Securing web sites with HTTPS made them less accessible

In the middle of last month — July 2018, I found myself staring at a projector screen, waiting once again to see if Wikipedia would load. If I was lucky, the page started rendering 15-20 seconds after I sent the request. If not, it could be closer to 60 seconds, assuming the browser didn’t just time out on the connection. I saw a lot of “the server stopped responding” over the course of a few days. It wasn’t just Wikipedia, either. CNN International had similar load times. So did Google’s main search page. Even this here site, with minimal assets to…

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Five experts explain how software development and operations teams are adjusting to the rapid changes caused by cloud computing

Padmashree Koneti, senior director of product operations, Puppet, speaks at the 2018 GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

While software continues to eat the world, the philosophies and tactics used to build that software are constantly changing. Getting from idea to working software has never been easy, and companies that never needed cutting-edge expertise in software development are finding themselves out-shipped by smaller, nimbler competitors.

The solution to this has been billed as “DevOps,” a mindset in which the roles of software developers and systems operators are no longer as separate as they once were. This has changed the way that companies think about building, testing, and deploying their software, allowing them to ship updates more frequently and helping ensure reliability.

Technologies like containers and microservices are also emerging to support this mindset. Containers allow developers to package their applications with all the external dependencies they count on to make the app go and have them deployed across multiple servers, either at home or in the cloud. Likewise, microservices allow developers to break their apps down into lots of smaller pieces that can be tweaked or updated without having to monkey with the whole code base.

We invited five experts to discuss how this world is evolving at our GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit in June, in hopes of helping attendees understand how these worlds are changing and how they can implement some of these ideas in their own organizations. There are a lot of options for building modern cloud-native software right now, and that’s both a blessing and a curse: while some of these new capabilities can unlock business-changing opportunities, it can be very hard to understand what tool is best for your team.

Here’s what they had to say:

Bassam Tabbara, co-founder and CEO, Upbound

One trend that everyone is watching very closely is Kubernetes, the container-orchestration project originally developed at Google that (with a lot of work) paves the way for companies to run their applications across multiple public clouds and on-premises data centers. Tabbara’s Seattle startup is working on ways to bring storage services to Kubernetes, and he discussed how progress in this area could result in people looking at Kubernetes as the deployment layer for their apps.

Edith Harbaugh, co-founder and CEO, LaunchDarkly

Before cloud and mobile computing changed everything, the software development process was driven as much by marketing goals as anything else, but those days are gone. Big companies like Google and Facebook have shown the world that you can build better software at faster rates by continuously making small improvements to your code, and Harbaugh sketched out for the crowd how the benefits and occasional pitfalls that have arrived along with this new reality.

Padmashree Koneti, senior director of product operations, Puppet

Before you plunge into devops and agile software development, you need to make sure everyone on your team understands how these emerging concepts work and how their roles will change. This is a leadership challenge, not a technology challenge, and Koneti, who leads development teams at Portland’s Puppet, gave attendees some tips on how to have these conversations inside their teams sooner rather than later.

Tamar Eilam, IBM Fellow, next generation cloud and DevOps, IBM Research

Companies that break their applications down into microservices enjoy a number of benefits from that move, but quickly find they need something to help them manage all those microservices. A lot of people think the answer is the service mesh, and Eilam explained how Istio, an interesting service mesh open-source project developed in combination by IBM, Google, and Lyft, will evolve over the next few years.

Ying Xiong, chief architect, cloud platform, Huawei

As edge computing becomes more important, many of the technologies described above — from containers to microservices — will need to evolve to fit the constrained requirements of those operating environments. Xiong walked attendees through ways that Kubernetes can be used in edge computing deployments.

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Week in Review: Most popular stories on GeekWire for the week of Aug. 12, 2018

Get caught up on the latest technology and startup news from the past week. Here are the most popular stories on GeekWire for the week of Aug. 12, 2018.

Sign up to receive these updates every Sunday in your inbox by subscribing to our GeekWire Weekly email newsletter.

