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May 28, 2010

Top 1,000 most-visited websites

Google released a list of the top 1,000 most-visited websites in the world, based on unique visitors.

At the top of the heap, no surprise, is Facebook. What is amazing is how high up on the heap Facebook finds itself. Check it out:


Via SearchEngineLand and Techmeme

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 27, 2010

Of Facebook and privacy control changes, daylight savings time and smoke alarm batteries

File this post under "I'm tired of hearing about Facebook privacy issues so much that I'd rather sleep while standing":

exhausted%20baby.jpg Are you tired of hearing about the Facebook privacy debate? Don't you just wish the company could just get it right? Are you concerned that toddlers across the land are tired of the Facebook privacy debate too? (See left.)

I think we all -- and Facebook -- should now agree to revisit the website's privacy issues twice a year, every year, when we turn our clocks forward and back. This Facebook-privacy debate has become such a ubiquitous phenomenon that we just need to settle on a periodic method for dealing with it, so it becomes automatic.

In my proposal, we will all be reminded bi-annually to double-check our privacy on Facebook, change our clocks and replace the 9-volt batteries in our smoke alarms.

Through all the public service announcements on TV and radio that cover clocks and smoke alarms, add double-checking your Facebook privacy settings to the list.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:24 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Social Media

May 26, 2010

Clear broadband Internet service coming to Baltimore "within two weeks" -- maybe June 1st?


What's old is new again, right?

Hey Baltimore, looks like we're gonna have some more options for our wireless broadband Internet needs -- again. A company called Clearwire, which took over Sprint's XOHM network (which first launch in Baltimore in 2008), is relaunching the service in Baltimore "within the next two weeks," a company official told me by email yesterday.

The new service is called Clear.

So what is Clear? It's wireless broadband built on the WiMax protocol, which basically means that Clear is turning Baltimore into one big Wi-Fi hotspot. So, you can sign up for home service or "on-the-go" service, and use the service anywhere in the Baltimore area. (I haven't seen coverage maps yet.)

The basic $30 a month service for the home gets you download speeds similar to DSL. For $10 more a month, you get triple or quadruple the speeds of DSL. If you sign up for a 2-year plan, you save money on your monthly payments, and the modem device (see left) you need for home setup is included. If you want month-to-month payments, you have to pay for the modem yourself.

The network was built a couple years ago by Sprint, which launched its XOHM service (essentially the same technical specs that Clear now offers) in September 2008. But Sprint sold off its XOHM subsidiary to Clearwire, and for awhile, it wasn't accepting new customers in Baltimore, though existing customers kept their service on.

Baltimore, by the way, was the first test market for XOHM/WiMax in the United States. I wrote the story when it debuted in Baltimore.

Right now, there are signs that Clear could launch in Baltimore as early as June 1st. Speed & Mobility LLC, an authorized dealer of Clear hardware, tweeted last night that Clear would launch in Baltimore on June 1st. And Millennium Computers, a computer store in Elkridge, tweeted several days ago that they'd start selling Clear equipment on June 1st, also.

UPDATE: I was reminded by John Taylor in Sprint PR that Baltimore will be one of the markets getting the soon-to-be-released HTC EVO 4G -- "America's first 4G phone". This is a cellphone that will be able to tap into the WiMax network offered by Clear/Sprint (this gets a little confusing because Sprint will be selling 4G service for its cellphones off the Clear network.)

Below is a Sprint salesman talking about the HTC EVO 4G coming to Baltimore:

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Wireless

May 25, 2010

A Maryland biotech tradition comes to an end

This is a little esoteric for most people outside the biotech community in Maryland, so I'll try to explain it as simply as possible, in plain English.

Maryland has this really sexy tax credit program where investors can get 50 percent of their investment in an early-stage biotech company back in the form of a tax refund. That means, for instance, an investor can buy a $100,000 stake in a startup for $50,000. You give the startup $100,000 and the state gives you back $50,000.

As you can imagine, this state program is VERY popular among biotech startups and investors, and it's helped pump roughly $50 million worth of investment into the state biotech industry. But here's the funny thing about it: the state legislature made this tax credit available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The money is limited, too: $6 million this past year was given out, while next year it's been upped to $8 million.

So for the past four years, this has meant that company executives had to line up outside an office to reserve the tax credit for themselves. It got so bad last year that executives starting lining up FIVE days before the program opened July 1st.

Executives were sleeping on the floor of a conference room at the University of Maryland BioPark to reserve their space in line. It was NUTS. Watch the video.

So this year, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, which administers the tax incentive program, is doing away with the in-person wait and implementing an electronic application process, I learned today.


