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June 30, 2011

Shortmail: A Baltimore-grown email service

Shortmail.jpgThere's a new email service on the block as of today, and it's called Shortmail. But do we need another email program? you ask.

Well, if you're overwhelmed with spam, tired of long-winded dissertation-type emails, and suffering from inbox overload, maybe you do.

Shortmail, created by 410Labs, is the latest offering in the nascent trend of short email services. It's somewhere between traditional email and Twitter. Whereas Twitter has a 140 character limit on messages, Shortmail has a 500 character limit. It integrates nicely with Twitter, too.

For instance, my Twitter account is @gussent, and my Shortmail address is automagically gussent@shortmail.com.

You can merge your Gmail and Twitter contacts into your Shortmail contacts.

But I think one of the most useful features of Shortmail is that you can keep a message private, or make it public, via your own Shortmail personal page (i.e. shortmail.com/gussent.) This can definitely come in handy, especially in my job as a journalist.

The folks behind 410Labs include Dave Troy, an entrepreneur and vocal advocate for Baltimore's tech scene, and Matthew Koll, a veteran entrepreneur.

The company also makes other other social communication products, including Replyz.com, which helps you get answers to questions in a social-y, Twitter-y way, and Mailstrom, an inbox analytics tool that aims to be the Mint.com of your email life.

For more details on Shortmail's launch, which happened officially in San Francisco this week, check the news release 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This is an archived version of the technology blog.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 11:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

June 29, 2011

Maryland biotechs get pumped with state cash

This week is starting to feel like Maryland biotech news around here.....Here's some news that was announced today at the huge BIO international convention by Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development:

The Maryland Biotechnology Center, a program within the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development, said today that nine companies will receive $1.8 million in grants to help bring their products to market and create new jobs.

Each of the nine companies will receive an average of $200,000 to develop research and products for commercialization. The program is in its second year of existence, and is part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s long-term plan to grow the state’s biotech industry through 2020.

Last year, the center awarded $1.3 million to seven biotechnology companies.

The nine companies that received funding this year are: Neuronascent, of Clarksville; Noble Life Sciences, of Rockville; Unither Virology, of Silver Spring; Paragon, of Baltimore; Telcare, of Bethesda; Diogenix, of Gaithersburg; 20/20 GeneSystems, of Rockville; A&G Pharmaceutical, of Columbia; and Plasmonix, of 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 5:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Myspace: Put a fork in it -- it's done

fork-hotdog.jpgMyspace is reportedly being sold today to Specific Media, an online advertising network, for $35 million, according to Kara Swisher over at AllThingsD.

This is a big deal because not too long ago (in Internet time), Myspace was worth more than a billion bucks, supposedly -- that is, if you believed all the hype around it, as News Corp. did when it paid $500+ million for it in 2005.

I could cite a few more facts about Myspace, but really, do we care?

I'll be honest: I can count the number of times ON TWO HANDS that I ever visited someone's Myspace page. As a reporter, I only visited such pages when someone died or committed a crime here in the Baltimore area.

I won't discount the fact that there were a lot of people active on Myspace, and it seemed like it had been doing well reinventing itself a site geared toward musician/artist discovery and promotion. At one time, it seemed like there were a surprising number of people who claimed gang allegiances on Myspace here in Baltimore. Is that still the case? Or do gangbangers now have Facebook Groups and Pages Tumblrs?

Myspace had an ugly UI (user interface) and the blinking/neon/music adornments that people used to gussy up their pages were just pointless messes. Every time I visited someone's page, I felt like my computer screen was getting hijacked by tackiness.

If you ask me what I was doing on the Web back in 2005, when Myspace hit its peak and News Corp paid all that money for it, I would tell you: gosh, I really don't remember. I was checking my Yahoo mail. I was playing around with blogs. I was probably using Google Search more to find content. I was on the Internet less, and in better shape physically. But I digress.

At least News Corp. got $35 million for it.


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 3:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

June 28, 2011

Big BIO in Washington D.C. -- one Baltimore man's journey to the heart of BioPharma

BIO-MD-SHOWCASE.jpg


Today, I was at the 2011 BIO International conference, one of the world's largest bio/pharma gatherings, in Washington DC, and I happened upon the Pfizer booth.

