« June 2010 | Main | August 2010 »

July 30, 2010

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer : Lots of talk, but no iPad competitor...yet

Fortune's tech blogger, Philip Elmer-DeWitt has a pretty good post recapping Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's comments on the tablet market, dominated right now by Apple's iPad.

Microsoft has been in the tablet game for years, but was never able to bring the product into the mainstream. Apple has done it in a matter of months. Which is why Ballmer's comments during Microsoft's annual meeting with financial analysts are interesting and kinda fun to read.

(Note: I'm not a Microsoft hater; it just makes for intriguing news to see a CEO scrambling to make his company look relevant in a hot consumer space, the tablet market.)

My favorite quote from Balmer:

"We've got everything on our side if we do things really right." (emphasis mine)

That's a big if, Steve. Microsoft got Windows 7 right, though (and it's selling like hotcakes) so I'm not gonna count you guys out in the tablet market. But it seems like, by now, Apple will likely have a year's lead in the tablet marketplace.

Will we see a Windows-based tablet by the end of the year? I hope so.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:41 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Big Ideas, Gadgets

July 28, 2010

Gaming: A Serious Business in Maryland [event]

If you haven't heard, the Baltimore region is sorta known for its video/computer gaming industry. There are several companies around the area -- such as Firaxis and Breakaway -- that have been creating video games for years.

And if you didn't know, the "godfather of computer gaming" is right here in the Baltimore area: Sid Meier, cofounder of Firaxis and Microprose. He'll be delivering the opening remarks tonight (6 p.m.) at a free event at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, called: "Gaming: A serious business in Maryland." (You should RSVP, though, if you wish to attend.)

After Meier's talk, there'll be a panel discussion with industry experts on the history and future of game development.

A state report released today in anticipation of the event tonight shows that the digital media (which includes software games) is a $5.6 billion annual industry in Maryland.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:17 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)

July 27, 2010

Cybersecurity: a Maryland jobs priority

Uncle Sam wants you – in a cybersecurity job.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. a $4.9 million grant to work with local community colleges and private industry to fill hundreds of expected openings in cybersecurity jobs across the region over the next several years, officials announced Monday.

Government agencies in Maryland need highly trained workers to take positions in network security and information assurance, but that demand is just as great in the private sector, officials said.

Private government contractors and companies – such as banks, health care companies and technology firms – want to hire workers who know how to protect computer networks from intrusion, officials said.

At a news conference in Annapolis, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat who is running for re-election this fall, said Maryland is the “epicenter” of cybersecurity, thanks to the presence of several government installations, including the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.

“Our nation’s main line of defense is right here in Maryland,” said Mikulski, who spoke at ARINC Inc., a communications technology firm in Annapolis. “We are the epicenter of cybersecurity in America.”

The growth of technology jobs in Maryland has been a bright spot in the state’s economy. The number of workers in computer systems and related services climbed to 64,900 last month in the state -- nearly 5,000 more jobs than in June 2009, according to federal statistics.

The DOL grant is part of a $125 million nationwide pool of funding that the federal agency awarded this summer for community-based job training programs in high-growth and high-demand industries. Students will be able to pursue different cybersecurity-related tracks, for certification, at community colleges in Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard counties.

The $4.9 million grant will be spread over three years, and about $2 million of the funds will be dedicated to tuition assistance, officials said. Courses can include “advanced cyber forensics” and “tactical perimeter defense.” The rest of the funding will go toward curriculum development, technology needs, support and marketing, officials said.

The work force development corporation will give special consideration to workers who have been recently laid off and to military veterans.
Vice Admiral Bernard “Barry” McCullough III, commander of the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command at

Fort Meade, said the threat posed to the country in cyber space was “very real and growing,” while talented individuals to protect against the threat are hard to find.

“People with the right knowledge to successfully protect our networks are not in abundance,” said McCullough.

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 (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Government Tech

July 23, 2010

Hidden camera in "Chicken Soup for the Soul"

chicken%20soup%20for%20soul.jpgI'm having a hard time picturing this tech set-up. What kind of video camera was this guy using in order to pull this off? And was he shooting in HD?

Via The Los Angeles Times:

A Carpinteria man has been arrested for allegedly spying on a woman with a video camera secretly tucked into a copy of "Chicken Soup for the Soul.’"

The 30-year-old woman found the camera trained on her bed through a hole cut near the inspirational volume’s spine.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Donald Lee Bedford, 54, Thursday and seized computers and other items from his home.

They also found recordings in the camera of the woman and her boyfriend "in various states of undress,’’ according to a Sheriff’s Department spokesman.

Bedford is a friend of one of the victim's relatives, authorities said.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:19 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

The cheapest touch screen computer in the world

iPad, watch out. India has developed what is heralded as the world's cheapest touch screen computing device.

It costs about $35.

The goal is to get the device into the hands of students in India, and to drop the price eventually to $10. It runs on the Linux operating system, and features a touch screen, Web browser, video conferencing capability and even an option for running on solar energy.

Check out a report by Reuters on the gadget.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

July 22, 2010

Right Side Capital: Making seed stage startup funding more efficient

rscm-logo.png The guys behind Right Side Capital Management believe the early seed stage of funding for technology startup companies is very inefficient.

Kevin Dick and David Lambert, two of the three founders of Right Side of San Francisco, were in Baltimore today to pitch their investment fund to some of the city's most eager startup entrepreneurs at the Emerging Technologies Center in Canton.

They're traveling all over the country with their pitch, talking to both startups and larger investors and technology companies who are excited about getting access to a pipeline of new little companies that they could perhaps invest in.

Here's what I gathered is Right Side's vision and strategy:

1) Any tech startup can apply to their group for funding.

2) Each company investment will be in the $50,000 to $1 million range, with the median around $250,000.

3) They'll give the entrepreneur a decision (yay or nay) in two weeks -- so no waiting for months on end for an answer.

4) They'll value your company and you'll get notice of their investment, which is pretty much non-negotiable.

5) They'll standardize all the legal stuff, to drive down deal costs by about 70 percent -- which means more money in the startup's pocket.

6) They'll like to see a good, competent team with at least some solid operational experience.

7) They'll take a preferred equity position in your company, usually no more than 30 percent, but won't sit on your board.

8) Oh, and they want to invest in 100 to 150 startups a year, which is ambitious. But for their investment model to work, they have to go for that scale.

Basically, the reality for most early startups is that they are little more than an idea on paper, or perhaps a little more.

Such individuals and companies are looking for an infusion of capital to hire a couple of people and get to work on an early version of their product.

Another reality, on the investment side, is that angel investors and venture capital firms may only do a handful of deals a year.

But Right Side is looking to do more with more -- the more they diversify their investments, the greater the chance they'll get decent returns for their investors when the company you started sells for a couple million a few years from now.

Yet, Dick and Lambert expect 50 percent of their investments to be duds. It's the other 50 percent that they hope to make a killing on.

What do you think? If you're an entpreneur with an idea for a new business, what more information would you want to know about Right Side?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:57 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups

July 20, 2010

Tech firms' mergers signal potential growth

Check out Gus' story in today's Sun on recent mergers and acquisitions in the Baltimore tech scene.

