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Matt’s Favorites: Snowden’s Surprise, New Apple OS And Streaming App, And More

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So what’s the newest, wildest and weirdest from the wonderful world of high technology? Glad you spared me a few electrons, here goes…

* Edward Snowden was a foot soldier in an army of contractors doing top-secret work for the National Security Agency. He was assigned to an NSA installation in Hawaii, although his employer was the technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. It is not unusual for contractors to have access to classified information. What stunned officials about Snowden was that a low-level contractor could gain access to a number of disparate intelligence programs, each of them walled off behind levels of classification above his top-secret clearance.

* And here’s a funny column on just what you can deduce from “mere metadata.”

* Apple announced an overhaul to its mobile operating system and a new streaming radio app Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference. The new iOS 7 design is noticeably flatter, with redesigned icons, buttons, color schemes and slightly translucent-looking keyboard.

* Microsoft Corp. kicked off its Electronic Entertainment Expo presentation Monday by unveiling a new Xbox 360 with a design inspired by its upcoming next-generation Xbox One console.

* The PlayStation 4 has kept its appearance under wraps so far, but at E3 it’s finally shown its face.

* Astronaut Chris Hadfield says he’s retiring from the space program and moving back to his native Canada after decades living in the Houston area. Hadfield gained international prominence during his recent six-month trip to the International Space Station, where he used social media to share experiments, photographs and a memorable music video. (And like most astronauts, he says “2001: A Space Odyssey” is the most realistic depiction of space travel in sci-fi. Kind of like war — long periods of boredom, short bursts of terror.)

* Three years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP announced Monday that the U.S. Coast Guard is ending its clean-up effort along the shorelines of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and transitioning the area back to the National Response Center. Yet not everyone is convinced the clean-up is near completion.

* As it turns out, England’s Prince Harry, or “Captain Wales” as his mates call him, is a heck of a pilot, too.

* Thanking the “Texts from Hillary” creators, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent her first tweet Monday morning on a verified account separate from that she used while in the State Department. The account had been locked, without a profile image, for at least a week before followers flocked to her account.

* AT&T is extending from 20 months to 24 months the time it takes for customers on contract-based plans to earn a fully subsidized upgrade to a new phone. The move announced Sunday follows an identical one by Verizon Wireless (VZ) in April. AT&T Inc.’s new policy applies to any customer whose contract expires in March 2014 or later.

* Wow. By 2017, mobile devices will outnumber people on Earth.

* And behold the world’s slowest computer.

* And here’s a real ‘Shelbot” remote telepresence system.

* And finally, yet another advance in 3D printing.

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