Weekly output: 8K TV, tech talk with Mark Vena, Washington Apple Pi

My workday schedule is about to get disrupted for the next 10 weeks or so: Day-camp season kicks off for our daughter Monday, so I will have a car commute most mornings and many evenings too.

6/17/2019: How TV types are getting ready to sell 8K, FierceVideo

I wrote this report from two events I’d attended in New York the week before: Insight Media’s 8K Display Summit and then an 8K panel at CE Week.

6/17/2019: Moor Insights & Strategy Podcast (6-17-19), What’s Hot in Tech?

I once again joined Moor analyst Mark Vena on his podcast to talk tech–in this case, 8K TV, the next-generation gaming consoles he saw introduced at the E3 show, and Apple’s WWDC announcements. Yes, we talked about the Mac Pro’s thousand-dollar monitor stand. How could we not?

6/22/2019: June 22, 2019 General Meeting: Rob Pegoraro, Washington Apple Pi

I spoke for about an hour before this Apple user group about the state of Web and smartphone privacy, the prospects of Washington agreeing on any government regulation of same, and the state of tech journalism. (That last bit gave me a chance to talk about my Patreon venture–my latest patron-only post there outlines upcoming stories I’m working on for various clients–and do some in-person salesmanship for it.) And as I did when I spoke to the Pi last summer, I brought a bag full of tech-event swag and gave away almost all of it.

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Bookmarks for a Web privacy tune-up

I talked at length about privacy when I spoke this morning at the Washington Apple Pi user group’s general meeting–but I realized halfway through that I was keeping too much documentation to myself. As in, I hadn’t remembered to put together a set of links for the privacy settings I discussed.

That’s where this post comes in.

Ad preferences: If you don’t want giant Web platforms to target you with ads based on your browsing history–or if you want to correct some inaccurate targeting–these settings will let you do that.

  • At Amazon, selecting “Do Not Personalize Ads from Amazon for this Internet Browser” will stop the retailer from retargeting you across the Web with reminders of things you searched for. But you’ll have to remember to adjust this in every browser in which you shop at Amazon.
  • Facebook provides more control, allowing you to set “Ads based on data from partners” and “Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere” to “Not allowed.” You can also see what interests Facebook thinks you have and check which advertisers and businesses have targeted you on the social network with their own uploaded contact lists.
  • At Google, you can see what interests the Web giant has discerned in you and opt out of its ad personalization; taking that step will reward you with the image of the sleeping robot shown above.

Tracking protection: If you use Apple’s Safari, you’re already protected from ad networks’ attempts to follow you around the Web to build a model of your interests. New installs of Mozilla Firefox include a comparable level of default tracking protection, as I wrote at USA Today two weeks ago, but you may need to change these settings yourself. Select “Content Blocking” from the menu, click “Custom” and set it to block trackers “Only in Private Windows” and block only cookies identified as “Third-party trackers.”

You may also want to install the Facebook Container extension to shut down Facebook’s attempts to track you on other sites, although I’m not totally clear on what this adds over the newest tracking protection.

Limit Google’s memory: While Google’s ability to remind you of where you’ve been can be useful, that doesn’t mean it should have unrestricted access to that information. Fortunately, you can now set Google to automatically erase your Web and app activity after three or 18 months. You can also take advantage of the lesser-known of option of setting a sync passphrase for your copies of Google Chrome that will encrypt your browsing history, leaving Google unable to use that data in building a profile of your interests.

Weekly output: Sudan Internet shutdown, 5G and smart cities, net neutrality, Facebook marketing itself

If you’ll have next Saturday morning free and a commute to George Mason University’s Fairfax campus wouldn’t be too bothersome, you can see me talk about privacy, security and other tech topics (while handing out random tech-event swag) at Washington Apple Pi’s general meeting. If this Apple user group’s schedule sticks to pattern, my spot will come up around 11 a.m.

6/12/2019: Sudan Internet shutdown, Al Jazeera

I made a Skype appearance on the Arabic-language news channel to talk about a frequent hobby of totalitarian governments: cutting off their citizens’ Internet access.

