Tag Archives: status

From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers

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

line outside of Apple

After deciding to build an unlimited backup service and developing our own storage platform, the next step was to get customers and feedback. Not all customers are created equal. Let’s talk about the types, and when and how to attract them.

How to Get Your First Customers

First Step – Don’t Launch Publicly
Launch when you’re ready for the judgments of people who don’t know you at all. Until then, don’t launch. Sign up users and customers either that you know, those you can trust to cut you some slack (while providing you feedback), or at minimum those for whom you can set expectations. For months the Backblaze website was a single page with no ability to get the product and minimal info on what it would be. This is not to counter the Lean Startup ‘iterate quickly with customer feedback’ advice. Rather, this is an acknowledgement that there are different types of feedback required based on your development stage.

Sign Up Your Friends
We knew all of our first customers; they were friends, family, and previous co-workers. Many knew what we were up to and were excited to help us. No magic marketing or tech savviness was required to reach them – we just asked that they try the service. We asked them to provide us feedback on their experience and collected it through email and conversations. While the feedback wasn’t unbiased, it was nonetheless wide-ranging, real, and often insightful. These people were willing to spend time carefully thinking about their feedback and delving deeper into the conversations.

Broaden to Beta
Unless you’re famous or your service costs $1 million per customer, you’ll probably need to expand quickly beyond your friends to build a business – and to get broader feedback. Our next step was to broaden the customer base to beta users.

Opening up the service in beta provides three benefits:

  1. Air cover for the early warts. There are going to be issues, bugs, unnecessarily complicated user flows, and poorly worded text. Beta tells people, “We don’t consider the product ‘done’ and you should expect some of these issues. Please be patient with us.”
  2. A request for feedback. Some people always provide feedback, but beta communicates that you want it.
  3. An awareness opportunity. Opening up in beta provides an early (but not only) opportunity to have an announcement and build awareness.

Pitching Beta to Press
Not all press cares about, or is even willing to cover, beta products. Much of the mainstream press wants to write about services that are fully live, have scale, and are important in the marketplace. However, there are a number of sites that like to cover the leading edge – and that means covering betas. Techcrunch, Ars Technica, and SimpleHelp covered our initial private beta launch. I’ll go into the details of how to work with the press to cover your announcements in a post next month.

Private vs. Public Beta
Both private and public beta provide all three of the benefits above. The difference between the two is that private betas are much more controlled, whereas public ones bring in more users. But this isn’t an either/or – I recommend doing both.

Private Beta
For our original beta in 2008, we decided that we were comfortable with about 1,000 users subscribing to our service. That would provide us with a healthy amount of feedback and get some early adoption, while not overwhelming us or our server capacity, and equally important not causing cash flow issues from having to buy more equipment. So we decided to limit the sign-up to only the first 1,000 people who signed up; then we would shut off sign-ups for a while.

But how do you even get 1,000 people to sign up for your service? In our case, get some major publications to write about our beta. (Note: In a future post I’ll explain exactly how to find and reach out to writers. Sign up to receive all of the entrepreneurial posts in this series.)

Public Beta
For our original service (computer backup), we did not have a public beta; but when we launched Backblaze B2, we had a private and then a public beta. The private beta allowed us to work out early kinks, while the public beta brought us a more varied set of use cases. In public beta, there is no cap on the number of users that may try the service.

While this is a first-class problem to have, if your service is flooded and stops working, it’s still a problem. Think through what you will do if that happens. In our early days, when our system could get overwhelmed by volume, we had a static web page hosted with a different registrar that wouldn’t let customers sign up but would tell them when our service would be open again. When we reached a critical volume level we would redirect to it in order to at least provide status for when we could accept more customers.

Collect Feedback
Since one of the goals of betas is to get feedback, we made sure that we had our email addresses clearly presented on the site so users could send us thoughts. We were most interested in broad qualitative feedback on users’ experience, so all emails went to an internal mailing list that would be read by everyone at Backblaze.

For our B2 public and private betas, we also added an optional short survey to the sign-up process. In order to be considered for the private beta you had to fill the survey out, though we found that 80% of users continued to fill out the survey even when it was not required. This survey had both closed-end questions (“how much data do you have”) and open-ended ones (“what do you want to use cloud storage for?”).

BTW, despite us getting a lot of feedback now via our support team, Twitter, and marketing surveys, we are always open to more – you can email me directly at gleb.budman {at} backblaze.com.

Don’t Throw Away Users
Initially our backup service was available only on Windows, but we had an email sign-up list for people who wanted it for their Mac. This provided us with a sense of market demand and a ready list of folks who could be beta users and early adopters when we had a Mac version. Have a service targeted at doctors but lawyers are expressing interest? Capture that.

Product Launch

When
The first question is “when” to launch. Presuming your service is in ‘public beta’, what is the advantage of moving out of beta and into a “version 1.0”, “gold”, or “public availability”? That depends on your service and customer base. Some services fly through public beta. Gmail, on the other hand, was (in)famous for being in beta for 5 years, despite having over 100 million users.

The term beta says to users, “give us some leeway, but feel free to use the service”. That’s fine for many consumer apps and will have near zero impact on them. However, services aimed at businesses and government will often not be adopted with a beta label as the enterprise customers want to know the company feels the service is ‘ready’. While Backblaze started out as a purely consumer service, because it was a data backup service, it was important for customers to trust that the service was ready.

No product is bug-free. But from a product readiness perspective, the nomenclature should also be a reflection of the quality of the product. You can launch a product with one feature that works well out of beta. But a product with fifty features on which half the users will bump into problems should likely stay in beta. The customer feedback, surveys, and your own internal testing should guide you in determining this quality during the beta. Be careful about “we’ve only seen that one time” or “I haven’t been able to reproduce that on my machine”; those issues are likely to scale with customers when you launch.

How
Launching out of beta can be as simple as removing the beta label from the website/product. However, this can be a great time to reach out to press, write a blog post, and send an email announcement to your customers.

Consider thanking your beta testers somehow; can they get some feature turned out for free, an extension of their trial, or premium support? If nothing else, remember to thank them for their feedback. Users that signed up during your beta are likely the ones who will propel your service. They had the need and interest to both be early adopters and deal with bugs. They are likely the key to getting 1,000 true fans.

The Beginning
The title of this post was “Getting your first customers”, because getting to launch may feel like the peak of your journey when you’re pre-launch, but it really is just the beginning. It’s a step along the journey of building your business. If your launch is wildly successful, enjoy it, work to build on the momentum, but don’t lose track of building your business. If your launch is a dud, go out for a coffee with your team, say “well that sucks”, and then get back to building your business. You can learn a tremendous amount from your early customers, and they can become your biggest fans, but the success of your business will depend on what you continue to do the months and years after your launch.

The post From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How to Create an AMI Builder with AWS CodeBuild and HashiCorp Packer – Part 2

Post Syndicated from Heitor Lessa original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/how-to-create-an-ami-builder-with-aws-codebuild-and-hashicorp-packer-part-2/

Written by AWS Solutions Architects Jason Barto and Heitor Lessa

 
In Part 1 of this post, we described how AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodeCommit, and HashiCorp Packer can be used to build an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) from the latest version of Amazon Linux. In this post, we show how to use AWS CodePipeline, AWS CloudFormation, and Amazon CloudWatch Events to continuously ship new AMIs. We use Ansible by Red Hat to harden the OS on the AMIs through a well-known set of security controls outlined by the Center for Internet Security in its CIS Amazon Linux Benchmark.

You’ll find the source code for this post in our GitHub repo.

At the end of this post, we will have the following architecture:

Requirements

 
To follow along, you will need Git and a text editor. Make sure Git is configured to work with AWS CodeCommit, as described in Part 1.

Technologies

 
In addition to the services and products used in Part 1 of this post, we also use these AWS services and third-party software:

AWS CloudFormation gives developers and systems administrators an easy way to create and manage a collection of related AWS resources, provisioning and updating them in an orderly and predictable fashion.

Amazon CloudWatch Events enables you to react selectively to events in the cloud and in your applications. Specifically, you can create CloudWatch Events rules that match event patterns, and take actions in response to those patterns.

AWS CodePipeline is a continuous integration and continuous delivery service for fast and reliable application and infrastructure updates. AWS CodePipeline builds, tests, and deploys your code every time there is a code change, based on release process models you define.

Amazon SNS is a fast, flexible, fully managed push notification service that lets you send individual messages or to fan out messages to large numbers of recipients. Amazon SNS makes it simple and cost-effective to send push notifications to mobile device users or email recipients. The service can even send messages to other distributed services.

Ansible is a simple IT automation system that handles configuration management, application deployment, cloud provisioning, ad-hoc task-execution, and multinode orchestration.

Getting Started

 
We use CloudFormation to bootstrap the following infrastructure:

Component Purpose
AWS CodeCommit repository Git repository where the AMI builder code is stored.
S3 bucket Build artifact repository used by AWS CodePipeline and AWS CodeBuild.
AWS CodeBuild project Executes the AWS CodeBuild instructions contained in the build specification file.
AWS CodePipeline pipeline Orchestrates the AMI build process, triggered by new changes in the AWS CodeCommit repository.
SNS topic Notifies subscribed email addresses when an AMI build is complete.
CloudWatch Events rule Defines how the AMI builder should send a custom event to notify an SNS topic.
Region AMI Builder Launch Template
N. Virginia (us-east-1)
Ireland (eu-west-1)

After launching the CloudFormation template linked here, we will have a pipeline in the AWS CodePipeline console. (Failed at this stage simply means we don’t have any data in our newly created AWS CodeCommit Git repository.)

