Trump’s UK Company Holdings – And Concerns About Companies House Director Name Authority Files

A couple of days ago I had the briefest of looks at Companies House data to see what the extent of Trump’s declared (current) corporate roles are in the UK. Not many, it seems. Of the companies with which Trump has a declared officer interest, the list of co-directed companies in his UK empire seems small:

(u’NITTO WORLD CO., LIMITED’, u’SLC TURNBERRY LIMITED’, 2 common directors)
(u’TRUMP INTERNATIONAL GOLF CLUB SCOTLAND LIMITED’, u’DT CONNECT EUROPE LIMITED’, 3 common directors)

In my code as it currently stands, two directors are the same if they have the same director number according to Companies House records (I think! Need to check… can’t remember if I also added a fuzzy match…).

Unfortunately, Companies House has issues with name authority files (they need to talk to the librarians who’ve been grappling with the question of whether two people with the same, or almost the same, name are actually the same person for ages… “VIAF” is a good keyword to start on…). For example, I strongly suspect these are the same person, given that I found them by mining co-directed companies seeded on two separate Trump companies:

(u’qcmgW-bhHd3TT1MSNuqHIjWBxLI’, 1946, u’TRUMP, Donald J’)
(u’8WlV7G8p1ojhFks_i4ljYwW5WvI’, 1946, u’TRUMP, Donald John’)
(u’65Cc7HAVpXHqcLR_-CczJ80C724′, 1946, u’TRUMP, Donald’)

Or how about:

(u’sj7c-OeX84Ww_JJudaY_D-DZDm4′, 1981, u’TRUMP, Ivanka’)
(u’omdexC3tGVn8JnozQ9ZazJL_MT8′, 1981, u’TRUMP, Ivanka’)
(u’PCrNv-j3ABqrisHsT_PKL3yAlc0′, 1981, u’TRUMP, Ivanka’)

FWIW, Companies House seem to be increasingly of the opinion that month and year discriminators on birthday are plenty, and day doesn’t need to be publicly shared any more (if, indeed, it will still be collected). Occasional name/month/year collisions aside, this may be true (if you’re happy to accept the collisions). But until they sort their authority files out, and use a common director ID (reconcilable to a Person of Significant Control identifier from the PSC register) for the same person, they should be providing as much info as possible to help the rest of us reconcile director identifiers from their inconsistent data.

PS I started to doubt myself that Companies House at least attempts to use the same identifier for the same person, but here’s another example that I’m pretty sure refer to the same person… – note the first result associates 35 appointments with the name:

companies_house

If you click the top link, you’ll see the appointment dates to the various companies are different, so it’s presumably not as if the commonality arises from the appointments all being declared on the same form. I’m not sure how Companies House reconciles directors, actually? Anyone know (let me know via the comments if you do…). For now, I assume it to be something like a (case insensitive?) exact string match on name, birthdate, and maybe correspondence address (or at least, a recognisable part of it)?

The following records, this time from Formula One co-directed companies, presumably relate to the same person (an accountant…):

(u’keWSNSl6V3Zg2FNV7vPy6BBVPVw’, 1968, u’LLOWARCH, Duncan Francis’)
(u’dzIMC8ot_A9rJThNdKQ5yQC-M3Y’, 1968, u’LLOWARCH, Duncan Francis’)
(u’m5FeeEsclwF0s57UkL2NcB6MIBk’, None, u’LLOWARCH, Duncan’)
(u’S9zuBVuv1LXtbR62_r-x9RzJzRE’, None, u’LLOWARCH, Duncan’)
(u’BTfAza-kduWKPnuUYPDd3w2i9fc’, None, u’LLOWARCH, Duncan’)
(u’3e8laCMUijwG6FdTnqGcDqMsXr4′, None, u’LLOWARCH, Duncan’)
(u’1Qgz-VCSMqjZZgyaibcvBAyGKUU’, None, u’LLOWARCH, Duncan’)

Student Workload Planning – Section Level Word Count Reports in MS Word Docs

One of the things the OU seems to have gone in for big time lately is “learning design”, with all sorts of planning tools and who knows what to try and help us estimate student workloads.

