Tag Archives: zero

MagPi 67: back to the future with retro computing on your Pi

Post Syndicated from Rob Zwetsloot original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/magpi-67/

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! While we do love modern computers here at The MagPi, we also have a soft spot for the classic machines of yesteryear, which is why we have a huge feature on emulating and upcycling retro computers in The MagPi issue 67, out right now.

The MagPi 67 Retro Gaming Privacy Security

Retro computing and security in the latest issue of The MagPi

Retro computing

Noted retro computing enthusiast K.G. Orphanides takes you through using the Raspberry Pi to emulate these classic machines, listing the best emulators out there and some of the homebrew software people have created for them. There’s even a guide on how to put a Pi in a Speccy!

The MagPi 67 Retro Gaming Privacy Security

Retro fun for all

While I’m a bit too young to have had a Commodore 64 or a Spectrum, there are plenty of folks who read the mag with nostalgia for that age of computing. And it’s also important for us young’uns to know the history of our hobby. So get ready to dive in!

Security and more

We also have an in-depth article about improving your security and privacy online and on your Raspberry Pi, and about using your Pi to increase your network security. It’s an important topic, and one that I’m pretty passionate about, so hopefully you’ll find the piece useful!

The new issue also includes our usual selection of inspiring projects, informative guides, and definitive reviews, as well as a free DVD with the latest version of the Raspberry Pi Desktop for Windows and Apple PCs!

Get The MagPi 67

Issue 67 is available today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days for a print copy. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

New subscription offer!

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine? We’ve launched a new way to subscribe to the print version of The MagPi: you can now take out a monthly £4 subscription to the magazine, effectively creating a rolling pre-order system that saves you money on each issue.

You can also take out a twelve-month print subscription and get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.

We hope you enjoy this issue! See you next time…

The post MagPi 67: back to the future with retro computing on your Pi appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

BitTorrent Client uTorrent Suffers Security Vulnerability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-client-utorrent-suffers-security-vulnerability-180220/

With dozens of millions of active users a day, uTorrent has long been the most used torrent client.

The software has been around for well over a decade and it’s still used to shift petabytes of data day after day. While there haven’t been many feature updates recently, parent company BitTorrent Inc. was alerted to a serious security vulnerability recently.

The security flaw in question was reported by Google vulnerability researcher Tavis Ormandy, who first reached out to BitTorrent in November last year. Google’s Project Zero allows developers a 90-day window to address security flaws but with this deadline creeping up, BitTorrent had remained quiet.

Late last month Ormandy again reached out to BitTorrent Inc’s Bram Cohen, fearing that the company might not fix the vulnerability in time.

“I don’t think bittorrent are going to make a 90 day disclosure deadline, do you have any direct contacts who could help? I’m not convinced they understand the severity or urgency,” Ormandy wrote on Twitter.

Nudge

While Google’s security researcher might have expected a more swift response, the issue wasn’t ignored.

BitTorrent Inc has yet to fix the problem in the stable release, but a patch was deployed in the Beta version last week. BitTorrent’s Vice President of Engineering David Rees informed us that this will be promoted to the regular release this week, if all goes well.

While no specific details about the vulnerability have yet to be released, it is likely to be a remote execution flaw. Ormandy previously exposed a similar vulnerability in Transmission, which he said was the “first of a few remote code execution flaws in various popular torrent clients.”

BitTorrent Inc. told us that they have shared their patch with Ormandy, who confirmed that this fixes the security issues.

uTorrent Beta release notes

“We have also sent the build to Tavis and he has confirmed that it addresses all the security issues he reported,” Rees told us. “Since we have not promoted this build to stable, I will reserve reporting on the details of the security issue and its fix for now.”

BitTorrent Inc. plans to release more details about the issue when all clients are patched. Then it will also recommend users to upgrade their clients, so they are no longer at risk, and further information will also be available on Google’s Project Zero site.

Of course, people who are concerned about the issue can already upgrade to the latest uTorrent Beta release right away. Or, assuming that it’s related to the client’s remote control functionality, disable that for now.

Note: uTorrent’s Beta changelog states that the fixes were applied on January 15, but we believe that this should read February 15 instead.

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

N-O-D-E’s always-on networked Pi Plug

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/node-pi-plug/

N-O-D-E’s Pi Plug is a simple approach to using a Raspberry Pi Zero W as an always-on networked device without a tangle of wires.

Pi Plug 2: Turn The Pi Zero Into A Mini Server

Today I’m back with an update on the Pi Plug I made a while back. This prototype is still in the works, and is much more modular than the previous version. https://N-O-D-E.net/piplug2.html https://github.com/N-O-D-E/piplug —————- Shop: http://N-O-D-E.net/shop/ Patreon: http://patreon.com/N_O_D_E_ BTC: 17HqC7ZzmpE7E8Liuyb5WRbpwswBUgKRGZ Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ceA-nL Music: https://archive.org/details/Fwawn-FromManToGod

The Pi Zero Power Case

In a video early last year, YouTuber N-O-D-E revealed his Pi Zero Power Case, an all-in-one always-on networked computer that fits snugly against a wall power socket.

NODE Plug Raspberry Pi Plug

The project uses an official Raspberry Pi power supply, a Zero4U USB hub, and a Raspberry Pi Zero W, and it allows completely wireless connection to a network. N-O-D-E cut the power cord and soldered its wires directly to the power input of the USB hub. The hub powers the Zero via pogo pins that connect directly to the test pads beneath.

The Power Case is a neat project, but it may be a little daunting for anyone not keen on cutting and soldering the power supply wires.

Pi Plug 2

In his overhaul of the design, N-O-D-E has created a modular reimagining of the previous always-on networked computer that fits more streamlined to the wall socket and requires absolutely no soldering or hacking of physical hardware.

Pi Plug

The Pi Plug 2 uses a USB power supply alongside two custom PCBs and a Zero W. While one PCB houses a USB connector that slots directly into the power supply, two blobs of solder on the second PCB press against the test pads beneath the Zero W. When connected, the PCBs run power directly from the wall socket to the Raspberry Pi Zero W. Neat!

NODE Plug Raspberry Pi
NODE Plug Raspberry Pi
NODE Plug Raspberry Pi
NODE Plug Raspberry Pi

While N-O-D-E isn’t currently selling these PCBs in his online store, all files are available on GitHub, so have a look if you want to recreate the Pi Plug.

Uses

In another video — and seriously, if you haven’t checked out N-O-D-E’s YouTube channel yet, you really should — he demonstrates a few changes that can turn your Zero into a USB dongle computer. This is a great hack if you don’t want to carry a power supply around in your pocket. As N-O-D-E explains:

Besides simply SSH’ing into the Pi, you could also easily install a remote desktop client and use the GUI. You can share your computer’s internet connection with the Pi and use it just like you would normally, but now without the need for a monitor, chargers, adapters, cables, or peripherals.

We’re keen to see how our community is hacking their Zeros and Zero Ws in order to take full advantage of the small footprint of the computer, so be sure to share your projects and ideas with us, either in the comments below or via social media.

The post N-O-D-E’s always-on networked Pi Plug appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Hacker House’s Zero W–powered automated gardener

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

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

Make a Raspberry Pi Automated Gardener

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

Building an automated gardener

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

Hacker House Automated Gardener Raspberry Pi

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

Hacker House Automated Gardener Raspberry Pi

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

Coding an automated gardener

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

Hacker House Automated Gardener Raspberry Pi

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

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

Raspberry Pi and your home garden

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

Bert Plant on Twitter

I’m good. There’s plenty to drink!

