Tag Archives: beta

Announcing the Beta for WARP for macOS and Windows

Post Syndicated from Matthew Prince original https://blog.cloudflare.com/announcing-the-beta-for-warp-for-macos-and-windows/

Announcing the Beta for WARP for macOS and Windows

Announcing the Beta for WARP for macOS and Windows

Last April 1 we announced WARP — an option within the 1.1.1.1 iOS and Android app to secure and speed up Internet connections. Today, millions of users have secured their mobile Internet connections with WARP.

While WARP started as an option within the 1.1.1.1 app, it’s really a technology that can benefit any device connected to the Internet. In fact, one of the most common requests we’ve gotten over the last year is support for WARP for macOS and Windows. Today we’re announcing exactly that: the start of the WARP beta for macOS and Windows.

What’s The Same: Fast, Secure, and Free

We always wanted to build a WARP client for macOS and Windows. We started with mobile because it was the hardest challenge. And it turned out to be a lot harder than we anticipated. While we announced the beta of 1.1.1.1 with WARP on April 1, 2019 it took us until late September before we were able to open it up to general availability. We don’t expect the wait for macOS and Windows WARP to be nearly as long.

The WARP client for macOS and Windows relies on the same fast, efficient Wireguard protocol to secure Internet connections and keep them safe from being spied on by your ISP. Also, just like WARP on the 1.1.1.1 mobile app, the basic service will be free on macOS and Windows.

Announcing the Beta for WARP for macOS and Windows

WARP+ Gets You There Faster

We plan to add WARP+ support in the coming months to allow you to leverage Cloudflare’s Argo network for even faster Internet performance. We will provide a plan option for existing WARP+ subscribers to add additional devices at a discount. In the meantime, existing WARP+ users will be among the first to be invited to try WARP for macOS and Windows. If you are a WARP+ subscriber, check your 1.1.1.1 app over the coming weeks for a link to an invitation to try the new WARP for macOS and Windows clients.

If you’re not a WARP+ subscriber, you can add yourself to the waitlist by signing up on the page linked below. We’ll email as soon as it’s ready for you to try.

https://one.one.one.one

Linux Support

We haven’t forgotten about Linux. About 10% of Cloudflare’s employees run Linux on their desktops. As soon as we get the macOS and Windows clients out we’ll turn our attention to building a WARP client for Linux.

Thank you to everyone who helped us make WARP fast, efficient, and reliable on mobile. It’s incredible how far it’s come over the last year. If you tried it early in the beta last year but aren’t using it now, I encourage you to give it another try. We’re looking forward to bringing WARP speed and security to even more devices.

Stream to Twitch with the push of a button

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/tinkernut-twitch-streaming/

Stream your video gaming exploits to the internet at the touch of a button with the Twitch-O-Matic. Everyone else is doing it, so you should too.

Twitch-O-Matic: Raspberry Pi Twitch Streaming Device – Weekend Hacker #1804

Some gaming consoles make it easy to stream to Twitch, some gaming consoles don’t (come on, Nintendo). So for those that don’t, I’ve made this beta version of the “Twitch-O-Matic”. No it doesn’t chop onions or fold your laundry, but what it DOES do is stream anything with HDMI output to your Twitch channel with the simple push of a button!

eSports and online game streaming

Interest in eSports has skyrocketed over the last few years, with viewership numbers in the hundreds of millions, sponsorship deals increasing in value and prestige, and tournament prize funds reaching millions of dollars. So it’s no wonder that more and more gamers are starting to stream live to online platforms in order to boost their fanbase and try to cash in on this growing industry.

Streaming to Twitch

Launched in 2011, Twitch.tv is an online live-streaming platform with a primary focus on video gaming. Users can create accounts to contribute their comments and content to the site, as well as watching live-streamed gaming competitions and broadcasts. With a staggering fifteen million daily users, Twitch is accessible via smartphone and gaming console apps, smart TVs, computers, and tablets. But if you want to stream to Twitch, you may find yourself using third-party software in order to do so. And with more buttons to click and more wires to plug in for older, app-less consoles, streaming can get confusing.

Enter Tinkernut.

Side note: we ❤ Tinkernut

We’ve featured Tinkernut a few times on the Raspberry Pi blog – his tutorials are clear, his projects are interesting and useful, and his live-streamed comment videos for every build are a nice touch to sharing homebrew builds on the internet.

Tinkernut Raspberry Pi Zero W Twitch-O-Matic

So, yes, we love him. [This is true. Alex never shuts up about him. – Ed.] And since he has over 500K subscribers on YouTube, we’re obviously not the only ones. We wave our Tinkernut flags with pride.

