Belated updates to this year’s stories

You don’t have to run a correction when a story changes after you’ve written about it–but it is polite to follow up. Here’s a not-so-short list of updates to stories I’ve done this year.

Old stories sepia toneWhen I wrote that Google’s new, unified privacy policy would almost certainly be recast to let users opt out of having the company assemble a detailed portrait of them based on their use of separate Google services, I was wrong; that has yet to happen.

Sonic.net’s groundbreaking fiber-to-the-home service–a steal at $69.95 a month for 1 billion bits per second–seems to be off to a fine start in Sonoma County, but the planned expansion to San Francisco’s Sunset District is still on the way. It hasn’t shown up as an advertised offering on this Santa Rosa, Calif., Internet provider’s home-services page either.

Remember when adjacent-friend-discovery apps were going to blow up after their moment in the sun at SXSW in March? Didn’t happen. Facebook bought Glancee (and has yet to do much publicly with its technology), while Highlight seems to have fallen off the map (maybe I’m not hanging out with the right crowd?).

The ethics of outsourced manufacturing, fortunately, have stayed in the headlines since I wrote about them in March for CEA. And we may even be seeing legitimate progress, to judge from the New York Times’ story earlier this week recounting upgrades in pay and working conditions at contract manufacturers Foxconn and Quanta’s Chinese factories.

I’m still waiting to see comparable progress in liberating e-books from “digital rights management.” The sci-fi publisher Tor/Forge–a subsidiary of Macmillan–went DRM-free in July, but other branches of the major publishing houses have clung to this self-defeating measure. 

After saying so many good things about the car2go car-sharing service–and seeing that story get picked up in a few other places–I have to confess that I, ahem, haven’t used the service since. Capital Bikeshare is even more convenient and cheaper for trips under two miles, plus I need to make my way into the District to jump into one of car2go’s Smart fortwo vehicles.

I tempered my praise for Sprint’s Evo 4G LTE by wondering how long its users would wait to get Google’s software updates. Answer: almost six months, the time it took HTC and Sprint to deliver the Android 4.1 release Google shipped in June.

I was pretty sure I’d buy a Nexus 7 tablet after liking it as much as I did in July. But now that I own an iPad mini, that purchase seems like it would be redundant. Am I making a mistake there?

After teeing off on Apple Maps in the first chapter of my iPhone 5 review for CNNMoney.com, I have to give Apple credit for fixing the two worst flaws I called out. It now lists the correct address for the Kennedy Center as its first search result and provides a route to Dulles Airport that don’t cross any runways. But it still doesn’t know about Yards Park or the new 11th Street Bridges across the Anacostia–and the latter omission means its directions will now send you on a closed stretch of freeway.

My upbeat review of Samsung’s $249 Google Chromebook noted some build-quality concerns, in the form of a loose corner of the screen bezel. I found out the hard way that it’s more delicate than that; its LCD is now broken, and I don’t even know how. (We do have a two-year-old at home, but it’s also possible that I dropped something on it.)

My advice about enabling multiple-calendar Google Calendar sync on an iOS device by setting up your Google account as a Microsoft Exchange account will soon be obsolete. Effective January 30, Google will no longer support Exchange syncing on new setups (although existing ones will still work). Fortunately, it’s also posted instructions to enable multiple-calendar sync without the Exchange workaround.

3/23/2013: Updated the link for the car2go review after the post vanished in a site redesign and, for CMS-driven reasons that escape me, could not be re-posted at the same address. 

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Weekly output: gadget breakthroughs, disruptive gifts, patent talk, Facebook and Twitter annual reports, defining “disruptive,” LPFM, Google Maps, smart TVs, TV inputs

I wish I’d had more good news to report over the last few days. But don’t we all?

12/10/2012: 5 Breakthroughs For Gadgets In 2012, Discovery News

My editors asked me to come up with a list of steps forward for gadgets over this year. Some of my nominees don’t feature any individual device; one doesn’t involve any shipping code or hardware at all.

