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.

What has and hasn’t changed about CES over my quarter century of attendance

LAS VEGAS

Wandering past restaurants and bars in a series of casinos this week has stirred up the usual weird Vegas memories for me: not of great meals or fun nights out with friends, but of the receptions and dinners that CES exhibitors have staged at these establishments.

And now that I’ve covered CES in person for 25 years–every iteration of the event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show from 1998 on, minus 2021’s pandemic-enforced virtual edition–there are quite a few of those memories banked in a corner of my brain that I could probably put to a higher and better use.

CES 2023 signage featuring the #CES2023 hashtag; in the background, a neon sign spells out "Las Vegas."

Semi-lavish evenings on the dime of one company or another haven’t changed since that first CES trip, but the show itself has expanded and evolved considerably.

As in, there’s a reason the Consumer Technology Association–formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Association–rebranded this event from “Consumer Electronics Show” to just “CES.” A convention that used to be built around home audio and video now covers everything from smart-home gadgets to autonomous vehicles; at this year’s CES, that last category included a gigantic Caterpillar dump truck.

The space taken up by CES has grown as well, just not quite as much. The Las Vegas Convention Center has sprouted a few extensions and then, two years ago, an additional hall that by itself is big enough to host lesser conferences.

Meanwhile, the routine of CES journalism is unrecognizable compared to the placid pace I enjoyed 25 years ago, when I recall filing all of one story from the show–via dialup modem. I still have things fairly easy (I’ve never written for any place expecting a dozen posts a day during the show or had to stay up late editing video), but this week once again reminded me how much writing time can eat into note-taking time.

Other parts of the CES existence, however, might not seem that different to 1998 me.

Getting around Vegas remains a huge pain. The incremental upgrades to transportation since then–a monorail that only connects the back doors of some casinos on one side of the Strip to the convention center, the belated arrival of Uber and Lyft, the Vegas Loop that offers an underground Tesla shortcut between parts of the convention center–have still left most CES traffic on roads that can’t accommodate it.

On a more positive note, the utility of an industry-wide gathering like CES has survived repeated predictions of this event’s obsolescence. It turns out that the vast majority of companies in the tech business cannot count on staging their own events and expecting everybody else to show up. And all of the other companies and people that come here to do business would struggle to strike those deals if so many other like-minded organizations and individuals were not in the same crowded space at the same overscheduled time.

I include myself in that last bit. Especially since going freelance in 2011–as in, about halfway through my CES tenure–I’ve found that my greatest return on the investment in time and money I make every year here starts with the connections I make those few days in Vegas.

Finally, the CES schedule hasn’t budged over the past 25 years. With remorseless regularity, it tears me away from family just days after the start of a new year, then re-connects me with industry friends, immerses me in what’s new in the tech business, and then leaves me to look at a rest of the year in which every other event seems easy. And that’s why I know exactly where I’m going to be next January.

CES tips for rookie reporters, 2022 edition

This January will mark my 25th trek to CES and will be my 26th CES overall, counting the 2021 virtual edition of the show. A quarter of a century of CES practice may not have taught me how to escape having this pilgrimage to Las Vegas tear me away from my family right after the holidays, but it has given me some insight into making the gadget gathering produced by the Arlington-based Consumer Technology Association a little more efficient, productive and cheaper.

(You may have read an earlier version of this guide, but I somehow haven’t revisited this topic since 2013.)

Planning

The most annoying part of this event happens weeks before you board a plane to Vegas, when a non-trivial fraction of the tech publicists in the universe start asking if they can book a meeting with you and their client at the show. Be exceedingly conservative in accepting those invitations: You will be late to most CES meetings (read on for reasons why), and if you’re not the appropriate publicist will probably be somewhere else through no fault of their own.

(After getting the 50th “are you going to CES?” e-mail, you may also fairly wonder: If the time and attention of tech journalists is really this valuable, when does our compensation better reflect that?)

So I usually limit my show-floor meetings to large companies with a diverse product line–the likes of Samsung or an LG–when scheduling an appointment can yield a better look at unreleased gadgets or a chance to talk shop with a higher-ranking executive. If you really play your cards well, you’ll arrive at somebody’s booth just in time to gobble a quick lunch there.

Packing

The most important item to bring to CES is comfortable walking shoes. I’m partial to Eccos (note to Ecco PR: where’s my endorsement contract?), worn with hiking socks.

