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C is to low level

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original https://blog.erratasec.com/2018/05/c-is-too-low-level.html

I’m in danger of contradicting myself, after previously pointing out that x86 machine code is a high-level language, but this article claiming C is a not a low level language is bunk. C certainly has some problems, but it’s still the closest language to assembly. This is obvious by the fact it’s still the fastest compiled language. What we see is a typical academic out of touch with the real world.

The author makes the (wrong) observation that we’ve been stuck emulating the PDP-11 for the past 40 years. C was written for the PDP-11, and since then CPUs have been designed to make C run faster. The author imagines a different world, such as where CPU designers instead target something like LISP as their preferred language, or Erlang. This misunderstands the state of the market. CPUs do indeed supports lots of different abstractions, and C has evolved to accommodate this.


The author criticizes things like “out-of-order” execution which has lead to the Spectre sidechannel vulnerabilities. Out-of-order execution is necessary to make C run faster. The author claims instead that those resources should be spent on having more slower CPUs, with more threads. This sacrifices single-threaded performance in exchange for a lot more threads executing in parallel. The author cites Sparc Tx CPUs as his ideal processor.

But here’s the thing, the Sparc Tx was a failure. To be fair, it’s mostly a failure because most of the time, people wanted to run old C code instead of new Erlang code. But it was still a failure at running Erlang.

Time after time, engineers keep finding that “out-of-order”, single-threaded performance is still the winner. A good example is ARM processors for both mobile phones and servers. All the theory points to in-order CPUs as being better, but all the products are out-of-order, because this theory is wrong. The custom ARM cores from Apple and Qualcomm used in most high-end phones are so deeply out-of-order they give Intel CPUs competition. The same is true on the server front with the latest Qualcomm Centriq and Cavium ThunderX2 processors, deeply out of order supporting more than 100 instructions in flight.

The Cavium is especially telling. Its ThunderX CPU had 48 simple cores which was replaced with the ThunderX2 having 32 complex, deeply out-of-order cores. The performance increase was massive, even on multithread-friendly workloads. Every competitor to Intel’s dominance in the server space has learned the lesson from Sparc Tx: many wimpy cores is a failure, you need fewer beefy cores. Yes, they don’t need to be as beefy as Intel’s processors, but they need to be close.

Even Intel’s “Xeon Phi” custom chip learned this lesson. This is their GPU-like chip, running 60 cores with 512-bit wide “vector” (sic) instructions, designed for supercomputer applications. Its first version was purely in-order. Its current version is slightly out-of-order. It supports four threads and focuses on basic number crunching, so in-order cores seems to be the right approach, but Intel found in this case that out-of-order processing still provided a benefit. Practice is different than theory.

As an academic, the author of the above article focuses on abstractions. The criticism of C is that it has the wrong abstractions which are hard to optimize, and that if we instead expressed things in the right abstractions, it would be easier to optimize.

This is an intellectually compelling argument, but so far bunk.

The reason is that while the theoretical base language has issues, everyone programs using extensions to the language, like “intrinsics” (C ‘functions’ that map to assembly instructions). Programmers write libraries using these intrinsics, which then the rest of the normal programmers use. In other words, if your criticism is that C is not itself low level enough, it still provides the best access to low level capabilities.

Given that C can access new functionality in CPUs, CPU designers add new paradigms, from SIMD to transaction processing. In other words, while in the 1980s CPUs were designed to optimize C (stacks, scaled pointers), these days CPUs are designed to optimize tasks regardless of language.

The author of that article criticizes the memory/cache hierarchy, claiming it has problems. Yes, it has problems, but only compared to how well it normally works. The author praises the many simple cores/threads idea as hiding memory latency with little caching, but misses the point that caches also dramatically increase memory bandwidth. Intel processors are optimized to read a whopping 256 bits every clock cycle from L1 cache. Main memory bandwidth is orders of magnitude slower.

The author goes onto criticize cache coherency as a problem. C uses it, but other languages like Erlang don’t need it. But that’s largely due to the problems each languages solves. Erlang solves the problem where a large number of threads work on largely independent tasks, needing to send only small messages to each other across threads. The problems C solves is when you need many threads working on a huge, common set of data.

For example, consider the “intrusion prevention system”. Any thread can process any incoming packet that corresponds to any region of memory. There’s no practical way of solving this problem without a huge coherent cache. It doesn’t matter which language or abstractions you use, it’s the fundamental constraint of the problem being solved. RDMA is an important concept that’s moved from supercomputer applications to the data center, such as with memcached. Again, we have the problem of huge quantities (terabytes worth) shared among threads rather than small quantities (kilobytes).

The fundamental issue the author of the the paper is ignoring is decreasing marginal returns. Moore’s Law has gifted us more transistors than we can usefully use. We can’t apply those additional registers to just one thing, because the useful returns we get diminish.

For example, Intel CPUs have two hardware threads per core. That’s because there are good returns by adding a single additional thread. However, the usefulness of adding a third or fourth thread decreases. That’s why many CPUs have only two threads, or sometimes four threads, but no CPU has 16 threads per core.

You can apply the same discussion to any aspect of the CPU, from register count, to SIMD width, to cache size, to out-of-order depth, and so on. Rather than focusing on one of these things and increasing it to the extreme, CPU designers make each a bit larger every process tick that adds more transistors to the chip.

The same applies to cores. It’s why the “more simpler cores” strategy fails, because more cores have their own decreasing marginal returns. Instead of adding cores tied to limited memory bandwidth, it’s better to add more cache. Such cache already increases the size of the cores, so at some point it’s more effective to add a few out-of-order features to each core rather than more cores. And so on.

The question isn’t whether we can change this paradigm and radically redesign CPUs to match some academic’s view of the perfect abstraction. Instead, the goal is to find new uses for those additional transistors. For example, “message passing” is a useful abstraction in languages like Go and Erlang that’s often more useful than sharing memory. It’s implemented with shared memory and atomic instructions, but I can’t help but think it couldn’t better be done with direct hardware support.

Of course, as soon as they do that, it’ll become an intrinsic in C, then added to languages like Go and Erlang.

Summary

Academics live in an ideal world of abstractions, the rest of us live in practical reality. The reality is that vast majority of programmers work with the C family of languages (JavaScript, Go, etc.), whereas academics love the epiphanies they learned using other languages, especially function languages. CPUs are only superficially designed to run C and “PDP-11 compatibility”. Instead, they keep adding features to support other abstractions, abstractions available to C. They are driven by decreasing marginal returns — they would love to add new abstractions to the hardware because it’s a cheap way to make use of additional transitions. Academics are wrong believing that the entire system needs to be redesigned from scratch. Instead, they just need to come up with new abstractions CPU designers can add.

AIY Projects 2: Google’s AIY Projects Kits get an upgrade

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/google-aiy-projects-2/

After the outstanding success of their AIY Projects Voice and Vision Kits, Google has announced the release of upgraded kits, complete with Raspberry Pi Zero WH, Camera Module, and preloaded SD card.

Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi

Google’s AIY Projects Kits

Google launched the AIY Projects Voice Kit last year, first as a cover gift with The MagPi magazine and later as a standalone product.

Makers needed to provide their own Raspberry Pi for the original kit. The new kits include everything you need, from Pi to SD card.

Within a DIY cardboard box, makers were able to assemble their own voice-activated AI assistant akin to the Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s own Google Home Assistant. The Voice Kit was an instant hit that spurred no end of maker videos and tutorials, including our own free tutorial for controlling a robot using voice commands.

Later in the year, the team followed up the success of the Voice Kit with the AIY Projects Vision Kit — the same cardboard box hosting a camera perfect for some pretty nifty image recognition projects.

For more on the AIY Voice Kit, here’s our release video hosted by the rather delightful Rob Zwetsloot.

AIY Projects adds natural human interaction to your Raspberry Pi

Check out the exclusive Google AIY Projects Kit that comes free with The MagPi 57! Grab yourself a copy in stores or online now: http://magpi.cc/2pI6IiQ This first AIY Projects kit taps into the Google Assistant SDK and Cloud Speech API using the AIY Projects Voice HAT (Hardware Accessory on Top) board, stereo microphone, and speaker (included free with the magazine).

