Tag Archives: Choice

Connect Veeam to the B2 Cloud: Episode 2 — Using StarWind VTL

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hybrid-cloud-example-veem-vtl-cloud/

Connect Veeam to the B2 Cloud

View all posts in the Veeam series.

In the first post in this series, we discussed how to connect Veeam to the B2 cloud using Synology. In this post, we continue our Veeam/B2 series with a discussion of how to back up Veeam to the Backblaze B2 Cloud using StarWind VTL.

StarWind provides “VTL” (Virtual Tape Library) technology that enables users to back up their “VMs” (virtual machines) from Veeam to on-premise or cloud storage. StarWind does this using standard “LTO” (Linear Tape-Open) protocols. This appeals to organizations that have LTO in place since it allows adoption of more scalable, cost efficient cloud storage without having to update the internal backup infrastructure.

Why An Additional Backup in the Cloud?

Common backup strategy, known as 3-2-1, dictates having three copies at a minimum of active data. Two copies are stored locally and one copy is in another location.

Relying solely on on-site redundancy does not guarantee data protection after a catastrophic or temporary loss of service affecting the primary data center. To reach maximum data security, an on-premises private cloud backup combined with an off-site public cloud backup, known as hybrid cloud, provides the best combination of security and rapid recovery when required.

Why Consider a Hybrid Cloud Solution?

The Hybrid Cloud Provides Superior Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Having a backup strategy that combines on-premise storage with public cloud storage in a single or multi-cloud configuration is becoming the solution of choice for organizations that wish to eliminate dependence on vulnerable on-premises storage. It also provides reliable and rapidly deployed recovery when needed.

If an organization requires restoration of service as quickly as possible after an outage or disaster, it needs to have a backup that isn’t dependent on the same network. That means a backup stored in the cloud that can be restored to another location or cloud-based compute service and put into service immediately after an outage.

Hybrid Cloud Example: VTL and the Cloud

Some organizations will already have made a significant investment in software and hardware that supports LTO protocols. Specifically, they are using Veeam to back up their VMs onto physical tape. Using StarWind to act as a VTL with Veeam enables users to save time and money by connecting their on-premises Veeam Backup & Replication archives to Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage.

Why Veeam, StarWind VTL, and Backblaze B2?

What are the primary reasons that an organization would want to adopt Veeam + StarWind VTL + B2 as a hybrid cloud backup solution?

  1. You are already invested in Veeam along with LTO software and hardware.

Using Veeam plus StarWind VTL with already-existing LTO infrastructure enables organizations to quickly and cost-effectively benefit from cloud storage.

  1. You require rapid and reliable recovery of service should anything disrupt your primary data center.

Having a backup in the cloud with B2 provides an economical primary or secondary cloud storage solution and enables fast restoration to a current or alternate location, as well as providing the option to quickly bring online a cloud-based compute service, thereby minimizing any loss of service and ensuring business continuity. Backblaze’s B2 is an ideal solution for backing up Veeam’s backup repository due to B2’s combination of low-cost and high availability compared to other cloud solutions such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS.

Using Veeam, StarWind VTL, and Backblaze B2 cloud storage is a superior alternative to tape as B2 offers better economics, instant access, and faster recovery.

 

Workflow for how to connect Veeam to the Backblaze B2 Cloud using StarWind VTL

Connect Veeam to the Backblaze B2 Cloud using StarWind VTL (graphic courtesy of StarWind)

View all posts in the Veeam series.

The post Connect Veeam to the B2 Cloud: Episode 2 — Using StarWind VTL appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Epic Games Uses Private Investigators to Locate Cheaters

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-uses-private-investigators-to-locate-cheaters-180218/

Last fall, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

This also included thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. Epic Games then went a step further by taking several cheaters to court for copyright infringement.

In the months that have passed several cases have been settled with undisclosed terms, but it appears that not all defendants are easy to track down. In at least two cases, Epic had to retain the services of private investigators to locate their targets.

In a case filed in North Carolina, the games company was unable to serve the defendant (now identified as B.B) so they called in the help of Klatt Investigations, with success.

“[A]fter having previously engaged two other process servers that were unable to locate and successfully serve B.B., Epic engaged Klatt Investigations, a Canadian firm that provides various services related to the private service of process in civil matters.

“In this case, we engaged Klatt Investigations to locate and effect service of process by personal service on Defendant,” Epic informs the court.

As Epic Games didn’t know the age of the defendant beforehand they chose to approach the person as a minor, which turned out to be a wise choice. The alleged cheater indeed appears to be a minor, so both the Defendant and Defendant’s mother were served.

Based on this new information, Epic Games asked the court to redact any court documents that reveal personal information of the defendant, which includes his or her full name.

Epic’s request to seal

This is not the first time Epic Games has used a private investigator to locate a defendant. It hired S&H Investigative Services in another widely reported case, where the defendant also turned out to be a minor.

In that case, the mother of the alleged cheater wrote a letter to the court in her son’s defense, but after that, things went quiet.

This lack of response prompted Epic Games to ask the court to enter a default in this case, which means that the defendant risks a default judgment for copyright infringement.

Epic’s declaration for the motion to seal the personal details of minor B.B. is available here (pdf). The request to enter a default in the separate C.R case can be found (here pdf).

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

Court Dismisses Playboy’s Copyright Claims Against Boing Boing

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-dismisses-playboys-copyright-claims-against-boing-boing-180215/

Early 2016, Boing Boing co-editor Xeni Jardin published an article in which she linked to an archive of every Playboy centerfold image till then.

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

While the linked material undoubtedly appealed to many readers, Playboy itself took offense to the fact that infringing copies of their work were being shared in public. While Boing Boing didn’t upload or store the images in question, the publisher filed a lawsuit late last year.

The blog’s parent company Happy Mutants was accused of various counts of copyright infringement, with Playboy claiming that it exploited their playmates’ images for commercial purposes.

Boing Boing saw things differently. With help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) it filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that hyperlinking is not copyright infringement. If Playboy would’ve had their way, millions of other Internet users could be sued for linking too.

“This case merely has to survive a motion to dismiss to launch a thousand more expensive lawsuits, chilling a broad variety of lawful expression and reporting that merely adopts the common practice of linking to the material that is the subject of the report,” they wrote.

The article in question

Yesterday US District Court Judge Fernando Olguin ruled on the matter. In a brief order, he concluded that an oral argument is not needed and that based on the arguments from both sides, the case should be dismissed with leave.

This effectively means that Playboy’s complaint has been thrown out. However, the company is offered a lifeline and is allowed to submit a new one if they can properly back up their copyright infringement allegations.

“The court will grant defendant’s Motion and dismiss plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint with leave to amend. In preparing the Second Amended Complaint, plaintiff shall carefully evaluate the contentions set forth in defendant’s Motion.

“For example, the court is skeptical that plaintiff has sufficiently alleged facts to support either its inducement or material contribution theories of copyright infringement,” Judge Olguin adds.

According to the order, it is not sufficient to argue that Boing Boing merely ‘provided the means’ to carry out copyright infringing activity. There also has to be a personal action that ‘assists’ the infringing activity.

Playboy has until the end of the month to submit a new complaint and if it chooses not to do so, the case will be thrown out.

The order is clearly a win for Boing Boing, which vehemently opposed Playboy’s claims. While the order is clear, it must come as a surprise to the magazine publisher, which won a similar ‘hyperlinking’ lawsuit in the European Court of Justice last year.

EFF, who defend Boing Boing, is happy with the order and hopes that Playboy will leave it at this.

“From the outset of this lawsuit, we have been puzzled as to why Playboy, once a staunch defender of the First Amendment, would attack a small news and commentary website,” EFF comments

“Today’s decision leaves Playboy with a choice: it can try again with a new complaint or it can leave this lawsuit behind. We don’t believe there’s anything Playboy could add to its complaint that would meet the legal standard. We hope that it will choose not to continue with its misguided suit.”

A copy of US District Court Judge Fernando Olguin’s order 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

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.

Google Won’t Take Down ‘Pirate’ VLC With Five Million Downloads

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-wont-take-down-pirate-vlc-with-five-million-downloads-180206/

VLC is the media player of choice for Internet users around the globe. Downloaded for desktop at least 2,493,000,000 times since February 2005, VLC is an absolute giant. And those figures don’t even include GNU/Linux, iOS, Android, Chrome OS or Windows Phone downloads either.

Aside from its incredible functionality, VLC (operated by the VideoLAN non-profit) has won the hearts of Internet users for other key reasons, not least its commitment to being free and open source software. While it’s true to say that VLC doesn’t cost a penny, the term ‘free’ actually relates to the General Public License (GPL) under which it’s distributed.

The GPL aims to guarantee that software under it remains ‘free’ for all current and future users. To benefit from these protections, the GPL requires people who modify and redistribute software to afford others the same freedoms by informing them of the requirement to make source code available.

