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Matt’s Favorites: Summer Break Coming, Hawaii On Google, Tech Kills Cursive, And Much More

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(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

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So what’s the latest, wildest and craziest from the ever-unpredictable world of high technology? Well, relax and kick back in that virtual Barcalounger and check these out…

* First of all, a bit of housekeeping: Your Tech Report is about to go on its summer break. We won’t be publishing Thursday, July 4 or Friday, July 5, because those are CBS Radio Inc. holidays. And yours truly will be taking the following week off for a little midsummer R&R. I’m in the process of preparing a series of Tech Report Lites that you will continue to receive while I’m gone, from Monday, July 8 through Friday, July 12. Expect a slimmed-down version of your regular report, with interesting news, but news that’s a little less time-dependent. And I’ll be back in your inbox live, tanned (well, as tanned as a ginger gets) and rested, on Monday, July 15.

* Speaking of virtual vacations, Hawaii’s volcanoes, rainforests and beaches will soon be visible on Google Street View.

* And if you’re a roller coaster freak like I am, rejoice: This summer, amusement parks around the U.S. are opening roller coasters that are bigger, faster, and scarier than ever thanks in part to technology that will soon help launch jets off U.S. Navy carriers. If you love roller coasters, check out the awesome POV videos.

* A single sentence, uttered in the trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin, has catapulted an issue into the national spotlight. When asked if she could read a letter in court, witness Rachel Jeantel, her head bowed, murmured with embarrassment, “I don’t read cursive,” according to court testimony. In a society that does almost all its communicating by keyboard, is it any surprise that cursive — the looped, curvaceous style of handwriting that’s been a mainstay of education for generations — is all but dead?

* Here’s still more about the Asian tiger mosquito, which has a blood-lust for humans but will also attack dogs, cats, birds and other animals. Unlike other mosquitoes that tend to only come out at certain times, the Asian-tiger variety will bite all day long, making it hard to avoid the bug. Their eggs are also much stronger than the average mosquito and are tough enough to survive the cold winter.

* And here’s a unique use for WiFi — seeing through walls.

* New photographs show that a rare male jaguar apparently has been roaming in Southern Arizona mountains for at least nine months, indicating the animals are occasionally moving into their historic range from northern Mexico and into the American Southwest.

* The Washington Post has published a new set of slides regarding PRISM, revealing more details about the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance program and how it operates. The new slides, which come nearly a month after former NSA employee Edward Snowden leaked classified documents to the press about the program, appear to confirm that the NSA and FBI have the ability to perform real-time surveillance of e-mail and stored content.

* And here’s a look at the first known paid FBI informant inside Wikileaks.

* Instagram went bananas Saturday. A company representative confirmed in an e-mail today that the photo-sharing network had been hit by a spam attack — an attack, we might add, that was perhaps a bit more colorful than usual. It seems the photo-sharing network became flooded with photos of fruit, which were accompanied by a link to a marketing page for a fruit-based diet regimen.

* Will new Windows 8.1 hybrids finally expose the iPad for what it really is, a mere tablet? That’s what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested last week.

* Opponents of Facebook’s settlement of a lawsuit involving “Sponsored Stories” — an ad feature that displays images of users of the social network — spent Friday morning in a San Francisco court trying to convince a federal judge that the settlement’s terms fail to protect the privacy of minors. Facebook, of course, believes otherwise and if users who are objecting to the settlement don’t agree, they should just leave the class-action lawsuit, according to Michael Rhodes, the attorney hired by the social network to handle the case.

* Hail and farewell to AltaVista, once the best of the search engines on the early Internet. 

* This looks interesting — well, unless somebody can hack them — headphones surgically implanted near the ear.

* Here’s Kotaku’s recent profile of Civilization creator Sid Meier. All hail.

* Scientists in Japan have succeeded in cloning a mouse from a single drop of blood. Creepy.

* And The Atlantic writes that Silicon Valley’s tech reign will end because it’s no fun to live in Silicon Valley. Today’s creatives want to live in an urban atmosphere, and Silicon Valley is meh suburban.

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