baltimoresun.com

January 31, 2012

Look at how easy it is to organize a tech event in Baltimore

There's been a flowering in Baltimore in the area of event planning and organizing, among the tech/entrepreneurial crowd. Social media has really connected people like never before. One of the more dynamic groups at the moment is the Baltimore Tech Facebook group, which is an organic mass of 600+ members. (Are you a member yet? And while you're at it, follow BaltTech on Facebook too, for news updates from me.)

One of the points I make in today's article is that some of the traditional groups normally behind Baltimore tech events -- TEDCO, Emerging Technology Center, and the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, for instance -- find themselves attending as many, or more, independent community events as they now organize for the community. Such as yesterday's Practice Your Pitch event, organized on the Facebook group and held at Naden/Lean in Cockeysville.

Monica Beeman tweeted about Practice Your Pitch here. And I expect local video tech guru Eli Etherton to post a video soon of all the pitches and feedback. I'll post it here when he does.



This is an archived version of the technology blog.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

December 15, 2011

The year in search, according to Google

I don't know if I should be mortified or amused.

Google today released its 11th annual Zeitgeist report, which looked at global and regional search trends.

Apparently the No. 1 fastest rising search query was Internet celeb Rebecca Black, who had that song "Friday", which, believe it or not, I have never actually heard. But here's the Youtube video (11+ million views!)

Google built a dedicated website for its Zeitgeist report. Here it is.

Turns out, Apple dominated the list, with the iPhone 5 (which didn't actually appear), Steve Jobs and the iPad 2, claiming three of 10 spots.

Poke around on the site, and let me know if your faith in humanity has been affirmed, or shot to heck. ;-)


This is an archived version of the technology blog.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 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas
        

November 29, 2011

Geek On A Train: Surveying the East Coast Startup Scene by Rail

geek-on-a-train.jpg

The East Coast tech scene is a pretty silo'ed place. You obviously have entrepreneurs and investors up and down the coast, from Boston to New York to Baltimore to DC. But everybody usually seems to play in their own market, for the most part.

Some in Baltimore (including yours truly) are yearning for a more regional perspective. After kicking around some ideas on a Facebook group, a Baltimore tech geek named Mike Subelsky (that's him above, in my own mockup illustration -- hope you don't mind, Mike!) came up with an idea:

Why not ride an Amtrak train up and down the East Coast for a day, talk to startups along the way, and blog, tweet, video, podcast like a crazy fool about the "Amtrak Corridor" tech scene?

"My idea was to meet with at least one tech leader in each city," Subelsky said. "Maybe somebody you don't normally hear from, the on-the-ground entrepreneurs."

It's an idea, I posit, that could only come out of Baltimore. This city is basically at the crossroads of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. We don't think we're at the center of the universe. We're open to getting to know our neighbors well. For now, Subelsky's calling it "Geek(s) on a Train" -- which makes reference to another nerd effort called "Geeks on a Plane," which takes entrepreneurs and investors to visit tech companies in foreign lands.

I spoke with Subelsky today and he's lined up a sponsor to cover his Amtrak ticket for a day. He's got an itinerary planned out, with stops in cities such as Washington, Baltimore (obviously), Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

He's looking to undertake the trip in January and, most importantly, he's eager to hear from startups up and down the East Coast from Washington to Boston. He hopes to spend an hour at each stop, conduct audio interviews with entrepreneurs, and then hop back on the train and post updates by blog and Twitter. He's also planning a podcast that'll cover his entire trip.

If you're on the East Coast between Boston and Washington and want to be a part of Mike's "Geek on a Train" adventure, he'll take your email at mike@subelsky.com. And feel free to cc: me on it, too, over at gus.sentementes@baltsun.com.


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

November 16, 2011

Baltimore's 1st EduHackDay: the results

This past weekend, Baltimore's first "EduHackDay" was held over at Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore.

Educators teamed up with computer geeks to build web and mobile apps for education. In many ways, Baltimore is becoming a little hotbed of education technology, and this grassroots effort to percolate ideas was a great effort.

I didn't get a chance to go to the event, because I was out of town. But with the help of Mike Brenner, one of the co-organizers and an advocate and conncector of startups in Baltimore, I'll share some details.

In Mike's words, here's how the weekend-long event unfolded:

We had roughly 70 attendees: ~ 40 developres, 20 designers, 10 teachers. We let the teachers pitch their ideas, read some some educator ideas that were pitched on our wish list from a global pool of teachers, and then let developers come up and pitch their own ideas. From that, we ended up voting on our favorite ideas, ending up with 10 ideas to work on throughout the weekend.

[On the] last night we had the 10 teams demo what they built to a panel of judges and the results are below.

Quick take away from me: I wanted to stimulate more activity from within our entrepreneurial community and thought education was a worthy customer / product to go after. I didn't expect folks to reinvent curriculum this weekend but I wanted to put the right problems and people in the room to show that there's a viable opportunity to build education technology products here in Baltimore. We need to be building less photo sharing apps and instead, more things that are meaningful.

The judges were:

Frank Bonsal, general partner at New Markets Venture Partners
Matt Van Italie, CAO of Baltimore City Schools, KIPP, McKinsey
Brian Eyer, Principal at Digital Harbor High School
Tom “TK” Kuegler, GP at Wasabi Ventures
Tom Murdock, Founder at Moodlerooms
Bill Ferguson, State Senator for Maryland
Scott Messinger, City Schools Teacher & Ed Tech Founder

The winning app ideas:

1st - Digital Harbor

2nd - Pluck

3rd - Pedante

4th - ParentConnect

5th - Board Speak

6th - CheckPlus

7th - Hey, Teacher

8th - What's Due?

9th - Baltimore School Watch

10th - Toader, a MakerBot project

Below are some screen shots of some of the projects:


ParentConnect%20Dashboard.jpg


Baltimore%20School%20Watch.jpg


pluck.png


harbor-screenshot.png


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November 7, 2011

Uppidy raised* $300K in equity for text message app

joshua-konowe.jpgA Northern Virginia and Columbia-based firm that markets the Uppidy app on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry is seeking to raised $300,000 in equity financing, according to an SEC filing today. according to company founder Joshua Konowe.

* Update: Konowe reached out to me to update with some more facts, after I initially reported in this post that Uppidy was in the process of raising $300K. He said that Uppidy has already raised the $300K.

The investors are Fortify.Vc of the Washington area, Paul Silber of Blu Ventures of Northern Virginia, and an angel investor group from Silicon Valley. They'll be spending the money to round out the tech team, and add premium services and game mechanics "to speed viral growth," says Konowe. What's interesting is that Uppidy has "spent $0 on marketing" so far, and has thousands of users, Konowe said. 

Uppidy, which is led by entrepreneur Joshua Konowe, is an app that allows smartphone users to "share, search and store text messages."

It's basically an app for managing your mobile messages, offering users a dashboard and even a hashtag service (#upp) that they can use to post messages on Uppidy's own Twitter-like site: Uppidy Live.

For people who are heavy texters (not me), it sounds like this app is a big help. TechCocktail has more details on the tech 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 4:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

November 2, 2011

Survey: 2/3 of young workers choose Internet access over car

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A new worldwide survey of 3,000 people, including college students and young workers, shows how the Internet has become a primary medium for news, social networking and communication, and for many, as important water, food, air and shelter.

The Cisco Connected World Technology Report can be found here.

It's chock full of snapshots of the Millennial generation, such as: More than half of the study's respondents could not live without the Internet and cite it as an "integral part" of their lives. In some cases, they call it more essential than owning a car, dating, and going to parties.

Indeed, the survey found that 2/3 of global students/young workers would rather have Internet access than a car.

As Fast Company points out, the next generation of workers want full access to social media and the Internet as part of their work life. And they have a whole set of expectations that employers are going to have to grapple with, to keep them happy.

[Thanks to @jessica_lee for tweeting about the report!]


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:53 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Social Media
        

October 30, 2011

Hey Apple: I don't want to talk to my TV

Nick Bilton's post in Bits last week -- about Siri being the technology that would power a bona fide Apple television -- troubled me.

It's not that I'm attached to my remotes. I have three and I'm always losing them. It's just that I don't need another thing in my house to talk to. That's what my wife and three kids are for. Even my two cats are starved for attention -- I should be talking to them more than my TV.

And how would this really work? I'm sitting on the couch with my wife. She's reading a book. I'm talking to the TV. So my wife has to listen to me talking to the TV, PLUS the TV itself? Uh-huh. I can tell you: that ain't happening.

Does anyone appreciate how hugely annoying it will be to live in a house where someone is talking to their TV? And what if you want to flip the channel to a program that you don't want your mom upstairs to know you're watching?

There are too many things to worry about here!

Another point: many of us work all day talking to people. We spend hours on the phone, in interviews and meetings. The last thing I want to do at night is to demand my vocal chords talk to the Apple boob tube.

I understand that Siri is cool technology and I do see it's potential in a range of devices. And I'm sure there will be many people who really do want to talk to their TVs. I just won't want to hang out with them in their living rooms.

I just hope Apple gives us other ways to control it, too, i.e. a regular remote, or an iPad/iPhone interface. Pretty please, Apple?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:42 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Big Ideas, Gadgets
        

October 28, 2011

Forget location check-in -- how do you check-in with your spouse?

Forget Foursquare and the location check-in, how do you solve a more important concern: checking-in with your significant other?

With three kids now, my wife and I are operating at a whole new level of communication. Gone are the days of tolerating muddled, muffled or mixed-up messages. We need battlefield situational awareness and standard communications protocols to make every day happen with 3-month old twins and a 3-year-old girl.

So far, there are two pieces of tech that we use to communicate. One, our iPhones' sync'ed calendars. We set reminders for ourselves and we always know what's on our respective schedules that we can't miss.

The second piece of tech is a little free app called "HeyTell." It allows us to use our iPhones as walkie talkies. We send short voice messages to each other, replacing the need for typing out texts. It just works, better than you think. We even use it when we're both home, i.e. she's on the second floor and I'm in the basement.

There's a third thing I'm trying to convince my wife to use: Google Docs. I figure we can create a running document where we're checking in with each other on stuff we're thinking about, projects we have ideas for, etc. But my wife is not a Gmail/Google Docs fan. (I'm wondering if I can do something similar with iWork.com. Haven't explored yet.)

So this got me thinking: to all the people with significant others out there, what tech do you use to stay on the same page with him or her? Is it a desktop app? A mobile app?

For couples, with or without kids, it's obviously important to communicate. But, during the work week especially, we're all running like crazy and maybe not able to check in as much with each other. What do you do?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:59 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

October 24, 2011

Steve Jobs: A complex man who made simple stuff

That's what I gathered from the 20 or so minutes watching the 60 Minutes episode last night, where Steve Kroft interviewed Steve Jobs' biographer, Walter Isaacson. (The book debuts today.)

Steve Jobs was adopted. He was a bit of a dirty hippie in his youth, but really geeky and driven in his belief of the power of computing. He was both mean and seductive to people, demanded perfection, and didn't suffer fools.

He didn't actually know a lick of computer programming. And many techies often mock him for that supposed failing in his skill set. But Jobs knew something more critical: the passions, desires and tastes of people who want to feel satisfaction, even pleasure, when they interact with technology.

It's not hard to find engineers who can build stuff. It is harder to find someone with a clarity of vision for products that give people what they want, even when they don't realize yet they want it. That's a really special talent, and one that Jobs was handsomely rewarded for over his career.

He also had a false belief that he could cancer his illness with non-surgical remedies. And he ended up regretting that choice as his cancer ate away at him.

In case you missed it, below is the 60 Minutes video:



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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:18 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Geeks, West Coast
        

Stories of three entrepreneurs in mobile apps

This past Sunday, I wrote about the "mobile app economy," and told the stories of three Baltimore area entrepreneurs who are finding successful with building apps. Check out the story.

Thanks to Todd Marks, of Mindgrub; Shawn Grimes and wife Stephanie of Shawn's Bits and Campfire Apps; and Jason King, of Accella, for opening up to me and sharing some great details about their businesses.


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 10:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, Smartphones
        

October 20, 2011

NYTimes Paywall: "Hold....Hold....Hold....NOW!!!!"

braveheart-hold.jpg

Well looky here once more! The New York Times, watching its revenues and profits drain out to the web, took a gamble in erecting a paywall -- and it seems to be holding.

Better still -- they're actually gaining digital subscribers.

William Wallace would be proud. New York Times execs have not yet had to drop their sharpened spears and nicked shields in the face of the everything-should-be-free-on-the-Internet hordes and head for the last refuges of newspapers executives, that is the twin ivory towers of academia and public relations.

In its third-quarter earnings release today, the NYT reported that digital subscriptions rose to 324,000 -- compared with 281,000 in the previous quarter, according to Bloomberg. [Here is the NYT official news release on their earnings today.] In total, the NYT has 1.2 million regular digital users.

Meanwhile, even as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Baltimore Sun (and Boston Globe and Dallas Morning News....) turn toward digital subscriptions, the Washington Post's publisher today told Politico that that paper ain't going paywall anytime soon.


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 3:33 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Media
        

October 12, 2011

AirPlay mirroring in iOS5: Oh, this can be big -- really big -- for Apple TV.

airplay-mirroring.jpg

When I finally get around to downloading iOS5 for my iPhone and iPad, I'll certainly appreciate the 200+ new features that Apple is introducing with this big, free software upgrade, such as full Twitter integration, iMessage and Reminders.

But the big one I'm looking forward to? AirPlay mirroring. (SplatF's Dan Frommer's post about his most anticipated iOS5 updates got me thinking about this topic this morning.)

So what is AirPlay mirroring and why will it matter for users and the Apple TV? (Note: As a commenter below states, the AirPlay mirroring feature is only available for iPhone 4S and iPad 2.)

AirPlay is Apple's Wi-Fi content-streaming technology that enables you to push music and video from your iDevice to your television, with Apple TV ($99) as the wireless intermediary that makes it happen. Since I've owned an Apple TV, I've streamed photos, videos, and music from my iPhone to my TV. For instance, I take a bunch of photos of my kids playing outside and later, when we're inside, I flash those photos quickly on my TV. Wirelessly. Simply.

Now, AirPlay mirroring will allow you to mirror the entire iPhone or iPad, including all your apps. Suddenly, you can presumably start playing an iPhone game, and shift it to play on a bigger screen.

Or how about that Keynote or PowerPoint presentation you've been preparing? Imagine you have a demonstration to present to a group, and there's a 50-inch TV in the conference room. You bring your slim Apple TV and your iPhone/iPad and, bam!, you're giving a presentation without a laptop.

I really believe if Apple sets up a couch, a big-screen TV, an Apple TV and an AirPlay-enabled iPhone or iPad in each Apple Store, the company will see its Apple TVs fly off the shelves in short order. So much for Apple TV as a side "hobby," as Steve Jobs once called it.

I really believe AirPlay mirroring can be the sleeper hit feature of iOS5, which actually drives more hardware sales for Apple.


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 11:37 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Wireless
        

October 10, 2011

Technology, social media disrupt Baltimore's tech association

sharon-webb.PNG I recently caught up with Sharon Webb, the new-ish CEO of the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, for a nice long chat about technology, the GBTC, and entrepreneurial activity -- oh, and raising multiples. (She's a parent of triplets and I have twins.)

Since I've been covering local tech the last 2+ years, I've definitely noticed a big surge in networking and startup events. The GBTC is sometimes involved, sometimes not.

So the main line of questioning I took with Sharon was: Can the GBTC be relevant in a world where anyone (with a half decent reputation and set of connections) organize meetups, talks, breakfasts, panels and events.

Here's the full interview with Sharon. Take a look.


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August 29, 2011

Hacking email, government: a conversation with Dave Troy

 


I recently sat down for an interview with Dave Troy -- CEO of 410Labs and longtime Baltimore-area entrepreneur -- over Skype. You'll see a tightly edited portion of that interview in the above video.

A more in-depth representation of the interview can be found at this link.

Troy is not your ordinary computer geek. He's a bit of a Renaissance man, in fact. His interests vary from computer programming to the environment to politics. At the intersection of many of his interests is his belief in the power of technology and the Internet to improve society, and specifically, the functioning of government, for the people, by the people.

