The site is being built in phases, according to county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith. The first components of the project — some interior portions of the website — should be launched in “the next couple of months.” If all goes well, the rest of the project is expected to be complete — homepage and all — by the end of the year.
The new county website will built on an enterprise version of WordPress, an open source content management system utilized by tens of millions of websites, including ARLnow.com. By building on WordPress, instead of the current proprietary code, the county should be able to reduce the cost of development and upkeep, and make it easier for employees to update web pages.
Arlington County is also trying to improve the navigation of the site.
“We’re trying to make it more resident-focused, as opposed to county hierarchy-focused,” Smith said. “We’re pretty excited. I think it’s going to be a positive change.”
County staff have proposed making the code that’s custom-developed for its new website open source — in other words, freely available for other developers to copy and tinker with. The County Board is set consider a measure that would allow open source publishing at its meeting this Saturday.
“As new functionality and features are developed by County staff, in the spirit of the open-source community and open government, staff desires to release code developed by County teams under an open-source license, so that others may use and/or improve the code,” staff wrote in a report to the Board.
County staff says developing open source code would come with the following benefits.
1) Open and transparent government
2) Enhances the County’s attractiveness as a workplace; benefits recruitment of programmers who believe in open-source
3) The possibility of even more enhancements being available for County use. Arlington’s changes may inspire others to contribute as well.
4) Lower maintenance needed for code, if County contributions are accepted into the main distribution. If Arlington’s modifications are not shared, the County will have to ensure that any updates made by others and which County staff want to incorporate do not interfere with Arlington’s customizations.
“Website code is a large part of the open-source community because websites are so versatile and have become so easy to set up,” staff wrote. “County staff has found many open-source bits of code that will help the County’s website meet the County’s customers’ needs, and in some cases, staff can easily customize the code for an even better fit. Since the County is benefitting from someone else’s open-source code, staff members want to reciprocate and release County modifications back to the open-source community.”
Although it might sound like a security risk, Smith says allowing the public to view the county’s website code shouldn’t open the site up to illicit activity.
“It shouldn’t present any security risks,” she said. “There are many, many government sites running on open source code.”
Senior Citizens Tour Sewage Plant — A group of three dozen senior citizens toured Arlington’s recently-renovated Water Pollution Control Plant on Friday. The sold-out tour educated the seniors about the sewage treatment process and about the people who work at the plant, whose “informal motto” is “We’re No. 1 with your No. 2.” [Sun Gazette]
Technology and the Homeless — Contrary to a common image of the homeless, most homeless individuals in Arlington have a cell phone and some even have laptops. Such technology is described as a “lifeline” to family, job opportunities and education. [Patch]
Map of the ‘Arlington Loop’ — Arlington County’s Bike Arlington program has published an easy-to-use map of the “Arlington Loop” — the 50 miles of off-street bike trails in the county. The map includes approximate ride times for bicyclists. [Bike Arlington, Greater Greater Washington]
Photo courtesy Chris Armstrong
Dems Planning for the Next Campaign — “The campaign for 2013 begins tomorrow,” the chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee told local Democrats at the committee’s meeting Wednesday night. Next year there will be a gubernatorial election in Virginia and House of Delegates races in Arlington, among other races. Arlington Democrats ran the table on Tuesday, winning every race, with the exception of a state constitutional amendment question. [Sun Gazette]
Bergmann’s Discussion Deferred — The Arlington Planning Commission was forced to defer consideration of a proposed 10-story redevelopment of the Bergmann’s Dry Cleaning site after Hurricane Sandy delayed the mailing of notices to local residents. The Waverly Hills Civic Association, located about a mile from the development, has expressed opposition to it. [Arlington Mercury]
Tech Tutoring at Library — From iPads to social networks to computer software, the Aurora Hills Branch Library is offering 45-minute one-on-one tech tutoring sessions for residents. Appointments are now being taken for Monday, Dec. 3. [Arlington Public Library]
Northern Va. Senior Olympics Come to Arlington — The Northern Virginia Senior Olympics will kick off tomorrow (Saturday) with a day-long track-and-field competition at Thomas Jefferson Community Center (3501 2nd Street S.). The Senior Olympics, which utilize several venues from around Northern Virginia, run from Sept. 15-26. Other events planned at the community center include basketball next Saturday, Sept. 22.
