UNC Researchers Using Technology to Fight HIV

People under the age of 30 account for most of the HIV cases in the United States. But a new program at UNC is designed to try and change that.

The National Institutes of Health granted the university and colleagues at Emory $18 million over the next five years to develop the UNC/Emory Center for Innovative Technology, or iTech.

“Our center is really focused on ‘How do we take technology that youths use every day and allow that technology to work for them in hopes of either preventing HIV infection or helping them manage their HIV infection if they’re already infected,’” said Lisa Hightow-Weidman an associate professor at UNC in the Infectious Diseases Division.

She says the program will use technology to design interventions addressing HIV among youth all over the country.

“In the work we’ve done, we’ve seen high levels of acceptability, of satisfaction, with the interventions, and starting to see some positive behavior changes as a result.”

She says the program enrolls participants online and gives them the access and anonymity that the lack thereof may have kept them from educating themselves about HIV.

“So a lot of our projects don’t use…participants’ names, but allow them to have avatars or other names that they select, but still allow them to engage with other users who are experiencing the same things they are.”

In the most recent intervention, Hightow-Weidman says the program enrolled 500 young African-American men, and after 12 months, retention was at almost 75 percent.

She says, although the program is working well and is successful so far, there is only so much that can be done right now without physically making an appointment with a doctor, physician or specialist.

“Technology can’t address every aspect of this epidemic, but if it can bridge some of the things that keep youth from engaging in care, and from seeking out these services, then we’ve sort of accomplished part of what we’re looking to do.”

iTech is based at UNC but has seven satellite campuses across the country.

iTech was one of three centers selected in the country to develop these interventions. There are currently six studies planned with the fund, but doctors and professors working on the program hope to add more.


Bringing High Tech Business To Chapel Hill (Or Keeping It Here)

What must the town of Chapel Hill do to attract more high-tech commercial business?

In the ongoing debate over local development, that’s one of the biggest questions. Chapel Hillians have long been concerned about the fact that residential property owners bear the brunt of the town’s tax burden – which can drive up the cost of living in town and force lower-income residents out. One way to shift that burden is to encourage more commercial and retail development, and there is demand for it: local economic leaders have been sounding the alarm about a growing “retail gap” in Orange County, where residents go elsewhere to spend their money because the products they want aren’t available in town. (The old saw about Chapel Hill: it’s a basketball-nuts town, but where can you actually buy a basketball?) Not all retail development is desirable, though: a Walmart might move the tax-burden dial, for instance, but big-box chains don’t always mesh with Chapel Hill’s desire to promote sustainable, labor-friendly businesses. (Or, arguably, its elitism.)

That leaves commercial development – building offices, labs and manufacturing facilities for businesses, particularly high-tech businesses in emerging industries whose values align with Chapel Hill’s. There’s demand for commercial space too: HB2 notwithstanding, the Research Triangle as a whole has developed a nationwide reputation as a technology hub, and UNC produces a steady stream of high-tech local startups. Regionally, Google Fiber is laying the infrastructure to make the Triangle a tech hub, and AT&T is laying its own fiber network in Chapel Hill as well. The only problem is a lack of space: there may be lots of high-tech businesses who want to set up shop in Chapel Hill, but where’s the commercial space to house them all?

That’s an issue town officials have been tackling for years. Chapel Hill is now home to several incubators for local startups – most notably LaUNCh and the 1789 Venture Lab, both downtown – and the town has already approved the construction of about a million square feet of commercial space. But it’s not easy: some of that construction is on hold until developers secure committed tenants, and prospective tenants generally don’t want to have to wait before moving in. In addition, UNC pharmacologist Rudy Juliano says much of that new development would consist of “dry” office space – but high-tech businesses also need “wet” laboratory space as well. And while smaller companies generally seek Class B or Class C office space, almost all new commercial development is Class A – pricier than they can afford, with more amenities than they need. (Cities like Durham have been able to avoid this problem by renovating old warehouses and other pre-existing buildings – but Chapel Hill doesn’t have as many old warehouses to retrofit.)

With all this in mind, Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT) is hosting a public forum this Tuesday, June 7, called “Nurturing High Technology Businesses in Chapel Hill.” Rudy Juliano will moderate the forum; panelists will include Michelle Bolas, UNC’s Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, as well as two UNC-based startup founders – Natalia Mitin, who decided to move her business out of Chapel Hill, and Jude Samulski, who decided to keep his business in town.

Rudy Juliano spoke last week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


The public forum will take place from 6-8 pm at Extraordinary Ventures on S. Elliott Road. It’s free and everyone’s invited.


