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Backblaze’s Upgrade Guide for macOS High Sierra

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/macos-high-sierra-upgrade-guide/

High Sierra

Apple introduced macOS 10.13 “High Sierra” at its 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference in June. On Tuesday, we learned we don’t have long to wait — the new OS will be available on September 25. It’s a free upgrade, and millions of Mac users around the world will rush to install it.

We understand. A new OS from Apple is exciting, But please, before you upgrade, we want to remind you to back up your Mac. You want your data to be safe from unexpected problems that could happen in the upgrade. We do, too. To make that easier, Backblaze offers this macOS High Sierra upgrade guide.

Why Upgrade to macOS 10.13 High Sierra?

High Sierra, as the name suggests, is a follow-on to the previous macOS, Sierra. Its major focus is on improving the base OS with significant improvements that will support new capabilities in the future in the file system, video, graphics, and virtual/augmented reality.

But don’t despair; there also are outward improvements that will be readily apparent to everyone when they boot the OS for the first time. We’ll cover both the inner and outer improvements coming in this new OS.

Under the Hood of High Sierra

APFS (Apple File System)

Apple has been rolling out its first file system upgrade for a while now. It’s already in iOS: now High Sierra brings APFS to the Mac. Apple touts APFS as a new file system optimized for Flash/SSD storage and featuring strong encryption, better and faster file handling, safer copying and moving of files, and other improved file system fundamentals.

We went into detail about the enhancements and improvements that APFS has over the previous file system, HFS+, in an earlier post. Many of these improvements, including enhanced performance, security and reliability of data, will provide immediate benefits to users, while others provide a foundation for future storage innovations and will require work by Apple and third parties to support in their products and services.

Most of us won’t notice these improvements, but we’ll benefit from better, faster, and safer file handling, which I think all of us can appreciate.

Video

High Sierra includes High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC, aka H.265), which preserves better detail and color while also introducing improved compression over H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC). Even existing Macs will benefit from the HEVC software encoding in High Sierra, but newer Mac models include HEVC hardware acceleration for even better performance.

MacBook Pro

Metal 2

macOS High Sierra introduces Metal 2, the next-generation of Apple’s Metal graphics API that was launched three years ago. Apple claims that Metal 2 provides up to 10x better performance in key areas. It provides near-direct access to the graphics processor (GPU), enabling the GPU to take control over key aspects of the rendering pipeline. Metal 2 will enhance the Mac’s capability for machine learning, and is the technology driving the new virtual reality platform on Macs.

audio video editor screenshot

Virtual Reality

We’re about to see an explosion of virtual reality experiences on both the Mac and iOS thanks to High Sierra and iOS 11. Content creators will be able to use apps like Final Cut Pro X, Epic Unreal 4 Editor, and Unity Editor to create fully immersive worlds that will revolutionize entertainment and education and have many professional uses, as well.

Users will want the new iMac with Retina 5K display or the upcoming iMac Pro to enjoy them, or any supported Mac paired with the latest external GPU and VR headset.

iMac and HTC virtual reality player

Outward Improvements

Siri

Siri logo

Expect a more nature voice from Siri in High Sierra. She or he will be less robotic, with greater expression and use of intonation in speech. Siri will also learn more about your preferences in things like music, helping you choose music that fits your taste and putting together playlists expressly for you. Expect Siri to be able to answer your questions about music-related trivia, as well.

Siri:  what does “scaramouche” refer to in the song Bohemian Rhapsody?

Photos

HD MacBook Pro screenshot

Photos has been redesigned with a new layout and new tools. A redesigned Edit view includes new tools for fine-tuning color and contrast and making adjustments within a defined color range. Some fun elements for creating special effects and memories also have been added. Photos now works with external apps such as Photoshop and Pixelmator. Compatibility with third-party extension adds printing and publishing services to help get your photos out into the world.

Safari

Safari logo

Apple claims that Safari in High Sierra is the world’s fastest desktop browser, outperforming Chrome and other browsers in a range of benchmark tests. They’ve also added autoplay blocking for those pesky videos that play without your permission and tracking blocking to help protect your privacy.

Can My Mac Run macOS High Sierra 10.13?

All Macs introduced in mid 2010 or later are compatible. MacBook and iMac computers introduced in late 2009 are also compatible. You’ll need OS X 10.7.5 “Lion” or later installed, along with at least 2 GB RAM and 8.8 GB of available storage to manage the upgrade.
Some features of High Sierra require an internet connection or an Apple ID. You can check to see if your Mac is compatible with High Sierra on Apple’s website.

Conquering High Sierra — What Do I Do Before I Upgrade?

Back Up That Mac!

It’s always smart to back up before you upgrade the operating system or make any other crucial changes to your computer. Upgrading your OS is a major change to your computer, and if anything goes wrong…well, you don’t want that to happen.

iMac backup screenshot

We recommend the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy to make sure your data is safe. What does that mean? Have three copies of your data. There’s the “live” version on your Mac, a local backup (Time Machine, another copy on a local drive or other computer), and an offsite backup like Backblaze. No matter what happens to your computer, you’ll have a way to restore the files if anything goes wrong. Need help understanding how to back up your Mac? We have you covered with a handy Mac backup guide.

Check for App and Driver Updates

This is when it helps to do your homework. Check with app developers or device manufacturers to find if their apps and devices have updates to work with High Sierra. Visit their websites or use the Check for Updates feature built into most apps (often found in the File or Help menus).

If you’ve downloaded apps through the Mac App Store, make sure to open them and click on the Updates button to download the latest updates.

Updating can be hit or miss when you’ve installed apps that didn’t come from the Mac App Store. To make it easier, visit the MacUpdate website. MacUpdate tracks changes to thousands of Mac apps.


Will Backblaze work with macOS High Sierra?

Yes. We’ve taken care to ensure that Backblaze works with High Sierra. We’ve already enhanced our Macintosh client to report the space available on an APFS container and we plan to add additional support for APFS capabilities that enhance Backblaze’s capabilities in the future.

Of course, we’ll watch Apple’s release carefully for any last minute surprises. We’ll officially offer support for High Sierra once we’ve had a chance to thoroughly test the release version.


Set Aside Time for the Upgrade

Depending on the speed of your Internet connection and your computer, upgrading to High Sierra will take some time. You’ll be able to use your Mac straightaway after answering a few questions at the end of the upgrade process.

If you’re going to install High Sierra on multiple Macs, a time-and-bandwidth-saving tip came from a Backblaze customer who suggested copying the installer from your Mac’s Applications folder to a USB Flash drive (or an external drive) before you run it. The installer routinely deletes itself once the upgrade process is completed, but if you grab it before that happens you can use it on other computers.

Where Do I get High Sierra?

Apple says that High Sierra will be available on September 25. Like other Mac operating system releases, Apple offers macOS 10.13 High Sierra for download from the Mac App Store, which is included on the Mac. As long as your Mac is supported and running OS X 10.7.5 “Lion” (released in 2012) or later, you can download and run the installer. It’s free. Thank you, Apple.

Better to be Safe than Sorry

Back up your Mac before doing anything to it, and make Backblaze part of your 3-2-1 backup strategy. That way your data is secure. Even if you have to roll back after an upgrade, or if you run into other problems, your data will be safe and sound in your backup.

Tell us How it Went

Are you getting ready to install High Sierra? Still have questions? Let us know in the comments. Tell us how your update went and what you like about the new release of macOS.

And While You’re Waiting for High Sierra…

While you’re waiting for Apple to release High Sierra on September 25, you might want to check out these other posts about using your Mac and Backblaze.

The post Backblaze’s Upgrade Guide for macOS High Sierra appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

New UK IP Crime Report Reveals Continued Focus on ‘Pirate’ Kodi Boxes

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-uk-ip-crime-report-reveals-continued-focus-on-pirate-kodi-boxes-170908/

The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has published its annual IP Crime Report, spanning the period 2016 to 2017.

It covers key events in the copyright and trademark arenas and is presented with input from the police and trading standards, plus private entities such as the BPI, Premier League, and Federation Against Copyright Theft, to name a few.

The report begins with an interesting statistic. Despite claims that many millions of UK citizens regularly engage in some kind of infringement, figures from the Ministry of Justice indicate that just 47 people were found guilty of offenses under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act during 2016. That’s down on the 69 found guilty in the previous year.

Despite this low conviction rate, 15% of all internet users aged 12+ are reported to have consumed at least one item of illegal content between March and May 2017. Figures supplied by the Industry Trust for IP indicate that 19% of adults watch content via various IPTV devices – often referred to as set-top, streaming, Android, or Kodi boxes.

“At its cutting edge IP crime is innovative. It exploits technological loopholes before they become apparent. IP crime involves sophisticated hackers, criminal financial experts, international gangs and service delivery networks. Keeping pace with criminal innovation places a burden on IP crime prevention resources,” the report notes.

The report covers a broad range of IP crime, from counterfeit sportswear to foodstuffs, but our focus is obviously on Internet-based infringement. Various contributors cover various aspects of online activity as it affects them, including music industry group BPI.

“The main online piracy threats to the UK recorded music industry at present are from BitTorrent networks, linking/aggregator sites, stream-ripping sites, unauthorized streaming sites and cyberlockers,” the BPI notes.

The BPI’s website blocking efforts have been closely reported, with 63 infringing sites blocked to date via various court orders. However, the BPI reports that more than 700 related URLs, IP addresses, and proxy sites/ proxy aggregators have also been rendered inaccessible as part of the same action.

“Site blocking has proven to be a successful strategy as the longer the blocks are in place, the more effective they are. We have seen traffic to these sites reduce by an average of 70% or more,” the BPI reports.

While prosecutions against music pirates are a fairly rare event in the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Specialist Fraud Division highlights that their most significant prosecution of the past 12 months involved a prolific music uploader.

As first revealed here on TF, Wayne Evans was an uploader not only on KickassTorrents and The Pirate Bay, but also some of his own sites. Known online as OldSkoolScouse, Evans reportedly cost the UK’s Performing Rights Society more than £1m in a single year. He was sentenced in December 2016 to 12 months in prison.

While Evans has been free for some time already, the CPS places particular emphasis on the importance of the case, “since it provided sentencing guidance for the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, where before there was no definitive guideline.”

The CPS says the case was useful on a number of fronts. Despite illegal distribution of content being difficult to investigate and piracy losses proving tricky to quantify, the court found that deterrent sentences are appropriate for the kinds of offenses Evans was accused of.

The CPS notes that various factors affect the severity of such sentences, not least the length of time the unlawful activity has persisted and particularly if it has done so after the service of a cease and desist notice. Other factors include the profit made by defendants and/or the loss caused to copyright holders “so far as it can accurately be calculated.”

Importantly, however, the CPS says that beyond issues of personal mitigation and timely guilty pleas, a jail sentence is probably going to be the outcome for others engaging in this kind of activity in future. That’s something for torrent and streaming site operators and their content uploaders to consider.

“[U]nless the unlawful activity of this kind is very amateur, minor or short-lived, or in the absence of particularly compelling mitigation or other exceptional circumstances, an immediate custodial sentence is likely to be appropriate in cases of illegal distribution of copyright infringing articles,” the CPS concludes.

But while a music-related trial provided the highlight of the year for the CPS, the online infringement world is still dominated by the rise of streaming sites and the now omnipresent “fully-loaded Kodi Box” – set-top devices configured to receive copyright-infringing live TV and VOD.

In the IP Crime Report, the Intellectual Property Office references a former US Secretary of Defense to describe the emergence of the threat.

“The echoes of Donald Rumsfeld’s famous aphorism concerning ‘known knowns’ and ‘known unknowns’ reverberate across our landscape perhaps more than any other. The certainty we all share is that we must be ready to confront both ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’,” the IPO writes.

“Not long ago illegal streaming through Kodi Boxes was an ‘unknown’. Now, this technology updates copyright infringement by empowering TV viewers with the technology they need to subvert copyright law at the flick of a remote control.”

While the set-top box threat has grown in recent times, the report highlights the important legal clarifications that emerged from the BREIN v Filmspeler case, which found itself before the European Court of Justice.

As widely reported, the ECJ determined that the selling of piracy-configured devices amounts to a communication to the public, something which renders their sale illegal. However, in a submission by PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, box sellers are said to cast a keen eye on the legal situation.

“Organised criminals, especially those in the UK who distribute set-top boxes, are aware of recent developments in the law and routinely exploit loopholes in it,” PIPCU reports.

“Given recent judgments on the sale of pre-programmed set-top boxes, it is now unlikely criminals would advertise the devices in a way which is clearly infringing by offering them pre-loaded or ‘fully loaded’ with apps and addons specifically designed to access subscription services for free.”

With sellers beginning to clean up their advertising, it seems likely that detection will become more difficult than when selling was considered a gray area. While that will present its own issues, PIPCU still sees problems on two fronts – a lack of clear legislation and a perception of support for ‘pirate’ devices among the public.

“There is no specific legislation currently in place for the prosecution of end users or sellers of set-top boxes. Indeed, the general public do not see the usage of these devices as potentially breaking the law,” the unit reports.

“PIPCU are currently having to try and ‘shoehorn’ existing legislation to fit the type of criminality being observed, such as conspiracy to defraud (common law) to tackle this problem. Cases are yet to be charged and results will be known by late 2017.”

Whether these prosecutions will be effective remains to be seen, but PIPCU’s comments suggest an air of caution set to a backdrop of box-sellers’ tendency to adapt to legal challenges.