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

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

 

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

Addressing Data Residency with AWS

Post Syndicated from Min Hyun original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/addressing-data-residency-with-aws/

Whitepaper image

AWS has released a new whitepaper that has been requested by many AWS customers: AWS Policy Perspectives: Data Residency. Data residency is the requirement that all customer content processed and stored in an IT system must remain within a specific country’s borders, and it is one of the foremost concerns of governments that want to use commercial cloud services. General cybersecurity concerns and concerns about government requests for data have contributed to a continued focus on keeping data within countries’ borders. In fact, some governments have determined that mandating data residency provides an extra layer of security.

This approach, however, is counterproductive to the data protection objectives and the IT modernization and global economic growth goals that many governments have set as milestones. This new whitepaper addresses the real and perceived security risks expressed by governments when they demand in-country data residency by identifying the most likely and prevalent IT vulnerabilities and security risks, explaining the native security embedded in cloud services, and highlighting the roles and responsibilities of cloud service providers (CSPs), governments, and customers in protecting data.

Large-scale, multinational CSPs, often called hyperscale CSPs, represent a transformational disruption in technology because of how they support their customers with high degrees of efficiency, agility, and innovation as part of world-class security offerings. The whitepaper explains how hyperscale CSPs, such as AWS, that might be located out of country provide their customers the ability to achieve high levels of data protection through safeguards on their own platform and with turnkey tooling for their customers. They do this while at the same time preserving nation-state regulatory sovereignty.

The whitepaper also considers the commercial, public-sector, and economic effects of data residency policies and offers considerations for governments to evaluate before enforcing requirements that can unintentionally limit public-sector digital transformation goals, in turn possibly leading to increased cybersecurity risk.

AWS continues to engage with governments around the world to hear and address their top-of-mind security concerns. We take seriously our commitment to advocate for our customers’ interests and enforce security from “ground zero.” This means that when customers use AWS, they can have the confidence that their data is protected with a level of assurance that meets, if not exceeds, their needs, regardless of where the data resides.

– Min Hyun, Cloud Security Policy Strategist

Backblaze Hard Drive Stats for 2017

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-drive-stats-for-2017/

Backbalze Drive Stats 2017 Review

Beginning in April 2013, Backblaze has recorded and saved daily hard drive statistics from the drives in our data centers. Each entry consists of the date, manufacturer, model, serial number, status (operational or failed), and all of the SMART attributes reported by that drive. As of the end of 2017, there are about 88 million entries totaling 23 GB of data. You can download this data from our website if you want to do your own research, but for starters here’s what we found.

Overview

At the end of 2017 we had 93,240 spinning hard drives. Of that number, there were 1,935 boot drives and 91,305 data drives. This post looks at the hard drive statistics of the data drives we monitor. We’ll review the stats for Q4 2017, all of 2017, and the lifetime statistics for all of the drives Backblaze has used in our cloud storage data centers since we started keeping track. Along the way we’ll share observations and insights on the data presented and we look forward to you doing the same in the comments.

Hard Drive Reliability Statistics for Q4 2017

At the end of Q4 2017 Backblaze was monitoring 91,305 hard drives used to store data. For our evaluation we remove from consideration those drives which were used for testing purposes and those drive models for which we did not have at least 45 drives (read why after the chart). This leaves us with 91,243 hard drives. The table below is for the period of Q4 2017.

Hard Drive Annualized Failure Rates for Q4 2017

A few things to remember when viewing this chart:

  • The failure rate listed is for just Q4 2017. If a drive model has a failure rate of 0%, it means there were no drive failures of that model during Q4 2017.
  • There were 62 drives (91,305 minus 91,243) that were not included in the list above because we did not have at least 45 of a given drive model. The most common reason we would have fewer than 45 drives of one model is that we needed to replace a failed drive and we had to purchase a different model as a replacement because the original model was no longer available. We use 45 drives of the same model as the minimum number to qualify for reporting quarterly, yearly, and lifetime drive statistics.
  • Quarterly failure rates can be volatile, especially for models that have a small number of drives and/or a small number of drive days. For example, the Seagate 4 TB drive, model ST4000DM005, has a annualized failure rate of 29.08%, but that is based on only 1,255 drive days and 1 (one) drive failure.
  • AFR stands for Annualized Failure Rate, which is the projected failure rate for a year based on the data from this quarter only.

Bulking Up and Adding On Storage

Looking back over 2017, we not only added new drives, we “bulked up” by swapping out functional and smaller 2, 3, and 4TB drives with larger 8, 10, and 12TB drives. The changes in drive quantity by quarter are shown in the chart below:

Backblaze Drive Population by Drive Size

For 2017 we added 25,746 new drives, and lost 6,442 drives to retirement for a net of 19,304 drives. When you look at storage space, we added 230 petabytes and retired 19 petabytes, netting us an additional 211 petabytes of storage in our data center in 2017.

2017 Hard Drive Failure Stats

Below are the lifetime hard drive failure statistics for the hard drive models that were operational at the end of Q4 2017. As with the quarterly results above, we have removed any non-production drives and any models that had fewer than 45 drives.

Hard Drive Annualized Failure Rates

The chart above gives us the lifetime view of the various drive models in our data center. The Q4 2017 chart at the beginning of the post gives us a snapshot of the most recent quarter of the same models.

Let’s take a look at the same models over time, in our case over the past 3 years (2015 through 2017), by looking at the annual failure rates for each of those years.

Annual Hard Drive Failure Rates by Year

The failure rate for each year is calculated for just that year. In looking at the results the following observations can be made:

  • The failure rates for both of the 6 TB models, Seagate and WDC, have decreased over the years while the number of drives has stayed fairly consistent from year to year.
  • While it looks like the failure rates for the 3 TB WDC drives have also decreased, you’ll notice that we migrated out nearly 1,000 of these WDC drives in 2017. While the remaining 180 WDC 3 TB drives are performing very well, decreasing the data set that dramatically makes trend analysis suspect.
  • The Toshiba 5 TB model and the HGST 8 TB model had zero failures over the last year. That’s impressive, but with only 45 drives in use for each model, not statistically useful.
  • The HGST/Hitachi 4 TB models delivered sub 1.0% failure rates for each of the three years. Amazing.

A Few More Numbers

To save you countless hours of looking, we’ve culled through the data to uncover the following tidbits regarding our ever changing hard drive farm.

  • 116,833 — The number of hard drives for which we have data from April 2013 through the end of December 2017. Currently there are 91,305 drives (data drives) in operation. This means 25,528 drives have either failed or been removed from service due for some other reason — typically migration.
  • 29,844 — The number of hard drives that were installed in 2017. This includes new drives, migrations, and failure replacements.
  • 81.76 — The number of hard drives that were installed each day in 2017. This includes new drives, migrations, and failure replacements.
  • 95,638 — The number of drives installed since we started keeping records in April 2013 through the end of December 2017.
  • 55.41 — The average number of hard drives installed per day from April 2013 to the end of December 2017. The installations can be new drives, migration replacements, or failure replacements.
  • 1,508 — The number of hard drives that were replaced as failed in 2017.
  • 4.13 — The average number of hard drives that have failed each day in 2017.
  • 6,795 — The number of hard drives that have failed from April 2013 until the end of December 2017.
  • 3.94 — The average number of hard drives that have failed each day from April 2013 until the end of December 2017.

Can’t Get Enough Hard Drive Stats?

We’ll be presenting the webinar “Backblaze Hard Drive Stats for 2017” on Thursday February 9, 2017 at 10:00 Pacific time. The webinar will dig deeper into the quarterly, yearly, and lifetime hard drive stats and include the annual and lifetime stats by drive size and manufacturer. You will need to subscribe to the Backblaze BrightTALK channel to view the webinar. Sign up today.

