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Fraud Detection in Pokémon Go

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/11/fraud_detection.html

I play Pokémon Go. (There, I’ve admitted it.) One of the interesting aspects of the game I’ve been watching is how the game’s publisher, Niantec, deals with cheaters.

There are three basic types of cheating in Pokémon Go. The first is botting, where a computer plays the game instead of a person. The second is spoofing, which is faking GPS to convince the game that you’re somewhere you’re not. These two cheats are often used together — and you see the results in the many high-level accounts for sale on the Internet. The third type of cheating is the use of third-party apps like trackers to get extra information about the game.

None of this would matter if everyone played independently. The only reason any player cares about whether other players are cheating is that there is a group aspect of the game: gym battling. Everyone’s enjoyment of that part of the game is affected by cheaters who can pretend to be where they’re not, especially if they have lots of powerful Pokémon that they collected effortlessly.

Niantec has been trying to deal with this problem since the game debuted, mostly by banning accounts when it detects cheating. Its initial strategy was basic — algorithmically detecting impossibly fast travel between physical locations or super-human amounts of playing, and then banning those accounts — with limited success. The limiting factor in all of this is false positives. While Niantec wants to stop cheating, it doesn’t want to block or limit any legitimate players. This makes it a very difficult problem, and contributes to the balance in the attacker/defender arms race.

Recently, Niantic implemented two new anti-cheating measures. The first is machine learning to detect cheaters. About this, we know little. The second is to limit the functionality of cheating accounts rather than ban them outright, making it harder for cheaters to know when they’ve been discovered.

“This is may very well be the beginning of Niantic’s machine learning approach to active bot countering,” user Dronpes writes on The Silph Road subreddit. “If the parameters for a shadowban are constantly adjusted server-side, as they can now easily be, then Niantic’s machine learning engineers can train their detection (classification) algorithms in ever-improving, ever more aggressive ways, and botters will constantly be forced to re-evaluate what factors may be triggering the detection.”

One of the expected future features in the game is trading. Creating a market for rare or powerful Pokémon would add a huge additional financial incentive to cheat. Unless Niantec can effectively prevent botting and spoofing, it’s unlikely to implement that feature.

Cheating detection in virtual reality games is going to be a constant problem as these games become more popular, especially if there are ways to monetize the results of cheating. This means that cheater detection will continue to be a critical component of these games’ success. Anything Niantec learns in Pokémon Go will be useful in whatever games come next.

Mystic, level 39 — if you must know.

And, yes, I know the game tracks works by tracking your location. I’m all right with that. As I repeatedly say, Internet privacy is all about trade-offs.

How to Compete with Giants

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-compete-with-giants/

How to Compete with Giants

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

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

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

Perhaps your business is competing in a brand new space free from established competitors. Most of us, though, start companies that compete with existing offerings from large, established companies. You need to come up with a better mousetrap — not the first mousetrap.

That’s the challenge Backblaze faced. In this post, I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned from that experience.

Backblaze vs. Giants

Competing with established companies that are orders of magnitude larger can be daunting. How can you succeed?

I’ll set the stage by offering a few sets of giants we compete with:

  • When we started Backblaze, we offered online backup in a market where companies had been offering “online backup” for at least a decade, and even the newer entrants had raised tens of millions of dollars.
  • When we built our storage servers, the alternatives were EMC, NetApp, and Dell — each of which had a market cap of over $10 billion.
  • When we introduced our cloud storage offering, B2, our direct competitors were Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. You might have heard of them.

What did we learn by competing with these giants on a bootstrapped budget? Let’s take a look.

Determine What Success Means

For a long time Apple considered Apple TV to be a hobby, not a real product worth focusing on, because it did not generate a billion in revenue. For a $10 billion per year revenue company, a new business that generates $50 million won’t move the needle and often isn’t worth putting focus on. However, for a startup, getting to $50 million in revenue can be the start of a wildly successful business.

Lesson Learned: Don’t let the giants set your success metrics.

The Advantages Startups Have

The giants have a lot of advantages: more money, people, scale, resources, access, etc. Following their playbook and attacking head-on means you’re simply outgunned. Common paths to failure are trying to build more features, enter more markets, outspend on marketing, and other similar approaches where scale and resources are the primary determinants of success.

But being a startup affords many advantages most giants would salivate over. As a nimble startup you can leverage those to succeed. Let’s breakdown nine competitive advantages we’ve used that you can too.

1. Drive Focus

It’s hard to build a $10 billion revenue business doing just one thing, and most giants have a broad portfolio of businesses, numerous products for each, and targeting a variety of customer segments in multiple markets. That adds complexity and distributes management attention.

Startups get the benefit of having everyone in the company be extremely focused, often on a singular mission, product, customer segment, and market. While our competitors sell everything from advertising to Zantac, and are investing in groceries and shipping, Backblaze has focused exclusively on cloud storage. This means all of our best people (i.e. everyone) is focused on our cloud storage business. Where is all of your focus going?

Lesson Learned: Align everyone in your company to a singular focus to dramatically out-perform larger teams.

2. Use Lack-of-Scale as an Advantage

You may have heard Paul Graham say “Do things that don’t scale.” There are a host of things you can do specifically because you don’t have the same scale as the giants. Use that as an advantage.

When we look for data center space, we have more options than our largest competitors because there are simply more spaces available with room for 100 cabinets than for 1,000 cabinets. With some searching, we can find data center space that is better/cheaper.

When a flood in Thailand destroyed factories, causing the world’s supply of hard drives to plummet and prices to triple, we started drive farming. The giants certainly couldn’t. It was a bit crazy, but it let us keep prices unchanged for our customers.

Our Chief Cloud Officer, Tim, used to work at Adobe. Because of their size, any new product needed to always launch in a multitude of languages and in global markets. Once launched, they had scale. But getting any new product launched was incredibly challenging.

Lesson Learned: Use lack-of-scale to exploit opportunities that are closed to giants.

3. Build a Better Product

This one is probably obvious. If you’re going to provide the same product, at the same price, to the same customers — why do it? Remember that better does not always mean more features. Here’s one way we built a better product that didn’t require being a bigger company.

All online backup services required customers to choose what to include in their backup. We found that this was complicated for users since they often didn’t know what needed to be backed up. We flipped the model to back up everything and allow users to exclude if they wanted to, but it was not required. This reduced the number of features/options, while making it easier and better for the user.

This didn’t require the resources of a huge company; it just required understanding customers a bit deeper and thinking about the solution differently. Building a better product is the most classic startup competitive advantage.

Lesson Learned: Dig deep with your customers to understand and deliver a better mousetrap.

4. Provide Better Service

How can you provide better service? Use your advantages. Escalations from your customer care folks to engineering can go through fewer hoops. Fixing an issue and shipping can be quicker. Access to real answers on Twitter or Facebook can be more effective.

A strategic decision we made was to have all customer support people as full-time employees in our headquarters. This ensures they are in close contact to the whole company for feedback to quickly go both ways.

Having a smaller team and fewer layers enables faster internal communication, which increases customer happiness. And the option to do things that don’t scale — such as help a customer in a unique situation — can go a long way in building customer loyalty.

Lesson Learned: Service your customers better by establishing clear internal communications.

5. Remove The Unnecessary

After determining that the industry standard EMC/NetApp/Dell storage servers would be too expensive to build our own cloud storage upon, we decided to build our own infrastructure. Many said we were crazy to compete with these multi-billion dollar companies and that it would be impossible to build a lower cost storage server. However, not only did it prove to not be impossible — it wasn’t even that hard.

One key trick? Remove the unnecessary. While EMC and others built servers to sell to other companies for a wide variety of use cases, Backblaze needed servers that only Backblaze would run, and for a single use case. As a result we could tailor the servers for our needs by removing redundancy from each server (since we would run redundant servers), and using lower-performance components (since we would get high-performance by running parallel servers).

What do your customers and use cases not need? This can trim costs and complexity while often improving the product for your use case.

Lesson Learned: Don’t think “what can we add” to what the giants offer — think “what can we remove.”

6. Be Easy

How many times have you visited a large company website, particularly one that’s not consumer-focused, only to leave saying, “Huh? I don’t understand what you do.” Keeping your website clear, and your product and pricing simple, will dramatically increase conversion and customer satisfaction. If you’re able to make it 2x easier and thus increasing your conversion by 2x, you’ve just allowed yourself to spend ½ as much acquiring a customer.

Providing unlimited data backup wasn’t specifically about providing more storage — it was about making it easier. Since users didn’t know how much data they needed to back up, charging per gigabyte meant they wouldn’t know the cost. Providing unlimited data backup meant they could just relax.

Customers love easy — and being smaller makes easy easier to deliver. Use that as an advantage in your website, marketing materials, pricing, product, and in every other customer interaction.

Lesson Learned: Ease-of-use isn’t a slogan: it’s a competitive advantage. Treat it as seriously as any other feature of your product

7. Don’t Be Afraid of Risk

Obviously unnecessary risks are unnecessary, and some risks aren’t worth taking. However, large companies that have given guidance to Wall Street with a $0.01 range on their earning-per-share are inherently going to be very risk-averse. Use risk-tolerance to open up opportunities, and adjust your tolerance level as you scale. In your first year, there are likely an infinite number of ways your business may vaporize; don’t be too worried about taking a risk that might have a 20% downside when the upside is hockey stick growth.

