Weekly output: Chris Sacca, Vint Cerf, IoT security, fake news, cheap wireless service, wireless plans, Verizon e-mail

My sixth SXSW ended in one of the least likely ways possible. As I was sipping a cup of coffee at the United Club at AUS Wednesday morning and wondering how I could still be full from Tuesday’s dinner, I spotted an older gentleman in a wheelchair whose white hair, beard and gravelly voice all reminded me of the last SXSW talk I’d watched Tuesday. Then I saw his jacket, covered with the logos of every Apollo mission. Yeah: Buzz Aldrin.

After taking a moment to tell myself “act like you’ve been here before, man,” I walked over and said “Dr. Aldrin?” He looked up, I said I’d enjoyed his talk, we exchanged some pleasantries, and then I shook his hand, said it was an honor, and wished him and his companion safe travels. You know, as one does when meeting anybody who’s walked on the Moon.

3/12/2017: Venture investor on Trump: ‘We are in absolute unmitigated crisis’, Yahoo Finance

I had somehow not seen Chris Sacca speak at a conference before. You should avail yourself of that opportunity if it presents itself.

3/12/2017: Google’s chief internet evangelist seems nervous about Trump’s tech policy, Yahoo Finance

I have seen Vint Cerf speak many times before, most recently last April. But this was the first time I’d watched him opine on President Trump’s tech policy, such as it exists.

3/13/2017: Setting Standards for Digital Privacy, Consumer Reports

CR asked me Friday if I could cover this Monday-morning panel, featuring a CR manager and an initiative CR backs to set standards for the security and privacy of Internet of Things devices. I’m glad they dangled that assignment, since otherwise an insightful discussion on a topic I’ve covered for other clients might have escaped my attention.

3/15/2017: Two fake news writers reveal how they ply their trade, Yahoo Finance

My last file for SXSW covered Yasmin Green’s head-fake of a panel–I thought it would cover her work at Google’s Project Jigsaw to counter violent extremism online. But instead she brought two proprietors of fake news (more accurately called “disinformation”), and then things got weird.

3/16/2017: Dear Wirecutter: What’s the Best Budget Cell Phone and Plan for Limited Data Use?, The Wirecutter

A Wirecutter reader wanted to know which $200-ish smartphone and $25-$30 plan to get. The first question was easy to answer, but the second required going back to the reader to confirm how much data usage they had in mind.

3/16/2017: Best Cell Phone Plans, The Wirecutter

I spent a good chunk of February revising the guide we’d just put through a complete rewrite, all because the four major carriers had to revive or improve their unlimited-data offerings. The result: While the guide still endorses Verizon as the best choice overall (with the understanding that many people don’t use that much data), we recommend T-Mobile for those looking for an unlimited-data plan.

3/17/2017: What Verizon email users need to know about it getting out of email, USA Today

When four or so readers e-mail with the same question within a couple of weeks, you probably have a column topic on your hands. I suggested to my editors that this would be worth posting earlier than the usual Sunday, and I’m glad they agreed.

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Weekly output: Google’s 2017 to-do list

The slowest week of the entire year saw only one story appear under my byline. I’ll more than make that up this week as I cover my 20th CES in a row (!). Any gadget news you’d like me to look out for while I’m in Vegas?

yahoo-google-2017-post12/26/2016: OK, Google: Please do these things in 2017, Yahoo Finance

My contribution to Yahoo Finance’s end-of-year coverage was a post about what Google should do in 2017. Will that company follow up on all of my suggestions? Probably not. I’m reasonably confident that we’ll get a better Android Wear watch from Google, that we haven’t seen the last of Google broadband, and that advertising on fake-news sites will take a hit from stricter Google policies. But I’m less confident that Google will ship an end-to-end encryption plug-in for Gmail, and I would be pleasantly shocked to see the firm start selling an ad-free upgrade to Gmail.

 

Weekly output: buffer rage, Trump and tech titans, Glass Room, Facebook vs. fake news, unlocked phones

With no swank holiday parties hosted by trade groups or PR shops to clog my schedule  (I’m sure my invitations only got lost in the mail…), my one big work night out this week was a screening of the movie Hidden Figures at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. As a card-carrying space geek, I enjoyed the flick immensely but also had to wonder why the thousands of pages I’ve read about NASA had not enlightened me about this chapter of the space agency’s history. It wasn’t just me: In remarks before the screening, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said he had no idea as he watched Apollo 11’s landing that an African-American mathematician, Katherine Johnson, had calculated the mission’s trajectory.

fierce-buffer-rage-post12/13/2016: There’s No One Fix For Buffer Rage, FierceBroadcasting

I finished this post about how video services try to ensure reliable, buffering-free playback on Election Day, which now feels like a horrendously long time ago. You have to provide an e-mail address and some basic job info to download the PDF of this e-book from the address above; my contribution starts on page 9.

12/14/2016: What tech titans should say to Trump — and vice versa, Yahoo Finance

I could tell this got a lot of attention because about a thousand people clicked the link to this blog at the very end of the post–and click-through ratios are generally terrible even for links at the top of a story, much less the very last line of the piece. Two subjects I should have included in this post: the tech industry’s reliance on skilled immigrants and the possible inclusion of broadband in Trump’s infrastructure ambitions.

