To lead Zynga East, Zynga hired Brian Reynolds, an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore-area gaming scene who co-founded Firaxis Games (Hunt Valley) and Big Huge Games (Timonium), which was bought last month by Curt Schilling's (yes, the retired Major League Baseball pitcher) 38 Studios.
(That's Brian Reynolds to the left, in a pic taken Feb. 17, 1999 by a Sun photographer, when he was VP of software development at Firaxis Games, and designed the game Alpha Centauri. Sorry Brian, couldn't find a more recent pic in our archives.)
A Zynga spokeswoman told me in an email last night that Reynolds will be bringing some of his "key associates" to work with him.
Zynga East will be working on a new online game, but the company wouldn't say what it was about.
Reynolds has a deep background in building strategy games, so maybe that's what we can expect to see more of?
The Baltimore area has become a bit of a game developer's haven.
Zynga's presence here will add a new competitive dimension to the game development scene, with online gaming being white-hot right now. And Zynga itself is a buzz machine.
They've attracted something like $40 million in investment capital and they're reportedly cash flow positive, with around 250 employees. It reportedly has sales of around $100 million and is profitable, but it's privately held, so we don't know how profitable.
BusinessWeek's Valley Girl has the good lowdown on the company and how -- you ask -- it's actually supposedly making all this money. Basically, it seems people are willing to pony up a few bucks here and there to play their games. They've got 12 million daily users and 50 million monthly users, the company reports.
For a quick rundown of Zynga in the news, check this out. And my online news story is here. Good news for Baltimore area game developers? Let me know what you think.
Outlet Baltimore is a semi-regular gathering for New Media professionals in Baltimore and surrounding areas. The goal is to provide a mostly informal opportunity for us to convene in the real world and put faces to the names behind our blog posts, websites, Twitter feeds, and LinkedIn/Facebook profiles. It’s designed as a complement to some of the more formal and/or targeted events that Baltimore is already lucky to have, such as Ignite and Refresh.
This one is being held at the Windup Space, 12 W. North Ave., Baltimore, Md.
I've been before and it's a pretty chill scene. Maybe I'll see you there.
P.S. I think it starts around 6 p.m., right Outlet Baltimore? (I didn't see a time listed on the site. Past events have started at 6 p.m.)
In a room full of bright start-up companies, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and state biz development leaders, Johansson talked about the strength and resilience of the Maryland economy, in the face of a national recession. A big reason for that strength, he said, is "Feds, Meds, Eds and Beds." Here's what that catch-phrase means:
* Feds: The state benefits from tens of thousands of jobs tied directly and indirectly to federal government agencies that employ people at military and civilian facilities. (Think NSA at Fort Meade to the Social Security Administration headquarters at Woodlawn.) Contractors that do work for these federal agencies and military installations are also plentiful in Maryland.
* Meds: The health care and social services industry is a huge employer in Maryland. Also, biotechnology is a growing, cutting-edge sector that's seen a lot of investment in recent years.
* Eds: Education. Higher education. And the research that comes out of institutions such as the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.
* Beds: Tourism. From the Inner Harbor to the Eastern Shore to Deep Creek.
The notion of Feds, Meds, Eds & Beds sounds like a nifty marketing jingle for state leaders to use in their cheerleading and marketing of Maryland. What do you think?
Meantime, if you're interested in getting a snapshot of the Maryland economy, here are some links to peruse:
:: This state report has one of the latest overviews of Maryland's private-sector workforce.
:: The 2008 Maryland employment and payrolls data show a breakdown of public and private sector jobs, including average weekly wage per worker. (Hint: There are more workers in local and state government than federal, but federal workers have a higher average weekly salary. Gee, I wonder if that's why everybody seems to covet a job with the Feds. :-)
Local Apple consulting firm inspects fake iPhone 3G bought on eBay
MacMedics, a Mac consulting and repair firm with offices in the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia area, tipped me off to the latest curiosity to hit their shop: A fake iPhone 3G that almost looks convincing, but not quite.
A customer bought it on eBay, thinking it was the real deal -- and quickly discovered it wasn't when he started handling it. Dana Stibolt, founder of MacMedics, took a video of the fake and explained in a blog post that the customer needs an authorized Apple service provider to inspect and document its fakeness, in order for the guy to try to get his money back from PayPal.
There's a good chance the fake came from somewhere in Asia -- just watch the vid below:
Update: Dana tells me he'd never seen a fake iPhone before.
They started lining up at 10 a.m. There's coffee, soda and pizza in a room with a bunch of tables and chairs. And people are hunkering down for the long haul.
Most will cover the five-day wait in shifts, getting co-workers and others to spell them.
So what is this all about? One word: Money.
Here are the basics: Since 2006, Maryland's been handing out a 50 percent tax credit to investors who pump money into start-up biotech companies. You can get up to a $250K credit. And one company can have up to 15 percent of the pool of tax credit money applied to them, according to state law. Here's the catch: the tax credits are given to investors on a "first come, first serve" basis, per state law -- and these little companies go wait in line for their investors.
The state tax-credit pool of money this year is $6 million. So, potentially, one or a few of these start-ups could entice investors to pump up to $1.8 million into their companies, with half being returned to investors via a refund. (Out-of-state investors can get this credit, too.) That seems like a pretty good proposition, especially in this economy. The state Department of Business and Economic Development will start accepting applications July 1, at 9 a.m.
I think everybody here was pretty surprised to see each other lining up so early. But you know who got here first? Scott Allocco, president of Baltimore-based BioMarker Strategies LLC, at 10 a.m. today.
Once people saw Scott lining up, others followed. (That's BioMarker CEO Karen Olson taking over for Scott late in the day today.) Nice job, Steve.
I'll have a story in tomorrow's paper about what's going on here. In the meantime, I'm hoping some of the biotech companies in the room keep us updated on how they're faring this weekend. Drop us a line. We're hoping the vibe is more Woodstock than Big Brother (you know, that reality TV show.)
Mind you, Apple cut the price of the 3G version to $99 for the 8GB model, while the new 3G S phone (the faster one, with video recording capability) is now $199 for the 16GB version.
For some of you who are trapped in an AT&T contract, aren't eligible for the $199 3GS price, and don't want to pay the $399(oops, thanks, Jeff S.) $499 to buy the new handset, then selling your iPhone may help you recoup some money to put toward the new one.
Heck, you may even make a profit on selling your iPhone, if you're lucky. Hit the jump for details on how to do it, and more:
There's some friendly advice out there on how to go about selling your iPhone 3G:
:: CNET's Rick Broida has his own tips and links on how to sell your iPhone, including selling to Rapid Repair, a shop that refurbishes them. As of today, they'll give you $180 for your 8GB iPhone 3G (which you paid $199 for.) Not bad.
:: Oh, and if you're wondering if anyone is really selling their iPhone 3Gs on eBay, just check out this stream of tweets on Twitter. All the kids are doing it!
This crazy iPhone resale market is nothing new. We saw it last year when Apple introduced the 3G. eBay and Craigslist was suddenly awash with people selling their older iPhones at robust prices.
So, what's going on here?
Are people looking to buy the handsets to unlock them to use as they wish with any carrier they choose countries? A hot market for iPhone parts for refurbs?
Another thing to note: Generally, the Apple fanboys say that Apple products traditionally have a great resale value when compared to its competitors.
I would love to hear your feedback and what you think. Have you sold your iPhone on eBay or Craiglist? Tell me your experience. Better yet: have you bought an iPhone 3G in the resale market recently, and paid more than the list price for the 3G? Tell us why.
(Photo credit: AP, during the iPhone 3GS roll-out in Japan)
Watch Ignite Baltimore #3 live -- right here -- thanks to RadarRedux.com
Kudos to our friends over at RadarRedux, a Baltimore site covering the arts, culture and entertainment scene, for being all Web 2.0 and setting up a live feed for Ignite Baltimore tonight. What's Ignite Baltimore? I explain it here.
Alright kids: So it's 6:45 p.m. right now. Speakers aren't scheduled to start till 7 p.m. So stick around. I hope you enjoy the show.
Post-show Update: The video was recorded and will be available for about two weeks after the June 25, 2009 Ignite Baltimore event on RadarRedux's site: http://radarredux.com/live.html. Seeya 'round!
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Maryland Tech: Protecting your computer screen from the "shoulder surfers"
Every once in a while, I get to see -- and sometimes write about -- a fascinating new product before the consumer masses get to it. It's one of the cool perks of being a journalist, really.
That happened to me recently, when Bill Anderson (left) of Oculis Labs Inc., in Owings Mills, gave me and some colleagues here at The Baltimore Sun a demo of his new software: "Chameleon" and "PrivateEye." (Here's my full story on how he launched his company and came up with the idea.)
Here's what Chameleon does: it uses sophisticated gaze-tracking technology to dynamically render the words and images on a computer monitor so that only the authorized user can read them. It's accurate down to about one single character. If someone is peeking over your shoulder (aka "shoulder surfing"), all they will see is dummy text that is constantly changing. You, the user, will be able to read the text you choose to read wherever your eyes wander on the screen.
