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August 31, 2010

Churn at Baltimore's Emerging Technology Centers

In the world of technology incubators, it’s all about the churn.

This week, one startup company is joining Baltimore's Emerging Technology Center, while another is “graduating” — or moving out of Baltimore’s tech incubator into its own space. That kind of churn for the city’s Emerging Technology Centers is a good thing, said Ann Lansinger, the incubator’s president.

The ETC, which has more than 70 Baltimore startup companies under its wing in two locations, wants mature firms to move out on their own so they can make room for the next crop of early-stage entrepreneurs, she said.

This year, 11 companies have graduated, while 10 have moved into ETC offices and another 14
have opted for a less-involved, affiliated membership in its startup community. Last year, 23 companies graduated.

“It’s all about churn,” said Lansinger. “Getting companies in the system, getting them nice and strong and then out on their own and then bringing in new ones.”

The company that’s ready to fly on its own is Lookingglass Cyber Solutions. It makes data visualization software that federal defense agencies and large commercial enterprises can use to detect threats lurking just outside their computer networks. One of their main clients is the Department of Homeland Security.

Brian Garmey, the firm’s president, said it started at the ETC about 3 1/2 years ago and has grown to be both cash-flow positive and profitable — a good position for a small company in the burgeoning field of cybersecurity. The small company (he declined to say how many employees they have) is moving into an office a few blocks away from the ETC, in Canton.

“We feel very optimistic,” Garmey said. “We’re excited. We’re getting more interest and have more momentum than we ever had.”

Meanwhile, a company called StraighterLine hopes to build momentum in its move to Baltimore’s ETC offices at the former Eastern High School building on East 33rd Street. The online education startup was founded in Washington as an offshoot of an online tutoring company called Smarthinking.

StraighterLine makes required college courses available online and for less money than one might pay at a traditional higher-education institution. Students can take their early coursework through StraighterLine and save money, and then take courses in their major at an institution of their choosing, the company says.

Currently, StraighterLine has agreements with 17 colleges, so students can transfer their coursework credits from the online school. The goal is to get colleges across the country accepting course credit from StraighterLine, said Burck Smith, the company’s founder and chief executive officer.

“What we’re doing has the potential to be disruptive over the next couple years, in a good way, for the students and for the schools,” Smith said.

Smith, who grew up in Baltimore, wanted to return to the city from Washington because he sees it as a better location for an online education startup. His company is taking over some of the office space left behind by MoodleRooms, another online education company that graduated from the ETC this year.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

August 30, 2010

Google planning big push into pay-per-view films?

Google's got Youtube, the biggest video platform in the world. It only makes sense that the search giant would want to use it to make money in the burgeoning online video rental market.

The Financial Times and other news outlets are reporting that that's exactly what Google has plans for: Youtube pay-per-view films from major Hollywood studios.

(Check out Youtube's existing rental store.)

Off the top of my head, this has some great potential for Google, which is looking for ways to monetize Youtube. It also bodes well for the consumer, who increasingly is getting access to cheap (or free) streaming video content online, which threaten the cable monopolies.

I, for one, am a huge fan of my Roku digital player box, which enables me to stream quality video through Network and Amazon's Video on Demand service, and lesser quality internet video fare through other "channels." I'd love to see Google movie rentals brought to the Roku.

But you're more likely to see Google rentals become part of Google TV, Google's own foray into the living room with its own television interface for consumption of Internet media.

Now, the question is: if Google video rentals become a reality, will Apple offer them on its rumored new iTV device platform, set to debut tomorrow?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:29 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

August 24, 2010

"Hottest Tech in Town" competition

Here's an update on another big tech event in town:

The Greater Baltimore Technology Council's annual TechNite event (on Oct. 7) will feature a "hottest tech in town" competition. So far, 41 Baltimore-area tech companies have applied to win one of the 15 slots to present that night.

