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How to Patch Linux Workloads on AWS

Post Syndicated from Koen van Blijderveen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-patch-linux-workloads-on-aws/

Most malware tries to compromise your systems by using a known vulnerability that the operating system maker has already patched. As best practices to help prevent malware from affecting your systems, you should apply all operating system patches and actively monitor your systems for missing patches.

In this blog post, I show you how to patch Linux workloads using AWS Systems Manager. To accomplish this, I will show you how to use the AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI) to:

  1. Launch an Amazon EC2 instance for use with Systems Manager.
  2. Configure Systems Manager to patch your Amazon EC2 Linux instances.

In two previous blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2), I showed how to use the AWS Management Console to perform the necessary steps to patch, inspect, and protect Microsoft Windows workloads. You can implement those same processes for your Linux instances running in AWS by changing the instance tags and types shown in the previous blog posts.

Because most Linux system administrators are more familiar with using a command line, I show how to patch Linux workloads by using the AWS CLI in this blog post. The steps to use the Amazon EBS Snapshot Scheduler and Amazon Inspector are identical for both Microsoft Windows and Linux.

What you should know first

To follow along with the solution in this post, you need one or more Amazon EC2 instances. You may use existing instances or create new instances. For this post, I assume this is an Amazon EC2 for Amazon Linux instance installed from Amazon Machine Images (AMIs).

Systems Manager is a collection of capabilities that helps you automate management tasks for AWS-hosted instances on Amazon EC2 and your on-premises servers. In this post, I use Systems Manager for two purposes: to run remote commands and apply operating system patches. To learn about the full capabilities of Systems Manager, see What Is AWS Systems Manager?

As of Amazon Linux 2017.09, the AMI comes preinstalled with the Systems Manager agent. Systems Manager Patch Manager also supports Red Hat and Ubuntu. To install the agent on these Linux distributions or an older version of Amazon Linux, see Installing and Configuring SSM Agent on Linux Instances.

If you are not familiar with how to launch an Amazon EC2 instance, see Launching an Instance. I also assume you launched or will launch your instance in a private subnet. You must make sure that the Amazon EC2 instance can connect to the internet using a network address translation (NAT) instance or NAT gateway to communicate with Systems Manager. The following diagram shows how you should structure your VPC.

Diagram showing how to structure your VPC

Later in this post, you will assign tasks to a maintenance window to patch your instances with Systems Manager. To do this, the IAM user you are using for this post must have the iam:PassRole permission. This permission allows the IAM user assigning tasks to pass his own IAM permissions to the AWS service. In this example, when you assign a task to a maintenance window, IAM passes your credentials to Systems Manager. You also should authorize your IAM user to use Amazon EC2 and Systems Manager. As mentioned before, you will be using the AWS CLI for most of the steps in this blog post. Our documentation shows you how to get started with the AWS CLI. Make sure you have the AWS CLI installed and configured with an AWS access key and secret access key that belong to an IAM user that have the following AWS managed policies attached to the IAM user you are using for this example: AmazonEC2FullAccess and AmazonSSMFullAccess.

Step 1: Launch an Amazon EC2 Linux instance

In this section, I show you how to launch an Amazon EC2 instance so that you can use Systems Manager with the instance. This step requires you to do three things:

  1. Create an IAM role for Systems Manager before launching your Amazon EC2 instance.
  2. Launch your Amazon EC2 instance with Amazon EBS and the IAM role for Systems Manager.
  3. Add tags to the instances so that you can add your instances to a Systems Manager maintenance window based on tags.

A. Create an IAM role for Systems Manager

Before launching an Amazon EC2 instance, I recommend that you first create an IAM role for Systems Manager, which you will use to update the Amazon EC2 instance. AWS already provides a preconfigured policy that you can use for the new role and it is called AmazonEC2RoleforSSM.

  1. Create a JSON file named trustpolicy-ec2ssm.json that contains the following trust policy. This policy describes which principal (an entity that can take action on an AWS resource) is allowed to assume the role we are going to create. In this example, the principal is the Amazon EC2 service.
      "Version": "2012-10-17",
      "Statement": {
        "Effect": "Allow",
        "Principal": {"Service": "ec2.amazonaws.com"},
        "Action": "sts:AssumeRole"

  1. Use the following command to create a role named EC2SSM that has the AWS managed policy AmazonEC2RoleforSSM attached to it. This generates JSON-based output that describes the role and its parameters, if the command is successful.
    $ aws iam create-role --role-name EC2SSM --assume-role-policy-document file://trustpolicy-ec2ssm.json

  1. Use the following command to attach the AWS managed IAM policy (AmazonEC2RoleforSSM) to your newly created role.
    $ aws iam attach-role-policy --role-name EC2SSM --policy-arn arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/service-role/AmazonEC2RoleforSSM

  1. Use the following commands to create the IAM instance profile and add the role to the instance profile. The instance profile is needed to attach the role we created earlier to your Amazon EC2 instance.
    $ aws iam create-instance-profile --instance-profile-name EC2SSM-IP
    $ aws iam add-role-to-instance-profile --instance-profile-name EC2SSM-IP --role-name EC2SSM

B. Launch your Amazon EC2 instance

To follow along, you need an Amazon EC2 instance that is running Amazon Linux. You can use any existing instance you may have or create a new instance.

When launching a new Amazon EC2 instance, be sure that:

  1. Use the following command to launch a new Amazon EC2 instance using an Amazon Linux AMI available in the US East (N. Virginia) Region (also known as us-east-1). Replace YourKeyPair and YourSubnetId with your information. For more information about creating a key pair, see the create-key-pair documentation. Write down the InstanceId that is in the output because you will need it later in this post.
    $ aws ec2 run-instances --image-id ami-cb9ec1b1 --instance-type t2.micro --key-name YourKeyPair --subnet-id YourSubnetId --iam-instance-profile Name=EC2SSM-IP

  1. If you are using an existing Amazon EC2 instance, you can use the following command to attach the instance profile you created earlier to your instance.
    $ aws ec2 associate-iam-instance-profile --instance-id YourInstanceId --iam-instance-profile Name=EC2SSM-IP

C. Add tags

The final step of configuring your Amazon EC2 instances is to add tags. You will use these tags to configure Systems Manager in Step 2 of this post. For this example, I add a tag named Patch Group and set the value to Linux Servers. I could have other groups of Amazon EC2 instances that I treat differently by having the same tag name but a different tag value. For example, I might have a collection of other servers with the tag name Patch Group with a value of Web Servers.

  • Use the following command to add the Patch Group tag to your Amazon EC2 instance.
    $ aws ec2 create-tags --resources YourInstanceId --tags --tags Key="Patch Group",Value="Linux Servers"

Note: You must wait a few minutes until the Amazon EC2 instance is available before you can proceed to the next section. To make sure your Amazon EC2 instance is online and ready, you can use the following AWS CLI command:

$ aws ec2 describe-instance-status --instance-ids YourInstanceId

At this point, you now have at least one Amazon EC2 instance you can use to configure Systems Manager.

Step 2: Configure Systems Manager

In this section, I show you how to configure and use Systems Manager to apply operating system patches to your Amazon EC2 instances, and how to manage patch compliance.

To start, I provide some background information about Systems Manager. Then, I cover how to:

  1. Create the Systems Manager IAM role so that Systems Manager is able to perform patch operations.
  2. Create a Systems Manager patch baseline and associate it with your instance to define which patches Systems Manager should apply.
  3. Define a maintenance window to make sure Systems Manager patches your instance when you tell it to.
  4. Monitor patch compliance to verify the patch state of your instances.

You must meet two prerequisites to use Systems Manager to apply operating system patches. First, you must attach the IAM role you created in the previous section, EC2SSM, to your Amazon EC2 instance. Second, you must install the Systems Manager agent on your Amazon EC2 instance. If you have used a recent Amazon Linux AMI, Amazon has already installed the Systems Manager agent on your Amazon EC2 instance. You can confirm this by logging in to an Amazon EC2 instance and checking the Systems Manager agent log files that are located at /var/log/amazon/ssm/.

To install the Systems Manager agent on an instance that does not have the agent preinstalled or if you want to use the Systems Manager agent on your on-premises servers, see Installing and Configuring the Systems Manager Agent on Linux Instances. If you forgot to attach the newly created role when launching your Amazon EC2 instance or if you want to attach the role to already running Amazon EC2 instances, see Attach an AWS IAM Role to an Existing Amazon EC2 Instance by Using the AWS CLI or use the AWS Management Console.

A. Create the Systems Manager IAM role

For a maintenance window to be able to run any tasks, you must create a new role for Systems Manager. This role is a different kind of role than the one you created earlier: this role will be used by Systems Manager instead of Amazon EC2. Earlier, you created the role, EC2SSM, with the policy, AmazonEC2RoleforSSM, which allowed the Systems Manager agent on your instance to communicate with Systems Manager. In this section, you need a new role with the policy, AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole, so that the Systems Manager service can execute commands on your instance.

To create the new IAM role for Systems Manager:

  1. Create a JSON file named trustpolicy-maintenancewindowrole.json that contains the following trust policy. This policy describes which principal is allowed to assume the role you are going to create. This trust policy allows not only Amazon EC2 to assume this role, but also Systems Manager.

