Tag Archives: reputation

New – SES Dedicated IP Pools

Post Syndicated from Randall Hunt original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-ses-dedicated-ip-pools/

Today we released Dedicated IP Pools for Amazon Simple Email Service (SES). With dedicated IP pools, you can specify which dedicated IP addresses to use for sending different types of email. Dedicated IP pools let you use your SES for different tasks. For instance, you can send transactional emails from one set of IPs and you can send marketing emails from another set of IPs.

If you’re not familiar with Amazon SES these concepts may not make much sense. We haven’t had the chance to cover SES on this blog since 2016, which is a shame, so I want to take a few steps back and talk about the service as a whole and some of the enhancements the team has made over the past year. If you just want the details on this new feature I strongly recommend reading the Amazon Simple Email Service Blog.

What is SES?

So, what is SES? If you’re a customer of Amazon.com you know that we send a lot of emails. Bought something? You get an email. Order shipped? You get an email. Over time, as both email volumes and types increased Amazon.com needed to build an email platform that was flexible, scalable, reliable, and cost-effective. SES is the result of years of Amazon’s own work in dealing with email and maximizing deliverability.

In short: SES gives you the ability to send and receive many types of email with the monitoring and tools to ensure high deliverability.

Sending an email is easy; one simple API call:

import boto3
ses = boto3.client('ses')
ses.send_email(
    [email protected]',
    Destination={'ToAddresses': [[email protected]']},
    Message={
        'Subject': {'Data': 'Hello, World!'},
        'Body': {'Text': {'Data': 'Hello, World!'}}
    }
)

Receiving and reacting to emails is easy too. You can set up rulesets that forward received emails to Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS), or AWS Lambda – you could even trigger a Amazon Lex bot through Lambda to communicate with your customers over email. SES is a powerful tool for building applications. The image below shows just a fraction of the capabilities:

Deliverability 101

Deliverability is the percentage of your emails that arrive in your recipients’ inboxes. Maintaining deliverability is a shared responsibility between AWS and the customer. AWS takes the fight against spam very seriously and works hard to make sure services aren’t abused. To learn more about deliverability I recommend the deliverability docs. For now, understand that deliverability is an important aspect of email campaigns and SES has many tools that enable a customer to manage their deliverability.

Dedicated IPs and Dedicated IP pools

When you’re starting out with SES your emails are sent through a shared IP. That IP is responsible for sending mail on behalf of many customers and AWS works to maintain appropriate volume and deliverability on each of those IPs. However, when you reach a sufficient volume shared IPs may not be the right solution.

By creating a dedicated IP you’re able to fully control the reputations of those IPs. This makes it vastly easier to troubleshoot any deliverability or reputation issues. It’s also useful for many email certification programs which require a dedicated IP as a commitment to maintaining your email reputation. Using the shared IPs of the Amazon SES service is still the right move for many customers but if you have sustained daily sending volume greater than hundreds of thousands of emails per day you might want to consider a dedicated IP. One caveat to be aware of: if you’re not sending a sufficient volume of email with a consistent pattern a dedicated IP can actually hurt your reputation. Dedicated IPs are $24.95 per address per month at the time of this writing – but you can find out more at the pricing page.

Before you can use a Dedicated IP you need to “warm” it. You do this by gradually increasing the volume of emails you send through a new address. Each IP needs time to build a positive reputation. In March of this year SES released the ability to automatically warm your IPs over the course of 45 days. This feature is on by default for all new dedicated IPs.

Customers who send high volumes of email will typically have multiple dedicated IPs. Today the SES team released dedicated IP pools to make managing those IPs easier. Now when you send email you can specify a configuration set which will route your email to an IP in a pool based on the pool’s association with that configuration set.

One of the other major benefits of this feature is that it allows customers who previously split their email sending across several AWS accounts (to manage their reputation for different types of email) to consolidate into a single account.

You can read the documentation and blog for more info.

Porn Producer Says He’ll Prove That AMC TV Exec is a BitTorrent Pirate

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/porn-producer-says-hell-prove-that-amc-tv-exec-is-a-bittorrent-pirate-170818/

When people are found sharing copyrighted pornographic content online in the United States, there’s always a chance that an angry studio will attempt to track down the perpertrator in pursuit of a cash settlement.

That’s what adult studio Flava Works did recently, after finding its content being shared without permission on a number of gay-focused torrent sites. It’s now clear that their target was Marc Juris, President & General Manager of AMC-owned WE tv. Until this week, however, that information was secret.

As detailed in our report yesterday, Flava Works contacted Juris with an offer of around $97,000 to settle the case before trial. And, crucially, before Juris was publicly named in a lawsuit. If Juris decided not to pay, that amount would increase significantly, Flava Works CEO Phillip Bleicher told him at the time.

Not only did Juris not pay, he actually went on the offensive, filing a ‘John Doe’ complaint in a California district court which accused Flava Works of extortion and blackmail. It’s possible that Juris felt that this would cause Flava Works to back off but in fact, it had quite the opposite effect.

In a complaint filed this week in an Illinois district court, Flava Works named Juris and accused him of a broad range of copyright infringement offenses.

The complaint alleges that Juris was a signed-up member of Flava Works’ network of websites, from where he downloaded pornographic content as his subscription allowed. However, it’s claimed that Juris then uploaded this material elsewhere, in breach of copyright law.

“Defendant downloaded copyrighted videos of Flava Works as part of his paid memberships and, in violation of the terms and conditions of the paid sites, posted and distributed the aforesaid videos on other websites, including websites with peer to peer sharing and torrents technology,” the complaint reads.

“As a result of Defendant’ conduct, third parties were able to download the copyrighted videos, without permission of Flava Works.”

In addition to demanding injunctions against Juris, Flava Works asks the court for a judgment in its favor amounting to a cool $1.2m, more than twelve times the amount it was initially prepared to settle for. It’s a huge amount, but according to CEO Phillip Bleicher, it’s what his company is owed, despite Juris being a former customer.

“Juris was a member of various Flava Works websites at various times dating back to 2006. He is no longer a member and his login info has been blocked by us to prevent him from re-joining,” Bleicher informs TF.

“We allow full downloads, although each download a person performs, it tags the video with a hidden code that identifies who the user was that downloaded it and their IP info and date / time.”

We asked Bleicher how he can be sure that the content downloaded from Flava Works and re-uploaded elsewhere was actually uploaded by Juris. Fine details weren’t provided but he’s insistent that the company’s evidence holds up.

“We identified him directly, this was done by cross referencing all his IP logins with Flava Works, his email addresses he used and his usernames. We can confirm that he is/was a member of Gay-Torrents.org and Gayheaven.org. We also believe (we will find out in discovery) that he is a member of a Russian file sharing site called GayTorrent.Ru,” he says.

While the technicalities of who downloaded and shared what will be something for the court to decide, there’s still Juris’ allegations that Bleicher used extortion-like practices to get him to settle and used his relative fame against him. Bleicher says that’s not how things played out.

“[Juris] hired an attorney and they agreed to settle out of court. But then we saw him still accessing the file sharing sites (one site shows a user’s last login) and we were waiting on the settlement agreement to be drafted up by his attorney,” he explains.

“When he kept pushing the date of when we would see an agreement back we gave him a final deadline and said that after this date we would sue [him] and with all lawsuits – we make a press release.”

Bleicher says at this point Juris replaced his legal team and hired lawyer Mark Geragos, who Bleicher says tried to “bully” him, warning him of potential criminal offenses.

“Your threats in the last couple months to ‘expose’ Mr. Juris knowing he is a high profile individual, i.e., today you threatened to issue a press release, to induce him into wiring you close to $100,000 is outright extortion and subject to criminal prosecution,” Geragos wrote.

“I suggest you direct your attention to various statutes which specifically criminalize your conduct in the various jurisdictions where you have threatened suit.”

Interestingly, Geragos then went on to suggest that the lawsuit may ultimately backfire, since going public might affect Flava Works’ reputation in the gay market.

“With respect to Mr. Juris, your actions have been nothing but extortion and we reject your attempts and will vigorously pursue all available remedies against you,” Geragos’ email reads.

“We intend to use the platform you have provided to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community of this new form of digital extortion that you promote.”

But Bleicher, it seems, is up for a fight.

“Marc knows what he did and enjoyed downloading our videos and sharing them and those of videos of other studios, but now he has been caught,” he told the lawyer.

“This is the kind of case I would like to take all the way to trial, win or lose. It shows
people that want to steal our copyrighted videos that we aggressively protect our intellectual property.”

But to the tune of $1.2m? Apparently so.

“We could get up to $150,000 per infringement – we have solid proof of eight full videos – not to mention we have caught [Juris] downloading many other studios’ videos too – I think – but not sure – the number was over 75,” Bleicher told TF.

It’s quite rare for this kind of dispute to play out in public, especially considering Juris’ profile and occupation. Only time will tell if this will ultimately end in a settlement, but Bleicher and Juris seemed determined at this stage to stand by their ground and fight this out in court.

Complaint (pdf)

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

Announcing Dedicated IP Pools

Post Syndicated from Brent Meyer original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/ses/announcing-dedicated-ip-pools/

The Amazon SES team is pleased to announce that you can now create groups of dedicated IP addresses, called dedicated IP pools, for your email sending activities.

Prior to the availability of this feature, if you leased several dedicated IP addresses to use with Amazon SES, there was no way to specify which dedicated IP address to use for a specific email. Dedicated IP pools solve this problem by allowing you to send emails from specific IP addresses.

This post includes information and procedures related to dedicated IP pools.

What are dedicated IP pools?