I asked the two Pfizer men there, "So, how often do people come up and ask for free Viagra as a joke?"

The two guys rolled their eyes. A Pfizer woman nearby shot me this look like I was touching upon a sore subject, like I was about to beat a dead horse, for the 117th time.

It was a big lame joke for awhile and it peaked a decade ago, one Pfizer guy said, tracing his finger in the air in an upward trajectory, like an imaginary fever chart. For the past several years, he said, people haven't been cracking the joke so much at conventions, they said. We figured out the jokes probably peaked around 1999-2000, held strong for a few years, and then dwindled away. Sorta like a .... oh, nevermind.

Plus, Pfizer can't really give out free samples of Viagra at conventions, he said. You need a prescription, silly!

So, there you go. Save the Viagra free-sample jokes when you see the Pfizer folks -- they won't think you're funny.

But I wasn't in D.C. to schmooze with Big Pharma. I was there to take a look at "BioMaryland."

Maryland's biotech industry this week is abuzz this week with involvement in the BIO conference in D.C.

I hung out at the Maryland pavilion, a patch of Old Line State in a sea of national and international exhibitors. It really took seeing scores of states and countries represented at this convention to bring it home that, by golly, biotech is a huge worldwide industry, and not one that the U.S. should take for granted in terms of competition.

Gov. Martin O'Malley came down from Annapolis and presented a state-of-the-industry report on Maryland's biotech sector (in a nutshell, the industry is stable, despite the recession, and employing people with good pay.)

There were a bunch of companies in the Maryland pavilion that you may or may not have heard of, such as Human Genome Sciences (makes a lupus drug and has a long history of working with human DNA), Dynaport Vaccine Co. LLC (makes vaccines for flu, plague and botulinum), and Integrated Biotherapeutics (makes an Ebola vaccine and staph infection treatments), to name a few. Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland system were well represented, as were economic development folks from Annapolis, Frederick and Hagerstown. Who did I miss?

This convention is HUGE. About 15,000 people attend it every year. And it's known for being not just a place to network, but also a venue for wheeling and dealing. In addition to thousands of square feet of exhibition space, state agencies and companies had an entire other hall dedicated to business development meetings. Here's a photo I took of one of the series of office spaces for the biopharma mover-and-shaker dealmakers.


BIO-meeting-roomsSMALL.jpg


If all goes well, the state organizations and companies that are representing Maryland will be able to walk away from this conference with the early beginnings of some fruitful deals in the future.

I took some photos of the Maryland pavilion and of its neighbors, including several Mid-Atlantic states that were staked out around the Maryland booths. Have a look on the jump:



BIO-NorthCarolina-THRIVE.jpg


BIO-Virginia-LOVERS.jpg


BIO-CHINA-pavilion-small.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 3:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (DC/No. Va. area)
        

June 27, 2011

Bam! A Glen Burnie tech company just raised $35M

novasom-image.png
It's not everyday -- or every week -- that a Maryland company can boast that it raised $35 million from investors. Honestly, I can't say I see that kind of private money tossed at a company much at all here in the Free State, as someone who follows this kind of stuff. (Oh, but how I wish it were more frequent....)

But today at least, Glen Burnie-based Novasom Inc. can be the braggart. For people who suffer from sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, Novasom has a gadget for you.

The company has a device on the market that measures and diagnoses sleep apnea in a suffering sleeper. These devices are not sold to the general public, but rather shipped to patients at their homes, and covered under certain insurance plans (Novasom essentially makes money from "renting" the device as a service to patients who are covered by insurance.)

The patient uses the device to take measurements when they sleep at nigh over three dayst, and then ships the device back to the company, which shares the data with your medical providers.

Here's what's cool about Novasom: this company is actually making a device, a piece of hardware, and they have a business model. They've hired a 100+ people in the last few years. And did I mention they're actually making a tangible product, and not just another Facebook competitor?

Making an actual piece of stuff doesn't guarantee success in the U.S., and software has been insanely popular lately (App Store anyone?). But economists like to see hardware getting made, especially since it can lead to demand for more and new software.