6/12/2019: Smart Cities Council—5G Networks: The Keys to Smart City Growth, CE Week

As the one person on this panel not working in the 5G or smart-cities spaces (as opposed to the Smart Cities Council’s Jason Nelson, Aero Wireless Group CEO Jim Lockwood, and Verizon 5G Labs manager Joshua Ness), I tried to ask the questions average customers and citizens might have about the advent of low-latency sensor networks in urban areas.

6/12/2019: The FCC said repealing net-neutrality rules would help consumers: It hasn’t, Yahoo Finance

I’ve had this piece on my to-do list since not long after the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 net-neutrality rules expired last June. I didn’t get a reply out of every small Internet provider that FCC chair Ajit Pai had cited as a victim of net neutrality, but the responses I did receive did not confirm the upsides Pai forecast when leading the drive to kill the old rules.

6/15/2019: Facebook’s new promotional push, Al Jazeera

Asked to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that Facebook would step up its please-trust-us marketing efforts, I reminded viewers of its previous efforts to do just that. Did they convince you that the company had turned a corner? I didn’t think so.

Weekly output: facial recognition, Washington Apple Pi

This was a challenging week, since our daughter’s camp schedule had her at home during most of the day. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked to help find a Lego piece… I’d buy our kid more Legos, because they are awesome.

7/27/2018: Microsoft argues facial-recognition tech could violate your rights, Yahoo Finance

My inspiration for writing this was Microsoft president Brad Smith calling for government regulation of this technology; having the ACLU report that Amazon’s Rekognition facial-recognition service falsely identified 28 members of Congress as criminal suspects motivated me to finish and file the post.

7/28/2018: Rob Pegoraro, ronin technology columnist, Washington Apple Pi

I spoke at the monthly meeting of this Mac/iOS user group about changing notions of security–or, to phrase things less politely, how foolish and gullible we’ve been in prior years. (Seriously, the defaults most people operated on in 1995 and 2000 look horrifyingly stupid now.) I also called out such lingering obstacles in infosec as Apple’s unwillingness to support “U2F” two-step verification via encrypted USB keys and Microsoft’s bizarre stance that full-disk encryption is something only business users need. In the bargain, I donated my now-deceased MacBook Air to the Pi’s MacRecycleClinic and gave away a bag of trade-show swag, including a couple of U2F keys.

Update, 7/31/2018: I had an embed of the Pi’s YouTube clip of my talk, but I didn’t know that stream had playback disabled on other sites until a reader called that out in a comment. (Thanks, jeffgroves!) So I’ve replaced that with a link to the clip.

When your old laptop dies at the perfect time

My old MacBook Air is now not only retired but dead. And it could not have happened at a better time.

I had resolved to donate the 2012-vintage laptop I’d finally replaced with an HP Spectre x360 last fall by donating it to the local Apple user group Washington Apple Pi, whose MacRecycleClinic refubishes still-functional Macs for reuse and scavenges the rest for parts. And since I’m speaking at Saturday’s Pi meeting about the state of computer security–the gathering runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon-ish in Enterprise Hall room 178 at George Mason University’s main campus in Fairfax, with my spot a little after 11 a.m.–I could bring the old Air with me to hand over.

So yesterday afternoon, I made one last backup of the Air’s files, signed it out of its Web services as per Apple’s advice, and rebooted it into macOS Recovery to wipe the drive and re-install macOS High Sierra from that hidden partition. Then I followed the counsel of experts for a USA Today column earlier this month and used Apple’s FileVault software to encrypt its solid state drive all over again.

Several hours later, High Sierra wrapped up that chore. I once again rebooted into Recovery, used Disk Utility to wipe the SSD–and then couldn’t install High Sierra, because the installer reported that the drive’s Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) software had found a problem that left the volume unusable.

After a moment’s irritation, I realized that this timing was perfect. It followed not just five years of trouble-free drive performance but a complete erasure, re-encryption and re-erasure of the volume, so there could be nothing left to recover–and therefore no need to apply physical force to destroy the drive. This Mac has failed me for the last time, and I am okay with that.

