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Server vs Endpoint Backup — Which is Best?

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/endpoint-backup-for-distributed-computing/

server and computer backup to the cloud

How common are these statements in your organization?

  • I know I saved that file. The application must have put it somewhere outside of my documents folder.” — Mike in Marketing
  • I was on the road and couldn’t get a reliable VPN connection. I guess that’s why my laptop wasn’t backed up.” — Sally in Sales
  • I try to follow file policies, but I had a deadline this week and didn’t have time to copy my files to the server.” — Felicia in Finance
  • I just did a commit of my code changes and that was when the coffee mug was knocked over onto the laptop.” — Erin in Engineering
  • If you need a file restored from backup, contact the help desk at [email protected] The IT department will get back to you.” — XYZ corporate intranet
  • Why don’t employees save files on the network drive like they’re supposed to?” — Isaac in IT

If these statements are familiar, most likely you rely on file server backups to safeguard your valuable endpoint data.

The problem is, the workplace has changed. Where server backups might have fit how offices worked at one time in the past, relying solely on server backups today means you could be missing valuable endpoint data from your backups. On top of that, you likely are unnecessarily expending valuable user and IT time in attempting to secure and restore endpoint data.

Times Have Changed, and so have Effective Enterprise Backup Strategies

The ways we use computers and handle files today are vastly different from just five or ten years ago. Employees are mobile, and we no longer are limited to monolithic PC and Mac-based office suites. Cloud applications are everywhere. Company-mandated network drive policies are difficult to enforce as office practices change, devices proliferate, and organizational culture evolves. Besides, your IT staff has other things to do than babysit your employees to make sure they follow your organization’s policies for managing files.

Server Backup has its Place, but Does it Support How People Work Today?

Many organizations still rely on server backup. If your organization works primarily in centralized offices with all endpoints — likely desktops — connected directly to your network, and you maintain tight control of how employees manage their files, it still might work for you.

Your IT department probably has set network drive policies that require employees to save files in standard places that are regularly backed up to your file server. Turns out, though, that even standard applications don’t always save files where IT would like them to be. They could be in a directory or folder that’s not regularly backed up.

As employees have become more mobile, they have adopted practices that enable them to access files from different places, but these practices might not fit in with your organization’s server policies. An employee saving a file to Dropbox might be planning to copy it to an “official” location later, but whether that ever happens could be doubtful. Often people don’t realize until it’s too late that accidentally deleting a file in one sync service directory means that all copies in all locations — even the cloud — are also deleted.

Employees are under increasing demands to produce, which means that network drive policies aren’t always followed; time constraints and deadlines can cause best practices to go out the window. Users will attempt to comply with policies as best they can — and you might get 70% or even 75% effective compliance — but getting even to that level requires training, monitoring, and repeatedly reminding employees of policies they need to follow — none of which leads to a good work environment.

Even if you get to 75% compliance with network file policies, what happens if the critical file needed to close out an end-of-year financial summary isn’t one of the files backed up? The effort required for IT to get from 70% to 80% or 90% of an endpoint’s files effectively backed up could require multiple hours from your IT department, and you still might not have backed up the one critical file you need later.

Your Organization Operates on its Data — And Today That Data Exists in Multiple Locations

Users are no longer tied to one endpoint, and may use different computers in the office, at home, or traveling. The greater the number of endpoints used, the greater the chance of an accidental or malicious device loss or data corruption. The loss of the Sales VP’s laptop at the airport on her way back from meeting with major customers can affect an entire organization and require weeks to resolve.

Even with the best intentions and efforts, following policies when out of the office can be difficult or impossible. Connecting to your private network when remote most likely requires a VPN, and VPN connectivity can be challenging from the lobby Wi-Fi at the Radisson. Server restores require time from the IT staff, which can mean taking resources away from other IT priorities and a growing backlog of requests from users to need their files as soon as possible. When users are dependent on IT to get back files critical to their work, employee productivity and often deadlines are affected.

Managing Finite Server Storage Is an Ongoing Challenge

Network drive backup usually requires on-premises data storage for endpoint backups. Since it is a finite resource, allocating that storage is another burden on your IT staff. To make sure that storage isn’t exceeded, IT departments often ration storage by department and/or user — another oversight duty for IT, and even more choices required by your IT department and department heads who have to decide which files to prioritize for backing up.

Adding Backblaze Endpoint Backup Improves Business Continuity and Productivity

Having an endpoint backup strategy in place can mitigate these problems and improve user productivity, as well. A good endpoint backup service, such as Backblaze Cloud Backup, will ensure that all devices are backed up securely, automatically, without requiring any action by the user or by your IT department.

For 99% of users, no configuration is required for Backblaze Backup. Everything on the endpoint is encrypted and securely backed up to the cloud, including program configuration files and files outside of standard document folders. Even temp files are backed up, which can prove invaluable when recovering a file after a crash or other program interruption. Cloud storage is unlimited with Backblaze Backup, so there are no worries about running out of storage or rationing file backups.

The Backblaze client can be silently and remotely installed to both Macintosh and Windows clients with no user interaction. And, with Backblaze Groups, your IT staff has complete visibility into when files were last backed up. IT staff can recover any backed up file, folder, or entire computer from the admin panel, and even give file restore capability to the user, if desired, which reduces dependency on IT and time spent waiting for restores.

With over 500 petabytes of customer data stored and one million files restored every hour of every day by Backblaze customers, you know that Backblaze Backup works for its users.

You Need Data Security That Matches the Way People Work Today

Both file server and endpoint backup have their places in an organization’s data security plan, but their use and value differ. If you already are using file server backup, adding endpoint backup will make a valuable contribution to your organization by reducing workload, improving productivity, and increasing confidence that all critical files are backed up.

By guaranteeing fast and automatic backup of all endpoint data, and matching the current way organizations and people work with data, Backblaze Backup will enable you to effectively and affordably meet the data security demands of your organization.

The post Server vs Endpoint Backup — Which is Best? appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

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.

Israeli Scientists Accidentally Reveal Classified Information

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

According to this story (non-paywall English version here), Israeli scientists released some information to the public they shouldn’t have.

Defense establishment officials are now trying to erase any trace of the secret information from the web, but they have run into difficulties because the information was copied and is found on a number of platforms.

Those officials have managed to ensure that the Haaretz article doesn’t have any actual information about the information. I have reason to believe the information is related to Internet security. Does anyone know more?

The problematic Wannacry North Korea attribution

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2018/01/the-problematic-wannacry-north-korea.html

Last month, the US government officially “attributed” the Wannacry ransomware worm to North Korea. This attribution has three flaws, which are a good lesson for attribution in general.

It was an accident

The most important fact about Wannacry is that it was an accident. We’ve had 30 years of experience with Internet worms teaching us that worms are always accidents. While launching worms may be intentional, their effects cannot be predicted. While they appear to have targets, like Slammer against South Korea, or Witty against the Pentagon, further analysis shows this was just a random effect that was impossible to predict ahead of time. Only in hindsight are these effects explainable.
We should hold those causing accidents accountable, too, but it’s a different accountability. The U.S. has caused more civilian deaths in its War on Terror than the terrorists caused triggering that war. But we hold these to be morally different: the terrorists targeted the innocent, whereas the U.S. takes great pains to avoid civilian casualties. 
Since we are talking about blaming those responsible for accidents, we also must include the NSA in that mix. The NSA created, then allowed the release of, weaponized exploits. That’s like accidentally dropping a load of unexploded bombs near a village. When those bombs are then used, those having lost the weapons are held guilty along with those using them. Yes, while we should blame the hacker who added ETERNAL BLUE to their ransomware, we should also blame the NSA for losing control of ETERNAL BLUE.

A country and its assets are different

Was it North Korea, or hackers affilliated with North Korea? These aren’t the same.

It’s hard for North Korea to have hackers of its own. It doesn’t have citizens who grow up with computers to pick from. Moreover, an internal hacking corps would create tainted citizens exposed to dangerous outside ideas. Update: Some people have pointed out that Kim Il-sung University in the capital does have some contact with the outside world, with academics granted limited Internet access, so I guess some tainting is allowed. Still, what we know of North Korea hacking efforts largley comes from hackers they employ outside North Korea. It was the Lazurus Group, outside North Korea, that did Wannacry.
Instead, North Korea develops external hacking “assets”, supporting several external hacking groups in China, Japan, and South Korea. This is similar to how intelligence agencies develop human “assets” in foreign countries. While these assets do things for their handlers, they also have normal day jobs, and do many things that are wholly independent and even sometimes against their handler’s interests.
For example, this Muckrock FOIA dump shows how “CIA assets” independently worked for Castro and assassinated a Panamanian president. That they also worked for the CIA does not make the CIA responsible for the Panamanian assassination.
That CIA/intelligence assets work this way is well-known and uncontroversial. The fact that countries use hacker assets like this is the controversial part. These hackers do act independently, yet we refuse to consider this when we want to “attribute” attacks.

Attribution is political

We have far better attribution for the nPetya attacks. It was less accidental (they clearly desired to disrupt Ukraine), and the hackers were much closer to the Russian government (Russian citizens). Yet, the Trump administration isn’t fighting Russia, they are fighting North Korea, so they don’t officially attribute nPetya to Russia, but do attribute Wannacry to North Korea.
Trump is in conflict with North Korea. He is looking for ways to escalate the conflict. Attributing Wannacry helps achieve his political objectives.
That it was blatantly politics is demonstrated by the way it was released to the press. It wasn’t released in the normal way, where the administration can stand behind it, and get challenged on the particulars. Instead, it was pre-released through the normal system of “anonymous government officials” to the NYTimes, and then backed up with op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. The government leaks information like this when it’s weak, not when its strong.

The proper way is to release the evidence upon which the decision was made, so that the public can challenge it. Among the questions the public would ask is whether it they believe it was North Korea’s intention to cause precisely this effect, such as disabling the British NHS. Or, whether it was merely hackers “affiliated” with North Korea, or hackers carrying out North Korea’s orders. We cannot challenge the government this way because the government intentionally holds itself above such accountability.

Conclusion

We believe hacking groups tied to North Korea are responsible for Wannacry. Yet, even if that’s true, we still have three attribution problems. We still don’t know if that was intentional, in pursuit of some political goal, or an accident. We still don’t know if it was at the direction of North Korea, or whether their hacker assets acted independently. We still don’t know if the government has answers to these questions, or whether it’s exploiting this doubt to achieve political support for actions against North Korea.

Thor:Ragnarok Director Says He “Illegally Torrented” Clips for the Showreel

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/thorragnarok-director-says-illegally-torrented-clips-showreel-180127/

It’s not often that movies escape being pirated online but last weekend was a pretty miserable one for the people behind Thor:Ragnarok.

Just four months after the superhero movie’s theatrical debut, the Marvel hit was due to be released on disc February 26th, with digital distribution on iTunes planned for February 19th.

However, due to what appeared to be some kind of pre-order blunder, the $180 million movie was leaked online, resulting in a pirate frenzy that’s still ongoing.

But with the accidental early release of Thor:Ragnarok making waves within the torrent system and beyond, it seems ironic that its talented director actually has another relationship with piracy that most people aren’t aware of.

In an interview for ‘Q’, a show broadcast on Canada’s CBC radio, Taika Waititi noted that Thor: Ragnarok might be a “career ender” for him, something that was previously highlighted in the media.

However, the softly-spoken New Zealander also said some other things that flew completely under the radar but given recent developments, now have new significance.

Speaking with broadcaster Tom Power, Waititi revealed that when putting together his promotional showreel for Thor: Ragnarok, he obtained its source material from illegal sources.

Explaining the process used to acquire clips to create his ‘sizzle reel’ (a short video highlighting a director’s vision and tone for a proposed movie), Waititi revealed his less-than-official approach.

“I cut together little clips and shots – I basically illegally torrented and, erm, you know, ripped clips from the Internet,” Waititi said.

“Of a bunch of different things?” Power asked.

“I don’t mind saying that…erm…on the radio,” Waititi added, unconvincingly.

With Power quickly assuring the director that admitting doing something illegal was OK on air, Waititi perhaps realized it probably wasn’t.

“You can cut that out,” he suggested.

That Waititi took the ‘pirate’ approach to obtaining source material for his ‘sizzle reel’ isn’t really a surprise. Content is freely accessible online, crucially in easier to consume and edit formats than even Waititi has access to on short notice. And, since every film in memory is just a few clicks away, it’d be counter-intuitive not to use the resource in the name of creativity.

Overall then, it’s extremely unlikely that Waititi’s pirate confession will come to much. Two of his previous feature films, ‘Boy’ and ‘Hunt For The Wilderpeople’, held titles for the highest-grossing New Zealand film, the latter achieving the accolade in 2017.

Also in 2017, Waititi was named New Zealander of the Year in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to the well being of the nation.” Praise doesn’t come much higher than that.

