Weekly output: new Macs, online absentee voting, Tech Night Owl, DuckDuckGo

LISBON–I’m here for my fourth Web Summit, which is also my third in a row to have me moderating panels and away from the U.S. during election day. I like this conference, but I’m missing the experience of casting a ballot in person on the big day. American citizens reading this: You will be doing just that Tuesday if you haven’t already voted early or absentee, right? Because if you don’t, you’re inviting the dumbest person in your precinct to vote in your place.

10/29/2018: Why it’s a big deal that Apple is finally updating its computers, Yahoo Finance

When I wrote this curtain-raiser post for Apple’s news this week, I didn’t factor in Apple charging so much more for memory and storage upgrades. I will try to revisit that topic sometime soon.

11/1/2018: Experts disagree on how to secure absentee votes, The Parallax

This article started as questions I had left over after writing a post about the Voatz blockchain absentee-voting app a few weeks ago.

11/3/2018: November 3, 2018 — Rob Pegoraro and Jeff Gamet, Tech Night Owl

I talked to host Gene Steinberg about some puzzling aspects of Apple’s finally-updated computer lineup, along with its decision to stop revealing unit-sales numbers in future earnings releases.

11/4/2018: What it’s like to use a search engine that’s more private than Google, Yahoo Finance

Not for the first time, a topic I tried out as a post here became a separate story for a paying client. Did that piece get you to set the default search in one of your browsers to the privacy-optimized DuckDuckGo? I’ll take your answer in the comments.

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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.

Covering Apple news from afar

My streak of never covering the launch of a new iPhone in person continued Wednesday, when I watched Apple unveil the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus the way any of you could have: via Apple’s video stream.

iphone-back-closeupWatching a product launch on my iPad in my own home looks less like “journalism” than typing away furiously in a crowded auditorium in San Francisco. But as long as my main clients have full-time staffers who regularly cover Apple events–David Pogue at Yahoo Finance, Ed Baig at USA Today–I don’t expect that to change.

(As vain as I can get, I don’t think I’m anywhere near enough of an “influencer” to warrant an invitation solely for my social-media audience.)

The obvious downside of not being there is no hands-on time with new hardware. Worming your way through a scrum of other tech journalists to get a few minutes of time to fiddle with a phone can be a mildly degrading waste of time, but it’s also the only way to try out features like fingerprint unlocking. I’ll have to wait until the new phones’ Sept. 16 retail debut to do a hands-on inspection.

The less obvious downside is not getting to meet some tech-journalist pals. Many of the reporters who focus on Apple don’t go to CES or the other regular events on my schedule, so sitting out Apple’s events means missing their company.

On the upside, not being in a position to cover a new iPhone’s launch means I don’t have to spend too many mental processor cycles worrying about Apple PR’s opinion of me–a profoundly liberating state of affairs. And when I’m tweeting from my own couch instead of inside an event venue, I know the WiFi will work.

(After the jump: How I didn’t cover the iPhone’s 2007 debut, even though I was in Pacific time at the time.)

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Weekly output: old phone plans, sports and VR, Vint Cerf, prepaid and MVNO wireless, Collision pitches, crowd wisdom, Apple earnings, “A Beautiful Planet,” VR visions, Charter and data caps

This week took me to New Orleans for the first time since 2012, courtesy of the Collision conference that ran from Monday through Thursday there. As I was signing up for a press pass to cover this production of the team behind the Web Summit conference I covered in Dublin last year, some of the organizers suggested I could moderate a panel or conduct an onstage interview; I followed up on that, they offered me a panel, and then a week before the show they asked if I could handle another.

The results: a great trip, a great conference, and a reason to go to New Orleans around this time in 2017.

4/25/2016: Oldies aren’t goodies when it comes to phone plans, USA Today

I used this column to answer a round of reader questions about an earlier column, and in the process subjected myself to dangerous levels of math.

Collision wristbands4/26/2016: Putting VR first, Collision

This conversation about using virtual reality to depict sports–featuring Derek Belch, founder of the VR-training firm STRIVR and PGA Tour senior content director Sloane Kelley–was the late addition to my schedule. I had about a second of complete panic as I began speaking and heard people saying “we can’t hear you,” but then I realized I probably hadn’t broken the head-mounted microphone and should instead try positioning it closer to my mouth. After that anxiety-inducing start, seeing this appreciate tweet from one of the organizers kind of made my morning.

4/26/2016: Internet pioneer Vint Cerf: We need to make room on the Net for all the machines, Yahoo Tech

The idea for that photo popped into my head about halfway through Cerf’s talk Saturday at Smithsonian magazine’s “The Future Is Here” festival, and then I had to write a post to go with it. I’m pretty sure this represented my first coverage of IPv6 since 2011.