Twitch-O-Matic

With a Raspberry Pi Zero W, an HDMI to CSI adapter, and a case to fit it all in, Tinkernut’s Twitch-O-Matic allows easy connection to the Twitch streaming service. You’ll also need a button – the bigger, the better in our opinion, though Tinkernut has opted for the Adafruit 16mm Illuminated Pushbutton for his build, and not the 100mm Massive Arcade Button that, sadly, we still haven’t found a reason to use yet.

Adafruit massive button

“I’m sorry, Dave…”

For added frills and pizzazz, Tinketnut has also incorporated Adafruit’s White LED Backlight Module into the case, though you don’t have to do so unless you’re feeling super fancy.

The setup

The Raspberry Pi Zero W is connected to the HDMI to CSI adapter via the camera connector, in the same way you’d attach the camera ribbon. Tinkernut uses a standard Raspbian image on an 8GB SD card, with SSH enabled for remote access from his laptop. He uses the simple command Raspivid to test the HDMI connection by recording ten seconds of video footage from his console.

Tinkernut Raspberry Pi Zero W Twitch-O-Matic

One lead is all you need

Once you have the Pi receiving video from your console, you can connect to Twitch using your Twitch stream key, which you can find by logging in to your account at Twitch.tv. Tinkernut’s tutorial gives you all the commands you need to stream from your Pi.

The frills

To up the aesthetic impact of your project, adding buttons and backlights is fairly straightforward.

Tinkernut Raspberry Pi Zero W Twitch-O-Matic

Pretty LED frills

To run the stream command, Tinketnut uses a button: press once to start the stream, press again to stop. Pressing the button also turns on the LED backlight, so it’s obvious when streaming is in progress.

The tutorial

For the full code and 3D-printable case STL file, head to Tinketnut’s hackster.io project page. And if you’re already using a Raspberry Pi for Twitch streaming, share your build setup with us. Cheers!

The post Stream to Twitch with the push of a button appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Announcing the new AWS Certified Security – Specialty exam

Post Syndicated from Janna Pellegrino original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/announcing-the-new-aws-certified-security-specialty-exam/

Good news for cloud security experts: following our most popular beta exam ever, the AWS Certified Security – Specialty exam is here. This new exam allows experienced cloud security professionals to demonstrate and validate their knowledge of how to secure the AWS platform.

About the exam
The security exam covers incident response, logging and monitoring, infrastructure security, identity and access management, and data protection. The exam is open to anyone who currently holds a Cloud Practitioner or Associate-level certification. We recommend candidates have five years of IT security experience designing and implementing security solutions, and at least two years of hands-on experience securing AWS workloads.

The exam validates:

  • An understanding of specialized data classifications and AWS data protection mechanisms.
  • An understanding of data encryption methods and AWS mechanisms to implement them.
  • An understanding of secure Internet protocols and AWS mechanisms to implement them.
  • A working knowledge of AWS security services and features of services to provide a secure production environment.
  • Competency gained from two or more years of production deployment experience using AWS security services and features.
  • Ability to make trade-off decisions with regard to cost, security, and deployment complexity given a set of application requirements.
  • An understanding of security operations and risk.

Learn more and register >>

How to prepare
We have training and other resources to help you prepare for the exam:

AWS Training (aws.amazon.com/training)

Additional Resources

Learn more and register >>

Please contact us if you have questions about exam registration.

Good luck!

[$] A new package index for Python

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/751458/rss

The Python Package Index (PyPI) is
the principal repository of libraries for the Python programming language,
serving more than 170 million downloads each week. Fifteen years after PyPI
launched, a new edition is in beta at pypi.org, with features like better
search, a refreshed layout, and Markdown README files
(and with some old
features removed, like viewing GPG package signatures). Starting
April 16, users visiting the site or running pip install will
be
seamlessly redirected to the new site. Two weeks after that, the legacy site is
expected to be shut down and the team will turn toward new
features; in the meantime, it is worth a look at what the new PyPI brings
to the table.

Kubernetes 1.10 released

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

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

Introducing Backblaze’s Rapid Ingest Service: B2 Fireball

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/introducing-backblazes-rapid-ingest-service-fireball/

Introducing Backblaze Fireball

Backblaze’s rapid ingest service, Fireball, graduates out of public beta. Our device holds 70 terabytes of customer data and is perfect for migrating large data sets to B2 Cloud Storage.