Next, we will clone the newly created AWS CodeCommit repository.

If this is your first time connecting to a AWS CodeCommit repository, please see instructions in our documentation on Setup steps for HTTPS Connections to AWS CodeCommit Repositories.

To clone the AWS CodeCommit repository (console)

  1. From the AWS Management Console, open the AWS CloudFormation console.
  2. Choose the AMI-Builder-Blogpost stack, and then choose Output.
  3. Make a note of the Git repository URL.
  4. Use git to clone the repository.

For example: git clone https://git-codecommit.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/v1/repos/AMI-Builder_repo

To clone the AWS CodeCommit repository (CLI)

# Retrieve CodeCommit repo URL
git_repo=$(aws cloudformation describe-stacks --query 'Stacks[0].Outputs[?OutputKey==`GitRepository`].OutputValue' --output text --stack-name "AMI-Builder-Blogpost")

# Clone repository locally
git clone ${git_repo}

Bootstrap the Repo with the AMI Builder Structure

 
Now that our infrastructure is ready, download all the files and templates required to build the AMI.

Your local Git repo should have the following structure:

.
├── ami_builder_event.json
├── ansible
├── buildspec.yml
├── cloudformation
├── packer_cis.json

Next, push these changes to AWS CodeCommit, and then let AWS CodePipeline orchestrate the creation of the AMI:

git add .
git commit -m "My first AMI"
git push origin master

AWS CodeBuild Implementation Details

 
While we wait for the AMI to be created, let’s see what’s changed in our AWS CodeBuild buildspec.yml file:

...
phases:
  ...
  build:
    commands:
      ...
      - ./packer build -color=false packer_cis.json | tee build.log
  post_build:
    commands:
      - egrep "${AWS_REGION}\:\sami\-" build.log | cut -d' ' -f2 > ami_id.txt
      # Packer doesn't return non-zero status; we must do that if Packer build failed
      - test -s ami_id.txt || exit 1
      - sed -i.bak "s/<<AMI-ID>>/$(cat ami_id.txt)/g" ami_builder_event.json
      - aws events put-events --entries file://ami_builder_event.json
      ...
artifacts:
  files:
    - ami_builder_event.json
    - build.log
  discard-paths: yes

In the build phase, we capture Packer output into a file named build.log. In the post_build phase, we take the following actions:

  1. Look up the AMI ID created by Packer and save its findings to a temporary file (ami_id.txt).
  2. Forcefully make AWS CodeBuild to fail if the AMI ID (ami_id.txt) is not found. This is required because Packer doesn’t fail if something goes wrong during the AMI creation process. We have to tell AWS CodeBuild to stop by informing it that an error occurred.
  3. If an AMI ID is found, we update the ami_builder_event.json file and then notify CloudWatch Events that the AMI creation process is complete.
  4. CloudWatch Events publishes a message to an SNS topic. Anyone subscribed to the topic will be notified in email that an AMI has been created.

Lastly, the new artifacts phase instructs AWS CodeBuild to upload files built during the build process (ami_builder_event.json and build.log) to the S3 bucket specified in the Outputs section of the CloudFormation template. These artifacts can then be used as an input artifact in any later stage in AWS CodePipeline.

For information about customizing the artifacts sequence of the buildspec.yml, see the Build Specification Reference for AWS CodeBuild.

CloudWatch Events Implementation Details

 
CloudWatch Events allow you to extend the AMI builder to not only send email after the AMI has been created, but to hook up any of the supported targets to react to the AMI builder event. This event publication means you can decouple from Packer actions you might take after AMI completion and plug in other actions, as you see fit.

For more information about targets in CloudWatch Events, see the CloudWatch Events API Reference.

In this case, CloudWatch Events should receive the following event, match it with a rule we created through CloudFormation, and publish a message to SNS so that you can receive an email.

Example CloudWatch custom event

[
        {
            "Source": "com.ami.builder",
            "DetailType": "AmiBuilder",
            "Detail": "{ \"AmiStatus\": \"Created\"}",
            "Resources": [ "ami-12cd5guf" ]
        }
]

Cloudwatch Events rule

{
  "detail-type": [
    "AmiBuilder"
  ],
  "source": [
    "com.ami.builder"
  ],
  "detail": {
    "AmiStatus": [
      "Created"
    ]
  }
}

Example SNS message sent in email

{
    "version": "0",
    "id": "f8bdede0-b9d7...",
    "detail-type": "AmiBuilder",
    "source": "com.ami.builder",
    "account": "<<aws_account_number>>",
    "time": "2017-04-28T17:56:40Z",
    "region": "eu-west-1",
    "resources": ["ami-112cd5guf "],
    "detail": {
        "AmiStatus": "Created"
    }
}

Packer Implementation Details

 
In addition to the build specification file, there are differences between the current version of the HashiCorp Packer template (packer_cis.json) and the one used in Part 1.

Variables

  "variables": {
    "vpc": "{{env `BUILD_VPC_ID`}}",
    "subnet": "{{env `BUILD_SUBNET_ID`}}",
         “ami_name”: “Prod-CIS-Latest-AMZN-{{isotime \”02-Jan-06 03_04_05\”}}”
  },
  • ami_name: Prefixes a name used by Packer to tag resources during the Builders sequence.
  • vpc and subnet: Environment variables defined by the CloudFormation stack parameters.

We no longer assume a default VPC is present and instead use the VPC and subnet specified in the CloudFormation parameters. CloudFormation configures the AWS CodeBuild project to use these values as environment variables. They are made available throughout the build process.

That allows for more flexibility should you need to change which VPC and subnet will be used by Packer to launch temporary resources.

Builders

  "builders": [{
    ...
    "ami_name": “{{user `ami_name`| clean_ami_name}}”,
    "tags": {
      "Name": “{{user `ami_name`}}”,
    },
    "run_tags": {
      "Name": “{{user `ami_name`}}",
    },
    "run_volume_tags": {
      "Name": “{{user `ami_name`}}",
    },
    "snapshot_tags": {
      "Name": “{{user `ami_name`}}",
    },
    ...
    "vpc_id": "{{user `vpc` }}",
    "subnet_id": "{{user `subnet` }}"
  }],

We now have new properties (*_tag) and a new function (clean_ami_name) and launch temporary resources in a VPC and subnet specified in the environment variables. AMI names can only contain a certain set of ASCII characters. If the input in project deviates from the expected characters (for example, includes whitespace or slashes), Packer’s clean_ami_name function will fix it.

For more information, see functions on the HashiCorp Packer website.

Provisioners

  "provisioners": [
    {
        "type": "shell",
        "inline": [
            "sudo pip install ansible"
        ]
    }, 
    {
        "type": "ansible-local",
        "playbook_file": "ansible/playbook.yaml",
        "role_paths": [
            "ansible/roles/common"
        ],
        "playbook_dir": "ansible",
        "galaxy_file": "ansible/requirements.yaml"
    },
    {
      "type": "shell",
      "inline": [
        "rm .ssh/authorized_keys ; sudo rm /root/.ssh/authorized_keys"
      ]
    }

We used shell provisioner to apply OS patches in Part 1. Now, we use shell to install Ansible on the target machine and ansible-local to import, install, and execute Ansible roles to make our target machine conform to our standards.

Packer uses shell to remove temporary keys before it creates an AMI from the target and temporary EC2 instance.

Ansible Implementation Details

 
Ansible provides OS patching through a custom Common role that can be easily customized for other tasks.

CIS Benchmark and Cloudwatch Logs are implemented through two Ansible third-party roles that are defined in ansible/requirements.yaml as seen in the Packer template.

The Ansible provisioner uses Ansible Galaxy to download these roles onto the target machine and execute them as instructed by ansible/playbook.yaml.

For information about how these components are organized, see the Playbook Roles and Include Statements in the Ansible documentation.

The following Ansible playbook (ansible</playbook.yaml) controls the execution order and custom properties:

---
- hosts: localhost
  connection: local
  gather_facts: true    # gather OS info that is made available for tasks/roles
  become: yes           # majority of CIS tasks require root
  vars:
    # CIS Controls whitepaper:  http://bit.ly/2mGAmUc
    # AWS CIS Whitepaper:       http://bit.ly/2m2Ovrh
    cis_level_1_exclusions:
    # 3.4.2 and 3.4.3 effectively blocks access to all ports to the machine
    ## This can break automation; ignoring it as there are stronger mechanisms than that
      - 3.4.2 
      - 3.4.3
    # CloudWatch Logs will be used instead of Rsyslog/Syslog-ng
    ## Same would be true if any other software doesn't support Rsyslog/Syslog-ng mechanisms
      - 4.2.1.4
      - 4.2.2.4
      - 4.2.2.5
    # Autofs is not installed in newer versions, let's ignore
      - 1.1.19
    # Cloudwatch Logs role configuration
    logs:
      - file: /var/log/messages
        group_name: "system_logs"
  roles:
    - common
    - anthcourtney.cis-amazon-linux
    - dharrisio.aws-cloudwatch-logs-agent

Both third-party Ansible roles can be easily configured through variables (vars). We use Ansible playbook variables to exclude CIS controls that don’t apply to our case and to instruct the CloudWatch Logs agent to stream the /var/log/messages log file to CloudWatch Logs.

