Tag Archives: writing

Canadian Pirate Site Blocking Plan Triggers Thousands of Responses

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-pirate-site-blocking-plan-triggers-thousands-of-responses-180317/

In January, a coalition of Canadian companies called on the country’s telecom regulator CRTC to establish a local pirate site blocking program, which would be the first of its kind in North America.

The Canadian deal is supported by Fairplay Canada, a coalition of both copyright holders and major players in the telco industry, such as Bell and Rogers, which also have media companies of their own.

Before making a decision on the proposal, the CTRC has launched a public consultation asking Canadians for their opinion on the matter. In recent weeks this has resulted in thousands of submissions, with the majority coming from ordinary citizens.

The responses themselves range from an unequivocal “another push by Bell to control all forms of communication,” to very elaborate and rather well-documented arguments.

From the responses we’ve seen it’s clear that many individuals are worried that their Internet access will be censored. The term “slippery slope” is regularly mentioned, as well as the corporate interests that back the plan.

“I strongly oppose any attempt for internet censorship, especially any attempt brought forth by a commercial entity. The internet is and should remain a free flowing source of information that is not controlled by any individuals or groups political or corporate interests,” Shanon Durst writes in her comment.

“If there is concern for illegal activities taking place on the internet then those activities can be addressed in a court of law and the appropriate actions taken there,” she adds.

The same type of arguments also come back in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) submission.

“It is unsurprising that the entertainment industry would rather construct its own private body to bypass the court system in making decisions about website blocking,” the EFF writes.

“But if it is allowed to do this, will the newspaper industry be next to propose and fund a private body to make determinations about defamation? Will the adult entertainment industry propose establishing its own private court to determine the boundaries of the law of obscenity?”

While they appear to be in the minority, there are several commenters who back the proposal. Where most individual responses oppose the plans, it appears that many submissions from organizations are in favor.

A lot of these responses come from outfits that are concerned that piracy is negatively impacting their livelihoods, including Canada Basketball, The Association of Canadian Publishers, and Pier 21 Films.

“Canada’s current tools to combat piracy are not working. The FairPlay proposal is a proportionate response that reflects the modern realities of piracy,” Laszlo Barna, president of Pier 21 Films writes.

“As participants in the legal sports and entertainment market in Canada, this proposal will reduce the theft of content and support the ability to invest in, produce, and distribute the great content that our fans crave,” Canada Basketball concurs.

Drawing conclusions based on this limited sample of comments is hard, aside from the finding that it will be impossible to please everyone. Thankfully, research conducted by Reza Rajabiun and Fenwick McKelvey, with support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, provides additional insight.

The visualization below gives an overview of the most statistically significant concepts emphasized by respondents in their submissions, as well as the relationship among these concepts.

A visualization of significant comment concepts (image credit)

The quantitative content analysis is based on 4,000 submissions. While it requires some interpretation from the reader, many of the themes appear to be closely aligned with the opposition, the researchers write.

“According to their CRTC submissions, Canadians believe that the proposal is a ‘bad’ ‘idea’ because it enables ‘corporations’ and the ‘government’ to restrict ‘freedom’ of ‘speech’ and ‘flow’ of ‘information’ among ‘citizens.’ The fear of setting a bad ‘precedent’ is closely associated with the potential for ‘censorship’ in the future.”

Many of the same words can also be in a different context, of course, but the researchers see the themes as evidence that many members of the public are concerned about the negative consequences.

“Overall, it is easy to see that Canadians tend to view the proposed blocking regime not just in terms of its benefits for fighting ‘piracy’; they also perceive that setting up a national blocking regime may be a threat to their economic interests as ‘consumers’ of ‘legitimate’ ‘media’ and of their political ‘rights’ as ‘citizens’,” they write.

At the time of writing nearly 8,000 responses have been submitted. There is no easy way to determine what percentage is for or against the proposal. When the deadline passes on March 29, CRTC will review them manually.

When that’s done, it is up to the telecoms regulator to factor the different opinions into its final decision, which won’t be an easy feat.

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

MPAA Brands 123Movies as the World’s Most Popular Illegal Site

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-brands-123movies-as-the-worlds-most-popular-illegal-site-180316/

With millions of visitors per day, pirate streaming site 123movies, also known as GoMovies, is a force to be reckoned with.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is fully aware of this and previously alerted the US Trade Representative about this “notorious market.”

However, since the site is not operating from the US, Hollywood’s industry group is also reaching out to 123movies’ alleged home turf, Vietnam. Following in the footsteps of the US ambassador, the MPAA seeks assistance from local authorities.

The MPAA is currently in Vietnam where it’s working with the Office of the Police Investigation Agency to combat pirate sites. According to the MPAA’s Executive Vice President & Chief of Global Content Protection, Jan van Voorn, 123movies is one of the prime targets.

“Right now, the most popular illegal site in the world, 123movies.to (at this point), is operated from Vietnam, and has 98 million visitors a month,” Van Voorn said, quoted by VNExpress.

“There are more services like this – sites that are not helpful for local legitimate businesses,” he adds.

The MPAA hopes that the Vietnamese authorities will step in to take these pirate sites offline, so that legal alternatives can grow. In addition, it stresses that the public should be properly educated, to change their views on movie piracy.

While it’s clear that 123movies is a threat to Hollywood, there are bigger fish out there.

The 98 million number MPAA mentions appears to come from SimilarWeb’s January estimate. While this is a lot of traffic indeed, it’s not the largest pirate site. The Pirate Bay, for example, had an estimated 282 million visitors during the same period.

TorrentFreak asked the MPAA to confirm the claim but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back. Perhaps Van Voorn was referring to streaming sites specifically, which would make more sense.

In any case, it’s clear that Hollywood is concerned about 123movies and similar sites and will do everything in its power to get them offline.

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

Weekly roundup: Forwards

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/dev/2018/03/14/weekly-roundup-forwards/

  • art: Did some doodles. Not as frequently as I’d like, and mostly not published, but I did some, and that’s nice.

  • alice: Continuin’ on, though mostly planning and tech stuff this week, not so much writing.

  • irl: I did my taxes oh boy!

  • blog: I made decent progress on last month’s posts, but, am still not done yet. Sorry. I only have so much energy I can pour into writing at a time, apparently, and working on a visual novel is eating up tons of it.