At Backblaze, we like to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. Specifically, we ask questions like “how can we make cloud storage more useful?” There is a long list of things we can do to help — over the last few weeks, we’ve addressed some of them when we lowered the cost of downloading data to $0.01 / GB. Today, we are pleased to publicly release our rapid ingest service, Fireball.

What is the Backblaze B2 Fireball?

The Fireball is a hardware device, specifically a NAS device. Any Backblaze B2 customer can order it from inside their account. The Fireball device can hold up to 70 terabytes of data. Upon ordering, it ships from a Backblaze data center to you. When you receive it, you can transfer your data onto the Fireball using your internal network. Once your data transfer is complete, you send it back to a Backblaze data center. Finally, inside our secure data center, your data is uploaded from the Fireball to your account. Your data remains encrypted throughout the process. Step by step instructions can be found here.

What is Fireball?

Why Use the Fireball?

“We would not have been able to get this project off the ground without the B2 Fireball.” — James Cole, KLRU (Austin City Limits)

For most customers, transferring large quantities of data isn’t always simple. The need can arise as you migrate off of legacy systems (e.g. replacing LTO) or simply on a project basis (e.g. transferring video shot in the field to the cloud). An common approach is to upload your data via the internet to the cloud storage vendor of your choosing. While cloud storage vendors don’t charge for uploads, you have to pay your network provider for bandwidth. That’s assuming you are in a place where the bandwidth can be secured.

Your data is stored in megabytes (“MB”) but your bandwidth is measured in megabits per second (“Mbps”). The difference? An 80 Mbps upload connection will transfer no more than 10 MB per second. That means, in your best case scenario, you might be able to upload 50 terabytes in 50 days, assuming you use nearly all of your upload bandwidth for the upload.

If you’re looking to migrate old backups from LTO or even a large project, a 3 month lag time is not operationally viable. That’s why multiple cloud storage providers have introduced rapid ingest devices.

How It Compares: Backblaze B2 Fireball vs AWS Snowball vs GCS Transfer Appliance

“We found the B2 Fireball much simpler and easier to use than Amazon’s Snowball. WunderVu had been looking for a cloud solution for security and simplicity, and B2 hit every check box.” — Aaron Rhodes, Executive Producer, WunderVu

Every vendor that offers a rapid ingest service only lets you upload to that vendor’s cloud. For example, you can’t use an Amazon Snowball to upload to Google Cloud Storage. This means that when considering a rapid ingest service, you are also making a decision on what cloud storage vendor to use. As such, one should consider not only the cost of the rapid ingest service, but also how much that vendor is going to charge you to store and download your data.

Device Capacity Service Fee Shipping Cloud Storage
$/GB/Month
Download
$/GB
Backblaze B2 70 TB $550
(30 day rental)
$75 $0.005 $0.01
Amazon S3 50 TB $200
(10 day rental)
$? * $0.021
+320%
$0.05+
+500%
Google Cloud 100 TB $300
(10 day rental)
$500 $0.020
+300%
$0.08+
+800%

*AWS does not estimate shipping fees at the time of the Snowball order.

To make the comparison easier, let’s create a hypothetical case and compare the costs incurred in the first year. Assume you have 100 TB as an initial upload. But that’s just the initial upload. Over the course of the year, let’s consider a usage pattern where every month you add 5 TB, delete 2 TBs, and download 10 TBs.

Transfer Cost Cloud Storage Fees Total Transfer +
Cloud Storage Fees
Backblaze B2 $1,250
(2 Fireballs)
$9,570 $10,820
Amazon S3 $400
(2 Snowballs)
$36,114 $36,514
+337%
Google Cloud $800
(1 transit)
$39,684 $40,484
+374%

Just looking at the first year, Amazon is 337% more expensive than Backblaze and Google is 374% more expensive than Backblaze.

Put simply, Backblaze offers the lowest cost, high performance cloud storage on the planet. During our public beta of the Fireball program we’ve had extremely positive feedback around how the Fireball enables customers to get their projects started in a time efficient and cost effective way. We hope you’ll give it a try!

The post Introducing Backblaze’s Rapid Ingest Service: B2 Fireball appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Happy birthday to us!

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

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

Prehistory

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

BCM2763 micro DB

Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi, 2011-style

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

Raspberry Pi alpha board, top view

Raspberry Pi alpha board

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

Raspberry Pi – Quake 3 demo

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

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

The beginnings of a Bramble

Beta boards on parade

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

Raspberry Pi Beta Board Bring up

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

Launch

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

Pallet of pis

The first 2000 Raspberry Pis

Unboxing continues

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

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

Evolution

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

Revision 1 versus revision 2

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

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

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

A UK-built Raspberry Pi Model A

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

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

New toys

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

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

Nobody mention the xenon death flash.