How many torrent swarms he helped to keep healthy is destined remain a secret forever though, but as an emerging movie hero in his own right, people will forgive him that.

H/T Trioval

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

Grumpy Cat Wins $710,000 From Copyright Infringing Coffee Maker

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/grumpy-cat-wins-710000-copyright-infringing-coffee-maker-180125/

grumpcatThere are dozens of celebrity cats on the Internet, but Grumpy Cat probably tops them all.

The cat’s owners have made millions thanks to their pet’s unique facial expression, which turned her into an overnight Internet star.

Part of this revenue comes from successful merchandise lines, including the Grumpy Cat “Grumppuccino” iced coffee beverage, sold by the California company Grenade Beverage.

The company licensed the copyright and trademarks to sell the iced coffee but is otherwise not affiliated with the cat and its owners. Initially, this partnership went well, but after the coffee maker started to sell other “Grumpy Cat” products, things turned bad.

The cat’s owners, incorporated as Grumpy Cat LLC, took the matter to court with demands for the coffee maker to stop infringing associated copyrights and trademarks.

“Without authorization, Defendants […] have extensively and repeatedly exploited the Grumpy Cat Copyrights and the Grumpy Cat Trademarks,” the complaint read.

Pirate coffee..

grumpycoffee

After two years the case went before a jury this week where, Courthouse News reports, the cat itself also made an appearance.

The eight-person jury in Santa Ana, California sided with the cat’s owner and awarded the company $710,000 in copyright and trademark infringement damages, as well as a symbolic $1 for contract breach.

According to court documents, the majority of the damages have to be paid by Grumpy Beverage, but the company’s owner Paul Sandford is also held personally liable for $60,000.

The verdict is good news for Grumpy Cat and its owner, and according to their attorney, they are happy with the outcome.

“Grumpy Cat feels vindicated and feels the jury reached a just verdict,” Grumpy Cat’s lawyer David Jonelis said, describing it as “a complete victory.”

A copy of the verdict form is available here (pdf).

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

Building Blocks of Amazon ECS

Post Syndicated from Tiffany Jernigan original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/building-blocks-of-amazon-ecs/

So, what’s Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS)? ECS is a managed service for running containers on AWS, designed to make it easy to run applications in the cloud without worrying about configuring the environment for your code to run in. Using ECS, you can easily deploy containers to host a simple website or run complex distributed microservices using thousands of containers.

Getting started with ECS isn’t too difficult. To fully understand how it works and how you can use it, it helps to understand the basic building blocks of ECS and how they fit together!

Let’s begin with an analogy

Imagine you’re in a virtual reality game with blocks and portals, in which your task is to build kingdoms.

In your spaceship, you pull up a holographic map of your upcoming destination: Nozama, a golden-orange planet. Looking at its various regions, you see that the nearest one is za-southwest-1 (SW Nozama). You set your destination, and use your jump drive to jump to the outer atmosphere of za-southwest-1.

As you approach SW Nozama, you see three portals, 1a, 1b, and 1c. Each portal lets you transport directly to an isolated zone (Availability Zone), where you can start construction on your new kingdom (cluster), Royaume.

With your supply of blocks, you take the portal to 1b, and erect the surrounding walls of your first territory (instance)*.

Before you get ahead of yourself, there are some rules to keep in mind. For your territory to be a part of Royaume, the land ordinance requires construction of a building (container), specifically a castle, from which your territory’s lord (agent)* rules.

You can then create architectural plans (task definitions) to build your developments (tasks), consisting of up to 10 buildings per plan. A development can be built now within this or any territory, or multiple territories.

If you do decide to create more territories, you can either stay here in 1b or take a portal to another location in SW Nozama and start building there.

Amazon EC2 building blocks

We currently provide two launch types: EC2 and Fargate. With Fargate, the Amazon EC2 instances are abstracted away and managed for you. Instead of worrying about ECS container instances, you can just worry about tasks. In this post, the infrastructure components used by ECS that are handled by Fargate are marked with a *.

Instance*

EC2 instances are good ol’ virtual machines (VMs). And yes, don’t worry, you can connect to them (via SSH). Because customers have varying needs in memory, storage, and computing power, many different instance types are offered. Just want to run a small application or try a free trial? Try t2.micro. Want to run memory-optimized workloads? R3 and X1 instances are a couple options. There are many more instance types as well, which cater to various use cases.

AMI*

Sorry if you wanted to immediately march forward, but before you create your instance, you need to choose an AMI. An AMI stands for Amazon Machine Image. What does that mean? Basically, an AMI provides the information required to launch an instance: root volume, launch permissions, and volume-attachment specifications. You can find and choose a Linux or Windows AMI provided by AWS, the user community, the AWS Marketplace (for example, the Amazon ECS-Optimized AMI), or you can create your own.

Region

AWS is divided into regions that are geographic areas around the world (for now it’s just Earth, but maybe someday…). These regions have semi-evocative names such as us-east-1 (N. Virginia), us-west-2 (Oregon), eu-central-1 (Frankfurt), ap-northeast-1 (Tokyo), etc.

Each region is designed to be completely isolated from the others, and consists of multiple, distinct data centers. This creates a “blast radius” for failure so that even if an entire region goes down, the others aren’t affected. Like many AWS services, to start using ECS, you first need to decide the region in which to operate. Typically, this is the region nearest to you or your users.

Availability Zone

AWS regions are subdivided into Availability Zones. A region has at minimum two zones, and up to a handful. Zones are physically isolated from each other, spanning one or more different data centers, but are connected through low-latency, fiber-optic networking, and share some common facilities. EC2 is designed so that the most common failures only affect a single zone to prevent region-wide outages. This means you can achieve high availability in a region by spanning your services across multiple zones and distributing across hosts.

Amazon ECS building blocks

Container

Well, without containers, ECS wouldn’t exist!

Are containers virtual machines?
Nope! Virtual machines virtualize the hardware (benefits), while containers virtualize the operating system (even more benefits!). If you look inside a container, you would see that it is made by processes running on the host, and tied together by kernel constructs like namespaces, cgroups, etc. But you don’t need to bother about that level of detail, at least not in this post!

Why containers?
Containers give you the ability to build, ship, and run your code anywhere!

Before the cloud, you needed to self-host and therefore had to buy machines in addition to setting up and configuring the operating system (OS), and running your code. In the cloud, with virtualization, you can just skip to setting up the OS and running your code. Containers make the process even easier—you can just run your code.

Additionally, all of the dependencies travel in a package with the code, which is called an image. This allows containers to be deployed on any host machine. From the outside, it looks like a host is just holding a bunch of containers. They all look the same, in the sense that they are generic enough to be deployed on any host.

With ECS, you can easily run your containerized code and applications across a managed cluster of EC2 instances.

Are containers a fairly new technology?
The concept of containerization is not new. Its origins date back to 1979 with the creation of chroot. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that containers became a major technology. The most significant milestone to date was the release of Docker in 2013, which led to the popularization and widespread adoption of containers.

What does ECS use?
While other container technologies exist (LXC, rkt, etc.), because of its massive adoption and use by our customers, ECS was designed first to work natively with Docker containers.

Container instance*

Yep, you are back to instances. An instance is just slightly more complex in the ECS realm though. Here, it is an ECS container instance that is an EC2 instance running the agent, has a specifically defined IAM policy and role, and has been registered into your cluster.

And as you probably guessed, in these instances, you are running containers. 

AMI*

These container instances can use any AMI as long as it has the following specifications: a modern Linux distribution with the agent and the Docker Daemon with any Docker runtime dependencies running on it.

Want it more simplified? Well, AWS created the Amazon ECS-Optimized AMI for just that. Not only does that AMI come preconfigured with all of the previously mentioned specifications, it’s tested and includes the recommended ecs-init upstart process to run and monitor the agent.

Cluster

An ECS cluster is a grouping of (container) instances* (or tasks in Fargate) that lie within a single region, but can span multiple Availability Zones – it’s even a good idea for redundancy. When launching an instance (or tasks in Fargate), unless specified, it registers with the cluster named “default”. If “default” doesn’t exist, it is created. You can also scale and delete your clusters.

Agent*

The Amazon ECS container agent is a Go program that runs in its own container within each EC2 instance that you use with ECS. (It’s also available open source on GitHub!) The agent is the intermediary component that takes care of the communication between the scheduler and your instances. Want to register your instance into a cluster? (Why wouldn’t you? A cluster is both a logical boundary and provider of pool of resources!) Then you need to run the agent on it.

Task

When you want to start a container, it has to be part of a task. Therefore, you have to create a task first. Succinctly, tasks are a logical grouping of 1 to N containers that run together on the same instance, with N defined by you, up to 10. Let’s say you want to run a custom blog engine. You could put together a web server, an application server, and an in-memory cache, each in their own container. Together, they form a basic frontend unit.

Task definition

Ah, but you cannot create a task directly. You have to create a task definition that tells ECS that “task definition X is composed of this container (and maybe that other container and that other container too!).” It’s kind of like an architectural plan for a city. Some other details it can include are how the containers interact, container CPU and memory constraints, and task permissions using IAM roles.

Then you can tell ECS, “start one task using task definition X.” It might sound like unnecessary planning at first. As soon as you start to deal with multiple tasks, scaling, upgrades, and other “real life” scenarios, you’ll be glad that you have task definitions to keep track of things!

Scheduler*

So, the scheduler schedules… sorry, this should be more helpful, huh? The scheduler is part of the “hosted orchestration layer” provided by ECS. Wait a minute, what do I mean by “hosted orchestration”? Simply put, hosted means that it’s operated by ECS on your behalf, without you having to care about it. Your applications are deployed in containers running on your instances, but the managing of tasks is taken care of by ECS. One less thing to worry about!

Also, the scheduler is the component that decides what (which containers) gets to run where (on which instances), according to a number of constraints. Say that you have a custom blog engine to scale for high availability. You could create a service, which by default, spreads tasks across all zones in the chosen region. And if you want each task to be on a different instance, you can use the distinctInstance task placement constraint. ECS makes sure that not only this happens, but if a task fails, it starts again.

Service

To ensure that you always have your task running without managing it yourself, you can create a service based on the task that you defined and ECS ensures that it stays running. A service is a special construct that says, “at any given time, I want to make sure that N tasks using task definition X1 are running.” If N=1, it just means “make sure that this task is running, and restart it if needed!” And with N>1, you’re basically scaling your application until you hit N, while also ensuring each task is running.

So, what now?

Hopefully you, at the very least, learned a tiny something. All comments are very welcome!

Want to discuss ECS with others? Join the amazon-ecs slack group, which members of the community created and manage.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the core concepts of ECS and its relation to EC2, here are some resources:

Pages
Amazon ECS landing page
AWS Fargate landing page
Amazon ECS Getting Started
Nathan Peck’s AWSome ECS

Docs
Amazon EC2
Amazon ECS

Blogs
AWS Compute Blog
AWS Blog

GitHub code
Amazon ECS container agent
Amazon ECS CLI

AWS videos
Learn Amazon ECS
AWS videos
AWS webinars

 

— tiffany

 @tiffanyfayj

 

Hollywood Asks New UK Culture Secretary To Fight Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-asks-new-uk-culture-secretary-to-fight-online-piracy-180119/

Following Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, Matt Hancock replaced Karen Bradley as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Hancock, the 39-year-old MP for West Suffolk, was promoted from his role as Minister for Digital and Culture, a position he’d held since July 2016.

“Thrilled to become DCMS Secretary. Such an exciting agenda, so much to do, and great people. Can’t wait to get stuck in,” he tweeted.

Of course, the influence held by the Culture Secretary means that the entertainment industries will soon come calling, seeking help and support in a number of vital areas. No surprise then that Stan McCoy, president and managing director at the ‎Motion Picture Association’s EMEA division, has just jumped in with some advice for Hancock.

In an open letter published on Screen Daily, McCoy begins by reminding Hancock that the movie industry contributes considerable sums to the UK economy.

“We are one of the country’s most valuable economic and cultural assets – worth almost £92bn, growing at twice the rate of the economy, and making a positive contribution to the UK’s balance of payments,” McCoy writes.

“Britain’s status as a center of excellence for the audiovisual sector in particular is no accident: It results from the hard work and genius of our creative workforce, complemented by the support of governments that have guided their policies toward enabling continued excellence and growth.”

McCoy goes on to put anti-piracy initiatives at the very top of his wishlist – and Hancock’s to-do list.

“A joined-up strategy to curb proliferation of illegal, often age-inappropriate and malware-laden content online must include addressing the websites, environments and apps that host and facilitate piracy,” McCoy says.

“In addition to hurting one of Britain’s most important industries, they are overwhelmingly likely to harm children and adult consumers through nasty ads, links to adult content with no age verification, scams, fraud and other unpleasantness.”

That McCoy begins with the “piracy is dangerous” approach is definitely not a surprise. This Hollywood and wider video industry strategy is now an open secret. However, it feels a little off that the UK is being asked to further tackle pirate sites.

