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March 31, 2011

TidalTV, Baltimore video ad startup, raises $30 million

john-ferber.jpgBig news in Baltimore startup land today:

TidalTV, founded by Scott Ferber (left), who co-founded Advertising.com in 1998, announced that it raised $30 million in new financing from investors -- an amount that nearly doubles the $16 million the company raised in 2009.

The investment round was led by New Enterprise Associates, with involvement from existing investors Comcast Interactive Capital and Valhalla Partners.

TidalTV said in a statement today that it plans to use the increased funding to "support the aggressive expansion of TidalTV’s technology into new global markets throughout 2011 and the deployment of its proprietary ad decisioning solutions into new multi-screen applications for advertisers, media agencies and publishers."

TidalTV's technology helps serve targeted advertising to mobile and online video watchers.

The company cited industry estimates from eMarketer, which showed eMarketer estimates that "by 2015, 76% of internet users, or 195.5 million people will be watching online video each month. In the same period, it predicts online video advertising spending will surge from $1.97 billion to $5.71 billion."

The technology that underpins TidalTV appears to be heavily guided by mathematics and science -- a quantitative approach that Scott Ferber, and his brother John, brought to Advertising.com, which is now owned by AOL.

The Ferber brothers sold Advertising.com to AOL in 2004 for nearly a half billion 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This is an archived version of the technology blog.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 2:54 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Startups
        

Johns Hopkins No. 2 in "social media colleges"

StudentAdvisor.com ranked the top 100 colleges that deploy social media strategies on campus for students, prospective students and faculty -- and ranked Johns Hopkins University No. 2, behind Harvard University, where Facebook was born.

The online site, which helps students research and rank colleges, singled out Hopkins for its "fantastic" social media page and its "best-in-class" iPhone app.

This honor is not only good for Hopkins, but also good for a savvy little Baltimore tech company called Mindgrub. ViaPlace, a startup sister company of Mindgrub, designed the Hopkins iPhone app and specializes in building interactive mobile apps and websites. The company's done an app for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is currently working on an app for Loyola University Maryland.

The Mindgrub crew went to the digital interactive festival, South By Southwest, in Austin, Texas, earlier this month. Here's the video to prove it:

[via CityBizList]


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 12:40 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Social Media
        

March 30, 2011

Google Fiber going to Kansas City, Kansas -- not Baltimore

Breaking news: Google just announced that it will build an experimental next-generation, high-speed fiber optic network in Kansas City, Kansas. Kansas City beat out more than 1,100 other communities across the United States, including Baltimore and several Maryland municipalities.

Here's the official Google announcement.

Baltimore technology enthusiasts months ago rallied online -- in an effort dubbed BmoreFiber -- to persuade city officials to get behind the idea to submit a proposal to Google, using the effort as a rallying cry to call attention to the city's technology infrastructure. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other city and business stakeholders supported the effort and touted Baltimore's medical, technological and infrastructure capacities to Google. Mayor Rawlings-Blake named Tom Loveland, CEO of Mind Over Machines and an influential player within the state's tech community, as Baltimore's "Google Czar."

"With Google Fiber, Baltimore will change the world," the BmoreFiber.com website reads.

The Google Fiber plan calls for delivering 1 gigabit download streaming to connected homes -- roughly 100 times faster than current average download connections for most Internet users. Supporters of such ultra-high-speed bandwidth say that enabling that kind of connectivity will create and enable new business models and help generate advances in everything from telemedicine to entertainment.

Stay tuned. More to come on this ....

UPDATE:Not all hope is lost. Google cofounder Sergey Brin seemed to indicate in the video below that the Kansas City roll-out is only the beginning, implying that it may roll out Google Fiber to other communities. This leaves some wiggle room of hope for Baltimore in the future.

I sought comments from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Dave Troy, who helped organize the Bmore Fiber grassroots effort and is a volunteer on the city's new Broadband Task Force formed by the mayor:

From Mayor Rawlings-Blake's spokesman: This was probably the most competitive process among American cities in modern history and it was great for Baltimore to be a part of it. It started the discussion on what we can do to improve broadband access and reduce the digital divide in Baltimore. As a result of the Google process, the Mayor Rawlings-Blake created a broadband task force to identify opportunities to increase access to ultra high-speed internet. Mayor Rawlings-Blake named Tom Loveland, CEO of Mind Over Machines, and Donald Fry, Greater Baltimore Committee President and CEO, to lead the effort as co-chairs of the task force. The Mayor is also pleased that internet infrastructure companies and wireless broadband providers are continuing to expand and improve their networks in Baltimore.

From Dave Troy: From my perspective I think it was a fair competition with 1,100 players. We had no strong sense of what sort of municipality they might favor – word was that a city nearby to them might be the first choice, like Palo Alto – so the fact that they chose a city that resembles Baltimore bodes well for us going forward.

Sergey Brin is quoted as saying that they are "starting with Kansas City," so if they pursue other cities of similar sizes, I'd say Baltimore continues to fare very well on that list. So I am disappointed but still hopeful. And regardless, the process spawned an exploration of how we might go about doing this ourselves, and that is already well underway with the work that Tom [Loveland] and I are doing with the Broadband Task Force.


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 12:40 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Tablet ennui: Microsoft, Dell poo-poo iPad, tablets

homer-doh.gif

Two stories making the Internet rounds today reveal Microsoft's and Dell's approach to the tablet category, which appears to be a strategy of downplaying Apple's huge market lead and poo-pooing the tablet as a form factor.

As Homer Simpson would say: "D'oh!"

Dell's global head of marketing for large enterprises told CIO that the iPad would ultimately fail in the enterprise. Commenters on the site suggested that the Dell executive was "smoking" something or "DELLusional."

Meantime, Microsoft's global chief research and strategy executive mused that tablets might be a flash in the pan -- even as his company struggles to come up with an iPad competitor. He believes the smartphone will emerge as the primary mobile and portable computing device, according to this report in the Sydney Morning Herald. Really, Microsoft? How about those 700,000 downloads of the Citrix application for the iPad? That's the beginning of a wave of professionals accessing their PCs through a tablet application -- and it's happening on an iPad.

Personally, I think the tablet is here to stay. And Apple is locking in millions of customers into their ecosystem at a very fast rate.


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 11:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas
        

FTC charges Google with deceptive practices in Buzz rollout

Whoa. Here's some news: The Federal Trade Commission just released news that Google agreed to settle allegations that it engaged in deceptive practices with consumers when it launched its Buzz social network/microblog site last year. Google has agreed to implement a "comprehensive privacy program" for consumers.

