Weekly output: HDTV screen sizes, podcast, 10 defining gadgets of 2011, Carrier IQ

Have I mentioned that I don’t mind not having to write 3,000 or so words of gadget guidance over the last week? Instead, I wrote these articles.

11/28/2011: “TV Screen Sizes: 30 Is The New 20,” CEA Tech Enthusiast (subscription required) CEA Digital Dialogue

One of the unofficial sports of CES is the “how big of a TV can we put on the floor” contest that manufacturers engage in every January. (This year’s winner was a Panasonic plasma that spanned 152 inches 12.7 feet.) But what about sets that mere mortals might put in their homes? I looked up some numbers and found that as TVs have gotten bigger–if you bought an HDTV two years ago, you’re not going to enjoy knowing how cheap 55-inch screens have become–some in-between sizes look to be vanishing from the market.

11/30/2011: “10 Gadgets That Defined 2011,” Discovery News

The end of the year doesn’t only bring gadget-guide stories; it also brings listicles. My latest contribution to the genre was a list of the 10 devices that left the biggest dent in the industry this year–although in some cases, the dent was more of an impact crater. Yes, I had to mention the HP TouchPad.

12/1/2011: Monthly podcast, CEA Tech Enthusiast (subscription required)

In the latest episode of the monthly podcast I do for the TE site, I chatted with one of my regular market-analyst sources, NPD’s Stephen Baker, and discussed how CES has ruined my ability to buy or wish for electronics as Christmas gifts.

12/2/2011: “Cell Phone Spying By Carrier IQ? Define Spying,” Discovery News

As I’ve written here before, many privacy-scare stories turn out to be not so frightening after a closer inspection. In this case, I talked to the guy who found this hidden diagnostic program and a security researcher who had done a separate investigation of it. (For a similar take on this, see Declan McCullagh’s post at CNet.) I enjoyed illustrating this post–since Carrier IQ doesn’t have a user interface I could easily get a screen shot of, I opted for something abstract: a photographer’s loupe magnifying the “Privacy” heading in Android’s settings app.

Updated 1/31/2012 with a non-paywalled CEA link.

Departure

After more than 17 years, I’m leaving the Washington Post.

No, that’s not an easy sentence to write.

The proximate cause is management deciding that the sort of review and analysis of technology that I’ve been doing for most of those 17 years is no longer part of the Post’s core mission. As I understand it, the paper places a high priority on covering Washington the city (as in, local news and sports) and Washington the story (politics), but other topics may not be assured of column inches or server space.

As a journalist in a newsroom, you own the quality of your work but not your spot in the paper or on the Web site. Beat, column and blog assignments change. Sometimes your editors offer you another position–my colleague Patricia Sullivan arrived here to edit technology coverage but moved on to become a talented obituary writer. And sometimes they offer you an exit.

I could try to expand on the reasoning behind the paper’s decision, but I’ve never pretended to be a spokesman for management and won’t start now. Trust me on this, though: My critiques of the Post–such as those of its iPhone and iPad apps or its advertising policies–had zero bearing on my departure.

Instead, let me explain why this isn’t a bad time for me to log out and investigate the next thing, and why I’ve been pondering that move for a while.

First, in two words, I’m exhausted. I wrote more than 2,000 words on Monday alone, and I’ve easily exceeded that figure on many days over the last few years. My longest time off since starting here in 1993 was three weeks of paternity leave last year, which you should recognize as being a long way from vacation. The newsroom’s new editing system, as noted by our ombudsman in late March, has only compounded the fatigue factor.

Second, there’s this life outside the office that I’d like to reacquaint myself with, however briefly. As I write this, my daughter is about ready to crawl even as our house remains un-babyproofed. Spring is arriving and I have a (small) lawn and garden ready for my attention. The kitchen has a stack of recipes overdue for me to try, while the rest of the house hides a long list of deferred-maintenance chores. I won’t mind stepping off the treadmill for a bit to focus on things that don’t involve gigabytes, kilobits or megapixels.

Third, the journalism market is seeing some changes. The Post’s union kept some eminently fair severance provisions in our contract, and they should give me time to consider opportunities that didn’t exist a year or two ago.

In the meantime, I’ll use this space to write about my exit and my next steps. My Post e-mail address should work through the end of the month, and you can also reach me at rob@robpegoraro.com.

Thanks for reading. See you on the other side of my next byline…

– R