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137 posts categorized "Web/Tech" Feed

January 13, 2012

Leahy Backs Down on Controversial Online Piracy Bill. Where Do Sanders and Welch Stand?

473px-Leahy2009 (1)While most of Vermont was focused on Gov. Peter Shumlin's budget address yesterday, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy was making national news on Vermont Public Radio's "Vermont Edition."

And it had nothing to do with a cameo in the upcoming Batman movie.

Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced on the show that he was preparing an amendment to the controversial PROTECT IP Act. Leahy said he would "set aside" the so-called domain name provisions in the bill, which would allow law enforcement to block access to foreign-based websites that illegally post pirated movies, music and other copyrighted content.

"This is a highly technical issue, and I am prepared to recommend we give it more study before implementing it," Leahy said in a statement issued after the VPR broadcast.

PIPA and its companion bill in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, have won praise from the entertainment industry and opposition from tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as from watchdog groups that say the legislation threatens free speech online. Among other things, PIPA gives the U.S. attorney general authority to order U.S.-based search engines and domain registrars to block access to offending websites.

For instance, a foreign website hosting a pirated version of The Dark Knight. Or more troublingly, WikiLeaks.

Continue reading "Leahy Backs Down on Controversial Online Piracy Bill. Where Do Sanders and Welch Stand?" »

December 12, 2011

Sanders and Sandia Announce New $15 Million Energy Lab at University of Vermont

Sandia presser photoBy the summer of 2013, Vermont will be the first state in the nation to have near-universal electrical smart-grid coverage — and Sandia National Laboratories is setting up shop at the University of Vermont to make it all happen.

That was Sen. Bernie Sanders' announcement at a press conference in his Burlington office this morning. Gov. Peter Shumlin, Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell, UVM President John Bramley and Sandia Vice President Rick Stulen joined Sanders to announce a three-year, $15 million commitment to open the first-ever national laboratory in New England in Burlington. 

The new lab, dubbed the Center for Energy Transformation and Innovation (CETI), will make as the centerpiece of its work the rollout of smart meters throughout the Green Mountain State, enabling all the state's utilities to better manage energy consumption and better integrate renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, into the power grid. The $15 million commitment comes in addition to the $69 million already allocated to Vermont from the federal government to roll out smart meters statewide.

Continue reading "Sanders and Sandia Announce New $15 Million Energy Lab at University of Vermont" »

November 10, 2011

Can You Measure Happiness Through Twitter? Find Out Tonight

Chris_headHow well are we doing as a country? To answer that question, you might point to our gross national product as an indicator. But that's not the only thing to consider. In Bhutan, for example, the country's wellbeing is measured in terms of "gross national happiness." Some want that to be the goal in the United States, too. But how can you measure collective happiness?

Chris Danforth, an assistant professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of Vermont, is trying to figure that out. Danforth is part of a team of UVM faculty and students who are analyzing happiness through Twitter, blog posts, and more. (That's him at right.)

The data they've crunched uncovers some fascinating factoids. For example: collective happiness spikes on Christmas and New Year's Eve, but the saddest days of the past few years were the day Michael Jackson died and the day Osama bin Laden was killed. Danforth and his associates have also found that the English language has an inherent bias towards joy — there are more happy words than sad words.

I interviewed Danforth for a story that will run in next week's Seven Days. In the mean time, you can check out his team's work at, or hear it straight from the source tonight at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. Danforth will give a talk on his research as part of ECHO's Café Scientifique series at 6:30 p.m. There's a suggested donation of $5, and there will be a cash bar and free hors d’oeuvres. Click here for more info on tonight's event.

October 25, 2011

Q&A: University of Vermont Robotics Researcher Josh Bongard

BongardHow and why did life on earth evolve in the myriad ways it did? Would creatures evolve in the same ways, and with the same anatomical structures, if we could rewind time and replay evolution over and over again? And, can humans create robots that not only evolve and learn but eventually become sentient?