Other useful things to pack: Clif Bars or other shelf-stable sustenance, in case you don’t get around to eating lunch; a reusable water bottle; a separate source of bandwidth (either a phone with a generous mobile-hotspot data allocation or a WiFi hotspot); an Ethernet adapter if your laptop lacks its own wired networking; twice as many business cards as you think you’ll need.

Most important, for the love of all that is holy, do not forget to pack your laptop’s charger. And tape your business card to it, in case you leave it behind in one of the press rooms.

The West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center in January 2022, with the CES logo splashed across its glass facade.

Press conferences and other events 

The first of two media days features a light afternoon lineup of talks, followed by the CES Unveiled reception that may be your first chance in months to say hi to some fellow tech journalists and analysts. The second media day–the day before the show opens, so it’s technically CES Day Zero–consists of a grueling slog of press conferences, almost all at the Mandalay Bay convention center at the south end of the Strip.

Unless you get VIP access, you can’t count on getting into every press conference–in the Before Times, the lines outside always stretched on for so long that making it into one press conference required skipping the one before it. And except for Sony’s presser at its show-floor exhibit, the CES press conference rarely permits hands-on time with the hardware and may not even allow for Q&A with the people involved.

CES features a long line of keynotes, starting on the evening of press-conference day. They can be entertaining but often don’t get beyond being a live sales pitch for a company; you’re more likely to find news in the even longer lineup of issue-specific panels.

Put two offsite evening events on your schedule: Pepcom’s Digital Experience after the opening keynote, and ShowStoppers the following night. (Disclosure: The latter crew puts together my trips to IFA in Berlin, subsidized by that German tech show.) Each provides access to a ballroom of vendors showing off their wares, a good standing-up meal and sufficient adult beverages to dull the pain.

Power and bandwidth

Both of these essential services can be in pitifully short supply around CES, so it’s good that laptop and phone battery lives have improved greatly in recent years. You should still follow the “always be charging” rule and plug in all your devices anytime you’re sitting down and near an outlet. The press rooms should have plenty of power strips, but that doesn’t mean one at your table will have an outlet free; if you have a compact travel power strip (my friend Rakesh Agrawal recently shared some useful advice about that in his newsletter), please bring it.

Wireless connectivity, however, hasn’t advanced as much at CES. The show has yet to feature free, event-wide WiFi, and even when individual events and venues offer WiFi you can’t expect it to work all that well. Cell coverage itself may be less than reliable in the middle of large, packed convention-center halls. Remember that you’re sharing the airwaves with a small city–171,268 attendees in 2020–and that you should opt for a wired connection if you can find one in a press room.

The LVCC and other exhibit areas

The massive Las Vegas Convention Center, home to the majority of CES exhibitors, could double as an assembly line for other, lesser convention centers, and it’s grown substantially since CES 2020.

The LVCC’s Central Hall, with 623,058 square feet of exhibit space and the home of the big-ticket electronics vendors exhibit, can eat up a day by itself, and the new, 601,960-sf West Hall can be as much of a timesuck with all of the automotive and transportation exhibits there. You shouldn’t need as much time to walk the North Hall (409,177 sf) and South Hall (908,496 sf over two levels), each home to a grab-bag of health-tech, telecom, drone and robotics vendors, among others. And don’t forget the parking lot in front of LVCC Central, which this January featured such once-unlikely CES exhibitors as John Deere and Sierra Space–the product of CTA’s efforts to broaden this show beyond consumer electronics.

Budget at least 10 minutes to get from one of these halls to another, 30 to hustle from one end to the other. The free-for-now Vegas Loop–a narrow tunnel with stops at the South, Central and West Halls traversed by Teslas driven by some of the most sociable people in Vegas–can shorten that end-to-end ride, but I’m not sure it will scale to meet CES-level demand.

But wait, there’s more! The Venetian (formerly Sands) Expo about a mile and a half southwest of the LVCC hosts most of the smart-home vendors on its main level, while its lower level hides Eureka Park, a fabulously weird space teeming with startups from around the world. A few companies also set up separate exhibits in restaurants and bars in the Venetian itself.

Many companies also have off-site meetings in nearby hotels. Don’t even think of trying to stop by those places in the middle of the day; visit them before or after everything else.

The view from the front passenger seat of a Tesla as it enters the Vegas Loop tunnel from the aboveground LVCC West station.