Since VLC is extremely popular and just about as ‘free’ as software can get, people get extremely defensive when they perceive that a third-party is benefiting from the software without adhering to the terms of the generous GPL license. That was the case beginning a few hours ago when veteran Reddit user MartinVanBallin pointed out a piece of software on the Google Play Store.

“They took VLC, put in ads, didn’t attribute VLC or follow the open source license, and they’re using Media Player Classics icon,” MartinVanBallin wrote.

The software is called 321 Media Player and has an impressive 4.5 score from more than 101,000 reviews. Despite not mentioning VLC or the GPL, it is based completely on VLC, as the image below (and other proof) shows.

VLC Media Player 321 Media Player

TorrentFreak spoke with VideoLAN President Jean-Baptiste Kempf who confirmed that the clone is in breach of the GPL.

“The Android version of VLC is under the license GPLv3, which requires everything inside the application to be open source and sharing the source,” Kempf says.

“This clone seems to use a closed-source advertisement component (are there any that are open source?), which is a clear violation of our copyleft. Moreover, they don’t seem to share the source at all, which is also a violation.”

Perhaps the most amazing thing is the popularity of the software. According to stats provided by Google, 321 Media Player has amassed between five and ten million downloads. That’s not an insignificant amount when one considers that unlike VLC, 321 Media Player contains revenue-generating ads.

Using GPL-licensed software for commercial purposes is allowed providing the license terms are strictly adhered to. Kempf informs TF that VideoLAN doesn’t mind if this happens but in this case, the GPL is not being respected.

“A fork application which changes some things is an interesting thing, because they maybe have something to give back to our community. The application here, is just a parasite, and I think they are useless and dangerous,” Kempf says.

All that being said, turning VLC itself into adware is something the VideoLAN team is opposed to. In fact, according to questions answered by Kempf last September, the team turned down “several tens of millions of euros” to turn their media player into an ad-supported platform.

“Integrating crap, adware and spyware with VLC is not OK,” Kempf informs TF.

TorrentFreak contacted the developer of 321 Media Player for comment but at the time of publication, we were yet to receive a response. We also asked for a copy of the source code for 321 Media Player as the GPL requires, but that wasn’t forthcoming either.

In the meantime, it appears that a small army of Reddit users are trying to get something done about the ‘rogue’ app by reporting it as an “inappropriate copycat” to Google. Whether this will have any effect remains to be seen but according to Kempf, tackling these clone versions has proven extremely difficult in the past.

“We reported this application already more than three times and Google refuses to take it down,” he says.

“Our experience is that it is very difficult to take these kinds of apps down, even if they embed spyware or malware. Maybe it is because it makes money for Google.”

Finally, Kempf also points to the obviously named “Indian VLC Player” on Google Play. Another VLC clone with up to 500,000 downloads, this one appears to breach both copyright and trademark law.

“We remove applications that violate our policies, such as apps that are illegal,” a Google spokesperson informs TorrentFreak.

“We don’t comment on individual applications; you can check out our policies for more information.”

Update: The app has now been removed from Google Play

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

Anti-Piracy Video Scares Kids With ‘Fake’ Malware Info

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-video-scares-kids-with-fake-malware-info-180206/

Today is Safer Internet Day, a global awareness campaign to educate the public on all sorts of threats that people face online.

It is a laudable initiative supported by the Industry Trust for IP Awareness which, together with the children’s charity Into Film, has released an informative video and associated course materials.

The organizations have created a British version of an animation previously released as part of the Australian “Price of Piracy” campaign. While the video includes an informative description of the various types of malware, there appears to be a secondary agenda.

Strangely enough, the video itself contains no advice on how to avoid malware at all, other than to avoid pirate sites. In that sense, it looks more like an indirect anti-piracy ad.

While there’s no denying that kids might run into malware if they randomly click on pirate site ads, this problem is certainly not exclusive to these sites. Email and social media are frequently used to link to malware too, and YouTube comments can pose the same risk. The problem is everywhere.

What really caught our eye, however, is the statement that pirate sites are the most used propagation method for malware. “Did you know, the number one way we infect your device is via illegal pirate sites,” an animated piece of malware claims in the video.

Forget about email attachments, spam links, compromised servers, or even network attacks. Pirate sites are the number one spot through which malware spreads. According to the video at least. But where do they get this knowledge?

Meet the malwares

When we asked the Industry Trust for IP Awareness for further details, the organization checked with their Australian colleagues, who pointed us to a working paper (pdf) from 2014. This paper includes the following line: “Illegal streaming websites are now the number one propagation mechanism for malicious software as 97% of them contain malware.”

Unfortunately, there’s a lot wrong with this claim.

Through another citation, the 97% figure points to this unpublished study of which only the highlights were shared. This “malware” research looked at the prevalence of malware and other unwanted software linked to pirate sites. Not just streaming sites as the other paper said, but let’s ignore that last bit.

What the study actually found is that of the 30 researched pirate sites, “90% contained malware or other ‘Potentially Unwanted Programmes’.” Note that this is not the earlier mentioned 97%, and that this broad category not only includes malware but also popup ads, which were most popular. This means that the percentage of actual malware on these sites can be anywhere from 0.1% to 90%.

Importantly, none of the malware found in this research was installed without an action performed by the user, such as clicking on a flashy download button or installing a mysterious .exe file.

Aside from clearly erroneous references, the more worrying issue is that even the original incorrect statement that “97% of all pirate sites contain malware” provides no evidence for the claim in the video that pirate sites are “the number one way” through which malware spreads.

Even if 100% of all pirate sites link to malware, that’s no proof that it’s the most used propagation method.

The malware issue has been a popular talking point for a while, but after searching for answers for days, we couldn’t find a grain of evidence. There are a lot of malware propagation methods, including email, which traditionally is a very popular choice.

Even more confusingly, the same paper that was cited as a source for the pirate site malware claim notes that 80% of all web-based malware is hosted on “innocent” but compromised websites.

As the provided evidence gave no answers, we asked the experts to chime in. Luckily, security company Malwarebytes was willing to share its assessment. As leaders in the anti-malware industry, they should know better than researchers who have their numbers and terminology mixed up.

“These days, most common infections come from malicious spam campaigns and drive-by exploit attacks,” Adam Kujawa, Director of Malware Intelligence at Malwarebytes informs us.

“Torrent sites are still frequently used by criminals to host malware disguised as something the user wants, like an application, movie, etc. However they are really only a threat to people who use torrent sites regularly and those people have likely learned how to avoid malicious torrents,” he adds.

In other words, most people who regularly visit pirate sites know how to avoid these dangers. That doesn’t mean that they are not a threat to unsuspecting kids who visit them for the first time of course.

“Now, if users who were not familiar with torrent and pirate sites started using these services, there is a high probability that they could encounter some kind of malware. However, many of these sites have user review processes to let other users know if a particular torrent or download is likely malicious.

“So, unless a user is completely new to this process and ignores all the warning signs, they could walk away from a pirate site without getting infected,” Kujawa says.

Overall, the experts at Malwarebytes see no evidence for the claim that pirate sites are the number one propagation method for malware.

“So in summary, I don’t think the claim that ‘pirate sites’ are the number one way to infect users is accurate at all,” Kujawa concludes.

While it’s always a good idea to avoid places that can have a high prevalence of malware, including pirate sites, the claims in the video are not backed up by real evidence. There are tens of thousands of non-pirate sites that pose similar or worse risks, so it’s always a good idea to have anti-malware and virus software installed.

The organizations and people involved in the British “Meet the Malwares” video might not have been aware of the doubtful claims, but it’s unfortunate that they didn’t opt for a broader campaign instead of the focused anti-piracy message.

Finally, since it’s still Safer Internet Day, we encourage kids to take a close look at the various guides on how to avoid “fake news” while engaging in critical thinking.

Be safe!

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

Success at Apache: A Newbie’s Narrative

Post Syndicated from mikesefanov original https://yahooeng.tumblr.com/post/170536010891

yahoodevelopers:

Kuhu Shukla (bottom center) and team at the 2017 DataWorks Summit


By Kuhu Shukla

This post first appeared here on the Apache Software Foundation blog as part of ASF’s “Success at Apache” monthly blog series.

As I sit at my desk on a rather frosty morning with my coffee, looking up new JIRAs from the previous day in the Apache Tez project, I feel rather pleased. The latest community release vote is complete, the bug fixes that we so badly needed are in and the new release that we tested out internally on our many thousand strong cluster is looking good. Today I am looking at a new stack trace from a different Apache project process and it is hard to miss how much of the exceptional code I get to look at every day comes from people all around the globe. A contributor leaves a JIRA comment before he goes on to pick up his kid from soccer practice while someone else wakes up to find that her effort on a bug fix for the past two months has finally come to fruition through a binding +1.

Yahoo – which joined AOL, HuffPost, Tumblr, Engadget, and many more brands to form the Verizon subsidiary Oath last year – has been at the frontier of open source adoption and contribution since before I was in high school. So while I have no historical trajectories to share, I do have a story on how I found myself in an epic journey of migrating all of Yahoo jobs from Apache MapReduce to Apache Tez, a then-new DAG based execution engine.

