Science & Technology

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Are police watching you through walls?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 11:55 AM

PAURIAN
  • Paurian
The answer to that question is that, locally, probably not. But in other parts of the country a new device enables police to see through walls of homes and other buildings, giving new meaning to the old maxim, "You can run but you can't hide."

About 50 police departments across the country are using a device that can essentially see through walls of your home, according to USA Today.

The form of radar tells officers if anyone is home and can detect if someone inside is merely breathing, the newspaper reports.

The use of the device surfaced recently in a case heard by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

From the USA Today story:
Three judges on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the search, and [Steven] Denson's conviction, on other grounds. Still, the judges wrote, they had "little doubt that the radar device deployed here will soon generate many questions for this court."

But privacy advocates said they see more immediate questions, including how judges could be surprised by technology that has been in agents' hands for at least two years. "The problem isn't that the police have this. The issue isn't the technology; the issue is always about how you use it and what the safeguards are," said Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
We checked with the Colorado Springs Police Department about using this technology, and got this response from Sgt. Joel Kern, department spokesman: "We don't have the money for that!"

Nor, apparently, does the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. A spokesperson said deputies don't use the device.

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Monday, February 29, 2016

GoCode Colorado Roadshow here Wednesday

Posted By on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 1:19 PM

Get your geek on! The GoCode Colorado Roadshow will be coming to Colorado Springs on Wednesday, March 2.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams will be joining local techies to talk about this year’s GoCode challenge at Episouthcentral, located at 1604 S Cascade Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m. Drinks and food will be provided at the free event, where questions will be answered about this year’s challenge.

For the unfamiliar, GoCode is an award-winning, statewide business app challenge, in which teams from cities across the state compete to develop apps that solve real business problems. Hosted through the Secretary of State’s office, the challenge brings together teams of developers and entrepreneurs.

Judges whittle the field of teams, and the two best teams from each location are sent to a mentor weekend (this year’s is in Boulder), where they meet with some of the state’s top entrepreneurs, lawyers, and others. Finally, the three top teams are selected, and each are awarded a $25,000 prize to keep their app and business idea going.
Registration is open for the challenge, which begins on the weekend of April 1-3, at http://gocode.colorado.gov/.

Still want to know more? Check out their commercial:


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Monday, December 14, 2015

Catalyst Campus gets grant for high-tech lab

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 4:37 PM

screen_shot_2015-12-14_at_4.16.39_pm.png
 The Catalyst Campus for Technology & Innovation, which seeks to advance technology in Southern Colorado and create jobs, was awarded a $750,000 grant from the Colorado Economic Development Commission to build out IT infrastructure and create a research and development lab and operations center. Partners plan to provide $1.5 million in matching funds for the projects.

The new center will produce satellite, space and GPS technologies for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and commercial purposes. Construction will begin in summer. 

Read on for more details:

Catalyst Campus lands $750,000 grant to build
private research, shared ‘collaboratory’ R & D lab


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Dec. 14, 2015 – The Catalyst Campus for Technology & Innovation was awarded a $750,000 grant from the Colorado Economic Development Commission, to build out IT infrastructure and a unique industry-sponsored, cyber- and space-based research and development laboratory/operations center.

Partners of Catalyst Campus will provide $1.5 million in matching funds to establish the Cyber and Space Operations Center (CSOC), where satellite, space and GPS technologies will be tested and developed for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and ultimately for commercial applications.

With financial support from Catalyst Campus partners, Braxton Science and Technologies Group, LLC, and The O’Neil Group Company, LLC, the CSOC will provide a technology platform for industry partners to collaborate and deploy two SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) contracts recently awarded to Braxton by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

“Catalyst is grateful to Braxton and The O’Neil Group for supporting the launch of an R&D ‘collaboratory’ at the campus,” said Ingrid Richter, Economic Development Director for Catalyst Campus.

Construction on the CSOC will begin this summer and is expected to be completed by September 2016. After these initial AFRL contracts are deployed in 2016, the laboratory will be made available to other private companies, providing a co-working and co-utilization platform that allows start-ups, entrepreneurs, established companies and R&D projects to use the CSOC laboratory without initial start-up or exorbitant operating costs.

This unique operating model will make the Cyber and Space Operations Center the only space and satellite private research laboratory of its kind in the nation.

“We are honored that Catalyst Campus was chosen to receive this Advanced Industries Accelerator grant,” said Kevin O’Neil, CEO of The O’Neil Group Company. “This grant will support building an environment around cyber, satellite and space operations that is unheard of in the private aerospace industry. The opportunity for commercial application and workforce training in this environment is exponential.”

“The CSOC will create a synergistic opportunity to educate civilians, cadets, veterans and active military personnel in the practical application of cyber security, satellite research and operations, and software development.”

Once the infrastructure is in place and these projects are deployed, Catalyst Campus and industry partners plan to engage commercial companies in R&D, technology acceleration, and satellite testing capabilities.

Building the CSOC opens the door to innovations such as improving signal accuracy technology that can be used to enhance military operations and also be cross-pollinated to commercial markets to increase accuracy for Google mapping applications, Garmin devices, and GPS applications – all part of a multi-billion-dollar industry.