If you need to add more OS or application logs, you can easily duplicate the playbook and make changes. The CloudWatch Logs agent will ship configured log messages to CloudWatch Logs.

For more information about parameters you can use to further customize third-party roles, download Ansible roles for the Cloudwatch Logs Agent and CIS Amazon Linux from the Galaxy website.

Committing Changes

 
Now that Ansible and CloudWatch Events are configured as a part of the build process, commiting any changes to the AWS CodeComit Git Repository will triger a new AMI build process that can be followed through the AWS CodePipeline console.

When the build is complete, an email will be sent to the email address you provided as a part of the CloudFormation stack deployment. The email serves as notification that an AMI has been built and is ready for use.

Summary

 
We used AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeBuild, Packer, and Ansible to build a pipeline that continuously builds new, hardened CIS AMIs. We used Amazon SNS so that email addresses subscribed to a SNS topic are notified upon completion of the AMI build.

By treating our AMI creation process as code, we can iterate and track changes over time. In this way, it’s no different from a software development workflow. With that in mind, software patches, OS configuration, and logs that need to be shipped to a central location are only a git commit away.

Next Steps

 
Here are some ideas to extend this AMI builder:

  • Hook up a Lambda function in Cloudwatch Events to update EC2 Auto Scaling configuration upon completion of the AMI build.
  • Use AWS CodePipeline parallel steps to build multiple Packer images.
  • Add a commit ID as a tag for the AMI you created.
  • Create a scheduled Lambda function through Cloudwatch Events to clean up old AMIs based on timestamp (name or additional tag).
  • Implement Windows support for the AMI builder.
  • Create a cross-account or cross-region AMI build.

Cloudwatch Events allow the AMI builder to decouple AMI configuration and creation so that you can easily add your own logic using targets (AWS Lambda, Amazon SQS, Amazon SNS) to add events or recycle EC2 instances with the new AMI.

If you have questions or other feedback, feel free to leave it in the comments or contribute to the AMI Builder repo on GitHub.

Protect Web Sites & Services Using Rate-Based Rules for AWS WAF

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/protect-web-sites-services-using-rate-based-rules-for-aws-waf/

AWS WAF (Web Application Firewall) helps to protect your application from many different types of application-layer attacks that involve requests that are malicious or malformed. As I showed you when I first wrote about this service (New – AWS WAF), you can define rules that match cross-site scripting, IP address, SQL injection, size, or content constraints:

When incoming requests match rules, actions are invoked. Actions can either allow, block, or simply count matches.

The existing rule model is powerful and gives you the ability to detect and respond to many different types of attacks. It does not, however, allow you to respond to attacks that simply consist of a large number of otherwise valid requests from a particular IP address. These requests might be a web-layer DDoS attack, a brute-force login attempt, or even a partner integration gone awry.

New Rate-Based Rules
Today we are adding Rate-based Rules to WAF, giving you control of when IP addresses are added to and removed from a blacklist, along with the flexibility to handle exceptions and special cases:

Blacklisting IP Addresses – You can blacklist IP addresses that make requests at a rate that exceeds a configured threshold rate.

IP Address Tracking– You can see which IP addresses are currently blacklisted.

IP Address Removal – IP addresses that have been blacklisted are automatically removed when they no longer make requests at a rate above the configured threshold.

IP Address Exemption – You can exempt certain IP addresses from blacklisting by using an IP address whitelist inside of the a rate-based rule. For example, you might want to allow trusted partners to access your site at a higher rate.

Monitoring & Alarming – You can watch and alarm on CloudWatch metrics that are published for each rule.

You can combine new Rate-based Rules with WAF Conditions to implement sophisticated rate-limiting strategies. For example, you could use a Rate-based Rule and a WAF Condition that matches your login pages. This would allow you to impose a modest threshold on your login pages (to avoid brute-force password attacks) and allow a more generous one on your marketing or system status pages.

Thresholds are defined in terms of the number of incoming requests from a single IP address within a 5 minute period. Once this threshold is breached, additional requests from the IP address are blocked until the request rate falls below the threshold.

Using Rate-Based Rules
Here’s how you would define a Rate-based Rule that protects the /login portion of your site. Start by defining a WAF condition that matches the desired string in the URI of the page:

Then use this condition to define a Rate-based Rule (the rate limit is expressed in terms of requests within a 5 minute interval, but the blacklisting goes in to effect as soon as the limit is breached):

With the condition and the rule in place, create a Web ACL (ProtectLoginACL) to bring it all together and to attach it to the AWS resource (a CloudFront distribution in this case):

Then attach the rule (ProtectLogin) to the Web ACL:

The resource is now protected in accord with the rule and the web ACL. You can monitor the associated CloudWatch metrics (ProtectLogin and ProtectLoginACL in this case). You could even create CloudWatch Alarms and use them to fire Lambda functions when a protection threshold is breached. The code could examine the offending IP address and make a complex, business-driven decision, perhaps adding a whitelisting rule that gives an extra-generous allowance to a trusted partner or to a user with a special payment plan.

Available Now
The new, Rate-based Rules are available now and you can start using them today! Rate-based rules are priced the same as Regular rules; see the WAF Pricing page for more info.

Jeff;

Shelfchecker Smart Shelf: build a home library system

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/smart-shelf-home-library/

Are you tired of friends borrowing your books and never returning them? Maybe you’re sure you own 1984 but can’t seem to locate it? Do you find a strange satisfaction in using the supermarket self-checkout simply because of the barcode beep? With the ShelfChecker smart shelf from maker Annelynn described on Instructables, you can be your own librarian and never misplace your books again! Beep!

Shelfchecker smart shelf annelynn Raspberry Pi

Harry Potter and the Aesthetically Pleasing Smart Shelf

The ShelfChecker smart shelf

Annelynn built her smart shelf utilising a barcode scanner, LDR light sensors, a Raspberry Pi, plus a few other peripherals and some Python scripts. She has created a fully integrated library checkout system with accompanying NeoPixel location notification for your favourite books.

This build allows you to issue your book-borrowing friends their own IDs and catalogue their usage of your treasured library. On top of that, you’ll be able to use LED NeoPixels to highlight your favourite books, registering their removal and return via light sensor tracking.

Using light sensors for book cataloguing

Once Annelynn had built the shelf, she drilled holes to fit the eight LDRs that would guard her favourite books, and separated them with corner brackets to prevent confusion.

Shelfchecker smart shelf annelynn Raspberry Pi

Corner brackets keep the books in place without confusion between their respective light sensors

Due to the limitations of the MCP3008 Adafruit microchip, the smart shelf can only keep track of eight of your favourite books. But this limitation won’t stop you from cataloguing your entire home library; it simply means you get to pick your ultimate favourites that will occupy the prime real estate on your wall.

Obviously, the light sensors sense light. So when you remove or insert a book, light floods or is blocked from that book’s sensor. The sensor sends this information to the Raspberry Pi. In response, an Arduino controls the NeoPixel strip along the ‘favourites’ shelf to indicate the book’s status.

Shelfchecker smart shelf annelynn Raspberry Pi

The book you are looking for is temporarily unavailable

Code your own library

While keeping a close eye on your favourite books, the system also allows creation of a complete library catalogue system with the help of a MySQL database. Users of the library can log into the system with a barcode scanner, and take out or return books recorded in the database guided by an LCD screen attached to the Pi.

Shelfchecker smart shelf annelynn Raspberry Pi

Beep!

I won’t go into an extensive how-to on creating MySQL databases here on the blog, because my glamourous assistant Janina has pulled up these MySQL tutorials to help you get started. Annelynn’s Github scripts are also packed with useful comments to keep you on track.

Raspberry Pi and books

We love books and libraries. And considering the growing number of Code Clubs and makespaces into libraries across the world, and the host of book-based Pi builds we’ve come across, the love seems to be mutual.

We’ve seen the Raspberry Pi introduced into the Wordery bookseller warehouse, a Pi-powered page-by-page book scanner by Jonathon Duerig, and these brilliant text-to-speech and page turner projects that use our Pis!

Did I say we love books? In fact we love them so much that members of our team have even written a few.*

If you’ve set up any sort of digital making event in a library, have in some way incorporated Raspberry Pi into your own personal book collection, or even managed to recreate the events of your favourite story using digital making, make sure to let us know in the comments below.

* Shameless plug**

Fancy adding some Pi to your home library? Check out these publications from the Raspberry Pi staff:

A Beginner’s Guide to Coding by Marc Scott

Adventures in Raspberry Pi by Carrie Anne Philbin

Getting Started with Raspberry Pi by Matt Richardson

Raspberry Pi User Guide by Eben Upton

The MagPi Magazine, Essentials Guides and Project Books

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Weekly roundup: Successful juggling

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/dev/2017/06/19/weekly-roundup-successful-juggling/

Despite flipping my sleep, as I seem to end up doing every month now, I’ve had a pretty solid week. We finally got our hands on a Switch, so I just played Zelda to stay up a ridiculously long time and restore my schedule pretty quickly.

