Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist

Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson have written a book with this title. It is now available on Amazon. I got a preview copy and gave it a read. It’s a textbook on venture capital deals. If you plan to do…

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Viral Video: “Cyberbu//y”

It’s probably no surprise that the various tragedies about cyberbullying would be turned into an ABC Family Movie. This television show looks like an uplifting story, instead of the not-so-happy endings of real life. Still, it’s a cautionary tale worth repeating over and over.

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Adobe Acquires Electronic Signature Start-Up EchoSign

Adobe has bought EchoSign, an electronic signature start-up, for an undisclosed price. The San Francisco-based company said it will integrate EchoSign — which has three million users — into its document exchange services platform, as part of a push toward a paperless workflow.

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Blog Post: Photographic Mosaics in Windows Azure: A New Series

Photomosaic (click to view full 2.6 MB image)During our last Windows Azure live event series, the Azure TechJam, I structured a talk on using Windows Azure services ? roles, storage, service bus ? around an application I built to generate photographic mosaics in the cloud.  It?s not an original idea by any means ? check out for instance the Mosaic 23/25 site which  likewise leveraged Windows Azure and Mosaicer 2.0 (in VB6!) which provided a starting point for the client UI.  Disclaimers aside, the application has really provided me (and continues to provide) a great learning vehicle in how it pulls together many of the Windows Azure platform offerings into something a more substantial than ?Hello World.?

Since that live event, I?ve been continually adding capabilities to the application, and although it?s still a work in progress, it?s in a reasonable state now for you to get it up and running to aid your own understanding of Windows Azure. So with this post, I?m kicking off a new blog series to do a deeper dive of the application architecture and hopefully spark a discussion around patterns and practices you may want to consider in your own cloud applications. I definitely invite and welcome your comments throughout this series, and together I?m hoping we can improve the existing implementation.

To start things off, take a look at the following screencast which shows the client application at work.

The client application along with the Windows Azure cloud application and a utility application are all available for download, and the package includes a document with further instructions on the set up.  The following steps though should get you up and running ? e-mail me if you run into an issue or have questions on the setup - of course it all works great on my machine!

Windows Azure Account Requirements

While you can exercise most of the application features in the local development fabric on your own machine, at some point you?ll want to see this all live in Windows Azure.  The application uses three roles (they can be small or extra-small), so you can use the Windows Azure trial (use promo code: DPEA01) to prop the application up in the cloud free of charge.  If you are using other subscription offers, do be aware of the pricing for the various services so you do not incur unexpected charges.

You will need to setup the following three services in Windows Azure ? be sure to select the same sub-region for all three!

AppFabric namespace configuration

Storage Requirements

Once you set up your storage account, you?ll need to create a number of queues, tables, and blob containers for use by the application.  The Storage Manager solution in the download is a Windows Forms application which creates these assets for you, given a WIndows Azure storage account name and key.  You can run the application from within Visual Studio:

Storage Manager options

N.B.: Due to licensing, the Flickr functionality (i.e., populate a blob container with Flickr images) requires that you download the FlickrNet.dll and add a reference to it within the Storage Manager application.  Without the reference, the Storage Manager application will not compile.  You will also need to register for an API key and supply that API key in the app.config for the solution.

      <setting name="AccountName" serializeAs="String">  
        <value>[Azure Storage Account]</value>  
      <setting name="AccountKey" serializeAs="String">  
        <value>[Storage Account Key]</value>  
      <setting name="FlickrAPIKey" serializeAs="String">  
        <value>[Optional Flickr API Key]</value>  


Cloud Application Configuration

Once you?ve created all of the required storage constructs, add the configuration values for the three Windows Azure Roles within the cloud application.  Below is the entire ServiceDefinition.cscfg file, with highlighting to indicate the modifications needed..

  1: <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>  
  2: <ServiceConfiguration serviceName="AzureService"             xmlns=""             osFamily="1" osVersion="*">  
  3:   <Role name="AzureJobController">  
  4:     <Instances count="1" />  
  5:     <ConfigurationSettings>  
  6:       <Setting name="ApplicationStorageConnectionString"   
                  value="DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName={Acct. Name};AccountKey={Acct. Key}"/>  
  7:       <Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.Diagnostics.ConnectionString"   
                  value="DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName={Acct. Name};AccountKey={Acct. Key}"/>  
  8:     </ConfigurationSettings>  
  9:   </Role>  
 10:   <Role name="AzureImageProcessor">  
 11:     <Instances count="1" />  
 12:     <ConfigurationSettings>  
 13:       <Setting name="ApplicationStorageConnectionString"   
                  value="DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName={Acct. Name};AccountKey={Acct. Key}"/>  
 14:       <Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.Diagnostics.ConnectionString"  
                  value="DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName={Acct. Name};AccountKey={Acct. Key}"/>  
 15:       <Setting name="EnableAppFabricCache" value="false" />  
 16:     </ConfigurationSettings>  
 17:   </Role>  
 18:   <Role name="AzureClientInterface">  
 19:     <Instances count="1" />  
 20:     <ConfigurationSettings>  
 21:       <Setting name="ApplicationStorageConnectionString"   
                  value="DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName={Acct. Name};AccountKey={Acct. Key}"/>  
 22:       <Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.Diagnostics.ConnectionString"   
                  value="DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName={Acct. Name};AccountKey={Acct. Key}"/>  
 23:       <Setting name="AppFabricNamespace" value="{Namespace}"/>  
 24:       <Setting name="ServiceBusIssuer" value="owner" />  
 25:       <Setting name="ServiceBusSecret" value="{Default Key}" />
 26:       <Setting name="UserStorageAccountName" value="{Account Name}" />  
 27:       <Setting name="UserStorageAccountKey" value="{Account Key}" />  
 28:     </ConfigurationSettings>  
 29:   </Role>  
 30: </ServiceConfiguration>
  • Lines 6, 7, 13, 14, 21, and 22: provide the Storage Account Name and Key for your Windows Azure Storage account
  • Line 23: provide the name of the App Fabric endpoint you created
  • Line 25: provide the Default Key for the Service Bus
    Service Bus credentials
  • Line 26: provide the name of your Windows Azure Storage Account (this can be a different storage account than in Line 6, but for now using the same account is fine)
  • Line 27: provide the account key for the storage account used in Line 26 