“Due to the complexity of these cases it is difficult to substantiate charges under the Fraud Act (2006). PIPCU have convicted one person under the Serious Crime Act (2015) (encouraging or assisting s11 of the Fraud Act). However, this would not be applicable unless the suspect had made obvious attempts to encourage users to use the boxes to watch subscription only content,” PIPCU notes, adding;

“The selling community is close knit and adapts constantly to allow itself to operate in the gray area where current legislation is unclear and where they feel they can continue to sell ‘under the radar’.”

More generally, pirate sites as a whole are still seen as a threat. As reported last month, the current anti-piracy narrative is that pirate sites represent a danger to their users. As a result, efforts are underway to paint torrent and streaming sites as risky places to visit, with users allegedly exposed to malware and other malicious content. The scare strategy is supported by PIPCU.

“Unlike the purchase of counterfeit physical goods, consumers who buy unlicensed content online are not taking a risk. Faulty copyright doesn’t explode, burn or break. For this reason the message as to why the public should avoid copyright fraud needs to be re-focused.

“A more concerted attempt to push out a message relating to malware on pirate websites, the clear criminality and the links to organized crime of those behind the sites are crucial if public opinion is to be changed,” the unit advises.

But while the changing of attitudes is desirable for pro-copyright entities, PIPCU says that winning over the public may not prove to be an easy battle. It was given a small taste of backlash itself, after taking action against the operator of a pirate site.

“The scale of the problem regarding public opinion of online copyright crime is evidenced by our own experience. After PIPCU executed a warrant against the owner of a streaming website, a tweet about the event (read by 200,000 people) produced a reaction heavily weighted against PIPCU’s legitimate enforcement action,” PIPCU concludes.

In summary, it seems likely that more effort will be expended during the next 12 months to target the set-top box threat, but there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of confidence in existing legislation to tackle all but the most egregious offenders. That being said, a line has now been drawn in the sand – if the public is prepared to respect it.

The full IP Crime Report 2016-2017 is available here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

AWS Hot Startups – August 2017

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

There’s no doubt about it – Artificial Intelligence is changing the world and how it operates. Across industries, organizations from startups to Fortune 500s are embracing AI to develop new products, services, and opportunities that are more efficient and accessible for their consumers. From driverless cars to better preventative healthcare to smart home devices, AI is driving innovation at a fast rate and will continue to play a more important role in our everyday lives.

This month we’d like to highlight startups using AI solutions to help companies grow. We are pleased to feature:

  • SignalBox – a simple and accessible deep learning platform to help businesses get started with AI.
  • Valossa – an AI video recognition platform for the media and entertainment industry.
  • Kaliber – innovative applications for businesses using facial recognition, deep learning, and big data.

SignalBox (UK)

In 2016, SignalBox founder Alain Richardt was hearing the same comments being made by developers, data scientists, and business leaders. They wanted to get into deep learning but didn’t know where to start. Alain saw an opportunity to commodify and apply deep learning by providing a platform that does the heavy lifting with an easy-to-use web interface, blueprints for common tasks, and just a single-click to productize the models. With SignalBox, companies can start building deep learning models with no coding at all – they just select a data set, choose a network architecture, and go. SignalBox also offers step-by-step tutorials, tips and tricks from industry experts, and consulting services for customers that want an end-to-end AI solution.

SignalBox offers a variety of solutions that are being used across many industries for energy modeling, fraud detection, customer segmentation, insurance risk modeling, inventory prediction, real estate prediction, and more. Existing data science teams are using SignalBox to accelerate their innovation cycle. One innovative UK startup, Energi Mine, recently worked with SignalBox to develop deep networks that predict anomalous energy consumption patterns and do time series predictions on energy usage for businesses with hundreds of sites.

SignalBox uses a variety of AWS services including Amazon EC2, Amazon VPC, Amazon Elastic Block Store, and Amazon S3. The ability to rapidly provision EC2 GPU instances has been a critical factor in their success – both in terms of keeping their operational expenses low, as well as speed to market. The Amazon API Gateway has allowed for operational automation, giving SignalBox the ability to control its infrastructure.

To learn more about SignalBox, visit here.

Valossa (Finland)

As students at the University of Oulu in Finland, the Valossa founders spent years doing research in the computer science and AI labs. During that time, the team witnessed how the world was moving beyond text, with video playing a greater role in day-to-day communication. This spawned an idea to use technology to automatically understand what an audience is viewing and share that information with a global network of content producers. Since 2015, Valossa has been building next generation AI applications to benefit the media and entertainment industry and is moving beyond the capabilities of traditional visual recognition systems.

Valossa’s AI is capable of analyzing any video stream. The AI studies a vast array of data within videos and converts that information into descriptive tags, categories, and overviews automatically. Basically, it sees, hears, and understands videos like a human does. The Valossa AI can detect people, visual and auditory concepts, key speech elements, and labels explicit content to make moderating and filtering content simpler. Valossa’s solutions are designed to provide value for the content production workflow, from media asset management to end-user applications for content discovery. AI-annotated content allows online viewers to jump directly to their favorite scenes or search specific topics and actors within a video.

Valossa leverages AWS to deliver the industry’s first complete AI video recognition platform. Using Amazon EC2 GPU instances, Valossa can easily scale their computation capacity based on customer activity. High-volume video processing with GPU instances provides the necessary speed for time-sensitive workflows. The geo-located Availability Zones in EC2 allow Valossa to bring resources close to their customers to minimize network delays. Valossa also uses Amazon S3 for video ingestion and to provide end-user video analytics, which makes managing and accessing media data easy and highly scalable.

To see how Valossa works, check out www.WhatIsMyMovie.com or enable the Alexa Skill, Valossa Movie Finder. To try the Valossa AI, sign up for free at www.valossa.com.

Kaliber (San Francisco, CA)

Serial entrepreneurs Ray Rahman and Risto Haukioja founded Kaliber in 2016. The pair had previously worked in startups building smart cities and online privacy tools, and teamed up to bring AI to the workplace and change the hospitality industry. Our world is designed to appeal to our senses – stores and warehouses have clearly marked aisles, products are colorfully packaged, and we use these designs to differentiate one thing from another. We tell each other apart by our faces, and previously that was something only humans could measure or act upon. Kaliber is using facial recognition, deep learning, and big data to create solutions for business use. Markets and companies that aren’t typically associated with cutting-edge technology will be able to use their existing camera infrastructure in a whole new way, making them more efficient and better able to serve their customers.

Computer video processing is rapidly expanding, and Kaliber believes that video recognition will extend to far more than security cameras and robots. Using the clients’ network of in-house cameras, Kaliber’s platform extracts key data points and maps them to actionable insights using their machine learning (ML) algorithm. Dashboards connect users to the client’s BI tools via the Kaliber enterprise APIs, and managers can view these analytics to improve their real-world processes, taking immediate corrective action with real-time alerts. Kaliber’s Real Metrics are aimed at combining the power of image recognition with ML to ultimately provide a more meaningful experience for all.

Kaliber uses many AWS services, including Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Kinesis, AWS Lambda, Amazon EC2 GPU instances, and Amazon S3. These services have been instrumental in helping Kaliber meet the needs of enterprise customers in record time.

Learn more about Kaliber here.

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

-Tina

 

Choosing a Backup Provider (An Intro to Backblaze)

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/an-intro-to-backblaze/

Backblaze storage pods

Hi! We’re Backblaze — a backup and cloud storage company in sunny San Mateo, California. We’ve been in business since 2007, have a great track record, and have been on a mission to make backing up simple, inexpensive, and unobtrusive.

This post hopes to serve as an introduction to Backblaze for folks that might not be familiar with us. If you’re an avid reader already, you’ll note that we’ve written about many of these stories before. We won’t be offended if you tune back in for the next post. For everyone else, we thought we’d give you a look at who we are, how we’ve remained committed to unlimited backup, and why we think you should give us a shot.

A Bit About our Background

“We never had deep VC pockets to burn cash. If we were unsustainable, we would have gone out of business 9 years ago.” — Gleb Budman, Backblaze CEO and cofounder

Backblaze just turned 10 years old (thanks for the birthday wishes), and we have a solid track record as a successful company. Backblaze was started by five founders who went without salaries for two years until they got the company profitable. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself. A decade later, we’ve “only” raised $5.3 Million in funding. Don’t get us wrong, $5M is a lot of money, but we do think it shows that we run a responsible company by providing industry leading backup solutions at fair prices.

Backblaze is Committed To Customers & Unlimited Data Backup

Since 2007, many companies have come into the backup space. Many of those, at some point or another, offered an unlimited data storage plan. In 2017, Backblaze stands alone as the remaining player offering truly unlimited data backup.

What is “truly unlimited?” To us, that means getting our customers backed up as quickly as possible — with no limits on file types or sizes. While there are other backup companies out there, few of them if any, offer unlimited services at a flat rate. Many force customers to choose between service tiers, leading to confusion and customer apprehension about how much data they have now, or will have later. By contrast, we are focused on making Backblaze easy to use, and easy to understand.

At Backblaze, backup means running efficiently in the background to get a copy of your data securely into the cloud. Because we’re truly unlimited, we operate on an “exclusion” model. That means, by default, we backup all of the user data on your computer. Of course, you can exclude anything you don’t want backed up. Other companies operate on an “inclusion” model — you need to proactively select folders and files to be backed up. Why did we choose “exclusion” over “inclusion?” Because in our model, if you do nothing, you are fully covered. The alternative may leave you forgetting that new folder you created or those important files on your desktop.

Operating under the “inclusion model” would mean we would store less data (which would reduce our costs), but we’re not interested in reducing our costs if it means leaving our customers unprotected. Because of decisions like that, we’re currently storing over 350PB of our customer data.

Recently, we released version 5.0 of our industry leading computer backup product. Among other things in that release, we introduced file sharing via URL and faster backups. Through something called auto-threading, we’ve increased the speed at which your data gets backed up. Our internal tests have us over 10x the speed of the competition. That’s how one Reddit user backed up almost one terabyte of data in fewer than 24 hours.

Not only are we committed to our Personal Backup users, but we’re also a leading destination for businesses as well. Our latest Backblaze for Business update gives businesses of any size all of the same great backup and security, while also adding an administrative console and tools through our Backblaze Groups feature.

Best of all our Backblaze Groups feature is available to every Backblaze user, so if you’re the “Head of I.T.” for your household and managing a few computers, you can manage your families backups with Groups as well.

How We Do It

The question often comes up, “How do you do it? How can you continue offering unlimited backup in an era where most everyone else has stopped?” The answer lies in our origins — because we didn’t have a lot of cash, we had to create a sustainable business. Among other things, we created our own Storage Pods, Storage Vaults, and software. Our purpose-built infrastructure is what gives us incredibly low cloud storage costs. That same storage architecture is the basis for B2 Cloud Storage, the most affordable object storage on the planet (B2 is ¼ of the price of the offerings from Amazon, Microsoft and Google). Backblaze B2’s APIs, CLIs, and integration partners also give users the flexibility of backing up Macs, PCs, Linux, and servers their own way, if they want to take control.

We think that kind of dedication, innovation, and frugality supports our claim to be a trustworthy caretaker of your data — videos, photos, business docs, and other precious memories.

Give Us a Try!

Give us a try with our free 15-day trial. We’d love to welcome you to your new backup home.

Have questions? Sound off in the comments below! We love hearing from current customers as well as those looking to come aboard.

The post Choosing a Backup Provider (An Intro to Backblaze) appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

From Data Lake to Data Warehouse: Enhancing Customer 360 with Amazon Redshift Spectrum

Post Syndicated from Dylan Tong original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/from-data-lake-to-data-warehouse-enhancing-customer-360-with-amazon-redshift-spectrum/

Achieving a 360o-view of your customer has become increasingly challenging as companies embrace omni-channel strategies, engaging customers across websites, mobile, call centers, social media, physical sites, and beyond. The promise of a web where online and physical worlds blend makes understanding your customers more challenging, but also more important. Businesses that are successful in this medium have a significant competitive advantage.

The big data challenge requires the management of data at high velocity and volume. Many customers have identified Amazon S3 as a great data lake solution that removes the complexities of managing a highly durable, fault tolerant data lake infrastructure at scale and economically.

AWS data services substantially lessen the heavy lifting of adopting technologies, allowing you to spend more time on what matters most—gaining a better understanding of customers to elevate your business. In this post, I show how a recent Amazon Redshift innovation, Redshift Spectrum, can enhance a customer 360 initiative.

Customer 360 solution

A successful customer 360 view benefits from using a variety of technologies to deliver different forms of insights. These could range from real-time analysis of streaming data from wearable devices and mobile interactions to historical analysis that requires interactive, on demand queries on billions of transactions. In some cases, insights can only be inferred through AI via deep learning. Finally, the value of your customer data and insights can’t be fully realized until it is operationalized at scale—readily accessible by fleets of applications. Companies are leveraging AWS for the breadth of services that cover these domains, to drive their data strategy.

A number of AWS customers stream data from various sources into a S3 data lake through Amazon Kinesis. They use Kinesis and technologies in the Hadoop ecosystem like Spark running on Amazon EMR to enrich this data. High-value data is loaded into an Amazon Redshift data warehouse, which allows users to analyze and interact with data through a choice of client tools. Redshift Spectrum expands on this analytics platform by enabling Amazon Redshift to blend and analyze data beyond the data warehouse and across a data lake.

The following diagram illustrates the workflow for such a solution.

