Links for 2014-09-17

  • Texas Judge References ‘The Big Lebowski’

    “The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is similarly suspicious of prior restraints,” wrote Justice Lehrmann in the decision highlighting a cornerstone that has “been reaffirmed time and again by the Supreme Court, this Court, Texas courts of appeals, legal treatises, and even popular culture.” That last reference to popular culture contained an interesting footnote citing none other than Walter Sobchak, a character in ['The Big Lebowski'].

    (tags: lebowski movies coen-brothers prior-restraint law supreme-court walter-sobchak funny)

  • on using JSON as a config file format

    Ben Hughes on twitter: “JSON is fine for config files, if you don’t want to comment your config file. Which is a way of saying, it isn’t fine for config files.”

    (tags: ben-hughes funny json file-formats config-files configuration software coding)

  • Understanding weak isolation is a serious problem

    Peter Bailis complaining about the horrors of modern transactional databases and their unserializability, which noone seems to be paying attention to: ‘As you’re probably aware, there’s an ongoing and often lively debate between transactional adherents and more recent “NoSQL” upstarts about related issues of usability, data corruption, and performance. But, in contrast, many of these transactional inherents and the research community as a whole have effectively ignored weak isolation — even in a single server setting and despite the fact that literally millions of businesses today depend on weak isolation and that many of these isolation levels have been around for almost three decades.’ ‘Despite the ubiquity of weak isolation, I haven’t found a database architect, researcher, or user who’s been able to offer an explanation of when, and, probably more importantly, why isolation models such as Read Committed are sufficient for correct execution. It’s reasonably well known that these weak isolation models represent “ACID in practice,” but I don’t think we have any real understanding of how so many applications are seemingly (!?) okay running under them. (If you haven’t seen these models before, they’re a little weird. For example, Read Committed isolation generally prevents users from reading uncommitted or non-final writes but allows a number of bad things to happen, like lost updates during concurrent read-modify-write operations. Why is this apparently okay for many applications?)’

    (tags: acid consistency databases peter-bailis transactional corruption serializability isolation reliability)

  • “Left-Right: A Concurrency Control Technique with Wait-Free Population Oblivious Reads” [pdf]

    ‘In this paper, we describe a generic concurrency control technique with Blocking write operations and Wait-Free Population Oblivious read operations, which we named the Left-Right technique. It is of particular interest for real-time applications with dedicated Reader threads, due to its wait-free property that gives strong latency guarantees and, in addition, there is no need for automatic Garbage Collection. The Left-Right pattern can be applied to any data structure, allowing concurrent access to it similarly to a Reader-Writer lock, but in a non-blocking manner for reads. We present several variations of the Left-Right technique, with different versioning mechanisms and state machines. In addition, we constructed an optimistic approach that can reduce synchronization for reads.’ See also http://concurrencyfreaks.blogspot.ie/2013/12/left-right-concurrency-control.html for java implementation code.

    (tags: left-right concurrency multithreading wait-free blocking realtime gc latency reader-writer locking synchronization java)

  • Russell91/sshrc

    ‘bring your .bashrc, .vimrc, etc. with you when you ssh’. A really nice implementation of this idea (much nicer than my own version!)

    (tags: hacks productivity ssh remote shell sh bash via:johnke home-directory unix)

  • Troubleshooting Production JVMs with jcmd

    remotely trigger GCs, finalization, heap dumps etc. Handy

    (tags: jvm jcmd debugging ops java gc heap troubleshooting)

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Links for 2014-09-16

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Links for 2014-09-15

  • The State of ZFS on Linux

    Linux users familiar with other filesystems or ZFS users from other platforms will often ask whether ZFS on Linux (ZoL) is “stable”. The short answer is yes, depending on your definition of stable. The term stable itself is somewhat ambiguous.
    Oh dear. that’s not a good start. Good reference page, though

    (tags: zfs linux filesystems ops solaris)

  • Screen time: Steve Jobs was a low tech parent

    “This is rule No. 1: There are no screens in the bedroom. Period. Ever.”