Oath grid infrastructure is through and through driven by Apache technologies be it storage through HDFS, resource management through YARN, job execution frameworks with Tez and user interface engines such as Hive, Hue, Pig, Sqoop, Spark, Storm. Our grid solution is specifically tailored to Oath’s business-critical data pipeline needs using the polymorphic technologies hosted, developed and maintained by the Apache community.

On the third day of my job at Yahoo in 2015, I received a YouTube link on An Introduction to Apache Tez. I watched it carefully trying to keep up with all the questions I had and recognized a few names from my academic readings of Yarn ACM papers. I continued to ramp up on YARN and HDFS, the foundational Apache technologies Oath heavily contributes to even today. For the first few weeks I spent time picking out my favorite (necessary) mailing lists to subscribe to and getting started on setting up on a pseudo-distributed Hadoop cluster. I continued to find my footing with newbie contributions and being ever more careful with whitespaces in my patches. One thing was clear – Tez was the next big thing for us. By the time I could truly call myself a contributor in the Hadoop community nearly 80-90% of the Yahoo jobs were now running with Tez. But just like hiking up the Grand Canyon, the last 20% is where all the pain was. Being a part of the solution to this challenge was a happy prospect and thankfully contributing to Tez became a goal in my next quarter.

The next sprint planning meeting ended with me getting my first major Tez assignment – progress reporting. The progress reporting in Tez was non-existent – “Just needs an API fix,”  I thought. Like almost all bugs in this ecosystem, it was not easy. How do you define progress? How is it different for different kinds of outputs in a graph? The questions were many.

I, however, did not have to go far to get answers. The Tez community actively came to a newbie’s rescue, finding answers and posing important questions. I started attending the bi-weekly Tez community sync up calls and asking existing contributors and committers for course correction. Suddenly the team was much bigger, the goals much more chiseled. This was new to anyone like me who came from the networking industry, where the most open part of the code are the RFCs and the implementation details are often hidden. These meetings served as a clean room for our coding ideas and experiments. Ideas were shared, to the extent of which data structure we should pick and what a future user of Tez would take from it. In between the usual status updates and extensive knowledge transfers were made.

Oath uses Apache Pig and Apache Hive extensively and most of the urgent requirements and requests came from Pig and Hive developers and users. Each issue led to a community JIRA and as we started running Tez at Oath scale, new feature ideas and bugs around performance and resource utilization materialized. Every year most of the Hadoop team at Oath travels to the Hadoop Summit where we meet our cohorts from the Apache community and we stand for hours discussing the state of the art and what is next for the project. One such discussion set the course for the next year and a half for me.

We needed an innovative way to shuffle data. Frameworks like MapReduce and Tez have a shuffle phase in their processing lifecycle wherein the data from upstream producers is made available to downstream consumers. Even though Apache Tez was designed with a feature set corresponding to optimization requirements in Pig and Hive, the Shuffle Handler Service was retrofitted from MapReduce at the time of the project’s inception. With several thousands of jobs on our clusters leveraging these features in Tez, the Shuffle Handler Service became a clear performance bottleneck. So as we stood talking about our experience with Tez with our friends from the community, we decided to implement a new Shuffle Handler for Tez. All the conversation points were tracked now through an umbrella JIRA TEZ-3334 and the to-do list was long. I picked a few JIRAs and as I started reading through I realized, this is all new code I get to contribute to and review. There might be a better way to put this, but to be honest it was just a lot of fun! All the whiteboards were full, the team took walks post lunch and discussed how to go about defining the API. Countless hours were spent debugging hangs while fetching data and looking at stack traces and Wireshark captures from our test runs. Six months in and we had the feature on our sandbox clusters. There were moments ranging from sheer frustration to absolute exhilaration with high fives as we continued to address review comments and fixing big and small issues with this evolving feature.

As much as owning your code is valued everywhere in the software community, I would never go on to say “I did this!” In fact, “we did!” It is this strong sense of shared ownership and fluid team structure that makes the open source experience at Apache truly rewarding. This is just one example. A lot of the work that was done in Tez was leveraged by the Hive and Pig community and cross Apache product community interaction made the work ever more interesting and challenging. Triaging and fixing issues with the Tez rollout led us to hit a 100% migration score last year and we also rolled the Tez Shuffle Handler Service out to our research clusters. As of last year we have run around 100 million Tez DAGs with a total of 50 billion tasks over almost 38,000 nodes.

In 2018 as I move on to explore Hadoop 3.0 as our future release, I hope that if someone outside the Apache community is reading this, it will inspire and intrigue them to contribute to a project of their choice. As an astronomy aficionado, going from a newbie Apache contributor to a newbie Apache committer was very much like looking through my telescope - it has endless possibilities and challenges you to be your best.

About the Author:

Kuhu Shukla is a software engineer at Oath and did her Masters in Computer Science at North Carolina State University. She works on the Big Data Platforms team on Apache Tez, YARN and HDFS with a lot of talented Apache PMCs and Committers in Champaign, Illinois. A recent Apache Tez Committer herself she continues to contribute to YARN and HDFS and spoke at the 2017 Dataworks Hadoop Summit on “Tez Shuffle Handler: Shuffling At Scale With Apache Hadoop”. Prior to that she worked on Juniper Networks’ router and switch configuration APIs. She likes to participate in open source conferences and women in tech events. In her spare time she loves singing Indian classical and jazz, laughing, whale watching, hiking and peering through her Dobsonian telescope.

Four days of STEAM at Bett 2018

Post Syndicated from Dan Fisher original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/bett-2018/

If you’re an educator from the UK, chances are you’ve heard of Bett. For everyone else: Bett stands for British Education Technology Tradeshow. It’s the El Dorado of edtech, where every street is adorned with interactive whiteboards, VR headsets, and new technologies for the classroom. Every year since 2014, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been going to the event hosted in the ExCeL London to chat to thousands of lovely educators about our free programmes and resources.

Raspberry Pi Bett 2018

On a mission

Our setup this year consisted of four pods (imagine tables on steroids) in the STEAM village, and the mission of our highly trained team of education agents was to establish a new world record for Highest number of teachers talked to in a four-day period. I’m only half-joking.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Educators with a mission

Meeting educators

The best thing about being at Bett is meeting the educators who use our free content and training materials. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the everyday tasks of the office without stopping to ask: “Hey, have we asked our users what they want recently?” Events like Bett help us to connect with our audience, creating some lovely moments for both sides. We had plenty of Hello World authors visit us, including Gary Stager, co-author of Invent to Learn, a must-read for any computing educator. More than 700 people signed up for a digital subscription, we had numerous lovely conversations about our content and about ideas for new articles, and we met many new authors expressing an interest in writing for us in the future.

BETT 2018 Hello World Raspberry Pi
BETT 2018 Hello World Raspberry Pi
BETT 2018 Hello World Raspberry Pi

We also talked to lots of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators who we’d trained in our free Picademy programme — new dates in Belfast and Dublin now! — and who are now doing exciting and innovative things in their local areas. For example, Chris Snowden came to tell us about the great digital making outreach work he has been doing with the Eureka! museum in Yorkshire.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Snowden

Digital making for kids

The other best thing about being at Bett is running workshops for young learners and seeing the delight on their faces when they accomplish something they believed to be impossible only five minutes ago. On the Saturday, we ran a massive Raspberry Jam/Code Club where over 250 children, parents, and curious onlookers got stuck into some of our computing activities. We were super happy to find out that we’d won the Bett Kids’ Choice Award for Best Hands-on Experience — a fantastic end to a busy four days. With Bett over for another year, our tired and happy ‘rebel alliance’ from across the Foundation still had the energy to pose for a group photo.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Celebrating our ‘Best Hands-on Experience’ award

More events

You can find out more about starting a Code Club here, and if you’re running a Jam, why not get involved with our global Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend celebrations in March?

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

We’ll be at quite a few events in 2018, including the Big Bang Fair in March — do come and say hi.

The post Four days of STEAM at Bett 2018 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Task Networking in AWS Fargate

Post Syndicated from Nathan Peck original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/task-networking-in-aws-fargate/

AWS Fargate is a technology that allows you to focus on running your application without needing to provision, monitor, or manage the underlying compute infrastructure. You package your application into a Docker container that you can then launch using your container orchestration tool of choice.

Fargate allows you to use containers without being responsible for Amazon EC2 instances, similar to how EC2 allows you to run VMs without managing physical infrastructure. Currently, Fargate provides support for Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS). Support for Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (Amazon EKS) will be made available in the near future.

Despite offloading the responsibility for the underlying instances, Fargate still gives you deep control over configuration of network placement and policies. This includes the ability to use many networking fundamentals such as Amazon VPC and security groups.

This post covers how to take advantage of the different ways of networking your containers in Fargate when using ECS as your orchestration platform, with a focus on how to do networking securely.

