Weekly output: wireless plans, cities meet 5G, GM + Honda, Twitter business models, Hack the Capitol, smartphone biometric locks, Tech Night Owl

This week saw a couple of long-running projects finally go online. It also saw a tweet I sent during a combative onstage appearance by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) at the Atlantic Festival go slightly viral, as in 1,651 retweets and 2,843 likes. That one tweet doesn’t fairly capture Graham’s discussion–that’s why I posted it as part of a thread that wound up spanning 11 updates–but I fear most of the 185,556 impressions for the tweet in question did not result in my new readers sticking around to read the rest of that thread. Once again, Twitter is where context goes to die; in other news, water is wet.

10/1/2018: The Best Cell Phone Plans, Wirecutter

We posted yet another update to the guide to reflect the addition of tiered “unlimited”-data plans at all four carriers and tried to streamline the text a bit. And by the end of this work, we realized we would need to update the guide yet again in a few months, should changes we’re seeing in usage levels continue showing up in third-party studies.

10/2/2018: Why 5G Internet Is a Policy Minefield for Cities, CityLab

When I started interviewing people for this story, 5G wireless deployment was months away, but now it’s a commercial reality in four U.S. cities. Appropriately enough, I wrapped up work on this piece for this subsidiary of The Atlantic’s parent firm while attending that magazine’s conference in Washington.

10/3/2018: GM’s self-driving-car project will have Honda riding shotgun, Yahoo Finance

This writeup of GM’s Cruise Automation’s deal with Honda to co-develop its second self-driving electric car benefited from a quick interview with Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt I did right after their press call Wednesday morning.

10/3/2018: Twitter business models, Al Jazeera

The Arabic news channel had me to discuss this subject, inspired by the “We can’t believe this website is free” joke tweeted by Twitter’s own Twitter account. Right before I went on the air, I though to ask the interpreter if there was an Arabic term for “freemium”; he told me there was not, so we agreed that I would take a minute to describe that concept so he could translate it correctly.

10/4/2018: Hack the Capitol event reminds lawmakers that IoT security needs help, The Parallax

I wrote about this brief conference in D.C. about the security of industrial control systems from the week before in the light of… wait for it… Congress not acting on a vital tech-policy issue.

10/5/2018: Unlock your phone with your face or fingerprint? Here’s how to shut that off – quickly, USA Today

This how-to walks readers through quickly disabling the facial- or fingerprint-recognition unlock features in iOS and Android. A reader wrote to me afterwards to ask why I didn’t mention just restarting the phone, which will also disable those biometric unlocks; that would not be as quick to do, but I should have included that anyway.

10/6/2018: October 6, 2018 — Rob Pegoraro and Bryan Chaffin, Tech Night Owl

I talked with host Gene Steinberg about the puzzling mismatch between Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s story alleging a long-running Chinese campaign to hide spy chips on server circuit boards with increasingly direct denials by Apple, Amazon and others. There’s also some banter about transit in our roughly hour-long discussion.

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Weekly output: headphone jack, 5G wireless, unlocked smartphones, broadband maps, wireless plans, MWC’s weirdest gadgets, Twitter spam

I had a terrific but exhausting week in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress and looked forward to a relaxing weekend at home–until Friday’s windstorm toppled the tree in our front yard and deprived our home of power until Sunday afternoon. As a result, most of the pictures in my Flickr MWC album haven’t seen any editing yet. And they may not until next week, since I have another short week: Friday, I head out of town again as SXSW brings me to Austin.

2/26/2018: The headphone jack isn’t dead yet, Yahoo Finance

I revisited a theme of last year’s MWC coverage to note that most phone vendors are not following Apple and Google’s foolish removal of the headphone jack. But with Sony, Huawei and Nokia introducing at least some models without that old but perfectly functional audio output, I’m not feeling too confident about the industry’s direction.

2/28/2018: How 5G wireless will soon supercharge the internet, Yahoo Finance

After years of hype about 5G, the next wireless standard is starting to look less vaporous–and some key industry figures are dialing back that hype.

2/28/2018: Don’t buy these smartphones through your carrier, Yahoo Finance

I’ve been arguing for years that you shouldn’t buy your phone from your wireless carrier, but at MWC three of the big four made that point for me by pricing the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus at least $70 over what you’d pay–with interest-free installment payments available–at Samsung’s own site.

CityLab broadband-map post2/28/2018: The Problem With America’s New National Broadband Map, CityLab

The Federal Communications Commission relaunched its broadband map, but the much better-looking version suffers from the same information gaps as ever. So does a privately-run site that draws on the same FCC filings as the map.