In order to understand dedicated IP pools, you should first be familiar with the concept of dedicated IP addresses. Customers who send large volumes of email will typically lease one or more dedicated IP addresses to use when sending mail from Amazon SES. To learn more, see our blog post about dedicated IP addresses.

If you lease several dedicated IP addresses for use with Amazon SES, you can organize these addresses into groups, called pools. You can then associate each pool with a configuration set. When you send an email that specifies a configuration set, that email will be sent from the IP addresses in the associated pool.

When should I use dedicated IP pools?

Dedicated IP pools are especially useful for customers who send several different types of email using Amazon SES. For example, if you use Amazon SES to send both marketing emails and transactional emails, you can create a pool for marketing emails and another for transactional emails.

By using dedicated IP pools, you can isolate the sender reputations for each of these types of communications. Using dedicated IP pools gives you complete control over the sender reputations of the dedicated IP addresses you lease from Amazon SES.

How do I create and use dedicated IP pools?

There are two basic steps for creating and using dedicated IP pools. First, create a dedicated IP pool in the Amazon SES console and associate it with a configuration set. Next, when you send email, be sure to specify the configuration set associated with the IP pool you want to use.

For step-by-step procedures, see Creating Dedicated IP Pools in the Amazon SES Developer Guide.

Will my email sending process change?

If you do not use dedicated IP addresses with Amazon SES, then your email sending process will not change.

If you use dedicated IP pools, your email sending process may change slightly. In most cases, you will need to specify a configuration set in the emails you send. To learn more about using configuration sets, see Specifying a Configuration Set When You Send Email in the Amazon SES Developer Guide.

Any dedicated IP addresses that you lease that are not part of a dedicated IP pool will automatically be added to a default pool. If you send email without specifying a configuration set that is associated with a pool, then that email will be sent from one of the addresses in the default pool.

Dedicated IP pools are now available in the following AWS Regions: us-west-2 (Oregon), us-east-1 (Virginia), and eu-west-1 (Ireland).

We hope you enjoy this feature. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment on this post, or let us know in the Amazon SES Forum.

Showtime Seeks Injunction to Stop Mayweather v McGregor Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/showtime-seeks-injunction-to-stop-mayweather-v-mcgregor-piracy-170816/

It’s the fight that few believed would become reality but on August 26, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will duke it out with UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor.

Despite being labeled a freak show by boxing purists, it is set to become the biggest combat sports event of all time. Mayweather, undefeated in his professional career, will face brash Irishman McGregor, who has gained a reputation for accepting fights with anyone – as long as there’s a lot of money involved. Big money is definitely the theme of the Mayweather bout.

Dubbed “The Money Fight”, some predict it could pull in a billion dollars, with McGregor pocketing $100m and Mayweather almost certainly more. Many of those lucky enough to gain entrance on the night will have spent thousands on their tickets but for the millions watching around the world….iiiiiiiit’s Showtimmme….with hefty PPV prices attached.

Of course, not everyone will be handing over $89.95 to $99.99 to watch the event officially on Showtime. Large numbers will turn to the many hundreds of websites set to stream the fight for free online, which has the potential to reduce revenues for all involved. With that in mind, Showtime Networks has filed a lawsuit in California which attempts to preemptively tackle this piracy threat.

The suit targets a number of John Does said to be behind a network of dozens of sites planning to stream the fight online for free. Defendant 1, using the alias “Kopa Mayweather”, is allegedly the operator of LiveStreamHDQ, a site that Showtime has grappled with previously.

“Plaintiff has had extensive experience trying to prevent live streaming websites from engaging in the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of Plaintiff’s copyrighted works in the past,” the lawsuit reads.

“In addition to bringing litigation, this experience includes sending cease and desist demands to LiveStreamHDQ in response to its unauthorized live streaming of the record-breaking fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.”

Showtime says that LiveStreamHDQ is involved in the operations of at least 41 other sites that have been set up to specifically target people seeking to watch the fight without paying. Each site uses a .US ccTLD domain name.

Sample of the sites targeted by the lawsuit

Showtime informs the court that the registrant email and IP addresses of the domains overlap, which provides further proof that they’re all part of the same operation. The TV network also highlights various statements on the sites in question which demonstrate intent to show the fight without permission, including the highly dubious “Watch From Here Mayweather vs Mcgregor Live with 4k Display.”

In addition, the lawsuit is highly critical of efforts by the sites’ operator(s) to stuff the pages with fight-related keywords in order to draw in as much search engine traffic as they can.

“Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have engaged in such keyword stuffing as a form of search engine optimization in an effort to attract as much web traffic as possible in the form of Internet users searching for a way to access a live stream of the Fight,” it reads.

While site operators are expected to engage in such behavior, Showtime says that these SEO efforts have been particularly successful, obtaining high-ranking positions in major search engines for the would-be pirate sites.

For instance, Showtime says that a Google search for “Mayweather McGregor Live” results in four of the target websites appearing in the first 100 results, i.e the first 10 pages. Interestingly, however, to get that result searchers would need to put the search in quotes as shown above, since a plain search fails to turn anything up in hundreds of results.

At this stage, the important thing to note is that none of the sites are currently carrying links to the fight, because the fight is yet to happen. Nevertheless, Showtime is convinced that come fight night, all of the target websites will be populated with pirate links, accessible for free or after paying a fee. This needs to be stopped, it argues.

“Defendants’ anticipated unlawful distribution will impair the marketability and profitability of the Coverage, and interfere with Plaintiff’s own authorized distribution of the Coverage, because Defendants will provide consumers with an opportunity to view the Coverage in its entirety for free, rather than paying for the Coverage provided through Plaintiff’s authorized channels.

“This is especially true where, as here, the work at issue is live coverage of a one-time live sporting event whose outcome is unknown,” the network writes.

Showtime informs the court that it made efforts to contact the sites in question but had just a single response from an individual who claimed to be sports blogger who doesn’t offer streaming services. The undertone is one of disbelief.

In closing, Showtime demands a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction, prohibiting the defendants from making the fight available in any way, and/or “forming new entities” in order to circumvent any subsequent court order. Compensation for suspected damages is also requested.

Showtime previously applied for and obtained a similar injunction to cover the (hugely disappointing) Mayweather v Pacquiao fight in 2015. In that case, websites were ordered to be taken down on the day before the fight.

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

BREIN is Taking Infamous ‘Piracy’ Hosting Provider Ecatel to Court

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-is-taking-infamous-piracy-hosting-provider-ecatel-to-court-170815/

A regular website can be easily hosted in most countries of the world but when the nature of the project begins to step on toes, opportunities begin to reduce. Openly hosting The Pirate Bay, for example, is something few providers want to get involved with.

There are, however, providers out there who specialize in hosting services that others won’t touch. They develop a reputation of turning a blind eye to their customers’ activities, only reacting when a crisis looms on the horizon. Despite the problems, there are a few that are surprisingly resilient.

One such host is Netherlands-based Ecatel, which has hit the headlines many times over the years for allegedly having customers involved in warez, torrents, and streaming, not to mention spam and malware. For hosting the former group, it’s now in the crosshairs of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

According to an application for a witness hearing filed with The Court of the Hague by BREIN, Ecatel has repeatedly hosted websites dealing in infringing content over recent years. While this is nothing particularly out of the ordinary, BREIN claims that complaints filed against the sites were dealt with slowly by Ecatel or not at all.

Ecatel Ltd is a company incorporated in the UK with servers in the Netherlands but since 2015, another hosting company called Novogara has appeared in tandem. Court documents suggest that Novogara is associated with Ecatel, something that was confirmed early 2016 in an email sent out by Ecatel itself.

“We’d like to inform you that all services of Ecatel Ltd are taken over by a new brand called Novogara Ltd with immediate effect. The take-over includes Ecatel and all her subsidiaries,” the email read.

Muddying the waters a little more, in 2015 Ecatel’s IP addresses were apparently taken over by Quasi Networks Ltd, a Seychelles-based company whose business is described locally as being conducted entirely overseas.

“Stichting BREIN has found several websites in the network of Quasi Networks with obviously infringing content. Quasi Networks, however, does not respond structurally to requests for closing those websites. This involves unlawful acts against the parties associated with the BREIN Foundation,” a ruling from the Court reads.

As a result, BREIN wants a witness hearing with three defendants connected to the Ecatel/Novgara/Quasi group of companies in order to establish the relationship between the businesses, where their servers are, and who is behind Quasi Networks.

“Stichting BREIN is interested in this information in order to be able to judge who it can appeal to and whether it is useful to start a legal procedure,” the Court adds.

Two of the defendants failed to lodge a defense against BREIN’s application but one objected to the request for a hearing. He said that since Quasi Networks, Ecatel and Novogara are all incorporated outside the Netherlands, a trial must also be conducted abroad and therefore a Dutch judge would not have jurisdiction.

He also argued that BREIN would use the witness hearing as a “fishing expedition” in order to gather information it currently does not have, in order to formulate some kind of case against the defendants, in one way or another.

In a decision published this week, The Court of the Hague rejected that argument, noting that the basis for the claim is copyright infringement through Netherlands-hosted websites. Furthermore, the majority of the witnesses are resident in the district of The Hague. It also underlined the importance of a hearing.

“The request for holding a preliminary witness hearing opens an independent petition procedure, which does not address the eligibility of any claim that may be lodged. An investigation must be made by the judge who has to deal with and decide the main case – if it comes.

“The court points out that a preliminary witness hearing is now (partly) necessary to clarify whether and to what extent a claim has any chance of success,” the decision reads.

According to documents published by Companies House in the UK, Ecatel Ltd ceased to exist this morning, having been dissolved at the request of its directors.

The hearing of the witnesses is set to take place on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 9.30 in the Palace of Justice at Prince Claus 60 in The Hague.