AIY Projects 2

So what’s new with version 2 of the AIY Projects Voice Kit? The kit now includes the recently released Raspberry Pi Zero WH, our Zero W with added pre-soldered header pins for instant digital making accessibility. Purchasers of the kits will also get a micro SD card with preloaded OS to help them get started without having to set the card up themselves.

Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi

Everything you need to build your own Raspberry Pi-powered Google voice assistant

In the newly upgraded AIY Projects Vision Kit v1.2, makers are also treated to an official Raspberry Pi Camera Module v2, the latest model of our add-on camera.

Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi

“Everything you need to get started is right there in the box,” explains Billy Rutledge, Google’s Director of AIY Projects. “We knew from our research that even though makers are interested in AI, many felt that adding it to their projects was too difficult or required expensive hardware.”

Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi
Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi
Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi

Google is also hard at work producing AIY Projects companion apps for Android, iOS, and Chrome. The Android app is available now to coincide with the launch of the upgraded kits, with the other two due for release soon. The app supports wireless setup of the AIY Kit, though avid coders will still be able to hack theirs to better suit their projects.

Google has also updated the AIY Projects website with an AIY Models section highlighting a range of neural network projects for the kits.

Get your kit

The updated Voice and Vision Kits were announced last night, and in the US they are available now from Target. UK-based makers should be able to get their hands on them this summer — keep an eye on our social channels for updates and links.

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Happy birthday to us!

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

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

Prehistory

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

BCM2763 micro DB

Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi, 2011-style

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

Raspberry Pi alpha board, top view

Raspberry Pi alpha board

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

Raspberry Pi – Quake 3 demo

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

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

The beginnings of a Bramble

Beta boards on parade

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

Raspberry Pi Beta Board Bring up

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

Launch

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

Pallet of pis

The first 2000 Raspberry Pis

Unboxing continues

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

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

Evolution

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

Revision 1 versus revision 2

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

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

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

A UK-built Raspberry Pi Model A

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

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

New toys

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

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

Nobody mention the xenon death flash.

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

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

Zero to hero

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

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

Cheap thrills

MagPi issue 40 in all its glory

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

Up to our old tricks again

Other things

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

Chinese Raspberry Pi 1 Model B

RS Components limited-edition blue Raspberry Pi 1 Model B

Brazilian-market Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Visible-light Camera Module v2

Learning about injection moulding the hard way

250 pages of content each month, every month

Essential reading

Forward the Foundation

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

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

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

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

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Getting product security engineering right

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2018/02/getting-product-security-engineering.html

Product security is an interesting animal: it is a uniquely cross-disciplinary endeavor that spans policy, consulting,
process automation, in-depth software engineering, and cutting-edge vulnerability research. And in contrast to many
other specializations in our field of expertise – say, incident response or network security – we have virtually no
time-tested and coherent frameworks for setting it up within a company of any size.

In my previous post, I shared some thoughts
on nurturing technical organizations and cultivating the right kind of leadership within. Today, I figured it would
be fitting to follow up with several notes on what I learned about structuring product security work – and about actually
making the effort count.

The “comfort zone” trap

For security engineers, knowing your limits is a sought-after quality: there is nothing more dangerous than a security
expert who goes off script and starts dispensing authoritatively-sounding but bogus advice on a topic they know very
little about. But that same quality can be destructive when it prevents us from growing beyond our most familiar role: that of
a critic who pokes holes in other people’s designs.

The role of a resident security critic lends itself all too easily to a sense of supremacy: the mistaken
belief that our cognitive skills exceed the capabilities of the engineers and product managers who come to us for help
– and that the cool bugs we file are the ultimate proof of our special gift. We start taking pride in the mere act
of breaking somebody else’s software – and then write scathing but ineffectual critiques addressed to executives,
demanding that they either put a stop to a project or sign off on a risk. And hey, in the latter case, they better
brace for our triumphant “I told you so” at some later date.

Of course, escalations of this type have their place, but they need to be a very rare sight; when practiced routinely, they are a telltale
sign of a dysfunctional team. We might be failing to think up viable alternatives that are in tune with business or engineering needs; we might
be very unpersuasive, failing to communicate with other rational people in a language they understand; or it might be that our tolerance for risk
is badly out of whack with the rest of the company. Whatever the cause, I’ve seen high-level escalations where the security team
spoke of valiant efforts to resist inexplicably awful design decisions or data sharing setups; and where product leads in turn talked about
pressing business needs randomly blocked by obstinate security folks. Sometimes, simply having them compare their notes would be enough to arrive
at a technical solution – such as sharing a less sensitive subset of the data at hand.

To be effective, any product security program must be rooted in a partnership with the rest of the company, focused on helping them get stuff done
while eliminating or reducing security risks. To combat the toxic us-versus-them mentality, I found it helpful to have some team members with
software engineering backgrounds, even if it’s the ownership of a small open-source project or so. This can broaden our horizons, helping us see
that we all make the same mistakes – and that not every solution that sounds good on paper is usable once we code it up.

Getting off the treadmill

All security programs involve a good chunk of operational work. For product security, this can be a combination of product launch reviews, design consulting requests, incoming bug reports, or compliance-driven assessments of some sort. And curiously, such reactive work also has the property of gradually expanding to consume all the available resources on a team: next year is bound to bring even more review requests, even more regulatory hurdles, and even more incoming bugs to triage and fix.

Being more tractable, such routine tasks are also more readily enshrined in SDLs, SLAs, and all kinds of other official documents that are often mistaken for a mission statement that justifies the existence of our teams. Soon, instead of explaining to a developer why they should fix a particular problem right away, we end up pointing them to page 17 in our severity classification guideline, which defines that “severity 2” vulnerabilities need to be resolved within a month. Meanwhile, another policy may be telling them that they need to run a fuzzer or a web application scanner for a particular number of CPU-hours – no matter whether it makes sense or whether the job is set up right.

To run a product security program that scales sublinearly, stays abreast of future threats, and doesn’t erect bureaucratic speed bumps just for the sake of it, we need to recognize this inherent tendency for operational work to take over – and we need to reign it in. No matter what the last year’s policy says, we usually don’t need to be doing security reviews with a particular cadence or to a particular depth; if we need to scale them back 10% to staff a two-quarter project that fixes an important API and squashes an entire class of bugs, it’s a short-term risk we should feel empowered to take.

As noted in my earlier post, I find contingency planning to be a valuable tool in this regard: why not ask ourselves how the team would cope if the workload went up another 30%, but bad financial results precluded any team growth? It’s actually fun to think about such hypotheticals ahead of the time – and hey, if the ideas sound good, why not try them out today?

Living for a cause

It can be difficult to understand if our security efforts are structured and prioritized right; when faced with such uncertainty, it is natural to stick to the safe fundamentals – investing most of our resources into the very same things that everybody else in our industry appears to be focusing on today.

I think it’s important to combat this mindset – and if so, we might as well tackle it head on. Rather than focusing on tactical objectives and policy documents, try to write down a concise mission statement explaining why you are a team in the first place, what specific business outcomes you are aiming for, how do you prioritize it, and how you want it all to change in a year or two. It should be a fluid narrative that reads right and that everybody on your team can take pride in; my favorite way of starting the conversation is telling folks that we could always have a new VP tomorrow – and that the VP’s first order of business could be asking, “why do you have so many people here and how do I know they are doing the right thing?”. It’s a playful but realistic framing device that motivates people to get it done.

In general, a comprehensive product security program should probably start with the assumption that no matter how many resources we have at our disposal, we will never be able to stay in the loop on everything that’s happening across the company – and even if we did, we’re not going to be able to catch every single bug. It follows that one of our top priorities for the team should be making sure that bugs don’t happen very often; a scalable way of getting there is equipping engineers with intuitive and usable tools that make it easy to perform common tasks without having to worry about security at all. Examples include standardized, managed containers for production jobs; safe-by-default APIs, such as strict contextual autoescaping for XSS or type safety for SQL; security-conscious style guidelines; or plug-and-play libraries that take care of common crypto or ACL enforcement tasks.