4/26/2016: Best Prepaid and Alternative Phone Plans, The Wirecutter

The first update to this guide since November heralds an end to Republic Wireless’s ban on tethering and T-Mobile’s speed limits. It should have also noted Boost’s addition of family plans, but I left a stray phrase in that we had to fix two days later.

4/26/2016: Pitch judging, Collision

I helped judge one round of Collision’s startup competition. We heard from execs at a semiconductor supplier, a place-finding app, a video-production-management service, a chat app, an air-quality-monitoring service, and a restaurant-management app.

Collision schedule listing4/27/2016: Crowd wisdom and peer-based markets, Collision

This panel not only featured Declara CEO Ramona Pierson, Moovit CMO Alex Mackenzie Torres, and Getaround founder Jessica Scorpio, it also included a cute little dog, thanks to Scorpio bringing hers onstage. About a third of the way through, I realized I was in whatever zone panel moderators can get into–I was thinking a few questions ahead, I had no worries about having too little or too much time left, I was avoiding “uhs” and “ums,” and I had no anxiety at all. That’s a great feeling to have.

4/27/2016: iPhone Sales Fall, Ending Apple’s Record Growth, Voice of America

I did a quick interview from the Collision media lounge about Apple’s first “bad” quarterly earnings in 13 years. Speaking of that location: Collision’s press-room chow wasn’t quite as awesome as at Web Summit, but it was still vastly better than at almost every other conference I’ve attended.

4/28/2016: ‘A Beautiful Planet’: friendly space station, muddled message, Yahoo Tech

I attended a screening of this IMAX documentary at the National Air & Space Museum the Friday before, then wrote the review on the flight to New Orleans. Watching the movie’s depiction of life on the International Space Station represented a flashback to attending NASA Tweetups five years ago in more ways than one: I ran into NASA’s Stephanie Schierholz, the space agency’s social-media manager back then, at the screening.

4/29/2016: Virtual reality: Feeling our way into an uncertain future, Yahoo Tech

I enjoyed coming up with the lede for this, and playing around with Leap Motion’s hands-included VR was a treat too.

5/1/2016: Charter to drop data caps, but other companies, but other companies still use them, USA Today

We updated this post a few hours after it went up with a couple of lines about overage fees at AT&T and Comcast that should have been in my copy from the start, plus a tweaked headline.

Updated 5/2 to add last weekend’s USAT column, which I didn’t even realize I’d overlooked until I was invoicing for April’s work. And updated again that afternoon to add a link to the updated Wirecutter guide. It appears that I could use more sleep. 

Weekly output: Apple and social media, right to be forgotten, wireless carriers, Facebook and health care, overheating laptops

Another Sunday when my brain is mostly filled with thoughts about baseball. Yes, I was at Nats Park for all 18 innings last night. No, witnessing that loss didn’t hurt nearly as much as 2012’s horrible NLDS Game 5. Yes, I still felt crummy today.

But you know what? We’re going to play another game tomorrow. Go Nats.

9/30/2014: Apple, Can We Talk?, Yahoo Tech

I revisited a longstanding frustration with Apple–its apparently allergy to public conversations with its customers in any form of social media–and found it even more obnoxious when just about every other major American corporation will talk to the people who keep it in business on multiple social networks. This also bothers me as a journalist: Doling out information to select media outlets instead of tweeting it out to its paying customers offers Apple yet another way to try to manipulate the media.

IAB RtbF panel10/1/2014: Debating the “right to be forgotten,” IAB Global Summit

I spent a few days in New York for this Interactive Advertising Bureau conference and a couple of other tech events. My contribution to IAB’s gathering was this discussion with co-panelists Townsend Feehan (CEO, IAB Europe) and Valérie Chavanne (Yahoo France general counsel and public-policy head) about how this emerging legal doctrine in the European Union is unfolding for Internet users, search engines, Web publishers, and the rest of us.

10/1/2014: The Best Wireless Carriers, The Wirecutter

I updated much of this guide to reflect iPhone 6 pricing (thanks for all the extra math, Sprint!) as well as T-Mobile’s expansion of WiFi calling and texting. So if you’ve been dying to know which carrier offers the best deal for not just one iPhone 6 with a 2-gigabyte data allotment, but four of them, look no further.

10/3/2014: Facebook and health care, WTOP

I talked about a Reuters report that Facebook will move to set up “support communities” for people with particular health issues or conditions. Note that on the air, I mentioned that Facebook raised privacy concerns when it bought the maker of an activity-tracking device;  the product in question is not hardware but software, the Moves activity-tracking app.

