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July 22, 2009

Tweeting dads in the delivery room

To Tweet or not to Tweet during your wife's labor? That is the question.

Back in October, I used Twitter to post 9 or so updates throughout the day as my wife went through labor. It gave me something to do with my fidgety fingers in my downtime, and some friends and relatives found it useful. (I informed my Facebook friends I'd be Tweeting and sent them a link to my Twitter page.)

Twitter, in effect, was really the sole efficient way to communicate in a "one-to-many" way to people outside the comfortable bubble we were in at the hospital. My pleasant wife only begged me to not Tweet anything gross, which I obliged.

At the end of it all, we brought home a healthy, gorgeous baby girl. A few days later, I went back through my Tweets and compiled them, and saved them in a screen-shot on my computer, for posterity. It's now a cool little digital memento for us that I can print out and add to our family photo album.

My colleague Joe Burris says in a story today that Tweeting dads are becoming more common.

Of course, there's a debate on how to use such technology during such a sensitive time as a child's birth. I guess all I can say that I think it's really up to the couple to come to an agreement and set some ground rules. You both should feel comfortable about what it means to Tweet the delivery. And Dads, it goes without saying that you shouldn't let it get in the way of any of your fatherly duties.

So what do you think? Is live-Tweeting your kid's birth a ridiculous idea or just another sign of the times in our texting/Twitter digital lives?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Good Reads, Smartphones, Social Media

July 21, 2009

Small business and rising health care costs

Are you a startup or small business in Maryland? Are you fretting over whether you can afford to extend health care benefits to your employees or just frustrated at the escalating costs?

I'm hoping to talk to you today.

USPIRG, which does public-interest research, released a study today that looks at how small businesses are coping (or not) with health care costs. A couple hundred small companies across the U.S. were surveyed, including 21 in Maryland.

Next to employee salaries, health care costs comprise a huge chunk of overhead for businesses nowadays.

I'm hoping to talk to a few small-biz leaders today to get their side of the story. Feel free to shoot me an email at gus.sentementes(at)baltsun(dot)com.

Or if you just want to sound off -- whether you're an employee or a business owner -- drop a note in the comment section below.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:04 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Startups

July 20, 2009

Monday musings: On TEDCO,, The Accidental Billionaires, "Free", Twitter, and Amazon as Big Brother

I'm back!

Yes, I survived my week-long staycation, where I played a lot with my kid and did some home-improvement projects. ("Project" may be too strong of a word, actually.) The tech news, however, does not take a break.

In catching up on my Google Reader RSS feeds, de-cluttering my inbox, and mulling over some tech tidbits I discovered last week, I thought I'd share a couple items with you.

:: The Maryland Technology Development Corp., the state agency that guides tech development, said Friday that its president and executive director, Renee M. Winsky, was stepping down Aug. 28 (Here's The Baltimore Sun story). John Wasilisin, TEDCCO's current vice president and chief operating officer, will be the acting president and executive director upon Winsky’s departure next month. Today, we got word from the Washington Post's Kim Hart that Winsky will be the new executive director at the Tech Council of Maryland (which has been executive-director-less for nearly eight months.)

:: The blogosphere got fired up about the awarding of an $18 million government contract for a Maryland tech firm (Smartronix Inc.) to redesign -- a site that will track federal stimulus spending under the Obama administration. Many are questioning why the government is spending so much on the project.

:: On my break, I read one book: The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich, which purports to tell the tale -- with dramatic flourish -- of the founding of Facebook. I found it to be a good, quick read, though I -- along with others -- are still trying to figure out how to really categorize the book, either as non-fiction or fiction. (The Baltimore Sun's Jill Rosen has a good story on the book.) Mezrich is up front in talking about some of the artistic liberties he took to make the book readable. And a prime mover of the tale -- Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's principal founder -- didn't grant Mezrich an interview. Do I think it's the definitive story of Facebook? No. Actually, of all the real-life characters in the book, I found Sean Parker to be the most interesting. Parker, a co-founder of free music-sharing site Napster (which was shut down due to lawsuits), is depicted as a sparkling force of nature moving through Silicon Valley. The guy sounds like he's worthy of his own book and movie.