This solution delivers value by:

  • Reducing complexity and time to value to deeper insights. For instance, an existing data model in Amazon Redshift may provide insights across dimensions such as customer, geography, time, and product on metrics from sales and financial systems. Down the road, you may gain access to streaming data sources like customer-care call logs and website activity that you want to blend in with the sales data on the same dimensions to understand how web and call center experiences maybe correlated with sales performance. Redshift Spectrum can join these dimensions in Amazon Redshift with data in S3 to allow you to quickly gain new insights, and avoid the slow and more expensive alternative of fully integrating these sources with your data warehouse.
  • Providing an additional avenue for optimizing costs and performance. In cases like call logs and clickstream data where volumes could be many TBs to PBs, storing the data exclusively in S3 yields significant cost savings. Interactive analysis on massive datasets may now be economically viable in cases where data was previously analyzed periodically through static reports generated by inexpensive batch processes. In some cases, you can improve the user experience while simultaneously lowering costs. Spectrum is powered by a large-scale infrastructure external to your Amazon Redshift cluster, and excels at scanning and aggregating large volumes of data. For instance, your analysts maybe performing data discovery on customer interactions across millions of consumers over years of data across various channels. On this large dataset, certain queries could be slow if you didn’t have a large Amazon Redshift cluster. Alternatively, you could use Redshift Spectrum to achieve a better user experience with a smaller cluster.

Proof of concept walkthrough

To make evaluation easier for you, I’ve conducted a Redshift Spectrum proof-of-concept (PoC) for the customer 360 use case. For those who want to replicate the PoC, the instructions, AWS CloudFormation templates, and public data sets are available in the GitHub repository.

The remainder of this post is a journey through the project, observing best practices in action, and learning how you can achieve business value. The walkthrough involves:

  • An analysis of performance data from the PoC environment involving queries that demonstrate blending and analysis of data across Amazon Redshift and S3. Observe that great results are achievable at scale.
  • Guidance by example on query tuning, design, and data preparation to illustrate the optimization process. This includes tuning a query that combines clickstream data in S3 with customer and time dimensions in Amazon Redshift, and aggregates ~1.9 B out of 3.7 B+ records in under 10 seconds with a small cluster!
  • Guidance and measurements to help assess deciding between two options: accessing and analyzing data exclusively in Amazon Redshift, or using Redshift Spectrum to access data left in S3.

Stream ingestion and enrichment

The focus of this post isn’t stream ingestion and enrichment on Kinesis and EMR, but be mindful of performance best practices on S3 to ensure good streaming and query performance:

  • Use random object keys: The data files provided for this project are prefixed with SHA-256 hashes to prevent hot partitions. This is important to ensure that optimal request rates to support PUT requests from the incoming stream in addition to certain queries from large Amazon Redshift clusters that could send a large number of parallel GET requests.
  • Micro-batch your data stream: S3 isn’t optimized for small random write workloads. Your datasets should be micro-batched into large files. For instance, the “parquet-1” dataset provided batches >7 million records per file. The optimal file size for Redshift Spectrum is usually in the 100 MB to 1 GB range.

If you have an edge case that may pose scalability challenges, AWS would love to hear about it. For further guidance, talk to your solutions architect.

Environment

The project consists of the following environment:

  • Amazon Redshift cluster: 4 X dc1.large
  • Data:
    • Time and customer dimension tables are stored on all Amazon Redshift nodes (ALL distribution style):
      • The data originates from the DWDATE and CUSTOMER tables in the Star Schema Benchmark
      • The customer table contains attributes for 3 million customers.
      • The time data is at the day-level granularity, and spans 7 years, from the start of 1992 to the end of 1998.
    • The clickstream data is stored in an S3 bucket, and serves as a fact table.
      • Various copies of this dataset in CSV and Parquet format have been provided, for reasons to be discussed later.
      • The data is a modified version of the uservisits dataset from AMPLab’s Big Data Benchmark, which was generated by Intel’s Hadoop benchmark tools.
      • Changes were minimal, so that existing test harnesses for this test can be adapted:
        • Increased the 751,754,869-row dataset 5X to 3,758,774,345 rows.
        • Added surrogate keys to support joins with customer and time dimensions. These keys were distributed evenly across the entire dataset to represents user visits from six customers over seven years.
        • Values for the visitDate column were replaced to align with the 7-year timeframe, and the added time surrogate key.

Queries across the data lake and data warehouse 

Imagine a scenario where a business analyst plans to analyze clickstream metrics like ad revenue over time and by customer, market segment and more. The example below is a query that achieves this effect: 

The query part highlighted in red retrieves clickstream data in S3, and joins the data with the time and customer dimension tables in Amazon Redshift through the part highlighted in blue. The query returns the total ad revenue for three customers over the last three months, along with info on their respective market segment.

Unfortunately, this query takes around three minutes to run, and doesn’t enable the interactive experience that you want. However, there’s a number of performance optimizations that you can implement to achieve the desired performance.

Performance analysis

Two key utilities provide visibility into Redshift Spectrum:

  • EXPLAIN
    Provides the query execution plan, which includes info around what processing is pushed down to Redshift Spectrum. Steps in the plan that include the prefix S3 are executed on Redshift Spectrum. For instance, the plan for the previous query has the step “S3 Seq Scan clickstream.uservisits_csv10”, indicating that Redshift Spectrum performs a scan on S3 as part of the query execution.
  • SVL_S3QUERY_SUMMARY
    Statistics for Redshift Spectrum queries are stored in this table. While the execution plan presents cost estimates, this table stores actual statistics for past query runs.

You can get the statistics of your last query by inspecting the SVL_S3QUERY_SUMMARY table with the condition (query = pg_last_query_id()). Inspecting the previous query reveals that the entire dataset of nearly 3.8 billion rows was scanned to retrieve less than 66.3 million rows. Improving scan selectivity in your query could yield substantial performance improvements.

Partitioning

Partitioning is a key means to improving scan efficiency. In your environment, the data and tables have already been organized, and configured to support partitions. For more information, see the PoC project setup instructions. The clickstream table was defined as:

CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE clickstream.uservisits_csv10
…
PARTITIONED BY(customer int4, visitYearMonth int4)

The entire 3.8 billion-row dataset is organized as a collection of large files where each file contains data exclusive to a particular customer and month in a year. This allows you to partition your data into logical subsets by customer and year/month. With partitions, the query engine can target a subset of files:

  • Only for specific customers
  • Only data for specific months
  • A combination of specific customers and year/months

You can use partitions in your queries. Instead of joining your customer data on the surrogate customer key (that is, c.c_custkey = uv.custKey), the partition key “customer” should be used instead:

SELECT c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, t.prettyMonthYear, SUM(uv.adRevenue)
…
ON c.c_custkey = uv.customer
…
ORDER BY c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, uv.yearMonthKey  ASC

This query should run approximately twice as fast as the previous query. If you look at the statistics for this query in SVL_S3QUERY_SUMMARY, you see that only half the dataset was scanned. This is expected because your query is on three out of six customers on an evenly distributed dataset. However, the scan is still inefficient, and you can benefit from using your year/month partition key as well:

SELECT c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, t.prettyMonthYear, SUM(uv.adRevenue)
…
ON c.c_custkey = uv.customer
…
ON uv.visitYearMonth = t.d_yearmonthnum
…
ORDER BY c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, uv.visitYearMonth ASC

All joins between the tables are now using partitions. Upon reviewing the statistics for this query, you should observe that Redshift Spectrum scans and returns the exact number of rows, 66,270,117. If you run this query a few times, you should see execution time in the range of 8 seconds, which is a 22.5X improvement on your original query!

Predicate pushdown and storage optimizations 

Previously, I mentioned that Redshift Spectrum performs processing through large-scale infrastructure external to your Amazon Redshift cluster. It is optimized for performing large scans and aggregations on S3. In fact, Redshift Spectrum may even out-perform a medium size Amazon Redshift cluster on these types of workloads with the proper optimizations. There are two important variables to consider for optimizing large scans and aggregations:

  • File size and count. As a general rule, use files 100 MB-1 GB in size, as Redshift Spectrum and S3 are optimized for reading this object size. However, the number of files operating on a query is directly correlated with the parallelism achievable by a query. There is an inverse relationship between file size and count: the bigger the files, the fewer files there are for the same dataset. Consequently, there is a trade-off between optimizing for object read performance, and the amount of parallelism achievable on a particular query. Large files are best for large scans as the query likely operates on sufficiently large number of files. For queries that are more selective and for which fewer files are operating, you may find that smaller files allow for more parallelism.
  • Data format. Redshift Spectrum supports various data formats. Columnar formats like Parquet can sometimes lead to substantial performance benefits by providing compression and more efficient I/O for certain workloads. Generally, format types like Parquet should be used for query workloads involving large scans, and high attribute selectivity. Again, there are trade-offs as formats like Parquet require more compute power to process than plaintext. For queries on smaller subsets of data, the I/O efficiency benefit of Parquet is diminished. At some point, Parquet may perform the same or slower than plaintext. Latency, compression rates, and the trade-off between user experience and cost should drive your decision.

To help illustrate how Redshift Spectrum performs on these large aggregation workloads, run a basic query that aggregates the entire ~3.7 billion record dataset on Redshift Spectrum, and compared that with running the query exclusively on Amazon Redshift:

SELECT uv.custKey, COUNT(uv.custKey)
FROM <your clickstream table> as uv
GROUP BY uv.custKey
ORDER BY uv.custKey ASC

For the Amazon Redshift test case, the clickstream data is loaded, and distributed evenly across all nodes (even distribution style) with optimal column compression encodings prescribed by the Amazon Redshift’s ANALYZE command.

The Redshift Spectrum test case uses a Parquet data format with each file containing all the data for a particular customer in a month. This results in files mostly in the range of 220-280 MB, and in effect, is the largest file size for this partitioning scheme. If you run tests with the other datasets provided, you see that this data format and size is optimal and out-performs others by ~60X. 

Performance differences will vary depending on the scenario. The important takeaway is to understand the testing strategy and the workload characteristics where Redshift Spectrum is likely to yield performance benefits. 

The following chart compares the query execution time for the two scenarios. The results indicate that you would have to pay for 12 X DC1.Large nodes to get performance comparable to using a small Amazon Redshift cluster that leverages Redshift Spectrum. 

Chart showing simple aggregation on ~3.7 billion records

So you’ve validated that Spectrum excels at performing large aggregations. Could you benefit by pushing more work down to Redshift Spectrum in your original query? It turns out that you can, by making the following modification:

The clickstream data is stored at a day-level granularity for each customer while your query rolls up the data to the month level per customer. In the earlier query that uses the day/month partition key, you optimized the query so that it only scans and retrieves the data required, but the day level data is still sent back to your Amazon Redshift cluster for joining and aggregation. The query shown here pushes aggregation work down to Redshift Spectrum as indicated by the query plan:

In this query, Redshift Spectrum aggregates the clickstream data to the month level before it is returned to the Amazon Redshift cluster and joined with the dimension tables. This query should complete in about 4 seconds, which is roughly twice as fast as only using the partition key. The speed increase is evident upon reviewing the SVL_S3QUERY_SUMMARY table:

  • Bytes scanned is 21.6X less because of the Parquet data format.
  • Only 90 records are returned back to the Amazon Redshift cluster as a result of the push-down, instead of ~66.2 million, leading to substantially less join overhead, and about 530 MB less data sent back to your cluster.
  • No adverse change in average parallelism.

Assessing the value of Amazon Redshift vs. Redshift Spectrum

At this point, you might be asking yourself, why would I ever not use Redshift Spectrum? Well, you still get additional value for your money by loading data into Amazon Redshift, and querying in Amazon Redshift vs. querying S3.

In fact, it turns out that the last version of our query runs even faster when executed exclusively in native Amazon Redshift, as shown in the following chart:

Chart comparing Amazon Redshift vs. Redshift Spectrum with pushdown aggregation over 3 months of data

As a general rule, queries that aren’t dominated by I/O and which involve multiple joins are better optimized in native Amazon Redshift. For instance, the performance difference between running the partition key query entirely in Amazon Redshift versus with Redshift Spectrum is twice as large as that that of the pushdown aggregation query, partly because the former case benefits more from better join performance.

Furthermore, the variability in latency in native Amazon Redshift is lower. For use cases where you have tight performance SLAs on queries, you may want to consider using Amazon Redshift exclusively to support those queries.

On the other hand, when you perform large scans, you could benefit from the best of both worlds: higher performance at lower cost. For instance, imagine that you wanted to enable your business analysts to interactively discover insights across a vast amount of historical data. In the example below, the pushdown aggregation query is modified to analyze seven years of data instead of three months:

SELECT c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, t.prettyMonthYear, uv.totalRevenue
…
WHERE customer <= 3 and visitYearMonth >= 199201
… 
FROM dwdate WHERE d_yearmonthnum >= 199201) as t
…
ORDER BY c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, uv.visitYearMonth ASC

This query requires scanning and aggregating nearly 1.9 billion records. As shown in the chart below, Redshift Spectrum substantially speeds up this query. A large Amazon Redshift cluster would have to be provisioned to support this use case. With the aid of Redshift Spectrum, you could use an existing small cluster, keep a single copy of your data in S3, and benefit from economical, durable storage while only paying for what you use via the pay per query pricing model.

Chart comparing Amazon Redshift vs. Redshift Spectrum with pushdown aggregation over 7 years of data

Summary

Redshift Spectrum lowers the time to value for deeper insights on customer data queries spanning the data lake and data warehouse. It can enable interactive analysis on datasets in cases that weren’t economically practical or technically feasible before.

There are cases where you can get the best of both worlds from Redshift Spectrum: higher performance at lower cost. However, there are still latency-sensitive use cases where you may want native Amazon Redshift performance. For more best practice tips, see the 10 Best Practices for Amazon Redshift post.

Please visit the Amazon Redshift Spectrum PoC Environment Github page. If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.

