Tag Archives: Technology

Some PSAs for NUC owners

Post Syndicated from esr original http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=8725

I’ve written before, in Contemplating the Cute Brick, that I’m a big fan of Intel’s NUC line of small-form-factor computers. Over the last week I’ve been having some unpleasant learning experiences around them. I’m still a fan, but I’m shipping this post where the search engines can see it in support of future NUC owners in trouble.

Two years ago I bought an NUC for my wife Cathy to replace her last tower-case PC – the NUC8i3BEH1. This model was semi-obsolete even then, but I didn’t want one of the newer i5 or i7 NUCs because I didn’t think it would fit my wife’s needs as well.

What my wife does with her computer doesn’t tax it much. Web browsing, office work, a bit of gaming that does not extend to recent AAA titles demanding the latest whizzy graphics card. I thought her needs would be best served by a small, quiet, low-power-consumption machine that was cheap enough to be considered readily disposable at the end of its service life. The exact opposite of my Great Beast…

The NUC was an experiment that made Cathy and me happy. She especially likes the fact that it’s small and light enough to be mounted on the back of her monitor, so it effectively takes up no desk space or floor area in her rather crowded office. I like the NUC’s industrial design and engineering – lots of nice little details like the four case screws being captive to the baseplate so you cannot lose them during disassembly.

Also. Dammit, NUCs are pretty. I say dammit because I feel like this shouldn’t matter to me and am a bit embarrassed to discover that it does. I like the color and shape and feel of these devices. Someone did an amazing job of making them unobtrusively attractive.


Last week, Cathy registered a complaint that her NUC was making a funny noise. I went and listened and, alas, it was clearly the sound of the fan bearing in the NUC, screaming. That sound means you have worn or dirty bearing surfaces and the fan could fail at any time, forcing the device to shut down before it roasts its own components.

PSA #1: If you web-search for “NUC fan replacement”, you may well land at the website of a company specializing in NUC sales and support, named “Simply NUC”; I did. Do not buy from these people; they are lazy jerks.

First reason I know this: the “Fans” subpage in their Accessories section carries a link to exactly one model of fan. No indication of the range of NUC variants it matches, and not even a general warning that there are NUC models that require a different-sized fan. I had to find this out the hard way by pulling out the innards of Cathy’s NUC and sitting the fan I bought from Simply NUC next to it.

Two fans side by side

Second reason I know this: Simply NUC tech support was unhelpful, telling me they only carry that one fan and suggesting that I RMA Cathy’s machine back to Intel for repair, because obviously there could be no conceivable problem with it being out of service for an indefinite amount of time.

When I asked if Simply NUC knew of a source for a fan that would fit my 8i3BEH1 – a reasonable question, I think, to ask a company that loudly claims to be a one-stop shop for all NUC needs – the reply email told me I’d have to do “personal research” on that.

It turns out that if the useless drone who was Simply NUC “service” had cared about doing his actual job, he could have the read the fan’s model number off the image I had sent him into a search box and found multiple sources within seconds, because that’s what I then did. Of course this would have required caring that a customer was unhappy, which apparently they don’t do at Simply NUC.

Third reason I know this: My request for a refund didn’t even get refused; it wasn’t even answered.

It actually took some work to get the NUC board and fan out if its case. I watched some YouTube videos purporting to illuminate the process; none of them quite matched the hardware I was looking at and none told me the One Weird Trick I actually needed to know. Therefore:

PSA #2: If you’ve taken out both hold-down screws and the board still seems mechanically locked in place, it may well be because the NUC case is designed like that. On some NUCs you need to flex the two case walls with connector ports outwards by about a millimeter on each side so the connectors will pop out of their exit holes. The case is made of thin, springy metal; thumb pressure will do it.

So now I’m waiting on a second replacement fan to arrive. But there is good news; while I had the thing disassembled I blew out all the dust I could see with a can of air, playing it liberally over the fan. And since I reassembled it, it hasn’t screamed once. So:

PSA#3: Your NUC fan noise problem might be solvable just by blowing out the moondust under and around the fan bearings.

We’ll see. If I’m feeling lazy when the new fan arrives, I’ll leave it in the parts drawer until and unless unless the one now in the NUC fails. If I’m feeling energetic, I’ll swap in the new one, then disassemble and thoroughly clean and oil the old one before putting it in the drawer.

The dangerous folly of “Software as a Service”

Post Syndicated from Eric Raymond original http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=8338

Comes the word that Saleforce.com has announced a ban on its customers selling “military-style rifles”.

The reason this ban has teeth is that the company provides “software as a service”; that is, the software you run is a client for servers that the provider owns and operates. If the provider decides it doesn’t want your business, you probably have no real recourse. OK, you could sue for tortious interference in business relationships, but that’s chancy and anyway you didn’t want to be in a lawsuit, you wanted to conduct your business.

This is why “software as a service” is dangerous folly, even worse than old-fashioned proprietary software at saddling you with a strategic business risk. You don’t own the software, the software owns you.

It’s 2019 and I feel like I shouldn’t have to restate the obvious, but if you want to keep control of your business the software you rely on needs to be open-source. All of it. All of it. And you can’t afford it to be tethered to a service provider even if the software itself is nominally open source.

Otherwise, how do you know some political fanatic isn’t going to decide your product is unclean and chop you off at the knees? It’s rifles today, it’ll be anything that can be tagged “hateful” tomorrow – and you won’t be at the table when the victim-studies majors are defining “hate”. Even if you think you’re their ally, you can’t count on escaping the next turn of the purity spiral.

And that’s disregarding all the more mundane risks that come from the fact that your vendor’s business objectives aren’t the same as yours. This is ground I covered twenty years ago, do I really have to put on the Mr. Famous Guy cape and do the rubber-chicken circuit again? Sigh…

Business leaders should to fear every piece of proprietary software and “service” as the dangerous addictions they are. If Salesforce.com’s arrogant diktat teaches that lesson, it will have been a service indeed.

The low-down on home routers – how to buy, what to avoid

Post Syndicated from Eric Raymond original http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=8330

Ever had the experience of not realizing you’re a subject-matter-expert until someone brings up a topic on a mailing list and you find yourself uttering a pretty comprehensive brain dump about it? This happened to me about home and SOHO routers recently. So I’m repeating the brain dump here. I expect I’ll get some corrections, because at least one of my regulars – I’m thinking of Dave Taht – knows more about this topic than I do. But here goes…

If you’re looking to buy or upgrade a home router, I’ll start with some important negative advice: Don’t go near hardware with a Broadcomm chip in it. The current too-weak-to-thrive threshold for router hardware is <4GB flash or <32GBRAM; if you buy less than that your forward options will be seriously limited. And most importantly: Don’t trust vendor firmware! Always reflash your router with a current version from one of the major open-source firmware stacks.

If your prompt reaction is “I ain’t got time for that!”, then the Romanian, Bulgarian, and Russian cyber-mafias thank you for your contribution to their bot networks and promise they won’t do anything really bad with your router. But they will sell control of it to the highest bidder, all right.

Yes, it’s that bad out there. You’ll understand something of why by the time you finish reading this.

In fairness to one vendor who seems to be trying to do right, Ubiquiti may be an exception to the vendor-firmware-sucks rule. They have very good buzz among my knowledgeable friends, but I haven’t tested their stuff myself and experience has taught me skepticism in these matters. So I can’t recommend them as an alternative to reflashing yet.

There are two major open-source firmware distributions and several tiddlers. The tiddlers haven’t attracted enough of a community to self-sustain and are best ignored unless you ahem crave adventure.

The majors are OpenWrt and DD-WRT. For a while OpenWRT looked almost moribund and there was a third called LEDE that was an OpenWRT fork, but no more. It looks like LEDE has merged back into OpenWRT and revivified it. They shipped a new stable release at the end of January 2019.

DD-WRT is a different project than either OpenWRT or LEDE. It’s not as well run as OpenWRT, which actually has one builder and stable releases. DD-WRT survives mainly because it has good support for one common SOC that OpenWRT/LEDE doesn’t – IIRC it was some exudation from the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned Broadcomm (“Our products are shitty, but boy are they cheap!”).

