Weekly output: Stasi Museum, new iPhones

For the first time since I-don’t-know-when, I didn’t watch an Apple new-iPhone event live. I had planned on doing that in the air on my way to Austin Wednesday for the Online News Association’s conference, but the plane was a regional jet with Gogo WiFi–and I realized after takeoff that I’d forgotten my Gogo password, didn’t have that password saved in LastPass and could not reset it without, you know, Internet access. Then I further realized that a) since nobody had asked me to opine on Apple’s new hardware as of noon, that probably wasn’t going to happen later on, and b) since my upgrade had cleared on this flight, I could skip creating a new Gogo account for the occasion and instead enjoy a leisurely lunch before napping in a chair in a sky.

9/10/2018: Remember Stasi spying to understand the GDPR, The Parallax

The day I arrived in Berlin for IFA, I set aside a few hours to explore the Stasi Museum, a grim monument to the oppressive surveillance of the German “Democratic” “Republic.” I’d prepared myself for the visit by watching “The Lives of Others,” but it was something else to see the physical relics of East Germany’s campaign to take up residence in the heads of its subjects. Writing this gave me a chance to quote a co-worker from 1993: Shane Green, who was a fellow intern at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and went on to work in Berlin and learn about the Stasi’s destruction of privacy before a lot of other Americans.

9/12/2018: Apple’s upcoming iPhones, Al Jazeera

My one bit of punditry–so far!–about Apple’s new phones came late Wednesday morning (or that evening if you watched the Arabic-language channel in in Qatar), an hour and a half before Apple’s event. I did a quick live interview to talk about the prospects of higher prices and a wider array of iPhone models, plus the chances that President Trump would slap a tariff on Chinese-made iPhones.

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Weekly output: IFA oddities, Windows laptop trends

PORTLAND–I’m nearing the end of one work trip, after which I’ll get to spend a whole 40 or so hours at home before heading out for a second. No, I’m not heading to the Bay Area for Apple’s new-iPhone event Wednesday (I haven’t gotten an invitation to one of those occasions since 2010, which is fine); I will instead spend that afternoon flying to Austin for the Online News Association’s conference.

Like XOXO here, ONA is an event that has me paying for the conference badge. In a few days, I will try to write why I think it sometimes worthwhile to put this kind of dent in my business model.

Yahoo Finance IFA-oddities post9/4/2018: The weirdest, most interesting, and most unavailable gadgets from IFA 2018, Yahoo Finance

This illustrated recap of the oddest hardware I saw at IFA, including a robot dog and a “Solar Cow,” ran a couple of days after my return from that gadget show in Berlin. This sort of listicle has become a staple of my tech-trade-show coverage, because the gadget industry doesn’t seem to be getting any less weird. And after I’ve filed a few thousand words from a faraway city, stringing together a post from 200-word chunks feels exponentially easier.

9/7/2018: Laptops get thinner, lighter, more secure – and, in one case, audio-hostile, USA Today

This overview of laptop-design trends seen at IFA–most of which I like, one of which I absolutely hate–took a few more days to appear online. I can’t say that any of these changes made me feel bad about my almost-year-old laptop… which is fine! Most people should not buy a new computer every year.

 

Weekly output: Facebook diet, 8K TV, social-media hearings

Another trip to Berlin for IFA is in the books, which means I’ve spent another year wondering when Berlin Brandenburg Airport–which was originally scheduled to open before my 2012 introduction to the show–will ever inaugurate scheduled commercial service.

8/28/2018: How to detox from Facebook, Yahoo Finance

I’d had the bones of this piece in mind since sometime after writing a similar how-to on reducing Google’s role in your life. I’m going to guess that most people didn’t install the Facebook Container extension for Firefox (although I am now running that on my Windows laptop), but I do hope that a good fraction of readers opted out of Facebook’s noisier mobile notifications.

Yahoo Finance IFA 8K post9/1/2018: Forget 4K TVs — 8K televisions are already here, Yahoo Finance

If it wasn’t obvious enough the last time I covered this topic: No, I really don’t think anybody should pay extra for 8K resolution, and if this entire format vanishes into consumer irrelevance as 3D TV did, I won’t be too sad. Meanwhile, I appreciated seeing Yahoo give this a little more publicity with a repost on Yahoo Sports.