 


Additional Reading

Learn more about how Amazon Redshift Spectrum extends data warehousing out to exabytes – no loading required.


About the Author

Dylan Tong is an Enterprise Solutions Architect at AWS. He works with customers to help drive their success on the AWS platform through thought leadership and guidance on designing well architected solutions. He has spent most of his career building on his expertise in data management and analytics by working for leaders and innovators in the space.

 

 

On ISO standardization of blockchains

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/08/on-iso-standardization-of-blockchains.html

So ISO, the primary international standards organization, is seeking to standardize blockchain technologies. On the surface, this seems a reasonable idea, creating a common standard that everyone can interoperate with.

But it can be silly idea in practice. I mean, it should not be assumed that this is a good thing to do.

The value of official standards

You don’t need the official imprimatur of a government committee for something to be a “standard”. The Internet itself is a prime example of that.

In the 1980s, the ISO and the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) pursued competing standards for creating a world-wide “internet”. The IETF was an informal group of technologist that had essentially no official standing.

The ISO version of the Internet failed. Their process was to bring multiple stakeholders from business, government, and universities together in committees to debate competing interests. The result was something so horrible that it could never work in practice.

The IETF succeeded. It consisted of engineers just building things. Rather than officially “standardized”, these things were “described”, so that others knew enough to build their own version that interoperated. Once lots of different people built interoperating versions of something, then it became a “standard”.

In other words, the way the Internet came to be, standardization followed interoperability — it didn’t create interoperability.

In the end, the ISO gave up on their standards and adopted the IETF standards. The ISO brought no value to the development of Internet standards. Whether they ratified the Internet’s “TCP/IP” standard, ignored it, or condemned it, the Internet would exist today anyway, and a competing ISO-blessed internetwork would not.

The same question exists for blockchain technologies. Groups are off busy innovating quickly, creating their own standards. If the ISO blesses one, or creates its own, it’s unlikely to have any impact on interoperability.

Blockchain vs. chaining blocks

The excitement over blockchains is largely driven by people who don’t know the details, who don’t understand the difference between a blockchain like Bitcoin and the problem they are trying to solve.

Consider a record keeping system, especially public records. Storing them in a blockchain seems like a natural idea.

But in fact, it’s a terrible idea. A Bitcoin-style blockchain has a lot of features you don’t want, like “proof-of-work” signing. It is also missing necessary features, like bulk storage with redundancy (backups). Sure, Bitcoin has redundancy, but by brute force, storing the blockchain in thousands of places around the Internet. This is far from what a public records system would need, which would store a lot more data with far fewer backup copies (fewer than 10).

The only real overlap between Bitcoin and a public records system is a “signing chain”. But this is something that already existed before Bitcoin. It’s what Bitcoin blockchain was built on top of — it’s not the blockchain itself.

It’s like people discovering “cryptography” for the first time when they looked at Bitcoin, ignoring the thousand year history of crypto, and now every time they see a need for “crypto” they think “Bitcoin blockchain”.

Consensus and forking

The entire point of Bitcoin, the reason it was created, was as the antithesis to centralized standardization like ISO. Standardizing blockchains misses the entire point of their existence. The Bitcoin manifesto is that standardization comes from acclamation not proclamation, and that many different standards are preferable to a single one.

This is not just a theoretical idea but one built into Bitcoin’s blockchain technology. “Consensus” is achieved by the proof-of-work mechanism, so that those who do the most work are the ones that drive the consensus. When irreconcilable differences arise, the blockchain “forks”, with each side continuing on with their now non-interoperable blockchains. Such forks are not a sin, but part of the natural evolution.

We saw this with the recent fork of Bitcoin. There are now so many transactions that they exceed the size of blocks. One group chose a change to make transactions smaller. Another group chose a change to make block sizes larger.

It is this problem, of consensus, that is the innovation that Bitcoin created with blockchains, not the chain signing of public transaction records.

Ethereum

What “blockchain standardization” is going to mean in practice is not the blockchain itself, but trying to standardize the Ethereum version. What makes Ethereum different is the “smart contracts” programming language, which has financial institutions excited.

This is a bad idea because from a cybersecurity perspective, Ethereum’s programming language is flawed. Different bugs in “smart contracts” have led to multiple $100-million hacks, such as the infamous “DAO collapse”.

While it has interesting possibilities, we should be scared of standardizing Ethereum’s language before it works.

Conclusion

People who matter are too busy innovating, creating their own blockchain standards. There is little that the ISO can do to improve this. Their official imprimatur is not needed to foster innovation and interoperability — if they are consequential at anything, it’ll just be interfering.

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

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

A couple of months ago on the blog, I announced the AWS Chatbot Challenge in conjunction with Slack. The AWS Chatbot Challenge was an opportunity to build a unique chatbot that helped to solve a problem or that would add value for its prospective users. The mission was 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.

I know that you all have been anxiously waiting to hear announcements of who were the winners of the AWS Chatbot Challenge as much as I was. Well wait no longer, the winners of the AWS Chatbot Challenge have been decided.

May I have the Envelope Please? (The Trumpets sound)

The winners of the AWS Chatbot Challenge are:

  • First Place: BuildFax Counts by Joe Emison
  • Second Place: Hubsy by Andrew Riess, Andrew Puch, and John Wetzel
  • Third Place: PFMBot by Benny Leong and his team from MoneyLion.
  • Large Organization Winner: ADP Payroll Innovation Bot by Eric Liu, Jiaxing Yan, and Fan Yang

 

Diving into the Winning Chatbot Projects

Let’s take a walkthrough of the details for each of the winning projects to get a view of what made these chatbots distinctive, as well as, learn more about the technologies used to implement the chatbot solution.

 

BuildFax Counts by Joe Emison

The BuildFax Counts bot was created as a real solution for the BuildFax company to decrease the amount the time that sales and marketing teams can get answers on permits or properties with permits meet certain criteria.

BuildFax, a company co-founded by bot developer Joe Emison, has the only national database of building permits, which updates data from approximately half of the United States on a monthly basis. In order to accommodate the many requests that come in from the sales and marketing team regarding permit information, BuildFax has a technical sales support team that fulfills these requests sent to a ticketing system by manually writing SQL queries that run across the shards of the BuildFax databases. Since there are a large number of requests received by the internal sales support team and due to the manual nature of setting up the queries, it may take several days for getting the sales and marketing teams to receive an answer.

The BuildFax Counts chatbot solves this problem by taking the permit inquiry that would normally be sent into a ticket from the sales and marketing team, as input from Slack to the chatbot. Once the inquiry is submitted into Slack, a query executes and the inquiry results are returned immediately.

Joe built this solution by first creating a nightly export of the data in their BuildFax MySQL RDS database to CSV files that are stored in Amazon S3. From the exported CSV files, an Amazon Athena table was created in order to run quick and efficient queries on the data. He then used Amazon Lex to create a bot to handle the common questions and criteria that may be asked by the sales and marketing teams when seeking data from the BuildFax database by modeling the language used from the BuildFax ticketing system. He added several different sample utterances and slot types; both custom and Lex provided, in order to correctly parse every question and criteria combination that could be received from an inquiry.  Using Lambda, Joe created a Javascript Lambda function that receives information from the Lex intent and used it to build a SQL statement that runs against the aforementioned Athena database using the AWS SDK for JavaScript in Node.js library to return inquiry count result and SQL statement used.

The BuildFax Counts bot is used today for the BuildFax sales and marketing team to get back data on inquiries immediately that previously took up to a week to receive results.

Not only is BuildFax Counts bot our 1st place winner and wonderful solution, but its creator, Joe Emison, is a great guy.  Joe has opted to donate his prize; the $5,000 cash, the $2,500 in AWS Credits, and one re:Invent ticket to the Black Girls Code organization. I must say, you rock Joe for helping these kids get access and exposure to technology.

 

Hubsy by Andrew Riess, Andrew Puch, and John Wetzel

Hubsy bot was created to redefine and personalize the way users traditionally manage their HubSpot account. HubSpot is a SaaS system providing marketing, sales, and CRM software. Hubsy allows users of HubSpot to create engagements and log engagements with customers, provide sales teams with deals status, and retrieves client contact information quickly. Hubsy uses Amazon Lex’s conversational interface to execute commands from the HubSpot API so that users can gain insights, store and retrieve data, and manage tasks directly from Facebook, Slack, or Alexa.

In order to implement the Hubsy chatbot, Andrew and the team members used AWS Lambda to create a Lambda function with Node.js to parse the users request and call the HubSpot API, which will fulfill the initial request or return back to the user asking for more information. Terraform was used to automatically setup and update Lambda, CloudWatch logs, as well as, IAM profiles. Amazon Lex was used to build the conversational piece of the bot, which creates the utterances that a person on a sales team would likely say when seeking information from HubSpot. To integrate with Alexa, the Amazon Alexa skill builder was used to create an Alexa skill which was tested on an Echo Dot. Cloudwatch Logs are used to log the Lambda function information to CloudWatch in order to debug different parts of the Lex intents. In order to validate the code before the Terraform deployment, ESLint was additionally used to ensure the code was linted and proper development standards were followed.

 

PFMBot by Benny Leong and his team from MoneyLion

PFMBot, Personal Finance Management Bot,  is a bot to be used with the MoneyLion finance group which offers customers online financial products; loans, credit monitoring, and free credit score service to improve the financial health of their customers. Once a user signs up an account on the MoneyLion app or website, the user has the option to link their bank accounts with the MoneyLion APIs. Once the bank account is linked to the APIs, the user will be able to login to their MoneyLion account and start having a conversation with the PFMBot based on their bank account information.

The PFMBot UI has a web interface built with using Javascript integration. The chatbot was created using Amazon Lex to build utterances based on the possible inquiries about the user’s MoneyLion bank account. PFMBot uses the Lex built-in AMAZON slots and parsed and converted the values from the built-in slots to pass to AWS Lambda. The AWS Lambda functions interacting with Amazon Lex are Java-based Lambda functions which call the MoneyLion Java-based internal APIs running on Spring Boot. These APIs obtain account data and related bank account information from the MoneyLion MySQL Database.

 

ADP Payroll Innovation Bot by Eric Liu, Jiaxing Yan, and Fan Yang

ADP PI (Payroll Innovation) bot is designed to help employees of ADP customers easily review their own payroll details and compare different payroll data by just asking the bot for results. The ADP PI Bot additionally offers issue reporting functionality for employees to report payroll issues and aids HR managers in quickly receiving and organizing any reported payroll issues.

The ADP Payroll Innovation bot is an ecosystem for the ADP payroll consisting of two chatbots, which includes ADP PI Bot for external clients (employees and HR managers), and ADP PI DevOps Bot for internal ADP DevOps team.


The architecture for the ADP PI DevOps bot is different architecture from the ADP PI bot shown above as it is deployed internally to ADP. The ADP PI DevOps bot allows input from both Slack and Alexa. When input comes into Slack, Slack sends the request to Lex for it to process the utterance. Lex then calls the Lambda backend, which obtains ADP data sitting in the ADP VPC running within an Amazon VPC. When input comes in from Alexa, a Lambda function is called that also obtains data from the ADP VPC running on AWS.

The architecture for the ADP PI bot consists of users entering in requests and/or entering issues via Slack. When requests/issues are entered via Slack, the Slack APIs communicate via Amazon API Gateway to AWS Lambda. The Lambda function either writes data into one of the Amazon DynamoDB databases for recording issues and/or sending issues or it sends the request to Lex. When sending issues, DynamoDB integrates with Trello to keep HR Managers abreast of the escalated issues. Once the request data is sent from Lambda to Lex, Lex processes the utterance and calls another Lambda function that integrates with the ADP API and it calls ADP data from within the ADP VPC, which runs on Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC).

Python and Node.js were the chosen languages for the development of the bots.

The ADP PI bot ecosystem has the following functional groupings:

Employee Functionality

  • Summarize Payrolls
  • Compare Payrolls
  • Escalate Issues
  • Evolve PI Bot

HR Manager Functionality

  • Bot Management
  • Audit and Feedback

DevOps Functionality

  • Reduce call volume in service centers (ADP PI Bot).
  • Track issues and generate reports (ADP PI Bot).
  • Monitor jobs for various environment (ADP PI DevOps Bot)
  • View job dashboards (ADP PI DevOps Bot)
  • Query job details (ADP PI DevOps Bot)

 

Summary

Let’s all wish all the winners of the AWS Chatbot Challenge hearty congratulations on their excellent projects.

You can review more details on the winning projects, as well as, all of the submissions to the AWS Chatbot Challenge at: https://awschatbot2017.devpost.com/submissions. If you are curious on the details of Chatbot challenge contest including resources, rules, prizes, and judges, you can review the original challenge website here:  https://awschatbot2017.devpost.com/.

Hopefully, you are just as inspired as I am to build your own chatbot using Lex and Lambda. For more information, take a look at the Amazon Lex developer guide or the AWS AI blog on Building Better Bots Using Amazon Lex (Part 1)

Chat with you soon!

Tara

AWS Migration Hub – Plan & Track Enterprise Application Migration

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-migration-hub-plan-track-enterprise-application-migration/

About once a week, I speak to current and potential AWS customers in our Seattle Executive Briefing Center. While I generally focus on our innovation process, we sometimes discuss other topics, including application migration. When enterprises decide to migrate their application portfolios they want to do it in a structured, orderly fashion. These portfolios typically consist of hundreds of complex Windows and Linux applications, relational databases, and more. Customers find themselves eager yet uncertain as to how to proceed. After spending time working with these customers, we have learned that their challenges generally fall in to three major categories:

Discovery – They want to make sure that they have a deep and complete understanding of all of the moving parts that power each application.

