Tag Archives: Slack

How Pirates Use New Technologies for Old Sharing Habits

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/how-pirates-use-new-technologies-for-old-sharing-habits-180415/

While piracy today is more widespread than ever, the urge to share content online has been around for several decades.

The first generation used relatively primitive tools, such as a bulletin board systems (BBS), newsgroups or IRC. Nothing too fancy, but they worked well for those who got over the initial learning curve.

When Napster came along things started to change. More content became available and with just a few clicks anyone could get an MP3 transferred from one corner of the world to another. The same was true for Kazaa and Limewire, which further popularized online piracy.

After this initial boom of piracy applications, BitTorrent came along, shaking up the sharing landscape even further. As torrent sites are web-based, pirated media became even more public and easy to find.

At the same time, BitTorrent brought back the smaller and more organized sharing culture of the early days through private trackers.

These communities often focused on a specific type of content and put strict rules and guidelines in place. They promoted sharing and avoided the spam that plagued their public counterparts.

That was fifteen years ago.

Today the piracy landscape is more diverse than ever. Private torrent trackers are still around and so are IRC and newsgroups. However, most piracy today takes place in public. Streaming sites and devices are booming, with central hosting platforms offering the majority of the underlying content.

That said, there is still an urge for some pirates to band together and some use newer technologies to do so.

This week The Outline ran an interesting piece on the use of Telegram channels to share pirated media. These groups use the encrypted communication platform to share copies of movies, TV shows, and a wide range of other material.

Telegram allows users to upload files up to 1.5GB in size, but larger ones can be split, in common with the good old newsgroups.

These type of sharing groups are not new. On social media platforms such as Facebook and VK, there are hundreds or thousands of dedicated communities that do the same. Both public and private. And Reddit has similar groups, relying on external links.

According to an administrator of a piracy-focused Telegram channel, the appeal of the platform is that the groups are not shut down so easily. While that may be the case with hyper-private groups, Telegram will still pull the plug if it receives enough complaints about a channel.

The same is true for Discord, another application that can be used to share content in ‘private’ communities. Discord is particularly popular among gamers, but pirates have also found their way to the platform.

While smaller communities are able to thrive, once the word gets out to copyright holders, the party can soon be over. This is also what the /r/piracy subreddit community found out a few days ago when its Discord server was pulled offline.

This triggered a discussion about possible alternatives. Telegram was mentioned by some, although not everyone liked the idea of connecting their phone number to a pirate group. Others mentioned Slack, Weechat, Hexchat and Riot.im.

None of these tools are revolutionary. At least, not for the intended use by this group. Some may be harder to take down than others, but they are all means to share files, directly or through external links.

What really caught our eye, however, were several mentions of an ancient application layer protocol that, apparently, hasn’t lost its use to pirates.

“I’ll make an IRC server and host that,” one user said, with others suggesting the same.

And so we have come full circle…

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

Security updates for Monday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/751346/rss

Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (openssl and zziplib), Debian (ldap-account-manager, ming, python-crypto, sam2p, sdl-image1.2, and squirrelmail), Fedora (bchunk, koji, libidn, librelp, nodejs, and php), Gentoo (curl, dhcp, libvirt, mailx, poppler, qemu, and spice-vdagent), Mageia (389-ds-base, aubio, cfitsio, libvncserver, nmap, and ntp), openSUSE (GraphicsMagick, ImageMagick, spice-gtk, and wireshark), Oracle (kubernetes), Slackware (patch), and SUSE (apache2 and openssl).

User Authentication Best Practices Checklist

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/user-authentication-best-practices-checklist/

User authentication is the functionality that every web application shared. We should have perfected that a long time ago, having implemented it so many times. And yet there are so many mistakes made all the time.

Part of the reason for that is that the list of things that can go wrong is long. You can store passwords incorrectly, you can have a vulnerably password reset functionality, you can expose your session to a CSRF attack, your session can be hijacked, etc. So I’ll try to compile a list of best practices regarding user authentication. OWASP top 10 is always something you should read, every year. But that might not be enough.

