Weekly output: Facebook Messenger, Evernote business-card scanning, right to be forgotten, Miracast

This week allowed me to cross one tech-related item off my bucket list: operate a soldering iron without injury to myself or anybody else. More on that later…

8/5/2014:Facebook May Be Addicted to Apps, but You Don’t Have to Be, Yahoo Tech

Facebook’s decision to make Android and iPhone users of its regular app install a separate Messenger app to continue chatting with their pals is not earning many Likes. This post compared that move by Facebook to Foursquare moving check-ins to Swarm–but now that Foursquare has shipped a complete rewrite of its core app that reinvents its privacy model, I don’t mind that split as much.

8/5/2014: 3 Flops from Facebook (and 1 from Twitter), Yahoo Tech

Remember when Facebook was going to reinvent e-mail? Yeah, that was awesome. Consider this post my own penance for all the words I wrote about Facebook Messages back in 2010.

VentureBeat Evernote review8/6/2014: Here’s how Evernote’s business card scanning feature tackled 1,333 cards, VentureBeat

I had planned to use Evernote’s card-scanning feature to dispatch all the cards cluttering my desk, then decided I might as well try to sell a review of the experience. If you were wondering about the creature with the oversized eyes shown up close in the app in my photo, it’s a tarsier on the card of O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly.

8/8/2014: Can Europe Force Search Engines to Censor Information You’re Looking for on the Internet? Assessing the Right to be Forgotten, Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee

I enjoyed debating the European Union’s dubious doctrine with Internews’ Mike Godwin, Future of Privacy Forum policy counsel Joe JeromeEmma Llansó of the Center for Democracy and Technology, Intel global privacy officer David Hoffman, and moderator Michael Kubayanda. Courtesy of Congress being on recess, this was broadcast on C-SPAN–C-SPAN 1, even.

8/10/2014: Windows can do wireless displays, but watch for glitches, USA Today

Only five days after a reader asked me about this on Twitter, my column answering that query ran. Not unrelated: I’m still awaiting answers on the other topic I’d pitched to my editor, so it was this topic or nothing.

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Weekly output: 4K UHD TV, Tech Night Owl, stolen phones

This week was a lot less productive than I’d hoped, even factoring in Monday being a holiday and most of Tuesday’s schedule getting canceled out by snow and sub-freezing temperatures. I’m going to be paying for that this week.

1/20/2014: All of the Potential Problems with 4K TV, Yahoo Tech

This was set to be last week’s column until the net-neutrality ruling upended my schedule. Considering that nobody’s rushing out to buy UHD sets before the Super Bowl, I don’t think the delay hurt this post too much.

1/25/2014: January 25, 2014 — Adam Engst and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

I returned to Gene Steinberg’s podcast to talk about my new role at Yahoo Tech, net neutrality, the Mac’s 30th birthday and more.

USAT stolen-phones update1/26/2014: Tip: Serial number can’t recover stolen smartphone, USA Today

Barely a year has elapsed since I’d last covered find-my-phone apps in my USAT column, but two major changes have come around since that piece: Google offering its own, free phone-finder app for Android, and increased attention to the lack of a persistent kill-switch feature for smartphones beyond iOS 7′s capability and Absolute Software’s aftermarket Lojack app for some Samsung Android devices. Besides, the reader asked for help nicely.

On Sulia, I noted my old Washington Post colleague Ezra Klein’s departure from the paper, voiced some anger about a Kafkaesque overreaction by law enforcement and the MPAA to somebody wearing Google Glass to a movie, griped about bad USB-port placement and the stubborn survival of obsolete music formats in cars shown off at the Washington Auto Show (yes, you’ve read those two rants before), and reported about my experience using Absolute’s software to wipe and lock a Galaxy Note 3.

Post-CES travel-tech recap, 2013 edition

Last week was a little busy. I flew to Las Vegas to cover CES, walked several miles each day trying to stay on top of show events, wrote and spoke at length about it, ran into Vint Cerf (who, no kidding, asked for help getting on the Internet) and met Bryce Harper (I told him thanks and good luck). And I subjected various hardware and software to the cruel and unusual punishment of five days at the electronics show.

CES 2013 travel techHere’s how technology worked out compared to last year–and 20102009 and 2008.

This time, I left my 2011-vintage ThinkPad at home in favor of the lighter, faster MacBook Air I bought last summer. The battery life and backlit keyboard were great; I was not so fond of having to break out an Ethernet adapter (not Apple’s, but a $10 Monoprice model that worked just as well once I went to the trouble of installing drivers for it) when I didn’t want to take my chances with WiFi.

But–this is going to sound crazy–the WiFi actually worked at lot more often at CES this year. Even in the past-fire-code-packed Samsung press conference, where the Mandalay Bay convention center’s wireless somehow never dropped. I would love to think that we’re learning a few things about scaling this technology.

I did my standup computing on two loaner smartphones I’d packed, an unlocked Galaxy Nexus on a prepaid T-Mobile SIM and an HTC 8X Windows Phone unit on Verizon. Both were a lot better than the smartphones I took last year–even though one of them was a Verizon LTE Galaxy Nexus. (Yes, the VzW Nexus was that bad.)

