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.

Weekly output: iPad mini (x), Windows 8 (x2), Lightning cable, OS X updates

Was there any surprise about which two stories would dominate my time this week?

10/23/2012: New iPad Mini Eats Steve Jobs’ Words, Discovery News

My reaction to Apple’s announcement of a smaller iPad had to remind readers of Steve Jobs’ lengthy explanation two years ago of the functional impossibility of a quality tablet experience on a screen smaller than 10 inches.

10/23/2012: Apple’s iPad Mini much pricier than rival tablets, Fox 5 News

That evening, the folks at the local Fox station had me on to talk about the iPad mini. Our conversation focused on the gap between its $329 starting price and the $199 cost of two smaller tablets, Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD. I left out the iPad mini’s lack of a Retina display, but then again I’m not sure I’ll notice that when using the thing. (I’ll find out soon enough, as I pre-ordered one on Friday; if I don’t like it enough to keep after writing up my reviews, Apple doesn’t charge a restocking fee.)

On Wednesday the 24th, I moderated a good panel discussion with Potomac Tech Wire’s Paul Sherman, the Washington Business Journal’s Bill Flook and the Washington Post’s Steven Overly about how tech reporters interact with public-relations types. But there’s no record of this event, hosted by the PR agency Environics Communications, besides a round of tweets.

10/25/2012: Windows 8 release, Fox 5 News

Two days later I was back in WTTG’s newsroom–even standing on the same marker tape on the floor–to talk about the impending arrival of Microsoft’s Windows 8. I spent most of this brief hit talking about its new, wildly different interface and didn’t even mention Windows RT and the Surface tablet. Considering that Microsoft has papered the Gallery Place Metro station with ads for Surface, that might not have been the best call.

10/27/2012: Windows 8: Twice The Interface, Third The Price, Discovery News

This review was supposed to run on Friday, but a miserable all-nighter of an installation experience ensured I’d need more time. I’m glad I took it; the insight that Windows 8’s new Start-screen user interface could be seen as a descendant of such simplified, media-playback front ends as Microsoft’s Media Center and Apple’s Front Row didn’t come to me until Saturday morning.

10/28/2012: Apple’s Lightning cable: Making the switch, USA Today

This is my attempt at summing up the long-term complications of Apple’s switch to a smaller cable for its mobile devices. Anybody want to bet how long it will be before cars that today ship with dock-connector cables will leave factories with Lightning cables instead? The column wraps up with a reminder about how you can repair a botched OS X patch installation by downloading a large “combo update” from Apple’s site.

To all reading this along the Northeast Corridor: Stay safe, stay dry, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Weekly output: new iPad, 4K, Web chat, DVD ripping, Facebook social apps

For some weird reason, this new tablet from Apple kept showing up in my work this week. How does that happen?

3/19/2012: The New iPad: A Super Screen and a Big Battery, Discovery News

When two different Discovery colleagues mentioned their interest in buying the new iPad, I opted for an unconventional product-review tactic: I offered to stand in line that Friday morning to make that purchase for them, on the condition that I get to spend a few days testing the hardware before turning it over. As a result, this is one of the few reviews of Apple’s latest tablet to feature photos taken of one new iPad with another.

3/20/2012: Retina displays, 4K TVs push pixel limits, CEA Digital Dialogue

My new-iPad coverage continued with a look at what its magical and revolutionary seriously impressive Retina display means for other handheld devices–and why TVs don’t need a similar beyond-high-def upgrade. This post involved way more math than usual and may have been the first time I’ve dealt with a tangent function since high school (if by “dealt with” you mean “plugged variables into a WolframAlpha equation form”).

3/23/2012: Spring Gleaning: Smartphones, Social Media and Tablets (Web chat), CEA Digital Dialogue

Unsurprisingly, the new iPad also prominently figured in this month’s Web chat. But I also got some good questions about secure browsing over public WiFi, a sluggish iPhone, problems syncing an iPad with iTunes over WiFi (I’m pretty sure that query came from one of my NASA Tweetup pals), rooting an Android phone, Windows 8’s clashing interfaces, phone screen sizes and my own uncertainty about what kind of phone to get next.

3/25/2012: Tip: How to copy a DVD to your PC, USA Today

The first item in this week’s column, recommending the open-source Handbrake for DVD ripping and revisiting my dislike of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention clause, began with a query from my neighbor across the street. The second started with an exchange on the DC Tech Facebook group complaining about the Washington Post’s Social Reader app.