As a reminder, the complete data set used to create the information used in this review is available on our Hard Drive Test Data page. You can download and use this data for free for your own purpose. All we ask are three things: 1) you cite Backblaze as the source if you use the data, 2) you accept that you are solely responsible for how you use the data, and 3) you do not sell this data to anyone — it is free.

Good luck and let us know if you find anything interesting.

The post Backblaze Hard Drive Stats for 2017 appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Astro Pi Mission Zero: your code is in space

Post Syndicated from David Honess original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/astro-pi-mission-zero-day/

Every school year, we run the European Astro Pi challenge to find the next generation of space scientists who will program two space-hardened Raspberry Pi units, called Astro Pis, living aboard the International Space Station.

Italian ESA Astronaut Paolo Nespoli with the Astro Pi units. Image credit ESA.

Astro Pi Mission Zero

The 2017–2018 challenge included the brand-new non-competitive Mission Zero, which guaranteed that participants could have their code run on the ISS for 30 seconds, provided they followed the rules. They would also get a certificate showing the exact time period during which their code ran in space.

Astro Pi Mission Zero logo

We asked participants to write a simple Python program to display a personalised message and the air temperature on the Astro Pi screen. No special hardware was needed, since all the code could be written in a web browser using the Sense HAT emulator developed in partnership with Trinket.

Scott McKenzie on Twitter

Students coding #astropi emulator to scroll a message to astronauts on @Raspberry_Pi in space this summer. Try it here: https://t.co/0KURq11X0L #Rm9Parents #CSforAll #ontariocodes

And now it’s time…

We received over 2500 entries for Mission Zero, and we’re excited to announce that tomorrow all entries with flight status will be run on the ISS…in SPAAACE!

There are 1771 Python programs with flight status, which will run back-to-back on Astro Pi VIS (Ed). The whole process will take about 14 hours. This means that everyone will get a timestamp showing 1 February, so we’re going to call this day Mission Zero Day!

Part of each team’s certificate will be a map, like the one below, showing the exact location of the ISS while the team’s code was running.

The grey line is the ISS orbital path, the red marker shows the ISS’s location when their code was running. Produced using Google Static Maps API.

The programs will be run in the same sequence in which we received them. For operational reasons, we can’t guarantee that they will run while the ISS flies over any particular location. However, if you have submitted an entry to Mission Zero, there is a chance that your code will run while the ISS is right overhead!

Go out and spot the station

Spotting the ISS is a great activity to do by yourself or with your students. The station looks like a very fast-moving star that crosses the sky in just a few minutes. If you know when and where to look, and it’s not cloudy, you literally can’t miss it.

Source Andreas Möller, Wikimedia Commons.

The ISS passes over most ground locations about twice a day. For it to be clearly visible though, you need darkness on the ground with sunlight on the ISS due to its altitude. There are a number of websites which can tell you when these visible passes occur, such as NASA’s Spot the Station. Each of the sites requires you to give your location so it can work out when visible passes will occur near you.

Visible ISS pass star chart from Heavens Above, on which familiar constellations such as the Plough (see label Ursa Major) can be seen.

A personal favourite of mine is Heavens Above. It’s slightly more fiddly to use than other sites, but it produces brilliant star charts that show you precisely where to look in the sky. This is how it works:

  1. Go to www.heavens-above.com
  2. To set your location, click on Unspecified in the top right-hand corner
  3. Enter your location (e.g. Cambridge, United Kingdom) into the text box and click Search
  4. The map should change to the correct location — scroll down and click Update
  5. You’ll be taken back to the homepage, but with your location showing at the top right
  6. Click on ISS in the Satellites section
  7. A table of dates will now show, which are the upcoming visible passes for your location
  8. Click on a row to view the star chart for that pass — the line is the path of the ISS, and the arrow shows direction of travel
  9. Be outside in cloudless weather at the start time, look towards the direction where the line begins, and hope the skies stay clear

If you go out and do this, then tweet some pictures to @raspberry_pi, @astro_pi, and @esa. Good luck!

More Astro Pi

Mission Zero certificates will be arriving in participants’ inboxes shortly. We would like to thank everyone who participated in Mission Zero this school year, and we hope that next time you’ll take it one step further and try Mission Space Lab.

Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab are two really exciting programmes that young people of all ages can take part in. If you would like to be notified when the next round of Astro Pi opens for registrations, sign up to our mailing list here.

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MagPi 66: Raspberry Pi media projects for your home

Post Syndicated from Rob Zwetsloot original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/magpi-66-media-pi/

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! Issue 66 of The MagPi is out right now, with the ultimate guide to powering your home media with Raspberry Pi. We think the Pi is the perfect replacement or upgrade for many media devices, so in this issue we show you how to build a range of Raspberry Pi media projects.

MagPi 66

Yes, it does say Pac-Man robotics on the cover. They’re very cool.

The article covers file servers for sharing media across your network, music streaming boxes that connect to Spotify, a home theatre PC to make your TV-watching more relaxing, a futuristic Pi-powered moving photoframe, and even an Alexa voice assistant to control all these devices!

More to see

That’s not all though — The MagPi 66 also shows you how to build a Raspberry Pi cluster computer, how to control LEGO robots using the GPIO, and why your Raspberry Pi isn’t affected by Spectre and Meltdown.




In addition, you’ll also find our usual selection of product reviews and excellent project showcases.

Get The MagPi 66

Issue 66 is available today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

Subscribe for free goodies

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine, and get some cool free stuff? If you take out a twelve-month print subscription to The MagPi, you’ll get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.

I hope you enjoy this issue! See you next month.

The post MagPi 66: Raspberry Pi media projects for your home appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

e-paper pocket money tracker using Monzo pots

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/monzo-money-tracker/

Jason Barnett used the pots feature of the Monzo banking API to create a simple e-paper display so that his kids can keep track of their pocket money.

Monzo ePaper Pot Jason Barnett Raspberry Pi

Monzo

For those outside the UK: Monzo is a smartphone-based bank that allows costumers to manage their money and payment cards via an app, removing the bank clerk middleman.

In the Monzo banking app, users can set up pots, which allow them to organise their money into various, you guessed it, pots. You want to put aside holiday funds, budget your food shopping, or, like Jason, manage your kids’ pocket money? Using pots is an easy way to do it.

Jason’s Monzo Pot ePaper tracker

After failed attempts at keeping track of his sons’ pocket money via a scrap of paper stuck to the fridge, Jason decided to try a new approach.

He started his build by installing Stretch Lite to the SD card of his Raspberry Pi Zero W. “The Pi will be running headless (without screen, mouse or keyboard)”, he explains on his blog, “so there is no need for a full-fat Raspbian image.” While Stretch Lite was downloading, he set up the Waveshare ePaper HAT on his Zero W. He notes that Pimoroni’s “Inky pHAT would be easiest,” but his tutorial is specific to the Waveshare device.

Monzo ePaper Pot Jason Barnett Raspberry Pi

Before ejecting the SD card, Jason updated the boot partition to allow him to access the Pi via SSH. He talks makers through that process here.

Among the libraries he installed for the project is pyMonzo, a Python wrapper for the Monzo API created by Paweł Adamczak. Monzo is still in its infancy, and the API is partly under construction. Until it’s completed, Paweł’s wrapper offers a more stable way to use it.

After installing the software, it was time to set up the e-paper screen for the tracker. Jason adjusted the code for the API so that the screen reloads information every 15 minutes, displaying the up-to-date amount of pocket money in both kids’ pots.

