Tag Archives: family

facepunch: the facial recognition punch clock

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/facepunch-facial-recognition/

Get on board with facial recognition and clock your screen time with facepunch, the facial recognition punch clock from dekuNukem.

dekuNukem facepunch raspberry pi facial recognition

image c/o dekuNukem

How it works

dekuNukem uses a Raspberry Pi 3, the Raspberry Pi camera module, and an OLED screen for the build. You don’t strictly need to include the OLED board, but it definitely adds to the overall effect, letting you view your daily and weekly screen time at a glance without having to access your Raspberry Pi for data.

As dekuNukem explains in the GitHub repo for the build, they used a perf board to mount the screen and attached it to the Raspberry Pi. This is a nice, simple means of pulling the whole project together without loose wires or the need for a modified case.

dekuNukem facepunch raspberry pi facial recognition

image c/o dekuNukem

This face_recognition library lets the Pi + camera register your face. You’ll also need a well lit 400×400 photograph of yourself to act as a reference for the library. From there, a few commands should get you started.

Uses for facial recognition

You could simply use facepunch for its intended purpose, but here at Pi Towers we’ve been discussing further uses for the build. We’re all guilty of sitting for too long at our desks, so why not incorporate a “get up and walk around” notification? How about a flashing LED that tells you to “drink some water”? You could even go a little deeper (though possibly a little Big Brother) and set up an “I’m back at my desk” notification on Slack, to let your colleagues know you’re available.

You could also take this foray into facial recognition and incorporate it into home automation projects: a user-identifying Magic Mirror, perhaps, or a doorbell that recognises friends and family.

What would you do with facial recognition on a Raspberry Pi?

The post facepunch: the facial recognition punch clock appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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.

Graphite 1.1: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Post Syndicated from Blogs on Grafana Labs Blog original https://grafana.com/blog/2018/01/11/graphite-1.1-teaching-an-old-dog-new-tricks/

The Road to Graphite 1.1

I started working on Graphite just over a year ago, when @obfuscurity asked me to help out with some issues blocking the Graphite 1.0 release. Little did I know that a year later, that would have resulted in 262 commits (and counting), and that with the help of the other Graphite maintainers (especially @deniszh, @iksaif & @cbowman0) we would have added a huge amount of new functionality to Graphite.

There are a huge number of new additions and updates in this release, in this post I’ll give a tour of some of the highlights including tag support, syntax and function updates, custom function plugins, and python 3.x support.

Tagging!

The single biggest feature in this release is the addition of tag support, which brings the ability to describe metrics in a much richer way and to write more flexible and expressive queries.

Traditionally series in Graphite are identified using a hierarchical naming scheme based on dot-separated segments called nodes. This works very well and is simple to map into a hierarchical structure like the whisper filesystem tree, but it means that the user has to know what each segment represents, and makes it very difficult to modify or extend the naming scheme since everything is based on the positions of the segments within the hierarchy.

The tagging system gives users the ability to encode information about the series in a collection of tag=value pairs which are used together with the series name to uniquely identify each series, and the ability to query series by specifying tag-based matching expressions rather than constructing glob-style selectors based on the positions of specific segments within the hierarchy. This is broadly similar to the system used by Prometheus and makes it possible to use Graphite as a long-term storage backend for metrics gathered by Prometheus with full tag support.

When using tags, series names are specified using the new tagged carbon format: name;tag1=value1;tag2=value2. This format is backward compatible with most existing carbon tooling, and makes it easy to adapt existing tools to produce tagged metrics simply by changing the metric names. The OpenMetrics format is also supported for ingestion, and is normalized into the standard Graphite format internally.

At its core, the tagging system is implemented as a tag database (TagDB) alongside the metrics that allows them to be efficiently queried by individual tag values rather than having to traverse the metrics tree looking for series that match the specified query. Internally the tag index is stored in one of a number of pluggable tag databases, currently supported options are the internal graphite-web database, redis, or an external system that implements the Graphite tagging HTTP API. Carbon automatically keeps the index up to date with any tagged series seen.

The new seriesByTag function is used to query the TagDB and will return a list of all the series that match the expressions passed to it. seriesByTag supports both exact and regular expression matches, and can be used anywhere you would previously have specified a metric name or glob expression.

There are new dedicated functions for grouping and aliasing series by tag (groupByTags and aliasByTags), and you can also use tags interchangeably with node numbers in the standard Graphite functions like aliasByNode, groupByNodes, asPercent, mapSeries, etc.

Piping Syntax & Function Updates

One of the huge strengths of the Graphite render API is the ability to chain together multiple functions to process data, but until now (unless you were using a tool like Grafana) writing chained queries could be painful as each function had to be wrapped around the previous one. With this release it is now possible to “pipe” the output of one processing function into the next, and to combine piped and nested functions.

For example:

alias(movingAverage(scaleToSeconds(sumSeries(stats_global.production.counters.api.requests.*.count),60),30),'api.avg')

Can now be written as:

sumSeries(stats_global.production.counters.api.requests.*.count)|scaleToSeconds(60)|movingAverage(30)|alias('api.avg')

OR

stats_global.production.counters.api.requests.*.count|sumSeries()|scaleToSeconds(60)|movingAverage(30)|alias('api.avg')

Another source of frustration with the old function API was the inconsistent implementation of aggregations, with different functions being used in different parts of the API, and some functions simply not being available. In 1.1 all functions that perform aggregation (whether across series or across time intervals) now support a consistent set of aggregations; average, median, sum, min, max, diff, stddev, count, range, multiply and last. This is part of a new approach to implementing functions that emphasises using shared building blocks to ensure consistency across the API and solve the problem of a particular function not working with the aggregation needed for a given task.

To that end a number of new functions have been added that each provide the same functionality as an entire family of “old” functions; aggregate, aggregateWithWildcards, movingWindow, filterSeries, highest, lowest and sortBy.

Each of these functions accepts an aggregation method parameter, for example aggregate(some.metric.*, 'sum') implements the same functionality as sumSeries(some.metric.*).

It can also be used with different aggregation methods to replace averageSeries, stddevSeries, multiplySeries, diffSeries, rangeOfSeries, minSeries, maxSeries and countSeries. All those functions are now implemented as aliases for aggregate, and it supports the previously-missing median and last aggregations.

The same is true for the other functions, and the summarize, smartSummarize, groupByNode, groupByNodes and the new groupByTags functions now all support the standard set of aggregations. Gone are the days of wishing that sortByMedian or highestRange were available!

For more information on the functions available check the function documentation.

Custom Functions

No matter how many functions are available there are always going to be specific use-cases where a custom function can perform analysis that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, or provide a convenient alias for a complicated function chain or specific set of parameters.

In Graphite 1.1 we added support for easily adding one-off custom functions, as well as for creating and sharing plugins that can provide one or more functions.

Each function plugin is packaged as a simple python module, and will be automatically loaded by Graphite when placed into the functions/custom folder.

An example of a simple function plugin that translates the name of every series passed to it into UPPERCASE:

from graphite.functions.params import Param, ParamTypes

def toUpperCase(requestContext, seriesList):
  """Custom function that changes series names to UPPERCASE"""
  for series in seriesList:
    series.name = series.name.upper()
  return seriesList

toUpperCase.group = 'Custom'
toUpperCase.params = [
  Param('seriesList', ParamTypes.seriesList, required=True),
]

SeriesFunctions = {
  'upper': toUpperCase,
}

Once installed the function is not only available for use within Grpahite, but is also exposed via the new Function API which allows the function definition and documentation to be automatically loaded by tools like Grafana. This means that users will be able to select and use the new function in exactly the same way as the internal functions.

More information on writing and using custom functions is available in the documentation.

Clustering Updates

One of the biggest changes from the 0.9 to 1.0 releases was the overhaul of the clustering code, and with 1.1.1 that process has been taken even further to optimize performance when using Graphite in a clustered deployment. In the past it was common for a request to require the frontend node to make multiple requests to the backend nodes to identify matching series and to fetch data, and the code for handling remote vs local series was overly complicated. In 1.1.1 we took a new approach where all render data requests pass through the same path internally, and multiple backend nodes are handled individually rather than grouped together into a single finder. This has greatly simplified the codebase, making it much easier to understand and reason about, while allowing much more flexibility in design of the finders. After these changes, render requests can now be answered with a single internal request to each backend node, and all requests for both remote and local data are executed in parallel.

To maintain the ability of graphite to scale out horizontally, the tagging system works seamlessly within a clustered environment, with each node responsible for the series stored on that node. Calls to load tagged series via seriesByTag are fanned out to the backend nodes and results are merged on the query node just like they are for non-tagged series.

Python 3 & Django 1.11 Support

Graphite 1.1 finally brings support for Python 3.x, both graphite-web and carbon are now tested against Python 2.7, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6 and PyPy. Django releases 1.8 through 1.11 are also supported. The work involved in sorting out the compatibility issues between Python 2.x and 3.x was quite involved, but it is a huge step forward for the long term support of the project! With the new Django 2.x series supporting only Python 3.x we will need to evaluate our long-term support for Python 2.x, but the Django 1.11 series is supported through 2020 so there is time to consider the options there.

Watch This Space

Efforts are underway to add support for the new functionality across the ecosystem of tools that work with Graphite, adding collectd tagging support, prometheus remote read & write with tags (and native Prometheus remote read/write support in Graphite) and last but not least Graphite tag support in Grafana.

We’re excited about the possibilities that the new capabilities in 1.1.x open up, and can’t wait to see how the community puts them to work.

Download the 1.1.1 release and check out the release notes here.

RuTracker Reveals Innovative Plan For Users to Subvert ISP Blocking

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rutracker-reveals-innovative-plan-for-users-to-subvert-isp-blocking-180110/

As Russia’s largest torrent site and one that earned itself a mention in TF’s list of most popular torrent sites 2018, RuTracker is continuously under fire.

The site has an extremely dedicated following but Russia’s telecoms watchdog, spurred on by copyright holders brandishing court rulings, does everything in its power to ensure that people can’t access the site easily.

As a result, RuTracker’s main domains are blocked by all ISPs, meaning that people have to resort to VPNs or the many dozens of proxy and mirror sites that have been set up to facilitate access to the popular tracker.

While all of these methods used to work just fine, new legislation that came into force during October means that mirror and proxy sites can be added to block lists without copyright holders having to return to court. And, following legislation introduced in November, local VPN services are forbidden from providing access to blocked sites.

While RuTracker has always insisted that web blockades have little effect on the numbers of people sharing content, direct traffic to their main domains has definitely suffered. To solve this problem and go some way towards mitigating VPN and proxy bans, the site has just come up with a new plan to keep the torrents flowing.

The scheme was quietly announced, not on RuTracker’s main forum, but to a smaller set of users on local site Leprosorium. The idea was that a quieter launch there would allow for controlled testing before a release to the masses. The project is called My.RuTracker and here’s how it works.

Instead of blocked users fruitlessly trying to find public circumvention methods that once seen are immediately blocked, they are invited to register their own domains. These can be single use, for the person who registers them, but it’s envisioned that they’ll be shared out between friends, family, and online groups, to better make use of the resource.

