Your report for Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2005

Kalamazoo telecom hires CEO, moves downtown 
Client win for MiPro
Organ preservation tech company wants partner
Broadband penetration rise, A2 consultant says

Faith Fowler is Executive Director of Cass Community Social Services, a nonprofit organization that works with the poor at six sites around Detroit. She's been on the job 11 years. She is also pastor of Cass Community United Methodist Church. She's a tireless advocate for the less privileged and widely regarded as an effective nonprofit manager. More at

Downtown Detroit in winter focus of retro video game: Because I just can't give you enough ways to have holiday fun, I offer you a terrific little timewaster -- uh, I mean, a serious lesson of local
geography disguised in an amusing package -- from the Detroit Web and print marketing and communications firm Octane Design. It's at It's a recreation of all those wonderful Japanese first-generation 8-bit video games we all played back in the '80s until our fingers fell off.  Hopefully by the time you see this, MAT's score of 2900 will still be on the high score list. In the game, users assume the role of one of Octane Design's staffers as they try to recover the lights from Detroit's Christmas tree -- which have been stolen and scattered around town by evil snowmen. The game is set in Detroit with landmark buildings like the RenCen and Compuware headquarters, as well as Detroit-made products like coney dogs and Motown records featured prominently. The piece was built in Flash with a back-end that allows high scores to be saved and viewed by gamers on-line and in real-time.

Last minute gifts for the geek: how about some USB madness?

I've received lists like this from a number of people, so I thought it might be fun to pull 'em all together.

Just in time for Christmas, an outfit called Fosfor Gadgets has pulled together a list of the top 10 weirdest USB drives.

Some of these strange little storage devices look like food, including sushi and dim sum. (Hmm. Dim sum. Time for a road trip to Windsor and Wah Court, the best in the Detroit area.) 

There's also the IDuck, which doubles as a night light. There's also a thumb drive that looks like an actual thumb. There's another that looks like a tiki lamp. And there's my personal favorite, the Barbie drive. Just remove her cute little head and plug her decapitated body right in to get at your pictures, movies or songs.

Here's the link to the list.

But at least all these things are actually storage. There are also USB devices that will do an amazing number of odd things.

There's a USB powered lava lamp, which you can see here.

There's a USB powered heated seat pad, which you can see here. 

There's a USB-powered Japanese cold noodle strainer, which you can see here.

But that's just the beginning. There's a USB humidifier, air purifier, vacuum cleaner and Christmas tree, right here.

And there's a USB light, fan and massage ball right here.

Finally, and more practically, I found a USB Wi-Fi signal booster right here.

Note: Some sponsorships for GLITR's special sections are still available. For information on this or other Great Lakes IT Report marketing matters, contact Dan Keelan at or (248) 455-7252.