Getting around

In a word: ugh. CES has a long history of grinding the streets of Vegas to a halt, with the Venetian Expo-LVCC shuttle bus often taking well over half an hour because Clark County apparently has never heard of bus-only lanes. (CES 2022, with attendance depressed by the pandemic to about 44,000, felt blissfully efficient in comparison.) The show shuttle buses also routinely suffered from excruciatingly long lines to board, especially departing from the LVCC on the first two evenings of the show.

The Las Vegas Monorail flies over traffic, but at pre-pandemic CESes I often had to wait 10 to 15 minutes to board in the morning or evening, a delay compounded by management not tolerating D.C.-level crush loads on board. And the monorail conspicuously fails to stop at the Venetian Expo–a regrettable result of its private funding by participating casinos–so to get there you’ll have to exit at the Harrah’s/The Linq station and walk north.

Your ride-hailing options are also iffy. Lyft and Uber are no longer the great bargain they used to be, and you may find that the pickup/dropoff zone for them at a CES venue is not as convenient as the taxi stand. Vegas taxis, meanwhile, continue to rip off passengers with a $3 credit-card fee, so have cash handy if you’ll use one.

Walking is definitely an option between places on the Strip, but it’s also your fastest way to get from the LVCC to evening events at the Wynn or the Encore even if that mile-and-change walk may remind you of how little Vegas values pedestrians off the Strip.

Don’t overlook transit. Yes, even in Vegas. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada’s bus network includes frequent service on the Strip that shouldn’t be much slower than any other vehicle stuck in traffic. The RTC’s buses can also work for getting to and from Harry Reid International Airport, provided you time your schedule to match their lengthy headways. The rideRTC app isn’t great, but it does beat waiting for a line at a ticket-vending machine or fumbling with cash.

Any other tips? Let me know in the comments and I will update this post accordingly.

Black Hat pitches increasingly resemble CES pitches

When I’m spending a sunny Saturday in front of my computer, the usual reason is that it’s beastly hot outside. But today I have an additional, also seasonally-specific reason: I’m overdue to look over and make some decisions about all of the Black Hat meeting requests that have been piling up in my inbox.

A view of the Las Vegas Strip from the Foundation Room atop the Mandalay Bay hotel--a common event venue for both CES and Black Hat receptions.

Unlike last summer, I actually am going to this information-security conference in Las Vegas. And many more infosec companies seem to have made the same decision, leading to a flood of e-mails from their publicists asking if I’d like to set up a meeting while I’m in Vegas. How many? Over the last month, I’ve received 134 messages mentioning Black Hat, a number that makes me think of the annual deluge of CES PR pitches.

(Sorry, the total is now 135.)

Just like at CES, accepting even half of these invitations would leave me almost no time to do anything else at the conference. But where at CES I need to save time to gawk at gadgets on and off the show floor–and to get from venue to venue at that sprawling event–at Black Hat I want to save time to watch this conference’s briefings.

In the two prior years I’ve gone to Black Hat, I’ve found that the talks there have an exceptionally high signal-to-noise ratio. And since a coherent and entertaining explanation of a vulnerability in a widely used app, service or device is something that’s relatively easy to sell as a story, I also have an economic incentive to hold off on taking any meeting requests until the organizers post the briefings schedule–which this year only happened barely two weeks ago.

In other words, now I’m out of excuses to deal with these pitches. Which I could have done this afternoon had I not waited until this afternoon to write this post…

8/24/2022: Fixed the typo in the headline that nobody seems to have noticed until my wife asked about it today.

Weekly output: CES 2022 recap (x3), NextGen TV, RCS explained, terms-of-service bill, Mark Vena podcast, Facebook class-action suit, DirecTV to dump OANN

Instead of trying to get out of D.C. while snow was falling–my situation two Mondays ago–I got to play in the snow this afternoon and evening. That was a lot more fun.

1/10/2022: What it was like to cover a very uncrowded CES during a pandemic, Fast Company

I didn’t start writing this recap of my CES experience until two days after coming home–meaning after I’d had two negative antigen tests.

Screen shot of the story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini 5.1/10/2022: Signals for NEXTGEN TV get a little stronger at CES 2022, FierceVideo

I wrote most of this on my flight back from Vegas, aided by my inflight-productivity hack of not connecting to the WiFi until I had the piece almost entirely written.

