Weekly output: FuboTV rate hike, Varjo, NextGen TV, Washington Apple Pi, sustainability at CES, Twitter apps, Mark Vena podcast

You can imagine how much I appreciate having this holiday weekend follow CES. I came home last Sunday morning exhausted and with a cold–but fortunately not Covid, as verified by three negative tests since then.

(Speaking of CES, Patreon readers got a post sharing more of my notes from the show.)

1/9/2023: FuboTV Increases Rates by $5 a Month, Tacks on ‘RSN’ Fee, PCMag

I have to wonder if Fubo doesn’t have some kind of a death wish, because there’s little else to explain why it would want to adopt one of cable TV’s more loathsome practices by sticking subscribers with a new surcharge for regional sports networks–and doing so on the same day it hikes its advertised rates by $5.

1/10/2023: On the Virtual Road With Varjo’s XR-3 Mixed-Reality Headset, PCMag

I got to try out this high-end headset at the end of a long Friday at CES and came away impressed–not that there’s much consumer-relevant in a device with a five-figure price tag.

Screengrab of the story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini.1/12/2023: NEXTGEN TV’s CES sales pitch: strength in numbers, Fierce Video

I thought I’d see more manufacturers shipping TVs with NextGen (aka ATSC 3.0) tuners, but on the other hand I didn’t expect to learn that those sets made up 8% of all TVs shipped to U.S. dealers last year. That already makes NextGen much more relevant than 8K TV.

1/12/2023: Afternoon Learners SIG, Washington Apple Pi

I joined the virtual meeting of this group (SIG being short for “special interest group”) via Zoom for about an hour to share my impressions of CES and answer questions.

1/13/2023: Green tech and trends at CES 2023 point to environmental progress, Fast Company

After noting all of the green shoots I saw at CES, I had to remind readers of how much Las Vegas remains a monument to car supremacy.

1/13/2023: Third-Party Twitter Apps Stop Working in What Appears to Be a Widespread Outage, PCMag

The fact that Twitter management remains silent about blocking third-party clients shows a colossal amount of disrespect for both the developers of those apps and their customers.

1/14/2023: S03 E43 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

I shared my impressions of CES and discussed smart-home technology in the first 2023 edition of this podcast, also available via video.

What has and hasn’t changed about CES over my quarter century of attendance

LAS VEGAS

Wandering past restaurants and bars in a series of casinos this week has stirred up the usual weird Vegas memories for me: not of great meals or fun nights out with friends, but of the receptions and dinners that CES exhibitors have staged at these establishments.

And now that I’ve covered CES in person for 25 years–every iteration of the event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show from 1998 on, minus 2021’s pandemic-enforced virtual edition–there are quite a few of those memories banked in a corner of my brain that I could probably put to a higher and better use.

CES 2023 signage featuring the #CES2023 hashtag; in the background, a neon sign spells out "Las Vegas."

Semi-lavish evenings on the dime of one company or another haven’t changed since that first CES trip, but the show itself has expanded and evolved considerably.

As in, there’s a reason the Consumer Technology Association–formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Association–rebranded this event from “Consumer Electronics Show” to just “CES.” A convention that used to be built around home audio and video now covers everything from smart-home gadgets to autonomous vehicles; at this year’s CES, that last category included a gigantic Caterpillar dump truck.

The space taken up by CES has grown as well, just not quite as much. The Las Vegas Convention Center has sprouted a few extensions and then, two years ago, an additional hall that by itself is big enough to host lesser conferences.

Meanwhile, the routine of CES journalism is unrecognizable compared to the placid pace I enjoyed 25 years ago, when I recall filing all of one story from the show–via dialup modem. I still have things fairly easy (I’ve never written for any place expecting a dozen posts a day during the show or had to stay up late editing video), but this week once again reminded me how much writing time can eat into note-taking time.

Other parts of the CES existence, however, might not seem that different to 1998 me.

Getting around Vegas remains a huge pain. The incremental upgrades to transportation since then–a monorail that only connects the back doors of some casinos on one side of the Strip to the convention center, the belated arrival of Uber and Lyft, the Vegas Loop that offers an underground Tesla shortcut between parts of the convention center–have still left most CES traffic on roads that can’t accommodate it.

On a more positive note, the utility of an industry-wide gathering like CES has survived repeated predictions of this event’s obsolescence. It turns out that the vast majority of companies in the tech business cannot count on staging their own events and expecting everybody else to show up. And all of the other companies and people that come here to do business would struggle to strike those deals if so many other like-minded organizations and individuals were not in the same crowded space at the same overscheduled time.

