Weekly output: iPhone 12 (x3), Pippa Malmgren, sustainable online commerce, Fig O’Reilly, Apple vs. Telegram

In case you hadn’t heard, Apple announced a new set of iPhones this week.

10/13/2020: iPhone 12, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language channel had me on to discuss the key features of this new lineup, starting with 5G. I felt sorry for the translator–the differences between millimeter-wave, low-band and mid-band 5G are confusing enough to native speakers of English.

10/14/2020: On Apple iPhone 12, it’s a battle of the 5G bands among AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, USA Today

I’m still puzzled by all the airtime Verizon got at Apple’s event, because its millimeter-wave 5G service increasingly looks like an epic disappointment. T-Mobile’s mid-band makes a better case for 5G–if you’re in one of the markets with the superior 5G flavor that T-Mobile has yet to highlight on its own coverage maps.

10/14/2020: Fireside: Friends or Foes? The impact of AI & Robotics on the Modern Workforce, Dublin Tech Summit Virtual

The first of three pre-recorded talks I did for this online conference had me interviewing science advisor and roboticist Pippa Malmgren about the future of drones–on Earth and across the solar system.

10/14/2020: Panel Discussion: Shopping for Sustainability, Dublin Tech Summit Virtual

My second DTS panel–but the last one I recorded–had me quizzing Etsy sustainability director Chelsea Mozen and Zalando product head Mike Mulligan about how these two online platforms are working to make their operations and their supply chains carbon neutral. We stuck around afterwards in the conference’s chat forum to answer audience questions.

10/14/2020: Fireside: Reach for the Stars, Dublin Tech Summit Virtual

As I noted in opening my talk with Fionnghuala (Fig for short) O’Reilly, who among things helps make NASA’s Space Apps challenge happen, the two of us share a few things in common: We both went to college in D.C., hold Irish passports, have pronunciation-defying names and know the joy of experiencing space launches.

10/15/2020: Apple To Telegram: Delete Posts Exposing The Belarus Dictatorship’s Enforcers, Forbes

I had meant to write this post last week, but held off on it to get some input from outside experts. Fortunately, nothing changed with the underlying story of Apple making the bizarre decision to tell the developer of a social app to delete individual posts allegedly doxing people propping up the dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus.

10/17/2020: SmartTechCheck Podcast (10-16-20), Mark Vena

I returned to the podcast Vena hosts for his employer Moor Insights & Strategy to talk about the pros and cons of Apple’s iPhone 12 lineup with fellow tech journalists Stewart Wolpin and John Quain.

Weekly output: online-video churn, Trump vs. social media, online-video UX, Tim Cook’s App Store history, Saudi Twitter spies, online-video ads, online-video lessons, Trump vs. TikTok

My biggest regret about this busy news week: I didn’t get to follow Access Now’s RightsCon digital conference. Having spoken at its real-world predecessor in Toronto two years ago–and knowing that friends were on this year’s panel schedule–I can only hope that I can catch up in my non-existent spare time this week.

7/27/2020: Sling’s ex-chief Warren Schlichting is content with churn, FierceVideo

My occasional trade-publication client signed me up to cover their OTT Blitz Week virtual event. I started that by writing up former Sling TV head Warren Schlichting’s observations about running an over-the-top video service.

7/28/2020: Here’s Trump’s Plan To Regulate Social Media, Forbes

Writing about the Trump administration’s proposal to have the Federal Communications Commission rewrite a law allowed me the unexpected pleasure of approvingly quoting experts at the left-leaning think tank Public Knowledge and the right-leading Charles Koch Institute, both of which said this plan seems nuts.

7/28/2020: There’s no UX without ‘you’, FierceVideo

My second post about OTT Blitz Week covered a panel that saw executives from Discovery, Sling, Pluto TV, Xumo and other online-video firms offering their insights on making their user experience feel comfortable for viewers.

7/29/2020: What Tim Cook Left Out Of His Version Of App Store History, Forbes

Apple’s CEO’s prepared statement for Wednesday’s tech-CEO hearings came close to erasing the history of online software distribution before the 2008 debut of Apple’s iOS App Store, and that bugged me. I wrote a correction of Tim Cook’s testimony, and I was flattered to see this post get a “Highly recommended” shout-out on Apple raconteur John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog.

7/29/2020: New charges for Saudi moles at Twitter, Al Jazeera

Stories involving Saudi Arabia behaving badly online often result in appearances for me on this Qatar-based news network. In this case, the news peg was a set of new charges against Saudi spies allegedly burrowing into Twitter.

7/29/2020: We’re not Facebook, OTT ad execs emphasize, FierceVideo

The executives on this OTT Blitz Week panel on addressable (read: targeted) advertising on streaming TV emphasized how they don’t want or need behavioral data that gets too close to individual viewers’ tastes.

7/31/2020: There’s no one template for over-the-top video success, FierceVideo

I wrapped up my coverage of Fierce’s virtual event with a recap of this lessons-learned panel, featuring CEOs from the rhymable firms Fubo, Xumo and Philo.

