Hey, what happened to February?

It passed, that’s what, in a flurry of published work of mine. Here’s what I’ve been up to professionally in February 2021.

Vertical Hold

The little podcast that definitely could continues along, with some very cool episodes appearing this month.

Every time I think “right, we’re done with episodes where we talk about the NBN”, another topic comes along. First up: The freeze on HFC NBN orders, plus Kayo grabbing more sports rights and the emerging Australian streaming scene:

Then not a week later, NBN Co made money (no, really!) and announced some big plans, while Telstra made some radical changes to the way it bills postpaid mobile phone plans and Elon Musk’s Starlink got ready to take on the NBN:

Over the many years we’ve been making Vertical Hold, we’ve recorded lots of places — from home offices, dingy Las Vegas casinos, shiny Spanish hotels and plenty more besides. But Mars? That’s new territory even for us, so we called on NASA for a little help with our Mars Special episode, which shouldn’t be missed:

Facebook’s nuclear “no-news-for-Australia” bombshell put a stake through the heart of the media code, and we discussed what happens next, as well as taking a lighter look at Disney+’s new Star hub. Can Die Hard really become a Valentine’s Day movie?

You can of course keep up with everything Vertical Hold over at the Vertical Hold web page, and you totally should subscribe at well. Here, have some subscription links to make it even easier!

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/vertical-hold-audio/id971993513?mt=2

Pocketcasts Click here to launch Pocketcasts and subscribe today!

Spotify: You can stream every episode on Spotify right here.

iHeartRadio: Subscribe here!

This guy likes to talk

It’s true, I do. The whole business with Facebook and the media code saw me pop up on a variety of ABC Radio stations across the nation, discussing the effects, why Facebook was taking the steps it was, and what was likely to happen next. That included guest spots on ABC Radio in Victoria, Sydney, Darwin and elsewhere, which kept me rather busy.

On the more regular radio appearances front, my regular Tuesday morning tech spot with Jo Printz on ABC Radio Central Victoria (and, I believe, a lot of the rest of the state as well) kept on rolling. Topics included Facebook/Google (of course), truly wireless charging, hovercars, starlink, 7-screen laptops, 4K rickrolling, helicopters on Mars and more. You can catch me every Tuesday around 10:40 on the radio, or online at the ABC Radio Central Victoria Listen Live page.

You can’t see me


Or him, either

My own video production took a brief pause in February, so nothing new to show off there. So have one from the archives!

Regular video production will resume in March, I promise. As always, you can subscribe (and you should) to my video work directly over on YouTube.

Words: Not as easy to write as you might think

Sorry might be the hardest word — although with two repeated consonants it’s far from the hardest word to type — but a big part of the reason why I didn’t do any personal video work is because I’ve been pretty darned busy pumping out the words at a high rate.

Over at Finder, I kicked off the month with an in-depth review of the Samsung Galaxy S21, a phone that didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Aspera diverted from its ultra-budget mobile mission with the rather interesting and rugged Aspera R9, so I took the hammer of reviewing to it — almost literally.

Apple’s AirPod Max headphones adorned my head this month, so I listened to a lot of Prince, Elvis and Suzanne Vega to make my assessment of Apple’s pricey headphones. Spoiler: They’re rather good, but they’d want to be for that price.

I’ve tested a lot of mesh routers over the past few years, and while D-Link’s always had decent gear, it’s not had a mesh system that really surprised me. That all changed this month with the D-Link COVR-X1873 Mesh System, a mesh router so good that it topped the updated list of the best mesh routers, also penned by yours truly.

Australians can now pre-order Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite broadband service, so I dug deep into the details for an article detailing everything you need to know about Starlink. Of course, the most frequent call around Starlink was the idea that it was going to kill the NBN, so I put the two head to head for a more nuanced comparison.

Oppo’s big shift in recent years has been more towards the mid-range and flagship space here in Australia, but the Oppo A15 is a more moderately priced handset. Is it any good? You’ll have to read my full Oppo A15 review to find out.

Asus’ ZenBook UX482 is certainly different, and I do like different when it comes to notebook designs, although it’s a model that you have to sort of make your own use case for. It was an unusual review to write as a result.

