Weekly output: net neutrality, Web browsers compared, Last Gadget Standing, China’s autonomous-vehicle ambitions, Sprint and Verizon “unlimited” data

My most-distant business trip of the year is in the books, and I don’t even feel that tired after getting home Friday evening. Falling asleep in my own bed remains the single best cure for jet lag that I know. I’m traveling again this year coming week, but I’m only going about 3 percent as far–I’m in New York from Tuesday night through Friday afternoon for the CE Week show.

6/11/2018: Why the death of net-neutrality rules will be a big campaign issue, Yahoo Finance

I started writing this from Newark International Airport, then finished it and filed it from the plane–worrying I’d lose the satellite link as the plane got farther and farther north. My thanks to United for not leaving me in the lurch… and for opening some upgrade space just in time for my longest flight this year.

6/12/2018: Stuck on Chrome? Always use Safari? It may be time to break up with your default web browser, USA Today

Apple’s WWDC news about online privacy got my editor interested in a post comparing the virtues of the Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Edge, and Mozilla Firefox. If you still run Microsoft Internet Explorer, my advice in this column remains unchanged from prior years: stop.

6/13/2018: Last Gadget Standing, CES Asia

I helped emcee this competition along with my former Yahoo colleague Dan Tynan and Last Gadget’s impresario-in-chief Robin Raskin. I introduced and briefly quizzed the people behind three finalists: iGlass ARAction One, and the Wahe nuclear living room machine V. Alas, my joke about the name of that last device–a streaming-media player with gaming aspirations–becoming “nucular living room machine” in the American South was never going to make it through translation.

6/16/2018: How self-driving cars will take to China’s roads, Yahoo Finance

I wrote most of this from my hotel, then filed it from my flight home–except that when edits came back, we were still too far north to have a reliable signal. And since I had stupidly neglected to e-mail photos before taking off, I also had to deal with the horribly slow uploads of satellite Internet.

For more from CES Asia, have a look at my Flickr album from the trip.

6/17/2018: Sprint and Verizon’s latest deals offer still more definitions of “Unlimited“, USA Today

Verizon decided that having two different flavors of unlimited wasn’t enough, so it added three–while Sprint elected to mix up its own offerings with a quickly-expiring offer that amounted to a Basic Economy level of unlimited data.

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Weekly output: Section 702 surveillance, ad fraud, App Store review

Monday will be my first workday spent entirely in D.C. since mid December. I’m both attending and speaking (as in, quizzing futurist Amy Webb) at the State of the Net conference at the Newseum. “SOTN” is always a good tech-policy talkfest, and you can watch the proceedings live at its site.

1/22/2018: What you need to know about the government’s renewed surveillance law, Yahoo Finance

This explanation of the National Security Agency’s “Section 702” authorization to spy on foreign-intelligence suspects from within U.S. territory should have run in December. But once again, CES Advent left me with too little bandwidth to write the post then.

1/23/2018: How a gang of crooks hijacked your web browser, Yahoo Finance

One of the companies that I talked to for a December post on the plague of “forced-redirect” ads offered me an advance look at a study they’d done of a racket that not only inflicted these ads on readers at scale but set up its own network of fake ad agencies to get their fake ads on real networks. We updated the post a couple of days later to note that the report no longer mentioned two ad networks as being especially willing to do business with con-ad artists.

1/24/2018: Net neutrality app is a lesson in Apple’s App Store power, USA Today

I’ve been writing about Apple’s use and misuse of its App Store review authority for almost as long as I’ve been writing about net neutrality, so an episode involving Apple rejecting an app designed to help users spot net-neutality violations was an obvious topic.

Weekly output: Apple Park, forced-redirect ads, net neutrality, tech trends, Tech Night Owl, media-player tips

I would add up how many weeks this year have involved me writing about net-neutrality issues, but that would be too depressing.

12/11/2017: Why doesn’t Apple make its devices as carefully as it’s making Apple Park?, The Washington Post

After seeing Jony Ive’s talk at the Hirshhorn Museum last month, I tweeted out a line from him about how people should shut up about Apple Park’s perfectionist design–which then irked a great many people. I decided there was a story in this and, after striking out at two other places, found a home for it at the Post. Once again, I enjoyed confusing people who hadn’t seen my byline there in years.

12/11/2017: How to stop rogue ads that can set you up for malware, Yahoo Finance

When my mom asked how to dispel an obnoxious “forced-redirect” ads–the kind that take you off whatever you’re reading and then break your browser’s back button–I figured the problem was widespread enough to be story fodder.

12/14/2017: Here’s what you can expect now that the FCC has killed net neutrality, Yahoo Finance

The anger I’m seeing about this–not to mention the 3,767 comments this has drawn so far–suggest that FCC chair Ajit Pai’s PR strategy of laughing off fears is not calming anybody down.

12/16/2016: What’s Up With Tech?, PATACS

In my first talk to this user group since 2010, I talked about why I’m not sold on a handful of much-hyped technologies–4K TV, smart speakers, drones, virtual reality and Bitcoin. I brought a bag full of random trade-show swag to give away, and now I have that much more room in my home office’s closet.

12/16/2017: December 16, 2017 — Rob Pegoraro and Jeff Gamet, Tech Night Owl Live

I talked to host Gene Steinberg about the demise of the service once known as AOL Instant Messenger, net-neutrality politics, and my decision to replace my MacBook Air with a Windows laptop.

