Links for 2017-03-26

  • American Snoper – Medium

    The grugq on Putin vs France:

    How modern conflicts play out in the informatics sphere, what I mean when I talk about cyber war, is happening in France. After France there will be Germany, then the Scandinavian countries have their elections. There is no chance that Putin attempting to shape the world to best suit Russian interests will abate. Currently, the strongest area that he can contend in is the informatics sphere, the cyber realm, where human perception of reality is shaped.

    (tags: putin france elections russia cyber-war hacking security wikileaks)

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Links for 2017-03-24

  • That thing about pwning N26

    Whitehat CCC hacker thoroughly pwns N26 bank — there’s a lot of small leaks and insecurities here. Sounds like N26 are dealing with them though

    (tags: ccc hacks exploits n26 banks banking security)

  • ‘For decades, the transaction concept has played a central role in database research and development. Despite this prominence, transactional databases today often surface much weaker models than the classic serializable isolation guarantee—and, by default, far weaker models than alternative,“strong but not serializable” models such as Snapshot Isolation. Moreover, the transaction concept requires the programmer’s involvement: should an application programmer fail to correctly use transactions by appropriately encapsulating functionality, even serializable transactions will expose programmers to errors. While many errors arising from these practices may be masked by low concurrency during normal operation, they are susceptible to occur during periods of abnormally high concurrency. By triggering these errors via concurrent access in a deliberate attack, a determined adversary could systematically exploit them for gain. In this work, we defined the problem of ACIDRain attacks and introduced 2AD, a lightweight dynamic analysis tool that uses traces of normal database activity to detect possible anomalous behavior in applications. To enable 2AD, we extended Adya’s theory of weak isolation to allow efficient reasoning over the space of all possible concurrent executions of a set of transactions based on a concrete history, via a new concept called an abstract history, which also applies to API calls. We then applied 2AD analysis to twelve popular self-hosted eCommerce applications, finding 22 vulnerabilities spread across all but one application we tested, affecting over 50% of eCommerce sites on the Internet today. We believe that the magnitude and the prevalence of these vulnerabilities to ACIDRain attacks merits a broader reconsideration of the success of the transaction concept as employed by programmers today, in addition to further pursuit of research in this direction. Based on our early experiences both performing ACIDRain attacks on self-hosted applications as well as engaging with developers, we believe there is considerable work to be done in raising awareness of these attacks—for example, via improved analyses and additional 2AD refinement rules (including analysis of source code to better highlight sources of error)—and in automated methods for defending against these attacks—for example, by synthesizing repairs such as automated isolation level tuning and selective application of SELECT FOR UPDATE mechanisms. Our results here—as well as existing instances of ACIDRain attacks in the wild—suggest there is considerable value at stake.’

    (tags: databases transactions vulnerability security acidrain peter-bailis storage isolation acid)

  • Scientists made a detailed “roadmap” for meeting the Paris climate goals. It’s eye-opening. – Vox

    tl;dr: this is not going to happen and we are fucked.

    (tags: climate environment global-warming science roadmap future grim-meathook-future)

  • HyperBitBit

    jomsdev notes: ‘Last year, in the AofA’16 conference Robert Sedgewick proposed a new algorithm for cardinality estimation. Robert Sedgwick is a professor at Princeton with a long track of publications on combinatorial/randomized algorithms. He was a good friend of Philippe Flajolet (creator of Hyperloglog) and HyperBitBit it’s based on the same ideas. However, it uses less memory than Hyperloglog and can provide the same results. On practical data, HyperBitBit, for N < 2^64 estimates cardinality within 10% using only 128 + 6 bits.'

    (tags: algorithms programming cs hyperloglog estimation cardinality counting hyperbitbit)

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Links for 2017-03-23

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Links for 2017-03-22

  • Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware

    DRM working as expected:

    To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America’s heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that’s cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums. Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform “unauthorized” repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.
    (via etienneshrdlu)

    (tags: hacking farming drm john-deere tractors firmware right-to-repair repair)

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Links for 2017-03-21

  • Don’t Get Trampled: The Puzzle For “Unicorn” Employees

    ‘One of my sad predictions for 2017 is a bunch of big headline-worthy acquisitions and IPOs that leave a lot of hard working employees at these companies in a weird spot. They’ll be congratulated by everyone they know for their extraordinary success while scratching their heads wondering why they barely benefited. Of course, the reason is that these employees never understood their compensation in the first place (and they were not privy to the terms of all the financings before and after they were hired).’

    (tags: share-options shares unicorns funding employment jobs compensation)

  • GitHub’s new Balanced Employee IP Agreement (BEIPA) lets workers keep the IP when they use company resources for personal projects — Quartz

    Huh, interesting development:

    If it’s on company time, it’s the company’s dime. That’s the usual rule in the tech industry—that if employees use company resources to work on projects unrelated to their jobs, their employer can claim ownership of any intellectual property (IP) they create. But GitHub is throwing that out the window. Today the code-sharing platform announced a new policy, the Balanced Employee IP Agreement (BEIPA). This allows its employees to use company equipment to work on personal projects in their free time, which can occur during work hours, without fear of being sued for the IP. As long as the work isn’t related to GitHub’s own “existing or prospective” products and services, the employee owns it.

    (tags: github law tech jobs work day-job side-projects hacking ip copyright)

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Links for 2017-03-20

  • Segment.com on cost savings using DynamoDB, autoscaling and ECS

    great post. 1. DynamoDB hot shards were a big problem — and it is terrible that diagnosing this requires a ticket to AWS support! This heat map should be a built-in feature. 2. ECS auto-scaling gets a solid thumbs-up. 3. Switching from ELB to ALB lets them set ports dynamically for individual ECS Docker containers, and then pack as many containers as will fit on a giant EC2 instance. 4. Terraform modules to automate setup and maintainance of ECS, autoscaling groups, and ALBs

    (tags: terraform segment architecture aws dynamodb alb elb asg ecs docker)

  • atlassian/localstack: A fully functional local AWS cloud stack. Develop and test your cloud apps offline!

