Weekly output: IoT security, fake news, online video ads (x2), cheap wireless service, wireless plans, Verizon e-mail

My sixth SXSW ended in one of the least likely ways possible. As I was sipping a cup of coffee at the United Club at AUS Wednesday morning and wondering how I could still be full from Tuesday’s dinner, I spotted an older gentleman in a wheelchair whose white hair, beard and gravelly voice all reminded me of the last SXSW talk I’d watched Tuesday. Then I saw his jacket, covered with the logos of every Apollo mission. Yeah: Buzz Aldrin.

After taking a moment to tell myself “act like you’ve been here before, man,” I walked over and said “Dr. Aldrin?” He looked up, I said I’d enjoyed his talk, we exchanged some pleasantries, and then I shook his hand, said it was an honor, and wished him and his companion safe travels. You know, as one does when meeting anybody who’s walked on the Moon.

 

3/13/2017: Setting Standards for Digital Privacy, Consumer Reports

CR asked me Friday if I could cover this Monday-morning panel, featuring a CR manager and an initiative CR backs to set standards for the security and privacy of Internet of Things devices. I’m glad they dangled that assignment, since otherwise an insightful discussion on a topic I’ve covered for other clients might have escaped my attention.

3/15/2017: Two fake news writers reveal how they ply their trade, Yahoo Finance

My last file for SXSW covered Yasmin Green’s head-fake of a panel–I thought it would cover her work at Google’s Project Jigsaw to counter violent extremism online. But instead she brought two proprietors of fake news (more accurately called “disinformation”), and then things got weird.

3/15/2017: How OTT Providers Are Targeting, Tracking And Timing Ads, FierceOnlineVideo

I missed this contribution to a package of stories about “OTT” (short for “over the top,” as in video services that ride on your broadband connection) advertising because I was traveling, then spent another two weeks not realizing it had been posted.

3/15/2017: OTT Ad Delivery Case Study: Hyundai’s ‘Skip’ Ad, FierceOnlineVideo

This case study had me tearing my hair out more than once as I struggled to get a quote out of one of the companies involved. Someday, I will learn to put in my interview requests early when I’m dealing with a company that hasn’t figured in my stories before, but late January was clearly not that time.

3/16/2017: Dear Wirecutter: What’s the Best Budget Cell Phone and Plan for Limited Data Use?, The Wirecutter

A Wirecutter reader wanted to know which $200-ish smartphone and $25-$30 plan to get. The first question was easy to answer, but the second required going back to the reader to confirm how much data usage they had in mind.

3/16/2017: Best Cell Phone Plans, The Wirecutter

I spent a good chunk of February revising the guide we’d just put through a complete rewrite, all because the four major carriers had to revive or improve their unlimited-data offerings. The result: While the guide still endorses Verizon as the best choice overall (with the understanding that many people don’t use that much data), we recommend T-Mobile for those looking for an unlimited-data plan.

3/17/2017: What Verizon email users need to know about it getting out of email, USA Today

When four or so readers e-mail with the same question within a couple of weeks, you probably have a column topic on your hands. I suggested to my editors that this would be worth posting earlier than the usual Sunday, and I’m glad they agreed.

Updated 4/2/2017 with the two online-ads stories I’d missed earlier. And updated again 4/17 to remove links to two posts that I’d already covered in the previous Sunday’s weekly-output post. I guess I was a little tired when I wrote this. 

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Weekly output: cross-device tracking, prepaid and MVNO wireless, Justin Bieber Mode, USB-C cables and chargers

My business travel for the year officially wrapped up with my return Friday night from a brief but meeting-packed trip to NYC. If I spend any other nights out of town for work before CES 2016, somebody else will need to be paying.

In other news: Welcome, new readers interested in Syrian-refugee politics and/or USB-C accessories! Should you keep reading, each Sunday you will find a recap of where I wrote or spoke or was quoted; at least one more day in the week sees me writing about some other thing that doesn’t fit at my usual outlets.

11/17/2015: Cross-Device Tracking: How the Ad Industry Will Follow You Wherever You Go, Yahoo Tech

A workshop hosted by the Federal Trade Commission Monday gave me an opportunity to write about a topic I’ve been following for a while.

Wirecutter prepaid MVNO wireless guide11/19/2015: Best Prepaid and Alternative Cellphone Plans, The Wirecutter

My third guide at this site covers both prepaid and resold (aka “MVNO,” short for “mobile virtual network operator”) wireless service, and it was many months in the making. Please read the comments; I spent part of Friday morning answering the first round of reader feedback, and I’ll be back there Monday or Tuesday.