Here is how Jason describes going to the supermarket with his sons, now that he has completed the tracker:

“Daddy, I want (insert first thing picked up here), I’ve always wanted one of these my whole life!” […] Even though you have never seen that (insert thing here) before, I can quickly open my Monzo app, flick to Account, and say “You have £3.50 in your money box”. If my boy wants it, a 2-second withdrawal is made whilst queueing, and done — he walks away with a new (again, insert whatever he wanted his whole life here) and is happy!

Jason’s blog offers a full breakdown of his project, including all necessary code and the specs for the physical build. Be sure to head over and check it out.

Have you used an API in your projects? What would you build with one?

The post e-paper pocket money tracker using Monzo pots appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

BitTorrent Client Transmission Suffers Remote Takeover Vulnerability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-client-transmission-suffers-remote-takeover-vulnerability-180116/

With millions of active users, Transmission is one of the most used BitTorrent clients around, particularly for Mac users.

The application has been around for more than a decade and has a great reputation. However, as with any other type of software, it is not immune to vulnerabilities.

One rather concerning flaw was made public by Google vulnerability researcher Tavis Ormandy a few days ago. The flaw allows outsiders to gain access to Transmission via DNS rebinding. This ultimately allows attackers to control the BitTorrent client and execute custom code.

Ormandy has published a patch, which was also shared with the private Transmission security list at the end of November. Transmission, however, has yet to address the issue in an update.

The relatively slow response was the reason why Ormandy decided to make it public before Project Zero’s usual 90-day window expired, Ars highlights. This allows other projects to address the vulnerability right away.

“I’m finding it frustrating that the transmission developers are not responding on their private security list,” Google’s vulnerability researcher writes. “I’ve never had an opensource project take this long to fix a vulnerability before, so I usually don’t even mention the 90 day limit if the vulnerability is in an open source project.”

A member of the Transmission developer team informed Ars that they will address this ASAP, noting that the issue only affects users who have remote control enabled with the default password. This means that people who disable it or change their password can easily ‘patch’ it until the official update comes out.

Interestingly, this isn’t the last BitTorrent related vulnerability Ormandy plans to expose. According to one of his tweets on the matter, this is just the “first of a few remote code execution flaws in various popular torrent clients.”

Judging from a message the researcher sent late November, uTorrent is on the list as well. Apparently, the company’s security email address wasn’t set up correctly at the time, so BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen has been acting as a forwarding service.

uTorrent?

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

Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow

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

Cash flow projection charts

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

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

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

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

Raising Your Initial Funding

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

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

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

Sources of Funding

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

Customers

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

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

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

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

Investors

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

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

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

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

Debt

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

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

Grants

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

At Backblaze, we used a number of these options:

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

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

GAAP vs. Cash

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

Stages of Cash Flow Management

All-spend

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

Sales-generating

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

Ramen-profitable

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

Business-profitable

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

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

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

Cash Flow Forecasting

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

Two things to consider:

1) Unit Economics (COGS)

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

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

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

2) Operating Expenses (OpEx)

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

Incremental Net Profit Per Unit

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

Calculating Your Profit

The math on getting to ramen-profitable is simple:

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

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

Improving Cash Flow

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

There are two ways to improve cash flow:

1) Collect More Cash

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

2) Spend Less Cash

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

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

Be Careful (Why GAAP Matters)

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

Summary

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

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

Zero WH: pre-soldered headers and what to do with them

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/zero-wh/

If you head over to the website of your favourite Raspberry Pi Approved Reseller today, you may find the new Zero WH available to purchase. But what it is? Why is it different, and what can you do with it?

Raspberry Pi Zero WH

“If you like pre-soldered headers, and getting caught in the rain…”

Raspberry Pi Zero WH

Imagine a Raspberry Pi Zero W. Now add a professionally soldered header. Boom, that’s the Raspberry Pi Zero WH! It’s your same great-tasting Pi, with a brand-new…crust? It’s perfect for everyone who doesn’t own a soldering iron or who wants the soldering legwork done for them.

What you can do with the Zero WH

What can’t you do? Am I right?! The small size of the Zero W makes it perfect for projects with minimal wiggle-room. In such projects, some people have no need for GPIO pins — they simply solder directly to the board. However, there are many instances where you do want a header on your Zero W, for example in order to easily take advantage of the GPIO expander tool for Debian Stretch on a PC or Mac.

GPIO expander in clubs and classrooms

As Ben Nuttall explains in his blog post on the topic:

[The GPIO expander tool] is a real game-changer for Raspberry Jams, Code Clubs, CoderDojos, and schools. You can live boot the Raspberry Pi Desktop OS from a USB stick, use Linux PCs, or even install [the Pi OS] on old computers. Then you have really simple access to physical computing without full Raspberry Pi setups, and with no SD cards to configure.

Using the GPIO expander with the Raspberry Pi Zero WH decreases the setup cost for anyone interested in trying out physical computing in the classroom or at home. (And once you’ve stuck your toes in, you’ll obviously fall in love and will soon find yourself with multiple Raspberry Pi models, HATs aplenty, and an area in your home dedicated to your new adventure in Raspberry Pi. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Other uses for a Zero W with a header

The GPIO expander setup is just one of a multitude of uses for a Raspberry Pi Zero W with a header. You may want the header for prototyping before you commit to soldering wires directly to a board. Or you may have a temporary build in mind for your Zero W, in which case you won’t want to commit to soldering wires to the board at all.

Raspberry Pi Zero WH

Your use case may be something else entirely — tell us in the comments below how you’d utilise a pre-soldered Raspberry Pi Zero WH in your project. The best project idea will receive ten imaginary house points of absolutely no practical use, but immense emotional value. Decide amongst yourselves who you believe should win them — I’m going to go waste a few more hours playing SLUG!

The post Zero WH: pre-soldered headers and what to do with them appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Create SLUG! It’s just like Snake, but with a slug

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/slug-snake/

Recreate Snake, the favourite mobile phone game from the late nineties, using a slug*, a Raspberry Pi, a Sense HAT, and our free resource!

Raspberry Pi Sense HAT Slug free resource

*A virtual slug. Not a real slug. Please leave the real slugs out in nature.

Snake SLUG!

Move aside, Angry Birds! On your bike, Pokémon Go! When it comes to the cream of the crop of mobile phone games, Snake holds the top spot.

Snake Nokia Game

I could while away the hours…

You may still have an old Nokia 3310 lost in the depths of a drawer somewhere — the drawer that won’t open all the way because something inside is jammed at an odd angle. So it will be far easier to grab your Pi and Sense HAT, or use the free Sense HAT emulator (online or on Raspbian), and code Snake SLUG yourself. In doing so, you can introduce the smaller residents of your household to the best reptile-focused game ever made…now with added mollusc.

The resource

To try out the game for yourself, head to our resource page, where you’ll find the online Sense HAT emulator embedded and ready to roll.

Raspberry Pi Sense HAT Slug free resource

It’ll look just like this, and you can use your computer’s arrow keys to direct your slug toward her tasty treats.

From there, you’ll be taken on a step-by-step journey from zero to SLUG glory while coding your own versionof the game in Python. On the way, you’ll learn to work with two-dimensional lists and to use the Sense HAT’s pixel display and joystick input. And by completing the resource, you’ll expand your understanding of applying abstraction and decomposition to solve more complex problems, in line with our Digital Making Curriculum.

The Sense HAT

The Raspberry Pi Sense HAT was originally designed and made as part of the Astro Pi mission in December 2015. With an 8×8 RGB LED matrix, a joystick, and a plethora of on-board sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer, it’s a great add-on for your digital making toolkit, and excellent for projects involving data collection and evaluation.