  1. Use the following command to create a role named MaintenanceWindowRole that has the AWS managed policy, AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole, attached to it. This command generates JSON-based output that describes the role and its parameters, if the command is successful.
    $ aws iam create-role --role-name MaintenanceWindowRole --assume-role-policy-document file://trustpolicy-maintenancewindowrole.json

  1. Use the following command to attach the AWS managed IAM policy (AmazonEC2RoleforSSM) to your newly created role.
    $ aws iam attach-role-policy --role-name MaintenanceWindowRole --policy-arn arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/service-role/AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole

B. Create a Systems Manager patch baseline and associate it with your instance

Next, you will create a Systems Manager patch baseline and associate it with your Amazon EC2 instance. A patch baseline defines which patches Systems Manager should apply to your instance. Before you can associate the patch baseline with your instance, though, you must determine if Systems Manager recognizes your Amazon EC2 instance. Use the following command to list all instances managed by Systems Manager. The --filters option ensures you look only for your newly created Amazon EC2 instance.

$ aws ssm describe-instance-information --filters Key=InstanceIds,Values= YourInstanceId

    "InstanceInformationList": [
            "IsLatestVersion": true,
            "ComputerName": "ip-10-50-2-245",
            "PingStatus": "Online",
            "InstanceId": "YourInstanceId",
            "IPAddress": "",
            "ResourceType": "EC2Instance",
            "AgentVersion": "",
            "PlatformVersion": "2017.09",
            "PlatformName": "Amazon Linux AMI",
            "PlatformType": "Linux",
            "LastPingDateTime": 1515759143.826

If your instance is missing from the list, verify that:

  1. Your instance is running.
  2. You attached the Systems Manager IAM role, EC2SSM.
  3. You deployed a NAT gateway in your public subnet to ensure your VPC reflects the diagram shown earlier in this post so that the Systems Manager agent can connect to the Systems Manager internet endpoint.
  4. The Systems Manager agent logs don’t include any unaddressed errors.

Now that you have checked that Systems Manager can manage your Amazon EC2 instance, it is time to create a patch baseline. With a patch baseline, you define which patches are approved to be installed on all Amazon EC2 instances associated with the patch baseline. The Patch Group resource tag you defined earlier will determine to which patch group an instance belongs. If you do not specifically define a patch baseline, the default AWS-managed patch baseline is used.

To create a patch baseline:

  1. Use the following command to create a patch baseline named AmazonLinuxServers. With approval rules, you can determine the approved patches that will be included in your patch baseline. In this example, you add all Critical severity patches to the patch baseline as soon as they are released, by setting the Auto approval delay to 0 days. By setting the Auto approval delay to 2 days, you add to this patch baseline the Important, Medium, and Low severity patches two days after they are released.
    $ aws ssm create-patch-baseline --name "AmazonLinuxServers" --description "Baseline containing all updates for Amazon Linux" --operating-system AMAZON_LINUX --approval-rules "PatchRules=[{PatchFilterGroup={PatchFilters=[{Values=[Critical],Key=SEVERITY}]},ApproveAfterDays=0,ComplianceLevel=CRITICAL},{PatchFilterGroup={PatchFilters=[{Values=[Important,Medium,Low],Key=SEVERITY}]},ApproveAfterDays=2,ComplianceLevel=HIGH}]"
        "BaselineId": "YourBaselineId"

  1. Use the following command to register the patch baseline you created with your instance. To do so, you use the Patch Group tag that you added to your Amazon EC2 instance.
    $ aws ssm register-patch-baseline-for-patch-group --baseline-id YourPatchBaselineId --patch-group "Linux Servers"
        "PatchGroup": "Linux Servers",
        "BaselineId": "YourBaselineId"

C.  Define a maintenance window

Now that you have successfully set up a role, created a patch baseline, and registered your Amazon EC2 instance with your patch baseline, you will define a maintenance window so that you can control when your Amazon EC2 instances will receive patches. By creating multiple maintenance windows and assigning them to different patch groups, you can make sure your Amazon EC2 instances do not all reboot at the same time.

To define a maintenance window:

  1. Use the following command to define a maintenance window. In this example command, the maintenance window will start every Saturday at 10:00 P.M. UTC. It will have a duration of 4 hours and will not start any new tasks 1 hour before the end of the maintenance window.
    $ aws ssm create-maintenance-window --name SaturdayNight --schedule "cron(0 0 22 ? * SAT *)" --duration 4 --cutoff 1 --allow-unassociated-targets
        "WindowId": "YourMaintenanceWindowId"

For more information about defining a cron-based schedule for maintenance windows, see Cron and Rate Expressions for Maintenance Windows.

  1. After defining the maintenance window, you must register the Amazon EC2 instance with the maintenance window so that Systems Manager knows which Amazon EC2 instance it should patch in this maintenance window. You can register the instance by using the same Patch Group tag you used to associate the Amazon EC2 instance with the AWS-provided patch baseline, as shown in the following command.
    $ aws ssm register-target-with-maintenance-window --window-id YourMaintenanceWindowId --resource-type INSTANCE --targets "Key=tag:Patch Group,Values=Linux Servers"
        "WindowTargetId": "YourWindowTargetId"

  1. Assign a task to the maintenance window that will install the operating system patches on your Amazon EC2 instance. The following command includes the following options.
    1. name is the name of your task and is optional. I named mine Patching.
    2. task-arn is the name of the task document you want to run.
    3. max-concurrency allows you to specify how many of your Amazon EC2 instances Systems Manager should patch at the same time. max-errors determines when Systems Manager should abort the task. For patching, this number should not be too low, because you do not want your entire patch task to stop on all instances if one instance fails. You can set this, for example, to 20%.
    4. service-role-arn is the Amazon Resource Name (ARN) of the AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole role you created earlier in this blog post.
    5. task-invocation-parameters defines the parameters that are specific to the AWS-RunPatchBaseline task document and tells Systems Manager that you want to install patches with a timeout of 600 seconds (10 minutes).
      $ aws ssm register-task-with-maintenance-window --name "Patching" --window-id "YourMaintenanceWindowId" --targets "Key=WindowTargetIds,Values=YourWindowTargetId" --task-arn AWS-RunPatchBaseline --service-role-arn "arn:aws:iam::123456789012:role/MaintenanceWindowRole" --task-type "RUN_COMMAND" --task-invocation-parameters "RunCommand={Comment=,TimeoutSeconds=600,Parameters={SnapshotId=[''],Operation=[Install]}}" --max-concurrency "500" --max-errors "20%"
          "WindowTaskId": "YourWindowTaskId"

Now, you must wait for the maintenance window to run at least once according to the schedule you defined earlier. If your maintenance window has expired, you can check the status of any maintenance tasks Systems Manager has performed by using the following command.

$ aws ssm describe-maintenance-window-executions --window-id "YourMaintenanceWindowId"

    "WindowExecutions": [
            "Status": "SUCCESS",
            "WindowId": "YourMaintenanceWindowId",
            "WindowExecutionId": "b594984b-430e-4ffa-a44c-a2e171de9dd3",
            "EndTime": 1515766467.487,
            "StartTime": 1515766457.691

D.  Monitor patch compliance

You also can see the overall patch compliance of all Amazon EC2 instances using the following command in the AWS CLI.

$ aws ssm list-compliance-summaries

This command shows you the number of instances that are compliant with each category and the number of instances that are not in JSON format.

You also can see overall patch compliance by choosing Compliance under Insights in the navigation pane of the Systems Manager console. You will see a visual representation of how many Amazon EC2 instances are up to date, how many Amazon EC2 instances are noncompliant, and how many Amazon EC2 instances are compliant in relation to the earlier defined patch baseline.

Screenshot of the Compliance page of the Systems Manager console

In this section, you have set everything up for patch management on your instance. Now you know how to patch your Amazon EC2 instance in a controlled manner and how to check if your Amazon EC2 instance is compliant with the patch baseline you have defined. Of course, I recommend that you apply these steps to all Amazon EC2 instances you manage.


In this blog post, I showed how to use Systems Manager to create a patch baseline and maintenance window to keep your Amazon EC2 Linux instances up to date with the latest security patches. Remember that by creating multiple maintenance windows and assigning them to different patch groups, you can make sure your Amazon EC2 instances do not all reboot at the same time.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing any part of this solution, start a new thread on the Amazon EC2 forum or contact AWS Support.

– Koen

N-O-D-E’s always-on networked Pi Plug

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

N-O-D-E’s Pi Plug is a simple approach to using a Raspberry Pi Zero W as an always-on networked device without a tangle of wires.

Pi Plug 2: Turn The Pi Zero Into A Mini Server

Today I’m back with an update on the Pi Plug I made a while back. This prototype is still in the works, and is much more modular than the previous version. https://N-O-D-E.net/piplug2.html https://github.com/N-O-D-E/piplug —————- Shop: http://N-O-D-E.net/shop/ Patreon: http://patreon.com/N_O_D_E_ BTC: 17HqC7ZzmpE7E8Liuyb5WRbpwswBUgKRGZ Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ceA-nL Music: https://archive.org/details/Fwawn-FromManToGod

The Pi Zero Power Case

In a video early last year, YouTuber N-O-D-E revealed his Pi Zero Power Case, an all-in-one always-on networked computer that fits snugly against a wall power socket.

NODE Plug Raspberry Pi Plug

The project uses an official Raspberry Pi power supply, a Zero4U USB hub, and a Raspberry Pi Zero W, and it allows completely wireless connection to a network. N-O-D-E cut the power cord and soldered its wires directly to the power input of the USB hub. The hub powers the Zero via pogo pins that connect directly to the test pads beneath.

The Power Case is a neat project, but it may be a little daunting for anyone not keen on cutting and soldering the power supply wires.