There was buzz about Buzz when it first launched in the area of consumer privacy concerns. The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the FTC raising privacy concerns.

[Updated: An earlier version of this post erroneously reported the entity that filed the complaint with the FTC as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Mea culpa.]

Below is the FTC news release:


FTC Charges Deceptive Privacy Practices in Google's Rollout of Its Buzz Social Network
Google Agrees to Implement Comprehensive Privacy Program to Protect Consumer Data

Google Inc. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers when it launched its social network, Google Buzz, in 2010. The agency alleges the practices violate the FTC Act. The proposed settlement bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations, requires it to implement a comprehensive privacy program, and calls for regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. This is the first time an FTC settlement order has required a company to implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect the privacy of consumers’ information. In addition, this is the first time the FTC has alleged violations of the substantive privacy requirements of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, which provides a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data lawfully from the European Union to the United States.

“When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations."

According to the FTC complaint, Google launched its Buzz social network through its Gmail web-based email product. Although Google led Gmail users to believe that they could choose whether or not they wanted to join the network, the options for declining or leaving the social network were ineffective. For users who joined the Buzz network, the controls for limiting the sharing of their personal information were confusing and difficult to find, the agency alleged.

On the day Buzz was launched, Gmail users got a message announcing the new service and were given two options: “Sweet! Check out Buzz,” and “Nah, go to my inbox.” However, the FTC complaint alleged that some Gmail users who clicked on “Nah...” were nonetheless enrolled in certain features of the Google Buzz social network. For those Gmail users who clicked on “Sweet!,” the FTC alleges that they were not adequately informed that the identity of individuals they emailed most frequently would be made public by default. Google also offered a “Turn Off Buzz” option that did not fully remove the user from the social network.

In response to the Buzz launch, Google received thousands of complaints from consumers who were concerned about public disclosure of their email contacts which included, in some cases, ex-spouses, patients, students, employers, or competitors. According to the FTC complaint, Google made certain changes to the Buzz product in response to those complaints.

When Google launched Buzz, its privacy policy stated that “When you sign up for a particular service that requires registration, we ask you to provide personal information. If we use this information in a manner different than the purpose for which it was collected, then we will ask for your consent prior to such use.” The FTC complaint charges that Google violated its privacy policies by using information provided for Gmail for another purpose - social networking - without obtaining consumers’ permission in advance.

The agency also alleges that by offering options like “Nah, go to my inbox,” and “Turn Off Buzz,” Google misrepresented that consumers who clicked on these options would not be enrolled in Buzz. In fact, they were enrolled in certain features of Buzz.

The complaint further alleges that a screen that asked consumers enrolling in Buzz, “How do you want to appear to others?” indicated that consumers could exercise control over what personal information would be made public. The FTC charged that Google failed to disclose adequately that consumers’ frequent email contacts would become public by default.

Finally, the agency alleges that Google misrepresented that it was treating personal information from the European Union in accordance with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor privacy framework. The framework is a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the European Commission. To participate, a company must self-certify annually to the Department of Commerce that it complies with a defined set of privacy principles. The complaint alleges that Google’s assertion that it adhered to the Safe Harbor principles was false because the company failed to give consumers notice and choice before using their information for a purpose different from that for which it was collected.

The proposed settlement bars Google from misrepresenting the privacy or confidentiality of individuals’ information or misrepresenting compliance with the U.S.-E.U Safe Harbor or other privacy, security, or compliance programs. The settlement requires the company to obtain users’ consent before sharing their information with third parties if Google changes its products or services in a way that results in information sharing that is contrary to any privacy promises made when the user’s information was collected. The settlement further requires Google to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program, and it requires that for the next 20 years, the company have audits conducted by independent third parties every two years to assess its privacy and data protection practices.

Google’s data practices in connection with its launch of Google Buzz were the subject of a complaint filed with the FTC by the Electronic Privacy Information Center shortly after the service was launched.

The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and accept the consent agreement package containing the proposed consent order for public comment was 5-0. Commissioner Rosch concurs with accepting, subject to final approval, the consent order for the purpose of public comment. The reasons for his concurrence are described in a separate Statement.

The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through May 1, 2011, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section. Comments in electronic form should be submitted using the following web link: https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/googlebuzz
and following the instructions on the web-based form. Comments in paper form should be mailed or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex D), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form near the end of the public comment period be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the respondent has actually violated the law. A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the respondent that the law has been violated. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. “Like” the FTC on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter.


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 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

March 29, 2011

Maryland bioscience pros honored

The Greater Baltimore Committee named four professionals as winners of its 2011 Maryland Bioscience Awards.

From a news release today:

* Best New Product or Progress: Steven J. Kubisen, Ph.D., President and CEO
Seguro Surgical, Inc., Columbia. The core technology for Seguro Surgical’s first product was licensed from Johns Hopkins University in September, 2009. In less than one year, Seguro completed the commercial product development, established manufacturing capability, established sales coverage and launched the Lap Pak. The product is a one-piece, silicone “bowel packing” device for use in abdominal surgery, saving operating room time and reducing the risk of complications from the surgery.

* Leadership in Bioscience Award: Steve Dubin, Esq., CPA, CEO, Martek Bioscience Corp., Columbia. Dubin has been with Martek from its beginnings in 1986. The company employs 600 people and generates more than $450 million in annual revenue from its life’sDHA™ and other nutritional products. In February 2011 Martek was acquired by the global life sciences and materials sciences company DSM for $1.1 billion.

* Entrepreneurial Spirit Award: Gary Lessing, MBA, President and CEO, Corridor Pharmaceuticals, Lutherville. Lessing engineered the merger between the company he co-founded, Arginetix, and Immune Control to form Corridor Pharmaceuticals in 2010. Corridor, which seeks to develop inhibitors to an enzyme for pulmonary hypertension and other conditions, has secured more than $27 million in funding, launched a Phase I human clinical trial for its product, and completed technology licenses with Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania.

* President’s Award: Carolane Williams, Ph.D., President, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC), Baltimore. The President’s Award this year recognizes the importance of workforce training in the bioscience industry. Through a unique partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore Bio Park, BCCC is addressing the need for a pipeline of highly-skilled workers for the growing bioscience industry. The partnership also helps bridge the divide between workforce shortages and unemployed and under-employed adults in Baltimore. Using a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, BCCC has developed the BioScience Connections scholarship program to help students pay for college.


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 12:09 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

March 24, 2011

List of tablet computers: the iPad's competition

The folks at Webbmedia Group (based in Baltimore!) did all the hard work so you don't have to -- they compiled a list of 30-plus tablet computers, including specifications and features, that are on the market, or soon to hit.