The first step to running any application in Fargate is defining an ECS task for Fargate to launch. A task is a logical group of one or more Docker containers that are deployed with specified settings. When running a task in Fargate, there are two different forms of networking to consider:

  • Container (local) networking
  • External networking

Container Networking

Container networking is often used for tightly coupled application components. Perhaps your application has a web tier that is responsible for serving static content as well as generating some dynamic HTML pages. To generate these dynamic pages, it has to fetch information from another application component that has an HTTP API.

One potential architecture for such an application is to deploy the web tier and the API tier together as a pair and use local networking so the web tier can fetch information from the API tier.

If you are running these two components as two processes on a single EC2 instance, the web tier application process could communicate with the API process on the same machine by using the local loopback interface. The local loopback interface has a special IP address of 127.0.0.1 and hostname of localhost.

By making a networking request to this local interface, it bypasses the network interface hardware and instead the operating system just routes network calls from one process to the other directly. This gives the web tier a fast and efficient way to fetch information from the API tier with almost no networking latency.

In Fargate, when you launch multiple containers as part of a single task, they can also communicate with each other over the local loopback interface. Fargate uses a special container networking mode called awsvpc, which gives all the containers in a task a shared elastic network interface to use for communication.

If you specify a port mapping for each container in the task, then the containers can communicate with each other on that port. For example the following task definition could be used to deploy the web tier and the API tier:

{
  "family": "myapp"
  "containerDefinitions": [
    {
      "name": "web",
      "image": "my web image url",
      "portMappings": [
        {
          "containerPort": 80
        }
      ],
      "memory": 500,
      "cpu": 10,
      "esssential": true
    },
    {
      "name": "api",
      "image": "my api image url",
      "portMappings": [
        {
          "containerPort": 8080
        }
      ],
      "cpu": 10,
      "memory": 500,
      "essential": true
    }
  ]
}

ECS, with Fargate, is able to take this definition and launch two containers, each of which is bound to a specific static port on the elastic network interface for the task.

Because each Fargate task has its own isolated networking stack, there is no need for dynamic ports to avoid port conflicts between different tasks as in other networking modes. The static ports make it easy for containers to communicate with each other. For example, the web container makes a request to the API container using its well-known static port:

curl 127.0.0.1:8080/my-endpoint

This sends a local network request, which goes directly from one container to the other over the local loopback interface without traversing the network. This deployment strategy allows for fast and efficient communication between two tightly coupled containers. But most application architectures require more than just internal local networking.

External Networking

External networking is used for network communications that go outside the task to other servers that are not part of the task, or network communications that originate from other hosts on the internet and are directed to the task.

Configuring external networking for a task is done by modifying the settings of the VPC in which you launch your tasks. A VPC is a fundamental tool in AWS for controlling the networking capabilities of resources that you launch on your account.

When setting up a VPC, you create one or more subnets, which are logical groups that your resources can be placed into. Each subnet has an Availability Zone and its own route table, which defines rules about how network traffic operates for that subnet. There are two main types of subnets: public and private.

Public subnets

A public subnet is a subnet that has an associated internet gateway. Fargate tasks in that subnet are assigned both private and public IP addresses:


A browser or other client on the internet can send network traffic to the task via the internet gateway using its public IP address. The tasks can also send network traffic to other servers on the internet because the route table can route traffic out via the internet gateway.

If tasks want to communicate directly with each other, they can use each other’s private IP address to send traffic directly from one to the other so that it stays inside the subnet without going out to the internet gateway and back in.

Private subnets

A private subnet does not have direct internet access. The Fargate tasks inside the subnet don’t have public IP addresses, only private IP addresses. Instead of an internet gateway, a network address translation (NAT) gateway is attached to the subnet:

 

There is no way for another server or client on the internet to reach your tasks directly, because they don’t even have an address or a direct route to reach them. This is a great way to add another layer of protection for internal tasks that handle sensitive data. Those tasks are protected and can’t receive any inbound traffic at all.

In this configuration, the tasks can still communicate to other servers on the internet via the NAT gateway. They would appear to have the IP address of the NAT gateway to the recipient of the communication. If you run a Fargate task in a private subnet, you must add this NAT gateway. Otherwise, Fargate can’t make a network request to Amazon ECR to download the container image, or communicate with Amazon CloudWatch to store container metrics.

Load balancers

If you are running a container that is hosting internet content in a private subnet, you need a way for traffic from the public to reach the container. This is generally accomplished by using a load balancer such as an Application Load Balancer or a Network Load Balancer.

ECS integrates tightly with AWS load balancers by automatically configuring a service-linked load balancer to send network traffic to containers that are part of the service. When each task starts, the IP address of its elastic network interface is added to the load balancer’s configuration. When the task is being shut down, network traffic is safely drained from the task before removal from the load balancer.

To get internet traffic to containers using a load balancer, the load balancer is placed into a public subnet. ECS configures the load balancer to forward traffic to the container tasks in the private subnet:

This configuration allows your tasks in Fargate to be safely isolated from the rest of the internet. They can still initiate network communication with external resources via the NAT gateway, and still receive traffic from the public via the Application Load Balancer that is in the public subnet.

Another potential use case for a load balancer is for internal communication from one service to another service within the private subnet. This is typically used for a microservice deployment, in which one service such as an internet user account service needs to communicate with an internal service such as a password service. Obviously, it is undesirable for the password service to be directly accessible on the internet, so using an internet load balancer would be a major security vulnerability. Instead, this can be accomplished by hosting an internal load balancer within the private subnet:

With this approach, one container can distribute requests across an Auto Scaling group of other private containers via the internal load balancer, ensuring that the network traffic stays safely protected within the private subnet.

Best Practices for Fargate Networking

Determine whether you should use local task networking

Local task networking is ideal for communicating between containers that are tightly coupled and require maximum networking performance between them. However, when you deploy one or more containers as part of the same task they are always deployed together so it removes the ability to independently scale different types of workload up and down.

In the example of the application with a web tier and an API tier, it may be the case that powering the application requires only two web tier containers but 10 API tier containers. If local container networking is used between these two container types, then an extra eight unnecessary web tier containers would end up being run instead of allowing the two different services to scale independently.

A better approach would be to deploy the two containers as two different services, each with its own load balancer. This allows clients to communicate with the two web containers via the web service’s load balancer. The web service could distribute requests across the eight backend API containers via the API service’s load balancer.

Run internet tasks that require internet access in a public subnet

If you have tasks that require internet access and a lot of bandwidth for communication with other services, it is best to run them in a public subnet. Give them public IP addresses so that each task can communicate with other services directly.

If you run these tasks in a private subnet, then all their outbound traffic has to go through an NAT gateway. AWS NAT gateways support up to 10 Gbps of burst bandwidth. If your bandwidth requirements go over this, then all task networking starts to get throttled. To avoid this, you could distribute the tasks across multiple private subnets, each with their own NAT gateway. It can be easier to just place the tasks into a public subnet, if possible.

Avoid using a public subnet or public IP addresses for private, internal tasks

If you are running a service that handles private, internal information, you should not put it into a public subnet or use a public IP address. For example, imagine that you have one task, which is an API gateway for authentication and access control. You have another background worker task that handles sensitive information.

The intended access pattern is that requests from the public go to the API gateway, which then proxies request to the background task only if the request is from an authenticated user. If the background task is in a public subnet and has a public IP address, then it could be possible for an attacker to bypass the API gateway entirely. They could communicate directly to the background task using its public IP address, without being authenticated.

Conclusion

Fargate gives you a way to run containerized tasks directly without managing any EC2 instances, but you still have full control over how you want networking to work. You can set up containers to talk to each other over the local network interface for maximum speed and efficiency. For running workloads that require privacy and security, use a private subnet with public internet access locked down. Or, for simplicity with an internet workload, you can just use a public subnet and give your containers a public IP address.

To deploy one of these Fargate task networking approaches, check out some sample CloudFormation templates showing how to configure the VPC, subnets, and load balancers.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.

Pirate Bay Founder’s Domain Service “Mocks” NY Times Legal Threats

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-founders-domain-service-mocks-ny-times-legal-threats-180125/

Back in the day, The Pirate Bay was famous for its amusing responses to legal threats. Instead of complying with takedown notices, it sent witty responses to embarrass the senders.

Today the notorious torrent site gives copyright holders the silent treatment, but the good-old Pirate Bay spirit still lives on elsewhere.

Earlier today the anonymous domain registration service Njalla, which happens to be a venture of TPB co-founder Peter Sunde, posted a series of noteworthy responses it sent to The New York Times’ (NYT) legal department.

The newspaper warned the registration service about one of its customers, paywallnews.com, which offers the news service’s content without permission. Since this is a violation of The Times’ copyrights, according to the paper, Njalla should take action or face legal consequences.

NYT: Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately provide us with contact information — including email addresses — for both the actual owner of the paywallnew.com website, and for the hosting provider on which the paywallnew.com website is located.

If we have not heard from you within three (3) business days of receipt of this letter, we will have no choice but to pursue all available legal remedies.