12/11/2012: Inside the DisCo Studio: Dan O’Connor’s Top Disruptive Gifts for 2012, Disruptive Competition Project

Two Fridays ago, I did a round of video interviews with two other contributors to the DisCo blog. In this one, I talk to Dan O’Connor about a few items on his Christmas list.

12/12/2012: Inside the DisCo Studio: Matt Schruers on Intellectual Property, Disruptive Competition Project

And here, I talk to Matt Schruers about some of the more frustrating aspects of the current patent system–as well as the conversation around them.

D News post on Twitter Facebook personal annual reports12/13/2012: Facebook, Twitter Hold Mirrors Up To Your 2012, Discovery News

Over two days, Twitter and Facebook invited their users to request software-generated annual reports about their activity on those networks. I thought that was a fascinating idea–you may recall how intrigued I was by WordPress’s summary of my 2011 stats–and would like to see more where this came from. And right after I tweeted out a link to this post, Talking Points Memo’s Carl Franzen replied with a suggestion that I check out Wolfram|Alpha’s insanely detailed Facebook “personal analytics” report.

(I haven’t yet. I need to free up the three hours I will waste digesting that much data.)

12/14/2012: Inside the DisCo Studio: Dan O’Connor on “Disruptive” Technology, Disruptive Competition Project

In this third DisCo video, I ask my fellow blogger for a definition of “disruptive” that goes beyond the usual Bay Area buzzwords.

12/14/2012: “LPFM”: How To Hold Up The Opening Of A Market For 12 Years, Disruptive Competition Project

It’s been a long time since I last wrote about low-power FM radio (do any readers remember Marc Fisher and Frank Ahrens’ stories on the topic from around the turn of the century?). And for years, the story hadn’t changed: It was yet another case of incumbents treating their early arrival to a publicly-owned resource as something close to an inalienable right. (See also, most debates about patents and copyright.) But this time, Washington seems to have stopped being part of the problem.

12/15/2012: Google Maps, Apple Maps, What Each Can’t Find, Discovery News

Wednesday night, I took Metro most of the way to a friend’s happy hour, covered the last stretch on Capital Bikeshare, and came home via an Uber sedan. That experience–and an earlier, shorter post I wrote for the Atlantic Cities about Google Now’s directions–led to this breakdown of how Google’s new navigation app for iOS still misses a few details about how you might get around town. It’s since drawn an unusual number of comments… not all of which appear to have been informed by an attentive reading of the post.

12/16/2012: Make your home TV setup ‘smart’, USA Today

A reader wanted to find the simplest possible way to watch a minimal set of cable channels, connect to Netflix and play DVDs; I had to break it to this individual that it’s not easy and is getting more difficult. The piece also shares a tip about two simpler ways to play back digital media files on an HDTV.

Weekly output: iPhone 5 (x4), Apple Maps, Google Now, Oblong

This looks like a lot of words on one phone… and it is. Counting the post that ran last week, I wound up filing almost 2,000 words on the iPhone 5 for CNNMoney’s four-part series. (Yes, back in May I posted an item here questioning the usefulness of 2,000-word gadget reviews. Ahem.) The Discovery News post added about 600 more to the total. And this week’s USA Today piece covers the iPhone 5’s maps app, so you might as well put that on my tab too.

But: I enjoyed how all this worked out. I appreciated having some time to consider this phone virtues instead of rushing to dump my judgment into, at best, a first-look post and then a column written a day later.

9/24/2012: iPhone 5 Can Go The Distance But Gets Lost, Discovery News

This post also benefited from the pacing of the CNNMoney series–because I wrote it after the first chapter of that bunch, I didn’t feel like I was starting from scratch with the review. I also think that the exercise of distilling my assessment into one post helped define the structure of the rest of that project.

9/24/2012: IPhone 5 journal: LTE performance and photos, CNNMoney.com

Earlier this year, I started posting sample photos taken with review hardware to Flickr, and that’s helped a lot when writing posts like this–I can see how pictures from the iPhone 5’s camera compare with those from older models instead of thinking “well, they look okay.” And then reviewers can conduct the same inspection and see for themselves.

