Tech News of the Week for 8/31/2023 [MTG007]

Posted on Thursday, Aug 31, 2023 | Series: Moar Tech Garbage
Dropbox drops unlimited, Instacart IPO, and Excel loves Python.


[00:00:01.450] Announcer: Welcome to Tech News of the Week with your host, Detective Concupisant Grimes.

[00:00:08.770] Ned: Welcome to the tau of Tech, something news that we like. I did it again. Woo.

[00:00:17.330] Chris: Amazing.

[00:00:18.050] Ned: Stuck to landing our weekly Tech News podcast. That is a short survey of things that came across our eyeballs in the past week. You want to go ahead and get it started, Chris?

[00:00:31.450] Chris: Yeah, fine.

[00:00:32.590] Ned: All right, cool.

[00:00:34.890] Chris: Instacart filing for IPO on the back of creative cost savings in the cloud well, cost savings in the cloud and constant process modernization. Instacart well known mid quality grocery and other things delivery platform has filed paperwork for an IPO that could go as soon as the end of next month.

[00:00:58.930] Ned: Wow.

[00:00:59.250] Chris: Although probably not that fast. The company is reporting profitability. They are in the black by approximately $250,000,000 on the books just for 2023.

[00:01:11.690] Ned: Wow.

[00:01:13.510] Chris: I know, I am shocked. Interestingly. From a technology perspective, one of the major contributors to those profits has been reduction of costs for their It stack. Instacart was initially a major snowflake customer and this became problematic as that It stack grew and grew and grew. Their snowflake bill was reported to be 13 million, then 28 million, then 51 million between the years of 2020, 2021 and 2022.

[00:01:49.570] Ned: Wow.

[00:01:51.970] Chris: 2023 bill however, is estimated to be $15 million. Okay, now that is one heck of a cost savings. One that was accomplished by moving a large portion of their ETL workloads over to a different company, one you might have heard of called Databricks. Databricks advertises a nine times cost advantage for certain workloads which happen to fit the use case for Instacart perfectly. Basically, this means that the migration from one service provider to another translated into $30 million in revenue that did not go right back out the door.

[00:02:30.510] Ned: Wow.

[00:02:31.300] Chris: Now, if you’re curious about the technical ins and outs of this migration, Instacart’s It staff published a blog. It’s actually a blog series about the transformation, why they did it, how they did it, what the stack looks like in much, much more detail.

[00:02:46.770] Ned: That is fascinating. I’m wondering if some of the same cost optimizations are available if you’re a Datadog customer, because that’s the other one that I’ve heard just hoovers up money like crazy and splunk.

[00:03:00.890] Chris: And in all three cases, the answer is yes.

[00:03:06.490] Ned: When we said unlimited, we didn’t really mean it. It’s a tale as old as time. Service promises unlimited, something people take service seriously and try to use. Unlimited amount service adds scare quotes to unlimited. This time it’s Dropbox with a change to the Dropbox advanced feature as much as you need storage plan, the point was to provide businesses with as much storage as they needed for, quote, legitimate business operations. But unfortunately, a small group of people had been using the service for crypto mining pooling storage for personal use, or even reselling the storage to others. Despite having an acceptable use policy, dropbox has decided that rather than trying to police usage, they are going to impose limits on the Dropbox advanced service. Existing users with less than 35 terabytes of storage per license will maintain their existing storage plus five terabytes for five years with no additional charge. And users over 35 terabytes damn. Will get the same deal for one year. The change is hardly a surprise with Google and Microsoft both imposing similar limits in the past. Remember, kids, the only things that are unlimited in this world are people’s propensity to abuse unlimited resources and existential dread.

[00:04:40.170] Chris: Yeah, it’s annoying. And I don’t know if you remember this, but there was a company that had a similar unlimited in this case returns policy. A little outfit called Land’s End.

[00:04:54.190] Ned: Yes.

[00:04:55.470] Chris: See what I did there?

[00:04:56.960] Ned: Yeah. Did they have to end that policy?

[00:05:00.590] Chris: Yeah, and it’s because a few people are awful. Which is why when I’m Emperor, I am implementing a rule which states that if you break these kinds of rules, you immediately get the death penalty under the you know what I meant? Proviso.

[00:05:18.710] Ned: Well, we’ll have to wait for that coming in the very near future, right?

[00:05:25.690] Chris: Don’t be awful, people. It’s not hard. Microsoft. Wait, that’s yours.

[00:05:31.780] Ned: Speaking of, I was also talking about Microsoft.

[00:05:37.710] Chris: Microsoft announces preview of Python integration into Excel, stuffing yet another programmatic functionality into Office software. What’s the worst that could happen?

[00:05:52.390] Ned: Oh yeah.

[00:05:53.160] Chris: After all, we’ve never had any issues with, say, VBA being a major security problem or anything. Also, don’t we keep telling people that Excel shouldn’t be used like a database or an application? Why is there now Python integration into Excel? I may or may not be annoyed by this.