Njalla is no stranger to threats of this kind but were somewhat offended by the harsh language, it seems. The company, therefore, decided to inform the NYT that there are more friendly ways to reach out.

Njalla: Thanks for that lovely e-mail. It’s always good to communicate with people that in their first e-mail use words as “we demand”, “pursue all available legal remedies” and so forth. I’d like to start out with some free (as in no cost) advice: please update your boiler threat letters to actually try what most people try first: being nice. It’s not expensive (actually the opposite) and actually it works much better than your method (source: a few tens of thousands years of human development that would not have been as efficient with threats as it would have been with cooperation).

In addition, Njalla also included a request of its own. They kindly asked (no demand) the newspaper’s legal department for proof that they are who they say they are. You can never be too cautious, after all.

Njalla: Now, back to the questions you sent us. We’re not sure who you are, so in order to move further we’d like to see a copy of your ID card, as well as a notarised power of attorney showing that you are actually representing the people you’re claiming to do.

This had the desired effect, for Njalla at least. The NYT replied with an apology for the tough language that was used, noting that they usually deal with companies that employ people who are used to reading legal documents.

The newspaper did, however, submit a notarized letter signed by the company’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, and once again asked for details on the Njalla customer.

NYT: Once again, as I mention above, the referenced website is stealing large amounts of New York Times content. If you click on this link: http://www.paywallnews.com/sites/nytimes

As this abuse — aside from being an egregious infringement of The Times’s copyright — breaches your own Terms of Service, I hope you will be able to see your way to helping me to put a stop to this practice by providing me with the name and contact information for the owner of paywallnews.com and for the ISP on which it is hosted.

This is when things started to get really interesting. Founded by someone with an extensive background in “sharing,” Njalla clearly has a different definition of stealing than the NYT’s legal department.

The reply, which is worth reading in full along with the rest of the communication, makes this quite clear.

Njalla: Stealing content seem quite harsh of this website though, didn’t know that they did that! Is there anyway you can get the stolen items back though? You should either go to the police and request them to help you get the stolen items back. Or maybe talk to your insurance company, they might help to compensate you for the loss. But a helpful idea; if they’ve stolen something and then put copies of that on a website that you can freely access, I would suggest just copying it, so that both of you have the same things. That’s a great thing with the digital world, everyone can have copies of things. I am surprised they stole something when they could just have copied it. I’m guessing it’s some older individuals that don’t know the possibilities of modern day technology to make copies.

It’s obvious that the domain registration service makes a clear distinction between copying and stealing.

Piracy vs. Theft

In addition, Njalla contests that the site is problematic at all, noting that this might be a “cultural difference.”

Njalla spotted something even more worrying though. The NYT claims that the site in question violates its terms of service. Specifically, they reference the section that prohibits sites from spreading content that is illegal according to local law.

Is the NYT perhaps spreading illegal content itself, Njalla questions?

Njalla: Deborah, I was quite shocked and appalled that you referred to this part of our ToS. It made me actually not visit the website in question even though you’ve linked it now a few times. You’re admitting to spreading illegal content at your newspaper, for profit, is that correct?

We’re quite big proponents of freedom of speech, let me assure you of that, but we also have limits. If you spread illegal content, and our customers stole that illegal content and are now handing out free copies of that, that’s a huge issue for us. Since it would be illegal for us to get those copies if they’re illegal, I’m asking you what type of content it is?

As an attachment to the reply, Njalla also sent back a “notarized” letter of their own, by simply copying the NYT letter and sticking their own logo on it, to show how easily these can be fabricated.

TorrentFreak reached out to Sunde who informed us that they never heard from The New York Times after the last reply. As a domain registrant, Njalla is not obliged to comply with takedown requests, he explains.

“If they need help from us on copyright issues, they’re totally missing what we’re doing, and that they should look somewhere else anyhow. But I think most domain services gets tons of these threat emails, and a lot of them think they’re responsible because they don’t have access to legal help and just shut customers down.

“That’s what a lot of our customers say at least, since they migrated from a shitty service which doesn’t know their own business,” Sunde adds.

The NYT is not completely without options though. If they take the case to court in Sweden and win an injunction against paywallnews.com, Njalla will comply. The same is true if a customer really violates the terms of service.

Meanwhile, paywallnews.com remains online.

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

SUPER game night 3: GAMES MADE QUICK??? 2.0

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/01/23/super-game-night-3-games-made-quick-2-0/

Game night continues with a smorgasbord of games from my recent game jam, GAMES MADE QUICK??? 2.0!

The idea was to make a game in only a week while watching AGDQ, as an alternative to doing absolutely nothing for a week while watching AGDQ. (I didn’t submit a game myself; I was chugging along on my Anise game, which isn’t finished yet.)

I can’t very well run a game jam and not play any of the games, so here’s some of them in no particular order! Enjoy!

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

Weather Quest, by timlmul

short · rpg · jan 2017 · (lin)/mac/win · free on itch · jam entry

Weather Quest is its author’s first shipped game, written completely from scratch (the only vendored code is a micro OO base). It’s very short, but as someone who has also written LÖVE games completely from scratch, I can attest that producing something this game-like in a week is a fucking miracle. Bravo!

For reference, a week into my first foray, I think I was probably still writing my own Tiled importer like an idiot.

Only Mac and Windows builds are on itch, but it’s a LÖVE game, so Linux folks can just grab a zip from GitHub and throw that at love.

FINAL SCORE: ⛅☔☀

Pancake Numbers Simulator, by AnorakThePrimordial

short · sim · jan 2017 · lin/mac/win · free on itch · jam entry

Given a stack of N pancakes (of all different sizes and in no particular order), the Nth pancake number is the most flips you could possibly need to sort the pancakes in order with the smallest on top. A “flip” is sticking a spatula under one of the pancakes and flipping the whole sub-stack over. There’s, ah, a video embedded on the game page with some visuals.

Anyway, this game lets you simulate sorting a stack via pancake flipping, which is surprisingly satisfying! I enjoy cleaning up little simulated messes, such as… incorrectly-sorted pancakes, I guess?

This probably doesn’t work too well as a simulator for solving the general problem — you’d have to find an optimal solution for every permutation of N pancakes to be sure you were right. But it’s a nice interactive illustration of the problem, and if you know the pancake number for your stack size of choice (which I wish the game told you — for seven pancakes, it’s 8), then trying to restore a stack in that many moves makes for a nice quick puzzle.

FINAL SCORE: \(\frac{18}{11}\)

Framed Animals, by chridd

short · metroidvania · jan 2017 · web/win · free on itch · jam entry

The concept here was to kill the frames, save the animals, which is a delightfully literal riff on a long-running AGDQ/SGDQ donation incentive — people vote with their dollars to decide whether Super Metroid speedrunners go out of their way to free the critters who show you how to walljump and shinespark. Super Metroid didn’t have a showing at this year’s AGDQ, and so we have this game instead.

It’s rough, but clever, and I got really into it pretty quickly — each animal you save gives you a new ability (in true Metroid style), and you get to test that ability out by playing as the animal, with only that ability and no others, to get yourself back to the most recent save point.

I did, tragically, manage to get myself stuck near what I think was about to be the end of the game, so some of the animals will remain framed forever. What an unsatisfying conclusion.

Gravity feels a little high given the size of the screen, and like most tile-less platformers, there’s not really any way to gauge how high or long your jump is before you leap. But I’m only even nitpicking because I think this is a great idea and I hope the author really does keep working on it.

FINAL SCORE: $136,596.69

Battle 4 Glory, by Storyteller Games

short · fighter · jan 2017 · win · free on itch · jam entry

This is a Smash Bros-style brawler, complete with the four players, the 2D play area in a 3D world, and the random stage obstacles showing up. I do like the Smash style, despite not otherwise being a fan of fighting games, so it’s nice to see another game chase that aesthetic.

Alas, that’s about as far as it got — which is pretty far for a week of work! I don’t know what more to say, though. The environments are neat, but unless I’m missing something, the only actions at your disposal are jumping and very weak melee attacks. I did have a good few minutes of fun fruitlessly mashing myself against the bumbling bots, as you can see.

FINAL SCORE: 300%

Icnaluferu Guild, Year Sixteen, by CHz

short · adventure · jan 2017 · web · free on itch · jam entry

Here we have the first of several games made with bitsy, a micro game making tool that basically only supports walking around, talking to people, and picking up items.

I tell you this because I think half of my appreciation for this game is in the ways it wriggled against those limits to emulate a Zelda-like dungeon crawler. Everything in here is totally fake, and you can’t really understand just how fake unless you’ve tried to make something complicated with bitsy.

It’s pretty good. The dialogue is entertaining (the rest of your party develops distinct personalities solely through oneliners, somehow), the riffs on standard dungeon fare are charming, and the Link’s Awakening-esque perspective walls around the edges of each room are fucking glorious.