  • potluck: I started building the potluck game in LÖVE, and it’s certainly come along much faster — I have map transitions, dialogue, and a couple moving platforms working. I still don’t quite know what this game is, but I’m starting to get some ideas.

    I also launched GAMES MADE QUICK??? 1½, a game jam for making a game while watching GDQ, instead of just plain watching GDQ. I intend to spend the week working on the potluck game, though I’m not sure whether I’ll finish it then.

  • fox flux: I started planning out a more interesting overworld and doodled a couple relevant tiles. Terrain is still hard. Also some more player frames.

  • art: I finally finished a glorious new banner, which now hangs proudly above my Twitter and Patreon. I did a bedtime slate doodle. I made and animated a low-poly Yoshi. I sketched Styx based on a photo.

    I keep wishing I have time to dedicate to painting experiments, but I guess this is pretty good output.

  • veekun: Wow! I touched veekun on three separate occasions. I have basic item data actually physically dumping now, I fixed some stuff with Pokémon, and I got evolutions working. Progress! Getting there! So close!

  • blog: Per request, I wrote about digital painting software, though it was hampered slightly by the fact that most of it doesn’t run on my operating system.

I seem to be maintaining tangible momentum on multiple big projects, which is fantastic. And there’s still 40% of the month left! I’m feeling pretty good about where I’m standing; if I can get potluck and veekun done soon, that’ll be a medium and a VERY LARGE weight off my shoulders.

BPI Breaks Record After Sending 310 Million Google Takedowns

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bpi-breaks-record-after-sending-310-million-google-takedowns-170619/

A little over a year ago during March 2016, music industry group BPI reached an important milestone. After years of sending takedown notices to Google, the group burst through the 200 million URL barrier.

The fact that it took BPI several years to reach its 200 million milestone made the surpassing of the quarter billion milestone a few months later even more remarkable. In October 2016, the group sent its 250 millionth takedown to Google, a figure that nearly doubled when accounting for notices sent to Microsoft’s Bing.

But despite the volumes, the battle hadn’t been won, let alone the war. The BPI’s takedown machine continued to run at a remarkable rate, churning out millions more notices per week.

As a result, yet another new milestone was reached this month when the BPI smashed through the 300 million URL barrier. Then, days later, a further 10 million were added, with the latter couple of million added during the time it took to put this piece together.

BPI takedown notices, as reported by Google

While demanding that Google places greater emphasis on its de-ranking of ‘pirate’ sites, the BPI has called again and again for a “notice and stay down” regime, to ensure that content taken down by the search engine doesn’t simply reappear under a new URL. It’s a position BPI maintains today.

“The battle would be a whole lot easier if intermediaries played fair,” a BPI spokesperson informs TF.

“They need to take more proactive responsibility to reduce infringing content that appears on their platform, and, where we expressly notify infringing content to them, to ensure that they do not only take it down, but also keep it down.”

The long-standing suggestion is that the volume of takedown notices sent would reduce if a “take down, stay down” regime was implemented. The BPI says it’s difficult to present a precise figure but infringing content has a tendency to reappear, both in search engines and on hosting sites.

“Google rejects repeat notices for the same URL. But illegal content reappears as it is re-indexed by Google. As to the sites that actually host the content, the vast majority of notices sent to them could be avoided if they implemented take-down & stay-down,” BPI says.

The fact that the BPI has added 60 million more takedowns since the quarter billion milestone a few months ago is quite remarkable, particularly since there appears to be little slowdown from month to month. However, the numbers have grown so huge that 310 billion now feels a lot like 250 million, with just a few added on top for good measure.

That an extra 60 million takedowns can almost be dismissed as a handful is an indication of just how massive the issue is online. While pirates always welcome an abundance of links to juicy content, it’s no surprise that groups like the BPI are seeking more comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

Previously, it was hoped that the Digital Economy Bill would provide some relief, hopefully via government intervention and the imposition of a search engine Code of Practice. In the event, however, all pressure on search engines was removed from the legislation after a separate voluntary agreement was reached.

All parties agreed that the voluntary code should come into effect two weeks ago on June 1 so it seems likely that some effects should be noticeable in the near future. But the BPI says it’s still early days and there’s more work to be done.

“BPI has been working productively with search engines since the voluntary code was agreed to understand how search engines approach the problem, but also what changes can and have been made and how results can be improved,” the group explains.

“The first stage is to benchmark where we are and to assess the impact of the changes search engines have made so far. This will hopefully be completed soon, then we will have better information of the current picture and from that we hope to work together to continue to improve search for rights owners and consumers.”

With more takedown notices in the pipeline not yet publicly reported by Google, the BPI informs TF that it has now notified the search giant of 315 million links to illegal content.

“That’s an astonishing number. More than 1 in 10 of the entire world’s notices to Google come from BPI. This year alone, one in every three notices sent to Google from BPI is for independent record label repertoire,” BPI concludes.

While it’s clear that groups like BPI have developed systems to cope with the huge numbers of takedown notices required in today’s environment, it’s clear that few rightsholders are happy with the status quo. With that in mind, the fight will continue, until search engines are forced into compromise. Considering the implications, that could only appear on a very distant horizon.

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

Digital painter rundown

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

Another patron post! IndustrialRobot asks:

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

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

Right, now that your expectations have been suitably lowered:

Krita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GIMP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MyPaint

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drawpile

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

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

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

Aseprite

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

That’s all

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

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

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

Alleged KickassTorrents Owner Considers ‘Voluntary Surrender’ to the US

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/alleged-kickasstorrents-owner-considers-voluntary-surrender-to-the-us-170616/

Earlier this year a Polish court ruled that Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of the defunct torrent site KickassTorrents, can be extradited to the United States.

The decision came as a disappointment to the defense team, which quickly announced an appeal.

Vaulin has since been released on bail and currently resides in a Warsaw apartment. His release has made it easier to communicate with his attorneys in the United States, who have started negotiations with the US Government.

While the extradition appeal is still ongoing, it now appears that under the right conditions Vaulin might consider traveling to the United States voluntarily, so he can “resolve” the pending charges.

This is what the defense team states in a motion for a status conference (pdf), which was submitted earlier this week.

“Mr. Vaulin and his counsel in the United States recently have engaged in discussions with the government to determine if the parties can resolve this matter, or at least certain significant issues,” Vaulin’s legal team writes.

This includes “…issues relating to the proper calculation of the sentencing guidelines and/or the possibility of an agreement for bond should Mr. Vaulin decide to voluntarily surrender to the United States authorities and appear before this Court to resolve the pending charges.”

While the alleged KickassTorrents operator would be open to a voluntary “surrender,” he probably wants several guarantees before that happens. TorrentFreak reached out to the defense team for more information, but they preferred not to comment on ongoing negotiations.

Previously, Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom made a similar offer in his criminal case, requesting living expenses and a fair trial. The US Government never took him up on this offer, it appears, as Dotcom still resides in New Zealand.

In Vaulin’s case, the defense previously submitted a motion to dismiss some or all of the charges in the indictment, and they hope a ruling on this will bring more clarity soon. With the requested status conference, both parties will at least be able to update the court on various procedural issues

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

Manage Instances at Scale without SSH Access Using EC2 Run Command

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/manage-instances-at-scale-without-ssh-access-using-ec2-run-command/

The guest post below, written by Ananth Vaidyanathan (Senior Product Manager for EC2 Systems Manager) and Rich Urmston (Senior Director of Cloud Architecture at Pegasystems) shows you how to use EC2 Run Command to manage a large collection of EC2 instances without having to resort to SSH.

Jeff;


Enterprises often have several managed environments and thousands of Amazon EC2 instances. It’s important to manage systems securely, without the headaches of Secure Shell (SSH). Run Command, part of Amazon EC2 Systems Manager, allows you to run remote commands on instances (or groups of instances using tags) in a controlled and auditable manner. It’s been a nice added productivity boost for Pega Cloud operations, which rely daily on Run Command services.

You can control Run Command access through standard IAM roles and policies, define documents to take input parameters, control the S3 bucket used to return command output. You can also share your documents with other AWS accounts, or with the public. All in all, Run Command provides a nice set of remote management features.

Better than SSH
Here’s why Run Command is a better option than SSH and why Pegasystems has adopted it as their primary remote management tool:

Run Command Takes Less Time –  Securely connecting to an instance requires a few steps e.g. jumpboxes to connect to or IP addresses to whitelist etc. With Run Command, cloud ops engineers can invoke commands directly from their laptop, and never have to find keys or even instance IDs. Instead, system security relies on AWS auth, IAM roles and policies.

Run Command Operations are Fully Audited – With SSH, there is no real control over what they can do, nor is there an audit trail. With Run Command, every invoked operation is audited in CloudTrail, including information on the invoking user, instances on which command was run, parameters, and operation status. You have full control and ability to restrict what functions engineers can perform on a system.

Run Command has no SSH keys to Manage – Run Command leverages standard AWS credentials, API keys, and IAM policies. Through integration with a corporate auth system, engineers can interact with systems based on their corporate credentials and identity.

Run Command can Manage Multiple Systems at the Same Time – Simple tasks such as looking at the status of a Linux service or retrieving a log file across a fleet of managed instances is cumbersome using SSH. Run Command allows you to specify a list of instances by IDs or tags, and invokes your command, in parallel, across the specified fleet. This provides great leverage when troubleshooting or managing more than the smallest Pega clusters.

