baltimoresun.com

November 13, 2011

Silly SNL Skit: "We're gonna make technology hump"

For the hard-core tech geeks among us, this Saturday Night Live skit from last night might make you giggle.




This is an archived version of the technology blog.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 10:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Geeks
        

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:



This is an archived version of the technology blog.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 10:18 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Geeks, West Coast
        

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
        

March 14, 2011

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

This is cool -- if it's real.

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



[Spotted on Momentum blog, via Techmeme.]


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:30 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Geeks
        

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

Amy Webb bringing Awesome to Baltimore

amy-webb-awesome.jpg


Hey, Happy New Year!

Did you catch the Q&A I did recently with Amy Webb, digital media consultant with Webbmedia Group in Baltimore? She's bringing something called the Awesome Foundation here to Baltimore. And she's an interesting and ambitious individual to boot.

Read on:

Amy Webb believes in the power of awesomeness so much that she wants to bring some to Baltimore.

As the founder of Webbmedia Group, a Baltimore-based digital media consulting firm, Webb moves in technology circles, where the idea for the Awesome Foundation originated.

The Boston-based foundation, begun in 2009, is encouraging the creation of chapters around the world. The idea is that a "dean" and 10 trustees at each chapter give $1,000 grants every month to a project in their community that they deem, ahem, awesome. Each board member is required to donate $100 a month to fund the grants.

Webb is the dean of the Baltimore chapter and is now recruiting trustees to help her fund Baltimore-based community initiatives each month.

A graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Webb is a former reporter for Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal in Asia, where she covered emerging technology. When she's not volunteering on boards and organizing events in the digital media world, she's advising corporate, nonprofit and government clients on how to harness the power of the Web and social media.

In a recent interview with The Baltimore Sun, Webb talked about the Awesome Foundation, her work and technology trends.

Question: Tell us about the Awesome Foundation. What's it about?

Answer: Rather than trying to reward people for huge projects that could take a long time to implement or ultimately not work out, the idea is to give people a chance to come up with something creative that somehow makes the city more awesome. The way we think about it is if the MacArthur Foundation had micro-grants to award for geniuses.

It's not a gigantic initiative. It's a way to help creative communities flourish and bring creative ideas into a city. People feel excited about the project. A thousand dollars is not a ton of money, but it's meant as a way to help get ideas off the ground.

Continue reading "Amy Webb bringing Awesome to Baltimore" »


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

November 30, 2010

Maryland tech gifts: a guide

Many consumers now think "buy local" when it comes to food, or in choosing to shop at small local storefronts as opposed to national big-box chains.

But how about buying local when it comes to technology purchases, especially around the holidays?
BaltTech compiled a list of products — hardware, software, accessories and games — that originate in Maryland, and could make for holiday gifts. Your dollars also would help to support Maryland's technology entrepreneurs and businesses.

If you're still shopping, here's the local list of tech gifts by category:

Home Audio: Polk Audio is a Baltimore-based company that produces speaker systems for cars, boats and the home. Check out the $299 I-Sonic iPod radio dock. (PolkAudio.com)

Console/PC gaming: Maryland has a pretty robust video game industry. Check out Sparks-based Firaxis Games' popular "Civilization" video games, including the newest fifth installment. $39.99 to $49.95 (Civilization5.com) Bethesda Softworks, based in Rockville, makes a lot of video games for PC, Xbox and Playstation, and even the iPhone. Fallout 3 is a recent title that was designed by a Loyola University grad. $15-$43 (BethSoft.com)

Mobile device cases: M-Edge, of Odenton, Md., makes several cases for the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPads, and electronic readers by Sony, Borders and Barnes & Noble (MEdgeStore.com). The Latitude Jacket for Kindle costs $34.99. ZeroChroma, a new Baltimore company, makes unique cases that double as stands for use with Kindles, iPods, iPhones and iPads. The iPad case, for $69.95, is very useful. (ZeroChroma.com)