11/19/2015: Who Should Be On Lyft’s Playlist After Justin Bieber?, Yahoo Tech

Yes, I’m old to cover anything involving Justin Bieber. But after getting a prompt in the Lyft app to partake in this promotion, I couldn’t not write about the weird intersection of the ride-hailing service and the Canadian pop star.

11/22/2015: Some Android users face quandry with USB-C, USA Today

My self-serving motivation to write this column was my own curiosity over when the phone chargers handed out as tech-event swag will feature USB Type-C connectors to match the hardware on my new phone. Before you mention it: Yes, I’m aware of the typo in the headline, and we’ll get that fixed soonest.

Weekly output: Turkey and Twitter, activity trackers, MVNOs

 

This week provided a rare excuse, however tangential, to apply some of my Georgetown book learning on things like international relations and European history.

Yahoo Turkey Twitter column41/2014: Turkey Blocks Twitter. Could It Happen Here? It’s Come Close Already., Yahoo Tech

I’d been wondering how I could cover the strange campaign by Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against Twitter and social media in general, and then I realized how many of their actions matched up with things that have been done or advocated in the U.S. (Fortunately, Erdoğan complied with an unfavorable court ruling and ended the block on Thursday.)

4/1/2014: Activity trackers, WTOP

The news station had me on to talk about the utility of activity-tracking wristbands, pods and apps. I had a brief deer-in-the-ON-AIR-lights moment when I realized I was about to mix up the names of a few phone apps… but you can’t hear it since WTOP’s site seems to have stopped archiving each day’s broadcasts on an “ICYMI” page. Hence there’s also no link.

4/6/2014: How wireless service resellers stack up, USA Today

A query from a friend became the kick in the rear I needed to conduct an overdue evaluation of the pros and cons of some major wireless resellers: Consumer Cellular, Credo Mobile, Net10, Republic Wireless, Straight Talk and TracFone.

 

Making use of misfit review hardware

One of the recurring First World problems in technology journalism is possessing review hardware that you don’t get around to reviewing anywhere. That’s easier to happen than you might think: The device you want to review only works with another one that doesn’t warrant a writeup from you; a PR shop sends along a gadget you don’t need along with one you requested; you ask for a loaner device but then can’t interest a paying client in a story on it.

Chromebook Pixel with Galaxy Note 3 and Republic Wireless Moto XEither way, I hate to send the hardware in question back without getting some journalistic value out of it. (No, I don’t get to keep review hardware for my own use–and selling it on eBay isn’t an option either.) Here’s how I’ve tried to make additional use out of three gadgets that found their way to me without making it into a detailed review by me.

Galaxy Note 3: This size-XL phone was a supporting actor in my reviews of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch. I’ve since used this Sprint-spec Note 3 as a guinea pig in tests of the charging speed of its forked USB 3 cable (it was only about 22 percent faster than a generic USB cable) and of Absolute Software’s Lojack kill-switch app. I’ve also been taking notes on which of Samsung’s default settings merit changing–starting with that annoying whistle notification sound. Look for a cheat sheet on that topic, here or somewhere else.

Moto X: When Republic Wireless sent me its version of this phone, I was sure I could sell somebody on an assessment of how its WiFi-centric wireless service has evolved since last summer’s cruder offering. Nope! The loaner unit got a brief mention in a post about some positive trends in the mobile-phone industry and hasn’t shown up in any stories since then. I’ve used it to check the speed of Sprint’s LTE in my neighborhood (just now at my desk, a weak 4.51 Mbps down and 4.58 Mbps up) and to check its battery life (unsurprisingly enough, it’s vastly better on WiFi).

Chromebook Pixel: At Google’s I/O conference this May, journalists were invited to take home loaner units of this $1,299 Chrome OS laptop. I thought it would be educational to see how the Web looked on an ultra-high-resolution, 2560-by-1700-pixel display. Answer: pretty sharp! But I’ve spent surprisingly little time on the thing. For me, at least, the utility of a laptop with all of my usual apps trumps the beauty of a screen bereft of those tools. My last intensive use of the machine was to set up a fake Facebook account so I could check the social network’s default settings for a how-to post at Yahoo Tech, but this laptop’s smooth gray finish has also served as a backdrop in a few gadget close-up shots.

If you have any lingering questions about these devices that I might be able to answer, speak up now–sometime in the next few days, they’re all going home.

Weekly output: tech exceptionalism, mobile UX, smarter wireless, wireless-phone portability

This was an unusual week: For a change, it was my wife out of town on business and me doing the solo-parent thing at home. If you were wondering why I seemed absent from Twitter in the evenings, there’s your answer.