One piece of internal research I saw suggested that we “adopt a University-wide standard for study speed of 35 words per minute for difficult texts, 70 words per minute for normal texts and 120 words per minute for easy texts”. This is complemented by a recommended level 1 (first year equivalent) 60:40 split between module-directed (course text) work and student-directed (activities, exercises, self-assessment questions, forum activity etc) work. Another constraint is the available study time per week – for a 30 CAT point course (300 hours study), this is nominally set at 10 hours study per week. I seem to recall that retention charts show that retention rates go down as mean study time goes up anywhere close to this…

One of the things that seems to have been adopted is the assumption that the first year equivalent study material should all be rated at the 35 words per minute level. For 60% module led work, at 10 hours a week, this gives approximately 35 * 60 * 6 ~ 1200 words of reading per week. With novels coming in around 500 words a page, that’s 20 pages of reading or so.

This is okay for dense text but we tend to write quite around with strong narrative, using relatively straightforward prose, explaining things a step at a time, with plenty of examples. Dense sentences are rewritten and the word count goes up (but not the reading rate… Not sure I understand that?)

As part of the production process, materials go through multiple drafts and several stages of critical reading by third parties. Part of the critical reading process is to estimate (or check) workload. To assist this, materials are chunked and should be provided with word counts and estimated study times. The authoring process uses Microsoft Word.

As far as I can tell, there is an increasing drive to segment all the materials and chunk them all to be just so, one more step down the line rigidly templated materials. For a level 1 study week, the template seems to be five sections per week with four subsections each, each subsection about 500 words or so. (That is, 10 to 20 blog posts per study week…;-)

I’m not sure what, if any, productivity tools there are to automate the workload guesstimates, but over coffee this morning I though I’d have a go at writing a Visual Basic macro to do do some of the counting for me. I’m not really familiar with VB, in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever written a macro before, but it seemed to fall together okay if the document was structured appropriately.

To whit, the structure I adopted was: a section to separate each section and subsection (which meant I could count words in each section); a heading as the first line after a section break (so the word count could be associated with the (sub)section heading). This evening, I also started doodling a convention for activities, where an activity would include a line on its own of the form – Estimated study time: NN minutes – which could then be used as a basis for an activity count and an activity study time count.

Running the macro generates a pop up report and also inserts the report at the cursor insertion point. The report for a section looks something like this:

tm112block2part6_d2_2nd_attempt_docm

A final summary report also gives the total number of words.

It should be easy enough to also insert wordcounts into the document at the start of each section, though I’m not sure (yet) how I could put a placeholder in at the start of each section that the macro could update with the current wordcount each time I run it? (Also how the full report could just be updated, rather than appended to the document, which could get really cluttered…) I guess I could also create a separate Word doc, or maybe populate an Excel spreadsheet, with the report data.

Another natural step would be to qualify each subsection with a conventional line declaring the estimated reading complexity level, detecting this, and using it with a WPM rate to estimate the study time of the reading material. Things are complicated somewhat by my version of Word (on a Mac) not supporting regular expressions, but then, in the spirit of trying to build tools at the same level of complexity as the level at which we’re teaching, regex are probably out of scope (too hard, I suspect…)

To my mind, exploring such productivity tools is the sort of thing we should naturally do; at least, it’s the sort of thing that felt natural in a technology department. Computing seems different; computing doesn’t seem to be about understanding the technical world around us and getting our hands dirty with it. It’s about… actually, I’m not sure what it’s about. The above sketch really was a displacement activity – I have no misconceptions at all that the above will generate any interest at all, not even as a simple daily learning exercise (I still try to learn, build or create something new every day to keep the boredom away…) In fact, the “musical differences” between my view of the world and pretty much everyone else’s is getting to the stage where I’m not sure it’s tenable any more. The holiday break can’t come quickly enough… Roll on HoG at the weekend…

Sub WordCount()

    Dim NumSec As Integer
    Dim S As Integer
    Dim Summary As String

    Dim SubsectionCnt As Integer
    Dim SubsectionWordCnt As Integer
    Dim SectionText As String

    Dim ActivityTime As Integer
    Dim OverallActivityTime As Integer
    Dim SectionActivities As Integer

    Dim ParaText As String

    Dim ActivityTimeStr As String

    ActivityTime = 0
    OverallActivityTime = 0
    SectionActivities = 0

    SubsectionCnt = 0
    SubsectionWordCnt = 0

    NumSec = ActiveDocument.Sections.Count
    Summary = "Word Count" & vbCrLf

    For S = 1 To NumSec
        SectionText = ActiveDocument.Sections(S).Range.Paragraphs(1).Range.Text

