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Matt’s Favorites: Lake of Death, Twitter IPO, Giant Hornets, And More

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It’s Friday! That’s good all by itself. But even better are these nuggets of tech and science news wonderfulness from all over the Intertubes…

* First, here are links to your Tech Report home page, the Tech Report Page Two (trust me, it contains much fascinatin’ news), as well as our latest reports on event notices and HR notices.

* While exploring stark areas of East Africa in 2010, photographer Nick Brandt stumbled upon an amazing site. Perfectly preserved remains of birds, fish, and bats lay strewn around the shores of Lake Natron in northern Tanzania. The dead animals were all victims of the shallow lake’s lethal combination of high temperatures and salinity. The lake’s average temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can spike as high as about 140 degrees.

* Aiiiieeeeee!! Giant Asian hornets! Run for your lives!!!!

* Twitter offered the public a first detailed look at its financials in a filing Thursday formally notifying the Securities and Exchange Commission that it plans to go public. The company is seeking to raise $1 billion, and an offering is expected within weeks.

* Here’s an early view of the incoming Comet ISON from NASA’s Mars Orbiter. What was once touted as a “comet of the century” is now looking a bit like a dud.

* Microsoft’s annual proxy statement indicated that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had his pay docked because of Windows division’s lackluster performance in the past year. Ballmer received $1.26 million in fiscal 2013 — a base salary of $697,500 and a bonus of $550,000. Ballmer’s “incentive plan award,” calculated by the Microsoft board, was only 79 percent of the total for which he was eligible. Comparatively, for fiscal 2012, Ballmer received 91 percent of his eligible incentive award. The fiscal 2013 proxy statement spelled out the reasons why Ballmer was docked.

* A federal grand jury has indicted 13 alleged members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous in connection with online attacks targeting financial institutions, trade groups, and government entities. The 28-page indictment, unsealed Thursday in a U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., charge the defendants with conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer as part of an anti-copyright campaign called “Operation Payback.”

* Adobe announced on Thursday that it has been the target of a major security breach in which sensitive and personal data about millions of its customers have been put at risk. Brad Arkin, senior director of security for Adobe products and services, explained in a blog post that the attack concerns both customer information and illegal access to source codes for “numerous Adobe products.”

* The country’s biggest cable company is adding more on-demand shows from the television network with the most people watching it. Comcast and CBS said Thursday that more of the broadcaster’s current-season TV shows would be available on demand for customers of Xfinity, the cable provider’s “triple play” service that bundles video, broadband and telephone together. The network expanded the titles available on Xfinity On Demand to include “2 Broke Girls,” “Person of Interest” and “The Mentalist,” as well as new premiering series such as The Crazy Ones and Mom. CBS also added every past season of “The Good Wife” and “Charmed” to Xfinity Streampix, its Web-based subscription video-on-demand service.

* Apple Maps may sometimes send clueless drivers off the beaten path and even onto active airstrips, but the company may be facing a far deeper problem with its new flagship iPhone 5S’ directional capabilities. Widespread reports are claiming that the new device’s motion sensors are highly error-prone, and the problem could be on the software side or a calibration error built into the handset itself.

* So how did the FBI catch 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht, who went by the Web name Dread Pirate Roberts, the alleged mastermind of a secret Web site that played host to a massive billion-dollar black market drug ring? Well, the FBI says he did something really stupid. While seeking tech help for his site, he used his personal email and gave his real name.

* The surface of ancient Mars may have been rocked repeatedly by giant supervolcanoes, which unleashed colossal and explosive eruptions that forever changed the face of the Red Planet, scientists say.

* Attention fliers: This app tells you which VIP airport lounges you can get into for free.

* Well, we’re finally here — designer babies, according to a genetics firm’s patent.

* Japan’s annual CEATEC show, its biggest annual consumer electronics show, is always home to some fascinating conceptual gadgets. Here’s a look at a few new ways of interacting with devices from this year’s CEATEC.

* Amazon is working on not one, but two separate smartphones, according to a new report. The e-retail giant’s flagship handset is currently codenamed “Smith,” TechCrunch reported, citing people who claim to have knowledge of its plans. The device was previously known as Project B, but after the Wall Street Journal reported on its features earlier this year, Amazon decided to change the name, according to the sources.

* Pandora released its latest performance metrics for the previous month, and as the percentages continued to grow tame, they’re are only going to fuel debate about the future of the Internet’s biggest radio service. But Pandora’s monthly metrics didn’t tell us the most important element of its story. The missing piece isn’t how much iTunes Radio could be swiping away listeners. Pandora’s story now is about how it’s faring at making money, and the figures released every four weeks don’t touch on that.

* If you plan on making a reservation at an Apple Store for help with your Mac computer, iPad, iPhone, or other Apple device, you will now need to have an Apple ID first.

* The e-commerce Web site Fab.com is reportedly cutting 101 jobs, or nearly one-fifth of its work force, according to Reuters and later confirmed by the company. The layoffs will begin Thursday, according to the report, and are related to the company’s shift from focusing on “flash-sales” — where a deal is only made available for a limited amount of time — to more of a traditional e-commerce business.

* Circa on Thursday released version 2.0 of its mobile news reading app with a focus on breaking news and an app for Android users. First launched on iOS a year ago, Circa is designed to serve as a daily brief of top stories, condensed into bullet points for quick reading on mobile devices.

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