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

Open and Click Tracking Have Arrived

Post Syndicated from Brent Meyer original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/ses/open-and-click-tracking-have-arrived/

We’re pleased to announce the addition of open and click tracking metrics to Amazon SES. These metrics will help you measure the effectiveness of the email campaigns you send using Amazon SES.

We’re also adding the ability to publish email sending metrics to Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) using event publishing. This feature gives you greater control over the sending notifications you receive through Amazon SNS.

What’s new in this release?

When you send an email using Amazon SES, we now collect metrics related to opens and clicks. Opens, in this sense, refers to the number of users who successfully received your email and opened it in their email clients; clicks refers to the number of users who received an email and clicked one or more links in it.

Additionally, you can now use event publishing to push email sending notifications—including open and click notifications—using Amazon SNS. Previously, you could send account-level notifications through Amazon SNS. These notifications were pretty limited: you could only receive notifications about bounces, complaints, and deliveries, and you would receive notifications about all of these events across your entire Amazon SES account. Now you can use event publishing to send notifications about deliveries, opens, clicks, bounces, and complaints. Furthermore, you can set up event publishing so that you only receive notifications about emails sent using the configuration sets you specify in those emails.

Why should I use open and click tracking?

Whether you are sending marketing emails, transactional emails, or notifications, you need to know how effective your communications are. The email sending metrics feature of Amazon SES gives you data about entire email response funnel—the total number of emails that were sent, bounced, viewed, and clicked. You can then transform those insights into action.

For example, the open and click tracking feature can help you identify the customers who are most interested in receiving the messages you send. By narrowing down your list of recipients and focusing on your most engaged customers, you can save money (by sending fewer messages), improve the response rates of your marketing campaigns (by targeting only the customers who are most interested in what you have to say), and protect your sender reputation (by reducing the number of bounces and complaints against your sending domain).

How do I enable open and click tracking?

If you’ve set up Sending Metrics in the past, then you can easily add open and click tracking to your existing configuration sets. On the Configuration Sets page, choose the configuration set that contains your sending event destination; edit the event destination, check the boxes for Open and Click (as shown in the image below), and then choose Save.

How does open and click tracking work?

Amazon SES makes very minor changes to your emails in order to make open and click tracking work. At the bottom of each message, we insert a 1 pixel by 1 pixel transparent GIF image. Each email includes a unique link to this image file; when the image is opened, we can tell exactly which message was opened and by whom.

To track clicks, we set up a redirect for each link in the message. When a recipient clicks a link, they are sent to an Amazon SES server, and are immediately forwarded to the destination address. As with open tracking, each of these redirect links is unique, allowing us to easily determine which recipient clicked the link, when they clicked it, and the email from which they arrived at the link.

Can I disable click tracking?

You can disable click tracking by adding a special tag to the anchor tags in your HTML. For example, if you were linking to the AWS home page, a normal anchor link would look something like this:

<a href="https://aws.amazon.com/">Amazon Web Services</a>

To disable click tracking for that same link, you would modify to look like this:

<a ses:no-track href="https://aws.amazon.com/">Amazon Web Services</a>

Because the ses:no-track attribute is non-standard HTML, we automatically remove it from the version of the email that arrives in your recipients’ inboxes.

How do I use event publishing with Amazon SNS?

If you’ve set up event destinations in the past, then the process of setting up an Amazon SNS event destination will be very familiar. You can add an Amazon SNS destination to an existing configuration set, or create a new configuration set that uses Amazon SNS as its event destination. To learn more, see “Set Up an Amazon SNS Event Destination for Amazon SES Event Publishing” in our Developer Guide.

We’re excited about this release. Let us know what you think of these new features in the SES Forum, or in the comments for this post.

How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers

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

PR for getting your first 1000 customers

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

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

Paths to Attract Your First 1,000 Customers

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

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

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

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

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

How to Pitch the Press

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

Have a compelling story

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

The basics of your story

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

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

“But my story isn’t that exciting”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The headline

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

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

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

The “Techmeme Test”

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

Embargoes, exclusives and calls-to-action

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

Embargoes

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

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

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

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

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

How to Find the Most Authoritative Sites / Authors

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

Determine the publications

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

Determine the journalists

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

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

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

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

Leveraging Google

Google author search by date

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

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

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

How to find the most socially shared authors

Buzzsumo search for most shared by date

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

How to Find Author Email Addresses

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

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

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

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

Don’t spam

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

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

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

Build a relationship

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

Stay organized

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

Make their life easy

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

Get to know them

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

Prepare your materials

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

Pitch

A pitch has to be short and compelling.

Subject Line

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

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

Body

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

Hey John,

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

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

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

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

Gleb Budman        

CEO and Co-Founder

Backblaze, Inc.

Automatic, Secure, High-Performance Online Backup

Cell: XXX-XXX-XXXX

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

The Bad: It’s too long.

I got better later. Here’s an example:

Subject: Does temperature affect hard drive life?

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

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

Timing

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

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

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

Follow-up

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

My general rule is 3 emails.

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Your First 1,000 Customers With Press

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

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

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

[$] Emacs and Magit

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/727550/rss

The Git source-code management system is widely known for its flexibility
and for the distributed development model that it supports. Its reputation
for ease of use is … less well established. There should, thus, be
an opening for front-end systems that can make Git easier to use. One of
the most comprehensive Git front ends, Magit, works within the Emacs editor and has a
wide following. But Magit has run into some turbulence within the Emacs
development community that is blocking its wider distribution.

Creating a Daily Dashboard to Track Bounces and Complaints

Post Syndicated from Rubem De Lima Savordelli original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/ses/creating-a-daily-dashboard-to-track-bounces-and-complaints/

Bounce and complaint rates can have a negative impact on your sender reputation, and a bad sender reputation makes it less likely that the emails you send will reach your recipients’ inboxes. Further, if your bounce or complaint rate is too high, we may have to suspend your Amazon SES account to protect other users. For these reasons, it is very important that you have a process in place to remove email addresses that have bounced or complained from your recipient list.

This article includes background information about bounces and complaints. It also discusses a sample solution that you can use to keep track of the bounce and complaint notifications that you receive.

What is a Bounce?

A bounce occurs when a message cannot be delivered to the intended recipient. There are two types of bounces:

  • A hard bounce occurs when a persistent issue prevents the message from being delivered. Hard bounces can occur when the recipient’s email address does not exist or the receiving domain does not exist. When an email hard bounces, it means that the recipient did not receive the message, and Amazon SES will no longer attempt to deliver the message.
  • A soft bounce occurs when a temporary issue prevents a message from being delivered. Soft bounces can occur when the recipient’s mailbox is full, when the connection to the receiving email server times out, or when there are too many simultaneous connections to the receiving mail server. When an email soft bounces, Amazon will attempt to redeliver it. If the issue persists, Amazon SES will stop trying to deliver the message, and the soft bounce will be converted to a hard bounce.

To learn more about bounces, see the Amazon SES Bounce FAQ in the Amazon SES Developer Guide.

What is a Complaint?

When an email recipient clicks the Mark as Spam (or similar) button in his or her email client, the ISP records the event as a complaint. If the emails that you send generate too many of these complaint events, the ISP may conclude that you’re sending spam. Many ISPs provide feedback loops, in which the ISP provides you with information about the message that generated the complaint event.

For more information about complaints, see the Amazon SES Complaint FAQ in the Amazon SES Developer Guide.

Building a Daily Dashboard

We recently added a section to the Amazon SES Developer Guide that documents the process of creating a daily bounce and complaint tracking dashboard. You can find the procedures for creating this daily dashboard at http://docs.aws.amazon.com/ses/latest/DeveloperGuide/bouncecomplaintdashboard.html.

This solution uses several AWS components—including Simple Notification Service (SNS), Simple Queue Service (SQS), Identity and Access Management (IAM), Simple Storage Service (S3), Lambda, and CloudWatch—to create a dashboard that is emailed to you every day. The daily dashboard, illustrated in the following image, contains a list of the messages that generated bounces and complaints over the past 24 hours.

This solution uses SNS to track bounce and complaint notifications. Those notifications are then collected in an SQS queue. A CloudWatch trigger initiates a Lambda function, which collects the notification events from SQS, processes them, publishes a dashboard to an S3 bucket, and sends you an email when the dashboard is ready to view. The following image illustrates the architecture of this solution.

When you receive the daily dashboard, you should use it to remove the addresses that hard bounced or complained from your recipient list. This measure will help protect your deliverability and inbox placement rates.

This solution is just one method of tracking the bounces and complaints that you receive when sending email using Amazon SES. We hope you find this sample solution useful. If you have any questions about this solution, please leave a comment below, or start a discussion in the Amazon SES forum.

The Pirate Bay Isn’t Affected By Adverse Court Rulings – Everyone Else Is

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-isnt-affected-by-adverse-court-rulings-everyone-else-is-170618/

For more than a decade The Pirate Bay has been the world’s most controversial site. Delivering huge quantities of copyrighted content to the masses, the platform is revered and reviled across the copyright spectrum.

Its reputation is one of a defiant Internet swashbuckler, but due to changes in how the site has been run in more recent times, its current philosophy is more difficult to gauge. What has never been in doubt, however, is the site’s original intent to be as provocative as possible.

Through endless publicity stunts, some real, some just for the ‘lulz’, The Pirate Bay managed to attract a massive audience, all while incurring the wrath of every major copyright holder in the world.

Make no mistake, they all queued up to strike back, but every subsequent rightsholder action was met by a Pirate Bay middle finger, two fingers, or chin flick, depending on the mood of the day. This only served to further delight the masses, who happily spread the word while keeping their torrents flowing.