You can find more of our free Sense HAT tutorials here, including for making Flappy Bird Astronaut, a marble maze, and Pong.

The post Create SLUG! It’s just like Snake, but with a slug appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Turn your smartphone into a universal remote

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/zero-universal-remote/

Honolulu-based software developer bbtinkerer was tired of never being able to find the TV remote. So he made his own using a Raspberry Pi Zero, and connected it to a web app accessible on his smartphone.

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

Finding a remote alternative

“I needed one because the remote in my house tends to go missing a lot,” explains Bernard aka bbtinkerer on the Instructables page for his Raspberry Pi Zero Universal Remote.”If I want the controller, I have to hunt down three people and hope one of them remembers that they took it.”

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

For the build, Bernard used a Raspberry Pi Zero, an IR LED and corresponding receiver, Raspbian Lite, and a neat little 3D-printed housing.

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero
bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero
bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

First, he soldered a circuit for the LED and resistors on a small piece of perf board. Then he assembled the hardware components. Finally, all he needed to do was to write the code to control his devices (including a tower fan), and to set up the app.

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

Bernard employed the Linux Infrared Remote Control (LIRC) package to control the television with the Raspberry Pi Zero, accessing the Zero via SSH. He gives a complete rundown of the installation process on Instructables.

bbtinkerer universal remote Raspberry Pi zero

Setting up a remote’s buttons with LIRC is a simple case of pressing them and naming their functions one by one. You’ll need the remote to set up the system, but after that, feel free to lock it in a drawer and use your smartphone instead.



Finally, Bernard created the web interface using Node.js, and again, because he’s lovely, he published the code for anyone wanting to build their own. Thanks, Bernard!

Life hacks

If you’ve used a Raspberry Pi to build a time-saving life hack like Bernard’s, be sure to share it with us. Other favourites of ours include fridge cameras, phone app doorbell notifications, and Alan’s ocarina home automation system. I’m not sure if this last one can truly be considered a time-saving life hack. It’s still cool though!

The post Turn your smartphone into a universal remote appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Physics cheats

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/01/06/physics-cheats/

Anonymous asks:

something about how we tweak physics to “work” better in games?

Ho ho! Work. Get it? Like in physics…?

Hitboxes

Hitbox” is perhaps not the most accurate term, since the shape used for colliding with the environment and the shape used for detecting damage might be totally different. They’re usually the same in simple platformers, though, and that’s what most of my games have been.

The hitbox is the biggest physics fudge by far, and it exists because of a single massive approximation that (most) games make: you’re controlling a single entity in the abstract, not a physical body in great detail.

That is: when you walk with your real-world meat shell, you perform a complex dance of putting one foot in front of the other, a motion you spent years perfecting. When you walk in a video game, you press a single “walk” button. Your avatar may play an animation that moves its legs back and forth, but since you’re not actually controlling the legs independently (and since simulating them is way harder), the game just treats you like a simple shape. Fairly often, this is a box, or something very box-like.

An Eevee sprite standing on faux ground; the size of the underlying image and the hitbox are outlined

Since the player has no direct control over the exact placement of their limbs, it would be slightly frustrating to have them collide with the world. This is especially true in cases like the above, where the tail and left ear protrude significantly out from the main body. If that Eevee wanted to stand against a real-world wall, she would simply tilt her ear or tail out of the way, so there’s no reason for the ear to block her from standing against a game wall. To compensate for this, the ear and tail are left out of the collision box entirely and will simply jut into a wall if necessary — a goofy affordance that’s so common it doesn’t even register as unusual. As a bonus (assuming this same box is used for combat), she won’t take damage from projectiles that merely graze past an ear.

(One extra consideration for sprite games in particular: the hitbox ought to be horizontally symmetric around the sprite’s pivot — i.e. the point where the entity is truly considered to be standing — so that the hitbox doesn’t abruptly move when the entity turns around!)

Corners

Treating the player (and indeed most objects) as a box has one annoying side effect: boxes have corners. Corners can catch on other corners, even by a single pixel. Real-world bodies tend to be a bit rounder and squishier and this can tolerate grazing a corner; even real-world boxes will simply rotate a bit.

Ah, but in our faux physics world, we generally don’t want conscious actors (such as the player) to rotate, even with a realistic physics simulator! Real-world bodies are made of parts that will generally try to keep you upright, after all; you don’t tilt back and forth much.

One way to handle corners is to simply remove them from conscious actors. A hitbox doesn’t have to be a literal box, after all. A popular alternative — especially in Unity where it’s a standard asset — is the pill-shaped capsule, which has semicircles/hemispheres on the top and bottom and a cylindrical body in 3D. No corners, no problem.

Of course, that introduces a new problem: now the player can’t balance precariously on edges without their rounded bottom sliding them off. Alas.

If you’re stuck with corners, then, you may want to use a corner bump, a term I just made up. If the player would collide with a corner, but the collision is only by a few pixels, just nudge them to the side a bit and carry on.

An Eevee sprite trying to move sideways into a shallow ledge; the game bumps her upwards slightly, so she steps onto it instead

When the corner is horizontal, this creates stairs! This is, more or less kinda, how steps work in Doom: when the player tries to cross from one sector into another, if the height difference is 24 units or less, the game simply bumps them upwards to the height of the new floor and lets them continue on.

Implementing this in a game without Doom’s notion of sectors is a little trickier. In fact, I still haven’t done it. Collision detection based on rejection gets it for free, kinda, but it’s not very deterministic and it breaks other things. But that’s a whole other post.

Gravity

Gravity is pretty easy. Everything accelerates downwards all the time. What’s interesting are the exceptions.

Jumping

Jumping is a giant hack.

Think about how actual jumping works: you tense your legs, which generally involves bending your knees first, and then spring upwards. In a platformer, you can just leap whenever you feel like it, which is nonsense. Also you go like twenty feet into the air?

Worse, most platformers allow variable-height jumping, where your jump is lower if you let go of the jump button while you’re in the air. Normally, one would expect to have to decide how much force to put into the jump beforehand.

But of course this is about convenience of controls: when jumping is your primary action, you want to be able to do it immediately, without any windup for how high you want to jump.

(And then there’s double jumping? Come on.)

Air control is a similar phenomenon: usually you’d jump in a particular direction by controlling how you push off the ground with your feet, but in a video game, you don’t have feet! You only have the box. The compromise is to let you control your horizontal movement to a limit degree in midair, even though that doesn’t make any sense. (It’s way more fun, though, and overall gives you more movement options, which are good to have in an interactive medium.)

Air control also exposes an obvious place that game physics collide with the realistic model of serious physics engines. I’ve mentioned this before, but: if you use Real Physics™ and air control yourself into a wall, you might find that you’ll simply stick to the wall until you let go of the movement buttons. Why? Remember, player movement acts as though an external force were pushing you around (and from the perspective of a Real™ physics engine, this is exactly how you’d implement it) — so air-controlling into a wall is equivalent to pushing a book against a wall with your hand, and the friction with the wall holds you in place. Oops.

Ground sticking

Another place game physics conflict with physics engines is with running to the top of a slope. On a real hill, of course, you land on top of the slope and are probably glad of it; slopes are hard to climb!

An Eevee moves to the top of a slope, and rather than step onto the flat top, she goes flying off into the air

In a video game, you go flying. Because you’re a box. With momentum. So you hit the peak and keep going in the same direction. Which is diagonally upwards.

