Weekly output: Apple One, Apple’s September news, TikTok and WeChat ban, TikTok-Oracle deal

Having Apple news play such a large role in my work this week reminded me a little of older, perhaps simpler times. Having the Trump administration’s clumsy attempts to suppress TikTok and WeChat eat up much of the rest of the past several days made it clear that we live in different times.

9/15/2020: Apple As A Service: With Apple One, Life In Its Orbit Comes With A Monthly Price Tag, Forbes

My take on Apple’s venture into selling bundles of its services: By making iCloud backup the least-generous part of the two cheaper Apple One plans, Apple is putting the entertainment cart before the storage horse.

9/17/2020: SmartTechCheck Podcast (9-16-20), Mark Vena

I returned to the podcast of one of my tech-analyst friends to unpack Apple’s Tuesday announcements.

9/18/2020: Trump’s Partial TikTok And WeChat Ban Tip-Toes Into Chinese-Style Censorship, Forbes

In addition to letting me vent about the unhelpfulness of the Trump administration’s attempt to punish these two mobile apps, this post provided a useful demonstration of the limits of Twitter to promote a story. As in, having people with a combined follower total well into the hundreds of thousands tweet or retweet links to the post has yet to get its page-view total into four digits.

9/20/2020: What Trump’s TikTok deal means for privacy, Al Jazeera

I asked my interpreter upfront how you’d say “crony capitalism” in Arabic, and then the host only asked about what this deal would further protect the privacy of TikTok users. My answer: it doesn’t appear to do any such thing.

Weekly output: Toyota’s Woven City, baseball on streaming TV services, TikTok, broadband out of reach

A year ago this week, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. These days, touting America’s ability to apply technology towards a national purpose is a harder sell.

7/20/2020: Woven City: Toyota’s Planned Proving Ground in Japan, Urban Land

This feature about the smart-city project Toyota touted at CES grew out of the piece I wrote for the Urban Land Institute’s magazine from that show. The piece is also supposed to run in Urban Land’s Japanese-language edition, but I don’t have a link to that yet.

7/23/2020: Finally: Every Baseball Team’s Sports Network Is Available On At Least One Streaming Service, Forbes

Two days before baseball’s belated Opening Day, I thought five teams would once again shut out cord cutters because their regional sports networks would not be available on any streaming-TV services. Then all five got on board–yes, even the mismanaged Mid-Atlantic Sports Network that carries Nationals and Orioles games.

7/24/2020: The Feds Want You To Freak Out Over TikTok. You Shouldn’t, And They Can’t Ban It Anyway., Forbes

The two business trips I made to China to attend the (now-scrapped) CES Asia show helped inform my perspective on TikTok–having poked around WeChat after having to use it during both trips, I can’t see the video-clip app being anywhere in the same league in terms of data thirstiness.

7/26/2020: Broadbanned: Still no affordable fix for a broadband internet connection just out of reach, USA Today

This story started when a reader saw the piece I did in 2015 about a reader who found himself out of reach of the nearest broadband connection. This piece set off a vigorous conversation on Twitter and has already led to four more reader e-mails about similar cases of ISPs asking for tens of thousands of dollars to extend broadband to their homes.

Speaking of topics that become self-replicating through a steady stream of reader requests, on Patreon I noted that writing once about password-reset problems with Google accounts has apparently ensured I will get pleas for help with that problem from readers for the rest of my life.

Weekly output: Senate privacy hearings (x2), a split Internet, Chrome vs. Flash, cord cutting, D.C. tech, Chrome sync, Facebook hack

The last few days of Brett Kavanaugh drama in the Senate really took a hammer to my productivity. Yours too, I’m sure.

9/24/2018: What to expect when Apple, Amazon, and Google get grilled in Congress this week, Yahoo Finance

This was what you saw me talk about the previous Friday on Yahoo Finance’s Midday Movers show. One point I wish I’d made in this post: the absence of customer voices in this hearing.

9/24/2018: China’s Internet, Al Jazeera

I come on at about the 5:30 mark in the linked video to discuss remarks by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt that China’s increasingly-tight control of the Internet inside its borders means we’re now dealing with two Internets.