So, let’s start. I’ll try to be concise, but I’ll include as much of the related pitfalls as I can cover – e.g. what could go wrong with the user session after they login:

  • Store passwords with bcrypt/scrypt/PBKDF2. No MD5 or SHA, as they are not good for password storing. Long salt (per user) is mandatory (the aforementioned algorithms have it built in). If you don’t and someone gets hold of your database, they’ll be able to extract the passwords of all your users. And then try these passwords on other websites.
  • Use HTTPS. Period. (Otherwise user credentials can leak through unprotected networks). Force HTTPS if user opens a plain-text version.
  • Mark cookies as secure. Makes cookie theft harder.
  • Use CSRF protection (e.g. CSRF one-time tokens that are verified with each request). Frameworks have such functionality built-in.
  • Disallow framing (X-Frame-Options: DENY). Otherwise your website may be included in another website in a hidden iframe and “abused” through javascript.
  • Have a same-origin policy
  • Logout – let your users logout by deleting all cookies and invalidating the session. This makes usage of shared computers safer (yes, users should ideally use private browsing sessions, but not all of them are that savvy)
  • Session expiry – don’t have forever-lasting sessions. If the user closes your website, their session should expire after a while. “A while” may still be a big number depending on the service provided. For ajax-heavy website you can have regular ajax-polling that keeps the session alive while the page stays open.
  • Remember me – implementing “remember me” (on this machine) functionality is actually hard due to the risks of a stolen persistent cookie. Spring-security uses this approach, which I think should be followed if you wish to implement more persistent logins.
  • Forgotten password flow – the forgotten password flow should rely on sending a one-time (or expiring) link to the user and asking for a new password when it’s opened. 0Auth explain it in this post and Postmark gives some best pracitces. How the link is formed is a separate discussion and there are several approaches. Store a password-reset token in the user profile table and then send it as parameter in the link. Or do not store anything in the database, but send a few params: userId:expiresTimestamp:hmac(userId+expiresTimestamp). That way you have expiring links (rather than one-time links). The HMAC relies on a secret key, so the links can’t be spoofed. It seems there’s no consensus, as the OWASP guide has a bit different approach
  • One-time login links – this is an option used by Slack, which sends one-time login links instead of asking users for passwords. It relies on the fact that your email is well guarded and you have access to it all the time. If your service is not accessed to often, you can have that approach instead of (rather than in addition to) passwords.
  • Limit login attempts – brute-force through a web UI should not be possible; therefore you should block login attempts if they become too many. One approach is to just block them based on IP. The other one is to block them based on account attempted. (Spring example here). Which one is better – I don’t know. Both can actually be combined. Instead of fully blocking the attempts, you may add a captcha after, say, the 5th attempt. But don’t add the captcha for the first attempt – it is bad user experience.
  • Don’t leak information through error messages – you shouldn’t allow attackers to figure out if an email is registered or not. If an email is not found, upon login report just “Incorrect credentials”. On passwords reset, it may be something like “If your email is registered, you should have received a password reset email”. This is often at odds with usability – people don’t often remember the email they used to register, and the ability to check a number of them before getting in might be important. So this rule is not absolute, though it’s desirable, especially for more critical systems.
  • Make sure you use JWT only if it’s really necessary and be careful of the pitfalls.
  • Consider using a 3rd party authentication – OpenID Connect, OAuth by Google/Facebook/Twitter (but be careful with OAuth flaws as well). There’s an associated risk with relying on a 3rd party identity provider, and you still have to manage cookies, logout, etc., but some of the authentication aspects are simplified.
  • For high-risk or sensitive applications use 2-factor authentication. There’s a caveat with Google Authenticator though – if you lose your phone, you lose your accounts (unless there’s a manual process to restore it). That’s why Authy seems like a good solution for storing 2FA keys.

I’m sure I’m missing something. And you see it’s complicated. Sadly we’re still at the point where the most common functionality – authenticating users – is so tricky and cumbersome, that you almost always get at least some of it wrong.

The post User Authentication Best Practices Checklist appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

Security updates for Monday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/750759/rss

Security updates have been issued by Debian (dovecot, irssi, libevt, libvncserver, mercurial, mosquitto, openssl, python-django, remctl, rubygems, and zsh), Fedora (acpica-tools, dovecot, firefox, ImageMagick, mariadb, mosquitto, openssl, python-paramiko, rubygem-rmagick, and thunderbird), Mageia (flash-player-plugin and squirrelmail), Slackware (php), and Ubuntu (dovecot).

