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Matt’s Favorites: Microsoft Tweaks Windows 8, There’s An App For Your Wedding, Killer Robots And More

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The Windows 8 start screen. Microsoft image.

The Windows 8 start screen. Microsoft image.

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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Hey, sports fans! So the Red Wings are done for the year — don’t be sad! There’s still the wild, wacky, wonderful world of high technology to keep you on the edge of your seats! Just take a look at these gems…

* Microsoft (MSFT) is trying to fix what it got wrong with its radical makeover of Windows. It’s making the operating system easier to navigate and enabling users to set up the software so it starts in a more familiar format designed for personal computers. The revisions to Windows 8 will be released later this year. The free update, called Windows 8.1, represents Microsoft’s concessions to long-time customers taken aback by the dramatic changes to an operating system that had become a staple in households and offices around the world during the past 20 years.

* Planning a walk down the aisle can be daunting, but tech-savvy couples can now get a little help from apps on their phones or tablets.

* Nations should agree to a moratorium on developing robots for war that can function autonomously before it is too late to stop their use, a U.N. human rights expert warned Thursday. U.N. special rapporteur Christof Heyns urged a temporary freeze on producing or using so-called “killer robots,” saying it would give nations time to think through the implications of creating them while “the genie is still in the bottle” technologically.

* Astronauts traveling to and from Mars would be bombarded with as much cosmic radiation as they’d get from a full-body CT scan about once a week for a year, researchers reported Thursday. That dose is enough to raise their cancer risk by about 3 percent, but experts caution that there are many uncertainties about the space environment’s effects on the body.

* Samsung announced Thursday a smaller version of its flagship smartphone — the Galaxy S IV Mini. The smaller, cheaper mobile phone features a 4.3-inch screen, 1.7 gigahertz dual-core processor and 8-megapixel camera. The Galaxy S IV Mini weights about 3.8 ounces.

*How can we measure happiness? Words used in tweets may hold the answer, according to a team of researchers who monitored Twitter to determine the happiest and saddest cities in the United States. Napa, Calif., was winner of the happiest, with residents frequently tweeting words such as “wine,” “restaurant,” and “cheers.” Beaumont, Texas, came in last. Twitter users there used more swear words, as well as words such as, “hate,” “stupid,” “ugly,” and “smoke.”

* Less Windows, more Android. Acer is about to give us a taste of this trend, as Android PCs begin to creep onto the market. The Acer all-in-one (AIO), due to be announced next week, will pack an Intel 3GHz Core i5 4430 “Haswell” processor and run Android.

* Steve Wozniak apparently has the radical notion that, quite simply, corporations should be taxed on what they earn, just like real human beings.

* Here’s a fun little column on the reason why a Grumpy Cat movie is a really bad idea.

* The huge asteroid — 1.7 miles long, to be exact — that is zipping by Earth this week isn’t alone. No, it isn’t carrying an alien virus or a golden DVD containing the second season of “Firefly,” but it does have a traveling companion. NASA radar images just released show a previously undiscovered moon orbiting the asteroid known as “QE2,” technically making it a binary asteroid system.

* Justine Bateman, best known as Mallory Keaton on “Family Ties,” shares her inspiring odyssey with putting acting on hold to go back to school at UCLA to study coding, computer science, and quantum mechanics.

* Our fine friends in Singapore are seeking to censor Internet news.

* A firm looking to make a ‘smart gun’ is crowdfunding its prototype.

* The 5,000-year-old iron bead might not look like much, but it hides a spectacular past: researchers have found that an ancient Egyptian trinket is made from a meteorite.

* One of science fiction’s true giants, Jack Vance, has died.

* What to do with a dangerous incoming asteroid? Turns out, nuke it.

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