Using consumer-grade hard drives in our servers may have caused pain and suffering for us years down-the-line, but they were priced at approximately 50% of enterprise drives. Giants wouldn’t have considered the option. Turns out, the consumer drives performed great for us.

Lesson Learned: Use calculated risks as an advantage.

8. Be Open

The larger a company grows, the more it wants to hide information. Some of this is driven by regulatory requirements as a public company. But most of this is cultural. Sharing something might cause a problem, so let’s not. All external communication is treated as a critical press release, with rounds and rounds of editing by multiple teams and approvals. However, customers are often desperate for information. Moreover, sharing information builds trust, understanding, and advocates.

I started blogging at Backblaze before we launched. When we blogged about our Storage Pod and open-sourced the design, many thought we were crazy to share this information. But it was transformative for us, establishing Backblaze as a tech thought leader in storage and giving people a sense of how we were able to provide our service at such a low cost.

Over the years we’ve developed a culture of being open internally and externally, on our blog and with the press, and in communities such as Hacker News and Reddit. Often we’ve been asked, “why would you share that!?” — but it’s the continual openness that builds trust. And that culture of openness is incredibly challenging for the giants.

Lesson Learned: Overshare to build trust and brand where giants won’t.

9. Be Human

As companies scale, typically a smaller percent of founders and executives interact with customers. The people who build the company become more hidden, the language feels “corporate,” and customers start to feel they’re interacting with the cliche “faceless, nameless corporation.” Use your humanity to your advantage. From day one the Backblaze About page listed all the founders, and my email address. While contacting us shouldn’t be the first path for a customer support question, I wanted it to be clear that we stand behind the service we offer; if we’re doing something wrong — I want to know it.

To scale it’s important to have processes and procedures, but sometimes a situation falls outside of a well-established process. While we want our employees to follow processes, they’re still encouraged to be human and “try to do the right thing.” How to you strike this balance? Simon Sinek gives a good talk about it: make your employees feel safe. If employees feel safe they’ll be human.

If your customer is a consumer, they’ll appreciate being treated as a human. Even if your customer is a corporation, the purchasing decision-makers are still people.

Lesson Learned: Being human is the ultimate antithesis to the faceless corporation.

Build Culture to Sustain Your Advantages at Scale

Presumably the goal is not to always be competing with giants, but to one day become a giant. Does this mean you’ll lose all of these advantages? Some, yes — but not all. Some of these advantages are cultural, and if you build these into the culture from the beginning, and fight to keep them as you scale, you can keep them as you become a giant.

Tesla still comes across as human, with Elon Musk frequently interacting with people on Twitter. Apple continues to provide great service through their Genius Bar. And, worst case, if you lose these at scale, you’ll still have the other advantages of being a giant such as money, people, scale, resources, and access.

Of course, some new startup will be gunning for you with grand ambitions, so just be sure not to get complacent. 😉

The post How to Compete with Giants appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Taringa Hack – 27 Million User Records Leaked

Post Syndicated from Darknet original https://www.darknet.org.uk/2017/10/taringa-hack-27-million-user-records-leaked/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=darknetfeed

Taringa Hack – 27 Million User Records Leaked

The Taringa hack is actually one of the biggest leaks of the year with 27 million weakly hashed passwords breached, but it’s not often covered in the Western media with it being a Latin American site (something like Reddit).

The leak happened in August and it seems like the hackers were able to brute force around 95% of the account passwords fairly quickly with Taringa using an outdated and flawing hashing algorithm – md5.

Read the rest of Taringa Hack – 27 Million User Records Leaked now! Only available at Darknet.

Application Load Balancers Now Support Multiple TLS Certificates With Smart Selection Using SNI

Post Syndicated from Randall Hunt original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-application-load-balancer-sni/

Today we’re launching support for multiple TLS/SSL certificates on Application Load Balancers (ALB) using Server Name Indication (SNI). You can now host multiple TLS secured applications, each with its own TLS certificate, behind a single load balancer. In order to use SNI, all you need to do is bind multiple certificates to the same secure listener on your load balancer. ALB will automatically choose the optimal TLS certificate for each client. These new features are provided at no additional charge.

If you’re looking for a TL;DR on how to use this new feature just click here. If you’re like me and you’re a little rusty on the specifics of Transport Layer Security (TLS) then keep reading.

TLS? SSL? SNI?

People tend to use the terms SSL and TLS interchangeably even though the two are technically different. SSL technically refers to a predecessor of the TLS protocol. To keep things simple I’ll be using the term TLS for the rest of this post.

TLS is a protocol for securely transmitting data like passwords, cookies, and credit card numbers. It enables privacy, authentication, and integrity of the data being transmitted. TLS uses certificate based authentication where certificates are like ID cards for your websites. You trust the person that signed and issued the certificate, the certificate authority (CA), so you trust that the data in the certificate is correct. When a browser connects to your TLS-enabled ALB, ALB presents a certificate that contains your site’s public key, which has been cryptographically signed by a CA. This way the client can be sure it’s getting the ‘real you’ and that it’s safe to use your site’s public key to establish a secure connection.

With SNI support we’re making it easy to use more than one certificate with the same ALB. The most common reason you might want to use multiple certificates is to handle different domains with the same load balancer. It’s always been possible to use wildcard and subject-alternate-name (SAN) certificates with ALB, but these come with limitations. Wildcard certificates only work for related subdomains that match a simple pattern and while SAN certificates can support many different domains, the same certificate authority has to authenticate each one. That means you have reauthenticate and reprovision your certificate everytime you add a new domain.

One of our most frequent requests on forums, reddit, and in my e-mail inbox has been to use the Server Name Indication (SNI) extension of TLS to choose a certificate for a client. Since TLS operates at the transport layer, below HTTP, it doesn’t see the hostname requested by a client. SNI works by having the client tell the server “This is the domain I expect to get a certificate for” when it first connects. The server can then choose the correct certificate to respond to the client. All modern web browsers and a large majority of other clients support SNI. In fact, today we see SNI supported by over 99.5% of clients connecting to CloudFront.

Smart Certificate Selection on ALB

ALB’s smart certificate selection goes beyond SNI. In addition to containing a list of valid domain names, certificates also describe the type of key exchange and cryptography that the server supports, as well as the signature algorithm (SHA2, SHA1, MD5) used to sign the certificate. To establish a TLS connection, a client starts a TLS handshake by sending a “ClientHello” message that outlines the capabilities of the client: the protocol versions, extensions, cipher suites, and compression methods. Based on what an individual client supports, ALB’s smart selection algorithm chooses a certificate for the connection and sends it to the client. ALB supports both the classic RSA algorithm and the newer, hipper, and faster Elliptic-curve based ECDSA algorithm. ECDSA support among clients isn’t as prevalent as SNI, but it is supported by all modern web browsers. Since it’s faster and requires less CPU, it can be particularly useful for ultra-low latency applications and for conserving the amount of battery used by mobile applications. Since ALB can see what each client supports from the TLS handshake, you can upload both RSA and ECDSA certificates for the same domains and ALB will automatically choose the best one for each client.

Using SNI with ALB

I’ll use a few example websites like VimIsBetterThanEmacs.com and VimIsTheBest.com. I’ve purchased and hosted these domains on Amazon Route 53, and provisioned two separate certificates for them in AWS Certificate Manager (ACM). If I want to securely serve both of these sites through a single ALB, I can quickly add both certificates in the console.

First, I’ll select my load balancer in the console, go to the listeners tab, and select “view/edit certificates”.

Next, I’ll use the “+” button in the top left corner to select some certificates then I’ll click the “Add” button.

There are no more steps. If you’re not really a GUI kind of person you’ll be pleased to know that it’s also simple to add new certificates via the AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) (or SDKs).

aws elbv2 add-listener-certificates --listener-arn <listener-arn> --certificates CertificateArn=<cert-arn>

Things to know

  • ALB Access Logs now include the client’s requested hostname and the certificate ARN used. If the “hostname” field is empty (represented by a “-“) the client did not use the SNI extension in their request.
  • You can use any of your certificates in ACM or IAM.
  • You can bind multiple certificates for the same domain(s) to a secure listener. Your ALB will choose the optimal certificate based on multiple factors including the capabilities of the client.
  • If the client does not support SNI your ALB will use the default certificate (the one you specified when you created the listener).
  • There are three new ELB API calls: AddListenerCertificates, RemoveListenerCertificates, and DescribeListenerCertificates.
  • You can bind up to 25 certificates per load balancer (not counting the default certificate).
  • These new features are supported by AWS CloudFormation at launch.

You can see an example of these new features in action with a set of websites created by my colleague Jon Zobrist: https://www.exampleloadbalancer.com/.

Overall, I will personally use this feature and I’m sure a ton of AWS users will benefit from it as well. I want to thank the Elastic Load Balancing team for all their hard work in getting this into the hands of our users.