Security updates for Friday

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/750573/rss

Security updates have been issued by Debian (memcached, openssl, openssl1.0, php5, thunderbird, and xerces-c), Fedora (python-notebook, slf4j, and unboundid-ldapsdk), Mageia (kernel, libvirt, mailman, and net-snmp), openSUSE (aubio, cacti, cacti-spine, firefox, krb5, LibVNCServer, links, memcached, and tomcat), Slackware (ruby), SUSE (kernel and python-paramiko), and Ubuntu (intel-microcode).

Security updates for Tuesday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/750207/rss

Security updates have been issued by Debian (firefox-esr, irssi, and librelp), Gentoo (busybox and plib), Mageia (exempi and jupyter-notebook), openSUSE (clamav, dhcp, nginx, python-Django, python3-Django, and thunderbird), Oracle (slf4j), Red Hat (slf4j), Scientific Linux (slf4j), Slackware (firefox), SUSE (librelp), and Ubuntu (screen-resolution-extra).

Security updates for Monday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/750150/rss

Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (bchunk, thunderbird, and xerces-c), Debian (freeplane, icu, libvirt, and net-snmp), Fedora (monitorix, php-simplesamlphp-saml2, php-simplesamlphp-saml2_1, php-simplesamlphp-saml2_3, puppet, and qt5-qtwebengine), openSUSE (curl, libmodplug, libvorbis, mailman, nginx, opera, python-paramiko, and samba, talloc, tevent), Red Hat (python-paramiko, rh-maven35-slf4j, rh-mysql56-mysql, rh-mysql57-mysql, rh-ruby22-ruby, rh-ruby23-ruby, and rh-ruby24-ruby), Slackware (thunderbird), SUSE (clamav, kernel, memcached, and php53), and Ubuntu (samba and tiff).

Security updates for Monday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/749662/rss

Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (firefox, libvorbis, and ntp), Debian (curl, firefox-esr, gitlab, libvorbis, libvorbisidec, openjdk-8, and uwsgi), Fedora (firefox, ImageMagick, kernel, and mailman), Gentoo (adobe-flash, jabberd2, oracle-jdk-bin, and plasma-workspace), Mageia (bugzilla, kernel, leptonica, libtiff, libvorbis, microcode, python-pycrypto, SDL_image, shadow-utils, sharutils, and xerces-c), openSUSE (exempi, firefox, GraphicsMagick, libid3tag, libraw, mariadb, php5, postgresql95, SDL2, SDL2_image, ucode-intel, and xmltooling), Red Hat (firefox), Slackware (firefox and libvorbis), SUSE (microcode_ctl and ucode-intel), and Ubuntu (firefox and php5, php7.0, php7.1).

Getting Ready for the AWS Quest Finale on Twitch

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/getting-ready-for-the-aws-quest-finale-on-twitch/

Whew! March has been one crazy month for me and it is only half over. After a week with my wife in the Caribbean, we hopped on a non-stop Seattle to Tokyo flight so that I could speak at JAWS Days, Startup Day, and some internal events. We arrived home last Wednesday and I am now sufficiently clear-headed and recovered from jet lag to do anything more intellectually demanding than respond to emails. The AWS Blogging Team and the great folks at Lone Shark Games have been working on AWS Quest for quite some time and it has been great to see all of the progress made toward solving the puzzles in order to find the orangeprints that I will use to rebuild Ozz.

The community effort has been impressive! There’s a shared spreadsheet with tabs for puzzles and clues, a busy Slack channel, and a leaderboard, all organized and built by a team that spans the globe.

I’ve been checking out the orangeprints as they are uncovered and have been doing a bit of planning and preparation to make sure that I am ready for the live-streamed rebuild on Twitch later this month. Yesterday I labeled a bunch of containers, one per puzzle, and stocked each one with the parts that I will use to rebuild the corresponding component of Ozz. Fortunately, I have at least (my last count may have skipped a few) 119,807 bricks and other parts at hand so this was easy. Here’s what I have set up so far:

The Twitch session will take place on Tuesday, March 27 at Noon PT. In the meantime, you should check out the #awsquest tweets and see what you can do to help me to rebuild Ozz.


Our Newest AWS Community Heroes (Spring 2018 Edition)

Post Syndicated from Betsy Chernoff original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/our-newest-aws-community-heroes-spring-2018-edition/

The AWS Community Heroes program helps shine a spotlight on some of the innovative work being done by rockstar AWS developers around the globe. Marrying cloud expertise with a passion for community building and education, these Heroes share their time and knowledge across social media and in-person events. Heroes also actively help drive content at Meetups, workshops, and conferences.

