Tag Archives: launch

Kim Dotcom Loses Megaupload Domain Names, Gets “Destroyed” Gaming Chair Back

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-loses-megaupload-domain-names-gets-destroyed-gaming-chair-back-180117/

Following the 2012 raid on Megaupload and Kim Dotcom, U.S. and New Zealand authorities seized millions of dollars in cash and other property, located around the world.

Claiming the assets were obtained through copyright and money laundering crimes, the U.S. government launched separate civil cases in which it asked the court to forfeit bank accounts, servers, domain names, and other seized possessions of the Megaupload defendants.

One of these cases was lost after the U.S. branded Dotcom and his colleagues as “fugitives”.The defense team appealed the ruling, but lost again, and a subsequent petition at the Supreme Court was denied.

Following this lost battle, the U.S. also moved to conclude a separate civil forfeiture case, which was still pending at a federal court in Virginia.

The assets listed in this case are several bank accounts, including several at PayPal, as well as 60 servers Megaupload bought at Leaseweb. What has the most symbolic value, however, are the domain names that were seized, including Megaupload.com, Megaporn.com and Megavideo.com.

Mega’s domains

This week a U.S. federal court decided that all claims of Kim Dotcom, his former colleague Mathias Ortman, and several Megaupload-related companies should be stricken. A default was entered against them on Tuesday.

The same fugitive disentitlement argument was used in this case. This essentially means that someone who’s considered to be a fugitive from justice is not allowed to get relief from the judicial system he or she evades.

“Claimants Kim Dotcom and Mathias Ortmann have deliberately avoided prosecution by declining to enter or reenter the United States,” Judge Liam O’Grady writes in his order to strike the claims.

“Because Claimant Kim Dotcom, who is himself a fugitive under Section 2466, is the Corporate Claimants’ controlling shareholder and, in particular, because he signed the claims on behalf of the corporations, a presumption of disentitlement applies to the corporations as well.”

As a result, the domain names which once served 50 million users per day, are now lost to the US Government. The court records list 18 domains in total, which were registered through Godaddy, DotRegistrar, and Fabulous.

Given the legal history, the domains and other assets are likely lost for good. However, Megaupload defense lawyer Ira Rothken is not giving up yet.

“We are still evaluating the legal options in a climate where Kim Dotcom is being labeled a fugitive in a US criminal copyright case even though he has never been to the US, is merely asserting his US-NZ extradition treaty rights, and the NZ High Court has ruled that he and his co-defendants did not commit criminal copyright infringement under NZ law,” Rothken tells TorrentFreak.

There might be a possibility that assets located outside the US could be saved. Foreign courts are more open to defense arguments, it seems, as a Hong Kong court previously ordered the US to return several assets belonging to Kim Dotcom.

The Hong Kong case also brought some good news this week. At least, something that was supposed to be positive. On Twitter, Dotcom writes that two containers with seized assets were returned, but in a “rotten and destroyed” state.

“A shipment of 2 large containers just arrived in New Zealand. This is how all my stuff looks now. Rotten & destroyed. Photo: My favorite gaming chair,” Dotcom wrote.

According to Dotcom, the US Government asked him to pay for ‘climate controlled’ storage for more than half a decade to protect the seized goods. However, judging from the look of the chair and the state of some other belongings, something clearly went wrong.

Rotten & destroyed

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

New AWS Auto Scaling – Unified Scaling For Your Cloud Applications

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-auto-scaling-unified-scaling-for-your-cloud-applications/

I’ve been talking about scalability for servers and other cloud resources for a very long time! Back in 2006, I wrote “This is the new world of scalable, on-demand web services. Pay for what you need and use, and not a byte more.” Shortly after we launched Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), we made it easy for you to do this with the simultaneous launch of Elastic Load Balancing, EC2 Auto Scaling, and Amazon CloudWatch. Since then we have added Auto Scaling to other AWS services including ECS, Spot Fleets, DynamoDB, Aurora, AppStream 2.0, and EMR. We have also added features such as target tracking to make it easier for you to scale based on the metric that is most appropriate for your application.

Introducing AWS Auto Scaling
Today we are making it easier for you to use the Auto Scaling features of multiple AWS services from a single user interface with the introduction of AWS Auto Scaling. This new service unifies and builds on our existing, service-specific, scaling features. It operates on any desired EC2 Auto Scaling groups, EC2 Spot Fleets, ECS tasks, DynamoDB tables, DynamoDB Global Secondary Indexes, and Aurora Replicas that are part of your application, as described by an AWS CloudFormation stack or in AWS Elastic Beanstalk (we’re also exploring some other ways to flag a set of resources as an application for use with AWS Auto Scaling).

You no longer need to set up alarms and scaling actions for each resource and each service. Instead, you simply point AWS Auto Scaling at your application and select the services and resources of interest. Then you select the desired scaling option for each one, and AWS Auto Scaling will do the rest, helping you to discover the scalable resources and then creating a scaling plan that addresses the resources of interest.

If you have tried to use any of our Auto Scaling options in the past, you undoubtedly understand the trade-offs involved in choosing scaling thresholds. AWS Auto Scaling gives you a variety of scaling options: You can optimize for availability, keeping plenty of resources in reserve in order to meet sudden spikes in demand. You can optimize for costs, running close to the line and accepting the possibility that you will tax your resources if that spike arrives. Alternatively, you can aim for the middle, with a generous but not excessive level of spare capacity. In addition to optimizing for availability, cost, or a blend of both, you can also set a custom scaling threshold. In each case, AWS Auto Scaling will create scaling policies on your behalf, including appropriate upper and lower bounds for each resource.

AWS Auto Scaling in Action
I will use AWS Auto Scaling on a simple CloudFormation stack consisting of an Auto Scaling group of EC2 instances and a pair of DynamoDB tables. I start by removing the existing Scaling Policies from my Auto Scaling group:

Then I open up the new Auto Scaling Console and selecting the stack:

Behind the scenes, Elastic Beanstalk applications are always launched via a CloudFormation stack. In the screen shot above, awseb-e-sdwttqizbp-stack is an Elastic Beanstalk application that I launched.

I can click on any stack to learn more about it before proceeding:

I select the desired stack and click on Next to proceed. Then I enter a name for my scaling plan and choose the resources that I’d like it to include:

I choose the scaling strategy for each type of resource:

After I have selected the desired strategies, I click Next to proceed. Then I review the proposed scaling plan, and click Create scaling plan to move ahead:

The scaling plan is created and in effect within a few minutes:

I can click on the plan to learn more:

I can also inspect each scaling policy:

I tested my new policy by applying a load to the initial EC2 instance, and watched the scale out activity take place:

I also took a look at the CloudWatch metrics for the EC2 Auto Scaling group:

Available Now
We are launching AWS Auto Scaling today in the US East (Northern Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), and Asia Pacific (Singapore) Regions today, with more to follow. There’s no charge for AWS Auto Scaling; you pay only for the CloudWatch Alarms that it creates and any AWS resources that you consume.

As is often the case with our new services, this is just the first step on what we hope to be a long and interesting journey! We have a long roadmap, and we’ll be adding new features and options throughout 2018 in response to your feedback.

Jeff;

Scale Your Web Application — One Step at a Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is the website handling sessions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your multisite architecture will look like the following diagram:

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

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

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

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

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

Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow

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

Cash flow projection charts

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

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

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

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

Raising Your Initial Funding

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

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

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

Sources of Funding

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

Customers

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

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

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

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

Investors

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

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

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

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

Debt

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

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

Grants

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

At Backblaze, we used a number of these options:

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

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

GAAP vs. Cash

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

Stages of Cash Flow Management

All-spend

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

Sales-generating

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

Ramen-profitable

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

Business-profitable

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

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

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

Cash Flow Forecasting

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

Two things to consider:

1) Unit Economics (COGS)

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

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

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

2) Operating Expenses (OpEx)

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

Incremental Net Profit Per Unit

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

Calculating Your Profit

The math on getting to ramen-profitable is simple:

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

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

Improving Cash Flow

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

There are two ways to improve cash flow:

1) Collect More Cash

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

2) Spend Less Cash

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

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

Be Careful (Why GAAP Matters)

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

Summary

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

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

Take a Digital Tour of an AWS Data Center to See How AWS Secures Data Centers Around The World

Post Syndicated from Chad Woolf original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/take-a-digital-tour-of-an-aws-data-center-to-see-how-aws-secures-data-centers-around-the-world/

Data center tour banner image

AWS has launched a digital tour of an AWS data center, providing you with a first-ever look at how AWS secures data centers around the world. The videos, pictures, and information in this tour show you how security is intrinsic to the design of our data centers, our global controls, and the AWS culture.

