Weekly output: headphone jack, 5G wireless, unlocked smartphones, broadband maps, wireless plans, MWC’s weirdest gadgets, Twitter spam

I had a terrific but exhausting week in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress and looked forward to a relaxing weekend at home–until Friday’s windstorm toppled the tree in our front yard and deprived our home of power until Sunday afternoon. As a result, most of the pictures in my Flickr MWC album haven’t seen any editing yet. And they may not until next week, since I have another short week: Friday, I head out of town again as SXSW brings me to Austin.

2/26/2018: The headphone jack isn’t dead yet, Yahoo Finance

I revisited a theme of last year’s MWC coverage to note that most phone vendors are not following Apple and Google’s foolish removal of the headphone jack. But with Sony, Huawei and Nokia introducing at least some models without that old but perfectly functional audio output, I’m not feeling too confident about the industry’s direction.

2/28/2018: How 5G wireless will soon supercharge the internet, Yahoo Finance

After years of hype about 5G, the next wireless standard is starting to look less vaporous–and some key industry figures are dialing back that hype.

2/28/2018: Don’t buy these smartphones through your carrier, Yahoo Finance

I’ve been arguing for years that you shouldn’t buy your phone from your wireless carrier, but at MWC three of the big four made that point for me by pricing the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus at least $70 over what you’d pay–with interest-free installment payments available–at Samsung’s own site.

CityLab broadband-map post2/28/2018: The Problem With America’s New National Broadband Map, CityLab

The Federal Communications Commission relaunched its broadband map, but the much better-looking version suffers from the same information gaps as ever. So does a privately-run site that draws on the same FCC filings as the map.

2/28/2018: The best cell phone plans, Wirecutter

I updated this guide to reflect more generous plans at many prepaid and resold services. But within a day of the revised guide’s publication, AT&T reworked its pricing for unlimited data, so we’ll have to update the guide yet again to account for that.

3/2/2018: The 6 strangest gadgets from Mobile World Congress 2018, Yahoo Finance

I had fun writing this look at the weirder hardware I saw at MWC–the last piece I filed from the show, shortly before they shut down the press room Wednesday night.

3/3/2018: Twitter spam, Al Jazeera

The news network’s Arabic-language channel had me on (overdubbed live into Arabic) to talk about an outbreak of Twitter spam in Saudi Arabia. The point I made: Going back to Usenet, every popular social platform has inevitably been abused by spammers and con artists.


Weekly output: CFAA, Twitter spam, Nexus 7, mobile privacy, phone storage, Android Device Manager

I swear, sometime this month I will have the kind of lazy, do-nothing day that should be the right of every Washingtonian who doesn’t skip town in August.

8/21/2013: Cloak Your IP Address, Expose Yourself To Legal Jeopardy?, Disruptive Competition Project

I’d meant to write a post denouncing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in January–when Internet activist Aaron Swartz, facing the potential of a long CFAA sentence, committed suicide. I remedied that oversight when a judge’s opinion stated that using a proxy server to change your computer’s Internet Protocol address could be a CFAA violation.

Ars Technica Twitter-spam post8/21/2013: Deciphering the tricks of the Twitter spammers, Ars Technica

After seeing a fascinating study of the Twitter spam market presented at the Usenix Security Symposium last week, I did a little more digging to write this recap.

8/23/2013: New Nexus 7 Makes Android Tablets Look Sharper, Discovery News

This review already looks problematic–not even two days after it ran, the backlight on my loaner Nexus 7 seems to have died. Until I can figure out what happened (which will probably require Google to autopsy the device), don’t give my kind words about this Android tablet too much credence.

8/24/2013: Privacy Vulnerabilities and the Media, iOSDevCampDC

I gave a talk about how privacy issues get covered–often badly–by the tech and traditional media at this gathering of Washington-area iOS developers. This was not my best public speaking ever; I lost my place halfway through the talk and had to improvise for a bit. (My audience didn’t seem to mind, but things could have been much worse.)

8/25/2013: Will an 8 GB smartphone have enough storage space?, USA Today

This question seemed simple enough when a reader asked it several weeks ago, but then I realized it would give me a chance to discuss a few interesting, related topics. But in retrospect, I missed a chance here to call out phone vendors for charging too much for extra memory. There’s also a tip about Google’s new Android Device Manager lost-phone service.

My most important Sulia post this week reported the bizarre failure of the Nexus 7. Besides that, I critiqued Samsung’s announcement of a new Android phone with a 6.3-inch screen,   called out Amazon’s lack of a system-status page that might have better explained its brief outage this week, suggested a new Google patent application may have prior-art and obviousness issues, and complimented the new “Digital Commons” space at the District’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Library.

Weekly output: Privacy-scare stories, phones on a plane, new new Twitter

I may have written way too much on Twitter lately–in particular, live-tweeting presentations by local startups at Tuesday’s DC Tech Meetup and then doing the same for a fascinating but hard-to-define play Thursday, “e-Geaux,” that was part faux product launch, part improv comedy and part shared social-media experience. But I also have these stories to my name for this week:

12/6/2011: Why You Keep Reading These Privacy-Scare Stories, CEA Tech Enthusiast (subscription required) CEA Digital Dialogue

I followed up last week’s Discovery News post on Carrier IQ by unpacking some of the factors behind this genre of tech coverage. First, ever-cheaper storage has allowed developers to get lazy with data–they no longer need to scrub unneeded bits from an app’s input to avoid running out of memory. Second, customers who may not necessarily understand the finer points of how software works–and don’t get a clear, plain-English explanation from the companies suspected of privacy breaches–often default to the scariest possible interpretation. (You can see much the same dynamic at work when people freak out over new terms-of-service documents written by lawyers for other lawyers.)

12/7/2011: Don’t Pull An Alec Baldwin Over Airplane Mode, Discovery News

This was one of those rare stories where throwing a celebrity’s name into a headline isn’t just a cheap way to catch a reader’s attention but also wholly relevant to the story. It also allowed me to write about a topic that fascinates me but doesn’t get into my coverage too often, aviation. (I’m one of those weirdos who is more interested in Channel 9’s availability on a United flight than whatever second-rate movie they’re offering.) For further reading, read this rejection of the phones-off rule from the Atlantic’s James Fallows, who is both an astute observer of technology and a licensed pilot–and then the three posts that followed with input from passengers, pilots, flight attendants and engineers.

12/9/2011: Twitter Redesigns Site, Apps. Yes, Again. Discovery News

I enjoy critiquing user interfaces, and Twitter’s latest redesign gave me an excellent opportunity to do just that. Overall, I’m happy to see far fewer mismatches of functionality between Twitter’s mobile apps and its Web site (for example, I no longer have to turn to my phone to see if any given user follows me, nor must I flip from phone to computer to see exactly who retweeted my latest exercise in compressed prose). But as I noted when I shared this on Google+, in one respect this change is a downgrade: It takes an extra click or two to report somebody for spam.

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