  • anise: We picked up progress on this game again, came up with a bunch more things to populate the world, and both did some sketches of them! Also I did some basic tile collision merging, which I’d been meaning to do for a while, and which had promising results.

  • idchoppers: I got arbitrary poly splitting mostly working, finally…! I can’t believe how much effort this is taking, but it doesn’t help that I’m only dedicating a couple hours at a time to it completely sporadically. Maybe I’ll have something to show for it soon.

The visual novel is eating most of my time lately, and I’m struggling to get back that writing momentum, and in the meantime it feels like it’s consuming all my time and not letting me do anything else! I’m getting there, though.

Two New Papers on the Encryption Debate

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/03/two_new_papers_.html

Seems like everyone is writing about encryption and backdoors this season.

I recently blogged about the new National Academies report on the same topic.

Here’s a review of the National Academies report, and another of the East West Institute’s report.

EDITED TO ADD (3/8): Commentary on the National Academies study by the EFF.

AWS Summit Season is Almost Here – Get Ready to Register!

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-summit-season-is-almost-here-get-ready-to-register/

I’m writing this post from my hotel room in Tokyo while doing my best to fight jet lag! I’m here to speak at JAWS Days and Startup Day, and to meet with some local customers.

I do want to remind you that the AWS Global Summit series is just about to start! With events planned for North America, Latin America, Japan and the rest of Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Greater China, odds are that there’s one not too far from you. You can register for the San Francisco Summit today and you can ask to be notified as soon as registration for the other 30+ cities opens up.

The Summits are offered at no charge and are an excellent way for you to learn more about AWS. You’ll get to hear from our leaders and tech teams, our partners, and from other customers. You can also participate in hands-on workshops, labs, and team challenges.

Because the events are multi-track, you may want to bring a colleague or two in order to make sure that you don’t miss something of interest to your organization.


PS – I keep meaning to share this cool video that my friend Mike Selinker took at AWS re:Invent. Check it out!

McAfee Security Experts Weigh-in Weirdly With “Fresh Kodi Warning”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mcafee-security-experts-weigh-in-weirdly-with-fresh-kodi-warning-180311/

Over the past several years, the last couple in particular, piracy has stormed millions of homes around the world.

From being a widespread but still fairly geeky occupation among torrenters, movie and TV show piracy can now be achieved by anyone with the ability to click a mouse or push a button on a remote control. Much of this mainstream interest can be placed at the feet of the Kodi media player.

An entirely legal platform in its own right, Kodi can be augmented with third-party add-ons that enable users to access an endless supply of streaming media. As such, piracy-configured Kodi installations are operated by an estimated 26 million people, according to the MPAA.

This popularity has led to much interest from tabloid newspapers in the UK which, for reasons best known to them, choose to both promote and demonize Kodi almost every week. While writing about news events is clearly par for the course, when one considers some of the reports, their content, and what inspired them, something doesn’t seem right.

This week The Express, which has published many overly sensational stories about Kodi in recent times, published another. The title – as always – promised something special.

Sounds like big news….

Reading the text, however, reveals nothing new whatsoever. The piece simply rehashes some of the historic claims that have been leveled at Kodi that can easily apply to any Internet-enabled software or system. But beyond that, some of its content is pretty weird.

The piece is centered on comments from two McAfee security experts – Chief Scientist Raj Samani and Chief Consumer Security Evangelist Gary Davis. It’s unclear whether The Express approached them for comment (if they did, there is no actual story for McAfee to comment on) or whether McAfee offered the comments and The Express built a story around them. Either way, here’s a taster.

“Kodi has been pretty open about the fact that it’s a streaming site but my view has always been if I use Netflix I know that I’m not going to get any issues, if I use Amazon I’m not going to get any issues,” Samani told the publication.

Ok, stop right there. Kodi admits that it’s a streaming site? Really? Kodi is a piece of software. It’s a media player. It can do many things but Kodi is not a streaming site and no one at Kodi has ever labeled it otherwise. To think that neither McAfee nor the publication caught that one is a bit embarrassing.

The argument that Samani was trying to make is that services like Netflix and Amazon are generally more reliable than third-party sources and there are few people out there who would argue with that.

“Look, ultimately you’ve got to do the research and you’ve got to decide if it’s right for you but personally I don’t use [Kodi] and I know full well that by not using [Kodi] I’m not going to get any issues. If I pay for the service I know exactly what I’m going to get,” he said.

But unlike his colleague who doesn’t use Kodi, Gary Davis has more experience.

McAfee’s Chief Consumer Security Evangelist admits to having used Kodi in the past but more recently decided not to use it when the security issues apparently got too much for him.

“I did use [Kodi] but turned it off as I started getting worried about some of the risks,” he told The Express.

“You may search for something and you may get what you are looking for but you may get something that you are not looking for and that’s where the problem lies with Kodi.”

This idea, that people search for a movie or TV show yet get something else, is bewildering to most experienced Kodi users. If this was indeed the case, on any large scale, people wouldn’t want to use it anymore. That’s clearly not the case.

Also, incorrect content appearing is not the kind of security threat that the likes of McAfee tend to be worried about. However, Davis suggests things can get worse.

“I’m not saying they’ve done anything wrong but if somebody is able to embed code to turn on a microphone or other things or start sending data to a place it shouldn’t go,” he said.

The sentence appears to have some words missing and struggles to make sense but the suggestion is that someone’s Kodi installation could be corrupted to the point that someone people could hijack the user’s microphone.

We are not aware of anything like that happening, ever, via Kodi. There are instances where that has happened completely without it in a completely different context, but that seems here nor there. By the same count, everyone should stop using Windows perhaps?

The big question is why these ‘scary’ Kodi non-stories keep getting published and why experts are prepared to weigh-in on them?

It would be too easy to quickly put it down to some anti-piracy agenda, even though there are plenty of signs that anti-piracy groups have been habitually feeding UK tabloids with information on that front. Indeed, a source at a UK news outlet (that no longer publishes such stories) told TF that they were often prompted to write stories about Kodi and streaming in general, none with a positive spin.

But if it was as simple as that, how does that explain another story run in The Express this week heralding the launch of Kodi’s ‘Leia’ alpha release?