Projectiles

To make them more predictable, projectiles generally aren’t subject to gravity, at least as far as I’ve seen. The real world does not have such an exemption. The real world imposes gravity even on sniper rifles, which in a video game are often implemented as an instant trace unaffected by anything in the world because the bullet never actually exists in the world.

Resistance

Ah. Welcome to hell.

Water

Water is an interesting case, and offhand I don’t know the gritty details of how games implement it. In the real world, water applies a resistant drag force to movement — and that force is proportional to the square of velocity, which I’d completely forgotten until right now. I am almost positive that no game handles that correctly. But then, in real-world water, you can push against the water itself for movement, and games don’t simulate that either. What’s the rough equivalent?

The Sonic Physics Guide suggests that Sonic handles it by basically halving everything: acceleration, max speed, friction, etc. When Sonic enters water, his speed is cut; when Sonic exits water, his speed is increased.

That last bit feels validating — I could swear Metroid Prime did the same thing, and built my own solution around it, but couldn’t remember for sure. It makes no sense, of course, for a jump to become faster just because you happened to break the surface of the water, but it feels fantastic.

The thing I did was similar, except that I didn’t want to add a multiplier in a dozen places when you happen to be underwater (and remember which ones need it to be squared, etc.). So instead, I calculate everything completely as normal, so velocity is exactly the same as it would be on dry land — but the distance you would move gets halved. The effect seems to be pretty similar to most platformers with water, at least as far as I can tell. It hasn’t shown up in a published game and I only added this fairly recently, so I might be overlooking some reason this is a bad idea.

(One reason that comes to mind is that velocity is now a little white lie while underwater, so anything relying on velocity for interesting effects might be thrown off. Or maybe that’s correct, because velocity thresholds should be halved underwater too? Hm!)

Notably, air is also a fluid, so it should behave the same way (just with different constants). I definitely don’t think any games apply air drag that’s proportional to the square of velocity.

Friction

Friction is, in my experience, a little handwaved. Probably because real-world friction is so darn complicated.

Consider that in the real world, we want very high friction on the surfaces we walk on — shoes and tires are explicitly designed to increase it, even. We move by bracing a back foot against the ground and using that to push ourselves forward, so we want the ground to resist our push as much as possible.

In a game world, we are a box. We move by being pushed by some invisible outside force, so if the friction between ourselves and the ground is too high, we won’t be able to move at all! That’s complete nonsense physically, but it turns out to be handy in some cases — for example, highish friction can simulate walking through deep mud, which should be difficult due to fluid drag and low friction.

But the best-known example of the fakeness of game friction is video game ice. Walking on real-world ice is difficult because the low friction means low grip; your feet are likely to slip out from under you, and you’ll simply fall down and have trouble moving at all. In a video game, you can’t fall down, so you have the opposite experience: you spend most of your time sliding around uncontrollably. Yet ice is so common in video games (and perhaps so uncommon in places I’ve lived) that I, at least, had never really thought about this disparity until an hour or so ago.

Game friction vs real-world friction

Real-world friction is a force. It’s the normal force (which is the force exerted by the object on the surface) times some constant that depends on how the two materials interact.

Force is mass times acceleration, and platformers often ignore mass, so friction ought to be an acceleration — applied against the object’s movement, but never enough to push it backwards.

I haven’t made any games where variable friction plays a significant role, but my gut instinct is that low friction should mean the player accelerates more slowly but has a higher max speed, and high friction should mean the opposite. I see from my own source code that I didn’t even do what I just said, so let’s defer to some better-made and well-documented games: Sonic and Doom.

In Sonic, friction is a fixed value subtracted from the player’s velocity (regardless of direction) each tic. Sonic has a fixed framerate, so the units are really pixels per tic squared (i.e. acceleration), multiplied by an implicit 1 tic per tic. So far, so good.

But Sonic’s friction only applies if the player isn’t pressing or . Hang on, that isn’t friction at all; that’s just deceleration! That’s equivalent to jogging to a stop. If friction were lower, Sonic would take longer to stop, but otherwise this is only tangentially related to friction.

(In fairness, this approach would decently emulate friction for non-conscious sliding objects, which are never going to be pressing movement buttons. Also, we don’t have the Sonic source code, and the name “friction” is a fan invention; the Sonic Physics Guide already uses “deceleration” to describe the player’s acceleration when turning around.)

Okay, let’s try Doom. In Doom, the default friction is 90.625%.

Hang on, what?

Yes, in Doom, friction is a multiplier applied every tic. Doom runs at 35 tics per second, so this is a multiplier of 0.032 per second. Yikes!

This isn’t anything remotely like real friction, but it’s much easier to implement. With friction as acceleration, the game has to know both the direction of movement (so it can apply friction in the opposite direction) and the magnitude (so it doesn’t overshoot and launch the object in the other direction). That means taking a semi-costly square root and also writing extra code to cap the amount of friction. With a multiplier, neither is necessary; just multiply the whole velocity vector and you’re done.

There are some downsides. One is that objects will never actually stop, since multiplying by 3% repeatedly will never produce a result of zero — though eventually the speed will become small enough to either slip below a “minimum speed” threshold or simply no longer fit in a float representation. Another is that the units are fairly meaningless: with Doom’s default friction of 90.625%, about how long does it take for the player to stop? I have no idea, partly because “stop” is ambiguous here! If friction were an acceleration, I could divide it into the player’s max speed to get a time.

All that aside, what are the actual effects of changing Doom’s friction? What an excellent question that’s surprisingly tricky to answer. (Note that friction can’t be changed in original Doom, only in the Boom port and its derivatives.) Here’s what I’ve pieced together.

Doom’s “friction” is really two values. “Friction” itself is a multiplier applied to moving objects on every tic, but there’s also a move factor which defaults to \(\frac{1}{32} = 0.03125\) and is derived from friction for custom values.

Every tic, the player’s velocity is multiplied by friction, and then increased by their speed times the move factor.

$$
v(n) = v(n – 1) \times friction + speed \times move factor
$$

Eventually, the reduction from friction will balance out the speed boost. That happens when \(v(n) = v(n – 1)\), so we can rearrange it to find the player’s effective max speed:

$$
v = v \times friction + speed \times move factor \\
v – v \times friction = speed \times move factor \\
v = speed \times \frac{move factor}{1 – friction}
$$

For vanilla Doom’s move factor of 0.03125 and friction of 0.90625, that becomes:

$$
v = speed \times \frac{\frac{1}{32}}{1 – \frac{29}{32}} = speed \times \frac{\frac{1}{32}}{\frac{3}{32}} = \frac{1}{3} \times speed
$$

Curiously, “speed” is three times the maximum speed an actor can actually move. Doomguy’s run speed is 50, so in practice he moves a third of that, or 16⅔ units per tic. (Of course, this isn’t counting SR40, a bug that lets Doomguy run ~40% faster than intended diagonally.)

So now, what if you change friction? Even more curiously, the move factor is calculated completely differently depending on whether friction is higher or lower than the default Doom amount:

$$
move factor = \begin{cases}
\frac{133 – 128 \times friction}{544} &≈ 0.244 – 0.235 \times friction & \text{ if } friction \ge \frac{29}{32} \\
\frac{81920 \times friction – 70145}{1048576} &≈ 0.078 \times friction – 0.067 & \text{ otherwise }
\end{cases}
$$

That’s pretty weird? Complicating things further is that low friction (which means muddy terrain, remember) has an extra multiplier on its move factor, depending on how fast you’re already going — the idea is apparently that you have a hard time getting going, but it gets easier as you find your footing. The extra multiplier maxes out at 8, which makes the two halves of that function meet at the vanilla Doom value.