This vicious circle of being targeted by the entertainment industries, mocking them, and then reaping the traffic benefits, developed into the cheapest long-term marketing campaign the Internet had ever seen. But nothing is ever truly for free and there have been consequences.

After taunting Hollywood and the music industry with its refusals to capitulate, endless legal action that the site would have ordinarily been forced to participate in largely took place without The Pirate Bay being present. It doesn’t take a law degree to work out what happened in each and every one of those cases, whatever complex route they took through the legal system. No defense, no win.

For example, the web-blocking phenomenon across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia was driven by the site’s absolute resilience and although there would clearly have been other scapegoats had The Pirate Bay disappeared, the site was the ideal bogeyman the copyright lobby required to move forward.

Filing blocking lawsuits while bringing hosts, advertisers, and ISPs on board for anti-piracy initiatives were also made easier with the ‘evil’ Pirate Bay still online. Immune from every anti-piracy technique under the sun, the existence of the platform in the face of all onslaughts only strengthened the cases of those arguing for even more drastic measures.

Over a decade, this has meant a significant tightening of the sharing and streaming climate. Without any big legislative changes but plenty of case law against The Pirate Bay, web-blocking is now a walk in the park, ad hoc domain seizures are a fairly regular occurrence, and few companies want to host sharing sites. Advertisers and brands are also hesitant over where they place their ads. It’s a very different world to the one of 10 years ago.

While it would be wrong to attribute every tightening of the noose to the actions of The Pirate Bay, there’s little doubt that the site and its chaotic image played a huge role in where copyright enforcement is today. The platform set out to provoke and succeeded in every way possible, gaining supporters in their millions. It could also be argued it kicked a hole in a hornets’ nest, releasing the hell inside.

But perhaps the site’s most amazing achievement is the way it has managed to stay online, despite all the turmoil.

This week yet another ruling, this time from the powerful European Court of Justice, found that by offering links in the manner it does, The Pirate Bay and other sites are liable for communicating copyright works to the public. Of course, this prompted the usual swathe of articles claiming that this could be the final nail in the site’s coffin.

Wrong.

In common with every ruling, legal defeat, and legislative restriction put in place due to the site’s activities, this week’s decision from the ECJ will have zero effect on the Pirate Bay’s availability. For right or wrong, the site was breaking the law long before this ruling and will continue to do so until it decides otherwise.

What we have instead is a further tightened legal landscape that will have a lasting effect on everything BUT the site, including weaker torrent sites, Internet users, and user-uploaded content sites such as YouTube.

With The Pirate Bay carrying on regardless, that is nothing short of remarkable.

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

Digital painter rundown

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/06/17/digital-painter-rundown/

Another patron post! IndustrialRobot asks:

You should totally write about drawing/image manipulation programs! (Inspired by https://eev.ee/blog/2015/05/31/text-editor-rundown/)

This is a little trickier than a text editor comparison — while most text editors are cross-platform, quite a few digital art programs are not. So I’m effectively unable to even try a decent chunk of the offerings. I’m also still a relatively new artist, and image editors are much harder to briefly compare than text editors…

Right, now that your expectations have been suitably lowered:

Krita

I do all of my digital art in Krita. It’s pretty alright.

Okay so Krita grew out of Calligra, which used to be KOffice, which was an office suite designed for KDE (a Linux desktop environment). I bring this up because KDE has a certain… reputation. With KDE, there are at least three completely different ways to do anything, each of those ways has ludicrous amounts of customization and settings, and somehow it still can’t do what you want.

Krita inherits this aesthetic by attempting to do literally everything. It has 17 different brush engines, more than 70 layer blending modes, seven color picker dockers, and an ungodly number of colorspaces. It’s clearly intended primarily for drawing, but it also supports animation and vector layers and a pretty decent spread of raster editing tools. I just right now discovered that it has Photoshop-like “layer styles” (e.g. drop shadow), after a year and a half of using it.

In fairness, Krita manages all of this stuff well enough, and (apparently!) it manages to stay out of your way if you’re not using it. In less fairness, they managed to break erasing with a Wacom tablet pen for three months?

I don’t want to rag on it too hard; it’s an impressive piece of work, and I enjoy using it! The emotion it evokes isn’t so much frustration as… mystified bewilderment.

I once filed a ticket suggesting the addition of a brush size palette — a panel showing a grid of fixed brush sizes that makes it easy to switch between known sizes with a tablet pen (and increases the chances that you’ll be able to get a brush back to the right size again). It’s a prominent feature of Paint Tool SAI and Clip Studio Paint, and while I’ve never used either of those myself, I’ve seen a good few artists swear by it.

The developer response was that I could emulate the behavior by creating brush presets. But that’s flat-out wrong: getting the same effect would require creating a ton of brush presets for every brush I have, plus giving them all distinct icons so the size is obvious at a glance. Even then, it would be much more tedious to use and fill my presets with junk.

And that sort of response is what’s so mysterious to me. I’ve never even been able to use this feature myself, but a year of amateur painting with Krita has convinced me that it would be pretty useful. But a developer didn’t see the use and suggested an incredibly tedious alternative that only half-solves the problem and creates new ones. Meanwhile, of the 28 existing dockable panels, a quarter of them are different ways to choose colors.

What is Krita trying to be, then? What does Krita think it is? Who precisely is the target audience? I have no idea.


Anyway, I enjoy drawing in Krita well enough. It ships with a respectable set of brushes, and there are plenty more floating around. It has canvas rotation, canvas mirroring, perspective guide tools, and other art goodies. It doesn’t colordrop on right click by default, which is arguably a grave sin (it shows a customizable radial menu instead), but that’s easy to rebind. It understands having a background color beneath a bottom transparent layer, which is very nice. You can also toggle any brush between painting and erasing with the press of a button, and that turns out to be very useful.

It doesn’t support infinite canvases, though it does offer a one-click button to extend the canvas in a given direction. I’ve never used it (and didn’t even know what it did until just now), but would totally use an infinite canvas.

I haven’t used the animation support too much, but it’s pretty nice to have. Granted, the only other animation software I’ve used is Aseprite, so I don’t have many points of reference here. It’s a relatively new addition, too, so I assume it’ll improve over time.

The one annoyance I remember with animation was really an interaction with a larger annoyance, which is: working with selections kind of sucks. You can’t drag a selection around with the selection tool; you have to switch to the move tool. That would be fine if you could at least drag the selection ring around with the selection tool, but you can’t do that either; dragging just creates a new selection.

If you want to copy a selection, you have to explicitly copy it to the clipboard and paste it, which creates a new layer. Ctrl-drag with the move tool doesn’t work. So then you have to merge that layer down, which I think is where the problem with animation comes in: a new layer is non-animated by default, meaning it effectively appears in any frame, so simply merging it down with merge it onto every single frame of the layer below. And you won’t even notice until you switch frames or play back the animation. Not ideal.

This is another thing that makes me wonder about Krita’s sense of identity. It has a lot of fancy general-purpose raster editing features that even GIMP is still struggling to implement, like high color depth support and non-destructive filters, yet something as basic as working with selections is clumsy. (In fairness, GIMP is a bit clumsy here too, but it has a consistent notion of “floating selection” that’s easy enough to work with.)

I don’t know how well Krita would work as a general-purpose raster editor; I’ve never tried to use it that way. I can’t think of anything obvious that’s missing. The only real gotcha is that some things you might expect to be tools, like smudge or clone, are just types of brush in Krita.

GIMP

Ah, GIMP — open source’s answer to Photoshop.

It’s very obviously intended for raster editing, and I’m pretty familiar with it after half a lifetime of only using Linux. I even wrote a little Scheme script for it ages ago to automate some simple edits to a couple hundred files, back before I was aware of ImageMagick. I don’t know what to say about it, specifically; it’s fairly powerful and does a wide variety of things.

In fact I’d say it’s almost frustratingly intended for raster editing. I used GIMP in my first attempts at digital painting, before I’d heard of Krita. It was okay, but so much of it felt clunky and awkward. Painting is split between a pencil tool, a paintbrush tool, and an airbrush tool; I don’t really know why. The default brushes are largely uninteresting. Instead of brush presets, there are tool presets that can be saved for any tool; it’s a neat idea, but doesn’t feel like a real substitute for brush presets.

Much of the same functionality as Krita is there, but it’s all somehow more clunky. I’m sure it’s possible to fiddle with the interface to get something friendlier for painting, but I never really figured out how.

And then there’s the surprising stuff that’s missing. There’s no canvas rotation, for example. There’s only one type of brush, and it just stamps the same pattern along a path. I don’t think it’s possible to smear or blend or pick up color while painting. The only way to change the brush size is via the very sensitive slider on the tool options panel, which I remember being a little annoying with a tablet pen. Also, you have to specifically enable tablet support? It’s not difficult or anything, but I have no idea why the default is to ignore tablet pressure and treat it like a regular mouse cursor.

As I mentioned above, there’s also no support for high color depth or non-destructive editing, which is honestly a little embarrassing. Those are the major things Serious Professionals™ have been asking for for ages, and GIMP has been trying to provide them, but it’s taking a very long time. The first signs of GEGL, a new library intended to provide these features, appeared in GIMP 2.6… in 2008. The last major release was in 2012. GIMP has been working on this new plumbing for almost as long as Krita’s entire development history. (To be fair, Krita has also raised almost €90,000 from three Kickstarters to fund its development; I don’t know that GIMP is funded at all.)

I don’t know what’s up with GIMP nowadays. It’s still under active development, but the exact status and roadmap are a little unclear. I still use it for some general-purpose editing, but I don’t see any reason to use it to draw.