:: I also started reading another book. Free, by Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired. I downloaded the book, for free, via straight to my iPhone. You still have to pay for a hard copy. I'm at the point where Anderson talks about the psychology of free vs charging even one penny for a product. Just by introducing a cost -- even if it's just one cent -- throws up a psychological hurdle for most consumers. A cautionary lesson for those businesses contemplating "micropayments" on the Web?

:: Change your passwords. A Twitter employee's Google account got hacked and the hacker dumped 300+ internal company documents to the tech press. TechCrunch has been publishing some of them, causing some furor. TechCrunch also questioned Twitter about its security practices for its server, whose password was allegedly, simply, "password." Yikes.

:: Lots of people went wiggy over deleting illegal copies of George Orwell's 1984 from their pricey Kindles. Amazon said it won't delete ebooks again. Lots of healthy debate right now on how far a company that sells digital content can go to pull back illegal versions of it it may inadvertently sell (as Amazon claims it did.) It seems we all have a long way to go in crafting privacy and commercial best practices and laws for these new gadgets in our lives.

What else did I miss, Balt techies??

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

July 15, 2009

"Hire Me" Nation: Using the Web & social media to get a job

My story today about people launching "hire me" Websites was sparked by "retweets" last month about Matt Bivons, who launched an online drive to get a job at Blue Sky Factory, a Baltimore-based email marketing firm. He calls it

Who was this guy? Why was he doing this? Will we all eventually have our own "hire me" Websites? I spoke to Matt early on, and then ruminated on the phenomenon for a few weeks, poking around here and there and trying to see if anyone else was doing this. I started finding more and more sites like Matt's when I simply Googled "" or "" (Here's a short list of some I perused.)

Quickly, I learned that Jamie Varon, a 24-year-old from California who launched, may have been among the first -- if not the first -- to do something like this (at least since Twitter and Facebook have been around.)

Two people I interviewed who didn't make it into my print story were Susan Lewis and Eric Barker. But it wasn't because their efforts and ideas weren't remarkable. On the contrary:

Susan, 39, a marketing pro from Dallas, launched, which turns the typical job hunt on its ear. If you're a boss, you can't hire Susan. She's gonna hire you. She graduated from Seth Godin's informal MBA program in New York this year (a six-month boot camp for smart, social-media-savvy people) and launched her site.

Susan told me about 30 companies expressed interest in her (30!), and she's narrowed the field down to about three potential employers. "Some (opportunities) could be project work," Lewis said. "There's one I might end up making an offer to."

Eric Barker, 36, of Los Angeles, told me how he's been running inexpensive ads on Facebook to target employers he wants to work for. The way it works is he puts up an ad that he targets to employees of a particular company who happen to be on Facebook. When you buy an ad on Facebook, the site offers you granular tools to target your ad to people, say, who claim they work for a certain company. The ads get him noticed and he gets calls from recruiters.

Barker, a former Hollywood screenwriter with an MBA, said his Facebook campaign has cost him little more than $100. He's targeted ads to Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Youtube and IDEO -- basically companies that are in media. He's gotten contacts and interviews, ironically, with other companies who were impressed by the ad.

He said he "went nuclear" with the Facebook approach because of the rough job market and he needed to get attention quickly. "My background is in Hollywood," he said. "Nothing in Hollywood gets done effectively through formal channels. Everything is done by friend of a friend and reputation. The real world is not that much different."

His dream job would be something in product marketing and/or development, he told me.

About his Facebook approach, he said: "We're all marketers now, like it or not. Getting access [through the Web and interactive social media tools] is easy. It's now all about marketing and branding yourself."

If you're curious about using Facebook -- and even LinkedIn -- as ways to advertise yourself to a new job, you should check out some tips from Willy Franzen over at the One Day, One Job blog.

Let me know if you have success with your online campaigns to get the job of your dreams (or even just a job your mildly happy about, especially if it involves decent pay and health bennies.)

