Weekly output: online privacy, in-person telecom events, Amazon Fire TV, mobile-broadband traffic, Discovery’s video plans, Spotify’s future, Philips and teleheath, HBO Max

This week was not like the 66 preceding weeks in that it involved a bar tab I could put on my business expenses–a reunion Saturday night of people connected with the debut of the Washington Post’s Web site 25 years before.

6/14/2021: Ways to Protect Your Identity From Cyber Attacks, Cheddar News

I talked to Cheddar’s J.D. Durkin about what I learned reporting the online-privacy story that the Verge ran a week ago. I appreciate how the screengrab at the right shows my fellow Jersey guy talking with his hands.

6/15/2021: The forecast for in-person telecom events: Expect a busy Q4, Light Reading

I talked to a variety of telecom trade associations about their plans for non-virtual events and came away with two conclusions: Q4 will be busy, but attendees at these conferences should not worry about having to show proof of vaccination. (Get your shot anyway.)

6/15/2021: Amazon Fire TV VP’s forecast includes news, games—and cars, FierceVideo

My trade-pub client asked me to cover three panels at their StreamTV Show. The first one featured Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi (a frequent source of mine) quizzing Amazon Fire TV vice president Daniel Rausch.

6/16/2021: New Ericsson report calls 46% data traffic growth ‘normal’, Light Reading

I wrote up the latest report from Ericsson about trends in the mobile-broadband business.

6/16/2021: Discovery exec talks cable+streaming math, FierceVideo

My second post for Fierce covered CNet’s Joan E. Solsman interviewing Discovery v.p. Lisa Holme about how that company (a long-ago client) aims to chase both streaming and cable/satellite viewers.

6/17/2021: Fireside: The Future of Audio, Dublin Tech Summit

I did two fireside-chat interviews for the virtual edition of Dublin Tech Summit, both recorded in advance. In this one, I asked Spotify consumer-experience vice president Sten Garmark about the audio-streaming service’s agenda and lobbed in a few feature requests of my own.

6/17/2021: Fireside: The End of the Waiting Room: Telehealth Brings the Doctor to your Living Room, Dublin Tech Summit

In my second DTS panel, I interviewed Deeptha Khanna, chief business leader for consumer health at Philips, about how that Dutch firm intends to square privacy and usability concerns with people’s desire not to get sick.

6/17/2021: HBO Max is going places, but at a measured pace, FierceVideo

Writing this StreamTV Show recap was a little humbling, in that interviewer Sara Fischer of Axios has somehow mastered the art of never glancing at notes during a virtual panel while still asking insightful questions of a subject like HBO Max executive vice president Sarah Lyons.

All vaxxed up and nowhere to go (especially for work)

Thursday was my V-day: two weeks elapsed since my second dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, and therefore cleared for takeoff into a normal life. But I still feel like I’m on the runway, if not still on the taxiway waiting for my clearance.

I’m blaming work. I had thought it would be nice to celebrate this milestone Friday by having a drink at an actual bar indoors, but I had deadlines to meet that kept me at the keyboard until almost dinnertime. One reason why I still had fingers at the keyboard that late: I spent part of Friday afternoon volunteering at a vaccination clinic, which was arguably a better way to mark the occasion anyway. I did at least wear only one cloth mask instead of doubling up as I had before.

Photo shows my COVID-19 vaccination card atop my new passport and a route map from United Airlines' Hemispheres magazine.

(Another difference between now and my first volunteer shift in early April: Positive test rates have plummeted to well under 2% in Arlington and D.C.)

Work also factors into this in-between feeling, because it’s become so obvious that business gatherings will be a trailing indicator of America’s victory over this disease. As I type this, my also-fully-vaccinated neighbors are having people over on their back deck and that seems completely normal, but I have no idea when the first (non-pandemic-denying) think tank, trade association, PR firm or other corporate outpost around here will dare to host an in-person briefing, luncheon or reception.