Through earlier actions, facilitated by the UK legal system and largely sympathetic judges, many thousands of URLs and domains linking to pirate sites, mirrors and proxies, are impossible to access directly through the UK’s major ISPs. Although a few slip through the net, directly accessing the majority of pirate sites in the UK is now impossible.

That’s already a considerable overseas anti-piracy position for the MPA who, as the “international voice” of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), represents American corporations including Disney, Paramount, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros.

There’s no comparable blocking system for these companies to use in the United States and rightsholders in the UK can even have extra sites blocked without going back to court for permission. In summary, these US companies arguably get a better anti-piracy deal in the UK than they do at home in the United States.

In his next point, McCoy references last year’s deal – which was reached following considerable pressure from the UK government – between rightsholders and search engines including Google and Bing to demote ‘pirate’ results.

“Building on last year’s voluntary deal with search engines, the Government should stay at the cutting edge of ensuring that everyone in the ecosystem – including search engines, platforms and social media companies – takes a fair share of responsibility,” McCoy says.

While this progress is clearly appreciated by the MPA/MPAA, it’s difficult to ignore that the voluntary arrangement to demote infringing content is somewhat special if not entirely unique. There is definitely nothing comparable in the United States so keeping up the pressure on the UK Government feels a little like getting the good kid in class to behave, while his rowdy peers nearer the chalkboard get ignored.

The same is true for McCoy’s call for the UK to “banish dodgy streaming devices”.

“Illegal streaming devices loaded with piracy apps and malware – not to mention the occasional electrical failure – are proliferating across the UK, to the detriment of consumers and industry,” he writes.

“The sector is still waiting for the Intellectual Property Office to publish the report on its Call for Views on this subject. This will be one of several opportunities, along with the promised Digital Charter, to make clear that these devices and the apps and content they supply are unacceptable, dangerous to consumers, and harmful to the creative industry.”

Again, prompting the UK to stay on top of this game doesn’t feel entirely warranted.

With dozens of actions over the past few years, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (which Hollywood ironically dumped in 2016) have done more to tackle the pirate set-top box problem than any group on the other side of the Atlantic.

Admittedly the MPAA is now trying to catch up, with recent prosecutions of two ‘pirate’ box vendors (1,2), but largely the work by the studios on their home turf has been outpaced by that of their counterparts in the UK.

Maybe Hancock will mention that to Hollywood at some point in the future.

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

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.

Game night 2: Detention, Viatoree, Paletta

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/01/16/game-night-2-detention-viatoree-paletta/

Game night continues with:

  • Detention
  • Viatoree
  • Paletta

These are impressions, not reviews. I try to avoid major/ending spoilers, but big plot points do tend to leave impressions.

Detention

longish · inventory horror · jan 2017 · lin/mac/win · $12 on steam · website

Inventory horror” is a hell of a genre.

I think this one came from a Twitter thread where glip asked for indie horror recommendations. It’s apparently well-known enough to have a Wikipedia article, but I hadn’t heard of it before.

I love love love the aesthetic here. It’s obviously 2Dish from a side view (though there’s plenty of parallax in a lot of places), and it’s all done with… papercraft? I think of it as papercraft. Everything is built out of painted chunks that look like they were cut out of paper. It’s most obvious when watching the protagonist move around; her legs and skirt swivel as she walks.

Less obvious are the occasional places where tiny details repeat in the background because a paper cutout was reused. I don’t bring that up as a dig on the art; on the contrary, I really liked noticing that once or twice. It made the world feel like it was made with a tileset (albeit with very large chunky tiles), like it’s slightly artificial. I’m used to seeing sidescrollers made from tiles, of course, but the tiles are usually colorful and cartoony pixel art; big gritty full-color tiles are unusual and eerie.

And that’s a good thing in a horror game! Detention’s setting is already slightly unreal, and it’s made all the moreso by my Western perspective: it takes place in a Taiwanese school in the 60’s, a time when Taiwan was apparently under martial law. The Steam page tells you this, but I didn’t even know that much when we started playing, so I’d effectively been dropped somewhere on the globe and left to collect the details myself. Even figuring out we were in Taiwan (rather than mainland China) felt like an insight.

Thinking back, it was kind of a breath of fresh air. Games can be pretty heavy-handed about explaining the setting, but I never got that feeling from Detention. There’s more than enough context to get what’s going on, but there are no “stop and look at the camera while monologuing some exposition” moments. The developers are based in Taiwan, so it’s possible the setting is plenty familiar to them, and my perception of it is a complete accident. Either way, it certainly made an impact. Death of the author and whatnot, I suppose.

One thing in particular that stood out: none of the Chinese text in the environment is directly translated. The protagonist’s thoughts still give away what it says — “this is the nurse’s office” and the like — but that struck me as pretty different from simply repeating the text in English as though I were reading a sign in an RPG. The text is there, perfectly legible, but I can’t read it; I can only ask the protagonist to read it and offer her thoughts. It drives home that I’m experiencing the world through the eyes of the protagonist, who is their own person with their own impression of everything. Again, this is largely an emergent property of the game’s being designed in a culture that is not mine, but I’m left wondering how much thought went into this style of localization.

The game itself sees you wandering through a dark and twisted version of the protagonist’s school, collecting items and solving puzzles with them. There’s no direct combat, though some places feature a couple varieties of spirits called lingered which you have to carefully avoid. As the game progresses, the world starts to break down, alternating between increasingly abstract and increasingly concrete as we find out who the protagonist is and why she’s here.

The payoff is very personal and left a lasting impression… though as I look at the Wikipedia page now, it looks like the ending we got was the non-canon bad ending?! Well, hell. The bad ending is still great, then.

The whole game has a huge Silent Hill vibe, only without the combat and fog. Frankly, the genre might work better without combat; personal demons are more intimidating and meaningful when you can’t literally shoot them with a gun until they’re dead.

FINAL SCORE: 拾

Viatoree

short · platformer · sep 2013 · win · free on itch

I found this because @itchio tweeted about it, and the phrase “atmospheric platform exploration game” is the second most beautiful sequence of words in the English language.

The first paragraph on the itch.io page tells you the setup. That paragraph also contains more text than the entire game. In short: there are five things, and you need to find them. You can walk, jump, and extend your arms straight up to lift yourself to the ceiling. That’s it. No enemies, no shooting, no NPCs (more or less).

The result is, indeed, an atmospheric platform exploration game. The foreground is entirely 1-bit pixel art, save for the occasional white pixel to indicate someone’s eyes, and the background is only a few shades of the same purple hue. The game becomes less about playing and more about just looking at the environmental detail, appreciating how much texture the game manages to squeeze out of chunky colorless pixels. The world is still alive, too, much moreso than most platformers; tiny critters appear here and there, doing some wandering of their own, completely oblivious to you.

The game is really short, but it… just… makes me happy. I’m happy that this can exist, that not only is it okay for someone to make a very compact and short game, but that the result can still resonate with me. Not everything needs to be a sprawling epic or ask me to dedicate hours of time. It takes a few tiny ideas, runs with them, does what it came to do, and ends there. I love games like this.

That sounds silly to write out, but it’s been hard to get into my head! I do like experimenting, but I also feel compelled to reach for the grandiose, and grandiose experiment sounds more like mad science than creative exploration. For whatever reason, Viatoree convinced me that it’s okay to do a small thing, in a way that no other jam game has. It was probably the catalyst that led me to make Roguelike Simulator, and I thank it for that.

Unfortunately, we collected four of the five macguffins before hitting upon on a puzzle we couldn’t make heads or tails of. After about ten minutes of fruitless searching, I decided to abandon this one unfinished, rather than bore my couch partner to tears. Maybe I’ll go take another stab at it after I post this.

FINAL SCORE: ●●●●○

Paletta

medium · puzzle story · nov 2017 · win · free on itch

Paletta, another RPG Maker work, won second place in the month-long Indie Game Maker Contest 2017. Nice! Apparently MOOP came in fourth in the same jam; also nice! I guess that’s why both of them ended up on the itch front page.

The game is set in a world drained of color, and you have to go restore it. Each land contains one lost color, and each color gives you a corresponding spell, which is generally used for some light puzzle-solving in further lands. It’s a very cute and light-hearted game, and it actually does an impressive job of obscuring its RPG Maker roots.

The world feels a little small to me, despite having fairly spacious maps. The progression is pretty linear: you enter one land, talk to a small handful of NPCs, solve the one puzzle, get the color, and move on. I think all the areas were continuously connected, too, which may have thrown me off a bit — these areas are described as though they were vast regions, but they’re all a hundred feet wide and nestled right next to each other.

I love playing with color as a concept, and I wish the game had run further with it somehow. Rescuing a color does add some color back to the world, but at times it seemed like the color that reappeared was somewhat arbitrary? It’s not like you rescue green and now all the green is back. Thinking back on it now, I wonder if each rescued color actually changed a fixed set of sprites from gray to colorized? But it’s been a month (oops) and now I’m not sure.

I’m not trying to pick on the authors for the brevity of their jam game and also first game they’ve ever finished. I enjoyed playing it and found it plenty charming! It just happens that this time, what left the biggest impression on me was a nebulous feeling that something was missing. I think that’s still plenty important to ponder.

FINAL SCORE: ❤️💛💚💙💜

Google Blocks Pirate Search Results Prophylactically

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-blocks-pirated-search-results-prophylactically-180103/

On an average day, Google processes more than three million takedown notices from copyright holders, and that’s for its search engine alone.

Under the current DMCA legislation, US-based Internet service providers are expected to remove infringing links, if a copyright holder complains.

This process shields these services from direct liability. In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of the system, but Google has always maintained that it works well.

This was also highlighted by Google’s copyright counsel Caleb Donaldson, in an article he wrote for the American Bar Association’s publication Landslide.

“The DMCA provided Google and other online service providers the legal certainty they needed to grow,” Donaldson writes.

“And the DMCA’s takedown notices help us fight piracy in other ways as well. Indeed, the Web Search notice-and-takedown process provides the cornerstone of Google’s fight against piracy.”

The search engine does indeed go beyond ‘just’ removing links. The takedown notices are also used as a signal to demote domains. Websites for which it receives a lot of takedown notices will be placed lower in search results, for example.

These measures can be expanded and complemented by artificial intelligence in the future, Google’s copyright counsel envisions.

“As we move into a world where artificial intelligence can learn from vast troves of data like these, we will only get better at using the information to better fight against piracy,” Donaldson writes.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a buzz-term that has a pretty broad meaning nowadays. Donaldson doesn’t go into detail on how AI can fight piracy. It could help to spot erroneous notices, on the one hand, but can also be applied to filter content proactively.

The latter is something Google is slowly opening up to.

Over the past year, we’ve noticed on a few occasions that Google is processing takedown notices for non-indexed links. While we assumed that this was an ‘error’ on the sender’s part, it appears to be a new policy.

“Google has critically expanded notice and takedown in another important way: We accept notices for URLs that are not even in our index in the first place. That way, we can collect information even about pages and domains we have not yet crawled,” Donaldson writes.

In other words, Google blocks URLs before they appear in the search results, as some sort of piracy vaccine.

“We process these URLs as we do the others. Once one of these not-in-index URLs is approved for takedown, we prophylactically block it from appearing in our Search results, and we take all the additional deterrent measures listed above.”

Some submitters are heavily relying on the new feature, Google found. In some cases, the majority of the submitted URLs in a notice are not indexed yet.

The search engine will keep a close eye on these developments. At TorrentFreak, we also found that copyright holders sometimes target links that don’t even exist. Whether Google will also accept these takedown requests in the future, is unknown.

It’s clear that artificial intelligence and proactive filtering are becoming more and more common, but Google says that the company will also keep an eye on possible abuse of the system.

“Google will push back if we suspect a notice is mistaken, fraudulent, or abusive, or if we think fair use or another defense excuses that particular use of copyrighted content,” Donaldson notes.

Artificial intelligence and prophylactic blocking surely add a new dimension to the standard DMCA takedown procedure, but whether it will be enough to convince copyright holders that it works, has yet to be seen.

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

2017’s “Piracy is Dangerous” Rhetoric Was Digital Reefer Madness

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/2017s-piracy-is-dangerous-rhetoric-was-digital-reefer-madness-171230/

On dozens of occasions during the past year, TF has been compelled to cover the latest entertainment industry anti-piracy scare campaigns. We never have a problem doing so since news is to be reported and we’re all adults with our own minds to evaluate what we’re reading.

Unfortunately, many people behind these efforts seem to be under the impression that their target audience is comprised of simpletons, none of whom are blessed with a brain of their own. Frankly it’s insulting but before we go on, let’s get a few things clear.

Copyright infringement – including uploading, downloading, sharing or streaming – is illegal in most countries. That means that copyright holders are empowered under law to do something about those offenses, either through the civil or criminal courts. While unpalatable to some, most people accept that position and understand that should they be caught in the act, there might be some consequences.