FINAL SCORE: 2 bits

The Lonely Tapes, by JTHomeslice

short · rpg · jan 2017 · web · free on itch · jam entry

Another bitsy entry, this one sees you play as a Wal— sorry, a JogDawg, which has lost its cassette tapes and needs to go recover them!

(A cassette tape is like a VHS, but for music.)

(A VHS is—)

I have the sneaking suspicion that I missed out on some musical in-jokes, due to being uncultured swine. I still enjoyed the game — it’s always clear when someone is passionate about the thing they’re writing about, and I could tell I was awash in that aura even if some of it went over my head. You know you’ve done good if someone from way outside your sphere shows up and still has a good time.

FINAL SCORE: Nine… Inch Nails? They’re a band, right? God I don’t know write your own damn joke

Pirate Kitty-Quest, by TheKoolestKid

short · adventure · jan 2017 · win · free on itch · jam entry

I completely forgot I’d even given “my birthday” and “my cat” as mostly-joking jam themes until I stumbled upon this incredible gem. I don’t think — let me just check here and — yeah no this person doesn’t even follow me on Twitter. I have no idea who they are?

BUT THEY MADE A GAME ABOUT ANISE AS A PIRATE, LOOKING FOR TREASURE

PIRATE. ANISE

PIRATE ANISE!!!

This game wins the jam, hands down. 🏆

FINAL SCORE: Yarr, eight pieces o’ eight

CHIPS Mario, by NovaSquirrel

short · platformer · jan 2017 · (lin/mac)/win · free on itch · jam entry

You see this? This is fucking witchcraft.

This game is made with MegaZeux. MegaZeux games look like THIS. Text-mode, bound to a grid, with two colors per cell. That’s all you get.

Until now, apparently?? The game is a tech demo of “unbound” sprites, which can be drawn on top of the character grid without being aligned to it. And apparently have looser color restrictions.

The collision is a little glitchy, which isn’t surprising for a MegaZeux platformer; I had some fun interactions with platforms a couple times. But hey, goddamn, it’s free-moving Mario, in MegaZeux, what the hell.

(I’m looking at the most recently added games on DigitalMZX now, and I notice that not only is this game in the first slot, but NovaSquirrel’s MegaZeux entry for Strawberry Jam last February is still in the seventh slot. RIP, MegaZeux. I’m surprised a major feature like this was even added if the community has largely evaporated?)

FINAL SCORE: n/a, disqualified for being probably summoned from the depths of Hell

d!¢< pic, by 573 Games

short · story · jan 2017 · web · free on itch · jam entry

This is a short story about not sending dick pics. It’s very short, so I can’t say much without spoiling it, but: you are generally prompted to either text something reasonable, or send a dick pic. You should not send a dick pic.

It’s a fascinating artifact, not because of the work itself, but because it’s so terse that I genuinely can’t tell what the author was even going for. And this is the kind of subject where the author was, surely, going for something. Right? But was it genuinely intended to be educational, or was it tongue-in-cheek about how some dudes still don’t get it? Or is it side-eying the player who clicks the obviously wrong option just for kicks, which is the same reason people do it for real? Or is it commentary on how “send a dick pic” is a literal option for every response in a real conversation, too, and it’s not that hard to just not do it — unless you are one of the kinds of people who just feels a compulsion to try everything, anything, just because you can? Or is it just a quick Twine and I am way too deep in this? God, just play the thing, it’s shorter than this paragraph.

I’m also left wondering when it is appropriate to send a dick pic. Presumably there is a correct time? Hopefully the author will enter Strawberry Jam 2 to expound upon this.

FINAL SCORE: 3½” 😉

Marble maze, by Shtille

short · arcade · jan 2017 · win · free on itch · jam entry

Ah, hm. So this is a maze navigated by rolling a marble around. You use WASD to move the marble, and you can also turn the camera with the arrow keys.

The trouble is… the marble’s movement is always relative to the world, not the camera. That means if you turn the camera 30° and then try to move the marble, it’ll move at a 30° angle from your point of view.

That makes navigating a maze, er, difficult.

Camera-relative movement is the kind of thing I take so much for granted that I wouldn’t even think to do otherwise, and I think it’s valuable to look at surprising choices that violate fundamental conventions, so I’m trying to take this as a nudge out of my comfort zone. What could you design in an interesting way that used world-relative movement? Probably not the player, but maybe something else in the world, as long as you had strong landmarks? Hmm.

FINAL SCORE: ᘔ

Refactor: flight, by fluffy

short · arcade · jan 2017 · lin/mac/win · free on itch · jam entry

Refactor is a game album, which is rather a lot what it sounds like, and Flight is one of the tracks. Which makes this a single, I suppose.

It’s one of those games where you move down an oddly-shaped tunnel trying not to hit the walls, but with some cute twists. Coins and gems hop up from the bottom of the screen in time with the music, and collecting them gives you points. Hitting a wall costs you some points and kills your momentum, but I don’t think outright losing is possible, which is great for me!

Also, the monk cycles through several animal faces. I don’t know why, and it’s very good. One of those odd but memorable details that sits squarely on the intersection of abstract, mysterious, and a bit weird, and refuses to budge from that spot.

The music is great too? Really chill all around.

FINAL SCORE: 🎵🎵🎵🎵

The Adventures of Klyde

short · adventure · jan 2017 · web · free on itch · jam entry

Another bitsy game, this one starring a pig (humorously symbolized by a giant pig nose with ears) who must collect fruit and solve some puzzles.

This is charmingly nostalgic for me — it reminds me of some standard fare in engines like MegaZeux, where the obvious things to do when presented with tiles and pickups were to make mazes. I don’t mean that in a bad way; the maze is the fundamental environmental obstacle.

A couple places in here felt like invisible teleport mazes I had to brute-force, but I might have been missing a hint somewhere. I did make it through with only a little trouble, but alas — I stepped in a bad warp somewhere and got sent to the upper left corner of the starting screen, which is surrounded by walls. So Klyde’s new life is being trapped eternally in a nowhere space.

FINAL SCORE: 19/20 apples

And more

That was only a third of the games, and I don’t think even half of the ones I’ve played. I’ll have to do a second post covering the rest of them? Maybe a third?

Or maybe this is a ludicrous format for commenting on several dozen games and I should try to narrow it down to the ones that resonated the most for Strawberry Jam 2? Maybe??

Thor Ragnarok Furiously Pirated After iTunes Pre-Order Blunder

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/thor-ragnarok-furiously-pirated-after-itunes-pre-order-blunder-180122/

When perfect copies of movies leak out onto the Internet in advance of their official release dates, there’s usually an element of skullduggery at play.

This can sometimes involve people intercepting, stealing, or borrowing DVD screener discs, for example. However, other problems can unexpectedly raise their heads.

Case in point – the pre-release leak of Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok this past weekend.

With a disc release planned for February 26th just four months after the superhero movie’s theatrical debut, digital distribution on iTunes was set to go ahead on February 19th.

However, due to what appears to be a significant blunder at Apple, the $180 million movie is now being furiously pirated all over the Internet. A small sample of the latest leak (all releases with an upload date of ‘today’) can be seen in the screenshot below, sourced from The Pirate Bay.

Plenty of choice for pirates….

So what went wrong? According to a user on Reddit who has since deleted his post, a legal pre-order purchase was incorrectly made available for download a month early.

“I pre-ordered Thor Ragnarok on Vudu yesterday and it links it to my iTunes also,” the user explained.

“But curiously it showed up in my iTunes library this morning (pre-orders shouldn’t). And now I can watch the full movie in HD. I obviously downloaded it right away. I know its supposed to come out February 20th.”

The precise mechanism behind the movie incorrectly appearing on iTunes isn’t clear but the user reported that he didn’t buy it on the platform. Instead, he purchased the 4K version on Vudu, which was linked to his MoviesAnywhere account, which was in turn linked to iTunes.

For anyone unaware, MoviesAnywhere is a completely free service that allows people to watch their iTunes, Vudu, Google Play and Amazon movies in one place, on Apple, Android, Roku, Amazon and Chromecast devices.

Shortly after, other users noted that after purchasing the movie using the same process, they achieved the same result.

“Just tried the same way as you and it is now available for viewing on iTunes,” one reported.

Of course, one can’t simply share iTunes movies with others online but there are people out there prepared to put in the effort to make that possible. Release group ‘EVO’, which has the most popular torrent of Thor Ragnarok out there at the moment, took the time to explain the headaches it gave them.

“More than 10 hours working in a way to remove this fucking protection finally come to a end,” the group said.

“Casualties: 1 account banned. Lol. But it was worth it. Enjoy fellas. Have a good weekend. No VIP required. No pennies needed. All free.”

From a piracy perspective, illegal downloads are now metaphorically flying off the shelves. It won’t be what Marvel wanted so getting to the bottom of who is to blame will now be a top priority.

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

China Seriously Doubts Objectivity of US ‘Pirate Site’ List

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/china-seriously-doubts-objectivity-of-us-pirate-site-list-180120/

Late last week, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released an updated version of its “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets,” identifying some of the worst IP-offenders worldwide.

