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: LinkNYC, Google renews RCS plea, Chris Krebs at Black Hat, 5G explainer, Cyber Safety Review Board, Web3 security

After a week on the West Coast, including four days in Las Vegas for the Black Hat security conference, I now have two weeks of not going anywhere. Which is good!

8/8/2022: LinkNYC begins deploying 5G kiosks – but not yet with 5G inside, Light Reading

After too many months of not writing for this telecom trade-pub client, I filed this update on New York rebooting its LinkNYC effort to bring free WiFi and digital city services to individual blocks.

8/9/2022: Google Posts Yet Another Plea for Apple to Support RCS Messaging in iMessage, PCMag

Google makes fair points when it calls out Apple for hindering the quality and privacy of cross-platform text messaging by not supporting the RCS messaging standard in iMessage. But Google hurts its cause by not supporting RCS in Google Voice–or even explaining that hangup. Also unhelpful: Google has yet to ship an API that would let the developers of Signal and other third-party messaging apps support RCS.

Screenshot of PCMag post as seen in Chrome on a Pixel 5a, with a VPN service active.8/10/2022: Ex-CISA Chief’s Advice at Black Hat: Make Security Valuable and Attacks Costly, PCMag

I covered the keynote by former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency head Chris Krebs that opened Black Hat. His talk ended on a self-help note, as he advised his audience: “Life’s too short to work for assholes. So don’t.” And yet Krebs worked for President Trump from 2018 through 2020, when Trump fired him for correctly confirming that the 2020 election was run fairly and securely; that could not have been easy for him.

8/11/2022: What Is 5G, and Does It Actually Make a Difference?, Wirecutter

I wrote yet another 5G explainer, this time for the New York Times’ Wirecutter site.

8/11/2022: How a US Govt Board Helped the Open-Source Community Leap to Patch Log4j, PCMag

As the token Washingtonian among PCMag’s crew of writers, I had to write up this very Washington panel about the first test of the Cyber Safety Review Board–an organization set up as an infosec version of the National Transportation Safety Board.

8/12/2022: Why Is Web3 Security Such a Garbage Fire? Let Us Count the Ways, PCMag

This talk about a series of security meltdowns at blockchain-based sites and services had more than a few unintentional-comedy moments.

8/12/2022: The 14 Scariest Things We Saw at Black Hat 2022, PCMag

My contribution to this recap was the “Startups Shirk Security” section.

Updated 8/21/2022 to add the PCMag Black Hat recap.

Weekly output: FCC chair at MWC, Rocket Lab in Virginia, Verizon’s fixed-wireless 5G ambitions, Russia bans Facebook, U.S. tech companies fire Russia

I got home from MWC Thursday afternoon and finally got a Flickr album uploaded Sunday night. I’m blaming not just jet lag and a busy schedule, but a weird bug in the Flickr Android app that strips out geotags from photos automatically backed up. My workaround for this has been to select the pictures I want to share in Google Photos, download them to my Mac, and then upload them to Flickr. I would very much like to see this bug get fixed already.

Screenshot of the story as I viewed it in my Android phone's copy of Chrome on the way to MWC3/1/2022: Rosenworcel’s MWC appearance hints at shifting spectrum policy, Light Reading

My first MWC dateline came from me covering a speech by somebody whose office sits less than five miles from my house–Federal Communications Commission chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who came to Barcelona to suggest two changes in the FCC’s spectrum-policy priorities.

3/1/2022: Rocket Lab to Build, Launch, and Land Reusable Rockets in Virginia, PCMag

The second story I filed from Barcelona also had a back-home component–the news that Rocket Lab USA would build a factory for its partially-reusable Neutron rocket on Wallops Island, Va.

3/3/2022: Verizon’s Sowmyanarayan on how FWA supports edge computing, private wireless, Light Reading

Story number three from Barcelona involved me interviewing a Verizon executive who works 200+ miles northeast of me.

3/4/2022: Russia Blocks Facebook for Not Giving State Media Free Rein, PCMag

The day after I got back from Barcelona, I covered Russia’s latest temper tantrum over American social networks not obliging its authoritarian streak.

3/5/2022: American tech sanctions against Russia, Al Jazeera

Saturday, I joined the Arabic-language news network (overdubbed live) to talk about the trend of U.S. tech companies cutting off Russia. As I noted, the likes of Apple and Intel can afford to fire Russia as a customer–it’s not a Japan, a U.K. or even a Canada.

