Weekly output: pro tablets, iPhone X, Google Maps and airport transit routes, Honest Ads Act, media consolidation, WiFi-password troubleshooting

After a month and a half with no travel aside from one overnight trip, I’ve got my next international departure in five days: Web Summit has me moderating at least three panels and will have me busy watching everybody else’s in Lisbon the week after this. Which once again means I will once again be spending Election Day overseas.

(There may “only” be statewide races at stake this time, but I cast my absentee ballot three weeks ago anyway. New Jersey and Virginia voters–and anybody with even a local race on the ballot–show up and do your job as a citizen.)

10/23/2017: Can an iPad Pro or Surface Pro Tablet Replace Your Laptop?, Wirecutter

This update to my Wirecutter guide adds my thoughts on Microsoft’s new Surface Pro and Apple’s latest pair of iPad Pro models. I was harsher about the Apple Pencil this time around even before I managed to lose one on our coffee table.

10/26/2017: iPhone X, WTOP

I thought the hosts at D.C.’s all-news radio station would spend more time quizzing me about the camera notch at the top of the $999-and-up iPhone X’s screen or the Face ID login system that camera offers, but instead they focused mainly on its price.

10/26/2017: Why Doesn’t Google Maps Know the Best Way to the Airport?, CityLab

My first appearance at The Atlantic’s transportation-and-development site since 2013 (when it went by the name The Atlantic Cities) was originally going to be a cranky post here about Google’s continued inadequacy with transit directions to Dulles Airport. But then I thought I should try to be a little more enterprising about that idea. It took just long enough to get the post written and edited that Google finally added IAD’s Silver Line Express bus–but in a botched way that incorrectly advises walking another .7 miles after exiting the bus.

10/26/2017, A bill aimed at Facebook’s bogus political ads has some big problems, Yahoo Finance

The Honest Ads Act is a good idea and worth passing even after Facebook and Twitter’s belated moves towards transparency about their advertising, but it’s not going to stop all the social-media engineering the Russians put on last year.

10/27/2017: How Trump’s FCC chair could limit your media choices, Yahoo Finance

Writing about Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai’s moves to open up media-ownership restrictions got me thinking about how an earlier FCC made it so much easier for out-of-town conglomerates to roll up radio stations.

10/29/2017: Wi-Fi problems are the worst. 3 ways to solve them., USA Today

This was going to focus on Apple’s neat but undocumented way to share a WiFi password from one Apple device to another (if each runs its latest mobile or desktop operating system), but my editor asked me to broaden the column to cover non-Apple use cases.

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Watching concrete dry on the way to Dulles

I find watching paint dry as dull as anybody else, but concrete’s another thing–when it’s reinforced by steel in the service of a large construction project that I will enjoy at some point in the hopefully not indeterminate future.

That’s why I don’t sit on the bus from the Wiehle-Reston East Metro to Dulles International Airport. I stand so I can get a better look at construction of the Silver Line’s extension to IAD and beyond.

Silver Line construction at IADThat project’s opening seems painfully far off when I look at a calendar and note how many months stand between now and 2020, the current if-all-goes-well estimate for its opening. It annoys me to observe how slow we build a railroad on mostly open ground–it’s not like we’re trying to thread the Second Avenue Subway under Manhattan, people!

But seeing bridges placed over roads and streams, the structures of stations emerge from the dirt, and columns rise out of the ground to carry aerial tracks through Dulles reminds me that there is a payday coming… someday.

Gawking from the bus or a car is also one of the few ways to monitor this progress. The Dulles Metro project sends out an e-mail newsletter every few months, and a thread on railroad.net (I know, nerd) sees a post maybe once a week on average, but there’s no Flickr or Instagram account to follow and no construction webcam to check.

Peering through the windows of a packed Silver Line Express bus is not a great substitute for that… or for, you know, having a one-seat and traffic-immune ride to my city’s international airport. But at least it gives me an excuse to give my phone a rest.