Weekly output: locked phones, tax-return fraud

BARCELONA–Mobile World Congress officially starts tomorrow, but I’ve been here since Saturday morning and have already attended five vendor events here. The one you’ve read most about, Samsung’s unveiling of the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones, is also the one MWC event I knew beforehand that I wouldn’t have to cover–my regular clients all got pre-briefed before the show and had copy ready when Samsung’s embargo expired. That freed me to take notes and play with the S9’s AR Emoji feature at my relative leisure instead of hunkering down with my laptop to file a report.

2/22/2018: Verizon’s decision to stop selling unlocked phones means travelers need to plan ahead, USA Today

Verizon’s impending move to lock phones it sells for some period after subscribers activate them won’t be as strict as its competitors’ policies, but it also reinforces the argument I’ve been making for years: Don’t buy your phone from your wireless carrier. So does the $70-above-list prices three of the big four carriers announced tonight for Samsung’s new phones.

Yahoo tax-return-fraud post2/23/2018: Tax return scammers are taking a big hit, Yahoo Finance

A year and a half ago, I’d started gathering string for a post about the problem of tax-return identity-theft fraud–sparked by my seeing a Facebook post from a friend who is both a privacy professional and a serial victim of that problem. For various lame reasons, I failed to turn those notes into a story at the time. But tax time inevitably rolled around again–and then the IRS served up a novel and more interesting news peg by making serious progress in reducing this problem.

Weekly output: CES recap, United fleet site, cybersecurity coverage, wireless phone plans, inauguration wireless coverage, T-Mobile One alternatives

I got a little extra publicity this week from the Columbia Journalism Review when its editors illustrated their open letter to President Trump from the White House press corps with a photo I took of the White House press briefing room. It’s been flattering to see that people actually read photo credits! I would have liked to see CJR link to the original–I believe that’s a condition of the Creative Commons non-commercial-use-allowed license under which I shared it on Flickr–but the reply I got was that their CMS doesn’t support links in photo credits.

That photo, incidentally, comes from 2014’s White House Maker Faire–exactly the sort of event I don’t expect to get invited to over the next four years.

1/17/2017: Techdirt Podcast Episode 105: The CES 2017 Post-Mortem, Techdirt

I talked with Techdirt founder Mike Masnick about my experience at this year’s show. I did the interview using a podcasting Web app I hadn’t tried before, Cast. My verdict: great UX, but that name is horrible SEO.

Screenshot of Air & Space story1/18/2017: Get to Know Your Airliner, Air & Space Magazine

I finally wrote a story for a magazine I’ve been reading on and off since high school, which is pretty great. The subject: the United Airlines Fleet Website, a remarkably useful volunteer-run database of United planes that I’ve gotten in the habit of checking before every UA flight. The story should also be in the February issue, available at newsstands in the next few days.

1/18/2017: What you should really know about every major hacking story, Yahoo Finance

I put on my media-critic hat to write this post about what too many cybersecurity pieces–and too many mass-media conversations on the subject, up to and including those started by Donald Trump–get wrong.

1/19/2017: The Best Cell Phone Plans, The Wirecutter

We decided last summer that having separate guides for the four major wireless carriers and for prepaid and resold phone plans didn’t help readers who should be considering all of their options. That also imposed extra work on me. The result: a single guide that’s much shorter and will be easier to update the next time, say, Sprint rolls out some new price plans.

1/19/2017: How carriers will keep D.C. online during Trump’s inauguration, Yahoo Finance

The real test of the big four networks came not during President Trump’s under-attended inauguration but the Women’s March on Washingtoh the next day. To judge from the experience of my wife and others, the carriers did not acquit themselves too well: Her Verizon iPhone lost data service for part of the day, and I saw friends posting on Facebook that they couldn’t get photos to upload.

1/22/2017: Am I stuck with T-Mobile’s flagship plan?, USA Today

T-Mobile’s decision to limit its postpaid offerings to the unmetered-but-not-unlimited T-Mobile One gave me an opportunity to provide a quick tutorial on the differences between postpaid, prepaid and resold services.

