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AWS cooks up Extensions API for Lambda serverless platform: Useful for monitoring, alerting

Cloud Functions rival flings out preview that enables custom code to handle lifecycle events


Cloud computing behemoth Amazon Web Services, has pushed out an Extensions API for its Lambda serverless platform that lets developers write custom code to handle lifecycle events – such as when the environment starts, invokes functions, and shuts down.

AWS Lambda runs functions on demand. It works by firing up an execution environment when a function is called, with a choice of runtimes including various versions of Java, Node.js, Python, .NET and Ruby, or a custom runtime. The environment stays running while there are frequent function invocations, and shuts itself down if not required for a period.

The Extensions API allows developers to write code for the three phases of the Lambda lifecycle: the init phase, when the environment starts up; the invoke phase, when functions run; and the shutdown phase, when the environment closes down.

Extensions can run either internally on the execution runtime, for purposes such as instrumenting code, or externally as companion processes, for purposes such as fetching secrets and caching them in the execution environment.

Lambda customer Square, a provider of eCommerce tools, has described how it used the new API to write an extension in Go that improves function startup time by fetching secrets before the runtime starts, and reported around 30-40 per cent reduction in cold start time.

Lambda extensions can run as parallel processes to the code on the runtime itself

Extensions are ideal for monitoring function execution on Lambda, and the usual suspects – companies like AppDynamics, DataDog, New Relic and Splunk, which provide monitoring and alerting services – have been quick to use them to integrate with their tools. The newly published API opens up ways for developers to optimise and monitor Lambda deployments using custom code. Extensions are deployed using Lambda layers, a way of packaging function dependencies. The pricing model is the same as for Lambda itself, based on a combination of the number of requests served and the compute time consumed.

Separately, AWS has also previewed CloudWatch Lambda Insights, CloudWatch being its own monitoring service. A multi-function view "provides visibility into issues such as memory leaks or performance changes caused by new function versions". CloudWatch users can enable Lambda Insights with a single click in the AWS console, where it is called Enhanced Monitoring, or via other tools such as the command-line interface (CLI).

The Extensions API is another piece in making Lambda more manageable and complete. Monitoring provider Thundra, another company taking advantage of the new feature, remarked that the "Extensions API will help companies that complain about the limitations of serverless overcome those challenges."

Serverless is the "best abstraction for deploying software", according to some experts, with Lambda the most popular option, though Microsoft has its equivalent in Azure Functions and Google has Cloud Functions. ®

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New Relic guzzles down CodeStream to help devs jump straight from app error telemetry to offending code

'I can debug production from the IDE,' said CS boss Peter Pezaris

Observability company New Relic has acquired CodeStream, specialists in developer collaboration, with the aim being to connect observability data with code in the development environment.

CodeStream, founded in 2017 by Peter Pezaris, adds instant developer communication to coding environments. For example, a developer puzzling over some code written by a colleague can click next to that code, type a message to the other dev, and they will receive it either in the IDE if they happen to be working on the same project, or in a messaging tool such as Slack, complete with a reference to the code in question. They reply, and a discussion begins.

Although it may seem a small thing, given that they could just use Slack (or any number of other messaging services) directly, the context and convenience makes it a worthwhile collaboration tool. CodeStream also integrates with pull requests from GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket, and issue management from Jira, Trello and others.

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Analogue tones of a ZX Spectrum Load set to ride again via podcast project

Remember the R Tape Loading Error?

The glory days of audio-cassette loading are set to return in the coming weeks, with retro fans to be treated to a broadcast for them to hit Play and Record to.

Audio cassettes were the medium of choice for software back when Sinclair and Commodore's 8-bit hardware ruled the roost. The floppy disk seemed impossibly glamorous for the average home computer user and code was instead delivered via audio.

While the sound of those files was unintelligible for most, for some enthusiasts it was possible to discern the type of data being loaded. Right up until the all-too-common R Tape Loading Error (which usually seemed to come right at the end of a lengthy period staring at a loading screen).

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Unhappy customers and their own tricks used against them, REvil ransomware gang reportedly pulled offline by 'multi-country' operations

The second vanishing of the cybergang... for now

As we noted a few days back, notorious ransomware gang REvil "disappeared" again this week. Recent reports have now shed light on why that may be.

The REvil leaks blog, known as Happy Blog, was made inaccessible on October 17, the same day one of its operators announced the group was shutting down due to a hijacking of their domain on Russian forum XSS, security vendor Flashpoint said at the time.

Now we may know why. Reuters reported the cybergang was taken down by a multi-country operation.

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Apple's Safari browser runs the risk of becoming the new Internet Explorer – holding the web back for everyone

WebKit engine is well behind the competition

Feature The legacy of Internet Explorer 6 haunts web developer nightmares to this day. Microsoft's browser of yore made their lives miserable and it's only slightly hyperbolic to say it very nearly destroyed the entire internet. It really was that bad, kids. It made us walk to school in the snow. Uphill. Both ways. You wouldn't understand.