If Kodi is so bad as to warrant an article telling people to avoid it FOREVER on one day, why is it good enough to be promoted on another? It can only come down to the number of clicks – but the clickbait headline should’ve given that away at the start.

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

U.S. Border Seizures of DMCA Circumvention Devices Surges

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/u-s-border-seizures-of-dmca-circumvention-devices-surges-180309/

In the United States, citizens are generally prohibited from tampering with DRM and other technological protection measures.

This means that Blu-ray rippers are not allowed, nor are mod chips for gaming consoles, and some pirate streaming boxes could fall into this category as well.

Despite possible sanctions, there are plenty of manufacturers who ship these devices to the US, often to individual consumers. To arrive at their destination, however, they first have to pass the border control.

Not all make it to their final destination. A new report released by Homeland Security shows that the number of “intellectual property” related seizures increased by 8%, from 31,560 in 2016 to 34,143 a year later.

The vast majority of these seized items are traditional counterfeit goods. This includes fake brand clothing, shoes, replica watches, toys, as well as consumer electronics.

What caught our eye, however, is a sharp increase in “circumvention devices” that were found to violate the DMCA. Last year, the number of these seized items U.S. Customs and Border Protection increased by 324%.

“CBP seized 297 shipments of circumvention devices for violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 324 percent increase from 70 such seizures in FY 2016,” the report reads.

While the relative increase is quite dramatic, the absolute numbers are perhaps not as impressive, with less than one seized device per day. The report gives no explanation for the surge, nor is there an estimate of how many devices slip through.

What we did notice is that the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recently framed streaming boxes as possible circumvention tools. The strong enforcement focus of rightsholders on these devices may have been communicated to border patrols as well.

When we previously reached out to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to find out more about what type of circumvention devices are seized under the DMCA, a spokesperson provided us with the following definition.

“[P]roducts, devices, components, or parts thereof that are primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing protection afforded by a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner, and have only limited commercially significant purposes or uses other than to circumvent such protection measures.”

TorrentFreak reached out to CBP again this week to ask if streaming boxes are seen as circumvention devices, but at the time of writing, we have yet to receive a response.

In a press release commenting on the news, CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said that his organization is happy with last year’s results.

“The theft of intellectual property and trade in counterfeit and pirated goods causes harm to an innovation-based economy by threatening the competitiveness of businesses and the livelihoods of workers,” McAleenan said.

“Another record-breaking year of IPR seizures highlights the vigilance of CBP and ICE personnel in preventing counterfeit goods from entering our stream of commerce and their dedication to protecting the American people,” he added.

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

HDD vs SSD: What Does the Future for Storage Hold?

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/ssd-vs-hdd-future-of-storage/

SSD 60 TB drive

This is part one of a series. Use the Join button above to receive notification of future posts on this and other topics.

Customers frequently ask us whether and when we plan to move our cloud backup and data storage to SSDs (Solid-State Drives). That’s not a surprising question considering the many advantages SSDs have over magnetic platter type drives, also known as HDDs (Hard-Disk Drives).

We’re a large user of HDDs in our data centers (currently 100,000 hard drives holding over 500 petabytes of data). We want to provide the best performance, reliability, and economy for our cloud backup and cloud storage services, so we continually evaluate which drives to use for operations and in our data centers. While we use SSDs for some applications, which we’ll describe below, there are reasons why HDDs will continue to be the primary drives of choice for us and other cloud providers for the foreseeable future.

HDDs vs SSDs


The laptop computer I am writing this on has a single 512GB SSD, which has become a common feature in higher end laptops. The SSD’s advantages for a laptop are easy to understand: they are smaller than an HDD, faster, quieter, last longer, and are not susceptible to vibration and magnetic fields. They also have much lower latency and access times.

Today’s typical online price for a 2.5” 512GB SSD is $140 to $170. The typical online price for a 3.5” 512 GB HDD is $44 to $65. That’s a pretty significant difference in price, but since the SSD helps make the laptop lighter, enables it to be more resistant to the inevitable shocks and jolts it will experience in daily use, and adds of benefits of faster booting, faster waking from sleep, and faster launching of applications and handling of big files, the extra cost for the SSD in this case is worth it.

Some of these SSD advantages, chiefly speed, also will apply to a desktop computer, so desktops are increasingly outfitted with SSDs, particularly to hold the operating system, applications, and data that is accessed frequently. Replacing a boot drive with an SSD has become a popular upgrade option to breathe new life into a computer, especially one that seems to take forever to boot or is used for notoriously slow-loading applications such as Photoshop.

We covered upgrading your computer with an SSD in our blog post SSD 101: How to Upgrade Your Computer With An SSD.

Data centers are an entirely different kettle of fish. The primary concerns for data center storage are reliability, storage density, and cost. While SSDs are strong in the first two areas, it’s the third where they are not yet competitive. At Backblaze we adopt higher density HDDs as they become available — we’re currently using both 10TB and 12TB drives (among other capacities) in our data centers. Higher density drives provide greater storage density per Storage Pod and Vault and reduce our overhead cost through less required maintenance and lower total power requirements. Comparable SSDs in those sizes would cost roughly $1,000 per terabyte, considerably higher than the corresponding HDD. Simply put, SSDs are not yet in the price range to make their use economical for the benefits they provide, which is the reason why we expect to be using HDDs as our primary storage media for the foreseeable future.

What Are HDDs?

HDDs have been around over 60 years since IBM introduced them in 1956. The first disk drive was the size of a car, stored a mere 3.75 megabytes, and cost $300,000 in today’s dollars.

IBM 350 Disk Storage System — 3.75MB in 1956

The 350 Disk Storage System was a major component of the IBM 305 RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control) system, which was introduced in September 1956. It consisted of 40 platters and a dual read/write head on a single arm that moved up and down the stack of magnetic disk platters.

The basic mechanism of an HDD remains unchanged since then, though it has undergone continual refinement. An HDD uses magnetism to store data on a rotating platter. A read/write head is affixed to an arm that floats above the spinning platter reading and writing data. The faster the platter spins, the faster an HDD can perform. Typical laptop drives today spin at either 5400 RPM (revolutions per minute) or 7200 RPM, though some server-based platters spin at even higher speeds.