I include myself in that last bit. Especially since going freelance in 2011–as in, about halfway through my CES tenure–I’ve found that my greatest return on the investment in time and money I make every year here starts with the connections I make those few days in Vegas.

Finally, the CES schedule hasn’t budged over the past 25 years. With remorseless regularity, it tears me away from family just days after the start of a new year, then re-connects me with industry friends, immerses me in what’s new in the tech business, and then leaves me to look at a rest of the year in which every other event seems easy. And that’s why I know exactly where I’m going to be next January.

CES tips for rookie reporters, 2022 edition

This January will mark my 25th trek to CES and will be my 26th CES overall, counting the 2021 virtual edition of the show. A quarter of a century of CES practice may not have taught me how to escape having this pilgrimage to Las Vegas tear me away from my family right after the holidays, but it has given me some insight into making the gadget gathering produced by the Arlington-based Consumer Technology Association a little more efficient, productive and cheaper.

(You may have read an earlier version of this guide, but I somehow haven’t revisited this topic since 2013.)

Planning

The most annoying part of this event happens weeks before you board a plane to Vegas, when a non-trivial fraction of the tech publicists in the universe start asking if they can book a meeting with you and their client at the show. Be exceedingly conservative in accepting those invitations: You will be late to most CES meetings (read on for reasons why), and if you’re not the appropriate publicist will probably be somewhere else through no fault of their own.

(After getting the 50th “are you going to CES?” e-mail, you may also fairly wonder: If the time and attention of tech journalists is really this valuable, when does our compensation better reflect that?)

So I usually limit my show-floor meetings to large companies with a diverse product line–the likes of Samsung or an LG–when scheduling an appointment can yield a better look at unreleased gadgets or a chance to talk shop with a higher-ranking executive. If you really play your cards well, you’ll arrive at somebody’s booth just in time to gobble a quick lunch there.

Packing

The most important item to bring to CES is comfortable walking shoes. I’m partial to Eccos (note to Ecco PR: where’s my endorsement contract?), worn with hiking socks.

Other useful things to pack: Clif Bars or other shelf-stable sustenance, in case you don’t get around to eating lunch; a reusable water bottle; a separate source of bandwidth (either a phone with a generous mobile-hotspot data allocation or a WiFi hotspot); an Ethernet adapter if your laptop lacks its own wired networking; twice as many business cards as you think you’ll need.

Most important, for the love of all that is holy, do not forget to pack your laptop’s charger. And tape your business card to it, in case you leave it behind in one of the press rooms.

The West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center in January 2022, with the CES logo splashed across its glass facade.

Press conferences and other events 

The first of two media days features a light afternoon lineup of talks, followed by the CES Unveiled reception that may be your first chance in months to say hi to some fellow tech journalists and analysts. The second media day–the day before the show opens, so it’s technically CES Day Zero–consists of a grueling slog of press conferences, almost all at the Mandalay Bay convention center at the south end of the Strip.

Unless you get VIP access, you can’t count on getting into every press conference–in the Before Times, the lines outside always stretched on for so long that making it into one press conference required skipping the one before it. And except for Sony’s presser at its show-floor exhibit, the CES press conference rarely permits hands-on time with the hardware and may not even allow for Q&A with the people involved.

CES features a long line of keynotes, starting on the evening of press-conference day. They can be entertaining but often don’t get beyond being a live sales pitch for a company; you’re more likely to find news in the even longer lineup of issue-specific panels.

Put two offsite evening events on your schedule: Pepcom’s Digital Experience after the opening keynote, and ShowStoppers the following night. (Disclosure: The latter crew puts together my trips to IFA in Berlin, subsidized by that German tech show.) Each provides access to a ballroom of vendors showing off their wares, a good standing-up meal and sufficient adult beverages to dull the pain.

Power and bandwidth

Both of these essential services can be in pitifully short supply around CES, so it’s good that laptop and phone battery lives have improved greatly in recent years. You should still follow the “always be charging” rule and plug in all your devices anytime you’re sitting down and near an outlet. The press rooms should have plenty of power strips, but that doesn’t mean one at your table will have an outlet free; if you have a compact travel power strip (my friend Rakesh Agrawal recently shared some useful advice about that in his newsletter), please bring it.