Once domains are registered, users are invited to contact a special user account on the RuTracker site (operated by the site’s operators) which will provide them with precise technical details on how to set up their domain (.ru domains are not allowed) to gain access to RuTracker.

“In response, after a while (usually every other day), a list of NS-addresses will be sent to the registrar’s domain settings. Under this scheme, the user domain will be redirected to the RuTracker site via a dynamic IP address: this will avoid blocking the torrent tracker for a particular IP address,” the scheme envisages.

According to local news resource Tjournal, 62 personal mirrors were launched following the initial appeal, with the operators of RuTracker now planning to publicly announce the project to their community. As more are added, the site will keep track of traffic from each of the personal “mirrors” for balancing the load on the site.

At least in theory, this seems like a pretty innovative scheme. Currently, the authorities rely on the scale and public awareness of a particular proxy or mirror in order to earmark it for blocking. This much more decentralized plan, in which only small numbers of people should know each domain, seems like a much more robust system – at least until the authorities and indeed the law catches up.

And so the cat-and-mouse game continues.

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

timeShift(GrafanaBuzz, 1w) Issue 28

Post Syndicated from Blogs on Grafana Labs Blog original https://grafana.com/blog/2018/01/05/timeshiftgrafanabuzz-1w-issue-28/

Happy new year! Grafana Labs is getting back in the swing of things after taking some time off to celebrate 2017, and spending time with family and friends. We’re diligently working on the new Grafana v5.0 release (planning v5.0 beta release by end of January), which includes a ton of new features, a new layout engine, and a polished UI. We’d love to hear your feedback!


Latest Stable Release

Grafana 4.6.3 is now available. Latest bugfixes include:

  • Gzip: Fixes bug Gravatar images when gzip was enabled #5952
  • Alert list: Now shows alert state changes even after adding manual annotations on dashboard #99513
  • Alerting: Fixes bug where rules evaluated as firing when all conditions was false and using OR operator. #93183
  • Cloudwatch: CloudWatch no longer display metrics’ default alias #101514, thx @mtanda

Download Grafana 4.6.3 Now


From the Blogosphere

Why Observability Matters – Now and in the Future: Our own Carl Bergquist teamed up with Neil Gehani, Director of Product at Weaveworks to discuss best practices on how to get started with monitoring your application and infrastructure. This video focuses on modern containerized applications instrumented to use Prometheus to generate metrics and Grafana to visualize them.

How to Install and Secure Grafana on Ubuntu 16.04: In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to install and secure Grafana with a SSL certificate and a Nginx reverse proxy, then you’ll modify Grafana’s default settings for even tighter security.

Monitoring Informix with Grafana: Ben walks us through how to use Grafana to visualize data from IBM Informix and offers a practical demonstration using Docker containers. He also talks about his philosophy of sharing dashboards across teams, important metrics to collect, and how he would like to improve his monitoring stack.

Monitor your hosts with Glances + InfluxDB + Grafana: Glances is a cross-platform system monitoring tool written in Python. This article takes you step by step through the pieces of the stack, installation, confirguration and provides a sample dashboard to get you up and running.


GrafanaCon Tickets are Going Fast!

Lock in your seat for GrafanaCon EU while there are still tickets avaialable! Join us March 1-2, 2018 in Amsterdam for 2 days of talks centered around Grafana and the surrounding monitoring ecosystem including Graphite, Prometheus, InfluxData, Elasticsearch, Kubernetes, and more.

We have some exciting talks lined up from Google, CERN, Bloomberg, eBay, Red Hat, Tinder, Fastly, Automattic, Prometheus, InfluxData, Percona and more! You can see the full list of speakers below, but be sure to get your ticket now.

Get Your Ticket Now

GrafanaCon EU will feature talks from:

“Google Bigtable”
Misha Brukman
PROJECT MANAGER,
GOOGLE CLOUD
GOOGLE

“Monitoring at Bloomberg”
Stig Sorensen
HEAD OF TELEMETRY
BLOOMBERG

“Monitoring at Bloomberg”
Sean Hanson
SOFTWARE DEVELOPER
BLOOMBERG

“Monitoring Tinder’s Billions of Swipes with Grafana”
Utkarsh Bhatnagar
SR. SOFTWARE ENGINEER
TINDER

“Grafana at CERN”
Borja Garrido
PROJECT ASSOCIATE
CERN

“Monitoring the Huge Scale at Automattic”
Abhishek Gahlot
SOFTWARE ENGINEER
Automattic

“Real-time Engagement During the 2016 US Presidential Election”
Anna MacLachlan
CONTENT MARKETING MANAGER
Fastly

“Real-time Engagement During the 2016 US Presidential Election”
Gerlando Piro
FRONT END DEVELOPER
Fastly

“Grafana v5 and the Future”
Torkel Odegaard
CREATOR | PROJECT LEAD
GRAFANA

“Prometheus for Monitoring Metrics”
Brian Brazil
FOUNDER
ROBUST PERCEPTION

“What We Learned Integrating Grafana with Prometheus”
Peter Zaitsev
CO-FOUNDER | CEO
PERCONA

“The Biz of Grafana”
Raj Dutt
CO-FOUNDER | CEO
GRAFANA LABS

“What’s New In Graphite”
Dan Cech
DIR, PLATFORM SERVICES
GRAFANA LABS

“The Design of IFQL, the New Influx Functional Query Language”
Paul Dix
CO-FOUNTER | CTO
INFLUXDATA

“Writing Grafana Dashboards with Jsonnet”
Julien Pivotto
OPEN SOURCE CONSULTANT
INUITS

“Monitoring AI Platform at eBay”
Deepak Vasthimal
MTS-2 SOFTWARE ENGINEER
EBAY

“Running a Power Plant with Grafana”
Ryan McKinley
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“Performance Metrics and User Experience: A “Tinder” Experience”
Susanne Greiner
DATA SCIENTIST
WÜRTH PHOENIX S.R.L.

“Analyzing Performance of OpenStack with Grafana Dashboards”
Alex Krzos
SENIOR SOFTWARE ENGINEER
RED HAT INC.

“Storage Monitoring at Shell Upstream”
Arie Jan Kraai
STORAGE ENGINEER
SHELL TECHNICAL LANDSCAPE SERVICE

“The RED Method: How To Instrument Your Services”
Tom Wilkie
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KAUSAL

“Grafana Usage in the Quality Assurance Process”
Andrejs Kalnacs
LEAD SOFTWARE DEVELOPER IN TEST
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“Using Prometheus and Grafana for Monitoring my Power Usage”
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Max von Roden
DATA SCIENTIST
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“Weather, Power & Market Forecasts with Grafana”
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HEAD OF IT
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“Inherited Technical Debt – A Tale of Overcoming Enterprise Inertia”
Jordan J. Hamel
HEAD OF MONITORING PLATFORMS
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“Grafanalib: Dashboards as Code”
Jonathan Lange
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WEAVEWORKS

“The Journey of Shifting the MQTT Broker HiveMQ to Kubernetes”
Arnold Bechtoldt
SENIOR SYSTEMS ENGINEER
INOVEX

“Graphs Tell Stories”
Blerim Sheqa
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[email protected] or How to Store Millions of Metrics per Second”
Vladimir Smirnov
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Upcoming Events:

In between code pushes we like to speak at, sponsor and attend all kinds of conferences and meetups. We also like to make sure we mention other Grafana-related events happening all over the world. If you’re putting on just such an event, let us know and we’ll list it here.

FOSDEM | Brussels, Belgium – Feb 3-4, 2018: FOSDEM is a free developer conference where thousands of developers of free and open source software gather to share ideas and technology. There is no need to register; all are welcome.

Jfokus | Stockholm, Sweden – Feb 5-7, 2018:
Carl Bergquist – Quickie: Monitoring? Not OPS Problem

Why should we monitor our system? Why can’t we just rely on the operations team anymore? They use to be able to do that. What’s currently changing? Presentation content: – Why do we monitor our system – How did it use to work? – Whats changing – Why do we need to shift focus – Everyone should be on call. – Resilience is the goal (Best way of having someone care about quality is to make them responsible).

Register Now

Jfokus | Stockholm, Sweden – Feb 5-7, 2018:
Leonard Gram – Presentation: DevOps Deconstructed

What’s a Site Reliability Engineer and how’s that role different from the DevOps engineer my boss wants to hire? I really don’t want to be on call, should I? Is Docker the right place for my code or am I better of just going straight to Serverless? And why should I care about any of it? I’ll try to answer some of these questions while looking at what DevOps really is about and how commodisation of servers through “the cloud” ties into it all. This session will be an opinionated piece from a developer who’s been on-call for the past 6 years and would like to convince you to do the same, at least once.

Register Now

Tweet of the Week

We scour Twitter each week to find an interesting/beautiful dashboard and show it off! #monitoringLove

Awesome! Let us know if you have any questions – we’re happy to help out. We also have a bunch of screencasts to help you get going.


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Check out our Open Positions


How are we doing?

That’s a wrap! Let us know what you think about timeShift. Submit a comment on this article below, or post something at our community forum. See you next year!

Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and join the Grafana Labs community.

A Christmas Carol – When Piracy Became Irrelevant

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/a-christmas-carol-when-piracy-became-irrelevant-171225/

This is the story of Walter Scroogle, CEO of one of the major movie studios in Hollywood.

It begins on Christmas Eve, with Scroogle arriving home late at night. This wasn’t anything unusual, not even on a day like this. The rest of the family didn’t expect anything else and were already asleep in anticipation of the forthcoming festivities.

As Scroogle sits down he suddenly notices a pile of Amazon store boxes in the corner of the room. “Thank God, he mumbles, Christmas is saved.” But it was a close call.

It had been such a hectic week at work. So busy that Scroogle had totally forgot to get this year’s Christmas presents, one of the few things he arranges around the house. Luckily, modern day technology was there to save the day.

Amazon had everything in stock. The new bike for his son. The tablet for his daughter. The earrings for his wife, as well as many more gifts. It took Scroogle roughly fifteen minutes to get all his Christmas shopping done. And with same-day delivery, it arrived a few hours later. “Thank God,” he said again.

While a major disaster had been avoided, there were still a few presents to wrap. Apparently, there are no machines that can carefully wrap bikes. So there he was, at 2am Christmas morning, grumpily making the final preparations for the big day.
Halfway through Scroogle decided to lie on the couch for a bit. Just a short while, he promised himself, not knowing what was to come.

After a minute or two an exhausted Scroogle dozed off into his first dream.

Inspired by what had occurred earlier that day, he dreamt about forgetting the Chrismas presents. While he appeared to be his current self, the world was different. There were no Internet stores or even large malls. He had to drive to at least ten different stores to get what he wanted, and given that it was Sunday, most were closed.

Needless to say, it was a disaster.

The second dream was related to something at work. A few hours earlier he’d hosted a board meeting, discussing the new streaming platform the company had launched that morning. Scoogle was one of the pioneers. He was also the one who hastily decided to pull all their content from third-party platforms, Netflix included. “Everything will be pulled tonight. We want to be exclusive again,” he’s said.