With that said, there are copyright holders out there that need to stop treating people like children at best, idiots at worst. At this point in 2017, there’s no adult out there with the ability to pirate that truly believes that obtaining or sharing the latest movies, TV shows and sports is likely to be completely legal.

If you don’t believe me, ask a pirate why he or she is so excited by their fully-loaded Kodi setup. Hint: It’s because they’re getting content for free and they know full well that isn’t what the copyright holder wants. Then ask them if they want the copyright holder to know their name, address and everything they’ve downloaded. There. That’s your answer.

The point is that these people are not dumb. They know what they’re doing and understand that getting caught is something that might possibly happen. They may not understand precisely how and they may consider the risk to be particularly small (they’d be right too) but they know that it’s something best kept fairly quiet when they aren’t shouting about it to anyone who will listen down the pub.

Copyright holders aren’t dumb either. They know only too well that pirates recognize what they’re doing is probably illegal but they’re at a loss as to what to do about it. For reputable content owners, suing is expensive, doesn’t scale, is a public relations nightmare and, moreover, isn’t effective in solving the problem.

So, we now have a concerted effort to convince pirates that piracy is not only bad for their computers but also bad for their lives. It’s a stated industry aim and we’re going to see more of it in 2018.

If pirate sites aren’t infecting people’s computers with malware from God-knows-where, they’re stealing their identities and emptying their bank accounts, the industries warned in 2017. And if somehow people manage to run this gauntlet of terror without damaging their technology or their finances, then they’ll probably have their house burnt down by an exploding set-top box.

Look, the intention is understandable. Entertainment companies need to contain the piracy problem because if they don’t, it only gets worse. Again, there are few people out there who genuinely expect them to do anything different but this current stampede towards blatant scaremongering is disingenuous at best and utterly ridiculous at worst.

And it won’t work.

While piracy can be engaged in as a solo activity, it’s inherently a social phenomenon. That things can be pirated from here and there, in this way and that, is the stuff of conversations between friends and colleagues, in person and via social media. The information is passed around today like VHS and compact cassettes were passed around three decades ago and people really aren’t talking about malware or their houses catching fire.

In the somewhat unlikely event these topics do get raised for more than a minute, they get dealt with in the same way as anything else.

People inquire whether their friends have ever had their bank accounts emptied or houses burnt down, or if they know anyone who has. When the answer comes back as “no” from literally everyone, people are likely to conclude that the stories are being spread by people trying to stop them getting movies, TV shows, and live sports for free. And they would be right.

That’s not to say that these scare stories don’t have at least some basis in fact, they do.

Many pirate sites do have low-tier advertising which can put users at risk. However, it’s nothing that a decent anti-virus program and/or ad blocker can’t handle, which is something everyone should be running when accessing untrusted sites. Also, being cautious about all electronics imported from overseas is something people should be aware of too, despite the tiny risk these devices appear to pose in the scheme of things.

So, what we have here is the modern day equivalent of Reefer Madness, the 1930’s propaganda movie that tried to scare people away from marijuana with tales of car accidents, suicide, attempted rape and murder.

While somewhat more refined, these modern-day cautionary messages over piracy are destined to fall on ears that are far more shrewd and educated than their 20th-century counterparts. Yet they’re all born out of the same desire, to stop people from getting involved in an activity by warning them that it’s dangerous to them, rather than it having a negative effect on someone else – an industry executive, for example.

It’s all designed to appeal to the selfish nature of people, rather than their empathy for others, but that’s a big mistake.

Most people really do want to do the right thing, as the staggering success of Netflix, iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon show. But the ridiculous costs and/or inaccessibility of live sports, latest movies, or packaged TV shows mean that no matter what warnings get thrown out there, some people will still cut corners if they feel they’re being taken advantage of.

Worst still, if they believe the scare stories are completely ridiculous, eventually they’ll also discount the credibility of the messenger. When that happens, what little trust remains will be eroded.

Then, let’s face it, who wants to buy something from people you can’t trust?

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

Serverless @ re:Invent 2017

Post Syndicated from Chris Munns original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/serverless-reinvent-2017/

At re:Invent 2014, we announced AWS Lambda, what is now the center of the serverless platform at AWS, and helped ignite the trend of companies building serverless applications.

This year, at re:Invent 2017, the topic of serverless was everywhere. We were incredibly excited to see the energy from everyone attending 7 workshops, 15 chalk talks, 20 skills sessions and 27 breakout sessions. Many of these sessions were repeated due to high demand, so we are happy to summarize and provide links to the recordings and slides of these sessions.

Over the course of the week leading up to and then the week of re:Invent, we also had over 15 new features and capabilities across a number of serverless services, including AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, AWS [email protected], AWS SAM, and the newly announced AWS Serverless Application Repository!

AWS Lambda

Amazon API Gateway

  • Amazon API Gateway Supports Endpoint Integrations with Private VPCs – You can now provide access to HTTP(S) resources within your VPC without exposing them directly to the public internet. This includes resources available over a VPN or Direct Connect connection!
  • Amazon API Gateway Supports Canary Release Deployments – You can now use canary release deployments to gradually roll out new APIs. This helps you more safely roll out API changes and limit the blast radius of new deployments.
  • Amazon API Gateway Supports Access Logging – The access logging feature lets you generate access logs in different formats such as CLF (Common Log Format), JSON, XML, and CSV. The access logs can be fed into your existing analytics or log processing tools so you can perform more in-depth analysis or take action in response to the log data.
  • Amazon API Gateway Customize Integration Timeouts – You can now set a custom timeout for your API calls as low as 50ms and as high as 29 seconds (the default is 30 seconds).
  • Amazon API Gateway Supports Generating SDK in Ruby – This is in addition to support for SDKs in Java, JavaScript, Android and iOS (Swift and Objective-C). The SDKs that Amazon API Gateway generates save you development time and come with a number of prebuilt capabilities, such as working with API keys, exponential back, and exception handling.

AWS Serverless Application Repository

Serverless Application Repository is a new service (currently in preview) that aids in the publication, discovery, and deployment of serverless applications. With it you’ll be able to find shared serverless applications that you can launch in your account, while also sharing ones that you’ve created for others to do the same.

AWS [email protected]

[email protected] now supports content-based dynamic origin selection, network calls from viewer events, and advanced response generation. This combination of capabilities greatly increases the use cases for [email protected], such as allowing you to send requests to different origins based on request information, showing selective content based on authentication, and dynamically watermarking images for each viewer.

AWS SAM

Twitch Launchpad live announcements

Other service announcements

Here are some of the other highlights that you might have missed. We think these could help you make great applications:

AWS re:Invent 2017 sessions

Coming up with the right mix of talks for an event like this can be quite a challenge. The Product, Marketing, and Developer Advocacy teams for Serverless at AWS spent weeks reading through dozens of talk ideas to boil it down to the final list.

From feedback at other AWS events and webinars, we knew that customers were looking for talks that focused on concrete examples of solving problems with serverless, how to perform common tasks such as deployment, CI/CD, monitoring, and troubleshooting, and to see customer and partner examples solving real world problems. To that extent we tried to settle on a good mix based on attendee experience and provide a track full of rich content.

Below are the recordings and slides of breakout sessions from re:Invent 2017. We’ve organized them for those getting started, those who are already beginning to build serverless applications, and the experts out there already running them at scale. Some of the videos and slides haven’t been posted yet, and so we will update this list as they become available.

Find the entire Serverless Track playlist on YouTube.

Talks for people new to Serverless

Advanced topics

Expert mode

Talks for specific use cases

Talks from AWS customers & partners

Looking to get hands-on with Serverless?

At re:Invent, we delivered instructor-led skills sessions to help attendees new to serverless applications get started quickly. The content from these sessions is already online and you can do the hands-on labs yourself!
Build a Serverless web application

Still looking for more?

We also recently completely overhauled the main Serverless landing page for AWS. This includes a new Resources page containing case studies, webinars, whitepapers, customer stories, reference architectures, and even more Getting Started tutorials. Check it out!

Weekly roundup: Invinco Beat

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/dev/2017/12/18/weekly-roundup-invinco-beat/

I’ve been a bit all over the place! And I’m starting to go nocturnal again, oh no.

  • art: I started drawing a header image for my itch.io page, which for a year now has been barren, save for a promise that I would soon make it unbarren.

    I accidentally spent a good chunk of time toodling around with 3D modelling again, this time trying to aim for low-poly with pixel art textures. I tried a couple things, but the biggest success by far was Star Anise.

  • anise!!: Still not done, but asymptotically approaching done. Most of the time has been going towards the map, which has been rearchitectued several times, and which is bigger and more complicated than anything we’ve done before. Also did some regular old mechanical stuff, like doors and whatnot.

  • misc: I had MegaZeux on the brain and wanted to try out the Web Audio API, so on a total whim I wrote a little player for MegaZeux’s SFX strings.

  • ???: Ah! Not ready to talk about this one yet.

US Government Teaches Anti-Piracy Skills Around The Globe

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-government-teaches-anti-piracy-skills-around-the-globe-171217/

Online piracy is a global issue. Pirate sites and services tend to operate in multiple jurisdictions and are purposefully set up to evade law enforcement.

This makes it hard for police from one country to effectively crack down on a site in another. International cooperation is often required, and the US Government is one of the leaders on this front.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has quite a bit of experience in tracking down pirates and they are actively sharing this knowledge with countries that can use some help. This goes far beyond the occasional seminar.

A diplomatic cable obtained through a Freedom of Information request provides a relatively recent example of these efforts. The document gives an overview of anti-piracy training, provided and funded by the US Government, during the fall of 2015.

“On November 24 and 25, prosecutors and investigators from Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Turkey participated in a two-day, US. Department of Justice (USDOJ)-sponsored training program on combatting online piracy.

“The program updated participants on legal issues, including data retention legislation, surrounding the investigation and prosecution of online piracy,” the cable adds.

According to the cable, piracy has become a very significant problem in Eastern Europe, costing rightsholders and governments millions of dollars in revenues. After the training, local law enforcement officers in these countries should be better equipped to deal with the problem.

Pirates Beware

The event was put together with help from various embassies and among the presenters were law enforcement professionals from around the world.

The Director of the DoJ’s CCIPS Cybercrime Laboratory was among the speakers. He gave training on computer forensics and participants were provided with various tools to put this to use.

“Participants were given copies of forensic tools at the conclusion of the program so that they could put to use some of what they saw demonstrated during the training,” the cable reads.

While catching pirates can be quite hard already, getting them convicted is a challenge as well. Increasingly we’ve seen criminal complaints using non-copyright claims to have site owners prosecuted.

By using money laundering and tax offenses, pirates can receive tougher penalties. This was one of the talking points during the training as well.

“Participants were encouraged to consider the use of statutes such as money laundering and tax evasion, in addition to those protecting copyrights and trademarks, since these offenses are often punished more severely than standalone intellectual property crimes.”

The cable, written by the US Embassy in Bucharest, provides a lot of detail about the two-day training session. It’s also clear on the overall objective. The US wants to increase the likelihood that pirate sites are brought to justice. Not only in the homeland, but around the globe.

“By focusing approximately forty investigators and prosecutors from four countries on how they can more effectively attack rogue sites, and by connecting rights holders and their investigators with law enforcement, the chances of pirates being caught and held accountable have increased.”

While it’s hard to link the training to any concrete successes, Romanian law enforcement did shut down the country’s leading pirate site a few months later. As with a previous case in Romania, which involved the FBI, money laundering and tax evasion allegations were expected.

While it’s not out of the ordinary for international law enforcers to work together, it’s notable how coordinated the US efforts are. Earlier this week we wrote about the US pressure on Sweden to raid The Pirate Bay. And these are not isolated incidents.

While the US Department of Justice doesn’t reveal all details of its operations, it is very open about its global efforts to protect Intellectual Property.

Around the world..

The DoJ’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) has relationships with law enforcement worldwide and regularly provides training to foreign officers.

A crucial part of the Department’s international enforcement activities is the Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator (IPLEC) program, which started in 2006.

Through IPLECs, the department now has Attorneys stationed in Thailand, Hong Kong, Romania, Brazil, and Nigeria. These Attorneys keep an eye on local law enforcement and provide assistance and training, to protect US copyright holders.

“Our strategically placed coordinators draw upon their subject matter expertise to help ensure that property holders’ rights are enforced across the globe, and that the American people are protected from harmful products entering the marketplace,” Attorney General John Cronan of the Criminal Division said just last Friday.

Or to end with the title of the Romanian cable: ‘Pirates beware!’

The cable cited here was made available in response to a Freedom of Information request, which was submitted by Rachael Tackett and shared with TorrentFreak. It starts at page 47 of document 2.

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

University College London is Accidentally Running a Huge “Pirate” Movie Site

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/university-college-london-is-accidentally-running-a-huge-pirate-movie-site-171216/

If someone wants to obtain the latest movies for free, all they need to do is head over to the nearest torrent or streaming portal, press a few buttons, and the content appears in a matter of seconds or minutes, dependent on choice.

