Weekly output: a changed Microsoft, wireless carriers, Windows 10 WiFi sharing

Something weird happened this week: Apple only got a few passing mentions in my coverage.

7/28/2015: Windows 10 Is the Product of a Chastened, Changed Microsoft, Yahoo Tech

My contribution to Yahoo’s coverage was this essay about how little the Microsoft of 2015 resembles the less-likable company of 1995. Many of the readers who showed up in the comments were not persuaded; I don’t know that my replies convinced them, but they may have persuaded others in the audience.

Wirecutter best-carriers guide updated7/29/2015: The Best Wireless Carriers, The Wirecutter

My first major update to this guide since February covered such developments as Sprint and T-Mobile’s continued coverage improvements, T-Mo’s free North American roaming, reports showing higher data use, and third-party reviews that continue to place Verizon’s coverage on top.

7/31/2015: Making sense of Windows 10’s Wi-Fi sharing, USA Today

Going into this week, I thought I should pick something Windows 10-related for the weekly Q&A. Then the fuss over Win 10’s misunderstood “Wi-Fi Sense” gave me a topic timely enough for my editor to post the column two days early.

Installing Windows 10 on an old, slow ThinkPad: success, mostly

I asked for trouble Thursday night and didn’t get it: I installed Windows 10 without first backing up the PC, then I blithely accepted every default setting during the setup, and things pretty much worked out.
Windows 10 desktop with notificationsThe machine in question was the ThinkPad X120e I bought in the spring of 2011. It got me through my first year of freelancing, but I’ve since relegated it to fact-checking duties when I cover a Windows topic. Its cut-rate AMD processor is too slow, and the SSD I put in place of its original hard drive–mostly as a research project–is short on space after I reserved a partition for a Linux install I have yet to undertake.
(I should have spent extra on a more robust configuration. In my defense, I was unemployed at the time.)
But even a slow, wheezing laptop running Windows 10 had to be an upgrade over a slow, wheezing laptop running Windows 8. So after waiting a day for Microsoft to deliver the free Win 10 upgrade I’d reserved, I used Whitson Gordon’s tip at Lifehacker to download it myself. The Get Windows 10 app had already confirmed my ThinkPad was compatible, leaving my only required pre-install chore clearing out room on the SSD. The disk-cleanup wizard got maybe a quarter of the job done, and I took care of the rest by moving out some old videos.
After the installer checked for and downloaded some updates, I went ahead with the installation at 10:36 p.m. Here’s my log of what happened next:
• Step one: yet another round of checking for updates.
• Actual install, in which I went with the default of keeping personal files and apps, began 10:42.
• 11:16: First reboot.
• 11:18: “Upgrading Windows: Your PC will restart several times. Sit back and relax.”
• After being seemingly stuck at 88% of the copying-files stage, another reboot at 12:04 a.m. put me at 30% complete overall and in the “Installing features and drivers” phase.
• 12:22: One more reboot.
• 12:36: After another reboot, the machine welcomed by name and asked if I wanted to use Microsoft’s “Express Settings.” Sure, why not?
• 12:39: “Hi. We’re setting things up for you. This won’t take long.”
• My one moment of anxiety: “It’s taking a bit longer than usual, but it should be ready soon.” Below it, in smaller type: “Don’t turn off your PC.”
• 12:47: Voila, the computer booted into the Windows 10 desktop!
Windows 10 storage settingsThis was nothing like my nightmarish experiences loading the preview version of Windows 8 and the insanely prolonged installation of the final build–I feel tired just reading my notes about that ordeal. This upgrade also went by faster than Windows 8.1’s installation, which somehow dragged on for two hours and 35 minutes.

Two days later, the ThinkPad seems to be running fine and is unquestionably more pleasant to be around than when it ran Win 8. The only real issue I’ve seen is that Cortana is slow to respond and hasn’t talked me to except when I was adjusting a few of her settings. I don’t know why that is but am not inclined to work too hard to fix it, since this laptop is overdue for an upgrade anyway.

On the other hand, I only see a few Windows 10 laptops with USB-C power inputs. (Have I mentioned I don’t like proprietary AC adapters?) So maybe I’ll be spending a little more seeing how Windows 10 runs on this old thing. I suppose this also means I should finally pick a Linux distribution to put on that spare partition.

Weekly output: community broadband, worst Windows, talking to startups, Google apps on Gogo WiFi

Another weekend in which I did not get as much down time as I’d hoped, courtesy of some additional work coming my way. So goes freelance life sometimes… although I remember the same thing happening, without any extra income, when I was a full-time employee.

1/20/2015: Obama’s Community-Broadband Plan: 4 Ways to Understand His State of the Union Pitch, Yahoo Tech

When we posted this story, we all thought municipal broadband would get at least as much of a mention in the State of the Union address as space exploration. Then that didn’t happen. Oops.

1/21/2015: The Worst Version of Windows Is…, Yahoo Tech

Sometimes, I struggle with columns. Not this time: I wrote the whole thing in basically one take, and I had fun doing it.