Pi Plug 2

In his overhaul of the design, N-O-D-E has created a modular reimagining of the previous always-on networked computer that fits more streamlined to the wall socket and requires absolutely no soldering or hacking of physical hardware.

Pi Plug

The Pi Plug 2 uses a USB power supply alongside two custom PCBs and a Zero W. While one PCB houses a USB connector that slots directly into the power supply, two blobs of solder on the second PCB press against the test pads beneath the Zero W. When connected, the PCBs run power directly from the wall socket to the Raspberry Pi Zero W. Neat!

NODE Plug Raspberry Pi
NODE Plug Raspberry Pi
NODE Plug Raspberry Pi
NODE Plug Raspberry Pi

While N-O-D-E isn’t currently selling these PCBs in his online store, all files are available on GitHub, so have a look if you want to recreate the Pi Plug.


In another video — and seriously, if you haven’t checked out N-O-D-E’s YouTube channel yet, you really should — he demonstrates a few changes that can turn your Zero into a USB dongle computer. This is a great hack if you don’t want to carry a power supply around in your pocket. As N-O-D-E explains:

Besides simply SSH’ing into the Pi, you could also easily install a remote desktop client and use the GUI. You can share your computer’s internet connection with the Pi and use it just like you would normally, but now without the need for a monitor, chargers, adapters, cables, or peripherals.

We’re keen to see how our community is hacking their Zeros and Zero Ws in order to take full advantage of the small footprint of the computer, so be sure to share your projects and ideas with us, either in the comments below or via social media.

The post N-O-D-E’s always-on networked Pi Plug appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Early Challenges: Making Critical Hires

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/early-challenges-making-critical-hires/

row of potential employee hires sitting waiting for an interview

In 2009, Google disclosed that they had 400 recruiters on staff working to hire nearly 10,000 people. Someday, that might be your challenge, but most companies in their early days are looking to hire a handful of people — the right people — each year. Assuming you are closer to startup stage than Google stage, let’s look at who you need to hire, when to hire them, where to find them (and how to help them find you), and how to get them to join your company.

Who Should Be Your First Hires

In later stage companies, the roles in the company have been well fleshed out, don’t change often, and each role can be segmented to focus on a specific area. A large company may have an entire department focused on just cubicle layout; at a smaller company you may not have a single person whose actual job encompasses all of facilities. At Backblaze, our CTO has a passion and knack for facilities and mostly led that charge. Also, the needs of a smaller company are quick to change. One of our first hires was a QA person, Sean, who ended up being 100% focused on data center infrastructure. In the early stage, things can shift quite a bit and you need people that are broadly capable, flexible, and most of all willing to pitch in where needed.

That said, there are times you may need an expert. At a previous company we hired Jon, a PhD in Bayesian statistics, because we needed algorithmic analysis for spam fighting. However, even that person was not only able and willing to do the math, but also code, and to not only focus on Bayesian statistics but explore a plethora of spam fighting options.

When To Hire

If you’ve raised a lot of cash and are willing to burn it with mistakes, you can guess at all the roles you might need and start hiring for them. No judgement: that’s a reasonable strategy if you’re cash-rich and time-poor.

If your cash is limited, try to see what you and your team are already doing and then hire people to take those jobs. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re already doing it presumably it needs to be done, you have a good sense of the type of skills required to do it, and you can bring someone on-board and get them up to speed quickly. That then frees you up to focus on tasks that can’t be done by someone else. At Backblaze, I ran marketing internally for years before hiring a VP of Marketing, making it easier for me to know what we needed. Once I was hiring, my primary goal was to find someone I could trust to take that role completely off of me so I could focus solely on my CEO duties

Where To Find the Right People

Finding great people is always difficult, particularly when the skillsets you’re looking for are highly in-demand by larger companies with lots of cash and cachet. You, however, have one massive advantage: you need to hire 5 people, not 5,000.

People You Worked With

The absolutely best people to hire are ones you’ve worked with before that you already know are good in a work situation. Consider your last job, the one before, and the one before that. A significant number of the people we recruited at Backblaze came from our previous startup MailFrontier. We knew what they could do and how they would fit into the culture, and they knew us and thus could quickly meld into the environment. If you didn’t have a previous job, consider people you went to school with or perhaps individuals with whom you’ve done projects previously.

People You Know

Hiring friends, family, and others can be risky, but should be considered. Sometimes a friend can be a “great buddy,” but is not able to do the job or isn’t a good fit for the organization. Having to let go of someone who is a friend or family member can be rough. Have the conversation up front with them about that possibility, so you have the ability to stay friends if the position doesn’t work out. Having said that, if you get along with someone as a friend, that’s one critical component of succeeding together at work. At Backblaze we’ve hired a number of people successfully that were friends of someone in the organization.

Friends Of People You Know

Your network is likely larger than you imagine. Your employees, investors, advisors, spouses, friends, and other folks all know people who might be a great fit for you. Make sure they know the roles you’re hiring for and ask them if they know anyone that would fit. Search LinkedIn for the titles you’re looking for and see who comes up; if they’re a 2nd degree connection, ask your connection for an introduction.

People You Know About

Sometimes the person you want isn’t someone anyone knows, but you may have read something they wrote, used a product they’ve built, or seen a video of a presentation they gave. Reach out. You may get a great hire: worst case, you’ll let them know they were appreciated, and make them aware of your organization.

Other Places to Find People

There are a million other places to find people, including job sites, community groups, Facebook/Twitter, GitHub, and more. Consider where the people you’re looking for are likely to congregate online and in person.

A Comment on Diversity

Hiring “People You Know” can often result in “Hiring People Like You” with the same workplace experiences, culture, background, and perceptions. Some studies have shown [1, 2, 3, 4] that homogeneous groups deliver faster, while heterogeneous groups are more creative. Also, “Hiring People Like You” often propagates the lack of women and minorities in tech and leadership positions in general. When looking for people you know, keep an eye to not discount people you know who don’t have the same cultural background as you.

Helping People To Find You

Reaching out proactively to people is the most direct way to find someone, but you want potential hires coming to you as well. To do this, they have to a) be aware of you, b) know you have a role they’re interested in, and c) think they would want to work there. Let’s tackle a) and b) first below.

Your Blog

I started writing our blog before we launched the product and talked about anything I found interesting related to our space. For several years now our team has owned the content on the blog and in 2017 over 1.5 million people read it. Each time we have a position open it’s published to the blog. If someone finds reading about backup and storage interesting, perhaps they’d want to dig in deeper from the inside. Many of the people we’ve recruited have mentioned reading the blog as either how they found us or as a factor in why they wanted to work here.
[BTW, this is Gleb’s 200th post on Backblaze’s blog. The first was in 2008. — Editor]

Your Email List

In addition to the emails our blog subscribers receive, we send regular emails to our customers, partners, and prospects. These are largely focused on content we think is directly useful or interesting for them. However, once every few months we include a small mention that we’re hiring, and the positions we’re looking for. Often a small blurb is all you need to capture people’s imaginations whether they might find the jobs interesting or can think of someone that might fit the bill.

Your Social Involvement

Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook, Hacker News or Slashdot, your potential hires are engaging in various communities. Being socially involved helps make people aware of you, reminds them of you when they’re considering a job, and paints a picture of what working with you and your company would be like. Adam was in a Reddit thread where we were discussing our Storage Pods, and that interaction was ultimately part of the reason he left Apple to come to Backblaze.

Convincing People To Join

Once you’ve found someone or they’ve found you, how do you convince them to join? They may be currently employed, have other offers, or have to relocate. Again, while the biggest companies have a number of advantages, you might have more unique advantages than you realize.

Why Should They Join You

Here are a set of items that you may be able to offer which larger organizations might not:

Role: Consider the strengths of the role. Perhaps it will have broader scope? More visibility at the executive level? No micromanagement? Ability to take risks? Option to create their own role?

Compensation: In addition to salary, will their options potentially be worth more since they’re getting in early? Can they trade-off salary for more options? Do they get option refreshes?

Benefits: In addition to healthcare, food, and 401(k) plans, are there unique benefits of your company? One company I knew took the entire team for a one-month working retreat abroad each year.

Location: Most people prefer to work close to home. If you’re located outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, you might be at a disadvantage for not being in the heart of tech. But if you find employees close to you you’ve got a huge advantage. Sometimes it’s micro; even in the Bay Area the difference of 5 miles can save 20 minutes each way every day. We located the Backblaze headquarters in San Mateo, a middle-ground that made it accessible to those coming from San Jose and San Francisco. We also chose a downtown location near a train, restaurants, and cafes: all to make it easier and more pleasant. Also, are you flexible in letting your employees work remotely? Our systems administrator Elliott is about to embark on a long-term cross-country journey working from an RV.

Environment: Open office, cubicle, cafe, work-from-home? Loud/quiet? Social or focused? 24×7 or work-life balance? Different environments appeal to different people.

Team: Who will they be working with? A company with 100,000 people might have 100 brilliant ones you’d want to work with, but ultimately we work with our core team. Who will your prospective hires be working with?

Market: Some people are passionate about gaming, others biotech, still others food. The market you’re targeting will get different people excited.

Product: Have an amazing product people love? Highlight that. If you’re lucky, your potential hire is already a fan.

Mission: Curing cancer, making people happy, and other company missions inspire people to strive to be part of the journey. Our mission is to make storing data astonishingly easy and low-cost. If you care about data, information, knowledge, and progress, our mission helps drive all of them.

