Tag Archives: stage

FOSS Project Spotlight: LinuxBoot (Linux Journal)

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/747380/rss

Linux Journal takes a look at the newly announced LinuxBoot project. LWN covered a related talk back in November. “Modern firmware generally consists of two main parts: hardware initialization (early stages) and OS loading (late stages). These parts may be divided further depending on the implementation, but the overall flow is similar across boot firmware. The late stages have gained many capabilities over the years and often have an environment with drivers, utilities, a shell, a graphical menu (sometimes with 3D animations) and much more. Runtime components may remain resident and active after firmware exits. Firmware, which used to fit in an 8 KiB ROM, now contains an OS used to boot another OS and doesn’t always stop running after the OS boots. LinuxBoot replaces the late stages with a Linux kernel and initramfs, which are used to load and execute the next stage, whatever it may be and wherever it may come from. The Linux kernel included in LinuxBoot is called the ‘boot kernel’ to distinguish it from the ‘target kernel’ that is to be booted and may be something other than Linux.

Pirates Crack Microsoft’s UWP Protection, Five Layers of DRM Defeated

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-crack-microsofts-uwp-protection-five-layers-of-drm-defeated-180215/

As the image on the right shows, Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is a system that enables software developers to create applications that can run across many devices.

“The Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is the app platform for Windows 10. You can develop apps for UWP with just one API set, one app package, and one store to reach all Windows 10 devices – PC, tablet, phone, Xbox, HoloLens, Surface Hub and more,” Microsoft explains.

While the benefits of such a system are immediately apparent, critics say that UWP gives Microsoft an awful lot of control, not least since UWP software must be distributed via the Windows Store with Microsoft taking a cut.

Or that was the plan, at least.

Last evening it became clear that the UWP system, previously believed to be uncrackable, had fallen to pirates. After being released on October 31, 2017, the somewhat underwhelming Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection became the first victim at the hands of popular scene group, CODEX.

“This is the first scene release of a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) game. Therefore we would like to point out that it will of course only work on Windows 10. This particular game requires Windows 10 version 1607 or newer,” the group said in its release notes.

CODEX release notes

CODEX says it’s important that the game isn’t allowed to communicate with the Internet so the group advises users to block the game’s executable in their firewall.

While that’s not a particularly unusual instruction, CODEX did reveal that various layers of protection had to be bypassed to make the game work. They’re listed by the group as MSStore, UWP, EAppX, XBLive, and Arxan, the latter being an anti-tamper system.

“It’s the equivalent of Denuvo (without the DRM License part),” cracker Voksi previously explained. “It’s still bloats the executable with useless virtual machines that only slow down your game.”

Arxan features

Arxan’s marketing comes off as extremely confident but may need amending in light of yesterday’s developments.

“Arxan uses code protection against reverse-engineering, key and data protection to secure servers and fortification of game logic to stop the bad guys from tampering. Sorry hackers, game over,” the company’s marketing reads.

What is unclear at this stage is whether Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection represents a typical UWP release or if some particular flaw allowed CODEX to take it apart. The possibility of additional releases is certainly a tantalizing one for pirates but how long they will have to wait is unknown.

Whatever the outcome, Arxan calling “game over” is perhaps a little premature under the circumstances but in this continuing arms race, they probably have another version of their anti-tamper tech up their sleeves…..

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

Early Challenges: Making Critical Hires

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

row of potential employee hires sitting waiting for an interview

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

Who Should Be Your First Hires

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

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

When To Hire

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

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

Where To Find the Right People

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

People You Worked With

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

People You Know

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

Friends Of People You Know

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

People You Know About

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

Other Places to Find People

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

A Comment on Diversity

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

Helping People To Find You

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

Your Blog

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

Your Email List

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

Your Social Involvement

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

Convincing People To Join

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

Why Should They Join You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing The Job Description

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

Orchestrating Interviews

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

Onboarding

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

In Closing

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

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

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

Kim Dotcom Begins New Fight to Avoid Extradition to United States

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-begins-new-fight-to-avoid-extradition-to-united-states-180212/

More than six years ago in January 2012, file-hosting site Megaupload was shut down by the United States government and founder Kim Dotcom and his associates were arrested in New Zealand.

What followed was an epic legal battle to extradite Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato, and Bram van der Kolk to the United States to face several counts including copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering. Dotcom has battled the US government every inch of the way.

The most significant matters include the validity of the search warrants used to raid Dotcom’s Coatesville home on January 20, 2012. Despite a prolonged trip through the legal system, in 2014 the Supreme Court dismissed Dotcom’s appeals that the search warrants weren’t valid.

In 2015, the District Court later ruled that Dotcom and his associates are eligible for extradition. A subsequent appeal to the High Court failed when in February 2017 – and despite a finding that communicating copyright-protected works to the public is not a criminal offense in New Zealand – a judge also ruled in favor.

Of course, Dotcom and his associates immediately filed appeals and today in the Court of Appeal in Wellington, their hearing got underway.

Lawyer Grant Illingworth, representing Van der Kolk and Ortmann, told the Court that the case had “gone off the rails” during the initial 10-week extradition hearing in 2015, arguing that the case had merited “meaningful” consideration by a judge, something which failed to happen.

“It all went wrong. It went absolutely, totally wrong,” Mr. Illingworth said. “We were not heard.”

As expected, Illingworth underlined the belief that under New Zealand law, a person may only be extradited for an offense that could be tried in a criminal court locally. His clients’ cases do not meet that standard, the lawyer argued.

Turning back the clocks more than six years, Illingworth again raised the thorny issue of the warrants used to authorize the raids on the Megaupload defendants.

It had previously been established that New Zealand’s GCSB intelligence service had illegally spied on Dotcom and his associates in the lead up to their arrests. However, that fact was not disclosed to the District Court judge who authorized the raids.

“We say that there was misleading conduct at this stage because there was no reference to the fact that information had been gathered illegally by the GCSB,” he said.

But according to Justice Forrest Miller, even if this defense argument holds up the High Court had already found there was a prima facie case to answer “with bells on”.

“The difficulty that you face here ultimately is whether the judicial process that has been followed in both of the courts below was meaningful, to use the Canadian standard,” Justice Miller said.

“You’re going to have to persuade us that what Justice Gilbert [in the High Court] ended up with, even assuming your interpretation of the legislation is correct, was wrong.”

Although the US seeks to extradite Dotcom and his associates on 13 charges, including racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, the Court of Appeal previously confirmed that extradition could be granted based on just some of the charges.

The stakes couldn’t be much higher. The FBI says that the “Megaupload Conspiracy” earned the quartet $175m and if extradited to the US, they could face decades in jail.

While Dotcom was not in court today, he has been active on Twitter.

“The court process went ‘off the rails’ when the only copyright expert Judge in NZ was >removed< from my case and replaced by a non-tech Judge who asked if Mega was ‘cow storage’. He then simply copy/pasted 85% of the US submissions into his judgment," Dotcom wrote.

Dotcom also appeared to question the suitability of judges at both the High Court and Court of Appeal for the task in hand.

“Justice Miller and Justice Gilbert (he wrote that High Court judgment) were business partners at the law firm Chapman Tripp which represents the Hollywood Studios in my case. Both Judges are now at the Court of Appeal. Gilbert was promoted shortly after ruling against me,” Dotcom added.

Dotcom is currently suing the New Zealand government for billions of dollars in damages over the warrant which triggered his arrest and the demise of Megaupload.

The hearing is expected to last up to two-and-a-half weeks.

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

Comcast Explains How It Deals With Persistent Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/comcast-explains-how-it-deals-with-persistent-pirates-180210/

Dating back to the turn of the last century, copyright holders have alerted Internet providers about alleged copyright infringers on their network.

While many ISPs forwarded these notices to their subscribers, most were not very forthcoming about what would happen after multiple accusations.

This vagueness was in part shaped by law. While it’s clear that the DMCA requires Internet providers to implement a meaningful “repeat infringer” policy, the DMCA doesn’t set any clear boundaries on what constitutes a repeat infringer and when one should be punished.

With the recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Cox, it is now clear that “infringers” doesn’t imply people who are adjudicated, valid accusations from copyright holders are enough. However, an ISP still has some flexibility when it comes to the rest of its “repeat infringer” policy.

In this light, it’s interesting to see that Comcast recently published details of its repeat infringer policy online. While the ISP has previously confirmed that persistent pirates could be terminated, it has never publicly spelled out its policy in such detail.

First up, Comcast clarifies that subscribers to its Xfinity service can be flagged based on reports from rightsholders alone, which is in line with the Fourth Circuit ruling.

“Any infringement of third party copyright rights violates the law. We reserve the right to treat any customer account for whom we receive multiple DMCA notifications from content owners as a repeat infringer,” the company notes.

If Comcast receives multiple notices in a calendar month, the associated subscriber moves from one policy step to the next one. This means that the ISP will issue warnings with increased visibility.

These alerts can come in the form of emails, letters to a home address, text messages, phone calls, and also alerts sent to the subscriber’s web browser. The alerts then have to be acknowledged by the user, so it clear that he or she understands what’s at stake.

From Comcast’s repeat infringer policy

Comcast doesn’t state specifically how many alerts will trigger tougher action, but it stresses that repeat infringers risk having their accounts suspended. As a result, all devices that rely on Internet access will be interrupted or stop working.

“If your XFINITY Internet account is suspended, you will have no Internet access or service during suspension. This means any services and devices that use the Internet will not properly work or will not work at all,” Comcast states.

The suspension is applied as a last warning before the lights go out completely. Subscribers who reach this stage can still reinstate their Internet connectivity by calling Comcast. It’s unclear whether they have to take any additional action, but it could be that these subscribers have to ‘promise’ to behave.

After this last warning, the subscriber risks the most severe penalty, account termination. This is not limited to regular access to the web, but also affects XFINITY TV, XFINITY Voice, and XFINITY Home, including smart thermostats and home security equipment.

“If you reach the point of service termination, we will terminate your XFINITY Internet service and related add-ons. Unreturned equipment charges will still apply. If you also have XFINITY TV and/or XFINITY Voice services, they will also be terminated,” Comcast warns.

