Weekly output: FuboTV rate hike, Varjo, NextGen TV, Washington Apple Pi, sustainability at CES, Twitter apps, Mark Vena podcast

You can imagine how much I appreciate having this holiday weekend follow CES. I came home last Sunday morning exhausted and with a cold–but fortunately not Covid, as verified by three negative tests since then.

(Speaking of CES, Patreon readers got a post sharing more of my notes from the show.)

1/9/2023: FuboTV Increases Rates by $5 a Month, Tacks on ‘RSN’ Fee, PCMag

I have to wonder if Fubo doesn’t have some kind of a death wish, because there’s little else to explain why it would want to adopt one of cable TV’s more loathsome practices by sticking subscribers with a new surcharge for regional sports networks–and doing so on the same day it hikes its advertised rates by $5.

1/10/2023: On the Virtual Road With Varjo’s XR-3 Mixed-Reality Headset, PCMag

I got to try out this high-end headset at the end of a long Friday at CES and came away impressed–not that there’s much consumer-relevant in a device with a five-figure price tag.

Screengrab of the story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini.1/12/2023: NEXTGEN TV’s CES sales pitch: strength in numbers, Fierce Video

I thought I’d see more manufacturers shipping TVs with NextGen (aka ATSC 3.0) tuners, but on the other hand I didn’t expect to learn that those sets made up 8% of all TVs shipped to U.S. dealers last year. That already makes NextGen much more relevant than 8K TV.

1/12/2023: Afternoon Learners SIG, Washington Apple Pi

I joined the virtual meeting of this group (SIG being short for “special interest group”) via Zoom for about an hour to share my impressions of CES and answer questions.

1/13/2023: Green tech and trends at CES 2023 point to environmental progress, Fast Company

After noting all of the green shoots I saw at CES, I had to remind readers of how much Las Vegas remains a monument to car supremacy.

1/13/2023: Third-Party Twitter Apps Stop Working in What Appears to Be a Widespread Outage, PCMag

The fact that Twitter management remains silent about blocking third-party clients shows a colossal amount of disrespect for both the developers of those apps and their customers.

1/14/2023: S03 E43 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

I shared my impressions of CES and discussed smart-home technology in the first 2023 edition of this podcast, also available via video.

CES 2023 travel-tech report: a stand-in laptop and a renewed phone

For the first time since 2011, I shipped out to CES with somebody else’s laptop. The HP Spectre x360 that I’d taken to the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022 showed signs in November of a serious motherboard meltdown, so I took a Lenovo ThinkPad X13s loaned by the company’s PR department.

Beyond having a reliable laptop on which to work, my main objective in taking this computer to Vegas was to see if I’d notice a day-to-day difference in the ThinkPad running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 instead of the usual Intel processor. The answer: less than I thought.

Hardware I took to CES 2023, shot from above: Pixel 5a and Pixel 7 smartphones, Inseego MiFi X Pro hotspots from T-Mobile and Verizon, chargers for the laptop and phones, headphones and my CES badge.

Battery life definitely seemed better, but I had neither the opportunity nor the motivation to see if the X13s would approach the “up to 28 hours” touted by Lenovo. That’s because every time I found myself sitting next to an outlet, I plugged in the laptop as CES best practices dictate.

Meanwhile, running x86-coded programs on that Qualcomm chip did not reveal any awkward incompatibility moments–even though so few Windows apps have been revised for that ARM processor architecture and therefore must run in Microsoft’s Windows 11 emulation. The uncomplicated nature of the apps I used (Chrome, Firefox, Word, Evernote, Slack and Skype) may have had something to do with that.

I had worried that the laptop only offering two USB ports, both USB-C, might require me to fish out an adapter for any USB-A devices or cables, but this was the first CES in a long time where nobody handed me a press kit on a USB flash drive. And while the X13s isn’t a convertible laptop that can be folded into a tablet, I only ever needed to use it as a standard keyboard-below-screen computer.

I also packed a review phone, a Pixel 7 Google had loaned earlier (and which I reviewed for Patreon readers last month). The 7 has better cameras than my Pixel 5a, so I used that device for most of my photography from the show. As for own Pixel 5a–now on its second life after my successful at-home replacement of the screen I’d shattered in September–it operated with pleasant reliability. Its battery life continued to impress me, although every time I found myself sitting next to an outlet, I plugged in the phone as CES best practices dictate. My one complaint with the 5a: the fingerprint sensor on the back sometimes balks at recognizing my biometrics, even after I’d tried cleaning it a few weeks ago.

On both my phone and that laptop, I stuck to past habits and took all my notes in Evernote. And for once, I didn’t have a single sync conflict between devices! I have no idea how that happened, but it did make me feel better about the subscription fee hitting my credit card the day before I flew to Vegas.

I made some room in my messenger bag for twin loaner hotspots, the T-Mobile and Verizon versions of Inseego’s MiFi Pro X 5G. T-Mobile generally offered faster 5G connectivity, but Verizon’s network sometimes reached where T-Mo’s did not. Both hotspots took far too long to boot up–easily a minute and a half before I could tether the laptop to either–and so more than once, I just used the mobile-hotspot function on the Pixel 5a.

This was also the first CES 2023 where Twitter wasn’t the obvious choice for sharing real-time observations. Instead, I alternated between that social network and Mastodon; that seems unsustainable over the long run, but since my next big trip to a tech event doesn’t happen until MWC Barcelona at the end of February, I have some time to figure that out.

Weekly output: Japanese startups, Paula Abdul’s audio glasses, FTC moves to ban non-competes, “dabloons”

My CES travel concluded Sunday morning, but my CES coverage has a few more days to run as I continue to work on pieces from that event. And try to catch up on all the sleep I lost, especially during my red-eye flight home Saturday night.

The CES 2023 app's page describing the LaunchIT pitch competition.1/3/2023: Launch.IT, CES

With Larry Harrell and Connie Koch Harrell of Keiretsu Forum, I helped judge this pitch competition for Japanese startups exhibiting at CES–sponsored by the Japan External Trade Organization and produced by the ShowStoppers tech-events firm, with whom I’ve worked before.

1/5/2023: Paula Abdul Talks Up Her ‘Smart Audio Glasses’ at CES, PCMag

This was not a piece that I had on my list of CES possibilities, but it’s also not the first time meeting a celebrity with a tech venture at the show has led to a story.

1/6/2023: FTC Proposes Rule Banning ‘Non-Compete’ Clauses, PCMag

The possibility of the Federal Trade Commission taking action against non-competition clauses, meanwhile, has been on my list of potential tech-policy developments for a few years now. And as you can see from a link towards the end of this post, I’ve been following this topic for most of the last decade.

1/6/2023: TikTok “Dabloons,” Al Jazeera

I am not entirely sure what led the Arabic-language news nework to decide that I was the guy to offer commentary on this goofy online role-playing exercise.