    LocalStack provides an easy-to-use test/mocking framework for developing Cloud applications. Currently, the focus is primarily on supporting the AWS cloud stack. LocalStack spins up the following core Cloud APIs on your local machine: API Gateway at http://localhost:4567; Kinesis at http://localhost:4568; DynamoDB at http://localhost:4569; DynamoDB Streams at http://localhost:4570; Elasticsearch at http://localhost:4571; S3 at http://localhost:4572; Firehose at http://localhost:4573; Lambda at http://localhost:4574; SNS at http://localhost:4575; SQS at http://localhost:4576 Additionally, LocalStack provides a powerful set of tools to interact with the cloud services, including a fully featured KCL Kinesis client with Python binding, simple setup/teardown integration for nosetests, as well as an Environment abstraction that allows to easily switch between local and remote Cloud execution.

    (tags: aws emulation mocking services testing dynamodb s3)

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Links for 2017-03-19

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Links for 2017-03-16

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Links for 2017-03-15

  • Artificial intelligence is ripe for abuse, tech researcher warns: ‘a fascist’s dream’ | Technology | The Guardian

    “We should always be suspicious when machine learning systems are described as free from bias if it’s been trained on human-generated data,” Crawford said. “Our biases are built into that training data.” In the Chinese research it turned out that the faces of criminals were more unusual than those of law-abiding citizens. “People who had dissimilar faces were more likely to be seen as untrustworthy by police and judges. That’s encoding bias,” Crawford said. “This would be a terrifying system for an autocrat to get his hand on.” […] With AI this type of discrimination can be masked in a black box of algorithms, as appears to be the case with a company called Faceception, for instance, a firm that promises to profile people’s personalities based on their faces. In its own marketing material, the company suggests that Middle Eastern-looking people with beards are “terrorists”, while white looking women with trendy haircuts are “brand promoters”.

    (tags: bias ai racism politics big-data technology fascism crime algorithms faceception discrimination computer-says-no)

  • ASAP: Automatic Smoothing for Attention Prioritization in Streaming Time Series Visualization

    Peter Bailis strikes again. ‘Time series visualization of streaming telemetry (i.e., charting of key metrics such as server load over time) is increasingly prevalent in recent application deployments. Existing systems simply plot the raw data streams as they arrive, potentially obscuring large-scale deviations due to local variance and noise. We propose an alternative: to better prioritize attention in time series exploration and monitoring visualizations, smooth the time series as much as possible to remove noise while still retaining large-scale structure. We develop a new technique for automatically smoothing streaming time series that adaptively optimizes this trade-off between noise reduction (i.e., variance) and outlier retention (i.e., kurtosis). We introduce metrics to quantitatively assess the quality of the choice of smoothing parameter and provide an efficient streaming analytics operator, ASAP, that optimizes these metrics by combining techniques from stream processing, user interface design, and signal processing via a novel autocorrelation-based pruning strategy and pixel-aware preaggregation. We demonstrate that ASAP is able to improve users’ accuracy in identifying significant deviations in time series by up to 38.4% while reducing response times by up to 44.3%. Moreover, ASAP delivers these results several orders of magnitude faster than alternative optimization strategies.’

    (tags: dataviz graphs metrics peter-bailis asap smoothing aggregation time-series tsd)

  • When the Children Crashed Dad’s BBC Interview: The Family Speaks – WSJ

    Mr. Kelly describes his reaction as a mixture of surprise, embarrassment and amusement but also love and affection. The couple says they weren’t mad and didn’t scold the children. “I mean it was terribly cute,” Mr. Kelly said. “I saw the video like everybody else. My wife did a great job cleaning up a really unanticipated situation as best she possibly could… It was funny. If you watch the tape I was sort of struggling to keep my own laughs down. They’re little kids and that’s how things are.” “Yes I was mortified, but I also want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me,” Mr. Kelly said.
    aww!

    (tags: cute family bbc interviews funny viral kids hippity-hoppity robert-kelly)

  • UN privacy watchdog says ‘little or no evidence’ that mass surveillance works | ZDNet

    The United Nations’ special rapporteur on privacy has lambasted a spate of new surveillance laws across Europe and the US, saying that there is “little or no evidence” that mass monitoring of communications works. In a report published this week, Prof. Joseph Cannataci, the first privacy watchdog to take up the post, said he was neither convinced of the effectiveness or the proportionality “of some of the extremely privacy-intrusive measures that have been introduced by new surveillance laws.” He also said that bulk records collection, such as call and email metadata, runs the risk of “being hacked by hostile governments or organized crime.” Cannataci singled out recently-passed laws in France, Germany, the UK and the US, all of which have pushed through new legislation in the wake of the threat from the so-called Islamic State. He said that the passed laws amount to “gesture-politics,” which in his words, “have seen politicians who wish to be seen to be doing something about security, legislating privacy-intrusive powers into being — or legalize existing practices — without in any way demonstrating that this is either a proportionate or indeed an effective way to tackle terrorism.” A rise in public support of increased surveillance powers is “predicated on the psychology of fear,” he said, referring to the perceived threat of terrorism.

    (tags: surveillance law privacy un joseph-cannataci watchdogs terrorism fear fud)

  • The Lord British Postulate

    One of the most famous attributes of Lord British is that he is almost invincible. In every Ultima game in which he has appeared, he is designed to be almost impervious to a player’s character predations. However, there are ways for a player thinking outside the box to assassinate him. This phenomenon is the origin of the Lord British Postulate which states: “If it exists as a living creature in an MMORPG, someone, somewhere, will try to kill it.”[7] Virtually every MMO game displays numerous instances of this, with players attempting to kill (or, in the case of friendly NPCs, cause the death of) virtually every NPC or monster, howsoever powerful, meek, friendly, or ethereal.