Cybersecurity: Got a friend or a relative who hates it when people glance at their laptop monitors while he is working? Oculis Labs' Private Eye software might strike his fancy. The Hunt Valley-based company's software uses a computer's webcam to detect when someone other than the computer owner is looking at the monitor. It blurs the screen when it detects an eavesdropper or if the user turns his head away. $49.95. (OculisLabs.com)

Baltimore-themed: For that recent transplant to Baltimore, help her learn about the city's geography and history with an audio tour. Baltimore Audio Tours sells a CD or digital download for an MP3 player that delivers an auditory tour of the city. $12.97. (BaltimoreAudioTours.com)

iPad/iPhone games: Jumbalaya is a $1.99 word game for sale in the Apple App Store designed by Fastspot, a Baltimore-based interactive design agency that works on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. It's addicting. And you can give it to someone through iTunes. (PlayJumbalaya.com)

Gift cards: Don't want to burn the mental energy of choosing a gift for someone? Go the gift card route. Save some money by buying discounted gift cards through GiftCardRescue.com, an Ellicott City-based company. Some stores include Cheesecake Factory, Bed Bath & Beyond and Radio Shack. (And for those who receive unwanted gift cards, you could sell them through GiftCardRescue.)

Got an idea for a Maryland-based technology product that might make for a good holiday gift? E-mail it to me and I'll try and share on the BaltTech blog.


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 (1)
Categories: Apps, East Coast, Gadgets, Gamers, Geeks
        

November 24, 2010

Baltimore Hackathon: I'd call it a success

DSC_0029

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.


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

November 22, 2010

Note to Rupert: My iPad's Web browser will eat your "Daily" newspaper for lunch

It's a brisk news day in tech this Monday before Thanksgiving. Here's what I find interesting:

* First up, iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch users woke up to a little dash of Christmas right before the holidays: It's the new iOS 4.2. The software update brings some goodies to the iDevices, especially the iPad. For me, three features that tap the devices wireless capabilities are new: AirPlay (play music over Wi-Fi); AirPrint (print stuff over Wi-Fi) and Find My iPhone (find your lost or stolen iPhone via 3G or Wi-Fi). Hit Engadget for a review of iOS 4.2

* Next, Netflix just launched a new "streaming-only" monthly plan, for $7.99 a month. But they jacked up prices on "streaming + DVD" plans to $9.99 a month and up. People are complaining on the company site that Netflix doesn't offer new enough content on its Watch Instantly stream to justify a streaming-only price at $7.99. I tend to agree. I'll be taking a closer look at Hulu Plus through my Roku now.

* Here's a hypothetical: if you're a billionaire media tycoon who makes a lot of money off newspapers, but feel threatened by the Web, what would you do if a device like the iPad magically appeared? Why, try to re-create newspaper economics on this Internet tablet of course! This isn't a hypothetical: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is working on an iPad-only digital "newspaper", called The Daily, that publishes once a day on the device. Really? Really. Bwahahahahahaha!

murdoch-ipad.png


(Photo of Rupert Murdoch via PaidContent)


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 1:57 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Geeks, Good Reads
        

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


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

November 9, 2010

Baltimore's 1st ever HACKATHON

baltimore-hackathon.gif

Attention: Geeks, hackers, programmers, engineers .... come one, come all.

On Nov. 19, Baltimore's bustling little tech community will hold the first ever Hackathon, at the Beehive Baltimore space in Canton.

The premise is to encourage teams of people to work over a weekend to build hardware or software, from idea to prototype, in a fun, competitive environment.

The event starts Friday (11/19), 6 p.m. and wraps up Sunday (11/21), 6 p.m. (RSVP and more details here.)

There are prizes:

* Best Software Prototype - Individual ($150)
* Best Software Prototype - Group ($350)
* Best Hardware Prototype - Individual ($150)
* Best Hardware Prototype - Group ($350)
* Audience Favorite ($150)

A source tells me the judges include some luminaries from the Baltimore tech/entrepreneur community, including: Brian LeGette (original co-founder of 180s), Gary Mauler (organizer of Robot Fest), Jen Gunner (interim director of the GBTC), Chris Brandenburg (co-founder of Millennial Media), Mario Armstrong (major tech media dude), and others.


