Awesome Links #10

I've promised myself that I'm going to do a lot of reading this year. To date I've done quite well, and the books have been amazing.

"How to Create a Mind" by Ray Kurzweil was an excellent read. It seemed a great idea to follow up with more AI books, I read two William Hertling novels, Avogadro Corp and A.I. Apocalypse. They were both great, but I enjoyed the second more.

Not that I have a heap of time for it, but reading "How to Create a Mind" by Ray Kurzweil got me thinking about Machine Learning again. Today I stumbled upon (Machine Learning in Javascript)[http://burakkanber.com/blog/machine-learning-in-other-languages-introduction/], which is an interesting series of posts.

Things I Want To Do This Year

While I was on my flight back from visting family in Sydney for Xmas, I started writing a list of everything I want to get done this year.

It's quite a long list, and it will be a very full year if I manage to do half of it. But it's worth writing down:

  • Create a computer game of some type (mobile or desktop)
  • Commit code to an open source project every day. If you forget, just begin again (my streak so far is 50 days)
  • Take those rollerblades you've had in the cupboard for 6 years and actually use them.
  • Finish the personal training app you were working on last year
  • Read at least 1 book per month
  • Learn another programming language till you can use it proficiently (I'm working on learning golang)
  • Get the RHoK project FGIS out into some fire trucks for testing
  • Design something from scratch and 3d print it
  • Walk 100km in one go (as of last year I can comfortably walk about 20km in one day, I want to improve on this)
  • Build muscle (Last year I lost about 15kgm, going from 97kg-83kg)
  • Collect and publish a large dataset under creative commons
  • Build a quadcopter (carried over from last year)
  • Build a for the REA hackday in Feb
  • Visit a country you haven't been too before
  • Meet/befriend 100 new people (more than just friending on twitter)

As you can see. I have my work cut out.

Awesome Links #9

Now that the end of year is upon us, it seems like an opportunity to get some reading done & work on a few small projects.

I just finished The Last Firewall by William Hertling, which was a very good read. I haven't read his previous two books, but I'll have to pick them up now. I partically liked the (brief) reference to a Puppen (half dog, half cat).

I've been dabbling a bit with Golang. It's a fantastic language and I'll be spending more time learning it over the break.

An update on my AWS bill

The last 48 hours have been surreal. When I typed up the experience up yesterday morning, I was not expecting it to get more than a handful of votes on Hacker News.

As I watched the discussion yesterday I was warmed that people both cared about my plight and found it useful to have a reminder.

All that while, the case with Amazon slowly progressed. They first answered and asked me terminate the stopped instances. They indicated that once this was done they would put in a request to waive the fees (subject to approval).

Overnight (I'm in Australia), this has been approved. I still can't see it from the Billing Console, which I'm told is normal, but I've been informed in the support case that Amazon will be crediting the entire bill. Yay!

There was part of me, when I saw this bill, that knew what Amazon's response would be. I don't deserve that kind of relief after leaking my key, but Amazon has always been a cut above.

In my interactions with Amazon Account Managers and Architects (work account), Amazon has consistently cared about people being efficient in their instance usage. They have gone so far as to suggest changes that would wipe thousands off a monthly bill.

With this experience they have reinforced, to me a least, that they value me as a customer for the long term. I will one day be paying Amazon $3000 dollars a month, but I hope that it will be the bill for, an as yet non-existent, startup that is skyrocketing to success :D

This is all without mentioning that Werner Vogels stopped by the Hacker News thread (The ticket was already on it's way to being dealt with by that point, but it was amazing).

Finally, thanks again to all the supportive people over the last 2 days.

Discuss it on Hacker News

My run in with Unauthorised Litecoin mining on AWS

Update: You can read an update to this story here

Normally I'm a big advocate of open sourcing projects both current (and old) on GitHub. Today though, I wish that I wasn't.

On sunday night I received an email from Amazon saying that they'd detected my Amazon key on one of my repositories. This was a little bit of a surprise, because I'm usually so diligent about not saving credentials into repositories.

After a brief search I found the key buried in an old project that I'd just decided didn't need to be private.

That wasn't the end of the matter, I was in for a rude shock when I logged into my Amazon account to check for unauthorised usage. $3000+ in pending charges. Woah!

Billing Dashboard

It didn't take long to find the source of the billing. Twenty cc2.8xlarge instances humming along in the us-east region for the last two days.

By this stage I'd already revoked the key (as suggested in the email). So I quickly shut the instances down, while I would have liked to preserve them for forensics, I just couldn't afford to leave them running while waiting for Amazon support (I do not pay for support, since this is just my private account that I dabble with).

After taking stock for a few moments, I detached one of the volumes and attached it to another instance. Having a poke around confirmed what I had already guessed. The unauthorised user had been mining litecoin with the mining pool pool-x.eu.

I've emailed pool-x.eu asking them to suspend the account, but I've yet to receive a reply.

What have I learned from this experience?

Enable billing alerts

Given I spend about $60-80 a month with Amazon usually, I could have been warned MUCH earlier. Needless to say, now that the horse has bolted I've enabled the horse bolting detector.

