Weekly output: mobile-app privacy, Google I/O (x5), Fort Reno, TiVo and SDV

One of these links is not like the others; five of them are very much like each other.

6/24/2014: 4 Questions to Ask Before You Give a New App Access to Your Personal Data, Yahoo Tech

I’m used to playing a grumpy old man, but I’m rarely in such a get-off-my-Internet mood as I was when writing this post about overhyped mobile apps.

6/25/2014: Google Announces Two New Directions for Android, Yahoo Tech

The first of three quick posts I wrote during the Google I/O keynote, this one sums up the day’s hardware and software news for Android.

6/25/2014: With Android TV, Google Turns Its Eyes to Larger Screens (Again!), Yahoo Tech

Here, I compared the debut of Android TV to the snakebit launch of Google TV four years ago. (Fun fact: My neighbor across the street is one of the few individuals to have purchased a Google TV box.)

6/25/2014: MIA at I/O: 8 Products That Google Didn’t Mention, Yahoo Tech

It’s good practice to notice what products or principles go unmentioned in a tech company’s keynote.

Google Cardboard post6/25/2014: Move Over, Google Glass: Here Comes Google Cardboard, Yahoo Tech

I wrapped up the day by describing this fun little experiment in cheapskate virtual reality.

6/27/2014: Man in Screamingly Loud Paisley Shirt Explains Google’s Subtle New Design Language, Yahoo Tech

I talked about Google’s new “Material Design” initiative for about half an hour with Google design v.p. Matias Duarte. I wish I could take credit for that memorable headline, but I can’t.

6/27/2014: D.C. Reflects: What Fort Reno’s Concert Series Meant To Us, D.C. Music Download

After the organizers of these annual free concerts in Northwest D.C. said they wouldn’t happen this year, courtesy of a last-minute demand by the U.S. Park Police that they pay to keep an officer onsite for each concert, I griped about the news on Twitter. Writer Stephanie Williams then e-mailed to ask if I could comment further, and so there I am next to all these people whose indie-rock creed goes beyond seeing Fugazi play Fort Reno two or three times.

6/29/2014: How to use TiVo with Time Warner Cable, USA Today

A query from a friend’s dad that I thought would be simple turned out to be complicated. And maybe even my abbreviation-dense answer was itself not complex enough; after the story ran, veteran gadget blogger Dave Zatz tweeted that TWC’s control-freak application of a copying restriction blocks a remote-viewing feature in newer TiVo DVRs.

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Weekly output: CFAA, Twitter spam, Nexus 7, mobile privacy, phone storage, Android Device Manager

I swear, sometime this month I will have the kind of lazy, do-nothing day that should be the right of every Washingtonian who doesn’t skip town in August.

8/21/2013: Cloak Your IP Address, Expose Yourself To Legal Jeopardy?, Disruptive Competition Project

I’d meant to write a post denouncing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in January–when Internet activist Aaron Swartz, facing the potential of a long CFAA sentence, committed suicide. I remedied that oversight when a judge’s opinion stated that using a proxy server to change your computer’s Internet Protocol address could be a CFAA violation.

Ars Technica Twitter-spam post8/21/2013: Deciphering the tricks of the Twitter spammers, Ars Technica

After seeing a fascinating study of the Twitter spam market presented at the Usenix Security Symposium last week, I did a little more digging to write this recap.

8/23/2013: New Nexus 7 Makes Android Tablets Look Sharper, Discovery News

This review already looks problematic–not even two days after it ran, the backlight on my loaner Nexus 7 seems to have died. Until I can figure out what happened (which will probably require Google to autopsy the device), don’t give my kind words about this Android tablet too much credence.

8/24/2013: Privacy Vulnerabilities and the Media, iOSDevCampDC

I gave a talk about how privacy issues get covered–often badly–by the tech and traditional media at this gathering of Washington-area iOS developers. This was not my best public speaking ever; I lost my place halfway through the talk and had to improvise for a bit. (My audience didn’t seem to mind, but things could have been much worse.)