Weekly output: social-media mimicry, T-Mobile’s network, Windows 10 and Android notifications, Windows 10’s reception

Last week, I had Bernie Sanders dead-enders and WikiLeaks zealots angry at me. This week, it’s Windows 7 users. I have to imagine that some of these embittered Microsoft customers also voted for Sanders and have WikiLeaks bookmarked, which I guess means they’re now shopping for voodoo dolls to name after me.

8/3/2016: 3 features that social networks should never, ever borrow from one another, Yahoo Finance

I had been sketching out an essay along these lines for a while when Instagram copied a Snapchat feature almost wholesale, giving me a news peg on which to hang this post.

Yahoo Finance T-Mobile network post8/4/2016: T-Mobile now has America’s second-best availability, new ranking says, Yahoo Finance

We changed the headline on this after AT&T PR complained about the use of the word “coverage” in it when OpenSignal takes care to say they only track LTE availability over time, not over geography. That struck me as a fair objection, so we revised the hed.

8/7/2016: Get Windows 10 in touch with your Android phone, USA Today

I was working on a different topic, which you may read next weekend or the week after, when I decided I could get this week’s column done quicker by devoting it to a walk-through of a nifty cross-platform notification system available in Windows 10’s new Anniversary Update, an upgrade I’d just installed with zero issues on two tablets I’m testing for an upcoming story.

8/7/2016: Windows 10 isn’t perfect — but it’s time to let go of Windows 7, Yahoo Finance

Reader reaction has been pretty negative to this piece. Some of it is fair–like objecting to Microsoft’s problem-monitoring telemetry or the company’s pushy presentation of this update–but to call the 2009-era Win 7 a better fit for the hardware and Internet of today strikes me as a serious reach. If you had an update to Windows 10 hobble your computer, I’m sorry for your loss. But I’ve heard that complaint about every single Windows release ever, and my own experience and the prior reader input I’ve seen suggests Win 10 is a less risky upgrade than its predecessors

Weekly output: e-mail security, unlimited 2G wireless data, Verizon’s new plans

This has been an exhausting week in all the wrong ways. I won’t miss it.

Yahoo Finance Clinton e-mail post7/6/2016: The worst thing Hillary Clinton did with her email, Yahoo Finance

I started writing this story months ago as a general guide to staying secure while staying connected overseas, but I kept putting it off. And then FBI director James Comey’s conclusion of the Bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s reliance on a private e-mail server as Secretary of State noted that she used this mail service while traveling “in the territory of sophisticated adversaries.” Boom, news peg.

I tried to make clear in the piece how many mysteries remained about the security of this setup, but all of those subtleties apparently went over the head of the commenters accusing Clinton of treason or worse. (For a while, the comments were topped by a particularly unhinged gem from an avowed 9/11 Truther.) Clinton Derangement Syndrome seems alive and unwell.

7/8/2016: Those massive data overage charges may soon be a thing of the past, Yahoo Finance

Verizon Wireless’ announcement of new price plans that add the option of unlimited 128  kbps data even after you exhaust your data cap reminded me of a thought I’d had at a telecom policy panel this winter: This kind of slow-but-unlimited fallback service represented a content-neutral, user-empowering form of “zero rating.”

7/10/2016: Verizon’s new plans don’t have to cost extra, USA Today

I did the math for those plans and identified a few cases in which a current VzW subscriber could save some money by switching to them. This story, unlike Wednesday’s, featured a non-toxic comments thread that already includes some replies by me.

Weekly output: Verizon e-mail, Verizon Wireless zero-rating, 2016 tech politics, Telecom Act, Twitter timeline, tech we love, cord cutting, Google Play Music, saving Web pages

A three-day weekend is much appreciated after this week.

2/8/2016: Verizon won’t shut off email as soon as you feared, USA Today

The column I filed late on the preceding Friday got lost in the excitement of a Super Bowl weekend and so ran on Monday instead of Sunday.

