Weekly output: free MLS Season Pass via T-Mobile, Twitter snuffs out transparency reports, MWC preview, spam calls, Android data-safety labels, fake reviews, mobile edge computing

BARCELONA–Ten years after my first trip here for the telecom trade show then called Mobile World Congress, I’ve learned a lot about the event, the wireless industry and this lovely city. Alas, I cannot say as much about dealing with jet lag.

2/21/2023: Here’s How to Get a Free MLS Season Pass From T-Mobile, PCMag

I wrote up a quick explainer of this process after stepping through it on my own phone.

Story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini; lead art is a color-shifted image of Elon Musk2/22/2023: Twitter’s transparency reporting has tanked under Elon Musk, Fast Company

I can’t take credit for noticing that Twitter had not posted a transparency report since last July–the Washington Post’s Cristiano Lima brought that to my attention a few weeks ago–but I did get some justifiably-angry quotes from digital-rights experts about this latest casualty of Elon Musk’s chaotic reign. A few days later, Rolling Stone picked up on this subject and got some good quotes from former Twitter staffers.

2/22/2023: Episode 8 – Previewing MWC 2023, Liberty On the Line

I joined this Liberty Comms podcast–hosted by Liberty CEO Elena Davidson, with the other guests being telco analyst Charlotte Patrick and Telecoms.com editor Scott Bicheno–to talk about what I’m expecting from the event and share some MWC tips. Of course, my advice started with taking the metro.

2/23/2023: If You Think Phone Spam Is Bad in the US, Try Picking Up in Argentina, PCMag

I wrote up a study of spam calls–which can include both unwanted calls from legitimate businesses and outright fraud–among dozens of countries that found that U.S. callers actually don’t have things too bad.

2/23/2023: Don’t Trust the ‘Data Safety’ Labels on These Android Apps, PCMag

I got an advance on this Mozilla study of how the privacy labels in Google’s Play Store compare to the privacy policies of their developers, then updated the post with a comment from Google. Big surprise, Google was not happy with it. I imagine the company was even less happy with Gizmodo’s more scathing coverage of this study.

2/24/2023: Fake Online Reviews, CQ Researcher

My former Washington Post business-section colleague Kathleen Day quizzed me for this piece and quoted me once in it.

2/26/2023: The Interoperable Mobile Edge: New monetization opportunities for operators and enterprises via the Telco Edge Cloud, MEF Global Forum

I took part in a brief discussion at the Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s afternoon event with Summit Tech chief sales and marketing officer Doug Makishima, STL Partners principal consultant and edge practice lead Tilly Gilbert, and Bridge Alliance senior vice president Ken Wee about mobile edge computing–think cloud computing, except fast 5G connections let telecom firms push the remote processing much closer to the customer or device in question. As a student of digital privacy, I said I was most interested in “MEC” because of how it can allow personal data to be processed and then deleted much closer to its source than traditional cloud architectures often permit.


Weekly output: Verizon WiFi testing, cord cutting, Sprint + T-Mobile, Sprint unlimited plans

Not that the weather around here ever takes me up on any suggestions, but it sure would be nice to have a little rain every other day instead of having a few weeks of drought followed by a week of almost nonstop downpours.

7/17/2018: Inside Verizon’s unique approach to Wi-Fi testing, FierceWireless

I had a field trip two weeks ago to Ashburn to check out some of the testing facilities Verizon has set up there. Verizon PR offered to have an Uber fetch me from home, but instead of subjecting a driver and myself to morning I-66 traffic, I asked if they could move that pickup to the current end of the Silver Line–which let me get some work done on the train and then gawk at Silver Line Phase II construction on my way to Loudoun County.

7/18/2018: Cord-cutting will cost cable companies $5.5B this year: Survey, Yahoo Finance

I wrote up a new survey of cord cutting from the NYC-based management consultancy cg42. Some of the numbers in this survey looked a little out there, and quizzing cg42’s managing partner Stephen Beck revealed some reasons why.

7/19/2018: Why the Sprint and T-Mobile merger could be good for you, Yahoo Finance

My default attitude towards giant telecom mergers remains skepticism. But when two different studies of wireless network performance suggested that a combination of Sprint and T-Mobile would yield significantly better results than a simple addition of their coverage maps would suggest, I had to put that in the story–while noting that the effects of such a combination on pricing are another issue.

