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.

About these ads

Questions about the gun conversation

So it happened again this week: Some nutcase with a gun killed a bunch of people he’d never met before. Three weeks ago, it was 12 dead in Aurora, Colo.; on Sunday, six died in Oak Creek, Wisc.

Stylized close-up of cover art from George Pelecanos’s “The Sweet Forever,” an excellent detective novel that involves a great many guns.

(Disclosure, part 1: I started writing this post after Aurora, got distracted and set it aside, figuring that news would make it relevant again eventually. I didn’t know the wait would be so short.)

(Disclosure, part 2: I have shot guns a few times at targets, once including popping off a few rounds with an M16, and I enjoyed those experiences. I have also had a gun put to my head during a mugging. I did not enjoy that.)

For the second time in three weeks, we are talking about firearms regulation and the Second Amendment with few expectations of things changing. I have some questions about this unproductive conversation.

Could we have a little more context about the relative scope of the problem? Violent crime overall is down, way down, even as we’ve steadily loosened gun regulation; you face a higher risk of death from a car than a gun, and the majority of gun deaths are self-inflicted. (Mass shootings, however, have remained stubbornly steady; why is that?)

Can we agree that, NRA-engineered paranoia aside, nobody is going to confiscate everybody’s guns in the United States? (I will strikethrough the preceding sentence when Democrats launch a serious campaign to repeal the Second Amendment.)

Can we also agree that the Second Amendment permits reasonable limits on who can own a gun, what kinds of guns they can own and where they can take them? Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller striking down D.C.’s handgun ban is clear about that. So can we move on to debate Second Amendment-compliant limits from a public-health perspective, assuming we ever get conclusive data?

Do news stories provide an accurate picture of what most gun owners are like? (One of my neighbors is a competitive target shooter and Navy vet; he and his wife are the people we trust with a spare key to our house.)

To those who have written, sometimes convincingly, that no current or politically plausible gun regulations would prevent an Aurora or an Oak Creek: Are these just unavoidable random tragedies, much like the far higher casualties we tolerate on our roads? Or do you have suggestions for a more effective response by government–like, say, better mental-health care?

If those suggestions instead boil down to “more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens in more places”–well, don’t we have enough in circulation already? We are already the most heavily armed country in the world. Should I not regard the idea that security lies in individual citizens packing heat on their daily errands, staying in a state of perpetual alertness, as a confession of a failure of civilization?

If a post like this counts as “politicizing the tragedy,” when would be a better time? Is there a mandatory waiting period for this sort of thing?