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 9:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area), Geeks
        

November 5, 2010

TEDxMidAtlantic TODAY in Washington DC

Last year, the first ever TEDxMidAtlantic was held in Baltimore. This year, the event -- which features innovative speakers and performers -- is being held in Washington DC. Below is a live video feed. Enjoy!

Watch live streaming video from tedxmid at livestream.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 11:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (DC/No. Va. area), Geeks
        

September 3, 2010

BaltTech on Maryland Public Television

So I did a Skype interview with Maryland Public Television, which was featured last night. Check it out:


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 9:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Geeks
        

August 3, 2010

The impact of computer gaming and software developers in Maryland

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

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



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

August 2, 2010

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

bobroswell_corememory.jpg


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
        

June 21, 2010

World Cup: Live-streaming games a workplace 'time suck'

bio_ermis.jpg Ermis Sfakiyanudis is chief executive of Annapolis-based eTelemetry Inc., which makes computer gear that helps companies monitor and thwart employees' Internet use while they're on the clock.

He's also a huge soccer fan and the son of Greek immigrants who spent 90 minutes in the office last week streaming the Greece-Nigeria World Cup match on ESPN.com.

The irony isn't lost on him.

"Three games a day, 90 minutes each, minimum. … It becomes a real time-suck," Sfakiyanudis said.

But of Greece's first-ever World Cup win, he added: "It was a pretty good game."

Lost productivity and network difficulties have become bigger issues for employers — especially as more workers watch streaming video and listen to Internet-based music — and the World Cup has been a huge workplace drain.

Sfakiyanudis is among countless people watching the world's biggest sporting event online, in many cases during the workday. Reports have trickled in from all across the globe about workplace productivity taking a dive during the World Cup.

Every World Cup match featuring Serbia's national team costs that country up to $28 million in lost productivity because of absent workers, according to economists contacted by the Associated Press.

South Africa, which is hosting the tournament, sold 1.1 million tickets to the matches, and economists there predict a significant drop in productivity for the monthlong event. In England, research firm Chartered Management Institute predicted as many as 40 percent of the working population will take sick leave to watch that country's team play its matches.

The World Cup isn't as popular in the United States, but the American team's progress still draws a lot of interest. Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based consulting firm, put together a top 10 list of productivity-sapping sports phenomena in the U.S. and ranked the World Cup as fourth. (The top three? The NCAA tournament, NFL fantasy football and the Super Bowl.)

In an unscientific poll on my BaltTech blog, the vast majority of respondents said they were watching World Cup matches on their workplace computers.

"There are a lot of people spending time watching the games," Sfakiyanudis said.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: For The Office, Geeks
        

June 17, 2010

Hacking Apple iPad for the car

Local car-computing gurus MP3Car.com featured on their blog this week a cool video showing how an iPad was modified to work in a car. Pretty sweet! But please, folks -- don't take your eyes of the road.


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 1:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: For The Road, Gadgets, Geeks, Startups
        

May 21, 2010

Google's got Pac-Man Fever!

Check out google.com right now! Get a chance to play a little Pac-Man, Google-logo style.

See what I mean?


googlepacman.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 11:44 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Geeks
        

May 19, 2010

An online sarcasm detector? Yeah, that's useful.

sarcasm.jpg

Israeli researchers have developed an algorithm and machine-learning method for identifying sarcasm in online comments that is accurate about 77 percent of the time.

The researchers at Hebrew University turned to a huge trove of review comments on Amazon.com to refine their method. Understanding sarcasm in real-life conversations can sometimes be tricky, and online chatter can get even more confusing. So it would seem a pretty good rate that the researchers' method is accurate about three out of four times.

From the research paper:

We experimented on a data set of about 66,000 Amazon reviews for various books and products. Using a gold standard in which each sentence was tagged by 3 annotators, we obtained precision of 77% and recall of 83.1% for identifying sarcastic sentences. We found some strong features that characterize sarcastic utterances. However, a combination of more subtle pattern-based features proved more promising in identifying the various facets of sarcasm.