A few months ago, I was told by Roger Richardson, Novasom's vice president of operations, that the company is making a next-generation device that will enable the electronic delivery of your sleep data over a wireless telephone connection, i.e. a 3G network. No need to wait till it gets shipped back for a data download. And yes, this device has all the regulatory approvals for use.

Imagine if Novasom can get approval to do other sorts of medical-related-things with their wirelessly connected devices. There's a bigger market potential here than just sleep apnea sufferers.

So, the news today is that Novasom raised a new round of investment -- $35 million worth -- led by Safeguard Scientifics Inc., with participation from existing investors including TPG Biotechnology II Fund and Quaker BioVentures.

It plans to use the new money to "fund growth, expand its leadership position in payer and provider markets, and develop additional innovations within the company's proprietary NovaSom(R) diagnostic medical device and cloud-based MediTrack(R) Patient Management Portals."

Novasom, which used to be known as Sleep Solutions Inc., has been around since 1992 and had been based in California. The company moved to Glen Burnie in 2008 and uses a Baltimore County company, Zentech, as its contract manufacturer for its devices.


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

Startup story: Baltimore's Moodlerooms raises more moolah

Ever since I wrote about Moodlerooms, a Baltimore startup, expanding and moving out of the city's incubator program last year, I've been following its progress with interest.

Last week, Moodlerooms disclosed in an SEC filing that it had raised $2.9 million of a $3.4 million equity offering. Citybizlist has a run down of some of the investors and directors involved in the company now.

In May, Moodlerooms raised $425,000 in debt in the form of unsecured promissory notes that could be converted into company equity.

Moodlerooms makes software that's based on the open-source e-learning platform called Moodle. The company's been around for about six years and has been steadily growing. It competes against other e-learning platforms out there, such as Blackboard, for university and secondary education clients.


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 (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

June 22, 2011

UMBC biotech startup raises $1.5 million

Plasmonix Inc., a biotech startup whose technology comes from research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, this week announced it raised $1.5 million of a planned $2 million Series A equity offering.

The investment was led by the Maryland Healthcare Product Development Corp. Plasmonix is working on commercializing a technology called Metal Enhanced Fluorescence, which was developed at UMBC.

Basically, the technology enables super-fast detection of heart attacks, sexually transmitted diseases, salmonella -- within 20 seconds.

Watch the Youtube video of founder and MEF inventor Dr. Chris Geddes (Other founders include William M. Gust II, President and CEO and Dr. John Holaday, Chairman.)


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: *NEWS*, BioTech, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

June 21, 2011

A new type of job at the Greater Baltimore Technology Council

The GBTC is the main organization in the Baltimore area for connecting and promoting the big and small technology companies and entrepreneurs in the region.

The organization is no longer the only game in town. There are a lot of opportunities in Baltimore these days for techies to network. But the GBTC has been a steady presence over the years with lots of knowledge about the local landscape, and the ability to help connect business people. And they offer a lot of peer-to-peer networking opportunities with some very talented, experienced folks in Baltimore's tech/entrepreneur community.

So, it doesn't surprise me that the org is now hiring for an interesting, new position: Innovation Community Manager. There are a lot of events going on in the area (think: Ignite Baltimore, TedxMidAtlantic, etc) that the GBTC probably wants and should bring its resources and membership to bear on.

I look forward to bumping into this new person in this new job at the various events in Baltimore.

The person in this position, according to the job ad, will:

* Attend innovation community events & meetings
* Offer and coordinate GBTC services for community programs and events: venue, catering, promotion, registration, volunteer re-imbursements
* Work with event organizers for targeted sponsorships
* Coordinate printing of programs, banners, t-shirts, etc.
* Publicize and market events
* Serve as an “idea conduit” for GBTC programs, events and on-line content requested by the community


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 4:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Baltimore hacker who hijacked CEO powerpoint, displayed porn, sentenced

This just sounds like one of those ideas that sounds funny over beers with friends, but when you actually do it -- well, the long arm of the law really does come after you.

Walter Powell, 52, was the director of management information systems at Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems who got fired in September 2009 and, soon after, started hacking his former employer's computer system, authorities said.

