Brad Flickinger/flickr

Federal housing officials were in Austin Tuesday — not to give direction,  but to learn from the local housing authority's successes in closing the digital divide. The federal government is taking a model for digital inclusion from Austin to other cities around the country.

Does Your Water Bottle Really Need to be 'Smart?'

Jun 12, 2015

From Texas Standard:

Imagine a world where you could count every sip of water you took – and your boss could see it too. That’s the idea behind brothers Jac and Davis Saltzgiver’s new invention, Trago.

“We allow coaches and teams, or even parents, to monitor an entire group of people with multiple bottles, so a coach or trainer could make sure their entire team is well hydrated before a game,” Davis Saltzgiver says.

Three weeks ago, an Austinite known as Ez became internet famous. It’s a tempered fame, he says, and it comes in waves. About nine months ago, Ez rode a similar wave after he put a video on Reddit showcasing his interactive street art project he calls “Hyrule in Austin,” in which he creates a handful of “prizes” inspired by the Zelda videogame franchise, hides them in the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and unsuspecting Austinites find them in a wooden chest.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Google Fiber announced plans and pricing for high speed 1-gigabit Internet service in Austin today.

Mark Strama, Austin’s Google Fiber head of operations, also introduced a scaled-down version of Internet service with no monthly fee as an "extraordinary value to folks who might not be connected to the internet today."

Flickr user Marco Manna,

It's being called Celebgate: private photos of some of entertainment's most famous women, ricocheting around the web.

Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst and Lea Michele are among the female entertainers targeted. And the anonymous hacker claims to have private images of dozens more celebrities.

Fernando Alfonso III is a reporter with the Austin-based website The Daily Dot. He tells Texas Standard most photos appear to be gleaned from the performers' cloud storage accounts online. The photos were then posted to what the Dot describes as "the seediest corners of the Web," including the infamous, unmoderated image board called 4chan.

“We hope to have services to our first customers by the middle of 2014.”

As recently as May 17, this message was posted on the Google Fiber website for Austin, according to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Well, July 2 marked the middle of 2014, and beside the announcement of a new employee, Austinites hungry for the tech giant’s ultra-fast Internet service – first promised in April 2013 – have received nary an update. Except for a vague update to the website, that is: “We hope to have services to our first customers later this year.”

New rules for how Internet traffic is governed were officially unveiled and approved for public comment following a 3-2 vote Thursday by members of the Federal Communications Commission.

For KUT News and Reporting Texas

Another competitor is joining the fiber arms race in Austin.

San Marcos-based Grande Communications says it will begin rolling out its own super-fast Internet service – offering speeds up to 1 gigabits per second (Gbps) – in select Austin neighborhoods starting next week. The service, which Grande is calling “Power 1000,” would cost $65 per month, with no contract or activity monitoring.

As a comparison, Internet speeds of 1 Gbps allow a user to download a full-length film in about 10 seconds, compared to over two minutes with a 50 megabits per second (Mbps), which is generally the top-tier speed offered to consumers by most Internet service providers.

President Obama on Tuesday announced that technology companies had pledged $750 million in equipment and services that would help connect students to the Internet.

USA Today reports:

"Money from Apple, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and other companies, combined with $2 billion from the Federal Communications Commission, will help connect up to 15,000 schools and 20 million students.

Preston Culver, Austin Fire Department

More than 120 pets have been brought in to the Austin Humane Society since the city's Halloween floods.

Some were rescued from the water – as seen in this photo of a dog rescue that’s been shared 7,700 times on Facebook. Others were dropped off by their owners, who need a safe place for their animals to stay while they get back on their feet.

Humane Society spokesperson Kelly Hanes says dozens of animals have been reunited with loved ones. But many others remain unclaimed – including Panda, the German Shepherd-type dog seen hugging an Austin firefighter as he carried her from the flood waters.

Let's say you're angry with your boss.  You go online and vent in an anonymous post. It's therapeutic, sure. But now your boss wants to sue for defamation.  

In Texas, courts haven't settled on guidelines for online defamation. But a little-discussed case before the Texas Supreme Court could help determine if the state can force companies like Google to identify anonymous bloggers.

This is the first of a two-part look at the University of Texas' Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), now halfway through their initial semester. Read Part One here.

So what it UT getting for its $5 million investment in edX? 

UT Psychology department chair James Pennebaker describes the money spent on edX as a "great investment." He isn't certain how education will look in the near future – but he said no one has that answer. 

"UT and any serious university has to be revolutionary in its thinking,” Pennebaker says. “We have to look forward to new technologies and teaching strategies.”

Roy Varney for KUT News

This is the first of a two-part look at the University of Texas' Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), now halfway through their initial semester.

The University of Texas’ grand entry into Massive Open Online Courses is underway. The courses, better known as MOOCs, are offered as free ways for the general public to access high quality education.

By any traditional college metric, UT's MOOCs, offered for the first time this fall, would be performing terribly: The majority of students who signed up have dropped out, there is no way to detect cheating, and the grading systems are automated. But halfway through the semester, education experts view UT's MOOCs as a success – and a necessity for building the future of its education network.

The man behind Silk Road – a site on the hidden “deep web” where users can buy drugs – has been arrested. And he appears to have Austin ties.

The FBI arrested Ross William Ulbricht this morning, accusing him of multiple offenses in connection with running Silk Road.

One of the dangers in using a stock photo? You never know who else has used it.

That’s the situation the Austin School District is finding itself in. As a post on the Austin Reddit page points out, the stock photo gracing the cover of AISD’s guide for new hires is the same photo used in a popular, unfortunately named meme: Unhelpful High School Teacher.

Update: The University of Texas System says nearly 15,000 people from around the world have signed up for free, online classes offered by the University of Texas at Austin in just the first three days of enrollment.

The most popular edX class offered by UT so far is Energy 101  –  with more than 5,000 registrants.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Sure – Austin’s weird.

It looks like the 40 Acres can’t get enough of the Harlem Shake. Today, a local filmmaker set up at the University of Texas to film the third Harlem Shake video set on campus.

In case the meme’s passed you by, here’s the scoop: Harlem Shake is an instrumental track from American DJ and producer Baauer. Featuring what Pitchfork Media calls a “menacing, world-smashing bassline that would cause even the Cloverfield monster to shudder in his gills,” the track provides the ideal soundtrack for viral videos. Know Your Meme has a comprehensive timeline detailing the dance’s proliferation.

Beginning this fall, the University of Texas will start offering free online courses through the non-profit organization EdX.

The UT Board of Regents authorized a partnership with EdX last fall. As KUT News wrote at the time, classes offered through EdX are not for college credit; instead, participants can earn a "certificate of mastery." The university says its also exploring the expansion of online learning for enrolled students.

Last June, a young woman in Texas uploaded a Justin Bieber fan video. She seemed a little .... unhinged.