Kalamazoo telecom hires CEO, moves downtown: The Kalamazoo telecommunications expense firm Oreon Inc. announced that the company's board had named Mark Pownell as CEO. Lou Hanoute, founder of the company, will remain as president. Hanoute said Pownell "has the ability to bring Oreon through the significant growth we are currently experiencing and develop the organization through his vision and leadership." Pownell has held several technical positions including stints with companies such as Pfizer Inc. and InstallShield Corp. Mark holds a bachelor's degree in finance and a masters of information systems from Northern Illinois University. Oreon is also planning a move this month from its current Portage location to 200 E. Michigan Ave. in downtown Kalamazoo. "The relocation of our corporate headquarters to downtown Kalamazoo reflects the need for the physical expansion of the Oreon operation and our personal desire to remain in West Michigan," Pownell said. "The dedication to the development and revitalization of the downtown Kalamazoo business district is truly impressive and Oreon looks forward to being part of it." Oreon offers telecom cost control and auditing services. Its NCompass system is Web-based software offering telecom expense management control and reporting. More at
Cisco at Macomb: In partnership with Cisco Corp., Macomb Community College's Information Technology Department is now offering the Cisco Networking Academy Program. The program offers students the knowledge necessary to pass the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification exam. The program delivers Web-based content, online assessment, student performance tracking, hands-on labs, and preparation for industry-standard certifications. CCNA certified professionals can assist in the installation, configuration, and operation of LAN, WAN, and dial-access services for small corporate networks.  More at
MiPro gets next step deal from Learning Care Group: The Milford-based PeopleSoft services firm MiPro Consulting said Monday that it had engaged with Learning Care Group Inc. (Nasdaq: LCGI), the parent company of Tutor Time Child Care-Learning Centers and Childtime Learning Centers, to implement the second phase of its PeopleSoft enterprise system. MiPro will deploy Learning Care Group's asset management, benefits administration, purchasing, and portal systems across the organization. Learning Care Group is based in Novi. MiPro said its consulting professionals average more than seven years of PeopleSoft experience. Learning Care Group's portal will now provide a Web-based intranet that enables the company's headquarters staff, as well as Tutor Time and Childtime center directors, area and regional managers, to have direct access to update and run human resources and financial reports, in addition to company news, email and surveys. More at
Organ preservation company confirms test results, seeks strategic partner: Palo Alto, Calif.-based Human BioSystems Inc. (OTC: HBSC), which has a research center in Kalamazoo County, said Monday that it is seeking a strategic partner to market its human organ preservation solution to hospitals and organ procurement organizations worldwide. The company said it had confirmed the preservation results announced Oct. 19 by doubling the total sample size used in the initial survival study of animals with transplanted kidneys preserved in its HBS Above Zero Organ Preservation solution. The company's product performed significantly better than the current state of the art. "In the cumulative results of the survival studies, we continued to have 80 percent of the rats with kidneys preserved in the HBS-AZ solution survive for more than seven days, whereas only 10 percent of the same number of rats with kidneys preserved in the HTK solution survived more than seven days," said Fernando Lopez, HBS senior research scientist. Company officials say the product could improve the quality of organs used in transplants and ease the organ shortage. There are now more than 90,000 Americans on organ transplant waiting lists. More at
Broadband penetration up: Ann Arbor-based Web site optimization guru Andrew B. King has published his latest report on broadband penetration in American homes. In November, broadband penetration in the United States rose 1.13 percentage points to 64.89 percent, up from 63.76 percent in October. This increase is below the average increase in broadband of 1.2 points per month over the last seven months. At the current growth rate of over 1.1 percentage points per month, broadband penetration among active Internet users should break 70 percent by early March. The report also discusses the efforts of AT&T and BellSouth to lobbying Congress to create a two-tier Internet where their own services would be transmitted faster than their competitors. The battle is largely over video transmission, which requires prioritized delivery for the larger bundles of bits needed for smooth display. Google, Yahoo, and others major sites are fighting the legislation that Congress is considering. More at
Wave dispersion system gets new installation: Wave Dispersion Technologies Inc., a Sylvan Lake company managed by search engine optimization entrepreneur Jonathan B. Smith, announced Monday that it had completed the installation of one of its WhisprWave Small Craft Intrusion Barrier systems at the United States Coast Guard base in Alameda, Calif. The installation was completed last Wednesday. The floating marine barrier, made of large interlocking plastic pieces, encloses a security zone of 2,400 feet and incorporates two gates to allow movement of Coast Guard cutters into and out of the exclusion zone. The total contract, valued at more than $900,000, is the largest completed contract to date. The WhisprWave systems are marketed both for security against unauthorized small boat entry and for combating erosion.  There are photos at
IT Zone newsletter shows active hiring: Monday's Ann Arbor IT Zone newsletter was its annual Holiday Exchange List, a comprehensive listing of new jobs, offices, IT equipment and more. The newsletter offers employment opportunities, skilled help available, office space and furniture, office and tech equipment, news and updates, services available, services needed and more. It was good to see no less than 17 companies hiring IT staff, from startups to Compuware Corp. There's more info at
Caraco gets OK for new generic: Detroit-based Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories Ltd. (AMEX: CPD) said Monday that the federal Food and Drug Administration has approved the company's application to sell a generic version of Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc.'s Ultracet. The drug combines tramadol hydrochloride with acetaminophen and is used for the short-term management of acute pain. The drug was the subject of a court fight, in which Ortho-McNeil contended it had a patent on the drug until 2011. A district court granted Caraco summary judgment on Oct. 19, although an appeal could still be filed by Ortho-McNeil.
Another client win for Aqaba: Roseville-based Aqaba Co., a search engine marketing and Web development firm, Monday announced that it had been hired by the immigration law firm of Ramsey F. Malkawi P.C. to develop a Web site and search engine marketing campaign. The law firm is based in Southfield, with an affiliated office in Amman, Jordan. More at or
Inside Muskegon offers peek at renewable energy center: The latest podcast in the Inside Muskegon series offers an interview with Imad Mahawili, executive director of the Grand Valley State University Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center. The center, in downtown Muskegon, is a showplace of advanced energy technology. Listen to Inside Muskegon No. 5. The podcast is the brain child of Muskegon marketing and communications maven Jason Piasecki. More at