    (tags: npcs gaming games lord-british murder rules mmorpgs)

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Links for 2017-03-14

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Links for 2017-03-13

  • Dinosaur Escape – BoardGameGeek

    good kid’s board game — age 4+, 2-4 players.

    The object of Dinosaur Escape is to get all three dinosaurs safely to Dinosaur Island before the volcano erupts! Work together to move the dinosaur movers around the board and uncover the matching dinosaurs under the fern tokens. On your turn, roll the die. If you roll a number, move any dinosaur mover the indicated number of spaces any direction on the path. Then turn over one fern token anywhere on the board. If you reveal rocks, bones or other items, flip the token back over. If you reveal a dinosaur, and the dinosaur mover of the same species is in the same habitat area, move the dinosaur moved and matching token to Dinosaur Island. You just helped a dinosaur escape! If you reveal a dinosaur but the dinosaur mover of the same species is not in the same habitat as the token, flip the token back over. Dinosaur movers and matching tokens must be in the same habitat to help a dinosaur escape! If you turn over the T-Rex, RUN! Move each of the dinosaur movers in play back to a start space. If you roll a volcano, place volcano piece number 1 in the stand on the board. If you can find and help all three lost dinosaurs escape to Dinosaur Island before completing the 3D volcano puzzle, you all win!

    (tags: boardgames reviews kids children co-op games gaming)

  • Fides Raising Gamers (age 2 – 5) | BoardGameGeek

    some good boardgame reviews

    (tags: games gaming boardgames kids children reviews)

  • [1606.08813] European Union regulations on algorithmic decision-making and a “right to explanation”

    We summarize the potential impact that the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation will have on the routine use of machine learning algorithms. Slated to take effect as law across the EU in 2018, it will restrict automated individual decision-making (that is, algorithms that make decisions based on user-level predictors) which “significantly affect” users. The law will also effectively create a “right to explanation,” whereby a user can ask for an explanation of an algorithmic decision that was made about them. We argue that while this law will pose large challenges for industry, it highlights opportunities for computer scientists to take the lead in designing algorithms and evaluation frameworks which avoid discrimination and enable explanation.
    oh this’ll be tricky.

    (tags: algorithms accountability eu gdpr ml machine-learning via:daveb europe data-protection right-to-explanation)

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Links for 2017-03-12

  • Tim Berners-Lee calls for tighter regulation of online political advertising | Technology | The Guardian

    “Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?” Berners-Lee said.

    (tags: politics trump law elections polling advertising facebook micro-advertising)

  • ctop

    Top for containers (ie Docker)

    (tags: docker containers top ops go monitoring cpu)

  • Communications data errors: UK police incriminating the wrong people due to data retention system screwups

    It seems there have been 34 with serious consequences since 2008. Causes include:

    – Omission of an underscore when transcribing an e-mail address led to the wrong subscriber information being provided and a search warrant being executed at the premises of an individual unconnected with the investigation. – A CSP’s data warehouse system change affected how GMT and British Summer Time were treated. This was not communicated to staff using the data retention disclosure system. This led to a one hour error in subscriber information disclosed in relation to IP address usage. Of 98 potential disclosure errors identified, 94 were in fact incorrect and four returned the same results when re-run. Of the 94 incorrect disclosures, in three cases a search warrant was executed at premises relating to individuals unconnected with the investigation (and one individual was arrested). – Due to a technical fault causing a time zone conversion to be out by seven hours, a CSP voluntarily disclosed an incorrect IP address to a public authority.  That led to a search warrant being executed at premises relating to individuals unconnected with the investigation.
    In other words, timezones largely screw up everything, yet again.

    (tags: timezones uk law data-retention errors bst)

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Links for 2017-03-10

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Links for 2017-03-09

  • Colm O’Gorman, on societal responsibility for Mother & Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries & various other church atrocities in Ireland

    Excellent twitter thread on the topic. Pasted:

    It is often said that everyone knew what was happening in such places, or about the rape of children by priests. That is not true. It is true that deep veins of knowledge existed across Irish society, at all levels, but not everyone knew. Or were allowed to know. Just like is always the case, the terrible things that were done were possible only because they were tolerated. They went unchecked. They were tolerated by those in positions of authority who either dared not, or did not wish to, challenge the power strictures that existed They were tolerated by those without power or position because they feared what speaking up might do to them and to their families That was an Ireland where challenging such vile abuse by power would see you become its victim. It was brutal and vicious. If you did not, or could not, conform to the demands of the powerful, you were in real danger. At best, ostracisation and excommunication. But many experience far worse than that. They found themselves in the very places we now acknowledge as hell holes. Locked up in institutions I always remember the late, great Mary Rafferty exposing the scale of such abusive institutionalisation. She pointed out that at one point in our relatively recent history, we led the world in one regard. Per capita, we locked up more people in psychiatric institutions than any other country on the planet. Only the Soviet Union came a distant second to us. That was how Ireland treated dissent or difference That what was happened to many who could not conform to a brutal demand to be somehow ‘acceptable’ to dogma & unaccountable power And it wasn’t some ancient Ireland either. The last laundry closed in 1996. In 2002, when fighting for inquiries into child rape by priests and it’s cover up by bishops, cardinals and popes, those same princes declared themselves above the rule of the law of this Republic insisting that the law of their church was superior to the law of this state. And their position was taken seriously by many. It took months of dogged battle by me and others to get past that bullshit. For our political and legal system to assert itself. The Ireland where the lives of women & children were controlled & brutalised by people who felt they had a God given right to do so is not some other country that existed back in some other time. It is this Ireland. We have changed a lot – but it is still this Ireland. The difference now is that we ALL know. That the truth is out, and that more is being revealed. And yes, undoubtedly there is more to come. So it is NOT true all past members of society, or even anything close to a majority, colluded with such abuses. That is a falsehood. It is also a falsehood to suggest that the church did what the state would not do, and provided as best it could. That is a lie. The Catholic Church captured control of what should have been arms of the state. Health, education and social care. And it exploited them. It used them to drive its own agendas, to enforce its own dogma. And at every turn it resisted any ‘intrusion’ into those realms by others. including the state. Look at the Mother & Child Scheme for eg, or the response to the first multi-denominational schools, and much more. Catholic orders defended themselves against accusations of appalling abuse of children in their institutions by claiming that the state did not give them enough money to feed, clothe and properly care for the children they detained in those places. This was a lie. in the same institutions where children went starving, clergy were well fed and housed. They went for nothing. Funded by the state and the forced labour of the children or women they detained. The Ryan Report debunked that lie in its entirety. Ryan found that religious orders maintained “bloated congregations” by bringing in more and more children, and therefore more and more money And now we know. Now the threat of brutal reprisal is lifted. Now is the time for truth, to own what has been done to so many vulnerable people in our Republic. To learn from it and ensure we identify how that same corrupting tendency manifests today. Because it does of course It may not be quite as vicious, but it prevails.Look at how power still treats a reasonable demand for accountability: Maurice McCabe for eg Look at how our education and health systems still allow religious dogma to exert extraordinary power over people’s lives. We are a different Ireland, but are we different enough?

    (tags: mother-and-baby-homes tuam ireland catholic-church abuse colm-o-gorman twitter history priests)

  • Chatbot that overturned 160,000 parking fines now helping refugees claim asylum | Technology | The Guardian

    The original DoNotPay, created by Stanford student Joshua Browder, describes itself as “the world’s first robot lawyer”, giving free legal aid to users through a simple-to-use chat interface. The chatbot, using Facebook Messenger, can now help refugees fill in an immigration application in the US and Canada. For those in the UK, it helps them apply for asylum support.

    (tags: government technology automation bots asylum forms facebook)

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Links for 2017-03-07

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Links for 2017-03-06

  • A Programmer’s Introduction to Unicode – Nathan Reed’s coding blog

    Fascinating Unicode details — a lot of which were new to me. Love the heat map of usage in Wikipedia:

    One more interesting way to visualize the codespace is to look at the distribution of usage—in other words, how often each code point is actually used in real-world texts. Below is a heat map of planes 0–2 based on a large sample of text from Wikipedia and Twitter (all languages). Frequency increases from black (never seen) through red and yellow to white. You can see that the vast majority of this text sample lies in the BMP, with only scattered usage of code points from planes 1–2. The biggest exception is emoji, which show up here as the several bright squares in the bottom row of plane 1.

    (tags: unicode coding character-sets wikipedia bmp emoji twitter languages characters heat-maps dataviz)

  • Martin Fowler’s First Law of Distributed Object Design: Don’t

    lol. I hadn’t seen this one, but it’s a good beatdown on distributed objects from back in 2003

    (tags: distributed-objects dcom corba history martin-fowler laws rules architecture 2003)

  • Spammergate: The Fall of an Empire

    Featuring this interesting reactive-block evasion tactic:

    In that screenshot, a RCM co-conspirator describes a technique in which the spammer seeks to open as many connections as possible between themselves and a Gmail server. This is done by purposefully configuring your own machine to send response packets extremely slowly, and in a fragmented manner, while constantly requesting more connections. Then, when the Gmail server is almost ready to give up and drop all connections, the spammer suddenly sends as many emails as possible through the pile of connection tunnels. The receiving side is then overwhelmed with data and will quickly block the sender, but not before processing a large load of emails.
    (via Tony Finch)

    (tags: via:fanf spam antispam gmail blocklists packets tcp networking)

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Links for 2017-03-05

  • The Occasional Chaos of AWS Lambda Runtime Performance

    If our code has modest resource requirements, and can tolerate large changes in performance, then it makes sense to start with the least amount of memory necessary. On the other hand, if consistency is important, the best way to achieve that is by cranking the memory setting all the way up to 1536MB. It’s also worth noting here that CPU-bound Lambdas may be cheaper to run over time with a higher memory setting, as Jim Conning describes in his article, “AWS Lambda: Faster is Cheaper”. In our tests, we haven’t seen conclusive evidence of that behavior, but much more data is required to draw any strong conclusions. The other lesson learned is that Lambda benchmarks should be gathered over the course of days, not hours or minutes, in order to provide actionable information. Otherwise, it’s possible to see very impressive performance from a Lambda that might later dramatically change for the worse, and any decisions made based on that information will be rendered useless.

    (tags: aws lambda amazon performance architecture ops benchmarks)

  • Google’s featured snippets are worse than fake news

    omg the Obama coup one is INSANE

    (tags: google news lies fake-news obama facts)

  • The State already knew about Tuam. Nothing ever changes in Ireland

    Forensic archaeologists are combing through the soil in Tuam. Perhaps justice might be better served if forensic accountants were combing through the accounts of the Bon Secours Sisters. They sold healthy babies and let the rest to die.

    (tags: nuns bon-secours history ireland tuam-babies tuam horror)

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Links for 2017-03-03

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Links for 2017-03-02

  • “I caused an outage” thread on twitter

    Anil Dash: “What was the first time you took the website down or broke the build? I’m thinking of all the inadvertent downtime that comes with shipping.” Sample response: ‘Pushed a fatal error in lib/display.php to all of FB’s production servers one Friday night in late 2005. Site loaded blank pages for 20min.’