The dream presented Scroogle with the darker side of his decision. It showed several families who, on Chrismas Eve, noticed that their favorite movies were no longer available. Christmas classics were removed without warning, forcing these families to take out another subscription. If the new service was even available in their region.

“Not the best way to spend time on Christmas,” Scroogle thought.

Scroogle was still fast asleep when the third and final dream kicked in. It was the future, apparently, as commercials for the streaming service and next year’s Christmas blockbuster were being shown on a TV. There was a Christmas tree and a family clearly amusing itself. Unfortunately for Scroogle, things didn’t turn out to be so bright.

After the commercial, the latest blockbuster played, but it was not on the company’s streaming platform. Instead, it was playing through what appeared to be some kind of piracy streaming device. “They are stealing our stuff,” he thought. “And on Christmas Day too! These people are cheapskates.”

Then, a deep-sounding voiceover became apparent.

“No, Scroogle, the family actually pays for seven streaming services already. However, their budgets are not endless. The increasing fragmentation in the current legal streaming landscape is pushing people toward these devices. If only they could get it all from under one roof.”

Then Scroogle woke up. At first, he hadn’t really processed what had happened. It was nearly 4am and he still had a few gifts to wrap, those that were so conveniently ordered a few hours earlier and delivered to his house, from one supplier. But, when it sank in, he knew that there was one thing he had to do before the family woke up.

Scroogle wrote an email to the board admitting that he was wrong. “We have to keep all our content on other services and think this through after the holidays. It’s inclusive from now on, not exclusive. People should be able to see our great films without hassle,” he typed.

Sent.

A year later the new Christmas blockbuster was indeed released. It came out together with a brand new streaming platform, one where users could watch a massive library of all the best classics from the major studios, independents, and other services under one roof. Even the latest movies could be easily played on demand for a small one-time fee.

Streaming records were broken that day, and people were smiling.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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

Amazon’s Door Lock Is Amazon’s Bid to Control Your Home

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/12/amazons_door_lo.html

Interesting essay about Amazon’s smart lock:

When you add Amazon Key to your door, something more sneaky also happens: Amazon takes over.

You can leave your keys at home and unlock your door with the Amazon Key app — but it’s really built for Amazon deliveries. To share online access with family and friends, I had to give them a special code to SMS (yes, text) to unlock the door. (Amazon offers other smartlocks that have physical keypads).

The Key-compatible locks are made by Yale and Kwikset, yet don’t work with those brands’ own apps. They also can’t connect with a home-security system or smart-home gadgets that work with Apple and Google software.

And, of course, the lock can’t be accessed by businesses other than Amazon. No Walmart, no UPS, no local dog-walking company.

Keeping tight control over Key might help Amazon guarantee security or a better experience. “Our focus with smart home is on making things simpler for customers ­– things like providing easy control of connected devices with your voice using Alexa, simplifying tasks like reordering household goods and receiving packages,” the Amazon spokeswoman said.

But Amazon is barely hiding its goal: It wants to be the operating system for your home. Amazon says Key will eventually work with dog walkers, maids and other service workers who bill through its marketplace. An Amazon home security service and grocery delivery from Whole Foods can’t be far off.

This is happening all over. Everyone wants to control your life: Google, Apple, Amazon…everyone. It’s what I’ve been calling the feudal Internet. I fear it’s going to get a lot worse.

Power Tips for Backblaze Backup

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/data-backup-tips/

Backup Power Tips

2017 has been a busy year for Backblaze. We’ve reached a total of over 400 petabytes of data stored for our customers — that’s a lot!, released a major upgrade to our backup product — Backblaze Cloud Backup 5.0, added Groups to our consumer and business backup products, further enhanced account security, and welcomed a whole lot of new customers to Backblaze.

For all of our new users (and maybe some of you more experienced ones, too), we’d like to share some power tips that will help you get the most out of Backblaze Backup for home and business.

Blazing Power Tips for Backblaze Backup

Back Up All of Your Valuable Data

Backblaze logo

Include Directly-Attached External Drives in Your Backup

Backblaze can back up external drives attached via USB, Thunderbolt, or Firewire.

Backblaze logo

Back Up Virtual Machines Installed on Your Computer

Virtual machines, such as those created by Parallels, VMware Fusion, VirtualBox, Hyper-V, or other programs, can be backed up with Backblaze.

Backblaze logo

You Can Back Up Your Mobile Phone to Backblaze

Gain extra peace-of-mind by backing up your iPhone or Android phone to your computer and including that in your computer backup.

Backblaze logo

Bring on Your Big Files

By default, Backblaze has no restrictions on the size of the files you are backing up, even that large high school reunion video you want to be sure to keep.

Backblaze logo

Rescan Your Hard Drive to Check for Changes

Backblaze works quietly and continuously in the background to keep you backed up, but you can ask Backblaze to immediately check whether anything needs backing up by holding down the Alt key and clicking on the Restore Options button in the Backblaze client.

Manage and Restore Your Backed Up Files

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You Can Share Files You’ve Backed Up

You can share files with anyone directly from your Backblaze account.

Backblaze logo

Select and Restore Individual Files

You can restore a single file without zipping it using the Backblaze web interface.

Backblaze logo

Receive Your Restores from Backblaze by Mail

You have a choice of how to receive your data from Backblaze. You can download individual files, download a ZIP of the files you choose, or request that your data be shipped to you anywhere in the world via FedEx.

Backblaze logo

Put Your Account on Hold for Six Months

As long as your account is current, all the data you’ve backed up is maintained for up to six months if you’re traveling or not using your computer and don’t connect to our servers. (For active accounts, data is maintained up to 30 days.)

Backblaze logo

Groups Make Managing Business or Family Members Easy

For businesses, families, or organizations, our Groups feature makes it easy to manage billing, group membership, and individual user access to files and accounts — all at no incremental charge.

Backblaze logo

You Can Browse and Restore Previous Versions of a File

Visit the View/Restore Files page to go back in time to earlier or deleted versions of your files.

Backblaze logo

Mass Deploy Backblaze Remotely to Many Computers

Companies, organizations, schools, non-profits, and others can deploy Backblaze computer backup remotely across all their computers without any end-user interaction.

Backblaze logo

Move Your Account and Preserve Backups on a New or Restored Computer

You can move your Backblaze account to a new or restored computer with the same data — and preserve the backups you have already completed — using the Inherit Backup State feature.

Backblaze logo

Reinstall Backblaze under a Different Account

Backblaze remembers the account information when it is uninstalled and reinstalled. To install Backblaze under a different account, hold down the ALT key and click the Install Now button.

Keep Your Data Secure

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Protect Your Account with Two-Factor Verification

You can (and should) protect your Backblaze account with two-factor verification. You can use backup codes and SMS verification in case you lose access to your smartphone and the authentication app. Sign in to your account to set that up.

Backblaze logo

Add Additional Security to Your Data

All transmissions of your data between your system and our servers is encrypted. For extra account security, you can add an optional private encryption key (PEK) to the data on our servers. Just be sure to remember your encryption key because it’s required to restore your data.

Get the Best Data Transfer Speeds

Backblaze logo

How Fast is your Connection to Backblaze?

You can check the speed and latency of your internet connection between your location and Backblaze’s data centers at https://www.backblaze.com/speedtest/.

Backblaze logo

Fine-Tune Your Upload Speed with Multiple Threads

Our auto-threading feature adjusts Backblaze’s CPU usage to give you the best upload speeds, but for those of you who like to tinker, the Backblaze client on Windows and Macintosh lets you fine-tune the number of threads our client is using to upload your files to our data centers.

Backblaze logo

Use the Backblaze Downloader To Get Your Restores Faster

If you are downloading a large ZIP restore, we recommend that you use the Backblaze Downloader application for Macintosh or Windows for maximum speed.

Want to Learn More About Backblaze Backup?

You can find more information on Backblaze Backup (including a free trial) on our website, and more tips about backing up in our help pages and in our Backup Guide.

Do you have a friend who should be backing up, but doesn’t? Why not give the gift of Backblaze?

The post Power Tips for Backblaze Backup appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

All the lights, all of the twinkly lights

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/all-of-the-lights/

Twinkly lights are to Christmas what pumpkins are to Halloween. And when you add a Raspberry Pi to your light show, the result instantly goes from “Meh, yeah.” to “OMG, wow!”

Here are some cool light-based Christmas projects to inspire you this weekend.

Raspberry Pi Christmas Lights

App-based light control

Christmas Tree Lights Demo

Project Code – https://github.com/eidolonFIRE/Christmas-Lights Raspberry Pi A+ ws2812b – https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01H04YAIQ/ref=od_aui_detailpages00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 200w 5V supply – https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LZRIWZD/ref=od_aui_detailpages01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

In his Christmas lights project, Caleb Johnson uses an app as a control panel to switch between predefined displays. The full code is available on his GitHub, and it connects a Raspberry Pi A+ to a strip of programmable LEDs that change their pattern at the touch of a phone screen.

What’s great about this project, aside from the simplicity of its design, is the scope for extending it. Why not share the app with friends and family, allowing them to control your lights remotely? Or link the lights to social media so they are triggered by a specific hashtag, like in Alex Ellis’ #cheerlights project below.

Worldwide holiday #cheerlights

Holiday lights hack – 1$ Snowman + Raspberry Pi

Here we have a smart holiday light which will only run when it detects your presence in the room through a passive infrared PIR sensor. I’ve used hot glue for the fixings and an 8-LED NeoPixel strip connected to port 18.

Cheerlights, an online service created by Hans Scharler, allows makers to incorporate hashtag-controlled lighting into the projects. By tweeting the hashtag #cheerlights, followed by a colour, you can control a network of lights so that they are all displaying the same colour.

For his holiday light hack using Cheerlights, Alex incorporated the Pimoroni Blinkt! and a collection of cheap Christmas decorations to create cute light-up ornaments for the festive season.

To make your own, check out Alex’s blog post, and head to your local £1/$1 store for hackable decor. You could even link your Christmas tree and the trees of your family, syncing them all in one glorious, Santa-pleasing spectacular.

Outdoor decorations

DIY musical Xmas lights for beginners with raspberry pi

With just a few bucks of extra material, I walk you through converting your regular Christmas lights into a whole-house light show. The goal here is to go from scratch. Although this guide is intended for people who don’t know how to use linux at all and those who do alike, the focus is for people for whom linux and the raspberry pi are a complete mystery.

Looking to outdo your neighbours with your Christmas light show this year? YouTuber Makin’Things has created a beginners guide to setting up a Raspberry Pi–based musical light show for your facade, complete with information on soldering, wiring, and coding.

Once you’ve wrapped your house in metres and metres of lights and boosted your speakers so they can be heard for miles around, why not incorporate #cheerlights to make your outdoor decor interactive?

Still not enough? How about controlling your lights using a drum kit? Christian Kratky’s MIDI-Based Christmas Lights Animation system (or as I like to call it, House Rock) does exactly that.