10/5/2014: What’s cranking up your laptop’s cooling fan?, USA Today

This week’s column covered something that’s puzzled me too often: How is it that my laptop’s cooling fan can sometimes rev up for no apparent reason? The column suggests a few apps that can report the processor’s temperature and indicate which apps are hitting it hardest–and admits that you may still be puzzled after going through those troubleshooting steps.

Weekly output: WWDC (x2), FlightCar, laptop shopping

This week’s worth of stories features a new client, which is a pleasant sort of feeling.

6/2/2014: Apple’s WWDC news, WTOP

I talked to the news station about Apple’s news from its developer conference and took a shot at the line that Apple is somehow stalling out in the market because it doesn’t use its public time for demos of products like self-driving cars that are years from shipping.

6/3/2014: How Apple Sees the Cloud: Not Like You Do, Yahoo Tech

You might have seen an earlier version of this post appear briefly on Yahoo’s site, courtesy of a miscommunication in editing. The version that showed up online later in the day benefited (I hope!) from another round or two of revision.

VentureBeat FlightCar review6/7/2014: Taking FlightCar for a SoCal spin: A smooth ride — mostly (review), VentureBeat

I rented somebody else’s Prius through FlightCar during a recent trip to southern California for a friend’s wedding. At the time, I thought that my using a “shared economy” service would at least qualify me to put the cost on my Schedule C as a research expense, but then I wound up selling a post on the experience to VentureBeat. They do good work there, and I’m glad they saw fit to publish mine.

On Sunday, FlightCar announced that if a renter had coverage denied by a credit-card issuer on the grounds that it’s not a standard rental-car agency, it would cover any damage expenses. The company also looked into my own rental and thinks that the phone-number mismatch I reported was due to a typo on my part. The e-mail confirmations that I received didn’t go into that level of detail, so if I did somehow mistype my area code I never would have known until showing up.

6/19: The travel-news site Skift reposted the story the day after it debuted, if you were yearning to read it in a different design.

6/8/2014: Buy or wait: When to pull the trigger on a new computer, USA Today

An old Post colleague e-mailed to ask what factors to consider when shopping for a new MacBook. That query led to this column, in which I note how the computer industry has progressed to the point that you don’t need to agonize so much over what kind of processor or how much storage is comes with.

Weekly output: CNET and CBS, Internet Freedom Day, Tech Night Owl, Java, Yahoo Mail

For once, I did not come home from CES with a cold. Instead, I picked up one from our toddler a few days later.

CBS CNET post1/15/2013: CBS, CNET And How To Kill Tech Journalism Through Big-Media Denial, Disruptive Competition Project

This is a story I kind of missed during the show, but it also took me a day or two to realize how dangerous CBS’s rationales for interfering with CNET’s editorial decisions would be for tech journalism in the traditional (read: media conglomerate-owned) media. I was glad this little rant got as much attention as it did; I wish that had been followed by accountability for the twit or twits in CBS’s executive suite who thought this stunt would work.

1/18/2013: Internet Freedom Day’s Unfinished Business, Disruptive Competition Project

Friday marked the first anniversary of the Internet rearing up and kicking Big Copyright in the hindquarters during the battle to quash the Stop Online Piracy Act. That’s worth celebrating, but a week after the death of net-freedom advocate Aaron Swartz I also thought it necessary to point out all the items remaining on the tech-policy to-do list if you value a more open Internet and technology economy. I hope the results doesn’t make me sound like a total Eeyore.

1/19/2013: January 19, 2013 – Kirk McElhearn and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl Live

I discussed the things I saw at CES, Apple’s stock price and other tech-news topics on Gene Steinberg’s podcast. I haven’t heard Kirk McElhearn‘s segment yet, but I’m sure that Macworld and TidBITS contributor had insightful things to say too.

1/20/2013: Q&A: Is Java safe to use?, USA Today

I returned to the topic I covered in my USAT column last spring, this time with more context about what Java was supposed to do and how it became the nuisance it is–plus a few remaining, non-Web uses for this software I hadn’t addressed in detail in that earlier piece. There’s also a tip about enabling a security feature Yahoo finally added to its Yahoo Mail service, some five years after Google had provided the same option to Gmail users.

I also held forth on the mini-blogging site Sulia, as my experiment with that site continues. Among this week’s posts: a review of Facebook’s new, airtime-free voice-calling service (and one of an Android app that does the same thing through Google Voice); documentation of some new Twitter features; a call for editors and publishers to post those newsroom-wide memos that always wind up getting published elsewhere.