“I congratulate the Catalyst Campus for receiving this significant grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. This funding will be used to create a Cyber and Space Operations Center on the campus, and it is further evidence that Colorado Springs is rapidly becoming a national leader in cyber security.”

-John Suthers
Mayor of Colorado Springs

According to the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade, the Advanced Industries Accelerator Programs grants are awarded to companies that “promote growth and sustainability in Colorado's seven advanced industries by helping drive innovation, accelerate commercialization, encourage public-private partnerships, increase access to early stage capital and create a strong ecosystem that increases the state’s global competitiveness.”

Catalyst Campus applied for the grant in September 2015 and received the award on Dec. 10 at the Colorado Economic Development Commission hearing, where several companies in Colorado received grants, ranging from $300,000 to $2.5 million.

ABOUT CATALYST CAMPUS FOR TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION
Located in downtown Colorado Springs, Catalyst Campus advances technology in Southern Colorado. Catalyst Campus creates a centralized ecosystem to promote industry, education, and venture capital for these advanced industries: aerospace, defense and homeland security, electronics, technology and information, and advanced manufacturing.

Given the diverse resources of Southern Colorado, the Catalyst Campus aims to accelerate economic growth across multiple advanced industries and support workforce development for the Pikes Peak region.

Catalyst Campus offers 100,000 square feet of office/R&D lab space where start-ups as well as small- and medium-sized companies collaborate on innovative and emerging ideas to promote technological advancement, create high-skilled, high-paying jobs, and stimulate the commercialization of new products.

In addition, Catalyst Academy will be a training center that will fill workforce gaps in today's changing and high-demand technologies.

For more information, visit CatalystCampus.com or call 719-244-0507.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Medicaid covers drug that saves addicts' lives

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 11:08 AM

PSYCHONAUGHT
  • Psychonaught

Colorado Medicaid has taken a major step toward preventing overdose deaths from heroin and other opioids, announcing that it will now cover the overdose antidote nasal spray, Naloxone.

In drug treatment circles, increasing access to Naloxone is seen as a major harm reduction strategy, akin to distributing clean needles to prevent transmission of diseases like HIV. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Chicago is experiencing a tainted heroin crisis, but that many lives are being saved due to increased access to the lifesaving drug.

Chicago isn't the only place with a problem. In a press release, Colorado Medicaid notes that opioid overdose deaths have been increasing in Colorado.

"Each year, about 300 Coloradans die from opioid overdoses and another 17,000 people die nationally," it stated. 

In 2013, The New York Times wrote a story about the effort to increase access to Naloxone in New York City, and explained the way the drug works as follows:

Opioids function in the body by attaching to specific proteins, called opioid receptors. When opioids attach, the body relaxes and breathing slows. But too much of an opioid can cause respiration to slow to a lethal level.

Naloxone acts by competing with opioids for the receptor sites, essentially pushing the opioids out of the way and reversing the effects of the drugs.
The drug isn't brand new. In fact, it's been around for many years. But it's been slow to catch on in law enforcement and public health circles, in part due to controversy. The main point of contention seems to be concern that a drug that can stop a heroin overdose death will make heroin use more attractive. (The Huffington Post ran an article about that argument a couple years ago.)

Some health care professionals may have also been hesitant to prescribe the drug due to fear of criminal or civil prosecution if there are negative outcomes with the drug. That problem was solved in Colorado during the last legislative session with the passage of Colorado Senate Bill 053, which granted immunity to licensed prescribers and dispensers of Naloxone.

The recent availability of Naloxone as a nasal mist, rather than a traditional injection, has likely also helped increase its popularity.

Colorado Medicaid notes that the state isn't expecting Naloxone to solve the drug problem. Gov. John Hickenlooper launched a new public awareness campaign earlier this year aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse called "Take Meds Seriously." (Anecdotally, it's common for heroin users to say that they became addicted to pain medications that were prescribed to them and moved on to heroin to feed their cravings.) 

"This benefit supports the Governor's initiative to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Colorado," Susan E. Birch, MBA, BSN, RN, and executive director for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, stated in the Medicaid press release. "We are hoping to save lives and encourage other health plans to follow this lead."

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

All hail the corpse flower

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 10:15 AM

A corpse flower before and after. - DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS
  • Denver Botanic Gardens
  • A corpse flower before and after.
For the first time in Denver Botanic Gardens history, its amorphophallus titanum, or corpse flower, will bloom. In fact, it's likely the first time in regional history.

When it does, it will extend a long cluster of flowers that resemble a baguette (in color and size) and smell like rotting flesh.

Lovely.

It will also heat up, before collapsing a day or so afterwards (if not pollinated) and won't bloom again for many years. Corpse flowers, which are native to Indonesia, can bloom anywhere from 7 to 10 years to every few years, generally blooming more often in the wild than in captivity.

DBG estimates that its plant will bloom sometime around Sunday, Aug. 16, though the exact time cannot be determined. (You can follow the progress more closely on Twitter, with the hashtag: #StinkyDBG.)