From a press release sent over from DBED's Karen Glenn Hood:

Investors and companies planning to apply for the credit on July 1 must submit supporting documentation and investor forms between June 1 and June 25 to the Maryland Biotechnology Center’s offices at the World Trade Center in Baltimore (401 E. Pratt Street, 7th floor). Investors will be given a User Name and Reference Number for their electronic submission beginning 9 a.m. July 1. The order of applications will be determined solely by electronic submission and will be taken in order according to the time submitted. For details, visit

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:14 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

Assurance Wireless launches in Maryland

Assurance Wireless, a division of Virgin Mobile, launched a service yesterday that provides a free cellphone and 200 free monthly minutes to qualifying low-income Maryland residents, the company said.

Assurance is able to offer the free service because it obtains a per-customer subsidy through a federal program whose goal is to improve land-line and wireless phone access. Customers who exceed the 200-minute allowance have to pay for subsequent service at 10 cents per minute.

The subsidy comes from the Federal Communications Commission's Universal Service Fund, which supports a program called Lifeline. The program helps provide for telephone access in under-served areas across the United States.

Assurance is the second company in six months to offer low-income residents with free cellphone plans in Maryland. In November, TracFone Wireless Inc. announced they would give free cell phones and 64 free minutes a month to eligible low-income customers in Maryland through its service, Safelink Wireless.

Customers eligibile for the cell phone programs typically have to be participating in a federal program, such as Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, or they may qualify based on low income. Potential customers can call 800-395-2171 or visit on the Internet.



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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:44 AM | | Comments (5)

Md biotech companies score big tax credits

tax-credit.jpgFourteen Maryland companies tapped nearly $6 million in biotech tax credits through a popular state program that is now starting to be modeled in other states, I wrote in today's paper.

The Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit is a state-mandated program that allows for a 50 percent tax break, up to $250,000, per investor in a qualified biotech company.

To qualify, companies must be less than 12 years old, have headquarters in Maryland, employ fewer than 50 people and be state-certified as a biotechnology company.

The tax credit is a central component of Gov. Martin O'Malley's BioMaryland 2020 plan, a 10-year, $1.3 billion strategy for growing the state's biotech industry.

Five of the companies that received the tax credit this year — BioMarker Strategies, Gliknik, FASgen, Arginetix and A&G Pharmaceutical — are based in the Baltimore area. Eight are based in Montgomery County and one is based in Prince George's County.

"It's a good program," said Dr. David S. Block, chief executive of Baltimore-based Gliknik. "This program is something that other states are trying to model because it's been so successful in creating and sustaining jobs in the biotech industry throughout the state."

The state has given $24 million of tax credits that have been used as funding by companies over the past four years. That represents a total investment in biotech startups of about $50 million during the same period. As word has gotten out about the tax credits, more companies are competing for them.

Last June, more than 20 companies applied for access to the tax credit, with many biotech executives camping out for several days at the University of Maryland's BioPark in West Baltimore to sign up. It was the biggest turnout yet for the program, which is helping to attract investment in Maryland biotech companies from out-of-state investors.

Per state law, the credits are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis each year. The incentive program is administered by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. In fiscal 2011, the tax credit program will offer $8 million in new funding for biotech companies.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 24, 2010

Crowd-sourcing a new name for, uh, "crowd-sourcing"

Two firms that specialize in crowd-sourcing are holding a contest for -- what else? -- to come up with a replacement term for crowd-sourcing!

This is sooo meta. Or ironic. Or whatever.

The firms are GeniusRocket, and 99 Designs, and they will launch a website tomorrow for people to submit their best ideas. A panel of judges will narrow the field down to 20 finalists, and then -- get this -- the wisdom of the crowd will be used to source the best entry. The best one will win $1,000.

I don't know yet what the contest website for this contest will be, but I'll post it here as soon as I do.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Social Media

Live video: TechCrunch Disrupt conference

TechCrunch is hosting its first annual Disrupt conference in New York City this week, and it's being made available via a live video stream. Here's a chance to watch some tech pundits and innovators go at it for a couple days, from the comfort of your computer and BaltTech. :--)

Watch live streaming video from disrupt at

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: East Coast, Startups

Connections Academy of Baltimore in the spotlight


I recently did a Q&A session with Barbara Dreyer, the CEO and co-founder of Connections Academy, a fast-growing Baltimore company specializing in K-12 online education. It's part of a growing trend of online learning that's really seeping into all levels of our society and economy. Here's the original link -- and I republished the interview below:

Virtual education firm making real-world progress
Barbara Dreyer, CEO of Connections Academy

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

May 23, 2010

Barbara Dreyer runs a virtual online education company that the longtime entrepreneur and educator hopes is making a real-world impact.

