good reason – I don’t know what the thresholds should be for any of these things, and there doesn’t seem to be even a rough consensus in the wider community. We’ve seen cases in which communities have acted based on behaviour outside their community (eg, Debian removing Jacob Appelbaum after it was revealed that he’d sexually assaulted multiple people), but there’s been no real effort to build a meaningful decision making framework around that.

As a result, communities struggle to make consistent decisions. It’s unreasonable to expect individual communities to solve these problems on their own, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore them. It’s time to start coming up with a real set of best practices.

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Seized Popcorn Time “News” Domain Back in Court to Defend Free Speech

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/seized-popcorn-time-news-domain-back-in-court-to-defend-free-speech-171215/

popcorntA few years ago, Popcorn Time gained popularity worldwide, mostly thanks to its ability to stream torrent files through a user-friendly interface.

This rapid rise raised concern among many movie industry companies, who worked hard to contain the threat by going after several forks and their developers.

This resulted in the shutdown of several projects. Domain name blockades in several countries, including the UK and most recently Denmark, were used to further mitigate the problem.

The most unusual action, however, was taken in Norway where the economic crime police seized the Popcorn-Time.no domain name following a complaint from copyright holders.

This was highly unusual because the domain in question didn’t host Popcorn Time itself. Instead, the site posted news articles, as well as links to sites that offered the application.

Popcorn-time.no when it was still active

popcor-no

This broad takedown of a news-focused site raised concerns among digital rights activists and legal experts. They questioned whether the far-reaching measure, without a proper judicial review, was violating free speech.

Hoping to hold the authorities accountable, Electronic Frontier Norway (EFN) and the Norwegian Unix User Group (NUUG) took the case to court.

Initially, the court refused to take on the case, arguing that both parties lacked standing, since they were not sufficiently affected by the domain seizure. This decision was appealed together with the legal owner of the domain name, the Norwegian company IMCASREG8, the domain registrar.

After several new filings and hearings, the Appeal Court decided that the case had to be sent back to the District Court again, which will start a new trial next week.

TorrentFreak spoke with senior lawyer Kirill Miazine, who will act as the legal assistant for the digital rights groups. He is looking forward to the hearings.

“This is going to be like the revenge of the nerds, as the usual suspects, who are monitoring the Internet and bullying the users and ISPs, are now going to be asked uncomfortable questions,” Miazine says.

“We’re also considering whether there are grounds to file a criminal case against the people who filed the criminal complaint against the registrant. We are serious about this. It’s not about Popcorn Time.”

Since the beginning, this case has been one against the seizure process of the authorities, rather than the site in question. The person who operated the targeted website is not even involved in the case.

One of the key questions that will be brought up during the trial, is how Popcorn-Time.no’s activities were different from all the mainstream news sites that covered and linked to Popcorn Time.

The rights groups are being represented pro bono by law firm Føyen Torkildsen, who are confident that they can win the case, and prevent similar broad seizures in the future.

“For us, the matter is about three core aspects: Internet freedom, free speech, and free software,” Miazine says.

“When they attack a tool which could be used legally and illegally, we have to fight back, as their next step could target Tor and VPNs. Of course, the case is about justice too: the police should not be agents of the called copyright groups..,” he adds.

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

Protecting code integrity with PGP

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/741454/rss

Linux Foundation Director of IT infrastructure security, Konstantin Ryabitsev, has put together a lengthy guide to using Git and PGP to protect the integrity of source code. In a Google+ post, he called it “beta quality” and asked for help with corrections and fixes. “PGP incorporates a trust delegation mechanism known as the ‘Web of Trust.’ At its core, this is an attempt to replace the need for centralized Certification Authorities of the HTTPS/TLS world. Instead of various software makers dictating who should be your trusted certifying entity, PGP leaves this responsibility to each user.

Unfortunately, very few people understand how the Web of Trust works, and even fewer bother to keep it going. It remains an important aspect of the OpenPGP specification, but recent versions of GnuPG (2.2 and above) have implemented an alternative mechanism called ‘Trust on First Use’ (TOFU).

You can think of TOFU as ‘the SSH-like approach to trust.’ With SSH, the first time you connect to a remote system, its key fingerprint is recorded and remembered. If the key changes in the future, the SSH client will alert you and refuse to connect, forcing you to make a decision on whether you choose to trust the changed key or not.