I tried reading the documents -- a Word and an Excel document -- over Anderson's shoulder, and I could not. I had no idea where his eyes were and the text was constantly changing on me.
For now, big government agencies involved in military/intelligence operations are the most likely ideal customers because it requires some special hardware (the gaze-tracking equipment), and the price tag ain't cheap. Anderson bills Chameleon as a way for people to protect their monitors, which can be critical in battlefield and intelligence operations, where super-spies with powerful telephoto lenses can peer over your shoulder from a very long ways away.
For consumers, there's a lighter-weight version, PrivateEye. Here's what that does: It taps into your computer's Web cam (that's the only hardware you need) and uses face-detection technology so that your computer knows when you turn away from the screen. As soon as you turn away, the screen softly blurs. Ideal for office situations where privacy of information is paramount, such as medical settings, financial institutions, law firms, etc.
Anderson gave us a tour of the software and we shot some video. Check it out below!
At an early age, I was chalking it up to fantasy and I suspended my disbelief while I watched the cartoons after school while eating a bowl of Froot Loops. But some are more willing to try to explain the technology and science behind the Transformers, I learned this morning. There is a Wikipedia entry on Transformers technology that, right now, is striving to bridge the gap between science and fantasy. One of my favorite sections ponders the notion of death among Transformers:
Death of a Transformer can follow irreversible (mortal) stasis lock or be caused by a sudden traumatic injury (such as a close-proximity nuclear explosion, or spark excision). A few weapons, such as a high powered fusion cannon, are known to be powerful enough to cause severe enough damage to immediately terminate a Transformer. Also, while the utter destruction of a body can and usually does cause death, a Transformer can often survive total dismemberment. Notable examples include Optimus Prime (during the Generation 1 series), Ultra Magnus (during the movie), and Waspinator (repeatedly).
On the other side are businesses, universities and researchers who are pushing for breakthroughs that could be brought to market and maybe save lives, if nanotech gets more incorporated in medical practice. Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering has a nanotech research area, and the university has its own Institute for NanoBioTechnology, too. And the University of Maryland has its own Nanocenter.
The lab, which is in Laurel, Md., (left) does a lot of academic research. But it also partners with our military and with NASA on classified research. A quick recap: Last Sunday, June 14, officials at the APL discovered there was a cyber attack going on. Last week, I was told they had some evidence that it may have started as early as two weeks prior.
As a precaution, the APL officials ordered their external website taken down. A barebones splash page was put up a few days later for their website. And Internet access to all its employees was cut.
On Tuesday, APL restored its external Website, according to Helen Worth, the facility's spokeswoman. But employee Internet access remained curtailed and wasn't expected to be restored until today, Worth told me yesterday afternoon.
In an interview yesterday, Worth said that officials determined that the attackers penetrated past the Website's firewall and into the facility's internal network. But classified information was not accessed, she said. Worth said it was believed that the attackers were looking for classified information and that officials were "pretty sure" employees' personal information was not touched.
Here's what I did not learn:
:: Worth declined to say which areas of the website were accessed or how officials determined the attackers were looking for classfied material.
:: Worth declined to say whether APL believed the cyber attack came from a source in the United State or from abroad.
:: Worth also wouldn't tell me if any law enforcement agencies is involved in investigating the cyber attack, except to say that the government agencies they work with had been notified of the cyber attack.
"We have a very sophisticated system," Worth said. "We are well aware that we are a target. And we're now more sophisticated than we are before. We've been on top of security very strongly."
APL is an important facility. I wonder what some of our senators and representatives think about this security breach, especially in light of President Obama's renewed emphasis on cyber security. I'll try to find out. Stay tuned.
I don't publish anonymous comments. Please leave a name (even if it's a nickname) and an email address (which won't be shared with anyone.) Sometimes I like to email the people who leave comments for a chat.
Having been a cops reporter in Baltimore for some years, I can keep confidences.
Ignite Baltimore #3 tomorrow night at the Windup Space -- plus: new venue news
Our wee little Ignite Baltimore event that started last year has grown and grown and grown. If you may recall, Ignite Baltimore is where guest speakers get to talk about cool stuff -- but they're only given 5 minutes and 20 slides.
So, you've got eclectic topics, interesting speakers, and a crowd drawn from the Baltimore area's creative, technology, civic and business circles.
Best of all: It's a free event. When? Tomorrow night at the Windup Space, 12 W. North Ave., Baltimore, Md. Unfortunately, all the reserved spaces are filled, and there's a waiting list. Fortunately, the crowd cycles through pretty well through the course of the night, so there's a good chance you'll get in early.
I'm not a booster or a sponsor, but I do appreciate an event where I can meet interesting, non-drunk people -- especially on a school night in Baltimore.
Speaking this morning with Mike Subelsky, a co-organizer and founder of Otherinbox.com, he told me that Ignite Baltimore #4 will be held at a new venue: the Walters Art Museum, on October 22, 2009. Schwanky. (Karl Jones at the Walters confirmed it for me just a moment ago...)
It will still be free -- it's just a bigger space, which was needed because the event's been maxing out at around 300 people, with a 100-person waiting list.
If you can't make it there tomorrow night, a local media website (RadarRedux) will be live-broadcasting from there. You'll be able to watch it on their website or here on my blog, as I'll embed their video player. Of course, it's more fun to be there in person.
The other co-organizers, by the way, is Patti Chan, of 600block.com.
A lot of the Baltimore tech community has really gotten behind the event. Subelsky sent me over a list of sponsors. It's a mini Who's Who of creative, techy folks and entrepreneurial companies in the Baltimore area.
Maybe you're on a tight budget and need to manage your wireless bill pretty closely. Or maybe you just don't buy the hype and don't feel like you need the latest iPhone or Blackberry. Or maybe, just maybe, you're philosophically and economically against locking yourself into the same wireless provider for a two-year contract.
Chances are if you fit into one of these three scenarios, you're looking at hard -- or already using -- a pay-as-you-go wireless cellphone provider. In Baltimore, the new kid on the block this week is a company called Cricket, which started selling its plans yesterday. (They also launched in Washington D.C. yesterday.)
Cricket's active in over 30 states and has more than 4 million customers, according to a news release I got my hands on yesterday. They offer wireless phone plans as well as a wireless broadband on the 3G CDMA and EV-DO networks for computers.
Monthly plans start as low as $30, but that only includes unlimited local calling; long distance and roaming charges are extra. The company also offers more a la carte options, like paying $1-$3 a day for unlimited talk/texting, depending on how you configure your plan.
Cricket's got other competitors, such as Sprint's Boost Mobile, another pre-paid cellular phone service. Boost offers similar pricing plans, with monthly unlimited ($50), daily plans or pay-for-what-you-use deals.
:: This map will shows Cricket coverage in your area.
I compiled a list of reviews of Cricket. You'll find them on the jump:
Cyber security companies in Maryland getting hot, not bothered
I went to visit a little company in Columbia called Sourcefire a few weeks back, on the trail of a story about what Maryland companies think about President Obama's push to upgrade the nation's cyber security capacity. (Hint: They're not unhappy about it, as my story today sez.)
I met with the company's founder, Martin Roesch (CTO), John Burris (CEO) and Todd Headley (CFO), who gave me and photographer Lloyd Fox a tour of their 300-person shop. Perhaps the funniest thing that struck me is the company's quirky little culture.
They have a mascot -- the Snort pig -- which they use to brand their intrusion prevention products for computer network safety. They have art on the walls of their offices that incorporates the pig, riffing on popular movie posters and art classics.
The Snort pig as "Neo" in The Matrix? As Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa"? (left) Hey -- why not?
Oh, and a classic bumper sticker, hung above founder Martin Roesch's desk: "My kid reads your honor student's email." (photo below)Total. Geek. Humor among the cyber security set who work closely with the alphabet soup of defense and intelligence agencies based in Maryland.
I hope one day my kid grows up knowing how to hack into computer networks (in a benevolent way, on the side of the good guys, of course.)
Needless to say, Sourcefire is humming along. The company has had its ups and downs after it went public a few years ago, but revenue is going up and they're trying to stay lean as possible to get themselves to full-blown profitability.
But their long-term future seems steady, as we move deeper into a world where more of our lives are intricately tied to the virtual spheres we've created for our personal and professional lives.
There are probably hundreds of little companies that are hoping to ride some piece of the cyber security wave in Maryland, as money comes pouring out of Washington. Some state and business leaders think the state can become a "Silicon Valley of cyber security." Some say we're pretty much already established as one.
So I felt like about zero cents, but then we giddily realized that I had *just* activated the brand-new Find My iPhone service. Even better, Mark had a Sprint (yes, Sprint) USB dongle giving him Internet access over 3G on his MacBook Pro. Excited to try it out, we hopped onto me.com and clicked the Find My iPhone link.
Wonder if Apple realizes that they could have legions of iPhone vigilantes who'll be going off hunting their stolen handsets with the help of GPS technology and mobile web connections?
Do you see a potential problem here -- or does this just mean more power for the consumer and the victimized citizen?