2/9/2016: Verizon’s Free Video Deal: Will It Cost Us in the Long Run?, Yahoo Tech

This was one of those times when I have to set aside other work to cover a topic that’s jumped into the news–in this case, how Verizon Wireless exempting its own video app from its own data cap backdoors VzW’s net-neutrality obligations.

CompTIA D.C. fly-in agenda2/9/2016: The 2016 Election and the Tech Agenda, CompTIA DC Fly-In

I talked about tech-policy issues we may hear about during the 2016 campaign with the Glover Park Group’s Jason Boxt, Politico’s David Perera, and this trade group’s Liz Hyman.

2/9/2016: The Telecommunications Act at 20: How Congress Almost Managed to Predict the Future of the Net, Yahoo Tech

It’s crazy how much this law has affected our use of technology over the last two decades; whatever coverage it got before its passage could not have been enough.

2/10/2016: Twitter’s new timeline, WTOP

Twitter’s introduction of an algorithmically-curated view of tweets you missed doesn’t mean it’s turned into Facebook. Well, not yet.

2/10/2016: Let Us Count the Ways: The Tech We Really Love, Yahoo Tech

My short contribution to this post was a paragraph about how much I’ve come to trust Google Maps since handing off a writeup of Google’s then-new navigation site to my friend Anthony Zurcher 11 years ago.

2/11/2016: T.V. Viewing Options, Maine Calling

I talked to Maine Public Broadcasting radio listeners about dropping cable or satellite TV in favor of broadcast and streaming video–both of which can be tricky in the rural reaches of that state.

2/12/2016: Tip: Upgrade Your Songs For Free with Google Play Music, Yahoo Tech

I’d mentioned this option in a USA Today column last January, but that piece glossed over some of the steps involved.

2/14/2016: To save a Web page, look past your hard drive, USA Today

As I was finishing up this column Friday, I realized that my advice to use the Internet Archive to save a copy of a page was somewhat undercut by USA Today’s blocking of that site. Awkward!

Weekly output: defective touchscreen digitizers, the future of video content, Google Books, Tech Night Owl, Verizon Wireless privacy

I had one of my shortest stays in San Francisco this week–I arrived Sunday night, then flew home Wednesday morning. Three days in, jet lag still had me waking up so early that getting to SFO for a 7:25 a.m. departure was no trouble at all.

10/19/2015: Phone with mind of its own may not be hacked or haunted, USA Today

My Sunday column went up a day late. After all the deadlines I’ve shredded, I can’t complain.

Comptel Plus panel10/20/2015: Looking Ahead: The Future of Content, Comptel Plus

I moderated this panel about online video services in San Francisco at the annual conference of the Washington trade group that just renamed itself from Comptel to Incompas. My fellow panelists: Netflix public-policy director Corie Wright, Verizon Wireless v.p. and associate general counsel William H. Johnson, and Zander Lehmann, writer and creator of the Hulu series “Casual.” Almost all of the questions we got from the audience focused on something neither Hulu nor Netflix offer, and which is only available in limited quantities on VzW’s Go90 service: live sports.

10/20/2015: Google’s Fair Use Victory Is a Win for Us All, Yahoo Tech

It had been years since I last wrote about Google Books and the Authors Guild lawsuit against it, but Friday’s ruling in favor of Google allowed me to return to the topic–and offer some thoughts on the fuzzy definition of “fair use” in copyright law. Fun fact: the books in that photo fill a shelf in the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard Union Square, where I stayed Sunday night.

10/24/2015: October 24, 2015 — Josh Centers and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

I talked about Apple’s new iMac and my old one, the state of software quality in Cupertino, and the prospect of an Apple car (I think Apple’s talents would be better placed in imitating Tesla by developing a competitor to the Powerwall home battery).

10/25/2015: Verizon’s AOL deal brings new privacy worries, USA Today

The impending combination of Verizon and AOL’s advertising machinery will bring one improvement in privacy: Verizon Wireless will stop stamping its “UIDH” tracker all of its subscribers’ unencrypted Web traffic. But the company’s privacy notice is sufficiently vague on this point that I missed it in a first draft.