I’ve found OpenWRT very solid and reliable; the reason my knowledge of the state of these projects got a bit stale is that my router Just Works and has Just Worked for a long time. I have a plan B to buy one of the Ubuquiti routers if OpenWRT shits the bed, but I’ve never come even close to exercising that option.

(Note: What I’m actually running is CeroWRT, a now fairly old fork of OpenWRT by my friend and semi-regular A&D commenter Dave “Bufferbloat’s-Bane” Taht that he wrote to experiment with improved buffer-queue management; since then his patches were merged upstream to OpenWRT/LEDE and Linux and CeroWRT has been discontinued.)

My current recommendation, therefore, is to flash OpenWRT if you can and DD-WRT only if you must. At 846 vendor/model combinations OpenWRT has pretty broad support.

If I needed a new router today (I don’t, I have a couple of cold spares) I’d trawl e-Bay for a one-generation-back commodity router on the OpenWRT support list that does have 4GB+ flash and 32GB+RAM and doesn’t have a &[email protected]*$! Broadcomm chip in it, buy it, and flash OpenWRTs latest stable release. I’ve had good history with Netgear, so I’d probably look at those first.

Flashing OpenWRT is not a complicated or lengthy process, and you will get the happy feeling that comes from high confidence that your router isn’t infected with vendor malware – a serious issue, some of them have pulled very evil shit like rewriting HTTP traffic to push ads of their choice at you, and if you’re wondering if those ad sites are also likely to be malware vectors the answer is “Why, yes, well spotted.”

Even when the vendors aren’t actively evil, remotely exploitable bugs in router firmware stacks have been depressingly common. The problem is not usually kernel-level but higher up, in the admin stack; simple factory misconfigurations (for example) can leave your device totally vulnerable even when the individual software components are sound.

The pragmatic reason to go with OpenWRT is that it greatly decreases your odds of having this kind of problem out of the box and improves your odds of a prompt fix if there is one. It’s a plain fact that OpenWRT ships buggy releases far less often than vendors do.

These are the major reasons I say “Friends don’t let friends run proprietary router firmware.” Ubiquiti *might* be an exception, I’m prepared to be cautiously optimistic on that score, but in general it is not safe out there in vendor-land. Not even close to safe.

OK, now let’s take a look at why it’s so awful in vendor-land…

You have to start by knowing how routers are developed. Almost nobody in this space spends actual NRE on hardware development beyond what it takes for the cases to look different. What happens instead is that there are a handful of reference designs by chip and SOC vendors that get replicated endlessly. This is why, if you look at OpenWRT’s support page, you’ll notice there are a lot fewer images than there are supported routers. I didn’t do a full count, but it looks like there are less than 30 for those 846 products.

Cisco is an exception to this pattern, but only in the commercial-grade hardware they sell to data centers – their SOHO routers are cheap flank guards for the upper end of their range, built on the same reference designs as RandomRouterCo’s. Ubiquiti is not an exception. I can tell both things by noticing that all the Cisco and Ubiquiti stuff on the OpenWRT support list uses a handful of generic images.

Ubiquiti’s value add, if it’s real (which I’m willing to believe – everything I can see from the outside suggests a smart, well-run company) is going to be mostly putting more talent and money into the software end. Which is exactly what I would do if I were running their business strategy; software differentiation is way less expensive than new hardware design. They might do some of the latter, but probably not at the SOHO end of their range – it’s not cost-effective there.

In a market structured like this, optimal strategy is to buy cheap generic hardware and let open-source obsessives add the value on the software end. The main thing you need to be careful about is flash/RAM capacity; everyone’s incentives favor cutting BOM to the bone, and given the fixed coast of the reference designs the best lever on that is to lowball flash/RAM capacity as much as you think you can get away with without having the product go catatatonic in under 90 days.

There’s also a potential problem with cheapjack Chinese component substitutions that contract manufacturers will do unless you’re watching like a hawk, but everybody has that one. If Cisco and Ubiquiti manufactured in the U.S. it would show in their marketing.

And that’s it. I’ll finish by emphasizing a consequence of these things being variations on a handful of reference designs – flash/RAM capacity and port count are about the only differentiators there are. Even if you wanted to try to buy better quality in the rest of the box by paying more money, that’s remarkably hard to do – they’re like toasters that way, except that you can’t actually bail out by buying a better-designed antique. Alas.

Интернет и ерозията на демокрацията

Post Syndicated from Yovko Lambrev original https://yovko.net/internet-democracy-erosion/

Интернет и ерозията на демокрацията

Текстът е написан специално за първия брой на вестник „К“ за критика, дебати и културни удоволствия, който се явява наследник на досегашния вестник Култура, чийто бранд издателят му реши да залепи на ново списание. Добавям го и тук – в своя личен online архив.

Имах късмет да открия интернет в зората на неговото създаване преди повече от 20 години. Днес за много хора би било трудно да си представят как изглеждаше и се използваше мрежата тогава. Буквално всичко беше различно.

Повечето потребители в тогавашното виртуално пространство бяха сякаш от една порода – предимно хора от научните среди, наивни романтици, обединени от идеята за създаване и споделяне най-вече на знания и опит, опиянени от вкуса на свободата да общуваш без граници. Не бяха нужни никакви регулатори или директиви – всички доброволно следваха няколко прости „правила за поведение в мрежата“ (нетикет), които гарантираха реда и добрия тон. Ако някой ги прекрачеше, просто получаваше забележка; и ако не си вземеше поука, попадаше в изолация и затруднения да си намери интересни събеседници. Всеки новопоявил се в интернет първо се оглеждаше тихо и с респект към установените модели, правила и авторитети. И се стараеше да гради репутация, преди да претендира за разпознаваемост и значимост във виртуалното пространство. Меритокрацията беше в пълен ход.

Този нетикет се спазваше дори в най-тъмните ъгълчета на мрежата, обикновено свързвани с не особено легални забавления или бизнес. Да бъдеш част от интернет тогава не бе нито евтино, нито лесно; и сякаш това филтрираше хора с интересно сечение от базисна грамотност, толерантна култура на общуване и нужното желание да инвестират част от доходите си за връзка с мрежата.

Краят на романтиката

Независимо дали гледаме на интернет от академична перспектива (като на библиотека за трупане на познание) или с предприемачески нагласи (като на потенциален необятен пазар), и за двете има нужда от хора. От много хора. Затова и пионерите в мрежата съвсем естествено си поставиха негласна обща цел да я направят по-достъпна за всички останали, снижавайки и техническите, и икономическите бариери пред достъпа до нея.

Недодяланите в началото браузъри, чието първично предназначение бе да се чете почти единствено и само текст, се преработваха многократно, докато се превърнаха в изключително лесни и универсални инструменти за достъп до всякакво съдържание в интернет. Уебсайтовете еволюираха от статични струпвания на документи през интерактивни и дизайнерски оформени творения на изкуството до днес, когато са буквално пълноценни софтуерни приложения, които работят в браузър.

Шум срещу смисъл

Всичко това имаше едничка цел – глобалната мрежа да може да се използва от всички. Цел, едновременно алтруистична и комерсиално-прагматична. Колкото повече потребители има интернет, толкова повече познание ще се трупа в мрежата, беше наивната нагласа на тези, които гледаха на мрежата като на световна библиотека със знание. Колкото повече потребители има интернет, толкова по-бързо ще расте потенциалът на онлайн бизнеса, си казваха предприемачите. И двете групи в пълна симбиоза си помагаха по пътя към общата цел.

Експоненциалното нарастване на интернет населението обаче направи невъзможно запазването на установената култура на общуване в мрежата от зората на възникването ѝ. Днес нетикет е странно звучаща и напълно непозната дума. Онлайн предприемачите нямаха осъзната потребност да ограмотяват новите потребители, нито интерес да изискват каквито и да било допълнителни усилия от тях. Пазарният стремеж да бъдат свалени всички бариери, за да е лесно и удобно на повече хора, доведе до това, че днешният интернет потребител се появява в мрежата с нагласата, че е център на Вселената, а мрежата до днес е тръпнала в очакване да попие и разпространи неговите гениални разсъждения по всяка злободневна тема.

И така, шумът надделя над полезността.