Just becoming one of the 15 finalists has real value. Normally, for a company to display at TechNite, a table costs $5,000. A combination of community voting and a judges panel will determine the top three winners at TechNite. The top three win prizes that are detailed here.

Here are the local startups that applied to the competition (source: GBTC):

Digital Steamworks

6th Street Inc.

Razoron Health Innovations

Biomedica Management Corp.

BioFortis

CSA Medical

Shooger Mobile Promotions Network, LLC

TRUSTED TECHNOLOGIES LLC

EventRebels

Mindgrub Technologies LLC

SeaBalt Solutions, LLC

DirectLaw, Inc.

Vision Multimedia Technologies, LLC

Amarani Therapeutics

Novavax, Inc.

LocalUp Solutions

Social Solutions

EnDepth Solutions

etelemetry

Juxtopia

NV3 Technologies

iStrategy

Oculis Labs

Seguro Surgical

Lookingglass Cyber Solutions

TransGlobal Business Systems, Inc.

PPMLite

Direct Dimensions, Inc.

Plasmonix, Inc.

Localist Corporation

ipiqi

SemaConnect Inc

ANCILE Solutions, Inc.

Remedium Technologies, Inc.

Modita

Activus Technologies

SpotCrime.com

E-ISG

America's Remote Help Desk (ARHD)

Social Pollen

GreenSpacers Inc.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:39 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)
        

Batter up: "pitching" at Maryland TechCrawl East

In a Major League Baseball town such as Baltimore, perhaps it is no surprise that a budding technology event has been built around a batting analogy.

The “pitchers” at the Maryland TechCrawl East on Sept. 16 will be startup entrepreneurs. They’ll be pitching their business plans to each “batter” — skeptical investors, journalists or technophiles — who step up to the “home plate” at each company’s booth to hear the 60-second presentations.

The event, in its second year, now has its sights set beyond Baltimore. The last TechCrawl event was held in December and attracted 20 pitching companies, 20 investors and 200 guests. This year, the event’s founders want to attract startups from all over the East Coast. (Follow their Twitter here.)

Already, startups from New York, West Virginia, New Jersey and Philadelphia have applied to give pitches. Organizers are hoping to attract 50 companies to present.

“The primary goal is to strengthen technology companies,” said Heather Sarkissian, co-founder of the TechCrawl and chief executive of Baltimore-based MP3Car.com. “It’s not just about getting investment; it’s about forging relationships.”

Startup companies are often lacking for cash, connections and a polished pitch and product.

Sarkissian said that entrepreneurs can come away from the TechCrawl with potential improvements in all four areas. They could meet new investors, network with peer companies, refine their presentation skills and get early feedback on products.

“This is about getting everybody in one room for one night and establishing relationships,” Sarkissian said.

The Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, a booster for the region, is a new event sponsor. Tom Sadowski, the organization’s president, said the group is trying to get more involved with entrepreneurs and startups in technology.

“We need to connect all the dots, from the biggest companies down to the startups,” Sadowski said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for new tech development.”

This year’s TechCrawl will take place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Morgan Stanley building in Fells Point, in the 900 block Thames St.


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

August 23, 2010

iPad 101

This coming fall, some colleges and universities will be experimenting with the iPad on campus. I wrote a story about this trend for today's paper. Hit the link here.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

August 20, 2010

LG: "E-Paper" coming by end of 2010

lg-epaper.jpgLG Display Co. of S. Korea, a huge display and touchscreen maker, issued a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission today that disclosed some interesting details about its business, including its relationship with Apple.

First, LG said that by the end of this year, the company expects "to commence mass-production of 19-inch flexible e-papers and 9.7-inch color e-papers." (See left) LG has been experimenting with flexible e-paper technology for a couple years now, with the largest to date at 19 inches. The technology basically allows for the reproduction of say, a newspaper, on a thin, flexible digital sheet.