Comcast doesn’t specify how long the Internet termination lasts but the company states that it’s typically no less than 180 days. This means that terminated subscribers will need to find an Internet subscription elsewhere if one’s available.

The good news is that other XFINITY services can be restored after termination, without Internet access. Subscribers will have to contact Comcast to request a quote for an Internet-less package.

While this policy may sound harsh to some, Comcast has few other options if it wants to avoid liability. The good news is that the company requires users to acknowledge the warnings, which means that any measures shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There is no mention of any option to contest any copyright holder notices, which may become an issue in the future. After all, when copyright holders have the power to have people’s Internet connections terminated, their accusations have to be spot on.



Comcast’s repeat infringer policy is available here and was, according to the information we have available, quietly published around December last year.

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

[$] Open-source drug discovery

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/746663/rss

An apparent linux.conf.au tradition is to dedicate a keynote slot to
somebody who is applying open-source principles to make the world better in
an area other than software development. LCA 2018 was no exception;
professor Matthew Todd took the stage to present his work on open-source
drug discovery. The market for pharmaceuticals has failed in a number of
ways to come up with necessary drugs at reasonable prices;
perhaps some of those failures can be addressed through a community effort.

Jailed Streaming Site Operator Hit With Fresh $3m Damages Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/jailed-streaming-site-operator-hit-with-fresh-3m-damages-lawsuit-180207/

After being founded more than half a decade ago, Swefilmer grew to become Sweden’s most popular movie and TV show streaming site. It was only a question of time before authorities stepped in to bring the show to an end.

In 2015, a Swedish operator of the site in his early twenties was raided by local police. A second man, Turkish and in his late twenties, was later arrested in Germany.

The pair, who hadn’t met in person, appeared before the Varberg District Court in January 2017, accused of making more than $1.5m from their activities between November 2013 and June 2015.

The prosecutor described Swefilmer as “organized crime”, painting the then 26-year-old as the main brains behind the site and the 23-year-old as playing a much smaller role. The former was said to have led a luxury lifestyle after benefiting from $1.5m in advertising revenue.

The sentences eventually handed down matched the defendants’ alleged level of participation. While the younger man received probation and community service, the Turk was sentenced to serve three years in prison and ordered to forfeit $1.59m.

Very quickly it became clear there would be an appeal, with plaintiffs represented by anti-piracy outfit RightsAlliance complaining that their 10m krona ($1.25m) claim for damages over the unlawful distribution of local movie Johan Falk: Kodnamn: Lisa had been ruled out by the Court.

With the appeal hearing now just a couple of weeks away, Swedish outlet Breakit is reporting that media giant Bonnier Broadcasting has launched an action of its own against the now 27-year-old former operator of Swefilmer.

According to the publication, Bonnier’s pay-TV company C More, which distributes for Fox, MGM, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Warner, is set to demand around 24m krona ($3.01m) via anti-piracy outfit RightsAlliance.

“This is about organized crime and grossly criminal individuals who earned huge sums on our and others’ content. We want to take every opportunity to take advantage of our rights,” says Johan Gustafsson, Head of Corporate Communications at Bonnier Broadcasting.

C More reportedly filed its lawsuit at the Stockholm District Court on January 30, 2018. At its core are four local movies said to have been uploaded and made available via Swefilmer.

“C More would probably never even have granted a license to [the operator] to make or allow others to make the films available to the public in a similar way as [the operator] did, but if that had happened, the fee would not be less than 5,000,000 krona ($628,350) per film or a total of 20,000,000 krona ($2,513,400),” C More’s claim reads.

Speaking with Breakit, lawyer Ansgar Firsching said he couldn’t say much about C More’s claims against his client.

“I am very surprised that two weeks before the main hearing [C More] comes in with this requirement. If you open another front, we have two trials that are partly about the same thing,” he said.

Firsching said he couldn’t elaborate at this stage but expects his client to deny the claim for damages. C More sees things differently.

“Many people live under the illusion that sites like Swefilmer are driven by idealistic teens in their parents’ basements, which is completely wrong. This is about organized crime where our content is used to generate millions and millions in revenue,” the company notes.

The appeal in the main case is set to go ahead February 20th.

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

Virgin Media Store Caught Running Movie & TV Show Piracy Software (Updated)

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/virgin-media-store-caught-running-movie-tv-show-piracy-software-180205/

While other providers in the UK and Ireland aim to compete, those requiring the absolute fastest fibre optic broadband coupled with a comprehensive TV package will probably find themselves considering Virgin Media.

Despite sporting Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, the company has been owned by US-based Liberty Global since 2013. It previously earned the title of first quad-play media company in the United Kingdom, offering broadband, TV, fixed-line and mobile telecoms packages.

Today, however, the company has a small piracy-related embarrassment to address.

Like several of the large telecoms companies in the region, Virgin Media operates a number of bricks-and-mortar stores which are used to drum up sales for Internet, TV and phone packages while offering support to new and existing customers. They typically look like the one in the image below.

Virgin Media store (credit: Virgin)

The outside windows of Virgin stores are usually covered with advertising for the company’s products and regularly carry digital displays which present the latest deals. However, one such display spotted by a passer-by carried a little extra.

In a now-deleted post on Reddit, a user explained that when out and about he’d passed a Virgin Media store which sported a digital display advertising the company’s impressive “Full House” package. However, intruding at the top of the screen was a notification from one of the most impressive piracy apps available, Terrarium TV.

Busted: Terrarium TV notification top and center (credit)

For those out of the loop, Terrarium TV is one of the most feature-rich Android-based applications available today. For reasons that aren’t exactly clear, it hasn’t received the attention of ‘rivals’ such as Popcorn Time and Showbox but its abilities are extremely impressive.

As the image shows, the notification is letting the user know that two new movies – The Star and The Stray – have been added to Terrarium’s repertoire. In other words, they’ve just been listed in the Terrarium app for streaming directly to the user’s installation (in this case one of Virgin’s own displays) for free, without permission from copyright holders.

Of course, Virgin Media definitely won’t have authorized the installation of Terrarium TV on any of its units, so it’s most likely down to someone in the store with access to the display, perhaps a staff member but possibly a mischievous customer. Whoever it was should probably uninstall it now though, if they’re able to. Virgin will not be happy about this.

The person who took the photo didn’t respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment on where it was taken but from the information available in the image, it seems likely that it’s in Ireland. Virgin Media ads elsewhere in the region are priced in pounds – not in euros – so a retail outlet in the country is the most likely location. The same 99 euro “Full House” deal is also advertised on Virgin’s .ie website.

Terrarium TV

Terrarium TV

While a display running a piracy application over the top of an advert trying to sell premium access to movies and TV shows is embarrassing enough, Virgin and other ISPs including Eircom, Sky Ireland, and Vodafone Ireland are currently subject to a court order which compels them to block several pirate sites in Ireland.

The sources used by Terrarium to supply illicit copies of movies are not part of that order but since ISPs in the region don’t contest blocking orders when rightsholders apply for them, it’s reasonable to presume they’re broadly in favor of blocking pirate sites.

Of course, that makes perfect sense if you’re a company trying to make money from selling premium access to content.

Update: We have a lengthy statement from Virgin Media:

“Virgin Media takes copyright very seriously and does not condone illegal streaming.

Our new Tallaght Store is due to officially open later this month and currently does not currently have Virgin Media network connectivity.

Over the weekend, an advertising screen display in this Store was being set up by a contractor.

The contractor took it on themselves to use their own 4G device to set up the screen, ahead of the store being connected to our fibre services this week.

At some stage, it seems an unwanted pop-up appeared on the screen from an illegal streaming site. To be clear, this was not on the Virgin Media network.

Other than as outlined above, this occurrence has no connection whatsoever with Virgin Media. We have notified the contractor regarding this incident.”

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

Four days of STEAM at Bett 2018

Post Syndicated from Dan Fisher original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/bett-2018/

If you’re an educator from the UK, chances are you’ve heard of Bett. For everyone else: Bett stands for British Education Technology Tradeshow. It’s the El Dorado of edtech, where every street is adorned with interactive whiteboards, VR headsets, and new technologies for the classroom. Every year since 2014, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been going to the event hosted in the ExCeL London to chat to thousands of lovely educators about our free programmes and resources.

Raspberry Pi Bett 2018

On a mission

Our setup this year consisted of four pods (imagine tables on steroids) in the STEAM village, and the mission of our highly trained team of education agents was to establish a new world record for Highest number of teachers talked to in a four-day period. I’m only half-joking.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Educators with a mission

Meeting educators

The best thing about being at Bett is meeting the educators who use our free content and training materials. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the everyday tasks of the office without stopping to ask: “Hey, have we asked our users what they want recently?” Events like Bett help us to connect with our audience, creating some lovely moments for both sides. We had plenty of Hello World authors visit us, including Gary Stager, co-author of Invent to Learn, a must-read for any computing educator. More than 700 people signed up for a digital subscription, we had numerous lovely conversations about our content and about ideas for new articles, and we met many new authors expressing an interest in writing for us in the future.

BETT 2018 Hello World Raspberry Pi
BETT 2018 Hello World Raspberry Pi
BETT 2018 Hello World Raspberry Pi

We also talked to lots of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators who we’d trained in our free Picademy programme — new dates in Belfast and Dublin now! — and who are now doing exciting and innovative things in their local areas. For example, Chris Snowden came to tell us about the great digital making outreach work he has been doing with the Eureka! museum in Yorkshire.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Snowden

Digital making for kids

The other best thing about being at Bett is running workshops for young learners and seeing the delight on their faces when they accomplish something they believed to be impossible only five minutes ago. On the Saturday, we ran a massive Raspberry Jam/Code Club where over 250 children, parents, and curious onlookers got stuck into some of our computing activities. We were super happy to find out that we’d won the Bett Kids’ Choice Award for Best Hands-on Experience — a fantastic end to a busy four days. With Bett over for another year, our tired and happy ‘rebel alliance’ from across the Foundation still had the energy to pose for a group photo.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Celebrating our ‘Best Hands-on Experience’ award

More events

You can find out more about starting a Code Club here, and if you’re running a Jam, why not get involved with our global Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend celebrations in March?

Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend 2018. GIF with confetti and bopping JAM balloons

We’ll be at quite a few events in 2018, including the Big Bang Fair in March — do come and say hi.

The post Four days of STEAM at Bett 2018 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Court Orders Tickbox to Keep Pirate Streaming Addons Out

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-tickbox-to-keep-pirate-streaming-addons-out-180131/

Kodi-powered set-top boxes are a great way to to stream video content to a TV, but sellers who ship these devices with unauthorized add-ons give them a bad reputation.

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

Last year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells Kodi-powered set-top boxes that stream a variety of popular media.

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright-infringing content and being advertised as such. The coalition, therefore, asked the court for an injunction to prevent Tickbox from facilitating copyright infringement by removing all pirate add-ons from previously sold devices.

This week US District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald issued a preliminary injunction, which largely sides with the movie companies. According to the Judge, there is sufficient reason to believe that Tickbox can be held liable for inducing copyright infringement.

One of the claims is that Tickbox promoted its service for piracy purposes, and according to the Judge the movie companies provided enough evidence to make this likely. This includes various advertising messages the box seller used.

“There is ample evidence that, at least prior to Plaintiffs’commencement of this action, TickBox explicitly advertised the Device as a means to accessing unauthorized versions of copyrighted audiovisual content,” Judge Fitzgerald writes.

In its defense, Tickbox argued that it merely offered a computer which users can then configure to their liking. However, the Judge points out that the company went further, as it actively directed its users to install certain themes (builds) to watch movies, TV and sports.

“Thus, the fact that the Device is just a ‘computer’ that can be used for infringing and noninfringing purposes does not insulate TickBox from liability if [..] the Device is actually used for infringing purposes and TickBox encourages such use.”

Taking these and several other factors into account, the Court ruled that a preliminary injunction is warranted at this stage. After the lawsuit was filed, Tickbox already voluntarily removed much of the inducing advertisements and addons, and this will remain so.

The preliminary injunction compels TickBox to the current version of the user interface, without easy access to pirate add-ons. The devices should no longer contain links to any of the themes and addons that the movie companies have flagged as copyright infringing.

Tickbox had argued that a broad injunction could shut down its business, but the court counters this. Customers will still be able to use the box for legitimate purposes. If they are no longer interested it suggests that piracy was the main draw.

“[A]n injunction of this scope will not ‘shut down Defendant’s business’ as TickBox contends. In the event that such an injunction does shut TickBox down, that will be indicative not of an unjustifiably burdensome injunction, but of a nonviable business model,” Judge Fitzgerald writes.

The preliminary injunction is not final yet as there are several questions still unanswered.

It’s unclear, for example, if and how Tickbox should remove addons from previously sold devices. The Court, therefore, instructs both parties to attempt to reach agreement on these outstanding issues, to include them in an updated injunction.

The above findings are preliminary and apply specifically to the injunction request and the case itself will continue. However, the Court’s early opinion suggests that Tickbox has plenty of work ahead to prove its innocence.

A copy of the preliminary injunction is available here (pdf), and Judge Fitzgerald’s findings can be found here (pdf).

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

Top 8 Best Practices for High-Performance ETL Processing Using Amazon Redshift

Post Syndicated from Thiyagarajan Arumugam original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/top-8-best-practices-for-high-performance-etl-processing-using-amazon-redshift/

An ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) process enables you to load data from source systems into your data warehouse. This is typically executed as a batch or near-real-time ingest process to keep the data warehouse current and provide up-to-date analytical data to end users.

Amazon Redshift is a fast, petabyte-scale data warehouse that enables you easily to make data-driven decisions. With Amazon Redshift, you can get insights into your big data in a cost-effective fashion using standard SQL. You can set up any type of data model, from star and snowflake schemas, to simple de-normalized tables for running any analytical queries.

To operate a robust ETL platform and deliver data to Amazon Redshift in a timely manner, design your ETL processes to take account of Amazon Redshift’s architecture. When migrating from a legacy data warehouse to Amazon Redshift, it is tempting to adopt a lift-and-shift approach, but this can result in performance and scale issues long term. This post guides you through the following best practices for ensuring optimal, consistent runtimes for your ETL processes:

  • COPY data from multiple, evenly sized files.
  • Use workload management to improve ETL runtimes.
  • Perform table maintenance regularly.
  • Perform multiple steps in a single transaction.
  • Loading data in bulk.
  • Use UNLOAD to extract large result sets.
  • Use Amazon Redshift Spectrum for ad hoc ETL processing.
  • Monitor daily ETL health using diagnostic queries.

1. COPY data from multiple, evenly sized files

Amazon Redshift is an MPP (massively parallel processing) database, where all the compute nodes divide and parallelize the work of ingesting data. Each node is further subdivided into slices, with each slice having one or more dedicated cores, equally dividing the processing capacity. The number of slices per node depends on the node type of the cluster. For example, each DS2.XLARGE compute node has two slices, whereas each DS2.8XLARGE compute node has 16 slices.

When you load data into Amazon Redshift, you should aim to have each slice do an equal amount of work. When you load the data from a single large file or from files split into uneven sizes, some slices do more work than others. As a result, the process runs only as fast as the slowest, or most heavily loaded, slice. In the example shown below, a single large file is loaded into a two-node cluster, resulting in only one of the nodes, “Compute-0”, performing all the data ingestion:

When splitting your data files, ensure that they are of approximately equal size – between 1 MB and 1 GB after compression. The number of files should be a multiple of the number of slices in your cluster. Also, I strongly recommend that you individually compress the load files using gzip, lzop, or bzip2 to efficiently load large datasets.

When loading multiple files into a single table, use a single COPY command for the table, rather than multiple COPY commands. Amazon Redshift automatically parallelizes the data ingestion. Using a single COPY command to bulk load data into a table ensures optimal use of cluster resources, and quickest possible throughput.

2. Use workload management to improve ETL runtimes

Use Amazon Redshift’s workload management (WLM) to define multiple queues dedicated to different workloads (for example, ETL versus reporting) and to manage the runtimes of queries. As you migrate more workloads into Amazon Redshift, your ETL runtimes can become inconsistent if WLM is not appropriately set up.

I recommend limiting the overall concurrency of WLM across all queues to around 15 or less. This WLM guide helps you organize and monitor the different queues for your Amazon Redshift cluster.

When managing different workloads on your Amazon Redshift cluster, consider the following for the queue setup:

  • Create a queue dedicated to your ETL processes. Configure this queue with a small number of slots (5 or fewer). Amazon Redshift is designed for analytics queries, rather than transaction processing. The cost of COMMIT is relatively high, and excessive use of COMMIT can result in queries waiting for access to the commit queue. Because ETL is a commit-intensive process, having a separate queue with a small number of slots helps mitigate this issue.
  • Claim extra memory available in a queue. When executing an ETL query, you can take advantage of the wlm_query_slot_count to claim the extra memory available in a particular queue. For example, a typical ETL process might involve COPYing raw data into a staging table so that downstream ETL jobs can run transformations that calculate daily, weekly, and monthly aggregates. To speed up the COPY process (so that the downstream tasks can start in parallel sooner), the wlm_query_slot_count can be increased for this step.
  • Create a separate queue for reporting queries. Configure query monitoring rules on this queue to further manage long-running and expensive queries.
  • Take advantage of the dynamic memory parameters. They swap the memory from your ETL to your reporting queue after the ETL job has completed.

3. Perform table maintenance regularly

Amazon Redshift is a columnar database, which enables fast transformations for aggregating data. Performing regular table maintenance ensures that transformation ETLs are predictable and performant. To get the best performance from your Amazon Redshift database, you must ensure that database tables regularly are VACUUMed and ANALYZEd. The Analyze & Vacuum schema utility helps you automate the table maintenance task and have VACUUM & ANALYZE executed in a regular fashion.

  • Use VACUUM to sort tables and remove deleted blocks

During a typical ETL refresh process, tables receive new incoming records using COPY, and unneeded data (cold data) is removed using DELETE. New rows are added to the unsorted region in a table. Deleted rows are simply marked for deletion.

DELETE does not automatically reclaim the space occupied by the deleted rows. Adding and removing large numbers of rows can therefore cause the unsorted region and the number of deleted blocks to grow. This can degrade the performance of queries executed against these tables.

After an ETL process completes, perform VACUUM to ensure that user queries execute in a consistent manner. The complete list of tables that need VACUUMing can be found using the Amazon Redshift Util’s table_info script.

Use the following approaches to ensure that VACCUM is completed in a timely manner:

  • Use wlm_query_slot_count to claim all the memory allocated in the ETL WLM queue during the VACUUM process.
  • DROP or TRUNCATE intermediate or staging tables, thereby eliminating the need to VACUUM them.
  • If your table has a compound sort key with only one sort column, try to load your data in sort key order. This helps reduce or eliminate the need to VACUUM the table.
  • Consider using time series This helps reduce the amount of data you need to VACUUM.
  • Use ANALYZE to update database statistics

Amazon Redshift uses a cost-based query planner and optimizer using statistics about tables to make good decisions about the query plan for the SQL statements. Regular statistics collection after the ETL completion ensures that user queries run fast, and that daily ETL processes are performant. The Amazon Redshift utility table_info script provides insights into the freshness of the statistics. Keeping the statistics off (pct_stats_off) less than 20% ensures effective query plans for the SQL queries.

4. Perform multiple steps in a single transaction

ETL transformation logic often spans multiple steps. Because commits in Amazon Redshift are expensive, if each ETL step performs a commit, multiple concurrent ETL processes can take a long time to execute.