Universal Data offers RFID workshop: Holly-based Universal Data Inc. Monday announced a workshop for Jan. 11 on radio frequency identification technology. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Troy Holiday Inn, 2537 Rochester Court. Featured guest speakers hail from Matrics RFID Division. More at offers new tips: Canton Township-based said Monday that it had stocked up on dishwasher appliance parts that are in high demand this time of year. The online appliance repair business said that when a dishwasher stops cleaning properly, it's surprisingly easy to fix things yourself, either by cleaning screens, unclogging the holes in the unit's spray arms, or fixing leaky valves. More at

A holiday cell phone donation reminder from Verizon: The folks at Verizon Monday asked me to remind you about HopeLine, a program for donating old wireless handsets and accessories. You know a lot of folks will be getting new wireless phones as gifts, or buying new ones for themselves thanks to all the holiday deals. When you do, remember that HopeLine accepts wireless phones and accessories from any service provider. It's easy to participate in -- phones can be dropped off at any Verizon Wireless retail store. Remember, don't throw old phones in the trash -- they contain toxic material. HopeLine, now in its 10th year, collects used cell phones, repairing and reselling those that are in good enough shape, with proceeds going to domestic violence awareness and prevention programs. Phones that can't be fixed up are recycled in an environmentally safe way. Through the first 10 months of 2005, the program had collected more than 680,000 wireless phones, donated nearly $550,000 to domestic violence organizations -- $60,000 in Michigan -- and recycled more than 185,000 of the collected phones, keeping them out of landfills. More at
Honda to mass produce solar cells: Honda Motor Co. said on Monday it plans to start mass-producing solar cells in 2007, eyeing growing demand for environmentally friendly energy sources. Japan's third-biggest automaker said in a statement it would build a new factory for solar cells on the site of a car plant in Kumamoto prefecture, on the southwestern Japanese island of Kyushu. The company aims to generate annual sales of 5 billion to 8 billion yen ($40 million to $70 million) from solar cells once the factory's output reaches full annual capacity of 27.5 megawatts, enough to power about 8,000 households. Honda will be competing with major solar cell manufacturers such as Kyocera Corp., Sharp Corp. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. A Honda spokeswoman did not say when the factory would hit full capacity and declined to disclose the size of the investment, which the Nihon Keizai business daily estimated would be just short of 10 billion yen. More.
Texas utility to offer high-speed Web over power lines: TXU Corp., Texas's largest utility, said on Monday it was teaming up with Current Communications Group to offer high-speed Internet access over power lines to about 2 million homes and businesses in the state. The companies also said they plan to use Current's broadband over power line technology to allow TXU to more actively monitor and manage its electrical grid. TXU agreed to pay Current about $150 million over 10 years to use the "smart grid" capabilities of Current's BPL network. More.
Icahn seeks to derail Google as partner of AOL: Dissident shareholder Carl Icahn aims to block an alliance by Time Warner Inc.'s America Online unit and Web search leader Google Inc. saying the pact could undermine a potential merger between AOL and a Google rival, the billionaire investor said on Monday. In a letter to Time Warner's board of directors, Icahn said that the company appeared to be on the verge of a "disastrous decision" following reports it is in talks to sell a 5 percent stake of its AOL Internet unit to Google Inc. Icahn, whose group has a 3.1 percent stake in Time Warner, said he was concerned a Google pact may preclude a merger or other type of deal with the likes of eBay Inc., Yahoo Inc., IAC/InterActiveCorp, or Microsoft Corp. More.