1/23/2015-1/24/2015: Media Match, Collaborate

I spent about 45 minutes Friday and Saturday hearing a parade of startup founders take three minutes to explain their idea, answer my questions and ask some of their own. As in prior years when I’ve participated in this part of the D.C.-area “entrepreneurship community” Fosterly’s conferences, I came away reminded of how impressive it can be to watch somebody excel at in-person sales, and how often that doesn’t happen.

USAT column on free Google apps on Gogo1/25/2015: Use Google apps over Gogo Wi-Fi for free, USA Today

I got the idea for this on a flight last October, but I held off on writing it up until I’d had enough conversations with enough people at Gogo to be reasonably confident that publicizing this loophole wouldn’t ruin it for everybody. The tip at the end of this avgeek-oriented column about using an Android phone’s GPS on a plane should be familiar to those of you who followed my microblogging experiment at Sulia. But since that startup’s shutdown last October wiped those posts off the Web, I’ve felt no guilt about recycling the ideas behind them.

Weekly output: Windows XP (x2), Google Docs

It really is extraordinary (or maybe just sick) that this past week saw me still writing about an operating system that debuted in 2001.

Yahoo XP story in IE 64/8/2014: Die, XP, Die! Why the Operating System from 2001 Won’t Go Away, Yahoo Tech

I’ve been looking forward to writing this column for several years, and when the end of Microsoft’s support for Windows XP finally arrived I found it strangely enjoyable to revisit stories I’d written five and 10 years ago about XP. I’ve since heard from a few readers who say they prefer XP to Windows 7 or 8 not just because they need to run legacy apps or don’t want to buy a new PC, but because XP is easier. I’m wary of questioning a reader’s subjective judgment, but… um, no.

(Screenshot shows how the story renders in a copy of Internet Explorer 6 in Windows XP. Don’t ask how I sourced that image.)

4/8/2014: Windows XP, WTOP

I talked for a few minutes about the end of XP support and what users of that fossilized malware magnet of an operating system could do to stay safe.

4/13/2014: Why your browser doesn’t like copy and paste, USA Today

To judge from the low number of Facebook and Twitter shares displayed next to this story, almost nobody read my attempt to concisely how the intersection of browser security models with Web apps that look and work like local ones can lead to dysfunctional results. I’ll try to find a more enticing topic next week.

Weekly output: NSA surveillance, PR and the press, digital journalism, Android-iPad photo sync, deleting photos, Republic Wireless

On my first week back from vacation, I attempted to catch up with the NSA-surveillance story and took part in a couple of great panel discussions. I’d hoped to get a little more writing done, since I’ll be in New York from Tuesday through Thursday for the Consumer Electronics Association’s CE Week conference.

6/18/2013: More Tech Firms Now Question Government Snooping. What About Congress?, Disruptive Competition Project

My timing on this piece–in which I expressed my appreciation and alarm that large tech companies, in which I have no vote, seem to be doing a better job of advocating for our civil liberties online than the elected representatives we hired to do that–was pretty good. Maybe two hours after it went up, Google filed suit to challenge the gag orders that prohibit it from discussing the decisions handed down to it by the secretive, compliant and largely unaccountable Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

6/19/2013: Behind the Story: Breakfast Series With the Media, Cision

I talked about the intersections of journalism, PR and social media with the Washington Business Journal’s Jennifer Nycz-Conner, USA Today’s Melanie Eversley and moderator Shonali Burke. There should be video posted soon, and I’ll add a link when that happens.

Vocus panel photo6/20/2013: The Evolving State of Digital Journalism, Demand Success

I talked about some of the same topics, plus such bigger-picture issues as how much the chase for Web traffic should influence story assignments, at the marketing firm Vocus’s conference with WJLA journalist Jummy Olabanji. Tech Cocktail co-founder Jen Consalvo and moderator Paul Sherman of Potomac Tech Wire. Again, I’ll link to video whenever it’s posted. (There’s more at my Flickr set from the event, which took place at the the Gaylord National hotel in National Harbor, Md.)

6/23/2013: Tip: Google+ transfers photos between Android and iPad, USA Today

This question came straight from my father-in-law, who had just picked up a new iPad and upgraded from one Android phone to a newer model. The tip part of the column advises making a habit of deleting lesser photos to develop your photographic skills; I remember writing something like that for the Post but I can’t find it anywhere now.

6/23/2013: A $19 Unlimited Smartphone Plan: Just Add Wi-Fi, Discovery News

I tried out Republic Wireless’s WiFi-centric smartphone service and liked it, aside from the embarrassingly obsolete Android phone this company hopes to replace with a newer model soon. (Update, 7/1: I didn’t realize this at the time, but Mashable reposted the story, as part of a content-sharing deal it has with Discovery. And now I have a bunch of comments to read…)

On Sulia, I noted the demise of ESPN’s 3D channel, reported on my experience with the “Auto Enhance” photo editing at Google+, discussed NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen’s thoughtful presentation at Demand Success, described my experience getting a cracked iPad screen repaired and suggested a few tools to help you spot the International Space Station overhead.