As you will learn when you take this digital tour, the AWS data center security strategy is assembled with scalable security controls and multiple layers of defense that help to protect your information. For example, AWS carefully manages potential flood and seismic activity risks. We use physical barriers, security guards, threat detection technology, and an in-depth screening process to limit access to data centers. We back up our systems, regularly test equipment and processes, and continuously train AWS employees to be ready for the unexpected.

To validate the security of our data centers, external auditors perform testing on more than 2,600 standards and requirements throughout the year. Such independent examination helps ensure that security standards are consistently being met or exceeded. As a result, the most highly regulated organizations in the world trust AWS to protect their data.

Take the tour today to learn more about how we secure our data centers.

– Chad

Now Open – Third AWS Availability Zone in London

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/now-open-third-aws-availability-zone-in-london/

We expand AWS by picking a geographic area (which we call a Region) and then building multiple, isolated Availability Zones in that area. Each Availability Zone (AZ) has multiple Internet connections and power connections to multiple grids.

Today I am happy to announce that we are opening our 50th AWS Availability Zone, with the addition of a third AZ to the EU (London) Region. This will give you additional flexibility to architect highly scalable, fault-tolerant applications that run across multiple AZs in the UK.

Since launching the EU (London) Region, we have seen an ever-growing set of customers, particularly in the public sector and in regulated industries, use AWS for new and innovative applications. Here are a couple of examples, courtesy of my AWS colleagues in the UK:

Enterprise – Some of the UK’s most respected enterprises are using AWS to transform their businesses, including BBC, BT, Deloitte, and Travis Perkins. Travis Perkins is one of the largest suppliers of building materials in the UK and is implementing the biggest systems and business change in its history, including an all-in migration of its data centers to AWS.

Startups – Cross-border payments company Currencycloud has migrated its entire payments production, and demo platform to AWS resulting in a 30% saving on their infrastructure costs. Clearscore, with plans to disrupting the credit score industry, has also chosen to host their entire platform on AWS. UnderwriteMe is using the EU (London) Region to offer an underwriting platform to their customers as a managed service.

Public Sector -The Met Office chose AWS to support the Met Office Weather App, available for iPhone and Android phones. Since the Met Office Weather App went live in January 2016, it has attracted more than half a million users. Using AWS, the Met Office has been able to increase agility, speed, and scalability while reducing costs. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is using the EU (London) Region for services such as the Strategic Card Payments platform, which helps the agency achieve PCI DSS compliance.

The AWS EU (London) Region has achieved Public Services Network (PSN) assurance, which provides UK Public Sector customers with an assured infrastructure on which to build UK Public Sector services. In conjunction with AWS’s Standardized Architecture for UK-OFFICIAL, PSN assurance enables UK Public Sector organizations to move their UK-OFFICIAL classified data to the EU (London) Region in a controlled and risk-managed manner.

For a complete list of AWS Regions and Services, visit the AWS Global Infrastructure page. As always, pricing for services in the Region can be found on the detail pages; visit our Cloud Products page to get started.

Jeff;

ISP: We’re Cooperating With Police Following Pirate IPTV Raid

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-were-cooperating-with-police-following-pirate-iptv-raid-180113/

This week, police forces around Europe took action against what is believed to be one of the world’s largest pirate IPTV networks.

The investigation, launched a year ago and coordinated by Europol, came to head on Tuesday when police carried out raids in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, and the Netherlands. A fresh announcement from the crime-fighting group reveals the scale of the operation.

It was led by the Cypriot Police – Intellectual Property Crime Unit, with the support of the Cybercrime Division of the Greek Police, the Dutch Fiscal Investigative and Intelligence Service (FIOD), the Cybercrime Unit of the Bulgarian Police, Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC³), and supported by members of the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAPA).

In Cyprus, Bulgaria and Greece, 17 house searches were carried out. Three individuals aged 43, 44, and 53 were arrested in Cyprus and one was arrested in Bulgaria.

All stand accused of being involved in an international operation to illegally broadcast around 1,200 channels of pirated content to an estimated 500,000 subscribers. Some of the channels offered were illegally sourced from Sky UK, Bein Sports, Sky Italia, and Sky DE. On Thursday, the three individuals in Cyprus were remanded in custody for seven days.

“The servers used to distribute the channels were shut down, and IP addresses hosted by a Dutch company were also deactivated thanks to the cooperation of the authorities of The Netherlands,” Europol reports.

“In Bulgaria, 84 servers and 70 satellite receivers were seized, with decoders, computers and accounting documents.”

TorrentFreak was previously able to establish that Megabyte-Internet Ltd, an ISP located in the small Bulgarian town Petrich, was targeted by police. The provider went down on Tuesday but returned towards the end of the week. Responding to our earlier inquiries, the company told us more about the situation.

“We are an ISP provider located in Petrich, Bulgaria. We are selling services to around 1,500 end-clients in the Petrich area and surrounding villages,” a spokesperson explained.

“Another part of our business is internet services like dedicated unmanaged servers, hosting, email servers, storage services, and VPNs etc.”

The spokesperson added that some of Megabyte’s equipment is located at Telepoint, Bulgaria’s biggest datacenter, with connectivity to Petrich. During the raid the police seized the company’s hardware to check for evidence of illegal activity.

“We were informed by the police that some of our clients in Petrich and Sofia were using our service for illegal streaming and actions,” the company said.

“Of course, we were not able to know this because our services are unmanaged and root access [to servers] is given to our clients. For this reason any client and anyone that uses our services are responsible for their own actions.”

TorrentFreak asked many more questions, including how many police attended, what type and volume of hardware was seized, and whether anyone was arrested or taken for questioning. But, apart from noting that the police were friendly, the company declined to give us any additional information, revealing that it was not permitted to do so at this stage.

What is clear, however, is that Megabyte-Internet is offering its full cooperation to the authorities. The company says that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of its clients so their details will be handed over as part of the investigation.

“So now we will give to the police any details about these clients because we hold their full details by law. [The police] will find [out about] all the illegal actions from them,” the company concludes, adding that it’s fully operational once more and working with clients.

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

Coalition Against Piracy Launches Landmark Case Against ‘Pirate’ Android Box Sellers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/coalition-against-piracy-launches-landmark-case-against-pirate-android-box-sellers-180112/

In 2017, anti-piracy enforcement went global when companies including Disney, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and NBCUniversal formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

Soon after the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) was announced. With a focus on Asia and backed by CASBAA, CAP counts many of the same companies among its members in addition to local TV providers such as StarHub.

From the outset, CAP has shown a keen interest in tackling unlicensed streaming, particularly that taking place via illicit set-top boxes stuffed with copyright-infringing apps and add-ons. One country under CAP’s spotlight is Singapore, where relevant law is said to be fuzzy at best, insufficient at worst. Now, however, a line in the sand might not be far away.

According to a court listing discovered by Singapore’s TodayOnline, today will see the Coalition Against Piracy’s general manager Neil Kevin Gane attempt to launch a pioneering private prosecution against set-top box distributor Synnex Trading and its client and wholesale goods retailer, An-Nahl.

Gane and CAP are said to be acting on behalf of four parties, one which is TV giant StarHub, a company with a huge interest in bringing media piracy under control in the region. It’s reported that they have also named Synnex Trading director Jia Xiaofen and An-Nahl director Abdul Nagib as defendants in their private criminal case after the parties failed to reach a settlement in an earlier process.