As of right now, the DBG says the plant is growing an average of two inches per day.

Just last week, "Trudy" of the University of California Botanical Gardens in Berkeley bloomed to much fan fair, "releasing 'infrequent blasts'" of that stench and clocking in at 56 inches long. (Trudy, it was discovered, is also a guy.)

Corpse flowers, the above article explains, smell like carrion to attract beetles and flies — which lay their eggs in rotting flesh — and in exploring the plant that smells like a bug nursery, help pollinate it.

A quick word from Wikipedia on the smell, if you were further curious:
The potency of the aroma gradually increases from late evening until the middle of the night and then tapers off as morning arrives. Analyses of chemicals released by the spadix show the “stench” includes dimethyl trisulfide (like limburger cheese), dimethyl disulfide, trimethylamine (rotting fish), isovaleric acid (sweaty socks), benzyl alcohol (sweet floral scent), phenol (like Chloraseptic), and indole (like mothballs).

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Exhibit review: Mythic Creatures in Denver

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 2:01 PM

COURTESY DENVER MUSEUM OF NATURE & SCIENCE
  • Courtesy Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Mermaids, unicorns and dragons are said to be the stuff of myth, but be careful in dismissing the possibility that they exist.

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids, exhibiting at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science through September, strives to show how various "sightings" and discoveries have influenced human belief throughout the years.

Many mythic creatures, the DMNS points out, reflect attempts to describe the natural world. They take shape through human imagination and are a medium of cultural interaction. And cultures around the world keep mythic creatures alive through art and literature. So it's not as incongruous as it first may appear to have fantastical creatures displayed in a science museum.

I was there for the simplest of reasons: a love for mythology. But I found the exhibit puzzling — it’s not academic enough to appeal to most adults, or lively enough to appeal to most kids.

Past the panel with an introduction is a giant tentacle marking the "Creatures of Water" portion of the exhibit, featuring beings from kraken and other sea monsters to water spirits to mermaids and the yawkyawk. According to the educator’s guide, the goal is to demonstrate that they “arouse feelings of curiosity, hope — and bottomless fear.”

But a mermaid masthead is the sole piece that possesses any intrigue, its hollow eyes cut into rich metal making it simultaneously beautiful and ethereal. As for the hangings of whales, sharks and dolphins, these well-documented creatures seem to divert, rather than direct, the focus.

It's a problem that comes up often in Mythic Creatures: By trying to cover so much ground, the exhibit barely scratches the surface of specific mythology.

An exception is the "Creatures of Land" section, which starts with an exhibit on griffins. Consisting mostly of griffin pottery and a supposed griffin fossil, it does well to send home the concept of how people have used mythic creatures to "describe the natural world.” Then come the unicorns — displays of art pieces with literary and historical backgrounds as well as a unicorn statue, which is the highlight of this area and one of the prettiest pieces of the entire exhibit. The way the light bounces off the statue makes it that much more magical. If any part of Mythic Creatures is worth stopping for, it’s this part.
COURTESY DENVER MUSEUM OF NATURE & SCIENCE
  • Courtesy Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Two dragons hold up the exhibit finale. One standing in the center resembles dragons commonly seen in Western fantasy; the other, hanging from the ceiling, has an Asian appearance. I wanted this to be a huge spectacle worthy of a walk through the rest of the exhibit, but while there are various dragons featured in the art display and a build-your-own-dragon game, along with panels discussing the fantastical beasts, it doesn’t seem like enough. The build-your-own-dragon game, actually, only serves to remind the viewer of how many other interactive exhibits there could have been.

It helps that admission to Mythic Creatures is included in regular museum admission. But when it comes to finding a place that’s worth spending your time, but you might find more magic elsewhere.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pioneers Museum revamping medical exhibit

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 10:39 AM

CSPM
  • CSPM
It was always my favorite part of any field trip (or walk across the street) to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. All those terrifying old tools, the saws, the dental drills, the cabinets filled with strange medicines and elixirs.

Starting Jan. 1, the museum's array of such things will close for renovation and reinterpretation. The new permanent exhibit, City of Sunshine, is scheduled to open this time next year, and will include new stories, photographs and artifacts, along with audio and visual components. The museum is also working with architects to update the flooring and lighting in that area and show more of the original features of the building itself.

"Museum visitors who have favorite objects in the current exhibit can rest assured that many of them will return but be interpreted in fresh and exciting ways," promises the press release, sent today.

Meantime, a smaller, temporary exhibit called Chasing the Cure will open in March. "It will feature the role our beautiful scenery and climate played in attracting consumptives to the area, the many doctors, nurses and sanitariums catering to the sick, various treatment methods and quack cures offered to health seekers, and hands-on health-related activities for children,” says museum curator Leah Davis Witherow in the release.
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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Apple’s Groundhog Day

Posted By on Sat, Sep 27, 2014 at 9:02 AM

ANDREY BAYDA | SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Andrey Bayda | Shutterstock
Recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage to announce a few new products and demo videos of the company's latest technology. The event, though streamed online, was shown to a highly selective audience of industry analysts, tech bloggers and journalists.

