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: 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.