Second, in 2009 and 2010, LG entered into long-term supply agreements with Apple Inc. to supply display panels for five years. LG supplies the LCD panels for Apple's iPad. The Form 6 filing states: "As of June 30, 2010, we have received long-term advances from Apple Inc. in the amount of US$580 million in connection with these agreements, which will be offset as consideration for products supplied to Apple Inc."

That's $80 million more than when the deal was first announced in '09.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Lawsuit: Former pastor blames Best Buy's Geek Squad for computer electric shock

geek_squad.jpgCharles Casey, a former pastor who used to live in Maryland, is suing Best Buy and its Geek Squad computer repair service for allegedly making negligent repairs on his computer, which caused it to shock him severely as soon as he plugged his printer into it, according to a federal lawsuit filed yesterday in Maryland.

Casey, who lived in Cockeysville, Md., but now lives in Florida with his wife, said in the lawsuit that as soon as he plugged it in, he suffered "a severe electric shock that ran through his body, with tingling in his right hand up to his shoulder, across his tongue and down his left arm."

Casey had presented his computer for repair in early September 2007 to the Geek Squad at the Best Buy in the 1700 block of York Road in Timonium, the lawsuit states. He picked up his computer from the Geek Squad on October 22, 2007, brought it home, and plugged it in to the same, untouched set-up that he had taken it from, the lawsuit states.

When he plugged the printer into the computer, he received the jolt, according to the lawsuit. Casey, who was 73 at the time, was left with two injured arms, dislocated shoulders, and a need for physical therapy. His wife had to assist and care for Casey, since he couldn't use his arms while recuperating, according to the lawsuit.

Casey is seeking $450,000 in damages. We'll be seeking comment from both Casey and Best Buy today.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:21 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

August 19, 2010

Millennial Media and BlackBerry maker reportedly in deal talks

Baltimore's Millennial Media, one of the biggest players in the still-growing field of mobile advertising, has reportedly been in discussions to sell itself to Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry.

RIM may be looking to defend its flank in the mobile advertising space, since both Google and Apple have bought similar companies over the past year. Google paid $750 million for AdMob and Apple reportly paid somewhere around $250 million for Quattro Wireless.

So where does that leave Millennial? Well, according to a Wall Street Journal story, Millennial has "asked for between $400 million to $500 million," but RIM is unwilling to pay that much.

This disagreement over valuation has led to a stalemate in deal talks between the two companies, according to the WSJ.

Millennial Media's CEO, Paul Palmieri, has told The Baltimore Sun and other news outlets that the company's plan is to go public sometime next year. But that doesn't mean the company won't entertain offers for an acquisition, especially if it can fetch a price somewhere between the Google and Apple deals that showered its competitors with hundreds of millions of dollars.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:14 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Facebook Places and Foursquare: who'll own "location"?

Facebook yesterday announced their offering in the geolocation "check-in" space -- a new feature called Places. The company also said it will be working to integrate with the two leading players in the field: Foursquare and Gowalla.

Both Foursquare and Gowalla have been on a tear, adding users by leaps and bounds (especially Foursquare.)

But how will these two darlings fare with Facebook, the 800 pound gorilla, now playing in their space?

Personally, I think you'll start to see new subscribers to Foursquare and Gowalla start to slow down in coming months -- unless those two services can find dramatic new ways to differentiate themselves. (I like Michael Gartenberg's analysis of the Facebook Places announcment.)

In the meantime, I bet you'll start to see businesses experimenting with ad and marketing campaigns on Facebook Places (and shifting their efforts from Foursquare) since so many are already running Facebook campaigns to begin with.

At the end of it all, my prediction is that in 12 months or so, Facebook just buys off either Foursquare or Gowalla, fully integrates them into the Facebook platform, and the other just fades away.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps
        

August 18, 2010

Class of 2014: the cultural mindset

The New York Times highlighted a fun mental exercise that professors at Wisconsin's Beloit College go through each year, to ground themselves in the "mindset" of their incoming students.

They call it the Mindset List.

