Weekly output: inflight WiFi (x2), cheaper broadband, Google I/O, Texas social-media law, DEA data-portal hack, Twitter mourns Shireen Abu Akleh, SpaceX recap

BOISE–For the second year in a row, I’m on the road for PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Networks project. And this time the work has taken me much farther from home: After completing the network drive testing I started here after arriving Sunday afternoon, I’m heading to Seattle, Portland and then the Bay Area before flying home.

5/9/2022: Wi-Fi on the plane: Here’s how in-flight connectivity is changing (and costing), USA Today

I know everybody loves to complain about the unreliable state of inflight WiFi, but I see two positive trends worth a little applause: flat-rate pricing and free use of messaging apps.

5/9/2022: White House Lines Up 20 ISPs to Offer Free 100Mbps Broadband to Qualifying Households, PCMag

I wrote up the Biden administration’s announcement of a partnership with 20 Internet providers that will lower service costs to zero for households eligible for the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program–and noted how this deal’s ban on data caps make some of these companies’ existing broadband plans look even worse.

5/10/2022: Wi-Fi on the plane: Here’s how in-flight connectivity is changing (and costing), This Morning with Gordon Deal

The business-news radio show had me on talk about recent developments in using the Internet from a chair in the sky.

Screenshot of story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini 55/12/2022: Here are the 4 most surprising takeaways from the first day of Google’s I/O conference, Fast Company

Part of the keynote that opened Google’s I/O conference reminded me of today’s Apple, while another part evoked a previous decade’s Microsoft.

5/12/2022: US Appeals Court Rules Social Media Content Moderation Should Be Restricted, PCMag

I wrote about an unexplained and inexplicable ruling by a panel of federal judges that allowed a blatantly unconstitutional Texas law to take effect. My post had its own inexplicable error: I linked to the wrong one-page ruling and therefore named the wrong judges. No readers yelled at me about the mistake before I realized it on my own, but I feel stupid about it anyway.

5/12/2022: Hackers Reportedly Gain Access to Drug Enforcement Administration Data Portal, PCMag

My old Washington Post pal Brian Krebs had a scoop about what seems to be a massive data breach made possible by poor security practices, which I wrote up while adding some context about the White House’s recent moves to improve federal infosec.

5/12/2022: Twitter reactions to Shireen Abu Akleh’s death, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on Thursday night to discuss how Twitter reacted to the horrible news of their correspondent being shot and killed, apparently by Israeli soldiers, while reporting in the West Bank.

5/13/2022: Here’s How Close We Came to Relying on the Russians for ISS Trips, PCMag

I spent Thursday afternoon in D.C. at Ars Technica’s Ars Frontiers conference, and an insightful interview of former NASA deputy administrator by that estimable news site’s space reporter Eric Berger yielded this recap.

Weekly output: Nielson streaming-spend study, Apple TV+ + MLB, SpaceX so far, FIFA+, Netflix double thumbs-up, CNN+ viewership, VR interest, Stellantis + Qualcomm, Mark Vena podcast, new Amazon CEO shareholder letter

Happy Easter! I hope this holiday’s message of reborn life resonates in Ukraine in particular.

(Patreon FYI: Readers there got a bonus post about a few shopping tactics that can let you buy an Apple gadget below list price.)

4/11/2022: Nielsen study shows most streaming viewers spend $30 or less, FierceVideo

I spent the first three days of the week filling in at my trade-pub video-industry client, starting with this writeup of some Nielsen research.

4/11/2022: Apple TV+ debuts Friday Night Baseball, FierceVideo

I used this post to share my own review of Apple’s baseball-coverage venture, as viewed during Friday’s Nationals-Mets game.

Fast Company SpaceX history post4/12/2022: How SpaceX came to dominate the launch business, Fast Company

I knew that a lot of aerospace-establishment types were skeptical of SpaceX a dozen years ago, but digging up their actual quotes was something else.

