RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Friday was a big day for the research and development group of PortalPlayer in Charlotte.

Their company, which is based in California, went public in grand style.

PortalPlayer (Nasdaq: PLAY) expected its shares to sell between $14-16 but opened at $17. By the end of the day the price soared to $25.80, up nearly 52 percent.

Rick Terrell, a member of the technical staff, heads up the PortalPlayer office in Charlotte.

“We currently focus on USB connectivity and digital rights management,” he tells Local Tech Wire.

PortalPlayer issued 6.25 million shares as part of the IPO, which was handled by Needham & Company, Inc. and SG Cowen & Co., LLC are co-managers. Another 937,500 shares were set aside for over-allotments.

The company is based in Santa Clara, CA.

Despite the name, PortalPlayer is not a mobile device producer or a portal developer. But it does have media player applications. PortalPlayer touts itself as a “fabless semiconductor company that designs, develops and markets comprehensive platform solutions, including a system-on-chip, firmware and software for manufacturers of feature-rich, hard disk drive-based personal media players.”

Congratulations to Tech Journal

A hearty tip of the hat goes to The Triangle Tech Journal for winning the Media Company of the Year Award at the NCEITA 21 event last week.

Publisher Eric Gregg’s efforts over the past three years have produced not only a strong monthly newspaper packed with features, guest opinions and exclusive information but a web site that is often updated with breaking news and a series of popular “deck party” networking events. Brother Randall, who helped launch the newspaper, is now focused on RTPTV, a web site delivering video news and entertainment over the Net.

Eric’s efforts demonstrate that there is plenty of room for competition in coverage of technology, life sciences and university research. Local newspapers no longer put the emphasis on tech that they once did, and TV almost always ignores it unless there is a scandal, a new plant opening, or layoffs.

Another contender for the honor was Carolina Newswire, an online effort launched by Darrel Ludlow. Darrel does a nice job of packaging guest editorials, news releases, calendar announcements and links to other technology stories.

Software as authors — NCSU professor’s program in the press

Author Daniel Akst, who has written novels such as “The Webster Chronicle” (Penguin) and “St. Burl’s Obituary” (Harcourt), questions the value of software smart enough to create prose — such as the program designed in part by Charles Callaway, a North Carolina State University professor. In Monday’s New York Times, Akst cites the following passage:

“The road to grandmother’s house led through the dark forest, but Little Red Riding Hood was not afraid and she went on as happy as a lark. The birds sang her their sweetest songs while the squirrels ran up and down the tall trees. Now and then, a rabbit would cross her path.”

“What you just read is the work of StoryBook, ‘an end-to-end narrative prose generation system that utilizes narrative planning, sentence planning, a discourse history, lexical choice, revision, a full-scale lexicon and the well-known Fuf/Surge surface realizer,'” warns Akst. “Believe it or not, that description was written not by a computer but by the humans who created StoryBook, Charles B. Callaway and James C. Lester, who are computer scientists.”

Adds Akst: “It is hard not to worry that sooner or later computers will be monopolizing the best-seller lists rather than focusing on such worthwhile goals as producing an intelligible royalty statement.”

For Akst’s essay in The Times (registration required), see:

CybertStat: Watch out for ‘bot zombies

Research firms Trend Micro and Postini are warning that a new wave of threats face PC users: ‘bot zombie networks. These attacks “not only compromise a user’s PC, but also serve as a launch pad for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.”

Meanwhile, the two firms disagree whether spam may be on the decline. For details, see:

Nortel exec says financial probes not hurting sales

Pascal Debon, president of carrier networks for Nortel, told a conference tlast week that federal investigations into the company’s accounting woes and delays in reporting financial results are not hurting sales.

“They do understand, and I think they know the DNA of Nortel, which really wants to get that right. So they do understand, we receive a lot of positive encouragement,” Debon said at a UBS Global Communications Conference, referring to customers, according to Reuters. “Of course they want that to be solved, but I would not say that it is in the way of my team to be focused on the business.”