Weekly output: tech ecosystems, patent trolling, LTE hotspots, YouTube ad-friendly rules, e-mail name games

Having Monday off–or as “off” as is possible for a self-employed, work-from-home type–is pretty exciting given my schedule for the first half of June. Spoiler alert: It involves a lot of time on airplanes.

5/22/2017: Why you shouldn’t be loyal to just one tech giant, Yahoo Finance

This reaction to Google I/O expands on an argument I’ve been making on and off for the past several years–that you’re better off spreading your business around multiple tech companies. Case in point: my decision to host this blog at WordPress.com instead of Google’s Blogger.

5/23/2017: A widely praised Supreme Court decision still doesn’t fix the broken patent system, Yahoo Finance

For once, I could write a non-despondent post about patent trolling, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that should make it harder for patent litigants to drag random companies into the Eastern District of Texas.

5/25/2017: Best Wi-Fi Hotspot, The Wirecutter

This guide went much longer than usual between updates, and then I wound up recommending the same Verizon hotspot I’d endorsed last January. But the standalone and add-on service pricing at Verizon and runner-up AT&T had changed greatly over that time, and I also took advantage of this update to test a few hotspots set up for international roaming.

5/28/2017: YouTube thought a giant American flag wasn’t ‘advertiser friendly’, Yahoo Finance

This story landed in my lap Thursday evening, when a longtime reader tweeted that YouTube had declared his upload of a gigantic American flag being unfurled at FedEx Field on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to be ad-unworthy. How could I not write about that for the Memorial Day weekend?

5/28/2017: How to hang onto your email if you change your name, USA Today

My editor mentioned that she’d gotten this question from a co-worker… and I had to admit that I’d never had to deal with or think much about this issue, since guys almost always keep their last names through marriage. That’s the patriarchy for you, I guess.

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Weekly output: CES (x2), T-Mobile BingeOn, OLED TVs, Samsung Family Hub fridge, FAA and drones, UHD TV, patent trolls

As the following inventory of stories should suggest, I was pretty busy at CES. If you need further proof: My notes from the show exceed 8,000 words. I had delusions that I’d have the energy today to go through my photos from the show and caption, edit and upload the best of them, but that’s just not happening this evening.

1/5/2016: What Is CES, Anyway? A Quick Guide for the Perplexed, Yahoo Tech

This was the one post out of all these that I filed before making my journey to Vegas.

1/6/2016: Tip: How to Quit T-Mobile’s BingeOn Service, Yahoo Tech

And this is the post that I should have also written in advance. Instead, I finished it in the Mandalay Bay press room Tuesday afternoon.

CES 2016 OLED report1/6/2016: LG’s See-Through, Rollable OLED Screens: Here, But Not Cheap (Yet), Yahoo Tech

This wasn’t on my original story budgets, but LG’s presentation–and the broader issue of OLED’s long-term relevance–was interesting enough for my editors to accept my suggestion that I file an extra post about this.

1/7/2016: Samsung’s Family Hub Smart Fridge: Would You Believe It Keeps Beer Cold, Too?, Yahoo Tech

The headline came to mind almost right away, and the rest of the post (for once) mostly wrote itself. In the interest of full disclosure, we own a 2014-model Samsung fridge that has no connected apps onboard but which also does a fine job of keeping beer cold.

Make drone-registration post1/8/2016: FAA: Over 181,000 Of You Have Registered Your Drones So Far, Make:

This is the first thing I’ve written for Maker Media’s site. It went up later than I wanted because a) I took my time writing it and b) the newsroom got hit with a round of layoffs. Ugh.

1/8/2016: The State of Ultrahigh-Definition Television: Will This Be the Year It Makes Sense to Upgrade?, Yahoo Tech

My annual state-of-the-TV report from CES had me feeling more charitable about UHD’s prospects than before–but still not interested in upgrading until at least next year.

1/8/2016: Consumer Electronics Industry to Government: Do Something About Patent Trolls, Yahoo Tech

This panel Friday morning had a great lineup (hint: anytime you can hear NewEgg’s Lee Cheng rant about patent trolls, show up), and then I had the chance to quiz U.S. Patent and Trademark Office director Michelle Lee afterwards.

