Weekly output: Best Mobile Networks, Tesla Model 3 notes, Hertz and EVs, digital healthcare innovation, baseball sports networks, Levi’s digital transformation, Boom Supersonic, WAP/PATACS

For the first time in a couple of months, the next month and change of my calendar doesn’t feature any work travel. That’s a good feeling, especially after the last business trip concluded in snakebit form.

6/21/2022: Best Mobile Networks 2022, PCMag

The drive testing that I did across the Pacific Northwest back in May yielded the network data for half of Boise and all of Portland and Seattle. For the second year in a row, PCMag gave its top honors to T-Mobile.

6/21/2022: 4 Things I Hated About Putting 1,700 Miles on a Tesla, PCMag

That road trip also yielded this assessment of the Tesla Model 3 I drove. I loved this battery-electric vehicle’s handling, comfort, range and Supercharger network. But I also hated its touchscreen interface, the inadequate options for music playback, the purist approach to design that evoked the excesses of Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive, and the proprietary Supercharger plug.

6/21/2022: Hertz Is Trying to Leave Gas Behind, But What’s Standing in the Way?, PCMag

This story by Sascha Segan about Hertz’s efforts to electrify its fleet is illustrated by three photos I took of that rented Tesla. If I’d known my car photography would be featured this prominently, I might have taken this vehicle to a car wash to get the splattered bugs cleaned off the front.

A red Collision sign, seen outside that conference's venue.6/21/2022: Tech for good: Unlocking the power of technology to advance human health, Collision

The first panel I did at Collision in Toronto had me interviewing Johnson & Johnson CIO Jim Swanson about upcoming advances in healthtech–and what might need to happen to bring them to reality.

6/21/2022: 5 MLB Sports Networks to Add $19.99 Direct-to-Consumer Streaming, PCMag

I wrote a quick post about five regional sports networks owned by Sinclar Broadcast Group letting fans in those markets–Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, Milwaukee, and Tampa–pay directly for streaming coverage of games instead of having to buy a larger pay-TV bundle.

6/21/2022: Diversity is the key to digital transformation, Collision

For my second Collision panel, I interviewed Katia Walsh, chief global strategy and artificial intelligence officer at Levi’s. Knowing that job title, I had lead off by asking what AI had to do with the cut of a pair of jeans–and I learned a thing or two from her answers.

6/23/2022: Boom Says Commercial Supersonic Air Travel Will Be Viable Again in 2029, PCMag

As a card-carrying avgeek, I had to watch the Collision presentation of Boom Supersonic CEO Blake Scholl, then quiz him at the subsequent press conference.

6/25/2022: Rob Pegoraro returns to Washington Apple Pi, Washington Apple Pi/PATACS

I made my first in-person appearance at a local user group meeting since November of 2019, in this case a joint gathering of Washington Apple Pi and the Potomac Area Technology and Computer Society (PATACS). My ulterior motive was unloading the tech-event swag I’ve had taking up space in my home-office closet, but in addition to serving as a decluttering exercise this event served up some interesting questions about smartphone service and blockchain technology.

Updated 8/4/2022 to add a link to the PCMag story featuring my photography.

Road-trip reminder: The scenery gets bigger out west

PORTLAND

Growing up on one the flatter parts of the East Coast, I got used to a certain scale of roadside scenery: no snowcapped mountains, no wide-open prairies, no long distances without seeing a city or at least a city’s post-industrial outskirts. I didn’t see the other roadside side of America until my first cross-country drive in 1992, when I spent much of the trip with my mouth agape at the scenery towering overhead and looming in front.

The view from a highway viewpoint off I-84 in Oregon spans hundreds if not thousands of square miles of prairie.

This week’s itinerary–courtesy of my second year in a row of doing drive testing for PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Networks project–has reminded me of what I’ve missed.

After landing in Boise Sunday and doing my share of the network testing there, I drove from there to Pasco, Wash., Monday. This roughly 270-mile haul took me up and over the Blue Mountains on Interstate 84 and then treated me to the view at right (from the colorfully-named Deadman’s Pass rest area) of what must be thousands of square miles of plain. After that, a shortcut on local roads past endless stretches of farmland took me to a last stretch alongside the Columbia River. Tuesday’s 220-mile drive from Pasco to Seattle started in flatlands, above which the first mountain peak came into view like some sort of trapezoidal moon. Then I-90 aligned me closer and closer to the Cascades up, through and down the Snoqualmie Pass… and I don’t know how people can stay focused on the road with those alpine views.

(If only I’d had a co-pilot to split the driving and let me take photos out the passenger side!)

Unlike that drive 30 years ago, I had the advantage of a vastly more modern car. PCMag rented a Tesla Model 3 for this trip–part of their agenda is assessing the charging infrastructure available–so gas prices aren’t a concern and neither is getting up to speed on a highway on-ramp. This battery-electric rocket is also a vastly more comfortable ride than the 1977 Toyota Corolla that figured in that summer trip.

The other thing that’s changed from 1992 is all the wind power in sight. And not just in the form of rows of wind turbines gently turning on ridgelines but on the highways, which have treated me to the spectacle of tractor-trailers towing wind-turbine blades. The scale of those is larger than life too, with each gently curved airfoil–longer than a 747’s wing, going by recent averages–stretching far past the back wheels of an already-oversize trailer.

Not all of the American West is blessed with epic scenery, though. Thursday, an already-slow drive from Seattle to Portland on I-5 that offered no exceptional views came to an unsettling halt when every car and truck in front lit up its brake lights–a sudden hailstorm had led to a series of crashes that, I learned later, killed one motorcyclist. As I crept past these wrecks and emergency responders caring for their drivers and passengers, I spotted at least four more vehicles that had skidded off the highway and down the wide, grassy trough splitting the northbound and southbound lanes.

I could only think about the random chance that had brought me to this scene then and not 10 minutes earlier–and about how much I will appreciate being home, smaller sights and all, Monday.