(FYI: This story was originally featured on SlashDot; I got tipped off to this tale by @justinemaki)
Follow the Tweets from Barcamp Baltimore today. The ideas shared at this event today will probably percolate among the participants for long after the event, and people may continue to use the Twitter hash tag #bcbmore for a bit. Watch the geeky action unfold right here!
Barcamp has started. The roughly 80 or so attendees who showed up this morning hashed out, through discussion and debate, more than 20 topics they want to talk about in small groups for the rest of the day.
It's taking place right now, Saturday, June 20th, at the University of Baltimore's Thumel Business Center. And it's free. If you're bored on a rainy Saturday in the Baltimore area and looking to chat with some smart folks and make some new connections, this may be a good place to start.
They've got free coffee, too! What is Barcamp? Some describe it as an "unconference." (Here's a wiki that tracks the events all over the world.) It's intended to be a democratic process where people from all walks of life and professional experience can come to talk about the things that matter to them most. Here's just a sampling of some of the topics that will be covered in today's sessions: Right now, I'm sitting in a session on the future of journalism in Baltimore.
A discussion led by Dave Troy, a local entrepreneur who is promoting the idea of journalism startup (or startups) in the Baltimore area. On a big screen, he's got a thought-provoking and recently popular blog post by Clay Shirky, a new media thinker, titled "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable."
Other sessions: building green, future of social networks, online fundraising for nonprofits, social entrepreneurship in Baltimore, photography for beginners, location-based software and games, locally-developed cool technology, and many more.
And a happy hour at Brewer's Art afterwards, after 5 p.m. Debate hard, drink well, right? :-) On Twitter, the hashtag to follow is #bcbmore.
Welcome to BaltTech. I'll periodically post some updates today on people's experiences with the new iPhone 3G S today. Particularly interested in short user reviews and demos of its video camera, like CharmCityGavin did below with 12seconds.
UPDATE #2:@charmcitygavin got his iphone from the Towson Apple store and posted his first 12seconds video clip with it. Check out the quality: good enough for you?
(UPDATE: Below, scene at Apple store at Columbia Mall, taken by @jflanigan, via Twitter)
Thanks to Twitter, those of us who aren't the kind to wait in line for a new Apple gadget can experience the geekdom from a safe distance. Today is the day that the new iPhone 3G S handset goes on sale.
Some gadget reviewers, such as WSJ's Walt Mossberg, call it an "evolutionary" model not a revolutionary one. It's supposed to be a much faster user experience, it can shoot video, and it's got voice command features that I suspect will play a greater role in the mobile device world.
Generally, it seems people who pre-ordered the device could have chosen to pick it up at the store today. There will also be phones for sale to walk-in customers, too, apparently. Though I'd imagine in some locations, they'll probably sell fast.
Here in the Baltimore area, it seems the Apple store at the Towson Town Center is the place to be if you're looking for a line. See some tweets below:
@ScottCastro Waiting in line at the Apple Store in Towson for the new iPhone 3G S
@kbilly21 @Towson Apple Store about 200 people waiting for iPhone 3Gs
@charmcitygavin Apple Store employees just brought up coffee and doughnuts!!
I'd like to hear from people who've maybe forgone going to an Apple store and instead, gone to an AT&T store. Is that a more low-key buying experience today?
I searched and filtered for iPhone tweets within a 25-mile radius of Baltimore. Check out these results. Pretty fascinating.
Apple released the new operating system for the iPhone yesterday -- 3.0 -- and presumably millions have downloaded it by now.
The techie blogger crowd certainly has done so. I've had other balls in the air this week, and I'm just catching up on some iPhone/3.0/AT&T news.
If you're also super busy, here are a few good links for catching what people are talking about re: iPhone's new 3.0 operating system (which, incidentally, I'm happy with) and the new handset, the iPhone 3G S (@jjthomas: I await your anti-iPhone mocking.):
:: Mashable and Business Insider cover AT&T's decision to drop the price of the iPhone 3G S (the new handset debuting this Friday) to $199 for current 3G customers who would have been eligible for upgrading through September. So instead of paying $399 (the unsubsidized price of the new iPhone 3G S), these customers who are close to qualifying for the new iPhone could get it for the subsidized price of $199. In a nut shell, according to AT&T: "We’re now pleased to offer our iPhone 3G customers who are upgrade eligible in July, August or September 2009 our best upgrade pricing, beginning Thursday, June 18."
:: The highly-craved feature of MMS messaging will come to the iPhone and it will not cost extra beyond whatever text messaging plan you may have, according to AT&T(PDF). (Thanks to @paulcapestany and @esquiremac for pointing this out to me yesterday)And personally, I say: big whoop. If everybody's gonna be on Web-enabled smartphones that can blast emails with photos, share photos on Facebook and Twitter, etc., tell me again what's the big deal about MMS?
:: The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg gives a good review of the new iPhone 3G S -- but also says many will just be happy with the 3.0 OS upgrade because the new handset is more evolutionary than revolutionary. His quote: "...I don’t think this latest iPhone is as compelling an upgrade for the average user as the 3G model was last year for owners of the original 2007 iPhone."
Quick: your first impression of Apple iPhone's new 3.0 OS
I've been itching all day to upgrade my poor, outdated iPhone 3G (yes, I still have 3GS envy but still can't get outta my contract till October 2010), but I didn't have time to do it this morning and I'll be at work for awhile.
So, I'm turning to you, BaltTechies, to give me your early, first impressions of the new operating system. Are you ga-ga over cut-n-paste? Are you uber-jazzed over the new universal search?
What is your favorite new feature, or features? Does your phone feel faster or slower or about the same?
Give me your quick take here. I'd like a heads up on what to expect.
Mary Worth, an APL spokeswoman, was kind and helpful enough to share some early details on what's going on with the facility's external Website.
APL, if you didn't know, has scientists and engineers working closely with the military and NASA on classified and non-classified projects. How often are these cyber attacks happening at Maryland's research and military institutions? (Of which we have a good amount, if you haven't noticed.)
Here's a snippet of my story, followed by a link to it:
The Web site for Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, which works closely with the military and NASA on research projects, was hit with a cyber attack that officials discovered Sunday and which led them to take down the site until they analyze their computer systems, a spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
Officials at APL, which is based in Laurel, discovered "penetration from an unwanted source" on its external Web site over the weekend, prompting them to take the site offline, according to Helen Worth, a spokesman.
Worth said the Web site had been victimized in the past by smaller attacks, but this recent one was the most significant incident to date. The attackers accessed nonclassified information on the external Web site but did not gain access to classified information or the facility's internal network, Worth said.
As part of their internal review, officials are trying to figure out exactly what information was accessed, she said. "Unfortunately in this day and age, what we're experiencing isn't very different from what many others have experienced," Worth said.
Earlier today, I mentioned that I had had a conversation with the leaders of two companies last week who were telling me about their positive job-hiring trends. One of those companies is G.1440, a Web/IT consulting and recruiting firm based in Baltimore.
Larry Fiorino, G.1440's president and CEO, told me that his company was looking to fill 30-40 positions for I.T. companies -- a surprisingly busy time for them and a "tremendous opportunity" for tech workers in Baltimore, he said.
So today, with the help of Tim Kassouf, a marketing manager over at G.1440, I got a more detailed rundown on the job-market trends from Leslie Kellermann, a senior recruiting manager at the company.
Leslie responded point-by-point to some of the questions I posed to companies and recruiters earlier today. Here's what Leslie had to say:
BaltTech: Who's hiring right now?
Leslie: Companies in general are beginning to hire, especially contractors, but the biggest growth is with smaller to mid-size companies who are looking for mid-level IT Professionals. We aren’t seeing as much from the large companies and we aren’t seeing a whole lot of need for candidates in the six-figure range.
(Wait, before you hit the jump for more from Leslie: Is your tech-related company or recruiting agency hiring right now? If so, please leave us your take on the current Baltimore/Md. I.T. job scene in the comments below.)
BaltTech: What's the current climate like out there for tech companies in Maryland?
We are beginning to see things picking up in the last half of the second quarter. Contractors have been in demand more so than Permanent Direct Hire employees, but even that is beginning to pick up.
BaltTech: What sectors are seeing growth and a resumption of hiring? It’s not necessarily one sector, we’ve personally seen an increase in healthcare, companies with a focus on education and government agencies.
BaltTech: Who's still in bunker mode?
Leslie: Financial and Investment Banking type firms.
BaltTech: Any noticeable trends?
Leslie: Companies are beginning to call out requirements to agencies with whom they have relationships with and the requirements are beginning to look more like the standard IT skill set, whereas for the first quarter of the year we were seeing only the hard to fill requirements. Hiring managers are making decisions faster and pulling the trigger to hire top talent.
I had conversations last week with the leaders of two Baltimore tech-companies -- one a small biz, the other a mid-sized biz -- and both exuded some pretty impressive optimism for their prospects.
They've been in hiring mode recently, snapping up talent to help them complete their projects and build capacity to snag new business. (I don't want to give their names away just yet. Stay tuned.)
My point: These tech companies feel like they're on the move, while others perhaps are still in retrenching and cost-saving mode.
These conversations got me wondering what the current landscape is looking like for I.T. and other Web-related companies in and around Baltimore.