To minimize the number of commits in a process, the steps in an ETL script should be surrounded by a BEGIN…END statement so that a single commit is performed only after all the transformation logic has been executed. For example, here is an example multi-step ETL script that performs one commit at the end:

Begin
CREATE temporary staging_table;
INSERT INTO staging_table SELECT .. FROM source (transformation logic);
DELETE FROM daily_table WHERE dataset_date =?;
INSERT INTO daily_table SELECT .. FROM staging_table (daily aggregate);
DELETE FROM weekly_table WHERE weekending_date=?;
INSERT INTO weekly_table SELECT .. FROM staging_table(weekly aggregate);
Commit

5. Loading data in bulk

Amazon Redshift is designed to store and query petabyte-scale datasets. Using Amazon S3 you can stage and accumulate data from multiple source systems before executing a bulk COPY operation. The following methods allow efficient and fast transfer of these bulk datasets into Amazon Redshift:

  • Use a manifest file to ingest large datasets that span multiple files. The manifest file is a JSON file that lists all the files to be loaded into Amazon Redshift. Using a manifest file ensures that Amazon Redshift has a consistent view of the data to be loaded from S3, while also ensuring that duplicate files do not result in the same data being loaded more than one time.
  • Use temporary staging tables to hold the data for transformation. These tables are automatically dropped after the ETL session is complete. Temporary tables can be created using the CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE syntax, or by issuing a SELECT … INTO #TEMP_TABLE query. Explicitly specifying the CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE statement allows you to control the DISTRIBUTION KEY, SORT KEY, and compression settings to further improve performance.
  • User ALTER table APPEND to swap data from the staging tables to the target table. Data in the source table is moved to matching columns in the target table. Column order doesn’t matter. After data is successfully appended to the target table, the source table is empty. ALTER TABLE APPEND is much faster than a similar CREATE TABLE AS or INSERT INTO operation because it doesn’t involve copying or moving data.

6. Use UNLOAD to extract large result sets

Fetching a large number of rows using SELECT is expensive and takes a long time. When a large amount of data is fetched from the Amazon Redshift cluster, the leader node has to hold the data temporarily until the fetches are complete. Further, data is streamed out sequentially, which results in longer elapsed time. As a result, the leader node can become hot, which not only affects the SELECT that is being executed, but also throttles resources for creating execution plans and managing the overall cluster resources. Here is an example of a large SELECT statement. Notice that the leader node is doing most of the work to stream out the rows:

Use UNLOAD to extract large results sets directly to S3. After it’s in S3, the data can be shared with multiple downstream systems. By default, UNLOAD writes data in parallel to multiple files according to the number of slices in the cluster. All the compute nodes participate to quickly offload the data into S3.

If you are extracting data for use with Amazon Redshift Spectrum, you should make use of the MAXFILESIZE parameter to and keep files are 150 MB. Similar to item 1 above, having many evenly sized files ensures that Redshift Spectrum can do the maximum amount of work in parallel.

7. Use Redshift Spectrum for ad hoc ETL processing

Events such as data backfill, promotional activity, and special calendar days can trigger additional data volumes that affect the data refresh times in your Amazon Redshift cluster. To help address these spikes in data volumes and throughput, I recommend staging data in S3. After data is organized in S3, Redshift Spectrum enables you to query it directly using standard SQL. In this way, you gain the benefits of additional capacity without having to resize your cluster.

For tips on getting started with and optimizing the use of Redshift Spectrum, see the previous post, 10 Best Practices for Amazon Redshift Spectrum.

8. Monitor daily ETL health using diagnostic queries

Monitoring the health of your ETL processes on a regular basis helps identify the early onset of performance issues before they have a significant impact on your cluster. The following monitoring scripts can be used to provide insights into the health of your ETL processes:

Script Use when… Solution
commit_stats.sql – Commit queue statistics from past days, showing largest queue length and queue time first DML statements such as INSERT/UPDATE/COPY/DELETE operations take several times longer to execute when multiple of these operations are in progress Set up separate WLM queues for the ETL process and limit the concurrency to < 5.
copy_performance.sql –  Copy command statistics for the past days Daily COPY operations take longer to execute • Follow the best practices for the COPY command.
• Analyze data growth with the incoming datasets and consider cluster resize to meet the expected SLA.
table_info.sql – Table skew and unsorted statistics along with storage and key information Transformation steps take longer to execute • Set up regular VACCUM jobs to address unsorted rows and claim the deleted blocks so that transformation SQL execute optimally.
• Consider a table redesign to avoid data skewness.
v_check_transaction_locks.sql – Monitor transaction locks INSERT/UPDATE/COPY/DELETE operations on particular tables do not respond back in timely manner, compared to when run after the ETL Multiple DML statements are operating on the same target table at the same moment from different transactions. Set up ETL job dependency so that they execute serially for the same target table.
v_get_schema_priv_by_user.sql – Get the schema that the user has access to Reporting users can view intermediate tables Set up separate database groups for reporting and ETL users, and grants access to objects using GRANT.
v_generate_tbl_ddl.sql – Get the table DDL You need to create an empty table with same structure as target table for data backfill Generate DDL using this script for data backfill.
v_space_used_per_tbl.sql – monitor space used by individual tables Amazon Redshift data warehouse space growth is trending upwards more than normal

Analyze the individual tables that are growing at higher rate than normal. Consider data archival using UNLOAD to S3 and Redshift Spectrum for later analysis.

Use unscanned_table_summary.sql to find unused table and archive or drop them.

top_queries.sql – Return the top 50 time consuming statements aggregated by its text ETL transformations are taking longer to execute Analyze the top transformation SQL and use EXPLAIN to find opportunities for tuning the query plan.

There are several other useful scripts available in the amazon-redshift-utils repository. The AWS Lambda Utility Runner runs a subset of these scripts on a scheduled basis, allowing you to automate much of monitoring of your ETL processes.

Example ETL process

The following ETL process reinforces some of the best practices discussed in this post. Consider the following four-step daily ETL workflow where data from an RDBMS source system is staged in S3 and then loaded into Amazon Redshift. Amazon Redshift is used to calculate daily, weekly, and monthly aggregations, which are then unloaded to S3, where they can be further processed and made available for end-user reporting using a number of different tools, including Redshift Spectrum and Amazon Athena.

Step 1:  Extract from the RDBMS source to a S3 bucket

In this ETL process, the data extract job fetches change data every 1 hour and it is staged into multiple hourly files. For example, the staged S3 folder looks like the following:

 [[email protected] ~]$ aws s3 ls s3://<<S3 Bucket>>/batch/2017/07/02/
2017-07-02 01:59:58   81900220 20170702T01.export.gz
2017-07-02 02:59:56   84926844 20170702T02.export.gz
2017-07-02 03:59:54   78990356 20170702T03.export.gz
…
2017-07-02 22:00:03   75966745 20170702T21.export.gz
2017-07-02 23:00:02   89199874 20170702T22.export.gz
2017-07-02 00:59:59   71161715 20170702T23.export.gz

Organizing the data into multiple, evenly sized files enables the COPY command to ingest this data using all available resources in the Amazon Redshift cluster. Further, the files are compressed (gzipped) to further reduce COPY times.

Step 2: Stage data to the Amazon Redshift table for cleansing

Ingesting the data can be accomplished using a JSON-based manifest file. Using the manifest file ensures that S3 eventual consistency issues can be eliminated and also provides an opportunity to dedupe any files if needed. A sample manifest20170702.json file looks like the following:

{
  "entries": [
    {"url":" s3://<<S3 Bucket>>/batch/2017/07/02/20170702T01.export.gz", "mandatory":true},
    {"url":" s3://<<S3 Bucket>>/batch/2017/07/02/20170702T02.export.gz", "mandatory":true},
    …
    {"url":" s3://<<S3 Bucket>>/batch/2017/07/02/20170702T23.export.gz", "mandatory":true}
  ]
}

The data can be ingested using the following command:

SET wlm_query_slot_count TO <<max available concurrency in the ETL queue>>;
COPY stage_tbl FROM 's3:// <<S3 Bucket>>/batch/manifest20170702.json' iam_role 'arn:aws:iam::0123456789012:role/MyRedshiftRole' manifest;

Because the downstream ETL processes depend on this COPY command to complete, the wlm_query_slot_count is used to claim all the memory available to the queue. This helps the COPY command complete as quickly as possible.

Step 3: Transform data to create daily, weekly, and monthly datasets and load into target tables

Data is staged in the “stage_tbl” from where it can be transformed into the daily, weekly, and monthly aggregates and loaded into target tables. The following job illustrates a typical weekly process:

Begin
INSERT into ETL_LOG (..) values (..);
DELETE from weekly_tbl where dataset_week = <<current week>>;
INSERT into weekly_tbl (..)
  SELECT date_trunc('week', dataset_day) AS week_begin_dataset_date, SUM(C1) AS C1, SUM(C2) AS C2
	FROM   stage_tbl
GROUP BY date_trunc('week', dataset_day);
INSERT into AUDIT_LOG values (..);
COMMIT;
End;

As shown above, multiple steps are combined into one transaction to perform a single commit, reducing contention on the commit queue.

Step 4: Unload the daily dataset to populate the S3 data lake bucket

The transformed results are now unloaded into another S3 bucket, where they can be further processed and made available for end-user reporting using a number of different tools, including Redshift Spectrum and Amazon Athena.

unload ('SELECT * FROM weekly_tbl WHERE dataset_week = <<current week>>’) TO 's3:// <<S3 Bucket>>/datalake/weekly/20170526/' iam_role 'arn:aws:iam::0123456789012:role/MyRedshiftRole';

Summary

Amazon Redshift lets you easily operate petabyte-scale data warehouses on the cloud. This post summarized the best practices for operating scalable ETL natively within Amazon Redshift. I demonstrated efficient ways to ingest and transform data, along with close monitoring. I also demonstrated the best practices being used in a typical sample ETL workload to transform the data into Amazon Redshift.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.

 


About the Author

Thiyagarajan Arumugam is a Big Data Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services and designs customer architectures to process data at scale. Prior to AWS, he built data warehouse solutions at Amazon.com. In his free time, he enjoys all outdoor sports and practices the Indian classical drum mridangam.

 

SUPER game night 3: GAMES MADE QUICK??? 2.0

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/01/23/super-game-night-3-games-made-quick-2-0/

Game night continues with a smorgasbord of games from my recent game jam, GAMES MADE QUICK??? 2.0!

The idea was to make a game in only a week while watching AGDQ, as an alternative to doing absolutely nothing for a week while watching AGDQ. (I didn’t submit a game myself; I was chugging along on my Anise game, which isn’t finished yet.)

