technology

Austin
12:45 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

Evacuating a Wildfire? There's an App for That

The app provides interactive maps with wildfire information.
American Red Cross

The American Red Cross has released a free mobile app to help people stay aware of wildfire danger.

The app gives users instant access to a so-called “blaze tracker” that issues alerts when conditions are favorable for wildfires and when a wildfire has begun within 100 miles of any location designated by the user. Users can also monitor multiple locations to keep up-to-date with what might be happening in a region susceptible to wildfires where friends or family live.

"A lot of information about wildfires is really hard to get and to take in. Wildfires are big, covering hundreds of acres, and also really fast-moving... [This app] actually even allows you to see the path of a fire, where its perimeter is, and what's happening. And that really makes the information about these big fires a little easier to digest," Sara Kennedy, Director of Communications for American Red Cross Central Texas Region, says.

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Austin
1:38 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

News of Social Gaming Layoffs Spreads Through Social Media

Screen shot of a Twitter post by California-based designer.

Social gaming company Zynga is laying off five percent of the company’s total workforce. That means about 100 layoffs in Austin and others in Boston.

The company says the move is an attempt to streamline operations and focus resources on their "most strategic opportunities.”

The move comes just weeks after the company’s stock plummeted 18 percent.

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Business
1:46 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Apple Announces Smaller, Cheaper Version of iPad

Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller announces the new iPad Mini during an Apple special event at the historic California Theater on Tuesday.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 1:35 pm

Update at 1:52 p.m. ET. Introducing iPad Mini:

Philip W. Schiller, the senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, announced a new, smaller and cheaper version of its popular tablet, just minutes ago in San Jose, Calif.

"So, what can you do with an iPad mini that can't do with an iPad?" Schiller asked. "You can hold it in one hand."

The iPad mini is as thin as a pencil, weighs 0.68 pounds and has a 7.9 inch screen, Schiller said. The iPad has a 9.7 inch screen.

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SXSW
1:03 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

South by Southwest Expands to Vegas

A new outpost of Austin-based South by Southwest is springing up: SXSW v2v in Las Vegas.
flickr.com/photos/scelera

The Austin music industry festival that started in 1987 and has since grown to encompass film, the internet, the environment, and education is now expanding again. And for the first time, South by Southwest is looking beyond Austin City Limits.

The inaugural SXSW V2V runs August 11 to 14 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas and will focus primarily on tech startups.

“We think there’s enough momentum in the startup space to power a second event and not in any way weaken the things we’re doing in Austin in March,” says Hugh Forrest with SXSW Interactive.

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Science
9:40 am
Mon October 15, 2012

Video: A Skydive From the Edge of Space

Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria and technical project director Art Thompson celebrate after Baumgartner completed a skydive from the stratosphere Sunday.
Joerg Mitter AP

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 7:51 am

In case you missed it this weekend, here is harrowing video of the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner stepping off a capsule at the edge space. He then plummets toward Earth at :

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Business
2:53 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Is Austin a Tech Center or a Tech Colony?

There's gold in them (silicon) hills: Out-of-state companies like Facebook and Apple use Austin as a colony, but we don't seem to mind.

Almost every day we hear about out-of-town tech companies opening branch offices in Austin.  

What does that mean? Could the next Facebook, Google, or Apple start and grow in Austin? Will Austin even be the next Silicon Valley? Or are we a "tech colony," a place where global companies can find a ready supply of highly-trained tech workers who will work for less than workers in California or New York?

Salaries are lower here, even for tech specialist in high demand, and although Austin is often billed as a "lower cost of living" area, it may not seem that way to those facing high (and rising) rent, home prices, and property taxes.

In Silicon Valley, researcher and writer Vivek Wadhwa studies competitiveness as an academic discipline.  He says he’s pessimistic about the tech future of many U.S. cities and regions, but not Austin. He says Austin has done everything right and should continue to grow. More than advantages like Texas' favorable tax climate, the stream of patents spinning out of UT, or ample investment capital, he says it’s the human capital that gives Austin an advantage.  

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Business
8:59 am
Thu October 11, 2012

Austin Social Startup Acquired by California Company

A view of Lithium's current look for online communities.
Lithium Technologies

It's no secret that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way companies interact with their consumers.

Corporations and small businesses alike need to have a plan for handling customer interactions via the internet  – at least that's what one Austin startup believes. And a big technology company is buying into the idea.

Lithium Technologies, a California-based company, announced it acquired Austin startup Social Dynamx this week.

Social Dynamx was founded last year by a group of Austin software industry experts as the “industry’s first purpose-built social customer care platform.” That's a fancy way of saying Social Dynamx’s technology assists companies in monitoring conversations via social media sites in order to respond fittingly to customers' comments or complaints.

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Arts and Culture
8:32 am
Wed October 10, 2012

The End of Trivia App 'Qrank,' One Tweet at a Time

Qrank players could compete against their Twitter and Facebook friends for bragging rights. The game closed shop this week.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News.

