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February 23, 2010

Twitter in the courthouse

A judiciary rules committee is considering tighter restrictions on cellphone and online social media usage for people and journalists in the state's courthouses.

This is an instance where the technology we possess at our fingertips is suddenly years ahead of the policies and norms we have in place to manage this new information ecosystem.

There are a couple of instances where I understand the logic of banning use of such devices -- such as taking pictures inside a courthouse and using an audio recorder. Witnesses don't want their picture taken and, one could argue, there should only be one official audio recording of a court hearing, for authenticity's sake. Preventing jurors from Tweeting and Facebooking would probably also help them stay focused on their serious duty.

But these devices can also magnify our rights to free speech and contribute to the openness of the court process -- a process that a) is very costly in Maryland; b) affects a lot of people in Maryland; and c) has newsworthy implications for the public almost every day.

Last year, I got my first taste of how new technology was butting up against the bureaucracy of the court.

I went to Baltimore city Circuit Court to research a case. A clerk gave me a file and I identified a couple documents I wanted to copy. Copies cost 50 cents each (don't you think that's a bit high?)

Then I had what I thought was a bright idea. Why don't I use my iPhone to just take pictures of the document? Not wanting to tick off the clerk, I asked her if I could just take photos of the document. She said, without thinking, "Sure."

But seconds later, she changed her mind -- and told me she needed to ask her supervisor. Two minutes later she returned and told me I couldn't take pictures of the document because camera phones weren't allowed to be used in the court house.

This, I thought to myself, is a problem.

As a citizen, why can't I peruse a public document and take my own picture of it? Is it because government wants that 50 cents per copy?

There are many citizens in Baltimore who can't afford to pay 50 cents a copy for a public document -- I certainly don't like doing it.

It's a minor point, I know, but I think the bias should be toward making our processes and records as public as possible -- and only limit accessibility and impose costs on citizens as infrequently as possible and in specific situations where we're worried about the rights of participants in the judicial process being infringed upon.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:29 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

February 22, 2010

Bringing Google fiber to Baltimore

googlefiber.jpg

I dare our Baltimore city government to work to bring more fiber to Baltimore.

I'm talking about Google fiber. Google is about to embark on a trial run to give select communities across the country access to ultra high-speed Internet access. We're talking screaming fast accessibility -- the kind that can launch and enable new business models and companies, that could create jobs and reinvent education at K-12 and college.

So far, the steady drumbeat of support has come from Baltimore's techie community. They've launched a site called BmoreFiber.com.

The folks behind this effort aren't mincing words about their mission. In large bold letters on the site, they write: "Ask Google to invest billions in Baltimore's future." (Gosh, I hope it doesn't cost billions to wire Baltimore with Google's fiber.)

How far will Baltimore city government go to support this effort? I'm trying to find out.

In the meantime, you can make known your own support at this official Google site.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:54 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

The future of (un)employment in the U.S.

If you're hyper-anxious about the economy and the future of employment in the U.S., then don't read these stories. They'll only give you nightmares.

But if you're the type who prefers that hard, cold slap of reality ("Thank you, sir, may I have another?!"), then by all means, take 20 minutes today to read 'em.

1) The New York Times' piece: "Millions of unemployed face years without jobs."

2) The Atlantic Monthly's piece: "How a new jobless era will transform America."


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

February 17, 2010

CrowdPitch comes to Baltimore

funding_universe.pngFundingUniverse, an organization that helps entrepreneurs analyze their prospects and apply for funding, is hosting a "CrowdPitch" event in Baltimore on Feb. 25th at the University of Maryland BioPark, on the west side of the city.

Here's the link to the event.

Basically, entrepreneurs will be able to stand up and give a 4-minute pitch to a panel of judges and an audience.

The panel will ask questions and the audience will be given "fun money" to bet on the entrepreneur whose idea they like.

The two winners will get $10,850 worth of services from the event's sponsors.

(The services seem like they'd come in quite handy, too, if you're just starting out with your business plan.)

Any Baltimore-area entrepreneurs thinking about attending, either to participate or watch?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:37 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Events (Baltimore area), Geeks
        

February 10, 2010

Working from home, working past the guilt

photo.jpg Today is day three of my work-from-home adventure in Northeast Baltimore. Both my wife and I work in downtown Baltimore, with normally a 15-minute commute that is now all but impossible.

Our city neighborhood wasn't plowed through until yesterday (Tuesday) and our 15-month-old girl's daycare has been closed, or we just haven't been able to drive there.

Thanks to technology, I can do much of my work from home. But barely. My Verizon home telephone line is down, which means my DSL connection is down. If not for my laptop, which has a built-in wireless 3G broadband card, I would be of little use to the Baltimore Sun. If we lose power today, I am only as productive as the juice left in my gadgets' batteries. (Oh, and I'd probably have to move my family to a friend's house because we'd lack heat.)

Technology aside, I have wrestled with feeling guilty about not slogging into work this week, even though I have worked long and hard in my dining room.

Torn between caring for my daughter and helping our newspaper inform the public, I've settled into an uncomfortable middle ground for now.

At times, it can be hard to concentrate on work while worrying about your gutters falling off or your flat garage roof caving in. (Yes, that photo is a view of my backyard and my flat garage roof.)

