Weekly output: YouTube meets COPPA, LTE and 5G hotspots

I was supposed to be spending today bouncing from one MWC press event to another, but the cancelation of that conference left me at home with an empty schedule. That also meant I could see firsthand the worst thing you can spot in the paper: a death notice for an old friend. My Georgetown classmate and Georgetown Voice colleague Claudine Weber-Hof died last month in Germany, but the sad news somehow took longer to make its way to Washington.

The Munich-based magazine where she worked put together a lovely remembrance, and I want you to read that. That story doesn’t explain what happened, but a public Facebook post by one of Claudine’s friends that I found later this afternoon mourns her “lost battle against anxiety and depression.” Which would mean that for the second time in less than three years, depression has taken somebody I know. It’s too much.

2/19/2020: Will YouTube’s New Privacy Rules Actually Protect Children?, Glimmer

I helped inaugurate this new online publication from Glitch, the Web-app-development firm formerly known as Fog Creek Software. As the date stamp on this suggests, the site was supposed to launch earlier but ran into some late snafus that I’d just as soon not know about. So everybody had to wait another week and change to read my look at the controversy YouTube has made for itself by subjecting creators of content that kids might like to an unusually harsh regime.

2/19/2020: The Best Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wirecutter

Speaking of long-awaited updates, this revision to Wirecutter’s guide to WiFi hotspots brings two new recommendations and my emphatic advice to ignore 5G for now. Especially Verizon’s millimeter-wave 5G, which offers amazingly fast speeds almost nowhere–speeds that the company’s first 5G hotspot can’t share over WiFi with nearby devices.

Weekly output: Sprint + T-Mobile, WhatsApp vs. NSO Group

This week put me in the unusual position of unwinding travel arrangements that I’d made months ago–then figuring out what to do with the time I would not be spending at the now-canceled MWC trade show. At least I’m getting out of that debacle with almost no money lost (United offered to waive the change fee I’d otherwise owe when applying the credit from my scratched booking), unlike some people I know.

Speaking of trade shows, subscribers at Patreon got to read yesterday about the thought process I put into deciding which company or companies to put on my badge for an event. The answer isn’t always obvious; sometimes, I prefer to go with a more obscure affiliation.

2/12/2020: The Sprint/T-Mobile merger has some real upsides—and plenty of unknowns, Fast Company

Here’s an example of where reporting has led me to change my mind. Several years ago, I didn’t see much upside in combining the networks of those two wireless carriers. But as I’ve spent more time immersing myself in the finer points of 5G, I’ve come around to the idea that lighting up Sprint’s 5G spectrum across T-Mo’s 5G coverage will yield a serious improvement. Other potential upsides of this merger, however, remain less clear to me.

2/13/2020: WhatsApp vs. NSO Group, Al Jazeera

I was on the Arabic-language news network (overdubbed live into Arabic, as usual) to talk about WhatsApp’s lawsuit against the Israeli cybersecurity surveillance firm NSO Group for allegedly hacking into the encrypted communications of journalists and activists using the Facebook-owned messaging application.

Weekly output: a fixed Hue vulnerability, techno-optimism, mobile apps versus mobile sites

I’m watching the Oscars as I type this, and a look at this year’s nominees shows I’m even more out of touch with pop culture than usual, having seen only two of the pictures nominated. I’m sure none of you are surprised to learn that I watched one–American Factory–on an airplane.

Speaking of that, if my travel posts here have you interested in hearing more on that subject, I’ll be discussing the finer points of business travel at Frequent Traveler University Washington DC on Sunday, March, 8. Twice: once that morning with travel blogger Tess Zhao (you’ll need a pass to the Travel and Adventure Show happening around FTU DC, $11 in advance for the day), and then an advanced version that afternoon for FTU DC pass holders ($129). For more on this event, I’ll point you to FTU DC speakers Tiffany Funk of One Mile At a Time and Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly.

2/5/2020: Yet another joy of the smart home: Light bulbs at risk from hackers, Fast Company

I got an advance on Check Point’s documentation of an already-fixed vulnerability in the hardware bridge used by many Hue connected light bulbs–as did many other reporters who wrote up this story.  I hope that my critiquing the hopelessly-vague release notes for the patch that closed this “vuln” added some distinct value.

