Weekly output: YouTube meets COPPA, LTE and 5G hotspots

I was supposed to be spending today bouncing from one MWC press event to another, but the cancelation of that conference left me at home with an empty schedule. That also meant I could see firsthand the worst thing you can spot in the paper: a death notice for an old friend. My Georgetown classmate and Georgetown Voice colleague Claudine Weber-Hof died last month in Germany, but the sad news somehow took longer to make its way to Washington.

The Munich-based magazine where she worked put together a lovely remembrance, and I want you to read that. That story doesn’t explain what happened, but a public Facebook post by one of Claudine’s friends that I found later this afternoon mourns her “lost battle against anxiety and depression.” Which would mean that for the second time in less than three years, depression has taken somebody I know. It’s too much.

2/19/2020: Will YouTube’s New Privacy Rules Actually Protect Children?, Glimmer

I helped inaugurate this new online publication from Glitch, the Web-app-development firm formerly known as Fog Creek Software. As the date stamp on this suggests, the site was supposed to launch earlier but ran into some late snafus that I’d just as soon not know about. So everybody had to wait another week and change to read my look at the controversy YouTube has made for itself by subjecting creators of content that kids might like to an unusually harsh regime.

2/19/2020: The Best Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wirecutter

Speaking of long-awaited updates, this revision to Wirecutter’s guide to WiFi hotspots brings two new recommendations and my emphatic advice to ignore 5G for now. Especially Verizon’s millimeter-wave 5G, which offers amazingly fast speeds almost nowhere–speeds that the company’s first 5G hotspot can’t share over WiFi with nearby devices.

The boring art of testing hotspot bandwidth and battery life

I’m nearing the finish line (I hope) of an overdue update to the Wirecutter guide to WiFi hotspots. The research for that had me repeatedly subjecting an array of loaner hotspots from all four nationwide wireless carriers to tests of the two core metrics of bandwidth and battery life.

It hasn’t exactly been my most exciting work.

For bandwidth testing, I’ve continued to rely on Ookla’s Speedtest.net Web, Android and iOS apps to clock the download speeds, upload speeds and ping times each hotspot has served up. This is pretty much an industry-standard benchmark, and these apps are simple enough to run.

But getting data out of them is another thing:

  • The iOS app creates a .csv file you can open in any spreadsheet app that includes every relevant bit of data–date and time, GPS-derived location, WiFi network name, download/upload/ping measurements, shareable public link–and attaches it to an e-mail message.
  • The Android app also generates a .csv file–except that choosing to have it saved to your Google Drive leaves you with a .eml mail-attachment file. You have to e-mail it to yourself to get a usable .csv, at which point you discover that this export doesn’t include the name of the wireless network.
  • The Web app’s “Export” button yields a third type of .csv file, one without a record of the WiFi network name, your location, or a shareable link.
  • No, the option to create a Speedtest account won’t help–because you can’t log into that from the mobile apps.

Ookla is owned by PCMag publisher Ziff Davis, but that has yet to result in any corporate pressure to make exporting measurements less janky for the hardworking journalists at that and other Ziff tech media properties.

Testing hotspot battery life only requires recording the times you started and ended each trial. But because these things often run for 12 hours or more, it’s not realistic to tether a laptop to a hotspot and keep working nonstop until the hotspot battery expires and the connection drops.

To ensure my laptop would be keeping each hotspot working full time, I opened a page to NASA’s live YouTube channel. Beyond running up the social-media metrics for one of my favorite four-letter government agencies, keeping the browser on a single live channel avoids the risk of YouTube’s recommendations sending me off to some nutcase conspiracy hub.

Because I’m not always that smart, I didn’t think to check my laptop’s ability to log a wireless connection going offline until after I’d spent an hour and change watching one hotspot linger at 1% of a charge.

As a helpful StackExchange thread pointed out, that logged data awaits inside Windows. Type “Event Viewer” in the taskbar search, open that app, select “Applications and Services Logs” in the left-hand pane, double-click the center pane’s “Microsoft,” “Windows,” “UniversalTelemetryClient,” and “Operational” entries in succession, then select “Filter Current Log…” in the right-hand pane. Type “55” in the resulting dialog’s Event ID field, hit “OK” and you’ll see a series of entries.