Server & Database Migration – They need to transfer on-premises workloads and database tables to the cloud.

Tracking / Management – With large application portfolios and multiple migrations happening in parallel, they need to track and manage progress in an application-centric fashion.

Over the last couple of years we have launched a set of tools that address the first two challenges. The AWS Application Discovery Service automates the process of discovering and collecting system information, the AWS Server Migration Service takes care of moving workloads to the cloud, and the AWS Database Migration Service moves relational databases, NoSQL databases, and data warehouses with minimal downtime. Partners like Racemi and CloudEndure also offer migration tools of their own.

New AWS Migration Hub
Today we are bringing this collection of AWS and partner migration tools together in the AWS Migration Hub. The hub provides access to the tools that I mentioned above, guides you through the migration process, and tracks the status of each migration, all in accord with the methodology and tenets described in our Migration Acceleration Program (MAP).

Here’s the main screen. It outlines the migration process (discovery, migration, and tracking):

Clicking on Start discovery reveals the flow of the migration process:

It is also possible to skip the Discovery step and begin the migration immediately:

The Servers list is populated using data from an AWS migration service (Server Migration Service or Database Migration Service), partner tools, or using data collected by the AWS Application Discovery Service:

I can on Group as application to create my first application:

Once I identify some applications to migrate, I can track them in the Migrations section of the Hub:

The migration tools, if authorized, automatically send status updates and results back to Migration Hub, for display on the migration status page for the application. Here you can see that Racemi DynaCenter and CloudEndure Migration have played their parts in the migration:

I can track the status of my migrations by checking the Migration Hub Dashboard:

Migration Hub works with migration tools from AWS and our Migration Partners; see the list of integrated partner tools to learn more:

Available Now
AWS Migration Hub can manage migrations in any AWS Region that has the necessary migration tools available; the hub itself runs in the US West (Oregon) Region. There is no charge for the Hub; you pay only for the AWS services that you consume in the course of the migration.

If you are ready to begin your migration to the cloud and are in need of some assistance, please take advantage of the services offered by our Migration Acceleration Partners. These organizations have earned their migration competency by repeatedly demonstrating their ability to deliver large-scale migration.

Jeff;

‘US Should Include Fair Use and Safe Harbors in NAFTA Negotiations’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-should-include-fair-use-and-safe-harbors-in-nafta-negotiations-170806/

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago.

Over the past quarter century trade has changed drastically, especially online, so the United States is now planning to modernize the international deal.

Various copyright industry groups recognized this as an opportunity to demand tougher copyright enforcement. The MPAA and RIAA previously presented their demands, proposing various new limitations, including restrictions to the existing safe harbor protections against copyright infringement claims.

While no concrete plans have been made public yet, the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) recently gave an overview of its NAFTA renegotiation objectives. The language leaves plenty of wiggle room, but it’s clear that strong copyright enforcement takes a central role.

“Provide strong protection and enforcement for new and emerging technologies and new methods of transmitting and distributing products embodying intellectual property, including in a manner that facilitates legitimate digital trade,” one of the key points reads.

It is no surprise that copyright enforcement plays a central role in a possible extension of NAFTA. However, according to the Re:Create Coalition, which includes members such as the the Consumer Technology Association, the American Library Association and EFF, future proposals should be more balanced.

This means that if copyright enforcement is included, the US Government should also make sure that fair use, safe harbor protections and other copyright limitations and exceptions are added as well.

“The United States government should promote balance in copyright law to unlock the fullest potential of innovation and creativity globally, and to help U.S. innovators, creators, and small businesses reach foreign audiences.” Re:Create Executive Director Josh Lamel tells TorrentFreak.

“If a re-negotiated NAFTA includes a chapter on copyright, which seems likely, it must have mandatory language on copyright limitations and exceptions, including fair use and protections from intermediary liability.”

The USTR stressed that the NAFTA agreement should cover copyright protections similar to those found in US law. If that is the case, the coalition urges the US Government to ‘export’ fair use and other copyright limitations as well, to keep the balance.

Strong enforcement without balance could lead to all sorts of abuse, according to the Re:Create coalition. Just recently, a Colombian student faced a hefty prison sentence for sharing a research paper on Scribd, something which would be less likely with a proper fair use defense.

“Trade agreements should reflect the realities of the world we live in today. If strong intellectual property protections and enforcement measures are included in a trade agreement, so should exceptions and limitations to copyright law,” Lamel says.

“You can’t have one without the other. Furthermore, the copyright system cannot function effectively without fair use, and neither can the U.S. economy. 16 percent of the U.S. economy depends on fair use, and 18 million U.S. workers across the country are employed in fair use industries.”

In addition to fair use, Re:Create argues that DMCA-style safe harbor provisions are essential for Internet services to operate freely on the Internet. The RIAA wants to restrict safe harbor protection to limit copyright infringement and abuse, but the coalition believes that these proposals go too far.

If the RIAA had its way, many large Internet service providers wouldn’t be able to operate freely. This would result in a loss of American jobs, and innovation would be stifled, Re:Create notes.

“If you looked up excessive overreach in the dictionary, there would be a picture of the RIAA and MPAA submissions. Limiting safe harbors would be corporate cronyism at its worst,” Lamel tells TorrentFreak.

“The safe harbors are at the cornerstone of the Internet economy and consumer Internet experience. It would be an economic disaster. Recent economic analysis found that weakened safe harbors would result in the loss of 4.25 million American jobs and cost nearly half a trillion dollars over the next decade,” he adds.

While it’s still early days, it will be interesting to see what concrete proposals will come out of the negotiations and if fair use and other copyright protections are indeed going to be included. Re-Create promises to keep a close eye on the developments, and they’re certainly not alone.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

AWS Hot Startups – July 2017

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

Welcome back to another month of Hot Startups! Every day, startups are creating innovative and exciting businesses, applications, and products around the world. Each month we feature a handful of startups doing cool things using AWS.

July is all about learning! These companies are focused on providing access to tools and resources to expand knowledge and skills in different ways.

This month’s startups:

  • CodeHS – provides fun and accessible computer science curriculum for middle and high schools.
  • Insight – offers intensive fellowships to grow technical talent in Data Science.
  • iTranslate – enables people to read, write, and speak in over 90 languages, anywhere in the world.

CodeHS (San Francisco, CA)

In 2012, Stanford students Zach Galant and Jeremy Keeshin were computer science majors and TAs for introductory classes when they noticed a trend among their peers. Many wished that they had been exposed to computer science earlier in life. In their senior year, Zach and Jeremy launched CodeHS to give middle and high schools the opportunity to provide a fun, accessible computer science education to students everywhere. CodeHS is a web-based curriculum pathway complete with teacher resources, lesson plans, and professional development opportunities. The curriculum is supplemented with time-saving teacher tools to help with lesson planning, grading and reviewing student code, and managing their classroom.

CodeHS aspires to empower all students to meaningfully impact the future, and believe that coding is becoming a new foundational skill, along with reading and writing, that allows students to further explore any interest or area of study. At the time CodeHS was founded in 2012, only 10% of high schools in America offered a computer science course. Zach and Jeremy set out to change that by providing a solution that made it easy for schools and districts to get started. With CodeHS, thousands of teachers have been trained and are teaching hundreds of thousands of students all over the world. To use CodeHS, all that’s needed is the internet and a web browser. Students can write and run their code online, and teachers can immediately see what the students are working on and how they are doing.

Amazon EC2, Amazon RDS, Amazon ElastiCache, Amazon CloudFront, and Amazon S3 make it possible for CodeHS to scale their site to meet the needs of schools all over the world. CodeHS also relies on AWS to compile and run student code in the browser, which is extremely important when teaching server-side languages like Java that powers the AP course. Since usage rises and falls based on school schedules, Amazon CloudWatch and ELBs are used to easily scale up when students are running code so they have a seamless experience.

Be sure to visit the CodeHS website, and to learn more about bringing computer science to your school, click here!

Insight (Palo Alto, CA)

Insight was founded in 2012 to create a new educational model, optimize hiring for data teams, and facilitate successful career transitions among data professionals. Over the last 5 years, Insight has kept ahead of market trends and launched a series of professional training fellowships including Data Science, Health Data Science, Data Engineering, and Artificial Intelligence. Finding individuals with the right skill set, background, and culture fit is a challenge for big companies and startups alike, and Insight is focused on developing top talent through intensive 7-week fellowships. To date, Insight has over 1,000 alumni at over 350 companies including Amazon, Google, Netflix, Twitter, and The New York Times.

The Data Engineering team at Insight is well-versed in the current ecosystem of open source tools and technologies and provides mentorship on the best practices in this space. The technical teams are continually working with external groups in a variety of data advisory and mentorship capacities, but the majority of Insight partners participate in professional sessions. Companies visit the Insight office to speak with fellows in an informal setting and provide details on the type of work they are doing and how their teams are growing. These sessions have proved invaluable as fellows experience a significantly better interview process and companies yield engaged and enthusiastic new team members.

An important aspect of Insight’s fellowships is the opportunity for hands-on work, focusing on everything from building big-data pipelines to contributing novel features to industry-standard open source efforts. Insight provides free AWS resources for all fellows to use, in addition to mentorships from the Data Engineering team. Fellows regularly utilize Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon EMR, AWS Lambda, Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS, among other services. The experience with AWS gives fellows a solid skill set as they transition into the industry. Fellowships are currently being offered in Boston, New York, Seattle, and the Bay Area.

Check out the Insight blog for more information on trends in data infrastructure, artificial intelligence, and cutting-edge data products.

 

iTranslate (Austria)

When the App Store was introduced in 2008, the founders of iTranslate saw an opportunity to be part of something big. The group of four fully believed that the iPhone and apps were going to change the world, and together they brainstormed ideas for their own app. The combination of translation and mobile devices seemed a natural fit, and by 2009 iTranslate was born. iTranslate’s mission is to enable travelers, students, business professionals, employers, and medical staff to read, write, and speak in all languages, anywhere in the world. The app allows users to translate text, voice, websites and more into nearly 100 languages on various platforms. Today, iTranslate is the leading player for conversational translation and dictionary apps, with more than 60 million downloads and 6 million monthly active users.

iTranslate is breaking language barriers through disruptive technology and innovation, enabling people to translate in real time. The app has a variety of features designed to optimize productivity including offline translation, website and voice translation, and language auto detection. iTranslate also recently launched the world’s first ear translation device in collaboration with Bragi, a company focused on smart earphones. The Dash Pro allows people to communicate freely, while having a personal translator right in their ear.

iTranslate started using Amazon Polly soon after it was announced. CEO Alexander Marktl said, “As the leading translation and dictionary app, it is our mission at iTranslate to provide our users with the best possible tools to read, write, and speak in all languages across the globe. Amazon Polly provides us with the ability to efficiently produce and use high quality, natural sounding synthesized speech.” The stable and simple-to-use API, low latency, and free caching allow iTranslate to scale as they continue adding features to their app. Customers also enjoy the option to change speech rate and change between male and female voices. To assure quality, speed, and reliability of their products, iTranslate also uses Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, and Amazon Route 53.

To get started with iTranslate, visit their website here.

—–

Thanks for reading!

-Tina

Hightail — Empowering Creative Collaboration in the Cloud

Post Syndicated from Ana Visneski original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/hightail-empowering-creative-collaboration-in-the-cloud/

Hightail – formerly YouSendIt – streamlines how creative work is reviewed, improved, and approved by helping more than 50 million professionals around the world get great content in front of their audiences faster. Since its debut in 2004 as a file sharing company, Hightail shifted its strategic direction to focus on delivering value-added creative collaboTagsration services and boasts a strong lineup of name-brand customers.

In today’s guest post, Hightail’s SVP of Technology Shiva Paranandi tells the company’s migration story, moving petabytes of data from on-premises to the cloud. He highlights their cloud vendor evaluation process and reasons for going all-in on AWS.


Hightail started as a way to help people easily share and store large files, but has since evolved into a creative collaboration tool. We became a place where users could not only control and share their digital assets, but also assemble their creative teams, connect with clients, develop creative workflows, and manage projects from start to finish. We now power collaboration services for major brands such as Lionsgate and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. With a growing list of domestic and international clients, we required more internal focus on product development and serving the users. We found that running our own data centers consumed more time, money, and manpower than we were willing to devote.

We needed an approach that would help us iterate more rapidly to meet customer needs and dramatically improve our time to market. We wanted to reduce data center costs and have the flexibility to scale up quickly in any given region around the globe. Setting up a data center in a new location took so long that it was limiting the pace of growth that we could achieve. In addition, we were tired of buying ahead of our needs, which meant we had storage capacity that we did not even use. We required a storage solution that was both tiered and highly scalable to reduce costs by allowing us to keep infrequently used data in inactive storage while also allowing us to resurface it quickly at the customer’s request. Our main drivers were agility and innovation, and the cloud enables these in a significant way. Given that, we decided to adopt a cloud-first policy that would enable us to spend time and money on initiatives that differentiate our business, instead of putting resources into managing our storage and computing infrastructure.

Comparing AWS Against Cloud Competitors

To kick off the migration, we did our due diligence by evaluating a variety of cloud vendors, including AWS, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. AWS stuck out as the clear winner for us. At one point, we considered combining services from multiple cloud providers to meet our needs, but decided the best route was to use AWS exclusively. When we factored in training, synchronization, support, and system availability along with other migration and management elements, it was just not practical to take a multi-cloud approach. With the best cost savings and an unmatched ecosystem of partner solutions, we did not need anyone else and chose to go all-in on AWS.