Wireless connectivity, however, hasn’t advanced as much at CES. The show has yet to feature free, event-wide WiFi, and even when individual events and venues offer WiFi you can’t expect it to work all that well. Cell coverage itself may be less than reliable in the middle of large, packed convention-center halls. Remember that you’re sharing the airwaves with a small city–171,268 attendees in 2020–and that you should opt for a wired connection if you can find one in a press room.

The LVCC and other exhibit areas

The massive Las Vegas Convention Center, home to the majority of CES exhibitors, could double as an assembly line for other, lesser convention centers, and it’s grown substantially since CES 2020.

The LVCC’s Central Hall, with 623,058 square feet of exhibit space and the home of the big-ticket electronics vendors exhibit, can eat up a day by itself, and the new, 601,960-sf West Hall can be as much of a timesuck with all of the automotive and transportation exhibits there. You shouldn’t need as much time to walk the North Hall (409,177 sf) and South Hall (908,496 sf over two levels), each home to a grab-bag of health-tech, telecom, drone and robotics vendors, among others. And don’t forget the parking lot in front of LVCC Central, which this January featured such once-unlikely CES exhibitors as John Deere and Sierra Space–the product of CTA’s efforts to broaden this show beyond consumer electronics.

Budget at least 10 minutes to get from one of these halls to another, 30 to hustle from one end to the other. The free-for-now Vegas Loop–a narrow tunnel with stops at the South, Central and West Halls traversed by Teslas driven by some of the most sociable people in Vegas–can shorten that end-to-end ride, but I’m not sure it will scale to meet CES-level demand.

But wait, there’s more! The Venetian (formerly Sands) Expo about a mile and a half southwest of the LVCC hosts most of the smart-home vendors on its main level, while its lower level hides Eureka Park, a fabulously weird space teeming with startups from around the world. A few companies also set up separate exhibits in restaurants and bars in the Venetian itself.

Many companies also have off-site meetings in nearby hotels. Don’t even think of trying to stop by those places in the middle of the day; visit them before or after everything else.

The view from the front passenger seat of a Tesla as it enters the Vegas Loop tunnel from the aboveground LVCC West station.

Getting around

In a word: ugh. CES has a long history of grinding the streets of Vegas to a halt, with the Venetian Expo-LVCC shuttle bus often taking well over half an hour because Clark County apparently has never heard of bus-only lanes. (CES 2022, with attendance depressed by the pandemic to about 44,000, felt blissfully efficient in comparison.) The show shuttle buses also routinely suffered from excruciatingly long lines to board, especially departing from the LVCC on the first two evenings of the show.

The Las Vegas Monorail flies over traffic, but at pre-pandemic CESes I often had to wait 10 to 15 minutes to board in the morning or evening, a delay compounded by management not tolerating D.C.-level crush loads on board. And the monorail conspicuously fails to stop at the Venetian Expo–a regrettable result of its private funding by participating casinos–so to get there you’ll have to exit at the Harrah’s/The Linq station and walk north.

Your ride-hailing options are also iffy. Lyft and Uber are no longer the great bargain they used to be, and you may find that the pickup/dropoff zone for them at a CES venue is not as convenient as the taxi stand. Vegas taxis, meanwhile, continue to rip off passengers with a $3 credit-card fee, so have cash handy if you’ll use one.

Walking is definitely an option between places on the Strip, but it’s also your fastest way to get from the LVCC to evening events at the Wynn or the Encore even if that mile-and-change walk may remind you of how little Vegas values pedestrians off the Strip.

Don’t overlook transit. Yes, even in Vegas. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada’s bus network includes frequent service on the Strip that shouldn’t be much slower than any other vehicle stuck in traffic. The RTC’s buses can also work for getting to and from Harry Reid International Airport, provided you time your schedule to match their lengthy headways. The rideRTC app isn’t great, but it does beat waiting for a line at a ticket-vending machine or fumbling with cash.

Any other tips? Let me know in the comments and I will update this post accordingly.

Weekly output: Verizon admin-fee increase, mmWave 5G smart repeaters, White House AI policy, Pixel 7 calling features, alternative social platforms, U.S.-EU privacy framework, Mark Vena podcast

In addition to the work you see below, I also spent most of Tuesday afternoon volunteering at a vaccination clinic–about a week and a half after getting my bivalent booster at the same clinic.

Screenshot of the column as seen in USAT's iPad app, where it's topped by a video explaining how C-band 5G might interfere with radar altimeters on airliners.10/3/2022: Did Verizon just raise prices? Administrative fee increase is another price hike, USA Today

Corporate executives apparently continue to believe they can cram a price hike into a fine-print fee without customers noticing. The e-mails I’ve gotten since this column ran suggest that this belief is grossly incorrect.