And now, a poll:


Via Popular Science


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 (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Geeks, Web Dev & Apps
        

May 14, 2010

Diaspora* -- seeds of a Facebook competitor?

Four nerds have big hopes of creating a more privacy friendly Web application as an alternative to Facebook. They're calling it Diaspora*.

They wanted to raise $10,000 by June 1, to fund their start-up efforts through the summer. Guess what? Thanks to the power of the Web (and a New York Times article) -- they've raised more than $131,000.

Watch their pitch video here:

Their efforts received a huge boost with this profile of their efforts in the New York Times this week. Their goal is to "decentralize" the Web by building an "open source personal web server that will put users in charge of their own data."

Basically, they raised money to support their efforts by making a plea essentially on the open Web. And people responded by donating their dollars. The NYT article surmises that people are getting tired of the privacy issues that keep cropping up between Facebook and their millions of users -- so they're looking to support another platform. Even if it hasn't even been built yet.

Ahhh, the power of the Web....


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 8:29 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Geeks, Web Dev & Apps
        

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 29, 2010

Jon Stewart weighs in on lost iPhone flap on Daily Show

Really funny stuff. Must watch.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Appholes
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

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 8:24 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Geeks
        

April 27, 2010

Gizmodo editor's house raided as part of "stolen" iPhone probe

southpark.jpg

 It's the geeky, Silicon Valley version of "COPS." Sadly, however, to our inappropriate amusement, no Tasers were used.

The drama deepened yesterday when Gizmodo reported that its editor's house was recently raided by California authorities investigating the case of the missing 4th generation iPhone.

In case you've been unplugged for the past week, Gizmodo was approached by a dude who claimed he may or may not have had a missing iPhone prototype. So Gizmodo decided to pay him $5,000 to see if what he had was indeed an iPhone prototype.

After taking the phone apart and writing numerous posts about it, Gizmodo returned the phone to Apple. All along the tech blog has claimed it didn't know it was Apple's until they pretty much confirmed it was, and then promptly made moves to return it.

That's Gizmodo's story and I'm sure they'll be sticking to it. Everyone's watching this case and wondering if Gizmodo and its owner, Gawker Media, will successfully protect themselves under the journalist shield law. But John Gruber, of Daring Fireball, puts it succinctly when he says the state of California's argument might be: "Hey, you committed a felony."

Now, some have raised questions about the validity of the search of the editor's home. Wired has a story that points out journalists must be subpoenaed, and that they're not subject to unannounced searches.

Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder if Gizmodo routinely pays thousands of dollars for gadgets that may or may not be authentic. If that's part of their normal business practice, then I could see their defense holding water.

But really -- who pays thousands of dollars for a "prototype" if they're not sure it's the real thing? And if they're sure it's the real thing, then they probably shouldn't be buying it in the first place. "News" orgs shouldn't be buying things that are known to belong to someone else.

This whole thing is a mess and, right now, I don't really feel sorry for Gizmodo. 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 8:55 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: *NEWS*, Geeks, Smartphones, West Coast
        

April 21, 2010

Three reasons why the guy who found the 4G iPhone and sold it to Gizmodo is a dweeb who lives in his parents' basement

parents-basement.jpg

(Above, an example of the kind of parents' basement the 4G iPhone seller may be living in right now)

* First off, $5,000. That's all you could get for it? In your world, where you play nonstop with your XBox and live in your parents' basement, $5,000 is certainly a lot of money. It's just enough to help you buy that heavily used/modified 2002 Subaru WRX you've been lusting after for years (with a few grand tossed in by your parents) so you could drag-race with the dudes you meet every Friday night after drinking in Redwood City.

* Second, you gave up long-term revenue and positive publicity (as the guy who publicly returned Apple's lost 4G iPhone) for a short-term gain. Again, $5K is a lot of dough for someone still living in his parents' basement, but a) you have to pay taxes on it (unless maybe Gizmodo paid you in unmarked bills?) and b) you have to remain secretive about it out of fear of being criminally charged.