I've thought some about how technology impacts government, and I've taken to heart one of the central points of Evgeny Morozov's recent book, "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom." Morozov gives examples of how the Internet was used in other countries, not only by government critics and revolutionaries, but by the established government power structure to further monitor and repress people.

This is the larger debate we face as a society. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus are all wonderful tools for connecting people. But there are also powerful interests -- governments, corporations, etc. -- that are increasingly handling their dealings with individuals with more sophistication.

Case in point: Techdirt today reports on a DOJ report obtained by security blogger Chris Soghoian that showed requests for warrantless "emergency" ISP requests quadrupled in 2009.

And in other news: The Obama Administration refused to release the Bush Administration's legal rationale for allegedly illegal wiretapping of Americans.

So yes, the power of the Internet cuts both ways for us, at the same time enabling and hindering our freedoms in the hands of different players.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks, Startups
        

August 22, 2011

Greg Cangialosi and Blue Sky Factory: Do you know this guy? Tell me your stories!

Greg Cangialosi, a Baltimore tech entrepreneur, started Blue Sky Factory 10 years ago. He grew the business, hired bunches of employees and just last month, sold it all to an Atlanta-based firm, WhatCounts.

Greg has been a key part of the Baltimore tech scene. I'm fixin' to do a profile about Greg, and I can use your help.

Do you have any good anecdotes about Greg? What makes him tick? Did he mentor you? Give you good advice? Invest in your startup? Did you ever work for him and employ his company, Blue Sky Factory, for email marketing?

Feel free to email me your stories; we can also chat by phone. Drop me a line at gus(dot)sentementes@baltsun(dot)com.

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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 1:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

August 15, 2011

Survey: 13% of Americans use cellphones to avoid interactions

In a report today from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 13 percent of Americans indicated that they use their cellphones to avoid real-life interactions with others.

The survey tosses out a number of statistics on the habits of American cell phone users.

Some more:

* Half of all adult cell owners (51%) had used their phone at least once to get information they needed right away. One quarter (27%) said that they experienced a situation in the previous month in which they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone at hand.

* Cell phones can help stave off boredom – 42% of cell owners used their phone for entertainment when they were bored.

* One third of Americans own smartphones. And it's in that demographic's usage patterns do you have a window into our mobile future: Fully nine in ten smartphone owners use text messaging or take pictures with their phones, while eight in ten use their phone to go online or send photos or videos to others. Many activities—such as downloading apps, watching videos, accessing social networking sites or posting multimedia content online—are almost entirely confined to the smartphone population.

[Thanks to @johnbhorrigan, who tweeted out the Pew report.]


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*, Apps, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Smartphones, Wireless
        

Did you find a job with help from social media?

In case you don't get the Sunday paper (and why wouldn't you?), I had a story yesterday about the rise of social media usage in recruiting and job-hunting.

I talked with some local companies and recruiters about their efforts in using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to connect with job candidates.

My take-away: professional networking and job-hunting in some ways requires good social media "hygiene." Just like you'd go to a dentist or general practitioner annually for a thorough checkup, you need to be diligent about maintaing a social media presence that's geared toward your career.

Freshen up your LinkedIn page and contribute to its Groups. Use keywords and tweet with hashtags on Twitter. Explore your friends' job connections on Facebook. Keep yourself visible (without embarrassing yourself, of course.)

If you found your job with the help of social media, give us a shout-out in the comments below.


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 (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Jobs & Recruiting, Social Media
        

August 9, 2011

Baltimoreans can rent out their parking spots thru Parking Panda

parking-panda-image.gifHey Baltimore: Here's your chance to make a buck off your own parking spot.

Parking Panda, a Baltimore web startup, recently went live with its website -- parkingpanda.com -- which can also be accessed by mobile phone browsers.

Parking Panda is kinda like the Airbnb (a site that lets people pay for or rent out homes and apartments for travelers) of parking.

People who are looking to make a little extra money off their unused or lightly used parking spot can list it for rent on the site. And people who are looking to park in city neighborhoods -- perhaps during big events such as baseball or football games, or the upcoming Grand Prix -- can turn to it to find a spot they can rent with their smartphone.

The site is the work of Nick Miller and Adam Zilberbaum, two young guys from Baltimore who won a startup competition in the city in the spring. They are currently working on their startup in New York City, at the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, but they plan on returning to Baltimore to jump-start their business.

[I wrote a story about Parking Panda and the trend of business accelerators recently.]

And they're hoping the Grand Prix, over Labor Day weekend, will generate demand for their app as people struggle to find parking downtown.


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

August 8, 2011

The new "innovation community manager" at GBTC

HazlettGBTC.jpegGive a big hello (and "follow" on various social networks) to Andrew Hazlett, the Greater Baltimore Tech Council's new "innovation community manager."

Catch his blog here.

Back in June, I wrote about this new job created at the GBTC. It's great to see someone else who's going to be writing about the tech and entrepreneurial scene in Baltimore.

Andrew has a pretty diverse background, as he writes, in journalism, government, urban public policy and book publishing.

I'm looking forward to following the stuff he does. 


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 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, East Coast, Events (Baltimore area), Social Media
        

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 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

May 27, 2011

Tech boom hits New York -- can Baltimore feel the aftershock?

The headline reads "New York startups ride tech boom."

It's the Wall Street Journal, and it's declaring that New York is experiencing boom times in its startup scene. Some may automatically -- and skeptically -- wonder that when a newspaper declares a boom, you know a bust isn't too far behind. I'm not ready to be that skeptical, yet.

As the article points out, there are a couple of different pieces in play in New York right now that's working in Silicon Alley's favor. There's talent, a mix of relative success stories, and a community of eager entrepreneurs fueling the ecosystem. Just as importantly, investors from Silicon Valley and elsewhere are now checking into the New York scene to grab on to any shooting stars that fly out of there, according to the article.

If there's a boom going on in New York, here in Baltimore, the startup scene is hoping for some positive aftershocks. There's still a fair amount of investment dollars flowing into the Washington-Baltimore region, but most of the money is going to that Northern Va./Washington corridor.

Many in Baltimore's tech scene were looking forward to the Startup City -- a business accelerator -- acting as a sparkplug for entrepreneurs and investors. But alas, that program has been postponed because enough investors couldn't be lined up, and the organizers are going back to the drawing board.

My rough sense about Baltimore is that investments are being made in biotech, cybersecurity and other targeted areas where there's money to be made, i.e. health care. Local angel investors seem to be less inclined to invest in popular consumer-facing apps and tech that captivate the general public, such as "the next Facebook" or "the next Twitter" or "the next Foursquare." The scene here is more B2B than B2C, which is fine, because there's money to be made in B2B -- it's just not as sexy to the average joe.

When you look at the latest stats from the National Venture Capital Association, the reality is that investments in New York and the DC-Metroplex (that includes us) were actually down in the first quarter this year.

You know who's up? Silicon Valley. And Texas (Austin, anyone?). And Philadelphia (kudos to our neighbor's startup scene). And the U.S. southwest.

Here are investment numbers for the 1st quarter of 2010, from the National Venture Capital Association:


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Now here are similar stats for this year's first quarter:


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These numbers make me wonder if venture capital is just heating up in Silicon Valley, driving valuations ever northward, and forcing VC's and angels to go looking for smart companies and smarter deals in other tech hotbeds.


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

May 26, 2011

Google: Hand over your wallet and no one will get hurt

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The buzz for awhile now is that your smartphone will also become your wallet. That day is just about here.

Google today introduced what many had expected: a mobile payments system that marries a mobile phone, a mobile app, your credit card, and a new technology called "near field communication." (aka NFC)

The whole offering is called Google Wallet.

Basically, with phones that have the NFC chip, you'll be able to wave your phone -- like a magic spending wand! -- and plunk stuff on your virtual credit card. Google Wallet will also automatically ding you with coupons and loyalty points for whatever consumer programs you're signed up with.

Citi, Mastercard, First Data and Sprint are the partners on the effort with Google. If you use Mastercard's PayPass technology, then you can use Google Wallet, too.

Don't be surprised, dear reader, to see other mobile wallet solutions coming your way in the next year. Visa and AmEx have their own plans cooking. And who knows what Apple really has planned for its iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad junta.

Want to know more about the mobile payment scene? Here's a story I wrote last week about Micros Systems Inc. of Columbia, Md. rolling out a mobile payment app for restaurants.


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 5:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Smartphones
        

May 19, 2011

Near field communication mobile payments coming to restaurants, via MICROS-Verifone partnership

What timing... Just this week, I wrote a story about MICROS Systems Inc. of Columbia, Md. jumping into the field of mobile payments with a smartphone app called Tabbedout.

Now, word comes out today that MICROS has partnered with Verifone to develop a near-field communications solution for the hospitality industry. What's NFC? Basically, a special chip installed inside your mobile phone allows you to use it as a kind of "mobile wallet."

Presumably you can link your phone directly to your bank account or credit card. And kapow! You are waving your phone around and spending money. Ah, the sweet smell of progress: it's never been easier to burn through your cash!

In addition to making payments with your phone, you'll be able to use NFC technology to take advantage of mobile coupons and promotions. Imagine the possiblities, say, if you can link NFC tech to social media apps, such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare -- so with a wave, you can send out a status update that you're at a particular restaurant.

Scary or useful?

It looks like Verifone has designed systems for white tablecloth restaurants as well as quick-casual. You could use your NFC-enabled phone right at the table, which will have a little wireless gadget (see below image from Verifone) that you wave your phone in front of. Here's an example.



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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:14 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Wireless
        

LinkedIn IPO launches into stratosphere

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Buckle in, folks! It's gonna be a wild ride from here on in.

LinkedIn Corp., the social media network for workers, went public today and its shares, which started out priced at $45, zoomed up to $90.50 in morning trading. It's currently at around $85, as of 10:40 a.m. today. That means, on paper at least, LinkedIn was valued upwards of $8.5 billion.

The Wall Street Journal story this morning noted that investors are hungry for similar IPO stories. By "similar stories," the WSJ probably means everyone is waiting to see how IPOs for Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Zynga might do.

LinkedIn has been the under-rated, less sexy social media company, compared with those other four. But it was the first one to go IPO. I'd hate to be the last of those companies doing an IPO. Who'll have money to invest at that point?

Seriously though, I have to wonder if how well LinkedIn performs in the next couple of quarters will either whet investors' appetites for more social media companies on Wall Street, or turn them off on such company stocks. It's not a given that a big first day in the stock market for LinkedIn presages successful IPOs for Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Zynga. LinkedIn, for one, has a lot of work to do for those investors who bought in between $45 and $90 today.

As Michael Moe, chief investment officer of GSV Capital Management in Woodside, California, told Bloomberg News yesterday: “The valuation for LinkedIn is rich. To earn the valuation, it has to continue to grow very, very fast.”

A lot can happen in the next couple of quarters. Internet competitors and the speed in which the market changes is faster than the speed at which Wall Street bankers operate. If LinkedIn knocks it out of the park the next couple quarters, that bodes well for its peers. If not, well, maybe we'll see more IPOs. Or maybe instead we'll see some acquisitions and mergers.


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May 18, 2011

LinkedIn IPO frenzy -- would you buy the stock?

The coming LinkedIn IPO -- expected tomorrow -- may be a resounding success, as frothing-at-the-mouth investors appear eager to throw their money at big social media companies. The company is expected to prices its shares tonight and make them available on the stock market tomorrow, under the New York Stock Exchange ticker LNKD.

Potential share price: $42-$45.

Potential valuation: ~$4.25 billion.

So, here's the question: Would you invest in LinkedIn? This Reuters article outlines some of the risks in the marketplace for LinkedIn, including the fact that it has struggled with losses and profitability.

What happens when LinkedIn becomes directly accountable to Wall Street when it's public? Will it cut expenses and investment in future growth drastically to produce better profit margins?

In this Bloomberg video, Jonathan Merriman, a tech investor, explains the LinkedIn IPO and talks about the risks. Interesting stuff:



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May 16, 2011

Do you ever wish you could just unplug?

Do you feel overwhelmed and, perhaps, addicted to your smartphone, social media or the Internet -- or all three? Do you regularly wish you could just unplug, if you could just find the discipline to Put. Your. Phone. Down.

My story in yesterday's newspaper considered this topic from the perspective of some people who choose to take a "media fast", an "Internet Sabbath" or an "Internet Sabbatical." The idea has different names, for sure, but it's basically about setting time for yourself to unplug from digital life, slow down on the multi-tasking, and live in your physical reality, not a virtual one.

Gin Ferrara, a community manager at NewsTrust, was game enough to let me interview her for my story. She's an advocate of such media fasts. In fact, you can see her talking about her experience with the idea -- media free week -- in this video where she presented at a recent Ignite Baltimore event.

One area that I forgot to mention in my story (and I'm embarrassed for forgetting this) is the role that technology can actually play to help us better manage our relationship with technology -- does that make sense?

When people talk about unplugging, many mean they wish they could put down the work BlackBerry and not be reachable on the weekends by their bosses. When it came to smarter email management, I thought of Jared Goralnick. For my story, I interviewed Goralnick, founder and CEO of Awayfind, a tool that helps you get a handle on your email inbox. Basically, checking email can be a huge, compulsive time-suck. I probably check my email inbox a 100-200 times a day, but only a tiny fraction of that time am I receiving something I need to act on immediately. So Awayfind, a Made-in-Maryland company by the way, helps ferret out the important emails from the not-so-important ones.

"If you’re successful, you spend less time in your inbox," Goralnick said. "We’re a big fan of minimizing interruptions."

Personally, I think Goralnick is spot on. Lately, I've found myself feeling more refreshed and productive and focused when I'm working out of the office then while at the office. And then, it hit me. At the office, where I have MS Outlook, I'm constantly being distracted by email alerts that pop up (I have to change that setting), while outside the office, I don't have that distraction.

I probably get 300 emails a day. I can't keep up with them. About 90 percent is horrible spam. But I lose emails -- including ones from my bosses -- in the stream.

It's frustrating. And, by the end of the week, all I want to do is unplug.

Below is a picture of Gin and her husband, David Pepper, at home with Scrabble -- a game they play during their media free weeks.

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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 3:52 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Social Media
        

May 12, 2011

Facebook's Careless Whispers Against Google: Reports

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What Would George Michael Think?

The Daily Beast and USA Today report on the unmasking of Facebook as the company that hired a huge PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, to spread exaggerated tales about Google infringing on users' privacy.

A nasty whisper campaign? No surprise there. But Burson-Marsteller, your two PR guys were careless about it.

Blogger Chris Soghoian posted the email exchange he had with Burson-Marsteller for all to see.

Kudos to Chris and others in the media for not being used as PR pawns.

I wonder if Facebook feels guilty about doing this -- or just foolish for getting caught. Will it ever dance again, as George Michael sings in the chorus:

I'm never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it's easy to pretend
I know you're not a fool

UPDATE:Not only do I have "Careless Whisper" in my head, my editor also pointed to this awesome Youtube vid I had never seen before:


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Media
        

May 9, 2011

Powering a cellphone with your voice?

Today, the UK's Telegraph reports on a new effort by South Korean scientists to convert sound waves into energy, with obvious uses for mobile phones.

If this piece of science ever gets fully developed, my gosh -- people will never shut up on their cellphones and they'll use the excuse of saying they're charging their batteries!

The writer quotes scientist Dr. Sang-Woo Kim as saying:

"Sound power can be used for various novel applications including cellular phones that can be charged during conversations and sound-insulating walls near highways that generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles.

"The latter development would have the additional benefit of reducing noise levels near highways by absorbing the sound energy of vehicles."

Here's another idea: can scientists convert the physical pressure that we exert on our phones for texting into energy? Can you imagine if we harness the national potential of all 13-year-olds engaged in texting everyday? I'm sure we could power cities across the land!


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 10:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Smartphones
        

April 22, 2011

Mobile apps, mobile work, mobile life: the rise of digital nomads

There are tons of success stories of developers who've built killer smartphone apps into thriving little businesses. But I'd bet there are fewer stories out there like the story of Jen Harvey and Steven Hugg.

