Verizon reserves right to throttle data for high-consumption users: Is that you?

As of today, Verizon Wireless says it may start “throttling” service to the 5% of its customers who consume the most data over its network.

Today is also the first day that people can pre-order the new Verizon iPhone. A Verizon spokesman told the Wall St. Journal that this is just a coincidence.

Yeah. Right.

A move like this indicates that Verizon is concerned about growing network congestion, which affects service to all customers. And they should be. But the way they’re going about it is pretty frustrating…

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Wrestling with Scribd’s fullscreen display

I’ve been using the document-sharing service Scribd to embed documents in posts for various projects. but sometimes the “fullscreen” feature doesn’t work with the embedded document. I’m trying to troubleshoot this. So as a test I’m embedded a Scribd document here, to see if fullscreen works:

1 5 2010 Concurrent Meeting of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency City Council 10-01-05 Meeting Agenda

…OK, just viewed this post in Firefox for Mac and the fullscreen function does work here. But on another site I publish on, which is a complex Drupal site, it’s not working.

Have other Scribd users experienced similar display problems when embedding documents on Drupal sites? Got any solutions?

Thinking of updating your mac to Snow Leopard? Do this FIRST!

While I’m here on my 3rd Apple Store visit in as many days to try to recover from a disaster triggered by my attempt to upgrade my Mac to the Snow Leopard OS X, here are some tips that might save other Mac users similar pain and frustration.

1. Back up your entire machine onto TWO EXTERNAL DRIVES. It’s a good idea to run Time Machine backup as often as possible. But when you’re running the risk of having to hand over your mac AND your backup drive to a technician (which is always the case when attempting a significant operating system update), it’s a good idea to have a separate copy of your backup in your own possession.

2. Verify the condition of your hard drive. Apple is marketing Snow Leopard chiefly as a way to enhance performance. However, if your hard drive is developing problems (as mine apparently was), that will impair performance. Installing Snow Leopard won’t fix HD problems, and it may even cause your drive to fail during installation (as mine did)

So Verify your disk using your Mac’s Disk Utility before you upgrade. That can indicate HD problems. It’s not a perfect predictor of problems, but it’s at least some help. Had I thought to do this, I might not have lost 3 workdays and be freezing my ass off in an over-air conditioned Apple Store right now.

If your disk verification process indicates problems, and if you’re experiencing decreasing performance, it’s probably a safer bet to get your HD replaced and data restored correctly BEFORE attempting to upgrade your operating system. If you have to go to the Apple Store to do this, make sure they put in the work order that you do NOT want the OS upgraded yet.

3. Check your warranty coverage. I purchased Apple Care when I bought my mac a couple of years ago, and it’s still in effect. So Apple replaced my HD for free. I’m not sure whether the warranty covers drives that are having problems (rather than have already failed), but it’s worth asking about.

4. Line up a backup computer. If, like me, you work or life could get seriously screwed if you lose your computer for a few days or more, make sure you have handy access to a functional backup machine BEFORE doing a significant system update. Load it up with all the software & data you’ll need to do what you need to do, and test it.

Personally, I’m getting a Linux netbook ASAP.

5. Check your ProCare staus. ProCare is Apple’s preferred service program. It costs about $100/yr, and it’s worth it if you depend in your Mac. If you need a speedy repair, make sure you have current ProCare coverage. You van buy it on the spot at the Apple Store if you need it.

6. Don’t leave the Apple Store without your computer the way you need it. If your OS X update goes dreadfully wrong (as mine did), required them to wipe your drive, have the Apple Store staff restore your operating system and data from your Time Machine backup. Don’t do all of that yourself.

My experience shows that this installation/restore process is trickier than Apple claims. It’s surprisingly easy for the Time Machine restoration to not work right with a freshly installed OS. Make them do everything you need do your machine is up and running. Bring this blog post with you if they balk, and stick to your guns.

This means bringing your external HD with your current Time Machine backup to the Apple Store with you, of course. And before you leave, sync your iPhone and make sure it works. My iPhone sync is not yet working, so I’m staying put in this store for now.

7. Check the “Lemon Law” in your state. The details if this federal consumer protection law are defined by each state. In many states, including CA, lemon laws cover not just vehicles but also consumer products. This may give you recourse if you get screwed by Apple on mac-related issues, like a disastrous OS update you paid for.

Also have the phone number of the local Better Business Bureau handy, and be willing to file a complaint if necessary.

8. Don’t attempt a major system update a couple of weeks after having knee surgery. I’m just saying, it makes everything that much more difficult, aggravating, and risky.