    (tags: screen-time kids children tv mobile technology life rules parenting)

  • CausalImpact: A new open-source package for estimating causal effects in time series

    How can we measure the number of additional clicks or sales that an AdWords campaign generated? How can we estimate the impact of a new feature on app downloads? How do we compare the effectiveness of publicity across countries? In principle, all of these questions can be answered through causal inference. In practice, estimating a causal effect accurately is hard, especially when a randomised experiment is not available. One approach we’ve been developing at Google is based on Bayesian structural time-series models. We use these models to construct a synthetic control — what would have happened to our outcome metric in the absence of the intervention. This approach makes it possible to estimate the causal effect that can be attributed to the intervention, as well as its evolution over time. We’ve been testing and applying structural time-series models for some time at Google. For example, we’ve used them to better understand the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and work out their return on investment. We’ve also applied the models to settings where a randomised experiment was available, to check how similar our effect estimates would have been without an experimental control. Today, we’re excited to announce the release of CausalImpact, an open-source R package that makes causal analyses simple and fast. With its release, all of our advertisers and users will be able to use the same powerful methods for estimating causal effects that we’ve been using ourselves. Our main motivation behind creating the package has been to find a better way of measuring the impact of ad campaigns on outcomes. However, the CausalImpact package could be used for many other applications involving causal inference. Examples include problems found in economics, epidemiology, or the political and social sciences.

    (tags: causal-inference r google time-series models bayes adwords advertising statistics estimation metrics)

  • Top 10 Historic Sites in Ireland and Northern Ireland — National Geographic

    Shamefully, I haven’t visited most of these!

    (tags: history neolithic ireland northern-ireland national-geographic tourism places)

  • Software patents are crumbling, thanks to the Supreme Court

    Now a series of decisions from lower courts is starting to bring the ruling’s practical consequences into focus. And the results have been ugly for fans of software patents. By my count there have been 11 court rulings on the patentability of software since the Supreme Court’s decision — including six that were decided this month.  Every single one of them has led to the patent being invalidated. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all software patents are in danger — these are mostly patents that are particularly vulnerable to challenge under the new Alice precedent. But it does mean that the pendulum of patent law is now clearly swinging in an anti-patent direction. Every time a patent gets invalidated, it strengthens the bargaining position of every defendant facing a lawsuit from a patent troll.

    (tags: patents law alice swpats software supreme-court patent-trolls)

  • Riding with the Stars: Passenger Privacy in the NYC Taxicab Dataset

    A practical demo of “differential privacy” — allowing public data dumps to happen without leaking privacy, using Laplace noise addition

    (tags: differential-privacy privacy leaks public-data open-data data nyc taxis laplace noise randomness)

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Links for 2014-09-14

  • Platform Game

    I’m ambivalent about Microsoft acquiring Mojang. Will they Embrace and Extend Minecraft as they’ve done with other categories? Let’s hope not. On the other hand, some adult supervision and a Plugin API would be welcome. Mojang have the financial resources but lack the will and focus needed to publish and support a Plugin API. Perhaps Mojang themselves don’t realise just how important their little game has become.

    (tags: minecraft platforms games plugins mojang microsoft)

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Links for 2014-09-11

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Links for 2014-09-10

  • Apple: Untrustable

    Today, Apple announced their “Most Personal Device Ever”. They also announced Apple Pay (the only mentions of “security” and “privacy” in today’s event), and are rolling out health tracking and home automation in iOS 8. Given their feckless track record [with cloud-service security], would you really trust Apple with (even more of) your digital life?

    (tags: icloud apple fail security hacks privacy)

  • Not Safe For Not Working On

    Excellent post from Dan Kaminsky on concrete actions that cloud service providers like Apple and Google need to start taking.

    *It’s time to ban Password1*: [...] Defenders are using simple rules like “doesn’t have an uppercase letter” and “not enough punctuation” to block passwords while attackers are just straight up analyzing password dumps and figuring out the most likely passwords to attempt in any scenario.  Attackers are just way ahead.  That has to change.  Defenders have password dumps too now.  It’s time we start outright blocking passwords common enough that they can be online brute forced, and it’s time we admit we know what they are. [...] *People use communication technologies for sexy times. Deal with it*: Just like browsers have porn mode for the personal consumption of private imagery, cell phones have applications that are significantly less likely to lead to anyone else but your special friends seeing your special bits. I personally advise Wickr, an instant messaging firm that develops secure software for iPhone and Android. What’s important about Wickr here isn’t just the deep crypto they’ve implemented, though it’s useful too. What’s important in this context is that with this code there’s just a lot fewer places to steal your data from. Photos and other content sent in Wickr don’t get backed up to your desktop, don’t get saved in any cloud, and by default get removed from your friend’s phone after an amount of time you control. Wickr is of course not the only company supporting what’s called “ephemeral messaging”; SnapChat also dramatically reduces the exposure of your private imagery. [...]
    via Leonard.

