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Ransomware Update: Viruses Targeting Business IT Servers

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/ransomware-update-viruses-targeting-business-it-servers/

Ransomware warning message on computer

As ransomware attacks have grown in number in recent months, the tactics and attack vectors also have evolved. While the primary method of attack used to be to target individual computer users within organizations with phishing emails and infected attachments, we’re increasingly seeing attacks that target weaknesses in businesses’ IT infrastructure.

How Ransomware Attacks Typically Work

In our previous posts on ransomware, we described the common vehicles used by hackers to infect organizations with ransomware viruses. Most often, downloaders distribute trojan horses through malicious downloads and spam emails. The emails contain a variety of file attachments, which if opened, will download and run one of the many ransomware variants. Once a user’s computer is infected with a malicious downloader, it will retrieve additional malware, which frequently includes crypto-ransomware. After the files have been encrypted, a ransom payment is demanded of the victim in order to decrypt the files.

What’s Changed With the Latest Ransomware Attacks?

In 2016, a customized ransomware strain called SamSam began attacking the servers in primarily health care institutions. SamSam, unlike more conventional ransomware, is not delivered through downloads or phishing emails. Instead, the attackers behind SamSam use tools to identify unpatched servers running Red Hat’s JBoss enterprise products. Once the attackers have successfully gained entry into one of these servers by exploiting vulnerabilities in JBoss, they use other freely available tools and scripts to collect credentials and gather information on networked computers. Then they deploy their ransomware to encrypt files on these systems before demanding a ransom. Gaining entry to an organization through its IT center rather than its endpoints makes this approach scalable and especially unsettling.

SamSam’s methodology is to scour the Internet searching for accessible and vulnerable JBoss application servers, especially ones used by hospitals. It’s not unlike a burglar rattling doorknobs in a neighborhood to find unlocked homes. When SamSam finds an unlocked home (unpatched server), the software infiltrates the system. It is then free to spread across the company’s network by stealing passwords. As it transverses the network and systems, it encrypts files, preventing access until the victims pay the hackers a ransom, typically between $10,000 and $15,000. The low ransom amount has encouraged some victimized organizations to pay the ransom rather than incur the downtime required to wipe and reinitialize their IT systems.

The success of SamSam is due to its effectiveness rather than its sophistication. SamSam can enter and transverse a network without human intervention. Some organizations are learning too late that securing internet-facing services in their data center from attack is just as important as securing endpoints.

The typical steps in a SamSam ransomware attack are:

Attackers gain access to vulnerable server
Attackers exploit vulnerable software or weak/stolen credentials.
Attack spreads via remote access tools
Attackers harvest credentials, create SOCKS proxies to tunnel traffic, and abuse RDP to install SamSam on more computers in the network.
Ransomware payload deployed
Attackers run batch scripts to execute ransomware on compromised machines.
Ransomware demand delivered requiring payment to decrypt files
Demand amounts vary from victim to victim. Relatively low ransom amounts appear to be designed to encourage quick payment decisions.

What all the organizations successfully exploited by SamSam have in common is that they were running unpatched servers that made them vulnerable to SamSam. Some organizations had their endpoints and servers backed up, while others did not. Some of those without backups they could use to recover their systems chose to pay the ransom money.

Timeline of SamSam History and Exploits

Since its appearance in 2016, SamSam has been in the news with many successful incursions into healthcare, business, and government institutions.

March 2016
SamSam appears

SamSam campaign targets vulnerable JBoss servers
Attackers hone in on healthcare organizations specifically, as they’re more likely to have unpatched JBoss machines.

April 2016
SamSam finds new targets

SamSam begins targeting schools and government.
After initial success targeting healthcare, attackers branch out to other sectors.

April 2017
New tactics include RDP

Attackers shift to targeting organizations with exposed RDP connections, and maintain focus on healthcare.
An attack on Erie County Medical Center costs the hospital $10 million over three months of recovery.
Erie County Medical Center attacked by SamSam ransomware virus

January 2018
Municipalities attacked

• Attack on Municipality of Farmington, NM.
• Attack on Hancock Health.
Hancock Regional Hospital notice following SamSam attack
• Attack on Adams Memorial Hospital
• Attack on Allscripts (Electronic Health Records), which includes 180,000 physicians, 2,500 hospitals, and 7.2 million patients’ health records.

February 2018
Attack volume increases

• Attack on Davidson County, NC.
• Attack on Colorado Department of Transportation.
SamSam virus notification

March 2018
SamSam shuts down Atlanta

• Second attack on Colorado Department of Transportation.
• City of Atlanta suffers a devastating attack by SamSam.
The attack has far-reaching impacts — crippling the court system, keeping residents from paying their water bills, limiting vital communications like sewer infrastructure requests, and pushing the Atlanta Police Department to file paper reports.
Atlanta Ransomware outage alert
• SamSam campaign nets $325,000 in 4 weeks.
Infections spike as attackers launch new campaigns. Healthcare and government organizations are once again the primary targets.

How to Defend Against SamSam and Other Ransomware Attacks

The best way to respond to a ransomware attack is to avoid having one in the first place. If you are attacked, making sure your valuable data is backed up and unreachable by ransomware infection will ensure that your downtime and data loss will be minimal or none if you ever suffer an attack.

In our previous post, How to Recover From Ransomware, we listed the ten ways to protect your organization from ransomware.

  1. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software or other security policies to block known payloads from launching.
  2. Make frequent, comprehensive backups of all important files and isolate them from local and open networks. Cybersecurity professionals view data backup and recovery (74% in a recent survey) by far as the most effective solution to respond to a successful ransomware attack.
  3. Keep offline backups of data stored in locations inaccessible from any potentially infected computer, such as disconnected external storage drives or the cloud, which prevents them from being accessed by the ransomware.
  4. Install the latest security updates issued by software vendors of your OS and applications. Remember to patch early and patch often to close known vulnerabilities in operating systems, server software, browsers, and web plugins.
  5. Consider deploying security software to protect endpoints, email servers, and network systems from infection.
  6. Exercise cyber hygiene, such as using caution when opening email attachments and links.
  7. Segment your networks to keep critical computers isolated and to prevent the spread of malware in case of attack. Turn off unneeded network shares.
  8. Turn off admin rights for users who don’t require them. Give users the lowest system permissions they need to do their work.
  9. Restrict write permissions on file servers as much as possible.
  10. Educate yourself, your employees, and your family in best practices to keep malware out of your systems. Update everyone on the latest email phishing scams and human engineering aimed at turning victims into abettors.

Please Tell Us About Your Experiences with Ransomware

Have you endured a ransomware attack or have a strategy to avoid becoming a victim? Please tell us of your experiences in the comments.

The post Ransomware Update: Viruses Targeting Business IT Servers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Confused About the Hybrid Cloud? You’re Not Alone

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/confused-about-the-hybrid-cloud-youre-not-alone/

Hybrid Cloud. What is it?

Do you have a clear understanding of the hybrid cloud? If you don’t, it’s not surprising.

Hybrid cloud has been applied to a greater and more varied number of IT solutions than almost any other recent data management term. About the only thing that’s clear about the hybrid cloud is that the term hybrid cloud wasn’t invented by customers, but by vendors who wanted to hawk whatever solution du jour they happened to be pushing.

Let’s be honest. We’re in an industry that loves hype. We can’t resist grafting hyper, multi, ultra, and super and other prefixes onto the beginnings of words to entice customers with something new and shiny. The alphabet soup of cloud-related terms can include various options for where the cloud is located (on-premises, off-premises), whether the resources are private or shared in some degree (private, community, public), what type of services are offered (storage, computing), and what type of orchestrating software is used to manage the workflow and the resources. With so many moving parts, it’s no wonder potential users are confused.

Let’s take a step back, try to clear up the misconceptions, and come up with a basic understanding of what the hybrid cloud is. To be clear, this is our viewpoint. Others are free to do what they like, so bear that in mind.

So, What is the Hybrid Cloud?

The hybrid cloud refers to a cloud environment made up of a mixture of on-premises private cloud resources combined with third-party public cloud resources that use some kind of orchestration between them.

To get beyond the hype, let’s start with Forrester Research‘s idea of the hybrid cloud: “One or more public clouds connected to something in my data center. That thing could be a private cloud; that thing could just be traditional data center infrastructure.”

To put it simply, a hybrid cloud is a mash-up of on-premises and off-premises IT resources.

To expand on that a bit, we can say that the hybrid cloud refers to a cloud environment made up of a mixture of on-premises private cloud[1] resources combined with third-party public cloud resources that use some kind of orchestration[2] between them. The advantage of the hybrid cloud model is that it allows workloads and data to move between private and public clouds in a flexible way as demands, needs, and costs change, giving businesses greater flexibility and more options for data deployment and use.

In other words, if you have some IT resources in-house that you are replicating or augmenting with an external vendor, congrats, you have a hybrid cloud!

Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud

The cloud is really just a collection of purpose built servers. In a private cloud, the servers are dedicated to a single tenant or a group of related tenants. In a public cloud, the servers are shared between multiple unrelated tenants (customers). A public cloud is off-site, while a private cloud can be on-site or off-site — or on-prem or off-prem.

As an example, let’s look at a hybrid cloud meant for data storage, a hybrid data cloud. A company might set up a rule that says all accounting files that have not been touched in the last year are automatically moved off-prem to cloud storage to save cost and reduce the amount of storage needed on-site. The files are still available; they are just no longer stored on your local systems. The rules can be defined to fit an organization’s workflow and data retention policies.

The hybrid cloud concept also contains cloud computing. For example, at the end of the quarter, order processing application instances can be spun up off-premises in a hybrid computing cloud as needed to add to on-premises capacity.

Hybrid Cloud Benefits

If we accept that the hybrid cloud combines the best elements of private and public clouds, then the benefits of hybrid cloud solutions are clear, and we can identify the primary two benefits that result from the blending of private and public clouds.

Diagram of the Components of the Hybrid Cloud

Benefit 1: Flexibility and Scalability

Undoubtedly, the primary advantage of the hybrid cloud is its flexibility. It takes time and money to manage in-house IT infrastructure and adding capacity requires advance planning.

The cloud is ready and able to provide IT resources whenever needed on short notice. The term cloud bursting refers to the on-demand and temporary use of the public cloud when demand exceeds resources available in the private cloud. For example, some businesses experience seasonal spikes that can put an extra burden on private clouds. These spikes can be taken up by a public cloud. Demand also can vary with geographic location, events, or other variables. The public cloud provides the elasticity to deal with these and other anticipated and unanticipated IT loads. The alternative would be fixed cost investments in on-premises IT resources that might not be efficiently utilized.

For a data storage user, the on-premises private cloud storage provides, among other benefits, the highest speed access. For data that is not frequently accessed, or needed with the absolute lowest levels of latency, it makes sense for the organization to move it to a location that is secure, but less expensive. The data is still readily available, and the public cloud provides a better platform for sharing the data with specific clients, users, or with the general public.

Benefit 2: Cost Savings

The public cloud component of the hybrid cloud provides cost-effective IT resources without incurring capital expenses and labor costs. IT professionals can determine the best configuration, service provider, and location for each service, thereby cutting costs by matching the resource with the task best suited to it. Services can be easily scaled, redeployed, or reduced when necessary, saving costs through increased efficiency and avoiding unnecessary expenses.

Comparing Private vs Hybrid Cloud Storage Costs

To get an idea of the difference in storage costs between a purely on-premises solutions and one that uses a hybrid of private and public storage, we’ll present two scenarios. For each scenario we’ll use data storage amounts of 100 terabytes, 1 petabyte, and 2 petabytes. Each table is the same format, all we’ve done is change how the data is distributed: private (on-premises) cloud or public (off-premises) cloud. We are using the costs for our own B2 Cloud Storage in this example. The math can be adapted for any set of numbers you wish to use.