Big cinema chain going digital: Carmike Cinemas Inc., the No. 3 U.S. movie theater chain, on Monday said it will install new digital projection systems from Christie/AIX at all of its nearly 2,300 screens over the next two years. The deal, estimated to be worth nearly $300 million, marks the first major theater chain to commit to a wide-scale digital deployment, and it could serve as a harbinger for more agreements to come, Christie/AIX officials said. Digital cinema systems, which can cost up to $100,000 per screen, essentially replace old-style, celluloid projectors with new computer networks and projection equipment. Audiences get a sharp picture every time they see a movie. Theaters can program new types of content to boost box offices, and movie studios save millions by not shipping thousands of film canisters around the world. Instead, they send a digital file via a satellite or high-speed cable network. More.
Japan seeks guidance on search engine: Japan's government is enlisting top technology companies and universities to determine whether the country should launch its own Internet search engine, an official said Monday, as powerhouses such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. dominate the market. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will convene a study group consisting about 20 Japanese electronics companies and universities on Internet search engines, said Fumihiro Kajikawa, a ministry official in charge of information policies. The group will hold the first meeting Friday and plans to put together an interim report by March and a final report by July, he said. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., NTT Corp. and Tokyo Universities are among the participants, according to Kajikawa. Electronics makers Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd. and NEC Corp. will also join. More.
House passes compromise digital TV plan: The House of Representatives on Monday approved legislation to complete the country's transition to new, higher-quality digital television by Feb. 17, 2009. Under a deal negotiated by Republicans in the Senate and House, a $1.5 billion fund would be created to help some consumers buy converter boxes so existing analog television signals do not go dark when the transition is finished. The Senate previously had approved a $3 billion fund and set the date as April 7, 2009 for when television stations must end analog broadcasts and only air their digital signals. The House originally backed a $990 million fund and December 31, 2008 as the date. Congress is eager for broadcasters to give up the analog airwaves, some of which will be auctioned for commercial wireless service, a sale that could bring in billions of dollars which could plug the government budget deficit. More.
Google may not up stake in Baidu: Web search leader Google Inc. said on Monday it may not raise its small stake in China's top search engine, even as competition rises in the fast growing sector. "We have a very small stake in the company, which is a strategic investment that was made a while back, but as far as I know there aren't any plans beyond that," Daniel Alegre, the director of international Websearch & Syndication, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference. Google owns 2.6 percent of Baidu, and was believed to be seeking to boost its stake prior to the Chinese company's hugely successful initial public offering in August. The comments come after Baidu's chief executive said last month that the company planned to remain independent, and was not interested in finding a major foreign investor. In contrast, rival Yahoo Inc. paid $1 billion for 40 percent of Chinese Web auctioneer earlier this year, taking on eBay and as it extends its reach in the world's second-biggest Internet market. Google for its part hired former Microsoft Inc. executive Li Kaifu and Johnny Chou, an executive at former local telecoms heavyweight UTStarcom, to spearhead its China operations. More.
Softbank, Yahoo start Web TV in Japan: Softbank Corp. and Yahoo Japan Corp. said on Monday they had formed a company to broadcast television programs via the Internet, taking advantage of the growing number of Japanese users on advanced, high-speed Internet connections. The two companies said the joint venture, TV Bank Corp., would operate a new streaming video service called "Yahoo!Doga", which aims to be a portal site for about 100,000 different programs including movies, sports and music shows as well as drama series from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Doga means "moving image" in Japanese. More.
Client win for AT&T: San Antonio, Texas-based AT&T Inc. Monday announced a three-year networking services contract with Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., a national chain of restaurants offering gourmet burritos and tacos. AT&T is providing Chipotle a networking system that will link more than 450 restaurant locations across 20 states. Chipotle will use the network for point-of-sale transactions, as well as to enhance customer service, reduce business costs and raise brand loyalty. Chipotle is the first national fast-food franchise to make fresh and natural real priorities, including foods that are sustainably grown and naturally raised. (Cool Web site, too.) It operates more than 140 stores, including one soon to open in West Bloomfield Township, which according to the Web site is its first in Michigan. More at or

Pfizer stock leaps as patent is upheld: Shares of Pfizer Inc. rose sharply Monday after the company won a closely watched patent dispute over Lipitor, the world's top-selling prescription medication. Pfizer (PFE: News, chart, profile), Michigan's largest life sciences employer, rallied more than 11 percent at one point, igniting a broad-based advance in other pharmaceutical industry stocks. Judge Joseph Farnan of the U. S. District Court for the District of Delaware upheld the exclusivity of two Pfizer patents covering atorvastatin, the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering drug. The company said the decision means it will be entitled to a permanent injunction prohibiting Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. from obtaining approval for or marketing a generic version of Lipitor until 2011. India-based Ranbaxy (RBXLF: News, chart, profile) said it plans to appeal the ruling. More.