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

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

Zero to hero

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

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

Cheap thrills

MagPi issue 40 in all its glory

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

Up to our old tricks again

Other things

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

Chinese Raspberry Pi 1 Model B

RS Components limited-edition blue Raspberry Pi 1 Model B

Brazilian-market Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Visible-light Camera Module v2

Learning about injection moulding the hard way

250 pages of content each month, every month

Essential reading

Forward the Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

2018 in perspective (Libre Graphics World)

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/746651/rss

Here’s a look
at what’s coming on the desktop
in Libre Graphics World. “After
almost 6 years of work, the GIMP team is finalizing the next big
update. The plan is to cut a beta of v2.10 once the amount of critical bugs
falls further down: it’s currently stuck at 20, as new bugs get promoted to
blockers, while old blockers get fixed. It’s a bit of an uphill
battle.

Security Breaches Don’t Affect Stock Price

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

Interesting research: “Long-term market implications of data breaches, not,” by Russell Lange and Eric W. Burger.

Abstract: This report assesses the impact disclosure of data breaches has on the total returns and volatility of the affected companies’ stock, with a focus on the results relative to the performance of the firms’ peer industries, as represented through selected indices rather than the market as a whole. Financial performance is considered over a range of dates from 3 days post-breach through 6 months post-breach, in order to provide a longer-term perspective on the impact of the breach announcement.

Key findings:

  • While the difference in stock price between the sampled breached companies and their peers was negative (1.13%) in the first 3 days following announcement of a breach, by the 14th day the return difference had rebounded to + 0.05%, and on average remained positive through the period assessed.
  • For the differences in the breached companies’ betas and the beta of their peer sets, the differences in the means of 8 months pre-breach versus post-breach was not meaningful at 90, 180, and 360 day post-breach periods.

  • For the differences in the breached companies’ beta correlations against the peer indices pre- and post-breach, the difference in the means of the rolling 60 day correlation 8 months pre- breach versus post-breach was not meaningful at 90, 180, and 360 day post-breach periods.

  • In regression analysis, use of the number of accessed records, date, data sensitivity, and malicious versus accidental leak as variables failed to yield an R2 greater than 16.15% for response variables of 3, 14, 60, and 90 day return differential, excess beta differential, and rolling beta correlation differential, indicating that the financial impact on breached companies was highly idiosyncratic.

  • Based on returns, the most impacted industries at the 3 day post-breach date were U.S. Financial Services, Transportation, and Global Telecom. At the 90 day post-breach date, the three most impacted industries were U.S. Financial Services, U.S. Healthcare, and Global Telecom.

The market isn’t going to fix this. If we want better security, we need to regulate the market.

Note: The article is behind a paywall. An older version is here. A similar article is here.

Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/managing-cash-flow/

Cash flow projection charts

This post by Backblaze’s CEO and co-founder Gleb Budman is the eighth in a series about entrepreneurship. You can choose posts in the series from the list below:

  1. How Backblaze got Started: The Problem, The Solution, and the Stuff In-Between
  2. Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages
  3. From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers
  4. How to Get Your First 1,000 Customers
  5. Surviving Your First Year
  6. How to Compete with Giants
  7. The Decision on Transparency
  8. Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow

Use the Join button above to receive notification of new posts in this series.

Running out of cash is one of the quickest ways for a startup to go out of business. When you are starting a company the question of where to get cash is usually the top priority, but managing cash flow is critical for every stage in the lifecycle of a company. As a primarily bootstrapped but capital-intensive business, managing cash flow at Backblaze was and still is a key element of our success and requires continued focus. Let’s look at what we learned over the years.

Raising Your Initial Funding

When starting a tech business in Silicon Valley, the default assumption is that you will immediately try to raise venture funding. There are certainly many advantages to raising funding — not the least of which is that you don’t need to be cash-flow positive since you have cash in the bank and the expectation is that you will have a “burn rate,” i.e. you’ll be spending more than you make.

Note: While you’re not expected to be cash-flow positive, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about cash. Cash-flow management will determine your burn rate. Whether you can get to cash-flow breakeven or need to raise another round of funding is a direct byproduct of your cash flow management.

Also, raising funding takes time (most successful fundraising cycles take 3-6 months start-to-finish), and time at a startup is in short supply. Constantly trying to raise funding can take away from product development and pursuing growth opportunities. If you’re not successful in raising funding, you then have to either shut down or find an alternate method of funding the business.