This March, we have five Heroes that we’re happy to welcome to our network of cloud innovators:

Peter Sbarski

Peter Sbarski is VP of Engineering at A Cloud Guru and the organizer of Serverlessconf, the world’s first conference dedicated entirely to serverless architectures and technologies. His work at A Cloud Guru allows him to work with, talk and write about serverless architectures, cloud computing, and AWS. He has written a book called Serverless Architectures on AWS and is currently collaborating on another book called Serverless Design Patterns with Tim Wagner and Yochay Kiriaty.

Peter is always happy to talk about cloud computing and AWS, and can be found at conferences and meetups throughout the year. He helps to organize Serverless Meetups in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia, and is always keen to share his experience working on interesting and innovative cloud projects.

Peter’s passions include serverless technologies, event-driven programming, back end architecture, microservices, and orchestration of systems. Peter holds a PhD in Computer Science from Monash University, Australia and can be followed on Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, and GitHub.




Michael Wittig

Michael Wittig is co-founder of widdix, a consulting company focused on cloud architecture, DevOps, and software development on AWS. widdix maintains several AWS related open source projects, most notably a collection of production-ready CloudFormation templates. In 2016, widdix released marbot: a Slack bot supporting your DevOps team to detect and solve incidents on AWS.

In close collaboration with his brother Andreas Wittig, the Wittig brothers are actively creating AWS related content. Their book Amazon Web Services in Action (Manning) introduces AWS with a strong focus on automation. Andreas and Michael run the blog cloudonaut.io where they share their knowledge about AWS with the community. The Wittig brothers also published a bunch of video courses with O’Reilly, Manning, Pluralsight, and A Cloud Guru. You can also find them speaking at conferences and user groups in Europe. Both brothers are co-organizing the AWS user group in Stuttgart.





Fernando Hönig

Fernando is an experienced Infrastructure Solutions Leader, holding 5 AWS Certifications, with extensive IT Architecture and Management experience in a variety of market sectors. Working as a Cloud Architect Consultant in United Kingdom since 2014, Fernando built an online community for Hispanic speakers worldwide.

Fernando founded a LinkedIn Group, a Slack Community and a YouTube channel all of them named “AWS en Español”, and started to run a monthly webinar via YouTube streaming where different leaders discuss aspects and challenges around AWS Cloud.

During the last 18 months he’s been helping to run and coach AWS User Group leaders across LATAM and Spain, and 10 new User Groups were founded during this time.

Feel free to follow Fernando on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, or join the ever-growing Hispanic Community via Slack, LinkedIn or YouTube.




Anders Bjørnestad

Anders is a consultant and cloud evangelist at Webstep AS in Norway. He finished his degree in Computer Science at the Norwegian Institute of Technology at about the same time the Internet emerged as a public service. Since then he has been an IT consultant and a passionate advocate of knowledge-sharing.

He architected and implemented his first customer solution on AWS back in 2010, and is essential in building Webstep’s core cloud team. Anders applies his broad expert knowledge across all layers of the organizational stack. He engages with developers on technology and architectures and with top management where he advises about cloud strategies and new business models.

Anders enjoys helping people increase their understanding of AWS and cloud in general, and holds several AWS certifications. He co-founded and co-organizes the AWS User Groups in the largest cities in Norway (Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger), and also uses any opportunity to engage in events related to AWS and cloud wherever he is.

You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

To learn more about the AWS Community Heroes Program and how to get involved with your local AWS community, click here.









Security updates for Wednesday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/749288/rss

Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (calibre, dovecot, and postgresql), CentOS (dhcp and mailman), Fedora (freetype, kernel, leptonica, mariadb, mingw-leptonica, net-snmp, nx-libs, util-linux, wavpack, x2goserver, and zsh), Gentoo (chromium), Oracle (389-ds-base, mailman, and qemu-kvm), Red Hat (389-ds-base, kernel, kernel-alt, libreoffice, mailman, and qemu-kvm), Scientific Linux (mailman), Slackware (firefox and samba), and Ubuntu (samba).

Tech wishes for 2018

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/02/18/tech-wishes-for-2018/

Anonymous asks, via money:

What would you like to see happen in tech in 2018?

(answer can be technical, social, political, combination, whatever)


Less of this

I’m not really qualified to speak in depth about either of these things, but let me put my foot in my mouth anyway:

The Blockchain™

Bitcoin was a neat idea. No, really! Decentralization is cool. Overhauling our terrible financial infrastructure is cool. Hash functions are cool.