Contacted by TodayOnline, an employee of An-Nahl said the company no longer sells the boxes. However, Synnex is reportedly still selling them for S$219 each ($164) plus additional fees for maintenance and access to VOD. The company’s Facebook page is still active with the relevant offer presented prominently.

The importance of the case cannot be understated. While StarHub and other broadcasters have successfully prosecuted cases where people unlawfully decrypted broadcast signals, the provision of unlicensed streams isn’t specifically tackled by Singapore’s legislation. It’s now a major source of piracy in the region, as it is elsewhere around the globe.

Only time will tell how the process will play out but it’s clear that CAP and its members are prepared to invest significant sums into a prosecution for a favorable outcome. CAP believes that the supply of the boxes falls under Section 136 (3A) of the Copyright Act but only time will tell.

Last December, CAP separately called on the Singapore government to not only block ‘pirate’ streaming software but also unlicensed streams from entering the country.

“Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” said CAP General Manager Neil Gane. “They have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.”

CAP’s 21 members want the authorities to block the software inside devices that enables piracy but it’s far from clear how that can be achieved.

Update: The four companies taking the action are confirmed as Singtel, Starhub, Fox Network, and the English Premier League

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

Europol Hits Huge 500,000 Subscriber Pirate IPTV Operation

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/europol-hits-huge-500000-subscriber-pirate-iptv-operation-180111/

Live TV is in massive demand but accessing all content in a particular region can be a hugely expensive proposition, with tradtional broadcasting monopolies demanding large subscription fees.

For millions around the world, this ‘problem’ can be easily circumvented. Pirate IPTV operations, which supply thousands of otherwise subscription channels via the Internet, are on the increase. They’re accessible for just a few dollars, euros, or pounds per month, slashing bills versus official providers on a grand scale.

This week, however, police forces around Europe coordinated to target what they claim is one of the world’s largest illicit IPTV operations. The investigation was launched last February by Europol and on Tuesday coordinated actions were carried out in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, and the Netherlands.

Three suspects were arrested in Cyprus – two in Limassol (aged 43 and 44) and one in Larnaca (aged 53). All are alleged to be part of an international operation to illegally broadcast around 1,200 channels of pirated content worldwide. Some of the channels offered were illegally sourced from Sky UK, Bein Sports, Sky Italia, and Sky DE

If initial reports are to be believed, the reach of the IPTV service was huge. Figures usually need to be taken with a pinch of salt but information suggests the service had more than 500,000 subscribers, each paying around 10 euros per month. (Note: how that relates to the alleged five million euros per year in revenue is yet to be made clear)

Police action was spread across the continent, with at least nine separate raids, including in the Netherlands where servers were uncovered. However, it was determined that these were in place to hide the true location of the operation’s main servers. Similar ‘front’ servers were also deployed in other regions.

The main servers behind the IPTV operation were located in Petrich, a small town in Blagoevgrad Province, southwestern Bulgaria. No details have been provided by the authorities but TF is informed that the website of a local ISP, Megabyte-Internet, from where pirate IPTV has been broadcast for at least the past several months, disappeared on Tuesday. It remains offline this morning.

The company did not respond to our request for comment and there’s no suggestion that it’s directly involved in any illegal activity. However, its Autonomous System (AS) number reveals linked IPTV services, none of which appear to be operational today. The ISP is also listed on sites where ‘pirate’ IPTV channel playlists are compiled by users.

According to sources in Cyprus, police requested permission from the Larnaca District Court to detain the arrested individuals for eight days. However, local news outlet Philenews said that any decision would be postponed until this morning, since one of the three suspects, an English Cypriot, required an interpreter which caused a delay.

In addition to prosecutors and defense lawyers, two Dutch investigators from Europol were present in court yesterday. The hearing lasted for six hours and was said to be so intensive that the court stenographer had to be replaced due to overwork.

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

RuTracker Reveals Innovative Plan For Users to Subvert ISP Blocking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so the cat-and-mouse game continues.

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

Wanted: Sales Engineer

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

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

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

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

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

Some Backblaze Perks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Backblaze is the place for you!

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

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

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

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

You have:

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

You are versed in:

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

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

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

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

    If this all sounds like you:

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

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

    AWS Online Tech Talks – January 2018

    Post Syndicated from Ana Visneski original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-online-tech-talks-january-2018/

    Happy New Year! Kick of 2018 right by expanding your AWS knowledge with a great batch of new Tech Talks. We’re covering some of the biggest launches from re:Invent including Amazon Neptune, Amazon Rekognition Video, AWS Fargate, AWS Cloud9, Amazon Kinesis Video Streams, AWS PrivateLink, AWS Single-Sign On and more!

    January 2018– Schedule

    Noted below are the upcoming scheduled live, online technical sessions being held during the month of January. Make sure to register ahead of time so you won’t miss out on these free talks conducted by AWS subject matter experts.

    Webinars featured this month are:

    Monday January 22

    Analytics & Big Data
    11:00 AM – 11:45 AM PT Analyze your Data Lake, Fast @ Any Scale  Lvl 300

    Database
    01:00 PM – 01:45 PM PT Deep Dive on Amazon Neptune Lvl 200

    Tuesday, January 23

    Artificial Intelligence
    9:00 AM – 09:45 AM PT  How to get the most out of Amazon Rekognition Video, a deep learning based video analysis service Lvl 300

    Containers

    11:00 AM – 11:45 AM Introducing AWS Fargate Lvl 200

    Serverless
    01:00 PM – 02:00 PM PT Overview of Serverless Application Deployment Patterns Lvl 400

    Wednesday, January 24

    DevOps
    09:00 AM – 09:45 AM PT Introducing AWS Cloud9  Lvl 200

    Analytics & Big Data
    11:00 AM – 11:45 AM PT Deep Dive: Amazon Kinesis Video Streams
    Lvl 300
    Database
    01:00 PM – 01:45 PM PT Introducing Amazon Aurora with PostgreSQL Compatibility Lvl 200

    Thursday, January 25

    Artificial Intelligence
    09:00 AM – 09:45 AM PT Introducing Amazon SageMaker Lvl 200

    Mobile
    11:00 AM – 11:45 AM PT Ionic and React Hybrid Web/Native Mobile Applications with Mobile Hub Lvl 200

    IoT
    01:00 PM – 01:45 PM PT Connected Product Development: Secure Cloud & Local Connectivity for Microcontroller-based Devices Lvl 200

    Monday, January 29

    Enterprise
    11:00 AM – 11:45 AM PT Enterprise Solutions Best Practices 100 Achieving Business Value with AWS Lvl 100

    Compute
    01:00 PM – 01:45 PM PT Introduction to Amazon Lightsail Lvl 200

    Tuesday, January 30

    Security, Identity & Compliance
    09:00 AM – 09:45 AM PT Introducing Managed Rules for AWS WAF Lvl 200

    Storage
    11:00 AM – 11:45 AM PT  Improving Backup & DR – AWS Storage Gateway Lvl 300

    Compute
    01:00 PM – 01:45 PM PT  Introducing the New Simplified Access Model for EC2 Spot Instances Lvl 200

    Wednesday, January 31

    Networking
    09:00 AM – 09:45 AM PT  Deep Dive on AWS PrivateLink Lvl 300

    Enterprise
    11:00 AM – 11:45 AM PT Preparing Your Team for a Cloud Transformation Lvl 200

    Compute
    01:00 PM – 01:45 PM PT  The Nitro Project: Next-Generation EC2 Infrastructure Lvl 300

    Thursday, February 1

    Security, Identity & Compliance
    09:00 AM – 09:45 AM PT  Deep Dive on AWS Single Sign-On Lvl 300

    Storage
    11:00 AM – 11:45 AM PT How to Build a Data Lake in Amazon S3 & Amazon Glacier Lvl 300

    Top 10 Most Popular Torrent Sites of 2018

    Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-most-popular-torrent-sites-of-2018-180107/

    Torrent sites have come and gone over past year. Now, at the start of 2018, we take a look to see what the most-used sites are in the current landscape.