The usual suspects are on there, such as the Apple iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the upcoming RIM/BlackBerry Playbook. But did you also know about the Kno, the Vizio and the LG Optimus?

If you're closely watching the tablet market and are looking for something other than an iPad -- which pretty much IS the tablet market right now -- take a gander below. Thanks for putting this together, Webbmedia.


Tablet Matrix Q2 2011 by Webbmedia Group


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 11:10 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets
        

March 23, 2011

Loophole? Maryland not tracking formation of "benefit corporations"

I'm working on a story at the moment that references "benefit corporations," which are these hybrid non-profit/for-profit entities that allow a business to make profits but also funnel resources into social welfare, environmental or humanitarian causes.

Maryland, with a fair amount of fanfare, was the first state in the country to enact a law that enabled these benefit corporations last year, and a handful of states are now following suit. (The Sun covered the law when it took effect -- here are details on it.)

From the Sun story: Under Maryland law, a so-called benefit corp. pays taxes and has shareholders but is shielded from shareholder lawsuits if the company chooses to channel some profits to benefit employees, the community or the environment.

So here's the loophole: the Maryland State Department of Assessment and Taxation is not tracking how many of these benefit corporations are being formed -- because such a registry was not written into the state law, according to acting deputy director Robert E. Young.

"There's no way to track this," Young told me.

Young told me that "less than 50" benefit corporations have been created in Maryland since October, when the law took effect after being passed in April. But that number is anecdotal from the clerks who handle the corporate filing paperwork.

So, say, five years from now, if anybody in the state wants to look back and evaluate whether the benefit corporation law has been effective, how many benefit corps have been formed, and their impact on state tax revenues .... well, this can't be done because they can't be tracked.

Um, is this a problem? What do you think?

(Note: An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly referred to benefit corporations as "b corporations," which is a term that does not apply in this particular case.)


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 11:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

March 22, 2011

Hackers target celebrities' nudie pics in email, mobile phones

scarlett-johansson.JPG
Apparently, a lot of celebrities like to take nudie pics of themselves -- 'cuz hackers have stolen pics from dozens of them, various media are reporting.

I read about it on Fox News, but of course, this hot (ahem) news tip comes from TMZ.

Apparently I've been living in a cave and didn't know that a big bunch of celebrity women have had their emails and mobile devices hacked, and nudie pics of themselves stolen. Some of the pics have appeared on a French blog, whose blogger has since gone underground. Defamer says the hacker goes by the online name: "Gook."

Anywhere from 50 to 100 celebrities may have been hacked. Fox News says the celebrities, all female, include Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Hudgens, Scarlett Johansson, Ali Larter, Busy Philipps, Miley Cyrus, Emma Caulfield, Addison Timlin and Renee Olstead,

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2011/03/18/jessica-alba-christina-aguilera-added-hacked-nude-pic-probe/#ixzz1HLyM7xle


The FBI is on the case. This sounds really interesting from a technical perspective, especially if some interesting hacks were deployed on mobile devices to get access to these photos. And did the hacker(s) sell the pics for cash? Or were they using them for potential blackmail purposes

It also makes me wonder about the phenomenon of taking nudie pics of yourself and storing them on your phone or email. How common is this? Or is this an epidemic in Hollywood only?

I'm gonna bet there are a lot of "freaks" out there who do. My guess is that people end up with nudie pics of themselves on their phones and in their emails from engaging in "sexting" with another person. Right?

What's the real deal, folks?



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 1:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Amazon to Apple: You say "App Store", we say "Appstore"

Apple has laid claim to the term "App Store" with a trademark filing -- and it's using its sharp elbows to try to prevent Amazon from calling their own version by the same name.

By "sharp elbows," I mean that Apple is suing Amazon.

Amazon's version, technically, is called "Appstore" -- one word -- whereas Apple's version is two words. But that may not be enough to protect Amazon. Then again, Apple has not yet been awarded the trademark and it's unclear if App store is worthy of trademark protection.

There may have been other "app stores" floating around the marketplace prior to Apple's introduction of it in connection with its iPhone and iPod Touch products. But it's hard to argue that Apple didn't popularize the term and now for many, it means it's a store that sells apps for computing devices.

Amazon's "Appstore" is viewed as an iTunes competitor. It's a store for applications for the Google Android mobile operating system, which is used on many phones and, increasingly, tablet computers. Amazon hopes to offer a streamlined and user-friendly experience for browsing, reviewing, downloading and paying for apps on Android devices.

If anyone could build a successful Android app store, it's definitely Amazon. They've already got millions of people using the site, with pre-loaded credit card information. And their site has good customer review tools, which is important for discovering and assessing these mobile apps.

Apple is right to use every advantage it can to beat back the competition. But I have a feeling they might lose the "app store" argument against Amazon.


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 10:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

March 21, 2011

The "iPad toddlers"

I just read a post on 9to5Mac.com that I wholeheartedly nodded my head in agreement with: it was about the so-called "iPad toddlers," or what I like to call, the "touchscreen generation."

The iPad is not only a popular device for adults. It's also become a computing device that toddlers are gleefully interacting with -- because it's so darn easy to use.

My daughter is 2 years and five months old, and she's been interacting with an iPhone since she was 6-8 months old. The iPad she's taken to with a delightful fury. She doesn't really care to watch TV, but she knows how to open and close apps and find Dora the Explorer on Netflix on the iPad.

The iPad as near-perfect toddler computing device became evident to me recently. I sold my first-generation iPad a few weeks ago and we haven't had one in the house since. I've ordered an iPad 2, but it's probably weeks away from delivery.

In the meantime, I've introduced my daughter to the household laptop. She's learned to play a few games on it, but that's it. Navigating the file system is far more difficult for her, and she keeps touching the screen in an effort to interact with it. She has more difficulty using the trackpad on the laptop to move the mouse on the screen and select stuff. Sure, she'll eventually grasp it as she gets older. But there's no way my daughter would have been interacting with a laptop at 20 months, the way she did when we put the iPad in her hands.

The traditional computer or laptop requires better hand-eye motor skills that a two year old doesn't quite possess. But the iPad offers a more direct touch experience.

My daughter has even tried to touch the screen on our HD television to select video options on Netflix, for instance. She's growing up with a touch screen mentality, with an expectation that she interacts with a screen, and not just passively consumes information from it.

So, parents, what's been your experience with touchscreen devices and your young kids?