Eye Of The Tiger (MIDI based christmas lights animation system prototype)

Project documentation and source code: https://www.hackster.io/cyborg-titanium-14/light-pi-1c88b0 The song is taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6r1dAire0Y

Any more?

We know these projects are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Raspberry Pi–powered Christmas projects out there, and as always, we’d love you to share yours with us. So post a link in the comments below, or tag us on social media when posting your build photos, videos, and/or blog links. ‘Tis the season for sharing after all.

The post All the lights, all of the twinkly lights appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Simplify Querying Nested JSON with the AWS Glue Relationalize Transform

Post Syndicated from Trevor Roberts original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/simplify-querying-nested-json-with-the-aws-glue-relationalize-transform/

AWS Glue has a transform called Relationalize that simplifies the extract, transform, load (ETL) process by converting nested JSON into columns that you can easily import into relational databases. Relationalize transforms the nested JSON into key-value pairs at the outermost level of the JSON document. The transformed data maintains a list of the original keys from the nested JSON separated by periods.

Let’s look at how Relationalize can help you with a sample use case.

An example of Relationalize in action

Suppose that the developers of a video game want to use a data warehouse like Amazon Redshift to run reports on player behavior based on data that is stored in JSON. Sample 1 shows example user data from the game. The player named “user1” has characteristics such as race, class, and location in nested JSON data. Further down, the player’s arsenal information includes additional nested JSON data. If the developers want to ETL this data into their data warehouse, they might have to resort to nested loops or recursive functions in their code.

Sample 1: Nested JSON

{
	"player": {
		"username": "user1",
		"characteristics": {
			"race": "Human",
			"class": "Warlock",
			"subclass": "Dawnblade",
			"power": 300,
			"playercountry": "USA"
		},
		"arsenal": {
			"kinetic": {
				"name": "Sweet Business",
				"type": "Auto Rifle",
				"power": 300,
				"element": "Kinetic"
			},
			"energy": {
				"name": "MIDA Mini-Tool",
				"type": "Submachine Gun",
				"power": 300,
				"element": "Solar"
			},
			"power": {
				"name": "Play of the Game",
				"type": "Grenade Launcher",
				"power": 300,
				"element": "Arc"
			}
		},
		"armor": {
			"head": "Eye of Another World",
			"arms": "Philomath Gloves",
			"chest": "Philomath Robes",
			"leg": "Philomath Boots",
			"classitem": "Philomath Bond"
		},
		"location": {
			"map": "Titan",
			"waypoint": "The Rig"
		}
	}
}

Instead, the developers can use the Relationalize transform. Sample 2 shows what the transformed data looks like.

Sample 2: Flattened JSON

{
    "player.username": "user1",
    "player.characteristics.race": "Human",
    "player.characteristics.class": "Warlock",
    "player.characteristics.subclass": "Dawnblade",
    "player.characteristics.power": 300,
    "player.characteristics.playercountry": "USA",
    "player.arsenal.kinetic.name": "Sweet Business",
    "player.arsenal.kinetic.type": "Auto Rifle",
    "player.arsenal.kinetic.power": 300,
    "player.arsenal.kinetic.element": "Kinetic",
    "player.arsenal.energy.name": "MIDA Mini-Tool",
    "player.arsenal.energy.type": "Submachine Gun",
    "player.arsenal.energy.power": 300,
    "player.arsenal.energy.element": "Solar",
    "player.arsenal.power.name": "Play of the Game",
    "player.arsenal.power.type": "Grenade Launcher",
    "player.arsenal.power.power": 300,
    "player.arsenal.power.element": "Arc",
    "player.armor.head": "Eye of Another World",
    "player.armor.arms": "Philomath Gloves",
    "player.armor.chest": "Philomath Robes",
    "player.armor.leg": "Philomath Boots",
    "player.armor.classitem": "Philomath Bond",
    "player.location.map": "Titan",
    "player.location.waypoint": "The Rig"
}

You can then write the data to a database or to a data warehouse. You can also write it to delimited text files, such as in comma-separated value (CSV) format, or columnar file formats such as Optimized Row Columnar (ORC) format. You can use either of these format types for long-term storage in Amazon S3. Storing the transformed files in S3 provides the additional benefit of being able to query this data using Amazon Athena or Amazon Redshift Spectrum. You can further extend the usefulness of the data by performing joins between data stored in S3 and the data stored in an Amazon Redshift data warehouse.

Before we get started…

In my example, I took two preparatory steps that save some time in your ETL code development:

  1. I stored my data in an Amazon S3 bucket and used an AWS Glue crawler to make my data available in the AWS Glue data catalog. You can find instructions on how to do that in Cataloging Tables with a Crawler in the AWS Glue documentation. The AWS Glue database name I used was “blog,” and the table name was “players.” You can see these values in use in the sample code that follows.
  2. I deployed a Zeppelin notebook using the automated deployment available within AWS Glue. If you already used an AWS Glue development endpoint to deploy a Zeppelin notebook, you can skip the deployment instructions. Otherwise, let’s quickly review how to deploy Zeppelin.

Deploying a Zeppelin notebook with AWS Glue

The following steps are outlined in the AWS Glue documentation, and I include a few screenshots here for clarity.

First, create two IAM roles:

Next, in the AWS Glue Management Console, choose Dev endpoints, and then choose Add endpoint.

Specify a name for the endpoint and the AWS Glue IAM role that you created.

On the networking screen, choose Skip Networking because our code only communicates with S3.

Complete the development endpoint process by providing a Secure Shell (SSH) public key and confirming your settings.

When your new development endpoint’s Provisioning status changes from PROVISIONING to READY, choose your endpoint, and then for Actions choose Create notebook server.

Enter the notebook server details, including the role you previously created and a security group with inbound access allowed on TCP port 443.

Doing this automatically launches an AWS CloudFormation template. The output specifies the URL that you can use to access your Zeppelin notebook with the username and password you specified in the wizard.

How do we flatten nested JSON?

With my data loaded and my notebook server ready, I accessed Zeppelin, created a new note, and set my interpreter to spark. I used some Python code that AWS Glue previously generated for another job that outputs to ORC. Then I added the Relationalize transform. You can see the resulting Python code in Sample 3.­

Sample 3: Python code to transform the nested JSON and output it to ORC

import sys
from awsglue.transforms import *
from awsglue.utils import getResolvedOptions
from pyspark.context import SparkContext
from awsglue.context import GlueContext
from awsglue.job import Job
#from awsglue.transforms import Relationalize

# Begin variables to customize with your information
glue_source_database = "blog"
glue_source_table = "players"
glue_temp_storage = "s3://blog-example-edz/temp"
glue_relationalize_output_s3_path = "s3://blog-example-edz/output-flat"
dfc_root_table_name = "root" #default value is "roottable"
# End variables to customize with your information

glueContext = GlueContext(spark.sparkContext)
datasource0 = glueContext.create_dynamic_frame.from_catalog(database = glue_source_database, table_name = glue_source_table, transformation_ctx = "datasource0")
dfc = Relationalize.apply(frame = datasource0, staging_path = glue_temp_storage, name = dfc_root_table_name, transformation_ctx = "dfc")
blogdata = dfc.select(dfc_root_table_name)
blogdataoutput = glueContext.write_dynamic_frame.from_options(frame = blogdata, connection_type = "s3", connection_options = {"path": glue_relationalize_output_s3_path}, format = "orc", transformation_ctx = "blogdataoutput")

What exactly is going on in this script?

After the import statements, we instantiate a GlueContext object, which allows us to work with the data in AWS Glue. Next, we create a DynamicFrame (datasource0) from the “players” table in the AWS Glue “blog” database. We use this DynamicFrame to perform any necessary operations on the data structure before it’s written to our desired output format. The source files remain unchanged.

We then run the Relationalize transform (Relationalize.apply()) with our datasource0 as one of the parameters. Another important parameter is the name parameter, which is a key that identifies our data after the transformation completes.

The Relationalize.apply() method returns a DynamicFrameCollection, and this is stored in the dfc variable. Before we can write our data to S3, we need to select the DynamicFrame from the DynamicFrameCollection object. We do this with the dfc.select() method. The correct DynamicFrame is stored in the blogdata variable.

You might be curious why a DynamicFrameCollection was returned when we started with a single DynamicFrame. This return value comes from the way Relationalize treats arrays in the JSON document: A DynamicFrame is created for each array. Together with the root data structure, each generated DynamicFrame is added to a DynamicFrameCollection when Relationalize completes its work. Although we didn’t have any arrays in our data, it’s good to keep this in mind. Finally, we output (blogdataoutput) the root DynamicFrame to ORC files in S3.

Using the transformed data

One of the use cases we discussed earlier was using Amazon Athena or Amazon Redshift Spectrum to query the ORC files.

I used the following SQL DDL statements to create external tables in both services to enable queries of my data stored in Amazon S3.

Sample 4: Amazon Athena DDL

CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE IF NOT EXISTS blog.blog_data_athena_test (
  `characteristics_race` string,
  `characteristics_class` string,
  `characteristics_subclass` string,
  `characteristics_power` int,
  `characteristics_playercountry` string,
  `kinetic_name` string,
  `kinetic_type` string,
  `kinetic_power` int,
  `kinetic_element` string,
  `energy_name` string,
  `energy_type` string,
  `energy_power` int,
  `energy_element` string,
  `power_name` string,
  `power_type` string,
  `power_power` int,
  `power_element` string,
  `armor_head` string,
  `armor_arms` string,
  `armor_chest` string,
  `armor_leg` string,
  `armor_classitem` string,
  `map` string,
  `waypoint` string 
)
ROW FORMAT SERDE 'org.apache.hadoop.hive.ql.io.orc.OrcSerde'
WITH SERDEPROPERTIES (
  'serialization.format' = '1'
) LOCATION 's3://blog-example-edz/output-flat/'
TBLPROPERTIES ('has_encrypted_data'='false');

 

Sample 5: Amazon Redshift Spectrum DDL

-- Create a Schema
-- A single schema can be used with multiple external tables.
-- This step is only required once for the external tables you create.
create external schema spectrum 
from data catalog 
database 'blog' 
iam_role 'arn:aws:iam::0123456789:role/redshift-role'
create external database if not exists;

-- Create an external table in the schema
create external table spectrum.blog(
  username VARCHAR,
  characteristics_race VARCHAR,
  characteristics_class VARCHAR,
  characteristics_subclass VARCHAR,
  characteristics_power INTEGER,
  characteristics_playercountry VARCHAR,
  kinetic_name VARCHAR,
  kinetic_type VARCHAR,
  kinetic_power INTEGER,
  kinetic_element VARCHAR,
  energy_name VARCHAR,
  energy_type VARCHAR,
  energy_power INTEGER,
  energy_element VARCHAR,
  power_name VARCHAR,
  power_type VARCHAR,
  power_power INTEGER,
  power_element VARCHAR,
  armor_head VARCHAR,
  armor_arms VARCHAR,
  armor_chest VARCHAR,
  armor_leg VARCHAR,
  armor_classItem VARCHAR,
  map VARCHAR,
  waypoint VARCHAR)
stored as orc
location 's3://blog-example-edz/output-flat';

I even ran a query, shown in Sample 6, that joined my Redshift Spectrum table (spectrum.playerdata) with data in an Amazon Redshift table (public.raids) to generate advanced reports. In the where clause, I join the two tables based on the username values that are common to both data sources.