Run Command Makes Automating Complex Tasks Easier – Standardizing operational tasks requires detailed procedure documents or scripts describing the exact commands. Managing or deploying these scripts across the fleet is cumbersome. Run Command documents provide an easy way to encapsulate complex functions, and handle document management and access controls. When combined with AWS Lambda, documents provide a powerful automation platform to handle any complex task.

Example – Restarting a Docker Container
Here is an example of a simple document used to restart a Docker container. It takes one parameter; the name of the Docker container to restart. It uses the AWS-RunShellScript method to invoke the command. The output is collected automatically by the service and returned to the caller. For an example of the latest document schema, see Creating Systems Manager Documents.

{
  "schemaVersion":"1.2",
  "description":"Restart the specified docker container.",
  "parameters":{
    "param":{
      "type":"String",
      "description":"(Required) name of the container to restart.",
      "maxChars":1024
    }
  },
  "runtimeConfig":{
    "aws:runShellScript":{
      "properties":[
        {
          "id":"0.aws:runShellScript",
          "runCommand":[
            "docker restart {{param}}"
          ]
        }
      ]
    }
  }
}

Putting Run Command into practice at Pegasystems
The Pegasystems provisioning system sits on AWS CloudFormation, which is used to deploy and update Pega Cloud resources. Layered on top of it is the Pega Provisioning Engine, a serverless, Lambda-based service that manages a library of CloudFormation templates and Ansible playbooks.

A Configuration Management Database (CMDB) tracks all the configurations details and history of every deployment and update, and lays out its data using a hierarchical directory naming convention. The following diagram shows how the various systems are integrated:

For cloud system management, Pega operations uses a command line version called cuttysh and a graphical version based on the Pega 7 platform, called the Pega Operations Portal. Both tools allow you to browse the CMDB of deployed environments, view configuration settings, and interact with deployed EC2 instances through Run Command.

CLI Walkthrough
Here is a CLI walkthrough for looking into a customer deployment and interacting with instances using Run Command.

Launching the cuttysh tool brings you to the root of the CMDB and a list of the provisioned customers:

% cuttysh
d CUSTA
d CUSTB
d CUSTC
d CUSTD

You interact with the CMDB using standard Linux shell commands, such as cd, ls, cat, and grep. Items prefixed with s are services that have viewable properties. Items prefixed with d are navigable subdirectories in the CMDB hierarchy.

In this example, change directories into customer CUSTB’s portion of the CMDB hierarchy, and then further into a provisioned Pega environment called env1, under the Dev network. The tool displays the artifacts that are provisioned for that environment. These entries map to provisioned CloudFormation templates.

> cd CUSTB
/ROOT/CUSTB/us-east-1 > cd DEV/env1

The ls –l command shows the version of the provisioned resources. These version numbers map back to source control–managed artifacts for the CloudFormation, Ansible, and other components that compose a version of the Pega Cloud.

/ROOT/CUSTB/us-east-1/DEV/env1 > ls -l
s 1.2.5 RDSDatabase 
s 1.2.5 PegaAppTier 
s 7.2.1 Pega7 

Now, use Run Command to interact with the deployed environments. To do this, use the attach command and specify the service with which to interact. In the following example, you attach to the Pega Web Tier. Using the information in the CMDB and instance tags, the CLI finds the corresponding EC2 instances and displays some basic information about them. This deployment has three instances.

/ROOT/CUSTB/us-east-1/DEV/env1 > attach PegaWebTier
 # ID         State  Public Ip    Private Ip  Launch Time
 0 i-0cf0e84 running 52.63.216.42 10.96.15.70 2017-01-16 
 1 i-0043c1d running 53.47.191.22 10.96.15.43 2017-01-16 
 2 i-09b879e running 55.93.118.27 10.96.15.19 2017-01-16 

From here, you can use the run command to invoke Run Command documents. In the following example, you run the docker-ps document against instance 0 (the first one on the list). EC2 executes the command and returns the output to the CLI, which in turn shows it.

/ROOT/CUSTB/us-east-1/DEV/env1 > run 0 docker-ps
. . 
CONTAINER ID IMAGE             CREATED      STATUS        NAMES
2f187cc38c1  pega-7.2         10 weeks ago  Up 8 weeks    pega-web

Using the same command and some of the other documents that have been defined, you can restart a Docker container or even pull back the contents of a file to your local system. When you get a file, Run Command also leaves a copy in an S3 bucket in case you want to pass the link along to a colleague.

/ROOT/CUSTB/us-east-1/DEV/env1 > run 0 docker-restart pega-web
..
pega-web

/ROOT/CUSTB/us-east-1/DEV/env1 > run 0 get-file /var/log/cfn-init-cmd.log
. . . . . 
get-file

Data has been copied locally to: /tmp/get-file/i-0563c9e/data
Data is also available in S3 at: s3://my-bucket/CUSTB/cuttysh/get-file/data

Now, leverage the Run Command ability to do more than one thing at a time. In the following example, you attach to a deployment with three running instances and want to see the uptime for each instance. Using the par (parallel) option for run, the CLI tells Run Command to execute the uptime document on all instances in parallel.

/ROOT/CUSTB/us-east-1/DEV/env1 > run par uptime
 …
Output for: i-006bdc991385c33
 20:39:12 up 15 days, 3:54, 0 users, load average: 0.42, 0.32, 0.30

Output for: i-09390dbff062618
 20:39:12 up 15 days, 3:54, 0 users, load average: 0.08, 0.19, 0.22

Output for: i-08367d0114c94f1
 20:39:12 up 15 days, 3:54, 0 users, load average: 0.36, 0.40, 0.40

Commands are complete.
/ROOT/PEGACLOUD/CUSTB/us-east-1/PROD/prod1 > 

Summary
Run Command improves productivity by giving you faster access to systems and the ability to run operations across a group of instances. Pega Cloud operations has integrated Run Command with other operational tools to provide a clean and secure method for managing systems. This greatly improves operational efficiency, and gives greater control over who can do what in managed deployments. The Pega continual improvement process regularly assesses why operators need access, and turns those operations into new Run Command documents to be added to the library. In fact, their long-term goal is to stop deploying cloud systems with SSH enabled.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment for us!

— Ananth and Rich

Introducing the Self-Service Business Associate Addendum

Post Syndicated from Chad Woolf original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/introducing-the-self-service-business-associate-addendum/

HIPAA logo

Today, we made available a new feature in AWS Artifact (our auditing and compliance portal) that enables you to review, accept, and track the status of your Business Associate Addendum (BAA). With this new feature, you can accept the terms of a BAA online, and instantly designate an AWS account as a “HIPAA Account” for use with protected health information (PHI) under the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In addition, you can sign in to AWS Artifact to confirm that your account is designated as a HIPAA Account, and review the terms of the BAA for that account. If you are no longer using a designated HIPAA Account in connection with PHI, you can remove that designation using the AWS Artifact interface.

Today’s release addresses two key customer needs in particular: (1) the need to enter into a BAA quickly, and (2) the need to easily track and control whether an AWS account is designated as a HIPAA Account under a BAA.

The BAA is the first specialized industry agreement that AWS is making available online. We chose to launch with the BAA as a commitment to AWS customer organizations who are reinventing the way healthcare is researched and delivered with the cloud. Many AWS customers have great stories to tell as we work together to use technology to advance the healthcare industry.

If you already have a BAA with AWS, or if you are considering designing or migrating a new solution that will create, receive, maintain, or transmit PHI on AWS, you can use AWS Artifact to manage your HIPAA Accounts today. As with all AWS Artifact features, there are no additional fees for using AWS Artifact to review, accept, and manage BAAs online.

– Chad

Weekly roundup: Potpourri

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/dev/2017/06/12/weekly-roundup-potpourri/

  • potluck: It’s about time I actually started on this! I spent a couple days squabbling with JavaScript frameworks, but in the end I gave up and decided to just build it on my existing LÖVE code. Trying out a new thing is nice, but maybe not when I have a somewhat complicated game in mind that I want to build as soon as possible.

  • fox flux: I made a font! Also drew a ton of player sprites and made my grass much prettier. I’m going to need to start thinking about environmental art soon, and I’m kinda dreading it because I have no idea what I’m doing there.

  • art: I did some (unfinished) modelling and painted some character art (warning: this pic is fine, but the rest of the account is NSFW).

  • blog: I wrote some thoughts about teaching technical subjects.

For the first time in possibly my entire life, I feel like I’m a little ahead of the game! The month isn’t even half over and I’ve already done some obligatory stuff, finished off one languishing task, and made some decent inroads into several other things. Nice.

Secure API Access with Amazon Cognito Federated Identities, Amazon Cognito User Pools, and Amazon API Gateway

Post Syndicated from Ed Lima original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/secure-api-access-with-amazon-cognito-federated-identities-amazon-cognito-user-pools-and-amazon-api-gateway/

Ed Lima, Solutions Architect

 

Our identities are what define us as human beings. Philosophical discussions aside, it also applies to our day-to-day lives. For instance, I need my work badge to get access to my office building or my passport to travel overseas. My identity in this case is attached to my work badge or passport. As part of the system that checks my access, these documents or objects help define whether I have access to get into the office building or travel internationally.