More North Carolinians Than Ever Are Working From Home

Teleworking: The New Normal

More North Carolinians than ever are working from home, or “teleworking,” according to a new study.

More than 200,000 people across the state now work from home, including Brad Bednar. He has been working at home for almost a year now but when Bednar first started, he said it required discipline to separate his job from usual household tasks.

“There’s that desire and urge to sit here and then at 1:45 realize, oh you know what, I need to pop a load of laundry in, I want to go run or mow the lawn or things like that.” said Bednar. “I realize that, for myself, I need to be really regimented about it.”

When Bednar recently moved into a new house in Durham, he decided to dedicate a separate room entirely as his office space.

“The only thing I do in here is work related, at five o’clock or six o’clock because my office is in Kansas, I close the door and I leave and I don’t come back until eight o’clock the next day.” said Bednar.

Bednar works as a business systems analyst for Civic Plus, a technology company that builds websites and other products for local municipalities, including Carrboro.

Every month or so, Bednar hops on a plane to Kansas to work in the company’s offices, but when Bednar is at home he connects with his co-workers in lots of different ways like video chat, instant messaging and email.

Bednar himself said he is more of an old school telephone guy but at his company, all ages are embracing the new methods of communication.

“It’s some of the oldest people in our company who love this technology the most,” said Bednar.

The benefits of working from home can include no commute, all of your things within reach and for Bednar, productivity.

“I think I am a lot more productive and it’s a lot of things,” said Bednar. “There’s less of that coffee talk, less of that time in the break room, my lunches are shorter, I’m able to tune out the distractions,” said Bednar.

Rebecca Tippett is the director of Carolina Demography at UNC, who compiled the study on teleworking. Tippett said she believes working from home will continue to become more popular but it will first take employers recognizing it as a possibility for their business.

“We like to think telework is going to increase quite dramatically but that entails in many places a significant culture shift of how work is done or where work is done,” said Tippett.

Bednar said he sees himself working at home for the rest of his career.

“There are days where I can’t imagine going back into an office everyday for the rest of my life,” said Bednar.

21st Century Mom

People work at home for many different reasons. For Sylvia Steere, it was to take care of her baby daughter Miranda. It gave her the flexibility she needed for life as a new mom.

“I have a heck of a lot more freedom as far as, you know what, I can make my own lunch, I can plan my day the way I want to,” said Steere.

Steele works for Rise Biscuit Company. She was working at their store in Durham when she learned she was pregnant. During her pregnancy Steere wrote a proposal to the owner of the company to create a new position that she would be able to do from home. She now helps new Rise Biscuit stores get their sales system off the ground.

For larger companies with many employees working from home, it can affect a sense of workplace cohesion but that isn’t really a problem for Steere. Rise Biscuits is a relatively small company so she meets regularly with her coworkers, which she said is plenty.

“We do have a once a week meeting when everyone in Rise franchising gets together with the CEO and have a check in meeting and that’s nice,” said Steere, “I hate to sound too anti-social but it’s not really a much of an issue for me; I don’t miss it that much for it to be a serious problem.”

While Rise Biscuits has stores locations, they don’t have a central office space. Most of the meetings, Steere said, take place at her boss’ house or over the internet, so working at home is also cost effective.

Tippet said lower cost can be an incentive for employers to allow employers to work from home.

“Real estate is expensive, maintaining full-time offices for employees who may capable of working from home allows for both flex-work as well as cutting some cost on the employer’s side,” said Tippett.

For Steere, the biggest perk is more time with her daughter. But working at home and being a new mother is a never-ending job.

“To a certain extent, all the time is work time and that’s one of the major differences,” said Steere.

Steere has a lot on her plate no doubt, but the ability to work at home is opening up opportunities for new lifestyles, albeit very busy ones.

Those who work at home seem to enjoy it for different reasons. From the technology industry to the restaurant business, people are doing jobs at home that not long ago would not have been possible. For some the benefit is productivity, for others it’s the ability to use their time how they want.

Now, for many people across the country, working at home is the new normal.


Google, Apple, Facebook Send Letter to NC Legislators

Google, Apple and Facebook sent a letter to North Carolina legislators urging them not to change the state’s renewable energy laws.  State representatives are considering a bill that green energy advocates say would negatively impact the renewable energy sector.

The tech giants’ letter urges legislators not to adopt House Bill 332. The proposed legislation would make significant changes to the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS).

The REPS requires utility companies to buy a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources, such as solar or wind power. The REPS also requires utilities to increase the percentage of clean energy they buy over time. Allison Eckley of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) says the REPS has been key for the growth of green energy companies in North Carolina, and to keeping rates down for consumers.