[00:06:20.650] Ned: Hard to say.

[00:06:22.650] Chris: Funnily enough, the integration itself is not even a real integration. I mean, sure, you write Python code that executes due to your spreadsheet. Can’t believe I had to say that out loud. But that code does not execute on your PC. To quote Microsoft’s own release on this quote python in Excel runs the Python code used by Excel in a secure container on the Microsoft cloud with enterprise level security as a compliant Microsoft 365 connected experience. Unquote. So whatever terrible bad idea you are planning on with this thing, it will still require a significant amount of connectivity to Azure. Fun. Oh, and it’s free for now, but don’t expect that to last. Once the public is done beta testing this for Microsoft, they’re going to go ahead and charge you for it. They’ve already told us that the hubbub is still hubbing about this though, with people calling it the next generation of MATLAB. I never had cause to use MATLAB in my life, though I’ve heard of it enough that I know it’s got to be all capital letters, but that’s about it. So I’m just going to stay sitting over here blowing raspberries at the whole idea.

[00:07:40.920] Chris: To quote Chris.

[00:07:47.510] Ned: Well played. Yes, my wife actually had to she tutored MATLAB in college and so she would be the one to ask about that. I don’t think she had a very high opinion of it at the time. Microsoft revokes retired certificate things predictably Break this one is like, not entirely Microsoft’s fault. Shocking, I know. The certificate in question is the Verisign class three public CA G five root certificate. It would be better if it was a G six. It was used extensively to sign certificates and files. Between 2006 and 2018, DigiCert took over management of the certificate. As part of the transition process, they made plans to retire older CA root certificates that they inherited from Verisign. Well, actually, Symantec who inherited from Verisign, it’s all very confusing and nonsensical. Now that root certificate was included in the batch that was meant to be retired sometime in 2019. Microsoft marked the root CA cert as disabled but not as revoked. As part of a Windows update on August 23 of this year, they revoked the certificate as well. Now, while the TLS certificates that secure things like Https traffic have long since expired and been renewed, that same root certificate was used as part of the chain for digitally signing software and files.

[00:09:24.950] Ned: The result was that several applications that actually checked the digital signatures of libraries would fail to load since the signatures were now invalid. One such example is good old QuickBooks, which users suddenly weren’t able to use unless they were on an unpatched version of Windows. Why Microsoft chose to revoke this certificate four years after the fact is a mystery and leads one to speculate that something sinister may have driven the choice. Since the initial issue was discovered, workarounds have been developed which you can find on Reddit. Now, I’m not going to link those because they may compromise your machine, and I’m not falling for that. Never again. Natasha. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, that’s 20 million Ruples. She ain’t got that pocket change.

[00:10:18.450] Chris: That you know of.

[00:10:20.290] Ned: That’s true. I should check my other jeans. That’ll do it. Thanks for listening. Bye now. Go away.


Chris Hayner

Chris Hayner (He/Him)

Our story starts with a young Chris growing up in the agrarian community of Central New Jersey. Son of an eccentric sheep herder, Chris’ early life was that of toil and misery. When he wasn’t pressing cheese for his father’s failing upscale Fromage emporium, he languished on a meager diet of Dinty Moore and boiled socks. His teenage years introduced new wrinkles in an already beleaguered existence with the arrival of an Atari 2600. While at first it seemed a blessed distraction from milking ornery sheep, Chris fell victim to an obsession with achieving the perfect Pitfall game. Hours spent in the grips of Indiana Jones-esque adventure warped poor Chris’ mind and brought him to the maw of madness. It was at that moment he met our hero, Ned Bellavance, who shepherded him along a path of freedom out of his feverish, vine-filled hellscape. To this day Chris is haunted by visions of alligator jaws snapping shut, but with the help of Ned, he freed himself from the confines of Atari obsession to become a somewhat productive member of society. You can find Chris at coin operated laundromats, lecturing ironing boards for being itinerant. And as the cohost on the Chaos Lever podcast.

Ned Bellavance

Ned Bellavance (He/Him)

Ned is an industry veteran with piercing blue eyes, an indomitable spirit, and the thick hair of someone half his age. He is the founder and sole employee of the ludicrously successful Ned in the Cloud LLC, which has rocked the tech world with its meteoric rise in power and prestige. You can find Ned and his company at the most lavish and exclusive tech events, or at least in theory you could, since you wouldn’t actually be allowed into such hallowed circles. When Ned isn’t sailing on his 500 ft. yacht with Sir Richard Branson or volunteering at a local youth steeplechase charity, you can find him doing charity work of another kind, cohosting the Chaos Lever podcast with Chris Hayner. Really, he’s doing Chris a huge favor by even showing up. You should feel grateful Chris. Oaths of fealty, acts of contrition, and tokens of appreciation may be sent via carrier pigeon to his palatial estate on the Isle of Man.