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Matt’s Favorites: Tech Trends, Google Maps Polar Bears, Offshore Wind Weakens Hurricanes, And More

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Google Polar Bear

I have run out of cold jokes. You won’t find a guy who likes winter more than me, but this is too much, too long, even for me. So here’s the latest tech news, and now I’m going to go find myself a powerful ultraviolet light and sit under it until I blister. Death to snow. Hail spring.

* First of all, we were tardy in getting Wednesday’s Leader & Innovator full profile posted on the Web, so just in case you want to go back and look at the really interesting fellow that is David Corrigan, visit http://www.ltu.edu/leaders/.

* AimWest, the association for tech professionals in West Michigan, will host its 13th Annual Tech Trends with Keith Brophy event Wednesday, March 19 at Eve, a venue in the B.O.B. (Big Old Building), 20 Monroe Ave. N.W. in downtown Grand Rapids. Networking begins at 5 p.m. and Brophy takes the stage at 6 p.m. Ideomed CEO Brophy will once again give his presentation on the latest technology trends. The event is sponsored by New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, which is offering two $500 door prizes. More at http://www.aimwest.org.

* AT&T Inc. says it has expanded its 4G LTE network in the Great Lakes Bay region — specifically, Sanford, Freeland and other areas within Midland, Bay and Saginaw counties, west of M-47 and surrounding US-10. The Bay County coverage also will be noticeable in several key locations, including along I-75 and northwest of US-10 near Midland Road as well as south of M-35 near North Finn Road and Scheurmann Street. And customers who live and work near M-61 in Bay County will also see improved mobile Internet as a new cell site was activated between Carter road and Center Firelane Trail. This expansion is part of AT&T’s Project Velocity IP, a three-year investment plan announced in fall 2012 to expand and enhance its IP broadband networks. AT&T’s 4G LTE service was recognized as having faster average download and upload speeds than any competitor in PCWorld-TechHive’s most recent 20-market speed tests — the second straight year AT&T ranked first overall. PCWorld/TechHive also ranked AT&T’s as the fastest combination of 3G and 4G services in the 20 cities it tested. And AT&T was named America’s fastest 4G LTE network in PC Magazine’s 2013 Fastest Mobile Networks 30-market study — and also swept the top rankings in all six U.S. regions from coast to coast. AT&T also operates the nation’s largest Wi-Fi network, including more than 32,000 AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots at popular restaurants, hotels, bookstores and retailers, and provides access to more than 461,000 hotspots globally through roaming agreements. Over the past six years (2008 to 2013), AT&T invested more than $140 billion into its wireless and wireline networks, when you combine capital and spectrum acquisitions. Since 2008, AT&T has invested more capital into the U.S. economy than any other public company. In a September 2013 report, the Progressive Policy Institute ranked AT&T No. 1 on its list of U.S. “Investment Heroes.”

* Billhighway, provider of cloud-based automation software for nonprofits, announced the addition of Michael LaPlena as client care associate. In this role, LaPlena is responsible for supporting end-users and improving the overall customer experience. He will lead product training sessions, collaborate with internal departments to resolve customer issues and act as client advocate by suggesting product and process improvements. LaPlena earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, graduating with honors. His professional experience includes customer-facing roles with National Merchant Services and Stony Creek Metropark. In his free time, he is a published writer and standup comedian. LaPlena is the result of Billhighway’s referral program, which rewards team members with $2,500 for each recommended new hire who completes their first 90 days. Half of Billhighway hires are a result of referrals from existing team members. Read more about Billhighway’s culture and view open positions at http://www.billhighway.co/about-us/careers.

* Two Ann Arbor-based consultancies, Q Ltd. and The Understanding Group, recently collaborated on the architecture and design of a new responsive web site for the Farmington Hills-based American Concrete Institute, the world’s leading resource for concrete standards and education. The ACI leadership team chose information architects TUG to lead the strategic analysis and architecture planning, with design firm Q selected to create the visual design and responsive templates. ACI’s internal web development team built the site based on the specifications provided by TUG and Q. Planning for ACI’s extensive new web site began with discovery and analysis on the part of TUG. Once the site architecture was complete, Q created a fresh, contemporary visual design and developed responsive page templates – providing code that allows the web site to scale gracefully across a range of devices. The new web site was introduced at the World of Concrete 2014 trade show earlier this month in Las Vegas, in conjunction with the launch of ACI’s new logo and rebranding, also developed by Q. See the new website at http://www.concrete.org. More about the contractors at http://www.understandinggroup.com and http://www.qltd.com.

* Q Ltd. also announced the appointment of Amy Mayer to its web development and user experience team in Ann Arbor. Mayer is graduate of the Art Institute of Portland. In her role of web developer, Mayer will work in all aspects of developing custom and responsive websites, including user experience research, information architecture, and interactive design for Q clients such as SARC, the American Concrete Institute, ProQuest, and SIGGRAPH. Amy will be based at Q’s Ann Arbor office, working with the agency’s team in the development of web sites and interactive media. Q also has satellite offices in Los Angeles and Toronto, and a working partnership with Q in Wiesbaden, Germany.