* Third, if you don't live in your parents' basement, you at least used to. Dweeb profile studies have shown that most men who read Engadget and Gizmodo have, at one point in their lives, lived extensively in their parents' basement. I should know. But that's beside the point.

Mind you, this is all just a theory on my part. What do you think? Vote in the poll 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 12:59 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Geeks
        

April 19, 2010

Google Auto-fill: a window into our relationships?

I had some fun with Google's auto-fill feature today and it made me realize that there may be a LOT of people out there in need of couples' counseling. What do you think?

google-my-boyfriend.gif


google-my-girlfriend.gif

Hit the jump for "my husband" and "my wife."

Continue reading "Google Auto-fill: a window into our relationships?" »


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 1:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Geeks
        

April 9, 2010

Hey Google: Check out Baltimore's Google Fiber logo!

KalGoogleFiberimage.JPG

The folks behind the city's effort to lure the Google Fiber for Communities project to Baltimore roped in another creative volunteer: award-winning editorial cartoonist Kevin "Kal" Kallaugher.

Kal, who now works for The Economist magazine, was previously the sharp, smart and funny cartoonist for The Baltimore Sun. Kal designed the Baltimore-themed Google logo above, which also graces the official Website of Baltimore's Google Fiber effort.

In case you didn't know: a couple months ago, Google announced they would build an ultra-high-speed fiber-optic-based broadband network in a lucky community in the U.S. More than 1,100 cities and towns sent in applications to Google in hopes of getting the project. Baltimore was one of them. Communities across the country are literally begging for Google to take them into the next generation of broadband Internet.

If you're a fan of Kal's work (and an iPhone owner), you'll be happy to know he's got his own iPhone app that features his work. Check it out.


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 8:47 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Geeks
        

April 7, 2010

Are you a ninja?

The Wall Street Journal has a fun story about the growth of the term "ninja" in job titles. Are you a ninja in your job?

From the article:

In 2009, the growth of "ninja" as a new job description far outpaced the growth of other trendy titles, according to LinkedIn Corp., a Web site that provides networking for more than 65 million professionals. While the numbers are still small on LinkedIn—some 800 current or former ninjas have public profiles on the site—their growth has skyrocketed past other fashionable careers such as "gurus" and "evangelists," says Monica Rogati, a scientist at LinkedIn who finds patterns in jobs data.

It's harder to quantify precisely what a ninja is.


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 (1)
Categories: Geeks
        

April 1, 2010

April Fools' gags for nerds

April Fools' gags are breaking out across the Web among tech and news geeks. I had wanted to do one for this blog, but brighter minds than mine didn't think a news blog should be pumping out fake news -- even if it was to be about the newspaper.

(My gag was gonna be an announcement that the Sun would put up a paywall and start charging for online news come Friday. But on second thought, that's no laughing matter for those of us in the industry fearing extinction!)

Moving on...!

:: If you haven't heard, check out Google's home page this morning. The company decided to rename itself.

:: Johns Hopkins University is also getting into the renaming action -- they even went so far as to redo their signage!

If you spot any April Fool's gags on the Web today, drop a link in the comments below. I'm especially interested in gags close to home here in Maryland!

And here's some food for thought in case you find yourself laughing today at a gag: a fresh AP article on the science of laughter.


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 7:59 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Geeks
        

March 31, 2010

BaltTech on WYPR's Maryland Morning

NSterner.jpg

True confession time: I'm a print guy but I LOVE doing radio. Or at least, I enjoy being a guest speaker on radio. Actually producing radio -- good radio, that is -- is tough-as-nails work. But sit me in a studio and turn the mike on, and I can gab and gab all day. 

Which brings me to WYPR and Nathan Sterner (pictured left), of Maryland Morning fame. Nathan is inviting me on the show about once a month to talk local and national tech trends.

This week, we talked about Google Fiber for Communities and Baltimore's chances for the project, broadband availability in the Baltimore region, and the iPad -- which debuts this Saturday.

Take a listen here if you if you have time today: http://ow.ly/1sP0I


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 8:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Geeks
        

March 15, 2010

South-by-Southwest Website honorees

Looking for cool new Websites to discover?