2/7/2020: New Industries & Opportunities: The Case for Techno-optimism, Greater Good Gathering

I headed up to New York Thursday to moderate this panel Friday morning, in which Microsoft Research director Eric Horvitz, Ownable president and CEO Brian Selander, CoverUS co-founder Peter Shanley, and Columbia University engineering professor Vijay Modi spoke about reasons to feel some optimism about where technology is taking us.

Yes, this was another manel for me. Until a week ago, I was supposed to moderate a different panel at this conference at Columbia that would have had some gender balance, but then the organizers had to reshuffle a few speaking slots.

2/9/2020: No, there doesn’t have to be an app for that, USA Today

About that Iowa app: Couldn’t the work of transmitting caucus results have been done much more simply via a mobile-friendly site? Mobile sites have other advantages over mobile apps for users–if not necessarily developers–and I outlined them in this USAT column.

Updated 2/22/2020 to add a YouTube embed of my panel.

Weekly output: talking tech to non-techies, Off-Facebook Activity, Starlink, Bezos hacking

After spending the last three weeks at home, I’m off to New York Thursday morning to speak at a conference. I’m glad that the Greater Good Gathering saw fit to invite me for a second year, and I’m looking forward to spending a couple of days around my dad’s college neighborhood.

1/29/2020: How to deliver a technical presentation to a non-technical audience, Functionize

My friend Wayne Rash interviewed me for this piece about conveying technical points to a non-technical audience; in my answers, I leaned heavily on my experience talking about information security to a user group in November.

1/30/2020: Off Facebook Activity, Al Jazeera

I explained Facebook’s overdue introduction of a tool that lets you check its tracking of you across other sites and apps.

1/31/2020: SpaceX’s fast broadband satellite just got a little closer to reality, Fast Company

I’m always happy to have an excuse to write about space. This time around, the subject was SpaceX’s constellation of Starliink satellites, each of which might bring always-on broadband to far more places than today. Emphasis on “might”: SpaceX has yet to talk about the cost of this service or even if it will require living with data caps.

1/31/2020: Bezos iPhone hack, Al Jazeera

For the second week in a row, I talked about reports of Saudi Arabia hacking the phones of people that government doesn’t like, in particular the iPhone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Weekly output: CES recap (x2), Bezos iPhone hack, Intuit’s stewardship of Mint, VentureFuel CES panel, encrypting smartphone backups

This week has me attending two conferences in D.C. The tech-policy gathering State of the Net has been a fixture of my winters since 2006, while my introduction to the hacker convention ShmooCon did not come until last January.

1/21/2020: Industry Insights: CES Speaker Series Part 2, eMarketer

This research firm interviewed me over e-mail about this year’s CES. The last exchange in this short piece:

Q: If you could pick one thing that should stay in Vegas, forever, what would it be?

A: CES traffic. Who else would want it?

1/21/2020: Techdirt Podcast Episode 235: The CES 2020 Post-Mortem, Techdirt

I spent 44 minutes talking to Techdirt founder Mike Masnick about my impressions of the show–including my less-than-successful ride in a self-driving car and an eerily-personalized dinner hosted by HBO.

1/22/2020: Bezos iPhone hack, Al Jazeera

I talked about the deeply-strange report that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had his iPhone hacked by a malware-loaded WhatsApp message sent by Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. As I said on the air: Who will ever again open a message from that guy?

1/23/2020: What the hell happened to Mint?, Fast Company

I have been meaning to write a piece unpacking Intuit’s apathetic stewardship of Mint for years–as the occasional rant here and on Twitter about that personal-finance app should have suggested. A mid-January ragetweet elicited an apologetic reply from one of Mint’s original developers, which led me to think I should dust off the pitch another client had rejected last year and add the promise of quotes from ex-Mint types. That got a quick thumbs-up from FC, and then I had a great half-hour conversation with Mint founder Aaron Patzer, with whom I’d last spoken when I was still at the Washington Post, not long after Intuit had bought his startup.

The post promptly blew up, getting an outsized reaction across Twitter and sparking some involved discussions at Reddit and Hacker News about possible alternatives to Mint; I’m the “robpegoraro” answering questions in each thread.

1/23/2020: The Future: From the Writers Who Cover Innovation, VentureFuel

Fred Schonenberg, founder and CEO of the consultancy that had me on a panel at CES two and a half weeks ago, wrote up the conversation I had with fellow journalists Eric Savitz and Rick Limpert. I appreciated Fred giving some prominent play to one thing I said back then: Data isn’t the new oil, it’s the new nuclear waste.