Randall

Private Torrent Sites Allow Users to Mine Cryptocurrency for Upload Credit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/private-torrent-sites-allow-users-to-mine-cryptocurrency-for-upload-credit-171008/

Ever since The Pirate Bay crew added a cryptocurrency miner to their site last month, the debate over user mining has sizzled away in the background.

The basic premise is that a piece of software embedded in a website runs on a user’s machine, utilizing its CPU cycles in order to generate revenue for the site in question. But not everyone likes it.

The main problem has centered around consent. While some sites are giving users the option of whether to be involved or not, others simply run the miner without asking. This week, one site operator suggested to TF that since no one asks whether they can run “shitty” ads on a person’s machine, why should they ask permission to mine?

It’s a controversial point, but it would be hard to find users agreeing on either front. They almost universally insist on consent, wherever possible. That’s why when someone comes up with something innovative to solve a problem, it catches the eye.

Earlier this week a user on Reddit posted a screenshot of a fairly well known private tracker. The site had implemented a mining solution not dissimilar to that appearing on other similar platforms. This one, however, gives the user something back.

Mining for coins – with a twist

First of all, it’s important to note the implementation. The decision to mine is completely under the control of the user, with buttons to start or stop mining. There are even additional controls for how many CPU threads to commit alongside a percentage utilization selector. While still early days, that all sounds pretty fair.

Where this gets even more interesting is how this currency mining affects so-called “upload credit”, an important commodity on a private tracker without which users can be prevented from downloading any content at all.

Very quickly: when BitTorrent users download content, they simultaneously upload to other users too. The idea is that they download X megabytes and upload the same number (at least) to other users, to ensure that everyone in a torrent swarm (a number of users sharing together) gets a piece of the action, aka the content in question.

The amount of content downloaded and uploaded on a private tracker is monitored and documented by the site. If a user has 1TB downloaded and 2TB uploaded, for example, he has 1TB in credit. In basic terms, this means he can download at least 1TB of additional content before he goes into deficit, a position undesirable on a private tracker.

Now, getting more “upload credit” can be as simple as uploading more, but some users find that difficult, either due to the way a tracker’s economy works or simply due to not having resources. If this is the case, some sites allow people to donate real money to receive “upload credit”. On the tracker highlighted in the mining example above, however, it’s possible to virtually ‘trade-in’ some of the mining effort instead.

Tracker politics aside (some people believe this is simply a cash grab opportunity), from a technical standpoint the prospect is quite intriguing.

In a way, the current private tracker system allows users to “mine” upload credits by donating bandwidth to other users of the site. Now they have the opportunity to mine an actual cryptocurrency on the tracker and have some of it converted back into the tracker’s native ‘currency’ – upload credit – which can only be ‘spent’ on the site. Meanwhile, the site’s operator can make a few bucks towards site maintenance.

Another example showing how innovative these mining implementations can be was posted by a member of a second private tracker. Although it’s unclear whether mining is forced or optional, there appears to be complete transparency for the benefit of the user.

The mining ‘Top 10’ on a private tracker

In addition to displaying the total number of users mining and the hashes solved per second, the site publishes a ‘Top 10’ list of users mining the most currently, and overall. Again, some people might not like the concept of users mining at all, but psychologically this is a particularly clever implementation.

Utilizing the desire of many private tracker users to be recognizable among their peers due to their contribution to the platform, the charts give a user a measurable status in the community, at least among those who care about such things. Previously these charts would list top uploaders of content but the addition of a ‘Top miner’ category certainly adds some additional spice to the mix.

Mining is a controversial topic which isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. But, for all its faults, it’s still a way for sites to generate revenue, away from the pitfalls of increasingly hostile and easy-to-trace alternative payment systems. The Pirate Bay may have set the cat among the pigeons last month, but it also gave the old gray matter a boost too.

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

За правото на неприкосновеност

Post Syndicated from Григор original http://www.gatchev.info/blog/?p=2089

Известно на английски като privacy.

Прочетох чудесна статия по въпроса от Илиян Кирков. Ще приведа тук само два цитата от нея – останалото го има на сайта на автора ѝ.

„Твърдението, че не ви е грижа за правото на неприкосновеност на личния живот, защото няма какво да криете, е все едно да твърдите, че не ви е грижа за свободата на словото, понеже няма какво да кажете.“

Едуард Сноудън, Reddit

„През последните 16 месеца, докато обсъждах този въпрос по целия свят, всеки път някой ми казваше „Аз не се притеснявам наистина от инвазия в личното пространство, защото нямам нищо за криене.“ Винаги отговарям едно и също. Изваждам химикал, пиша си имейл адреса и им казвам: „Това е моят имейл адрес. Това, което искам да направите, когато се приберете в къщи е да ми изпратите всичките си пароли за всичките си имейл акаунти, не само хубавият, уважаван работен имейл с вашето име, но всички, защото искам да мога да се поровя през това, което правите онлайн, да прочета, каквото си искам и да публикувам това, което сметна за интересно. В крайна сметка, вие не сте лош човек и ако не правите нищо нередно, няма да имате нищо за криене.“
Нито един човек не откликна на това предложение.“

Глен Грийнуолд, лекция на тема „Why privacy matters”.

Six Strikes Piracy Scheme May Be Dead But Those Warnings Keep on Coming

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/six-strikes-piracy-scheme-may-be-dead-but-those-warnings-keep-on-coming-171001/

After at least 15 years of Internet pirates being monitored by copyright holders, one might think that the message would’ve sunk in by now. For many, it definitely hasn’t.

Bottom line: when people use P2P networks and protocols (such as BitTorrent) to share files including movies and music, copyright holders are often right there, taking notes about what is going on, perhaps in preparation for further action.

That can take a couple of forms, including suing users or, more probably, firing off a warning notice to their Internet service providers. Those notices are a little like a speeding ticket, telling the subscriber off for sharing copyrighted material but letting them off the hook if they promise to be good in future.

In 2013, the warning notice process in the US was formalized into what was known as the Copyright Alert System, a program through which most Internet users could receive at least six piracy warning notices without having any serious action taken against them. In January 2017, without having made much visible progress, it was shut down.

In some corners of the web there are still users under the impression that since the “six strikes” scheme has been shut down, all of a sudden US Internet users can forget about receiving a warning notice. In reality, the complete opposite is true.

While it’s impossible to put figures on how many notices get sent out (ISPs are reluctant to share the data), monitoring of various piracy-focused sites and forums indicates that plenty of notices are still being sent to ISPs, who are cheerfully sending them on to subscribers.

Also, over the past couple of months, there appears to have been an uptick in subscribers seeking advice after receiving warnings. Many report basic notices but there seems to be a bit of a trend of Internet connections being suspended or otherwise interrupted, apparently as a result of an infringement notice being received.

“So, over the weekend my internet got interrupted by my ISP (internet service provider) stating that someone on my network has violated some copyright laws. I had to complete a survey and they brought back the internet to me,” one subscriber wrote a few weeks ago. He added that his (unnamed) ISP advised him that seven warnings would get his account disconnected.

Another user, who named his ISP as Comcast, reported receiving a notice after downloading a game using BitTorrent. He was warned that the alleged infringement “may result in the suspension or termination of your Service account” but what remains unclear is how many warnings people can receive before this happens.

For example, a separate report from another Comcast user stated that one night of careless torrenting led to his mother receiving 40 copyright infringement notices the next day. He didn’t state which company the notices came from but 40 is clearly a lot in such a short space of time. That being said and as far as the report went, it didn’t lead to a suspension.

Of course, it’s possible that Comcast doesn’t take action if a single company sends many notices relating to the same content in a small time frame (Rightscorp is known to do this) but the risk is still there. Verizon, it seems, can suspend accounts quite easily.

“So lately I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with pirating because I get blasted with a webpage telling me my internet is disconnected and that I need to delete the file to reconnect, with the latest one having me actually call Verizon to reconnect,” a subscriber to the service reported earlier this month.

A few days ago, a Time Warner Cable customer reported having to take action after receiving his third warning notice from the ISP.

“So I’ve gotten three notices and after the third one I just went online to my computer and TWC had this page up that told me to stop downloading illegally and I had to click an ‘acknowledge’ button at the bottom of the page to be able to continue to use my internet,” he said.

Also posting this week, another subscriber of an unnamed ISP revealed he’d been disconnected twice in the past year. His comments raise a few questions that keep on coming up in these conversations.

“The first time [I was disconnected] was about a year ago and the next was a few weeks ago. When it happened I was downloading some fairly new movies so I was wondering if they monitor these new movie releases since they are more popular. Also are they monitoring what I am doing since I have been caught?” he asked.

While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that old content is also monitored, there’s little doubt that the fresher the content, the more likely it is to be monitored by copyright holders. If people are downloading a brand new movie, they should expect it to be monitored by someone, somewhere.

The second point, about whether risk increases after being caught already, is an interesting one, for a number of reasons.

Following the BMG v Cox Communication case, there is now a big emphasis on ISPs’ responsibility towards dealing with subscribers who are alleged to be repeat infringers. Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp was deeply involved in that case and the company has a patent for detecting repeat infringers.

It’s becoming clear that the company actively targets such people in order to assist copyright holders (which now includes the RIAA) in strategic litigation against ISPs, such as Grande Communications, who are claimed to be going soft on repeat infringers.

