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Matt’s Favorites: Volt Price Cut, More On Curiosity’s First Year On Mars, Comcast On Piracy, And More

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NASA photo

NASA photo

So what’s the haps in the hip habitat of high tech? Glad you asked, I was running out of h’s…

* General Motors slashed the price on the 2014 Chevy Volt Tuesday, as it tries to compete more directly with the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius. The 2014 Volt will start at $34,995, a price cut of $5,000 compared to the 2013 model.

* One year after a nail-biting descent to the surface of Mars, NASA’s $2.5 billion Curiosity rover, fresh from confirming the red planet was habitable in the distant past, is making its way to the base of a towering mound of rocky terrain where it will climb through the geologic history of a once-wet world. NASA took time out Tuesday to celebrate.

* Comcast may be creating a new strategy to thwart illegal downloads of copyrighted movies and TV shows. The new plan would work by giving people a chance to download content without breaking the law. Those who attempt to download a film or TV show illegally would receive a pop-up message with links directing them to pages where they can buy or rent the content legally, unnamed sources told Variety.

* It’s strange to hear the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calling a chunk of meat a “dream becoming a reality.” Of course, Ingrid Newkirk isn’t just talking about any burger; she is referencing the first-ever in vitro hamburger, created by researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. It’s a dream, because it holds out the possibility of cruelty-free meat.

* In the latest retort between CBS and Time Warner Cable, the broadcaster’s CEO, Les Moonves, says the latest terms for digital rights offered by the cable company are “the most egregious” of its proposals to end their four-day blackout. (Full disclosure dept.: CBS is the parent company of your Tech Report.) I also haven’t heard from Bright House yet about their CBS blackout. But I can tell you, people of Novi, Northville, etc., go watch last night’s episode of “Under The Dome” online. It was amazing.

* A Wisconsin IT professional has filed a lawsuit against Indian outsourcing firm Infosys alleging that the company discriminates against U.S. job applicants in favor of South Asians for jobs in the U.S.

* Samsung has sent invitations to the press for an event the company is calling “Unpacked 2013 Episode 2.” Samsung is widely expected to announce the Galaxy Note III. The phone-tablet hybrid, which is nicknamed a “phablet,” is rumored to have a 5.7-inch screen with 1080p display resolution, 13-mega pixel camera, Android 4.3 and its signature S Pen stylus.

* Apple is launching a program to take back third-party USB power adapters, citing safety issues.  The tech giant says it is launching the program because of reports that suggest counterfeit and third-party power adapters “may not be designed properly and could result in safety issues.”

* Facebook offered a deep dive into its its News Feed ranking algorithm on Tuesday, expounding on why it moves up old stories and how it picks which stories it thinks you want to see.

* She’s still got the impossible figure, but at least Barbie’s marketing materials are headed in the right direction. “Girls of today can be the Mars explorers of tomorrow,” reads an advertisement for the new Mars Explorer Barbie.

* The United Airlanes Twitter feed represents the apogee of customer service. The customer, however, better have a sense of humor. Because this is not United Airlines. This is a brilliant parody.

* Now here’s an app to try when you want an excuse for getting a new phone. Or if you have one of those really good shockproof cases.

* Technology is changing the way ice cream can be made. Instead of having dozens of vats of frozen premade flavors, one San Francisco shop whips up your order while you wait.

*  It’s a rare museum that has a school bus hanging off the roof, let alone a bus that kids can climb on. But at the City Museum here, that’s just one small piece of the fun. Hardly the kind of institution that would normally be called a museum, City Museum presents visitors with a cacophony of exciting choices: tunnels to climb through, 10-story slides to shoot down, a chance to sit on the world’s largest pencil, and so much more.

* It’s a little bit late in beach season, but CNet Tuesday offered up this list of waterproof smartphones you can take to the beach or on the boat and not worry.

* Speaking of which, AT&T says it will replace phones — Samsung Galaxy S4 Actives, to be precise — which had been touted as highly water-resistant but didn’t live up to their claims.

* Here’s a look at the firm behind the sometimes conflicting speed and reliability claims of AT&T and Verizon.

* Twitter is providing its users on iPhone and Android with new ways to manage their accounts from their smartphones. Tuesday, the information network updated its applications with mobile enhancements to log-in verification, the two-factor authentication system that members can turn on to add a extra layer of security to their accounts.

* Apple’s hard line on political satire apps — especially when they deal in even the most cartoony violence — has brought down another hopeful called Joyful Executions, a parody game in which users execute North Korean dissidents by firing squad to appease The Divine Leader.

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