11/18/2013: Tech Exceptionalism with a Dose of Reality, Disruptive Competition Project

This was the essay about the Techonomy conference that I mentioned in last week’s recap. I hope the repeated rewrites paid off, but you can be the judge of that. Also unclear: Whether my skeptical take will get me uninvited from the conference next year.

eMobileHub mobile-UX chat11/19/2013: How to Ensure Top-Notch Mobile User Experiences, Enterprise Mobile Hub

After a few weeks off, I rejoined IDG’s Twitter chat series. In this week’s installment, we talked about ways organizations can make their mobile apps less awful, which at one point led to me using the phrase “reeducation camp.”

11/22/2013: Promising Signs For Smarter Wireless: Better Cheap Phones, Smoother WiFi Substitution, Disruptive Competition Project

This post came to mind after noting the arrival of a couple of cheap-but-good unlocked phones, then spending a couple of weeks trying out Republic Wireless’s new version of the Moto X… and then failing to sell a review of the latter item to an outlet that I was sure would be interested in it. Sigh.

11/24/2013: How to bring your own phone to another carrier, USA Today

A reader query about bringing a paid-up, out-of-contract Sprint iPhone to a prepaid carrier gave me an excuse to talk about phone-unlocking policy issues–and possibly get one Sprint reseller in trouble.

On Sulia, I called out a phone-unfriendly invitation from Amazon, said that mobile-malware metrics mean little without breaking out how many bad programs make it into default app stores, questioned the value of smaller, discount-priced 4K TVs, scoffed at the idea of Comcast buying Time Warner Cable, and shared some disturbingly inconsistent results from a Verizon Wireless mobile-broadband hot spot.

Weekly output: NSA surveillance, PR and the press, digital journalism, Android-iPad photo sync, deleting photos, Republic Wireless

On my first week back from vacation, I attempted to catch up with the NSA-surveillance story and took part in a couple of great panel discussions. I’d hoped to get a little more writing done, since I’ll be in New York from Tuesday through Thursday for the Consumer Electronics Association’s CE Week conference.

6/18/2013: More Tech Firms Now Question Government Snooping. What About Congress?, Disruptive Competition Project

My timing on this piece–in which I expressed my appreciation and alarm that large tech companies, in which I have no vote, seem to be doing a better job of advocating for our civil liberties online than the elected representatives we hired to do that–was pretty good. Maybe two hours after it went up, Google filed suit to challenge the gag orders that prohibit it from discussing the decisions handed down to it by the secretive, compliant and largely unaccountable Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

6/19/2013: Behind the Story: Breakfast Series With the Media, Cision

I talked about the intersections of journalism, PR and social media with the Washington Business Journal’s Jennifer Nycz-Conner, USA Today’s Melanie Eversley and moderator Shonali Burke. There should be video posted soon, and I’ll add a link when that happens.

Vocus panel photo6/20/2013: The Evolving State of Digital Journalism, Demand Success

I talked about some of the same topics, plus such bigger-picture issues as how much the chase for Web traffic should influence story assignments, at the marketing firm Vocus’s conference with WJLA journalist Jummy Olabanji. Tech Cocktail co-founder Jen Consalvo and moderator Paul Sherman of Potomac Tech Wire. Again, I’ll link to video whenever it’s posted. (There’s more at my Flickr set from the event, which took place at the the Gaylord National hotel in National Harbor, Md.)

6/23/2013: Tip: Google+ transfers photos between Android and iPad, USA Today

This question came straight from my father-in-law, who had just picked up a new iPad and upgraded from one Android phone to a newer model. The tip part of the column advises making a habit of deleting lesser photos to develop your photographic skills; I remember writing something like that for the Post but I can’t find it anywhere now.

6/23/2013: A $19 Unlimited Smartphone Plan: Just Add Wi-Fi, Discovery News

I tried out Republic Wireless’s WiFi-centric smartphone service and liked it, aside from the embarrassingly obsolete Android phone this company hopes to replace with a newer model soon. (Update, 7/1: I didn’t realize this at the time, but Mashable reposted the story, as part of a content-sharing deal it has with Discovery. And now I have a bunch of comments to read…)

On Sulia, I noted the demise of ESPN’s 3D channel, reported on my experience with the “Auto Enhance” photo editing at Google+, discussed NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen’s thoughtful presentation at Demand Success, described my experience getting a cracked iPad screen repaired and suggested a few tools to help you spot the International Space Station overhead.