Weekly output: Helicopters of D.C., DOJ sues Google, Rocket Lab launch, DirecTV drops Newsmax

Last week featured my second business trip of the year, and also my third trip to the destination in question since the middle of December.

Screenshot of story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini 6, illustrated with a photo of a UH-60 Blackhawk flying with the Washington Monument in the background.1/23/2023: How Crowdsourced Chopper Spotting Helps ID the Helicopters of DC, PCMag

I’ve been following the @HelicoptersofDC Twitter account for two years and change, so it was a treat to see Andrew Logan, the guy behind this aircraft-tracking project, explain how it works and how he’s dealt with obstacles ranging from uncooperative government agencies to Elon Musk.

1/24/2023: DOJ: Google ‘Corrupted Legitimate Competition’ With Ad-Tech Business, PCMag

My take on this antitrust lawsuit targeting Google’s display-ads practices: If people as politically opposed as U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton all think you’re guilty, you’d better lawyer up.

1/25/2023: On Second Try, Rocket Lab’s Electron Leaps to Space From Virginia Coast, PCMag

Almost a month after the first of three road trips to Wallops Island, I got to see a rocket fly to space–the fourth time I’ve done so close enough to hear it, and the first of those times I didn’t have to fly to Florida first. For another take on the experience, see the writeup from Ars Technica’s John Timmer, who had already decided to drive there and back and gave me a lift.

1/25/2023: DirectTV Dumps Newsmax, Citing Fees, Newsmax Cries ‘Censorship’, PCMag

The notion that DirecTV’s owners–gigantic telecom conglomerate AT&T and the private-equity firm TPG–are somehow members of the woke mob is dumb beyond belief. And yet that claim also fits right into a pattern of performative victimhood in the Trumpian part of today’s Republican Party.

Weekly output: Samsung self-repair, FCC chair’s security concerns, tech-policy forecast, password managers, Google layoffs, electric-car progress, legal risks for security research

This week had me head into D.C. for work events four days in a row, something that last happened in early 2020.

1/17/2023: Samsung ‘Self-Repair’ Program Adds Galaxy S22 Phones, Some Galaxy Books, PCMag

The post I wrote after Samsung gave me an advance copy of their press release noted the limited number of replacement parts offered under this program, but Technica’s Ron Amadeo–who has a lot more experience with Samsung gadgets than I do–went into detail about how much it doesn’t cover.

1/18/2023: FCC Chair: 5G Expansion Creates ‘Broader Attack Surface’ for Cyberattacks, PCMag

I watched a brief but fairly info-dense speech by FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel about privacy and security risks to U.S. wireless networks and their customers.

Screenshot of the story in Safari for iPadOS, illustrated with a photo of the Capitol not long after sunrise.1/18/2023: Is This the Year Congress Finally Tackles Privacy Legislation?, PCMag

Betteridge’s law of headlines suggests that the answer to that question is “no.” A look at the last decade of Congressional inaction on privacy also points to a negative answer.

1/19/2023: Considering an app to manage your passwords? This advice will be key no matter which app you choose., USA Today

This column got published considerably after I filed it, and I don’t exactly know why. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you’re a LastPass customer), LastPass hasn’t provided any more clarity about its data breach since I wrote the piece.

1/20/2023: Google layoffs, Al Jazeera

I made an in-studio appearance to talk about Google’s layoffs–and made sure to note Google’s aggressive stock buybacks.

1/20/2023: Feds Tout Progress in Electrifying US Fleet, Building Out Car Chargers, PCMag

The Washington Auto Show’s public-policy day didn’t feature an enormous amount of news, but two panels featuring Biden administration representatives yielded some useful details about efforts to electrify government vehicles and support building out hundreds of thousands of new car chargers.

1/22/2023: Good News, Bad News for Security Researchers: Feds Are Less Likely to Charge You, States Are Another Thing, PCMag

Information-security lawyer Harley Geiger gave an amusing and informative talk at the ShmooCon conference about the state of computer-crime laws and how they can menace legitimate security research.