Most popular stories on GeekWire

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A low-cost Tesla car? Elon Musk talks about tech (without turmoil) on YouTube

On the heels of Elon Musk’s angst-filled, market-moving interview with The New York Times, YouTube techie Marques Brownlee offered up lighter, brighter fare from a one-on-one chat with the Tesla CEO at his electric-car factory in Fremont, Calif.

Musk discussed the wonky side of vehicle production and the prospects for building cars in the same price range as, say, a Toyota Prius (which is the top trade-in for the more expensive Model 3).

“Getting to, like, a $25,000 car — that’s something we could do,” Musk told Brownlee. “If we work really hard, I think maybe we could do that in three years, four years.”

That comment was the flip side of Musk’s observation, months ago, that Tesla had to kick off Model 3 production with more expensive models that have a bigger profit margin.

Musk said that other car companies had an advantage in their economies of scale, and that Tesla would have to achieve its own economy of scale to stay competitive. “The car industry … This is, like, super-competitive,” he told Brownlee.

This week, analysts at UBS issued a report estimating that under current conditions, Tesla could lose $6,000 on every Model 3 car that’s sold at the $35,000 base price.

Looking ahead, Musk acknowledged that Tesla had “way more product ideas than we have resources to execute.” He said that bringing out the Model Y crossover SUV, the Semi truck and a smaller all-electric pickup truck, as well as a next-generation Roadster, would challenge the company’s ability to “walk and chew gum” at the same time.

There was nary a word about the personal woes that Musk touched upon in the Times interview. Concerns about Musk’s health and the difficulties surrounding his plan to take Tesla private contributed to a nearly 9 percent drop in the company’s share price on Friday.

Instead, Brownlee stuck to the engineering details during his interview and tour of the Fremont factory, which took place on Wednesday, just before the Times interview was published.

Off the bat, Brownlee confessed that he and his crew were Tesla fans as well as customers with Model 3 pre-orders in the queue. Musk was clearly in his happy place as well, wearing a black Tesla T-shirt and sporting a geekily rumpled hair style.

The interview footage was intercut with scenes of Musk making his rounds at the factory. Musk said about 80 to 90 percent of his time is spent in design and engineering meetings, at Tesla’s battery-building Gigafactory in Nevada, or on the production floor in Fremont.

“Sometimes people think I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I mean, why do they think that? That’s crazy,” Musk said as he jokingly rolled his eyes. “But that’s like, almost nothing.”

The two interviews — in The New York Times and on Brownlee’s MKBHD YouTube channel — was reminiscent of the bad-news, good-news balance that came through during an infamous Tesla conference call in May. Back then, Musk cut financial analysts short, but patiently answered deep technical questions from YouTube host Gali Russell.

This time around, seeing Musk in his element is likely to reassure Tesla’s legions of fans, and perhaps the wider world as well. In any case, there’s more to come: Brownlee promises there’ll be a follow-up video focusing on his factory tour.

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How to Build Super Mario Bros. Style Maze for a Rat

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Telling the truth about defects in technology should never, ever, ever be illegal

Congress has never made a law saying, “Corporations should get to decide who gets to publish truthful information about defects in their products,”— and the First Amendment wouldn’t allow such a law — but that hasn’t stopped corporations from conjuring one out of thin air, and then defending it as though it was a natural right they’d had all along. Some background: in 1986, Ronald Reagan, spooked by the Matthew Broderick movie Wargames (true story!) worked with Congress to pass a sweeping cybercrime bill called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) that was exceedingly sloppily drafted. CFAA makes it a felony to “exceed[]…

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From Stratolaunch to startup: Chuck Beames raises his sights to York satellites

York Space Systems satellite
An artist’s concept shows a York Space Systems satellite in orbit. (York Space Systems Illustration)

Two years ago, Chuck Beames presided over Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s effort to build the biggest airplane in the world. Now he has his eyes set on another big frontier: small satellites.

Beames, who left the president’s post at Allen’s Stratolaunch venture in 2016, is gearing up for his first launch as executive chairman and chief strategy officer for York Space Systems, a startup based in Denver.