Sample 6: Select statement with a join of Redshift Spectrum data with Amazon Redshift data

-- Get Total Raid Completions for the Hunter Class.
select spectrum.playerdata.characteristics_class as class, sum(public.raids."completions.val.raids.leviathan") as "Total Hunter Leviathan Raid Completions" from spectrum.playerdata, public.raids
where spectrum.playerdata.username = public.raids."completions.val.username"
and spectrum.playerdata.characteristics_class = 'Hunter'
group by spectrum.playerdata.characteristics_class;

Summary

This post demonstrated how simple it can be to flatten nested JSON data with AWS Glue, using the Relationalize transform to automate the conversion of nested JSON. AWS Glue also automates the deployment of Zeppelin notebooks that you can use to develop your Python automation script. Finally, AWS Glue can output the transformed data directly to a relational database, or to files in Amazon S3 for further analysis with tools such as Amazon Athena and Amazon Redshift Spectrum.

As great as Relationalize is, it’s not the only transform available with AWS Glue. You can see a complete list of available transforms in Built-In Transforms in the AWS Glue documentation. Try them out today!


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Using Amazon Redshift Spectrum, Amazon Athena and AWS Glue with Node.js in Production and Build a Data Lake Foundation with AWS Glue and Amazon S3.


About the Author

Trevor Roberts Jr is a Solutions Architect with AWS. He provides architectural guidance to help customers achieve success in the cloud. In his spare time, Trevor enjoys traveling to new places and spending time with family.

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

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

HAMR drive illustration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History of Increasing Storage Capacity

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

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

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

Why is HAMR’s increased data density so important?

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

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

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

HAMR Hard Drive Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving HAMR Forward

HAMR write head

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

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

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

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

The deal with Bitcoin

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-deal-with-bitcoin.html

♪ Used to have a little now I have a lot
I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block
          chain ♪

For all that has been written about Bitcoin and its ilk, it is curious that the focus is almost solely what the cryptocurrencies are supposed to be. Technologists wax lyrical about the potential for blockchains to change almost every aspect of our lives. Libertarians and paleoconservatives ache for the return to “sound money” that can’t be conjured up at the whim of a bureaucrat. Mainstream economists wag their fingers, proclaiming that a proper currency can’t be deflationary, that it must maintain a particular velocity, or that the government must be able to nip crises of confidence in the bud. And so on.

Much of this may be true, but the proponents of cryptocurrencies should recognize that an appeal to consequences is not a guarantee of good results. The critics, on the other hand, would be best served to remember that they are drawing far-reaching conclusions about the effects of modern monetary policies based on a very short and tumultuous period in history.

In this post, my goal is to ditch most of the dogma, talk a bit about the origins of money – and then see how “crypto” fits the bill.

1. The prehistory of currencies

The emergence of money is usually explained in a very straightforward way. You know the story: a farmer raised a pig, a cobbler made a shoe. The cobbler needed to feed his family while the farmer wanted to keep his feet warm – and so they met to exchange the goods on mutually beneficial terms. But as the tale goes, the barter system had a fatal flaw: sometimes, a farmer wanted a cooking pot, a potter wanted a knife, and a blacksmith wanted a pair of pants. To facilitate increasingly complex, multi-step exchanges without requiring dozens of people to meet face to face, we came up with an abstract way to represent value – a shiny coin guaranteed to be accepted by every tradesman.

It is a nice parable, but it probably isn’t very true. It seems far more plausible that early societies relied on the concept of debt long before the advent of currencies: an informal tally or a formal ledger would be used to keep track of who owes what to whom. The concept of debt, closely associated with one’s trustworthiness and standing in the community, would have enabled a wide range of economic activities: debts could be paid back over time, transferred, renegotiated, or forgotten – all without having to engage in spot barter or to mint a single coin. In fact, such non-monetary, trust-based, reciprocal economies are still common in closely-knit communities: among families, neighbors, coworkers, or friends.

In such a setting, primitive currencies probably emerged simply as a consequence of having a system of prices: a cow being worth a particular number of chickens, a chicken being worth a particular number of beaver pelts, and so forth. Formalizing such relationships by settling on a single, widely-known unit of account – say, one chicken – would make it more convenient to transfer, combine, or split debts; or to settle them in alternative goods.

Contrary to popular belief, for communal ledgers, the unit of account probably did not have to be particularly desirable, durable, or easy to carry; it was simply an accounting tool. And indeed, we sometimes run into fairly unusual units of account even in modern times: for example, cigarettes can be the basis of a bustling prison economy even when most inmates don’t smoke and there are not that many packs to go around.

2. The age of commodity money

In the end, the development of coinage might have had relatively little to do with communal trade – and far more with the desire to exchange goods with strangers. When dealing with a unfamiliar or hostile tribe, the concept of a chicken-denominated ledger does not hold up: the other side might be disinclined to honor its obligations – and get away with it, too. To settle such problematic trades, we needed a “spot” medium of exchange that would be easy to carry and authenticate, had a well-defined value, and a near-universal appeal. Throughout much of the recorded history, precious metals – predominantly gold and silver – proved to fit the bill.

In the most basic sense, such commodities could be seen as a tool to reconcile debts across societal boundaries, without necessarily replacing any local units of account. An obligation, denominated in some local currency, would be created on buyer’s side in order to procure the metal for the trade. The proceeds of the completed transaction would in turn allow the seller to settle their own local obligations that arose from having to source the traded goods. In other words, our wondrous chicken-denominated ledgers could coexist peacefully with gold – and when commodity coinage finally took hold, it’s likely that in everyday trade, precious metals served more as a useful abstraction than a precise store of value. A “silver chicken” of sorts.

Still, the emergence of commodity money had one interesting side effect: it decoupled the unit of debt – a “claim on the society”, in a sense – from any moral judgment about its origin. A piece of silver would buy the same amount of food, whether earned through hard labor or won in a drunken bet. This disconnect remains a central theme in many of the debates about social justice and unfairly earned wealth.

3. The State enters the game

If there is one advantage of chicken ledgers over precious metals, it’s that all chickens look and cluck roughly the same – something that can’t be said of every nugget of silver or gold. To cope with this problem, we needed to shape raw commodities into pieces of a more predictable shape and weight; a trusted party could then stamp them with a mark to indicate the value and the quality of the coin.

At first, the task of standardizing coinage rested with private parties – but the responsibility was soon assumed by the State. The advantages of this transition seemed clear: a single, widely-accepted and easily-recognizable currency could be now used to settle virtually all private and official debts.

Alas, in what deserves the dubious distinction of being one of the earliest examples of monetary tomfoolery, some States succumbed to the temptation of fiddling with the coinage to accomplish anything from feeding the poor to waging wars. In particular, it would be common to stamp coins with the same face value but a progressively lower content of silver and gold. Perhaps surprisingly, the strategy worked remarkably well; at least in the times of peace, most people cared about the value stamped on the coin, not its precise composition or weight.

And so, over time, representative money was born: sooner or later, most States opted to mint coins from nearly-worthless metals, or print banknotes on paper and cloth. This radically new currency was accompanied with a simple pledge: the State offered to redeem it at any time for its nominal value in gold.

Of course, the promise was largely illusory: the State did not have enough gold to honor all the promises it had made. Still, as long as people had faith in their rulers and the redemption requests stayed low, the fundamental mechanics of this new representative currency remained roughly the same as before – and in some ways, were an improvement in that they lessened the insatiable demand for a rare commodity. Just as importantly, the new money still enabled international trade – using the underlying gold exchange rate as a reference point.

4. Fractional reserve banking and fiat money

For much of the recorded history, banking was an exceptionally dull affair, not much different from running a communal chicken
ledger of the old. But then, something truly marvelous happened in the 17th century: around that time, many European countries have witnessed
the emergence of fractional-reserve banks.

These private ventures operated according to a simple scheme: they accepted people’s coin
for safekeeping, promising to pay a premium on every deposit made. To meet these obligations and to make a profit, the banks then
used the pooled deposits to make high-interest loans to other folks. The financiers figured out that under normal circumstances
and when operating at a sufficient scale, they needed only a very modest reserve – well under 10% of all deposited money – to be
able to service the usual volume and size of withdrawals requested by their customers. The rest could be loaned out.

The very curious consequence of fractional-reserve banking was that it pulled new money out of thin air.
The funds were simultaneously accounted for in the statements shown to the depositor, evidently available for withdrawal or
transfer at any time; and given to third-party borrowers, who could spend them on just about anything. Heck, the borrowers could
deposit the proceeds in another bank, creating even more money along the way! Whatever they did, the sum of all funds in the monetary
system now appeared much higher than the value of all coins and banknotes issued by the government – let alone the amount of gold
sitting in any vault.

Of course, no new money was being created in any physical sense: all that banks were doing was engaging in a bit of creative accounting – the sort of which would probably land you in jail if you attempted it today in any other comparably vital field of enterprise. If too many depositors were to ask for their money back, or if too many loans were to go bad, the banking system would fold. Fortunes would evaporate in a puff of accounting smoke, and with the disappearance of vast quantities of quasi-fictitious (“broad”) money, the wealth of the entire nation would shrink.

In the early 20th century, the world kept witnessing just that; a series of bank runs and economic contractions forced the governments around the globe to act. At that stage, outlawing fractional-reserve banking was no longer politically or economically tenable; a simpler alternative was to let go of gold and move to fiat money – a currency implemented as an abstract social construct, with no predefined connection to the physical realm. A new breed of economists saw the role of the government not in trying to peg the value of money to an inflexible commodity, but in manipulating its supply to smooth out economic hiccups or to stimulate growth.

(Contrary to popular beliefs, such manipulation is usually not done by printing new banknotes; more sophisticated methods, such as lowering reserve requirements for bank deposits or enticing banks to invest its deposits into government-issued securities, are the preferred route.)

The obvious peril of fiat money is that in the long haul, its value is determined strictly by people’s willingness to accept a piece of paper in exchange for their trouble; that willingness, in turn, is conditioned solely on their belief that the same piece of paper would buy them something nice a week, a month, or a year from now. It follows that a simple crisis of confidence could make a currency nearly worthless overnight. A prolonged period of hyperinflation and subsequent austerity in Germany and Austria was one of the precipitating factors that led to World War II. In more recent times, dramatic episodes of hyperinflation plagued the fiat currencies of Israel (1984), Mexico (1988), Poland (1990), Yugoslavia (1994), Bulgaria (1996), Turkey (2002), Zimbabwe (2009), Venezuela (2016), and several other nations around the globe.