Илюзията за „безплатното“ потребление

Интернет е скъпо начинание. Винаги е било. И с включването на все повече хора, използващи все повече ресурси, то ще става все по-скъпо. Икономията от мащаба може да редуцира себестойността на издръжката на една платформа, разхвърляна върху нарастващия й брой ползватели, но потребителите във времето винаги ще искат повече и то с нагласата да плащат по-малко. Или нищо.

Бяха възпитани така от бурния стремеж на много онлайн начинания да се продадат „на зелено“ на инвеститора, който да плати за разработката му. Моделът на Силициевата долина за финансиране на сурови идеи в зародишна фаза почти единствено на база потенциал за растеж доведе до търсене на такива бизнес модели, които „зарибяват“ потребители, предлагайки им безплатно удобни услуги само за да бъдат привлечени в обсега на една или друга платформа.

Този модел е порочен не само защото възпитава погрешната нагласа, че всичко в Интернет може и трябва да бъде безплатно, а и по две други много ключови причини. Едната е, че класическите пазарни отношения, свързани със заплащането на една или друга услуга, стават неконкурентни, бивайки притискани от „безплатни“ алтернативи. Втората е, че всъщност потребителите плащат много висока цена, в общия случай без дори да подозират.

Потребителят не е клиент, а стока

Предлагайки безплатни услуги, безплатно пространство за файлове и снимки или безплатна електронна поща, различните интернет платформи имат една цел – да привлекат възможно най-много потребители в своята орбита и територия. Тези потребители живеят с илюзията, че са клиенти, но горчивата истина е, че не са. Основната причина те да бъдат ухажвани и техните потребности да бъдат задоволявани е, че докато активно присъстват и използват платформата, те натрупват и съхраняват своя информация в нея. Именно тази информация е цената, с която заплащат използването на „безплатните“ услуги.

Повечето хора не считат, че техните файлове, снимки и лична кореспонденция представляват интерес за някого. Но натрупването на огромни количества подобни данни от множество хора позволява те да бъдат статистически обработвани. Компютърни алгоритми ги анализират, като на тази база са в състояние да правят допускания за нашите интереси, намерения за покупки на стоки или политически симпатии. Изследват взаимоотношенията ни с останалите хора, с които контактуваме, опитват да установят как си влияем едни на други, кои са лидерите на мнения сред нас, дори как да бъдем провокирани да реагираме на едно или друго или да гласуваме по определен начин.

Нашите данни са нашата дигитална проекция и битката на интернет гигантите не е за нас. Обработените ни данни и извлечената от тях информация са стока, която може да бъде продавана скъпо – включително за маркетингови и политически кампании. Нашите данни са чудесен инструмент за манипулация на нас самите.

Данните са новото злато

След земеделската революция най-ценният ресурс беше земята, след индустриалната станаха машините. Започва нова ера, в която най-ценното нещо – новият петрол и новото злато – ще бъдат данните.

Изследване на Facebook, проведено с над 85 хиляди потребители на платформата, показа прецизността, с която алгоритмите на социалната мрежа преценяват хората. Доброволците са помолени да попълнят въпросник за своите предпочитания и вкусове. За същото са запитани техни приятели, колеги, роднини и съпрузи, за да се направи сравнение колко добре ги познават. Алгоритмите на Facebook не разполагат с отговорите на въпросниците, но са активирани да направят същата преценка само на базата на лайковете и информацията в профилите на изследваните потребители. Оказва се, че при едва 10 лайка Facebook има по-точна преценка от колегите, при 70 – от приятелите, при 150 – от роднините, а при 300 – от съпрузите. *

Средната успеваемост на човек за разпознаване на лице по снимка е около 94-95%. Софтуерните алгоритми вече ни надминаха – тяхната успеваемост за същото днес е 97%.

Всичко това и още много други неща са възможни благодарение на нашите данни. Особено като добавим към тях и биометричните, събирани от умните ни часовници, фитнес гривни и все повече други устройства в бъдеще. Живеем на ръба на исторически момент, в който софтуерът (ще) ни познава по-добре от нас самите.

Разбира се, това не е непременно лошо. Ако софтуерът знае какво искам за вечеря, защо да не го оставя да поръча вместо мен? Данни могат да помогнат и за лечение на различни заболявания. Статистически натрупвания за медицински състояния при други хора могат да се използват от нашите устройства за разпознаване и ранна диагностика на тревожни симптоми без намесата на лекар. Умният часовник на Apple вече може да предупреди за отклонения в сърдечния ви ритъм. Това е възможно заради натрупани медицински данни, събрани от много пациенти. Или пък разпознава, че сте паднал, по движението на ръцете ви при падане и ако не реагирате до половин минута, автоматично ще повика помощ, изпращайки географските координати на мястото, където се намирате.

Натрупани данни обаче бяха ползвани умишлено за политически манипулации и въздействие и при избирането на Тръмп за президент, и при референдума за Брекзит. Най-напред, за да бъдат селектирани колебаещи се хора, върху чието мнение по-лесно може да бъде повлияно, след което същите хора да бъдат облъчени с нужните послания, които биха ги побутнали да вземат желаното решение. И всичко това просто е струвало определена сума пари.

Важно е кой притежава и контролира данните

Проблемът е сложен. От една страна, защото има разминавания в разбиранията за това чия собственост са данните, съхранявани в различните интернет платформи. В общите си условия те се опитват да си присвоят съгласието ви да притежават вашите данни, поставяйки това като условие да ползвате услугите им. В добавка към това хората подценяват колко ценни са техните данни – не толкова конкретно, а като част от извадка, определена група или география.

От друга страна, темповете на технологичния прогрес са такива, че ако едно общество си постави твърде строги бариери пред събирането и анализирането на данни, това може да бъде сериозна пречка пред иновациите и да е причина да бъде изпреварено от други държави или общности. Най-тъжното е, че рискът това да се случи е по-голям в западните общества, където човешките права имат по-висока стойност.

Как да бъде намерен балансът, ще бъде въпрос, който ще определи посоката на развитие на човечеството и засяга пряко темата за социалните неравенства, разпределението на богатството и мира на планетата.

Не на последно място остава притеснението, че ако допуснем, че алгоритмите ни познават достатъчно добре, за да взимат решения от наше име, те ще имат и възможността да манипулират желанията ни така, че да пожелаем да последваме техния избор. Или нечий друг. И това отново да струва определена сума пари.

Гравитацията на платформите

Социалните мрежи са девиация в еволюцията на интернет. Подхлъзване. Недоразумение, което бе създадено именно от антипазарните модели на „безплатните“ услуги и съдържание.

Първоначалната идея и техническа реализация на глобалната мрежа бе да свързва компютрите (сървърите) на много хора, компании и държави по света без централна власт, без незаобиколими острови на влияние и даже със защитни механизми мрежата да бъде винаги достъпна, дори ако някое парче от нея временно изчезне или спре. Идеята на интернет бе да бъде максимално разпределена и децентрализирана мрежа.

Стремежът за събиране на потребители и техните данни в няколко глобални платформи като Google, Facebook, Amazon и др., които постепенно парцелираха мрежата, обаче доведе до един твърде централизиран интернет, в който е трудно да се противостои на гравитацията на гигантите.

Човешките навици, инерция и стремеж за приобщаване на роднини и познати усилват още повече тази гравитация. Така гигантските платформи се превърнаха в световен градски мегдан. И в непреодолим фактор, в технологични Голиати, които, за разлика от библейския си първообраз, са твърде големи, за да бъде допусната хипотеза да се провалят, без това да не е твърде болезнено за мнозина. Засега няма и здравословен механизъм, който да провокира платформите да еволюират в нова посока. А потребителите самоволно и безразсъдно се оставят да бъдат техни заложници.

Ерозия на демокрацията

Наивността на пионерите в интернет, че в мрежата разумът, прагматичността, смисълът и фактите някак по подразбиране ще продължат да надделяват над заблудите и глупостите, се оказа фундаментална грешка. Социалните мрежи се превърнаха в комерсиален усилвател без филтър за адекватност и критерии за достоверност. Централизираният около няколко ключови платформи интернет е силно зависим от техните икономически и политически интереси. Медиите също попаднаха в капана на зависимостта от усилващата роля на социалните мрежи и основно Facebook и така загубиха пряката връзка с публиката си. А критичното мислене не се оказа сред силните качества на масовия интернет потребител.