    (tags: icloud apple privacy security via:lhl snapchat wickr dan-kaminsky cloud-services backup)

  • Inside Apple’s Live Event Stream Failure, And Why It Happened: It Wasn’t A Capacity Issue

    The bottom line with this event is that the encoding, translation, JavaScript code, the video player, the call to S3 single storage location and the millisecond refreshes all didn’t work properly together and was the root cause of Apple’s failed attempt to make the live stream work without any problems. So while it would be easy to say it was a CDN capacity issue, which was my initial thought considering how many events are taking place today and this week, it does not appear that a lack of capacity played any part in the event not working properly. Apple simply didn’t provision and plan for the event properly.

    (tags: cdn streaming apple fail scaling s3 akamai caching)

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Links for 2014-09-09

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Links for 2014-09-08

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Links for 2014-09-06

  • ‘The very first release of Gmail simply used spamassassin on the backend’

    Excellent. Confirming what I’d heard from a few other sources, too ;) This is a well-written history of the anti-spam war so far, from Mike Hearn, writing with the Google/Gmail point of view:

    Brief note about my background, to establish credentials: I worked at Google for about 7.5 years. For about 4.5 of those I worked on the Gmail abuse team, which is very tightly linked with the spam team (they use the same software, share the same on-call rotations etc).
    Reading this kind of stuff is awesome for me, since it’s a nice picture of a fun problem to work on — the Gmail team took the right ideas about how to fight spam, and scaled them up to the 10s-of-millions DAU mark. Nicely done. The second half is some interesting musings on end-to-end encrypted communications and how it would deal with spam. Worth a read…

    (tags: gmail google spam anti-spam filtering spamassassin history)

  • The FBI Finally Says How It ‘Legally’ Pinpointed Silk Road’s Server

    The answer, according to a new filing by the case’s prosecution, is far more mundane: The FBI claims to have found the server’s location without the NSA’s help, simply by fiddling with the Silk Road’s login page until it leaked its true location.

    (tags: fbi nsa silk-road tor opsec dread-pirate-roberts wired)

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Links for 2014-09-05

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Links for 2014-09-04

  • Visualizing Garbage Collection Algorithms

    Great dataviz with animated GIFs

    (tags: algorithms gc memory visualization garbage-collection dataviz refcounting mark-and-sweep)

  • Standard Markdown

    John Gruber’s canonical description of Markdown’s syntax does not specify the syntax unambiguously. In the absence of a spec, early implementers consulted the original Markdown.pl code to resolve these ambiguities. But Markdown.pl was quite buggy, and gave manifestly bad results in many cases, so it was not a satisfactory replacement for a spec. Because there is no unambiguous spec, implementations have diverged considerably. As a result, users are often surprised to find that a document that renders one way on one system (say, a GitHub wiki) renders differently on another (say, converting to docbook using Pandoc). To make matters worse, because nothing in Markdown counts as a “syntax error,” the divergence often isn’t discovered right away. There’s no standard test suite for Markdown; the unofficial MDTest is the closest thing we have. The only way to resolve Markdown ambiguities and inconsistencies is Babelmark, which compares the output of 20+ implementations of Markdown against each other to see if a consensus emerges. We propose a standard, unambiguous syntax specification for Markdown, along with a suite of comprehensive tests to validate Markdown implementations against this specification. We believe this is necessary, even essential, for the future of Markdown.

    (tags: writing markdown specs standards text formats html)

  • Postcodes at last but random numbers don’t address efficiency

    Karlin Lillington assembles a fine collection of quotes from various sources panning the new Eircode system:

    Critics say the opportunity has been missed to use Ireland’s clean-slate status to produce a technologically innovative postcode system that would be at the cutting edge globally; similar to the competitive leap that was provided when the State switched to a digital phone network in the 1980s, well ahead of most of the world. Instead, say organisations such as the Freight Transport Association of Ireland (FTAI), the proposed seven-digit format of scrambled letters and numbers is almost useless for a business sector that should most benefit from a proper postcode system: transport and delivery companies, from international giants like FedEx and UPS down to local courier, delivery and service supplier firms. Because each postcode will reveal the exact address of a home or business, privacy advocates are concerned that online use of postcodes could link many types of internet activity, including potentially sensitive online searches, to a specific household or business.