        For P = 1 To ActiveDocument.Sections(S).Range.Paragraphs.Count
            ParaText = ActiveDocument.Sections(S).Range.Paragraphs(P).Range.Text
            If InStr(ParaText, "Estimated study time:") Then
                ActivityTimeStr = ParaText
                ActivityTimeStr = Replace(ActivityTimeStr, "Estimated study time: ", "")
                ActivityTimeStr = Replace(ActivityTimeStr, " minutes", "")
                ActivityTime = ActivityTime + CInt(ActivityTimeStr)
                SectionActivities = SectionActivities + 1
            End If
        Next

        If InStr(SectionText, "Section") = 1 Then
            OverallActivityTime = OverallActivityTime + OverallActivityTime
            Summary = Summary & vbCrLf & "SECTION SUMMARY" & vbCrLf _
            & "Subsections: " & SubsectionCnt & vbCrLf _
            & "Section Wordcount: " & SubsectionWordCnt & vbCrLf _
            & "Section Activity Time: " & ActivityTime & vbCrLf _
            & "Section Activity Count: " & SectionActivities & vbCrLf & vbCrLf
            SubsectionCnt = 0
            SubsectionWordCnt = 0
            ActivityTime = 0
            SectionActivities = 0
        End If

        Summary = Summary & "[Document Section " & S & "] " _
        & SectionText _
        & "Word count: " _
        & ActiveDocument.Sections(S).Range.Words.Count _
        & vbCrLf

        SubsectionCnt = SubsectionCnt + 1
        SubsectionWordCnt = SubsectionWordCnt + ActiveDocument.Sections(S).Range.Words.Count
    Next

    Summary = Summary & vbCrLf & vbCrLf & "Overall document wordcount: " & _
    ActiveDocument.Range.Words.Count

    Summary = Summary & vbCrLf & "Activity Time: " & ActivityTime & " minutes"
    MsgBox Summary

    Selection.Paragraphs(1).Range.InsertAfter vbCr & Summary & vbCrLf
End Sub

PS I’ve no idea what idiomatic VB is supposed to look like; all the examples I saw seemed universally horrible… If you can give me any pointers to cleaning the above code up, feel free to add them in the comments…

PPS Thinks… I guess each section could also return a readability score? Does VB have a readability score function? VB code anywhere implementing readability scores?

The Future is Bright for Shoplifters With Body Dysmorphia

Full of cold and stuck in the biggest rut going – http://xkcd.com/1768/ hits the spot exactly – I stumble across a post from last year, Geographical Rights Management, Mesh based Surveillance, Trickle-Down and Over-Reach, one of the increasingly many dystopian, were it not real, posts on this blog describing stuff that no-one cares about.

I mentally link it to Amazon Go, Amazon’s soon to be opened concept shop where you swipe in, take what you want, and just leave, presumably passing security cameras and a security guards, as your phone automatically picks up the automatically generated bill on your way out, and which just makes me feel cold in a different sense.

(I’m one of the neo-Luddites who refuses to use self-scan tills in supermarkets and self-pay pumps at petrol stations (cos Are Robots Threatening Jobs or Are We Taking Them Ourselves Through Self-Service Automation?).)

In a further round of consolidation, I have a quick peek around what other news I may have missed over the last year or so, seeing who else might know I’ve popped into the physical Amazon store: Google, perhaps (see SearchEngineLand on Google Launches “Store Visits” Metric In AdWords, To Help Prove Online-To-Offline Impact or Under The Hood: How Google AdWords Measures Store Visits, for example), or Facebook (Facebook’s new ads will track which stores you visit).

I also happen across a seriously f*****d up piece of shop furniture, the Skinny Mirror, a fitting room fitting that makes you look thinner than you are, so you feel better and buy whatever it is you’re trying on… (well, not you trying it on, obviously, some weirdly distorted f*****d up re-presentation of yourself). I imagine folk will then grab a selfie using something like the updated version of Facetune, an app that lets you photoshop, (verb), a live preview of yourself before you actually take the photo.

And if they walk out of the not Amazon store without paying, they’ll maybe try to explain it away with “I’ve got the app, so I thought I could just go…”.

PS I really need to put a distorted reality tag on a chunk of stuff on the Digital Worlds blog

PPS ish via @kpfssport, I note a recent report from the University of Leicester that suggests that Mobile Scan and Pay Technology could promote supermarket theft. See also a review of a pay-to-read Australian study (Emmeline Taylor, Supermarket self-checkouts and retail theft: The curious case of the SWIPERS): Are supermarket self-checkouts turning shoppers into swipers?.