Unfortunately, it seems to have devolved into mostly a get-rich-quick scheme for nerds, and by nearly any measure it’s turning into a spectacular catastrophe. Its “success” is measured in how much a bitcoin is worth in US dollars, which is pretty close to an admission from its own investors that its only value is in converting back to “real” money — all while that same “success” is making it less useful as a distinct currency.

Blah, blah, everyone already knows this.

What concerns me slightly more is the gold rush hype cycle, which is putting cryptocurrency and “blockchain” in the news and lending it all legitimacy. People have raked in millions of dollars on ICOs of novel coins I’ve never heard mentioned again. (Note: again, that value is measured in dollars.) Most likely, none of the investors will see any return whatsoever on that money. They can’t, really, unless a coin actually takes off as a currency, and that seems at odds with speculative investing since everyone either wants to hoard or ditch their coins. When the coins have no value themselves, the money can only come from other investors, and eventually the hype winds down and you run out of other investors.

I fear this will hurt a lot of people before it’s over, so I’d like for it to be over as soon as possible.

That said, the hype itself has gotten way out of hand too. First it was the obsession with “blockchain” like it’s a revolutionary technology, but hey, Git is a fucking blockchain. The novel part is the way it handles distributed consensus (which in Git is basically left for you to figure out), and that’s uniquely important to currency because you want to be pretty sure that money doesn’t get duplicated or lost when moved around.

But now we have startups trying to use blockchains for website backends and file storage and who knows what else? Why? What advantage does this have? When you say “blockchain”, I hear “single Git repository” — so when you say “email on the blockchain”, I have an aneurysm.

Bitcoin seems to have sparked imagination in large part because it’s decentralized, but I’d argue it’s actually a pretty bad example of a decentralized network, since people keep forking it. The ability to fork is a feature, sure, but the trouble here is that the Bitcoin family has no notion of federation — there is one canonical Bitcoin ledger and it has no notion of communication with any other. That’s what you want for currency, not necessarily other applications. (Bitcoin also incentivizes frivolous forking by giving the creator an initial pile of coins to keep and sell.)

And federation is much more interesting than decentralization! Federation gives us email and the web. Federation means I can set up my own instance with my own rules and still be able to meaningfully communicate with the rest of the network. Federation has some amount of tolerance for changes to the protocol, so such changes are more flexible and rely more heavily on consensus.

Federation is fantastic, and it feels like a massive tragedy that this rekindled interest in decentralization is mostly focused on peer-to-peer networks, which do little to address our current problems with centralized platforms.

And hey, you know what else is federated? Banks.


Again, the tech is cool and all, but the marketing hype is getting way out of hand.

Maybe what I really want from 2018 is less marketing?

For one, I’ve seen a huge uptick in uncritically referring to any software that creates or classifies creative work as “AI”. Can we… can we not. It’s not AI. Yes, yes, nerds, I don’t care about the hair-splitting about the nature of intelligence — you know that when we hear “AI” we think of a human-like self-aware intelligence. But we’re applying it to stuff like a weird dog generator. Or to whatever neural network a website threw into production this week.

And this is dangerously misleading — we already had massive tech companies scapegoating The Algorithm™ for the poor behavior of their software, and now we’re talking about those algorithms as though they were self-aware, untouchable, untameable, unknowable entities of pure chaos whose decisions we are arbitrarily bound to. Ancient, powerful gods who exist just outside human comprehension or law.

It’s weird to see this stuff appear in consumer products so quickly, too. It feels quick, anyway. The latest iPhone can unlock via facial recognition, right? I’m sure a lot of effort was put into ensuring that the same person’s face would always be recognized… but how confident are we that other faces won’t be recognized? I admit I don’t follow all this super closely, so I may be imagining a non-problem, but I do know that humans are remarkably bad at checking for negative cases.

Hell, take the recurring problem of major platforms like Twitter and YouTube classifying anything mentioning “bisexual” as pornographic — because the word is also used as a porn genre, and someone threw a list of porn terms into a filter without thinking too hard about it. That’s just a word list, a fairly simple thing that any human can review; but suddenly we’re confident in opaque networks of inferred details?

I don’t know. “Traditional” classification and generation are much more comforting, since they’re a set of fairly abstract rules that can be examined and followed. Machine learning, as I understand it, is less about rules and much more about pattern-matching; it’s built out of the fingerprints of the stuff it’s trained on. Surely that’s just begging for tons of edge cases. They’re practically made of edge cases.