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

July 13, 2009

Taking break, smelling the roses

Howdy friends,

I'm on vacation this week and I'll only be posting when the spirit moves me. Go ahead and comment away on my past posts, 'cuz I will publish them asap.

Don't forget to check out our Flickr group, to post Balt techie photos. (

Cheers, Gus

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:09 AM | | Comments (1)

July 10, 2009

Working for the cult of Mac

Two local businesses shared their stories with me on how they're making a pretty decent living servicing Apple products to different kinds of customers in the Baltimore area.

One is MacMedics, which has been around for 20 years and is based in Millersville. The other is Chesapeake Systems Inc., which is based in Hampden.

Here's the top of my story, which ran in yesterday's print edition, and is online here:

Dana Stibolt was in his early 20s when he started seriously tinkering with Apple computers at his parents' computer shop in Severna Park. It was the late 1980s and the computer that he taught himself to fix was called the Macintosh Plus.

What's interesting to note is that both of these businesses have done well because they've specialized in some areas of Mac product expertise. MacMedics offers consulting on networking, including integrating Macs and PCs; while Chesapeake has expertise in Apple's video hardware and software offerings, i.e. Final Cut Studio, and building out enterprise systems for companies that do a lot of video work.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:43 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Gadgets

July 9, 2009

More Google Voice accounts starting to roll-out?

If you just look at Twitter, dozens and dozens of people today are tweeting about recently receiving an invitation to launch their new Google Voice accounts.

Google Voice, as you may know, is Google's revamping of the Grand Central phone app that the company bought a few years back. Google lets you use one phone number to manage multiple phone numbers. Some think it'll be revolutionary. Check out the list of goodies it promises to offer us, such as free voicemail transcription and answering any of your multiple phone lines (home, work, cell) on one phone.

I'm wondering if the big roll-out wave has finally begun. Can anybody help confirm? I know Google started sending out invites to some in late June. Is this just another big batch of invites, or the whole enchilada?

Baltimorean Patrick Knight sent me a copy of his invite. Here it is below:

You are invited to open a free Google Voice account.

To accept this invitation and create your account, visit

If you haven't already heard about it, Google Voice is a service that makes using your current phones much better!

Here's what it offers:

• A personal phone number that rings all of your existing phones when people call

• All of your voicemail in one inbox with unlimited online storage and free voicemail transcripts sent to your phone and email • Low-priced international calling to over 200 countries and free SMS

• Other powerful features like the first phone spam filter to protect you from unwanted callers, the ability to ListenInTM on your voicemail messages while they are being left, conference calling and more

To learn more about Google Voice before registering, visit: Please note that Google Voice is only available for sign up in the US.

We hope you enjoy Google Voice,

The Google Voice Team

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:07 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Apps, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps

Baltimore hackerspace formed. First project: Use Twitter to change your lamp's color.

baltimorenode.jpg Some fellas have gotten together to form Baltimore Node, a self-described hackerspace where computer/techy-minded people can get together to work on interesting little projects.

(A hacker, by the way, is not necessarily a bad, evil person. Hackers can be good, as I'm sure the folks involved with Baltimore Node are.)

Hackerspaces have been popping up all over the world. Members use the Web to connect with each other and other spaces -- just check out the site for the big picture.

Baltimore Node's first group project will take place tonight, from 7-10 p.m. (Event details.)

They'll be building lamps whose color can be changed by simply Tweeting a hexadecimal color value to it.

Now, hackers, why would you want to do that? Short answer (I think): Because you can.

But, more importantly, it's an excuse to dip your toes into Arduino, a nifty open-source hardware/software programming platform that enables people to create interactive gadgets.

Learn more about Arduino here. Anybody going to build an Arduino lamp tonight? If so, take a few pics or video of your creation and share with us.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:04 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Gadgets, Geeks

Ripped from the bomb-astic tech headlines: Torpedo firings, frontal attacks and nuclear death blows

 I continue to giggle at all the online news and blog-post headlines that we see thrown at us whenever "big tech news" breaks.

If something truly major (at least for the geekarati) happens, we inevitability see headlines tinged with violence and military analogies. Sometimes, they're just ridiculous and fun.