For the United States, the switch to fiat money came relatively late, in 1971. To stop the dollar from plunging like a rock, the Nixon administration employed a clever trick: they ordered the freeze of wages and prices for the 90 days that immediately followed the move. People went on about their lives and paid the usual for eggs or milk – and by the time the freeze ended, they were accustomed to the idea that the “new”, free-floating dollar is worth about the same as the old, gold-backed one. A robust economy and favorable geopolitics did the rest, and so far, the American adventure with fiat currency has been rather uneventful – perhaps except for the fact that the price of gold itself skyrocketed from $35 per troy ounce in 1971 to $850 in 1980 (or, from $210 to $2,500 in today’s dollars).

Well, one thing did change: now better positioned to freely tamper with the supply of money, the regulators in accord with the bankers adopted a policy of creating it at a rate that slightly outstripped the organic growth in economic activity. They did this to induce a small, steady degree of inflation, believing that doing so would discourage people from hoarding cash and force them to reinvest it for the betterment of the society. Some critics like to point out that such a policy functions as a “backdoor” tax on savings that happens to align with the regulators’ less noble interests; still, either way: in the US and most other developed nations, the purchasing power of any money kept under a mattress will drop at a rate of somewhere between 2 to 10% a year.

5. So what’s up with Bitcoin?

Well… countless tomes have been written about the nature and the optimal characteristics of government-issued fiat currencies. Some heterodox economists, notably including Murray Rothbard, have also explored the topic of privately-issued, decentralized, commodity-backed currencies. But Bitcoin is a wholly different animal.

In essence, BTC is a global, decentralized fiat currency: it has no (recoverable) intrinsic value, no central authority to issue it or define its exchange rate, and it has no anchoring to any historical reference point – a combination that until recently seemed nonsensical and escaped any serious scrutiny. It does the unthinkable by employing three clever tricks:

  1. It allows anyone to create new coins, but only by solving brute-force computational challenges that get more difficult as the time goes by,

  2. It prevents unauthorized transfer of coins by employing public key cryptography to sign off transactions, with only the authorized holder of a coin knowing the correct key,

  3. It prevents double-spending by using a distributed public ledger (“blockchain”), recording the chain of custody for coins in a tamper-proof way.

The blockchain is often described as the most important feature of Bitcoin, but in some ways, its importance is overstated. The idea of a currency that does not rely on a centralized transaction clearinghouse is what helped propel the platform into the limelight – mostly because of its novelty and the perception that it is less vulnerable to government meddling (although the government is still free to track down, tax, fine, or arrest any participants). On the flip side, the everyday mechanics of BTC would not be fundamentally different if all the transactions had to go through Bitcoin Bank, LLC.

A more striking feature of the new currency is the incentive structure surrounding the creation of new coins. The underlying design democratized the creation of new coins early on: all you had to do is leave your computer running for a while to acquire a number of tokens. The tokens had no practical value, but obtaining them involved no substantial expense or risk. Just as importantly, because the difficulty of the puzzles would only increase over time, the hope was that if Bitcoin caught on, latecomers would find it easier to purchase BTC on a secondary market than mine their own – paying with a more established currency at a mutually beneficial exchange rate.

The persistent publicity surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies did the rest – and today, with the growing scarcity of coins and the rapidly increasing demand, the price of a single token hovers somewhere south of $15,000.

6. So… is it bad money?

Predicting is hard – especially the future. In some sense, a coin that represents a cryptographic proof of wasted CPU cycles is no better or worse than a currency that relies on cotton decorated with pictures of dead presidents. It is true that Bitcoin suffers from many implementation problems – long transaction processing times, high fees, frequent security breaches of major exchanges – but in principle, such problems can be overcome.

That said, currencies live and die by the lasting willingness of others to accept them in exchange for services or goods – and in that sense, the jury is still out. The use of Bitcoin to settle bona fide purchases is negligible, both in absolute terms and in function of the overall volume of transactions. In fact, because of the technical challenges and limited practical utility, some companies that embraced the currency early on are now backing out.

When the value of an asset is derived almost entirely from its appeal as an ever-appreciating investment vehicle, the situation has all the telltale signs of a speculative bubble. But that does not prove that the asset is destined to collapse, or that a collapse would be its end. Still, the built-in deflationary mechanism of Bitcoin – the increasing difficulty of producing new coins – is probably both a blessing and a curse.

It’s going to go one way or the other; and when it’s all said and done, we’re going to celebrate the people who made the right guess. Because future is actually pretty darn easy to predict — in retrospect.

Sean Hodgins’ video-playing Christmas ornament

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/sean-hodgins-ornament/

Standard Christmas tree ornaments are just so boring, always hanging there doing nothing. Yawn! Lucky for us, Sean Hodgins has created an ornament that plays classic nineties Christmas adverts, because of nostalgia.

YouTube Christmas Ornament! – Raspberry Pi Project

This Christmas ornament will really take you back…

Ingredients

Sean first 3D printed a small CRT-shaped ornament resembling the family television set in The Simpsons. He then got to work on the rest of the components.

Pi Zero and electronic components — Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament

All images featured in this blog post are c/o Sean Hodgins. Thanks, Sean!

The ornament uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W, 2.2″ TFT LCD screen, Mono Amp, LiPo battery, and speaker, plus the usual peripherals. Sean purposely assembled it with jumper wires and tape, so that he can reuse the components for another project after the festive season.

Clip of PowerBoost 1000 LiPo charger — Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament

By adding header pins to a PowerBoost 1000 LiPo charger, Sean was able to connect a switch to control the Pi’s power usage. This method is handy if you want to seal your Pi in a casing that blocks access to the power leads. From there, jumper wires connect the audio amplifier, LCD screen, and PowerBoost to the Zero W.

Code

Then, with Raspbian installed to an SD card and SSH enabled on the Zero W, Sean got the screen to work. The type of screen he used has both SPI and FBTFT enabled. And his next step was to set up the audio functionality with the help of an Adafruit tutorial.

Clip demoing Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament

For video playback, Sean installed mplayer before writing a program to extract video content from YouTube*. Once extracted, the video files are saved to the Raspberry Pi, allowing for seamless playback on the screen.

Construct

When fully assembled, the entire build fit snugly within the 3D-printed television set. And as a final touch, Sean added the cut-out lens of a rectangular magnifying glass to give the display the look of a curved CRT screen.

Clip of completed Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament in a tree

Then finally, the ornament hangs perfectly on the Christmas tree, up and running and spreading nostalgic warmth.

For more information on the build, check out the Instructables tutorial. And to see all of Sean’s builds, subscribe to his YouTube channel.

Make

If you’re looking for similar projects, have a look at this tutorial by Cabe Atwell for building a Pi-powered ornament that receives and displays text messages.

Have you created Raspberry Pi tree ornaments? Maybe you’ve 3D printed some of our own? We’d love to see what you’re doing with a Raspberry Pi this festive season, so make sure to share your projects with us, either in the comments below or via our social media channels.

 

*At this point, I should note that we don’t support the extraction of  video content from YouTube for your own use if you do not have the right permissions. However, since Sean’s device can play back any video, we think it would look great on your tree showing your own family videos from previous years. So, y’know, be good, be legal, and be festive.

The post Sean Hodgins’ video-playing Christmas ornament appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi Christmas shopping list 2017

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/christmas-shopping-list-2017/

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for a beloved maker in your life? Maybe you’d like to give a relative or friend a taste of the world of coding and Raspberry Pi? Whatever you’re looking for, the Raspberry Pi Christmas shopping list will point you in the right direction.

An ice-skating Raspberry Pi - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

For those getting started

Thinking about introducing someone special to the wonders of Raspberry Pi during the holidays? Although you can set up your Pi with peripherals from around your home, such as a mobile phone charger, your PC’s keyboard, and the old mouse dwelling in an office drawer, a starter kit is a nice all-in-one package for the budding coder.



Check out the starter kits from Raspberry Pi Approved Resellers such as Pimoroni, The Pi Hut, ModMyPi, Adafruit, CanaKit…the list is pretty long. Our products page will direct you to your closest reseller, or you can head to element14 to pick up the official Raspberry Pi Starter Kit.



You can also buy the Raspberry Pi Press’s brand-new Raspberry Pi Beginners Book, which includes a Raspberry Pi Zero W, a case, a ready-made SD card, and adapter cables.

Once you’ve presented a lucky person with their first Raspberry Pi, it’s time for them to spread their maker wings and learn some new skills.

MagPi Essentials books - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

To help them along, you could pick your favourite from among the Official Projects Book volume 3, The MagPi Essentials guides, and the brand-new third edition of Carrie Anne Philbin’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi. (She is super excited about this new edition!)

And you can always add a link to our free resources on the gift tag.

For the maker in your life

If you’re looking for something for a confident digital maker, you can’t go wrong with adding to their arsenal of electric and electronic bits and bobs that are no doubt cluttering drawers and boxes throughout their house.



Components such as servomotors, displays, and sensors are staples of the maker world. And when it comes to jumper wires, buttons, and LEDs, one can never have enough.



You could also consider getting your person a soldering iron, some helpings hands, or small tools such as a Dremel or screwdriver set.

And to make their life a little less messy, pop it all inside a Really Useful Box…because they’re really useful.



For kit makers

While some people like to dive into making head-first and to build whatever comes to mind, others enjoy working with kits.



The Naturebytes kit allows you to record the animal visitors of your garden with the help of a camera and a motion sensor. Footage of your local badgers, birds, deer, and more will be saved to an SD card, or tweeted or emailed to you if it’s in range of WiFi.

Cortec Tiny 4WD - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

Coretec’s Tiny 4WD is a kit for assembling a Pi Zero–powered remote-controlled robot at home. Not only is the robot adorable, building it also a great introduction to motors and wireless control.



Bare Conductive’s Touch Board Pro Kit offers everything you need to create interactive electronics projects using conductive paint.

Pi Hut Arcade Kit - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

Finally, why not help your favourite maker create their own gaming arcade using the Arcade Building Kit from The Pi Hut?

For the reader

For those who like to curl up with a good read, or spend too much of their day on public transport, a book or magazine subscription is the perfect treat.

For makers, hackers, and those interested in new technologies, our brand-new HackSpace magazine and the ever popular community magazine The MagPi are ideal. Both are available via a physical or digital subscription, and new subscribers to The MagPi also receive a free Raspberry Pi Zero W plus case.

Cover of CoderDojo Nano Make your own game

Marc Scott Beginner's Guide to Coding Book

You can also check out other publications from the Raspberry Pi family, including CoderDojo’s new CoderDojo Nano: Make Your Own Game, Eben Upton and Gareth Halfacree’s Raspberry Pi User Guide, and Marc Scott’s A Beginner’s Guide to Coding. And have I mentioned Carrie Anne’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi yet?

Stocking fillers for everyone

Looking for something small to keep your loved ones occupied on Christmas morning? Or do you have to buy a Secret Santa gift for the office tech? Here are some wonderful stocking fillers to fill your boots with this season.

Pi Hut 3D Christmas Tree - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

The Pi Hut 3D Xmas Tree: available as both a pre-soldered and a DIY version, this gadget will work with any 40-pin Raspberry Pi and allows you to create your own mini light show.