    (tags: eircode government fail ireland postcodes location ftai random)

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Links for 2014-09-03

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Links for 2014-09-02

  • Nix: The Purely Functional Package Manager

    ‘a powerful package manager for Linux and other Unix systems that makes package management reliable and reproducible. It provides atomic upgrades and rollbacks, side-by-side installation of multiple versions of a package, multi-user package management and easy setup of build environments. ‘ Basically, this is a third-party open source reimplementation of Amazon’s (excellent) internal packaging system, using symlinks to versioned package directories to ensure atomicity and the ability to roll back. This is definitely the *right* way to build packages — I know what tool I’ll be pushing for, next time this question comes up. See also nixos.org for a Linux distro built on Nix.

    (tags: ops linux devops unix packaging distros nix nixos atomic upgrades rollback versioning)

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Links for 2014-09-01

  • Facebook’s drop-in replacement for std::vector

    Fixes some low-hanging fruit, performance-wise. ‘Simply replacing std::vector with folly::fbvector (after having included the folly/FBVector.h header file) will improve the performance of your C++ code using vectors with common coding patterns. The improvements are always non-negative, almost always measurable, frequently significant, sometimes dramatic, and occasionally spectacular.’ (via Tony Finch)

    (tags: c++ facebook performance algorithms vectors via:fanf optimization)

  • Applying cardiac alarm management techniques to your on-call

    An ops-focused take on a recent story about alarm fatigue, and how a Boston hospital dealt with it. When I was in Amazon, many of the teams in our division had a target to reduce false positive pages, with a definite monetary value attached to it, since many teams had “time off in lieu” payments for out-of-hours pages to the on-call staff. As a result, reducing false-positive pages was reasonably high priority and we dealt with this problem very proactively, with a well-developed sense of how to do so. It’s interesting to see how the outside world is only just starting to look into its amelioration. (Another benefit of a TOIL policy ;)

    (tags: ops monitoring sysadmin alerts alarms nagios alarm-fatigue false-positives pages)

  • “Invertible Bloom Lookup Tables” [paper]

    ‘We present a version of the Bloom filter data structure that supports not only the insertion, deletion, and lookup of key-value pairs, but also allows a complete listing of the pairs it contains with high probability, as long the number of key- value pairs is below a designed threshold. Our structure allows the number of key-value pairs to greatly exceed this threshold during normal operation. Exceeding the threshold simply temporarily prevents content listing and reduces the probability of a successful lookup. If entries are later deleted to return the structure below the threshold, everything again functions appropriately. We also show that simple variations of our structure are robust to certain standard errors, such as the deletion of a key without a corresponding insertion or the insertion of two distinct values for a key. The properties of our structure make it suitable for several applications, including database and networking applications that we highlight.’

    (tags: iblt bloom-filters data-structures performance algorithms coding papers probabilistic)

  • Some UX Dark Patterns now illegal in the EU

    The EU’s new consumer rights law bans certain dark patterns related to e-commerce across Europe. The “sneak into basket” pattern is now illegal. Full stop, end of story. You cannot create a situation where additional items and services are added by default. [...] Hidden costs are now illegal, whether that’s an undeclared subscription, extra shipping charges, or extra items. [....] Forced continuity, when imposed on the user as a form of bait-and-switch, has been banned. Just the other day a web designer mentioned to me that he had only just discovered he had been charged for four years of annual membership dues in a “theme club”, having bought what he thought was a one-off theme. Since he lives in Europe, he may be able to claim all of this money back. All he needs to do is prove that the website did not inform him that the purchase included a membership with recurring payments.

    (tags: design europe law ecommerce ux dark-patterns scams ryanair selling online consumer consumer-rights bait-and-switch)

  • Girl Not Against Fluoride

    The CDC (Centre for Disease Control) lists water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th Century. Today, Dublin City Council will vote on whether to remove fluoride from our water supply, and when they do, it will not be because the CDC or the WHO have changed their mind about fluoridation, or because new and compelling information makes it the only choice. It will be because people who believe in angel healing, homeopathy, and chemtrails, have somehow gained the ability to influence public policy.

    (tags: dcc dublin law flouride science zenbuffy homeopathy woo health teeth)

  • Revisiting How We Put Together Linux Systems

    Building a running OS out of layered btrfs filesystems. This sounds awesome.

