Angelesen #71

TL;DR This might get a bit ElastiSnafuHeavy. Also, Use Signal/Threema. Use Tor 😉

εxodus – The privacy audit platform for Android applications (reports.exodus-privacy.eu.org)

εxodus analyzes Android applications in order to list the embedded trackers. A tracker is a piece of software meant to collect data about you or your usages. So, εxodus reports tell you what are the ingredients of the cake.

I traced down a specific telemetry tracker that performed around 3000 DNS Lookups for a domain per day. After playing back and forth, I figured out that it comes from 1 app with a tracker embedded. Thanks to the Exodus project, I was able to find the tracker and switch off background data for the app – Look mom no DNS Requests anymore!

"I am real mad about the Elastic relicense so I’m going to vent a bit." (twitter.com)

By using an open source license and accepting contributions, they asked the community to trust them with their CLA. Implicitly: not just at the time the public made contributions, but for the life of the project! Instead they chose to set that trust, and their community, on fire.

Elasticsearch Licencing Change #1

I remember signing the Contributor License Agreement – And also remember that it basically made me lose interest in contributing to the project. That’s why I cherish the existence of Institutions like the CNCF as a solid steward for all things Cloud Native.

PostgreSQL on ARM-based AWS EC2 Instances: Is It Any Good? (percona.com)

There were not many cases where the ARM instance becomes slower than the x86 instance in the tests we performed. The test results were consistent throughout the testing of the last couple of days. While ARM-based instance is 25 percent cheaper, it is able to show a 15-20% performance gain in most of the tests over the corresponding x86 based instances. So ARM-based instances are giving conclusively better price-performance in all aspects. We should expect more and more cloud providers to provide ARM-based instances in the future. Please let us know if you wish to see any different type of benchmark tests.

ARM-based CPUs will most likely take over the Datacenter market quite quickly. At amazee.io we started the move away from Intel to AMD CPUs in most of our infrastructure because of the Performance/Price benefit, and it won’t be much different as ARM-based Instances start to be more widely available in the cloud.

What You Should Know Before Leaking a Zoom Meeting (theintercept.com)

It is not immediately apparent at what point Zoom injects its “ultrasonic” audio watermark into the audio stream — whether this happens only if a meeting attendee presses the Record button in Zoom or if the audio stream is watermarked prior to that point. Nonetheless, when recording a Zoom meeting, it is best to avoid using Zoom’s built-in recording option and to capture the meeting using a third-party audio/video recorder. Zoom mentions that in order to identify the participant who recorded the meeting, they need at least two minutes of audio from the meeting, though it stands to reason that shorter snippets may also be identifiable if they happen to contain the audio watermark.

A few good pointers when it comes to Zooms recording fingerprinting and leaking information.

Moxie Marlinspike Has a Plan to Reclaim Our Privacy (newyorker.com)

That’s the Longread of the week folks! (You can also listen to it there’s a full recording of the article).

And as always: Us Signal/Threema. Use Tor.

Truly Doubling Down on Open Source (logz.io)

Over the last few days, we’ve been closely collaborating with a growing number of organizations that believe that Elasticsearch and Kibana need to stay open-source, Apache 2, to serve the broad and diverse community of users working with and contributing to it

Elasticsearch Licencing Change #1

Stepping up for a truly open source Elasticsearch (aws.amazon.com)

The term “open source” has had a specific meaning since it was coined in 1998. Elastic’s assertions that the SSPL is “free and open” are misleading and wrong. They’re trying to claim the benefits of open source, while chipping away at the very definition of open source itself. Their choice of SSPL belies this. SSPL is a non-open source license designed to look like an open source license, blurring the lines between the two. As the Fedora community states, “[to] consider the SSPL to be ‘Free’ or ‘Open Source’ causes [a] shadow to be cast across all other licenses in the FOSS ecosystem.”

Elasticsearch Licencing Change #3

Tobias has a great sum-up of all the important articles in his weekly newsletter.