Exploded drawing of a hard drive

Exploded drawing of a hard drive

The platters inside the drives are coated with a magnetically sensitive film consisting of tiny magnetic grains. Data is recorded when a magnetic write-head flies just above the spinning disk; the write head rapidly flips the magnetization of one magnetic region of grains so that its magnetic pole points up or down, to encode a 1 or a 0 in binary code. If all this sounds like an HDD is vulnerable to shocks and vibration, you’d be right. They also are vulnerable to magnets, which is one way to destroy the data on an HDD if you’re getting rid of it.

The major advantage of an HDD is that it can store lots of data cheaply. One and two terabyte (1,024 and 2,048 gigabytes) hard drives are not unusual for a laptop these days, and 10TB and 12TB drives are now available for desktops and servers. Densities and rotation speeds continue to grow. However, if you compare the cost of common HDDs vs SSDs for sale online, the SSDs are roughly 3-5x the cost per gigabyte. So if you want cheap storage and lots of it, using a standard hard drive is definitely the more economical way to go.

What are the best uses for HDDs?

  • Disk arrays (NAS, RAID, etc.) where high capacity is needed
  • Desktops when low cost is priority
  • Media storage (photos, videos, audio not currently being worked on)
  • Drives with extreme number of reads and writes

What Are SSDs?

SSDs go back almost as far as HDDs, with the first semiconductor storage device compatible with a hard drive interface introduced in 1978, the StorageTek 4305.

Storage Technology 4305 SSD

The StorageTek was an SSD aimed at the IBM mainframe compatible market. The STC 4305 was seven times faster than IBM’s popular 2305 HDD system (and also about half the price). It consisted of a cabinet full of charge-coupled devices and cost $400,000 for 45MB capacity with throughput speeds up to 1.5 MB/sec.

SSDs are based on a type of non-volatile memory called NAND (named for the Boolean operator “NOT AND,” and one of two main types of flash memory). Flash memory stores data in individual memory cells, which are made of floating-gate transistors. Though they are semiconductor-based memory, they retain their information when no power is applied to them — a feature that’s obviously a necessity for permanent data storage.

Samsung SSD

Samsung SSD 850 Pro

Compared to an HDD, SSDs have higher data-transfer rates, higher areal storage density, better reliability, and much lower latency and access times. For most users, it’s the speed of an SSD that primarily attracts them. When discussing the speed of drives, what we are referring to is the speed at which they can read and write data.

For HDDs, the speed at which the platters spin strongly determines the read/write times. When data on an HDD is accessed, the read/write head must physically move to the location where the data was encoded on a magnetic section on the platter. If the file being read was written sequentially to the disk, it will be read quickly. As more data is written to the disk, however, it’s likely that the file will be written across multiple sections, resulting in fragmentation of the data. Fragmented data takes longer to read with an HDD as the read head has to move to different areas of the platter(s) to completely read all the data requested.

Because SSDs have no moving parts, they can operate at speeds far above those of a typical HDD. Fragmentation is not an issue for SSDs. Files can be written anywhere with little impact on read/write times, resulting in read times far faster than any HDD, regardless of fragmentation.

Samsung SSD 850 Pro (back)

Due to the way data is written and read to the drive, however, SSD cells can wear out over time. SSD cells push electrons through a gate to set its state. This process wears on the cell and over time reduces its performance until the SSD wears out. This effect takes a long time and SSDs have mechanisms to minimize this effect, such as the TRIM command. Flash memory writes an entire block of storage no matter how few pages within the block are updated. This requires reading and caching the existing data, erasing the block and rewriting the block. If an empty block is available, a write operation is much faster. The TRIM command, which must be supported in both the OS and the SSD, enables the OS to inform the drive which blocks are no longer needed. It allows the drive to erase the blocks ahead of time in order to make empty blocks available for subsequent writes.

The effect of repeated reading and erasing on an SSD is cumulative and an SSD can slow down and even display errors with age. It’s more likely, however, that the system using the SSD will be discarded for obsolescence before the SSD begins to display read/write errors. Hard drives eventually wear out from constant use as well, since they use physical recording methods, so most users won’t base their selection of an HDD or SSD drive based on expected longevity.

SSD internals

SSD circuit board

Overall, SSDs are considered far more durable than HDDs due to a lack of mechanical parts. The moving mechanisms within an HDD are susceptible to not only wear and tear over time, but to damage due to movement or forceful contact. If one were to drop a laptop with an HDD, there is a high likelihood that all those moving parts will collide, resulting in potential data loss and even destructive physical damage that could kill the HDD outright. SSDs have no moving parts so, while they hold the risk of a potentially shorter life span due to high use, they can survive the rigors we impose upon our portable devices and laptops.

What are the best uses for SSDs?

  • Notebooks, laptops, where performance, lightweight, areal storage density, resistance to shock and general ruggedness are desirable
  • Boot drives holding operating system and applications, which will speed up booting and application launching
  • Working files (media that is being edited: photos, video, audio, etc.)
  • Swap drives where SSD will speed up disk paging
  • Cache drives
  • Database servers
  • Revitalizing an older computer. If you’ve got a computer that seems slow to start up and slow to load applications and files, updating the boot drive with an SSD could make it seem, if not new, at least as if it just came back refreshed from spending some time on the beach.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of HDD vs SSD

That’s it for part 1. In our second part we’ll take a deeper look at the differences between HDDs and SSDs, how both HDD and SSD technologies are evolving, and how Backblaze takes advantage of SSDs in our operations and data centers.

Here's a tip!Here’s a tip on finding all the posts tagged with SSD on our blog. Just follow https://www.backblaze.com/blog/tag/ssd/.

Don’t miss future posts on HDDs, SSDs, and other topics, including hard drive stats, cloud storage, and tips and tricks for backing up to the cloud. Use the Join button above to receive notification of future posts on our blog.

The post HDD vs SSD: What Does the Future for Storage Hold? appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Weekly roundup: Re-emerging

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/dev/2018/03/03/weekly-roundup-re-emerging/

Hi! It’s been three weeks again. But this time it’s because I was up to my eyeballs in making a video game, and I generally don’t have much to say during those spans beyond “I’m making a video game”.