Scenario 1    100% of data on-premises storage

Data Stored
Data stored On-Premises: 100% 100 TB 1,000 TB 2,000 TB
On-premises cost range Monthly Cost
Low — $12/TB/Month $1,200 $12,000 $24,000
High — $20/TB/Month $2,000 $20,000 $40,000

Scenario 2    20% of data on-premises with 80% public cloud storage (B2)

Data Stored
Data stored On-Premises: 20% 20 TB 200 TB 400 TB
Data stored in Cloud: 80% 80 TB 800 TB 1,600 TB
On-premises cost range Monthly Cost
Low — $12/TB/Month $240 $2,400 $4,800
High — $20/TB/Month $400 $4,000 $8,000
Public cloud cost range Monthly Cost
Low — $5/TB/Month (B2) $400 $4,000 $8,000
High — $20/TB/Month $1,600 $16,000 $32,000
On-premises + public cloud cost range Monthly Cost
Low $640 $6,400 $12,800
High $2,000 $20,000 $40,000

As can be seen in the numbers above, using a hybrid cloud solution and storing 80% of the data in the cloud with a provider such as Backblaze B2 can result in significant savings over storing only on-premises. For other cost scenarios, see the B2 Cost Calculator.

When Hybrid Might Not Always Be the Right Fit

There are circumstances where the hybrid cloud might not be the best solution. Smaller organizations operating on a tight IT budget might best be served by a purely public cloud solution. The cost of setting up and running private servers is substantial.

An application that requires the highest possible speed might not be suitable for hybrid, depending on the specific cloud implementation. While latency does play a factor in data storage for some users, it is less of a factor for uploading and downloading data than it is for organizations using the hybrid cloud for computing. Because Backblaze recognized the importance of speed and low-latency for customers wishing to use computing on data stored in B2, we directly connected our data centers with those of our computing partners, ensuring that latency would not be an issue even for a hybrid cloud computing solution.

It is essential to have a good understanding of workloads and their essential characteristics in order to make the hybrid cloud work well for you. Each application needs to be examined for the right mix of private cloud, public cloud, and traditional IT resources that fit the particular workload in order to benefit most from a hybrid cloud architecture.

The Hybrid Cloud Can Be a Win-Win Solution

From the high altitude perspective, any solution that enables an organization to respond in a flexible manner to IT demands is a win. Avoiding big upfront capital expenses for in-house IT infrastructure will appeal to the CFO. Being able to quickly spin up IT resources as they’re needed will appeal to the CTO and VP of Operations.

Should You Go Hybrid?

We’ve arrived at the bottom line and the question is, should you or your organization embrace hybrid cloud infrastructures?

According to 451 Research, by 2019, 69% of companies will operate in hybrid cloud environments, and 60% of workloads will be running in some form of hosted cloud service (up from 45% in 2017). That indicates that the benefits of the hybrid cloud appeal to a broad range of companies.

In Two Years, More Than Half of Workloads Will Run in Cloud

Clearly, depending on an organization’s needs, there are advantages to a hybrid solution. While it might have been possible to dismiss the hybrid cloud in the early days of the cloud as nothing more than a buzzword, that’s no longer true. The hybrid cloud has evolved beyond the marketing hype to offer real solutions for an increasingly complex and challenging IT environment.

If an organization approaches the hybrid cloud with sufficient planning and a structured approach, a hybrid cloud can deliver on-demand flexibility, empower legacy systems and applications with new capabilities, and become a catalyst for digital transformation. The result can be an elastic and responsive infrastructure that has the ability to quickly respond to changing demands of the business.

As data management professionals increasingly recognize the advantages of the hybrid cloud, we can expect more and more of them to embrace it as an essential part of their IT strategy.

Tell Us What You’re Doing with the Hybrid Cloud

Are you currently embracing the hybrid cloud, or are you still uncertain or hanging back because you’re satisfied with how things are currently? Maybe you’ve gone totally hybrid. We’d love to hear your comments below on how you’re dealing with the hybrid cloud.

[1] Private cloud can be on-premises or a dedicated off-premises facility.

[2] Hybrid cloud orchestration solutions are often proprietary, vertical, and task dependent.

The post Confused About the Hybrid Cloud? You’re Not Alone appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

TV Broadcaster Wants App Stores Blocked to Prevent Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-broadcaster-wants-app-stores-blocked-to-prevent-piracy-180416/

After first targeting torrent and regular streaming platforms with blocking injunctions, last year Village Roadshow and studios including Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount began looking at a new threat.

The action targeted HDSubs+, a reasonably popular IPTV service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee. The application was filed during October 2017 and targeted Australia’s largest ISPs.

In parallel, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) launched a similar action, demanding that the same ISPs (including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus subsidiaries) block several ‘pirate’ IPTV services, named in court as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Due to the similarity of the cases, both applications were heard in Federal Court in Sydney on Friday. Neither case is as straightforward as blocking a torrent or basic streaming portal, so both applicants are having to deal with additional complexities.

The TVB case is of particular interest. Up to a couple of dozen URLs maintain the services, which are used to provide the content, an EPG (electronic program guide), updates and sundry other features. While most of these appear to fit the description of an “online location” designed to assist copyright infringement, where the Android-based software for the IPTV services is hosted provides an interesting dilemma.

ComputerWorld reports that the apps – which offer live broadcasts, video-on-demand, and catch-up TV – are hosted on as-yet-unnamed sites which are functionally similar to Google Play or Apple’s App Store. They’re repositories of applications that also carry non-infringing apps, such as those for Netflix and YouTube.

Nevertheless, despite clear knowledge of this dual use, TVB wants to have these app marketplaces blocked by Australian ISPs, which would not only render the illicit apps inaccessible to the public but all of the non-infringing ones too. Part of its argument that this action would be reasonable appears to be that legal apps – such as Netflix’s for example – can also be freely accessed elsewhere.

It will be up to Justice Nicholas to decide whether the “primary purpose” of these marketplaces is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of TVB’s copyrights. However, TVB also appears to have another problem which is directly connected to the copyright status in Australia of its China-focused live programming.

Justice Nicholas questioned whether watching a stream in Australia of TVB’s live Chinese broadcasts would amount to copyright infringement because no copy of that content is being made.

“If most of what is occurring here is a reproduction of broadcasts that are not protected by copyright, then the primary purpose is not to facilitate copyright infringement,” Justice Nicholas said.

One of the problems appears to be that China is not a party to the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations. However, TVB is arguing that it should still receive protection because it airs pre-recorded content and the live broadcasts are also archived for re-transmission via catch-up services.

The question over whether unchoreographed live broadcasts receive protection has been raised in other regions but in most cases, a workaround has been found. The presence of broadcaster logos on screen (which receive copyright protection) is a factor and it’s been reported that broadcasters are able to record the ‘live’ action and transmit a copy just a couple of seconds later, thereby broadcasting an already-copyrighted work.

While TVB attempts to overcome its issues, Village Roadshow is facing some of its own in its efforts to take down HDSubs+.

It appears that at least partly in response to the Roadshow legal action, the service has undergone some modifications, including a change of brand to ‘Press Play Extra’. As reported by ZDNet, there have been structural changes too, which means that Roadshow can no longer “see under the hood”.

According to Justice Nicholas, there is no evidence that the latest version of the app infringes copyright but according to counsel for Village Roadshow, the new app is merely transitional and preparing for a possible future change.

“We submit the difference to be drawn is reactive to my clients serving on the operators a notice,” counsel for Roadshow argued, with an expert describing the new app as “almost like a placeholder.”

In short, Roadshow still wants all of the target domains in its original application blocked because the company believes there’s a good chance they’ll be reactivated in the future.

None of the ISPs involved in either case turned up to the hearings on Friday, which removes one layer of complexity in what appears thus far to be less than straightforward cases.

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

How to retain system tables’ data spanning multiple Amazon Redshift clusters and run cross-cluster diagnostic queries

Post Syndicated from Karthik Sonti original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/how-to-retain-system-tables-data-spanning-multiple-amazon-redshift-clusters-and-run-cross-cluster-diagnostic-queries/

Amazon Redshift is a data warehouse service that logs the history of the system in STL log tables. The STL log tables manage disk space by retaining only two to five days of log history, depending on log usage and available disk space.

To retain STL tables’ data for an extended period, you usually have to create a replica table for every system table. Then, for each you load the data from the system table into the replica at regular intervals. By maintaining replica tables for STL tables, you can run diagnostic queries on historical data from the STL tables. You then can derive insights from query execution times, query plans, and disk-spill patterns, and make better cluster-sizing decisions. However, refreshing replica tables with live data from STL tables at regular intervals requires schedulers such as Cron or AWS Data Pipeline. Also, these tables are specific to one cluster and they are not accessible after the cluster is terminated. This is especially true for transient Amazon Redshift clusters that last for only a finite period of ad hoc query execution.

In this blog post, I present a solution that exports system tables from multiple Amazon Redshift clusters into an Amazon S3 bucket. This solution is serverless, and you can schedule it as frequently as every five minutes. The AWS CloudFormation deployment template that I provide automates the solution setup in your environment. The system tables’ data in the Amazon S3 bucket is partitioned by cluster name and query execution date to enable efficient joins in cross-cluster diagnostic queries.

I also provide another CloudFormation template later in this post. This second template helps to automate the creation of tables in the AWS Glue Data Catalog for the system tables’ data stored in Amazon S3. After the system tables are exported to Amazon S3, you can run cross-cluster diagnostic queries on the system tables’ data and derive insights about query executions in each Amazon Redshift cluster. You can do this using Amazon QuickSight, Amazon Athena, Amazon EMR, or Amazon Redshift Spectrum.

You can find all the code examples in this post, including the CloudFormation templates, AWS Glue extract, transform, and load (ETL) scripts, and the resolution steps for common errors you might encounter in this GitHub repository.

Solution overview

The solution in this post uses AWS Glue to export system tables’ log data from Amazon Redshift clusters into Amazon S3. The AWS Glue ETL jobs are invoked at a scheduled interval by AWS Lambda. AWS Systems Manager, which provides secure, hierarchical storage for configuration data management and secrets management, maintains the details of Amazon Redshift clusters for which the solution is enabled. The last-fetched time stamp values for the respective cluster-table combination are maintained in an Amazon DynamoDB table.

The following diagram covers the key steps involved in this solution.

The solution as illustrated in the preceding diagram flows like this:

  1. The Lambda function, invoke_rs_stl_export_etl, is triggered at regular intervals, as controlled by Amazon CloudWatch. It’s triggered to look up the AWS Systems Manager parameter store to get the details of the Amazon Redshift clusters for which the system table export is enabled.
  2. The same Lambda function, based on the Amazon Redshift cluster details obtained in step 1, invokes the AWS Glue ETL job designated for the Amazon Redshift cluster. If an ETL job for the cluster is not found, the Lambda function creates one.
  3. The ETL job invoked for the Amazon Redshift cluster gets the cluster credentials from the parameter store. It gets from the DynamoDB table the last exported time stamp of when each of the system tables was exported from the respective Amazon Redshift cluster.
  4. The ETL job unloads the system tables’ data from the Amazon Redshift cluster into an Amazon S3 bucket.
  5. The ETL job updates the DynamoDB table with the last exported time stamp value for each system table exported from the Amazon Redshift cluster.
  6. The Amazon Redshift cluster system tables’ data is available in Amazon S3 and is partitioned by cluster name and date for running cross-cluster diagnostic queries.

Understanding the configuration data

This solution uses AWS Systems Manager parameter store to store the Amazon Redshift cluster credentials securely. The parameter store also securely stores other configuration information that the AWS Glue ETL job needs for extracting and storing system tables’ data in Amazon S3. Systems Manager comes with a default AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) key that it uses to encrypt the password component of the Amazon Redshift cluster credentials.

The following table explains the global parameters and cluster-specific parameters required in this solution. The global parameters are defined once and applicable at the overall solution level. The cluster-specific parameters are specific to an Amazon Redshift cluster and repeat for each cluster for which you enable this post’s solution. The CloudFormation template explained later in this post creates these parameters as part of the deployment process.

