Talk at re:publica 2018

I am really excited (and a bit nervous already!) to attend next May re:publica, Europe’s most inspiring conference on internet and society, and talk about geolocation and disputed territories. You can read the abstract here. The (accidental) political developer is back, see you in Berlin!

re:publica 18 POP

What is the size of your RDS backups and snapshots?

According to the Amazon documentation, many users never pay for automated backups and DB Snapshots

There is no additional charge for backup storage, up to 100% of your total database storage for a region. (Based upon our experience as database administrators, the vast majority of databases require less raw storage for a backup than for the primary dataset, meaning that most customers will never pay for backup storage.)

But what if you are not one a lucky one? How do you know if you can increase the retention period of a RDS instance without ending up paying for extra storage? Or how much do you need to reduce your retention period to use only the (free) quota?

Here it gets tricky: there is no API to find out the total size of your backups or snapshots and there is nothing available in the console either.

As snapshots are incremental, it is really down to the activity of your database and it might be quite hard to predict the storage extra you are going to pay at the end of the month if you have a fixed retention or some business requirements on manual snapshots.

Sometime it might even be better to allocate more storage to the RDS instances in the region – and have access as well to higher IOPS on standard SSD storage – than simply pay for the extra storage of the snapshots.

But how can you figure out the best balance to take advantage of the free storage or forecast your backup storage? There is no direct way to find it out but you can estimate the cost – and so indirectly the size –  by running a billing report.

Billing report and backup usage information

You can get a billing report from the console going to the Billing & Cost Management and:

  • select “Reports”
  • choose “AWS Usage Report”
  • select “Amazon RDS Service”
  • specify time period and  granularity
  • download report in XML or CVS format.
  • open the report and check the “TotalBackupUsage” and “ChargedBackupUsage”

Knowing now the cost and the AWS S3 pricing for your region, you can now determine the storage.

How can I automate the process?

You can generate and have a Hourly Cost Allocation Report delivered automatically to a S3 bucket and process the information and create your alarms and logic accordingly.

For more information see the Monthly Cost Allocation Report page


Alexa, what is the capital of Israel?

The status of Jerusalem has been in the news a lot in the last few weeks, since Donald Trump confirmed the US now recognize the city as capital of Israel. And the recent UN voting on rejecting the recognition.

If maps and location-based services present unexpected challenges in a disputed territory to the developer who targets an international audience, voice services are the new frontier.

While preparing a few examples for my talk at Codemotion Berlin last October,  I asked Alexa (in German) the question “Alexa, what is the capital of Israel?”

And on October 3rd, the answer was

Die Hauptstadt von Israel ist Jerusalem

that translates in a short, direct but controversial

The capital of Israel is Jerusalem

An answer that might upset a significant number of users of the Amazon service. Apparently while Mr Trump followed the advice from Alexa, Amazon rectified the answer in the meantime. Asking the very same question today, you have a longer

Israel hat Jerusalem zu seiner Hauptstadt erklaert, diese wird jedoch nicht von allen Staaten anerkannt

that translates in

Israel has declared Jerusalem to be its capital, but it is not recognized by all states

Someone might argue that actually most states do not recognize it but it is definitely a more accurate answer than the initial one and that targets a wider audience.

This is something easier to address in a voice service than a geolocation decoding challenge,  but it is still an example of the problems that a software developer has to face to target an international in a disputed territory.


Alexa & Grandma

The sound is not as good as a Bose speaker. I sadly had to remove a few broken valves to make space for a working audio device. But setting up Alexa and testing my Big World skill on Grandma’s radio is priceless. Next step, setting it up inside the radio.