A supposedly game-changing product is usually called an "X slayer" or "Y Killer" -- something that will put down an aggressive competitor with a "death blow." Other verbs and analogies are tossed, like "rocked," "bomb," and "nuke."

Let's take yesterday's news about Google readying a new operating system, based on its Chrome browser, that will supposedly compete with Microsoft.

Here are some fun headlines:

* Five ways Microsoft Will Bring the Hurt to Google Chrome (PCWorld)

* Google drops a nuclear bomb on Microsoft. And it's made of Chrome. (TechCrunch)

* Google Chrome: Microsoft Killer? (CNN)

* Ten reasons why Google Chrome OS is no 'Windows Killer.'(Datamation)

* Google launches frontal attack on Microsoft. (Financial Times)

* Why Google's Chrome OS bomb has minimal fallout on Apple (TechCrunch via WashPost)

* Google to Microsoft: It's on (CNET)

* Google launching Chrome OS, firing torpedo into Microsoft (Silicon Alley Insider) -- My personal fave, btw. I mean, they got "torpedo" into a tech headline!

* Chrome OS: A nuclear death blow to smash Windows? (The Raw Feed)

Can you come up with an attention-grabbing headline for the Google Chrome OS vs. Microsoft story? Leave it in the comments below. I'll tweet my favorite ones later today.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

July 8, 2009

TED conference coming to the Mid-Atlantic


::Updated at 4:25, with embedded video below of Clay Shirky giving a TED talk on how "social media can make history."

::@TEDxMidAtlantic news breaking on Twitter now....

The TED conference has been licensed to some independent organizers who want to bring a version of it to the Mid-Atlantic in November 2009. And by "Mid-Atlantic," they mean Baltimore, hon.

Here's the Website:

Admission will be free but limited to about 250 people. No word on location yet. The theme of the conference, according to @TEDxMidAtlantic's Twitter feed: "The Power of Stories" - Humans organize the world in stories; it's how we perceive design and art. Every design tells a story.

So what's TED? From its website:
TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.

The event is being pulled together by Dave Troy, a Baltimore-based entrepreneur who helped organize the recent Barcamp Baltimore event. Troy has also started the Beehive Baltimore, a coworking space, and the Baltimore Angels, an investor group focused on funding promising Baltimore-area startups.

It's the latest event we've seen in the Baltimore area that's targeting the region's creative and entrepreneurial classes, to pull them together to bounce big ideas off each other. (We've had SocDevCampEast, Ignite Baltimore, Barcamp Baltimore, WordCamp Mid-Atlantic -- all in the span of about 18 months.)

How badly does Baltimore need stuff like this? What do you think?

Meantime, you can watch Clay Shirky talk about how social media is transforming our society.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area), Events (DC/No. Va. area)

A quick round-up from the local blogs

I've been a little busy the last week putting together some print stories, but finally today got a chance to do some catching up on my blogroll. With a cup of coffee and a cup of instant oatmeal in hand (one at a time) I took a quick cruise through the Baltimore/Maryland/DC tech blogosphere. Here's a snapshot of what people are writing about:

* DCTechEvents. Scads of events and meet-ups all week, except for Friday, when apparently all the DC Techies just drink alone.

* UMBC's Ebiquity blog takes a look at the "high impact factor" of the Journal of Web Semantics.

* Entrepreneur Dave Troy takes a look at Baltimore from the train in his simply-titled post: "From the train, Baltimore looks like hell."

* Beltway Startups covers some local tech-company news, such as Merkle (of Columbia, Md.) buying Cognitive Data, and Cognitive Data buying CMS Direct. Is this a case of big fish eating smaller fish, which ate an even smaller fish?

* In one of the more pleasantly insightful Michael Jackson-inspired blog posts, local tech guru Mario Armstrong writes about the recently deceased pop singer's patent on special shoes that would help give you the illusion you're leaning forward at a 45-degree angle.