    (tags: outages reliability twitter downtime fail ops post-mortem)

  • Facebook, patient zero in fake news epidemic, proudly advertises ability to sway elections

    The online social network is highlighting the Toomey campaign’s ability to make ads that performed exceptionally well on Facebook even as it downplays the ability of the site to influence elections. In the days following the President Donald Trump’s election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the potential influence of fake news on the election as “a pretty crazy idea.” Taking Facebook at its word means holding two contradictory beliefs at once: that the site can sway an election on behalf of paying customers, but doesn’t exert influence when it comes to the spread of misinformation by independent profiteers.

    (tags: facebook fake-news elections news pat-toomey republicans advertising)

  • S3 2017-02-28 outage post-mortem

    The Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) team was debugging an issue causing the S3 billing system to progress more slowly than expected. At 9:37AM PST, an authorized S3 team member using an established playbook executed a command which was intended to remove a small number of servers for one of the S3 subsystems that is used by the S3 billing process. Unfortunately, one of the inputs to the command was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended. The servers that were inadvertently removed supported two other S3 subsystems.  One of these subsystems, the index subsystem, manages the metadata and location information of all S3 objects in the region. This subsystem is necessary to serve all GET, LIST, PUT, and DELETE requests. The second subsystem, the placement subsystem, manages allocation of new storage and requires the index subsystem to be functioning properly to correctly operate. The placement subsystem is used during PUT requests to allocate storage for new objects. Removing a significant portion of the capacity caused each of these systems to require a full restart. While these subsystems were being restarted, S3 was unable to service requests. Other AWS services in the US-EAST-1 Region that rely on S3 for storage, including the S3 console, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) new instance launches, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes (when data was needed from a S3 snapshot), and AWS Lambda were also impacted while the S3 APIs were unavailable.  

    (tags: s3 postmortem aws post-mortem outages cms ops)

  • Phoenician Sun God in Eighteenth-Century Ireland? – Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog

    It is the most extraordinary inscription. This mill-stone rock, which once stood on the top of Tory Hill in County Kilkenny in Ireland, has been taken as proof of Carthaginian contact and settlement or at least trade with Ireland in antiquity. The words clearly read (give or take some distorted letters) Beli Dinose, a reference to the Carthaginian god Bel or Baal Dionysus. Extraordinary to think that Phoenicians, in the early centuries B.C. brought their nasty child-killing faith to the green hills of Ireland. Only of course they didn’t… At least not on this evidence. The stone celebrating ‘the lordly one’ actually has a rather different origin.
    excellent tale.

    (tags: phoenicia dionysus baal history tory-hill kilkenny carthage gods typos fail archaeology graffiti)

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Links for 2017-03-01

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Links for 2017-02-28

  • Gravitational Teleport

    Teleport enables teams to easily adopt the best SSH practices like: Integrated SSH credentials with your organization Google Apps identities or other OAuth identity providers. No need to distribute keys: Teleport uses certificate-based access with automatic expiration time. Enforcement of 2nd factor authentication. Cluster introspection: every Teleport node becomes a part of a cluster and is visible on the Web UI. Record and replay SSH sessions for knowledge sharing and auditing purposes. Collaboratively troubleshoot issues through session sharing. Connect to clusters located behind firewalls without direct Internet access via SSH bastions.

    (tags: ssh teleport ops bastions security auditing oauth 2fa)

  • Manage DynamoDB Items Using Time to Live (TTL)

    good call.

    Many DynamoDB users store data that has a limited useful life or is accessed less frequently over time. Some of them track recent logins, trial subscriptions, or application metrics. Others store data that is subject to regulatory or contractual limitations on how long it can be stored. Until now, these customers implemented their own time-based data management. At scale, this sometimes meant that they ran a couple of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances that did nothing more than scan DynamoDB items, check date attributes, and issue delete requests for items that were no longer needed. This added cost and complexity to their application. In order to streamline this popular and important use case, we are launching a new Time to Live (TTL) feature today. You can enable this feature on a table-by-table basis, specifying an item attribute that contains the expiration time for the item.

    (tags: dynamodb ttl storage aws architecture expiry)

  • Zeynep Tufekci: “Youtube is a crucial part of the misinfomation ecology”

    This is so spot on. I hope Google address this issue —

    YouTube is crucial part of the misinformation ecology. Not just a demand issue: its recommender algo is a “go down the rabbit hole” machine. You watch a Trump rally: you get suggested white supremacist videos, sometimes, auto-playing. Like a gateway drug theory of engagement. I’ve seen this work across the political spectrum. YouTube algo has discovered out-flanking and “red-pilling” is.. engaging. So it does.
    This thread was in response to this Buzzfeed article on the same topic: https://www.buzzfeed.com/josephbernstein/youtube-has-become-the-content-engine-of-the-internets-dark

    (tags: youtube nazis alt-right lies politics google misinformation recommendations ai red-pill)

  • The power of role models

    At dinner I asked some of the women to speak to me about this, how astronomy became so (relatively) egalitarian. And one topic became clear: role models. Astronomy has a long history of women active in the field, going all the way back to Caroline Herschel in the early 19th century. Women have made huge contributions to the field. Dava Sobel just wrote a book about the women who laid the foundations for the discovery of the expansion of the universe. Just a couple of weeks ago, papers ran obituaries of Vera Rubin, the remarkable observational astronomer who discovered the evidence for dark matter. I could mention Jocelyn Bell, whose discovery of pulsars got her advisor a Nobel (sic). The most famous astronomer I met growing up was Helen Hogg, the (adopted) Canadian astronomer at David Dunlap Observatory outside Toronto, who also did a fair bit of what we now call outreach. The women at the meeting spoke of this, a history of women contributing, of role models to look up to, of proof that women can make major contributions to the field. What can computing learn from this? It seems we’re doing it wrong. The best way to improve the representation of women in the field is not to recruit them, important though that is, but to promote them. To create role models. To push them into positions of influence.

