Weekly output: IFA, Pay TV 3.0, everything as a service, where to buy an iPhone 11, iOS needs a kids’ mode

If you’re going to have a bunch of long-in-the-works stories finally post, you could pick a worse time than the week you’re at a journalism conference. This coming week has me at a different event: the Competitive Carriers Association’s conference in Providence, where I’m moderating a panel discussion on 5G wireless in rural areas. (Yes, readers, the title of that panel is 100 percent my fault.)

9/9/2019: 3 ways tech has gone astray at Berlin electronics show, USA Today

USAT took a day or two to post this, for which I was grateful–that lag gave me time to remember to throw in a quote that I’d forgotten to include when I first filed this last Sunday morning before flying home from Berlin.

9/10/2019: What ‘Pay TV 3.0’ will mean for viewers and channels, FierceVideo

This story started with the panel I moderated at a conference this this trade pub hosted outside of Denver in May, hence the above long-in-the-works comment.

9/10/2019: “Everything as a service” is coming—but we’re not there quite yet, Ars Technica

Some of you saw this feature on cloud services briefly appear last week before it vanished without explanation. As Lee Hutchinson, senior tech editor at Ars, later explained in a comment, the story got posted early by mistake. Yes, that is apparently a thing that is possible.

Since the first instance of this story didn’t feature any ads from its sponsor HPE–Ars correctly did not tell me the sponsor’s identity until after I’d filed copy that didn’t mention that firm anyway–it looks like the problem was some mixup on the advertising end.

Anyway, about this lengthy post: Researching the finer points of cloud storage and management services had me leaning well over my skis, but the experience left me with some helpful new sources to consult the next time I’m writing about cloud security and privacy.

9/12/2019: Ordering iPhone 11? The one thing wireless carriers might not want you to know, USA Today

You sort of have read this story before, and you will probably keep reading this as long as most of the major carriers continue to lock phones sold on installment-payment plans.

9/12/2019: The one feature Apple should have added to iOS 13 and iPadOS, Yahoo Finance

My daughter gets credit as the assignment editor on this: Handing over an iPad for her limited allotment of screen time kept reminding me of how unhelpful iOS is in this scenario. I could have written this any time in the last few years, but the impending release of Apple’s iOS 13 and iPadOS–neither with a real kids’ mode–provided a news peg for this story.

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Flying on September 11

NEW ORLEANS–I marked Sept. 11 this year by getting on a plane. That wasn’t my first such observance.

Sept. 11 landing at EWRThis year’s flight brought me here for the Online News Association’s conference. In prior years, I’ve flown on 9/11 for TechCrunch Disrupt and CTIA’s conferences… looking through my calendar, I thought I’d done this more often. Some of those years, it turns out, I flew on the 10th or the 12th of September.

Is it weird that I wish I’d flown more often on Sept. 11?

I have paid my respects at all the 9/11 sites: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanskville, Penn. Those were intensely meaningful visits, and every American who is able should see least one of those memorials.

But another way you can honor this day is to spend time above the clouds.

Today was a good day to do that. I was glad to connect through Newark, so I could see Manhattan’s reborn skyline from the air, then take a moment to appreciate the memorial United employees set up near gate C120 for the crews of UA 93 and UA 175.

A friend has called flying on this day her act of defiance. I’m not sure I’d give myself that much credit. But going to an airport, boarding a plane, and showing a little solidarity with the people of commercial aviation does seem like a decent thing to do.

Weekly output: Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV, social-media propaganda, IFA

I’m back from Berlin and my eighth IFA is in the books. I feel more wiped out than usual from jet lag, maybe because my five-hours-late departure Monday left no time for me to walk around the city Wednesday afternoon and get some sunshine into my head. I had better be recovered in three days, when I’ll be back on a plane for the Online News Association’s conference–this year in New Orleans, one of my favorite travel destinations.

If you need more gadget pictures in your life, there’s a slideshow of photos from this year’s IFA waiting after the jump.

9/5/2019: Amazon bids to spark new markets for Fire TV, FierceVideo

I wrote this from an Amazon event in Berlin Wednesday night, at which I had the advantage of being able to quiz a couple of analyst friends who had watched the same sales pitch.

9/7/2019: Roku expands Roku TV program to Europe, FierceVideo

Roku CEO Anthony Wood gave an uncommonly concise keynote at IFA Saturday morning–it ran only 24 minutes.

9/7/2019: Social-media marketing for Sudan’s military, Al Jazeera

I offered my perspective on a weird case of social-media propaganda via Skype from my hotel room.

