Web chat chit-chat

Since January, I’ve been doing a Web chat once a month at the Consumer Electronics Association’s blog. To run each chat, we picked a fairly popular, fairly obvious free service called CoverIt Live.

This has worked fairly well, aside from a couple of times where technical miscues at our end resulted in goofs like reader questions not showing up in the chat stream. But in June, CIL announced that it would drastically limit its free tier. (It’s owned by Demand Media, a company I’ve written about it before for its history of running “content farm” operations that mass-produce posts to fit Google search trends.) Now what?

We’ve got a variety of options to consider–see, for instance, Mandy Jenkins’ list of free CIL alternatives–but it looks like these top the list.

ScribbleLive: We’d pay $49.95/month for up to 10 GB of transfers, which a footnote explains would translate to about 14,000 page views. This seems like it would provide the closest equivalent to the current experience (and the pricing shuts down CIL’s $49/month “Lite” option, which only covers 2,500 vaguely-defined clicks a month).

Twitter chat: I’d designate a hashtag for the occasion (maybe #CEAchat?), then answer questions posted under that hashtag for the next hour or so. This would cost nothing, but it will clutter the Twitter timeline of followers even if they’re not interested in the chat, and somebody would have to archive these tweets later on using Storify or WordPress’s own tweet-embedding function.

Google+ Hangout On Air: The hangout feature on Google+ no longer requires viewers to have a G+ account, thanks to this recent addition that lets you stream a broadcast on YouTube. Upsides: free, simple, and video may allow more or my alleged personality to show through. Downside: harder to share Web links this way; less likely to show up in search results; I might have to clean up my home office.

Which of these appeals to you? Cast your vote below, then explain it in the comments.

About these ads

Weekly output: WWDC, tech policy, Web chat, prepaid iPhones

Happy Father’s Day, everyone. When I became a dad almost two years ago, a friend welcomed me to that new title by calling it “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I think he was right. And next to that, my last seven days of occupational output seem small in comparison.

6/11/2012: Apple’s WWDC News: iOS Hits The Road, Discovery News

After all of the pre-conference hype about Apple unveiling its own mapping solution for iOS 6, I found the reality presented at its Worldwide Developers Conference Monday morning in San Francisco to be a tad underwhelming and so ranked it fifth on my list of top-five WWDC announcements. Note that I had to update this post a couple of days later to reflect for the fact that this app will, contrary to Apple’s initial silence on the issue, include walking directions. But transit navigation could still be decidedly inelegant.

(Also note that I watched the keynote as almost all of you did: by viewing it online after Apple posted it a few hours later, on account of Apple not issuing me a WWDC press pass. I did, however, get a few peeks at iOS 6 from WWDC attendees Monday night.)

6/15/2012: TPS Report: The Election’s Missing Tech-Policy Issues, CEA Digital Dialogue

After mulling over two days of enlightening banter at the Tech Policy Summit, I wrote up a summary of that conference for CEA that closed by remarking on the allergy some Silicon Valley types have to engaging with Washington in any sustained manner. I may have to explore that at greater length in a future story–along with some other topics discussed at TPS, such as a proposal to hand governance of some core Internet protocols to the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union and the debate in Europe over mandating a “right to be forgotten” online.

6/15/2012: Mobile Minded (Web chat), CEA Digital Dialogue

The monthly Web chat focused almost entirely on smartphones and tablets, as it should have a week after WWDC and a week and change before Google’s I/O developer conference. The curiosity about iOS 6’s Maps and Passbook apps in particular struck me, so I know to focus on those when I review iOS 6 sometime this fall. I also got at least two questions that should work well for my USA Today Q&A, so that’s good as well.

Now, for a tech-support question of my own: CoverItLive, the DemandMedia site that provides the chat system we’ve used so far, is essentially doing away with its free option at the end of this month. CEA may elect to pay up, but there are alternatives to consider (see, for instance, Digital First Media journalist Mandy Jenkins’ list); if you have any recommendations, I’d like to know about them.