4/12/2022: FIFA makes a new bid for soccer fans with FIFA+ streaming, FierceVideo

If any sports organization can afford to bankroll a streaming service and then let anybody watch for free, it would be FIFA.

4/12/2022: Netflix adds double-thumbs-up option for rave reviews, FierceVideo

Remember: Don’t call this new Netflix review option “two thumbs up,” because that’s a trademarked Ebert & Siskel phrase.

4/13/2022: Report cites fewer than 10,000 daily viewers for CNN+, FierceVideo

Maybe CNN’s subscription streaming service would have more paying viewers if the news was less depressing?

4/13/2022: Adults remain uninterested in VR live events, FierceVideo

The Morning Consult survey that I wrote up referred to virtual reality as “the metaverse,” but I was not going to use Facebook’s preferred word in the headline or lede if I could help it.

4/14/2022, Stellantis Partners With Qualcomm for 5G-Connected Cars, PCMag

Writing up this connected-car news allowed me to use some leftover notes from Qualcomm’s Tech Summit and then from CES.

4/14/2022: S02 E16 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

I joined this podcast (also available in video form) via my laptop, once again using my phone’s camera in place of the laptop’s webcam.

4/15/2022: In First Shareholder Letter, Amazon CEO Sticks With the Bezos Playbook, PCMag

I made a point of noting the things new Amazon CEO Andy Jassy didn’t mention in his first letter to shareholders.

Weekly output: space tourism, Netflix sharing, FedEx drone delivery, trans-Atlantic data privacy, App Store attacks (x2), new ISP deals excluding old customers, DoD cybersecurity rules of engagement

My published work this week includes one story about people in space and another about robots in the sky.

Story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini and showing its illustration, a close-up of the Inspiration4 badge on a SpaceX space suit3/28/2022: Will SpaceX, Blue Origin, or Virgin Galactic ever be affordable?, Fast Company

Covering the Satellite 2022 trade show in D.C. two weeks ago both allowed me to interview somebody who’s experienced suborbital space flight and write this post about the prospects of more people being able to have that experience–if they can write a sufficiently large check.

3/29/2022: Using Someone Else’s Netflix Account? You’re Not Alone, PCMag

I wrote up a survey that found that 15 percent of Netflix viewers watch for free on somebody else’s subscription.

3/30/2022: FedEx Teases Texas Drone-Delivery Demo, PCMag

The embargoed copy of this announcement specified a flight test around Dallas, but the final copy of the release left out that geographic detail.

3/30/2022: The new trans-Atlantic data agreement puts E.U. priorities first, Fast Company

This explainer went farther into the policy weeds than I’ve gone in a while.

3/30/2022: Dutch Class-Action Seeks Almost $5.6B From Apple for App Store Overcharges, PCMag

The first of two posts about Apple’s App Store control covered a pending class-action lawsuit in the Netherlands–where Apple is asking for trouble with insultingly greedy responses to regulators’ demands that it let dating apps opt out of Apple’s in-app billing and its cut of 15 or 30 percent.

3/31/2022: Apple Finally Lets ‘Reader’ Apps Link Out to Sign-Up Pages, PCMag

The second post covered an overdue and still inadequate App Store liberalization move by Apple. Yes, I enjoyed the chance to throw in a comparison to 1995-vintage AOL.

4/1/2022: New deals for existing customers? AT&T, Charter and Spectrum make getting better rates hard., USA Today

This column originally ran with a headline that named Comcast; although large and seemingly unfeeling telecom conglomerates can start to look alike, that cable company did not figure in my story.

4/2/2022: Biden Admin May Roll Back Trump Policy on Military Cyber-Offensive Operations, PCMag

Writing this got me up to speed with an episode of questionable executive-branch conduct under the previous administration that I’d missed.

Weekly output: SpaceX and Polaris, AMC earnings, Mark Vena podcast, 3G shutdowns

Best part of this holiday weekend: seeing one of my best friends from college for the first time since the fall of 2019.

