Weekly output: Starlink beta testers, Wikipedia code of conduct, Verizon’s 5G play at the Super Bowl

A year ago today, I was in New York to moderate a panel at what turned out to be my last out-of-town conference. I miss leading discussions with people in the same room instead of on the same screen. And I miss NYC–especially now that I could get off the train and exit into Moynihan Train Hall instead of Penn Station’s subterranean squalor.

Screenshot of the story as seen in Safari on an iPad2/1/2021: What Starlink beta testers really think about Elon Musk’s satellite internet, Fast Company

Reddit once again proved to be a good place to find early adopters of a new broadband technology, although I also found one Starlink beta tester on NASASpaceFlight.com’s forums.

2/3/2021: Wikipedia’s New Code Of Conduct Gets One Thing Right; Another Will Be A Struggle, Forbes

This post gave me an excuse to reconnect with two experts on social-media behavior I hadn’t talked to in way too long, Alex Howard and Caroline Sinders.

2/6/2021: Verizon Is Talking A Big Game About 5G At The Super Bowl, Forbes

Out of all of the overhyped use cases for 5G, crowded sports stadiums would actually let the extra capacity of millimeter-wave 5G shine. But with in-person attendance at Raymond James Stadium capped at a third of the venue’s capacity, Verizon is left with an empty demo.

Weekly output: Facebook privacy, social media vs. disinformation, mobile-app privacy, data breaches

The Facebook-privacy news cycle doesn’t seem to be letting up, with every other day bringing some ugly new revelation about the social network’s stewardship of our data. I feel like I’m getting the tiniest taste of life as a White House correspondent these days.

4/2/2018: How Facebook should fix its privacy problem, Yahoo Finance

My key suggestions: collect less data, don’t try so hard to maximize engagement, and give U.S. users the same privacy controls that European users will get in May as required by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t commit to extending GDPR controls to the U.S.; on Wednesday, he said he would do just that.

4/2/2018: How Facebook should fight fake news, Yahoo Finance

Headline notwithstanding, this column is as much about Twitter as it is about Facebook–and a lot of it covers how large social networks like those two can’t necessarily adopt the strategies that have helped Wikipedia deter disinformation.

4/3/2018: After you delete old Facebook apps, take a hard look at Uber and Snapchat settings, USA Today

I would have written this piece faster if I hadn’t had the chance to see how the Samsung-ified Settings app on a Galaxy S7 buried a crucial app-permissions interface. Then I spent more journalistic processor cycles rewriting an explanation of how old versions of Facebook’s Android apps collected call and SMS logs.

4/4/2018: We need a federal law protecting consumers from data leaks, Yahoo Finance

This column inspired by Panera Bread’s data breach started in my head with the tweet I used to promote it. Reporting it involved an intersection of my college and professional lives: Stephanie Martz, the National Retail Federation lawyer I interviewed, is a fellow Georgetown Voice alum who graduated two years before me.

Weekly output: niche online video, biometric boarding passes, EC vs. Google, Petya, Canada vs. Google, Nexus bootloop, Google diet

I made up for a few slow weeks at Yahoo with this week’s surplus of stories. That represents a lesson learned from last year, when I let some slow months of writing slide on the idea that I could compensate for that shortfall later on.

6/26/2017: Surveying the Field, FierceTelecom

I contributed to another Fierce bundle of stories with this article (e-mail signup required) at how some niche online-video sites try to market themselves to subscribers. Bonus of talking to one of them, Silver Spring-based CuriosityStream: reconnecting with a producer I worked with at ABC News Now in the previous decade, back when that now-vanished network regularly had me as a guest on its tech show “Ahead of the Curve.” Anybody remember watching that?

6/26/2017: Your fingerprints could replace your airline boarding pass, Yahoo Finance

I headed over to National Airport to see how Delta is using Clear’s biometric system to let passengers enter its SkyClub without showing a boarding pass or ID. I can confirm that it worked, and that the Thai chicken soup at that lounge was delicious. NBC Washington’s Adam Tuss also checked out this demo; you can see my face briefly in his report.