“We’ve already seen the downward pressure on electric bills that these policies have had,” Eckley said.

House Bill 332 wouldn’t get rid of the REPS, but it would freeze the REPS requirement at its current 6 percent. Google, Apple and Facebook expressed concern in last week’s letter to legislators that limiting the REPS would hold back the growth of North Carolina’s renewable energy sector. The three companies employ 200 people in North Carolina and have invested $2.7 billion in the state. More than half of their investments are in the renewable energy sector, according to a statement from NCSEA.

“They’ve been following the policy developments here because they consider clean energy as a supplier to that power as a priority. And that’s part of the reason, as they say in the letter, that they selected North Carolina instead of other states in the Southeast that also have cheaper electricity,” Eckley said.

House Bill 332 is co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Hager, a former Duke Energy employee. He and other proponents of House Bill 332 say the REPS unfairly support the renewable energy industry over other sectors. Becki Gray, from the Raleigh-based conservative think-tank, the John Locke Foundation, agrees.

“This mandate, these special favors that are granted to the solar industry at the expense of taxpayers is not good policy. It doesn’t lead to good economic growth,” Gray said.

Gray argues the opposite of Google, Facebook and Apple when it comes to the REPS’ downward pressure on rates.

“The studies that we’ve seen show that that is not true, that the costs increase with the requirement that a certain percentage of your energy has to come from more expensive sources,” she said.

House Bill 332 is being debated in the Senate. For now, the one thing both sides can agree on is the need for more research on the REPS’ economic impact.


Progress of Technology

If you read my column a couple of weeks ago, you’ll remember that I talked about the history of the personal computer, extending back into the 1970’s. But I’m only 10, so most of the things I talked about, I wasn’t around for. In fact, virtually the only computers I can remember are today’s powerful, intuitive machines.
So when I learned that, for instance, the original Macintosh had an eight-megahertz processor (hertz is the measure of how fast a processor is), I was blown away that, once upon a time, technology was like that. When you compare that to today’s machines with 2.7 gigahertz processors, you can see the progress.
Progress. There’s good and bad progress, there’s happy and sad progress, there’s all kinds of progress.
Now, what is bad and sad progress? It’s an interesting question. I guess that it could be considered as when new things turn out to have a negative effect. The people who created the invention are sad, and the users of the invention witness bad effects.
There is good and happy progress too. The people who developed X-Rays and MRIs must be so proud of the lives that their invention is saving. Another example: as I said above, the progress from yesterday’s technology to today’s is very good – it’s allowing so many more people to accomplish so many more things.
So what kind of progress will there be in the future? That’s an interesting question, so here’s an answer – from the perspective of a ten-year-old:
I can easily imagine the future being full of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones – notice I didn’t mention laptops or desktops. Like I said in my last article, we are moving into a “post-PC” era.
So what does the post-PC era mean? 2 things:

  • As mobile devices become more affordable, more and more people will be able to adopt them into their lives.
  • As mobile devices become more powerful, people who already own them will be able to use them more often for more things such as:

    • Work- better word processing, presentation editing, etc. Also more options for integrating servers and such into the iPad to make connectivity and access easier.
    • Connections- More/better ways to communicate with others. Better video chatting, messaging, and better (high quality sound) calls.

I, personally, will definitely love this. The ability to take powerful computers with you anywhere, so you can use them whenever you need them, sounds great to me!


I Second That E-Motion

Fifth Week**:

Cinemagram. Now, I enjoy a good app as much as the next guy, but I’ll admit I take to them a little slower than most because I don’t have an iPhone.

My Droid 3 has a pull-out keyboard, which is awesome, but it gets cool apps the same way middle children get ‘new’ clothes (i.e. months or years after they’ve stopped being new, and only as hand-me-downs from big brother).

Luckily, I also have an iPad 2 (a 30th birthday present to myself), so I can use any iPhone app I want, as long as I don’t mind all that extra black space around the edges.

And isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

And so it was that I took my love of Instagram to the next level — with Cinemagram.

Quickly, for those less tech-savvy readers:

Instagram: A photo-taking-and-editing app (now available for the Droid as well) that lets you style photos at will. (All my photos in previous posts were taken with Instagram; see Kristen Smith’s awesome around-town columns for more examples.)

Cinemagram: A photo-taking-and-animating app. You actually shoot a video, then select a portion of the field of vision to animate. The rest of the area stays frozen. So it looks like a photo where only a specific area is animated. Time for an example:

TITLE: Restless Ron Syndrome

Here we see WCHL’s Assistant News Director, Alletta Cooper, and Morning News Host, Ron Stutts, paying attention at a company meeting***.  I just animated Ron’s side of the screen in this Cinemagram, so only Alletta looks dutifully attentive. Sorry, Ron. Then Cinemagram auto-looped the forward-reverse in an animated GIF.

