Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nationwide adds iPhone car shopping app

Source: Business First

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has introduced its second iPhone application.

Cartopia is the Columbus insurance company’s latest application aimed at motorists. The free program for Apple Inc.’s (NYSE:AAPL) iPhone and iPod Touch is designed to fetch comparison information for car shoppers. After entering make and model information, the application gathers safety, pricing, payment and other information to help with comparison shopping.

The application scours the Web for used vehicle history scores, trade-in value, retail and dealer invoice pricing. It also includes a monthly payment calculator and ability to gather loan rate and insurance rate quotes from Nationwide.

“Cartopia allows users to review unbiased information about multiple cars on the car lot – including things that may not be obvious to the naked eye, like if a used car has been in an accident or damaged in a flood,” Sue McManus, Nationwide’s associate vice president of interactive marketing, said in a statement. “It helps them lift the veil to make an informed decision about the car that’s right for them.”

Cartopia is a follow-on to the company’s auto accident toolkit application called Nationwide Mobile, released this year. That application has been downloaded more than 82,000 times and has initiated 248 insurance claims, the company said.


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More info:

BTW did you know Cartopia is Nationwide's second iPhone app this year. Their first, Nationwide Mobile, was just named to Ad Age's top ten list of branded apps for 2009.

They said:
" NATIONWIDE MOBILE - If mobile is about convenience, then Nationwide has really nailed it. The home and auto insurer released an app this spring that was the first to let customers file claims from an accident scene, with the option to include pictures taken with their iPhone. Everything else, from a tow truck to a virtual flashlight, is a single click away. "


Kudos to Nationwide for being a national leader!!!


Gov 2.0


Source: CNN Tech, Dec 28, 2009

Welcome to a movement the tech crowd is calling "Gov 2.0" -- where mobile technology and GPS apps are helping give citizens like Newmark more of a say in how their local tax money is spent. It's public service for the digital age. A host of larger U.S. cities from San Francisco to New York quietly have been releasing treasure troves of public data to Web and mobile application developers.

That may sound dull. But tech geeks transform banal local government spreadsheets about train schedules, complaint systems, potholes, street lamp repairs and city garbage into useful applications for mobile phones and the Web.

The aim is to let citizens report problems to their governments more easily and accurately; and to put public information, which otherwise may be buried in file cabinets and Excel files, at the fingertips of taxpayers.

By some accounts, the trend is turning the government-voter relationship on its head and could usher in a new era of grassroots democracy.
"I see [these applications] as the death of a passive relationship with government," said Clay Johnson, director of Sunlight Labs, a group promoting Gov 2.0 apps. "Instead of people saying, 'Well, it's the government's job to fix that' ... people are taking ownership and saying, 'Hey, wait a minute. Government is us. We are government. So let's take a responsibility and start changing things ourselves.' "

Residents of Washington, for example, can use the DC 311 iPhone app to take photos of graffiti, potholes and other trouble spots.
The photos are paired with GPS locations and then uploaded straight from the street into a database that local officials can see.

The mobile phone app tells officials where the graffiti is. It also tells citizens which spray-paint murals, potholes, dying trees, broken parking meters and tipped-over street signs the city is aware of, which it plans to fix and which it may be ignoring.
Brian Purchia, spokesman for the San Francisco mayor's office, said reports like those from "SeeClickFix" and a city Twitter account make it easier for the city to prioritize spending by addressing problems its citizens care most about.

He cited an example in which a Twitter user named @bolinasgirl reported a broken streetlight on the micro-blogging site. The city responded to her on Twitter and sent a note within 24 hours saying the light had been fixed.

The complaints don't always results in fixes, of course, because cities have limited resources. But Purchia said some problems that the city wouldn't otherwise know about are being addressed because of mobile applications and its Twitter program.

Some of the apps are simply handy. Newmark, for example, checks an iPhone app called "Routesy" before going outside to look for city buses. The app tells him where the nearest bus is and what time it will arrive at his stop.

An app called "Stumble Safely" tells bar-goers in Washington the safest walking routes home from local pubs. "Are You Safe" uses a person's GPS location and municipal crime data to tell residents of Atlanta, Georgia, about the crime history in their immediate vicinity.
These sorts of apps tend to pop up only in places where the municipal government has released its data sets in a format that can be easily crunched. That public data is the fuel that makes these applications work.

So far, local government making the push for public data sets are usually large and fairly tech savvy: San Francisco, Washington, New York and the like. San Francisco, for example, posted 100 data sets on the Web site DataSF.org in August. Within weeks, Purchia said, dozens of apps were being developed.
Once the data is out, cities wait for someone else to use it. Both Washington and San Francisco have held contests for local Web developers to turn their data into applications.

The idea is that tech communities are better able to make government data useful than the governments themselves, said Peter Corbett, CEO for iStrategyLabs and organizer of a contest called "Apps for Democracy" in Washington. "I think the government realizes that they don't have all of the money to do things people want them to do," he said. "Government forgot that the biggest asset that they have are actual citizens."

The second "Apps for Democracy" contest in Washington awarded $20,000 in prizes for mobile phone developers. But many developers work free.
Alan Wells is the co-founder of Haku Wale, a San Francisco company that developed an a app called "EcoFinder," which helps residents find places to dispose of e-waste and other hazardous materials. He said his company spent $20,000 developing the application, but hasn't charged the city or app users a dime. He was just happy the city's trash data was available.

"For us, as a company, we're really interested in the convergence of technology and sustainability and social impact," he said. "So it's just something we wanted to provide for the city of San Francisco."

Other cities may resist the transition, however. Some people worry that these tech applications wouldn't take off in smaller municipalities, even if governments can afford to make the data available.

"For small governments ... it's really challenging to get data sources that are deep enough, that are robust enough to do something that's interesting," said Corbett.

Purchia said San Francisco incurred few costs when it put its first 100 data sets online. "A lot of this is just man hours," he said. "It's getting different departments to realize this is an important aspect of governing." He said the city is working with others to develop a national standard for municipal government data sets and the programs that make them useful. That way, an app that tracks trash in San Francisco could be used by people in Bismarck, North Dakota, as long as the city's public data is posted online in the right format.

That could enable cities without big tech communities to benefit from the trend.

"For some cities and for some governments I could understand that transition can be a scary thing," Purchia said. "But we feel like it makes governments more accountable, and it makes them function better."