The social trivia game Qrank (pronounced "crank") is no more.

Co-founders and Austinites Rodney Gibbs and Michael Baird posted a  message titled “Goodbye” on the game’s website on Monday, and announced that that morning’s edition would be the last of the daily quiz.

Qrank had been voraciously consumed by a legion of loyal players since 2010. As explained on the game’s website, the goal was to “choose 15 of the 20 possible questions and answer them quickly and accurately to beat your friends and earn achievements.” The game was available on Facebook and as a mobile app.

But while Qrank maintained close to 25,000 “likes” on Facebook and more than 8,500 Twitter followers, interaction with all of those fans waned over the last several months.

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SXSW
12:07 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

SXSW Eco Powers Through a Second Year

Advances in renewable energy were a hot topic at this year's SXSW Eco conference.
flickr.com/lancecheungmedia

The second-annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco conference comes to an end today.

SXSW Eco is an offshoot of the wildly-popular SXSW festival that takes over Austin for a good chunk of March each year, and has since grown from its roots in music and film to encompass technology and education.

SXSW Eco is still a comparatively smaller affair, viewed against the whopping $190 million in estimated economic impact SXSW brings overall. But this year’s festival expanded its focus onto five themes: Scalable, ecological solutions; collaborations between disparate communities on global issues like climate change; advances in technology and design; green economics; and visions for an environmentally sustainable future.

The team with KUT News’ StateImpact Texas has been filing dispatches from Eco, starting with an interview with Michael E. Mann, a Penn State University professor whose work includes the iconic “hockey stick” graph showing a rise in global temperatures since the dawn of the industrial age – work that his made him a target of climate change deniers.

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Economy
8:24 am
Fri October 5, 2012

National Unemployment Rate Drops, Austin's Employed May Be Seeing Raises

Austin may be getting some raises soon.
http://www.flickr.com/niwru/

The national unemployment rate decreased to 7.8 percent in September. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. added 114,00 jobs last month. This means the number of unemployed in the U.S. is now 12.1 million. It's the first time this year that unemployment has fallen below 8 percent.

So what does this mean for Austin? As KUT News reported last month, Austin added 5,900 jobs in August, and local unemployment dropped to 5.9 percent, well below the national average.

But what about the already employed in Austin? According to staffing agency Robert Half International, technology professionals are expected to salary increases of about 5.3 percent. Administrative staff may see salaries rise by 3.5 percent. And accounting and finance salaries could jump 3.3 percent.

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Business
1:05 pm
Sat September 29, 2012

What's Behind Dell's Shopping Spree

Dell is primarily known for manufacturing desktop and laptop computers, but recent acquisitions are diversifying its services.
flickr.com/dellphotos

In an widely-circulated blog post titled "Hardware is Dead," investment banker Jay Goldberg shocked the tech world by describing what he discovered in a tiny stall inside a Chinese electronics market. In a room full of vendors hawking computers and parts, Goldberg found an Android tablet computer – essentially a non-Apple iPad – for only $45.

Speaking with KUT News, Goldberg says he was surprised by the device's high quality and low price. "I would consider it a device that anyone in the U.S. would be comfortable using," he says. "It was a seven-inch device. It ran the latest version of Android. It was WiFi only, it had a nice screen, and a very snappy processor, so it responded to your commands, quickly."

That’s what Dell is up against, trying to make money, in a ruthlessly competitive global market, by manufacturing desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and servers. Dell's stock price shows its struggle, dropping from more than $40 per share in 2005 to around $10.

At Dell headquarters, spokesman Jess Blackburn says the nature of Dell’s business has changed, and the company is undergoing a transformation.  "Our strategy, which we have been particularly focused on, is taking Dell from more of a hardware company to a full service, comprehensive solutions provider."

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Business
11:06 am
Fri September 28, 2012

Apple Is 'Extremely Sorry' For Its Much-Maligned Maps, CEO Tim Cook Says

Will it take you where you want to go? A new iPhone 5 and Apple's new mapping software.
Beck Diefenbach Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 9:46 am

How much of a "public relations disaster" has Apple's new mapping software been?

Big enough that the famously proud company has apologized — and suggested that users can turn to arch rival Google Maps instead.

In a message "to our customers" posted this morning, CEO Tim Cook says:

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Business
2:08 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Austin's Seoul Connection: Javelin Lands Samsung Contract

Samsung selected a small Austin semiconductor company to manufacture a power amplifier for its new Galaxy S Duos.
Samsung

A small Austin-based technology company, Javelin Semiconductor, has landed its largest contract to date – thanks to a burgeoning relationship between Central Texas and South Korea.

Javelin Semiconductor was picked to produce a power amplifier for Samsung’s new Galaxy S Duos. Robert Wagner, a spokesperson for Javelin, partially credits the company’s continued partnership with Samsung to Austin’s connection to Seoul, South Korea.