This exact same concept can also be applied to cloud applications and APIs. To provide secure access to your application users, you define who can access the application resources and what kind of access can be granted. Access is based on identity controls that can confirm authentication (AuthN) and authorization (AuthZ), which are different concepts. According to Wikipedia:

 

The process of authorization is distinct from that of authentication. Whereas authentication is the process of verifying that “you are who you say you are,” authorization is the process of verifying that “you are permitted to do what you are trying to do.” This does not mean authorization presupposes authentication; an anonymous agent could be authorized to a limited action set.

Amazon Cognito allows building, securing, and scaling a solution to handle user management and authentication, and to sync across platforms and devices. In this post, I discuss the different ways that you can use Amazon Cognito to authenticate API calls to Amazon API Gateway and secure access to your own API resources.

 

Amazon Cognito Concepts

 

It’s important to understand that Amazon Cognito provides three different services:

Today, I discuss the use of the first two. One service doesn’t need the other to work; however, they can be configured to work together.
 

Amazon Cognito Federated Identities

 
To use Amazon Cognito Federated Identities in your application, create an identity pool. An identity pool is a store of user data specific to your account. It can be configured to require an identity provider (IdP) for user authentication, after you enter details such as app IDs or keys related to that specific provider.

After the user is validated, the provider sends an identity token to Amazon Cognito Federated Identities. In turn, Amazon Cognito Federated Identities contacts the AWS Security Token Service (AWS STS) to retrieve temporary AWS credentials based on a configured, authenticated IAM role linked to the identity pool. The role has appropriate IAM policies attached to it and uses these policies to provide access to other AWS services.

Amazon Cognito Federated Identities currently supports the IdPs listed in the following graphic.

 



Continue reading Secure API Access with Amazon Cognito Federated Identities, Amazon Cognito User Pools, and Amazon API Gateway

[$] Status of mypy and type checking

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/724740/rss

In his 2017 Python Language Summit session, Jukka Lehtosalo updated
attendees on the status of type checking for the language, in general, and
for the mypy static type checker.
There are new features in the typing module and in mypy, as well
as work in progress and planned features for both. For a feature, type
hints, that is really only around three years
old
, there has been a lot of progress made—but, of course, there is
still more to come.

[$] Guarding personally identifiable information

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/724672/rss

There is no viable way to prevent data from being collected about us in the
current age of computing. But if institutions insist on knowing our
financial status, purchasing habits, health information,
political preferences, and so on, they have a responsibility to keep this
data—known as personally identifiable information (PII)—from leaking to
unauthorized recipients. At the 2017 Strata data
conference
in London, Steve Touw presented a session
on privacy-enhancing technologies
. In a fast-paced 40 minutes he
covered the EU regulations about privacy, the most popular technical
measures used to protect PII, and some pointed opinions about what works
and what should be thrown into the dustbin.

AWS Greengrass – Run AWS Lambda Functions on Connected Devices

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-greengrass-run-aws-lambda-functions-on-connected-devices/

I first told you about AWS Greengrass in the post that I published during re:Invent (AWS Greengrass – Ubiquitous Real-World Computing). We launched a limited preview of Greengrass at that time and invited you to sign up if you were interested.

As I noted at the time, many AWS customers want to collect and process data out in the field, where connectivity is often slow and sometimes either intermittent or unreliable. Greengrass allows them to extend the AWS programming model to small, simple, field-based devices. It builds on AWS IoT and AWS Lambda, and supports access to the ever-increasing variety of services that are available in the AWS Cloud.

Greengrass gives you access to compute, messaging, data caching, and syncing services that run in the field, and that do not depend on constant, high-bandwidth connectivity to an AWS Region. You can write Lambda functions in Python 2.7 and deploy them to your Greengrass devices from the cloud while using device shadows to maintain state. Your devices and peripherals can talk to each other using local messaging that does not pass through the cloud.

Now Generally Available
Today we are making Greengrass generally available in the US East (Northern Virginia) and US West (Oregon) Regions. During the preview, AWS customers were able to get hands-on experience with Greengrass and to start building applications and businesses around it. I’ll share a few of these early successes later in this post.

The Greengrass Core code runs on each device. It allows you to deploy and run Lambda applications on the device, supports local MQTT messaging across a secure network, and also ensures that conversations between devices and the cloud are made across secure connections. The Greengrass Core also supports secure, over-the-air software updates, including Lambda functions. It includes a message broker, a Lambda runtime, a Thing Shadows implementation, and a deployment agent. Greengrass Core and (optionally) other devices make up a Greengrass Group. The group includes configuration data, the list of devices and the identity of the Greengrass Core, a list of Lambda functions, and a set of subscriptions that define where the messages should go. All of this information is copied to the Greengrass core devices during the deployment process.

Your Lambda functions can use APIs in three distinct SDKs:

AWS SDK for Python – This SDK allows your code to interact with Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS), and other AWS services.

AWS IoT Device SDK – This SDK (available for Node.js, Python, Java, and C++) helps you to connect your hardware devices to AWS IoT. The C++ SDK has a few extra features including access to the Greengrass Discovery Service and support for root CA downloads.

AWS Greengrass Core SDK – This SDK provides APIs that allow local invocation of other Lambda functions, publish messages, and work with thing shadows.

You can run the Greengrass Core on x86 and ARM devices that have version 4.4.11 (or newer) of the Linux kernel, with the OverlayFS and user namespace features enabled. While most deployments of Greengrass will be targeted at specialized, industrial-grade hardware, you can also run the Greengrass Core on a Raspberry Pi or an EC2 instance for development and test purposes.

For this post, I used a Raspberry Pi attached to a BrickPi, connected to my home network via WiFi:

The Raspberry Pi, the BrickPi, the case, and all of the other parts are available in the BrickPi 3 Starter Kit. You will need some Linux command-line expertise and a decent amount of manual dexterity to put all of this together, but if I did it then you surely can.

Greengrass in Action
I can access Greengrass from the Console, API, or CLI. I’ll use the Console. The intro page of the Greengrass Console lets me define groups, add Greengrass Cores, and add devices to my groups:

I click on Get Started and then on Use easy creation:

Then I name my group:

And name my first Greengrass Core:

I’m ready to go, so I click on Create Group and Core:

This runs for a few seconds and then offers up my security resources (two keys and a certificate) for downloading, along with the Greengrass Core:

I download the security resources and put them in a safe place, and select and download the desired version of the Greengrass Core software (ARMv7l for my Raspberry Pi), and click on Finish.

Now I power up my Pi, and copy the security resources and the software to it (I put them in an S3 bucket and pulled them down with wget). Here’s my shell history at that point:

Following the directions in the user guide, I create a new user and group, run the rpi-update script, and install several packages including sqlite3 and openssl. After a couple of reboots, I am ready to proceed!

Next, still following the directions, I untar the Greengrass Core software and move the security resources to their final destination (/greengrass/configuration/certs), giving them generic names along the way. Here’s what the directory looks like:

The next step is to associate the core with an AWS IoT thing. I return to the Console, click through the group and the Greengrass Core, and find the Thing ARN:

I insert the names of the certificates and the Thing ARN into the config.json file, and also fill in the missing sections of the iotHost and ggHost:

I start the Greengrass demon (this was my second attempt; I had a typo in one of my path names the first time around):

After all of this pleasant time at the command line (taking me back to my Unix v7 and BSD 4.2 days), it is time to go visual once again! I visit my AWS IoT dashboard and see that my Greengrass Core is making connections to IoT:

I go to the Lambda Console and create a Lambda function using the Python 2.7 runtime (the IAM role does not matter here):

I publish the function in the usual way and, hop over to the Greengrass Console, click on my group, and choose to add a Lambda function:

Then I choose the version to deploy:

I also configure the function to be long-lived instead of on-demand:

My code will publish messages to AWS IoT, so I create a subscription by specifying the source and destination:

I set up a topic filter (hello/world) on the subscription as well:

I confirm my settings and save my subscription and I am just about ready to deploy my code. I revisit my group, click on Deployments, and choose Deploy from the Actions menu:

I choose Automatic detection to move forward:

Since this is my first deployment, I need to create a service-level role that gives Greengrass permission to access other AWS services. I simply click on Grant permission:

I can see the status of each deployment:

The code is now running on my Pi! It publishes messages to topic hello/world; I can see them by going to the IoT Console, clicking on Test, and subscribing to the topic:

And here are the messages:

With all of the setup work taken care of, I can do iterative development by uploading, publishing, and deploying new versions of my code. I plan to use the BrickPi to control some LEGO Technic motors and to publish data collected from some sensors. Stay tuned for that post!

Greengrass Pricing
You can run the Greengrass Core on three devices free for one year as part of the AWS Free Tier. At the next level (3 to 10,000 devices) two options are available:

  • Pay as You Go – $0.16 per month per device.
  • Annual Commitment – $1.49 per year per device, a 17.5% savings.

If you want to run the Greengrass Core on more than 10,000 devices or make a longer commitment, please get in touch with us; details on all pricing models are on the Greengrass Pricing page.