What Parler Saw During the Attack on the Capitol (projects.propublica.org)

Below is a collection of more than 500 videos that ProPublica determined were taken during the events of Jan. 6 and were relevant and newsworthy. Taken together, they provide one of the most comprehensive records of a dark event in American history through the eyes of those who took part.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised Livestreamed. Also wearing a mask woudln’t be stupid. You know err… the rona.

System Separation in the Continental Europe Synchronous Area on 8 January 2021 – update (entsoe.eu)

At approximately 14:05 CET, the frequency in the North-West Area of Continental Europe initially decreased to a value of 49.74 Hz within a period of around 15 seconds. Afterwards, the frequency reached a steady state value of approximately 49.84 Hz. At the same time, the frequency in the South-East Area initially increased to a value of up to 50.6 Hz before settling at a steady state frequency between 50.2 Hz and 50.3 Hz. This can also be seen from the graph below.

Due to the underfrequency in the North-West Area, the contracted interruptible services in France and Italy, in total around 1.7 GW, were disconnected in order to reduce the frequency deviation. These services are large customers, who are contracted by the respective Transmission System Operators (TSOs) and get disconnected if frequency drops under a certain threshold. In addition, 420 MW and 60 MW of supportive power were automatically activated from the Nordic and Great Britain Synchronous areas respectively. These countermeasures ensured that, already at 14:09 CET, the frequency deviation was limited to a deviation of around 0.1 Hz in the North-West Area from the nominal frequency of 50 Hz (see Figure 2).

More info on what’s known about the big Electricity grid issue that happened on 2021-01-08.

Also a great thread (in german) on why renewables aren’t to blame in this case.

WhatsApp delays privacy changes following backlash (dw.com)

Following WhatsApp’s initial announcement many users have signed up for other messaging services, including privacy-minded Signal and Telegram. Signal said that a massive influx of users had led to technical difficulties in delivering some messages on Friday.

WhatsApp also canceled its February 8 deadline for accepting the tweak to its terms of service, involving sharing data with Facebook servers.

Well totally didn’t see that one coming! I would love to see how many people moved platforms and the impact on WhatsApp. Signal/Threema/Telegram all saw a huge spike of signups.

Again Use Signal/Threema 😉

New Gear: Odroid N2+

At one of the CommunityRack.org locations, I housed an Intel NUC for several years. As the Intel Celeron asks for retirement and ARM is all the rage, I started to look at new devices that could replace the NUC.

This project’s main goals were to lower power consumption, be a single-board computer, expandable storage options, and run a stock Ubuntu.

I’ve looked at the Rock Pi N10Odrdoid N2+ and the Rock Pi 4. All good and solid boards but Ben had many good things to tell about the Hardkernel Odroid Boards when we talked about Single Board Computers. Mainly because they can pack a great amount CPU cores onto a small form factor computer.

The Rock Pi4 would have had an M.2 slot to add an SSD, but Ubuntu would only run on the C-Type of the board which was a bit complicated to get at the time of my evaluation. So I went with the Odroid and opted to use a 128G SD-Card with the possibility to move towards an EMMC Storage module later on.

The Odroid setup for now:

  • Board: Odroid N2+ & Plastic Case
  • System “Disk”: SanDisk 128GB A2 – 90MB/s write, 160 MB/s read
  • Storage: Samsung T5 SSD – 1TB
  • Power Supply: Generic 12V/2A Power supply

Getting started was easy and very RaspberryPi like. Flashed the Ubuntu Image found in the Odroid wiki and it booted without any issues.

I ran into the issue that in the Ubuntu Image available back in November some of the Kernel modules weren’t shipped. Therefore, the Docker daemon just failed to start.

I got around this by just symlinking kernels modules into the new place – Docker didn’t start with a few errors on missing br_netfilter and bridge modules. The easiest way to figure out why Docker didn’t start was running /usr/bin/dockerd directly and observing the errors. I think this has been fixed already but if someone else runs into this. That’s one very hacky way to solve the issue.

cd /lib/modules/
ln -s 4.9.236-104 4.9.230-89
modprobe bridge
modprobe br_netfilter

I’m super happy so far with the power usage, which is about 6-7 Watts fully loaded. Having 6 CPU cores if I would need those are also quite impressive for such a small form factor.