I can’t very well run a game jam and not play any of the games, so here’s some of them in no particular order! Enjoy!

These are impressions, not reviews. I try to avoid major/ending spoilers, but big plot points do tend to leave impressions.

Weather Quest, by timlmul

short · rpg · jan 2017 · (lin)/mac/win · free on itch · jam entry

Weather Quest is its author’s first shipped game, written completely from scratch (the only vendored code is a micro OO base). It’s very short, but as someone who has also written LÖVE games completely from scratch, I can attest that producing something this game-like in a week is a fucking miracle. Bravo!

For reference, a week into my first foray, I think I was probably still writing my own Tiled importer like an idiot.

Only Mac and Windows builds are on itch, but it’s a LÖVE game, so Linux folks can just grab a zip from GitHub and throw that at love.

FINAL SCORE: ⛅☔☀

Pancake Numbers Simulator, by AnorakThePrimordial

short · sim · jan 2017 · lin/mac/win · free on itch · jam entry

Given a stack of N pancakes (of all different sizes and in no particular order), the Nth pancake number is the most flips you could possibly need to sort the pancakes in order with the smallest on top. A “flip” is sticking a spatula under one of the pancakes and flipping the whole sub-stack over. There’s, ah, a video embedded on the game page with some visuals.

Anyway, this game lets you simulate sorting a stack via pancake flipping, which is surprisingly satisfying! I enjoy cleaning up little simulated messes, such as… incorrectly-sorted pancakes, I guess?

This probably doesn’t work too well as a simulator for solving the general problem — you’d have to find an optimal solution for every permutation of N pancakes to be sure you were right. But it’s a nice interactive illustration of the problem, and if you know the pancake number for your stack size of choice (which I wish the game told you — for seven pancakes, it’s 8), then trying to restore a stack in that many moves makes for a nice quick puzzle.

FINAL SCORE: \(\frac{18}{11}\)

Framed Animals, by chridd

short · metroidvania · jan 2017 · web/win · free on itch · jam entry

The concept here was to kill the frames, save the animals, which is a delightfully literal riff on a long-running AGDQ/SGDQ donation incentive — people vote with their dollars to decide whether Super Metroid speedrunners go out of their way to free the critters who show you how to walljump and shinespark. Super Metroid didn’t have a showing at this year’s AGDQ, and so we have this game instead.

It’s rough, but clever, and I got really into it pretty quickly — each animal you save gives you a new ability (in true Metroid style), and you get to test that ability out by playing as the animal, with only that ability and no others, to get yourself back to the most recent save point.

I did, tragically, manage to get myself stuck near what I think was about to be the end of the game, so some of the animals will remain framed forever. What an unsatisfying conclusion.

Gravity feels a little high given the size of the screen, and like most tile-less platformers, there’s not really any way to gauge how high or long your jump is before you leap. But I’m only even nitpicking because I think this is a great idea and I hope the author really does keep working on it.

FINAL SCORE: $136,596.69

Battle 4 Glory, by Storyteller Games

short · fighter · jan 2017 · win · free on itch · jam entry

This is a Smash Bros-style brawler, complete with the four players, the 2D play area in a 3D world, and the random stage obstacles showing up. I do like the Smash style, despite not otherwise being a fan of fighting games, so it’s nice to see another game chase that aesthetic.

Alas, that’s about as far as it got — which is pretty far for a week of work! I don’t know what more to say, though. The environments are neat, but unless I’m missing something, the only actions at your disposal are jumping and very weak melee attacks. I did have a good few minutes of fun fruitlessly mashing myself against the bumbling bots, as you can see.

FINAL SCORE: 300%

Icnaluferu Guild, Year Sixteen, by CHz

short · adventure · jan 2017 · web · free on itch · jam entry

Here we have the first of several games made with bitsy, a micro game making tool that basically only supports walking around, talking to people, and picking up items.

I tell you this because I think half of my appreciation for this game is in the ways it wriggled against those limits to emulate a Zelda-like dungeon crawler. Everything in here is totally fake, and you can’t really understand just how fake unless you’ve tried to make something complicated with bitsy.

It’s pretty good. The dialogue is entertaining (the rest of your party develops distinct personalities solely through oneliners, somehow), the riffs on standard dungeon fare are charming, and the Link’s Awakening-esque perspective walls around the edges of each room are fucking glorious.

FINAL SCORE: 2 bits

The Lonely Tapes, by JTHomeslice

short · rpg · jan 2017 · web · free on itch · jam entry

Another bitsy entry, this one sees you play as a Wal— sorry, a JogDawg, which has lost its cassette tapes and needs to go recover them!

(A cassette tape is like a VHS, but for music.)

(A VHS is—)

I have the sneaking suspicion that I missed out on some musical in-jokes, due to being uncultured swine. I still enjoyed the game — it’s always clear when someone is passionate about the thing they’re writing about, and I could tell I was awash in that aura even if some of it went over my head. You know you’ve done good if someone from way outside your sphere shows up and still has a good time.

FINAL SCORE: Nine… Inch Nails? They’re a band, right? God I don’t know write your own damn joke

Pirate Kitty-Quest, by TheKoolestKid

short · adventure · jan 2017 · win · free on itch · jam entry

I completely forgot I’d even given “my birthday” and “my cat” as mostly-joking jam themes until I stumbled upon this incredible gem. I don’t think — let me just check here and — yeah no this person doesn’t even follow me on Twitter. I have no idea who they are?

BUT THEY MADE A GAME ABOUT ANISE AS A PIRATE, LOOKING FOR TREASURE

PIRATE. ANISE

PIRATE ANISE!!!

This game wins the jam, hands down. 🏆

FINAL SCORE: Yarr, eight pieces o’ eight

CHIPS Mario, by NovaSquirrel

short · platformer · jan 2017 · (lin/mac)/win · free on itch · jam entry

You see this? This is fucking witchcraft.

This game is made with MegaZeux. MegaZeux games look like THIS. Text-mode, bound to a grid, with two colors per cell. That’s all you get.

Until now, apparently?? The game is a tech demo of “unbound” sprites, which can be drawn on top of the character grid without being aligned to it. And apparently have looser color restrictions.

The collision is a little glitchy, which isn’t surprising for a MegaZeux platformer; I had some fun interactions with platforms a couple times. But hey, goddamn, it’s free-moving Mario, in MegaZeux, what the hell.

(I’m looking at the most recently added games on DigitalMZX now, and I notice that not only is this game in the first slot, but NovaSquirrel’s MegaZeux entry for Strawberry Jam last February is still in the seventh slot. RIP, MegaZeux. I’m surprised a major feature like this was even added if the community has largely evaporated?)

FINAL SCORE: n/a, disqualified for being probably summoned from the depths of Hell

d!¢< pic, by 573 Games

short · story · jan 2017 · web · free on itch · jam entry

This is a short story about not sending dick pics. It’s very short, so I can’t say much without spoiling it, but: you are generally prompted to either text something reasonable, or send a dick pic. You should not send a dick pic.

It’s a fascinating artifact, not because of the work itself, but because it’s so terse that I genuinely can’t tell what the author was even going for. And this is the kind of subject where the author was, surely, going for something. Right? But was it genuinely intended to be educational, or was it tongue-in-cheek about how some dudes still don’t get it? Or is it side-eying the player who clicks the obviously wrong option just for kicks, which is the same reason people do it for real? Or is it commentary on how “send a dick pic” is a literal option for every response in a real conversation, too, and it’s not that hard to just not do it — unless you are one of the kinds of people who just feels a compulsion to try everything, anything, just because you can? Or is it just a quick Twine and I am way too deep in this? God, just play the thing, it’s shorter than this paragraph.

I’m also left wondering when it is appropriate to send a dick pic. Presumably there is a correct time? Hopefully the author will enter Strawberry Jam 2 to expound upon this.

FINAL SCORE: 3½” 😉

Marble maze, by Shtille

short · arcade · jan 2017 · win · free on itch · jam entry

Ah, hm. So this is a maze navigated by rolling a marble around. You use WASD to move the marble, and you can also turn the camera with the arrow keys.

The trouble is… the marble’s movement is always relative to the world, not the camera. That means if you turn the camera 30° and then try to move the marble, it’ll move at a 30° angle from your point of view.

That makes navigating a maze, er, difficult.

Camera-relative movement is the kind of thing I take so much for granted that I wouldn’t even think to do otherwise, and I think it’s valuable to look at surprising choices that violate fundamental conventions, so I’m trying to take this as a nudge out of my comfort zone. What could you design in an interesting way that used world-relative movement? Probably not the player, but maybe something else in the world, as long as you had strong landmarks? Hmm.

FINAL SCORE: ᘔ

Refactor: flight, by fluffy

short · arcade · jan 2017 · lin/mac/win · free on itch · jam entry

Refactor is a game album, which is rather a lot what it sounds like, and Flight is one of the tracks. Which makes this a single, I suppose.

It’s one of those games where you move down an oddly-shaped tunnel trying not to hit the walls, but with some cute twists. Coins and gems hop up from the bottom of the screen in time with the music, and collecting them gives you points. Hitting a wall costs you some points and kills your momentum, but I don’t think outright losing is possible, which is great for me!

Also, the monk cycles through several animal faces. I don’t know why, and it’s very good. One of those odd but memorable details that sits squarely on the intersection of abstract, mysterious, and a bit weird, and refuses to budge from that spot.

The music is great too? Really chill all around.

FINAL SCORE: 🎵🎵🎵🎵

The Adventures of Klyde

short · adventure · jan 2017 · web · free on itch · jam entry

Another bitsy game, this one starring a pig (humorously symbolized by a giant pig nose with ears) who must collect fruit and solve some puzzles.

This is charmingly nostalgic for me — it reminds me of some standard fare in engines like MegaZeux, where the obvious things to do when presented with tiles and pickups were to make mazes. I don’t mean that in a bad way; the maze is the fundamental environmental obstacle.

A couple places in here felt like invisible teleport mazes I had to brute-force, but I might have been missing a hint somewhere. I did make it through with only a little trouble, but alas — I stepped in a bad warp somewhere and got sent to the upper left corner of the starting screen, which is surrounded by walls. So Klyde’s new life is being trapped eternally in a nowhere space.