These are just a few of the heady questions that University of Vermont robotics researcher Josh Bongard wrestles with every day. Little wonder, then, that on October 14, Bongard was one of 94 winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The White House honor came with a $500,000 research grant. (And in case you're wondering, no, that's not Bongard's Lamborghini parked outside of Votey Hall.)

This week, the 37-year-old Toronto native took a short break from his research in UVM's Morphology, Evolution and Cognition Lab to talk about his work and the future of "computational evolution." (For visual depictions of Bongard's work, check out the media link on his site.)

Bongard is one of 11 speakers at this Friday's TEDxUVM event. Registration for the Oct. 28 event is full but the seminars will be streaming live from the TEDxUVM website.

SEVEN DAYS: Did President Obama recognize you for one specific scientific breakthrough or discovery, or was it your entire body of work thus far?

Continue reading "Q&A: University of Vermont Robotics Researcher Josh Bongard" »

October 24, 2011

Champlain College's Center For Digital Investigation Opens for Business

CC Ctr Digital Investigation#1Let the digital sleuthing begin!

The Champlain College Center for Digital Investigation just opened shop two weeks ago in Burlington's South End and already it's providing an invaluable service to Vermont companies, government agencies and state and local law enforcement.

Housed in the college's new Miller Center at Lakeside Campus, "C3DI" gives students an opportunity to work on real-life digital forensics investigations outside the classroom, in a setting that measures up to FBI and international forensics-industry standards.

Jonathan Rajewski is an instructor at Champlain College and a digital forensics examiner with the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, based at the Burlington Police Department. Rajewski runs C3DI with Michael Wilkinson, a former digital criminal investigator with the New South Wales Police Force. There, Wilkinson oversaw a team of about two dozen experts who handled more than 1000 digital forensic investigations per year for Australia's largest crime-fighting agency.

Continue reading "Champlain College's Center For Digital Investigation Opens for Business" »

September 17, 2011

MyWebGrocer Hosts Vermont's First Hackathon (Updated With Winners)

VTHackathon_462x404***Updated with the winning teams below.***

Tonight at 6 p.m., dozens of web developers converge on the Champlain Mill in Winooski for the Vermont Hackathon, an overnight programming competition organized by MyWebGrocer. The Colchester-based company provides web solutions for the grocery industry. It recently purchased the mill, and plans to relocate there once construction on its new office space is finished.

Hackathon contestants will use MWG's application programming interfaces (APIs) to create something cool. Or, as MWG puts it in the advertising, "something that makes us go 'AMAZABALLS!'" Have you ever heard anybody actually say that?

I might say that if somebody gave me some of that prize money; the winners will split $10,000. There are door prizes, too, apparently. And MWG is supplying contestants with lots of snacks and energy drinks to give them creative energy.

Hackathons are common events in places like Silicon Valley, but this is the first one around here, as far as I can tell. MWG is hosting it to celebrate the fact that there is, in fact, a developer community in Vermont. And also because this is a great way to recruit potential employees — the company has 20+ open positions listed on its website.

I'm curious to see what the hackers come up with in the next 24 hours. Tyler Machado will attend the closing ceremonies tomorrow and share the results. Each individual or team has four minutes to present their entry, which will be judged on program utility, creativity, usability, quality and a demonstration. The judges include Rich Nadworny, digital strategist; Julie Lerman, the programmer who literally wrote the book on .net programming; Jon Woodward, a business development guy from Wolfram Alpha; venture capital guy Cairn Cross; and "local nerd" Tim Kenney.

I'm going to try to swing by for the kick-off, and since I live two blocks away, I may wander past late at night to see how the harried hackers are faring. Just for the hack of it (sorry, couldn't resist). If you're curious and waiting for an update, click here to watch MWG's live stream of the event.

Continue reading "MyWebGrocer Hosts Vermont's First Hackathon (Updated With Winners)" »

September 09, 2011

They Lost Their Cars to the Floods — But in Doing So, Saved Crucial Computer Servers

Waterbury office complex As flood waters from Tropical Storm Irene swamped the Waterbury state office complex, seven employees from the Vermont Agency of Human Services rushed inside to rescue computer servers that are critical for processing welfare checks and keeping track of paroled prisoners living around the state.