The overview is largely based on input from major copyright holders and related industry groups. While the US Government admits that it doesn’t make any judgments, the list carries a lot of weight and can hurt the image of companies that are singled out.

For some of the ‘classic’ pirate sites such as The Pirate Bay, this doesn’t really matter. On the contrary, they may see it as a badge of honor. However, for billion-dollar businesses such as Alibaba and VK, it’s a different story.

They are not at risk of being the target of a criminal prosecution, as some classic pirate sites are, but the listing will make them a hot topic on the political agenda.

Interestingly, it seems that not all countries are happy with seeing some of their top companies being singled out. When China’s commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng was confronted with the fact that Alibaba and its Taobao.com site were listed, he made some noteworthy observations.

“In the report, the U.S. frequently discusses the relevant Chinese businesses with the words like ‘reportedly,’ ‘according to authoritative sources’ and the like,” Feng told the local press.

In its report, the US Government stressed that Alibaba should do more to combat counterfeiting and piracy on Taobao.com and other platforms, but China’s officials don’t seem convinced.

“It lacked conclusive evidence and had no relevant figures to back up its points. We have no choice but to express our doubts about the objectivity and reliability of the department that issued the report,” Feng added.

China’s commerce ministry has a point. The USTR report is compiled from comments that are provided by copyright holders. These are not thoroughly vetted, as far as we know, which doesn’t seem very objective.

Even more concerning, copyright holders often cite the USTR’s notorious markets list in legal and lobbying efforts, even though they are in essence their own findings in a rewritten form. While that may be very convenient, it can also be misleading.

Alibaba itself went a step further than the commerce ministry and noted that the company is being used as a “scapegoat” in a geopolitical game. In a detailed ten-page rebuttal, the marketplace responded to the allegations point by point.

“As a result of the rise of trade protectionism, Alibaba has been turned into a scapegoat by the USTR to win points in a highly-politicized environment and their actions should be recognized for what they are,” the company commented.

“The USTR’s actions made it clear that the Notorious Markets List, which only targets non-US marketplaces, is not about intellectual property protection, but just another instrument to achieve the US Government’s geopolitical objectives.”

Critique on the USTR’s Special 301 reports, which the Notorious Markets lists are part of, is not new. Earlier this year Canada’s Government described the process as flawed as it’s mainly driven by one-sided copyright industry claims.

“Canada does not recognize the validity of the Special 301 and considers the process and the Report to be flawed,” a Government memo read.

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

Privacy expectations and the connected home

Post Syndicated from Matthew Garrett original https://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/50229.html

Traditionally, devices that were tied to logins tended to indicate that in some way – turn on someone’s xbox and it’ll show you their account name, run Netflix and it’ll ask which profile you want to use. The increasing prevalence of smart devices in the home changes that, in ways that may not be immediately obvious to the majority of people. You can configure a Philips Hue with wall-mounted dimmers, meaning that someone unfamiliar with the system may not recognise that it’s a smart lighting system at all. Without any actively malicious intent, you end up with a situation where the account holder is able to infer whether someone is home without that person necessarily having any idea that that’s possible. A visitor who uses an Amazon Echo is not necessarily going to know that it’s tied to somebody’s Amazon account, and even if they do they may not know that the log (and recorded audio!) of all interactions is available to the account holder. And someone grabbing an egg out of your fridge is almost certainly not going to think that your smart egg tray will trigger an immediate notification on the account owner’s phone that they need to buy new eggs.

Things get even more complicated when there’s multiple account support. Google Home supports multiple users on a single device, using voice recognition to determine which queries should be associated with which account. But the account that was used to initially configure the device remains as the fallback, with unrecognised voices ended up being logged to it. If a voice is misidentified, the query may end up being logged to an unexpected account.

There’s some interesting questions about consent and expectations of privacy here. If someone sets up a smart device in their home then at some point they’ll agree to the manufacturer’s privacy policy. But if someone else makes use of the system (by pressing a lightswitch, making a spoken query or, uh, picking up an egg), have they consented? Who has the social obligation to explain to them that the information they’re producing may be stored elsewhere and visible to someone else? If I use an Echo in a hotel room, who has access to the Amazon account it’s associated with? How do you explain to a teenager that there’s a chance that when they asked their Home for contact details for an abortion clinic, it ended up in their parent’s activity log? Who’s going to be the first person divorced for claiming that they were vegan but having been the only person home when an egg was taken out of the fridge?

To be clear, I’m not arguing against the design choices involved in the implementation of these devices. In many cases it’s hard to see how the desired functionality could be implemented without this sort of issue arising. But we’re gradually shifting to a place where the data we generate is not only available to corporations who probably don’t care about us as individuals, it’s also becoming available to people who own the more private spaces we inhabit. We have social norms against bugging our houseguests, but we have no social norms that require us to explain to them that there’ll be a record of every light that they turn on or off. This feels like it’s going to end badly.

(Thanks to Nikki Everett for conversations that inspired this post)

(Disclaimer: while I work for Google, I am not involved in any of the products or teams described in this post and my opinions are my own rather than those of my employer’s)

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Scale Your Web Application — One Step at a Time

Post Syndicated from Saurabh Shrivastava original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/scale-your-web-application-one-step-at-a-time/

I often encounter people experiencing frustration as they attempt to scale their e-commerce or WordPress site—particularly around the cost and complexity related to scaling. When I talk to customers about their scaling plans, they often mention phrases such as horizontal scaling and microservices, but usually people aren’t sure about how to dive in and effectively scale their sites.

Now let’s talk about different scaling options. For instance if your current workload is in a traditional data center, you can leverage the cloud for your on-premises solution. This way you can scale to achieve greater efficiency with less cost. It’s not necessary to set up a whole powerhouse to light a few bulbs. If your workload is already in the cloud, you can use one of the available out-of-the-box options.

Designing your API in microservices and adding horizontal scaling might seem like the best choice, unless your web application is already running in an on-premises environment and you’ll need to quickly scale it because of unexpected large spikes in web traffic.

So how to handle this situation? Take things one step at a time when scaling and you may find horizontal scaling isn’t the right choice, after all.

For example, assume you have a tech news website where you did an early-look review of an upcoming—and highly-anticipated—smartphone launch, which went viral. The review, a blog post on your website, includes both video and pictures. Comments are enabled for the post and readers can also rate it. For example, if your website is hosted on a traditional Linux with a LAMP stack, you may find yourself with immediate scaling problems.

Let’s get more details on the current scenario and dig out more:

  • Where are images and videos stored?
  • How many read/write requests are received per second? Per minute?
  • What is the level of security required?
  • Are these synchronous or asynchronous requests?

We’ll also want to consider the following if your website has a transactional load like e-commerce or banking:

How is the website handling sessions?

  • Do you have any compliance requests—like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS compliance) —if your website is using its own payment gateway?
  • How are you recording customer behavior data and fulfilling your analytics needs?
  • What are your loading balancing considerations (scaling, caching, session maintenance, etc.)?

So, if we take this one step at a time:

Step 1: Ease server load. We need to quickly handle spikes in traffic, generated by activity on the blog post, so let’s reduce server load by moving image and video to some third -party content delivery network (CDN). AWS provides Amazon CloudFront as a CDN solution, which is highly scalable with built-in security to verify origin access identity and handle any DDoS attacks. CloudFront can direct traffic to your on-premises or cloud-hosted server with its 113 Points of Presence (102 Edge Locations and 11 Regional Edge Caches) in 56 cities across 24 countries, which provides efficient caching.
Step 2: Reduce read load by adding more read replicas. MySQL provides a nice mirror replication for databases. Oracle has its own Oracle plug for replication and AWS RDS provide up to five read replicas, which can span across the region and even the Amazon database Amazon Aurora can have 15 read replicas with Amazon Aurora autoscaling support. If a workload is highly variable, you should consider Amazon Aurora Serverless database  to achieve high efficiency and reduced cost. While most mirror technologies do asynchronous replication, AWS RDS can provide synchronous multi-AZ replication, which is good for disaster recovery but not for scalability. Asynchronous replication to mirror instance means replication data can sometimes be stale if network bandwidth is low, so you need to plan and design your application accordingly.

I recommend that you always use a read replica for any reporting needs and try to move non-critical GET services to read replica and reduce the load on the master database. In this case, loading comments associated with a blog can be fetched from a read replica—as it can handle some delay—in case there is any issue with asynchronous reflection.

Step 3: Reduce write requests. This can be achieved by introducing queue to process the asynchronous message. Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) is a highly-scalable queue, which can handle any kind of work-message load. You can process data, like rating and review; or calculate Deal Quality Score (DQS) using batch processing via an SQS queue. If your workload is in AWS, I recommend using a job-observer pattern by setting up Auto Scaling to automatically increase or decrease the number of batch servers, using the number of SQS messages, with Amazon CloudWatch, as the trigger.  For on-premises workloads, you can use SQS SDK to create an Amazon SQS queue that holds messages until they’re processed by your stack. Or you can use Amazon SNS  to fan out your message processing in parallel for different purposes like adding a watermark in an image, generating a thumbnail, etc.

