About robpegoraro

Freelance journalist who covers (and is often vexed by) computers, gadgets and other things that beep.

Smartwatch withdrawal

For the first time since last summer, I’m about to depart for a trip without including a smartwatch and its charger in my luggage: I returned the Moto 360 and Samsung Gear Live I’ve been trying out to Google PR on Wednesday.

The 360’s face picks up a lot of glare.(I took advantage of having to go to NYC for the day to hand-deliver those Android Wear watches and a few other loaner devices to a Google publicist–less because of the money I’d save on FedEx, more because I wouldn’t have to find a box and enough bubble wrap for all of these things.)

I don’t miss having to charge a smartwatch–always with a proprietary adapter that’s easy to misplace, not easy to replace–every day. But I do miss the soothing sense that if something important happens in my digital life, a device on my wrist will tell me about it and relieve me of the need to grab my phone.

Somebody used the phrase “digital triage” to describe that aspect of smartwatch usage, and that sounds about right: Unlike a beep or a buzz from a phone, the name and subject of an e-mail flashed across a watch’s face tell you instantly if the message is something that demands quick attention or can wait.

That use case seems as compelling to me as it did after two months of trying the Gear Live–maybe more so after I realize how often I was checking my phone during a dinner Thursday night. Fortunately, I was with other tech types, so I’m sure my fellow diners weren’t offended. Much.

And, sure, I once again have to reach for my phone to tell the time.

This trip will take me to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, where I expect to see a new crop of smartwatches–Apple’s excluded, as that company doesn’t show off its products at other people’s events.

Some of them should be thinner and lighter and run longer on a charge than the Motorola and Samsung watches. Some may do away with the need for a proprietary charger, either by accepting a standard micro-USB charger or using wireless charging. Some may even look sharp enough to wear with a suit. With each of those advances, the odds of me buying one of these things will tick forward another notch.

Weekly output: wireless-service pricing, Google Calendar notifications

I suppose I should be watching the Oscars now–but first there was dinner, cleaning up and then this little routine. For what it’s worth, I’ve watched a surprisingly high number of this year’s nominees given my father-of-a-toddler status. But aside from The Imitation Game, paying for a ticket at a movie theater wasn’t involved: I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel on a plane (appropriately enough, given all the travel in that flick), watched Unbroken at a Comcast-hosted Newseum screening, saw CitizenFour as part of a security conference, and caught Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie on DVD.

Maybe I’ll catch up on a few more Oscar-nominated movies during all the air travel I have coming up: Saturday, I depart for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and then after a week at home I’m off to SXSW in Austin.

Yahoo Tech column on wireless prices2/17/2015: Why You Don’t Understand Wireless Rate Plan Prices, Yahoo Tech

This get-off-my-screen rant about confusing, contrived pricing schemes for wireless service–basically, I had to vent after the last few updates to the Wirecutter’s guide to wireless carriers–has already yielded some simplification. T-Mobile realized they hadn’t removed a description of an old rate plan from a chart (it’s been replaced with a prepaid plan that’s not nearly as attractive) and updated that. We, in turn, need to add a note about that to our story.

2/22/2015: How to limit Google Calendars notifications, USA Today

It took me writing this cheat sheet to finally go in and edit my own Google Calendar notification settings so I wouldn’t get pinged via e-mail, in-app and in-browser notifications for an event invitation I hadn’t even responded to, much less accepted.

Lenten lunch challenge: crafting sandwiches without cold cuts

One of the lesser-known facts about me is that on Fridays during Lent, I don’t almost never eat meat. It’s not that I’m anybody’s idea of a devout Catholic… but several years ago, I thought that giving up meat on Fridays during those 40 days would be a good idea on a few different levels. Somewhat to my surprise, I’ve stuck with it.

The challenge hasn’t so much been going without meat at dinner (except on a Friday in Austin during SXSW, when I feel like a dweeb for making this sacrifice) but figuring out lunch. I am an extreme creature of habit for mid-day meals: Unless I’ve got a lunch date, I make myself a sandwich.

And that sandwich has almost always been built around some sort of cold cuts: ham one week, turkey the next, roast beef afterwards, repeat. Why not? It tastes good (baking my own bread helps), I save money, I can make the sandwich fit my appetite, and having one instead of leftover pasta or whatever reduces the risk of having the same type of food for lunch and dinner.

I could revert to my childhood staple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but they’re not too filling. So what else if the traditional sandwich formula is out? In case this season has put this question in your mind–or you just ran out of cold cuts and need to make something for lunch–here are a few options.