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 11:09 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Big Ideas, Gadgets
        

This week in Baltimore tech events

Baltimore's Startup Digest arrived in my inbox this morning with a bunch of cool events happening this week in Charm City. If you're interested in what's happening in Baltimore's tech scene, sign up for this weekly (monday morning) newsletter at StartupDigest.com -- just submit your email and then select Baltimore.


startup-digest.jpg

The two that caught my eye this week:

* The Baltimore WordPress Group
When: Monday, March 21st from 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Where: Beehive Baltimore - Conference Room - 2400 Boston Street, #308 - Baltimore, MD 21224

Roni Noone on Blogging, Community & Lessons Learned: Roni Noone shared her personal quest to be healthy on her blog and in doing so, fostered a huge community of 4,000+ like minded people. Now, she's now a professional blogger with highly trafficked sites, her own cookbook and a national annual conference for Fitness bloggers.

Roni solved a lot of problems during her journey, from working with advertisers, fending off content scrappers and developing processes for podcasting and social media. She's also a WordPress user, an educator and has a lot to offer.

AND:

* Entrepreneurs Unplugged with Paul Palmieri
When: Friday, March 25th from 11:00am to 1:00pm
Where: Venue in Baltimore

For our next event, we're proud to announce our guest will be Paul Palmieri, President & Chief Executive Officer of Millennial Media!

One entrepreneur, one moderator, 50 attendees and nothing is off limits. Entrepreneurs Unplugged is a new speaker series brought to you by the GBTC. The Entrepreneurs are Regional Rockstars - entrepreneurs & leaders who have made a significant impact on their industries and/or achieved dramatic success. The moderators are the movers and shakers of the Baltimore business community who are not afraid to ask the tough questions.

This series will address the good, the bad and the ugly of entrepreneurism. The highs, the lows, the successes and the challenges, all will be addressed through questions from the moderator and audience. Get an insiders view on the biggest success stories of our region.


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 10:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)
        

March 17, 2011

Groupon could be worth $25 billion -- or yours for $10 if you and 100 others buy before the end of the day

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

People are hyperventilating that Groupon could be worth $25 billion in a possible IPO.

Me? Personally, I don't get the hype. Groupon is in a business with a low entry barrier with tons of competitors nipping at their heels. Plus, I'm not so sure they can keep the momentum rolling. I've read stories of retailers and restaurateurs having trouble with the Groupon effect -- where they sell tons of coupons but make almost no money and in some cases actually lose money.

Plus, Groupon and similar couponing companies are partly dependent on a fair share of consumers actually NOT cashing in their coupons at establishments. This means that the more coupons you buy and don't use, the better off these companies and retailers are, because they pocket your money without giving you the product or service. If all of a sudden everybody starts redeeming their coupons, well, the business model gets upended.

Moral of the story: if you buy a Groupon or a Living Social whatever or a Chewpon, use it. Or you just handed over cash money for nothing. But you don't need me minding your Ps and Qs, right? Right.

So, what do you think Baltimore businesses, of the Groupon effect? Has it been good for businesses in Baltimore who've used it, or not?


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 6:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

New York Times metered paywall: $100 million a year?

The Business Insider posted a short article today on how a former Wall Street Journal publisher estimates that the NYT stands to make $100 million on its metered paywall from subscribers (in addition to the $150 million it rakes in from digital ads.)

So, where does that $100 million come from? Not sure. But I have a guess. I believe Gordon Crovitz, the former WSJ publisher, is looking at the New York Times experience with the "Times Select" offering, which charged $50 a year several years ago for columnist and other specialized content.

Times Select drew 227,000 subscribers. Now, to reach Gordon Crovitz's rosy $100 million expectation, the new NYT metered paywall, on average, would have to enroll 238,000 paid subscribers in the "all digital access" plan, at $35 a month -- or $420 $455 a year (a Times spokeswoman called me to say their billing schedule of once every four weeks works out to be higher.)

But wait, there's a big difference between $420 $455 a year and $50 a year. Not many people have the deep pockets for a $420 $455 a year digital subscription to anything. So let's take the low end of the NYT's pricing scheme.

The cheapest rate for access to Nytimes.com and its various smartphone apps is $15 a month. Or $195 a year.

But again, Times Select charged $50 a year, whereas the entry level digital subscription charges $195 times a year. To make $100 million in revenue just off the barebones digital subscription, the NYT would have to get 555,555 people to pony up $195 a year.

Again, Times Select drew in $10 million a year in revenue with 227,000 subscribers.

Sorry, Crovitz, I don't see these numbers working out in the New York Times favor. My bet is if the NYTimes even makes $50 million on this paywall approach, it will be darn tootin' lucky.


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 12:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

New York Times Metered Paywall: It's real and it's spectacular

NYT-building.jpg


The New York Times, arguably the last great hope for quality "traditional" journalism in a Web/blog/Twitter/Facebook world, took the covers off its "metered" paywall strategy today.

It's real and it's spectacular. No really. I kinda like it. Do I think it'll work? I wouldn't bet on it. But it's probably the best attempt at just doing something by a mainstream, big-time general circulation newspaper (i.e. not the Wall Street Journal and its pay model.)

Their strategy takes effect in Canada today (those Canadians are the NYT's guinea pigs. Ha!), and will come to the U.S. on March 28.

From the NYTimes' description of the new way of consuming its news online:

On NYTimes.com, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.

• On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to all other sections within the apps, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.

• The Times is offering three digital subscription packages that allow you to choose from a variety of devices (computer, smartphone, tablet). More information about these plans is available at www.nytimes.com/access.

• Again, all New York Times home delivery subscribers will receive free access to NYTimes.com and to all content on our apps. If you are a home delivery subscriber, go to http://homedelivery.nytimes.com to sign up for free access.

• Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

• The home page at NYTimes.com and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all users at all times.

For more information, go to www.nytimes.com/digitalfaq.

Clearly, this is a strategy that lets casual users still partake in Times content. The Times doesn't value those users as much, of course. But if you're checking out Times content more than 20 times a month, that means you're likely a believer in their product and wouldn't mind ponying up some cash to keep it coming. Or would you?

