Weekly output: “responsible encryption,” Flash and Silverlight

It’s been another week with less stories to my name than usual. I’ve done more work than the number of links would suggest–over the past two weeks, I’ve filed three pieces that have not yet been posted–but it does look bad.

10/20/2017: Why the Feds want to make it easier for them to get into your phone, Yahoo Finance

I’ve written dozens of posts about the angst of law-enforcement types over the rise of encrypted devices and apps that they can’t search, so for this one I quizzed a few different sources… and came up with the same overall conclusion as before.

10/22/2017: Why Flash and Microsoft Silverlight frustrations just won’t go away, USA Today

I had what I thought would be a decent column with meaningless quotes from publicists at three sites that still ask their users to install Flash or Silverlight–but then a publicist for Major League Baseball told me that they’d move from Flash to HTML5 video for the 2018 season, a fact they had yet to announce.

 

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Weekly output: Movies Anywhere, pay-TV apps

This week involved some tech trouble at home: Tuesday morning, our fridge was near room temperature. After a call to Samsung support, they scheduled a technician to stop by Thursday afternoon, and then I borrowed a friend’s powered cooler to store the surviving food items. (We later tried rescheduling but couldn’t reach a human to change it, but the original time worked out in the end.) The cause was apparently a faulty $8.59 sensor that let ice build up and block a fan that, when partially obstructed, had earlier begun yielding annoying grinding noises that should have been our warning. It cost another $175 or so in labor and other charges to get that replaced and restore the fridge to working order. Still worth it, although I would like for this 2014 purchase to go much longer than three years before its next service incident.

10/13/2017: Movies Anywhere solves the hassle of downloading flicks everywhere, Yahoo Finance

This Disney-run site, which puts copies of movies you’ve bought off Apple, Amazon, Google or Vudu in your accounts on all four services and in its own app, is shockingly good–especially in light of the sheer awfulness of the first Hollywood-run movie-download sites. The site has even improved since I filed the post: While it didn’t initially match my years-ago iTunes purchase of The Insider, by the next day it had. I’ll try to get the post updated tomorrow.

10/15/2017: A new way to beat the cable box: Streaming Internet apps, USA Today

This column was set off by a reader asking if Spectrum’s app could let her retire one of her cable boxes. I realized that I hadn’t written about that, and then further research revealed that some other cable and satellite TV providers had expanded their own app offerings. A reader’s Facebook comment has since revealed an option for Fios TV that Verizon may not know about: If you have a Samsung phone and a Samsung smart TV, the mobile device’s Smart View screen mirroring can cast the Fios app to the big screen.

Weekly output: Chrome vs. unencrypted sites, Google vs. the headphone jack, international roaming, freelancing, Facebook and fact-checking

As expected, this was an exhausting but fulfilling week. The Online News Association conference was its usual informative, eye-opening self (but this time, with travel expenses miniaturized down to Metro fares), Friday’s NLDS game left me feeling wrung out, and then Saturday’s left me feeling a whole lot better. And then I didn’t get to sleep in as much as I wanted Sunday…

10/2/2017: Google Chrome is about to warn you even more about insecure sites, Yahoo Finance

I knew in the back of my head that Chrome would start flagging unencrypted sites as “Not secure” more often starting this month, but a tweet from Google’s Adrienne Porter Felt last week reminded me of that, which in turn gave me a reason to check up on the adoption of site encryption.

10/4/2017: Not OK, Google: The headphone jack exists for a reason, Yahoo Finance

I teed off on Google for its idiotic decision to follow Apple’s foolish removal of the headphone jack. Google, unlike Apple, can’t count on tens of millions of loyal phone shoppers to suck it up, so I hope a chastened company will reverse this decision for its next batch of phones.

10/5/2017: $5,000 cell bill while traveling: How to avoid this, USA Today

This was one of the crazier stories I’ve come across lately. But after USAT ran this tale of a Verizon subscriber who got socked with that bill in Saudi Arabia (then had VzW forgive the bill after I inquired about it), another reader tweeted about an $11,961.03 T-Mobile bill run up in Mongolia (they, too, forgave it, but before I could get around to asking).