Culture: I left this for last, but believe it’s the most important. What is the culture of your company? Finding people who want to work in the culture of your organization is critical. If they like the culture, they’ll fit and continue it. We’ve worked hard to build a culture that’s collaborative, friendly, supportive, and open; one in which people like coming to work. For example, the five founders started with (and still have) the same compensation and equity. That started a culture of “we’re all in this together.” Build a culture that will attract the people you want, and convey what the culture is.

Writing The Job Description

Most job descriptions focus on the all the requirements the candidate must meet. While important to communicate, the job description should first sell the job. Why would the appropriate candidate want the job? Then share some of the requirements you think are critical. Remember that people read not just what you say but how you say it. Try to write in a way that conveys what it is like to actually be at the company. Ahin, our VP of Marketing, said the job description itself was one of the things that attracted him to the company.

Orchestrating Interviews

Much can be said about interviewing well. I’m just going to say this: make sure that everyone who is interviewing knows that their job is not only to evaluate the candidate, but give them a sense of the culture, and sell them on the company. At Backblaze, we often have one person interview core prospects solely for company/culture fit.


Hiring success shouldn’t be defined by finding and hiring the right person, but instead by the right person being successful and happy within the organization. Ensure someone (usually their manager) provides them guidance on what they should be concentrating on doing during their first day, first week, and thereafter. Giving new employees opportunities and guidance so that they can achieve early wins and feel socially integrated into the company does wonders for bringing people on board smoothly

In Closing

Our Director of Production Systems, Chris, said to me the other day that he looks for companies where he can work on “interesting problems with nice people.” I’m hoping you’ll find your own version of that and find this post useful in looking for your early and critical hires.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, if you know of anyone looking for a place with “interesting problems with nice people,” Backblaze is hiring. 😉

The post Early Challenges: Making Critical Hires appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Server vs Endpoint Backup — Which is Best?

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/endpoint-backup-for-distributed-computing/

server and computer backup to the cloud

How common are these statements in your organization?

  • I know I saved that file. The application must have put it somewhere outside of my documents folder.” — Mike in Marketing
  • I was on the road and couldn’t get a reliable VPN connection. I guess that’s why my laptop wasn’t backed up.” — Sally in Sales
  • I try to follow file policies, but I had a deadline this week and didn’t have time to copy my files to the server.” — Felicia in Finance
  • I just did a commit of my code changes and that was when the coffee mug was knocked over onto the laptop.” — Erin in Engineering
  • If you need a file restored from backup, contact the help desk at [email protected] The IT department will get back to you.” — XYZ corporate intranet
  • Why don’t employees save files on the network drive like they’re supposed to?” — Isaac in IT

If these statements are familiar, most likely you rely on file server backups to safeguard your valuable endpoint data.

The problem is, the workplace has changed. Where server backups might have fit how offices worked at one time in the past, relying solely on server backups today means you could be missing valuable endpoint data from your backups. On top of that, you likely are unnecessarily expending valuable user and IT time in attempting to secure and restore endpoint data.

Times Have Changed, and so have Effective Enterprise Backup Strategies

The ways we use computers and handle files today are vastly different from just five or ten years ago. Employees are mobile, and we no longer are limited to monolithic PC and Mac-based office suites. Cloud applications are everywhere. Company-mandated network drive policies are difficult to enforce as office practices change, devices proliferate, and organizational culture evolves. Besides, your IT staff has other things to do than babysit your employees to make sure they follow your organization’s policies for managing files.

Server Backup has its Place, but Does it Support How People Work Today?

Many organizations still rely on server backup. If your organization works primarily in centralized offices with all endpoints — likely desktops — connected directly to your network, and you maintain tight control of how employees manage their files, it still might work for you.

Your IT department probably has set network drive policies that require employees to save files in standard places that are regularly backed up to your file server. Turns out, though, that even standard applications don’t always save files where IT would like them to be. They could be in a directory or folder that’s not regularly backed up.

As employees have become more mobile, they have adopted practices that enable them to access files from different places, but these practices might not fit in with your organization’s server policies. An employee saving a file to Dropbox might be planning to copy it to an “official” location later, but whether that ever happens could be doubtful. Often people don’t realize until it’s too late that accidentally deleting a file in one sync service directory means that all copies in all locations — even the cloud — are also deleted.

Employees are under increasing demands to produce, which means that network drive policies aren’t always followed; time constraints and deadlines can cause best practices to go out the window. Users will attempt to comply with policies as best they can — and you might get 70% or even 75% effective compliance — but getting even to that level requires training, monitoring, and repeatedly reminding employees of policies they need to follow — none of which leads to a good work environment.

Even if you get to 75% compliance with network file policies, what happens if the critical file needed to close out an end-of-year financial summary isn’t one of the files backed up? The effort required for IT to get from 70% to 80% or 90% of an endpoint’s files effectively backed up could require multiple hours from your IT department, and you still might not have backed up the one critical file you need later.

Your Organization Operates on its Data — And Today That Data Exists in Multiple Locations

Users are no longer tied to one endpoint, and may use different computers in the office, at home, or traveling. The greater the number of endpoints used, the greater the chance of an accidental or malicious device loss or data corruption. The loss of the Sales VP’s laptop at the airport on her way back from meeting with major customers can affect an entire organization and require weeks to resolve.

Even with the best intentions and efforts, following policies when out of the office can be difficult or impossible. Connecting to your private network when remote most likely requires a VPN, and VPN connectivity can be challenging from the lobby Wi-Fi at the Radisson. Server restores require time from the IT staff, which can mean taking resources away from other IT priorities and a growing backlog of requests from users to need their files as soon as possible. When users are dependent on IT to get back files critical to their work, employee productivity and often deadlines are affected.

Managing Finite Server Storage Is an Ongoing Challenge

Network drive backup usually requires on-premises data storage for endpoint backups. Since it is a finite resource, allocating that storage is another burden on your IT staff. To make sure that storage isn’t exceeded, IT departments often ration storage by department and/or user — another oversight duty for IT, and even more choices required by your IT department and department heads who have to decide which files to prioritize for backing up.

Adding Backblaze Endpoint Backup Improves Business Continuity and Productivity

Having an endpoint backup strategy in place can mitigate these problems and improve user productivity, as well. A good endpoint backup service, such as Backblaze Cloud Backup, will ensure that all devices are backed up securely, automatically, without requiring any action by the user or by your IT department.

For 99% of users, no configuration is required for Backblaze Backup. Everything on the endpoint is encrypted and securely backed up to the cloud, including program configuration files and files outside of standard document folders. Even temp files are backed up, which can prove invaluable when recovering a file after a crash or other program interruption. Cloud storage is unlimited with Backblaze Backup, so there are no worries about running out of storage or rationing file backups.

The Backblaze client can be silently and remotely installed to both Macintosh and Windows clients with no user interaction. And, with Backblaze Groups, your IT staff has complete visibility into when files were last backed up. IT staff can recover any backed up file, folder, or entire computer from the admin panel, and even give file restore capability to the user, if desired, which reduces dependency on IT and time spent waiting for restores.

With over 500 petabytes of customer data stored and one million files restored every hour of every day by Backblaze customers, you know that Backblaze Backup works for its users.

You Need Data Security That Matches the Way People Work Today

Both file server and endpoint backup have their places in an organization’s data security plan, but their use and value differ. If you already are using file server backup, adding endpoint backup will make a valuable contribution to your organization by reducing workload, improving productivity, and increasing confidence that all critical files are backed up.

By guaranteeing fast and automatic backup of all endpoint data, and matching the current way organizations and people work with data, Backblaze Backup will enable you to effectively and affordably meet the data security demands of your organization.

The post Server vs Endpoint Backup — Which is Best? appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

2018-02-08 FOSDEM

Post Syndicated from Vasil Kolev original https://vasil.ludost.net/blog/?p=3378


В понеделник сутрин се прибрахме от FOSDEM 2018, където правихме видео. Нямам много структурирани спомени, та разни бележки на едно място:

ULB (университетът, в който е FOSDEM) са страшна работа със сигурността, няколко пъти ни заключваха в зали/сгради. И понеже там като цяло хората говорят всякакъв език, стига да е френски, постоянно трябваше да звъним на локалните хора от екипа да се обаждат на охраната да ни отключват. Интересно дали можем да се доберем до тяхната система за контрол…

По време на setup-а се оказа, че имаме един juniper switch за видео laptop-ите. Докато седяхме в NOC-а и си говорехме, че трябва да се конфигурира, влезе един доброволец и каза “аз съм за видео екипа, казаха, че има нещо за кримпване” “можеш ли да конфигурираш juniper switch-ове?” “ами да, занимавал съм се”, след което го затворихме в сървърното и успя да излезе от там чак вечерта…

В първия половин час на конференцията някой се обади по irc – “абе, защо там пише 2017 в ъгъла?”. Оказа се, че фонът е приготвен и commit-нат, но не е бил налян на voctop-ите, та имаше едно много бързо pscp. Във финалната лекция това го споменаха, а преди това няколко човека обикаляха с няколко листа и предложения как да го коригираме (например да напишем 2017++ …).

За 20 минути успяхме в една от залите да сглобим setup, с който лектор да изнесе лекция remote, но па той не можа да се свърже. Жалко, щеше да е интересен експеримент.

Времето в Брюксел беше отвратително – вятър, дъжд, и точно следобяда слънце, че да ми пече в монитора.