    The Pirate Bay remains the undisputed number one. The site has weathered a few storms over the years, but it looks like it will be able to celebrate its 15th anniversary, which is coming up in a few months.

    The list also includes various newcomers including Idope and Zooqle. While many people are happy to see new torrent sites emerge, this often means that others have called it quits.

    Last year’s runner-up Extratorrent, for example, has shut down and left a gaping hole behind. And it wasn’t the only site that went away. TorrentProject also disappeared without a trace and the same was true for isohunt.to.

    The unofficial Torrentz reincarnation Torrentz2.eu, the highest newcomer last year, is somewhat of an unusual entry. A few weeks ago all links to externally hosted torrents were removed, as was the list of indexed pages.

    We decided to include the site nonetheless, given its history and because it’s still possible to find hashes through the site. As Torrentz2’s future is uncertain, we added an extra site (10.1) as compensation.

    Finally, RuTracker also deserves a mention. The torrent site generates enough traffic to warrant a listing, but we traditionally limit the list to sites that are targeted primarily at an English or international audience.

    Below is the full list of the ten most-visited torrent sites at the start of the new year. The list is based on various traffic reports and we display the Alexa rank for each. In addition, we include last year’s ranking.

    Most Popular Torrent Sites

    1. The Pirate Bay

    The Pirate Bay is the “king of torrents” once again and also the oldest site in this list. The past year has been relatively quiet for the notorious torrent site, which is currently operating from its original .org domain name.

    Alexa Rank: 104/ Last year #1

    2. RARBG

    RARBG, which started out as a Bulgarian tracker, has captured the hearts and minds of many video pirates. The site was founded in 2008 and specializes in high quality video releases.

    Alexa Rank: 298 / Last year #3

    3. 1337x

    1337x continues where it left off last year. The site gained a lot of traffic and, unlike some other sites in the list, has a dedicated group of uploaders that provide fresh content.

    Alexa Rank: 321 / Last year #6

    4. Torrentz2

    Torrentz2 launched as a stand-in for the original Torrentz.eu site, which voluntarily closed its doors in 2016. At the time of writing, the site only lists torrent hashes and no longer any links to external torrent sites. While browser add-ons and plugins still make the site functional, its future is uncertain.

    Alexa Rank: 349 / Last year #5

    5. YTS.ag

    YTS.ag is the unofficial successors of the defunct YTS or YIFY group. Not all other torrent sites were happy that the site hijacked the popuar brand and several are actively banning its releases.

    Alexa Rank: 563 / Last year #4

    6. EZTV.ag

    The original TV-torrent distribution group EZTV shut down after a hostile takeover in 2015, with new owners claiming ownership of the brand. The new group currently operates from EZTV.ag and releases its own torrents. These releases are banned on some other torrent sites due to this controversial history.

    Alexa Rank: 981 / Last year #7

    7. LimeTorrents

    Limetorrents has been an established torrent site for more than half a decade. The site’s operator also runs the torrent cache iTorrents, which is used by several other torrent search engines.

    Alexa Rank: 2,433 / Last year #10

    8. NYAA.si

    NYAA.si is a popular resurrection of the anime torrent site NYAA, which shut down last year. Previously we left anime-oriented sites out of the list, but since we also include dedicated TV and movie sites, we decided that a mention is more than warranted.

    Alexa Rank: 1,575 / Last year #NA

    9. Torrents.me

    Torrents.me is one of the torrent sites that enjoyed a meteoric rise in traffic this year. It’s a meta-search engine that links to torrent files and magnet links from other torrent sites.

    Alexa Rank: 2,045 / Last year #NA

    10. Zooqle

    Zooqle, which boasts nearly three million verified torrents, has stayed under the radar for years but has still kept growing. The site made it into the top 10 for the first time this year.

    Alexa Rank: 2,347 / Last year #NA

    10.1 iDope

    The special 10.1 mention goes to iDope. Launched in 2016, the site is a relative newcomer to the torrent scene. The torrent indexer has steadily increased its audience over the past year. With similar traffic numbers to Zooqle, a listing is therefore warranted.

    Alexa Rank: 2,358 / Last year #NA

    Disclaimer: Yes, we know that Alexa isn’t perfect, but it helps to compare sites that operate in a similar niche. We also used other traffic metrics to compile the top ten. Please keep in mind that many sites have mirrors or alternative domains, which are not taken into account here.

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

    Physics cheats

    Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/01/06/physics-cheats/

    Anonymous asks:

    something about how we tweak physics to “work” better in games?

    Ho ho! Work. Get it? Like in physics…?

    Hitboxes

    Hitbox” is perhaps not the most accurate term, since the shape used for colliding with the environment and the shape used for detecting damage might be totally different. They’re usually the same in simple platformers, though, and that’s what most of my games have been.

    The hitbox is the biggest physics fudge by far, and it exists because of a single massive approximation that (most) games make: you’re controlling a single entity in the abstract, not a physical body in great detail.

    That is: when you walk with your real-world meat shell, you perform a complex dance of putting one foot in front of the other, a motion you spent years perfecting. When you walk in a video game, you press a single “walk” button. Your avatar may play an animation that moves its legs back and forth, but since you’re not actually controlling the legs independently (and since simulating them is way harder), the game just treats you like a simple shape. Fairly often, this is a box, or something very box-like.

    An Eevee sprite standing on faux ground; the size of the underlying image and the hitbox are outlined

    Since the player has no direct control over the exact placement of their limbs, it would be slightly frustrating to have them collide with the world. This is especially true in cases like the above, where the tail and left ear protrude significantly out from the main body. If that Eevee wanted to stand against a real-world wall, she would simply tilt her ear or tail out of the way, so there’s no reason for the ear to block her from standing against a game wall. To compensate for this, the ear and tail are left out of the collision box entirely and will simply jut into a wall if necessary — a goofy affordance that’s so common it doesn’t even register as unusual. As a bonus (assuming this same box is used for combat), she won’t take damage from projectiles that merely graze past an ear.

    (One extra consideration for sprite games in particular: the hitbox ought to be horizontally symmetric around the sprite’s pivot — i.e. the point where the entity is truly considered to be standing — so that the hitbox doesn’t abruptly move when the entity turns around!)

    Corners

    Treating the player (and indeed most objects) as a box has one annoying side effect: boxes have corners. Corners can catch on other corners, even by a single pixel. Real-world bodies tend to be a bit rounder and squishier and this can tolerate grazing a corner; even real-world boxes will simply rotate a bit.

    Ah, but in our faux physics world, we generally don’t want conscious actors (such as the player) to rotate, even with a realistic physics simulator! Real-world bodies are made of parts that will generally try to keep you upright, after all; you don’t tilt back and forth much.

    One way to handle corners is to simply remove them from conscious actors. A hitbox doesn’t have to be a literal box, after all. A popular alternative — especially in Unity where it’s a standard asset — is the pill-shaped capsule, which has semicircles/hemispheres on the top and bottom and a cylindrical body in 3D. No corners, no problem.

    Of course, that introduces a new problem: now the player can’t balance precariously on edges without their rounded bottom sliding them off. Alas.

    If you’re stuck with corners, then, you may want to use a corner bump, a term I just made up. If the player would collide with a corner, but the collision is only by a few pixels, just nudge them to the side a bit and carry on.

    An Eevee sprite trying to move sideways into a shallow ledge; the game bumps her upwards slightly, so she steps onto it instead

    When the corner is horizontal, this creates stairs! This is, more or less kinda, how steps work in Doom: when the player tries to cross from one sector into another, if the height difference is 24 units or less, the game simply bumps them upwards to the height of the new floor and lets them continue on.

    Implementing this in a game without Doom’s notion of sectors is a little trickier. In fact, I still haven’t done it. Collision detection based on rejection gets it for free, kinda, but it’s not very deterministic and it breaks other things. But that’s a whole other post.