Of course, not all problems can be addressed on framework level, and not every engineer will always reach for the right tools. Because of this, the next principle that I found to be worth focusing on is containment and mitigation: making sure that bugs are difficult to exploit when they happen, or that the damage is kept in check. The solutions in this space can range from low-level enhancements (say, hardened allocators or seccomp-bpf sandboxes) to client-facing features such as browser origin isolation or Content Security Policy.

The usual consulting, review, and outreach tasks are an important facet of a product security program, but probably shouldn’t be the sole focus of your team. It’s also best to avoid undue emphasis on vulnerability showmanship: while valuable in some contexts, it creates a hypercompetitive environment that may be hostile to less experienced team members – not to mention, squashing individual bugs offers very limited value if the same issue is likely to be reintroduced into the codebase the next day. I like to think of security reviews as a teaching opportunity instead: it’s a way to raise awareness, form partnerships with engineers, and help them develop lasting habits that reduce the incidence of bugs. Metrics to understand the impact of your work are important, too; if your engagements are seen mostly as a yet another layer of red tape, product teams will stop reaching out to you for advice.

The other tenet of a healthy product security effort requires us to recognize at a scale and given enough time, every defense mechanism is bound to fail – and so, we need ways to prevent bugs from turning into incidents. The efforts in this space may range from developing product-specific signals for the incident response and monitoring teams; to offering meaningful vulnerability reward programs and nourishing a healthy and respectful relationship with the research community; to organizing regular offensive exercises in hopes of spotting bugs before anybody else does.

Oh, one final note: an important feature of a healthy security program is the existence of multiple feedback loops that help you spot problems without the need to micromanage the organization and without being deathly afraid of taking chances. For example, the data coming from bug bounty programs, if analyzed correctly, offers a wonderful way to alert you to systemic problems in your codebase – and later on, to measure the impact of any remediation and hardening work.

Harassment By Package Delivery

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/02/harassment_by_p.html

People harassing women by delivering anonymous packages purchased from Amazon.

On the one hand, there is nothing new here. This could have happened decades ago, pre-Internet. But the Internet makes this easier, and the article points out that using prepaid gift cards makes this anonymous. I am curious how much these differences make a difference in kind, and what can be done about it.

HackSpace magazine 4: the wearables issue

Post Syndicated from Andrew Gregory original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/hackspace-4-wearables/

Big things are afoot in the world of HackSpace magazine! This month we’re running our first special issue, with wearables projects throughout the magazine. Moreover, we’re giving away our first subscription gift free to all 12-month print subscribers. Lastly, and most importantly, we’ve made the cover EXTRA SHINY!

HackSpace magazine issue 4 cover

Prepare your eyeballs — it’s HackSpace magazine issue 4!

Wearables

In this issue, we’re taking an in-depth look at wearable tech. Not Fitbits or Apple Watches — we’re talking stuff you can make yourself, from projects that take a couple of hours to put together, to the huge, inspiring builds that are bringing technology to the runway. If you like wearing clothes and you like using your brain to make things better, then you’ll love this feature.

We’re continuing our obsession with Nixie tubes, with the brilliant Time-To-Go-Clock – Trump edition. This ingenious bit of kit uses obsolete Russian electronics to count down the time until the end of the 45th president’s term in office. However, you can also program it to tell the time left to any predictable event, such as the deadline for your tax return or essay submission, or the date England gets knocked out of the World Cup.

HackSpace magazine page 08
HackSpace magazine page 70
HackSpace magazine issue 4 page 98

We’re also talking to Dr Lucy Rogers — NASA alumna, Robot Wars judge, and fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers — about the difference between making as a hobby and as a job, and about why we need the Guild of Makers. Plus, issue 4 has a teeny boat, the most beautiful Raspberry Pi cases you’ve ever seen, and it explores the results of what happens when you put a bunch of hardware hackers together in a French chateau — sacré bleu!

Tutorials

As always, we’ve got more how-tos than you can shake a soldering iron at. Fittingly for the current climate here in the UK, there’s a hot water monitor, which shows you how long you have before your morning shower turns cold, and an Internet of Tea project to summon a cuppa from your kettle via the web. Perhaps not so fittingly, there’s also an ESP8266 project for monitoring a solar power station online. Readers in the southern hemisphere, we’ll leave that one for you — we haven’t seen the sun here for months!

And there’s more!

We’re super happy to say that all our 12-month print subscribers have been sent an Adafruit Circuit Playground Express with this new issue:

Adafruit Circuit Playground Express HackSpace

This gadget was developed primarily with wearables in mind and comes with all sorts of in-built functionality, so subscribers can get cracking with their latest wearable project today! If you’re not a 12-month print subscriber, you’ll miss out, so subscribe here to get your magazine and your device,  and let us know what you’ll make.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Select and Restore Individual Files

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

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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/.

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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.

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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.

MagPi 65: Newbies Guide, and something brand new!

Post Syndicated from Rob Zwetsloot original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/magpi-65/

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! We know many people might be getting their very first Raspberry Pi this Christmas, and excitedly wondering “what do I do with it?” While we can’t tell you exactly what to do with your Pi, we can show you how to immerse yourself in the world of Raspberry Pi and be inspired by our incredible community, and that’s the topic of The MagPi 65, out today tomorrow (we’re a day early because we’re simply TOO excited about the special announcement below!).

The one, the only…issue 65!

Raspberry Pi for Newbies

Raspberry Pi for Newbies covers some of the very basics you should know about the world of Raspberry Pi. After a quick set-up tutorial, we introduce you to the Raspberry Pi’s free online resources, including Scratch and Python projects from Code Club, before guiding you through the wider Raspberry Pi and maker community.

Raspberry Pi MagPi 65 Newbie Guide

Pages and pages of useful advice and starter projects

The online community is an amazing place to learn about all the incredible things you can do with the Raspberry Pi. We’ve included some information on good places to look for tutorials, advice and ideas.

And that’s not all

Want to do more after learning about the world of Pi? The rest of the issue has our usual selection of expert guides to help you build some amazing projects: you can make a Christmas memory game, build a tower of bells to ring in the New Year, and even take your first steps towards making a game using C++.

Raspberry Pi MagPi 65

Midimutant, the synthesizer “that boinks endless strange sounds”

All this along with inspiring projects, definitive reviews, and tales from around the community.

Raspberry Pi Annual

Issue 65 isn’t the only new release to look out for. We’re excited to bring you the first ever Raspberry Pi Annual, and it’s free for MagPi subscribers – in fact, subscribers should be receiving it the same day as their issue 65 delivery!

If you’re not yet a subscriber of The MagPi, don’t panic: you can still bag yourself a copy of the Raspberry Pi Annual by signing up to a 12-month subscription of The MagPi before 24 January. You’ll also receive the usual subscriber gift of a free Raspberry Pi Zero W (with case and cable).  Click here to subscribe to The MagPi – The Official Raspberry Pi magazine.

Ooooooo…aaaaaahhhhh…

The Raspberry Pi Annual is aimed at young folk wanting to learn to code, with a variety of awesome step-by-step Scratch tutorials, games, puzzles, and comics, including a robotic Babbage.

Get your copy

You can get The MagPi 65 and the Raspberry Pi Annual 2018 from our online store, and the magazine can be found in the wild at WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. You’ll be able to get it in the US at Barnes & Noble and Micro Center in a few days’ time. The MagPi 65 is also available digitally on our Android and iOS apps. Finally, you can also download a free PDF of The MagPi 65 and The Raspberry Pi Annual 2018.

We hope you have a merry Christmas! We’re off until the New Year. Bye!

The post MagPi 65: Newbies Guide, and something brand new! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

2017 Holiday Gift Guide — Backblaze Style

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/2017-holiday-gift-guide-backblaze-style/


Here at Backblaze we have a lot of folks who are all about technology. With the holiday season fast approaching, you might have all of your gift buying already finished — but if not, we put together a list of things that the employees here at Backblaze are pretty excited about giving (and/or receiving) this year.

Smart Homes:

It’s no secret that having a smart home is the new hotness, and many of the items below can be used to turbocharge your home’s ascent into the future:

Raspberry Pi
The holidays are all about eating pie — well why not get a pie of a different type for the DIY fan in your life!

Wyze Cam
An inexpensive way to keep a close eye on all your favorite people…and intruders!