Then along came the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, and if I was a little under-impressed with the vanilla S21, the same can’t be said for its bigger sibling. Yes, there’s some issues — I’d prefer the Snapdragon model, and the removal of expandable storage hurts — but this is still a top-flight flagship phone. Here’s my full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review.

On the more moderate audio side — surprising for a brand with some serious audio credibility — were the Sennheiser CX-400BT headphones, so into my ears they went, and in due course onto the web my review appeared.

I’m a man who likes a good wearable. The Realme Watch S is a highly affordable model, although it does straddle that line between “smartwatch” and “fitness tracker” in some odd ways. Here’s my full Realme Watch S review.

Keeping strongly on the budget side of the fence, the Apeman C450 dashcam is almost alarmingly cheap — but does that mean it’s rubbish? Behind the wheel I went for my Apeman C450 review. Despite the queries of some, no, I’m not willing to crash my car for a review of any kind. Maybe yours… if I’m not in it at the time.

Folks who know me are well aware that I’m something of a retro game fan, but it’s not all that often that I’m able to convert that passion into paying work. It appears all those years of collecting and curating are paying off, as I’ve written (and am still writing) a series of the best retro gaming guides for Finder, and publishing kicked off this month.

First off, the big question: Which retro gaming systems are the all-time best?.

Then we delve into systems. Want to know my qualified picks for the best Sony PlayStation 2 games? Well, here you go!.

I do honestly think that the PlayStation 1 gets a poor rap these days, with many folks picking on its jagged polygon style. That ignores the many great games available for the PS1 — and here’s the very best of them.

That kind of criticism is more fairly aimed at the Nintendo Wii — there’s a lot of waggly rubbish shovelware for that system — but there’s also a lot of cracking games, and here’s the best of them for you to add to your collection.

And last for the month (but by no means least, unless you mean disc size) was Nintendo’s GameCube, home to more than a few unique titles that every gamer should play. Here’s the best Nintendo GameCube games for you to enjoy.

At Gizmodo, a single article, but a lengthy story looking at the practical and legal implications for smart speaker owners if Google dropped search availability from Australia.

Over at Geeks2U, for the Geekspeak Blog I explained the pros and cons of laser and inkjet printers,
talked about how upcoming iOS updates might help with mask/FaceID issues, explained how Starlink works and reminded folks that, even with Facebook blocking news as it was at the time, you still needed to be very careful — and arguably even moreso — believing in what you read online from less-than-reputable news “sources”.

Oh yeah, and I still write content here from time to time.

Like a reminder: Don’t bite mobile phone batteries. Yes, I shouldn’t HAVE to write that, but I DID, and for a reason. That reason being that you shouldn’t do it, but somebody did.

Facebook’s news ban came in early one February Friday morning, and I was awake, so I penned a few in-the-moment thoughts on that, too.

I like to read, and I don’t go out jogging nearly enough these days, so when an old Uni colleague pointed out he had a solution for both, I was in. It turns out that you don’t walk into Mordor — but jogging in is a very good idea.

A bunch of not-at-all-connected stories caught my gaze, so I wrote about them. Unless there’s some link between lizard fossils, Fatboy Slim, Muppets and PSVR I hadn’t previously considered, that is. Maybe there is one, but it hasn’t come to me yet.

Apple G4 Cube

One thought that did come to me was that the rumour around Apple “reviving” the G4 Cube design for an Apple Silicon powered Mac seemed a little… fanciful. Only Apple knows for sure, but I’d bet that we won’t see a “new” G4 Cube any time soon.

Finally, February is a significant month for me, because it’s the month of my anniversary as a tech writer.

I’ve been in this game for an astonishing 23 years, so it was time for me to dust off my reflections guide with a new tip, bringing it to 23 tips for journalists that I’ve learned along the way. One well-respected industry publication read them and declared them to be “commandments”.

I’m not sure I could carry off a Moses-level beard, but if anyone fancies inscribing them on stone tablets, I’d like to remind them that I hold the copyright — and I’m not a big fan of being paid in manna… although money is perfectly acceptable.

Got some of that money stuff and a need for an award-winning consumer technology writer with decades of experience? Drop me a line!

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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