Най-тревожното на това развитие е, че води до сътресения, които се превръщат в систематична заплаха за демокрацията. Комбинацията от ефективни технологични инструменти за манипулация на общественото мнение, зависими от същите инструменти медии и ниското ниво на критично мислене са перфектната буря, която е в състояние да разруши базисни обществени механизми.

Добрата новина е, че технологиите винаги еволюират и вече се забелязват нови усилия за бъдещ децентрализиран и разпределен интернет. Остава без отговор обаче въпросът дали единствено технологиите трябва да виним за заблатяването на днешната глобална мрежа и само на тях ли да възлагаме надеждите за развитие? И ако продължаваме да подценяваме образованието, етикета и хуманизма, кое ни гарантира, че няма да допуснем същата грешка – отново да надценим способностите на човека?

* Ювал Ноа Харари описва това изследване в книгата си „Homo Deus. Кратка история на бъдещето“ (2018, изд. „Изток-Запад“)

Електронно гласуване в “Да, България!”

Post Syndicated from Yovko Lambrev original https://yovko.net/e-voting-yes-bulgaria/

Електронно гласуване в

В събота се проведе първата Национална конференция на Движение "Да, България!".

Право на участие в нея имат абсолютно всички членове на организацията (за разлика от други партии, които излъчват делегати за подобни форуми). Но няма да ви занимавам с речи, нито с политически послания, а с един прагматичен нюанс, който е пример за политика, приложена на практика.

Ако не сте разбрали, понеже повечето национални медии се страхуват да отразяват мнения и действия на "Да, България!" и Демократична България, всички присъствали на конференцията гласуваха електронно през мобилното приложение на партията за iOS и Android. На 23 юни 2018 г., за първи път в България, една организация институционализира решенията на най-висшия си форум чрез електронен вот. И това вече е исторически факт! Това е и политика, защото приложено в нужния мащаб би демократизирало още повече процеса по взимане на решения, вкл. дистанционно. А това е от ключово значение за включването и участието на повече хора във взимането на решения.

Приложено в общински или в национален мащаб, подобно решение (не непременно същото) може да се прилага за сондиране на обществени нагласи на гражданите в общината, за участие в местни референдуми и избори, дава възможност за участие на българите зад граница.

Разбира се, има специфични разлики и изисквания при явно гласуване във вътрешно-организационен контекст и при гласуване на национални или местни избори с таен вот. И тези разлики и продробности са важни, но няма непреодолими технологични пречки тези изисквания и особености да бъдат съобразени и реализирани. Стига да има воля за това в държавата ни.

Аз участвах само в бета-тестове преди събитието и помагах по време на конференцията на хора, които срещаха затруднения. Никога няма да бъдат обаче достатъчни овациите и благодарностите за неколцината доброволци от "Да, България!", които направиха тази система и приложенията реалност!

От опита ми в бизнеса и в технологиите зная, че е напълно обичайно да има поне малко съпротива и мрънкане, когато караш хората да ползват нещо ново, особено такова, с което не са свикнали. Огромната ми изненада бе, че в събота такова мрънкане нямаше – дори хората, на които помагах и имаха затруднения, бяха изключително позитивно настроени и с нагласата да свикнат и да се справят, и само след първите няколко гласувания моята помощ вече не им беше нужна.

Електронно гласуване в

За да се пести време и грешки от влизане и излизане в приложението с имена и пароли, на поканите, разпратени до всички, бяха отпечатани QR-кодове (индивидуален за всеки член). Те съдържаха token, с който хората можеха да влязат в системата, като покажат този код на камерата на смартфона си. Токъните бяха анулирани веднага след края на конференцията.

Технологично решението позволява дистанционно и неприсъствено гласуване, но има юридически ограничения да го осъществим, затова беше въведен процес по check-in на място пред залата на конференцията, така че само хора с токъни/кодове, които са минали през вратата, можеха да гласуват по време на конференцията.

Електронно гласуване в

Участниците можеха да наблюдават резултатите от всяко едно гласуване на личните си устройства.

Електронно гласуване в

Вероятно най-полезният момент бе тогава, когато трябваше да попълним състава на един от органите на партията с 31 нови души. За тази цел бяха номинирани 43-ма. В обичайната ситуация това би означавало да гласуваме с вдигане на ръка за всеки един поотделно, да броим гласовете за всеки, да сумираме (в голяма зала са нужни няколко преброители, които да се разпределят по няколко реда) и накрая комисия да сортира кои са тези 31, които имат най-много гласове. Да оставим настрана възможните грешки при броенето.

Друга опция бе да се направи интегрална бюлетина, да се разпечата, да гласуваме с отбелязване върху бюлетината (с възможните грешки и труден контрол дали някой не е гласувал за повече от 31 души), да се обработват бюлетините една по една (при повече от 500 гласуващи), което отнема адски много време, измеримо в часове.

Докато с електронното гласуване на екраните на телефоните се появи списък с имената на номинираните и възможност да се отбележи всяко едно от тях (като автоматично системата следи да не могат да бъдат маркирани повече от 31 имена) – т.е. няма как бюлетината да стане невалидна. Тъй като кандидатите бяха доста и човек не може да познава всички, имаше подготвени малки книжки с кратки представяния на номинираните и гласуващите имаха около 30 минути за това гласуване, за да преценят на кои от тях биха дали доверието си. Резултатите бяха готови до 5 минути след това. Иначе казано, всичко приключи в рамките на около половин час. Бързо, лесно и удобно.

Посланието е ясно – ако една "малка извънпарламентарна партия" (според Б.Б.) може да го направи, при това съвсем без пари, защото определено не разполагаме с много средства… би било далеч по-лесно за големите, които прибират прилични субсидии, да го реализират. Вие си отговорете на въпроса защо дори не се опитват!

Няма какво да коментирам държавата, за която темата продължава да отсъства, дори след ясното произнасяне на гражданите на референдум, че искат електронно гласуване. Единственият валиден въпрос продължава да бъде: докога ще търпим?

Заглавна снимка: Йовко Ламбрев
Снимки в текста: “Да, България!”

Some quick thoughts on the public discussion regarding facial recognition and Amazon Rekognition this past week

Post Syndicated from Dr. Matt Wood original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/some-quick-thoughts-on-the-public-discussion-regarding-facial-recognition-and-amazon-rekognition-this-past-week/

We have seen a lot of discussion this past week about the role of Amazon Rekognition in facial recognition, surveillance, and civil liberties, and we wanted to share some thoughts.

Amazon Rekognition is a service we announced in 2016. It makes use of new technologies – such as deep learning – and puts them in the hands of developers in an easy-to-use, low-cost way. Since then, we have seen customers use the image and video analysis capabilities of Amazon Rekognition in ways that materially benefit both society (e.g. preventing human trafficking, inhibiting child exploitation, reuniting missing children with their families, and building educational apps for children), and organizations (enhancing security through multi-factor authentication, finding images more easily, or preventing package theft). Amazon Web Services (AWS) is not the only provider of services like these, and we remain excited about how image and video analysis can be a driver for good in the world, including in the public sector and law enforcement.

There have always been and will always be risks with new technology capabilities. Each organization choosing to employ technology must act responsibly or risk legal penalties and public condemnation. AWS takes its responsibilities seriously. But we believe it is the wrong approach to impose a ban on promising new technologies because they might be used by bad actors for nefarious purposes in the future. The world would be a very different place if we had restricted people from buying computers because it was possible to use that computer to do harm. The same can be said of thousands of technologies upon which we all rely each day. Through responsible use, the benefits have far outweighed the risks.

Customers are off to a great start with Amazon Rekognition; the evidence of the positive impact this new technology can provide is strong (and growing by the week), and we’re excited to continue to support our customers in its responsible use.

-Dr. Matt Wood, general manager of artificial intelligence at AWS

Hiring a Director of Sales

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hiring-a-director-of-sales/

Backblaze is hiring a Director of Sales. This is a critical role for Backblaze as we continue to grow the team. We need a strong leader who has experience in scaling a sales team and who has an excellent track record for exceeding goals by selling Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. In addition, this leader will need to be highly motivated, as well as able to create and develop a highly-motivated, success oriented sales team that has fun and enjoys what they do.