He added: "What I really see is a monumental change for how government works. This is just really the starting point."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.  ~Norman Vincent Peale


Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you're home.  ~Carol Nelson


He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.  ~Roy L. Smith


Christmas, children, is not a date.  It is a state of mind.  ~Mary Ellen Chase


I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  ~Charles Dickens


Christmas is the gentlest, loveliest festival of the revolving year - and yet, for all that, when it speaks, its voice has strong authority.  ~W.J. Cameron


The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.  ~Burton Hillis


Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!  ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836


There has been only one Christmas - the rest are anniversaries.  ~W.J. Cameron


A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.
~Walter Scott


Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder


May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through!  ~Author Unknown


I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.  ~Charles Dickens


Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.  In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.  ~Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas


Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.  ~Washington Irving


Isn't it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for - I don't know what exactly, but it's something that you don't mind so much not having at other times.  ~Kate L. Bosher


Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish.  Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself.  ~Francis C. Farley


It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.  ~W.T. Ellis


For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas.  Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.  ~W.J. Ronald Tucker


Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve.  Yuletide excitement is a potent caffeine, no matter your age.  ~Carrie Latet


Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it.  Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it.  ~Richard Lamm


Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!  ~Hamilton Wright Mabie


Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.  ~Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby


Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself...
~Norman Wesley Brooks, "Let Every Day Be Christmas," 1976


From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.  ~Katharine Whitehorn


In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank.  People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!'  or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'  ~Dave Barry, "Christmas Shopping:  A Survivor's Guide"


Remember
This December,
That love weighs more than gold!
~Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon


I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day.  We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year.  As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.  And thus I drift along into the holidays - let them overtake me unexpectedly - waking up some find morning and suddenly saying to myself:  "Why, this is Christmas Day!"  ~David Grayson


A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away.
~Eva Logue


Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.  ~Janice Maeditere


Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.  ~Author Unknown


Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special!  How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer.... Who'd have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously?  ~Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Online form aims to cut candidate errors‏

Source:  Dave Hendricks, Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 23, 2009
 
Fill-in-blank nominating petitions will detect missing info

A new online form released this week will help prevent budding politicians from goofing up the paperwork required to run for office in Franklin County. The fill-in-the-blank form, produced by the Franklin County Board of Elections, allows candidates to create a nominating petition online.

Similar to other Web forms, it will not allow a candidate to skip a required item or enter information that doesn't match existing records.
"If they use our app, the only thing they have to do is sign the petition. We've done everything else for them except collect the names," said Ben Piscitelli, spokesman for the board.

Donald McTigue, a Columbus lawyer with more than 25 years' experience in election law, called the change "an innovative idea."
"I'm not actually aware of anyone else doing it," he said.

The secretary of state's office isn't aware of a similar service in any other county, and the Franklin County board thinks it's the first in Ohio to offer it.
Small errors can create big headaches for candidates. This year, about a dozen candidates were knocked off the November ballot for mistakes.

Among the errors:
• Bexley's auditor didn't realize that he had to sign the back of a form, which prevented him from running for re-election.
• A candidate for Grove City's council didn't specify the seat he was running for.
• A candidate for Worthington's City Council wrote the wrong date on his petition.

Not all mistakes disqualify candidates. Joy E. Chapin left her glasses in the car and couldn't read tiny print on her petition for Brown Township trustee that asked for her address. She thought the line, below a space for a signature, was for a printed name. The board allowed her to remain on the ballot.

"You know, I understand you have to pay attention to detail, but in the same respect, that really stops good people from participating," Chapin said. She called the new form marvelous.

To avoid allegations of favoritism, the board doesn't allow employees to advise on how to fill out the forms. Even simple questions about where to write what date or whether the form was filled out correctly couldn't be answered, Piscitelli said.

The board's deputy director, Matthew Damschroder, thought up the idea for the online form, Piscitelli said. Other improvements on the elections board's Web site include sample ballots, voter-registration data and a tool that allows voters to look up their polling places.
Of course, plenty can go wrong after the paperwork is filed.

Inexperienced candidates often forget to collect the names and addresses of donors, no matter how small the donation, and print the "paid for by" information on campaign material.
For details, go to www.vote.franklincountyohio.gov and click on "Candidate Services."

$2.4 million grant to give rural area broadband access‏

Source:      Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 23, 2009
 
WASHINGTON -- A Mount Gilead-based electricity cooperative has received an early Christmas present from the federal government in the form of a $2.4 million grant and loan package that will help extend broadband access to parts of rural central Ohio.

A broad array of Ohio Democrats yesterday touted the federal stimulus dollars won by Consolidated Electric Cooperative, from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to Sen. Sherrod Brown, Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy of Columbus and Zack Space of Dover, and Gov. Ted Strickland.
The money was part of several billion dollars' worth of broadband-access grants announced last week by Vice President Joe Biden, and there is more to come in the near future, Vilsack said on a conference call.

State wins $1.8M stimulus grant for broadband‏

Source: Business First of Columbus, Dec. 23, 2009
 
Ohio has secured about $1.8 million in federal stimulus funding for a nationwide initiative aimed at increasing broadband Internet access.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration this week awarded about $1.3 million to the Ohio Office of Information Technology for a two-year data collection and mapping project. Another $500,000 was awarded for planning over a five-year period.

A key piece of the nationwide effort is the development of a broadband map that shows availability and speed.

The state was one of 15 to be awarded funding this week, with more announcements expected in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

