Weekly output: Google’s RCS messaging, PBS comes to YouTube TV (x2), 5G and IoT, Telaria + Rubicon, pay-TV fee transparency, Dish boxes + Nest Hello video doorbells, car2go gone, best DNA tests

My last full work week of the year and the decade had me busy, which is another way of saying this was a real bag of stress. I am looking forward to enjoying a few more tranquil days, and I hope you all also get some downtime in the rest of the December.

12/16/2019: Google’s new RCS text messaging: Will it work with my wireless carrier?, USA Today

I explained this upgrade to SMS that Google has taken to calling “chat features,” and which continues to see apathetic support from carriers.

12/17/2019: Cord cutters, you can finally stream your PBS stations online – on YouTube TV, USA Today

The reporting I did in January for a FierceVideo piece about PBS’s digital strategy paid off when I got a heads-up from public television’s Boston station WGBH about their impending arrival on YouTube TV. That allowed me to get this post on USAT’s site right after the news that cord cutters could finally watch many local PBS affiliates without needing either reliable over-the-air reception or a cable or satellite TV subscription.

12/18/2019: 5G deployment stands ready to supercharge the Internet of Things, Ars Technica

My last feature-length explainer covered the potential of 5G’s network-slicing and edge-computing capabilities in IoT markets. Like the earlier two, this was sponsored by a company that I assume was Verizon, going by the presence of their ads atop each one in the series. But Ars has yet to confirm that, and they certainly didn’t tell me in advance–which is exactly how this sort of arrangement should work.

12/19/2019: PBS lands on YouTube TV, FierceVideo

I spent the last two days of the week filling in at this trade-pub client to cover breaking news. My first post provided some more context about PBS’s debut on a streaming-TV service, including more details about participating stations than I had for the USA Today piece.

12/19/2019: Adtech firms Telaria and Rubicon to merge, FierceVideo

Thursday’s other post was a writeup of this merger of two adtech companies that I must admit I didn’t know much about prior to Thursday.

12/20/2019: New law mandates pay-TV fee transparency, FierceVideo

Friday morning, I wrote up the Television Viewer Protection Act, a just-passed measure mandating a little more disclosure of such tacked-on pay-TV expenses as the surcharge for local broadcasts and equipment-rental fees.

12/20/2019: Dish Network says hello to Google’s video doorbell, FierceVideo

Some Dish DVRs and receivers can now show a Nest Hello video doorbell’s view of who’s at your front door.

12/21/2019: An elegy for Car2Go, the smarter Zipcar rival that lost its way, Fast Company

The demise of D.C.’s leading point-to-point car-sharing service made me and many other transportation geeks sad.

12/21/2019: The best DNA test kit of 2019, Tom’s Guide

The fourth big story I wrote about DNA tests for this reviews site offers a ranking of the two I tested myself, 23andMe and AncestryDNA, plus an assessment of three others that have ranked high in other reviews: MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and Living DNA.

Weekly output: AT&T “unlimited” plans, Helium’s peer-to-peer IoT network

I spent Friday attending a tech-policy event at the Newseum’s conference space. That’s something I’ve done a great many times, but Friday’s visit looks like it might be my last ever, or at best my last for the next four years. The Newseum is closing at the end of the year before Johns Hopkins University starts a lengthy renovation of the building it bought in January, and I have no further events there on my calendar.

11/15/2019: AT&T’s latest smartphone plans offer new ways to limit ‘unlimited’ data, USA Today

My latest in an ongoing series of “here’s what’s up with your wireless carrier’s new sort-of-unlimited plans” columns unpacked recent changes at AT&T. My advice this time: When assessing unlimited-esque plans, the most important limit to assess is the threshold at which your data speeds can be “deprioritized,” followed by the cap on your use of the phone’s mobile-hotspot function.