10/7/2017: Hunting, Gathering and Accounting: Freelance Survival Skills, ONA17

I broke a three-time Online News Association conference losing streak by having this panel idea accepted. I got the idea of offering practical advice to self-employed journalists (or those about to be self-employed but don’t know it yet) from a conversation with veteran freelancer Rose Eveleth at last year’s ONA. Then I picked up a capable co-panelist in Katherine Lewis, who’s been freelancing since 2008, seems a lot more disciplined about it than me, and is a poised public speaker. I didn’t hit every point I wanted to, but I think that combined the both of us left the audience better informed than when they arrived. Really neat bonus: Nashville-based attendee Ayumi Bennett did a terrific sketchnote of our talk.

10/8/2017: Facebook and fact-checking, Al Jazeera

My ambition of celebrating my first day with zero work appointments since Monday by not shaving went awry when a D.C.-based producer at the Arabic-language news channel asked if I could come into the studio to speak about Facebook’s latest attempts to combat fake news with fact-checking. The conversation I had (overdubbed live into Arabic but not, as far as I know, archived online, hence the lack of a link) wound up focusing more on the broader issue of other countries trying to influence U.S. Facebook users.

Weekly output: iOS 11 issues, Super Cruise, SESTA, Tech Night Owl

In recent years, late September has seen me jetting off to one city or another to attend the Online News Association’s annual conference, but this time around my ONA travel will consist of taking Metro–the conference starts Thursday at the Marriott in Woodley Park. And I’m also on the schedule for the first time: I’m speaking Saturday afternoon with veteran freelancer Katherine Lewis about survival skills for the self-employed.

Meanwhile, the Nationals host the Cubs sometime Friday and Saturday in the first two games of the division series, ensuring that I will be completely hoarse and sleep-deprived by Sunday. Go Nats!

9/26/2017: How to fix Apple iOS 11 battery and Outlook problems, USA Today

My editor opted to hold this post for a day to reduce the odds of it getting lost in USAT’s other iOS 11 coverage.

9/28/2017: What it’s like riding in Cadillac’s self-driving Super Cruise for 350 miles, Yahoo Finance

This account of having a 2018 Cadillac CT6 drive me along much of I-70 and the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes was the most interesting transportation-related piece I’ve written since this spring’s post about advances in Gogo’s satellite WiFi. The long drive from Washington to Cleveland also let me see parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio that I hadn’t glimpsed in years and take a detour to pay my respects at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

9/30/2017: Why the tech industry is worried about a bill targeting sex trafficking, Yahoo Finance

I should have had this post about the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act written earlier, but the delays allowed me to add some useful quotes from a panel I attended on the Hill Thursday.

9/30/2017: September 30, 2017 — Rob Pegoraro and Kirk McElhearn, Tech Night Owl

I talked with host Gene Steinberg about my Cadillac test drive, my iOS experience, and the macOS High Sierra install that was going on in the background but had not wrapped up by the time my roughly hour-long segment ended.

Weekly output: 5G, broadcast TV on online video, wireless broadband, machine-learning platforms

Having our kid come down with strep throat put a serious dent in my productivity on this week. (She’s fine now.) The next five days, meanwhile, have a much more crowded schedule that includes an overnight trip to Cleveland. You’ll find out why Tuesday.

9/18/2017: 5 things to know about what’s next for wireless internet, Yahoo Finance

Too-soon hype about 5G wireless is already getting customers confused–as I realized anew when a reader asked how it couldn’t be coming until 2020 if she already had a 5G router. (Answer: It was a 5 GHz router.)

9/18/2017: Broadcasters aren’t going OTT ASAP, FierceBroadcasting

The latest in a steady series of features I’ve written for Fierce’s monthly (registration required) bundles, this one looks at the tangled availability of local channels on “over the top” online-video services. I missed it when it first came out because, I guess, I didn’t see the download link in Fierce’s daily newsletter at the time.

9/20/2017: Why you might trade your wired internet connection for your phone, Yahoo Finance

This headline overstates the story a little. My answer to the question–newly raised by an FCC proceeding–of whether we should count the wireless carriers’ mobile broadband as competition for wired cable, fiber and DSL is that a mobile-only strategy doesn’t work as long as you still need to use a desktop or laptop computer.