Weekly output: FuboTV rate hike, Varjo, NextGen TV, Washington Apple Pi, sustainability at CES, Twitter apps, Mark Vena podcast

You can imagine how much I appreciate having this holiday weekend follow CES. I came home last Sunday morning exhausted and with a cold–but fortunately not Covid, as verified by three negative tests since then.

(Speaking of CES, Patreon readers got a post sharing more of my notes from the show.)

1/9/2023: FuboTV Increases Rates by $5 a Month, Tacks on ‘RSN’ Fee, PCMag

I have to wonder if Fubo doesn’t have some kind of a death wish, because there’s little else to explain why it would want to adopt one of cable TV’s more loathsome practices by sticking subscribers with a new surcharge for regional sports networks–and doing so on the same day it hikes its advertised rates by $5.

1/10/2023: On the Virtual Road With Varjo’s XR-3 Mixed-Reality Headset, PCMag

I got to try out this high-end headset at the end of a long Friday at CES and came away impressed–not that there’s much consumer-relevant in a device with a five-figure price tag.

Screengrab of the story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini.1/12/2023: NEXTGEN TV’s CES sales pitch: strength in numbers, Fierce Video

I thought I’d see more manufacturers shipping TVs with NextGen (aka ATSC 3.0) tuners, but on the other hand I didn’t expect to learn that those sets made up 8% of all TVs shipped to U.S. dealers last year. That already makes NextGen much more relevant than 8K TV.

1/12/2023: Afternoon Learners SIG, Washington Apple Pi

I joined the virtual meeting of this group (SIG being short for “special interest group”) via Zoom for about an hour to share my impressions of CES and answer questions.

1/13/2023: Green tech and trends at CES 2023 point to environmental progress, Fast Company

After noting all of the green shoots I saw at CES, I had to remind readers of how much Las Vegas remains a monument to car supremacy.

1/13/2023: Third-Party Twitter Apps Stop Working in What Appears to Be a Widespread Outage, PCMag

The fact that Twitter management remains silent about blocking third-party clients shows a colossal amount of disrespect for both the developers of those apps and their customers.

1/14/2023: S03 E43 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

I shared my impressions of CES and discussed smart-home technology in the first 2023 edition of this podcast, also available via video.

Weekly output: Japanese startups, Paula Abdul’s audio glasses, FTC moves to ban non-competes, “dabloons”

My CES travel concluded Sunday morning, but my CES coverage has a few more days to run as I continue to work on pieces from that event. And try to catch up on all the sleep I lost, especially during my red-eye flight home Saturday night.

The CES 2023 app's page describing the LaunchIT pitch competition.1/3/2023: Launch.IT, CES

With Larry Harrell and Connie Koch Harrell of Keiretsu Forum, I helped judge this pitch competition for Japanese startups exhibiting at CES–sponsored by the Japan External Trade Organization and produced by the ShowStoppers tech-events firm, with whom I’ve worked before.

1/5/2023: Paula Abdul Talks Up Her ‘Smart Audio Glasses’ at CES, PCMag

This was not a piece that I had on my list of CES possibilities, but it’s also not the first time meeting a celebrity with a tech venture at the show has led to a story.

1/6/2023: FTC Proposes Rule Banning ‘Non-Compete’ Clauses, PCMag

The possibility of the Federal Trade Commission taking action against non-competition clauses, meanwhile, has been on my list of potential tech-policy developments for a few years now. And as you can see from a link towards the end of this post, I’ve been following this topic for most of the last decade.

1/6/2023: TikTok “Dabloons,” Al Jazeera

I am not entirely sure what led the Arabic-language news nework to decide that I was the guy to offer commentary on this goofy online role-playing exercise.

Weekly output: right to repair, public domain

The year isn’t even a day old, and yet I have only one day at home before I have to fly somewhere for work. Tuesday’s flight to Las Vegas for CES will mark the 25th time I’ve begun that pilgrimage; this, as they say, is the business I have chosen.

