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Matt Carter, who helped organize this year's inaugural Chocolate Festival in Port Orchard, is planning to open another store in Tacoma. (Tim Kelly Photo)The owner of Carter’s Chocolates in Port Orchard has plans to expand his business with a store in Tacoma, and he’s running a Kickstarter campaign to give that effort a boost.

Matt Carter, whose store is on Bethel Avenue near downtown Port Orchard, said he’s been a vendor before at a couple Tacoma community festivals. He thinks his business would do well there because there’s no purveyor of handmade chocolates, fudge and ice cream there. read more »

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Scott McFarlaneSales tax is not exactly a popular topic at cocktail parties, but mention the two words to Scott McFarlane and his eyes light up. He could probably talk about it all day — and even make it interesting.

McFarlane has plenty to be excited about when it comes to sales tax and the company he co-founded, Avalara. A leading provider of sales-tax automation services, Avalara has been on various “fastest-growing company” lists for several years and has been growing its customer base by leaps and bounds.

The latest such recognition came from Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list, which ranks the 500 fastest-growing companies in the technology, media, life sciences, telecom and clean technology sectors. read more »


Got IT? Your local library does, and it’s free.

Kitsap Regional Library (KRL)branches and public libraries across the state are offering patrons access to the Microsoft IT Academy at no charge. The online technology curriculum provides opportunities for people to become proficient in using a wide spectrum of Microsoft software programs, and for advanced learners to prepare for certification as IT professionals qualified to maintain software networks.

“We can provide this access to people who could never afford it on their own,” said Sharon Grant, KRL’s digital branch manager. “It’s about economic development and how to help people really at grass-roots level.”

The Wasington State Library’s partnership with Microsoft is supported by $1.25 million in funding from the legislature, and Microsoft has discounted the cost of its training courses by about 90 percent so more than 400 public, community college and tribal libraries throughout the state can offer free access to the IT Academy during the current biennium, which runs through July 2015. read more »


SEATTLE — Three of the nation’s largest mobile phone carriers — AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile — will no longer charge their customers for commercial Premium Short Messaging Services, also known as PSMS or premium text messages. PSMS is the platform that third-party content providers use to charge consumers via their cell phone bills, a practice known as “cramming.” Examples of PSMS charges include those for horoscopes, weather information, dating advice, sports alerts, and similar services.

“This is a victory for cell phone users in Washington and across the nation,” state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news release. “I am hopeful other phone carriers will follow this lead. My office will continue to work with other states for industry reforms and to recover money for consumers victimized by unauthorized mobile charges.” read more »


Amazon is developing drones to deliver packages.

That was the surprise that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed during an interview on the “60 Minutes” news show Dec. 1, and it certainly lit up social media. Within an hour, there was already an @AmazonDrone Twitter parody account and plenty of Terminator references.

The drone project is still in development and is four to five years from rolling out, but the “Octocopters,” as Bezos called them, would deliver products to a customer’s door within 30 minutes of ordering. Amazon is calling the system Amazon Prime Air.

But Amazon has more than a few hurdles to jump even after the company irons out the technical details, which are hardly a challenge to gloss over lightly. Amazon spent $775 million to buy robot-maker Kiva Systems last year, rather than develop the warehouse robots itself. read more »


West Sound Technology Association will hold its Holiday Social and Visioning on Dec. 19 at Yonder Retreat Center on Bainbridge Island.

The event, which will be from 4-7:30 p.m., will celebrate 2013 and attendees will plan together to set future directions for WSTA.

This event is for all current and past members, partners, sponsors and their guests/invitees. Drop in during the day at the WSTA board retreat, or early evening to share thoughts on the group’s mission, and learn more about what WSTA accomplished and envisions.

WSTA began in 2000, but its mission has grown from hosting meetings on technology and promoting local technology professionals. read more »


TOKYO — Finally, hydrogen-powered cars are being readied for their Prius moment — at least, that is what promoters of the environmentally friendly technology hope.

Toyota, maker of the Prius, the first hybrid vehicle to achieve mass-market acceptance, unveiled a concept version Nov. 21 of a hydrogen fuel-cell car it plans to begin selling “around 2015,” as the company put it.

The bright blue sedan is shaped like a drop of water to emphasize that water is the only substance hydrogen-powered cars emit from their tailpipes.

The car, which Toyota calls the FCV concept, was one of several vehicles with alternative powertrains to take the spotlight at the Tokyo Motor Show, which opened to reporters Nov. 21. read more »


WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released its first smartphone app, a free program that allows consumers to measure the broadband speed they are getting on their mobile devices and to determine whether it is as fast as wireless companies say.

So far, the app works only on smartphones that run the Android operating system, but the commission is working on an iPhone version, which it expects to be ready by the end of January. The app provides information on upload and download speeds and on how efficiently data is transmitted, a measure known as packet loss.

The app, FCC Speed Test, will allow the commission to aggregate data about broadband speeds from consumers across the country. It will use the data to create an interactive map, giving consumers a tool to use in comparison shopping rather than relying on wireless companies’ promises. read more »


The Search Agency has just published its Mobile Experience Scorecard, reporting on 100 different US multichannel retailers and their relative mobile readiness.

The report gives each company’s mobile site a score out of five based on seven different criteria: page load times, site format, store locator, search box, social media presence, app presence and click-to-call.

The outdoor and sports gear retailer REI came out at the top with a total score of 4.74, losing a mark for site format and app presence. No retailer achieved full marks across the board.

The major finding here is that of the 100 companies, only one has a dedicated responsive website. The children’s clothes retailer Carter’s. read more »

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