At CTIA, smaller phone vendors take center stage →
Smaller companies dominated announcements at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas. Two days ago, I was worried that I wouldn’t have any news to write about from the CTIA 2013 show in Vegas. Then one big company put a celebrity on stage, while a lot of smaller ones committed actual news. Here’s my attempt to make sense of it all for USA Today.
Xbox One: So That's Why 'Xbox' Sounds So Vague :... →
Microsoft’s just-announced Xbox One aims to make this don’t-call-it-a-game-console something much more: a general-purpose home entertainment system that even displaces your standard cable or satellite interface. But the task of building hardware that can control every cable and satellite box has already defeated the best efforts of Google and others. Can Microsoft do better?
Q&A: What's the best basic Windows photo program? →
This week’s USAToday.com Q&A returns to a subject I haven’t addressed in a while, photo-album apps. I was not too thrilled to see that the issues I whined about in 2010 persist in the two leading apps for Windows—even as smartphone photo apps have been in a hothouse evolutionary phase. But enough about me. What’s your pick for a Windows photo-album app?
Google’s I/O News: A Reminder Of How Apps Don’t... →
SAN FRANCISCO–The second most-important company at Google’s I/O developer conference wasn’t there: Apple. A wonky post on what Google’s I/O news suggests about its priorities in nurturing the Android app ecosystem—and what a job it has to overcome some lingering advantages of Apple. Will be a minor miracle if the piece doesn’t draw the usual “Android sucks! No, iOS...
Google Probably Knew About This Post Before Me :... →
The short version of Google’s lengthy I/O keynote: Let’s tell the future. So much of the future that Google executives sketched out to open the company’s I/O 2013 developers conference depends on its software correctly sussing out what you want and worry about—and you not minding this man-machine mind-meld. Do you?
Will spam calls ever stop? →
Question. How am I still getting spam calls,? Will they ever stop? Answer. The enactment of the federal Do Not Call list has not put telemarketers out of business… A question on my neighborhood’s mailing list about a new round of clearly illegal spam calls led me to devote this week’s USAToday.com column to the Do Not Call list, how it works and how often people complain about...
Group-Playback Apps Let You Choose Your Own... →
The play button is getting yet another upgrade from the Internet: the ability to function in sync across multiple devices. A few new apps let you use the Internet as speaker wire, playing a song through other people’s devices at the same time that you’re enjoying it on your own phone or computer. Is that legal? It depends!
SideCar Approaches A Regulatory On-Ramp →
Can SideCar get a lift from the District of Columbia, or is it only going to get taken for a ride? A longer post about the regulatory climate the SideCar ride-sharing service faces in Washington, D.C., where the taxi commission says it’s illegal and its CEO says it’s, at worst, “not illegal.”
Why hang on to your unlimited data plan? →
Question. I’ve got an unlimited-broadband wireless plan, one that my carrier doesn’t offer anymore. How can I keep that? This week’s USAToday.com column offers a possibly heretical thought: Do you actually need the unlimited wireless plans that some users struggle to hold on to? (I got the idea for it after hearing from one local tech-policy type explain how he’d just...
Government To Industry: Secure Your Systems, But... →
You can’t blame tech companies if they feel a little confused about Washington’s security priorities this week. At the same time Washington has been pushing private industry to strengthen its online system against hacking attempts, some law-enforcement agencies also want them to ease a particular kind of hacking attempt: government wiretapping. The problem is, it’s rarely only the good guys...
How to keep your computer 'awake' →
Change a few settings in Windows to stop a PC from shutting down unexpectedly. This week’s USA Today Q&A recounts two recent episodes of computer troubleshooting: a relative’s confusion over Windows kicking him back to the password prompt after just a minute of inactivity, and how my adventures yanking the remnants of a registry-speedup app confirmed my distrust of those...
Resolved: Competing Over Pocket-Sized Screen... →
By a year or so ago, the leading smartphone vendors could have jointly hoisted a “Mission Accomplished” banner–by then, they’d all succeeded in shipping displays with as much resolution as humans could hope to discern. Smartphone resolutions have improved enormously since the 120-by-160 pixel display of my first color-screen phone, the Motorola T720—but now that displays are exceeding the...