By migrating to AWS, we were able to secure the lowest cost-per-gigabyte pricing, gain access to a rich ecosystem, quickly develop in-house talent, and maintain SOC II compliance. The ecosystem was particularly important to us and set AWS apart from its competitors with its expansive list of partners. In fact, all the vendors we depend on for services such as previewing images, encoding videos, and serving up presentations were already a part of the network so we were easily able to leverage our existing investments and expertise. If we went with a different provider, it would have meant moving away from a platform that was already working so well for which was not the desired outcome for us. Also, the amount of talent we were able to build up in house on AWS technologies was astounding. Training our internal team to work with AWS was a simple process using available tools such as AWS conferences, training materials, and support.

Migrating Petabytes of Data

Going with AWS made things easier. In many instances, it gave us better functionality than what we were using in house. We moved multiple petabytes of data from on-premises storage to AWS with ease. AWS gave us great speeds with Direct Connect, so we were able to push all the data in a little more than three months with no user impact. We employed AWS Key Management Service to keep our data secure, which eased our minds through the move. We performed extensive QA testing before flipping users over to ensure low customer impact, using methods such as checksums between our data center and the data that got pushed to AWS.

Our new platform on AWS has greatly improved our user experience. We have seen huge improvement in reliability, performance, and uptime—all critical in our line of business. We are now able to achieve upload and download speeds up to 17 times faster than our previous data centers, and uptime has increased by orders of magnitude. Also, the time it takes us to deploy services to a new region has been cut by more than 90%. It used to take us at least six months to get a new region online, and now we can get a region up and running in less than three weeks. On AWS, we can even replicate data at the bucket level across regions for disaster recovery purposes.

To cut costs, we were successfully able to divide our storage infrastructure into frequently and infrequently accessed data. Tiered storage in Amazon S3 has been a huge advantage, allowing us to optimize our storage costs so we have more to invest in product development. We can now move data from inactive to active tiers instantly to meet customer needs and eliminated the need to overprovision our storage infrastructure. It is refreshing to see services automatically scale up or down during peak load times, and know that we are only paying for what we need.

Overall, we achieved our key strategic goal of focusing more on development and less on infrastructure. Our migration felt seamless, and the progress we were able to share is a true testament to how easy it has been for us to run our workloads on AWS. We attribute part of our successful migration to the dedicated support provided by the AWS team. They were pretty awesome. We had a couple of their technicians available 24/7 via chat, which proved to be essential during this large-scale migration.

-Shiva Paranandi, SVP of Technology at Hightail

Learning More

Learn more about cost-effective tiered data storage with Amazon S3, or dive deeper into our AWS Partner Ecosystem to see which solutions could best serve the needs of your company.

How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-get-your-first-1000-customers/

PR for getting your first 1000 customers

If you launch your startup and no one knows, did you actually launch? As mentioned in my last post, our initial launch target was to get a 1,000 people to use our service. But how do you get even 1,000 people to sign up for your service when no one knows who you are?

There are a variety of methods to attract your first 1,000 customers, but launching with the press is my favorite. I’ll explain why and how to do it below.

Paths to Attract Your First 1,000 Customers

Social following: If you have a massive social following, those people are a reasonable target for what you’re offering. In particular if your relationship with them is one where they would buy something you recommend, this can be one of the easiest ways to get your initial customers. However, building this type of following is non-trivial and often is done over several years.

Press not only provides awareness and customers, but credibility and SEO benefits as well

Paid advertising: The advantage of paid ads is you have control over when they are presented and what they say. The primary disadvantage is they tend to be expensive, especially before you have your positioning, messaging, and funnel nailed.

Viral: There are certainly examples of companies that launched with a hugely viral video, blog post, or promotion. While fantastic if it happens, even if you do everything right, the likelihood of massive virality is miniscule and the conversion rate is often low.

Press: As I said, this is my favorite. You don’t need to pay a PR agency and can go from nothing to launched in a couple weeks. Press not only provides awareness and customers, but credibility and SEO benefits as well.

How to Pitch the Press

It’s easy: Have a compelling story, find the right journalists, make their life easy, pitch and follow-up. Of course, each one of those has some nuance, so let’s dig in.

Have a compelling story

How to Get Attention When you’ve been working for months on your startup, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae when talking to others. Stories that a journalist will write about need to be something their readers will care about. Knowing what story to tell and how to tell it is part science and part art. Here’s how you can get there:

The basics of your story

Ask yourself the following questions, and write down the answers:

  • What are we doing? What product service are we offering?
  • Why? What problem are we solving?
  • What is interesting or unique? Either about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, or for who we’re doing it.

“But my story isn’t that exciting”

Neither was announcing a data backup company, believe me. Look for angles that make it compelling. Here are some:

  • Did someone on your team do something major before? (build a successful company/product, create some innovation, market something we all know, etc.)
  • Do you have an interesting investor or board member?
  • Is there a personal story that drove you to start this company?
  • Are you starting it in a unique place?
  • Did you come upon the idea in a unique way?
  • Can you share something people want to know that’s not usually shared?
  • Are you partnered with a well-known company?
  • …is there something interesting/entertaining/odd/shocking/touching/etc.?

It doesn’t get much less exciting than, “We’re launching a company that will backup your data.” But there were still a lot of compelling stories:

  • Founded by serial entrepreneurs, bootstrapped a capital-intensive company, committed to each other for a year without salary.
  • Challenging the way that every backup company before was set up by not asking customers to pick and choose files to backup.
  • Designing our own storage system.
  • Etc. etc.

For the initial launch, we focused on “unlimited for $5/month” and statistics from a survey we ran with Harris Interactive that said that 94% of people did not regularly backup their data.

It’s an old adage that “Everyone has a story.” Regardless of what you’re doing, there is always something interesting to share. Dig for that.

The headline

Once you’ve captured what you think the interesting story is, you’ve got to boil it down. Yes, you need the elevator pitch, but this is shorter…it’s the headline pitch. Write the headline that you would love to see a journalist write.

Regardless of what you’re doing, there is always something interesting to share. Dig for that.

Now comes the part where you have to be really honest with yourself: if you weren’t involved, would you care?

The “Techmeme Test”

One way I try to ground myself is what I call the “Techmeme Test”. Techmeme lists the top tech articles. Read the headlines. Imagine the headline you wrote in the middle of the page. If you weren’t involved, would you click on it? Is it more or less compelling than the others. Much of tech news is dominated by the largest companies. If you want to get written about, your story should be more compelling. If not, go back above and explore your story some more.

Embargoes, exclusives and calls-to-action

Journalists write about news. Thus, if you’ve already announced something and are then pitching a journalist to cover it, unless you’re giving her something significant that hasn’t been said, it’s no longer news. As a result, there are ‘embargoes’ and ‘exclusives’.

Embargoes

    • : An embargo simply means that you are sharing news with a journalist that they need to keep private until a certain date and time.

If you’re Apple, this may be a formal and legal document. In our case, it’s as simple as saying, “Please keep embargoed until 4/13/17 at 8am California time.” in the pitch. Some sites explicitly will not keep embargoes; for example The Information will only break news. If you want to launch something later, do not share information with journalists at these sites. If you are only working with a single journalist for a story, and your announcement time is flexible, you can jointly work out a date and time to announce. However, if you have a fixed launch time or are working with a few journalists, embargoes are key.

Exclusives: An exclusive means you’re giving something specifically to that journalist. Most journalists love an exclusive as it means readers have to come to them for the story. One option is to give a journalist an exclusive on the entire story. If it is your dream journalist, this may make sense. Another option, however, is to give exclusivity on certain pieces. For example, for your launch you could give an exclusive on funding detail & a VC interview to a more finance-focused journalist and insight into the tech & a CTO interview to a more tech-focused journalist.

Call-to-Action: With our launch we gave TechCrunch, Ars Technica, and SimplyHelp URLs that gave the first few hundred of their readers access to the private beta. Once those first few hundred users from each site downloaded, the beta would be turned off.

Thus, we used a combination of embargoes, exclusives, and a call-to-action during our initial launch to be able to brief journalists on the news before it went live, give them something they could announce as exclusive, and provide a time-sensitive call-to-action to the readers so that they would actually sign up and not just read and go away.

How to Find the Most Authoritative Sites / Authors

“If a press release is published and no one sees it, was it published?” Perhaps the time existed when sending a press release out over the wire meant journalists would read it and write about it. That time has long been forgotten. Over 1,000 unread press releases are published every day. If you want your compelling story to be covered, you need to find the handful of journalists that will care.

Determine the publications

Find the publications that cover the type of story you want to share. If you’re in tech, Techmeme has a leaderboard of publications ranked by leadership and presence. This list will tell you which publications are likely to have influence. Visit the sites and see if your type of story appears on their site. But, once you’ve determined the publication do NOT send a pitch their “[email protected]” or “[email protected]” email addresses. In all the times I’ve done that, I have never had a single response. Those email addresses are likely on every PR, press release, and spam list and unlikely to get read. Instead…

Determine the journalists

Once you’ve determined which publications cover your area, check which journalists are doing the writing. Skim the articles and search for keywords and competitor names.

Over 1,000 unread press releases are published every day.

Identify one primary journalist at the publication that you would love to have cover you, and secondary ones if there are a few good options. If you’re not sure which one should be the primary, consider a few tests:

  • Do they truly seem to care about the space?
  • Do they write interesting/compelling stories that ‘get it’?
  • Do they appear on the Techmeme leaderboard?
  • Do their articles get liked/tweeted/shared and commented on?
  • Do they have a significant social presence?

Leveraging Google

Google author search by date

In addition to Techmeme or if you aren’t in the tech space Google will become a must have tool for finding the right journalists to pitch. Below the search box you will find a number of tabs. Click on Tools and change the Any time setting to Custom range. I like to use the past six months to ensure I find authors that are actively writing about my market. I start with the All results. This will return a combination of product sites and articles depending upon your search term.

Scan for articles and click on the link to see if the article is on topic. If it is find the author’s name. Often if you click on the author name it will take you to a bio page that includes their Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook profile. Many times you will find their email address in the bio. You should collect all the information and add it to your outreach spreadsheet. Click here to get a copy. It’s always a good idea to comment on the article to start building awareness of your name. Another good idea is to Tweet or Like the article.

Next click on the News tab and set the same search parameters. You will get a different set of results. Repeat the same steps. Between the two searches you will have a list of authors that actively write for the websites that Google considers the most authoritative on your market.

How to find the most socially shared authors

Buzzsumo search for most shared by date

Your next step is to find the writers whose articles get shared the most socially. Go to Buzzsumo and click on the Most Shared tab. Enter search terms for your market as well as competitor names. Again I like to use the past 6 months as the time range. You will get a list of articles that have been shared the most across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. In addition to finding the most shared articles and their authors you can also see some of the Twitter users that shared the article. Many of those Twitter users are big influencers in your market so it’s smart to start following and interacting with them as well as the authors.

How to Find Author Email Addresses

Some journalists publish their contact info right on the stories. For those that don’t, a bit of googling will often get you the email. For example, TechCrunch wrote a story a few years ago where they published all of their email addresses, which was in response to this new service that charges a small fee to provide journalist email addresses. Sometimes visiting their twitter pages will link to a personal site, upon which they will share an email address.

Of course all is not lost if you don’t find an email in the bio. There are two good services for finding emails, https://app.voilanorbert.com/ and https://hunter.io/. For Voila Norbert enter the author name and the website you found their article on. The majority of the time you search for an author on a major publication Norbert will return an accurate email address. If it doesn’t try Hunter.io.

On Hunter.io enter the domain name and click on Personal Only. Then scroll through the results to find the author’s email. I’ve found Norbert to be more accurate overall but between the two you will find most major author’s email addresses.

Email, by the way, is not necessarily the best way to engage a journalist. Many are avid Twitter users. Follow them and engage – that means read/retweet/favorite their tweets; reply to their questions, and generally be helpful BEFORE you pitch them. Later when you email them, you won’t be just a random email address.

Don’t spam

Now that you have all these email addresses (possibly thousands if you purchased a list) – do NOT spam. It is incredibly tempting to think “I could try to figure out which of these folks would be interested, but if I just email all of them, I’ll save myself time and be more likely to get some of them to respond.” Don’t do it.

Follow them and engage – that means read/retweet/favorite their tweets; reply to their questions, and generally be helpful BEFORE you pitch them.

First, you’ll want to tailor your pitch to the individual. Second, it’s a small world and you’ll be known as someone who spams – reputation is golden. Also, don’t call journalists. Unless you know them or they’ve said they’re open to calls, you’re most likely to just annoy them.

Build a relationship

Build Trust with reporters Play the long game. You may be focusing just on the launch and hoping to get this one story covered, but if you don’t quickly flame-out, you will have many more opportunities to tell interesting stories that you’ll want the press to cover. Be honest and don’t exaggerate.
When you have 500 users it’s tempting to say, “We’ve got thousands!” Don’t. The good journalists will see through it and it’ll likely come back to bite you later. If you don’t know something, say “I don’t know but let me find out for you.” Most journalists want to write interesting stories that their readers will appreciate. Help them do that. Build deeper relationships with 5 – 10 journalists, rather than spamming thousands.

Stay organized

It doesn’t need to be complicated, but keep a spreadsheet that includes the name, publication, and contact info of the journalists you care about. Then, use it to keep track of who you’ve pitched, who’s responded, whether you’ve sent them the materials they need, and whether they intend to write/have written.

Make their life easy

Journalists have a million PR people emailing them, are actively engaging with readers on Twitter and in the comments, are tracking their metrics, are working their sources…and all the while needing to publish new articles. They’re busy. Make their life easy and they’re more likely to engage with yours.

