Weekly output: Mark Vena podcast, Twitter buys Brief, iMessage mess

Once upon a time, you could count on August to be a slow news month. The Trump administration put an end to that–and even with Trump gone, the pandemic will ensure nobody gets a break from breaking-news alerts anytime soon.

Screengrab of podcast episode page as seen in Chrome for Android7/28/2021: SmartTechCheck Podcast by Parks Associates, Mark Vena

My industry-analyst pal now works at Parks Associates instead of Moor Insights & Strategy, but the podcast he hosts continues to run on the same outlines. My contribution to this week’s episode, once again featuring my fellow tech scribs Stewart Wolpin and John Quain, was to call out the ridiculous pricing Verizon has slapped on its new Fios TV streaming apps.

7/30/2021: Twitter buys Brief, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on for a few minutes to discuss Twitter buying the news-recap app Brief.

7/30/2021: Are your iMessage texts disappearing? The answer might just be checking your email, USA Today

Yet another episode of messages from an iPhone-using friend going to my iPad instead of my phone finally pushed me to dig into how Apple’s iMessage routes your chats. This column is paywalled, but the headline basically spells out the fix: If you use an Android phone, remove your regular e-mail address from your Apple ID profile.

Weekly output: pay-TV predictions, T-Mobile’s work-from-home bundle

I try to space out the posts here so the blog doesn’t go too many days without an update. Since I write these weekly-output posts on Sundays, in an ideal blogging universe I’d publish each week’s other, less self-promotional post around mid-week. In this imperfect and stressed world, however, I often wind up not getting that second post up until Saturday. And this week, the non-weekly-output post went up Sunday afternoon–because as I rushed to finish writing that ode to two good newsletters Saturday evening, I forgot that the Block Editor here has a confirmation dialog you need to click through before a post gets published.

3/2/2021: Analyst Report: The Pay-TV Bundle Looks Even More Doomed—And Streaming Won’t Save It, Forbes

I wrote up a MoffettNathanson report with grim predictions for pay-TV bundles.

Screenshot of story as seen in an Android phone's Chrome browser.3/5/2021: T-Mobile wants your employer to give you home-office wireless broadband, Fast Company

T-Mobile’s announcement of a new bundle of services for larger government and business customers to buy for their working-from-afar employees glossed over a lot of details. I failed to fill in the blanks about the speeds of the upcoming Home Office Internet 4G/5G service that leads off T-Mobile’s “WFX” offering, but I did manage to document how extensively this fixed-wireless connectivity can block services not obviously related to people’s work. As in, the list of sites cut off by default includes Netflix and Amazon and even T-Mobile’s own T-Vision streaming-TV app.

Weekly output: World Central Kitchen, Mint renewal, social media vs. Trump (2x), Struum

Last Sunday feels like two weeks ago, but an attempted coup at the Capitol by a violent mob will do that to a seven-day span of time. This afternoon, I biked over to Capitol Hill and saw a changed place, locked down inside fences decorated with the occasional flower.

1/5/2021: The tech that keeps World Central Kitchen cooking in times of disaster, Fast Company

This was one of the last pieces that I filed in 2020 (unless you count today as Dec. 41, 2020). I very much enjoyed a chance to tell a story of how hard-working professionals use technology to help other people eat.

1/6/2021: Here’s Intuit’s plan to get Mint back on track after years of neglect, Fast Company

When Intuit PR got in touch in early December offering a heads-up on these changes, I thought they would involve more at the start than a rewritten iPhone app, so this post reveals a certain amount of disappointment from my perspective as a Web-first Mint user. Note that the copy you see now differs slightly from what we posted Wednesday morning, reflecting a correction of one spelling of a product manager’s name as well as a few other changes to add context about some privacy issues. (I wrote more about this post’s backstory for Patreon subscribers.)

1/7/2021: Social-media platforms limit Trump, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on (overdubbed) to talk about Facebook and Twitter moving to quarantine President Trump’s accounts.

1/7/2021: This Startup Wants To Sell You Hipster A-La-Carte Streaming TV, Forbes

The Wall Street Journal got an exclusive on the launch of a new startup called Struum, but I was able to advance the story in one way: by clarifying how you pronounce that moniker. (“Stroom” or, if you prefer diacritical marks, “Strüm.”)