Here's how much cash we're talking about -- from the FAQ:

All digital subscription options will be available globally on March 28, 2011

An NYTimes digital subscription provides ongoing access to our digital content. We offer three options, each of which provides unlimited access to the Web site. The differences between the options are based on which smartphone and/or tablet apps are included. The options and pricing are as follows:

NYTimes.com Plus Smartphone App:* $3.75 per week (billed every 4 weeks at $15.00)

* Unlimited access to NYTimes.com from any device
* Unlimited access to the NYTimes app for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android-powered phones

NYTimes.com Plus Tablet App:* $5.00 per week (billed every 4 weeks at $20.00)

* Unlimited access to NYTimes.com from any device
* Unlimited access to the NYTimes app for iPad, plus Times Reader 2.0 and the NYTimes App for the Chrome Web Store

All Digital Access:* $8.75 per week (billed every 4 weeks at $35.00)

* Unlimited access to NYTimes.com, plus smartphone apps and tablet apps
* Unlimited access to NYTimes.com from any device
* Unlimited access to the NYTimes app for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android-powered phones
* Unlimited access to the NYTimes app for iPad, plus Times Reader 2.0 and the NYTimes app for the Chrome Web Store


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 11:36 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: *NEWS*, Media
        

March 16, 2011

Baltimore parking tickets no more!

I love the smell of irony in the morning.

As part of its Open Data initiative, Baltimore city releases a trove of public data, including parking citation, speed camera and red light ticket data. And the first app to go public by developers is one that helps citizens dodge those very same tickets.

I'm talking about SpotAgent.com. Yesterday, I wrote about this site and its creators, two Baltimore geeks named Shea Frederick (left) and James Schaffer (right).


spotagent.jpg

Frederick and Schaffer meet each other a couple months ago through mutual acquaintances. Both were intrigued by the parking data that the city had released for different reasons. Frederick, who says he's never gotten a parking ticket in Baltimore, saw it as a rich data set for mining cool information, while Schaffer was just tired of getting parking tickets and wanted to figure out a way to beat the meter maids.

So they paired up to create SpotAgent.com, and they are building mobile apps, too. They're using data from the Baltimore's Open Data project.

Frederick and Schaffer caution that the app isn't perfect and can't predict whether you'll get a ticket or not, but it can offer you a sense of what's happened in the past on the block where you choose to park. Take that information for what it's worth.

Anybody else building cool apps with Baltimore city data?

By the way, Shea shared some interesting statistics from the parking citation data he's been crunching. For 2011, Shea found:

- The bulk of citations are given to MD residents, with PA and VA rounding out the top three.

- 17% of citations are given to repeat offenders.

- The most ticketed vehicle in 2011 already has 6 citations, totaling $1512 in fines.

- Speed cameras citations generate twice as many fines as expired parking meter citations.

- Ford vehicles are given 35% less citations than luxury car makers like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes.


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 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Startups
        

March 14, 2011

Watch the Royal Wedding at work without getting busted

Oculis Labs, a Baltimore-area startup, came up with a quirky -- and fun -- way to show consumers how to use their main product. The software is called Private Eye and it uses your computer's web cam to "catch" when others are looking at your screen.

So, for instance, if you want to watch the upcoming Royal Wedding at work, you can do so with assurance that your co-worker or boss won't be able to sneak up on you.

For more coverage of Oculis Labs on BaltTech, hit this link.

Update: Apparently the people at Oculis Labs have been busy making online commercials. Here's another one:

Update No. 2: Oh, but wait...There are two more Private Eye commercials!





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 2:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Startups
        

Real or fake? iPhone hacker takes over screens in Times Square

This is cool -- if it's real.

An unidentified man walks us through how he supposedly hijacks video screens around Times Square in New York City using an iPhone hack. It's pretty fascinating -- but is it a hoax?



[Spotted on Momentum blog, via Techmeme.]


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 2:30 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Geeks
        

Buy back programs: Buy. Sell. Repeat.

This past weekend, I took a look at the proliferation of "buy back" programs in the consumer electronics retailing industry with this piece, which appeared in the Sunday paper. Best Buy is the latest retailer to come out with a program. Walmart, Target, Radio Shack and various wireless carriers have their own, too.

Personally, I find myself taking care of my gadgets better knowing that there's a market for them. It also gives me some buying comfort knowing that there's a multitude of ways to sell "old" gadgets to help fund the purchase of new ones. What are your thoughts on this trend? Which buy back programs do you think are the best right now?

best-buy-back.jpg
Best Buy employee Rustam Ibragimov, left, explains the company's buy back program to customer Robin Wilson, from right, and husband Roger, of Frostburg who are buying a laptop computer. The couple purchased the buy back program and an one-year repair service warranty on the computer. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam / March 10, 2011)


Go-go gadget buy back
Retailers want to sell you gadgets, buy them back later, and then sell them again

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

You know that shiny smart phone you bought six months ago? There's an even better one hitting the market right about now. Or how about that flat-panel TV you bought last year. Now they come in 3-D.

With the ever-quickening pace of technological advances, you can be left in the digital dust.

Retailers now have a solution for consumers — and for themselves. They will buy back your old gadget in hopes that you turn around and buy the next best gadget on their shelves.

Under these "buyback" programs, big-box retailers and online merchants give cash or credit for a piece of used electronics. Best Buy, the world's largest consumer electronics retailer, launched its program earlier this year.

"Technology is changing so fast that the consumer a lot of times feels they're being left behind, so they'll postpone buying," said Cynthia Jasper, an expert in buying behavior and chair of the consumer science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "So it's a way to make the consumer feel at ease."

For retailers, buyback programs are another way to lure customers into stores to spend on pricey gadgets such as smart phones, laptops, tablet computers and televisions. Retailers also see buyback programs as an alternative revenue stream because they can sell used products through online outlet sites.

One California start-up has put its own twist on the concept. Its vending machine model, called the "ecoATM," is an automated kiosk that accepts used gadgets and pays the consumer in cash or gift cards. The company behind the Redbox movie rental kiosks, Coinstar, has invested in ecoATM, which has already deployed some of the machines in California.

Retail industry experts say the consumer electronics market is evolving the way markets in used cars or used textbooks did. And if consumers believe their gadgets will retain some value, they might be more willing to upgrade sooner rather than risk the device becoming outdated and worthless, industry experts said.

For years, early adopters of gadgets have used eBay and other online outlets to eventually sell them and use the cash to defray the cost of the latest models. With the new buyback programs, that kind of electronics consumerism could become the norm.

Many consumers already trade in — and up — their cell phones, as those who lock into contracts are often given credit to upgrade to newer models. Sprint, AT&T and Verizon have introduced their own buyback programs, some of which aim to lure customers from other carriers.

"The electronics business is built on people upgrading their products," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group, a technology research firm. "Anything to increase the turnover is a benefit to the industry."

Consumer electronics retailers typically have thin profit margins, but some are finding a lucrative market in buying and reselling lightly used gadgets.

Dale S. Rogers, a logistics and supply chain expert and professor at Rutgers University, estimates that the secondary market for consumer electronics is worth about $13 billion in annual sales — or about 10 percent of the total consumer electronics market in the United States.