“There’s a good relationship in general between Austin companies and Samsung in Korea. So we get some good recognition from the Korean side of Samsung, that we’re this Austin company and they’ve had good success with other local Austin companies like Silicon Labs.”

The Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Susan Davenport agrees. Davenport says that in addition to the success of local companies, the University of Texas has been influential in building Austin’s cluster of technology and talent – which companies like Samsung are now enjoying.  

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Business
12:34 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

Apple Unveils New, Thinner, Lighter iPhone 5

Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller announces the new iPhone 5 during an Apple special event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Calif.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 3:02 pm

Moments ago in San Francisco, Apple's Phil Schiller unveiled the latest incarnation of the company's massively popular smartphone.

The iPhone 5, said Schiller, is "the most beautiful product we've ever made."

Of course, you want to know what's different about this model: Essentially it's thinner, lighter, faster and also has a bigger screen than the iPhone 4s.

The device also comes equipped to work with faster wireless networks like LTE, which AT&T, Sprint and Verizon carry.

The AP adds:

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Business
12:24 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

The iPhone 5 and the Economy: Don't Believe the Hype

Waiting to help the economy grow.
Kiichiro Sato AP

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 11:13 am

The iPhone 5 will give a nice boost to U.S. economic growth in the last three months of this year, according to a new note from JPMorgan.

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Business
4:35 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

What Will Apple's Patent Case Mean For Phone Design?

These Nokia phones unveiled earlier this month are the first smartphones built for Windows 8.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 5:52 pm

A lot of thought goes into giving your smartphone a distinctive look and feel, from the shape of the speaker — square, round or oval — to where to put the buttons — side, front or back.

But industrial designers like Robert Brunner say he doesn't have a lot of room to be creative.

"Because you're really being so heavily driven on maintaining a minimal physical size," he says. "So you really get into this very fine envelope of a few millimeters that you have to work with."

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Education
10:33 am
Mon September 10, 2012

UT-Austin Announces New Engineering Research Center

KUT News

It has been more than two decades since a Texas university was selected to lead one of the National Science Foundation's prestigious engineering research centers, but the University of Texas at Austin has broken the streak.

UT-Austin has been selected to receive an $18.5 million federal grant over five years to establish and lead a center they are calling the Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies, or NASCENT. It will focus on developing manufacturing processes for microscopic computing technology that the center's leaders, Roger Bonnecaze and S.C. Sreenivasan, said could lead to foldable laptops and wearable devices.

The NSF's engineering research centers are strategically placed partnerships between the government, academia and industry. Led by UT-Austin, the partners that make up NASCENT include the University of New Mexico and the University of California at Berkeley as well as private companies like Texas Instrumnets, Lockeed Martin and others.

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Business
3:10 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Will the Tablet’s Rise Mean More or Fewer Layoffs at Dell?

Mobile computing sales are "cannibalizing" the PC market, according to an industry analyst.
flickr.com/jeffk42

The largest corporate employer in Central Texas, Dell, has sent out pink slips to an undisclosed number of workers. 

Despite acquisitions designed to broaden the company’s enterprise services, a slowing global economy, tough competitors, and a shift from desktop to mobile computing have hammered the Round Rock-based company’s sales, says industry analyst Shannon Cross.

“What hurt them most recently is just a dramatic slowdown in PC sales. Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace. China slowed dramatically for both HP and Dell in the most recent quarter. You’ve seen a lot of pricing pressure coming from some of the Asian competitors like Lenovo, Asus, and Acer.”

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Business
10:18 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Dell Confirms Central Texas Job Cuts

Are other technology companies leaving Dell in the dust?
KUT News

One of the biggest employers in Central Texas is cutting jobs.

Dell let affected employees know about the reductions yesterday. The company says the cuts are in an effort to remain competitive and become more efficient.

“We recognize any reduction is significant for impacted team members and their teammates, and we are working to minimize consequences,” Dell Marketing Director David Frink says.

Dell isn’t revealing how many or which positions are being eliminated. Frink says some employees may be able to work elsewhere in the company.

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Business
12:26 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

In the Battle Between Apple and Samsung, Could Austin Be the Loser?

A paradoxical relationship arises from the size and reach of Apple and Samsung. But will Austin get caught in the middle?
flickr.com/matt_gibson

Apple. Samsung.

Friends? Enemies? Frenemies?

The nature of the relationship is an important question in Austin, where Samsung recently announced it will spend at least $3 billion retooling its Austin Semiconductor Plant to produce advanced processor chips.

Industry rumors say that a primary purpose of the Austin retooling is to make electronic innards for Apple's iPhones and iPads, though Samsung does not not confirm that. Worldwide, Samsung is the biggest supplier of iPhone and iPad processing chips. In fact, many analysts say that Apple could not produce the iPhone without Samsung.

But how does that cozy relationship fit with a bitter court battle that has raged around the globe?

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