Similarly, the first time you import someone’s PGP key, it is assumed to be trusted. If at any point in the future GnuPG comes across another key with the same identity, both the previously imported key and the new key will be marked as invalid and you will need to manually figure out which one to keep.

In this guide, we will be using the TOFU trust model.”

What is HAMR and How Does It Enable the High-Capacity Needs of the Future?

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hamr-hard-drives/

HAMR drive illustration

During Q4, Backblaze deployed 100 petabytes worth of Seagate hard drives to our data centers. The newly deployed Seagate 10 and 12 TB drives are doing well and will help us meet our near term storage needs, but we know we’re going to need more drives — with higher capacities. That’s why the success of new hard drive technologies like Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) from Seagate are very relevant to us here at Backblaze and to the storage industry in general. In today’s guest post we are pleased to have Mark Re, CTO at Seagate, give us an insider’s look behind the hard drive curtain to tell us how Seagate engineers are developing the HAMR technology and making it market ready starting in late 2018.

What is HAMR and How Does It Enable the High-Capacity Needs of the Future?

Guest Blog Post by Mark Re, Seagate Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Earlier this year Seagate announced plans to make the first hard drives using Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording, or HAMR, available by the end of 2018 in pilot volumes. Even as today’s market has embraced 10TB+ drives, the need for 20TB+ drives remains imperative in the relative near term. HAMR is the Seagate research team’s next major advance in hard drive technology.

HAMR is a technology that over time will enable a big increase in the amount of data that can be stored on a disk. A small laser is attached to a recording head, designed to heat a tiny spot on the disk where the data will be written. This allows a smaller bit cell to be written as either a 0 or a 1. The smaller bit cell size enables more bits to be crammed into a given surface area — increasing the areal density of data, and increasing drive capacity.

It sounds almost simple, but the science and engineering expertise required, the research, experimentation, lab development and product development to perfect this technology has been enormous. Below is an overview of the HAMR technology and you can dig into the details in our technical brief that provides a point-by-point rundown describing several key advances enabling the HAMR design.

As much time and resources as have been committed to developing HAMR, the need for its increased data density is indisputable. Demand for data storage keeps increasing. Businesses’ ability to manage and leverage more capacity is a competitive necessity, and IT spending on capacity continues to increase.

History of Increasing Storage Capacity

For the last 50 years areal density in the hard disk drive has been growing faster than Moore’s law, which is a very good thing. After all, customers from data centers and cloud service providers to creative professionals and game enthusiasts rarely go shopping looking for a hard drive just like the one they bought two years ago. The demands of increasing data on storage capacities inevitably increase, thus the technology constantly evolves.

According to the Advanced Storage Technology Consortium, HAMR will be the next significant storage technology innovation to increase the amount of storage in the area available to store data, also called the disk’s “areal density.” We believe this boost in areal density will help fuel hard drive product development and growth through the next decade.

Why do we Need to Develop Higher-Capacity Hard Drives? Can’t Current Technologies do the Job?

Why is HAMR’s increased data density so important?

Data has become critical to all aspects of human life, changing how we’re educated and entertained. It affects and informs the ways we experience each other and interact with businesses and the wider world. IDC research shows the datasphere — all the data generated by the world’s businesses and billions of consumer endpoints — will continue to double in size every two years. IDC forecasts that by 2025 the global datasphere will grow to 163 zettabytes (that is a trillion gigabytes). That’s ten times the 16.1 ZB of data generated in 2016. IDC cites five key trends intensifying the role of data in changing our world: embedded systems and the Internet of Things (IoT), instantly available mobile and real-time data, cognitive artificial intelligence (AI) systems, increased security data requirements, and critically, the evolution of data from playing a business background to playing a life-critical role.

Consumers use the cloud to manage everything from family photos and videos to data about their health and exercise routines. Real-time data created by connected devices — everything from Fitbit, Alexa and smart phones to home security systems, solar systems and autonomous cars — are fueling the emerging Data Age. On top of the obvious business and consumer data growth, our critical infrastructure like power grids, water systems, hospitals, road infrastructure and public transportation all demand and add to the growth of real-time data. Data is now a vital element in the smooth operation of all aspects of daily life.