1/11/2022: Exploring the Practical and the Fantastical in 5G, Virginia Economic Review

I missed this (non-bylined) feature when it posted; in it, I unpack some interesting work researchers and business types are doing with 5G wireless in my state.

1/11/2022: RCS Explained: Why Google Is Riled Up About It, and Why You Probably Haven’t Used It Yet, PCMag

Google isn’t wrong to complain about Apple leaving iOS-to-Android phone messaging mired in an old, insecure standard, but Google has a lot of work to do in its own house.

1/13/2022: ‘TLDR’ Bill Would Make a Federal Case Out of Unreadable Terms of Service

If a tech-policy story gives you a reasonable opportunity to quote a John Oliver line, you should probably write it.

1/14/2022: SmartTechCheck PodcastS02 E01, Mark Vena

I didn’t join this podcast until the last third of it, owing to a video parent-teacher conference running later than I’d thought possible.

1/14/2022: Pending Facebook Class-Action Suit in UK Claims $3.15B in Damages, PCMag

I made sure to note that the people announcing this lawsuit hadn’t actually filed a complaint, making it hard to judge the merits of their argument.

1/14/2022: CES Virtual Roundtable, Globant

This software consultancy had me on to talk to some of their executives and clients about what I saw at CES.

1/15/2022: Clubhouse Saturday, Washington Apple Pi

I joined this virtual meeting of the local Apple user group for some post-CES Q&A.

1/15/2022: OANN and Done? DirecTV to Dump One America News, PCMag

I enjoyed writing about the impending demise of the sugar-daddy deal this hoax-soaked “news” channel has enjoyed with DirecTV, a bizarre arrangement I critiqued at Forbes two Novembers ago.

Updated 1/23/20222 to add the Virginia Economic Review article.

Weekly output: wireless for less, Alexa in lunar orbit, learning in AR and VR, search-engine competition, Vegas Loop, CES weirdness

I didn’t realize this until adding up the numbers, but I have now covered CES 25 times–24 times in person, from 1998 through 2020 and again this past week, plus last year’s virtual version of the show. None of those previous trips to Las Vegas featured an infectious-disease test after returning, but this week’s has; fortunately, the rapid antigen tests I took Friday night and Sunday afternoon have each yielded negative results.

1/3/2022: How to get your wireless carrier’s network for less – if you can live with these trade-offs, USA Today

This column outlining ways to save money on wireless phone service from resellers of the major carriers (some of which are owned by those big three companies) was the last piece I filed in 2021.

1/5/2022: Amazon to Send Alexa to Lunar Orbit, PCMag

I wrote up an embargoed announcement from Amazon about plans to send a version of Alexa on the Artemis 1 lunar orbital test mission of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. After I filed this post the evening before the embargo time, I was amused to see a giant video sign on the Strip in Vegas tout the “Alexa, take me to the Moon” command that was only supposed to be revealed the next morning.

Photo of the screen in room N259 of the Las Vegas Convention Center showing my panel lineup1/5/2022: Learning in a Virtual World, CES

Four days beforehand, I got asked to moderate this panel on AR and VR learning after the previous moderator had somebody in his household test positive. That’s not a lot of prep time, but my fellow panelists Rohan Freeman (founder of Sine Wave Entertainment), Chris Stavros (founder and CEO of makeSEA) and Michel Tzsfaldet (CEO of Tekle Holographics) made my job as understudy moerator easy.

1/7/2022: The little-known reason why competing with Google is so hard, Fast Company

This was another post I filed at the end of 2021. It started in early November in Lisbon, when I happened to sit next to a search-engine startup executive on a Web Summit shuttle van and started quizzing him about business.

1/7/2022: Tunnel Vision: What It’s Like to Ride in Elon Musk’s Vegas Loop, PCMag

I had to try out the Vegas Loop, the Teslas-in-tunnels system that Elon Musk’s Boring Company built underneath the Las Vegas Convention Center. And then I had to sell a post about my experience of it.

1/7/2022: The weirdest stuff we saw at CES 2022: John Deere’s self-driving tractor, robot masseuses, USA Today

The “weird stuff seen at CES” piece has been a staple of my coverage of the show for years. As usual, the hardest part was deciding what exhibits to include and what to leave out.

CES 2022 travel-tech report: a new phone and a renewed laptop

Uncharacteristically light attendance at CES this week allowed me to pack uncharacteristically light. With so many tech-news sites canceling plans to send journalists to the Consumer Technology Association’s annual gathering, I knew I wouldn’t need my traditional CES accessory of a travel power strip to free up outlets in any crowded press room.