Parameter name Type Description
Global parametersdefined once and applied to all jobs
redshift_query_logs.global.s3_prefix String The Amazon S3 path where the query logs are exported. Under this path, each exported table is partitioned by cluster name and date.
redshift_query_logs.global.tempdir String The Amazon S3 path that AWS Glue ETL jobs use for temporarily staging the data.
redshift_query_logs.global.role> String The name of the role that the AWS Glue ETL jobs assume. Just the role name is sufficient. The complete Amazon Resource Name (ARN) is not required.
redshift_query_logs.global.enabled_cluster_list StringList A comma-separated list of cluster names for which system tables’ data export is enabled. This gives flexibility for a user to exclude certain clusters.
Cluster-specific parametersfor each cluster specified in the enabled_cluster_list parameter
redshift_query_logs.<<cluster_name>>.connection String The name of the AWS Glue Data Catalog connection to the Amazon Redshift cluster. For example, if the cluster name is product_warehouse, the entry is redshift_query_logs.product_warehouse.connection.
redshift_query_logs.<<cluster_name>>.user String The user name that AWS Glue uses to connect to the Amazon Redshift cluster.
redshift_query_logs.<<cluster_name>>.password Secure String The password that AWS Glue uses to connect the Amazon Redshift cluster’s encrypted-by key that is managed in AWS KMS.

For example, suppose that you have two Amazon Redshift clusters, product-warehouse and category-management, for which the solution described in this post is enabled. In this case, the parameters shown in the following screenshot are created by the solution deployment CloudFormation template in the AWS Systems Manager parameter store.

Solution deployment

To make it easier for you to get started, I created a CloudFormation template that automatically configures and deploys the solution—only one step is required after deployment.


To deploy the solution, you must have one or more Amazon Redshift clusters in a private subnet. This subnet must have a network address translation (NAT) gateway or a NAT instance configured, and also a security group with a self-referencing inbound rule for all TCP ports. For more information about why AWS Glue ETL needs the configuration it does, described previously, see Connecting to a JDBC Data Store in a VPC in the AWS Glue documentation.

To start the deployment, launch the CloudFormation template:

CloudFormation stack parameters

The following table lists and describes the parameters for deploying the solution to export query logs from multiple Amazon Redshift clusters.

Property Default Description
S3Bucket mybucket The bucket this solution uses to store the exported query logs, stage code artifacts, and perform unloads from Amazon Redshift. For example, the mybucket/extract_rs_logs/data bucket is used for storing all the exported query logs for each system table partitioned by the cluster. The mybucket/extract_rs_logs/temp/ bucket is used for temporarily staging the unloaded data from Amazon Redshift. The mybucket/extract_rs_logs/code bucket is used for storing all the code artifacts required for Lambda and the AWS Glue ETL jobs.
ExportEnabledRedshiftClusters Requires Input A comma-separated list of cluster names from which the system table logs need to be exported.
DataStoreSecurityGroups Requires Input A list of security groups with an inbound rule to the Amazon Redshift clusters provided in the parameter, ExportEnabledClusters. These security groups should also have a self-referencing inbound rule on all TCP ports, as explained on Connecting to a JDBC Data Store in a VPC.

After you launch the template and create the stack, you see that the following resources have been created:

  1. AWS Glue connections for each Amazon Redshift cluster you provided in the CloudFormation stack parameter, ExportEnabledRedshiftClusters.
  2. All parameters required for this solution created in the parameter store.
  3. The Lambda function that invokes the AWS Glue ETL jobs for each configured Amazon Redshift cluster at a regular interval of five minutes.
  4. The DynamoDB table that captures the last exported time stamps for each exported cluster-table combination.
  5. The AWS Glue ETL jobs to export query logs from each Amazon Redshift cluster provided in the CloudFormation stack parameter, ExportEnabledRedshiftClusters.
  6. The IAM roles and policies required for the Lambda function and AWS Glue ETL jobs.

After the deployment

For each Amazon Redshift cluster for which you enabled the solution through the CloudFormation stack parameter, ExportEnabledRedshiftClusters, the automated deployment includes temporary credentials that you must update after the deployment:

  1. Go to the parameter store.
  2. Note the parameters <<cluster_name>>.user and redshift_query_logs.<<cluster_name>>.password that correspond to each Amazon Redshift cluster for which you enabled this solution. Edit these parameters to replace the placeholder values with the right credentials.

For example, if product-warehouse is one of the clusters for which you enabled system table export, you edit these two parameters with the right user name and password and choose Save parameter.

Querying the exported system tables

Within a few minutes after the solution deployment, you should see Amazon Redshift query logs being exported to the Amazon S3 location, <<S3Bucket_you_provided>>/extract_redshift_query_logs/data/. In that bucket, you should see the eight system tables partitioned by customer name and date: stl_alert_event_log, stl_dlltext, stl_explain, stl_query, stl_querytext, stl_scan, stl_utilitytext, and stl_wlm_query.

To run cross-cluster diagnostic queries on the exported system tables, create external tables in the AWS Glue Data Catalog. To make it easier for you to get started, I provide a CloudFormation template that creates an AWS Glue crawler, which crawls the exported system tables stored in Amazon S3 and builds the external tables in the AWS Glue Data Catalog.

Launch this CloudFormation template to create external tables that correspond to the Amazon Redshift system tables. S3Bucket is the only input parameter required for this stack deployment. Provide the same Amazon S3 bucket name where the system tables’ data is being exported. After you successfully create the stack, you can see the eight tables in the database, redshift_query_logs_db, as shown in the following screenshot.

Now, navigate to the Athena console to run cross-cluster diagnostic queries. The following screenshot shows a diagnostic query executed in Athena that retrieves query alerts logged across multiple Amazon Redshift clusters.

You can build the following example Amazon QuickSight dashboard by running cross-cluster diagnostic queries on Athena to identify the hourly query count and the key query alert events across multiple Amazon Redshift clusters.

How to extend the solution

You can extend this post’s solution in two ways:

  • Add any new Amazon Redshift clusters that you spin up after you deploy the solution.
  • Add other system tables or custom query results to the list of exports from an Amazon Redshift cluster.

Extend the solution to other Amazon Redshift clusters

To extend the solution to more Amazon Redshift clusters, add the three cluster-specific parameters in the AWS Systems Manager parameter store following the guidelines earlier in this post. Modify the redshift_query_logs.global.enabled_cluster_list parameter to append the new cluster to the comma-separated string.

Extend the solution to add other tables or custom queries to an Amazon Redshift cluster

The current solution ships with the export functionality for the following Amazon Redshift system tables:

  • stl_alert_event_log
  • stl_dlltext
  • stl_explain
  • stl_query
  • stl_querytext
  • stl_scan
  • stl_utilitytext
  • stl_wlm_query

You can easily add another system table or custom query by adding a few lines of code to the AWS Glue ETL job, <<cluster-name>_extract_rs_query_logs. For example, suppose that from the product-warehouse Amazon Redshift cluster you want to export orders greater than $2,000. To do so, add the following five lines of code to the AWS Glue ETL job product-warehouse_extract_rs_query_logs, where product-warehouse is your cluster name:

  1. Get the last-processed time-stamp value. The function creates a value if it doesn’t already exist.

salesLastProcessTSValue = functions.getLastProcessedTSValue(trackingEntry=”mydb.sales_2000",job_configs=job_configs)

  1. Run the custom query with the time stamp.

returnDF=functions.runQuery(query="select * from sales s join order o where o.order_amnt > 2000 and sale_timestamp > '{}'".format (salesLastProcessTSValue) ,tableName="mydb.sales_2000",job_configs=job_configs)

  1. Save the results to Amazon S3.


  1. Get the latest time-stamp value from the returned data frame in Step 2.


  1. Update the last-processed time-stamp value in the DynamoDB table.



In this post, I demonstrate a serverless solution to retain the system tables’ log data across multiple Amazon Redshift clusters. By using this solution, you can incrementally export the data from system tables into Amazon S3. By performing this export, you can build cross-cluster diagnostic queries, build audit dashboards, and derive insights into capacity planning by using services such as Athena. I also demonstrate how you can extend this solution to other ad hoc query use cases or tables other than system tables by adding a few lines of code.

Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Using Amazon Redshift Spectrum, Amazon Athena, and AWS Glue with Node.js in Production and Amazon Redshift – 2017 Recap.

About the Author

Karthik Sonti is a senior big data architect at Amazon Web Services. He helps AWS customers build big data and analytical solutions and provides guidance on architecture and best practices.





Build a house in Minecraft using Python

Post Syndicated from Rob Zwetsloot original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/build-minecraft-house-using-python/

In this tutorial from The MagPi issue 68, Steve Martin takes us through the process of house-building in Minecraft Pi. Get your copy of The MagPi in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.

Minecraft Pi is provided for free as part of the Raspbian operating system. To start your Minecraft: Pi Edition adventures, try our free tutorial Getting started with Minecraft.

Minecraft Raspberry Pi

Writing programs that create things in Minecraft is not only a great way to learn how to code, but it also means that you have a program that you can run again and again to make as many copies of your Minecraft design as you want. You never need to worry about your creation being destroyed by your brother or sister ever again — simply rerun your program and get it back! Whilst it might take a little longer to write the program than to build one house, once it’s finished you can build as many houses as you want.

Co-ordinates in Minecraft

Let’s start with a review of the coordinate system that Minecraft uses to know where to place blocks. If you are already familiar with this, you can skip to the next section. Otherwise, read on.

Minecraft Raspberry Pi Edition

Plan view of our house design

Minecraft shows us a three-dimensional (3D) view of the world. Imagine that the room you are in is the Minecraft world and you want to describe your location within that room. You can do so with three numbers, as follows:

  • How far across the room are you? As you move from side to side, you change this number. We can consider this value to be our X coordinate.
  • How high off the ground are you? If you are upstairs, or if you jump, this value increases. We can consider this value to be our Y coordinate.
  • How far into the room are you? As you walk forwards or backwards, you change this number. We can consider this value to be our Z coordinate.

You might have done graphs in school with X going across the page and Y going up the page. Coordinates in Minecraft are very similar, except that we have an extra value, Z, for our third dimension. Don’t worry if this still seems a little confusing: once we start to build our house, you will see how these three dimensions work in Minecraft.

Designing our house

It is a good idea to start with a rough design for our house. This will help us to work out the values for the coordinates when we are adding doors and windows to our house. You don’t have to plan every detail of your house right away. It is always fun to enhance it once you have got the basic design written. The image above shows the plan view of the house design that we will be creating in this tutorial. Note that because this is a plan view, it only shows the X and Z co-ordinates; we can’t see how high anything is. Hopefully, you can imagine the house extending up from the screen.

We will build our house close to where the Minecraft player is standing. This a good idea when creating something in Minecraft with Python, as it saves us from having to walk around the Minecraft world to try to find our creation.

Starting our program

Type in the code as you work through this tutorial. You can use any editor you like; we would suggest either Python 3 (IDLE) or Thonny Python IDE, both of which you can find on the Raspberry Pi menu under Programming. Start by selecting the File menu and creating a new file. Save the file with a name of your choice; it must end with .py so that the Raspberry Pi knows that it is a Python program.

It is important to enter the code exactly as it is shown in the listing. Pay particular attention to both the spelling and capitalisation (upper- or lower-case letters) used. You may find that when you run your program the first time, it doesn’t work. This is very common and just means there’s a small error somewhere. The error message will give you a clue about where the error is.

It is good practice to start all of your Python programs with the first line shown in our listing. All other lines that start with a # are comments. These are ignored by Python, but they are a good way to remind us what the program is doing.

The two lines starting with from tell Python about the Minecraft API; this is a code library that our program will be using to talk to Minecraft. The line starting mc = creates a connection between our Python program and the game. Then we get the player’s location broken down into three variables: x, y, and z.

Building the shell of our house

To help us build our house, we define three variables that specify its width, height, and depth. Defining these variables makes it easy for us to change the size of our house later; it also makes the code easier to understand when we are setting the co-ordinates of the Minecraft bricks. For now, we suggest that you use the same values that we have; you can go back and change them once the house is complete and you want to alter its design.