8/25/2013: Will an 8 GB smartphone have enough storage space?, USA Today

This question seemed simple enough when a reader asked it several weeks ago, but then I realized it would give me a chance to discuss a few interesting, related topics. But in retrospect, I missed a chance here to call out phone vendors for charging too much for extra memory. There’s also a tip about Google’s new Android Device Manager lost-phone service.

My most important Sulia post this week reported the bizarre failure of the Nexus 7. Besides that, I critiqued Samsung’s announcement of a new Android phone with a 6.3-inch screen,   called out Amazon’s lack of a system-status page that might have better explained its brief outage this week, suggested a new Google patent application may have prior-art and obviousness issues, and complimented the new “Digital Commons” space at the District’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Library.

You’ve gotta be on [social-media site of the month]

I finally posted something on Pinterest. Are you happy now?

I held out as long as I could. But almost five months after I’d signed up with the site, and with 110 people following me there despite a complete lack of content, the guilt got to me.

This seems to be a permanent occupational hazard of writing about social media. There’s always some new shiny thing that the early adopters are jumping onto, and that you are professionally obliged to check out–except that the day’s annoying habit of only lasting 24 hours often obstructs that.

So I have to confess that I haven’t done anything on Instagram (I wasn’t using an iPhone when it started getting cool, then it seemed beside the point). I somehow never got around to testing Path, even when its privacy violations got into the headlines. I got a semi-coveted invite to the leave-notes-around-the-world site Pinwheel at SXSW but have only logged in a few times since. And my Tumblr blog amounts to a placeholder for my LLC coupled with an updated set of links to my articles; it’s getting the lame readership such a transparently self-promotional exercise deserves.

I’m not proud that I’ve only registered at some of these sites to make sure nobody else grabs “my” username, or that I’ve only done a drive-by inspection of others. Plus, you never know what new site will send some crazy level of traffic your way.

(My current self-marketing budget: tweeting out a link to a story and revisiting that a day later; sharing it on Google+; doing the same on my public Facebook page if an RSS page hasn’t done that for me; archiving the link on Tumblr; noting it in each Sunday’s “weekly output” post here. Any suggestions for optimizing that?)

And yet: I can’t drop everything to immerse myself in every new site, much less add it to my daily communications routine. If I have to flack for myself on 17 different sites, I won’t have time to report and write much worth promoting.

I tell myself that saying “no” to a new social-media site helps reminds me that all of this stuff is optional. But if you think I’m missing out on a useful channel of communication, I hope you’ll tell me about it–on one of the social networks I do inhabit regularly.

Weekly output: laptop, Android and iOS security, spectrum, Galaxy Note (x2)

The lineup of sites that have run my work lately is a little different this week.

2/19/2012: Tip: How to secure your laptop data, USA Today

I was a little worried that some of the advice I was throwing around in this column–using apps like TrueCrypt to encrypt files, adding third-party DNS services to your Internet setup–would be too technically-involved for a general-interest audience. (I rewrote the DNS item to make some definitions clearer because of that concern.) Did more than a handful of readers add OpenDNS or Google Public DNS to their computers after reading the piece?

2/21/2012: Samsung Galaxy Note: Large, Not In Charge, Discovery News

I wondered what Samsung was up to when it splashed enormous ads on the side of the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES to tout this oversized Android device–“Phone? Tablet? It’s Galaxy Note!”–then ran that goofy Super Bowl ad . I’m even more puzzled by its intentions after reviewing the Note itself. Then again, check out all the comments from people professing that they love this phone and would even prefer that it came with a larger screen.

2/22/2012: Samsung Galaxy Note Review, Boing Boing

I’ve been reading Boing Boing for years; this is the first time I’ve written for the site. The piece decries some of the more common problems in Android phones, as exhibited by this device. Note the extensive comments thread: Many readers critiqued some assumptions I made while writing the piece, but they were generally civil about it. I can appreciate that.