Weekly output: SXSW panel pitch, Verizon Wireless pricing, TPP, Winvote, retargeted e-mails

For much of this week, I took notes from a seat in a room while somebody else stood before me and others to deliver a lecture about one subject or another. It was a bit like college–except I used a laptop instead of paper, I was never unplugged from the outside world, and there was the prospect of getting paid for what I wrote about those talks instead of Mom and Dad paying for me to attend them.

SXSW panel on panels8/10/2015: A Panel On Panels: Things We’ve Learned Not To Do, SXSW PanelPicker

For the past couple of years, I’ve talked about pitching a SXSW panel about nothing other than the weird performance art that is participating in a panel discussion. I finally went ahead and wrote up a proposal, featuring me as well as ACT | The App Association’s Jonathan Godfrey and Tech.Co’s Jen Consalvo. Please vote for it, if you’re so inclined; if it gets a spot on the SXSW program, you’re welcome to show up in Austin and ask a question that’s more of a comment.

8/11/2015: Verizon Wireless’s new plans, WTOP

I answered a few questions from the news station about VzW’s switch to no-contract prices without phone subsidies–speaking via Skype on some iffy conference WiFi. How scratchy did I sound on the air?

8/11/2015: The Latest US Export: Bad Copyright Laws, Yahoo Tech

I’ve had “write a post about the intellectual-property implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal” on my to-do list for a while, and the leak of a much more current draft gave me a reason to turn that into an actual column. Something tells me this won’t be among my most-read stories this month, but it’s a post I had to write.

8/14/2015: Unlocking Democracy: Inside the Most Insecure Voting Machines in America, Yahoo Tech

I spent most of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the USENIX Security Symposium in D.C., which gave me a chance to attend Jeremy Epstein’s entertaining and enraging autopsy of the incomprehensibly insecure voting machines on which I cast my ballot for over a decade. This post got a spot on the Yahoo home page over the weekend, in case you’re wondering how it racked up 665 comments.

8/16/2015: How ‘retargeted’ ads sneak into your inbox, USA Today

This is the column I’d meant to write last week–and could do this week when the reader who’d sent the e-mail I couldn’t find re-sent that message after reading about my holdup here.

Weekly output: the RIAA’s changing mood about digital music, tech journalism, opting out of Verizon’s supercookie

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to have a little less time each week to get my work done, courtesy of the Nats’ 10th season in D.C. beginning with Monday’s home opener. (If I stop responding to e-mail, phone calls and social-media interactions shortly before 4:05 p.m., that won’t be a coincidence.) Welcome back, baseball.

3/31/2015: Now That It’s Growing, the Music Industry Finally Forgives the Internet, Yahoo Tech

Writing this recap of how the Recording Industry Association of America has become bullish on the digital-music market after years of pessimism and pining away for DRM and tighter copyright laws to solve business-model problems provided me with a fun stroll down memory lane.

4/3/2015: ICYMI: Meet The Washington D.C. Tech Media, BusinessWired

BusinessWire’s Simon Ogus wrote this recap of the tech-journalism panel I participated in the previous week.

USAT VzW supercookie post4/5/2015: How to turn off Verizon’s ‘supercookie’ tracking, USA Today

This was an obvious topic to cover. I borrowed my brother’s Verizon account to verify that this opt-out procedure works as advertised–and, of course, to make sure he and his wife’s phones were opted out. I did that Friday morning; as of Sunday evening, the Am I Being Tracked? site shows that the Verizon ad-tracking header is still in place on his phone’s Web traffic, which squares with Verizon PR’s statement that it takes several days for this change to go through.

Weekly output: NYC startup spaces, zero rating (x2), wireless carriers, Internet downtime

My name showed up at a couple of new places this week. FYI: The coming week won’t feature my work on a typical schedule, because Yahoo Tech and I agreed to push my weekly column back from Tuesday so I could offer my take later in the week on the European tech trade show IFA. That, in turn, may explain why I’m posting this so late: I still have to pack.