9/22/2017: Machine-learning cloud platforms get to work, Ars Technica

This piece focuses on a much wonkier subject than my usual consumer-tech coverage, but I carved some time out of my schedule to write it anyway. On one hand, it allowed me to get into the weeds on the workings of some technologies that I do write about all the time. On the other hand, the story was for a site at which I hadn’t written in way too long (my last Ars byline happened over four years ago) and involved a great per-word rate.

That rate, in turn, was a product of this post being part of a set of stories sponsored by Siemens. I didn’t know the sponsor going in and, as I wrote in a comment below the piece, my editor neither told me which companies to feature nor instructed me on any conclusions the article should reach.

Updated 10/3/2017 to add a link to the broadcasters story.

 

Weekly output: buying iPhones (x2), iPhone 8 and X (x2), connecting the unconnected, PR pitches

I flew to San Francisco Monday afternoon–once again marking Sept. 11 by getting on a plane, which strikes me as an appropriate way to honor the day–for the Mobile World Congress Americas trade show, then returned Thursday afternoon. That yielded one story I’ve filed that hasn’t yet been posted, another I need to finish, and ideas and sources for a few others farther in the future.

9/11/2017: Reminder: You don’t have to buy your next iPhone from a carrier, USA Today

My first part of this week’s new-iPhone feeding frenzy was this post reminding readers that Apple provides an installment-payment option like that of most carriers–except that Apple’s gives you a device that isn’t locked to any one carrier.

9/12/2017: Apple’s big announcements, WTOP

I shared my thoughts about Apple’s phone and smart-watch news via Skype from the MWCA press room; for once, the Internet-calling gods smiled upon me.

9/12/2017: Highlights: Apple unveils $999 iPhone X, new Face ID technology, Fox 5 News

I jumped on Skype a second time to discuss Apple’s new smartphones with WTTG’s Marina Marraco.

9/13/2017: Cellphone carriers are shining up their iPhone trade-in deals, USA Today

I wrote my USAT column earlier than usual to offer some advice about the incentives the carriers are throwing out to get people to upgrade from an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus–something you probably shouldn’t do, whereas owners of older models can profit from taking advantage of some generous trade-in deals.

9/13/2017: Connecting the Unconnected, Mobile World Congress Americas

About three weeks ago, I got an unexpected invitation from a Mozilla Foundation publicist: Would I like to interview executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker onstage at MWCA about that non-profit’s research into which strategies work to get people online in developing countries? I said that sounded like a great conversation, and it was. The MWCA organizers haven’t posted the full video yet, but you can watch an excerpt on Mozilla’s blog and in the embed below.

9/15/2017: Hit the Perfect Pitch: How to Fine-Tune your Story to the Media, Business Wire

With a handful of other journalists, I answered questions from area publicists about what makes an effective pitch (hint: your follow-up e-mail should never consist of “any interest?”) and heard out a handful.

Weekly output: New laptops, IFA gadgets, online-video subscribers, wireless plans, Equifax

Technically speaking, I didn’t wrap up my IFA coverage until Sunday night, when I posted an album of photos from the show. Monday afternoon, I’m off to San Francisco for Mobile World Congress Americas, a successor to the CTIA wireless-industry show that I skipped last year.

9/5/2017: Why you might not want a laptop with a 4K display, Yahoo Finance

I liked most of what I saw in Windows laptops at IFA, but the idea of cramming Ultra High Definition resolution into a 13- or 14-inch screen seems idiotic to me.

9/6/2017: 4 amazing new gadgets you can’t get in the US, Yahoo Finance

Going to a gadget show overseas means you’ll see some hardware that you won’t be able to buy back home in the States.

9/7/2017: Best Cell Phone Plans, The Wirecutter

If I’d filed this on time, I would have had to rewrite the update to factor in Verizon’s downgrade of its most-advertised “unlimited” wireless plan. Instead, I had a hurried few days of revising the text I’d last updated in March to reflect that and many other pivots among wireless services.

9/7/2017: Measuring the OTT Subscriber, FierceCable

This piece–you’ll have to cough up an e-mail address to read it–covers how some online video services try to get a sense of their customer metrics.

9/8/2017: Why Equifax needs to give up some details about how it got hacked, Yahoo Finance

Equifax’s massive data breach–yes, I seem to be included among the victims–made me mad. Then it made me think about other posts I’ve written to denounce the reflexive silence of too many tech companies after they realize a third party has broken in and stolen customer data.