The History of Backblaze from our CEO
In 2007, after a friend’s computer crash caused her some suffering, we realized that with every photo, video, song, and document going digital, everyone would eventually lose all of their information. Five of us quit our jobs to start a company with the goal of making it easy for people to back up their data.

Like many startups, for a while we worked out of a co-founder’s one-bedroom apartment. Unlike most startups, we made an explicit agreement not to raise funding during the first year. We would then touch base every six months and decide whether to raise or not. We wanted to focus on building the company and the product, not on pitching and slide decks. And critically, we wanted to build a culture that understood money comes from customers, not the magical VC giving tree. Over the course of 5 years we built a profitable, multi-million dollar revenue business — and only then did we raise a VC round.

Fast forward 10 years later and our world looks quite different. You’ll have some fantastic assets to work with:

  • A brand millions recognize for openness, ease-of-use, and affordability.
  • A computer backup service that stores over 500 petabytes of data, has recovered over 30 billion files for hundreds of thousands of paying customers — most of whom self-identify as being the people that find and recommend technology products to their friends.
  • Our B2 service that provides the lowest cost cloud storage on the planet at 1/4th the price Amazon, Google or Microsoft charges. While being a newer product on the market, it already has over 100,000 IT and developers signed up as well as an ecosystem building up around it.
  • A growing, profitable and cash-flow positive company.
  • And last, but most definitely not least: a great sales team.

You might be saying, “sounds like you’ve got this under control — why do you need me?” Don’t be misled. We need you. Here’s why:

  • We have a great team, but we are in the process of expanding and we need to develop a structure that will easily scale and provide the most success to drive revenue.
  • We just launched our outbound sales efforts and we need someone to help develop that into a fully successful program that’s building a strong pipeline and closing business.
  • We need someone to work with the marketing department and figure out how to generate more inbound opportunities that the sales team can follow up on and close.
  • We need someone who will work closely in developing the skills of our current sales team and build a path for career growth and advancement.
  • We want someone to manage our Customer Success program.

So that’s a bit about us. What are we looking for in you?

Experience: As a sales leader, you will strategically build and drive the territory’s sales pipeline by assembling and leading a skilled team of sales professionals. This leader should be familiar with generating, developing and closing software subscription (SaaS) opportunities. We are looking for a self-starter who can manage a team and make an immediate impact of selling our Backup and Cloud Storage solutions. In this role, the sales leader will work closely with the VP of Sales, marketing staff, and service staff to develop and implement specific strategic plans to achieve and exceed revenue targets, including new business acquisition as well as build out our customer success program.

Leadership: We have an experienced team who’s brought us to where we are today. You need to have the people and management skills to get them excited about working with you. You need to be a strong leader and compassionate about developing and supporting your team.

Data driven and creative: The data has to show something makes sense before we scale it up. However, without creativity, it’s easy to say “the data shows it’s impossible” or to find a local maximum. Whether it’s deciding how to scale the team, figuring out what our outbound sales efforts should look like or putting a plan in place to develop the team for career growth, we’ve seen a bit of creativity get us places a few extra dollars couldn’t.

Jive with our culture: Strong leaders affect culture and the person we hire for this role may well shape, not only fit into, ours. But to shape the culture you have to be accepted by the organism, which means a certain set of shared values. We default to openness with our team, our customers, and everyone if possible. We love initiative — without arrogance or dictatorship. We work to create a place people enjoy showing up to work. That doesn’t mean ping pong tables and foosball (though we do try to have perks & fun), but it means people are friendly, non-political, working to build a good service but also a good place to work.

Do the work: Ideas and strategy are critical, but good execution makes them happen. We’re looking for someone who can help the team execute both from the perspective of being capable of guiding and organizing, but also someone who is hands-on themselves.

Additional Responsibilities needed for this role:

  • Recruit, coach, mentor, manage and lead a team of sales professionals to achieve yearly sales targets. This includes closing new business and expanding upon existing clientele.
  • Expand the customer success program to provide the best customer experience possible resulting in upsell opportunities and a high retention rate.
  • Develop effective sales strategies and deliver compelling product demonstrations and sales pitches.
  • Acquire and develop the appropriate sales tools to make the team efficient in their daily work flow.
  • Apply a thorough understanding of the marketplace, industry trends, funding developments, and products to all management activities and strategic sales decisions.
  • Ensure that sales department operations function smoothly, with the goal of facilitating sales and/or closings; operational responsibilities include accurate pipeline reporting and sales forecasts.
  • This position will report directly to the VP of Sales and will be staffed in our headquarters in San Mateo, CA.


  • 7 – 10+ years of successful sales leadership experience as measured by sales performance against goals.
    Experience in developing skill sets and providing career growth and opportunities through advancement of team members.
  • Background in selling SaaS technologies with a strong track record of success.
  • Strong presentation and communication skills.
  • Must be able to travel occasionally nationwide.
  • BA/BS degree required

Think you want to join us on this adventure?
Send an email to jobscontact@backblaze.com with the subject “Director of Sales.” (Recruiters and agencies, please don’t email us.) Include a resume and answer these two questions:

  1. How would you approach evaluating the current sales team and what is your process for developing a growth strategy to scale the team?
  2. What are the goals you would set for yourself in the 3 month and 1-year timeframes?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope that this sounds like the opportunity for which you’ve been waiting.

Backblaze is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

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

[$] Unprivileged filesystem mounts, 2018 edition

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/755593/rss

The advent of user namespaces and container technology has made it possible
to extend more root-like powers to unprivileged users in a (we hope) safe
way. One remaining sticking point is the mounting of filesystems, which
has long been fraught with security problems. Work has been proceeding to
allow such mounts for years, and it has gotten a little closer with the
posting of a patch series intended for the 4.18 kernel. But, as an
unrelated discussion has made clear, truly safe unprivileged filesystem
mounting is still a rather distant prospect — at least, if one wants to do
it in the kernel.

Welcome Jack — Data Center Tech

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/welcome-jack-data-center-tech/

As we shoot way past 500 petabytes of data stored, we need a lot of helping hands in the data center to keep those hard drives spinning! We’ve been hiring quite a lot, and our latest addition is Jack. Lets learn a bit more about him, shall we?

What is your Backblaze Title?
Data Center Tech

Where are you originally from?
Walnut Creek, CA until 7th grade when the family moved to Durango, Colorado.

What attracted you to Backblaze?
I had heard about how cool the Backblaze community is and have always been fascinated by technology.

What do you expect to learn while being at Backblaze?
I expect to learn a lot about how our data centers run and all of the hardware behind it.

Where else have you worked?
Garrhs HVAC as an HVAC Installer and then Durango Electrical as a Low Volt Technician.

Where did you go to school?
Durango High School and then Montana State University.

What’s your dream job?
I would love to be a driver for the Audi Sport. Race cars are so much fun!

Favorite place you’ve traveled?
Iceland has definitely been my favorite so far.

Favorite hobby?
Video games.

Of what achievement are you most proud?
Getting my Eagle Scout badge was a tough, but rewarding experience that I will always cherish.

Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars.

Coke or Pepsi?
Coke…I know, it’s bad.

Favorite food?
Thai food.

Why do you like certain things?
I tend to warm up to things the more time I spend around them, although I never really know until it happens.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I’m a friendly car guy who will always be in love with my European cars and I really enjoy the Backblaze community!

We’re happy you joined us Out West! Welcome aboard Jack!

The post Welcome Jack — Data Center Tech appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Robin “Roblimo” Miller

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/755563/rss

The Linux Journal mourns
the passing of Robin Miller
, a longtime presence in our community.
Miller was perhaps best known by the community for his roll as
Editor in Chief of Open Source Technology Group, the company that owned
Slashdot, SourceForge.net, freshmeat, Linux.com, NewsForge, and ThinkGeek
from 2000 to 2008.

The devil wears Pravda

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original https://blog.erratasec.com/2018/05/the-devil-wears-pravda.html

Classic Bond villain, Elon Musk, has a new plan to create a website dedicated to measuring the credibility and adherence to “core truth” of journalists. He is, without any sense of irony, going to call this “Pravda”. This is not simply wrong but evil.

Musk has a point. Journalists do suck, and many suck consistently. I see this in my own industry, cybersecurity, and I frequently criticize them for their suckage.

