Microsoft’s Privacy Suit Against Department of Justice Will Go Forward

Paul Ballard

10 Feb , 2017  

A federal judge ruled Thursday that a lawsuit Microsoft filed against the U.S. Department of Justice to protect customer privacy can continue.

At issue are so-called ‘gag orders’ that DOJ sometimes imposes on tech companies who have provided customer emails and other data to the department as part of an investigation. Microsoft says its customers have a right to know if their communications are being monitored under a search warrant, while the department maintains the secrecy is necessary to protect national security.

In the lawsuit filed last April, Microsoft had challenged the gag orders on two grounds: that they violated customers’ Fourth Amendment privacy rights and Microsoft’s First Amendment free speech rights. Judge James Robart from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington said he will allow the First Amendment claims to go forward, but struck down the Fourth Amendment argument.

The Justice Department filed a motion to dismiss the case last July. Other tech companies, including Google and Apple, have weighed in with court briefs in support of Microsoft’s arguments.

The issue of consumer privacy has taken on new dimensions as more and more people are moving personal information to the cloud. When it announced the lawsuit, Microsoft said it had received a whopping 2,500-plus requests for customer information from the government in an 18-month period.… Read more

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Wintellect Blogs

A Brief Tour of Azure IoT Hub

Josh Lane

29 Sep , 2016  

I’m preparing some material for a webinar on Azure IoT in mid-October (you are signed up, aren’t you?) and thought I’d do a quick intro to the basic concepts and moving parts.

Azure IoT Hub is a cloud-scale service for managing and securely communicating with large numbers of field devices (potentially millions at once); communication can occur from device to cloud, and also from cloud to device (for issuing commands or queries to devices). It’s standards-based so it works with many device types, a number of communications protocols and guest operating systems, and supports various network topologies. It also supports custom gateways for edge analytics, traffic optimization, etc. Finally, it integrates with a number of existing Azure services like Stream Analytics, Machine Learning, and Event Hubs to maximize scale and minimize time to insight.

Let’s walk through a sample Azure IoT Hub-based solution and see it in action. I live in Atlanta, GA USA and our public transit system provides geolocation and other metadata about buses and trains; we’ll use the bus data to simulate device activity in the field (each bus == a device) and use IoT Hubs, Stream Analytics, Azure Storage, DocumentDB, and some custom code to collect and present that data in a meaningful way.… Read more

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Microsoft Publishes REST API Guidelines

Paul Ballard

19 Jul , 2016  

Microsoft has publicly shared its REST API design guidelines, the internal rules that its developers use to create cloud services.

The guidelines recently became available on Github.

“It’s our hope that by contributing our [guidelines] to the community conversation, we can add to the body of community knowledge and reusable content so that anyone can draw upon more collective knowledge when looking to set standards and guidelines within their organization,” reads a post on one of the company’s developer blogs.

Microsoft said the guidelines were created after hearing feedback from developers that APIs—the standardized building blocks of software development—should be consistent across all Microsoft services.

“Developers didn’t care that an API to work with an Azure virtual machine and an API to work with a user’s Office 365 documents were developed by different parts of the company, they were both from Microsoft and developers expected consistency.”

Click here to view the guidelines. Developers can also check out the APIs created with the guidelines via Microsoft Graph, a single endpoint for calling APIs for multiple Microsoft services.… Read more



Microsoft Launches Venture Capital Group

Paul Ballard

31 May , 2016  

Microsoft has started a formal venture fund to invest in early-stage companies working on cloud-related projects. Microsoft Ventures, announced in a company blog post Monday, aims to fill the gap between Microsoft’s large-scale investments and acquisitions and the assistance it provides to startups through its Microsoft Accelerator program.

Among the products and services Microsoft is interested in funding are new business SaaS apps, and those that extend and complement Azure, as well as Microsoft’s existing Office 365, Windows and HoloLens ecosystems. The group will also invest in machine learning and security, Microsoft says.

“Given that the move to the cloud remains the single largest priority for the industry, identifying the bleeding-edge companies who complement and leverage the transition to the cloud is key to our investment thesis,” wrote Nagraj Kashyap, the corporate vice president overseeing the new group.

Microsoft acknowledged that when it comes to building relationships with small, cutting-edge companies, it’s still catching up to its Silicon Valley competitors.

“Because we would often invest alongside commercial deals [in the past], we were not part of the early industry conversations on disruptive technology trends,” wrote Kashyap.  “With a formalized venture fund, Microsoft now has a seat at the table.”

The team will be “small and nimble,” said Kashyap, with a presence in San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Tel Aviv.… Read more

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Microsoft: Gag Order Suit ‘Is About the Future of Cloud Technology’

Paul Ballard

15 Apr , 2016  

A lawsuit filed by Microsoft against the U.S. Justice Department Thursday could determine the future of privacy in the cloud, Microsoft’s chief legal officer told Geekwire.

The suit challenges the federal government’s use of secrecy orders to compel Microsoft and other technology companies to turn over customers’ information—without informing customers that they are targets in an investigation.

Such orders have become more common in recent years, with Microsoft fielding about 5,600 requests from government investigators for customer data in the last 18 months, according to The New York Times. Almost half of those were accompanied by gag orders barring the company from discussing them with customers.

“We’re raising this because of the implications for where technology is going,” Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith told Geekwire. Customers who store their data, including email, in cloud servers have the expectation of privacy. But unlike when the government searches physical files—seizing hard drives and documents—targets of an investigation aren’t likely to know that their electronic files are being searched unless the service provider tells them.