It’s now time to start placing some bricks. We create the shell of our house with just two lines of code! These lines of code each use the setBlocks command to create a complete block of bricks. This function takes the following arguments:

setBlocks(x1, y1, z1, x2, y2, z2, block-id, data)

x1, y1, and z1 are the coordinates of one corner of the block of bricks that we want to create; x1, y1, and z1 are the coordinates of the other corner. The block-id is the type of block that we want to use. Some blocks require another value called data; we will see this being used later, but you can ignore it for now.

We have to work out the values that we need to use in place of x1, y1, z1, x1, y1, z1 for our walls. Note that what we want is a larger outer block made of bricks and that is filled with a slightly smaller block of air blocks. Yes, in Minecraft even air is actually just another type of block.

Once you have typed in the two lines that create the shell of your house, you almost ready to run your program. Before doing so, you must have Minecraft running and displaying the contents of your world. Do not have a world loaded with things that you have created, as they may get destroyed by the house that we are building. Go to a clear area in the Minecraft world before running the program. When you run your program, check for any errors in the ‘console’ window and fix them, repeatedly running the code again until you’ve corrected all the errors.

You should see a block of bricks now, as shown above. You may have to turn the player around in the Minecraft world before you can see your house.

Adding the floor and door

Now, let’s make our house a bit more interesting! Add the lines for the floor and door. Note that the floor extends beyond the boundary of the wall of the house; can you see how we achieve this?

Hint: look closely at how we calculate the x and z attributes as compared to when we created the house shell above. Also note that we use a value of y-1 to create the floor below our feet.

Minecraft doors are two blocks high, so we have to create them in two parts. This is where we have to use the data argument. A value of 0 is used for the lower half of the door, and a value of 8 is used for the upper half (the part with the windows in it). These values will create an open door. If we add 4 to each of these values, a closed door will be created.

Before you run your program again, move to a new location in Minecraft to build the house away from the previous one. Then run it to check that the floor and door are created; you will need to fix any errors again. Even if your program runs without errors, check that the floor and door are positioned correctly. If they aren’t, then you will need to check the arguments so setBlock and setBlocks are exactly as shown in the listing.

Adding windows

Hopefully you will agree that your house is beginning to take shape! Now let’s add some windows. Looking at the plan for our house, we can see that there is a window on each side; see if you can follow along. Add the four lines of code, one for each window.

Now you can move to yet another location and run the program again; you should have a window on each side of the house. Our house is starting to look pretty good!

Adding a roof

The final stage is to add a roof to the house. To do this we are going to use wooden stairs. We will do this inside a loop so that if you change the width of your house, more layers are added to the roof. Enter the rest of the code. Be careful with the indentation: I recommend using spaces and avoiding the use of tabs. After the if statement, you need to indent the code even further. Each indentation level needs four spaces, so below the line with if on it, you will need eight spaces.

Since some of these code lines are lengthy and indented a lot, you may well find that the text wraps around as you reach the right-hand side of your editor window — don’t worry about this. You will have to be careful to get those indents right, however.

Now move somewhere new in your world and run the complete program. Iron out any last bugs, then admire your house! Does it look how you expect? Can you make it better?

Customising your house

Now you can start to customise your house. It is a good idea to use Save As in the menu to save a new version of your program. Then you can keep different designs, or refer back to your previous program if you get to a point where you don’t understand why your new one doesn’t work.

Consider these changes:

  • Change the size of your house. Are you able also to move the door and windows so they stay in proportion?
  • Change the materials used for the house. An ice house placed in an area of snow would look really cool!
  • Add a back door to your house. Or make the front door a double-width door!

We hope that you have enjoyed writing this program to build a house. Now you can easily add a house to your Minecraft world whenever you want to by simply running this program.

Get the complete code for this project here.

Continue your Minecraft journey

Minecraft Pi’s programmable interface is an ideal platform for learning Python. If you’d like to try more of our free tutorials, check out:

You may also enjoy Martin O’Hanlon’s and David Whale’s Adventures in Minecraft, and the Hacking and Making in Minecraft MagPi Essentials guide, which you can download for free or buy in print here.

The post Build a house in Minecraft using Python appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

China’s Website and VPN Blocking Hurts Business, US Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/chinas-website-and-vpn-blocking-hurts-business-us-says-180407/

The Chinese government is known to keep a tight grip on the websites its citizens are allowed to see on the Internet.

The so-called ‘Great Firewall’ blocks pirate sites, but also a wide variety of other websites which the government believes could have a negative influence on society.

While the exact scope of the blocking effort is unknown, it’s certain that thousands of websites are affected.

The US Government, however, is not happy with this type of censorship. In its latest Trade Barriers report, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) notes that it has a detrimental impact on businesses around the world.

“China continues to engage in extensive blocking of legitimate websites, imposing significant costs on both suppliers and users of web-based services and products,” the report reads.

The Chinese blocking efforts are affecting billions of dollars in business according to the US. The services that are affected include app stores, news sites, as well as communication services.

While many of these are targeted intentionally, some are hit by over-blocking. This happens when a blocked site shares an IP-address with other sites, which are then censored as collateral damage.

“While becoming more sophisticated over time, the technical means of blocking, dubbed the Great Firewall, still often appears to affect sites that may not be the intended target, but that may share the same Internet Protocol address,” USTR writes.

According to industry figures, twelve of the top thirty most popular sites on the Internet are currently censored in China. And while it used to be relatively easy to bypass these measures with a VPN, that is changing too.

Starting this month, all unauthorized VPN services are banned. Companies can only operate a VPN if they lease state-approved services via the Government. This is hurting even more businesses, according to the US. Not just in their pockets, but also in terms of privacy.

“In the past, consumers and business have been able to avoid government-run filtering through the use of VPN services, but a crackdown in 2017 has all but eliminated that option, with popular VPN applications now banned,” USTR writes.

“This development has had a particularly dire effect on foreign businesses, which routinely use VPN services to connect to locations and services outside of China, and which depend on VPN technology to ensure confidentiality of communications.”

Ironically, US companies are assisting the Chinese Government to keep their Great Firewall up. For example, last year VPN applications started to disappear from Apple’s iOS store following pressure from Chinese authorities.

It’s clear that the United States is not happy with China’s censorship regime. However, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a reversal anytime soon. As long as China is willing to jail its citizens for operating VPN services, there’s still a long way to go.

A copy of USTR’s 2018 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers is available here (pdf).

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

New – Machine Learning Inference at the Edge Using AWS Greengrass

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-machine-learning-inference-at-the-edge-using-aws-greengrass/

What happens when you combine the Internet of Things, Machine Learning, and Edge Computing? Before I tell you, let’s review each one and discuss what AWS has to offer.

Internet of Things (IoT) – Devices that connect the physical world and the digital one. The devices, often equipped with one or more types of sensors, can be found in factories, vehicles, mines, fields, homes, and so forth. Important AWS services include AWS IoT Core, AWS IoT Analytics, AWS IoT Device Management, and Amazon FreeRTOS, along with others that you can find on the AWS IoT page.

Machine Learning (ML) – Systems that can be trained using an at-scale dataset and statistical algorithms, and used to make inferences from fresh data. At Amazon we use machine learning to drive the recommendations that you see when you shop, to optimize the paths in our fulfillment centers, fly drones, and much more. We support leading open source machine learning frameworks such as TensorFlow and MXNet, and make ML accessible and easy to use through Amazon SageMaker. We also provide Amazon Rekognition for images and for video, Amazon Lex for chatbots, and a wide array of language services for text analysis, translation, speech recognition, and text to speech.

Edge Computing – The power to have compute resources and decision-making capabilities in disparate locations, often with intermittent or no connectivity to the cloud. AWS Greengrass builds on AWS IoT, giving you the ability to run Lambda functions and keep device state in sync even when not connected to the Internet.

ML Inference at the Edge
Today I would like to toss all three of these important new technologies into a blender! You can now perform Machine Learning inference at the edge using AWS Greengrass. This allows you to use the power of the AWS cloud (including fast, powerful instances equipped with GPUs) to build, train, and test your ML models before deploying them to small, low-powered, intermittently-connected IoT devices running in those factories, vehicles, mines, fields, and homes that I mentioned.

Here are a few of the many ways that you can put Greengrass ML Inference to use:

Precision Farming – With an ever-growing world population and unpredictable weather that can affect crop yields, the opportunity to use technology to increase yields is immense. Intelligent devices that are literally in the field can process images of soil, plants, pests, and crops, taking local corrective action and sending status reports to the cloud.

Physical Security – Smart devices (including the AWS DeepLens) can process images and scenes locally, looking for objects, watching for changes, and even detecting faces. When something of interest or concern arises, the device can pass the image or the video to the cloud and use Amazon Rekognition to take a closer look.

Industrial Maintenance – Smart, local monitoring can increase operational efficiency and reduce unplanned downtime. The monitors can run inference operations on power consumption, noise levels, and vibration to flag anomalies, predict failures, detect faulty equipment.

Greengrass ML Inference Overview
There are several different aspects to this new AWS feature. Let’s take a look at each one:

Machine Learning ModelsPrecompiled TensorFlow and MXNet libraries, optimized for production use on the NVIDIA Jetson TX2 and Intel Atom devices, and development use on 32-bit Raspberry Pi devices. The optimized libraries can take advantage of GPU and FPGA hardware accelerators at the edge in order to provide fast, local inferences.

Model Building and Training – The ability to use Amazon SageMaker and other cloud-based ML tools to build, train, and test your models before deploying them to your IoT devices. To learn more about SageMaker, read Amazon SageMaker – Accelerated Machine Learning.

Model Deployment – SageMaker models can (if you give them the proper IAM permissions) be referenced directly from your Greengrass groups. You can also make use of models stored in S3 buckets. You can add a new machine learning resource to a group with a couple of clicks:

These new features are available now and you can start using them today! To learn more read Perform Machine Learning Inference.



Police Assisted By MPAA Shut Down Pirate TV Box Sellers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-assisted-by-mpaa-shut-down-pirate-tv-box-sellers-180404/

Piracy configured set-top boxes are the next big thing, today. Millions have been sold around the world and anti-piracy groups are scrambling to rein them in.

Many strategies are being tested, from pressurizing developers of allegedly infringing addons to filing aggressive lawsuits against sites such as TVAddons, a Kodi addon repository now facing civil action in both the United States and Canada.

Also under fire are companies that sell set-top boxes that come ready configured for piracy. Both Tickbox TV and Dragon Media Inc are being sued by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) in the US. At this stage, neither case looks promising for the defendants.

However, civil action isn’t the only way to deal with defendants in the United States, as a man and woman team from Tampa, Florida, have just discovered after being arrested by local police.

Mickael Cantrell and Nancy Major were allegedly the brains behind NBEETV, a company promising to supply set-top boxes that deliver “every movie, every tv show that’s ever been made, plus live sports with no blackouts” with “no monthly fees ever.”

As similar cases have shown, this kind of marketing spiel rarely ends well for defendants but the people behind NBEE TV (also known as FreeTVForLife Inc.) were either oblivious or simply didn’t care about the consequences.

A company press release dated April 2017 advertising the company’s NBPro 3+ box and tracked down by TF this week reveals the extent of the boasts.

“NBPRO 3+ is a TV box that offers instant access to watch every episode of any TV show without paying any monthly bill. One just must attach the loaded box to his TV and stream whatever they want, with no commercials,” the company wrote.

But while “Free TV for Life” was the slogan, that wasn’t the reality at the outset.

NBEETV’s Kodi-powered Android boxes were hellishly expensive with the NBPRO 1, NBPRO 3, NBPRO 5 costing $199.00, $279.00 and $359.00 respectively. This, however, was presented as a bargain alongside a claim that the “average [monthly] cable bill across the country is approximately $198.00” per month.

On top of the base product, NBEETV offered an 800 number for customer support and from their physical premises, they ran “training classes every Tuesday and Thursdays at 11:00” for people to better understand their products.