9/8/2019: 2019 IFA Trade Show Recap with Rob Pegoraro, Moor Insights & Strategy Podcast

I shared my thoughts on this year’s IFA with Moor’s Mark Vena from a semi-quiet table at a restaurant in our hotel; I hope the background chatter from other guests isn’t too distracting.

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Berlin Brandenburg Airport is still not open

BERLIN–My introduction to this city seven years ago was supposed to feature a new, world-class airport. I continue to wait on that.

When I booked my flights for the IFA trade show in 2012, Berlin Brandenburg Airport was set to open in early June as a unified airport for the unified city, replacing both Tegel in the western half and Schönefeld in the east.

But fire-safety concerns forced a postponement of Berlin Brandenburg’s opening to the next spring. And by “fire-safety concerns,” I mean the belated realization that expecting to vent smoke by having fans blow it down from ceilings to vents in the basement would be very much not up to code. So I flew into Tegel instead and have since gotten to know that airport rather well.

Brandenburg empty gatesTXL is no prize, with a weird layout that puts passport and security at each gate. It’s also one of the few major attractions in Berlin that’s not walking distance from a U-Bahn or S-Bahn stop, instead requiring a bus connection. But Tegel does have the advantage of being open and operational.

BER, meanwhile, has seen its opening pushed back year after year while it’s sunk from being a subject of local civic concern to the internationally recognized spot where German efficiency went to die. As a BBC feature from late June recaps,  the saga involves epic levels of engineering, financial and political malfeasance. It will probably be taught as a cautionary tale in project-management classes for the next hundred years.

But although I have yet to step on or off a plane at Brandenburg, I have been inside the place. During my 2015 IFA (then, as now, the show’s organizers covered most of my travel costs), I took an afternoon off to take the BER airport tour.

Seeing this zombie airport from up close was a remarkable and spooky experience, even if I could only catch the occasional word or phrase in the German tour narration. In any language, it’s bizarre to stand on an airport ramp and not smell any jet fuel.

I took a bunch of photos and told myself I’d sell a story about that visit somewhere. And then I spent months failing to close the deal anywhere before eventually giving up. One might say that this drawn-out inability to execute was my Berlin Brandenburg Airport of freelance pitching.

Those airport tours are still available–and are something I will have to do anew before trying to revive this story idea–but now they require booking a reservation online three months in advance. So like BER itself, returning to this story will have to wait until next year. When, per the latest estimates, Berlin Brandenburg will finally open–not that you should bet too many euros on that happening by the new deadline of October 2020.

In the meantime, you might as well enjoy some of the pictures I took four years ago; if you’d rather not click through to my Flickr page (speaking of things from an earlier time), there’s a slideshow after the jump.

(Edited 9/6/2019 to explain the initial delay better and move one link.)

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Weekly output: Netflix hacking

Tomorrow evening I head to Berlin to cover the IFA electronics trade show (as in prior years, the organizers are covering most of the travel expenses of a group of U.S. journalists and analysts, myself among them). I’m back next Sunday, after which I have all of three nights at home before I fly to New Orleans for the Online News Association’s conference. And that’s not all of September’s travel. Yay, conference season?

If you’ve signed up at my Patreon page, you would have been able to read notes from my first look at Sprint’s 5G service–both in D.C. and at my home. I like the idea of sharing my first observations of a gadget, app or event there, so I will probably do that more often. If you like the idea of reading them before they condense into article form, $2 a month gets you in.

8/31/2019: Rewinding a Netflix account hack: Why would somebody bother?, USA Today

This post started with a tweet from Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi about getting locked out of her Netflix account. I thought she had experienced an interesting problem–both in the sense of the reward for a Netflix account takeover being so limited, and in the sense of my wondering if Netflix’s systems had offered enough resistance to this takeover–and started making inquiries. One of those was to Netflix itself; at first, the company’s PR director wanted to answer on a not-for-attribution basis, but I said I’d really rather have an actual named human quoted. She said that would be okay, and I’m glad I pressed that point.

Three decades of D.C., or how I learned to stop worrying and love the District

This Wednesday, classes began again at Georgetown University–which was my reminder that 30 years prior, I arrived in D.C. for my own new-student-orientation exercise. And somehow, I never got around to leaving.

I think that the awkward kid from New Jersey with the bad haircut has improved with age, but I know the city on the Potomac and the Anacostia has.