Get to know them

Before sending them a pitch, know what they’ve written in the space. If you tell them how your story relates to ones they’ve written, it’ll help them put the story in context, and enable them to possibly link back to a story they wrote before.

Prepare your materials

Journalists will need somewhere to get more info (prepare a fact sheet), a URL to link to, and at least one image (ideally a few to choose from.) A fact sheet gives bite-sized snippets of information they may need about your startup or product: what it is, how big the market is, what’s the pricing, who’s on the team, etc. The URL is where their reader will get the product or more information from you. It doesn’t have to be live when you’re pitching, but you should be able to tell what the URL will be. The images are ones that they could embed in the article: a product screenshot, a CEO or team photo, an infographic. Scan the types of images included in their articles. Don’t send any of these in your pitch, but have them ready. Studies, stats, customer/partner/investor quotes are also good to have.

Pitch

A pitch has to be short and compelling.

Subject Line

Think back to the headline you want. Is it really compelling? Can you shorten it to a subject line? Include what’s happening and when. For Mike Arrington at Techcrunch, our first subject line was “Startup doing an ‘online time machine’”. Later I would include, “launching June 6th”.

For John Timmer at ArsTechnica, it was “Demographics data re: your 4/17 article”. Why? Because he wrote an article titled “WiFi popular with the young people; backups, not so much”. Since we had run a demographics survey on backups, I figured as a science editor he’d be interested in this additional data.

Body

A few key things about the body of the email. It should be short and to the point, no more than a few sentences. Here was my actual, original pitch email to John:

Hey John,

We’re launching Backblaze next week which provides a Time Machine-online type of service. As part of doing some research I read your article about backups not being popular with young people and that you had wished Accenture would have given you demographics. In prep for our invite-only launch I sponsored Harris Interactive to get demographic data on who’s doing backups and if all goes well, I should have that data on Friday.

Next week starts Backup Awareness Month (and yes, probably Clean Your House Month and Brush Your Teeth Month)…but nonetheless…good time to remind readers to backup with a bit of data?

Would you be interested in seeing/talking about the data when I get it?

Would you be interested in getting a sneak peak at Backblaze? (I could give you some invite codes for your readers as well.)

Gleb Budman        

CEO and Co-Founder

Backblaze, Inc.

Automatic, Secure, High-Performance Online Backup

Cell: XXX-XXX-XXXX

The Good: It said what we’re doing, why this relates to him and his readers, provides him information he had asked for in an article, ties to something timely, is clearly tailored for him, is pitched by the CEO and Co-Founder, and provides my cell.

The Bad: It’s too long.

I got better later. Here’s an example:

Subject: Does temperature affect hard drive life?

Hi Peter, there has been much debate about whether temperature affects how long a hard drive lasts. Following up on the Backblaze analyses of how long do drives last & which drives last the longest (that you wrote about) we’ve now analyzed the impact of heat on the nearly 40,000 hard drives we have and found that…

We’re going to publish the results this Monday, 5/12 at 5am California-time. Want a sneak peak of the analysis?

Timing

A common question is “When should I launch?” What day, what time? I prefer to launch on Tuesday at 8am California-time. Launching earlier in the week gives breathing room for the news to live longer. While your launch may be a single article posted and that’s that, if it ends up a larger success, earlier in the week allows other journalists (including ones who are in other countries) to build on the story. Monday announcements can be tough because the journalists generally need to have their stories finished by Friday, and while ideally everything is buttoned up beforehand, startups sometimes use the weekend as overflow before a launch.

The 8am California-time is because it allows articles to be published at the beginning of the day West Coast and around lunch-time East Coast. Later and you risk it being past publishing time for the day. We used to launch at 5am in order to be morning for the East Coast, but it did not seem to have a significant benefit in coverage or impact, but did mean that the entire internal team needed to be up at 3am or 4am. Sometimes that’s critical, but I prefer to not burn the team out when it’s not.

Finally, try to stay clear of holidays, major announcements and large conferences. If Apple is coming out with their next iPhone, many of the tech journalists will be busy at least a couple days prior and possibly a week after. Not always obvious, but if you can, find times that are otherwise going to be slow for news.

Follow-up

There is a fine line between persistence and annoyance. I once had a journalist write me after we had an announcement that was covered by the press, “Why didn’t you let me know?! I would have written about that!” I had sent him three emails about the upcoming announcement to which he never responded.

My general rule is 3 emails.

Ugh. However, my takeaway from this isn’t that I should send 10 emails to every journalist. It’s that sometimes these things happen.

My general rule is 3 emails. If I’ve identified a specific journalist that I think would be interested and have a pitch crafted for her, I’ll send her the email ideally 2 weeks prior to the announcement. I’ll follow-up a week later, and one more time 2 days prior. If she ever says, “I’m not interested in this topic,” I note it and don’t email her on that topic again.

If a journalist wrote, I read the article and engage in the comments (or someone on our team, such as our social guy, @YevP does). We’ll often promote the story through our social channels and email our employees who may choose to share the story as well. This helps us, but also helps the journalist get their story broader reach. Again, the goal is to build a relationship with the journalists your space. If there’s something relevant to your customers that the journalist wrote, you’re providing a service to your customers AND helping the journalist get the word out about the article.

At times the stories also end up shared on sites such as Hacker News, Reddit, Slashdot, or become active conversations on Twitter. Again, we try to engage there and respond to questions (when we do, we are always clear that we’re from Backblaze.)

And finally, I’ll often send a short thank you to the journalist.

Getting Your First 1,000 Customers With Press

As I mentioned at the beginning, there is more than one way to get your first 1,000 customers. My favorite is working with the press to share your story. If you figure out your compelling story, find the right journalists, make their life easy, pitch and follow-up, you stand a high likelyhood of getting coverage and customers. Better yet, that coverage will provide credibility for your company, and if done right, will establish you as a resource for the press for the future.

Like any muscle, this process takes working out. The first time may feel a bit daunting, but just take the steps one at a time. As you do this a few times, the process will be easier and you’ll know who to reach out and quickly determine what stories will be compelling.

The post How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Village Roadshow Invests $1.5m in Anti-Piracy Technology Company

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/village-roadshow-invests-1-5m-in-anti-piracy-technology-company-170717/

Aussie entertainment giant Village Roadshow is front-and-center of Australia’s fight against Intenet piracy.

Co-Executive Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer Graham Burke can often be found bemoaning rampant piracy Down Under, but today it’s his equal at Village Roadshow making the headlines.

Robert G Kirby’s presence at Village Roadshow dates back to the 1980s, but now both he and the company are making a significant outside investment in patented streaming technology. It aims to help in the fight against piracy while offering benefits in other areas of innovation.

The deal centers around the Linius Video Virtualisation Engine, an intriguing system patented by Australia-based Linius Technologies that allows the content of a video stream to be heavily modified live and on-the-fly, between its source and destination.

Linius explains that in the current marketplace, video files are static and not so different from an “old can of film”. People who want to watch online content press play on their devices and a message is sent to the datacenter holding the video. It’s then streamed to the user as-is and very little can be done with it on the way.

With its system, Linius says it places a “ghost” file on the user’s device which calls the data and recompiles it on the fly on the device itself. Instead of being a complete file at all times during transit, it only becomes a video when it’s on the device.

This means that the data is “manageable and malleable,” making it possible to add, delete and splice parts to make custom content, even going as far as “inserting new business rules” and other tech innovations, including payment gateways and security features.

One of the obvious applications is granting broadcasters the ability to personalize advertising on a per-user basis, but Linius says there is also the potential to enhance search engine monetization.

The attractive part for Village Roadshow, however, appears to center around the claim that since the physical video file never appears on the device, it cannot be saved, transferred or broadcast, only watched by the person who purchased the rights to the virtual video.

The company offers few further details publicly, but Village Roadshow is clearly keen to invest, since “there’s no file to steal.”

This morning, Linius announced a $1 million private placement of ordinary shares to Village Roadshow Ltd, accompanied by a $500,000 private placement to Kirby family interests.

“We have followed the Linius story closely and are delighted to back the business with direct investment. We can see many applications for the technology across the video industry,” Robert Kirby said in a statement.

“Village Roadshow has long been a leading voice in tackling global piracy. We are particularly interested in the anti-piracy solutions that Linius is developing and are actively working together with Linius to introduce its technology to industry leaders in the hope of reducing global piracy.”

In May, Linius announced a collaboration with IBM to promote the Video Virtualisation Engine, including building onto the IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform, to IBM’s network of corporate clients.

“I feel Linius could be a game changer in the world of video, from personalized advertising to search and security,” said Anthone Withers, Head of Software as a Service, IBM.

“We’re now actively working with Linius to identify and market the technology to target customers.”

Linius Overview from Linius Technologies on Vimeo.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

DevOps Practices- Two New Webinars with Puppet and New Relic

Post Syndicated from Ana Visneski original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/devops-practices-two-new-webinars-with-puppet-and-new-relic/

This month we are hosting two joint AWS-Partner webinars about how executing DevOps practices on AWS can automate configuration management and leave time for innovation. Many organizations adopt DevOps practices to manage their cloud and on-premises environments for greater scalability, speed, and reliability and these webinars give you a chance to hear directly from the partners and customers on how they did it.

Puppet

Puppet helped ServiceChannel automate their cloud configuration management to take advantage of the scalability of AWS, achieve greater flexibility, and improve their customers’ ability to connect and collaborate more frequently.

Webinar Topic: How ServiceChannel Automated Their AWS Environment with Puppet
Customer Presenter: Brian Engler, CIO, ServiceChannel
AWS Presenter: Kevin Cochran, Partner Solutions Architect
Partner Presenter: Chris Barker, Principal Solutions Engineer, Puppet
Time: July 20th, 2017 10am – 11am PDT | 1pm – 2pm EDT

Register

New Relic

New Relic helped MLBAM utilize the scalability of AWS and the visibility provided by New Relic to create the “gold standard” for digital streaming video infrastructure.

Webinar Topic: MLB Advanced Media: Delivering a Digital Experience to 25 Million Fans with New Relic and AWS
Customer Presenter: Christian Villoslada, VP of Software Engineering, MLBAM & Brandon San Giovanni, Senior Operations Manager, Core Media Operations, MLBAM
AWS Presenter:
Kevin Cochran, Partner Solutions Architect
Partner Presenter: Lee Atchison, Senior Director of Strategic Architecture, New Relic
Time: July 25th, 2017 10am – 11am PDT | 1pm – 2pm EDT

Register

Raspberry Pi Certified Educators shine at ISTE 2017

Post Syndicated from Andrew Collins original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/certified-educators-iste-2017/

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the 2017 ISTE Conference & Expo, which saw over 20,000 educators convene in San Antonio earlier this summer. As a new Raspberry Pi Foundation team member, I was thrilled to meet the many Raspberry Pi Certified Educators (RCEs) in attendance. They came from across the country to share their knowledge, skills, and advice with fellow educators interested in technology and digital making.

This is the only GIF. Honest.

Meet the RCEs

Out of the dozens of RCEs who attended, here are three awesome members of our community and their ISTE 2017 stories:

Nicholas Provenzano, Makerspace Director at University Liggett School and the original nerdy teacher, shared his ideas for designing innovative STEAM and maker projects. He also knocked our socks off by building his own digital badge using a Raspberry Pi Zero to stream tweets from the conference.

Andrew Collins on Twitter

What’s up w/ @Raspberry_Pi & digital making? Serious knowledge dropping at #ISTE17 #picademy

Amanda Haughs, TOSA Digital Innovation Coach in Campbell Union School District and digital learning champion, shared her ideas for engaging elementary school learners in technology and digital making. She also went next level with her ISTE swag, creating a wearable Raspberry Pi tote bag combining sewing and circuitry.

Amanda Haughs on Twitter

New post: “Pi Tote– a sewing and circuitry project w/the @Raspberry_Pi Zero W” https://t.co/Fb1IFZMH1n #picademy #Maker #ISTE17 #PiZeroW

Rafranz Davis, Executive Director of Professional and Digital Learning for Lufkin ISD and edtech leader extraordinaire, shared her vision for making innovation and digital learning more equitable and accessible for all. She also received the ISTE 2017 Award for Outstanding Leadership in recognition of her efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion for learners across learning environments.

EdSurge on Twitter

At #iste17, @rafranzdavis speaks about the privilege of access. How do we make innovation less privileged? #edtechc… https://t.co/6foMzgfE6f

Rafranz, Nicholas, and Amanda are all members of our original Picademy cohorts in the United States. Since summer 2016, more than 300 educators have attended US Picademy events and joined the RCE community. Be on the lookout later this year for our 2018 season events and sign up here for updates.

The Foundation at ISTE 2017

Oh, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation team was also at ISTE 2017 and we’re not too shabby either : ). We held a Raspberry Jam, which saw some fantastic projects from Raspberry Pi Certified Educators — the Raspberry Pi Preserve Jar from Heidi Baynes, Scratch student projects from Bradley Quentin and Kimberly Boyce, and Sense HAT activities with Efren Rodriguez.

But that’s not all we got up to! You can learn more about our team’s presentations — including on how to send a Raspberry Pi to near space — on our ISTE conference page here.

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

Our #ISTE17 crew had a PACKED day in San Antonio. If you didn’t catch them today, see where they’ll be: https://t.co/Rt0ec7PF7S

Join the fold

Inspired by all this education goodness? You can become a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator as well! All you need to do is attend one of our free two-day Picademy courses held across the US and UK. Join this amazing community of more than 1,000 teachers, librarians, and volunteers, and help more people learn about digital making.