Sources of Funding

Depending on the stage of the company, type of company, and other factors, you may have access to different sources of funding. Let’s list a number of them:

Customers

Sales — the best kind of funding. It is non-dilutive, doesn’t have to be paid back, and is a direct metric of the success of your company.

Pre-Sales — some customers may be willing to pay you for a product in beta, a test, or pre-pay for a product they’ll receive when finished. Pre-Sales income also is great because it shares the characteristics of cash from sales, but you get the cash early. It also can be a good sign that the product you’re building fills a market need. We started charging for Backblaze computer backup while it was still in private beta, which allowed us to not only collect cash from customers, but also test the billing experience and users’ real desire for the service.

Services — if you’re a service company and customers are paying you for that, great. You can effectively scale for the number of hours available in a day. As demand grows, you can add more employees to increase the total number of billable hours.

Note: If you’re a product company and customers are paying you to consult, that can provide much needed cash, and could provide feedback toward the right product. However, it can also distract from your core business, send you down a path where you’re building a product for a single customer, and addict you to a path that prevents you from building a scalable business.

Investors

Yourself — you likely are putting your time into the business, and deferring salary in the process. You may also put your own cash into the business either as an investment or a loan.

Angels — angels are ideal as early investors since they are used to investing in businesses with little to no traction. AngelList is a good place to find them, though finding people you’re connected with through someone that knows you well is best.

Crowdfunding — a component of the JOBS Act permitted entrepreneurs to raise money from nearly anyone since May 2016. The SEC imposes limits on both investors and the companies. This article goes into some depth on the options and sites available.

VCs — VCs are ideal for companies that need to raise at least a few million dollars and intend to build a business that will be worth over $1 billion.

Debt

Friends & Family — F&F are often the first people to give you money because they are investing in you. It’s great to have some early supporters, but it also can be risky to take money from people who aren’t used to the risks. The key advice here is to only take money from people who won’t mind losing it. If someone is talking about using their children’s college funds or borrowing from their 401k, say ‘no thank you’ — even if they’re sure they want to loan you money.

Bank Loans — a variety of loan types exist, but most either require the company to have been operational for a couple years, be able to borrow against money the company has or is making, or be able to get a personal guarantee from the founders whereby their own credit is on the line. Fundera provides a good overview of loan options and can help secure some, but most will not be an option for a brand new startup.

Grants

Government — in some areas there is the potential for government grants to facilitate research. The SBIR program facilitates some such grants.

At Backblaze, we used a number of these options:

• Investors/Yourself
We loaned a cumulative total of a couple hundred thousand dollars to the company and invested our time by going without a salary for a year and a half.
• Customers/Pre-Sales
We started selling the Backblaze service while it was still in beta.
• Customers/Sales
We launched v1.0 and kept selling.
• Investors/Angels
After a year and a half, we raised $370k from 11 angels. All of them were either people whom we knew personally or were a strong recommendation from a mutual friend.
• Debt/Loans
After a couple years we were able to get equipment leases whereby the Storage Pods and hard drives were used as collateral to secure the lease on them.
• Investors/VCs
Ater five years we raised $5m from TMT Investments to add to the balance sheet and invest in growth.

The variety and quantity of sources we used is by no means uncommon.

GAAP vs. Cash

Most companies start tracking financials based on cash, and as they scale they switch to GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). Cash is easier to track — we got paid $XXXX and spent $YYY — and as often mentioned, is required for the business to stay alive. GAAP has more subtlety and complexity, but provides a clearer picture of how the business is really doing. Backblaze was on a ‘cash’ system for the first few years, then switched to GAAP. For this post, I’m going to focus on things that help cash flow, not GAAP profitability.

Stages of Cash Flow Management

All-spend

In a pure service business (e.g. solo proprietor law firm), you may have no expenses other than your time, so this stage doesn’t exist. However, in a product business there is a period of time where you are building the product and have nothing to sell. You have zero cash coming in, but have cash going out. Your cash-flow is completely negative and you need funds to cover that.

Sales-generating

Starting to see cash come in from customers is thrilling. I initially had our system set up to email me with every $5 payment we received. You’re making sales, but not covering expenses.

Ramen-profitable

But it takes a lot of $5 payments to pay for servers and salaries, so for a while expenses are likely to outstrip sales. Getting to ramen-profitable is a critical stage where sales cover the business expenses and are “paying enough for the founders to eat ramen.” This extends the runway for a business, but is not completely sustainable, since presumably the founders can’t (or won’t) live forever on a subsistence salary.