1/9/2021: Social media platforms banning Trump, Al Jazeera

AJ had me back on after Twitter permanently banned Trump. The two big points I made: Twitter and other social networks may need to reconsider “world leader” policies that give more leeway for incitements to hate or violence to people with the biggest followings, and Trump can get a massive audience anytime during his last days in office by walking over to the White House Press Briefing Room.

Weekly output: 2021 pay-TV trends, 2020 in review, Comcast drops Norton security bundle

Today is Jan. 3, 2021, but I can’t blame you if it may feel more like Dec. 34, 2020.

12/30/2020: Four Pay-TV Plot Twists To Watch In 2021—And For Pay TV To Hate, Forbes

My last Forbes post for 2020 looked at possible future developments in both traditional and streaming pay TV, most of which are bad.

12/31/2020: SmartTechCheck Podcast (12-31-20), Mark Vena

I joined the podcast of this Moor Insights & Strategy analyst with my fellow tech journalists John Quain and Stewart Wolpin to discuss what pandemic-wracked 2020 taught us about the state of tech. Early on, we pointed to the ability of video calling to replace some face-to-face meetings–and then we kept running into video or audio glitches.

1/3/2021: As Comcast drops one computer security plan, what – if anything – should you replace it with?, USA Today

This column started with an e-mail from a reader asking what he should do about Comcast ending its free bundle of Norton anti-malware apps. I’d seen the advice of my Wirecutter colleagues that paying for anti-virus software is no longer a good idea, but I turned to my friend Sean Gallagher–who edited a little of my earlier writing at Ars Technica and now works as a threat researcher for the security firm Sophos–for added context. The result: a column about a Comcast policy change that can’t really fault everybody’s favorite cable giant for taking something away from subscribers, because it wasn’t doing them that much of a favor in the first place.

Weekly output: Hulu’s rate hike, Trump vs. social media

Like (I hope) many of you, we bagged our plans for Thanksgiving travel. The pandemic metrics around here keep going up, while escalating demand for coronavirus tests is making getting a result back in a timely manner a dicey proposition; seeing these and other metrics looking worse than they did in summer, when we had opted not to visit relatives, left no other sound choice.

11/17/2020: Hulu Hikes Its Rates Yet Again As TV Pricing Pain Rolls On, Forbes

Hulu hiking the monthly cost of its live TV service to $65 left me asking when TV viewers will be able to get off this treadmill of rate increases. The answer seems to be “only if they have good local TV reception and aren’t that invested in sports.”

11/17/2020: Trump’s battle with social media, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on talk about our soon-to-be ex-president’s latest round of whining about the unfairness of social-media platforms.

Weekly output: local ISPs, augmented reality, Toronto and Lisbon’s mayors, TVision, Senate Commerce vs. tech CEOs

I’m looking at a four-day workweek at my day job–plus a 16-hour day Tuesday as a poll worker for Arlington. Wish me luck! More important, wish all of us luck.

10/26/2020: Local Internet Service Providers, U.S. News & World Report

I wrote guides to the major choices for Internet access (using data from BroadbandNow) in 10 markets: Fairbanks, Alaska; Chandler, Ariz.; Colorado Springs and Denver, Colo.; Chicago, Ill.; Cary and Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Dallas and El Paso, Tex. (The first of these got posted back on Oct. 16, but the last two didn’t land until Tuesday, and it’s simpler to cover them in one entry.) Putting this together enlightened me beyond expectations about the state of broadband across the U.S.; for instance, I hadn’t realized how strict data caps could get until seeing what Alaska’s dominant cable provider inflicts on its customers.

10/26/2020: AR is finally infiltrating everyday tasks such as Google search, Fast Company

Writing this post on the state of augmented-reality interfaces allowed me to revisit a topic I’d covered for the Washington Post almost 11 years ago. It’s too bad Yelp scrapped the Monocle AR interface I wrote about then.

10/27/2020: Panel: Leading the city of the future, City Summit

This Web Summit side event had me interview Lisbon mayor Fernando Medina and Toronto mayor John Tory about how their cities–hosts of the Web Summit and Collision conferences, also places I sorely miss visiting this year–have responded to the novel-coronavirus pandemic.