FINAL SCORE: 19/20 apples

And more

That was only a third of the games, and I don’t think even half of the ones I’ve played. I’ll have to do a second post covering the rest of them? Maybe a third?

Or maybe this is a ludicrous format for commenting on several dozen games and I should try to narrow it down to the ones that resonated the most for Strawberry Jam 2? Maybe??

Kim Dotcom Sues Government for ‘Billions’ Over Erroneous Arrest

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-sues-government-for-billions-over-erroneous-arrest-180121/

Six years ago, New Zealand police carried out a spectacular military-style raid against individuals accused only of copyright infringement.

Acting on allegations from the United States government and its Hollywood partners, New Zealand’s elite counter-terrorist force raided the mansion of Kim Dotcom, who was detained along with his wife and children.

Megaupload’s founder has always maintained that his arrest was unlawful under New Zealand law, and he is determined to hold the authorities accountable.

In addition to getting married and celebrating his birthday this weekend, the German born entrepreneur announced that he is seeking damages from the New Zealand Government.

“Today, 6 years ago, the NZ Govt enabled the unlawful destruction of Megaupload and seizure of my global assets,” Dotcom wrote on Twitter.

“I was arrested for the alleged online piracy of my users. Not even a crime in NZ. My lawyers have served a multi billion dollar damages claim against the Govt today,” he added.

Dotcom’s lawyer Ira Rothken informs TorrentFreak that a damages claim was filed at the New Zealand High Court last December.

“We confirm that our legal team filed a Statement of Claim in the New Zealand High Court for monetary damages on December 22, 2017 on behalf of Kim Dotcom against the United States and NZ governmental entities alleging that defendants pursued with malice and material non disclosure an erroneous arrest warrant,” Rothken says.

In the claim, Dotcom’s legal team argues that the arrest warrant was invalid. They say that there were no reasonable grounds on which the District Court could conclude that Dotcom’s alleged crimes were an extraditable offense.

The consequences, however, were rather severe. Dotcom lost his freedom and also his company, which was worth billions and preparing for an IPO, according to the legal paperwork.

“At the time the Restraint Orders were granted, second plaintiff was preparing to list on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong at a conservative valuation of not less than US$2.6 billion,” the claim reads.

This valuation is based on a valuation of $40 for each of the 66 million users Megaupload had, which generated $45 million in profits per year. If Megaupload had not have been raided, today’s value could be as high as $10 billion.

Mega value

Dotcom has a 68 percent stake in the Megaupload companies and seeks damages that will compensate for lost profits. In addition, he requests compensation for legal costs, lost business opportunities, loss of reputation, and other losses.

The exact scale of the damages isn’t specified and will have to be determined at a later stage, before trial.

The claim doesn’t come as a surprise to the New Zealand Government, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a brief response.

“This has obviously been an ongoing matter, so no it doesn’t surprise me,” she commented.

A copy of the full claim is available here (pdf).

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

Optimize Delivery of Trending, Personalized News Using Amazon Kinesis and Related Services

Post Syndicated from Yukinori Koide original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/optimize-delivery-of-trending-personalized-news-using-amazon-kinesis-and-related-services/

This is a guest post by Yukinori Koide, an the head of development for the Newspass department at Gunosy.

Gunosy is a news curation application that covers a wide range of topics, such as entertainment, sports, politics, and gourmet news. The application has been installed more than 20 million times.

Gunosy aims to provide people with the content they want without the stress of dealing with a large influx of information. We analyze user attributes, such as gender and age, and past activity logs like click-through rate (CTR). We combine this information with article attributes to provide trending, personalized news articles to users.

In this post, I show you how to process user activity logs in real time using Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose, Amazon Kinesis Data Analytics, and related AWS services.

Why does Gunosy need real-time processing?

Users need fresh and personalized news. There are two constraints to consider when delivering appropriate articles:

  • Time: Articles have freshness—that is, they lose value over time. New articles need to reach users as soon as possible.
  • Frequency (volume): Only a limited number of articles can be shown. It’s unreasonable to display all articles in the application, and users can’t read all of them anyway.

To deliver fresh articles with a high probability that the user is interested in them, it’s necessary to include not only past user activity logs and some feature values of articles, but also the most recent (real-time) user activity logs.

We optimize the delivery of articles with these two steps.

  1. Personalization: Deliver articles based on each user’s attributes, past activity logs, and feature values of each article—to account for each user’s interests.
  2. Trends analysis/identification: Optimize delivering articles using recent (real-time) user activity logs—to incorporate the latest trends from all users.

Optimizing the delivery of articles is always a cold start. Initially, we deliver articles based on past logs. We then use real-time data to optimize as quickly as possible. In addition, news has a short freshness time. Specifically, day-old news is past news, and even the news that is three hours old is past news. Therefore, shortening the time between step 1 and step 2 is important.

To tackle this issue, we chose AWS for processing streaming data because of its fully managed services, cost-effectiveness, and so on.

Solution

The following diagrams depict the architecture for optimizing article delivery by processing real-time user activity logs

There are three processing flows:

  1. Process real-time user activity logs.
  2. Store and process all user-based and article-based logs.
  3. Execute ad hoc or heavy queries.

In this post, I focus on the first processing flow and explain how it works.

Process real-time user activity logs

The following are the steps for processing user activity logs in real time using Kinesis Data Streams and Kinesis Data Analytics.

  1. The Fluentd server sends the following user activity logs to Kinesis Data Streams:
{"article_id": 12345, "user_id": 12345, "action": "click"}
{"article_id": 12345, "user_id": 12345, "action": "impression"}
...
  1. Map rows of logs to columns in Kinesis Data Analytics.

  1. Set the reference data to Kinesis Data Analytics from Amazon S3.

a. Gunosy has user attributes such as gender, age, and segment. Prepare the following CSV file (user_id, gender, segment_id) and put it in Amazon S3:

101,female,1
102,male,2
103,female,3
...

b. Add the application reference data source to Kinesis Data Analytics using the AWS CLI:

$ aws kinesisanalytics add-application-reference-data-source \
  --application-name <my-application-name> \
  --current-application-version-id <version-id> \
  --reference-data-source '{
  "TableName": "REFERENCE_DATA_SOURCE",
  "S3ReferenceDataSource": {
    "BucketARN": "arn:aws:s3:::<my-bucket-name>",
    "FileKey": "mydata.csv",
    "ReferenceRoleARN": "arn:aws:iam::<account-id>:role/..."
  },
  "ReferenceSchema": {
    "RecordFormat": {
      "RecordFormatType": "CSV",
      "MappingParameters": {
        "CSVMappingParameters": {"RecordRowDelimiter": "\n", "RecordColumnDelimiter": ","}
      }
    },
    "RecordEncoding": "UTF-8",
    "RecordColumns": [
      {"Name": "USER_ID", "Mapping": "0", "SqlType": "INTEGER"},
      {"Name": "GENDER",  "Mapping": "1", "SqlType": "VARCHAR(32)"},
      {"Name": "SEGMENT_ID", "Mapping": "2", "SqlType": "INTEGER"}
    ]
  }
}'

This application reference data source can be referred on Kinesis Data Analytics.

  1. Run a query against the source data stream on Kinesis Data Analytics with the application reference data source.

a. Define the temporary stream named TMP_SQL_STREAM.

CREATE OR REPLACE STREAM "TMP_SQL_STREAM" (
  GENDER VARCHAR(32), SEGMENT_ID INTEGER, ARTICLE_ID INTEGER
);

b. Insert the joined source stream and application reference data source into the temporary stream.

CREATE OR REPLACE PUMP "TMP_PUMP" AS
INSERT INTO "TMP_SQL_STREAM"
SELECT STREAM
  R.GENDER, R.SEGMENT_ID, S.ARTICLE_ID, S.ACTION
FROM      "SOURCE_SQL_STREAM_001" S
LEFT JOIN "REFERENCE_DATA_SOURCE" R
  ON S.USER_ID = R.USER_ID;

c. Define the destination stream named DESTINATION_SQL_STREAM.

CREATE OR REPLACE STREAM "DESTINATION_SQL_STREAM" (
  TIME TIMESTAMP, GENDER VARCHAR(32), SEGMENT_ID INTEGER, ARTICLE_ID INTEGER, 
  IMPRESSION INTEGER, CLICK INTEGER
);

d. Insert the processed temporary stream, using a tumbling window, into the destination stream per minute.

CREATE OR REPLACE PUMP "STREAM_PUMP" AS
INSERT INTO "DESTINATION_SQL_STREAM"
SELECT STREAM
  ROW_TIME AS TIME,
  GENDER, SEGMENT_ID, ARTICLE_ID,
  SUM(CASE ACTION WHEN 'impression' THEN 1 ELSE 0 END) AS IMPRESSION,
  SUM(CASE ACTION WHEN 'click' THEN 1 ELSE 0 END) AS CLICK
FROM "TMP_SQL_STREAM"
GROUP BY
  GENDER, SEGMENT_ID, ARTICLE_ID,
  FLOOR("TMP_SQL_STREAM".ROWTIME TO MINUTE);

The results look like the following:

  1. Insert the results into Amazon Elasticsearch Service (Amazon ES).
  2. Batch servers get results from Amazon ES every minute. They then optimize delivering articles with other data sources using a proprietary optimization algorithm.

How to connect a stream to another stream in another AWS Region

When we built the solution, Kinesis Data Analytics was not available in the Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Region, so we used the US West (Oregon) Region. The following shows how we connected a data stream to another data stream in the other Region.

There is no need to continue containing all components in a single AWS Region, unless you have a situation where a response difference at the millisecond level is critical to the service.

Benefits

The solution provides benefits for both our company and for our users. Benefits for the company are cost savings—including development costs, operational costs, and infrastructure costs—and reducing delivery time. Users can now find articles of interest more quickly. The solution can process more than 500,000 records per minute, and it enables fast and personalized news curating for our users.

Conclusion

In this post, I showed you how we optimize trending user activities to personalize news using Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose, Amazon Kinesis Data Analytics, and related AWS services in Gunosy.