7 Facts About the New Intel Atom CPU and Platform‏

Source:  Joel Santo Domingo, PC Magazine, Dec. 21, 2009 

  1. Nettops and Netbooks with New Atom CPU and platform can handle Multimedia apps: Sure, you won't be compositing images into Hollywood movies like James Cameron's Avatar on a nettop, but the new Atom D510, D410, and N450 processors are capable of quickly getting the red eye out of photos and helping you airbrush out that distracting trash can in your latest Ansel Adams-style snapshot. PhotoShop CS4 is well within Atom N450 and D410's specs.
  2. The same architecture is used in both nettops and netbooks: All three of the new Atom processors work with the new Intel NM510 Express chipset, so applications that work on the portable netbook will work on the sedentary nettops, as will drivers for any of your hardware, or even apps that you develop in-house for your business.
  3. Power savings is substantial: Exclusive of technologies like networking and built-in displays, the new Pine Trail architecture uses less than 20W of power.
  4. These systems will be quiet: In addition to the savings on your power bill, lower TDP (Thermal Design Power) mean that new nettops and netbooks using Pine Trail won't need fans to cool themselves, so therefore they will be inherently quieter, a boon if you're listening to music or watching a video.
  5. This platform is (still) Web-oriented: Netbooks and nettops are still oriented to consuming content on the Internet. You don't need a quad-core processor to surf the 'Net and watch videos on YouTube.
  6. You'll see richer Websites than on any smartphone: Though smartphones are your "always on" Internet link, you can't currently view websites with heavy Flash content on your iPhone or Android phone (yet). A MID or netbook with Atom N450 will be able to full support Adobe Flash.
  7. They could be your primary computer: The first generation of netbooks was strictly your "third" or "fourth" PC in the house. They were simply too small and slow to keep up with a complicated digital life. Back then, you needed a Core 2 Duo or Athlon X2 powered PC to do most of the things you do on a PC, unless you wanted to tear your hair out waiting for everything to finish processing. The newest Atom processor and platform is powerful enough to do everything on the Web and most general tasks. Anything "harder" like 3D gaming or video editing, and you'll still need to go to a higher-powered desktop or notebook, but you can certainly live your virtual life on Facebook, Twitter your latest thoughts, and surf to your heart's content all at the same time on any new Atom powered netbook or nettop without too much effort.

Caroline Z. Worley Cut Her Entrepreneurial Teeth in the Hardware Business


By: Erika M. Pryor
“Small businesses need a partner who understands that they face different obstacles and should be advised in a manner that is tailored to that specific business,” says Caroline Z. Worley, Esquire and owner of Worley Law LLC about her approach to helping small businesses face their legal challenges.
A Small Business Partner
Advising small businesses based on the business or entrepreneur’s individual need is one characteristic that separates Worley from other small business attorneys. She suggests that her experience as a small business owner provides her with the insight to understand the immediate and imperative legal needs of small business owners. Worley states, “I have developed a passion for working with small businesses on every level. I understand their daily challenges and the amount of sweat equity contributed to the business.”

Caroline Z. Worley’s passion for small business began long before her admission to the Ohio Bar Association in 1997. As a young girl, Worley’s entrepreneurial spirit was nurtured through her family’s hardware business.
“My parents taught me to follow my dreams and work hard at whatever task I'm facing,” she stated. It was the passion for small business that moved her to pursue her dream of opening her own legal practice. “I have always wanted to be different from other practicing attorneys. I decided to venture out on my own so that I could achieve this goal,” said Worley.
Prior to starting her own law practice, Worley was an Assistant Prosecutor at the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office. She specializes in a range of legal areas including: Entity Formation, Contract Negotiation, Independent Contractor Agreement, Collections, Trade Secrets and Employment Law.

Contributing to Small Business Development
At the “DEC Presents…Small Business Legal Clinic with Caroline Z. Worley,” January 21, 2010, attendees can learn more about these important legal topics. About her day-long workshop, Worley notes “I am excited about coming to the DEC. The entrepreneurs and business owners that volunteer their time offer invaluable and sound business advice. I feel fortunate to give back to the business community in this way. The “Small Business Legal Clinic,” features networking and breakfast (10:00am-10:30am) and sessions on the following topics: Creating A Legal Entity (10:30am-11:30am); lunch provided free courtesy BW3s (11:30am-12:45pm); Hiring employees vs. independent contractors (1:00pm-2:00pm); Drafting Legal Contracts and Agreements (2:15pm-3:15pm); and Intellectual Property Issues and the Internet (3:30pm-4:30pm). To register for this event and view the complete schedule see: http://www.meetup.com/techlifecolumbus/calendar/12019929/?a=fd_new_rsvp_multi_tl


Prioritizing Women Entrepreneurs
Worley also distinguishes herself by contributing to the continued development of women in the business community. She is an active member of the Ohio Department of Development, Women’s Roundtable, National Association of Women’s Business Owners, E-Women’s Network, and Awesome Women in Business Meetup.com group. Worley holds complimentary legal workshops and authors the monthly e-newsletter, “Women in Busines.” In her monthly publication, Worley gives free legal advice and highlights valuable resources. To learn more about Worley’s legal practice see: http://www.worleylawllc.com/. Additional information about Caroline's legal services for women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses can be found at: http://www.ohiowomeninbusiness.com/LeagalServices.php

To see Caroline's interview discussing small businesses on Good Day Columbus, Fox News, click HERE.

News from COSI - Our Supporters Will Take Extreme Measures

Source: Chez Sez

Have you been pressured to be able to attend the parties and events these last few weeks? How about the corporate leaders of the community who have so many other demands on their time? Can’t imagine the tightness on their schedules and how they make it to all the activities they want or have to attend.

Now I know how at least one of our community’s corporate leaders is able to maximize his time.

Jim Hagedorn, CEO and Chairman of Scotts Miracle-Gro, is a supporter with his family of an incredible initiative at COSI. Our Miracle-Gro Cap Scholars (MGCS) program is working with over 40 youth since 5th grade (three now poised to graduate) to help support their development and access to college. Meeting certain requirements, Scotts and the Hagedorn Family Foundation will pay their college tuition! An incredible commitment and pretty life changing where over 80 percent of the youth would be first generation college attendees.

So the youth mean a lot to us as COSI team members and to the Hagedorn family. Hence, the holiday party with the MGCS teens, their families, Jim’s sister Sue, and our Scotts MiracleGro mentors was important to all of us. Jim had a corporate conflict that evening, but he still made the effort to show everyone he cares. So how did he make it work? Well just look at the picture.

It isn’t every day we have a donor/supporter drop his helicopter in front of our building—but that is exactly what Jim did!

An Air Force vet and former F-16 fighter pilot, flying to COSI seems a natural to someone like Jim. And I received a bonus walking him out of a good overview of the technology behind his helicopter—something I have a greater interest in now that I have a Navy helicopter pilot for a new son-in-law.

When I see the effort our donors make to show their support, it makes me grateful for the personal connections we’ve established (and the fun stories I get to share!)



MID off the launching pad and into market with revolutionary surgical scope

Source: hivelocity

As a urological surgeon for OhioHealth, Wayne Poll knew there must be a way to keep his laparoscopic lenses clear without constantly having to stop and clean them. While it took him 10 years to bring that vision to fruition, Poll's FloShield is now in the marketplace.