Chicago Tribune Story Idea Survey: Good Idea, Poorly Executed

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 8:  Flags wave in the wind ...
(Image by Getty Images via Daylife)

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that it has halted a “short-lived research project in which the Chicago Tribune solicited responses from current and former subscribers to descriptions of Tribune stories before they had been published.”

The project — a collaboration between the paper’s editorial and marketing departments — was stopped because reporters raised journalistic concerns. Originally it had only surveyed selected “would-be readers” about general topics and previous Tribune coverage. But in the last two weeks, participants had begun being surveyed about their preferences on synopses of stories currently in the works.

In all, 55 reporters and editors voiced their complaint in a letter to Tribune editor Gerould Kern and managing editor Jane Hirt. The letter “expressed concern that providing story information to those outside the newsroom prior to publication seemed ‘to break the bond between reporters and editors in a fundamental way.'”

Here’s more detail about how the research was conducted: “Surveys were sent by e-mail to around 9,000 would-be readers on two occasions. About 500 responded to each, indicating which of 10 story ideas they preferred. Kern said the stories ‘tended to be news features,’ and the results never made it to him or had any impact in how stories were handled.”

I can understand the reporters’ complaint if their story ideas were shared outside the newsroom without their prior knowledge and consent. However, if that consent can be obtained, I personally think this type of research could be surprisingly useful. Especially if the people being surveyed truly represent younger people (i.e., the news organization’s future market) as well as demographics that historically have not been well served by the news organization…

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What’s Going on with WSJ Pricing?

“You know nothing of my work!”

(Read below for CJR tie-in.)

A month ago, as I wrote earlier, I was willing to pay $10/month to subscribe to the Wall St. Journal on my Kindle. I canceled that subscription last week, after the release of the WSJ iPhone application that provides free access to all WSJ content.

The iPhone app carries ads at the bottom of the screen, but I don’t mind. I also get audio and video content from WSJ through the app, too. Meanwhile, Subscribing to WSJ.com currently costs $89 per year. ($99 per year if you want the print edition, too.) And, as I noted earlier, WSJ’s own subscription page currently doesn’t even mention subscribing via Kindle.

Apparently WSJ plans to start charging for some of its iPhone app-delivered content at some point. Wired.com reports:

“There is free, and then there is free, apparently. A Dow Jones spokeswoman wrote to Wired.com Thursday to say that the company does intend to charge for some content consumed on smartphones ‘so we have a consistent experience across multiple platforms,’ though the company is ‘still exploring its options’ and isn’t saying when that might happen. They would offer ‘both free and subscription content, so the idea is to mirror the experience on the site,’ the spokeswoman said.”

“…Eight months after it released its Blackberry app Dow is still saying that ‘Full access to subscriber content (is free) for a limited time only.’ There is a free mobile site that has a large sampling of the Journal’s content. …We’ll see if the almost certain bad will of a giveth and taketh away revenue model is worth trying to put the content genie back in the bottle.”

WSJ.com founding editor and publisher Neil Budde (who just joined Daily Me) recently exploded some common myths about WSJ.com’s pricing model — a nuanced history that often gets oversimplified.

Still, I think Printcasting founder Dan Pacheco got it right last night on Twitter: “Content pricing must be consistent across platforms. And it shows how charging for print will get more awkward day by day.”


…After I originally published the above story in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits yesterday, Ryan Chittum of Columbia Journalism Review took what I said as an excuse to rally for WSJ to “hold the line” on charging for its content.

I found this very amusing…

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Time’s “Mine” — Custom Magazine? Hardly

Yeah, I wasn't the only person who found Time's "Mine" magazine disappointing.

Yeah, I wasn't the only person who found Time's "Mine" magazine disappointing.

I really don’t like golf — at all. So I was surprised when, this weekend, my first issue of Mine (Time Inc.’s slick glossy foray into custom magazine publishing) included selected articles from Golf magazine.

Nearly a month ago I signed up on the Mine site to receive five issues of this custom biweekly magazine. I opted to include articles from these titles: Time, InStyle, RealSimple, Food & Wine, and Money. My issue of Mine arrived with only three out of five right — instead of Money and Food & Wine, it included stories from Golf and Travel & Leisure.

I found this amusing, because I remember thinking when I filled out the subscription form for Mine how little information about my lifestyle, interests, or preferences Time was asking for. I wondered how any publisher could deliver anything approaching a custom magazine based on my address, picking five out of eight general-interest magazines, and my answers to these four questions that are nebulous bordering on ridiculous:

  1. Which do you crave more: pizza or sushi?
  2. Do you like to sing in the car?
  3. Which would you like to learn: juggling or celebrity impersonation?
  4. Who would you like to have dinner with most: Leonardo da Vinci or Socrates?