Apple’s product launch is the one presentation each year that “fanboys” like myself watch with rapt attention, and the one that Microsoft or Google customers love to hate. But as I watched this year’s event, I noticed that it's starting to become a spectacle like Groundhog Day.

When Punxsutawney Phil pops out of his hole and "announces" six more weeks of winter or an early spring, some participants wind up happy, and some are disappointed. Similarly, financial analysts, app developers, graphic designers and even casual consumers split after an Apple product launch: some feel relief or excitement, and others sighs of frustration.

With this particular event, I find myself in the latter camp.

Case in point: Apple’s best selling product is still the iPhone, but this year’s new iPhones are quite uninspiring. Sure, we got all the standard fare with a product refresh — a thinner phone with better graphics, faster processing speeds, a better camera, a few new apps, etc — but there’s really nothing that compelling for an upgrade. These kinds of improvements to a product are to be expected, with no fanfare, in the way a car manufacturer improves its models each year.

This time around, Apple’s offering us a bigger screen as the impetus to upgrade, and if that’s not enough, you can get a much bigger screen; it makes me wonder if Apple’s running out of ideas for the iPhone. 

There was one big announcement that was very interesting, a brand new product that Apple’s never had before: the Apple Watch. It’s been interesting to see how tech bloggers have responded, with a lot more negativity than I expected, in the days since the unveiling.

I don’t wear a watch, and think it would take a lot to convince me to wear one. (I have an iPhone, why would I have a watch, too?) However, when analyzing Apple as a manufacturer of consumer tech products, I think it’s a step in the right direction. There’s a compelling case to be made that wearable technology is the next frontier in “the Internet of things.” Many tech companies have already begun the rush to develop all kinds of products that you can wear and take anywhere (Jawbone’s “UP” fitness wristband and Microsoft’s “Smart Contact Lenses,” for example).

I’m really quite optimistic about the Apple Watch — and thank God they called it the “Apple Watch” instead of the “iWatch." 

Most of the criticism I’ve heard so far about the Apple Watch is based on two kinds of comments, the first being, “Who needs a watch that does all those things?” I’ll be quick to point out that when the first iPhone came out in 2007, a lot of people were saying, “Who needs to have the Internet on their phone?” Yet clearly, half a billion iPhones later, plenty of people decided that the Internet on their phone is exactly what they needed.

The original iPhone was revolutionary in concept, but also a piece of junk in terms of quality; the camera was terrible, the Internet was unbelievably slow, and the battery life was horrendous by today’s standards. But it essentially launched an entirely new form factor for cell phones that didn’t exist before.

The second criticism I’ve heard of the Apple Watch — which I think makes even less sense — is the price point. The watch starts at $349 and will, ostensibly, go up significantly (perhaps even thousands of dollars) from there based on your choice of straps and accessories. But the base price is nearly half that of an iPhone, and there are no monthly contracts. This is not lost on me, and as I said, I don’t even wear a watch.

The only danger I see her is that Apple’s ventured far beyond its comfort zone, now creating products in a genre that are often purchased only for their stylistic value. Other manufacturers have done the same for a while — Samsung and Sony, for instance — but the jury is still out on whether the average consumer will purchase wearable tech or not. It remains to be seen whether Apple, though famous for their style and design ethos, will be able to overcome this hurdle, as technology has always been the backbone for their products’ appeal.

I’ll be watching with interest to see what the next step is for Apple, as it tries to retain its crown as one of the largest, most profitable tech companies in the world, and the one with the highest brand loyalty. For now, I think our friend the Groundhog is predicting an early spring, but since we know his track record is about as spotty as it gets, your guess is as good as mine. We may all get a snow day soon.

Ron is a web guy, IT guy, and Internet marketer living in Colorado Springs with his wife and five children. He can often be overheard saying things like "Get a Mac!" and "Data wins arguments,” wandering around the downtown area at least five days a week. Follow him on Twitter at @ronstauffer or email him at indy@ronstauffer.com. Questions, comments and snide remarks are always welcome.
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Saturday, August 16, 2014

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a drone?

Posted By on Sat, Aug 16, 2014 at 10:20 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
When I first heard the media stir about drones a couple years ago, my mind recalled the male bees that live in a hive and do nothing but eat, sleep and breed. Remember those from your elementary school days? Today, the term "drone" is often used in an entirely different context, and the drones in question have only the gift of flight in common with lazy buzzing insects and the role they play is far more complex.

It’s important to mention that drones are not new: "drone" is a layman's term for what is technically known as an "unmanned aerial vehicle," or UAV. UAVs have been used by governments across the globe, for various reasons, for decades. In fact, the U.S. used them in the ’70s during the Vietnam War, and perhaps even earlier, for reconnaissance or other fact-finding missions. The basic concept of a UAV or drone is really quite a broad umbrella though, and not limited to wartime uses: a drone can be both the
multi-million dollar, missile-firing machines used today by the CIA in Pakistan, and small machines that are essentially remote control toys. You can even buy the innocuous "Parrot Drone" quadri-copter online for just a few hundred bucks and fly it with your smartphone. (Yes, there's an app for that.)