Rogers said that brick-and-mortar retailers increasingly feel threatened by online commerce and are strategizing ways to keep consumers coming through the doors. Best Buy's program, for one, requires customers to come into the store to sell back products.

"The brick-and-mortar, big-box retail store is experiencing some difficulty these days," said Rogers. "It's real easy to buy online, so these buyback programs are really a great way to get you into the store."

Under Best Buy's program, the consumer who buys a gadget pays an upfront fee, which varies on the type of product, to participate and is guaranteed a resale price of 10 percent to 50 percent of the item's original price. Most gadgets, except for televisions, have to be sold back within two years to qualify for a resale. Televisions have a four-year window for re-sale.

Best Buy then resells the products through its outlet center, through other online channels, or recycles them.

Robin Wilson of Frostburg, who purchased a buyback plan from the Best Buy store in Timonium when she purchased a new laptop recently, said it was the first time she had ever considered selling back a gadget. She liked knowing she would get at least some money back. She and her husband bought a used Apple MacBook Pro for $975 and a 1-year warranty for $139. Buying the warranty allowed them to get a discount on the usual "buyback" rate of $69.99 for laptops, for $25, she said.

With the buyback plan she purchased, Wilson is guaranteed to get back anywhere from $195 to $487.50 in Best Buy store credit, depending on when she trades in the laptop over the next two years.

"You usually can't do anything with [computers] because they're not worth anything after a couple years," Wilson said. "This seemed like a pretty good deal."

Some consumer advocates are critical of Best Buy's program, saying consumers have other options for selling their used electronics without paying an upfront fee.

Best Buy officials say that with the fee, consumers are guaranteed a minimum return. The company also promotes the convenience of in-store resales as a key benefit.

"Let us take care of it for you," said George Creighton, operations manager at the Best Buy store in Glen Burnie.

TechForward, a start-up company in California, has been offering this "guaranteed buyback" model for several years, partnering with clients such as Radio Shack and CompUSA, which offer the option to consumers. The terms of TechForward's program are similar to Best Buy's.

It had partnered with Best Buy to develop the retailer's own program, a federal lawsuit filed last month in California alleges. TechForward contends that Best Buy stole its trade secrets and launched its own program — with a major commercial on Super Bowl Sunday this year — and ultimately cut out the small company.

Best Buy representatives declined to discuss the lawsuit.

As part of the lawsuit, TechForward revealed that one of the ways it makes money is by closely tracking the rate of return for different gadgets. The company can turn a profit from those who never take advantage of the buyback plan.

Gazelle.com, a Boston-based company founded in 2006, gives consumers the going market price for a gadget, whether it's a smart phone or an Apple iPad.

It has also developed its own technologies for quickly assessing the worldwide market for electronics. Gazelle users can get an online price quote for their equipment, ship the product for free to the company and get paid within two weeks.

Some of Gazelle's retail partners include Walmart, Costco and Kmart. Consumers can trade in electronics through these retailers' websites and get store credit, or they can opt for cash back.

Kristina Kennedy, a Gazelle spokeswoman, said the company calls the nascent industry "recommerce." The March 2 announcement of the Apple iPad 2 led to a watershed moment for the online service. Owners of the original iPad flocked to the website and sold 2,400 units on the day that Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the second version.

"That became the biggest day of business for us in the company's history," Kennedy said.

"What's really spurred our business is the pace of innovation," Kennedy said. "The last couple years have seen some very exciting products to come out in consumer electronics."

Baltimorean Dawn Ward has sold two smart phones, including an iPhone 3G in October for $80, through Gazelle.com. She's excited about all the options she now has to sell her gadgets.

"For the consumer, it's awesome," Ward said.


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 (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Smartphones
        

March 11, 2011

Men's Health basically says Baltimore is mediocre social networking backwater

number-58.pngWe're No. 58!

Men's Health magazine concocted its own ranking methodology for scoring the most socially networked cities and towns -- and Baltimore didn't do so hot. (Thanks to CityBizList for flagging this list.)

Our neighbor to the South, Washington DC, came in at #1.(Maybe that'll make up for the Redskins. Zing!)

But Baltimore came in at #58. Wassupwitdat?

Here are the top ten cities:

Most socially networked

1 Washington, DC A+

2 Atlanta, GA A+

3 Denver, CO A+

4 Minneapolis, MN A+

5 Seattle, WA A+

6 San Francisco, CA A

7 Orlando, FL A

8 Austin, TX A

9 Boston, MA A

10 Salt Lake City, UT A-

And here are the bottom ten (out of 100 total):

Least socially networked

91 Billings, MT D-

92 Fort Wayne, IN D-

93 Bridgeport, CT D-

94 Detroit, MI D-

95 Fresno, CA F

96 Bakersfield, CA F

97 Lubbock, TX F

98 Stockton, CA F

99 Laredo, TX F

100 El Paso, TX F

Personally, I think these lists are dumb link bait. I can't remember the last time I took one all that seriously. Please forgive me for writing this post. Carry on with your day.


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 10:54 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Whew: Baltimore's Advertising.com dodges AOL layoff bullet

matrix-bullet-dodge.jpgAOL this week laid off around 900 people but the cuts landed mostly on its editorial side of the business (AOL has tons of blogs), with writers and editors getting laid off as well as about 400 who work in India.

The layoffs came about a month after AOL agreed to buy the Huffington Post for $315 million. Now it seems to be revamping its editorial strategy with Arianna Huffington taking the lead on that front. (We'll see how Patch, AOL hyperlocal journalism venture fares in the HuffPost merger.)

The good news is that the bullet this time around didn't hit Advertising.com in Baltimore. Little more than a year ago, Advertising.com, one of the largest ad networks on the Web, went through a tough round of cuts, where actually more people left (around 50) through voluntary buyouts than the company had intended to lose.

Nowadays, Advertising.com is actually hiring, according to a tweet I received yesterday from the company.Here's a list of AOL/Advertising.com job openings in Baltimore.


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 10:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

March 10, 2011

iPad 2 review roundup -- so where's mine?

Yours truly isn't on Apple's short list of journalists to get an early review model of the iPad 2, though I don't know why. Instead, we get to read the same stuff from the usual suspects of reviewers who end up holding some sway over those who rush out to buy this device when it first appears (which is tomorrow, March 11).

No knock on Engadget, or Walt Mossberg or David Pogue -- their reviews are informative and well-crafted.