  • alice: We made a video game! Or, at least, a demo. Note: extremely NSFW (although that link is fine; it’s just a release post).

    I hadn’t used Ren’Py a month ago, so there was a lot of scurrying around trying to figure out how to make it do what I want, and then there was a lot of fiction-writing which I have a tough time getting into, but I’m pretty happy with how it came out. Now we just need to make the other 80% of it.

  • idchoppers: Oh, yeah, I got the geometry thing I was doing basically working. Next I gotta adjust the algorithm to work with an arbitrary number of input shapes, which is slightly more complicated.

  • blog: Wrote about some tech wishes for 2018. Wrote a decent chunk of a post about my experience with idchoppers and Rust and porting weird C++ code, but it had to wait until I’d actually gotten the thing working, and then I just didn’t finish it yet haha.

Yep, that’s it, really busy, bye

Alice’s Day Off demo

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/release/2018/03/02/alices-day-off-demo/

🔗 Alice’s Day Off demo on itch

🚨🔞 HEADS UP: This game is super duper NSFW. It contains explicit cartoon porn. You have been warned! 🔞🚨

This is the game glip and I (and a co-writer) made for my horny game jam, Strawberry Jam 2. It’s a goofy visual novel about, well… sex, mostly. A few folks with no interest in the subject matter have played it and still enjoyed it, which seems like a great sign.

(Oh, right, and the jam is over, and has 63 entries! Like last year, they run the gamut from “highly abstract and thoughtful” to “let’s put porn in a game”.)

Some lingering thoughts about the process itself:

Visual novels combine narrative prose with the interaction of games, but the two forces are somewhat at odds: the more interaction you add, the more prose you have to write, with the worst case being a combinatoric explosion (which won’t even be appreciated by players who run through only once). And there’s a subtle tension between the design of those decisions and replay value, which… I maybe ought to go on about some other time.

Anyway, this is all really a distilled form of the problem of offering narrative choice in games in general, which I find fascinating, so I really wanted to play around with it. I have a few ideas for experimenting with what player choice even looks like in a visual novel, and we have thoughts about narrative variety at all levels so there’s something to appreciate no matter how much or little you replay the game.

Alas! We had to drastically cut down what we wanted to do due to time constraints, hence calling this a “demo”; it’s a sample of ten (mostly linear) routes. It’s good stuff, I’m happy with how it came out, and there’s a pretty decent chunk of it — I think a straight read in one sitting takes about an hour — but I naturally compare it to everything I know isn’t there.

This was my first time using Ren’Py, and it defied my assumptions so utterly that I have to go write a separate post about it now. I think it came out pretty well, considering I’d never touched the engine before three weeks ago.

The touch I like the most is the custom title screen, seen above. I think it’s fairly important to hide obvious traces of the engine you’re using, when feasible; otherwise the end result is covered in someone else’s (generic) fingerprints, not yours. So we added a splash, added a title screen, and completely changed the in-game interface. (The in-game menu is basically the same, but it’s general-purpose enough that I’m not sure it’s really worth changing. Maybe?)

Part of the point of this exercise was to force me to actually sit down and write a story, an activity I often attempt to do and then awkwardly shy away from. It feels like pushing against a river of molasses: it takes me so long just to get started at all, and if I stumble even slightly, I lose my momentum completely and have to start all over. It’s my ADD final boss.

Suffice to say, I spent a good chunk of the month mostly not-writing, which was frustrating and didn’t get us very far. It wasn’t until the final week that I felt like I really hit my stride and started churning out big chunks of prose at a time. I don’t have any inspirational tale about how this happened; I just kept trying to do it and failing to do it until I finally did it. Hopefully it’ll be easier to get into from now on!

I did half the writing, and it’s endlessly hilarious to me that my co-writer and I both looked at each other’s prose and came away thinking “damn, I need to do it more like that!” Probably a good sign.

That’s all I’ve got; back to work!

All Oscar Contenders Leaked on Pirate Sites, Again

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/all-oscar-contenders-leaked-on-pirate-sites-again-180302/

The Oscars are the most watched awards show of the year, closely followed by hundreds of millions of movie fans around the world.

This weekend Hollywood’s finest are gathering on the red carpet once again. While they associate the celebration with eternal fame and recognition, online pirates are keeping an eye on it as well.

Traditionally, Oscar winners see a surge in piracy activity, so we decided to take a look at the availability of this year’s nominees through unauthorized channels.

Relying on data released by Oscar piracy watcher Andy Baio, we see that all nominated* films are now available on pirate sites, most in decent quality too. There are just three films that haven’t been released as a screener, Blu-ray or other high-quality rip, including the highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

That all films are readily available isn’t really new. This has happened consistently over the past decade. This year, however, that tradition was nearly broken. A pirated copy of “The Breadwinner” only leaked last week.

On the screener front, there’s not much movement. Like previous years, most of the leaked screeners have been released by Hive-CM8. A dozen screeners of Oscar nominees are available on pirate sites at the time of writing.

Screener leaks 2003 – 2018

There is another trend visible, however, one which we didn’t immediately expect.

The number of Cam releases, which are recorded in movie theaters, is on the rise. This year 20 camcorded (Cam) copies of Oscar contenders have leaked, which is a record high for the last decade.

As Cams usually come out early, when films are still playing in theaters, Hollywood sees these leaks as a great threat.

Cam leaks 2003 – 2018

The same increase is also visible for Telesync releases, which are higher-quality Cam releases that use a direct sound input. There have been 14 Telesync leaks for the 2018 Oscar contenders, which is a significant uptick compared to previous years.

While these releases reach millions of people they tend to originate from a small circle. As the Hive-CM8 situation has shown, one group can make an enormous impact on the numbers.

This also means that next year’s figures can easily turn around if one or two prominent sources are cut off.

* – Foreign film and documentary categories are not included

– The high quality leak of Ferdinand was not included in Baio’s data at the time of writing, but it was included in the analysis above.

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

AskRob: Does Tor let government peek at vuln info?