AWS gives us a quick and economical solution and a good experience.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Implement Serverless Log Analytics Using Amazon Kinesis Analytics and Joining and Enriching Streaming Data on Amazon Kinesis.


About the Authors

Yukinori Koide is the head of development for the Newspass department at Gunosy. He is working on standardization of provisioning and deployment flow, promoting the utilization of serverless and containers for machine learning and AI services. His favorite AWS services are DynamoDB, Lambda, Kinesis, and ECS.

 

 

 

Akihiro Tsukada is a start-up solutions architect with AWS. He supports start-up companies in Japan technically at many levels, ranging from seed to later-stage.

 

 

 

 

Yuta Ishii is a solutions architect with AWS. He works with our customers to provide architectural guidance for building media & entertainment services, helping them improve the value of their services when using AWS.

 

 

 

 

 

Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/managing-cash-flow/

Cash flow projection charts

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

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

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

Running out of cash is one of the quickest ways for a startup to go out of business. When you are starting a company the question of where to get cash is usually the top priority, but managing cash flow is critical for every stage in the lifecycle of a company. As a primarily bootstrapped but capital-intensive business, managing cash flow at Backblaze was and still is a key element of our success and requires continued focus. Let’s look at what we learned over the years.

Raising Your Initial Funding

When starting a tech business in Silicon Valley, the default assumption is that you will immediately try to raise venture funding. There are certainly many advantages to raising funding — not the least of which is that you don’t need to be cash-flow positive since you have cash in the bank and the expectation is that you will have a “burn rate,” i.e. you’ll be spending more than you make.

Note: While you’re not expected to be cash-flow positive, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about cash. Cash-flow management will determine your burn rate. Whether you can get to cash-flow breakeven or need to raise another round of funding is a direct byproduct of your cash flow management.

Also, raising funding takes time (most successful fundraising cycles take 3-6 months start-to-finish), and time at a startup is in short supply. Constantly trying to raise funding can take away from product development and pursuing growth opportunities. If you’re not successful in raising funding, you then have to either shut down or find an alternate method of funding the business.

Sources of Funding

Depending on the stage of the company, type of company, and other factors, you may have access to different sources of funding. Let’s list a number of them:

Customers

Sales — the best kind of funding. It is non-dilutive, doesn’t have to be paid back, and is a direct metric of the success of your company.

Pre-Sales — some customers may be willing to pay you for a product in beta, a test, or pre-pay for a product they’ll receive when finished. Pre-Sales income also is great because it shares the characteristics of cash from sales, but you get the cash early. It also can be a good sign that the product you’re building fills a market need. We started charging for Backblaze computer backup while it was still in private beta, which allowed us to not only collect cash from customers, but also test the billing experience and users’ real desire for the service.

Services — if you’re a service company and customers are paying you for that, great. You can effectively scale for the number of hours available in a day. As demand grows, you can add more employees to increase the total number of billable hours.

Note: If you’re a product company and customers are paying you to consult, that can provide much needed cash, and could provide feedback toward the right product. However, it can also distract from your core business, send you down a path where you’re building a product for a single customer, and addict you to a path that prevents you from building a scalable business.

Investors

Yourself — you likely are putting your time into the business, and deferring salary in the process. You may also put your own cash into the business either as an investment or a loan.

Angels — angels are ideal as early investors since they are used to investing in businesses with little to no traction. AngelList is a good place to find them, though finding people you’re connected with through someone that knows you well is best.

Crowdfunding — a component of the JOBS Act permitted entrepreneurs to raise money from nearly anyone since May 2016. The SEC imposes limits on both investors and the companies. This article goes into some depth on the options and sites available.

VCs — VCs are ideal for companies that need to raise at least a few million dollars and intend to build a business that will be worth over $1 billion.

Debt

Friends & Family — F&F are often the first people to give you money because they are investing in you. It’s great to have some early supporters, but it also can be risky to take money from people who aren’t used to the risks. The key advice here is to only take money from people who won’t mind losing it. If someone is talking about using their children’s college funds or borrowing from their 401k, say ‘no thank you’ — even if they’re sure they want to loan you money.

Bank Loans — a variety of loan types exist, but most either require the company to have been operational for a couple years, be able to borrow against money the company has or is making, or be able to get a personal guarantee from the founders whereby their own credit is on the line. Fundera provides a good overview of loan options and can help secure some, but most will not be an option for a brand new startup.

Grants

Government — in some areas there is the potential for government grants to facilitate research. The SBIR program facilitates some such grants.

At Backblaze, we used a number of these options:

• Investors/Yourself
We loaned a cumulative total of a couple hundred thousand dollars to the company and invested our time by going without a salary for a year and a half.
• Customers/Pre-Sales
We started selling the Backblaze service while it was still in beta.
• Customers/Sales
We launched v1.0 and kept selling.
• Investors/Angels
After a year and a half, we raised $370k from 11 angels. All of them were either people whom we knew personally or were a strong recommendation from a mutual friend.
• Debt/Loans
After a couple years we were able to get equipment leases whereby the Storage Pods and hard drives were used as collateral to secure the lease on them.
• Investors/VCs
Ater five years we raised $5m from TMT Investments to add to the balance sheet and invest in growth.

The variety and quantity of sources we used is by no means uncommon.

GAAP vs. Cash

Most companies start tracking financials based on cash, and as they scale they switch to GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). Cash is easier to track — we got paid $XXXX and spent $YYY — and as often mentioned, is required for the business to stay alive. GAAP has more subtlety and complexity, but provides a clearer picture of how the business is really doing. Backblaze was on a ‘cash’ system for the first few years, then switched to GAAP. For this post, I’m going to focus on things that help cash flow, not GAAP profitability.

Stages of Cash Flow Management

All-spend

In a pure service business (e.g. solo proprietor law firm), you may have no expenses other than your time, so this stage doesn’t exist. However, in a product business there is a period of time where you are building the product and have nothing to sell. You have zero cash coming in, but have cash going out. Your cash-flow is completely negative and you need funds to cover that.

Sales-generating

Starting to see cash come in from customers is thrilling. I initially had our system set up to email me with every $5 payment we received. You’re making sales, but not covering expenses.

Ramen-profitable

But it takes a lot of $5 payments to pay for servers and salaries, so for a while expenses are likely to outstrip sales. Getting to ramen-profitable is a critical stage where sales cover the business expenses and are “paying enough for the founders to eat ramen.” This extends the runway for a business, but is not completely sustainable, since presumably the founders can’t (or won’t) live forever on a subsistence salary.

Business-profitable

This is the ultimate stage whereby the business is truly profitable, including paying everyone market-rate salaries. A business at this stage is self-sustaining. (Of course, market shifts and plenty of other challenges can kill the business, but cash-flow issues alone will not.)

Note, I’m using the word ‘profitable’ here to mean this is still on a cash-basis.

Backblaze was in the all-spend stage for just over a year, during which time we built the service and hadn’t yet made the service available to customers. Backblaze was in the sales-generating stage for nearly another year before the company was barely ramen-profitable where sales were covering the company expenses and paying the founders minimum wage. (I say ‘barely’ since minimum wage in the SF Bay Area is arguably never subsistence.) It took almost three more years before the company was business-profitable, paying everyone including the founders market-rate.

Cash Flow Forecasting

When raising funding it’s helpful to think of milestones reached. You don’t necessarily need enough cash on day one to last for the next 100 years of the company. Some good milestones to consider are how much cash you need to prove there is a market need, prove you can build a product to meet that need, or get to ramen-profitable.

Two things to consider:

1) Unit Economics (COGS)

If your product is 100% software, this may not be relevant. Once software is built it costs effectively nothing to deliver the product to one customer or one million customers. However, in most businesses there is some incremental cost to provide the product. If you’re selling a hardware device, perhaps you sell it for $100 but it costs you $50 to make it. This is called “COGS” (Cost of Goods Sold).

Many products rely on cloud services where the costs scale with growth. That model works great, but it’s still important to understand what the costs are for the cloud service you use per unit of product you sell.

Support is often done by the founders early-on in a business, but that is another real cost to factor in and estimate on a per-user basis. Taking all of the per unit costs combined, you may charge $10/month/user for your service, but if it costs you $7/month/user in cloud services, you’re only netting $3/month/user.

2) Operating Expenses (OpEx)

These are expenses that don’t scale with the number of product units you sell. Typically this includes research & development, sales & marketing, and general & administrative expenses. Presumably there is a certain level of these functions required to build the product, market it, sell it, and run the organization. You can choose to invest or cut back on these, but you’ll still make the same amount per product unit.

Incremental Net Profit Per Unit

If you’ve calculated your COGS and your unit economics are “upside down,” where the amount you charge is less than that it costs you to provide your service, it’s worth thinking hard about how that’s going to change over time. If it will not change, there is no scale that will make the business work. Presuming you do make money on each unit of product you sell — what is sometimes referred to as “Contribution Margin” — consider how many of those product units you need to sell to cover your operating expenses as described above.

Calculating Your Profit

The math on getting to ramen-profitable is simple:

(Number of Product Units Sold x Contribution Margin) - Operating Expenses = Profit

If your operating expenses include subsistence salaries for the founders and profit > $0, you’re ramen-profitable.

Improving Cash Flow

Having access to sources of cash, whether from selling to customers or other methods, is excellent. But needing less cash gives you more choices and allows you to either dilute less, owe less, or invest more.

There are two ways to improve cash flow:

1) Collect More Cash

The best way to collect more cash is to provide more value to your customers and as a result have them pay you more. Additional features/products/services can allow this. However, you can also collect more cash by changing how you charge for your product. If you have a subscription, changing from charging monthly to yearly dramatically improves your cash flow. If you have a product that customers use up, selling a year’s supply instead of selling them one-by-one can help.

2) Spend Less Cash

Reducing COGS is a fantastic way to spend less cash in a scalable way. If you can do this without harming the product or customer experience, you win. There are a myriad of ways to also reduce operating expenses, including taking sub-market salaries, using your home instead of renting office space, staying focused on your core product, etc.

Ultimately, collecting more and spending less cash dramatically simplifies the process of getting to ramen-profitable and later to business-profitable.