Игнат за малко беше на FOSDEM и даже му показах сървърното. Ако го бях пуснал да полази там, дали щеше да спре всичко в рамките на 5 минути…

Като цяло проблемите от нашата техника бяха малко, от тая на университета – доста (аз дебъгвах setup-а в една зала и още не мога да си обясня как е работел досега), но най-големия проблем си остава, че хората не си включват микрофоните… Може би трябва за някакви такива случаи да помислим за някаква система, която чете по движенията на устните и прави субтитри. За догодина задължително monitoring на аудионивата на stream-овете.

Трябва да си намерим полет на връщане, за който да не трябва да ставаме в 6:30, не е човешко.

И понеже все ме питат дали съм гледал една или друга лекция – може би съм един от малкото хора, дето хем са били там, хем не са гледали абсолютно нищо 🙂

Jackpotting Attacks Against US ATMs

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

Brian Krebs is reporting sophisticated jackpotting attacks against US ATMs. The attacker gains physical access to the ATM, plants malware using specialized electronics, and then later returns and forces the machine to dispense all the cash it has inside.

The Secret Service alert explains that the attackers typically use an endoscope — a slender, flexible instrument traditionally used in medicine to give physicians a look inside the human body — to locate the internal portion of the cash machine where they can attach a cord that allows them to sync their laptop with the ATM’s computer.

“Once this is complete, the ATM is controlled by the fraudsters and the ATM will appear Out of Service to potential customers,” reads the confidential Secret Service alert.

At this point, the crook(s) installing the malware will contact co-conspirators who can remotely control the ATMs and force the machines to dispense cash.

“In previous Ploutus.D attacks, the ATM continuously dispensed at a rate of 40 bills every 23 seconds,” the alert continues. Once the dispense cycle starts, the only way to stop it is to press cancel on the keypad. Otherwise, the machine is completely emptied of cash, according to the alert.

Lots of details in the article.

Raspberry Crusoe: how a Pi got lost at sea

Post Syndicated from James Robinson original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/lost-high-altitude-balloon/

The tale of the little HAB that could and its three-month journey from Portslade Aldridge Community Academy in the UK to the coast of Denmark.

PACA Computing on Twitter

Where did it land ???? #skypaca #skycademy @pacauk #RaspberryPi

High-altitude ballooning

Some of you may be familiar with Raspberry Pi being used as the flight computer, or tracker, of high-altitude balloon (HAB) payloads. For those who aren’t, high-altitude ballooning is a relatively simple activity (at least in principle) where a tracker is attached to a large weather balloon which is then released into the atmosphere. While the HAB ascends, the tracker takes pictures and data readings the whole time. Eventually (around 30km up) the balloon bursts, leaving the payload free to descend and be recovered. For a better explanation, I’m handing over to the students of UTC Oxfordshire:

Pi in the Sky | UTC Oxfordshire

On Tuesday 2nd May, students launched a Raspberry Pi computer 35,000 metres into the stratosphere as part of an Employer-Led project at UTC Oxfordshire, set by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The project involved engineering, scientific and communication/publicity skills being developed to create the payload and code to interpret experiments set by the science team.


Over the past few years, we’ve seen schools and their students explore the possibilities that high-altitude ballooning offers, and back in 2015 and 2016 we ran Skycademy. The programme was simple enough: get a bunch of educators together in the same space, show them how to launch a balloon flight, and then send them back to their students to try and repeat what they’ve learned. Since the first Skycademy event, a number of participants have carried out launches, and we are extremely proud of each and every one of them.

The case of the vanishing PACA HAB

Not every launch has been a 100% success though. There are many things that can and do go wrong during HAB flights, and watching each launch from the comfort of our office can be a nerve-wracking experience. We had such an experience back in July 2017, during the launch performed by Skycademy graduate and Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Dave Hartley and his students from Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA).

Dave and his team had been working on their payload for some time, and were awaiting suitable weather conditions. Early one Wednesday in July, everything aligned: they had a narrow window of good weather and so set their launch plan in motion. Soon they had assembled the payload in the school grounds and all was ready for the launch.

Dave Hartley on Twitter

Launch day! @pacauk #skycademy #skypaca #raspberrypi

Just before 11:00, they’d completed their final checks and released their payload into the atmosphere. Over the course of 64 minutes, the HAB steadily rose to an altitude of 25647m, where it captured some amazing pictures before the balloon burst and a rapid descent began.

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi
Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi

Soon after the payload began to descend, the team noticed something worrying: their predicted descent path took the payload dangerously far south — it was threatening to land in the sea. As the payload continued to lose altitude, their calculated results kept shifting, alternately predicting a landing on the ground or out to sea. Eventually it became clear that the payload would narrowly overshoot the land, and it finally landed about 2 km out to sea.

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi High Altitude Ballooning

The path of the balloon

It’s not uncommon for a HAB payload to get lost. There are many ways this can happen, particularly in a narrow country with a prevailing easterly wind like the UK. Payloads can get lost at sea, land somewhere inaccessible, or simply run out of power before they are located and retrieved. So normally, this would be the end of the story for the PACA students — even if the team had had a speedboat to hand, their payload was surely lost for good.

A message from Denmark

However, this is not the end of our story! A couple of months later, I arrived at work and saw this tweet from a colleague:

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

Anyone lost a Raspberry Pi HAB? Someone found this one on a beach in south western Denmark yesterday #UKHAS https://t.co/7lBzFiemgr

Good Samaritan Henning Hansen had found a Raspberry Pi washed up on a remote beach in Denmark! While walking a stretch of coast to collect plastic debris for an environmental monitoring project, he came across something unusual near the shore at 55°04’53.0″N and 8°38’46.9″E.

This of course piqued my interest, and we began to investigate the image he had shared on Facebook.

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi High Altitude Ballooning

Inspecting the photo closely, we noticed a small asset label — the kind of label that, over a year earlier, we’d stuck to each and every bit of Skycademy field kit. We excitedly claimed the kit on behalf of Dave and his students, and contacted Henning to arrange the recovery of the payload. He told us it must have been carried ashore with the tide some time between 21 and 27 September, and probably on 21 September, since that day had the highest tide over the period. This meant the payload must have spent over two months at sea!

From the photo we could tell that the Raspberry Pi had suffered significant corrosion, having been exposed to salt water for so long, and so we felt pessimistic about the chances that there would be any recoverable data on it. However, Henning said that he’d been able to read some files from the FAT partition of the SD card, so all hope was not lost.

After a few weeks and a number of complications around dispatch and delivery (thank you, Henning, for your infinite patience!), Helen collected the HAB from a local Post Office.

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi High Altitude Ballooning


We set about trying to read the data from the SD card, and eventually became disheartened: despite several attempts, we were unable to read its contents.

In a last-ditch effort, we gave the SD card to Jonathan, one of our engineers, who initially laughed at the prospect of recovering any data from it. But ten minutes later, he returned with news of success!

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi
Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi
Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi
Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi

Since then, we’ve been able to reunite the payload with the PACA launch team, and the students sent us the perfect message to end this story:

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi High Altitude Ballooning

The post Raspberry Crusoe: how a Pi got lost at sea appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

The Effects of the Spectre and Meltdown Vulnerabilities

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/the_effects_of_3.html

On January 3, the world learned about a series of major security vulnerabilities in modern microprocessors. Called Spectre and Meltdown, these vulnerabilities were discovered by several different researchers last summer, disclosed to the microprocessors’ manufacturers, and patched­ — at least to the extent possible.

This news isn’t really any different from the usual endless stream of security vulnerabilities and patches, but it’s also a harbinger of the sorts of security problems we’re going to be seeing in the coming years. These are vulnerabilities in computer hardware, not software. They affect virtually all high-end microprocessors produced in the last 20 years. Patching them requires large-scale coordination across the industry, and in some cases drastically affects the performance of the computers. And sometimes patching isn’t possible; the vulnerability will remain until the computer is discarded.

Spectre and Meltdown aren’t anomalies. They represent a new area to look for vulnerabilities and a new avenue of attack. They’re the future of security­ — and it doesn’t look good for the defenders.

Modern computers do lots of things at the same time. Your computer and your phone simultaneously run several applications — ­or apps. Your browser has several windows open. A cloud computer runs applications for many different computers. All of those applications need to be isolated from each other. For security, one application isn’t supposed to be able to peek at what another one is doing, except in very controlled circumstances. Otherwise, a malicious advertisement on a website you’re visiting could eavesdrop on your banking details, or the cloud service purchased by some foreign intelligence organization could eavesdrop on every other cloud customer, and so on. The companies that write browsers, operating systems, and cloud infrastructure spend a lot of time making sure this isolation works.

Both Spectre and Meltdown break that isolation, deep down at the microprocessor level, by exploiting performance optimizations that have been implemented for the past decade or so. Basically, microprocessors have become so fast that they spend a lot of time waiting for data to move in and out of memory. To increase performance, these processors guess what data they’re going to receive and execute instructions based on that. If the guess turns out to be correct, it’s a performance win. If it’s wrong, the microprocessors throw away what they’ve done without losing any time. This feature is called speculative execution.

Spectre and Meltdown attack speculative execution in different ways. Meltdown is more of a conventional vulnerability; the designers of the speculative-execution process made a mistake, so they just needed to fix it. Spectre is worse; it’s a flaw in the very concept of speculative execution. There’s no way to patch that vulnerability; the chips need to be redesigned in such a way as to eliminate it.

Since the announcement, manufacturers have been rolling out patches to these vulnerabilities to the extent possible. Operating systems have been patched so that attackers can’t make use of the vulnerabilities. Web browsers have been patched. Chips have been patched. From the user’s perspective, these are routine fixes. But several aspects of these vulnerabilities illustrate the sorts of security problems we’re only going to be seeing more of.

