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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For nowhere near the first time, I express my unhappiness about the locked-down state of the cable-TV-hardware market. The cable industry says it’s now more open than ever even as it works to weaken a key regulatory protection—a requirement that it use the same CableCard technology employed by third-party hardware like TiVo DVRs in its own boxes. And although its arguments, when heard individually, have some logic to them, I can’t ignore its sorry history here. In fewer words: Sorry cable; it’s not you, it’s me. Am I being too hard on those guys?

Weekly output: tax prep, Google Glass, Heartbleed, Nearby Friends, online banking

This was a multiple-microphone week, and two of my three broadcast appearances involved shows that hadn’t booked me as a guest before. That’s good.

In other news: Happy Easter!

4/15/2014: The Strange and Successful Campaign to Make Taxes More Taxing, Yahoo Tech

A lot of material had to get left out of this already-long column denouncing the crony-capitalism campaign by Intuit and such Washington…

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If you’re uneasy about your everyday PC’s security, should you do your online banking elsewhere? Today’s USA Today column suggests a few alternatives—but, really, you should not accept getting hacked as an inevitable consequence of using Windows or OS X. And I hope this piece also enlightens a reader or two about how to strengthen those two operating systems.

What’s your usual routine for Web financial transactions?

Tax-time thoughts: now with slightly less incompetent accounting!

I have survived, I think, another tax season as a self-employed individual, and I’m increasingly convinced that if I keep doing this I will someday know what I’m doing.

Misc. incomeOnce again, my worst enemy was my inattentive and sloppy accounting. I was still forgetting to tag some expenses as business transactions in Mintuntil last spring, and It took me until mid-September to lock in the habit of…

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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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