9/2/2018: What to expect as Google, Facebook and Twitter face Capitol Hill lawmakers, Yahoo Finance

I wrote a curtain-raiser for Wednesday’s grillings of social-media executives in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Based on how prior House interrogations of tech execs have gone, my expectations for the latter hearing are exceedingly low.

Weekly output: a privacy-optimized version of Android, wireless plans, Facebook forced breakup, cryptocurrency insecurity

Monday afternoon kicks off a ridiculous three weeks of travel: I fly to Berlin then for IFA, come home Sunday, fly to Portland for XOXO the following Thursday, return the Monday after that, then two days later fly to Austin for the Online News Association’s conference.

8/20/2018: How a European Commission antitrust ruling could impact Android privacy, The Parallax

Remember when I said I’d eventually get around to writing about the EC’s blockbuster Google fine? That was not an idle threat.

8/23/2018: Some wireless plans have aged better than others. Has yours?, USA Today

Researching this story about good wireless plans you can’t sign up for anymore allowed me to realize what a dope I was in February of 2017 for not jumping on the deal T-Mobile’s offered then.

8/23/2018: Why breaking up Facebook will never work, Yahoo Finance

Writing this post required boiling down some complex arguments to chunks no longer than maybe two hundred words each. I think I did a good job of that, but I did not go a good job of correctly spelling Open Markets Institute fellow Matthew Stoller’s first name. Even after copying and pasting his moniker and title from OMI’s site into my notes, I then called him “Barry Stoller” in the story. Stupid and avoidable mistakes like that are just exasperating.

8/24/2018: Crypto investor: How hackers used my phone number to steal $23.8 million, Yahoo Finance

When I first saw a Reuters story about a cryptocurrency investor suing AT&T for lax account security that helped hackers steal almost $24 million in holdings, I thought “I know this guy!” Then I e-mailed Michael Terpin, and after a few days of e-mail tag we talked at length on the phone. Then I bent over backward to give the various companies involved time to comment on his travails, and none provided a meaningful response.

Weekly output: Black Hat hacks and security fixes, T-Mobile news, self-driving-car security, voting-machine security, fear of robots

Most of this week’s copy was reported and written the previous week at the Black Hat security conference in Vegas. Considering my own frequently-elastic interpretations of deadlines, I can’t complain about editors with their own crowded calendars taking a day or two to give their full attention to my own work.

8/13/2018: Hacks of Macs, Microsoft Cortana are two more reasons why you should install updates, USA Today

I used this column to synthesize my notes from a few different Black Hat talks that intersected to yield the same lesson: You are safer overall if you install security fixes for your apps and devices when they arrive instead of playing IT department and deciding which ones should wait.

8/13/2018: What could T-Mobile uncap for its next Un-carrier news?, Fierce Wireless

I wrote this curtain-raiser for T-Mobile’s Wednesday announcement twice when a late reply from one analyst and my tardy queries to others led me to file a 1.0 version that would make it into Fierce’s mid-day newsletter. The one you can read now includes quotes from those additional experts–none correctly forecasting that T-Mobile would make its next big push better customer service.

8/13/2018: How two car hackers plan to keep GM’s self-driving cars safe, Yahoo Finance

The single most entertaining talk at Black Hat was this presentation from Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. You may remember them as the guys who hacked a Jeep Cherokee in 2015 to seize control of it with Wired writer Andy Greenberg at the wheel. The two now work for the GM subsidiary Cruise Automation, and at Black Hat they explained how they plan to stop the likes of them from remotely exploiting Cruise’s fleet of self-driving vehicles–in part by removing such attack surfaces as Bluetooth wireless and the FM radio.

8/14/2018: There’s more to election integrity than secure voting machines, The Parallax

Another Black Hat talk gave me one more chance to take a whack at the WinVote voting machines that infested polling places across Virginia–mine included–for a decade. This time around, I checked back with a couple of the experts I’d consulted for earlier coverage of electronic voting machines and learned that both wished they’d paid more attention before to such separate election-integrity issues as voter registration systems.

8/15/2018: Robot workers or human employees, Al Jazeera

I got a request from my usual guy in AJ’s D.C. bureau asking if I could talk about the prospect of robots taking human jobs–both in the private and defense sectors. I was in Boston at the time visiting family, but that proved to be no problem. Instead of them sending a car to my house to take me to their D.C. studios, they ran me over to a studio in downtown Boston, where I did my talking-head duty (overdubbed live into Arabic) wearing one of my brother’s jackets. Since I knew I’d only appear on camera from the torso up, I didn’t bother changing out of the shorts and sandals I’d put on that morning.