As online universities soar in popularity, Dreyer's company, Connections Academy, is one of the leaders in the field of K-12 online education and partners with public and charter schools; it also offers its own online private school. It employs about 1,000 people nationwide, with nearly 300 in the Baltimore area at its headquarters in Baltimore and at a warehouse in Elkridge.

Dreyer, 55, co-founded Connections Academy in 2001 and has guided it to steady growth. It briefly operated a pilot program in Baltimore County and now operates in 17 states, with more than 20,000 students taking online courses through its programs.

Connections Academy has grown quickly as more states explore online learning programs. The private company's annual revenue now stands at $120 million and has risen an average of 35 percent a year, according to Dreyer. The Baltimore Sun caught up with Dreyer to talk about how Connections Academy operates, what it offers parents and students, and its future in Maryland.

Question: How does your industry fight against a perception that virtual education isn't as "real" as a traditional brick-and-mortar education?

Answer: Nowadays, there's a lot more open consideration of it, but there are still people uncomfortable with that model. You remember, there were those same debates on whether you could take an online course in college. Today, there are plenty of people at very prestigious universities who are taking classes online. It can be a very powerful facilitator.

Q: So what's a typical day for a Connections Academy student who is in, say, the fifth grade?

A: A fifth-grade student is probably going to have, and should have, a parent or some other adult available to them daily. You would expect to see Mom and Dad or other relatives available, or people who do this as a cooperative.

We're going to tell you the classes and the content you have to cover, but we're going to allow you to have some flexibility. If you need to do five math periods in one week, some students may want to do them all in one day. You can't do that in traditional school. … What happens if you're a particularly bright kid? You can go ahead. In a traditional school, the child can get bored sitting there with his book closed.

You're going to work a specific amount of time, depending on the school district you're in, say 5.5 hours. We're going to fill your day with that amount of classes. But there's variability in when you start. We have families who start school at 6:30 in the morning. We do not have the kind of homework that a traditional school has. What we found for the most part is that you can get what you need done during the school day. We build in the homework through the course of the day. There's a lot of stuff in school that's built in that takes extra time, such as assemblies.

We can take that day and make it really focused on instruction. Oftentimes, your assignment will send you offline. We send you physical science supplies. You're outside, writing a journal. It's important to let people know that [their child] will be online part of the time but also offline a good part of the time.

Q: What kind of students and families are drawn to using Connections Academy? What is their socio-economic background?

A: It is a very broad range of families. However, about 50 percent of them are lower-income families. It's a significant portion where this is clearly not a program just for wealthy families. We have a broad range of kids. Every one of the families has a story about why they're here.

Sometimes they don't feel safe in school. For a lot of kids who are bright, it's not necessarily cool to be bright in school. You don't want to raise your hand because you'll be made fun of. For some students and parents, the only choice they have is to get them away from their peers.

Q: How does Connections Academy make money?

A: The majority of our business comes from operating with public schools that use this model of online instruction. Those schools receive funding from the state, and they would pay us. It generally ranges between $5,000 and $7,000 per student. The reason we can make money is really very simple: It's scale We're serving 20,000 students. That allows us to take our overhead and spread it out, and as we get bigger we'll have the opportunity to become more profitable.

Most people have this reaction that "Why should you have a for-profit company involved in public education?" But every company connected to public schools — from the cafeteria to textbooks — are all making a profit. It should be a matter of what they're providing.

Q: You're based in Baltimore and have Connections Academies in 17 states, but none in Maryland. Why is that?

A: Under existing [state] law, there was nothing that prevented a school system from doing learning online. But a new law now makes it very clear that they do have authority to operate an online school, and the [state] Department of Education will write the rules on how they can operate it.

Maryland has just passed some new legislation that hopefully will open up virtual learning opportunities in the state in 2011-2012. Maryland has not been at the forefront at all — quite the reverse as to this whole debate on what kind of online education can be provided in the lower grades. It doesn't mean we don't have a fine education system.

Q: What happened with Connections Academy in Baltimore County a couple years back?

A: Baltimore County decided they would like to do an experiment [with Connections Academy] and limited it to 100 students. It was very well-received, with good academic results. However, this was during a period of extraordinary budget constraints, and Baltimore County struck the program from the budget. They cut down all new programs as a result of the recession.

Q: Your company hired a lobbyist in Virginia to pitch online learning to legislators. How important is political lobbying for expanding Connections Academy's business?

A: Virginia wrote some new legislation as well this year. And it's even more expansive than what Maryland did [in the past General Assembly session]. What we find is it's really important for us to engage in the political process so people are aware of us and we have the opportunity to let them know we're around. States are so different. It's just crazy in some respects to see how much difference there is … but the whole issue of local control is very important.