The app also makes it very easy to post your cines (pronounced “sin-ease” ****) to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, which is cool if you’re a social (media) butterfly like I am.
Actually, one big reason Cinemagram has felt like an adventure to me this week has been that I’ve been using it on my iPad, not on my phone. When I decide to shoot a video with my phone, it’s no big deal. But when I take a video with my iPad, it’s a whole other story.

In cinematography, as in all areas of life, size does matter. It’s a lot more difficult to get your friends to help with your movies when you look like you’re a farsighted Kindle owner. (I’ve also been told I should wince less.) Here are a couple more of my cines:

TITLE: Scooch, Vinny


TITLE: Short Light.
(Note to Penny Rich: I wasn’t driving.)

In any case, I had fun. Is this app going to change my life? Probably not. But, just like most apps I get a hold of these days, it changes how I live my life for a month or two, maybe gives me a chance to flex a different mental muscle, and, sometimes, that’s enough.
I’ve spent the past week looking around for Theater of the Ordinary moments, finding 3-second stories in meetings and rear-view mirrors. Also, I was dogsitting for my sister this week, and when she got dogsick*****, I was able to send her something much better than a picture:

TITLE: Biting The Hand That Squeaks At You

** My definition of “week” comes from the Gregarian Calendar (which is similar to the Gregorian Calendar, except it’s based on fitting stuff into my busy social life).
*** I was also paying attention. I was just simultaneously shooting this video for my column. Multi-tasking, people, multi-tasking.
**** …although perhaps I shouldn’t have put it like that.
***** As in homesick for her dog, not as in sick as a dog. And not, homophonically, as in this.


Looking Back at the History of the Personal Computer

When we look back to the first personal computer – the Apple I – we do not see today’s machines. What we see is the beginning of the first great age of computers. The Apple I sparked other companies to start producing personal computers. For instance, Microsoft licensed a copy of its Windows operating system to IBM, which made the IBM PC. Then, you look at today and see iMacs, MacBooks, and PCs. How did we get from there to here?

Way back in the 1970’s, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (“Woz”) started Apple Computer, Inc. The company produced many units of the new computer called Apple I. It sold without a case, keyboard, or screen – you had to buy your own. Soon, the company started to grow, and made its second computer, unsurprisingly called the Apple II. This machine became really popular.

Photo from cedmagic.com

Around this time, some new competition started filtering into the market – most notably, the IBM PC. It was cheap – which, of course, people loved. Then, Apple released a breakthrough in personal computers. Most certainly, the biggest new feature was the graphical user interface, where some kind of pointing device moves around and interacts with other objects on the screen. You guessed it: in 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh.

Almost immediately, it gained lots of fame. But soon it lost its sparkle, it was under-powered and overpriced. Next, of course, Steve Jobs was fired from Apple. This left the door right open for Windows PC makers to become the top personal computer producers. Apple continued to decline, and Microsoft rose to be the king of the personal computer market.

As you may or may not know, Jobs went on to work at Pixar and NeXT.  Fast forward a while, and Apple bought NeXT, bringing Jobs back to Apple. He went on to rise to CEO and work with some amazing people to create some amazing products, like the iMac.

Well, there you have a basic history of personal computers. Ending, of course, with today’s powerful machines that we can’t live without. It’s an interesting story, one with ups and downs for both Apple and Microsoft.

But, as Steve Jobs liked to say, There’s One More Thing.

Well, rather, two more things: When someone says computer to you, you think of desktops and laptops, right? But a new great age of the personal computer is coming in: the post-PC era. That means things like tablets and smartphones.

Yeah, you read that right. Tablets and smartphones are personal computers. Well, think about it. People are starting to use those devices like they once did (and sometimes still do) use their computers.

So tablets and smartphones – they’re already the next era of the personal computer.

Are you ready for the next era of personal computers?


High Score! My Take on Video Games

Video games. Those are the two favorite words of most kids. Your kids seemingly can sit in front of a Wii, Xbox, Nintendo DS, and so on, for the whole day. Now think back to the days when your weekends were spent with your nose in a book, at a soda fountain with your friends, or playing various sports. Compare the two pictures in your head. You’re both having the same amount of fun, so what is different?

Well, from personal experience, I can tell you (and I bet you’ve seen this too) that gamers are less social, don’t have as good manners, and in general are less fun to be around. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t play games on my iPad – I most certainly do, and I’m sure most of you have a fun game that you like to play on your iPhone, iPad, Android, whatever.