But what he’s doing here is not correcting them when they make mistakes (or what Musk sees as mistakes), but questioning their legitimacy. This legitimacy isn’t measured by whether they follow established journalism ethics, but whether their “core truths” agree with Musk’s “core truths”.

An example of the problem is how the press fixates on Tesla car crashes due to its “autopilot” feature. Pretty much every autopilot crash makes national headlines, while the press ignores the other 40,000 car crashes that happen in the United States each year. Musk spies on Tesla drivers (hello, classic Bond villain everyone) so he can see the dip in autopilot usage every time such a news story breaks. He’s got good reason to be concerned about this.

He argues that autopilot is safer than humans driving, and he’s got the statistics and government studies to back this up. Therefore, the press’s fixation on Tesla crashes is illegitimate “fake news”, titillating the audience with distorted truth.

But here’s the thing: that’s still only Musk’s version of the truth. Yes, on a mile-per-mile basis, autopilot is safer, but there’s nuance here. Autopilot is used primarily on freeways, which already have a low mile-per-mile accident rate. People choose autopilot only when conditions are incredibly safe and drivers are unlikely to have an accident anyway. Musk is therefore being intentionally deceptive comparing apples to oranges. Autopilot may still be safer, it’s just that the numbers Musk uses don’t demonstrate this.

And then there is the truth calling it “autopilot” to begin with, because it isn’t. The public is overrating the capabilities of the feature. It’s little different than “lane keeping” and “adaptive cruise control” you can now find in other cars. In many ways, the technology is behind — my Tesla doesn’t beep at me when a pedestrian walks behind my car while backing up, but virtually every new car on the market does.

Yes, the press unduly covers Tesla autopilot crashes, but Musk has only himself to blame by unduly exaggerating his car’s capabilities by calling it “autopilot”.

What’s “core truth” is thus rather difficult to obtain. What the press satisfies itself with instead is smaller truths, what they can document. The facts are in such cases that the accident happened, and they try to get Tesla or Musk to comment on it.

What you can criticize a journalist for is therefore not “core truth” but whether they did journalism correctly. When such stories criticize “autopilot”, but don’t do their diligence in getting Tesla’s side of the story, then that’s a violation of journalistic practice. When I criticize journalists for their poor handling of stories in my industry, I try to focus on which journalistic principles they get wrong. For example, the NYTimes reporters do a lot of stories quoting anonymous government sources in clear violation of journalistic principles.

If “credibility” is the concern, then it’s the classic Bond villain here that’s the problem: Musk himself. His track record on business statements is abysmal. For example, when he announced the Model 3 he claimed production targets that every Wall Street analyst claimed were absurd. He didn’t make those targets, he didn’t come close. Model 3 production is still lagging behind Musk’s twice adjusted targets.


So who has a credibility gap here, the press, or Musk himself?

Not only is Musk’s credibility problem ironic, so is the name he chose, “Pravada”, the Russian word for truth that was the name of the Soviet Union Communist Party’s official newspaper. This is so absurd this has to be a joke, yet Musk claims to be serious about all this.

Yes, the press has a lot of problems, and if Musk were some journalism professor concerned about journalists meeting the objective standards of their industry (e.g. abusing anonymous sources), then this would be a fine thing. But it’s not. It’s Musk who is upset the press’s version of “core truth” does not agree with his version — a version that he’s proven time and time again differs from “real truth”.

Just in case Musk is serious, I’ve already registered “www.antipravda.com” to start measuring the credibility of statements by billionaire playboy CEOs. Let’s see who blinks first.

I stole the title, with permission, from this tweet:

Join us at the Education Summit at PyCon UK 2018

Post Syndicated from Ben Nuttall original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pycon-uk-2018/

PyCon UK 2018 will take place on Saturday 15 September to Wednesday 19 September in the splendid Cardiff City Hall, just a few miles from the Sony Technology Centre where the vast majority of Raspberry Pis is made. We’re pleased to announce that we’re curating this year’s Education Summit at the conference, where we’ll offer opportunities for young people to learn programming skills, and for educators to undertake professional development!

PyCon UK Education Summit logo

PyCon UK 2018 is your chance to be welcomed into the wonderful Python community. At the Education Summit, we’ll put on a young coders’ day on the Saturday, and an educators’ day on the Sunday.

Saturday — young coders’ day

On Saturday we’ll be running a CoderDojo full of workshops on Raspberry Pi and micro:bits for young people aged 7 to 17. If they wish, participants will get to make a project and present it to the conference on the main stage, and everyone will be given a free micro:bit to take home!

Kids’ tickets at just £6 will be available here soon.

Kids on a stage at PyCon UK

Kids presenting their projects to the conference

Sunday — educators’ day

PyCon UK has been bringing developers and educators together ever since it first started its education track in 2011. This year’s Sunday will be a day of professional development: we’ll give teachers, educators, parents, and coding club leaders the chance to learn from us and from each other to build their programming, computing, and digital making skills.

Educator workshop at PyCon UK

Professional development for educators

Educators get a special entrance rate for the conference, starting at £48 — get your tickets now. Financial assistance is also available.

Call for proposals

We invite you to send in your proposal for a talk and workshop at the Education Summit! We’re looking for:

  • 25-minute talks for the educators’ day
  • 50-minute workshops for either the young coders’ or the educators’ day

If you have something you’d like to share, such as a professional development session for educators, advice on best practice for teaching programming, a workshop for up-skilling in Python, or a fun physical computing activity for the CoderDojo, then we’d love to hear about it! Please submit your proposal by 15 June.

After the Education Summit, the conference will continue for two days of talks and a final day of development sprints. Feel free to submit your education-related talk to the main conference too if you want to share it with a wider audience! Check out the PyCon UK 2018 website for more information.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in September!

The post Join us at the Education Summit at PyCon UK 2018 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

The Benefits of Side Projects

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/the-benefits-of-side-projects/

Side projects are the things you do at home, after work, for your own “entertainment”, or to satisfy your desire to learn new stuff, in case your workplace doesn’t give you that opportunity (or at least not enough of it). Side projects are also a way to build stuff that you think is valuable but not necessarily “commercialisable”. Many side projects are open-sourced sooner or later and some of them contribute to the pool of tools at other people’s disposal.

I’ve outlined one recommendation about side projects before – do them with technologies that are new to you, so that you learn important things that will keep you better positioned in the software world.

But there are more benefits than that – serendipitous benefits, for example. And I’d like to tell some personal stories about that. I’ll focus on a few examples from my list of side projects to show how, through a sort-of butterfly effect, they helped shape my career.

The computoser project, no matter how cool algorithmic music composition, didn’t manage to have much of a long term impact. But it did teach me something apart from niche musical theory – how to read a bulk of scientific papers (mostly computer science) and understand them without being formally trained in the particular field. We’ll see how that was useful later.

Then there was the “State alerts” project – a website that scraped content from public institutions in my country (legislation, legislation proposals, decisions by regulators, new tenders, etc.), made them searchable, and “subscribable” – so that you get notified when a keyword of interest is mentioned in newly proposed legislation, for example. (I obviously subscribed for “information technologies” and “electronic”).

And that project turned out to have a significant impact on the following years. First, I chose a new technology to write it with – Scala. Which turned out to be of great use when I started working at TomTom, and on the 3rd day I was transferred to a Scala project, which was way cooler and much more complex than the original one I was hired for. It was a bit ironic, as my colleagues had just read that “I don’t like Scala” a few weeks earlier, but nevertheless, that was one of the most interesting projects I’ve worked on, and it went on for two years. Had I not known Scala, I’d probably be gone from TomTom much earlier (as the other project was restructured a few times), and I would not have learned many of the scalability, architecture and AWS lessons that I did learn there.

But the very same project had an even more important follow-up. Because if its “civic hacking” flavour, I was invited to join an informal group of developers (later officiated as an NGO) who create tools that are useful for society (something like MySociety.org). That group gathered regularly, discussed both tools and policies, and at some point we put up a list of policy priorities that we wanted to lobby policy makers. One of them was open source for the government, the other one was open data. As a result of our interaction with an interim government, we donated the official open data portal of my country, functioning to this day.