Q: Where do you see Connections Academy in five years?

A: I think our hope is to be a much larger company, perhaps approaching $500 million in revenue. We hope to be in a much larger number of states, maybe 30. We hope to be in Maryland, and we also hope to be much more part of traditional schooling as opposed to these full-time students. Personalized education is a big topic and not just online. We see Connections Academy bringing personalized instruction directly into the traditional classroom.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:34 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups

Clear coming to Baltimore -- but when?

clear_logo.jpgRemember a couple years back that Sprint launched a wireless broadband network in Baltimore called XOHM? I wrote about it.

Geeks were excited about it. Some people even bought the network devices for their laptops and home computers and started using the high-speed broadband network based on the WiMax protocol. Then Sprint sold its interest in Xohm to a Washington-based company called Clearwire, the transition began, and the company for awhile wasn't accepting new customers in Baltimore.

After many months in limbo, it looks like Clearwire is ready to start marketing and operating the service in Baltimore again, under the name Clear. (BaltTech readers have seen marketing signs of Clear's presence in Baltimore for a few months now.)

The promise of Clear/WiMax is that wireless devices will have access to a high-speed network that is several times faster than 3G networks out there. So you could do things like watch hi-def video on your smartphone whereever you are -- that is, if your smartphone comes equipped with the 4G tech that can tap into the service. Your home computer could also tap into the Clear wireless network, so you don't have to worry about hooking into your phone line or cable.

So, right now, Clear is trying to build some buzz among the digirati set by hosting a blogger/Tweeter meetup tomorrow -- check out the details here.

But we still have no official word yet on when Clear will be up and running in Baltimore. Maybe that'll come out at the meetup?


(Thanks to Patrick Roanhouse for reminding me about the Clear event tomorrow.)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:52 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 21, 2010

Baltimore TV reporter John Sherman heads to the startup scene


You guys remember John Sherman of WBAL-TV, Channel 11? He's the award-winning muckraking reporter who exposed all sorts of problems with Chesapeake Bay pollution and state shortfalls in monitoring polluters.

Well, after being in the news business since he was 16, Sherman, 35, left local television news three weeks ago to focus full-time on a blooming side-business. The company, Storyfarm New Media, is based at the Emerging Technologies Center incubator in Canton, and it focuses on video solutions for businesses.

I caught up with Sherman this morning at the Canton Starbucks and we talked about his new business -- and the news business. Basically, he thinks video on television is not as exciting and as full of potential as video on the Web. So he decided to make the switch and go into business full-time with his award-winning partner, Beau Kershaw, who also worked at WBAL-TV.

"I really believe the future of video isn't from a metal pole," Sherman said, referring to a broadcast tower. "It's from the Internet."

He added: "I was given the choice between the Titanic and a life raft -- and I chose the life raft."

Ouch for TV news. 

So, now, Sherman is striking up relationships with lawyers, doctors and real estate agents, and producing slickly-made introduction videos that these professionals can display on their websites. (And he's also aggregating these videos into Storyfarm's own destination, at "We do it just like a TV interview," Sherman said. The videos he and Kershaw make generally run between $1,000 and $4,000.

Video is still an evolving phenomenon on the Web. As wireless Internet/cellular networks get more robust, people will routinely be able to consume more high-quality, and even high-definition, video. Also, video equipment tied to Internet production is generally cheaper. Sherman can do his work with a slick professionalism with equipment that runs about $12,000 -- in television, a camera and other related gear could run $30,000 or more.

"It's cheaper and better, and getting moreso all the time," said Sherman.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Google's got Pac-Man Fever!

Check out right now! Get a chance to play a little Pac-Man, Google-logo style.

See what I mean?


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:44 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Geeks

May 19, 2010

An online sarcasm detector? Yeah, that's useful.


Israeli researchers have developed an algorithm and machine-learning method for identifying sarcasm in online comments that is accurate about 77 percent of the time.

The researchers at Hebrew University turned to a huge trove of review comments on to refine their method. Understanding sarcasm in real-life conversations can sometimes be tricky, and online chatter can get even more confusing. So it would seem a pretty good rate that the researchers' method is accurate about three out of four times.

From the research paper:

We experimented on a data set of about 66,000 Amazon reviews for various books and products. Using a gold standard in which each sentence was tagged by 3 annotators, we obtained precision of 77% and recall of 83.1% for identifying sarcastic sentences. We found some strong features that characterize sarcastic utterances. However, a combination of more subtle pattern-based features proved more promising in identifying the various facets of sarcasm.