This couple helped me kick off the beginning of my story about the rise of digital nomads, or people who increasingly work and live wherever they choose, thanks to mobile connectivity and the Internet. Harvey and Hugg run Voxilate, a company whose had great success with an iPhone/Android app called HeyTell.

Harvey and Hugg ditched their Bethesda lives early last year and went completely mobile, living in short-term rentals and traveling the country whenever they felt the urge to visit a place or visit with friends and family. And they've managed the sharp growth of their successful app (5+ million downloads) and their business while on the road. They're currently in San Diego.

I spoke with other traveler/workers, too, including Heather Van De Mark, a designer with Groove Commerce in Baltimore. She started traveling in August, and works on website designs for Groove from wherever she chooses to open up her laptop.

I also spoke with Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy, two very experienced digital nomads -- or technomads, by their term -- who've been working in software and traveling the U.S. for the past four years.

It's becoming more viable to do this kind of work/travel arrangement, thanks to advances in Internet and mobile communications. But do you have the boss -- or the business -- that will enable you to do it? What's more: is constant travel really appealing to you?

Below: Heather Van De Mark in Chapel Hill recently, where she is house-sitting.


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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 1:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Smartphones, Startups
        

April 21, 2011

Drug-dealing robots in Baltimore

Not illegal drugs, silly.

In case you missed it, I wrote about a Baltimore-area company that spent $30 million on robotic technology that automates the dispensing and packaging of pharmaceuticals for institutional clients, such as nursing homes and assisting living facilities. Mind you, these aren't humanoid robots -- rather, they're bulky, heavy, boxy beasts.

The company is called Remedi SeniorCare, and it's run by Michael Bronfein, who built up NeighborCare into a national player in the institutional pharmacy business. (Institutional pharmacies basically supply medications to, what else?, institutions, such as nursing homes, hospitals and even prisons.)

I got a tour of Remedi's facility in Rosedale, with these incredible robotic automatons that pretty much eliminated the need for humans handling, packaging and labelling thousands of medication orders per day. Pretty incredible stuff.

Here's my story on the company and the industry it's playing in. Like my headline?

And below is one angle of the robot, known as the Paxit system.

robot-remedi.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 3:17 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Gadgets, Venture Cap
        

April 19, 2011

410Labs: Baltimore startup attracting outside investors

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We've seen Dave Troy roll up his sleeves and help coordinate and promote Baltimore's tech scene over the last couple years, helping pull off such events as TedXMidAtlantic and BarCamp Baltimore.

He's also dabbled in politics lately, with a public endorsement of Otis Rolley, who's running for mayor in Baltimore.

But the local entrepreneur, who founded and sold ToadNet, an ISP, is coming on strong this year with a new startup venture. It's called 410Labs. The company is all about building nimble communication tools that make managing your flow of digital information better, whether its with Twitter or email.

A new tool that Troy and his colleagues demo'ed at the Baltimore Startup Weekend event is called Mailstrom, which helps people analyze and manage their email inboxes.

Last week, Troy tweeted that his company was receiving some investments to keep doing its thing. So far, 410Labs is about halfway through a $500,000-plus angel round of investing. And its attracted investors from San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington DC and possibly even New York.

Here's a short Q&A I did with Dave recently:

Q) Who are the principals in 410Labs?

A) David Troy, CEO; Matt Koll, Chairman (sold two companies to AOL). We also have two full-time developers and one part-time employee who have a stake in the company.

Q) What do you build?

A) We're building products that add value to people's lives using technology. So that's pretty broad. Our first product, Replyz, helps people find answers to questions. Our second product, Shortmail, is experimenting with innovations in email, which hasn't seen much innovation in a very long time. We anticipate having about four products in our portfolio by the end of the year.

Q) Why take investment?

A) We're not taking much, and the investments are strategic in nature. We want to build support within our industry, both in San Francisco and here in Baltimore. So it's really more about relationships, but this will also allow us to hire people and move faster than we have been. We also appreciate the vote of confidence and insights that we gain by working with outside investors.

Q) How much currently raised and how much targeted?

A) We are raising $500-$600K in this current round and are about half done. As I said, the investments we have secured so far are firmly in the "Angel" category.

Q) Who are your investors? (Is it Twitter and Living Social, per se, or individual executives from those companies?)

A) I can't speak to it in full before we close the round, but individuals at both Twitter and Living Social have committed to angel investments in the company. It's going to be a nice mix of people in San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington DC, and probably New York.


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

April 11, 2011

Columbia University study: Facebook users either sharing too much, or too little

A computer scientist at Columbia University found that every single person surveyed in a study about Facebook usage was sharing something they wished to hide, or hiding something they wished to share -- a finding that highlights the shortcomings of the online social network's privacy settings, according to his research.

The study is believed to be the first that considers the privacy intentions of users of the popular network, which has more than 600 million members worldwide, and attempts to reconcile users intentions with how their information is actually displayed on the site.

Steven M. Bellovin, who as a graduate student helped develop the USENET internet discussion board system more than three decades ago, reviewed his study during a talk to students at the University of Maryland School of Law today in Baltimore.

"If you think it should be kept private, have you succeeded in doing so?" Bellovin posited to the crowd.

Bellovin said that most people indicated in his study that they cared about privacy, and that media coverage of privacy concerns with Facebook had made them pay more attention to the issue. But a majority of users indicated that they can not or will not fix errors in their privacy settings, he said.

"The overwhelming majority of people have given up," said Bellovin. "That, to us, is a fairly damning statement on the user interface."

The study was limited to surveying 65 Columbia University students, who were recruited on campus, and completed by using a customized Facebook application.

Below, Bellovin, left, accompanied by UMD law professor Danielle Citron.
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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:31 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Social Media
        

April 5, 2011

Baltimore's Tixato: Ticketmaster, beware

Chris Ashworth's small Baltimore company -- Figure 53 -- has already scored a huge hit in the niche field of theater show management software, with thousands of paying customers and even more users of its free product. QLab is a "live show" controller that makes it possible for theater geeks to control all their multimedia special effects from their Macs. BaltTech covered QLab's success last year.

Now Ashworth and his motley crew of computer geeks have built a new Web-based product: Tixato. It's an online ticketing service for small theater and event companies -- and it's entering a highly competitive field that ranges from TicketMaster to smaller regional and local players.

But QLab is such a beloved piece of software in the independent theater community (oh, it's used on Broadway, too) that Ashworth has the kind of street cred among theater geeks that may be missing from certain competitors.

I spoke with Ashworth this afternoon and he said he thinks there's good potential for crossover in theater customers who use QLab and those who may be in search of an inexpensive box office solution. He sees his company building out a suite of features for small theater operators looking for affordable software and online products to run their businesses.

"Our approach is to pay attention to the smaller guys, because we are a smaller company and we can afford to do that," said Ashworth.

If Tixato takes off as well as QLab has, Ashworth and crew might be on to something big.

Alas, Figure 53 ain't THAT small anymore. On Friday, Ashworth moved the five-person company to a new office on St. Paul Street in Baltimore's Charles Village neighborhood. Before that, they had been working out of his house in Charles Village.

Here's Ashworth explaining how the QLab software works:


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 11:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Web Dev & Apps
        

March 30, 2011

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

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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
        

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
        

March 8, 2011

Baltimore becoming a "Startup City"

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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

March 4, 2011

Taking the Chevy Volt for a (speedy) drive

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(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
        

February 23, 2011

Building a crowdsourced map of Maryland tech companies

As some of you may be aware, last week I put out a public Google spreadsheet and started asking Maryland tech companies to contribute their contact information. This is going extremely well -- nearly 50 companies have added their info.

My next step is to build a map of these tech companies.

There are some benefits for undertaking this modest effort. One, I'm learning about a lot of new tech companies that I had never heard of before. Two, the tech community -- I hope -- will benefit from a good open/crowdsourced list of companies across the state, with contact info such as names and Twitter addresses. And three, I suck at keeping track of contacts and business cards and names and phone numbers, so if I can have one cool spot on the web for this stuff, I benefit -- and hopefully you do, too.

Regarding the map you see below: I dumped the Google Spreadsheet into Google Fusion Tables. If you have any ideas on how to better serve and present this information, I'm all ears. For one, I'd like companies to add their logos to the spreadsheet, because I can incorporate them into the map. So, I'm open to more ideas -- just keep it simple and hopefully Google-y -- I'm not a programmer!


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 8:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

February 22, 2011

Digital comics: hero or villain?

Diamond Comics Distributors Inc. of Timonium, the country's largest comics distributor, has a digital strategy for comic books. And they're planning to unveil it later this year in partnership with comic book publishers and comic book stores.

I wrote a story about their business plan in today's paper. (And if you want to find comic shops in the Baltimore area, check out this link.)

Below, Steve Geppi, owner of Diamond.



geppi-diamond.jpg

Pow! Bam! Kaboom! Are digital comics the hero or villain?
Timonium's Diamond Comic Distributors to experiment with digital comics distribution with retail partners

Digital entertainment has shaken the retail industry, shuttering your local brick-and-mortar record store, bookseller and video rental outlets. Could the neighborhood comic book shop be next?

Diamond Comic Distributors Inc. hopes not. The Timonium company is the country's largest distributor of comics to about 2,700 small retailers. It has been fighting the same forces — online sales, changing consumer habits and even digital piracy — that are pushing other retailers to the brink.

Just last week, the national bookstore chain Borders Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection as Internet and digital media cut into sales. One of its largest creditors: Diamond, which is owed nearly $4 million for comic book and graphic novel inventory that Borders bought.

But Diamond hopes it has found a secret weapon. In a plot twist, the company plans to cast allegiance with digital comics distributor iVerse Media. Starting this summer, buyers of many comics that Diamond distributes also will be able to buy the digital version at the cash register.

"At first we were a bit alarmed," said Diamond's Dave Bowen about the digital comic book's emergence. "But the more we studied it, the more we realized there wasn't as much cause for alarm as there was opportunity."

The comics industry has seen big upheaval before, from distribution fights and comic book speculators who drove up prices on collectibles in the 1980s and 1990s, to the more recent surge in the popularity of graphic novels and manga, or Japanese comics.

And so far, digital comics are just a tiny percentage of the industry, estimated at more than $6 million compared with total retail comic sales of about $680 million, according to ICV2, a research and consulting firm that tracks the industry.

Continue reading "Digital comics: hero or villain?" »


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:50 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas
        

February 18, 2011

Tech events and contacts in Maryland -- a crowdsourced effort

There are tons of tech companies and tech events in Maryland -- and I'm trying to get a handle on every last one of them.

You can help. Just input your tech company contact info and/or tech-related event in the public Google Spreadsheet below. Leave me an idea for a possible story or how your company can contribute any expertise on tech trends for a possible news story. And I'll do the rest.

My hope -- at least with the events -- is to create a Google map mashup that enables all of us to keep track of the various tech events happening in Maryland. Let's stay connected!


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 10:59 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Events (Baltimore area)
        

February 17, 2011

The smartphone/dumbphone digital divide....in Baltimore?

A commenter over on our Google Moderator page left a story suggestion that he'd like to see us cover: what is the state of the digital divide between smartphone and other cellphone users? Here's Craig's comment:

"There's an app for almost everything, but does everyone have a smartphone? What's the digital divide for smartphone users vs. non-smartphones. What's the real market for apps?"

Good question, Craig. I know in Baltimore there are the usual telecom wireless operators, i.e. Verizon and AT&T. But we're also seeing a company called Cricket getting in the action, offering smart and feature phones for cheaper prices. Sprint has a subsidiary called Boost Mobile. These companies offer monthly plans and alternative pricing options.

I haven't poked around yet to see if there are breakdowns of smartphone/feature (or dumb) phone users by geographic region. That would be an interesting stat. If anyone finds any data, please drop a link in the comments below.

That said, I'd like to start a Google Doc Spreadsheet where we can all document examples of a "digital divide" in Baltimore, whether it's for businesses, or schools, or government.

Please add your ideas or examples here.

FYI: About a year ago, I wrote about the broadband digital divide in Baltimore when compared to other East Coast cities. Here's the story:

A NEED FOR SPEED
Baltimore City struggles to play catch-up with its suburbs and other U.S. urban areas in broadband Internet access

Access to faster broadband Internet service is increasingly viewed as an economic imperative, and not just a privilege for those who can afford it. But many rural and some urban communities, such as Baltimore, are worried that they're being left behind as commerce, innovation and prosperity are increasingly intertwined with the Internet."My take on it is that Baltimore is not equipped for the future," said the Rev. Johnny Golden, past president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and an advocate for improved access to technology in the city. "We have a decent broadband system for today, but it does not have the infrastructure to take us into the future where we need to go."

Continue reading "The smartphone/dumbphone digital divide....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 12:54 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Smartphones, Wireless
        

February 1, 2011

Uprising in Egypt: New protests, old tech

office-space-fax-machine.jpg

The fax machine is relevant again. (Remember that image above, from the 1999 movie "Office Space", where disgruntled workers obliterated their fax machine.)

For days now, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets to protest Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. Mubarak's government has responded by essentially shutting down the country's Internet infrastructure. The government has put pressure on independent television media (i.e. Al Jazeera) to cut off their broadcasting, with only minimal success.

Egyptians appear to be finding ways to spread words and images to the outside world. Twitter, Facebook and Youtube -- just search for "Cairo" and "protests" to see many videos uploaded over the past week.

Mobile phones apparently are still able to be used, but the Mubarak government reportedly has cut off text-messaging access. So how are Egyptians communicating with each other and sharing their views and images with the outside world? Here's a short list:

* Dial-up modems: With DSL connectivity down, people are turning to their old dial-up modems and calling international numbers to get access to the outside world, although access at a snail's pace.

* Ham radios: frequencies for Egyptians are being shared across the Internet. Morse code apparently has been in use by ham radio operators.

* Fax machines: apparently, the good ol' fax machine has been dusted off and used as a communication tool, according to the BBC and HuffPost. People are faxing information to phone numbers that automatically upload documents to the Internet, through coordination by We Rebuild, an Internet activist group.

* Twitter by phone call: Google and Twitter partnered to create a tool that allows people to call a number and leave an audio message, which then automatically gets tweeted with the hashtag #egypt.

* Television is, in some ways, "old tech," but it's still an unparalleled, awesome mass medium with arguably the biggest reach. Egyptian state tv has been generally broadcasting scenes of calm and of Mubarak with his new cabinet. But it seems such placid images only further irritates the protestors. For people outside Egypt, Al Jazeera has been the go-to network for 24/7 coverage. The satellite news channel isn't available in the U.S. (except in a handful of places) but it's easy to access it's English channel through its Website's live feed and its very awesome iPhone app, which is free. Kudos to the Al Jazeera correspondents across Egypt for defying government orders and continuing to broadcast and use social media to get news out around the world.

What other old tech tools and methods are Egyptians using to spread the news of their revolt against Mubarak's rule?


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 11:28 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Government Tech
        

January 28, 2011

Howard County-based Internet video distribution startup raising millions

livetimenet-logo.jpg
A startup named LiveTimeNet Inc., of Savage, Md., has filed to raise $5 million in its latest round of financing efforts, according to Securities and Exchange documents.

LiveTimeNet, which was founded in 2007, specializes in Internet video content transport and delivery, using its own nationwide managed IP network, according to its website.

It boasts that its service outperforms both satellite and terrestrial transport services. The firm has two patent applications for its technology. And it's raised millions in financing over the last two years. In its latest round of financing, LiveTimeNet is seeking to raise $5 million in equity, and has already raised $1.37 million.

Last year, it raised $3.5 million in equity financing. And in 2009, it raised $2.5 million, according to SEC filings.

Clearly, somebody sees something special in this company, which currently appears to consist of three executives: Malik Khan, co-founder, chief strategy officer and chairman of the board of directors; Yousef Javadi, co-founder, chief executive officer and president; and Professor Yair Amir co-founder and chief science officer.

All three men appear to be experts in broadband communications networks, and Amir is also a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University. Any companies out there using LiveTimeNet's services?