Step 4: Introduce a more robust caching engine. You can use Amazon Elastic Cache for Memcached or Redis to reduce write requests. Memcached and Redis have different use cases so if you can afford to lose and recover your cache from your database, use Memcached. If you are looking for more robust data persistence and complex data structure, use Redis. In AWS, these are managed services, which means AWS takes care of the workload for you and you can also deploy them in your on-premises instances or use a hybrid approach.

Step 5: Scale your server. If there are still issues, it’s time to scale your server.  For the greatest cost-effectiveness and unlimited scalability, I suggest always using horizontal scaling. However, use cases like database vertical scaling may be a better choice until you are good with sharding; or use Amazon Aurora Serverless for variable workloads. It will be wise to use Auto Scaling to manage your workload effectively for horizontal scaling. Also, to achieve that, you need to persist the session. Amazon DynamoDB can handle session persistence across instances.

If your server is on premises, consider creating a multisite architecture, which will help you achieve quick scalability as required and provide a good disaster recovery solution.  You can pick and choose individual services like Amazon Route 53, AWS CloudFormation, Amazon SQS, Amazon SNS, Amazon RDS, etc. depending on your needs.

Your multisite architecture will look like the following diagram:

In this architecture, you can run your regular workload on premises, and use your AWS workload as required for scalability and disaster recovery. Using Route 53, you can direct a precise percentage of users to an AWS workload.

If you decide to move all of your workloads to AWS, the recommended multi-AZ architecture would look like the following:

In this architecture, you are using a multi-AZ distributed workload for high availability. You can have a multi-region setup and use Route53 to distribute your workload between AWS Regions. CloudFront helps you to scale and distribute static content via an S3 bucket and DynamoDB, maintaining your application state so that Auto Scaling can apply horizontal scaling without loss of session data. At the database layer, RDS with multi-AZ standby provides high availability and read replica helps achieve scalability.

This is a high-level strategy to help you think through the scalability of your workload by using AWS even if your workload in on premises and not in the cloud…yet.

I highly recommend creating a hybrid, multisite model by placing your on-premises environment replica in the public cloud like AWS Cloud, and using Amazon Route53 DNS Service and Elastic Load Balancing to route traffic between on-premises and cloud environments. AWS now supports load balancing between AWS and on-premises environments to help you scale your cloud environment quickly, whenever required, and reduce it further by applying Amazon auto-scaling and placing a threshold on your on-premises traffic using Route 53.

Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow

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

Cash flow projection charts

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

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

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

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

Raising Your Initial Funding

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

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

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

Sources of Funding

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

Customers

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

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

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

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

Investors

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

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

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

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

Debt

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

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

Grants

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

At Backblaze, we used a number of these options:

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

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

GAAP vs. Cash

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

Stages of Cash Flow Management

All-spend

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

Sales-generating

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

Ramen-profitable

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

Business-profitable

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

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

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

Cash Flow Forecasting

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

Two things to consider:

1) Unit Economics (COGS)

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

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

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

2) Operating Expenses (OpEx)

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

Incremental Net Profit Per Unit

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

Calculating Your Profit

The math on getting to ramen-profitable is simple:

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

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

Improving Cash Flow

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

There are two ways to improve cash flow:

1) Collect More Cash

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

2) Spend Less Cash

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

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

Be Careful (Why GAAP Matters)

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

Summary

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

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

Wanted: Sales Engineer

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wanted-sales-engineer/

At inception, Backblaze was a consumer company. Thousands upon thousands of individuals came to our website and gave us $5/mo to keep their data safe. But, we didn’t sell business solutions. It took us years before we had a sales team. In the last couple of years, we’ve released products that businesses of all sizes love: Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage and Backblaze for Business Computer Backup. Those businesses want to integrate Backblaze deeply into their infrastructure, so it’s time to hire our first Sales Engineer!

Company Description:
Founded in 2007, Backblaze started with a mission to make backup software elegant and provide complete peace of mind. Over the course of almost a decade, we have become a pioneer in robust, scalable low cost cloud backup. Recently, we launched B2 – robust and reliable object storage at just $0.005/gb/mo. Part of our differentiation is being able to offer the lowest price of any of the big players while still being profitable.

We’ve managed to nurture a team oriented culture with amazingly low turnover. We value our people and their families. Don’t forget to check out our “About Us” page to learn more about the people and some of our perks.

We have built a profitable, high growth business. While we love our investors, we have maintained control over the business. That means our corporate goals are simple – grow sustainably and profitably.

Some Backblaze Perks:

  • Competitive healthcare plans
  • Competitive compensation and 401k
  • All employees receive Option grants
  • Unlimited vacation days
  • Strong coffee
  • Fully stocked Micro kitchen
  • Catered breakfast and lunches
  • Awesome people who work on awesome projects
  • Childcare bonus
  • Normal work hours
  • Get to bring your pets into the office
  • San Mateo Office – located near Caltrain and Highways 101 & 280.

Backblaze B2 cloud storage is a building block for almost any computing service that requires storage. Customers need our help integrating B2 into iOS apps to Docker containers. Some customers integrate directly to the API using the programming language of their choice, others want to solve a specific problem using ready made software, already integrated with B2.

At the same time, our computer backup product is deepening it’s integration into enterprise IT systems. We are commonly asked for how to set Windows policies, integrate with Active Directory, and install the client via remote management tools.

We are looking for a sales engineer who can help our customers navigate the integration of Backblaze into their technical environments.

Are you 1/2” deep into many different technologies, and unafraid to dive deeper?

Can you confidently talk with customers about their technology, even if you have to look up all the acronyms right after the call?

Are you excited to setup complicated software in a lab and write knowledge base articles about your work?

Then Backblaze is the place for you!

Enough about Backblaze already, what’s in it for me?
In this role, you will be given the opportunity to learn about the technologies that drive innovation today; diverse technologies that customers are using day in and out. And more importantly, you’ll learn how to learn new technologies.

Just as an example, in the past 12 months, we’ve had the opportunity to learn and become experts in these diverse technologies:

  • How to setup VM servers for lab environments, both on-prem and using cloud services.
  • Create an automatically “resetting” demo environment for the sales team.
  • Setup Microsoft Domain Controllers with Active Directory and AD Federation Services.
  • Learn the basics of OAUTH and web single sign on (SSO).
  • Archive video workflows from camera to media asset management systems.
  • How upload/download files from Javascript by enabling CORS.
  • How to install and monitor online backup installations using RMM tools, like JAMF.
  • Tape (LTO) systems. (Yes – people still use tape for storage!)

How can I know if I’ll succeed in this role?

You have:

  • Confidence. Be able to ask customers questions about their environments and convey to them your technical acumen.
  • Curiosity. Always want to learn about customers’ situations, how they got there and what problems they are trying to solve.
  • Organization. You’ll work with customers, integration partners, and Backblaze team members on projects of various lengths. You can context switch and either have a great memory or keep copious notes. Your checklists have their own checklists.

You are versed in:

  • The fundamentals of Windows, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems. You shouldn’t be afraid to use a command line.
  • Building, installing, integrating and configuring applications on any operating system.
  • Debugging failures – reading logs, monitoring usage, effective google searching to fix problems excites you.
  • The basics of TCP/IP networking and the HTTP protocol.
  • Novice development skills in any programming/scripting language. Have basic understanding of data structures and program flow.
  • Your background contains:

  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science or the equivalent.
  • 2+ years of experience as a pre or post-sales engineer.
  • The right extra credit:
    There are literally hundreds of previous experiences you can have had that would make you perfect for this job. Some experiences that we know would be helpful for us are below, but make sure you tell us your stories!

  • Experience using or programming against Amazon S3.
  • Experience with large on-prem storage – NAS, SAN, Object. And backing up data on such storage with tools like Veeam, Veritas and others.
  • Experience with photo or video media. Media archiving is a key market for Backblaze B2.
  • Program arduinos to automatically feed your dog.
  • Experience programming against web or REST APIs. (Point us towards your projects, if they are open source and available to link to.)
  • Experience with sales tools like Salesforce.
  • 3D print door stops.
  • Experience with Windows Servers, Active Directory, Group policies and the like.
  • What’s it like working with the Sales team?
    The Backblaze sales team collaborates. We help each other out by sharing ideas, templates, and our customer’s experiences. When we talk about our accomplishments, there is no “I did this,” only “we”. We are truly a team.

    We are honest to each other and our customers and communicate openly. We aim to have fun by embracing crazy ideas and creative solutions. We try to think not outside the box, but with no boxes at all. Customers are the driving force behind the success of the company and we care deeply about their success.

    If this all sounds like you:

    1. Send an email to [email protected] with the position in the subject line.
    2. Tell us a bit about your Sales Engineering experience.
    3. Include your resume.

    The post Wanted: Sales Engineer appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.