6/27/2017: Even a $2.7 billion fine can’t hurt Google, Yahoo Finance

The European Commission’s record-setting fine of Google doesn’t seem to match the actual offense–a search engine, perish the thought, selling ads against user queries. Not that Google’s influence over the industry isn’t troubling…

6/28/2017: Petya attack, Al Jazeera

I had a longer-than-usual spot talking from a windowless, almost airless studio about this new malware outbreak. This was my first appearance on AJ’s Arabic channel since Qatar’s neighbors demanded that the country shut down the news network, a novel sort of business risk for me.

6/29/2017: A ruling against Google in Canada could affect free speech around the world, Yahoo Finance

Another day, another ruling against Google. In this case, Canada’s Supreme Court ordered Google to stop pointing anybody in the world to the site of what looks like a thoroughly sleazy Canadian firm. That is not a good precedent.

7/1/2017: My Android phone crashed and it won’t finish booting up, USA Today

I turned my now-resolved smartphone snafu (yes, Google did fully refund my Nexus 5X purchase as promised) into a column.

7/1/2017: How you can cut Google out of your life … mostly, Yahoo Finance

I’ve had this “how to go on a Google diet” idea in mind for a while, and the EC fine of Google gave me a reason to start writing. I don’t expect this post will get anybody to stop using Google–I certainly won’t–but if even a small fraction of users start to spend some time at alternate search services, I will have done my part for media literacy.

Weekly output: AT&T throttling, car audio, Wikipedia, typewriters, 3G dead zones

The two themes of this week: mobile phones and obsolete technology.

2/6/2012: ‘Unlimited’ data has limits at AT&T, USA Today

This column started with a chance conversation after a local tech event in which a friend mentioned the weird “top 5 percent” warning AT&T had sent him–quickly confirmed in a reply from another friend and a blog post by a third. (The balance of the column suggests changing short, cryptic passwords to longer but easier-to-remember pass phrases, expanding on something discussed in a post for Discovery last week.) After it ran, I heard from so many readers who had not just gotten this warning but had also seen their connections cranked down to only 100 Kbps or so that I did a follow-up post here relating their testimony.

2/7/2012: Car Audio: Some Dashed Hopes On Dashboards, CEA Digital Dialogue

I spent a pleasant couple of afternoons at the Washington Auto Show parking myself in the driver’s seats of cars on display–so I could then inspect the stereo system in each vehicle. And just as in last year’s survey, I was disappointed by the results. Manufacturers still include abandoned standards (memo to Acura and Cadillac, DVD-Audio is dead) while neglecting current ones (I saw Audi, Nissan, Mazda and VW leave out USB ports in some cars, but that was nothing compared to the Infiniti missing a simple line-in auxiliary input).

Speaking of DVD-Audio: After writing this story, I was amused to discover that our Blu-ray player supports DVD-A’s barely-more-successful rival Super Audio CD. If only I hadn’t given away the SACD edition of Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue” I got from some PR shop years ago!

2/8/2012: Wikipedia Entries: How To Tell How True They Are, Discovery News

After the latest episode of a politician’s staffers favorably editing Wikipedia entries, it was time to revisit past advice on reading the open-source encyclopedia wisely. In the piece, I use Wikipedia’s entry on Discovery Communications as an example of how to judge an article’s reliability from its edit history, talk page and the user pages of its editors. Also: Note the examples of unreliable Wikipedia coverage cited in a comment on my post and another on Google+.

2/9/2012: Ode To Manual Typewriters, DIY-IT

After the first 30 or so e-mails reminiscing about manual typewriters on the Internet Press Guild mailing list, IPG member and ZDNet writer David Gewirtz decided to put together these stories in a post. Most of this testimony looks to the distant past, but Phil Shapiro tells a great story about taking a typewriter to the Takoma Park, Md., library last year to let kids play with it: “It’s key that they know what prior technology looked like and felt like — so they can better appreciate how far we’ve come in the past 50 years.”

2/10/2012: Map Shows 3G Dead Zones, Discovery News

Writing that Wikipedia post must have put me in an academic frame of mind, since my next item for Discovery discussed online cartography: the FCC’s interactive map showing what parts of the U.S. lack any 3G coverage. Lining up this map and the (generally uglier) coverage maps provided by the four major carriers for that screenshot at left was kind of a pain. One observation I had in mind after that exercise but then neglected to put into the post: The FCC’s map would be easier to read if it included Interstate highways.