Weekly output: drones (x2), White House Maker Faire, proxy servers and online video

I went to the White House this week for the first time since visiting it as a tourist sometime in high school–this time around, with a press pass. That was kind of neat.

6/17/2014: Regulations Could Ground Drones Before Takeoff, Yahoo Tech

I wrote about the completely inconsistent regulatory climate around drones–recreational use is essentially wide open below 400 feet altitude, but commercial use is banned outright. The fearful if not paranoid nature of many readers’ comments bugged me, as you may tell from the tone of my replies. Thought I had afterwards: “I’ve been around drones enough, and all of the drone users I know play by the rules. Is this what it’s like to be a responsible gun owner and have strangers see you as a loon like Wayne LaPierre?”

6/17/2014: 4 Ways to Use Drones for Good (None of Which Is Amazon Delivery), Yahoo Tech

I talked to a few people–including my long-ago Washington Post colleague Dan Pacheco, now a journalism professor at Syracuse–about peaceful, profitable uses for drones that tend to get overlooked as people throw around the specter of snooping in people’s backyards.

Yahoo Tech White House Maker Faire report6/18/2014: White House Hosts Its First Maker Faire, with Robotic Giraffe in Attendance, Yahoo Tech

I covered the White House’s debut Maker Faire–somehow, also the first story I’ve written around a presidential speech–with this photo gallery. There’s more in my Flickr album.

6/22/2014: Geo-fakeout: Use a proxy for online video, USA Today

A neighbor wanted to know how he could have watched Netflix during a recent trip to Morroco; answering that also allowed me to give a tutorial in using proxy servers to watch World Cup coverage online. There’s also a tip about checking for “TLS” encryption at your mail service (something I covered at greater length at Yahoo Tech the other week), making this one of the more technically involved columns I’ve written for USAT.

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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.

Weekly output: broadband, favorite gadgets, competition, Mountain Lion, miniaturization, location awareness, IP addresses

I don’t usually write this much in a week for my two oldest regular clients (“oldest” being a relative term, since it’s been just over a year since my first post for Discovery), but the scheduling worked out that way.

7/25/2012: Internet Costs and Choices Still Stink, Discovery News

This critique of the FCC’s latest study of the U.S. residential broadband market might have gone up last week had I not set it aside to write about Reddit’s coverage of the Aurora shootings. Instead, I gave it another couple of days. In that time, I came up with the somewhat contrived illustration shown here: an Ethernet cable twisted in the shape of a question mark in front of the FCC report as seen in a laptop’s browser. The headline here overstates things slightly–pricing for most consumer-grade connections doesn’t seem that bad, at least if you compare it to cable TV–but nobody can say the state of competition is good.

I updated the post a day later to add a reference to Google’s just-announced pricing for its Kansas City fiber-optic service (1 billion bits per second for $70 a month, 1 Gbps plus a set of TV channels that exclude ESPN for $120, or 5 Mbps for free after a connection fee).

7/25/2012: Tech Team’s Favorite Gadgets: Photos, Discovery News

As I mentioned upfront, it’s been just over a year since Discovery set out to cover tech and gadget news more closely. This photo gallery, featuring myself and the other regular Discovery contributors writing about gadgets we’ve appreciated more than most, marks that anniversary.

7/25/2012: Rethinking the State of Competition, CEA Digital Dialogue

This reassessment of the relative openness of a few key consumer-tech markets was going to be last week’s post for CEA–as you can see, it’s responding to Microsoft’s pulling out its MSNBC joint venture and Yahoo hiring Google’s Marissa Mayer as its new CEO–but got held up for various reasons. I’m not sure there was a solid 800-word blog post in this topic, but once I realized that I didn’t have time to crank out something different–I was late enough already.

7/27/2012: Your Device Can Be Too Small And Too Thin, CEA Digital Dialogue

Here I question the move to make ever-thinner gadgets at the cost of connectivity, expandability, compatibility and repairability. I could have written it at any time over the last few months, but buying a MacBook Air laptop–and realizing how much more I had to think about its memory allocation when I couldn’t upgrade that later on–closed the deal for me.

7/27/2012: Apple’s Mountain Lion: More of iOS in OS X, Discovery News

I feel better about Mountain Lion than I do about Lion–but I also recall that some of Lion’s annoyances took a few weeks to sink in. You’ll have to ask me in a month if I’m still spending much time checking the Notifications list, using the Share buttons in Safari and the Finder, or employing the Dictation feature to crank out short snippets of text. I also wonder if by then I will have figured out why the MacBook doesn’t see my Canon printer/scanner; nobody had an answer when I asked on Google+, and this post hasn’t generated any input on that subject either.

7/29/2012: How your phone gets location-confused, USA Today

Giving readers a refresher course in how smartphones fix their location through network signals, WiFi and GPS allowed me to bring orbital mechanics into an article, which doesn’t happen all that often. If I hadn’t written this a couple of weeks earlier (my editor was going on vacation), the second part of this column could also have noted the newfound interest of some U.S. Olympics viewers in using proxy servers to watch the BBC’s reportedly-excellent streaming video of the 2012 games.