As a result of that, a few months later we got a proposal from the deputy prime minister’s office to “elect” one of the group for an advisor to the cabinet. And we decided that could be me. So I went for it and became advisor to the deputy prime minister. The job has nothing to do with anything one could imagine, and it was challenging and fascinating. We managed to pass legislation, including one that requires open source for custom projects, eID and open data. And all of that would not have been possible without my little side project.

As for my latest side project, LogSentinel – it became my current startup company. And not without help from the previous two mentioned above – the computer science paper reading was of great use when I was navigating the crypto papers landscape, and from the government job I not only gained invaluable legal knowledge, but I also “got” a co-founder.

Some other side projects died without much fanfare, and that’s fine. But the ones above shaped my “story” in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.

And I agree that such serendipitous chain of events could have happened without side projects – I could’ve gotten these opportunities by meeting someone at a bar (unlikely, but who knows). But we, as software engineers, are capable of tilting chance towards us by utilizing our skills. Side projects are our “extracurricular activities”, and they often lead to unpredictable, but rather positive chains of events. They would rarely be the only factor, but they are certainly great at unlocking potential.

The post The Benefits of Side Projects appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

Working with the Scout Association on digital skills for life

Post Syndicated from Philip Colligan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/working-with-scout-association-digital-skills-for-life/

Today we’re launching a new partnership between the Scouts and the Raspberry Pi Foundation that will help tens of thousands of young people learn crucial digital skills for life. In this blog post, I want to explain what we’ve got planned, why it matters, and how you can get involved.

This is personal

First, let me tell you why this partnership matters to me. As a child growing up in North Wales in the 1980s, Scouting changed my life. My time with 2nd Rhyl provided me with countless opportunities to grow and develop new skills. It taught me about teamwork and community in ways that continue to shape my decisions today.

As my own kids (now seven and ten) have joined Scouting, I’ve seen the same opportunities opening up for them, and like so many parents, I’ve come back to the movement as a volunteer to support their local section. So this is deeply personal for me, and the same is true for many of my colleagues at the Raspberry Pi Foundation who in different ways have been part of the Scouting movement.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Scouting and Raspberry Pi share many of the same values. We are both community-led movements that aim to help young people develop the skills they need for life. We are both powered by an amazing army of volunteers who give their time to support that mission. We both care about inclusiveness, and pride ourselves on combining fun with learning by doing.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi started life in 2008 as a response to the problem that too many young people were growing up without the skills to create with technology. Our goal is that everyone should be able to harness the power of computing and digital technologies, for work, to solve problems that matter to them, and to express themselves creatively.

In 2012 we launched our first product, the world’s first $35 computer. Just six years on, we have sold over 20 million Raspberry Pi computers and helped kickstart a global movement for digital skills.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation now runs the world’s largest network of volunteer-led computing clubs (Code Clubs and CoderDojos), and creates free educational resources that are used by millions of young people all over the world to learn how to create with digital technologies. And lots of what we are able to achieve is because of partnerships with fantastic organisations that share our goals. For example, through our partnership with the European Space Agency, thousands of young people have written code that has run on two Raspberry Pi computers that Tim Peake took to the International Space Station as part of his Mission Principia.

Digital makers

Today we’re launching the new Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge to help tens of thousands of young people learn how to create with technology through Scouting. Over the past few months, we’ve been working with the Scouts all over the UK to develop and test the new badge requirements, along with guidance, project ideas, and resources that really make them work for Scouting. We know that we need to get two things right: relevance and accessibility.

Relevance is all about making sure that the activities and resources we provide are a really good fit for Scouting and Scouting’s mission to equip young people with skills for life. From the digital compass to nature cameras and the reinvented wide game, we’ve had a lot of fun thinking about ways we can bring to life the crucial role that digital technologies can play in the outdoors and adventure.

Compass Coding with Raspberry Pi

We are beyond excited to be launching a new partnership with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which will help tens of thousands of young people learn digital skills for life.

We also know that there are great opportunities for Scouts to use digital technologies to solve social problems in their communities, reflecting the movement’s commitment to social action. Today we’re launching the first set of project ideas and resources, with many more to follow over the coming weeks and months.

Accessibility is about providing every Scout leader with the confidence, support, and kit to enable them to offer the Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge to their young people. A lot of work and care has gone into designing activities that require very little equipment: for example, activities at Stages 1 and 2 can be completed with a laptop without access to the internet. For the activities that do require kit, we will be working with Scout Stores and districts to make low-cost kit available to buy or loan.

We’re producing accessible instructions, worksheets, and videos to help leaders run sessions with confidence, and we’ll also be planning training for leaders. We will work with our network of Code Clubs and CoderDojos to connect them with local sections to organise joint activities, bringing both kit and expertise along with them.

Get involved

Today’s launch is just the start. We’ll be developing our partnership over the next few years, and we can’t wait for you to join us in getting more young people making things with technology.

Take a look at the brand-new Raspberry Pi resources designed especially for Scouts, to get young people making and creating right away.

The post Working with the Scout Association on digital skills for life appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Jam Cameroon #PiParty

Post Syndicated from Ben Nuttall original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-jam-cameroon-piparty/

Earlier this year on 3 and 4 March, communities around the world held Raspberry Jam events to celebrate Raspberry Pi’s sixth birthday. We sent out special birthday kits to participating Jams — it was amazing to know the kits would end up in the hands of people in parts of the world very far from Raspberry Pi HQ in Cambridge, UK.

The Raspberry Jam Camer team: Damien Doumer, Eyong Etta, Loïc Dessap and Lionel Sichom, aka Lionel Tellem

Preparing for the #PiParty

One birthday kit went to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. There, a team of four students in their twenties — Lionel Sichom (aka Lionel Tellem), Eyong Etta, Loïc Dessap, and Damien Doumer — were organising Yaoundé’s first Jam, called Raspberry Jam Camer, as part of the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend. The team knew one another through their shared interests and skills in electronics, robotics, and programming. Damien explains in his blog post about the Jam that they planned ahead for several activities for the Jam based on their own projects, so they could be confident of having a few things that would definitely be successful for attendees to do and see.

Show-and-tell at Raspberry Jam Cameroon

Loïc presented a Raspberry Pi–based, Android app–controlled robot arm that he had built, and Lionel coded a small video game using Scratch on Raspberry Pi while the audience watched. Damien demonstrated the possibilities of Windows 10 IoT Core on Raspberry Pi, showing how to install it, how to use it remotely, and what you can do with it, including building a simple application.

Loïc Dessap, wearing a Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend T-shirt, sits at a table with a robot arm, a laptop with a Pi sticker and other components. He is making an adjustment to his set-up.

Loïc showcases the prototype robot arm he built

There was lots more too, with others discussing their own Pi projects and talking about the possibilities Raspberry Pi offers, including a Pi-controlled drone and car. Cake was a prevailing theme of the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend around the world, and Raspberry Jam Camer made sure they didn’t miss out.

A round pink-iced cake decorated with the words "Happy Birthday RBP" and six candles, on a table beside Raspberry Pi stickers, Raspberry Jam stickers and Raspberry Jam fliers

Yay, birthday cake!!

A big success

Most visitors to the Jam were secondary school students, while others were university students and graduates. The majority were unfamiliar with Raspberry Pi, but all wanted to learn about Raspberry Pi and what they could do with it. Damien comments that the fact most people were new to Raspberry Pi made the event more interactive rather than creating any challenges, because the visitors were all interested in finding out about the little computer. The Jam was an all-round success, and the team was pleased with how it went:

What I liked the most was that we sensitized several people about the Raspberry Pi and what one can be capable of with such a small but powerful device. — Damien Doumer

The Jam team rounded off the event by announcing that this was the start of a Raspberry Pi community in Yaoundé. They hope that they and others will be able to organise more Jams and similar events in the area to spread the word about what people can do with Raspberry Pi, and to help them realise their ideas.

The Raspberry Jam Camer team, wearing Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend T-shirts, pose with young Jam attendees outside their venue

Raspberry Jam Camer gets the thumbs-up

The Raspberry Pi community in Cameroon

In a French-language interview about their Jam, the team behind Raspberry Jam Camer said they’d like programming to become the third official language of Cameroon, after French and English; their aim is to to popularise programming and digital making across Cameroonian society. Neither of these fields is very familiar to most people in Cameroon, but both are very well aligned with the country’s ambitions for development. The team is conscious of the difficulties around the emergence of information and communication technologies in the Cameroonian context; in response, they are seizing the opportunities Raspberry Pi offers to give children and young people access to modern and constantly evolving technology at low cost.