8/1/2020: Trump’s threat to ban TikTok, Al Jazeera

I made a second appearance this week on the Arabic-language news network to discuss President Trump’s possibly-idle threat to ban TikTok. As I wrote last week at Forbes, the fact that the U.S. isn’t China leaves Trump out of options to banish that social app from American screens.

Weekly output: Apple’s App Store vs. Hey, cable modems, voice tweets

Happy Father’s Day to all who observe! Fatherhood is probably the worst-paying job I’ve had, but it’s also the best job I’ve had.

6/17/2020: Apple To Basecamp’s Hey: Expect To Pay Us If You Want To Sell Privacy, Forbes

I jumped on the chance to write about Apple hard-balling the Hey e-mail app with a demand that Hey developer Basecamp add Apple’s in-app-payment mechanism–allowing the Cupertino, Calif., company to take 30% of all subscriptions opened that way. Then I discovered that writing for a site that lets me publish immediately does not curb my instinct to fuss over my prose before filing. Another realization with this post: Calling out Apple’s abusive behavior towards an app built along the privacy-optimizing principles it says rank among its core values did not yield page views by the truckload, notwithstanding the history of reader interest in that company.

6/18/2020: Don’t keep paying for that cable modem, Talking Tech

I talked to my USA Today colleague Jefferson Graham about my recent column reminding readers that they should buy their cable modems instead of renting them.

6/18/2020: Voice tweets, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on to explain Twitter’s introduction of audio tweets. I said the upside of this was letting followers pick up on differences in intonation that text alone doesn’t convey, while Twitter will need to be careful about abusive types exploiting this feature. I told my producer that my favorite example of a good use of voice tweets was Liz Phair improvising a song about this product development; since I don’t know if that made its way to TV, I’m sharing that with you all below.

Weekly output: Audi stoplight smarts, Big Tech banter at SXSW, SXSW strangeness, Facebook outage, Spotify vs. Apple

I’ve been recuperating from SXSW in the lamest way possible: by spending a lot of time weeding the lawn. Early returns suggest that my prior years of springtime toil have led to less chickweed, so I’ve got that going for me.

3/11/2019: How traffic lights might talk to your next car, Yahoo Finance

I spent a few days driving around D.C. and northern Virginia in an A8 that Audi loaned to test its Traffic Light Information system. The whole experience got a little more terrifying when I looked at the spec sheet for the loaner vehicle and realized that I was trying test-driving Audi’s stoplight-to-car data service in a sedan with a list price above six figures.

3/13/2019: Breaking up Big Tech: Advocates spar over how to trim sails of technology giants at SXSW, USA Today

I did not get to as many SXSW panels as I wanted, but I did watch the session featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.). Warren advocated forced break-ups of tech giants, and over the next several days multiple SXSW speakers took it to task. The critiques you’ll see in USAT comments on this piece, however, amount to trash.

3/13/2019: SXSW 2019: Synthetic sushi, a buggy demo, and other weird gadgets, Yahoo Finance

I didn’t even have the SXSW trade-show exhibits on my must-see list until meeting a friend for lunch, at which point he strongly suggested I check out Sushi Singularity. He was right.

3/14/2019: Facebook outage, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on to talk about the Wednesday outage of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. My takes: Securities and Exchange Commission regulations give us strong reasons to take Facebook at its word about the causes of this downtime; we should all work to depend less on Facebook and its vassal states for communication with bystanders, customers and fans.

3/15/2019: Spotify has a point about Apple’s App Store fees, Yahoo Finance

If you were reading me eight years ago, this column should not have surprised you. My opinion hasn’t changed since because Apple still acts as if it has a God-given right to annex up to 30 percent of the content income of many App Store developers.

Credit where it’s due: Thanksgiving tech support has gotten easier

I spend a lot of time venting about tech being a pain in the neck, but I will take a break from that to confirm that my annual Thanksgiving-weekend routine of providing technical support has gotten a lot easier over the last 10 years.

The single biggest upgrade has been the emergence of the iPad as something usable as the only computer in the house. It took a few years for Apple to make that happen–remember when you had to connect an iPad to a computer for its setup and backups?–but Web-first users can now enjoy a tablet with near zero risk of malware and that updates its apps automatically.

As a result, when I gave my mom’s iPad a checkup Wednesday afternoon, the worst I had to do was install the iOS 12.1 update.

That left me free to spend my tech-support time rearranging that tablet’s apps to keep the ones she uses most often on the first home screen.

Things have gotten easier on “real” computers too. Apple and Microsoft ship their desktop operating systems with sane security defaults and deliver security patches and other bug fixes automatically. The Mac and Windows app stores offer the same seamless updates for installed programs as iOS and Android’s. And while Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox aren’t in those software shops, they update themselves just as easily.

But the openness of those operating systems makes it easier for people to get into trouble. For example, a few weeks ago, I had to talk a relative through resetting Chrome’s settings to get rid of an extension that was redirecting searches.