    (tags: software women feminism role-models gender-balance egalitarianism astronomy computing rob-pike)

  • When DNNs go wrong – adversarial examples and what we can learn from them

    Excellent paper.

    [The] results suggest that classifiers based on modern machine learning techniques, even those that obtain excellent performance on the test set, are not learning the true underlying concepts that determine the correct output label. Instead, these algorithms have built a Potemkin village that works well on naturally occuring data, but is exposed as a fake when one visits points in space that do not have high probability in the data distribution.

    (tags: ai deep-learning dnns neural-networks adversarial-classification classification classifiers machine-learning papers)

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Links for 2017-02-27

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Links for 2017-02-24

  • Cloudflare Reverse Proxies are Dumping Uninitialized Memory

    This is a massive bug. C considered harmful! See also jgc’s blog post: https://blog.cloudflare.com/incident-report-on-memory-leak-caused-by-cloudflare-parser-bug/

    (tags: internet security cloudflare caching coding buffer-overflows c data-leak leaks)

  • In 1914, Feminists Fought For the Right to Forget Childbirth | Atlas Obscura

    Wow, this is creepy.

    Tracy and Leupp described twilight sleep as “a very fine balance in the states of consciousness,” which required “special knowledge of the use of drugs that cause it.” Once a woman had gone into labor, she was given a combination of morphine to dull the pain and scopolamine to dull her memory of the experience. (Today, scopolamine is sometimes called the “zombie drug” because its users become susceptible to suggestion but retain no memory of their actions.) These drugs had been used in the past as anesthetics, but few doctors had adopted them with enthusiasm. But the German clinic, the McClure’s article reported, had reached a technical breakthrough with scopolamine, which allowed the doctors to administer it with more precision and therefore with more success. Women who they treated with these drugs would retain muscle control and would follow orders from doctors, but would remember none of it. There were some strange conditions that went along with the use of these drugs. Because the women’s state of suspension was precarious, women in twilight sleep were kept in padded, crib-like beds, with eye masks blocking out the light and cotton balls in their ears blocking out sound. Sometimes they were fitted into straight-jacket-like shirts that limited the movement of their arms. When the birth was over, women also often experienced a moment of dissociation, as Carmody did: Had they really had a baby? Was the baby they’d been handed really theirs?

    (tags: twilight-sleep childbirth history freiburg morphine scopolamine anaesthesia birth)

  • At the cost of security everywhere, Google dorking is still a thing | Ars Technica

    I’d never heard of this term!

    (tags: dorking google security searching web)

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Links for 2017-02-23

  • Maniac Killers of the Bangalore IT Department

    On “techies” and their tenuous relationship with Indian society:

    Technology was supposed to deliver India from poverty, but in Bangalore it’s also deepened the division between rich and poor, young and old, modern and traditional. As the city has grown richer, it’s also become unruly and unfamiliar. If the tech worker is the star of the Indian economy, then the techie is his shadow— spoiled, untrustworthy, adulterous, depressed, and sometimes just plain senseless. (“TECHIE WITH EARPHONES RUN OVER BY TRAIN.”) In one occupational boogeyman, Bangaloreans can see their future and their fears. [….] “TECHIE’S WIFE MURDERED” read the headlines in both the Hindu and the Bangalore Mirror. “TECHIE STABS FRIEND’S WIFE TO DEATH” ran in the Deccan Herald. To read the Indian newspapers regularly is to believe the software engineer is the country’s most cursed figure. Almost every edition carries a gruesome story involving a techie accused of homicide, rape, burglary, blackmail, assault, injury, suicide, or another crime. When techies are the victims, it’s just as newsworthy. The Times of India, the country’s largest English-language paper, has carried “TECHIE DIES IN FREAK ACCIDENT” and “MAN HELD FOR PUSHING TECHIE FROM TRAIN”; in the Hindu, readers found “TEACHER CHOPS OFF FINGERS OF TECHIE HUSBAND” and “TECHIE DIED AFTER BEING FORCE-FED CYANIDE.” A long-standing journalistic adage says, “If it bleeds, it leads.” In India, if it codes, it explodes.

    (tags: crime tech india bangalore pune society techies work jobs)

  • Why Aren’t Baby Boomers Eating Pho? – Medium

    ‘Their decidedly un-hygge reluctance to partake in comforting, clear-brothed Vietnamese soups most likely stems from the generation’s reckless spending habits?—?many bought homes in their early 20’s. Some even claim they have owned upwards of seven cars over the course of their lifetimes. Unbelievably, many have never ridden a bicycle post-childhood.’

    (tags: boomers funny jokes pho soup news lifestyle age)

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Links for 2017-02-21

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Links for 2017-02-20

  • 10 Most Common Reasons Kubernetes Deployments Fail

    some real-world failure cases and how to fix them

    (tags: kubernetes docker ops)

  • How-to Debug a Running Docker Container from a Separate Container

    arguably this shouldn’t be required — building containers without /bin/sh, strace, gdb etc. is just silly

    (tags: strace docker ops debugging containers)

  • 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

    This is the best article on chan culture and how it’s taken over

    (tags: 4chan 8chan somethingawful boards history internet trump alt-right)

  • pachyderm

    ‘Containerized Data Analytics’:

    There are two bold new ideas in Pachyderm: Containers as the core processing primitive Version Control for data These ideas lead directly to a system that’s much more powerful, flexible and easy to use. To process data, you simply create a containerized program which reads and writes to the local filesystem. You can use any tools you want because it’s all just going in a container! Pachyderm will take your container and inject data into it. We’ll then automatically replicate your container, showing each copy a different chunk of data. With this technique, Pachyderm can scale any code you write to process up to petabytes of data (Example: distributed grep). Pachyderm also version controls all data using a commit-based distributed filesystem (PFS), similar to what git does with code. Version control for data has far reaching consequences in a distributed filesystem. You get the full history of your data, can track changes and diffs, collaborate with teammates, and if anything goes wrong you can revert the entire cluster with one click! Version control is also very synergistic with our containerized processing engine. Pachyderm understands how your data changes and thus, as new data is ingested, can run your workload on the diff of the data rather than the whole thing. This means that there’s no difference between a batched job and a streaming job, the same code will work for both!