6/17/2012: Cricket or Virgin: What’s best iPhone deal?, USA Today

Not long after Cricket Wireless surprised me by announcing that it would start selling the iPhone, Sprint’s Virgin Mobile USA revealed that it, too, would sell Apple’s iPhone 4 and 4S at a higher cost but lower rates than Cricket. This post compares these two offerings–Virgin comes out ahead in coverage and pricing–and notes one difference left out of most stories on the topic: Cricket’s iPhone will be internationally unlocked for use on GSM services overseas, while Virgin’s can’t be switched to any other carrier. The column closes out with a reminder about taking better photos with a phone.

When review hardware goes bad

I hate it when this happens.

ImageThe low-battery logo you see at right comes from the screen of the Nokia Lumia 900 that I reviewed last week. That–and the AT&T logo it occasionally gets stuck on as the phone attempts to boot–represent the only signs of life this review model has shown since the weekend.

What I thought was an isolated charging problem–I was foolishly extrapolating from a gripe in TechnoBuffalo’s review about the phone not charging when powered off–seems to be a more serious issue, well beyond my ability to fix.

(No, I can’t pop out the battery; it’s sealed inside the 900’s case. The force-rebooting techniques suggested by Nokia PR haven’t worked either.)

In case you were convinced that all loaner hardware has been carefully inspected, massaged and polished to rule out any chance of failure, consider this as contrary proof. And it’s not even the first time this year I’ve had a loaner device go sideways; the Galaxy Nexus provided by Verizon drained its battery at a frightening rate with WiFi active and somehow saved a few photos without the usual timestamp.

Nokia says they’ll replace the defective phone, but in the bargain I have to count on them to wipe my info from the device. Not that I don’t trust them to do that–but I’m a lot more comfortable when review hardware heads home without any of my personal data on board.

This also means that if you come to my CEA Web chat–noon to 1 p.m. Eastern on this Friday April 13–with questions about the Nokia 900 or Windows Phone 7, I may have to wing some of my answers. But please stop by anyway.

Weekly output: Android security, CES answers, SOPA, Web chat, interview

This week was about a million times easier than my post-CES week last year–when two days after coming from Vegas, I was on the 7 a.m. Acela to New York to cover the introduction of the Verizon iPhone, followed by an 8 a.m. TV appearance the next morning. This time, I had time to linger at the State of the Net conference Tuesday and Wednesday (where I did a radio interview about SOPA that, sadly, doesn’t seem to be anywhere online) and edit, sort and caption my CES pictures into a semi-coherent photoset on Flickr.

1/15/2012: Security tip: Assess Android apps wisely, USA Today

The week’s summarizes the ways you can assess the quality of an Android app before installing it on the phone, then shares a lesson learned from my Christmas tech troubleshooting of an iPhoto problem on my mother-in-law’s computer.

1/18/2012: Why The Web Is Sick Of SOPA, Discovery News

Wednesday’s online protests provided a handy news peg to summarize the things I and many other Internet users hate about the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. One of them is the greedy, control-freak mindset behind these exercises in copyright overreach, as recently documented by News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch in a series of delusional tweets.

1/18/2012: CES 2012: Answers To Your Electronics Questions – Not All That You’ll Like, CEA Digital Dialogue

I’ve done a lot of CES recaps–including last week’s for Discovery–that focus on the new hardware on display at the electronics show. For this one, I opted to assess what sort of answers CES provided to some of the questions I hear most often about gadgets. Sorry, you won’t like the response the show coughed up about the future of smartphone battery life.

1/20/2012: Rob’s CES Recap, CEA Digital Dialogue

I did my first Web chat since my goodbye Q&A at the Post in April for CEA on Friday. (This was also my introduction to the CoverIt Live app I’ve seen used at many other sites.) About 10 minutes in, I realized how much I’d missed the experience–it’s good to be back in the saddle. The plan is to do these once a month at CEA’s site, although if there’s sufficient interest I wouldn’t have a problem with stepping up that frequency.

1/21/2012: January 21, 2012 — Kirk McElhearn, Daniel Eran Dilger, and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl Live

I was a guest on Gene Steinberg’s Tech Night Owl Live podcast. He interviewed me about Apple’s new iPad e-textbooks initiative (don’t put too much weight on my answers, since we spoke only an hour or so after the announcement and I hadn’t had much time to digest the details) and then my favorite political punching bag, SOPA. (This episode isn’t live on that page yet but should be sometime Saturday night. 1/22, 1:04 p.m. Now it is; I’ve added that link and corrected the title.)

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?