Two technology firms in the Baltimore area merged with out-of-state competitors last week, part of a trend that analysts hope will mean more deals after corporate financing had been crimped by the recession.

In one of the deals, eMagination, among the largest and oldest Internet development companies in the city, was acquired by a Massachusetts company for $4.3 million. And Owings Mills-based AirVersent Inc., a company that makes supply chain software, merged with a Pennsylvania company but didn’t release financial details of the deal.

The acquisitions came on the heels of other Maryland technology companies turning to Wall Street to raise money through initial public offerings.

While no one is predicting a return to headier days, industry analysts are forecasting an uptick in technology deals. PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted earlier this year that mergers and acquisitions in the tech sector would increase compared to last year.

More technology companies also are expected to turn to IPOs this year, meaning that investors in early stage companies stand a chance of recouping their investment and potentially funneling more money into new projects, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“I’m definitely seeing an improvement in activity,” said Rick Kohr, chief executive of Evergreen Capital LLC, a corporate finance advisory firm in Columbia. “But everybody is more methodical than they might have been in 2007 or 2006.”

As companies merge and are acquired, investors can free up investment capital and use it to fund new companies, said Matthew Gorra, a law partner in DLA Piper’s corporate and securities group. And news of just a few deals can trigger a herd mentality and a deal spree.

Companies start to look at mergers and acquisitions as a necessity to keep pace with their competition, he said. Other companies may see the economy improving and want to jump at the chance to acquire a complementary company as an opportunity for quick growth.

“There were a lot of people trying to wait it out last year,” Gorra said. “This year, people are more willing to make investments.”

With credit markets still relatively tight, small and young companies are struggling to finance their growth and might have investors who are looking for a return on their investment — thus the pressure to merge or be acquired, industry observers said.

On the IPO front, SafeNet Inc. of Belcamp, which specializes in cybersecurity, recently disclosed plans for a stock sale and hopes to raise $300 million. Bridgeline Digital Inc. of Woburn, Mass., bought eMagination last week. eMagination builds websites and electronic commerce programs for commercial and government customers and reported sales of $5.4 million over the past year. Bridgeline promoted the deal as a way to expand its client base into the government sector.

Airclic Inc. of Trevose, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, merged with AirVersent Inc. of Owings Mills in a deal that creates a profitable company with revenue of $22 million a year, executives said.

Rick Pontin, Airclic’s chief executive, said the two private companies, both of which specialize in software that helps firms manage mobile workforces, didn’t overlap in terms of customers and they were starting to see more demand for their services.

“There are a lot of mergers and acquisitions when markets are about to come back,” Pontin said. “People are thinking about how they can grow the business.”


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Liz Hacken at 12:24 PM | | Comments (0)

July 19, 2010

Washington Post's Top Secret America

A very interesting and comprehensive look at our growing national security and intelligence apparatus by the Washington Post today.

The story tries to wrap its arms around the huge industry that has become "Top Secret America." There's nothing truly explosive in the story (aside from the main point that maybe our intel apparatus is too big for its own good), but it's one of the first pieces of mainstream journalism to look at the big picture and what it means for our national security. Plus, it's chock full of interesting data points.

There are many companies in Maryland that do top secret work for the federal government -- you can find them in a database that the Post put together.

For instance, there are 372 Maryland companies and government organizations in the state that are involved in top secret work with the government.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:19 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Government Tech

July 16, 2010

Artscape 2010 Baltimore: Don't forget Betascape!

If you're coming to Artscape in Baltimore this weekend, don't forget to check out the new Betascape part of this huge festival.

They'll be celebrating all things geeky and techy at Betascape, which will be at the MICA Brown Center (1301 W. Mt. Royal Ave.)

A full rundown of Betascape events and exhibits is available at the official Betascape Website. And if you're hitting the streets of Artscape with your cellphone, you may want to follow Betascape on Twitter.

Oh, and here's a photo feed of pics taken at Betascape.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:36 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)

Apple press conference: Free iPhone 4 cases for every owner, says Steve Jobs

At Apple's iPhone 4 press conference today in Cupertino, Calif., Steve Jobs declared that iPhone 4 owners will receive a free case for their handsets in what is widely regarded as a cheap fix to the antenna problems that have surfaced with a tiny percentage of users, according to the AP and other news sources.

Jobs said the company has sold 3 million iPhone 4's in three weeks, with a complaint rate of only .55 percent.

iPhone 4 owners will have a choice of an official Apple bumper case, but the company can't make enough of them, so it will allow consumers to buy cases by other manufacturers and receive a refund from Apple.

Apple will make a Website available for the cases late next week.

Tune in to GDGT or Engadget for their live blogs. (BaltTech, unfortunately, wasn't invited to the event... :-( Whattup, Steve Jobs?!)

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:00 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Smartphones

Earthquake in Maryland: the social media buzz

There was a 3.6-magnitude earthquake somewhere around Gaithersburg in Montgomery County, shortly after 5 a.m. this morning.

Interested in what's being said on Twitter about it?

* Here are results from a search for "earthquake md."

* And here are search results for "earthquake maryland."

Already, three Facebook groups have been started:

* I was alive for the 2010 baby earthquake in DC/Maryland.!/pages/I-was-alive-for-the-2010-baby-earthquake-in-DCMaryland/137517799604915?ref=search

* I witnessed the earthquake in Maryland 7/16/2010

* I survived the Maryland Earthquake of 2010.

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)

July 15, 2010

Apple iPhone 4: recall coming tomorrow?

Apple's iPhone 4 has gotten a big black eye -- most recently from Consumer Reports -- for its antenna reception issue when users hold it a certain way toward the bottom of the phone.

After a couple weeks of avoiding the issue, it appears -- appears -- that Apple may be ready to address it head on in a press conference tomorrow (Friday, July 16).

Many think the company will announce that it will give away free bumper cases to people who buy the phone.

I'm not so sure. I'm speculating -- feel free to join me in the comments below -- that they're gonna do a recall, and either fix customers' existing phones or give them a modified new one in the near future.

If it was all about new bumpers, why would Apple give the world a two-day notice of a press conference? No, I think they're preparing for something more involved. They realize their reputation as a luxury brand is at stake here, and they can't have the entire tech press and consumer electronics industry taking potshots at the iPhone, which is their franchise, flagship product at the moment.

Free bumpers don't address the underlying issue that the phone seems to have a basic, underlying hardware flaw.

(BTW, an Irish betting company says the odds are that Apple will recall the iPhone 4.)

So, what do you think will happen tomorrow at Apple's press conference? Vote below and sound off in the comments.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:27 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: *NEWS*

July 14, 2010

Baltimore mayor's take on social media

Watch the video of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake talking about how and why she uses online social media:

Video production by Storyfarm New Media ( and KO Digital (

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:16 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Big Ideas

Google Fiber: 18 Maryland jurisdictions applied

Google yesterday announced a dedicated Website for its Google for Communities fiber optic project -- the one where the company will pick one or more lucky communities to install a next-generation ultra-high-speed fiber optic network.

As you may know (from reading this blog, I hope), Baltimore and other Maryland jurisdictions -- and another 1,100 or so communities across the country -- put in official applications to compete for the project. Google expects to announce a winner by the end of the year.