If you want to experiment with Windows Azure AppFabric Caching, you?ll also need to modify the app.config file of the AzureImageProcessor Worker Role to include the endpoint and Authentication token for the Caching service.  (Note, we?ll look at caching in detail a bit later in the series, at which point I may modify this configuration).

  1:   <dataCacheClients>  
  2:     <dataCacheClient name="default">  
  3:       <hosts>  
  4:         <host name="{Service Bus NameSpace}" cachePort="22233" />  
  5:       </hosts>  
  6:       <securityProperties mode="Message">  
  7:         <messageSecurity  
  8:           authorizationInfo="{Authentication token}" >  
  9:         </messageSecurity>  
 10:       </securityProperties>  
 12:       <tracing sinkType="DiagnosticSink" traceLevel="Verbose"/>  
 13:     </dataCacheClient>  
 14:   </dataCacheClients>

AppFabric Caching credentials


Client Application Configuration

You?ve seen the client application in action already.  The only configuration step needed here is to supply the endpoints for the WCF services hosted in WIndows Azure.  You can modify these directly within the app.config file:

      <endpoint address=""  
      <endpoint address=""  
If you run the client application as a non-administrative user, an informational message will result indicating that the notification functionality is not available.  This occurs because you do not have the permission to create an HTTP namespace for the self-hosted Service Bus service on your local machine; you can do so grant this permission via netsh in an elevated command prompt, or simply run the application as an administrator (which is fine for testing, but not advised for an application deployed to end-users)

Need Help?

Hopefully this blog post will get you up and running.  If not, check out the README file that comes with the download; it?s a bit more explanatory.  And finally don?t hesitate to forward your questions to me via this blog post.  It?s quite possible I?ve overlooked some details or nuances of the setup!

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Viral Video: Inside “The Hobbit” — Part 2

Back in April, director Peter Jackson, master of the ?Lord of the Rings? movie trilogy, decided to do a production video blog from the set of “The Hobbit,” which is filming in New Zealand now. This is his second one.

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Sirius XM: 5 Bullish Things Bears Should Know

Spencer Osborne submits:

When you mention Sirius XM (SIRI) you tend to have two factions of investors that are most boisterous. The PermaBulls, those who see only good in this company, and the PermaBears, those who see only negative things. While these two groups actually represent a minority, you would not know it by how loud they sometimes get.

As with any company there are many considerations in making an investment decision. No company can possibly be a PermaBull, and by contrast, no company can be a PermaBear. In this series we will look at some items that the bulls and bears of Sirius XM should understand from the other side of the debate.

This article will identify five bullish things that the bears in Sirius XM should be aware of:

A Recovering Auto Sector

Sirius XM is tightly connected to the auto sector. It is through new cars with satellite radio installed

Complete Story »

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Empire State Survey indicates contraction, Core CPI increases 0.3 percent

China: With a Possible Correction Ahead, It’s Time to Buy

prieur du plessisPrieur du Plessis submits:

Since the middle of May, I am on record for being bullish on Chinese stocks. One of the top Chinese managers, Liu Tang, chairwoman of Atlantis Investment Management, echoed my bullish view in an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, July 11. She had been negative on Chinese stocks since the end of last year but now thinks these stocks offer value and are in for a significant rally despite all the concerns about debt globally.

But just why is Tang so bullish?

I think the two of us are on the same wavelength because she is clearly aware of the relationship between the Chinese stock market and the CFLP manufacturing PMI. She is obviously expecting the CFLP manufacturing PMI to rise in the near future from 50.9 in June.

Click on any chart below to enlarge:

Sources: CFLP; Li & Fung; I-Net; Plexus Asset Management.

But, as in the case

Complete Story »

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Settled Into a Groove

business cartoon

Those first few weeks when you start a new job are hard. You’re trying to learn names, fit in, feel out the culture and, oh yeah, learn your job.

It’s such a relief when you finally feel like you’re not just hanging on, but actually know what you’re doing. (Monotony sets in later, but that’s another cartoon…)

I remember coming home after a few weeks into a new position and telling my wife that IRead More

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Settled Into a Groove

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Out of Chaos Something Remarkable Emerges

Out of Chaos Something Remarkable Emerges

This content from: Duct Tape Marketing

Out of Chaos Something Remarkable EmergesThis content from: Duct Tape Marketing I’ve owned my own business long enough to have experienced many things. I’ve seen what happens when I’m impatient, when I try to be something I’m not, when I trust my gut, when I overcome fear, when I wait something out, when I start […]

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