A graph of the relationship between friction and move factor

That very top point corresponds to the move factor from the original game. So no matter what you do to friction, the move factor becomes lower. At 0.85 and change, you can no longer move at all; below that, you move backwards.

From the formula above, it’s easy to see what changes to friction and move factor will do to Doomguy’s stable velocity. Move factor is in the numerator, so increasing it will increase stable velocity — but it can’t increase, so stable velocity can only ever decrease. Friction is in the denominator, but it’s subtracted from 1, so increasing friction will make the denominator a smaller value less than 1, i.e. increase stable velocity. Combined, we get this relationship between friction and stable velocity.

A graph showing stable velocity shooting up dramatically as friction increases

As friction approaches 1, stable velocity grows without bound. This makes sense, given the definition of \(v(n)\) — if friction is 1, the velocity from the previous tic isn’t reduced at all, so we just keep accelerating freely.

All of this is why I’m wary of using multipliers.

Anyway, this leaves me with one last question about the effects of Doom’s friction: how long does it take to reach stable velocity? Barring precision errors, we’ll never truly reach stable velocity, but let’s say within 5%. First we need a closed formula for the velocity after some number of tics. This is a simple recurrence relation, and you can write a few terms out yourself if you want to be sure this is right.

$$
v(n) = v_0 \times friction^n + speed \times move factor \times \frac{friction^n – 1}{friction – 1}
$$

Our initial velocity is zero, so the first term disappears. Set this equal to the stable formula and solve for n:

$$
speed \times move factor \times \frac{friction^n – 1}{friction – 1} = (1 – 5\%) \times speed \times \frac{move factor}{1 – friction} \\
friction^n – 1 = -(1 – 5\%) \\
n = \frac{\ln 5\%}{\ln friction}
$$

Speed” and move factor disappear entirely, which makes sense, and this is purely a function of friction (and how close we want to get). For vanilla Doom, that comes out to 30.4, which is a little less than a second. For other values of friction:

A graph of time to stability which leaps upwards dramatically towards the right

As friction increases (which in Doom terms means the surface is more slippery), it takes longer and longer to reach stable speed, which is in turn greater and greater. For lesser friction (i.e. mud), stable speed is lower, but reached fairly quickly. (Of course, the extra “getting going” multiplier while in mud adds some extra time here, but including that in the graph is a bit more complicated.)

I think this matches with my instincts above. How fascinating!

What’s that? This is way too much math and you hate it? Then don’t use multipliers in game physics.

Uh

That was a hell of a diversion!

I guess the goofiest stuff in basic game physics is really just about mapping player controls to in-game actions like jumping and deceleration; the rest consists of hacks to compensate for representing everything as a box.

Why Raspberry Pi isn’t vulnerable to Spectre or Meltdown

Post Syndicated from Eben Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/why-raspberry-pi-isnt-vulnerable-to-spectre-or-meltdown/

Over the last couple of days, there has been a lot of discussion about a pair of security vulnerabilities nicknamed Spectre and Meltdown. These affect all modern Intel processors, and (in the case of Spectre) many AMD processors and ARM cores. Spectre allows an attacker to bypass software checks to read data from arbitrary locations in the current address space; Meltdown allows an attacker to read arbitrary data from the operating system kernel’s address space (which should normally be inaccessible to user programs).

Both vulnerabilities exploit performance features (caching and speculative execution) common to many modern processors to leak data via a so-called side-channel attack. Happily, the Raspberry Pi isn’t susceptible to these vulnerabilities, because of the particular ARM cores that we use.

To help us understand why, here’s a little primer on some concepts in modern processor design. We’ll illustrate these concepts using simple programs in Python syntax like this one:

t = a+b
u = c+d
v = e+f
w = v+g
x = h+i
y = j+k

While the processor in your computer doesn’t execute Python directly, the statements here are simple enough that they roughly correspond to a single machine instruction. We’re going to gloss over some details (notably pipelining and register renaming) which are very important to processor designers, but which aren’t necessary to understand how Spectre and Meltdown work.

For a comprehensive description of processor design, and other aspects of modern computer architecture, you can’t do better than Hennessy and Patterson’s classic Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach.

What is a scalar processor?

The simplest sort of modern processor executes one instruction per cycle; we call this a scalar processor. Our example above will execute in six cycles on a scalar processor.

Examples of scalar processors include the Intel 486 and the ARM1176 core used in Raspberry Pi 1 and Raspberry Pi Zero.

What is a superscalar processor?

The obvious way to make a scalar processor (or indeed any processor) run faster is to increase its clock speed. However, we soon reach limits of how fast the logic gates inside the processor can be made to run; processor designers therefore quickly began to look for ways to do several things at once.

An in-order superscalar processor examines the incoming stream of instructions and tries execute more than one at once, in one of several “pipes”, subject to dependencies between the instructions. Dependencies are important: you might think that a two-way superscalar processor could just pair up (or dual-issue) the six instructions in our example like this:

t, u = a+b, c+d
v, w = e+f, v+g
x, y = h+i, j+k

But this doesn’t make sense: we have to compute v before we can compute w, so the third and fourth instructions can’t be executed at the same time. Our two-way superscalar processor won’t be able to find anything to pair with the third instruction, so our example will execute in four cycles:

t, u = a+b, c+d
v    = e+f                   # second pipe does nothing here
w, x = v+g, h+i
y    = j+k

Examples of superscalar processors include the Intel Pentium, and the ARM Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A53 cores used in Raspberry Pi 2 and Raspberry Pi 3 respectively. Raspberry Pi 3 has only a 33% higher clock speed than Raspberry Pi 2, but has roughly double the performance: the extra performance is partly a result of Cortex-A53’s ability to dual-issue a broader range of instructions than Cortex-A7.

What is an out-of-order processor?

Going back to our example, we can see that, although we have a dependency between v and w, we have other independent instructions later in the program that we could potentially have used to fill the empty pipe during the second cycle. An out-of-order superscalar processor has the ability to shuffle the order of incoming instructions (again subject to dependencies) in order to keep its pipelines busy.

An out-of-order processor might effectively swap the definitions of w and x in our example like this:

t = a+b
u = c+d
v = e+f
x = h+i
w = v+g
y = j+k

allowing it to execute in three cycles:

t, u = a+b, c+d
v, x = e+f, h+i
w, y = v+g, j+k

Examples of out-of-order processors include the Intel Pentium 2 (and most subsequent Intel and AMD x86 processors), and many recent ARM cores, including Cortex-A9, -A15, -A17, and -A57.

What is speculation?

Reordering sequential instructions is a powerful way to recover more instruction-level parallelism, but as processors become wider (able to triple- or quadruple-issue instructions) it becomes harder to keep all those pipes busy. Modern processors have therefore grown the ability to speculate. Speculative execution lets us issue instructions which might turn out not to be required (because they are branched over): this keeps a pipe busy, and if it turns out that the instruction isn’t executed, we can just throw the result away.

To demonstrate the benefits of speculation, let’s look at another example:

t = a+b
u = t+c
v = u+d
if v:
   w = e+f
   x = w+g
   y = x+h

Now we have dependencies from t to u to v, and from w to x to y, so a two-way out-of-order processor without speculation won’t ever be able to fill its second pipe. It spends three cycles computing t, u, and v, after which it knows whether the body of the if statement will execute, in which case it then spends three cycles computing w, x, and y. Assuming the if (a branch instruction) takes one cycle, our example takes either four cycles (if v turns out to be zero) or seven cycles (if v is non-zero).