In other news, this week’s bonus for Patreon subscribers was a peek at how I redid my smartphone battery-life testing routine for an upcoming review.

Screenshot of Fast Company story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini, illustrated with a photo of a SpaceX launch. 2/16/2022: How SpaceX’s new mission hopes to improve life here on Earth, Fast Company

Writing this post about an upcoming chapter in private space travel gave me an excuse to revisit one of the lesser-known chapters of NASA’s 1960s history, which is always good.

2/16/2022: AMC tops 9 million streaming subscribers as 2021 revenue hits record high, FierceVideo

AMC Networks’ earnings call was easier to transcribe than most, thanks to the executives on the call not being all White guys.

2/17/2022: S02 E07 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

For the first time in a month, this podcast (also available in video form) had its full cast of characters: our industry-analyst host plus me and my fellow tech scribes John Quain and Stewart Wolpin.

2/20/2022: Alarmageddon? Home security, medical device makers worry 3G is being shut down too soon, USA Today

When I started researching this story, the prospect of AT&T shutting down its 3G network on the 22nd didn’t seem like it could cause that much trouble. But that’s why you do the reporting before the writing.

Weekly output: smartphone plans, online misinformation, Twitter perceptions, SpaceX Starship, cord cutting stats, online-privacy bill

I have a short workweek followed by my first family-reunion Thanksgiving in two years.

Patreon readers got an extra post this week: a look at my attempts to ensure that the panels on which I speak aren’t filled out by people who look more or less like me.

Wirecutter phone-plans guide, as seen in Chrome on a Pixel 3a Android phone11/15/2021 The Best Cell Phone Plans, Wirecutter

This update–the first substantial revision to this guide since the summer of 2020–should not have taken this long, but it’s been a trying year for everybody.

11/15/2021: How Do You Combat Online Misinformation? Katie Couric, Prince Harry Have Some Ideas, PCMag

I wrote about a report on online misinformation from an unusual group of experts.

11/15/2021: We Read Twitter for Entertainment, Trust It for News (Unless We Vote Republican), PCMag

This post covered a pair of Pew Research Center studies about people’s attitudes towards Twitter. The most susprising finding: how many Twitter users misunderstood their own privacy settings.

11/18/2021: Elon Musk’s Starship rocket may launch to orbit in January, Fast Company

The SpaceX founder was scheduled to speak for 30 minutes but spent more than twice as much time at this virtual National Academy of Science meeting. I could have filed a vastly longer story, but I didn’t want to write myself into a bad per-word rate.

11/18/2021: Cord Cutting’s Latest Toll: 1.34 Million Legacy Pay-TV Subscribers Gone, PCMag

I decided to write up this report on pay-TV subscriptions by comparing the numbers involved to cities. Hence: “The top seven cable operators combined to lose 700,500 subscribers, a figure you may find easier to visualize as ‘almost the population of Denver’.”

11/19/2021: Who Owns Your Data? Calif. Congresswomen Try Again With Online Privacy Act, PCMag

The Online Privacy Act reintroduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D.-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D.-Calif.) seems to get a lot of things right, but it lands in a Congress that seems singularly incapable of passing even incremental privacy upgrades.

Weekly output: space tech, Fox earnings

Not going to Las Vegas for Black Hat deprived me of some conference receptions (excluding those that got canceled on account of the resurgent pandemic) and also reminded me of a failure mode specific to virtual events. As in, a speaker’s presentation stalled out on one slide, but he didn’t realize that because he apparently didn’t check the online chat and there was no IRL audience to say “next slide!” at increasing levels of volume.

8/3/2021: CES and Space Tech, Clubhouse

I finally opened my mouth on the audio-room app to chat about the intersections of private space-launch firms and next year’s CES with my space-nerd pal Doug Mohney. We had exactly one person show up in the audience, which I guess means we should have led off with cryptocurrency and blockchains.