Personally, I'm a fan of John Gruber (Daring Fireball blog) and his thoughtful review of the iPad 2. Gruber really grapples with the issues of hardware, software, industrial design and how we humans interact with devices. And he seems to have some good sources within the Apple fortress who inform his discussion of their products.

Anyhow, maybe I'm cranky today--blame it on the rain. But Apple should do more to get the iPad in the hands of more tech journalists, and not just the usual folks.


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 11:12 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets
        

March 9, 2011

Seeking recent users of "buy back" programs for gadgets

Hey gadget lovers: have you recently sold back a digital gadget (cellphone, tablet computer, laptop, iPod?) to an online "buy back" program? Did you purchase the new buy back program from Best Buy when you bought a gadget from them recently?

I'm researching a story about consumers using buy back programs and web sites to get money back for their used devices. I'm looking for Maryland consumers who've sold back their devices this way (or on eBay/Amazon) for some differing perspectives on the practice. Why do you do it? Is this part of your normal routine as a consumer? Are you an early adopter?

If you wish to share your thoughts on this, email me directly at gus.sentementes@baltsun.com and we can chat. You can also leave your commentary below! Many thanks.


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 10:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gadgets, Smartphones, Wireless
        

March 8, 2011

Baltimore becoming a "Startup City"

startupcitylogo


Many places, such as Baltimore, have the elements of a successful startup scene in place, but they may be missing a spark that create a chain reaction of invention, investment, financial success, and cyclical growth. Programs that jumpstart technology entrepreneurs with small infusions of cash and lots of mentoring have been sprouting up in places around the country the last few years.

Now, Baltimore is getting a program of its own.

Leading the development of the Startup City are two Baltimore tech scene raconteurs: Mike Subelsky, co-founder of Ignite Baltimore, and Monica Beeman, regional director of FundingUniverse Maryland.

So what's Baltimore's Startup City plan about? There's a background and details document here. In its own words:

Startup City will help create those initial successes via a twelve-week program for ten companies that offers each company:

* $15,000 in seed capital
* Weekly master classes with experienced entrepreneurs
* Regular access to mentors
* Introductions to potential customers and follow-on investors
* Free, beautiful office space collocated with the other participating companies
* Legal, accounting, marketing, and technical assistance from Baltimore’s Emerging Technology Center
* Vigorous coverage of their stories in our blog via video and written profiles
* Exposure to investors, journalists, and business leaders at a Demo Day occurring at the end of the 12 weeks

The founders of each company are required to reside in Baltimore between 7/1/11 and 9/30/11. After that they are free to go where they want, but we hope they will have such a good experience that they will decide to stay in the city.

Each Startup City investor will contribute $16K to the fund in exchange for equity in the portfolio (about 5-10% of each company). 15K of the funds go to the companies and 1K is used for administrative costs such as leasing office space.

Investors are invited to attend all Startup City master classes and events, and we'd like to be able to call upon them for advice if any particular company in the portfolio gets stuck on something.

Budget permitting, we plan to arrange a second demo day in New York City to give the Startup City companies exposure to their robust investment community and startup sector.


Want to read more about Startup City? Bmore Media has an article, too.


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

bwtech@UMBC attracts two cyber security companies

Two cyber security companies are opening up offices in the bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park, becoming the 13th and 14th such companies to locate in the center as the University of Maryland Baltimore County beefs up its information technology and cyber security presence in the region.

Telcordia, based in New Jersey, has offices all over the world and will open an office at the park where it will focus on developing tools for protecting vital communications networks. The company works with Department of Defense agencies at Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The second company, Ross Technologies, was originally based in Howard County, but is moving its headquarters to bwtech. The company works with businesses and government agencies to secure computer systems.

As you may know, Maryland is engaged in a big-time push (from the governor on down) to promote the state as a center for cyber security. Is this a good time for small cyber security companies in 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 10:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Government Tech
        

March 4, 2011

Taking the Chevy Volt for a (speedy) drive

chevy-volt


(Photo taken in Baltimore's Druid Hill Park.)


I normally write about digital gadgets, like smart phones and tablet computers. But the electric car may very well be the ultimate digital gadget – one that melds transportation, communication, navigation, entertainment and energy efficiency in a four-wheel package.

I glimpsed a bit of that future recently with the new Chevy Volt -- a plug-in electric car with a backup gasoline engine that is so networked, you can use a smart phone app to lock and unlock its doors and check on its charge level. [I write a story for this weekend about the future -- and history -- of electric cars. Did you know Baltimore had electric cars 100 years ago?]

To turn on the car, you push a little blue rectangle button to the right of the steering wheel. You just need to have the car's key fob with you. It's an electric-car cliche, I know, but the car was eerily quiet when started. Barely even a detectible shudder in the car's frame. Then the car's electronic dashboard and LCD touch screen came to life. At first, it was disorienting. There is a lot going on with these displays. But Monica Murphy, a GM new technology guru, patiently walked me through the various indicators.

The battery life indicator is on the dashboard's left. There's another indicator with a little green ball that helps you gauge the energy efficiency of your driving – the goal is to keep the ball hovering in the middle of the vertical gauge. The LCD touch screen is the core interface for interacting with the car, including the GPS function.

As someone who drives a decidedly analog 2002 Subaru, I was initially overwhelmed by the digital dashboard and electronic console of the Volt. But I quickly grew accustomed to the main indicators I needed to watch.

After I left the parking lot at The Baltimore Sun, I entered the Jones Falls Expressway at Monument Street and started to accelerate. I had it up to 55 mph within seconds. Then Monica encouraged me to switch the mode from "normal" to "sport" driving. That draws more juice from the battery and cuts into the car’s range, but it also makes the car twice as fun to drive. I won't say how fast I got it going – I plead the Fifth – before I spied a police officer and slowed down.

Monica and I drove up to Timonium on I-83, circled back and shot over to Druid Hill Park. At this point, the battery had gone from about an 80 percent charge to almost zero, and as we headed back to the Sun building, the gasoline engine kicked in. We probably drove a total of around 25 miles roundtrip, with many of those highway miles at, um, high speed and on the "sport" setting.

For the driver obsessive about tracking a car's fuel economy, the Volt is a dream come true. The dashboard and LCD touch screen display almost exactly how much energy is flowing into the car's propulsion system, with second-by-second calculations on how much battery life is left. For details on the car's slightly complicated electric/gas mileage, check out this official GM site. A key metric to consider is that the Volt's total range is 379 miles when it's fully charged and gassed up: 344 of gas range plus 35 miles electric range. (The gas motor doesn't technically propel the car; instead, it provides energy for the electric motor.)

So can the Volt satisfy every car buyer? Not quite.

