Weekly output: cheaper federal IT, Samsung wearables, PeaceTech Lab, Segway, smart watches

Six days after I departed for the IFA show in Berlin, I’m back. You can imagine my excitement at coming home to my family… and, to a much lesser degree, at seeing that the arugula seeds I planted last weekend have sprouted and are now the way to delivering a second crop for the year..

8/29/2017: The Trump Administration’s IT Challenge: Do More with Less, FedTech Magazine

I shared what I thought was good advice about making federal computing more efficient from a fellow at Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the deputy CIO of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a veteran of the successful effort to fix the Healthcare.gov site who had earlier offered some insight on how a for-profit company could make a complete mess of its customer site.

8/30/2017: Samsung challenges Apple Watch with its new Gear Sport smartwatch, Yahoo Finance

I covered Samsung’s Wednesday-evening event in Berlin at which it unveiled three new wearable devices. After seeing its presentation, spending time inspecting these gadgets in the hands-on area, and gobbling down some appetizers, I filed the post well past 8 p.m. local time.

8/30/2017: Hate and violence around the globe? There’s an app for that., Yahoo Finance

I should have written this post weeks ago, since I sat down to interview the the PeaceTech Lab’s director at the start of August. But various other projects got in the way, I had trouble getting comments from other groups working on this problem, and August was in general not a productive month.

8/31/2017: Segway wants to do more than transport tourists and mall cops, Yahoo Finance

I attended Segway’s press conference without much expectation that the company would commit news, but my editors thought its move to start selling electrically-powered kick scooters was worth a post.

9/3/2017: Apple Watch faces new smartwatch competitors, USA Today

In this column, I offer some forecasts about how Garmin’s vivoactive 3, Fitbit’s Ionic and Samsung’s Gear Sport might match up against the Apple Watch. The most important angle to me: Two of those three look to offer far better battery life.

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Weekly output: KnowRoaming, Apple Watch app rules, wireless spectrum, Comcast (x2), cable unbundling, wireless broadband

I didn’t decide to attend the cable industry’s INTX trade show until late March. But seeing that convention would take place in one of my favorite cities, Chicago, made it an easy call. And I’m glad I went to the cable confab for the first time since 2012. I picked up a lot and wrote a lot, as you can see below. For more about the event, see my Flickr album.

All this work did catch up with me on Friday, in the form of my filing my USAT column ridiculously late. A contributing factor to that tardiness: I stepped out for an hour or so to watch the WW2 flyover down the Potomac. There’s a Flickr album for that, too.

5/4/2015: Hands-on with the KnowRoaming Sticker that Cuts Smarphone Costs for International Travelers, Yahoo Tech

This review concludes my coverage of Mobile World Congress–yes, I probably could have written it weeks earlier. Speaking of overdue tasks, I only just now noticed the typo in the headline; I’ll ping the editors to get that fixed.

5/5/2015: Apple’s Rules Tell Developers Precisely Whose Time It Is, Yahoo Tech

It had been a while since I’d last written about Apple’s App Store rules. As you can see, I still don’t like them but can no longer pretend the company hasn’t made them scale in a way that I thought impossible five years ago.

5/52015: Across the Spectrum: Strategies for a Changing Wireless Marketplace, INTX 2015

At this panel, I discussed the coming arrival of higher-performing wireless spectrum with Liberty Global’s Timothy Burke, Arris’s Charles Cheevers, Comcast’s Evan Koch, and T-Mobile’s Tony Silveira. I’d like to see cable companies use some of this to reach new customers–maybe people who find themselves a couple of thousand feet from the closest Comcast line?–but I don’t know that cable’s ready to take that step.

Yahoo Tech Comcast-service post5/6/2015: Comcast Really, Really Wants You to Like It, Yahoo Tech

Most reader reactions to this description of Comcast’s moves to upgrade its customer service ranged from “yeah right” to “screw them.” The company has its work cut out for it.

5/7/2015: Big Cable CEOs Insist Viewers Like Their Bundles, but the Tide Is Turning, Yahoo Tech

When I started writing this answer to a question many friends asked after learning I was headed to the cable industry’s annual gathering, I was a little more pessimistic about the future than I was by the time I’d finished it.

5/8/2015: Comcast customer service, WBAL

I talked about Comcast’s customer-service initiative with the Baltimore news station’s Mary Beth Marsden. I did not get to hear the story but assume they used some part of my interview; if you did, please let me know in the comments if I sounded coherent.

5/10/2015: Unlimited wireless broadband possible, just not beyond phone, USA Today

A reader’s question about replacing her Clear unlimited residential wireless broadband gave me an invitation to update readers about the impending retirement of Sprint’s WiMax broadband (it’s kind of awful that some WiMax resellers still offer WiMax devices that will go defunct in six months without clearly warning potential customers of the network’s coming demise) and note the continued inability of wireless broadband to compete with the wired kind for residential use.