I’m reminded of a point I saw made a few days ago on Twitter, something I’d never thought about but should have. TurnItIn is a service for universities that checks whether students’ papers match any others, in order to detect cheating. But this is a paid service, one that fundamentally hinges on its corpus: a large collection of existing student papers. So students pay money to attend school, where they’re required to let their work be given to a third-party company, which then profits off of it? What kind of a goofy business model is this?

And my thoughts turn to machine learning, which is fundamentally different from an algorithm you can simply copy from a paper, because it’s all about the training data. And to get good results, you need a lot of training data. Where is that all coming from? How many for-profit companies are setting a neural network loose on the web — on millions of people’s work — and then turning around and selling the result as a product?

This is really a question of how intellectual property works in the internet era, and it continues our proud decades-long tradition of just kinda doing whatever we want without thinking about it too much. Nothing if not consistent.

More of this

A bit tougher, since computers are pretty alright now and everything continues to chug along. Maybe we should just quit while we’re ahead. There’s some real pie-in-the-sky stuff that would be nice, but it certainly won’t happen within a year, and may never happen except in some horrific Algorithmic™ form designed by people that don’t know anything about the problem space and only works 60% of the time but is treated as though it were bulletproof.


The giants are getting more giant. Maybe too giant? Granted, it could be much worse than Google and Amazon — it could be Apple!

Amazon has its own delivery service and brick-and-mortar stores now, as well as providing the plumbing for vast amounts of the web. They’re not doing anything particularly outrageous, but they kind of loom.

Ad company Google just put ad blocking in its majority-share browser — albeit for the ambiguously-noble goal of only blocking obnoxious ads so that people will be less inclined to install a blanket ad blocker.

Twitter is kind of a nightmare but no one wants to leave. I keep trying to use Mastodon as well, but I always forget about it after a day, whoops.

Facebook sounds like a total nightmare but no one wants to leave that either, because normies don’t use anything else, which is itself direly concerning.

IRC is rapidly bleeding mindshare to Slack and Discord, both of which are far better at the things IRC sadly never tried to do and absolutely terrible at the exact things IRC excels at.

The problem is the same as ever: there’s no incentive to interoperate. There’s no fundamental technical reason why Twitter and Tumblr and MySpace and Facebook can’t intermingle their posts; they just don’t, because why would they bother? It’s extra work that makes it easier for people to not use your ecosystem.

I don’t know what can be done about that, except that hope for a really big player to decide to play nice out of the kindness of their heart. The really big federated success stories — say, the web — mostly won out because they came along first. At this point, how does a federated social network take over? I don’t know.

Social progress

I… don’t really have a solid grasp on what’s happening in tech socially at the moment. I’ve drifted a bit away from the industry part, which is where that all tends to come up. I have the vague sense that things are improving, but that might just be because the Rust community is the one I hear the most about, and it puts a lot of effort into being inclusive and welcoming.

So… more projects should be like Rust? Do whatever Rust is doing? And not so much what Linus is doing.

Open source funding

I haven’t heard this brought up much lately, but it would still be nice to see. The Bay Area runs on open source and is raking in zillions of dollars on its back; pump some of that cash back into the ecosystem, somehow.

I’ve seen a couple open source projects on Patreon, which is fantastic, but feels like a very small solution given how much money is flowing through the commercial tech industry.

Ad blocking

Nice. Fuck ads.

One might wonder where the money to host a website comes from, then? I don’t know. Maybe we should loop this in with the above thing and find a more informal way to pay people for the stuff they make when we find it useful, without the financial and cognitive overhead of A Transaction or Giving Someone My Damn Credit Card Number. You know, something like Bitco— ah, fuck.

Year of the Linux Desktop

I don’t know. What are we working on at the moment? Wayland? Do Wayland, I guess. Oh, and hi-DPI, which I hear sucks. And please fix my sound drivers so PulseAudio stops blaming them when it fucks up.

Hacker House’s Zero W–powered automated gardener

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/hacker-house-automated-gardener/

Are the plants in your home or office looking somewhat neglected? Then build an automated gardener using a Raspberry Pi Zero W, with help from the team at Hacker House.