    Gravity

    Gravity is pretty easy. Everything accelerates downwards all the time. What’s interesting are the exceptions.

    Jumping

    Jumping is a giant hack.

    Think about how actual jumping works: you tense your legs, which generally involves bending your knees first, and then spring upwards. In a platformer, you can just leap whenever you feel like it, which is nonsense. Also you go like twenty feet into the air?

    Worse, most platformers allow variable-height jumping, where your jump is lower if you let go of the jump button while you’re in the air. Normally, one would expect to have to decide how much force to put into the jump beforehand.

    But of course this is about convenience of controls: when jumping is your primary action, you want to be able to do it immediately, without any windup for how high you want to jump.

    (And then there’s double jumping? Come on.)

    Air control is a similar phenomenon: usually you’d jump in a particular direction by controlling how you push off the ground with your feet, but in a video game, you don’t have feet! You only have the box. The compromise is to let you control your horizontal movement to a limit degree in midair, even though that doesn’t make any sense. (It’s way more fun, though, and overall gives you more movement options, which are good to have in an interactive medium.)

    Air control also exposes an obvious place that game physics collide with the realistic model of serious physics engines. I’ve mentioned this before, but: if you use Real Physics™ and air control yourself into a wall, you might find that you’ll simply stick to the wall until you let go of the movement buttons. Why? Remember, player movement acts as though an external force were pushing you around (and from the perspective of a Real™ physics engine, this is exactly how you’d implement it) — so air-controlling into a wall is equivalent to pushing a book against a wall with your hand, and the friction with the wall holds you in place. Oops.

    Ground sticking

    Another place game physics conflict with physics engines is with running to the top of a slope. On a real hill, of course, you land on top of the slope and are probably glad of it; slopes are hard to climb!

    An Eevee moves to the top of a slope, and rather than step onto the flat top, she goes flying off into the air

    In a video game, you go flying. Because you’re a box. With momentum. So you hit the peak and keep going in the same direction. Which is diagonally upwards.

    Projectiles

    To make them more predictable, projectiles generally aren’t subject to gravity, at least as far as I’ve seen. The real world does not have such an exemption. The real world imposes gravity even on sniper rifles, which in a video game are often implemented as an instant trace unaffected by anything in the world because the bullet never actually exists in the world.

    Resistance

    Ah. Welcome to hell.

    Water

    Water is an interesting case, and offhand I don’t know the gritty details of how games implement it. In the real world, water applies a resistant drag force to movement — and that force is proportional to the square of velocity, which I’d completely forgotten until right now. I am almost positive that no game handles that correctly. But then, in real-world water, you can push against the water itself for movement, and games don’t simulate that either. What’s the rough equivalent?

    The Sonic Physics Guide suggests that Sonic handles it by basically halving everything: acceleration, max speed, friction, etc. When Sonic enters water, his speed is cut; when Sonic exits water, his speed is increased.

    That last bit feels validating — I could swear Metroid Prime did the same thing, and built my own solution around it, but couldn’t remember for sure. It makes no sense, of course, for a jump to become faster just because you happened to break the surface of the water, but it feels fantastic.

    The thing I did was similar, except that I didn’t want to add a multiplier in a dozen places when you happen to be underwater (and remember which ones need it to be squared, etc.). So instead, I calculate everything completely as normal, so velocity is exactly the same as it would be on dry land — but the distance you would move gets halved. The effect seems to be pretty similar to most platformers with water, at least as far as I can tell. It hasn’t shown up in a published game and I only added this fairly recently, so I might be overlooking some reason this is a bad idea.

    (One reason that comes to mind is that velocity is now a little white lie while underwater, so anything relying on velocity for interesting effects might be thrown off. Or maybe that’s correct, because velocity thresholds should be halved underwater too? Hm!)

    Notably, air is also a fluid, so it should behave the same way (just with different constants). I definitely don’t think any games apply air drag that’s proportional to the square of velocity.

    Friction

    Friction is, in my experience, a little handwaved. Probably because real-world friction is so darn complicated.

    Consider that in the real world, we want very high friction on the surfaces we walk on — shoes and tires are explicitly designed to increase it, even. We move by bracing a back foot against the ground and using that to push ourselves forward, so we want the ground to resist our push as much as possible.

    In a game world, we are a box. We move by being pushed by some invisible outside force, so if the friction between ourselves and the ground is too high, we won’t be able to move at all! That’s complete nonsense physically, but it turns out to be handy in some cases — for example, highish friction can simulate walking through deep mud, which should be difficult due to fluid drag and low friction.

    But the best-known example of the fakeness of game friction is video game ice. Walking on real-world ice is difficult because the low friction means low grip; your feet are likely to slip out from under you, and you’ll simply fall down and have trouble moving at all. In a video game, you can’t fall down, so you have the opposite experience: you spend most of your time sliding around uncontrollably. Yet ice is so common in video games (and perhaps so uncommon in places I’ve lived) that I, at least, had never really thought about this disparity until an hour or so ago.

    Game friction vs real-world friction

    Real-world friction is a force. It’s the normal force (which is the force exerted by the object on the surface) times some constant that depends on how the two materials interact.

    Force is mass times acceleration, and platformers often ignore mass, so friction ought to be an acceleration — applied against the object’s movement, but never enough to push it backwards.

    I haven’t made any games where variable friction plays a significant role, but my gut instinct is that low friction should mean the player accelerates more slowly but has a higher max speed, and high friction should mean the opposite. I see from my own source code that I didn’t even do what I just said, so let’s defer to some better-made and well-documented games: Sonic and Doom.

    In Sonic, friction is a fixed value subtracted from the player’s velocity (regardless of direction) each tic. Sonic has a fixed framerate, so the units are really pixels per tic squared (i.e. acceleration), multiplied by an implicit 1 tic per tic. So far, so good.

    But Sonic’s friction only applies if the player isn’t pressing or . Hang on, that isn’t friction at all; that’s just deceleration! That’s equivalent to jogging to a stop. If friction were lower, Sonic would take longer to stop, but otherwise this is only tangentially related to friction.

    (In fairness, this approach would decently emulate friction for non-conscious sliding objects, which are never going to be pressing movement buttons. Also, we don’t have the Sonic source code, and the name “friction” is a fan invention; the Sonic Physics Guide already uses “deceleration” to describe the player’s acceleration when turning around.)

    Okay, let’s try Doom. In Doom, the default friction is 90.625%.

    Hang on, what?

    Yes, in Doom, friction is a multiplier applied every tic. Doom runs at 35 tics per second, so this is a multiplier of 0.032 per second. Yikes!

    This isn’t anything remotely like real friction, but it’s much easier to implement. With friction as acceleration, the game has to know both the direction of movement (so it can apply friction in the opposite direction) and the magnitude (so it doesn’t overshoot and launch the object in the other direction). That means taking a semi-costly square root and also writing extra code to cap the amount of friction. With a multiplier, neither is necessary; just multiply the whole velocity vector and you’re done.

    There are some downsides. One is that objects will never actually stop, since multiplying by 3% repeatedly will never produce a result of zero — though eventually the speed will become small enough to either slip below a “minimum speed” threshold or simply no longer fit in a float representation. Another is that the units are fairly meaningless: with Doom’s default friction of 90.625%, about how long does it take for the player to stop? I have no idea, partly because “stop” is ambiguous here! If friction were an acceleration, I could divide it into the player’s max speed to get a time.

    All that aside, what are the actual effects of changing Doom’s friction? What an excellent question that’s surprisingly tricky to answer. (Note that friction can’t be changed in original Doom, only in the Boom port and its derivatives.) Here’s what I’ve pieced together.

    Doom’s “friction” is really two values. “Friction” itself is a multiplier applied to moving objects on every tic, but there’s also a move factor which defaults to \(\frac{1}{32} = 0.03125\) and is derived from friction for custom values.