Jeff;

How to Deploy Local Administrator Password Solution with AWS Microsoft AD

Post Syndicated from Dragos Madarasan original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-deploy-local-administrator-password-solution-with-aws-microsoft-ad/

Local Administrator Password Solution (LAPS) from Microsoft simplifies password management by allowing organizations to use Active Directory (AD) to store unique passwords for computers. Typically, an organization might reuse the same local administrator password across the computers in an AD domain. However, this approach represents a security risk because it can be exploited during lateral escalation attacks. LAPS solves this problem by creating unique, randomized passwords for the Administrator account on each computer and storing it encrypted in AD.

Deploying LAPS with AWS Microsoft AD requires the following steps:

  1. Install the LAPS binaries on instances joined to your AWS Microsoft AD domain. The binaries add additional client-side extension (CSE) functionality to the Group Policy client.
  2. Extend the AWS Microsoft AD schema. LAPS requires new AD attributes to store an encrypted password and its expiration time.
  3. Configure AD permissions and delegate the ability to retrieve the local administrator password for IT staff in your organization.
  4. Configure Group Policy on instances joined to your AWS Microsoft AD domain to enable LAPS. This configures the Group Policy client to process LAPS settings and uses the binaries installed in Step 1.

The following diagram illustrates the setup that I will be using throughout this post and the associated tasks to set up LAPS. Note that the AWS Directory Service directory is deployed across multiple Availability Zones, and monitoring automatically detects and replaces domain controllers that fail.

Diagram illustrating this blog post's solution

In this blog post, I explain the prerequisites to set up Local Administrator Password Solution, demonstrate the steps involved to update the AD schema on your AWS Microsoft AD domain, show how to delegate permissions to IT staff and configure LAPS via Group Policy, and demonstrate how to retrieve the password using the graphical user interface or with Windows PowerShell.

This post assumes you are familiar with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Data Interchange Format (LDIF) files and AWS Microsoft AD. If you need more of an introduction to Directory Service and AWS Microsoft AD, see How to Move More Custom Applications to the AWS Cloud with AWS Directory Service, which introduces working with schema changes in AWS Microsoft AD.

Prerequisites

In order to implement LAPS, you must use AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory (Enterprise Edition), also known as AWS Microsoft AD. Any instance on which you want to configure LAPS must be joined to your AWS Microsoft AD domain. You also need a Management instance on which you install the LAPS management tools.

In this post, I use an AWS Microsoft AD domain called example.com that I have launched in the EU (London) region. To see which the regions in which Directory Service is available, see AWS Regions and Endpoints.

Screenshot showing the AWS Microsoft AD domain example.com used in this blog post

In addition, you must have at least two instances launched in the same region as the AWS Microsoft AD domain. To join the instances to your AWS Microsoft AD domain, you have two options:

  1. Use the Amazon EC2 Systems Manager (SSM) domain join feature. To learn more about how to set up domain join for EC2 instances, see joining a Windows Instance to an AWS Directory Service Domain.
  2. Manually configure the DNS server addresses in the Internet Protocol version 4 (TCP/IPv4) settings of the network card to use the AWS Microsoft AD DNS addresses (172.31.9.64 and 172.31.16.191, for this blog post) and perform a manual domain join.

For the purpose of this post, my two instances are:

  1. A Management instance on which I will install the management tools that I have tagged as Management.
  2. A Web Server instance on which I will be deploying the LAPS binary.

Screenshot showing the two EC2 instances used in this post

Implementing the solution

 

1. Install the LAPS binaries on instances joined to your AWS Microsoft AD domain by using EC2 Run Command

LAPS binaries come in the form of an MSI installer and can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center. You can install the LAPS binaries manually, with an automation service such as EC2 Run Command, or with your existing software deployment solution.

For this post, I will deploy the LAPS binaries on my Web Server instance (i-0b7563d0f89d3453a) by using EC2 Run Command:

  1. While signed in to the AWS Management Console, choose EC2. In the Systems Manager Services section of the navigation pane, choose Run Command.
  2. Choose Run a command, and from the Command document list, choose AWS-InstallApplication.
  3. From Target instances, choose the instance on which you want to deploy the LAPS binaries. In my case, I will be selecting the instance tagged as Web Server. If you do not see any instances listed, make sure you have met the prerequisites for Amazon EC2 Systems Manager (SSM) by reviewing the Systems Manager Prerequisites.
  4. For Action, choose Install, and then stipulate the following values:
    • Parameters: /quiet
    • Source: https://download.microsoft.com/download/C/7/A/C7AAD914-A8A6-4904-88A1-29E657445D03/LAPS.x64.msi
    • Source Hash: f63ebbc45e2d080630bd62a195cd225de734131a56bb7b453c84336e37abd766
    • Comment: LAPS deployment

Leave the other options with the default values and choose Run. The AWS Management Console will return a Command ID, which will initially have a status of In Progress. It should take less than 5 minutes to download and install the binaries, after which the Command ID will update its status to Success.

Status showing the binaries have been installed successfully

If the Command ID runs for more than 5 minutes or returns an error, it might indicate a problem with the installer. To troubleshoot, review the steps in Troubleshooting Systems Manager Run Command.

To verify the binaries have been installed successfully, open Control Panel and review the recently installed applications in Programs and Features.

Screenshot of Control Panel that confirms LAPS has been installed successfully

You should see an entry for Local Administrator Password Solution with a version of 6.2.0.0 or newer.

2. Extend the AWS Microsoft AD schema

In the previous section, I used EC2 Run Command to install the LAPS binaries on an EC2 instance. Now, I am ready to extend the schema in an AWS Microsoft AD domain. Extending the schema is a requirement because LAPS relies on new AD attributes to store the encrypted password and its expiration time.

In an on-premises AD environment, you would update the schema by running the Update-AdmPwdADSchema Windows PowerShell cmdlet with schema administrator credentials. Because AWS Microsoft AD is a managed service, I do not have permissions to update the schema directly. Instead, I will update the AD schema from the Directory Service console by importing an LDIF file. If you are unfamiliar with schema updates or LDIF files, see How to Move More Custom Applications to the AWS Cloud with AWS Directory Service.

To make things easier for you, I am providing you with a sample LDIF file that contains the required AD schema changes. Using Notepad or a similar text editor, open the SchemaChanges-0517.ldif file and update the values of dc=example,dc=com with your own AWS Microsoft AD domain and suffix.

After I update the LDIF file with my AWS Microsoft AD details, I import it by using the AWS Management Console:

  1. On the Directory Service console, select from the list of directories in the Microsoft AD directory by choosing its identifier (it will look something like d-534373570ea).
  2. On the Directory details page, choose the Schema extensions tab and choose Upload and update schema.
    Screenshot showing the "Upload and update schema" option
  3. When prompted for the LDIF file that contains the changes, choose the sample LDIF file.
  4. In the background, the LDIF file is validated for errors and a backup of the directory is created for recovery purposes. Updating the schema might take a few minutes and the status will change to Updating Schema. When the process has completed, the status of Completed will be displayed, as shown in the following screenshot.

Screenshot showing the schema updates in progress
When the process has completed, the status of Completed will be displayed, as shown in the following screenshot.

Screenshot showing the process has completed

If the LDIF file contains errors or the schema extension fails, the Directory Service console will generate an error code and additional debug information. To help troubleshoot error messages, see Schema Extension Errors.

The sample LDIF file triggers AWS Microsoft AD to perform the following actions:

  1. Create the ms-Mcs-AdmPwd attribute, which stores the encrypted password.
  2. Create the ms-Mcs-AdmPwdExpirationTime attribute, which stores the time of the password’s expiration.
  3. Add both attributes to the Computer class.

3. Configure AD permissions

In the previous section, I updated the AWS Microsoft AD schema with the required attributes for LAPS. I am now ready to configure the permissions for administrators to retrieve the password and for computer accounts to update their password attribute.

As part of configuring AD permissions, I grant computers the ability to update their own password attribute and specify which security groups have permissions to retrieve the password from AD. As part of this process, I run Windows PowerShell cmdlets that are not installed by default on Windows Server.

Note: To learn more about Windows PowerShell and the concept of a cmdlet (pronounced “command-let”), go to Getting Started with Windows PowerShell.

Before getting started, I need to set up the required tools for LAPS on my Management instance, which must be joined to the AWS Microsoft AD domain. I will be using the same LAPS installer that I downloaded from the Microsoft LAPS website. In my Management instance, I have manually run the installer by clicking the LAPS.x64.msi file. On the Custom Setup page of the installer, under Management Tools, for each option I have selected Install on local hard drive.

Screenshot showing the required management tools

In the preceding screenshot, the features are:

  • The fat client UI – A simple user interface for retrieving the password (I will use it at the end of this post).
  • The Windows PowerShell module – Needed to run the commands in the next sections.
  • The GPO Editor templates – Used to configure Group Policy objects.

The next step is to grant computers in the Computers OU the permission to update their own attributes. While connected to my Management instance, I go to the Start menu and type PowerShell. In the list of results, right-click Windows PowerShell and choose Run as administrator and then Yes when prompted by User Account Control.

In the Windows PowerShell prompt, I type the following command.

Import-module AdmPwd.PS

Set-AdmPwdComputerSelfPermission –OrgUnit “OU=Computers,OU=MyMicrosoftAD,DC=example,DC=com

To grant the administrator group called Admins the permission to retrieve the computer password, I run the following command in the Windows PowerShell prompt I previously started.