All of this entails a significant infrastructure cost behind the scenes with the insatiable, global appetite for data storage. While a variety of storage technologies will continue to advance in data density (Seagate announced the first 60TB 3.5-inch SSD unit for example), high-capacity hard drives serve as the primary foundational core of our interconnected, cloud and IoT-based dependence on data.

HAMR Hard Drive Technology

Seagate has been working on heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) in one form or another since the late 1990s. During this time we’ve made many breakthroughs in making reliable near field transducers, special high capacity HAMR media, and figuring out a way to put a laser on each and every head that is no larger than a grain of salt.

The development of HAMR has required Seagate to consider and overcome a myriad of scientific and technical challenges including new kinds of magnetic media, nano-plasmonic device design and fabrication, laser integration, high-temperature head-disk interactions, and thermal regulation.

A typical hard drive inside any computer or server contains one or more rigid disks coated with a magnetically sensitive film consisting of tiny magnetic grains. Data is recorded when a magnetic write-head flies just above the spinning disk; the write head rapidly flips the magnetization of one magnetic region of grains so that its magnetic pole points up or down, to encode a 1 or a 0 in binary code.

Increasing the amount of data you can store on a disk requires cramming magnetic regions closer together, which means the grains need to be smaller so they won’t interfere with each other.

Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) is the next step to enable us to increase the density of grains — or bit density. Current projections are that HAMR can achieve 5 Tbpsi (Terabits per square inch) on conventional HAMR media, and in the future will be able to achieve 10 Tbpsi or higher with bit patterned media (in which discrete dots are predefined on the media in regular, efficient, very dense patterns). These technologies will enable hard drives with capacities higher than 100 TB before 2030.

The major problem with packing bits so closely together is that if you do that on conventional magnetic media, the bits (and the data they represent) become thermally unstable, and may flip. So, to make the grains maintain their stability — their ability to store bits over a long period of time — we need to develop a recording media that has higher coercivity. That means it’s magnetically more stable during storage, but it is more difficult to change the magnetic characteristics of the media when writing (harder to flip a grain from a 0 to a 1 or vice versa).

That’s why HAMR’s first key hardware advance required developing a new recording media that keeps bits stable — using high anisotropy (or “hard”) magnetic materials such as iron-platinum alloy (FePt), which resist magnetic change at normal temperatures. Over years of HAMR development, Seagate researchers have tested and proven out a variety of FePt granular media films, with varying alloy composition and chemical ordering.

In fact the new media is so “hard” that conventional recording heads won’t be able to flip the bits, or write new data, under normal temperatures. If you add heat to the tiny spot on which you want to write data, you can make the media’s coercive field lower than the magnetic field provided by the recording head — in other words, enable the write head to flip that bit.

So, a challenge with HAMR has been to replace conventional perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR), in which the write head operates at room temperature, with a write technology that heats the thin film recording medium on the disk platter to temperatures above 400 °C. The basic principle is to heat a tiny region of several magnetic grains for a very short time (~1 nanoseconds) to a temperature high enough to make the media’s coercive field lower than the write head’s magnetic field. Immediately after the heat pulse, the region quickly cools down and the bit’s magnetic orientation is frozen in place.

Applying this dynamic nano-heating is where HAMR’s famous “laser” comes in. A plasmonic near-field transducer (NFT) has been integrated into the recording head, to heat the media and enable magnetic change at a specific point. Plasmonic NFTs are used to focus and confine light energy to regions smaller than the wavelength of light. This enables us to heat an extremely small region, measured in nanometers, on the disk media to reduce its magnetic coercivity,

Moving HAMR Forward

HAMR write head

As always in advanced engineering, the devil — or many devils — is in the details. As noted earlier, our technical brief provides a point-by-point short illustrated summary of HAMR’s key changes.

Although hard work remains, we believe this technology is nearly ready for commercialization. Seagate has the best engineers in the world working towards a goal of a 20 Terabyte drive by 2019. We hope we’ve given you a glimpse into the amount of engineering that goes into a hard drive. Keeping up with the world’s insatiable appetite to create, capture, store, secure, manage, analyze, rapidly access and share data is a challenge we work on every day.

With thousands of HAMR drives already being made in our manufacturing facilities, our internal and external supply chain is solidly in place, and volume manufacturing tools are online. This year we began shipping initial units for customer tests, and production units will ship to key customers by the end of 2018. Prepare for breakthrough capacities.

The post What is HAMR and How Does It Enable the High-Capacity Needs of the Future? appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.