2/22/2012: A Change of Channels on Spectrum Policy, CEA Digital Dialogue

The wonkiest thing I wrote all week, this post unpacks the deal the government worked out–contrary to my own predictions of two years ago–to transfer some airwaves from TV stations to wireless services. Everybody seems content with the outcome, which I can’t recall ever happening with a tech-policy issue affecting so many different interests.

2/24/2012: Who Defends Your Phone: Robots or Humans?, Discovery News

I’d meant to write this right after Google announced its “Bouncer” automated screening of Android Market apps for signs of malware, but got sidetracked by other items for a few weeks. That delay allowed me to put a lot more reporting into the piece and broaden it to address some app-trustworthiness issues that have cropped up more recently with Apple’s App Store.

Two things I hate about tech journalism this week

It’s been an awkward week for tech bloggers, and for this post.

I’d meant to start this piece by complimenting TechCrunch alumnus M.G. Siegler for nailing the traffic-besotted worldview that has too many tech-news sites wasting their collective processor cycles on hasty, shallow write-ups chasing the same trending topics each day. That is a formula for failure: commodity content written by burned-out journalists, skimmed by transient readers who click on to the next site moments later. (In the bargain, many of these stories wind up being surrounded by generic remnant ads that make hardly any money–and sometimes turn out to be an outright scam.)

Except Siegler also felt compelled to devote a huge chunk of the post to bashing one writer not known for chasing page views–the New York Times’ Nick Bilton.

Bilton had just written a post denouncing the photo-sharing startup Path for its hitherto-undocumented habit of uploading iPhone users’ address books to its servers without permission–and the quick forgiveness Path found among Bay Area tech types. Path founder Dave Morin hasn’t made much noise since the story broke. But Siegler felt compelled to wield his keyboard on Morin’s behalf anyway, calling Bilton “way off base” and saying “he goes about it the complete wrong way” before categorizing pretty much everybody else’s tech coverage as “stories that suck and/or are bullshit.”

Oh, and Siegler had already invested in Path through CrunchFund, the venture-capital firm TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington founded before getting kicked out of that tech-news site by the company he’d sold it to for $30 million, AOL. And a day before, Siegler’s old and new colleague Arrington had written an even more scathing review of Path coverage, including a weird overdose of dogfight imagery. Then Arrington revisited the topic the next day.

I can’t endorse that ongoing pity party for Path.

Then Newsweek’s Dan Lyons–often a stranger to subtlety himself–felt compelled to return fire with a post condemning Siegler and Arrington and the whole insiderish culture of Silicon Valley. That quickly yielded a spittle-flecked reply from Siegler… aren’t you tired of reading this already?

Meanwhile, an old Post colleague I never met died yesterday while trying to tell the truth in a country whose government is busy murdering its citizens. If you want to be upset about something in journalism, read about Anthony Shadid.

Back to the original point I had in mind, which still stands: When story assignment is driven primarily by what pieces will get the most clicks, news organizations invite a comparison to content farms. And things don’t have to be that way: See Salon editor Kerry Lauerman’s account of how that embattled news site has found that fewer, higher-quality, more-memorable stories draw more traffic.

At the same time, tech journalism doesn’t need the high-school-cafeteria cliquish crap we’ve seen this week. It’s made for some good-natured humor, but readers shouldn’t care about any of these slapfests. And journalists should know better. Seriously: Who has the sheer egotism to think that a reporting-free rant on a personal blog about somebody else’s reporting is worthy of attention? And I, for one… oh, hell. I think I see what I did here.

I await your scorn in the comments. Or in my chat on CEA’s blog, from noon to 1 p.m. today.

(2/17, 11:12 a.m. Fixed some errant links. Don’t you hate it when ranting bloggers can’t even check their work before posting?)