Screengrab of FierceVideo post as seen in Chrome on an Android phone.8/4/2021: Fox touts Tubi in quarterly earnings, FierceVideo

Fierce asked me to fill in to write up Fox’s quarterly earnings. I found it weirdly fascinating to hear Fox execs voice total confidence in their prospects, pandemic or not–even though some of the most-watched Fox News hosts have repeatedly questioned the utility of mass vaccination against the coronavirus. (I made sure to include that angle in the story.) I hope people who have been suggesting that an ad boycott will bring Fox to its knees will read this story or one like it and be reminded of how much money this company makes from affiliate fees collected from every pay-TV subscriber, even those who never watch a second of Fox News.

Weekly output: Gmail storage management, ShowStoppers TV, Starlink reality check, ClearStory Connects

Happy Fourth! This year’s Independence Day is so much better than last year’s.

Screenshot of column as seen in USAT's iPad app6/28/2021: With Google’s new limit on free data storage, don’t forget your Gmail inbox. It could be stuffed, USA Today

This column started, as many do, with tech support for a relative: My mom was nearing the 15-gigabyte cap on her Google account, and almost all of that was the fault of various e-mail marketers unwilling to shut up.

6/28/2021: MWC 2021, ShowStoppers

I emceed this virtual demo event for companies looking to get some publicity out of this year’s mostly-virtual Mobile World Congress trade show. It was fun, but I would have rather been in Barcelona.

6/30/2021: Elon Musk says Starlink’s satellite internet is probably not for you, Fast Company

My own MWC coverage consisted of this writeup of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s reality-check interview at MWC (he also appeared remotely), in which he splashed cold water on some Starlink hopes while also not addressing a few concerns about that low-Earth-orbit satellite-broadband network.

7/2/2021: ClearStory Connects, ClearStory International

This Dublin-based PR firm had me on a video call to talk about my work and what I find works and doesn’t work in tech marketing. Spoiler alert: The “any interest?” follow-up remains unlikely to close any deals for me.

Weekly output: Starlink beta testers, Wikipedia code of conduct, Verizon’s 5G play at the Super Bowl

A year ago today, I was in New York to moderate a panel at what turned out to be my last out-of-town conference. I miss leading discussions with people in the same room instead of on the same screen. And I miss NYC–especially now that I could get off the train and exit into Moynihan Train Hall instead of Penn Station’s subterranean squalor.

Screenshot of the story as seen in Safari on an iPad2/1/2021: What Starlink beta testers really think about Elon Musk’s satellite internet, Fast Company

Reddit once again proved to be a good place to find early adopters of a new broadband technology, although I also found one Starlink beta tester on NASASpaceFlight.com’s forums.

2/3/2021: Wikipedia’s New Code Of Conduct Gets One Thing Right; Another Will Be A Struggle, Forbes

This post gave me an excuse to reconnect with two experts on social-media behavior I hadn’t talked to in way too long, Alex Howard and Caroline Sinders.

2/6/2021: Verizon Is Talking A Big Game About 5G At The Super Bowl, Forbes

Out of all of the overhyped use cases for 5G, crowded sports stadiums would actually let the extra capacity of millimeter-wave 5G shine. But with in-person attendance at Raymond James Stadium capped at a third of the venue’s capacity, Verizon is left with an empty demo.

Weekly output: WiFi help, SpaceX and NASA, cybersecurity issues and the coronavirus (x2), Trump’s social-media executive order (x3)

This weekend has shown some of the ugliest sides of the United States, from systemic racism to abuse of police power to wanton destructiveness. It would have been even worse without Saturday’s reminder from SpaceX and NASA that we can also do great things together.

5/25/2020: Think you are ready for a new router? First, try these free home Wi-Fi fixes, USA Today

I borrowed the expertise of my friends Tom Bridge and Glenn Fleishman for this column about no-cost tweaks to a home network that may improve your experience.