First, the car's price ranges from $40,000 to $44,000, pushing it into luxury car territory, though you can get a $7,500 federal tax credit on the purchase. And Marylanders can realize another $2,000 electric vehicle tax credit. (The all-electric Nissan Leaf is selling for around $32,000 before the tax credits, and promises a 100-mile-range on an electric charge.)

Second, for city slickers the Volt – and other similar plug-in cars – may still be a challenge to keep charged. In many neighborhoods in Baltimore, street parking is the only parking available. Where would people plug in their cars? The electric charging infrastructure hasn’t been built out yet – and probably won’t be for a few more years. (The Volt can be fully charged for around $1.50 a day, or less if you have access to more favorable off-peak electricity rates late at night.)

Of course, the Volt is not the only option out there for electric-curious drivers. The Nissan Leaf and coming Ford Focus Electric join hybrids like the Toyota Prius that have been on the road for years. Comparisons of different specs are endless and sure to make the car-buying experience even more complicated. Websites such as cars.com and edmunds.com have side-by-side comparisons that might help.

Take a poll -- Which type of vehicle would you prefer?

And, here's a video of the Nissan Leaf:

 


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:46 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, For The Road
        

March 3, 2011

Greplin: personalizing search for your online world

greplin-screenshot.gif




An Israeli teenager, Daniel Gross, is behind one of the more interesting entrants in the search engine field in recent times. He and co-founder Robby Walker launched Greplin last month in California's Bay Area, and have quickly raised around $5 million in investment capital.

The site allows you to plug in your various social networks -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn -- and Google's Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, plus your info from DropBox and Yammer. Greplin indexes all the information in your various networks and makes them all searchable. You can search for people, or events, or streams, or files. (It would be great if it connected with Yahoo and Flickr, too.)

With all of us now storing more information in the cloud -- from interactions with friends and coworkers to photos, events and documents -- it makes you wonder why a search service that helps you find needles in your social haystacks didn't come along sooner.

Greplin's startup story has been written up in:

* Inc.

* Geek.com

* Wall Street Journal

* Huffington Post


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 12:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Startups
        

TechCocktail Baltimore is tonight

techcocktailbaltimore.png


FYI: Baltimore techies and entrepreneurs,

Tonight is Baltimore's first ever Tech Cocktail, a mixer for techies and entrepreneurs. It's taking place at the 930 Red Maple -- event details and ticket reservations are here.

If any BaltTech readers go, can you take some pics and forward to me at gus.sentementes@baltsun.com? I'll post the best ones on my blog. Pics of debauchery accepted -- but I can't guarantee their publication. :-)

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend because of a previously scheduled engagement, which involves a "date night" with my wife, a delightful dinner for two, and an expensive baby sitter for my kid. Booyah!!


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 11:41 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)
        

March 2, 2011

New iPad 2 -- "all new design" announced, plus iOS 4.3 update

 


1:35 pm: New release of iOS, 4.3, featuring: improved Safari web browser, iTunes home-sharing, AirPlay improvements (for streaming multimedia to AirPlay enabled devices, i.e. Apple TV, Apple Airport Express, etc.), and streaming audio/video from both apps and websites. So you're iPad can broadcast to these other devices. Also: personal hotspot paired with iPhone 4 (only) -- which is cool for iPhone 4 users who want to share their 3G service with their iPad. But Verizon won't be getting an immediate 4.3 update on March 11. Not sure what's happening there.

1:25 pm: New chip, new graphics, faster speed. First dual core tablet to ship. 9x faster than the first iPad. Front and rear camera with video. Gyroscope and compass. 1/3 thinner than size of first iPad. Thinner than the iPhone 4, which is (I think) the thinnest smartphone on the market. 1.3 pounds (about .2 lbs lighter than iPad 1). White and black versions. AT&T and Verizon enabled. Same 10 hour battery life. (The battery life on the iPad is a very positive quality, IMHO.) Same prices and memory choices, $499 for 16GB WiFi, pricier for 3G versions. Shipping on March 11.

1:00 PM: Steve Jobs appears! He defies the doomsayers and shows up despite his battle with (reportedly) cancer.

12:45 pm: Stay tuned for an announcement from Apple today at 1 p.m. The rumored iPad 2 is expected to be unveiled. Maybe we'll see some other new features, such as more cloud storage services and a new iOS software upgrade?

If anyone finds a live video feed of the announcement, please drop a comment below and I'll embed it in this post.

There is a list of websites live-blogging the Apple announcement today over here. I won't be meticulously live-blogging, but I will post some highlights.


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 12:44 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Tweet report: Amazon's Appstore expected to launch this month

Millennial Media, the top independent mobile advertising firm, likes to see a robust variety of platforms for distribution of content on smartphones that they can sell advertising against. They are so excited about platforms that they tweeted yesterday a bit of apparent news that got the tech press in a tizzy: Amazon's own Appstore for Android is expected to launch this month.

The Tweet that generated news simply read: "Launching this month! Amazon Appstore for #Android—learn more here: http://bit.ly/4C4HBm."

It linked to a blog post by Millennial's Jeff Tennery, senior vice president of publisher services, who wrote about the coming Amazon Appstore.

At the moment, the two big App stores are Apple's and Google's Android Market. But since Android is an open platform, Amazon is able to set up it's own app store for developers. (And, by the way, there are several other independent Android app stores out there, such as AndSpot, SlideMe, and AndAppStore.) The store's been expected for months now, but it's taken on new significance for Amazon, which is concerned about how it can continue to sell books for its Kindle app for iPhone as Apple appears to be tightening control.

Where Google allows pretty much anything in their store (until users complain about it), Amazon will be curating the apps -- reviewing them for a week or so -- before publishing them for people to download, the way Apple does. Their hope is to cut down on the crummy Android apps out there. (Not like there aren't crummy iPhone apps, by the way.) Like Apple, Amazon would take a 30 percent slice of app sales, but it's a little more complicated, because Amazon will be the one setting the price for the apps, not the developers.

Many presume that Amazon wants this authority so it can use its sophisticated pricing algorithms to get the best prices for the apps. But such control over pricing may not sit well with some developers.

Long-term, creating an App store for Android developers on Amazon sounds like a wicked smart idea. Developers will have in their corner the online marketing muscle of one of the Web's most powerful retailers. As Amazon now suggests to you different books and products based on your browsing history, you likely can expect recommendations on Android apps to download, which will help users discover new, relevant apps (you hope.)

And, like Apple's iTunes, Amazon already has the credit card information for tons of people on the Web.

It will be interesting to see if this takes off, no?


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 8:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*
        
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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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