Weekly output: Google location-privacy lawsuit, C-Band 5G and aviation safety, Neil Young vs. Spotify, broadband nutrition labels, C-Band 5G explained

The traffic stats for my post about where I should move my home e-mail account once Google will start charging for it suggest I’m not alone in this confusion. Readers: story assignment received.

1/24/2022: Lawsuits Accuse Google of Surveilling Customers, Profiting From Their Data, PCMag

For once, a request for comment from a giant tech company accused of misconduct by multiple states yielded a data point I didn’t know before: At some recent point (Google hasn’t told me when), the company began limiting the accuracy of its location estimates for Web searches to a “general area” no smaller than one square mile.

Screenshot of Arirang's Global Insight page listing recent episodes, as seen on an Pixel 5a on T-Mobile 5G1/26/2022: What’s going on with 5G and flights?, Arirang TV

In what I’m pretty sure was my debut on Korean TV, this English-language news network had me on its Global Insight show to talk about the intersection of C-Band 5G wireless and aviation safety, as well as the broader picture for 5G in the U.S.

1/26/2022: Neil Young to Spotify: Since You Won’t Dump Joe Rogan, I’m Dumping You, PCMag

I would have written this faster if I hadn’t made a point of stuffing multiple references to Neil Young’s work into the post.

1/27/2022: FCC to Require ISPs to Post Broadband ‘Nutrition Labels’, PCMag

Almost six years after I wrote about an earlier attempt by the Federal Communications Commission to encourage Internet providers to list the basic parameters of their service in a nutrition-label format, the FCC voted to write rules making such a thing mandatory.

1/30/2022: What is C-Band? Here’s what a new 5G flavor means for AT&T and Verizon users, USA Today

This explainer about C-Band 5G offered advice about how to read Verizon’s 5G coverage map. It also shared some hope, possibly foolish hope, that these mid-band 5G frequencies can lead to a meaningful expansion of Americans’ choices in home broadband.

Weekly output: FAA vs. C-Band 5G, CES cancellations, Mark Vena podcast

For all of the stress 2021 has inflicted, its final days still represent a vast improvement over what the end of 2020 felt like.
 

Screenshot of USA Today column as seen on a Pixel 5a's copy of Chrome12/21/2021: How 5G could make a mess of your next flight, USA Today

The latest in a very long series of 5G explainers was more of an aviation-safety story than a mobile-broadband item, so I talked to a different set of sources. And they convinced me that there’s more to this than the Federal Aviation Administration getting persnickety at the last minute. 

12/22/2021: Some Tech Companies (and Tech Journalists) Scrap Plans for In-Person CES 2022 Visit, PCMag

I wrote about the cast of characters–mostly side-stage exhibitors so far, but also a lot of my tech-journalism friends–that had decided to sit out CES 2022 due to concern over the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. After this ran, Lenovo announced that it, too, was canceling plans to show up in Vegas.  

12/23/2021: S01 E23 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

I joined this podcast for one last time this year to discuss some Apple-shareholder activism, the log4j server vulnerability, the C-Band 5G fracas, and the status of CES.

Weekly output: 5G leaders, Mr. Antenna, streaming study, Desi Bundle, Disney’s Star+, Seinfeld coming to Netflix, two-factor authentication, HBO Max on Vizio, Locast logs off, Apple loosens App Store rules for “reader” apps, Nielsen nixed, checking wireless coverage, WhatsApp privacy fine

I worked a volunteer shift at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic Friday, the fourth time I’ve done so. On this occasion, we had far fewer customers than before, most coming for their second round of Pfizer or Moderna. But a few had yet to get any dose, which meant that they got to choose between those two vaccines or Johnson & Johnson’s; the latter needing a single jab made the difference for one man who said he was only getting vaccinated because his job required it. We also had a few under-18 kids who were limited to Pfizer–and one whom had been brought by her mom on her 12th birthday, so we had to take a minute to sing “Happy Birthday” to her.

8/30/2021: The 5G 50 to Watch Top Ten List, Light Reading

I helped write the bios for this list of top telecom industry executives put together by my trade-pub client. Yes, my last name is spelled wrong at the end of the piece.

8/31/2021: OTA antenna service alleges Vegas station refused to air its ads, FierceVideo

I spent most of this week filling in at my other big trade-pub client. I started by covering an allegation by a broadcast-antenna vendor named Mr. Antenna that a Las Vegas station had quit airing its ads because increased broadcast viewing would undercut its cable-TV income.

