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.

Advertisements

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.

Flash-drive disposal

I came back from a conference today (this time, the distinctly low-key CE Week), which means I also returned with a few USB flash drives adorned with some company’s logo.

Flash drives sortedThat, in turn, means I have to find some way to get rid of those pocket-sized storage devices, because I already have more flash drives than I will need. But I recognize that if you don’t have such a collection of these things that your kid starts to play with them, you might find just one of them valuable.

The answer for me is to give the flash drives away–ideally, after trashing their contents or at least renaming them by their size.

I’ve staged some reader giveaways on my Facebook page to unload particularly interesting-looking flash drives, but most of this hardware follows one of a handful of designs, differentiated only by the color and company logo on the outside. They’re not easy to give away in bulk.

Since it’s been a while since I’ve had a teacher say they could use a grab-bag of these things (and since I’ve already donated a few to the cause of undermining North Korea’s propaganda), that leaves only one obvious way to unload them by the dozens: Speak at some local gathering, and offer them–along with other PR swag I’ve accumulated–as rewards for the people who show up.

My talk tomorrow morning at the Mac user group Washington Apple Pi’s general meeting in Bethesda will feature that incentive. If you’re interested in some shop talk from me, or if you’re just in the market for some portable flash-memory storage, please stop by.

If, on the other hand, you’re a PR pro looking to get attention for a client, how about skipping the usual order of logoed flash drives in favor of putting the press-kit files on an obvious part of the company’s site? If the client insists on some kind of tchotchke, how about a Lightning or USB-C cable stamped with their logo instead?

Weekly output: Who has your back, robots, CE Week, Washington Apple Pi, travel WiFi blacklists

Beyond a trip to New York for CE Week, the last seven days also brought me back to 1150 15th Street NW for a Washington Post alumni reunion Thursday night. That will be the last such gathering at that address, because the paper is moving to rented space in a much better-looking building on K Street.

6/23/2015: Tech Firms Trust Our Government Even Less Than You Do, Yahoo Tech

I though the fifth release of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s annual “Who Has Your Back?” report on how tech companies stand up to government requests for data about their customers was a newsworthy moment. I did not realize until starting to write this piece how much the tech industry has moved since just 2013, as I realized when I re-read some of my first Disruptive Competition Project posts.

CE Week panel description6/24/2015: The March of the Robots, CE Week

I enjoyed talking about the progress and continued problems of the consumer robotics business–from floor-cleaning robots and toys for kids to driverless cars and drones–at this CE Week panel with Engadget editor Devindra Hardawar, Spin Master designer Andres Garza, Ozobot CEO Nader Hamda, and WowWee CTO Davin Sufer. As the screengrab shows, I was checking my phone pretty often to consult my notes and look for any Twitter feedback; I don’t know how annoying that looked from the seats.

6/24/2015: CE Week TV: Rob Pegoraro, CE Week

Later that afternoon, I did a quick interview about our robotics discussion with Judie Stanford.

6/27/2015: Rob Pegoraro on personal technology, Washington Apple Pi

I returned to this Apple user group for the first time since 2013 and talked about the increasing amount of convergent evolution between iOS and Android and how that doesn’t seem to have cooled down the usual mobile-OS bigotry. Most of the questions I got from the audience afterward were not about those issues; instead, people wanted to know about their choices in broadband Internet access and what they could do to get away from traditional pay-TV subscriptions.

6/28/2015: Wi-Fi wrongly blocking sites? Blame humans, USA Today

I enjoyed the irony of using my column to unpack a problem that a longtime competitor (re/Code’s outstanding Walt Mossberg) had complained about on Twitter.