Who's hiring right now? Any recruiters want to weigh in? What's the current climate like out there for tech companies in Maryland? What sectors are seeing growth and a resumption of hiring? Who's still in bunker mode? If there are any noticeable trends that are cooking, I'd dig in a little further with a follow up story. :-)
It's worth noting that the Boston Globe's tech/innovation columnist, Scott Kirsner, covered this topic today for the Boston scene and who inspired me to probe what's shakin' here in Maryland. Here's his column and here's his latest blog post, where he lets some of his interviewees speak about the trends in their own words. Hot off the blog press today!
The "camps" are proliferating around Maryland, and now you can add "HealthCamp" to the list.
For the uninitiated, the "camp" model (also known as barcamp) of conferencing has its roots in a techie/geeky period in California a few years back involving benevolent hackers, sleeping bags and a publisher of tech books. (This Wikipedia entry explains it better than I can in a few short words).
It's meant to be a format where people from diverse backgrounds and with varying skill sets meet on the day of a conference and pretty much decide what they want to talk about.... that day.
In Baltimore, we've seen a couple of "camp"-style conferences in the past two years, with more to come, including BarCamp Baltimore on Saturday (June 20th) at the University of Baltimore, where geeky people from all walks of life are expected to congregate and talk about what they all likely hope will be cool interesting things that could help trigger new ideas, startups, and programs in Baltimore.
(Yes, B'more geeks: You counted corrrectly. That's not one, but TWO camps later this week.)
Last year, his first year organizing it, about 8-10 people came. HealthCamp, Mark tells me, is about getting people with diverse backgrounds and interests in tackling the country's health care problems into the same room to hash out groundbreaking new approaches.
"I describe myself as chief instigator and troublemaker," Scrimshire told me. "I'm deliberately trying to bring together these different communities. I do want doctors and nurses to come along. I do want administrators, and software startups and entreprenuers."
This year, more than 40 people are listed as attending, including representatives. Scrimshire is expecting representatives from the University of Maryland Medical System, Johns Hopkins Hospital, the National Institutes of Health, community activists and techies who work in the health care field.
When not doing his day job (web strategy) at Carefirst BlueCross BlueShield, he's been busy helping organize other HealthCamps across the U.S., and in Canada and the U.K.
If you can't make HealthCamp Maryland this Friday, you can probably follow along on Twitter, by searching for "Tweets" under this hash tag: #hcmd09.
At least according to some of Mark's recent Tweets over the past day, it looks like he's trying to move the ball further along by organizing a foundation to promote HealthCamps across the world.
HealthCamp, in its own words:
HealthCamp is a user-organized "un--conference" movement that brings consumers, health providers, health industry experts and technology professionals together for a one day event to exchange ideas informally, locally, openly. Participants themselves provide the content, with break-out sessions they develop themselves and plug into a schedule grid on the day of the event. Anyone can present and host a session in nearly any format.
He's Tyler Waldman, a student at Towson University and an intern at WBAL Radio. Notice I said radio.
Yet Tyler (who keeps the Tyler Tech blog) is carrying a little Flip Mino video camera, which of course is branded with the W-B-A-L. logo.
Tyler was kind enough to introduce himself to me at the presser. Previously, we were only virtual acquaintances, on Twitter (he's @aresef).
I was heartened to see that as an intern at a radio station, he's also learning to shoot video, even if it's with a teeny-tiny camera (which, apparently, shoots some pretty darn good high-def video, I hear.)
The Web has torn down the walls among different kinds of media (print, TV, radio) and given us all the same level playing field.
It's so important for the next crop of journalists, like Tyler, to get early experience in doing journalism with whatever tools can help him tell the best story, and one that can be consumed by the most amount of people.
Kudos to Tyler. Keep at it. Just remember to keep lots of spare batteries on hand for the gadgets you'll have to carry!
I attended the Greater Baltimore Tech Council's summer wine event at the Emerging Technology Center in Canton on Thursday night, and it was a pretty packed place.
About 120 people showed up. The after-party continued for some at the Austin Grill.
It's a casual event -- helped along, of course, by the copious amounts of wine that was poured. Technology companies that want to introduce themselves to other business folks can volunteer to pour their favorite wines at these quarterly events.
Mario Armstrong, a tech journalist who blogs and does radio reports for NPR, WYPR, and WEAA, was also shooting footage for new online video program highlighting the tech industries in the Baltimore/Washington area. It's called BWTechShow.com. Pretty cool stuff.
Maryland's latest funding for military/biotech-related companies
Just got the news that Maryland's Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) awarded $599,934 in funding through a partnership through Fort Detrick (under the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command) and the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.
Check out the jump to find the list of companies -- each of which received a $50,000 infusion over the past year -- and a description of what they're developing. It's an interesting mix of work.
Descriptions of the twelve companies and their technologies are as follows (via a TEDCO press release):
* Aid Networks, located in Rockville, Md., is working to develop a miTag system, which is a scalable wireless sensor solution that can improve the efficiency of patient flow, increase the volume of patients treated, and improve the quality of care both on a daily basis and during disasters.
* APE-Bridgepath Scientific, Inc., located in Frederick, Md., is working to further develop the GeNova Screen, which is a rapid technology for the identification, isolation, and production of antibody-like molecules using a selectable bacterial-surface display system. The GeNova Screen will consist of an engineered bacterial collection in which each bacterium is capable of expressing one of a library of different receptor proteins on its surface. The identified proteins can be used as therapeutics, diagnostics, and research reagents.
* Bacilligen, Inc., located in Rockville, Md., is working to develop a novel, flexible platform for rapid, on-demand biological manufacturing including a proprietary combination vaccine against plague and anthrax.
* BioAssay Works, LLC, located in Ijamsville, Md., is working to develop an optimized, sensitive, lateral-flow visual diagnostic test able to detect and differentiate from a single sample multiple pathogenic poxviruses, including variola, vaccinia, and monkeypox. A prototype diagnostic assay will be designed, manufactured, and tested for the ability to accurately identify and discriminate between vaccinia and monkeypox.
* Biomedica Management Corp., located in Catonsville, Md., is testing the safety of a non-compressible intracavitary hemostatic agent, ClotFoam. ClotFoam has been developed and successfully tested for efficacy in military relevant animal models.
* CynerGene IDMP, located in Frederick, Md., is developing, validating and implementing a supplemental diagnosis of Malaria, HIV, and Dengue using CynerGene’s Infectious Disease Multiplex Panel (IDMP) approach. The IDMP will assist existing industries in becoming more productive by creating innovative biosensors which can become rapidly mainstreamed to meet the surging demand of the new market for rapid, accurate, and non-invasive diagnostics.
* DS-Byte Solutions, LLC, located in Baltimore, Md., is developing the required operational components and standard system framework that facilitates a intuitive conversational oriented interface to be leveraged by third-party telemedicine tools to provide professional medics the ability to use voice, gesture, and other novel human computer interaction techniques to access and document medical care and patient notes to and from an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.
* HeMemics Biotechnologies, Inc., located in Rockville, Md., is working to further develop an innovation that preserves mammalian cells in dried format, which are easily rehydrated for use in a variety of applications.
* Imagilin Technology, LLC, located in Frederick, Md., is working to evaluate the effect of Imagilin patented probiotics as a food supplement to enhance the immune responsiveness of guinea pigs upon immunization or challenge with virulent pathogens. This project will demonstrate the ability for the Imagilin patented probiotics to function as biological adjuvant for enhancing immunization of a vaccine.
* Intelligent Substrates, Inc., located in Baltimore, Md., is working to develop micropatterned substrates for viral infectivity assays. These substrates offer a number of advantages over current cell culture approaches including increased sensitivity to cellular responses in pathogenitcity, toxicity, and pharmacological screens, as well as improved performance of high-content screening assays by prepositioning cells on the substrate.
* Juxtopia, located in Baltimore, is working to customize the Juxtopia Wearable Assistance and Situational Awareness (WASA) goggles and WASA Assistance Service to enable U.S. Army combat medics the ability to access and document information to a distributed Electrical Medical Record (EMR) with hands-free voice-requests and voice-responses.
* Theradigm, Inc., located in Baltimore, Md., is developing cell therapies for the treatment of brain and spinal cord disorders, such as stroke, spinal cord injury, and traumatic brain injury. The cell therapies will use at least two different types of cells, including neural stem cells and bone marrow stem cells, which are applied alone or in combination for repair or regeneration of the brain or spinal cord.
Obama, cyber security and what it might mean for Maryland companies
President Obama made network-security geeks gasp with glee when he announced late last month that he would be appointing a cyber security "czar" who will focus on securing America's information technology infrastructure.
Maryland is home to a lot of major government agencies and military installations -- from the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn to Fort Meade, the NSA's home, in Anne Arundel County.
And there are many, many jobs and companies in Maryland that are tied directly to work on IT projects with these government agencies. Protecting network infrastructure has been one of those out-of-the-spotlight industries for years.
(Pictured here is Melissa Hathaway, who conducted a 60-day review of U.S. cyber security policy, while listening to Obama's announcement. Read her White House blog post on her review here.)