Here are the Maryland communities/jurisdictions that applied:

Baltimore (Website:


Charles County

College Park


Garrett County

Harford County

La Plata

Montgomery County


Piney Orchard


Prince George's County

Rock Hall


St. Mary's County


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:41 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

July 13, 2010

iPhone 4 and Mel Gibson


What do the iPhone 4 and Mel Gibson have in common?

They both get into trouble with phone calls.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:53 PM | | Comments (0)

IPOs in Maryland: SafeNet the latest

In the last month or so, three Maryland tech companies have filed to go, or went, public, with SafeNet Inc. -- the formerly troubled Harford County company -- being the latest yesterday.

Last month, BroadSoft Inc., a Gaithersburg company that sells Internet voice technology services to businesses, went public with a $67.5 million offering. KEYW Corp., a Hanover-based cyber security firm, also last month filed plans for a $100 million initial public offering.

If you've followed tech news in Maryland the last few years, you may remember SafeNet getting caught up in a stock options scandal back in 2006-07. They're largely past that now. Here's the full story:

SafeNet files $300 million public stock offering
Belcamp firm once embroiled in a stock options scandal is ready to return to Wall Street

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

Just a few years ago, SafeNet Inc., a Harford County technology firm, was wracked by a stock options scandal that sent its former chief financial officer to prison, tanked its stock price and eventually led to investors' taking the company private.

But on Monday, Belcamp-based SafeNet announced that it is ready to hit Wall Street again. The company disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission its plans to go public in a $300 million stock offering — one of the biggest IPOs by a Maryland company in years.

"SafeNet's business has undergone a transformation," said Donna St. Germain, a SafeNet spokeswoman. "By returning to the public markets, we can continue to build on that success."

The public stock offering signals a turnaround of fortune for SafeNet, whose former top executives faced criminal and civil probes beginning in 2006 for the backdating of stock options to inflate their value. During that period, the company was one of dozens of technology firms that were scrutinized by federal investigators for the way they handled stock options for executives.

With the federal probe behind it and having posted three years of revenue growth, SafeNet hopes to garner a piece of the federal government's multi-billion dollar spending on cybersecurity. The company, which is still unprofitable, notes in its SEC filing that "cyber attacks on the federal government have increased in volume and sophistication" and that "such attacks could be catastrophic to national security, defense, financial systems and critical infrastructure."

The company makes cybersecurity products for complex data networks and sees opportunities in both government and commercial markets, St. Germain said. Industry also has stepped up spending to protect digital assets and unauthorized breaches of information networks, notes SafeNet, which counts Johnson & Johnson and Citigroup among its clients.

In its filing Monday, SafeNet cited several market research reports that estimate various information technology security markets are poised for steady growth over the next three years. One study found that federal spending on cybersecurity applications would increase from $8.3 billion this year to $11.7 billion in 2014.

James Richardson, executive director of the Harford County Office of Economic Development, called SafeNet "a great corporate citizen" that will probably benefit from its location in the county. Richardson said that the military's base realignment and closure effort is shifting federal workers, contractors and new businesses to the county.

SafeNet, which lists the departments of Defense and Homeland Security as clients, likely already has relationships with Fort Meade and the National Security Agency in Anne Arundel County, he said.

"They're perfectly situated," Richardson said.

Nonetheless, SafeNet's executives will have to demonstrate to institutional and private investors that they fixed the management woes at the company, said Douglas M. Schmidt, chief executive of Chessiecap Securities Inc., a regional investment banking firm in Bethesda.

"They have to prove to the public buyers that the company is fixed and it has great growth potential," Schmidt said.

In recent years, SafeNet has been on a growth spurt, mainly through the acquisition of three firms. In early 2007, SafeNet had 1,040 workers. As of last month, it employed more than 1,600, including 230 at its Belcamp headquarters.

Revenue at SafeNet grew from $300 million in 2007 to $404 million last year, but the company posted losses during that period, including a $49.7 million loss last year, according to its filing with the SEC.

David Menlow, president of, an investment research firm in Millburn, N.J., said that whether SafeNet's public offering attracts investors will depend on how cheaply the shares are priced and its future business prospects. At the moment, Menlow said, public offerings for technology companies are one of the few bright spots on Wall Street.

"The company has been losing money the last four years; that's not a story worth telling, unless there's going to be a dramatic turnaround," Menlow said.

Technology companies in Maryland are increasingly testing the public markets this year after fewer companies went public in the recent market downturn. Last month, BroadSoft Inc., a Gaithersburg company that sells Internet voice technology services to businesses, went public with a $67.5 million offering. KEYW Corp., a Hanover-based cyber security firm, also last month filed plans for a $100 million initial public offering.

SafeNet plans to use an unspecified portion of the money raised in the stock sale to repay part of more than $389 million in debt expected to come due over the next five years, according to its SEC filing. Other uses of the money could include funding organic growth strategies and additional acquisitions, according to St. Germain.

The number of shares to be offered and the price range have not yet been determined, according to the company. The company's parent, SafeNet Holding Corp., plans to list its stock on the Nasdaq stock market under the ticker SAFE.

The IPO would mark a new chapter for the company. Four years ago, SafeNet became embroiled in a stock options investigation, which led to the company to restate profits from 2000 to 2006.

Two top executives were forced to step down, including former chief executive Anthony A. Caputo and former president and chief financial officer Carole D. Argo. Argo pleaded guilty in a 2007 criminal case to federal securities fraud and received a six-month prison sentence.

During the probe, the Securities and Exchange Commission also brought civil charges against Caputo and four other former executives of SafeNet for backdating stock options, whch allows recipients to buy company stock at a price based on dates in the past when the share price was especially low. The SEC charges were settled in November, with Caputo and others assessed monetary penalties.

"It's all been resolved," St. Germain said about the stock options investigation.

SafeNet's options scandal triggered a class-action shareholder lawsuit in 2006, which was tentatively settled this month in exchange for a $25 million payment. The settlement is expected to be approved by a court in the next several months, SafeNet said.

SafeNet, which was founded as Information Resource Engineering Inc. in 1983, had been traded on Nasdaq from 1989 until 2007. In April of that year, Vector Capital, a San Francisco-based private equity investment firm, acquired SafeNet for $634 million, and took the company private.

Since then, according to the SEC filing, the company has taken steps to improve profitability and internal controls, including changes in the makeup of its board of directors and management. Mark A. Floyd became chief executive in July 2009.

SafeNet Timeline:

1983 — The company that later became known as SafeNet is founded by two security engineers in Timonium.

1992 — SafeNet goes public.

2001 — Carole D. Argo, a SafeNet executive, backdates stock option grants for herself, CEO Anthony A. Caputo and another individual, but never records a compensation expense — an illegal act.

May 2006 — SafeNet says it has received a federal subpoena and the SEC is inquiring about backdating.

October 2006 — Argo and Caputo resign.

April 2007 — Vector Capital, a San Francisco-based equity investment firm, bought SafeNet for $634 million and took it private.

July 2007 — Argo is indicted on charges of securities fraud and conspiracy. A month later, the SEC sues her.

October 2007 — Argo pleads guilty to one count of securities fraud and is later sentenced to six months in federal prison.