Snooz
Have trouble falling asleep? Try this portable white noise machine. Also great for the office!

Amazon Echo Dot
Need a cheap way to keep track of your schedule or play music? The Echo Dot is a great entry into the smart home of your dreams!

Google Wifi
These little fellows make it easy to Wifi-ify your entire home, even if it’s larger than the average shoe box here in Silicon Valley. Google Wifi acts as a mesh router and seamlessly covers your whole dwelling. Have a mansion? Buy more!

Google Home
Like the Amazon Echo Dot, this is the Google variant. It’s more expensive (similar to the Amazon Echo) but has better sound quality and is tied into the Google ecosystem.

Nest Thermostat
This is a smart thermostat. What better way to score points with the in-laws than installing one of these bad boys in their home — and then making it freezing cold randomly in the middle of winter from the comfort of your couch!

Wearables:

Homes aren’t the only things that should be smart. Your body should also get the chance to be all that it can be:

Apple AirPods
You’ve seen these all over the place, and the truth is they do a pretty good job of making sounds appear in your ears.

Bose SoundLink Wireless Headphones
If you like over-the-ear headphones, these noise canceling ones work great, are wireless and lovely. There’s no better way to ignore people this holiday season!

Garmin Fenix 5 Watch
This watch is all about fitness. If you enjoy fitness. This watch is the fitness watch for your fitness needs.

Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is a wonderful gadget that will light up any movie theater this holiday season.

Nokia Steel Health Watch
If you’re into mixing analogue and digital, this is a pretty neat little gadget.

Fossil Smart Watch
This stylish watch is a pretty neat way to dip your toe into smartwatches and activity trackers.

Pebble Time Steel Smart Watch
Some people call this the greatest smartwatch of all time. Those people might be named Yev. This watch is great at sending you notifications from your phone, and not needing to be charged every day. Bellissimo!

Random Goods:

A few of the holiday gift suggestions that we got were a bit off-kilter, but we do have a lot of interesting folks in the office. Hopefully, you might find some of these as interesting as they do:

Wireless Qi Charger
Wireless chargers are pretty great in that you don’t have to deal with dongles. There are even kits to make your electronics “wirelessly chargeable” which is pretty great!

Self-Heating Coffee Mug
Love coffee? Hate lukewarm coffee? What if your coffee cup heated itself? Brilliant!

Yeast Stirrer
Yeast. It makes beer. And bread! Sometimes you need to stir it. What cooler way to stir your yeast than with this industrial stirrer?

Toto Washlet
This one is self explanatory. You know the old rhyme: happy butts, everyone’s happy!

Good luck out there this holiday season!

blog-giftguide-present

The post 2017 Holiday Gift Guide — Backblaze Style appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

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.

The Pi Towers Secret Santa Babbage

Post Syndicated from Mark Calleja original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/secret-santa-babbage/

Tired of pulling names out of a hat for office Secret Santa? Upgrade your festive tradition with a Raspberry Pi, thermal printer, and everybody’s favourite microcomputer mascot, Babbage Bear.

Raspberry Pi Babbage Bear Secret Santa

The name’s Santa. Secret Santa.

It’s that time of year again, when the cosiness gets turned up to 11 and everyone starts thinking about jolly fat men, reindeer, toys, and benevolent home invasion. At Raspberry Pi, we’re running a Secret Santa pool: everyone buys a gift for someone else in the office. Obviously, the person you buy for has to be picked in secret and at random, or the whole thing wouldn’t work. With that in mind, I created Secret Santa Babbage to do the somewhat mundane task of choosing gift recipients. This could’ve just been done with some names in a hat, but we’re Raspberry Pi! If we don’t make a Python-based Babbage robot wearing a jaunty hat and programmed to spread Christmas cheer, who will?

Secret Santa Babbage

Ho ho ho!

Mecha-Babbage Xmas shenanigans

The script the robot runs is pretty basic: a list of names entered as comma-separated strings is shuffled at the press of a GPIO button, then a name is popped off the end and stored as a variable. The name is matched to a photo of the person stored on the Raspberry Pi, and a thermal printer pinched from Alex’s super awesome PastyCam (blog post forthcoming, maybe) prints out the picture and name of the person you will need to shower with gifts at the Christmas party. (Well, OK — with one gift. No more than five quid’s worth. Nothing untoward.) There’s also a redo function, just in case you pick yourself: press another button and the last picked name — still stored as a variable — is appended to the list again, which is shuffled once more, and a new name is popped off the end.

Secret Santa Babbage prototyping

Prototyping!

As the build was a bit of a rush job undertaken at the request of our ‘Director of Vibe’ Emily, there are a few things I’d like to improve about this functionality that I didn’t get around to — more on that later. To add some extra holiday spirit to the project at the last minute, I used Pygame to play a WAV file of Santa’s jolly laugh while Babbage chooses a name for you. The file is included in the GitHub repo along with everything else, because ‘tis the season, etc., etc.

Secret Santa Babbage prototyping

Editor’s note: Considering these desk adornments, Mark’s Secret Santa gift-giver has a lot to go on.

Writing the code for Xmas Mecha-Babbage was fairly straightforward, though it uses some tricky bits for managing the thermal printer. You’ll need to install the drivers to make it go, as well as the CUPS package for managing the print hosting. You can find instructions for these things here, thanks to the wonderful Adafruit crew. Also, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, this will all only work on a Pi 2 and not a Pi 3, as there are some compatibility issues with the thermal printer otherwise. (I also tested the script on a Pi Zero W…no dice.)

Building a Christmassy throne

The hardest (well, fiddliest) parts of making the whole build were constructing the throne and wiring the bear. Using MakerCase, Inkscape, a bit of ingenuity, and a laser cutter, I was able to rig up a Christmassy plywood throne which has a hole through the seat so I could run the wires down from Babbage and to the Pi inside. I finished the throne by rubbing a couple of fingers of beeswax into it; as well as making the wood shine just a little bit and protecting it against getting wet, this had the added bonus of making it smell awesome.

Secret Santa Babbage inside

Next year’s iteration will be mulled wine–scented.

I next soldered two LEDs to some lengths of wire, and then ran the wires through holes at the top of the throne and down the back along a small channel I had carved with a narrow chisel to connect them to the Pi’s GPIO pins. The green LED will remain on as long as Babbage is running his program, and the red one will light up while he is processing your request. Once the red LED goes off again, the next person can have a go. I also laser-cut a final piece of wood to overlay the back of Babbage’s Xmas throne and cover the wiring a bit.

Creating a Xmas cyborg bear

Taking two 6 mm tactile buttons, I clipped the spiky metal legs off one side of each (the buttons were going into a stuffed christmas toy, after all) and soldered a length of wire to each of the remaining legs. Next, I made a small incision into Babbage with my trusty Swiss army knife (in a place that actually made me cringe a little) and fed the buttons up into his paws. At some point in this process I was standing in the office wrestling with the bear and muttering to myself, which elicited some very strange looks from my colleagues.

Secret Santa Babbage throne

Poor Babbage…

One thing to note here is to make sure the wires remain attached at the solder points while you push them up into Babbage’s paws. The first time I tried it, I snapped one of my connections and had to start again. It helped to remove some stuffing like a tunnel and then replace it afterward. Moreover, you can use your fingertip to support the joints as you poke the wire in. Finally, a couple of squirts of hot glue to keep Babbage’s furry cheeks firmly on the seat, and done!

Secret Santa Babbage

Next year: Game of Thrones–inspired candy cane throne

The Secret Santa Babbage masterpiece

The whole build process was the perfect holiday mix of cheerful and macabre, and while getting the thermal printer to work was a little time-consuming, the finished product definitely raised some smiles around the office and added a bit of interesting digital flavour to a staid office tradition. And it also helped people who are new to the office or from other branches of the Foundation to know for whom they will be buying a gift.

Secret Santa Babbage

Ready to dispense Christmas cheer!

There are a few ways in which I’ll polish this project before next year, such as having the script write the names to external text files to create a record that will persist in case of a reboot, and maybe having Secret Santa Babbage play you a random Christmas carol when you squeeze his paw instead of just laughing merrily every time. (I also thought about adding electric shocks for those people who are on the naughty list, but HR said no. Bah, humbug!)