If you’re interested in what our RCEs do at Picademy, check out our free online courses. These are available to anyone, and you can use them to learn about teaching coding and physical computing from the comfort of your home.

The post Raspberry Pi Certified Educators shine at ISTE 2017 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Hardcore UK Pirates Dwindle But Illegal Streaming Poses New Threat

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hardcore-uk-pirates-dwindle-but-illegal-streaming-poses-new-threat-170707/

For as many years as ‘pirate’ services have been online it has been clear that licensed services need to aggressively compete to stay in the game.

Both the music and movie industries were initially slow to get off the mark but in recent years the position has changed. Licensed services such as Spotify and Netflix are now household names and doing well, even among people who have traditionally consumed illicit content.

This continuing trend was highlighted again this morning in a press release by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. In a fairly upbeat tone, the IPO notes that innovative streaming models offered by both Netflix and Spotify are helping to keep online infringement stable in the UK.

“The Online Copyright Infringement (OCI) Tracker, commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), has revealed that 15 per cent of UK internet users, approximately 7 million people, either stream or download material that infringes copyright,” the IPO reports.

The full tracking report, which is now on its 7th wave, is yet to be released but the government has teased a few interesting stats. While the 7 million infringer number is mostly unchanged from last year, the mix of hardcore (only use infringing sources) and casual infringers (also use legal sources) has changed.

“Consumers accessing exclusively free content is at an all-time low,” the IPO reveals, noting that legitimate streaming is also on the up, with Spotify increasing its userbase by 7% since 2016.

But despite the positive signs, the government says that there are concerns surrounding illicit streaming, both of music and video content. Unsurprisingly, ‘pirate’ set-top boxes get a prominent mention and are labeled a threat to positive trends.

“Illicitly adapted set top boxes, which allow users to illegally stream premium TV content such as blockbuster movies, threaten to undermine recent progress. 13 per cent of online infringers are using streaming boxes that can be easily adapted to stream illicit content,” the IPO says.

Again, since the report hasn’t yet been published, there are currently no additional details to be examined. However, the “boxes that can be easily adapted” comment could easily reference Amazon Firesticks, for example, that are currently being used for entirely legitimate means.

The IPO notes that an IPTV consultation is underway which may provide guidance on how the devices can be dealt with in the future. A government response is due to be published later in the summer.

Also heavily on the radar is a fairly steep reported increase in stream-ripping, which is the unlicensed downloading of music from streaming sources so that it can be kept on a user’s hard drive or device.

A separate report, commissioned by the IPO and PRS for Music, reveals that 15% of Internet users have stream-ripped in some way and the use of ripping services is on the up.

“The use of stream-ripping websites increased by 141.3% between 2014 and 2016,” the IPO notes.

“In a survey of over 9000 people, 57% of UK adults claimed to be aware of stream-ripping services. Those who claimed to have used a stream-ripping service were significantly more likely to be male and between the ages of 16 to 34 years.”

PRS goes into a little more detail, claiming that stream-ripping is now “the most prevalent and fastest growing form of music piracy in the UK.” The music licensing outfit claims that almost 70% of music-specific infringement is accounted for by stream-ripping.

The survey, carried out by INCOPRO and Kantar Media, looked at 80 stream-ripping services, which included apps, websites, browser plug-ins and other stand-alone software. Each supplied content from a range of sources including SoundCloud, Spotify and Deezer, but YouTube was found to be the most popular source, accounting for 75 of the 80 services.

There are several reported motivations for users to stream-rip but interestingly the number one reason involves what some people consider to be ‘honest’ piracy. A total of 31% of stream-rippers said that since they already own the music, and only use ripping services to obtain it in another format.

Just over a quarter (26%) said they wanted to listen to music while not connected to the Internet while 25% said that a permanent copy helps them while on the move. Around one in five people who stream-rip say that music is either unaffordable or overpriced.

“We hope that this research will provide the basis for a renewed and re-focused commitment to tackling online copyright infringement,” says Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive, PRS for Music.

“The long term health of the UK’s cultural and creative sectors is in everyone’s best interests, including those of the digital service providers, and a co-ordinated industry and government approach to tackling stream ripping is essential.”

Ros Lynch, Copyright and IP Enforcement Director at the IPO, took the opportunity to praise the widespread use of legitimate platforms. However, he also noted that innovation also continues in piracy circles, with stream-ripping a prime example.

“It’s great that legal streaming sites continue to be a hugely popular choice for consumers. The success and popularity of these platforms show the importance of evolution and innovation in the entertainment industry,” Lynch said.

“Ironically it is innovation that also benefits those looking to undermine IP rights and benefit financially from copyright infringement. There has never been more choice or flexibility for consumers of TV and music, however illicit streaming devices and stream-ripping are threatening this progress.”

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

200 ‘Pirate’ Media Player Sellers Shut Down After EU Court Ruling

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/200-pirate-media-player-sellers-shut-down-after-eu-court-ruling-170630/

The huge increase in popularity of piracy-configured set-top boxes has been nothing short of amazing over the past 18 months.

According to numerous reports, their use has become somewhat of an epidemic in Europe, prompting concern from anti-piracy organizations across the continent.

One group at the forefront is Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, who took a case against a seller of ‘pirate’ boxes all the way to the European Court of Justice – and won.

Handed down in April, the decision concluded that selling devices pre-configured for piracy (such as those loaded with Kodi and third-party addons) is illegal under EU law.

While news of the decision was never likely to reach all sellers of ‘pirate’ boxes, those under the impression that sales occupied some kind of gray area were quickly corrected. That resulted in some sellers exiting the market and others changing the way they operate, such as selling boxes blank and expecting users to configure them themselves.

Due to the locality of the original case, sellers in the Netherlands were always likely to feel the impact of the ECJ ruling most initially, particularly with BREIN breathing down their collective necks. That has just been effectively confirmed by the anti-piracy group, with the news that around 200 ‘pirate’ media player sellers have ceased trading since the decision.

“This is a mixture of individuals and companies,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak.

Kuik says that the sales were taking place via dedicated websites, online stores such as Amazon and eBay, plus social platforms including Facebook.

In an indication of how much in demand the devices are, the BREIN chief says that most of the sellers sold nothing else but ‘pirate’ boxes, to sustain a business or bring in some extra cash for the entrepreneurial individual.

Kuik says that 150 out of the 200 entities were contacted directly by BREIN, who advised them to stop what they’re doing to avoid things getting out of hand.

“Typically we send an explanatory letter with a cease and desist undertaking. Everyone gets the opportunity to settle. Most take it,” Kuik says.

Of course, others choose not to comply with BREIN’s demands, so for them, things have the potential to get more expensive and complicated, given the right conditions.

“We have now entered a phase in which willful infringement is assumed and this means no more warnings. If no settlement is reached the case will go to court. We have a couple of court cases under preparation,” Kuik explains.

This could mean a contested court case, which following the ECJ ruling is likely to end badly for anyone selling boxes filled with pirate addons. That being said, settling with BREIN can be expensive too.

“Providers who settle with BREIN pay up to 10,000 euros. Those who continue can count on a multiple of that. There’s a raw deal for those who think they’ll just get a warning. That time is now over.”

For those who ignore BREIN’s overtures and threats of legal action, there’s also the possibility of a case going ahead without them even being there.

“Under certain circumstances, an ex parte court order may be applied for,” Kuik concludes.

While the legality of such devices now seems completely clear in the EU, the market is yet to settle. Given past innovations, it’s more than likely that new avenues will open up to re-test the law to a new breaking point – and beyond.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

MPAA & RIAA Demand Tough Copyright Standards in NAFTA Negotiations

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-riaa-demand-tough-copyright-standards-in-nafta-negotiations-170621/

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago. With a quarter of a decade of developments to contend with, the United States wants to modernize.

“While our economy and U.S. businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not,” the government says.

With this in mind, the US requested comments from interested parties seeking direction for negotiation points. With those comments now in, groups like the MPAA and RIAA have been making their positions known. It’s no surprise that intellectual property enforcement is high on the agenda.

“Copyright is the lifeblood of the U.S. motion picture and television industry. As such, MPAA places high priority on securing strong protection and enforcement disciplines in the intellectual property chapters of trade agreements,” the MPAA writes in its submission.

“Strong IPR protection and enforcement are critical trade priorities for the music industry. With IPR, we can create good jobs, make significant contributions to U.S. economic growth and security, invest in artists and their creativity, and drive technological innovation,” the RIAA notes.

While both groups have numerous demands, it’s clear that each seeks an environment where not only infringers can be held liable, but also Internet platforms and services.

For the RIAA, there is a big focus on the so-called ‘Value Gap’, a phenomenon found on user-uploaded content sites like YouTube that are able to offer infringing content while avoiding liability due to Section 512 of the DMCA.

“Today, user-uploaded content services, which have developed sophisticated on-demand music platforms, use this as a shield to avoid licensing music on fair terms like other digital services, claiming they are not legally responsible for the music they distribute on their site,” the RIAA writes.

“Services such as Apple Music, TIDAL, Amazon, and Spotify are forced to compete with services that claim they are not liable for the music they distribute.”

But if sites like YouTube are exercising their rights while acting legally under current US law, how can partners Canada and Mexico do any better? For the RIAA, that can be achieved by holding them to standards envisioned by the group when the DMCA was passed, not how things have panned out since.

Demanding that negotiators “protect the original intent” of safe harbor, the RIAA asks that a “high-level and high-standard service provider liability provision” is pursued. This, the music group says, should only be available to “passive intermediaries without requisite knowledge of the infringement on their platforms, and inapplicable to services actively engaged in communicating to the public.”

In other words, make sure that YouTube and similar sites won’t enjoy the same level of safe harbor protection as they do today.

The RIAA also requires any negotiated safe harbor provisions in NAFTA to be flexible in the event that the DMCA is tightened up in response to the ongoing safe harbor rules study.

In any event, NAFTA should not “support interpretations that no longer reflect today’s digital economy and threaten the future of legitimate and sustainable digital trade,” the RIAA states.

For the MPAA, Section 512 is also perceived as a problem. While noting that the original intent was to foster a system of shared responsibility between copyright owners and service providers, the MPAA says courts have subsequently let copyright holders down. Like the RIAA, the MPAA also suggests that Canada and Mexico can be held to higher standards.

“We recommend a new approach to this important trade policy provision by moving to high-level language that establishes intermediary liability and appropriate limitations on liability. This would be fully consistent with U.S. law and avoid the same misinterpretations by policymakers and courts overseas,” the MPAA writes.

“In so doing, a modernized NAFTA would be consistent with Trade Promotion Authority’s negotiating objective of ‘ensuring that standards of protection and enforcement keep pace with technological developments’.”

The MPAA also has some specific problems with Mexico, including unauthorized camcording. The Hollywood group says that 85 illicit audio and video recordings of films were linked to Mexican theaters in 2016. However, recording is not currently a criminal offense in Mexico.

Another issue for the MPAA is that criminal sanctions for commercial scale infringement are only available if the infringement is for profit.

“This has hampered enforcement against the above-discussed camcording problem but also against online infringement, such as peer-to-peer piracy, that may be on a scale that is immensely harmful to U.S. rightsholders but nonetheless occur without profit by the infringer,” the MPAA writes.

“The modernized NAFTA like other U.S. bilateral free trade agreements must provide for criminal sanctions against commercial scale infringements without proof of profit motive.”

Also of interest are the MPAA’s complaints against Mexico’s telecoms laws. Unlike in the US and many countries in Europe, Mexico’s ISPs are forbidden to hand out their customers’ personal details to rights holders looking to sue. This, the MPAA says, needs to change.

The submissions from the RIAA and MPAA can be found here and here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

In the Works – AWS Region in Hong Kong

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/in-the-works-aws-region-in-hong-kong/

Last year we launched new AWS Regions in Canada, India, Korea, the UK (London), and the United States (Ohio), and announced that new regions are coming to France (Paris), China (Ningxia), and Sweden (Stockholm).

Coming to Hong Kong in 2018
Today, I am happy to be able to tell you that we are planning to open up an AWS Region in Hong Kong, in 2018. Hong Kong is a leading international financial center, well known for its service oriented economy. It is rated highly on innovation and for ease of doing business. As an evangelist, I get to visit many great cities in the world, and was lucky to have spent some time in Hong Kong back in 2014 and met a number of awesome customers there. Many of these customers have given us feedback that they wanted a local AWS Region.

This will be the eighth AWS Region in Asia Pacific joining six other Regions there — Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney, Beijing, Seoul, and Mumbai, and an additional Region in China (Ningxia) expected to launch in the coming months. Together, these Regions will provide our customers with a total of 19 Availability Zones (AZs) and allow them to architect highly fault tolerant applications.

Today, our infrastructure comprises 43 Availability Zones across 16 geographic regions worldwide, with another three AWS Regions (and eight Availability Zones) in France, China, and Sweden coming online throughout 2017 and 2018, (see the AWS Global Infrastructure page for more info).

We are looking forward to serving new and existing customers in Hong Kong and working with partners across Asia-Pacific. Of course, the new region will also be open to existing AWS customers who would like to process and store data in Hong Kong. Public sector organizations such as government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofits in Hong Kong will be able to use this region to store sensitive data locally (the AWS in the Public Sector page has plenty of success stories drawn from our worldwide customer base).

If you are a customer or a partner and have specific questions about this Region, you can contact our Hong Kong team.

Help Wanted
If you are interested in learning more about AWS positions in Hong Kong, please visit the Amazon Jobs site and set the location to Hong Kong.

Jeff;