The location of that building isn’t mentioned in local media but a WHOIS on the company’s FreeTVForLife domain yields a confirmed address. It’s one that’s also been complained about in the past by an unhappy customer.

“Free TV for LIFE [redacted]..(next to K-Mart) Hudson, Fl.. 34667. We bought the Little black box costing $277.00. The pictures were not clear,” Rita S. wrote.

“The screen froze up on us all the time, even after hooking straight into the router. When we took the unit back they kept $80 of our money….were very rude, using the ************* word and we will not get the remainder of our money for 14-28 days according to the employee at the store. Buyers beware and I am telling everyone!!!”

While this customer was clearly unhappy, NBEETV claimed to be a “movement which is spreading across the country.” Unfortunately, that movement reached the eyes of the police, who didn’t think that the content being offered on the devices should have been presented for free.

“We saw [the boxes] had Black Panther, The Shape Of Water, Jumanji was on there as well,” said Detective Darren Hill.

“This is someone blatantly on the side of the road just selling them, with signage, a store front; advertising on the internet with a website.”

Detective Hill worked on the case with the MPAA but even from TorrentFreak’s limited investigations this week, the couple were incredibly easy to identify.

Aside from providing accurate and non-hidden address data in WHOIS records, Mickael Cantrell (also known as Michael Cantrell) put in his real name too. The listed email address is also easily traced back to a company called Nanny Bees Corporation which was operated by Cantrell and partner Nancy Major, who was also arrested in the NBEETV case.

Unfortunately for the couple, the blundering didn’t stop there. Their company YouTube channel, which is packed with tutorials, is also in Cantrell’s real name. Indeed, the photograph supplied to YouTube even matches the mugshot published by ABC Action News.

The publication reports that the Sheriff’s Office found the couple with around 50 ‘pirate’ boxes. The store operated by the couple has also been shutdown.

Finally, another curious aspect of NBEETV’s self-promotion comes via a blog post/press release dated August 2017 in which Cantrell suddenly ups the ante by becoming Michael W. Cantrell, Ph. D alongside some bold and unusual claims.

“Dr. Cantrell unleashes his latest innovation, a Smart TV Box that literally updates every ten minutes. Not only does the content (what you can view) but the whole platform updates automatically. If the Company changes an icon you receive the change in real time,” the release reads.

“Thanks to the Overlay Processor that Dr. Cantrell created, this processor named B-D.A.D (Binary Data Acceleration Dump) which enhances an Android unit’s operating power 5 times than the original bench test, has set a new industry standard around the world.”

Sounds epic….perhaps it powered the following video clip.

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

Tag Amazon EBS Snapshots on Creation and Implement Stronger Security Policies

Post Syndicated from Woo Kim original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/tag-amazon-ebs-snapshots-on-creation-and-implement-stronger-security-policies/

This blog was contributed by Rucha Nene, Sr. Product Manager for Amazon EBS

AWS customers use tags to track ownership of resources, implement compliance protocols, control access to resources via IAM policies, and drive their cost accounting processes. Last year, we made tagging for Amazon EC2 instances and Amazon EBS volumes easier by adding the ability to tag these resources upon creation. We are now extending this capability to EBS snapshots.

Earlier, you could tag your EBS snapshots only after the resource had been created and sometimes, ended up with EBS snapshots in an untagged state if tagging failed. You also could not control the actions that users and groups could take over specific snapshots, or enforce tighter security policies.

To address these issues, we are making tagging for EBS snapshots more flexible and giving customers more control over EBS snapshots by introducing two new capabilities:

  • Tag on creation for EBS snapshots – You can now specify tags for EBS snapshots as part of the API call that creates the resource or via the Amazon EC2 Console when creating an EBS snapshot.
  • Resource-level permission and enforced tag usage – The CreateSnapshot, DeleteSnapshot, and ModifySnapshotAttrribute API actions now support IAM resource-level permissions. You can now write IAM policies that mandate the use of specific tags when taking actions on EBS snapshots.

Tag on creation

You can now specify tags for EBS snapshots as part of the API call that creates the resources. The resource creation and the tagging are performed atomically; both must succeed in order for the operation CreateSnapshot to succeed. You no longer need to build tagging scripts that run after EBS snapshots have been created.

Here’s how you specify tags when you create an EBS snapshot, using the console:

  1. Open the Amazon EC2 console at https://console.aws.amazon.com/ec2/.
  2. In the navigation pane, choose Snapshots, Create Snapshot.
  3. On the Create Snapshot page, select the volume for which to create a snapshot.
  4. (Optional) Choose Add tags to your snapshot. For each tag, provide a tag key and a tag value.
  5. Choose Create Snapshot.

Using the AWS CLI:

aws ec2 create-snapshot --volume-id vol-0c0e757e277111f3c --description 'Prod_Backup' --tag-specifications 

To learn more, see Using Tags.

Resource-level permissions and enforced tag usage

CreateSnapshot, DeleteSnapshot, and ModifySnapshotAttribute now support resource-level permissions, which allow you to exercise more control over EBS snapshots. You can write IAM policies that give you precise control over access to resources and let you specify which users are able to create snapshots for a given set of volumes. You can also enforce the use of specific tags to help track resources and achieve more accurate cost allocation reporting.

For example, here’s a statement that requires that the costcenter tag (with a value of “115”) be present on the volume from which snapshots are being created. It requires that this tag be applied to all newly created snapshots. In addition, it requires that the created snapshots are tagged with User:username for the customer.

	   "Condition": {

To implement stronger compliance and security policies, you could also restrict access to DeleteSnapshot, if the resource is not tagged with the user’s name. Here’s a statement that allows the deletion of a snapshot only if the snapshot is tagged with User:username for the customer.


To learn more and to see some sample policies, see IAM Policies for Amazon EC2 and Working with Snapshots.

Available Now

These new features are available now in all AWS Regions. You can start using it today from the Amazon EC2 Console, AWS Command Line Interface (CLI), or the AWS APIs.

A geometric Rust adventure

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/03/30/a-geometric-rust-adventure/

Hi. Yes. Sorry. I’ve been trying to write this post for ages, but I’ve also been working on a huge writing project, and apparently I have a very limited amount of writing mana at my disposal. I think this is supposed to be a Patreon reward from January. My bad. I hope it’s super great to make up for the wait!

I recently ported some math code from C++ to Rust in an attempt to do a cool thing with Doom. Here is my story.

The problem

I presented it recently as a conundrum (spoilers: I solved it!), but most of those details are unimportant.

The short version is: I have some shapes. I want to find their intersection.

Really, I want more than that: I want to drop them all on a canvas, intersect everything with everything, and pluck out all the resulting polygons. The input is a set of cookie cutters, and I want to press them all down on the same sheet of dough and figure out what all the resulting contiguous pieces are. And I want to know which cookie cutter(s) each piece came from.

But intersection is a good start.

Example of the goal.  Given two squares that overlap at their corners, I want to find the small overlap piece, plus the two L-shaped pieces left over from each square

I’m carefully referring to the input as shapes rather than polygons, because each one could be a completely arbitrary collection of lines. Obviously there’s not much you can do with shapes that aren’t even closed, but at the very least, I need to handle concavity and multiple disconnected polygons that together are considered a single input.

This is a non-trivial problem with a lot of edge cases, and offhand I don’t know how to solve it robustly. I’m not too eager to go figure it out from scratch, so I went hunting for something I could build from.

(Infuriatingly enough, I can just dump all the shapes out in an SVG file and any SVG viewer can immediately solve the problem, but that doesn’t quite help me. Though I have had a few people suggest I just rasterize the whole damn problem, and after all this, I’m starting to think they may have a point.)

Alas, I couldn’t find a Rust library for doing this. I had a hard time finding any library for doing this that wasn’t a massive fully-featured geometry engine. (I could’ve used that, but I wanted to avoid non-Rust dependencies if possible, since distributing software is already enough of a nightmare.)

A Twitter follower directed me towards a paper that described how to do very nearly what I wanted and nothing else: “A simple algorithm for Boolean operations on polygons” by F. Martínez (2013). Being an academic paper, it’s trapped in paywall hell; sorry about that. (And as I understand it, none of the money you’d pay to get the paper would even go to the authors? Is that right? What a horrible and predatory system for discovering and disseminating knowledge.)

The paper isn’t especially long, but it does describe an awful lot of subtle details and is mostly written in terms of its own reference implementation. Rather than write my own implementation based solely on the paper, I decided to try porting the reference implementation from C++ to Rust.

And so I fell down the rabbit hole.

The basic algorithm

Thankfully, the author has published the sample code on his own website, if you want to follow along. (It’s the bottom link; the same author has, confusingly, published two papers on the same topic with similar titles, four years apart.)

If not, let me describe the algorithm and how the code is generally laid out. The algorithm itself is based on a sweep line, where a vertical line passes across the plane and ✨ does stuff ✨ as it encounters various objects. This implementation has no physical line; instead, it keeps track of which segments from the original polygon would be intersecting the sweep line, which is all we really care about.

A vertical line is passing rightwards over a couple intersecting shapes.  The line current intersects two of the shapes' sides, and these two sides are the "sweep list"

The code is all bundled inside a class with only a single public method, run, because… that’s… more object-oriented, I guess. There are several helper methods, and state is stored in some attributes. A rough outline of run is:

  1. Run through all the line segments in both input polygons. For each one, generate two SweepEvents (one for each endpoint) and add them to a std::deque for storage.

    Add pointers to the two SweepEvents to a std::priority_queue, the event queue. This queue uses a custom comparator to order the events from left to right, so the top element is always the leftmost endpoint.

  2. Loop over the event queue (where an “event” means the sweep line passed over the left or right end of a segment). Encountering a left endpoint means the sweep line is newly touching that segment, so add it to a std::set called the sweep list. An important point is that std::set is ordered, and the sweep list uses a comparator that keeps segments in order vertically.

    Encountering a right endpoint means the sweep line is leaving a segment, so that segment is removed from the sweep list.

  3. When a segment is added to the sweep list, it may have up to two neighbors: the segment above it and the segment below it. Call possibleIntersection to check whether it intersects either of those neighbors. (This is nearly sufficient to find all intersections, which is neat.)

  4. If possibleIntersection detects an intersection, it will split each segment into two pieces then and there. The old segment is shortened in-place to become the left part, and a new segment is created for the right part. The new endpoints at the point of intersection are added to the event queue.

  5. Some bookkeeping is done along the way to track which original polygons each segment is inside, and eventually the segments are reconstructed into new polygons.

Hopefully that’s enough to follow along. It took me an inordinately long time to tease this out. The comments aren’t especially helpful.

    std::deque<SweepEvent> eventHolder;    // It holds the events generated during the computation of the boolean operation

Syntax and basic semantics

The first step was to get something that rustc could at least parse, which meant translating C++ syntax to Rust syntax.

This was surprisingly straightforward! C++ classes become Rust structs. (There was no inheritance here, thankfully.) All the method declarations go away. Method implementations only need to be indented and wrapped in impl.

I did encounter some unnecessarily obtuse uses of the ternary operator:

(prevprev != sl.begin()) ? --prevprev : prevprev = sl.end();

Rust doesn’t have a ternary — you can use a regular if block as an expression — so I expanded these out.

C++ switch blocks become Rust match blocks, but otherwise function basically the same. Rust’s enums are scoped (hallelujah), so I had to explicitly spell out where enum values came from.

The only really annoying part was changing function signatures; C++ types don’t look much at all like Rust types, save for the use of angle brackets. Rust also doesn’t pass by implicit reference, so I needed to sprinkle a few &s around.

I would’ve had a much harder time here if this code had relied on any remotely esoteric C++ functionality, but thankfully it stuck to pretty vanilla features.

Language conventions

This is a geometry problem, so the sample code unsurprisingly has its own home-grown point type. Rather than port that type to Rust, I opted to use the popular euclid crate. Not only is it code I didn’t have to write, but it already does several things that the C++ code was doing by hand inline, like dot products and cross products. And all I had to do was add one line to Cargo.toml to use it! I have no idea how anyone writes C or C++ without a package manager.