The point of the annual list is to help the school's professors avoid dated references and essentially, to keep reminding themselves how "digital" these young students are compared to years before.

Take a look at the list here. Which ones are your favorite?

No. 1 Few in the class know how to write in cursive.


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

August 16, 2010

Smart sensors, smart bridges

A University of Maryland researcher showed off his invention -- smart sensors for bridges -- to the Sun's Michael Dresser. The sensor, powered by the sun, ambient light and stray radio waves, can wirelessly relay information about a bridge's structural integrity to people monitoring a bridge.

The sensor is about the size of a credit card. Check out Mr. Dresser's story.


bridge-sensor.jpg


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Wireless
        

August 13, 2010

But do you really want that cybersecurity job?

subelsky.jpgBaltimore hacker, occasional contributor to BaltTech, and all-around smart/good guy Mike Subelsky (left) penned a thoughtful essay on why Maryland tech geeks should think carefully about diving into the cybersecurity field. Sure, it's a hot area -- I recently wrote about how basically the big wheels of government and Corporate Maryland are turning hard in that direction.

But Subelsky, a former government IT guy himself, cautions that people who aren't in the field should be prepared not just for the potential rewards (nice paycheck, work on important national security projects), but downsides, too (limited creativity and flexibility/freedom within your work role.)

From Subelsky's blog post:

Maryland's business press, government officials, and various tech organizations have lately been enthusiastically banging the gong for cybersecurity. I can appreciate why - there's a lot of money at stake, and a lot of it comes from Maryland's foremost benefactor, the federal government. This is a recession-proof, guaranteed-to-grow industry, and Maryland is already home to many successful cybersecurity companies like Sourcefire. The government and private companies employ many thousands of people and contribute many millions of dollars to our tax base.

So it makes sense for our government to be pursuing these opportunities, but does it make sense for you, Maryland hacker?

Subelsky makes some good points. In a recent interview with a CEO working in the mobile space, this CEO told me that there is plenty of technical talent available in this area. But what's lacking in the pool of workers in the Baltimore/Washington area are people with bona fide experience in product development, in the enterprise and consumer space.

Satisfying a government customer is very different than satisfying a couple hundred big and different companies who are clients of your enterprise software.

To Mike's points, the only thing I would add, as a side note, is that if there's a silver lining, it is that Mike himself is an example of how federal government work can eventually "spin off" motivated creatives to do their own thing, with a ton of experience under their belts.

It isn't just about Maryland making it easier for residents to get jobs in cybersecurity, but also helping entrepreneurs build their own companies in the private sector, too.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Government Tech
        

August 12, 2010

General Dynamics hiring 100+ in Towson area for government IT work

Federal government work: the gift that keeps on giving (so far) to the Maryland economy.

Today, we learned that General Dynamics, a ginormous U.S. defense contractor, won an $80 million contract to do computer work for a new government insurance program for retirees that's starting up as part of the health care reform package.

Up to 110 IT pros will be hired to work in the Towson area on the project through General Dynamics and its sub-contractors. Here's the full story written in newspeak.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

August 11, 2010

Baltimore's "Hottest Tech in Town" showcase

Calling all Baltimore tech nerds, geeks and early-stage entrepreneurs......

The Greater Baltimore Tech Council, the region's nonprofit membership association for networking tech companies and entrepreneurs, is looking for applicants who want a chance to show off their technology innovations at its annual Technite event on Oct. 7 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

To apply, go here.

Fifteen companies/people will be chosen to feature their technology that night, and prizes will be given to the top three applicants. Deadline is Aug. 20.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)
        

Has Baltimore's Localist.com found a business model?

LocalistLogo.jpgI've been watching Localist.com grow up in the tech wilds of Baltimore the last couple years, and something tells me the guys behind this Internet startup are finally on to something.

You may remember, if you've ever sought out event listings in Baltimore, that Localist was a  social-networky, one-stop-shop website for events in the region.

But now, the company's Web technology is being made available to organizations to power their own event listings.