Google AIY Voice kit: build your own home assistant using a Raspberry Pi, the MagPi Essentials guide, and this brand-new kit. “Google, play Mariah Carey again…”



Pimoroni’s Raspberry Pi Zero W Project Kits offer everything you need, including the Pi, to make your own time-lapse cameras, music players, and more.



The official Raspberry Pi Sense HAT, Camera Module, and cases for the Pi 3 and Pi Zero will complete the collection of any Raspberry Pi owner, while also opening up exciting project opportunities.

STEAM gifts that everyone will love

Awesome Astronauts | Building LEGO’s Women of NASA!

LEGO Idea’s bought out this amazing ‘Women of NASA’ set, and I thought it would be fun to build, play and learn from these inspiring women! First up, let’s discover a little more about Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, two AWESOME ASTRONAUTS!

Treat the kids, and big kids, in your life to the newest LEGO Ideas set, the Women of NASA — starring Nancy Grace Roman, Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison!



Explore the world of wearables with Pimoroni’s sewable, hackable, wearable, adorable Bearables kits.



Add lights and motors to paper creations with the Activating Origami Kit, available from The Pi Hut.




We all loved Hidden Figures, and the STEAM enthusiast you know will do too. The film’s available on DVD, and you can also buy the original book, along with other fascinating non-fiction such as Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science, and Sydney Padua’s (mostly true) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.

Have we missed anything?

With so many amazing kits, HATs, and books available from members of the Raspberry Pi community, it’s hard to only pick a few. Have you found something splendid for the maker in your life? Maybe you’ve created your own kit that uses the Raspberry Pi? Share your favourites with us in the comments below or via our social media accounts.

The post The Raspberry Pi Christmas shopping list 2017 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Running Windows Containers on Amazon ECS

Post Syndicated from Nathan Taber original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/running-windows-containers-on-amazon-ecs/

This post was developed and written by Jeremy Cowan, Thomas Fuller, Samuel Karp, and Akram Chetibi.

Containers have revolutionized the way that developers build, package, deploy, and run applications. Initially, containers only supported code and tooling for Linux applications. With the release of Docker Engine for Windows Server 2016, Windows developers have started to realize the gains that their Linux counterparts have experienced for the last several years.

This week, we’re adding support for running production workloads in Windows containers using Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS). Now, Amazon ECS provides an ECS-Optimized Windows Server Amazon Machine Image (AMI). This AMI is based on the EC2 Windows Server 2016 AMI, and includes Docker 17.06 Enterprise Edition and the ECS Agent 1.16. This AMI provides improved instance and container launch time performance. It’s based on Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and includes Docker 17.06.2-ee-5, along with a new version of the ECS agent that now runs as a native Windows service.

In this post, I discuss the benefits of this new support, and walk you through getting started running Windows containers with Amazon ECS.

When AWS released the Windows Server 2016 Base with Containers AMI, the ECS agent ran as a process that made it difficult to monitor and manage. As a service, the agent can be health-checked, managed, and restarted no differently than other Windows services. The AMI also includes pre-cached images for Windows Server Core 2016 and Windows Server Nano Server 2016. By caching the images in the AMI, launching new Windows containers is significantly faster. When Docker images include a layer that’s already cached on the instance, Docker re-uses that layer instead of pulling it from the Docker registry.

The ECS agent and an accompanying ECS PowerShell module used to install, configure, and run the agent come pre-installed on the AMI. This guarantees there is a specific platform version available on the container instance at launch. Because the software is included, you don’t have to download it from the internet. This saves startup time.

The Windows-compatible ECS-optimized AMI also reports CPU and memory utilization and reservation metrics to Amazon CloudWatch. Using the CloudWatch integration with ECS, you can create alarms that trigger dynamic scaling events to automatically add or remove capacity to your EC2 instances and ECS tasks.

Getting started

To help you get started running Windows containers on ECS, I’ve forked the ECS reference architecture, to build an ECS cluster comprised of Windows instances instead of Linux instances. You can pull the latest version of the reference architecture for Windows.

The reference architecture is a layered CloudFormation stack, in that it calls other stacks to create the environment. Within the stack, the ecs-windows-cluster.yaml file contains the instructions for bootstrapping the Windows instances and configuring the ECS cluster. To configure the instances outside of AWS CloudFormation (for example, through the CLI or the console), you can add the following commands to your instance’s user data:

Import-Module ECSTools
Initialize-ECSAgent

Or

Import-Module ECSTools
Initialize-ECSAgent –Cluster MyCluster -EnableIAMTaskRole

If you don’t specify a cluster name when you initialize the agent, the instance is joined to the default cluster.

Adding -EnableIAMTaskRole when initializing the agent adds support for IAM roles for tasks. Previously, enabling this setting meant running a complex script and setting an environment variable before you could assign roles to your ECS tasks.

When you enable IAM roles for tasks on Windows, it consumes port 80 on the host. If you have tasks that listen on port 80 on the host, I recommend configuring a service for them that uses load balancing. You can use port 80 on the load balancer, and the traffic can be routed to another host port on your container instances. For more information, see Service Load Balancing.

Create a cluster

To create a new ECS cluster, choose Launch stack, or pull the GitHub project to your local machine and run the following command:

aws cloudformation create-stack –template-body file://<path to master-windows.yaml> --stack-name <name>

Upload your container image

Now that you have a cluster running, step through how to build and push an image into a container repository. You use a repository hosted in Amazon Elastic Container Registry (Amazon ECR) for this, but you could also use Docker Hub. To build and push an image to a repository, install Docker on your Windows* workstation. You also create a repository and assign the necessary permissions to the account that pushes your image to Amazon ECR. For detailed instructions, see Pushing an Image.

* If you are building an image that is based on Windows layers, then you must use a Windows environment to build and push your image to the registry.

Write your task definition

Now that your image is built and ready, the next step is to run your Windows containers using a task.

Start by creating a new task definition based on the windows-simple-iis image from Docker Hub.

  1. Open the ECS console.
  2. Choose Task Definitions, Create new task definition.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and choose Configure via JSON.
  4. Copy and paste the following JSON into that field.
  5. Choose Save, Create.
{
   "family": "windows-simple-iis",
   "containerDefinitions": [
   {
     "name": "windows_sample_app",
     "image": "microsoft/iis",
     "cpu": 100,
     "entryPoint":["powershell", "-Command"],
     "command":["New-Item -Path C:\\inetpub\\wwwroot\\index.html -Type file -Value '<html><head><title>Amazon ECS Sample App</title> <style>body {margin-top: 40px; background-color: #333;} </style> </head><body> <div style=color:white;text-align:center><h1>Amazon ECS Sample App</h1> <h2>Congratulations!</h2> <p>Your application is now running on a container in Amazon ECS.</p></body></html>'; C:\\ServiceMonitor.exe w3svc"],
     "portMappings": [
     {
       "protocol": "tcp",
       "containerPort": 80,
       "hostPort": 8080
     }
     ],
     "memory": 500,
     "essential": true
   }
   ]
}

You can now go back into the Task Definition page and see windows-simple-iis as an available task definition.

There are a few important aspects of the task definition file to note when working with Windows containers. First, the hostPort is configured as 8080, which is necessary because the ECS agent currently uses port 80 to enable IAM roles for tasks required for least-privilege security configurations.

There are also some fairly standard task parameters that are intentionally not included. For example, network mode is not available with Windows at the time of this release, so keep that setting blank to allow Docker to configure WinNAT, the only option available today.

Also, some parameters work differently with Windows than they do with Linux. The CPU limits that you define in the task definition are absolute, whereas on Linux they are weights. For information about other task parameters that are supported or possibly different with Windows, see the documentation.

Run your containers

At this point, you are ready to run containers. There are two options to run containers with ECS:

  1. Task
  2. Service

A task is typically a short-lived process that ECS creates. It can’t be configured to actively monitor or scale. A service is meant for longer-running containers and can be configured to use a load balancer, minimum/maximum capacity settings, and a number of other knobs and switches to help ensure that your code keeps running. In both cases, you are able to pick a placement strategy and a specific IAM role for your container.

  1. Select the task definition that you created above and choose Action, Run Task.
  2. Leave the settings on the next page to the default values.
  3. Select the ECS cluster created when you ran the CloudFormation template.
  4. Choose Run Task to start the process of scheduling a Docker container on your ECS cluster.

You can now go to the cluster and watch the status of your task. It may take 5–10 minutes for the task to go from PENDING to RUNNING, mostly because it takes time to download all of the layers necessary to run the microsoft/iis image. After the status is RUNNING, you should see the following results:

You may have noticed that the example task definition is named windows-simple-iis:2. This is because I created a second version of the task definition, which is one of the powerful capabilities of using ECS. You can make the task definitions part of your source code and then version them. You can also roll out new versions and practice blue/green deployment, switching to reduce downtime and improve the velocity of your deployments!

After the task has moved to RUNNING, you can see your website hosted in ECS. Find the public IP or DNS for your ECS host. Remember that you are hosting on port 8080. Make sure that the security group allows ingress from your client IP address to that port and that your VPC has an internet gateway associated with it. You should see a page that looks like the following:

This is a nice start to deploying a simple single instance task, but what if you had a Web API to be scaled out and in based on usage? This is where you could look at defining a service and collecting CloudWatch data to add and remove both instances of the task. You could also use CloudWatch alarms to add more ECS container instances and keep up with the demand. The former is built into the configuration of your service.

  1. Select the task definition and choose Create Service.
  2. Associate a load balancer.
  3. Set up Auto Scaling.

The following screenshot shows an example where you would add an additional task instance when the CPU Utilization CloudWatch metric is over 60% on average over three consecutive measurements. This may not be aggressive enough for your requirements; it’s meant to show you the option to scale tasks the same way you scale ECS instances with an Auto Scaling group. The difference is that these tasks start much faster because all of the base layers are already on the ECS host.

Do not confuse task dynamic scaling with ECS instance dynamic scaling. To add additional hosts, see Tutorial: Scaling Container Instances with CloudWatch Alarms.

Conclusion

This is just scratching the surface of the flexibility that you get from using containers and Amazon ECS. For more information, see the Amazon ECS Developer Guide and ECS Resources.

– Jeremy, Thomas, Samuel, Akram

Newly Updated Whitepaper: FERPA Compliance on AWS

Post Syndicated from Chris Gile original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/newly-updated-whitepaper-ferpa-compliance-on-aws/

One of the main tenets of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is the protection of student education records, including personally identifiable information (PII) and directory information. We recently updated our FERPA Compliance on AWS whitepaper to include AWS service-specific guidance for 24 AWS services. The whitepaper describes how these services can be used to help secure protected data. In conjunction with more detailed service-specific documentation, this updated information helps make it easier for you to plan, deploy, and operate secure environments to meet your compliance requirements in the AWS Cloud.

The updated whitepaper is especially useful for educational institutions and their vendors who need to understand:

  • AWS’s Shared Responsibility Model.
  • How AWS services can be used to help deploy educational and PII workloads securely in the AWS Cloud.
  • Key security disciplines in a security program to help you run a FERPA-compliant program (such as auditing, data destruction, and backup and disaster recovery).