Overall, however, there’s no evidence that “getting caught” once increases the chances of being caught again, but subscribers should be aware that the Cox case changed the position on the ground. If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, it now seems that ISPs are tightening the leash on suspected pirates and are more likely to suspend or disconnect them in the face of repeated complaints.

The final question asked by the subscriber who was disconnected twice is a common one among people receiving notices.

“What can I do to continue what we all love doing?” he asked.

Time and time again, on sites like Reddit and other platforms attracting sharers, the response is the same.

“Get a paid VPN. I’m amazed you kept torrenting without protection after having your internet shut off, especially when downloading recent movies,” one such response reads.

Nevertheless, this still fails to help some people fully understand the notices they receive, leaving them worried about what might happen after receiving one. However, the answer is nearly always straightforward.

If the notice says “stop sharing content X”, then recipients should do so, period. And, if the notice doesn’t mention specific legal action, then it’s almost certain that no action is underway. They are called warning notices for a reason.

Also, notice recipients should consider the part where their ISP assures them that their details haven’t been shared with third parties. That is the truth and will remain that way unless subscribers keep ignoring notices. Then there’s a slim chance that a rightsholder will step in to make a noise via a lawyer. At that point, people shouldn’t say they haven’t been warned.

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

Datavalet Wi-Fi Blocks TorrentFreak Over ‘Criminal Hacking Skills’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/datavalet-wi-fi-blocks-torrentfreak-over-criminal-hacking-skills-170903/

At TorrentFreak we regularly write about website blocking efforts around the globe, usually related to well-known pirate sites.

Unfortunately, our own news site is not immune to access restrictions either. While no court has ordered ISPs to block access to our articles, some are doing this voluntarily.

This is especially true for companies that provide Wi-Fi hotspots, such as Datavalet. This wireless network provider works with various large organizations, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, and airports, to offer customers free Internet access.

Or rather to a part of the public Internet, we should say.

Over the past several months, we have had several reports from people who are unable to access TorrentFreak on Datavalet’s network. Users who load our website get an ominous warning instead, suggesting that we run some kind of a criminal hacking operation.

“Access to TORRENTFREAK.COM is not permitted as it is classified as: CRIMINAL SKILLS / HACKING.”

Criminal Skills?

Although we see ourselves as skilled writing news in our small niche, which incidentally covers crime and hacking, our own hacking skills are below par. Admittedly, mistakes are easily made but Datavalet’s blocking efforts are rather persistent.

The same issue was brought to our attention several years ago. At the time, we reached out to Datavalet and a friendly senior network analyst promised that they would look into it.

“We have forwarded your concerns to the proper resources and as soon as we have an update we will let you know,” the response was. But a few years later the block is still active, or active again.

Datavalet is just one one the many networks where TorrentFreak is blocked. Often, we are categorized as a file-sharing site, probably due to the word “torrent” in our name. This recently happened at the NYC Brooklyn library, for example.

After a reader kindly informed the library that we’re a news site, we were suddenly transferred from the “Peer-to-Peer File Sharing” to the “Proxy Avoidance” category.

“It appears that the website you want to access falls under the category ‘Proxy Avoidance’. These are sites that provide information about how to bypass proxy server features or to gain access to URLs in any way that bypass the proxy server,” the library explained.

Still blocked of course.

At least we’re not the only site facing this censorship battle. Datavelet and others regularly engage in overblocking to keep their network and customers safe. For example, Reddit was recently banned because it offered “nudity,” which is another no-go area.

Living up to our “proxy avoidance” reputation, we have to mention that people who regularly face these type of restrictions may want to invest in a VPN. These are generally quite good at bypassing these type of blockades. If they are not blocked themselves, that is.

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

Pirate Sites and the Dying Art of Customer Service

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-sites-and-the-dying-art-of-customer-service-170803/

Consumers of products and services in the West are now more educated than ever before. They often research before making a purchase and view follow-up assistance as part of the package. Indeed, many companies live and die on the levels of customer support they’re able to offer.

In this ultra-competitive world, we send faulty technology items straight back to the store, cancel our unreliable phone providers, and switch to new suppliers for the sake of a few dollars, pounds or euros per month. But does this demanding environment translate to the ‘pirate’ world?

It’s important to remember that when the first waves of unauthorized platforms appeared after the turn of the century, content on the Internet was firmly established as being ‘free’. When people first fired up KaZaA, LimeWire, or the few fledgling BitTorrent portals, few could believe their luck. Nevertheless, the fact that there was no charge for content was quickly accepted as the standard.

That’s a position that continues today but for reasons that are not entirely clear, some users of pirate sites treat the availability of such platforms as some kind of right, holding them to the same standards of service that they would their ISP, for example.

One only has to trawl the comments section on The Pirate Bay to see hundreds of examples of people criticizing the quality of uploaded movies, the fact that a software crack doesn’t work, or that some anonymous uploader failed to deliver the latest album quickly enough. That’s aside from the continual complaints screamed on various external platforms which bemoan the site’s downtime record.

For people who recall the sheer joy of finding a working Suprnova mirror for a few minutes almost 15 years ago, this attitude is somewhat baffling. Back then, people didn’t go ballistic when a site went down, they savored the moment when enthusiastic volunteers brought it back up. There was a level of gratefulness that appears somewhat absent today, in a new world where free torrent and streaming sites are suddenly held to the same standards as Comcast or McDonalds.

But while a cultural change among users has definitely taken place over the years, the way sites communicate with their users has taken a hit too. Despite the advent of platforms including Twitter and Facebook, the majority of pirate site operators today have a tendency to leave their users completely in the dark when things go wrong, leading to speculation and concern among grateful and entitled users alike.

So why does The Pirate Bay’s blog stay completely unattended these days? Why do countless sites let dust gather on Twitter accounts that last made an announcement in 2012? And why don’t site operators announce scheduled downtime in advance or let people know what’s going on when the unexpected happens?

“Honestly? I don’t have the time anymore. I also care less than I did,” one site operator told TF.

“11 years of doing this shit is enough to grind anybody down. It’s something I need to do but not doing it makes no difference either. People complain in any case. Then if you start [informing people] again they’ll want it always. Not happening.”

Rather less complimentary was the operator of a large public site. He told us that two decades ago relationships between operators and users were good but have been getting worse ever since.

“Users of pirate content 20 years ago were highly technical. 10 years ago they were somewhat technical. Right now they are fucking watermelon head puppets. They are plain stupid,” he said.

“Pirate sites don’t have customers. They have users. The definition of a customer, when related to the web, is a person that actually buys a service. Since pirates sites don’t sell services (I’m talking about public ones) they have no customers.”

Another site operator told us that his motivations for not interacting with users are based on the changing legal environment, which has become steadily and markedly worse, year upon year.

“I’m not enjoying being open like before. I used to chat keenly with the users, on the site and IRC [Internet Relay Chat] but i’m keeping my distance since a long time ago,” he told us.

“There have always been risks but now I lock everything down. I’m not using Facebook in any way personally or for the site and I don’t need the dramas of Twitter. Everytime you engage on there, problems arise with people wanting a piece of you. Some of the staff use it but I advise the contrary where possible.”

Interested in where the boundaries lie, we asked a couple of sites whether they should be doing more to keep users informed and if that should be considered a ‘customer service’ obligation these days.

“This is not Netflix and i’m not the ‘have a nice day’ guy from McDonalds,” one explained.

“If people want Netflix help then go to Netflix. There’s two of us here doing everything and I mean everything. We’re already in a pinch so spending time to answer every retarded question from kids is right out.”

Our large public site operator agreed, noting that users complain about the most crazy things, including why they don’t have enough space on a drive to download, why a movie that’s out in 2020 hasn’t been uploaded yet, and why can’t they login – when they haven’t even opened an account yet.

While the responses aren’t really a surprise given the ‘free’ nature of the sites and the volume of visitors, things don’t get any better when moving up (we use the term loosely) to paid ‘pirate’ services.

Last week, one streaming platform in particular had an absolute nightmare with what appeared to be technical issues. Nevertheless, some of its users, despite only paying a few pounds per month, demanded their pound of flesh from the struggling service.

One, who raised the topic on Reddit, was advised to ask for his money back for the trouble caused. It raised a couple of eyebrows.

“Put in a ticket and ask [for a refund], morally they should,” the user said.

The use of the word “morally” didn’t sit well with some observers, one of which couldn’t understand how the word could possibly be mentioned in the context of a pirate paying another pirate money, for a pirate service that had broken down.

“Wait let me get this straight,” the critic said. “You want a refund for a gray market service. It’s like buying drugs off the corner only to find out it’s parsley. Do you go back to the dealer and demand a refund? You live and you learn bud. [Shaking my head] at people in here talking about it being morally responsible…too funny.”

It’s not clear when pirate sites started being held to the same standards as regular commercial entities but from anecdotal evidence at least, the problem appears to be getting worse. That being said and from what we’ve heard, users can stop holding their breath waiting for deluxe customer service – it’s not coming anytime soon.

“There’s no way to monetize support,” one admin concludes.