5/27/2020: SpaceX’s Dragon launch ushers in a new era for Americans in space, Fast Company

I’d meant to write this story from the Kennedy Space Center’s press site. Instead, I wrote it from my desk at home–below a picture I took of the last shuttle launch that STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson signed for me at a later NASA Tweetup.

5/27/2020: The Thought Leadership Summit, Webit Virtual

This conference was once going to take place in Spain next month and have me moderate some panels. Webit’s had to go virtual like every other large event, so my first spot involved a panel on cybersecurity issues in the novel-coronavirus pandemic that featured Webit executive chairman Plamen Russev, Siemens chief cybersecurity officer Natalia Oropeza, Inrupt security-architecture chief Bruce Schneier, and VMWare security vice president Tom Corn.

5/27/2020: Trump vs. Twitter, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on to talk about President Trump’s temper tantrum of executive order that makes a lot of noise about Twitter’s alleged unfairness but contains almost nothing in the way of a legally-valid signal.

5/28/2020: The Leading Media Forum, Webit Virtual

My second appearance for Webit featured an extended discussion about media coverage of cybersecurity issues with Webit’s Russev, Wired Italia’s Luca Zorloni, Forbes’ Monica Melton, and Euronews’ Salim Essaid. The video on this should look much better than the earlier panel, because I realized that my laptop’s camera had the white balance so hideously bad that my navy-blue shirt looked purple. With only a couple of minutes to go before showtime, I grabbed my iPad, braced it between my laptop keyboard and screen, and used that instead.

5/28/2020: Trump’s social-media executive order, Al Araby

My second TV hit about the Trump executive order came right after he signed that document, which meant my interpreter on this Arabic-language network and I had to wait for him to stop talking.

5/29/2020: Trump’s Twitter Tantrum; Hong Kong Crackdown, Bipodisan

My first tweets about the Trump order caught the eye of my friend Robert Schlesinger, who then invited me to join him and his co-host Jean Card on this political podcast. We had much more fun than you might expect from a chat about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Weekly output: password peril, mobile-hotspot help, Facebook’s Oversight Board

I had been holding out hope that I could return to business travel, even if just once before fall or winter, to cover America’s return to launching astronauts to space–SpaceX’s Demo-2 test flight of its Crew Dragon capsule, scheduled for May 27. I’d put in for a press pass and had a confirmed assignment from a name-brand client, and I was willing to figure out how I’d not lose money on the trip later on. But on Monday, I got the e-mail that many other journalists received, saying that NASA could not accommodate me at the Kennedy Space Center because social-distancing dictates required drastically limiting the number of press on site.

I’m not surprised and I’m not that upset. I’ve already seen three launches from the press site at KSC–the penultimate and final Space Shuttle launches and the February 2018 debut of the Falcon Heavy rocket–and that’s three more than I had any reasonable expectation of seeing 10 years ago.

5/5/2020: We still stink at passwords, and there’s really no excuse, Fast Company

I got an advance look at a study published by LastPass, the password-manager service that I used to use. The study confirmed earlier reports that people reuse way too many passwords but reported curiously high adoption of two-step verification–but did not gauge how many of us now employ password managers.

5/8/2020: All of the COVID-19 Data Upgrades That Cell Phone Carriers Are Offering, Wirecutter

I inventoried the ways that the big four wireless carriers as well as their prepaid brands and their major resellers have made it easier to share your smartphone’s bandwidth with nearby devices via its mobile-hotspot function. As you can see in the comments, it looks like I got one service’s information wrong; Google Fi has raised the limit at which it will slow down your connection, but not in a way that will lower most customers’ bills.

5/9/2020: Facebook’s Oversight Board, Al Araby

As one third of a panel discussion on this Arabic-language news network, I talked about Facebook’s new Oversight Board and its odds of changing things at the social network. My main point: While this equivalent of a Supreme Court is empowered to reverse Facebook decisions to take down or keep up content, Facebook’s automated rankings of the priority of content appear to be outside its orbit.