    Every tic, the player’s velocity is multiplied by friction, and then increased by their speed times the move factor.

    $$
    v(n) = v(n – 1) \times friction + speed \times move factor
    $$

    Eventually, the reduction from friction will balance out the speed boost. That happens when \(v(n) = v(n – 1)\), so we can rearrange it to find the player’s effective max speed:

    $$
    v = v \times friction + speed \times move factor \\
    v – v \times friction = speed \times move factor \\
    v = speed \times \frac{move factor}{1 – friction}
    $$

    For vanilla Doom’s move factor of 0.03125 and friction of 0.90625, that becomes:

    $$
    v = speed \times \frac{\frac{1}{32}}{1 – \frac{29}{32}} = speed \times \frac{\frac{1}{32}}{\frac{3}{32}} = \frac{1}{3} \times speed
    $$

    Curiously, “speed” is three times the maximum speed an actor can actually move. Doomguy’s run speed is 50, so in practice he moves a third of that, or 16⅔ units per tic. (Of course, this isn’t counting SR40, a bug that lets Doomguy run ~40% faster than intended diagonally.)

    So now, what if you change friction? Even more curiously, the move factor is calculated completely differently depending on whether friction is higher or lower than the default Doom amount:

    $$
    move factor = \begin{cases}
    \frac{133 – 128 \times friction}{544} &≈ 0.244 – 0.235 \times friction & \text{ if } friction \ge \frac{29}{32} \\
    \frac{81920 \times friction – 70145}{1048576} &≈ 0.078 \times friction – 0.067 & \text{ otherwise }
    \end{cases}
    $$

    That’s pretty weird? Complicating things further is that low friction (which means muddy terrain, remember) has an extra multiplier on its move factor, depending on how fast you’re already going — the idea is apparently that you have a hard time getting going, but it gets easier as you find your footing. The extra multiplier maxes out at 8, which makes the two halves of that function meet at the vanilla Doom value.

    A graph of the relationship between friction and move factor

    That very top point corresponds to the move factor from the original game. So no matter what you do to friction, the move factor becomes lower. At 0.85 and change, you can no longer move at all; below that, you move backwards.

    From the formula above, it’s easy to see what changes to friction and move factor will do to Doomguy’s stable velocity. Move factor is in the numerator, so increasing it will increase stable velocity — but it can’t increase, so stable velocity can only ever decrease. Friction is in the denominator, but it’s subtracted from 1, so increasing friction will make the denominator a smaller value less than 1, i.e. increase stable velocity. Combined, we get this relationship between friction and stable velocity.

    A graph showing stable velocity shooting up dramatically as friction increases

    As friction approaches 1, stable velocity grows without bound. This makes sense, given the definition of \(v(n)\) — if friction is 1, the velocity from the previous tic isn’t reduced at all, so we just keep accelerating freely.

    All of this is why I’m wary of using multipliers.

    Anyway, this leaves me with one last question about the effects of Doom’s friction: how long does it take to reach stable velocity? Barring precision errors, we’ll never truly reach stable velocity, but let’s say within 5%. First we need a closed formula for the velocity after some number of tics. This is a simple recurrence relation, and you can write a few terms out yourself if you want to be sure this is right.

    $$
    v(n) = v_0 \times friction^n + speed \times move factor \times \frac{friction^n – 1}{friction – 1}
    $$

    Our initial velocity is zero, so the first term disappears. Set this equal to the stable formula and solve for n:

    $$
    speed \times move factor \times \frac{friction^n – 1}{friction – 1} = (1 – 5\%) \times speed \times \frac{move factor}{1 – friction} \\
    friction^n – 1 = -(1 – 5\%) \\
    n = \frac{\ln 5\%}{\ln friction}
    $$

    Speed” and move factor disappear entirely, which makes sense, and this is purely a function of friction (and how close we want to get). For vanilla Doom, that comes out to 30.4, which is a little less than a second. For other values of friction:

    A graph of time to stability which leaps upwards dramatically towards the right

    As friction increases (which in Doom terms means the surface is more slippery), it takes longer and longer to reach stable speed, which is in turn greater and greater. For lesser friction (i.e. mud), stable speed is lower, but reached fairly quickly. (Of course, the extra “getting going” multiplier while in mud adds some extra time here, but including that in the graph is a bit more complicated.)

    I think this matches with my instincts above. How fascinating!

    What’s that? This is way too much math and you hate it? Then don’t use multipliers in game physics.

    Uh

    That was a hell of a diversion!

    I guess the goofiest stuff in basic game physics is really just about mapping player controls to in-game actions like jumping and deceleration; the rest consists of hacks to compensate for representing everything as a box.

    Combine Transactional and Analytical Data Using Amazon Aurora and Amazon Redshift

    Post Syndicated from Re Alvarez-Parmar original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/combine-transactional-and-analytical-data-using-amazon-aurora-and-amazon-redshift/

    A few months ago, we published a blog post about capturing data changes in an Amazon Aurora database and sending it to Amazon Athena and Amazon QuickSight for fast analysis and visualization. In this post, I want to demonstrate how easy it can be to take the data in Aurora and combine it with data in Amazon Redshift using Amazon Redshift Spectrum.

    With Amazon Redshift, you can build petabyte-scale data warehouses that unify data from a variety of internal and external sources. Because Amazon Redshift is optimized for complex queries (often involving multiple joins) across large tables, it can handle large volumes of retail, inventory, and financial data without breaking a sweat.

    In this post, we describe how to combine data in Aurora in Amazon Redshift. Here’s an overview of the solution:

    • Use AWS Lambda functions with Amazon Aurora to capture data changes in a table.
    • Save data in an Amazon S3
    • Query data using Amazon Redshift Spectrum.

    We use the following services:

    Serverless architecture for capturing and analyzing Aurora data changes

    Consider a scenario in which an e-commerce web application uses Amazon Aurora for a transactional database layer. The company has a sales table that captures every single sale, along with a few corresponding data items. This information is stored as immutable data in a table. Business users want to monitor the sales data and then analyze and visualize it.

    In this example, you take the changes in data in an Aurora database table and save it in Amazon S3. After the data is captured in Amazon S3, you combine it with data in your existing Amazon Redshift cluster for analysis.

    By the end of this post, you will understand how to capture data events in an Aurora table and push them out to other AWS services using AWS Lambda.

    The following diagram shows the flow of data as it occurs in this tutorial:

    The starting point in this architecture is a database insert operation in Amazon Aurora. When the insert statement is executed, a custom trigger calls a Lambda function and forwards the inserted data. Lambda writes the data that it received from Amazon Aurora to a Kinesis data delivery stream. Kinesis Data Firehose writes the data to an Amazon S3 bucket. Once the data is in an Amazon S3 bucket, it is queried in place using Amazon Redshift Spectrum.

    Creating an Aurora database

    First, create a database by following these steps in the Amazon RDS console:

    1. Sign in to the AWS Management Console, and open the Amazon RDS console.
    2. Choose Launch a DB instance, and choose Next.
    3. For Engine, choose Amazon Aurora.
    4. Choose a DB instance class. This example uses a small, since this is not a production database.
    5. In Multi-AZ deployment, choose No.
    6. Configure DB instance identifier, Master username, and Master password.
    7. Launch the DB instance.

    After you create the database, use MySQL Workbench to connect to the database using the CNAME from the console. For information about connecting to an Aurora database, see Connecting to an Amazon Aurora DB Cluster.

    The following screenshot shows the MySQL Workbench configuration:

    Next, create a table in the database by running the following SQL statement:

    Create Table
    CREATE TABLE Sales (
    InvoiceID int NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
    ItemID int NOT NULL,
    Category varchar(255),
    Price double(10,2), 
    Quantity int not NULL,
    OrderDate timestamp,
    DestinationState varchar(2),
    ShippingType varchar(255),
    Referral varchar(255),
    PRIMARY KEY (InvoiceID)
    )

    You can now populate the table with some sample data. To generate sample data in your table, copy and run the following script. Ensure that the highlighted (bold) variables are replaced with appropriate values.