Sure, network security is absolutely critical, and a mistake could give a company or government a big black eye, but it hasn't been a very sexy preoccupation for the great American government bureaucracy -- certainly not as thrilling as space exploration or "shovel-ready" projects.
But now a U.S. president is pushing it, hard.
So, were Maryland techies in this field excited about Obama's pledge to ramp up cyber-security? Early reports I'm getting from a slew of small companies indicate: Heck, yes!
I'm working on a story about the topic, but I'd love to get some feedback here to help with my research.
Oops. Mea culpa! This looks like an old letter from the previous iPhone pricing brouhaha
Update: As several smarter people than I pointed out, this looks like a letter from the previous iPhone pricing brouhaha. Many people -- including myself -- are probably wishing it applied to current circumstances. I regret the confusion. Wishful thinking got the best of my better judgment this morning. -Gus
I know I said I wouldn't blog about the iPhone today, but goshdarnit, I just spotted this update from Steve Jobs on the Apple web site talking about a $100 credit for current iPhone customers who are disgruntled over the pricing issue.
...even though we are making the right decision to lower the price of iPhone, and even though the technology road is bumpy, we need to do a better job taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price. Our early customers trusted us, and we must live up to that trust with our actions in moments like these.
Therefore, we have decided to offer every iPhone customer who purchased an iPhone from either Apple or AT&T, and who is not receiving a rebate or any other consideration, a $100 store credit towards the purchase of any product at an Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store. Details are still being worked out and will be posted on Apple's website next week. Stay tuned.
We want to do the right thing for our valued iPhone customers. We apologize for disappointing some of you, and we are doing our best to live up to your high expectations of Apple.
Why Apple and AT&T now have legions of disgruntled iPhone customers
This may be my last iPhone/AT&T post of the day and week, maybe even month or year.
I bought an iPhone 3G in January from an AT&T store. The helpful AT&T salesman told me, when I asked him point-blank, that I would be able to upgrade to a new iPhone handset if one debuted during my contract period, without paying a marked-up price.
I wanted to believe him. I did, in fact. But really, he was just a sales guy -- his word was not bond. Not when big corporations are involved. And deep down, there was a little voice, which I muffled and ignored, which kept saying: Fat chance, Sentementes. You're gonna pay...and pay again.... and again.... and again.
Fast forward six months: Yesterday was a banner day for Apple. They introduced new MacBook Pros, a new Safari browser, some new functionality to MobileMe, highlighted the new iPhone OS 3.0, and of course, the new iPhone 3G S.
Loyal customers of Apple can buy every single one of those products for the price listed by Apple. Except for the new iPhone 3G S. For this new handset, if you're a current iPhone 3G customer with an AT&T contract, you have to pay at least a $200 premium to get the new phone.
This is the reality of wireless economics -- since AT&T has to buy each new handset from Apple for something like $600 a pop, and then subsidize it to attract new subscribers. I get it. There are apparently millions and millions of early- and late-adopting iPhone 3G customers who are going to have to "get it", too. Though across the Web's social networks, the vehemence that many are showing toward AT&T and, to a lesser extent, Apple, which sets the price of the handsets, is pretty deep. (Here's a Twitter petition to sign if your hackles are still up.)
If you're a cheery optimist, though, you might say that this is the kind of dilemma that most companies could only dream of having: consumers clamoring for product and demanding better pricing. Better than not clamoring at all, right?
But what bothered me most was that the millions and millions of iPhone 3G customers had to essentially find out that via word of mouth and on Twitter -- or in the very fine, faint print on Apple's website -- that they would have to pay the loyal customer premium. Or perhaps they logged in to their AT&T account online to discover the news. (I can't give AT&T my $199 until September 2010, my account says.)
New iPhone 3G S/AT&T customer: you get it (the 16GB version) for $199.
Loyal/current customer: you get it for $399.
This pricing approach was not mentioned by Apple at their big developer's conference yesterday (where, incidentally, developers booed AT&T every chance they could, according to the LA Times.) Indeed, the pricing for current iPhone 3G customers wasn't even an asterisk or footnote in the day's festivities.
This pricing approach also was not mentioned in the press release that AT&T sent over to me yesterday. An AT&T spokeswoman emailed me the pricing for existing customers in response to my email query.
We're all adults here. Why is it so difficult to be upfront right out of the gate with these costs? Especially to customers who are already paying some of the highest wireless costs around for the privilege of using Apple's iPhone?
Furthermore, in an era now where smartphones seem to be developing radically new features every few months, does this type of business model offer the best solution for consumers and companies?
Apple today announced a new iPhone 3GS, with new features and functionality that include video recording and editing, voice commands, better data security and more. All for $199 for a 16GB version. On sale: June 19th.
They also announced that their current iPhone, the 3G, will immediately sell for $99, for the 8GB version. You'll get the new OS 3.0 software, which is a significant upgrade, but it can't do all the things the newly equipped iPhone 3G can do.
So which one will you buy (if you're a non-iPhone owner whose now interested)?
And, if you currently own a 3G, is the new 3GS compelling enough and feature-rich enough, to justify another $200 on a new iPhone?
News from Apple today: New MacBooks, Snow Leopard and NEW IPHONE 3GS
News is starting to trickle out of Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Francisco. I'll post highlights here.
In case you're wondering, I'm following updates at http://www.macrumorslive.com/ and listening to audio at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/wwdc-live. (And Gizmodo is live-blogging with photos)
Live video from an attendee:
1st update: a new 15-inch MacBook pro. Apple says customers are really digging the new unibody design that they recently debuted. And it's got some impressive specifications, including a powerful battery. Shipping today. Updates also with 13inch to 17inch MacBook Pros. starting price: $1199.
2nd update: The MacBook Air (that super-thin computer) getting a boost in processing speed. Apple sez it's got the "greenest" (environ-friendly) laptops in the world.
Update 3: Starting to hear about Apple's new Snow Leopard operating system, which is an upgrade from last year's Leopard release (drat! I just bought Leopard 2 months ago.) Apparently, Snow Leopard will save you 6GB of disk space after upgrading from Leopard (thanks Apple for not being such a disk space hog!)
Update 4: Upgrades to Safari (Safari 4 available today) and Quicktime.
Update 5: Apple's now supporting in full, Microsoft Exchange. You are now free to move your contacts between your work and personal computers.
Update 6: Dude, this roaring crowd needs to chill. I can't hear jack on the audio!!
Update 7: "Let's talk about the iPhone"!! Something's is coming?!
Update 8:: Sold more than 1 billion apps through the App Store (Aside: yeah, but how many of those apps were deleted by people who were bored by the stupid free stuff in the App Store??) I delete at least a third of the free apps I download cuz they're stinky and one-dimensional.
Update 9: Showing a snoozer video about the importance of technology and what developers can do if they develop on the iPhone platform. Snoooooore. This feels very Microsofty. (hehe ... that's a joke)
Update 10: Talking about the iPhone OS 3.0.... first new feature: cut/copy/paste, which should've been added, like, 18 iPhones ago. Duh.
Update 11: Able to rent and purchase movies right from your phone" (Thanks for helping me spend more money, kind sirs. Plus audiobooks. And supporting iTunesU, too.) Oh, and let's not forget important editions to parental controls.
Update 12: Tethering! Be still my heart. Sharing your iPhone's Internet connection with your laptop. Works for both Macs and PCs. Wired and wirelessly over Bluetooth (magic!) Requires carrier support. Laughter among the crowd. Guess we'll be paying even more for that flexibility.
Update 13: Crazy multilanguage support for the iPhone.
Update 14: Some pretty cool new security features for the iPhone. FindmyiPhone service debuts, for MobileMe customers. Can send lost/stolen phone remote web command, to protect your private content. If you find it again, you plug it back into iTunes and everything is restored. (Aside: Maybe MobileMe will finally be worth the price now?)
Update 15: Coming to a new iPhone operating system near you: in-app purchase. (Aside: So my apps now will try to upsell me? Will they become extremely annoying?) Plus: support for peer-to-peer connectivity. Great for gamers. Your iPhone will "find" other iPhones in your immediate area and you can play games with others.
Update 16: This could be big: Apple opening up hardware accessory for developers to build applications that "talk" to the accessory. So you can extend the iPhone interface to other hardware, citing medical device use as an example.
Update 18: Enabling PUSH notification. So your apps will notify you whenever they're updated.
Update 19: Apple showing off medical applications and functionality in medical/hospital settings. (Here's my question: Apple is doing this push in the medical field, but they're essentially a consumer product company? How well will their products hold up and do they open themselves up to litigation in a highly litigious field?)
Update 20: Tom Tom (GPS maker?!) introducing an iPhone app?! Bizarro world! (Aside: But I didn't catch the price of that app. Did you?)
Update 21: Bathroom break. Talk and oooh and aaah amongst yourselves.
Update 22: A ZipCar application. Helps you find ZipCar locations.
Update 23: Say WHUH!?!? You can hit a button on your iPhone and your ZipCar will beep when you're looking for it? Did I hear that correctly? And it will unlock the car, too? (MIND = BLOWN)
Update 24: The new iPhone operating system 3.0 will be free for all iPhone customers. Worldwide available: June 17. (for iTouch: $9.95)
Update 25:Apple's Phil Schiller rehashing how great the iPhone 3G is for human civilization... but wait.... WAIT... the iPhone 3GS....entirely new version..most powerful fastest iPhone ever made!