Here's Wired's list of the Websites that were honored at the 13th Annual South-by-Southwest Web Awards in Austin, Tex. yesterday.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Geeks, Web Dev & Apps
        

February 17, 2010

CrowdPitch comes to Baltimore

funding_universe.pngFundingUniverse, an organization that helps entrepreneurs analyze their prospects and apply for funding, is hosting a "CrowdPitch" event in Baltimore on Feb. 25th at the University of Maryland BioPark, on the west side of the city.

Here's the link to the event.

Basically, entrepreneurs will be able to stand up and give a 4-minute pitch to a panel of judges and an audience.

The panel will ask questions and the audience will be given "fun money" to bet on the entrepreneur whose idea they like.

The two winners will get $10,850 worth of services from the event's sponsors.

(The services seem like they'd come in quite handy, too, if you're just starting out with your business plan.)

Any Baltimore-area entrepreneurs thinking about attending, either to participate or watch?


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 3:37 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Events (Baltimore area), Geeks
        

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 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

Engadget "official blog" of 2010 CES, but retains independence, says Aol

engadgetCEA.jpg This morning, I received a press release from Aol Communications declaring that its insanely popular Engadget blog will be the "official blog partner" of the Consumer Electronics Assocation's 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show from Jan. 7-10. From the press release:
"Engadget will provide live coverage of the 2010 International CES on both its domestic and international sites, and will have extensive presence at the show, including interviews, product news and reviews, updates on CES events and commentary by a team of Engadget editors from across the globe."

Good for Engadget, I thought. But what did this mean for its journalistic independence? (What if, for example, the White House declared The Washington Post the official news source for the Inauguration? Would people be skeptical of the Post's relationship with the White House? Probably.)

So, in the interest of transparency, I sent the following three questions to Kurt Patat, director of Aol corporate communications, who originally sent me the press release:

* What does “official blog” status really mean for Engadget at CES? Will Engadget be able to cover news from the event from a journalistically independent perspective? What if, for example, the event is a relative dud compared to previous events – would Engadget report that?

* Will Engadget editorial staff get exclusive (earliest) access to products and interview subjects that wouldn’t be afforded to other bloggers/journalists who are covering the event?

* What is the financial (or quid pro quo) relationship between Engadget and CES/CEA for this event? Did Engadget pay CEA for the right to be marketed as the “official blog”? Should any financial or transactional relationship be made as transparent as possible for readers of the Engadget blog?

To see Kurt's answers (which he sent me promptly by email this morning), hit the jump.

Continue reading "Engadget "official blog" of 2010 CES, but retains independence, says Aol" »


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 10:22 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Geeks
        

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
        

December 23, 2009

The case of the "racist" HP webcam

By now, you may have seen the viral Youtube video (above) where a black man and a white woman point out the shortcomings of an HP Media Smart web cam when it came to tracking the man's face. It's a video -- titled "HP computers are racist" -- that's done with some fun, but it's darn effective in pointing out an embarassing shortcoming of the HP product in a way that quickly became a PR headache for the company.

The topic of facial-recognition tech intrigued me, so I called up Bill Anderson, head of Oculis Labs in Owings Mills, which makes Private Eye, a sophisticated face and gaze-tracking software for security uses. Bill's been working on face-recognition tech for awhile. Below are key points and quotes from my interview with him today:

* There can be settings or environments where a facial recognition system finds it very hard to understand what it's looking at, Bill said. "A very white face like mine ... will not get picked up on some backgrounds if they are a pinkish or yellowish kind of color."

* "It's a relatively hard problem to make a facial recognition packgage smart enough to find faces in arbitrary environments," Bill said.

* "There's actually less difference between human skin tones [black vs. white], as far as the camera is concerned, than meets the eye."

* Computer software can't compete with the brain in terms of facial recognition. "The human brain has a disproportionate amount of its processing power dedicated to face recognition. A huge part of the brain is hard-coded to recognize faces. It starts since birth. It instinctively locks onto faces.... You can think of it as the human brian is several orders of magnititude more capable than the best supercomputers we have on earth, in terms of recignizing faces. That's the competition."