* One Fine Jay gave himself a new blog look, and he's got a post about how Twitter hashtag contests are hurting the free service. Amen, brother. Oh, and he thinks the phenomenon of bloggers generating mindless lists also stinks. Double amen to that. (I haven't done any lists for this blog, I think, though I'll concede you might see me generating an occasional list or two here; I will try, try, try to make them absolutely useful, One Fine Jay. I promise.)

* Want to learn more about Wolfram Alpha (that new computational search engine)? Somewhat Frank sat down with one of its co-founders for an interview, with video. See below.

* Technosailor, taking a cue from the Steve McNair death coverage, urges the mainstream media to report important breaking news even if it's a rumor, to hedge your bets.

* Things are looking up for Technotheory, who is off to Barcelona for the summer. Good luck! Have fun! Eat lots of tapas for me.

* EastCoastBlogging writes about Tweetdeck and Evernote as a match made in heaven. I haven't gotten into using either app yet. Should I?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:39 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Good Reads, Media, Social Media

Google operating system to take on Microsoft Windows?

googlechrome.jpg And now, faithful readers, we receive news that Google is planning its own operating system, in a direct challenge to Microsoft and its Windows hegemony. The New York Times and tech-news site Ars Technica, broke the news on their respective websites. Inquiries from the press forced Google to disclose the news a day earlier, last night, on their official blog, which gives a light rundown on why they're doing what they're doing.

In a nutshell, Google is looking to expand its Chrome web browser as an operating system for the cheap netbooks that have proliferated in the marketplace. Some initially believed we'd see a version of Android, Google's mobile computing platform, transmogrified into some type of operating system. But Google went with the Chrome platform instead. In the company's own words:
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

So what does this all really mean? From a competitive standpoint, some folks, like the guys at TechCrunch, see it as Google dropping "a nuclear bomb" on Microsoft, which dominates the personal computer OS market.

Most netbooks run slimmed down versions of Windows, running the XP platform, or Linux. Some tech watchers seem to think the netbook market is a race to the bottom -- in terms of price point and profitability, which is why many think Apple has shied away from putting one out -- and companies may eventually give them away for free in exchange for a commitment to a wireless Internet provider.

Do you think a Google Chrome OS can really compete against Microsoft Windows?

It appears that Google, at least for now, is mainly targeting the cheap netbook market with some good instincts: on ultra portable computers, people just want them to fire up quickly and get them on the Internet.

Having a fairly small, light Dell laptop running XP myself, it usually takes several minutes -- about 5, really -- to boot up from a cold start and get online. If Google's new OS can chop that time down to a minute or so -- without sacrificing security and functionality -- I think we'd have a contender. And maybe that's the sweet spot for Google -- getting your little laptop/netbook fired up quickly, without hassle. Does the thought of that get you going?

Want to read up on the Google Chrome OS news? Check out these stories.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:38 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

July 7, 2009

The University of Maryland's guitar hero?

coilguitars.jpg I know next to nothing about electric guitars. Several years ago, I was lucky enough to get a tour of Paul Reed Smith's fascinating guitar factory in Stevensville, for a story I wrote about his business. Some big rockers use PRS guitars, including Carlos Santana and Creed.

So, knowing what I know about PRS's local growth into a big-name guitar company, I was interested to read about the work of Bruce Jacob, a University of Maryland electrical and computer engineering professor, in the field of electrical guitar-making. (What a cool field to be working in, huh?)

It seems Jacob -- with the help of students and partners -- created some new electronic gadgetry that allows you to squeeze many more different sounds out of the same guitar. They formed a company, Coil LLC, that, in addition to guitar-building, is also sponsoring audio electronics development at the university with the help of a $135,000 state grant. It's located in the new TERP Startup lab, a tech-incubation program for university faculty, students and entrepreneurs.

Coil LLC, started selling guitars this week via their Website.

To get a full rundown on what Jacob and Coil are doing, check out this news release out of College Park (which, incidentally, mentions PRS guitars.) And to watch young dudes jamming on Coil guitars, check these videos out. Gnarly! Rock on!