10/4/2022: A new pitch for mmWave: smart repeaters, Light Reading

I spent Thursday morning hearing out a variety of pitches for millimeter-wave 5G wireless broadband’s latest possibilities, then filed this report for one of my favorite trade-pub clients that included some caveats from industry experts.

10/4/2022: White House AI Bill of Rights Looks to Rein in ‘Unaccountable’ Algorithms, PCMag

I thought this would be a quick post to write, then realized that this document ran about 30,000 words.

10/6/2022: With the Pixel 7 series, Google tries again to answer the call of harried phone users, Fast Company

This story might have come out differently if I had not been forced to rely on a non-Pixel Android phone, devoid of the Pixel-only calling features I’ve gotten used to in recent years.

10/6/2022: Only 6% of US Adults Get News From Alt-Social Platforms Like Truth Social, PCMag

The Pew Research Center gave me an early look at this study… and then I still didn’t file it until after the embargo expired, because I had too many other things going on Thursday morning.

10/7/2022: Biden Executive Order Implements New Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Safeguards, PCMag

Another executive-branch tech-policy document became another long read for me this week.

10/8/2022: S02 E37 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

This week’s edition of my usual podcast (also available in video form) featured a new addition to the usual gang of tech journalists: my PCMag colleague and fellow New Jerseyan Angela Moscaritolo.

Weekly output: Qualcomm’s automotive ambitions, MEF Connects USA, corporate America’s tech ideas, Verizon 5G home and gaming news, Halo car sharing

I went to my last Nats game of the year Saturday–a 13-4 trouncing of the Phillies that reminded me of better days in the past and, I trust, the future. We also had tickets for Sunday, but with rain forecast all day I declined the opportunity to participate in the sunk-cost fallacy.

9/27/2022: Qualcomm sells a story of in-car inevitability, Light Reading

I wrote this recap of Qualcomm’s pitch to the auto industry at an event in New York the previous Thursday. Note that Qualcomm’s pitch to invited attendees included comped travel; I already had my train fare to and from NYC covered by the Back Market conference at which I spoke earlier that week but did accept two nights in a hotel to simplify my logistics–after obtaining my client’s permission.

A printout shows the order of panels at the Mobile Ecosystem Forum's MEF Connects USA conference.9/27/2022: MEF Connects USA, Mobile Ecosystem Forum

After joining this industry’s group’s podcast in April, the MEF people asked if I’d be interested in speaking at the conference they were organizing for the day before MWC Las Vegas. I wound up emceeing the afternoon half of the program and moderating three panels–one about the future of mobile identity yielded a what-if post for my Patreon readers, while two others on carrier billing for services educated me about aspects of the mobile industry that I’d overlooked.

9/29/2022: Sorry, But Your Boss Is Pretty Hyped About Today’s Most Annoying Tech Trends, PCMag

I can’t claim any credit for the headline on this post summing up a KPMG survey of attitudes among senior U.S. tech executives towards such topics as cryptocurrency and VR.

9/29/2022: At MWC, Verizon unwraps upgraded FWA receiver and 5G gaming gambit, Light Reading

With the MEF folks having agreed to cover my airfare and two nights of lodging, sticking around for another two nights on my own dime to cover MWC Las Vegas was an easy call. This recap of Verizon’s announcements during the opening keynote was the first of two posts I wrote for my telecom trade-pub client that week.

10/1/2022: Hello, Halo: This Car-Share Service Remotely Drives Its Vehicles to You, PCMag

With nothing blocking my schedule Thursday afternoon, I opted to ditch the conference for a few hours to try out Halo, the car-sharing service I’d covered for Fast Company last summer that has the car meet you, controlled remotely by a professional human driver, instead of your having to make your own way to the vehicle. As I quickly learned, the reality of this service in its beta-test stage includes some safety-driven inefficiencies.

Weekly output: security attitudes at Black Hat, American Airlines bullish on Boom, Visible changes plans, business cybersecurity worries, Mark Vena podcast

With our kid going back to school a week from Monday, this is my last week of day-camp-commute driving for the year.

Screenshot of column as seen in Firefox for macOS8/16/2022: As Black Hat security conference turns 25, a lesson: security doesn’t have an end point, USA Today

I didn’t finish writing this recap until leaving Vegas and using that conference’s video-on-demand option to watch the panel I’d most regretted missing.

