Prose Hacking

Reporting, writing and analysis about consumer-tech issues by Rob Pegoraro. Because I like to play with the English language, not just random gadgets.
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In today’s Yahoo Tech column, I return my attention to something I haven’t ranted written about since 2011: The unnecessary complexity involved in filing on your taxes. For those of us with investment income and itemized deductions, much of the blame falls on our elected representatives who salted the tax code with all these special provisions (so ultimately it’s our own damn fault), but people with simpler returns still have to go through third parties to file online because… well, because freedom. Or so Intuit and such Washington-based opponents of direct and “return-free” filing would suggest. 

To me, this “Free File” lobbying campaign looks an awful lot like well-optimized crony capitalism. And you?

Weekly output: Windows XP (x2), Google Docs

It really is extraordinary (or maybe just sick) that this past week saw me still writing about an operating system that debuted in 2001.

Ever wonder why the “cut,” “copy” and “paste” menu items in Google Docs don’t work in Safari or Firefox? I have, and in this weekend’s USA Today Q&A I try to explain how the intersection of Web apps that look and work like local apps and browser security models that don’t give Web apps as much access as local apps can lead to nonsensical situations like this one.

Heartbleed and bleeding-heart open-source advocacy

For at least the last decade, I’ve been telling readers that open-source development matters and helps make better software. If everybody can read the code of an application or an operating system, there can’t be any hidden backdoors; if anybody can rewrite that code to fix vulnerabilities and add features, the software’s progress can’t be thwarted by any one company’s distraction, fraud or…

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At Yahoo Tech, I take one last opportunity to kick Windows XP on its way out the door. No hate mail from XP dead-enders yet, but I’m sure it’s coming. Question is, how much?

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…

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This week’s USA Today Q&A covers the ups and downs of six wireless resellers (in telecom-speak, “MVNOs”) that ranked highly in consumer surveys from PCMag.com and Consumer Reports: Consumer Cellular, Credo Mobile, Net10, Straight Talk, TracFone and Republic Wireless. I concluded that while they offer some real savings, they also require tradeoffs—for instance, none allow tethering. So I don’t feel bad about having a regular plan at T-Mobile. Should I?

Reader suggestions for fixing an iMessage mess

Sunday’s USA Today Q&A about getting one’s mobile number untangled from Apple’s iMessage service looks to be one of the most-read columns I’ve done there. It’s also drawn more than the usual amount of reader feedback–including two reports of remedies that I had not discovered during the week or so I spent digging into this issue.

iPhone Messages settingsOne came from an AT&T subscriber in Minnesota:

A few days before…

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I’ve spent a few weeks reading the increasingly strange and alarming reports about what Turkey’s doing to screw with its citizen’s access to the Internet—while also noting how those actions haven’t been that different from things that have gone on, or have been proposed, in my own countries. Today’s Yahoo Tech column tries to tie those threads together. Your call: thought-provoking, or just scaremongering?

Weekly output: Sprint-T-Mobile, Tech Night Owl, iMessage

I was a lot more productive than usual this week (much of that activity went into a project that’s not ready to post yet), even though I lost all of Monday to travel.