* Southwest Michigan First, the economic development agency for the Kalamazoo area, will hold an event that it hopes to make an annual affair called “Populus” March 28 at the State Theatre in downtown Kalamazoo. SMF says Populus is a one-day event about people changing community that will bring together thought leaders, policy makers and engaged citizens who share the vision of making Southwest Michigan a region of economic growth and relevance. Speakers are to include urban theorist Richard Florida, best-selling author of The Rise of the Creative Class; Nigel Jacob from the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics; and Christopher Leinberger, Metropolitan Land Use Strategist and Visiting Fellow with The Brookings Institution. Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will also participate in the event. The cost of the event is $100. Register at this link. 

* Altair Engineering’s Altair Partner Alliance has picked up a new partner, the noise, vibration and harshess analysis tool AlphaCell from Matelys. It is now available for download by enabled HyperWorks users. AlphaCell complements the APA’s current NVH offering by helping users simulate the vibro-acoustic response of multi-layer trims under various excitations. Typical sectors that benefit from the software include automotive, aerospace, heavy industry, architecture, appliances and outdoor surfaces. Available for the past 13 years, Altair’s innovative unit-based licensing system allows HyperWorks users customizable access to a growing portfolio of applications, optimizing their return on investment by making more than 20 in-house-developed applications available through a single pool of recyclable HyperWorks units. Following this original licensing model’s success, Altair has offered the opportunity for third-party companies to run their own applications under this unit-based system, a collaboration now known as the Altair Partner Alliance. The overall flexibility of these HWUs empowers users via access to the largest, most complete suite of CAE applications available. The ROI increases for users each time a new application is added to the offering, since any of the partner programs can be accessed using the same leased HWUs they are already using to run HyperWorks. This makes more than 60 additional applications available with no incremental cost or long-term commitment. The introductory webinar for Matelys is taking place on March 18 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern time. HyperWorks users can learn more about Matelys and download AlphaCell at http://www.altairalliance.com/alphacell.

* Troy-based Complete Data Products, a provider of paperless document management software, announced its integration with PinPoint Enterprise. PinPoint has been providing users with an electronic document management system for over 10 years. Through this integration, PinPoint users now have access to the same digital signature features as CDP E-Sign users. PinPoint users still have all the workflow and document management options they are accustomed to. However, with this integration they are now able to take advantage of all the robust features built into CDP E-Sign. Some of these features include multiple users signing the document at the same time from different locations and the ability to upload additional documents through various input devices like a smart phone or scanner during the signing process. With CDP E-Sign integration PinPoint users can eliminate printing and shipping of documents. More at http://www.completedataproducts.com

* Twenty women students in Michigan will be awarded an Aspirations in Computing Award during ceremonies Saturday, March 1, at 9:30 a.m. at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Center in East Lansing. The statewide honor is presented by The National Center for Women & Information Technology and is designed to honor the student’s computing and IT aptitude, leadership ability, academic history, and her plans for post-secondary education in the field. Students receive two engraved awards: one for themselves, and one for her school’s trophy case. They also receive opportunities for scholarships, internships, research experiences, and other educational and employment opportunities provided by NCWIT member organizations. Saturday’s keynote address will be presented by Krischa Winright, the chief information officer and vice president of information technology at Priority Health. A NCWIT Educator Award will be presented to Robert Fox, computer science teacher at Midland High School, for his efforts to promote gender equity in computing. Winners are Emily Newman, a senior at Pioneer High School, Ann Arbor; Rachel Chang, a senior at Kalamazoo Math and Science Center and Gull Lake High School; Elizabeth Ho, a sophomore at Harrison High School, Farmington Hills; Emily Fletcher, a senior at KAMSC and Galesburg High School; Sarah Fillwock, a senior at Grand Blanc High School; Carolyn Hamman, a junior at KAMSC and Gull Lake High School; Dhara Patel, a senior at Kalamazoo KAMSC and Portage Northern High School; Katherine Rothe, a senior at KAMSC and Portage Northern High School; Amber Salome, a senior at KAMSC and Science Center and Comstock Public High School; Katherine Wu of Kalamazoo, a senior at KAMSC and Portage Central High School; Emily Kessler, a senior at Midland High School; Melinda Kothbauer, a senior at Midland High School; Danielle Schugars, a senior at Reeths-Puffer High School, Muskegon; Kaylie Butt, a junior at KAMSC and Portage Northern High School; Kathleen D’Souza, a junior at KAMSC and Portage Northern High School; Colby Hanley, a junior at KAMSC and Portage Northern High School; Hanna Rumora, a senior at KAMSC and Portage Central High School; Maria Stull, a senior at KAMSC and Portage Northern High School; Anna Mitchell, a junior who is homeschooled in Plymouth and Rebecca Wolanin, a senior at Our Lady of the Lakes High School, Waterford Township.

* Compuware Corp. (Nasdaq:CPWR) has declared a cash dividend of 12.5 cents per common share, payable March 24 to shareholders of record as of March 10.