Import-module AdmPwd.PS

Set-AdmPwdReadPasswordPermission –OrgUnit “OU=Computers, OU=MyMicrosoftAD,DC=example,DC=com” –AllowedPrincipals “Admins”

4. Configure Group Policy to enable LAPS

In the previous section, I deployed the LAPS management tools on my management instance, granted the computer accounts the permission to self-update their local administrator password attribute, and granted my Admins group permissions to retrieve the password.

Note: The following section addresses the Group Policy Management Console and Group Policy objects. If you are unfamiliar with or wish to learn more about these concepts, go to Get Started Using the GPMC and Group Policy for Beginners.

I am now ready to enable LAPS via Group Policy:

  1. On my Management instance (i-03b2c5d5b1113c7ac), I have installed the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) by running the following command in Windows PowerShell.
Install-WindowsFeature –Name GPMC
  1. Next, I have opened the GPMC and created a new Group Policy object (GPO) called LAPS GPO.
  2. In the Local Group Policy Editor, I navigate to Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > LAPS. I have configured the settings using the values in the following table.

Setting

State

Options

Password Settings

Enabled

Complexity: large letters, small letters, numbers, specials

Do not allow password expiration time longer than required by policy

Enabled

N/A

Enable local admin password management

Enabled

N/A

  1. Next, I need to link the GPO to an organizational unit (OU) in which my machine accounts sit. In your environment, I recommend testing the new settings on a test OU and then deploying the GPO to production OUs.

Note: If you choose to create a new test organizational unit, you must create it in the OU that AWS Microsoft AD delegates to you to manage. For example, if your AWS Microsoft AD directory name were example.com, the test OU path would be example.com/example/Computers/Test.

  1. To test that LAPS works, I need to make sure the computer has received the new policy by forcing a Group Policy update. While connected to the Web Server instance (i-0b7563d0f89d3453a) using Remote Desktop, I open an elevated administrative command prompt and run the following command: gpupdate /force. I can check if the policy is applied by running the command: gpresult /r | findstr LAPS GPO, where LAPS GPO is the name of the GPO created in the second step.
  2. Back on my Management instance, I can then launch the LAPS interface from the Start menu and use it to retrieve the password (as shown in the following screenshot). Alternatively, I can run the Get-ADComputer Windows PowerShell cmdlet to retrieve the password.
Get-ADComputer [YourComputerName] -Properties ms-Mcs-AdmPwd | select name, ms-Mcs-AdmPwd

Screenshot of the LAPS UI, which you can use to retrieve the password

Summary

In this blog post, I demonstrated how you can deploy LAPS with an AWS Microsoft AD directory. I then showed how to install the LAPS binaries by using EC2 Run Command. Using the sample LDIF file I provided, I showed you how to extend the schema, which is a requirement because LAPS relies on new AD attributes to store the encrypted password and its expiration time. Finally, I showed how to complete the LAPS setup by configuring the necessary AD permissions and creating the GPO that starts the LAPS password change.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing this solution, please start a new thread on the Directory Service forum.

– Dragos

Weekly roundup: Flux capacity

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/dev/2017/06/06/weekly-roundup-flux-capacity/

  • blog: I wrote about introspection, or more specifically, what it’s been like to gradually shift from “pure tech” to more creative work.

  • fox flux: I am trapped in animation hell, but making progress. I made a pretty cool new parallax background. Also took a short break from drawing to do some physics, and now I have critters that can stop at ledges.

  • idchoppers: I wrote a quick thing that counts texture usage in maps, by both count and area.

    Honestly, I’ve been avoiding idchoppers because getting the API right is going to be a good bit of tedious work, so if it’s going to go anywhere then I’ll need to devote some serious time to it. Not sure whether I will or not. Little cute tools like a texture count make for useful example cases for an API, though, so I guess this helps.

  • flora: I did some secret work for a not-yet-released thing. It is very good.

  • art: I drew a June avatar which I am super happy with!

Mostly I’ve been doing a lot of pixel art, and I should maybe take a break from it for a little while, because I have a lot of stuff to do this month. Stay tuned.

How NAGRA Fights Kodi and IPTV Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/how-nagra-fights-kodi-and-iptv-piracy-170603/

Nagravision or NAGRA is one of the best known companies operating in the digital cable and satellite television content security space. Due to successes spanning several decades, the company has often proven unpopular with pirates.

In particular, Nagravision encryption systems have regularly been a hot topic for discussion on cable and satellite hacking forums, frustrating those looking to receive pay TV services without paying the high prices associated with them. However, the rise of the Internet is now presenting new challenges.

NAGRA still protects traditional cable and satellite pay TV services in 2017; Virgin Media in the UK is a long-standing customer, for example. But the rise of Internet streaming means that pirate content can now be delivered to the home with ease, completely bypassing the entire pay TV provider infrastructure. And, by extension, NAGRA’s encryption.

This means that NAGRA has been required to spread its wings.

As reported in April, NAGRA is establishing a lab to monitor and detect unauthorized consumption of content via set-top boxes, websites and other streaming platforms. That covers the now omnipresent Kodi phenomenon, alongside premium illicit IPTV services. TorrentFreak caught up with the company this week to find out more.

“NAGRA has an automated monitoring platform that scans all live channels and VOD assets available on Kodi,” NAGRA’s Ivan Schnider informs TF.

“The service we offer to our customers automatically finds illegal distribution of their content on Kodi and removes infringing streams.”

In the first instance, NAGRA sends standard takedown notices to hosting services to terminate illicit streams. The company says that while some companies are very cooperative, others are less so. When meeting resistance, NAGRA switches to more coercive methods, described here by Christopher Schouten, NAGRA Senior Director Product Marketing.

“Takedowns are generally sent to streaming platforms and hosting servers. When those don’t work, Advanced Takedowns allow us to use both technical and legal means to get results,” Schouten says.

“Numerous stories in recent days show how for instance popular Kodi plug-ins have been removed by their authors because of the mere threat of legal actions like this.”

At the center of operations is NAGRA’s Piracy Intelligence Portal, which offers customers a real-time view of worldwide online piracy trends, information on the infrastructure behind illegal services, as well as statistics and status of takedown requests.

“We measure takedown compliance very carefully using our Piracy Intelligence Portal, so we can usually predict the results we will get. We work on a daily basis to improve relationships and interfaces with those who are less compliant,” Schouten says.

The Piracy Intelligence Portal

While persuasion is probably the best solution, some hosts inevitably refuse to cooperate. However, NAGRA also offers the NexGuard system, which is able to determine the original source of the content.

“Using forensic watermarking to trace the source of the leak, we will be able to completely shut down the ‘leak’ at the source, independently and within minutes of detection,” Schouten says.

Whatever route is taken, NAGRA says that the aim is to take down streams as quickly as possible, something which hopefully undermines confidence in pirate services and encourages users to re-enter the legal market. Interestingly, the company also says it uses “technical means” to degrade pirate services to the point that consumers lose faith in them.

But while augmented Kodi setups and illicit IPTV are certainly considered a major threat in 2017, they are not the only problem faced by content companies.

While the Apple platform is quite tight, the open nature of Android means that there are a rising number of apps that can be sideloaded from the web. These allow pirate content to be consumed quickly and conveniently within a glossy interface.

Apps like Showbox, MovieHD and Terrarium TV have the movie and TV show sector wrapped up, while the popular Mobdro achieves the same with live TV, including premium sports. Schnider says NAGRA can handle apps like these and other emerging threats in a variety of ways.

“In addition to Kodi-related anti-piracy activities, NAGRA offers a service that automatically finds illegal distribution of content on Android applications, fully loaded STBs, M3U playlist and other platforms that provide plug-and-play solutions for the big TV screen; this service also includes the removal of infringing streams,” he explains.

M3U playlist piracy doesn’t get a lot of press. An M3U file is a text file that specifies locations where content (such as streams) can be found online.

In its basic ‘free’ form, it’s simply a case of finding an M3U file on an indexing site or blog and loading it into VLC. It’s not as flashy as any of the above apps, and unless one knows where to get the free M3Us quickly, many channels may already be offline. Premium M3U files are widely available, however, and tend to be pretty reliable.

But while attacking sources of infringing content is clearly a big part of NAGRA’s mission, the company also deploys softer strategies for dealing with pirates.

“Beyond disrupting pirate streams, raising awareness amongst users that these services are illegal and helping service providers deliver competing legitimate services, are also key areas in the fight against premium IPTV piracy where NAGRA can help,” Schnider says.

“Converting users of such services to legitimate paying subscribers represents a significant opportunity for content owners and distributors.”

For this to succeed, Schouten says there needs to be an understanding of the different motivators that lead an individual to commit piracy.

“Is it price? Is it availability? Is it functionality?” he asks.

Interestingly, he also reveals that lots of people are spending large sums of money on IPTV services they believe are legal but are not. Rather than the high prices putting them off, they actually add to their air of legitimacy.

“These consumers can relatively easily be converted into paying subscribers if they can be convinced that pay-TV services offer superior quality, reliability, and convenience because let’s face it, most IPTV services are still a little dodgy to use,” he says.

“Education is also important; done through working with service providers to inform consumers through social media platforms of the risks linked to the use of illegitimate streaming devices / IPTV devices, e.g. purchasing boxes that may no longer work after a short period of time.”

And so the battle over content continues.

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