    Instantiating a new system or OS container (which is exactly the same in this scheme) just consists of creating a new appropriately named root sub-volume. Completely naturally you can share one vendor OS copy in one specific version with a multitude of container instances. Everything is double-buffered (or actually, n-fold-buffered), because usr, runtime, framework, app sub-volumes can exist in multiple versions. Of course, by default the execution logic should always pick the newest release of each sub-volume, but it is up to the user keep multiple versions around, and possibly execute older versions, if he desires to do so. In fact, like on ChromeOS this could even be handled automatically: if a system fails to boot with a newer snapshot, the boot loader can automatically revert back to an older version of the OS.
    (via Tony Finch)

    (tags: via:fanf linux docker btrfs filesystems unionfs copy-on-write os hacking unix)

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Links for 2014-08-29

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Links for 2014-08-28

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Links for 2014-08-27

  • Apache Kafka 0.8 basic training

    This is a pretty voluminous and authoritative presentation about getting started with Kafka; wish this was around when we started using it for 0.7. (We use our own homegrown realtime system nowadays, due to better partitioning, monitoring and operability.)

    (tags: storm kafka presentations documentation ops)

  • Wiki Loves Monuments

    Wiki Loves Monuments is an international photo contest, organised by Wikimedia [...]. This year, the Wikimedia Ireland Community are running the competition for the very first time in Ireland. The contest is inspired by the successful 2010 pilot in the Netherlands which resulted in 12,500 freely licensed images uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. It has grown substantially since its inception; in 2013 369,589 photographs were submitted by 11,943 participants from over 50 countries. Cultural heritage is an important part of the knowledge that Wikipedia collects and disseminates. An image is worth a thousand words, in any language and local enthusiasts can (re)discover the cultural, historical, or scientific significance of their neighbourhood. The Irish contest, focussing on Ireland’s national monuments, runs from August 23 – September 30. Follow our step-by-step guide to find out how you can take part.

    (tags: wikipedia wikimedia images monuments history ireland contests creative-commons licensing)

  • “CryptoPhone” claims to detect IMSI catchers in operation

    To show what the CryptoPhone can do that less expensive competitors cannot, he points me to a map that he and his customers have created, indicating 17 different phony cell towers known as “interceptors,” detected by the CryptoPhone 500 around the United States during the month of July alone.  Interceptors look to a typical phone like an ordinary tower.  Once the phone connects with the interceptor, a variety of “over-the-air” attacks become possible, from eavesdropping on calls and texts to pushing spyware to the device. “Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated,” Goldsmith says.  “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip.  We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”

    (tags: imsi-catchers security cryptophone phones mobile 3g 4g eavesdropping surveillance)

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Links for 2014-08-26

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Links for 2014-08-25

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Links for 2014-08-22

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Links for 2014-08-21

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Links for 2014-08-20

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Links for 2014-08-19

  • Nyms Identity Directory

    The way that [problems with the PGP bootstrapping] are supposed to be resolved is with an authentication model called the Web of Trust where users sign keys of other users after verifying that they are who they say they are. In theory, if some due diligence is applied in signing other people’s keys and a sufficient number of people participate you’ll be able to follow a short chain of signatures from people you already know and trust to new untrusted keys you download from a key server. In practice this has never worked out very well as it burdens users with the task of manually finding people to sign their keys and even experts find the Web of Trust model difficult to reason about. This also reveals the social graph of certain communities which may place users at risk for their associations. Such signatures also reveal metadata about times and thus places for meetings for key signings. The Nyms Identity Directory is a replacement for all of this. Keyservers are replaced with an identity directory that gives users full control over publication of their key information and web of trust is replaced with a distributed network of trusted notaries which validate user keys with an email verification protocol.

    (tags: web-of-trust directories nyms privacy crypto identity trust pgp gpg security via:ioerror keyservers notaries)

  • Frogsort

    Frogsort as an exam question (via qwghlm)

    (tags: via:qwghlm frogsort sorting big-o algorithms funny comics smbc)

  • Punished for Being Poor: Big Data in the Justice System

    This is awful. Totally the wrong tool for the job — a false positive rate which is miniscule for something like spam filtering, could translate to a really horrible outcome for a human life.

    Currently, over 20 states use data-crunching risk-assessment programs for sentencing decisions, usually consisting of proprietary software whose exact methods are unknown, to determine which individuals are most likely to re-offend. The Senate and House are also considering similar tools for federal sentencing. These data programs look at a variety of factors, many of them relatively static, like criminal and employment history, age, gender, education, finances, family background, and residence. Indiana, for example, uses the LSI-R, the legality of which was upheld by the state’s supreme court in 2010. Other states use a model called COMPAS, which uses many of the same variables as LSI-R and even includes high school grades. Others are currently considering the practice as a way to reduce the number of inmates and ensure public safety. (Many more states use or endorse similar assessments when sentencing sex offenders, and the programs have been used in parole hearings for years.) Even the American Law Institute has embraced the practice, adding it to the Model Penal Code, attesting to the tool’s legitimacy.
    (via stroan)