In one incident, Powell hijacked the CEO's digital presentation to the board of directors, and then displayed pornography. Yes, that really happened. Our crime blogger, Peter Hermann, has more details on it. It involved a PowerPoint presentation and a 64-inch TV.

Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock handed down a two-year suspended sentence, 100 hours of community service, and three years of probation. She also barred Powell from possessing remote-access software. My guess is that Mr. Powell won't be getting a job in tech support anytime soon.

Here's the press release from the Baltimore State's Attorney's office:


baltimore-computer-hacker.gif


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 4:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Apple TV vs. Roku

Anybody who's paid attention to me here or on Twitter knows that I love Roku.

But this past weekend, I had to make some room on my television stand for its bigger-named competitor: Apple TV.

For fathers day this past weekend, my wife gifted me the Apple TV. We already had a Roku player for a couple years, but I have wanted to experience the Apple TV and how it integrates with other Apple devices, such as the iPhone and the iPad.

For people who want to stream such multimedia content as Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Video on Demand, and iTunes, these two devices can individually satisfy some of your needs.

In a video below, I cover some of the main features, similarities and differences between Apple TV ($99) and Roku (starting at $59). There are big pluses for both devices: Apple TV works very well with iDevices, plus offers iTunes, Youtube, Netflix and compatibility with many apps in Apple's App Store. [I've yet to play with the Boxee, another device that brings Internet content to your TV; it costs $199, which puts it in a different price point than Apple TV and Roku. And what about Google TV? -- I've heard so many poor reviews of it that I haven't even had an itch to try it out.]

Roku is an exciting upstart company with a device that's attracting scores of media companies to develop independent multimedia content for its platform. That means more choices for the consumer. If you value independent fare, take a close look at the Roku.

Take a gander at the vid below, then let me know if you have any follow-up questions or points to make.


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 3:02 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Gadgets
        

June 20, 2011

Anatomy of a @gussent story

light-bulb.pngFor those who've ever wondered how I choose what to write about, this post is for you. Let's take a look at my latest weekend feature: "Help Wanted: Looking for a few good social media pros."

It is a story about the rise of the role of the social media professional in the workplace, and how far we've come in a just a few short years. The story isn't so much chock-full of news, but it is, I hope, filled with some context and perspective on the rapidly evolving social media function in the context of marketing and communications in organizations.

So how did I get the idea for a story on the topic?

Look no further than an earlier blog post over on my blog, BaltTech: "Over-reaction? Gone golfing tweet leads to social media worker's firing."

A "social media specialist" got fired for what her boss perceived as an inappropriate tweet that reflected poorly on their organization.

With Twitter mistakes in the news these days (Anthony Weiner, anyone?), I got to thinking: my, how far we've come in professional circles in terms of the central importance of social media.

People are losing jobs and careers over their Twitter mistakes. How are companies conceiving of the social media function today, versus, say, 2-3 years ago? I put out a bunch of requests on Twitter in the followup to the blog post, seeking people who worked as social media pros in the Baltimore area.

I hooked up with Michelle Forman, digital media specialist at the Association for Public Health Laboratories (@aphlnews) in Silver Spring. I interviewed her and got some great perspective. I also sought companies that were hiring social media pros.

I used some online job boards to zero in on a bunch of companies that were hiring in the Baltimore area, including Mile One Automotive Group. I interviewed Nicole Hayes, its e-commerce director and a former Advertising.com employee, who gave me the nuts and bolts of her social media operation at the network of 56 car dealerships.

I was interested in how some organizations use twitter for customer service, and I thought of BGE. Rob Gould and Diane Hughes, two BGE communication pros, walked me through their org processes. I tried to get the folks behind @ComcastCares to talk, but we couldn't find a time to chat before my deadline.

I researched job sites, such as Indeed.com, and pulled statistics on the public relations field (and how social media is affecting it), from the Department of Labor. A recent survey by Robert Half Technology confirmed what I thought many were seeing on the ground: that more workers are being given the green light to use social media at the office, for work purposes.