Aside from the military and occasional weekend hobbyist, there's one type of drone user that's conspicuously absent: businesses. Where are the companies and organizations using drones for commercial use or humanitarian efforts? You haven’t seen much of that, and odds are you won’t anytime soon due to one major opponent: the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA has essentially embargoed any and all commercial use of drones, and has been fighting court battles for years and issuing fines to keep businesses from employing drones for any use whatsoever. Why? For a few good reasons, safety being the most obvious; with the possibility of a drone falling out of the sky and injuring or killing someone, or at the very least causing property damage. Or, a craft could fly into the path of a passenger jet, putting dozens, if not hundreds of lives could be at stake. Additionally, camera-equipped drones flying over private property present major privacy issues, because some drones can be nearly undetectable, and you wouldn’t even know you’re being spied on.

However, surveying the technological landscape in 2014, one could argue the real reason we haven't found a solution to allow the use of commercial drones is because we're afraid of them.

If you need proof, look no further than the fact that nations similar to ours, in western Europe and Asia, have been using drones commercially for decades. Yamaha has been providing agricultural drones for Japanese farmers for more than 20 years for crop dusting. In the USA, however — the country known for its drones—regulators have tried very hard to prevent progress of any kind.

There is some hope; in a recent case, a federal judge ruled that the FAA has no authority to regulate small drones at all, since they’re essentially “model planes,” falling under the same rules as a small radio control airplanes. But the legal ground is still shaky, and in case you think I’m only picking on the FAA, it’s worth mentioning that many state governments have passed laws preventing certain types of drone use. Louisiana’s most recent anti-drone law would essentially criminalize aerial photography of any kind, with enormous fines and jail time. And even some cities have enacted their own anti-drone laws like Charlottesville, VA, that recently banned law enforcement agencies from using drones anywhere within city limits.
Look at the bizarre paradox this presents: do we really believe that the right answer is to prevent the good guys from using a technology that the bad guys will certainly use, regardless of the law? Will that make us safer?

One could argue — and I would — that there are numerous reasons to allow, and even encourage the commercial use of UAVs. The aforementioned agricultural use for farmers comes to mind, as does journalism, aerial firefighting, environmental research, search and rescue missions, law enforcement; the list is nearly endless. Take a recent search and rescue success story for example; an elderly man went missing in a wooded area in Wisconsin earlier this summer. A traditional search party of more than one hundred people was dispatched, as were search and rescue helicopters, and tracking dogs, but after three days of searching, the poor man still had not been found — until a volunteer sent his drone looking for the man and found him twenty minutes later. Who could argue with results like that?

Believe it or not, our government can argue with it—and has. The FAA has specifically sent letters to search and rescue organizations stating that they cannot use drones even for this powerful, cost effective, and life-saving purpose. But, to be fair, the FAA has finally agreed to take some steps to integrate drones into our skies, though every one of the congressional deadlines for integration has been missed.

I’m not optimistic about the current projection for full integration by 2020 — that’s a full six years away anyway, not counting any further delays. There are still many questions to be answered, and I’m sympathetic to the logistical nightmares it could be to offer common sense regulation that allows the safe, legal operation of drones. However, to think that everyone will sit idly by and watch and wait for a simple blessing from the government to use a technology that is readily available, powerful, and cheap, is naïve. Do we think that a simple rubber stamp from a bureaucratic agency will keep enthusiasts and profiteers twiddling their thumbs for six years? I daresay not.

I recently heard a quote in another context that fits here as well: I listened to an IT speaker's panel at a local university, and the subject matter at one point turned to cyber security. One of the speakers, a security tester (aka a "white hat" hacker), expressed concern about the state of the industry and said, "Right now, the bad guys are beating the good guys, and we're constantly playing catch-up." This is a somber warning for many fields of technology, drones included. If we keep the “good guys” from unleashing their innovation and creativity, it's only a matter of time before someone else, perhaps someone more sinister, will.

Ron is a web guy, IT guy, and Internet marketer living in Colorado Springs with his wife and five children. He can often be overheard saying things like "Get a Mac!" and "Data wins arguments,” wandering around the downtown area at least five days a week. Follow him on Twitter at @ronstauffer or email him at indy@ronstauffer.com. Questions, comments and snide remarks are always welcome.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TEDx comes to the Springs

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 8:06 AM

Dan and Kristie Cichello hope to make TEDx Colorado Springs an annual event. - VIA TEDXCOLORADOSPRINGS.COM
  • Via tedxcoloradosprings.com
  • Dan and Kristie Cichello hope to make TEDx Colorado Springs an annual event.

Some ideas are worth spreading.

Or so the founders of the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conferences would claim. TED conferences have become synonymous with presentations geared to inspire, called TED talks. Since the advent of TED.com in 2007, TED talks have been the toast of the web, attracting millions of viewers and awards aplenty. Around the world, TEDx conferences — licensed TED conferences outside of the main event — add to the bank of ideas and information TED.com presents.