And now, a poll:

Via Popular Science

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Geeks, Web Dev & Apps

May 18, 2010

RailsConf in Baltimore June 7-10


I'm gonna plagiarize a little from Wikipedia here, but Ruby on Rails is an "open-source web application framework" that developers love to use because you can build web apps fast with it. Separately, if you've learned anything about geeks from reading BaltTech, you know they love to conference and un-conference and share what they know in an open setting.

So of course, there's a Ruby on Rails conference, and the next one is right here in Baltimore, which is home to the Bmore on Rails community.

Here's a guest post from Mike Subelsky and John Trupiano, two Bmore on Rails geeks who are helping out with the RailsConf at the Baltimore Convention Center on June 7-10:


Baltimore's Ruby-on-Rails programmers have been eagerly anticipating a tech conference being held in Baltimore next month: RailsConf, which focuses on the Ruby-on-Rails technology that powers many web 2.0 websites including Twitter. They've organized a few different projects to welcome Rails programmers to the city:

  • Ignite RailsConf: an unofficial pre-party held on June 6th with a variety of lightning talks, featuring Ruby luminaries like Chris Wanstrath, Gregg Pollack, and Ilya Grigorik.

  • Stay with a Local, a website to connect RailsConf attendees with Baltimore Rubyists. 9 Bmore on Rails members have opened up a total of 12 rooms in their homes to host attendees traveling to Baltimore.

  • BohConf, a free unconf running in parallel with RailsConf, organized by Baltimore software consultancy SmartLogic Solutions. It will be held in the convention center for the duration of RailsConf. This hacking-centric event will include community code drives featuring well known OSS authors, a code retreat, a programming competition, and barcamp-style discussions.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:42 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)

Attention entrepreneurs: Capital Connection and Innovate Baltimore this week

entrepreneur_black.gif Two events are on the calendar this week for Baltimore-area entrepreneurs who are seeking to network and maybe meet like-minded professionals, potential investors and/or professional service providers.

:: First, we've got Capital Connection 2010 at the Hilton Baltimore (401 W. Pratt St.) kicking off Wednesday, May 19, at 9 a.m. It's a big event for dozens of entrepreneurs and startups to pitch their wares to the business community and potential investors. There are also panels geared toward top-level executives. The keynote speaker is Howard Schmidt, the Obama Administration's cybersecurity "czar." The conference goes until Thursday early afternoon. This is the kind of event you want your company to pay for: registration is more than $1,000 a pop.

:: Second, a more casual -- and free -- evening gathering, Innovate Baltimore, is holding its latest extended happy hour on Wednesday night, starting at 6:30 p.m., at Langermann's in Canton. The event draws denizens of Baltimore's entrepreneurial startup community and is open to the public, but registration is encouraged. This is a growing event -- over 120 people attended the last one.

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 (0)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)

May 17, 2010

Tradeworx: high tech, high speed stock trading on the edge

The New York Times today had a super-interesting story about high-tech trading firms that trade stock in seconds' time. It's worth a read.

(Wonder if there are any firms like Tradeworx in the Baltimore area. Anybody know?)

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:55 PM | | Comments (0)

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Web browsers aren't anonymous

Chances are the web browser you're using is leaving behind a pretty good "digital fingerprint" that makes it easy for those with an interest (i.e. government snoops, advertisers, et al.) to identify you.

That's the word today from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which said they did an experiment that showed eight out of 10 browsers have "unique, trackable signatures." Browsers with Adobe Flash and Java plug-ins were even MORE identifiable, at a rate of 94 percent.

Frankly, this doesn't surprise. But it's just further reason we all should be fully cognizant of where we're pointing our browsers in cyber-space.

Here's the original report from EFF.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:51 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

New drone being developed by Maryland firm


I was in Jessup, Md. earlier today to watch several business leaders leaders and innovators in the state's technology community mark a milestone: the investment by TEDCO into its 200th portfolio company.

The lucky company that received TEDCO's support ($75,000) is American Dynamics Flight Systems, a six-year-old company that's working on a vertical-launching unmanned aerial vehicle, or remote-controlled drone (see photo of life-sized model above). This drone, when complete, will be able to launch from a standstill position, with engines that rotate to give it vertical and then horizontal thrust.

TEDCO is a quasi-public agency that moves quickly to fund all sorts of technology start-ups in Maryland. The entity, which was enacted by law through the General Assembly, has been around for 12 years and 82 percent of the 200 companies it's invested in are still in business, TEDCO officials say.

It helped lure American Dynamics to Howard County three years ago, according to company CEO Wayne Morse. Morse cited three reasons for moving his company to Maryland from Long Island, NY:

1) Closer to the customer: Morris's big customer he's targeting is the Pentagon.
2) University of Maryland: Morris works closely with the school's aerospace program.
3) TEDCO's support for companies working on advanced technologies.