I’ll follow up with another article on the challenges I saw going ARM because there are a few gotchas along the way.

Angelesen #70

70 Posts already – Wouldn’t have thought that I make it that far. Ok the cadence is a bit slower than I initially thought but if there’s time there’s a release. Started to like the time series blogposts as my bookmarks also get sorted that way. So week-numbers all the way 🙂

Enjoy this weeks installment of random links from traffic simulators over FOSDEM organization topics to phone addiction and more!

Technical FAQ – aleph (docs.alephdata.org)

Can I run Aleph without using Docker?
Can Britain leave the European Union? Yes, it’s possible; but complicated and will probably not make your life better in the way that you’re expecting.

From the documentation of Aleph – Which is a great tool to get an overview over a big set of documents.

Microsimulation of Traffic Flow: Onramp (traffic-simulation.de)

HTML5 implementation of a Traffic simulation – Okay I might have spent a few minutes on this site last week.

Taking FOSDEM online via Matrix (matrix.org)

Firstly, FOSDEM will have its own dedicated Matrix server at fosdem.org (hosted by EMS along with a tonne of Jitsi’s) acting as the social backbone for the event. Matrix is particularly well suited for this, because:

  • We’re an open standard comms protocol with an open network run under a non-profit foundation with loads of open source implementations (including the reference ones): folks can jump on board and participate via their own servers, clients, bridges, bots etc.
  • We provide official bridges through to IRC and XMPP (and most other chat systems), giving as much openness and choice as possible – if folks want to participate via Freenode and XMPP they can!
  • We’re built with large virtual communities in mind (e.g. Mozilla, KDE, Matrix itself) – for instance, we’ve worked a lot on moderation recently.
  • We’ve spent a lot of time improving widgets recently: these give the ability to embed arbitrary webapps into chatrooms – letting you add livestreams, video conferences, schedules, Q&A dashboards etc, augmenting a plain old chatroom into a much richer virtual experience that can hopefully capture the semantics and requirements of an event like FOSDEM.

Looking forward to FOSDEM and how they do it!

hexops/dockerfile: Dockerfile best-practices for writing production-worthy Docker images. (github.com)

Writing production-worthy Dockerfiles is, unfortunately, not as simple as you would imagine

A lot of very good pointers on writing good docker container files.

How to overcome Phone Addiction [Solutions + Research] (cognitiontoday.com)

Let’s first understand what is phone addiction and what counts as excessive phone use. Phone addiction or compulsive phone use goes along-side internet addiction and social media addiction. Psychologists also call it “problematic phone use.” For this post, we will consider them together. Cell-phones are habit-forming – once you go down that rabbit hole, you use more and more.

Very good article with a few mechanisms that can help overcome phone overuse which feels like it gotten a bit a problem for me personally last year.

Protect domains that don’t send email – GOV.UK (gov.uk)

Make sure that domains that do not send email cannot be used for spoofing.

Wonderful guide on how to setup domains that aren’t used. And I’m sure a lot of people have a few of them.

Release Pinecil | Many Bug Fixes | Polish | New Repo Name · Ralim/IronOS (github.com)

New repository name of IronOS from TS100 as this has clearly grown larger than just the TS100

TS100 is now IronOS 🎉 looking forward to the new releases. Which reminds me that I need to update the Firmware of my soldering-iron.

My year in data (samplesize.one)

I wanted to see what happens with my time. I knew I was spending quite a lot of it on social media, but I wasn’t sure how much exactly. I also knew I was working quite a lot and wanted to quantify exactly how much (spoiler alert: not that much). I hoped that keeping track of what I do would help me to identify chunks of time that were being wasted and to turn them into quality time.

❤ was thinking about something like that for a while now. I love the simplicity of building it in just a spreadsheet.

