Weekly output: AT&T throttling, car audio, Wikipedia, typewriters, 3G dead zones

The two themes of this week: mobile phones and obsolete technology.

2/6/2012: ‘Unlimited’ data has limits at AT&T, USA Today

This column started with a chance conversation after a local tech event in which a friend mentioned the weird “top 5 percent” warning AT&T had sent him–quickly confirmed in a reply from another friend and a blog post by a third. (The balance of the column suggests changing short, cryptic passwords to longer but easier-to-remember pass phrases, expanding on something discussed in a post for Discovery last week.) After it ran, I heard from so many readers who had not just gotten this warning but had also seen their connections cranked down to only 100 Kbps or so that I did a follow-up post here relating their testimony.

2/7/2012: Car Audio: Some Dashed Hopes On Dashboards, CEA Digital Dialogue

I spent a pleasant couple of afternoons at the Washington Auto Show parking myself in the driver’s seats of cars on display–so I could then inspect the stereo system in each vehicle. And just as in last year’s survey, I was disappointed by the results. Manufacturers still include abandoned standards (memo to Acura and Cadillac, DVD-Audio is dead) while neglecting current ones (I saw Audi, Nissan, Mazda and VW leave out USB ports in some cars, but that was nothing compared to the Infiniti missing a simple line-in auxiliary input).

Speaking of DVD-Audio: After writing this story, I was amused to discover that our Blu-ray player supports DVD-A’s barely-more-successful rival Super Audio CD. If only I hadn’t given away the SACD edition of Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue” I got from some PR shop years ago!

2/8/2012: Wikipedia Entries: How To Tell How True They Are, Discovery News

After the latest episode of a politician’s staffers favorably editing Wikipedia entries, it was time to revisit past advice on reading the open-source encyclopedia wisely. In the piece, I use Wikipedia’s entry on Discovery Communications as an example of how to judge an article’s reliability from its edit history, talk page and the user pages of its editors. Also: Note the examples of unreliable Wikipedia coverage cited in a comment on my post and another on Google+.

2/9/2012: Ode To Manual Typewriters, DIY-IT

After the first 30 or so e-mails reminiscing about manual typewriters on the Internet Press Guild mailing list, IPG member and ZDNet writer David Gewirtz decided to put together these stories in a post. Most of this testimony looks to the distant past, but Phil Shapiro tells a great story about taking a typewriter to the Takoma Park, Md., library last year to let kids play with it: “It’s key that they know what prior technology looked like and felt like — so they can better appreciate how far we’ve come in the past 50 years.”

2/10/2012: Map Shows 3G Dead Zones, Discovery News

Writing that Wikipedia post must have put me in an academic frame of mind, since my next item for Discovery discussed online cartography: the FCC’s interactive map showing what parts of the U.S. lack any 3G coverage. Lining up this map and the (generally uglier) coverage maps provided by the four major carriers for that screenshot at left was kind of a pain. One observation I had in mind after that exercise but then neglected to put into the post: The FCC’s map would be easier to read if it included Interstate highways.

2 thoughts on “Weekly output: AT&T throttling, car audio, Wikipedia, typewriters, 3G dead zones

  1. Just curious: how does anyone know for sure they’re in the top 5% of users– they’re just supposed to take AT&Ts word for it? How is the 5% definied– top 5% in a given day/week/month? And how does one get OUT of 5% throttle jail?

    Also, the “weight” of sites is out of the user’s control– especially ad-heavy pages– so why can’t sites be required to label their download kb volume, so users can know for sure what they’re using??

    • Your questions pretty much encapsulate why the people I’ve heard from don’t like AT&T’s new policy: From the paying subscriber’s perspective, it operates inside a black box.

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