Weekly output: e-mail privacy, 3-D printing, TV antennas, smartphone competition, sports networks, bargaining over TV bills

It’s not a total coincidence that I wrote as much about TV as I did in the week running up to one of the biggest televised events of the year.

1/28/2013: Why Can’t Web Services Compete To Protect My Data From The Feds?, Disruptive Competition Project

Reporting this one made me feel a little dumb when I realized that I could have had a nice little scoop weeks or months earlier if I’d just asked Google, Microsoft and Yahoo what they require before turning over a user’s e-mail data to the government. It turns out that all three go beyond the strict requirements of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in requiring a warrant–but that none seemed to think this was something worth bragging about.

1/29/2013: Hold Your Fire Before Freaking Out Over 3-D Printed Guns, Disruptive Competition Project

I started writing this post in December, then decided I didn’t like the last third of it and set it aside. I finally picked it up again after CES. Somewhat to my surprise, it only got one “you want to ban all guns” reply.

Discovery TV antennas review1/30/2013: Two Flat, Stick-On Antennas Tune In Free TV, Discovery News

I revisited the subject of over-the-air TV for the first time in over a year to review a couple of flat, lightweight antennas. Somewhat to my surprise, they worked better than the old set of rabbit ears I had plugged into the set downstairs (and unlike that antenna, I could put each one high enough on the wall to avoid becoming a plaything for our toddler). So I bought one of these models, the Mohu, and am now trying to figure out exactly where on the wall it will get the best reception of the three trickier network affiliates: ABC’s WJLA, CBS’s WUSA and PBS’s WETA.

2/1/2013: Will A Two-Party System Adequately Represent Smartphone Users?, Disruptive Competition Project

BlackBerry has a new operating system, but will it do any better than Microsoft’s Windows Phone? (I’ve been testing Windows Phone 8 on an HTC 8X; there are things I like about it, but the app selection really holds it back.) In this post, I express the possibly-futile hope that either BlackBerry or Microsoft can become a viable alternative to the increasingly entrenched duo of Apple and Google.

2/3/2013: How sports networks inflate your TV bill, USA Today

One of the people on my neighborhood’s mailing list asked about a new fee that Verizon was going to put on her bill to cover regional sports networks. I told her I’d see what else I could find out. The column also includes a reminder that TV rate hikes can, at least sometimes, be negotiable if your service thinks you’ll leave.

Sulia highlights this week included two more rants about the TV business–one on Verizon’s extortionate CableCard rate hike and another about the stupidity of making some Hulu content “Web-only”–and a post noting that the “Apple tax” is real when you look at what it costs to get more storage on an iPad.

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Weekly output: podcast, software updates, Nokia 900, Flashback and Java, Google seach tools

Can I count the hours I’ve put into getting my business expenses properly itemized and categorized for my taxes as part of this week’s work? Sure I can.

4/3/2012: Rob’s March Podcast: Sourcing, RIM Shot, Windows 8, “Free” 4G, CEA Digital Dialogue

In this month’s episode, I interview ABC News tech correspondent Andrea Smith about such recent tech tidings as Research In Motion’s travails, Microsoft’s Windows 8 preview release and NetZero’s semi-free 4G wireless service. I also update some of my recent CEA posts–in particular, the item I wrote about outsourced manufacturing. (I’d hoped that talking to a radio and TV pro would make editing the podcast easy, but then I had to work around some Skype dropouts anyway. Sigh.)

4/4/2012: Software-Update Policies Could Use An Upgrade, CEA Digital Dialogue

I didn’t want to write yet another post about the problem of smartphone manufacturers and carriers ending software updates for phones that are still under contract–but how could I not after comparing that example to the two years of free updates my TV received, or Microsoft’s 13-year commitment to Windows XP?

4/6/2012: Nokia’s Lumia 900: A New Deal For Smartphones, Discovery News

I expected good things from this phone after briefly inspecting it at CES and seeing the overall progress of Windows Phone 7. The results I saw don’t match up–especially the bizarre charging problem I encountered just before filing the piece, but also a continued shortage of quality apps even after Microsoft has thrown money at the problem. And yet: After all the issues I’ve enumerated with the iPhone and Android, I want a viable third option.

(I’m still waiting for confirmation from other Nokia 900 users of that charging issue–and for comments about the tax-prep commentary I hid in the photo I took for this review.)

4/5/2012: Secure your Mac from Flashback infection, USA Today

This post advocating disabling or removing Java went up a couple of days earlier than usual, on account of the scope of the Flashback drive-by-download problem on Macs. I take no pleasure in noting that I predicted something like this last May… okay, I take a little pleasure in that. The column also offers a reminder about a helpful but somewhat-hidden search option at Google. I was flattered to see it get a prominent spot on USAT’s home page and show up as the most-read story Saturday morning, as you can see in the screenshot at left.

And one more thing: Happy Easter!

Weekly output: Safari reloading, screenshots and privacy, Windows 8, SXSW and smartphones (x2), syncing, Android keyboards

I wrote the first three stories on this list using an external keyboard hooked up to my ThinkPad. That move came courtesy of the busted keyboard that stopped responding to certain keystrokes–including Enter, Backspace, 8 and h–sometime between my going to bed the night before SXSW and my getting on the first flight to Austin. That did not add to the business-travel experience.