“It’s very exciting,” Beames told GeekWire during an interview on the sidelines of last week’s SmallSat Conference in Logan, Utah. “We’re really democratizing space for the entrepreneur.”

Beames can’t say too much about his time at Stratolaunch, due to confidentiality requirements that still apply. But he has lots to say about his latest gig, which began last year. “I’d known about York for a while before I joined the team,” he said.

Chuck Beames
Chuck Beames is executive chairman and chief strategy officer for Denver-based York Space Systems. (York Space Systems Photo)

Founded in 2012, York has been working on a spacecraft platform, or bus, that can be adapted for a wide variety of satellite applications. York’s S-class satellite can carry instrument payloads weighing as much as 85 kilograms (187 pounds), for a total mass of 160 kilograms (352 pounds), Beames said.

That capacity on the small side when compared with, say, NASA’s 6.5-ton James Webb Space Telescope. But it’s heftier than the typical CubeSat range of 12 kilograms (26 pounds) for a satellite the size of a shipping box.

“The CubeSat is great,” Beames said. “But it’s very much geared toward academic research. That’s where it came from. So there ends up being inherent limitations in the design.”

Beames said York is targeting a different sort of sweet spot: “low-cost, industrial-grade, meaning a very predictable design life.”

“We can design to launch on every launch vehicle,” he said. “Everything from a very rough ride on a solid rocket to a rideshare on a Falcon 9, to rideshare on an ESPA ring for the Air Force. Our first one is going to be on a Rocket Lab Electron.”

That first launch is due to take place by the end of the year at Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch facility. York’s Harbinger Mission will carry a Finnish-made Iceye synthetic aperture radar instrument, BridgeSat’s optical communications system, and a field-emission electric-propulsion thruster system from Austria’s Enpulsion.

The mission is backed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Systems Defense Command, and could literally serve as a harbinger for rapid-response national security launches.

For Beames, the price point is a big selling point. He said the base model costs in the range of $1 million, and upgrades such as a beefed-up 3,000-watt power system bring the cost to “not much more than that, frankly.”

That lowers the cost of admission for entrepreneurs trying to get into the thick of the satellite services market. “They no longer have to raise $30 to $50 million to build their first satellite,” Beames said.

York’s strategy for keeping the cost low is to automate as much as they can at their satellite manufacturing facility on the campus of Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“The most expensive thing in the modern economy is people,” Beames said. York’s workforce currently stands at less than 30 employees. “That’s everything,” Beames said. “It’s optimized to take costs out.”

There’s a long list of competitors in the satellite-building business, ranging from heavyweights such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace to more recent entrants such as Millennium Space Systems, which is due to be acquired by Boeing. But that doesn’t faze Beames.

“I think competition’s a good thing,” he said. “Just as we saw in the early days of the personal computer business, there are a lot of different ideas on what’s the right thing, what’s the right equipment to fill the niche, who has the right vision. Time will tell.”

There’s one thing Beames is already sure of: In this space race, there’ll be more than one winner.

“It’s big, and I think it’s going to be a 10x thing in the next few years,” he said.

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Seattle startup Rainway raises $1.5M to pursue vision of streaming games to any device

Rainway CEO Andrew Sampson at Techstars Seattle Demo Day in April. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

Game-streaming technology startup Rainway has raised $1.5 million in seed funding to build out its team and expand its service for playing high-end video games on any device.

Startup Spotlight: Rainway lets people play PC games on any device

The funding from Palo Alto-based GoAhead Ventures is the latest sign of momentum for Rainway since it moved permanently from Atlanta to Seattle after participating in the Techstars Seattle startup accelerator this year.

Rainway makes a web-based platform that lets you access your PC or cloud service provider from any remote device to play games, transmitting your inputs and your games’ outputs back and forth. As long as your remote device is Internet-enabled and can run reasonably high-definition video (the current benchmark is whether or not it can run a YouTube video at 60 frames a second without buffering), you can play just about anything on it that your host computer can run, regardless of the remote device’s horsepower.