Themed days, Timeboxing and why you should use them. (jamalx31.com)

Before I began using timeboxing, I learned about another technique called Themed days. I decided to combine both to maximize productivity. Themed days are strategically planned days in your calendar, which are entirely dedicated to one single thing or tasks from the same category. While timeboxing is to allocate a certain amount of time to a task in advance and then complete it within that time frame. The idea behind these two techniques is to eliminate context switching or minimize it.

A good approach – I’m currently trying to accomplish something similar. Blocking out meeting-free time to get a bit a better grip on my workweek.

How 30 Lines of Code Blew Up a 27-Ton Generator (wired.com)

At 11:33 am and 23 seconds, the protective relay observed that the generator was perfectly synced. But then its corrupted brain did the opposite of what it was meant to do: It opened a circuit breaker to disconnect the machine.

When the generator was detached from the larger circuit of Idaho National Laboratory’s electrical grid and relieved of the burden of sharing its energy with that vast system, it instantly began to accelerate, spinning faster, like a pack of horses that had been let loose from its carriage. As soon as the protective relay observed that the generator’s rotation had sped up to be fully out of sync with the rest of the grid, its maliciously flipped logic immediately reconnected it to the grid’s machinery.

The moment the diesel generator was again linked to the larger system, it was hit with the wrenching force of every other rotating generator on the grid. All of that equipment pulled the relatively small mass of the diesel generator’s own spinning components back to its original, slower speed to match its neighbors’ frequencies.

Includes a video which is watch worthy!

Angelesen #69

Hi 2021 – Here we go again.

Smartphone USB-C Hack (flipdot.org)

Lustig das ich dem Hacker auf dem RC3 über den Weg gelaufen bin 🙂 Sollte man öfters machen einfach Hardware upgraden 🙂

How AWS Added Apple Mac Mini Nodes to EC2 (servethehome.com)

This is what an x86/ 10GbE Apple Mac Mini looks like in an EC2 rack. One can see that the unit is placed in a sled. Around the Mac Mini are a surprising number of wires being routed through the chassis.

Many of these wires terminate at the front of the sled. Here, we have an AWS Nitro controller. Amazon is now on its fourth generation of Nitro controller after starting the journey years ago.

Interesting insight into the world of DPUs – Also interesting is the fact that the DPU component might be more expensive than the rest of the AWS infrastructure on the sled.

Open Source Stash (opensourcestash.com)

A growing stash of privacy-focused, powerful and secure open-source alternatives for makers, marketers, designers and others.

Europe’s night trains are on track for a resurgence (edition.cnn.com)

Spearheaded by Austria’s ÖBB, in conjunction with Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, France’s SNCF and Swiss Federal Railways, the collaboration will see four new "Nightjet" routes over the next four years. By December 2021, Vienna-Munich-Paris and Zurich-Cologne-Amsterdam will be up and running. Two years later, a Vienna/Berlin to Brussels/Paris will launch. And in December 2024, sleeper trains will start running between Zurich and Barcelona.

Looking forward to this!

Why Is Apple’s M1 Chip So Fast?. Real world experience with the new M1… (debugger.medium.com)

The second long read around the M1 Chip. The very interesting bit is here:

Why can’t Intel and AMD add more instruction decoders? This is where we finally see the revenge of RISC, and where the fact that the M1 Firestorm core has an ARM RISC architecture begins to matter. You see, an x86 instruction can be anywhere from 1–15 bytes long. RISC instructions have fixed length. Every ARM instruction is 4 bytes long. Why is that relevant in this case? Because splitting up a stream of bytes into instructions to feed into eight different decoders in parallel becomes trivial if every instruction has the same length. However, on an x86 CPU, the decoders have no clue where the next instruction starts. It has to actually analyze each instruction in order to see how long it is. The brute force way Intel and AMD deal with this is by simply attempting to decode instructions at every possible starting point. That means x86 chips have to deal with lots of wrong guesses and mistakes which has to be discarded. This creates such a convoluted and complicated decoder stage that it is really hard to add more decoders. But for Apple, it is trivial in comparison to keep adding more. In fact, adding more causes so many other problems that four decoders according to AMD itself is basically an upper limit for them. This is what allows the M1 Firestorm cores to essentially process twice as many instructions as AMD and Intel CPUs at the same clock frequency.