Assuming you check this right after seeing that the laptop went offline, opening the most recent should reveal a properties field consisting of “Is the Internet available: false,” with the time corresponding to when the hotspot died.

Since I don’t have a Mac laptop, I’m not sure how you’d do this on one. A different StackExchange thread suggests a Terminal command, but that doesn’t work on my iMac–maybe because this aging desktop isn’t running the latest macOS edition. It would be ironic if you have to hit the command line on a Mac to perform a task that Windows lets you accomplish inside a graphical user interface–but the Windows Event Viewer app is mighty ugly itself, and neither operating system covers itself in glory in this aspect.

Weekly output: Xumo, AT&T TV, Roku Kids & Family, Disney+, Apple TV+, wireless video throttling

I spent the first two mornings of this week wearing a single client’s hat, thanks to my trade-pub outlet FierceVideo asking if I could cover breaking news for them Monday and Tuesday of this week. I was a little worried that I might get swamped, but I soon realized that I still enjoy the uncomplicated craft of quickly writing 400-word pieces in inverted-pyramid structure.

But this exercise also exposed the shallowness of my “analysts who can deliver value judgments quickly” list–as in, all the people quoted in these pieces are men.

If you signed up for my Patreon page, you would have seen one other item from me this week: a post I wrote Saturday about the kind of freelance rates I make and the kind I’d like to make.

8/19/2019: Xumo comes to Comcast’s X1 as well as Android TV, FierceVideo

Xumo, if you weren’t familiar with the name, is a free-with-ads streaming-video service with a channel lineup that features a striking number of established media brands.

8/19/2019: AT&T launches AT&T TV streaming service in 10 markets, FierceVideo

AT&T’s latest streaming-video service–there have been quite a few in the last few years–does not look likely to stop that telecom giant from bleeding TV subscribers.

8/19/2019: Roku launches ‘Kids & Family’ section on Roku Channel, FierceVideo

Roku announcing a human-curated video-for-kids section sure looked like an answer of sorts to YouTube’s unreliable algorithms, but after publication their publicist asked that we clarify the story to indicate that they did not mean to diss Google’s video service in particular.

8/20/2019: Disney+ poised to launch absent Amazon Fire support, FierceVideo

The absence of an announced Disney+ app for Amazon’s Fire TV platform seems odd, but history suggests both Disney and Amazon will find some compromise that lets each company make a little more money.

8/20/2019: Apple TV likely to debut at $9.99 a month in November, FierceVideo

TV-industry analyst Alan Wolk made an excellent point to me in this piece: The Apple that knew it had to ship the iPad nano would have figured out that it needs a cheap streaming-media stick to compete in the online-TV business.

8/20/2019: Wireless video throttling pervasive but pointless, FierceVideo

I wrote up a new study that found that the big four U.S. wireless carriers all curtail the resolution of streaming video–but they don’t throttle all such sites equally, nor do they necessarily need to do that to ensure a quality connection.

Weekly output: tech ecosystems, patent trolling, LTE hotspots, YouTube ad-friendly rules, e-mail name games

Having Monday off–or as “off” as is possible for a self-employed, work-from-home type–is pretty exciting given my schedule for the first half of June. Spoiler alert: It involves a lot of time on airplanes.

5/22/2017: Why you shouldn’t be loyal to just one tech giant, Yahoo Finance

This reaction to Google I/O expands on an argument I’ve been making on and off for the past several years–that you’re better off spreading your business around multiple tech companies. Case in point: my decision to host this blog at WordPress.com instead of Google’s Blogger.

5/23/2017: A widely praised Supreme Court decision still doesn’t fix the broken patent system, Yahoo Finance

For once, I could write a non-despondent post about patent trolling, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that should make it harder for patent litigants to drag random companies into the Eastern District of Texas.

5/25/2017: Best Wi-Fi Hotspot, The Wirecutter

This guide went much longer than usual between updates, and then I wound up recommending the same Verizon hotspot I’d endorsed last January. But the standalone and add-on service pricing at Verizon and runner-up AT&T had changed greatly over that time, and I also took advantage of this update to test a few hotspots set up for international roaming.

5/28/2017: YouTube thought a giant American flag wasn’t ‘advertiser friendly’, Yahoo Finance

This story landed in my lap Thursday evening, when a longtime reader tweeted that YouTube had declared his upload of a gigantic American flag being unfurled at FedEx Field on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to be ad-unworthy. How could I not write about that for the Memorial Day weekend?