I also opted not to pack any of the WiFi hotspots I had sitting on my desk from the last update of Wirecutter’s guide to same. Even in the likely event of the show’s WiFi being its usual inadequate self, I figured I had sufficient backup bandwidth in the form of the new Pixel 5a in my pocket, the expanded mobile-hotspot quota on my account, and the T-Mobile 5G network my previous phone couldn’t use.

Photo shows my HP Spectre x360 laptop sitting on the wood floor of my home office, on top of which sit my CES badge, the laptop's charger, a USB-C cable to charge the phone, a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, headphones and my Pixel 5a phone.

My other smart move before heading out to Vegas was replacing my late-2017 HP laptop’s battery with an aftermarket unit, a bit of laptop surgery I did in October. All of this helped make CES much less of a gadget-abuse scenario in my return to covering it in-person after last year’s distanced, digital-only conference.

The Google Pixel 5a, the only new device in my messenger bag, acquitted itself especially well. On a good day, its battery can run well into the next afternoon, and even at CES–where I did rely frequently on the phone’s mobile-hotspot feature to get my laptop online–I never saw this Android device’s battery get into the under-33% state that would get me nervous. My charging the phone at lunch happened out of habit, not necessity.

I also quickly grew to appreciate how the 5a’s wide-angle lens helped capture some of the bigger exhibits on and off the show floor. The sole quibble I can think of: The phone reported that it restarted overnight Friday morning, and I’d like to know what caused that crash.

My HP Spectre x360, meanwhile, was one of the oldest items in my bag but felt much newer with that replacement battery. It was nice to sit down to watch a panel and not need a spot next to a power outlet. And for whatever reason, this computer ran much more reliably than it had at CES two years ago, without any mysterious reboots sometimes interrupted by boot-device-not-found errors.

Lower CES attendance, estimated by CTA Friday at “well over 40,000,” did not banish CES bandwidth struggles. My laptop did not always connect to conference WiFi networks–have I mentioned that Windows 10’s “Can’t connect to this network” is not a helpful error message?–but all three press rooms had abundant Ethernet cables. The $10 and change I spent on a USB-to-Ethernet adapter in 2012 has turned out to be an exceptional deal.

As before, I took all of my notes in Evernote, but this time the app generated a few note conflicts when I switched from phone to laptop and back. If I could click or tap a “sync now” button before each device switch, I would–but Evernote removed that bit of UI out of a belief that its automatic sync is now reliable enough to make it obsolete.

The other app I leaned on heavily during my time at CES was the conference’s own mobile app. I hadn’t bothered with that in previous years, but learning that CTA had hired Web Summit to provide this event’s digital platform made me want to try it. Unsurprisingly, the CES app looks and works like the Web Summit and Collision apps, so I didn’t have much to figure out.

As at those other conferences, I leaned on this app to manage my schedule while ignoring in-app connection requests in favor of the kind of networking impossible at last year’s CES: masked-face-to-masked-face conversations that ended with an exchange of business cards.

Weekly output: the public domain expands, JetBlue resets passwords

Weather permitting, Monday morning will see me resume my annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas to cover CES. I expect to see a much smaller version of the usual gadget show, thanks to all of the exhibitors that have opted out of a physical presence; for once, CES traffic may be tolerable.

Screenshot of PCMag post as seen in Chrome for Android12/29/2021: Flood of Creative Works Enter the Public Domain on Jan. 1, PCMag

After writing about the overdue expansion of the public domain for Forbes at the end of 2020, I had to revisit the topic for PCMag on the eve of a new crop of creative works entering the public domain. This piece led to one of the more amusing correction requests I’ve ever gotten: The piece as posted envisaged a literary mashup of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises in which Pooh and Tigger would journey to Hemingway’s 1920s Paris to indulge in some drunken debauchery, but multiple readers noted that Tigger doesn’t make his entrance until Milne’s The House on Pooh Corner, which won’t enter the public domain for another two years. I regret the error.

12/30/2021: JetBlue Tosses Most Passwords Out the Emergency Exit, PCMag

I’m beyond tired of seeing companies shove a mass password reset on their customers without explanation, and this time I had an opportunity to quiz one company briefly about what led to this kind of customer-hostile move.