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2018/03/askrob-does-tor-let-government-peek-at.html

On Twitter, somebody asked this question:

The question is about a blog post that claims Tor privately tips off the government about vulnerabilities, using as proof a “vulnerability” from October 2007 that wasn’t made public until 2011.
The tl;dr is that it’s bunk. There was no vulnerability, it was a feature request. The details were already public. There was no spy agency involved, but the agency that does Voice of America, and which tries to protect activists under foreign repressive regimes.


The issue is that Tor traffic looks like Tor traffic, making it easy to block/censor, or worse, identify users. Over the years, Tor has added features to make it look more and more like normal traffic, like the encrypted traffic used by Facebook, Google, and Apple. Tors improves this bit-by-bit over time, but short of actually piggybacking on website traffic, it will always leave some telltale signature.
An example showing how we can distinguish Tor traffic is the packet below, from the latest version of the Tor server:
Had this been Google or Facebook, the names would be something like “www.google.com” or “facebook.com”. Or, had this been a normal “self-signed” certificate, the names would still be recognizable. But Tor creates randomized names, with letters and numbers, making it distinctive. It’s hard to automate detection of this, because it’s only probably Tor (other self-signed certificates look like this, too), which means you’ll have occasional “false-positives”. But still, if you compare this to the pattern of traffic, you can reliably detect that Tor is happening on your network.
This has always been a known issue, since the earliest days. Google the search term “detect tor traffic”, and set your advanced search dates to before 2007, and you’ll see lots of discussion about this, such as this post for writing intrusion-detection signatures for Tor.
Among the things you’ll find is this presentation from 2006 where its creator (Roger Dingledine) talks about how Tor can be identified on the network with its unique network fingerprint. For a “vulnerability” they supposedly kept private until 2011, they were awfully darn public about it.
The above blogpost claims Tor kept this vulnerability secret until 2011 by citing this message. It’s because Levine doesn’t understand the terminology and is just blindly searching for an exact match for “TLS normalization”. Here’s an earlier proposed change for the long term goal of to “make our connection handshake look closer to a regular HTTPS [TLS] connection”, from February 2007. Here is another proposal from October 2007 on changing TLS certificates, from days after the email discussion (after they shipped the feature, presumably).
What we see here is here is a known problem from the very beginning of the project, a long term effort to fix that problem, and a slow dribble of features added over time to preserve backwards compatibility.
Now let’s talk about the original train of emails cited in the blogpost. It’s hard to see the full context here, but it sounds like BBG made a feature request to make Tor look even more like normal TLS, which is hinted with the phrase “make our funders happy”. Of course the people giving Tor money are going to ask for improvements, and of course Tor would in turn discuss those improvements with the donor before implementing them. It’s common in project management: somebody sends you a feature request, you then send the proposal back to them to verify what you are building is what they asked for.
As for the subsequent salacious paragraph about “secrecy”, that too is normal. When improving a problem, you don’t want to talk about the details until after you have a fix. But note that this is largely more for PR than anything else. The details on how to detect Tor are available to anybody who looks for them — they just aren’t readily accessible to the layman. For example, Tenable Networks announced the previous month exactly this ability to detect Tor’s traffic, because any techy wanting to would’ve found the secrets how to. Indeed, Teneble’s announcement may have been the impetus for BBG’s request to Tor: “can you fix it so that this new Tenable feature no longer works”.
To be clear, there are zero secret “vulnerability details” here that some secret spy agency could use to detect Tor. They were already known, and in the Teneble product, and within the grasp of any techy who wanted to discover them. A spy agency could just buy Teneble, or copy it, instead of going through this intricate conspiracy.


The issue isn’t a “vulnerability”. Tor traffic is recognizable on the network, and over time, they make it less and less recognizable. Eventually they’ll just piggyback on true HTTPS and convince CloudFlare to host ingress nodes, or something, making it completely undetectable. In the meanwhile, it leaves behind fingerprints, as I showed above.
What we see in the email exchanges is the normal interaction of a donor asking for a feature, not a private “tip off”. It’s likely the donor is the one who tipped off Tor, pointing out Tenable’s product to detect Tor.
Whatever secrets Tor could have tipped off to the “secret spy agency” were no more than what Tenable was already doing in a shipping product.

Update: People are trying to make it look like Voice of America is some sort of intelligence agency. That’s a conspiracy theory. It’s not a member of the American intelligence community. You’d have to come up with a solid reason explaining why the United States is hiding VoA’s membership in the intelligence community, or you’d have to believe that everything in the U.S. government is really just some arm of the C.I.A.

Most Users of Exclusive Torrent Site Also Pay For Services Like Netflix or Prime

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/most-users-of-exclusive-torrent-site-also-pay-for-services-like-netflix-or-prime-180225/

Despite a notable move to unlicensed streaming portals, millions of people still use public torrent sites every day to obtain the latest movies and TV shows. The process is easy, relatively quick, and free.

While these open-to-all platforms are undoubtedly popular, others prefer to use so-called ‘private trackers’, torrent sites with a private members’ club feel. Barriers to entry are much higher and many now require either an invitation from someone who is already a member or the passing of what amounts to an entrance exam.

Once accepted as a member, however, the rewards can be great. While public sites are a bit of a free-for-all, private trackers tend to take control of the content on offer, weeding out poor quality releases and ensuring only the best reach the user. Seeders are also plentiful, meaning that downloads complete in the fastest times.

On the flipside, some of the most exclusive trackers are almost impossible to join. A prime example is HDBits, a site that at last count wouldn’t accept more than 21,000 users yet keeps actual memberships down to around the 18,000 mark. Invites are extremely rare and those already inside tend to guard their accounts with their lives.

Second chances are rare on a site indexing more than 234,000 high-quality releases seeded by more than 950,000 peers and one of the broadest selection of Blu-ray offerings around. That’s what makes the results of a survey currently being carried out on the site even more remarkable.

In a poll launched by site staff, HDBits members – who by definition are already part of one of the most exclusive pirate haunts around – were asked whether they also pay for legal streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

At the time of writing more than 5,300 members have responded, with a surprising 57% (3,036) stating that they do indeed subscribe to at least one legal streaming service. When questioned on usage, more than a quarter of respondents said they actually use the legal service MORE than they use HDBits, which for a site of that caliber is quite a revelation.