Working at the office and outside the home, it's easier to put all that stuff out of mind. Being forced to work from home, I'm finding, is just as stressful as work at work, if not moreso. Yesterday, we hired a babysitter to help watch our girl while I worked on a story. In addition to the tons of money we spend on regular daycare each month, yesterday's work-from-home adventure cost us an additional $80.

Today, my wife took a personal day off from work and is acting as primary caregiver while I try to do my job. Still, I can't shake tinges of guilt for not being able to make it in. Though technology can keep us connected in these instances of disruption beyond our control, I have to think there are a lot of workers in the Baltimore area right now who are anxious and wish they could be at work, in an office. (Though many of you on Twitter also seem unfazed and are even accustomed to telecommuting.)

Am I off the mark? How are you feeling about not being able to make it into work today, or this week? Let's start a conversation about where technology and our own personal work values intersect and/or diverge. Afterall, what else do we have to do today?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:20 AM | | Comments (11)
        

February 5, 2010

XFinity -- It's Comcastic!

xfinitylogo.jpgStarting next week, Comcast will be rolling out a new brand name -- Xfinity -- for its cable television, telephone and Internet connection products beginning in Baltimore and 10 other markets.

The company is NOT changing its corporate name to Xfinity -- it's just the product offerings that will carry that new brand.

So, if you're a subscriber to any of its services, you may see the new name on your bill, but your money will still most definitely be going to the same ol' Comcast.

Comcast basically said the new name reflects all the changes and upgrades they've made to their cable, voice and Internet offerings in recent years.

Other markets that will see the name change and Xfinity-branded services include: Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Hartford, Augusta, Chattanooga, parts of the Bay Area and San Francisco, with more markets to come later this year, Comcast says.

 So, what do you think of the name?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:13 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: *NEWS*, Media
        

February 4, 2010

Google asks NSA for help in cyber-sleuthing

The Washington Post has an interesting story today about Google and the NSA secretly starting to work together to figure out who targeted the search engine giant in cyberattacks last month that originated from China.

If you read the comments, you'll get a taste of the skepticism that some feel about Google -- the world's largest search engine and catalogue of Web user activity -- getting in bed with the U.S.'s top electronic surveillance agency. Are the concerns justified?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:48 AM | | Comments (1)
        

February 3, 2010

Baltimore's Enoch Pratt library on Foursquare

foursquarePratt.gif

Who says libraries can't be cutting edge, fun and experimental? Not me.

The Enoch Pratt library system in Baltimore is starting to use Foursquare, a mobile location-based network/game that allows users to "check in" to a spot, collect points and fun badges, and share tips and information about locations. They're giving away prizes, too. See their tweet above.

Many think that Foursquare (and other apps like it) represents the next phase of the mobile Web -- on-the-go users virtually interacting with their surroundings -- that could be a boon for businesses and nonprofits, such as libraries. (There are rumors that Facebook is building a Foursquare-like app, too.) You're starting to see companies (i.e. a Canadian newspaper) and now the Enoch Pratt library system, tapping into Foursquare.

For now, the Pratt is running the promotion primarily through Twitter. In one tweet, they notified a user of her prize winnings:

@prattlibrary Congratulations to @miha007 ! She's won a Pratt mug for being the mayor of Southeast Anchor on @foursquare.

Are there any other companies and organizations in your area running promotions through Foursquare? Let us know in the comments below.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:18 AM | | Comments (3)
        

February 2, 2010

NJ scientist invents talking sex robot

A guy in New Jersey invented a talking sex robot named Roxxxy that he's selling for $7,000.

I don't know what else to say except: dude, does she sync with iTunes?

CNN has the story.

roxxysexrobot.jpg


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:51 AM | | Comments (1)
        

Mobile marketing in 2010: "a year of experimentation"

R2Integrated of Baltimore released their own mobile marketing survey last week, which signaled that marketers will play it a little conservatively in the space in the coming year. Basically, it seems, marketers still need to teach themselves how to best take advantage of the different tools mobile marketing has to offer. Afterall, it's a new way to reach people who are usually on the move -- which is different than marketing campaigns devised for TV and even the desktop Web.

“It appears that 2010 will be a year of experimentation and education on mobile marketing as marketers struggle to come to terms with its practicality and ROI,” said Matt Goddard, co-founder and CEO of R2I, said in a statement. “This shouldn’t suggest that marketers ought to table their mobile marketing plans, but that they should pay considerable attention to how they can connect the dots back to driving revenue.”

Below is a summary of the survey, for your perusal:

R2I Mobile Marketing SurveySummary Results


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:40 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Wireless
        

February 1, 2010

A free Hulu makes the Web great

hulu-logo.jpg Nothing casts a chill in the heart of a fancy-free Web surfer than all this talk lately of Hulu incorporating some type of a subscription model.

Yes, you heard me right. That free site of the latest (and even archival) programs you love to watch is trying to figure out how to squeeze a buck or two (or more) out of you each month.

Fight the tyranny of the subscription rate! Free Hulu!

But seriously, Hulu shows some of the best video content on the web. This stuff is in demand and people are watching -- you're telling me they can't command healthy advertising rates due to all their users? Come. On. Or are they just getting greedy?

Here's a Tribune story on the topic, titled For Hulu, Free May Soon Turn Into Free. Looks like whiney cable companies are at least partly behind the push to make people pay for the content. But of course.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:56 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*, For The Home, Media, Web Dev & Apps
        
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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: baltimoresun.com/balttech
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