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.

Weekly output: a 5G reality check, sports network fees without sports

Yesterday afforded us the rare privilege of several hours spent in a different part of the greater Washington area–Harpers Ferry. That historic town at the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah is as picturesque they say, and it’s close enough that I have zero excuse not to have visited it before. On the other hand, it’s good that after 30-plus years around here I’m still discovering new places.

9/4/2020: Two promising 5G trends: $200 5G phones and unlimited home broadband, Fast Company

My coverage of the scaled-back IFA tech show got an unexpected boost when Qualcomm offered Fast Company a chance to quiz their president Cristiano Amon about their announcements at that event. I enjoyed my conversation with the executive I’d met IRL at an IFA reception last year, and I also appreciated getting some realistic talk about which parts of the 5G formula actually look to be mass-market material on a global scale.

9/6/2020: NBA, NHL, MLB fans sidelined: Will TV subscribers ever get money back after coronavirus shortened seasons?, USA Today

I wrote an update to the column I did in April that didn’t break an enormous amount of news–AT&T’s reply almost matched the one they provided then word-for-word. But I did get some more specific assurances from Comcast about when subscribers might get compensation for months of paying sports-network fees that have not brought anywhere near the usual quota of live sports.

Weekly output: password managers, exposure-notification apps, talking tech with Mark Vena

Six months ago, I expected to be busy tonight packing for the IFA tech trade show. But although that conference in Berlin is proceeding on a drastically-scaled-down basis, I’m not flying to Germany tomorrow because of the European Union’s ban on Americans traveling to the EU. Given how thoroughly we’ve botched this pandemic, I can’t blame them for imposing that restriction.

8/24/2020: Extra security or extra risk? Pros and cons of password managers, TechRepublic

I shared my experience with password managers–mainly LastPass and 1Password–with TechRepublic’s Veronica Combs for this overview of the advantages and disadvantages of these services.

8/25/2020: COVID-19 tracking apps, supported by Apple and Google, begin showing up in app stores, USA Today

Writing a lengthy report for O’Reilly about contact-tracing apps did not mean I could write this much shorter piece from memory and my existing notes. In addition to getting useful adoption data from Virginia’s Department of Public Health about its COVIDWISE app, I also reported that VDH plans to support a national key-server project from the Association of Public Health Laboratories that will let these state-developed apps relay and receive warnings of potential COVID-19 exposure across state lines.

8/28/2020: SmartTechCheck Podcast (8-28-20), Mark Vena

I talked about exposure-notification apps, the future of tech events like IFA, 5G wireless and Apple silicon with my analyst pal at Moor Insights & Strategy–another tech type who would have been packing for Berlin tonight but is instead grounded. You may notice a break in the recording about halfway through, when I had to get a glass of water so I could resume speaking normally. Note to self: Before sitting down to record a 45-minute podcast, make sure a glass of water is on the desk.

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: Google’s RCS messaging, PBS comes to YouTube TV (x2), 5G and IoT, Telaria + Rubicon, pay-TV fee transparency, Dish boxes + Nest Hello video doorbells, car2go gone, best DNA tests

My last full work week of the year and the decade had me busy, which is another way of saying this was a real bag of stress. I am looking forward to enjoying a few more tranquil days, and I hope you all also get some downtime in the rest of the December.

12/16/2019: Google’s new RCS text messaging: Will it work with my wireless carrier?, USA Today

I explained this upgrade to SMS that Google has taken to calling “chat features,” and which continues to see apathetic support from carriers.

12/17/2019: Cord cutters, you can finally stream your PBS stations online – on YouTube TV, USA Today

The reporting I did in January for a FierceVideo piece about PBS’s digital strategy paid off when I got a heads-up from public television’s Boston station WGBH about their impending arrival on YouTube TV. That allowed me to get this post on USAT’s site right after the news that cord cutters could finally watch many local PBS affiliates without needing either reliable over-the-air reception or a cable or satellite TV subscription.

