I recently had the opportunity to do a little research into AWS Step Functions. What I learned was interesting and sparked some thinking about how I could improve some of my serverless projects by moving to a Step Function. This article discusses what AWS Step Functions are, how they fit into an application architecture, and their benefits.

AWS Step Functions are a “function orchestrator”, allowing you to connect multiple Lambda functions and other AWS services into an application. By moving the logic associated with the application including decisions, retries, parallel tasks, and error handling out of the Lambda functions, we can reduce the amount of code to construct the application, simplifying updates and reducing code complexity. …

Sometimes we are working on a project where we need a data store, but the complexities of Relational Database Service (RDS), DynamoDB, DocumentDB, et al are more than what is needed. This is where Amazon SimpleDB becomes a valuable resource.


SimpleDB is a NoSQL database. NoSQL databases are not new, having been around since the 1960s. The term NoSQL can have several different meanings from non-SQL, referring to the lack of relation support in the database, to Not only SQL meaning the database may support Structured Query Language (SQL) Wikipedia.

AWS has a number of databases to meet the needs of your project. If you look in the AWS Management Console, the Database section…

The Apple iPhone and iPad have this wonderful Python development environment called Pythonista. If you can import a module using the Pythonista StaSh extension, then you can get working with boto3 in Pythonista.

However, boto3 requires your AWS credentials to be configured either in a shared credentials file, in environment variables, or specified when the boto3 session, resource, or client is created.

Working with Pythonista requires some degree of creativity when dealing with issues like this one. However, there is no reason why you can’t get the same shared credentials file you use on other computing devices onto your iPad for use with Pythonista. …

As part of my Medium article An Overview of Amazon Translate, one of the questions is how good is Amazon Translate? It isn’t possible without a lot of time to check all 55 supported languages, so I am focusing on

  • English to Spanish;
  • Spanish to English;
  • English to French; and,
  • French to English.

I used one of the paragraphs in this article for this text. The paragraph reads:

"Another example is real-time translation for support and help-desk services.  Users are not limited by their knowledge of the language your corporation uses. A Spanish speaking user (for example) can type in Spanish, the text is translated to English using Amazon Translate and displayed to the support agent. The support agent can then respond in English and the text is then translated to Spanish. …

In previous Medium articles, I presented Amazon Polly for text to speech production, and Amazon Transcribe for speech to text production. In this article, I will present another Amazon AI/ML service: Amazon Translate.

Whether we want to translate the text for our website, provide localized text for a software application, or real-time translation, Amazon Translate is the solution. The service accepts text in one language and converts it to text in a different language. …

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On July 30, Amazon Web Services announced the AWS Community Builders program, bringing an end to the “private beta” which has been running for the past few months. AWS community leaders invited over 250 passionate AWS users to participate in this “private beta” leading up to the launch. It was an amazing opportunity for everyone invited as we shared ideas, heard presentations on various topics from AWS leaders, including Jeff Barr.

What is an AWS Community Builder?

Community Builders are individuals who are passionate about using AWS and share what they have learned through blog posts, online articles like this one, teaching others, and more. …

Virtual Desktops at Scale

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With the sudden transition from the office to remote work locations with the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations had to struggle with getting equipment, shipping it to employees, ensuring they had the onsite infrastructure for VPN connections, and more. Amazon Workspaces simplifies this process not only in emergency and business continuity situations but in a “normal” operating model as well.

Even without the challenges of suddenly moving your employees from an office to a remote work setting, organizations have to deal with the capital expenditures of buying workstations, laptops and other equipment to support their computing needs. …

In a previous Medium article, I presented the AWS Client VPN as a method of gaining secure access from a client machine into your AWS VPC.

This is a follow up to that article, presenting how to set up the iOS OpenVPN client and connect to your AWS Client VPN. While Apple has moved to iPadOS as the operating system for the iPad, I am going to use the generic term iOS to refer to both iOS and iPadOS.

Connecting to AWS from an iOS device

Apple provides a built-in VPN client as part of the iOS operating system, which is accessed from the General menu in the Settings app. …

Accessing Resources in other VPCs

Depending upon the size of our organization, we may have more than one or two VPCs, or have a VPC deployed in more than one region. There are many cases for multiple VPCs:

  • segregates applications based upon some criteria, like function, security level, data classification, etc.;
  • use different VPCs for the various business units;
  • service deployment in multiple regions; or
  • for different stages in the development process.

If you have worked with AWS for any length of time, you know that every AWS account comes with a default VPC in every supported region. Every default VPC uses the same CIDR block, …

In a previous Medium article, I discussed using Amazon Polly as a method of converting my print articles to audio. While I presented a Lambda script to take a file from S3 and generate an MP3 audio file, I didn’t discuss the why and how of Amazon Polly.

Polly is a text to speech platform capable of handling both plain text and Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML). If you want to think of it this way, Amazon Polly and Amazon Transcribe are opposite services. Polly provides text to speech, while Transcribe provides speech to text. Since Polly takes text and converts it to audio, we might think of Amazon Polly as a media service. …


Chris Hare

Chris is the co-author of seven books and author of more than 70 articles and book chapters in technical, management, and information security publications.

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