So how’s everybody doing after the long holiday weekend? Rested? Ready? Well, ready or not, here comes the tech world, right back atcha…
* NASA’s next moon shot — a robotic spacecraft tasked with investigating lunar dust and the moon’s thin atmosphere — is set to launch from Virginia Friday.
* And NASA is also planning its next Mars mission to view that planet’s atmosphere.
* Not long after Google delivered its Chrome browser to an unsuspecting world, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer downplayed the significance. Sorry, but wrong again, Steve. as Google celebrates Chrome’s fifth birthday this week, Chrome is now used by nearly as many people as Firefox — 17 and 19 percent respectively — while Microsoft Internet Explorer’s market share has fallen from 72 percent to 56 percent. (However, to be fair, IE did have a very very good August.)
* Happy first day of school, everybody! Hope you had your kids doing at least some work over the summer. The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) says that if students didn’t consistently practice math and reading skills over the summer, they will start the school year at a loss. Many will have forgotten up to 2.6 months’ worth of material, or 22 percent of what they learned the previous school year.
* Verizon (VZ) will own its wireless business outright after agreeing to a $130 billion deal to buy the 45 percent stake of Verizon Wireless owned by British cellphone carrier Vodafone. The buyout, the second-largest acquisition deal on record, would give Vodafone PLC additional cash to pursue its expansion ambitions in Europe.
* Excited about the new iPhone expected to be unveiled Sept. 10? Apple will now join others in allowing you to trade in your old model.
* Jokes about the National Security Agency as a source for backup data has circulated on the Internet since its former contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the agency’s extensive surveillance program. One tech company’s employee wanted take the jokes to task, and submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to see what would happen. According to CNet, soon after Snowden’s leaked documents were published by the media, Yev Pusin – an employee at online backup company Backblaze –submitted a FOIA request to the NSA to retrieve any data that was collected about him. Not confirming or denying it had any information on Pusin, the NSA responded with a letter stating: “Your request is denied because the fact of the existence or non-existence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter in accordance with Executive Order 13526, as set forth in Subparagraph (c) of Section 1.4.”
* A security flaw that allowed hackers to delete any image stored on Facebook has been discovered by Indian researcher Arul Kumar — and he has been rewarded for his efforts.
* U.S. law enforcement officials working on counternarcotics operations have had routine access to AT&T’s enormous database of Americans’ phone records dating back more than 25 years, according to a New York Times report.
* Austin-based TrackingPoint introduces what they’re calling the world’s first smart rifle. Armed with a high-tech tracking scope and a guided trigger, it allows hunters and even first shooters to hit a target 1000 yards away.
* Wonder when these will appear on every football sideline: Robots that can diagnose a concussion are being developed.
* Climate change is helping pests and diseases that attack crops to spread around the world, a study suggests. Researchers from the universities of Exeter and Oxford have found crop pests are moving at an average of two miles (3km) a year. The team said they were heading towards the north and south poles, and were establishing in areas that were once too cold for them to live in.
* And when you buy anything marked Made In Vietnam, this is what you’re supporting: A controversial law banning Vietnamese online users from discussing current affairs has come into effect. (I see more and more clothing marked Made In Vietnam. From now on it goes back on the shelf.)
* The feds have uncorked more millions to explore generating electricity from the power of moving water.
* Stonewalling by the Department of Justice has led Google and Microsoft to decide to file a lawsuit so that they can publicly discuss Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court-approved surveillance orders. Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith announced Friday that the company, in collaboration with Google, would sue the government despite its statement on Thursday that it would publish some surveillance request information annually.
* This week’s round of NSA spying revelations involved new documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealing US spy agencies’ proposed $52 billion “black budget” for 2013. But The Washington Post has delved even further into those documents to show exactly how those hefty funds can be put into action. In 2011, US spy agencies carried out 231 offensive cyberattacks, primarily targeted at Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China, The Washington Post reported Friday.
* Microsoft has already given parents an extra element of control with the “Kid’s Corner” feature in Windows Phone 8 — an isolated section of the device, set up and controlled by parents, that lets kids play with the phone without inadvertently responding to mom’s email, for example. But a newly published patent application from the companywould take things to a whole new level — giving parents a centralized dashboard on their phones for remotely monitoring and setting restrictions on other family members’ devices. For example, the parents would be able to use the dashboard to restrict a teenager’s usage of the device overnight, with only the ability to call mom, dad or an emergency number.
* Here are some hints for you Generation Y folks out there about how to communicate in the workplace with us old folks — you know, Baby Boomers.
* The NSA was also able to access and read the Arab news broadcaster Al Jazeera’s communications with “notable success,” according to documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden seen by Der Spiegel.
* You might think of black holes as voracious eaters that suck up everything in sight. But astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have found that the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy is actually quite sloppy when it comes to its culinary habits. New images of Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* (pronounced “Sagittarius A-star”), which is approximately 26,000 light-years from Earth, reveal that the black hole manages to suck up less than 1 percent of the gas within its reach. Instead, most of it is tossed back out into space before it’s ever devoured.
* Microsoft has officially changed the name of its Xbox Live Marketplace. The company on Friday changed its website to reflect the platform’s new name — Xbox Games Store. The launch comes a few of months before Microsoft launches its new console, the Xbox One. The Xbox Games Store complements the Xbox Music Store and Xbox Video Store.
* If, like me, you count yourself a Candy Crush Saga holdout, you’ve probably been warned by friends not to start playing. Because once you do, you won’t be able to stop.
* Chatting women sitting outside makeshift homes at night is a new scene in a once-dark refugee camp in the Somali capital. In a city where darkness brings the threat of attack, recently installed solar lights are helping to ward off sexual assault.
* ”DuckTales” is one of those legendary video games that gamers remember with such fondness that the non-continuation of the series and lack of re-releases since its 1989 debut borders on painful. More than 20 years later, developer WayForward Technologies aims to ease our suffering with “DuckTales: Remastered” — not simply a port of the original title, but a complete high-definition overhaul.
* Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, lost its Internet service Thursday night. According to The Washington Post, the city lost its Internet connection Thursday at about 5:48 p.m. local time. The outage comes as the United States considers military intervention in response to what it says was a chemical weapons attack last week in Damascus. Aleppo remains a bloody battleground between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels.
* Here’s new research why some people just seem to dislike everything: There really are Debbie Downers out there.