And lastly, when it came time to find some local voices on how social media is used by organizations, I turned to some familiar faces who I've come to know through Twitter. Ryan Goff, a VP at MGH, Jeff Davis, of Sawmill Marketing and Amy Phillips, of Social Pollen, are all people I've come to know as being active in Baltimore's vibrant internet/social media scene.

So far, since the story appeared over the weekend, it has been tweeted 494 times, Facebook "liked" 104 times, and shared through other sites 77 times. The truth is, my story just scrapes the surface of the whole "social media marketing" phenomenon that some companies have embraced.

There is still some skepticism out there about social media's value. But, as someone who works in media, it's value as an important tool for reporting is real, if my experience reporting out this story shows anything.

A story about social media was indeed shaped by my use of social media. The irony isn't lost on me.


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 1:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Netflix's weekend hangover

netflix-hangover.gifDid you have trouble viewing programs on Netflix this past weekend? The website was down for several hours last night and there were scattered reports (on Twitter) of some problems.

CNET cited a spokesman, who called it a "technical issue" -- there were no suggestions of hackers taking down the video-streaming service. But hackers are on everybody's minds these days.

ZDNet also noted how Netflix had to pull Sony movies from its Starz streaming service on Friday, leaving subscribers with fewer choices.

Don't be surprised if the unlimited data streaming payment model for your home ISP comes to an end, just as Netflix really seems to be gaining a major foothold. Data caps and "throttling" will likely become bigger issues.

Netflix is a huge data streaming hog, and ISPs are inclined to make someone pay for the growing data usage -- and that someone will probably be the consumer.


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 10:40 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

June 15, 2011

A new Facebook photo-sharing app?

Sure, there've been rumors about Facebook launching its own smartphone, which the company has denied. But maybe we're about to get the next best thing: a new Facebook photo-sharing app, according to TechCrunch.

Photo-sharing apps are hot right now (Instagram, anyone?). But Facebook is the preeminent place on the web to share photos, hosting billions of photos now for hundreds of millions of users.

The TechCrunch report promises to reveal more about this new Facebook app. The tech blog obtained 50MB worth of images somehow, so we may soon be seeing screenshots of how it works.

Does easier photo-sharing via Facebook get you going? Or are you not willing to commit any more of your personal life and images to the super-site?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

June 13, 2011

NEA Partner: Creating a "virtuous cycle" of investment in Maryland

david-mott-NEA.jpgNew Enterprise Associates is one of the heavyweights in the world of venture capital and, lucky for me, they're right in my backyard here in Maryland.

I had a wide-ranging interview today with David M. Mott, NEA partner and former head of MedImmune, the biopharma success story based in Montgomery County, Md.

Mott and NEA invest billions far afield from Maryland, hunting for promising companies across the country and around the world. Lately, he and NEA have been doing deals in India and China, getting involved in services and infrastructure business in those developing countries, such as outpatient treatment centers for oncology and diabetes, Mott said.

Back home in the U.S., Mott observed that Maryland needs more big company success stories such as MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences, where top management and entrepreneurial thinkers from such organizations spin out and start their own businesses.

We've seen some of this effect in Baltimore with the success of Advertising.com, and the spinoff of talent that have led to some new businesses, most notably Millennial Media.

In Montgomery County, this type of "virtuous cycle" has started taking root, according to Mott. Baltimore, not so much -- yet. But Mott touched upon something that I tangentially covered, coincidentally, in my latest story this weekend about startups and business accelerators.You need  entrepreneurs and trained leadership talent -- those who have the "social capital" to convince weary investors of investing in them --  to roll up their sleeves and embark on new startup projects.

What Mott and others at NEA look at when they invest are the quality of management teams. They like to cultivate entrepreneurs and even new technologies, according to Mott.

What may not be as well known is that NEA funds its own virtual incubators, where talented brains work on new medical devices in-house at NEA, leading sometimes to funding and new companies.

"Over half of our investments are internally generated by entrepreneurs in conceptual virtual incubators," Mott said. "We back them to come up with ideas."

NEA has had six medical device companies spin out into their own businesses in the last few years, Mott said. NEA also has launched a seed fund to make investments ranging from $50,000 to $500,000, according to VentureWire.