March 2009 — Acquired Aladdin Knowledge Systems Ltd, a data security firm -- the third company SafeNet bought over three-year period.

July 12, 2010 — Filed official SEC filing for proposed initial public offering potentially valued at $300 million

Company: SafeNet Inc.
Headquarters: Belcamp, Md.
Employees: 1,600 including 230 at headquarters
Industry: Cyber security and data and network protection
Major clients: U.S. Department of Defense, United Kingdom government, Netflix, Starbucks, Dell

Text BUSINESS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Business text alerts

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Baltimore tech events -- a handy list

It may be easier than ever to appease your inner geek in Baltimore these days.

In Baltimore now, you could find a Web or technology-related event, group or happy hour to visit virtually every week.

In my time covering the Baltimore technology scene, I’ve seen a bunch of events sprout in the area, offering chances to rub elbows with entrepreneurs, brainy people, marketing and creative types and even potential investors. This year, the city’s annual Artscape event, a festive mix of creative arts, design and music from July 16 to July 18, will feature a technology section called Betascape.

“In the last three years, there’s been an explosion of events,” said Daniel Waldman, president of Evolve Communications and programming director for the Baltimore Social Media Club.

Below you’ll find a descriptive list of some of these groups and events happening throughout Baltimore. Clip this column out for your refrigerator and let’s see how many events or groups catch your fancy.

• Baltimore Social Media Club: This group, which brings together fans and practitioners of online social media in marketing and communications, just had its first happy hour event last week with 50+ people. Next event: July 23.

• Baltimore Node (Hackerspace): Interested in experimenting with, and creating, new gadgets with the camaraderie of other enthusiasts? The Node, in Baltimore’s Station North Arts District at 120 W. North Ave., is open for membership. Bring your ideas and projects – or let the Node inspire you.

• Bmore on Rails: For hard-core Website programmers, check out the friendly members of Baltimore’s Ruby on Rails Web development community. They meet weekly – for happy hours and technical sessions – to help improve their skills.

• CrowdPitch Baltimore: Got a business idea but need some money and guidance? Make your pitch at CrowdPitch Baltimore, an event sponsored by a group called FundingUniverse. It’s a social, but competitive event for eager entrepreneurs looking to win cash and free services. Next event: Sept. 29. Details:

• Ignite Baltimore: A few times a year, there’s an Ignite Baltimore event – a place where smart speakers give rapid-fire, five-minute slideshow presentations on eclectic topics. It’s a good place to stimulate your brain and meet Baltimoreans. Hundreds usually attend. Next event: Sept. 30.

• Innovate Baltimore: Pure happy hour and networking fun for techies, marketing and communications types, entrepreneurs and start-up workaholics, every month. The last session in June had 150+ people.

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 (1)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)

July 12, 2010

EVO 4G in Baltimore: Who's got one and how is it?

HTC-EVO.jpgBaltimore is one of the lucky areas of the country that has access to Sprint's new 4G network. And the first smart phone to tap into that network is the Sprint HTC EVO.

But the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Sprint and HTC have fallen behind in the phone's production, leading to widespread shortages.

About 300,000 of the EVO phones have been sold. And I'm sure a few thousand or more were sold in the Baltimore area.

So, if you're an EVO owner in the Baltimore area and you're using 4G, please drop a note in the comments of this post to let us know how your phone and the 4G network are performing.

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 (8)
Categories: Smartphones

Biotech: Baltimore needs its own MedImmune?

In yesterday's Sunday Business cover story, I looked at the state of Baltimore's biotech industry, and compared it to its larger cousin to the south, in Montgomery County. Take a read.


What Baltimore's biotech industry needs: an 'anchor'
Young biotech startups hope to grow into major players, fueled by state tax credits and research from Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

July 11, 2010

Baltimore's biotechnology industry has made strides. Two biotech parks by the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland now anchor the east and west sides of the city. A few dozen biotech startups have made their home here.

But Baltimore's nascent biotech industry doesn't yet have a breakout company — a darling of venture capitalists and Wall Street that has grown past the risky and unprofitable startup phase to achieve a steady stream of revenue and products in the pipeline.

A company like MedImmune in Montgomery County, which produces an H1N1 flu virus vaccine, among others.

"There's no giant here, but it would be nice to have one," Aris Melissaratos said about Baltimore. He's a special adviser for enterprise development at Hopkins and a former head of the state Department of Business and Economic Development. "Every company that starts up strives to do that. Very few succeed."

The future of Baltimore's biotechnology industry remains to be seen. Industry observers put the city up to two decades behind the biotech hub that has taken root along the Interstate 270 corridor in Montgomery.

While Baltimore's bioparks are still being built, Montgomery planners are moving forward on a $10 billion "science city" with 17.5 million square feet for research and development. That county has more than 250 of the state's 380 bioscience companies, with such heavy hitters as MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences. Baltimore has about 40 biotech companies.

But Baltimore has scored some wins recently, by landing the new headquarters of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, with its $100 million endowment, at the Hopkins Science + Technology Park. And the University of Maryland BioPark is planning a third building for young biotech companies.

Another indicator of how well Baltimore is faring in the intrastate biotech race is an annual Maryland tax credit that lets investors recoup half their investment — up to $250,000 — in a biotech company. Over the past year, 14 Maryland companies were able to attract investors who tapped the credit. Five were based in the Baltimore area.

The companies, by virtue of being savvy enough to attract investors in a tough economy, are some of the bright spots in the industry — and potential future breakouts.

In biotech, success can beget success. MedImmune, which was bought by AstraZeneca International in 2007 for more than $15 billion, has spurred new companies to locate nearby, to do business with it or tap into its talent. The company employs 1,400 in Gaithersburg, and several hundred more at a manufacturing facility in Frederick.

"MedImmune is a significant driver of the Montgomery County economy through development and the taxes we pay, and the vendor contracts," said Brian Rosen, senior director of government affairs at MedImmune.

John A. Korpela, director of the Montgomery County Innovation Network, a group of business incubators around the county, equated MedImmune to an "anchor tenant" — like large department stores in malls. "A lot of companies come here to be next to these big companies," he said.

Montgomery County also has benefitted from huge federal institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, that are based in the county. Researchers and entrepreneurs create advances and launch new companies based on that government research.

Likewise, enterprising biotech startups that want to tap into research generated by the universities are setting up business in the parks, albeit more slowly than anticipated as venture capital investment dried up during the recession.

At the Hopkins Science + Technology Park in East Baltimore, 80 percent of a 280,000-square-foot lab-and-office building has been leased to research institutions and commercial companies, according to Scott Levitan, a senior vice president of Forest City Enterprises, a development firm managing the park. Another two buildings are planned, including one with labs and another for early-stage companies, he said.

The University of Maryland BioPark on the city's west side has one 120,000-square-foot building completely leased and a second building with space available. A third is in the design phase and looking to lure tenants. Ten buildings are ultimately planned for the BioPark, situated in the Poppleton neighborhood.

"We want them to grow here," Jane Shaab, executive director of the UMB BioPark, said of the startup tenants. "As they grow from 5,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet to having a large headquarters, they can do it with us."