12/18/2019: 5G deployment stands ready to supercharge the Internet of Things, Ars Technica

My last feature-length explainer covered the potential of 5G’s network-slicing and edge-computing capabilities in IoT markets. Like the earlier two, this was sponsored by a company that I assume was Verizon, going by the presence of their ads atop each one in the series. But Ars has yet to confirm that, and they certainly didn’t tell me in advance–which is exactly how this sort of arrangement should work.

12/19/2019: PBS lands on YouTube TV, FierceVideo

I spent the last two days of the week filling in at this trade-pub client to cover breaking news. My first post provided some more context about PBS’s debut on a streaming-TV service, including more details about participating stations than I had for the USA Today piece.

12/19/2019: Adtech firms Telaria and Rubicon to merge, FierceVideo

Thursday’s other post was a writeup of this merger of two adtech companies that I must admit I didn’t know much about prior to Thursday.

12/20/2019: New law mandates pay-TV fee transparency, FierceVideo

Friday morning, I wrote up the Television Viewer Protection Act, a just-passed measure mandating a little more disclosure of such tacked-on pay-TV expenses as the surcharge for local broadcasts and equipment-rental fees.

12/20/2019: Dish Network says hello to Google’s video doorbell, FierceVideo

Some Dish DVRs and receivers can now show a Nest Hello video doorbell’s view of who’s at your front door.

12/21/2019: An elegy for Car2Go, the smarter Zipcar rival that lost its way, Fast Company

The demise of D.C.’s leading point-to-point car-sharing service made me and many other transportation geeks sad.

12/21/2019: The best DNA test kit of 2019, Tom’s Guide

The fourth big story I wrote about DNA tests for this reviews site offers a ranking of the two I tested myself, 23andMe and AncestryDNA, plus an assessment of three others that have ranked high in other reviews: MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and Living DNA.

Weekly output: Huawei and ZTE network-gear security, Ericsson’s 5G forecast, 5G explained

I hope you all haven’t gotten bored of me writing about 5G wireless, because there’s a lot more of that coming over the next two weeks.

12/3/2019: Don’t obsess over the security of Chinese wireless gear. Do this instead, Fast Company

I wrote about the Federal Communications Commission’s recent move to ban wireless carriers that receive Universal Service Fund subsidies from using any of those government dollars to buy network gear from the Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE.

12/4/2019: Get ready for 5G to make your phone even more addictive, Fast Company

Remember the Ericsson study about the future of mobile broadband worldwide that I briefly wrote about for FierceVideo last week? Fast Company also thought that worthy of a post, allowing me to cover it in more detail. As my old editor Craig Stoltz used to say: “Sell everything twice.”

12/4/2019: 5G on the horizon: Here’s what it is and what’s coming, Ars Technica

This 2,000-word post–the first of three I’m doing for Ars about the possibilities of 5G wireless–allowed me to synthesize a lot of the research and reporting I’ve been doing over the last few months. One thought I had after writing this: The carriers are setting their customers up for an enormous amount of disappointment by hyping up the potential of the one form of 5G least likely to reach most Americans, millimeter-wave 5G. Another thought: Even with all the skepticism I tried to bring to the topic at the time, my first coverage of 5G still exhibited too much trust in the sales pitches of carriers and hardware vendors.

 

 

 

 

Weekly output: Comcast broadcast-TV fee hike, Starz app, Disney+ downloads, Ericsson mobile-broadband study, Opensignal video-quality study, Black Friday media-player deals, inactive Twitter accounts

Hello, December–as in, the month in which the only uncertainty left about my income for the year concerns which clients will not pay an outstanding invoice until after Dec. 31.

11/25/2019: Comcast readies another round of rate hikes, FierceVideo

I spent the first three mornings of the week filling in at this trade-pub client to write up breaking news. Comcast obliged me by prepping its latest in a long series of rate hikes–one topped by a nearly 50 percent increase in the broadcast-TV fee that didn’t even exist before 2015.