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

‘Pirate’ Site Uses DMCA to Remove Pirated Copy from Github

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-uses-dmca-to-remove-pirated-copy-from-github-170902/

Every day, copyright holders send out millions of takedown notices to various services, hoping to protect their works.

Pirate sites are usually at the receiving end of these requests but apparently, they can use it to their advantage as well.

A few days ago the operators of sports streaming site soccerstreams.net informed the developer platform GitHub that a copy of their code was being made available without permission.

The targeted repository was created by “mmstart007,” who allegedly copied it from Bitbucket without permission. The operator of the streaming site wasn’t happy with this and sent a DMCA takedown notice to GitHub asking to take the infringing code offline.

“It’s not an open source work its [a] private project we [are] using on our site and that was a private repo on bitbucket and that guy got unauthorized access to it,” Soccerstreams writes.

The operators stress that the repository “must be taken down as soon as possible,” adding the mandatory ‘good faith’ statement.

“I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above on the infringing web pages is not authorized by the copyright owner, or its agent, or the law. I have taken fair use into consideration,” the complaint reads.

GitHub responded swiftly to the request and pulled the repository offline. Those who try to access it today see the following notification instead.

The people running the Soccer Streams site, which is linked with a similarly named Reddit community, are certainly no strangers to takedown requests themselves. The website and the Reddit community was recently targeted by the Premier League recently for example, which accused it of providing links to copyrighted streams.

While soccerstreams.net regularly links to unauthorized streams and is seen as a pirate site by rightsholders, the site doesn’t believe that it’s doing anything wrong.

It has a dedicated DMCA page on its site stating that all streams are submitted by its users and that they cannot be held liable for any infringements.

While it’s a bit unusual for sites and tools with a “pirate” stigma to issue takedown requests, it’s not unique. Just a few weeks ago one of the popular Sickrage forks was removed from GitHub, following a complaint from another fork.

This episode caused a bit of a stir, but the owner of the targeted Sickrage repository eventually managed to get the project restored after a successful counter-notice.

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

Choosing a Backup Provider (An Intro to Backblaze)

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

Backblaze storage pods

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

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

A Bit About our Background

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

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

Backblaze is Committed To Customers & Unlimited Data Backup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How We Do It

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

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

Give Us a Try!

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

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

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

Kim Dotcom Wants K.im to Trigger a “Copyright Revolution”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-wants-k-im-to-trigger-a-copyright-revolution-170831/

For many people Kim Dotcom is synonymous with Megaupload, the file-sharing giant that was taken down by the U.S. Government early 2012.

While Megaupload is no more, the New Zealand Internet entrepreneur is working on a new file-sharing site. Initially dubbed Megaupload 2, the new service will be called K.im, and it will be quite different from its predecessor.

This week Dotcom, who’s officially the chief “evangelist” of the service, showed a demo to a few thousand people revealing more about what it’s going to offer.

K.im is not a central hosting service, quite the contrary. It will allow users to upload content and distribute it to dozens of other services, including Dropbox, Google, Reddit, Storj, and even torrent sites.

The files are distributed across the Internet where they can be accessed freely. However, there is a catch. The uploaders set a price for each download and people who want a copy can only unlock it through the K.im app or browser addon, after they’ve paid.

Pick your price

K.im, paired with Bitcache, is basically a micropayment solution. It allows creators to charge the public for everything they upload. Every download is tied to a Bitcoin transaction, turning files into their own “stores.”

Kim Dotcom tells TorrentFreak that he sees the service as a copyright revolution. It should be a win-win solution for independent creators, rightsholders, and people who are used to pirating stuff.

“I’m working for both sides. For the copyright holders and also for the people who what to pay for content but have been geo-blocked and then are forced to download for free,” Dotcom says.

Like any other site that allows user uploaded content, K.im can also be used by pirates who want to charge a small fee for spreading infringing content. This is something Dotcom is aware of, but he has a solution in mind.

Much like YouTube, which allows rightsholders to “monetize” videos that use their work, K.im will provide an option to claim pirated content. Rightsholders can then change the price and all revenue will go to them.

So, if someone uploads a pirated copy of the Game of Thrones season finale through K.im, HBO can claim that file, charge an appropriate fee, and profit from it. The uploader, meanwhile, maintains his privacy.

“It is the holy grail of copyright enforcement. It is my gift to Hollywood, the movie studios, and everyone else,” Dotcom says.

Dotcom believes that piracy is in large part caused by an availability problem. People can often not find the content they’re looking for so it’s K.im’s goal to distribute files as widely as possible. This includes several torrent sites, which are currently featured in the demo.

Torrent uploads?

Interestingly, it will be hard to upload content to sites such as YTS, EZTV, KickassTorrents, and RARBG, as they’ve been shut down or don’t allow user uploads. However, Dotcom stresses that the names are just examples, and that they are still working on partnering with various sites.

Whether torrent sites will be eager to cooperate has yet to be seen. It’s possible that the encrypted files, which can’t be opened without paying, will be seen as “spam” by traditional torrent sites.

Also, from a user perspective, one has to wonder how many people are willing to pay for something if they set out to pirate it. After all, there will always be plenty of free options for those who refuse to or can’t pay.

Dotcom, however, is convinced that K.im can create a “copyright revolution.” He stresses that site owners and uploaders can greatly benefit from it as they receive affiliate fees, even after a pirated file is claimed by a rightsholder.

In addition, he says it will revolutionize copyright enforcement, as copyright holders can monetize the work of pirates. That is, if they are willing to work with the service.

“Rightsholders can turn piracy traffic into revenue and users can access the content on any platform. Since every file is a store, it doesn’t matter where it ends up,” Dotcom says.

Dotcom does have a very valid point here. Many people have simply grown used to pirating because it’s much more convenient than using a dozen different services. In Dotcom’s vision, people can just use one site to access everything.

The ideas don’t stop at sharing files either. In the future, Dotcom also wants to use the micropayment option to offer YouTubers and media organizations to accept payments from the public, BBC notes.

There’s still a long way to go before K.im and Bitcache go public though. The expected launch date is not final yet, but the services are expected to go live in mid-to-late 2018.

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

3D print your own Rubik’s Cube Solver

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/rubiks-cube-solver/

Why use logic and your hands to solve a Rubik’s Cube, when you could 3D print your own Rubik’s Cube Solver and thus avoid overexerting your fingers and brain cells? Here to help you with this is Otvinta‘s new robotic make:

Fully 3D-Printed Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot

This 3D-printed Raspberry PI-powered Rubik’s Cube solving robot has everything any serious robot does — arms, servos, gears, vision, artificial intelligence and a task to complete. If you want to introduce robotics to your kids or your students, this is the perfect machine for it. This robot is fully 3D-printable.

Rubik’s Cubes

As Liz has said before, we have a lot of Rubik’s cubes here at Pi Towers. In fact, let me just…hold on…I’ll be right back.

Okay, these are all the ones I found on Gordon’s desk, and I’m 99% sure there are more in his drawers.

Raspberry Pi Rubik's Cube Solver

And that’s just Gordon. Given that there’s a multitude of other Pi Towers staff members who are also obsessed with the little twisty cube of wonder, you could use what you find in our office to restock an entire toy shop for the pre-Christmas rush!

So yeah, we like Rubik’s Cubes.

The 3D-Printable Rubik’s Cube Solver

Aside from the obvious electronic elements, Otvinta’s Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot is completely 3D-printable. While it may take a whopping 70 hours of print time and a whole spool of filament to make your solving robot a reality, we’ve seen far more time-consuming prints with a lot less purpose than this.

(If you’ve clicked the link above, I’d just like to point out that, while that build might be 3D printing overkill, I want one anyway.)

Rubik's Cube Solver

After 3D printing all the necessary parts of your Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot, you’ll need to run the Windows 10 IoT Core on your Raspberry Pi. Once connected to your network, you can select the Pi from the IoT Dashboard on your main PC and install the RubiksCubeRobot app.

Raspberry Pi Rubik's Cube Solver

Then simply configure the robot via the app, and you’re good to go!

You might not necessarily need a Raspberry Pi to create this build, since you could simply run the app on your main PC. However, using a Pi will make your project more manageable and less bulky.

You can find all the details of how to make your own Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot on Otvinta’s website, so do make sure to head over there if you want to learn more.

All the robots!

This isn’t the first Raspberry Pi-powered Rubik’s Cube out there, and it surely won’t be the last. There’s this one by Francesco Georg using LEGO Mindstorms; this one was originally shared on Reddit; Liz wrote about this one; and there’s one more which I can’t seem to find but I swear exists, and it looks like the Eye of Sauron! Ten House Points to whoever shares it with me in the comments below.

The post 3D print your own Rubik’s Cube Solver appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Curb Your Enthusiasm on Those HBO Leaks

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/curb-your-enthusiasm-on-those-hbo-leaks-170814/

Late July, news broke that a hacker, or hackers, had compromised the network of the American cable and television network HBO.

Those responsible contacted reporters, informing them about the prominent breach, and leaked files surfaced on the dedicated website Winter-leak.com.

The website wasn’t around for long, but last week the hackers reached out to the press again with a curated batch of new leaks shared through Mega.nz. Among other things, it contained more Game of Thrones spoilers, marketing plans, and other confidential HBO files.