    (tags: analytics data containers golang pachyderm tools data-science docker version-control)

  • How Space Weather Can Influence Elections on Earth – Motherboard

    oh, god — I’m not keen on this take: how’s about designing systems that recognise the risks?

    “Everything was going fine, but then suddenly, there were an additional 4,000 votes cast. Because it was a local election, which are normally very small, people were surprised and asked, ‘how did this happen?'” The culprit was not voter fraud or hacked machines. It was a single event upset (SEU), a term describing the fallout of an ionizing particle bouncing off a vulnerable node in the machine’s register, causing it to flip a bit, and log the additional votes. The Sun may not have been the direct source of the particle—cosmic rays from outside the solar system are also in the mix—but solar-influenced space weather certainly contributes to these SEUs.

    (tags: bit-flips science elections voting-machines vvat belgium bugs risks cosmic-rays)

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Links for 2017-02-19

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Links for 2017-02-17

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Links for 2017-02-14

  • Riot Games Seek Court Justice After Internet Provider Deliberately Causes In-Game Lag

    Pretty damning for Time-Warner Cable:

    When it seemed that the service provider couldn’t sink any lower, they opted to hold Riot to a ‘lag ransom’. Following Riot’s complaints regarding the inexplicable lag the player base were experiencing, TWC offered to magically solve the issue, a hardball tactic to which Riot finally admitted defeat in August of 2015. Before the deal was finalised, lag and data-packet loss for League of Legends players were far above the standards Riot was aiming for. Miraculously, after the two tech companies reached an unpleasant deal, the numbers improved.

    (tags: ftc fcc twc time-warner cable isps network-neutrality league-of-legends internet)

  • Instapaper Outage Cause & Recovery

    Hard to see this as anything other than a pretty awful documentation fail by the AWS RDS service:

    Without knowledge of the pre-April 2014 file size limit, it was difficult to foresee and prevent this issue. As far as we can tell, there’s no information in the RDS console in the form of monitoring, alerts or logging that would have let us know we were approaching the 2TB file size limit, or that we were subject to it in the first place. Even now, there’s nothing to indicate that our hosted database has a critical issue.

    (tags: limits aws rds databases mysql filesystems ops instapaper risks)

  • ‘Software Engineering at Google’

    20 pages of Google’s software dev practices, with emphasis on the build system (since it was written by the guy behind Blaze). Naturally, some don’t make a whole lot of sense outside of Google, but still some good stuff here

    (tags: development engineering google papers software coding best-practices)

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Links for 2017-02-13

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Links for 2017-02-10

  • Why Shopify Payments prohibit sexual content

    Interesting background info from a twitter thread:

    @jennschiffer Breitbart uses Shopify Payments, which is built on top of Stripe, which is sponsored by Wells Fargo merchant services AFAIK. WF has underwriting rules that prohibit sexual content. The main reasons aren’t b/c WF or Stripe are interested in policing morals. Historically there’s a higher rate of chargebacks from porn sites, which is why banks are generally anti-sexual content. Imagine someone’s partner finds a charge for pornhub on their credit cars and calls them out on it. The person will deny and file a CB. Once porn sites started getting shut down by banks, they would change their names or submit applications claiming to be fetish sites, etc So underwriting dept’s decided the risk is too high and generally defer to no with anything sexual. Most processors aren’t inclined to challenge this position on moral grounds since there’s strong precedent against it… …and it could jeapordize their entire payments system if they get shut off. There are exceptions of course and there are other prohibited uses that are allowed to continue.

    (tags: twitter porn shopify sex chargebacks payment)

  • Comparing Amazon Elastic Container Service and Google Kubernetes – Medium

    nice intro to Kubernetes and container orchestration

    (tags: kubernetes containers docker ops)

  • Minor Infractions — Real Life

    When our son turned 12, we gave him a phone and allowed him to use social media, with a condition: He had no right to privacy. We would periodically and without warning read his texts and go through his messenger app. We would follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (though we wouldn’t comment or tag him — we’re not monsters). We wouldn’t ambush him about what we read and we wouldn’t attempt to embarrass him. Anything that wasn’t dangerous or illegal, we would ignore.
    Food for thought. But not yet!

    (tags: surveillance family kids privacy online social-media teenagers)

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Links for 2017-02-09

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Links for 2017-02-08

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Links for 2017-02-07

  • What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen | Federal Trade Commission

    This is awful:

    Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent. What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs. Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership.  And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices. That’s what Vizio was up to behind the screen, but what was the company telling consumers? Not much, according to the complaint. Vizio put its tracking functionality behind a setting called “Smart Interactivity.”  But the FTC and New Jersey AG say that the generic way the company described that feature – for example, “enables program offers and suggestions” – didn’t give consumers the necessary heads-up to know that Vizio was tracking their TV’s every flicker. (Oh, and the “Smart Interactivity” feature didn’t even provide the promised “program offers and suggestions.”)

    (tags: privacy ftc surveillance tv vizio ads advertising smart-tvs)

  • Inuit Cartography

    In Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), the Inuit people are known for carving portable maps out of driftwood to be used while navigating coastal waters. These pieces, which are small enough to be carried in a mitten, represent coastlines in a continuous line, up one side of the wood and down the other. The maps are compact, buoyant, and can be read in the dark.