8/31/2021: New study finds more Americans splitting their streaming budget, FierceVideo

I wrote up a Leichtman Research Group study finding more Americans signing up for at least three streaming services.

8/31/2021: DistroScale streaming bundle serves up free South Asian channels, FierceVideo

If you didn’t know that “desi” is a term for people of South Asian descent before reading this post, you did after.

9/1/2021: Disney debuts Star+ in Latin America, FierceVideo

Writing this led me to dust off my VPN service for the first time in months to see what pricing this new Disney streaming service would show to a viewer in its target Latin American markets–the press releases I saw didn’t list any.

9/1/2021: Seinfeld coming to Netflix Oct. 1—and in 4K, FierceVideo

I only referenced one Seinfeld catch phrase in this piece, which I thought showed remarkable restraint.

Screengrab of column as seen in USAT's iPad app9/1/2021: Why you shouldn’t rely on texts when using two-factor authentication to sign into accounts, USA Today

I could have written this column at any time in the previous two years, but T-Mobile’s latest data breach made it newly relevant.

9/2/2021: HBO Max app comes to Vizio connected TVs, FierceVideo

This post reminded me how much of HBO Max’s early struggles with getting its apps on streaming platforms.

9/2/2021: After hostile court ruling, Locast logs off, FierceVideo

As I tweeted after this story ran, the broadcasters who succeeded in suing Locast offline might not want to gloat too much. Viewers aren’t getting any less weary of endless pay-TV rate hikes, and telling people without good over-the-air reception to stick with cable will only get less persuasive every year.

9/2/2021: Apple to let video apps point users away from its payment system, FierceVideo

Apple deigning to allow “reader” apps to include one link to their own site shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is in the context of that company’s history of App Store control-freakery.

9/3/2021: Media Rating Council suspends Nielsen accreditations, FierceVideo

My last post for Fierce this week covered an industry group snubbing Nielsen’s audience-tracking work.

9/3/2021: Which wireless carrier has the best coverage where you’re going? Here’s how to find out, USA Today

A friend’s query about ways to see if T-Mobile or Verizon would offer better service than AT&T at his home was followed by my realizing that USAT had yet to cover the FCC’s release of a new and surprisingly helpful map of predicted LTE coverage from the major carriers.

9/3/2021: WhatsApp fined under GDPR, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language channel had me on to discuss WhatsApp getting hit with a €225 million fine for violations of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. The European Data Protection Board’s ruling in this case calls those failures of transparency, but I see the underlying problem as WhatsApp insisting on access to your phone’s contacts list to place a call or send a message to anybody who hasn’t already contacted you in the app.

Weekly output: T-Mobile and Verizon wireless home broadband, sports on streaming TV, MLB streaming (x2), Netflix earnings, WiFi hotspots, the future of live events, Fios TV, WWE, Facebook’s new audio features, Mark Vena podcast

The list you see below reflects a lot of work done in earlier weeks–three virtual panels recorded in advance, plus a Wirecutter update that I started researching last year.

4/19/2021: Time to cut internet cords: T-Mobile, Verizon up their bids to be your next home broadband, USA Today

I wrote about the fixed-wireless home-broadband services now available from these two carriers–one of which looks better positioned to let more Americans dump their local cable or telco monopoly.

4/19/2021: A key lesson of sports on OTT: first, do no lag, FierceVideo

An editor at this trade pub asked if I could fill in with coverage of an online event they were hosting. That work started with a write-up of a panel about lessons learned in distributing live sports events on over-the-top (aka “OTT,” meaning delivered on a third party’s broadband) video services.

Screenshot of the panel as seen on an iPad, with me at the left and Marinak at the right4/20/2021: Keynote Interview: Producing OTT Sports Content, StreamTV Sports Summit

I didn’t just write about Fierce’s conference, I also participated in it by interviewing Chris Marinak, Major League Baseball’s chief operations and strategy officer. You can watch our banter after registering with your e-mail or Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter accounts; meanwhile, take a close look at the screenshot at the right and you may be able to recognize the Nationals bobblehead I’d placed on my desk for this recording.