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*, Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Venture Cap
        

January 26, 2011

Big news: Baltimore city opens up data spigot

Big news today out of Baltimore: the long-anticipated (by this blog) release of data sets by the city has finally arrived.

There's crime data, 311 data, tax data, parking citation data -- and much, much more. The data is available at this site: http://data.baltimorecity.gov/

What's cool about this new site is that it doesn't only allow you to view the data. Programmers and hackers and web geeks can export the data and come up with their own presentation methods for displaying the data.

What do you think? I want to see the mash-ups that get created with this data. Ping me if you plan on doing interesting things with it: gus.sentementes@baltsun.com.

baltimore-data-sets.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 12:04 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, East Coast, Government Tech, Web Dev & Apps
        

January 25, 2011

Use your next generation iPhone, iPad as a digital wallet?

The buzz today is that Apple is reportedly planning to include Near Field Communication technology (NFC) into the next generation of its iPhone and iPad.

NFC, in case you don't know, enables devices to share information between each other at close proximity, around 4 inches. In practical scenarios, your iPhone could become your digital wallet, using NFC technology that links to your bank account and can be used at point-of-sale terminals. Imagine swiping your iPhone at the WalMart register.

For some quick and dirty background on NFC, check out this wiki.

NFC has possibilities for improving ease-of-use in mobile and electronic ticketing, electronic money payments and transfers, and multi-device communications.

Some wonder if Apple is making a play for the mobile payments market, in a way that could cut out the credit card companies. Apple has millions of subscribers to its iTunes service, and it wouldn't be a huge technological leap to use NFC and connect their users via their accounts on PayPal. MG Siegler of TechCrunch, hypothesizes.

I'm sure Visa and Mastercard would remain on the cutting edge of NFC technology, too.

But imagine a world where you're using an iPhone to buy real stuff, not just virtual goods such as music and videos, and Apple becomes the entity that's enabling the purchase. I don't know how I feel about that.


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 10:03 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Smartphones
        

The problem with 3D

Walter Murch, one of the most respected film editors of our time, crafted a very interesting perspective on why 3D doesn't work for the human brain and eye.

Roger Ebert, renowned film critic, published Murch's opinion on his blog. Take a look here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2011/01/post_4.html


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:37 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

January 24, 2011

O'Malley's plan to jump-start venture capital in Maryland

invest-maryland-logo.jpg

It's not every year we get to see a big plan for small start-ups in Maryland. But that's what Gov. Martin O'Malley will be unveiling today, with his "InvestMaryland" proposal. It's a $100 million infusion over the next five years of state tax revenues into small Maryland-based, technology-based startups. It's not a total giveaway of revenue; rather, the state will be taking stakes in dozens of small companies over the next several years, and then hopefully, watching their investment grow as these companies grow and raise more money, merge, get acquired or go public with an IPO.

I took a close look at the plan in this article over the weekend. Below are the opening paragraphs:

Hoping to spur jobs, innovation and economic growth, Gov. Martin O'Malley wants to tap tax revenue to invest $100 million in fledgling technology, life sciences and other companies across the state.

O'Malley, a Democrat, plans to unveil details of the "Invest Maryland" program Monday as a centerpiece of his economic agenda in this year's General Assembly session. The state would invest in small businesses and start-up companies — partially through the dormant Maryland Venture Fund — and would reap both the risks and rewards.


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

January 21, 2011

Baltimore's "tremendous potential as a smarter city"

I just finished browsing the IBM Smarter Cities report on Baltimore (update: which was made possible online by the industriousness of Nick Judd, writing about it for the site techPresident. Nick got a copy of the report and put it online.)

IBM used Baltimore as a guinea pig for an initiative it's undertaking to analyze how well 100 cities are performing when it comes to using and sharing information and data. Then the brains at IBM unleashed a slew of suggestions for how Baltimore can better manage information and data, with a focus on public safety, youth services and general information technology infrastructure.

If anything, the report is a sober analysis of the tough challenges that our city government faces in striving to make complicated information systems better (and simpler?), while at the same time dealing with stark budget constraints.

At 163 pages, the report is a little dense, but it makes for some interesting reading if you're a public policy or government management wonk. Among the findings, the IBM'ers agreed with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake transition report that recommended doing a better job of centralizing the city's information technology functions.

The challenge for political leaders is picking the battlefronts that should be fought to implement these changes, and ranking their priority based on budget realities, I'd say.

It ranked the city at the bottom of a pyramid it used to show how far along it was in terms of development of a strategic I.T. approach. Below is the pyramid:

baltimore-IT-pyramid.gif

Here's the full report, via Scribd, if you choose to hack your way through it. It's actually a good way to get a little knowledge of how some parts of our city government works, what it's already doing well, and what it can do better:


Smarter Cities Challenge_IBM


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 10:48 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Government Tech
        

January 4, 2011

Mario Armstrong: BaltTech's guide to Consumer Electronics Show 2011 in Vegas, baby!

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is kicking off in Las Vegas this week, and local/national tech commentator Mario Armstrong is going to giving live updates from the convention floor. For those who don't know, CES is where tons of new gadgets are released and pitched every year, from stuff that will actually go on sale to concept products that manufacturers are still tinkering with.

We'll be embedding Mario's live video feed here everyday, so tune in. Most broadcast times start in the afternoon, so grab some lunch or a cup of coffee, and waste some time at work (but at least look like you're working hard, you slacker.)

Here's Mario's schedule:

* Weds. Jan. 5th 1-2p PST (4 pm EST):
THEME: Pre-CES show consisting of CES overview, what to expect, behind the scenes, press announcement news etc…

* Thurs. Jan. 6th 11a-12n PST (2 pm EST):
THEME: Opening Day consisting of previous nights CES Unveiled event and top 3 gadgets from Unveiled, show will cover news & announcements.

* Thurs. Jan. 6th 2p-3p PST (5 pm EST):
THEME: Green Gadgets, Wireless & Tablets

* Friday Jan. 7th 10-11a PST (1 pm EST):
THEME: Gadgets, Gaming, Computers, Home Tech

* Friday Jan. 7th 2-3:30p PST (5 pm EST)
THEME: Coolest startups, Emerging Tech, Auto Tech

Saturday Jan. 8th 1:30p-3p PST (4:30 pm EST)
THEME: BEST & WORST of CES -- totally dedicated to the best & worst finds






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 11:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Gadgets, Wireless
        

January 3, 2011

Baltimore's tech community and its rising political voice

I've been keeping this blog for about 18 months now, and I've noticed one overarching trend during this time in Baltimore: the "tech" community is expanding and pulling in excited people from all walks of life in the metro area. Social media (Facebook/Twitter, mainly) are connecting locals more than ever before.

Perhaps most importantly, the still-relatively-small community of tech/social media geeks are organizing for different goals, from business-oriented networking events to social projects. The fact that such organization is happening, so efficiently and quickly, leads me to believe in one thing: the Baltimore tech community is developing its own influential voice -- so much so that politicians are noticing.

It may not be one unified voice. But great power potentially resides in those who know how to maximize the use of technology and the Internet.

It is nowhere more apparent than last year's local effort to organize a Baltimore application for the Google Fiber for Communities project. It started as a grassroots effort that grew to the point where it made sense for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to embrace it. Suddenly, Baltimore was gussying itself up trying to impress Google, a West Coast company who's looking to build a spanking-new fiber optic network as a test bed for new technologies.

(We also shouldn't forget how, statewide, the tech community organized to defeat passage of a tech services tax a few years back -- one of the organizers was Tom Loveland, Baltimore's "Google Czar.")

dave-troy-head-shot.JPG
Now we see another step in the political awakening of Baltimore's tech community: Dave Troy's endorsement of mayoral candidate Otis Rolley on Jan. 1. Troy (pictured) is a Maryland Renaissance man, dabbling in various entrepreneurial and startup projects, public/social endeavors, and big-idea thinking. He's got the business chops and the technology chops to make stuff happen, and increasingly, he's paying attention to who's politically in charge. (And politics watcher Adam Meister is now watching him.) Troy helped pull together Baltimore's Google Fiber effort, along with Tom Loveland.

And Dave, mind you, is well-connected to geeks across the land, not just Maryland. Geeks know how to work the Internet and social media -- and political candidates like Rolley and Rawlings-Blake, I think, recognize that they'll increasingly need the geeks in their corner.

President Barack Obama tapped the geeks for his campaign, with great success.

"[T]he use of the Internet for political and community organizing will usher in an era of unprecedented change in American cities," Troy writes. He says of Rolley:

I support Otis Rolley in his candidacy for Mayor of Baltimore in 2011. At 36, Otis is part of the new guard. He’s qualified – he has a masters’ degree in City Planning from MIT. He has been in Baltimore since 1998. He served 10 years in the public sector and two in the private sector. As an executive, he led the Baltimore City Department of Planning and – shockingly – produced the city’s first actual master plan in 39 years.

If more geeks, in addition to Troy, break Rolley's way, we could see a very interesting and robust Internet-based campaign season break out in Baltimore for the mayoral election later this year.

Rawlings-Blake, for her part, has pushed for more transparency in city government using technology. The last we heard, her administration is working to unveil large sets of data from city agencies that will give the public -- and eager tech geeks -- material to create new Web mashups that inform the public about government operations.

For more info:

* Rolley's Website.

* Rawlings-Blake's Website.


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

December 14, 2010

Growing Bwtech@UMBC, from life sciences to cybersecurity

Frank Turano was a biology and genetics researcher and professor tied to George Washington University, while his wife was a professor specializing in sensory systems at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

When it came time for the couple to launch their own startup, they looked around Maryland for public and private incubators and ultimately decided on Bwtech at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

“We looked for support to grow a business,” said Turano, who launched Plant Sensory Systems three years ago, a small firm that investigates how to modify plant genes so they produce more biofuel and require less fertilizer. They have five full-time employees now.

“We liked the track record here,” Turano said.

While the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Hopkins have attracted headlines in recent years for developing bioparks in the city, the Bwtech Research and Technology Park has been chugging along for more than two decades, steadily expanding the number of companies and employees that call it home.

More recently, Bwtech officials are targeting cybersecurity, striking a partnership with Northrop Grumman last month to attract researchers and experts who could launch their own companies.
Cybersecurity is currently white-hot in academia, at least among Maryland’s public campuses.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration is trying to push the state into the forefront of the industry, drawing on key government facilities in Maryland, such as the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.

The University of Maryland, College Park recently created the Maryland Cybersecurity Center to promote education, research and technology in the sector. The University of Maryland University College this year launched bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in cybersecurity.
Bwtech@UMBC — as it is known in shorthand — is among 20 publicly sponsored incubators across Maryland.

Across the country, incubators have grown popular as a way to counteract the effects of a punishing recession. With some early funding, hardworking entrepreneurs and investors are taking bets on future growth during a down economy.

Startup companies are attracted to incubators for a variety of reasons, including the potential for low rent, a collaborative working environment with like-minded professionals and guidance from industry veterans.

The Bwtech park, spread across six buildings on two campuses on more than 40 acres, has focused on helping launch startups in the life sciences industry and clean energy. Five of the buildings in the Bwtech North campus, in Catonsville, have been built within the past decade and feature newer office space.

A sixth building, Bwtech South in Halethorpe, was formerly the Martin Marietta research lab, which the state bought in the mid-1990s. The sprawling building near Route 195 is home to Bwtech’s life sciences incubator companies. This building houses companies that have a need for lab space.

Three years ago, the companies that were based at Bwtech numbered more than 900 employees. Today, more than four dozen companies and research organizations employ more than 1,200 people, officials said.

Fifty-two companies, or 91 percent of Bwtech’s incubator companies since 2000, are either still in operation or have been sold, while a small percentage went out of business, according to program statistics.


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

December 10, 2010

OpenLeaks: The potential problem with a rising Wikileaks competitor

Former key figures behind the secrets-spilling website Wikileaks have split off and are preparing their own, new website called OpenLeaks, which is expected to launch Monday.

The ex-Wikileaks figures reportedly were frustrated with the group's leader, Julian Assange, and his apparently autocratic behavior.

The group behind OpenLeaks says it'll be different from Wikileaks in one major way: it will only act as an online collection point for confidential documents. It will then partner with media and nonprofit groups who will access their database and will be able to report, fact-check and write about the documents.

But is there a problem with this set up, at least in the context of U.S. laws and the presumed rights of publishers to freely publish classified information? (See this Congressional Research Service report on the topic.)

If OpenLeaks doesn't actually act as a publisher, can it be afforded the rights due to a free press? It sounds like it will become a repository for classified and confidential documents, but will its legal right to behave in such a manner actually put it in a weaker position than Wikileaks?

Say what you will about Wikileaks, but Assange's argument is that the group is indeed a publisher and entitled to hold and disclose documents under freedom of the press protections.

The State Department, however, says it believes that Assange and Wikileaks are not in the business of journalism, and thus not entitled to protections. Imagine what the State Department will think of OpenLeaks.

Will OpenLeaks be entitled to "freedom of the press" protection -- at least in the United States -- if it's not actually publishing? Or will it be easier for the U.S. Justice Department to make the claim that OpenLeaks is not a publisher and thus, illegally holding and maintaining classified government documents?

UPDATE: 2:55 p.m.

I've had a chance to clarify and expand upon my thinking about OpenLeaks and I have another point to add: what is the value proposition of OpenLeaks to the leaker/source?

With Wikileaks, if you have authentic, meaningful documents, the site has a proven track record of posting them without a filter. People get to see the documents themselves and journalists can refer to them. But the source material is made public without a filter. This is a revolution for traditional media, and one that frightens many people -- but it democratizes information.

Now take OpenLeaks. OL will apparently act as a middle man, a conduit, a trafficker and repository of sensitive information, but it will NOT be a publisher. Instead, it will allow for essentially traditional media and other orgs (i.e., NGOs) to engage in publishing.

But from the view of a leaker, the person who is putting his/her life on the line, which site is more attractive to you? Wikileaks, with its publish-it-all mentality -- or OpenLeaks, which invites traditional journalists (who many believe their slacking is part of the problem these days) to filter the leaks.

If I were a leaker, I'd choose Wikileaks, hands down.

This isn't to say Wikileaks doesn't have its organizational problems and challenges with Julian Assange, as its charismatic and reportedly autocratic leader. But Wikileaks is taking the risk of publishing, and not introducing an intermediary.

See this Ars Technica piece and the ensuing comments for more debate: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/12/openleaks-to-mimic-wikileaksminus-the-political-agenda.ars?comments=1&start=40#comments-bar


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:26 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas
        

December 8, 2010

Xipwire: The lone U.S. company standing with Wikileaks?

Some well-known American businesses have ostracized Wikileaks, even though the secrets-spilling organization has not been criminally charged for its leaks of classified U.S. State Department cables. Grounds for legal action against it remain murky, but that hasn't stopped some companies of accusing it of engaging in illegal activity as an excuse to dump Wikileaks as a customer.

Amazon shut down server access to secrets-spilling website Wikileaks, after pressured by Sen. Joe Lieberman. Next, PayPal, Visa and Mastercard cut off the group's ability to raise money from donations. A small New Hampshire company, everyDNS, cut off ties with the website, allegedly to protect its own network from crashing.

In all the hubbub, however, a Philadelphia startup has seized an opportunity to support Wikileaks -- and, of course, it's now getting some free marketing in the process. Ah, the land of the free -- and capitalism. (Facebook and Twitter, to their credit, have made statements that they are not closing off the site from its services -- for now. But financial support for Wikileaks, (what Xipwire is enabling) in some ways, is perhaps even more critical at the moment.)

XipWire Inc. allows people to transmit cash using their mobile phone's text messaging capabilities. The company has waived any fees associated with its service to support Wikileaks. People can make donations in $10 increments either from their website or from a mobile phone running their application.

Here's a statement from Xipwire from their Website:

While people may or may not agree with WikiLeaks, we at XIPWIRE believe that anyone who wishes to support the organization through a donation should be able to do so. We are waiving all fees so that 100% of the donations collected will be directly passed on to WikiLeaks.

I'm waiting to hear back from Xipwire folks; hoping to interview them soon for some more details. Stay tuned.