The C++ code used getters, i.e. point.x (). I’m not a huge fan of getters, though I do still appreciate the need for them in lowish-level systems languages where you want to future-proof your API and the language wants to keep a clear distinction between attribute access and method calls. But this is a point, which is nothing more than two of the same numeric type glued together; what possible future logic might you add to an accessor? The euclid authors appear to side with me and leave the coordinates as public fields, so I took great joy in removing all the superfluous parentheses.

Polygons are represented with a Polygon class, which has some number of Contours. A contour is a single contiguous loop. Something you’d usually think of as a polygon would only have one, but a shape with a hole would have two: one for the outside, one for the inside. The weird part of this arrangement was that Polygon implemented nearly the entire STL container interface, then waffled between using it and not using it throughout the rest of the code. Rust lets anything in the same module access non-public fields, so I just skipped all that and used polygon.contours directly. Hell, I think I made contours public.

Finally, the SweepEvent type has a pol field that’s declared as an enum PolygonType (either SUBJECT or CLIPPING, to indicate which of the two inputs it is), but then some other code uses the same field as a numeric index into a polygon’s contours. Boy I sure do love static typing where everything’s a goddamn integer. I wanted to extend the algorithm to work on arbitrarily many input polygons anyway, so I scrapped the enum and this became a usize.

Then I got to all the uses of STL. I have only a passing familiarity with the C++ standard library, and this code actually made modest use of it, which caused some fun days-long misunderstandings.

As mentioned, the SweepEvents are stored in a std::deque, which is never read from. It took me a little thinking to realize that the deque was being used as an arena: it’s the canonical home for the structs so pointers to them can be tossed around freely. (It can’t be a std::vector, because that could reallocate and invalidate all the pointers; std::deque is probably a doubly-linked list, and guarantees no reallocation.)

Rust’s standard library does have a doubly-linked list type, but I knew I’d run into ownership hell here later anyway, so I think I replaced it with a Rust Vec to start with. It won’t compile either way, so whatever. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

The list of segments currently intersecting the sweep line is stored in a std::set. That type is explicitly ordered, which I’m very glad I knew already. Rust has two set types, HashSet and BTreeSet; unsurprisingly, the former is unordered and the latter is ordered. Dropping in BTreeSet and fixing some method names got me 90% of the way there.

Which brought me to the other 90%. See, the C++ code also relies on finding nodes adjacent to the node that was just inserted, via STL iterators.

next = prev = se->posSL = it = sl.insert(se).first;
(prev != sl.begin()) ? --prev : prev = sl.end();

I freely admit I’m bad at C++, but this seems like something that could’ve used… I don’t know, 1 comment. Or variable names more than two letters long. What it actually does is:

  1. Add the current sweep event (se) to the sweep list (sl), which returns a pair whose first element is an iterator pointing at the just-inserted event.

  2. Copies that iterator to several other variables, including prev and next.

  3. If the event was inserted at the beginning of the sweep list, set prev to the sweep list’s end iterator, which in C++ is a legal-but-invalid iterator meaning “the space after the end” or something. This is checked for in later code, to see if there is a previous event to look at. Otherwise, decrement prev, so it’s now pointing at the event immediately before the inserted one.

  4. Increment next normally. If the inserted event is last, then this will bump next to the end iterator anyway.

In other words, I need to get the previous and next elements from a BTreeSet. Rust does have bidirectional iterators, which BTreeSet supports… but BTreeSet::insert only returns a bool telling me whether or not anything was inserted, not the position. I came up with this:

let mut maybe_below = active_segments.range(..segment).last().map(|v| *v);
let mut maybe_above = active_segments.range(segment..).next().map(|v| *v);

The range method returns an iterator over a subset of the tree. The .. syntax makes a range (where the right endpoint is exclusive), so ..segment finds the part of the tree before the new segment, and segment.. finds the part of the tree after it. (The latter would start with the segment itself, except I haven’t inserted it yet, so it’s not actually there.)

Then the standard next() and last() methods on bidirectional iterators find me the element I actually want. But the iterator might be empty, so they both return an Option. Also, iterators tend to return references to their contents, but in this case the contents are already references, and I don’t want a double reference, so the map call dereferences one layer — but only if the Option contains a value. Phew!

This is slightly less efficient than the C++ code, since it has to look up where segment goes three times rather than just one. I might be able to get it down to two with some more clever finagling of the iterator, but microsopic performance considerations were a low priority here.

Finally, the event queue uses a std::priority_queue to keep events in a desired order and efficiently pop the next one off the top.

Except priority queues act like heaps, where the greatest (i.e., last) item is made accessible.

Sorting out sorting

C++ comparison functions return true to indicate that the first argument is less than the second argument. Sweep events occur from left to right. You generally implement sorts so that the first thing comes, erm, first.

But sweep events go in a priority queue, and priority queues surface the last item, not the first. This C++ code handled this minor wrinkle by implementing its comparison backwards.

struct SweepEventComp : public std::binary_function<SweepEvent, SweepEvent, bool> { // for sorting sweep events
// Compare two sweep events
// Return true means that e1 is placed at the event queue after e2, i.e,, e1 is processed by the algorithm after e2
bool operator() (const SweepEvent* e1, const SweepEvent* e2)
    if (e1->point.x () > e2->point.x ()) // Different x-coordinate
        return true;
    if (e2->point.x () > e1->point.x ()) // Different x-coordinate
        return false;
    if (e1->point.y () != e2->point.y ()) // Different points, but same x-coordinate. The event with lower y-coordinate is processed first
        return e1->point.y () > e2->point.y ();
    if (e1->left != e2->left) // Same point, but one is a left endpoint and the other a right endpoint. The right endpoint is processed first
        return e1->left;
    // Same point, both events are left endpoints or both are right endpoints.
    if (signedArea (e1->point, e1->otherEvent->point, e2->otherEvent->point) != 0) // not collinear
        return e1->above (e2->otherEvent->point); // the event associate to the bottom segment is processed first
    return e1->pol > e2->pol;

Maybe it’s just me, but I had a hell of a time just figuring out what problem this was even trying to solve. I still have to reread it several times whenever I look at it, to make sure I’m getting the right things backwards.

Making this even more ridiculous is that there’s a second implementation of this same sort, with the same name, in another file — and that one’s implemented forwards. And doesn’t use a tiebreaker. I don’t entirely understand how this even compiles, but it does!

I painstakingly translated this forwards to Rust. Unlike the STL, Rust doesn’t take custom comparators for its containers, so I had to implement ordering on the types themselves (which makes sense, anyway). I wrapped everything in the priority queue in a Reverse, which does what it sounds like.

I’m fairly pleased with Rust’s ordering model. Most of the work is done in Ord, a trait with a cmp() method returning an Ordering (one of Less, Equal, and Greater). No magic numbers, no need to implement all six ordering methods! It’s incredible. Ordering even has some handy methods on it, so the usual case of “order by this, then by this” can be written as:

return self.point().x.cmp(&other.point().x)

Well. Just kidding! It’s not quite that easy. You see, the points here are composed of floats, and floats have the fun property that not all of them are comparable. Specifically, NaN is not less than, greater than, or equal to anything else, including itself. So IEEE 754 float ordering cannot be expressed with Ord. Unless you want to just make up an answer for NaN, but Rust doesn’t tend to do that.

Rust’s float types thus implement the weaker PartialOrd, whose method returns an Option<Ordering> instead. That makes the above example slightly uglier:

return self.point().x.partial_cmp(&other.point().x).unwrap()

Also, since I use unwrap() here, this code will panic and take the whole program down if the points are infinite or NaN. Don’t do that.

This caused some minor inconveniences in other places; for example, the general-purpose cmp::min() doesn’t work on floats, because it requires an Ord-erable type. Thankfully there’s a f64::min(), which handles a NaN by returning the other argument.

(Cool story: for the longest time I had this code using f32s. I’m used to translating int to “32 bits”, and apparently that instinct kicked in for floats as well, even floats spelled double.)

The only other sorting adventure was this:

// Due to overlapping edges the resultEvents array can be not wholly sorted
bool sorted = false;
while (!sorted) {
    sorted = true;
    for (unsigned int i = 0; i < resultEvents.size (); ++i) {
        if (i + 1 < resultEvents.size () && sec (resultEvents[i], resultEvents[i+1])) {
            std::swap (resultEvents[i], resultEvents[i+1]);
            sorted = false;

(I originally misread this comment as saying “the array cannot be wholly sorted” and had no idea why that would be the case, or why the author would then immediately attempt to bubble sort it.)

I’m still not sure why this uses an ad-hoc sort instead of std::sort. But I’m used to taking for granted that general-purpose sorting implementations are tuned to work well for almost-sorted data, like Python’s. Maybe C++ is untrustworthy here, for some reason. I replaced it with a call to .sort() and all seemed fine.

Phew! We’re getting there. Finally, my code appears to type-check.

But now I see storm clouds gathering on the horizon.

Ownership hell

I have a problem. I somehow run into this problem every single time I use Rust. The solutions are never especially satisfying, and all the hacks I might use if forced to write C++ turn out to be unsound, which is even more annoying because rustc is just sitting there with this smug “I told you so expression” and—

The problem is ownership, which Rust is fundamentally built on. Any given value must have exactly one owner, and Rust must be able to statically convince itself that:

  1. No reference to a value outlives that value.
  2. If a mutable reference to a value exists, no other references to that value exist at the same time.

This is the core of Rust. It guarantees at compile time that you cannot lose pointers to allocated memory, you cannot double-free, you cannot have dangling pointers.

It also completely thwarts a lot of approaches you might be inclined to take if you come from managed languages (where who cares, the GC will take care of it) or C++ (where you just throw pointers everywhere and hope for the best apparently).

For example, pointer loops are impossible. Rust’s understanding of ownership and lifetimes is hierarchical, and it simply cannot express loops. (Rust’s own doubly-linked list type uses raw pointers and unsafe code under the hood, where “unsafe” is an escape hatch for the usual ownership rules. Since I only recently realized that pointers to the inside of a mutable Vec are a bad idea, I figure I should probably not be writing unsafe code myself.)

This throws a few wrenches in the works.

Problem the first: pointer loops

I immediately ran into trouble with the SweepEvent struct itself. A SweepEvent pulls double duty: it represents one endpoint of a segment, but each left endpoint also handles bookkeeping for the segment itself — which means that most of the fields on a right endpoint are unused. Also, and more importantly, each SweepEvent has a pointer to the corresponding SweepEvent at the other end of the same segment. So a pair of SweepEvents point to each other.

Rust frowns upon this. In retrospect, I think I could’ve kept it working, but I also think I’m wrong about that.

My first step was to wrench SweepEvent apart. I moved all of the segment-stuff (which is virtually all of it) into a single SweepSegment type, and then populated the event queue with a SweepEndpoint tuple struct, similar to:

enum SegmentEnd {

struct SweepEndpoint<'a>(&'a SweepSegment, SegmentEnd);

This makes SweepEndpoint essentially a tuple with a name. The 'a is a lifetime and says, more or less, that a SweepEndpoint cannot outlive the SweepSegment it references. Makes sense.

Problem solved! I no longer have mutually referential pointers. But I do still have pointers (well, references), and they have to point to something.

Problem the second: where’s all the data

Which brings me to the problem I always run into with Rust. I have a bucket of things, and I need to refer to some of them multiple times.