    (tags: via:stroan statistics false-positives big-data law law-enforcement penal-code risk sentencing)

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Links for 2014-08-18

  • Microservices – Not a free lunch! – High Scalability

    Some good reasons not to adopt microservices blindly. Testability and distributed-systems complexity are my biggest fears

    (tags: microservices soa devops architecture testing distcomp)

  • Richard Clayton – Failing at Microservices

    Solid warts-and-all confessional blogpost about a team failing to implement a microservices architecture. I’d put most of the blame on insufficient infrastructure to support them (at a code level), inter-personal team problems, and inexperience with large-scale complex multi-service production deployment and the work it was going to require

    (tags: microservices devops collaboration architecture fail team deployment soa)

  • Box Tech Blog » A Tale of Postmortems

    How Box introduced COE-style dev/ops outage postmortems, and got them working. This PIE metric sounds really useful to head off the dreaded “it’ll all have to come out missus” action item:

    The picture was getting clearer, and we decided to look into individual postmortems and action items and see what was missing. As it was, action items were wasting away with no owners. Digging deeper, we noticed that many action items entailed massive refactorings or vague requirements like “make system X better” (i.e. tasks that realistically were unlikely to be addressed). At a higher level, postmortem discussions often devolved into theoretical debates without a clear outcome. We needed a way to lower and focus the postmortem bar and a better way to categorize our action items and our technical debt. Out of this need, PIE (“Probability of recurrence * Impact of recurrence * Ease of addressing”) was born. By ranking each factor from 1 (“low”) to 5 (“high”), PIE provided us with two critical improvements: 1. A way to police our postmortems discussions. I.e. a low probability, low impact, hard to implement solution was unlikely to get prioritized and was better suited to a discussion outside the context of the postmortem. Using this ranking helped deflect almost all theoretical discussions. 2. A straightforward way to prioritize our action items. What’s better is that once we embraced PIE, we also applied it to existing tech debt work. This was critical because we could now prioritize postmortem action items alongside existing work. Postmortem action items became part of normal operations just like any other high-priority work.

    (tags: postmortems action-items outages ops devops pie metrics ranking refactoring prioritisation tech-debt)

  • NTP’s days are numbered for consumer devices

    An accurate clock is required to negotiate SSL/TLS, so clock sync is important for internet-of-things usage. but:

    Unfortunately for us, the traditional and most widespread method for clock synchronisation (NTP) has been caught up in a DDoS issue which has recently caused some ISPs to start blocking all NTP communication. [....] Because the DDoS attacks are so widespread, and the lack of obvious commercial pressure to fix the issue, it’s possible that the days of using NTP as a mechanism for setting clocks may well be numbered. Luckily for us there is a small but growing project that replaces it. tlsdate was started by Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor project in 2012, making use of the SSL handshake in order to extract time from a remote server, and its usage is on the rise. [....] Since we started encountering these problems, we’ve incorporated tlsdate into an over-the-air update, and have successfully started using this in situations where NTP is blocked.

    (tags: tlsdate ntp clocks time sync iot via:gwire ddos isps internet protocols security)

  • Cloudwash – Creating the Technical Prototype

    This is a lovely demo of integrating modern IoT connectivity functionality (remote app control, etc.) with a washing machine using Bergcloud’s hardware and backend, and a little logic-analyzer reverse engineering.

    (tags: arduino diy washing-machines iot bergcloud hacking reversing logic-analyzers hardware)

  • Systemd: Harbinger of the Linux apocalypse

    While there are many defensible aspects of Systemd, other aspects boggle the mind. Not the least of these was that, as of a few months ago, trying to debug the kernel from the boot line would cause the system to crash. This was because of Systemd’s voracious logging and the fact that Systemd responds to the “debug” flag on the kernel boot line — a flag meant for the kernel, not anything else. That, straight up, is a bug. However, the Systemd developers didn’t see it that way and actively fought with those experiencing the problem. Add the fact that one of the Systemd developers was banned by Linus Torvalds for poor attitude and bad design and another was responsible for causing significant issues with Linux audio support, but blamed the problem on everything else but his software, and you have a bad situation on your hands. There’s no shortage of egos in the open source development world. There’s no shortage of new ideas and veteran developers and administrators pooh-poohing something new simply because it’s new. But there are also 45 years of history behind Unix and extremely good reasons it’s still flourishing. Tools designed like Systemd do not fit the Linux mold, to their own detriment. Systemd’s design has more in common with Windows than with Unix — down to the binary logging.
    The link re systemd consuming the “debug” kernel boot arg is a canonical example of inflexible coders refusing to fix their own bugs. (via Jason Dixon)

    (tags: systemd linux red-hat egos linus-torvalds unix init booting debugging logging design software via:obfuscurity)

  • Inside a Chinese Bitcoin Mine

    The mining operation resides on an old, repurposed factory floor, and contains 2500 machines hashing away at 230 Gh/s, each. (That’s 230 billion calculations per second, per unit). [...] The operators told me that the power bill of this specific operation is in excess of ¥400,000 per month [..] about $60,000 USD.