HDBits poll – 57% of pirates pay for legal services

Keeping in mind that the site is creeping towards a quarter of a million torrents and is almost impossible to get into, it’s perhaps no surprise that unscrupulous people with access to an invitation on the site are selling them (against the site’s wishes) for up to $350 each online.

Let that sink in. For access to a pirate service, people are being asked to pay the equivalent of three years’ worth of Netflix subscriptions. Yet of those that are already members, more than a quarter use their Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime account more than they do HDBits. That’s a huge feather in the cap for the legal platforms that have nowhere near the selection that HDBits does.

One commenter in the HDBits survey thread gave his opinion on why Netflix might be winning the war.

“A thread several years ago like this was why I bought Netflix stock. Stunned not just that people here would actually pay for streaming 1 year old content in poor quality, but that almost everyone seemed to be doing it. If Netflix can win over [HDBits] then it is clearly a solution that will win over everyone,” he wrote.

Of course, perhaps the most important thing here is that even the most hardcore pirates have no problem purchasing official content, when the environment is right.

Unlike other surveys that can scare people away from admitting they’re breaking the law, most people on HDBits have nothing to hide from their peers. They know they’re pirates and aren’t afraid to admit it, yet almost 60% of them are happy to pay for legal content on top.

Entertainment companies often like to put pirates in one box and legitimate customers in another. Once again it’s now being made clear that such neatly defined barriers aren’t easy to come by.

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

Ode to ‘Locate My Computer’

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/laptop-locator-can-save-you/

Laptop locator signal

Some things don’t get the credit they deserve. For one of our engineers, Billy, the Locate My Computer feature is near and dear to his heart. It took him a while to build it, and it requires some regular updates, even after all these years. Billy loves the Locate My Computer feature, but really loves knowing how it’s helped customers over the years. One recent story made us decide to write a bit of a greatest hits post as an ode to one of our favorite features — Locate My Computer.

What is it?

Locate My Computer, as you’ll read in the stories below, came about because some of our users had their computers stolen and were trying to find a way to retrieve their devices. They realized that while some of their programs and services like Find My Mac were wiped, in some cases, Backblaze was still running in the background. That created the ability to use our software to figure out where the computer was contacting us from. After manually helping some of the individuals that wrote in, we decided to build it in as a feature. Little did we know the incredible stories it would lead to. We’ll get into that, but first, a little background on why the whole thing came about.

Identifying the Customer Need

“My friend’s laptop was stolen. He tracked the thief via @Backblaze for weeks & finally identified him on Facebook & Twitter. Digital 007.”

Mat —
In December 2010, we saw a tweet from @DigitalRoyalty which read: “My friend’s laptop was stolen. He tracked the thief via @Backblaze for weeks & finally identified him on Facebook & Twitter. Digital 007.” Our CEO was manning Twitter at the time and reached out for the whole story. It turns out that Mat Miller had his laptop stolen, and while he was creating some restores a few days later, he noticed a new user was created on his computer and was backing up data. He restored some of those files, saw some information that could help identify the thief, and filed a police report. Read the whole story: Digital 007 — Outwitting The Thief.

Mark —
Following Mat Miller’s story we heard from Mark Bao, an 18-year old entrepreneur and student at Bentley University who had his laptop stolen. The laptop was stolen out of Mark’s dorm room and the thief started using it in a variety of ways, including audition practice for Dancing with the Stars. Once Mark logged in to Backblaze and saw that there were new files being uploaded, including a dance practice video, he was able to reach out to campus police and got his laptop back. You can read more about the story on: 18 Year Old Catches Thief Using Backblaze.

After Mat and Mark’s story we thought we were onto something. In addition to those stories that had garnered some media attention, we would occasionally get requests from users that said something along the lines of, “Hey, my laptop was stolen, but I had Backblaze installed. Could you please let me know if it’s still running, and if so, what the IP address is so that I can go to the authorities?” We would help them where we could, but knew that there was probably a much more efficient method of helping individuals and businesses keep track of their computers.

Some of the Greatest Hits, and the Mafia Story

In May of 2011, we launched “Locate My Computer.” This was our way of adding a feature to our already-popular backup client that would allow users to see a rough representation of where their computer was located, and the IP address associated with its last known transmission. After speaking to law enforcement, we learned that those two things were usually enough for the authorities to subpoena an ISP and get the physical address of the last known place the computer phoned home from. From there, they could investigate and, if the device was still there, return it to its rightful owner.

Bridgette —
Once the feature went live the stories got even more interesting. Almost immediately after we launched Locate My Computer, we were contacted by Bridgette, who told us of a break-in at her house. Luckily no one was home at the time, but the thief was able to get away with her iMac, DSLR, and a few other prized possessions. As soon as she reported the robbery to the police, they were able to use the Locate My Computer feature to find the thief’s location and recover her missing items. We even made a case study out of Bridgette’s experience. You can read it at: Backblaze And The Stolen iMac.

“Joe” —
The crazy recovery stories didn’t end there. Shortly after Bridgette’s story, we received an email from a user (“Joe” — to protect the innocent) who was traveling to Argentina from the United States and had his laptop stolen. After he contacted the police department in Buenos Aires, and explained to them that he was using Backblaze (which the authorities thought was a computer tracking service, and in this case, we were), they were able to get the location of the computer from an ISP in Argentina. When they went to investigate, they realized that the perpetrators were foreign nationals connected to the mafia, and that in addition to a handful of stolen laptops, they were also in the possession of over $1,000,000 in counterfeit currency! Read the whole story about “Joe” and how: Backblaze Found $1 Million in Counterfeit Cash!

The Maker —
After “Joe,” we thought that our part in high-profile “busts was over, but we were wrong. About a year later we received word from a “maker” who told us that he was able to act as an “internet super-sleuth” and worked hard to find his stolen computer. After a Maker Faire in Detroit, the maker’s car was broken into while they were getting BBQ following a successful show. While some of the computers were locked and encrypted, others were in hibernation mode and wide open to prying eyes. After the police report was filed, the maker went to Backblaze to retrieve his lost files and remembered seeing the little Locate My Computer button. That’s when the story gets really interesting. The victim used a combination of ingenuity, Craigslist, Backblaze, and the local police department to get his computer back, and make a drug bust along the way. Head over to Makezine.com to read about how:How Tracking Down My Stolen Computer Triggered a Drug Bust.