The latest big news for Localist: the new hyper-local news site in Washington, TBD.com, is using Localist's web platform to power its entire entertainment section. TBD.com is owned by Allbritton Communications, the same company that owns the successful Politico.com.

Selling its Web tech to other companies is a strategic change for Localist, which is based in Canton's Emerging Technologies Center.

Localist realized that to grow beyond the region into a national events listing site would have required more capital and scale. Good luck getting easy money in a recession.

So instead, what Localist inadvertently ended up finding is that its Web-based event listing technology was actually attractive to universities and other organizations (i.e. tourism boards) that needed to keep track of a lot of events.

Last year, "some schools and tourism boards approaching us and asked for white labeling [using the technology under their own brand name]," said Mykel Nahorniak, co-founder and president of Localist. "It was our a-ha moment."

Other clients include Johns Hopkins University, the College of Notre Dame, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the University of Maryland.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:56 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Media
        

August 9, 2010

Apple licenses tech of Liquidmetal Technologies

liquidmetal_tech.jpg

An SEC filing just hit that shows that Apple Inc. struck a deal with Liquidmetal Technologies, a California-based company that holds patents on new metal and alloy designs, for essentially access to all of its intellectual property.

Perhaps in the near future, we can expect our iPhones, iPads, and iPods to be made of these new "amorphous" metals that Liquidmetal specializes in.

According to its Website, Liquidmetal is a "leading force in the research, development and commercialization of amorphous metals. [Its] revolutionary class of patented alloys and coatings form the basis of high performance material utilized in a range of military, consumer and industrial products manufactured by Liquidmetal Technologies."

The new metals that Liquidmetal develops offer several benefits in strength, hardness, elasticity, corrosion- and wear-resistance, and acoustical properties.

Here's the info straight from the 8K that Liquidmetal filed with the SEC (thanks to Jay Rickey of Citybizlist for sending this to me.)

On August 5, 2010, Liquidmetal Technologies, Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Liquidmetal”), entered into a Master Transaction Agreement with Apple Inc., a California corporation (“Apple”), pursuant to which (i) Liquidmetal contributed substantially all of its intellectual property assets to a newly organized special-purpose, wholly-owned subsidiary (the “IP Company”), (ii) the IP Company granted to Apple a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercialize such intellectual property in the field of consumer electronic products in exchange for a license fee, and (iii) the IP Company granted back to Liquidmetal a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercialize such intellectual property in all other fields of use (together with all ancillary agreements, the “Master Transaction Agreement”).


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:42 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

August 4, 2010

BoxTone secures $7.5 million in financing, pushes for profitability

boxtone_logo.jpgBoxTone, of Columbia, Md., said today it secured $7.5 million in financing, which the company plans to use to hire more workers and increase product development efforts in a push for profitability.

BoxTone employs 80 workers and sells software that helps companies manage smartphones and cellphones for their workforce. The company is one of the few players in the burgeoning industry of mobile services, and claims one-third of Fortune 100 businesses as clients, according to Alan Snyder, chief executive officer.

BoxTone was founded as a technology company in 1999, and re-focused on the mobile industry in 2005. The company's software works to manage several different mobile phone platforms for corporate use, including iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Windows. So far, the company's software covers more than 550,000 users.

BoxTone does not release financial results, but Snyder said the company is "well on the path to profitability."

Last week, the company announced 40 percent sales growth in the first half of this year, compared with the similar period last year.

With the latest investment, "what we decided to do was increase investment in R&D to accelerate product to market," Snyder said. "In all likelihood, this will be the capital to get us to profitability."

Snyder said the new funding will help the company hire another 15 to 20 workers this year. The investment comes from its sole investor, Lazard Technology Partners.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones
        

August 3, 2010

BlackBerry Torch unveiled -- iPhone, Android competitor?

blackberry_torch.jpg


The next-generation touch screen BlackBerry Torch was just unveiled today on AT&T's network, for $199 for a two-year contract (no firm date on when device goes on sale). It sports a portrait slider/pull-out keyboard, 5 MP camera with flash, souped-up touch Web browser, and integrated messaging and social networking features.