Apple Watch coverage as a spectator sport

I didn’t see or touch an Apple Watch until yesterday–when I played with a couple in an Apple Store, just like anybody else could.

Apple Watch close-upThat was a somewhat unavoidable consequence of my freelancer status intersecting with Apple PR’s choosy habits (as seen in 9to5mac’s fascinating chart of which places did and did not get review hardware before earlier iOS device launches): An outlet big enough to merit early Apple Watch access will already have a full-time staffer ready to review the thing.

It happens and doesn’t really bother me, although it did when I was at the Post and felt that One of America’s Most Important Newspapers was being snubbed. To the Apple reps I yelled at over decisions made by their bosses: I’m sorry.

Anyway, it’s been positively relaxing to sit out this round of the new-Apple-gadget media circus and instead read everybody else’s reviews at my leisure. I started with those from my regular clients–David Pogue’s at Yahoo Tech, Ed Baig’s at USA Today–and then proceeded to check out John Gruber’s reviewJoanna Stern’s critique at the Wall Street Journal, Nilay Patel’s lengthy assessment for The Verge, and Farhad Manjoo’s evaluation in the New York Times.

Apple Watch reviewsAs ever, it was fascinating to see what issues each reviewer focused on and which ones didn’t merit a mention. Fun fact: None cited the watch’s thickness (at 10.5 mm, or .413 inches, it’s thinner than the Moto 360 I did not like enough to buy). Maybe I’m an oddball to be so persnickety about smartwatch thickness?

I also enjoyed seeing the Verge’s designers get to play with the layout of that piece, and I thought the day-in-the-life-of construction of that review and the WSJ’s was a good way to unpack the Apple Watch’s utility–and the limits of its battery life.

So now that I’ve played with the Apple Watch up close, am I tempted to buy it? Of course not: I have an Android phone. And even if I’d broken my streak of never owning an iPhone, this entire category of product still looks at least one update cycle away from earning a spot on my shopping list.

 

Weekly output: Apple Watch, smartwatch UX, Hillary Clinton’s e-mail, freeing up disk space

AUSTIN–I’ve been here since Friday afternoon for SXSW. Total number of tacos consumed to date in my fourth trip to this festival: seven.

3/9/2015: Apple Watch, WTOP

I shared a few thoughts about the promise and risks of this smartwatch on the day of its debut.

Yahoo Tech smartwatch-UX post3/10/2015: The One Feature that Wil lDetermine the Quality of the Apple Watch, Yahoo Tech

I drew on months of experience wearing one Android Wear smartwatch or another to write this post explaining how the Apple Watch should not just mirror the notifications popping up on an iPhone.

3/12/2015: Emails From Hillary: So Many Mysteries, Yahoo Tech

I worried that this post about the fundamental weirdness of the former Secretary of State’s private e-mail system would draw a round of uninformed, hateful comments, and the commentariat did not disappoint me.

3/15/2015: How to find space hogs on laptop hard drive, USA Today

 This column started with my own experience of having OS X report that it couldn’t install a security update from Apple because my MacBook Air had run out of space. And then I learned about a handy Windows-file search shortcut that had escaped my attention for years.

Smartwatch withdrawal

For the first time since last summer, I’m about to depart for a trip without including a smartwatch and its charger in my luggage: I returned the Moto 360 and Samsung Gear Live I’ve been trying out to Google PR on Wednesday.

The 360’s face picks up a lot of glare.(I took advantage of having to go to NYC for the day to hand-deliver those Android Wear watches and a few other loaner devices to a Google publicist–less because of the money I’d save on FedEx, more because I wouldn’t have to find a box and enough bubble wrap for all of these things.)

I don’t miss having to charge a smartwatch–always with a proprietary adapter that’s easy to misplace, not easy to replace–every day. But I do miss the soothing sense that if something important happens in my digital life, a device on my wrist will tell me about it and relieve me of the need to grab my phone.

Somebody used the phrase “digital triage” to describe that aspect of smartwatch usage, and that sounds about right: Unlike a beep or a buzz from a phone, the name and subject of an e-mail flashed across a watch’s face tell you instantly if the message is something that demands quick attention or can wait.

That use case seems as compelling to me as it did after two months of trying the Gear Live–maybe more so after I realize how often I was checking my phone during a dinner Thursday night. Fortunately, I was with other tech types, so I’m sure my fellow diners weren’t offended. Much.

And, sure, I once again have to reach for my phone to tell the time.

This trip will take me to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, where I expect to see a new crop of smartwatches–Apple’s excluded, as that company doesn’t show off its products at other people’s events.

Some of them should be thinner and lighter and run longer on a charge than the Motorola and Samsung watches. Some may do away with the need for a proprietary charger, either by accepting a standard micro-USB charger or using wireless charging. Some may even look sharp enough to wear with a suit. With each of those advances, the odds of me buying one of these things will tick forward another notch.

4/8/2015: fixed a broken link