New Amazon Developer/Devops Tools, Mobile Targeting

I’ve always found Amazon’s AWS tools really fiddly to use – settings all over the place, the all too easy possibility of putting things into the wrong zone and then forgetting about them/having to try to track them down as you get billed for them, etc etc – but that’s partly the way of self-service, I guess.

Anyway, last week, amongst a slew of other announcements (AI services, new hardware platforms that include FPGAs), Amazon announced a range of developer/devops productivity tools that shows they’re now looking at supporting workflows as well as just providing raw services.

Here’s a quick summary of the ones I spotted:

  • AWS Batch: run batch jobs on AWS;
  • AWS CodeBuild: “a managed build service” that will “build[s] in a fresh, isolated, container-based environment”, incorporating:
    • Source Repository – Source code location (AWS CodeCommit repository, GitHub repository, or S3 bucket).
    • Build Environment – Language / runtime environment (Android, Java, Python, Ruby, Go, Node.js, or Docker).
    • IAM Role – Grants CodeBuild permission to access to specific AWS services and resources.
    • Build Spec – Series of build commands, in YAML form.
    • Compute Type – Amount of memory and compute power required (up to 15 GB of memory and 8 vCPUs).
  • Amazon X-Ray: a debug tool that allows you track things across multiple connected Amazon services. Apparently, Amazon X-Ray provides:

    … follow-the-thread tracing by adding an HTTP header (including a unique ID) to requests that do not already have one, and passing the header along to additional tiers of request handlers. The data collected at each point is called a segment, and is stored as a chunk of JSON data. A segment represents a unit of work, and includes request and response timing, along with optional sub-segments that represent smaller work units (down to lines of code, if you supply the proper instrumentation). A statistically meaningful sample of the segments are routed to X-Ray (a daemon process handles this on EC2 instances and inside of containers) where it is assembled into traces (groups of segments that share a common ID). The traces are segments are further processed to create service graphs that visually depict the relationship of services to each other.

  • AWS Shield: a tool that protects your service against DDoS attacks. In waggish mood, @daveyp suggested that many DDoS attacks he’s aware of come from AWS IP addresses. This feels a bit like a twist on an operating system vendor also selling security software to make up for security deficiencies in their base O/S? That said, “AWS Shield Standard is available to all AWS customers at no extra cost” and seems to be applied in basic mode automatically. Security essentials, then?!

Amazon are also starting to offer segmented alert targeting services for your mobile apps with Amazon Pinpoint. The service lets you “define target segments from a variety of different data sources” and more:

You can identify target segments from app user data collected in Pinpoint. You can build custom target segments from user data collected in other AWS services such as Amazon S3 and Amazon Redshift, and import target user segments from third party sources such as Salesforce via S3.

Once you define your segments, Pinpoint lets you send targeted notifications with personalized messages to each user in the campaign based on custom attributes such as game level, favorite team, and news preferences for example. Amazon Pinpoint can send push notifications immediately, at a time you define, or as a recurring campaign. By scheduling campaigns, you can optimize the push notifications to be delivered at a specific time across multiple time zones. For your marketing campaigns Pinpoint supports Rich Notifications to enable you to send images as part of your campaigns. We also support silent or data notifications which allow you to control app behavior and app config on the background.

Once your campaign is running, Amazon Pinpoint provides metrics to track the impact of your campaign, including the number of notifications received, number of times the app was opened as a result of the campaign, time of app open, push notification opt-out rate, and revenue generated from campaigns.

One thing I didn’t spot were any announcements about significant moves into “digital manufacturing” and 3D print-on-demand (something I wondered about some time ago: Amazon “Edge Services” – Digital Manufacturing).

They do seem to be moving into surveilled, auto-checkout, real-world shopping though… Amazon Go.

Would You Describe Your Relationship With Google, Amazon, or Apple as “Intimate” and/or Their Relationship With You as “Controlling” or “Coercive”?

I’ve been thinking about all those terms and conditions that the big web corps use to justify doing what they want with the data they collect about our actions. And also the way that Facebook, particularly, does abusive stuff and then just apologises, says sorry, it won’t happen again…

From the UK Serious Crime Act 2015, c. 9, Part 5, s. 76:

76 Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship

(1) A person (A) commits an offence if—

   (a) A repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person (B) that is controlling or coercive,

   (b) at the time of the behaviour, A and B are personally connected,

   (c) the behaviour has a serious effect on B, and

   (d) A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on B.