Perhaps the most important thing you need to know is that this phone features Research in Motion's new BlackBerry 6 operating system -- which is meant to compete with iPhone and Android.

From AT&T's Website, one of the selling points is a "Full HTML tabbed browser for "PC-like" Web browsing with tabbed browsing for access to multiple web pages at the same time and pinch-to-zoom capability."

Take a look at the full specs here -- is anyone impressed?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:11 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Smartphones
        

The impact of computer gaming and software developers in Maryland

Interested in the history and industry of computer gaming in Maryland? Take a listen to this interesting and entertaining talk by Sid Meier, the "godfather of computer gaming" (and director of creative development at Firaxis Games.)

The state received a report prepared by the Sage Policy Group for the digital media industry -- of which computer gaming is a part -- which declared that the indusry is a $5.5 billion business in Maryland. Computer programming and software development and related jobs employed 32,000 in Maryland (as of 2008), the report found.



This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gamers, Geeks
        

August 2, 2010

Maryland's computer history museum -- courtesy of Bob Roswell

bobroswell_corememory.jpg


In the mid-1980s, as part of his computer business, Bob Roswell began accumulating a surplus of unsold and unwanted computers that he couldn’t bring himself to throw away.

As advances in computing marched on through the 1980s and 1990s, Roswell took those computers and put them to new use: as historical exhibits. Today, Roswell (above, holding a "core memory")runs what appears to be the largest computer history museum in Maryland. It can be found at System Source Inc., a computer services company in Hunt Valley operated by him and his business partner, Maury Weinstein.

“He’s got some rare things there that took him a while to get,” said Joyce Little, professor of computer and information sciences at Towson University. “It’s grand, it’s really grand.”

[Check out some photos of Roswell's computer museum]

Over the years, Roswell has assembled a collection of authentic and replica computing gadgets, from the abacus to the mobile device. He gives about three 30-minute tours a week, mostly to students of his company’s computer classes, though the exhibit is open to the public during work hours.

“It’s a hobby,” said Roswell, 52 during a recent exhibit tour. “We’re not ready to compete with the Smithsonian or anything.”

Roswell’s collection of computer artifacts is far larger than what is on display. He has a few hundred items on display, with thousands more — hard drives, monitors, dot-matrix printers and other gadgets — stored in his computer company’s warehouse. The continuing challenge is to sort through it all and make a determination on what is worthy enough for showcasing.

“I can’t begin to display it all,” said Roswell, a computer science graduate from Yale University.

Roswell usually waits years to add newer devices, partly because he wants to gauge their historical impact on the computing industry and also because he can find them cheap or for free on eBay.com or other sources. For these reasons, he said, there won’t be an Apple iPad on display anytime soon.

There are only a handful of official museums in the United States dedicated to computers. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has a computer exhibit in Washington.
On the West Coast, the world’s largest collection of computer artifacts resides in Silicon Valley, at the Computer History Museum.

Little lamented that academic institutions seem less interested in maintaining exhibits on computing history, leaving it to private industry to set up or pay for their own.

Computer companies and hobbyists, such as Roswell, often fill a void in their communities by setting up their own exhibits, according to Alex Bochannek, a curator at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley in California.

Bochanek said people get nostalgic about the first computer they used, and can relate to the gadgets on exhibit on a personal level. But historical computer exhibits can also educate people, he said.

“They used to be seen as menacing, but a lot of people now couldn't imagine their daily lives without computers,” Bochanek said. “To a lot of people, it's just a big metal box. But you have to explain to people what the applications were, what people could do [with a computer] when before they could not.”

Among the items on display at Roswell’s museum are a comptometer, a 19th-century addition and subtraction machine; a 1960s-era DigiComp 1, a plastic computer that could do simple math and play some logic games; and an Altair 8800, a build-it-yourself kit from the mid-1970s that became the first popular personal computer.