Weekly output: AirDrop harassment, killer AI, Verizon “unlimited” data (x2), Washington Apple Pi

This week started better than it ended. Monday brought the magical sight of a partial solar eclipse–something I’d only seen before through thick clouds in 1994 in D.C., and which our daughter pledged to remember forever–but Friday saw my wife sent to the disabled list with a broken clavicle, courtesy of an idiot driver who almost ran into her.

And Monday I’m off to Berlin for the IFA electronics trade show. I offered to cancel the trip, but my wife declined. Why? We live in an eminently walkable neighborhood, and we have a great support system in our neighbors. Now if the cops could only catch the asshole who thinks he/she has priority access to every road before their wheels…

8/21/2017: How to prevent creeps from using Apple’s AirDrop to ‘cyber flash’, USA Today

This column started with a Facebook post frsm a friend of mine; closer inspection led me to wonder if this isn’t yet another case of a tech company being oblivious to the fact that bad people exist on the Internet. Bonus question to anybody reading this who works at Apple: What was the gender breakdown on the AirDrop development team?

8/22/2017: Killer AI, Al Jazeera

I got called in to offer some insight on Elon Musk’s call for a ban on killer artificial-intelligence robots, which led me to note that we’ve had autonomous killing machines for decades in the form of land and sea mines, not to mention the IEDs that I’m happy didn’t kill two of my cousins on their tours of duty in Iraq. FYI, there’s no link to the interview itself, as it was overdubbed live into Arabic and not archived.

8/23/2017: Verizon’s cheaper ‘unlimited’ data plan means serious tradeoffs, USA Today

Verizon’s unexpected move to gut its unlimited-data plan led my editor to ask me to write this weekend’s column early. I had to revise it when I realized that I’d missed Verizon’s sneaky move to limit the resolution of streaming video on existing plans.

8/24/2017: Making sense of Verizon’s new wireless plans, USA Today

I talked to USAT’s Jefferson Graham about Verizon’s new plans for the paper’s podcast.

8/26/2017:  Rob Pegoraro: What’s next for Apple?, Washington Apple Pi

I talked to the D.C. area’s Apple user group about what I think Apple is doing right and wrong. Attendees got a hardware bonus: random trade-show swag that I gave away during the Q&A part of my talk.

Weekly output: EMV cards, wearable gadgets, cable-TV apps, Apple, upload speeds

I’m halfway through an obnoxiously transatlantic fortnight: I spent four days in New York this past week for CE Week, and Tuesday I fly to Paris to moderate a handful of panels at the VivaTechnology conference. But when I step off the plane at Dulles a week from today, I’ll have more than a month before my next work trip.

6/20/2016: What Home Depot’s Chip-and-Pin Lawsuit Means to You, Consumer Reports

If you’re wondering why people get so insistent about having a PIN on their credit cards, this story may clear things up for you. (Spoiler alert: It won’t do much for the biggest source of credit-card fraud.)

CE Week wearables panel 20166/23/2016: Is that Tech You’re Wearing?, CE Week

I talked about the design, features and use of wearable gadgets with UNICEF Ventures’ Jeanette Duffy, WARE founder Pamela Kiernan, and ŌURA co-founder Kari Kivelä. Afterwards, GearDiary’s Judie Stanford interviewed the four of us, and the organizers posted that clip next week.

6/23/2016: Big cable has a plan to help you dump the cable box you’re renting, Yahoo Finance

While I was in NYC, I stopped by Yahoo’s offices to record an interview with Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer about the prospect of replacing cable boxes with cable apps; it runs atop this story.

6/25/2016: Rob Pegoraro on technology, plus a presentation by MacRecycleClinic, Washington Apple Pi

I drove over to the general meeting of this Apple user group to share my thoughts on the state of Apple–and to donate the 2002-vintage iMac I used for four years before handing it off to my mom, who relied on that computer until replacing it with an iPad Air last year.

6/26/2016: How to compare Internet service providers — by upload speed, USA Today

After a reader of last week’s USAT column commented that I should have addressed upload speeds–and some quick searching revealed that many Internet providers treat them as a bit of a state secret–I realized I had a column topic on my hands.

Updated 9/6 to add a link to Stanford’s interview.