In a related effort to help you secure PII, we also added to the whitepaper a mapping of NIST SP 800-122, which provides guidance for protecting PII, as well as a link to our NIST SP 800-53 Quick Start, a CloudFormation template that automatically configures AWS resources and deploys a multi-tier, Linux-based web application. To learn how this Quick Start works, see the Automate NIST Compliance in AWS GovCloud (US) with AWS Quick Start Tools video. The template helps you streamline and automate secure baselines in AWS—from initial design to operational security readiness—by incorporating the expertise of AWS security and compliance subject matter experts.

For more information about AWS Compliance and FERPA or to request support for your organization, contact your AWS account manager.

– Chris Gile, Senior Manager, AWS Security Assurance

Marvellous retrofitted home assistants

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/retrofitted-home-assistants/

As more and more digital home assistants are appearing on the consumer market, it’s not uncommon to see the towering Amazon Echo or sleek Google Home when visiting friends or family. But we, the maker community, are rarely happy unless our tech stands out from the rest. So without further ado, here’s a roundup of some fantastic retrofitted home assistant projects you can recreate and give pride of place in your kitchen, on your bookshelf, or wherever else you’d like to talk to your virtual, disembodied PA.

Google AIY Robot Conversion

Turned an 80s Tomy Mr Money into a little Google AIY / Raspberry Pi based assistant.

Matt ‘Circuitbeard’ Brailsford’s Tomy Mr Money Google AIY Assistant is just one of many home-brew home assistants makers have built since the release of APIs for Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Here are some more…

Teddy Ruxpin

Oh Teddy, how exciting and mysterious you were when I unwrapped you back in the mideighties. With your awkwardly moving lips and twitching eyelids, you were the cream of the crop of robotic toys! How was I to know that during my thirties, you would become augmented with home assistant software and suddenly instil within me a fear unlike any I’d felt before? (Save for my lifelong horror of ET…)

Alexa Ruxpin – Raspberry Pi & Alexa Powered Teddy Bear

Please watch: “DIY Fidget LED Display – Part 1” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAZIc82Duzk -~-~~-~~~-~~-~- There are tons of virtual assistants out on the market: Siri, Ok Google, Alexa, etc. I had this crazy idea…what if I made the virtual assistant real…kinda. I decided to take an old animatronic teddy bear and hack it so that it ran Amazon Alexa.

Several makers around the world have performed surgery on Teddy to install a Raspberry Pi within his stomach and integrate him with Amazon Alexa Voice or Google’s AIY Projects Voice kit. And because these makers are talented, they’ve also managed to hijack Teddy’s wiring to make his lips move in time with his responses to your commands. Freaky…

Speaking of freaky: check out Zack’s Furlexa — an Amazon Alexa Furby that will haunt your nightmares.

Give old tech new life

Devices that were the height of technology when you purchased them may now be languishing in your attic collecting dust. With new and improved versions of gadgets and gizmos being released almost constantly, it is likely that your household harbours a spare whosit or whatsit which you can dismantle and give a new Raspberry Pi heart and purpose.

Take, for example, Martin Mander’s Google Pi intercom. By gutting and thoroughly cleaning a vintage intercom, Martin fashioned a suitable housing the Google AIY Projects Voice kit to create a new home assistant for his house:

1986 Google Pi Intercom

This is a 1986 Radio Shack Intercom that I’ve converted into a Google Home style device using a Raspberry Pi and the Google AIY (Artificial Intelligence Yourself) kit that came free with the MagPi magazine (issue 57). It uses the Google Assistant to answer questions and perform actions, using IFTTT to integrate with smart home accessories and other web services.

Not only does this build look fantastic, it’s also a great conversation starter for any visitors who had a similar device during the eighties.

Also take a look at Martin’s 1970s Amazon Alexa phone for more nostalgic splendour.

Put it in a box

…and then I’ll put that box inside of another box, and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives…

A GIF from the emperors new groove - Raspberry Pi Home Assistant

A GIF. A harmless, little GIF…and proof of the comms team’s obsession with The Emperor’s New Groove.

You don’t have to be fancy when it comes to housing your home assistant. And often, especially if you’re working with the smaller people in your household, the results of a simple homespun approach are just as delightful.

Here are Hannah and her dad Tom, explaining how they built a home assistant together and fit it inside an old cigar box:

Raspberry Pi 3 Amazon Echo – The Alexa Kids Build!

My 7 year old daughter and I decided to play around with the Raspberry Pi and build ourselves an Amazon Echo (Alexa). The video tells you about what we did and the links below will take you to all the sites we used to get this up and running.

Also see the Google AIY Projects Voice kit — the cardboard box-est of home assistant boxes.

Make your own home assistant

And now it’s your turn! I challenge you all (and also myself) to create a home assistant using the Raspberry Pi. Whether you decide to fit Amazon Alexa inside an old shoebox or Google Home inside your sister’s Barbie, I’d love to see what you create using the free home assistant software available online.

Check out these other home assistants for Raspberry Pi, and keep an eye on our blog to see what I manage to create as part of the challenge.

Ten virtual house points for everyone who shares their build with us online, either in the comments below or by tagging us on your social media account.

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Glenn’s Take on re:Invent Part 2

Post Syndicated from Glenn Gore original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/glenns-take-on-reinvent-part-2/

Glenn Gore here, Chief Architect for AWS. I’m in Las Vegas this week — with 43K others — for re:Invent 2017. We’ve got a lot of exciting announcements this week. I’m going to check in to the Architecture blog with my take on what’s interesting about some of the announcements from an cloud architectural perspective. My first post can be found here.

The Media and Entertainment industry has been a rapid adopter of AWS due to the scale, reliability, and low costs of our services. This has enabled customers to create new, online, digital experiences for their viewers ranging from broadcast to streaming to Over-the-Top (OTT) services that can be a combination of live, scheduled, or ad-hoc viewing, while supporting devices ranging from high-def TVs to mobile devices. Creating an end-to-end video service requires many different components often sourced from different vendors with different licensing models, which creates a complex architecture and a complex environment to support operationally.

AWS Media Services
Based on customer feedback, we have developed AWS Media Services to help simplify distribution of video content. AWS Media Services is comprised of five individual services that can either be used together to provide an end-to-end service or individually to work within existing deployments: AWS Elemental MediaConvert, AWS Elemental MediaLive, AWS Elemental MediaPackage, AWS Elemental MediaStore and AWS Elemental MediaTailor. These services can help you with everything from storing content safely and durably to setting up a live-streaming event in minutes without having to be concerned about the underlying infrastructure and scalability of the stream itself.

In my role, I participate in many AWS and industry events and often work with the production and event teams that put these shows together. With all the logistical tasks they have to deal with, the biggest question is often: “Will the live stream work?” Compounding this fear is the reality that, as users, we are also quick to jump on social media and make noise when a live stream drops while we are following along remotely. Worse is when I see event organizers actively selecting not to live stream content because of the risk of failure and and exposure — leading them to decide to take the safe option and not stream at all.

With AWS Media Services addressing many of the issues around putting together a high-quality media service, live streaming, and providing access to a library of content through a variety of mechanisms, I can’t wait to see more event teams use live streaming without the concern and worry I’ve seen in the past. I am excited for what this also means for non-media companies, as video becomes an increasingly common way of sharing information and adding a more personalized touch to internally- and externally-facing content.

AWS Media Services will allow you to focus more on the content and not worry about the platform. Awesome!

Amazon Neptune
As a civilization, we have been developing new ways to record and store information and model the relationships between sets of information for more than a thousand years. Government census data, tax records, births, deaths, and marriages were all recorded on medium ranging from knotted cords in the Inca civilization, clay tablets in ancient Babylon, to written texts in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages.

One of the first challenges of computing was figuring out how to store and work with vast amounts of information in a programmatic way, especially as the volume of information was increasing at a faster rate than ever before. We have seen different generations of how to organize this information in some form of database, ranging from flat files to the Information Management System (IMS) used in the 1960s for the Apollo space program, to the rise of the relational database management system (RDBMS) in the 1970s. These innovations drove a lot of subsequent innovations in information management and application development as we were able to move from thousands of records to millions and billions.

Today, as architects and developers, we have a vast variety of database technologies to select from, which have different characteristics that are optimized for different use cases:

  • Relational databases are well understood after decades of use in the majority of companies who required a database to store information. Amazon Relational Database (Amazon RDS) supports many popular relational database engines such as MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and Oracle. We have even brought the traditional RDBMS into the cloud world through Amazon Aurora, which provides MySQL and PostgreSQL support with the performance and reliability of commercial-grade databases at 1/10th the cost.
  • Non-relational databases (NoSQL) provided a simpler method of storing and retrieving information that was often faster and more scalable than traditional RDBMS technology. The concept of non-relational databases has existed since the 1960s but really took off in the early 2000s with the rise of web-based applications that required performance and scalability that relational databases struggled with at the time. AWS published this Dynamo whitepaper in 2007, with DynamoDB launching as a service in 2012. DynamoDB has quickly become one of the critical design elements for many of our customers who are building highly-scalable applications on AWS. We continue to innovate with DynamoDB, and this week launched global tables and on-demand backup at re:Invent 2017. DynamoDB excels in a variety of use cases, such as tracking of session information for popular websites, shopping cart information on e-commerce sites, and keeping track of gamers’ high scores in mobile gaming applications, for example.
  • Graph databases focus on the relationship between data items in the store. With a graph database, we work with nodes, edges, and properties to represent data, relationships, and information. Graph databases are designed to make it easy and fast to traverse and retrieve complex hierarchical data models. Graph databases share some concepts from the NoSQL family of databases such as key-value pairs (properties) and the use of a non-SQL query language such as Gremlin. Graph databases are commonly used for social networking, recommendation engines, fraud detection, and knowledge graphs. We released Amazon Neptune to help simplify the provisioning and management of graph databases as we believe that graph databases are going to enable the next generation of smart applications.

A common use case I am hearing every week as I talk to customers is how to incorporate chatbots within their organizations. Amazon Lex and Amazon Polly have made it easy for customers to experiment and build chatbots for a wide range of scenarios, but one of the missing pieces of the puzzle was how to model decision trees and and knowledge graphs so the chatbot could guide the conversation in an intelligent manner.

Graph databases are ideal for this particular use case, and having Amazon Neptune simplifies the deployment of a graph database while providing high performance, scalability, availability, and durability as a managed service. Security of your graph database is critical. To help ensure this, you can store your encrypted data by running AWS in Amazon Neptune within your Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) and using encryption at rest integrated with AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS). Neptune also supports Amazon VPC and AWS Identity and Access Management (AWS IAM) to help further protect and restrict access.

Our customers now have the choice of many different database technologies to ensure that they can optimize each application and service for their specific needs. Just as DynamoDB has unlocked and enabled many new workloads that weren’t possible in relational databases, I can’t wait to see what new innovations and capabilities are enabled from graph databases as they become easier to use through Amazon Neptune.

Look for more on DynamoDB and Amazon S3 from me on Monday.

 

Glenn at Tour de Mont Blanc