SmartSynch’s Up With $20M for Smart Meters

Last August SmarthSynch CEO Stephen Johnston told us the company would likely be looking to raise more funds in 6-12 months. Right on schedule, his smart metering startup has raised $20 million in a round of funding led by a new huge investor, Credit Suisse. This brings the total financing for the Jackson, Miss.-based startup that was founded in 2000 to $80 million.

SmartSynch makes consumer-facing smart grid components. Their SmartMeter product, for example, keeps track of how much and when electricity is used by a consumer and beams that information back to the utility. The company uses existing wireless networks like GPRS, EVDO and Wi-Fi, and eventually will use networks like WiMax and 700 MHz, when they become available, the company says. This helps the utility better understand its customer’s demands and allows the power user to see when they can reduce electricity consumption to save money.
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Two Ways to Find Domains Quickly

Some of us have a real addiction to buying domain names. I own about 30 myself, and I have friends with many more. If you’re in that boat, it’s worth knowing about a couple of tools that help you find open domain names quickly.

Instant Domain Search bills itself as “domain name availability, as fast as you can type”. As you type a prospective name, it shows you whether the .com, .net, and .org are open. If they are, you can jump straight to GoDaddy, 1&1, Yahoo, Register.com, or Network Solutions to register them.

Domize takes the same general idea and adds a few twists. It keeps track of potential domains along the way (so if you type “MyDomain”, it looks for “MyDomai”, “MyDoma”, and so on), and can show you thumbnails of any name that’s already taken. They do all their direct registrations via GoDaddy, though obviously you can use the registrar of your choice with a tad less convenience.

Adobe Revs Acrobat Connect Pro

Adobe has announced a new version of Acrobat Connect Pro – their high-end web conferencing and eLearning solution. The tool (which you might remember in its original incarnation as Macromedia Breeze) is positioned for educational and medium-to-large business use. New features in this release include integration with learning systems like Blackboard, presence capabilities that hook it up to instant messaging clients, break-out rooms for students, and tools for tracking and organizing online classes. You can even record meetings and edit them for later offline use.

Acrobat Connect Pro usage starts at $375 per month for five users. That may be a bit pricey for many web workers. Fortunately, there are less expensive solutions if you want to hold online meetings without all the bells and whistles. Check out our roundup of nine of these.

IBM Smartens Grid Down Under

Startups like GridPoint, eMeter and Silver Spring Networks are all pulling in funding to make the power grid smarter. But tech institutions, like computer giant IBM, think there’s money to be made in improving our power infrastructure, too. IBM Global Energy and Utilities Industry is heading Down Under in a partnership with Country Energy, an Australian utility, to deploy IBM’s Intelligent Utility Network.

IBM describes an Intelligent Utility Network as:

“a digital, open standards-based network of sensors, metering, communications, computer processors, and analytics which connects an entire utility company — from power plant to plug.”

The network transformation is the result of two powerful trends, IBM’s general manager of Global Energy & Utilities Industry Guido Bartels explained to us. The grid, like everything else, is switching from analog to digital while power generation is transitioning from a centralized system to a distributed model, he said. And Big Blue thinks it can build the network for big green power.
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And the secret device is- HTC Shift, US version with Sprint EV-DO

Cimg0416I know I teased you with word I was testing a device that I couldn’t talk about but since Amazon blew the embargo HTC has lifted me from mine.  The past week I have been evaluating the US version of the HTC Shift UMPC with SnapVUE.  This is news because the US version is a Sprint-branded device with EV-DO and not GSM like the European versions you’ve seen reviewed lately.  I am not prepared to do a complete review because I didn’t think the embargo was going to be lifted until next week but I can share some photos of the Shift taken very quickly.  They are after the jump.

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You’re Only as Good as Your Next Idea

Whenever I think of some of the serial entepeneurs I’ve met–and I’ve met quite a few–I always decide that some people are simply better than others at generating new ideas. I’ve especially seen this in writing circles I’ve walked in, where some people can simply generate new ideas at a machine-gun rate compared to others. There are some good software tools designed to help when brainstorming. In this post, I’ll discuss a few popular ones.

FreeMind is free, open source mind mapping software that you can use either to brainstorm new ideas or to create large visual thought maps showing how one topic leads logically, or often laterally, into another. The best way to get a sense of how it works is to look at some of the many screenshots of existing maps (such as the one above) that people have posted on the web. The maps range by topic, from maps on health to investing to learning new languages.

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MSFT-YHOO Luvmatch Is Not Bad News for Founders…

…or so wrote Marc Andreessen, on his blog Monday.

Pundits have bemoaned the impact that Microsoft’s acquisition of Yahoo will have on Silicon Valley entrepreneurship: In eliminating a “big startup acquirer,” Redmond is slamming shut one, and possibly two, big windows for “VC-funded exits.” You’ll be happy to know that Marc vociferously disagrees…

I think that a Microsoft/Yahoo merger would have practically no impact on any high-quality Silicon Valley startup.

For starters, Marc argues Read More about MSFT-YHOO Luvmatch Is Not Bad News for Founders…

The Kindle just doesn’t work for me

KindleSince picking up a Kindle when they first went on sale I have tried so hard to use it for my only ebook reading solution.  I love ebooks and have read them almost exclusively for years so I have been so wanting to make the Kindle my ebook reading solution.  There is no question that it couldn’t be easier to buy content on the Kindle with the WhisperNet that Amazon has integrated right into the device but that’s not enough for me.  I have used it long enough that I’ve even gotten used to the horrible button design that makes accidentally turning pages far too easy to do.  Once I trained myself how to hold it that hasn’t been a major issue for me.  The problem I have reading ebooks on the Kindle is not really even the Kindle’s fault.  It has more to do with the eInk technology that it uses that makes it difficult to use.

Kindle_vs_advantageTrying to use it for so long has led me to realize that the places in my house where I normally read ebooks are just too darkly lit.  The relatively low contrast ratio of the eInk technology combined with the lack of a backlight means you need to be in a well-lit area to read ebooks on the Kindle or other eInk devices.  The few places where I sit comfortably to read are not well-lit areas and the Kindle just doesn’t work for that reason alone.  I have tried so hard to make it work but I don’t want to change my reading routine just so I can use the Kindle so I have given up.  I know that the eInk technology is cool but the contrast ratio of the Kindle is far worse than a real paper book for example.  The page is not white enough and the ink is not dark enough to make it work for me given the lighting I have to work with.  I can read regular books fine in this lighting but the Kindle makes me constantly strain to do the same and I just don’t want to continue trying.  A backlit solution like the HTC Advantage has both the ability to read ebooks in poor (or absent) lighting and also a very high contrast ratio with the page being totally white and the ink very black.  So I have shelved the Kindle for now until some advancement in the future makes it more practical for me.