Grilled-cheese sandwichOne answer is another childhood favorite, grilled cheese, that’s particularly apt when it’s as cold out as it is now. But not just cheese between two slices of bread; you want to exercise some creativity. Here I have to credit the higher-end grilled-cheese options at Stoney’s in D.C. for making me think about including tomato slices, and I’ve since gotten into the habit of adding such extra ingredients as sautéed onions or apple or pear slices, avocado or garlic-scape pesto. The sandwich at right, photographed after I’d nibbled it into a vague resemblance of D.C.’s outline, features the first two additions on that list as well as whole-grain mustard, and was delicious.

The one downside: There’s actual cooking involved, which means both waiting in front of a hot stove and more stuff to clean up.

Credit for another veggie-sandwich choice goes to the Potomac Pedalers bike club, which on its annual century ride serves up these great cucumber and tomato sandwiches at about the 75-mile mark. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of those rides (can we not talk about my diminished cycling mileage these days?), but the recipe was a keeper. I will often top those thin cucumber and tomato slices with some cream cheese and sautéed bell peppers or caramelized onions. Or you can substitute hummus for the cream cheese.

One potential problem: In the winter, good tomatoes are scarce or expensive, and without one of the two main ingredients this sandwich becomes a little one-dimensional.

My third regular choice on these Fridays is a straightforward ripoff of any good bagel place’s menu: smoked salmon and cream cheese, plus maybe capers or thinly sliced red onions, sautéed or not. (I keep coming back to onions as an accoutrement because they are the easiest thing to cook alongside dinner–either in a pan you’ll later use for another ingredient, or in a foil packet on the grill.) Later in the spring, I can top this with some arugula if my tiny garden has come back to life soon enough.

Awkward issue: Despite all of my efforts, my wife doesn’t like seafood and so remains unconvinced of how awesome this sandwich tastes.

So anyway, hope that helps to diversify your lunch choices. Any other sandwich recipes I should be trying between now and April 5?

(Were you expecting more of the usual earnest musing about journalism or technology? I’ll try to get back to that next week.)

Updated 2/21 with a few editorial tweaks and additional suggestions.

Weekly output: non-spying Samsung TVs, WiFi hotspots, WiFi channels

I miss David Carr too.

I knew that he wrote like an angel and tolerated no bullshit in his New York Times column, that his honest and humane Twitter presence was one of the better reasons to be on that social network, and that it seemed reasonable to be a little star-struck when my friend Deb Amlen introduced me to her NYT desk-mate during a visit to the Times building last summer. It was only after Carr’s way-too-soon death that I learned of all the unrequired and unadvertised kindness he left behind. Damn.

2/10/2015: No, Your TV Doesn’t Care What You Say, Yahoo Tech

Tech-media outlets did not cover themselves in glory when they took one EFF activist’s tweet mocking a poorly-written privacy policy as proof of a technically-implausible voice-recognition scheme on Samsung TVs.

Wirecutter LTE hotspots guide2/11/2015: Best Wi-Fi Hotspot, The Wirecutter

I’ve been working on my second Wirecutter guide for months, but the initial debut of this review of LTE hotspots last Sunday escaped my notice. The update we pushed out on Wednesday gave me an excuse to talk up the story on social media, so I’ll just call that this guide’s publication date for the purposes of this post.

2/15/2015: Bad Wi-Fi performance? Try channel surfing, USA Today

When I got the reader e-mail that led to this column, I thought I’d covered the topic somewhat recently. Nowhere near true: The piece I had in mind ran in 2006, which may explain why researching my correspondent’s query led me to an OS X feature that I had no idea existed.

Correlation or causation: Verizon, LastPass and last weekend’s USAT column

The reaction to last weekend’s USA Today column has been interesting and a little confusing.

LastPass logoOn one hand, I’ve seen a variety of reader reports–more in reader e-mail and in comments on the post I wrote here first to see if this was a wider problem as well as on the Facebook page post in which I shared the column than in comments on the column itself–of other Verizon login failures.

On the other hand, Verizon is now thinking that this is related to my using LastPass. My PR contact there said that one of his colleagues had noticed the screenshot in my post here revealed that I use that password-manager service and suggested I try disabling its extension in the problematic copy of Safari.

I thought that a somewhat ridiculous suggestion, since each time I’d typed in the password instead of letting LastPass enter it for me. But once I did that, I could log in normally. And when I enabled it again, I got the same login failure as before. There’s correlation here. Causation? I don’t know.

I e-mailed LastPass’s CEO Joe Siegrist (not because I thought this a CEO-level issue, but because we met a few years ago and I’ve always found him quick to reply to a query) to ask his people to look into things.

If they can reproduce and, better yet, document a problematic interaction, that would be good to know and a good thing to add to the column. If they can’t (a distinct possibility considering that the guy I quoted in the column having a similar problem, PhoneScoop editor Rich Brome, told me he doesn’t use LastPass), the mystery will continue.

In the meantime, I’ll throw this question out there: If you use LastPass, have you seen any other cases of a login with a valid password failing?