Make a Raspberry Pi Automated Gardener

See how we built it, including our materials, code, and supplemental instructions, on Hackster.io: https://www.hackster.io/hackerhouse/automated-indoor-gardener-a90907 With how busy our lives are, it’s sometimes easy to forget to pay a little attention to your thirsty indoor plants until it’s too late and you are left with a crusty pile of yellow carcasses.

Building an automated gardener

Tired of their plants looking a little too ‘crispy’, Hacker House have created an automated gardener using a Raspberry Pi Zero W alongside some 3D-printed parts, a 5v USB grow light, and a peristaltic pump.

Hacker House Automated Gardener Raspberry Pi

They designed and 3D printed a PLA casing for the project, allowing enough space within for the Raspberry Pi Zero W, the pump, and the added electronics including soldered wiring and two N-channel power MOSFETs. The MOSFETs serve to switch the light and the pump on and off.

Hacker House Automated Gardener Raspberry Pi

Due to the amount of power the light and pump need, the team replaced the Pi’s standard micro USB power supply with a 12v switching supply.

Coding an automated gardener

All the code for the project — a fairly basic Python script —is on the Hacker House GitHub repository. To fit it to your requirements, you may need to edit a few lines of the code, and Hacker House provides information on how to do this. You can also find more details of the build on the hackster.io project page.

Hacker House Automated Gardener Raspberry Pi

While the project runs with preset timings, there’s no reason why you couldn’t upgrade it to be app-based, for example to set a watering schedule when you’re away on holiday.

To see more for the Hacker House team, be sure to follow them on YouTube. You can also check out some of their previous Raspberry Pi projects featured on our blog, such as the smartphone-connected door lock and gesture-controlled holographic visualiser.

Raspberry Pi and your home garden

Raspberry Pis make great babysitters for your favourite plants, both inside and outside your home. Here at Pi Towers, we have Bert, our Slack- and Twitter-connected potted plant who reminds us when he’s thirsty and in need of water.

Bert Plant on Twitter

I’m good. There’s plenty to drink!

And outside of the office, we’ve seen plenty of your vegetation-focused projects using Raspberry Pi for planting, monitoring or, well, commenting on social and political events within the media.

If you use a Raspberry Pi within your home gardening projects, we’d love to see how you’ve done it. So be sure to share a link with us either in the comments below, or via our social media channels.


The post Hacker House’s Zero W–powered automated gardener appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Integration With Zapier

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/integration-with-zapier/

Integration is boring. And also inevitable. But I won’t be writing about enterprise integration patterns. Instead, I’ll explain how to create an app for integration with Zapier.

What is Zapier? It is a service that allows you tо connect two (or more) otherwise unconnected services via their APIs (or protocols). You can do stuff like “Create a Trello task from an Evernote note”, “publish new RSS items to Facebook”, “append new emails to a spreadsheet”, “post approaching calendar meeting to Slack”, “Save big email attachments to Dropbox”, “tweet all instagrams above a certain likes threshold”, and so on. In fact, it looks to cover mostly the same usecases as another famous service that I really like – IFTTT (if this then that), with my favourite use-case “Get a notification when the international space station passes over your house”. And all of those interactions can be configured via a UI.

Now that’s good for end users but what does it have to do with software development and integration? Zapier (unlike IFTTT, unfortunately), allows custom 3rd party services to be included. So if you have a service of your own, you can create an “app” and allow users to integrate your service with all the other 3rd party services. IFTTT offers a way to invoke web endpoints (including RESTful services), but it doesn’t allow setting headers, so that makes it quite limited for actual APIs.

In this post I’ll briefly explain how to write a custom Zapier app and then will discuss where services like Zapier stand from an architecture perspective.

The thing that I needed it for – to be able to integrate LogSentinel with any of the third parties available through Zapier, i.e. to store audit logs for events that happen in all those 3rd party systems. So how do I do that? There’s a tutorial that makes it look simple. And it is, with a few catches.

First, there are two tutorials – one in GitHub and one on Zapier’s website. And they differ slightly, which becomes tricky in some cases.

I initially followed the GitHub tutorial and had my build fail. It claimed the zapier platform dependency is missing. After I compared it with the example apps, I found out there’s a caret in front of the zapier platform dependency. Removing it just yielded another error – that my node version should be exactly 6.10.2. Why?

The Zapier CLI requires you have exactly version 6.10.2 installed. You’ll see errors and will be unable to proceed otherwise.