Update 26: Faster iPhone running the new OS 3.0: apps, websites, email. Richer gaming experience. Brand new built-in camera. with auto-focus and "tap-to-focus."
Update 27: It captures video. iPhone just attracted many more new customers who really wanted that video experience, IMHO. And you can edit it? Well, that's cool. And you can share in an email. And if you're carrier supports it, u can send via MMS message. There's an API for developers, so consumers can expect...
This could be big: Voice-control of the iPhone. How? hold down home button: voice interface pops up. Easy to use. commands scroll by on the screen so you know what to say.
Update 28: It's a compass, too. (Aside: Why is this such a big deal? When do most people ever really use compasses anyway?)
Update 29: Better battery life. Thank goodness.
Update 30: From MacRumors.com: 11:59 am $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB.
11:59 am Ships with iPhone OS 3.0 for $199.
Update 31: Current iPhone 3G for $99 for 8GB. A 50% price cut. Starting today.
Update 32: New iPhone 3GS available in week and a half. on June 19.
You've got a sexy new product! You want buzz! You want journalists covering it when they're well-rested and not working overtime on a weekend!
You want all of the above? Well here's what you do: You kick it off on a Monday. Not a Saturday.
Everyone expects Apple to announce some cool new things today at the kickoff to their Worldwide Developers Conference. The Twitter is already buzzing about #WWDC! People are Facebooking it! My grandma is calling me up every 8 minutes wondering what Apple's gonna do next! (Okay, that part's not true.)
It's the first day of the work week and all across the land, right at this very moment, people are rolling into work with their thermal coffee mugs, unplugging their ears from their iPod Touches, and firing up their desktop PC in their cubicle. They're wondering -- that is, if they have any room left in their household budget -- can I afford a new, better, slicker iPhone if Apple debuts one today?
Tech journalists across the land are also rolling into work right about now -- and they've got blogs to fill, updates to post, Tweets to Tweet. It's Monday, after all -- the beginning of the work week, and potential big new news from Apple could carry us (ahem, them) for at least a day or two of blog posts and news updates.
My point: Palm Pre launched on a Saturday, and sure, it got decent coverage. But most journalists don't work on Saturdays (I don't, usually). Apple, on the other hand, is kicking off their WWDC event today. If they launch a new iPhone (big rumor), they'll get HUGE coverage, with legions of tech reporters and bloggers across the land clickety-clacking away on their keyboards all day and night.
This isn't a gadget blog, per se -- there are just billions and billions of them being served out there on the Internet every day. But it's fun to get Marylanders' take on the new Palm Pre, which may be the slickest piece of pocket plastic to debut since the Blackberry StormiPhone 3G.
I'm starting to hear from Baltimoreans/Marylanders about how they bought the Palm Pre over the weekend, and what they think of it. Since I haven't been able to get my palms on one, I'm really appreciating the reviews and commentaries I'm picking up from these proud new owners.
Adam Greivell (left, @esquiremac on Twitter), a Maryland criminal defense and civil litigation attorney, was one of the excited souls to run out and buy a Pre -- and he's written a thoughtful review of it on his blog, EsqMac (get it? Esquire and Mac.)
"The main factor that drove us to purchase the Pre was the price, however. It looked like the Pre was a good enough phone that the money we would save over going with the iPhone would be worth it - even if it ultimately didn’t turn out to be as good as the iPhone."
Adam leaves us with a bit of a cliffhanger. I'm interested to see what he thinks of the Pre in a few weeks.
If you're from Maryland and now own a Pre, leave us your initial impressions down there in the comments and/or a link to your blog with your review. Let's see what Maryland thinks of it.
It's a wet Friday here in Baltimore and I'm home caring for my sick daughter (who is now peacefully sleeping.) So now's my chance to catch up on and share some Good Reads I've come across in my virtual travels this week. Do you have a favorite tech-related story you read this week that made you ponder something a little differently? Please share in the comments, and I'll add to the post through the day. (Update: No self-promotion!)
:: Tweeter @chipmcmann suggested I try "Unix turns 40: The past, present and future of a revolutionary OS" http://tinyurl.com/qdca3c. Good, easy read that gives you insight on the (relatively) long history of computing and UNIX.
:: @OneFineJay blogs about "proactively maintaining your corner of the web" in Futureproofing: the economics of scale. Should we be worried about all these Web services that probably won't be around forever. Worth pondering, since we all seem to be uploading and sharing more and more of our personal lives and information at an increasing rate with myriad Web sites.
:: Work in a place where the dynamic seems to be "management by crisis"? Take a gander at the latest post on Rands in Repose. Quote: "Management by crisis is exhilarating, but it values velocity over completeness; it sacrifices creativity for the illusion of progress." (via @jbusteed)
:: The Maryland Daily Record's On The Record blog covers how a couple of surveys left Baltimore off their highest rankings for thriving tech areas. "What gives?" Jackie Sauter writes. Indeed. There are so many competing rankings and studies out there, put out by both private and government interests with their own agendas, that they all sorta blur together and start to feel diluted and meaningless. Among the big Baltimore-area success stories over the last several years have been Advertising.com and Bill Me Later.
:: Wouldn't you know it. San Francisco can submit their 311 requests via Twitter. Technosailor considers their approach vs. Washington DC's, which doesn't rely on Twitter. Should government put so much emphasis (and data) in Twitter, which hasn't proven yet it could be around for the long haul?
What other Good Reads did I miss? Add below, with your Twitter account, if you have one, so I can give your nerdy self some props.
Everybody's talking about the Palm Pre -- which debuts this Saturday -- as being a serious competitor for the iPhone and Blackberry smartphones. (Aside: Note how I didn't use the oft-over used phraise "iPhone Killer." Thank you, thank you.) Silicon Alley Insider's Henry Blodgett, however, in a contrarian piece today, thinks it'll "bomb.")
It's easy to describe some of the innovative new software features that Palm has rolled out in the Pre, but what you really want to see is someone handling the device. You can't find one of these babies out in the stores yet.
So, for now, you've gotta watch the tech media-herd groping at them with their fingers. At the very least, you'll get a feel for the smoothness of the interface and how you can move between the apps. Some of the excitment around the Pre is the fact that it will have a touch screen PLUS a pullout QWERTY keyboard.
Personally, for me, I think the fewer moving parts on my cellphone, the better. One less thing to break. I like the iPhone's virtual keyboard and have learned to type pretty quickly with it. And, when I don't need it, it goes away and I could do other things with the screen, like watch videos. A CNET reviewer (watch the third video on the jump) makes a key point about how if you're viewing a web page in landscape mode, you'd still need to turn the device to input text -- no virtual keyboard option.
Another huge hurdle Palm is perceived to be facing is attracting the developer community to work on apps and populate its own app store. So, some seem to think that'll be a big problem but I'm not so quick to count Palm out. Developers who are first to market with a killer app on a powerful smartphone could end up making a lot of money. The iPhone app store is a pretty crowded, competitive space. Easier for a cool app to stand out on the Pre, no?
Anyhow, I'll stop yammering. Check out some Palm Pre videos below. Are you gonna be waiting in line this weekend to buy one?
Earlier this week, I scooted down to the Baltimore Convention Center, to catch Steven Britz's talk on how he's using ultraviolet rays to grow nutrient-rich lettuce.
Britz, a research plant physiologist at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, was one of many presenters at the Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics/International Quantum Electronics Conference (CLEO/IQEC). (See the photo below)
Britz talked about things like flavonoids ... and ultraviolet A and B ... and polyphenoliccompounds .... and phenolic acid esters ... and the "complicated geometry" of lettuce, which is "hardly a flat surface." (At this point, I started wondering why I took all those English and writing classes in college, and only one bio course. Ack.)
Such veggie geometry -- unruly lettuce leaves everywhere, I suppose -- poses a challenge when you're trying to beam ultraviolet rays at it to help the lettuce turn redder and healthier.
Britz flashed photos of red leaf lettuce heads (the Lolla Rossa you see above), showing before-and-after shots of what they looked like in experiments where an ultraviolet light was focused on them for 48 hours. Notice how red the one on the right is -- that one got a dose of ultraviolet-B for 48 hours. The lettuce looked better, it tasted better -- and gosh darn it, people liked it!
He talked about how in the future, we might see large farm operations using UV rays to help boost the freshness of lettuce before it gets shipped across country. We might even see UV-emitting LEDs built into our refrigerators, to help sustain freshness and nutrients in fruits and veggies.
His vision, half-joking: "A chicken in every pot and an LED in every refrigerator." I caught up with Britz by phone in a followup interview and he patiently explained what he was doing with UV and lettuce.
In Britz's experiments, the UV helped boost the antioxidant levels in the lettuce he experimented with. (His preferred lettuce, by the way, is "Galactic," a lush red-leafed variety.)