* Software typially is only capable of a "few bag of tricks" in its capacity to find and recognize a face, Bill said.

* Typical steps in software to find faces include: The software first is designed to locate an oblong shape (the head), then it goes looking for the eyes, which are typically two darker spots in the upper part of the oblong shape. Then the software goes looking for a nose, or a mouth, or lips. Once through those steps, the software determines whether it has a candidate for a face. That's just the "first pass."

The second pass involves gauging skin tone, considering intensity and color. "There a narrow band of intensity [regardless of actual skin color] that's unique" to all human skin, he said. "It's looking at something that looks like skin," he said.

The third pass will look for motion, to determine if the image is "acting like a face," and not a static object, like a poster of a human face, Bill said. "Our software looks for motion, because a face moves."

* What Bill thinks might have gone wrong in HP's case: "My guess is that of the various parameters the software uses to determine a face, that face was probably triggering only some of those parameters. It probably found the head and eyes.... but there was something else it didn't find. Something didn't pass that threshold. I don't think it was skin tone because his skin was clearly not the same as the background behind him. It wasn't a contrast problem... Now, it could've been the color band of the skin set by the software was a little bit too low, and the software was looking for skin tone that fit within a certain color band. It could've been the way that his skin tone looked at that particular lighting

* Bill has 250 people in his beta program who help test Oculis software. "We've had issues too, where software would not recognize a face."

* There are good (software) packages out there, but there are no perfect packages out there... and there probably never will be. They're just working at an incredible computational disadvantage compared to the human brain."

* Said Bill: "Having looked at that ["HP computers are racist"] video, I think the software we're using would've found it's face. I'd love to try. I'd suspect that HP has a little bit of work to do to fix their algorithms. I'm sure they'll fix them, but it's a little bit disappointitng they didn't have it working right the first time."



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 1:31 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Gadgets, Geeks, Startups
        

December 7, 2009

Baltimore man invented word of the year "Unfriend"?

Could the word "unfriend" -- which has come to mean dumping someone as a friend on Facebook -- have been invented right here in Baltimore?

Ron Samuelson thinks so -- and he claims in a blog post he was the first to use it in an earlier blog post which got the attention of a Wall Street Journal reporter, who ended up writing a story about the topic.

"Unfriend" really wormed its way into our lexicon -- it just so happens that "unfriend" was named "word of the year" last month by the New American Oxford Dictionary.

Samuelson, who sells diamonds via Samuelson's Diamonds in downtown Baltimore, tweets under @diamondbuyer and @SamuelsonsRocks on Twitter.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:11 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Geeks, Social Media
        

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!


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

October 5, 2009

Innovate Baltimore kicks off

What are you up to Wednesday night? Guest blogger Mike Subelsky wants you to check out Innovate Baltimore.

There's a promising new event debuting on Wednesday October 7th at the Gin Mill in Canton: Innovate Baltimore, described by its organizers as "an evening of fun mingling with other Baltimore area business leaders, entrepreneurs, creative and digital technology enthusiasts". It runs from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Attendance is free but the organizers say you need to RSVP ahead of time.

Even if you're a habitué of Outlet Baltimore, Refresh, or TechNite, here's why you should check it out: it's organized by two people with a background in the games industry: Benjamin Walsh, a producer at Bethesda Softworks, and Tina Tyndal, a game marketing and brand consultant who writes the blog Girls Who Game. We haven't seen much gamer involvement in Baltimore's tech scene, so I'm betting Innovate will attract some new folks.

I'm totally on board with their mission: "...providing individuals with networking and educational opportunities which will allow them to generate new ideas, foster entrepreneurship and strengthen the professional community in the region. Our meetings spotlight local businesses, talent, emergent technology and trends, all while sharing a drink (or two) with friends."


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 4:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Events (Baltimore area), Geeks, Startups
        

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?" »


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 7:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks, Research, Startups
        

September 29, 2009

Ignite events help build regional buzz

Here's another dispatch from David Troy of Beehive Baltimore to shed some light on what Ignite is all about.