Feed Me, See More →
My first piece for a new client: The Magazine, an iPad/Kindle/Web publication. Here, I inspect BuzzFeed’s image-appropriating habits and discover that many of the people whose images get reproduced there without their say-so don’t mind all that much. (In other words, the evidence my queries revealed led me someplace I didn’t expect—which is one of the things that makes this...
Samsung's Galaxy S 4 Strives For Sentience →
Samsung’s latest Android phone only acts like it’s reading your mind. In my other review of this Samsung phone, for Discovery News, I took a look at how well its attempted artificial intelligence works in a few key categories: tracking your eyes to let you (try to) control the screen, detecting when you have a finger just above the screen and warping time and space with...
Samsung's Galaxy S 4 is a No-Touch-Touchscreen,... →
Samsung’s new smartphone contains multitudes. The Galaxy S 4’s touchscreen doesn’t need to be touched to respond to your actions. Its software looks less like Android than almost any other phone running Google’s operating system, but the thing ships with a newer version of it, 4.2, than almost all others. And its 5-inch screen outsizes […] I wrote up Samsung’s...
Road Testing the Newest Wave in Taxi Hailing Apps →
I tried out three taxi-summoning apps—Uber Taxi, Taxi Magic and myTaxi—in Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va., for The Atlantic Cities. You can probably guess which one I liked best; my least favorite was something of a surprise to me too.
Try these alternative keyboard options for your... →
Question. I have a friend whose hands shake slightly from a childhood bout with scarlet fever. Would a smartphone with a physical keyboard be better than a virtual, onscreen one? My USAToday.com column covers keyboards - the ones preinstalled on iPhones and Android phones, and some you might want to use in place of those. There’s also a reminder to change your phone’s ringtone and alert sounds...
Yes, Android Updates Are A Mess. What Do We Do... →
Your phone’s manufacturer will probably be late in shipping security updates for your Android phone, and your carrier will probably delay those still further. The ACLU wants the Federal Trade Commission to take action; I think the ultimate remedy has to be getting the carriers out of the phone-procurement business. Who’s with me?
Facebook Home: Social Network Engulfs Android →
Put me down as not a fan of Facebook Home in this review for Discovery News based on a few days with the HTC First: It’s not protected by the usual Android screen-lock password, PIN or pattern; it hides the time, signal strength and battery charge; it makes using Facebook itself awkward sometimes. But is anybody even that anxious to use a Facebook-dominated phone?
Who's Going To Crack The Cord-Cutting Conundrum? →
A follow-up to the panel discussion I led about cord cutting—that is, dumping your cable or satellite TV service and switching to online viewing, over-the-air broadcasts or a combination of both—that notes some possibilities for change in what’s been a pretty static market. If any of the changes I mention come to pass, would that make you more likely to cut the cord?
Q&A: What is two-step verification? →
In this week’s USAToday.com column, I attempt to explain this additional security option now available at Google, Yahoo, Apple and other sites—including how it can trip you up if it’s not implemented well. You all have enabled it already, right?
Stick A Fork In That Browser-Breakup Story, It's... →
In this post for the Disruptive Competition Project, I take exception to the “Google is doing this to stick it to Apple” interpretation of the company’s forking the WebKit code into another open-source browser engine, Blink. I think this is good for Chrome users and good for the Web at large—and that if Google wants to subvert Web interoperability and sandbag Apple, there...
ReDigi Ruling Shows The Widening Atoms-Vs.-Bits... →
Can you resell the iTunes music you paid for and downloaded legally, and which Apple says is yours to keep? A district court ruling yesterday says you can’t—unless you sell it with whatever device you originally bought those songs. Crazy, no?
Q&A: Is T-Mobile's new math a good deal? →
After seeing enough “you’re still making two years of payments, so what?” responses on Twitter to T-Mobile’s move to no-contract plans without the traditional subsidy of a phone’s purchase price, I took it upon myself to unpack the math in my USAToday.com Q&A. Does this column make things any clearer?