4/20/2021: MLB to RSNs: It’s time to think direct-to-consumer, FierceVideo

Fierce then invited me to write up my own appearance at its show, so I led with Marinak’s answer to my question about his statements in a March season-preview event that MLB wants regional sports networks to sell game coverage direct to subscribers instead of making them sign up for a big pay-TV bundle. (I’d covered those earlier comments in an Opening Day post at Forbes.) Marinak reiterated that stance, and my recap got picked up at a few places; among them, Awful Announcing‘s Andrew Bucholtz and The Streamable‘s Jason Gurwin provided useful context.

4/21/2021: Netflix subscriber growth downshifts in Q1, FierceVideo

I wrote one more post for Fierce, in this case because the usual reporter was taking a just-in-case day off after getting his second dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Netflix earnings are less annoying to cover than those of other tech companies, because NFLX posts an “earnings interview” video instead of making people listen to an audio-only recording on which all the executives usually sound alike.

4/21/2021: The Best Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wirecutter

This overdue update to the guide I’d last revised in those innocent days of early 2020 brings a new 5G-specific pick, T-Mobile’s M2000 hotspot. AT&T and Verizon’s 5G hotspots, lacking the midband 5G T-Mo offers, were nowhere close–and yet Verizon’s LTE remains so good that the top pick went to the same Vz 4G hotspot as last year.

4/21/2021: Preparing for the return to live, Collision

I started this interview of Nathan Hubbard (formerly of Musictoday, Ticketmaster, Twitter and Rival) by mentioning the last game and concert I’d attended in the Before Times. That last musical event was a John Hiatt set at the Birchmere, which led Hubbard to recount how he’d once played that Alexandria venue himself.

4/21/2021: Verizon’s Slumping Video-Subscriber Numbers: Here’s What A Post-TV Provider Looks Like, Forbes

Seeing Verizon lose another stadium’s worth of pay-TV subscribers led me to take a closer look at both its Fios TV service and its sales pitch for it online, which at this point represents the softest of sells.

4/22/2021: WWE: Breaking down the data, Collision

I talked to WWE CTO Rajan Mehta about the network’s applications of technology… after offering the disclaimer that not only am I not anybody’s idea of a WWE viewer, as a D.C.-based journalist I must self-identify as a C-SPAN man.

4/22/2021: Facebook Exec Sounds Off On Its New Audio Features, Forbes

Fidji Simo, who heads Facebook’s app efforts, spoke at a couple of Collision panels about the social network’s upcoming audio features–while other Collision speakers made some good points about Facebook’s history of not thinking through the implications of new products and features.

4/24/2021: SmartTechCheck Podcast (4-23-21), Mark Vena

I returned to my tech-analyst friend’s podcast to discuss Apple’s announcements from its “Spring Loaded” event and talk about my findings from testing 5G hotspots around the D.C. area.

 

Weekly output: Qwoted, 5G frontiers, T-Mobile turns off TVision, pay-TV-free MLB, Mark Vena podcast, “Other” iOS storage

It’s Easter Sunday, and my favorite sign of reborn life today is the CDC reporting another 3.37 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered yesterday.

3/29/2021: ‘Qwestion’ & Answer with Rob Pegoraro, Freelance Journalist, Qwoted

This platform set up to connect experts to journalists quizzed me over e-mail at the end of last year.

Screengrab of my CCA panel, showing one panelist's cat perching on this chair.

3/30/2021: New Frontiers For 5G, Mobile Carriers Show

A year ago, I was supposed to moderate a panel discussion about 5G wireless possibilities at the Competitive Carriers Association’s spring conference. That event got scrubbed, and then I wound up doing an online panel about 5G at the same organization’s virtual event this spring. My fellow panelists: T-Mobile chief network officer Ulf Ewaldsson, U.S. Cellular chief technology officer Mike Irizarry (his cat makes a cameo in the screengrab here), Ericsson consumer lab head Jasmeet Sethi, and Nex-Tech Wireless director of operations, network and engineering Nathan Sutter (who somehow has his caption swapped with mine in the screengrab above). Two days later, panel host Fierce Wireless wrote up our talk.

3/30/2021: T-Mobile Turning Off TVision, Will Bundle Philo And YouTube TV Instead, Forbes

T-Mobile dumping the streaming TV service it launched half a year ago, and which I wrote up at the time, made this an obvious story candidate. 

4/1/2021: As Streaming Services Drop Baseball Networks, Many Cord-Cutters Can Only Say ‘Wait Till Next Year’, Forbes

This year’s version of what’s become an annual fixture covered how multiple streaming-TV providers have run away from the regional sports networks that carry most baseball games, and which have socked local viewers with regional-sports-network fees that increase a little more every year. 