On one wall, he also has a selection of IBM, Commodore, Atari and Radio Shack computers. Another display features many Apple and Mac computers. Still another display features portable devices, such as the Palm Pilot, a kind of personal digital assistant and the precursor to the smart phone.

Roswell’s exhibit drives home a key point about modern computing: Both speed and storage space have grown exponentially as prices have dropped dramatically. The advances have been so steep that a modern cell phone would outperform any of the computers that Roswell has on display, he said.

The next exhibit that Roswell wants to assemble would demonstrate Maryland’s contributions to computing. Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, and the Social Security Administration in the Baltimore area are all government agencies that incorporated powerful computers in their work.

“Maryland’s got a lot to be proud of,” said Little.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:30 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Big Ideas, Gadgets, Geeks
        

Cyber security pros in demand

Cyber security jobs are in demand across Maryland, and many are tied to the government. It's hard work to get the technical skills necessary to make a contribution in the field. But there's also another challenge: obtaining a security clearance to work on defense-related projects. Not only are the government and contractors starting promoting cyber security training early in schools; they also need potential job candidates to have a relatively "clean" lifestyle in order to get clearance.

Here's a story I wrote about the field as it appears to be growing in Maryland:

Wanted: Cybersecurity pros
Federal agencies, contractors and tech companies all compete for in-demand cyber security work force in Maryland and beyond

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

August 1, 2010

While unemployment lines remain long elsewhere, SafeNet Inc. is one Maryland employer that's hiring. The Belcamp cyber security firm has more than 100 job openings for consultants.

But so far this year, it has only been able to fill four of those positions.

That's because in the white-hot world of cyber security, there's a lot of opportunity but not enough qualified workers to take advantage. As the federal government, contractors who support federal agencies and private companies ramp up spending to secure complex computer networks, they are all competing for a tight pool of high-tech specialists and workers with government security clearances.

"They're just hard to find," said Joe Moorcones, SafeNet's vice president of cyber security. "Everybody's going after them."

The shortage of job candidates has prompted state officials to craft strategies for creating a capable workforce. Economic development officials hope to step up marketing to lure cyber security companies and workers to Maryland, while educational efforts are being ramped up, too.

The University of Maryland University College in Adelphi is launching a cyber security curriculum this fall, with a bachelor's and two master's degree programs. Community colleges in Maryland also are offering students certifications in cyber security-related tracks.

In Maryland, one of the biggest employers in cyber security is the National Security Agency at Fort Meade. And the federal infrastructure here is expanding.

Last week, federal officials announced a $10 million grant to create a National Cyber Security Center of Excellence at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, which would allow private industry and government to collaborate on digital security standards.

The federal government isn't the only one hiring. At ARINC Inc. in Annapolis, for example, company officials anticipate needing to hire 200 to 300 cyber security professionals over the next couple of years to work for their commercial and military customers.

Vice Admiral Bernard "Barry" McCullough III, head of the U.S. Navy's Fleet Cyber Command, also based at Fort Meade, said recently that he needs to recruit and hire another 100 people — mostly civilian and military cyber security specialists — to fully staff his 200-person command.

"We need to increase that talent pool that everybody is after," McCullough said.

Measuring the size of the cyber security sector is difficult, but surveys show demand for technical expertise is skyrocketing.

The number of jobs posted on ClearanceJobs.com by companies and recruiters looking for professionals with active federal security clearances has jumped 11 percent to 6,100 openings this year from fewer than 5,500 in the same time period last year.

Among the jobs most in demand are systems engineers, military software engineers and software developers. And the jobs are highly paid. According to the website, technology pros in the Baltimore-Washington corridor make on average $82,100, and those with an active clearance on average make a 20 percent premium, or nearly $99,800.

A broader measure of private sector employment in computer systems shows that the number of jobs in Maryland has more than doubled in the span of two decades — from 29,900 in June 1990 to 64,900 jobs in June of this year.