Indeed, for those seeking mainstream content DRM-free, this is the only way to obtain it, since studios generally don’t make their content available in this fashion. But we know an establishment that does, on a grand scale.

University College London is the third largest university in the UK. According to accounts (pdf) published this summer, it has revenues of more than £1.32 billion. Somewhat surprisingly, this educational behemoth also has a sensational multimedia trick up its considerable sleeve.

The university’s website, located at UCL.ac.uk, is a polished affair and provides all the information anyone could need. However, until one browses to the Self-Access Centre, the full glory of the platform remains largely hidden.

Located at resources.clie.ucl.ac.uk/home/sac/english/films, it looks not unlike Netflix, or indeed any one of thousands of pirate streaming sites around today. However, it appears to be intended for university and educational use only.

UCL’s Self-Access Centre

“Welcome to the Self-Access Centre materials database. Here you can find out about the English materials we have in the SAC and explore our online materials,” the site reads.

“They were designed to help you improve your English skills. Most of the video materials, including films and documentaries, are now available to be watched online. Log on with your UCL id and password to watch them!”

According to a university video tutorial, all content on the SAC can be viewed on campus or from home, as long as a proper login and password is entered. The material is provided for educational purposes and when viewed through the portal, is accompanied by questions, notes, and various exercises.

Trouble is, the entire system is open to the wider Internet, with no logins or passwords required.

A sample of the movies on offer for direct download

The above image doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. In one directory alone, TorrentFreak counted more than 700 English language movies. In another, more than 600 documentaries including all episodes of the BBC’s Blue Planet II. World Cinema produced close to 90 results, with hundreds of titles voiced in languages from Arabic to Japanese to Welsh.

Links can be pasted into VLC and streamed direct

Quite how long this massive trove of films and TV shows has been open to the public isn’t clear but a simple Google search reveals not only the content itself, but also links to movies and other material on sites in the Middle East and social networks in Russia.

Some of them date back to at least 2016 so it’s probably safe to assume that untold terabytes of data have already been liberated from the university’s servers for the pleasure of the public.

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

Libertarians are against net neutrality

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/12/libertarians-are-against-net-neutrality.html

This post claims to be by a libertarian in support of net neutrality. As a libertarian, I need to debunk this. “Net neutrality” is a case of one-hand clapping, you rarely hear the competing side, and thus, that side may sound attractive. This post is about the other side, from a libertarian point of view.

That post just repeats the common, and wrong, left-wing talking points. I mean, there might be a libertarian case for some broadband regulation, but this isn’t it.

This thing they call “net neutrality” is just left-wing politics masquerading as some sort of principle. It’s no different than how people claim to be “pro-choice”, yet demand forced vaccinations. Or, it’s no different than how people claim to believe in “traditional marriage” even while they are on their third “traditional marriage”.

Properly defined, “net neutrality” means no discrimination of network traffic. But nobody wants that. A classic example is how most internet connections have faster download speeds than uploads. This discriminates against upload traffic, harming innovation in upload-centric applications like DropBox’s cloud backup or BitTorrent’s peer-to-peer file transfer. Yet activists never mention this, or other types of network traffic discrimination, because they no more care about “net neutrality” than Trump or Gingrich care about “traditional marriage”.

Instead, when people say “net neutrality”, they mean “government regulation”. It’s the same old debate between who is the best steward of consumer interest: the free-market or government.

Specifically, in the current debate, they are referring to the Obama-era FCC “Open Internet” order and reclassification of broadband under “Title II” so they can regulate it. Trump’s FCC is putting broadband back to “Title I”, which means the FCC can’t regulate most of its “Open Internet” order.

Don’t be tricked into thinking the “Open Internet” order is anything but intensely politically. The premise behind the order is the Democrat’s firm believe that it’s government who created the Internet, and all innovation, advances, and investment ultimately come from the government. It sees ISPs as inherently deceitful entities who will only serve their own interests, at the expense of consumers, unless the FCC protects consumers.

It says so right in the order itself. It starts with the premise that broadband ISPs are evil, using illegitimate “tactics” to hurt consumers, and continues with similar language throughout the order.

A good contrast to this can be seen in Tim Wu’s non-political original paper in 2003 that coined the term “net neutrality”. Whereas the FCC sees broadband ISPs as enemies of consumers, Wu saw them as allies. His concern was not that ISPs would do evil things, but that they would do stupid things, such as favoring short-term interests over long-term innovation (such as having faster downloads than uploads).

The political depravity of the FCC’s order can be seen in this comment from one of the commissioners who voted for those rules:

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wants to increase the minimum broadband standards far past the new 25Mbps download threshold, up to 100Mbps. “We invented the internet. We can do audacious things if we set big goals, and I think our new threshold, frankly, should be 100Mbps. I think anything short of that shortchanges our children, our future, and our new digital economy,” Commissioner Rosenworcel said.

This is indistinguishable from communist rhetoric that credits the Party for everything, as this booklet from North Korea will explain to you.

But what about monopolies? After all, while the free-market may work when there’s competition, it breaks down where there are fewer competitors, oligopolies, and monopolies.

There is some truth to this, in individual cities, there’s often only only a single credible high-speed broadband provider. But this isn’t the issue at stake here. The FCC isn’t proposing light-handed regulation to keep monopolies in check, but heavy-handed regulation that regulates every last decision.

Advocates of FCC regulation keep pointing how broadband monopolies can exploit their renting-seeking positions in order to screw the customer. They keep coming up with ever more bizarre and unlikely scenarios what monopoly power grants the ISPs.

But the never mention the most simplest: that broadband monopolies can just charge customers more money. They imagine instead that these companies will pursue a string of outrageous, evil, and less profitable behaviors to exploit their monopoly position.

The FCC’s reclassification of broadband under Title II gives it full power to regulate ISPs as utilities, including setting prices. The FCC has stepped back from this, promising it won’t go so far as to set prices, that it’s only regulating these evil conspiracy theories. This is kind of bizarre: either broadband ISPs are evilly exploiting their monopoly power or they aren’t. Why stop at regulating only half the evil?

The answer is that the claim “monopoly” power is a deception. It starts with overstating how many monopolies there are to begin with. When it issued its 2015 “Open Internet” order the FCC simultaneously redefined what they meant by “broadband”, upping the speed from 5-mbps to 25-mbps. That’s because while most consumers have multiple choices at 5-mbps, fewer consumers have multiple choices at 25-mbps. It’s a dirty political trick to convince you there is more of a problem than there is.

In any case, their rules still apply to the slower broadband providers, and equally apply to the mobile (cell phone) providers. The US has four mobile phone providers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint) and plenty of competition between them. That it’s monopolistic power that the FCC cares about here is a lie. As their Open Internet order clearly shows, the fundamental principle that animates the document is that all corporations, monopolies or not, are treacherous and must be regulated.

“But corporations are indeed evil”, people argue, “see here’s a list of evil things they have done in the past!”

No, those things weren’t evil. They were done because they benefited the customers, not as some sort of secret rent seeking behavior.

For example, one of the more common “net neutrality abuses” that people mention is AT&T’s blocking of FaceTime. I’ve debunked this elsewhere on this blog, but the summary is this: there was no network blocking involved (not a “net neutrality” issue), and the FCC analyzed it and decided it was in the best interests of the consumer. It’s disingenuous to claim it’s an evil that justifies FCC actions when the FCC itself declared it not evil and took no action. It’s disingenuous to cite the “net neutrality” principle that all network traffic must be treated when, in fact, the network did treat all the traffic equally.

Another frequently cited abuse is Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent.Comcast did this because Netflix users were complaining. Like all streaming video, Netflix backs off to slower speed (and poorer quality) when it experiences congestion. BitTorrent, uniquely among applications, never backs off. As most applications become slower and slower, BitTorrent just speeds up, consuming all available bandwidth. This is especially problematic when there’s limited upload bandwidth available. Thus, Comcast throttled BitTorrent during prime time TV viewing hours when the network was already overloaded by Netflix and other streams. BitTorrent users wouldn’t mind this throttling, because it often took days to download a big file anyway.

When the FCC took action, Comcast stopped the throttling and imposed bandwidth caps instead. This was a worse solution for everyone. It penalized heavy Netflix viewers, and prevented BitTorrent users from large downloads. Even though BitTorrent users were seen as the victims of this throttling, they’d vastly prefer the throttling over the bandwidth caps.

In both the FaceTime and BitTorrent cases, the issue was “network management”. AT&T had no competing video calling service, Comcast had no competing download service. They were only reacting to the fact their networks were overloaded, and did appropriate things to solve the problem.

Mobile carriers still struggle with the “network management” issue. While their networks are fast, they are still of low capacity, and quickly degrade under heavy use. They are looking for tricks in order to reduce usage while giving consumers maximum utility.

The biggest concern is video. It’s problematic because it’s designed to consume as much bandwidth as it can, throttling itself only when it experiences congestion. This is what you probably want when watching Netflix at the highest possible quality, but it’s bad when confronted with mobile bandwidth caps.

With small mobile devices, you don’t want as much quality anyway. You want the video degraded to lower quality, and lower bandwidth, all the time.

That’s the reasoning behind T-Mobile’s offerings. They offer an unlimited video plan in conjunction with the biggest video providers (Netflix, YouTube, etc.). The catch is that when congestion occurs, they’ll throttle it to lower quality. In other words, they give their bandwidth to all the other phones in your area first, then give you as much of the leftover bandwidth as you want for video.

While it sounds like T-Mobile is doing something evil, “zero-rating” certain video providers and degrading video quality, the FCC allows this, because they recognize it’s in the customer interest.

Mobile providers especially have great interest in more innovation in this area, in order to conserve precious bandwidth, but they are finding it costly. They can’t just innovate, but must ask the FCC permission first. And with the new heavy handed FCC rules, they’ve become hostile to this innovation. This attitude is highlighted by the statement from the “Open Internet” order:

And consumers must be protected, for example from mobile commercial practices masquerading as “reasonable network management.”

This is a clear declaration that free-market doesn’t work and won’t correct abuses, and that that mobile companies are treacherous and will do evil things without FCC oversight.

Conclusion

Ignoring the rhetoric for the moment, the debate comes down to simple left-wing authoritarianism and libertarian principles. The Obama administration created a regulatory regime under clear Democrat principles, and the Trump administration is rolling it back to more free-market principles. There is no principle at stake here, certainly nothing to do with a technical definition of “net neutrality”.

The 2015 “Open Internet” order is not about “treating network traffic neutrally”, because it doesn’t do that. Instead, it’s purely a left-wing document that claims corporations cannot be trusted, must be regulated, and that innovation and prosperity comes from the regulators and not the free market.

It’s not about monopolistic power. The primary targets of regulation are the mobile broadband providers, where there is plenty of competition, and who have the most “network management” issues. Even if it were just about wired broadband (like Comcast), it’s still ignoring the primary ways monopolies profit (raising prices) and instead focuses on bizarre and unlikely ways of rent seeking.

If you are a libertarian who nonetheless believes in this “net neutrality” slogan, you’ve got to do better than mindlessly repeating the arguments of the left-wing. The term itself, “net neutrality”, is just a slogan, varying from person to person, from moment to moment. You have to be more specific. If you truly believe in the “net neutrality” technical principle that all traffic should be treated equally, then you’ll want a rewrite of the “Open Internet” order.

In the end, while libertarians may still support some form of broadband regulation, it’s impossible to reconcile libertarianism with the 2015 “Open Internet”, or the vague things people mean by the slogan “net neutrality”.

Object models

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/11/28/object-models/

Anonymous asks, with dollars:

More about programming languages!

Well then!

I’ve written before about what I think objects are: state and behavior, which in practice mostly means method calls.

I suspect that the popular impression of what objects are, and also how they should work, comes from whatever C++ and Java happen to do. From that point of view, the whole post above is probably nonsense. If the baseline notion of “object” is a rigid definition woven tightly into the design of two massively popular languages, then it doesn’t even make sense to talk about what “object” should mean — it does mean the features of those languages, and cannot possibly mean anything else.

I think that’s a shame! It piles a lot of baggage onto a fairly simple idea. Polymorphism, for example, has nothing to do with objects — it’s an escape hatch for static type systems. Inheritance isn’t the only way to reuse code between objects, but it’s the easiest and fastest one, so it’s what we get. Frankly, it’s much closer to a speed tradeoff than a fundamental part of the concept.

We could do with more experimentation around how objects work, but that’s impossible in the languages most commonly thought of as object-oriented.

Here, then, is a (very) brief run through the inner workings of objects in four very dynamic languages. I don’t think I really appreciated objects until I’d spent some time with Python, and I hope this can help someone else whet their own appetite.

Python 3

Of the four languages I’m going to touch on, Python will look the most familiar to the Java and C++ crowd. For starters, it actually has a class construct.