(2) A and B are “personally connected” if—

   (a) A is in an intimate personal relationship with B, or

   (b) A and B live together and—

   (i) they are members of the same family, or

      (ii) they have previously been in an intimate personal relationship with each other.

(3) But A does not commit an offence under this section if at the time of the behaviour in question—

   (a) A has responsibility for B, for the purposes of Part 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (see section 17 of that Act), and

   (b) B is under 16.

(4) A’s behaviour has a “serious effect” on B if—

   (a) it causes B to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against B, or

   (b) it causes B serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on B’s usual day-to-day activities.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (1)(d) A “ought to know” that which a reasonable person in possession of the same information would know.

(6) For the purposes of subsection (2)(b)(i) A and B are members of the same family if—

   (a) they are, or have been, married to each other;

   (b) they are, or have been, civil partners of each other;

   (c) they are relatives;

   (d) they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);

   (e) they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);

   (f) they are both parents of the same child;

   (g) they have, or have had, parental responsibility for the same child.

(7) In subsection (6)

  • “civil partnership agreement” has the meaning given by section 73 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004;

  • “child” means a person under the age of 18 years;

  • “parental responsibility” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989;

  • “relative” has the meaning given by section 63(1) of the Family Law Act 1996.

(8) In proceedings for an offence under this section it is a defence for A to show that—

    (a) in engaging in the behaviour in question, A believed that he or she was acting in B’s best interests, and

    (b) the behaviour was in all the circumstances reasonable.

(9) A is to be taken to have shown the facts mentioned in subsection (8) if—

    (a) sufficient evidence of the facts is adduced to raise an issue with respect to them, and

    (b) the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

(10) The defence in subsection (8) is not available to A in relation to behaviour that causes B to fear that violence will be used against B.

(11) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

   (a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both;

   (b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or a fine, or both.

To what extent could the sorts of thing that recommendation services do, (recommendation services that model a great deal about us), start to appear coercive? Can the asymmetric (power) relationship we are in with this services be defined as “intimate”?

PS by the by, I’ve started looking at laws again that might be used as the basis of “robot laws” (laws relating to slavery, animal rights, accessibility, limits on behaviour as a result of mental (in)capacity etc) and also started trying to note the laws that companies use to weasel their way out of various corporate responsibilities. Things like the Innocent publication defence in The Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008, for example; how easy is it to look up whether Google or Facebook have availed themselves of this sort of defence, I wonder?

Forget Fake News – Worry About the Chaff…

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (online edition) there are several sorts of electronic countermeasure used against opponents’ radar:

Electronic countermeasures (electronic warfare)

The purpose of hostile electronic countermeasures (ECM) is to degrade the effectiveness of military radar deliberately. ECM can consist of (1) noise jamming that enters the receiver via the antenna and increases the noise level at the input of the receiver, (2) false target generation, or repeater jamming, by which hostile jammers introduce additional signals into the radar receiver in an attempt to confuse the receiver into thinking that they are real target echoes, (3) chaff, which is an artificial cloud consisting of a large number of tiny metallic reflecting strips that create strong echoes over a large area to mask the presence of real target echoes or to create confusion, and (4) decoys, which are small, inexpensive air vehicles or other objects designed to appear to the radar as if they are real targets. Military radars are also subject to direct attack by conventional weapons or by antiradiation missiles (ARMs) that use radar transmissions to find the target and home in on it. A measure of the effectiveness of military radar is the large sums of money spent on electronic warfare measures, ARMs, and low-cross-section (stealth) aircraft.

These are worth bearing in mind when using Twitter and other social media, as well as keyword driven news search alerts, as your own, personal news radar. In this analogy, the things I want to detect are “true” news stories (whatever that means…); here are some countermeasures you could take to try to prevent high quality news signals, or news signals that inform me about the things you are doing that you don’t want me to know about, or that you need to spin because they paint you in an unfavourable light, getting through to me:

  • noise jamming: pollute my feed with noise that makes me filter out certain forms of traffic (your noise) and, as a side effect, legitimate news; reference me in e.g. tweets and swamp my mentions feed with noise; if I’ve subscribed to one of the accounts you control, feed that stream with random retweets, auto-generated rubbish, etc;
  • false target generation: try to get me to subscribe to an account you control, thinking it’s a legitimate news source;
  • chaff: chaff masks your current “location”, or a story about you; if I make a search or want to follow a particular topic, try to make sure all I can ever find are empty pages that attract those search terms, or your spin on the story;
  • decoys: push out your own news story or, even better, a ridiculous claim that gets widely reshared and that pulls interest away form a legitimate story breaking about you; if I’m only going to read one thing about you today, better it’s the one you put out rather than the one that shows you for what you are…