Or maybe you would. Today developers who want to use "cutting-edge" web APIs find themselves resorting to the same kind of browser-specific workarounds, but this time the browser dragging things down comes from Apple.

Apple's Safari lags considerably behind its peers in supporting web features. Whether it's far enough behind to be considered "the new IE" is debatable and may say more about the shadow IE still casts across the web than it does about Safari. But Safari – or more specifically the WebKit engine that powers it – is well behind the competition. According to the Web Platform Tests dashboard, Chrome-based browsers support 94 per cent of the test suite, and Firefox pulls off 91 per cent, but Safari only manages 71 per cent.

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Judging by the way your face lit up, my inbox just got more attractive

A message for you, (on your) rudie

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "You've got mail!" announces a voice on the tram.

How very 1990s, I think, imagining myself as a double-taking, pre-gravitas Tom Hanks in a remake of the lightweight romantic comedy. I tear my attention away from my book and look up to see who uttered this famous refrain.

A man standing across the aisle is staring straight at me. OK, I'm no Tom Hanks but this guy's definitely no Meg Ryan. It is unsettling. I look up and down the carriage for other potential sources.

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BOFH: So you want to have your computer switched out for something faster? It's time to learn from the master

Corporate will make you jump through hoops – but there's always a window

Episode 19 "It's just … so slow," my user complains.

"Slow, or comparatively slow?" I ask.

"What do you mean?"

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How to keep a support contract: Make the user think they solved the problem

Look what you found! Aren't you clever!

On Call Let us take a little trip back to the days before the PC, when terminals ruled supreme, to find that the more things change the more they stay the same. Welcome to On Call.

Today's story comes from "Keith" (not his name) and concerns the rage of a user whose expensive terminal would crash once a day, pretty much at the same time.

The terminal in question was a TAB 132/15. It was an impressive bit of kit for the time and was capable of displaying 132 characters of crisp, green text on a 15-inch CRT housed in a futuristic plastic case. Luxury for sure, unless one was the financial trader trying to use the device.

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Apple kicked an M1-shaped hole in Intel's quarter

Chipzilla braces for a China-gaming-ban-shaped hole in future results, predicts more product delays

Intel has blamed Apple's switch to its own M1 silicon in Macs for a dip in sales at its client computing group, and foreshadowed future unpleasantness caused by supply chain issues and China's recent internet crackdowns.

Chipzilla's finances were robust for the third quarter of its financial year: revenue of $19.2 billion was up five per cent year over year, while net income of $6.8 billion was up 60 per cent compared to 2020's Q3.

But revenue for the client computing group was down two points. CFO George Davis – whose retirement was announced today – was at pains to point out that were it not for Apple quitting Intel silicon and Chipzilla exiting the modem business, client-related revenue would have risen ten per cent.

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How your phone, laptop, or watch can be tracked by their Bluetooth transmissions

Unique fingerprints lurk in radio signals more often than not, it seems

Over the past few years, mobile devices have become increasingly chatty over the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) protocol and this turns out to be a somewhat significant privacy risk.

Seven boffins at University of California San Diego – Hadi Givehchian, Nishant Bhaskar, Eliana Rodriguez Herrera, Héctor Rodrigo López Soto, Christian Dameff, Dinesh Bharadia, and Aaron Schulman – tested the BLE implementations on several popular phones, PCs, and gadgets, and found they can be tracked through their physical signaling characteristics albeit with intermittent success.

That means the devices may emit a unique fingerprint, meaning it's possible to look out for those fingerprints in multiple locations to figure out where those devices have been and when. This could be used to track people; you'll have to use your imagination to determine who would or could usefully exploit this. That said, at least two members of the team believe it's worth product makers addressing this privacy weakness.

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YouTubers fell for shady 'sponsors' who seized, then sold, accounts

Vid-slingers had been asking how this happened for years, even while their channels were spruiking dodgy crypto

After years of complaints from YouTubers, Google has pinpointed the root cause of a series of account hijackings: software sponsorship deals that delivered malware.

Google forums have for years witnessed pleas for help to regain control of stolen YouTube accounts, despite the owners using multi-factor authentication. Impacted influencers found themselves not just locked out of their accounts, but scrambling to stop the sale of their channels.

What did they all have in common?

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Alibaba Cloud drops all-in-one client device, on-prem cloud-native DB

Claims shared memory speed breakthrough in new server, plans to enter South Korea and Thailand, and more

Announcements were coming thick and fast at Alibaba Cloud's annual APSARA conference, where the Middle Kingdom's biggest cloud unleashed an all-in-one client device, plenty of upgrades to its cloud services, and an uncanny weather predictor.

The Chinese cloud leader last year gave the world "Wuying" – a tiny device that provided on-prem access to a PC running in its cloud. Last year's Wuying offered a USB-C port to connect it to the required external display (as demonstrated in this video).

2021's model is an all-in-one device. Here it is in all its glory.

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