1/8/2016: CE-NO thank you: 5 things I could do without from CES, USA Today

My thanks to my editor for suggesting a CES angle that hadn’t already been completely picked over; my apologies to the guy whose name I misspelled in the piece for reasons I completely don’t understand (see my comment on the story for the details).

Weekly output: Comcast Stream, Amazon’s policy footprint, Flash’s fate

I spent two days this week working in large buildings in D.C., as if I had a full-time job or something. The reasons: Access’s Crypto Summit and the D.C. chapter of the Internet Society’s Internet Governance Forum USA. Neither conference gave me anything I had to write about on the spot, but things I learned at each wonkfest will almost certainly wind up in my coverage later on.

7/13/2015: What You Need to Know about Comcast Stream: Cord-Cutting, Kinda, Yahoo Tech

Comcast’s announcement over the weekend of this streaming-only TV service left some key questions unanswered–like, would you save money on this and a standalone Comcast Internet subscription compared to Comcast’s current bundle of broadband, local channels and streaming HBO?–so I tried to address those concerns in this extra post.

Yahoo Tech Amazon policy post7/14/2015: 5 Ways Amazon Has Changed the Web — for Good and Bad, Yahoo Tech

Amazon turned 20 years old on Tuesday, and I marked the occasion by using my regular column spot to assess its footprint on tech policy over those two decades. The verdict, based on conversations with people across the political spectrum: It’s been more of a follower than a leader, and in some cases it’s been part of the problem. Do the 100-plus comments mean my verdict set off an extended debate? No, they mean a lot of people wanted to complain about Amazon’s delivery times.

7/19/2015: How to bid farewell to Flash, USA Today

Two and a half years after I told USAT readers that Flash wasn’t going away as quickly as I’d hoped, I revisited the issue of Adobe’s multimedia plug-in with a different judgment: Yes, you really can live without it. Writing this column also allowed me to revisit the post I did in 2010 questioning Steve Jobs’ views on Flash; I can’t say that post has held up too well.

Weekly output: tech policy (x2), Kojo Nnamdi Show, baby monitors (x5), hotel WiFi

Five of the stories that figured in earlier allusions here to upcoming work posted this week. It felt great to send the invoice for them.

5/27/2014: Why Congress Keeps Screwing Up Tech Policy, Yahoo Tech

My first draft of this piece got sent back to the kitchen; not for the first time, an editor was correct in saying I was trying to cover too much ground in one story. Before you read the comments: I apologize for the ageist nonsense on display there, which I did my best to smack down in moderation and replies.

5/27/2014: Five Tech Policy Bugs Congress Needs to Fix, Yahoo Tech

News flash: Bad laws have a long half-life, especially when they won’t get fixed unless the tech industry unites to ask Congress to do its job.

5/27/2014: Tech Gifts for Grads and Dads, The Kojo Nnamdi Show

I doled out advice with CNET’s Maggie Reardon on various gadget-guidance topics. Big surprise: how many Microsoft Surface fans called in.

5/27/2014: Infant Optics DXR-8, PCMag

I reviewed five baby monitors for PCMag, and this one got posted a day before the other four. If you don’t want any form of Internet connectivity in a monitor, this is the one I’d recommend out of this batch.

5/28/2014: Summer Infant Baby Touch, PCMag

This system’s display unit and Android and iOS apps had some singularly weird interface quirks that set me off.

PCMag Withings baby-monitor review5/28/2014: Withings Smart Baby Monitor, PCMag

My editors judged this Internet-connected model worthy of an “Editors’ Choice” nod. The weak quality of Withings’ Android app bothers me, but this was one device I didn’t like to send back–my daughter had grown attached to its lullaby feature.

5/28/2014: Philips Avent SCD603, PCMag

This thing combined thoughtful hardware design with woeful interference with my home WiFi network as well as my phone’s tethering option. And yet Amazon shoppers have made almost no mention of that problem. I’m still not sure that I didn’t run into some freak interaction.

5/28/2014: Motorola MBP36, PCMag

This model didn’t do much for me–certainly not at the current price. I might as well note here that for a couple of years, my wife and I relied on a hand-me-down monitor we got for free.

