Matt’s Favorites: Chevy Cruze Diesel, NSA Chief Draws Jeers At Black Hat, Cross Between Bike And Car, And More

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ELF

So what’s the latest and greatest, niftiest and newest, coolest and craziest from the wide wild world of high technology? Here’s everything you could possibly need right here…

* I’ve always wanted one of the new high-tech diesel cars, not least because if you have to, you can run it on slightly modified vegetable oil. But that used to mean buying a European car, Volkswagen being the biggest here in the U.S., and I’m enough of a Michigander to want to buy American. Well, no more worries. Chevrolet is out with a high-tech little Chevy Cruze diesel that tops 50 mpg. This just might be my next commutermobile. (Just please make one with a stick shift.)

* National Security Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander was met with cheers and heckling Wednesday at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, an annual meeting of hackers and cybersecurity professionals. Alexander was asked to give the keynote address at the conference before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents to the media about PRISM — a government surveillance program that collected metadata over telecommunication lines. Black Hat organizers say that he could have easily backed out, but chose to attend open a dialog with the hacking community.

* Ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper declassified and released a trio of documents that outline the limits, oversight, and utility of a government surveillance program that collects the telephone call records of Americans.

* Also from Black Hat, a look at the five scariest cybersecurity threats, according to CBS News, anyway.

* Mark Stewart turns quite a few heads as he zips through the streets on his neon green ELF bike. With each pedal, his feet take turns sticking out from the bottom while a gentle motor hums in the background. What he’s driving looks like a cross between a bicycle and a car, the closest thing yet to Fred Flintstone’s footmobile, only with solar panels and a futuristic shape. It’s a “green” option for today’s commuters.

* University of Kansas researchers have received a $1.2 million grant to test whether an iPad voice output application can help children with autism.

* Steady geysers of water ice on one of Saturn’s icy moons appear to erupt more strongly when the moon is farthest from its ringed parent planet, scientists say. The warm vents at the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus emit vast plumes of water vapor and ice out into space. While these plumes have been studied for some time, scientists have now observed a correlation between the intensity of the plume and the location of the moon in its orbit around Saturn.

* Also from space: If you thought the Milky Way was the bee’s knees, wait till you see this unreal high-definition shot of our nearest spiral galaxy neighbor, Andromeda.

* CBS is among the networks fighting Aereo, but its chief Wednesday brushed aside the company that streams over-the-air broadcasts online. Aereo is “more wind than reality,” CEO Leslie Moonves said on a conference call to discuss CBS’s second-quarter earnings, also calling it illegal. “We don’t think it’s catching on at all.” (Full Disclosure Dept.: CBS is the parent of this fabulous newsletter.)

* Starbucks customers will soon have much faster Wi-Fi speeds, thanks to the company’s new partnership with Google. Starbucks said that Google, in conjunction with Level 3 Communications, will now be providing Wi-Fi service in Starbucks’ U.S. locations that’s up to 10 times faster than the current service powered by AT&T.

* The founder of a liberal-minded website in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes after angering Islamic authorities in the ultraconservative kingdom,

* NASCAR recently launched a new generation of its flagship car. But is it enough to keep fans (and drivers) happy? CNet’s Daniel Terdiman took Road Trip 2013 to the Brickyard 400 to find out.

* NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory paints a picture of the cosmos by detecting X-rays from exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, matter around black holes, and other areas of high energy in the universe.

* Facebook said Wednesday that https is now the default standard for everyone browsing its social network, meaning that almost all traffic to its Web site and a majority of traffic to its mobile site will be established through a secure connection.

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