Make your own

The code and laser cut plans for the whole build are available here. If you plan to make your own, let us know which stuffed toy you will be turning into a Secret Santa cyborg! And if you’ve been working on any other Christmas-themed Raspberry Pi projects, we’d like to see those too, so tag us on social media to share the festive maker cheer.

The post The Pi Towers Secret Santa Babbage appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

HackSpace magazine #1 is out now!

Post Syndicated from Andrew Gregory original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/hackspace-magazine-1/

HackSpace magazine is finally here! Grab your copy of the new magazine for makers today, and try your hand at some new, exciting skills.

HackSpace magazine issue 1 cover

What is HackSpace magazine?

HackSpace magazine is the newest publication from the team behind The MagPi. Chock-full of amazing projects, tutorials, features, and maker interviews, HackSpace magazine brings together the makers of the world every month, with you — the community — providing the content.

HackSpace magazine is out now!

The new magazine for the modern maker is out now! Learn more at https://hsmag.cc HackSpace magazine is the new monthly magazine for people who love to make things and those who want to learn. Grab some duct tape, fire up a microcontroller, ready a 3D printer and hack the world around you!

Inside issue 1

Fancy smoking bacon with your very own cold smoker? How about protecting your home with a mini trebuchet for your front lawn? Or maybe you’d like to learn from awesome creator Becky Stern how to get paid for making the things you love? No matter whether it’s handheld consoles, robot prosthetics, Christmas projects, or, er, duct tape — whatever your maker passion, issue 1 is guaranteed to tick your boxes!



HackSpace magazine is packed with content from every corner of the maker world: from welding to digital making, and from woodwork to wearables. And whatever you enjoy making, we want to see it! So as you read through this first issue, imagine your favourite homemade projects on our pages, then make that a reality by emailing us the details via [email protected].

Get your copy

You can grab issue 1 of HackSpace magazine right now from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center next week. We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium and Brazil — ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine. Alternatively, you can get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, as with all our publications, a free PDF of HackSpace magazine is available from release day.

We’re also offering money-saving subscriptions — find details on the the magazine website. And if you’re a subscriber of The MagPi, your free copy of HackSpace magazine is on its way, with details of a super 50% discount on subscriptions! Could this be the Christmas gift you didn’t know you wanted?

Share your makes and thoughts

Make sure to follow HackSpace magazine on Facebook and Twitter, or email the team at [email protected] to tell us about your projects and share your thoughts about issue 1. We’ve loved creating this new magazine for the maker community, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

The post HackSpace magazine #1 is out now! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

What do you want your button to do?

Post Syndicated from Carrie Anne Philbin original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/button/

Here at Raspberry Pi, we know that getting physical with computing is often a catalyst for creativity. Building a simple circuit can open up a world of making possibilities! This ethos of tinkering and invention is also being used in the classroom to inspire a whole new generation of makers too, and here is why.

The all-important question

Physical computing provides a great opportunity for creative expression: the button press! By explaining how a button works, how to build one with a breadboard attached to computer, and how to program the button to work when it’s pressed, you can give learners young and old all the conceptual skills they need to build a thing that does something. But what do they want their button to do? Have you ever asked your students or children at home? I promise it will be one of the most mindblowing experiences you’ll have if you do.

A button. A harmless, little arcade button.

Looks harmless now, but put it into the hands of a child and see what happens!

Amy will want her button to take a photo, Charlie will want his button to play a sound, Tumi will want her button to explode TNT in Minecraft, Jack will want their button to fire confetti out of a cannon, and James Robinson will want his to trigger silly noises (doesn’t he always?)! Idea generation is the inherent gift that every child has in abundance. As educators and parents, we’re always looking to deeply engage our young people in the subject matter we’re teaching, and they are never more engaged than when they have an idea and want to implement it. Way back in 2012, I wanted my button to print geeky sayings:

Geek Gurl Diaries Raspberry Pi Thermal Printer Project Sneak Peek!

A sneak peek at the finished Geek Gurl Diaries ‘Box of Geek’. I’ve been busy making this for a few weeks with some help from friends. Tutorial to make your own box coming soon, so keep checking the Geek Gurl Diaries Twitter, facebook page and channel.

What are the challenges for this approach in education?

Allowing this kind of free-form creativity and tinkering in the classroom obviously has its challenges for teachers, especially those confined to rigid lesson structures, timings, and small classrooms. The most common worry I hear from teachers is “what if they ask a question I can’t answer?” Encouraging this sort of creative thinking makes that almost an inevitability. How can you facilitate roughly 30 different projects simultaneously? The answer is by using those other computational and transferable thinking skills:

  • Problem-solving
  • Iteration
  • Collaboration
  • Evaluation

Clearly specifying a problem, surveying the tools available to solve it (including online references and external advice), and then applying them to solve the problem is a hugely important skill, and this is a great opportunity to teach it.

A girl plays a button reaction game at a Raspberry Pi event

Press ALL the buttons!

Hands-off guidance

When we train teachers at Picademy, we group attendees around themes that have come out of the idea generation session. Together they collaborate on an achievable shared goal. One will often sketch something on a whiteboard, decomposing the problem into smaller parts; then the group will divide up the tasks. Each will look online or in books for tutorials to help them with their step. I’ve seen this behaviour in student groups too, and it’s very easy to facilitate. You don’t need to be the resident expert on every project that students want to work on.

The key is knowing where to guide students to find the answers they need. Curating online videos, blogs, tutorials, and articles in advance gives you the freedom and confidence to concentrate on what matters: the learning. We have a number of physical computing projects that use buttons, linked to our curriculum for learners to combine inputs and outputs to solve a problem. The WhooPi cushion and GPIO music box are two of my favourites.

A Raspberry Pi and button attached to a computer display

Outside of formal education, events such as Raspberry Jams, CoderDojos, CAS Hubs, and hackathons are ideal venues for seeking and receiving support and advice.

Cross-curricular participation

The rise of the global maker movement, I think, is in response to abstract concepts and disciplines. Children are taught lots of concepts in isolation that aren’t always relevant to their lives or immediate environment. Digital making provides a unique and exciting way of bridging different subject areas, allowing for cross-curricular participation. I’m not suggesting that educators should throw away all their schemes of work and leave the full direction of the computing curriculum to students. However, there’s huge value in exposing learners to the possibilities for creativity in computing. Creative freedom and expression guide learning, better preparing young people for the workplace of tomorrow.

So…what do you want your button to do?

Hello World

Learn more about today’s subject, and read further articles regarding computer science in education, in Hello World magazine issue 1.

Read Hello World issue 1 for more…

UK-based educators can subscribe to Hello World to receive a hard copy delivered for free to their doorstep, while the PDF is available for free to everyone via the Hello World website.

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What We’re Thankful For

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/what-were-thankful-for/

All of us at Backblaze hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you can enjoy it with family and friends. We asked everyone at Backblaze to express what they are thankful for. Here are their responses.

Fall leaves

What We’re Thankful For

Aside from friends, family, hobbies, health, etc. I’m thankful for my home. It’s not much, but it’s mine, and allows me to indulge in everything listed above. Or not, if I so choose. And coffee.

— Tony

I’m thankful for my wife Jen, and my other friends. I’m thankful that I like my coworkers and can call them friends too. I’m thankful for my health. I’m thankful that I was born into a middle class family in the US and that I have been very, very lucky because of that.

— Adam

Besides the most important things which are being thankful for my family, my health and my friends, I am very thankful for Backblaze. This is the first job I’ve ever had where I truly feel like I have a great work/life balance. With having 3 kids ages 8, 6 and 4, a husband that works crazy hours and my tennis career on the rise (kidding but I am on 4 teams) it’s really nice to feel like I have balance in my life. So cheers to Backblaze – where a girl can have it all!

— Shelby

I am thankful to work at a high-tech company that recognizes the contributions of engineers in their 40s and 50s.

— Jeannine

I am thankful for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thankful for all the joy they’re bringing. Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty? What would life be? Without a song or a dance what are we? So I say thank you for the music. For giving it to me!

