Weekly output: Virgin Mobile USA Inner Circle, Microsoft on security, D.C. tech media, Sprint Flex, SMS two-step verification

This week involved a large tech conference, but I didn’t have to go any farther than D.C. for it: Microsoft Inspire ran from Monday to Wednesday at the convention center, with the morning keynotes held at the Verizon Center. The event yielded one post, an idea for another and a sweaty evening at Nationals Park Wednesday, the location of the Carrie Underwood concert that closed out the gathering.

7/10/2017: Virgin Mobile’s iPhone-only plan: What’s the catch?, USA Today

This snakebit column required not one but two corrections. The first remedied my mistake in reading “$1” as this Sprint prepaid brand’s promotional monthly rate when it was the cost for the entire first year of service; minutes later, I saw a reader comment calling out my dumb error in writing “megabits per second” instead of “kilobits per second” when describing a streaming speed limit.

7/12/2017: Microsoft reveals two big ways to stop ransomware attacks, Yahoo Finance

Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith’s keynote Wednesday called for collective action to stop ransomware and other malware outbreaks. But getting companies and organizations to end their long-running abusive relationship with Windows XP won’t be easy; neither will persuading governments to stop hoarding vulnerabilities in favor of promptly disclosing all of them so they can be fixed.

7/12/2017: Working with Tech Media in the Washington D.C. Region, Washington Network Group

I spoke on this panel with the Washington Business Journal’s Andy Medici and FedScoop’s Tajha Chappellet-Lanier (a fellow Washingtonian Tech Titan honoree) about coverage priorities, tech trends and PR pet peeves. Once again, I implored publicists not to follow up by re-sending the original e-mail topped by nothing more than “Any interest?”

7/14/2017: Sprint doesn’t want you to buy your next phone, Yahoo Finance

Sprint gave me an advance on this, but its PR pitch for its new Flex leasing deal didn’t spell out that this move would also end Sprint’s installment-payment pricing on phones. Because I’m slow, I needed a couple of rounds of Q&A to grasp that difference. Sprint, in turn, didn’t clarify the international-unlocking policy under Flex until Friday morning, after its embargo on the news had passed but before it had posted its own press release.

7/14/2017: How a system meant to keep your money safe could put it in danger, Yahoo Finance

I expected to see everybody else jump on this story of a PayPal customer losing money after an AT&T rep let an unknown attacker move his number–the last line of defense on his PayPal account–to a new SIM, since I learned about it on Twitter a week earlier. Instead, I had time to quiz PayPal, AT&T and others; verify that a no-longer-advertised phone-free form of two-factor authentication still worked at PayPal; and have an enlightening chat with Google security product manager Stephan Somogyi about the tradeoffs of different “2FA” methods.

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Weekly output: WWDC, tech policy, Web chat, prepaid iPhones

Happy Father’s Day, everyone. When I became a dad almost two years ago, a friend welcomed me to that new title by calling it “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I think he was right. And next to that, my last seven days of occupational output seem small in comparison.

6/11/2012: Apple’s WWDC News: iOS Hits The Road, Discovery News

After all of the pre-conference hype about Apple unveiling its own mapping solution for iOS 6, I found the reality presented at its Worldwide Developers Conference Monday morning in San Francisco to be a tad underwhelming and so ranked it fifth on my list of top-five WWDC announcements. Note that I had to update this post a couple of days later to reflect for the fact that this app will, contrary to Apple’s initial silence on the issue, include walking directions. But transit navigation could still be decidedly inelegant.

(Also note that I watched the keynote as almost all of you did: by viewing it online after Apple posted it a few hours later, on account of Apple not issuing me a WWDC press pass. I did, however, get a few peeks at iOS 6 from WWDC attendees Monday night.)

6/15/2012: TPS Report: The Election’s Missing Tech-Policy Issues, CEA Digital Dialogue

After mulling over two days of enlightening banter at the Tech Policy Summit, I wrote up a summary of that conference for CEA that closed by remarking on the allergy some Silicon Valley types have to engaging with Washington in any sustained manner. I may have to explore that at greater length in a future story–along with some other topics discussed at TPS, such as a proposal to hand governance of some core Internet protocols to the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union and the debate in Europe over mandating a “right to be forgotten” online.