Oh, and if you're daydreaming of quitting your day-job and learning how to build guitars, Jacob even offers a course: ENEE 159b: Start-Up 101 - Electric Guitar Design.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gadgets, Startups, University Tech

Recent fave: 13-year-old reviews Sony Walkman

sonywalkman.jpg For those of us who remember owning a bona fide Sony Walkman back in the '80s, this cheeky little review by a 13-year-old will bring back some memories.

The review is titled "Giving up my iPod for a Walkman," and it's been making the Internet rounds lately. 

This part made me chuckle, hard, and helped me realize I am indeed of the older generation. Not the iPod generation, but the Walkman generation.

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Kids these days. They might have their Touches and iPhones and iPods and Zunes now, but never forget, Generation X (I think that's us, right?), we were there first to have portable music in our hands, in our ears and on our hips, with the proliferation of the Sony Walkman (which, incidentally, recently celebrated its 30th birthday.)

Love the photos in the article, too. I, too, was once a young teen strapping his Walkman to his belt, jamming to whatever it was I listened to back then, and wearing jams. (Photos of yours truly during this period are mysteriously missing from the historical record.)

If you still have your Walkman, share a pic of it with us over on the Flickr group. Vintage photos of you with a Walkman, back in the day, however, would be much preferred. ;-)

(Photo credit: AP Japan, the original Walkman)

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Gadgets

July 6, 2009

Maryland better than New York for start-ups?

There's a new New York-focused study that came out last month which compared that state's efforts with other states in encouraging investment in start-up ventures.

Interestingly, the study claimed that Maryland does a better job than New York in turning federal research and development dollars into viable businesses.

I couldn't get access to the full study, but here's the press release that details it. Here's a snippet:

In 2006, NY universities and academic research centers drew $4.5 billion in primarily federal R & D spending, second only to California. In commitments to state-supported venture funds, however, New York ranked 25th, whereas California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Maryland all ranked in the top ten.

And here's a July 4th news article from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle that gives some perspective.

What's your take on the Maryland start-up and venture capital scene? Strong or weak? I know more small companies than venture capitalists, and the common refrain I've heard in the past is that it's hard to attract attention and investment from the locals. But some think the tide is changing. Share your thoughts here. I'm all ears.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Startups

Raw video: The wait for Maryland biotech tax credits

Remember the story about the long, five day wait for tax credits for biotech start-ups? The company execs started lining up because the state program, which started accepting applications for the generous credit on July 1st, would only dole them out on a first-come/first-served basis (per state law.) The wait took place at a conference room at the University of Maryland-Baltimore's BioPark. The university's news team was there to shoot video of the scene. Check it out below: If you can't see the embedded video above, here's the link:
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:00 AM |
Categories: BioTech

July 2, 2009

The fake iPhone phenomenon

Fake iPhones and iPods: Is this a problem in the U.S.? 

Over the weekend, Dana Stibolt of MacMedics in Millersville, Md., tipped me off to a video he shot of an ingeniously faked iPhone that a customer brought into his shop for servicing. (The customer claimed he bought it off eBay.) The belief was that it came from China, where there is a white-hot market for fake and look-alike phones and other gadgets.

I got to thinking: how big of a problem is this? So, as any good hack journalist sniffing for a trend story would do, I worked the phone, the Google, the Nexis, the Twitter, and the other secret sources I turn to, a.k.a. photog/gadget wiz Jerry Jackson in the newsroom. (Oh wait, I forgot to use Bing!)

And yes, I watched the Youtube videos of people showing off their fake iPhones, like this one.

I left messages for Apple, eBay and Craigslist (which can be another online market for knock-off/counterfeit products). I'm waiting to hear back from them on the topic of iPhone/iPod fakes in the market place. I'm wondering: should I hold my breath?

I chatted with Leander Kahney, editor of, about the prevalence of fake Apple products in the American market. He's written about this stuff before. (Funny aside: I could barely hear Kahney, who was talking to me on an iPhone during our interview. The call was dropped and he had to call back.)

So, here's what I now know:

Very little. 

