Weekly output: Adobe Flash’s farewell, white-spaces broadband, People You May Know

Two of this week’s three articles (there weren’t more because I was visiting family for most of the week and trying to approximate being on vacation) involve topics that I’ve been following for more than a decade. That has me feeling my age, as does today’s lack of a nap.

7/25/2017: Why everybody should be happy that Flash is finally dying, Yahoo Finance

Writing this post about Adobe’s announcement that it will officially retire Flash at the end of 2020 had me re-reading stuff I wrote seven or eight years ago, not all of which looks too prescient today.

7/27/2017: How Microsoft wants to bring broadband to rural Americans, Yahoo Finance

I had meant to file this story the previous week, but it took multiple phone calls and e-mails to pin down the pricing and features of an upcoming wireless-broadband service built on “white spaces” technology. For all the griping I do about PR people, sometimes you run across a company that would communicate its message much more effectively with professional help.

7/30/2017: Why Facebook’s ‘People You May Know’ makes some weird suggestions, USA Today

This Q&A involved its own game of e-mail tag, but it was worth that effort to document Facebook’s friend suggestions in more detail than the social network’s own online help.

 

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Weekly output: Facebook Live and Flash, Facebook Trending (x2), sharing-economy privacy, Tech Night Owl, iPad keyboards

I’m at the start of two weeks of a ridiculous travel schedule. I flew to Boston this afternoon to cover the cable industry’s INTX convention, Tuesday night I’m off to SFO to spend the rest of the week at Google’s I/O conference in Mountain View, Saturday I come home… and I won’t spend much time there before getting back on a plane. More about that in next Sunday’s recap.

USAT Facebook Live post5/9/2016: Flash makes one of its last stands on Facebook Live, USA Today

As I wrote in my Facebook post advertising this story, I’ve yet to do anything with Facebook Live video. Should I?

5/10/2016: Facebook Trending news, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on to discuss the Gizmodo report that Facebook’s Trending list of headlines suppressed some conservative sites. My first take was that the sorry record of accuracy at the likes of Breitbart.com and the Drudge Report invited skeptical treatment, but talking about this on camera got some wheels turning in my head.

5/10/2016: Some sharing economy companies share too much of your information, Yahoo Finance

I always enjoy reading the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s annual “Who Has Your Back?” accounting of how tech firms say they’ll answer government requests for your data (see my writeup of last year’s report), and this year’s mostly-uncomplimentary look at “sharing economy” firms was more interesting than usual.

5/11/2016: There are worse things than manipulated ‘Trending’ stories lists, Yahoo Finance

This is the post that resulted from those wheels turning in my head. The comments, as you can see, were neither friendly nor persuasive. There’s a broader conversation to be had about the detachment many Republicans seem to be having from observed reality on subjects like climate change and evolution, but I guess a story’s comments thread is not the place for it.

5/14/2016: May 14, 2016 — Adam Engst and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

I talked with host Gene Steinberg about Facebook’s Trending list and Apple’s lagging computer-hardware updates, among other issues.

5/15/2016: How to use or avoid hidden iPad keyboard options, USA Today

Once again, my own computing malfunctions served as column fodder. Writing this allowed me to offer a first-look review of Google’s Gboard iPad-keyboard app; as I type this, it’s the default keyboard on my iPad.

Why I don’t and (probably) won’t use an ad blocker

It will cost me a few hundred dollars to try iOS 9’s new support for ad-blocking tools, courtesy of that feature not working on my vintage iPad mini. (Thanks for not documenting that and other incompatibilities, Apple.) But even after I upgrade to an iPad mini 4, I probably still won’t treat myself to an ad-reduced mobile Web by paying for such popular content blockers as Crystal or Purify.

IiOS 9 ad blockers mentioned the reasons why in a comment on my Yahoo Tech post Tuesday, but the answer deserves a little more space.

It’s not about a sense of professional loyalty, although I would feel more than a little dirty undercutting the advertising revenue that helps news sites pay me and my friends in the business.