— Yev

I’m thankful that I don’t look anything like the portrait my son draws of me…seriously.

— Natalie

I am thankful to work for a company that puts its people and product ahead of profits.

— James

I am thankful that even in the middle of disasters, turmoil, and violence, there are always people who commit amazing acts of generosity, courage, and kindness that restore my faith in mankind.

— Roderick

The future.

— Ahin

The Future

I am thankful for the current state of modern inexpensive broadband networking that allows me to stay in touch with friends and family that are far away, allows Backblaze to exist and pay my salary so I can live comfortably, and allows me to watch cat videos for free. The internet makes this an amazing time to be alive.

— Brian

Other than being thankful for family & good health, I’m quite thankful through the years I’ve avoided losing any of my 12+TB photo archive. 20 years of photoshoots, family photos and cell phone photos kept safe through changing storage media (floppy drives, flopticals, ZIP, JAZ, DVD-RAM, CD, DVD and hard drives), not to mention various technology/software solutions. It’s a data minefield out there, especially in the long run with changing media formats.

— Jim

I am thankful for non-profit organizations and their volunteers, such as IMAlive. Possibly the greatest gift you can give someone is empowerment, and an opportunity for them to recognize their own resilience and strength.

— Emily

I am thankful for my loving family, friends who make me laugh, a cool company to work for, talented co-workers who make me a better engineer, and beautiful Fall days in Wisconsin!

— Marjorie

Marjorie Wisconsin

I’m thankful for preschool drawings about thankfulness.

— Adam

I am thankful for new friends and working for a company that allows us to be ourselves.

— Annalisa

I’m thankful for my dog as I always find a reason to smile at him everyday. Yes, he still smells from his skunkin’ last week and he tracks mud in my house, but he came from the San Quentin puppy-prisoner program and I’m thankful I found him and that he found me! My vet is thankful as well.

— Terry

I’m thankful that my colleagues are also my friends outside of the office and that the rain season has started in California.

— Aaron

I’m thankful for family, friends, and beer. Mostly for family and friends, but beer is really nice too!

— Ken

There are so many amazing blessings that make up my daily life that I thank God for, so here I go – my basic needs of food, water and shelter, my husband and 2 daughters and the rest of the family (here and abroad) — their love, support, health, and safety, waking up to a new day every day, friends, music, my job, funny things, hugs and more hugs (who does not like hugs?).

— Cecilia

I am thankful to be blessed with a close-knit extended family, and for everything they do for my new, growing family. With a toddler and a second child on the way, it helps having so many extra sets of hands around to help with the kids!

— Zack

I’m thankful for family and friends, the opportunities my parents gave me by moving the U.S., and that all of us together at Backblaze have built a place to be proud of.

— Gleb

Aside for being thankful for family and friends, I am also thankful I live in a place with such natural beauty. Being so close to mountains and the ocean, and everything in between, is something that I don’t take for granted!

— Sona

I’m thankful for my wonderful wife, family, friends, and co-workers. I’m thankful for having a happy and healthy son, and the chance to watch him grow on a daily basis.

— Ariel

I am thankful for a dog-friendly workplace.

— LeAnn

I’m thankful for my amazing new wife and that she’s as much of a nerd as I am.

— Troy

I am thankful for every reunion with my siblings and families.

— Cecilia

I am thankful for my funny, strong-willed, happy daughter, my awesome husband, my family, and amazing friends. I am also thankful for the USA and all the opportunities that come with living here. Finally, I am thankful for Backblaze, a truly great place to work and for all of my co-workers/friends here.

— Natasha

I am thankful that I do not need to hunt and gather everyday to put food on the table but at the same time I feel that I don’t appreciate the food the sits before me as much as I should. So I use Thanksgiving to think about the people and the animals that put food on my family’s table.

— KC

I am thankful for my cat, Catnip. She’s been with me for 18 years and seen me through so many ups and downs. She’s been along my side through two long-term relationships, several moves, and one marriage. I know we don’t have much time together and feel blessed every day she’s here.

— JC

I am thankful for imperfection and misshapen candies. The imperceptible romance of sunsets through bus windows. The dream that family, friends, co-workers, and strangers are connected by love. I am thankful to my ancestors for enduring so much hardship so that I could be here enjoying Bay Area burritos.

— Damon

Autumn leaves

The post What We’re Thankful For appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Spooky Halloween Video Contest

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/spooky-halloween-video-contest/

Would You LIke to Play a Game? Let's make a scary movie or at least a silly one.

Think you can create a really spooky Halloween video?

We’re giving out $100 Visa gift cards just in time for the holidays. Want a chance to win? You’ll need to make a spooky 30-second Halloween-themed video. We had a lot of fun with this the last time we did it a few years back so we’re doing it again this year.

Here’s How to Enter

  1. Prepare a short, 30 seconds or less, video recreating your favorite horror movie scene using your computer or hard drive as the victim — or make something original!
  2. Insert the following image at the end of the video (right-click and save as):
    Backblaze cloud backup
  3. Upload your video to YouTube
  4. Post a link to your video on the Backblaze Facebook wall or on Twitter with the hashtag #Backblaze so we can see it and enter it into the contest. Or, link to it in the comments below!
  5. Share your video with friends

Common Questions
Q: How many people can be in the video?
A: However many you need in order to recreate the scene!
Q: Can I make it longer than 30 seconds?
A: Maybe 32 seconds, but that’s it. If you want to make a longer “director’s cut,” we’d love to see it, but the contest video should be close to 30 seconds. Please keep it short and spooky.
Q: Can I record it on an iPhone, Android, iPad, Camera, etc?
A: You can use whatever device you wish to record your video.
Q: Can I submit multiple videos?
A: If you have multiple favorite scenes, make a vignette! But please submit only one video.
Q: How many winners will there be?
A: We will select up to three winners total.

Contest Rules

  • To upload the video to YouTube, you must have a valid YouTube account and comply with all YouTube rules for age, content, copyright, etc.
  • To post a link to your video on the Backblaze Facebook wall, you must use a valid Facebook account and comply with all Facebook rules for age, content, copyrights, etc.
  • We reserve the right to remove and/or not consider as a valid entry, any videos which we deem inappropriate. We reserve the exclusive right to determine what is inappropriate.
  • Backblaze reserves the right to use your video for promotional purposes.
  • The contest will end on October 29, 2017 at 11:59:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time. The winners (up to three) will be selected by Backblaze and will be announced on October 31, 2017.
  • We will be giving away gift cards to the top winners. The prize will be mailed to the winner in a timely manner.
  • Please keep the content of the post PG rated — no cursing or extreme gore/violence.
  • By submitting a video you agree to all of these rules.

Need an example?

The post Spooky Halloween Video Contest appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Laser Cookies: a YouTube collaboration

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/laser-cookies/

Lasers! Cookies! Raspberry Pi! We’re buzzing with excitement about sharing our latest YouTube video with you, which comes directly from the kitchen of maker Estefannie Explains It All!

Laser-guarded cookies feat. Estefannie Explains It All

Uploaded by Raspberry Pi on 2017-09-18.

Estefannie Explains It All + Raspberry Pi

When Estefannie visited Pi Towers earlier this year, we introduced her to the Raspberry Pi Digital Curriculum and the free resources on our website. We’d already chatted to her via email about the idea of creating a collab video for the Raspberry Pi channel. Once she’d met members of the Raspberry Pi Foundation team and listened to them wax lyrical about the work we do here, she was even more keen to collaborate with us.

Estefannie on Twitter

Ahhhh!!! I still can’t believe I got to hang out and make stuff at the @Raspberry_Pi towers!! Thank you thank you!!

Estefannie returned to the US filled with inspiration for a video for our channel, and we’re so pleased with how awesome her final result is. The video is a super addition to our Raspberry Pi YouTube channel, it shows what our resources can help you achieve, and it’s great fun. You might also have noticed that the project fits in perfectly with this season’s Pioneers challenge. A win all around!

So yeah, we’re really chuffed about this video, and we hope you all like it too!