“We have demos of people playing games like Destiny 2 on a Chromebook or Fortnite on an Android tablet, or my favorite, an Intel Compute Stick running Overwatch,” said Andrew Sampson, Rainway’s CEO and co-founder.

Rainway is in an open beta, with almost 85,000 users, and is projected to hit 100,000 within the next couple of months. Its standard service is free, but its planned premium tier will give paid users additional options, such as extra seats in its party mode. The company plans to have Rainway out of beta by the end of the year.

The startup works out of Madrona Venture Group’s new Create33 space in Seattle, with a distributed workforce that stretches from Seattle to California, Canada, and Belgium. Sampson and Evan Banyash, co-founder and CTO, moved to Seattle from Atlanta initially to participate in the TechStars program, before relocating permanently.

Demonstrating the capabilities of Rainway in his office, Sampson had an old IBM ThinkPad set up with Rainway, explaining that it was linked to a PC that was 150 miles away. I used it to play a few minutes of the 2016 Doom. As far as I could tell, the game might as well have been installed on the laptop in the office.

Sampson showed me a video he’d taken of Bandai Namco’s Project CARS running at high graphics settings via Rainway, streaming from San Francisco to Seattle via the WiFi network in a local Starbucks.

“We spend a lot of time trying to make sure that we can work on all the most public wifi networks, because we understood that a lot of people even today are on mobile networks,” he explained.

The Rainway client’s dashboard, from the official press kit.

Setting up Rainway’s reasonably simple. Download and install its client on your gaming computer, link Rainway to your Steam account, and leave the computer running with Rainway up. From there, you can connect to Rainway via a web browser with your remote device to play your games. Someone in the room with your computer will see it launch and run games seemingly by itself, as with a remote desktop. There’s an option in the works to run games via Rainway in a “hidden desktop” mode, which would allow someone else to use the computer as you’re accessing it.

The application is strictly peer-to-peer, without much data passing through Rainway’s servers besides some brokerage information and metadata. In the event your connection drops, the program is set up to automatically respond by pausing the game, typically by acting as if you’d hit the Escape key.

“The goal is to keep the latency as low as possible so that you can have this really high-fidelity experience,” Sampson says. “You can feel like you’re sitting in front of your PC at home no matter where you’re at. Our goal ultimately is to bring PC gaming to every screen that has an Internet connection.”

Another potentially interesting application for Rainway is that you can use it to “trick” games into an online multiplayer mode. For example, the recent release Cuphead only offers “couch co-op”: you can play it cooperatively with a friend, but that friend has to be in the room with you, playing on the same computer. Via Rainway, however, you can have a friend remotely dial into your system to play the game with you. (Did you ever use third-party tools back in the day to trick your original Xbox into system linking to distant consoles so you could play the first Halo online? It’s a lot like that.)

Rainway’s new in-game user interface. (Rainway Image)

This can be done via an upcoming feature that Sampson calls “party mode,” where you can start a lobby, send your friends an invite link, and immediately start playing the game together.

Banyash and Sampson, who met in 2016, initially started working on a different project.

“The goal was to bring the computer into the browser, so everything from file browsing to task management and screen sharing, all in the web browser,” Sampson said. “We’d use this to manage a network of computers all from a single interface, and we would license this to other companies for their use internally.

“We built a lot of interesting technology, but at the end of the day, we realized one, we weren’t really passionate about it. I think we were building technology in search of a problem, an two, sales suck. I don’t personally like sales and I hope I never have to do sales like that again… What we ended up doing was looking at our users, because we had an end-user version that you could download, and we saw that most people were using it to play video games.

“So it made sense to us at that point to pivot. Let’s take this one core feature that everyone loves so much, optimize it for gaming, and turn that into a product. We started doing that in March of 2017, and here we are.”

Rainway says it will use the new funding initially to grow its team, which numbered nine prior to the investment, with the goal of accelerating its development on platforms such as Android, iOS and game consoles.

Editor’s Note: The spelling of Evan Banyash’s name has been corrected since publication.

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