9/24/2018: Google’s latest Chrome update tightens the locks on Adobe Flash, USA Today

With Chrome now making it harder than ever to run Flash content, I checked in with two Flash holdouts: Intuit’s Mint.com, which requires it to view stock charts, and United Airlines’ “personal device entertainment” inflight service, which demands it to stream most TV shows and movies to a browser.

9/25/2018: Your wireless carrier may stop you from dumping cable TV, Yahoo Finance

I got an advance look at two studies that came out Tuesday: one looking at cord cutters’ motivations, another at how reliably wireless carriers deliver streaming video. The second provided important context to complaints cited in the first, so I wrote up both in this post.

9/26/2018: Are you ready for the spotlight?, DC Startup Week

SilverStrategy founder Tara Silver quizzed me, Technical.ly DC‘s Michelai Graham, and DC Inno’s Kieran McQuilkin about how startups try to get media attention, the state of the D.C.-tech scene, and this region’s odds of landing Amazon’s second headquarters. Update, 10/8: The organizers posted video of our panel to their Facebook page.

9/27/2018: Why now is a good time to reconsider browser-sync options on Google Chrome, USA Today

The latest Chrome release’s barely-documented switch to logging you into the browser if you log into any Google sites both upset some information-security types and gave me an opportunity to write this post, reminding readers that you can add a sync password to stop Google from monitoring and monetizing your Web activity and that Mozilla Firefox’s own Web-activity synchronization comes encrypted end-to-end.

9/27/2018: Tech execs to senators: Regulate us, but not too much, The Parallax

I wrote up Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee tech-privacy hearings, noting the questions the senators asked of executives with Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Charter, Google, and Twitter as well as the queries that didn’t come up.

9/29/2018: Facebook hacked, Al Jazeera

I made a second appearance on AJ’s Arabic-language channel (overdubbed live as usual) to talk about the series of bugs that could have let unknown attackers into 50 million Facebook accounts. Unlike my earlier appearance this week, this show doesn’t seem to be online.

Weekly output: Inside the Media Minds, EU copyright control-freakery, WeChat, 5G and IoT, Facebook political-ad rules

In addition to the exposure below, I may or may not have been on New York’s Fox affiliate WNYW Monday–I did a Skype interview about the music industry’s move away from downloads, but I have no idea if they used it or not. If you happened to watch them Monday night, please let me know either way in a comment.

6/19/2018: EP 7 – Rob Pegoraro/Yahoo Finance/USA Today, Inside the Media Minds

I sat down for this interview with W2 Communications‘ host Christine Blake a month ago–but since I spent most of the time talking about longer-term stuff like my coverage priorities and my worries about technology, it aged reasonably well.

6/20/2018: How Europe’s proposed copyright laws could ruin your search engines, Yahoo Finance

It’s now been over five and a half years since I first wrote about the inane idea of letting newspapers charge search engines for the privilege of indexing their content, and I’ve been covering Hollywood’s demands that the tech industry nerd harder and create some magic solution to copyright infringement since at least 2002. That the European Union is seriously considering copyright-law revisions that would add a link tax and upload filtering suggests that no tech-policy idea is too dumb not to be exhumed and put forth as a sober-minded solution.

6/21/2018: Meet WeChat, the app that’s ‘everything’ in China, The Parallax

I wrote a lengthy explainer about WeChat, the do-it-all social-media platform that largely defines the mobile Internet for Chinese users–Facebook Messenger could only dream of folding in so many functions. Then again, Facebook Messenger offers end-to-end encryption while WeChat offers no such thing.

6/21/2018: 5G and the Internet of Things: How much? How fast? How soon?, CE Week

I led a panel discussion at the CE Week conference with Owl CEO Andrew Hodge, I Luv Wireless managing member Michael Dean, and SureCall sales vice president Frankie Smith. The takeaway: forget latency and bandwidth, better battery life will be the real reward of 5G in connected devices.

6/22/2018: Facebook’s push to kill bad political ads is also hiding regular posts, Yahoo Finance

Facebook now requires ads that address political issues to meet a higher standard of transparency—but in practice, its system has been classifying ads promoting news stories and even everyday commercial offerings as political.