Fast forward another week and there’s yet another freshly curated batch of leaks. This time it includes episodes of the highly anticipated return of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ which officially airs in October, as well as episodes from “Barry,” “Insecure” and “The Deuce,” AP reports.

These shows are part of the treasure trove of 1.5 terabytes that was taken from HBO. These and several other titles were already teased last week in a screenshot the hackers released to the press.

There’s no reason to doubt that the leaks are real, but thus far they haven’t been widely distributed. It appears that the various journalists who received the latest batch of Mega.nz links are not very eager to post them in public.

TorrentFreak scoured popular torrent sites and streaming portals for public copies of the new Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes and came up empty-handed. And we’re certainly not the only ones having trouble spotting the leaks in public.

“I searched around a lot a few hours ago and couldn’t find anything,” one Curb Your Enthusiasm watcher commented on Reddit. “Why can’t these hackers be courteous and place links?” another added.

This is quite different from the leaked episode of Game of Thrones that came out before its official release two weeks ago. That leak was not related to the HBO hack, but before the news broke in the mainstream press, thousands of copies were already available on pirate sites.

HBO, meanwhile, appears to have had enough of the continued enthusiasm the hacker is managing to generate in the press.

“We are not in communication with the hacker and we’re not going to comment every time a new piece of information is released,” a company spokesperson said.

“It has been widely reported that there was a cyber incident at HBO. The hacker may continue to drop bits and pieces of stolen information in an attempt to generate media attention. That’s a game we’re not going to participate in.”

As for the Curb Your Enthusiasm fans who were hoping for an early preview of the new season. They may have to, well… you know. For now at least.

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

Thomas and Ed become a RealLifeDoodle on the ISS

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/astro-pi-reallifedoodle/

Thanks to the very talented sooperdavid, creator of some of the wonderful animations known as RealLifeDoodles, Thomas Pesquet and Astro Pi Ed have been turned into one of the cutest videos on the internet.

space pi – Create, Discover and Share Awesome GIFs on Gfycat

Watch space pi GIF by sooperdave on Gfycat. Discover more GIFS online on Gfycat

And RealLifeDoodles aaaaare?

Thanks to the power of viral video, many will be aware of the ongoing Real Life Doodle phenomenon. Wait, you’re not aware?

Oh. Well, let me explain it to you.

Taking often comical video clips, those with a know-how and skill level that outweighs my own in spades add faces and emotions to inanimate objects, creating what the social media world refers to as a Real Life Doodle. From disappointed exercise balls to cannibalistic piles of leaves, these video clips are both cute and sometimes, though thankfully not always, a little heartbreaking.

letmegofree – Create, Discover and Share Awesome GIFs on Gfycat

Watch letmegofree GIF by sooperdave on Gfycat. Discover more reallifedoodles GIFs on Gfycat

Our own RealLifeDoodle

A few months back, when Programme Manager Dave Honess, better known to many as SpaceDave, sent me these Astro Pi videos for me to upload to YouTube, a small plan hatched in my brain. For in the midst of the video, and pointed out to me by SpaceDave – “I kind of love the way he just lets the unit drop out of shot” – was the most adorable sight as poor Ed drifted off into the great unknown of the ISS. Finding that I have this odd ability to consider many inanimate objects as ‘cute’, I wanted to see whether we could turn poor Ed into a RealLifeDoodle.

Heading to the Reddit RealLifeDoodle subreddit, I sent moderator sooperdavid a private message, asking if he’d be so kind as to bring our beloved Ed to life.

Yesterday, our dream came true!

Astro Pi

Unless you’re new to the world of the Raspberry Pi blog (in which case, welcome!), you’ll probably know about the Astro Pi Challenge. But for those who are unaware, let me break it down for you.

Raspberry Pi RealLifeDoodle

In 2015, two weeks before British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake journeyed to the International Space Station, two Raspberry Pis were sent up to await his arrival. Clad in 6063-grade aluminium flight cases and fitted with their own Sense HATs and camera modules, the Astro Pis Ed and Izzy were ready to receive the winning codes from school children in the UK. The following year, this time maintained by French ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, children from every ESA member country got involved to send even more code to the ISS.

Get involved

Will there be another Astro Pi Challenge? Well, I just asked SpaceDave and he didn’t say no! So why not get yourself into training now and try out some of our space-themed free resources, including our 3D-print your own Astro Pi case tutorial? You can also follow the adventures of Ed and Izzy in our brilliant Story of Astro Pi cartoons.

Raspberry Pi RealLifeDoodle

And if you’re quick, there’s still time to take part in tomorrow’s Moonhack! Check out their website for more information and help the team at Code Club Australia beat their own world record!

The post Thomas and Ed become a RealLifeDoodle on the ISS appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Nazis, are bad

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/08/13/nazis-are-bad/

Anonymous asks:

Could you talk about something related to the management/moderation and growth of online communities? IOW your thoughts on online community management, if any.

I think you’ve tweeted about this stuff in the past so I suspect you have thoughts on this, but if not, again, feel free to just blog about … anything 🙂

Oh, I think I have some stuff to say about community management, in light of recent events. None of it hasn’t already been said elsewhere, but I have to get this out.

Hopefully the content warning is implicit in the title.


I am frustrated.

I’ve gone on before about a particularly bothersome phenomenon that hurts a lot of small online communities: often, people are willing to tolerate the misery of others in a community, but then get up in arms when someone pushes back. Someone makes a lot of off-hand, off-color comments about women? Uses a lot of dog-whistle terms? Eh, they’re not bothering anyone, or at least not bothering me. Someone else gets tired of it and tells them to knock it off? Whoa there! Now we have the appearance of conflict, which is unacceptable, and people will turn on the person who’s pissed off — even though they’ve been at the butt end of an invisible conflict for who knows how long. The appearance of peace is paramount, even if it means a large chunk of the population is quietly miserable.

Okay, so now, imagine that on a vastly larger scale, and also those annoying people who know how to skirt the rules are Nazis.


The label “Nazi” gets thrown around a lot lately, probably far too easily. But when I see a group of people doing the Hitler salute, waving large Nazi flags, wearing Nazi armbands styled after the SS, well… if the shoe fits, right? I suppose they might have flown across the country to join a torch-bearing mob ironically, but if so, the joke is going way over my head. (Was the murder ironic, too?) Maybe they’re not Nazis in the sense that the original party doesn’t exist any more, but for ease of writing, let’s refer to “someone who espouses Nazi ideology and deliberately bears a number of Nazi symbols” as, well, “a Nazi”.

This isn’t a new thing, either; I’ve stumbled upon any number of Twitter accounts that are decorated in Nazi regalia. I suppose the trouble arises when perfectly innocent members of the alt-right get unfairly labelled as Nazis.

But hang on; this march was called “Unite the Right” and was intended to bring together various far right sub-groups. So what does their choice of aesthetic say about those sub-groups? I haven’t heard, say, alt-right coiner Richard Spencer denounce the use of Nazi symbology — extra notable since he was fucking there and apparently didn’t care to discourage it.


And so begins the rule-skirting. “Nazi” is definitely overused, but even using it to describe white supremacists who make not-so-subtle nods to Hitler is likely to earn you some sarcastic derailment. A Nazi? Oh, so is everyone you don’t like and who wants to establish a white ethno state a Nazi?

Calling someone a Nazi — or even a white supremacist — is an attack, you see. Merely expressing the desire that people of color not exist is perfectly peaceful, but identifying the sentiment for what it is causes visible discord, which is unacceptable.

These clowns even know this sort of thing and strategize around it. Or, try, at least. Maybe it wasn’t that successful this weekend — though flicking through Charlottesville headlines now, they seem to be relatively tame in how they refer to the ralliers.

I’m reminded of a group of furries — the alt-furries — who have been espousing white supremacy and wearing red armbands with a white circle containing a black… pawprint. Ah, yes, that’s completely different.


So, what to do about this?

Ignore them” is a popular option, often espoused to bullied children by parents who have never been bullied, shortly before they resume complaining about passive-aggressive office politics. The trouble with ignoring them is that, just like in smaller communitiest, they have a tendency to fester. They take over large chunks of influential Internet surface area like 4chan and Reddit; they help get an inept buffoon elected; and then they start to have torch-bearing rallies and run people over with cars.

4chan illustrates a kind of corollary here. Anyone who’s steeped in Internet Culture™ is surely familiar with 4chan; I was never a regular visitor, but it had enough influence that I was still aware of it and some of its culture. It was always thick with irony, which grew into a sort of ironic detachment — perhaps one of the major sources of the recurring online trope that having feelings is bad — which proceeded into ironic racism.

And now the ironic racism is indistinguishable from actual racism, as tends to be the case. Do they “actually” “mean it”, or are they just trying to get a rise out of people? What the hell is unironic racism if not trying to get a rise out of people? What difference is there to onlookers, especially as they move to become increasingly involved with politics?

It’s just a joke” and “it was just a thoughtless comment” are exceptionally common defenses made by people desperate to preserve the illusion of harmony, but the strain of overt white supremacy currently running rampant through the US was built on those excuses.