I tried half a dozen different approaches here and don’t clearly remember all of them, but I think my core problem went as follows. I translated the C++ class to a Rust struct with some methods hanging off of it. A simplified version might look like this.

struct Algorithm {
    arena: LinkedList<SweepSegment>,
    event_queue: BinaryHeap<SweepEndpoint>,

Ah, hang on — SweepEndpoint needs to be annotated with a lifetime, so Rust can enforce that those endpoints don’t live longer than the segments they refer to. No problem?

struct Algorithm<'a> {
    arena: LinkedList<SweepSegment>,
    event_queue: BinaryHeap<SweepEndpoint<'a>>,

Okay! Now for some methods.

fn run(&mut self) {
    self.arena.push_back(SweepSegment{ data: 5 });
    self.event_queue.push(SweepEndpoint(self.arena.back().unwrap(), SegmentEnd::Left));
    self.event_queue.push(SweepEndpoint(self.arena.back().unwrap(), SegmentEnd::Right));
    for event in &self.event_queue {
        println!("{:?}", event)

Aaand… this doesn’t work. Rust “cannot infer an appropriate lifetime for autoref due to conflicting requirements”. The trouble is that self.arena.back() takes a reference to self.arena, and then I put that reference in the event queue. But I promised that everything in the event queue has lifetime 'a, and I don’t actually know how long self lives here; I only know that it can’t outlive 'a, because that would invalidate the references it holds.

A little random guessing let me to change &mut self to &'a mut self — which is fine because the entire impl block this lives in is already parameterized by 'a — and that makes this compile! Hooray! I think that’s because I’m saying self itself has exactly the same lifetime as the references it holds onto, which is true, since it’s referring to itself.

Let’s get a little more ambitious and try having two segments.

fn run(&'a mut self) {
    self.arena.push_back(SweepSegment{ data: 5 });
    self.event_queue.push(SweepEndpoint(self.arena.back().unwrap(), SegmentEnd::Left));
    self.event_queue.push(SweepEndpoint(self.arena.back().unwrap(), SegmentEnd::Right));
    self.arena.push_back(SweepSegment{ data: 17 });
    self.event_queue.push(SweepEndpoint(self.arena.back().unwrap(), SegmentEnd::Left));
    self.event_queue.push(SweepEndpoint(self.arena.back().unwrap(), SegmentEnd::Right));
    for event in &self.event_queue {
        println!("{:?}", event)

Whoops! Rust complains that I’m trying to mutate self.arena while other stuff is referring to it. And, yes, that’s true — I have references to it in the event queue, and Rust is preventing me from potentially deleting everything from the queue when references to it still exist. I’m not actually deleting anything here, of course (though I could be if this were a Vec!), but Rust’s type system can’t encode that (and I dread the thought of a type system that can).

I struggled with this for a while, and rapidly encountered another complete showstopper:

fn run(&'a mut self) {

fn mutate_something(&'a mut self) {}

Rust objects that I’m trying to borrow self mutably, twice — once for the first call, once for the second.

But why? A borrow is supposed to end automatically once it’s no longer used, right? Maybe if I throw some braces around it for scope… nope, that doesn’t help either.

It’s true that borrows usually end automatically, but here I have explicitly told Rust that mutate_something() should borrow with the lifetime 'a, which is the same as the lifetime in run(). So the first call explicitly borrows self for at least the rest of the method. Removing the lifetime from mutate_something() does fix this error, but if that method tries to add new segments, I’m back to the original problem.

Oh no. The mutation in the C++ code is several calls deep. Porting it directly seems nearly impossible.

The typical solution here — at least, the first thing people suggest to me on Twitter — is to wrap basically everything everywhere in Rc<RefCell<T>>, which gives you something that’s reference-counted (avoiding questions of ownership) and defers borrow checks until runtime (avoiding questions of mutable borrows). But that seems pretty heavy-handed here — not only does RefCell add .borrow() noise anywhere you actually want to interact with the underlying value, but do I really need to refcount these tiny structs that only hold a handful of floats each?

I set out to find a middle ground.

Solution, kind of

I really, really didn’t want to perform serious surgery on this code just to get it to build. I still didn’t know if it worked at all, and now I had to rearrange it without being able to check if I was breaking it further. (This isn’t Rust’s fault; it’s a natural problem with porting between fairly different paradigms.)

So I kind of hacked it into working with minimal changes, producing a grotesque abomination which I’m ashamed to link to. Here’s how!

First, I got rid of the class. It turns out this makes lifetime juggling much easier right off the bat. I’m pretty sure Rust considers everything in a struct to be destroyed simultaneously (though in practice it guarantees it’ll destroy fields in order), which doesn’t leave much wiggle room. Locals within a function, on the other hand, can each have their own distinct lifetimes, which solves the problem of expressing that the borrows won’t outlive the arena.

Speaking of the arena, I solved the mutability problem there by switching to… an arena! The typed-arena crate (a port of a type used within Rust itself, I think) is an allocator — you give it a value, and it gives you back a reference, and the reference is guaranteed to be valid for as long as the arena exists. The method that does this is sneaky and takes &self rather than &mut self, so Rust doesn’t know you’re mutating the arena and won’t complain. (One drawback is that the arena will never free anything you give to it, but that’s not a big problem here.)

My next problem was with mutation. The main loop repeatedly calls possibleIntersection with pairs of segments, which can split either or both segment. Rust definitely doesn’t like that — I’d have to pass in two &muts, both of which are mutable references into the same arena, and I’d have a bunch of immutable references into that arena in the sweep list and elsewhere. This isn’t going to fly.

This is kind of a shame, and is one place where Rust seems a little overzealous. Something like this seems like it ought to be perfectly valid:

let mut v = vec![1u32, 2u32];
let a = &mut v[0];
let b = &mut v[1];
// do stuff with a, b

The trouble is, Rust only knows the type signature, which here is something like index_mut(&'a mut self, index: usize) -> &'a T. Nothing about that says that you’re borrowing distinct elements rather than some core part of the type — and, in fact, the above code is only safe because you’re borrowing distinct elements. In the general case, Rust can’t possibly know that. It seems obvious enough from the different indexes, but nothing about the type system even says that different indexes have to return different values. And what if one were borrowed as &mut v[1] and the other were borrowed with v.iter_mut().next().unwrap()?

Anyway, this is exactly where people start to turn to RefCell — if you’re very sure you know better than Rust, then a RefCell will skirt the borrow checker while still enforcing at runtime that you don’t have more than one mutable borrow at a time.

But half the lines in this algorithm examine the endpoints of a segment! I don’t want to wrap the whole thing in a RefCell, or I’ll have to say this everywhere:

if segment1.borrow().point.x < segment2.borrow().point.x { ... }


But wait — this code only mutates the points themselves in one place. When a segment is split, the original segment becomes the left half, and a new segment is created to be the right half. There’s no compelling need for this; it saves an allocation for the left half, but it’s not critical to the algorithm.

Thus, I settled on a compromise. My segment type now looks like this:

struct SegmentPacket {
    // a bunch of flags and whatnot used in the algorithm
struct SweepSegment {
    left_point: MapPoint,
    right_point: MapPoint,
    faces_outwards: bool,
    index: usize,
    order: usize,
    packet: RefCell<SegmentPacket>,

I do still need to call .borrow() or .borrow_mut() to get at the stuff in the “packet”, but that’s far less common, so there’s less noise overall. And I don’t need to wrap it in Rc because it’s part of a type that’s allocated in the arena and passed around only via references.

This still leaves me with the problem of how to actually perform the splits.

I’m not especially happy with what I came up with, I don’t know if I can defend it, and I suspect I could do much better. I changed possibleIntersection so that rather than performing splits, it returns the points at which each segment needs splitting, in the form (usize, Option<MapPoint>, Option<MapPoint>). (The usize is used as a flag for calling code and oughta be an enum, but, isn’t yet.)

Now the top-level function is responsible for all arena management, and all is well.

Except, er. possibleIntersection is called multiple times, and I don’t want to copy-paste a dozen lines of split code after each call. I tried putting just that code in its own function, which had the world’s most godawful signature, and that didn’t work because… uh… hm. I can’t remember why, exactly! Should’ve written that down.

I tried a local closure next, but closures capture their environment by reference, so now I had references to a bunch of locals for as long as the closure existed, which meant I couldn’t mutate those locals. Argh. (This seems a little silly to me, since the closure’s references cannot possibly be used for anything if the closure isn’t being called, but maybe I’m missing something. Or maybe this is just a limitation of lifetimes.)

Increasingly desperate, I tried using a macro. But… macros are hygienic, which means that any new name you use inside a macro is different from any name outside that macro. The macro thus could not see any of my locals. Usually that’s good, but here I explicitly wanted the macro to mess with my locals.

I was just about to give up and go live as a hermit in a cabin in the woods, when I discovered something quite incredible. You can define local macros! If you define a macro inside a function, then it can see any locals defined earlier in that function. Perfect!

macro_rules! _split_segment (
    ($seg:expr, $pt:expr) => (
            let pt = $pt;
            let seg = $seg;
            // ... waaay too much code ...

loop {
    // ...
    // This is possibleIntersection, renamed because Rust rightfully complains about camelCase
    let cross = handle_intersections(Some(segment), maybe_above);
    if let Some(pt) = cross.1 {
        segment = _split_segment!(segment, pt);
    if let Some(pt) = cross.2 {
        maybe_above = Some(_split_segment!(maybe_above.unwrap(), pt));
    // ...

(This doesn’t actually quite match the original algorithm, which has one case where a segment can be split twice. I realized that I could just do the left-most split, and a later iteration would perform the other split. I sure hope that’s right, anyway.)

It’s a bit ugly, and I ran into a whole lot of implicit behavior from the C++ code that I had to fix — for example, the segment is sometimes mutated just before it’s split, purely as a shortcut for mutating the left part of the split. But it finally compiles! And runs! And kinda worked, a bit!


I still had a lot of work to do.

For one, this code was designed for intersecting two shapes, not mass-intersecting a big pile of shapes. The basic algorithm doesn’t care about how many polygons you start with — all it sees is segments — but the code for constructing the return value needed some heavy modification.

The biggest change by far? The original code traced each segment once, expecting the result to be only a single shape. I had to change that to trace each side of each segment once, since the vast bulk of the output consists of shapes which share a side. This violated a few assumptions, which I had to hack around.

I also ran into a couple very bad edge cases, spent ages debugging them, then found out that the original algorithm had a subtle workaround that I’d commented out because it was awkward to port but didn’t seem to do anything. Whoops!

The worst was a precision error, where a vertical line could be split on a point not quite actually on the line, which wreaked all kinds of havoc. I worked around that with some tasteful rounding, which is highly dubious but makes the output more appealing to my squishy human brain. (I might switch to the original workaround, but I really dislike that even simple cases can spit out points at 1500.0000000000003. The whole thing is parameterized over the coordinate type, so maybe I could throw a rational type in there and cross my fingers?)

All that done, I finally, finally, after a couple months of intermittent progress, got what I wanted!

This is Doom 2’s MAP01. The black area to the left of center is where the player starts. Gray areas indicate where the player can walk from there, with lighter shades indicating more distant areas, where “distance” is measured by the minimum number of line crossings. Red areas can’t be reached at all.

(Note: large playable chunks of the map, including the exit room, are red. That’s because those areas are behind doors, and this code doesn’t understand doors yet.)

(Also note: The big crescent in the lower-right is also black because I was lazy and looked for the player’s starting sector by checking the bbox, and that sector’s bbox happens to match.)

The code that generated this had to go out of its way to delete all the unreachable zones around solid walls. I think I could modify the algorithm to do that on the fly pretty easily, which would probably speed it up a bit too. Downside is that the algorithm would then be pretty specifically tied to this problem, and not usable for any other kind of polygon intersection, which I would think could come up elsewhere? The modifications would be pretty minor, though, so maybe I could confine them to a closure or something.

Some final observations

It runs surprisingly slowly. Like, multiple seconds. Unless I add --release, which speeds it up by a factor of… some number with multiple digits. Wahoo. Debug mode has a high price, especially with a lot of calls in play.

The current state of this code is on GitHub. Please don’t look at it. I’m very sorry.

Honestly, most of my anguish came not from Rust, but from the original code relying on lots of fairly subtle behavior without bothering to explain what it was doing or even hint that anything unusual was going on. God, I hate C++.

I don’t know if the Rust community can learn from this. I don’t know if I even learned from this. Let’s all just quietly forget about it.