    (tags: currency china economics bitcoin power environment green mining datacenters)

  • Moving Big Data into the Cloud with Tsunami UDP – AWS Big Data Blog

    Pretty serious speedup. 81 MB/sec with Tsunami UDP, compared to 9 MB/sec with plain old scp. Probably kills internet performance for everyone else though!

    (tags: tsunami-udp udp scp copying transfers internet long-distance performance speed)

  • The “sidecar” pattern

    Ha, great name. We use this (in the form of Smartstack).

    For what it is worth, we faced a similar challenge in earlier services (mostly due to existing C/C++ applications) and we created what was called a “sidecar”.  By sidecar, what I mean is a second process on each node/instance that did Cloud Service Fabric operations on behalf of the main process (the side-managed process).  Unfortunately those sidecars all went off and created one-offs for their particular service.  In this post, I’ll describe a more general sidecar that doesn’t force users to have these one-offs. Sidenote:  For those not familiar with sidecars, think of the motorcycle sidecar below.  Snoopy would be the main process with Woodstock being the sidecar process.  The main work on the instance would be the motorcycle (say serving your users’ REST requests).  The operational control is the sidecar (say serving health checks and management plane requests of the operational platform).

    (tags: netflix sidecars architecture patterns smartstack netflixoss microservices soa)

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Links for 2014-08-15

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Links for 2014-08-08

  • AWS Speed Test: What are the Fastest EC2 and S3 Regions?

    My god, this test is awful — this is how NOT to test networked infrastructure. (1) testing from a single EC2 instance in each region; (2) uploading to a single test bucket for each test; (3) results don’t include min/max or percentiles, just an averaged measurement for each test. FAIL

    (tags: fail testing networking performance ec2 aws s3 internet)

  • Hacker Redirects Traffic From 19 Internet Providers to Steal Bitcoins | Threat Level | WIRED

    ‘The attacker specifically targeted a collection of bitcoin mining “pools”–bitcoin-producing cooperatives in which users contribute their computers’ processing power and are rewarded with a cut of the resulting cryptocurrency the pool produces. The redirection technique tricked the pools’ participants into continuing to devote their processors to bitcoin mining while allowing the hacker to keep the proceeds. At its peak, according to the researchers’ measurements, the hacker’s scam was pocketing a flow of bitcoins and other digital currencies including dogecoin and worldcoin worth close to $9,000 a day. “With this kind of hijacking, you can quite easily grab a large collection of clients,” says Pat Litke, one of the Dell researchers. “It takes less than a minute, and you end up with a lot of mining traffic under your control.”’ ‘In total, Stewart and Litke were able to measure $83,000 worth of cryptocurrency stolen in the BGP attack [...] but the total haul could be larger’

    (tags: bitcoin mining fraud internet bgp routing security attacks hacking)

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Links for 2014-08-07

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Links for 2014-07-31

  • UK private copying exception plans face possible legal action

    Under the proposed private copying exception, individuals in the UK would be given a new right to make a copy of copyrighted material they have lawfully and permanently acquired for their private use, provided it was not for commercial ends. Making a private copy of the material in these circumstances would not be an act of copyright infringement, although making a private copy of a computer program would still be prohibited under the plans. There is no mechanism envisaged in the draft legislation for rights holders to be specifically compensated for the act of private copying. This prompted the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI), tasked with scrutinising the proposals, to warn parliamentarians that the rules may be deemed to be in breach of EU copyright laws as a result of the lack of ‘fair compensation’ mechanism. [...] “We are disappointed that the private copying exception will be introduced without providing fair compensation for British songwriters, performers and other rights holders within the creative sector. A mechanism for fair compensation is a requirement of European law. In response we are considering our legal options,” [UK Music] said.