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class Vector:
    def __init__(self, x, y):
        self.x = x
        self.y = y

    def __neg__(self):
        return Vector(-self.x, -self.y)

    def __div__(self, denom):
        return Vector(self.x / denom, self.y / denom)

    @property
    def magnitude(self):
        return (self.x ** 2 + self.y ** 2) ** 0.5

    def normalized(self):
        return self / self.magnitude

The __init__ method is an initializer, which is like a constructor but named differently (because the object already exists in a usable form by the time the initializer is called). Operator overloading is done by implementing methods with other special __dunder__ names. Properties can be created with @property, where the @ is syntax for applying a wrapper function to a function as it’s defined. You can do inheritance, even multiply:

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class Foo(A, B, C):
    def bar(self, x, y, z):
        # do some stuff
        super().bar(x, y, z)

Cool, a very traditional object model.

Except… for some details.

Some details

For one, Python objects don’t have a fixed layout. Code both inside and outside the class can add or remove whatever attributes they want from whatever object they want. The underlying storage is just a dict, Python’s mapping type. (Or, rather, something like one. Also, it’s possible to change, which will probably be the case for everything I say here.)

If you create some attributes at the class level, you’ll start to get a peek behind the curtains:

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class Foo:
    values = []

    def add_value(self, value):
        self.values.append(value)

a = Foo()
b = Foo()
a.add_value('a')
print(a.values)  # ['a']
b.add_value('b')
print(b.values)  # ['a', 'b']

The [] assigned to values isn’t a default assigned to each object. In fact, the individual objects don’t know about it at all! You can use vars(a) to get at the underlying storage dict, and you won’t see a values entry in there anywhere.

Instead, values lives on the class, which is a value (and thus an object) in its own right. When Python is asked for self.values, it checks to see if self has a values attribute; in this case, it doesn’t, so Python keeps going and asks the class for one.

Python’s object model is secretly prototypical — a class acts as a prototype, as a shared set of fallback values, for its objects.

In fact, this is also how method calls work! They aren’t syntactically special at all, which you can see by separating the attribute lookup from the call.

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print("abc".startswith("a"))  # True
meth = "abc".startswith
print(meth("a"))  # True

Reading obj.method looks for a method attribute; if there isn’t one on obj, Python checks the class. Here, it finds one: it’s a function from the class body.

Ah, but wait! In the code I just showed, meth seems to “know” the object it came from, so it can’t just be a plain function. If you inspect the resulting value, it claims to be a “bound method” or “built-in method” rather than a function, too. Something funny is going on here, and that funny something is the descriptor protocol.

Descriptors

Python allows attributes to implement their own custom behavior when read from or written to. Such an attribute is called a descriptor. I’ve written about them before, but here’s a quick overview.

If Python looks up an attribute, finds it in a class, and the value it gets has a __get__ method… then instead of using that value, Python will use the return value of its __get__ method.

The @property decorator works this way. The magnitude property in my original example was shorthand for doing this:

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class MagnitudeDescriptor:
    def __get__(self, instance, owner):
        if instance is None:
            return self
        return (instance.x ** 2 + instance.y ** 2) ** 0.5

class Vector:
    def __init__(self, x, y):
        self.x = x
        self.y = y

    magnitude = MagnitudeDescriptor()

When you ask for somevec.magnitude, Python checks somevec but doesn’t find magnitude, so it consults the class instead. The class does have a magnitude, and it’s a value with a __get__ method, so Python calls that method and somevec.magnitude evaluates to its return value. (The instance is None check is because __get__ is called even if you get the descriptor directly from the class via Vector.magnitude. A descriptor intended to work on instances can’t do anything useful in that case, so the convention is to return the descriptor itself.)

You can also intercept attempts to write to or delete an attribute, and do absolutely whatever you want instead. But note that, similar to operating overloading in Python, the descriptor must be on a class; you can’t just slap one on an arbitrary object and have it work.

This brings me right around to how “bound methods” actually work. Functions are descriptors! The function type implements __get__, and when a function is retrieved from a class via an instance, that __get__ bundles the function and the instance together into a tiny bound method object. It’s essentially:

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class FunctionType:
    def __get__(self, instance, owner):
        if instance is None:
            return self
        return functools.partial(self, instance)

The self passed as the first argument to methods is not special or magical in any way. It’s built out of a few simple pieces that are also readily accessible to Python code.

Note also that because obj.method() is just an attribute lookup and a call, Python doesn’t actually care whether method is a method on the class or just some callable thing on the object. You won’t get the auto-self behavior if it’s on the object, but otherwise there’s no difference.

More attribute access, and the interesting part

Descriptors are one of several ways to customize attribute access. Classes can implement __getattr__ to intervene when an attribute isn’t found on an object; __setattr__ and __delattr__ to intervene when any attribute is set or deleted; and __getattribute__ to implement unconditional attribute access. (That last one is a fantastic way to create accidental recursion, since any attribute access you do within __getattribute__ will of course call __getattribute__ again.)

Here’s what I really love about Python. It might seem like a magical special case that descriptors only work on classes, but it really isn’t. You could implement exactly the same behavior yourself, in pure Python, using only the things I’ve just told you about. Classes are themselves objects, remember, and they are instances of type, so the reason descriptors only work on classes is that type effectively does this:

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class type:
    def __getattribute__(self, name):
        value = super().__getattribute__(name)
        # like all op overloads, __get__ must be on the type, not the instance
        ty = type(value)
        if hasattr(ty, '__get__'):
            # it's a descriptor!  this is a class access so there is no instance
            return ty.__get__(value, None, self)
        else:
            return value

You can even trivially prove to yourself that this is what’s going on by skipping over types behavior:

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class Descriptor:
    def __get__(self, instance, owner):
        print('called!')

class Foo:
    bar = Descriptor()

Foo.bar  # called!
type.__getattribute__(Foo, 'bar')  # called!
object.__getattribute__(Foo, 'bar')  # ...

And that’s not all! The mysterious super function, used to exhaustively traverse superclass method calls even in the face of diamond inheritance, can also be expressed in pure Python using these primitives. You could write your own superclass calling convention and use it exactly the same way as super.

This is one of the things I really like about Python. Very little of it is truly magical; virtually everything about the object model exists in the types rather than the language, which means virtually everything can be customized in pure Python.

Class creation and metaclasses

A very brief word on all of this stuff, since I could talk forever about Python and I have three other languages to get to.

The class block itself is fairly interesting. It looks like this:

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class Name(*bases, **kwargs):
    # code

I’ve said several times that classes are objects, and in fact the class block is one big pile of syntactic sugar for calling type(...) with some arguments to create a new type object.

The Python documentation has a remarkably detailed description of this process, but the gist is:

  • Python determines the type of the new class — the metaclass — by looking for a metaclass keyword argument. If there isn’t one, Python uses the “lowest” type among the provided base classes. (If you’re not doing anything special, that’ll just be type, since every class inherits from object and object is an instance of type.)

  • Python executes the class body. It gets its own local scope, and any assignments or method definitions go into that scope.

  • Python now calls type(name, bases, attrs, **kwargs). The name is whatever was right after class; the bases are position arguments; and attrs is the class body’s local scope. (This is how methods and other class attributes end up on the class.) The brand new type is then assigned to Name.

Of course, you can mess with most of this. You can implement __prepare__ on a metaclass, for example, to use a custom mapping as storage for the local scope — including any reads, which allows for some interesting shenanigans. The only part you can’t really implement in pure Python is the scoping bit, which has a couple extra rules that make sense for classes. (In particular, functions defined within a class block don’t close over the class body; that would be nonsense.)

Object creation

Finally, there’s what actually happens when you create an object — including a class, which remember is just an invocation of type(...).

Calling Foo(...) is implemented as, well, a call. Any type can implement calls with the __call__ special method, and you’ll find that type itself does so. It looks something like this:

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# oh, a fun wrinkle that's hard to express in pure python: type is a class, so
# it's an instance of itself
class type:
    def __call__(self, *args, **kwargs):
        # remember, here 'self' is a CLASS, an instance of type.
        # __new__ is a true constructor: object.__new__ allocates storage
        # for a new blank object
        instance = self.__new__(self, *args, **kwargs)
        # you can return whatever you want from __new__ (!), and __init__
        # is only called on it if it's of the right type
        if isinstance(instance, self):
            instance.__init__(*args, **kwargs)
        return instance

Again, you can trivially confirm this by asking any type for its __call__ method. Assuming that type doesn’t implement __call__ itself, you’ll get back a bound version of types implementation.

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>>> list.__call__
<method-wrapper '__call__' of type object at 0x7fafb831a400>

You can thus implement __call__ in your own metaclass to completely change how subclasses are created — including skipping the creation altogether, if you like.

And… there’s a bunch of stuff I haven’t even touched on.

The Python philosophy

Python offers something that, on the surface, looks like a “traditional” class/object model. Under the hood, it acts more like a prototypical system, where failed attribute lookups simply defer to a superclass or metaclass.

The language also goes to almost superhuman lengths to expose all of its moving parts. Even the prototypical behavior is an implementation of __getattribute__ somewhere, which you are free to completely replace in your own types. Proxying and delegation are easy.

Also very nice is that these features “bundle” well, by which I mean a library author can do all manner of convoluted hijinks, and a consumer of that library doesn’t have to see any of it or understand how it works. You only need to inherit from a particular class (which has a metaclass), or use some descriptor as a decorator, or even learn any new syntax.

This meshes well with Python culture, which is pretty big on the principle of least surprise. These super-advanced features tend to be tightly confined to single simple features (like “makes a weak attribute“) or cordoned with DSLs (e.g., defining a form/struct/database table with a class body). In particular, I’ve never seen a metaclass in the wild implement its own __call__.

I have mixed feelings about that. It’s probably a good thing overall that the Python world shows such restraint, but I wonder if there are some very interesting possibilities we’re missing out on. I implemented a metaclass __call__ myself, just once, in an entity/component system that strove to minimize fuss when communicating between components. It never saw the light of day, but I enjoyed seeing some new things Python could do with the same relatively simple syntax. I wouldn’t mind seeing, say, an object model based on composition (with no inheritance) built atop Python’s primitives.

Lua

Lua doesn’t have an object model. Instead, it gives you a handful of very small primitives for building your own object model. This is pretty typical of Lua — it’s a very powerful language, but has been carefully constructed to be very small at the same time. I’ve never encountered anything else quite like it, and “but it starts indexing at 1!” really doesn’t do it justice.

The best way to demonstrate how objects work in Lua is to build some from scratch. We need two key features. The first is metatables, which bear a passing resemblance to Python’s metaclasses.

Tables and metatables

The table is Lua’s mapping type and its primary data structure. Keys can be any value other than nil. Lists are implemented as tables whose keys are consecutive integers starting from 1. Nothing terribly surprising. The dot operator is sugar for indexing with a string key.

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local t = { a = 1, b = 2 }
print(t['a'])  -- 1
print(t.b)  -- 2
t.c = 3
print(t['c'])  -- 3

A metatable is a table that can be associated with another value (usually another table) to change its behavior. For example, operator overloading is implemented by assigning a function to a special key in a metatable.

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local t = { a = 1, b = 2 }
--print(t + 0)  -- error: attempt to perform arithmetic on a table value

local mt = {
    __add = function(left, right)
        return 12
    end,
}
setmetatable(t, mt)
print(t + 0)  -- 12

Now, the interesting part: one of the special keys is __index, which is consulted when the base table is indexed by a key it doesn’t contain. Here’s a table that claims every key maps to itself.

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local t = {}
local mt = {
    __index = function(table, key)
        return key
    end,
}
setmetatable(t, mt)
print(t.foo)  -- foo
print(t.bar)  -- bar
print(t[3])  -- 3

__index doesn’t have to be a function, either. It can be yet another table, in which case that table is simply indexed with the key. If the key still doesn’t exist and that table has a metatable with an __index, the process repeats.

With this, it’s easy to have several unrelated tables that act as a single table. Call the base table an object, fill the __index table with functions and call it a class, and you have half of an object system. You can even get prototypical inheritance by chaining __indexes together.

At this point things are a little confusing, since we have at least three tables going on, so here’s a diagram. Keep in mind that Lua doesn’t actually have anything called an “object”, “class”, or “method” — those are just convenient nicknames for a particular structure we might build with Lua’s primitives.