4/1/2021: SmartTechCheck Podcast (4-1-21), Mark Vena

This week’s episode of this podcast (also available in video form) involved my gripes about the thin availability of baseball games on streaming TV (see above), Amazon’s clumsy stabs at persuading politicians and their voters via Twitter, and more. 

4/2/2021: What does ‘Other’ mean in your device storage? Dealing with the dark matter of iPhone and iPad data, USA Today

Once again, a family member’s request for tech support led to a tech-support column for USAT.

Updated 4/6/2021 to add a link to the video version of Vena’s podcast.

Weekly output: streaming-video viewers, Facebook vs. Australia, ShowStoppers TV, password managers, Vint Cerf on 6G

In addition to the stories below, my tweet about the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s board-meeting news of an American Express Centurion Lounge coming to National Airport in 2022 got picked up at Gary Leff’s View From The Wing travel blog. As a longtime reader of Gary’s, I had to smile about that.

2/16/2021: OTT providers acknowledge the challenge of holding onto viewers, FierceVideo

I wrote up this online panel about the issues involved in retaining viewers as we emerge from this pandemic. The panel itself suffered its own retention problems, in the form of the moderator dropping offline multiple times.

2/17/2021: Facebook Will Give You Less Koala Content, Among Other Problems With Its Australian News Ban, Forbes

The koala-content angle came to me early on as I wrote this post, so I had to find some file art of a koala to go with the piece.

2/18/2021: ShowStoppers TV, ShowStoppers

I emceed this round of gadget demos, introducing and quizzing the presenters:  Godonut’s smartphone/tablet mount, HoverCam’s eGlass remote-teaching system, and Wacom’s Chromebook-connected drawing tablet.

Screenshot of USA Today column as seen in the paper's iPad app2/18/2021: LastPass to limit its free password manager. Here are other options, including Apple, Google, USA Today

All the research I did about password-manager services at the end of last year for the U.S. News guide that ran in January made this an easier column to write. That work also helped me write a longer post about the relative merits of LastPass, 1Password, Bitwarden and Dashlane for Patreon readers.

2/19/2021: 6G internet? Internet pioneer Vint Cerf isn’t buying the hype, Fast Company

I wrote up an online event hosted by Mitre Corp. on Feb. 11 that featured this interview of Internet pioneer Vint Cerf (whom I previously wrote about for Fast Company when he spoke at a conference in Alexandria in late 2019). Much as Cerf had voiced some sensible skepticism about 5G broadband one winter ago, he declined to get too excited over 6G and instead pointed to the connectivity potential of low-Earth-orbit satellites and ever-cheaper undersea fiber-optic cables.

Weekly output: Huawei concerns, talking about 5G, states v. Google, Amazon Sidewalk, Russian hacking

I may not have the usual deluge of CES pitches to remind that the year is almost done, but it’s still comforting to think that the number of stories I still owe to various editors in 2020 is now under five.

12/15/2020: Huawei concerns, Al Jazeera

My appearance on the Arabic-language news channel to discuss concerns over the reliability of Huawei’s hardware and software was cut short when my laptop dropped off my home WiFi. Awkward!

12/15/2020: Top 2020 questions: “Why all the hype about 5G?”, Talking Tech with Jefferson Graham

My USAT colleague is taking a buyout at the end of this year, so I joined his podcast for one last time to discuss–what else?–5G wireless, how far it’s fallen short of the hype, and how it might get better in a year or so.

12/18/2020: Here’s What Google Should Worry About Now That Most States Are Suing It, Forbes

I wrote an explainer about the two multi-state antitrust lawsuits filed against Google this week, both of which allege some disturbing misconduct by Google in its advertising businesses.

12/19/2020: Amazon wants your devices to talk to each other. Should you take a walk on Sidewalk?, USA Today

I talked to a few experts–two briefed by Amazon, one a longstanding expert in Internet-of-Things security–about the peer-to-peer network that Amazon is now activating on its smart-home gadgets.

12/19/2020: Russian hacking allegations, Al Jazeera

My producer in AJ’s D.C. bureau evidently had no hard feelings about my WiFi dropout on Tuesday, since he had me back on Saturday evening to discuss revelations of a massive hacking carried out by Russian intelligence.