UPDATE:

Just got off the phone with Sharif Alexandre and Sybil Lindsay, of Xipwire and here are some more details:

Presently, Xipwire has received hundreds of donations to Wikileaks. The company has yet to establish formal ties with Wikileaks, so it is keeping the money in an account, and will transfer it when they connect with someone from the Website.

"They've been a little hard to get ahold of directly," Alexandre said.

Alexandre said Xipwire works with several charitable organizations and he believes people should have the right to donate to the causes they believe in, without interference from corporations.

"It's a completely different story if they (Wikileaks) were illegal on some level, then definitely that's a line we would not cross," Alexandre said. "But they haven't done anything different than The New York Times and The Guardian."

Alexandre said that the notion of his firm, which launched in May and has raised $500,000 in startup angel funding, is getting free publicity for its stance was a secondary concern. He said he is just as concerned about receiving negative publicity, since many believe Wikileaks is engaging in at least improper activity.

"We're fully aware that not everyone likes what Wikileaks is," Alexandre said. "But we are prepared to accept the consequences."

[FYI: I first learned about Xipwire's involvement from The Raw Story.]


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:29 AM | | Comments (1)
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December 3, 2010

Wikileaks: the free press fight of our time?

wikileaks.jpg

Don't be confused by the new battlefield of the Internet, Wikileaks's ability to continue publishing is shaping up to be a traditional free press fight of our time.

"If this were a newspaper and the government shut down its printing presses, there would be an national outrage, and that's precisely what's happening here," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University.

To put it in some perspective, imagine this scenario:

A U.S. newspaper received hundreds of documents that exposed the inner workings of government decision-making at the highest levels, and published a compendium of the documents, using its own printing press.

As the newspaper special edition started to roll off the press and onto the trucks, the truck drivers found that the streets in front of the printing facility were blocked by big trucks and public works crews who suddenly decided to tear up the street without notice.

The newspaper delivery drivers, ever resourceful, used a rear exit and started delivering the papers to their on-the-ground delivery people in neighborhoods across the city. But those people were constantly getting pulled over by local police for minor traffic infractions. Others followed the delivery people and picked up every newspaper that was tossed on the front lawns. Most subscribers never got their morning paper.

At the newsstands, shadowy people either stole newspapers out of the boxes, or simply nailed them shut.

Back in the newsroom, a computer hardware company informed the editor-in-chief that it was coming to collect the computers that the newspaper leased to put out the newspaper. The reason: using the technology to publish documents that supposedly weren't rightfully theirs to publish.

The action was effective: this newspaper with a circulation of 500,000 people only managed to get this special, newsworthy edition out to only a tenth of its subscribers.

Freedom of the press? Sure, this newspaper has the right to run its own presses. The government and its partisan supporters would never interfere with that process. (Or would they?)

But they could make it difficult to disseminate the information.

Take this scenario and apply it to Web publishing. I would argue that this is exactly what we're seeing now with Wikileaks, the secrets-spilling Website that's been at the center of massive leaks that are exposing U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents are helping people to judge whether or not the U.S. government's public statements square with its behavior behind the scenes.

I don't think that Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, has yet said Wikileaks does not have the right to publish, though the Senate foreign intelligence committee is apparently calling for Wikileaks' founder, Julian Assange, to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. We'll see if the U.S. Justice Department can do that.

But there are government and economic forces at work that appear to be putting pressure on the infrastructure that underpins Web publishing, in the case of Wikileaks.

We are seeing the outer limits of freedom of speech and the press being tested right now. Are Web service providers hiding behind the language of their "terms of service," rather than wrapping their enterprise in the cloak of the First Amendment?

In the past few days, Amazon has booted Wikileaks off of its servers for not following its "terms of service."

"It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content," Amazon wrote.

But generally speaking, the U.S. government does not have copyright protections for the work its officials produce.

Moving on past Amazon, another web service provider, Tableau Software, which allows users to post charts, was asked by Sen. Joe Lieberman to take down some charts depicting Wikileaks' references to countries. The information itself was not secret or classified per se.

But the senator put government pressure on this Seattle company, which caved, and took down the charts, according to this MSNBC report.

Next up: a web service provider called EveryDNS. Blaming web attacks that are destabilizing its infrastructure, EveryDNS stopped doing business with Wikileaks, which effectively took the site offline until it had to switch to a service in Switzerland. Instead of using Wikileaks.org, the site is now available at Wikileaks.ch.

Reuters reports that the French government is also looking at ways to deny Wikileaks use of web servers in that country.

This is all troubling behavior, in my book. What do you think? Let's kickstart a conversation about this critical topic.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:28 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Good Reads
        

November 24, 2010

Baltimore Hackathon: I'd call it a success

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These folks only had a weekend. Imagine if the Baltimore Hackathon lasted a week!

I'm belatedly and quickly recapping the first-ever Baltimore Hackathon, which took place over the past weekend at the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore. (Arthur Hirsch of The Baltimore Sun had a nice write-up of it, in case you missed it over the weekend.)

Dozens of hackers, geeks, programmers and tech enthusiasts participated. Millennial Media, a thriving Baltimore startup that's a dominant player in the mobile ad space, doubled the contest cash prizes at the last minute. And people broke out their soldering irons and laptops for a long weekend of hacking and modifying.

The proof is in the Flickr Photostream!

I was only there for most of the last-day presentations, and I must say, I was impressed with what the teams and individuals were able to pull off in a short weekend. There must have been around 20 presentations or so, I'm guesstimating. The judges, who included Chris Brandenburg, cofounder of MIllennial, chose the best individual and team efforts. (Chris blogged about it here.)

Here are the results with some descriptions of each -- sorry, I didn't get the names of the winners.

Best Individual Hardware: Black Candy Audio Scrambler Pedal (a modified guitar thingamabob)

Best Individual Software: iPad Interactive Ebook (a children's book!)

Best Group Hardware: RotoFoto (a rig that enables you to produce 3D rotating photo images with a cheap camera)

Best Group Software: Headline Split-Testing (for auto-test alternate headlines on blogs, and automatically choosing the one that's most popular with readers based on click feedback.)

Audience Favorite - Nickel for Scale (a device that can measure a hand, using a nickel for scale, so you could quickly make, say a ring with a plastic prototyping machine)

One of the sponsors, Tropo.com, gave out prizes for those who made best use of their programs for integrating voice and SMS applications in their projects.

Best Tropo App: Call-the-Door - a service that allows you to call a door, punch in a code with your phone, and unlock it.

Best Tropo App Runner-Up: Parking Spot Locator -- uses a sensor to let you know when a parking spot is free, and auto-dials your phone.

Best Tropo App 3rd Runner-Up (tie): CloudRant and Voicebump -- CloudRant generates word clouds based on commonly used words in conversation. VoiceBump enables a blogger to call a phone number, speak a blog post, and auto-transcribe it to a blog.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, East Coast, Events (Baltimore area), Gadgets, Geeks
        

November 15, 2010

Baltimore's ZeroChroma launches: unique cases for mobile devices

I did a Q&A with Brian Le Gette, original co-founder of 180s (you know the company that makes those funky behind-the-head ear warmers) and we talked about his latest venture: ZeroChroma.

Le Gette (below left) teamed up with Dave Reeb (right) to design a patent-pending collapsible swivel stand that pops out of the back of a flat case. The design has great potential for many different kinds of applications, but for now, Le Gette and Reeb are focused on the mobile device case market.


legette-and-reeb.jpg


The pair are doing a product launch push this week and, early next year, their hope is that their cases for Apple iOS devices are stocked in the Apple Store and Best Buy.

For those investment banker types out there, ZeroChroma is a self-funded operation that's based here in the Baltimore area but does manufacturing in Taiwan. Le Gette said their goal is to keep the company small and nimble and largely "virtual" and "in the cloud." They don't have a fancy headquarters office yet, in other words.

So far, I've tried out their cases for the iPhone and iPad and have been impressed with their finish and functionality. I particularly appreciate the iPad case, which is flexible enough to rotate from portrait to landscape mode. If you find yourself watching a lot of video while sitting at a desk, or in an airplane, this case may be for you.


zerochroma-back.JPG


You can even lower the iPad to a gentle typing level, which is very useful for those of us who do a lot of typing on the iPad. The cases range in price from $35 to $70.

zerochroma-side.JPG


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November 11, 2010

A must-read: "The Great Cyberheist"

I know there are many readers of this blog who work in cyber security and government I.T. So, if there's one story you should read today, it's a magazine piece in the New York Times called "The Great Cyberheist." Albert-gonzalez-pic.jpg

It's a fascinating, well-paced and well-told tale of a cyber criminal mastermind, Albert Gonzalez (left), who looted and laundered millions of dollars from stolen credit card data. Oh, and p.s., he was also a paid Secret Service informant.

The story runs long but doesn't feel long. So read it now, on your lunch break or later at home. Here's the link.

Kudos to author James Verini for a great story.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

November 9, 2010

Baltimore is an IBM "Smarter City"

IBM today announced a $50 million philanthropic initiative to donate technology and services to help 100 cities around the world. It's called the Smarter Cities Challenge.

The challenge is a competitive grant process. According to IBM, the company will send "its top experts to those cities that have made the strongest case for participating in Smarter Cities Challenge. IBM consultants will immerse themselves in local issues involving the administration of healthcare, education, safety, social services, transportation, communications, sustainability, budget management, energy, and utilities."

In preparation for the challenge, IBM embarked on pilot programs in three areas: Baltimore; Austin, Texas; and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (Greater Charlotte). Cities who wish to apply for the grant can find more details here.

Here's some basic details on IBM in Baltimore. I'm waiting to see the fruits of their labor and what they recommended to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The mayor is featured in this IBM promo about the Smarter Cities Challenge. Pretty good plug for Baltimore coming from a huge company.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:34 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, East Coast
        

November 3, 2010

Baltimore inventor wants to give away his patents

My colleague, Lorraine Mirabella, had a great little story this week about a Baltimore inventor who's willing to give away his patented inventions in hopes they will come to market.

Here's the beginning of the story:

Inventor Mario P. DiForte has spent more than four decades thinking of ideas for gadgets, tools and products. If there's a better way to practice baseball, drive a car, talk on a cell phone, prevent illness on airplanes or rescue a person from drowning, DiForte thinks he has a solution in his arsenal.

Now, at 66, DiForte is battling heart problems and fears that nearly two dozen unsold inventions may never do more than gather dust on the shelves of his Glen Arm home. That worry has sparked what DiForte believes could be his biggest concept of them all: He intends to give his ideas away.

The catch: DiForte says he will hand over patents, including pending and provisional ones, on 22 products to "legitimate" companies only if they agree to make the products and create jobs. And he wants to shepherd his brainchildren through production as a paid consultant, even if only on a part-time basis. It's a sweeping offer. It means he would agree to take no licensing fees or royalties from product sales.

To read the entire story, here's the full page.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Gadgets
        

November 1, 2010

College a la carte: StraighterLine's $999 online first year

burck_smith.jpgImagine if the first year of college, you took courses entirely online and potentially saved yourself thousands of dollars. StraighterLine wants you to imagine that future.

Yesterday, I wrote a story about StraighterLine, a Baltimore-based startup tackling the higher education market with cheap online first-year courses and a subscription pricing model. The company does not confer degrees, but has agreements with 22 accredited colleges and universities who grant credit for the StraighterLine courses. The company's courses are evaluated and recommended by the American Council on Education, which 26 Maryland higher education institutions use as a standard for granting transfer credit.

Below is the story:

 

 

StraighterLine's challenge to the rising cost of college

Baltimore startup offers 'first year of college' online for $999

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

After putting off finishing her college degree for more than two decades, Elizabeth Smith this year needed just one more class — an algebra course — to earn her bachelor's degree in theater arts.

The full-time worker and single mother of two didn't have time or money to spare, so she signed up for a course offered by Baltimore-based StraighterLine Inc. She finished the course in seven days over the summer, working on her laptop as her kids frolicked in a pool. And the course cost only $138 — a fraction of the price for a similar course at a four-year or community college.

At a time when a year of college can cost as much as a luxury car, StraighterLine Inc. offers a cheap alternative: online courses starting at $138 a month, or $999 for a year of "101"-style classes typically taken by freshmen, ranging from mathematics to English to business statistics.

The startup has high hopes of altering the economics of higher education by solely offering online courses a la carte — and no degrees. It joins other for-profit companies that offer online education to students seeking lower prices and flexibility in course schedules.

StraighterLine and its competitors aim to become even more appealing to recession-weary students who continue to see huge tuition increases at traditional brick-and-mortar colleges, including some adults returning to school in hopes of making themselves more marketable in a tight job market.

"Most people now are really looking for the flexibility," said Smith, a 42-year-old Northeast Baltimore resident. "Online learning, to me, is natural. If I can shop at midnight, why can't I do my coursework then? I would much rather be using my computer to expand my horizons than buy a pair of shoes."
 

Continue reading "College a la carte: StraighterLine's $999 online first year" »


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

October 19, 2010

The Dead Sea Scrolls get Googled

According to this Reuters report and this AP report, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Google are teaming up to make digitized copies of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls available online.

The scrolls have been seen mainly only by scholars, but digitizing them and making them available online will allow for a wider world audience to see them. Digitizing them will also help preserve them, since the originals won't have to be exposed as often.

From Wikipedia:

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, discovered between 1946 and 1956 in eleven caves in and around the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank.

The texts are of great religious and historical significance, as they include the oldest known surviving copies of Biblical and extra-biblical documents and preserve evidence of great diversity in late Second Temple Judaism. They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, mostly on parchment, but with some written on papyrus.[1] These manuscripts generally date between 150 BCE and 70 CE.[2] The scrolls are traditionally identified with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes, though some recent interpretations have challenged this association and argue that the scrolls were penned by priests in Jerusalem, Zadokites, or other unknown Jewish groups.[3][4]

And here's an interesting video about the Scrolls:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:12 PM | | Comments (0)
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October 18, 2010

Data-thirsty smartphones lead wireless companies to prep 4G networks

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Many consumers today use a 3G, or third-generation, wireless network to make calls, watch streaming video, use maps and access the Internet – all on their mobile phones.

But now, to keep up with demand, major wireless providers are pouring billions of dollars into their networks to upgrade them to a new, faster, fourth-generation service known as LTE, for Long Term Evolution. For many of these companies, Baltimore will be among the first areas in the country to get a taste of 4G, possibly by the end of this year.

Several companies are using Baltimore as a pilot city for their roll-out of 4G networks, mainly because the city offers a mix of demographics, landscapes, building architecture and waterways. AT&T and Verizon are both building 4G networks in Baltimore. Another little-known but well-funded competitor, LightSquared, has raised more than $2 billion to build a combination satellite-LTE network. It plans to launch in Baltimore and three other cities next summer.

“I would say we’re at the very early stages” of 4G LTE networks, said Christian Dippon, vice president and telecommunications expert with NERA Economic Consulting, a global research firm.


Continue reading "Data-thirsty smartphones lead wireless companies to prep 4G networks" »


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Posted by Liz Hacken at 12:53 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Big Ideas, Smartphones, Wireless
        

October 5, 2010

Baltimore data trove could spur new apps for citizens

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Imagine if our government made raw data — from crime trends to building permits to contract spending — freely available on the Web.

That's starting to happen. Washington, D.C., was a front-runner a couple years ago in making such information available, through http://data.dc.gov, and other cities have followed its lead. Another site, USASpending.gov, parses government spending at the federal level. And now, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration says it soon expects to offer a trove of data —for free — through a city Web portal.

What can citizens and technology enthusiasts do with huge chunks of Baltimore data? Just look at what's been done in Washington, D.C. Web developers there have built dozens of Web and mobile phone applications, including an app for the iPhone and Facebook that allows people to make and track 311 calls; an app that combines bike maps and crime data; and another that helps drivers find parking spots.

Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said that the idea for making city data available through a Web portal came up a couple months ago and that the mayor gave the city's information technology department the job of developing the project.

“We're looking to Washington, D.C., as a model,” O'Doherty said.
Baltimore officials are still debating what data to release, but it could range from planning department to police department information. A launch date has not been set for the Baltimore Web data portal, but it is expected to go live this year.