(If you can think of better examples, please share them in the comments; this was just a quick coffee break post… didn’t really try to think the examples through…)

Remember, folks, this is information war… We should all be reading up on psyops too…

Amazon Webservices Move Up a Level

Way back when, companies such as Amazon and Google realised that they could leverage the large amounts of computing infrastructure developed to support their own operations by selling their spare compute and memory capacity as self-service resources.

The engineering effort used to guarantee the high service quality levels for their core businesses could be sold on to startups, and established companies alike, who did not have the engineering expertise to develop and run their own scalable, and resilient, cloud services. (You’d know if Amazon Web Services (AWS) went down completely: so would large parts of the web that are hosted there.)

In the last couple of years, the likes of Google, Amazon and IBM have moved up a level, and now offer “commodity AI” services – recognising faces and and objects in photographs, performing entity extraction on the contents of large texts, generating speech from text and text from speech, and so on. (Facebook seems to prefer to remain inward looking.)

In a spate of announcements today, Amazon joined the part with the release of their own AI services, reviewed in a post by Amazon CTO, Werner Vogels, Bringing the Magic of Amazon AI and Alexa to Apps on AWS. (I’ll post my own summary review when I’ve had a chance to play with them…)

But it seems that AWS have been shopping too. As well as providing a range of different server sizes and base operating systems, the machine instances that Amazon provides now includes FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays; which is to say, programmable chips…) and (soon) GPUs.

The FPGA machine instance, the suitably named F1 includes one to eight [Xilinx UltraScale+ VU9P?] FPGAs dedicated to the instance, isolated for use in multi-tenant environments. to support the development the machine instance also incudes
a 2.3GHz Intel Broadwell E5 2686 v4 processors, up to 976 GiB of memory and up to 4 TB of NVMe SSD storage. So that looks alright, then… Gulp. (For more, see the product announcement, Developer Preview – EC2 Instances (F1) with Programmable Hardware.)

The pre-announcement for the GPU instances (In the Works – Amazon EC2 Elastic GPUs), which have been a long time coming, look set to offer Windows support for Open GL, followed by support for other versions of OpenGL, DirectX and Vulkan. This means you’ll be able to render and stream your own 3D models, at scale. (Anyone think this may be gearing up to support AR and VR apps, as well as online streaming games? Or support for GPU crunched Deep Learning/AI models?)

(All the new machine instance offerings are described in the summary announcement post, EC2 Instance Type Update – T2, R4, F1, Elastic GPUs, I3, C5</a.)

As well as offering more physical machine types, Amazon have also upgraded their Aurora relational database product so that it is now compliant with PostgreSQL as well as MySQL (Amazon Aurora Update – PostgreSQL Compatibility).

But it doesn’t stop there. For the consumer, just wanting to run their oiwn web hosted instance of WordPress, Amazon virtual personal servers are now available: Amazon Lightsail – The Power of AWS, the Simplicity of a VPS (though it looks a bit pricey compared to something like Reclaim Hosting…)

Back to the big commercial users, another of the benefits of using Amazon Web Services, whose resources far exceed the capacity of all but the largest technology operating companies, is that you can avail yourself of the large amounts of computing resource that might be required to analyse and process large datasets. Very large datasets. Huge datasets, in fact. Datasets so huge that you need a freight container to ship the data to Amazon because you’re unlikely to have the bandwidth to get it there via any other means. Freight containers like AWS Snowmobile (H/T Les Carr for the pointer).

According to the FAQ, each Snowmobile is a secure data truck with up to 100PB storage capacity in a 45-foot long High Cube tamper-resistant, water-resistent, temperature controlled and GPS-tracked shipping container. On arrival at your datacentre, it needs a 350KW power supply (Amazon can supply a generator, if required). Physical access to your datacentre is achieved using the supplied removable connector rack (up to two kilometers of networking cable are provided too).

Once you have completed the data transfer using your local data connect, the Snowmobile is returned to a designated AWS region datacentre. It’s not clear how the data is then uploaded – maybe they just wheel the container into a spare bay and hook it up?

This is all starting to get really silly now…