Una —
While we kept hearing praise and thanks from our customers who were able to recover their data and find their computers, a little while passed before we would hear a story that was as incredible as the ones above. In July of 2016, we received an email from Una who told us one of the most amazing stories of perseverance that we’d ever heard. With the help of Backblaze and a sympathetic constable in Australia, Una tracked her stolen computer’s journey across 6 countries. She got her computer back and we wrote up the whole story: How Una Found Her Stolen Laptop.

And the Hits Keep on Coming

The most recent story came from “J,” and we’ll share the whole thing with you because it has a really nice conclusion:

Back in September of 2017, I brought my laptop to work to finish up some administrative work before I took off for a vacation. I work in a mall where traffic [is] plenty and more specifically I work at a kiosk in the middle of the mall. This allows for a high amount of traffic passing by every few seconds. I turned my back for about a minute to put away some paperwork. At the time I didn’t notice my laptop missing. About an hour later when I was gathering my belongings for the day I noticed it was gone. I was devastated. This was a high end MacBook Pro that I just purchased. So we are not talking about a little bit of money here. This was a major investment.

Time [went] on. When I got back from my vacation I reached out to my LP (Loss Prevention) team to get images from our security to submit to the police with some thread of hope that they would find whomever stole it. December approached and I did not hear anything. I gave up hope and assumed that the laptop was scrapped. I put an iCloud lock on it and my Find My Mac feature was saying that laptop was “offline.” I just assumed that they opened it, saw it was locked, and tried to scrap it for parts.

Towards the end of January I got an email from Backblaze saying that the computer was successfully backed up. This came as a shock to me as I thought it was wiped. But I guess however they wiped it didn’t remove Backblaze from the SSD. None the less, I was very happy. I sifted through the backup and found the person’s name via the search history. Then, using the Locate my Computer feature I saw where it came online. I reached out on social media to the person in question and updated the police. I finally got ahold of the person who stated she bought it online a few weeks backs. We made arrangements and I’m happy to say that I am typing this email on my computer right now.

J finished by writing: “Not only did I want to share this story with you but also wanted to say thanks! Apple’s find my computer system failed. The police failed to find it. But Backblaze saved the day. This has been the best $5 a month I have ever spent. Not only that but I got all my stuff back. Which made the deal even better! It was like it was never gone.”

Have a Story of Your Own?

We’re more than thrilled to have helped all of these people restore their lost data using Backblaze. Recovering the actual machine using Locate My Computer though, that’s the icing on the cake. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to build here at Backblaze, and we really enjoy hearing stories from people who have used our service to successfully get back up and running, whether that meant restoring their data or recovering their actual computer.

If you have any interesting data recovery or computer recovery stories that you’d like to share with us, please email press@backblaze.com and we’ll share it with Billy and the rest of the Backblaze team. We love hearing them!

The post Ode to ‘Locate My Computer’ appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

[$] New tricks for XFS

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/747633/rss

The XFS filesystem has been in the kernel for fifteen years and was used in
production on IRIX systems for five years before that. But it might just
be time to teach that “old dog” of a filesystem some new tricks, Dave
Chinner said, at the beginning of his linux.conf.au 2018 presentation.
There are a number of features that XFS lacks when compared to more modern
filesystems, such as snapshots and subvolumes; but he has been thinking—and
writing code—on a path to get them into XFS.

SkyTorrents Dumps Massive Torrent Database and Shuts Down

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/skytorrents-dumps-massive-torrent-database-and-shuts-down180221/

About a year ago we first heard about SkyTorrents, an ambitious new torrent site which guaranteed a private and ad-free experience for its users.

Initially, we were skeptical. However, the site quickly grew a steady userbase through sites such as Reddit and after a few months, it was still sticking to its promise.

“We will NEVER place any ads,” SkyTorrents’ operator informed us last year.

“The site will remain ad-free or it will shut down. When our funds dry up, we will go for donations. We can also handover to someone with similar intent, interests, and the goal of a private and ad-free world.”

In the months that followed, these words turned out to be almost prophetic. It didn’t take long before SkyTorrents had several million pageviews per day. This would be music to the ears of many site owners but for SkyTorrents it was a problem.

With the increase in traffic, the server bills also soared. This meant that the ad-free search engine had to cough up roughly $1,500 per month, which is quite an expensive hobby. The site tried to cover at least part of the costs with donations but that didn’t help much either.

This led to the rather ironic situation where users of the site encouraged the operator to serve ads.

“Everyone is saying they would rather have ads then have the site close down,” one user wrote on Reddit last summer. “I applaud you. But there is a reason why every other site has ads. It’s necessary to get revenue when your customers don’t pay.”

The site’s operator was not easily swayed though, not least because ads also compromise people’s privacy. Eventually funds dried up and now, after the passing of several more months, he has now decided to throw in the towel.

“It was a great experience to serve and satisfy people around the world,” the site’s operator says.

The site is not simply going dark though. While the end has been announced, the site’s operator is giving people the option to download and copy the site’s database of more than 15 million torrents.


That’s 444 gigabytes of .torrent files for all the archivists out there. Alternatively, the site also offers a listing of just the torrent hashes, which is a more manageable 322 megabytes.

SkyTorrents’ operator says that he hopes someone will host the entire cache of torrents and “take it forward.” In addition, he thanks hosting company NFOrce for the service it has provided.

Whether anyone will pick up the challenge has yet to be seen. What’s has become clear though is that operating a popular ad-free torrent site is hard to pull off for long, unless you have deep pockets.

Update: While writing this article Skytorrents was still online, but upon publication, it is no longer accessible. The torrent archive is still available.

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

Early Challenges: Making Critical Hires

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

row of potential employee hires sitting waiting for an interview

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

Who Should Be Your First Hires

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

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

When To Hire

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

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

Where To Find the Right People

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

People You Worked With

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

People You Know

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

Friends Of People You Know

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

People You Know About

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

Other Places to Find People

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

A Comment on Diversity

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

Helping People To Find You

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

Your Blog

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

Your Email List

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

Your Social Involvement

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

Convincing People To Join

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

Why Should They Join You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing The Job Description

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

Orchestrating Interviews

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


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

In Closing

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

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

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