And when you are done with that article head over to this one: What Does RISC and CISC Mean in 2020?

sindresorhus/fast-cli: Test your download and upload speed using fast.com (github.com)

Test your download and upload speed using fast.com

An easy way to check the connection speed from your command line

Time to Say Goodbye to Google Fonts (wicki.io)

“Google Fonts resources will be redownloaded for every website, regardless it being cached on the CDN. Self-host your fonts for better performance. The old performance argument is not valid anymore.”

TIL! There’s no CDN benefit on webfonts anymore. Self-hosting fonts is anyways better 🙂

Amazon owns more than $2B worth of IPV4 addresses (dangoldin.com)

While listening to a podcast discussing BGP I heard the fact that AWS owns more than $2B worth of IP addresses. I knew AWS was massive but this came as a big shock so I decided to do some digging around. I came across a site that listed the market prices of IP addresses and the range looks to be anywhere from $20 to $30 per IP depending on the block size. Now it was time to figure out the IP addresses owned by Amazon. I figured this would be difficult but lucky for us AWS actually publishes their entire set of IP addresses as JSON.

All hoarders!

The Beirut Port Explosion (forensic-architecture.org)

Forensic Architecture was invited by Mada Masr to examine open source information including videos, photographs, and documents to provide a timeline and a precise 3D model to help investigate the events of that day.

Stitching together all videos and finding a common timeline of all videos that have been posted somewhere is nice to see. Also the fact that if all safety regulations would have been adhered to that there would have been no harm to people.

Ryuk in 5 Hours (thedfirreport.com)

The Ryuk threat actors went from a phishing email to domain wide ransomware in 5 hours. They escalated privileges using Zerologon (CVE-2020-1472), less than 2 hours after the initial phish. They used tools such as Cobalt Strike, AdFind, WMI, and PowerShell to accomplish their objective.

From Phish to Pwned in 5 hours … impressive

Get started with 2-minute rule (hoanhan.co)

Whenever you find it hard to get started on a task, consider scaling it down into a 2-minute version. For example,

  • Read a book → Read one page
  • Write an essay → Write one sentence
  • Run 10 miles → Wear my running shoes
  • Do 100 push-ups → Do 1 push up
  • Eat more vegetables → Eat an apple
  • Study for interview → Skim through my notes
  • Build a program → Code a function

A very good reminder on easy goal setting 🙂

A Guy Walks Into an Apple Store (birchtree.me)

Yes, removing the charging brick from each iPhone box will reduce waste, and it will allow Apple to ship more iPhones on fewer planes/trains/trucks. But if you expand your view just a bit, you can really see how none of their other marketing backs up this goal, and in fact runs counter to it. They’ve introduced a new charging method that is going to get lots of people to buy a new charging brick anyway, they’re pushing a wireless charging technology that wastes far more electricity than wired charging, and they have an iPhone Upgrade Program that encourages people to get a new iPhone every 12 months.

A good spin on the "we don’t ship a charger" and then basically forcing people anyways to get a new charger.

Warum die Fallzahlen trotz Masken so stark steigen (scilogs.spektrum.de)

Und zum anderen lässt sich das Problem, wenn denn meine Vermutung korrekt ist, leicht wieder korrigieren. Man beschränkt sich einfach wieder auf ein halbes Dutzend enge Kontakte und unterbindet damit das Superspreading. Das würde schon viel dazu beitragen, die Lage unter Kontrolle zu behalten.

Der Artikel ist zwar schon ein paar Monate alt, jedoch immer noch valide. Wobei Mensch sich derzeit eher auf 3-6 Kontakte halten sollte.

A Short Story for Engineers (userweb.cs.txstate.edu)

And last but not least: Enjoy a short story for engineers