Weekly output: Apple coverage, Xbox One, CTIA, MVNOs and the lack of broadband wholesaling

A long weekend is a good way to end a second workweek spent mostly out of D.C. (I did get home from CTIA in time to sleep in my own bed Thursday night, except it was Friday morning by the time our weather-delayed flight pulled up to the gate at National.)

5/20/2013: Looking for love, or a business icon to shower with adulation, BusinessJournalism.org

My old Post colleague Phil Blanchard writes a column for the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, and in this week’s post he quoted my thoughts what makes so much Apple coverage vapid and vaporous.

5/21/2013: Xbox One: So That’s Why ‘Xbox’ Sounds So Vague, Discovery News

Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One don’t-call-it-a-game-console has the ambitious goal of becoming the new interface for TV, but how will it do better than the last big-name attempt to get the cable or satellite box out of the picture–Google TV?

USAT CTIA report

5/23/2013: At CTIA, smaller phone vendors take center stage, USA Today

This is my first–and, if there’s any justice in the world, my last–piece to be illustrated with a photo of Jennifer Lopez. (Credit for that goes to Verizon Wireless, which announced a marketing deal with her Viva Móvil phone-retail chain at CTIA.)

As you can see in the comments, one of the vendors I mentioned either gave me the wrong info about its water-resistant treatment for phones or I misunderstood them–it’s not quite clear which. I invited their PR guy to leave a comment about those while I forwarded his request for a correction, and he surprised me a bit by accepting the invitation.

5/24/2013: Wireless Says “MVNO” To Resellers, Residential Broadband Just Says No, Disruptive Competition Project

I was struck by how many interesting resellers of the major carriers’ networks showed up at CTIA, and then it hit me: Why is this kind of wholesaling so common in wireless and so rare in residential broadband? I asked around and came up with a few theories that may explain it.

I’d usually have my USAT Q&A listed here, but they’re holding that for Monday. I trust you all can hold out that long.

On Sulia, I posted a bunch of items from CTIA: for instance, Lopez’s appearance, a Bluetooth-controlled deadbolt lock, and the absence of most big-name vendors. I also noted how Flickr’s otherwise-welcome changes can leave Flickr Pro users feeling a little unloved and–D.C. commuters take note–reported that non-Verizon phones now work in a lot more of Metro’s underground stations, maybe all of them.

Weekly output: Android fragmentation, first-sale doctrine, transparency reports, This Week In Law, iPhoto corruption, geotagging

This time of year can bring the potential for serious college-hoops distraction–but not for me, since I was relieved of that worry Friday night. No, I’m not bitter…

3/18/2013: With so much fragmenting, is Android still a single OS?, IT Knowledge Exchange

My friend Ron Miller quoted me at some length in a post about the state of the Android union. Does the linguistic metaphor I chose to describe things work for you?

DisCo Kirtsaeng post3/20/2013: Kirtsaeng Dissent Reminds Us Of The Risks Of Foreign Entanglements In Copyright Policy, Disruptive Competition Project

The Supreme Court said the first-sale doctrine–the idea that once you buy a copy of a copyrighted work, you actually own that copy and can loan it, sell it or donate it as you wish–doesn’t evaporate if the copy in question was published overseas. I liked that ruling; in this post, I argued that the dissent to it unintentionally exposed some non-trivial flaws in how we construct copyright policy. I enjoyed this rare chance to dust off my Georgetown education in international relations and law.

3/22/2013: Forget Your Annual Report, Where’s Your Transparency Report?, Disruptive Competition Project

I thought Microsoft was smart to follow Google’s lead in documenting how many inquiries about its users it gets from law enforcement around the world–and that other tech companies should learn from this example.

3/22/2013: #203: Power Hour Pounding, This Week In Law

I was back on this podcast for the first time since last July, and this time the chatter focused heavily on drinking. I assure you that there were serious intellectual-property dimensions to that part of the conversation I had with fellow guest Ali Spagnola and TWiL hosts Denise Howell and Evan Brown.

(Fun fact: Until writing this, I didn’t realize that my phone includes ringtones by Spagnola.)

3/24/2013: Tip: Repair mode in iPhoto will restore thumbnail icons, USA Today

I was a little worried that my Q&A about dealing with iPhoto database corruption was a little esoteric, but then a reader commented on my Facebook page about her substantially-worse experience: “My entire database was corrupted [….] I had masters and edited pics existing in different places.” There’s also a reminder about not letting a phone’s geotagging function expose where you live.

On Sulia, I quoted approvingly from the Supreme Court’s Kirtsaeng ruling, explained why I’m not too interested in Google Keep, gave some early praise to Microsoft’s transparency report (that item got a mention on Slashdot), and commented on the fallacy of complaining about “taxing Internet sales”