11/15/2019: This startup wants to pay you—in cryptocurrency—to help build its network, Fast Company

It took a while for me to wrap my head around the cryptocurrency framework meant to underwrite Helium’s peer-to-peer Internet-of-Things wireless network. And then soon after the story went up, I got an e-mail from a Lime publicist asking that we remove the mention of them, because they hadn’t worked with Helium–even though Helium has repeatedly cited Lime as a partner, including a prominent mention on their site’s business page that vanished after I’d filed the post. Helium later responded that Lime had tested their tech before deciding not to pursue it… which still doesn’t square with Lime’s denial of any relationship. One thing I know for sure: I’m glad I thought to e-mail Lime while reporting the story to check up on Helium’s positioning of them. And if Lime’s reply to that message had arrived Thursday instead of Friday, this story would not have read the same.

Weekly output: e-scooter privacy, whither Vudu, World Series viewership, Vint Cerf on 5G, Firefox Web-privacy reporting

LISBON–Getting here the day before the start of Web Summit meant having to miss the Nationals’ victory parade downtown and then catch up with video highlights afterwards. Yes, there I go talking about this weird interest of mine. But just watch the clip of Ryan Zimmerman speaking at the parade, his voice cracking, about what it was like to win it all with the only MLB team he’s ever known–“There’s not a team that I would have wanted to do that with more than these guys”–and see if it doesn’t get dusty in the room.

Fast Company Uber-vs.-L.A. post10/31/2019: L.A. wants to know where you ride your scooter, and Uber isn’t happy, Fast Company

This post started with a talk at The Atlantic’s CityLab DC conference in which the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation expressed her optimism that all the e-scooter firms operating in the city would comply with its requests for location data. That same day, Uber said they’d see the city in court.

11/1/2019: Walmart seeks to unload Vudu: report, FierceVideo

I spent Friday morning pinch-hitting for my occasional client FierceVideo, covering recent news items. This one folded in some analyst quotes about the possibility that Walmart might sell its Vudu video-on-demand service and who might want to buy it.

11/1/2019: World Series game 7 draws almost 23 million viewers, FierceVideo

I told my editors upfront that one my reasons for covering this was the chance to use the phrase “world champion Washington Nationals” in a story.

11/2/2019: This ‘father of the internet’ still isn’t completely sold on 5G, Fast Company

I got a pitch to cover a conference at which TCP/IP co-author Vint Cerf would talk about ways to get America better broadband, and then that turned into a chance to sit down with Cerf and quiz him for a few minutes. Our 12-minute talk yielded almost 2,000 words of transcript (via the Otter service), so I had to edit it aggressively to get the piece down to a three-digit word count.

11/3/2019: Here’s how to see who’s tracking you across the Web right now, USA Today

I decided to test the upgraded tracking-protection features in Mozilla Firefox by seeing what they’d report about my client USA Today’s own site.

Updated 11/4/2019 to add an image that didn’t publish the first time, plus a link to the USAT column.

Weekly output: whither the small smartphone, medical-device security, Senate privacy hearings

I watched my last Nats game of the year this afternoon and had scant company in the ballpark, thanks to the chilly temperatures, near-constant rain, and yesterday’s elimination of the team from postseason contention. But even in those crummy circumstances, baseball still offers its less-likely rewards: seeing us turn a 5-2-3 double play, then watching Trea Turner break the franchise record for stolen bases.

(Confession: I wasn’t in the stands after the 5th. I believe that staying for all 18 innings of game 2 of the 2014 NLDS gives me a pass to leave the very-occasional game early.)

9/19/2018: With Apple maxing out iPhone sizes, the small smartphone looks even more endangered, USA Today

If you’re a fan of smartphones small enough to allow easy one-handed use–and to fit into what passes for pockets on many women’s clothing–then the big part of Apple’s iPhone news this year was the quiet discontinuation of the compact iPhone SE. Unfortunately, Android vendors appear even more set on ignoring market demand for smaller devices.

