Weekly output: Alexis Ohanian, Snapchat, fitness gadgets, Mac webcam

As I type this, I’m on my way to my 17th CES in a row. My laptop and phone have advanced a great deal since 1998, that’s for sure.

DisCo Ohanian interview

1/2/2014: Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian: Current IP Laws Aren’t Much Of A Friend to Startups, Disruptive Competition Project

My final contribution at DisCo was an interview with Reddit’s founder, who’s since become both an investor and activist on many tech-policy issues. We talked about how a balanced intellectual-property system helped make Reddit possible–and how the same system doesn’t always offer much help for small companies whose own IP has been infringed.

1/2/2014: Snapchat experienced a security breach, WTOP

I talked to D.C.’s news-radio station about Snapchat’s inexcusably lax approach to security and how it’s harder to change a compromised phone number than a password.

1/3/2014: New fitness gadgets, Fox 5 News

WTTG’s Sarah Simmons quizzed me on what activity-tracking gadgets like the Jawbone Up and the FitBit can do to help you track your exercise–and how they’re at risk of being made obsolete by tools built into smartphones.

1/4/2014: Q&A: How can I re-install my laptop’s webcam?, USA Today

The column recounts how resetting my MacBook Air’s System Management Controller cured it of an inability to see its own webcam… except that when I opened the laptop this morning, the problem had returned. Either I didn’t do the SMC reset correctly, or this Mac has a deeper ailment. Either way, I hope I don’t have to Skype or FaceTime from this machine this week.

On Sulia, I inventoried the memes I ignored on Twitter this year (“Duck Dynasty” should have been on that list too, as I’ve never watched the show, have no interest in watching it and don’t care who’s on it), wondered why Google Now’s estimate of my cycling mileage in December missed my Capital Bikeshare rides, whined about Chrome asking for saved passwords on every restart (and then updated that post to share a fix), endorsed a great little Mac plug-in called “WordService” that adds editing tools to just about every other app, and teed off on Snapchat for its arrogant refusal to apologize.

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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: Google Now directions, Super PAC App, cheap smartphone tethering, phone discounts

This week’s list has a new site: The Atlantic’s excellent Atlantic Cities, which allowed me a chance to indulge my picky taste in transit user interfaces. I also filed a piece for CEA about a bill that aims to disrupt the patent-troll business model, but it hasn’t been posted yet.

8/22/2012: How Well Will ‘Google Now’ Get You Around? So Far, Not Very, The Atlantic Cities

I though the Google Now software in the Jelly Bean version of Android had a weird fixation on driving everywhere, but it doesn’t–this program just doesn’t know to recommend the fastest route regardless of mode. Then again, so do other navigation apps–and since Apple’s iOS 6 will exile transit and bicycling directions from its own Maps program, this problem will get worse.

The post also breaks a little news: Fairfax County’s Connector bus system has finally recognized the user-hostility of offering directions only through Metro’s clumsy Trip Planner site and will instead publish a GTFS schedule feed. That should let you look up Fairfax Connector service on third-party mapping sites–but not, it seems, Google. As GreaterGreaterWashington contributor Michael Perkins reminded me in an e-mail, the county has not signed a questionable legal agreement Google requires.

8/24/2012: App Tries to Name, Shame Campaign Ads, Discovery News

The Super PAC App iPhone program attempts to identify presidential TV ads by their soundtrack, then identify their source and provide links to stories that provide context and critiques of the ad’s claims. Great idea, but it could be more direct about indicating a spot’s trustworthiness, given the number of outright lies out there.

8/26/2012: Two ways to save on wireless data, USA Today

The weekly column addresses a question I’ve seen more than once: What’s the cheapest way to combine mobile phone service and residential broadband? It also offers a tip that I (ahem) should have acted upon months ago: Check to see if your wireless carrier offers a discount based on your employer, current or former school or even union membership or credit-union account.