7/22/2018: How to tell if Sprint’s new unlimited data plans are worth the upgrade, USA Today

Speaking of wireless, yet another reshuffling of plans at Sprint led to this piece advising readers how to compare that carrier’s two new unlimited-data (read: unlimited on-phone data) plans. The column also takes yet another whack at Apple for shipping a data-usage meter in iOS that doesn’t break down bandwidth consumption by month.

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.

Blacked out and plugged in

When did our first move after a power outage switch from reaching for a flashlight to grabbing a phone to announce on Twitter or Facebook that we’d lost electricity?

I don’t know, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about that this week. As I started writing this post, it had been almost 40 hours and counting since the neighborhood went dark Monday night.

During that stretch–finally ended by the merciful restoration of current late Thursday Wednesday morning–I never lacked for adequate wireless bandwidth. My current surplus of review hardware helped, but even if I’d had only one phone and one laptop I still could have stayed online most of that time. It just doesn’t drain a laptop’s battery much to keep a phone charged, as I’m reminded every time I go to some phone-destroying tech conference.

How did I use that access? I scanned Twitter even more often than usual, realizing that things were a whole lot worse in New York than here. I lingered over some longer stores on the Web on a tablet tethered to a phone (no candlelight needed for this blackout reading, although having one flickering away on the coffee table made for a pleasing steampunk vibe). I got updates about downed trees and power restoration on our neighborhood’s mailing list, while Facebook let me see how friends slightly further away were doing.

I could, in fewer words, realize that we weren’t alone. That’s something.

This didn’t happen by accident. I have to give the wireless carriers an enormous chunk of credit for building out networks sufficiently resilient, and sufficiently backed up by batteries and standby generators, to keep working through these widespread outages. I also need to thank all of the engineers and developers who have spent the last decade finding better ways to put the Internet into a device that fits in your pocket and runs for hours on a charge.

Think about how technology has advanced when, even as your house has gone dark and cold, you can use a miniature computer to view of a photo of the hurricane besieging your city… taken by an astronaut sitting warm and dry on a space station 250 miles above.

10/31, 4:40 p.m.: Cabin fever apparently led me to confuse today with Thursday.

Weekly output: CES, CES and more CES (plus WiFi speed and BlackBerry woes)

What a long, strange week it’s been. CES accounted for the vast amount of my work since last Saturday–not to mention what must have been several thousand words’ worth of tweets–but this list does include one token item that has nothing to do with the electronics show.

1/8/2012: Tip: Simplify your Wi-Fi to speed it up, USA Today

I wrote this after troubleshooting my mom’s router over Thanksgiving–hers was set in Verizon’s default configuration of mixed-mode 802.11b and 802.11g support, and we saw notably better performance downstairs after switching it to “g” only. The rest of the piece rates Research In Motion’s chances: I rated them as dismal but not impossible, which enraged a few BlackBerry readers who took to the comments to say how much they loved their PlayBook tablets.

1/10/2012: Lessons from 15 years of change at CES, CEA Digital Dialogue

At the start of my 15th CES, I devoted this week’s post on their blog to how I’ve seen the show change and what those shifts mean for the electronics industry in general. After I’d filed it, though, I realized that I could have written a more distinctive show-opening column by grading the analysis I’d written of the last two shows. (For one thing, I was too optimistic about Android tablets after CES 2011.) Can you all remind me about that next January?

1/13/2012: Displays Get Bigger, Thinner and More Costly, Discovery News

My state-of-the-show piece for Discovery looked at changes I saw afoot at CES across five categories of screens: TVs, computers, tablets, phones and–oh, yes–watches. It closes with a jab at the single biggest problem in the electronics industry, one that’s always more painful at CES: inadequate battery life in portable gadgets.

1/13/2012: Mediatwits #33: CES Jumped the Shark?; SOPA Battles; Google+ in Search, PBS MediaShift

The hosts of PBS’s Mediatwits program, Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, interviewed me and Techdirt’s Mike Masnick about our takes on CES, the Stop Online Piracy Act and CES attendees’ dislike of it, and the general history of tension between the entertainment and electronics histories. Mike and I are on from about the five-minute mark to 23 minutes in.

1/13/2012: Top Strange And Impractical Tech From CES 2012, Discovery News

The headline on this slide show might be a little unfair; while OLED TV sets may not be anything more than technology for the 1 percent and overinflated phones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note just look ridiculous, I could see myself buying an Ultrabook and am certainly interested in trying cameras that do better at teaming up with phones over WiFi. Plus, isn’t the robot on the last page cute? To iOS and most Android users reading this, who can’t see the Flash presentation of this gallery on Discovery’s site: my apologies.