I’m talking about kids who come home after school and instantly sit down in front of their device. Kids for whom you must enforce homework. Kids for whom you must encourage to read books. Books especially. Everyone has a favorite book, one that, once you start reading, you can’t keep your nose out of. They are great pleasures and everyone should get to experience that. Video games, while fun and entertaining, can sometimes block out other fun things like great books (for serious gamers).

But that barricade isn’t just for books. As I mentioned earlier, socially, I believe they have a negative effect. Gamers get so focused on Mario or whatever, and not on whomever they’re talking to, eating with, whatever. It’s impolite, and it’s a bad habit for life. Put very simply, it’s not nice. You don’t get a job having bad manners! Pretty much what I’m trying to say is, video games often get in the way of life.

School seems to get lost sometimes too. Instead of getting home and doing homework, whether math, social studies or language arts, they’ll come home and play their new video game. Then you have a problem. If you don’t do your schoolwork, you get bad grades. If you get bad grades, then you don’t get into college. If you don’t get into college, then you don’t get a job. It’s like the social thing; you won’t get a job.

So, what to do about video games? It’s a question whose answer is wanted by everyone: How should you use and limit these sometimes obnoxious but fun games.


iPad 3rd Generation

Hi there! I’m Josh Leffler – the son of the person who writes the $avvy $pender column and the person who co-owns 1360/97.9 WCHL and Chapelboro.com. I’m 10 years old and, at this time, am going into fifth grade. I love sushi, Apple Inc., and Chapel Hill.
I’m a big technology fan, so I’ll be writing about it a lot. But I’ll also be more general, for instance covering things like movies, books, events, etc. I’m also open for suggestions for topics, and you can post those in the comments, and I’ll consider them for a future topic.
But there are many people who write about those kinds of things, so why is my column any different? Well, most of those other people are writing from the perspective of, well, themselves, and so am I, but my perspective is from the eyes of a 10-year-old, unlike the other people, who are all writing from the point of view of an adult.
Now, I don’t have anything against those columns, I’m just trying to show you how I’m different. I’m hoping to:

  • Interest you with the same thing that others are writing about, but from a younger perspective.
  • Point things out to you that you may not have seen from an adult perspective.
  • Help you understand what younger people (at least this younger person) think(s) about a certain topic.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to accomplish that in most of my articles, and I hope that you will be interested enough to keep reading my posts. Anyway, that’s it for now, and I hope you enjoy my first article!
Oh, and thanks to KPO Photo for the photo of me that appears at the top of every post!

First off, let me say that I am a complete Apple geek. Most definitely. So when the new iPad was announced, I was really happy. But that was a while ago.  I would love to sit here and talk about it all day, but I am writing from “A Kid’s View”. So, from the point of view of a ten-year-old, here’s my view on the iPad.

My school is slowly integrating iPad 2 into the curriculum. Now, I own an original iPad, so this was really my first time using an iPad 2. (I had seen and briefly explored the iPad 2 before, but not like this.) So as I launched the app that we were using to create our presentation, I was startled by how fast it seemed. I thought, “Wow! I don’t know how anybody could top this!”

Well, Apple did.

I have also used a 3rd generation iPad, and I’m thinking that if I had been younger, it would have seemed almost as magical as the world of Harry Potter. I also know that, to many kids, the iPad is what they can use to gain understanding of the world around them. That, to me, is even more important than processing power or memory.

Now let me ask you a question: Have you ever seen anything so amazing that it seems unreal? Has (if you’re a parent) your young child ever been so amazed that they pointed their finger and said, “Mommy/Daddy, that’s magic!” to you? It always happens eventually, and whether you are witnessing the beauty of the Eiffel Tower or the magic of the iPad, it’s a rare and precious moment.

Now, I’d like to get to my favorite part – just talking about the new iPad and how it works. First off, the retina display really does make an impression on you. Viewing a picture on and off the high-resolution screen, there really is a noticeable difference. The new cameras are amazing, although the iPad still does make for an awkward camera. The front-facing camera and Photo Booth is terribly fun, though (especially with the silly effects, which will make your kid laugh). Dictation is really convenient sometimes, except it is weird to have to say, “Hello. Period. How are you? Question mark.”

I’m going to use a whole paragraph on the processor. That’s how geeky I am. The A5X chip inside the iPad makes it among the best gaming platforms out there. The graphics are just stunning. Part of that is the fact that the more powerful chip allows for breathtaking detail in the foreground and background, which allows you to delve deep into your game.

So that’s “A Kid’s View” on the new iPad. I’d love to hear your opinions of it. Just comment below.