Business-profitable

This is the ultimate stage whereby the business is truly profitable, including paying everyone market-rate salaries. A business at this stage is self-sustaining. (Of course, market shifts and plenty of other challenges can kill the business, but cash-flow issues alone will not.)

Note, I’m using the word ‘profitable’ here to mean this is still on a cash-basis.

Backblaze was in the all-spend stage for just over a year, during which time we built the service and hadn’t yet made the service available to customers. Backblaze was in the sales-generating stage for nearly another year before the company was barely ramen-profitable where sales were covering the company expenses and paying the founders minimum wage. (I say ‘barely’ since minimum wage in the SF Bay Area is arguably never subsistence.) It took almost three more years before the company was business-profitable, paying everyone including the founders market-rate.

Cash Flow Forecasting

When raising funding it’s helpful to think of milestones reached. You don’t necessarily need enough cash on day one to last for the next 100 years of the company. Some good milestones to consider are how much cash you need to prove there is a market need, prove you can build a product to meet that need, or get to ramen-profitable.

Two things to consider:

1) Unit Economics (COGS)

If your product is 100% software, this may not be relevant. Once software is built it costs effectively nothing to deliver the product to one customer or one million customers. However, in most businesses there is some incremental cost to provide the product. If you’re selling a hardware device, perhaps you sell it for $100 but it costs you $50 to make it. This is called “COGS” (Cost of Goods Sold).

Many products rely on cloud services where the costs scale with growth. That model works great, but it’s still important to understand what the costs are for the cloud service you use per unit of product you sell.

Support is often done by the founders early-on in a business, but that is another real cost to factor in and estimate on a per-user basis. Taking all of the per unit costs combined, you may charge $10/month/user for your service, but if it costs you $7/month/user in cloud services, you’re only netting $3/month/user.

2) Operating Expenses (OpEx)

These are expenses that don’t scale with the number of product units you sell. Typically this includes research & development, sales & marketing, and general & administrative expenses. Presumably there is a certain level of these functions required to build the product, market it, sell it, and run the organization. You can choose to invest or cut back on these, but you’ll still make the same amount per product unit.

Incremental Net Profit Per Unit

If you’ve calculated your COGS and your unit economics are “upside down,” where the amount you charge is less than that it costs you to provide your service, it’s worth thinking hard about how that’s going to change over time. If it will not change, there is no scale that will make the business work. Presuming you do make money on each unit of product you sell — what is sometimes referred to as “Contribution Margin” — consider how many of those product units you need to sell to cover your operating expenses as described above.

Calculating Your Profit

The math on getting to ramen-profitable is simple:

(Number of Product Units Sold x Contribution Margin) - Operating Expenses = Profit

If your operating expenses include subsistence salaries for the founders and profit > $0, you’re ramen-profitable.

Improving Cash Flow

Having access to sources of cash, whether from selling to customers or other methods, is excellent. But needing less cash gives you more choices and allows you to either dilute less, owe less, or invest more.

There are two ways to improve cash flow:

1) Collect More Cash

The best way to collect more cash is to provide more value to your customers and as a result have them pay you more. Additional features/products/services can allow this. However, you can also collect more cash by changing how you charge for your product. If you have a subscription, changing from charging monthly to yearly dramatically improves your cash flow. If you have a product that customers use up, selling a year’s supply instead of selling them one-by-one can help.

2) Spend Less Cash

Reducing COGS is a fantastic way to spend less cash in a scalable way. If you can do this without harming the product or customer experience, you win. There are a myriad of ways to also reduce operating expenses, including taking sub-market salaries, using your home instead of renting office space, staying focused on your core product, etc.

Ultimately, collecting more and spending less cash dramatically simplifies the process of getting to ramen-profitable and later to business-profitable.

Be Careful (Why GAAP Matters)

A word of caution: while running out of cash will put you out of business immediately, overextending yourself will likely put you out of business not much later. GAAP shows how a business is really doing; cash doesn’t. If you only focus on cash, it is possible to commit yourself to both delivering products and repaying loans in the future in an unsustainable fashion. If you’re taking out loans, watch the total balance and monthly payments you’re committing to. If you’re asking customers for pre-payment, make sure you believe you can deliver on what they’ve paid for.

Summary

There are numerous challenges to building a business, and ensuring you have enough cash is amongst the most important. Having the cash to keep going lets you keep working on all of the other challenges. The frameworks above were critical for maintaining Backblaze’s cash flow and cash balance. Hopefully you can take some of the lessons we learned and apply them to your business. Let us know what works for you in the comments below.