There's been no significant disclosure of the prevalence of Apple fakes in the U.S. market, as far as I can tell. And the company's gadgets -- the iPods, iPhones and Touches -- have been one of the hottest must-have gadgets around for several years now.

There are reports from overseas, mainly coming out of China, Thailand and other Asian countries, about look-alike iPhones (ever hear of the Hi-Phone?) And there's apparently a brisk market in such gadgets, some of which may actually be labelled as an Apple product, though they're not.

But how many are turning up in the hands of U.S. consumers, thanks to the Internet and such sites as eBay and Craigslist? Maybe Apple, eBay and Craigslist know -- in fact, I'm gonna guess they have a pretty precise handle on how big (or small) of an issue this is for them. But so far, they haven't shared what they know, as far as I can tell.

Some good signs, though: Stibolt of MacMedics has only seen a small handful of fakes in his 20 years servicing Apple products. And iResQ, one of the bigger servicers of Apple gadgets based in Kansas, told me they almost never see fakes.

And's Leander, who wrote the biography Inside Steve's Brain (about Apple founder Steve Jobs, of course), said he thought the fake/phoney/knockoff phenomenon was a bigger problem overseas, but not in the U.S.

What do you think? What do you know? I could use some help in digging out some facts, figures and sources on this topic, to see if it's still worth pursuing as a story. Where do I go from here? Please share with me in the comments or shoot me an email at gus.sentementes(at)baltsun(dot)com.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:40 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Smartphones

July 1, 2009

An Italian biotech consultant's shock, awe and questions

Last week here, I wrote about a rush of small Maryland start-up biotech companies to get in line for a generous state tax credit that was available for investors in the nascent industry. ("Maryland biotech companies crazy for tax credits!")

An Italian biotech consultant saw my post and was shocked -- shocked! -- by what we were doing here in Baltimore, Md. She wanted to know more. (She shot me an email. You'll see it below.)

To quickly recap: biotech companies started lining up Friday morning at the University of Maryland's BioPark in Baltimore to wait in line. The tax credits are doled out by the state every year on a first-come/first-served basis. Last I heard yesterday, 17 companies had stationed representatives in line, in an auditorium at the BioPark, to camp out for five days -- just so they could submit their applications for the tax credit this morning at 9 a.m. (I'm still waiting for the final headcount on how many submitted today.)

Several of the company reps I interviewed lauded the state for offering big tax breaks to drive investment in biotech here. One company, Noxilizer, told me how they were able to attract investors who live in other states, because of the tax credit. Few states have anything like this "Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit" program to kickstart the biotech industry, they told me.

About $36 million has gone into funding biotech startups over the past three years -- with half of it tax-free for investors, according to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

What's happening in the state's biotech industry will eventually come under more scrutiny in the future (Gov. O'Malley has a Bio202 initiative to build up the industry over the next 10 years), as the public, politicians and business leaders will expect concrete results after all this investment, including new job creation and blockbuster products. (Mary Spiro ponders this future in her post on Maryland biotech's "boom or bust.")

Now, for the email from Valeria Spagnoli, a self-described biotech consultant in Italy who wants some more insight from biotech companies in Maryland on how they're going about getting funding from the state. Who wants to help her with her questions?


I’ve just read the article about tax break for biotech investors on the BIO smartbrief newsletter. I found it amazing that companies line up days before the application time opens up, they just sign their names on a blackboard…In my country we are overwhelmed by the so-called red tape procedures, papers and papers to fill in, this is why I would appreciate if you could provide more detailed information to this regard, such as: how are companies selected as beneficiaries? Just the first come first served basis ensures they are granted the money? How long does it take to become eligible?

Thank you so much for your kind reply!
Have a nice day!

P.S. to Valeria: As my full story points out, there's only a limited pool of money -- $6 million this year -- so once it runs out, no one can get more funding. Each investor is entitled up to $250,000 in tax credits and no company can claim more than 15 percent of the total tax credit pool of $6 million. That said, there are some other nuances that maybe others closer to the process can jump in and explain for all of us.

(Published June 1, 2009)

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BioTech, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups, Venture Cap
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About Gus G. Sentementes
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.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

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