What Web and mobile phone applications would you like to see designed using Baltimore data? I asked this question last week on my blog, BaltTech, and got some interesting responses.

Commenter Steve said he would like to see an application that tracks the prices of steamed and live crabs at crab houses across the region.

Commenter Hilzoy would like to see an “app that lets you report problems (potholes, graffiti, etc.), e-mail a picture in to go with it, track your request, etc.” — essentially a 311 mobile app. Hilzoy also noted that a “traffic app would be nice, as would a bus/subway/light rail schedule and map app.”

Commenter Andrew Hazlett wondered if the video feeds from the city's hundreds of blue-light police surveillance cameras could be made available online and through an app.

John Marsh, interactive director of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), said governments should recognize the importance of mobile phone applications and move to provide information through them to citizens.

Marsh’s ideas include a daily budget and spending tracker application, a crime-mapping application based on a user's location, and a parking app that shows citizens where tickets are most likely to be issued.

He said DBED itself could benefit from a mapping and commercial real estate application that would allow businesses interested in moving to Maryland, or relocating within Maryland, to review available opportunities.

One of my own ideas is an application that would show new construction and permitting across the city. Or how about an app that tracks formation of new businesses and their locations?

Another app could help track housing code enforcement and allow citizens to file complaints easily.

Keep the ideas coming! Post more below!


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:15 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas
        

October 4, 2010

Google TV wants to rock your living room

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Google released more information today about Google TV, their attempt to marry Web content (video, social media, etc.) to that big flat-panel TV you wish you could do more with in your living room.

It's basically a big tease, meant to get geeks like you and me salivating about channeling Internet content -- and apps! -- through your TV. But can Google and its partners deliver a software/hardware experience that makes Internet-on-your-TV a fun and effortless experience. (There are two ways to get Google TV: 1) through a TV specially built with Google TV inside or 2) through a small Google TV box you plug into your TV set.)

That's the thing about my TV now -- all I need is .001 percent of my brain cells to operate it. I turn to my TV when I want something completely brainless to do. All I have to say, Google, is that you better make Google TV as dumb-proof as possible.

Don't make me think!

That said, I must admit, I'm feeling the tech-lust organ in my body starting to tingle (it's right next to my spleen, folks)... Google TV is starting to look sweeter and sweeter. Let's hope it lives up to the mounting hype.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:01 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, For The Home, Gadgets, Web Dev & Apps
        

August 23, 2010

iPad 101

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


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

August 18, 2010

Class of 2014: the cultural mindset

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

They call it the Mindset List.

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

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

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


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:19 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

August 16, 2010

Smart sensors, smart bridges

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

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


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Wireless
        

August 2, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Maryland's computer history museum -- courtesy of Bob Roswell" »


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

July 30, 2010

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

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

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

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

My favorite quote from Balmer:

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

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

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


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

July 19, 2010

Washington Post's Top Secret America

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

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

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

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


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

July 14, 2010

Baltimore mayor's take on social media

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




Video production by Storyfarm New Media (www.sfnewmedia.com) and KO Digital (www.kopublicaffairs.com).


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 3:16 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

July 12, 2010

Biotech: Baltimore needs its own MedImmune?

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

david_block_gliknik.jpg




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


By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

July 11, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Biotech: Baltimore needs its own MedImmune?" »


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July 7, 2010

Youtube's Life in a Day project






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

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

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

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


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

May 17, 2010

New drone being developed by Maryland firm

drone.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

May 6, 2010

Bmore Fiber wins.... in Philly!

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

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

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

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

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


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

April 7, 2010

Touch screens: The death of touch typing?

Take a moment to watch this popular Web video of how a 2.5 year old adroitly handles a brand new iPad that her dad gave her to play with. Remember: She's 2.5 years old! If you're reading this blog, chances are you're in your 20s or older -- and I'd bet the closest touch interface you came in contact with at age 2 was nothing. Now, I have an 18-month-old daughter who loves to handle my iPhone. She knows how to open apps and how to play with the ones that make animal sounds. She also knows how to set the music on the iPod we keep in her room to play her sleepy-time music.

And today, we get news from the Gartner research group that these touch interfaces for computers are going to be quite popular for PCs in five years time. I believe it.

From Gartner: 

"What we're going to see is the younger generation beginning to use touchscreen computers ahead of enterprises," said Leslie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner. "By 2015, we expect more than 50 percent of PCs purchased for users under the age of 15 will have touchscreens, up from fewer than 2 percent in 2009. On the other hand, we are predicting that fewer than 10 percent of PCs sold to enterprises in 2015 for mainstream knowledge workers will have touchscreens."

Many have lamented the death of penmanship (is it really taught in school anymore?) as the keyboard and computers rose in prominence in education. Now I wonder in a generation, or less, if we'll be lamenting the death of touch typing skills in the face of touch screen computing?

Am I crazy? With voice recognition vastly improving, people will be able to "write" with their voices more easily. Already, word recognition software can automatically complete your words, so you don't have to bother typing the whole word out. 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 12:32 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

March 15, 2010

Google Fiber: Pick me! Pick me!

pick-me.jpg

If you're watching closely the city's efforts to bring Google Fiber to Baltimore, take a look at The Baltimore Sun's editorial today on the project.

It's titled "Five Reasons Google Should Pick Baltimore."

As an aside, I've been thinking about how clever Google has been with their fiber effort. The free publicity they've gotten for it has been amazing.

Also, the online search giant has probably saved a lot of time and money by basically asking for municipalities to provide them information.

In the old days when a big company wanted to do a project like this, they'd usually spend tons of money on researching an ideal location.They'd narrow it down to some top candidates and then work with those selected to make it happen, with behind-the-scenes lobbying and negotiations going on, of course.

But Google is getting municipalities like Baltimore, Topeka "Google" Kansas and others to trip over themselves to submit the relevant information on their communities, for free.

It's really a brilliant move on the part of Google to essentially "crowdsource" the interest in this fiber project.

For Google, why waste time pursuing it in communities that may not be excited about it, when there are scores who are willing to do whatever it takes to lure Google to their community?

Google: you'z so smart.

 

UPDATE: You should check out the write-up of the Baltimore Google Fiber effort by the huge tech blog, TechCrunch. It's here.  Read the comments, too, if you care. Baltimore represents!


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 8:39 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast
        

February 22, 2010

Bringing Google fiber to Baltimore

googlefiber.jpg

I dare our Baltimore city government to work to bring more fiber to Baltimore.

I'm talking about Google fiber. Google is about to embark on a trial run to give select communities across the country access to ultra high-speed Internet access. We're talking screaming fast accessibility -- the kind that can launch and enable new business models and companies, that could create jobs and reinvent education at K-12 and college.

So far, the steady drumbeat of support has come from Baltimore's techie community. They've launched a site called BmoreFiber.com.

The folks behind this effort aren't mincing words about their mission. In large bold letters on the site, they write: "Ask Google to invest billions in Baltimore's future." (Gosh, I hope it doesn't cost billions to wire Baltimore with Google's fiber.)

How far will Baltimore city government go to support this effort? I'm trying to find out.

In the meantime, you can make known your own support at this official Google 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 8:54 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

February 2, 2010

Mobile marketing in 2010: "a year of experimentation"

R2Integrated of Baltimore released their own mobile marketing survey last week, which signaled that marketers will play it a little conservatively in the space in the coming year. Basically, it seems, marketers still need to teach themselves how to best take advantage of the different tools mobile marketing has to offer. Afterall, it's a new way to reach people who are usually on the move -- which is different than marketing campaigns devised for TV and even the desktop Web.

“It appears that 2010 will be a year of experimentation and education on mobile marketing as marketers struggle to come to terms with its practicality and ROI,” said Matt Goddard, co-founder and CEO of R2I, said in a statement. “This shouldn’t suggest that marketers ought to table their mobile marketing plans, but that they should pay considerable attention to how they can connect the dots back to driving revenue.”

Below is a summary of the survey, for your perusal:

R2I Mobile Marketing SurveySummary Results


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 8:40 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Wireless
        

January 27, 2010

LIVE Apple iPad coverage today

For updates via Twitter, follow @gussent.

Apple-media-invitation-2010-01-27-580x393.jpgHit refresh every minute or so!

Whenever possible, BaltTech will be featuring live reports from the Web to participate in covering Apple's big event today, where the company is expected to unveil a new "tablet" computer. Other sources of info include Engadget and Gizmodo.

PLEASE HELP: I will be looking to feature (and embed) live streaming video OR audio of the Apple event in this blog, so you can watch it in real-time. So if you find such a feed, please shoot me a Tweet with the link at @gussent or leave in the comments. In the meantime, check out The Sun's Read Street blog for a live Twitter feed!Many thanks!

IF a tablet is announced today, here are some questions I'll have about it:

* How much will it cost?
* How does it interact with existing iPhone apps? (And does it run a version of the iPhone operating system?)
* What kind of e-book experience does it offer?
* What kind of gaming experience does it offer?
* Does it do live video-conferencing?
* How will the iTunes store change to accommodate it?

What other questions do you have about the device? Drop a note below.

Live blog updates:

1:00 pm... Huge applause
1:03 pm ... Steve Jobs... we have over 140 apps on app store and 3 billion downloads from users.
1:04 pm ... Jobs talks about huge revenue gains for apple in last quarter....
1:04pm... revenue from ipods, iphones, macbooks... "apple is a mobile devices company... that's what we do." Jobs.
1:05pm Jobs: Apple, by revenue is the largest mobile device maker in the world... (when you talk about mobile/portable in total)
1:06: Now let's get to the main event (jobs teasing the crowd... instead, takes crowd back to 1991 and the first powerbook, as the first modern laptop computer)
1:07 Is there room for another category of devices? Of course we thought of this question for years as well (brief outage
1:09: third category of device have to be better at gaming, e-media than a laptop or a smart phone... some people say 'that's a netbook.' the problem is that netbooks aren't better at anything... they're just cheap laptops. (big laughs)
1:10: We call it the iPad
1:11... it's the best browsing experience you've ever had... (it looks like a big fat iPhone, folks)
1:12: describes how to email... almost lifesize keyboard.. "it's a dream to type on."
1:12: iPad is an awesome way to enjoy your music collection... (Jobs running through the various applications...i.e. YouTube in high-def...)
1:13: Jobs making lots of comparisons and saying it's better navigation experience than a smaller smartphone (Leo Laporte's feed just fuzzed out)
1:14 Jobs shows how easy to easy to buy movie tickets with iPad ("grab the tablet that's in the kitchen...")
1:18: Jobs shows off closeup of the virtual keyboard
1:19: shows off how to manage photos on the iPad
1:20 (Editorial: So far, folks, I think we're about par for the course here. .. No huge surprises if you've been following the tablet rumor mill the last few weeks)
1:21: Built in ipod in the iPad... no surprise there. (Leo Laporte's audio feed is glitchy again)
1:22: Jobs showing off the calendar function
1:24: Jobs showing off Google Streetview and how to find restaurants (sushi in San Francisco, for example)
1:24: Showing off video now, i.e. Youtube in HD.
1:27: movies, tv shows, music videos [so far, this device is heavy on pushing iTunes and YouTube content]
1:28: ipad is half an inch thin and weighs 1.5 pounds. 9.7 inch display ("super high quality", Jobs says)
1:29: Jobs going over tech specs of the iPad [appears to be around same size as Amazon's Kindle DX]
1:30: wireless networking
1:30 Ten hours of battery life [commentator asks, are those Apple hours or real hours?]
1:31 Now talking about the Apps and the Apple Apps Store
1:32 New apple exec explains how the iPad can automatically increase the size of apps originally designed for iPhone so they can be used on the iPad
1:35 Editorial: will this iPad be an ergonomic nightmare for people who try to type with it?
1:40: [Experiencing some technical problems on the live feed]
1:40: Showing off the gaming experience on the iPad.
1:41 [Editorial: Listening to Leo Laporte's feed... I have to say, if Apple prices this at $999, I don't think it'll be a winner. Just my 2 cents]
1:42 NYTimes content looks really nice on the iPad.
1:44: Electronic Arts about to show off games on the iPad
1:48 Very cool racing game being demo'ed... [Game console makers may have something to fear from this portable device]
1:49 Now Major League Baseball will show off what it has to offer on the iPad
1:52... here we go: the ebook reader. Jobs makes direct comparison to Amazon Kindle ... new app is called iBooks. ("we're going to stand on their shoulders," Jobs said of Amazon.)
1:53: will have five of the largest publishers in the world supporting iBooks... "and we'll open up the floodgates for the rest of the publishers this afternoon."
1:55 Jobs explains how to navigate on the ebook pages...
1:56 "And that is iBooks..."
1:57 [FYI: Gizmodo has some good, clear photos of the iPad over at: http://live.gizmodo.com/]
1:57: Jobs introduces updated iWork software productivity suite for the iPad
1:59 New versions of Keynote, Pages and Numbers software....
2:02 [Editorial: I'm not sure anyone was expecting Apple to configure iWork to work on the iPad....pleasant surprise? This device can also be used to do some productive work, too.]
2:06 Showing off how to use Pages to make spreadsheets.. [Aside: Imagine that: making spreadsheets with your fingers!]
2:10 $9.99 for each of the three iWork software apps... [Cheaper than I thought -gus]
2:12 Back to Jobs: syncing with iTunes.... 3G wireless data built in... Now what's it cost for data: U.S. Telecom typically charges $60 a month ... we 've got two awesome plans... first gives u 250 MB per month: just $14.99, or an unlimited plan for $29.99... AT&T providing the data .... No contract. you can cancel anytime....
2:23: Okay, folks, I'm stepping away from second-by-second blogging of the event... what do you think so far of the iPad?? Drop comments below!!


Leo LaPorte's live broadcast from the Apple event:
Live Broadcast by Ustream.TV


Live Videos by Ustream



First-person iPhone footage of the Apple event today:
Free video chat by Ustream


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 2:23 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Gamers, Geeks, Media, West Coast, Wireless
        

January 20, 2010

More companies now have to worry about "advanced persistent threat"

mroesch.jpg"The phrase 'advanced persistent threat' is something you're going to be hearing a lot more of the next two years," said Martin Roesch, founder of Sourcefire Inc.

That's one bit of perspective Roesch has to offer on last week's news of Google (and 30+ other companies) getting hacked by someone from inside China, by perhaps the Chinese government itself.

Roesch's company, based in Columbia, Md., crafts intrusion detection and prevention defenses for major government and military agencies and, increasingly, major companies.

Roesch says that government military networks have been accustomed to seeing the kind of sophisticated cyber attacks that Google Inc. experienced last week.

But the attack on Google may have been a watershed moment for corporations.

"This is the first time that nation-state-grade tactics were used against a commercial target," Roesch said. "They were trying to hide. They were taking the time to cover the tracks."

Hence the hacking term "advanced persistent threat," or APT. HackingUniverse.com defines APT as:

...cyber attacks mounted by organizational teams that have deep resources, advanced penetration skills, specific target profiles and are remarkably persisent in their efforts. They tend to use sophisticated custom malware that can circumvent most defenses, stealthy tactics and demonstrate good situational awareness by evaluating defenders responses and escalating their attack techniques accordingly.
Indeed, what may be remarkable in Google's case is not the hacking itself, but the fact that Google was able to sniff it out.

What the attack on Google means is that more companies in different industries will need to pay more attention to APT, from defense contractors to banks to health care systems, Roesch told me.

"I think you are seeing a new level of attacking taking place here," Roesch said. "I think this [attack on Google and others] does change the game and the scope of the problem. You have to consider a whole new security posture."


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 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Government Tech, Web Dev & Apps
        

January 6, 2010

Baltimore's QLab rocking the sound design world

It's great to hear stories about how a piece of software can change the world -- or at least a small part of it. Chris Ashworth, 30, of Baltimore, has that story to tell with his QLab software, which is used to orchestrate big and small live event productions. It's used in theaters across the U.S. including Tony-award-winning Broadway plays, and in London.