    #!/usr/bin/python
    import MySQLdb
    import random
    import datetime
    
    db = MySQLdb.connect(host="AURORA_CNAME",
                         user="DBUSER",
                         passwd="DBPASSWORD",
                         db="DB")
    
    states = ("AL","AK","AZ","AR","CA","CO","CT","DE","FL","GA","HI","ID","IL","IN",
    "IA","KS","KY","LA","ME","MD","MA","MI","MN","MS","MO","MT","NE","NV","NH","NJ",
    "NM","NY","NC","ND","OH","OK","OR","PA","RI","SC","SD","TN","TX","UT","VT","VA",
    "WA","WV","WI","WY")
    
    shipping_types = ("Free", "3-Day", "2-Day")
    
    product_categories = ("Garden", "Kitchen", "Office", "Household")
    referrals = ("Other", "Friend/Colleague", "Repeat Customer", "Online Ad")
    
    for i in range(0,10):
        item_id = random.randint(1,100)
        state = states[random.randint(0,len(states)-1)]
        shipping_type = shipping_types[random.randint(0,len(shipping_types)-1)]
        product_category = product_categories[random.randint(0,len(product_categories)-1)]
        quantity = random.randint(1,4)
        referral = referrals[random.randint(0,len(referrals)-1)]
        price = random.randint(1,100)
        order_date = datetime.date(2016,random.randint(1,12),random.randint(1,30)).isoformat()
    
        data_order = (item_id, product_category, price, quantity, order_date, state,
        shipping_type, referral)
    
        add_order = ("INSERT INTO Sales "
                       "(ItemID, Category, Price, Quantity, OrderDate, DestinationState, \
                       ShippingType, Referral) "
                       "VALUES (%s, %s, %s, %s, %s, %s, %s, %s)")
    
        cursor = db.cursor()
        cursor.execute(add_order, data_order)
    
        db.commit()
    
    cursor.close()
    db.close() 

    The following screenshot shows how the table appears with the sample data:

    Sending data from Amazon Aurora to Amazon S3

    There are two methods available to send data from Amazon Aurora to Amazon S3:

    • Using a Lambda function
    • Using SELECT INTO OUTFILE S3

    To demonstrate the ease of setting up integration between multiple AWS services, we use a Lambda function to send data to Amazon S3 using Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose.

    Alternatively, you can use a SELECT INTO OUTFILE S3 statement to query data from an Amazon Aurora DB cluster and save it directly in text files that are stored in an Amazon S3 bucket. However, with this method, there is a delay between the time that the database transaction occurs and the time that the data is exported to Amazon S3 because the default file size threshold is 6 GB.

    Creating a Kinesis data delivery stream

    The next step is to create a Kinesis data delivery stream, since it’s a dependency of the Lambda function.

    To create a delivery stream:

    1. Open the Kinesis Data Firehose console
    2. Choose Create delivery stream.
    3. For Delivery stream name, type AuroraChangesToS3.
    4. For Source, choose Direct PUT.
    5. For Record transformation, choose Disabled.
    6. For Destination, choose Amazon S3.
    7. In the S3 bucket drop-down list, choose an existing bucket, or create a new one.
    8. Enter a prefix if needed, and choose Next.
    9. For Data compression, choose GZIP.
    10. In IAM role, choose either an existing role that has access to write to Amazon S3, or choose to generate one automatically. Choose Next.
    11. Review all the details on the screen, and choose Create delivery stream when you’re finished.

     

    Creating a Lambda function

    Now you can create a Lambda function that is called every time there is a change that needs to be tracked in the database table. This Lambda function passes the data to the Kinesis data delivery stream that you created earlier.

    To create the Lambda function:

    1. Open the AWS Lambda console.
    2. Ensure that you are in the AWS Region where your Amazon Aurora database is located.
    3. If you have no Lambda functions yet, choose Get started now. Otherwise, choose Create function.
    4. Choose Author from scratch.
    5. Give your function a name and select Python 3.6 for Runtime
    6. Choose and existing or create a new Role, the role would need to have access to call firehose:PutRecord
    7. Choose Next on the trigger selection screen.
    8. Paste the following code in the code window. Change the stream_name variable to the Kinesis data delivery stream that you created in the previous step.
    9. Choose File -> Save in the code editor and then choose Save.
    import boto3
    import json
    
    firehose = boto3.client('firehose')
    stream_name = ‘AuroraChangesToS3’
    
    
    def Kinesis_publish_message(event, context):
        
        firehose_data = (("%s,%s,%s,%s,%s,%s,%s,%s\n") %(event['ItemID'], 
        event['Category'], event['Price'], event['Quantity'],
        event['OrderDate'], event['DestinationState'], event['ShippingType'], 
        event['Referral']))
        
        firehose_data = {'Data': str(firehose_data)}
        print(firehose_data)
        
        firehose.put_record(DeliveryStreamName=stream_name,
        Record=firehose_data)

    Note the Amazon Resource Name (ARN) of this Lambda function.

    Giving Aurora permissions to invoke a Lambda function

    To give Amazon Aurora permissions to invoke a Lambda function, you must attach an IAM role with appropriate permissions to the cluster. For more information, see Invoking a Lambda Function from an Amazon Aurora DB Cluster.

    Once you are finished, the Amazon Aurora database has access to invoke a Lambda function.

    Creating a stored procedure and a trigger in Amazon Aurora

    Now, go back to MySQL Workbench, and run the following command to create a new stored procedure. When this stored procedure is called, it invokes the Lambda function you created. Change the ARN in the following code to your Lambda function’s ARN.

    DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS CDC_TO_FIREHOSE;
    DELIMITER ;;
    CREATE PROCEDURE CDC_TO_FIREHOSE (IN ItemID VARCHAR(255), 
    									IN Category varchar(255), 
    									IN Price double(10,2),
                                        IN Quantity int(11),
                                        IN OrderDate timestamp,
                                        IN DestinationState varchar(2),
                                        IN ShippingType varchar(255),
                                        IN Referral  varchar(255)) LANGUAGE SQL 
    BEGIN
      CALL mysql.lambda_async('arn:aws:lambda:us-east-1:XXXXXXXXXXXXX:function:CDCFromAuroraToKinesis', 
         CONCAT('{ "ItemID" : "', ItemID, 
                '", "Category" : "', Category,
                '", "Price" : "', Price,
                '", "Quantity" : "', Quantity, 
                '", "OrderDate" : "', OrderDate, 
                '", "DestinationState" : "', DestinationState, 
                '", "ShippingType" : "', ShippingType, 
                '", "Referral" : "', Referral, '"}')
         );
    END
    ;;
    DELIMITER ;

    Create a trigger TR_Sales_CDC on the Sales table. When a new record is inserted, this trigger calls the CDC_TO_FIREHOSE stored procedure.

    DROP TRIGGER IF EXISTS TR_Sales_CDC;
     
    DELIMITER ;;
    CREATE TRIGGER TR_Sales_CDC
      AFTER INSERT ON Sales
      FOR EACH ROW
    BEGIN
      SELECT  NEW.ItemID , NEW.Category, New.Price, New.Quantity, New.OrderDate
      , New.DestinationState, New.ShippingType, New.Referral
      INTO @ItemID , @Category, @Price, @Quantity, @OrderDate
      , @DestinationState, @ShippingType, @Referral;
      CALL  CDC_TO_FIREHOSE(@ItemID , @Category, @Price, @Quantity, @OrderDate
      , @DestinationState, @ShippingType, @Referral);
    END
    ;;
    DELIMITER ;

    If a new row is inserted in the Sales table, the Lambda function that is mentioned in the stored procedure is invoked.

    Verify that data is being sent from the Lambda function to Kinesis Data Firehose to Amazon S3 successfully. You might have to insert a few records, depending on the size of your data, before new records appear in Amazon S3. This is due to Kinesis Data Firehose buffering. To learn more about Kinesis Data Firehose buffering, see the “Amazon S3” section in Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose Data Delivery.