First, attacks against hardware, as opposed to software, will become more common. Last fall, vulnerabilities were discovered in Intel’s Management Engine, a remote-administration feature on its microprocessors. Like Spectre and Meltdown, they affected how the chips operate. Looking for vulnerabilities on computer chips is new. Now that researchers know this is a fruitful area to explore, security researchers, foreign intelligence agencies, and criminals will be on the hunt.

Second, because microprocessors are fundamental parts of computers, patching requires coordination between many companies. Even when manufacturers like Intel and AMD can write a patch for a vulnerability, computer makers and application vendors still have to customize and push the patch out to the users. This makes it much harder to keep vulnerabilities secret while patches are being written. Spectre and Meltdown were announced prematurely because details were leaking and rumors were swirling. Situations like this give malicious actors more opportunity to attack systems before they’re guarded.

Third, these vulnerabilities will affect computers’ functionality. In some cases, the patches for Spectre and Meltdown result in significant reductions in speed. The press initially reported 30%, but that only seems true for certain servers running in the cloud. For your personal computer or phone, the performance hit from the patch is minimal. But as more vulnerabilities are discovered in hardware, patches will affect performance in noticeable ways.

And then there are the unpatchable vulnerabilities. For decades, the computer industry has kept things secure by finding vulnerabilities in fielded products and quickly patching them. Now there are cases where that doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s because computers are in cheap products that don’t have a patch mechanism, like many of the DVRs and webcams that are vulnerable to the Mirai (and other) botnets — ­groups of Internet-connected devices sabotaged for coordinated digital attacks. Sometimes it’s because a computer chip’s functionality is so core to a computer’s design that patching it effectively means turning the computer off. This, too, is becoming more common.

Increasingly, everything is a computer: not just your laptop and phone, but your car, your appliances, your medical devices, and global infrastructure. These computers are and always will be vulnerable, but Spectre and Meltdown represent a new class of vulnerability. Unpatchable vulnerabilities in the deepest recesses of the world’s computer hardware is the new normal. It’s going to leave us all much more vulnerable in the future.

This essay previously appeared on TheAtlantic.com.

Spiegelbilder Studio’s giant CRT video walls

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/crt-video-walls/

After getting in contact with us to share their latest build with us, we invited Matvey Fridman of Germany-based production company Spiegelbilder Studio to write a guest blog post about their CRT video walls created for the band STRANDKØNZERT.



CRT video wall

About a year ago, we had the idea of building a huge video wall out of old TVs to use in a music video. It took some time, but half a year later we found ourselves in a studio actually building this thing using 30 connected computers, 24 of which were Raspberry Pis.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

How we did it

After weeks and months of preproduction and testing, we decided on two consecutive days to build the wall, create the underlying IP network, run a few tests, and then film the artists’ performance in front of it. We actually had 32 Pis (a mixed bag of first, second, and third generation models) and even more TVs ready to go, since we didn’t know what the final build would actually look like. We ended up using 29 separate screens of various sizes hooked up to 24 separate Pis — the remaining five TVs got a daisy-chained video signal out of other monitors for a cool effect. Each Pi had to run a free software called PiWall.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

Since the TVs only had analogue video inputs, we had to get special composite breakout cables and then adapt the RCA connectors to either SCART, S-Video, or BNC.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

As soon as we had all of that running, we connected every Pi to a 48-port network switch that we’d hooked up to a Windows PC acting as a DHCP server to automatically assign IP addresses and handle the multicast addressing. To make remote control of the Raspberry Pis easier, a separate master Linux PC and two MacBook laptops, each with SSH enabled and a Samba server running, joined the network as well.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

The MacBook laptops were used to drop two files containing the settings on each Pi. The .pitile file was unique to every Pi and contained their respective IDs. The .piwall file contained the same info for all Pis: the measurements and positions of every single screen to help the software split up the video signal coming in through the network. After every Pi got the command to start the PiWall software, which specifies the UDP multicast address and settings to be used to receive the video stream, the master Linux PC was tasked with streaming the video file to these UDP addresses. Now every TV was showing its section of the video, and we could begin filming.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

The whole process and the contents of the files and commands are summarised in the infographic below. A lot of trial and error was involved in the making of this project, but it all worked out well in the end. We hope you enjoy the craft behind the music video even though the music is not for everybody 😉


You can follow Spiegelbilder Studio on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And if you enjoyed the music video, be sure to follow STRANDKØNZERT too.

The post Spiegelbilder Studio’s giant CRT video walls appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Detecting Drone Surveillance with Traffic Analysis

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/detecting_drone.html

This is clever:

Researchers at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel have built a proof-of-concept system for counter-surveillance against spy drones that demonstrates a clever, if not exactly simple, way to determine whether a certain person or object is under aerial surveillance. They first generate a recognizable pattern on whatever subject­ — a window, say — someone might want to guard from potential surveillance. Then they remotely intercept a drone’s radio signals to look for that pattern in the streaming video the drone sends back to its operator. If they spot it, they can determine that the drone is looking at their subject.

In other words, they can see what the drone sees, pulling out their recognizable pattern from the radio signal, even without breaking the drone’s encrypted video.

The details have to do with the way drone video is compressed:

The researchers’ technique takes advantage of an efficiency feature streaming video has used for years, known as “delta frames.” Instead of encoding video as a series of raw images, it’s compressed into a series of changes from the previous image in the video. That means when a streaming video shows a still object, it transmits fewer bytes of data than when it shows one that moves or changes color.

That compression feature can reveal key information about the content of the video to someone who’s intercepting the streaming data, security researchers have shown in recent research, even when the data is encrypted.

Research paper and video.

[$] BPFd: Running BCC tools remotely across systems and architectures

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/744522/rss

BPF is an increasingly capable tool for instrumenting and tracing the
operation of the kernel; it has enabled the creation of the growing set of
BCC tools. Unfortunately, BCC has no support for a cross-development
workflow where the development machine and the target machine running the
developed code are different. Cross-development is favored by
embedded-systems kernel developers who tend to develop on an x86 host and
then flash and test their code on SoCs (System on Chips) based on the ARM
architecture. In this article, I introduce BPFd, a project to enable cross
development using BPF and BCC.

BitTorrent Client Transmission Suffers Remote Takeover Vulnerability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-client-transmission-suffers-remote-takeover-vulnerability-180116/

With millions of active users, Transmission is one of the most used BitTorrent clients around, particularly for Mac users.

The application has been around for more than a decade and has a great reputation. However, as with any other type of software, it is not immune to vulnerabilities.

One rather concerning flaw was made public by Google vulnerability researcher Tavis Ormandy a few days ago. The flaw allows outsiders to gain access to Transmission via DNS rebinding. This ultimately allows attackers to control the BitTorrent client and execute custom code.

Ormandy has published a patch, which was also shared with the private Transmission security list at the end of November. Transmission, however, has yet to address the issue in an update.

The relatively slow response was the reason why Ormandy decided to make it public before Project Zero’s usual 90-day window expired, Ars highlights. This allows other projects to address the vulnerability right away.

“I’m finding it frustrating that the transmission developers are not responding on their private security list,” Google’s vulnerability researcher writes. “I’ve never had an opensource project take this long to fix a vulnerability before, so I usually don’t even mention the 90 day limit if the vulnerability is in an open source project.”

A member of the Transmission developer team informed Ars that they will address this ASAP, noting that the issue only affects users who have remote control enabled with the default password. This means that people who disable it or change their password can easily ‘patch’ it until the official update comes out.

Interestingly, this isn’t the last BitTorrent related vulnerability Ormandy plans to expose. According to one of his tweets on the matter, this is just the “first of a few remote code execution flaws in various popular torrent clients.”

Judging from a message the researcher sent late November, uTorrent is on the list as well. Apparently, the company’s security email address wasn’t set up correctly at the time, so BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen has been acting as a forwarding service.


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

Tickbox Clearly Promotes and Facilitates Piracy, Hollywood Tells Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tickbox-clearly-promotes-and-facilitates-piracy-hollywood-tells-court-180115/

The rising popularity of piracy streaming boxes has turned into Hollywood’s main piracy concern in recent months.

While the hardware and media players such as Kodi are not a problem, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons turn them into fully-fledged piracy machines.

According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership comprised of Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.

Last year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The Tickbox devices use the Kodi media player and comes with instructions on how to add various add-ons.

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright-infringing content. The coalition, therefore, asked the court for a permanent injunction to remove all infringing add-ons from previously sold devices.

Tickbox maintained its innocence, however. The company informed the court that its box is a simple computer like any other, which is perfectly legal.

According to Tickbox, they don’t have anything to do with the infringing “Themes” that users can select on their device. These themes feature several addons that link to infringing content.

This explanation doesn’t sit well with the movie companies, which submitted a reply to the court late last week. They claim that Tickbox is deliberately downplaying their own role, as they are the ones who decided to make these themes accessible through their boxes.

“TickBox falsely claims that the presence of these ‘Themes’ on TickBox devices ‘have nothing to do with Defendant’,” ACE’s reply reads.

“To the contrary, TickBox intentionally chooses which ‘Themes’ to include on its ‘Select your Theme’ menu for the TickBox TV interface, and TickBox pushes out automatic software updates to its customers’ TickBox TV devices.”

The movie companies also dispute Tickbox’s argument that they don’t induce copyright infringement because their device is “simply a small computer” that has many legitimate uses.

This liability question isn’t about whether Tickbox stores any infringing material or runs pirate streams through their servers, they counter. It’s about the intended use and how Tickbox promotes its product.