Patreon readers got a bonus post Friday: a review of the Pixel 7 phone Google PR loaned me a couple of months ago.

Screenshot of the story as seen in Chrome for Android, with a notification from the Mastodon app visible in the notifications bar.12/29/2022: New York Gov. Signs Right-to-Repair Bill After Last-Minute Amendments, PCMag

The early read on Gov. Kathy Hochul signing a bill that had passed the legislature six months earlier was that it represented a major win for the “right to repair” movement, but the governor’s last-hours amendments of the Digital Fair Repair Act significantly weakened some of its force, and I’m glad I took a little time to look into this story before writing this post.

12/30/2022: Party Like It’s 1927 As New Crop of Creative Works Enters the Public Domain, PCMag

After more than two decades of covering intellectual-property policy, writing about the arrival of a new year’s worth of works into the public domain has been a real treat the last few years. The latest edition of this staple gave me a chance to give a shout-out to the first movie to feature a robot leading character, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis; I have yet to see it, but now I can watch it without paying for it or feeling guilt about not paying for it.

Updated 1/2/2023 to add a mention of the Patreon post.

Weekly output: year-end tech-policy rush, NFL Sunday Ticket, shaving streaming costs, Mark Vena podcast

Christmas can double as Family Sysadmin Day for tech types, and today was not an exception.

12/20/2022: Giant Omnibus Bill Mandates Online Seller Transparency, Cracks Down on TikTok, PCMag

This could have been a shorter post, but I felt obliged to offer some context about the security and privacy risks of TikTok relative to any other social app that’s not owned by a Chinese firm. Then two days later, we learned that four TikTok employees spied on journalists reporting on ByteDance’s social app.

12/22/2022: Google Scores NFL Sunday Ticket Deal for YouTube TV, PCMag

It’s kind of crazy how long DirecTV held on to this exclusive, considering how irrelevant its core satellite-TV business has become over the last 10 years.

USAT streaming-costs Dec. 2022 column12/23/2022: Netflix, Disney and Apple TV prices jump. How to save a bundle on your streaming services, USA Today

TV-entertainment expenses remain an evergreen topic, but this time I could note some progress in the availability of regional sports networks outside traditional pay-TV bundles and suggest a few more ways to get one or more streaming services for less or for free, depending on your choice of wireless carrier and the credit cards in your wallet.

12/23/2022: S02 E42 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

I rejoined this podcast for the first time in weeks to discuss Elon Musk’s ham-handed “Twitter Files” effort to unmask the alleged sins of previous management, then share some predictions about what CES will bring next week.

Weekly output: telco rights commitments, Facebook cross-check, T-Mobile home 5G, content moderation politics, abandoned Twitter usernames (x2)

As you may have noticed, I did not go to Wallops Island, Va., this week to see a rocket launch, because Rocket Lab first delayed the first U.S. launch of its Electron Rocket from Dec. 9 to Dec. 13 to avoid forecast bad weather and then pushed it from Tuesday to Thursday because of an airspace-clearance issue. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Thursday doesn’t look good either, so I fully expect this launch to slip once again.

12/5/2022: Global Telecom Companies Struggle to Deliver on Human-Rights Commitments, PCMag

I wrote up the latest report from Ranking Digital Rights, a project that grades tech and telecom companies on the commitments they make to uphold human rights and on how well they document their compliance with those commitments.

12/6/2022: Oversight Board: Facebook ‘Cross-Check’ System for VIPs Is ‘Flawed in Key Areas’, PCMag

Meta’s equivalent of a Supreme Court–a level of accountability that Twitter could desperately use now–issued a scathing report about Facebook and Instagram’s “cross-check” program adding an extra level of review for posts by VIP users.