1/26/2020: Whether Apple or Google: Is there a back door into your phone’s online backups?, USA Today

A Reuters report that Apple had dropped plans to offer end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups of iPhones and iPads led to this explainer of the different levels of encryption possible with backups. Short version of the column: If you want to encrypt your phone’s data without any other party having a backup key, you’ll either have to stick to local backup of your iPhone or use an Android phone running either of the two most recent releases of Google’s mobile operating system.

Weekly output: talking CES 2020 with Mark Vena

This was one of those weeks where all of my public output involved me talking about my job instead of doing it (including one radio interview that doesn’t seem to have gotten aired and a second podcast that should get posted next week). The exception: Patreon, where I unloaded my CES 2020 notebook by writing about my observations of TiVo’s strategy, how HBO took me and my data with dinner, and my aborted ride in a self-driving car.

1/16/2020: Moor Insights & Strategy Podcast (1-13-20), Mark Vena

I joined my analyst friend Mark Vena via Skype Monday afternoon (hence the Jan. 13 reference in the title) to unpack what we learned from CES 2020. We talked about privacy on connected TVs (others call them “smart TVs,” but I’m not ready to bestow that kind of compliment), foldable phones and laptops, 5G wireless and the industry’s addition to hyping it up, and much much more.

Weekly output: OurStreets, ATSC 3.0, innovation in 2020, 5G meets retail, connected-TV privacy, Last Gadget Standing, Korean smart-city tech, best of CES

Yet another CES is in the books. It was a tiring week, but once again I got an enormous amount out of the show. And it is nice to think that less than two weeks into the year, I’ve already finished the year’s toughest business trip.

Earlier this evening, I put together a Flickr album of my pictures from the gadget show; at some point in the next few days, I will write up the more interesting bits from my notes for Patreon subscribers.

1/6/2020: This app helps pedestrians and cyclists wage war on terrible drivers, Fast Company

The second-to-last piece I filed in 2019 ran a week later–a look at an upcoming app that will help pedestrians and cyclists report bad behavior by drivers.

1/8/2020: ATSC 3.0 draws selective, if not scant, support at CES 2020, FierceVideo

Industry support for a long-awaited upgrade to broadcast-TV technology is a somewhat wonky topic compared to, say, robots bearing toilet paper, but that’s why it’s handy to have a trade-pub client that deals in wonky stuff all the time.

1/8/2020: What’s Next for Innovation in 2020?, VentureFuel

I debated fellow tech journalists Eric Savitz and Rick Limpert in a panel discussion hosted by this New York-based consultancy before a small audience of investor and founder types.

1/8/2020: 5G Meets Retail, CES

My contribution to the show’s high-tech retailing track was this talk with Nokia 5G market-development director Jason Elliott and Verizon connected-solutions managing director Arvin Singh about what 5G could do for the retail experience–in a shop and along its supply chain.

Yes, this was my second manel of CES. I should have said something about that when I was asked to join each panel but did not, and feeling strung out by December’s cognitive overload is a weak excuse.

 

1/9/2020: CES: Your smart TV is watching you. Will Samsung, LG, Vizio do more to protect privacy?, USA Today

Think of this column as a sequel to the one I wrote for USAT from Google I/O in May. Where Google showed it could speak in detail–if not as much as I’d like–about adopting such data-minimization techniques as federated learning, TV manufacturers at CES appeared to be grossly unready for that sort of privacy discussion.

1/9/2020: Last Gadget Standing, Living in Digital Times

Once again, I helped judge this competition and then introduced two contenders on stage Thursday: the Octobo connected toy and the Flic 2 programmable smart button.

1/9/2020: A Look At Korea’s Smart-City Ambitions At CES, Ubergizmo

Friends at this gadget blog asked if I could help with their coverage by writing up one set of exhibits in the Eureka Park startup space. They offered a suitable rate, so I said that would be fine.

1/9/2020: CES 2020: Our best of show, USA Today

I contributed a paragraph about Hyundai’s air-taxi venture with Uber that ended with a contrary comment from an aviation-safety professional who’s understandably skeptical about the odds of this and other attempts at urban air mobility. If you’re not in the mood to read that much, you can also hear my spoken-word rendition of this piece (recorded on a Vegas sidewalk Wednesday night) on Jefferson Graham’s Talking Tech podcast.

Updated 1/16/2020 to correct the spelling of Elliott’s last name; updated 1/29/2020 to add a YouTube embed of the panel.