Among the up-and-coming Baltimore-area biotechs are those looking for novel treatments for cancer, heart disease and other ailments. Here are the stories behind two of them:

A&G Pharmaceuticals, Columbia

Dr. Ginette Serrero discovered and investigated a protein that sparked the growth of cancerous tumors while at a nonprofit research and education center in New York and the University of Maryland in the 1990s. In 2000, she founded A&G Pharmaceuticals in Baltimore at the Emerging Technologies Center, a business incubator.

Now she hopes to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell two breast cancer diagnostic test kits, which would enable doctors to detect the cancer at its earliest stages.

"One in eight women will develop breast cancer," Serrero said. "I saw there was a real opportunity in breast cancer [treatment]. There's a real need. I've had the drive of trying to find a solution to an unmet need."

Serrero attracted the first investor in 2000 for the company she had planned while working as a professor at the University of Maryland. The next round of investment came two years later when the venture capital arm of MedImmune invested in her company. That's when she focused on her business full time.

"In general, I always wanted my research to become products. I came to Maryland and saw an opportunity to start a product," Serrero said. "I was interested in trying to develop new tools to treat patients. I am passionate about clinical studies."

In 2002, Serrero moved the company, primarily because she couldn't find affordable flexible space in Baltimore. She chose Columbia after finding a place where she could house offices and a lab. At the time, the University of Maryland and Hopkins research parks in Baltimore were only a glimmer in the eyes of economic development officials.

Today, the company has grown from two to 18 employees. With the help of the state biotech tax credit, investors pumped $700,000 into A&G last year, Serrero said. In 2006, the tax credit helped her raise $1 million. In all, she's raised $9.7 million from investors over the past decade, she said.

The Baltimore area is steeped in high-technology talent and industry, Serrero believes, but biotechnology ventures require a much longer view for investors and company executives.

"R&D is a long process," Serrero said. "It's very expensive, and you have to be really patient to turn around and make a product. It takes years. It's a fact of life no matter who you are and what you do in biotech."

Gliknik Inc., Baltimore

The tiny biotech startup Gliknik is developing four treatment platforms — for cancer, autoimmune diseases, tumor cells and prevention of the human body's rejection of implanted devices. In the three years that Gliknik has been in existence, it has raised $4 million.

Dr. David S. Block, the company's president and chief executive, is a veteran pharmaceuticals executive with years of industry and startup experience.

"In our industry, you do a lot more killing of projects than moving things forward," Block said. "What I tell our investors is: 'In our industry, 90 percent of products fail. Before they fail, they take a long time and eat up a lot of capital.' "

His company of five employees was the first startup to make its home in the second building at the University of Maryland BioPark in March 2008. It has licensed technology from the University of Maryland Baltimore and the Mayo Clinic.

"I think there's very, very strong technology available in the Baltimore region, from Hopkins and UMB," Block said.

Staffers at Gliknik are engaged in designing drug therapies, while the company uses outside vendors for testing. Block said such outsourcing among biotech startups has become common because young companies can't raise the capital to build their own large staffs and want to be nimble enough to change direction quickly if their prospects change.

"It's a way to pay for expertise when and where you need it," Block said.

These days, Block said he spends more than half his time trying to raise money for Gliknik to continue its research and development. Two of Gliknik's drugs are in first-phase clinical trials, where they are being tested among a small group of cancer patients. Both trials are funded by the National Institutes of Health.

A lack of appropriate lab space in the Baltimore area is no longer a pressing problem. Instead, the new hurdles are venture financing and management, Block said.

While innovative biotech companies have started in the Baltimore region, he said, they're still small like his. The goal, he said, should be to develop about a dozen mature biotech companies that can act like a cluster, which would attract more top talent to the region.

"We're not at critical mass as an industry yet," he said. "I think it's going to take another 10 or 20 years."

Text BUSINESS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Business text alerts

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

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

July 8, 2010

Droid X: the perfect phone for the big and tall

droid%20X%20photo.JPG I'm not a big and tall guy. I live in a modest house (a rowhouse, for those familiar with Baltimore architecture), and prefer it to a McMansion. Though I love grilling, I own a moderately-sized gas grill -- not the kind where you could cook ribs for 50 people all at once. I drive a small Subaru, which is smart for city driving and parking, and could never see myself driving something like a Ford F-150.

You get the picture?

Small, or at least modestly and moderately sized, is part of my lifestyle. That's why Motorola's Droid X probably isn't the phone for me. But for many people who like the living-large lifestyle, this phone is definitely something you'll want to play with when it debuts July 15.

Offering a large phone like this makes sense for Verizon, which also offers the HTC Incredible, a phone more similarly sized to the iPhone, and the earlier Motorola Droid model, which has a pullout keyboard. The Droid X is for the crowd that loves their gadgets big and beefy.

It may not be a blockbuster seller, but it will find its devoted niche of followers. Like all Android phones, there are the usual features that people are accustomed to, such as a replaceable battery, an SD expansion card slot, and tight integration with Google, Gmail, Google Maps and social media apps.

Here is the full feature set for the Droid X from Verizon/Motorola.

I wouldn't describe myself as a power user of smart phones, or an expert reviewer of them. But I have played with enough iPhones and Droids and Palms to get a feel for what I personally and instinctively like and don't like about the phones.

For the Droid X, the pluses (updated warning: I do make comparisons to the iPhone 4, for comparison's sake):

* It has a gorgeous 4.3 inch screen, one that dwarfs the iPhone's 3.5 inch screen, by comparison.

* It seems to have a resilient battery that will take you through a day or so of steady use before needing a recharge.

* The touchscreen interface is more responsive, I think, than Motorola's earlier Droid model.

* It doesn't have a keyboard, which allows the phone to be thinner and lighter.

* Android is getting more mature, but still isn't quite as slick and elegantly simple as the iPhone interface. That said, I like the Youtube app, which allows you to record and upload video while you're in the app -- the iPhone can't do that. Google Voice search works very well, as do Google Maps. So if you're a big user of voice commands and Google maps, and really want to use this phone as your main GPS unit, it could be for you.

* HD video and 8 megapixel camera takes good pictures, though it appears in my informal tests that the iPhone 4 seems to handle lower light situations better, offering better contrasting and less automatic lightening. The picture of the Droid X, above, was taken with an iPhone 4, while the photo of the iPhone 4 was taken with the Droid X. Notice the differences?

* Social media integration: if you like getting your Facebook and Twitter all in one place, Android and the Droid X is for you. The phone automatically populates your Contacts with your Facebook friends, something that the iPhone doesn't yet do (though it's rumored to be coming.)

* Outputs: For the uber-geeks among you, there are two jacks: one for USB and another for HDMI output.

* In the future (supposedly later this summer), the Droid X will get a Flash update, enabling it to play Flash-based videos. This would be a huge step forward for mobile devices, if it can play such video with stability and speed, and without seriously sapping the battery.

* The network: Good call strength for Verizon in Baltimore. I walked all over the inside of the Baltimore Sun building (a huge brick building) while talking to my wife without a hitch.

* The Android Marketplace (app store) is growing (at 50K+ apps) and is starting to feel robust. (But it needs more games.)

