Weekly output: Pixel 5a repair, Spectrum One, defining AI, innovating through a crisis, Alexa ambitions, Comcast uploads, brain-computer interfaces, digital personalization, Microsoft supports Ukraine, Seaborg nuclear power, Facebook Oversight Board, Signal

My last international trip of the year wrapped up Saturday afternoon with my last landing at Dulles Airport without a Metro station there in revenue service. And I have somehow already posted my Flickr album from this week’s Web Summit trip.

10/31/2022: DIY Demo: Just How Easy Is It to Fix Your Phone’s Shattered Screen Yourself?, PCMag

My recap of successfully replacing my Pixel 5a’s shattered screen using an iFixit repair kit was, as far as I can tell, the first story I’ve written to include the word “spudger.” It was also the first story in quite some time, maybe ever, where I lost a little blood in the research phase.

10/31/2022: Spectrum Adds New Bundle of Broadband and Wireless (Not Broadband and Cable), PCMag

We had to update this post to note a $5 rate hike to Spectrum’s non-promotional rates for residential broadband that went into effect Nov. 1–something that Spectrum’s PR person didn’t think to mention when answering my fact-checking questions about that service’s new promotion for bundled broadband and wireless.

My Web Summit schedule, as seen in the browser on my phone as I held it up in the Forum. 11/2/2022: Time to define AI, Web Summit

I got asked to cover this panel two and a half hours in advance after the original moderator had some unspecified flight trouble. It all worked out, thanks in large part to Dataiku CEO Florian Douetteau’s stage presence. #professionalism

11/2/2022: Recession busters: How to innovate through a crisis, Web Summit

This panel had a wide-ranging cast of characters: Andy Baynes, who worked at Apple and Nest before co-founding the consultancy GT; Kit Krugman, board chair of WIN: Women in Innovation and managing director for organization and culture design at co:collective; and Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Commerce Department’s SelectUSA office.

11/2/2022: More Than a Voice: Amazon Wants Alexa to Be an ‘Advisor and Companion’, PCMag

Amazon’s Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist for Alexa, led off the Web Summit main-stage schedule Wednesday morning.

11/2/2022: Comcast is upping upload speeds. But for now, you’ll need a premium bundle., USA Today

After years of hiding its slow upload speeds on a network-management disclosures page, Comcast has a better story to tell there–which it’s stepping on by making those faster uploads a privilege of a premium-service bundle.

11/3/2022: Hardware that can read your mind, Web Summit

I usually don’t bring props to my panels, but after getting invited to do this onstage interview with Neuroelectrics co-founder and CEO Ana Maiques, I almost immediately thought that a talk about brain-computer interfaces needed a tinfoil hat. Maiques liked the idea when we met backstage and I showed the aluminum foil I’d brought from the U.S., and a great conversation ensued.

11/3/2022: Making products that speak, Web Summit

This panel about digital personalization (featuring CI&T president Bruno Guicardi, BBC chief product officer Storm Fagan, and Chubb chief digital and chief risk officer Sean Ringsted) featured a stage that was noisier and warmer than average, and ending the panel at the 0:00 mark felt like a minor victory.

11/3/2022: Microsoft Pledges Digital Support for Ukraine Through 2023, PCMag

After multiple years of seeing Microsoft president Brad Smith warn in Web Summit talks of the risks of cyberattacks on civilian infrastructure, that executive returned to this conference to say the company would extend its digital support for Ukraine through all of 2023.

11/4/2022: This Danish startup wants to make nuclear cheap again—by putting plants on barges, Fast Company

This story started with my startup-pitch panel at TechBBQ in Copehagen more than six weeks earlier, when I found Seaborg’s presentation interesting enough to want to learn more. Then the ensuing weeks of travel got in the way of my moving forward with the piece while I needed more time than I expected to chase down an analyst type to provide some perspective.

11/4/2022: Facebook Oversight Board to Elon Musk: Do No Harm, Don’t Piss Off the Advertisers, PCMag

This panel happened the same day that new Twitter owner Elon Musk ordered mass layoffs at the company, and whoever at Web Summit picked this day for this panel may have been well-advised to buy a lottery ticket.

11/4/2022: New Signal Boss: We’re No WhatsApp, PCMag

After the speakers’ lounge and press center closed, I finished writing this post on a park bench outside the venue, where the event WiFi somehow kept working and let me file this before dinner.

Weekly output: chip shortage (x2), cybersecurity survey, satellite broadband, soccer-playing robot, Xfinity Mobile, Elon Musk bought Twitter, MRI mind reading

I’m off to Lisbon tonight for Web Summit–the eighth time I’ve covered this conference and the seventh time I’ve traveled to it as a speaker (with the organizers picking up lodging and airfare). This, however, is the first time in my experience that the conference doesn’t overlap with Election Day.

I gave Patreon readers got an advance look at my agenda in a post there Friday; the rest of y’all will get to find out as the week progresses.

Screenshot of the column as seen in USAT's iPad app, illustrated with a close-up picture of a chip on a green circuit board.10/24/2022: As chip shortage starts to ease, factory-level fixes will take longer, USA Today

Usually, I suggest story topics to my USAT editors, but this time one of them asked if I could tackle this topic.

10/24/2022: People Still Think Their Smart Speakers Are Eavesdropping on Conversations, PCMag

I got an advance look at a survey the Chubb insurance company had done, which both revealed some disturbing beliefs and practices among respondents and shared some dubious security advice.

10/26/2022: Do We Need to Rethink Existing Rules About Satellite Internet Interference?, PCMag

I went to a lunchtime panel Tuesday at the New America think tank about this wonky topic and came away with both a free lunch and notes for this post.

10/27/2022: And The Chip Shortage Lingers – What It Means For Your Next Car Purchase, KTRH

This Houston radio station wanted to quiz me about the USAT column. The link here points to a story they did based in part on a quick phone interview I did Wednesday morning with KTRH’s Jeff Biggs, but I assume H-town listeners also heard me on the air at some point.

10/25/2022: Soccer-playing robot, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me–in their D.C. studio for my first time since early 2020–to discuss an IEEE Spectrum story with the eye-catching headline “Goalkeeping Robot Dog Tends Its Net Like a Pro”

10/27/2022: Comcast Puts Up ‘Over 5 Million Served’ Sign for Xfinity Mobile, PCMag

I wrote about a Comcast service that people seem to really, really like.

10/29/2022: Elon Musk owns Twitter now, Al Jazeera

I returned to AJ’s studio for a spot about the possible ramifications and downsides of the world’s richest man owning Twitter.

10/30/2022: mind reading via MRI, Al Jazeera

Researchers at the University of Texas demonstrated an ability to reconstruct the mental language of subjects via MRI measurements–just not word for word. The anchors wanted to know if this technology could be abused by tyrannical governments; I said that since you need to have the subject inside an MRI machine, the government would need to detain the person first, and tyrannical governments already have ways to compel people to talk. The researchers also found that “subject cooperation is required both to train and to apply the decoder.”