The forecast is also fuzzy for in-person conferences. Wednesday, the management of the IFA trade show announced that they had to cancel this year’s edition of that electronics event in Berlin. I had thought they had good odds of pulling it off, considering how fast Germany is getting vaccine doses into arms. But IFA is a global show, and many of the countries that would be sending companies there remain far behind in vaccinations.

(MWC Barcelona, the first tech event to succumb to the pandemic, is somehow still set to happen next month, albeit on a grossly exhibitor-deprived scale. I don’t know what the thinking is there.)

Conferences that take place in the U.S. and draw a mostly-American audience look more likely to happen as planned, which on my calendar would probably make the first such IRL event the Black Hat information-security conference. Subjecting oneself to the blast-furnace heat of Las Vegas in August is not most people’s idea of fun–but after a year and change of only experiencing events through a screen, I legit would enjoy it. Besides, it really is a dry heat there.

Weekly output: password managers, exposure-notification apps, talking tech with Mark Vena

Six months ago, I expected to be busy tonight packing for the IFA tech trade show. But although that conference in Berlin is proceeding on a drastically-scaled-down basis, I’m not flying to Germany tomorrow because of the European Union’s ban on Americans traveling to the EU. Given how thoroughly we’ve botched this pandemic, I can’t blame them for imposing that restriction.

8/24/2020: Extra security or extra risk? Pros and cons of password managers, TechRepublic

I shared my experience with password managers–mainly LastPass and 1Password–with TechRepublic’s Veronica Combs for this overview of the advantages and disadvantages of these services.

8/25/2020: COVID-19 tracking apps, supported by Apple and Google, begin showing up in app stores, USA Today

Writing a lengthy report for O’Reilly about contact-tracing apps did not mean I could write this much shorter piece from memory and my existing notes. In addition to getting useful adoption data from Virginia’s Department of Public Health about its COVIDWISE app, I also reported that VDH plans to support a national key-server project from the Association of Public Health Laboratories that will let these state-developed apps relay and receive warnings of potential COVID-19 exposure across state lines.

8/28/2020: SmartTechCheck Podcast (8-28-20), Mark Vena

I talked about exposure-notification apps, the future of tech events like IFA, 5G wireless and Apple silicon with my analyst pal at Moor Insights & Strategy–another tech type who would have been packing for Berlin tonight but is instead grounded. You may notice a break in the recording about halfway through, when I had to get a glass of water so I could resume speaking normally. Note to self: Before sitting down to record a 45-minute podcast, make sure a glass of water is on the desk.

So this is what it will take to interrupt my CES streak

Next January will not be like the 23 before it, because for the first time since 1997 I won’t be going to CES. And neither will anybody else, thanks to the Consumer Technology Association’s Tuesday announcement recognizing the impossibility of staging a giant in-person tech event during the novel-coronavirus pandemic. Instead, CES 2021 will become what the Arlington trade association is calling an “all-digital experience.”

The event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show has been a fixture in my life for so long that my child has never seen me at home during its allotted days in early January. Neither has my wife.

Now they will. I won’t get up too early too few days after New Year’s Day to tear myself away from my family, spend hours in a pressurized metal tube flying to Las Vegas, and spend the rest of the week walking in circles through a series of enormous convention-center halls between demos, meetings and receptions.

As dreadful as the logistics of CES get, I will miss the thing. No other event all year provides as many opportunities to take the measure of the tech industry, see what the executives running it think (often inaccurately) we want to buy, and inspect the actual hardware. Plus, CES offers some first-rate networking that historically has generated a fair amount of business for me.

I already feel the CES Stockholm Syndrome settling in… will I feel compelled to recreate the awfulness of CES bandwidth by hobbling my phone in 3G mode and then tethering my laptop off that trickle of connectivity? Should I ask random strangers “ship date? price?” 15 times a day to remind myself of the joys of CES reporting? Will I have to gobble a Clif bar for lunch and then eat dinner standing up to re-enact the usual CES sustenance scenario?