Said Morse: "I couldn't be happier."

In addition to the drone, he's also working on a next-generation missile launcher that could be used with drones and helicopters.

"People love to work here because this is cool stuff," said Morse. He's got three employees and several more engineers on contract.

There were also eight companies giving presentations at the event, including Encore Path, Energy Dense Power Systems, HeMemics, InfraTrac, Oculis Labs, Sensics, and Spiralcat.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Government Tech

May 14, 2010

Baltimore for high-speed fiber -- even if it's not Google's

The folks who organized Baltimore's application for the Google Fiber for Communities project (where the city is vying with more than 1,000 other communities for a high-speed broadband project from the search giant) are moving the ball further by organizing a symposium next month on the topic of high speed broadband fiber in the city.

The thinking is that Baltimore should want to try to build out its fiber-optic broadband network for its citizens, even if Google doesn't choose us. So how do we as a city get there? That's what this symposium will be all about, I gather.

Here's the link for full details -- cost is $25 to attend.

Maybe I'll see you there?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:33 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)

"How do I delete my Facebook account?"

So guess what's trending now on Google searches: "how do I delete my Facebook account?"

Facebook seems to be experience a backlash amongst its users as concerns mount over its privacy policies.

If you type into Google "How do I", one of the first suggestions that pops up is how to delete a Facebook account.

The charge seems to be led by some influential media and tech types, but I can bet you that your mom and grandmom aren't too concerned about this as an issue. Yet. They're just happy to be keeping in touch with you online.

We'll see how far this sentiment spreads online, and what concrete steps Facebook may take to reassure people that their online privacy is paramount.

Already, we've seen people freely donate to Diaspora*, an upstart Web project by four NYU students seeking to build a more privacy friendly social network.

In case you're really wondering how to permanently delete your Facebook account -- not just deactivate it -- check out this how-to guide from WikiHow. (It's amazing -- but not surprising -- that Facebook doesn't make this easier and more transparent for its users.)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:44 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

Tech Council of Maryland names annual awardees

The Tech Council of Maryland named its annual list of movers and shakers within the state's tech community. Per the press release:

ROCKVILLE, MD--(Marketwire - May 14, 2010) - The Tech Council of Maryland (TCM), the state's largest technology trade association, last night announced the winners of its 22nd Annual Tech Awards to more than 800 technology and business leaders from around the region.

"This was a night to celebrate Maryland, its innovative businesses and entrepreneurs, and the achievements of our members during this past year," said Renée M. Winsky, CEO of TCM. "I congratulate this year's winners for their outstanding work and their dedication to helping make Maryland's IT and Bio community the best in the nation."

The 2010 Tech Award winners are:

(Hit the jump)

ROCKVILLE, MD--(Marketwire - May 14, 2010) - The Tech Council of Maryland (TCM), the state's largest technology trade association, last night announced the winners of its 22nd Annual Tech Awards to more than 800 technology and business leaders from around the region.

"This was a night to celebrate Maryland, its innovative businesses and entrepreneurs, and the achievements of our members during this past year," said Renée M. Winsky, CEO of TCM. "I congratulate this year's winners for their outstanding work and their dedication to helping make Maryland's IT and Bio community the best in the nation."

The 2010 Tech Award winners are:


Tech Advocate of the Year -- Governor Martin O'Malley: Governor O'Malley was honored for his efforts to grow and nurture Maryland's most innovative companies. Specifically, he has made the advancement of Maryland's biotechnology industry one of the cornerstones of his economic development efforts during his time in office. Governor O'Malley launched the Maryland BIO 2020 Initiative, which pledges more than $1.3 billion in biotechnology investment over a 10-year period. He also is an advocate of the IT industry, supporting the repeal of the Computer Services Sales Tax, which set a terrible precedent for Maryland's business community. More recently, Governor O'Malley launched an effort to make Maryland the epicenter for information security and technology innovation.

STEM Educator of the Year -- Nathan Swick: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Department Chair and 6th Grade STEM Academy Science Teacher at Spring Ridge Middle School, Swick was honored for his work with the STEM 6 program. STEM 6 provides comprehensive services based on sound philosophical, theoretical and empirical support, while offering advanced content and appropriately differentiated teaching strategies to reflect the accelerative learning pace and advanced intellectual processes of students with strong aptitude and ability in STEM contents.

Executive of the Year -- David Eisner: Eisner is president and CEO of Dataprise, Inc., an information technology services provider and systems integrator that solves the technology challenges of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Headquartered in the Washington, D.C. metro area, Dataprise has developed innovative tools and strategies to help organizations manage their networks and leverage their technology investments.