2/28/2018: The best cell phone plans, Wirecutter

I updated this guide to reflect more generous plans at many prepaid and resold services. But within a day of the revised guide’s publication, AT&T reworked its pricing for unlimited data, so we’ll have to update the guide yet again to account for that.

3/2/2018: The 6 strangest gadgets from Mobile World Congress 2018, Yahoo Finance

I had fun writing this look at the weirder hardware I saw at MWC–the last piece I filed from the show, shortly before they shut down the press room Wednesday night.

3/3/2018: Twitter spam, Al Jazeera

The news network’s Arabic-language channel had me on (overdubbed live into Arabic) to talk about an outbreak of Twitter spam in Saudi Arabia. The point I made: Going back to Usenet, every popular social platform has inevitably been abused by spammers and con artists.

Weekly output: net neutrality (x2), 2018 security risks, bargaining for a better TV or Internet bill

One of the ways that self-employment has taught me to see the calendar differently: Once you put November in the books, you’ve pretty much put your yearly income in the books too unless you can sell something early in December to a client that pays unusually fast. (See also, a client worth keeping around.)

USAT net-neutrality transparency post11/28/2017: After net neutrality: Up to you to police the ISPs, USA Today

My contribution to USAT’s coverage of Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai’s move to repeal all of 2015’s net-neutrality rules was to unpack the disclosure requirements he would impose on Internet providers. One big catch: An ISP wouldn’t have to post on its own site that it blocks or slows certain sites or charges others for priority delivery of their bits.

11/28/2017: Why the FCC chair says social networks are the real threat to the free internet, Yahoo Finance

Pai gave a speech Tuesday that included some reasonable arguments against the current, proscriptive net-neutrality rules–and then pivoted to the deeply dubious contention that we should really worry about Twitter and other social networks being mean to conservatives.

11/29/2017: How hackers might target you in 2018, Yahoo Finance

I wrote up McAfee Labs’ cybersecurity forecast for next year–which identified the companies selling connected gadgets for your home as a major part of your privacy and security risks.

12/3/2017: Check your cable or Internet bill: After the first year discounts, it’s time to bargain, USA Today

Three weeks ago in San Francisco, I sat down with my USAT editor for the first time after two-plus years of her handling my column to brainstorm tech-support columns that might resonate over the holidays, and this was among them. Conveniently enough, my Thanksgiving tech support a week ago allowed me to inspect my mom’s Fios bill to see how Verizon breaks down its promotional discounts and what you’ll owe after their expiration.

 

Weekly output: 5G, broadcast TV on online video, wireless broadband, machine-learning platforms

Having our kid come down with strep throat put a serious dent in my productivity on this week. (She’s fine now.) The next five days, meanwhile, have a much more crowded schedule that includes an overnight trip to Cleveland. You’ll find out why Tuesday.

9/18/2017: 5 things to know about what’s next for wireless internet, Yahoo Finance

Too-soon hype about 5G wireless is already getting customers confused–as I realized anew when a reader asked how it couldn’t be coming until 2020 if she already had a 5G router. (Answer: It was a 5 GHz router.)

9/18/2017: Broadcasters aren’t going OTT ASAP, FierceBroadcasting

The latest in a steady series of features I’ve written for Fierce’s monthly (registration required) bundles, this one looks at the tangled availability of local channels on “over the top” online-video services. I missed it when it first came out because, I guess, I didn’t see the download link in Fierce’s daily newsletter at the time.

9/20/2017: Why you might trade your wired internet connection for your phone, Yahoo Finance

This headline overstates the story a little. My answer to the question–newly raised by an FCC proceeding–of whether we should count the wireless carriers’ mobile broadband as competition for wired cable, fiber and DSL is that a mobile-only strategy doesn’t work as long as you still need to use a desktop or laptop computer.

9/22/2017: Machine-learning cloud platforms get to work, Ars Technica

This piece focuses on a much wonkier subject than my usual consumer-tech coverage, but I carved some time out of my schedule to write it anyway. On one hand, it allowed me to get into the weeds on the workings of some technologies that I do write about all the time. On the other hand, the story was for a site at which I hadn’t written in way too long (my last Ars byline happened over four years ago) and involved a great per-word rate.

That rate, in turn, was a product of this post being part of a set of stories sponsored by Siemens. I didn’t know the sponsor going in and, as I wrote in a comment below the piece, my editor neither told me which companies to feature nor instructed me on any conclusions the article should reach.

Updated 10/3/2017 to add a link to the broadcasters story.

 

Weekly output: selling online video, online privacy

I’m going to spend most of Monday on airplanes as I make my way from D.C. to Shanghai for CES Asia. I’m helping to emcee the Last Gadget Standing app competition, after which I hope to learn a thing or two about the state of consumer electronics on the other side of the Pacific.