Screenshot of the story as seen on Safari for iPadOS, illustrated with an artsy shot of a T-Mobile home 5G receiver12/7/2022: Here’s what T-Mobile has learned about stealing home broadband customers from Big Cable, Fast Company

I got an advance look at a report T-Mobile commissioned about its fixed-wireless service for homes, including some interesting details about how much data these subscribers have been using on this data-cap-free service.

12/9/2022: With or Without Elon, Social Media Content Moderation Is Still Complicated, PCMag

I thought writing up an hour-long panel at a conference hosted by the Center for Democracy and Technology would take an hour, tops. That was not the case.

12/9/2022: Twitter’s abandoned-accounts plan, Alhurra

This U.S. government-funded Arabic-language news channel had me on the first time since 2019 to discuss Elon Musk’s intention to reclaim 1.5 billion Twitter usernames that had been abandoned for an unstated number of years and let other people grab those handles.

12/9/2022: Elon Musk: Twitter to Put 1.5 Billion Abandoned Handles Up for Grabs, PCMag

Talking about this abandoned-accounts plan made me want to find out more about it, so I researched and wrote this post for PCMag–and along the way discovered, with a major assist from a reader, that the 1.5 billion number seems entirely plausible.

Weekly output: Disney CEO swap, streaming devices, adtech deal, Comcast freebies, robocall punishment, T-Mobile updates, World Cup ratings, Black Friday streaming deals, Musk touts Twitter growth

I had an exceedingly busy three days to start the week–as in, it was a good thing my flight Wednesday wasn’t until 3:15 in the afternoon–then managed to keep my hands off a keyboard for most of the rest of the week.

Patreon readers got a bonus post Wednesday afternoon about my struggles getting Verizon to document where it’s expanded its C-band 5G service this year.

11/21/2022: Disney CEO recycling sees Chapek go and Iger return, Fierce Video

The lede for this story about Disney replacing CEO Bob Chapek with his predecessor Bob Iger–“Meet the new Bob, same as the old Bob”–popped into my head almost immediately, and then I checked Twitter and saw that I was not alone in thinking of that turn of phrase.

11/21/2022: U.S. total of streaming video devices topped 1 billion last year, Fierce Video

Before you react in disbelief to that number, remember that the authors of the report I wrote up are counting not just TVs and streaming-media players but also phones and computers.

11/22/2022: Amagi buys data-aggregation vendor Streamwise, Fierce Video

My work filling in at this video-industry news site continued with this writeup of one infrastructure company buying another.

11/22/2022: Comcast offers a week of streaming freebies to video subscribers, Fierce Video

Subscribers to Comcast’s video services are getting some extra stuff to watch without paying extra.

11/23/2022: Robocall-Enabling Provider Gets the Digital Death Penalty From the FCC, PCMag

If you’re a telecom provider subject to the Federal Communications Commission’s regulations, you should probably not answer an FCC query about your non-compliance by writing back “We are not needing this certification.”

Screenshot of the story as it appeared in Safari for macOS.11/23/2022: T-Mobile execs open a door to mmWave FWA, Light Reading

I wrote up my conversation at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit with two T-Mobile network executives, during which I learned a few things about the carrier’s fixed-wireless-access efforts.

11/23/2022: U.S.-Wales World Cup match draws 11.7 million viewers, Fierce Video

After writing this post, I felt bad for not watching any of that match live–oh, wait, the video services I pay for don’t include Fox Sports.

11/23/2022: Black Friday deals at streaming vendors, retailers and services, Fierce Video

After looking up all of these discounts, I then made it through the weekend without buying any streaming-media gadgets. My only purchase that Friday happened at a grocery store.

11/27/2022: Elon Musk touts Twitter growth, Al Jazeera

I did a quick hit via Skype to talk about Musk’s claims of rising numbers for total users and engagement on Twitter, telling the audience (as translated live into Arabic) that if Musk though Twitter had a bot problem before he bought the company, Twitter almost certainly had a worse bot problem after Musk had fired far more than half of Twitter’s employees.