But scientists don't really have a complete handle on the benefits of antioxidants, though they are thought to do all sorts of beneficial things for your body, like help heal the brain and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Britz said that after he gave his talk, he spoke with a couple of manufacturers at the conference who talked about the possibility of mounting rolling UV-emitting LEDs on tracks, in a greenhouse environment. But to gain traction, they would have to identify growers who would be willing to help test and experiment with the new equipment in a real-world production setting, he said.
"Nobody's going to go out and buy this thing unless it's cost-effective and shown to work," he told me.
That makes sense. I asked him if he'd ever been criticized and accused of manipulating nature, and he said he's actually gotten support from fans of organic and slow food. He said his work doesn't involve genetic manipulation.
Rather, he's using the plant's own response system to enrich it, to accomplish what "it would do all on its own if exposed to sunlight in a natural way."
"We're not making a different plant," Britz said. "We're helping the plant."
Reader BryaninTimonium asked yesterday if I could give ya'll an update on my experience with the iPhone 3G so far. Back when I was blogging over at Consuming Interests, I did a bunch of posts on the iPhone in January, shortly after I bought it. Now, it's been almost six month that I've had it. Is the honeymoon over? Not quite.
As someone who transitioned from a bare-bones cell phone to an iPhone, it was like fast-forwarding from a black-and-white televsion on a tiny set to high-definition color on a 50-inch flat-panel TV. It's still a fun, easy, exciting device to use, and one that helps me discover all kinds of new content every day -- and occasionally, I'll even buy stuff with it.
I have an 8GB version and I'm not too keen on loading it down with apps and other content. I'd estimate that about 1/4 of the apps I download I end up deleting (mostly free games I get bored with quickly.)
That said, I keep a few hundred photos, several hundred songs, a couple videos and all my address and calendar contacts on it. Apple's built-in calendar is easy to use and it has become my trusty repository for every event in my life I don't want to miss. My long-term memory is practically shot, and now, my short term memory seems to be going too (fatherhood?). So it's helpful and easy.
I've used some great little apps along the way: FStream, to listen to police and fire scanner frequencies; GoogleMaps, for GPS-enabled directions; 12Seconds.tv, to post short clips on news events; iDicto, to record audio that I can then email to people; a host of news apps, from AP to WSJ; Pandora; Amazon's Kindle app; and -- my daughter's favorite -- the "I Hear Ewe" app, featuring animal sounds from barnyard to jungle. It's actually pretty cool!
Perhaps the biggest sign of the iPhone's likability: my wife digs it. My wife, who for years has insisted on only wanting a barebones cellphone without a camera, is hooked on my iPhone. This is great news, because I was starting to worry that she was getting jealous of all the attention I paid to my iPhone. Now, she wants one, too. Whew.
Now, some critiques:
As you might know, Apple's set to introduce a major upgrade to the iPhone's operating system this summer. It should resolve a lot of the basic consumer complaints you may have heard about the phone, such as a lack of cut, copy and paste for text and "universal search" -- one spot to input your query for finding information on the phone.
Another biggie: ability to send photos, text, audio and other file types via MMS -- which will be compatible with a lot of other cell phones on the market.
Still lacking, as far as I know: ability to record video and ability to watch Flash-based video. But there's rumors of a next-generation iPhone that will offer at least the video-recording option (without having to "jailbreak" the phone.)
Lastly, the network. For about the first four or five months, I have to say, AT&T's service was great, including the unlimited data service. I covered the Obama inauguration and used my iPhone to send pictures and audio over 3G, and it held up in a very challenging wireless scenario, as a few million gathered to watch Obama.
I live in Baltimore city and I have coverage just about everywhere (though I've heard the horror stories of people living in bigger cities, such as New York and San Francisco, and having poor service in highly populated areas.)
Yet, over the past 6-8 weeks, I have dealt with a 3G network that's struggled whenever I make phone calls. The network has dropped me while I sometimes use it at home. And -- my biggest annoyance -- I sometimes get an echo. Meaning, my own voice echoes when I speak, but the person on the other end doesn't hear the echo.
Sometimes I deal with it until the conversation is over. Other times it's so distracting, I'll tell the person I have to hang up and call them back.
I'm never quite sure if I should point the finger at AT&T's network or not since I'm usually talking to someone who's on a cell phone, and they're using a different provider.
It's a weird phenomenon, because I actually don't seem to have any problems when using AT&T's 3G for data. The data side of the phone works quite well.
If I actually talked more with my iPhone, I think I would be more irritated by some of the recent glitchiness. But I'm more of a chronic emailer, Tweeter and Web-surfer than I am a phone-talker, so far now, I'm annoyed with the occasional 3G glitchiness, but not flat-out PO'ed.
What's been your experience with the iPhone and AT&T's 3G network in the Baltimore area?
I met an interesting chap last week: Donavon West. He's an independent software developer who works out of his home in North Baltimore. He's also a tinkerer, with a fascination for both new and old tech -- and how to combine the two, at least aesthetically.
I wrote about one of his creations, which he's calling the Home Servidor. Take a look at the video below (BaltTech blog's first video!) for a little tour of it. (Note: no cigar was harmed in the making of this video and I don't condone smoking them. <cough-cough>)
To celebrate the spirit of hackery, anybody else out there doing interesting mashups of new and old tech? Drop a note in the comments. Maybe I'll show up at your front door with a video camera. ;-)
Their message was tantalizingly exciting at a time when the cable news channels, talk radio, blogs and newspapers are filled with news of economic woe. Afterall, there is a recession all around us -- haven't you heard?
Yet these executives from TCS, Sourcefire, and Salar -- three totally different companies -- were telling a crowd of about 100 people how they're bringing in more dollars. (That's the attentive crowd to the left.)
The venue was a hotel conference room at the Sheraton in Towson, Md. The moderator: Art Jacoby, an experienced business advisor who's well-traveled in Baltimore biz circles.
(from left to right: Art Jacoby, Tim Lorello, Michele Perry and Todd Johnson)
Lorello of TCS talked about how they deploy systems for the military, with their products now in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's their government contract biz; on their commercial side, they sell technology that enables wireless providers to manage their text-messaging loads. And text-messaging is growing at a huge rate -- double or triple digit growth, according to Lorello. (Here's a snapshot of their finances.)
"If your kids text message, it's partly our fault," Lorello said, joking. "Twenty-five percent of text-messaging technology in the U.S. is provided by TCS."
The company has about $220 million in annual revenue, he said. Lorello said TCS has a lot of "interesting opportunities" as more different kinds of companies start to move into wireless networks, i.e. cable companies. Overseas opportunities beckon, he said, specifically in China and India -- both huge markets with lots of cellphone/wireless users.
His advice to the crowd: "You have to find the place you can focus on, the weak link (that no other company is focused on) and capitalize on it."
Michele Perry of Sourcefire said the small company has a "warchest" of about $105 million, which, I gather, means they've got a fair amount of investor backing. The company grew 35% in revenue last year, to $76 million, she said. The company could also get a boost from President Obama's emphasis on cyber-security, she said. (Note: The company has struggled for profitability ever since going public in 2007, losing $1.1 million in 1Q 2009 -- but that's a big improvement over the $3.3 million loss in the 1st quarter in '08.)
Perry said the company has a "maniacal focus" on profitability, with every expense under scrutiny. The company has had its share of hurdles to overcome.
Several years ago, the Gartner Group said there wasn't much future in Sourcefire's line of work: computer network intrusion detection, Perry told the crowd. (Correction: I initially wrote "intrusion protection," which is what Sourcefire now does, along with network protection. My bad.) The company tried to sell itself to an Israeli buyer, but that deal was blocked in 2006 by the federal government because of all the work it did for U.S. agencies.
Michele's advice: "Everybody has to be on the same page in your company. You can't afford in this economy to make mistakes. You have to be tenacious."
Lastly, Todd Johnson, who started up Salar Inc. in an apartment above a bar in upstate New York five years ago. First, the company started as a consultancy, then moved into making custom products for managing electronic medical records, particularly for doctors and hospitals involved in acute care. But, he estimated that only about 1.7 percent of hospitals have acute care electronic documentation for physicians -- the rest is still paper, he said. That means that 98 percent of the market is still untapped, he believes.
Competition is stiff, with heavyweights such as GE selling their systems to hospitals, he noted.
"We need to differentiate ourselves in terms of being smarter, faster, better," Johnson said. His company saw about a 17 percent growth in 2008, and is on track for 25 percent growth in 2009, he said.
His advice: Have a laser-like focus on the customer. "Do everything you can to build a product or service for them that's outstanding."
So, there you have it: wireless technology, cybersecurity, and health care information technology. All seem to be pretty active areas right now, according to Lorello, Perry and Johnson.
Any other growth stories out there in Maryland? Drop a note in the comments below. What's hot right now?
It's Tuesday morning, and more than 100 people are about to gather at the Sheraton in Towson to listen to these four people talk about how their companies are growing in a recession. It's a talk hosted by the Greater Baltimore Technology Council.
From the left, it's Art Jacoby, the panel moderator and business growth adviser; Tim Lorello, global commercial sales senior V.P. and chief marketing officer, Telecommunication Systems Inc. (service provider to wireless cos.), of Annapolis; Michele Perry, chief marketing officer, Sourcefire (computer network intrusion prevention), of Columbia; and Todd Johnson, president of Salar Inc. (clinical software for hospitals), of Baltimore.