6/1/2014: Grrr. What’s up with hotel WiFi login pages?, USA Today

A tweet about an awkward hotel WiFi setup led to a question from a reader, which in turn led to this explainer about why establishments can’t just use standard password authentication. See the comments for one from me that relays two tips that readers shared over e-mail: one about coaxing a hotel with a Web WiFi-login scheme into offering connectivity to a Chromecast or Apple TV, another about running an older version of Apple’s AirPort Utility on a current Mac.

Weekly output: Jared Polis, identity theft, tablets, phone unlocking, USB charging

Total CES PR pitches received this week: 119 (not counting e-mails from the Consumer Electronics Association itself).

DisCo Policy Forum12/10/2013: Q&A With Rep. Jared Polis (D-Co.), DisCo Policy Forum 2013

At the Disruptive Competition Project’s one-day conference, I quizzed one of the few representatives in Congress with a tech-startup background (he co-founded the e-greeting-card company Blue Mountain Arts site bluemountainarts.com) about issues like patent reform, NSA surveillance, immigration policy, and the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Left unanswered: Why I still get all of my Christmas cards in paper form.

12/12/2013: Evolution of ID Theft, State of ID Theft

I discussed trends in identity theft at the National Consumers League’s first conference devoted to the subject with Verizon security director Andy Bonillo, Hart Research Associates v.p. Abigail Davenport, Allan Friedman of the Brookings Institution, and assistant U.S. attorney general Zach Intrater. Surprising thing I learned: ID theft can be a slow and arduous line of work.

12/13/2013: #TabletChat Tablet Usage in Business Twitter Chat, IDG Mobility

Another busy hour of debating the finer points of tablet usage. I realized halfway through that I should have been performing my chat-host duties on a tablet instead of a tablet–not for intellectual-integrity reasons, but because I was eating lunch as I typed, and it’s easier to wipe crumbs off a screen than to brush them out of a keyboard.

12/13/2013: Unlocking Phones Is One Thing, Unlocking DMCA Regulatory Capture Is Another, Disruptive Competition Project

The major wireless carrier’s agreement to unlock paid-up phones–and to tell their customers when they’ve unlocked that option–has some serious limits, but it still represents a remarkable reversal of where we were 11 months ago, not to mention five years ago.

12/15/2013: Tips on charging devices with your laptop, USA Today

A reader asked a simple question–how do I know if my laptop will charge my phone when asleep–that did not have a simple answer. The column also includes a reminder to check your laptop’s touchpad settings.

On Sulia, I questioned a dubious cable-industry Web ad campaign, shared details of a conversation I had with FreedomPop’s COO about my tepid review of its service, decried the communication breakdown behind Twitter’s quickly-reversed weakening of its “block” feature, pointed readers to an interesting password-testing site mentioned at NCL’s ID-theft conference, and denounced the idea of Sprint angling to buy T-Mobile.

12/17/2013: Corrected Polis’s bio and added a link to video of the ID-theft panel.

Weekly output: Nokia 1020, BYOD, PR Summit, Chromecast (x2), patent trolls, CableCard (x2), Google Maps, Gmail

I had some 5,200 words appear under my byline this week. (I wrote one of those reviews last weekend, but I also filed one story this week that won’t show up in print for weeks.) Some of that is the result of products shipping and news breaking at about the same time, and some is what happens when you know you owe a client so many posts in a month and then tell yourself “I can finish that story tomorrow” too many days in a row.

7/29/2013: Nokia’s 1020: A Camera That Makes Phone Calls, Discovery News

Nokia’s latest smartphone includes a 41-megapixel camera that takes impressive photos, but its Windows Phone software has issues with driving directions and app selection. And its battery life may be worse than it seemed when I wrote this.

7/30/2013: BYOD Chat, IDG Enterprise

Another turn as a chat host, this time for a round of questions about bring-your-own-device policies and experiences. The link goes to a Twitter query for the #mobilebizchat hashtag, owing to the questions and answers not yet having been archived on the Enterprise Mobile Hub site. 9/29: Updated link.

7/30/2013: The Future of Technology & How to Speak Blogger Language 4.0, PR Summit

VentureBeat’s Christina Farr moderated a panel featuring yours truly, Fleishman-Hillard’s Layla Revis, Jon Oleaga of etceter and marketing maven Murray Newlands. I can’t say we got the audience past blogger language 3.0, but we did have a good chat on some basic issues of building influence and maintaining trust on the Web, whether you’re in PR or journalism or some intersection of the two.