You can find my full story on Chris and QLab, originally published today in the Sun's business section. (And back in October, guest blogger and Otherinbox.com founder Mike Subelsky did a great little Q&A with Chris.) Below, you'll find a short video of Chris demo'ing QLab in his Baltimore home for BaltTech.

One thing I want to highlight about Chris and QLab: Chris appears to have a very friendly, loyal and enthusiastic customer base who seem to be big fans of his software.

Yesterday, when I was looking for professionals to interview, Chris put out a request on his Website's discussion forum for customers to contact me. My inbox quickly began filling up with people from all over the world raving about Chris's customer support, attention to detail, and great software in QLab.

Here's one bit of an email (without the person's name, since I didn't get his permission):

As a designer, QLab has been a game changer for me, not so much because of its capabilities, but because of the price those capabilities are available at. Various types of sophisticated systems for both projections and audio playback has been available since the late 1990s in various forms. The problem is that the earlier systems were extremely expensive, prohibitively so for any production done on less than a commercial scale budget. Now don't get me wrong, these tools are great, but great was so expensive that it was rare that I was able to use them.

Here's a shot of Chris and his QLab logo:

QLabChris.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 7:57 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks
        

December 31, 2009

Top 10 reasons I'm not doing a Top 10 "year in tech" blog post

10) It was a mediocre year in tech at best -- teleportation is still centuries away from reality.

9) Why give Apple anymore publicity?

8) I can't remember what I ate for breakfast this morning, let alone what happenend in January 2009.

7) Focusing on simple tasks is too hard -- still dizzy from watching "Avatar" in 3D.

6) Hey, Rip Van Winkle. Did you sleep through the year? Figure out for yourself what you think was important. Sheesh.

5) Using my time to craft a blog post on how Google will torpedo another half-dozen industries over the next year with its "free" business model.

4) Why bother? You're too busy playing FarmVille to read it.

3) The only list worth making is my grocery list.

2) I'm a PC -- and not doing a list was my idea.

Annnnnd, the top reason I'm not doing a year in review list:

1) I'm too busy Tweeting. Please RT.


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 (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Geeks, Media
        

December 30, 2009

Renaming and rebranding your company: The story of MP3Car.com

Have you ever been tasked with trying to come up with a new name for a company? (Or a website or a product?) It ain't easy. You have all sorts of issues to consider, i.e. Website domain availability, trademark issues, and what the name and brand might look like five years into the future. mp3car.jpg

I was intrigued about how a company handles such a task when speaking about it with Heather Sarkissian, CEO of MP3Car.com. The company started off as an online community and retail store geared toward selling mobile computers and parts to hobbyists.

But they quickly developed expertise in the field, and started to build systems for companies and governments looking to install them in their fleets of vehicles.

This new part of their business has been booming in recent years. Suddenly, a name like MP3Car.com doesn't quite fit, as some seem to think all they're really about is helping people listen to MP3 music files in their cars. Not so.

Have you and/or your company gone through a renaming/rebranding initiative? Let me know how that worked out in the comments below. Hit the jump for the full story on MP3Car.com's experience:

Continue reading "Renaming and rebranding your company: The story of MP3Car.com" »


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 8:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks
        

November 16, 2009

Two guys, some cargo ships and one audacious idea

luiselizondoJohnRobertSMALL.JPG Luis Elizondo (right) and John Robert (left) haven't worked in the cargo shipping industry before, but they've studied it feverishly for the past four years. And they think they've come up with a game-changing idea.

Their thinking: Why not look at cargo ships the way we look at rail cars and tractor trailers? Rail cars get decoupled from their engines and trailers get decoupled from the tractors that pull them. Why can't ships' hulls -- in a similar fashion -- be decoupled from the superstructures (wheelhouses) that house the crew?

Their vision is a port that cuts down dramatically on wait times for ships to unload their cargo, and is turning around crew quickly and putting ships out to sail in a matter of hours, not days.

Watch a video animation of their idea here.

This year, Elizondo got a patent for the idea, and he and Robert formed a company called Never Ship Empty. They're about to start pitching it to leaders in the industry. And they're embarking on a feasibility study with the University of Houston to test out how efficient the new process could be for a port.

They'll have to persuade a lot of skeptics. But if the numbers and efficiencies hold up, we may be looking at a possible new way that the cargo shipping industry can go about its business -- thanks to these two guys from Maryland and their audacious idea.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

November 4, 2009

TEDxMidAtlantic: behind the scenes

tedxvolunteers.jpg


You may have heard about the big TED conferences that are organized around the world every year around the slogan: "Ideas Worth Spreading." At these events, hyper-smart people give talks on cutting edge -- or sometimes obscure but interesting -- topics, and the audience members are given lots of time to talk and network amongs themselves. The talks are video recorded and made available for free on TED's Website.

That basic format is coming to Baltimore's Maryland Institute College of Art, and it's called TEDxMidAtlantic. I wrote a story today that talks about how more than 100 enthusiastic volunteers came together to organize the free all-day event. The photo depicts several organizers, including Dave Troy in the middle, whose idea it was to bring the event to Baltimore.

It's gonna be a packed house. Stop and say hi if you see me!


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November 2, 2009

I no longer delete my email

I have a confession to make: I have a Gmail account and a Yahoo email account and, about a month ago, I just gave up. I gave up trying to obsessively keep my inboxes clear and free of unnecessary clutter.

I whacked away at emails: the spam and the bacon (i.e. newsletters I subscribe to but never read) and the back and forth strings of conversations that took up a few kilobytes here and there.

But no more. It was like trying to cut down bamboo, frankly. Considering that Yahoo appears to offer unlimited email storage, and Google's storage -- at least for me -- is over 7 gigabytes, I've all but given up deleting emails.

In fact, the only place I must obsessively delete email now is at work, where we have a few megabytes of storage for our accounts. If we have too much, our accounts freeze up and we have to delete old emails before we can new ones. Grrrrrr....

Anybody else out there just stopped deleting emails? I found that I was spending many minutes every day sifting through and deleting. No more.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:00 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

October 30, 2009

Los Angeles moving to Gmail and cloud computing

Could this be the beginning of a trend?

NPR reports that the City of Los Angeles has voted to overhaul its email system, converting it from a Microsoft-based software system, to a Google Gmail system where the data will be kept private on Google's servers across the U.S.

With so many municipal and state governments strapped for cash these days, you've gotta wonder if this is gonna catch on. If L.A. is serious about doing it, shouldn't others take a hard look at it, too? Politicians eager to bring home some tax savings to their constituents may not be able to resist the urge to review their local government's spending on I.T., and figure out what they could push into the Google cloud.

For those looking for some more detail on the possible rationale behind this deal, take a look at this InformationWeek column, which gives four possible reasons that L.A. chose Google over Microsoft.

Hey Mayor Sheila Dixon -- is somebody in your office gonna take a closer look at this?


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:03 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Big Ideas, Government Tech, West Coast
        

9 common mistakes to avoid as a startup

jimchungMtech.jpg At the University of Maryland Start-Up Boot Camp last week in College Park, Jim Chung, left, presented his list of common mistakes to avoid as a startup.

Chung is director of the MTech Venture Accelerator program at the university.

Here's his list (paraphrased):

Common Mistakes:

*) You have technology that's looking for a solution (as opposed to tech that immediately solves an existing problem).

*) You make too many assumptions about market share you stand to gain (you engage in top-down assumptions vs. bottom-up validation and lack customer understanding).

*) You have a "nice to have" vs. a "need to have" solution.

*) Thinking: "We have no competition."

*) You have no clear revenue model or path to profitability.

*) Your team is incomplete.

*) You don't have any metrics to measure your progress.

*) Lack of focus.

*) Failure to address the risks head-on.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:58 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Events (Baltimore area), Startups, University Tech
        

October 9, 2009

How to raise money for your tech startup

Dave Troy here with Kris Appel, our guest blogger for today. Kris is the founder of Encore Path, a medical technology start-up in Baltimore.

As a first-time entrepreneur, raising the money to launch launch a medical device was a significant undertaking.

I am not only a first-time entrepreneur, but I chose to start a company in an unfamiliar field. I have a background in linguistics, but my company develops medical technology for stroke rehabilitation.

So I started this endeavor with two strikes against me. This month, I will close my Series A round, and my first product was launched this summer, a rehabilitation device that improves arm function in survivors of stroke and other brain injury. Here is how I was able to attract investment:

Continue reading "How to raise money for your tech startup" »


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Posted by Liz Hacken at 4:29 PM | | Comments (3)
        

October 8, 2009

Five Questions with Gabriel Weisz

gabriel weisz 

Guest blogger week here at BaltTech may be winding down, but Mike Subelsky still has a few Q&As to share with us. Here's his latest.

Continuing on with my series of interviews with local entrepreneurs, here's Gabriel Weisz (pictured at right), co-founder of Salar, Inc, a medical software company, whom I met through the Greater Baltimore Technology Council.

Continue reading "Five Questions with Gabriel Weisz" »


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Posted by Liz Hacken at 12:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

October 6, 2009

Some of Maryland's open source heroes

Guest blogger Mike Subelsky shares with us his non-scientific findings on who's doing a lot of novel work with open source. Feel free to nominate your own "open source heroes" in the comments section of this blog entry.

I did a quick survey over Twitter of people in Maryland who are involved in open source software and was amazed at who came out of the woodwork. Here is a quick and certainly non-inclusive list of open source contributors in our state, in no particular order:

Jim Jagielski: Contributor to Apache, the most popular web server on the planet, and many other projects; also chairman and cofounder of the Apache Software Foundation

John Trupiano: author of TimeCop, a really cool Ruby gem that helps developers test code that makes time comparisons and computations

Shea Frederick: Core developer of the ExtJS framework for building rich Internet apps

Dave Troy: A fellow guest contributor to this blog, creator of Astmanproxy (VoIP), votereport, and other projects

Scott Paley: Has contributed marketing and documentation and donated staff hours to work on core components of the Plone CMS

Robert Treat: Contributor to the PostgreSQL database

Alan Viars: His OMHE (Open Mobile Health Exchange) project is getting picked up by microsyntax.org

Jason Dixon: Core team member of the OpenBSD operating system

Avdi Grimm: Author of the Ruby NullDB testing gem (Avdi's a Maryland native who lives in York, PA but frequents our tech scene all the time)

Mark Harrison: Creator of helpmeict helpdesk system

Theo Schlossnagle: Contributor to/creator of various Perl modules, Wackamole, Mungo, and other projects

Could this be a more instructive metric of Maryland technical vitality than statistical measures such as number postgraduate degree holders?


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Posted by Liz Hacken at 12:33 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

October 2, 2009

Five Questions with Christopher Ashworth

Here's the second of guest blogger Mike Subelsky's posts interviewing local technologists. 

christopher ashworth qlab

I interviewed a few of Maryland's most interesting technologists to find out more about their successes, failures, and lessons learned; the interviews are lightly edited and condensed by me for the blogging format. The second interview is with Christopher Ashworth (at right), creator of QLab show control software. Chris' mention of "lots of small risks" brings to mind a Tim Ferris post about Bill Gates and Dave Troy's Idea Garden.

Continue reading "Five Questions with Christopher Ashworth" »


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Posted by Liz Hacken at 12:37 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Startups
        

October 1, 2009

Five questions with Clarence Wooten

Guest poster Mike Subelsky is back with the first of a few interviews with local technologists

I interviewed a few of Maryland's most interesting technologists to find out more about their successes, failures, and lessons learned; the interviews are lightly edited and condensed by me for the blogging format. My first interview is with Clarence Wooten, a great role model in the Maryland tech scene. He is a serial entrepreneur whose latest venture is Groupsite.com. I think his story illustrates a kind of success that is within the grasp of more people in our area than realize it.

Continue reading "Five questions with Clarence Wooten" »


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Posted by Liz Hacken at 2:18 PM | | Comments (0)
        

September 30, 2009

What does our local tech culture need?

Our guest blogger for today is Mike Subelsky, an organizer with Ignite (which David Troy just wrote about in a BaltTech guest post) and co-founder of OtherInbox.com. Chime in with your ideas on what the Baltimore tech scene needs to thrive.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that Baltimore has a vital and thriving technology culture. We have many good companies, events and organizations in town in various stages of growth, and it's a very creative time for starting new things. The activation energy for a new tech culture project is getting lower all the time!

This is my attempt to add fuel to the fire: a list of things our tech culture would use. I don't claim ownership or authorship of any of these ideas, and I really hope someone will see one of these and get it going. If you do you'll find a great deal of support and encouragement from the whole scene!

Continue reading "What does our local tech culture need?" »


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Posted by Liz Hacken at 7:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks, Research, Startups
        

September 4, 2009

Innovation in Maryland -- through the eyes of Johns Hopkins business dean

If you haven't read it yet, then run -- don't walk -- to Jay Hancock's latest, most excellent column where he talks with Yash Gupta, dean of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. yashgupta.jpg In it, Gupta (left) talks about the difference in the innovation economies and cultures of Baltimore and Southern California's Silicon Valley.

He makes some interesting points. And, it seems there's a call to action somewhere in there for our business and political leaders to wake up and smell the Old Bay right under their noses.

I may be oversimplifying it, but Gupta seems to say that entrepreneurs are overly dependent around these parts on the federal government as a cash cow for contracts. Such dependence can be both financially and professionally rewarding, but stultifying -- partly because the government market is a different animal than the consumer and business market.

It was also refreshing for Gupta to point out that California has high taxes and a tough regulatory environment, and yet its Silicon Valley is still synonymous with business innovation -- so the excuse that Maryland isn't tax-friendly to businesses may be just that: an excuse.

Yet, the other side is hard to ignore, when billions of federal dollars are staring your local/regional economy in the face.

In an interview I did awhile back with Christian Johansson, the state's secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, he essentially noted that the federal government is the big gorilla in the room that businesses around here can't ignore.

If the Maryland companies don't take advantage of the steady spigot of contracts that are made available each year, than other companies in other states most certainly will.

What do you think?

 

(photo credit: JHU)


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August 31, 2009

Skype's proposed new communication device: Skyping with your TV remote?

Skype, the Voice-over-Internet telephony provider that allows you to make cheap calls and free video chats, appears to be working on a companion communication device for its popular software application that would work with a computer, gaming system or television.

A patent filing made public last month shows that Skype, which is owned by eBay, is working on a device (or devices), with a speaker and microphone in some permutations. Among the possibilities are devices that could connect to a computer, video game system or television.

The filing by Skype comes with diagrams, including Fig. 3 below, which shows a rectangular box with a screen and an attached headset. Another version of the device, in Fig. 5 would be a smaller Skype box (those little round knobs, 505 and 506, are a built-in speaker and a microphone) that would connect to a television (501) and would work with a remote control. 

 skypecommdevice.jpg

In the new world household, one device becomes another. In this case, your TV could become your Internet telephony center, too. Skype engineers envision hooking the device up to a television with a companion remote control. When a call comes in, you can use your remote -- which has a built-in speaker and microphone -- to take the Skype call.

(Aside: Wouldn't it be funny if that same remote just happened to be IBM's patent-pending auto-blogging remote, which would be able to auto-Twitter?

The point of the device seems to be to give Skype users a more dedicated way of receiving phone, video, SMS and instant messages. But it doesn't appear to have a video camera embedded in the device, so you'll still need a separate Web cam to do your Skype video chats.

The patent makes a few references to enabling users to field phone calls on gaming systems that don't interrupt their programs for Skype calls, so perhaps this is a new gadget geared toward gamer geeks.

The inventors listed on the filing are Duncan Lamb, Marek Laasik, Manrique Brenes, and Gareth O'Loughlin.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:20 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Big Ideas, Gadgets, Gamers
        

August 28, 2009

Discovery e-books in bookstores and libraries?

There are a few more goodies in the news I reported yesterday of Discovery Communication's patent filing for an e-book reader.

The Discovery e-reader is a portable viewing device with a high-resolution LCD display, and would be a direct competitor to the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader. (Discovery has thus far declined to comment on the patent filing.) But according to the schematics, the Discovery e-reader will have line in and line out jacks, and coaxial in and coaxial out jacks -- which suggests multimedia capabilities, too. Discovery appears to be setting up its own virtual e-book store, and has some previous patents on electronic book formats.