I employed the HTC phone and its faster, more reliable LTE connection for a fair amount of tethered access. That worked fine in my hotel room but was almost unbearably unreliable in crowded settings like Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs’ bizarre keynote. As in, the one where Jacobs kept going on about how awesome our wireless future was going to be.

I took more photos with the 8X than with the Nexus, but I still spent more time on the Android phone. I blame Twitter–specifically, its buggy, clumsy excuse for a Windows Phone client. The Nexus also had slightly better battery life, but I was pleasantly surprised to see I didn’t have to recharge both phones by lunch every day.

The one application I used most often was Evernote. Once again, it was terrific to be able to start a note on one device, then seamlessly pick it up on another. And once again, I could not get through the week without a synchronization hiccup resulting in conflicting modifications that I had to reconcile by going over two copies of the same note to see which one was newer.

For photo editing, I used mostly iPhoto, with OS X’s Preview handling some basic cropping. My word processor? Don’t laugh: OS X’s TextEdit, combined with the free WordService plug-in, sufficed to generate copy to paste into an e-mail or a blog post.

I brought an old Canon point-and-shoot camera (some of its work is on display in the Flickr set shown after the jump). It was fine in most cases, but there’s no way I’d take that to another CES. Modern cameras have better resolution, low-light performance and telephoto reach, and now camera vendors also seem to have agreed that they all should support automatic picture transfers to cameras for on-the-go sharing.

The photo above shows the two other major pieces of technology I brought: the Belkin travel surge protector that avoided “who gets the last outlet?” awkwardness in various press rooms, and the nerdy Airbeltbag messenger bag that distributed the weight of my gadgets sufficiently well to keep my shoulder from feeling completely destroyed. Continue reading

Post-CES travel tech recap, 2012 edition

One of the things I try to do after each CES–catch up on sleep, do laundry and cook for myself for the first time in a week–is note how the technology I took with me to the show worked out.

I did that in 2008, 2009 and 2010 for the Post, but apparently I was too wiped out after CES and the Verizon iPhone circus too repeat the exercise last year. This time around, I had a lot of new hardware on hand, and I was also able to switch out some of the software I’d used in previous years.

My laptop at this year’s show was the Lenovo ThinkPad X120E I bought in April. I continue to enjoy its light weight (3.3 lbs.) and extended battery life (four hours of nonstop work is no problem), and at a wireless-hostile show like CES it’s handy to have a laptop with a conventional Ethernet port.

But this ThinkPad is not a fast machine. At all. I’ve been planning to replace its hard drive with a solid-state drive, which should help a bit; in the meantime, it’s not a bad computer for writing and simple photo editing. And, hey, it only cost $500 or so.

About photos: After ditching Google’s Picasa a while back–it was too much work getting at edited photos from inside other programs–I usually alternate between Microsoft’s Windows Live Photo Gallery and Paint.Net. I used the latter app almost exclusively at CES for a reason irrelevant to most of you: Discovery News’s blog format requires specific photo sizes, and Paint.Net makes it easy to crop a photo to a set proportion.

The best photos I took came from the oldest hardware in the image above, the Canon A570 IS camera I’ve had since 2007. Once I got home, I used Apple’s iPhoto to upload everything to a Flickr set.

I carried my own phone, the battered HTC model at the bottom left of the photo, but used it much less often than the two review models above it, also Android-based: a Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Verizon and an LG Nitro HD on AT&T. I’ll save my full evaluation of both for later, but I will say I’m not the biggest fan of the Nexus for its battery drain, the two freeze-ups I could only cure by removing its battery, and its maddening failure to save a timestamp on several photos. The Nitro, in turn, suffered from LG’s puzzling and unnecessary alterations to the standard Android interface.

I took most of my notes on Twitter, which was terrific for real-time sharing but inconvenient afterwards. As noted before here, Storify is useless as an archiving tool, since I’d have to drag and drop 300 or so tweets one at a time; I may try TweetBackup instead. I didn’t use Evernote as much as in prior years, and this time around its utility was undercut when the app crashed a couple of times, taking my most recent input with it in each case. That raises a question: Why does its Android version have a “Save” button at all when the Windows and Mac editions save every keystroke automatically?

I took along one extra item, a Belkin travel surge protector. Being able to turn one outlet into three–plus two powered USB ports–simplified recharging everything in my hotel room. It was also an enormous help (and a good conversation piece) in crowded press rooms.

The luggage you see underneath is a messenger bag called an Airbeltbag that I got as a Christmas gift. Yes, that’s a real airline seat-belt buckle you see latching it closed. The TSA guy at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas and a publicist for the Tripit travel-planning app got a kick out of that, but I also appreciated that this bag will not accidentally open once you insert the metal fitting into the buckle. I just wish the zippered pocket on the outside had some pouches on its inside for pens and business cards.

If you have questions about any of this gear–or, more importantly, my coverage of the show, including the wrap-up I did for the Consumer Electronics Association this week–you can ask me in real time at tomorrow’s Web chat. It runs from noon to 1 or so at CEA’s blog. This will be my first live Q&A since my finale at the Post back in April, so I’m looking forward to it. Talk to you all then?