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.

My debut on one of my favorite tech-advice sites, the Wirecutter, is a guide to wireless service in the U.S. We rank the four nationwide services, then offer guidance about how to make the most and spend the least at each. It was a lot of work, and that work isn’t over yet—like other Wirecutter guides, we’ll update this one as plans and prices change. Anybody want to guess how soon we’ll need to post the first update?

It had obviously been too many months since I’d waded into the net-neutrality argument, so this week’s Yahoo Tech column addresses a new wrinkle called zero rating—whether either a site pays a wireless carrier to have itself exempted from the data cap, or the carrier decides to do that on its own for its own reasons. I find myself unable to freak out over this, mainly because we have genuine competition in the wireless space and because the existing experiments in zero rating in the U.S. market haven’t drawn too much interest. Will I regret that stance in a year or two?

I’ve made more than a few visits to startup incubators and cowering spaces over the past few years, but until now I hadn’t written specifically about that category of real estate. This post for the Urban Land Institute’s site takes a look at three spaces in Manhattan that promise the seemingly impossible to qualifying startups: free or cheap space in a convention location.

Weekly output: Facebook and Twitter transparency (x2),

This week was looking super-productive until I had two fillings replaced during Wednesday’s visit to the dentist—and then the anesthetic and what looks like an adverse reaction to it had me out of commission for most of the rest of the day.

At usatoday, I wade into the weeds of open and closed standards and corporate priority to explain how a series of decisions at Microsoft and Google have left Outlook users unable to synchronize their calendars with Google Calendar, Fortunately, third-party software can reconnect the two; the column suggests taking a look at CompanionLink and gSyncit, but would you suggest another?

Call me crazy, but I’m warming to the smartwatch concept

From the thumbs-down I handed out to a Microsoft “SPOT Watch” in 2004 to last year’s “try again” dismissal of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, I have not looked too favorably on the idea of wearing a smartwatch with a data stream of its own.

Android Wear watchBut now that I’m wearing yet another one of these devices, the Samsung Gear Liveloaned to me at Google I/O, I find myself thinking of reasons why I’ll miss this thing…

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At Gannett’s NowU (sorry, subscription required), I’ve got a primer on cutting the pay-TV cord by using an antenna, an app or both to get your programming. There’s also a companion piece about what to look for if you’re shopping for a new TV set (hint; 4K or OLED ain’t it). 

Seeing all the angst over the relative visibility (or lack thereof) of updates on Facebook about the situation in Ferguson got me thinking about how Facebook could be more transparent with its users—and how Twitter has its own work to do in that department. Result: today’s column on Yahoo Tech, plus an accompanying sidebar reminding readers of how to disable some forms of algorithmic filtering on those two social networks.

Weekly output: changing passwords, Tech Night Owl, Gmail security

Most weeks, I get this recap written and posted sooner, but instead I’m doing it as Sunday draws to a close and I have another story yet to write.

tl:dr answer: no. Read the rest of this week’s usatoday column to see how you can check who’s been in your Gmail (and, Yahoo and Facebook) account.