(Ars Technica founder Ken Fisher made that argument well in this March 2010 post.)

This is more a case of me trying to keep a little of the common touch online. In general, I stick with default settings so I will experience the same issues as the average Web user (also, I’m lazy). I will depart from defaults to keep my devices secure–that’s why Flash isn’t on this laptop–but installing extra apps to get a cleaner Web experience gets me too far from that ideal.

In particular, relying on ad blocking invites me to recommend sites without realizing their annoyance factor. If a site’s going to throw a sign-up-for-our-newsletter dialog before you can read every story, I don’t want to learn about that behavior afterwards from grumpy readers.

(My occasional client PCMag.com often presents that kind of newsletter dialog. And yet I gladly refer people there, because their journalists do good work. See, it’s complicated!)

I also need to know if my regular clients are getting obnoxious with the ads–remember, I was at the Post when an overload of ads and social-media widgets began to bog down everybody’s reading–on the chance that my complaint to management improves matters. You’ll tell me about that kind of problem, right?

Weekly output: Apple v. Samsung, IFA, patent trolls, iOS browser choices, Flash in Chrome

I usually post this on Sundays, but a roughly four-hour delay in Frankfurt stretched my journey home from IFA to 19 hours. On the other hand, one of my regular weekly items got posted a day late as well.

8/27/2012: Who Won Apple-Samsung Patent Battle?, Discovery News

I was delighted not to have my Friday evening wrecked by the need to blog immediately about the $1 billion Apple-Samsung patent verdict; instead, I could take a little time to read up on the case (including some good explanations posted before the verdict that I’d neglected earlier). And once I’d done that, the case looks less damaging to Android and Samsung than the first headlines suggested–even before you factor in the odds of appeals prolonging the case for years.

8/31/2012: A Transatlantic Take On Tech, Discovery News

The gadget-porn trade-show photo gallery is bit of a journalistic cliche, but I like taking pictures and telling stories with them–even though it adds up to more work than cranking out 700 words of blog post and illustrating them with only one or two shots. Here, I picked out 10 highlights from the massive IFA convention in Berlin, including two that speak to key differences between gadget markets in the U.S. and the EU.

8/31/2012: Beyond the SHIELD Act: Taking A Sword To Patent Trolls, CEA Digital Dialogue

Did I mention that I have some gripes with the patent system? This post looks at a recent bill (with the obligatory cutesy acronym) that aims to make patent trolling a riskier proposition, then lists a few other patent-reform ideas from such longtime critics of the patent system as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Techdirt blogger Mike Masnick.

9/3/2012: How to change your browser on Apple gadgets, USA Today

The weekly column, posted this morning instead of its usual Sunday-afternoon timing, covers two browser-specific topics. At the top, I explore the issues involved with using a non-Apple browser in iOS–including how that would be easier if Apple let you set an app besides Safari as your default browser. Then I explain how to selectively disable Flash objects in Google’s Chrome (yes, days after Discovery posted my Flash-required slideshow).

Weekly output: New-computer setup, Facebook Timeline, Twitter custody, podcast (plus republished CEA TE posts)

I wasn’t quite as productive over the last work week of the year as this list might suggest–I finished one of these items last week and had most of another done by them as well.

12/27/2011: New Computer? Same Old Setup Issues, CEA Digital Dialogue

From 2005 to 2010, I did a “how to set up your new Windows or Mac computer” guide for the Post every December. This year’s version ran on CEA’s blog instead; in addition to having fewer ads around it, it revises some of my advice for Win 7 users (such as using LibreOffice instead of OpenOffice as a free Microsoft Office alternative) and incorporates new suggestions for Mac users to compensate for problems in Apple’s OS X Lion.

12/27/2011: Facebook’s Timeline: We Are All Historians Now, Discovery News

At first I thought I’d hate the new Timeline profile format (in part because of the overwrought predictions made about how it would forever change our lives). But after playing around with it a week, I realized that it’s a neat way to tell people about the pre-Facebook parts of your personal history–as long as you remember that new “Life Events” are public by default, and that it’s not a bad thing to keep some mystery about your life.