    (tags: maps inuit history sailing navigation coastlines greenland)

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Links for 2017-02-06

  • Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles – The New York Times

    This sounds more like a medieval court than a modern democracy. Also this incredible gem:

    Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.

    (tags: stephen-bannon trump us-politics nsc)

  • Beringei: A high-performance time series storage engine | Engineering Blog | Facebook Code

    Beringei is different from other in-memory systems, such as memcache, because it has been optimized for storing time series data used specifically for health and performance monitoring. We designed Beringei to have a very high write rate and a low read latency, while being as efficient as possible in using RAM to store the time series data. In the end, we created a system that can store all the performance and monitoring data generated at Facebook for the most recent 24 hours, allowing for extremely fast exploration and debugging of systems and services as we encounter issues in production. Data compression was necessary to help reduce storage overhead. We considered several existing compression schemes and rejected the techniques that applied only to integer data, used approximation techniques, or needed to operate on the entire dataset. Beringei uses a lossless streaming compression algorithm to compress points within a time series with no additional compression used across time series. Each data point is a pair of 64-bit values representing the timestamp and value of the counter at that time. Timestamps and values are compressed separately using information about previous values. Timestamp compression uses a delta-of-delta encoding, so regular time series use very little memory to store timestamps. From analyzing the data stored in our performance monitoring system, we discovered that the value in most time series does not change significantly when compared to its neighboring data points. Further, many data sources only store integers (despite the system supporting floating point values). Knowing this, we were able to tune previous academic work to be easier to compute by comparing the current value with the previous value using XOR, and storing the changed bits. Ultimately, this algorithm resulted in compressing the entire data set by at least 90 percent.

    (tags: beringei compression facebook monitoring tsd time-series storage architecture)

  • St. Petersburg team operated a PRNG hack against Vegas slots

    According to Willy Allison, a Las Vegas–based casino security consultant who has been tracking the Russian scam for years, the operatives use their phones to record about two dozen spins on a game they aim to cheat. They upload that footage to a technical staff in St. Petersburg, who analyze the video and calculate the machine’s pattern based on what they know about the model’s pseudorandom number generator. Finally, the St. Petersburg team transmits a list of timing markers to a custom app on the operative’s phone; those markers cause the handset to vibrate roughly 0.25 seconds before the operative should press the spin button. “The normal reaction time for a human is about a quarter of a second, which is why they do that,” says Allison, who is also the founder of the annual World Game Protection Conference. The timed spins are not always successful, but they result in far more payouts than a machine normally awards: Individual scammers typically win more than $10,000 per day. (Allison notes that those operatives try to keep their winnings on each machine to less than $1,000, to avoid arousing suspicion.) A four-person team working multiple casinos can earn upwards of $250,000 in a single week.

    (tags: prng hacking security exploits randomness gambling las-vegas casinos slot-machines)

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Links for 2017-02-05

  • Data from pacemaker used to arrest man for arson, insurance fraud

    Compton has medical conditions which include an artificial heart linked to an external pump. According to court documents, a cardiologist said that “it is highly improbable Mr. Compton would have been able to collect, pack and remove the number of items from the house, exit his bedroom window and carry numerous large and heavy items to the front of his residence during the short period of time he has indicated due to his medical conditions.” After US law enforcement caught wind of this peculiar element to the story, police were able to secure a search warrant and collect the pacemaker’s electronic records to scrutinize his heart rate, the demand on the pacemaker and heart rhythms prior to and at the time of the incident.

    (tags: pacemakers health medicine privacy data arson insurance fraud heart)

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Links for 2017-02-04

  • LandSafe.org: if you aren’t safe, we’ll make noise for you

    a Dead Man’s Switch for border crossings; if you are detained and cannot make a “checkin”, it’ll make noise on your behalf so your friends and family know what’s happened

    (tags: safety borders dead-mans-switch landsafe tools)

  • “what’s the inside story on these young fascist nazis”

    Excellent explanatory twitter thread explaining where this movement came from (ie chan sites):

    “what’s the inside story on these young fascist nazis” a lot of them ended up in shock humor/lonely dude forums that nazi recruiters joined. this isn’t a fucking puzzle box, we have all the history right here. dudes ended up on various sites crossing nerdy hobbies & resentment. a buncha fucking nerds had their various dipshit teenage beefs, many starting with resentment of women, and got radicalized. “how did they end up nazis?” a bunch of real nazis whispered poison in their ears while becoming their only community, their only “friends”. they also used multiple levels of irony to make bigotry and fascism more acceptable by drowning it in “oh we’re just joking”

    (tags: nazis fascism 4chan 8chan extremism politics)

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Links for 2017-02-03

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Links for 2017-02-01

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Links for 2017-01-31

  • Supporting our Muslim sisters and brothers in tech – Inside Intercom

    This is simply amazing:

    Intercom is a dual-citizen company of a sort. We’ve had two offices from day zero. I moved to San Francisco from Ireland in 2011 and now hold a green card and live here. I set up our headquarters here, which contains all of our business functions. My cofounders set up our Dublin office, where our research and development teams are based. And we have over 150 people in each office now. We’d like to use this special position we’re in to try help anyone in our industry feeling unsafe and hurt right now. If you’re in tech, and you’re from one of the newly unfavored countries, or even if you’re not, but you’re feeling persecuted for being Muslim, we’d like to help you consider Dublin as a place to live and work. [….] – If you decide you want to look into moving seriously, we’ll retain our Dublin immigration attorneys for you, and pay your legal bills with them, up to €5k. We’ll do this for as many as we can afford. We should be able to do this for at least 50 people.

    (tags: intercom muslim us-politics immigration dublin ireland)

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