6/15/2012: Mobile Minded (Web chat), CEA Digital Dialogue

The monthly Web chat focused almost entirely on smartphones and tablets, as it should have a week after WWDC and a week and change before Google’s I/O developer conference. The curiosity about iOS 6’s Maps and Passbook apps in particular struck me, so I know to focus on those when I review iOS 6 sometime this fall. I also got at least two questions that should work well for my USA Today Q&A, so that’s good as well.

Now, for a tech-support question of my own: CoverItLive, the DemandMedia site that provides the chat system we’ve used so far, is essentially doing away with its free option at the end of this month. CEA may elect to pay up, but there are alternatives to consider (see, for instance, Digital First Media journalist Mandy Jenkins’ list); if you have any recommendations, I’d like to know about them.

6/17/2012: Cricket or Virgin: What’s best iPhone deal?, USA Today

Not long after Cricket Wireless surprised me by announcing that it would start selling the iPhone, Sprint’s Virgin Mobile USA revealed that it, too, would sell Apple’s iPhone 4 and 4S at a higher cost but lower rates than Cricket. This post compares these two offerings–Virgin comes out ahead in coverage and pricing–and notes one difference left out of most stories on the topic: Cricket’s iPhone will be internationally unlocked for use on GSM services overseas, while Virgin’s can’t be switched to any other carrier. The column closes out with a reminder about taking better photos with a phone.

Weekly output: podcast, DVD recording, TPS panel, Social Machines, Twitter and Topsy, searching within sites

The amount of writing inventoried below is a tiny fraction of all the tweeting I did from the Tech Policy Summit last week. I’m surprised my follower total didn’t plunge after all of that verbiage.

6/5/2012: Rob’s May Podcast: Big-Screen Banter With Dave Zatz, CEA Digital Dialogue

For the latest episode of the CEA podcast, I had a long chat with longtime D.C.-area tech blogger Dave Zatz. He’s been doing great work covering the video end of the electronics industry, I’ve cited his posts many times (most recently, in my Discovery News post about Vudu’s disc-to-digital service), and he has the unusual perspective of having seen gadget marketing from the inside out in two jobs with electronics vendors.

6/6/2012: How DVD Recording Got Paused, CEA Digital Dialogue

My past enthusiasm for DVD recording doesn’t look as ill-founded as my cheerleading for municipal WiFi, but it’s not far behind. In this post, I explain four angles that I missed–and make the shocking confession that I bought a 3D-compatible Blu-ray player in December. Worse yet, this thing can also play SACDs.

6/6/2012: Looking Ahead: Intellectual Property and Innovation, Tech Policy Summit

Video of the contentious discussion I moderated at this conference in Napa, Calif., featuring Techdirt’s Mike Masnick and USC Annenberg Innovation Lab director Jonathan Taplin.

6/7/2012: ‘Social Machines’: Check In For Free Beer, Discovery News

An overdue dose of DC-area tech news in my coverage, featuring clever hacks put together by the Dupont Circle social-media marketing firm iStrategyLabs that carry on a tradition of connecting ordinary devices to the Internet that I first wrote about in the Post’s long-forgotten “CyberSurfing” column. (Anybody remember the Cygnus Support Christmas tree?) Speaking of hacking, note how this post includes gratuitous and yet relevant, justifiable references to free beer and Lady Gaga.

6/10/2012: Topsy knows what you did on Twitter last year, USA Today

A friend’s Facebook query about looking up tweets from NASA’s STS-135 launch Tweetup last July led to this–which was once set to run as the shorter tip item in the column until I realized I could address other recent developments in the Twitterverse. It also offers a tip about working around a site’s defective internal search that I hope isn’t too mind-numbingly obvious.

In other news, a story I covered two weeks ago–the arrival of the iPhone on Cricket Wireless’s prepaid service–got a little more interesting this week as Sprint’s Virgin Mobile subsidiary also announced that it would sell Apple’s smartphone at a higher price but lower monthly rates than Cricket. From this tech-support note, it appears that Virgin Mobile will also unlock the iPhone; I’ve asked PR there for clarification but haven’t heard back yet. Update, 6/11/2012: Virgin Mobile publicist Jayne Wallace replied, “Yes the SIM slot is locked, and no it can’t be unlocked.” It will not work on any other carrier, in the U.S. or overseas; that tech-support link came from Virgin Mobile Canada, a separately-owned company.

Update, 6/25/2012: Added a link to video of the TPS panel.