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Matt’s Favorites: Network Solutions Outage, Drunk Driver Detector In Urinal, And More

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urine analyzer in bar

So what’s the latest and greatest from all over the wild, wide world of high-tech? Well, here’s a representative sampling dipped from the Intertubes…

* Network Solutions says a hacking attack is causing service disruptions that are affecting its website customers. The company’s Facebook page offers few details, but the company says it’s facing a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack in which hackers direct thousands of computers to access a website all at once. The fake traffic makes it difficult for legitimate visitors to get through.

* Urine and technology have turned out be great bathroom buddies. Michigan drafted chatty urinal cakes to fight drunk driving. A bar in Brazil rocked out with a urinal guitar. Now Singapore is getting in on the action with the Pee Analyser at dance club hot spot Zouk. Developed in conjunction with marketing agency DDB Group Singapore, the system uses pee power to try to identify drunks before they hop behind the wheel of a car.

* Some Americans were jolted awake Wednesday morning and were left confused and wide awake. At approximately 4 a.m. Eastern time, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children sent out an Amber alert that went to the smartphones in the New York area. New Yorkers reacted on Twitter with confusion at why the alert was issued so early in the morning.

* A fossil discovered in southern Utah belongs to a new species of horned dinosaur, according to a team from the Natural History Museum of Utah. This large plant-eater roamed North America during the Late Cretaceous Period.

* Wearing gold? Scientists now have new evidence that you’re wearing the result of titanic collisions between super-massive dead stars not quite big enough to become black holes called neutron stars.

* Scientists also have more evidence that an enormous ocean on Mars covered much of the planet’s surface billions of years ago. The latest clues were found in photos from NASA’s powerful Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter circling the planet. The images show what appears to be an ancient river delta, which may have emptied into a vast Martian ocean that inundated up to one-third of the Red Planet long ago, a new study reports.

* Although the solar maximum isn’t expected until late 2013, we’re starting to see some pretty spectacular effects. On Tuesday, the sun erupted in a massive coronal mass ejection, or CME, that sent billions of tons of particles into the solar system in the direction of Earth. It’s expected that this wave of particles will pass Earth within about three days, causing a phenomenon known as a geomagnetic storm. This is normal, and will cause no absolutely direct harm to humans.

* Microsoft Corp. has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling on him to personally review a gag order that prevents the company and others from further discussing secret national security requests for customer emails, Skype calls and documents stored on its servers.

* Take that surveillance state: Google has begun experimenting with encrypting Google Drive files, a privacy-protective move that could curb attempts by the U.S. and other governments to gain access to users’ stored files. Two sources told CNet that the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is actively testing encryption to armor files on its cloud-based file storage and synchronization service.

* The Vatican is taking a modern approach to one of its oldest traditions, by offering indulgences to Twitter followers of the Pontifex’s social media account. Aware that some Catholics may not be able afford to travel to Brazil, where World Youth Day is being held from July 23-28, and perhaps also in an effort to modernize himself, Pope Francis is making this first-time offer to the faithful who follow the events in Rio de Janeiro online. Under Catholic belief, after confessing and being absolved of sin, the indulgences granted reduce the amount of time one spends in purgatory, where one’s sins are weighed after death. Under the Pope’s new offer, those who follow the week’s events on the Twitter feed can get a speedier transit through purgatory, hopefully on the way to heaven.

* Apple’s next iPhone may have a larger screen. According to Bloomberg, a report by the Taiwanese newspaper Commercial Times suggests that the tech giant has delayed updating its flagship smartphone until the end of the year because its screen will increase to 4.3-inches.

* Flower lovers are on high alert this week as they anxiously await the bloom of a massive, nasty-smelling flower at the U.S. Botanic Garden. This will be the first Amorphophallus titanum bloom in the United States since 2007. More than 40,000 revelers — nearly double the regular foot traffic this time of year — have stopped by since last Thursday, and the garden is extended hours on July 16 and 17 to accommodate the revelers. But the seven-foot-tall flower, which smells like rotting meat when it blooms, has yet to cooperate. And while the smell is repugnant to humans, it holds a biological purpose, attracting pollinators such as beetles.

* Facebook executives and senior staffers have been saying goodbye to the social network at a speedy rate ever since its May 2012 initial public offering. But the stampede is accelerating: In the past few days alone, head U.S. sales guy Tom Arrix and Gowalla co-founder Josh Williams have said they’re headed for the exits.

* An obviously humorous German man goes on Facebook and offers a spy-spotting tour of a U.S. facility in his country. The local police are not amused. Because the local Americans suggested they shouldn’t be.

* PayPal mistakenly gave Pennsylvania PR executive Chris Reynolds an account balance of $92 quadrillion a while back. Alas, what PayPal giveth, PayPal taketh away.

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