Weekly outpot: cheaper hearing aids, Mark Vena podcast, Google vs. Roku, Amazon satellites, FTC broadband-privacy report, blockchain domains

This afternoon featured the longest bike ride I’ve done in, I think, five years. Observations: It’s good to know that I’m not too old and busted to clock 35 miles and change, Reston Town Center has grown up and out a bit since 2016, and the nap you have after a longer ride followed by dinner you cooked yourself is the nap of the righteous.

10/20/2021: The Feds Are (Finally) About to Make Hearing Aids Cheaper, Easier to Buy, PCMag

I wrote up the overdue release of regulations to allow over-the-counter sales of hearing aids, using this piece to recount the long, strange trip this policy shift has taken through the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations.

10/20/2021: S01 E14 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

This week’s episode of my industry-analyst pal’s podcast (also on video) had me and fellow tech-journalist guests John Quain and Stewart Wolpin discussing Apple’s product-launch event Monday. We agreed that the $4.99/month Voice Plan for Apple Music was a weird bit of product segmentation, and that people who don’t edit video for a living can ignore Apple’s high-end MacBook Pro models.

Screenshot of the story as seen in Safari for macOS10/21/2021: Google Says It Will Pull YouTube App From Roku on Dec. 9, PCMag

This became a longer-than-usual post for PCMag when Roku offered to show me their receipts of Google’s demands that it revise its search features to benefit YouTube–including a Sept. 2019 e-mail in which a Google executive called adding a special shelf of YouTube results to Roku’s standard search interface “a must.” I’m still waiting to see how Google will explain how that message squares with its past statements that it’s “never” asked for special search privileges on Roku’s media players.

10/21/2021: Satellites, Fast Company

This non-bylined item, part of the “Amazon Unpacked: A-Z” cover story of Fast Company’s November issue, popped up Thursday.

10/22/2021: FTC: Here’s How Much of a Snoop Your ISP or Wireless Carrier Can Be, PCMag

My third post for PCMag walked readers through a lengthy report the Federal Trade Commission released Thursday about the tracking habits at six major Internet providers–in which I also took care to remind readers of how fast Republicans in Congress worked to squelch pending broadband-privacy rules from the Federal Communications Commission in early 2017, even before the FCC could undo the net-neutrality regulatory foundation of those rules.

10/23/2021: The blockchain is making domain names more private—for good or bad, Fast Company

The Microsoft digital-defense report that I covered briefly for PCMag two weeks ago got me curious about domains stored on various blockchains instead of hosted at traditional registries–which the report called “the next big threat.” So I made some inquiries of my own and came to a somewhat different conclusion than Microsoft’s researchers.

Weekly output: Starlink to exit beta, Mark Vena podcast, Texas social-media law challenged, iOS 15/iPadOS 15 help

This coming week has something unusual on it: business travel to a conference. I’m flying to Miami to moderate two panels at Seatrade Cruise Global, a cruise-industry gathering at which I was supposed to speak last spring before the pandemic forced its cancellation. Then I led one video panel at Seatrade’s virtual gathering in April, which went well enough for the organizers to bring me to Florida.

9/20/2021: Elon Musk says his Starlink satellite internet is coming out of beta, Fast Company

Since pretty much every other tech-news site was also covering SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announcing (in a reply to somebody else’s tweet) that Starlink would exit its beta status in October, I took some time in this piece to compare this broadband satellite constellation’s progress to the slower pace of OneWeb and Amazon’s yet-to-launch Project Kuiper.

9/22/2021: S01 E10 – SmartTechCheck Podcast by Parks Associates, Mark Vena

I rejoined this industry analyst’s podcast with fellow tech journalists Stewart Wolpin and John Quain to talk about Apple and Google knuckling under to Russia by removing the “smart voting” app of dissident Alexei Navalny’s party, Starlink’s service, commercial space travel, and Apple’s iOS 15 and iPadOS 15.

Screenshot of the story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini 5.9/23/2021: Tech Policy Groups Mess With Texas, Sue Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Social Media Law, PCMag

This is the first thing I’ve written for PCMag in several years, but you won’t have to wait nearly as long to read my next piece there. I’m now going to be writing short explainers about tech-policy news at that site. Yes, this debut item on two tech-policy groups suing to overturn the blatantly-unconstitutional Texas law banning large social media platforms from most forms of content moderation runs about 700 words, which is not exactly short even if a lot of it consists of extended quotations from the law and the lawsuit filed by the Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice. I’ll try to be more economical with my prose the next time.

9/25/2021: How to fix some foibles of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, USA Today

After seeing the reaction to my cranky tweet about iPadOS 15 wrecking my carefully tended arrangement of app icons (even before the Verge’s Chris Welch lent it some extra publicity by embedding it in a story), I pitched my editors at USAT about a column offering advice to people irked by some of the changes in this release. One angle I had to cut from the piece: how the iPhone and iPad versions of Safari are in some ways catching up to mobile browsers like Firefox (which moved its controls to the bottom last August) and Chrome (which added tab groups last May).