Check GitHub

It's not really that hard to do a regular search of GitHub for keys and passwords in your repositories. Check your friends repositories as well...many eyes.

Audit code before open sourcing

Always a good rule, but be especially careful flicking the switch on repositories that you've had as private for a long time.

Update: @joneaves suggested either using something like checkstyle (java) and/or a pre-commit hook. Good advice.

Use IAM Keys

Quite a few people have pointed out on twitter and hacker news that the other thing you should be doing is using restricted IAM keys.

More tips on Amazon

A friend pointed out that Amazon has a good security blog post that deals with this and other risks to your account.

Discuss it on Hacker News

Awesome Christmas Gifts 2013

Pebble Smartwatch

Pebble Smartwatch

In a special edition of 'Awesome Links' I share what you should be buying your geeky friends for Christmas (assuming they haven't already bought it for themselves)

We may all use smartphones for everything now, but if you asked the futurists of the 1980s what we would be using now, they probably have described something like Pebble. This Smartwatch took Kickstarter by storm, and continues to impress. At USD$150 it may fit into your budget for a loved one.

For all those geeks with kids, the Leap Motion is the perfect gift. There is nothing quite like watching a kid discover magic. And at USD$79 it has a much better time to entertainment ration than the movie gift voucher you were thinking of giving them.

If you're looking for something with a smaller budget the Raspberry Pi ($35) or Beaglebone Black ($45) may fit the bill. One of the benefits to giving one of these as a gift, is even if they already have one, a second or third is always useful (they tend to get used in projects). The Raspberry Pi tends to be a bit friendlier for getting started, and the Beaglebone Black fits into the slightly more advanced category.

Need more ideas? Hacker Things has an impressive list of awesome gadgets. Also browsing Adafruit, Sparkfun and Tindie should help you find that perfect geek gift.

Update: opensource.com also has an awesome gift guide.

Awesome Reading: Open Companies

A rare archaeological find

A rare archaeological find at GitHub by fumi (http://www.flickr.com/photos/fumi/9994096423/)

I've been reading about a couple of open companies, GitTip and Balanced Payments.

Both of these companies have taken what might be considered extreme approaches. Open sourcing just about everything required to run their companies. But it's more than that. All the issues and discussions about running the companies take place in public as well. That gives an amazing level of transparency, and encourages so much community participation.

I found about about Balanced Payments through Steve Klabnik's announcement that he would be partnering (employed by) Balanced Payments. This led to a bunch of other urls.

The first, was a pull request that Balanced Payments made on GitTip. Solving their problem regarding the need for a new payment provider. This is a powerful action to promote both Balanced Payments, but also a statement about how well being open is working for GitTip

Moving on from there, I decided to look into the how and why of Balanced Payments decision to be open. The CEO, Matin Tamizi, has shared a lot of his reasoning in a article on Fast Company: Labs and also in the GitHub produced OctoTales.

There is more information in the blog post announcing the decision, and also a page dedicated to explaining the 'Open Company' philosophy.

Of course, a lot of the thinking that has gone into making Balanced an open company comes from interacting with Chad Whitacre, the founder of GitTip, so it's worth delving into his thinking on the subject. Which you can do by reading his excellent posts "The First Open Company" and "The Second Open Company"

I'm not sure about the assertion that GitTip is the first(or second) 'Open Company', but it's certainly and interesting concept to explore further.

Of course you couldn't finish a blog post like this without talking about GitHub itself and the influence it has had on the community. Both by being very transparent (if not entirely open), and in the building of tools that allows this kind of openness and collaboration.

Links for Good

Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan as seend from the ISS

It's easy to get caught up in making money, but there are things that you can do that will help the social good as well:

Random Hacks of Kindness - The next global hackathon is the 7th - 8th of December. I will be attending RHoK Melbourne

CrisisCamp - A global organization dedicated to helping after Earthquakes, Floods, and major storms. This is timely given the recent Typhoon in the Philippines

Awesome Links #7

Awesome links for the 14th of October 2013: Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden courtesy of The Guardian

Cypherpunks 2.0 - Interesting talk by Andy Isaacson from Noisebridge. Videos are split into a bunch of sections Part 1, Part 2 & Q & A

Spark Core - This tiny embedded board looks very promising. Originally a Kickstarter campaign. Delivery is currently behind schedule. Most importantly though, it's an open hardware project.

redecentralize.org - The site seems to be just getting started, but already contains some excellent interviews from people working on projects to "take back control of the internet". Well worth the time to watch.

Awesome Links #6

Awesome links for the 8th of October 2013:

Dashing (by Shopify) - Easy to use dashboard building goodness

Rickshaw Graphs - I wasn't aware that shutterstock contributed to open source, until I stumbled across this graphing library in Dashing (by Shopify). It uses D3 under the hood, but provides a simple interface for the more common graphs (with bells and whistles).

Big list of D3 examples - Speaking of D3, this popped up on Hacker News this morning. I find when making graphs, having a wealth of examples is the easiest way to get started.

Polymaps - I'm sure that I've seen Polymap before, but I ran across it again this morning. Will have to have a play with it one evening.