VW issues more comprehensive sustainability report: Volkswagen AG last week issued its new sustainability report, the first to include information about all ventures in which the company has a majority stake, including service and financial operations. AutoTech Daily reported Friday that VW said its environmental-related investments fell to $65 million last year from $77 million in 2003 and $120 million in 2002. It attributes the drop to significantly fewer new vehicle launches during the last two years. But ongoing operating costs in this area continued to increase, inching up nearly 3 percent to $327 million. Due to increased production in China and the use of power-draining processes such as laser welding, the company's energy consumption increased slightly last year. Thanks to the ongoing changeover to low-solvent painting processes, the company's emissions of volatile organic compounds continue to fall. In terms of vehicle technology, VW touted various improvements it's making in powertrain efficiency and performance. Moving forward, VW plans to launch electric-hybrid versions of the Touran crossover vehicle and upcoming Audi Q7 SUV in 2008. It also is developing new combustion technologies in  conjunction with synthetic fuels that promise to combine the benefits of gasoline and diesel engines. VW also reports that it is establishing worldwide standards for employee relations, which it says is a first in the auto industry, and launching an advanced course on sustainable mobility through its corporate education center in Wolfsburg. The class includes case studies on corporate social responsibility. More at

BET promotes ringtone sales with video popups: BET has begun embedding text-messaging codes into its music videos, encouraging viewers to order a download of each song's ringtone directly from their mobile phone. While such cross-marketing is a common practice in Europe, this is the first time a U.S. video channel has integrated mobile messaging on air to sell ringtones. According to BET CFO Scott Wills, about 50 percent of the music videos the network airs now contain a 10- to 30-second pop-up note that prompts viewers to "get this ringtone" by sending a text message to the short code "BETTV." Each prompt features a different product code that must be included in the message to identify the desired ringtone. Polyphonic and master ringtones are available for $1.99 and $2.99, respectively. The service also includes wallpapers and mobile games. Wills says artist-specific interactive fan clubs will be added before the end of the year, with full-song downloads coming in first-quarter 2006. The service is powered by mobile content and technology firm Motricity, which provides the content, secures the rights with labels and publishers and manages the billing relationship with carriers. While each sale takes place without involving the carrier portal, the cost of each ringtone will appear on buyers' mobile phone statements, and wireless operators get a small cut. More.
Clarion aims for U.S., European navigation markets: Japan's Clarion Co. plans to expand sales of its portable car navigation systems in Europe and the U.S. next year, AutoTech Daily reported. First-year sales in Europe are targeted at 30,000 units, though several competitive systems already have a foothold in the region. Clarion already sells portable systems in the U.S. under the NICE brand. But sales have been slow thus far and are expected to reach only 5,000 units this year. By broadening its car electronics sales network, the company hopes to double sales in 2006.
Lime launches Web site for balanced living: Lime, a media company which distributes programming about healthy living organic food and finding "balance" in your life, has launched its Web site featuring Web logs, audio and video. C.J. Kettler, CEO of the company, told the New York Times that "healthy living is a trend that is becoming more mainstream, and we can create a brand that unites a fragmented category." Among Lime's backers is Stephen Case, the founder of America Online. Kettler also said Lime's TV programming is available on Dish Network (DISH) and on the Web, and is being produced with alternative media in mind. "We are asking for 11-minute and 5-minute segments," she told The Times. "We will cut these down for cell phones and maybe also to use them to make DVDs." The web site is
Stocks: Leading technology stocks never found their footing Monday as most bellwether issues slumped and the tech sector closed in the red to start what was expected to be a relatively quiet week for the sector in advance of the upcoming Christmas holiday. The Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPQ: News, chart, profile) fell almost 30 points, or 1.3 percent, to close at 2,222, while the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index ($SOX: News, chart, profile) shed 2.3 percent and the Amex Computer Technology Index ($XCI: News, chart, profile) also finished in the red. The Amex Pharmaceutical Index (DRG: News, chart, profile) surged by more than 2.5 percent, on strength in Pfizer, while the Amex Biotechnology Index (BTK: News, chart, profile) was off about 2 percent. The Dow Jones Internet Composite Index (DJI_DJINET: News, chart, profile) fell 1.5 percent after earlier touching its best level in the past 52 weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU: News, chart, profile) ended the session down 39.06 points at 10,836.53. Earlier in the session, the Dow rallied more than 30 points. The S&P 500 ($SPX: News, chart, profile) fell about 7.40 points to 1,259.92.

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