9/26/2012: IPhone 5 journal: Torture testing the battery, CNNMoney.com

I had higher hopes for the iPhone 5’s battery life, considering Apple’s claims (it has a history of shipping hardware that matches or slightly exceeds them) and my early experience. But as I wrote here, while this does better than other LTE phones, it doesn’t beat them by a huge margin; you’d still be wise to bring a charger or cable with you if you’re going to out for most of the day, especially if you’ll be on Twitter for much of that time. (Remember that I also keep a running scorecard of my battery-life tests here.)

9/28/2012: IPhone 5 journal: Finding the best, cheapest carrier, CNNMoney.com

My series wrapped up with the most math-intensive part, a comparison of the three primary carriers’ subscription options. The one thing I wish I’d added to it: a cautionary note about how LTE’s faster speeds seem to encourage binging on data. I’ve only had this iPhone 5 for 10 days, but the Settings app reports that I’ve burned through 2.5 gigabytes of cellular data. Yikes.

9/29/2012: How to choose an Apple Maps alternative, USA Today

I’d already filed a column discussing alternatives to the hastily-produced output of Apple’s cartographical Cuisinart, and then Apple CEO Tim Cook had to go and apologize for Apple Maps himself and endorse not just the four options I’d covered but a fifth, Nokia Maps. Hello, rewrite! The piece wraps up with a complaint about another unhelpful source of navigation, Google Now; for a more detailed breakdown of that Android app’s issues, see the post I wrote about it for The Atlantic Cities.

9/29/2012: Hand Waves Control Wall-Sized Games, Discovery News

Discovery likes posts with a touch of sci-fi to them, so I couldn’t turn down a demo of Oblong Industries’ Minority Report-esque interface while I was in San Francisco for the Online News Association’s conference. Veteran tech blogger Robert Scoble must have had the same demo before or after me that Thursday, as he covered Oblong in two posts on Google+ a couple of days before I got around to writing my own.

Weekly output: TechShop, iPhone 5, WiFi routers, speed tests

Like last week, this week was cut up by travel–in this case, the Online News Association’s conference in San Francisco. (As in, the same city I went to last week for TechCrunch Disrupt.)

9/20/2012: TechShop: Laser Cutters For The People, Discovery News

My last stop before heading home from the Disrupt trip was a two-hour tour of this fascinating workshop–which itself followed a shorter stop when I was in the Bay Area in early June. There are a lot of interesting story angles to TechShop’s story (like the legality of cloning real-world objects using 3-D printing, something I discussed on a panel this summer) that I could only briefly mention in passing in this post. So I will have to find other uses for all the material in my notes.

Speaking of leaving things in one’s notebook, I had to update the post to correct a few errors I let escape into the copy. I hate it when that happens.

9/22/2012: IPhone 5 journal: So about that Maps app…, CNNMoney.com

Perhaps you, too, have heard that Apple began selling a new smartphone this week? My coverage of the new iPhone 5 kicked off with this first post in a series for CNNMoney.com; updates over the next few days will reflect my tests of its camera, performance, battery life and other issues. (I’ll also have a shorter writeup for Discovery.)

Note that this review didn’t involve the usual product loan. After getting the inconclusive responses to my review request from Apple PR that I’ve begun to expect, I bought a new iPhone 5 from a Verizon Wireless store in San Francisco. (Don’t buy a new iPhone on launch day from an Apple Store; the lines are vastly shorter at carriers’ retail outlets.) The downside is that I have to return the thing before VzW’s 14-day trial period ends, lest I get stuck with a two-year contract when I’m already under contract with another carrier; the upside is being able to go ahead and do my job as a reviewer. Which is, you know, kind of liberating.

9/23/2012: Tip: Reconnect your Wi-Fi and test its speed, USA Today

This Q&A item has more abbreviations than I usually want to inflict on readers, but it’s hard to discuss technical networking issues without throwing a few around. The balance of the column shares tips about third-party tools that can assess your Internet connection’s speed; some of that dates to last winter’s reporting on Sonic.net’s gigabit fiber-optic service.