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Matt’s Favorites: Holiday break, holiday apps and more

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Deicing planes at Detroit Metro Airport. (WWJ Photo/Mike Campbell)

Deicing planes at Detroit Metro Airport. (WWJ Photo/Mike Campbell)

So what’s the latest from the wondrous worlds of science and technology as we approach my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving? (Mostly because it involves family and good food but no worries whether Aunt Nell will like her present.)  Well, grab a drumstick and settle in, it’s been quite a weekend…

* First, a bit of housekeeping — your Technology Report will not be published Thursday and Friday so your humble narrator can enjoy the holiday with family and friends. After Wednesday, you will indeed still get a cheery greeting in your inbox Thursday and Friday — but that’ll be it, a cheery greeting.

* Also, here are links to the Tech Report home page and Tech Report Page Two, where you will find much worthwhile news. Not to mention our latest news on tech-related events and meetings, tech-related HR notices, and tech-related awards and certifications.

* Getting ready to hit the road for the holidays? You’re not the only one. AAA projects that 43.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday — about 38.9 million by automobile and 3.14 million by airplane. Whether you’re taking a short road trip or flying around the world, these mobile apps can help keep your travel plans on track.

* The Auto Show is under way in Los Angeles, an annual showcase for all the newest ways technology is influencing car design. What not too long ago seemed like extravagant, luxury options may soon be showing up on dashboards as standard features. The car of the future could be just a few short years away. It’s a major theme at this year’s L.A. Auto Show: cars with brains.  Among other things, they stop themselves if they have to. And here’s a News.com look at the auto show’s highlights.

* If the idea of using cell phones in flight takes off – don’t expect Delta to go along for the ride. The world’s second biggest airline released a statement Friday stating that they would not allow voice communication in-flight. A sound decision, some passengers say.

* A week after reports began circulating that Apple had purchased PrimeSense, Apple has confirmed the acquisition of the 3-D sensing company behind Microsoft’s Kinect sensor. Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet on Sunday confirmed for CNet the deal’s closure, which was for reported by AllThingsD.

* Ever since developers got their hands on Google Glass earlier this year, software coders have clamored for greater access to the programming internals of the controversial headset. Google accommodated them this week — albeit to the sound of muted applause.

* A new slide culled from the trove of documents leaked by Edward Snowden shows where the NSA placed malware on more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide — malware designed to steal sensitive documents, according to Dutch media outlet NRC.

* Scientists have discovered a killer dinosaur that roamed in what is now Utah some 100 million years ago.  Experts say the discovery provides insight into the top predators in North America before T. rex showed up. The two-legged beast was more than 30 feet long and weighed more than 4 tons.

* Not too long ago, Facebook (FB) hired comScore to show how effective its ads are for advertisers. Not surprisingly, the study did just that. More recently, Twitter (TWTR) has taken similar steps. It hired a consultant toundertake a national survey and perform analysis. It found that that Twitter’s advertising platform might hold more promise than Facebook’s. And just the other day, Twitter touted another study and the claim that “7 out of 10 of our users will rely on Twitter to enhance their Black Friday and Cyber Monday experiences.”  Why the dueling studies? The reason is simple: revenue. Both these companies are now public and the same goes for every other social network, like SnapChat, that eventually wants to go public: They need to make money.

* Archaeologists have uncovered the oldest known palatial wine cellar in the Middle East at a site in Israel. The storage room stocked at least 3,000 bottles of the intoxicating beverage in massive pottery jars, researchers report today (Nov. 22) at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Baltimore. The ancient wine bore little resemblance to the Bordeaux and Chianti of today — it was preserved and spiced with resin and herbs, including juniper, mint and myrtle. The closest modern analogue is a Greek wine flavored with pine resin called retsina, study researcher Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa, told reporters.

* Here’s a set of camera reviews specifically designed to tell you which cameras will take the most appetizing pictures of food. Quick, somebody forward this to Martha Stewart.

* Speaking of phones, check out the very first selfie… from 1839.

* Xbox One gamers can peek into their future via a new Microsoft video. A lengthy clip appropriately called “Future Xbox One Games Montage” serves up quick teasers of a range of titles slated for the gaming console. Here’s what’s in store.

* Speaking of Xbox, matching Sony’s blockbuster launch of its PlayStation 4 last week, Microsoft has announced that it too has sold 1 million units of its next-gen console in the first 24 hours. The PS4 managed to sell one million units in the US and Canada alone when it launched on November 15, while the Xbox One launched in 13 markets at the higher price point of $499.99.

* The effects of a warming planet are likely to be vast and varied — ranging from increased droughts and coastal flooding to reductions in snow and ice. But while most climate predictions look ahead to the potential risks 50 or 100 years from now, there are places around the globe that are already being impacted by global warming.

* Major automakers have made a big push into “green” driving technology over the past several years, with both electric and hybrid (gas/electric) vehicles now commonplace in showrooms and on the roads. However, there’s an older green technology making a comeback at the Los Angeles Auto Show this year: hydrogen power. 

* The debate over evolution vs. creation has engulfed the schoolbook approval process in Texas — again — which could have ramifications for the whole country.

* Here’s a novel way of trying to plant AI in a computer — letting the computer study a massive database of images and decide for itself what they call mean.

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