Thanks to Lionel, Eyong, Damien, and Loïc, and to everyone who helped put on a Jam for the Big Birthday Weekend! Remember, anyone can start a Jam at any time — and we provide plenty of resources to get you started. Check out the Guidebook, the Jam branding pack, our specially-made Jam activities online (in multiple languages), printable worksheets, and more.

The post Raspberry Jam Cameroon #PiParty appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Connect, collaborate, and learn at AWS Global Summits in 2018

Post Syndicated from Tina Kelleher original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/connect-collaborate-and-learn-at-aws-global-summits-in-2018/

Regardless of your career path, there’s no denying that attending industry events can provide helpful career development opportunities — not only for improving and expanding your skill sets, but for networking as well. According to this article from PayScale.com, experts estimate that somewhere between 70-85% of new positions are landed through networking.

Narrowing our focus to networking opportunities with cloud computing professionals who’re working on tackling some of today’s most innovative and exciting big data solutions, attending big data-focused sessions at an AWS Global Summit is a great place to start.

AWS Global Summits are free events that bring the cloud computing community together to connect, collaborate, and learn about AWS. As the name suggests, these summits are held in major cities around the world, and attract technologists from all industries and skill levels who’re interested in hearing from AWS leaders, experts, partners, and customers.

In addition to networking opportunities with top cloud technology providers, consultants and your peers in our Partner and Solutions Expo, you’ll also hone your AWS skills by attending and participating in a multitude of education and training opportunities.

Here’s a brief sampling of some of the upcoming sessions relevant to big data professionals:

May 31st : Big Data Architectural Patterns and Best Practices on AWS | AWS Summit – Mexico City

June 6th-7th: Various (click on the “Big Data & Analytics” header) | AWS Summit – Berlin

June 20-21st : [email protected] | Public Sector Summit – Washington DC

June 21st: Enabling Self Service for Data Scientists with AWS Service Catalog | AWS Summit – Sao Paulo

Be sure to check out the main page for AWS Global Summits, where you can see which cities have AWS Summits planned for 2018, register to attend an upcoming event, or provide your information to be notified when registration opens for a future event.

EC2 Instance Update – C5 Instances with Local NVMe Storage (C5d)

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/ec2-instance-update-c5-instances-with-local-nvme-storage-c5d/

As you can see from my EC2 Instance History post, we add new instance types on a regular and frequent basis. Driven by increasingly powerful processors and designed to address an ever-widening set of use cases, the size and diversity of this list reflects the equally diverse group of EC2 customers!

Near the bottom of that list you will find the new compute-intensive C5 instances. With a 25% to 50% improvement in price-performance over the C4 instances, the C5 instances are designed for applications like batch and log processing, distributed and or real-time analytics, high-performance computing (HPC), ad serving, highly scalable multiplayer gaming, and video encoding. Some of these applications can benefit from access to high-speed, ultra-low latency local storage. For example, video encoding, image manipulation, and other forms of media processing often necessitates large amounts of I/O to temporary storage. While the input and output files are valuable assets and are typically stored as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) objects, the intermediate files are expendable. Similarly, batch and log processing runs in a race-to-idle model, flushing volatile data to disk as fast as possible in order to make full use of compute resources.

New C5d Instances with Local Storage
In order to meet this need, we are introducing C5 instances equipped with local NVMe storage. Available for immediate use in 5 regions, these instances are a great fit for the applications that I described above, as well as others that you will undoubtedly dream up! Here are the specs:

Instance NamevCPUsRAMLocal StorageEBS BandwidthNetwork Bandwidth
c5d.large24 GiB1 x 50 GB NVMe SSDUp to 2.25 GbpsUp to 10 Gbps
c5d.xlarge48 GiB1 x 100 GB NVMe SSDUp to 2.25 GbpsUp to 10 Gbps
c5d.2xlarge816 GiB1 x 225 GB NVMe SSDUp to 2.25 GbpsUp to 10 Gbps
c5d.4xlarge1632 GiB1 x 450 GB NVMe SSD2.25 GbpsUp to 10 Gbps
c5d.9xlarge3672 GiB1 x 900 GB NVMe SSD4.5 Gbps10 Gbps
c5d.18xlarge72144 GiB2 x 900 GB NVMe SSD9 Gbps25 Gbps

Other than the addition of local storage, the C5 and C5d share the same specs. Both are powered by 3.0 GHz Intel Xeon Platinum 8000-series processors, optimized for EC2 and with full control over C-states on the two largest sizes, giving you the ability to run two cores at up to 3.5 GHz using Intel Turbo Boost Technology.

You can use any AMI that includes drivers for the Elastic Network Adapter (ENA) and NVMe; this includes the latest Amazon Linux, Microsoft Windows (Server 2008 R2, Server 2012, Server 2012 R2 and Server 2016), Ubuntu, RHEL, SUSE, and CentOS AMIs.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about the local NVMe storage:

Naming – You don’t have to specify a block device mapping in your AMI or during the instance launch; the local storage will show up as one or more devices (/dev/nvme*1 on Linux) after the guest operating system has booted.

Encryption – Each local NVMe device is hardware encrypted using the XTS-AES-256 block cipher and a unique key. Each key is destroyed when the instance is stopped or terminated.

Lifetime – Local NVMe devices have the same lifetime as the instance they are attached to, and do not stick around after the instance has been stopped or terminated.

Available Now
C5d instances are available in On-Demand, Reserved Instance, and Spot form in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), US East (Ohio), and Canada (Central) Regions. Prices vary by Region, and are just a bit higher than for the equivalent C5 instances.


PS – We will be adding local NVMe storage to other EC2 instance types in the months to come, so stay tuned!

UK soldiers design Raspberry Pi bomb disposal robot

Post Syndicated from Helen Lynn original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/uk-soldiers-design-raspberry-pi-bomb-disposal-robot/

Three soldiers in the British Army have used a Raspberry Pi to build an autonomous robot, as part of their Foreman of Signals course.

Meet The Soldiers Revolutionising Bomb Disposal

Three soldiers from Blandford Camp have successfully designed and built an autonomous robot as part of their Foreman of Signals Course at the Dorset Garrison.

Autonomous robots

Forces Radio BFBS carried a story last week about Staff Sergeant Jolley, Sergeant Rana, and Sergeant Paddon, also known as the “Project ROVER” team. As part of their Foreman of Signals training, their task was to design an autonomous robot that can move between two specified points, take a temperature reading, and transmit the information to a remote computer. The team comments that, while semi-autonomous robots have been used as far back as 9/11 for tasks like finding people trapped under rubble, nothing like their robot and on a similar scale currently exists within the British Army.

The ROVER buggy

Their build is named ROVER, which stands for Remote Obstacle aVoiding Environment Robot. It’s a buggy that moves on caterpillar tracks, and it’s tethered; we wonder whether that might be because it doesn’t currently have an on-board power supply. A demo shows the robot moving forward, then changing its path when it encounters an obstacle. The team is using RealVNC‘s remote access software to allow ROVER to send data back to another computer.

Applications for ROVER

Dave Ball, Senior Lecturer in charge of the Foreman of Signals course, comments that the project is “a fantastic opportunity for [the team] to, even only halfway through the course, showcase some of the stuff they’ve learnt and produce something that’s really quite exciting.” The Project ROVER team explains that the possibilities for autonomous robots like this one are extensive: they include mine clearance, bomb disposal, and search-and-rescue campaigns. They point out that existing semi-autonomous hardware is not as easy to program as their build. In contrast, they say, “with the invention of the Raspberry Pi, this has allowed three very inexperienced individuals to program a robot very capable of doing these things.”

We make Raspberry Pi computers because we want building things with technology to be as accessible as possible. So it’s great to see a project like this, made by people who aren’t techy and don’t have a lot of computing experience, but who want to solve a problem and see that the Pi is an affordable and powerful tool that can help.

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Sending Inaudible Commands to Voice Assistants

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/sending_inaudib.html

Researchers have demonstrated the ability to send inaudible commands to voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online ­– simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.