Weekly output: Last Gadget Standing, macOS High Sierra, pro tablets, LTE speeds worldwide, Trump-administration IT modernization, CES Asia

Each of the last few years has featured a month with an insane travel schedule. I’m in the middle of one right now: Last week saw me depart for Shanghai Monday morning and return home Friday night, and tomorrow evening I fly to Paris. I have my reasons–covering CES Asia (here’s my Flickr album) and helping emcee a gadget competition there last week, then moderating three panels at Viva Technology Paris this week–but I am feeling a little woozy already.

6/7/2017: Last Gadget Standing, Living in Digital Times

I helped judge and emcee this gadget competition, put on by the same people who did the Mobile Apps Showdown competition at CES. The winning entry was a compact, lightweight augmented-reality visor.

6/7/2017: The big issues we want Apple to address in macOS High Sierra, Yahoo Finance

I started writing this reaction to Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference on the long flight from San Francisco to Shanghai (you can imagine my delight at having my upgrade clear), then finished it in my hotel room.

6/7/2017: Can an iPad Pro or Surface Pro 4 Tablet Replace Your Laptop?, The Wirecutter

I updated this guide to pro tablets with a review of Samsung’s Android-based Galaxy Tab S3.

6/8/2017: America has slower LTE wireless than Canada or Mexico, Yahoo Finance

I should have also written this on the same schedule as the WWDC post, but I severely underestimated how the 12-hour time-zone gap would bog down the usual editorial back-and-forth.

6/8/2017: IT Modernization Under Trump: Clear Goals, but Funding Worries Linger, FedTech Magazine

I departed from my usual consumer focus to write this post about how federal IT managers are approaching the Trump administration’s ambitions to modernize government computing.

6/11/2017: CES Asia shows where consumer tech is heading in one of its dominant markets, Yahoo Finance

This post has some light moments, but the overall point is not: China’s customers won’t wait for foreign companies to show up to meet their needs. That’s already leading to some interesting dynamics in markets like smart homes in which the usual U.S. tech giants mostly stand offstage.

Updated 6/17 to remove a mention of a Washingtonian story that only featured a photo of me. Who was I kidding to link to something that doesn’t feature any actual input from me? Updated again 6/27 to add the Wirecutter update that I completely missed. I’m blaming all this catchup work on jet lag. 

WeChat, but I can’t

SHANGHAI–It wasn’t until shortly before I left for CES Asia that I realized showing up here without a WeChat account would mark me as some kind of hick. I’m now about to head home, still bereft of a WeChat account. But I tried!

WeChat, for those as uninitiated as I once was, is the service AOL Instant Messenger became in an alternate universe. Tencent’s messaging app not only connects almost one billion users in real time, it functions as a wallet, a business card, a news feed and a great many other things.

So I downloaded the Android app, plugged in my Google Voice number–as the work number on my business card, it’s what I ordinarily use without a problem on phone-linked messaging systems.

But what worked in WhatsApp and Signal did not in WeChat. After creating an account and entering the security code texted to my number, I got this error message:

“This WeChat account has been confirmed of suspicious registration in batch or using plugins and is blocked. Continue to use this account by tapping OK and applying for an account unblock.”

Whoops. I tapped through to a “Self-service unblock allowed” screen, tapped its  “Read and accept” button. That presented me with CAPTCHA prove-you’re-not-a-robot interface that had me tap the letters in one graphic that matched those in another.

But after going through that, I still couldn’t log in. Instead, the app told me to get another WeChat user to verify my existence on their phone. I’ve now tried that a few times with both U.S.-based and local users, and after each try the app has offered a vague error message about the other person not being eligible to vouch for me.

After some further research, I think the problem is my using a Google Voice number. That possibility goes unmentioned in WeChat’s English-language online help, but a Quora post reports that Tencent quashed that option years ago.

And thinking about it, it does make sense: I can’t imagine that the Chinese government would look fondly on any communications service that allows people to use a number likely to be untethered from a billable address.

When I get back to the States, I will see if I can’t get WeChat to work with some kind of a burner number still attached to a real account–maybe from a loaner phone. Otherwise, I guess I’ll have to set up WeChat with my “real” phone number. I can’t stay illiterate in this service forever, right?