Other computing tasks remain a mess. On a desktop, laptop or tablet, clearing out storage to make room for an operating-system upgrade is as tedious as ever, and it doesn’t help when companies like Apple continue to sell laptops with 128-gigabyte SSDs. Password management continues to be a chore unless (duh) you install a password manager.

Social media looks worst of all. Facebook alone has become its own gravity well of maintenance–notifications to disable to curb its attention-hogging behavior, privacy settings to tend, and propaganda-spewing pages to avoid. There’s a reason I devoted this year’s version of my USA Today Thanksgiving tech-support column to Facebook, and I don’t see that topic going out of style anytime soon.

Weekly output: Android backups, iOS app subscriptions, WWDC, net neutrality, Comcast vs. Verizon

For weeks now, I’ve been besieged with PR pitches about the right Father’s Day tech gift to get. You know what makes a great Father’s Day present? Letting Dad sleep in and/or get a nap. (That’s also a good Mother’s Day gift; I was glad to do my part to make it happen for my wife.)

USAT Android-backup post6/13/2016: Get back your data after resetting an Android phone, USA Today

I had to try to get a column out of my in-retrospect hilariously-stupid accidental resetting of my own phone at the end of a long notetaking session on the differences between Android’s standard interface and the one Samsung puts on its phones. You may have read it under a different headline; USAT reposted the piece under a new one a day or so after its debut in the midst of news from Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference.

6/13/2016: Apple is doing something generous for app developers — but it may cost you, Yahoo Finance

Apple announced some important changes to subscription-based apps in advance of WWDC. They seem good on the surface, but some details remained unclear when I wrote this–and there’s a history of Apple exercising its App Store oversight in developer-hostile ways that it didn’t think to document upfront.

6/13/2016: 5 previous WWDC debuts Apple might want to forget, Yahoo Finance

Apple is just like Google in one way: Its attempts to tell the technological future don’t always make reality bend in response.

6/14/2016: Big Telecom lost in court, but an open internet won. So did you., Yahoo Finance

I should have had this story written in advance, but I guess I couldn’t convince myself that the D.C. Circuit would ever hand down a net-neutrality ruling. Reader comments appear to be polarized between people who despise Comcast/Verizon/AT&T/Time Warner Cable and those equally upset over the Obama administration.

6/19/2016: How to choose between Comcast and Verizon for Internet service, USA Today

I’m not totally happy with how this came out: As one reader called out in the comments, I didn’t get into upload speeds. Given Comcast’s habit of staying mysterious about them–and the odds of other Internet providers being as cagey–I may need to devote a separate column to that angle. Should I?

Weekly output: WWDC

This embarrassingly short list of stories doesn’t include one post I wrote for Yahoo Finance about changes to Apple’s treatment of subscription-based iOS apps and my USA Today Q&A column on the state of Android backup, both of which should go up Monday morning.

CR WWDC 2016 preview6/10/2016: Apple WWDC 2016: What to Expect From the App Store, Siri, and More, Consumer Reports

CR asked me to write a preview of the Apple event I still haven’t attended (I thought I could in 2012, but Apple PR had other ideas). You’ll be able to see how accurate I was in this forecast starting at 1 p.m. Eastern on Monday, when the keynote opening Apple’s developer conference kicks off.

 

Weekly output: e-mail hijacking, orphaned apps

Thursday’s delightful snowfall took a chunk out of my productivity this week, like that bothered me all that much. Except it kind of does–Saturday evening, I start my journey to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. Which means Monday can’t be much of a holiday for me.

2/10/2014: Why the Bad Guys Want Your Email, Yahoo Tech

This was originally going to explain the business models behind e-mail hijacking (I felt vaguely insulted to be told that in most cases, a hijacked e-mail gets used for nothing more ambitious than sending spam) and then critique the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But my editor said the CFAA parts read like a separate column, and I had to admit he was right. I’ll get back to that, but not next week: There’s a certain gigantic proposed cable merger that calls for my attention first.

USAT orphaned-app column2/16/2014: How to hang on to an orphaned app, USA Today

This was a somewhat shameless case of my taking advantage of the fuss over Flappy Bird (sorry, I don’t care about that game) to address a reader query I’d received months earlier about a different app. But Apple’s decision to boot a Bitcoin-wallet app from the App Store also factored into the timing here. The tip here about how developers keep less of the price of an app sold at the Mac App Store revisits a topic I’d last addressed in a January 2011 Post blog post.

At Sulia, I shared two sets of quotes from a great panel discussion among teenage social-media users led by my Yahoo Tech colleague Dan Tynan, recounted a tech startup’s testimony about its experience beating a patent troll in court, listed two questions left up in the air about Comcast’s proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable, complained about NBC Washington’s reportedly strong but now-unwatchable over-the-air signal, and provided an update about the fake Facebook account I’d set up when writing a privacy cheat sheet about the social network for Yahoo.