The minuses:

* For some people, the phone will probably be just too big. Personally, I like phones I can slip comfortably into my shirt pocket. But the bigger you are, the bigger shirt pocket you may have, I suppose. iphone4photo.jpg

* No front-facing camera, which is quickly becoming the standard now on new phones, i.e. the iPhone and the Sprint EVO, as video chat starts to hit the marketplace.

* In my view: Android phones have too many physical buttons that complicate the user experience -- in the Droid X's case, five at the bottom of the phone, including the camera button. For instance, when you're browsing the Web on the phone, you touch the touch screen to scroll through text and to hit the links, but if you want to page back, you have to touch the physical button with the left facing arrow at the bottom of the phone. I think having a dedicated camera button is not a bad idea, except for where it's positioned -- it's too easy to accidentally depress the button while gripping the phone.

* Visual voicemail bummer: you have to pay $2.99 a month extra for this feature, whereas its standard on the iPhone/AT&T.

* The network: On Verizon's network, you can't browse the Web while on a call with the Droid X. You also can't take and email a photograph while on a call. (The iPhone and AT&T's network offers this capability.)

* Build quality: Sorry Motorola, but your plasticky-feeling (but metal) design can't compare to the iPhone 4, with its steel and glass beauty. That phone feels like a pricey, luxury gadget. Yours, by comparison, feels less inspiring and covet-worthy.

Overall, I'm sure there'll be a market for the Droid X, especially among the big and tall crowd who love their gadgets big. For everyone else, you should look at Verizon's HTC Incredible.

 P.S. Oh, and one more thing, when I grip the Droid X firmly at the bottom with two hands (who naturally holds a phone that way, btw?), I notice that it drops anywhere from one to three bars. Seriously.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:52 AM | | Comments (34)
Categories: *NEWS*

July 7, 2010

Forbes Investment Guide iPad app: Two Baltimore companies built it

It's good to see Baltimore companies getting deep into iPad development.

Baltimore's R2integrated led the development of Forbes' Investment Guide Plus iPad app, which is now available for free in Apple's App Store.

R2i worked closely with another Baltimore firm, Mindgrub Technologies, to build the app for Forbes.

Any other Baltimore firms out there building iPad apps?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps

EarlyBird: Twitter's official daily deal tweets


Alright all you deal hunters out there, you should know that Twitter today went live with its @EarlyBird account.

Twitter, through @EarlyBird, is about exclusive offers for "special time-bound deals, sneak-peeks, and events."

According to Twitter:

"We partner with select advertisers and retweet offers that they have crafted only for the Twitter community. Our advertising partners determine the terms of the offer, including availability, amount, and price. As with other forms of advertising from Twitter, we are focused on bringing value to our users and will keep your interests in mind as we develop this program."

This is another way that Twitter is trying to make money -- by partnering with advertisers to promote "daily deals" through their platform. The "daily deal" model seems to be gaining popularity, as sites like Groupon and Woot, which was just bought by Amazon, have seen success with it.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

Youtube's Life in a Day project

On July 24, Youtube wants you to shoot some video of a day in your life and then upload it to a dedicated Youtube channel called Life in a Day.

The project will feature Kevin Macdonald as director and Ridley Scott (yes, the Ridley Scott) as producer. They'll slice together the best video moments into an "experimental documentary film." And the film will be shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011.

The project is ambitious but there's one problem. How can the filmmakers be sure that the footage that's getting uploaded was actually shot on July 24th?

Other than that, it's a good idea and a smart marketing ploy for Youtube, who will be channeling of millions of users to its Life in a Day site, which is sponsored by LG Electronics. Cha-ching.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:16 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Big Ideas

July 6, 2010

Email newsletters still going strong

Jason L. Baptiste, a startup entrepreneur, wrote a blog post last week that highlighted how well email newsletters are doing as a business. It reminded me of a story I wrote back in December, where I covered several such companies in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Here's the story I wrote:

An idea so old it's new
Specialized e-mail newsletters thrive in era of social media, news feeds
December 23, 2009
By: Gus G. Sentementes

Will Davis may prefer to get his news and information through slick new methods, such as online social networking sites and news feeds, but he still keeps one old-tech method coming to his inbox: the e-mail newsletter.

"I know if the information becomes one of 40 [news] feeds, it's less likely to cut through the clutter to me," said Davis, a 33-year-old Baltimore marketing professional who subscribes to two industry newsletters based in the Mid-Atlantic. "Because [newsletter] e-mails are a digest, you get all that information in one place."Several electronic industry newsletters with a journalistic bent have taken root from Baltimore to Washington over the past decade. They have hung on through the recession and at least some appear to be growing steadily. Meanwhile, other kinds of news outlets - from print to television to some online news outlets - have had to retrench, cutting employees and content as the advertising market has shrunk.

Digital media experts think that e-mail newsletters, which typically target niche audiences with news about their professions or interests, will remain a strong and viable business in the coming years, partly because a steady e-mail subscriber is generally regarded as more valuable to many advertisers than a less-predictable Web page visitor. Industry observers point to the sale of Daily Candy, a popular fashion, food and events newsletter, to Comcast last year for $125 million as a sign of the potential strength of newsletters.

"I think it's one of the best solutions going into 2010," said Amy Webb, who runs Webbmedia Group, a Baltimore-based digital media consulting firm that works with Fortune 500 companies.

"The newsletter, I would say, is making a comeback," Webb said. "The people having success with it are not the ones buying large distribution lists. ... The ones doing a good job are growing organically and producing superior content that fits a niche, which is what newspapers used to do until they became very generalized."

Even as online sources of news proliferate, from social networking sites to blogs to syndicated news feeds, the e-mail inbox remains a coveted spot for content producers and marketers. Lori Connolly, director of research and analytics for Merkle Inc., an online database marketing company, called e-mail a "linchpin" for users' ever-evolving online habits.

In a recent study, Connolly found that 42 percent of people who use online social networks also check their primary e-mail accounts more than four times a day. "E-mail is a vital part of everyday life," Connolly said.

Many of these industry newsletters employ editors and a few staff or freelance writers. In most cases, these editors are aggregating content from news sites and blogs from across the Web, and sometimes producing their own original content.

In Baltimore, CityBizList offers a free general business newsletter and another focused on commercial real estate, targeting top-level executives and professionals. It was started in 2005 by Edwin Warfield, former owner of The Daily Record, a Baltimore business and legal newspaper.

Its Baltimore publications have a combined subscriber base of 31,000, while offering similar newsletters in nine other U.S. cities. The company has a couple of editors and freelancers, and outsources some of its digital production to a firm in India, according to Jay Rickey, editor and publisher of the commercial real estate newsletter.

The company has a Web site, but its meat and potatoes - where the advertisers want to be - are in its newsletters, according to Rickey.

"We're really targeting a specific market with hyper-local business news, and the e-mail product is what sets us apart from others out there," Rickey said. "It's a vital part of our business."

In Washington, SmartBrief has been producing industry-specific newsletters for 10 years. The company, which has about 100 employees, has been profitable since at least 2002, when publisher Merritt Colaizzi said she joined. SmartBrief has 150 e-mail newsletters that go out to niche industry groups on a regular basis, and which are assembled by a staff of independent editors.