“TickBox’s liability arises based on its advertising and promoting TickBox TV as a tool for infringing use, and from designing and including software on the device that encourages access to infringing streams from third-party sources.”

ACE notes that, unlike Tickbox claims, the current case shows a lot of parallels with previous landmark cases including Grokster and Fung [isoHunt].

The isoHunt website didn’t store and infringing material, nor was it crucial in the torrent piracy ecosystem. However, it was liable because the operator willingly facilitated copyright infringing activity. This is what Tickbox does too, according to ACE.

“TickBox ‘competes’ with legitimate services by telling customers that they can access the same content available from legitimate distributors ‘ABSOLUTELY FREE’ and that customers therefore ‘will find that you no longer need those subscriptions’.”

The movie companies therefore ask the court to issue the requested injunction. They want all existing devices to be impounded and Tickbox should, through an update, remove infringing addons from already sold devices.

Tickbox argued that this would require them to “hack into” their customers’ boxes and delete content. ACE, however, says that this is a simple update and nothing different from what the company has done in the past.

“The proposed injunction would merely obligate TickBox to make good on its halfhearted and ineffective efforts to do what it claims to have already done: remove Kodi builds with illicit addons from TickBox TV,” ACE writes.

“As demonstrated by TickBox’s own, repeated software updates since the filing of Plaintiffs’ Complaint, TickBox has the means and ability to easily and remotely change what options users see and can access on their TickBox TVs.”

After having heard the arguments from both sides, it’s now up to the California federal court to decide who’s right.

The current case should set an important precedent. In addition to Tickbox, ACE also filed a similar lawsuit against Dragon Box. Clearly, the coalition is determined to get these alleged pirate devices off the market.

A copy of ACE’s reply is available here (pdf).

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

Graphite 1.1: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Post Syndicated from Blogs on Grafana Labs Blog original https://grafana.com/blog/2018/01/11/graphite-1.1-teaching-an-old-dog-new-tricks/

The Road to Graphite 1.1

I started working on Graphite just over a year ago, when @obfuscurity asked me to help out with some issues blocking the Graphite 1.0 release. Little did I know that a year later, that would have resulted in 262 commits (and counting), and that with the help of the other Graphite maintainers (especially @deniszh, @iksaif & @cbowman0) we would have added a huge amount of new functionality to Graphite.

There are a huge number of new additions and updates in this release, in this post I’ll give a tour of some of the highlights including tag support, syntax and function updates, custom function plugins, and python 3.x support.


The single biggest feature in this release is the addition of tag support, which brings the ability to describe metrics in a much richer way and to write more flexible and expressive queries.

Traditionally series in Graphite are identified using a hierarchical naming scheme based on dot-separated segments called nodes. This works very well and is simple to map into a hierarchical structure like the whisper filesystem tree, but it means that the user has to know what each segment represents, and makes it very difficult to modify or extend the naming scheme since everything is based on the positions of the segments within the hierarchy.

The tagging system gives users the ability to encode information about the series in a collection of tag=value pairs which are used together with the series name to uniquely identify each series, and the ability to query series by specifying tag-based matching expressions rather than constructing glob-style selectors based on the positions of specific segments within the hierarchy. This is broadly similar to the system used by Prometheus and makes it possible to use Graphite as a long-term storage backend for metrics gathered by Prometheus with full tag support.

When using tags, series names are specified using the new tagged carbon format: name;tag1=value1;tag2=value2. This format is backward compatible with most existing carbon tooling, and makes it easy to adapt existing tools to produce tagged metrics simply by changing the metric names. The OpenMetrics format is also supported for ingestion, and is normalized into the standard Graphite format internally.

At its core, the tagging system is implemented as a tag database (TagDB) alongside the metrics that allows them to be efficiently queried by individual tag values rather than having to traverse the metrics tree looking for series that match the specified query. Internally the tag index is stored in one of a number of pluggable tag databases, currently supported options are the internal graphite-web database, redis, or an external system that implements the Graphite tagging HTTP API. Carbon automatically keeps the index up to date with any tagged series seen.

The new seriesByTag function is used to query the TagDB and will return a list of all the series that match the expressions passed to it. seriesByTag supports both exact and regular expression matches, and can be used anywhere you would previously have specified a metric name or glob expression.

There are new dedicated functions for grouping and aliasing series by tag (groupByTags and aliasByTags), and you can also use tags interchangeably with node numbers in the standard Graphite functions like aliasByNode, groupByNodes, asPercent, mapSeries, etc.

Piping Syntax & Function Updates

One of the huge strengths of the Graphite render API is the ability to chain together multiple functions to process data, but until now (unless you were using a tool like Grafana) writing chained queries could be painful as each function had to be wrapped around the previous one. With this release it is now possible to “pipe” the output of one processing function into the next, and to combine piped and nested functions.

For example:


Can now be written as:




Another source of frustration with the old function API was the inconsistent implementation of aggregations, with different functions being used in different parts of the API, and some functions simply not being available. In 1.1 all functions that perform aggregation (whether across series or across time intervals) now support a consistent set of aggregations; average, median, sum, min, max, diff, stddev, count, range, multiply and last. This is part of a new approach to implementing functions that emphasises using shared building blocks to ensure consistency across the API and solve the problem of a particular function not working with the aggregation needed for a given task.

To that end a number of new functions have been added that each provide the same functionality as an entire family of “old” functions; aggregate, aggregateWithWildcards, movingWindow, filterSeries, highest, lowest and sortBy.

Each of these functions accepts an aggregation method parameter, for example aggregate(some.metric.*, 'sum') implements the same functionality as sumSeries(some.metric.*).

It can also be used with different aggregation methods to replace averageSeries, stddevSeries, multiplySeries, diffSeries, rangeOfSeries, minSeries, maxSeries and countSeries. All those functions are now implemented as aliases for aggregate, and it supports the previously-missing median and last aggregations.

The same is true for the other functions, and the summarize, smartSummarize, groupByNode, groupByNodes and the new groupByTags functions now all support the standard set of aggregations. Gone are the days of wishing that sortByMedian or highestRange were available!

For more information on the functions available check the function documentation.

Custom Functions

No matter how many functions are available there are always going to be specific use-cases where a custom function can perform analysis that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, or provide a convenient alias for a complicated function chain or specific set of parameters.

In Graphite 1.1 we added support for easily adding one-off custom functions, as well as for creating and sharing plugins that can provide one or more functions.

Each function plugin is packaged as a simple python module, and will be automatically loaded by Graphite when placed into the functions/custom folder.

An example of a simple function plugin that translates the name of every series passed to it into UPPERCASE:

from graphite.functions.params import Param, ParamTypes

def toUpperCase(requestContext, seriesList):
  """Custom function that changes series names to UPPERCASE"""
  for series in seriesList:
    series.name = series.name.upper()
  return seriesList

toUpperCase.group = 'Custom'
toUpperCase.params = [
  Param('seriesList', ParamTypes.seriesList, required=True),

SeriesFunctions = {
  'upper': toUpperCase,

Once installed the function is not only available for use within Grpahite, but is also exposed via the new Function API which allows the function definition and documentation to be automatically loaded by tools like Grafana. This means that users will be able to select and use the new function in exactly the same way as the internal functions.

More information on writing and using custom functions is available in the documentation.

Clustering Updates

One of the biggest changes from the 0.9 to 1.0 releases was the overhaul of the clustering code, and with 1.1.1 that process has been taken even further to optimize performance when using Graphite in a clustered deployment. In the past it was common for a request to require the frontend node to make multiple requests to the backend nodes to identify matching series and to fetch data, and the code for handling remote vs local series was overly complicated. In 1.1.1 we took a new approach where all render data requests pass through the same path internally, and multiple backend nodes are handled individually rather than grouped together into a single finder. This has greatly simplified the codebase, making it much easier to understand and reason about, while allowing much more flexibility in design of the finders. After these changes, render requests can now be answered with a single internal request to each backend node, and all requests for both remote and local data are executed in parallel.

To maintain the ability of graphite to scale out horizontally, the tagging system works seamlessly within a clustered environment, with each node responsible for the series stored on that node. Calls to load tagged series via seriesByTag are fanned out to the backend nodes and results are merged on the query node just like they are for non-tagged series.

Python 3 & Django 1.11 Support

Graphite 1.1 finally brings support for Python 3.x, both graphite-web and carbon are now tested against Python 2.7, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6 and PyPy. Django releases 1.8 through 1.11 are also supported. The work involved in sorting out the compatibility issues between Python 2.x and 3.x was quite involved, but it is a huge step forward for the long term support of the project! With the new Django 2.x series supporting only Python 3.x we will need to evaluate our long-term support for Python 2.x, but the Django 1.11 series is supported through 2020 so there is time to consider the options there.

Watch This Space

Efforts are underway to add support for the new functionality across the ecosystem of tools that work with Graphite, adding collectd tagging support, prometheus remote read & write with tags (and native Prometheus remote read/write support in Graphite) and last but not least Graphite tag support in Grafana.

We’re excited about the possibilities that the new capabilities in 1.1.x open up, and can’t wait to see how the community puts them to work.

Download the 1.1.1 release and check out the release notes here.

Turn your smartphone into a universal remote

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/zero-universal-remote/

Honolulu-based software developer bbtinkerer was tired of never being able to find the TV remote. So he made his own using a Raspberry Pi Zero, and connected it to a web app accessible on his smartphone.