I do know that canvas rotation will be in the next release, and there was some experimentation with embedding MyPaint’s brush engine (though when I tried it it was basically unusable), so maybe GIMP is interested in wooing artists? I guess we’ll see.

MyPaint

Ah, MyPaint. I gave it a try once. Once.

It’s a shame, really. It sounds pretty great: specifically built for drawing, has very powerful brushes, supports an infinite canvas, supports canvas rotation, has a simple UI that gets out of your way. Perfect.

Or so it seems. But in MyPaint’s eagerness to shed unnecessary raster editing tools, it forgot a few of the more useful ones. Like selections.

MyPaint has no notion of a selection, nor of copy/paste. If you want to move a head to align better to a body, for example, the sanctioned approach is to duplicate the layer, erase the head from the old layer, erase everything but the head from the new layer, then move the new layer.

I can’t find anything that resembles HSL adjustment, either. I guess the workaround for that is to create H/S/L layers and floodfill them with different colors until you get what you want.

I can’t work seriously without these basic editing tools. I could see myself doodling in MyPaint, but Krita works just as well for doodling as for serious painting, so I’ve never gone back to it.

Drawpile

Drawpile is the modern equivalent to OpenCanvas, I suppose? It lets multiple people draw on the same canvas simultaneously. (I would not recommend it as a general-purpose raster editor.)

It’s a little clunky in places — I sometimes have bugs where keyboard focus gets stuck in the chat, or my tablet cursor becomes invisible — but the collaborative part works surprisingly well. It’s not a brush powerhouse or anything, and I don’t think it allows textured brushes, but it supports tablet pressure and canvas rotation and locked alpha and selections and whatnot.

I’ve used it a couple times, and it’s worked well enough that… well, other people made pretty decent drawings with it? I’m not sure I’ve managed yet. And I wouldn’t use it single-player. Still, it’s fun.

Aseprite

Aseprite is for pixel art so it doesn’t really belong here at all. But it’s very good at that and I like it a lot.

That’s all

I can’t name any other serious contender that exists for Linux.

I’m dimly aware of a thing called “Photo Shop” that’s more intended for photos but functions as a passable painter. More artists seem to swear by Paint Tool SAI and Clip Studio Paint. Also there’s Paint.NET, but I have no idea how well it’s actually suited for painting.

And that’s it! That’s all I’ve got. Krita for drawing, GIMP for editing, Drawpile for collaborative doodling.

Team DIMENSION Returns to The Piracy Scene

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/team-dimension-returns-to-the-piracy-scene-170608/

In April, one of the best known TV Scene groups suddenly disappeared.

DIMENSION has been a high profile name for over a decade, both in the Scene and on torrent sites, good for tens of thousands of TV-show releases.

Nearly two months had passed since the sudden disappearance and most followers had already said their virtual goodbyes. Out of nowhere, however, several new DIMENSION releases began popping up this week.

It started with a Gotham episode on Tuesday, followed by Angie Tribeca and Pretty Little Liars. The sudden reapparance came without a public explanation, but it’s pretty clear that the group is back in full swing.

DIMENSION returns

The question remains why the group was absent for so long and if the old crew is intact. TorrentFreak spoke to a source who says that the leader and several top members are no longer with the group.

A recent Scene notice titled “Farewell.To.Team-DIMENSION” appeared to confirm that there were internal struggles in the group. However, this appears to be fake, as it was copied from an earlier notice.

Still, there is no doubt that DIMENSION (and the associated LOL “group,” which releases the SD versions) has picked up where it left a few weeks ago, with new TV-releases coming out on a regular basis.

And while reputation is key in the Scene, the average downloader probably can’t be bothered by internal troubles and politics.

They just want their TV fix.

Pirate responses to the comeback

Update: The Scene notice referred to in this article is fake, we updated the article to reflect this.

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

Online Platforms Should Collaborate to Ban Piracy and Terrorism, Report Suggests

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/online-platforms-collaborate-ban-piracy-terrorism-report-suggests-170608/

With deep ties to the content industries, the Digital Citizens Alliance periodically produces reports on Internet piracy. It has published reports on cyberlockers and tried to blame Cloudflare for the spread of malware, for example.

One of the key themes pursued by DCA is that Internet piracy is inextricably linked to a whole bunch of other online evils and that tackling the former could deliver a much-needed body blow to the latter.

Its new report, titled ‘Trouble in Our Digital Midst’, takes this notion and runs with it, bundling piracy with everything from fake news to hacking, to malware and brand protection, to the sextortion of “young girls and boys” via their computer cameras.

The premise of the report is that cybercrime as a whole is undermining America’s trust in the Internet, noting that 64% of US citizens say that their trust in digital platforms has dropped in the last year. Given the topics under the spotlight, it doesn’t take long to see where this is going – Internet platforms like Google, Facebook and YouTube must tackle the problem.

“When asked, ‘In your opinion, are digital platforms doing enough to keep the Internet safe and trustworthy, or are do they need to do more?’ a staggering 75 percent responded that they need to do more to keep the Internet safe,” the report notes.

It’s abundantly clear that the report is mostly about piracy but a lot of effort has been expended to ensure that people support its general call for the Internet to be cleaned up. By drawing attention to things that even most pirates might find offensive, it’s easy to find more people in agreement.

“Nearly three-quarters of respondents see the pairing of brand name advertising with offensive online content – like ISIS/terrorism recruiting videos – as a threat to the continued trust and integrity of the Internet,” the report notes.

Of course, this is an incredibly sensitive topic. When big brand ads turned up next to terrorist recruiting videos on YouTube, there was an almighty stink, and rightly so. However, at every turn, the DCA report manages to weave the issue of piracy into the equation, noting that the problem includes the “$200 million in advertising that shows up on illegal content theft websites often unbeknownst to the brands.”

The overriding theme is that platforms like Google, Facebook, and YouTube should be able to tackle all of these problems in the same way. Filtering out a terrorist video is the same as removing a pirate movie. And making sure that ads for big brands don’t appear alongside terrorist videos will be just as easy as starving pirates of revenue, the suggestion goes.

But if terrorism doesn’t grind your gears, what about fake news?

“64 percent of Americans say that the Fake News issue has made them less likely to trust the Internet as a source of information,” the report notes.

At this juncture, Facebook gets a gentle pat on the back for dealing with fake news and employing 3,000 people to monitor for violent videos being posted to the network. This shows that the company “takes seriously” the potential harm bad actors pose to Internet safety. But in keeping with the theme running throughout the report, it’s clear DCA are carefully easing in the thin end of the wedge.

“We are at only the beginning of thinking through other kinds of illicit and illegal activity happening on digital platforms right now that we must gain or re-gain control over,” DCA writes.

Quite. In the very next sentence, the group goes on to warn about the sale of drugs and stolen credit cards, adding that the sale of illicit streaming devices (modified Kodi boxes etc) is actually an “insidious yet effective delivery mechanism to infect computers with malware such as Remote Access Trojans.”

Both Amazon and Facebook receive praise in the report for their recent banning (1,2) of augmented Kodi devices but their actions are actually framed as the companies protecting their own reputations, rather than the interests of the media groups that have been putting them under pressure.

“And though this issue underscores the challenges faced by digital platforms – not all of which act with the same level of responsibility – it also highlights the fact digital platforms can and will step up when their own brands are at stake,” the report reads.

But pirate content and Remote Access Trojans through Kodi boxes are only the beginning. Pirate sites are playing a huge part as well, DCA claims, with one in three “content theft websites” exposing people to identify theft, ransomware, and sextortion via “the computer cameras of young girls and boys.”

Worst still, if that was possible, the lack of policing by online platforms means that people are able to “showcase live sexual assaults, murders, and other illegal conduct.”

DCA says that with all this in mind, Americans are looking for online digital platforms to help them. The group claims that citizens need proactive protection from these ills and want companies like Facebook to take similar steps to those taken when warning consumers about fake news and violent content.

So what can be done to stop this tsunami of illegality? According to DCA, platforms like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter need to up their game and tackle the problem together.

“While digital platforms collaborate on policy and technical issues, there is no evidence that they are sharing information about the bad actors themselves. That enables criminals and bad actors to move seamlessly from platform to platform,” DCA writes.

“There are numerous examples of industry working together to identify and share information about exploitive behavior. For example, casinos share information about card sharks and cheats, and for decades the retail industry has shared information about fraudulent credit cards. A similar model would enable digital platforms and law enforcement to more quickly identify and combat those seeking to leverage the platforms to harm consumers.”

How this kind of collaboration could take place in the real world is open to interpretation but the DCA has a few suggestions of its own. Again, it doesn’t shy away from pulling people on side with something extremely offensive (in this case child pornography) in order to push what is clearly an underlying anti-piracy agenda.

“With a little help from engineers, digital platforms could create fingerprints of unlawful conduct that is shared across platforms to proactively block such conduct, as is done in a limited capacity with child pornography,” DCA explains.

“If these and other newly developed measures were adopted, digital platforms would have the information to enable them to make decisions whether to de-list or demote websites offering illicit goods and services, and the ability to stop the spread of illegal behavior that victimizes its users.”

The careful framing of the DCA report means that there’s something for everyone. If you don’t agree with them on tackling piracy, then their malware, fake news, or child exploitation angles might do the trick. It’s quite a clever strategy but one that the likes of Google, Facebook, and YouTube will recognize immediately.

And they need to – because apparently, it’s their job to sort all of this out. Good luck with that.

The full report can be found here (pdf)

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

Symantec Patent Protects Torrent Users Against Malware

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/symantec-patent-protects-torrent-users-against-malware-170606/

In recent years we have documented a wide range of patent applications, several of which had a clear anti-piracy angle.