But there's another wrinkle to what Discovery wants to do: in the patent filing, there are diagrams of an e-book system that could be used by book stores and libraries. I wonder if they're devising a system where you can go to a library and, instead of taking out a paper book, you can borrow an e-book reader with multiple books stored on it. See below -- what does the diagram suggest to you?

discoveryreaderlibrary.jpg


So how will consumers get the e-books on the device? From the patent filing: "The distribution network may be an electronic book store, an Internet web site, a wired or wireless telecommunications network, an intranet, a radio program delivery system, a television program delivery system, including cable television, satellite television broadcast, and over-the-air broadcast, for example. The electronic book distribution network could include direct delivery through a mail delivery system of electronic books on a fixed media, such as a CD-ROM, for example."

Wow. That's a lot of different options for it. Make sense for a big broadcaster like Discovery to leverage all its assets in delivering the electronic content in a variety of ways.


It's unclear if Discovery has set-up any partnerships yet with their reader, but in another diagram depicting a virtual menu on the gadget, it shows options for accepting a fax or other message type, and reading the Cox news service, U.S. News and World Report, and Fodor's Travel Service. See below:

discoveryreadermenu.jpg



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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Gadgets
        

August 27, 2009

Discovery Communications working on a Kindle competitor?

Discovery Communications, which produces such cable channels as Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, may be working on its own e-book reader, according to a U.S. patent application made public today.

The diagrams included with Discovery's patent application, which was filed in February and made public today, depict a rectangular device with physical controls for user navigation. The device would be for reading e-books and "providing for e-commerce," and would be a direct competitor to the Amazon Kindle electronic book reader and the Sony Reader digital book reader.

Below is a sample diagram from the patent filing:


discoveryebook.jpg


A phone call was placed this afternoon to Discovery's corporate communications office seeking comment. I'm waiting on a return call.

The Silver Spring-based company holds a patent on some security and copy protection features, and earlier this year sued Amazon for their alleged infringement of them with their Kindle and Kindle 2, according to this CNET article.

But it appears the disclosures in the patent filing today are the first signs that Discovery is seriously considering entering the e-book fray.

Hit the jump to learn more about the Discovery patent filing.

Continue reading "Discovery Communications working on a Kindle competitor?" »


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:02 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Gadgets, Media
        

Should Facebook be allowed to patent "community translation"?

My blog post on Tuesday about Facebook trying to patent their "community translation" process, which they've been using to crowd-source the translation of their site around the world, really did end up going around the world, thanks to tons of retweets.

The issue even got picked up yesterday by TechCrunch, in a thoughtful post by Jason Kincaid who noted some other sites that have used crowd-sourcing in this way.

Which brings me to the poll of the day below. [Note: The first five people who vote and leave a comment will get a free "BaltTech" magnet for their fridge!]




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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Big Ideas, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps, West Coast
        

August 26, 2009

IBM building a TV remote that will auto-blog for you?

What do you buy your blogger friend who's also a couch potato? Why, IBM's proposed new auto-blogging remote control, of course.

Engineers at IBM have been developing a TV remote control that can be programmed to auto-blog while you watch whatever it is you want to watch, according to the patent filing.

How does it work? Let's take a look at a snippet from the patent filing, which was submitted last year but didn't show up online until April.

A viewer selects a media program to view by use of a remote controller with networking capability. Upon the viewer wishing to send a blog posting to a blog, the viewer determines whether a tag to be included in the blog posting is to be a pre-existing tag or a custom tag, wherein the blog posting comprises program information about the media program useful to identify the media program. If the tag is to be a pre-existing tag, the viewer selects the pre-existing tag from a plurality of pre-existing tags using the remote controller and if the tag is to be a custom tag, the viewer generates the custom tag using the remote controller. If a protocol provided by the remote controller to send the blog posting to the blog allows a snapshot of the media program to be included in the blog posting, the remote controller takes the snapshot of the media program and includes it in the blog posting.

So, basically, IBM has built a pretty potent little remote control that can be networked. You can set it to automatically post what you're viewing to your blog. (The patent talks about posting automatically to a microblogging service -- probably Twitter.)

The patent also references Joost, the social network for video watchers. One might surmise that IBM is looking for a way to do what Joost does for online viewers, but for your television set. One of my favorite parts of the patent offers this rationale for the remote:

"...more than ever, people wish to be able to share their comments with others in real-time as they experience life. In the case of television, for example, one of the joys of watching television is discussing with one's friends the juicy bits of a favorite show or the latest television program."

I contacted an IBM spokesman who couldn't help me ferret out more details in time for this posting. He could only confirm that the patent filing -- for "automatic blogging during media viewing" -- was indeed theirs.

Want to read the full filing? Go here.

But come back and let me know what you think? Do you watch so much TV and share your viewing habits so often with others that you'd need such a remote control?


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:15 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Big Ideas, For The Home, Gadgets, Social Media
        

August 24, 2009

Facebook applies for patent for community translation tool

My latest hobby is scouring the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's website for innovative ideas. One that stood out to me today: Facebook's patent application for what it called "community translation on a social network."

Below is a diagram I pulled from the patent application (filed in December), which can be found here.

Basically, in layman's terms (if I'm reading the patent app correctly), Facebook users will be able to submit text they seek translated to the Facebook community, with responses that can then be rated. Voila! Near-instant community translation.

facebooktranslationtool.jpg

Are the implications of such a service pretty big -- especially if the tool is designed in such a way that Facebookers can use it quickly and seamlessly? I have to think so. 

I tried getting a comment from Facebook on their patent application, but I received a generic response from their press email contact. I'll keep trying.

In the meantime, would you use such a tool on Facebook? My own take on it is that such a translation tool could potentially be a novel item, since most tools right now on the Web are algorithm based and far from perfect.

But if you can get the big crowd to translate for you quickly, and with better results, that could be something special for Facebook. No?

UPDATE: I got a response tonight from Elizabeth Linder, a Facebook spokeswoman, who clarified to me that this patent applies to their existing Translation tool, which they've been successfully using over the past year to get the site translated around the world.  Here's a link to the application.

Says Linder:

The translation app has been available on our site since we first introduced Spanish, and has been instrumental in enabling us to translate Facebook quickly and efficiently: it calls on the collective expertise of our users around the world to translate Facebook, so that the site feels comfortable for everyone, no matter what language they speak.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:20 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Big Ideas, Social Media, West Coast
        

The Luke Skywalker arm: a future in prosthetics?

lukeskywalkerhand.jpg You may recall the scene in The Empire Strikes Back (still my favorite Star Wars film), where Luke lost part of his arm in a duel with Darth Vader -- only to have it later replaced with a cool prosthetic. (Left, photo of the movie prop at a Star Wars show in Portland, OR, by The Kozy Shack via Flickr.com

Ah, Hollywood.

But you may not know that the federal government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (aka DARPA) has been funding the real-life development of next-generation prosthetics that one day will make the Luke arm a reality.

Ah, DARPA.

What's cool about this project is that part of it is being developed right here in Maryland, at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel (of course it is.)

An article today in TechNewsWorld recaps the progress of the project, quoting Stuart Harshbarger, biomedicine team leader at Hopkins's APL and project manager for the DARPA effort.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, BioTech
        

July 15, 2009

"Hire Me" Nation: Using the Web & social media to get a job

My story today about people launching "hire me" Websites was sparked by "retweets" last month about Matt Bivons, who launched an online drive to get a job at Blue Sky Factory, a Baltimore-based email marketing firm. He calls it BSFShouldHire.me.

Who was this guy? Why was he doing this? Will we all eventually have our own "hire me" Websites? I spoke to Matt early on, and then ruminated on the phenomenon for a few weeks, poking around here and there and trying to see if anyone else was doing this. I started finding more and more sites like Matt's when I simply Googled "shouldhireme.com" or "hireme.com." (Here's a short list of some I perused.)

Quickly, I learned that Jamie Varon, a 24-year-old from California who launched TwitterShouldHireMe.com, may have been among the first -- if not the first -- to do something like this (at least since Twitter and Facebook have been around.)

Two people I interviewed who didn't make it into my print story were Susan Lewis and Eric Barker. But it wasn't because their efforts and ideas weren't remarkable. On the contrary:

Susan, 39, a marketing pro from Dallas, launched SusanHiresABoss.com, which turns the typical job hunt on its ear. If you're a boss, you can't hire Susan. She's gonna hire you. She graduated from Seth Godin's informal MBA program in New York this year (a six-month boot camp for smart, social-media-savvy people) and launched her site.

Susan told me about 30 companies expressed interest in her (30!), and she's narrowed the field down to about three potential employers. "Some (opportunities) could be project work," Lewis said. "There's one I might end up making an offer to."

Eric Barker, 36, of Los Angeles, told me how he's been running inexpensive ads on Facebook to target employers he wants to work for. The way it works is he puts up an ad that he targets to employees of a particular company who happen to be on Facebook. When you buy an ad on Facebook, the site offers you granular tools to target your ad to people, say, who claim they work for a certain company. The ads get him noticed and he gets calls from recruiters.

Barker, a former Hollywood screenwriter with an MBA, said his Facebook campaign has cost him little more than $100. He's targeted ads to Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Youtube and IDEO -- basically companies that are in media. He's gotten contacts and interviews, ironically, with other companies who were impressed by the ad.

He said he "went nuclear" with the Facebook approach because of the rough job market and he needed to get attention quickly. "My background is in Hollywood," he said. "Nothing in Hollywood gets done effectively through formal channels. Everything is done by friend of a friend and reputation. The real world is not that much different."

His dream job would be something in product marketing and/or development, he told me.

About his Facebook approach, he said: "We're all marketers now, like it or not. Getting access [through the Web and interactive social media tools] is easy. It's now all about marketing and branding yourself."

If you're curious about using Facebook -- and even LinkedIn -- as ways to advertise yourself to a new job, you should check out some tips from Willy Franzen over at the One Day, One Job blog.

Let me know if you have success with your online campaigns to get the job of your dreams (or even just a job your mildly happy about, especially if it involves decent pay and health bennies.)


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June 29, 2009

Feds, Meds, Eds & Beds

johansson.jpg Have you ever heard the phrase "Feds, Meds, Eds & Beds"?

I hadn't -- until I listened to Christian S. Johansson, head of the state Department of Business and Economic Development, drop it during his keynote address at the Maryland Incubator of the Year Awards on June 17.

In a room full of bright start-up companies, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and state biz development leaders, Johansson talked about the strength and resilience of the Maryland economy, in the face of a national recession.  A big reason for that strength, he said, is "Feds, Meds, Eds and Beds."  Here's what that catch-phrase means:

* Feds: The state benefits from tens of thousands of jobs tied directly and indirectly to federal government agencies that employ people at military and civilian facilities. (Think NSA at Fort Meade to the Social Security Administration headquarters at Woodlawn.) Contractors that do work for these federal agencies and military installations are also plentiful in Maryland. 

* Meds: The health care and social services industry is a huge employer in Maryland. Also, biotechnology is a growing, cutting-edge sector that's seen a lot of investment in recent years.

* Eds: Education. Higher education. And the research that comes out of institutions such as the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.

* Beds: Tourism. From the Inner Harbor to the Eastern Shore to Deep Creek.

The notion of Feds, Meds, Eds & Beds sounds like a nifty marketing jingle for state leaders to use in their cheerleading and marketing of Maryland. What do you think?

Meantime, if you're interested in getting a snapshot of the Maryland economy, here are some links to peruse:

:: This state report has one of the latest overviews of Maryland's private-sector workforce.

:: The 2008 Maryland employment and payrolls data show a breakdown of public and private sector jobs, including average weekly wage per worker. (Hint: There are more workers in local and state government than federal, but federal workers have a higher average weekly salary. Gee, I wonder if that's why everybody seems to covet a job with the Feds. :-)

:: The Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore has more specific stats that drill down on the economic activity in the Baltimore area, such as this chart on employment by industry.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:14 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Government Tech
        

June 1, 2009

Where do you think the Balt tech scene is heading?

crystalball.jpgIn the comments in the first post, Twitterer @ecogordo said he'd like to get my view on where the BaltTech community is heading.

Heck if I have a crystal ball -- like this guy on the left.

But here's what I do know: there are lots of people talking to each other in this town and in the greater Baltimore/Maryland tech scene.

Every week, you're hearing about tweet-ups and networking events. Perhaps all the tech-talk is nothing new, skeptics might say. Or maybe, thanks to a whole set of social media tools -- i.e. Twitter, Facebook -- people are making connections and sharing ideas at an exponentially increasing rate. You need such percolation to fuel the startup dreams (and new jobs) of tomorrow.

Check my calendar on the right of this page and you'll start to see the summer filling up with events, such as Baltimore's first BarCamp.(On Twitter, www.twitter.com/barcamp)

One of the best local posts about the tech scene can be found on Mike Subelsky's blog. Subelsky -- a hacker, Ignite Baltimore co-founder, theater improv dude and all around brainy guy -- gives us his informed take and neatly summarizes some of the trends we're all starting to see. Take a look.

What do you think about Baltimore's tech scene? Where is it going and where does it need to go?

 (Photo credit: Karl Merton Ferron, Sun photographer)


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 8:31 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Big Ideas
        

Hello, world!

baltimore%20inner%20harbor%20aerial.jpg

Welcome to BaltTech. Don't know about you, but I am happy to be here, on this patch of earth pixels and code. Having worked at The Baltimore Sun now for 10 years, I've been lucky to cover a broad range of topics, from business to crime. (Here's a sampling of my latest work.)   

The past few years, I was deep in the thicket of Baltimore crime reporting and breaking news, seeing all the negative things that were possible in this city, day in, day out. It was during this period -- when I also started carrying a video camera and an iPhone to do my job -- that I began  gaining an appreciation for the importance of technology and innovation, in Baltimore and beyond our great little city.

I took a couple Web courses at the University of Baltimore. I built a Website, played with blogs, shot tons of shaky video at home and work, shelled out big bucks for Adobe Creative Suite 3. In short: I ramped up my geekitude from 0-60 in a very short period of time. But i won't embellish: I'm still a newbie. In fact, you'll probably correct me on many occasions. That's okay: I look forward to learning something new every day.

For more than a year now, I've nurtured this idea of a tech blog that gets up each day and tries to cover the interesting tech trends coming out of Baltimore.

Not just the big companies and the federal government contractors, but the little guys and gals, too. Not just the established players, but the startup dreamers who are hustling to bring their visions to life.

Somewhere out there, maybe here in Maryland, the next Google could be being born right now. Maybe it'll be a white-hot startup. Or maybe it'll branch out of groundbreaking work done by students and professors at one of Maryland's colleges and universities. Either way, I want to be there to Tweet it, blog it, report it, photograph it, and videotape it. (Did i just say videotape?) 

So what will this blog cover, you wonder? Well... for a hint, take a look at the categories I've created. These are my interests. They will likely change and evolve over time as I roll up my sleeves and get into this blog and the tech beat.

But generally, I want to write about the big ideas driving Maryland's tech sector forward, the stuff the entrepreneurs and technologists are building, the people they're hiring, and how well private industry, our public and private universities, and our government work together to create opportunities (or not). I want to break news here -- and I'll need your help.

I also want to pick my head up from Baltimore and look at what other innovators up and down the East Coast are doing.

We should strive to have some fun in this space. I'll do some videos and share and feature yours. Heck, I may dabble in podcasting and live-stream video. Anybody hear of 12seconds.tv? Here's my channel. And, of course, I'm on Twitter, @gussent. (And, @balttech, plus using the #balttech hash tag.)

I'll introduce myself at the networking events, beer in one hand, iPhone and/or video camera in the other. And, most importantly, I just want listen to you. It may sound corny, but reporters need people talking to them, telling them what's important in their lives. We're not omniscient.

What would you like to see covered in BaltTech? Leave a comment below. For detailed pitches and story ideas, shoot me an email at gus.sentementes(at)baltsun(dot)com.

(photo credit: Doug Kapustin, Sun photographer)


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 7:30 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Big Ideas
        
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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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