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: ECPA, WCIT, The Daily, search hijacking, router firmware

As that abbreviation-dense title might indicate, I wrote about policy issues more than usual this week.

12/3/2012: ECPA And The High Cost of Tech Short-Sightedness, Disruptive Competition Project

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act basically strips your e-mail of the usual protections against government snooping once it spends more than 180 days on the server. Now that Congress is finally moving to fix that flaw, some 26 years after passing ECPA, I thought it a good time to recap an issue I neglected at the Post–and to put it in the context of the trouble Congress has had future-proofing legislation about technology.

12/4/2012: A World Government For The Internet? Not So Fast, Discovery News

The International Telecommunications Union is having a 193-nation summit in Dubai this month, called the World Conference on International Telecommunications, and some of its participants want to see the ITU get a larger hand in running the Internet. I don’t think that will happen, but other mischief could happen over WCIT’s remaining week.

The Daily DisCo post12/4/2012: The Daily’s Demise: Another Secret Sauce For The News Business Dries Up, Disruptive Competition Project

I’m still irked at how the Post obsessed over the launch of News Corporation’s iPad publication, so of course I was going to write about The Daily shutting down less than two years into the experiment. A lot of other journalists had the same idea, but I hope I took it a little further by comparing the way publishers latched onto the hope of tablet apps with the news business’s other exercises in wishful thinking.

12/9/2012: Tip: If your search goes awry, it might not be your PC, USA Today

The post I cranked out here about my search-hijacking experience got enough attention (thanks for the link, Loop Insight) that I decided to write a less technically-inclined version for USA Today. I threw in a tip gained from my debugging attempts about updating firmware on a WiFi router; I had neglected that chore until I logged into its admin page to look for weird DNS settings and saw it had an update waiting.