    (tags: uk law copyright music copying private-copying personal infringement piracy transcoding backup)

  • Moominvalley Map Print | Magic Pony

    Lovely print! Shipping would be a bit crazy, though. There has to be an english-language print of one of Tove Jansson’s maps on sale somewhere in Europe…

    (tags: prints moomins moominvalley maps hattifatteners magic-pony tove-jannson art)

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Links for 2014-07-30

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Links for 2014-07-29

  • How to take over the computer of any JVM developer

    To prove how easy [MITM attacking Mavencentral JARs] is to do, I wrote dilettante, a man-in-the-middle proxy that intercepts JARs from maven central and injects malicious code into them. Proxying HTTP traffic through dilettante will backdoor any JARs downloaded from maven central. The backdoored version will retain their functionality, but display a nice message to the user when they use the library.

    (tags: jars dependencies java build clojure security mitm http proxies backdoors scala maven gradle)

  • Spain pushes for ‘Google tax’ to restrict linking

    The government wants to put a tax on linking on the internet. They say that if you want to link to some newspaper’s content, you have to pay a tax. The primary targets of this law are Google News and other aggregators. It would be absurd enough just like that, but the law goes further: they declared it an “inalienable right” so even if I have a blog or a new small digital media publication and I want to let people freely link to my content, I can’t opt-out–they are charging the levy, and giving it to the big press media. It was just the last and only way that the old traditional media companies can get some money from the government, and they strongly lobbied for it. The bill has passed in the Congress where the party in the government has majority (PP, Partido Popular) and it’s headed to the Senate, where they have a majority also.

    (tags: spain stupidity law via:boingboing linking links web news google google-news newspapers old-media taxes)

  • Keyes New Starter Kit for Arduino Fans

    $53 for a reasonable-looking Arduino starter kit, from DealExtreme. cheap cheap! In the inimitable DX style:

    Keyes new beginner starter kit, pay more attention to beginners learning. Users can get rid of the difficult technological learning, from module used to quick start production.

    (tags: learning arduino hardware hacking robotics toys dealextreme tobuy)

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Links for 2014-07-28

  • Check If A Hotel’s WiFi Sucks Before It’s Too Late

    http://www.hotelwifitest.com/ and http://speedspot.org/ .

    (tags: wifi hotels travel reviews techcrunch internet)

  • Collection Pipeline

    a nice summarisation of the state of pipe/stream-oriented collection operations in various languages, from Martin Fowler

    (tags: martin-fowler patterns coding ruby clojure streams pipelines pipes unix lambda fp java languages)

  • REST Commander: Scalable Web Server Management and Monitoring

    We dynamically monitor and manage a large and rapidly growing number of web servers deployed on our infrastructure and systems. However, existing tools present major challenges when making REST/SOAP calls with server-specific requests to a large number of web servers, and then performing aggregated analysis on the responses. We therefore developed REST Commander, a parallel asynchronous HTTP client as a service to monitor and manage web servers. REST Commander on a single server can send requests to thousands of servers with response aggregation in a matter of seconds. And yes, it is open-sourced at http://www.restcommander.com. Feature highlights: Click-to-run with zero installation; Generic HTTP request template supporting variable-based replacement for sending server-specific requests; Ability to send the same request to different servers, different requests to different servers, and different requests to the same server; Maximum concurrency control (throttling) to accommodate server capacity; Commander itself is also “as a service”: with its powerful REST API, you can define ad-hoc target servers, an HTTP request template, variable replacement, and a regular expression all in a single call. In addition, intuitive step-by-step wizards help you achieve the same functionality through a GUI.

    (tags: rest http clients load-testing ebay soap async testing monitoring)

  • South Downs litter picker has truck named after him – West Sussex County Times

    This is amazing. In http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/06/30/stepping-out-3 , David Sedaris had written: ‘in recognition of all the rubbish I’ve collected since getting my Fitbit, my local council is naming a garbage truck after me’; naturally, I assumed he was joking, but it looks like he wasn’t:

    Horsham District Council has paid thanks to a volunteer who devotes a great deal of time and energy to walking many miles clearing litter from near where he lives as well as surrounding areas. David Sedaris litter picks in areas including Parham, Coldwaltham, Storrington and beyond. In recognition for all his fantastic work and dedication and as a token of Horsham District Council’s appreciation, the council has named one of their waste vehicles after him. The vehicle, bedecked with its bespoke ‘Pig Pen Sedaris’ sign was officially unveiled by the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex Mrs Susan Pyper at an outdoor ceremony on July 23.
    Best of all, the article utterly fails to mention who he is. Amazing. (via John Braine)

    (tags: via:john-braine funny david-sedaris litter uk horsham rubbish garbage cleaning volunteering walking)

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