3/11/2012: Tip: Avoid hiccups in Safari browsing, USA Today

I’m glad this column’s format doesn’t require using a specific reader’s name, because this problem comes from my own experience with Apple’s browser. (The day after this posted, Apple issued a 5.1.4 update to Safari that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t do much to solve the problem.) In the rest of the column, I offer a reminder that I too often leave out of pieces on privacy: If something online is sufficiently interesting, people will take a screengrab of it and share that image, regardless of whatever privacy settings once protected that item.

3/12/2012: Windows 8: The Shock Of The New, And The Old, Discovery News

I wanted to like Microsoft’s upcoming replacement for Windows 7. I still do. But blowing up a smartphone interface, Metro, to laptop-screen dimensions seems like a fundamental mistake. So does making touchscreen gestures critical to so many routine actions. Yes, many of my peers in tech journalism–see, for instance, ZDNet’s Ed Bott–have been far more positive about Windows 8. But most of those reviews were done on touchscreen tablets loaned by Microsoft , while I installed the Consumer Preview release alongside Win 7 on a non-touchscreen laptop.

3/13/2012: Smartphone Battery Life Goes South By Southwest, CEA Digital Dialogue

Forgive me for writing yet another rant about lame smartphone battery life–but my experience at the conference set a new low. And I wasn’t alone in this dilemma. The night after I wrote this, I found myself at a bar next to a spare power outlet. I plugged in my travel power strip and soon had people coming up to me with dead or dying phones, offering to trade a drink ticket for one of the remaining outlets on the strip.

3/16/2012: Which Apps Might Outlive SXSW, Discovery News

In retrospect, I could not have picked a much worse time for this post to go up–on the morning that Apple’s new iPad arrived, and only hours before the news of Mike Daisey’s duplicity would break. What was I thinking? Anyway, I do like how this piece turned out, so please read it when you get bored of reading about tablet computing and journalist standards–if not sooner.

3/18/2012: Tip: A cautionary tale about syncing, USA Today

I wasn’t sure this reader’s question about unexpected BlackBerry contacts syncing would be relevant enough until Andy Baio wrote a great piece for Wired.com about the perils of giving too many third-party apps access to your Web services. That inspired me to pivot from one person’s glitch to the larger issue of being too generous with access to our data. The balance of the column, a reminder to check for alternate software keyboards on an Android device, came about because commenters on my Boing Boing review of the Samsung Galaxy Note asked why I didn’t tell readers to switch from Samsung’s obnoxious keyboard.

Since I’ve now posted this summary on a Sunday two weeks in a row, I’m going to continue with that schedule. I trust that you all are okay with that. Also: If you don’t want to wait until the end of the week to see where I’ve been writing and/or find my Twitter feed too noisy, I’ve set up a tumblr blog under my LLC’s name, Prose Hacking, where I link to each story I’ve written more or less in real time. This is probably a misuse of tumblr, but–hey, I needed to develop a minimal level of competence with that platform, and I needed to do something with the domain name I registered for my company.

Weekly output: CES, CES and more CES (plus WiFi speed and BlackBerry woes)

What a long, strange week it’s been. CES accounted for the vast amount of my work since last Saturday–not to mention what must have been several thousand words’ worth of tweets–but this list does include one token item that has nothing to do with the electronics show.

1/8/2012: Tip: Simplify your Wi-Fi to speed it up, USA Today

I wrote this after troubleshooting my mom’s router over Thanksgiving–hers was set in Verizon’s default configuration of mixed-mode 802.11b and 802.11g support, and we saw notably better performance downstairs after switching it to “g” only. The rest of the piece rates Research In Motion’s chances: I rated them as dismal but not impossible, which enraged a few BlackBerry readers who took to the comments to say how much they loved their PlayBook tablets.

1/10/2012: Lessons from 15 years of change at CES, CEA Digital Dialogue

At the start of my 15th CES, I devoted this week’s post on their blog to how I’ve seen the show change and what those shifts mean for the electronics industry in general. After I’d filed it, though, I realized that I could have written a more distinctive show-opening column by grading the analysis I’d written of the last two shows. (For one thing, I was too optimistic about Android tablets after CES 2011.) Can you all remind me about that next January?

1/13/2012: Displays Get Bigger, Thinner and More Costly, Discovery News

My state-of-the-show piece for Discovery looked at changes I saw afoot at CES across five categories of screens: TVs, computers, tablets, phones and–oh, yes–watches. It closes with a jab at the single biggest problem in the electronics industry, one that’s always more painful at CES: inadequate battery life in portable gadgets.

1/13/2012: Mediatwits #33: CES Jumped the Shark?; SOPA Battles; Google+ in Search, PBS MediaShift

The hosts of PBS’s Mediatwits program, Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, interviewed me and Techdirt’s Mike Masnick about our takes on CES, the Stop Online Piracy Act and CES attendees’ dislike of it, and the general history of tension between the entertainment and electronics histories. Mike and I are on from about the five-minute mark to 23 minutes in.

1/13/2012: Top Strange And Impractical Tech From CES 2012, Discovery News

The headline on this slide show might be a little unfair; while OLED TV sets may not be anything more than technology for the 1 percent and overinflated phones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note just look ridiculous, I could see myself buying an Ultrabook and am certainly interested in trying cameras that do better at teaming up with phones over WiFi. Plus, isn’t the robot on the last page cute? To iOS and most Android users reading this, who can’t see the Flash presentation of this gallery on Discovery’s site: my apologies.