Weekly output: mobile payments, Black Hat security, travel tech

I left Black Hat feeling a little overwhelmed–not because of how little time I had to take in things between my arrival in Vegas Tuesday afternoon and my departure Thursday night, but because of how many fascinating briefings I had to miss because I was attending others. And then there’s everything I missed by flying home before DEF CON

8/6/2018: Hang on, Apple: Phone payments still need work, USA Today

Seeing all the hype over Apple announcing that CVS will finally succumb to reality and accept Apple Pay (meaning you can also pay with any non-Apple phone that does NFC payments) got me feeling cranky enough to write this reality-check post. I’ve since received an e-mail from a reader saying he’s had no problem paying for stuff with his iPhone in Mexico, contrary to a statement in the column based on an incorrect reading of Apple and Google support documents. I’ve asked my editors to correct that part.

8/9/2018: Black Hat attendees are surprisingly lax about encryption, The Parallax

As I was putting together my Black Hat schedule, I got an invitation to tour the network operations center supervising the conference’s WiFi. I thought that visit would allow me a chance to look at a lot of blinking lights, but instead it provided up-close evidence of some horrifyingly slack security practices among a minority of Black Hat attendees.

FTU DC badge8/11/2018: Welcome and Keynote with Rob Pegoraro, Frequent Traveler University Washington, DC

After years of profiting from tips shared in various frequent-flyer forums, I had a chance to give back when FTU host Stefan Krasowski asked if I’d like to talk about my travel experiences to open this two-day program of seminars about airline and hotel loyalty programs and other sorts of travel hacking. We had a great conversation about freelance business-trip economics, the gadget accessories I take on the road, two underrated virtues of United elite status, and my worst airport-transit experience ever. My only regret: Since I couldn’t stick around for the rest of the day, I didn’t have a chance to meet the other FTU speakers, a few of whom I’ve been reading for years.

Weekly output: data transfer, Facebook vs. disinformation campaigns (x2), Bletchley Park, $1 trillion Apple

Tuesday morning, I head out for my first business travel since June. And I’m going to one of the last places any sane individual would choose in August: Las Vegas. After years of following it from afar, I’m going to the Black Hat security conference. I hope I don’t melt down in the 108-degree heat, and I hope I can escape Vegas Thursday night without my computer or phone getting hacked.

(Most Black Hat attendees stick around for DEF CON, the other big infosec event in Vegas that week, but I have other travel booked next week, plus I’m speaking about travel tech at the Frequent Traveler University conference in Arlington Saturday morning.)

7/31/2018: Want to move your online data? New service could simplify the transfer to a rival site, USA Today

I wrote about the Data Transfer Project, an initiative backed by Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to let people not just download their data from Web services but transfer it directly to competing sites.

7/31/2018: Facebook battles fake accounts, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on via Skype to talk Facebook’s July 31 announcement that it had removed 32 fake accounts for behavior that looked a whole lot like the Russian meddling Facebook largely overlooked in 2016.

8/1/2018: Bletchley Park’s WWII lessons for today’s hackers, The Parallax

While I was in England seeing family last month, I spent an afternoon wandering around the exhibits at Bletchley Park, the estate north of London where Allied codebreakers helped speed the end of World War II by defeating Nazi Germany’s encryption schemes. The story of how they did that offers important lessons to debates about security today, so I wrote them up The Parallax–with added insights from a couple of experts in the field.

I posted a few extra pictures from my visit at Flickr. But don’t take my words or photos for it; if you’ve got some free time when visiting London, use some of it to walk around Alan Turing’s old workplace.

8/1/2018: Facebook battles fake accounts, Al Jazeera

I returned to AJ, this time live in studio, to talk again about the Facebook-versus-fake-accounts story but with more emphasis on how the social network’s moves are playing out on Wall Street and in public opinion.

8/2/2018: Apple worth $1 trillion, WTOP

I talked to the news station about Apple hitting $1 trillion in market capitalization, but somehow without saying the phrase “one trillion dollars” in a Dr. Evil accent.