"I tried going to companies with my ideas, and I did that for ten years," says Poll, whose Columbus-based Minimally Invasive Devices gained FDA clearance for the product last year. "But I was constantly frustrated. I got to know some people and entered the Ohio State University (Fisher College of Business) 2006 business plan competition, and we won it. That got us some momentum and we started to raise money."


With the help of TechColumbus, a technology business incubator serving a 15-county area in Central Ohio, MID raised an initial $200,000 in start-up capital and a total of $2.4 million in angel funds, a portion of which came from funds supported by the Ohio Third Frontier. In October, following FDA approval of FloShield, the company raised $2 million in Series B funding.

FloShield works by keeping air flowing around the end of the scope, blowing away debris that can obscure a clear image at the surgical site. Poll says the company, so far, has sold about 600 of the devices and has introduced a new product, FloShield Plus, that uses a saline solution to clear the lens.

MID was founded in 2006 and grew from one employee to five this year. Poll serves as MID's founder and chief executive officer and as director of innovation for the OhioHealth system.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Open position(s) - Safelite - IT mgr, Developer(s), BI Analyst

New Programs Aim to Lure Young Into Digital Jobs

Source: NY Times

Jodi Hilton for The New York Times
Dr. John Halamka today is the chief information officer at the Harvard Medical School.


Growing up in the ’70s, John Halamka was a bookish child with a penchant for science and electronics. He wore black horn-rimmed glasses and buttoned his shirts up to the collar.
John E. Halamka
Ten-year-old John Halamka winning the Science Fair in 4th grade with his home-built Van De Graff generator in 1972. The digital economy is seeking more children like him.
Ann Johansson for The New York Times
Kira Lehtomaki loved art as a student, and now works for Walt Disney Animation.


“I was constantly being called a geek or a nerd,” he recalled, chuckling.
Dr. Halamka grew up to be something of a cool nerd, with a career that combines his deep interests in medicine and computing, and downtime that involves rock climbing and kayaking.
Now 47, Dr. Halamka is the chief information officer at the Harvard Medical School, a practicing emergency-ward physician and an adviser to the Obama administration on electronic health records.
Hybrid careers like Dr. Halamka’s that combine computing with other fields will increasingly be the new American jobs of the future, labor experts say. In other words, the nation’s economy is going to need more cool nerds. But not enough young people are embracing computing — often because they are leery of being branded nerds.
Educators and technologists say two things need to change: the image of computing work, and computer science education in high schools. Teacher groups, professional organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery and the National Science Foundation are pushing for these changes, but so are major technology companies including Google, Microsoft and Intel. One step in their campaign came the week of Dec. 7, National Computer Science Education Week, which was celebrated with events in schools and online.
Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs, said Janice C. Cuny, a program director at the National Science Foundation. The Advanced Placement curriculum, she added, concentrates narrowly on programming. “We’re not showing and teaching kids the magic of computing,” Ms. Cuny said.
The agency is working to change this by developing a new introductory high school course and seeking to overhaul Advanced Placement courses as well. It hopes to train 10,000 high school teachers in the modernized courses by 2015.
One goal, Ms. Cuny and others say, is to explain the steady march and broad reach of computing across the sciences, industries, culture and society. Yes, they say, the computing tools young people see and use every day — e-mail, text-messaging and Facebook — are part of the story. But so are the advances in field after field that are made possible by computing, like gene-sequencing that unlocks the mysteries of life and simulations that model climate change.
That message must resonate with parents and school administrators, they say, if local school districts are to expand their computer science programs.
“We need to gain an understanding in the population that education in computer science is both extraordinarily important and extraordinarily interesting,” said Alfred Spector, vice president for research and special initiatives at Google. “The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.”
Kira Lehtomaki can attest to this. She came to computing by way of art and movies. Art projects, not computers, were her childhood passions. She loved watching videos of Disney movies like “Sleeping Beauty” and “Dumbo,” and wanted to grow up to be one of those artists who stirred life into characters using pencils and paper. She even took a summer job at Disneyland as a “cookie artist,” painting designs and Mickey Mouse faces on baked goods, because she was allowed to spend a few days with Disney’s animators.
Yet as a 19-year-old college student in 2001, Ms. Lehtomaki saw the Pixar film “Monsters, Inc.” and was impressed by how good computer animation had become. At the University of Washington, she pursued computer graphics, graduating with a degree in computer science.
Today Ms. Lehtomaki, 27, is an animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, working on “Rapunzel,” which is scheduled to be released next year. She does her drawing on a computer, using specialized graphics and modeling software. Her computer science education, she said, is an asset every day in her work, less for technical skills than for what she learned about analytic thinking.
“Computer science taught me how to think about things, how to break down and solve complex problems,” Ms. Lehtomaki said.
Reformulating a seemingly difficult problem into something a person can know how to solve is “computational thinking,” which the new high school courses are intended to nurture. Some schools in Los Angeles County are experimenting with the introductory course, called “Exploring Computer Science,” including South East High School in South Gate, Calif. Last year, 35 students were in a pilot program, and this year the course is being taken by 130 students.
Most of the school’s 2,800 students come from low-income families and qualify for free or subsidized school lunches. In the new class, students create projects that address subjects of their interest, like gang violence and recycling, said John Landa, who teaches the course.
Others choose to make simple computer games.
“It’s much more engaging,” Mr. Landa said. “And the idea is not to have most or all of them go into computer science, but to give kids a chance to try things out. The course is designed to give kids a sense of computational thinking no matter what they do after this.”
A solid grounding in computing, experts say, promises rewards well beyond computer science. Most new jobs in the modern economy will be heavily influenced by technology, said Robert Reich, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and former labor secretary in the Clinton administration. And they will require education beyond high school, though often two years or less.
“Most of them will not be pure technology jobs, designing computer software and hardware products, but they will involve applying computing and technology-influenced skills to every industry,” Mr. Reich said. “Think Geek Squads in other fields,” he added, referring to a popular tech-support service.
These workers, he said, will be needed in large numbers to install, service, upgrade and use computer technology in sectors like energy and health care.
The Obama administration, as part of the economic stimulus, has increased federal financing for science and technology education. More immediately, its multibillion-dollar program to accelerate the adoption of computerized health records may generate more than 200,000 jobs, analysts estimate.
“These are jobs for what I think of as digital technicians,” Mr. Reich said. “And they are at the core of the new middle-wage middle class.”
Still, the revamped high school courses, educators say, should entice more young people into computer science careers as well.
At South East High School, Mario Calleros, an 18-year-old senior, may be one of them. He took the new course last year, after his interest was piqued by his experience playing computer games. “I really wanted to know how they worked,” he said.
Mr. Calleros picked up a sense of game technology by making his own, an action game with a knights-in-armor motif. Last summer, he won an internship at the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the summer program, Mr. Calleros and a partner built a smartphone application, linking pictures, text descriptions and GPS location data to explain the history, architecture and amenities of individual buildings on the U.C.L.A. campus as users walk by.
Mr. Calleros is applying to college and plans to major in computer science. His teacher, Mr. Landa, pointing to the new high school curriculum, said: “It’s small and we’re just under way, but I think we’re going in the right direction here.”