The post Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Announcing our new beta for the AWS Certified Security – Specialty exam

Post Syndicated from Janna Pellegrino original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/announcing-our-new-beta-for-the-aws-certified-security-specialty-exam/

Take the AWS Certified Security – Specialty beta exam for the chance to be among the first to hold this new AWS Certification. This beta exam allows experienced cloud security professionals to demonstrate and validate their expertise. Register today – this beta exam will only be available from January 15 to March 2!

About the exam

This beta exam validates that the successful candidate can effectively demonstrate knowledge of how to secure the AWS platform. The exam covers incident response, logging and monitoring, infrastructure security, identity and access management, and data protection.

The exam validates:

  • Familiarity with regional- and country-specific security and compliance regulations and meta issues that these regulations embody.
  • An understanding of specialized data classifications and AWS data protection mechanisms.
  • An understanding of data encryption methods and AWS mechanisms to implement them.
  • An understanding of secure Internet protocols and AWS mechanisms to implement them.
  • A working knowledge of AWS security services and features of services to provide a secure production environment.
  • Competency gained from two or more years of production deployment experience using AWS security services and features.
  • Ability to make tradeoff decisions with regard to cost, security, and deployment complexity given a set of application requirements.
  • An understanding of security operations and risk.

Learn more and register >>

Who is eligible

The beta is open to anyone who currently holds an Associate or Cloud Practitioner certification. We recommend candidates have five years of IT security experience designing and implementing security solutions, and at least two years of hands-on experience securing AWS workloads.

How to prepare

We have training and other resources to help you prepare for the beta exam:

AWS Security Fundamentals Digital| 3 Hours
This course introduces you to fundamental cloud computing and AWS security concepts, including AWS access control and management, governance, logging, and encryption methods. It also covers security-related compliance protocols and risk management strategies, as well as procedures related to auditing your AWS security infrastructure.

Security Operations on AWS Classroom | 3 Days
This course demonstrates how to efficiently use AWS security services to stay secure and compliant in the AWS Cloud. The course focuses on the AWS-recommended security best practices that you can implement to enhance the security of your data and systems in the cloud. The course highlights the security features of AWS key services including compute, storage, networking, and database services.

Online resources for Cloud Security and Compliance

Review documentation, whitepapers, and articles & tutorials related to cloud security and compliance.

Learn more and register >>

Please contact us if you have questions about exam registration.

Good luck!

Connect Veeam to the B2 Cloud: Episode 1 — Using Synology

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backing-up-veeam-cloud-connect-synology-b2/

Veeam Cloud Connect to Backblaze B2

Veeam is well-known for its easy-to-use software for backing up virtual machines from VMware and Microsoft.

Users of Veeam and Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage have asked for a way to back up a Veeam repository to B2. Backblaze’s B2 is an ideal solution for backing up Veeam’s backup repository due to B2’s combination of low-cost and high availability compared to other cloud solutions such as Microsoft Azure.

This is the first in a series of posts on the topic of backing up Veeam to B2. Future posts will cover other methods.

In this post we provide a step-by-step tutorial on how to configure a Synology NAS as a Veeam backup repository, and in turn use Synology’s CloudSync software to back up that repository to the B2 Cloud.

Our guest contributor, Rhys Hammond, is well qualified to author this tutorial. Rhys is a Senior System Engineer for Data#3 in Australia specializing in Veeam and VMware solutions. He is a VMware vExpert and a member of the Veeam Vanguard program.

Rhy’s tutorial is outlined as follows:

Veeam and Backblaze B2 — Introduction

Introduction

Background on B2 and Veeam, and a discussion of various ways to back up a Veeam backup repository to the cloud.

Phase 1 — Create the Backblaze B2 Bucket

How to create the B2 Bucket that will be the destination for mirroring our Veeam backup repository.

Phase 2 — Install and Configure Synology CloudSync

Get CloudSync ready to perform the backup to B2.

Phase 3 — Configure Veeam Backup Repository

Create a new Veeam backup repository in preparation for upload to B2.

Phase 4 — Create the Veeam Backup Job

Configure the Veeam backup job, with two possible scenarios, primary target and secondary backup target.

Phase 5 — Testing and Tuning

Making sure it all works.

Summary

Some thoughts on the process, other options, and tips.

You can read the full tutorial on Rhy’s website by following the link below. To be sure to receive notice of future posts in this series on Veeam, use the Join button at the top of the page.