8/25/2014: Making Space for More Tech Firms in New York City, Urban Land

I combined old and new reporting to generate this piece on the real-estate market for New York-based startups. I dropped a letter out of one source’s last name; we’ve since corrected the mistake

8/26/2014: ‘Zero Rating’: The Pros and Cons of Free Online Access, Yahoo Tech

My thinking on this subject changed radically as I kept talking to people involved in this issue.

8/26/2014: A Recent History of Free ‘Zero Rated’ Online Access in the U.S., Yahoo Tech

This sidebar about domestic efforts by various companies to make mobile access to their services a no-surcharge proposition led me to an interesting, post-column chat with a CEO involved in this market.

Wirecutter wireless-carriers guide8/29/2014: The Best Wireless Carriers, The Wirecutter

I have been working on this project for months, meaning I’ve had the pleasure of redoing calculations of two-year costs at the major nationwide wireless carriers more than once, sometimes more than twice. I don’t know why nobody’s found a mathematical error in the piece yet. If you have a question about this lengthy piece, check the comments; I may have answered it already there.

8/31/2014:  How to check your Internet connection, USA Today 

This column topic has been locked inside “Break Glass In Case Of Journalistic Emergency” box for the last two years and change. A cramped schedule and Time Warner Cable’s system-wide outage led me to conclude that this week was the right time for a column about debugging an apparently faulty Internet account.

Weekly output: Google I/O (x3), buying or renting media, Verizon Share Everything, Google Maps offline

The next time I’m getting ready to head out of town for a few days on business–especially if I’m looking at an 8 a.m. departure–will somebody please smack me in the head if I start to install a preview release of an upcoming Microsoft operating system on my work laptop? Thank you. That would have saved me a lot of Windows-inflicted misery on a night I needed to go to bed early.

6/27/2012: New tablet and video-enabled glasses, WTOP

This week’s travels took me (again) to San Francisco, where Google hosted its I/O 2012 developers conference from Wednesday through Friday. I did a quick interview with Washington’s WTOP news-radio station about the opening-day keynote; a streaming copy of my spot is a little down the page on the above link, or you can download the MP3 directly.

(Pro tip: If a radio station is going to call your phone, make sure you know what direct dial to call back if your phone doesn’t ring or pick up for some reason.)

6/28/2012: The Future of Media: Buyers Or Renters?, CEA Digital Dialogue

The weekly CEA column revisited an old argument in the music business–would you need to actually own music if you had reliable, on-demand access to everything you’d want to listen to? I like how this post turned out, but having it land an hour or two before the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act probably didn’t help it win readers.

6/28/2012: Google Demos ‘Glass’ With Crazy Skydiving Stunt, Discovery News

So about that day-one keynote: I’ve seen some enthusiastic audiences at Apple product launches, but nothing quite like the response to Google having four people jump out of an airship over San Francisco, livestream their descent via Google Glass eyewear, and then land on the roof of the Moscone West convention center. This post provides some details about how Google pulled off this stunt (it’s the first time I’ve  had to quiz a Federal Aviation Administration rep for a story) and the Glasses themselves (Google vice president Vic Gundotra mentioned that his prototype model doesn’t last as long on a charge as his phone).

6/29/2012: Google Launches 5 Major Products, Discovery News

This follow-up post recapped Google’s five major consumer-focused product debuts at I/O 2012: the Jelly Bean version of Android possibly coming, possibly soon, to an Android phone near you; the Nexus 7 tablet; the made-in-the-USA Nexus Q media streamer; Google+ Events; and Google Docs offline editing.

7/1/2012: How Verizon’s service plans stack up, USA Today

The weekly Q&A unpacks Verizon’s new “Share Everything” smartphone plans and offers a first-look review of the offline mode Google added to its Maps program for Android. Note that if you read this story Sunday morning, it’s since been changed to fix two errors that readers e-mailed about: I had AT&T’s $20 data option including 200 megabytes of use, not 300 MB, and I wrote that Google Maps offline availability required Android 3.0 or newer when the far more widely-used 2.3 release will suffice.