Symantec Corporation, known for the popular anti-virus software Norton Security, is taking a more torrent-friendly approach. At least, that’s what a recently obtained patent suggests.

The patent describes a system that can be used to identify fake torrents and malware-infected downloads, which are a common problem on badly-moderated torrent sites. Downloaders of these torrents are often redirected to scam websites or lured into installing malware.

Here’s where Symantec comes in with their automatic torrent moderating solution. Last week the company obtained a patent for a system that can rate the trustworthiness of torrents and block suspicious content to protect users.

“While the BitTorrent protocol represents a popular method for distributing files, this protocol also represents a common means for distributing malicious software. Unfortunately, torrent hosting sites generally fail to provide sufficient information to reliably predict whether such files are trustworthy,” the patent reads.

Unlike traditional virus scans, where the file itself is scanned for malicious traits, the patented technology uses a reputation score to make the evaluation.

The trustworthiness of torrents is determined by factors including the reputation of the original uploaders, torrent sites, trackers and other peers. For example, if an IP-address of a seeder is linked to several malicious torrents, it will get a low reputation score.

“For example, if an entity has been involved in several torrent transactions that involved malware-infected target files, the reputation information associated with the entity may indicate that the entity has a poor reputation, indicating a high likelihood that the target file represents a potential security risk,” Symantec notes.

In contrast, if a torrent is seeded by a user that only shares non-malicious files, the trustworthiness factor goes up.

Reputation information

If a torrent file has a high likelihood of being linked to malware or other malicious content, the system can take appropriate “security actions.” This may be as simple as deleting the suspicious torrent, or a more complex respone such as blocking all related network traffic.

“Examples of such security actions include, without limitation, alerting a user of the potential security risk, blocking access to the target file until overridden by the user, blocking network traffic associated with the torrent transaction, quarantining the target file, and/or deleting the target file,” Symantec writes.

Security actions

Symantec Corporation applied for the pattern nearly four years ago, but thus far we haven’t seen it used in the real world.

Many torrent users would likely appreciate an extra layer of security, although they might be concerned about overblocking and possible monitoring of their download habits. This means that, for now, they will have to rely on site moderators, and most importantly, common sense.

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

MPAA Chief Praises Site-Blocking But Italians Love Piracy – and the Quality

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-chief-praises-site-blocking-but-italians-love-pirate-quality-170606/

After holding a reputation for being soft on piracy for many years, in more recent times Italy has taken a much tougher stance. The country now takes regular action against pirate sites and has a fairly aggressive site-blocking mechanism.

On Monday, the industry gathered in Rome and was presented with new data from local anti-piracy outfit FAPAV. The research revealed that while there has been some improvement over the past six years, 39% of Italians are still consuming illicit movies, TV shows, sporting events and other entertainment, at the rate of 669m acts of piracy every year.

While movie piracy is down 4% from 2010, the content most often consumed by pirates is still films, with 33% of the adult population engaging in illicit consumption during the past year.

The downward trend was not shared by TV shows, however. In the past seven years, piracy has risen to 22% of the population, up 13% on figures from 2010.

In keeping with the MPAA’s recent coding of piracy in 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 variants (P2P as 1.0, streaming websites as 2.0, streaming devices/Kodi as 3.0), FAPAV said that Piracy 2.0 had become even more established recently, with site operators making considerable technological progress.

“The research tells us we can not lower our guard, we always have to work harder and with greater determination in communication and awareness, especially with regard to digital natives,” said FAPAV Secretary General, Bagnoli Rossi.

The FAPAV chief said that there needs to be emphasis in two areas. One, changing perceptions among the public over the seriousness of piracy via education and two, placing pressure on websites using the police, judiciary, and other law enforcement agencies.

“The pillars of anti-piracy protection are: the judicial authority, self-regulatory agreements, communication and educational activities,” said Rossi, adding that cooperation with Italy’s AGCOM had resulted in 94 sites being blocked over three years.

FAPAV research has traditionally focused on people aged 15 and up but the anti-piracy group believes that placing more emphasis on younger people (aged 10-14) is important since they also consume a lot of pirated content online. MPAA chief Chris Dodd, who was at the event, agreed with the sentiment.

“Today’s youth are the future of the audiovisual industry. Young people must learn to respect the people who work in film and television that in 96% of cases never appear [in front of camera] but still work behind the scenes,” Dodd said.

“It is important to educate and direct them towards legal consumption, which creates jobs and encourages investment. Technology has expanded options to consume content legally and at any time and place, but at the same time has given attackers the opportunity to develop illegal businesses.”

Despite large-scale site-blocking not being a reality in the United States, Dodd was also keen to praise Italy for its efforts while acknowledging the wider blocking regimes in place across the EU.

“We must not only act by blocking pirate sites (we have closed a little less than a thousand in Europe) but also focus on legal offers. Today there are 480 legal online distribution services worldwide. We must have more,” Dodd said.

The outgoing MPAA chief reiterated that movies, music, games and a wide range of entertainment products are all available online legally now. Nevertheless, piracy remains a “growing phenomenon” that has criminals at its core.

“Piracy is composed of criminal organizations, ready to steal sensitive data and to make illegal profits any way they can. It’s a business that harms the entire audiovisual market, which in Europe alone has a million working professionals. To promote the culture of legality means protecting this market and its collective heritage,” Dodd said.

In Italy, convincing pirates to go legal might be more easily said than done. Not only do millions download video every year, but the majority of pirates are happy with the quality too. 89% said they were pleased with the quality of downloaded movies while the satisfaction with TV shows was even greater with 91% indicating approval.

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

RIAA Says Artists Don’t Need “Moral Rights,” Artists Disagree

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-says-artists-dont-need-moral-rights-artists-disagree-170521/

Most people who create something like to be credited for their work. Whether you make a video, song, photo, or blog post, it feels ‘right’ to receive recognition.

The right to be credited is part of the so-called “moral rights,” which are baked into many copyright laws around the world, adopted at the international level through the Berne Convention.

However, in the United States, this is not the case. The US didn’t sign the Berne Convention right away and opted out from the “moral rights” provision when they eventually joined it.

Now that the U.S. Copyright Office is looking into ways to improve current copyright law, the issue has been brought to the forefront again. The Government recently launched a consultation to hear the thoughts of various stakeholders, which resulted in several noteworthy contributions.

As it turns out, both the MPAA and RIAA are against the introduction of statutory moral rights for artists. They believe that the current system works well and they fear that it’s impractical and expensive to credit all creators for their contributions.

The MPAA stresses that new moral rights may make it harder for producers to distribute their work and may violate the First Amendment rights of producers, artists, and third parties who wish to use the work of others.

In the movie industry, many employees are not credited for their work. They get paid, but can’t claim any “rights” to the products they create, something the MPAA wants to keep intact.

“Further statutory recognition of the moral rights of attribution and integrity risks upsetting this well-functioning system that has made the United States the unrivaled world leader in motion picture production for over a century,” they stress.

The RIAA has a similar view, although the central argument is somewhat different.

The US record labels say that they do everything they can to generate name recognition for their main artists. However, crediting everyone who’s involved in making a song, such as the writer, is not always a good idea.

“A new statutory attribution right, in addition to being unnecessary, would likely have significant unintended consequences,” the RIAA writes (pdf).

The RIAA explains that the music industry has weathered several dramatic shifts over the past two decades. They argue that the transition from physical to digital music – and later streaming – while being confronted with massive piracy, has taken its toll.

There are signs of improvement now, but if moral rights are extended, the RIAA fears that everything might collapse once gain.

“After fifteen years of declining revenues, the recorded music industry outlook is finally showing signs of improvement. This fragile recovery results largely from growing consumer adoption of new streaming models..,” the RIAA writes.

“We urge the Office to avoid legislative proposals that could hamper this nascent recovery by injecting significant additional risk, uncertainty, and complexity into the recorded music business.”

According to the RIAA it would be costly for streaming services credit everyone who’s involved in the creative process. In addition, they simply might not have the screen real estate to pull this off.

“If a statutory attribution right suddenly required these services to provide attribution to others involved in the creative process, that would presumably require costly changes to their user interfaces and push them up against the size limitations of their display screens.”

This means less money for the artists and more clutter on the screen, according to the music group. Music fans probably wouldn’t want to see the list of everyone who worked on a song anyway, they claim.

“To continue growing, streaming services must provide a compelling product to consumers. Providing a long list of on-screen attributions would not make for an engaging or useful experience for consumers,” RIAA writes.

The streaming example is just one of the many issues that may arise, in the eyes of the record labels. They also expect problems with tracks that are played on the radio, or in commercials, where full credits are rarely given.

Interestingly, many of the artists the RIAA claims to represent don’t agree with the group’s comments.

Music Creators North America and The Future of Music Coalition, for example, believe that artists should have statutory moral rights. The latter group argues that, currently, small artists are often powerless against large corporations.

“Moral rights would serve to alleviate the powerlessness faced by creators who often must relinquish their copyright to make a living from their work. These creators should still be provided some right of attribution and integrity as these affect a creator’s reputation and ultimately livelihood.”

The Future of Music Coalition disagrees with the paternalistic perspective that the public isn’t interested in detailed information about the creators of music.

“While interest levels may vary, a significant portion of the public has a great interest in understanding who exactly contributed to the creation works of art which they admire,” they write (pdf).

Knowing who’s involved requires attribution, so it’s crucial that this information becomes available, they argue.

“Music enthusiasts revel in the details of music they adore, but when care is not taken to document and preserve that information, those details can often lost over time and eventually unattainable.”

“To argue that the public generally has a homogenously disinterested opinion of creators is insulting both to the public and to creators,” The Future of Music Coalition adds.

