What caught my eye - 2016w08

Trying out something new here: an overview of the news that caught my eye this week. Not a high-rolling week to start out with.

Moving clouds

Netflix moves to Amazon's AWS (Ars Technica)

For the last seven years, it has been known that Netflix, one of the biggest movers of data on the internet, has been slowly phasing out their own data centers in favor of relying on Amazon's AWS offering. Having now closed their last own data center, they completed this move, showing that even massive scale isn't necessarily a reason for you own datacenters. Unless you're, like, Facebook.

Spotify moves (a little) to Google (Stratechery $, WSJ $)

In a non-related move, Spotify, another mover of data and poster child for AWS, is moving a minor part of its hosting to Google. However, this probably won't keep Jeff Bezos up at night: the infrastructure being moved comes from Spotify's own data center, and Spotify got a pretty good deal. Sounds to me like Google drumming up fanfare for its own offerings, and Spotify taking the bait.

Apple and the FBI (Ars Technica)

With the FBI requesting the unlocking of a locked iPhone in a pretty much indisputable case, and Apple's Tim Cook publishing an open letter about why he won't do so, the internet has clearly bifurcated in two camps.

On the one hand, we have the American people supporting the FBI, and we have the international Geek Community coming up with either good reasons why they shouldn't, and clever ways in which it can be done safely.

All things considered, this is a typical hard problem: damned if we do, damned if we don't. I feel Apple is rolling pre-canned privacy PR, to support their "we don't need your data"-case--but notice that this is not out of good will, but because Apple makes their money on hardware, in stead of advertising. As much as I would like to take the "either everybody gets privacy, or no one does," I feel that Apple is fighting the wrong fight here. Apple can't state that it's impossible to support the FBI in what they requested, and denying it will erode a lot of good will the company, and the tech industry in general. I fear ham fisted legislation coming up, putting us back to the crypto-as-ammunition days.

Sometimes it wise to pay the ransom (Forbes)

A Hollywood hospital has decided to pay up a 40 bitcoin ($17k) ransom to unlock their own files. Sounds like a good decision, and perhaps a stupidity tax, to me: after having their systems off line for a number of days, and not being able to recover from non-existent backups, the board decided to pay the ransom, and get control of their systems back. Probably the cheapest thing to do, hope they now invest in good backups.

Ransomware is probably here to stay. That is, as long as the quality stays up; a few bad apples might make ransomware into a lemon market, either by being easily crackable, or by not unlocking even when you do pay up. Crypto is still hard.

IoT still doesn't take security seriously (Krebs on security)

A worrying piece on the state of Foscam cameras: apparently these systems have a life line to a more-or-less shady Chinese support organization, without disclosure or opt-out. As Krebs puts it, "This is Why People Fear the ‘Internet of Things."

Amazon starts hosting games (Amazon)

Lumberyard is a games engine-and-hosting offering including CryEngine (the commercial game engine behind FarCry), Double Helix (components of a game studio), and backed by AWS. GameLift takes care of session hosting, and Twitch-integration makes this into a suspiciously full-featured, and hard to beat, game hosting offering.

It seems that Amazon is slowly but surely moving away from components (storage, computation, etc) into more vertical markets. Amazon's IoT offering is another one of these: a vertical that takes care of most of the issues in a market, while providing a convenient lock-in to the Amazon ecosystem. Be on the lookout for more of these!

Microsoft acquires Xamarin (Microsoft)

Xamarin, the company formerly known as Mono, and known for providing a toolkit for developing native mobile applications using C#, has finally been acquired by Microsoft. After a close encounter on BUILD 2015, where Xamarin support in Visual Study (along with Cordova integration) was announced, Microsoft has finally pulled the triggered and acquired the company outright.

Some may see this as Microsoft being a good technology citizen; for me, it's another nail in Windows Phone's coffin.