5/30/2017: How To Sell OTT To Cable, Satellite And ‘Cord Never’ Subscribers, FierceCable

The highlight of reporting this feature about how online video services try to pitch themselves to potential viewers: having to lean into my laptop to hear an interview subject when I realized I didn’t have a hands-free kit with me. (I’d already answering the call on my laptop instead of my phone, for reasons lost in the mist now.)

6/1/2017: How Washington is throwing away its shot at protecting your privacy, Yahoo Finance

Sometimes, what people don’t say matters more than what they do say. This piece offers some recent evidence for that, in the form of a new bill from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R.-Tex.) that’s surprisingly favorable towards consumers and has been ignored by some of her usual allies.

Weekly output: Porsche Design laptop, net neutrality (x2), getting the world online, app privacy

You can tell I’m about to go to New Orleans because I put a bunch of songs from the Meters and the Neville Brothers on my phone. As was the case about this time last year, my excuse is the Collision conference; I’ll be moderating four panels at this offshoot of Web Summit.

4/24/2017: We took Porsche’s pricey new laptop for a spin, Yahoo Finance

I filed this first-look report from the IFA Global Press Conference, but it didn’t get posted until the day after I returned from Lisbon.

4/26/2017: Trump’s FCC bulldozes open internet rules without a plan B, Yahoo Finance

The copy I filed went into more detail about FCC chair Ajit Pai’s weird, red-baiting attack on the liberal tech-policy group Free Press, but my editor thought that was a little too much inside baseball. I should note that I’ve spoken at two of Free Press’s events, most recently in Denver in 2013; I may have missed any praise from the organizers for Marx and Lenin when I ditched the conference for an afternoon to see the Rockies home opener.

4/27/2017: Trump’s FCC chair issues attack on open internet rules, Yahoo Finance

A day after Pai spoke about his intention to demolish the current net-neutrality rules, I unpacked the FCC notice of proposed rulemaking that would accomplish that goal.

4/29/2017: How to get 4 billion unconnected people online, Yahoo Finance

I wrote this post about the issues that keep some four billion people off the Internet after attending a Tuesday IEEE event featuring TCP/IP co-author Vint Cerf, but this week’s surplus of net-neutrality news caused it to get set aside for a few days. Having a chance to talk shop with one of the inventors of the Internet remains a mind-bending experience.

4/30/2017: Your data is priceless; that’s why some apps sell it, USA Today

Writing this piece about the amount of access some apps have to your data led me to yank the TripIt app out of my Gmail–I can have that service advise me about changes to my travel plans almost as easily by forwarding booking e-mails to it. And that way, I won’t have TripIt thinking an incremental e-mail from an airline or Amtrak represents a new itinerary.

Weekly output: watching baseball online, broadband privacy, Apple secrecy, Comcast wireless, Tech Night Owl

This week saw me at two Opening Days: On Monday, I attended the Nats’ home opener, and today I kicked off the 2017 lawn-mowing season. In both cases, I’m worried we’re going to fade down the stretch.

4/3/2017: The cheapest way to watch baseball online, Yahoo Finance

For once, I had good things to say about the availability of sports programming online, thanks to many regional sports networks now showing up on services like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now. Alas, the Nats’ Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is not among them.

4/5/2017: Broadband privacy, Al Jazeera

I talked about the swift, Republican-led dispatch of privacy regulations for the Arabic news network.

4/6/2017: How Apple’s secrecy can hurt consumers, Yahoo Finance

Apple’s unprecedented revelation of even broad details about the next Mac Pro and iMac kicked off this post about the unhelpful hangup many tech companies–no, not just Apple–have about keeping customers in the loop.

4/7/2017: The hidden details in Comcast’s wireless plan, USA Today

The amount of interest in Comcast’s upcoming Xfinity Mobile wireless service–which will run off Verizon’s network as well as Comcast’s network of WiFi hot spots–is remarkable, given that you’ll need to subscribe to Comcast Internet to use it. Also remarkable: how many details Comcast left out of its opening sales pitch for Xfinity Mobile. 

If you look at the comments, you’ll see a complaint from a reader that an accompanying chart didn’t list the correct price for Google’s Project Fi wireless service. That chart now lists the right rate–yes, I do try to read comments, and in this case I sent a quick note to my editors advising them of the error.

4/8/2017: April 8, 2017 — John Martellaro and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

I returned to this podcast for the first time since August (had it really been that long?) to talk about Apple’s tepid gesture at transparency, Xfinity Mobile, and the state of broadband privacy and competition.