Biotechnology Firm of the Year -- Emergent BioSolutions Inc.: Emergent BioSolutions Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development, manufacture and commercialization of vaccines and therapeutics that assist the body's immune system to prevent or treat disease. Emergent's marketed product, BioThrax® (Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed), is the only vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of anthrax infection.

High Technology Firm of the Year -- Techno-Sciences, Inc.: Techno-Sciences, Inc. (TSi) is an advanced technology company specializing in maritime surveillance systems and satellite aided search and rescue systems (SARSAT). TSi leverages 35 years of experience with hardware and software engineering to deliver industry's best products for complete maritime domain awareness. TSi's SARSAT systems have been installed in more than 20 countries, helping to save over 26,500 lives.

Government Contracting Firm of the Year -- FedConcepts: FedConcepts, is a niche provider of cyber security and advanced infrastructure solutions to a diverse base of Department of Defense (DoD) and civilian customers throughout the Federal government. The company has achieved significant revenue growth over the past several years by focusing exclusively on providing its customers with sophisticated solutions for enhancing the security, interoperability and mobility of their mission critical information technology and communications requirements.

Emerging Company of the Year -- Neogenix Oncology: Neogenix Oncology is a clinical-stage biotechnology company that is developing highly innovative products designed to disrupt the way that cancer is managed around the world. Neogenix is developing novel monoclonal antibody-based products for both the early detection and therapy of solid tumors. The technology is derived from cancer vaccines, which showed anti-cancer efficacy in FDA-approved clinical trials. The first product, ensituximab, is currently being tested in patients with pancreas and colon cancer.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Diaspora* -- seeds of a Facebook competitor?

Four nerds have big hopes of creating a more privacy friendly Web application as an alternative to Facebook. They're calling it Diaspora*.

They wanted to raise $10,000 by June 1, to fund their start-up efforts through the summer. Guess what? Thanks to the power of the Web (and a New York Times article) -- they've raised more than $131,000.

Watch their pitch video here:

Their efforts received a huge boost with this profile of their efforts in the New York Times this week. Their goal is to "decentralize" the Web by building an "open source personal web server that will put users in charge of their own data."

Basically, they raised money to support their efforts by making a plea essentially on the open Web. And people responded by donating their dollars. The NYT article surmises that people are getting tired of the privacy issues that keep cropping up between Facebook and their millions of users -- so they're looking to support another platform. Even if it hasn't even been built yet.

Ahhh, the power of the Web....

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:29 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Geeks, Web Dev & Apps

May 12, 2010

Google, Verizon to launch tablet?

So now we get word that Google and Verizon want to put out a tablet together -- this news comes to us courtesy of a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The two companies have watched on the sidelines as Apple has blown out of the gate with its iPad, reportedly selling up to 1 million units in a month's time.

What do I think? I think the companies are moving way too slow in this environment. It looks like Apple will have at least a 6 month to 1 year headstart against any competing tablets. By the time competitors like Google and Verizon get their act together to release a tablet, the Apple iPad App Store will probably have tens of thousands of apps. And Apple will have released version 2.0 of the iPad, I'm sure.

I'm not counting out Google and Verizon however, because clearly there is a huge spot in the market for Android-based products.

But all I have to say is: come on, guys. What's taking so long?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:20 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

May 6, 2010

Bmore Fiber wins.... in Philly!

Bmore Fiber, the Baltimore grassroots group that applied with the city for the Google Fiber for Communities project in February, won a competition -- in PHILADELPHIA -- for its ideas on how it would use one gigabit of Internet connectivity.

This is a nice coup for all the volunteers behind the Bmore Fiber effort, who worked closely with city officials to file Baltimore's application to Google in March.

The Bmore Fiber team won a $1,000 "popular genius grant" in the Philly competition, which was sponsored by leaders in that city's startup community. The win means Bmore Fiber is also eligible for a $10,000 "genius grant" prize, which will be awarded later this summer.

Okay, so $1,000 -- or even $10,000 -- can't compare to Google pumping a billion dollars worth of investment in Baltimore's Internet infrasture. But for Bmore Fiber's volunteers and organizers, it's great to get some props from our neighbors in the City of Brotherly Love.

Here's a video of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake discussing Baltimore and Google Fiber:

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:14 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Geeks, Startups

May 5, 2010

Thoughts on the iPad


I recently became the owner of an iPad -- the WiFi + 3G 32 GB model that just went on sale this past Friday. Having had four solid days of using it, I think I'm going to hold on to it. For now.