The other favored option is to debate them, to defeat their ideas with better ideas.

Well, hang on. What are their ideas, again? I hear they were chanting stuff like “go back to Africa” and “fuck you, faggots”. Given that this was an overtly political rally (and again, the Nazi fucking regalia), I don’t think it’s a far cry to describe their ideas as “let’s get rid of black people and queer folks”.

This is an underlying proposition: that white supremacy is inherently violent. After all, if the alt-right seized total political power, what would they do with it? If I asked the same question of Democrats or Republicans, I’d imagine answers like “universal health care” or “screw over poor people”. But people whose primary goal is to have a country full of only white folks? What are they going to do, politely ask everyone else to leave? They’re invoking the memory of people who committed genocide and also tried to take over the fucking world. They are outright saying, these are the people we look up to, this is who we think had a great idea.

How, precisely, does one defeat these ideas with rational debate?

Because the underlying core philosophy beneath all this is: “it would be good for me if everything were about me”. And that’s true! (Well, it probably wouldn’t work out how they imagine in practice, but it’s true enough.) Consider that slavery is probably fantastic if you’re the one with the slaves; the issue is that it’s reprehensible, not that the very notion contains some kind of 101-level logical fallacy. That’s probably why we had a fucking war over it instead of hashing it out over brunch.

…except we did hash it out over brunch once, and the result was that slavery was still allowed but slaves only counted as 60% of a person for the sake of counting how much political power states got. So that’s how rational debate worked out. I’m sure the slaves were thrilled with that progress.


That really only leaves pushing back, which raises the question of how to push back.

And, I don’t know. Pushing back is much harder in spaces you don’t control, spaces you’re already struggling to justify your own presence in. For most people, that’s most spaces. It’s made all the harder by that tendency to preserve illusory peace; even the tamest request that someone knock off some odious behavior can be met by pushback, even by third parties.

At the same time, I’m aware that white supremacists prey on disillusioned young white dudes who feel like they don’t fit in, who were promised the world and inherited kind of a mess. Does criticism drive them further away? The alt-right also opposes “political correctness”, i.e. “not being a fucking asshole”.

God knows we all suck at this kind of behavior correction, even within our own in-groups. Fandoms have become almost ridiculously vicious as platforms like Twitter and Tumblr amplify individual anger to deafening levels. It probably doesn’t help that we’re all just exhausted, that every new fuck-up feels like it bears the same weight as the last hundred combined.

This is the part where I admit I don’t know anything about people and don’t have any easy answers. Surprise!


The other alternative is, well, punching Nazis.

That meme kind of haunts me. It raises really fucking complicated questions about when violence is acceptable, in a culture that’s completely incapable of answering them.

America’s relationship to violence is so bizarre and two-faced as to be almost incomprehensible. We worship it. We have the biggest military in the world by an almost comical margin. It’s fairly mainstream to own deadly weapons for the express stated purpose of armed revolution against the government, should that become necessary, where “necessary” is left ominously undefined. Our movies are about explosions and beating up bad guys; our video games are about explosions and shooting bad guys. We fantasize about solving foreign policy problems by nuking someone — hell, our talking heads are currently in polite discussion about whether we should nuke North Korea and annihilate up to twenty-five million people, as punishment for daring to have the bomb that only we’re allowed to have.

But… violence is bad.

That’s about as far as the other side of the coin gets. It’s bad. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Also, guess who we bombed today?

I observe that the one time Nazis were a serious threat, America was happy to let them try to take over the world until their allies finally showed up on our back porch.

Maybe I don’t understand what “violence” means. In a quest to find out why people are talking about “leftist violence” lately, I found a National Review article from May that twice suggests blocking traffic is a form of violence. Anarchists have smashed some windows and set a couple fires at protests this year — and, hey, please knock that crap off? — which is called violence against, I guess, Starbucks. Black Lives Matter could be throwing a birthday party and Twitter would still be abuzz with people calling them thugs.

Meanwhile, there’s a trend of murderers with increasingly overt links to the alt-right, and everyone is still handling them with kid gloves. First it was murders by people repeating their talking points; now it’s the culmination of a torches-and-pitchforks mob. (Ah, sorry, not pitchforks; assault rifles.) And we still get this incredibly bizarre both-sides-ism, a White House that refers to the people who didn’t murder anyone as “just as violent if not more so“.


Should you punch Nazis? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m extremely dissatisfied with discourse that’s extremely alarmed by hypothetical punches — far more mundane than what you’d see after a sporting event — but treats a push for ethnic cleansing as a mere difference of opinion.

The equivalent to a punch in an online space is probably banning, which is almost laughable in comparison. It doesn’t cause physical harm, but it is a use of concrete force. Doesn’t pose quite the same moral quandary, though.

Somewhere in the middle is the currently popular pastime of doxxing (doxxxxxxing) people spotted at the rally in an attempt to get them fired or whatever. Frankly, that skeeves me out, though apparently not enough that I’m directly chastizing anyone for it.


We aren’t really equipped, as a society, to deal with memetic threats. We aren’t even equipped to determine what they are. We had a fucking world war over this, and now people are outright saying “hey I’m like those people we went and killed a lot in that world war” and we give them interviews and compliment their fashion sense.

A looming question is always, what if they then do it to you? What if people try to get you fired, to punch you for your beliefs?

I think about that a lot, and then I remember that it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay in half the country. (Courts are currently wrangling whether Title VII forbids this, but with the current administration, I’m not optimistic.) I know people who’ve been fired for coming out as trans. I doubt I’d have to look very far to find someone who’s been punched for either reason.

And these aren’t even beliefs; they’re just properties of a person. You can stop being a white supremacist, one of those people yelling “fuck you, faggots”.

So I have to recuse myself from this asinine question, because I can’t fairly judge the risk of retaliation when it already happens to people I care about.

Meanwhile, if a white supremacist does get punched, I absolutely still want my tax dollars to pay for their universal healthcare.


The same wrinkle comes up with free speech, which is paramount.

The ACLU reminds us that the First Amendment “protects vile, hateful, and ignorant speech”. I think they’ve forgotten that that’s a side effect, not the goal. No one sat down and suggested that protecting vile speech was some kind of noble cause, yet that’s how we seem to be treating it.

The point was to avoid a situation where the government is arbitrarily deciding what qualifies as vile, hateful, and ignorant, and was using that power to eliminate ideas distasteful to politicians. You know, like, hypothetically, if they interrogated and jailed a bunch of people for supporting the wrong economic system. Or convicted someone under the Espionage Act for opposing the draft. (Hey, that’s where the “shouting fire in a crowded theater” line comes from.)

But these are ideas that are already in the government. Bannon, a man who was chair of a news organization he himself called “the platform for the alt-right”, has the President’s ear! How much more mainstream can you get?

So again I’m having a little trouble balancing “we need to defend the free speech of white supremacists or risk losing it for everyone” against “we fairly recently were ferreting out communists and the lingering public perception is that communists are scary, not that the government is”.


This isn’t to say that freedom of speech is bad, only that the way we talk about it has become fanatical to the point of absurdity. We love it so much that we turn around and try to apply it to corporations, to platforms, to communities, to interpersonal relationships.

Look at 4chan. It’s completely public and anonymous; you only get banned for putting the functioning of the site itself in jeopardy. Nothing is stopping a larger group of people from joining its politics board and tilting sentiment the other way — except that the current population is so odious that no one wants to be around them. Everyone else has evaporated away, as tends to happen.

Free speech is great for a government, to prevent quashing politics that threaten the status quo (except it’s a joke and they’ll do it anyway). People can’t very readily just bail when the government doesn’t like them, anyway. It’s also nice to keep in mind to some degree for ubiquitous platforms. But the smaller you go, the easier it is for people to evaporate away, and the faster pure free speech will turn the place to crap. You’ll be left only with people who care about nothing.


At the very least, it seems clear that the goal of white supremacists is some form of destabilization, of disruption to the fabric of a community for purely selfish purposes. And those are the kinds of people you want to get rid of as quickly as possible.

Usually this is hard, because they act just nicely enough to create some plausible deniability. But damn, if someone is outright telling you they love Hitler, maybe skip the principled hand-wringing and eject them.

Video playback on freely-arranged screens with info-beamer

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/info-beamer/

When the creator of the digital signage software info-beamer, Florian Wesch, shared this project on Reddit, I don’t think he was prepared for the excited reaction of the community. Florian’s post, which by now has thousands of upvotes, showcased the power of info-beamer. Not only can the software display a video via multiple Raspberry Pis, it also automatically rejigs the output to match the size and angle of the Pis’ monitors.

info-beamer raspberry pi

Wait…what?

I know, right? We’ve seen many video-based Raspberry Pi projects, but this is definitely one of the most impressive ones. While those of us with a creative streak were imagining cool visual arts installations using monitors and old televisions of various sizes, the more technically-minded puzzled over how Florian pulled this off.

It’s obvious that info-beamer has manifold potential uses. But we had absolutely zero understanding of how it works!

How does info-beamer do this?

Lucky for us, Florian returned to Reddit a few days later with a how-to video, explaining in layman’s terms how you too can get a video to play on a multi-screen, multi-Pi setup.