Now I just need to figure this one out…

Innovation Flywheels and the AWS Serverless Application Repository

Post Syndicated from Tim Wagner original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/innovation-flywheels-and-the-aws-serverless-application-repository/

At AWS, our customers have always been the motivation for our innovation. In turn, we’re committed to helping them accelerate the pace of their own innovation. It was in the spirit of helping our customers achieve their objectives faster that we launched AWS Lambda in 2014, eliminating the burden of server management and enabling AWS developers to focus on business logic instead of the challenges of provisioning and managing infrastructure.


In the years since, our customers have built amazing things using Lambda and other serverless offerings, such as Amazon API Gateway, Amazon Cognito, and Amazon DynamoDB. Together, these services make it easy to build entire applications without the need to provision, manage, monitor, or patch servers. By removing much of the operational drudgery of infrastructure management, we’ve helped our customers become more agile and achieve faster time-to-market for their applications and services. By eliminating cold servers and cold containers with request-based pricing, we’ve also eliminated the high cost of idle capacity and helped our customers achieve dramatically higher utilization and better economics.

After we launched Lambda, though, we quickly learned an important lesson: A single Lambda function rarely exists in isolation. Rather, many functions are part of serverless applications that collectively deliver customer value. Whether it’s the combination of event sources and event handlers, as serverless web apps that combine APIs with functions for dynamic content with static content repositories, or collections of functions that together provide a microservice architecture, our customers were building and delivering serverless architectures for every conceivable problem. Despite the economic and agility benefits that hundreds of thousands of AWS customers were enjoying with Lambda, we realized there was still more we could do.

How Customer Feedback Inspired Us to Innovate

We heard from our customers that getting started—either from scratch or when augmenting their implementation with new techniques or technologies—remained a challenge. When we looked for serverless assets to share, we found stellar examples built by serverless pioneers that represented a multitude of solutions across industries.

There were apps to facilitate monitoring and logging, to process image and audio files, to create Alexa skills, and to integrate with notification and location services. These apps ranged from “getting started” examples to complete, ready-to-run assets. What was missing, however, was a unified place for customers to discover this diversity of serverless applications and a step-by-step interface to help them configure and deploy them.

We also heard from customers and partners that building their own ecosystems—ecosystems increasingly composed of functions, APIs, and serverless applications—remained a challenge. They wanted a simple way to share samples, create extensibility, and grow consumer relationships on top of serverless approaches.


We built the AWS Serverless Application Repository to help solve both of these challenges by offering publishers and consumers of serverless apps a simple, fast, and effective way to share applications and grow user communities around them. Now, developers can easily learn how to apply serverless approaches to their implementation and business challenges by discovering, customizing, and deploying serverless applications directly from the Serverless Application Repository. They can also find libraries, components, patterns, and best practices that augment their existing knowledge, helping them bring services and applications to market faster than ever before.

How the AWS Serverless Application Repository Inspires Innovation for All Customers

Companies that want to create ecosystems, share samples, deliver extensibility and customization options, and complement their existing SaaS services use the Serverless Application Repository as a distribution channel, producing apps that can be easily discovered and consumed by their customers. AWS partners like HERE have introduced their location and transit services to thousands of companies and developers. Partners like Datadog, Splunk, and TensorIoT have showcased monitoring, logging, and IoT applications to the serverless community.

Individual developers are also publishing serverless applications that push the boundaries of innovation—some have published applications that leverage machine learning to predict the quality of wine while others have published applications that monitor crypto-currencies, instantly build beautiful image galleries, or create fast and simple surveys. All of these publishers are using serverless apps, and the Serverless Application Repository, as the easiest way to share what they’ve built. Best of all, their customers and fellow community members can find and deploy these applications with just a few clicks in the Lambda console. Apps in the Serverless Application Repository are free of charge, making it easy to explore new solutions or learn new technologies.

Finally, we at AWS continue to publish apps for the community to use. From apps that leverage Amazon Cognito to sync user data across applications to our latest collection of serverless apps that enable users to quickly execute common financial calculations, we’re constantly looking for opportunities to contribute to community growth and innovation.

At AWS, we’re more excited than ever by the growing adoption of serverless architectures and the innovation that services like AWS Lambda make possible. Helping our customers create and deliver new ideas drives us to keep inventing ways to make building and sharing serverless apps even easier. As the number of applications in the Serverless Application Repository grows, so too will the innovation that it fuels for both the owners and the consumers of those apps. With the general availability of the Serverless Application Repository, our customers become more than the engine of our innovation—they become the engine of innovation for one another.

To browse, discover, deploy, and publish serverless apps in minutes, visit the Serverless Application Repository. Go serverless—and go innovate!

Dr. Tim Wagner is the General Manager of AWS Lambda and Amazon API Gateway.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/03/facebook_and_ca.html

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, news articles and commentators have focused on what Facebook knows about us. A lot, it turns out. It collects data from our posts, our likes, our photos, things we type and delete without posting, and things we do while not on Facebook and even when we’re offline. It buys data about us from others. And it can infer even more: our sexual orientation, political beliefs, relationship status, drug use, and other personality traits — even if we didn’t take the personality test that Cambridge Analytica developed.

But for every article about Facebook’s creepy stalker behavior, thousands of other companies are breathing a collective sigh of relief that it’s Facebook and not them in the spotlight. Because while Facebook is one of the biggest players in this space, there are thousands of other companies that spy on and manipulate us for profit.

Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff calls it “surveillance capitalism.” And as creepy as Facebook is turning out to be, the entire industry is far creepier. It has existed in secret far too long, and it’s up to lawmakers to force these companies into the public spotlight, where we can all decide if this is how we want society to operate and — if not — what to do about it.

There are 2,500 to 4,000 data brokers in the United States whose business is buying and selling our personal data. Last year, Equifax was in the news when hackers stole personal information on 150 million people, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.

You certainly didn’t give it permission to collect any of that information. Equifax is one of those thousands of data brokers, most of them you’ve never heard of, selling your personal information without your knowledge or consent to pretty much anyone who will pay for it.

Surveillance capitalism takes this one step further. Companies like Facebook and Google offer you free services in exchange for your data. Google’s surveillance isn’t in the news, but it’s startlingly intimate. We never lie to our search engines. Our interests and curiosities, hopes and fears, desires and sexual proclivities, are all collected and saved. Add to that the websites we visit that Google tracks through its advertising network, our Gmail accounts, our movements via Google Maps, and what it can collect from our smartphones.

That phone is probably the most intimate surveillance device ever invented. It tracks our location continuously, so it knows where we live, where we work, and where we spend our time. It’s the first and last thing we check in a day, so it knows when we wake up and when we go to sleep. We all have one, so it knows who we sleep with. Uber used just some of that information to detect one-night stands; your smartphone provider and any app you allow to collect location data knows a lot more.

Surveillance capitalism drives much of the internet. It’s behind most of the “free” services, and many of the paid ones as well. Its goal is psychological manipulation, in the form of personalized advertising to persuade you to buy something or do something, like vote for a candidate. And while the individualized profile-driven manipulation exposed by Cambridge Analytica feels abhorrent, it’s really no different from what every company wants in the end. This is why all your personal information is collected, and this is why it is so valuable. Companies that can understand it can use it against you.

None of this is new. The media has been reporting on surveillance capitalism for years. In 2015, I wrote a book about it. Back in 2010, the Wall Street Journal published an award-winning two-year series about how people are tracked both online and offline, titled “What They Know.”

Surveillance capitalism is deeply embedded in our increasingly computerized society, and if the extent of it came to light there would be broad demands for limits and regulation. But because this industry can largely operate in secret, only occasionally exposed after a data breach or investigative report, we remain mostly ignorant of its reach.

This might change soon. In 2016, the European Union passed the comprehensive General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The details of the law are far too complex to explain here, but some of the things it mandates are that personal data of EU citizens can only be collected and saved for “specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes,” and only with explicit consent of the user. Consent can’t be buried in the terms and conditions, nor can it be assumed unless the user opts in. This law will take effect in May, and companies worldwide are bracing for its enforcement.

Because pretty much all surveillance capitalism companies collect data on Europeans, this will expose the industry like nothing else. Here’s just one example. In preparation for this law, PayPal quietly published a list of over 600 companies it might share your personal data with. What will it be like when every company has to publish this sort of information, and explicitly explain how it’s using your personal data? We’re about to find out.

In the wake of this scandal, even Mark Zuckerberg said that his industry probably should be regulated, although he’s certainly not wishing for the sorts of comprehensive regulation the GDPR is bringing to Europe.

He’s right. Surveillance capitalism has operated without constraints for far too long. And advances in both big data analysis and artificial intelligence will make tomorrow’s applications far creepier than today’s. Regulation is the only answer.

The first step to any regulation is transparency. Who has our data? Is it accurate? What are they doing with it? Who are they selling it to? How are they securing it? Can we delete it? I don’t see any hope of Congress passing a GDPR-like data protection law anytime soon, but it’s not too far-fetched to demand laws requiring these companies to be more transparent in what they’re doing.

One of the responses to the Cambridge Analytica scandal is that people are deleting their Facebook accounts. It’s hard to do right, and doesn’t do anything about the data that Facebook collects about people who don’t use Facebook. But it’s a start. The market can put pressure on these companies to reduce their spying on us, but it can only do that if we force the industry out of its secret shadows.

This essay previously appeared on CNN.com.

EDITED TO ADD (4/2): Slashdot thread.

Alex’s quick and easy digital making Easter egg hunt

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/alexs-easter-egg-hunt/

Looking to incorporate some digital making into your Easter weekend? You’ve come to the right place! With a Raspberry Pi, a few wires, and some simple code, you can take your festivities to the next level — here’s how!

Easter Egg Hunt using Raspberry Pi

If you logged in to watch our Instagram live-stream yesterday, you’ll have seen me put together a simple egg carton and some wires to create circuits. These circuits, when closed by way of a foil-wrapped chocolate egg, instruct a Raspberry Pi to reveal the whereabouts of a larger chocolate egg!

Make it

You’ll need an egg carton, two male-to-female jumper wire, and two crocodile leads for each egg you use.

Easter Egg Hunt using Raspberry Pi

Connect your leads together in pairs: one end of a crocodile lead to the male end of one jumper wire. Attach the free crocodile clips of two leads to each corner of the egg carton (as shown up top). Then hook up the female ends to GPIO pins: one numbered pin and one ground pin per egg. I recommend pins 3, 4, 18 and 24, as they all have adjacent GND pins.

Easter Egg Hunt using Raspberry Pi

Your foil-wrapped Easter egg will complete the circuit — make sure it’s touching both the GPIO- and GND-connected clips when resting in the carton.

Easter Egg Hunt using Raspberry Pi

Wrap it

For your convenience (and our sweet tooth), we tested several foil-wrapped eggs (Easter and otherwise) to see which are conductive.

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

We’re egg-sperimenting with Easter deliciousness to find which treat is the most conductive. Why? All will be revealed in our Instagram Easter live-stream tomorrow.

The result? None of them are! But if you unwrap an egg and rewrap it with the non-decorative foil side outward, this tends to work. You could also use aluminium foil or copper tape to create a conductive layer.

Code it

Next, you’ll need to create the code for your hunt. The script below contains the bare bones needed to make the project work — you can embellish it however you wish using GUIs, flashing LEDs, music, etc.

Open Thonny or IDLE on Raspbian and create a new file called egghunt.py. Then enter the following code:

We’re using ButtonBoard from the gpiozero library. This allows us to link several buttons together as an object and set an action for when any number of the buttons are pressed. Here, the script waits for all four circuits to be completed before printing the location of the prize in the Python shell.

Your turn

And that’s it! Now you just need to hide your small foil eggs around the house and challenge your kids/friends/neighbours to find them. Then, once every circuit is completed with an egg, the great prize will be revealed.

Give it a go this weekend! And if you do, be sure to let us know on social media.

(Thank you to Lauren Hyams for suggesting we “do something for Easter” and Ben ‘gpiozero’ Nuttall for introducing me to ButtonBoard.)

The post Alex’s quick and easy digital making Easter egg hunt appeared first on Raspberry Pi.