    Every time a new record is inserted in the sales table, a stored procedure is called, and it updates data in Amazon S3.

    Querying data in Amazon Redshift

    In this section, you use the data you produced from Amazon Aurora and consume it as-is in Amazon Redshift. In order to allow you to process your data as-is, where it is, while taking advantage of the power and flexibility of Amazon Redshift, you use Amazon Redshift Spectrum. You can use Redshift Spectrum to run complex queries on data stored in Amazon S3, with no need for loading or other data prep.

    Just create a data source and issue your queries to your Amazon Redshift cluster as usual. Behind the scenes, Redshift Spectrum scales to thousands of instances on a per-query basis, ensuring that you get fast, consistent performance even as your dataset grows to beyond an exabyte! Being able to query data that is stored in Amazon S3 means that you can scale your compute and your storage independently. You have the full power of the Amazon Redshift query model and all the reporting and business intelligence tools at your disposal. Your queries can reference any combination of data stored in Amazon Redshift tables and in Amazon S3.

    Redshift Spectrum supports open, common data types, including CSV/TSV, Apache Parquet, SequenceFile, and RCFile. Files can be compressed using gzip or Snappy, with other data types and compression methods in the works.

    First, create an Amazon Redshift cluster. Follow the steps in Launch a Sample Amazon Redshift Cluster.

    Next, create an IAM role that has access to Amazon S3 and Athena. By default, Amazon Redshift Spectrum uses the Amazon Athena data catalog. Your cluster needs authorization to access your external data catalog in AWS Glue or Athena and your data files in Amazon S3.

    In the demo setup, I attached AmazonS3FullAccess and AmazonAthenaFullAccess. In a production environment, the IAM roles should follow the standard security of granting least privilege. For more information, see IAM Policies for Amazon Redshift Spectrum.

    Attach the newly created role to the Amazon Redshift cluster. For more information, see Associate the IAM Role with Your Cluster.

    Next, connect to the Amazon Redshift cluster, and create an external schema and database:

    create external schema if not exists spectrum_schema
    from data catalog 
    database 'spectrum_db' 
    region 'us-east-1'
    IAM_ROLE 'arn:aws:iam::XXXXXXXXXXXX:role/RedshiftSpectrumRole'
    create external database if not exists;

    Don’t forget to replace the IAM role in the statement.

    Then create an external table within the database:

     CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE IF NOT EXISTS spectrum_schema.ecommerce_sales(
      ItemID int,
      Category varchar,
      Price DOUBLE PRECISION,
      Quantity int,
      OrderDate TIMESTAMP,
      DestinationState varchar,
      ShippingType varchar,
      Referral varchar)
    ROW FORMAT DELIMITED
          FIELDS TERMINATED BY ','
    LINES TERMINATED BY '\n'
    LOCATION 's3://{BUCKET_NAME}/CDC/'

    Query the table, and it should contain data. This is a fact table.

    select top 10 * from spectrum_schema.ecommerce_sales

     

    Next, create a dimension table. For this example, we create a date/time dimension table. Create the table:

    CREATE TABLE date_dimension (
      d_datekey           integer       not null sortkey,
      d_dayofmonth        integer       not null,
      d_monthnum          integer       not null,
      d_dayofweek                varchar(10)   not null,
      d_prettydate        date       not null,
      d_quarter           integer       not null,
      d_half              integer       not null,
      d_year              integer       not null,
      d_season            varchar(10)   not null,
      d_fiscalyear        integer       not null)
    diststyle all;

    Populate the table with data:

    copy date_dimension from 's3://reparmar-lab/2016dates' 
    iam_role 'arn:aws:iam::XXXXXXXXXXXX:role/redshiftspectrum'
    DELIMITER ','
    dateformat 'auto';

    The date dimension table should look like the following:

    Querying data in local and external tables using Amazon Redshift

    Now that you have the fact and dimension table populated with data, you can combine the two and run analysis. For example, if you want to query the total sales amount by weekday, you can run the following:

    select sum(quantity*price) as total_sales, date_dimension.d_season
    from spectrum_schema.ecommerce_sales 
    join date_dimension on spectrum_schema.ecommerce_sales.orderdate = date_dimension.d_prettydate 
    group by date_dimension.d_season

    You get the following results:

    Similarly, you can replace d_season with d_dayofweek to get sales figures by weekday:

    With Amazon Redshift Spectrum, you pay only for the queries you run against the data that you actually scan. We encourage you to use file partitioning, columnar data formats, and data compression to significantly minimize the amount of data scanned in Amazon S3. This is important for data warehousing because it dramatically improves query performance and reduces cost.

    Partitioning your data in Amazon S3 by date, time, or any other custom keys enables Amazon Redshift Spectrum to dynamically prune nonrelevant partitions to minimize the amount of data processed. If you store data in a columnar format, such as Parquet, Amazon Redshift Spectrum scans only the columns needed by your query, rather than processing entire rows. Similarly, if you compress your data using one of the supported compression algorithms in Amazon Redshift Spectrum, less data is scanned.

    Analyzing and visualizing Amazon Redshift data in Amazon QuickSight

    Modify the Amazon Redshift security group to allow an Amazon QuickSight connection. For more information, see Authorizing Connections from Amazon QuickSight to Amazon Redshift Clusters.

    After modifying the Amazon Redshift security group, go to Amazon QuickSight. Create a new analysis, and choose Amazon Redshift as the data source.

    Enter the database connection details, validate the connection, and create the data source.

    Choose the schema to be analyzed. In this case, choose spectrum_schema, and then choose the ecommerce_sales table.

    Next, we add a custom field for Total Sales = Price*Quantity. In the drop-down list for the ecommerce_sales table, choose Edit analysis data sets.

    On the next screen, choose Edit.

    In the data prep screen, choose New Field. Add a new calculated field Total Sales $, which is the product of the Price*Quantity fields. Then choose Create. Save and visualize it.

    Next, to visualize total sales figures by month, create a graph with Total Sales on the x-axis and Order Data formatted as month on the y-axis.

    After you’ve finished, you can use Amazon QuickSight to add different columns from your Amazon Redshift tables and perform different types of visualizations. You can build operational dashboards that continuously monitor your transactional and analytical data. You can publish these dashboards and share them with others.

    Final notes

    Amazon QuickSight can also read data in Amazon S3 directly. However, with the method demonstrated in this post, you have the option to manipulate, filter, and combine data from multiple sources or Amazon Redshift tables before visualizing it in Amazon QuickSight.

    In this example, we dealt with data being inserted, but triggers can be activated in response to an INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE trigger.

    Keep the following in mind:

    • Be careful when invoking a Lambda function from triggers on tables that experience high write traffic. This would result in a large number of calls to your Lambda function. Although calls to the lambda_async procedure are asynchronous, triggers are synchronous.
    • A statement that results in a large number of trigger activations does not wait for the call to the AWS Lambda function to complete. But it does wait for the triggers to complete before returning control to the client.
    • Similarly, you must account for Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose limits. By default, Kinesis Data Firehose is limited to a maximum of 5,000 records/second. For more information, see Monitoring Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose.

    In certain cases, it may be optimal to use AWS Database Migration Service (AWS DMS) to capture data changes in Aurora and use Amazon S3 as a target. For example, AWS DMS might be a good option if you don’t need to transform data from Amazon Aurora. The method used in this post gives you the flexibility to transform data from Aurora using Lambda before sending it to Amazon S3. Additionally, the architecture has the benefits of being serverless, whereas AWS DMS requires an Amazon EC2 instance for replication.

    For design considerations while using Redshift Spectrum, see Using Amazon Redshift Spectrum to Query External Data.

    If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.


    Additional Reading

    If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Capturing Data Changes in Amazon Aurora Using AWS Lambda and 10 Best Practices for Amazon Redshift Spectrum


    About the Authors

    Re Alvarez-Parmar is a solutions architect for Amazon Web Services. He helps enterprises achieve success through technical guidance and thought leadership. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his two kids and exploring outdoors.