Mott couldn't talk publicly about the seed fund, but it looks like the kind of move that NEA is making to compete in the angel and "super-angel" end of the investment pool, where there's a lot of activity at the moment.

Startups are also going from conception to high-flying much more quickly, so NEA and other VCs apparently see some necessity in interacting with some of these young companies just as they're forming.

Wait too long as a VC and suddenly, before you know it, startup valuations are through the roof.

I asked Mott the cheap nickel-and-dime question that every tech journalist is asking today: are we in the midst of another tech bubble?

He said he mostly didn't think so. Valuations are wild in a few specific niches, such as social media, but others, such as biopharma and healthcare (his specialty area), are fairly normal, he said.

"These businesses, unlike back in 1999, have some significant revenues," Mott said. "They're becoming big businesses in very short periods of time...and with relatively little capital in a very short period of time, you can build a deep business."


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

Tech Fathers' Day Gift roundup

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With Fathers' Day coming this Sunday (June 19), I thought I'd compile a meta-list of some good guides to tech gift ideas out there on the Web. I'm going into my third year as a dad and I can't say I'm really wanting for any new tech devices. Then again, I don't need socks, underwear, or ties, either.

So, my dear family, if you had to choose a gift for me, something fun from this batch of links below would probably make my day.

* CNET has a "grads and dads" gift guide that's very comprehensive. I kinda like this iPad/notebook bag.

* You can't go wrong with any of BrothaTech's suggestions this year. I'm particularly keen on the idea of a Sonos in my house.

* How about a silent alarm clock for your dad? Help him wake up gracefully, without a glaring alarm sound that also wakes up everybody else in the house. The tech press is writing about a new gadget called Lark does just that, using a wristband and vibrations to wake someone up.

* Here's a fun list of "intangibles" you can get the geek dad for father's day.

* This top-five list recommends the Annoy-a-Tron. I love annoying people. WANT.

* It seems like digital barbecue thermometers are a hot item (no pun intended), but frankly, I'm not interested. I prefer to grill by the seat of my pants.

For more, mostly non-tech ideas, check out this gallery from our site.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:09 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

June 10, 2011

The new HP TouchPad -- do you care?

I finally got around to reading up on the HP TouchPad today. It sounds like a pretty decent device, one that differentiates itself technologically from the Apple iPad and Android tablets in certain ways.

But it represents a fourth signficant mobile/tablet platform (behind Apple, Android, BlackBerry) that tech consumers have to wrap their brains and fingers around. Even though HP, which bought Palm, is dovetailing its tablet with the Pre smartphone, is it too late to the game for it to draw market share from the iPad juggernaut?

Here's what's cool about the TouchPad: It runs on the tablet version of WebOS, which has been critically acclaimed as a well-oiled response to Apple's iOS. The tablet incorporates some pretty nifty wireless features that connects a Pre smartphone to the tablet wirelessly. You can touch the phone to the tablet and share web pages, for instance. And you can wirelessly charge the TouchPad.

And if a call or text comes in on your Pre, you can receive it on the tablet. That's cool. To boost its attractiveness to smartphone-using consumers who mostly have BlackBerry, Android and iPhones, HP should consider enabling that feature with non-HP phones, if technically possible.

The other thing that is appealing is the app switching interface that webOS offers. For high-use multi-taskers, webOS purportedly enables app switching that is smoother than the iOS/Android experience, many think. (My experience has been with a first-gen Palm Pre -- the app switching, I found, was good, but not necessarily a make-or-break reason to adopt the platform.)

The TouchPad price is $499 for a tablet (16GB version) that offers video chat and Wi-Fi; but there isn't a 3G option yet, the way Apple and some Android tablets offer. HP said it will soon partner with AT&T for a 3G version later this summer.

Pre-ordering begins June 19, and the TouchPad will hit stores on July 1.

All in all, I worry that HP's tablet offering will essentially be competing for third place in the market, against BlackBerry and its Playbook, and behind Apple and Android.
But it is good to see a company as big as HP staking its claim in the space and continuing to drive innovation.
Expect to see Apple adopt (er, "borrow"? hehe) some of the innovations that HP is bringing with webOS and the TouchPad.