“It is very important to businesses to defend themselves when the government is investigating them…but none of that is possible if the business doesn’t even know that the government is obtaining their emails and I think for most people in business, that is both disconcerting and sometimes even shocking,” said Smith.… Read more

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How To

A Microsoft Project Orleans Primer

Paul Ballard

14 Oct , 2015  

If you’ve been wanting to learn more about Microsoft’s Project Orleans programming model, this primer will give you the basic concepts you need to understand to get started.

Actor Based Programming


Actor based programming is designed to allow for objects representing multiple instances of related real-world artifacts to interact as independent single threaded entities in a distributed environment.  Their location, activation, and state are managed by the Orleans framework which abstracts away the hardware resources allowing for scalability and high level of concurrency.

Specifically Orleans is designed to allow multiple instances of the same set of classes to interact in a highly distributed fashion.  For example, Orleans would be used to create actors that represent multiple devices in the field, or people in social network.  Each class of actor has the same basic functionality and interactions.  The business logic of the system comes from the interaction of the actors, not necessarily the actors themselves.


grainA grain is a class that represents an actor in the environment.  It can contain state and expose logic via methods that can be called by other grains or clients.  All methods are asynchronous and return a Task.  Grains are by their definition small and so should be kept as simple as possible.… Read more

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Amazon Releases New Cloud Services at re:Invent Conference

Paul Ballard

8 Oct , 2015  

This is a big week for Amazon developers as Amazon’s annual web service developer conference kicks off in Las Vegas and the Day 1 keynote brought with it a slew of new product announcements.  Among them are a new Business Intelligence service, an interesting new device for transporting petabytes of data between data centers, and a database migration service.

Here’s the rundown on the new services announced yesterday.

  • Amazon QuickSight – Amazon QuickSight is a cloud-powered business intelligence (BI) service that makes it easy to build visualizations, perform ad-hoc analysis, and quickly get business insights from data. Amazon QuickSight integrates with AWS data stores, flat files, and third-party sources, and it remains responsive while seamlessly scaling to hundreds of thousands of users and petabytes of data.  Learn more about Amazon QuickSight
  • Amazon Kinesis Firehose – Amazon Kinesis Firehose loads streaming data into AWS. It can capture and automatically load streaming data into Amazon S3 and Amazon Redshift, enabling near real-time analytics with existing business intelligence tools you’re already using today. It is a fully managed service that requires no ongoing administration.  Learn more about Amazon Kinesis Firehose


  • AWS Import/Export Snowball – AWS Import/Export Snowball uses secure appliances to help accelerate petabyte-scale data transfers into and out of AWS.
Read more

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Wintellect Blogs

Azure Bits #4 – Adding the Azure Web Job

Rik Robinson

24 Jul , 2015  

This post’s main objective was originally about completing the initial skeleton of uploading an image from a web page and generating a thumbnail from an Azure Web Job using Azure Blob Storage and Azure Queues, but it turned into a pretty large refactoring in anticipation of having something a bit more realistic to eventually post to GitHub.  So, I’ll devote the first part of the post to a brief review of the most significant changes and then introduce the Azure Web Job into the mix and finally, I’ll retrieve the message from the Azure Queue and show its name in the console.  I’ll then devote Azure Bit #5 to processing the original image and generating a thumbnail to complete the initial skeleton of our Image Manipulator application.

Changing the Serialization Strategy

I’m not sure why I originally chose to go with serializing my UploadedImage to a ByteArray before inserting it into the Azure Queue, but I’ve now simplified things a bit and switched over to serializing my UploadedImage as JSON.  This allows me to drop the ByteArray extension methods that I previously added to the project and it buys me some nice auto-hydration of my UploadedImage later when my processing function is called in the Azure Web Job. … Read more

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Wintellect Blogs

Cloud Saturday Atlanta – a Call for Speakers

Keith Rome

17 Jul , 2015  

Cloud Saturday is a new event for the Atlanta area, and we are currently looking for speaker submissions. The event is being planned for 9/26, and will be held in Alpharetta at Microsoft’s regional training facility. While Microsoft is a sponsor, this event is open to ALL cloud platforms. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and any other vendor platforms are equally welcome (and encouraged!) to have representation. As this is the inaugural event (we hope to hold this in future years as well), there are only a limited number of speaking slots available… so please sign up soon if you are interested in being a part of this event! We are accepting multiple submissions per speaker – however not all submissions may be selected, depending upon our ability to accommodate the additional sessions and/or the interests of keeping the event well-balanced.

Sessions can be technical in nature, or management oriented. We expect that our audience will include a healthy mix of developers as well as IT managers and architects.

Please visit learn more or to sign-up as a speaker.


cloud saturday logoRead more

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Amazon Releases New Developer Web Services

Paul Ballard

14 Jul , 2015  

At the Amazon Web Services Summit in New York City last week, Amazon announced the availability of several new developer focused services.  These services include a hosted private Git repository service, a continuous deployment automation service, and a device testing farm service.

Amazon API Gateway


Amazon API Gateway handles all the tasks involved in accepting and processing up to hundreds of thousands of concurrent API calls, including traffic management, authorization and access control, monitoring, and API version management.

Amazon API Gateway is a service that allows developers to create a managed wrapper for APIs.  The service includes the ability to create a REST API mapping to non REST interfaces.  You can also connect the API Gateway services to Amazon Lambda to host services on shared resources.

AWS Device Farm

ha_hero_device-farmThe AWS Device Farm is a testing service for FireOS and Android apps that will run either a set of built-in tests or you can customize the tests you want to run on multiple devices including Galaxy phones, LG phones, Galaxy Tablets, and dozens more.  These are not virtualized devices but the actual hardware from various manufacturers.

Unlike emulators, physical devices provide a more accurate understanding of how users interact with your app, by taking into account factors such as memory, CPU usage, location, and modifications done by manufactures and carriers to the firmware and software.

Read more

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