The total number of subscribers to all its e-newsletters is three million, Colaizzi said.

"It has accelerated very rapidly," Colaizzi said. "When I came here, we had 200,000 readers."

SmartBrief editors will flag the essential stories of the day, summarize them, and offer links to the original content elsewhere on the Web. Colaizzi sees SmartBrief as providing an essential, yet free, service to busy professionals and leaders who need to keep abreast of the latest news in their industries.

"The need for what we do is only getting more and more serious," said Colaizzi. "As more sources proliferate and people have less and less time, our mission is to save people time and keep them smart. People have to do more with less. They don't have executive assistants to hunt down news stories for them."

Another Washington-based company, FierceMarkets Inc., pumps out 29 e-mail newsletters and has 950,000 subscribers. The newsletters focus on specific industries, such as wireless or biotechnology. It has 40 employees, with 10 staffers who work on content production, which includes a mix of briefing and linking to outside news stories and some original reporting.

"We recognize that we're not the only source of news that we cover," said M. Sean Griffey, FierceMarkets president. The company, which launched in 2001, has been profitable "since day one," he said.

Davis, the Baltimore marketing executive, subscribes to a SmartBrief newsletter and another one in the region, Potomac TechWire, to keep abreast in developments in advertising, marketing and technology trends in his industry and the region. He uses an application called Google Reader to scan news feeds from more than 40 Web sites and blogs. But sometimes, he's grateful to get worthwhile information passively delivered to his e-mail inbox so he can quickly scan it.

"It is a timesaver," Davis said.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:13 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

California publishes news aggregator for state websites


More competition for the traditional news media?

On Friday, California launched a news aggregator site that pulls together news and information from more than 200 state agency sources, according to Government Technology.

The site can be found at

I think the site is a good idea.It's bringing together 83 Twitter accounts, 40 YouTube channels and nearly 100 RSS feeds -- all into one Website stream.

Sometimes, people just want to learn some of the nuts and bolts of what's going on in their state, and shrinking news agencies are reporting less and less of the "run-of-the-mill" news, such as new programs and services. It won't replace quality, independent, investigative reporting that traditional news outlets specialize in, but kudos to California government for being serious about informing the people of its activities and offerings.

In Maryland, probably the most forward-thinking update we've seen to a state government website involves the Department of Business and Economic Development's site, If you're interested in business in Maryland, you may want to bookmark it.

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*

July 5, 2010

Apple iPhones overstating AT&T's network strength

The iPhone 4 is Apple's fourth version of the popular smartphone that shook up the mobile device industry upon its release in 2007. More than 1.7 million iPhones were sold within the first three days of its release on June 24, making it Apple's most successful product launch in history.

But the company has been catching a lot of criticism in technology news outlets and blogs for what some believe is a faulty antenna design. Videos have sprouted across the Internet (see above) that show people gripping the phone and, moments later, noting how it loses signal strength.

And two Baltimore residents -- Kevin McCaffrey of Nottingham and Linda Wrinn of Baltimore -- are at the forefront of a class-action lawsuit filed last week against Apple over the antenna reception issue. (Neither McCaffrey or Wrinn could be reached for comment for this article.)

Apple promoted the phone's new antenna design -- which wraps around the steel frame of the phone -- as a feature that would improve reception, and not potentially hamper it.

Apple has tried to dismiss the chatter by saying that all cell phones lose signal strength, by one or more bars, when gripped. And, in a news statement last week, the company also said that its investigation of the issue unearthed another problem: the iPhone's miscalculation of signal strength.

Essentially, iPhones have been generously overstating the signal strength that AT&T -- Apple's exclusive wireless carrier for the phone -- offers on its network to iPhone users.

“Upon investigation,” Apple disclosed last week, “we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars.”

This disclosure is surprising because anytime a company admits to overstating anything, consumers should take note. Basically, Apple's iPhone has erroneously -- and as far as we know, inadvertently -- given AT&T's network more signal strength than it deserves to show on the iPhone.

In short, Apple's iPhones have been exaggerating the strength of AT&T's 3G network.

So, Apple will soon release a software fix that enables the iPhone 4 (and the 3Gs and the 3G versions) to more accurately read AT&T signal strength. The upshot: iPhone users will get a better reading of the strength of AT&T's network -- one that will jibe with a prevailing consumer sentiment that AT&T's 3G network can’t handle iPhones, at least with voice calls, especially in big cities such as New York and San Francisco.

I own an iPhone 4 and I have definitely noticed that when the phone has five full bars, and I grip it firmly in my left hand, it drops by two or three bars. When I release the phone, about five to 10 seconds later, the bars return.

But my ultimate conclusion is that my call quality thus far has not been affected, and my connection to the Internet -- for checking email and surfing the Web -- also works the same as past versions of the iPhone I've owned. At least for me.

So, for now, I'll wait to see if Apple's upcoming software fix – which will also be available for its previous 3Gs and 3G iPhone versions -- will have an impact before I decide whether to return it.

Cool App of the Week:

Fans of National Public Radio will likely enjoy its new iPhone app: NPR Music. The app, which is a free download, gives the user access to the broadcaster’s written stories about music, plus a huge library of interviews and musical performances from both new and established artists available for on-demand listening. A version of the app for the Android mobile phone platform is in the works.

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 (10)
Categories: *NEWS*

July 2, 2010

A car for blind drivers?

The National Federation of the Blind, which is based in Baltimore, and Virginia Tech plan to test next year a car designed for driving by the blind, according to a Huffington Post article

The advocacy group for the blind has, for a few years now, issued a formal challenge (the NFB blind driving challenge) to encourage technological experimentation with blind-driving technologies..

From the HuffPost article:

The technology, called "nonvisual interfaces," uses sensors to let a blind driver maneuver a car based on information transmitted to him about his surroundings: whether another car or object is nearby, in front of him or in a neighboring lane.

What do you think?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:28 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*

Apple's iPhone 4 antenna reception explanation: "We were stunned"

Apple finally addressed complaints about the iPhone 4's alleged reception issues in a statement today:

From Apple:

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.

To fix this, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone’s bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:02 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

July 1, 2010

Groupon and McClatchy: Newspaper chain jumps into online group coupons

groupon_logo11209.jpgFirst, newspapers blamed Craigslist for stealing classifieds. Then job listings were taken over by different online players. Now, another piece is being subsumed by Internet startups: couponing.

Groupon, the growing social site for daily deal coupon hunters, has partnered with the McClatchy newspaper/media company to offer "groupons" to the company's 28 markets.

It's my view that newspaper companies should've started their own Groupon-like site years ago -- or directly incorporated such features into their main websites. But anyway....

The point now? The McClatchy newspaper chain -- which owns the Miami Herald and the Sacramento Bee -- has access to local markets, and Groupon, a hot startup that has many emerging competitors, wants to target local advertisers with its coupons.

It's a partnership that makes sense for both newspapers and new media players. (As an aside, a good friend who owns a restaurant in Baltimore just cut a deal to be featured on Groupon in the Baltimore area.)