FAST SWITCH ANNOUNCES FAST SWITCH HIRING INDEX (FSHI) FOR COLUMBUS AND DETROIT METROPOLITAN MARKETS WITH MORE TO COME

December 21, 2009, Dublin, OH – Fast Switch, Ltd., a leading provider of Information Technology (IT) Consulting and Professional Services, today announced the first issuance of the Fast Switch Hiring Index (FSHI) for the Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan markets.
The FSHI is an index designed to measure, on a quantitative basis, the inclination of companies in the measured markets to hire full time, IT professionals.  The index uses the number of online job advertisements from a proprietary selection of job posting web sites, as well as large corporate web sites, and takes into account a number of proprietary factors to provide a strong correlation to the change in the intent of employers in the measured markets to hire new IT employees.
For last week, the index settled at 1,032 for Columbus, Ohio, and 1,063 for Detroit, Michigan.  Fast Switch used the week of December 7-11, 2009 as the index’s base week with a numerical index value of 1,000.  Accordingly, the week of December 14-18, 2009 showed an increase in the index of 3.2% for the Columbus market and an increase of 6.3% for the Detroit market.  This indicates an increase in the intent to hire IT employees in both of these markets.
Initially, the index will be issued weekly for the Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan metropolitan markets.  Fast Switch will expand the index to include other geographic markets during 2010.  It can be found online at the following web URL:
 
Fast Switch, Ltd. is one of Central Ohio’s fastest growing privately-held companies according to Columbus Business First.  Fast Switch was formed in December of 1996 and currently has over 180 employees working in almost half the states in the US.  Revenues for 2008 exceeded $16 million.  Its client base includes 2 of the Fortune 10, 4 of the Fortune 20, 22 of the Fortune 500, and 25 of the Fortune 1,000.  It has two major offices in Dublin, Ohio and Wixom, Michigan.  Fast Switch expects to open new offices in Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, and Minneapolis-St. Paul during 2010.
Fast Switch’s web address is:         
http://www.fastswitch.com
For more information on the FSHI, or on Fast Switch, please contact:
Mark Pukita, Chief Operating Officer, 614-336-3690, mark_pukita@fastswitch.com
Fast Switch, Ltd.
37 W. Bridge Street
Suite 200
Dublin, OH  43017
USA

Sunday, December 20, 2009

NexTech, SCI land Third Frontier cash

Source: Business First

A pair of local technology companies have been approved for grants as part of the state’s Third Frontier program.

The Ohio Third Frontier Commission said $19.58 million in awards will be directed to technology companies and researchers across the state. The commission directed its Dec. 17 awards to fuel cell, advanced energy and photovoltaic development firms.

The awards are part of the state’s 10-year, $1.6 billion initiative to advance the Ohio’s technology economy.

Locally, two companies are getting funding:

• Lewis Center-based NexTech Materials Ltd. will receive $1.49 million to improve manufacturing readiness for solid oxide fuel cells. The project is expected to attract more than $50 million in follow-on investment and create 156 jobs by 2016. The company is working with Ohio State University and Hocking Technical College on the project.

• Columbus-based SCI Engineered Materials Inc., which is attempting to commercialize advanced technology for solar cell manufacturing, will get $775,400. It is working on its project with Robinson Fin Machines Inc., a heat transfer fin manufacturer in Kenton, about 65 miles northwest of Columbus.



Techno-Claus Gift Rhyme - Hilarious and timely

Saw this on this Sunday's morning show and thought that it be at the same time a good laugh and useful - you'll have to watch a 15 second commercial but its worth it
Peace out - Ben

'Tis The Season for electronic gift-giving. For those who fear you might give someone a high-tech lemon, David Pogue of The New York Times gives us some suggestions, in verse.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Friday, December 18, 2009

Brand Thunder Capitalizes on Its First Vator.tv Competition

by Kevin Dwinnell

Brand Thunder’s heading to New York at the end of January to participate in a forum for leaders in the digital content industry. During the Software & Information Industry Association’s Information Summit nine start ups will be given the stage to present their capabilities. We earned our slot through a Vator.tv competition.

Vator (short for innovator) is a community and resource for entrepreneurs. While Brand Thunder created a presence months ago, it’s been more recent that we’ve become active on the site. Vator helps entrepreneurs and innovators connect with the entrepreneur and innovator community. It has a roll in the ongoing communication a company like ours undertakes, and the competitions it offers are a serious perk for any entrepreneur.

The SIIA Information Summit will be an ideal audience for Brand Thunder to reach. If you think of our product as an interactive browser theme, it’s the visual strength that grabs a user’s attention, but the integrated content makes it compelling. That value isn’t lost on companies who’ve poured a lot of money into their site and are looking for ways to keep their audience coming back. Once the content is integrated into the browser, that high-level exposure is vital.

We’re happy the judges saw that connection as well and invited us to attend. It was a wonderful gift for this holiday season.

TechLife LinkedIn Profile - Eric Floehr - The CTO

Chief Technology Officer at 3X Systems and Owner of Intellovations LLC


Current
  • Chief Technology Officer at 3X Systems
  • Owner at Intellovations, LLC
Past
  • Senior Software Architect at NetMap Analytics, A Unit of ISO
  • Senior Developer/Manager at MCI
  • Senior Developer at Unlimited Solutions
Education
  • Ohio State University
  • Case Western Reserve University
Websites

Eric Floehr’s Summary

I have broad experience in the complete software development lifecycle, from inception/funding, requirements analysis, design, coding, test, deployment, and operations. My teams have consistently delivered on-time and on-budget by using best-in-class tools and maintaining a strong focus on achieving business objectives.