8/16/2022: American Airlines Puts Down Deposit on 20 Boom Supersonic Overture Jets, PCMag

Once again, Boom Supersonic had news of an airline order for its Overture jet land unaccompanied by news of an engine design, so this time I reminded readers of how long two recent jet engines took to enter revenue service.

8/17/2022: Visible Reshuffles Plans: No More Party Pay, But Solo Service Is Now $10 Cheaper, PCMag

Visible is taking a page out of its parent firm Verizon’s book by having more than one plan with “unlimited” data.

8/18/2022: What Do Business Execs Worry About Most? Getting Hacked, PCMag

A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey finding that business executives worry most about information security shouldn’t be news… except that none of PwC’s previous surveys of suits had found infosec to be their top anxiety.

8/19/2022: S02 E34 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

Recording this week’s episode of the podcast hit a few technical glitches, and for once they weren’t on my end.

Weekly output: LinkNYC, Google renews RCS plea, Chris Krebs at Black Hat, 5G explainer, Cyber Safety Review Board, Web3 security

After a week on the West Coast, including four days in Las Vegas for the Black Hat security conference, I now have two weeks of not going anywhere. Which is good!

8/8/2022: LinkNYC begins deploying 5G kiosks – but not yet with 5G inside, Light Reading

After too many months of not writing for this telecom trade-pub client, I filed this update on New York rebooting its LinkNYC effort to bring free WiFi and digital city services to individual blocks.

8/9/2022: Google Posts Yet Another Plea for Apple to Support RCS Messaging in iMessage, PCMag

Google makes fair points when it calls out Apple for hindering the quality and privacy of cross-platform text messaging by not supporting the RCS messaging standard in iMessage. But Google hurts its cause by not supporting RCS in Google Voice–or even explaining that hangup. Also unhelpful: Google has yet to ship an API that would let the developers of Signal and other third-party messaging apps support RCS.

Screenshot of PCMag post as seen in Chrome on a Pixel 5a, with a VPN service active.8/10/2022: Ex-CISA Chief’s Advice at Black Hat: Make Security Valuable and Attacks Costly, PCMag

I covered the keynote by former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency head Chris Krebs that opened Black Hat. His talk ended on a self-help note, as he advised his audience: “Life’s too short to work for assholes. So don’t.” And yet Krebs worked for President Trump from 2018 through 2020, when Trump fired him for correctly confirming that the 2020 election was run fairly and securely; that could not have been easy for him.

8/11/2022: What Is 5G, and Does It Actually Make a Difference?, Wirecutter

I wrote yet another 5G explainer, this time for the New York Times’ Wirecutter site.

8/11/2022: How a US Govt Board Helped the Open-Source Community Leap to Patch Log4j, PCMag

As the token Washingtonian among PCMag’s crew of writers, I had to write up this very Washington panel about the first test of the Cyber Safety Review Board–an organization set up as an infosec version of the National Transportation Safety Board.

8/12/2022: Why Is Web3 Security Such a Garbage Fire? Let Us Count the Ways, PCMag

This talk about a series of security meltdowns at blockchain-based sites and services had more than a few unintentional-comedy moments.

8/12/2022: The 14 Scariest Things We Saw at Black Hat 2022, PCMag

My contribution to this recap was the “Startups Shirk Security” section.

Updated 8/21/2022 to add the PCMag Black Hat recap.

Conference VOD: one half-decent thing we’ve gotten out of the pandemic

LAS VEGAS

The Black Hat security conference that wrapped up here once again left me wishing I could clone myself for a few days. Its info-dense schedule put as many as nine briefings in the same timeslot, requiring me to make some tough choices and hope that I’d picked a presentation that would yield enough news and insights to turn into an article.

(Spoiler alert: I did not always choose wisely.)

In the Before Times, the panels that I had to skip would have been lost to me until the event organizers uploaded video of them to Black Hat’s YouTube channel, often months later. But this year’s conference, run like last year’s as a hybrid in-person/online event, came with both streaming access to panels as they happened and video-on-demand playback 48 hours later for attendees.

This conference, unlike too many I’ve attended, also continues to post the presentations of speakers, so attendees don’t need to take pictures of every statistic-filled slide for posterity.

So I can treat my conference FOMO and see what I missed much sooner than I could have before. That’s one small side benefit of conferences having to make themselves open to remote attendees, a welcome democratization of events that in a better world would have happened without the pressure of a worldwide pandemic. It’s also personally convenient today because I’m already getting asked on Twitter about Black Hat briefings that I did not get to.

