About Frank Catalano

Frank Catalano is an independent strategist, author and veteran analyst of digital education and consumer technologies whose regular columns take a practical nerd's approach to tech. He consults via Intrinsic Strategy and tweets @FrankCatalano.

SeattleTimeswebsite

Digitally clueless: Why I finally canceled the Seattle Times

Dear Seattle Times executives, I’m writing you in the traditional letter-to-the-editor format because it’s one with which I’m certain you’re familiar. After all, you recently used it in your “Dear Seattle Times subscribers” summer e-newsletter. I’m also uncertain, based on the experiences I’m about to describe, if you’d understand anything more than an electronic replica… Read More

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Facebook, you are dead to me … for now

Friends, and you are my “friends:” I’m giving up on Facebook. No more status updates, no more vacation photos, no more links to interesting columns (even those I haven’t written). While I’ll leave what I’ve posted over the past eight years up for now, I will no longer participate in what has become a time-wasting farce. Why?… Read More

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I see dead words: Terminology that technology has left behind

There are words that are dead. They just don’t know it yet. The advance of technology has left, in its wake, zombie terminology. It’s the verbal equivalent of junk DNA, inserted as anchorless references in complex strings of day-to-day communication. Sometimes, it might cause us to briefly hesitate. While the words flow from our mouth or keypad,… Read More

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Lies my Fitbit tells me

It started at that stage in a relationship where the exhilaration and newness wears off. After eight months, I could no longer ignore worrisome behaviors. They’d become patterns. I finally had to confront my Fitbit about its deceptions. When I was first given my petite Fitbit Zip Wireless Activity Tracker last September, I didn’t just like it…. Read More

By Stomchak (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Phished! Lessons learned from my smartphone stumble

When it comes to tech scams, in the immortal words of Antonio Banderas’ Puss in Boots, I have shamed myself. It was probably only a matter of time. Hadn’t I parried “Windows tech support” phone scammers to a draw? Damn, I was good. But that feeling of secure self-assurance slowly tipped toward cockiness at the… Read More

Look to the app

Amazon: Education’s passive lurker gets aggressive

If you want to see the future of Amazon in education, don’t look to Seattle. Look to Sao Paulo. For months, I’ve wondered what Amazon’s strategy for the Kindle in education might be. Amazon’s presence in the K-12 school market has been notable largely by its absence. No grand, sweeping announcements. No blow-out presentations at… Read More

http://www.flickr.com/photos/45499571@N00/3522340819/in/photolist-6nfVd8-6o6Pnp-6tX2Gm-6w8gaN-6w8gvq-6yYsXq-6yYt23-6yYt5J-6AnC26-6B35Yy-6MofQD-6PDcWn-6QkiRz-73zzxP-73Dy7G-7iuJh2-dW89A6-de2Rbd-dCAQnx-9X5aox-ejtCRg-8C3R3Z-cL3RYW-e863Xf-7HtKkQ-7HpRHx-7HpQEe-7HpShp-7HtLZL-7HtJQA-7HtNwC-7HpQ6v-7HpTfZ-7HtPw9-7FvHWe-8wXkWP-bNzxLM-83NcTF-ah6ajr-8MQq88-ejtCUT-cL3Zoo-8ZyS5h-dv1mNo-dpkEpx-8mveD4-e2rh3V-8GobyH-fNNm54-7HtXwj-aMWjZB

First, we kill all the ‘futurists’

This is a tale of two keynotes. One, by a working scientist explaining the work being done in her field. The other, by a recycling expert dropping an inexcusable f-bomb: “futurist.” Don’t get me wrong. I am interested in the future. I expect, as inventor Charles F. Kettering once noted, to be spending the rest… Read More

Photo via Shutterstock

Generational blindness: Is sexism in tech forever?

There are many things that seem stubbornly cyclical in their refusal to be resolved in the tech industry. Password management. Bubble valuations. Sexism. I’ve addressed the first two elsewhere. I’ve been hesitant to tackle the third, because it’s the most sensitive and frequently a matter of perception. Yet when it comes to tasteless, clueless, and… Read More

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Learn to code? No: Learn a real language

The “learn to code” movement may be about to run afoul of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Few (least of all nerdy me) will argue that learning a computer language as a kid doesn’t have merit. Grasping some of the basics of computer science by picking up a programming language is a great way to… Read More

(photo by Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons)

The weakest link in data privacy is, well, you

Happy Data Privacy Day! The first round of credit card numbers is on me! Yes, this Tuesday, Jan. 28 really is Data Privacy Day in the U.S. and Canada, commemorating the 1981 signing of Convention 108, an international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection. (In Europe, where it originated, it’s known as Data Protection… Read More

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2″ x 3.5″ evolution: Business cards reflect our tech

All hail the lowly business card. For it is the most concise chronicler of the advances in communications technology. Despite calls for its elimination as wasteful in an era of phone bumping (or, in nerd-speak, Near Field Communication wireless data exchange) and e-mail signature cutting-and-pasting, the stats remain impressive: 10 billion printed each year in… Read More

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Four tech terms to forget in ’14

It’s 2014, and time to ring in the new and throw out the old. Old tech terms, that is: those made meaningless in 2013 by media and marketers. I occasionally rant about words that are overused and abused in tech (a popular 2013 noun, “selfie,” may join that group at narcissistic speed). But don’t think… Read More

The order that began the dive down the rabbit hole

The secret to getting Amazon’s best customer service

There’s a classic tech industry joke. A jet is lost in dense fog and low on fuel. The pilot, desperate to get his bearings, winds up circling an IBM skyscraper. “Where am I?” he shouts to the white-shirted nerds inside. They grab calculators, computers and furiously get to work, finally providing what they consider the… Read More

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Kindle Fire HDX: The business person’s frenemy

When the Kindle Fire HDX was first released, I read reviews that raved how this Kindle finally added business-friendly features, enough to garner it the blessing of corporate IT departments. Apparently, none of the reviewers had actually tried to use those features. Sure, the HDX is beautiful and easily the most functional Kindle Fire yet…. Read More

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It’s time to kill the password — before it kills us

It’s time to shoot the password. And multiple screens are the trigger. I had this epiphany when wrestling with one Rhapsody music service on two devices using three pieces of software. Firing up the Rhapsody Android smartphone app, I unexpectedly was prompted for my password. Okay, I figured, the app had been updated and needed… Read More

1997 as seen from 1965

When technology – and time – overtake research

For the past three decades, I have been a psychological test subject. Not in a creepy NSA-and-tin-foil-hat kind of way, but as part of a long-term study designed to understand how mental abilities change as people age. Yet as time affects cognition, technology is encroaching on the study itself. The Seattle Longitudinal Study is something… Read More

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Tech happens: When tablets and schools don’t mix

Memo to Microsoft: When it comes to Surface tablets in the classroom, be careful what you wish for. Because you might be the next victim of education’s Curse of the Bright Shiny. Much has been made of the news that the Los Angeles Unified School District’s bold billion dollar bid to give every one of… Read More

Web browsing, two decades ago

The Web: a generation old, a link unexpected

On this twentieth anniversary of the first popular web browser, consider how its potential was viewed just one year after its birth. If only to realize that sometimes in tech the Law of Unintended Consequences can pay off in positive ways, too. In September 1993, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications released the beta of… Read More