Be Careful (Why GAAP Matters)

A word of caution: while running out of cash will put you out of business immediately, overextending yourself will likely put you out of business not much later. GAAP shows how a business is really doing; cash doesn’t. If you only focus on cash, it is possible to commit yourself to both delivering products and repaying loans in the future in an unsustainable fashion. If you’re taking out loans, watch the total balance and monthly payments you’re committing to. If you’re asking customers for pre-payment, make sure you believe you can deliver on what they’ve paid for.

Summary

There are numerous challenges to building a business, and ensuring you have enough cash is amongst the most important. Having the cash to keep going lets you keep working on all of the other challenges. The frameworks above were critical for maintaining Backblaze’s cash flow and cash balance. Hopefully you can take some of the lessons we learned and apply them to your business. Let us know what works for you in the comments below.

The post Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

ISP: We’re Cooperating With Police Following Pirate IPTV Raid

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-were-cooperating-with-police-following-pirate-iptv-raid-180113/

This week, police forces around Europe took action against what is believed to be one of the world’s largest pirate IPTV networks.

The investigation, launched a year ago and coordinated by Europol, came to head on Tuesday when police carried out raids in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, and the Netherlands. A fresh announcement from the crime-fighting group reveals the scale of the operation.

It was led by the Cypriot Police – Intellectual Property Crime Unit, with the support of the Cybercrime Division of the Greek Police, the Dutch Fiscal Investigative and Intelligence Service (FIOD), the Cybercrime Unit of the Bulgarian Police, Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC³), and supported by members of the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAPA).

In Cyprus, Bulgaria and Greece, 17 house searches were carried out. Three individuals aged 43, 44, and 53 were arrested in Cyprus and one was arrested in Bulgaria.

All stand accused of being involved in an international operation to illegally broadcast around 1,200 channels of pirated content to an estimated 500,000 subscribers. Some of the channels offered were illegally sourced from Sky UK, Bein Sports, Sky Italia, and Sky DE. On Thursday, the three individuals in Cyprus were remanded in custody for seven days.

“The servers used to distribute the channels were shut down, and IP addresses hosted by a Dutch company were also deactivated thanks to the cooperation of the authorities of The Netherlands,” Europol reports.

“In Bulgaria, 84 servers and 70 satellite receivers were seized, with decoders, computers and accounting documents.”

TorrentFreak was previously able to establish that Megabyte-Internet Ltd, an ISP located in the small Bulgarian town Petrich, was targeted by police. The provider went down on Tuesday but returned towards the end of the week. Responding to our earlier inquiries, the company told us more about the situation.

“We are an ISP provider located in Petrich, Bulgaria. We are selling services to around 1,500 end-clients in the Petrich area and surrounding villages,” a spokesperson explained.

“Another part of our business is internet services like dedicated unmanaged servers, hosting, email servers, storage services, and VPNs etc.”

The spokesperson added that some of Megabyte’s equipment is located at Telepoint, Bulgaria’s biggest datacenter, with connectivity to Petrich. During the raid the police seized the company’s hardware to check for evidence of illegal activity.

“We were informed by the police that some of our clients in Petrich and Sofia were using our service for illegal streaming and actions,” the company said.

“Of course, we were not able to know this because our services are unmanaged and root access [to servers] is given to our clients. For this reason any client and anyone that uses our services are responsible for their own actions.”

TorrentFreak asked many more questions, including how many police attended, what type and volume of hardware was seized, and whether anyone was arrested or taken for questioning. But, apart from noting that the police were friendly, the company declined to give us any additional information, revealing that it was not permitted to do so at this stage.

What is clear, however, is that Megabyte-Internet is offering its full cooperation to the authorities. The company says that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of its clients so their details will be handed over as part of the investigation.

“So now we will give to the police any details about these clients because we hold their full details by law. [The police] will find [out about] all the illegal actions from them,” the company concludes, adding that it’s fully operational once more and working with clients.

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

Continuous Deployment to Kubernetes using AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodeBuild, Amazon ECR and AWS Lambda

Post Syndicated from Chris Barclay original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/continuous-deployment-to-kubernetes-using-aws-codepipeline-aws-codecommit-aws-codebuild-amazon-ecr-and-aws-lambda/

Thank you to my colleague Omar Lari for this blog on how to create a continuous deployment pipeline for Kubernetes!


You can use Kubernetes and AWS together to create a fully managed, continuous deployment pipeline for container based applications. This approach takes advantage of Kubernetes’ open-source system to manage your containerized applications, and the AWS developer tools to manage your source code, builds, and pipelines.

This post describes how to create a continuous deployment architecture for containerized applications. It uses AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeBuild, and AWS Lambda to deploy containerized applications into a Kubernetes cluster. In this environment, developers can remain focused on developing code without worrying about how it will be deployed, and development managers can be satisfied that the latest changes are always deployed.

What is Continuous Deployment?

There are many articles, posts and even conferences dedicated to the practice of continuous deployment. For the purposes of this post, I will summarize continuous delivery into the following points:

  • Code is more frequently released into production environments
  • More frequent releases allow for smaller, incremental changes reducing risk and enabling simplified roll backs if needed
  • Deployment is automated and requires minimal user intervention

For a more information, see “Practicing Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery on AWS”.

How can you use continuous deployment with AWS and Kubernetes?

You can leverage AWS services that support continuous deployment to automatically take your code from a source code repository to production in a Kubernetes cluster with minimal user intervention. To do this, you can create a pipeline that will build and deploy committed code changes as long as they meet the requirements of each stage of the pipeline.

To create the pipeline, you will use the following services:

  • AWS CodePipeline. AWS CodePipeline is a continuous delivery service that models, visualizes, and automates the steps required to release software. You define stages in a pipeline to retrieve code from a source code repository, build that source code into a releasable artifact, test the artifact, and deploy it to production. Only code that successfully passes through all these stages will be deployed. In addition, you can optionally add other requirements to your pipeline, such as manual approvals, to help ensure that only approved changes are deployed to production.
  • AWS CodeCommit. AWS CodeCommit is a secure, scalable, and managed source control service that hosts private Git repositories. You can privately store and manage assets such as your source code in the cloud and configure your pipeline to automatically retrieve and process changes committed to your repository.
  • AWS CodeBuild. AWS CodeBuild is a fully managed build service that compiles source code, runs tests, and produces artifacts that are ready to deploy. You can use AWS CodeBuild to both build your artifacts, and to test those artifacts before they are deployed.
  • AWS Lambda. AWS Lambda is a compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers. You can invoke a Lambda function in your pipeline to prepare the built and tested artifact for deployment by Kubernetes to the Kubernetes cluster.
  • Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It provides a platform for running, deploying, and managing containers at scale.

An Example of Continuous Deployment to Kubernetes:

The following example illustrates leveraging AWS developer tools to continuously deploy to a Kubernetes cluster:

  1. Developers commit code to an AWS CodeCommit repository and create pull requests to review proposed changes to the production code. When the pull request is merged into the master branch in the AWS CodeCommit repository, AWS CodePipeline automatically detects the changes to the branch and starts processing the code changes through the pipeline.
  2. AWS CodeBuild packages the code changes as well as any dependencies and builds a Docker image. Optionally, another pipeline stage tests the code and the package, also using AWS CodeBuild.
  3. The Docker image is pushed to Amazon ECR after a successful build and/or test stage.
  4. AWS CodePipeline invokes an AWS Lambda function that includes the Kubernetes Python client as part of the function’s resources. The Lambda function performs a string replacement on the tag used for the Docker image in the Kubernetes deployment file to match the Docker image tag applied in the build, one that matches the image in Amazon ECR.
  5. After the deployment manifest update is completed, AWS Lambda invokes the Kubernetes API to update the image in the Kubernetes application deployment.
  6. Kubernetes performs a rolling update of the pods in the application deployment to match the docker image specified in Amazon ECR.
    The pipeline is now live and responds to changes to the master branch of the CodeCommit repository. This pipeline is also fully extensible, you can add steps for performing testing or adding a step to deploy into a staging environment before the code ships into the production cluster.

An example pipeline in AWS CodePipeline that supports this architecture can be seen below:

Conclusion

We are excited to see how you leverage this pipeline to help ease your developer experience as you develop applications in Kubernetes.

You’ll find an AWS CloudFormation template with everything necessary to spin up your own continuous deployment pipeline at the CodeSuite – Continuous Deployment Reference Architecture for Kubernetes repo on GitHub. The repository details exactly how the pipeline is provisioned and how you can use it to deploy your own applications. If you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions, please let us know!

Kodi Returns to Its Roots, Now Available on Xbox One

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-returns-to-its-roots-now-available-on-xbox-one-171229/

The Kodi media player software has seen a massive surge in popularity over the past few years.

With help from a wide range of third-party add-ons, some of which offer access to pirated content, millions of people now use Kodi as their main source of entertainment.

The Kodi software itself is perfectly legal, however, and has been around for more than 15 years. The roots of Kodi are directly connected to the Xbox, as the first iterations of the project were called the “Xbox Media Player.”

As time went by XBMP became XBMC, and eventually Kodi. The last name change made sense as the software was no longer being developed for Xbox, but for other devices, running on Linux, Windows, OSX, and Android.

While the broader public was perfectly happy with this, the sentimental few were missing the Xbox connection. For them, and many others, Kodi has a surprise in store today after returning to its roots.

“Let us end the year 2017 with a blast including a nostalgic reference to the past,” the Kodi team announced.

“It has long been asked for by so many and now it finally happened. Kodi for Xbox One is available worldwide through Windows and Xbox Store.”

The Kodi team provides quite a bit of history and context to the Xbox return in a detailed blog post. At the same time, it also cautions users to keep in mind that this is just the initial release, which still has some very rough edges.

“What you should really understand and keep remembering is that it is still in early stages of development and has very rough edges, might not be as stable as the regular version and may even be missing some functions,” they write.

Kodi’s look and feel on the Xbox One are very familiar though. Anyone who had Kodi installed on a different platform should have no issue navigating the interface. The usual add-ons should work fine as well.

With the new Xbox One release, Kodi has come full circle. After 15 years they are back where things began.

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