The above shows that the rights of artists are clearly not always aligned with the interests of record labels.

Interestingly, the RIAA and MPAA do agree with major tech companies and civil rights groups such as EFF and Public Knowledge. These are also against new moral rights, albeit for different reasons.

It’s now up to the U.S. Copyright Office to determine if change is indeed required, or if everything will remain the same.

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

Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/turning-challenges-into-advantages/

castle on top of a storage pod

In my previous post on how Backblaze got started, I mentioned that “just because we knew the right solution, didn’t mean that it was possible.” I’ll dig into that here. The right solution was to offer unlimited backup for $5 per month. The price of storage at the time, however, would have likely forced us to price our unlimited backup service at 2x – 5x that.

We were faced with a difficult challenge – compromise a fundamental feature of our product by removing the unlimited storage element, increase our price point in order to cover our costs but likely limit our potential customer base, seek funding in order to run at a loss while we built market share with a hope/prayer we could make a profit in the future, or find another way (huge unknown that might not have a solution). Below I’ll dig into the options that were available, the paths we tried, and how this challenge completely transformed our company and ended up being our greatest technological advantage.

Available Options:

Use a Storage Service

Originally we intended to build the backup application, but leave the back-end storage to others; likely Amazon S3. This had many advantages:

  1. We would not have to worry about the storage at all
  2. It would scale up or down as we needed it
  3. We would pay only for what we used

Especially as a small, bootstrapped company with limited resources – these were incredible benefits.

There was just one problem. At S3’s then current pricing ($0.15/GB/month), a customer storing just 33 GB would cost us 100% of the $5 per month we would collect. Additionally, we would need to pay S3 transaction and download charges, along with our engineering/support/marketing and other expenses.. The conclusion, even if the average customer stored just 33 GB, it would cost us at least $10/month for a customer that we were charging just $5/month.

In 2007, when we were getting started, there were a few other storage services available. But all were more expensive. Despite the fantastic benefits of using such a service, it simply didn’t work for us.

Buy Storage Systems

Buying storage systems didn’t have all the benefits of using a storage service – we would have to forecast need, buy in big blocks up front, manage data centers, etc. – but it seemed the second-best option. Companies such as EMC, NetApp, Dell, and others sold hundreds of petabytes of storage systems where they provide the servers, software, and support.

Alas, there were two problems: One temporary, the other permanent (and fatal). The temporary problem was that these systems were hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get started. This was challenging for us from a cash-flow perspective, but it was just a question of coming up with the cash. The permanent problem was that these systems cost ~$1,000/TB of storage. Hard drives were selling for ~$100/TB, so there was a 10x markup for the storage system. That markup eliminated pursuing this path. What if the the average customer had 100 GB to store? It would take us 20 months to pay off the purchase. We weren’t sure how much data the average customer would have, but the scenarios we were running made it seem like a $5/month price point was unsustainable.

Our Choices Where:

Don’t Offer the Right Solution

If it’s impossible to offer unlimited backup for $5/month, there are certainly choices. We could have raised the price to $10/month, not make the backup unlimited, or close-up shop altogether. All doable, none ideal.

Raise Funding

Plenty of companies raise funding before they can be self-sustaining, and it can work out great for everyone. We had raised funding for a previous company and believed we could have done it for Backblaze. And raising funding would have taken care of the cash-flow issue if we chose to buy storage systems.

However, it would have left us with a business with negative unit economics – we would lose money on every customer, and the faster we grew, the more money we would lose. VCs do fund these types of companies often (many of the delivery companies today fall in this realm) with the idea that, at scale, you improve your cost structure and possibly also charge more. But it’s a dangerous game since not only is the business not self-sustaining, it inevitably must be significantly altered in order to survive.

Find a Way to Store Data for Less

If there were some way to store data for less, significantly less, it could all work. We had a tiny glimmer of hope that it would be possible: Since hard drives only cost ~$100/TB, if we could somehow use those drives without adding much overhead, that would be quite affordable.

“we wanted to build a sustainable business from day one and build a culture that believes dollars come from customers.”

Our first decision was to not compromise our product by restricting the amount of storage. Although this would have been a much easier solution, it violated our core mission: Create a simple and inexpensive solution to backup all of your important data.

We had previously also decided not to raise funding to get started because we wanted to build a sustainable business from day one and build a culture that believes dollars come from customers. With those decisions made, we moved onto finding the best solution to fulfill our mission and create a viable company.

Experimentation

All we wanted was to attach hard drives to the Internet. If we could do that inexpensively, our backup application could store the data there and we could offer our unlimited backup service.

A hard drive needs to be connected to a server to be available on the Internet. It certainly wouldn’t be very cost effective to have one server for every hard drive, as the server costs would dominate the equation. Alternatively, trying to attach a lot of drives to a server resulted in needing expensive “enterprise” servers. The goal then became cost-efficiently attaching as many hard drives as possible to one server. According to its spec, USB is supposed to allow for 127 devices to be daisy-chained to a single port. We tried; it didn’t work. We considered Firewire, which could connect 63 devices, but the connectors are aimed at graphic designers and ended up too expensive on a unit-basis. Our next thought was to use small consumer-grade DAS (Direct-attached storage) devices and connect those to a server. We managed to attach 8 DAS devices with 4 drives each for a total of 32 hard drives connected to one server.

DAS units attached to a server
This worked well, but it was operationally challenging as none of these devices were meant to fit in a data center rack. Further complicating matters was that moving one of these setups required cabling 10 power cords, and separately moving 9 boxes. Fine at small scale, but very hard to scale up.

We realized that we didn’t need all the boxes, we just needed backplanes to connect the drives from the DAS boxes to the motherboard from the server. We found a different DAS box that supports port multipliers and took that backplane. How did we decide on that DAS box? Tim, co-founder & Chief Cloud Officer, remembers going to Fry’s and picking the box that looked “about right”.

That all laid the path for our eventual 45 drive design. The next thought was: If we could put all that in one box, it might be the solution we were looking for. The first iteration of this was a plywood box.

the first wooden storage pod

That eventually evolved into a steel server and what we refer to as a Storage Pod.

steel storage pod chassis

Building a Storage Platform

The Storage Pod became our key building block, but was just a tiny component of the ‘storage platform’. We had to write software that would run on each Storage Pod, software that would create redundancy between the Storage Pods, and central software and systems that would coordinate other aspects of the system to accept/load balance/validate/clean-up data. We had to find and train contract manufacturers to build the Storage Pods, find and negotiate data center space and bandwidth, setup processes to buy drives and track their reliability, hire people to maintain the systems, and setup the business processes to do all of this and more at scale.

All of this ended up taking tremendous technical effort, management engagement, and work from all corners of Backblaze. But it has also paid enormous dividends.

The Transformation

We started Backblaze thinking of ourselves as a backup company. In reality, we became a storage company with ‘backup’ as the first service we offered on our storage platform. Our backup service relies on the storage platform as, without the storage platform, we couldn’t offer unlimited backup. To enable the backup service, storage became the foundation of our company and is still what we live and breathe every day.

It didn’t just change how we built the service, it changed the fundamental DNA of the company.

Dividends

Creating our own storage platform was certainly hard. But it enabled us to offer our unlimited backup for a low price and do that while running a sustainable business.

“It didn’t just change how we built the service, it changed the fundamental DNA of the company.”

We felt that we had a service and price point that customers wanted, and we “unlocked” the way to let us build it. Having our storage platform also provides us with a deep connection to our customers and the storage community – we share how we build Storage Pods and how reliable hard drives in our environment have been. That content, in turns, helps brings awareness to Backblaze; the awareness helps establish the company as a tech leader; that reputation helps us recruit to our growing team and earns customers who are evaluating our solutions vs Storage Company X.

And after years of being a storage company with a backup service, and being asked all the time to just offer our storage directly, we launched our Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage service. We offer this raw storage at a price of $0.005/GB/month – that’s less than 1/4th of the price of S3.

If we had built our backup service on one of the existing storage services or storage systems, it would have been easier – but none of this would have been possible. This challenge, which we have spent a decade working to overcome, has also transformed our company and became our greatest technological advantage.

The post Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Hiring a Content Director

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hiring-content-director/


Backblaze is looking to hire a full time Content Director. This role is an essential piece of our team, reporting directly to our VP of Marketing. As the hiring manager, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about the role, how I’m thinking about the collaboration, and why I believe this to be a great opportunity.

A Little About Backblaze and the Role

Since 2007, Backblaze has earned a strong reputation as a leader in data storage. Our products are astonishingly easy to use and affordable to purchase. We have engaged customers and an involved community that helps drive our brand. Our audience numbers in the millions and our primary interaction point is the Backblaze blog. We publish content for engineers (data infrastructure, topics in the data storage world), consumers (how to’s, merits of backing up), and entrepreneurs (business insights). In all categories, our Content Director drives our earned positioned as leaders.

Backblaze has a culture focused on being fair and good (to each other and our customers). We have created a sustainable business that is profitable and growing. Our team places a premium on open communication, being cleverly unconventional, and helping each other out. The Content Director, specifically, balances our needs as a commercial enterprise (at the end of the day, we want to sell our products) with the custodianship of our blog (and the trust of our audience).

There’s a lot of ground to be covered at Backblaze. We have three discreet business lines:

  • Computer Backup -> a 10 year old business focusing on backing up consumer computers.
  • B2 Cloud Storage -> Competing with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft… just at ¼ of the price (but with the same performance characteristics).
  • Business Backup -> Both Computer Backup and B2 Cloud Storage, but focused on SMBs and enterprise.