Eric Floehr’s Specialties:

Java, Python, rapid development, agile methods, Linux, Solaris, full-lifecycle software development, CVS, SVN, Eclipse, project management, team building

Ohio Third Frontier Bringing 22 Percent Annual Return on Investment To State

Tax income growth will repay state's investment in high-tech business development by 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ohio Business Roundtable has released a new study reporting a 22 percent annual return on investment and supporting renewal of the Ohio Third Frontier, an unprecedented and bipartisan commitment to create new technology-based products, companies, industries and jobs in Ohio. The study, scheduled for presentation to the Ohio Third Frontier Advisory Board and Ohio Third Frontier Commission at a joint December 17 meeting, reports that 50 percent of Ohio Third Frontier investment has already been repaid in sales and income taxes - with the investment forecast to be completely repaid by 2014.

The Ohio Business Roundtable's study reports that employment growth supported by high-tech business development has created faster technology jobs growth in Ohio - the eighth-fastest pace of growth in the nation - than in nearly any other Midwest state, creating opportunities for Ohioans across all work backgrounds, at double the pay of non-tech sectors. The study reports that Ohio Third Frontier has been responsible since 2005 for adding direct employment of 8,527 Ohioans, and for a total of 48,239 jobs - more than halfway toward the Ohio Third Frontier's goal of creating 96,000 new jobs for Ohio workers.

"Ohio's investment into technology jobs has kept our state open for business," said Dorothy Baunach, special advisor to the Ohio Business Roundtable and president emeritus of NorTech, the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition. Baunach, a lead partner on the study, said that while high-tech job growth in other states has benefited from overall growth in employment, Ohio has been able to substantially overcome job loss in other sectors through targeted Ohio Third Frontier investments that support business development and create new technology jobs.

"Ohio is at pace or even ahead of technology jobs growth in the nation thanks to Ohio Third Frontier investment," said Baunach. "We're in fact very far ahead of national trends in advanced energy and high-tech instrumentation, bringing jobs like making solar panels and electronic controls within reach of more Ohioans." Employment numbers show Ohio is also gaining traction in the advanced materials, biomedical and power and propulsion sectors the Ohio Third Frontier specifically targets for business development.

"Over the last eight years, the Ohio Third Frontier has created a strategic framework in which industry, the non-profit research community, government and local economic development entities can collaborate to accelerate and amplify the positive transformative effects of technology and innovation on the state's economy," said Norm Chagnon, executive director of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission. "The report provides strong independent proof that Ohio Third Frontier's strategy, and the investments that follow from it, are paying significant dividends in terms of job, company and wealth creation in Ohio."

To access the full report, click here.

About Ohio Third Frontier

Established in 2002, The Ohio Third Frontier represents an unprecedented and bipartisan commitment to expand Ohio's technological strengths and promote commercialization that leads to economic prosperity throughout Ohio. Since its inception, the program has created or capitalized more than 500 companies and has created $6.6 billion in economic impact in Ohio, a 9:1 return on investment.

For more information, visit ohiothirdfrontier.com.

SOURCE Ohio Third Frontier

Government to award stimulus funds for broadband‏


Source:  Joelle Tessler, AP Technology Writer


The Obama administration on Thursday will hand out the first $182 million of a $7.2 billion pot of stimulus money that will go toward building high-speed Internet networks and encouraging more Americans to use them.
 
In a speech in Dawsonville, Ga., Vice President Joe Biden will announce the first 18 projects that will receive federal funding to bring high-speed Internet connections to rural areas, poor neighborhoods and other underserved communities across the country.

The administration plans to award a total of $2 billion in grants and loans on a rolling basis over the next 75 days as it starts doling out the first round of stimulus funding for broadband.

The Department of Agriculture will announce $53.8 million in funding for eight projects on Thursday, and the Commerce Department will announce $129 million in funding for 10 projects. Those projects together also will put up another $46 million in matching dollars.
The money is being targeted for "last-mile" connections that link homes, businesses and other end users to the Internet; "middle-mile" connections that link communities to the Internet backbone; computing centers in libraries, colleges and other public facilities; and adoption programs that teach people how to use the Internet and encourage them to sign up for broadband services.

The awards to be announced Thursday include:
- A $33.5 million grant to the North Georgia Network Cooperative for a fiber-optic ring that will bring high-speed Internet connections to the northern Georgia foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The project will serve an eight-county area with a population of 334,000.
- A $25.4 million grant to the Biddleford Internet Corp., a partnership between the University of Maine and service providers, to build three fiber-optic rings across rural Maine. The network will pass through more than 100 communities with 110,000 households and will connect 10 University of Maine campuses.
- A combined grant/loan of $2.4 million to the Consolidated Electric Cooperative in north central Ohio to build a 166-mile fiber network that will be used, among other things, to connect 16 electrical substations to support a smart grid project.

Other projects receiving funds include a 4G wireless to be built by an Alaska Native Corporation in southwestern Alaska, a fiber-to-the-home project in a remote corner of New Hampshire and computer centers for 84 libraries in Arizona.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

TechLife Midweek event update






TechLife Asst Meetup organizer spotlight: Web Analytics Wednesday

Web Analytics Wednesday is the world's largest social network for web analytics professionals. Most Web Analytics Wednesday events are sponsored by great companies and so hosts are able to provide free food and drinks. Some events even get great speakers from the web analytics community.

Organizer: Tim Wilson - Director Measurement and Analytics at Resource Interactive



Upcoming Events:(click on the event for details) - the master calendar can be found at - http://bit.ly/bgyzj


Tech Networking and Coworking


Technical Professional Development


For entrepreneurs and small business


Special thanks to our sponsors the NYTimes and Windows 7

Peace out,
Ben

Hyper Tech Research wins $3M federal grant

Source: Business First

A Columbus technology developer has clinched $3 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce for a project with applications in the medical imaging trade.
Hyper Tech Research Inc. was one of 20 companies to receive funding from the department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, said U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Columbus. The grant is aimed at continuing work on the development of magnesium diboride wires, which can better conduct electrical currents.
Hyper Tech is looking to create an industrial-scale process for the wire making for magnetic resonance imaging and other applications, Kilroy said.
Hyper Tech, which got its start in 2001 at the TechColumbus incubator and is moving to a new facility next year, has received a $250,000 loan from Franklin County and more than $6 million from the state’s Third Frontier tech development program.
The company, which employs about 20 workers, has told Columbus Business First it plans to add employees and expects to triple its $2 million 2008 revenue by 2012.