12/17/2017: Cord-cutting tips for setting up your new Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV, USA Today

The advice about using an Ethernet connection instead of WiFi should be obvious, but I’ll bet a lot of people don’t think about using Plex’s apps to play music and videos stored on their PCs or using a media player’s remote-control app to avoid having to type passwords by clicking at letters on the TV’s screen with the player’s regular remote.

 

 

For tech journalists, this may not be the most wonderful time of the year

It’s almost the middle of December, which means I’m once again in the weeds with my CES planning, in the weeds with Christmas shopping, and in the weeds with writing stories in advance so I can maybe spend some of the holidays moderately unplugged.

All of these things have been part of my Decembers for 20 years (although working on a blog schedule has only been part of the deal for the last decade). I should have been able to get better at this, especially since I succumbed to leaning on the crutch of free Amazon Prime two-day shipping and let my wife handle the cards I’d otherwise not send out until early January. Nope!

CES, meanwhile, has kept growing in size–from 117,704 attendees in 2003 to 184,279 this January–and generally making a mockery of predictions that big tech shows no longer matter.

And because it’s 2017, there’s now the added hilarity of the Trump news cycle. Today, it’s given us the complete repeal of 2015’s net-neutrality rules. That’s been readership gold–2,678 comments on my Yahoo Finance post and counting–but it’s not exactly helping me ease into the holidays.

At least it’s not just me. Every CES-bound tech journalist has to be feeling the same crunch, and many of them have to post much more often. And as much as I hate CES PR pitches, I’m sure many of their senders tried to remind their clients that the space-time continuum still governs CES and that expecting reporters to attend an off-Strip event the first day of the show is wildly optimistic–and then the clients ignored their advice.

I do, however, have one thing extra going for me: CES doesn’t start until the second weekend of January, so I have an entire five blessed days between New Year’s Day and my getting on a plane. I plan on sleeping for as much of that time as possible.

Weekly output: telecom bargaining (x2), net neutrality, gadget gift guidance, 4K viewing options

The list below would suggest that I spent more time talking about my job this week than actually doing it, but I filed two other stories that you should see Monday.

12/4/2017: Bargaining for lower telecom bills, KTRH

This Houston radio station wanted to interview me about last Sunday’s USA Today advice to bargain for a better rate on your TV and Internet bill. Fortunately, I had spare time during a long connection through Newark and an unusually uncrowded United Club in which to take anchor Scott Crowder’s call. I should probably list this with an asterisk, as I don’t know when or even if KTRH ran the interview; if you happened to tune in Monday and hear my spot, please let me know.

12/5/2017: Total Eclipse of the Net: The End of Net Neutrality?, New America

“I am serving a life sentence of covering net neutrality” was how I began this 90-minute panel hosted by New America’s Open Technology Institute. My conversation partners were Incompas general counsel Angie Kronenberg, economist Hal SingerNational Hispanic Media Coalition policy adviser (and former FCC commissioner) Gloria Tristani, and Free Press policy director Matt Wood.

12/5/2017: This Morning with Gordon Deal December 05, 2017, This Morning with Gordon Deal

A few minutes after my interview with KTRH, I did a second interview about last Sunday’s USAT column. My spot comes up a little after 13 minutes into this episode.

12/6/2017: Holiday gift guide: Shopping for a person who’s hard to shop for? These D.C. locals have you covered., Express

Bryanna Cappadona, entertainment editor at the Washington Post’s free tabloid, quizzed me for this gift guide. I will admit that my suggested purchase is rather nerdy, but it could also spare the recipient major heartache with their Gmail or Facebook account.

12/10/2017: 4K TV: How much Internet bandwidth do you need?, USA Today

This column also notes your primary offline option for watching 4K content–the small minority of Blu-ray discs that offer Ultra High Definition resolution–and the continued absence of 4K in cable-TV lineups and over-the-air broadcasts.

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: Life as a journalist, data-cap calculations, FCC vs. net neutrality, “EC 261” flight-delay compensation

I got through this Thanksgiving without having to write a single gift-guide story. I can’t remember when I could last make that claim.

11/20/2017: EP 57 – What It’s Like To Be a Journalist in This Day and Age, The Lorne Epstein Show

I sat down in the studios of Arlington’s low-power FM station WERA in late August with Epstein and my fellow guest (and Washingtonian Tech Titan honoree) Tajha Chappellet-Lanier to talk shop about my profession. A little while later–Epstein is apparently better at working ahead of time than me–the show aired.

11/21/2017: Internet data caps: Why you end up busting them, USA Today

A reader’s e-mail about being puzzled by Cox telling her she’d exceeded its 1 terabyte data cap led me to revisit data caps and their essential unfairness.

11/21/2017: How the FCC’s plan to kill net neutrality affects you, Yahoo Finance

You can advance a respectable argument against net-neutrality rules by saying that ISPs have given up on trying to block or slow individual sites. Calling a repeal of those regulations on the behavior of corporations alone “restoring Internet freedom” is not that argument.

11/23/2017: Delayed in Europe? How EC 261 Services Can Get Airlines to Pay, The Points Guy

I’ve had this story on my to-do list since seeing AirHelp present at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in 2014. A year later, I finally tasked another company expert in the European Union’s “EC 261” flight-interruption regulation to get Lufthansa to compensate me for the hours-long delay that held up my return from IFA in 2012. The airline sent me a check last March, and then it took me another year and a half to sell a piece about it. That itself only happened when a TPG editor asked if I had other posts in mind after passing on one I’d thought to pitch after seeing a friend’s byline there.