The Best Candidate Is…

An excellent writer – possessing a solid academic understanding of writing, the creative process, and delivering against deadlines. You know how to write with multiple voices for multiple audiences. We do not expect our Content Director to be a storage infrastructure expert; we do expect a facility with researching topics, accessing our engineering and infrastructure team for guidance, and generally translating the technical into something easy to understand. The best Content Director must be an active participant in the business/ strategy / and editorial debates and then must execute with ruthless precision.

Our Content Director’s “day job” is making sure the blog is running smoothly and the sales team has compelling collateral (emails, case studies, white papers).

Specifically, the Perfect Content Director Excels at:

  • Creating well researched, elegantly constructed content on deadline. For example, each week, 2 articles should be published on our blog. Blog posts should rotate to address the constituencies for our 3 business lines – not all blog posts will appeal to everyone, but over the course of a month, we want multiple compelling pieces for each segment of our audience. Similarly, case studies (and outbound emails) should be tailored to our sales team’s proposed campaigns / audiences. The Content Director creates ~75% of all content but is responsible for editing 100%.
  • Understanding organic methods for weaving business needs into compelling content. The majority of our content (but not EVERY piece) must tie to some business strategy. We hate fluff and hold our promotional content to a standard of being worth someone’s time to read. To be effective, the Content Director must understand the target customer segments and use cases for our products.
  • Straddling both Consumer & SaaS mechanics. A key part of the job will be working to augment the collateral used by our sales team for both B2 Cloud Storage and Business Backup. This content should be compelling and optimized for converting leads. And our foundational business line, Computer Backup, deserves to be nurtured and grown.
  • Product marketing. The Content Director “owns” the blog. But also assists in writing cases studies / white papers, creating collateral (email, trade show). Each of these things has a variety of call to action(s) and audiences. Direct experience is a plus, experience that will plausibly translate to these areas is a requirement.
  • Articulating views on storage, backup, and cloud infrastructure. Not everyone has experience with this. That’s fine, but if you do, it’s strongly beneficial.

A Thursday In The Life:

  • Coordinate Collaborators – We are deliverables driven culture, not a meeting driven one. We expect you to collaborate with internal blog authors and the occasional guest poster.
  • Collaborate with Design – Ensure imagery for upcoming posts / collateral are on track.
  • Augment Sales team – Lock content for next week’s outbound campaign.
  • Self directed blog agenda – Feedback for next Tuesday’s post is addressed, next Thursday’s post is circulated to marketing team for feedback & SEO polish.
  • Review Editorial calendar, make any changes.

Oh! And We Have Great 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.

Interested in Joining Our Team?

Send us an email to [email protected] with the subject “Content Director”. Please include your resume and 3 brief abstracts for content pieces.
Some hints for each of your three abstracts:

  • Create a compelling headline
  • Write clearly and concisely
  • Be brief, each abstract should be 100 words or less – no longer
  • Target each abstract to a different specific audience that is relevant to our business lines

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider all this. I hope it sounds like a great opportunity for you or someone you know. Principles only need apply.

The post Hiring a Content Director appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

RFD: the alien abduction prophecy protocol

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2017/05/rfd-alien-abduction-prophecy-protocol.html

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
– variously attributed to Yogi Berra and Niels Bohr

Right. So let’s say you are visited by transdimensional space aliens from outer space. There’s some old-fashioned probing, but eventually, they get to the point. They outline a series of apocalyptic prophecies, beginning with the surprise 2032 election of Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho as the President of the United States, followed by a limited-scale nuclear exchange with the Grand Duchy of Ruritania in 2036, and culminating with the extinction of all life due to a series of cascading Y2K38 failures that start at an Ohio pretzel reprocessing plan. Long story short, if you want to save mankind, you have to warn others of what’s to come.

But there’s a snag: when you wake up in a roadside ditch in Alabama, you realize that nobody is going to believe your story! If you come forward, your professional and social reputation will be instantly destroyed. If you’re lucky, the vindication of your claims will come fifteen years later; if not, it might turn out that you were pranked by some space alien frat boys who just wanted to have some cheap space laughs. The bottom line is, you need to be certain before you make your move. You figure this means staying mum until the Election Day of 2032.

But wait, this plan is also not very good! After all, how could your future self convince others that you knew about President Camacho all along? Well… if you work in information security, you are probably familiar with a neat solution: write down your account of events in a text file, calculate a cryptographic hash of this file, and publish the resulting value somewhere permanent. Fifteen years later, reveal the contents of your file and point people to your old announcement. Explain that you must have been in the possession of this very file back in 2017; otherwise, you would not have known its hash. Voila – a commitment scheme!

Although elegant, this approach can be risky: historically, the usable life of cryptographic hash functions seemed to hover at somewhere around 15 years – so even if you pick a very modern algorithm, there is a real risk that future advances in cryptanalysis could severely undermine the strength of your proof. No biggie, though! For extra safety, you could combine several independent hashing functions, or increase the computational complexity of the hash by running it in a loop. There are also some less-known hash functions, such as SPHINCS, that are designed with different trade-offs in mind and may offer longer-term security guarantees.

Of course, the computation of the hash is not enough; it needs to become an immutable part of the public record and remain easy to look up for years to come. There is no guarantee that any particular online publishing outlet is going to stay afloat that long and continue to operate in its current form. The survivability of more specialized and experimental platforms, such as blockchain-based notaries, seems even less clear. Thankfully, you can resort to another kludge: if you publish the hash through a large number of independent online venues, there is a good chance that at least one of them will be around in 2032.

(Offline notarization – whether of the pen-and-paper or the PKI-based variety – offers an interesting alternative. That said, in the absence of an immutable, public ledger, accusations of forgery or collusion would be very easy to make – especially if the fate of the entire planet is at stake.)

Even with this out of the way, there is yet another profound problem with the plan: a current-day scam artist could conceivably generate hundreds or thousands of political predictions, publish the hashes, and then simply discard or delete the ones that do not come true by 2032 – thus creating an illusion of prescience. To convince skeptics that you are not doing just that, you could incorporate a cryptographic proof of work into your approach, attaching a particular CPU time “price tag” to every hash. The future you could then claim that it would have been prohibitively expensive for the former you to attempt the “prediction spam” attack. But this argument seems iffy: a $1,000 proof may already be too costly for a lower middle class abductee, while a determined tech billionaire could easily spend $100,000 to pull off an elaborate prank on the entire world. Not to mention, massive CPU resources can be commandeered with little or no effort by the operators of large botnets and many other actors of this sort.

In the end, my best idea is to rely on an inherently low-bandwidth publication medium, rather than a high-cost one. For example, although a determined hoaxer could place thousands of hash-bearing classifieds in some of the largest-circulation newspapers, such sleigh-of-hand would be trivial for future sleuths to spot (at least compared to combing through the entire Internet for an abandoned hash). Or, as per an anonymous suggestion relayed by Thomas Ptacek: just tattoo the signature on your body, then post some post some pics; there are only so many places for a tattoo to go.

Still, what was supposed to be a nice, scientific proof devolved into a bunch of hand-wavy arguments and poorly-quantified probabilities. For the sake of future abductees: is there a better way?

Blizzard Beats “Cheat” Maker, Wins $8.5 Million Copyright Damages

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/blizzard-beats-cheat-maker-wins-85-million-copyright-damages-170403/

While most gamers do their best to win fair and square, there are always those who try to cheat themselves to victory.

With the growth of the gaming industry, the market for “cheats,” “hacks” and bots has also grown spectacularly. The German company Bossland is one of the frontrunners in this area.

Bossland created cheats and bots for several Blizzard games including World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, and Overwatch, handing its users an unfair advantage over the competition. Blizzard is not happy with these and the two companies have been battling in court for quite some time, both in the US and Germany.

Last week a prominent US case came to a conclusion in the California District Court. Because Bossland decided not to represent itself, it was a relatively easy for Blizzard, which was awarded several million in copyright damages.

The court agreed that hacks developed by Bossland effectively bypassed Blizzard’s cheat protection technology “Warden,” violating the DMCA. By reverse engineering the games and allowing users to play modified versions, Bossland infringed Blizzard’s copyrights and allowed its users to do the same.

“Bossland materially contributes to infringement by creating the Bossland Hacks, making the Bossland Hacks available to the public, instructing users how to install and operate the Bossland Hacks, and enabling users to use the software to create derivative works,” the court’s order reads (pdf).

The WoW Honorbuddy

The infringing actions are damaging to the game maker as they render its anti-cheat protection ineffective. The cheaters, subsequently, ruin the gaming experience for other players who may lose interest, causing additional damage.

“Blizzard has established a showing of resulting damage or harm because Blizzard expends a substantial amount of money combating the use of the Bossland Hacks to ensure fair game play,” the court writes.

“Additionally, players of the Blizzard Games lodge complaints against cheating players, which has caused users to grow dissatisfied with the Blizzard Games and cease playing. Accordingly, the in-game cheating also harms Blizzard’s goodwill and reputation.”

As a result, the court grants the statutory copyright damages Blizzard requested for 42,818 violations within the United States, totaling $8,563,600. In addition, the game developer is entitled to $174,872 in attorneys’ fees.

To prevent further damage, Bossland is also prohibited from marketing or sellings its cheats in the United States. This applies to hacks including “Honorbuddy,” “Demonbuddy,”
“Stormbuddy,” “Hearthbuddy,” and “Watchover Tyrant,” as well as any other software designed to exploit Blizzard games.

While its a hefty judgment, the order doesn’t really come as a surprise given that the German cheat maker failed to defend itself.

Bossland CEO Zwetan Letschew previously informed TorrentFreak that his company would continue the legal battle after the issue of a default judgment. Whatever the outcome, the cheats will remain widely available outside of the US for now.

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