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                    ╔═══════════╗        ...
                    ║ metatable ║         ║
                    ╟───────────╢   ┌─────╨───────────────────────┐
                    ║ __index   ╫───┤ lookup table ("superclass") │
                    ╚═══╦═══════╝   ├─────────────────────────────┤
  ╔═══════════╗         ║           │ some other method           ┼─── function() ... end
  ║ metatable ║         ║           └─────────────────────────────┘
  ╟───────────╢   ┌─────╨──────────────────┐
  ║ __index   ╫───┤ lookup table ("class") │
  ╚═══╦═══════╝   ├────────────────────────┤
      ║           │ some method            ┼─── function() ... end
      ║           └────────────────────────┘
┌─────╨─────────────────┐
│ base table ("object") │
└───────────────────────┘

Note that a metatable is not the same as a class; it defines behavior, not methods. Conversely, if you try to use a class directly as a metatable, it will probably not do much. (This is pretty different from e.g. Python, where operator overloads are just methods with funny names. One nice thing about the Lua approach is that you can keep interface-like functionality separate from methods, and avoid clogging up arbitrary objects’ namespaces. You could even use a dummy table as a key and completely avoid name collisions.)

Anyway, code!

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local class = {
    foo = function(a)
        print("foo got", a)
    end,
}
local mt = { __index = class }
-- setmetatable returns its first argument, so this is nice shorthand
local obj1 = setmetatable({}, mt)
local obj2 = setmetatable({}, mt)
obj1.foo(7)  -- foo got 7
obj2.foo(9)  -- foo got 9

Wait, wait, hang on. Didn’t I call these methods? How do they get at the object? Maybe Lua has a magical this variable?

Methods, sort of

Not quite, but this is where the other key feature comes in: method-call syntax. It’s the lightest touch of sugar, just enough to have method invocation.

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-- note the colon!
a:b(c, d, ...)

-- exactly equivalent to this
-- (except that `a` is only evaluated once)
a.b(a, c, d, ...)

-- which of course is really this
a["b"](a, c, d, ...)

Now we can write methods that actually do something.

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local class = {
    bar = function(self)
        print("our score is", self.score)
    end,
}
local mt = { __index = class }
local obj1 = setmetatable({ score = 13 }, mt)
local obj2 = setmetatable({ score = 25 }, mt)
obj1:bar()  -- our score is 13
obj2:bar()  -- our score is 25

And that’s all you need. Much like Python, methods and data live in the same namespace, and Lua doesn’t care whether obj:method() finds a function on obj or gets one from the metatable’s __index. Unlike Python, the function will be passed self either way, because self comes from the use of : rather than from the lookup behavior.

(Aside: strictly speaking, any Lua value can have a metatable — and if you try to index a non-table, Lua will always consult the metatable’s __index. Strings all have the string library as a metatable, so you can call methods on them: try ("%s %s"):format(1, 2). I don’t think Lua lets user code set the metatable for non-tables, so this isn’t that interesting, but if you’re writing Lua bindings from C then you can wrap your pointers in metatables to give them methods implemented in C.)

Bringing it all together

Of course, writing all this stuff every time is a little tedious and error-prone, so instead you might want to wrap it all up inside a little function. No problem.

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local function make_object(body)
    -- create a metatable
    local mt = { __index = body }
    -- create a base table to serve as the object itself
    local obj = setmetatable({}, mt)
    -- and, done
    return obj
end

-- you can leave off parens if you're only passing in 
local Dog = {
    -- this acts as a "default" value; if obj.barks is missing, __index will
    -- kick in and find this value on the class.  but if obj.barks is assigned
    -- to, it'll go in the object and shadow the value here.
    barks = 0,

    bark = function(self)
        self.barks = self.barks + 1
        print("woof!")
    end,
}

local mydog = make_object(Dog)
mydog:bark()  -- woof!
mydog:bark()  -- woof!
mydog:bark()  -- woof!
print(mydog.barks)  -- 3
print(Dog.barks)  -- 0

It works, but it’s fairly barebones. The nice thing is that you can extend it pretty much however you want. I won’t reproduce an entire serious object system here — lord knows there are enough of them floating around — but the implementation I have for my LÖVE games lets me do this:

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local Animal = Object:extend{
    cries = 0,
}

-- called automatically by Object
function Animal:init()
    print("whoops i couldn't think of anything interesting to put here")
end

-- this is just nice syntax for adding a first argument called 'self', then
-- assigning this function to Animal.cry
function Animal:cry()
    self.cries = self.cries + 1
end

local Cat = Animal:extend{}

function Cat:cry()
    print("meow!")
    Cat.__super.cry(self)
end

local cat = Cat()
cat:cry()  -- meow!
cat:cry()  -- meow!
print(cat.cries)  -- 2

When I say you can extend it however you want, I mean that. I could’ve implemented Python (2)-style super(Cat, self):cry() syntax; I just never got around to it. I could even make it work with multiple inheritance if I really wanted to — or I could go the complete opposite direction and only implement composition. I could implement descriptors, customizing the behavior of individual table keys. I could add pretty decent syntax for composition/proxying. I am trying very hard to end this section now.

The Lua philosophy

Lua’s philosophy is to… not have a philosophy? It gives you the bare minimum to make objects work, and you can do absolutely whatever you want from there. Lua does have something resembling prototypical inheritance, but it’s not so much a first-class feature as an emergent property of some very simple tools. And since you can make __index be a function, you could avoid the prototypical behavior and do something different entirely.

The very severe downside, of course, is that you have to find or build your own object system — which can get pretty confusing very quickly, what with the multiple small moving parts. Third-party code may also have its own object system with subtly different behavior. (Though, in my experience, third-party code tries very hard to avoid needing an object system at all.)

It’s hard to say what the Lua “culture” is like, since Lua is an embedded language that’s often a little different in each environment. I imagine it has a thousand millicultures, instead. I can say that the tedium of building my own object model has led me into something very “traditional”, with prototypical inheritance and whatnot. It’s partly what I’m used to, but it’s also just really dang easy to get working.

Likewise, while I love properties in Python and use them all the dang time, I’ve yet to use a single one in Lua. They wouldn’t be particularly hard to add to my object model, but having to add them myself (or shop around for an object model with them and also port all my code to use it) adds a huge amount of friction. I’ve thought about designing an interesting ECS with custom object behavior, too, but… is it really worth the effort? For all the power and flexibility Lua offers, the cost is that by the time I have something working at all, I’m too exhausted to actually use any of it.

JavaScript

JavaScript is notable for being preposterously heavily used, yet not having a class block.

Well. Okay. Yes. It has one now. It didn’t for a very long time, and even the one it has now is sugar.

Here’s a vector class again:

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class Vector {
    constructor(x, y) {
        this.x = x;
        this.y = y;
    }

    get magnitude() {
        return Math.sqrt(this.x * this.x + this.y * this.y);
    }

    dot(other) {
        return this.x * other.x + this.y * other.y;
    }
}

In “classic” JavaScript, this would be written as:

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function Vector(x, y) {
    this.x = x;
    this.y = y;
}

Object.defineProperty(Vector.prototype, 'magnitude', {
    configurable: true,
    enumerable: true,
    get: function() {
        return Math.sqrt(this.x * this.x + this.y * this.y);
    },
});


Vector.prototype.dot = function(other) {
    return this.x * other.x + this.y * other.y;
};

Hm, yes. I can see why they added class.

The JavaScript model

In JavaScript, a new type is defined in terms of a function, which is its constructor.

Right away we get into trouble here. There is a very big difference between these two invocations, which I actually completely forgot about just now after spending four hours writing about Python and Lua:

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let vec = Vector(3, 4);
let vec = new Vector(3, 4);

The first calls the function Vector. It assigns some properties to this, which here is going to be window, so now you have a global x and y. It then returns nothing, so vec is undefined.

The second calls Vector with this set to a new empty object, then evaluates to that object. The result is what you’d actually expect.

(You can detect this situation with the strange new.target expression, but I have never once remembered to do so.)

From here, we have true, honest-to-god, first-class prototypical inheritance. The word “prototype” is even right there. When you write this:

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vec.dot(vec2)

JavaScript will look for dot on vec and (presumably) not find it. It then consults vecs prototype, an object you can see for yourself by using Object.getPrototypeOf(). Since vec is a Vector, its prototype is Vector.prototype.

I stress that Vector.prototype is not the prototype for Vector. It’s the prototype for instances of Vector.

(I say “instance”, but the true type of vec here is still just object. If you want to find Vector, it’s automatically assigned to the constructor property of its own prototype, so it’s available as vec.constructor.)

Of course, Vector.prototype can itself have a prototype, in which case the process would continue if dot were not found. A common (and, arguably, very bad) way to simulate single inheritance is to set Class.prototype to an instance of a superclass to get the prototype right, then tack on the methods for Class. Nowadays we can do Object.create(Superclass.prototype).

Now that I’ve been through Python and Lua, though, this isn’t particularly surprising. I kinda spoiled it.

I suppose one difference in JavaScript is that you can tack arbitrary attributes directly onto Vector all you like, and they will remain invisible to instances since they aren’t in the prototype chain. This is kind of backwards from Lua, where you can squirrel stuff away in the metatable.

Another difference is that every single object in JavaScript has a bunch of properties already tacked on — the ones in Object.prototype. Every object (and by “object” I mean any mapping) has a prototype, and that prototype defaults to Object.prototype, and it has a bunch of ancient junk like isPrototypeOf.

(Nit: it’s possible to explicitly create an object with no prototype via Object.create(null).)

Like Lua, and unlike Python, JavaScript doesn’t distinguish between keys found on an object and keys found via a prototype. Properties can be defined on prototypes with Object.defineProperty(), but that works just as well directly on an object, too. JavaScript doesn’t have a lot of operator overloading, but some things like Symbol.iterator also work on both objects and prototypes.

About this

You may, at this point, be wondering what this is. Unlike Lua and Python (and the last language below), this is a special built-in value — a context value, invisibly passed for every function call.

It’s determined by where the function came from. If the function was the result of an attribute lookup, then this is set to the object containing that attribute. Otherwise, this is set to the global object, window. (You can also set this to whatever you want via the call method on functions.)

This decision is made lexically, i.e. from the literal source code as written. There are no Python-style bound methods. In other words:

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// this = obj
obj.method()
// this = window
let meth = obj.method
meth()

Also, because this is reassigned on every function call, it cannot be meaningfully closed over, which makes using closures within methods incredibly annoying. The old approach was to assign this to some other regular name like self (which got syntax highlighting since it’s also a built-in name in browsers); then we got Function.bind, which produced a callable thing with a fixed context value, which was kind of nice; and now finally we have arrow functions, which explicitly close over the current this when they’re defined and don’t change it when called. Phew.

Class syntax

I already showed class syntax, and it’s really just one big macro for doing all the prototype stuff The Right Way. It even prevents you from calling the type without new. The underlying model is exactly the same, and you can inspect all the parts.

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class Vector { ... }

console.log(Vector.prototype);  // { dot: ..., magnitude: ..., ... }
let vec = new Vector(3, 4);
console.log(Object.getPrototypeOf(vec));  // same as Vector.prototype

// i don't know why you would subclass vector but let's roll with it
class Vectest extends Vector { ... }

console.log(Vectest.prototype);  // { ... }
console.log(Object.getPrototypeOf(Vectest.prototype))  // same as Vector.prototype

Alas, class syntax has a couple shortcomings. You can’t use the class block to assign arbitrary data to either the type object or the prototype — apparently it was deemed too confusing that mutations would be shared among instances. Which… is… how prototypes work. How Python works. How JavaScript itself, one of the most popular languages of all time, has worked for twenty-two years. Argh.

You can still do whatever assignment you want outside of the class block, of course. It’s just a little ugly, and not something I’d think to look for with a sugary class.

A more subtle result of this behavior is that a class block isn’t quite the same syntax as an object literal. The check for data isn’t a runtime thing; class Foo { x: 3 } fails to parse. So JavaScript now has two largely but not entirely identical styles of key/value block.

Attribute access

Here’s where things start to come apart at the seams, just a little bit.

JavaScript doesn’t really have an attribute protocol. Instead, it has two… extension points, I suppose.

One is Object.defineProperty, seen above. For common cases, there’s also the get syntax inside a property literal, which does the same thing. But unlike Python’s @property, these aren’t wrappers around some simple primitives; they are the primitives. JavaScript is the only language of these four to have “property that runs code on access” as a completely separate first-class concept.

If you want to intercept arbitrary attribute access (and some kinds of operators), there’s a completely different primitive: the Proxy type. It doesn’t let you intercept attribute access or operators; instead, it produces a wrapper object that supports interception and defers to the wrapped object by default.

It’s cool to see composition used in this way, but also, extremely weird. If you want to make your own type that overloads in or calling, you have to return a Proxy that wraps your own type, rather than actually returning your own type. And (unlike the other three languages in this post) you can’t return a different type from a constructor, so you have to throw that away and produce objects only from a factory. And instanceof would be broken, but you can at least fix that with Symbol.hasInstance — which is really operator overloading, implement yet another completely different way.

I know the design here is a result of legacy and speed — if any object could intercept all attribute access, then all attribute access would be slowed down everywhere. Fair enough. It still leaves the surface area of the language a bit… bumpy?