Here's a video of the TouchPad:



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 10:55 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets
        

June 9, 2011

Over-reaction? Gone-golfing tweet leads to social media worker's firing

It's not as titillating as Congressman Anthony Weiner's tweet saga, but a social media specialist's tweet about workers at a Lehigh Valley economic development agency leaving work early to play golf was deemed inappropriate enough to lead to her firing.

According to the Morning Call newspaper, the offending tweet from the Lehigh Valley Ecoonomic Development Corp.'s official Twitter account was: "We start summer hours today. That means most of the staff leave at noon, many to hit the links. Do you observe summer hours? What do you do?"

That was enough for Vanessa Williams, a newly employed social media specialist, to lose her job.

The agency head quickly told the local newspaper that the policy was for people to leave early on Friday only if they had worked their 40 hours for the week. The tweet was sent out last Friday and the head said no one left early that day, according to the Morning Call.

Do you think Williams' firing was appropriate or an over-reaction? If there was clarification needed -- i.e. something like: "actually, no one left early today but sometimes, when they do, they choose to go golfing after working their full 40 hours" --- why couldn't that have been accomplished in follow-up tweets without firing this person?

And yes, actually, I think it is a good thing for an economic development agency to know if its local companies have a practice of adopting summer hours. So I can see where the social media specialist may have thought she was doing a good thing to understand how local businesses were approaching the topic of summer hours.

Here's the problem, I think: too many companies and agencies are jumping onto social media without thinking through the ramifications. And they're using a hammer in touchy circumstances, when a soft touch would suffice.

What do you think?


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 (6)
Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media
        

June 8, 2011

Atari coming back to the future

atari_logo.jpg
Looks like Atari, the company whose video games we grew up playing as children of the 80s, is laying the groundwork for a comeback on mobile phones and social media sites such as Facebook.

The WSJ has a story outlining the California company's plans, which include bringing back its old games to new platforms. Asteroids? Pong? Battlezone? What old Atari game do you wish for your smartphone or tablet?

Personally, I'd like to see Atari adapt these old games to the new gaming hardware options on the market. For instance, why not have the games make use of a smartphone's accelerator or gyroscope? What about finger and swiping gestures? Or how about Atari games using a Kinect? Make me play these old games in a new way!

I got the fever...Pac-Man Fever.


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 1:18 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

June 7, 2011

Groupon in Baltimore: hot and cold experiences?

My Baltimore Sun colleague -- and cubicle neighbor -- Jay Hancock has an interesting column that takes a look at Groupon from the local perspective. What are some restaurants' experiences with the social deal website?

He talked to a bunch of restaurants and got their experiences with it, good and bad. It's an interesting topic that's come to the fore again, as Groupon last week filed to go public in an IPO in the future. The company is pulling in tons of revenue, but is not profitable. (Some in the tech world are even calling the company "Grouponzi." Ouch.)

I'm wondering what the perspective on Groupon is from consumers in Baltimore? Do you find yourself buying -- and actually using -- Groupons? Are you happy with the service you receive at places where you redeem a Groupon?

Shoot me a tweet via Twitter at @gussent.

(Sorry...Our comments are temporarily disabled due to spam.)


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 1:14 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, Startups
        

Creating a "technopolis" in Harford County

pike-powers.JPGFor the tech geeks, entrepreneurs and business advocates kicking around in Harford County, Md., this event may be for you:

On Tuesday, June 14, Pike Powers, widely regarded as the "godfather" of Austin, Texas's thriving technology scene, will be talking about how the county can develop itself into a "technopolis."

Austin, as you may know, has the quirky saying for itself: "Keep Austin Weird." I challenge you all to come up with a saying for Harford County.

"Keep Bel Air quaint"?

Powers is a lawyer and investment executive with decades of experience in promoting growth in Austin. He'll be speaking from 7:30 am to 9 am at the Maryland Golf and Country Clubs, 1335 East MacPhail Road in Bel Air.