District Taco Not Launching a Food Truck — District Taco owner Osiris Hoil says he plans to continue using food carts, as opposed to larger food trucks, since Arlington is now enforcing a stringent one hour street parking rule for mobile food vendors. In addition to a food cart, District Taco also operates two successful brick and mortar restaurants. [Washington Examiner]
Apology for Network Issues — ARLnow.com has experienced network problems that made our site unreachable for many readers on two separate days this week. We would like to apologize to all readers affected by the problems. Also, we would like to thank our advertisers, who make this site possible, for sticking with us during that time. New infrastructure is now in place to make sure these problems (hopefully) never happen again.
Arlington is attracting a growing number of start-up and tech companies, and the co-owner of a new coworking space in Rosslyn is placing a big bet on that trend continuing.
Raymond Rahbar, a Courthouse resident, is a founder of UberOffices, a shared office space located on one floor of a high-rise at 1400 Key Boulevard. The office opened in July and already a number of young companies now call home.
Rahbar says he was able to attract a number of companies from other parts of the D.C. area thanks to a number of factors, including: Rosslyn’s central location relative to federal offices in D.C. and Northern Virginia; an abundance of nearby transportation options; proximity to the homes of potential employees; and relatively low taxes in Virginia.
“Arlington makes the most amount of sense for start-ups,” he said, before rattling off some additional advantages of Arlington in general and Rosslyn in particular. “The educated workforce… major highways all around us… the high average salary, so that means people have a savings and can take risks.”
Unsaid in that list is the fact that rent is generally lower outside the District, a key consideration for start-ups looking to conserve cash. The rent for a desk at UberOffices starts at $300 per month, compared to $700+ per month in many D.C. coworking spaces. Private offices range from $1,000 to $3,600 per month, and are large enough to host 2 to 8 employees respectively.
Among the companies that have set up shop at UberOffices are Votifi, which moved from Bethesda, and Lemur IMS, which moved from D.C. Votifi seeks to provide a “platform for modern political exchange,” while Lemur IMS promises to save the retail industry money and increases its profits via a “revolutionary inventory management system.”
Even though one might think of the District as more of a tech hub — it’s home to Living Social, perhaps the most high-profile local tech firm — Rahbar says Northern Virginia offers distinct advantages that large companies already are well aware of, but which the start-up community is beginning to recognize.
“Our taxes are lower, our crime is lower, our government is more stable,” he said. “They’re completely different environments. I’m sure D.C. has a couple of its own advantages, but I would bet on this area before I would bet on D.C.”
All that might explain why Northern Virginia has four times as many Fortune 500 headquarters as the District, he said.
Rahbar says he thinks the entire D.C. region is going to continue to continue to experience economic growth, even if the federal budget is cut. Among the factors contributing to that growth is the increasing amount of money flowing into politics.
“The size of government might be shrinking, but the size of politics is also increasing at the same time — campaigns and committees and all sorts of things,” he said. “So now we have more media firms, more PR firms, more lobbyists, more lawyers. Everything is just growing, even if government contracting ends up slowing down.”
Man Saves Life of Granddaughter — A grandfather saved the life of his granddaughter on Sunday, after the little girl started choking on fruit inside her family’s Arlington home. The grandfather, Rick Corbett, used his CPR training from the Boy Scouts in order to help save her life. [WUSA 9]
County Still Trying to Buy Courthouse Building — Arlington County is in negotiations to purchase the 1960s-era office building at 2020 14th Street N. The potential purchase sparked controversy among neighbors, largely due to the plan to place a year-round homeless shelter on the building’s lower floors. [Sun Gazette]
Tech Event Tonight at Artisphere — The technology networking organization Tech Cocktail is holding a mixer and startup showcase tonight at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd). Last-minute tickets for the event, which runs from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., are $20. [Tech Cocktail]
ARLnow.com suffered technical problems around 6:30 tonight and we’re still working to get everything up and working again.
Articles and the home page were inaccessible from 6:30 until about 10:00 p.m. As of 10:25 p.m., we have restored most of the site, but we’re still trying to recover articles, comments and forum posts from the past 24 hours. Please be aware that there’s a risk that comments posted between tonight and tomorrow morning may be lost as we work to recover data.
We apologize to our readers for the inconvenience and promise to do our very best make sure technical problems like this don’t happen again.
Update at 8:15 a.m. – It appears that comments and forums posts from yesterday morning to yesterday evening have unfortunately been lost. We sincerely apologize for this.
Update at 9:20 a.m. — We have temporarily taken down the “Latest Top Stories” section of the homepage. It will hopefully return later today.
As a result of the outage, librarians are checking out customers by hand at Arlington Central Library, according to library spokesman Peter Golkin. All internet at the library, including access to the library catalog system, is down. Customers at the library can still access the catalog via their smart phones, however.