Now TEDx is coming to Colorado Springs.

Dan and Kristie Cichello are planning a TEDx event for Oct. 11 at Stargazers Theater (10 S. Parkside Drive). The event will feature between 10 and 15 local speakers, plus a performance from Celtic Steps, an Irish dance company. Dan Cichello says the theme of the event is, "Choose to start."

"We really want people to come away from this recharged and interested in taking part in something bigger than themselves," he says. 

Dan has wanted to attend a TED event since shortly after discovering the phenomenon in 2010. Unfortunately, he discovered there isn't a regular event in the Springs. Denver hosts the annual TEDx Mile High conference, but Dan thinks Colorado Springs needs its own conference.

"The thing about TEDx [events] is that they're really focused on the local community. The things that are happening in Denver are not necessarily what's happening in Colorado Springs," he says. Ultimately, he hopes to make TEDx Colorado Springs an annual event.

The 10 confirmed speakers are as follows:
  • Aron Foster will speak on making good computer security as everyday as a seatbelt.
  • Amy Snyder will discuss her experiences writing a book about a 3,000-mile bike race.
  • Kirk Sorensen will talk about the untapped energy potential in Thorium reactors.
  • Frances Cole Jones will present strategies for selling and marketing yourself.
  • Nancy Saltzman will share her experiences with loss, finding purpose, and moving on after tragedy.
  • Elizabeth Dunn will take a scientific perspective on spending smarter.
  • Elizabeth Yarnell will show how to "eat healthy in a toxic world."
  • Edward Cope will examine rites of passage.
  • Theresa Strader will talk about rescuing mill dogs.
  • Andrew Morrison will put the tiny house movement under a microscope.
  • Molly Wingate will look at the benefits and costs of slow parenting. 
For more information on the event, including ticket sales and sponsorship information, see tedxcoloradosprings.com.
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

It's Nikola Tesla's birthday, and here's how you can celebrate

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 3:25 PM

"Tesla's Colorado Springs Lab" - PHIL LEAR
  • Phil Lear
  • "Tesla's Colorado Springs Lab"
One-hundred and fifty-eight years ago today, a little boy was born in what is now Croatia, and he would grow up to do amazing things, which are really best explained not by me, but by one of Nikola Tesla's number one fans, the Oatmeal.

(Call me lazy, but an infographic with swear words is way more fun to read. So take a minute, learn up if you haven't already.)

Right, so Tesla, the guy who set up a studio in Colorado Springs to experiment, and whose currents caused city-wide blackouts and sent horses galloping, crazed from the electricity in the ground they picked up through their shoes.

This is also the same guy who spoke eloquently about topics way before his own time. Via Mental Floss, this heartening quote on gender equality from 1926:

“But the female mind has demonstrated a capacity for all the mental acquirements and achievements of men, and as generations ensue that capacity will be expanded; the average woman will be as well educated as the average man, and then better educated, for the dormant faculties of her brain will be stimulated to an activity that will be all the more intense and powerful because of centuries of repose. Woman will ignore precedent and startle civilization with their progress.”
You can celebrate Tesla in lots of ways, for instance, right now you can visit the Mining Exchange and see paintings of him by local artist Phil Lear.

On Saturday, you can hit the Manitou Springs Heritage Center for Tesla Fest, where throughout the afternoon you can eat cake, learn about Tesla truths and enjoy live music.

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Lastly, starting in September, Colorado College's I.D.E.A. Space will open a new show devoted to Tesla-inspired artwork, with Transmission/Frequency: Tesla and His Legacy. Per the presser from curator Jessica Hunter-Larsen:
Transmission/Frequency: Tesla and His Legacy features contemporary artists whose works reflect — deliberately or not — Tesla’s maverick spirit and enduring legacy. Featured projects engage some of Tesla’s ideas, such as free-floating electrical current, self-sustaining systems/movements, electrical and fluorescent light, and magnetic fields. The exhibition will also include images and reproductions of Tesla’s inventions, with a focus on his time in Colorado Springs. 
Some of what's coming to Transmission/Frequency. - I.D.E.A. SPACE
  • I.D.E.A. Space
  • Some of what's coming to Transmission/Frequency.
In addition, I.D.E.A. will host a number of talks about Tesla's legacy, his contributions to science and engineering, and much more. Read it all after the jump.

Continue reading »

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Meet the Web Guy

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 7:00 AM

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Hi there! I'm Ron Stauffer, The Web Guy. For more than seven years, I've been working with companies of many sizes, and from many industries, helping them understand the Internet and finding ways they can harness the power of the web to build and grow their businesses.

Over the years, I've observed that people who visit your website ask themselves three questions as they scan your homepage, often subconsciously. I call this the "three questions in five seconds rule," and it goes like this: you have about five seconds to answer these questions, in order:

1. Who are you?
2. What do you do?
3. Why should we care?

Although you're not visiting my website, and I'm not selling you a product or service, I figured I'd answer these three questions for you about myself today, following my own advice, in a way. Here goes.