10/27/2020: T-Mobile Launches TVision To Help You Fire Cable (Or Satellite) TV, Forbes

I walked readers through T-Mobile’s entry into streaming TV, which offers some surprisingly aggressive pricing but also requires some compromises in its channel selections that may prove non-trivial obstacles.

10/29/2020: The Best And Worst Moments In The Senate’s Grilling Of Social-Media CEOs, Forbes

The Senate Commerce Committee’s interrogation of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey featured many cringe-inducing if not disgraceful sound bites, but it also afforded some non-garbage-fire moments. I particularly enjoyed writing the last sentence, even if it cost me some time poking around Federal Election Commission filings.

Weekly output: Coffee with a Journalist, free PBS streaming, Microsoft report on election meddling, Oracle buying TikTok

After returning to the skies Friday, Sunday saw me return to a part of a bike trail I’d neglected for shamefully long–the Washington & Old Dominion trail west of Arlington. I’m so glad I decided to bike for longer than usual today.

9/8/2020: Coffee with a Journalist: Rob Pegoraro, Fast Company, OnePitch

I recorded my conversation with host Beck Bamberger in mid-August for this PR-service firm’s podcast. Listen in and you’ll learn a few things about how I work, where ideas come from and what sort of PR pitches I find of interest, or at least not annoying.

9/8/2020: You Can Now (Probably) Stream Your Local PBS Station For Free, Forbes

I came to this story a few days late, but so did everybody else, thanks to the apparent absence of any PR effort by PBS on behalf of its introduction of free live streaming of its affiliates in almost 90 markets. I updated the post after publication to note PBS’s quick addition of support for Apple TV as well as its iOS, Android and Kindle Fire apps and to correct one error in the original writeup.

9/11/2020: Microsoft: Hackers from Russia, China and Iran targeted the presidential elections, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network asked if I could comment on Thursday’s report from Microsoft finding continued attempts by Russia, China and Iran to meddle with the election. As you may be able to tell from the background, I recorded this in an airport–Columbus, the midpoint of Friday’s 9/11 observance. Without a tripod handy, I realized I could use the outside pocket on the old United Airlines amenity kit I use to stash cables and chargers to hold my phone steady.

9/13/2020: Oracle buying TikTok, Al Jazeera

AJ’s English-language news network had me on live Sunday night to talk about the unexpected outcome of the Trump administration’s campaign to force a sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations: Oracle will make that purchase, despite its lack of experience running consumer apps, much less a social network. I don’t see how that can rate as good news for any TikTok user.

Updated 9/16/2020 to add my Coffee with a Journalist appearance, which I’d forgotten to add mainly because it had been that long since I recorded my spot. 

Weekly output: small telecom firms dropping pay TV, remote-working security, Facebook bias allegations

This week brought bad news on the client front: Glimmer, the tech-culture publication where I’ve enjoyed writing long features about such wonky topics as Google’s complex relationship with news publishers, did not survive a round of layoffs at its corporate parent Glitch. As crummy as this was for me, it was worse for my editor there who now finds herself unemployed.

5/18/2020: Small TV providers need to hold customers’ hands to exit TV, FierceVideo

This story took much longer to report than I expected, mainly because I had a hard time getting enough of the small number of tiny Internet providers to have dropped pay TV outright to return my calls or e-mails.

5/19/2020: Session 3 Security Panel, Futureproof IT

In my first virtual-conference panel, I talked about security issues with remote-work software (via Zoom, naturally) with Secureframe CEO Shrav Mehta, Splunk senior technology advocate Amélie Erin Koran, and freelance tech journalist Yael Grauer.

5/22/2020: Facebook bias allegations, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me to discuss complaints that Facebook is blocking pro-Palestinian speech. That’s not an allegation I’ve seen confirmed independently–it’s not hard to find pages advocating for Palestine and against Israel’s occupation–but I spent most of my time on air emphasizing the general difficulty of content moderation at scale. I hope my effort at nuance was as persuasive in the interpreter’s rendition.

Updated 6/30/2020 with the screengrab from the Futureproof IT site that I forgot to add the first time.