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

Finding a remote alternative

“I needed one because the remote in my house tends to go missing a lot,” explains Bernard aka bbtinkerer on the Instructables page for his Raspberry Pi Zero Universal Remote.”If I want the controller, I have to hunt down three people and hope one of them remembers that they took it.”

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

For the build, Bernard used a Raspberry Pi Zero, an IR LED and corresponding receiver, Raspbian Lite, and a neat little 3D-printed housing.

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero
bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero
bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

First, he soldered a circuit for the LED and resistors on a small piece of perf board. Then he assembled the hardware components. Finally, all he needed to do was to write the code to control his devices (including a tower fan), and to set up the app.

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

Bernard employed the Linux Infrared Remote Control (LIRC) package to control the television with the Raspberry Pi Zero, accessing the Zero via SSH. He gives a complete rundown of the installation process on Instructables.

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

Setting up a remote’s buttons with LIRC is a simple case of pressing them and naming their functions one by one. You’ll need the remote to set up the system, but after that, feel free to lock it in a drawer and use your smartphone instead.

Finally, Bernard created the web interface using Node.js, and again, because he’s lovely, he published the code for anyone wanting to build their own. Thanks, Bernard!

Life hacks

If you’ve used a Raspberry Pi to build a time-saving life hack like Bernard’s, be sure to share it with us. Other favourites of ours include fridge cameras, phone app doorbell notifications, and Alan’s ocarina home automation system. I’m not sure if this last one can truly be considered a time-saving life hack. It’s still cool though!

The post Turn your smartphone into a universal remote appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

[$] A look at the handling of Meltdown and Spectre

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/743363/rss

The Meltdown/Spectre debacle has,
deservedly, reached the mainstream press
and, likely, most of the public that has even a remote interest in computers
and security. It only took a day or so from the accelerated disclosure
date of January 3—it was originally scheduled for
January 9—before the bugs
were making big headlines. But Spectre has been known for at least six
months and Meltdown for nearly as long—at least to some in the industry.
Others that were affected were completely blindsided by the
announcements and have joined the scramble to mitigate these hardware bugs
before they bite users. Whatever else can be said about Meltdown and Spectre,
the handling (or, in truth, mishandling) of this whole incident has been a
horrific failure.

Wanted: Sales Engineer

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

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

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

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

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

Some Backblaze Perks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Backblaze is the place for you!

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

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

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

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

You have:

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

You are versed in:

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

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

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

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

    If this all sounds like you:

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

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

    Wanted: Datacenter Technician

    Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wanted-datacenter-technician/

    As we shoot way past 400 Petabytes of data under management we need some help scaling up our datacenters! We’re on the lookout for some datacenter technicians that can help us. This role is located near the Sacramento, California area. If you want to join a dynamic team that helps keep our almost 90,000+ hard drives spinning, this might be the job for you!


    • Work as Backblaze’s physical presence in Sacramento area datacenter(s).
    • Help maintain physical infrastructure including racking equipment, replacing hard drives and other system components.
    • Repair and troubleshoot defective equipment with minimal supervision.
    • Support datacenter’s 24×7 staff to install new equipment, handle after hours emergencies and other tasks.
    • Help manage onsite inventory of hard drives, cables, rails and other spare parts.
    • RMA defective components.
    • Setup, test and activate new equipment via the Linux command line.
    • Help train new Datacenter Technicians as needed.
    • Help with projects to install new systems and services as time allows.
    • Follow and improve Datacenter best practices and documentation.
    • Maintain a clean and well organized work environment.
    • On-call responsibilities require being within an hour of the SunGard’s Rancho Cordova/Roseville facility and occasional trips onsite 24×7 to resolve issues that can’t be handled remotely.
    • Work days may include Saturday and/or Sunday (e.g. working Tuesday – Saturday).


    • Excellent communication, time management, problem solving and organizational skills.
    • Ability to learn quickly.
    • Ability to lift/move 50-75 lbs and work down near the floor on a daily basis.
    • Position based near Sacramento, California and may require periodic visits to the corporate office in San Mateo.
    • May require travel to other Datacenters to provide coverage and/or to assist
      with new site set-up.

    Backblaze Employees Have:

    • Good attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
    • Strong desire to work for a small, fast-paced company.
    • Desire to learn and adapt to rapidly changing technologies and work environment.
    • Comfortable with well-behaved pets in the office.
    • This position is located near Sacramento, California.

    Backblaze is an Equal Opportunity Employer and we offer competitive salary and benefits, including our no policy vacation policy.

    If This Sounds Like You:
    Send an email to [email protected] with:

    1. Datacenter Tech in the subject line
    2. Your resume attached
    3. An overview of your relevant experience

    The post Wanted: Datacenter Technician appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

    I am Beemo, a little living boy: Adventure Time prop build

    Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/adventure-time-bmo/

    Bob Herzberg, BMO builder and blogger at BYOBMO.com, fills us in on the whys and hows and even the Pen Wards of creating interactive Adventure Time BMO props with the Raspberry Pi.

    A Conversation With BMO

    A conversation with BMO showing off some voice recognition capabilities. There is no interaction for BMO’s responses other than voice commands. There is a small microphone inside BMO (right behind the blue dot) and the voice commands are processed by Google voice API over WiFi.

    Finding BMO

    My first BMO began as a cosplay prop for my daughter. She and her friends are huge fans of Adventure Time and made their costumes for Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, and Finn. It was my job to come up with a BMO.

    Raspberry Pi BMO Laura Herzberg Bob Herzberg

    Bob as Banana Guard, daughter Laura as Princess Bubblegum, and son Steven as Finn

    I wanted something electronic, and also interactive if possible. And it had to run on battery power. There was only one option that I found that would work: the Raspberry Pi.

    Building a living little boy

    BMO’s basic internals consist of the Raspberry Pi, an 8” HDMI monitor, and a USB battery pack. The body is made from laser-cut MDF wood, which I sanded, sealed, and painted. I added 3D-printed arms and legs along with some vinyl lettering to complete the look. There is also a small wireless keyboard that works as a remote control.

    Adventure Time BMO prop
    Adventure Time BMO prop
    Adventure Time BMO prop
    Adventure Time BMO prop

    To make the front panel button function, I created a custom PCB, mounted laser-cut acrylic buttons on it, and connected it to the Pi’s IO header.

    Inside BMO - Raspberry Pi BMO Laura Herzberg Bob Herzberg

    Custom-made PCBs control BMO’s gaming buttons and USB input.

    The USB jack is extended with another custom PCB, which gives BMO USB ports on the front panel. His battery life is an impressive 8 hours of continuous use.

    The main brain game frame

    Most of BMO’s personality comes from custom animations that my daughter created and that were then turned into MP4 video files. The animations are triggered by the remote keyboard. Some versions of BMO have an internal microphone, and the Google Voice API is used to translate the user’s voice and map it to an appropriate response, so it’s possible to have a conversation with BMO.

    The final components of Raspberry Pi BMO Laura Herzberg Bob Herzberg

    The Raspberry Pi Camera Module was also put to use. Some BMOs have a servo that can pop up a camera, called GoMO, which takes pictures. Although some people mistake it for ghost detecting equipment, BMO just likes taking nice pictures.

    Who wants to play video games?

    Playing games on BMO is as simple as loading one of the emulators supported by Raspbian.

    BMO connected to SNES controllers - Raspberry Pi BMO Laura Herzberg Bob Herzberg

    I’m partial to the Atari 800 emulator, since I used to write games for that platform when I was just starting to learn programming. The front-panel USB ports are used for connecting gamepads, or his front-panel buttons and D-Pad can be used.

    Adventure time

    BMO has been a lot of fun to bring to conventions. He makes it to ComicCon San Diego each year and has been as far away as DragonCon in Atlanta, where he finally got to meet the voice of BMO, Niki Yang.

    BMO's back panel - Raspberry Pi BMO Laura Herzberg Bob Herzberg

    BMO’s back panel, autographed by Niki Yang

    One day, I received an email from the producer of Adventure Time, Kelly Crews, with a very special request. Kelly was looking for a birthday present for the show’s creator, Pendleton Ward. It was either luck or coincidence that I just was finishing up the latest version of BMO. Niki Yang added some custom greetings just for Pen.

    BMO Wishes Pendleton Ward a Happy Birthday!

    Happy birthday to Pendleton Ward, the creator of, well, you know what. We were asked to build Pen his very own BMO and with help from Niki Yang and the Adventure Time crew here is the result.

    We added a few more items inside, including a 3D-printed heart, a medal, and a certificate which come from the famous Be More episode that explains BMO’s origins.

    Back of Adventure Time BMO prop
    Adventure Time BMO prop
    Adventure Time BMO prop
    Adventure Time BMO prop

    BMO was quite a challenge to create. Fabricating the enclosure required several different techniques and materials. Fortunately, bringing him to life was quite simple once he had a Raspberry Pi inside!

    Find out more

    Be sure to follow Bob’s adventures with BMO at the Build Your Own BMO blog. And if you’ve built your own prop from television or film using a Raspberry Pi, be sure to share it with us in the comments below or on our social media channels.


    All images c/o Bob and Laura Herzberg

    The post I am Beemo, a little living boy: Adventure Time prop build appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

    Physics cheats

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

    Anonymous asks:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


    Jumping is a giant hack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ground sticking

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

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

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


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


    Ah. Welcome to hell.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    Game friction vs real-world friction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hang on, what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A graph of the relationship between friction and move factor

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

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

    A graph showing stable velocity shooting up dramatically as friction increases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    That was a hell of a diversion!

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