First question: who am I? That's always a challenging question because I generally answer it differently depending on who's asking. I am, in no particular order:

- A California native (I moved to Colorado Springs in my teens).
- An occasional entrepreneur (I started and ran my own business full-time for three years and now part-time for the past few years).
- An athlete of sorts (running and swimming, mostly, but last year I took lessons in fencing. En Garde!).
- A musician (I play the guitar, the trumpet, the tuba, and sing opera on occasion).
- A Colorado Springs downtowner (I've been working downtown for over 10 years).
- A husband to a beautiful girl, also from California (We're celebrating nine years this October).
- A father of five children (I even helped deliver four of them. ...at home, if you can believe that).
- A proud tech fanboy (a fan of all things technology, especially new and exciting consumer products).

What do I do? I said in the beginning, I'm a "web guy." That's a term I use for simplicity rather than trying to cram "website-designer-and-developer-and-internet-marketer-and-tech-consultant" into my "elevator pitch."

Long story short, being a “web guy” means I can help just about any business use just about any kind of connected technology to run more efficiently (think computers, servers, networks, laptops, iPads, iPhones, etc). I watch industry trends carefully to analyze the up-and-coming products, services and devices, and try to make recommendations based on this. Sometimes, new technologies make sense (Bluetooth Low Energy, Smart Thermostats, 3D Printers, etc), while other times, they should be avoided (NFC payments, QR codes, "waterproof" smart phone cases, and more).

And, I’ve never shied away from a technical challenge. I've even stood on the rooftop of a customer's office at midnight, in below-freezing weather, installing a satellite dish for an Internet connection, altimeter and compass in hand, trying to find a distant satellite somewhere out in the night sky. (I found the satellite, and made good money that night, but I don't ever want to do that again).

All that aside, I think the most important question is the last: why should you care? I could answer that with what I think is an overused and frankly arrogant approach often used in the industry and call myself an "industry expert" or a "guru." However, I think grandiose, self-given titles like that are presumptuous, and rarely true.

I'm just a "web guy." Actually, at one of my more recent in-house jobs a few years ago, I insisted that my official title be the "Internet Marketing Dude," because that's what I was: just a dude —I still have business cards to prove it.

I won't ask you to trust me because I'm an expert, or because I know everything about computers and technology — I don't. However, I'd say there’re two simple reasons why I think you might care what I have to say: I'm honest, and I speak in plain English.

I'll tell you when something is cool, even if nobody else in the tech world is using the word "cool." And you might find it refreshing when I say "Windows 8 sucks. And here's why." I've found that speaking in plain English is an asset, and seems to be an anomaly in the web/tech sector. I promise I'll never throw industry jargon your way to try to sound impressive. I'll just explain what things are, how they work (or don't work, as the case may be), and why you should care. All in language that your dad could understand.

If all of that sounds good to you, then I hope you stay tuned, as I have plenty to share in the future.

With that, I'll keep it short and sign off. I have a product launch to watch: Apple is announcing a new iPhone and I can't wait to find out all the ways the one I bought last year is obsolete.


Ron is a web guy, IT guy, and Internet marketer living in Colorado Springs with his wife and five children. He can often be overheard saying things like "Get a Mac!" and "Data wins arguments,” wandering around the downtown area at least five days a week. Follow him on Twitter at @ronstauffer or email him at indy@ronstauffer.com. Questions, comments and snide remarks are always welcome.


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Friday, June 20, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson will join our universe, virtually

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM

Neil deGrasse Tyson will drop in via Google Hangouts in Colorado Springs next week. - COURTESY SPACE FOUNDATION
  • Courtesy Space Foundation
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson will drop in via Google Hangouts in Colorado Springs next week.
The host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey will answer your questions about the mysteries of the universe starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, at the Space Foundation Discovery Center, 4425 Arrowswest Dr. in a Google Hangouts live video call.

The event featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson is part of the Space Foundation's astronomy-themed activities during its Summer of Discovery. Tyson, who appeared at the Space Symposium in recent years, is also the Frederick P. Rose Director of New York's Hayden Planetarium and author of best-selling books such as Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries and The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet.

Here's more about the event and other things going on at the Discovery center:

The fee for Tyson's Google Hangouts video chat is $3.00 per person, plus admission to the Discovery Center, which is: $9 for adults, $7 for seniors (age 65+), $7 for college students with I.D., $3 for children ages 4-17. Military fees are $4.50 for adults with I.D., and $1.50 for children ages 4-17. Children age three years and younger are admitted free.

