Technology

Backers of a bill that bans drivers from using all hand held electronic devices feel that their legislation has a new lease on life. Last week it appeared that the bill was dead for the session, but the House has put the proposal back into play.

Charlotte Albright

Over the past few weeks, both President Obama and Governor Shumlin have touted the merits of education designed to meet the needs of 21st-century employers. So this seems a good time to visit one of Vermont’s many career and technical education programs.

FUSE / Thinkstock

Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders want to devote up to $5 million to help the state attract and keep high tech jobs.

Shumlin says the money will add flexibility and speed to the state’s economic development effort.

Vermont already has programs to help businesses, but they are loan programs, like those administered by the Vermont Economic Development Authority, or the tax incentives offered through Vermont Economic Progress Council.

This is something new.

Codenomicon

Vermont’s major banks and credit unions as well as the state health care exchange report that they are safe from the Heartbleed Bug, an online security vulnerability. 

The bug was a problem with the technology that secures online traffic, protecting things such as user passwords and banking information as it passes through the Internet. A problem with Open SSL, one such security technology, made it possible for third parties to intercept this privileged information without either the sender or the recipient noticing.

Susan Keese / VPR

Putney voters approved a $1.8 million municipal budget at their town meeting Tuesday. They agreed to an $8,000 request for region wide economic development. They decided to stay with their longtime ambulance service, despite another provider’s lower bid.

And they sent a complaint to Montpelier calling for high-speed Internet access for the whole town.

The city of Burlington took a huge step toward more open government last week when officials released a wide variety of data on the city’s website.

Now, coders are interpreting that data and trying to create useful tools for the public.

This weekend about 30 people gathered at Fletcher Free Library in Burlington for Code Across BTV. It was one of 45 other CodeAcross events taking place around the world.

AP/Toby Talbot

A public hearing on interactive television Friday will give Vermonters a chance to weigh in on a new state telecommunications plan being prepared by the Department Of Public Service.

The new plan comes at a time when the focus on broadband in Vermont is shifting from providing access to meeting future needs with higher speed service.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Burlington officials settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Burlington Telecom last week, clearing the way for the city’s plan to sell the public utility.

Citibank sued the Burlington Telecom in 2011 after it failed to repay $33.5 million in loans to the bank.

A Burlington group of self-proclaimed “civic hackers” won a $35,000 grant this week to build a web service to help local community organizations.

The grant, from the John S. and James L. Knight foundation, will fund the “Civic Cloud Collaborative,” a project by CodeForBTV to help develop online services for the public.

Flickr/ Rik Panganiban

Online dating websites report a spike in registrations right after the holidays. And more and more Vermonters are looking online for a potential match. Some are finding online dating to be challenging… and even embarrassing.

When Andrea Olson moved to Vermont from Memphis, Tenn., she tried the dating site OK Cupid for the first time. She’s 31, and says the OK Cupid scene in Burlington can be tough. She cites an age gap as one reason.

Early next year a new maker space called Generator will open in Burlington. The facility will have digital fabrication gear and other tools available to members who pay a monthly fee.

The space is being hailed by members of Vermont’s maker community and by educators who say it will be a tool for economic development.

Jon Kalish

In the last six years, “hacker” spaces have opened around the country. These communal work spaces where hobbyists share tools and expertise have popped up in virtually every American city.

Laboratory B is an 800 square foot space whose interior design aesthetic might be described as bohemian gamer. There are about 20 members of this hacker space who pay $75 a month, though underemployed members pay just $35 a month. The one large room has work tables, an electronics bench and milk crates containing a variety of computer parts. There’s a futon couch and a small refrigerator.

One of Burlington’s largest businesses, Dealer.com, sold to a New York company for almost $1 billion in a deal announced Thursday.

Dealer.com, founded in 1998, is a leading online marketing company for automotive dealerships across the nation and employs about 700 people in Burlington. The company was purchased today by Dealer Track, a Now York-based dealership consulting company with an overlapping business model.

Dealer Track bought Dealer.com for $620 million cash in addition to 8.7 million shares of Dealer Track stock, worth about $300 million.

Carl Brandon/VTC

A four inch by four inch cube launched into space this week is sending back signals from 300 miles up.  It's one of an increasing number of relatively new and inexpensive tiny satellites called CubeSats.

What distinguishes this particular one is it began life on a workbench at Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center.

Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced a bill this week that’s directly aimed at making it harder for Patent Assertion Entities, better known as “Patent Trolls,” to leverage the U.S. patent system for financial gain.

Charlotte Albright

Over the weekend, 150 students from 17 schools all over Vermont competed for a chance to take their Lego robots to  a championship round in New Hampshire next month.  The competition is sponsored by a non-profit called FIRST, an acronym that stands for  “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”

Courtesy

Like most middle aged people, I’ve kept busy in my life meeting people, learning things and generally bustling around. My head is full of names, dates, places, events, anniversaries and details.
 
Perhaps too full: it’s as if my memory occasionally goes through a trash compactor, and a kind of elision takes place. People and things with similar names sort of, well, smush together.

One of the more common pieces of advice given to innovators and inventors is to “start with what you know.” But in practical terms, this often translates into “what irritates you the most.” And focusing on what you don’t like and would like to make better is often a good starting point, because searching for a solution can have a profound impact.

Computer “hackers” are often viewed in popular culture as people intent on modern mischief. But that’s not always the case. Some are motivated by a desire to better understand computer technology.

This weekend, a National Day of Civic Hacking is behind held across the country, with events in Vermont too. The idea is to bring programmers together to solve problems, rather than create them.

Meanwhile, a cyber security start-up in Berlin, Vt., called “Pwnie Express” embraces hackers.

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