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Matt’s Favorites: Renewable Weekend Up North, Greenlancer Impresses, GE Hits The Streets, Xfinity Goes LED, And More

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70-mph, 70-mile-range electric scooters for sale from Ann Arbor's Current Motors at the Michigan Energy Fair in Ludington. Matt Roush photo.

70-mph, 70-mile-range electric scooters for sale from Ann Arbor’s Current Motors at the Michigan Energy Fair in Ludington. Matt Roush photo.

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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So what’s the latest, greatest, wildest and weirdest from the world of high tech and suchlike? Well, hope you had fun over the weekend, I sure did…

* It was great to get over to West Michigan for the Michigan Energy Fair. A highlight was Friday night’s reception for the state’s renewables leaders, hosted by Novi-based ITC Holdings Corp., the nation’s largest independent power distribution company. Steve Hilfinger, executive vice president and COO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and Mark Clevey of the Michigan Energy Office gave running updates of the state’s efforts to boost the renewables industry in Michigan. And if you ever get a chance to go to a cool little bar in downtown Ludington called the Blu Moon, go. Great food and drink.

* It was also cool to bump into Douglas Elbinger of Greenlancer, the startup firm in Detroit that’s outsourcing solar installation engineering at a fraction of the usual cost. Here’s a video describing how the process works. And here’s a video of how the company used a really sophisticated drone to check out a solar installation in Oak Park.

* Glad to see Current Motors, the Ann Arbor builders of some seriously cool electric motor scooters, surviving. They were exhibiting at the fair, and their 70-mph, 70-mile-range commuter scooter has never looked better.

* Congratulations to General Electric and its Van Buren Township-based tech development center for mobilizing more than 500 employees as volunteers for the Third Annual GE Community Day across the Detroit area. over the weekend. Projects included cleaning up the shoreline at the Belle Isle Conservancy, planting flowers, gardening and painting at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo, Rawsonville Elementary School and The Wellness Plan, installing privacy and security fences at The Children’s Center of Detroit and First Step, clearing brush and performing light handyman work at the Historic Fort Wayne, and boarding up abandoned homes, paint and clean-up the community near Focus Hope. This year’s Community Day also marked the one year anniversary of GE’s Developing Health program in Detroit. The Developing Health efforts build on a two-year, $500,000 investment GE made to the Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS) and The Wellness Plan in 2012 to develop, promote and provide comprehensive, accessible and affordable quality primary healthcare and support services to uninsured or underinsured populations throughout Detroit.

* A nifty new benefit of the Xfinity Home platform is new energy-efficient LED smart light bulbs offered through the program by a partnership between Comcast and Osram Sylvania. The bulbs cost more up front, but save up to 83 percent in energy costs and last up to 17.5 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs. The deal also makes Comcast the first home security service provider to offer an integrated remote controlled light bulb.

Now on to the national news…

* The man who claims to be the whistleblower behind the revelation that the National Security Agency is gathering troves of data on individuals’ telephone and internet use stepped forward on Sunday. Edward Snowden asked Britain’s Guardian newspaper — which along with The Washington Post first broke the story — to release his identity.

* In the wake of news that the U.S. government is mining data from nine Internet companies, some questions are left unanswered — chief among them: Are tech companies providing direct access to its servers or is the National Security Agency (NSA) the world’s greatest hacker?

* After months of speculation on who would snap up Waze, Google is reportedly close to acquiring the mobile mapping and navigation company. The search giant “will soon” close a $1.3 billion deal for the Israeli startup, according to a report Sunday by the Globes business newspaper in Waze’s home country.

* Apple’s annual developers conference begins Monday. It’s the company’s 24th such show, and is expected to bring new previews of iOS and OS X, along with a handful of updates to Apple’s Macs. You can read a full list of what to expect at Monday’s keynote event right here.

* In order to shock people into understanding the consequences of drunk-driving, a fake mirror is installed in a bar bathroom and a mannequin smashes his head into it, in front of stunned hand-washers.

* Last month, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft suffered a potentially mission-ending malfunction, prompting the eyes of many astronomers and space geeks to grow a little misty. What’s not as widely known, however, is that Kepler data isn’t used just to hunt for planets that could potentially support life, it’s also been tapped by some intrepid explorers to search for stellar and planetary megastructures created by far-flung advanced societies — death stars and Dyson spheres.

* After five years of tinkering with a grocery delivery service in Seattle, Amazon is reportedly set to roll it out in California and elsewhere. Here’s why the business, with its razor-thin margins, appeals to the company.

* If you don’t think immersive virtual reality headsets can make you think you’re seeing the real thing, think again.

* Spy on Ask.fm’s public stream and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to middle school, dumped in the center of he-said, she-said dramas — sometimes innocuous, sometimes not. Here, hormone-crazed young boys and girls banter about their after-school plans, tease their peers, boast about their most recent hookups, and try to appear cool with expletives and graphic language. Ask.fm is a 3-year-old question-and-answer app that’s wracked up 57 million users and is adding members at a rate of 200,000 a day. It’s spreading from kid to kid, infiltrating middle schools and high schools the same way that mobile sensations Instagram and Snapchat have.

* Two actual, you know, climate scientists disembowel the daft assertions of the Chairman of the U.S. House Science Committee that the jury is still out on climate change.

* Here’s more evidence for the onetime habitability of Mars.

* Another close call from an asteroid. But at only 30 feet across, this one would have been a terrible no good very bad day only for the immediate vicinity had it hit.

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