Here's what I like about it:

1. It's fast and responsive. From booting up in a matter of seconds to switching between apps and manipulating images on the screen, I detect virtually no lag. The A4 processor that Apple is using handles its business well. The Safari web browser is fast, too.

2) It has a robust battery. Using it as much as I did through the weekend, I found that I could go for about 36 hours before I needed to recharge it. That does not mean I used it for 36 hours straight, mind you. The battery life is estimated around 10 hours of straight use.

3) It offers a new way of interacting with others, not just a new way of interacting with a device. What do I mean? This tablet is fun to pass around and show and share things with others. One night, my wife and I used it buy stuff online from Amazon, pay bills and do other tasks -- all while sitting across from each other at the dining room table. We just kept passing it back and forth. For us, this was new behavior. It also brought joy to my 18-month-old daughter, who loved the bigger screen while she played with some educational/kids apps I had downloaded. We also drew with our fingers using Adobe's free Ideas app.

4) Great screen. The touch screen is luminous. I find that when it's dark, it's easy to spot the fingerprint smudges. But when the screen is on, it's brightness cuts through them and you hardly notice them. Mind you, this screen is so bright and powerful that I've found that I've had to dim its brightness, especially when reading books. The virtual keyboard, I confess, takes some getting used to. As a guy who types 60+ words a minute, the keyboard has reduced me to "hunt and peck" typing. But I expect that to change as I get accustomed to it.

5) I don't have much of a problem with the quality of iPhone apps that are expanded to fit the iPad screen. Sure, they're a little jagged around the edges, but they're far from unusable. ipadNYT.PNG

6) Favorite apps so far: The Netflix app and the ABC video player are super cool. Kudos to those two companies for jumping on the new platform and giving users a lot of options to watch quality content on the iPad. The New York Times' "Editors Choice" app (left) is very cool and perhaps the best expression of a newspaper in a digital format that I've ever seen. They got it right.

7) I like the minimal nature of the device when it comes to a lack of ports and other doohickeys. I like how thin and light it is. Apple has chosen to sacrifice some functionality for making a device that's light and easy and fun to use -- and I think that only means people will use it even more.

What I don't like about it:

1) iPad apps are more expensive. And there seem to be fewer free ones in the App Store. If most apps you bought on an iPhone are the price of a cup of coffee, the apps in the iPad App Store are the price of a grande mochachino.

2) The iTunes software that you have to sync your iPad with is becoming a chore to deal with. But, while some say the iPad isn't a true standalone computing device because you have to sync it with iTunes on another computer, I actually see that as a potential strength. If you lose it or it gets buggy, it's relatively easy to just reboot the device and reload your apps and much of your content, without losing the farm.

3) User profiles: as a device that my wife and I will use together, the iPad needs the ability to configure apps and user preferences based on individual users who are authorized to use the device. This device wants to be shared between people -- let them create their own profiles and log-in settings.

I look forward to the next update to the 4.0 update to iPhone OS, which I think will make navigating the iPad a bit easier. For one, I'm looking forward to having folders to store related apps in. This would cut down on flicking from screen to screen to select apps.

Also, multitasking is expected in 4.0 -- and the iPad could really use it. The bigger the screen real estate, the more ambitious your tasks and projects tend to be.

All in all, for a first generation device, I'm surprised at how polished it is. I was expecting something a little rougher around the edges. Granted, it's still missing a bunch of things that many people are craving right now.

The two biggies, I think, are a built-in camera and Flash support. I'm not so rabid about including a camera in the iPad. I understand the desire for video-conferencing, and I could see that working well.

But generally, I don't see this device as a natural fit for taking pictures and shooting video while on the go. For that, I'll stick to my iPhone or a small digital camera. I'm also not so disappointed in the lack of Flash.

If Steve Jobs' criticism of Flash is to be believed, the last thing I'd want is a mobile device like the iPad that's balky and slow due to Flash support. It would defeat its purpose as a light, lightweight and thoughtlessly easy to use device.

I'm waiting to see if/how/when competing manufacturers make tablets that do support Flash, to see if it can be done well. For me, "done well" means Flash doesn't eat the battery and cause crashes or system slowdown.

I have yet to use the AT&T 3G network on the iPad, but I have no reason to believe that it would not be a good experience here in Baltimore. At the moment, my AT&T data service on my iPhone in this city is excellent. My phone coverage, however, is average to mediocre. I still get dropped calls with regularity. But again, if I'm just surfing the Internet on AT&T's 3G network in Baltimore, I can't say I've had any problems with my iPhone. If I encounter any problems with the 3G network on the iPad, I will definitely post an update to this post.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:00 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Gadgets
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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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