Boing Boing Chromecast comparison7/31/2013: The real Web TV: Chromecast, Apple or Roku?, Boing Boing

I compared Google’s new $35 Web-media receiver to Apple and Roku’s models. Short answer: Apple’s best for sharing what’s already on your computer, Roku has the widest set of video and audio apps, Google has the easiest setup and the biggest potential upside. Don’t forget to check out the comments BBS, where I answered several questions about these devices and my review.

7/31/2013: Google’s Chromecast Puts the Web On TV For $35, Discovery News

For Discovery, I wrote a higher-level piece starting with what makes the Chromecast different from and better than running an HDMI cable from your laptop to your TV.

8/1/2013: Past And Future Patent Pain: When Does The Law Recognize Abuse For What It Is?, Disruptive Competition Project

I’d been meaning to write this 1,100-word essay for while; fortunately, the EFF’s launch of its Trolling Effects database of “demand letters” from patent trolls gave me a decent news peg for the piece.

8/2/2013: TiVo, media center PC makers alarmed by CableCard-cutting bill, Ars Technica

I got a nice little scoop about an upcoming bill that would end a key regulatory protection for the CableCard standard that allows TiVos and a few other devices to tune in cable TV. Check page three of the comments for a few from me answering reader queries.

8/2/2013: The Endless Re-Runs Of The Cable-Compatibility Debate, Disruptive Competition Project

This counterpart to the Ars piece summarizes the 15 years and counting of regulatory, technological and market failures at establishing a standard way to get cable without leasing a box from the cable company.

8/4/2013: Google removes multiple stops feature from Maps, USA Today

It’s never a good idea to let users discover on their own that you removed a feature many of them like to use. This column also has a tip about using Gmail’s offline and ad-free mode in Chrome.

On Sulia, I recounted an amusing HDMI failure in Apple’s flagship San Francisco store, reported an apparently painless installation of Android 4.3 on my Nexus 4 phone, shared a fix for a broadband breakdown I encountered later that day,  critiqued Google’s announcement of an overdue find-my-phone service for Android phones, suggested replacement brand names for Microsoft’s trademark-conflicted SkyDrive and complimented Dulles Airport for its real-time security wait estimates.

Weekly output: text-message backup, travel tech, startups and patents, Bluetooth mice, rechargeable batteries

This week ended better than it began, journalistically speaking.

5/28/2013: How do I back up text messages?, USA Today

Notice the long, parenthetical paragraph starting with “Update”? That’s what you have to write when you leave significant, relevant info out of a story. Here, it was my failure to note that iOS and Windows Phone include text-message backup options that, while they don’t let you view old SMSes away from your phone, do at least ensure you won’t lose them forever if your phone dies. I did not think to mention them because I’d elected to focus the piece on ways to get text messages off of a phone–but, alas, I never thought to revise the question to specify that use case.

Kojo Nnamdi Show travel tech5/28/2013: Travel Technology, The Kojo Nnamdi Show

I talked about the intersections of travel and technology–from inflight WiFi to apps that can help guide your journeys–with guest host Christina Bellantoni and iStrategy Labs chief marketing officer DJ Saul. This was excellent timing, as I’d spent most of the two prior weeks out of town. I do, however, regret missing a chance to rant yet again about the woeful state of the C/D concourse at Dulles.

5/31/2013: Ask A Startup About Patents. You Might Get An Interesting Answer., Disruptive Competition Project

I attended a pitch event for startups, Fortify Ventures’ Demo Day, and asked each of the five companies that presented there if they’d applied for any patents and what sort of exposure they thought they had to a patent-infringement lawsuit.

5/31/2013: Finicky Bluetooth mouse? Check your rechargeables, USA Today

Once again, a problem with my own computer yielded the material for a Q&A item, which in this case doubled as an opportunity to question my own and others’ enthusiasm for cable-free computing. The column throws in a tip about how it’s easier to recycle rechargeable batteries than you might think.

In addition to prototyping this weekend’s USAT column on Sulia, I criticized a dumb implementation of a smart calendaring feature in Gmail, voiced my exasperation at CVS’s addition to paper coupons, wondered about the weirdly limited free WiFi in the Smithsonian’s Kogod Courtyard, and (ahem) compared a couple of exercise-tracking apps in a way that missed a key detail about one of them.