I would like to think that I could use the time that will be liberated from the annual gadget pilgrimage to do things like go skiing or visit museums, but I’m sure the coronavirus will still be Ruining Everything in early January. Instead, I can only hope that week can bring the highlight of one of my last pre-CES, post-New Year weeks: a blizzard of epic proportions.

Weekly output: browser choices, OurStreets for groceries, browser choices and sports-network fees, coronavirus effects on tech

In a fit of optimism two weeks ago, I put together a panel proposal for this fall’s Online News Association conference–which, at the rate things are going, could be my next business trip if I even go anywhere for work over the rest of this year. Over at Patreon, I wrote a post Tuesday for subscribers about how I put together this pitch and recruited two other panelists for it.

4/27/2020: Browsers: Chrome, Safari or Edge?, Talking Tech

My USA Today colleague Jefferson Graham interviewed me for his podcast about my recent column on browser choices.

4/28/2020: Can’t find toilet paper, eggs, or flour? This app knows where to go, Fast Company

I wrote about the reincarnation of an app that I’d covered first in January as a tool to report bad behavior by drivers. OurStreets now delivers crowd-sourced intelligence about the availability of such staples as toilet paper, bread, milk, eggs and flour. It’s done that impressively well around D.C. in my own experience, but in other cities it’s yet to see the same shopper pickup. (I have to credit my editor Harry McCracken for asking me to go into more detail about this app’s slower adoption outside its launch market of the greater Washington area.)

4/28/2020: This Morning with Gordon Deal April 28, 2020, This Morning With Gordon Deal

I was on this business-news radio show to talk about my USA Today columns on desktop browser choices and sports-network fees on pay TV.

4/30/2020: Moor Insights & Strategy Podcast (4-30-20), Mark Vena

I joined my analyst pal’s podcast with fellow tech freelancers John Quain and Stewart Wolpin to talk about working from home and when we’ll ever get to meet in person again at some tech event. Appropriately enough, our conversation about using collaborative tools to work remotely got interrupted when Stewart mysteriously dropped off the Zoom call.

Updated 6/21/2020 to add a link to Jefferson Graham’s podcast, which I’d missed before because he misspelled my last name in the writeup. Yes, this happens fairly often. 

Six weeks in a row of travel

When I unlocked the front door on our darkened porch Thursday night–and, as if by magic, the power came back on–six consecutive weeks of travel went into the books.

View of Toronto from a departing airplaneIt all seemed like a reasonable idea upfront, not least when it appeared I’d have a couple of weeks at home over that period.

In an alternate universe, a spring break trip to see Bay Area and Boston relatives and then the IFA Global Press Conference in Spain would have been followed by week at home, then more than a week of additional downtime would have separated Google I/O in Mountain View and Collision in Toronto.

But then I got invited to moderate a panel at the Pay TV Show in Denver, with the conference organizers covering my travel expenses, and my Uncle Jim died. The results: 4/13-4/21 spring break, 4/24-4/28 IFA GPC, 4/29-4/30 in Ohio for my uncle’s funeral (I had about nine hours at home between returning from Spain and departing for Cleveland), 5/6-5/9 Google I/O, 5/13-5/16 Pay TV Show, 5/20-5/23 Collision.

I’d thought having the last three trips only run four days, with three days at home between each, would make things easier. That didn’t really happen, although I did appreciate having time to do all the laundry, bake bread and cook a bunch of food during each stay home, then be able to check the status of my flight home the morning after arriving at each destination.

In particular, my ability to focus on longer-term work and try to develop new business took a hit during all this time in airports, airplanes and conference venues. And because Yahoo Finance elected to have staff writers cover I/O and Collision remotely, so did my income.

Meanwhile, I can’t pretend that I’ve been following the healthiest lifestyle, thanks to all of the eating and drinking at various receptions. Consecutive days of walking around with my laptop in a messenger bag left a softball-sized knot in my left shoulder to complement my sore feet. And I’ve woken up in the middle of the night too many times wondering where I was–including once or twice in my own bed at home.

So while the past six weeks have taken me to some neat places and connected me to some interesting people, I don’t need to repeat the experience.