5/28/2017: How to hang onto your email if you change your name, USA Today

My editor mentioned that she’d gotten this question from a co-worker… and I had to admit that I’d never had to deal with or think much about this issue, since guys almost always keep their last names through marriage. That’s the patriarchy for you, I guess.

Weekly output: Android app permissions, Google Photos and lifetime service, Rovi’s vanishing TV guide

After last week’s travel and travel-induced delays, I enjoyed going no further for work than Capitol Hill.

Yahoo Tech Android M permissions post6/1/2015: Six Things to Know About Android’s Apple-esque App Permissions, Yahoo Tech

I could have written this post right after the Google I/O session that provided me with these details, but that Friday-afternoon talk didn’t wrap up until after 6 p.m. Eastern–and the delay allowed me to inspect the new permissions interface in a developer-prevue build of Android M on a loaner Nexus 9 tablet I picked up at I/O.

6/2/2015: Will Google Really Store All Your Photos Forever?, Yahoo Tech

Instead of trying to do a full review of this service based on only a day or two of playing around with it, I opted to use my Yahoo Tech column to unpack the long-term deal Google is offering with its new Photos service. One thing I didn’t mention in the column: I have near-zero hope of using any online service to back up all of my pictures, because I have about 20 years’ worth that exist only as negatives or prints, and I have nowhere near enough time to scan all of those.

6/7/2015: How software, service shifts disconnect smart TVs, USA Today

Not for the first time, my 2009 HDTV served as review hardware for a story. This time around, it involved the unexpected and unexplained shutdown of Rovi’s onscreen TV guide on some older Sony sets.

Weekly output: Turkey and Twitter, activity trackers, MVNOs

 

This week provided a rare excuse, however tangential, to apply some of my Georgetown book learning on things like international relations and European history.

Yahoo Turkey Twitter column41/2014: Turkey Blocks Twitter. Could It Happen Here? It’s Come Close Already., Yahoo Tech

I’d been wondering how I could cover the strange campaign by Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against Twitter and social media in general, and then I realized how many of their actions matched up with things that have been done or advocated in the U.S. (Fortunately, Erdoğan complied with an unfavorable court ruling and ended the block on Thursday.)

4/1/2014: Activity trackers, WTOP

The news station had me on to talk about the utility of activity-tracking wristbands, pods and apps. I had a brief deer-in-the-ON-AIR-lights moment when I realized I was about to mix up the names of a few phone apps… but you can’t hear it since WTOP’s site seems to have stopped archiving each day’s broadcasts on an “ICYMI” page. Hence there’s also no link.

4/6/2014: How wireless service resellers stack up, USA Today

A query from a friend became the kick in the rear I needed to conduct an overdue evaluation of the pros and cons of some major wireless resellers: Consumer Cellular, Credo Mobile, Net10, Republic Wireless, Straight Talk and TracFone.

 

Weekly output: data breaches, triple-play bills

I hear there’s some sort of football game scheduled for this evening that many Americans will watch to the exclusion of other things, so I’d better post this while it still has a potential audience.

Yahoo Tech data-breach politics1/27/2014: Weak Data-Breach Laws Leave Us All In A Compromised Position, Yahoo Tech

This critique of Congressional inaction and ill-thought action on data-breach issues wound up running on Data Privacy Day, basically due to dumb luck. In another bit of unintentional timing, three days later Yahoo reported a breach of some Yahoo Mail credentials from “a third-party database compromise.”

2/2/2014: Q&A: How can I lower my cable, Internet, phone bills?, USA Today

To judge from the number of times this post has been shared on Facebook and Twitter–not to mention the 43 comments it’s racked up as of this writing–I should cover telecom costs every week.

On Sulia, I decried a ridiculous argument against cities launching their own municipally-owned broadband networks, shared a recipe for looking up service costs at telecom sites that insist you cough up a street address before they’ll display a price, shared my first impressions of Cove’s low-cost co-working space in Logan Circle, denounced the way Patch sacked most of its underpaid and overworked local-news journalists while leaving its sites up as if nothing had happened, and wondered when enough phone thieves will realize that iOS 7’s Activation Lock reduces the resale value of stolen iPhones to zero.