Seagate to release world's thinnest laptop drive

Source: ComputerWorld, Lucas Mearian
 
Seagate Technology today announced what it's calling the world's thinnest laptop and netbook hard drive, the Momentus Thin drive, which at 7mm, is just over a quarter of an inch thick and is 25% slimmer than a traditional .37-in. (9.5mm), 2.5-in. hard drive.
The 5,400 rpm Momentus Thin comes in 250GB and 160GB capacities, features 8MB cache, and uses the SATA 2.0 3Gbit/sec. interface. The drive is scheduled to ship to Seagate's resellers next month. The company did not offer a suggested retail price for the new hard drive.

The Momentus Thin drive, which is also being targeted for backup devices and other consumer electronics, is expected to give systems manufacturers and system integrators lower cost-per-gigabyte storage than 1.8-inch drives, which would allow them to build a new class of low-end thin laptops, according to Seagate.

"Of all netbook computers available today, 90% feature 9.5mm, 2.5-inch laptop drives because solid state and 1.8-inch hard drives are largely cost-prohibitive for this market," Seagate said in a statement. "The Momentus Thin drive provides the lowest-cost storage for netbooks and thin laptops, enabling computer makers to offer systems that reach a broader market."

Dave Mosley, executive vice president of sales, marketing and product line management at Seagate, said the drive promises to help computer makers differentiate on mobile-computing form factors and better compete in the fast-growing markets for thin laptop PCs and netbooks.

Seagate also claims the Momentus Thin drive competes well against traditional 9.5mm, 2.5-inch laptop drives in performance and power-efficiency.
Like other Seagate Momentus drives, the Momentus Thin includes self-encryption, FIPS 140-2 certification and free-fall sensors for shock tolerance.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Riding High on the Forrester Wave - Clearsaleing


Source: Clearsaleing blog

Forrester Research, Inc. recently released their ‘Interactive Attribution Q4: 2009‘ report on the topic of interactive attribution.   The report opens with a statement of why accurate, interactive attribution is so crucial:
“The de facto industry standard of measuring the value of campaigns or media placements by the most recent click or interaction is ripe for change.”  The report continues by defining interactive attribution as, “The practice of measuring the correct partial value of each interactive ad that drove a desired outcome.”
Reading the report will give you an understanding of how Forrester sees each vendor in the space and what each vendor’s strengths and weaknesses are. One key point in the analysis is there is not one specific way to do attribution - each vendor approaches attribution in a unique way. For this post, we’re going to focus on the two specific types of attribution:  ’Operational’ (or day-to-day) attribution and ‘Project-based’ (or strategic, high-level) attribution.

Operational Attribution
Operational attribution allows an advertiser to see all of the steps or clicks that lead to conversion in real-time and continuously attributes conversion credit across the team of ads. The benefit of Operational attribution is that all of your daily marketing decisions (bid price, CPM, ad text and ad sources) reflect accurate attribution, so each click gets the credit it deserves.
In order to perform Operational attribution, you need the ability to track the performance of your advertising in real-time and must be able to track all forms of online advertising, not just one medium, to get an accurate picture of how much credit each media deserves.
Another requirement is the ability to track conversions that do not occur online. Many conversions from online advertising may occur via the phone, CRM or ERP, or in a point of sales system. The best attribution solutions, according to the Forrester Report, support both online and offline conversions, and also include ‘out of the box’ attribution models that can be used on day one.
Project-Based Attribution
Project-based attribution focuses on your overall marketing program and produces an optimized marketing spend plan, and its solutions include both technology and service providers. Project-based attribution analyzes historic advertising, as well as factoring in new or changed information, to determine the best advertising mix for the future.
Typically, project based attribution is performed on a time interval that makes the most sense for your business, i.e. quarterly, yearly, etc., where you’re looking at attribution performed over that interval and measuring its impact during that time. Then, based on the previous intervals performance, and predicted outside factors that will occur in the future, a decision is made about the best way to attribute your marketing dollars going forward.
In order to perform Project-based attribution, complete and accurate historic ad performance data is required.  This can create a challenge for Project-based attribution providers since they must rely on their clients to provide the data. If the clients’ data is flawed or limited in scope, then the models that they build will be flawed as well.
Forrester’s Findings
There are a few vendors that were capable of performing both using their own proprietary technology to perform the Operational attribution and their consulting group to analyze the output of their technology to perform Project-based attribution.
Forrester did a nice job of highlighting the spectrum of the available options to perform attribution today. Given that attribution is a relatively new field, Forrester notes that new methods are continuously evolving.

Google browser now No. 3‏


Chrome Mac, Linux betas push browser into No. 3 spot
ComputerWorld, Gregg Keizer, Dec. 15. 2009
 
The release last week of betas of Chrome for Mac OS X and Linux pushed the Google browser's share past Apple's Safari and into the No. 3 spot, a Web measurement company said today. Google shipped betas of Chrome for Mac and Linux on Dec. 8. Prior to that, only rougher, less stable "developer" builds were available to users.
According to Net Applications, which tracks the browser habits of 160 million unique visitors each month to the 40,000 sites it monitors for customers, Chrome's share jumped to 4.4% for the week of Dec. 6-12, an increase of 0.4 percentage points over Google's slice of the browser pie for the month of November. Chrome's share during the week topped Safari's 4.37%, said Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice president of Net Applications. "It appears that Chrome has made a substantial surge in usage market share," Vizzaccaro said in an e-mail.

Last week, Chrome accounted for 1.3% of all browsers used on Apple's Mac OS X operating system, up from just 0.32% during November. Chrome's gains came "fairly equally" from both Safari and Mozilla's Firefox, Vizzaccaro said. Like Chrome, Firefox is available in versions for Windows, Mac and Linux. Chrome's post-beta jump was even larger on Linux, where Google's browser had a 6.34% share of the open-source operating system's browser market for the week of Dec. 6-12, up from 3.81% during November.