* Some of Michigan’s top technology leaders will convene on Oakland University’s campus for a Cyber Security Summit from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, March 7 in Elliott Hall Auditorium. Presented by Oakland’s cyber security club, CyberOU, the event will focus on helping colleges protect their cyber infrastructure, preparing for global cyber attacks and keeping pace with emerging cyber threats. Free and open to the public, the event will feature presentations, a panel discussion and a meet-and-greet with community leaders and CyberOU officers. Expert speakers include Dan Lohrmann, chief security officer of Michigan; Rodney Davenport, chief technology officer of Michigan; Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive/chief information officer of Oakland County; and Theresa Rowe, chief information officer at OU. A complimentary breakfast and lunch will be provided, along with CyberOU merchandise. For additional information or to register, visit cyberou.com/summit.

And now the national and international stuff, courtesy of our friends at CBS News, News.com and elsewhere…

* Ford Motor Co. is looking for partners to create the third version of the incredibly popular Sync infotainment system. Microsoft is still in the running, and so is BlackBerry’s QNX.

* Polar bears may not have much use for pavement, but that didn’t stop Google Maps’ Street View from getting very up close and personal with the elusive Ursus maritimus. In honor of International Polar Bear Day, Google released on Thursday its first Street View maps of a remote area of Canada’s tundra.

*After being docked at Treasure Island for months, the mysterious Google Barge is heading to Stockton, Calif., to be finished, an official confirmed to KPIX 5 on Thursday. Earlier this year, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission had ruled the floating showroom is in violation of local permit rules and must be removed from its Treasure Island spot or face fines.

* Wind turbines generate renewable electricity, but new research shows it can have another major benefit: weakening hurricanes before they make landfall. The findings, published online in Nature Climate Change, show that offshore wind turbines could reduce hurricanes’ wind speeds, wave heights and flood-causing storm surge — acting as a buffer between coastal cities and the possible damaging effects of a hurricane.

* Our galactic neighborhood just got a lot bigger. NASA on Wednesday announced the discovery of 715 new planets, by far the biggest batch of planets ever unveiled at once. By way of comparison, about 1,000 planets total had been identified in our galaxy before Wednesday.

* Here’s everything you cell phone fans need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S5.

* And here’s a very good argument why high schools ought to teach hacking.

* Boeing Co. on Wednesday unveiled a smartphone that appears to come straight from a James Bond spy movie. In addition to encrypting calls, any attempt to open the casing of the Boeing Black Smartphone deletes all data and renders the device inoperable.

* Mt. Gox and other Bitcoin exchanges have reportedly received subpoenas from a US Attorney investigating their handling of the recent cyberattacks launched against them. Citing “a source familiar with the probe,” Reuters said on Thursday that the subpoenas from Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara were sent to Mt. Gox, other Bitcoin exchanges, and businesses that deal in the virtual currency. The investigation is focused on the recent distributed denial of service attacks that forced Mt. Gox and other exchanges to suspend withdrawals.

* Almost 90 percent of American adults surveyed use the Internet, and almost all say that the Internet has been a good thing for them personally. Among the 1,000 American adults surveyed by Pew Research in January, 87 percent now use the Internet. That number is even higher for certain groups. Internet use was claimed by 99 percent of people in households that earn $75,000 or more, 97 percent of adults ages 18-29, and 97 percent of those with college degrees.

* If you love anime, how about anime fingernail art? Cool stuff.

* If you’ve ever had occasion to read an academic paper in almost any field in which you don’t hold a PhD, chances are that it seems like so much gobbledygook. And there’s some chance that it literally is. A 2005 prank by three MIT graduate students has given way to a new genre:computer-generated fake academic papers, as the Guardian reports.

* Author of “Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance” Julia Angwin attempted to erase her digital presence. Angwin joins the “CBS This Morning” co-hosts to discuss what she learned.

* Naming landmarks on Mars isn’t just for scientists and rover drivers anymore. Starting today (Feb. 26), anybody with an Internet connection and a few dollars to spare can give a moniker to one of the Red Planet’s 500,000 or so unnamed craters, as part of a mapping project run by the space-funding company Uwingu.

* A near-fatal spacesuit malfunction that occurred last summer could have been avoided, NASA says. On July 16, 2013, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano’s helmet flooded with water during a spacewalk. He made it back to the safety of the station’s airlock in the nick of time, assisted by fellow spacewalker Christopher Cassidy – but the event easily could have turned fatal. The investigation board’s report was released Wednesday, blaming the leak and subsequent events on a complex combination of factors that included a misunderstanding of the subtleties of the suit’s operation in weightlessness to more troubling institutional issues that, while not intentional, could lead to similar problems in the future if uncorrected.

* Whovians, start building your best Tardis. Lego Cuusoo relaxes its ban on “Doctor Who” fan-submitted projects.

* You heard about the guy who ran back into his burning house to get his Xbox? Yeah, well, this time it was a cell phone, and it didn’t end well — the guy died.

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