12/29/2011: New Job-Divorce Dispute: Twitter Custody, Discovery News

The dispute between PhoneDog Media and tech writer Noah Kravitz over who owns the Twitter account Kravitz created and ran–under PhoneDog’s instructions, the wireless-news site says–and then kept for himself after leaving the company, but it didn’t vault into mass-media headlines until the New York Times ran a story about it right after Christmas. That’s when an editor asked if I could opine on the subject; having some experience with the virtues of keeping a Twitter identity separate from one’s employer, I was happy to oblige.

12/30/2011: Rob’s December Podcast: 3D TV, Holiday Sales Trends and CES, CEA Digital Dialogue

Tech commentator Mario Armstrong has interviewed me on one show or another many times before; finally, I was able to return the favor by chatting with him a few days before Christmas about the holiday sales prospects for various tech gadgets–and the odds of people having trouble setting them up after taking them out of the box. Elsewhere in the podcast, I relate the history of CEA’s soon-to-end Tech Enthusiast program, offer a few predictions about CES and make a disturbing confession about my own experience with 3-D TV technology.

And speaking of that transition at CES, the folks there also re-posted all of the columns I did for the TE site on CEA’s regular blog a few days ago. Here they are, from newest to oldest:

  • 12/5/2011: Why You Keep Reading These Privacy-Scare Stories How bad habits in business and journalism lead to panicked coverage of cases like Carrier IQ and Google’s Street View “spy-fi” debacle.
  • 11/28/2011: TV Screen Sizes: 30 Is The New 20 Now that flat-panel TVs have become a commodity product, the minimum size is creeping up–and some intermediate sizes seem to be getting squeezed out too.
  • 11/21/2011: Gadget-guide Guidance Why you shouldn’t put too much trust in all of those catalog-style “what to get” pieces that pop up around the holidays with well-meaning advice on giving tech gifts.
  • 11/15/2011: Fading Flash And Other Media Missteps With Adobe ending development of the mobile version of the Flash player, it looks increasingly like we’ll be stuck using apps to view name-brand video on mobile devices and other non-computer gadgets.
  • 11/8/2011: A Cord-Cutting Toolkit: What kind of video hardware can help you close your cable or satellite-TV subscription in favor of over-the-air and Internet programming. (This is an update of an earlier how-to by me.)
  • 10/31/2011: SOPA: Copyright Overreach, Version 2.0: My denunciation of the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” later turned into an op-ed in Roll Call.
  • 10/25/2011: Happy Tenth Birthday, iPod! Now Please Go Away: Now that the iPod is 10 years old, what are the odds of that entire category of music-playing hardware surviving for another 10 years in the market.
  • 10/17/2011: PROTECT IP, Latest Reason To Beware of Product Design By Congress: The Protect IP Act, the not-quite-as-awful Senate version of SOPA, fits into a long and sad history of legislation written without much comprehension of the underlying technology.
  • 10/11/2011: What’s Next for the Digital Camera? Four suggestions for digital-camera manufacturers hoping to stay competitive when smartphones take increasingly appealing pictures and allow quick and easy online sharing.
  • 10/3/2011: Decoding the demo: five sales pitches to doubt After you sit through enough new tech-product launches, certain arguments start to sound a) alike and b) unpersuasive.
  • 9/26/2011: The Flattening Price of Flash: The most important number in consumer electronics may be the average price of the flash memory used in everything from laptops to smartphones–and it’s about to get a lot cheaper still.
  • 9/19/2011: How Dead is the Disc? With Netflix increasingly anxious to get out of the DVD business, what sort of a future is there for physical storage formats–and should we be happy about this trend?
  • 9/12/2011: 3-D TV and 3D Technology Why 3-D technology hasn’t made much of a dent in the HDTV market, and how it might yet start showing up in more people’s homes.