Most Arlington Public Schools south of Route 50 are also experiencing the same problems, according to a school employee. Phone and internet service has been down at the schools since 2:00 p.m., around the same time Central Library lost its phone and data service.
In both cases, we’re told a problem with a Comcast fiber optic line is to blame. Comcast is hoping to have the problem fixed by tomorrow, Golkin said.
Update at 8:45 a.m. — All services have been restored to Central Library, Golkin says.
Michigan-based Gibbs Amphibians held the demonstration in the shadow of the Pentagon in hopes of convincing the military to place orders for their newest land/sea vehicle, dubbed the Phibian.
Company engineers say the Phibian is revolutionary for being able to travel at a high speed on land and on sea. The vehicle can reach up to 80 miles per hour on land, 45 miles per hour on the water, and can enter the water from land at a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour, we’re told. The 30-foot craft has a 7,000 lbs hauling capacity and can transport about a dozen people.
Phibian sports a carbon fiber hull, twin turbo 250 horsepower diesel engines, four wheel drive, and a patented, hydraulic suspension system that retracts the wheels above the water level when at sea (somewhat like landing gear on a plane). It’s the retractable wheels that allow better speed and maneuverability in the water, engineers said.
The Phibian will be produced in Michigan and will create 200 jobs, according to Gibbs. The company hopes to sell the Phibian to the military and to various federal and local government agencies for search and rescue and disaster relief operations.
Gibbs also manufacturers an amphibious sports car, which was on display today at the marina.
Startup Virginia, part of the privately-funded Startup America Partnership that President Obama helped to launch last year, promises to “support entrepreneurs and help startups drive job creation” in the Commonwealth. Organizers say Northern Virginia in particular is fertile ground for startups, with the numerous corporate headquarters in the area and with the area’s focus on science and technology.
“It’s about time this region got the recognition it deserves,” said a panelist at this morning’s launch event, which was attended by several hundred business leaders, academics and other attendees. Another panelist suggested that entrepreneurs can help pick up some of the economic slack that will be caused by expected cuts in defense spending.
Among the speakers at the event were Aneesh Chopra, the outgoing Chief Technology Officer for the White House, and Steve Case, co-founder of America Online, Chairman of the Startup America Partnership and a prominent local investor. Chopra cited Courthouse-based Opower as an example of a Virginia startup that’s making it big.
“Right down the street here in Arlington, Opower didn’t exist five years ago,” Chopra said. “[It has] over 300 employees to help compete to bring down your energy bills.”
Chopra made some news at the event when he hinted at a new bipartisan legislative package that’s expected to be announced by the White House later today. According to Chopra, the legislation would cut taxes for small businesses and entrepreneurs, would reduce barriers to accessing capital markets for high-growth companies, and would seek to reduce administrative backlogs for high-skill immigration.
Case said entrepreneurs helped to build the United States into the world power it is today.
“We didn’t become the leading economy by accident,” Case said. “It was the work of entrepreneurs creating companies, and really creating entire industries, that in the last two centuries has propelled us to the position we now have globally.”
Case cautioned, however, that other countries are trying to catch up with America in the realm of entrepreneurship. The U.S. must focus on “winning the global battle on talent,” he said.
Twelve Arlington Public Schools employees traveled to Apple’s headquarters in Cupterino, California to meet with the company’s top executives over the extended Veterans Day weekend last year. The two day information gathering trip in November cost taxpayers a little less than $11,000.
Some of the attendees included School Board Member Libby Garvey and Superintendent Patrick Murphy. APS Spokeswoman Linda Erdos notes that of the 12, Garvey was the only one who traveled on her own dime.
As pointed out by the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, some think the trip was an excessive expense, especially considering Arlington spends more per student than any school system in the region. But APS believes it was well worth it.
“The purpose of the trip is really to talk about what Apple is doing as a company,” said Erdos. “They talk to school districts about how they could possibly collaborate. Because we are using the technology, we are very interested.”
APS has received three grants to purchase iPads for schools. The devices are already in use at schools throughout the county, and are said to be particularly beneficial for students with autism. APS would like to see the use of iPads and other technology spread to more classrooms.
“As educators, we’re looking for every opportunity to find places to support kids,” Erdos said. ”It has changed the way kids are learning and how they’re doing their work, and they’re very excited about it.”
There is an Apple office in Reston where APS plans to send its staff in the future for discussing available educational opportunities. When asked why the group didn’t simply visit the Reston location instead of heading to Cupertino, Erdos said the local office serves a different purpose.