Automatic video wall configuration with info-beamer hosted

This is an exciting new feature I’ve made available for the info-beamer hosted digital signage system: You can create a video wall consisting of freely arranged screens in seconds. The screens don’t even have to be planar. Just rotate and place them as you like.

First you’ll need to set up info-beamer, which will allow you to introduce multiple Raspberry Pis, and their attached monitors, into a joint network. To make the software work, there’s some Python code you have to write yourself, but hands-on tutorials and example code exist to make this fairly easy, even if you have little experience in Python.

info-beamer raspberry pi

As you can see in Florian’s video, info-beamer assigns each monitor its own, unique section of video. Taking a photo of the monitors and uploading it to a site provides enough information for the software to play a movie trailer split across multiple screens.

info-beamer raspberry pi

A step that’s missing in the video, but that Florian described on Reddit, is how to configure the screens via a drag-and-drop interface so that the software recognizes them. Once this is done, your video display is good to go.

For more information about info-beamer check out the website, and follow the official Twitter account for updates.

Using Raspberry Pi in video-based projects

Since it has an HDMI port, connecting your Raspberry Pi to any compatible monitor, including your television, is an easy task. And with a little tweaking and soldering you can even connect your Pi to that ageing SCART TV/Video combo you might have in the loft.

As I said earlier, there’s an abundance of Pi-powered video-based projects. Many digital art installations, and even commercial media devices, rely on the Raspberry Pi because of its low cost, small size, and high-quality multimedia capabilities.

Have you used a Raspberry Pi in a video-playback project? Share it with us below – we’d love to see it!

The post Video playback on freely-arranged screens with info-beamer appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

FossHub Forced to Pull Google Ads From qBitTorrent Downloads

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fosshub-forced-to-pull-google-ads-from-qbittorrent-downloads-170721/

There are no shortage of sites on the Internet that promise free software downloads but few do so with no strings attached. Thousands bundle adware and worse with ‘free’ software, while others bombard visitors with ads.

FossHub, on the other hand, does things very differently.

FossHub only offers free software, with no adware, spyware or malware attached. It doesn’t bombard users with advertising either. In fact, its download pages only have a single ad at the top. Well, that’s the plan at least but when it comes to BitTorrent software, things haven’t been so straightforward recently.

The problem centered around qBitTorrent, the free and open-source torrent client developed as an alternative to µTorrent. FossHub makes the client available in its file-sharing section and as the image below shows, has racked up close to 18 million downloads.

Previously, when people viewed the qBitTorrent page, they were presented with a single advert, courtesy of Google. However, a couple of months ago the guys at FossHub contacted the people behind the client to say they’d had problems with AdSense persistently flagging the qBitTorrent page as “unauthorized file sharing.”

“The consequence was that it stopped generating revenue for that page for FossHub,” a member of the qBitTorrent team explains.

TorrentFreak spoke with Sam at FossHub who provided more details.

“FossHub has hosted qBittorrent and other free projects binaries for almost a decade. For qBitorrent, we hosted its files for at least three years by now. We provide all the necessary bandwidth and other things that the project might need,” Sam said.

“It was not a problem for the last three years to show the single Google Adsense ad until the beginning of last month (June 2017) when we noticed a Policy violation message appearing under our account.

“Since we didn’t have any major issues with our account, we thought it must be a false positive. We tried to get in touch with Google AdSense team, but unfortunately, we received some (at least that what we think) standard canned responses.”

Sam says that FossHub wrote to Google AdSense support several times but never got to the bottom of the problem. Then, something catastrophic happened.

During June, presumably due to the problems with the qBitTorrent page, the entire FossHub site was banned by AdSense for seven days, thereby stopping the site from generating any revenue on any of the software offered.

“We wrote on a daily basis and attempted to request another review, but there was no human so that we can talk and try to obtain an answer,” Sam explained.

In the absence of any feedback, FossHub then took the decision to stop placing ads on any of the software available in its file-sharing section, despite none of the tools being illegal or infringing anyone’s copyrights. In a follow-up post on Reddit this week, FossHub underlined that fact.

“qBitorrent and other similar apps are legit software. You are responsible for what you choose to download and share,” a representative from the site wrote.

“Many free projects and sites publish their files via .torrent files. Just an excellent example of how qBitorrent and other similar clients can help you download files and allow GIMP project to save bandwidth: https://www.gimp.org/downloads/.”

The qBitTorrent team say they have made this matter public out of “frustration and protest”, not only due to the legality of file-sharing software but also in support of FossHub, who have helped qBitTorrent many times over the years.

“I keep wondering why the multitude of other unofficial sites, which are very popular and place ads on their qBittorrent pages too, aren’t being flagged too?” a member of the team responded.

“In any case, I am writing this to inform our user base about Google’s shenanigans. And if any of you works at AdSense, then please help FossHub talk to a real person or treat all sites fair by allowing or not allowing BitTorrent clients.”

Whether Google will take the opportunity to clarify the situation remains to be seen but it’s abundantly clear that the qBitTorrent software is not only entirely legal, it’s also one of the most respected torrent clients around.

“Despite this unpleasant incident we will support and help free projects such as qBitorrent as much as we can,” FossHub concludes.

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

How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers

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

PR for getting your first 1000 customers

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

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

Paths to Attract Your First 1,000 Customers

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

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

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

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

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

How to Pitch the Press

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

Have a compelling story

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

The basics of your story

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

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

“But my story isn’t that exciting”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The headline

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

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

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

The “Techmeme Test”

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

Embargoes, exclusives and calls-to-action

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

Embargoes

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

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

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

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

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

How to Find the Most Authoritative Sites / Authors

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

Determine the publications

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

Determine the journalists

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

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

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

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

Leveraging Google

Google author search by date

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

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

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

How to find the most socially shared authors

Buzzsumo search for most shared by date

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

How to Find Author Email Addresses

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

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

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

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

Don’t spam

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

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

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

Build a relationship

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

Stay organized

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

Make their life easy

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

Get to know them

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

Prepare your materials

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

Pitch

A pitch has to be short and compelling.

Subject Line

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

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

Body

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

Hey John,

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

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

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

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

Gleb Budman        

CEO and Co-Founder

Backblaze, Inc.

Automatic, Secure, High-Performance Online Backup

Cell: XXX-XXX-XXXX

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

The Bad: It’s too long.

I got better later. Here’s an example:

Subject: Does temperature affect hard drive life?

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

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

Timing

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

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

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

Follow-up

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

My general rule is 3 emails.

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Your First 1,000 Customers With Press

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

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

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

Indie Game Developer Shares Free Keys on The Pirate Bay

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/indie-game-developer-shares-free-keys-on-the-pirate-bay-170626/

Online piracy is an issue that affects many industries, and indie game developers are certainly no exception.

How people respond can vary from person to person. What’s right and what’s wrong largely depends on one’s individual beliefs, and some do better with pirates than others.

Jacob Janerka, developer of the indie adventure game ‘Paradigm,’ was faced with this issue recently. A few days after his game was released he spotted a cracked copy on The Pirate Bay.

But, instead of being filled with anger and rage while running to the nearest anti-piracy outfit, Janerka decided to reach out to the pirates. Not to school or scold them, but to offer a few free keys.

“Hey everyone, I’m Jacob the creator of Paradigm. I know some of you legitimately can’t afford the game and I’m glad you get to still play it :D,” Janerka’s comment on TPB reads.

Having downloaded many pirated games himself in the past, Janerka knows that some people simply don’t have the means to buy all the games they want to play. So he’s certainly not going to condemn others for doing the same now, although it would be nice if some bought it later.

“If you like the game, please tell your friends and maybe even consider buying it later,” he added.

Janerka’s comment

The response has gone relatively unnoticed for a while but was posted on Reddit recently, where many people applauded the developer for his refreshing approach.

We reached out to Janerka to find out what motivated him to share the free keys on The Pirate Bay. He says that it was mostly a matter of understanding that many pirates are actually huge game fans who don’t have the money to buy every game they want to play.

Allowing them to do so for free, might lead to a few paying customers down the road, something he experienced first hand.

“I did it because I understand that in some cases, some people legitimately cannot afford the game and would like to play it. So maybe HOPEFULLY for a lucky few, they got the official keys and got to play it and enjoy it.

“I know for sure that when I was a young kid, I was unable to buy all the games I wanted and played pirated games. And when I actually got that disposable income, I ended up buying sequels/merch/extra copies,” Janerka adds.

The developer doesn’t think that piracy hurts him much, as many people who pirate his games don’t have the money to buy them anyway. In addition, having non-paying fans of the game is more valuable than having no fans at all.

“Maybe I lost a few sales or whatever, but people liking your game can be just as valuable. Realistically, most people who pirated it, wouldn’t have played it anyway, so its neat that more people get to experience it, when they wouldn’t have otherwise,” he says.

It’s a refreshing approach to see. While pirates should be under no illusion that any major developer will follow suit, they are probably happy that someone from the industry views piracy from a different perspective.

For Janerka, there’s probably something positive in this as well. He wins the sympathy of many game pirates, and as the news spreads, this could even generate some additional sales for the Paradigm game.

Paradigm trailer

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