I've been looking around the Baltimore/Washington area for people who are writing about the tech and innovation scene, or actually representing it by blogging thoughtfully and passionately on tech-related topics they care about.
I've found some and got them listed over in my blogroll on the right. These folks are all well worth a read and an add to your RSS reader. And I'm looking for more.
I also think it's important that we all look beyond our region to see what others are doing, at least on the East Coast.
Beyond this immediate area, I'm really enjoying following the New England scene through some of its tech/innov bloggers. There's a real push up in the Boston area for biotech and biosciences, which, of course, is an area that Maryland wants to be an international player in (and already is, in some regards.)
Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner has an impressive library of print, blog and video coverage that helps get you under the hood of the scene up in Beantown. I learned from his blog yesterday that June is Innovation Month in New England. Check out his video site here. In the video below, Kirsner interviews a startup company head who's showing off a super-computer; unfortunately, the company went out of business.
I've also got MassHighTech loaded in my Google reader and I follow them on Twitter. It's a site published by the Journal of New England Technology. It provides a good, daily overview of news, views and features, such as this interesting piece about how technology can aid senior citizens and the work that MIT's AgeLab is doing.
So Microsoft debuted its new search engine today and it's called Bing.
Tired and loopy after a long day, I started randomly wondering if Microsoft had a nifty slogan for it yet. The best I could find on their site was "Live Search is Evolving. Welcome to Bing."
But does the software giant -- which hopes to become a contenda in search -- need a punchier slogan, something unique to Bing that's not Microsoft's overall slogan: "Your Potential. Our Passion"? A phrase that'll plant itself in the technoratis' consciousness and help frame peoples' choice to choose to search the Web via Bing, rather than Google?
Bing it on? Ba-da-Bing?
Add your slogan recommendation to the comments below and I'll tweet a couple to Microsoft next chance I get. :-)
So here's a question, and one especially for all you ad and marketing gurus out there: Are slogans even critical to a new technology's success if the tech itself can stand on its own and immediately deliver groundbreaking results for the people who use it?
Google's quasi-informal slogan is 'Don't Be Evil,' which doesn't refer to what its tech can do, but rather, the corporate approach it's marketing itself as taking. How vital is sloganeering now to a company, especially a tech company in a hyper-competitive space? Is it gonna go the way of the 20th century?
Two things I'm hoping you find useful on this blog are the events listings and the CareerBuilder jobs feed.
If there's a tech event in the area (and by "area" I mean the Baltimore/Washington area), feel free to shoot me an email (gus.sentementes(at)baltsun(dot)com) and I'll add it to the calendar you see below. The event will also appear in the events feed in the right column.
And, there's a good chance if the event is on this calendar that I'll be there, covering it in one way, shape or form.
The jobs feed (also in the right rail), I thought, was a real necessity.
There's a lot of churn right now in the technology sector in Maryland. Here's hoping that people who are cut free from jobs in the tech sector quickly land on their feet.
Any other useful things out there you think I should add to this blog as a resource? Drop me a note below.
For their hard work, two Owings Mills brothers hit the big-time when they built up Advertising.com and eventually sold it to Time Warner AOL in 2004 for $435+ million.
"It's a dream come true," John Ferber, the young company's cofounder told The Baltimore Sun at the time. (In case you're wondering, Ferber eventually left Advertising.com on to popularize the idea of making small donations to help fund causes, through a site called Microgiving.com.)
Now, Time Warner and AOL are going the way of splitsville, as announced last week, and the Wall Street Journal's Kara Swisher had some good details on the breakup. So I was left wondering what would happen to the Advertising.com, which is based at the Tide Point complex in Locust Point. (The Baltimore Sun's Algerina Perna shot the above photo at their offices in 2007)
The company is among the handful that came out of Baltimore area that can truly say it made the big time with its sale to AOL Time Warner. Turns out, AOL's new chief, Tim Armstrong (a former Googler), has some big ideas for the way AOL and its advertising properties (Advertising.com and the others in its "Platform-A" division) are going to tackle the struggling ad market.
Generally, according to the WSJ, they'll focus on a broader range of clientele, not just the big customers (which, I'm gonna guess, means even more competition for all types of publishers, newspapers included, who are hoping to squeeze every last drop of ad money from whatever businesses they can.) The online advertising platform-provider got subsumed into AOL's Platform-A division, which stays with AOL in the split.
So, what will happen to Advertising.com under an AOL-Time Warner split?
For now, nothing, according to Tricia Primrose, an AOL spokeswoman. "No specific impact or change," she told me by phone last week.
The company has 400 employees here in Baltimore, she said. (Wowsers. I didn't realize it was that many -- been awhile since I'd checked in on the company, I have to admit.)
Baltimore has the third largest AOL office in the country, behind Dulles and New York City, she told me.
"We absolutely love Baltimore and have been a company that's been based in Baltimore," Primrose said. "We love the culture of the company that exists there....It's a jewel in our advertising portfolio."
Primrose will soon be giving me a tour of Advertising.com, hopefully in the next few weeks, as she talked about the company's quirky work culture.
Where do you think the Balt tech scene is heading?
In the comments in the first post, Twitterer @ecogordo said he'd like to get my view on where the BaltTech community is heading.
Heck if I have a crystal ball -- like this guy on the left.
But here's what I do know: there are lots of people talking to each other in this town and in the greater Baltimore/Maryland tech scene.
Every week, you're hearing about tweet-ups and networking events. Perhaps all the tech-talk is nothing new, skeptics might say. Or maybe, thanks to a whole set of social media tools -- i.e. Twitter, Facebook -- people are making connections and sharing ideas at an exponentially increasing rate. You need such percolation to fuel the startup dreams (and new jobs) of tomorrow.
Check my calendar on the right of this page and you'll start to see the summer filling up with events, such as Baltimore's first BarCamp.(On Twitter, www.twitter.com/barcamp)
One of the best local posts about the tech scene can be found on Mike Subelsky's blog. Subelsky -- a hacker, Ignite Baltimore co-founder, theater improv dude and all around brainy guy -- gives us his informed take and neatly summarizes some of the trends we're all starting to see. Take a look.
What do you think about Baltimore's tech scene? Where is it going and where does it need to go?
(Photo credit: Karl Merton Ferron, Sun photographer)
Welcome to BaltTech. Don't know about you, but I am happy to be here, on this patch of earth pixels and code. Having worked at The Baltimore Sun now for 10 years, I've been lucky to cover a broad range of topics, from business to crime. (Here's a sampling of my latest work.)
The past few years, I was deep in the thicket of Baltimore crime reporting and breaking news, seeing all the negative things that were possible in this city, day in, day out. It was during this period -- when I also started carrying a video camera and an iPhone to do my job -- that I began gaining an appreciation for the importance of technology and innovation, in Baltimore and beyond our great little city.
I took a couple Web courses at the University of Baltimore. I built a Website, played with blogs, shot tons of shaky video at home and work, shelled out big bucks for Adobe Creative Suite 3. In short: I ramped up my geekitude from 0-60 in a very short period of time. But i won't embellish: I'm still a newbie. In fact, you'll probably correct me on many occasions. That's okay: I look forward to learning something new every day.
For more than a year now, I've nurtured this idea of a tech blog that gets up each day and tries to cover the interesting tech trends coming out of Baltimore.
Not just the big companies and the federal government contractors, but the little guys and gals, too. Not just the established players, but the startup dreamers who are hustling to bring their visions to life.
Somewhere out there, maybe here in Maryland, the next Google could be being born right now. Maybe it'll be a white-hot startup. Or maybe it'll branch out of groundbreaking work done by students and professors at one of Maryland's colleges and universities. Either way, I want to be there to Tweet it, blog it, report it, photograph it, and videotape it. (Did i just say videotape?)
So what will this blog cover, you wonder? Well... for a hint, take a look at the categories I've created. These are my interests. They will likely change and evolve over time as I roll up my sleeves and get into this blog and the tech beat.
But generally, I want to write about the big ideas driving Maryland's tech sector forward, the stuff the entrepreneurs and technologists are building, the people they're hiring, and how well private industry, our public and private universities, and our government work together to create opportunities (or not). I want to break news here -- and I'll need your help.
I also want to pick my head up from Baltimore and look at what other innovators up and down the East Coast are doing.
We should strive to have some fun in this space. I'll do some videos and share and feature yours. Heck, I may dabble in podcasting and live-stream video. Anybody hear of 12seconds.tv? Here's my channel. And, of course, I'm on Twitter, @gussent. (And, @balttech, plus using the #balttech hash tag.)
I'll introduce myself at the networking events, beer in one hand, iPhone and/or video camera in the other. And, most importantly, I just want listen to you. It may sound corny, but reporters need people talking to them, telling them what's important in their lives. We're not omniscient.
What would you like to see covered in BaltTech? Leave a comment below. For detailed pitches and story ideas, shoot me an email at gus.sentementes(at)baltsun(dot)com.
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.
Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.