Augmented Reality Doesn't Need Google Glasses →
Last August, I realized that the easiest way to identify a strange building in Berlin would be to download an app I hadn’t used in a couple of years—the Layar augmented-reality viewer, which points out everything nearby with a Wikipedia entry. Since then, the fuss over Google Glass eyewear has put “AR” back into the conversation—so I thought I’d use this...
Social-Media Trend To Watch: Security That Doesn't... →
It’s become surprisingly fashionable for social networks and Web services to tout their support for two-step verification and other kinds of upgraded authentication. My big question: Will we get a better experience when security vendors have to attract and support users firsthand instead of going through corporate IT departments?
Ethicists Make Lousy Economists, And Other Lessons... →
Instead of reading yet another round of squabbling over HBO’s decision to restrict real-time online viewing of “Game of Thrones” to its existing subscribers, why not read my debunking of most of those arguments?
Tip: Repair mode in iPhoto will restore thumbnail... →
This week’s USAToday.com column starts out with a somewhat simple issue in iPhoto, then zooms out to assess the broader trends of apps that store our data in sometimes-inaccessible databases that can succumb to corruption.
Forget Your Annual Report, Where's Your... →
Microsoft followed the lead of Google and Twitter by compiling statistics on how many information requests it gets from law enforcement around the world, and I think that’s the best sort of copying imaginable. In this post for the Disruptive Competition Project, I suggest a few companies that ought to follow suit.
Kirtsaeng Dissent Reminds Us of the Risks of... →
A post for the Disruptive Competition Project blog on a growing problem with how we regulate intellectual-property: The work of interpreting the law has somehow been grabbed by the people who negotiate trade agreements. And it took a dissenting opinion from a Supreme Court justice (who doesn’t seem to see this as a problem!) to get me to realize this. So is the wonkiest headline...
What's the big deal about Google Reader's demise? →
My USAToday.com column, posted a couple of days early, unpacks the outrage over Google’s capricious (if you ask me) yanking of its Reader RSS service. In it, I also try to explain to the “what’s RSS?” crowd why people are so irked. If you’ve decided this early: What do think you’ll do for your RSS fix, post-Google?
Digging Into A Few Of SXSW 2013's Disruptive... →
A more business-oriented take on SXSW for the Disruptive Competition Project blog, in which I discuss things that the conference did and did not clarify in a few tech frontiers: 3D printing, HTML5 apps, mobile finances and our own unpredictable human reactions to all of these changes. I threw in a gratuitous shot of a 3D printer extruding the SXSW logo because, really, why not?
SXSW Sights: Silly Robots And Serious WiFi →
My recap of this year’s SXSW Interactive for Discovery News is my answer to this question: Without any It App for people to obsess over at the festival, what could you get out of it besides a lot of free tacos, barbeque and beer?
Tim Berners-Lee: The Web needs to stay open, and... →
I wrote up Web founder Tim Berners-Lee’s SXSW talk—part recap of what it was like to invent the Web, part defense of the open Web’s possibilities, part warning about Internet surveillance and interference by companies and governments—for Boing Boing.
Work around video playback issues on your mobile... →
What was going to be a simple USAT piece whining about the Yahoo Mail site’s inability to play an attached iPhone video in iOS turned into a denser explanation of the compatibility hangups that can occur when trying watch a clip recorded in one mobile OS on another. Nobody’s too surprised to learn that Apple’s proprietary QuickTime container format is part of the problem, right?
Unlock And Load: White House Picks Phone Policy... →
The White House thinks it shouldn’t be a crime to unlock your phone—and that your carrier shouldn’t refuse service to your device just because you got it from another carrier. In this post for the Disruptive Competition Project, I explain how much the Obama administration’s surprisingly favorable response to a petition seeking the legalization of phone unlocking matters,...
Q&A: How to avoid Facebook scams? Be a skeptic →
A friend of mine unintentionally spammed my Facebook profile with a bogus ad for free tickets on Southwest—then made up for that by documenting how the scam had presented itself. That led me to write this weekend’s USAToday.com column about one of the perennial risks of life on social media. Have you or, you know, “a friend,” fallen for any of those scams?