“They’re different meetings and different people,” said Erdos. “The people that were in California were really the CEO and top executives from Apple. The center at Reston is really for instructional people. Our instructional leaders will continue to go there.”
Yesterday, Apple announced its first introduction of new or updated products since the death of Steve Jobs, and they’re all educational programs for iPad. The apps are free and allow students to perform a variety of functions such as downloading textbooks, viewing presentations or lectures and receiving assignments or quizzes from teachers.
“It just has a lot of practical application and apps that are free to classroom teachers,” said Erdos. “Our students are young students of the 21st century and we need to keep pace with the learning style that best fits their needs.”
Some APS schools are using other brands of tablets besides the iPad. However, teachers say Apple currently has more learning apps available than other companies.
The free app, which can be downloaded from the Android Marketplace and the Apple App Store, gives residents tips on what to do in the event of specific emergencies, provides a feed of Arlington’s emergency alerts, offers a checklist of emergency supplies and lists information about several emergency-related volunteer opportunities in Arlington.
Among the 10 emergencies covered in the “What Do I Do?” section are tornadoes (“if you are inside, seek a place of refuge such as a basement”), earthquakes (“many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris”), and chemical attacks (“immediately strip and wash… look for a hose, fountain or any source of water”).
The app was developed “in-house” by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management and Department of Technology Services. There’s currently no plan to launch an app for Blackberry devices.
One might think that Alex Chamandy of Barcroft-based Arlington Virginia Computer Repair is merely a computer fix-it guy. Someone who spends his days troubleshooting errors, removing viruses, dealing with fizzled hard drives and tackling other computer maladies.
Yes — Alex and his partner Jennifer do all of those things, and do them well. But he’s also a wizard when it comes to Linux servers, open source server software, and the IT needs of small businesses, and that’s why we’d like to thank him today. Alex has been helping us with our technical/server issues since shortly after we launched, and now he’s spending hours of his scarce free time helping us transition to a newer, faster and more reliable server.
Without Alex’s help, we would have been hard-pressed to keep the site up and running as it grew. Plus, Alex has been our go-to guy for random technical questions and information security-related services.
Rather than toiling anonymously — save the mention at the bottom of each of our pages — we wanted to let Alex’s dedication be known to all. If you want the same expertise and service when your desktop or laptop goes belly-up, or if your small business needs some tech help, give his company a call at 703-486-0200 or visit the Arlington Virginia Computer Repair web site.
Beloved Bishop O’Connell Football Coach Dies — Steve Trimble, Bishop O’Connell High School’s varsity football coach since 2002, died suddenly at his office yesterday morning. Trimble played high school football in Cumberland, Md., before playing for the University of Maryland on a scholarship. He played free safety for the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears during the early-to-mid 80s, before playing in arena leagues and then joining the coaching staffs of several NFL teams. Trimble, 53, was the father of four sons, all of whom played football at O’Connell. [Arlington Catholic Herald]
Immigrant Advocate Wants Office for Latinos — Lois Athey, the head of tenants-rights group BU-GATA, told the County Board over the weekend that she would like the county to establish an Office of Latino Affairs for Arlington’s 31,000 Latino residents. Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman asked County Manager Barbara Donnellan to look into options for further outreach to the Latino community. [Sun Gazette]
More iPads Coming for Arlington Students? — Camilla Gagliolo, the instructional technology coordinator for Arlington Public Schools, is a big believer in using iPads in the classroom. The device “is bringing educational technology to new levels of student engagement,” she told a conference. iPads are currently in use at several Arlington elementary schools. [THE Journal]
Arlington Public Library staff have been working to iron out a few wrinkles in the library’s new catalog system, which went live Thursday afternoon.
Some library patrons have been reporting difficulty logging in, placing holds and setting up lists. Staff have been responding to the feedback and encouraging more people to report their experience with the system.
In addition to the bugs, one tipster worries that the process of signing up for the new catalog system presents an opportunity for identity theft.
“Anyone can type in somebody else’s library card number, create and enter a PIN (I.D. number), and access somebody else’s account,” the tipster said in an email. “This is a security and privacy problem.”
We tested it and indeed you can sign up for an account and then see the library card holder’s name, address and phone number — provided you have the library card number. No additional identity verification is performed.
Library spokesman Peter Golkin says they’ve been monitoring the sign-up process.
“We’re keeping an eye on how the PIN sign-up process is working,” Golkin said. “We’re also still testing some related features like the alternate username so we can revisit such issues as we proceed.”
“So far we’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback about the big upgrade,” Golkin added.