I do, however, still need to remember to catch up on these briefings before the 30-day window to watch them expires–the mistake I made last summer, when I had a much less busy schedule.

8/14/2022: I updated this to add a compliment to the Black Hat organizers for posting speakers’ presenations.

Weekly output: Starlink, spectrum coordination, flight delays (x2), T-Mobile and Verizon 5G home broadband, Mark Vena podcast

About one year later than I’d planned, I’m flying to Las Vegas Tuesday to cover the Black Hat information-security conference. Two big factors in my deciding to go ahead with that trip this year: My kid is now vaccinated and boosted, while I had Covid barely seven weeks ago.

8/2/2022: SpaceX’s Starlink has soared, but a course correction may be on the horizon, Fast Company

More weeks ago than I’d like to admit, one of my editors asked if I could do a more in-depth look at the progress of SpaceX’s Starlink low-Earth-orbit broadband constellation. A day after this piece ran, Reddit’s ever-informative r/starlink served up new evidence of capacity issues at this service: a new rate plan in France that cuts the monthly rate in half but imposes a 250 GB threshold for possible speed deprioritization.

8/2/2022: 2 Key Federal Telecom Agencies Promise to Play Nice With Wireless Spectrum, PCMag

Two federal offices about two miles apart in D.C. pledged to work better together in spectrum planning. That might seem like an obvious thing to do, but the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration last updated this memorandum of understanding in 2003.

Story as seen in Chrome on a Pixel 5a phone, showing its lead illustration: a photo of people waiting on line at an airport.8/3/2022: Don’t Get Stranded: How to Watch for Flight Delays and Get Around Them, PCMag

A discussion on PCMag’s Slack workspace about coping with travel hiccups led to me asking if I could write this story, and not just because I’d like to recoup my added travel costs from my unplanned extra night in Toronto in June.

8/3/2022: How Verizon ‘fixed wireless’ and T-Mobile home broadband is converting cable customers, USA Today

After a reality-check interview with an analyst who reminded me that fiber scales so much better to meet demand than fixed wireless can, this column on the progress of T-Mobile and Verizon’s 5G-based home broadband got a bit less enthusiastic about its potential.

8/4/2022: S02 E32 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

My main contribution to this discussion was talking about my Starlink story, but if you watch the video of the podcast you can also see me scowl at a Lightning cable.

8/5/2022: DOT Moves to Strengthen Rules on Refunds for Flight Changes, Cancellations, PCMag

Speaking of travel delays, I returned to the subject to cover a set of proposed Department of Transportation rules that would clarify what counts as a significant schedule change and a cancelled flight–and require either non-expiring trip credits or straight-up refunds for travel canceled because of a future pandemic.

Black Hat pitches increasingly resemble CES pitches

When I’m spending a sunny Saturday in front of my computer, the usual reason is that it’s beastly hot outside. But today I have an additional, also seasonally-specific reason: I’m overdue to look over and make some decisions about all of the Black Hat meeting requests that have been piling up in my inbox.

A view of the Las Vegas Strip from the Foundation Room atop the Mandalay Bay hotel--a common event venue for both CES and Black Hat receptions.

Unlike last summer, I actually am going to this information-security conference in Las Vegas. And many more infosec companies seem to have made the same decision, leading to a flood of e-mails from their publicists asking if I’d like to set up a meeting while I’m in Vegas. How many? Over the last month, I’ve received 134 messages mentioning Black Hat, a number that makes me think of the annual deluge of CES PR pitches.

(Sorry, the total is now 135.)

Just like at CES, accepting even half of these invitations would leave me almost no time to do anything else at the conference. But where at CES I need to save time to gawk at gadgets on and off the show floor–and to get from venue to venue at that sprawling event–at Black Hat I want to save time to watch this conference’s briefings.

In the two prior years I’ve gone to Black Hat, I’ve found that the talks there have an exceptionally high signal-to-noise ratio. And since a coherent and entertaining explanation of a vulnerability in a widely used app, service or device is something that’s relatively easy to sell as a story, I also have an economic incentive to hold off on taking any meeting requests until the organizers post the briefings schedule–which this year only happened barely two weeks ago.

In other words, now I’m out of excuses to deal with these pitches. Which I could have done this afternoon had I not waited until this afternoon to write this post…

8/24/2022: Fixed the typo in the headline that nobody seems to have noticed until my wife asked about it today.