Weekly output: pro tablets, iPhone X, Google Maps and airport transit routes, Honest Ads Act, media consolidation, WiFi-password troubleshooting

After a month and a half with no travel aside from one overnight trip, I’ve got my next international departure in five days: Web Summit has me moderating at least three panels and will have me busy watching everybody else’s in Lisbon the week after this. Which once again means I will once again be spending Election Day overseas.

(There may “only” be statewide races at stake this time, but I cast my absentee ballot three weeks ago anyway. New Jersey and Virginia voters–and anybody with even a local race on the ballot–show up and do your job as a citizen.)

10/23/2017: Can an iPad Pro or Surface Pro Tablet Replace Your Laptop?, Wirecutter

This update to my Wirecutter guide adds my thoughts on Microsoft’s new Surface Pro and Apple’s latest pair of iPad Pro models. I was harsher about the Apple Pencil this time around even before I managed to lose one on our coffee table.

10/26/2017: iPhone X, WTOP

I thought the hosts at D.C.’s all-news radio station would spend more time quizzing me about the camera notch at the top of the $999-and-up iPhone X’s screen or the Face ID login system that camera offers, but instead they focused mainly on its price.

10/26/2017: Why Doesn’t Google Maps Know the Best Way to the Airport?, CityLab

My first appearance at The Atlantic’s transportation-and-development site since 2013 (when it went by the name The Atlantic Cities) was originally going to be a cranky post here about Google’s continued inadequacy with transit directions to Dulles Airport. But then I thought I should try to be a little more enterprising about that idea. It took just long enough to get the post written and edited that Google finally added IAD’s Silver Line Express bus–but in a botched way that incorrectly advises walking another .7 miles after exiting the bus.

10/26/2017, A bill aimed at Facebook’s bogus political ads has some big problems, Yahoo Finance

The Honest Ads Act is a good idea and worth passing even after Facebook and Twitter’s belated moves towards transparency about their advertising, but it’s not going to stop all the social-media engineering the Russians put on last year.

10/27/2017: How Trump’s FCC chair could limit your media choices, Yahoo Finance

Writing about Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai’s moves to open up media-ownership restrictions got me thinking about how an earlier FCC made it so much easier for out-of-town conglomerates to roll up radio stations.

10/29/2017: Wi-Fi problems are the worst. 3 ways to solve them., USA Today

This was going to focus on Apple’s neat but undocumented way to share a WiFi password from one Apple device to another (if each runs its latest mobile or desktop operating system), but my editor asked me to broaden the column to cover non-Apple use cases.

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Weekly output: Google Now directions, Super PAC App, cheap smartphone tethering, phone discounts

This week’s list has a new site: The Atlantic’s excellent Atlantic Cities, which allowed me a chance to indulge my picky taste in transit user interfaces. I also filed a piece for CEA about a bill that aims to disrupt the patent-troll business model, but it hasn’t been posted yet.

8/22/2012: How Well Will ‘Google Now’ Get You Around? So Far, Not Very, The Atlantic Cities

I though the Google Now software in the Jelly Bean version of Android had a weird fixation on driving everywhere, but it doesn’t–this program just doesn’t know to recommend the fastest route regardless of mode. Then again, so do other navigation apps–and since Apple’s iOS 6 will exile transit and bicycling directions from its own Maps program, this problem will get worse.

The post also breaks a little news: Fairfax County’s Connector bus system has finally recognized the user-hostility of offering directions only through Metro’s clumsy Trip Planner site and will instead publish a GTFS schedule feed. That should let you look up Fairfax Connector service on third-party mapping sites–but not, it seems, Google. As GreaterGreaterWashington contributor Michael Perkins reminded me in an e-mail, the county has not signed a questionable legal agreement Google requires.

8/24/2012: App Tries to Name, Shame Campaign Ads, Discovery News

The Super PAC App iPhone program attempts to identify presidential TV ads by their soundtrack, then identify their source and provide links to stories that provide context and critiques of the ad’s claims. Great idea, but it could be more direct about indicating a spot’s trustworthiness, given the number of outright lies out there.

8/26/2012: Two ways to save on wireless data, USA Today

The weekly column addresses a question I’ve seen more than once: What’s the cheapest way to combine mobile phone service and residential broadband? It also offers a tip that I (ahem) should have acted upon months ago: Check to see if your wireless carrier offers a discount based on your employer, current or former school or even union membership or credit-union account.