According to the Associated Press, my experience wasn’t unique…

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What do journalism students really need today? Poynter event Monday

On Monday, Mar. 23, 1 pm EDT, the Poynter Institute will host a live online chat: What Do College Journalism Students Need to Learn? It was spurred by a recent (and excellent) post by my Tidbits colleague Maurreen Skowran, Reimagining J-School Programs in Midst of Changing News Industry, which attracted some intriguing comments.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to participate in the chat since I’ll be heading to the airport at that time. However, I have had a great deal to say about this topic earlier on Contentious. Here are my posts from last year:

  • April 9, 2008: Journalism remains a smart career, despite shrinking newsrooms. This theme in my posts began in response to Elana Centor, who asked me: “Is journalism still a smart career path?” My answer began: “Personally, I think that developing journalism skills and experience is valuable for many career paths — but I think that betting that you’ll spend your career working for mainstream news orgs is a losing proposition in most cases. I think most j-schools are setting bright students up to fail, and that bugs me. A lot….”
  • April 10, 2008: New J-Skills: What to Measure? This followup post is a reply to Mindy McAdams’ thoughtful response to my earlier post. She challenged me to translate my original quick list of what j-schools should be teaching into a something more testable and measurable that could be translated into a curriculum.
  • April 16, 2008: Overhauling J-School Completely. This begins: “I’ve heard from some journalism educators that the kind of preparation I’ve proposed is far beyond what most existing j-schools could offer. I understand that. Really, I think what may be needed is to completely re-envision and rebuild j-school with today’s realities and tomorrow’s likelihoods in mind…” (This post also includes links to many other posts sparked by my previous posts on this topic.)

Again, I wish I could sit in on the Poynter chat. But hopefully this material might help inform the discussion. I look forward to reading the live blog and chat transcript after I land.

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Snail mail blues: Temporary change of address = Almost no mail for a month

USPS temporary forwarding = total crapshoot

USPS temporary forwarding = total crapshoot

Although I live in Boulder, CO, I’m currently spending a few months with friends in Oakland, CA. So just before I left Boulder on Jan 6., I went to my local post office branch and submitted a form for a temporary change of address. That was the only option they mentioned at the post office, and it seemed like it made sense.

Nearly a month later, very very little of my mail has gotten forwarded so far. It’s starting to freak me out. Most of my clients pay me by check, and I haven’t been receiving most of the checks sent on outstanding invoices. I am running out of cash, and it’s really pissing me off. Plus, this is the month that 1099 tax forms get sent out.

I expected some delay in receiving my forwarded mail. The US Postal Service says to expect a delay of up to 10 days. A couple of days after I arrived in CA I did receive a confirmation of mail forwarding via snail mail from the USPS, so I didn’t worry. By Jan 15, I started receiving a few pieces of mail — some Netflix DVDs, some junk mail, and a couple of small checks. I figured the rest would be coming.

Today — Jan. 27, nearly two weeks later — I’m still receiving only a trickle of mail. Today I called my local post offices both here in Oakland and back in Boulder. The Boulder postal clerk confirmed the forwarding order, and explained the continued delay:

Get this: The USPS must generate and apply forwarding labels manually (!!!), which according to the clerk I spoke to can causes delays in delivery of up to a month!!! Nowhere — not at the post office, on the forwarding form, on their site, on their information line — was I informed of this. Yeah, I’m annoyed… Continue reading

Google: Could I import my custom maps to my iPhone, please?

Google Maps on Apple iPhone
Image by niallkennedy via Flickr

This week I’m headed to the Bay Area for an extended visit. I have lots of friends there and there are plenty of cool things to do there. I’ve started mapping all this stuff on a private Google Map — where I’ll be staying, nearby public transit stops, gyms, massage clinics, coffeehouses, music venues, grocery stores, etc. I just assumed that since there’s a pretty good Google Maps app on my iPhone, I’d be able to import all that data easily. Right?

Wrong!

Right now, the closest I can get is to e-mail the link from my private Bay Area map to my iPhone. When I click that link in my iPhone e-mail, the map opens — in the phone’s Safari web browser, not in the Google Maps app. Which makes it much harder to use and far less useful on the go.

I’ve posted a query about this in the Google Maps forum. But so far, I haven’t found a solution.

Does anyone know any tricks for this? Is this something that an iPhone app could be written to support?

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Jon Stewart: What’s black and white and completely over?