"I believe Linux will be the more intriguing arena to watch," Vizzaccaro said. "Firefox currently dominates browser usage on Linux the way that IE dominates Windows systems and Safari dominates Mac systems. With the emergence of Chrome, I'll be curious to see if Chrome will be to Firefox on Linux what Firefox is to IE on Windows ... a forceful competitor."

The availability of Chrome may also be the spark that finally pushes Linux's usage share above the 1% mark, where it's hovered for years. During November, for instance, Linux had exactly 1% of the OS share. Linux's high-water mark in the last two years was 1.17% in May 2009. Vizzaccaro based his speculation of Chrome as a Linux driver not only on the browser itself, but also on the fact that it's the foundation of Chrome OS, the Linux-based operating system Google hopes to ship on netbooks by this time next year.

"Will Chrome on Linux and eventually on Chrome OS finally bring Linux usage beyond the 1% range?" Vizzaccaro asked.
But for all of Chrome's gains, it remains far behind both Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) -- which runs only on Windows -- and Firefox, the world's No. 1 and No. 2 browsers. During November, IE had a 63.6% share, while Firefox's was 24.7%.
 

Tech across Ohio - Superior Market Access makes Ohio a Logical Choice for Caterpillar’s New Distribution Center


Source: OhioMeansBusiness.com

Caterpillar Logistics, a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., recently announced plans to build a new parts distribution center in southwest Ohio, creating new employment opportunities for Ohioans. According to an Associated Press article, the new center in Clayton, Ohio, which is near Dayton, is expected to employ 500 to 600 people. With its sophisticated transportation infrastructure and superior market access, Ohio is a logical site selection for Caterpillar.
This newly announced business investment will span more than 1 million square feet and is expected to cost the company more than $50 million. Construction is expected to begin in early 2010 and be completed in 2011.Caterpillar says the new center in Ohio will eventually replace the company's Indianapolis Regional Distribution facility and assume some work currently performed at Caterpillar's parts distribution center in Morton, Illinois.
Since its inception more than 80 years ago, Caterpillar Inc. has grown to be the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines. In partnership with their worldwide dealer network, the company delivers products, services and technologies in three principal lines of business: machinery, engines and financial products.
Click here to read the Associated Press article on the new Caterpillar distribution center in Ohio.

Developing the next gen of iPhone apps programmers


Source: David Strom's Web Informant

I had an opportunity to audit a computer science class this week at Washington University, a class that was teaching students how to write iPhone apps. It was their final presentation, and I got to see a dozen apps that were very impressive. As I was watching the kids present, I was thinking back to my college days and the similarities and differences about my education.
Of course, back in my day real programmers wrote in Assembler, and maybe Fortran. None of this object-oriented stuff had even been invented. We also had punched cards, which is probably why I never became a programmer. In grad school, we had video terminals because PCs were still being tinkered around inside Silicon Valley garages.
In the Wash U class, most of the students had their own Macbooks, some better than my own. Each was given an iPod touch to use during the semester and this session was the moment of truth, where they had to demo their apps in front of the class. Most of the programming projects were functional, although there were a few students that had obviously been putting some long hours trying to get the bugs out of their apps. One of the kids was working on his presentation and actually debugged his app during class. Some things never change.
I was impressed first of all with the apps, which ranged from tracking what is in your fridge to being used by a personal trainer to track their clients’ workouts to locating friends on a campus map during free times. There was an app that taught people how to count cards at Blackjack –this could have helped one of my dorm-mates who would periodically make a run to Tahoe where they still used single decks and come home with enough money to pay for his living expenses. Another was used to collate and tag photos from Flickr. Each team had to research and find an app to build that wasn’t yet sold on the App Store, too.
I hope the kids take the time to finish them and post them to the App Store. Some of the apps were very polished and could probably be used as is with almost no additional effort, while a few just crashed with the slightest tap on the screen. I was also impressed with the quality of the presentations and how polished the kids were in front of the class. This isn’t what I remember of my nerdy classmates back in the day, where we seldom even spoke to each other, let alone spoke Powerpoint. Most of the kids put together a few slides that showed their decision-making and progress during the class. Some of the apps were built in teams, some solo. There were about 25 kids in the class, with two women. (This is about the same sad gender ratio in my day, too.)
These were not beginning computer science students by any means. Each of them had to have an understanding of a lot of different pieces, including the graphics interface of the iPhone itself, database calls, Web services, and the Apple development environment that is used to build the app itself. That is a lot for any programmer to handle, but the kids took it in stride. You could tell that they learned a lot during the semester, and were proud of it too. Heck, I was proud of them and I didn’t even know them.
One of the things that I was struck with during the class was how collaborative the kids were. This wasn’t the introverted nerds of my misspent youth — these kids were calling out suggestions to help each other and try to remove the remaining roadblocks in each other’s apps. Some of them had tried to go down a particular path with one tool, only to change horses and use something else. It was fun to watch them get all excited about some arcane code fragment. Part of this I think was because the iPhone environment is so new and so contained that it makes it easier to collaborate, because there are so many things to learn that are outside the normal coding process.
They also learned first-hand about feature creep and trying to hit their requirements on time and how to balance making things work with making things look pretty.
Speaking of which, most of the students had high standards for the look and feel of their apps. There isn’t much screen real estate on the iPhone to fool around with, and you have to make every pixel count. Some of the kids took the time to find the right icons to display on screen, and they all took pains to make use of the various menus and screen controls that make the iPhone apps easy to use with one or two fingers. That was impressive, and showed me that the iPhone really has a future and why 100,000 plus apps have been already created.
You could also see the beginnings of professional computer scientists here too. A few of them mentioned how they coded in pairs, using extreme programming techniques. I think that meant that the pair stayed up all night to meet a particular deadline, but still, that is how it happens in the real world too. And learning object-oriented languages is part and parcel to today’s programming world, unlike the world that I entered after college.
One kid had the funniest line, talking about his mother, who is a project manager and a programmer. “My mom is very old school and knew all these Unix shell script commands that she never told me about when I was growing up.” Oh, youth is so wasted on the young!
If your local university offers a class on iPhone apps, you might want to stop by and be inspired. I know I was. Thanks to the teacher Todd Sproull for letting me sit in.