The JavaScript philosophy

It’s a little hard to tell. The original idea of prototypes was interesting, but it was hidden behind some very awkward syntax. Since then, we’ve gotten a bunch of extra features awkwardly bolted on to reflect the wildly varied things the built-in types and DOM API were already doing. We have class syntax, but it’s been explicitly designed to avoid exposing the prototype parts of the model.

I admit I don’t do a lot of heavy JavaScript, so I might just be overlooking it, but I’ve seen virtually no code that makes use of any of the recent advances in object capabilities. Forget about custom iterators or overloading call; I can’t remember seeing any JavaScript in the wild that even uses properties yet. I don’t know if everyone’s waiting for sufficient browser support, nobody knows about them, or nobody cares.

The model has advanced recently, but I suspect JavaScript is still shackled to its legacy of “something about prototypes, I don’t really get it, just copy the other code that’s there” as an object model. Alas! Prototypes are so good. Hopefully class syntax will make it a bit more accessible, as it has in Python.

Perl 5

Perl 5 also doesn’t have an object system and expects you to build your own. But where Lua gives you two simple, powerful tools for building one, Perl 5 feels more like a puzzle with half the pieces missing. Clearly they were going for something, but they only gave you half of it.

In brief, a Perl object is a reference that has been blessed with a package.

I need to explain a few things. Honestly, one of the biggest problems with the original Perl object setup was how many strange corners and unique jargon you had to understand just to get off the ground.

(If you want to try running any of this code, you should stick a use v5.26; as the first line. Perl is very big on backwards compatibility, so you need to opt into breaking changes, and even the mundane say builtin is behind a feature gate.)

References

A reference in Perl is sort of like a pointer, but its main use is very different. See, Perl has the strange property that its data structures try very hard to spill their contents all over the place. Despite having dedicated syntax for arrays — @foo is an array variable, distinct from the single scalar variable $foo — it’s actually impossible to nest arrays.

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my @foo = (1, 2, 3, 4);
my @bar = (@foo, @foo);
# @bar is now a flat list of eight items: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4

The idea, I guess, is that an array is not one thing. It’s not a container, which happens to hold multiple things; it is multiple things. Anywhere that expects a single value, such as an array element, cannot contain an array, because an array fundamentally is not a single value.

And so we have “references”, which are a form of indirection, but also have the nice property that they’re single values. They add containment around arrays, and in general they make working with most of Perl’s primitive types much more sensible. A reference to a variable can be taken with the \ operator, or you can use [ ... ] and { ... } to directly create references to anonymous arrays or hashes.

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my @foo = (1, 2, 3, 4);
my @bar = (\@foo, \@foo);
# @bar is now a nested list of two items: [1, 2, 3, 4], [1, 2, 3, 4]

(Incidentally, this is the sole reason I initially abandoned Perl for Python. Non-trivial software kinda requires nesting a lot of data structures, so you end up with references everywhere, and the syntax for going back and forth between a reference and its contents is tedious and ugly.)

A Perl object must be a reference. Perl doesn’t care what kind of reference — it’s usually a hash reference, since hashes are a convenient place to store arbitrary properties, but it could just as well be a reference to an array, a scalar, or even a sub (i.e. function) or filehandle.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself. First, the other half: blessing and packages.

Packages and blessing

Perl packages are just namespaces. A package looks like this:

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package Foo::Bar;

sub quux {
    say "hi from quux!";
}

# now Foo::Bar::quux() can be called from anywhere

Nothing shocking, right? It’s just a named container. A lot of the details are kind of weird, like how a package exists in some liminal quasi-value space, but the basic idea is a Bag Of Stuff.

The final piece is “blessing,” which is Perl’s funny name for binding a package to a reference. A very basic class might look like this:

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package Vector;

# the name 'new' is convention, not special
sub new {
    # perl argument passing is weird, don't ask
    my ($class, $x, $y) = @_;

    # create the object itself -- here, unusually, an array reference makes sense
    my $self = [ $x, $y ];

    # associate the package with that reference
    # note that $class here is just the regular string, 'Vector'
    bless $self, $class;

    return $self;
}

sub x {
    my ($self) = @_;
    return $self->[0];
}

sub y {
    my ($self) = @_;
    return $self->[1];
}

sub magnitude {
    my ($self) = @_;
    return sqrt($self->x ** 2 + $self->y ** 2);
}

# switch back to the "default" package
package main;

# -> is method call syntax, which passes the invocant as the first argument;
# for a package, that's just the package name
my $vec = Vector->new(3, 4);
say $vec->magnitude;  # 5

A few things of note here. First, $self->[0] has nothing to do with objects; it’s normal syntax for getting the value of a index 0 out of an array reference called $self. (Most classes are based on hashrefs and would use $self->{value} instead.) A blessed reference is still a reference and can be treated like one.

In general, -> is Perl’s dereferencey operator, but its exact behavior depends on what follows. If it’s followed by brackets, then it’ll apply the brackets to the thing in the reference: ->{} to index a hash reference, ->[] to index an array reference, and ->() to call a function reference.

But if -> is followed by an identifier, then it’s a method call. For packages, that means calling a function in the package and passing the package name as the first argument. For objects — blessed references — that means calling a function in the associated package and passing the object as the first argument.

This is a little weird! A blessed reference is a superposition of two things: its normal reference behavior, and some completely orthogonal object behavior. Also, object behavior has no notion of methods vs data; it only knows about methods. Perl lets you omit parentheses in a lot of places, including when calling a method with no arguments, so $vec->magnitude is really $vec->magnitude().

Perl’s blessing bears some similarities to Lua’s metatables, but ultimately Perl is much closer to Ruby’s “message passing” approach than the above three languages’ approaches of “get me something and maybe it’ll be callable”. (But this is no surprise — Ruby is a spiritual successor to Perl 5.)

All of this leads to one little wrinkle: how do you actually expose data? Above, I had to write x and y methods. Am I supposed to do that for every single attribute on my type?

Yes! But don’t worry, there are third-party modules to help with this incredibly fundamental task. Take Class::Accessor::Fast, so named because it’s faster than Class::Accessor:

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package Foo;
use base qw(Class::Accessor::Fast);
__PACKAGE__->mk_accessors(qw(fred wilma barney));

(__PACKAGE__ is the lexical name of the current package; qw(...) is a list literal that splits its contents on whitespace.)

This assumes you’re using a hashref with keys of the same names as the attributes. $obj->fred will return the fred key from your hashref, and $obj->fred(4) will change it to 4.

You also, somewhat bizarrely, have to inherit from Class::Accessor::Fast. Speaking of which,

Inheritance

Inheritance is done by populating the package-global @ISA array with some number of (string) names of parent packages. Most code instead opts to write use base ...;, which does the same thing. Or, more commonly, use parent ...;, which… also… does the same thing.

Every package implicitly inherits from UNIVERSAL, which can be freely modified by Perl code.

A method can call its superclass method with the SUPER:: pseudo-package:

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sub foo {
    my ($self) = @_;
    $self->SUPER::foo;
}

However, this does a depth-first search, which means it almost certainly does the wrong thing when faced with multiple inheritance. For a while the accepted solution involved a third-party module, but Perl eventually grew an alternative you have to opt into: C3, which may be more familiar to you as the order Python uses.

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use mro 'c3';

sub foo {
    my ($self) = @_;
    $self->next::method;
}

Offhand, I’m not actually sure how next::method works, seeing as it was originally implemented in pure Perl code. I suspect it involves peeking at the caller’s stack frame. If so, then this is a very different style of customizability from e.g. Python — the MRO was never intended to be pluggable, and the use of a special pseudo-package means it isn’t really, but someone was determined enough to make it happen anyway.

Operator overloading and whatnot

Operator overloading looks a little weird, though really it’s pretty standard Perl.

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package MyClass;

use overload '+' => \&_add;

sub _add {
    my ($self, $other, $swap) = @_;
    ...
}

use overload here is a pragma, where “pragma” means “regular-ass module that does some wizardry when imported”.

\&_add is how you get a reference to the _add sub so you can pass it to the overload module. If you just said &_add or _add, that would call it.

And that’s it; you just pass a map of operators to functions to this built-in module. No worry about name clashes or pollution, which is pretty nice. You don’t even have to give references to functions that live in the package, if you don’t want them to clog your namespace; you could put them in another package, or even inline them anonymously.

One especially interesting thing is that Perl lets you overload every operator. Perl has a lot of operators. It considers some math builtins like sqrt and trig functions to be operators, or at least operator-y enough that you can overload them. You can also overload the “file text” operators, such as -e $path to test whether a file exists. You can overload conversions, including implicit conversion to a regex. And most fascinating to me, you can overload dereferencing — that is, the thing Perl does when you say $hashref->{key} to get at the underlying hash. So a single object could pretend to be references of multiple different types, including a subref to implement callability. Neat.

Somewhat related: you can overload basic operators (indexing, etc.) on basic types (not references!) with the tie function, which is designed completely differently and looks for methods with fixed names. Go figure.

You can intercept calls to nonexistent methods by implementing a function called AUTOLOAD, within which the $AUTOLOAD global will contain the name of the method being called. Originally this feature was, I think, intended for loading binary components or large libraries on-the-fly only when needed, hence the name. Offhand I’m not sure I ever saw it used the way __getattr__ is used in Python.

Is there a way to intercept all method calls? I don’t think so, but it is Perl, so I must be forgetting something.

Actually no one does this any more

Like a decade ago, a council of elder sages sat down and put together a whole whizbang system that covers all of it: Moose.

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package Vector;
use Moose;

has x => (is => 'rw', isa => 'Int');
has y => (is => 'rw', isa => 'Int');

sub magnitude {
    my ($self) = @_;
    return sqrt($self->x ** 2 + $self->y ** 2);
}

Moose has its own way to do pretty much everything, and it’s all built on the same primitives. Moose also adds metaclasses, somehow, despite that the underlying model doesn’t actually support them? I’m not entirely sure how they managed that, but I do remember doing some class introspection with Moose and it was much nicer than the built-in way.

(If you’re wondering, the built-in way begins with looking at the hash called %Vector::. No, that’s not a typo.)

I really cannot stress enough just how much stuff Moose does, but I don’t want to delve into it here since Moose itself is not actually the language model.

The Perl philosophy

I hope you can see what I meant with what I first said about Perl, now. It has multiple inheritance with an MRO, but uses the wrong one by default. It has extensive operator overloading, which looks nothing like how inheritance works, and also some of it uses a totally different mechanism with special method names instead. It only understands methods, not data, leaving you to figure out accessors by hand.

There’s 70% of an object system here with a clear general design it was gunning for, but none of the pieces really look anything like each other. It’s weird, in a distinctly Perl way.

The result is certainly flexible, at least! It’s especially cool that you can use whatever kind of reference you want for storage, though even as I say that, I acknowledge it’s no different from simply subclassing list or something in Python. It feels different in Perl, but maybe only because it looks so different.

I haven’t written much Perl in a long time, so I don’t know what the community is like any more. Moose was already ubiquitous when I left, which you’d think would let me say “the community mostly focuses on the stuff Moose can do” — but even a decade ago, Moose could already do far more than I had ever seen done by hand in Perl. It’s always made a big deal out of roles (read: interfaces), for instance, despite that I’d never seen anyone care about them in Perl before Moose came along. Maybe their presence in Moose has made them more popular? Who knows.

Also, I wrote Perl seriously, but in the intervening years I’ve only encountered people who only ever used Perl for one-offs. Maybe it’ll come as a surprise to a lot of readers that Perl has an object model at all.

End

Well, that was fun! I hope any of that made sense.

Special mention goes to Rust, which doesn’t have an object model you can fiddle with at runtime, but does do things a little differently.

It’s been really interesting thinking about how tiny differences make a huge impact on what people do in practice. Take the choice of storage in Perl versus Python. Perl’s massively common URI class uses a string as the storage, nothing else; I haven’t seen anything like that in Python aside from markupsafe, which is specifically designed as a string type. I would guess this is partly because Perl makes you choose — using a hashref is an obvious default, but you have to make that choice one way or the other. In Python (especially 3), inheriting from object and getting dict-based storage is the obvious thing to do; the ability to use another type isn’t quite so obvious, and doing it “right” involves a tiny bit of extra work.

Or, consider that Lua could have descriptors, but the extra bit of work (especially design work) has been enough of an impediment that I’ve never implemented them. I don’t think the object implementations I’ve looked at have included them, either. Super weird!

In that light, it’s only natural that objects would be so strongly associated with the features Java and C++ attach to them. I think that makes it all the more important to play around! Look at what Moose has done. No, really, you should bear in mind my description of how Perl does stuff and flip through the Moose documentation. It’s amazing what they’ve built.

[$] Tools for porting drivers

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/739578/rss

Out-of-tree drivers are a maintenance headache, since customers may want to
use them in newer kernels.
But even those drivers that get
merged into the mainline may need to be backported at times. Coccinelle developer Julia Lawall
introduced the audience at Open Source Summit Europe to some new tools
that can help make both forward-porting and backporting drivers easier.