Estefannie’s Laser Cookies guide

For those of you wanting to try your hand at building your own Cookie Jar Laser Surveillance Security System, Estefannie has provided a complete guide to talk you through it. Here she goes:

First off, you’ll need:

  • 10 lasers
  • 10 photoresistors
  • 10 capacitors
  • 1 Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • 1 buzzer
  • 1 Raspberry Pi Camera Module
  • 12 ft PVC pipes + 4 corners
  • 1 acrylic panel
  • 1 battery pack
  • 8 zip ties
  • tons of cookies

I used the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Laser trip wire and the Tweeting Babbage resources to get one laser working and to set up the camera and Twitter API. This took me less than an hour, and it was easy, breezy, beautiful, Raspberry Pi.


I soldered ten lasers in parallel and connected ten photoresistors to their own GPIO pins. I didn’t wire them up in series because of sensitivity reasons and to make debugging easier.

Building the frame took a few tries: I actually started with a wood frame, then tried a clear case, and finally realized the best and cleaner solution would be pipes. All the wires go inside the pipes and come out in a small window on the top to wire up to the Zero W.



Using pipes also made the build cheaper, since they were about $3 for 12 ft. Wiring inside the pipes was tricky, and to finish the circuit, I soldered some of the wires after they were already in the pipes.

I tried glueing the lasers to the frame, but the lasers melted the glue and became decalibrated. Next I tried tape, and then I found picture mounting putty. The putty worked perfectly — it was easy to mold a putty base for the lasers and to calibrate and re-calibrate them if needed. Moreover, the lasers stayed in place no matter how hot they got.

Estefannie Explains It All Raspberry Pi Cookie Jar

Although the lasers were not very strong, I still strained my eyes after long hours of calibrating — hence the sunglasses! Working indoors with lasers, sunglasses, and code was weird. But now I can say I’ve done that…in my kitchen.

Using all the knowledge I have shared, this project should take a couple of hours. The code you need lives on my GitHub!

Estefannie Explains It All Raspberry Pi Cookie Jar

“The cookie recipe is my grandma’s, and I am not allowed to share it.”

Estefannie on YouTube

Estefannie made this video for us as a gift, and we’re so grateful for the time and effort she put into it! If you enjoyed it and would like to also show your gratitude, subscribe to her channel on YouTube and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. And if you make something similar, or build anything with our free resources, make sure to share it with us in the comments below or via our social media channels.

The post Laser Cookies: a YouTube collaboration appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

AWS Hot Startups – June 2017

Post Syndicated from Tina Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-hot-startups-june-2017/

Thanks for stopping by for another round of AWS Hot Startups! This month we are featuring:

  • CloudRanger – helping companies understand the cloud with visual representation.
  • quintly – providing social media analytics for brands on a single dashboard.
  • Tango Card – reinventing rewards programs for businesses and their customers worldwide.

Don’t forget to check out May’s Hot Startups in case you missed them.

CloudRanger (Letterkenny, Ireland)   

The idea for CloudRanger started where most great ideas do – at a bar in Las Vegas. During a late-night conversation with his friends at re:Invent 2014, Dave Gildea (Founder and CEO) used cocktail napkins and drink coasters to visually illustrate servers and backups, and the light on his phone to represent scheduling. By the end of the night, the idea for automated visual server management was born. With CloudRanger, companies can easily create backup and retention policies, visual scheduling, and simple restoration of snapshots and AMIs. The team behind CloudRanger believes that when servers and cloud resources are represented visually, they are easier to manage and understand. Users are able to see their servers, which turns them into a tangible and important piece of business inventory.

CloudRanger is an excellent platform for MSPs who manage many different AWS accounts, and need a quick method to display many servers and audit certain attributes. The company’s goal is to give anyone the ability to create backup policies in multiple regions, apply them using a tag-based methodology, and manage backups. Servers can be scheduled from one simple dashboard, and restoration is easy and step-by-step. With CloudRanger’s visual representation of resources, customers are encouraged to fully understand their backup policies, schedules, and servers.

As an AWS Partner, CloudRanger has built a globally redundant system after going all-in with AWS. They are using over 25 AWS services for everything including enterprise-level security, automation and 24/7 runtimes, and an emphasis on Machine Learning for efficiency in the sales process. CloudRanger continues to rely more on AWS as new services and features are released, and are replacing current services with AWS CodePipeline and AWS CodeBuild. CloudRanger was also named Startup Company of the Year at a recent Irish tech event!

To learn more about CloudRanger, visit their website.

quintly (Cologne, Germany)

In 2010, brothers Alexander Peiniger and Frederik Peiniger started a journey to help companies track their social media profiles and improve their strategies against competitors. The startup began under the name “Social.Media.Tracking” and then “AllFacebook Stats” before officially becoming quintly in 2013. With quintly, brands and agencies can analyze, benchmark, and optimize their social media activities on a global scale. The innovative dashboarding system gives clients an overview across all social media profiles on the most important networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) and then derives an optimal social media strategy from those profiles. Today, quintly has users in over 180 countries and paying clients in over 65 countries including major agency networks and Fortune 500 companies.

Getting an overview of a brand’s social media activities can be time-consuming, and turning insights into actions is a challenge that not all brands master. Quintly offers a variety of features designed to help clients improve their social media reach. With their web-based SaaS product, brands and agencies can compare their social media performance against competitors and their best practices. Not only can clients learn from their own historic performance, but they can leverage data from any other brand around the world.

Since the company’s founding, quintly built and operates its SaaS offering on top of AWS services, leveraging Amazon EC2, Amazon ECS, Elastic Load Balancing, and Amazon Route53 to host their Docker-based environment. Large amounts of data are stored in Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon RDS, and they use Amazon CloudWatch to monitor and seamlessly scale to the current needs. In addition, quintly is using Amazon Machine Learning to add additional attributes to the data and to drive better decisions for their clients. With the help of AWS, quintly has been able to focus on their core business while having a scalable and well-performing solution to solve their technical needs.

For more on quintly, check out their Social Media Analytics blog.

Tango Card (Seattle, Washington)

Based in the heart of West Seattle, Tango Card is revolutionizing rewards programs for companies around the world. Too often customers redeem points in a loyalty or rebate program only to wait weeks for their prize to arrive. Companies generously give their employees appreciation gifts, but the gifts can be generic and impersonal. With Tango Card, companies can choose from a variety of rewards that fit the needs of their specific program, event, or business incentive. The extensive Rewards Catalog includes options for e-gift cards that are sure to excite any recipient. There are plenty of options for everyone from traditional e-gift cards to nonprofit donations to cash equivalent rewards.

Tango Card uses a combination of desired rewards, modern technology, and expert service to change the rewards and incentive experience. The Reward Delivery Platform offers solutions including Blast Rewards, Reward Link, and Rewards as a Service API (RaaS). Blast Rewards enables companies to purchase and send e-gift cards in bulk in just one business day. Reward Link lets recipients choose from an assortment of e-gift cards, prepaid cards, digital checks, and donations and is delivered instantly. Finally, Rewards as a Service is a robust digital gift card API that is built to support apps and platforms. With RaaS, Tango Card can send out e-gift cards on company-branded email templates or deliver them directly within a user interface.

The entire Tango Card Reward Delivery Platform leverages many AWS services. They use Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS) for rapid deployment of containerized micro services, and Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) for low overhead managed databases. Tango Card is also leveraging Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), AWS Key Management Service (KMS), and AWS Identity and Access Management (IMS).

To learn more about Tango Card, check out their blog!

I would also like to thank Alexander Moss-Bolanos for helping with the Hot Startups posts this year.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next month!

-Tina Barr

Making Waves: print out sound waves with the Raspberry Pi

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/printed-sound-wave/

For fun, Eunice Lee, Matthew Zhang, and Bomani McClendon have worked together to create Waves, an audiovisual project that records people’s spoken responses to personal questions and prints them in the form of a sound wave as a gift for being truthful.

Waves

Waves is a Raspberry Pi project centered around transforming the transience of the spoken word into something concrete and physical. In our setup, a user presses a button corresponding to an intimate question (ex: what’s your motto?) and answers it into a microphone while pressing down on the button.

What are you grateful for?

“I’m grateful for finishing this project,” admits maker Eunice Lee as she presses a button and speaks into the microphone that is part of the Waves project build. After a brief moment, her confession appears on receipt paper as a waveform, and she grins toward the camera, happy with the final piece.