The Wide, Wild Word Of Phones →
My MWC coverage wraps up with this post for Discovery News, in which I assess the trends that bubbled up in my reporting this week. Do I sound a little down on where Android’s heading? I am—even though I was delighted with the two unlocked Nexus phones I took to Barcelona, conference-destroyed battery life notwithstanding.
My Fellow Americans, We Really Do Have A Strange... →
A step back from the hubbub of Mobile World Congress, in which I note the fundamental oddness of the U.S. wireless phone market compared to the rest of the world. One example of that is sitting on this table: an unlocked GSM phone running cheap prepaid service that I bought at the airport on Sunday, a luxury unavailable to most American subscribers.
Plus-sized phones dominate wireless trade show →
My report for USA Today about the oversized phones grabbing much of the attention at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. They’re not the kind of phone I want to own, but I’m trying to understand why somebody might want one—and what leads manufacturers to compete on screen size.
In Mobile, It's A WebKit World And We Just Browse... →
I wrote an extended essay for the Disruptive Competition Project on a few possible and existing downsides of having a single browser layout engine, WebKit, dominate the mobile market. Behind them, there’s an interesting philosophical question: Do the usual antitrust concerns never matter if it’s an open-source product monopolizing the market?
How do I place a call from my Google Voice number?... →
A refresher course on placing calls from your Google Voice number—even if you don’t actually have any phone service at the time, just data. That last bit has been handy over the last day or so, as I’ve had to lean on WiFi while coping with roaming issues.
Jawbone Up Logs Your Days And Nights →
I spent an usual amount of time—close to a month and a half—wearing a Jawbone Up wristband and seeing what data it collected about my steps and my sleep. First lesson: Working from home isn’t always great for your health.
Why are some TV show streams Web-only? →
Today’s USAToday.com column tackles a question that’s bugged me for a while: If I can watch a show or a game on some company’s Web site, why would they not let me view it in their app? It also explains why you don’t have to buy Lightning cables from Apple anymore.
How Breakthrough Technology Can Get Beaten Up In... →
When you see a smart, promising startup get crushed in the traditional media, you may think the offending journalists are on the take or otherwise under the sway of the incumbents in the market. I’m sorry, but we screw up like that for much less exciting reasons.
When The Gadget You Review Can Also Review Your... →
Tesla may not have much of a case against the New York Times, but its threat to publish the logs a loaner Model S kept of an NYT reporter’s driving is a reminder of how connected devices provide data that can be used against a reviewer. Here, I suggest a couple of things tech journalists can do about that.
Tip: Control Facebook exposure by friending folks... →
This week’s USAToday.com column covers the potential downsides and upsides of Facebook’s new Graph Search; so far, I’m not seeing this as the revolutionary thing it’s been made out to be. It wraps up with a reminder to clean out unused or underused Facebook and Twitter apps, sparked by my own realization that I had 45 on my own Facebook profile. How many are in yours, and...
Older City ISO Hot Young Tech Startups →
A new startup incubator, the D.C.-government backed 1776, introduced itself to the public on Wednesday. I used the occasion to make some observations for the Disruptive Competition Project about the trend of cities beyond Bay Area trying to make themselves into technology hubs—and to suggest one way they could follow California’s lead that doesn’t involve building startup spaces.
Free As In Unlicensed: Why The FCC Isn’t Giving... →
A story in the Washington Post about a not-so-new plan by the FCC for unlicensed use of some of the wireless spectrum to be liberated after a repacking of TV frequencies has gotten blown completely out of proportion. Here’s my attempt to clear up what’s really going on: You have lousy odds of getting free WiFi from this effort, but maybe you’ll have an extra choice of non-free...
How sports networks inflate your TV bill →
If you sign up for or renew a contract for Verizon Fios TV, you may soon see an extra $2.42 tacked onto your bill—a fee meant to cover the carriage fees Verizon pays for the increasing expense of regional sports networks. This week’s USAToday.com column unpacks the unsustainable dynamic of “RSNs”—which at the same time won’t take the money of local, online-only...