Beta Testers Needed: Veeam/Starwind/B2

If you back up Veeam using Starwind VTL, we have a BETA program for you. Help us with the Starwind VTL to Backblaze B2 integration Beta and test whether you can automatically back up Veeam to Backblaze B2 via Starwind VTL. Motivated beta testers can email starwind@backblaze.com for details and how to get started.

The post Connect Veeam to the B2 Cloud: Episode 1 — Using Synology appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Validate Your IT Security Expertise with the New AWS Certified Security – Specialty Beta Exam

Post Syndicated from Sara Snedeker original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/validate-your-it-security-expertise-with-the-new-aws-certified-security-specialty-beta-exam/

AWS Training and Certification image

If you are an experienced cloud security professional, you can demonstrate and validate your expertise with the new AWS Certified Security – Specialty beta exam. This exam allows you to demonstrate your knowledge of incident response, logging and monitoring, infrastructure security, identity and access management, and data protection. Register today – this beta exam will be available only from January 15 to March 2, 2018.

By taking this exam, you can validate your:

  • Familiarity with region-specific and country-specific security and compliance regulations and meta issues that these regulations include.
  • Understanding of data encryption methods and secure internet protocols, and the AWS mechanisms to implement them.
  • Working knowledge of AWS security services to provide a secure production environment.
  • Ability to make trade-off decisions with regard to cost, security, and deployment complexity when given a set of application requirements.

See the full list of security knowledge you can validate by taking this beta exam.

Who is eligible?

The beta exam is open to anyone who currently holds an AWS Associate or Cloud Practitioner certification. We recommend candidates have five years of IT security experience designing and implementing security solutions, and at least two years of hands-on experience securing AWS workloads.

How to prepare

You can take the following courses and use AWS cloud security resources and compliance resources to prepare for this exam.

AWS Security Fundamentals (digital, 3 hours)
This digital course introduces you to fundamental cloud computing and AWS security concepts, including AWS access control and management, governance, logging, and encryption methods. It also covers security-related compliance protocols and risk management strategies, as well as procedures related to auditing your AWS security infrastructure.

Security Operations on AWS (classroom, 3 days)
This instructor-led course demonstrates how to efficiently use AWS security services to help stay secure and compliant in the AWS Cloud. The course focuses on the AWS-recommended security best practices that you can implement to enhance the security of your AWS resources. The course highlights the security features of AWS compute, storage, networking, and database services.

If you have questions about this new beta exam, contact us.

Good luck with the exam!

– Sara

Random with care

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

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

A word about crypto

DON’T ROLL YOUR OWN CRYPTO

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

Use the right distribution

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

Random pitches

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

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

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

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

Random directions

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

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

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

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

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

Why does this work? I have no idea!

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

Beware Gauss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random frequency

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

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if random() < 0.8 * dt:
    do_thing()

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rolling your own

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Okay, okay, here’s the actual math

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random vs varied

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

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

NPC quips

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

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

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

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

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

Random drops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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from collections import Counter
import random

histogram = Counter()

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critical hits

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

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

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

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

In conclusion

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

salsa.debian.org (git.debian.org replacement) going into beta

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/742297/rss

The Debian Project has been working on replacing git.debian.org with a
GitLab based service at https://salsa.debian.org. Active
Debian Developers already have accounts. “External users are invited
to create an account on salsa. To avoid clashes with future Debian
Developers, we are enforcing a ‘-guest’ suffix for any guest username.
Therefore we developed a self-service portal which allows non-Debian
Developers to sign up, available at https://signup.salsa.debian.org.
Please keep in mind that your username will have ‘-guest’ appended.

New Thunderbird Releases and New Thunderbird Staff

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/741884/rss

The Mozilla Thunderbird Blog looks
at recent releases
of the Thunderbird email client, including a fifth
point release for version 52 ESR and 58 beta. “Thunderbird 57 beta
was also very successful. While Thunderbird 58 is equally stable and offers
further cutting-edge improvements to Thunderbird users, the user community
is starting to feel the impact of Mozilla platform changes which are
phasing out so-called legacy add-ons. The Thunderbird technical leadership
is working closely with add-on authors who face the challenge of updating
their add-ons to work with the Mozilla interface changes. With a few
usually simple changes most add-ons can be made to work in Thunderbird 58
beta. https://wiki.mozilla.org/Thunderbird/Add-ons_Guide_57
explains what needs to be done, and Thunderbird developers are happy to
lend a hand to add-on authors.
” The project has also added four new
staff members.