Weekly output: Cookies and IP addresses, memes, Aereo, new iPad, SXSW

First SXSW ate up a chunk of my schedule, then a bizarre laptop malfunction on the way to the conference left me offline for most of a day. (On the first flight Friday, I realized that the keyboard wasn’t registering some keystrokes, then realized that it was no mere freak software malfunction; the entire damn thing is broken. Hi-larious.) So I’ve got less writing to my name than on average, much less compared to a week ago, and this recap comes to you a day late.

3/4/2012:  How Online Marketers Target You, USA Today

This week’s column explains two ways that advertisers can track you–or, more exactly, your computers and individual browsers on them. (Recommended follow-up reading: Atlantic tech writer Alexis Madrigal’s extended analysis of how close ad tracking might get to piercing the veil provided when sites only know us by IP addresses and cookies.) I also endorse using a site called Know Your Meme to figure out what all those crazy kids online are talking about this week.

3/7/2012: The Aereo Scenario: A TV Tune-Up On Trial, CEA Digital Dialogue

This research for this post began almost a year ago. One of my last acts as a Post reporter was a dinner meeting with the founders of a company then called Bamboom Labs, which hoped to bring over-the-air TV to reception-starved New Yorkers via the Internet. Since then the company has launched and drawn the inevitable lawsuits from broadcasters, and I’m not thrilled with the idea of banning a company from trying to sell what amounts to a better antenna. An express-permission-required economy is no formula for innovation.

3/7/2012: Things Unsaid In Apple’s New iPad News, Discovery News

In case you hadn’t heard, Apple sells a popular tablet computer called the iPad, and it announced a new version on Wednesday. Here, I take a look at some of the tradeoffs Apple made to upgrade this thing’s screen and camera resolutions and wireless data speeds–I’m particularly impressed with how much more battery capacity it holds on the inside.

3/10/2012: Why Doesn’t Congress Grok The Internet?, SXSW

Sadly, there’s no transcript or video of my session. But you can follow the real-time recaps of audience members by searching for the two Twitter hashtags the conference organizers suggested, #sxgroknet and #groknet.

Update, 3/24/2012: Since those Twitter links have expired, I used Topsy’s search tool to dig up those tweets; you can now read them in chronological order after the jump.

Continue reading

Weekly output: blog hosts, QAM, Kojo Nnamdi, iPad rumors, Web chat

This week involved more real-time interaction with readers than usual.

2/12/2012: Tip: For a personal Web page, keep it simple, USA Today

First a reader e-mailed to ask about the easiest way to host a blog under a personal domain name; then, between my filing this piece and USAT posting it, two friends asked me the same question. I guess the timing was right for the topic. The column also offers a tip that emerged from a comment thread here: You can recharge an iPad over any random charger with a USB port, not just a higher-powered model labeled as iPad-compatible.

2/14/2012: Qualms Over QAM, CEA Digital Dialogue

Here I discuss the cable industry’s proposal to encrypt the local, public, educational and government channels that “QAM” (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) tuners in digital TVs can receive without a box. Would you trade that–cable operators say encrypting QAM will free new customers from having to wait for the cable guy to show up–for the Federal Communications Commission making its “AllVid” proposal for box-free reception a standard for both cable and satellite? For further reading: The National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s Paul Rodriguez explains why cable operators don’t like the “traps” they now use to control access, while venture capitalist Fred Wilson argues for keeping clear QAM and providing the broadcast channels for free.

2/14/2012: Our Love/Hate Relationship with Email, The Kojo Nnamdi Show

I discussed ways to tame an overloaded inbox with WAMU host Kojo Nnamdi and two other guests, etiquette author Anna Post and IBM social-computing evangelist Luis Suarez. You hear more of me in the second half of the show, after Suarez’s call-in segment ended. (Tip: You can speak in paragraphs on public radio, but they have to be newspaper paragraphs.)

2/17/2012: The Only ‘iPad 3′ Story You Need To Read, Discovery News

The headline I wrote may oversell this story a bit–but, really, the feature set on the next iPad should not be that hard to figure out. And if this post isn’t the only next-iPad piece you elect to read, it’s certainly the only one I plan to write, just as I only wrote one next-iPhone post last year.

2/17/2012: Living a Connected Life (Web chat), CEA Digital Dialogue

My second monthly chat for CEA started a little slow, but I wound up getting enough questions from readers to stick around for an extra 15 minutes. One query I got confirmed my decision to devote next week’s CEA post to the upcoming reallocation of some spectrum from TV to wireless data mandated by this week’s payroll tax-cut bill. Another may yield an item for my USA Today column: how to connect an ’80s-vintage Nintendo NES (no, really) to an HDTV.