We overcame Marion Barry’s mayoral mismanagement and the city’s subsequent fiscal ruin (although municipal corruption lives on). The District’s population has topped 700,000, a level last seen in the 1970s, while the Washington area now ranks as the country’s sixth-most populous. Downtown is no longer pockmarked with parking lots, and neighborhoods teem with new development–some at the expense of residents who lived through the bad times. We have a baseball team that may yet advance past a division series in the postseason. The rivers and the Chesapeake Bay are cleaner. It’s vastly easier to get around without a car.

Yes, we have issues. Housing costs too much–but at least we don’t have San Francisco or New York’s insane real-estate markets. The summer weather is usually outright hideous. I wish there were more places to get a good bagel or a cannoli. Every place has its tradeoffs, and these are ours.

My appreciation of the upsides of here has advanced immensely too. For the first two years at Georgetown, I scarcely ventured farther from campus than Dupont Circle and spent my summers away. But I didn’t leave for the summer after my junior year, instead working an unpaid internship (thanks, Mom and Dad!) in the West End. That’s also when friends started bringing their own vehicles to off-campus group houses, allowing me to get to know much more of the District and its surroundings. (You haven’t fully lived K Street traffic until you’ve driven it in a 1977 Toyota Corolla with a four-speed stick shift.) An expanding Metro system further opened up the area to me, eventually leading me across the Potomac to Arlington.

It took me another three years to began discovering the bike-accessible parts of the D.C. area and realize one more great thing about living here: You don’t have to ride far to find yourself in the middle of a forest or overlooking a gorge, with only the sound of airplanes to remind you that not that many miles from a major city’s downtown.

Three decades in, I continue to find new parts of this place to celebrate and discover, as D.C. license plates used to say. And I’ve collected enough Washingtoniana memories to bore younger people with my curmodgeonly recollections: the reek of the old 9:30 Club, National Airport’s Interim Terminal, the evil and stupid taxi-zone map, seeing Fugazi play at Fort Reno shows. I look forward to gathering many more.

D.C. may be the city that politicians love to hate when they sneer about “Washington” (before deciding to stay here after they lose an election or retire), but it’s become the center of my world. My choice to go college someplace not at all like rural New Jersey seems to have worked out pretty well so far.

Weekly output: Xumo, AT&T TV, Roku Kids & Family, Disney+, Apple TV+, wireless video throttling

I spent the first two mornings of this week wearing a single client’s hat, thanks to my trade-pub outlet FierceVideo asking if I could cover breaking news for them Monday and Tuesday of this week. I was a little worried that I might get swamped, but I soon realized that I still enjoy the uncomplicated craft of quickly writing 400-word pieces in inverted-pyramid structure.

But this exercise also exposed the shallowness of my “analysts who can deliver value judgments quickly” list–as in, all the people quoted in these pieces are men.

If you signed up for my Patreon page, you would have seen one other item from me this week: a post I wrote Saturday about the kind of freelance rates I make and the kind I’d like to make.

8/19/2019: Xumo comes to Comcast’s X1 as well as Android TV, FierceVideo

Xumo, if you weren’t familiar with the name, is a free-with-ads streaming-video service with a channel lineup that features a striking number of established media brands.

8/19/2019: AT&T launches AT&T TV streaming service in 10 markets, FierceVideo

AT&T’s latest streaming-video service–there have been quite a few in the last few years–does not look likely to stop that telecom giant from bleeding TV subscribers.

8/19/2019: Roku launches ‘Kids & Family’ section on Roku Channel, FierceVideo

Roku announcing a human-curated video-for-kids section sure looked like an answer of sorts to YouTube’s unreliable algorithms, but after publication their publicist asked that we clarify the story to indicate that they did not mean to diss Google’s video service in particular.

8/20/2019: Disney+ poised to launch absent Amazon Fire support, FierceVideo

The absence of an announced Disney+ app for Amazon’s Fire TV platform seems odd, but history suggests both Disney and Amazon will find some compromise that lets each company make a little more money.

8/20/2019: Apple TV likely to debut at $9.99 a month in November, FierceVideo

TV-industry analyst Alan Wolk made an excellent point to me in this piece: The Apple that knew it had to ship the iPad nano would have figured out that it needs a cheap streaming-media stick to compete in the online-TV business.

8/20/2019: Wireless video throttling pervasive but pointless, FierceVideo

I wrote up a new study that found that the big four U.S. wireless carriers all curtail the resolution of streaming video–but they don’t throttle all such sites equally, nor do they necessarily need to do that to ensure a quality connection.