9/20/2018: How weak IoT gadgets can sicken a hospital’s network, The Parallax

I wrote an explainer about how badly-configured or insecure-by-default connected devices can allow remote exploitation, then traversal of a hospital’s network. To get a fuller sense of your risks, replace “hospital’s network” with “your home’s network.”

9/21/2018: Midday Movers: Stocks mixed after a day of record highs, Yahoo Finance

Yahoo Finance runs four live video shows each weekday, and I made an appearance on one of them after an editor basically asked what was taking me so long. I had already been planning on attending Yahoo’s All Markets Summit conference Thursday (I hope my livetweeting from it didn’t get too annoying), so this gave me even more reason to head up to NYC for a few days. I come on at the 40-minute mark, when I talk about a post I have coming up that outlines the questions I hope will be asked at Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee tech-privacy hearings–plus what I’m afraid we’ll hear instead.

Weekly output: Inside the Media Minds, EU copyright control-freakery, WeChat, 5G and IoT, Facebook political-ad rules

In addition to the exposure below, I may or may not have been on New York’s Fox affiliate WNYW Monday–I did a Skype interview about the music industry’s move away from downloads, but I have no idea if they used it or not. If you happened to watch them Monday night, please let me know either way in a comment.

6/19/2018: EP 7 – Rob Pegoraro/Yahoo Finance/USA Today, Inside the Media Minds

I sat down for this interview with W2 Communications‘ host Christine Blake a month ago–but since I spent most of the time talking about longer-term stuff like my coverage priorities and my worries about technology, it aged reasonably well.

6/20/2018: How Europe’s proposed copyright laws could ruin your search engines, Yahoo Finance

It’s now been over five and a half years since I first wrote about the inane idea of letting newspapers charge search engines for the privilege of indexing their content, and I’ve been covering Hollywood’s demands that the tech industry nerd harder and create some magic solution to copyright infringement since at least 2002. That the European Union is seriously considering copyright-law revisions that would add a link tax and upload filtering suggests that no tech-policy idea is too dumb not to be exhumed and put forth as a sober-minded solution.

6/21/2018: Meet WeChat, the app that’s ‘everything’ in China, The Parallax

I wrote a lengthy explainer about WeChat, the do-it-all social-media platform that largely defines the mobile Internet for Chinese users–Facebook Messenger could only dream of folding in so many functions. Then again, Facebook Messenger offers end-to-end encryption while WeChat offers no such thing.

6/21/2018: 5G and the Internet of Things: How much? How fast? How soon?, CE Week

I led a panel discussion at the CE Week conference with Owl CEO Andrew Hodge, I Luv Wireless managing member Michael Dean, and SureCall sales vice president Frankie Smith. The takeaway: forget latency and bandwidth, better battery life will be the real reward of 5G in connected devices.

6/22/2018: Facebook’s push to kill bad political ads is also hiding regular posts, Yahoo Finance

Facebook now requires ads that address political issues to meet a higher standard of transparency—but in practice, its system has been classifying ads promoting news stories and even everyday commercial offerings as political.

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: IoT security, fake news, online video ads (x2), 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.

 

3/13/2017: 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.

3/15/2017: How OTT Providers Are Targeting, Tracking And Timing Ads, FierceOnlineVideo

I missed this contribution to a package of stories about “OTT” (short for “over the top,” as in video services that ride on your broadband connection) advertising because I was traveling, then spent another two weeks not realizing it had been posted.

3/15/2017: OTT Ad Delivery Case Study: Hyundai’s ‘Skip’ Ad, FierceOnlineVideo

This case study had me tearing my hair out more than once as I struggled to get a quote out of one of the companies involved. Someday, I will learn to put in my interview requests early when I’m dealing with a company that hasn’t figured in my stories before, but late January was clearly not that time.

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.

Updated 4/2/2017 with the two online-ads stories I’d missed earlier. And updated again 4/17 to remove links to two posts that I’d already covered in the previous Sunday’s weekly-output post. I guess I was a little tired when I wrote this.