According to a press release, he'll discuss how Austin developed itself into a tech hub. He'll be joined in his talk by Harford County Executive David R. Craig and Major General Nickolas Justice, senior mission commander of the Aberdeen Proving Ground and a major employer in the county.

The base also supports many contractors and small businesses that work with the Army installation.

The event is sponsored by the Harford County Economic Development and Harford County Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $25 per person. Reservations: 410-838-2020. www.harfordbusiness.org.

 

P.S. Due to some persistant spam attacks, we've temporarily disabled commenting on BaltTech. In the meantime, hit me up on Twitter (@gussent) or Facebook.


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 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)
        

June 6, 2011

Apple unleashes the iCloud

Sure, Apple introduced some nice changes today in San Francisco to its new operating system for Macs, called "Lion", including more hand gesture interactions and updates to the Mac App Store. And iOS 5, Apple's next iteration of the popular mobile operating system for its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices, brings 200 updates to users.

But the real meat of Steve Jobs presentation today is in what Apple's devices will be able to do in the cloud: that is, the new iCloud service. (For a blow-by-blow account of the announcement, read the Engadget live blog.)

The new iCloud pulls together the multiple iDevices (if you own more than one) into one virtual, cohesive unit online. It's really a new (for Apple) metaphor that will enable consumers with multiple mobile devices to keep their gadgets in sync, all at the same time. Take a picture on your iPhone? It's instantly available on your iPad. The tech world is ready for this.

MobileMe, Apple's $99 annual service for syncing Calendar, Contacts and Email across Apple's devices is gone. In its place comes iCloud (for Macs, iDevices and PCs), and it's free. "iCloud stores your content in the cloud and wirelessly pushes it to all your device. It automatically uploads it, stores it, and pushes it to all your devices."


Basically, iCloud will enable users to push across photos, videos, apps, email, calendars, contacts to multiple devices over the air. No more syncing your iDevice to a computer with a cable. The cord has been cut. Your data will get updated and stored automatically in the iCloud daily, over a Wi-Fi connection (not 3G).

Apple is putting its iWork software suite in the cloud -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote. The office productivity software is its version of Microsoft Office and Google Docs. Putting its software in the cloud is basically table stakes at this point. Every big player wants a cloud productivity suite offering.

Steve Jobs like to announce "one more thing" at these events. And the news that everyone was expecting: Apple is putting iTunes "in the cloud" by enabling people who buy iTunes music to automatically download to multiple devices (up to 10).

For people who have thousands of songs in iTunes, they don't have to manually upload all their songs to iTunes in the cloud. Instead, Apple is offering the ability to "scan and match" your iTunes library to the cloud. (Basically, Apple will scan your iTunes collection on your computer and create an online version of your collection for you to use.) This means if you have multiple iDevices, you'll have one online repository for your music, and your various devices will pull music from the cloud, in addition to having your own music stored on your local devices.

Cost: $24.99. A similar service offered by Google, which takes longer for users to upload their music, costs $50 a year.

Would you use such a service? I don't know.... I'm not a big buyer of new music so it's less crucial for me to have the latest songs updated across all my devices. I do think I'll use other iCloud features a ton, especially the new Photostream feature that makes pictures available to all your iDevices instantaneously.


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 1:02 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Apple news coming today: iCloud, Mac OS X Lion, iOS

apple-steve-jobs.JPGToday at 1 pm Eastern, Steve Jobs will take to the stage at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in California to usher in some new Apple software products.

Though he's technically out on medical leave, Jobs is apparently able enough to do this, which is a great sign for his health (we hope).

We know he'll be introducing something called iCloud, a cloud service that many speculate will offer streaming music as well as other capacities.

iOS 5 for iPhone, iPad and Touch will likely get a big update, and the new operating system -- dubbed Lion -- for the Mac platform will get a modest makeover.

Many seem to be guessing that Apple is heading in a direction that ties all three offerings together -- a cloud service with Apple's desktop and mobile platforms.

There are numerous sites to catch blogging updates about the Apple announcement today at 1 pm. I'll try to do some live updating myself here. Stay tuned.

 

Photo of Steve Jobs at WWDC 2004 courtesy of Reuters


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 10:55 AM | | Comments (0)
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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