Speculation effectively shuffles the program like this:

t = a+b
u = t+c
v = u+d
w_ = e+f
x_ = w_+g
y_ = x_+h
if v:
   w, x, y = w_, x_, y_

so we now have additional instruction level parallelism to keep our pipes busy:

t, w_ = a+b, e+f
u, x_ = t+c, w_+g
v, y_ = u+d, x_+h
if v:
   w, x, y = w_, x_, y_

Cycle counting becomes less well defined in speculative out-of-order processors, but the branch and conditional update of w, x, and y are (approximately) free, so our example executes in (approximately) three cycles.

What is a cache?

In the good old days*, the speed of processors was well matched with the speed of memory access. My BBC Micro, with its 2MHz 6502, could execute an instruction roughly every 2µs (microseconds), and had a memory cycle time of 0.25µs. Over the ensuing 35 years, processors have become very much faster, but memory only modestly so: a single Cortex-A53 in a Raspberry Pi 3 can execute an instruction roughly every 0.5ns (nanoseconds), but can take up to 100ns to access main memory.

At first glance, this sounds like a disaster: every time we access memory, we’ll end up waiting for 100ns to get the result back. In this case, this example:

a = mem[0]
b = mem[1]

would take 200ns.

In practice, programs tend to access memory in relatively predictable ways, exhibiting both temporal locality (if I access a location, I’m likely to access it again soon) and spatial locality (if I access a location, I’m likely to access a nearby location soon). Caching takes advantage of these properties to reduce the average cost of access to memory.

A cache is a small on-chip memory, close to the processor, which stores copies of the contents of recently used locations (and their neighbours), so that they are quickly available on subsequent accesses. With caching, the example above will execute in a little over 100ns:

a = mem[0]    # 100ns delay, copies mem[0:15] into cache
b = mem[1]    # mem[1] is in the cache

From the point of view of Spectre and Meltdown, the important point is that if you can time how long a memory access takes, you can determine whether the address you accessed was in the cache (short time) or not (long time).

What is a side channel?

From Wikipedia:

“… a side-channel attack is any attack based on information gained from the physical implementation of a cryptosystem, rather than brute force or theoretical weaknesses in the algorithms (compare cryptanalysis). For example, timing information, power consumption, electromagnetic leaks or even sound can provide an extra source of information, which can be exploited to break the system.”

Spectre and Meltdown are side-channel attacks which deduce the contents of a memory location which should not normally be accessible by using timing to observe whether another location is present in the cache.

Putting it all together

Now let’s look at how speculation and caching combine to permit the Meltdown attack. Consider the following example, which is a user program that sometimes reads from an illegal (kernel) address:

t = a+b
u = t+c
v = u+d
if v:
   w = kern_mem[address]   # if we get here crash
   x = w&0x100
   y = user_mem[x]

Now our out-of-order two-way superscalar processor shuffles the program like this:

t, w_ = a+b, kern_mem[address]
u, x_ = t+c, w_&0x100
v, y_ = u+d, user_mem[x_]

if v:
   # crash
   w, x, y = w_, x_, y_      # we never get here

Even though the processor always speculatively reads from the kernel address, it must defer the resulting fault until it knows that v was non-zero. On the face of it, this feels safe because either:

  • v is zero, so the result of the illegal read isn’t committed to w
  • v is non-zero, so the program crashes before the read is committed to w

However, suppose we flush our cache before executing the code, and arrange a, b, c, and d so that v is zero. Now, the speculative load in the third cycle:

v, y_ = u+d, user_mem[x_]

will read from either address 0x000 or address 0x100 depending on the eighth bit of the result of the illegal read. Because v is zero, the results of the speculative instructions will be discarded, and execution will continue. If we time a subsequent access to one of those addresses, we can determine which address is in the cache. Congratulations: you’ve just read a single bit from the kernel’s address space!

The real Meltdown exploit is more complex than this, but the principle is the same. Spectre uses a similar approach to subvert software array bounds checks.

Conclusion

Modern processors go to great lengths to preserve the abstraction that they are in-order scalar machines that access memory directly, while in fact using a host of techniques including caching, instruction reordering, and speculation to deliver much higher performance than a simple processor could hope to achieve. Meltdown and Spectre are examples of what happens when we reason about security in the context of that abstraction, and then encounter minor discrepancies between the abstraction and reality.

The lack of speculation in the ARM1176, Cortex-A7, and Cortex-A53 cores used in Raspberry Pi render us immune to attacks of the sort.

* days may not be that old, or that good

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The disclosure on the processor bugs

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/742744/rss

The rumored bugs in Intel (and beyond) processors have now been disclosed:
they are called Meltdown and
Spectre
, and have the requisite cute logos. Stay tuned for more.

See also: this Project
Zero
blog post. “Variants of this issue are known to affect many
modern processors, including certain processors by Intel, AMD and ARM. For
a few Intel and AMD CPU models, we have exploits that work against real
software. We reported this issue to Intel, AMD and ARM on
2017-06-01.

See also: this
Google blog posting
on how it affects users of Google products in
particular. “[Android] devices with the latest security update are
protected. Furthermore, we are unaware of any successful reproduction of
this vulnerability that would allow unauthorized information disclosure on
ARM-based Android devices. Supported Nexus and Pixel devices with the
latest security update are protected.

A hedgehog cam or two

Post Syndicated from Helen Lynn original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/a-hedgehog-cam-or-two/

Here we are, hauling ourselves out of the Christmas and New Year holidays and into January proper. It’s dawning on me that I have to go back to work, even though it’s still very cold and gloomy in northern Europe, and even though my duvet is lovely and warm. I found myself envying beings that hibernate, and thinking about beings that hibernate, and searching for things to do with hedgehogs. And, well, the long and the short of it is, today’s blog post is a short meditation on the hedgehog cam.

A hedgehog in a garden, photographed in infrared light by a hedgehog cam

Success! It’s a hedgehog!
Photo by Andrew Wedgbury

Hedgehog watching

Someone called Barker has installed a Raspberry Pi–based hedgehog cam in a location with a distant view of a famous Alp, and as well as providing live views by visible and infrared light for the dedicated and the insomniac, they also make a sped-up version of the previous night’s activity available. With hedgehogs usually being in hibernation during January, you mightn’t see them in any current feed — but don’t worry! You’re guaranteed a few hedgehogs on Barker’s website, because they have also thrown in some lovely GIFs of hoggy (and foxy) divas that their camera captured in the past.

A Hedgehog eating from a bowl on a patio, captured by a hedgehog cam

Nom nom nom!
GIF by Barker’s Site

Build your own hedgehog cam

For pointers on how to replicate this kind of setup, you could do worse than turn to Andrew Wedgbury’s hedgehog cam write-up. Andrew’s Twitter feed reveals that he’s a Cambridge local, and there are hints that he was behind RealVNC’s hoggy mascot for Pi Wars 2017.

RealVNC on Twitter

Another day at the office: testing our #PiWars mascot using a @Raspberry_Pi 3, #VNC Connect and @4tronix_uk Picon Zero. Name suggestions? https://t.co/iYY3xAX9Bk

Our infrared bird box and time-lapse camera resources will also set you well on the way towards your own custom wildlife camera. For a kit that wraps everything up in a weatherproof enclosure made with love, time, and serious amounts of design and testing, take a look at Naturebytes’ wildlife cam kit.

Or, if you’re thinking that a robot mascot is more dependable than real animals for the fluffiness you need in order to start your January with something like productivity and with your soul intact, you might like to put your own spin on our robot buggy.

Happy 2018

While we’re on the subject of getting to grips with the new year, do take a look at yesterday’s blog post, in which we suggest a New Year’s project that’s different from the usual resolutions. However you tackle 2018, we wish you an excellent year of creative computing.

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