If you had 5 minutes on stage and 20 slides that rotate automatically every 15 seconds, what would you say? That's the question that 48 presenters will answer at three upcoming Ignite events in Annapolis, D.C., and Baltimore.

Ignite was started in Seattle in 2006 by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis, and is overseen by the technology book publisher O'Reilly. Since the founding of the program, hundreds of five minute talks have been given across the world.

Continue reading "Ignite events help build regional buzz" »


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 11:16 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area), Events (DC/No. Va. area), Geeks
        

July 9, 2009

Baltimore hackerspace formed. First project: Use Twitter to change your lamp's color.

baltimorenode.jpg Some fellas have gotten together to form Baltimore Node, a self-described hackerspace where computer/techy-minded people can get together to work on interesting little projects.

(A hacker, by the way, is not necessarily a bad, evil person. Hackers can be good, as I'm sure the folks involved with Baltimore Node are.)

Hackerspaces have been popping up all over the world. Members use the Web to connect with each other and other spaces -- just check out the Hackerspaces.org site for the big picture.

Baltimore Node's first group project will take place tonight, from 7-10 p.m. (Event details.)

They'll be building lamps whose color can be changed by simply Tweeting a hexadecimal color value to it.

Now, hackers, why would you want to do that? Short answer (I think): Because you can.

But, more importantly, it's an excuse to dip your toes into Arduino, a nifty open-source hardware/software programming platform that enables people to create interactive gadgets.

Learn more about Arduino here. Anybody going to build an Arduino lamp tonight? If so, take a few pics or video of your creation and share with us.


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 10:04 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Gadgets, Geeks
        

June 25, 2009

The technology behind Transformers: a nanotech dream?

Megatron.jpg

It must be a good 20 years since I pondered the (fictional) technological underpinnings of Transformers, which has a new Hollywood sequel out now called "Revenge of the Fallen."

For one: how could the main bad guy, Megatron, turn from an "arm-mounted fusion cannon" (huh?!) into a hulking beast of an evil robot? 

At an early age, I was chalking it up to fantasy and I suspended my disbelief while I watched the cartoons after school while eating a bowl of Froot Loops. But some are more willing to try to explain the technology and science behind the Transformers, I learned this morning. There is a Wikipedia entry on Transformers technology that, right now, is striving to bridge the gap between science and fantasy. One of my favorite sections ponders the notion of death among Transformers:

Death of a Transformer can follow irreversible (mortal) stasis lock or be caused by a sudden traumatic injury (such as a close-proximity nuclear explosion, or spark excision). A few weapons, such as a high powered fusion cannon, are known to be powerful enough to cause severe enough damage to immediately terminate a Transformer. Also, while the utter destruction of a body can and usually does cause death, a Transformer can often survive total dismemberment. Notable examples include Optimus Prime (during the Generation 1 series), Ultra Magnus (during the movie), and Waspinator (repeatedly).

This blogger raises the point that the technology behind Transformers involves advanced nanotechnology and even femtotechnology, a largely theoretically area involving the "manipulation of excited energy states within atomic nuclei."

Hey, we've got a lot of folks in Maryland working in the nanotech field. If using this tech to build robots that change from boring cars to steely warriors isn't likely, then why bother?

Har. Kidding.

Seriously, nanotech is a young but choppy field. There are detractors and skeptics on one side, who either think a lot of it is overstated marketing bunk, or potentially dangerous. (One guy wrote a book called "Nano-Hype: The Truth Behind the Nanotechnology Buzz."

On the other side are businesses, universities and researchers who are pushing for breakthroughs that could be brought to market and maybe save lives, if nanotech gets more incorporated in medical practice. Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering has a nanotech research area, and the university has its own Institute for NanoBioTechnology, too. And the University of Maryland has its own Nanocenter.

Do they see a Transformers future?


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 (0)
Categories: Geeks
        
Keep reading
Recent entries
Archives
Categories
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
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

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

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