Weekly output: gadget guidance, macOS Sierra’s Calendar, emoji and the law

This week took a lot more out of me than the list below would suggest: I filed two longer features and finished edits on a third, none yet published, after which I sank a lot of time into a story that wound up not working out. And then I spent Friday in a haze of Nats-playoff-exit malaise.

10/11/2016: Electronic Christmas ideas, Greenspring Computer Club

I last gave a talk to the computer club at this retirement community in December 2010, and the kind of gadgets you might give or get as gifts has changed greatly since then. I also didn’t have the Post’s Speakers Bureau to pay me for the appearance this time, but a friendly audience and overdue practice in extended public speaking made the drive worthwhile.

usat-sierra-calendar-search-column10/15/2016: Why the Calendar app in macOS Sierra can show a short memory, USA Today

I got a surprisingly thankful response from Apple PR for reporting the defective search behavior that doesn’t show events more than two years old. (I had to resort to Spotlight to see when I last spoke at Greenspring.) Since a column that amounted to “this is a bug that they say they’ll fix” would run short, I concluded by acknowledging the bipartisan nature of glitchy bundled calendar apps: Windows 10’s somehow doesn’t support time zones. Can you suggest a replacement that does?

10/16/2016: Your silly emojis are going to court, Yahoo Finance

A fascinating DC Legal Hackers panel I attended two weeks ago got me thinking “there’s an article in this,” but I didn’t get around to filing one until Friday. So, yeah, I didn’t exactly keep it 💯 on this story.

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Weekly output: ECPA reform, Facebook video, iOS 10, Outlook’s “J”

My fourth Online News Association conference wrapped up last night. This event stands as an outlier in my travel schedule: I pay for my conference badge in addition to my travel costs. (That’s also true of XOXO, but I’ve only gone to that twice.) I think it’s a justifiable expense in light of the things I learn and the connections I make. Plus, ONA allows a rare chance for a work-from-home writer like me to hang out with a large group of non-tech journalists, much as I once did in the Post’s newsroom.

9/14/2016: Congress could blow an opportunity to fix a major email privacy issue, Yahoo Finance

This story about the prospects for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is one I could have written at any point in the last few years–my 2012 Disruptive Competition Project post linked to in the piece, sadly enough, still holds up.

yahoo-finance-facebook-at-ona-post9/15/2016: Facebook outlines its plan to insert ads into Live videos, Yahoo Finance

The onstage interview of a Facebook executive that opened ONA yielded some news about the social network’s intentions for live video–but did not offer much practical help for journalists trying to avoid invisibility on Facebook.

9/16/2016: Pros and cons of iOS 10, WTOP

I did this interview via Skype from my Airbnb lodging at 7:10 a.m. in Denver, which may explain why my voice sounded a little scratchy. Note that while I answered the host’s question about downgrading from iOS 10 to iOS 9 by saying that’s not worth it, you can do this for a limited time. But I still don’t recommend taking that step.

9/18/2016: If a sentence in an email ends in ‘J,’ it’s OK, USA Today

For years, I’ve been wondering why sentences in e-mails that looked like they were supposed be funny ended with a “J” instead of the obvious “:)” emoticon. The answer was a long-lived Microsoft Outlook bug that–maybe!–the company will fix now that it’s gotten a little more exposure.

An iOS mystery: Where and when will Gboard not appear?

The fact that I own an Android phone has rarely been more obvious than when I use my iPad–and I try to “gesture type” as if I were using my smaller mobile device’s onscreen keyboard.

The arrival of iOS 8 and its support of third-party keyboards made tracing a path from letter to letter to enter text not just a pointless exercise but a possibility. And with iOS 9’s less buggy support, it’s become a less annoying possibility, but still not a sure thing.

Gboard app iconThat’s become clear to me since Google shipped its Gboard keyboard app in May and, after a satisfactory tryout, I made that free app the default keyboard on my iPad mini 4.

Most of the time, Gboard appears whenever I touch a text field. I can gesture-type with ease (except when I’m holding the tablet sideways), and I could season my prose with emojis and GIFs were I, you know, 20 years younger.

But Apple’s built-in keyboard keeps on surprising me by resurfacing on its own. To get a better sense of how often that happens, I tried taking notes on this behavior this week and reached three conclusions:

• The system works more often than I gave it credit for. The departures from the norm stick out, but keeping track of them made me realize how rare they are.

• In certain cases, the stock keyboard shows up because it’s supposed to. As an Apple tech-support note explains, iOS’s keyboard automatically takes over in secure data-entry fields like the password dialogs of the App Store and Amazon apps.

• In rare occasions, iOS does get confused about keyboards for no apparent reason. A tap of the address bar in Safari would sometimes invoke the stock keyboard instead of Gboard, while the Duolingo language-tutorial app proved itself capable of alternating between the iOS and Google keyboards in a single session.

It’s tempting to blame Apple, given the iffy quality of much of its software. But I can’t rule out this being Google’s fault. I mean, as good as Gboard is, I still had to do a copy-and-paste job from a Web site to enter the symbol that best captures my latest diagnosis of the situation:

 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