Two AHS employees —network administrator Andrew Matt and deputy chief information officer Darin Prail — parked their cars behind the AHS building at around 6 p.m. that Sunday, August 28, and rushed in to save the equipment. When they came back outside, giant trees were floating by and the entire parking lot was under water. So were their cars.

"We didn't know how much time we had," Matt said, "and our job was to save the servers."

Continue reading "They Lost Their Cars to the Floods — But in Doing So, Saved Crucial Computer Servers" »

August 31, 2011

Katrina Recovery Veteran Launches #VTResponse

Vtresponse Vermonters looking for a way to help their neighbors in need are connecting with volunteer opportunities through #VTResponse, a new website at The site aggregates requests from people and agencies, letting volunteers know who to contact and where to show up. Recent posts include “Help Wanted: Marlboro” and “Update: Resources in Northfield.”

#VTResponse is mentioned on the governor’s website, and has been popping up on Facebook, Twitter and in local media outlets (including Seven Days), though it’s not part of any “official” relief effort — it’s a grassroots clearinghouse organized by Sarah Waterman, a 27-year-old Winooski resident with a keen interest in disaster preparedness. 

Waterman, who grew up in East Montpelier, has a master’s degree in public administration, with a concentration in public health. She spent six months volunteering in Biloxi, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina.

Waterman created #VTResponse after texting with her parents in Montpelier Sunday night. Their power had gone out. “There was just no information reaching them,” she says, so she relayed information she was getting on Twitter. 

On Monday morning, the premed classes she was supposed to start at the University of Vermont were canceled, so Waterman spent the day glued to her computer. She created #VTResponse with assistance from her coworkers at Reality Venture Capital, a start-up that hosts reality television fantasy leagues. She says they’ve dropped everything to help her work on the site.

Waterman isn’t putting on wading boots herself, but she’s frantically fielding tweets and messages from people all over the state. With disaster relief, she says, “There’s this huge component of just being there for people.” 

She recalls her experiences cleaning up after Katrina. “Here you are, thinking that people want to get this tree out of their yard, but what they really want to do is to tell you their story… sometimes being the person who’s there listening is the most helpful thing of all.”

August 29, 2011

After Irene: How You Can Help Vermont

Shem2 Many people have been asking how they can help Vermonters who have suffered the most from the historic flooding Tropical Storm Irene caused on Sunday. Here are some resources with information on donation and volunteer efforts.

Before we get to the rest of the list: If you're looking to volunteer somewhere, or if you need assistance, visit first. They've been doing amazing work linking up volunteers. That site should be your first stop if you want to lend a helping hand. (We've covered their story here and here.)

If you know of any relief efforts that aren't listed here, let us know in the comments. We'll update the list periodically.

Photo of flooding in Richmond by Shem Roose

Continue reading "After Irene: How You Can Help Vermont" »

August 28, 2011

Irene's Impact on Vermont: A Crowdsourced Map of Storm Photos and Videos (Updated 9/1)


UPDATE (9:45 pm): Parts of Vermont were simply devastated by Tropical Storm Irene today. Torrential rains have led to flooding in the state's rivers and streams. Historic covered bridges have been washed away. The National Weather Service expects floodwaters to crest in Montpelier overnight, and says it could be worse than the floods that inundated Montpelier in May. Numerous other Vermont towns are underwater or cut off from surrounding areas due to washed-out roads, too.

If you'd like to lend a hand to help local emergency shelters provide relief, please dial 2-1-1. And Twitter users are coordinating relief efforts using the hashtag #VTresponse.

We're still collecting photos and videos from Irene's aftermath for our interactive map. Click here to send us yours. And scroll to the bottom of this post to see the map so far.


Continue reading "Irene's Impact on Vermont: A Crowdsourced Map of Storm Photos and Videos (Updated 9/1)" »

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