I was alerted to this news story by Dave Troy via Twitter, who reminded me that I had had an idea for a local "daily deal" (or deals) for newspapers a while ago. I had shared some ideas with Dave over a couple beers. To me, roping in local advertisers -- small mom and pop shops and restaurants -- to allow them to give daily and weekly deals, coupons and specials through a newspaper Website just makes absolute sense.

Newspapers, not the Web and Google, still have a real connection in local neighborhoods and businesses, so why not make use of that connection to promote business on the Web?

If you make it fun and interesting, and make sure the deals are actually worth it, you -- the newspaper company -- can be providing a real consumer service to your readers. So, in my view, I think you'll see Groupon really start to find success in hitting up local news sites and blogs across the U.S.

I'm getting off my soapbox now -- what do YOU think? 

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current
baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:26 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media

Broadband in Finland becomes a legal right

Finland_flag.gifStarting today, Finland has made it a legal right for every one in the country to be connected to basic Internet broadband service of 1 megabit per second downlink speed, and has vowed to give everyone a 100 Mbps connection by 2015.

The BBC has the story.

Finland is one of the smaller countries in Europe, with about 5.4 million people. Making broadband ubiquitous for citizens has become a bigger issue here in the United States.

I've been writing about it in the context of Baltimore's efforts to attract a Google fiber-optic pilot project this year. The FCC is also pushing a national broadband plan in the U.S.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current
baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

First iPhone 4 antenna class action lawsuit? Straight from Maryland

Tech blog Gizmodo is reporting that the first class action lawsuit against Apple and AT&T for the allegedly flawed antenna was recently filed in the US District Court of Maryland.

Kevin McCaffrey, of Nottingham (that's Baltimore County) and Linda Wrinn, of Baltimore, are the two lead plaintiffs in the suit.

As soon as the iPhone 4 debuted last week, consumers started reported weird issues with its apparent reception. When users gripped the phone a certain way, the coverage bars drop, according to complaints heard around the Internet.

(Aside: I own an iPhone 4 and I do notice coverage bars dropping whenever I grip the phone at the bottom, but personally, it hasn't impacted my reception and use of the phone.)

Below is a graphic that illustrates the problem that consumers are reporting. The phone thus far has been a huge seller, but it remains to be seen how long-term sales will be affected by this issue with the antenna.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:59 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: *NEWS*

Mobile HD TV just around the corner?

In case you missed it, I wrote a preview of some new technology that consumers should expect to be hearing more about over the next year or so: mobile high-definition TV.

In Baltimore, one of our TV stations -- Fox 45 (WBFF) -- is already broadcasting the signal, while in Washington DC, there's a little consumer trial going on among TV stations there. (That's Mark Aitken, VP of advanced technology for Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of WBFF, demonstrating the devices to me.)

Basically, if a group of broadcasters and other big tech companies have their way, you'll be able to watch HD TV on your cell phone, lap top or other mobile device.

Now, some of you uber-geeks will say: Gus, but we can already watch HD TV on our laptops using a plug-in dongle that catches the HD signal. To that, I say, mobile HD TV is actually a whole new standard that allows for interactivity and for picking up the signal while you're traveling in a speeding car or train. It's designed for users in the mobile world.

Oh, and P.S. many other countries, i.e. Japan and S. Korea, have had this capability for awhile now on their mobile devices.

Hit the jump for the full story on mobile HD TV:

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun
June 28, 2010

The television is being revolutionized. Last year, consumers saw high-definition digital TV become the standard in homes across the nation. And now 3-D TVs are for sale.

The next step may be a moving television set. A coalition of broadcasters and other companies are putting the finishing touches on new technology that would bring digital television directly to cell phones, laptops and gadgets embedded in automobiles. The mobile devices would receive TV signals, not Internet video you can watch now.

The new technology is being tested in the Washington-Baltimore area and in several other regions across the country. In Baltimore, Sinclair Broadcast Group's WBFF/Fox 45 station is broadcasting the new signal, while several television stations in Washington are part of a trial for 150 consumers.

"We're talking about television in the way that everybody thinks about television," said Mark Aitken, director of advanced technology at Sinclair, which is based in Hunt Valley.

Broadcasting companies that own television affiliate stations across the country are most excited about the new technology because it represents a potential new source of revenue, as TV advertising weakened during the recession.

"We think it has the potential to usher in a renaissance in over-the-air television," said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. "It's important for us to give content to younger-generation viewers who want their content mobile."

Local television stations could expand their advertising beyond in-home television sets to new kinds of mobile devices that come embedded with tiny receivers that pick up the high-definition TV signal. A National Association of Broadcasters study showed that mobile high-definition television could add $2 billion a year in advertising to the local television market.

"It's important for broadcasters to have a mobile TV future," said Aitken, who is chair of an industry group that set technical standards for the new technology.

The technology works in devices that have been modified with small electronic chips to receive and display high-definition television programming. But major companies — from broadcasters to device makers to wireless carriers — are trying to figure out an appropriate business model before making it available to the masses.

Consumers are growing increasingly accustomed to watching video on mobile devices, but that technology is delivered by the Internet and cellular networks. Consumers may start seeing devices equipped with mobile digital television reception of over-the-air broadcast signals in a year or two, according to industry experts.

Analysts who cover the television and Internet broadcasting industries said that competing interests among the different industries that have varying stakes in mobile digital TV could complicate efforts to bring it to consumers.

Tim Farrar, president of wireless consulting firm TMF Associates in California, said that wireless carriers, who have significant control over the kinds of cell phones they allow on their networks, may not see any revenue potential in allowing phones that receive high-definition television for free. Wireless carriers might choose to prohibit cell phones with mobile television features on their networks, or charge consumers a fee for accessing it, he said.

"It's hard to see a business model where the cell phone carriers make money off this," Farrar said.

But manufacturers of other devices, such as laptop computers, portable DVD players and automobile video systems may adopt the technology as a new feature that ultimately appeals to consumers.

"A lot of things are coming together all at the same time in this industry," said Fritz Jordan, an analyst with ABI Research, based in Long Island, N.Y.

For broadcasters, the business expense of offering a mobile digital signal is relatively low. The conversion to digital from analog television signals cost each individual station a couple of million dollars to complete over the past several years. Preparing a television station to broadcast the new mobile digital signal may cost only $70,000 to $200,000, industry experts said.

Broadcasters hope to reach more consumers with over-the-air television programming through mobile devices as television audiences have become increasingly fragmented. Consumers are now turning to cable, the Internet and video-on-demand services for content.

Some major mobile device and computer companies including Samsung, LG and Dell are ready to make electronics, such as smart phones and laptops, that can receive the mobile high-definition signal. There are devices that currently enable consumers to capture the standard high-definition signal on computers, but the new mobile standard is designed for people and gadgets that are on the move.

For instance, the new mobile digital signal that's being tested can be received by a properly equipped device held by a person traveling in a car or train that's moving up to 100 miles per hour.

The new technology standard also would allow for interactivity between the broadcaster and the consumer. Broadcast television shows could include polls for viewers, and advertisements could be interactive, similar to what consumers are accustomed to on the Internet.

For more information about mobile digital television, visit the Open Mobile Video Coalition's website:

Text BUSINESS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Business text alerts

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones
Keep reading
Recent entries
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:

Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Sign up for FREE business alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for Business text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Charm City Current
Stay connected