Eunice testing Waves

Waves is a Raspberry Pi project centered around transforming the transience of the spoken word into something concrete and physical. In our setup, a user presses a button corresponding to an intimate question (ex: what’s your motto?) and answers it into a microphone while pressing down on the button.

Sound wave machine

Alongside a Raspberry Pi 3, the Waves device is comprised of four tactile buttons, a standard USB microphone, and a thermal receipt printer. This type of printer has become easily available for the maker movement from suppliers such as Adafruit and Pimoroni.

Eunice Lee, Matthew Zhang, Bomani McClendon - Sound Wave Raspberry Pi

Definitely more fun than a polygraph test

The trio designed four colour-coded cards that represent four questions, each of which has a matching button on the breadboard. Press the button that belongs to the question to be answered, and Python code directs the Pi to record audio via the microphone. Releasing the button stops the audio recording. “Once the recording has been saved, the script viz.py is launched,” explains Lee. “This script takes the audio file and, using Python matplotlib magic, turns it into a nice little waveform image.”

From there, the Raspberry Pi instructs the thermal printer to produce a printout of the sound wave image along with the question.

Making for fun

Eunice, Bomani, and Matt, students of design and computer science at Northwestern University in Illinois, built Waves as a side project. They wanted to make something at the intersection of art and technology and were motivated by the pure joy of creating.

Eunice Lee, Matthew Zhang, Bomani McClendon - Sound Wave Raspberry Pi

Making makes people happy

They have noted improvements that can be made to increase the scope of their sound wave project. We hope to see many more interesting builds from these three, and in the meantime we invite you all to look up their code on Eunice’s GitHub to create your own Waves at home.

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Announcing the AWS Chatbot Challenge – Create Conversational, Intelligent Chatbots using Amazon Lex and AWS Lambda

Post Syndicated from Tara Walker original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/announcing-the-aws-chatbot-challenge-create-conversational-intelligent-chatbots-using-amazon-lex-and-aws-lambda/

If you have been checking out the launches and announcements from the AWS 2017 San Francisco Summit, you may be aware that the Amazon Lex service is now Generally Available, and you can use the service today. Amazon Lex is a fully managed AI service that enables developers to build conversational interfaces into any application using voice and text. Lex uses the same deep learning technologies of Amazon Alexa-powered devices like Amazon Echo. With the release of Amazon Lex, developers can build highly engaging lifelike user experiences and natural language interactions within their own applications. Amazon Lex supports Slack, Facebook Messenger, and Twilio SMS enabling you to easily publish your voice or text chatbots using these popular chat services. There is no better time to try out the Amazon Lex service to add the gift of gab to your applications, and now you have a great reason to get started.

May I have a Drumroll please?

I am thrilled to announce the AWS Chatbot Challenge! The AWS Chatbot Challenge is your opportunity to build a unique chatbot that helps solves a problem or adds value for prospective users. The AWS Chatbot Challenge is brought to you by Amazon Web Services in partnership with Slack.

 

The Challenge

Your mission, if you choose to accept it is to build a conversational, natural language chatbot using Amazon Lex and leverage Lex’s integration with AWS Lambda to execute logic or data processing on the backend. Your submission can be a new or existing bot, however, if your bot is an existing one it must have been updated to use Amazon Lex and AWS Lambda within the challenge submission period.

 

You are only limited by your own imagination when building your solution. Therefore, I will share some recommendations to help you to get your creative juices flowing when creating or deploying your bot. Some suggestions that can help you make your chatbot more distinctive are:

  • Deploy your bot to Slack, Facebook Messenger, or Twilio SMS
  • Take advantage of other AWS services when building your bot solution.
  • Incorporate Text-To-speech capabilities using a service like Amazon Polly
  • Utilize other third-party APIs, SDKs, and services
  • Leverage Amazon Lex pre-built enterprise connectors and add services like Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, Microsoft Dynamics, Zendesk, and QuickBooks as data sources.

There are cost effective ways to build your bot using AWS Lambda. Lambda includes a free tier of one million requests and 400,000 GB-seconds of compute time per month. This free, per month usage, is for all customers and does not expire at the end of the 12 month Free Tier Term. Furthermore, new Amazon Lex customers can process up to 10,000 text requests and 5,000 speech requests per month free during the first year. You can find details here.

Remember, the AWS Free Tier includes services with a free tier available for 12 months following your AWS sign-up date, as well as additional service offers that do not automatically expire at the end of your 12 month term. You can review the details about the AWS Free Tier and related services by going to the AWS Free Tier Details page.

 

Can We Talk – How It Works

The AWS Chatbot Challenge is open to individuals, and teams of individuals, who have reached the age of majority in their eligible area of residence at the time of competition entry. Organizations that employ 50 or fewer people are also eligible to compete as long at the time of entry they are duly organized or incorporated and validly exist in an eligible area. Large organizations-employing more than 50-in eligible areas can participate but will only be eligible for a non-cash recognition prize.

Chatbot Submissions are judged using the following criteria:

  • Customer Value: The problem or painpoint the bot solves and the extent it adds value for users
  • Bot Quality: The unique way the bot solves users’ problems, and the originality, creativity, and differentiation of the bot solution
  • Bot Implementation: Determination of how well the bot was built and executed by the developer. Also, consideration of bot functionality such as if the bot functions as intended and recognizes and responds to most common phrases asked of it

Prizes

The AWS Chatbot Challenge is awarding prizes for your hard work!

First Prize

  • $5,000 USD
  • $2,500 AWS Credits
  • Two (2) tickets to AWS re:Invent
  • 30 minute virtual meeting with the Amazon Lex team
  • Winning submission featured on the AWS AI blog
  • Cool swag

Second Prize

  • $3,000 USD
  • $1,500 AWS Credits
  • One (1) ticket to AWS re:Invent
  • 30 minute virtual meeting with the Amazon Lex team
  • Winning submission featured on the AWS AI blog
  • Cool swag

Third Prize

  • $2,000 USD
  • $1,000 AWS Credits
  • 30 minute virtual meeting with the Amazon Lex team
  • Winning submission featured on the AWS AI blog
  • Cool swag

 

Challenge Timeline

  • Submissions Start: April 19, 2017 at 12:00pm PDT
  • Submissions End: July 18, 2017 at 5:00pm PDT
  • Winners Announced: August 11, 2017 at 9:00am PDT

 

Up to the Challenge – Get Started

Are ready to get started on your chatbot and dive into the challenge? Here is how to get started:

Review the details on the challenge rules and eligibility

  1. Register for the AWS Chatbot Challenge
  2. Join the AWS Chatbot Slack Channel
  3. Create an account on AWS.
  4. Visit the Resources page for links to documentation and resources.
  5. Shoot your demo video that demonstrates your bot in action. Prepare a written summary of your bot and what it does.
  6. Provide a way to access your bot for judging and testing by including a link to your GitHub repo hosting the bot code and all deployment files and testing instructions needed for testing your bot.
  7. Submit your bot on AWSChatbot2017.Devpost.com before July 18, 2017 at 5 pm ET and share access to your bot, its Github repo and its deployment files.

Summary

With Amazon Lex you can build conversation into web and mobile applications, as well as use it to build chatbots that control IoT devices, provide customer support, give transaction updates or perform operations for DevOps workloads (ChatOps). Amazon Lex provides built-in integration with AWS Lambda, AWS Mobile Hub, and Amazon CloudWatch and allows for easy integrate with other AWS services so you can use the AWS platform for to build security, monitoring, user authentication, business logic, and storage into your chatbot or application. You can make additional enhancements to your voice or text chatbot by taking advantage of Amazon Lex’s support of chat services like Slack, Facebook Messenger, and Twilio SMS.

Dive into building chatbots and conversational interfaces with Amazon Lex and AWS Lambda with the AWS Chatbot Challenge for a chance to win some cool prizes. Some recent resources and online tech talks about creating bots with Amazon Lex and AWS Lambda that may help you in your bot building journey are:

If you have questions about the AWS Chatbot Challenge you can email [email protected] or post a question to the Discussion Board.

 

Good Luck and Happy Coding.

Tara