12/16/2016: The Glass Room shows how little privacy we really have, Yahoo Finance

I held off on writing up last week’s visit to this temporary gallery in Lower Manhattan  because I’d thought a colleague was going to cover the place first. Fortunately, I got a go-ahead before I had the chance to sell a report to another site at a lower rate.

12/17/2016: Facebook’s plan to fight fake news, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on the air Saturday afternoon to talk about Facebook’s new initiative to undercut fake news. They asked me if this would amount to censorship; I said my worry was that too many people would dismiss the verdicts of third-party fact checkers as the product of bias.

12/18/2016: Is it worth it? Buying an unlocked phone, USA Today

I departed from my usual Q&A format to write this story, pegged to an NPD Group report that unlocked phones now make up 12 percent of the U.S. market. It looks like the forecast I wrote four years ago on the eve of T-Mobile’s move to dump handset subsidies wasn’t that crazy.

Weekly output: gig economy, building a bot, pro tablets, social media vs. terrorism, video-chat apps

It’s hard to believe that I only have one full work week left in this year.

12/5/2016: Why Trump is bad news for America’s freelancers, Yahoo Finance

This look at the increasing role of independent workers in the U.S. economy–and what nuking the Affordable Care Act without readying an effective replacement would do to self-employed types–really got started with one of the panels I moderated at Web Summit. Then a couple of new studies of the “gig economy” gave me good reasons to revisit it. Should you be tempted to click the “View Reactions” button at the end of the story, be advised that the comments are more spittle-flecked than usual.

12/7/2016: I built a bot, and now I want more bots, Yahoo Finance

On day one of the Future.Today conference I attended in New York, I got my overdue introduction to building a simple, scripted bot. The experience made me wish I could put bots to work for me instead of just having them exist as somebody else’s customer-service representative.

wirecutter-pro-tablets-guide12/8/2016: Can an iPad Pro or Surface Pro 4 Tablet Replace Your Laptop?, The Wirecutter

This guide to pro tablets has been in the works for months–if you saw me at Google I/O in May and wondered why I had a Surface Pro 4, this is why. And after all those months of testing–and quizzing pro-tablet users about what draws them to these devices–I’m just not sold on the category. I am, however, sold on having my next laptop be a convertible model that I can use folded up in a tablet mode.

12/8/2016: Social media vs. terrorism, Al Jazeera

The interview–as usual, with me overdubbed into Arabic–that was originally scheduled for Wednesday in NYC happened the next day in D.C. The subject was the initiative Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft announced Dec. 5 to share digital fingerprints of terrorist media that each could then use to scrub those files from their networks. I said that deciding what messages count as recruitment messages will be tricky. What, if, say, people circulate vile lies about a child-sex-trafficking ring run out of a D.C. pizza restaurant that lead one nutcase to show up at the place with an AR-15? Does that count as terrorist propaganda under this initiative, or do the messengers have to be brown and Muslim?

12/11/2016: How to choose the best video-calling app, USA Today

A question I got for my October talk to a local retirement community’s computer club led to this column.

Weekly output: Web Summit reactions to Trump, Trump’s FCC, Trump’s tech policy, fake news on Facebook, securing IoT devices

 

The number of weeks left in the year is declining rapidly, which can only mean one thing: I’m due to get bombarded with CES-meeting requests.

usat-trump-web-summit-reactions-column11/14/2016: At tech confab, coming to grips with Trump, USA Today

Vox’s Matthew Yglesias linked to this column I wrote at Web Summit in a post three days later, which hopefully won me some new readers.

11/16/2016: How watching videos online could get more annoying under Donald Trump, Yahoo Finance

When I started writing this analysis of what Trump might do with the Federal Communications Commission, I expected to conclude that he’d demolish almost all of President Obama’s legacy. But on closer inspection, policies like net-neutrality regulations may not be quite as easy to unwind as some of Trump’s advisors might hope.

11/17/2016: Technology and a Trump Presidency, Web Content Mavens

I debated what Trump’s tech-policy agenda might be–we’re still mostly guessing at this point–with Epolitics founder Colin Delany and General Assembly education coordinator Lauren Jacobson, as moderated by my friend Adam Zuckerman of Discovery Communications and Fosterly.

11/19/2016: Facebook didn’t get the memo about fake news. Of course it didn’t., Yahoo Finance

Seeing Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos explain his paranoid attitude about infosec in his Web Summit talk informed this post–in that I’ve yet to see an equivalent mindset among the people tasked with creating and enforcing conduct rules at social networks.

11/20/2016: Holiday tech support to-do: ‘Internet of Things’ cleanup, USA Today

Instead of doing a catch-all column inventorying tech-support tasks you should tackle next weekend, I opted to focus on the problem of hacked or hackable IoT devices. That’s a fundamentally squishy topic: How are you supposed to tell that a connected camera has an admin password hardcoded into its firmware?