11/25/2019: Starz takes streaming-TV app overseas, FierceVideo

Monday didn’t have much else in the way of breaking video news, so I wrote up this international expansion of Starz’ streaming app.

11/26/2019: Disney+ mobile apps hit 15.5 million downloads: Report, FierceVideo

My editor at Fierce flagged the New York Post’s writeup of the news, which extrapolated from the app-download estimates of Apptopia to conclude that almost a million people were signing up for Disney+ a day. I’m glad I asked Apptopia for comment, because they declined to associate themselves with the Post’s assumptions.

11/26/2019: Ericsson study: video will eat 76% of mobile bandwidth in 2025, FierceVideo

I wrote up a new Ericsson forecast calling for a boom in streaming video–fueled by rapid adoption of 5G broadband.

11/27/2019: Opensignal study slams U.S. carriers’ streaming-video quality, FierceVideo

My first item Wednesday morning was an Opensignal study that gave streaming-video quality in the U.S. the equivalent of an F- and ranked us between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

11/27/2019: Streaming video players spotted less at early Black Friday sales, FierceVideo

The headline on this was supposed to read “Streaming video plays spotted for less.” I was also supposed to have Wednesday afternoon free after filing this, but I didn’t finish writing another post for a separate client (not yet posted) until 5 p.m.

11/28/2019: Inactive Twitter accounts, Al Jazeera

I took a short break from Thanksgiving cooking to pop in via Skype and discuss Twitter’s quickly-walked-back plans to start culling inactive accounts. Most of the questions from AJ’s host involved what Twitter should do for the accounts of deceased members, and I had to admit that it crazy for Twitter still not to have any policy for that.

Weekly output: 5G in buildings, online security, Qualcomm’s 5G vision, AncestryDNA, 23andMe, smartphone location privacy, 5G meets the Washington Post

Don’t expect any tweetstorms from me this week about the joys of spending time on a plane, a train, a bus or a car: For the first time since 1988, I’m not traveling for Thanksgiving. Instead, my mom and my brother and his family are coming to us. Since I have somehow never cooked a turkey before, Thursday promises to be its own little culinary adventure.

11/18/2019: Expect 5G to Slow Its Roll as It Enters Buildings, Urban Land

You may have read my first piece in the Urban Land Institute’s magazine since 2014 earlier if you got a print copy of the mag, but I don’t know when they started showing up.

11/18/2019: You’re not crazy to feel some insecurity about your security online, Riderwood Computer Club

I gave a talk about computer security–with slides and everything!–to the user group at this Maryland retirement community. My hosts asked some great questions and gave me at least one story idea I need to sell somewhere.

11/20/2019: Qualcomm is talking a big game about 5G—in 2020 and beyond, Fast Company

I wrote up Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon’s presentation at that firm’s analyst day, calling out some inconsistencies in his sales pitch for 5G wireless.

11/21/2019: AncestryDNA Review: DNA Test Kit, Tom’s Guide

I reviewed this DNA-test service and did come away quite as impressed with it as some other reviewers.

11/21/2019: 23andMe Review, Tom’s Guide

The prospect of having this DNA-test service warn me that I had a genetic predisposition for some incurable disease left me a little nervous. But 23andMe found no such red flags, allowing me to complete this review without lingering feelings of existential dread.

11/23/2019: Apple and Google remind you about location privacy, but don’t forget your wireless carrier, USA Today

My editor asked if I could do a recap of the location-privacy features in Android 10 and iOS 13, and I realized that this topic would let me revisit my earlier reporting for TechCrunch about the location data-retention policies of the big four wireless carriers.

11/24/2019: 5G is going to save journalism! Maybe! (Don’t hold your breath), Fast Company

I wrote about a deal between AT&T and the Washington Post to put 5G to work in journalism–which, given the extreme coverage limits of the millimeter-wave 5G that figures so prominently in their announcement, seems a reach. I couldn’t resist reminding readers of a past collaboration between my old shop and AT&T: the doomed Digital Ink online service running on AT&T’s Interchange platform.