The demand has spurred the federal government and corporations to support new education initiatives — in Maryland and beyond — to help train workers in defending computer networks from cyber attacks that can come from thieves, hackers and terrorists.

Last week, Anne Arundel Community College and the county workforce development corporation announced $4.9 million in federal funding to train 1,000 workers for cyber security jobs over the next three years. Students will complete certifications in digital forensics and cyber security at community colleges in Anne Arundel, Howard and Carroll counties.

UMUC's cyber security curriculum includes a bachelor's degree program, with students taking a mix of liberal arts and technical courses, such as network security and computer forensics. The university also offers two master's programs designed for midcareer professionals, one with a more technical orientation and the other with a policy focus.

Susan C. Aldridge, UMUC's president, said the university worked for two years to develop the programs and contacted area employers to gauge the demand for students graduating with cyber security skills. One company she spoke with said it could hire 200 cyber security professionals on the spot, Aldridge said.

So far, 300 students have applied to the programs, Aldridge said. The school expects to have a few thousand students focused on cyber security in the next few years, she said.

"Cyber security is going to be a topic of discussion in every organization in the country that utilizes the Internet," Aldridge said.

Thousands needed

A report on preparing for the nation's cyber security needs last year by Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, found that federal scholarship programs designed to fill government openings were producing only 120 graduates a year with cyber security education — while the need was closer to 1,000 a year across several federal agencies.

Challenges abound in building a cyber security workforce, particularly for the federal government's defense and intelligence agencies and private contractors that work with them. Part of the difficulty isn't simply finding people with the right technical abilities, but making sure they can also qualify for a security clearance.

And the limited workforce means that government agencies and the private sector must compete. McCullough said defense agencies often can't match salaries paid by corporations and contractors, but they can provide workers tremendous real-life experiences and involvement in critical missions.

"When we try to get people to work for us, we talk about the quality of the work and the level they'll participate," McCullough said.

But Rich LaPerch, founder and CEO of Columbia-based Aegis Mobile, said technology jobs with government or contractors have become more attractive and can lure talent away from technology firms that don't focus on government work. Aegis helps companies build websites for mobile phones and does not have government clients.

"Government people now get paid better, have better benefits and better pensions," LaPerch said. "Security spending is a little bit sexy in this area."

In Maryland, the strategy to build a workforce for technology and cyber security appears to be twofold, part marketing effort to lure companies and workers, and part long-term educational planning, starting with encouraging math and science studies at the earliest levels of schooling from elementary to high school.

"I believe our next employees are now in the 10th grade," said Larry Cox, vice president of SAIC Inc., an information technology-focused defense contractor. "We've got about six years to get them trained up and keep them honest … so we can potentially have them work in our business."

Getting word out

Adam Suri, program director of operations at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said the state is marketing itself as "the epicenter for cyber security." In January, Gov. Martin O'Malley hosted a "Cyber Maryland" summit, where corporate executives and state and federal officials gathered to promote the cyber security industry in the state.

"Silicon Valley has done a very good job of marketing itself," Suri said. "This is where the cutting edge for cyber technology is being developed."

Brian Schneider is just the kind of person that politicians and corporate leaders hope to continue to attract to Maryland with the lure of technology and cyber security jobs.

Schneider, 24, works at Northrop Grumman in Linthicum and lives in Canton. After graduating from college in South Carolina with a computer science degree last winter, he chose this region over others because it offered better career options for himself and his fiancee.

His computer skills, which are coveted nationwide, could take him just about anywhere — high-tech workers also are in demand in Silicon Valley, Northern Virginia, New York and Boston. But so far, he's happy with Baltimore.

"Since I've gotten here, we've decided we want to stay here," said Schneider, who works on network systems. "We enjoy Baltimore. We enjoy being in the city. It wasn't something we
originally expected."
originally expected."


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:02 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Government Tech
        
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
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