It appears that they are using AWS Lambda which is stuck on Node 6.10.2 (actually – it’s 6.10.3 when you check). The current major release is 8, so minus points for choosing … javascript for a command-line tool and for building sandboxed apps. Maybe other decisions had their downsides as well, I won’t be speculating. Maybe it’s just my dislike for dynamic languages.

So, after you make sure you have the correct old version on node, you call zapier init and make sure there are no carets, npm install and then zapier test. So far so good, you have a dummy app. Now how do you make a RESTful call to your service?

Zapier splits the programmable entities in two – “triggers” and “creates”. A trigger is the event that triggers the whole app, an a “create” is what happens as a result. In my case, my app doesn’t publish any triggers, it only accepts input, so I won’t be mentioning triggers (though they seem easy). You configure all of the elements in index.js (e.g. this one):

const log = require('./creates/log');
creates: {
    [log.key]: log,

The log.js file itself is the interesting bit – there you specify all the parameters that should be passed to your API call, as well as making the API call itself:

const log = (z, bundle) => {
  const responsePromise = z.request({
    method: 'POST',
    url: `https://api.logsentinel.com/api/log/${bundle.inputData.actorId}/${bundle.inputData.action}`,
    body: bundle.inputData.details,
	headers: {
		'Accept': 'application/json'
  return responsePromise
    .then(response => JSON.parse(response.content));

module.exports = {
  key: 'log-entry',
  noun: 'Log entry',

  display: {
    label: 'Log',
    description: 'Log an audit trail entry'

  operation: {
    inputFields: [
      {key: 'actorId', label:'ActorID', required: true},
      {key: 'action', label:'Action', required: true},
      {key: 'details', label:'Details', required: false}
    perform: log

You can pass the input parameters to your API call, and it’s as simple as that. The user can then specify which parameters from the source (“trigger”) should be mapped to each of your parameters. In an example zap, I used an email trigger and passed the sender as actorId, the sibject as “action” and the body of the email as details.

There’s one more thing – authentication. Authentication can be done in many ways. Some services offer OAuth, others – HTTP Basic or other custom forms of authentication. There is a section in the documentation about all the options. In my case it was (almost) an HTTP Basic auth. My initial thought was to just supply the credentials as parameters (which you just hardcode rather than map to trigger parameters). That may work, but it’s not the canonical way. You should configure “authentication”, as it triggers a friendly UI for the user.

You include authentication.js (which has the fields your authentication requires) and then pre-process requests by adding a header (in index.js):

const authentication = require('./authentication');

const includeAuthHeaders = (request, z, bundle) => {
  if (bundle.authData.organizationId) {
	request.headers = request.headers || {};
	request.headers['Application-Id'] = bundle.authData.applicationId
	const basicHash = Buffer(`${bundle.authData.organizationId}:${bundle.authData.apiSecret}`).toString('base64');
	request.headers['Authorization'] = `Basic ${basicHash}`;
  return request;

const App = {
  // This is just shorthand to reference the installed dependencies you have. Zapier will
  // need to know these before we can upload
  version: require('./package.json').version,
  platformVersion: require('zapier-platform-core').version,
  authentication: authentication,
  // beforeRequest & afterResponse are optional hooks into the provided HTTP client
  beforeRequest: [

And then you zapier push your app and you can test it. It doesn’t automatically go live, as you have to invite people to try it and use it first, but in many cases that’s sufficient (i.e. using Zapier when doing integration with a particular client)

Can Zapier can be used for any integration problem? Unlikely – it’s pretty limited and simple, but that’s also a strength. You can, in half a day, make your service integrate with thousands of others for the most typical use-cases. And not that although it’s meant for integrating public services rather than for enterprise integration (where you make multiple internal systems talk to each other), as an increasing number of systems rely on 3rd party services, it could find home in an enterprise system, replacing some functions of an ESB.

Effectively, such services (Zapier, IFTTT) are “Simple ESB-as-a-service”. You go to a UI, fill a bunch of fields, and you get systems talking to each other without touching the systems themselves. I’m not a big fan of ESBs, mostly because they become harder to support with time. But minimalist, external ones might be applicable in certain situations. And while such services are primarily aimed at end users, they could be a useful bit in an enterprise architecture that relies on 3rd party services.

Whether it could process the required load, whether an organization is willing to let its data flow through a 3rd party provider (which may store the intermediate parameters), is a question that should be answered in a case by cases basis. I wouldn’t recommend it as a general solution, but it’s certainly an option to consider.

The post Integration With Zapier appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.