Astronomy-themed daily activities at the Discovery Center June 24 - 28 include:

FREE Make-Your-Own-Solar-System Sticker set for the first 25 paid children admitted each Tuesday through Friday and first 100 paid children admitted on Saturday (age 4-17 only, includes Discovery Passport holders)
Science On a Sphere® Presentations Astronomy Apps Presentations (iPhone and Android)
Bounce House
Mars Robotics Laboratory Presentations (11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.)
Astronomy-themed crafts include:

Make-Your-Own Telescope
Astronomy Coloring Pages
Constellation Station - make your own necklace, bracelet or keychain ($3 extra fee)
Craft Table
Star Chart or Astronaut Window (available Tuesday-Friday)
Space-themed Door Knob Decor or Make-A-UFO (available Saturday)
Register to win one of these great prizes:

Tickets for the Rio Grande Railroad Starlight Express
Gift Certificate for the Name A Star Registry
Tickets to the Space Foundation's 3rd Annual Space & Science Fiction Costume Ball
Drawing to be held Saturday, June 28 at 4:00 p.m., need not be present to win
Activities Wednesday, June 25:

3:00 - 5:00 p.m. - Showing of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Fox television show)
6:00 - 6:30 p.m. - Google Hangouts video chat with Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson ($3 extra fee per person)
Activities Friday, June 27:

11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 — 7:30 p.m. - Sabrosos Tacos Food Truck
6:00 p.m. - Presentation with Dr. Devin J. Della-Rose: "Exoplanet Research & Discoveries from the Last Two Decades"
8:00 p.m. - Star Gazing with Southern Colorado Astronomical Society
Activities Saturday, June 28:

11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. - Sabrosos Tacos Food Truck
11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. - Solar Gazing with Southern Colorado Astronomical Society
4:00 p.m. - Prize Drawing (see details above)
Please see our website for further details at www.spacefoundation.org/events/summer-discovery. Activities are subject to change.

Thank you to our "Astronomy" sponsor Ent Federal Credit Union.

Other Summer of Discovery themes include:

Astronomy, part 2, July 1 - 3 (the Discovery Center will be closed July 4 and 5)
Mars, Rovers & Robots, July 8 - 12, July 15 - 19
Rocketry, July 22 - 26, July 29 - Aug. 2
A Taste of Space Technology, Aug. 5 - 9, Aug. 12 - 16
The Space Foundation also announces that its 30th Space Symposium, held May 19-22, at The Broadmoor set a record for attendance at 11,000, making it the largest annual citywide convention in the Springs. Representatives from more than 600 companies from 26 countries attended.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Meet Dr. NaKaMats, inventor extraordinaire

Posted By on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 10:47 AM

He invented the floppy disk, digital displays and has more patents — upwards of 3,200 — to his name than Thomas Edison.

He photographed every meal he's eaten since the 1970s, which won him a 2005 Ig Nobel Prize (for useless research).

He's run for mayor of Tokyo numerous times, and lost.

He's Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, or Dr. NakaMats, as he's also known, and he's coming to Colorado courtesy of the International Tesla Society, which is based here. You can meet him Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at the Comfort Inn in Manitou Springs, which will be celebrating Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu Day.

Nakamatsu is quite a character, as evidenced by this 1995 article with the New York Times' David Lazarus. Nakamatsu shows Lazarus his "spacious office" in downtown Tokyo and what he was working on at the time: a liquid to make sex "three times more enjoyable" (imperative given Japan's declining birth rates), and a condom that won't blunt sensitivity.

Sex products aside, he also developed Dr. NakaMats Brain Drink, which says it'll help you lose weight, smooth out your complexion and keep you regular, and about that Ig Nobel mentioned earlier? Well, Nakamatsu must be a good sport, because he's serious about the benefits of diet for health, per this 2012 interview in Smithsonian Magazine
Dr. NakaMats believes that the right food and drink, moderate exercise and an unflagging love life will keep him alive until 2072. “The number of sleeping hours should be limited to six,” he advises. “Alcohol, tea, milk and tap water are bad for the brain and should be avoided. Coffee is also very dangerous. One meal a day is optimal, and that meal should be low in oil and no more than 700 calories.”

His own diet consists of a single serving of puréed seaweed, cheese, yogurt, eel, eggs, beef, dried shrimp and chicken livers. He seasons this concoction with Dr. NakaMats’ Rebody 55, a dietary supplement comprising 55 grains and several mystery ingredients. “It is ideal for sprinkling on soup or cereal,” he says.
Nakamatsu is now well into his 80s, but his systems seem to be working, given his trip all the way from Tokyo to Manitou Springs, and he's even bringing some of his newest inventions. Plus, his website looks like this:
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What a boss.


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Friday, April 25, 2014

Lyft: New ride service debuts in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 10:22 AM

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Pro tip: After signing up, don't hit "Request Lyft" if you're, uh, not needing a ride. As soon as the screen changed to "Contacting drivers" — the nearest of which, the app tells me, is eight minutes away — I think I tinkled a little. 

But this is all backwards, so first the good news: Lyft is here! It's an app and a San Francisco company that vets its local drivers before they take you where you want to go for the low, low rate of this:

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(Wait, am I going to have to pay a cancellation fee for my button mashing?)

Anyway, the service is going in some 60 cities and just recently added Colorado Springs because, as spokeswoman Paige Thelen told the Gazette, "We really loved the strong sense of community — we met a lot of friendly people there. We are excited to provide another option and fill a gap for people who want to get home from a bar at night or commute to work."

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